Anyway who follows my maunderings on Facebook will know that I have quite definite views on politics, coming from a centre-left position (laced with some critical rationalist radicalisms). And of course, the Scottish independence referendum has exercised me considerably and increasingly over the last few weeks, such that here we are on the eve of poll, a true watershed in Scottish and UK-wide politics, and it seems appropriate for me to pass on some personal thoughts and conclusions.
Firstly, I will be voting NO later, this evening – this does not somehow make me a Union Jack-waving pro-faux-Britnat, nor does it make me a useful idiot for the establishment. Over the preceding months and years, since and before the Coalition took office, I have with increasing vitriol criticised and stamped on the various vicious stupidities which the Tories, aided by Nick Clegg, have heaped upon all the people of Britain. In all that time no-one has ever suggested that somehow I was a secret supporter of the status quo or a fan of Nigel ‘Mine’s a pint of smug’ Farage – yet simply by opting to remain in the same political/cultural arena as all my friends and family in England and Wales etc, I have attracted a certain degree of opprobrium. Others have suffered a lot worse. Suffice to say, I was an anti-establishment gadfly before the referendum and shall continue to be one afterwards.
I`m voting NO because the real enemy does not sit in Westminster, but on the boards of directors of Goldman Sachs, RBS, PWC, Ernst & Young, McKinsey, Capita, Serco, and a whole horde of corporate predators, financial and otherwise, who never miss the opportunity to denigrate the state while sticking their snouts in the trough and guzzling round the clock. Also, these and other far less well known companies send forth their own employees to emplacements in government as offered by the party in power. They call it secondment but in actual fact its real name is corruption and governance-capture. The YES campaign have of course pointed all this out, highlighting such noxious behaviour as more than sufficient reason for Scotland to leave the union. Trouble is, if the parties and the financial sector and their corrupt ways are as bad as YES says they are, doesnt that mean that ordinary people in England, Wales and NIreland will still be at their mercy? Without Scotland’s presence, its cultural and political weight and influence, as well as its actual House of Commons votes – wouldn’t that absence actually strengthen the dark forces which threaten to overwhelm the last vestiges of social justice and authentic democracy?
People at the bottom of the ladder, the poor, the lowpaid and benefit claimants, both disabled and not, are already faced with a scarcely believable regime of deliberate stress, trauma and cruelty that has left almost a million people adrift and penniless and forced to go to foodbanks just to eat. This is taking place everywhere, not just in Scotland, and therefore the question of whether or not to leave the UK takes on a moral dimension because leaving the UK would also mean abandoning the fight against the Stupidest Coalition in British History and, more importantly, the struggle against their backers and donors, those City investors and traders and banks and hedge funds and corporate barons whose position would be strengthened by the departure of Scotland. We all know how these deracine elites think and work: while the politicians will be running around Westminster like headless recrimination chickens, the City elite – like dark lords of the Sith – will be cool, calm and collected and working out how to turn the upheavals to their advantage.
To my mind, the financial sector and the globalised pro-corporate institutions which try to browbeat entire nations into submission are the greatest threat to democracy the world has faced for well over a generation. And, of course, climate change is waiting in the wings to bring who knows what down upon us, and honestly, would anyone with a scrap of reason and compassion trust the obscenely rich elites to look out for the interests of ordinary people when extreme weather events really start to bite? Certainly not here in Britain, which is why I’ll be voting NO because I want to be involved in the fight to kick the Coalition out, and then the fight to force the next government to do the right thing. Its bound to be hard, but we know what problems have to be fixed and we have a fairly good idea of how to fix them. Independence to my mind is a shadowy leap into the unknown which would rob the rest of the UK of the Scots’ natural elan, creativity and stubbornness, and god knows the fight against the Ungodly needs all that and more.
Was at Loncon3, the 2014 World SF Convention, held in London at the Excel Centre, a vast megahangar of such staggering proportions it felt like it had dropped off the end of one of Banksie’s GSVs!
I think its about half a mile long and, astonishingly, amongst all the fooderies and eateries there was not one newsagent or anywhere selling what one might generally think of as groceries.
The con itself was a massive effort, chock full of tremendous programming over innumerable programme streams. I was on the first panel of the con, on Lord of the Rings and how its seen by children and young adults, in both book and film media. Later, on the Saturday, I was on a panel about Iain Banks’ works, trying to find out what the descriptor ‘Banksian’ really entails. I came up with the notion that the Iain M Banks books are all about Solving The Puzzle Of The Past, and the Culture/SF books are about Solving The Puzzle Of The Present (thought I`m sure there are exceptions to both)
I also did a signing in the exhibit hall, to which about 7-8 attendees came, then a reading which was late on, about 8.30pm, resulting predictably in less than a handful of curious fans who were on hand to hear me read a section from the new book, Ancestral Machines (you lucky people!)
Generally, though, I felt it was too large and exhausting to get around really – although the daily trek to and from Islington might have been a contributory factor. If I do another Worldcon, it would have to be with a hotel room.
Anyway, got back home to Irvine on the evening of Monday 18th, up the next day and straight back into the writing of the last chapter of Ancestral Machines! – not long to go now.
Yes, here it is, my very own schedule of event and happenings:
Tolkien Society Presents: Hobbits! Rabbits!
Thursday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)
How do children, young adults and adults experience The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as books and as movies? Do people of different age groups experience them in different ways, especially given the range of other fantasy novels and films that younger generations have grown up with? How do readers engage with various decisions about the adaptation from book to screen? Are the rabbits welcome, or were they a mistake?
Chris M Barkley (M), Michael Cobley, Constance G.J. Wagner, Jessica Yates
Autographing 2 – Michael Cobley
Friday 15:00 – 16:30, Autographing Space (ExCeL)
Saturday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCeL)
‘Banksian’ has become a commonplace descriptor in SF reviews, but what do we mean by it? What are the characteristics we associate with Iain M Banks’ work? How far has his influence travelled? Who is writing Banksian SF today?
Chad Orzel (M), Michael Cobley, Jaine Fenn, Paul Kincaid, Ruth O’Reilly
Reading: Michael Cobley
Saturday 20:30 – 21:00, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)
Sunday 17:00 – 18:00, London Suite 4 (ExCeL)
Danie Ware, Michael Cobley
Nice, very nice, keeps me busy and off the streets
See you there!
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Its been a long time coming, but at last my Shadowkings Trilogy have reemerged into the light, as ebooks and audiobooks. The new covers for the ebooks were done by Dirk Berger, a most excellent graphic artist from Germany, while the audiobook publisher, Amazon’s Audible, had separate covers done for their release (and they’re pretty good). Here are some links:
Shadowkings – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowkings-The-Trilogy-Michael-Cobley-ebook/dp/B00JENOEU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399545526&sr=1-1&keywords=michael+cobley+shadowkings
Shadowgod – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowgod-Shadowkings-Trilogy-Michael-Cobley-ebook/dp/B00JENOFG4/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399545526&sr=1-3&keywords=michael+cobley+shadowkings
Shadowmasque – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowmasque-Shadowkings-Trilogy-Michael-Cobley-ebook/dp/B00JENOLKO/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1399545526&sr=1-1-fkmr1&keywords=michael+cobley+shadowkings
Shadowkings – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowkings-Book-1-Unabridged/dp/B00J9O4UW2/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399545814&sr=1-3
Shadowgod – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowgod-Shadowkings-Book-2-Unabridged/dp/B00JKA1IWA/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399545814&sr=1-2
Shadowmasque – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowmasque-Shadowkings-Book-3-Unabridged/dp/B00JVHGGEM/ref=tmm_aud_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1399545526&sr=1-1-fkmr1
At some point I`ll be running a wee competition for some baublesque prizes like posters, bookmarks, keyfobs etc. Just as soon as I finish the new Humanitys Fire book!
Once more Eastercon is upon us, and this year its in Glasgow, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel to be exact, from this Friday, 18th to Monday 21st.
I have two panel items;
1) Grand Designs: Worldbuilding, at 8pm on the Friday, which I will be moderating in the company of such stellar colleagues as John Meaney (Guest of Honour), Simon Morden, Chris Beckett and Kim Lakin-Smith.
2) The Way Things Might Have Been at 6pm on the Saturday, a panel on Alternate Histories, in which I will be a panel member along with Dave Row, Martyn Taylor, Mark Alder, and MD Lachlan.
Should be a hoot, and am looking forward to seeing a lotta folk!
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Waaay back at the start of the century, ho ho, my first novel, Shadowkings, was published by Simon & Schuster’s SFF imprint, Earthlight, itself a labour of love by its editor, John Jarrold, who was the one who decided to take me on as a new author. Sadly, various corporate shenanigans led to John bowing out to be replaced by Darren Nash, himself a staunch fan and champion of all things SF and Fantasy. He shepherded the second book, Shadowgod, into print, but then later more corporate musical chairs led to Darren likewise departing while Earthlight the imprint was dissolved. The third book, Shadowmasque, was published, garnered a number of positive reviews yet overall the sales could not make sufficient headway, for various reason.
Anyhow, the situation is that the Shadowkings trilogy shall once more be making its grimdark presence felt, in ebook and audiobook formats. More information (and cover art) shall be forthcoming nearer publication, but as a foretaste here a link to the Bandcamp page of Peri Urban, Edinburgh electronic musician of the first water, and the music that he originally composed back in 2001 – with yr humble scribe providing gruffly intoned lyrics. Take it away…
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It is my sad and painful duty to inform you that last night, between 8.30 and 10pm, the TV show Sherlock jumped the shark.
Its like this – in the first two series, a certain whimsy and fluff were employed as a charming counterpoint to the intellectual sharpness and deductive intensity of Holmes himself, as well as the dark drama, its strangeness and the twists in the plot. Now we have reached the 2nd episode of Season Three and it has become abundantly clear that the whimsy and the fluff have been promoted to centre stage.
One can only wonder what imp of self-indulgence has entered the Moffat-Gatiss equation but the results are clear to see – flabby, lazy scripting coupled with a disregard for overall dramatic unity. In fact, I would reckon that the actual detective-mystery part of the plots seem to amount to about 40-odd minutes, so if that is what the Moff-Gat axis can come up with then why not turn each season into 6 programmes of about 50 minutes each? Because the two years they made me wait has not been at all satisfied by what they have come up with.
Contrast this with the CBS crime drama, Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller as a rivetting Sherlock Holmes in modern day New York. This is a proper TV series with 24 episodes per season and, to be frank, is far more satisfying that the measly 3 episodes a year of Sherlock that are being served up to us. Each episode is about 44 minutes long so the scripts have to be taut, well paced and flensed of waste, and Miller’s protrayal of Holmes is never less than compelling. In Sherlock, Cumberbatch and Freeman remain excellent actors but when I switch on to see a Sherlock Holmes story why am I being force-fed something which resembles a Channel 4 luvvydrama about 30-somethings doing rite-of-passage friendship rituals?
Don’t get me wrong – it’s still an entertaining, well-acted and shot show. It’s just no longer essential viewing.
Yes, tis now the week after my significant trip to Sweden, to be one of the guests at Swecon-Fantastika 2013. I had a tremendous time, and was absolutely knocked out by the courtesy and kindness of Swedish fans (and those who came from Finland, Norway and surrounding regions). I shall blog some more about this at the weekend, when I have a little more strength – am suffering from a resurgence of the sinusitis that was bedevilling me before I went so its back to the hot drinks and throat medicine again!
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NO RUSH TO EXIT SECC TONIGHT! – SOLD OUT/ SET TIME JUST SHY 3 HOURS
Progmeister General’s Rating – 5 CYGNUS STARS/5
[VIP In Attendance - MR COBLEY ESQ.]
Well this is how it should be done, we arrived at SECC expecting something of a mixed bag, especially after the 2011 tour’s MOVING PICTURES/TIME MACHINE set. They did not disappoint with 3 sets of “70s 80s & 90s” then current “CLOCKWORK ANGELS ” cd & finishing with “THE CLASSICS”.
Exactly on 19.40 they began with their usual filmed comedy build-up to the entrance of the Canadian trio which always ends up with GEDDY LEE, ALEX LIEFSON & NEAL PEART arriving on the stage to a tremendous ovation, this time kicking off with “SUBDIVISIONS” off the highly-regarded ”SIGNALS” cd. These three men can make this music sound epic & always have done; 36 years+ on the road & this was done to a very high standard indeed. During set one they powered through highlights like BIG MONEY, LIMELIGHT, GRAND DESIGNS, ANALOGUE KID & finishing up with FAR CRY from the excellent “SNAKES & ARROWS” — then Geddy announced that as they are getting older its break time, so off they went.
Not an extended interval though, just enough and then we were off again. This time the 2011 “CLOCKWORK ANGELS” was highlighted for an hour, A very good song selection of CARAVAN, CARNIES, WE WISH THEM WELL, HEADLONG FLIGHT HALO EFFECT & the outstanding THE WRECKERS powered the new stuff to great heights along with the addition of a six piece string section, to a climax of CLOCKWORK ANGELS, THE ANARCHIST & THE GARDEN — outstanding set & a lesson on how a band should promote & play new material to an audience. No interval this time just lots of pyros & lights, Then THE PROFESSOR of drums gave us a masterclass in drum solos on YYZ, then it was on full steam ahead (quite literally) to the finale of “RED SECTOR A” and the amazing excerpts from the RUSH fans voted favourite cd “2112″. The band accepted their well deserved plaudits then returned for two sublime encores of SPIRIT OF THE RADIO & TOM SAWYER before finishing the night with more “2112″ classics & the inevitable fireworks which almost blew the roof off the SECC (not a common reaction in this shed). Just one final thank-you to the crowd & the Canadians had exited stage left & the end of their movie was played.
On the whole, contender for gig of the year & a masterclass of how to control yet excite an audience - Thank you guys!!!
FOOTNOTE - How many drummers get 3 solos & triumph on them all?? Answer 1 — NEAL PEART ! – fantastic!
Anyone who’s read my facebook page will have noticed that I tend to rant on about politics – a lot. Well, I counter, we live in an age where what used to be called normal politics (where parties actually stood for different things rather than fine shades of the same thing) is becoming a distant memory. My irritation at the same old pro-market, pro-business policies fuses into a teeth-grinding rage at times, hence my facebook output. I’m thinking of renaming my FB page Rantbook.
But, let’s not forget – I am a writer of SF and fantasy as well, and the considerations intrinsic to the creative process have not, to be frank, garnered frequent mentions by yours truly. Which is why I thought I’d talk/ramble on a bit about my use of character.
Always a tricky thing for me, creating characters which are sufficiently distinct so that I know what role they play, and the reader can distinguish between them. My main failing in the Shadowkings books, I feel, was my inability to really define the characters; in retrospect they all seemed to be aspects of some common template, lacking the idiosyncracies and sharp flavours that make real characters leap off the page. Part of that problem was my fear of allowing the pace to drop, because my observations were that there is a trade-off between character explication and narrative pace, and the more text you devote to rounding out character, allowing them to breath, the less urgent and forward-driven the prose.
So when it came to writing the Humanity’s Fire trilogy I tried to think more deeply about character types, and about dialogue – and I found myself delving further into character motivations than I had previously. But still, there was that fear of boring the reader, of deadening expectations of excitement with navel-gazing and inner brooding. Again, in retrospect this anxiety led to having a few characters who were defined by their dialogue ticks rather than a genuine feel for their wholeness. Its not just ego that drives this worry, but also the admiration I experience when I read the writers I admire, Joe Abercrombie, Dave Wingrove, Lauren Beukes, George RR Martin, James Tiptree, from whose pages I come away both delighted in the ‘how did he/she do that?’ and gripped with envy and the resolve to reach for a similar benchmark.
And I cannot help but wonder if part of my discontents in this matter is the fact that I will never know if my characters DO work – I will never be able to read my work as if I were an innocent reader. It is really difficult to know if you have actually reached a benchmark worth reaching, because as the writer you can see the inside of the work. Anyone who’s seen any of those pictures taken from inside the Statue of Liberty will understand – the outer semblance of unity is underpinned by unseen frameworks and welded supports, which is how a final, pre-publication MS draft feels to me. I know where the joins are and where the surgery took place, so the launch, of a new book upon the raging seas of the readership really is a time of consternation, in a mild way.
And there’s the new book, Ancestral Machines, which is notable for the relatively limited number of characters compared to the previous two trilogies. This time out I have deliberately allowed the characters to speak, or brood inwardly, in order that definition of character becomes a stronger aspect. Does this mean that the pace is less frenetic than previously demonstrated? – possibly, but the setting and the background will I hope provide sufficient weirdness to keep the reader thinking, ‘what the heck happens next?’