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Public appearance

On Thursday 14th in Edinburgh, Blackwell's bookshop are running a panel discussion, subject: Fiction to Future: The Science of Science Fiction. It's at the Pleasance Theatre, tickets are £3, and for that you get to see a discussion moderated by Andrew Wilson (The Scotsman's SF critic) in which Ken MacLeod, Iain Banks and I discuss, well, the science of science fiction.

(It's a tie-in with the Edinburgh science festival, but they aren't listing it in their online catalog — possibly because tickets are being booked via the Pleasance box office rather than the science festival.)

Anyway: all welcome!

UPDATE: Tickets are available from Blackwell's Bookshop on South Bridge, and will also be available on the door.



Wow, Ken Macleod, Iain Banks and Charlie Stross. The whole pantheon!

If, sometime early next week, I suddenly manifest the power to teleport over distances sufficient to bypass a continent and an ocean, I'll be sure to attend.


Iain Banks, and not Iain M. Banks? [snigger]/.


Well, they can't both come, because that's like dividing by 0. ;-)


I can't attend, folks. I'm stuck in South Korea. But I'm going to make the most of it this weekend. I'm going to practice walking in between radioactive raindrops tomorrow while sucking on potassium iodide lozenges, the new tread in these parts. About the life of a science fiction writer: Do science fiction fantasy writers usually have more than one book on the go, say one in first-person, another in third-person (or, second-person)? And, if so, how do they usually divvy up their writing day? I suppose full-time science fiction writers are committed to contracts, so there isn't much room for extraneous writing, outside blogging and replying to said blogs. And how does Charlie Stross decide on the narrative modes of his novels? Does first-person tend to sell more than third-person limited? Or does the character just come out in whatever mode he/she/it does? Just wondering . . . My debut science-fantasy novel is with the traditional publishing houses now, not sure when (if ever) I'll ever hear from them. So I'm working on two other novels, one science-fantasy in third-person limited, the other YA science fiction in first person. It's just bizarre having to wait around for a year to hear from anyone. I submitted an early science fiction book to several of the big houses back in the mid 00s, one of them never got back to me. Such a strange business, publishing . . . Anyway, finishing GLASSHOUSE this weekend. Thanks Charlie . . .


That's a whole bunch of questions ...

  • How many books on the go? The answer is "one/several" in my case -- I'm only ever writing one, but I'm making notes/planning/plot noodling for the next 1-3 books in the background, all the time.

  • How do they divvy up their writing day? ... There's no one answer for this, even for this single SF writer: it varies depending on motivation, time of year, health, and proximity to the project deadline.

  • Extraneous writing -- what usually goes out the window is extraneous reading, gaming, and TV/movie watching: they're all time consuming activities that more importantly use the same cognitive ability as planning and writing a novel.

  • How do I decide on the narrative mode of a novel? I get bored and decide to do something insane, for the hack value, like multi-viewpoint second person.

  • Does first-person sell more than third-person? Insufficient data, but a large minority of readers reject anything other than boring third-person past tense. And second-person strikes many as just plain weird (it's common in non-fiction, but in fiction? Rare as hens' teeth.)

  • 6:

    Damn, I'm committed that evening. I hope this will be televised/blogged/recorded in som way. I can't imagine you three guys getting together and MI5 not bugging you, at the very least. Especially Ken.

    Anyone with a videocam going to this? Please?


    The CIA would be more likely to bug Banksie!



    And second-person strikes many as just plain weird (it's common in non-fiction, but in fiction? Rare as hens' teeth.)

    Could be I've not read as much as some, but the only stories I can think of are Ted Chiang's 2nd person singular Story of Your Life, and the 2nd person plural Halting State by umm, don't tell me, it's on the tip of my tongue.


    Like Frentick@1 said. Sounds like it'll be a fantastic evening, one to shlep an armful of hardbacks to--well, one each at least.

    BTW, how'd the evening with Jo in NY go?


    Ketih Roberts's "Molly Zero" is in second person.


    Make that Keith.


    What? No Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton and Richard K. Morgan? ;)

    Well, this is the problem with being stuck on the West Coast of the U.S. - Or, one of MANY problems.

    As far as "Science to SF" I just read that we MIGHT have a "for realzies" exploration of Mars - in 2033. WTF? I'll be 80! This is NOT going according to my schedule. If it weren't for the fact that we are on an exponentially increasing technological ramp which makes it next to impossible to accurately predict where we'll be in 22 years, I'd despair.


    Richard lives in Glasgow which is on the other side of the country. Pete lives a couple of hundred miles away. And Al is somewhere in Wales -- I mean, he might as well be on Mars!


    Stross' Halting State is second-person. It was a refreshing change in my reading habits. But I like experimental sci-fi, when done right. Heck, I'm 42. I first read William Gibson in Omni Magazine in a small town library. Favorite opening of a book going on three decades later, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." I love Macleod, spent the 90s wandering about his imaginings. Banks, too.


    Stross' Halting State is second-person

    Which may be why Stross mentioned it as an example.


    Here's Jo's report on the evening in NY with Charlie.


    I hear that time travel stories are really popular in China.


    "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

    That is one of the things that fascinate me: it doesn't mean today what it meant in the 80s when it was first published. Time changes how we view the stories.


    Richard lives in Glasgow which is on the other side of the country.

    The other side of of the narrowest part of the country, yes? 50 miles or so?


    Marilee @16; Thanks for the link, glad to see that it looked to be a good size crowd.

    Joe @17; Is that a reference to China apparently banning time-travel stories?

    Jon Lennnox @19; I was going to say I seem to remember it being something like a half hour drive.


    Yes, 50 miles is a long way. Especially when it's between Edinburgh and Glasgow. (It's actually -- no kidding -- about two hours of travel time, each way.)


    Things have obsviously deteriorated since I used to travel between the two. The train used to take 45 minutes.


    The train does take 45 minutes.

    However: time from Waverley to the venue? About 10 minutes by taxi, 15 minutes on foot. Time waiting for train? Average 15 minutes (peak), 30 minutes (off-peak). Time getting to station in Glasgow? Allow half an hour (average) to Queen Street, unless the traveler in question lives/works in the city centre. Realistically to get from a given part of Edinburgh to a given part of Glasgow takes up to two hours -- and almost never less than one hour.

    Driving's worse. The M8 is nice and fast -- around 30-45 minutes -- except at rush hour, when it's over an hour. But getting to or from the M8 is another matter. If you're on the far side of Edinburgh, driving out to the M8 junction past the Gyle is at least 30 minutes (worst time ever for me was 3 hours due to traffic jams), and the Glasgow end of the motorway is special. Again: best to allow 90 minutes to two hours for the trip.

    What we need is teleportation booths. Now.


    If only the GSV I wish I could go but for time constraints were in our solar system at the time. They'd certainly displace us for an event as worthy as this.


    Is there any particular reason why you dedicated GLASSHOUSE to Ken MacLeod? You mentioned him in the Acknowledgements, as you did with the brilliant Cory Doctorow. This is probably one of the most interesting things about the spooky art: what part do these "acknowledged" people play in the composing of the book. Do they illuminate some continuity issues and whatnot? Curious . . . Wish I'd forged some stronger literary relationships/friendships back in the day.


    Ignore the dedications; if you want to know who influenced a book the acknowledgements are more germane.


    I'd like to go, but seem to have failed the intelligence test, in that I can't find the box office anywhere online. Ok, there's a telephone number, but would prefer just to buy a ticket online.

    I was going to take offence about the travel times between edinburgh to glasgow, but then recalled my own experiences. HOw long it takes depends entirely upon the time of day. For example, to a friends in the west end of Glasgow by car will only take an hour or less, if quiet. If busy, the traffic may or may not slow it down to 2 hours or more.
    Ok, I've gotten from Falkirk to Ayr in around an hour hour, but it was at 8am on a saturday morning. On a good day you can get across Edinburgh in half an hour by car, on a bad one 2 hours, it all depends on whether you travel in rush hour and what the road works are like.

    The public transport issues are indeed complex.


    The link to the event gives the Blackwell's facebook page and a further link to book tickets via Pleasance theatre. This phone number for the pleasance theatre box office is incorrect and cannot take bookings as they only operate during the festival. The event is not even listed on the science festival website. Perhaps no one will be going.


    OK, so it's listed on the Science Festival website but you cannot book it via that website. The pleasance box office number is not the one listed on Charlie's link to the Blackwell's facebook page (which has an incorrect link to the pleasance box office).

    The actual pleasance box office number is 0131 650 4673, this is currently closed and there are no opening times listed on the pleasance website. Try randomly or leave a message?


    "Book tickets online or by calling our box office on 020 7609 1800."

    I hope there will be a video of this event, for those of us half a world away.


    @14: Favorite opening of a book going on three decades later, "The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."

    And 10 years after it was written I first got the limousine bus from Narita airport to Tokyo and that line was a perfect description of the sky around the bay. But as Soon Lee remarked in comment 18, that's not the colour of dead TV channels anymore. Tempus vincit omnia.


    However: time from Waverley to the venue? About 10 minutes by taxi, 15 minutes on foot.

    Just to be nit-picky, that's a minor exaggeration, unless hills give you real trouble. I lived 100m downhill from the Pleasance, and reckoned on walking to Waverley in five minutes. Now, to get a) permission and b) a ticket...

    Otherwise spot on. There may be a Motorway to the far side of Glasgow, but it goes through Glasgow city centre. All it takes is a football match or a concert, and you can be queueing for some time.


    Elizabeth Bear, who's guest-blogged here a time or two, wrote a short story in second person future perfect, called "The Chains That You Refuse". It turns out not to be a gimmick at all; not only does it express the theme of the story very well, the story's emotional content is not at all hampered by the exotic voice. Fair made my neck hair stand up on end when I read it.


    @34 - Here's the link to that story by Bear.


    I liked the story but I didn't understand it. In "its bright feathers" what does "its" refer to ? Why did the person loose the gift of prophecy in the end ?




    The public transport issues for Glesca - Embra just got more complex, since there's now a direct service from Helensburch - Waverley via Queens's Street low level, Airdrie and Bathgate. I don't know about the timetable, it it might be that from the East side of Glesca (say Easterhouse) to Waverley is now a consistent (if the service is reliable) 90 minutes or so.

    Speaking of which, I don't know anyone who consistently arrives 15 minutes early for Strathclyde commuter network services (15 to 30 minutes depending on timetables is reasonable for time spent on a change at Queen Street though).


    Glad to say I'll be going - pretty much by chance I was passing Blackwell's bookshop yesterday, who are advertising the event in their window and selling tickets in the shop. Their number is 0131 622 8222 - my ticket is number 8 so it looks like there are plenty left.


    Dam, was up there last month. Bit far from here to pop over. I'd pay to watch this online.


    Funnily enough, I've recently been reading an argument about science in science fiction, whether it's important to get it right or, indeed, important to include it all - from 1938. The argument runs across the last few issues of NOVAE TERRAE I've put online and was between Sam Youd and Arthur C. Clarke:


    I got a ticket via the science festival, on 0131 553 0322.


    All things change in time and the availability of tickets on the Science Festival website has come to pass, you can now get em at

    btw. I'm coming from sunny Glesca and anticipate I could comfortably be able to consume fours cans of special brew or a bottle of buckie on my rail trip, door to gutter to door, so while it isn't one of the longer trips round Scotland such as Glesca to Aberdeen (bottle of voddy, perhaps 2 cans of spesh) it is a fair hike


    Here is my blipfoto for today. And yes, it was an Olympus E-P1, Charlie :0)


    Thanks for the picture! Charlie, those are new glasses, aren't they?


    Yes. Varifocals, dammit -- I now have presbyopia layered on top of myopia and astigmatism and (dormant) retinopathy.

    I can't wait for emPower spectacles to go on sale (electronically adjustable specs -- tap the frame to switch between distance and reading modes).


    So is it just the Troika, or are there other comrades not in this particular photo?


    I'm not sure Hannu qualifies, being a Capitalist Lackey Entrepreneur, but he's welcome to join the drinking side. We ought to ask Richard Morgan some time. All welcome who're willing to hoist the flag beer glass!



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