Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Who Reads my Books: Joanne Simpson

My name is Joanne. I live in Western Australia. Well, large parts of my life are there. Lately, I make it home about one week in three. I travel a lot so I read a lot.

I have been a die-hard SF&F fan since I learnt the word “genre”.  My tastes were established early - the staff at the local library gave up when I was about nine and gave me early access to the adult shelves. So as a child and teenager I immersed myself in the greats of the 1950s - 70s  - Brunner, Delaney, Spinrad, Ellison, Dick, Anderson, Niven, Blish, Zelazny, Silverberg, Norton, LeGuin, Lee, Butler et al. Of course I never stopped reading, but they were formative.

I impressively failed 1st year science (an application problem, not an interest problem). After a hiatus working as a lab tech I read English and Philosophy. My Honours dissertation was on the treatment of death and need in “Naked Lunch” (by the genre-breaking and under-appreciated William S. Burroughs). This was a topic my wonderful, brilliant modernist painter and much missed supervisor Tom Gibbons described as “brave”. But it went fine.  
Needless to say work was hard to find on graduation. I spent four years as a 2ndhand bookdealer and scrimped my way through a masters in business before finally landing a job that paid the average wage.

I worked for a big mining company more or less from graduation until laid off a bit over two years ago. Now I am a freelance project management consultant. I help companies navigate their way through building frighteningly large things for terrifying amounts of money. Such fun.

I’m a tragic road warrior. I take lots of pictures on the road, many of which make it to Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/josim1100/. Because I spend so much time in anonymous serviced apartments, I have become a connoisseur of disappointing public art https://www.tumblr.com/blog/badabstracts. But for a quite competent photographer of things not me, I’m rubbish at selfies. Hence a typical self-portrait - tired, bored and cranky in Canberra airport after a long week, waiting to go home.

My main hobbies apart from photography are ineptly playing annoying stringed instruments (ukulele and banjo), and strategic crochet. And, of course, reading. Though I can’t really describe a thing as essential as breathing as a hobby. I must read at least an hour a day (double on weekends).

I love your books (especially the Spatterjay series) because they seem to fit into my happy place of complex characterisation, tech-savvy humour, darkness and weirdness. I have though immensely enjoyed the Weaver’s development from loveably incomprehensible buffoon to ancient, wise and utterly arbitrary  super-being. And equally how adeptly you have made the Prador well, not likeable, but at least comprehensible and credible as an alien species. 
I recently enjoyed the slightly surreal experience of being part-way through the latest book (Infinity Engine) while having an active conversation with you on Facebook about an almost entirely unrelated topic. Worlds colliding…

We definitely hold divergent views on many things (especially climate change). But I am not a reader who needs to accept a writer’s worldview to also appreciate their writing (thank my Eng Lit training for that). I enjoy your books for themselves, and your posts as both an insight into your writing and an opportunity to gently poke fun ;-). Wouldn’t life be dull if everybody agreed about everything... And I love the weird science and insect posts! It’s fun to see where you find your ideas.

Very much looking forward to the Rise of the Jain. 

But I have to close with one annoying nerd question. On the very first page of Infinity Engine, you reference Buzzard magnetic fields. Did you mean Bussard, and did your editor waylay you? [Feel free to delete this last paragraph if unbearably annoying…] 


Laser-Driven Fusion

I haven't been putting much science up on here but felt the need to do so with this. If true, it's damned important.

"Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and, therefore, no radioactivity in its primary reaction. And unlike most other sources of power production - like coal, gas and nuclear, which rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines - the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity. But the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities - almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun."


Monday, December 11, 2017

Bella Pagan Introduces New Covers!

Editorial Director Bella Pagan introduces a new look for Neal Asher's books, the first of which are coming in 2018. 

Science fiction is full of time travel paradoxes. And I don’t just mean the oops-you-travelled-back-in-time-and-now-you’ve-accidentally-become-your-own-grandmother kind. Or the you-glimpsed-the-future-and-then-you-changed-how-it-unfolded-so-how-could-you-possibly-have-seen-it-in-the-first-place kind. I mean the kind where you design a fictional future, and then one day, as you travel inexorably through time second-by-second, the future arrives. And it doesn’t look anything like how you designed it.
The most obvious examples are the stories with dates in the title – think 1984, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. But there are many more. The year 2015 did not give us the flying cars envisioned in 1989’s Back to the Future. The early 90s did not, thankfully, see the onset of the Eugenics Wars, as envisioned by Star Trek (though I’m still holding out for first contact with the Vulcans on 5th April 2063). And sometimes the opposite happens: the technological wonder that is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sounds positively antique in the age of the smartphone: ‘a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press-buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice.’ Hundreds of buttons?! No touch screen?! How can something so visionary go out of date so quickly?
Which brings us back to the paradox of designing the future. It’s a challenge faced not just by writers and filmmakers, but by our own book cover designers. Every literary genre is affected by changing fashions, of course – but few things evolve as fast as SFF covers. Which is why we like to polish them up every few years! Last year we redesigned Douglas Adams’ Trilogy of Five, the year before we jazzed up the ebook covers for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 10-book Shadows of the Apt series. And now: it’s Neal Asher’s turn.
Over the next couple of years, science fiction giant Neal Asher’s complete backlist will be republished with fantastic new jackets, to reflect the way the future is depicted now – as opposed to how it was depicted when they were first published in the early 2000s, or how it was depicted when they were last re-jacketed eight years ago.
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Who Reads my Books: Sean Price

I was enjoying reading the bios posted here and was not intending to write one myself, but it seemed the vast majority were from the UK and I didn’t want Neal to think he didn’t have readers from across the pond also.
So, I was born in New York (State, not the city, as the two are separate entities), but we moved a lot when I was young, due to my father being in the military. I was a classic introvert and because I was always the new kid, books became my escapism. I remember being 9 years old, walking home from school (latchkey kid) and I stopped at the library. I walked out with “Red Planet”, by Robert Heinlein. That was the start. I haven’t stopped yet. I’ve still got a fond spot for Heinlein’s YA series. I got turned off from his writing later in life but his books were a huge influence on me when I was young. I read a vast amount and when I was younger (and broke), I pretty much read out my local libraries. It was good in a way as I was exposed to a lot of different literature that I would not have read had I could buy books. I read Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” when I was ten. I didn’t understand half of it at the time, but I sure enjoyed it. I read from Asimov to Zelazny and everyone in between. The good thing about moving around was there was always more to read at the next library.

We eventually ended in New Jersey when I was a pre-teen and stayed there through the rest of my formative years. I graduated High School at the age of 18 and did the blue-collar thing for a while, working as a carpenter. It only took a short while of working outside before I decided snow was a bad invention and endeavored to move as far west as I possibly could and still stay within the U.S. I spent the next quarter century living in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Hawaii is a great place to be if you like outdoorsy stuff. Hiking, running, swimming, surfing, diving, anything and all can be done any time of the year.  It’s also a good place to be in the construction trade as the weather never changes, but I got tired of the physicality of the work so during one of the downturns in the economy, I transitioned from carpentry to computer science — which sounds slightly weird I suppose, but there you go — and have been working as a software engineer ever since. 
The first book I read of Neal’s was “The Skinner” and it was one of the last books I bought in physical format. After years of buying books, putting them on shelves and then eventually donating them to libraries (must give back somehow) I own nothing but eBooks. I occasionally miss holding a physical book but the convenience of having an entire library in my hand is hard to beat. Amusingly, “The Skinner” was also the first — and last — book I listened to in audio format. I run a lot and like to do endurance events and I usually just load up the iPod with some playlists to pass the time when the going gets tough. Several years ago, I was running an ultramarathon and I thought it would be a good time to try an audio book. So, fast forward to 20 hours into the race, 3AM in a dark Hawaiian rainforest, sleep deprived and not cognitively at my sharpest, with my headlamp casting eerie shadows, listening to a description of the Skinner coming out of the woods — and a wild boar runs across the trail in front of me — tusks and all. Thus ended my brief foray into audio books. I now confine my reading to the comfort and safety of my home.
About two years ago, for reasons that I still have a hard time explaining to myself, let alone anyone else, my wife and I moved from Hawaii to the Southeastern US, a place where churches are seemingly only outnumbered by Waffle Houses and I sometimes feel I’m the only person in the entire state who did not vote for our current president. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the South. Some turned out to be true. Some not. It’s an interesting place. But it’s close to my wife’s family and it’s amazingly cheaper to live. You can also get in a car and drive for hours, which is something I’ve discovered I really didn’t miss at all, but things are just a lot farther away now so you do what you must. 
I still read a lot and I enjoy finding new authors with work that resonates with me. I love Neal’s work--and that fact that he shares details about his life and work through his blog--and I buy his books when they come out without bothering with the reviews as he rarely disappoints. We have plans to visit the UK again so maybe I’ll get a chance to buy Neal a beer in thanks for all the enjoyment he has given me with his hard work. Keep writing books, Neal. I’ll keep reading them.