Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Soldier Covers

Here are the full covers of The Soldier in hardback and trade paperback. Nice quotes here from some big beasts in the SF world. Unexpected.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Exercise Sweet Spot

Damn, how much exercise is too much? I never seem to be able to hit the sweet spot.

In the last months I was going to the gym 3 times a week for an hour plus each time (over a number of weeks I'd taken it up from three-quarters of an hour). This exercise consisted of 20 mins warm-up on a rowing machine or cross trainer, followed by a varied selection of weight lifting. I seemed to be rolling along fine with that. I then changed it to half an hour in the morning on weekdays, except for one day when I went in the afternoon and did about an hour. This was because I was dopy in the morning and it seemed to take forever to get going. I thought this might give me a boost and it did. For a week I was fine and much more awake. I steadily upped the time to (thus far) 37 minutes and then just as steadily, along came increasing midday knackerdom and the need for a ‘power knap’ (which always sounds better than a snooze on the sofa).

One of the things that came across in various articles I read was that if your basing your life around your exercise then you’re getting a bit OCD with it. Well I guess I am in the sense that my work is suffering because I’m wearing myself out. Another thing I read was that, per week, 150 mins of moderate exercise or 75 mins of intense is a kind of minimum, while 3 to 5 times that is best. I was doing the 3x – about 3.5 hours intense, but dropping 3 hours when I moved to the mornings and steadily climbing again. But it didn’t seem to work out so well.

I guess one has to look at other factors. I’m no spring chicken anymore; I’m 57 (Fuck! How did that happen?). It could simply be that I need to slow down a bit and get more rest, which is an idea I do not like at all. Also, though there’s no blood involved, men go through hormonal cycles. Perhaps I just hit a testosterone dip or something? Then there’s the time of year and the weather. It’s Winter and like us all I definitely slow down at this time of year. Also, right now, it’s Siberia outside. It’s not beyond reason to suppose evolution has provided us with a genetically transcribed instruction: ‘Snow, cold, slow down shutdown and conserve.’

Anyway, in the end I can read all sorts of articles on the internet about this sort of stuff, but always they fail to apply to me. A lot of strength training bumph is focused on the age groups ten or twenty years behind me, where you can basically get away with hammering your body. Look at ‘senior’ stuff and it’s always ‘you need to maintain your health with a little gentle exercise’ and ‘take advice from your health practitioner’ and, essentially ‘don’t go taking my advice and blowing the rivets out of your heart’.

I guess I’ll just have to keep altering things, trying new things, and hoping to find the exercise sweet spot for me.       

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Night Shade Books Announces . . .

New book announcement: Polity-universe classics from Neal Asher!

Exciting news, sci-fi fans! After a long time trying to make it happen, we’ve just acquired the rights to several Neal Asher backlist titles: Gridlinked, Brass Man, and The Skinner.
Now, that’s pretty great for lots of reasons—after all, Asher’s books are always incredible—but there’s one thing in particular we want to point out: with these acquisitions, we are now in the very unique position of being the first US publisher ever to hold the publishing rights to every title in both the Agent Cormac and Spatterjay series, which were in many ways responsible for launching Asher into his current state as a successful, high-profile author of science fiction.
If you’re an Asher fan already, as you all should of course be, you’ll know that his publishing history here in the states has been frustratingly spotty, with different books within the same series coming out from different publishers, which has made it hard to keep up with them. But, that said, now that these books will finally all be available in the US from the same publisher (us!) for the first time, we’ll have an opportunity to try and do things the right way, and we plan to take full advantage of it.
That starts with our new mass-market paperback editions, which will come with brand-new, and seriously cool, covers (with art by Neil Lang). Tor UK put these together for their own upcoming reissues of Asher’s books, and we just liked them so much, we knew we had to do the same. Check them out—as well as the accelerated-release schedule we’ve put them on (because who likes waiting?)—below:     
September 2018: Gridlinked

October 2018: The Line of Polity

November 2018: Brass Man

January 2019: Polity Agent

February 2019: Line War

March 2019: The Skinner
April 2019: Voyage of the Sable Keech
May 2019: Orbus
We also want to remind you all that this isn’t our only project in the works with Neal—his newest book, The Soldier, is out in hardcover this May! Check it out here for all the info.
Follow us on Twitter @NightShadeNews for more updates, and keep checking back here for more posts, announcements, and cover reveals—we’re always putting up new content!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Altered Carbon ReSleeved

So, I sat and watched Altered Carbon on Netflix. A few episodes in I lost track of what the hell was going on. This was due to actors mumbling, changes in language introduced for no purpose and, frankly, a viewer with tinnitus. Turning on the subtitles solved the problem. 

It’s been sixteen years since I read Richard Morgan’s excellent book so in essence I was coming to this like a newby. I remembered that there was a particularly violent and cool character called Takeshi Kovacs, that people had cortical stacks and that they could be resleeved, and that they could also be tortured in virtual reality . . . and that is about it. This series gave me precisely those things and I enjoyed it very much. My criticism would be that it did not have the breathless excitement of the book because I remember putting that aside feeling like I’d been put through a rolling mill. In fact in this, towards the end, I started to feel that the action was too stylized and dragging. However, it is smart enjoyable science fiction and streets ahead of most of what is out there. I wouldn’t put it on a par with The Expanse but I would put it far above the Trek dreck and all that Marvel superhero nonsense.    

I then noted that quite a lot of people were criticizing this because it’s ‘not like the book’ and ‘unnecessary changes have been made’, so I skim read a bit of the book. These critics are right. I note that religion has been dropped in there in an ‘understanding’ way, while in the book (just from the bit I read) it got a similar treatment to what I gave it in my The Line of Polity. I believe it got the ‘oh you idiots’ atheist treatment. Roles and story lines were swapped and consolidated like Quellcrist Falconer, like Kovac’s past and no doubt others things I would only be aware of if I read the book again. And I don’t have much of a problem with these.

I understand how you need to take a lighter more understanding view of religion if you are not to alienate a large portion of your audience (I reckon this was why Tor US, while publishing my books, made size excuses about The Line of Polity and didn’t publish it). Many of the other changes were maybe unnecessary but they were the vision of those who were translating it to the screen. So what? We got some damned good SF, taken seriously, on our screens and, FFS, the book has not gone away! It also means that other works are more likely to appear! Some changes I would say were necessary and they were improvements. Science fiction has moved on in sixteen years and, for example, I much prefer the version here of Bancroft’s house to the one described in the first chapter of the book.

Other criticisms have been that it was a pastiche. Well, I would argue that all science fiction is that – it is built upon what went before. Yeah, I saw the spinning ceiling fans, the noodle bars on the streets and the overall street scenes and thought, ‘Blade Runner’. I also note that Kovacs floating in the tank and the ‘fallen angel’ woman were very much like the signal image from The Expanse. But it all worked. It is up to you whether you denigrate these as pastiche or smile at the hat-tips.  

In all I enjoyed this. It wasn’t entirely the book we read but, well, even the books we read aren’t that when we return to them. Hence the title above: this was Altered Carbon ReSleeved.  

Congratulations Richard Morgan!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Falcon Heavy

Watching Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy launch into space, seeing two of its boosters land with the kind of precision that looked like CGI and seeing, FFS, a Tesla car swinging round Earth with a manikin in the driver’s seat, had me the most excited about space travel and exploration I’ve been for an age. Why is this important? The rockets are reusable, the cost is coming down at an astounding rate but, most importantly, Musk is showing that space exploration and travel can be carried out by private sector enterprise. In fact it can be carried out better. We no longer have to wait for moribund, government-controlled bureaucratic behemoths like NASA to get us into space.

This launch also had another effect on me illustrated by a tweet I saw last night. I paraphrase: ‘There’s a Tesla car heading to Mars and you’re still on about Trump?’ In one evening I completely lost interest in politics and still feel that way this morning (but it will inevitably return).

There was one negative in this and that was the third booster failure. One of its engines failed to ignite (some fuel problem?) and it missed the drone ship to plummet into the sea at hundreds of miles an hour. But even this is a relatively minor mishap in something of this scale. Firstly, other rockets aren’t even reusable and, consequently, are a damned sight more expensive (“The nearest peer competitor is the Delta 4 Heavy at roughly half the thrust and from four to as much as ten times the cost.”). Secondly, it turns out that these rockets won’t be used again anyway since Spacex has the next iteration ready (I think).

There have been naysayers. Some feel that Musk should have sent some scientific instrument rather than a car, and that this was a crass publicity stunt. They have obviously failed to understand the financial aspect of the publicity generated by this stunt. Doubtless their inclination is for science under the aegis of big government, and they find private enterprise distasteful. Another, apparently on TV this morning (I didn’t see this since I don’t have a TV licence and therefore don’t watch live TV) was bemoaning the ‘pollution’ of space and of Mars by sending a car up. Beside the fact that the car will not actually end up on Mars, this is quite ridiculous politically correct ‘environmentally conscious’ virtue signaling. It also shows a complete failure to understand the barren hostile immensity beyond Earth. Seriously, fuck off.

Elon Musk is a man with a dream and he is not buggering about in achieving it. He wants us up in space, constantly, on Mars, on the moon and elsewhere. I love too that he is obviously also a lover of science fiction. Culture ship names and that ‘Don’t Panic’ on the dash screen of the Tesla demonstrate this. And his dream, in the end, has revitalized the dream of space exploration for us all. 

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.