Teahouse on the Tracks (Alastair Reynolds)
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Tuesday, 20 October 2009
Ares 1-X rollout
Now Playing: stirring Thunderbirds type music

Good to see the Ares 1-X rolled out of the VAB today. I just hope there's some money in the pot to actually do something with it. I'm all for the Ares program, even if in many ways it looks like a throwback to the Apollo era (and in terms of some of the hardware, that's pretty much what it is). Granted, it would have been nice if the shuttle concept could have been evolved, rather than (as it seems to me) largely discarded. Perhaps we'll come back to reusable spaceplanes later in the century. Not for the first time, though, I can't help wondering where we'd be if Gerry Anderson was in charge of all human spaceflight operations on Earth. For a start, I don't think Gerry would have been satisfied with merely rolling out the Ares 1-X. No, Gerry would go for something much more impressive, like having - for no readily apparent reason - the entire VAB move backwards instead. And - although the Ares 1-X won't be carrying people - if it did, there'd be some insanely complex procedure for putting the crew inside it, probably involving slides and underground tunnels. And then, of course, the Hood would get aboard it with intentions of sabotage. We can't have everything, though.

ps - many thanks for the words of support received through email; it's much appreciated.



Posted by voxish at 4:15 PM MEST
Updated: Tuesday, 20 October 2009 4:26 PM MEST
Monday, 19 October 2009
Still more

I lost my father last week so please bear with me until I'm back up to speed around these parts. Obviously not the best of times, but I'm fortunate to have a wonderful wife and family around me, not to mention many good friends.

I've disabled comments for now, not realising that this would delete all existing comments in previous entries. However it may well be that I keep it this way from now on, as I wasn't brilliant at responding to comments to begin with, and - let's face it - this isn't really a blog in the usual sense. I can still be emailed, so there's still a communication channel open for feedback.

Finished and delivered "The Old Man and the Martian Sea", which should appear in Jonathan Strahan's forthcoming YA anthology "Life on Mars", sometime in 2010. Also: "Sleepover", which will appear in "The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF", edited by Mike Ashley, again in 2010.

Enjoying: "Kingdom of Rust", Doves.

Posted by voxish at 2:20 PM MEST
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
More stuff
I've had to pull out of the Oktoberfest event in Greenwich (see September 11th post). Apologies to all concerned, and also for my lack of presence around these parts and general slowness in replying to email correspondence. I prefer to keep the really personal stuff out of my blog but a close relative is very ill and this has been necessarily overshadowing other activities. Thanks!

Posted by voxish at 12:57 AM MEST
Thursday, 1 October 2009
Catching up
Now Playing: Stuff

Apologies for my absence here these last few weeks. Thanks to everyone who came along to the talk at Greenwich, and to those who made the trek to Bristol. It was a most enjoyable way to spend half a day and I know everyone came away very enthused by the idea of doing something similar next year. All credit to the organisers both for making things run smoothly, and for picking such an excellent venue.

It's been a busy few weeks, for various reasons. By now word seems to be out on the street that Terminal World is not going to appear until March 2010. I'd been aware of this as a possibility for some while - first it was on, then it was back to October 2009, then it was back to 2010 again - and it seemed unwise to make any definitive statements until I knew where we stood. The book is finished, though, and I understand that proofs should be out there before too long. After some deliberation, my editor and I decided not to include around 12,000 words of new material that had been written late in the day. Good on one level - it keeps the book relatively lean - but it's always painful to cut stuff that you worked hard on, sometimes under the gun. Never mind, maybe I'll put the deleted scenes up here one day, when the dust has settled.

In among bursts of editorial rewriting, and work on the new book, I've surprised myself by finishing another couple of stories - fairly long ones, too. That's six already this year, and we're only just into October. By any rate I think 2009 will turn out to be my most productive year ever in terms of short fiction. Of course one of those stories no longer exists in the English language, but I still wrote the thing.

I keep going on about music around here - as opposed to books and films, which I almost never have anything sensible to say about - so I keep thinking that maybe what I ought to do is split things off and create a separate music-related blog. Or not. Right now, though, I'm really enjoying a couple of things. Largely on a moment of emotional weakness, I bought Green Day's new album. Green Day? Hate 'em. Rubbish cartoon punks, all posture and no depth. But ... it's brilliant. Really fantastically good. I'm also enjoying the second album by Swedish electronic group Little Dragon, entitled Machine Dreams. It's lovely, swooning synth-driven dance pop, like all the best bits of Goldfrapp, Air and Bjork mixed together and reprocessed for 2009. I'm so hopelessly smitten that I've named a character in one of my stories after the Swedish-Japanese lead singer.

I'll probably hate it in a few weeks but that's what all good pop should be like.


Posted by voxish at 4:55 PM MEST
Friday, 11 September 2009
Four events

Four things I should have mentioned sooner:

On Tuesday September 15th I'll be talking on the subject of science anfd science fiction (with the slant on astronomy) at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. My talk runs between 7pm and 8.30pm and admission costs eight pounds.

On saturday September 26th I'll be guest of honour at Bristolcon, a small, one-day convention being staged by the Bristol Fantasy and SF Society at Mercure Holland House Hotel and Spa, Redcliffe Hill (not far from Bristol Temple Meads station). The organisers are hoping that if this event goes off well it could become a yearly fixture, so if you're in the area, why not give it a shot?

More information here:


Next month, I'll be talking to the Birmingham SF group on the evening of Friday 9th October. 

Information here:


Finally on Friday 23rd October - also at the Royal Observatory Greenwich -  I'll be participating in a panel discussion at Sci-Fi London's Oktoberfest event. The panel should start at around 8.00 pm, but it'll be part of an evening of events which includes a screening of the new(ish) Star Trek film in the planetarium.

Here's the website for Oktoberfest:


That's it for now.

Posted by voxish at 5:29 PM MEST
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Now Playing: Still Kasabian

It's been nearly another month, hasn't it. Sorry all. Really I've just had my head down, getting on with stuff. Edits and queries on TW, including about 12,000 words of last minute additions and substitutions. A new story done and dusted, and another finished today, both novellettes (although at 17,000 words today's is nudging into short novella territory). Both stories, incidentally, are set on Earth - no spaceships! More on these in due course. I need to write at least one more story this year for a commissioned anthology, and then ideally another one after that for an above-top secret project, and of course, I need to make substantial progress on book 1 of 11K.

Just finished: House M.D. season 3, 24 season 5. Half way through Rescue Me season 2, West Wing season 3, Sopranos season 2, Green Wing season 2, Deadwood season 2, NYPD Blue season 2, Monk season 1. So now you know...

Watched this week: Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen: classic Troughton era Who. So much better than the new cybermen, the old ones. I'm sorry, but cybermen just aren't meant to stomp around really quickly and look like metal robots. They're meant to be slow and plastic-looking and just ever so slightly pathetic.


Posted by voxish at 12:15 AM MEST
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Still here
Now Playing: Kasabian

A friend asked if all was well, given the lack of updates here recently. Sorry for that. There's absolutely nothing wrong, it's just that I've been busy with various activities and beyond the mere fact of being busy, which isn't itself very interesting, there's been precious little to report. A round of last minute rewrites on bits of TW, faltering progress on book 1 of 11K, a short story with dinosaurs in it, with two more (not with dinosaurs) to finish by the end of the year. If this sounds like a whinge, it's not: I like being busy, and on some level I need deadlines to motivate myself. But at times - and let's face it, I'm not the world's most energetic blogger - rather too many deadlines hit at once and I struggle to find much to say on Teahouse while I'm in the thick of it. The other thing - I'm very reluctant to post here until I'm at least semi-up-to-date with emails. And I'm not, but as always I'm getting there slowly. So thanks for your patience.


Posted by voxish at 11:07 PM MEST
Monday, 20 July 2009
Man on the Moon
Now Playing: REM

Well I sort of nearly did it, if you accept "by the 20th" to mean "on the 20th" in the UK, and if you allow for painting and some details still be completed (like the entire LM). But anyway, I've got to the top and barring some details on the second stage, the Saturn is more or less complete externally. I've made a start on the "black bits", as we scientists call them, but here the Revell painting guides seem to be way off, so I'm referring to photographs. There's a tiny 1/96th astronaut in the command module, believe it or not, although he's all but invisible now.

More to follow tomorrow, but in the meantime here it is. The picture's crap but it's late and my camera battery's low, so this will have to do until daylight. I've been neglecting far too many commitments to get this done, and my wife says she's looking forward to seeing me again, but I've enjoyed it enormously and it's taught me far more about the mechanics of the rocket than any number of things I've read or seen in the last three or four decades. Here's to the Apollo program!



Posted by voxish at 11:09 PM MEST
Friday, 17 July 2009
Ladies and gentleman we are floating in space
Now Playing: Spiritualised

OK, it's getting tight. At this rate I'll be satisfied with "topping out" the Saturn V by the 20th even if there are still some details to be painted and the LM completed.

In other news, footage has surfaced of Toni Jerrman and I destroying Pandora's Box:


Finally, I see that the issue of Death Ray with my story "Monkey Suit" in it (along with a Bengal Station story by Eric Brown) is now on the shelves.


Posted by voxish at 10:50 PM MEST
Updated: Friday, 17 July 2009 10:57 PM MEST
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Now Playing: Sibelius

Back from Finncon, which was every bit as good as I'd hoped, and then some. The Finns are great hosts and really know how to organise - despite dealing with some 15,000 attendees (Finncon has, at least until now, been run jointly with Animecon) it all went smoothly - or at least appeared so to this participant. Helsinki is one of my favorite cities anywhere in the world and it was good to be back - good also to meet up with old friends like Toni Jerrman, Jukka Halme and Hannu Blomilla, among others. My fellow guests of honour George RR Martin and Adam Roberts were excellent company, as was Finncon regular Cheryl Morgan. I think we all had a superb time.

I'm not sure if the moment was captured for posterity, but on the saturday Toni Jerrman and I ceremonially destroyed the last english language copy of my story "Pandora's Box". I deleted my electronic copies before departure, and by the time of the con Toni had prepared a final print-out. He'd done the translation so there was no need for anyone else to be involved. We fed the story into a cross-cutting paper shredder, on stage, during my interview. Amusingly enough, several members of the audience were then seen grabbing wads of shredded paper. Good luck reassembling it! It's kind of weird to have written a story which is no longer accessible even to me, but I'm glad we did it.

It took most of a day to get back - by the time you've factored in a change of planes in Amsterdam, Helsinki is about as far from Cardiff as New York - but the journey was uneventful. I was saddened on my return to learn of the death of Charles N Brown,  Editor-in-chief and publisher of Locus magazine. I only met Charles on a handful of occasions, but I listened carefully to what he had to say and admired both the length of time he'd spent in the field and the conviction he still brought to his opinions. Only the day before, I'd picked up a Heinlein novel at Finncon and looked forward both to reading it and talking about it with Charles. I took it as read that he'd be at Boskone in February, because I'd met him there once before.

I don't know if he ever became a fan, but I like to think I introduced Charles to Wallace and Gromit. It was Boskone, I think, and we were talking about China Mieville's new book at the time, Iron Council. We were discussing the image in the book of the steam train that puts down its own tracks and lifts them after it's passed through, and I mentioned the scene in The Wrong Trousers where Grommit has to lay down the model railway tracks at breakneck speed while sitting in a wagon. I think the scene in question is itself a fond nod to a Tom and Jerry episode. Remarkably, to me, Charles had no idea what I was talking about. Wallace and what? I made an inept attempt at describing Wallace and Gromit (it's a bit hard when you think about it) but urged Charles to check out some of the DVDs. I hope he did! Everyone needs some Wallace and Gromit now and then.

He was good to me in the pages of Locus - Revelation Space was reviewed there earlier than anywhere else, and I always enjoyed it when Charles would mention in his column that he'd read or had read one of my books. Generally he seemed to like them and I was delighted with that.

I didn't know him well enough to comment on his character. We had a few chats, and I liked him, and that was that. The last time, sadly enough, was a bit of a struggle: it was in a loud, hot room at the Glasgow WorldCon and I don't think either Charles or I could hear each other very well. I remember thinking that I'd much rather talk to him over a glass of wine in the Locus suite. He cared passionately about SF and took it seriously. I still regard Locus as essential reading and rip it open the moment it arrives - I had, in fact, just ripped open the latest issue when I logged on and learned of Charles' death. Fortunately, the magazine will continue. 

Not much progress on the rocket this week due to Finncon, but I'll be back with another update in a day or two. The second stage is more or less done, meaning that I'll be tackling the Apollo spacecraft itself next.

Finally: apropos of nothing, last night's blinding revelation. The popular TV show featuring Hugh Laurie as a doctor in a big hospital is not called "House". It's called "House MD". (Look at the tiny writing on the box sets). But almost no one ever calls it that.

Pendantic, moi?




Posted by voxish at 11:51 PM MEST
Updated: Thursday, 16 July 2009 12:19 AM MEST

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