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.