April 29, 2009

Mark Chitty, over at Walker of Worlds, has just posted this interview with me, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Sci-Fi London

April 27, 2009

In order to help promote Sci-fi London,  I’ve been given two free tickets to give away to anyone who wants to attend my panel on Robots and Reality,

The first two people who email me at will get the tickets.

As an extra incentive, anyone who buys tickets for any of the literary panels over the weekend can have two for the price of one if they use the words AUTHOR BLOG when they book by telephone on 020 7451 9944.  This offer is good until Friday 1st May.

Hope to see you there!



April 22, 2009

I’ll be signing copies of Twisted Metal at Forbidden Planet, London

Saturday 2nd May, 2-3pm

Please note the slight change of time.  This will be followed by a panel at Sci-Fi-London, 

Apollo Piccadilly Circus

Saturday 2nd May, 5.15pm

‘Robots and Reality’ discussion with Oisin McGann

Tunnel Vision

April 17, 2009

According to the back of my cereal packet, Coco Monkey is on a mission to seek out the best breakfast cereals in the galaxy. This suggests one of two things. Either Kelloggs has access to technology they are not sharing with the rest of us, or Coco Monkey is really irritating everyone over at Kellogs HQ and they have invented this story to get rid of him, possibly shutting him up in a fake spaceship a little like in the film Capricorn One or Doctor Who and the Dinosaurs.

The second scenario is the most likely, but lets just suppose for a moment that the first is true and Kelloggs really have sent him off on a mission of galactic scope. You have to marvel at their single mindedness. I’m assuming that they are using some sort of Faster Than Light Drive, as I hardly think it would be possible to make a profit on new breakfast cereals they are not going to see for at least forty or fifty years whilst Coco makes the round trip. Surely there must be a better way to financially exploit their new hyperdrive, or are they so focussed on breakfast cereal they can’t see the bigger picture anymore? I’m also assuming that Kelloggs have already established that there are sufficient lifeforms in the galaxy with a metabolism similar to ours to turn a profit on the trip. There can be little point in Coco bringing back a breakfast cereal that is poisonous to humans (or indeed, monkeys). Again, given the existence of so many carbon based lifeforms similar to humans, surely Kelloggs could have simply exchanged knowledge for profit, for example selling aliens the secret of Special K in return for the formula for a new sort of fuel?

Like I said, the evidence from the back of the cereal box would suggest that Kelloggs have lost the plot. Frankly, its this sort of tunnel vision that is leading the world into financial meltdown.


April 15, 2009

It’s odd attending a convention only half an hour down the road, particularly when you’ve driven past the Hotel many times and not even registered the fact that it was there.  And Bradford certainly doesn’t have the same ring as Jersey, London or Glasgow.

Even so, LX was an excellent convention.  Well organised, interesting panels, great company, helpful staff.  Even the food was pretty good by con standards.  The only drawback was the number of hotels, meaning that people tended to scatter at night.  

The wisest words of the weekend came from Simon Spanton and were along the lines of “Writers and would be writers sometimes place too much importance on publication.”  I like that.  Sometimes, particularly under pressure of deadlines, or more usually after rejection, we forget why we do this. The answer is, of course, because we enjoy writing.  Sitting down with a bunch of like minded people is a great way to remind oneself of this and to recharge the batteries.

Despite my feelings beforehand, I’m always glad I attended a convention afterwards.  This one was no exception.

Good to see you all there!

No More Heroes Anymore

April 9, 2009

This Monday I gave watching Heroes.  I got about four or five episodes into series four (or is it the second part of series three?)  and I realised I couldn’t be bothered anymore.  I’d reached the point when I couldn’t remember who was currently alive, dead or waiting to be resurrected, who was related to who and which side they were all on.  

The trouble is, of course, that the series has been extended too far, and so, like the X-Files and Lost before it, I just can’t be bothered to wait and find out what’s going to happen at the end.  Actually, with Heroes its worse than that, because at least with the X-Files and Lost there was a sense of waiting to see what the answers were, with Heroes everything was answered back in season 1 when they saved the cheerleader and the world.  Now it appears they have to save it again, and once they’ve done that I suppose they’ll have to save it again and again until the programme is no longer commissioned.

Now, I’m not writing this out of a sense of bitterness.  I don’t think that the makers of TV programmes owe me anything, after all, they’re only in it for the money.  But I don’t owe them anything either, and because of the model employed by programme commisioners I now find I no longer bother watching new series until they’ve proven themselves and/or someone I trust convinces me they’re worth it. (Which is why I’ve just started watching The Wire on BBC, about five seasons too late).  This is convenient for me, but if everyone does the same it will mean falling TV audiences and less and less new series altogether.

All the above probably explains why my favourite SF TV series was Firefly.  One short but perfect season, and then it was cancelled before it could be messed up.  

I suppose Joss Weedon’s lost pay was my gain.

Spiers and Boden

April 6, 2009

This blog has been noticeably lacking in accordions lately, so now is probably a good time to mention seeing Spiers and Boden (   at the Bury Met this weekend.  This has something to do with writing, so keep reading even if you don’t like folk music…

Now, as I may have mentioned before, this blog does not do reviews,  (Rather, it does robots and accordions), but I was struck by something as I watched the show.  Nowadays, through the use of computer sampling, a musician has a world of sounds at their fingertips as they sit down to play.  You would think that so much choice would lead to greater variety, however, all too often it can restrict people and lead to a sameness of production and arrangement.

But when you are restricted to a fiddle and a selection of melodeons then you have to work harder to vary the sound, and this is what Spiers and Boden did very successfully, keeping the audience interested for a two hour show. (Here’s a great site about melodeons, btw, especially if you’re not sure what one is

So, what does this have to do with writing?  Well, when sitting down to write SF, you have the whole universe at your fingertips.  So much choice can lead to writers block, or at least, a sameness of what is produced.  This enormous variety can actually be to the detriment of the author.  That’s why when I get stuck I concentrate on the smaller picture.

Sometimes it does you good to restrict yourself.

Wayne Rooney likes Harry Potter

April 4, 2009

According to this news report,, Wayne Rooney is indeed a fan of Harry Potter, as JK Rowling’s stories “Get your imagination going”, in his words.

So who’s going to laugh first?  Well, nobody, I hope.

But I bet someone will.  I remember a comedian doing just that on the TV program HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU, a few months ago.  Wayne Rooney AND JK Rowling? It’s too easy a target for some people.

But of course, the whole point of the campaign is to get children reading.  There can’t be many people who disagree with that aim.  The last thing that some nine year old, who has been persuaded to pick up a book for pleasure for the first time in months, needs to hear are sophisticates sneering at their choice and role model. 

It reminds me of the negative comments directed against comics when I was younger. It seems that every time children read something for pleasure, someone wants to stop them doing so in order to get them reading.  

Some contradiction there, surely?

Mingus, Brubeck, Davis, Coleman

April 1, 2009

There was an interesting documentary on BBC 4 the other night about jazz in 1959, comparing 4 albums from that year,  namely, The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman, Mingus Ah Um by Charlie Mingus, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and Time Out by Dave Brubeck.

Now, the first thing that springs to mind is what a great year 1959 must have been for music.  The second, at least as far as the program makers were concerned, is which was the most influential.  

No contest, it was Time Out, with its use of unusual time signatures.  But that’s not what the program said, nor is it going to be most critics’ choice.  The trouble is, of course, that Time Out committed the jazz sin of becoming too easy listening.  That’s not to say the it was the most popular: Kind of Blue has sold more copies, not least because its modal compositions sound great late at night.  But face it, many modern writers may say that they are influenced by modality, but they’re still searching for new chords.

The program said the Coleman’s The Shape of Jazz to Come was the most influential, at least as far as jazz was concerned (and I learned long ago not argue with true jazz fans, who tend to know what they’re talking about), but jazz is just a small part of music (and shrinking all the time).  

Listen to the stuff in the pop charts, in the musical theatres, in rock music (to give some examples Coldplay’s Clocks, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard and Led Zeppelin’s Four Sticks) and you can hear which album’s influence has been the most lasting.