Cannot believe that I somehow forgot to post the link here to the movie-trailer for The Ascendant Stars – it was on the list of posts and reachouts to fulfill but….ach, must have had a senior moment of some kind. Darn, another coupla million braincells gone west. But anyway, now, here it is!
The animator is a Yorkshire guy called Ingram Blakelock, who has done various other pieces including the video for the band, A Forest Of Stars, for their track Gatherer Of The Pure. Here’s a link to it -
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Would have posted comments on this years Eastercon (main GOH Walter Jon Williams) before now but have been somewhat under the weather (trans – poleaxed by another bout of recurring viral loathsomeness). But here at last is my take on it.
Travelled down by train, with just the one change at Preston, arriving mid-afternoon at Bradford Interchange station. After some clueless wandering, I got a cab to the Jurys Inn hotel (which turned out to be a short walk away, ho ho), and thence further on to the Cedar Court Hotel, where the con was being held.
All my panels were on the Saturday so I spent a good bit of Friday just catching up with old writer buddies and other friends, supping the odd pint and swooping into the dealers room for a looksee. Saturday kicked off with a panel on Walter Jon Williams’ book ‘This Is Not A Game’, and not long after the start who should come to sit at the back of the room but Walter Jon hisself! Still, we managed to acquit ourselves without sounding overly-fannish.
Next was the panel titled, ‘A Constitution For A Mars Colony’, moderated by myself in conjunction with Ian Sales…sorry, that should be BSFA-award-winning Ian Sales (seeing as how he won just such a trophy for his story Adrift On The Sea Of Rains). My original intent was for me to kick off with a short speech on politics and the fundamental concepts of democracy and democratic institutions, then Ian would come in with the hard science aspect and the strigent exigencies that running such a colony would entail. But interaction with the audience started to blur the lines a bit after Ian got started, turning into a kind of ongoing to and fro between us and the audience and amongst the audience itself. And it turned out to be very interesting, much more so than I thought it might! so, result.
Later I was on a panel on motherhood in SF, to which I`d doubted I could make a worthwhile contribution, but then I did pitch in with a showstopper narrative concept near the end which rendered the room deathly quiet (in essence, the plot form in which a parent has to kill a child)(I know, grim). Oh, and before that I was on a panel to do with steampunk morality, which seemed to touched on the stark reality of the impoverished existence of the majority of the population during the age of steam and Victoria – but prevailing sentiments favoured a less miserable approach to steampunk.
Sunday was a day for yacking one’s gob off with chums and colleagues, along with a signing event in the morning, then more chinwaggery followed by dealer room visits, more chat, drink, chat, and then the BSFA awards – and Mr Sales’ surprising and gratifying award for short fiction. Some may imply that I got slightly squiffy later on, and mention the involvement of a bottle of counterfeit Baileys, but….I couldn’t possibly comment.
Come Monday I had not enough time to use the convention bus to get to the Cedar Court for a last gander at the dealer room and be sure of getting a bus back in time for my train, so I relaxed at the hotel until checking out and took that not so long walk over to the station. The journey back went without a hitch until I got to Preston – then there was an obstruction on the line to Warrington, and after that the lights at Warrington ceased functioning properly,. Anyway, in the event I got into Glasgow over a hour late and just seconds too late to get a connection to Irvine. But hey, another left 15 mins later, so home in time for Easter dinner!
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Here we are, SF Signal’s Mindmeld to which I was invited to contribute – see my take on this about halfway down!
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Steampunk, eh? It’s a funny old subgenre – although the roots of its modern iteration seem to take in Blaylock and Powers (by long, diversionary way of Verne and Wells), its proliferation across internet cultures is producing some unforseen irruptions, like bizarre hothouse hybrids unfurling in humid shadowy corners.
Most obvious is the whole cosplay thing, which I really kinda like. Unlike some of my SF/fantasy compadres (and fellow travellers), I’ve never experienced any contempt or irritation for costuming and masquerades – I’ve been going to conventions since back in 1979, and just love all the gaudy aspects of them, and since steampunk textures have begun to mingle with that overall gallimaufry its made it all feel that much more enjoyable for me.
Other aspects are cropping up on TV, for example – Bruce Boxleitners Lantern City, for example – http://lanterncitytv.com/ – sounds utterly fascinating. Really hope it gets off the ground. Then there’s video games, most recently Dishonoured, which had more of a dieselpunk feel to it, and the upcoming and anticipated Bioshock Infinite, set on a floating balloon city in 1912! – if you’ve not seen any of the promotional vids for this, you really need to go to youtube and give yr eyes a treat.
There is one aspect of steampunk, and the political context of a steampowered culture, at least as far as we can reckon it from our own history – which is that life for the great mass of people throughout most of the 1800s, the Victoria era, was miserable, grinding poverty. Its okay, it really is, to writer a fun, light-in-tone caper story in that kind of setting, but writers should also be aware of political realities, and try not to mislead the reader about the nature of power under such regimes.
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Aye, well, another bit of a long hiatus, there. Here we are on the first day of March, and I can honestly say that I`m looking forward to the chance of an illness-free 2013 – I mean, there’s always a chance, isn’t there? I make this plea to the cosmos in the wake of 4 months of almost unbroken suffering from a variety of unpleasant coughs and colds, almost as if all the lurgies got together in late October and decided that I was Human Test Target Numero Uno.
Anyway, pushing on with the new book, Ancestral Machines, at full throttle now. Its turning out to have a somewhat different flavour from the Seeds trilogy – instead of a huge cast the main viewpoints are restricted to 2, with another couple supporting. It means letting the characters breathe and expand a bit so that they can carry the story, well, more of the story than the individual characters did in the trilogy. More on this as and when. Oh, just to let you know – I will be attending Eastercon at the end of March, in Bradford, and I will be moderating a panel dealing with the matter of a constitution for a Mars colony, assisted by the one, the only, Ian Sales. Should be interesting. We might even mention Mars in it.
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Nick Sharp at SF Signal was kind enough to invite me to contribute on the matter of the Culture, and what made a great Culture novel. The link will sweep you off to the Mindmeld page!
Yes, those keen as mustard American readers will finally be able to lay hands on the official Orbit US edition of TAS on November 20th. After which there shall be that readers’ afterglow, followed by the hope, nay, the need for more, MORE, I tell you!…ahem, well, I can always hope. And indeed write, that is, write the new Humanity’s Fire book, a standalone novel entitled Ancestral Machines, currently being slaved over by yr hmble scribe, every paragraph being lovingly handtooled and buffed to a finish…
Ah, well, a fine time was had by all, actually. FP treated us kindly, and had us four Orbit writers set up on generous tables down in the book department, and soon after 6pm a river of readers coursed through the place. As one might expect, there were a few more along to get books and other sundry objects signed by Charlie Stross, but my own signing hand was kept busy (and a number of my tasty bookmarks were given away too).
Afterwards, we, being the writers, editors and friends – including the strenuously talented Dave Wingrove (at whose gaff I was kipping that night) - repaired to the theatre bar at the Phoenix theatre not far away. Drinks were drank, nachos were chewed, and much interesting chitchat ensued. All in all, a good time on all fronts (and thanks to Dave for putting me up).
Let it be known that my publishers, Orbit UK, in association with the inestimable Forbidden Planet, will be having an Orbit Writers Signing event at Forbidden Planet, London, on Friday October 26th, at 6pm. And I will be there! – along with Kate Griffin, Benedict Jacka, and Charles Stross.
This, friends, should be a bit of a gas. CU there.
ps – it is entirely possible that I may bring along a small amount of freebies and goodies…
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Yup, here it is, publication day for SEEDS OF EARTH, book one of my space opera trilogy, Humanity’s Fire. Orbit US have essentially kept the original Steve Stone artwork and used their own lettering and cover design. And it looks damned handsome!