Teahouse on the Tracks (Alastair Reynolds)
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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
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Summer of 69
Now Playing: Bryan Adams

One week on - and not much to show for it, truth to tell. I was premature in thinking that I was nearly done with the S1C, for in fact there was quite a bit more to it, and I've only made a start on the painting of the black patches.

What you can see here is the entire S1C, the interstage ring and the start of the S11 stage.

I'm still fairly confident of finishing this thing by the 20th, but most of the progress will be in the last week, and there may still be a few bits to paint.

The quality of the kit notwithstanding, the Revell instructions (obviously translated from the German) could do with some tweaking. The accompanying notes tell us that the Saturn V reached a speed of 112 km/s (think you might have dropped a decimal point there, guys) and that Neil Armstrong's first words on the Moon were:

"This is only one small step for a man but a great leap forward for mankind."

So now you know, future historians.





Posted by voxish at 11:30 PM MEST
Saturday, 27 June 2009
Saturn V
Now Playing: Inspiral Carpets

Here's the fruit of today's progress: most of the S1C stage completed, together with the five F-1 engines. For contrast (below)  is the real thing: this is the horizontal Saturn V at Banana Creek, Kennedy Space Center, captured in October.

The real things aren't anywhere near as shiny (or red on the inside) as Revell's paint guidelines would have you think, but I'd imagine that the engines shown here have tarnished a bit over the years. There's another F-1 at one of the viewing stands which I wish I'd photographed.

It's amazing to think that these engines were originally going to power an even bigger moon rocket, the Nova, which would have used eight in the first stage. The Nova would create so much sound and vibration that it was generally assumed that the only safe place to launch it would be from a platform floating out at sea.






Posted by voxish at 11:19 PM MEST
Updated: Saturday, 27 June 2009 11:41 PM MEST
Friday, 26 June 2009
Rocket in my pocket
Now Playing: Little Feat

And now for something completely different ... I thought it would be a bit of a laugh if, instead of the usual rambling, sporadic blather, I tried to do something truly constructive and useful with this blog. And what could be more constructive - or appropriate in 2009 - than to build this 1/96th scale plastic model kit of a Saturn V rocket so that I can have something really impressive sitting on my desk? It may all end in tears, but I'm going to shoot for assembling it by the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, on July 20th.

Watch this space (rocket)...


Posted by voxish at 12:42 AM MEST
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
It's blitz
Now Playing: Yeah, yeah, yeahs

News of the ten book contract is out there now, so many thanks for the congratulations and good wishes I've received, and the many kind things I've seen here and there on the internet. As some have noted, while it's good for me - no bones about that - it also says something encouraging about the state of the genre. Far from dying on its feet (I've been reading obituaries for SF for about as long as I've been reading them about rock music) it's not doing at all badly, and may even be in the ascendant.

The contract doesn't change much as far as my writing habits are concerned. I've been hitting about a book a year since I started with Orion in 1999 - in fact we've done nine novels and three collections in ten years, or will have by the time the year's out - and all that's really required of me is to keep on the same level of productivity for another ten. It's not to be taken lightly, but at the same it's not too daunting. I've always wanted to be a prolific writer, and so a book a year feels about right to me. The idea of spending two or three years of my life on a single work fills me with existential dread, although that's purely a reflection on my own approach to the craft, which is very much a case of diving in and immersing myself in a book at a level which would almost certainly drive me insane if it lasted longer than six or nine months. To put it in rock terms, I'd rather be Neil Young than one of those artists who only releases work every three years or so. At that same time, I'm aware of the hazards of over-production: there are writers whose work I followed assiduously, until they gradually outstripped my capability to keep up. In many cases I simply stopped them reading them entirely. Obviously I'll be hoping that isn't the case with all my readers, but at the same time I'm mindful of the possibility. Above all else, I'll be working hard to improve my books and stretch my range, while at the same time hopefully delivering the kind of big SF kicks that I'm perhaps best known for. Sitting here now, I can honestly say that the last thing I feel is complacent or smug. Excited and apprehensive in equal measure is more like it - and acutely aware that I've been fortunate on many levels. For all its flaws, my first novel found a readership, and while it wasn't everyone's cup of tea - hell, I'm not even sure it would have been mine - REVELATION SPACE did get me off to a good start. I'm in no doubt that timing and marketing played a massive role in that, but what mattered was that it provided a foundation for the subsequent books. I'm also truly grateful that both my publisher and my readers (or enough of them, anyway) were happy to see me strike off into different fictional universes, be it the faux-1959 of CENTURY RAIN or the near-future spacefaring solar system of PUSHING ICE. I love doing the Revelation Space stories, but - gratifyingly - I've never felt like I was a prisoner of them. Maybe that's why I still like doing them.

I've been lucky in many other ways. I've worked with a supportive and understanding editor - the excellent Jo Fletcher - for all my novels to date, and my agent Robert Kirby has been a genuine star. But I've also had the benefit of a great family, a wonderful and supportive wife, and friends who've been there when I needed them. I had a great job at ESA which involved working with some truly smart people (people who made me realise that I'm actually a bit of a thicko on many levels), and for most of the last fifteen years I've had the financial security to be able to treat writing as a glorified hobby - something I'll do so long as it's fun/challenging/whatever. That's still pretty much my attitude: it almost never feels like a day job. I've also had the benefit in my adult years of stamina and good health - something you can never take for granted. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the current SF and fantasy scene will know of writers who are dealing with issues of personal health that would make almost all the usual writerly grievances - certainly any that I ever have to deal with - look very trivial indeed. So I'm not only lucky, but mindful that there are writers (and readers, for that matter) out there who'd love the certainty of ten years of life, let alone ten years of income. So yes, a very happy camper here.

That's about it for now, I think. Time to mention, if you aren't already aware of it, that there's a new story of mine ready to download as an audio podcast from the Guardian:


See what you make of it - and don't be too put off by the narrator.

Al R


Posted by voxish at 1:55 PM MEST
Updated: Wednesday, 24 June 2009 2:39 PM MEST
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Terminal World art
Now Playing: Chris Moore's superb artwork for TW

Posted by voxish at 5:59 PM MEST
Atlantis Redux
Now Playing: Picture of shuttle taken by my wife

Posted by voxish at 5:47 PM MEST

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