The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back

Well, it's been a year.

In personal and family matters it's been a good one. In terms of work, though, it's been something of a forced march. Entirely my own fault: I was doing work in 2015 that I really should have done in 2014. Instead, I deluded myself that with enough research and planning in 2014, I'd be able to write the first draft of a novel at a speed I'd never attained before. This made me uncannily relaxed about giving a lot of attention to the Scottish independence referendum campaign, having a good time at Loncon 3, and so on.

In a sense I was right: I did write two novels this year, but they each took longer than I'd allowed for and left little time for anything else. At the moment I have the page proofs of the first, the second is with my editor, and the third is due for delivery mid-April. The plan is for the books to be published at six-month intervals from May 2016, and so far it's on course.

What's it about? Well ...

The general title of the trilogy is The Corporation Wars, and the books are sub-titled Dissidence, Insurgence, and Emergence. It's a far-future space opera about uploaded dead war criminals conscripted to fight an outbreak of robot sentience in an extrasolar system, and kept sane by copious amounts of R&R in immersive VR environments, some of which are beta-tests of a planned future terraforming and some of which are based on fantasy RPGs. The conflict rapidly becomes much more complicated ... but has this been the plan all along, or has a clever stratagem all gone horribly wrong?

So I've been busy. Among the other things this has left time for:

Giving a course, with Mike Cobley, on writing SF and fantasy at Moniack Mhor; talking, with Nathan Coombs, about space and socialism at a Manchester Spring event (video here); delivering a keynote (links to video and transcript here) at FSCONS in Sweden; and taking part in various book and science festivals.

This year I've written introductions to five Gollancz SF Masterworks, and articles on:

'progressive' SF and human progress; SF and personal change; and spies and double lives in future and alternate Scotlands. Not yet online is my enthusiastic review of Brian Cox's BBC2 series Human Universe, in the Summer 2015 issue of Perspectives.

Not written this year, but published in 2015 for the first time after many vicissitudes, is a discussion with Sherryl Vint on animals, biotech and SF. I also responded to some very intelligent discussion for the Crooked Timber seminar on my novels.

Over the past few months I've been reading every Scottish poem published in 2015 (a still ongoing project, as they keep on coming) to select and introduce the next of the annual Best Scottish Poems, an awesome responsibility and a new challenge.

Among the things all this hasn't left time for is what ate so much of my time in 2014: involvement, however marginal, in actual political campaigning and argument.

Next year? We'll see.

Meanwhile, all the best for 2016!


The new trilogy sounds great Ken. Happy New Year.

Thanks! And the same to you!

I'd say two novels with all that other stuff on is impressive; I struggle to get one done with much more free time!

Happy New Year, and all the best for 2016!

Happy New Year, and I look forward to reading the new series! (Yes, it will take longer for me to get a copy here in the US, but I always manage, somehow.)

That new trilogy sounds awesome, Ken, already looking forward to it! Do I detect a certain echo of Richard K Morgan's "Takeshi Kovacs" series in it?

Please do keep us posted when you have dates!

Good news so early in the year , looking forward to reading those books Ken.

Write On!

Thanks, all, for the encouraging words.

Victor - I read Altered Carbon when it came out, and (I'm sorry to say) none since, even though I liked the novel a lot. If there are any echoes in my new series they're unconscious and unintentional, and I didn't have Morgan's set-up in mind when coming up with my own.

If you find the time, the other two (Broken Angels and Woken Furies) are very good as well, less detective-y and more military/political.

It's quite an interesting thing to know, because since my teens in my mind the holy trinity of British SF was Morgan, you and the late Iain Banks. There are interesting parallelisms in your writing, and in the case of you and Iain I knew you were friends and possibly inspired each other.

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