Excuse me while I momentarily slip into huckster mode, but I hadn't realised the UK website Play.com also sold books. This is significant, because they have free postage. So, er, you can get Angel Stations for a sum total of £8.49 (link). It's still a quid cheaper over on Amazon, but only if you spend at least £19.

... by the way, I am not the author of the book listed under 'other books by...'!


So remember I mentioned the 'Aye Write' Glasgow literary festival launch do I got invited to, at the City Chambers last Saturday?

I'd received an invite that very definitely didn't mention bringing anyone else, so I went on my own. MJ wanted to do some studying and wasn't particularly interested in literary festival launches, anyway. The City Chambers themselves are sort of impressive, in an Extraordinary League of Gentlemen meets Overlook Hotel kind of way: ludicrous quantities of marble, a (marble) staircase leading up four floors, of the grand and sweeping variety. Wallpaper that looks like they maxed out on the local gilt supply, where you can see it behind the four foot tall paintings of a hundred years worth of Lord Provosts.

Funnily enough, I got talking to Duncan Lunan about the City Halls, and he compared it to the Emperor's Palace in the movie of Dune ... you can make up your own mind by looking at a picture of the banquet hall here.


I get there at exactly eight. The Chambers is right at the heart of the city, on one side of George Square. Walk in enormous front entrance. Get eyed suspiciously by two heavily brylcreemed gentlemen in identical electric blue jackets clearly positioned in order to meet and greet. Did I mention the piper standing just outside? Cold night. Knees clearly turning blue under the kilt. Upon entering, immediately have brief mental flash of Tom Cruise entering big scary house full of rich weirdos in Eyes Wide Shut. Go up four floors, having failed to find elevator.

Twenty people standing at far end of enormous hallway immediately reminiscent of set for am-dram production of Agatha Christie novel. Men all wearing suits, women dressed up. Glance down at own leather bomber, black t-shirt, black jeans, black boots. Recall distinctly that the invite said informal.

Phone MJ.

"They're all wearing suits. I don't even own a suit. They're looking at me like I got in through the back door."

"I told you so."

Hang up. Ten seconds later, early-thirties-looking guy wanders in wearing donkey jacket and faded jeans. Immediately relax.

Invite says eight for eight-thirty, so stand around feigning deep interest in paintings of past Lord Provosts. Get chatting to little old lady. My hearing being not the greatest, mistakenly believe her first name is 'Blair'. There's a little monkey-voice in the back of my head shouting 'It's Emma Blair, you twat! Author of 'Tea at Miss Cranston's and a dozen enormous great family sagas set in Glasgow and the lowlands!' But of course, I'm too nervous to check. We discuss invites; it's clear that in fact bringing a companion was entirely acceptable. MJ however, has already decided to stick with the studying, so I'm on my own. The shame is, I could have brought someone from the writer's circle.

Eight-thirty: down stairs and into ginormous dining chamber as in above picture link. General free-for-all for seats. Fail to spot any other sf writers, not even comics writers, not a rare species in Glasgow (Grant Morrison for example). Nor a Richard Morgan, or from slightly farther afield Ken McLeod and Iain Banks, who are taking part in the festival, but given it would mean a long drive from Edinburgh I can hardly blame them.

Do spot Alisdair Gray, however, sitting at next table. Don't know him personally, but some friends of mine do. (By the way, if you happen to be a fan of Gray's stuff, and you're coming to the Worldcon, make your way to the Oran Mor theatre/bar/restaurant in the West End, which is in the process of receiving a Cistine-like paint job from Mr Gray.) Emma Blair is on one side of me, a guy called Tony Roper (I think) opposite her. I chat with him quite a bit: he's vaguely familiar from a couple of tv shows.

Rapidly realise there's an awful lot of actors and theatre-types there for a literary festival launch.

Food quite good: four course meal. Evening gets quite interesting, conversation-wise. Apparently (unless my lousy hearing was once again taking advantage of me) author of well-known children's book The Gruffalo is at the table, although I've no idea which one it is. Discuss medieaval weaponry with bloke on my left whose name I've since forgotten. Lord Provost's speech mercifully short. By shortly before eleven, too tired to remember very much of what's subsequently said during speech by Liz Lochhead (another writer).

I get asked if I'm going to any of the festival events, then realise the only one I might be interested in (Banks/McLeod) I won't be attending, because Banks was through only a few weeks before promoting his new sf novel at Waterstones, and McLeod is going to be fairly prevalent at the Eastercon in March.

Conclusions: fun, in a haven't-done-that-before kind of way, but not necessarily of any great advantage. I got chatting to some interesting people, but it all confirms the real networking gets done at genre conventions. Would I go again? For free food? Of course I would. Except next time I'm taking somebody.


So there's been an enormous gamma ray explosion on the other side of the galazy, of unprecedented destructive power ... thanks to Duncan Lunan for notifying me of this one. As he notes, not unlike certain events in a certain book of mine.

From the BBC: "We figure that it's probably the biggest explosion observed by humans within our galaxy since Johannes Kepler saw his supernova in 1604," Dr Rob Fender, of Southampton University, UK, told the BBC News website.

One calculation has the giant flare on SGR 1806-20 unleashing about 10,000 trillion trillion trillion watts.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We have observed an object only 20km across, on the other side of our galaxy, releasing more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years," said Dr Fender.

The word for today is prescient (heh).

But what's also ridiculously cool is they've found an underground sea - on Mars (Mars pictures reveal frozen sea). I'm not nearly enough of an expert to say how important this will turn out to be off the top of my head - in terms of not only, say, future human exploration or even colonisation - but it's certainly and more directly a source of information that could be really, really useful to anyone wanting to set a book on Mars.

Not that I said I was going to, mind ...

(by the way - I didn't realise until earlier today that the link for the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle hadn't been updated to the new address, which is a screw-up on my part, even though I remember doing it - but probably it was one of those situations where either you go offline or your computer crashes at the wrong moment. Whatever. If you were trying to get through to us, you'll find the correct - functioning - link down there on the right, working properly, just below the reviews.)


I started feeling a little more like a writer the other day – as opposed to feeling like somebody who spends a lot of time sitting in front of a computer monitor, trying vainly to ignore the xbox and tv sitting about three feet to the left – when I received a letter inviting me to, of all things, a civic dinner at Glasgow’s city halls. The dinner is the launch point for a Glasgow-based literary festival taking place over the second half of February, called ‘Aye, Write’ (this is a lot wittier if you come from around here), designed to do the usual things promotional events of this sort are intended to do: make Glasgow look like a hotbed of creativity – which it can be. Sometimes.

I only heard of this thing through somebody else, since apparently it’s been primarily promoted via local newspapers like the Evening Times and the Glasgow Herald, neither of which I read (I usually stick to the Guardian these days), so I only heard about it relatively late in the day. But they were after at least 150 local writers, and naturally I wanted to get in the act. Several phone calls and a couple of emails later, it turned out they’d actually tried to contact me, but for various reasons hadn’t been able to get my details in sufficient time to ask me to participate in whatever it is they’re going to be doing.

Mind you, the upshot of this is they asked for my contact details in case anything turned up they could invite me to, and hey presto there’s an informal inaugural civic dinner with the Lord Provost. Which should be … interesting, since I have no idea what this kind of thing might be like. It might be cool, or it might be utterly horrendous, I have no idea. But it’s informal, which means I can drag myself along as my usual scruffy self. If it had involved – I don’t know – ties, or suits, or something, forget it: I don’t do drag. So I’ve got that to look forward to over the next couple of weekends.

If I haven’t been blogging with quite my usual frequency recently, put it down to all the hard work I’ve been carrying out on Wonderland. This is by far and away the most heavily researched thing I’ve done, ever. In the space of five pages, I had about four large reference books open at various points, and a dozen websites tabbed across my screen in Firefox, while I delved into the mysteries of – nazi art thefts of the second world war: a street map of Los Alamos: a description of a museum, in Los Alamos, dedicated to nuclear energy and weaponry: induction and training procedures for US Army troops in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s: the flora of Tibet: an expedition, also to Tibet, carried out by SS officers towards the end of the Thirties: and the reasoning and method behind modern art techniques. So – busy, really.