Today I got my hands on the page proofs for Angel Stations. So I looked through the pages, looked at my name at the top of the page, the name of the book on the frontispiece ...

... looked at my name and the name of the book again, and thought, hmm.

Not sure about that font.

It's a bit weird seeing my story laid out all proper book-like and all, even as a series of laserprints. I have to read through it now and find all the horrid spelling mistakes and inaccuracies I will undoubtedly miss due to my having long become blind to the words. I haven't seen any cover art yet - that's still in the future, perhaps in the next couple of months.

The fourth draft of Against Gravity blazes ahead. Somebody told me they thought the title was a bit anaemic - bland. I didn't think so: I thought it sounded sort of classy. I suggested 'Labrats'. He said, maybe. But I think I still prefer Against Gravity. Still, name changes are always worth thinking about. I read somewhere that Tricia Sullivan's new novel Maul was originally going to be titled Y: A Chromosome. I prefer Maul.

In a sense, the fourth draft has stopped for the moment. What I'm actually doing is writing down a very detailed description of absolutely everything that happens in the book. This is worthwhile, as when I did it for Angel Stations I realised at a relatively late point that the same scene repeated itself twice, with marginally different wording. Quelle horreur! This way, I know exactly where everyone is, when, and what they're saying to each other.

The other I'm finding useful on this draft is a different way of making notes. Instead of scribbling them down or typing them up in a separate document, I'm inserting them directly into the text in brackets and in bold (like this). So that way while I'm writing I can pick myself up on any even potential serious errors that might occur (did I say this twenty pages ago, and why has this character just changed sex?).

You get the idea.

I was going to go through to Edinburgh this Friday to see the Writer's Bloc do a Halloween reading, but it turns out it wasn't actually on Halloween, as I'd been informed, but a couple of days before, which I hadn't been informed of. I know, I've checked. Dammit. I was looking forward to that, too. Well, next time, I guess ... or maybe in the next life, at this rate ...


Last night I went to a new writer's group to give moral support to MJ, who harbours a desire to be the next Virginia Woolf minus the schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies. The group turned out to be located in a quite pleasant building in the West End, where rooms are hired out in the evenings. Although the ad we'd found in Hillhead Library hadn't been particularly clear on what they actually did, it soon became clear the structure was much more in the form of a class than the short story workshops I'm more familiar with. Fair enough: it's the kind of thing MJ's been looking for. So before the class started we watched other people come in, seeming like a fairly representative cross-section of West Enders. I started thinking this could turn out to be interesting. Even positive.

That feeling didn't last for long.

I didn't take part in the class myself: I'd already made it clear I was just there to give MJ moral support, since if you're not used to it, it can be a little unnerving to walk into a room filled with complete strangers and talk about your writing. I could have taken part, but I was deadbeat. I'd been out the previous night helping Al celebrate his birthday as well as attending the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle, and the only writing I could think about was the fourth draft of Against Gravity. Besides, I'd already asked MJ not to bring up the subject of my having a book deal, since I wasn't there to be a 'writer': I was there to provide her with moral support.

Now, if you're the kind of person who isn't very confident about their ability to write - if you think you need help to deal with the basics, or if you just think you need a kick up the arse to get motivated - then that's great. Some of the writers there turned out to be pretty good, and I had the impression they were getting something out of the class as a whole. The evening was structured in two halves, with the participants writing something based on the tutor's suggestions, taking a tea break, then coming back to read their stuff out. Far and away not the kind of process we're famililar with in the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle, but a valid process nonetheless. I watched the first half of the process with interest.

So picture the scene: it's the teabreak, we're all in the kitchen. The tutor comes over to say hello to MJ, and tell her a little bit more about the class. She got a little nervous and mentioned that I had a novel coming out.


So the tutor asks me what kind of book it is.

Science fiction, I said.

Can you see where this is going?

Pregnant silence. In order to fill which, I said - in an attempt to direct the conversation back towards MJ - that her tastes are different from mine: she doesn't read science fiction, but does enjoy a lot of classic 19th Century Literature as well as more contemporary work.

What I expected the tutor to do was to turn his attention back to MJ and ask her more about her interests. Before he did this, round about the point I was saying the words 'Mandy doesn't read sf herself ...' the tutor starts nodding his head emphatically and saying 'Very wise. Very Wise' (note emphasis).

Which is round about the point I started having vivid fantasies of punching the tutor. Hard. On the nose.

After the teabreak, we went back upstairs so people could read their stories out, and I could sit with my arms folded staring daggers at the tutor. What particularly pisses me off is that he wasn't even a particularly good tutor: he mumbled, his ideas were rubbish, and he didn't exactly exude authority. I could, quite literally, run that class myself blindfolded, gagged, and submerged in a tank of hungry sharks. And this ... twat ... rubbishes my chosen field of literature.

But the really interesting thing I came away with (apart from a murderous dislike for the man) is that I could run a class. Easily. What I really want to know (and would make me seethe) was if the tutor was being paid to run the class. Quite possibly, he is; the Scottish Arts Council does provide funds to community groups to run a variety of workshops, and I'm already in the process of signing up to a list of available authors that the SAC provides to such groups, although the process is slightly more complicated than I'm describing here.

Still. Twat.


Third draft of Angel Stations done and dusted, in final editing session of epic proportions. Now feeling mildly, I don't know, staggered. Immediately resaved the relevant file as 'Angel Stations - Draft 4', and I expect it to get anywhere up to Draft 6 or 7 before I even begin to think it's ready for the editor. I'll probably get on with that later today.

Caught Kill Bill at the UGC on Saturday night and spent most of my time there with my jaw hanging open, really. The most astonishingly violent thing I have seen, ever. But it is also very, very good. I think a lot of people thought he might have peaked with Pulp Fiction, but Kill Bill offers clear evidence that this is not the case.


I've noticed my name has now appeared on the front page of the Tor Uk website, which is nice, because that flash animation they had running there the past year was starting to look a bit long in the tooth. In case you're not aware of it, they have a forum running there which includes other Tor authors like Neal Asher, Jeffrey Ford, Pat Cadigan and others.


I'd been hoping to see Neal Stephenson speaking at one of the big bookshops in Glasgow as part of the promotional tour for his new book Quicksilver, tomorrow night, but it appears to have been cancelled. On the other hand, I caught something on BBC4 (again) I haven't seen since the early seventies, when I was an awful lot younger. It was part of a one-night Nigel Kneale retrospective, a documentary followed by a showing of The Stone Tape, about a research group trying to develop new recording technologies finding themselves sequestered in what turns out to be a haunted house. Naturally, they set out to try and get to the root of what the ghost is, using every piece of scientific equipment available to them. Naturally, things don't work out quite the way they expect them to.

It was enjoyable, but what made it seem like a historical artefact (apart from the clothes) was the rather dodgy and casual racism employed. Plus, the female lead (Jane Asher), supposedly a respected programmer, spent most of her time screaming and fainting and 'becoming emotional'. Perhaps you can't really expect much more for a show filmed in 1972. Still, even with the passage of time, and despite special effects barely one step up from shining a torch in a dark room and waving it about a bit, it was surprisingly atmospheric.

Funny, though, that in the preceding documentary, they chose not to mention Kneale's mid-seventies series 'Beasts,' which scared the crap out of me when I was about ten.

With any luck, I'll have finished the third draft of Against Gravity in the next few days. Then I'm going to spend probably an inordinately large amount of time tidying it up, plus possibly one or two more major changes, depending on what I think would make the story better. I've been wondering if one of the main supporting characters would be better if he became a she, and combined with the main female supporting character. Which is probably going to be as confusing as it sounds, but we'll see how things progress.


Busy. Most of the way through the Against Gravity rewrite, and well ahead of schedule. However, I'm still not posting so frequently since there are other (good, but stressful) things going on in my life: mostly, trying to buy a house. This doesn't leave me much time for things like blog entries.

However, I do feel driven to mention I enjoyed the JG Ballard series on BBC4 that ran over the past week or so, including new dramatisations of two stories: The Enormous Space, and Low-Flying Aircraft. There was also a rerun of 13 to Arcturus, a BBC play of the story of the same name that originally aired in 1965: not a particularly brilliant rendition, but interesting in a sort of 'cultural archaeology' sense: primarily the antiquated-looking 'Dan Dare' uniforms worn by the actors, complete with those little shoulderpads that come to a point. I wonder if this all started with the film version of Things To Come? Also interesting to watch the actors go through their scenes while ripping through a lung-blackening quantity of cigarettes. Of the other two dramatisations, Enormous Space (retitled 'Home' here) was probably the best. I always have the feeling, though, that dramatisations of work by writers like Ballard - who, to me, gain some of their appeal in the surreality of their writing; the 'strangeness' that first attracted me to science fiction when I was a kid - tend to try too hard to rationalise what's taking place.

'Home', the hour-long movie of Enormous Space, seemed to me to try a little too hard to rationalise the protagonist's withdrawal into his mind as nothing more than a descent into madness. Sure, you can read it like that, but what's really enjoyable about the story for me is the idea of a house/space becoming an almost infinite area worthy of exploring in the most literal sense. It's a theme that turns up in Ballard's books a lot. Or maybe I'm just being picky, and 'Home' was the better interpretation, and I'd rather groove off the strangeness of the story in a way that implies the expansion of the physical space of the house is objective, rather than subjective.


A few months ago I workshopped an early draft of Against Gravity, and was warned by a member of the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle who knows of such things that it was unlikely some form of shuttle launch could take place using a converted oil platform (obviously my shuttle would be rather more advanced and probably a lot smaller than the current variety, being part of a story set over a century from now), even one where the launch crew were situated on a nearby ship.

In fact, it probably could; I watched a documentary on Discovery the other night about a group called SeaLaunch who launch satellites from a converted oil platform which can be floated into position pretty much anywhere in the world, the whole operation controlled at launch-time from a nearby ship. Okay, it's unmanned rockets rather than manned shuttles of some futuristic variety, but I was pleased to see my idea had already panned out in reality.

Sea Launch
So things maybe do work out in the end - I'm still waiting for final word, but I may indeed have finally bought a house. It's a one bedroom property on the south side, about fifteen minutes cycle or half an hour's walk or twenty minutes on the subway from the West End; it has a huge kitchen, but I'm going to have to rent a room out to make it more affordable. It's big and spacious and bright with a really nice garden out back, so even with myself and Mandy and whoever we get in to rent a room, it won't feel too crowded.

The way these things work in Scotland, everything is 'subject to conclusions', meaning either party can pull out for whatever reasons until the ink is signed on the contract. Nothing is definite until then. However, I spoke to my financial advisor's lawyer, who told me if I could manage a certain sum then I had the property - only a little over what I did offer. So I gave him the go-ahead.

What else? I'd been intending to go and see a band I really like tonight called Elbow playing at Glasgow University, but this looks unlikely as Mandy is down with sinusitis. I've called one or two people, but either they can't make it or their mobile phones are switched off. To the fields of Hades with ye, people who never switch their bleeding mobiles on ...


Checking in here, really; I haven't abandoned my blog, I've just had a great deal weighing on my mind in terms of attempting to buy a house, if humanly possible. Time will tell, and it looks like I'll be spending a great deal more than I had previously intended, but needs must.

In the meantime, I found a site I always knew would have to be built. I'm going to repost come the Worldcon here in '05 as a dire and necessary warning to any visitors from afar not familiar with the culture in this fair city of Glasgow. The site is www.glasgowsurvival.co.uk, and acts as much as anything else as a guide to Neds. 'Ned' is a generic term referring to socially and economically disenfranchised youths frequently easily observable due to their uniform habit of wearing white sports gear and baseball caps. They are generally to be avoided. No, make that almost always; as a social phemonenon, they're probably one of the worst things about Scotland, and Glasgow in particular. The site in general doesn't run us down so much, but it does provide a genuinely useful and frequently hilarious alternative to the rather more anemic and sugar-coated official website guides to the city usually administered by the Scottish Tourist Board. If you're coming to Glasgow, read it and be forewarned.

There are really two Glasgows in much the same way as there are two New Yorks, depending on your social background and your relative wealth and opportunities in life. There's the deNiro New York of Taxi Driver, dirty, sleazy, and dangerous, filled with the worst excesses of human nature and lonesome potentially psychotic drifters; and then there's Woody Allen' New York, of writers and artists suffering midlife crises in splendid high-ceilinged apartments overlooking Central Park. Two worlds coexisting, side by side, aware of each other's existence yet doing their best to ignore each other.

I live in the West End of Glasgow - at least for the moment and possibly not for much longer - and I can see this same difference here. You can walk down Sauchiehall Street in the city centre on a Saturday evening and see fights, sirens going off, people chucking bottles at each other, you name it. Football in Glasgow is at times little more than an excuse for barely sublimated religious street warfare. Things are changing, but only slowly.

By contrast, I went for a walk through the West End the other day and found a middle aged guy playing Robert Johnson numbers with slide guitar as part of a small demonstration by a coalition of pressure groups like CND and others. I watched and listened for a while, with the University as a backdrop. It's like a whole other universe compared to other parts of the city. It's only because I may be moving a relatively short distance from the area that I can bear moving at all. A couple of feet away from me while I was listening was a half-finished carving of a leaping white tiger, shaped out of a tree trunk. I looked around some second-hand bookshops - the West End is infested with them - and on the way back, found the blues concert was over. A woman was speaking over a microphone to a small audience about the oppression of the Falun Gong religion (I think that's how you spell it) in China, while some women in traditional Chinese costume performed movements that were presumably a part of the religion. If they tried that in Parkhead up the East End, they'd be bottled off in minutes. I saw an ad for a new complex of modern flats in Parkhead, at the other end of the city, which went out of its way to emphasise the security aspects of controlled electric gates and high walls. Yep, gated communities come to Glasgow.

A considerable contrast.