Heh. I've been trying to get my stuff together for my accountant (at last!) so I've got a clear field to finish Stealing Light by the end of the year, and while sorting through a mound of papers I found a note sent to me by my agent, of a report from a guy who checks out books on the behalf of UK film agencies. I did mention this before, but very much in passing, but it's quite funny to read so I thought I'd stick it up here in it's entirety (well, almost, but you'll see what I mean):

Gary Gibson, Angel Stations

Fantastically expensive. Granted, quite a lot takes place indoors but there are places where you couldn't get away with anything less than big SFX. A dozen years of pushing XXXXXXXXXX's books garnered a load of reactions against SF in toto. Of the producers who would look at him, the Europeans were scared of in terms of cost and the Hollywood side didn't feel he was big enough. At the moment I guess you have to be Philip K Dick - a cult bestseller that only now are film-makers (and SFX technology) catching up with. This is a very promising debut and worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully salable before he's been dead 10 years!

... and wouldn't you just love to know who XXXXXXXXXX is?


I was going to write up Eastercon, but then decided I couldn't be bothered and would rather talk about some books I think you should read. So, straight to the chase before I get distracted and do something else: because when it comes to this recommending malarkey, it's not something I do very often, but here goes.

1: TJ Bass - The Godwhale
Gotta be honest with ya, it's been years since I read this one, but I'm trying to remember what lamebrained excuse I had for getting rid of my original copy of this wonderful book: I came across it at about two conventions ago, and failed to purchase it then (a mid-seventies hardback edition) for the simple reason that it was quite possibly the ugliest damn thing with pages I have ever seen. I don't know what drugs the cover designer for that original edition was on, but they must have been slipped out of some Venezuelan death-squad's secret stash of CIA-derived experimental neural toxins.

What I do remember is opening it to the first two pages and remembering what is so remarkable about this long-out-of-print, mid-Seventies published, Nebula-winning (i seem to recall) book: the language is deeply prescient of the coming wave of cyberpunk, being a vivid, dense wash of information that evocatively describes in few words an entire future world. I defy you to read the first two pages of this book and not want to see how it ends. It's an ecologically-driven novel on a future sterile Earth, with a story vast in scope.

Now if I can just get round to buying it off Ebay with a half-decent cover, talented procrastinator that I am ...

2: The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett
I only got this book initially out of guilt. It goes like this: I'm at a con. I approach the Interzone table. They eye me warily. I cast a sideways glance at what's on the table, feeling the sharp horror that I might end up spending money on, you know, stuff. I remember how influential Interzone was on my reading tastes for many years. I find myself engaged, almost accidentally, in conversation. I comment on how nice the cover design for Holy Machine is (published by Wildside Press). But what, pray tell, is it about, given there is no single word of info about the story between these pages, either on the back cover nor on the inside cover?

I am informed: a man in a near future society where religion and unreason have triumphed over logic and science resides in a futuristic city that acts as a last bastion of science in a world largely turned to faith-driven darkness. He falls in love with a machine-whore so human-like, he seeks to escape into the badlands with it/her before it's/her memory can be wiped lest it develop tendencies towards self-awareness (too late).

So far, so Dick, and on paper the idea might sound a touch hokey (albeit no more hokey than any of my stuff sounds when I try to describe it to people): but after purchasing said volume, I found myself unable to put down what turns out to be one of the very finest sf novels I have read in really rather a long time. This isn't just good sf - this is the kind of sf that should be written, that we ought to be out on the streets outside publishers demanding should be written. It was only published recently too, so you can't say you don't know about it now.

3: Mark Danielewski, House of Leaves. How often have I raved about this remarkable book? A multi-layered narrative that is practically a textbook example of how to use post-modernist approaches in putting together a book that, despite such high-falutin' big words, is just shithot gripping from start to end as it chronicles the exploration of an apparently haunted house that doesn't just start out slightly bigger on the inside than the outside - it just keeps getting bigger. Think Ballard scripting The Exorcist minus the hokey special effects, with David Lynch directing. Suggestion: if you find the extensive narrative-overwhelming footnotes (entirely a full narrative in their own right) a touch overwhelming, stick to the Navidson stuff first then go back and read the footnotes at your leisure.


I note with interest that Edinburgh-based Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi has a blog (Tomorrow's Elephant), something I wasn't previously aware of. This is interesting, given that he's part of Edinburgh's Writer's Bloc group of authors (he also has a story in the recent Nova Scotia anthology). I note with greater interest it's very well designed, and it has a cool name. He also recently graduated with a PHD in string theory. Therefore, clearly, he has to die. Rajaniemi, your days are numbered. (Kidding!)


Okay, so Eastercon is around the corner (like everyone else has also been saying on their blogs) and I'm on precisely ... zero panels, actually, so I'll be, er, in the bar. I had been scheduled for one panel on the Friday evening, but as that clashed with something my own publishers were putting on, I felt like I should bow out. Which means I will very definitely be at the Tor UK event/party in Borders Books, about a block from Central Station in the city center, on Friday coming, starting about six thirty or so.

I'll also be at the Word Dogs event (organised by Mike Gallagher of GSFWC) at the Ingram Bar on Queen Street, from eight, on the Thursday before the con starts. This is a spoken word event, like the ones GSFWC have done with Writers Bloc from Edinburgh, and in the same vein a couple of the Edinburgh crowd will be reading material to a live pre-con audience. Whatever: see you at the con.


Ok, so I've finally, finally got past one stage of Stealing Light: rewriting the synopsis, and it took bleedin' forever, let me tell you. The original summary was 9k, and it now stands at 22 thousand words of detailed synopsis. I now know everything that happens at every point in the book, when it happens, where it happens, why it happens.

And with any luck, I might even be able to make myself stick to it.

22 thousand words! That's about a third of the length some people's novels used to be - sometime still are. I don't really want to go back to the kind of frustration I sometimes fell into when I was working on the previous two books, where I'd look up one day and find I'd literally written myself into a corner, requiring drastic and pernickety redrafting.

Another reason for such extensive summarising is from talking with scriptwriters, and looking at the way people work in that particular field. This kind of heavily summarised 'treatment' is par for the course in that world, as it allows any possible conflicts (in terms of the way the story works) to be sorted out well in advance of anything getting filmed or performed. So now it seems much more natural to employ the same method in relation to novel writing.

I mentioned all this to someone the other day and they suggested maybe it took the spontaneity out of writing a novel. However, once you're deep into writing a book, it's anything but spontaneous. You end up writing complex summaries of what you've already written regardless, so you can get some kind of grasp on where the story is going (well, I do anyway).

I just thought it was worth mentioning because it seems like some kind of evolution, I guess, in how I write books, part of what I guess you could call a learning process. So I should get back to the actual manuscript in the next couple of days, which'll make a change. Ask me one of these days how I managed to persuade Interzone to publish a novel summary as a short story. Go on, ask.


It looks like I'm to be one of the guests at Mecon, a convention run by the Queen's University of Belfast Science Fiction Society, which is particularly nice given I've never actually been to Ireland. Not that I can recall, anyway. I'm the ninth guest to be added so far, which makes for a very healthy number of writers both established and new who'll be there. Hal Duncan will be there, as will Ken MacLeod, Ian McDonald and Diane Duane: the convention runs from the 4th - 6th August 2006 at the Queen's Elms Centre, Belfast. More details here and here.