Teahouse on the Tracks (Alastair Reynolds)
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Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Paperback writer

Robert Brown of the SF Bokhandeln took a couple of pics of the signing I did in Stockholm.

I'm probably saying something devastatingly witty at this point. Maths and Jorgen (Stockholm) and Glenn and Johan (Gothenberg) were all great company and I enjoyed hanging out with them and being treated to a couple of lovely meals.

Posted by voxish at 5:27 PM MEST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 April 2008 5:40 PM MEST
Thursday, 24 April 2008
The Website

I've given the main site an overhaul. After years of convincing myself that it was still a useful skill to be able to design and edit a page in raw HTML, I've gone over to Tripod's web generating template and editing tool.

I still need to transfer some content back over, but anything really essential will eventually migrate to the revamped site.


It's occurred to me that I need to reinstate the House of Suns excerpts, but I won't have time to do that until I return from Sweden. 

Posted by voxish at 12:06 AM MEST
Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Unless you've been living under a stone for the last few years, you'll know about Harriet Klausner - she's the internet's most prolific book reviewer, with (according to Wikipedia) more than 15,500 reviews to her credit. She posts anything up to six reviews a day. Which would be irrelevant if her reviews were in any way insightful or even useful, but unfortunately because Harriet likes everything, without exception, her reviews are little more than extra noise in the system, a background hiss of blanket positivity.

I don't mean to be too hard on Harriet - I'm sure she's sincere, and really does read and critique six books a day. But when I was writing THE PREFECT, and needed a handy index by which to measure the prefects' ability to speed-read, the name "Klausner" couldn't help but  jump to mind. Hence, the throwaway joke on P26 (UK edition):

"Sparver stood next to her console, scanning the information scrolling past on multiple panes. Thalia made light of her speed-reading ability, but her Klausner index was still much higher than his own."

The curious thing is, true to form, Harriet has now reviewed THE PREFECT and given it (knock me down with a feather) a five star review.

I can't help wondering - did she even notice that reference? 

Posted by voxish at 2:06 PM MEST
Sweden; Llantrisant

I'm off to Sweden in a couple of days. I'll be signing and reading in Gothenberg on friday 25th, beginning at 6.00pm:

SF Bokhandeln AB

Ostra Larmgatan 16

41107 Gothenburg

Phone: 00 46 31 130670


Then on Saturday 26th I'm in Stockholm from 4.00 pm onwards:

SF Bokhandeln

Vasterlanggatan 48            

10317 Stockholm

Phone: 00 46 8 215052

More information (in Swedish) here:


 Looking a bit further ahead, I'll be signing at Borders Books in Llantrisant (Wales) on saturday May 10th - exact time TBA:


 I hope to see some of you there.

Posted by voxish at 1:55 PM MEST
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
House of Suns, Minneapolis trip
Now Playing: Husker Du

Although it's a day away from its official release day, copies of HOS were on sale in Forbidden Planet last week, and Amazon.co.uk have already started delivering pre-orders. I don't live near a large bookstore myself, but I'd assume that copies will be available in the next few days, if they aren't already on the shelves. I did a signing last week, a few interviews over the last month or so, and I'll be signing at a few places in Sweden at the end of the month - but that's it, basically: the book is done, the hard work is at least a quarter of a year behind me, and my thoughts are now largely dominated by the next one. That's not to say that I'm emotionally disengaged from HOS - far from it - but the fact is, by the time the book begins to be read by more than a handful of close associates, I am, of necessity, directing my energies elsewhere, and it tends to feel like finished business.

As a writer, the one thing I've never been excited about is seeing my name on a bookshelf. I've met aspirant writers for whom that's the big (imagined) kick, but - if my experience is at all typical - it's not something you should hang your career on.  Writing is a long, slow, protracted business, but the upshot is that the best moments - the only really ecstatic ones, if I'm being honest - are those that happen during the act of creation, behind the keyboard or at the writing desk. It's when a problem resolves itself, when you write a sequence that you know you'll still be happy with a year or ten down the line, when you pull some insight out of nowhere and surprise yourself. It's when you write something so deliciously unexpected or logically satisfying that the only response is to grin like an idiot, do a little jig and play some bitchin' air guitar (or in my case, having just bought a Telecaster, real guitar).

Those moments don't happen very often (I count on maybe one or two per book, if I'm lucky) but they're the primary reason I do it, and maybe the only one. Rewriting stuff is enjoyable, finishing stuff is enjoyable, selling stuff is cool, good reviews and award nominations are nice, but nothing gives me quite the same jolt as writing something good in the middle of a long project. I mention this only because I suspect that the outside perception of a writer's existence is such that the publication of a book must surely be the emotional capstone of the creative process, but to me it's a step, a detail, almost an afterthought.

Moving on...

I had a great time in Minneapolis, courtesy of Minicon. I'd like to thank Keith Malgren and Andra St Arnauld for their hospitality and friendship during the entire time I was in town. Rachel Kronick did a fine job with the programming. I'm also grateful to Graham Weathers and his lovely wife Becca for their kindness, and to everyone else at the con who made it so thoroughly enjoyable. Quite apart from the free bar, I would rate this as an excellent convention, one that I'd be happy to attend again. Jetlag be damned.

It was a fun trip in other ways. I arrived in Chicago, partly because I'd have had to fly via Chicago anyway, but mainly because it gave me the chance to ride the Empire Builder up to Minneapolis. I've never made any secret of being a train fan (why hide something so harmless?) and this was a big tick for me. OK, it wasn't quite the train it used to be in the days of the old Great Northern, and I didn't ride it all the way through the Rockies to Washington state, but it was still a delightful experience.

This eight and a half hour train ride took me through three states, and was a blast - very comfortable, great scenery, excellent service and friendly fellow passengers. I was impressed with Amtrak's whole approach and would definitely consider doing something similar again.

I liked Chicago. I stayed in two hotels - one on the Lakeshore, a long  way from Downtown (my mistake - should have done my homework first) but within comfortable walking distance of the fabulous Museum of Science and Industry, where they have the original Burlington Zephyr. The other hotel was much more central, close to the John Hancock building and a ready supply of Starbucks concessions. I enjoyed visiting Sears Tower and strolling down the Magnificent Mile, gawping at the under-construction Trump tower and riding the elevated railway around the famous Loop. Weather and time conspired against me visiting any more museums, but I liked Chicago very much and hope to get back there one day.


Posted by voxish at 6:35 PM MEST
The Starry Rift
Now Playing: Stars - In our bedroom after the war

Centuries ago by our Earth time, Jonathan Strahan had the excellent initiative to put together an anthology of new SF stories aimed at younger readers. I wrote a story, and then sat back in the full and certain expectation that the book would soon appear.

Frustratingly (not least for Jonathan) the book hit delay after delay, but the good news is that The Starry Rift is now available and is beginning to pick up a good buzz and some welcome reviews.

In connection with the launch, Jonathan has created a website website dedicated to the book, so be sure to check it out and consider buying or (if you're outside the US) ordering a copy.

I am very pleased to be a part of what promises to be a landmark anthology, and hope it does well for Jonathan after all the effort he put in.

Posted by voxish at 6:05 PM MEST
Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Arthur C Clarke
Now Playing: Not a lot

I'm sorry to hear of the death of Arthur C Clarke. To a large extent, I owe my entire interest in written SF to early exposure to Clarke's writings. From around the time that I was eight, I started reading Clarke's short stories in the back pages of "Speed and Power" magazine, a boys-orientated UK periodical that ran for a year or two after 1974.  At the time, I had no idea that these stories were not original to the magazine, written new each week. In fact, most of them were at least a decade old - stories like "Transit of Earth", "Into the Comet", "The Sentinel". They had a terrific effect on me, not least because they were well illustrated, with imaginative colour paintings in a style not unlike that of Chris Foss. For the most part, these were stories about space exploration, told realistically. In the early seventies, it was still possible to view these stories as snapshots from a future that was more or less guaranteed to happen.

One story hit me particularly hard - "A Meeting with Medusa". It was serialised in S&P over several weeks, beginning with Howard Falcon's airship crash - again, brilliantly illustrated. But it was only at the very end of the story that we found out what had really happened to Falcon. The artist's depiction as Falcon-as-cyborg (a human torso in a business suit mounted on what appeared to be a set of aircraft undercarriage) scared the hell out of me. But I couldn't get the story out of my mind. That was the point, I think, where Clarke really bit into my imagination. Not long after, I read (but didn't really understand) 2001: A Space Odyssey. I wasn't to see the film for several more years, by which time I'd already read "Rendezvous with Rama". "City and the Stars", "The Sands of Mars", "Childhood's End" and "Earthlight" soon followed. The latter two were Christmas presents, given a year or so apart. I can still remember the thrill of curling up in bed at the end of Christmas day, beginning to read. Clarke never let me down, and those books still resonate tremendously. Clarke's non-fiction - especially "Profiles of the Future" - introduced me to the popular science. To a large degree, it also shaped the way I think about technology and the future. I'm fundamentally an optimist and think that - no matter how inauspicious things may appear in the early decades of the twenty first century - the human species does have a future in space. If Clarke indoctrinated me in that mode of thinking, then I'm more than happy to have been indoctrinated.

I'm in Chicago at the moment, travelling. If I were home, I'd be inclined to sit down and read one of my favorite Clarke stories. Maybe it would be the one about the haunted spacesuit - I was talking to a group of people in a library in Cardiff about that story only a couple of weeks ago. Or that beautiful and sad vignette about the "moonquake", or the astronaut falling towards certain death when his launch catapult fails... 

I was born in Barry. Across the Bristol channel, on a clear day, you could see Minehead. It was only a few miles away, as the crow flies...

Posted by voxish at 4:12 PM MEST
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
So Fa, so good
Now Playing: Nowt

The good chaps at StarShip Sofa are doing narrations of all the stories on the current BSFA short fiction shortlist. They haven't got to Sledge yet, but should do so in the next few days. In the meantime you can listen to the existing podcasts by going here. It's an excellent initiative, one that should be warmly applauded.

Update: Sledge is now posted, and a very good narration it is too. 

Posted by voxish at 12:59 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 15 March 2008 12:32 PM MEST
Monday, 10 March 2008
Signing, and other things
Now Playing: Moby

I'll be signing copies of HOS - and anything else anyone feels like bringing along - in Forbidden Planet, London on April 12 between 1 - 2 am. More details here.

An interview with me appeared this week on Fantasy Hotlist, while last week I did a brief piece with Sci Fi Wire in which I mainly talked about The Prefect.

In other news, as they say, I delivered "Troika", a 25,000 word novella to Jonathan Strahan for inclusion in his forthcoming Science Fiction Book Club anthology GODLIKE MACHINES. The other authors in this book are Cory Doctorow, Greg Egan, Stephan Baxter, John Scalzi and Robert Reed - it should be well worth having.

Finally (for now) Jonathan's young-adult anthology, THE STARRY RIFT, will shortly be appearing in the States. This contains my dark cyber-pirate story "The Star Surgeon's Apprentice".

Posted by voxish at 7:54 PM MEST
Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008 8:15 PM MEST
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Still more HOS
Now Playing: Steve Earle
I've posted another (brief) chapter from HOS on the main site - go to here.

Posted by voxish at 1:34 PM CET
Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008 1:38 PM CET

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