Friday, August 24, 2012

Nostalgia For The Future

In the 1960s, we were too impatient to wait for the future.  We had to have it now.  The Americans and the Russians were racing to the Moon.  In Britain, we had TSR-2 and Concorde, and in TV ads men in white coats sold us washing powder and alien robots sold us powdered instant mashed potato.  Even ice lollies were space-age ice lollies.  Not only was the Zoom lolly shaped like a rocket ship, with three differently-coloured stages, in 1963 or thereabouts a space-age card was secreted between lolly and wrapper.  I was just getting into science fiction, and was an avid follower of both the space race and Fireball XL5: I had to have a complete set of those cards.  It was one of the first of many obsessions.  I had little pocket money, and there are only so many ice-creams you can eat even when you're eight or nine, but I hit on a cunning plan.  We lived close to the village shop, and one day I noticed that someone had discarded not only a Zoom wrapper in the bin outside, but also the free space-age card.  After that, I checked that bin every day, braving angry wasps to peel open sugar-sticky wrappers in search of those precious cards.  I never did get the full set, but I sent away for the free album and carefully glued my collection inside.  It vanished long ago, and the row of cottage where I lived and that village shop have vanished too.  The future isn't what it once was, but what is?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What I Did On My Holidays

Nothing much gets done in the publishing business, in August.  Editors and agents are out of town; authors who still retain any shred of common sense should take some time off too.  The populations of towns in the industrial heartlands used to relocate en mass to slightly sunnier, coastal towns for their summer holidays.  In Scotland, cities still have trades fortnights, when tradespeople all go on holiday at the same time.  August is the publishing industry's trade holiday.  Try to take time off in any other month, and a massive, and massively urgent, copy edit of that novel you submitted several months ago is liable to turn up just as you're packing your bags.

I clearly don't have any common sense.  I've just delivered a novel, but instead of relocating, I've stayed in town.  London in August is half-deserted.  Families have loaded up their people carriers and 4x4s and vanished beyond the M25, or entrained through the Channel Tunnel for France and Italy, Spain and Portugal.  Away from the centre of town, streets have the somnolent, dust-blown air of an earlier, car-free decade.  You can hear birdsong.  Nothing much moves.  Even the Olympics hasn't really disturbed the tranquillity.  It's my favourite time of year.

And besides I've been working.  Editing a collection of short stories for publication next year, and preparing for Kindle, with my co-author Kim Newman, our post-alien invasion novella, Prisoners of the Action. The terrific cover is by award-winning artist and make-up maven Dave Elsey, and for those of you who aren't on holiday, it's available now.

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