I'm too tired to think, but thanks to books, I can think other people's thoughts. Here's E.O. Wilson: The best of science doesn't consist of mathematical models and experiments, as textbooks make it seem. Those come later. It springs fresh from a more primitive mode of thought, wherein the hunter's mind weaves ideas from old facts and fresh metaphors and the scrambled crazy images of things recently seen.

Next week I'm going to be spending time with some working astrophysicists. Do I have time to re-read all my old physics texts? Reload actual real physics into my brain?

Today is the first day in fifteen years or so without a drink of coffee (apart from some decaf, which I know has a wee bit of caffeine in). And that short break fifteen years ago was an abberation. I mean, I've been drinking a couple of dozen coffees a day - or more - for 25 or 30 years. Anyway, right now I feel fine. The exhaustion is from tramping around on the mountain (after a run, as well). Trying to get properly fit, it's hard to judge my running progress against previous environs, because the first half of every run is entirely uphill. I realized I had to forgive myself for being slow.

My new gym/dojo now stands fully built in the back garden. My new 6ft heavy bag is in place, along with mats, stationary bike and weights. Three workouts in it so far. I've been without a decent punchbag for 6 months! You have no idea how much I missed it...


(No in-depth reviews here. Also, nothing very recent. Plus, these are the ones I really liked. I just gave up on a slow-moving book by Big Name Author, and a fast-moving but Dan-Brown-silly book from another writer whose previous books were superb.)

Just finished THE CITY & THE CITY. Firmly crafted, beautiful depiction of the inhabitants' mindsets, all very intricate, and a superb metaphor of living in the spaces *between*. Terrific book. China Miéville's a great writer a great guy.

SOUND MIND (see, I'm way behind in my reading) deals with a differently fractured reality, with an uncompromising matter-of-factness behind the splitting-off of parts of the world, and characters who face their weaknesses while not giving in to ordinariness. Tricia Sullivan does the biz again.

MOTHERS AND SONS. Colm Tóibín's collection of short stories. The two stories highlighted inside the cover were not my favourites. (They happen to be the gay-love stories, one porn-explicit, crossing my personal good-taste boundary. Considering the number of sympathetic gay characters in my novels, you see, it's interesting to find where the boundaries lie.) Two stories stood out for me. 1) The Use of Reason. As I read it, the real ending takes place after the final full stop, and you know what's going to happen to the main character, and why he's on a self-destructive path that he's not admitting to himself. None of it's explicit; all is psychological subtlety. 2) A Priest in the Family. A very nasty story underneath, and an absolute masterpiece in understated writing. The near-silence and everything-as-usual actions of a mother who 'ought' to be hysterical in fact screams volumes, and eloquently.

APPALOOSA. The first western I've read since, I don't know, the early 70s. (As a genre, it hasn't existed in the UK for about 35 years.) I liked its sparse writing, reading it with sadness due to Robert Parker's death earlier in the year. I read his first book, The Godwulf Manuscript, in 1980, and the early Spenser books were and remain among my favourites of all time.



So I'm supposed to be a) fit and b) a coffee addict. I'm heavier than I ought to be and my blood pressure is way too high for someone with my supposedly healthy lifestyle. So cutting the coffee intake by over 90% still leaves me drinking 2 cups a day for now. No withdrawal symptoms. But as I write this, I'm sipping a decaf espresso.

You might wonder why, but decaf espresso has to be an oxymoronic paradox, and you know me. Bizarrely, the first sip gave me the nice shudder that the real thing delivers. Perhaps it's the bitterness and not the caffeine jolt.

I'm not writing at the moment (but don't tell my editor at Gollancz, the most wonderful Simon Spanton). Having sent in Point (to Marc Gascoigne at Angry Robot) I've been not exactly chilling - I've homework to do for my studies at Oxford. I thought I was going to miss the deadline totally, then everyone got given a week's extension. I might still miss it, but with less justification... Oh, well.

Some time next week, Transmission (vol 2 of Ragnarok) will draw me into it.

I've been blasé about writing 2 books a year and interleaving the process (which is one of the subjects of my software engineeering thing - precise mathematical descriptions of interwoven processes that may be partially indeterminate) but in fact I have felt woefully overcommitted to the publishing schedule. (Next time I have multiple contracts on the go at the same time, I'll be very careful about the proposed delivery dates.) Every moment spent on Point has been a moment not spent on Transmission, hence a continuing background stress. It's been hard to see the creation of Point in five-and-a-bit months as a triumph, although it kinda is.

No formal feedback yet, but I'm sure it's better than Edge.

I'm pondering deeply before diving back into Transmission. Absorption is challenging because of the disparate timelines - I always knew this was going to be a challenge to write and possibly read. Compare this to, say, Barbara Kingwood's Poisonwood Bible. The different viewpoints (not timelines) give different accounts of the same family's story. (To be fair, although it's her most famous work, I prefer some of the others.) Or think of the Godfather, whose protagonist is not one person but the Corleone family.

Getting that unity when your characters don't meet or interact so much (on the basis of living centuries apart on different worlds) is the challenge.

But that's not really what I'm thinking about.

Some people prefer Paradox to Absorption. I knew what I was doing (as Norman Spinrad surmised) when I wrote Paradox: writing in a hang-on-or-fall-off style without allowances. In an earlier blog entry, a nice person commented that he had in fact noticed my combining symbolic logic (Z notation) with Sun Tzu's Art of War in one of the throwaway snippets about strategy planning. And there's a genuine hypothesis about the nature of time underpinning the book, which is why several reviewers said they could not tell where the real science left off and the made-up stuff began. In a sense, it's because only the wackiest of engineering was fictional - the spookiness of time as it persists in physics is still there.

So one reviewer, looking at Absorption, liked it while considering Paradox to be (allow me a blush here) perhaps one of the best SF books ever. A couple of reviewers, when Paradox appeared, compared it to Dune.

Perhaps a writer should ignore reviews totally.

Maybe there's a dilemma here. Or maybe there isn't. Some people might like Paradox as much as Dune, but, like, here's where the sales figures come in. Not as many people have read Paradox, not by a very long shot.

But I'm feeling that a bit of impenetrable physics and bilingual puns in several languages and logic games and related stuff might start infesting Transmission and Resonance to a larger extent than I'd intended. (You thought I'd sorted out the nature of time? I haven't even started.)

I'm also thinking that Thomas Blackthorne might be writing some very different stuff in the next years.



So my two-hour jog-and-walk through the forest turned into a three-and-a-half hour trek - due to my being one valley out in my estimate of where I was - which was actually great fun. Spectacular views and fresh air, plus a long hike through a near tunnel in spooky forest: mud track, green moss that almost glowed, coating everything and hanging in wisps from branches on either side. Luckily I heard no footsteps behind me...

And no, I didn't have my phone with me. Or my wrist Garmin with its GPS capability. Or a map. Or compass. But an actual indigenous Welshman would know exactly where he was because of which way the sheep were pointing. Or something.



At Worldcon, Brighton, in 1979, I was privileged to sit among a small group of unpublished writers while the great Alfred Bester dispensed his wisdom. (He looked somewhat like Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green.) One of the things he talked about was the necessity of sending your stories out into the world. Like kicking your children out of the house when they're grown up, he said. It hurts but you have to do it.

The context was mostly about sending unsolicited work into the publishing world - when you're delivering to a contract, it's more like relief.

I just emailed POINT to superstar editor Marc Gascoigne. Whew!



Just finished the 3rd draft of POINT. Time to make some backups, then breathe calmly for a bit. 4th and final draft should be ready to go before the weekend.

Blimey. Another one down. And it's better than EDGE.



Check out me talking with the lovely Sandy Auden of SF Site.