JOHN MEANEY

22.8.14

CLASS OF 2014!

Massively special: the best of all grad programmes, back for a 3rd year, finished last week, and a huge honour to teach.

Here's a shout-out to my homies: Alex (Captain 100%!), Calvin (it's all quantum), Connor (Ginger and Tablets!), Dan (Chinstrap no longer), Divia (you wuz brill!), Jamie (cool under pressure), Mark (awesome), Matt (the new Brian Cox), Mikey (keep it real, King Java), Tom (trance and maths, what could be better?), Victoria/Tors (my mentor forever!), Westlee (coolest of dudes)... You guys are absolutely amazing. Keep on being brilliant!

4.7.14

MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES

I blame Steve Deas - I followed links from one of his archived blog posts - for reading about one of my fellow authors in the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and being unable to resist checking to see if there's an entry about me. There is, and it's written by John Clute, who is a Very Smart Man.

The entry mentions a "capacity to knit heterogeneous material together", which - following a late-night discussion in the bar at Eastercon - might have a genetic basis in my old noggin. (I'd always thought it was the coffee.) The clue is what Yvonne calls the "crop circle on John's skull", but never mind that. JC picked up the hint of Zindell's Order of the Pilots informing my own Pilots future (absolutely). How many encyclopedia entries feature the words "gonzo", "euhemerist" and "multiplexly rationalized" in the same place?

The final words of the entry are: "there is no predicting his next steps." Too true. I'm working this out as I go along. My wonderful agent John Parker said a long time ago that I'll never be the kind of writer who effectively writes the same book over and over again. This is not entirely comforting to publishers.

P.S. Yes, I had to look up "euhemerist", and I had to turn to my Webster's when the OED failed me. Myths retold as history, kind of thing, meaning in this case Norse mythology. Oh, you knew that already? Respect.

3.7.14

GRR... ARGH...

On a non-intellectual level... It's weird to have sporting favourites among athletes you've never personally met, and it's not entirely beneficial when martial arts become spectator sports. (According to Bertrand Russell, yer ancient Greek intelligentsia - whose MMA-equivalent was of course the pankration, the number-one Olympic discipline - thought that spectators were superior to athletes. Even though Plato was a grappler.) But I'm rooting for Lyoto Machida and Ronda Rousey in the UFC this weekend, even though their opponents seem to be perfectly nice, respectable people (and Rousey's into trash-talking).

Lyoto is of course the poster-boy (poster-36-year-old) for shotokan karate, although every MMA fighter needs to add to their core discipline, whichever art it is. (You want to know what the ultimate martial art is? The really, truly ultimate art? ...It's the one you actually train in.) And he respects the people he fights. He's aiming to take the middleweight world title, having dropped down from light-heavyweight, where he had the belt but didn't hang onto it.

And Dana White, president of the UFC, referred to Ronda Rousey as "the new Chuck Liddell", which has to be the highest compliment he could possibly pay any fighter. (Chuck was DW's friend as well as an amazing champion who showed that striking could beat grappling, so long as your grappling defence was good.) Rousey won silver in the judo world championships, plus Olympic bronze, before moving into MMA. Her mother won gold in the 1984 judo world championships, and Rousey trains with Gene LeBell and his guys. The USA isn't a particularly strong judo nation (perhaps because they still have serious competitive wrestling, which certainly disappeared in Britain with the advent of televised "show" pro wrestling), but these people are the best.

Meanwhile, didn't I say I wasn't going to do any writing for four months? Well, I thought I was telling the truth...

11.6.14

A LUDDITE HACKER

That's what I am. It's how Dr Nik Whitehead classified me while chairing the AI panel at Satellite 4, and she is smart so it must be true. Owning a dumbphone which is often switched off is only part of it: perhaps my woefully sparse blogging is another, along with my absence from Twitter and Facebook; and yes, if I can hack Haskell and Java, I can certainly upgrade the website to HTML5. Any year now...

I get a buzz from public speaking (who'd have guessed?), and before I'm about to start, my body fills with adrenalin and a voice in my head goes: "It's show time!" The exception was teaching in Singapore with ferocious jet lag, when I stood up to begin the first session and the inner voice said: "It's two o'clock in the morning, you bloody fool."

But when I'm not in full-on performance mode, I'm introvert and really not keen on this self-promotion stuff. Talking about work in progress doesn't help. Still, it can't do any harm to mention the work I'm not doing. There's no writing for me until October. Not serious hard-graft writing.

Veteran crime writer Lawrence Block notes that sabbaticals from writing can be necessary and beneficial to the experienced writer, even while he recommends that beginners write every day if possible. I'm in computing mode for the summer, and teaching two-not-one boot-camp grad programmes, which will be a blast. I love this stuff.

Since writing Resonance, I've written a new book and the beginning-plus-outline of a sequel. I've done this entirely on spec – no contract in advance, in other words – which is both liberating and not for the fainthearted. When I go shopping at Tesco, I have to pay for my food just like everybody else: I can't say, "It's okay, I'm a writer," and expect to get waved through. Working on spec means working without income at the time, and with no guarantee of publication when it's finished.

So why even try? I've written perhaps three different kinds of novel within SFF already, so it'll be no surprise that I'm doing Something Different. The difference this time is that the books are outside the genre – hence my needing a complete book for my agent to show to publishers.

And I can't say any more for now, because those chickens are unhatched. For the time being, I've done my part and need to let things unfold. Or hatch, with luck. I created a website (with only a teaser page) for my new pseudonym, but for now it's tucked away obscurely in cyberspace. Waiting for the shells to crack...

RUSH, RUSH, RUSH

Eastercon was rather wonderful, and I've been putting off saying so only because I wanted time to write a long report. But since I'm busier than ever, let's go with this shorter appreciation. The committee/ops/gophers and tech were terrific, and so was everyone else. It was a particular pleasure to talk to several unpublished writers, whose books I look forward to reading in the near future.

I had fun-in-a-gi with my fellow GoH Juliet McKenna in our beat down, manfully held back tears when our Writers quiz team failed to defeat the Scientists, got technical on the AI panel (not my field, but I do know functional programming and formal methods), and had a great time on all the other panels too.

Massive, massive thanks to Drs Christine & Michael Davidson and everybody else.