You're lazy, you just stay in bed

Three books in and the one time I finally decide to book a holiday, people decide they want to talk to me. Go figure. Got an interview on the phone on Tuesday and - still no sign of the copies of Stealing Light! Hal, apparently, had the same problem with Ink, when the publishers tried to get copies to him. I've now arranged for Tor to send the hardbacks of Stealing Light to his house, and I can just pick them up there. It's a hassle, but it might just incrementally increase my chances of seeing the f&&?*@g thing before I go on my hols. It's not like my house is hard to find.

Apart from that, I've been having a lazy weekend, possibly helped by the occasional ingestion of painkillers for my back pain, which is thankfully starting to fade. The most I've done for the past two days is: hang out, watch tv, browse the net, and sleep. How rock and roll is that?


Reviews just in

Went into town yesterday and picked up new copies of Death Ray and SFX magazines, both of which carried extremely positive reviews for Stealing Light, which is out on 5TH OCTOBER. Did I mention Stealing Light is out on 5TH OCTOBER? No? Well then, you should know it's out on 5TH OCTOBER, a Friday, so I wouldn't be hugely surprised to see it on the bookshelves a few days before then, if not already.

From Andrew Smillie's review in Death Ray:
"The story is progressed by smart, natural dialogue and mindblowing set pieces ... it's a truly dark book, examining all the worst human traits, a wide vein of blood, brutal sex and betrayal coursing throughout. An inventive and pacy adventure that's thrilling and unsettling in equal measure."
And from Saxon Bullock's in SFX:
"A gripping interplanetary saga ... balancing flashbacks, sharp characterisation and big-scale concepts, Gibson has produced a seriously entertaining page-turner not afraid to throw in shocking moments of violence, or to take the plot in unexpected directions."
Which is nice, as that guy in The Fast Show used to say. And hooray! I've done my back in again. Not nearly as badly as before, but that only got as bad as it did because I did things guaranteed to make it worse since I didn't know any better. A couple of days taking it easy, some painkillers, and ... hopefully ... I should be okay.


Amazon screw-up

Possibly I'm worrying too much, but I feel it's worth mentioning: if you've been thinking of pre-ordering Stealing Light from Amazon, you might have noticed it comes up twice - as both a hardback and paperback with the same release dates. The hardback is at more or less full price - but the paperback is going for about half that. Please note: there is no paperback for sale. I know people are pre-ordering the (nonexistent) paperback because its Amazon ranking is way, way higher and they're doing exactly like what I would do, which is click on the one with the ridiculously low cover price. And yes, I've informed both my publishers and Amazon, by email. Fingers crossed.

MySpace, the bell tolls for thee

It comes as absolutely no surprise to me that Facebook has taken off in the way it has. I joined MySpace a couple of years ago despite the atrocious layout, primarily to advertise the fact I wrote books, rather than any deep desire to connect with complete strangers. Facebook, on the other hand, is a site where I link solely to people I know, or have at least some form of clear connection with - other writers, say. It looks better and, for now, it feels better. I know I'm not alone in this, because the only thing missing from MySpace on the increasingly rare occasions I visit it are some digital images of tumbleweed blowing across the screen. Although Facebook started out as a social networking site restricted to students, since it was opened up to all it's grown exponentially until it feels like it's just about ready to swallow the net:
In late May (2007), the company's 23-year-old CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, got up in front of several hundred journalists, analysts, and industry leaders in San Francisco at an event the company called F8 (think of it as "fate") to say that Facebook would no longer be just another social-networking site. Instead, he said, it aims to be the place where you can involve your friends in everything you do online. The company has 24 million members (less than half of whom are now in college), and it is adding about 150,000 a day. In effect, Facebook is now offering the opportunity for any company, Internet service, or software maker - anyone at all, really - to build services for its members.
In advance of the announcement, which had Silicon Valley buzzing, Zuckerberg and other executives spoke to Fortune about the strategy. "We want to make Facebook into something of an operating system so you can run full applications," Zuckerberg told me. He said Facebook is becoming a "platform," meaning a software environment where others can create their own services, much the way anyone can write programs for Microsoft's Windows operating system on PCs. Facebook, he explained, is a technology company, not a media one.
Around about this point, the word hubris might occur to the casual reader until you realise Microsoft's interest in Facebook would put the value of Zuckerberg's product at something like ten billion US dollars. Ten billion. And even if that eventually turns out to be hubris on Microsoft's part, are you surprised Zuckerberg (pictured above) is smiling?

One last point: look at Zuckerberg's face again. This is the face of a one-time student who's now worth billions. People think he wants to take over the internet. But I know what he really wants: zeppelins with death rays. And maybe a giant robot monkey. Yeah, definitely; ten billion dollars could buy a few giant robot monkeys. Will Zuckerberg be the first Web 2.0 billionaire to construct an undersea base manned by women in silver jumpsuits and seals that can fire harpoons? I, for one, certainly hope so.


Damn laptop gods

Damn laptop gods! They're after me again, but this time they're disguising themselves as postmen. Yes, that's right, those sneaky uniformed bastards aren't just going postal in your local shopping centre, they're also cunningly disguised paper-eating demons with extendible jaws who like to stuff my precious mail into their ever-widening maws.

Tor posted me copies of the hardback of Stealing Light something like three weeks ago and they still haven't turned up. Several weeks before that, Tor sent me bookplates to sign and return; they disappeared too, along with copies of books I'd asked Tor to send me. The package finally turned up something like a month late - minus the freaking books. It was wrapped in some kind of plastic bag which stated something like, "we're really sorry we ripped open your package and sent the contents spinning into the black necromantic jaws of hell."

Consider this recent-ish encounter with a chap emboldened with the task of carrying the mail around my neighbourhood:

GARY steps out of front entrance of block of flats, very bleary-eyed, on way to work: encounters POSTMAN, as entrance door swings shut, and nods in vague greeting.
POSTMAN: Well, I can't deliver your mail now, you didn't hold the door open for me.
GARY (looking around in surprise): Oh, sorry, I didn't think. Early.
POSTMAN (stepping away from door): That's all right, I was only kidding. It's Flat ____, isn't it?
GARY: Er, yes.
POSTMAN steps away from entrance. A very fuzzy-headed, early morning Gary walks down block and realises the POSTMAN is a few paces behind. GARY glances nervously behind him.
POSTMAN: I'm just going to start at the end of the block. I'm no' going tae no deliver your mail.
GARY: Ah. Right. (nervously walks on, wondering why the other guy doesn't just ring the main doorbell on his communal entrance like he was going to anyway, and if it's too late to say, why don't we walk back right now and I'll open the door for you. Especially since one thing about such a reassurance is it really, really doesn't reassure you).

For all that, it's only the packages that seem to be having trouble coming through. Far as I can tell, all my regular mail gets through just fine. There've been postal strikes recently (probably demands for more brimstone in the canteen), but surely this can't account for the failure of anything package shaped to ever, ever get to me ...? Perhaps the one postman I know can answer my questions. Jim, are you there ... ? Jim ...? (voice fades into echoing abyss).


I can't remember if there's something I've forgotten to remember ...

Here's a question about a TV show I seem to remember from decades ago, in such vague detail I can't entirely rule out the possibility it is entirely a product of my fevered imagination. Sometime between very roughly the mid and late seventies, I'm sure there was a kind of documentary series on science fiction in both film and books that ran around teatime, possibly on BBC2. They interviewed writers like, I think, Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldiss. The opening credits featured a kind of line-drawing animation where a dragon would turn into a spaceship, would turn into a ... whatever. There might have been perhaps half a dozen episodes of it, possibly on the weekend.

If anyone has even the vaguest recollection of some series matching this, I'd be very grateful to know I'm not actually accidentally making it up, and what the hell it's called if it actually does exist.


Racing! Through! Time! To High Adventure!

I just finished Kage Baker's 'In The Garden of Iden' and realised two things: 1–That really cool idea I've been rolling around in my head for years? Someone got there first. 2–I need to read a lot more Kage Baker, it's that good.

I think I read one of the 'Mendoza in Hollywood' stories somewhere, but that's it, and it didn't really grab me - I suspect because I didn't have the context of an ongoing, novel-based narrative. But I'm going to track down the short-story collection 'Black Projects and White Knights' (the second novel in the Mendoza series not being republished by Tor until November) and read it while I'm on the plane in a couple of weeks time.

I picked 'Iden' up, by lucky chance, in Voltaire & Rousseau, a second-hand bookshop in the West End; it's one of the new paperbacks being published just now by Tor, and - to be honest, the cover's a bit rough. Or, shall we say, it's a very genre-type cover, showing a busty woman in some kind of futuristic capsule, zooming through ... time, or something. Given the novel is almost entirely set in a late-Medieval period English Country House with occasional excursions into high-tech stuff, it's far, far from representative of what lies within the pages. I thought, why not do something that actually looks good? Like, an illustration of a Shakespeare-period cast (the book is set shortly before his birth) with one small anachronism thrown in. Not this Racing! Through! Time! To High Adventure! bullshit that seems to be the standard modus operandi of so many art departments.

I can't help feeling the book deserves better; a more attractive and less embarrassing cover that might persuade people to pick it up and help it gain the wider audience it really deserves. With writing this good, I wouldn't be surprised to find Ms. Baker has been 'transcending the genre' in the mainstream newspaper review pages. Especially if it gets her classier-looking packaging.


Bring me the increasingly massive head of Gary Gibson

Working from home now, and fair tearing through the new manuscript. It's a few weeks before I go on my holidays, and in the meantime the slow grind towards publication of Stealing Light continues with the occasional review appearing, like this one from Concatenation (thanks to Jim Steel for digging this one up).
British SF writers have a long tradition of excellent space opera. Yes, there is the average stuff, but equally every generation for all of the latter half of the twentieth century has seen some stunning British space opera. So the question SF aficionados will be asking is whether Gary Gibson's Stealing Light is run of the mill or is it something more special? The unequivocal answer has to be that the novel is decidedly ahead of much of the pack. If you had to place Gibson's Stealing Light somewhere in the contemporary landscape (and while I am not fond of pigeon-holing it does help in letting you know whether or not this is the sort of thing you are likely to enjoy) I would say that the novel comfortably sits between the space opera of Alastair Reynolds and Iain Banks. I understand that there are (at least) two more in the 'Light' sequence to come. I for one will be looking out for these. With two to follow, please do not think that this ends in a cliff-hanger enticing you to read on. Stealing Light neatly ties up all the plot strands so readers are not suckered in to having to buy the follow-ups. I liked that. Having said that, if the sequels are as complete in structure and plot-development as this then the series could well add up to more than the sum of its parts. We will see. This is Gary Gibson's third novel. If he can build on this standard with a new novel a year over the next decade then he could become a very big genre name.
Ooh, get me.

I could write rather a lot about what it turns out was going on at my workplace just prior to my starting to freelance for them, but present circumstances forbid it. Trust me, it's a doozy. But right now I'm quite enjoying doing the telecommuting work-from-home thing. It's rather relaxing, to my surprise. I'd be blogging more, but if the manuscript is calling, it's calling. There's also the BBC mini-mini script which is still chugging along through development, and a couple of interviews I've been asked to do, the questions to which need answering soonish.

People have told me their mail is getting bounced on its way to me, although I've in fact received it. Go figure. I'm not really that hard to track down - at the very worst, I check Myspace every couple of days so you could always leave a link there, and I'm on Facebook too now.


If you watch this film, dead critics will rise from the grave and eat your brains

Just in case you'd forgotten I told you all to avoid actually spending any money on seeing the recent movie Sunshine - or buying or renting the DVD - I dutifully point you to this entry on Peter Watts' blog in which he also points out the film is totally, utterly shit ('what a silly, vacuous, inconsistent, scientifically absurd, and derivative movie'). And mentions something else that really bugs me too: why on Earth is anyone out there giving it anything like a good review? Why?