Sun. Jul 21st, 2024


October 10 / 2021

Adventures In Reading, Part Two: Science Fiction

My family background was what is usually called working class, which means there weren’t many books in the house as I grew up (yeah, I’m generalising about working class people, but generally it’s true). I had to discover books and reading for myself. Just how I managed to do that when most of my siblings (three other sisters, two other brothers) didn’t is a mystery to me, but it might just come down to genes. Dad was seen to devour cowboy books from time to time, and at least one sister was a fan of Agatha Christie, but the others were pretty indifferent. I can’t stress how important all this is. I guess I was a fairly dreamy kid (still am!), always lost with his head in the clouds, living in my own worlds. So to find more make believe worlds in books was probably a natural destination for my head. Head in the clouds, head in a book, same difference. Well, one requires a bit more concentration…

September 13 / 2021

Adventures In Reading, Part One: Comic Books

At home I have a shelf of books that’s nothing but books about books and writing. There’s good old Strunk and White’s classic The Elements of Style, 501 Must Read Books, an intriguing tome called How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (more of which later), and a fabulous title called The Book On the Bookshelf (yes, about bookshelves!) by Henry Petroski, among many others. Even the two bookends that hold them in place are book-shaped bookends. In short, I’m into books – and have a thing about themed bookends. One other such book on that shelf is The Pleasure of Reading, edited by Antonia Fraser, the mystery writer. It’s a collection of essays contributed by various authors, such as J.G. Ballard, John Fowles, Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Atwood, all about the inspirations and obsessions that formed their reading habits, complete with lists of their ten favourite books. Even though I’m not a famous author, and no one gives a shit what I think, I thought I’d like to give this topic a go, as it is one that’s near and dear to my heart…

September 1 / 2021

The News: A Therapeutic Theory of Art

I want to put a proposition to you that follows up from my previous blog, which is that stories are not there just to entertain us or to help us pass the time. And they are not just made up of themes and tags that can be accessed by hyperlinks or search functions. At their core they offer something more; at their best they can fulfil psychological needs in the reader, even provide some kind of philosophical point of view…

August 31 / 2021

Scifi Short Stories, the ISFDB and the Science Fiction Hub: A Reader's Advisory

I really like science fiction short stories. What I like about them in general is their brevity. You can easily knock them over in one sitting. They’re short, sharp and to the point. And if you don’t like one, there’s plenty of others that come along that you will like. They’re especially a good way to discover authors without the bother of slogging away through an entire novel. You find when you discover a good short story you pay attention to the author who wrote it, and you tend to look out for more of their work. It’s not always foolproof – authors aren’t always consistent with the quality of their stories or writing – but it’s usually a good indicator of potential compatibility. I have discovered so many good authors that way, including Pat Cardigan, Cordwainer Smith, and the great unsung Mildred Clingerman….

May 14 / 2021

Zen and Art of the Record Playing Ceremony

Whether it’s time travellers going into the past to save John Lennon’s life, or a fan who just wants to witness Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris at Liberty Hall, Houston 1973, my stories often feature music. Music is a constant inspiration for my writing. In fact, I’m presently working on a story that’s about an idol pop group on Mars. So too is music an important part of my life. I’m presently trying to fulfil a long-term ambition to become a musician, learning bass guitar in particular. I want to get good enough to be able to play in a band and perform. We’ll see if that pans out… 

March 26 / 2021

Anticipating the New Rough Guide to Anime

book cover for blog entry on the Rough Guide to Anime

Over the last couple of years I’ve become a big fan of the Japanese animation style called anime. Of course, this is not a new medium, it’s been around in some shape or form since at least the early 1960s. A lot of us westerners didn’t know it, but we’d been enjoying anime since way back then when we were watching shows like Astroboy, Gigantor, Marine Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and my favourite of the time – Space Ace. I recall seeing the film Akira at the old Valhalla cinema back in around 1989, but that was something of a one-off anomaly – and I recall finding the film impressive but confusing. Like a lot of people, I’d say my reintroduction to the medium came when I caught a few of the Studio Ghibli films on TV (they were kind of hard to avoid for a while there!). At some point the penny dropped that this was great stuff, and so I started borrowing some of the many animes that were becoming available at my local library, and haven’t looked back since. I now have a good collection of my own anime films and tv shows on dvd and bluray, and I also have a paid subscription to the online anime channel, Animelab, which I use every day. Basically, I can’t get enough of the stuff. You might even say I’m addicted to it.

March 19 / 2021

Predicting the Future: Asimov's Foundation

Cover for blog entry about Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories

I recently read the last of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation stories, Forward the Foundation. It was published posthumously in 1993 after his death in 1992. It features the last years of his hero, Hari Seldon, and the completion of his galaxy-spanning and history-spanning project, Foundation. It seems fitting that Asimov’s last book was the last Foundation book, and that in it his hero dies. A major theme of the novel is mortality, and it’s easy to think of Asimov writing about Seldon’s death as writing about his own death. In reading it I couldn’t help being reminded of how much of Asimov’s writings have touched my own life. As a teenager in the 1970s I devoured everything of his I could get my hands on, including the Robot stories, the many short story collections and, of course, the Foundation series. And I dipped into the series again in the 80s every time Asimov brought out a new iteration, including Foundation’s Edge in 1982, Foundation and Earth in 1986, and then finally the two prequels. I’ve grown up and grown old with the series. It’s a bittersweet feeling…

March 12 / 2021

The Spinoff Novel Part Two

Cover for blog entry featuring Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness

I’m making some slow progress on the new novel. The first thing I did was to start organising the chapters I already have, and to work out where the gaps are and rearrange everything. To help me do this I’ve started using Powerpoint, with each slide representing a chapter, with notes about the chapter, which I can move about depending on where I think it should go within the novel. Sort of like having sticky notes on a board, or a white board chart. This phase is all about the plotting…

March 5 / 2021

Sequels, Series and Big Dumb Object Stories

Cover for blog entry about big dumb objects

It seems like almost every book you pick up these days, especially if it’s in the science fiction/fantasy genres, is a part of some long-running series. There are obvious commercial reasons for this, but I’m guessing a lot of authors also just think in terms of long story arcs. I mean, I’m doing it myself with my Timegate series. I’m only one book in at the moment, but I’m over half-way through the writing of a companion book (it’s not, strictly speaking, a sequel) set in a parallel version of the first one’s universe. There’s plenty of short story spinoffs in the works, too, largely culled from left-over material from the original unedited draft. And I’ve definitely got ideas for a third novel, which would be a sequel. So the series bug is with me, too…

February 26 / 2021

The Spinoff Novel Part One

Image for blog entry about the spinoff novel

In the course of writing my first science fiction novel, Eye of the Timegate, the word count blew out to around 240,000 words by the time the first draft was completed. The finished work clocked in at just over 136,00 words. A lot of stuff was left on the cutting floor. After I finished the first novel, I took about 80,000 words of the leftovers and started fashioning, not a sequel, but a kind of spinoff novel. This was material that took place at the same time as the events in the first novel. It would be a sideways, parallel novel to the first one, following up intriguing storylines and characters that I’d abandoned for the sake of brevity. I did some work on it for a time, then abandoned it for a later date…