So I've been sitting around all weekend with little to do, having fired an email off to my editor asking him does he want a hardcopy of the edited manuscript posted to him, or does he want it by email, a question I need to ask since I wondered if he wanted to sit down with his marked-up copy and compare it with what I've done?

Or, dear God, it couldn't be that he trusts me to get it right? Could it? No ... it's simply too farfetched to be possible.

So I've been feeling quite chilled the past couple of days since I got an advance payment through. Simply knowing it's there gives me a certain ... frisson of calmness. I've been accused of being mercenary for saying what I'm about to say, but bollocks to that. It is some measure of worth, I think, when a publisher decides to give you a large sum of money for publishing your books. Of course there's an element of risk involved for them, but, nonetheless ... living in a capitalist society, this is the way things are measured, at least for the moment. I'm all for supporting the arts and so forth - and I'm sure you'll be really surprised to hear that I believe in the UK we don't give nearly enough support to our authors. And when it does come, it tends to be in the form of financial support (read: recognition) for those who write within the specific parameters of what is regarded by whoever the hell it is that decides these things as artistically viable.

Let's be straight. I'm not the kind of person who walks into an art gallery and says, 'bollocks! I could do that. Large wall-mounted canvas bedecked with hand-swirled fountains of paint? Giant astronaut composed entirely of coathangers? Easy life!' I like most of it. Even the stuff I don't like, I appreciate the point of it - even stacks of bricks in the middle of a gallery floor (it's about taking things we don't notice because they're such a regular part of our environment and placing them in a context where we are forced to pay attention to them, ie a gallery).

Not to say there aren't problems. I remember particularly Glenn Brown's 'Loves of Sheperds' from 2000, which was nominated for the contoversial Turner Prize here. It was, in fact, an exact replica of Tony Scott's cover of Heinlein's Double Star, done in 1974. Concerning this act, one of the judges at the time said:

"Glenn Brown has frequently used the work of other artists in developing his own work, but that is true of Picasso, who borrowed from Rembrandt ... this is not new.
"He uses other artists' work, but that doesn't mean to say you could possibly mistake his work for theirs... he takes the image, he transforms it, he gives it a completely different scale."

Bollocks. Utter, screaming bollocks. This is when people within a particular area of endeavour - in this case the visual arts - start placing themselves both intellectually and morally above everyone else.

Back to my point. If you live in Ireland and you're a writer, you don't pay any tax on your writing income. Genius. In many European countries, you get even greater financial support, because there's a recognition that writers are necessary. Even if sf authors do still tend to come at the bottom of the pile.

What else? Since I've been waiting to hear from my editor about the editing on my first book, I've been thinking hard about exactly what I want to do when I get round to writing a third novel. And I've decided for various reasons I want to do something much more contemporary, more in the mode of Gibson/Stephenson/Sterling. I enjoy doing space-based fiction, but it's hard to do anything that, as it were, 'says something' within that context. So now I'm thinking of something set no more than perhaps fifty years in the future, if even that. And I have some good ideas. Now all I have to do is become as good a writer as Stephenson (har), and I just might stand a slim chance of pulling it off.

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