Monday, 4 December 2017

Two things that are new, some stories, and another novel

I've been head-down writing a new book for most of this year, so updates have been few and far between, especially these last few months. I'm pleased to have delivered the book in question, the direct sequel to Revenger, and hope to share a bit more news about it as we go through the usual editing cycle. The book does have a provisional title, but it won't be Revealer, although you'll see that listed here and there. That was a working-working title which wasn't ever meant to be shared with the world, although I really ought to know by now that these things soon escape into reality.

What can I say about it? Not much. Like Revenger, it's a first person narrative, but the voice this time belongs to Adrana, not Fura, and I think that lends the book a somewhat different feel, as well as giving us a different eye on Fura. I think it fair to say that this book is "dark". My next full-length novel will be a continuation of their story.

I might as well mention a few short story related things while I'm at it, some of which have been touched on in earlier posts.

"Holdfast", my story in Extrasolar (edited by Nick Gevers) has now been published, in a very handsome hardcover edition from PS Publishing:

http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/extrasolar-hardcover-edited-by-nick-gevers-4319-p.asp


"Night Passage", my new story in the Revelation Space universe, appeared in Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and I'm pleased to say that it's already been picked up by one of the "Year's Best" anthologies.

https://titanbooks.com/infinite-stars-9264/

"Belladonna Nights", which takes place in the House of Suns universe (but prior to that novel) should appear in Subterranean Press's The Weight of Words before the end of 2017, although I've yet to see a copy:

https://subterraneanpress.com/slider-tabs/at-the-printer/mckean-the-weight-of-words

And that story has also been picked up for one of the Year's Bests, and I'm delighted by that as well.

I also wrote a story, exactly 2001 words long, for a tribute anthology to a certain author born one hundred years ago, but it now looks as if that book will be delayed until next year. More news on that one in due course.

Other than that, the only outstanding story of mine is "Different Seas", which will appear in Twelve Tomorrows, from MIT Press, again in 2018, although as yet I can't find a link to the coming edition.

So what else is new?

First up, the Foruli limited edition of Revelation Space is now out in the world, and, although I say it myself, I think it's an extremely impressive and desirable thing. It probably deserves a blog post all to itself, but for now, you can learn a bit more about it here:

https://foruli.co.uk/editions/revelation-space

(Click on the "images" tab to see a hint of the art prints that come with the signature edition).

It's taken quite a few years to get this thing into existence, but I think the wait has been worth it, and I hope the book does well for Foruli. Obviously, it's not cheap, but that's what "limited edition" means, and I think Reynolds completists, if such beings exist, will definitely want this.

The other thing that those hypothetical completists might want - and again, this merits a post of its own -  is the new album by Sound of Ceres, who are Ryan and Karen Hover from Colorado, and who make quite lovely music.

https://soundofceres.bandcamp.com/

Because, other than being very enjoyable in its own right, the record includes an original piece of fiction by me. That's right, a brand new short story, otherwise unavailable. It's not just any old vignette, either. I was sent the lyrics, and some early mixes of the tracks, earlier this year, and I tried to riff off the images and moods therein, creating a short story that has an integral relationship with the sounds on the album. It's a beautiful recording, especially in the vinyl edition, and very much recommended for those who enjoy dreampop, Cocteaus, analog synth sounds and so on. Really rather fantastic.

That's it for now. I have a short story to write next, then a novella, and then back into the world of Revenger. I hope all is well with everyone and wish you a satisfactory end to the year.

Al





Sunday, 12 November 2017

Sherlock Holmes: Indestructible

In 1942 Basil Rathone and Nigel Bruce starred in their third film together, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. Set during the second world war, rather than the more usual late Victorian period, this briskly paced film includes a title card which explains that the titular detective is "ageless, invincible and unchanging".

Before we are introduced to any of the characters, the central problem is made clear. A Nazi propaganda station is broadcasting as "The Voice of Terror", crowing over recent military successes and making stark threats about sabotage attacks which have either happened or are just happening as the broadcast takes place. As the radio transmission plays out, we are shown some of these terrible events. In one sequence, for instance, we are informed that "an important diplomat boarded a train at a little station outside Liverpool", followed by shots of the signal levers being worked by seemingly ghostly means, leading to the rails being divided and a catastrophic crash, with the train hurtling off the tracks and down a ravine. Throughout the broadcast the phrase "This is the Voice of Terror" is repeated in ominous fashion.



I couldn't help wondering if this fictionalised version of Nazi propaganda broadcasts might have been the direct inspiration for the alien threats at the start of each episode (or sometimes after a lengthy "cold open") of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons - see here, for instance, at around 6.15 minutes:


Tonally, they are very similar, and of course the Mysterons often went about their acts of alien sabotage by ghostly means, making levers work by themselves, etc. There is also the matter of Captain Scarlet's Mysteron-induced invulnerability, making him ageless, invincible and unchanging. Elementary, one might almost say.


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Gestation Time

In the previous post I mentioned that my new story "Night Passage" - just out in the Infinite Stars anthology - was one I was glad to see in print because it had taken about five years to finish. I thought that was approximately the case, but when I checked my hard drive I saw that I opened a file on that story at the end of November 2009, so the better part of eight years ago. That wasn't an attempt at the story itself, but as per my usual working method, a set of notes toward a possible idea. I rarely start work on a story cold, but instead prefer to brainstorm a series of rambling, sometimes contradictory thoughts, out of which I hope something coherent may emerge. This process can take anything from a morning to several days or weeks, but I never start a story in the first fire of inspiration.

Over the next five or six years I made a number of attempts to get to grips with the story, but each abandoned draft took the plot further from the initial concept, and with (I think) steadily dwindling focus. Prompted by the need to write a fresh story for this anthology, though, I discarded these efforts, opened a fresh file, and returned to the original notes from 2009. Other than the addition of a framing device which was not present in the notes, the finished story conforms very closely to those initial ideas.

Time and again in my writing, I've had an idea for a story, but in the writing itself, found myself moving further and further away from the core, until some realisation arrives and I discard these over-wrought, over-complicated, over-embroidered drafts and pare things back down to the initial impulse. I'm either incapable of learning from experience, or the process of drift and return is a necessary one.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Infinite Stars

Out now is Infinite Stars, a mixed reprint/original anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt:


The book contains an entirely new 16,000 word story of mine, entitled "Night Passage", which happens to be set in the Revelation Space universe. The story revolves around the discovery of the first "Shroud", a class of alien artefact which goes on to play a significant role in the future history.

My story took about five years to write, so I am very pleased to finally see it both completed and in print.

Here are the stories:

“Renegat” (Ender) by Orson Scott Card
“The Waters Of Kanly” (Dune) by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
“The Good Shepherd” (Legion of the Damned) by William C. Dietz
“The Game Of Rat and Dragon” by Cordwainer Smith 1956 Hugo Best Story, 1955 Galaxy SF, October
“The Borders of Infinity” (Vorkosigan) by Lois McMaster Bujold
“All In A Day’s Work” (Vatta’s War) by Elizabeth Moon
“Last Day Of Training” (Lightship Chronicles) by Dave Bara
“The Wages of Honor” (Skolian Empire) by Catherine Asaro
“Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor TOR.COM, 2015; 2016 Nebula/Hugo/BFA Best Novella
“Reflex” (CoDominium) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
“How To Be A Barbarian in the Late 25th Century” (Theirs Not To Reason Why) by Jean Johnson
“Stark and the Star Kings” (Eric John Stark) by Leigh Brackett and Edmond Hamilton
“Imperium Imposter” (Imperium) by Jody Lynn Nye
“Region Five” (Red Series) by Linda Nagata
“Night Passage” (Revelation Space) by Alastair Reynolds
“Duel on Syrtis” by Poul Anderson
“Twilight World” (StarBridge) by A.C. Crispin
“Twenty Excellent Reasons” (The Astral Saga) by Bennett R. Coles
“The Ship Who Sang” by Anne McCaffrey
“Taste of Ashes” (Caine Riardon) by Charles E. Gannon
“The Iron Star” by Robert Silverberg
“Cadet Cruise” (Lt. Leary) by David Drake
“Shore Patrol” (Lost Fleet) by Jack Campbell
“Our Sacred Honor” (Honorverse) by David Weber

And here is a link to the editor's website, where there are a number of purchasing options:

http://bryanthomasschmidt.net/writings/anthologies-edited/infinite-stars-the-definitive-anthology-of-space-opera-and-military-sf/


Thursday, 7 September 2017

NCC 1701



Although I wouldn't presume it's of interest to the majority of my readers, I enjoy making models of things. Just as I can't walk past a record shop (and can't go in one without making a purchase) so I'm a sucker for any model shop/hobby store type establishment. Give me a craft knife, a cutting board, some glue and a CD or two to while away the hours and I couldn't be happier. I suppose it goes back to childhood fridays after school, when a trip to Bridgend market would often see me returning home with the treat of an Airfix kit ... usually reduced to a sticky, finger-printed blob by the end of the evening. Yes, we really knew how to live it up in the old days.

During a trip to Manchester about seven years ago, I snuck off for an hour or two and returned to the hotel with a large and expensive box containing a plastic kit of the USS Enterprise.


As I've mentioned before, I have a particular "thing" for the Enterprise. It makes no sense from an astronautics/physics point of view (what the hell are those warp engines doing so far from the nominal center of gravity?) but it sure does look cool, and this lifelong love affair was firmly cemented by about the age of seven, when I had the Aurora kit of the original version of the ship. I loved everything about the original Enterprise and was heartbroken when one of my warp pylons snapped off (it could nae take the strain, clearly). Later I had the Aurora kit of the Klingon cruiser which suffered a similarly terminal neck-break. Clearly I wasn't destined to possess a Star Trek spaceship for any length of time.

Decades later, and that itch hadn't been adequately scratched, as I still felt the need to own an Enterprise. If I was going to have one, I reasoned, it might as well be big ... and the Polar Lights model, shown above, is certainly on the large side, being 35 inches long when assembled. At the time of purchase, the only kit offered was the one for the "refit" version as featured in the films, and truth to tell I still preferred the clean, art-deco lines of the original ship. Still, it was an Enterprise, wasn't it?

Early on in the build, I decided to light the model from inside. This entailed adding a lot of LEDs and black light-masking, with silver foil to help the light bounce around inside.


In the end the model used about 50 LEDS of various colours, none of which can ever be replaced.

I also added some etched details, including tiny crew figures, barely visible through some of the windows:




I worked on the model during odd evenings over the last few years, but it was only this year that progress really came together. Most of the work involved fitting LEDS, and then laboriously ensuring that no light was spilling out where it shouldn't. For instance, here's the saucer section, fixed together but still being tested and light-blocked:



Finally, the various parts of the model were ready to be assembled and painted. One major step is to cover almost every square inch of the thing with decals, simulating the complex patchwork of shades on the film model. Adding these was very long-winded, but an oddly therapeutic and satisfying process. Finally, the decals for the name, registry number, and so on, were added over the top - literally hundreds of these, since every phaser port, photon torpedo launcher, airlock, etc, has a decal.


At last the model was ready for final finishing, and here it is from another couple of angles compared to the shot at the top of the page.



The biggest pay-off, for me, is when the lights are on. Here's a shot of the overall ship, and a close-up of the shuttle bay.



And the upshot of all this work is that I've formed a very strong appreciation for the refit Enterprise ... to the point where I think I now prefer it to the original version. I think it's a truly beautiful and iconic design, one of the great televisual/cinematic starships. Never mind that it makes no sense!

I hope some of you enjoyed this somewhat off-beat interlude.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

RIP

Walter Becker, felt tip sketch. 2012

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

That's great! It starts with an earthquake,
Birds and snakes, an aeroplane;
Lenny Bruce is not afraid.

Eye of a hurricane, listen to yourself churn.
World serves its own needs, don't mis-serve your own needs.
Speed it up a notch, speed, grunt, no strength.
The ladder starts to clatter with fear of fight, down height.
Wire in a fire, represent the seven games
In a government for hire and a combat site.
Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry
With the furies breathing down your neck.

Team by team reporters baffled, trump, tethered crop.
Look at that low plane! Fine, then.
Uh oh, overflow, population, common group,
But it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself.
World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed.
Tell me with the rapture and the rev-'rent in the right, right.
You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light;
Feeling pretty psyched.