Stardust Cowboys, Moon Men and a sale on Devil's Road

I had a nice surprise in January when I discovered I had not one but two works in the long list for the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) Award for best short fiction of 2020: Warsuit and Devil's Road.

Something like seventy short stories and novellas also made the long list, and that will be whittled down to a shortlist of about five for the final award. So while it's quite unlikely either will get that far, it's always nice to get the nod.

Ghost Frequencies, meanwhile, had an equally unexpected but equally nice review over at SF Crowsnest:

"Gibson's writing is flawless, the story is paced so well that one doesn't notice it at all. Equal parts hard science, ghost and detective story, the mixing of genres is handled exceptionally well."


The ebook of Devil's Road is on sale at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com from February 2nd to February 9th. So if you're new to my stuff, or you aren't but hadn't yet decided whether to go for this one because it's different from a lot of my previous work, for the next couple of days you can get it for just £1/$1.

The sale will only last a couple of days, so you'd better be quick. And if you're an audiobook fan, Devil's Road has an audiobook available on Audible ( US link / UK link) which you can get at a reduced price if you buy the Kindle edition.


The first draft of Moon Man is now up to about 40,000 words and progressing reasonably nicely. As I mentioned before (I think) it's about a Scottish immigrant hunting an otherworldly creature across 1860s California.

And because I haven't really put much of my own cultural background into my writing up until now, I've decided to write it partly in Scots.

This requires a really fine balance between authenticity of language and not making it too difficult for the non-Scottish reader to understand. I workshopped it with my writer's group here in Taipei, the majority of whom are American, and it's fair to say one or two of them were a little baffled by the language. But then again American readers represent at best perhaps 10 to 20% of my readership, so I'm not overly worried.

Working on Moon Man has led me to do a little research into the background of the Scots language, which has proved fascinating. Rather than being a dialect of English, or a corrupted form of that language, as some claim, it's an entirely separate but closely related language that in fact predates modern English.

Indeed, prior to the Norman invasion, Scots - or Inglis, as it was then known - was common throughout the British Isles. What most of us now think of English is, in fact, a merging of that language with Norman French.


Or, I Browsed The Internet So You Don't Have To.

First up, Buckaroo Banzai.

One of my enduring memories of the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton was the premiere of a new American film called Buckaroo Banzai In the Fifth Dimension, starring Peter Weller, concerning the adventures of a half-Japanese man who is simultaneously the world's leading brain surgeon, the world's greatest scientist, holder of multiple land speed records and singer and guitarist in the world's most popular band.

What Buckaroo Banzai really is, is Doc Savage adapted for the 1980s and the film, I remember one reviewer commenting with considerable accuracy, leaves you with the feeling of having just watched the latest episode of a long-running series with zero knowledge of prior story developments.

There was meant to be a sequel, referenced heavily in the closing credits, called Buckaroo Banzai Versus the World Crime League, but the movie failed to be enough of a commercial success for that to happen. So consider me flabbergasted when I discovered that the screenwriter has now written that sequel as a novel due to be published later this year .

I, for one, will be buying it. And not just because I really want to know what that watermelon was doing there .


if you're ever stuck for something to talk about during those long zoom meetings with friends, you could always tell them about the Legendary Stardust Cowboy.

I fell down a google hole after discovering NASA once used a song called Paralyzed to wake up astronauts aboard the Skylab in 1973, but got so many complaints that NASA banned the song from their playlist... Making it the only song ever banned in space.

And that tenuous connection is sufficient for me to talk about him here.

How bad or loud could it be for NASA to ban it, you ask? Here he is appearing on the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In in the 60s. You either come away from that thinking it's the greatest of the worst thing you've ever heard.

Personally, I think it's one of the greatest – and apparently David Bowie thought so too. In fact, he not only nicked the 'Stardust' for his own Ziggy Stardust, he later covered one of the Stardust Cowboy's songs on his Heathen album - I Took a Trip on A Gemini Spaceship.

Apparently a documentary about the Legendary Stardust Cowboy is in the works. He's still around, and still playing.


I spent January revisiting some old favourites, but as audiobooks this time. Here they are:


Specifically, the original double album LP recording of Hitchhiker which I originally owned on vinyl in the early 80s and wore out a bunch of record styluses playing it.

There's not much I can say here about it, beyond the fact of it remaining a classic and that I got some funny looks from the Taiwanese when I was walking my dog listening to this and basically laughing my head off from one street to the next.

I'd actually forgotten until this moment that back in Glasgow I have a Zaphod Beeblebear — a teddy bear based on Adams's character Zaphod Beeblebrox . And true to form, it has two heads and three arms and an eyepatch.

Whenever I had visitors back in Glasgow I would be careful to make sure it was out where they could see it. I'd watch people looking at it and see how long it took them to realise what was wrong. The reactions ranged from bemusement to stricken horror. But they never failed to react.


I remember picking this one up as an e-book a few years back pretty much on a whim because it sounded interesting. It turned out to be one of my favourite books I read in 2018.

The story is of a Canadian film critic who discovers a cache of previously unknown films from the early twentieth century made by a woman known for her interest in spiritualism and who had been the sole survivor of a bizarre massacre when she was a young child.

There's something about the combination of cinematic history and horror that really appeals to me, something that was equally done well in Theodore Roszak's Flicker.

The critic starts out trying to uncover more information about a previously unknown chapter in early Canadian film history, thinking there might be a grant in it, before gradually realising she's been drawn into something much darker and much, much older. Terrific stuff.

ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer

I've known of Vandermeer's work for some years before he broke through to the mainstream with Annihilation, partly because he was an acquaintance of some people in my writers group in Glasgow, partly because I'd run into him at least once at a convention, and partly because he's been a pretty constant online presence for the last couple of decades.

Annihilation was the first book of his that really appealed to me, and again, it's a book that so well-known now that there's not much I can really add about it. Basically, if you like your fiction weird and uncanny — and I certainly do — this is a good example of the form.

A group of investigators are sent into an isolated stretch of coast called Area X which is somehow cut off from the rest of the world, and from which few ever return. The landscape is both familiar and alien, with the protagonist constantly in confused as to whether one prominent feature of the landscape is a tower or a tunnel. The feeling is of a constant derangement of the senses in a manner not dissimilar to another book that explores broadly similar territory, Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic.

I'm currently listening to: THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE by Daniel Ellsberg and THIRTEEN STOREYS by Jonathan Sims. I'll be talking about them next time. See you then!