Friday, December 29, 2017

A Year of Reading

Also as a consequences of barely writing anything this year, I've read far more books than usual - a total of 86.

I've read almost entirely science fiction books for as long as I can remember, but last year I started reading Jeeves and Wooster, which is one of my favoutite TV series, and read 9 of the books this year. I also continued my ongoing quest to read the 'classics' of the genre, with the usual varied results. I also read 8 books by Matthew Hughes, completing almost everything available, along with my last 2 Eric Browns and final 4 Alastair Reynolds to bring me up to date.

My favourite books of the year? In reverse order of reading:

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
Austral by Paul McAuley
The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Year of Reviewing

Partly as a result of my lack of writing this year, I've had much more time to read and to write reviews. I just checked my reviews page on SF Crowsnest and was surprised to discover I've written 27 book reviews this year. That means I probably have more total word count on reviews than on fiction!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Year of Writing

2017 was not a great year for writing. In fact, my total word count was the lowest since records began; or to be precise, since 2004 when I started writing again after a 12 year break. I wrote 3 flash fiction story, and one story that just crept up into novelette range. I also sold one long novelette and saw 3 stories published this year, in Spanish, Polish and my multi-author collaboration Something On Your Mind? in English.

Maybe I'll make a comeback next year.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Misfit Story Scheduled

My collaborative story Quivira, co-written with Jonathan C. Gillespie, which has been accepted by The Society of Misfit Stories now appears on their updated schedule and is due to appear in August 2018. I'm rather looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Unlike half of the world’s population, I haven’t read Andy Weir’s debut novel The Martian, but in common with the other half of the population I did watch the film and rather enjoyed it. Andy Weir returns to the world of populist hard SF with Artemis which takes us this time to the Moon, location of the eponymous lunar city.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Book Review: The Adjacent by Christopher Priest

I hardly know where to begin in describing Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent. It’s a multi-stranded novel that alternates the tale of Tibor Tarent, a free-lance photographer in near-future Britain, with a selection of tales from earlier time periods and other places that feel like they are almost related somehow, without making the connection obvious.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Book Review: Strange Music by Alan Dean Foster

A few years back I read the last three books in Alan Dean Foster’s long-running ‘Pip And Flinx’ series, a light-hearted, adventurous series about the empathic Flinx and his pet mini-dragon, Pip. The air of tediousness that enveloped me as I read through them returned to mind when I received this new book which brings the series back to life.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Book Review: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

The Irish Empire takes the place of the traditional British Empire in The Time Roads, an alternative history/steampunk tale from Beth Bernobich, set at the turn of the 20th century when European geography and politics are almost familiar yet convincingly different.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ten Year Semi-Pro Anniversary

It's ten years since I first had a story published in a semi-pro magazine, when I actually had 3 in a row:

  • A few Good Men in Australian popular science magazine Cosmos
  • Absolute Zero in Greek weekly newspaper comic supplement 9
  • Inside Every Successful Man in UK webzine Hub

It was almost 3 years since my first story had been published, but at this point I hadn't started to focus on any particular market. This was a great boost to my writing though.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Collaborative Novelette Sale

I'm very pleased to anounce that my novella Quivira, co-written with Jonathan C. Gillespie, has been accepted for publication by The Society of Misfit Stories, an imprint of Bards & Sages magazine that specialises in long stories that are the wrong length for most magazines.

This is my longest story published to date, at 16,000 words. Jonathan and I wrote alternating sections from two different character's points of view, one in the style of a science ficiton story and one presented as s fantasy story. You'll have to read it to see how that makes any sense.

It's due to be published some time next year.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond

Probably in common with a lot of the audience who have seen the 2017 live action film Ghost In The Shell starring Scarlett Johansson, I was aware that the story originated as a Japanese anime title, but otherwise I had no idea about its background. In fact, my knowledge of the genre is rather paltry and this became evident as I read through Andrew Osmond’s fascinating history of the film.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Spanish Mole Rats

The Spanish translation of my story The Righteous Indignation of the Naked Mole Rat is now on line at Argentinian magazine La Idea Fija.

This is my 2nd story in that magazine and my 11th story in Spanish.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: Austral by Paul McAuley

The partly-thawed Antarctic Peninsula seems like an obvious place to set a novel in a globally-warmed future, but it’s never crossed my mind and I can’t say I’ve come across it in any other book before. Paul McAuley describes a wondrous wilderness of retreating glaciers, hardy frontiersmen, burgeoning greenery and blossoming towns that are working their way inward from the tip of the peninsula. It’s a magnificent setting for a tale of survival, human intrusion into nature and the fight against repeating history’s mistakes.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

After the phenomenal Ancillary trilogy, how could Ann Leckie hope to live up to expectations with Provenance? It’s a tough job but she does it with style, giving us a tale that is related to the other three books and set in the same universe as her Radchaai Empire, but is different enough to stand on its own and exude a distinct charm that does not rely on its predecessors.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Multi-Author Collaborative Story Now On Line

My collaborative story Something On Your Mind?, co-written with 8 other authors, is now on-line at Kaleidotrope. This is my third blind collaboration set aboard the orbital habitat Astropolis. I gave the other authors the setting and asked them to write a short scene with their own character but with no idea of the overall plot and I then stitched all the sections together into an whole story.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Review: The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod

The third book. Emergence, in Ken MacLeod’s Corporation Wars trilogy continues straight on from the previous volume Insurgence where, as I explained in my review of that book, I had completely lost track of what was going on. A brief introduction to summarise the story so far or maybe a glossary that I could refer to to remind myself who was who might have been helpful before diving right back in to the plot.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Book Review: Go Forth and Multiply Edited by Gordon Van Gelder

I’ve often found when reading Science Fiction from the 50s and 60s that what dates it more than the technology is the social attitudes. It was a much more sexist world in those days and the fiction reflects that: the astronauts and scientists are almost always male and any female characters are always secretaries, stewardesses or nurses and they frequently have hysterics and need to be slapped round the face.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Book Review: Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

After centuries of mankind’s increasing reliance on robots, they turn on their makers and wipe them out. That’s not what this book is about though. In Sea Of Rust we find out what happens next when robotkind and the huge AIs that helped them win their freedom are left to themselves.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Book Review: Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

The difficulty with time travel stories is that it’s very easy to tie yourself in knots whilst trying to make the plot interesting. Robert Charles Wilson makes it clear early in the plot how endless paradoxes and recursive loops are to be avoided. This by the fact that an alternative history is created when time-travellers arrive in the past, a history that from then on diverges from their own.

Read the rest of my Review at SF Crowsnest.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

It’s a nearish-future world in Adam Roberts’ latest novel The Real-Town Murders, wherein a large proportion of people spend a large proportion of their time in the Shine, an immersive Internet/virtual reality world where everything is better and more convenient than the Real-Town.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher

It was a quiet afternoon in my office when the parcel landed on my desk with a thud. Brown cardboard, clear sticky tape and address handwritten in black ink. I knew exactly what it was and where it came from. A review copy of Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Classic Book Stats

In several previous posts I've mentioned some of the 'classic' SF books that I've read over the past few years. I decided to quantify how many of the 'best' or 'classic' books I've read, with the aid of Goodreads. This is what I came up with:

ListNumber          Read           %
SF Masterworks1705331%
BSFA 481225%

The 'Best' list at the top is the Best Science Fiction top 100 on Goodreads, which is probably as valid as any other 'Best of' list. The others obviously refer to the major Science Fiction awards, and I've also included the SF Masterworks imprint.

These various lists give me some idea of books to add to my to-read list and I've decided to start with some that appear on more than one list.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Book Review: Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait

In the middle of the twenty-first century, war and drought still ravage Africa and millions of people are displaced and heading towards an unwelcoming Europe. Giant energy corporations battle over profits and governments struggle to provide answers to any of mankind’s problems while Jihadis run rampage over much of Northern Africa. Despite all of these all-too-familiar problems forming the background of Our Memory Like Dust, Gavin Chait has not written a gritty tale of gloom and disaster but a surprisingly uplifting novel of determination and innovation.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Putting the Science in Fiction

My article on hazardous waste that appeared in Dan Koboldt's Science in SciFi blog will be making the move to print in a new book version to be published by Writers Digest. You can read the announcement here and Dan explains more about it at his blog.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Review: The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

It’s airships and rifles in a kind of Napoleonic-era war in the steampunkish debut novel The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis. Other than the steam engines mounted on the airships and the mention of trains, there’s little of the traditional Victorian steampunk ethos in this book. But there’s plenty of adventure, grittiness and sarcastic comments.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Book Review: The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu

After reading Cixin Liu’s Three-Body trilogy last year and subsequently meeting him in person for an interview, I have been looking forward to reading his first translated short fiction collection, The Wandering Earth. Three of his short stories were published in English in the Ken Liu edited volume Invisible Planets, but only one of those appears among the ten stories in this volume, half of which have won the prestigious Galaxy Award in China.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: Dark Run by Mike Brooks

Dark Run is the debut novel by Mike Brooks with a book full of dodgy space bars, roguishly heroic smuggler captains and assorted crewmembers with dubious pasts, mechanically augmented humans and seedy underground dwellings.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Family Flash Fiction Challenge

Alex, Haydn and I have all written stories for this month;s flash fiction challenge. You can read all the entries here, and even comment and vote if you like.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

‘The Collapsing Empire’ is the first book in a new series by award-winning author John Scalzi and the first of his books that I’ve read. The setting is a far-flung interstellar empire know as the Interdependency, over a thousand years in the future, where planets are connected via poorly-understood faster-than-light conduits known as the Flow.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Further Classics

Following on from my previous posts on the subject, I've continued to look out for 'classic' SF books that have won awards, appeared on 'Best of' lists etc.

These are the ones I've read over the past year or so:

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre - Enjoyably lyrical.

Hothouse by Brian W. Aldiss - Very good, though slightly old-fashioned now.

Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boule - OK, not actually hailed as a classic, and actually rather antiquated even for its time.

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin - Very good, but not really sure what the fuss is about.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - Rather dated.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick - I don't know why everyone says this is so good.

According to the GoodReads 'Best Science Fiction' list I've read 52 of the top 100 science fiction novels of all time, which isn't bad. There are, of course, lots of other 'Best of' lists.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Review Revival

Over 100 of my older book and magazine reviews no longer appear on line because the sites they appeared on have since disappeared. I've started to post the  reviews on GoodReads for the sake of posterity.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Book Review: Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin

Unlike the rest of the Earth’s population, I have neither read nor watched Game Of Thrones, not being a fan of fantasy, though I did once see George RR Martin in passing at EasterCon.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Return of the Blind Collaborators

My first collaborative story The Blind Collaborators, published 10 years ago in Aphelion Webzine , has been republished in their 'Best of 20 Years' selection.

It was a fun story to write in which I gave my collaborators a brief outline of what to include in their sections without telling them the plot and then I tied them all together in an overall story.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spaceports and Spidersilk Reviewed

The April 2017 edition of Spaceports and Spidersilk which contains Alex's story The Gravel Beneath Pounding Feet, has been reviewed in SF Crowsnest. Of Alex's story the reviewer writes:

The author is young, according to the bio, but it’s well-crafted and he probably has a future in the business.

It's only his second published story, so this is a really great review.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review: From Darkest Skies by Sam Peters

Debut author Sam Peters brings us a fabulous interplanetary mystery described by the publishers as ‘your new SF thriller obsession’ which, after the first couple of chapters, proved to be pretty much accurate.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: Cold Welcome by Elizabeth Moon

In recent years I read and enjoyed the seven books of Elizabeth Moon’s Serrano Legacy and intended, at some point, to read her five part Vatta’s War series. When Cold Welcome was announced, the first in the follow-on series Vatta’s Peace I thought I’d best get a move on and read Vatta’s War, but then I was offered Cold Welcome to review before I had the time.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.


Friday, April 07, 2017

The Gravel Beneath Pounding Feet

My eldest son Alex's second published story The Gravel Beneath Pounding Feet is now out in the spring 2017 issue of Spaceports and Spidersilk.

Download it for $1 here.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Slow Bullets is the second of Alastair Reynolds’ novellas I’ve read recently, the other being The Iron Tactician and, like that book, the scope of the tale comes across just as vast as his much fatter novels, with a sense of history and scale that place the tale as part of something far larger.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hungarian Story Sale

I'm very pleased to have sold my short story Englebert, first published in Daily Science Fiction, to Hungarian magazine Galaktika. My last story with them was in 2009 and it's a very nicely produced, professional looking magazine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: LImit, Part 2 by Frank Schätzing

I read part 2 of Frank Schätzing’s huge novel Limit following straight on from part 1, reviewed earlier this month, which is probably the best way to read it as it was originally published as a single volume. The slow progress of multi-millionaire guests to the first lunar hotel that rumbled on through the first couple of hundred pages of book 1 has been long forgotten and the fast-paced action that took off towards the end of that book continues throughout this second half.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

One Month to EasterCon

EasterCon is back at the NEC in Birmingham this year, starting a month from now. I'll be there on just the Saturday as usual, browsing the books, catching up with authors and publishers and online acquaintances. And drinking tea.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: Limit, Part 1 by Frank Schätzing

Originally published in German, Limit is Frank Schätzing’s mammoth near-future thriller, translated into English in an equally unwieldy massive volume and then, thankfully, published by Jo Fletcher Books in a 2 volume edition.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Book Review: The Iron Tactician by Alastair Reynolds

I haven’t read any of Alastair Reynolds’ previous stories about interplanetary traveller Merlin, but in The Iron Tactician we have a novella of almost 100 pages that give enough hints about his background and that of the galaxy he inhabits to make previous knowledge unnecessary.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.


This is the seemingly-significant 1111th post on this blog!

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Small Beginings

After weeks of plotting I finally wrote the first few hundred words of my new novel. Only several tens of thousands of words to go...

Monday, January 30, 2017

Polish Tentacles

The Polish transplation of Rose Coloured Tentacles is published today in the winter special edition of Szortal. This is my third story in Polish, following Inside Every Successful Man in Fahrenheit in May 2009 and Hiking in My Head in Szortal in September 2014.

Rose coloured Tentacles was originaly published in Perihelion in May 2015.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: Now We Are Ten edited by Ian Whates

In celebration of ten years of well-known UK small press, publisher NewCon Press, editor and owner Ian Whates presents us with Now We Are Ten, an anthology of stories that in some way each feature the number ten. Some of the stories are in ten sections, some feature the number ten in some significant or symbolic way and one is a story in literally ten words.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: The Corporation Wars: Insurgence by Ken McLeod

The second book in The Corporation Wars trilogy, Insurgence, carries on directly from Dissidence in this multi-faceted plot involving far-future AIs, virtual reality and planetary colonisation.

Read the rest of my review at SF Crowsnest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Writing Plans for 2017

As usual, I have a whole list of story ideas and titles lined up, waiting for their turn to reach fruition and make it on to the page. I have no idea which, if any of them, I'll be working on soon, but currently I'm working on two stories - one in the style of Jack Vance and one in the style of Shakespeare, complete with iambic pentameter.

I want to work on a novel this year, after a couple of years off. I have a whole list of novels to write too, but two of them in particular are well advanced in planning and current rates of enthusiasm. Hopefully, one of them will see completion this year.