Friday, April 07, 2006

Can We Rebuild You?

Philip K. Dick's head is missing.

Cinema Macabre

Just received my contributor’s copies of the rather beautiful Cinema Macabre. Edited by the indefatigable Mark Morris, who asked fifty practitioners of the genre to contribute an essay on their favourite horror movie, it features terrific artwork by J.K. Potter and an introduction by Jonathan Ross. Buy it to find out what Simon Pegg has to say about Dawn of the Dead, why Michael Marshall Smith has that insidious music from Halloween as his ringtone, why China Mieville can just about forgive Russell Mulcahy for that infamous video of Duran Duran prancing around on a yacht, and why Kim Newman thinks Let’s Scare Jessica To Death deserves a place in his all-time top ten.

I chose Videodrome, by the way.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ubiquitous dwarfs

Just finished the first draft of a short story which, although it needs several more passes through the word processor, now has a beginning, middle, and end. Part of the action takes place around a brown dwarf; while doing a spot of research last week I found a report about a brown dwarf that has only just been discovered on our doorstep, relatively speaking. This one is 12.7 light years from the Sun; the nearest orbits Epsilon Indi, just 11.8 light years away.

I have a soft spot for these odd little critters, which are formed in the same way as stars but are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion. They featured in my first novel, Four Hundred Billion Stars, published way back in 1988, when brown dwarfs were still a theoretical concept. And now it seems they may be as numerous as ordinary stars, and because they’re heated by nothing more than gravitational contraction and the odd spot of deuterium fusion, the coolest brown dwarfs have water and methane in their atmospheres -- and the possibility of some form of life. But that’s another story.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Green thoughts

I write for a living. That means that I spend quite a bit of my day sitting in front of a computer screen, either typing, or thinking about what I’m going to be typing next. The computer sits in the corner of an L-shaped desk in one corner of my office, so that I’m facing away from the window, which in any case usually has the curtain drawn across it. The idea is that I’m not tempted to idle away my hours gazing out at the view across the North London rooftops towards the tree line of Highgate. To freely quote Joe Lansdale: the only way to get the job done is to sit your ass down in front of the typewriter and write.

When things are going well, that’s what I do. More often, that’s what I do in between spells of some kind of displacement behaviour -- picking up books and reading a couple of sentences and putting them down, or making coffee, or, when it’s not raining too hard, pottering in the garden.

The last activity is actually useful. When you’re stuck, or you’re not quite sure where to take something, it’s a good idea to go do something else for a while. Walking is good; so is tidying the garden. Both options are much more attractive than they were last week. Then, we were at the end of a long cold dry spell. Now, with the suddeness of the kind of good old-fashioned spring we can’t take for granted any more, it’s warmer and damper. My clematis has burst into a cloud of pale, waxy, scented flowers, lilies of the valley have thrust up fat red spears, and the neighbour’s magnolia tree has grown tall pale candles from what were tightly packed buds only a few days ago. And I can stand on the top of the helical iron staircase that leads down into our garden (we live in the top two floors of an early Victorian house) and sip coffee and listen to the birds defining their territories and think green thoughts, before climbing back up to the screen in the corner and writing this.
Newer Posts