Sunday, June 12, 2022

Slight Return

Most of my online presence is over on Twitter (as @UnlikelyWorlds) these days. But as there's a new novel on the horizon, and two new editions of older titles, I've returned to blogging, which these days has all the quaint charm of, say, willow weaving. Maybe it's due for a revival, an alternative to the frantic blipverts of TikTok, or the transient reactiveness of Twitter. A slower, calmer polder in the internet's ever-changing architecture.

The first reissue is an ebook edition of my second novel, Secret Harmonies, first published in the US, in 1989, as Of the Fall. A title whose slight pun wouldn't, my then-editor Malcolm Edwards said, be appreciated by British readers; and thus the title change.

1987 US edition and 1997 UK reprint

It was a sort of prequel to my first novel, 400 Billion Stars: an earlier episode in a future history of interstellar exploration and colonisation that spanned about a dozen short stories and three novels. Like 400 Billion Stars, it featured a species of enigmatic alien, but the story was mostly concerned with the collapse into civil war of a colony that had established only a precarious foothold on an exoplanet orbiting Tau Ceti.

400 Billion Stars was banged out on a portable typewriter; Secret Harmonies was written in WordPerfect 4.2 on an Opus desktop computer that, as was standard in those early days, lacked a hard drive; instead, it had two disk drives, one for the disk which ran the WP programme, and the other for making copies of the WP file. And since my publishers did not then have the capacity to accept electronic files, it was printed out, one page at a time, using a dot-matrix printer (since it cost as much as the computer, I couldn't run to the extra expense of a paper feed). It was still a lot easier than typing and retyping every draft, though.

It was published as an original paperback in the US, but in the UK was, like 400 Billion Stars, first published as in hardback by Gollancz, one of the last of the yellow-jacket editions that I used to borrow from my local library when I was a spotty teenager. It was published in paperback by Orbit in 1991, with a lovely cover by Peter Ellson, reprinted in 1997 and thereafter fell out of print. Until now, when it has been revived as an ebook edition by the Gollancz Gateway, some 33 years after its first publication, in this wonderful, strange, terrible future of ours.

Orbit paperback edition and Peter Ellson's cover illustration


Blogger Brian said...

Glad to have you back to the blog!

June 12, 2022 6:18 pm  
Blogger Philip said...

I confess that I much prefer blogging over Twitter because it is far superior at enabling complicated concepts and arguments--I am really not fond of trying to absorb a complex thought or analysis encapsulated as a series of 25 blocks of 280 characters each--and provides a better mechanism and framing for links, photos and other non-textual communications. In any event, looking forward to your future stories and novels, as always. And welcome back!

June 14, 2022 3:14 pm  

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