Sunday, 20 November 2011

Story Sale

About a year ago I blogged about Ray Gun Revival, a cool new magazine aiming to revisit space opera and golden age SF. Well I am now delighted to reveal that they'll be publishing one of my stories - Thousand War Soldier. It should be out in a month or two. More details to follow when a publication date is firmed up.

Also some more info about Parallel Dimensions, the Wirral's own Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Festival. It takes place on Saturday 10th December at 2.00 PM at West Kirby Library and admission is free. Writers will include myself, Adele Cosgrove-Bray, Tim Hulme and Jon Mayhew, author of the children's fantasy novels, Mortlock and The Demon Collector. I have raved about Mortlock elsewhere on this blog and I'll be hoping to get hold of a signed copy of his latest offering, The Demon Collector when we meet up in West Kirby.

Monday, 14 November 2011


Just back from an excellent weekend in Nottingham at Novacon41. Novacon is the UKs longest running SF con, but it was my first visit. It was good. A lot of familiar faces from past Eastercons.

The main program was only single stream but there was a lot of quality on offer. One of the highlights was Prof Meghan Gray from Nottingham Uni. talking about Dark Matter. She seemed to pitch it just right for the audience. I got a lot of good stuff down in the notebook, salted away for later use once the subconscious has had time to turn it into something weirder than it already is.

The guest of honour was John Meaney and he gave a few good talks, including the one where he more or less hypnotised the entire audience to get us to write every day. Did it work? Well, I’m away on a conference this week, a day-job thing, and I was up at five this morning getting in a bit of writing before breakfast. First time I’ve done that in a long time. Thank you, John. I wasn’t so thrilled about the part of the session where he got everyone to pair-up, close their eyes and describe what they were visualising to their partners.  I saw nothing. The blackness that hides behind my eyelids, nothing else. What has happened to my imagination? My wife saw all kinds; fields, rivers, mountains – she felt the wind on her face and smelled the scent of the flowers. Perhaps I was in a cave, or a falling into a black hole - who knows? But I got quite anxious about it. Being unable to visualise anything at all is not a comfortable state of affairs for someone who thinks of himself as a writer. John Meaney was very good about it. “Isaac Asimov couldn’t visualise, either,” he said. Hmm. Maybe it’s just a phase; the pressure of the moment.
I tried again today during the day-job conference. Bingo! Full day-dreaming mode has been restored.

What else at Novacon? Oh yes, I did well at the art auction, coming away with a limited edition David Hardy calendar for 2012 – one of only six. It is gorgeous. 12 fabulous pictures that I will frame when I get to the end of next year. It is going to look great hanging in my study.
Overall a very successful weekend. Lots of writing ideas. Back to the keyboard with renewed vigour.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Back from Brum

The house is freezing! Not a good season to be going away. I'll switch on all the computers to try and warm the place up a bit. Okay, I'm keen to get back to my Murder Mystery (with robots) story, because I tried out the first 1000 words on my writers' group on Friday night, convinced I'd have them all baffled. Straight away one of them said, "Did XXX do it?"
Damn! I haven't even given all the clues yet. Am I so transparent? I thought this would have the readers guessing for 7000 words then crying in amazement at the denouement. So either I change the end or throw in some more red herrings. Trouble is I am (for once) working to quite a tight plan. I was very proud of it and it is going to be hard to change it at this stage. Maybe it was just a lucky guess, but I can't risk that. Just thinking out loud now, but I suppose I could throw in the murderer at the thousand word mark, then work toward a different, even weirder ending? Nah, sounds a bit iffy, that. I need to pace around the room some. Maybe ten minutes of yoga will pump some blood into the lesser used recesses of my brain. Damn!
I wonder if this ever happened to Agatha Christie, two pages in and someone shouts, "Ha! The butler did it."

Art and Aerospace in Birmingham

This weekend we find ourselves in the Ramada Encore in Birmingham. We're at the NEC  to see ‘Art Materials Live’ where Sarah has a painting in the 'Simply the Best' exhibition.

It isn’t all art, though, because on the way down we stopped off at RAF Cosford for another look around the aerospace museum. I love this place, it is one of the few museums I know that really work. I don’t always get museums. Are they educational? Are they a celebration of the past? Or are they simply a place to store old stuff in a way that allows people to come and look? I suspect the creators and curators of many museums don’t have this question fully worked out for themselves. My experience is that most museums are places to take the kids on wet Sundays, where they can take out their frustrations by trying to break the interactive exhibits.
Apart from all the fabulous planes on display at Cosford, I loved the interactive exhibit that is aimed at 16 year-olds doing their GCSEs. Unfortunately, according to the volunteer guide we spoke to, the 16 year-olds are not all that interested, so the exhibit has fallen into the hands of the under-eight equipment-smashers. Yesterday, though, only two of the exhibits were under repair after the ministrations of wet-Sunday-infants, so I had great fun fiddling with such things as air-speed indicators and wing sections that you can feed ping-pong balls into to see for yourselves how the ball is sucked up onto the upper surface when the wind-fan is blowing. It’s brilliant stuff, but I still don’t quite see how such a phenomenon can lift a jumbo jet, 400 people and all their luggage 30,00 feet into the air.
The best bit of this section, though, was a series of rods that you can bend and lift. They are the length of a broom handle – in fact one of them was a broom handle – and others of steel, aluminium, titanium and carbon fibre. These were much the same as far as torsional strength is concerned. It is only when you get to lift them that you see the difference. Okay, I knew carbon fibre was light, but I have never appreciated just how light. It just shows, it’s okay being told something, but there is real power in getting to try things out for yourself. That’s the kind of  knowledge that sticks.

Just as an aside – I didn’t sleep too well last night. The bed was glorious but we shared a hotel floor with Irish buffoons who seemed to find novelty in knocking on each other’s doors all night, all night, then slamming them with a sound like the closing of the gates of hell. They were big, liquored-up Irish buffoons so I didn’t go out and fight them. But neither did I sleep. All was quiet by 7am. I was so tempted to hit the fire alarm button on my way to breakfast. But I wanted my breakfast. I do like hotel breakfasts.