Saturday, November 24, 2007

More Free Stuff

I’ve just put up my short story ‘Interstitial’ on the web site. It’s an end-of-the-world story that takes off from the theory that life had survived at least one bottleneck caused by a runaway effect that created a snowball Earth and ends in the kind of conflict between the military and scientists that powered most 1950's sci-fi movies, with a tip of the hat to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Imagine it in scratchy black-and-white, with John Agar playing the hero.

I’ve just finished and sold the zombie story (they’re not really zombies; they’re Boltzmann brains). It’s presently called ‘The Thought War’, but that might get changed by the time it appears (in Postscripts next year, if everything goes to plan). Right now, I’m working on/playing with a couple of others that I set aside in the summer so that I could make the final push on The Quiet War. My version of a holiday.

Friday, November 23, 2007

It’s A Small World But I Wouldn’t Want To Paint It

I feel exceptionally dense: until I saw a trailer for a BBC documentary last night it never before occurred to me that Mark Everett, aka E of Eels, who has written several of my most favourite songs, ever, is the son of Hugh Everett III, who fifty years ago, at the age of twenty-four, devised the many-worlds theory. Checking through my Eels CDs I find that the drawing on the inner back face of the jewel case of Electro-shock Blues is from Hugh Everett III’s school biology textbook. It shows a boy crying over split milk. In another universe, of course, the milk is unspilt. In another universe, Hugh Everett III received a full measure of the recognition he deserved for his ideas while he was yet alive. We can’t get there from here, but we know, now, that it’s almost certainly true.

As well as feeling dense, I also feel a little guilty, because there is only an oblique reference to Hugh Everett III in Cowboy Angels; in the timeline buried inside the story it was necessary for someone to come up with the idea earlier.

Presently rereading: Peter Ackroyd’s Hawksmoor. Presently playing: Blinking Lights and other revelations, Eels.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Free Stuff Free

I’ve put up some more free stuff over on the web site: appreciations of Kim Newman and Michael Marshall Smith, the introduction to Alastair Reynolds’s Zima Blue, and reviews of DVD box sets of Budgie and The Beiderbecke Trilogy. I’m also, slowly, making content on the site available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons licence.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vast Saharas

And not made of sand either, of course, this being Titan's sand dune seas.

I'm moving further out for the next novel, but I'm still obsessed with Saturn and its exotic entourage.


I’ve been working on a short story, and finding yet again that I’m not particularly bicameral; I find it hard to conjure up even the briefest blog entry after working on fiction. The external life of a writer, writing, isn’t especially exciting, alas; perhaps that’s why most fictional representations of writers are about writers not being able to write. Edward Gorey’s The Unstrung Harp; or, Mr Earbrass Writes A Novel (collected in Amphigorey) is one of the best and funniest depictions I know of the actual process.

Saturday, I walked down to St Pancras Station to check out the new Eurostar terminus. Another favourite walk, in the gloaming along Regents’ canal towards Camden, turning off at St Pancras Old Church (the story starts off in the churchyard, with the appearance of what appears to be a zombie), and sneaking into the station around the back. The place is quite as full as one of W.R. Frith’s paintings; the statue of Sir John Betjeman (who campaigned against the station’s demolition) is delightful; the long sleek trains look quite at home. The champagne bar that dominated the PR turns out not to be a vast length of darkly polished wood lit by low hung lamps and attended by louche customers and waiters in black waistcoats and white aprons, but a series of booths strung alongside platform 1, with a kind of hut affair at the entrance and no doubt featuring the longest walk to a restroom in the history of any bar since the advent of indoor plumbing. And unfortunately, the buffer end of the station is dominated by a thirty-foot staue of a man and a woman falling into an embrace. Titled The Meeting Place, this monstrous piece of committee-art is a bad mistake, I think. And since it is situated under a huge and beautiful period clock, it's a) superfluous and b) in the way. Also, as the couple are dressed in contemporary clothes, it will look tremendously dated in, oh, ten years or less.

But these are minor quibbles. The restoration of the station and its overarching roof is a triumph, and my neighbours have already taken one of the first trains to France and report that it’s as quick and smooth as any on the Continent. No more waiting outside Waterloo for the 1650 to Penge to clear the junction: I can now walk to a station in twenty minutes, and be in Paris inside three hours.

Presently reading: Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road.
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