I note with more than considerable interest that Neal Stephenson has a website up for his new book Quicksilver, due out later this year, at this address. There's also an extract. Neal Stephenson is I think the only writer I have ever read whose books I will buy automatically regardless of subject matter. He's that good. I was into his sf first, of course, and wondered what the hell he was up to when I first heard about Cryptonomicon, but what can I say? Yet another incredible book. I'm looking forward to this one.

I saw Stephenson speak a couple of years ago on a publicity tour in Borders in Glasgow. Or rather, I saw him shift around a lot and look extremely uneasy. I'd heard he really hates doing book tours, and boy they weren't kidding. He had a vaguely stunned look around him, the sort of facial expression you suspect people have in the face of imminent death when they realise the cavalry isn't coming.

I also note with interest that another local writer called Mike Cobley (author of the Shadowkings fantasy novels) has started up his own blog, primarily talking about musical influences, apparently primarily derived from that genre of metal seemingly explicitly designed to be sold to the kind of kids who want to seriously piss their parents off. I know Mike, and he does like his metal. And my own record collection? Due to its extreme lack of coolness, you shall never know. Let's face it, writers don't always have, shall we say, the snappiest taste in music, in much the same way as many writers are also neither the snappiest observers of sartorial style.

Except for me, you understand.

It has occurred to me over many months that the writer's life is not conducive to physical activity and exercise. With this in mind, I decided - to quote Zero Mostel in The Producers - that I had worked very, very hard, and I wanted a toy. So I bought myself a new bicycle, an aluminium-framed Ridgeback with Shimano v-brakes for a reasonably light two hundred and fifty quid. You should know I really love cycling, and it feels very good indeed to blast off into the sunset for a couple of hours touring around when you've been slumped over a laptop for most of the morning/afternoon/whenever. My old bike actually belongs to Mike Cobley. He only used it maybe half a dozen times. I asked him once if it was okay if I could borrow it for a while.

Cut to several years later ... and the thing always was a bit of a banger, really. Steel framed, heavy, only six gears, not good when you're trying to get up a particularly steep hill. Yesterday evening I blasted off across the Clyde (there are pedestrian bridges as well as traffic bridges here and there), cycled around Ibrox Stadium and back across the river, all in a half hour, absolutely impossible on the old machine. This afternoon, I cycled up to Scotstoun, heading west and in the general direction of Loch Lomond, kept on going to Clydebank, cycled back the way by a different route, headed on into town to do some business, came home and just about collapsed from nervous exhaustion.

But I did feel very good for all that.

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