It's been a serious work week, which is good, in that I was starting to pace and frown a bit, having had only back burner projects to pick away at while I waited for notes. But now they've arrived, and I'm pushing hard to make deadline on a new draft of the novel, Cops and Monsters. The book, several months ago, first benefited from some truly life-changing structure notes from editor Julie Crisp. Now, with Julie on maternity leave, I'm being delighted by similarly awesome line notes from Bella Pagan. These typically consist of pointing out where a paragraph has become too dense, where I need to slow down and lay out what's happening more carefully. It's the voice of the reader, anticipated. I'm very much in tune with what I'm being asked for, and the rewrite is proving pleasurable. (And I've nominated both ladies for Hugo Awards.) From here, the book goes to the legendary Peter Lavery, for his line by line editing, something I'm looking forward to. This is actually what you're buying when you purchase a book from a major publisher like Tor: all that expertise. I feel I'm in the home strait now, sprinting for the finishing line of what's been an ambition of mine for many years.
I also this week am plotting something in an entirely new medium for me, alongside an old friend, and managed, before the notes arrived, to put some more work in on the latest Jonathan Hamilton novelette. I've done some Saucer Country writing today too. Ryan's been delighting me with some very scary pages in my inbox.
On Monday, I popped back to Faringdon, to record my first ever audio reading, of 'The Sensible Folly', the story I wrote in support of the Folly Trust, who look after my old hometown's tower on the hill. I was very pleased with the fifteen minute reading we ended up with, and you guys will get to hear it soon.
On Wednesday, I went to see Christopher Priest be interviewed by Paul Kincaid at the BSFA open meeting, the first at a new venue. Which could turn out to be the last there, because the bosses of the pub chain decided to gazump the cellar for their own meeting, leaving our greatest living author of the fantastic waiting for an hour past his advertised start time. Chris was calm about it, and talked with the elusiveness one might expect about The Islanders and his long career. As long time readers will know, he's my favourite author in any genre, and I was pleased to be able to have a quick few words with him afterwards.
This coming weekend I'll be with Big Finish, attending the recording of the new audio version of Love and War, to mark Bernice Summerfield's anniversary, with Lisa Bowerman, Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, and a great guest cast. Jac Rayner's provided the wonderful script, which I've mucked about with just a little. It's very faithful to the book, with a couple of neat reimaginings on Jac's part. I'll blog about this at length when it's out.
There's a new episode of The SF Squeecast out, this one guest-starring Javier Grillo-Marxuach, the creator of The Middleman. We discuss, among other things, Poul Anderson, Gail Simone's Birds of Prey, and, erm, Seanan McGuire's love of the SyFy Channel's original movie Swamp Shark. Yes.
Here's a lovely preview of the first few pages of Stormwatch #6, which is out next Wednesday.
And one of my favourite comics critics talks, yet again, in a very flattering way, about Knight and Squire.
The SFX Weekender is, of course, next week (and I'll be striving to complete that new draft in time for it). I hear they're packed out, with something like 4000 people going along. I'm looking forward to staying, with my fellow authors, in the Tor Cottage. Here's my schedule, all these items being on the main stage.
2pm: Rewriting History: how do you make the past work for your story? (It'll be good to be on a panel with Adam Christopher.)
5pm: Just A Minute. (I'll be hosting this, with guests Joe Abercrombie, China Mieville, Sarah Pinborough and Toby Whithouse trying to speak for a minute without hesitation, deviation, or repetition.)
11am: What is urban fantasy? (Me and Ben Aaronovitch will get to talk about our mini-genre of Modern London Metropolitan Police Based Urban Fantasy, or, as we like to call it, Metropunk.)
1pm: Ready, Steady, Flash! (A panel game I'll be a contestant in, hosted by Lee Harris.)
2pm: Did we win? Conquering the mainstream. (With Tony Lee and Phil Ford!)
3pm: Signing at the Forbidden Planet stall.
I like the look of that. I'll be bringing along many piles of DC 'New 52' and Vertigo comics to give away to the audiences of those panels, shamelessly buying your applause and, hopefully, respect.
We've been watching RideBack, an anime about Rin, an injured ballerina who finds freedom (in a rather Black Beauty sort of way) with an SF mecha/motorcycle vehicle, the imagery involved being that of pro motorcycle racing. The 'horse story' aspect makes her a compelling heroine who only wants to learn to ride and compete, but this all takes place on a near future Earth that, almost incidentally to begin with, is ruled by a military dictatorship. As in most modern dictatorships, this impacts the lives of Rin and her friends not at all, as they happily pursue their sport, not even mentioning the political situation (because what is there to say?) But then politics and sport accidentally cross, and, well, it's become very interesting indeed. The visuals of 9/11 have impacted anime, and the scenes of urban destruction here give a sense that the medium's previously purely local interest in devastating force in urban environments has become internationalised. Those smoke trails and news broadcasts feel immediate and uncomfortable. RideBack features characters who are realistically drawn (in every sense), well-designed mad bikes, a relatable (and, as it turns out, hard as nails) heroine, who isn't just a man with breasts, and that lovely Madhouse animation style that enjoys nothing more than the heat haze on a track. I recommend it hugely. Unless it nosedives after episode six, that is. I may well report again.
We've also started watching How I Met Your Mother from the beginning, having become obsessed with it and seen everything from the end of season four. The first thought that occurred was that the writers had worked out who those characters were from the very start, and have kept them immensely stable since. Except in the case of Robin, who is initially a purely romantic lead who isn't given any comedy. A good thing, then, because that really wouldn't have worked, that Cobie Smulders must have at some point convinced them of her range, timing and willingness to do anything in pursuit of the laugh. The show feels slightly empty without eccentric, extreme Robin. We remain obsessed. But thank goodness they got rid of the between scenes music.
I was also very pleased this week with Toby Hadoke's contribution to the new Doctor Who DVD, 'The Sensorites'. 'Looking for Peter' is a short documentary in which Toby goes in search of relatively-unknown writer Peter. R. Newman, and, while it makes use of that 'I'm going on a journey' doco format that I find really tiresome (I may blog about that at some length soon), it's charming because it's Toby, and what he finds out swiftly gives us a bittersweet picture of a man who was previously a mystery to Who fans and media historians. The story is, in the end, a bit of a tragedy, but the fact of the documentary being made gives it more of a happy ending.
Frankly, I inherited a certain strand of my musical taste from fellow Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts. He's why I own so much by The Sweet. And he also convinced me of the tremendous versatility and lyrical talents of Sparks. With 'that little one who looks like Hitler' as my Mum used to call Ron Mael. They don't seem to have performed 'Looks Looks Looks', their extraordinary attempt to make big band swing for screaming teenagers, on their natural home of Top of the Pops, so here it is instead from Supersonic.
I do think the music you get from your friends is the best sort of pop, because it carries not just the associations of the time it was made, but the feeling of that person too.
Our guest today, also with the SFX Weekender in mind, is my fellow Tor author Adrian Tchaikovsky. Take it away Adrian...
SFX3 : The Welsh Connection. It surely doesn't seem that two years have gone by since that first spectacular over at Camber Sands. SFX was big news for me - my first experience of the convention circuit (although it's far from a 'typical' con) and my first chance to actually meet up with other authors. For reference, although my first book came out almost four years ago now, I still tend to think of myself as 'the new guy.
It was an experience meeting people like Paul and Peter F. Hamilton and China Mieville in person (and sharing a room with Mark Newton for that matter). I will always be a fanboy at heart, no matter how many volumes I get on the shelves. I confess I was expecting to find an elitist clique, but instead I was welcomed with open arms.
SFX itself I found bewildering in the sheer range of different media and spectacle and weird things that people were trying to sell me, but that was pretty much the same the second time round too and I firmly expect to be further baffled this year. Even more so if I just get lost in the wilds of Wales on the way there. An early Torchwood episode comes to mind...
This year, though, I feel I can relax into it a bit more. I'm not the Grand Old Man of the genre by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm not the new guy, any more. Shadows of the Apt sees its eighth instalment, The Air War, out this year, in which I'm doing my damndest to bring my epic fantasy world kicking and screaming into its own tortured version of the twentieth century. I've got the following volume written in draft, and the first chapter of the final book is on the wordprocessor with the ink still wet. The fan response to the series has also stepped up since last year - including a fan-made wiki for the series - as has my own activity on my blog. I'm also facing the question that series authors must always come to: once the final volume is dispatched, what happens next?
Thanks, Adrian, I look forward to seeing you, and the rest of Team Tor, and indeed, some of you lot, in Prestatyn. Until then, Cheerio!