I've noticed some interesting discussions in various blogs about 'gateway' science fiction: meaning, the kind of sf you loan to someone who's never read any, but has perhaps read reasonably widely in other genres and in mainstream. One thing I've noticed is the suggestion that there's a relative lack of work being published at the moment which fits into this category.

It's hard to define what might be a representative work of 'gateway' sf, since it really tends to vary from individual to individual: but if I were going to pick a particular author, I'd pick Kim Stanley Robinson straight off. In some respects the 'Mars' books strike me as the perfect 'gateway' works in that they deal realistically not only with the whole notion of terraforming, but more importantly with the complex nature of the characters Robinson has created. The Mars books are first and foremost the story of the people caught up in the (future) history of their times in the shape of the terraforming process, rather than the other way around; an approach some writers would do well to remember.

But the really important point that struck me is that there may well be a great deal of 'gateway' sf being published, that simply isn't being published as genre. I haven't read Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, but I'd be interested to see if it fits the bill. Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake is another example, also possibly the books of David Mitchell and, I suspect, many others. I'd even suggest Chuck Palahniuk and 'Lullaby'. And lastly, let's not forget all those Kurt Vonnegut stories of alien races and time travel which are not, of course, science fiction.

Glancing at the above mainstream authors, I see we have stories of: New York in the 22nd Century occupied by alien refugees, two gene altered survivors of a technological apocalypse wandering a wildly altered Earth, a dystopian near-future (Mitchell's Cloud Atlas), nursery rhymes that make people drop dead as soon as they hear them and, yes, time-travelling aliens from Trafalmadore.

In fact, I realised, it is now entirely possible to line your shelves with stories of aliens, time travel and the fantastic while claiming to be not in the least bit interested in science fiction.

However, I don't think it's necessarily worth railing against the apparent injustice of a situation where a genre author fails to be taken seriously while someone more 'mainstream' gains applause for dealing with ideas long familiar to the readers of this blog. Yes, it does lead to an uneven situation, no doubt about it. But I do believe there is such a thing as genre and non-genre sf, both in and out of the field. My first couple of books are clearly genre sf, and so is the one I'm working on just now. But I do have ambitions to write non-genre sf one day (or non-sf sf, to be particularly confusing about it). To go into more detail about the reasoning behind this definition really needs a separate blog entry, and I'll leave that for another day.


Twenty five thousand words into Stealing Light, and I've realised something I'd been vaguely aware of for a while without consciously formulating it, at least until now: that the first draft of a novel is not in fact a novel. Instead, it's a highly complicated set of notes towards a novel.

There is indeed no point in adjusting on a minute level the text of that first draft (at least for me and many, if not all, writers), because that first draft is merely an expression of the ideas in your outline. Some bits will go, others will stay. I've heard Neal Stephenson suggest to the contrary that the first draft is where all the action is, that the first draft is effectively, bar a number of adjustments, the completed novel: but all that tells you is the amount of preparation he puts into the planning stage.

Personally, I think writing the first draft, for me, is the planning stage.


All right ... I promised myself I wouldn't get involved in this argument, but ...

Thinking again about the whole debate over Gregory Benford's blog article about the success of fantasy in relation to science fiction: particularly after reading Lou Ander's own thoughts on the subject.

Here's a comment Lou made that particularly struck me, and made me realise why I felt some of the responses to Benford's article were missing the point:

As someone who grew up in a much deeper south than even the region is today, it was exposure to science fiction that had a direct and measurable influence on deprogramming me from the prejudices and ignorance prevalent in a lot of my immediate childhood environment. I grew up around Christians who believed in a seven day creation, preached the reality of Hell and Judgement, and railed against the lie that was evolution. They were also, for the most part, racists and homophobes. They told jokes using the N-word, would never date a minority or someone who had, and generally represented a host of values I find base and inexcusable. And the only difference between them and me was that I had a father who shoved a science fiction paperback into my pre-teen hands and ordered me to read it. After all, it's pretty hard to be prejudice against blacks and gays when you're a-okay with Klingons and the Green Men of Mars.

When I say 'missing the point' what I mean is that (so it seems to me) Benford's real concern is that scientific rationalism - or simply rationalism, full stop - is under constant attack from base superstition and base prejudice. This strikes me as an argument easily derived by the simple act of watching the news. Anders' own comment reflects on how exposure to a wider world of reading and knowledge can inform people otherwise informed only by their peers who are, perhaps, rather less than informed themselves.

When Benford disses the rise of fantasy, it seems to me his real concern is the loss of science fiction's core message: that it can introduce the reader - particularly the young reader - to one of the core values of rationality: questioning the accepted order of things. SF of the best kind has the knack of illustrating radically different philosophies and ideas that might otherwise never occur to the reader by the simple act of creating an imaginary environment in which those concepts are allowed a degree of free rein impossible in the real world.

It's hard for me to define what the core values of fantasy (however you might choose to define it) might be, but ultimately fantasy, like sf and every other form of literature, is a tool to be used in whichever way a particular author chooses to use it. Sf can be radical, it can be forward thinking, but it can also be deeply conservative. This depends less on core values than it does on the philosophical and political proclivities of the author. Fantasy, I'm sure, can be radical and forward thinking and introduce the reader to new ideas: it can have something to say about the world we live in. But like Anders, I find it hard to think of many examples, possibly due to my relative lack of exposure to that part of the field. I'd be more than happy to hear of examples to the contrary.

If science fiction fails to reach an audience, Benford seems to me to be arguing, we lose the opportunity to offer points of view entirely opposed to those who would see the achievements of the Enlightenment cast down forever. If the best fantasy can address these concerns, then that's terrific. Yet, somehow, I find it hard to be convinced as yet; so, like Anders, I find myself setting down on the science fiction side of the divide, meanwhile glancing around to see if there's any sharp bits sticking up that might cut my feet.
Plans for 2006: my natural caution concerning personal expenditure notwithstanding (I'm very careful with my money), I'm thinking of putting some money aside for a holiday and/or research trip once I've finished Stealing Light.

The last time I had anything resembling an actual going-away holiday was last century. I figured it would be nice to hit some of the American conventions next summer - and when you couple this with a vague desire to, say, take up to several weeks off to just go wandering, it starts to look like a plan: so, for the moment, I'm thinking of what I can only describe as a road trip.

Even though Tor apparently aren't expecting the finished manuscript any later than December 2006(!) I'll be seriously surprised if I don't have it wrapped up, at the very latest, by August next year. Which means I can give myself a personal deadline of finishing the manuscript in time for the break.

I remember a book Mike Cobley had, a series of interviews with well-known sf writers by Charles Platt, compiled during Platt's own journey across the US, and at one point the idea of doing something similar occurred to me, particularly given Platt's book is something like a quarter of a century old. There's a lot of new writers out there. Plus, it would make for some interesting blog entries. Then other ideas occurred to me: I'd visit several writers and, before leaving, take a picture of them to post in a blog entry. But instead of a regular photograph, I'd get them to lie on the ground outside their front door in a pool of fake blood and a hatchet lying nearby. Or slumped over their desk while a hand from out of frame uses a handkerchief to slide a pistol between their apparently lifeless fingers. Or maybe just a pair of feet hanging in the air in their hallway ...

... what can I say? I have a macabre sense of humour.


So at last, long last, more reviews for Against Gravity are starting to come in. One enormous review in Locus' December issue (almost two thousand words, over one and a half pages!), and another due, hopefully soon, in Interzone.

The Locus review is kind of weird, since it doesn't so much review the book as it does, er, my career, via this blog. It's more than a little strange seeing bits of my life extensively quoted in Locus magazine, let me tell you, like some weird fever-dream from before I even had a book deal. But what's downright scary is that people like Damien Broderick - author of the review - have clearly read the whole damn blog. And taken notes.

Scary. Anyway, here's a snippet:

Glaswegian Gibson's interesting achievement -- prompted by Rudy Rucker's logs of several recent books -- is to convey a likeable personality, beginning, in Gibson's case, pretty much at the bottom of the pecking order, then catapulted through his own wit and effort into startling success, with two widely praised novels published by the British arm of US science-fiction giant Tor Books.

Reading through his apparently unedited blog is something every would-be writer could profit by, starting with his early thematic statement of what was then a very inchoate outline that would become, change by accreted change, Against Gravity ... If the novel we're reading is a sort of Frankenstein Harrows Hell, then the blog is Cinderella, with Gibson in a self-mocking, candid role as Buttons, perhaps.

Anyway, there's a couple of words in there I can skim out to stick up in the 'reviews' column over there on the right of your screen (like 'Gibson is a writer to watch, not least on the white screen', though I'll wait until the Interzone review comes rolling in before I do that. He has some problems with my prose style, but that's okay, I have problems with my prose style. If I didn't, I'd be worried. Like my agent reminds me, I've only got my second book out, and for most writers, that's early days indeed. But there's definitely some food for thought in there.


Fantasy versus Science Fiction.
Everybody's pitching into this one.

Here's my suggestion to anyone thinking about adding to any of this: put down the laptop/keyboard, go outside, and get a frigging life, for Christ's sake. Anybody who thinks spending several hours of a hard-earned weekend thinking about this desperately needs to reevaluate the best way to use their spare time. ESPECIALLY if you're an author.

I do in fact have a take on it, but I can't really reply to the arguments being bounced around at the moment, given that by the time I get to the second paragraph of any of them, my eyes start to glaze over. Zzzzz.

No. I've got a better idea. We'll have a wrestling match at the Eastercon next year. We'll get a couple of people dressed up Mexican wrestler style and the fighter who takes three slamdowns in a role is declared the loser, and whatever literary stance she/he/it represents thereby rendered obsolete, dead, nada for eternity, and then we can get the fuck back to the bar.


Random browsing through the net got me thinking about self-promotion. It's an unfortunate truth that publishers most often don't spend that much (if any) money on promoting authors, so when I stumbled across this essay by sf writer Robert Sawyer, it started wheels turning in my head. Mind you, I can't see Tor doing anything but completely spazzing out at me if I did actually go ahead and make up my own advance copies of my books. But that's not to say it isn't tempting.

It's a minor example, but when Angel Stations came out, I asked Tor to send a review copy to a Scottish magazine called The List. It's the same kind of publication as London's Time Out - local listings, reviews of bars, events and gigs, interviews with writers, politicians and artists of all kinds. A general local entertainment guide. I didn't really expect a review - but not only did I get one, it was one of the best reviews I ever got (see the bar to your right). That quote turned up on the back of the mass market publication of Angel Stations. So there you go.


So anyway, I got an offer from Tor UK for 'Stealing Light', which means I'll have to get nailed down and get to serious work on the thing over the next several months. The nice thing about a new book deal is this time, large chunks of it won't be going on a deposit on a house. This time, I get to spend it all on ME.

For a start, I can actually afford to take a proper holiday for the first time in a very, very long time. Where and when is hard to say, but sometime in the summer next year seems like a good time, ie whenever I finish Stealing Light. But I've had it in mind that it might be nice to take up to several weeks off the day job and go to some places I've never been before, and certainly going to an American con has entered my mind.

First, time to spend a little money on ME. Therefore, in the words of Max Bialystock: I'm going to buy a toy. I worked very, very hard, and I think I deserve a toy. But the type you find in Dixons electric stores.


Hokay, that's one minor mystery solved: when it comes to the missing Interzone review, the pixies got to it. Or as near as damn to. Turns out since it went so thoroughly awol in the system, they're going to hold the review back until the paperback issue of Against Gravity, which should be sometime in the late summer of 2006. Which means so far I've had precisely one - one! - print review of Against Gravity.


Paul Raven - the book's reviewer, who let me know of what happened in the first place - let me know he'll be taking his review back down soon, since it will in fact be published at some point: not quite absolute victory, but at least I gain the sense of snatching one tiny morsel of success from the slavering jaws of defeat.


Got an email from a bloke called Paul Raven, who writes some reviews for Interzone: turns out he wrote a very nice review for Against Gravity, except it hasn't actually appeared in the magazine's new issue. Which is, to put it mildly, a bummer: given that the only print review of the book I can recall seeing so far was in SFX, it does rather lend to the paranoia that people don't realise the book even exists.

You can, however, read the unpublished review at the reviewer's blog, which can be found here. Thanks again, Paul.

I've worked on magazines myself in the past, and I know how hard it can be to fit in all the available material, and how easily reviews or articles can be cut, chopped or dropped altogether in the last-minute frenzy of getting everything ready for the printing presses: so I'll be the last person to complain. But I'm hoping the review might yet appear in a later issue Interzone - it's like a direct tap into the hardcore sf audience in the UK.

Other bits and pieces - the short ten minute script didn't get any farther with the BBC, and I find myself not that bothered, partly because I've been keeping busy. Apart from the ten k outline for a new novel which is already with my agent and editor, the first thirteen thousand words of 'Stealing Light' went off in the post on Friday. Now it's a case of wait and see.

The day after that, I started writing an hour-long tv script, partly for the practice, and partly because I know a local production company is looking for material for one of the shows they produce (inside contacts). Even if it doesn't get anywhere, it might make for a kind of calling card. The same for the ten minute script: this will also get another, brief shine, then sent out elsewhere.

I think one of the things that attracts me to the whole notion of screenwriting (as if you could have failed to notice) is that you can get an entire story down in a fraction of the time it takes to write it to novel length. It's even occurred to me that a convenient way of working out the plot of a novel might be to write it in screenplay format first, and iron out the plot. We'll see.


So it's late October, and outside it's ... sunny and warm. (Adopts craggy stare of doom-saying Scotsman) ... it's the end times, I tell ye, it's no' natural: the seas are gonnae rise up and potatoes'll be worth more than gold dust, aye, we're doomed, DOOMED I tell ye, Doomed ...

I just came out of a minor attack of flu, and not a pigeon in sight. Felt well enough a couple of nights ago to make it along to the Halloween-ish meeting of Edinburgh's Writer's Bloc at the Canon's Gate pub with Mike G and Phil Raines from GSFWC, at which surely the highlight was Gavin Inglis' 'Springheeled Jock', the delivery of which should surely be the measure of all pub spoken word events. Gavin, I salute you. And your comedy fake beard, wherever it may roam.

The past couple of months have actually been surprisingly busy in a fun way, which is one reason for (insert typical excuse here) my pathetic lack of blogging. What can I say? Sorry, I have a life, okay? Like Al says over at geek show, Duncan Lunan had a sixtieth at the Bon Accord several days ago: I don't know what deal the bastard's made with Auld Nick, but the fact he looks twenty years younger than he actually is ... well, it's no' natural, I tell ye ...

Writing: the ten minute script I submitted to the BBC's Tartan Shorts has currently made it as far as the longlist, but of course that's no guarantee it'll get any further. If it doesn't, it's going to my agent, who works with another agent to er, agent scripts for tv and film. People have said I'm getting my hopes up too high concerning scriptwriting, but the point isn't about getting your hopes up, it's about giving it a shot regardless of the hopeless bleedin' odds against it. You could make exactly the same series of statements about writing novels, and I got a couple of those published, so what the hell.

There's going to be another joint Writer's Bloc thing in mid-December, and I'll be back along to that: it's likely several of us from GSFWC will also be participating, so come along and say hello if you're in the area. I keep meaning to write something for it, but I'm hardly the best organised for this kind of thing - plus, I tend to set myself high standards: it's got to not only be a good story, it's got to be in a suitable style for reading aloud. Think more 'stand=up' than 'intricate prose'.


Wednesday last: disaster. I'm sitting at my usual place - laptop on coffee table, in kitchen - when the phone rings. So I stand up, reach for the phone, and my foot catches the power cord. Too late: the laptop slides off the edge of the coffee table, and hits the floor, edge first. The whole thing in slo-mo in my head.

Well, at first it looked like it was fine, but it turned out the usb ports were gubbed: I'd had a usb modem plugged into it when I stood up, and that clearly twisted and broke the internal usb slots. Oh joyous fucking day. And thank my lucky stars I hadn't stuffed my desktop pc away in a cupboard somewhere, like I'd been intending.

Thing is, since Wednesday, I've only been able to get on the net on my old desktop. And (aside from the mental shutdown mentioned in the next paragraph) I'm getting more writing done. Big surprise, really: it's way too easy to keep checking the email, look stuff up on Amazon, on the laptop. Now the work is evenly split between two machines: ancient pc for email and web, laptop for writing. One day I'll get a wifi card so I can not get around to ever sitting in coffee shops pretending it's actually possible to get work done surrounded by dozens of people talking loudly.

I crashed last weekend, and hardly did any writing, something I'm hoping to fix this weekend. Mind you, some good news: word from the agent is Against Gravity's been picked up by a Spanish publishing company for release in November 2006.

I think I mentioned before I'd put a short (ten minute) script into something called Tartan Shorts, where the BBC pick three scripts for production. The benefit isn't just to new writers, it's to producers, engineers, directors, whatever. I made the longlist out of maybe three hundred entries, which was apparently enough for me to get invited along to the BBC to talk to two producer types about how I saw the film being made, should it get so far as the top three: I had no idea what I was supposed to say, being entirely new to this kind of thing.

The story is set in an isolated religious community in the Highlands in the near future. It's very much science fiction.

At one point, one of the women said, 'you know, with the technology and the robots, it could almost be ...' She mused for a moment, before leaning forward. 'Almost sci fi.'

But it is science fic - I started to say, then closed my mouth and sat back, remembering the monthly lists of actors in Ansible saying their new movie featuring faster than light ships and aliens wasn't really science fiction, it was ... futuristic drama. I give up. I have no fucking idea what goes through these people's heads. No, I do know, but it's too depressing: what goes through their heads is Buck Rogers and flying cars and, I guess, a big blank nothing when it comes to imagining the world even a year or two from now.

So anyway, they're looking for a rewrite, for two weeks from now. What they're looking for seems faily reasonable, so that's something else to muck about with. I need a holiday.


I like this. Apparently there's a thing going around where people put up the first lines or paragraphs on anything they're either working on, or that's unfinished, unpublished or whatever. It came via Charlie Stross' blog, I think. So here's my contributions:

THE FRACTURE (unfinished novel)
Jacob gripped the shunt unit in his hand and glanced up, seeing a baneful Chicago moon hanging low over the alley. The unit pulsed red against his skin. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, bright afternoon sunshine spilled across crumbling stonework and mossy flagstones. He put a hand up to shield his eyes from the sudden light and turned in the direction of the stables.

WESTERN GOTHIC (unfinished wild west horror fantasy)
Rain slashed down on the south-east coast of China, turning the sky into a slate-grey wall that extended from the top of heaven down to the waves that crashed against the pebbly beach. Lawton pulled the hood of his cape tight around his neck, rivulets of rainwater somehow still finding their way inside. He felt cold, damp and miserable; under the cloak, his wet cotton shirt stuck to his skin. He cleared his throat and tasted salt.

There were memories here.
If it had a name, it would be Teacher. Humans called its kind Baskers. It lifted its pale-furred snout and scented the remembrance of other times, carried to the rocky ridge on which it stood by warm, sulphurous winds blowing up from the lake below. The Basker tasted memories and snatches of thought, pissed or spat onto rocks and the wide roots of the canopy trees that towered over the landscape.

Lian stood on the roof of the only world she had known until the age of thirteen, and felt the wind lash at her face like a frozen whip.

Jonah woke suddenly to darkness, wondering just what it was he'd heard.
The back of his head rested against the scarred and beaten leather of the couch he fell asleep on most nights, usually to the serenade of police cars wailing their way downtown. The sound of the sirens always made him think of listening to Charlie Parker, forlorn yet also hopeful at the same time. He stared up at the cracks that patterned the ceiling, like the relief map for some river valley hidden for centuries from the sight of man. The plaster was now streaked with pale moonlight that drifted through tall windows overlooking a fire escape. Jonah shivered, the gas fire to one side of the window cold and inert as an empty promise. Here and there, beyond the narrow pool of illumination cast by the single bulb hanging above the coffee table, could be seen several tall canvases, all shrouded in white sheets.

Sonja looked up, and saw stars.
Her breath frosted in the cold night air, puffing out from behind the scarf wrapped tight around her neck and chin as a chill winter wind whipped across the darkened courtyard. Dark blonde hair spilled out from under a knitted cap pressed down over her head. Tutor Langley stood next to her, the craggy features of his face rising above the upturned collar of his heavy black coat like an island of basalt above a wine-dark sea.

Funnily enough, Stross isn't the only writer I've found who seems to keep two blogs - one regular one, one on LiveJournal. I'm not sure why. Just one is a bad enough excuse for excessive procrastination.


I got an okayish review in SFX for Against Gravity, where it got three stars out of five: weirdly enough, that's half a star more than they give Charlie Stross for Accelerando on the opposite page, and he just won a Hugo! An object lesson, as if it were needed, in why reviews should never be taken too seriously.

At one point, the book is described as 'a film pitch in search of a green light', which I found kind of amusing, since making a movie out of it was about as far from my mind as it could get.

By the way, if you want to leave a comment in future, I've had to switch on word verification after getting deluged by comment spam.
I read on Boing Boing about a new, open source portable games machine, movie viewer, mp3 player, and text reader in one: want one, particularly since it's going for just over a hundred quid. Unfortunately, it's going to have to wait. Possibly, for a long time.

Then I tripped over a new blog by the editor of Spike Magazine (via Mumpsimus) which lists new, free books on the net. Want one even more, so I can read them on it. But what I really, really want is one of those Japanese ebook machines (Librie? Librio? Whatever) that turned up on The Gadget Show earlier this year, which, according to the presenter, did pretty much reproduce the effect of reading text off the printed page.

No, paper books are a long way from being replaced. I agree. But it does occur to me that when we can extensively read even from popular newspapers on our computer screens, it's really a short jump from there to reading ebooks on the subway or bus, especially when (or if) a lot more textbooks, say, end up being published electronically. Imagine if you never had to lug those heavy great tomes around uni. Students of the world unite, you have only your etexts to gain.
So I've been busy, writing different outlines for Tor and waiting to see which, if any of them, fit the bill for whatever it is they're looking for. More discussions led to more frantic scribbling, and after two weeks of solid hardcore creative action a fresh outline (eight thousand words, hey, they said they wanted detailed) went sailing through the ether Friday last. So, back to waiting and wondering.

I made the horrible mistake of pulling some childhood favourites from the shelf in a fit of nostalgia, partly driven by a conversation in the pub with Hal Duncan in which he mentioned re-reading a lot of Alfred Bester lately. So I dug out 'Star Light, Star Bright' and re-read the first two stories, Adam and no Eve, and Time is the Traitor. Horrible mistake. Horrible, horrible mistake. Book goes back on shelf. Have I learned my lesson? Do I turn away from the execrable fiction of yore? Do I hell. Next down is The Best of AE Van Vogt, with one of those Seventies paperback covers that screams second hand bookshop at you. Got halfway through 'Weapon Shop' before doing everything but bouncing it into the wastebasket. Sod nostalgia. I reached for my copy of Shepard's 'The Jaguar Hunter' and got on a lot better with that.


The weird thing is, I started this blog so I could, you know, talk about writing. What's weird about that is, the farther you get into the whole professional side of things - the business of writing, as it were - the less you feel free to talk about it: the important stuff, the stuff that's occupying many of your thoughts, is between you and your editor and your agent. So I find myself in a curious position I suspect a lot of writers do, where you gradually sort of self-censor yourself because to do otherwise would be to divulge what are, really, confidentialities. Which is a shame, because there's a lot to tell.

Another reason for a lack of writing here is I've been busy working on outlines. Lots of outlines. Several outlines. Outlines coming out of my freaking ears. That's my life just now: I go to the part time job, I come home, and I type. A lot.

So, Gary: what're you up to?
Writing outlines.
Cool: want to talk about it?
Why not?
Because I'm, you know, hanging in a limbo-like void here, man. The future is indeterminate. I can't really talk about my writing until I know whether I'm going to get a second contract.
Wow. Can't you tell us some things?

Well, I've got enough book ideas to last me about ten years, for a start. Curiously enough, very few of these are in the 'space opera' mode. I did space opera with Angel Stations. Lots of running about, shooting, and blowing up things. I did slightly less running about, shooting and blowing up things with Against Gravity, which wasn't really a space opera at all, and was meant to be more 'serious' (stop laughing at the back, there).

Some of the other stuff I've been working on includes 'Wonderland' (also known as 'Things Unseen'). This covers a period roughly between the end of WW2 and the mid-Seventies. It was inspired by a book about CIA and KGB covert involvement in the development of the arts, including modern art - Jackson Pollock, and so forth. That's all up to maybe sixty thousand words. Once I've got all the other writing work out of the way in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try and go back to it and get as close as I can to finishing it. I'm expecting it to top out at maybe 150k, so the chances of actually finishing it anytime soone# are slim, but I'll see how far I get.

Another project I've got in the pipeline is having a go at writing an episode of an existing TV show. Every now and then I go to the scriptwriting workshop I've been hanging out at in recent weeks, and have a conversation with Claire (the person who runs the workshop) that goes something like this:

Gary: So how much do you get paid for writing an hour long TV episode?
Claire: About eight thousand pounds.
Gary (giggling): Say it again, Claire. But the other stuff too.
Claire: Eight thou, when they buy it. And another eight thousand, when they start filming it.
Gary (weeping hysterically, clawing at the table, both legs twitching violently): No. Say it properly. Say it the way I like it. With all the good bits in.
Claire (shaking head sorrowfully): Eight thousand to buy it, eight thousand again when they start filming it, another eight thousand on the first day of transmission ...
Gary (bursting into erratic, hysterical laughter): Say it! Say the good bit!
Claire: ... and the same again, if they repeat it.
Gary slides under the table, pawing at the carpet, making ecstatic snickering and grunting noises to generally appalled expressions.
Gary (briefly popping his head back up, a glazed look in his eyes): and how long is the average hour TV script? In words?
Claire: About fifteen thousand words (or sixty pages, in TVland parlance).
Gary: passes out from sheer joy.


So I saw Primer tonight, at the Glasgow Film Theatre, and came away mightily confused. I'd heard about it first through a couple of reviews. Every now and then you get a science fiction movie with no effects budget: critics hail this remarkable development, while getting confused over having to call it a science fiction movie despite the lack of effects (after all, if it doesn't have special effects, it can't be a science fiction movie, right?): and despite these occasional mini-revolutions Hollywood goes right along churning out an eternal sequence of Disneyesque CGI fantasies that have little to do with what I regard as science fiction.

So it's annoying in the extreme when someone sets out to make a zero budget science fiction film which is clearly full of intelligence and ideas, yet produces something that still left me completely befuddled as to what the hell was going on.

The basic plot is, a couple of engineers working on some project discover they've invented a time machine. It's just a metal box: you sit in it for a couple of hours, and when you come out, you're a couple of hours back in time from when you first entered the box and switched on the machine. Fair enough.

Except much of the movie is done in a particular 'cinema verite' style, which demands that everyone speak at once, with voices constantly overlapping, and those barely discernible over a background of clattering dishes, rushing traffic and noisy offices. As a result, I even had trouble discerning the names of the characters.

That I've managed to figure out as much of the plot as I have is largely down to the fact I'd already had the basic story described to me by Phil Raines at the weekend. I think I know what it's about, but if it demonstrates one thing, it's the value of having actors who speak clearly, and of a script that at all times stresses what the hell is actually going on.

I'm not talking about a dumbed down plot, but this is a film so determined to avoid any of the over-dramatic cliches of so much of Hollywood that it's very, very difficult to get a handle on what in God's name is happening. Even a series of voice-overs don't make it clear what the sequence of events are. There's a character called Rachel who's apparently pretty central to the plot, except I spent so much of this movie leaning forward in my seat trying to understand what the hell anybody was saying, and trying to absorb each piece of information before the next went rushing by, that I still have no idea who she is.

I'm particularly annoyed by this because if there's one thing we really, really do need, it's more low-budget zero effects intelligent science fiction movies. And this is one, I'm sure of it. As soon as somebody explains it to me. Or - and I can't believe I'm saying this - somebody gives the guy enough money to do a major studio remake where he gets to make the incomprehensible finally comprehensible.

It can be done. Look at Pi, still one of the finest science fiction movies of the past couple of decades. I still don't know whether to laugh or cry when people express amazement at the idea it's a sf film - after all, it's not got a big effects budget, has it?


Gary Gibson: worldconned.

Right now, there's not a great deal to blog about, mainly because I'm waiting on some news. I'm waiting for the man, as it were: and when I get that news, sometime hopefully in the next couple of weeks before I go nuts waiting, I'll have something to blog about: either to celebrate or curse. Whichever way it goes, we'll see.

So instead of all that, I've been concentrating on setting up a free flickr account on which to store not only many of my own photos, but those of other members of GSFWC, who happened to take pictures at the Worldcon. Most specifically, most of the pictures I've uploaded to Flickr came via Paul Cockburn.

Other bits and pieces: John Berlyne of SFRevu has put up a report on the Worldcon, which makes for very entertaining reading. There's a couple of pictures of GSFWC members, including four of us crammed around a dinner table in a restaurant being interviewed on camera.

Weirdly enough, I almost look healthy, an illusion abruptly shattered by the picture placed at the end of the report.

Concerning that last picture in John's report: I think the only appropriate description is 'worldconned.'


I ran into Rick Kleffel from Trashotron.com/The Agony Column at the Tor UK party at Borders on the Friday evening of the Worldcon, and had only a few short minutes in which to chat to him (as others have noted, both the sheer volume of convention participants and the fact events were spread over several locations across the city made it hard to find anyone more than once, let alone at all). He'd been about to buy a copy of Against Gravity, so naturally I reached into my bag and pulled out a mint copy I already had stashed away to hand to any passing reviewers.

Rick's written up a short piece in his news section about the book, in which he says some very nice things that, as those writers like myself will know, can provoke those 'is he really talking about me?' kind of moments.

" What Gibson excels at is creating that "fish out of water " feel that science fiction readers love. You know, where you’re reading a novel and on one hand you can see what’s happening in each individual scene, but as you try to put the story together in your head, connecting our world to the one you’re reading about, you're thinking "What the hell?" Gibson is able to tear open the mind, put in those scenes and give you the most enjoyable possible path to put them together in a satisfying story, and he does it with stand-alone, non-series novels."


Since the end of the Worldcon, it's occurred to me that my purpose in life is not so much to be a science fiction writer as to provide light comedy relief at science fiction conventions.

This particularly came to mind on the last day of the convention. John Berlyne - the UK Editor for the SFRevu website - had spent most of the weekend trying to organise the filming of a documentary about sf writers and fans, working in conjunction with a chap named Russell.

Now, by Monday early afternoon, I'd gone several days without adequate sleep, particularly worsened by the fact my convention effectively started a day early with the Nova Scotia launch at Borders on the Wednesday evening.Myself, Mike Cobley, Deborah Miller and Hal Duncan all got squeezed round one side of a dinner table in a restaurant while four people point a camera at us. Which is about the point I started sneezing uncontrollably.

At first it was just the occasional sniff. Then it became a sonic deluge of honks, snorts, sneezes, coughs and splutters, with the added visual effect of increasingly bleary eyes and a lump of paper handkerchief gripped in one hand. By the end of the interview - and my mind was so gone by this point I have serious trouble adequately recalling what I did say - I was a wreck. All I could see were the vaguely horrified expressions of John and his colleagues as I almost literally dissolved before their eyes.

Well, in retrospect, if I'd been able to think more clearly I'd have bowed out and let the other three get on with it, but so it goes. Sorry, Russell. Sorry, John. With any luck you'll be able to salvage at least twenty seconds of usable footage out of, what, forty-five minutes of filming?

Concerning the documentary: John and Russell are doing the documentary 'on spec', meaning they're not under contract - they're just hoping someone will take it on board at some later date, which I vaguely recollect is often the case with such things. Things I learned: John told me the SFRevu site gets not far off half a million hits a month. I don't know if that's sheerest hyperbole or not, but to me it's very impressive if true. It also makes me wonder what kind of hit rate sites like Sci Fiction get... Anyway, here's a quick breakdown of how things went, day by day:

(Nova Scotia launch)
Things really kicked off a day early with the launch of the Nova Scotia anthology on the Wednesday: it went pretty well, I think, and most people headed off for the Counting House afterwards. There were certainly a lot of people there.

(First day of the Con)
I think it was round about this point I knew there was no way in hell we were going to manage a line-up of the whole writer's circle in front of the SECC, and I was right. I managed to get a few photos, but nothing definitive, as it were.

Plus, I was the first thing on, pretty much: a reading at midday, which went not too badly (at least, I think it didn't) considering I only start functioning around this point most days. It didn't help I didn't really prepare for this, either, so I was kind of jamming/flying by ear on this one. But people tell me it went well enough.

I ran into a lot of people, with particular mention going to Eric Schaler, John Scalzi, Rick Kleffel, Al Reynolds, Ria Cheyne, Jeff Ford, etc, etc, etc.

My first real panel, as opposed to the reading the morning before, on scottish writers: apart from myself, there were Richard Morgan, Mike Cobley, Neil Williamson, and Jack Deighton. They argued for the case that there's a recognisable body of scottish sf writing, at least in the cultural sense, and that this is often exemplified by space opera.

I disagreed - rather strongly - pointing out that when you have several men, all from roughly similar socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, they're inevitably going to wind up thinking what they're into somehow represents what's going on in science fiction writing in Scotland. I have my serious doubts that's the case. Later that afternoon, myself, Jay Caselberg (moderating), Keith Brooke, and Martin Sketchley (I think) were on a panel together. Unfortunately, given the late nights that are part and parcel of conventions, what you had were very four tired men saying 'I think ...' and then forgetting what they were about to say. I was the worst. Jay turns to me at one point and says "So Gary. Summing up." To which I look around with an expression that seems to say 'where am I?'

So it goes. The panel was on 'blowing worlds up: the pleasures of destruction', which is pretty vague, so we covered everything from Greg Bear's The Forge of God to JG Ballard's disaster novels, and the idea that the pleasure of destruction of worlds is really about (or so I argued) the innate fear of change, and how this is reflected (as others have noted) in sf's ability to embrace overwhelming change (where 'mainstream' novels, it's been argued, tend to reject it by defeating the agents of change and returning the status quo. Basically any Michael Crichton novel).

OK: so my first ever panel done and dusted. Next up that evening was the Tor UK do at Borders, which went exceedingly well. As I've said before, one of the things that bugged me was the complete lack of any of my books at the convention, despite my second book coming out a couple of weeks ago. Well, I worked out why last night. Like I said before, I don't know the circumstances, but the review copies of Against Gravity went out late. In order to make sure it got reviewed by the magazines, the official release date was moved back a month, despite the fact it was already on sale on the internet and in the bookshops. Because the release date was moved back, it turns out those book dealers who wanted to sell the book at the convention were told by their suppliers the book wasn't available yet ...
(Through gritted teeth)
So. It. Goes.

Meanwhile, copies of Nova Scotia are flying - flying - off the tables. Anyway. Hal got truly and completely smashed (one particularly recalls him bellowing 'I want the finest wines in the house!' across the basement music department). I spent a lot of time chatting to my agent Dorothy Lumley and, of course, my editor Peter Lavery. One good point about this is there were nearly eighty copies of Against Gravity there, about half of which I signed. After
all this, there was a Gollancz party at a club round the corner called Tiger, Tiger. Headed there, along with a good few of the Glasgow contingent, a couple of people from London (hi Gaie, hi Sarah), and MJ, who turned up and effectively became Hal's minder for the night (which mainly involved preventing him from stumbling in front of fast-moving traffic).

I could tell you about how a friend of a well-known writer nearly punched out someone in the industry, but professionalism prevents me. Oh well. Unfortunately, a certain laxity in terms of checking who was going in and out of various industry parties meant one or two people simply wandered in who had nothing to do with the convention. One woman, in particular, was clearly several glass panes short of a greenhouse. At some point, my inner fanboy came out while talking to David Pringle. Who can blame me?The entire first two floors of the Hilton were given over to party space.

The SECC got very quiet after seven or so, and everyone moved on to the Hilton. Good stuff. Lots of people. A Klingon in a kilt, about which I shall say no more. As others have noted - it may have been Ken MacLeod - far less people in silly costumes than in previous years. Naturally, the press showed an unerring ability to zero in on these people as somehow representative of what was otherwise a remarkably sober and industry-oriented affair.

As you'll have noticed, I wasn't really going to that many panel items, although I've heard really good things about most of them. I think this might be at least in part because the kind of discussions that go on in panels tend to make up a not insubstantial part of my average Saturday night out.

Also, I view conventions as primarily social events with a vast opportunity to meet'n'greet. I enjoy panels, but I always find myself wondering who I could be chatting to I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to chat to for another year or so. I turned up for a Tor UK presentation at ten in the morning, in time for some Nazi in a suit to tell me hot drinks (my coffee from the concourse coffee shop) weren't allowed inside the seminar rooms. Almost certainly blatant rubbish, but I only had the energy to argue with him for a minute or so. I ended up leaving itsitting outside the door: to my surprise, it was still warm an hour later when I re-emerged.

One of the things that stood out was Cecilia Dart-Thornton's presentation around her fantasy book The Iron Tree. Whatever Tor are paying her, it's got to be good, because
she paid the company behind the game Myst to create fully interactive 3D programmed environments based on her books. There were a series of long - perhaps too long - presentations on these. I seem to recall it's possible to get these environments on disk, bundled with one of her books. I think. I think there were publisher parties that night, but I skipped them, already feeling like a zombie. Hit the parties at the Hilton, of course, until the early hours. More Klingons in kilts.

Well, one anyway.

At some point I caught Hal doing a reading from Vellum. He started howling when he got to the Iggy Pop bit, which sort of rattled on the eardrums a bit.

Yeah, the Hugos ... got to be honest, I skipped them. An awards ceremony is an awards ceremony. To be honest I regret missing them now, but at the time I was beyond shattered. (On the Monday, in the dealer's room while talking to Mike Cobley, we ran into Charlie Stross, who'd won a Hugo the previous night. He had this glassy-eyed, thousand yard stare about him. The kind of look I imagine I'd have on my face if someone told me I'd won a Hugo.)

Another panel in the afternoon, which I almost forgot I was meant to be on, on breaking into writing. This one went pretty well, actually. Simon Green - author of the Deathstalker books - had a lot to say. His story on writing the novelisation of Prince of Thieves was particularly amusing (apparently the script he was given to work from was particularly appalling. The movie makers had decided that, being set in Britain, the characters would sound more authentic if they said 'bollocks' a lot. The movie novelisation industry being what it is, and the book being written under such a tight deadline, apparently it went to print straight from the word processor to the typesetting machines with only a brief stop at the spellchecker which, unfortunately, turned every occurrence of 'bollocks' into 'bullocks'. And it still made the New York bestseller lists.)

The panel went so well, at the end a member of the audience said it was the best panel of its type they'd been to at a convention. Well, maybe they hadn't been to so many conventions ... we also covered issues like book doctoring, which led on to why outside of a very few trustworthy agencies like John Jarrold's, you should never, ever pay money to companies to publish your work. Money, as they say, flows towards the author, not away. Unfortunately, at least one member of the audience had, it turned out, paid money to put out their work. I don't think anybody had the heart to tell them they'd almost certainly made a big mistake.

I think it was that evening I wound up going to Mother India with pretty much the entire T-Party writer's group from London. Or was it the Saturday? Arse. Can't remember.

Occasional glimpses of Hal going this way and that, usually with some kind of doppler-effect ...aaaaaAAAAAAaaaa... thing going in as he receded once more into the distance.

Sunday night led to the best full-on industry party of the week: Orbit's thirtieth anniversary bash at the Arches nightclub in the city centre. This is a movie-maker's idea of what a publishing industry party would be like. One of Glasgow's trendiest clubs and exhibition spaces, stuffed with agents, writers, editors, critics, and me. I managed to blag a couple of friends in with me as well which, to be honest, was pretty easy. Well, okay, we walked in. That's how easy.

Managed to say hello to a quietly bemused John Scalzi and myself and Andrew Wilson, co-editor of the aforementioned Nova Scotia, managed to press a copy of the aforementioned anthology into Mr Scalzi's hands. This is a good thing, because Scalzi gets a lot of hits on his site, and there's precedent in the fact Scalzi has also sent out copies of his own books for similar promotional reasons to other people who blog. I seem to recall John Scalzi's website gets something like several thousand hits every week or so, which to me is an astonishing figure.

Then the Hugos, which I sat out in the Moathouse chatting to people, after having dinner with an old friend from London I hadn't seen in a long time. Then the inevitable sojourn to the Hilton again, which was interesting: mostly in good ways, but as happens at these things, I did fall out with someone - for very good reasons, from my point of view. So it goes. And then Monday, and the horrible realisation I had to go back to the real world, including the hilarious 'sneezing interview' episode.

I'd thought about hanging around for the dead dog party, but I skipped it and instead opted to go home and collapse in terminal body shock and enjoy a really stinking cold which kept me horizontal until the next afternoon.


Photos in order: me and Al at the Tor UK do on the Friday: authors read from Nova Scotia at the Wednesday launch: Jim Campbell, Hal Duncan, Gary Couzens at the Nova Scotia launch: preparing for my reading on the Thursday afternoon (thanks Lori!): another photo from the Nova Scotia launch, Paul Cockburn of GSFWC to fore: Hal Duncan and Mike Cobley of GSFWC sign books in the dealer's hall: the Scottish SF panel: Deborah Miller in the concourse: Gavin Inglis, Andrew J. Wilson and John Jarrold chat in the Hilton: and Mike Cobley comes out of the newspaper shop.


I'm still working on a post about the Worldcon, but knowing my usual procrastination skills, it'll probably be next week before it goes up.

In the meantime, I dropped a line to Joe Gordon over at the Forbidden Planet website about the books, primarily driven by the fact there was one copy of one of my books in the whole dealer's room at a Worldcon taking place almost literally around the corner from my house. Turns out both my books were already featured in FP's instore magazine FPI, for which I am eternally grateful: and Joe already had a piece on them planned for the FP blog/website, which you can find here.


It's just over 24 hours after the end of the first UK Worldcon in ten years, but I'm still too knackered to write up anything detailed. I took a few photos, and found a few more floating around on the net. Generally speaking, it was fun: a few downer moments, but I won't concentrate on those. A few thoughts: a very, very tiny minority at conventions really need to learn something about the art of politeness. It would have been nice, given that I live around the corner from the convention center, if more than one single copy of one of my books turned out to be for sale in the entire dealer's room, given that the second came out only a couple of weeks ago. But these things happen, I suspect, not infrequently. I'll be posting some photos - some from a camera, some from a cheap camera phone I picked up the other day, some by other people I know or found on flicker - but not until closer to the weekend.


Got an email through from Jim Steel that I'm on a list of candidates for what appears to be a special one-off set of British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) awards focused around Worldcon, called 'Best of British'. I'm on the list, apparently, for 'best newcomer', which is nice. Unfortunately, the deadline for voting was last Monday, except today is the first time I even heard about it ... so it goes. I don't know if it's a longlist, a shortlist, or whatever, but I'll probably pick up a copy of the BSFA's 'Matrix' magazine at the con and see what it says about me anyway. Just nice that people are thinking about me.


The BBC have come up with the absolutely superb idea of experimenting with putting some of their programmes up on the internet to view at the same time as it's available on the networks. If you like your humour quite astonishingly surreal, then I urge you to watch the second episode of The Mighty Boosh. Unfortunately - or at least so it says on the webpage - it's only viewable by people in the UK. I'm no expert in these things (though I can say it plays as a streaming realplayer file), but I wonder if someone out there can find a way around this. You'll need a decent broadband connection to watch it, natch.


Monday, and the Worldcon is only a couple of days away. What's weird about it is I feel like the opening act at Woodstock: I'm probably not the first one up in front of an audience, but pretty close with a reading at midday on the Thursday. Which is a bit scary, but I've done it before (okay, once). People are emailing bits and pieces around the GSFWC mailing list about stuff to talk about on panels, and I'm like, prepare? How do you even spell 'prepare'? I'm too busy hoping my bad back clears up before Thursday so I don't spend the whole weekend hobbling around with a pained expression and a pocket full of 400mg Ibuprofen. Plus, if there's one thing I really, really hate, it's the sound of my voice amplified. Too squeaky.

Like a couple of other people pointed out, there's a little in the way of pre-con preparation in the form of the Nova Scotia launch on Wednesday in Glasgow Borders - the same Borders that chucked our writing group out the door several years ago because we were 'too rowdy'. I'm not sure how a middle-aged, bearded, choir-singing sub-editor called Lawrence asking if we can have an extra chair and carrying one down from an upper floor qualifies as 'rowdy behaviour', but clearly we were far too violent, dangerous and badly behaved to be allowed to remain on the premises. I find it endlessly amusing that these same people now have to host a do on the Friday night for Tor writers, a few of whom (ie me and Hal) are members of that writing group.

I keep meaning to put together a list of things to go to at the Con, and particularly, stuff I'm supposed to be at, but I suck at organisation at the best of times. Probably I'll scribble something down (lacking a printer) at the last minute and hopefully not lose it.

One thing I am hoping to do at some point (and this is by way of a reminder to some of the other GSFWC people attending) is I'd like to take a picture of us, outside the SECC. There isn't much in the way of photographic evidence of GSFWC over the nearly fifteen years I've been a member, and considering the vast majority of the old crowd now either have agents or actual book deals it sort of makes sense to me to just take a picture. Outside the front entrance of the SECC, maybe. However, most of GSFWC suck at organisation even worse than I do, so there are absolutely no guarantees I can get them all in the same place at once. If enough of them turn up to the midday reading, I might try and entrap them there: except, of course, somebody won't be able to make it, and then there won't be any point. So what I'll probably try and do is just generally take pictures and post them up here as and when.


Some more stuff is up, so excuse me while I indulge in some more of my favourite activity, blatant self-promotion. There are several pieces up at infinityplus, including: an excerpt from Against Gravity, and an interview with myself, Hal Duncan and Michael Cobley. They're all housed under a general profile of scottish writers at next week's Worldcon.


The first review for Against Gravity is up on the net, and it's a good one (phrases that stick are 'pretty damn good' and 'superb ending'), which is heartening considering there were times while writing it when I felt like getting a bit Misery on its ass with a sledgehammer and a block of wood. But it all came out all right in the end.

Of course, this is all nothing more than standard second book syndrome. If that doesn't make sense to you, trust me, you have to be there to know what it feels like. First books are always easier because usually you're writing it without a contract, so really there's no serious pressure involved. It's after you've sold it and have to write a second that the pressure really starts to kick in.

Worldcon is barely more than a week away, and I've taken two weeks off work in order to a)prepare b)be there and c)recover. Unfortunately, Cheryl's review might be the only one for a couple of weeks, since it turns out there was a delay down at the publishers, and they've only just managed to send out the review copies ... more than a week after it's appeared in the shops and on Amazon.

So if you're a reviewer and were expecting it (like Rick Kleffel over at trashotron.com, who mailed me to let me know he hadn't received anything), this is why it isn't there yet.

Fortunately, they've moved the official release date of AG back by about a month (apparently this makes sure it gets reviewed by the usual media and fiction magazines): so in fact, it's not out until August.

Even though you can buy it.

Right now.

In your local bookshop.

And online.



Against Gravity finally hit the shops yesterday (Friday), along with the mass market paperback of Angel Stations. I'm not enough of an expert to judge (ie I can see the online ranking but don't know how to interpret it in terms of actual numbers of copies sold), but they both seem to have been doing pretty well on Amazon in pre-orders.

If I haven't (again) been posting that much recently, it's because I'm not really up to writing 'what I had for breakfast' blog entries. So it does get harder to come up with interesting entries. Nonetheless, there are a few things over the past few weeks that do bear addressing.

1: Jim's post bag. In the tradition of many highly-regarded writers, artists, alcoholics and mass murderers, GSFWC writer Jim Steel is a postman. He also has to stick about five hundred copies of the new Harry Potter book through your door, except the letterbox on all of them is too small. Poor Jim. Bad Harry.

2: I had this brief moment of happy hope the other day when I found out that, yes, someone had made a 'period' version of War of the Worlds. I skipped to the official site and watched the trailer (finally viewable since I upgraded to broadband a couple of weeks ago).

I started getting seriously worried when a bloke in a very obviously stuck-on moustache ran towards the camera crying, 'unhand that woman, you brutes!' Then my happy little heart went on a long, long holiday, and my hopes went south bigtime. It is, apparently, uniquely and appallingly unwatchable on a level that challenges even Ed Wood for laughably bad filmmaking. There's a quite hilarious review here.

3: I've been along to a scriptwriting workshop at the BBC a couple of times recently, along with one or two other GSFWC'ers. Scriptwriting is something that always kind of appealed to me, primarily for financial reasons. It's 'relatively' little work for potentially much greater amounts of moolah than that available through novel writing. I used to have a terrible time trying to write scripts since it didn't feel, on some level, like I was really writing a story: more a description of events that felt, somehow, emotionally distanced from whatever made me want to write the story in the first place.

I got past that at last, primarily because every time I start writing a new book, I end up outlining it and planning it out more and more: so it starts feeling not so far from what a scriptwriter comes up with. I dug up an unfinished short story, turned it into a completed script, and felt actually really happy about it. So I'm going to submit it to something called Tartan Shorts and, who knows, if I'm very lucky I might even get somewhere with it.

So let's talk numbers: to get my head around writing a tv script, I downloaded the freely available script for Aliens. Total word count, thirty thousand words: one quarter of one of my novels. Amount of carefully annotated research concerning plausible planetary environments: zero, I rather imagine. But a lot of work in terms of plot structure and character development, I have no doubt. But even if I (or you, or anyone) manages to write an hour-long script for, say, an existing tv show, what you get paid on acceptance is equivalent to a pretty decent payment for a novel: and given a page of a script matches a minute of screen time, you're talking between forty-five and sixty pages.

Yes, there's more to it than that. Yes, it's not quite so simple. But here's the kicker: you get paid that same amount of money again on the day of transmission.

And again, if it gets repeated.

And you wonder why I'm suddenly interested in scriptwriting? I could finance the novel writing for years off of the back of something like that.

Before I sign off, I'm going to make a movie recommendation: I recently signed up to an online dvd rental service, and first through the post was Charlie Kaufman's 'Adaptation', which is about Charlie Kaufman trying and failing to write a script adaptation of a book. Kaufman is already far and away one of the finest screenwriters in Hollywood, responsible for Eternal Sunshine, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Being John Malkovich, and this. If you want to be a writer of any kind, go rent this. And feel the fear.


Everybody else seems to have got their Worldcon schedule through (and subsequently stuck it up on the web), so I guess it's time I got the finger out and put up my finalised list of 'stuff I'll be doing when I'm not falling over from lack of sleep'.

Thursday 12:00 noon: Reading (0.5 hrs)
Gary Gibson

Now here's my first lesson in abject terror at Worldcons: a reading. Kind of makes me think of the look Martin Sheen has on his face for much of Apocalypse Now: if I can just get myself through this alive, everything will be fine.

Oh, I don't mind doing readings at all. In fact, I wondered out loud a couple of times about the idea of getting some (inexpensive) voice coaching, something along the lines of those music teachers who claim to be able to teach you to sing in a day. In my experience, most authors - usually because of the understandable degree of stress and nervousness involved - tend to read their stuff too quickly, primarily because they're afraid of having any brief moments of silence in there. Which is, in fact, precisely what's necessary for people to be able to absorb what's being read to them. Listen to an actor doing a reading on the radio, then compare it to your experience (unless it's Garrison Keillor) of hearing an author read his own stuff. Not that you can really blame the author: their job is to write the stuff, after all, much more than it is to create a performance piece.

Saturday 2:00pm:Building a Future World and Blowing it Up: The Pleasures of Destruction (1.5 hrs)
Keith Brooke, Jay Caselberg, Gary Gibson(M), Larry Niven, Martin Sketchley
Is there anything better than watching a world you've constructed word by word, blow up in super nova or a nuclear war?

Two days after I got my provisional Worldcon schedule through, I woke in a sweat of Lovecraftian horror and realised what that bracketed 'm' meant: I'm the moderator. Makes me feel like Bogart in the African queen, eyeing the hungry crocodiles while piloting a boat stuffed with gelignite towards the rapids. You mean I'm in charge? You mad, mad fools. I have not got a fucking clue what I'm going to do with this one, except twitch a lot.

I do, however, have an inner sense of preservation which at the most unexpected moments bootstraps me into 'excessive chattiness' mode, usually while drowning in the inchoate horror of being at a party with only three other people there, none of whom you know, and none of whom appear to be willing to speak. I haven't, in other words, come up with anything to say, nor any even vague concept of how I might frame this panel, but I continue onwards in sanity safe in the knowledge that sometime between now and the time of the panel, righteous panic will set in and hopefully inspire some, I don't know, creative inspiration. Or something.

Sunday 3:30pm: Improving Your Writing (1.5 hrs)
Gary Gibson, Simon R Green, Jay Lake, Rowena Lindquist, Steve Nagy(M)
Authors discuss ways to improve plot, character, description, and other matters of technique

Okay, this one I think I can handle, maybe just because I'm not the moderator. I can blabber on eternally about the act (or art? 'act' seems more honest somehow) of writing.

Monday 1:00pm:Kaffeeklatsch

Gary Gibson, Ellen Kushner, Jo Walton

I was at the launch of Michael Cobley's new fantasy novel, Shadowmasque, at Glasgow Ottakar's a week or so ago, and Ian McDonald - an old friend of Mike's - came along. I mentioned to him I'd spoken to him briefly at the Eastercon, while he'd been on his way to a 'kaffeeklatsch'. I took this opportunity to ask him to tell me precisely what these entail.

Except I can't remember what he said now. I do, however, hope there's lots of coffee involved, as I think I'm going to need it by the time Monday afternoon rolls around.

Apart from all that, there's also going to be a party for Tor UK writers or summat held at the big Borders bookshop in Glasgow city centre on the Friday evening. It's also going to double as the launch party for Hal Duncan's first novel, Vellum, which is released on the same day (and which I need to get round to trying to blag a copy of from Pan while I'm at it). Naturally, I'll be there.

Other stuff: a script editor who works for a local tv company has been coming along to our writing workshop over the past couple of months: after a brief chat which included my jaw dropping when she told me how much money you can make writing a one or two hour script for someone like the BBC (assuming they go for it, of course) I agreed to drop by a scriptwriter's workshop which operates out of a West End bar sometime next week. I've actually got a couple of books on scriptwriting by people like Syd Field, but never really did anything about it. However, maybe I see things differently now, and it's an area of creative (and financial, natch) pursuit that's at least worth checking out. We'll see.


I put down the novel-length manuscript I've been working on yesterday and battered out a four thousand word short story in one evening, which makes me feel nice and productive. It's a horror story, for a change, influenced by some of the stuff which has been coming into the Glasgow Science Fiction Writer's Circle over the past several weeks, and isn't the kind of thing I normally expect from myself: so there you go. I used to write a lot of short stories, but I gave it up when I realised, like a lot of people, that it's often easier to work on books. I think I've written, maybe, one other piece of short fiction in the past five years or so - also, curiously enough, a horror story. Except that doesn't really count either, since it was something I'd started about five years before that and never finished.

Got a letter through from the British Fantasy Society, regarding my appearance on the 'recommendations longlist' for their annual novel award, letting me know they're having a pre-award get-together in London at the beginning of July. I sort of fancy going, but actually getting down there and also finding a place to stay without blowing out the bank account isn't so easy. Probably, I'll just stay up north and wait for the Worldcon. So it goes.


I have a new domain name, to point to the blog: garygibson.net. If you feel the urgent need to email me, my address will be gary (at) garygibson.net. Anyone with my old email address should update accordingly.


Well, here's something to warm the common edible European bivalve (or cockles to the rest of you): Angel Stations has made it into the British Fantasy Society's recommendations list for best novel of the year. You can find the list here. I get the impression the way it works is, this list of twenty-seven gets narrowed down to a shortlist of five, which then go forward to a final award. Considering I'm surrounded by the likes of Clive Barker, Stephen King and Lucius Shepard (not worthy), I'm not rating my chances of getting any further too highly, but that doesn't mean it's not very, very nice indeed to get this far. Thanks to Jim Steel for pointing this one out.


Worldcon is looming closer, and I just got my panel schedule through: just two, but they sound good. The first is "Building a Future World and Blowing it Up: The Pleasures of Destruction", on the Saturday at two, which sounds fun. And also "Improving your Writing" at half three on the Sunday, which is a bit more open-ended, by the sound of it. Plus, if you come to the first panel, you'll see me looking a little gobsmacked, because I'll be sharing a table with Larry Niven.


Got some good news - Tor managed to secure an offer from a Russian publishing company (AST), for both Angel Stations and Against Gravity. Which means some extra money sometime in the near future, which is also nice. Hooray for me!


Years and years and years ago, a guy from GSFWC called Fergus Bannon wrote a book called Judgement and mailed it to an agent, maybe two agents, or maybe it was an agent and a publisher. Whatever. Couple of weeks later the manuscript comes back with one of those 'thanks, but we'll skip it' notes tucked inside, so Fergus tucks it back in a drawer.

Fifteen years pass.

Now, this is not unusual. There's a lot of people who do this kind of thing - spend a year writing a novel: researching it: redrafting it: then they send it out. And when it gets rejected a couple of times, or maybe even only once, what they do is stick it in a drawer and forget about it. In some cases, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, since often the manuscript isn't anything great. The mark of a real writer of course, is when you go and write another, anyway. And if that doesn't sell, you write another. And another. And keep going until eventually - hopefully - you sell.

This, of course, isn't what most people do. Writing a book then forgetting about it, regardless of its intrinsic merits and demerits, is probably very common indeed. About ten years ago I got a copy of Judgement from Fergus and read through it. I really liked it. At this time, Fergus had had a couple of professional sales under his belt, including a story called 'Burning Brightly' in Interzone, which perfectly encapsulated his less than optimistic view of the world: so it wasn't like he was a total beginner.

There was one big problem with Fergus's book, though. It was set before the fall of the Soviet Union, and in certain respects was very political. It also had scenes set in Apartheid South Africa. Then the USSR went down in flames, along with Apartheid. Oops. Maybe not so surprising it got stuffed in a drawer, then.

Except when I read the book, I realised that the vast majority of the 'political' scenes existed primarily as 'intercut' scenes focusing on events that reflected on the theme of the book without necessarily involving the actual central plot too deeply at all. I was sure there was a way to fix these.

We talked about it and Fergus was up for it - except I'd have to be the one doing the edits: Fergus' day job - and I'm not allowed to say what it is - is one of considerable responsibility, and his life's moved on since his writing days enough so that there's not a chance in hell he's either going to have the time or - any longer - the inclination. But I felt the book really, really deserved some kind of a chance. It seemed like a damn shame for it to just disappear into a drawer and be forgotten about. I figured I could screw around with it (with permission granted) and fix those scenes that locked it into past events: and it sure as hell wasn't the kind of (hard sf) book that could function as historical fiction.

Except then I got a book deal and time was very, very limited. But I've just finished off some work and realised I had some spare time and, over the past couple of weeks, took the opportunity to go through the thing and make some fast edits. I'm hoping - really hoping - this'll be enough, although I figure I probably need to dive in there a couple more times and jazz up the detail, research wise.

Then I'll probably pass it around to a couple of people and see what they think.


I got an email from Cheryl Morgan a couple of weeks ago (much appreciated, Cheryl) that had itself been forwarded from the Glasgow Worldcon people, asking for contributions towards an article for local paper the Evening Times. Turns out that the local tv station, STV, were putting together a drama set in Glasgow, in thirty or forty years time.

Oh dear, I thought. When it comes to television drama produced up here, north of the border, the results aren't always promising. BBC Scotland has a series called River City, appalling enough to just about edge into the 'Ed Wood' category of so-bad-it's-funny. As for STV ... well, I have distant memories of a drama they did about the Loch Ness monster many, many years ago, for which the producer, scriptwriter and cast should have been publicly tarred and feathered. As for locally produced 'genre' drama apart from that, the best there's been - the only there's been - was Sea of Souls. This was actually quite a worthy attempt at doing something more X-Files-y. It didn't work, either, or at least the first series I saw didn't: I never saw the second.

Curiously enough, by chance I got chatting to someone peripherally involved with the creation of Sea of Souls. They first thing they did when the name came up was to apologise for it, then to reassure me the second series was much better. I hadn't even said anything.

So anyway, there were a couple of questions relating to the STV show, called, apparently, IM. What did I think Glasgow might be like in thirty years, what's the future of publishing, etc etc: fifty words or less. So I knocked together some rampant bullshit and emailed it to the paper five minutes later. The article appeared, apparently, on Friday, and somebody gave me a copy of it earlier today. Photo - not great. I'm a 'sci fi' writer - yech. Fifty words trimmed down to about three so, hey, they must really have been impressed!

What also strikes me as slightly worrying is the ease with which IM has slipped under the general radar. If it wasn't for Cheryl's email, I would never even have heard of it. It was on on Thursday, but given that I had no idea when it would be on, or what it was even called, surprise, I missed it.

In fact, I just found the stv website for IM, which turns out to be part of a series of specially commissioned one-off dramas, including - now I'm really kicking myself - one based on a short story by Charlie Stross! Aargh!

Now that I really did want to see.


Exactly how the international book market strictly operates in terms of rights in the US as compared to the rest of the world continues to flummox me. I've brought American editions of books by British writers through British Amazon. Similarly, there are many British editions of books by British or American or other writers available through the American Amazon, for American customers, regardless of whether those people have publishing deals in the US itself.

Go figure.

Nonetheless, I was delighted to discover (thanks, Dad) that the mass market paperback of Angel Stations, published in Britain sometime very soon, will apparently be available to buy through Amazon US from June 30th. Naturally, this pleases me very much, as back when Angel Stations first came out quite a few people in the States asked me, via this blog and elsewhere, if they'd be able to buy it over there. Well, admittedly with a little delay, it seems you can. You can find it here.

When I get the chance, I'll be sticking the link below the image to the left along with the others.
I gave into my better instincts the other day and finally bought myself a new computer. A laptop, this time, a piece of technology I've been coveting for years. I have a (very) old one I picked up on Ebay from several years ago, but it had all the dynamism and operatibility of a brick, apart from being slow and cranky as hell, so somehow it never seemed to really count(even though I did write considerable portions of Angel Stations on it). What I wanted was something smooth, efficient and sleek. I finally settled on an end-of-line Advent from the local PC World for just about bang on five hundred quid. It's a bit of a compromise in some ways, since what I really want is an Apple (better operating system, less prone to crashing, hardier design), but they're way out of my price range, so ...

Thing is, I'd been paying little attention to the DVD function which is now pretty much ubiquitous in the pc market these days: I think the average number of films I rent a year is probably about, eh, one (apart from going to the cinema, which I do enjoy). But for the hell of it, I did watch a DVD on the pc and found it a rather engaging experience. Apart from the fact it's in widescreen, there's something about having your face relatively close to the screen: I suspect, as an acquaintance suggested, it creates an intimacy not dissimilar to that experienced when actually in a cinema. Or that's the theory, anyway.

Workwise, I have about ten thousand words of a new outline away with my agent, Dorothy Lumley, who I finally got to meet in the flesh a couple of weeks ago when she was in town for a 'crime writer's weekend'. We ended up in Miss Cranston's Tea Room, a very elegant and Victorian affair near the city centre. Some people seem a bit surprised when they find out I've never actually met my agent since she took me on board in the late 'Nineties, but it never struck me as something I should do. In fact, it never struck me in any way at all: I'd assumed most of these things, by necessity, were handled at a distance. I only realised I was a bit weird in that respect when some friends themselves got agents and hurried off in planes or trains to meet and greet in the flesh.

Names of books, names of books ... first, it was called Slow Burn; then it was Baskerville Station (dumped because it made it sound like it was set in the Angel Stations universe, which it wasn't); then it was Baskerville Point. And now, I'm thinking, Convergent, as in convergent evolution. And before you reach for the Amazon link in your browser, I checked it already. It turns up a couple of times, but in the form of variations - 'Convergence', for instance, which is close, or 'Convergent Series', ditto. But nothing simply called 'Convergent', which would be a good name, for two reasons: a) it sounds right, and b)it touches neatly on the theme of the story. So it'll do, at least until I inevitably go to a con and trip over a box in the dealer's room filled with books already called 'Convergent'.


I tripped over one of the most insanely useful sites I've seen in a good while: http://www.freesfonline.de/. Particularly under the 'recommended' link on the front page. It lists free (as distinct from 'pirated') science fiction available to read on the internet.

Although I'm still waiting for those little Japanese book-shaped electronic readers which actually reproduce the sensation of reading words off a printed page to come on the market here before I'm convinced of the viability of the e-publishing revolution, it's this kind of thing for which the internet can be insanely useful: tracking down excellent writing that would otherwise require tracking down hard-to-find anthologies, most of whom would stand a good chance of being out of print. The site actually serves as an excellent primer for some of the very best sf around for those looking to find out exactly why people like myself became sufficiently obsessive about the form in their youth that they felt driven to spend large chunks of their adult life creating their own.


People talk about writer's block, but they rarely talk about cover block. This involves spending up to a couple of years working on a piece of writing, then your publisher wraps it in something that tightens every sphincter in your body and makes your brain feel like it's about to commit a kamikaze death leap out of one of your ears.

Now, I'm fortunate in that I've never had that experience, nor am I likely to: there was an early version of the cover design for Against Gravity I wasn't entirely sure about, but Tor UK (as H/al Duncan pointed out in his own blog) were incredibly good about allowing me input. Which is pretty remarkable, given that there's no guarantee any particular author is going to have the faintest clue what a good cover design should look like. Put yourself in the shoes of an editor trying to explain to an author why the painting his mate down the pub knocked together isn't necessarily suitable for a print run of fifteen thousand trade paperbacks.

The reason authors get so worked up about this, I think, has to do with a degree of identification between the author and the book they've written: that book isn't just selling the words on the pages, it's selling - in a sense - the author as well. That's you on the shelf: and if somebody's taken your technothriller and wrapped it up in a party dress with a pink ribbon, you're going to feel driven to suggest this is perhaps inappropriate.

The fact that Tor Uk are not only going to accept feedback from one of their authors, but even go so far as to act on that feedback, is a phenomenon perhaps unprecedented in modern publishing: as long as there have been books, there have been writers wailing about their cover design. Book companies do not have a reputation for taking writer's comments concerning cover art on board. The people most authors deal with, after all, are the editorial staff: all the art stuff is in another department, closely tied in with marketing.

I got thinking about all this when I was at a writer's circle meeting last Tuesday. Jim Steel came along as he occasionally does, and showed me a copy of the most recent Locus magazine: naturally I flicked through to the 'British Books Received' pages and, with heavy heart, noted the early 'discarded' version of the cover for Against Gravity up there in black and white at the top of the page.

The reason for this is simple, and in fact makes a fair bit of sense. The opportunities for promoting a book tend to be limited. In some ways, a publisher's job is not so much to sell a book to the public as it is to sell it to the booksellers. The presence of some form of cover art is frequently an important part of this, so Tor simply used what it had to hand. Which is why there are, at least for the moment, two versions of the cover art for Against Gravity floating around: the one that got chucked (as seen in Starburst and Locus), and the one that's actually going to be on the book (to your left, top of the page).

In this light, I've been aware of certain related conversations in the online sf world, in particular an online discussion and essay by Ted Chiang, concerning the US cover design for his collection of short stories. He hated it so much he paid an artist three grand to come up with a brand new design, which his publishers rejected: he considered giving it away to people who'd already bought the book to put around it, which his publishers hated even more.

I tripped across a new cover design for a book by Lucius Shephard called The Golden, which it was clear from the context of an online conversation Mr Shephard wasn't happy about. Personally, I wasn't so hot on it either: but I own an earlier hardback cover of The Golden from about ten years ago, and I'm not sure that isn't worse.

The thing is, if you're just someone browsing through the bookshelves of a shop looking for something to read, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was perhaps all a bit of a storm in a teacup. It's only a cover, you might say. And, that's true. But on this side of the fence, it feels different: it's like someone's paid you a sum of money to publish your book, but in return you need to attend every subsequent sf convention and business meeting dressed like a mutant duck. In other words, people feel silly at the least, badly misrepresented at the worst. They want their work - and writing a book is a lot of work - to have dignity. Nothing wrong with that.

The worst possible outcome is when a book isn't so much given dodgy cover art as mis-marketed. The other day, someone was having a clear-out of books and I subsequently received a copy of Dreamwatcher, by Theodore Roszak. Now, Roszak isn't exactly a house-hold name, but he's known in certain circles for his non-fiction writing. However, I've only read one book of his, a work of fiction, called Flicker, which easily makes it into my top hundred books of all time (the convoluted route by which I became aware of this novel is an entire blog entry in itself, one I intend to write up sometime quite soon). It's a complex detective story concerning the hunt for an elusive movie maker embarked upon by a young film critic, and even these few words don't even begin to do justice to this remarkable book.

The copy of Dreamwatcher I received I haven't yet read, but it's unlikely I would ever have picked it up from any bookshelf if I wasn't already aware of the name: the art - the copy dates, probably, from the mid-eighties at the latest, mid-Seventies at the earliest - is of the type I'd expect to find wrapped around some hacked-out sub-Stephen King gorefest by a writer of considerably less talent than I know Mr Roszak to have. Now - I haven't actually read the book yet, and for all I know it deserves exactly the cover it got. But, you know something tells me otherwise.


Reasons for not blogging: writing four (four!) book outlines and subsequent sample chapters simultaneously. In no particular order: A Hundred Houses, A Gift From the Angels (formerly Leviathan's Fall, formerly Touched by an Angel), Snowflake (working title only: previously Slow Burn), and Wonderland (formerly but also still possibly Things Unseen).


Other reasons for not blogging: a request from Cheryl Morgan to Glasgow writers to put together a few words about the city, for the benefit of visitors coming to the Worldcon in August. It made sense to put my stuff up here as well (since I'd been thinking,really, of doing something like this anyway as the Worldcon approached). So:

The Barras

Found at the east end of the city centre, just off the High Street, which in previous centuries stood near the city centre (since moved about a mile west). It’s worth making the distinction between ‘The Barrowlands’ and ‘The Barras’ as the former is the venue for the majority of visiting rock and pop acts in Glasgow, and the latter is the weekend market that takes place around it.
At the Barras, it’s possible to pick up anything from fresh fruit and veg to an unholy quantity of tat as well as genuine rarities: within a few blocks you can find TV’s, used clothes, broken cassette recorders, bootleg software, music and DVD’s, smuggled tobacco, furniture, antiques, rare vinyl, posters, more bootlegs, cameras, Betamax video players, carpets, eight track stereos, dodgy paintings of Elvis, and local bands filming cheap videos with their mates from the Art School in order to look more ‘street’.
To get a flavour of the Barras, think: what your weekend shopping might be like if the Cold War had gone nuclear sometime in the mid-Eighties.
Across the road from the Barrowlands music venue, can be found the famous/notorious ‘Saracen’s Head’ drinking establishment, originally built to cater for the executioners who used to ply their trade nearby (the ‘Necropolis’ graveyard being conveniently located just up the road). Visiting the ‘Head is not necessarily recommended to visitors from the States, despite it having supposedly cleaned up its act in recent years (unless you really want to risk re-enacting the ‘mugging a tourist’ scene from Trainspotting).
On a similar note, the Barrowlands music venue is also notorious as being the 1960’s stalking ground of Scotland’s most infamous serial killer, Bible John.
It’s also worth noting the nearby Paddy’s Market: in some ways, Paddy’s represents the true nature of the Barras, which – like Paddy’s – started out primarily as a gathering point not only for local farmers but also rag-and-bone men who would bring other people’s detritus to market on barrows.
To get a flavour of Paddy’s, think: your weekend shopping after a nuclear exchange, but followed by irreversible nuclear winter.
Open: weekends, from about 9 to 4. Getting there: train from station opposite SECC, to Argyle St. station, then ten minute walk or two minutes by taxi. Also plenty of buses.

(Some) Rock pubs
Some of Glasgow’s bars have become quite famous due to their associations with the drinking and social habits of various bands who’ve come to prominence in recent years (Franz Ferdinand, etc). Prominent amongst these is King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, (Oasis were ‘discovered’ here, playing to an audience of barely a dozen, by a less than sober Alan McGee). For up-and-coming bands, it’s the first stop on arrival in the city: it’s split into two halves, the bar area on the ground floor, with the rowdy noise-making taking place upstairs.
A few blocks away on Sauchiehall Street is Nice n’ Sleazy, which caters mostly to old punks and students from the nearby Glasgow School of Art. Features faux-retro d├ęcor and paintings of slightly sinister-looking green-skinned women in turbans, courtesy of local artist Ronnie Heeps. Expect to find indie bands gathered in alcoves, discussing how to break it big.
King Tut’s: 272a St. Vincent Street www.kingtuts.co.uk
Nice n’ Sleazy: 421 Sauchiehall Street
Ronnie Heeps: www.painfulcreatures.com/collheeps.html

Bars also worth mentioning:
For those seeking a quiet drink and maybe a meal, The Goat is worth considering: a short (fifteen minute) walk from the front entrance of the SECC, The Goat also features free WIFI if you decide to bring your laptop with you (they also have a computer you can use if you don’t). A mixture of old ‘found’ furniture and the stylishly modern but comfortable.
The Goat, 1287 Argyle Street, www.thegoat.co.uk

If you’re looking for something approximating a genuine, old-fashioned ‘Scottish’ bar, this place is worth a shot: very much a ‘dog sleeping in the corner, couple of people playing traditional music on fiddles’ kind of place, it’s hardly lacking in atmosphere. Also situated conveniently very close to the SECC. Be warned: as pubs go, it’s very small – I’ve been in bathrooms that were bigger.
Ben Nevis, 1147 Argyle Street

The West End:
Like many cities, Glasgow has its own ‘bohemian quarter’, or - more accurately - student district, centred around the axis of Great Western Road and Byres Road in the West End.
Your best route through this area is to come up the orange tunnel next to the entrance to the SECC, keep walking up Minerva Street (car dealership on your left), then turn left onto St. Vincent Crescent, turn right at Cecil Street, which leads directly onto Argyle Street.
(Alternatively, catch the train into Central Station, walk a block to the St. Enoch subway station, and catch a ride to Kelvingrove Subway, which will deposit you directly onto Great Western Road).
This part of Argyle Street – which runs right through the city – has enjoyed a transformation over the past several years as rocketing property prices in the West End have forced both new house owners and students to look increasingly farther afield from Byres Road/Great Western Road for places to live. As a result, some of the trendiest as well as the nicest bars can also be found here, a few minutes walk from the SECC.
Once on Argyle Street, turn to your left and walk for a minute or so until you reach Kelvinhaugh Street, where Stereo can be found, a bar catering primarily to an audience hungry for live indie bands (the aforementioned The Goat, as well as Ben Nevis, are literally seconds away on Argyle Street).
A few blocks further along, Argyle Street merges with Sauchiehall Street to become Dumbarton Road: here you’ll find the Art Galleries, unfortunately still closed for renovation.
Best bet is to keep along Argyle Street to where you’ll see the road split in two with a garage stuck in the middle: go down the right fork and immediately turn the corner – you’ll see the Kelvin Way, a road which cuts straight past the Art Galleries (on your left) and on into the West End, along with Kelvingrove Park (on your right).
At the end of the Kelvin Way you’ll find Gibson Street cutting down to your right: it features the excellent and highly recommended Stravaigin’s bar, as well as a very agreeable coffee house a few doors further down.
Keep going along Kelvin Way and it becomes Bank Street, which is where the West End really begins. Keep going until Great Western Road: if you turn right here, you’re heading into town. Turn left, and you’re heading into the University district.
Turn towards town (to your right), and you’ll find several bars, restaurants and cafes within a block or two (all generally pretty good: The Liquid Ship has a good reputation), along with an Apple Macintosh shop (Scotsys, if you’re in desperate needs of parts or supplies), and further along a bicycle shop (Alpine Bikes, who also rent bikes out: www.alpinebikes.co.uk/ourshops/goe.aspx).
You’ll also find Caledonia Books, a well-known second-hand bookstore (Voltaire and Rousseau is just around the corner in Otago Street).
Walk further up Great Western Road away from town (ie turn to your left), and you’ll find: health food stores, record shops, furniture, and many, many charity shops. A busy, popular area.
Walk several blocks along Great Western Road away from the city centre, and you’ll reach the point where Great Western Road meets Byres Road. Here you’ll find Oran Mor, a church recently converted into an enormous bar with ceiling paintings by local literary light Alisdair Gray: it’s already got an excellent reputation, both as a bar and as a venue for the arts (it puts on plays almost daily). Be warned, however, it’s almost always very, very busy.
In this area, you’ll also find one or two shops catering to the art market, good to know if you’re at all thinking about taking the work of Scottish artists home with you.
The Botanics are across the road, on your left – stop here for a moment or two to enjoy the shade in the giant greenhouses, particularly good if you’re caught in the occasionally chilly Scottish ‘summer’. Otherwise, more of the same down Byres Road: record shops – particularly the dirt-cheap and highly regarded Fopp!, which also sells mucho cheap paperbacks as well as cd’s and dvd’s. Keep going and you’ll also find the Oxfam charity bookshop, also good for a browse.
Walk past the Hillhead subway station and turn immediately into the lane on your left for several excellent bars (including The Scotia, which often has live music of a more traditional variety) and restaurants (The Loft, as well as the very famous but not inexpensive Ubiquitous Chip, almost entirely populated by assistant producers from the BBC and out of work actors), as well as a small cinema. This is as close to the spiritual heart of the West End as you can get. Also here can be found the Mclellan Galleries, a large building filled with many small shops selling everything from locally made jewellery to video games to second hand vinyl.