|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Within a couple of years, of course, Nixon went to China and Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia.
In 1979, the war with Eurasia had just turned hot in a cold place. My new girlfriend, Carol, rather aptly impressed my family by winning a game of Risk, though that wasn't why they took her to their hearts.
My recollections of late 1989 include watching the BBC news from Romania in the cafteria of a shopping centre with Carol and our children, just before or just after Christmas. I quit smoking on Christmas day, had one cigarette at Hogmanay, and then none for a couple of months. Some time in February or March I took our daughter on a Woodcraft Folk weekend. Woodcraft Folk kids tend to be free range. By the time the adults had some time on their own on the first evening I was cadging roll-ups.
In 1999 we all went into Edinburgh for the big century rollover. I had flu and was a bit feverish, but it still felt joyful. We'd made it out of the twentieth century alive! Firework residue and drops of sprayed beer fell on happy upturned faces. I had an elated hope that the new century might develop unencumbered by the ideologies that had dominated the old. Hah!
Here in the last day of 2009, I have absolutely no idea what the world will be like in 2019, or what we can expect in the ten years ahead. All I know is that 2019 seems a lot farther in the future than 2009 seemed in 1999.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I've had a really good year as a Writer in Residence for the Genomics Forum: generous facilities, total creative freedom, friendly and helpful colleagues. Blog posts about my activities, and/or relevant (however tangentially) to the Forum's concerns, are grouped here. Although my half-time employment has come to an end, my residency (and Pippa's) hasn't, for which we're grateful. Until further notice we're free to use the office, and we'll continue to develop (and expand into other media- watch this space!) the Human Genre Project, and to promote and participate in events, such as Base Pairs and Couplets, the third of our Social Sessions - this one, on Jan 13, is on science and poetry, and we're privileged to have a very fine line-up indeed: Ron Butlin, Brian McCabe, Tracey S. Rosenberg, Kelley Swain and Ryan Van Winkle.
Finished one novel, The Restoration Game, due out March 2010. Well ahead of the curve of writing science fiction set in the nearer and nearer future, this novel is set in 2008 AD. Except for the flashbacks. From another viewpoint, though, it's set in AUC 2248, which makes it science fiction. (Classicists will notice that the Year of the City 2248 is not the equivalent of the Year of Our Lord 2008.)
Wrote three short stories: 'Death Knocks', for Geoff Ryman's anthology When It Changed: Science Into Fiction, 'Sidewinders', for Ian Watson and Ian Whates' anthology The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories, and 'A Tulip for Lucretius' (dissected here), for Subterranean. One flash fiction, 'Reflective Surfaces" for New Scientist's Sci-Fi Special.
I've just started writing my next novel, provisionally titled Sin Bio. Drawing heavily on the good old English traditions of the cosy catastrophe and the Aga saga, it's set in the near future and has a genomics theme.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
On Tuesday I gave a talk at Strathclyde University's Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory's seminar series. Professor Colin McInnes (who I'd met at Satellite 2, and whose talk there was recently summarised in an article in The Herald) and Dr Malcolm Macdonald had invited me, and they showed me around the labs and took me out for a few drinks, a meal and a very stimulating conversation afterwards - for all of which, much thanks.
You can see the seminar here - there's an opening sample on the page, and buttons for streaming or downloading if you want to see and hear the whole talk and discussion. Here's the (slightly tongue in cheek) abstract:
"The Imaginary Engine: notes for a research proposal on the 1990sThough my delivery, as usual, gives the impression that I am painfully dredging words from the vast shallows of my mind, and the camera and mic are unforgiving of my tics (fiddling with my glasses, clicking my pen, pushing up my sleeves), I had the benefit of an involved and SF-savvy audience whose questions and comments contributed a great deal.
I was well impressed by the scale and scope of the engineering department, by the enthusiasm of the staff and the research students I met, and by the work of the Advanced Space Concepts Laboratory, which is collaborating with local space industry and other partners in numerous fields, including the exciting field of microspacecraft.
They're building spaceships on the Clyde! Who knew? As one of the builders points out, there are a lot of young people in Scotland who really need to know, and he's doing something about it.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Canadian SF writer Peter Watts is in serious legal trouble, after making the mistake, on his way back to the free world, of asking US border guards why they were searching his car. His friends and colleagues are rallying round, and so can you, via the PayPal button on this page and of course by spreading the word.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
First, on the Y chromosome, we have a Speciation: the Day REDE OS Forked by Tasmanian sculptor Meika Loofs Samorzewski. Second, on chromosome 4, we're proud to have a brief extract from The Embalmer's Book of Recipes, by well-known science-and-fiction writer-and-speaker Ann Lingard.
Friday, December 04, 2009
You can now hear it on the BBC iPlayer, and it's worth a listen. Prof Meiksin is a joy to listen to. As for me, well ... I sound a lot more coherent and fluent than I sounded to myself at the time. (Good editing, probably.) Whatever argument I may (or may not) have made to justify the fine distinction I drew between Kepler's speculation and hard SF (some ramble about Gernsback, I suspect) is lost to my memory as much as to the recording, if it was ever there in the first place. Also, I got Hal Clement's name slightly wrong - from nervousness rather than ignorance.
Andrew Brown evidently enjoyed his visit, particularly to the library:
So there I was on Tuesday, touching the vellum of a 13th century manuscript of Alhazen, another of Aristotle, and then a first edition of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus and one of Kepler's Nova Astronomia. In the shelves on the wall were Galileo's works.'Oh monks, monks, monks,' I heard him murmur, looking at a volume of hundreds of pages of minute invariant uncial script, 'that this labour of yours should be used as a cheap analogy for DNA replication!'
Three new poems at the Human Genre Project: Dave Lordan's Surviving the recession is a fine rant, but not at first glance obviously about genetics. Dave explains: 'It hasn't got to do with a specific gene, but with the overall idea of socio-environmental adaptation.' It scores. John Morris's Crazy Quilt makes a point about DNA, and Inchoate Origins by Karen Booth speculates on a possible ancestor of us all.