Spoke to an osteopath friend down in London who spent most of her time on the phone slagging off chiropractors: "Did you have to sign a payment plan? There's a reason we all drive second-hand junkheaps and they all drive new cars straight off the lot, you know." (Or words very like that.) So I'll give a local osteopath a try.

This might make it sound like I'm made of money: I'm not. I've got a good stash of money set aside 'for emergencies'. Like, say, the giant electricity bill from January, or the sudden notice the lighting in the building was all getting replaced by the Council and we all had to fork out for it. The fact I can hardly walk, I think, counts as an emergency, therefore the osteopath it is. I've asked for medical advice, but the hope for a balanced outlook on it all is a touch dashed when a doctor of my acquaintance admits he doesn't actually 'know there was any difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor'.

Or possibly he was being sarcastic. Make that very likely. Things can't get much worse, I decided, last night: then a crown came out while I ate toast.


Abandon ship,I thought, as I put down the telephone Friday morning: I'd just called into the work to say I wouldn't make it in due to a general inability to use my left leg without enduring subsequent long minutes of atrocious pain. The owner of the printshop wasn't around, caught up in some personal business he had neglected to mention to me when I asked for the full weekend off in order to recover: I had then agreed to come in on the Friday, but it became rapidly apparent that particular morning I wasn't going anywhere.

"I'm supposed to be here 'til two but I'm finishing at one," the new man in charge of the printing press told me: "I've got a job interview at half two this afternoon."

Which is impressive, since both myself and the previous man in charge of the printing press guesstimated anyone's chances of surviving our employer's unusual working habits might stretch up to even several weeks. Instead the new printer beat both of us by showing clear signs of resigning within a fortnight of beginning the job.

I told the poor chap I'd try and be in that afternoon. I didn't make it, and don't really expect to be back until Wednesday afternoon. At the time, I recalled being told by the previous printer that, before he himself had arrived in this particular place, up to fourteen - fourteen! employees had passed through those doors in the space of two and half years.

It's never had more than two full-time and one part-time/freelance, including the boss.

The physio agrees I need a chance to rest and recuperate and see if it makes any difference to the sciatica. I've found it can take a couple of hours for the pain to really fade during the day, and I'm generally more or less pain free by the middle of the afternoon ... as long as I don't go walking any further than the front door.

I considered my options; the knowledge I would be nowhere near the workplace for most of a week made me almost euphoric; that alone made me feel better than I have in a month or two. Perhaps it's really time I looked at some other employment options, whatever the minor advantages the hours of my current daytime employment give me.


Well, I think that's my adventure with the chiropractor probably over, after four visits, and as yet no real perceivable improvement in my condition: Monday and Tuesday were markedly better - as in, I wasn't in constant pain, even when lying down - and so I thought hooray, I'm on the mend, it works. I even made it to the supermarket across the road from the subway station at Hillhead for the first time in literally months, though it started to get painful by the time I headed home.

Come Wednesday, disaster. Shockingly bad pain all day and a worried look on the physio's face when I went to the physio clinic at Elderpark later that afternoon. Still, I've got a referral set up to pay a visit to the MRI for a scan on my spine: this will tell them whether or not surgery might be an option.

Sciatica arises primarily because the vertebrae shift out of position, and end up pressing against the sciatic nerve, although there's a bunch of other potential causes. If it's the spine pressing against the nerve, an option is literally to shave away the part of the bone creating the irritation. That's what I'm hoping to get checked out, assuming I'm still in at least this much pain by the time the MRI session rolls around.

The last chiro session, for the moment anyway, was today. It's hard to tell if I'm getting any benefit, though I'll see how I feel in a week's time before making any decisions concerning my opinion. I couldn't get a sense of any impartial opinion from the chiro: everything's always going great, which is nice and upbeat, but doesn't really tell you anything, while your back remains sore and you're still stuck hobbling around and barely able to get out of the house, if at all.

So at the very least I'm taking some time off work. Monda and Tuesday next week, and a fortnight very soon after that. It might be necessary to give my body a rest see how things go, given I haven't actually had a holiday since my back first went out in January (not to mention the fact I find it significant I had a good start to the week after doing my best to do very little moving throughout the preceding weekend).


Back to the chiropractor yesterday, and a sense that maybe my back felt the tiniest bit better (keeping in mind I'm practically gargling ibuprofen these days, and that I also visited the physiotherapist and got a little benefit from some new stretching exercises):

"Now, you should know, maybe one in twenty people end up in screaming agony when I do what I'm about to do!" laughs the chiropractor, fists strategically placed on my spine in readiness for another punishing blow. I recline on a table somehow reminiscent of the platform Darth straps Han Solo to, following Lando's betrayal. "So you take it easy there, and we'll see how this goes!"


Not so bad. Except I get up this morning and suffer such deep-seated agony I gain an almost intellectual, even Clive Barkeresque appreciation for the experience. The only thing missing while I climb onto the couch and wait for the pain to pass is Pinhead making the occasional sardonic comment.

"It gets a lot worse before it gets a lot better," the woman from the upstairs PR agency tells me a couple of hours later as I hobble into the building where I work. "They don't tell you that the first couple of times you go to a chiropractor, in case you don't come back!"

Thanks for the tip.


Fine, so I'm a hypocrite, after saying I wasn't very likely to go to a chiropractor, the pain in my back and leg got so mind-buggeringly awful over the past few weeks I went for an appointment with one today, and my impressions are pretty positive. The sciatica has been awful enough I was beginning to worry whether or not I'd be able to keep up the day job, given I spend as much time lying down next to the desk at work waiting for pain to pass as I do behind it designing stuff. Progress on the book has at times been slow, because I've been in too much pain to write.

The process was pretty interesting: there's a low table made of moveable, leather-bound slats you lie on, face down. The chiropractor - a chatty American woman - went to various points on my back and WHAM, she'd twist my back and force me down at the same time. The slats dropped into a v-shape under me, and I yelled as much in surprise as in pain (I'd be warned a good bit of hollering was totally fine). Then she'd move to another part of my spine and, WHAM, CRUNCH.

At some point, I may have started giggling. I honestly felt a lot better, in some ways better than I had in months. On the way home, I felt ... a bit spaced out, really. Light headed.

Within seconds of the manipulation it was clear I could move my left leg in certain directions I hadn't been able to move it in a long, long time without considerable pain and severe pins and needles. It's still too early to really judge how well the whole thing works, given this is only one visit, but I'm back tomorrow afternoon for another session of body slamming and spine crunching. I remain hopeful.


So finally, finally, the intense and nearly overwhelming pain of sciatica and a possibly herniated spinal column has faded enough - almost totally(!), at least for the past couple of hours - that I got some serious writing done on Stealing Light, almost two and a half thousand words. I found a new 'non painful' position to sit in that seems to have done the trick, except this being me, of course, I now have a mild case of heartburn from sitting in the same position for almost two hours. Arse.

Taleswapper has written a wonderful little piece on Against Gravity here. If only all book reviews could be this much fun (review? Commentary? I don't know, but it's certainly entertaining):

"Great Uncle, let me in!" I say to the door.
"I'm sorry," he says through the phone. "I can't do that."
"What's wrong, Great Uncle?" I say to the door. "I've come to discuss this book with you. Remember? Did you read it?"
He responds, but I've been talking to the door and have forgotten the phone. I put the lobe back to the phone and ask him to repeat.
"Go away," he says, leaving me stranded.
"You're not upset about the book are you?" I shout to the door. Maybe I can embarrass him into letting me in. He might not want anyone to know he actually reads, and he certainly wouldn't want anyone to think he's responsible for a little civil unrest. "You know it's just a book, right? It's got nothing to do with reality."
"I hardly think," he replies soberly (through the phone), "that you are one to lecture me on 'reality'."
"Oh, Great Uncle," I say. "This is America. You can't really imagine that a president would use a terrorist attack as an excuse to whip a religious support base into a frenzy and then start trampling on our civil liberties, can you?"
There is no response from Leadbelly. Maybe that wasn't the best argument. Two apartments down the hall, a door opens and an elderly woman peers out. She darts her head about like a nervous mouse. I shyly wave, but she pops her head back in and shuts the door. Did I see someone slip out behind her and run down the hall? Nobody runs that fast, surely.
"C'mon Great Uncle," I say. "You like law and order. You're all into supporting the government and junk. They're not going to arrest you and take you away to some secret warren in the jungle. You've never done anything that would catch their attention."

There's an equally entertaining piece here on Al's Vellum.


Here's a new blog for you to check out, by Alan Campbell: Alan's the author of Scar Night, an urban fantasy coming out from my own publisher, Tor UK, at about the same time the mass market paperback of Against Gravity is being released.

For nine hundred generations, the city of Deepgate has hung suspended by giant chains over a seemingly bottomless abyss. In the unfathomable darkness below is said to reside the dread god Ulcis, 'hoarder of souls', with his army of ghosts. Outside the city extend the barren wastes of Deadsands, inhabited by the enemy Heshette, so that safe access is guaranteed only by a fleet of airships. At the hub of the city itself rises the Temple, in one of whose many crumbling spires resides a youthful angel, Dill, the last of his line. Descendant of heroic battle-archons, yet barely able to wield the great sword he has inherited from his forebears, he lives a sheltered existence under the watchful eye of Presbyter Sypes, who rules the Temple. For despite his sense of purposelessness, Dill has a destiny about to unfold - one that will take him down into terrifying depths of the pit in a desperate quest to save the teeming but precarious city from total annihilation at the hands of a cunning and resourceful traitor.

What's also interesting is that Alan was closely involved in the programming side of the video game Grand Theft Auto, which he speaks about on his blog. I first met Alan at one of the Writer's Bloc events over in Edinburgh (yes, that's right: yet another Scottish author), and got chatting to him as well at the recent Eastercon. If you were at the Tor Uk event at Borders at the con, there's a good chance you picked up the sample booklet taken from Scar Night.


How cool is this? A short, very funny short movie based on Terry Bisson's classic short story, 'They're Made Out Of Meat'. Don't even think about trying to watch this if you don't have broadband. What's terrific about it is the other stuff in there, that makes it work so well on the screen - the supporting actors, the general pitch-perfect surrealism of the whole thing, like David Lynch directing Hitchhiker's.


I kept meaning - again - to write up something about Eastercon, but there's nothing much to be said about it (apart from that I had a good time) beyond a few simple statements: I made it to not one single programme item, as such: I was not on one single panel - I'd been scheduled to be on one panel on the Friday evening, but bowed out at the last minute when it clashed with a Tor UK event at Borders in the city centre. The money Tor are paying me, the least I figure I can do is turn up at one of their do's. Apart from that, I hung out in the bar area and talked to people. A fellow author offered incredibly kindly to review Against Gravity with a view towards a possible - but not guaranteed - piece in The Guardian. Colour me hopeful.

And that's pretty much it, apart from my back pain (probably slipped disc, followed by interminable sciatica) forcing me to pick up a cheap walking stick on the Saturday morning of the Con at an Argos (where, apparently, you really can buy pretty much anything), allowing me to at least hobble around the environs of the Crowne Plaza Hotel down there on the banks of the Clyde.

I'm afraid the back did rather take a turn for the worse over the period of the Convention, as a result of which I've decided to postpone my mooted long holiday in the States until at least next year: if I have this much trouble getting to a hotel less than half a mile from my own front door and hanging around in the bar for an evening, how the hell am I going to hack getting around an entire continent? I really don't think so.

Anyway, I just ordered one of those weird-looking 'kneeling' chairs off of Ebay, so when it arrives here in a couple of days we'll see if it makes any difference. And if you're going to advise me to see a chiropractor - thanks, but I'll skip. I've canvased available medical opinion far and wide, and the opinion on the chiropracty is low, low, low.