The gay/not gay dilemma concerning the proposed cover(s) for Against Gravity continues. Curiously, everyone who's seen a print version of the newer design still prefers the old design: everyone who's seen only the online version of the newer design (posted in a private message group for Glasgow sf writers) prefers the newer design.

I know this is hard without actually being able to see the damn things, but bear with me. I can't really post them up willy-nilly, unfortunately, since the designs are somebody else's property.

Basically, both designs feature a naked male figure, half-glimpsed through a forest of superimposed details, all to great effect (look at any of Steve Rawlings' other covers for Neal Asher or Sherri Tepper and you'll see what I mean): however, the newer design's figure looks, frankly, like he just walked out of a Jean-Paul Gaultier advert. But again, the background's got this really nice, kind of gritty effect I like, so maybe ...

Ech - I should probably hurry up and make my mind up.


So - before I forget, the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle is holding a joint event with the Edinburgh writers on Tuesday, 7th December, in a bar called Blackfriars (in the basement bar), at 8pm, in the Merchant's City area near the city centre.

It's a spoken word event, which means readings. I won't be doing one myself since it's a themed night (Fantastic Scotland, something like that), and I don't have anything that fits that particular bill. Someone suggested I do an excerpt from Against Gravity, which does feature scenes set in Edinburgh, but there's nothing in that respect that would work particularly well taken out of context. To be more precise, it wouldn't make sense. I do know however, that Hal Duncan whose first book Vellum is coming out in 2005 from Tor UK, will be reading from that book, since some of that is set in Glasgow, and presumably is excerpt-worthy.

I've been to just one of the Writer's Bloc events before, in Edinburgh earlier this year, and it was a lot of fun. We're hoping to make it quite a busy night, and if it goes well enough maybe we can make it a regular, perhaps at least annual event. See you there if you can make it.

Other developments: apparently someone concerned with marketing at Tor UK is concerned that the current cover design for Against Gravity - which I think is superb - 'looks too gay', in their opinion. The artist concerned already apparently had alternate designs, one of which said Tor UK person feels looks 'less gay'. In fact, the newer, 'alternative' design in my opinion actually looks really quite gay compared to the previous, but that's just my opinion. As cover art they're both really very striking, but I'm leaning towards the first (the one I keep promising to post up here sometime soon), rather than the newer. I've been canvassing opinions over the writer's circle's private message board, and at the moment the split is about 50/50, including the comments of the woman who rents a room in my house, and the bloke who runs the printing press at the place where I do my part-time daywork. Both of these latter feel the newer design does, indeed, look extremely gay, and also prefer the previous.

What I'm most likely to do at the moment is opt for the previous design, but suggest changes that might incorporate elements of both. Decisions, decisions.

And ... Things Unseen is sitting at about twelve thousand words, and I'm still figuring out the characters, and exactly what the story is going to be. Like I've said, I'm one of those writers who can't figure out the plot of the book until he's started writing it. Then it comes to me in dribs and drabs. However, plot developments are leaning me towards the idea that 'Wonderland' might be a good title to consider as a possible alternative to 'Things Unseen'. In the context of the way the story is going, it could work quite well.


So I've been working away, getting my third book worked out, part of which requires what feels to me like humungous amounts of research. I've never been to new York, but since when did that ever stop me from setting a book there? The book being 'Things Unseen'. I'm maybe ten thousand words in, getting there slowly but surely.

For research, I've been reading a history of the CIA, and flicking through a book on the Guggenheim Museum that Hal Duncan loaned me after his return from a recent trip to the Big Apple (since art, particularly abstract art, and the occult influences on many of the proponents thereof, feature strongly in the story). Also doing a fair bit of research on Reinhard Gehlen - one-time spymaster extraordinaire of West Germany, and ex-Wehrmacht General, on whom I'm basing a central character.

Curiously enough, some ideas came from flicking through The Big Book of Conspiracies (part of a series which includes titles like The Big Book of Weirdos, illustrated, highly suspect, but nonetheless very entertaining comic-strip guides to unusual areas of modern culture); not necessarily the most dependable source in terms of rigorous research, but still far enough on the weirder side of Robert Anton Wilson to keep me lurching towards that kind of offbeat, pop-culture driven narrative I'm hoping Things Unseen might become.

At the same time, I saw the new, heavily revised cover artwork for my second book, Against Gravity, and let me just say it just knocked my socks off. It is seriously, utterly stunning, and when I get a chance I'll be putting it up here sometime real soon.

It's still early days, but for the hell of it, here's a couple of lines from Things Unseen:

'Silverman cleared his throat again. “Sit down, will you? You're making me nervous.”

Guy shook his head and raised his hands in a placatory gesture. “Sorry. You just caught me a little off guard, is all.”

“Well, it's been a while, that's true.”

“You want anything to drink? There's coffee.”

Silverman grimaced and shook his head. “Whisky?”

Guy shrugged gamely. “Little early for me, but -”

“Early for you, still last night for some of us.” Guy slid open a desk drawer, and drew out a bottle of Wild Turkey. He gestured at a couple of glasses standing on a shelf by Silverman's shoulder. Guy stepped around the desk and poured the other man a shot.

Silverman tasted the whisky and winced, coughed again. “Damn, that's good.” He knocked the rest of it back.

“That's a bad cough you've got there,” Guy observed.

Silverman nodded. “Lung cancer.”

Guy opened his mouth, but no words would come, so he closed it again. An awkward silence passed. After a moment Silverman reached inside his pocket and drew out a silver hip flask. He twisted the top off, then held it up in a kind of salute.

“Morphine chaser. Cheers.” He took a couple of swallows, made a face and twisted the cap back on, replacing it inside the voluminous folds of his coat.

“I'm sorry, I had no -”

Silverman waved a hand between them. “Please. Spare me the fucking sentimentalities. Something happened last night. Someone got killed.”'

Oh yeah - and I had a terrific review in Interzone. Did I mention I have a terrific review in Interzone?


This, apparently, is what a reader for the movie studios makes of Angel Stations: "Fantastically expensive. Granted, quite a lot takes place indoors, but there are places where you couldn't get away with anything less than big SFX."

Well, I knew that. People used to say to me when I mentioned the book that they couldn't wait for the movie to come out: I would reply neither could I, once some Hollywood studio found the 300 million dollar budget it would take to film Angel Stations. The reader concludes: "Hopefully saleable before he's been dead 10 years."

... Quite.

What's strange about reading this - there's a fair bit more of it, but I won't bore you with the details - is the realisation that Angel Stations has a kind of life of its own, a separate entity now from the interior of my head, floating through newspaper offices, homes, studio script departments, wherever. I keep picturing the book sitting in a chair in some enormous office while some guy with a cigar tries to persuade it that it could have a better career if it just cut me loose.

Rotten book, stealing my career - doh!