Archive for November, 2014

Morning.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending the HarperVoyager virtual SF festival. So, I suppose as it’s virtual I won’t be attending, but I will. If you get me.

Run by the publisher in conjunction with the BFI’s Days of Fear and Wonder film festival it’ll highlight the literary side of Science Fiction and its influence on film.

Instead of me bumbling about and paraphrasing poorly (my writing brain is not yet fired up. I need more tea) here’s what they had to say about it themselves:

The festival will take place on social media. The program will reflect the 3 main themes of the BFI’s film season:

Tomorrow’s World – from post-apocalyptic wastelands to megacities to far-flung dystopia – best described by Ray Bradbury as ‘sociological studies of the future’

Altered States – the science fiction of ‘inner space’ mad scientists, mutants, man-machines and mind-bending trips – what points us towards the fragile and untrustworthy thing that is consciousness.

Contact! – the alien can tell us a lot about where we’re at as a species. Time to explore life from all corners of the universe and across multiple dimensions.

We aim to explore story-telling and the impact of literature on film. On the Sunday we will specifically focus the discussion on young adult and women of sci-fi.

Our overall aim is to create lots of buzz and excitement around science fiction.

We have some very cool people involved – authors Jeff Vandermeer, David Cronenberg, Nick Harkaway, and scientists Marcus Chown and Rowan Hooper and many others.

And me, naturally. There are twenty-plus other authors involved, including the likes of Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Margaret Atwood. Find out more at the HarperVoyager UK website.

Register here to take part – it’s free. I’ll not be appearing as a Darth Sidious-style hologram unfortunately, but rather more prosaically on Twitter, where I’ll be talking about SF colony stories, colony ships gone wrong (one of my favourite mini-subgenres) and general space exploration in SF. Join me @guyhaley with @harpervoyageruk, #BFIVoyager and #BFISciFi at 2.30pm tomorrow! I look forward to your questions.

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Last weekend I was at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel, a place that is becoming something of a second home to me. There I was involved in the Black Library Weekender, third of its name. I had a glorious time. So glorious, that it took me a couple of days to recover. 3am is far too late for me now. I pretty much said everything that needs to be said about attending events when I wrote about last year’s weekender here, so this short post is my way of saying thanks to everyone who attended, and for the hard work of the Games Workshop and hotel staff who made it all happen.

I’ve said it many times before but I’ll reiterate: It is highly pleasant and important to speak with your readers. I loved chatting to you all, and I hope you enjoyed the seminars. A big moment in my career this year was being presented with stacks of books – all different – at the signing table, so thanks for that too.

As always, it was plenty of fun to catch up with my colleagues. These events are some of the only times in the year when I see my fellow writers, and provide ample opportunity to talk about writing from a technical standpoint, swap ideas, and generally horse around. Seeing Dave Bradley of SFX, catching up on happenings in Bath and talking magazines was a bonus to this authorial bonanza.

And I’m pleased to report I didn’t get shot in the back playing Zombicide, although I did lose at Spartacus.

Black Templar #4

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Gaming, The Black Templars
Tags:
IMG_2583

Yes, he has a gravgun. Sue me.

Ah, Charles Stross. The exemplar of the writer who uses the internet effectively (unlike me). He’s a powerful man in these post-print days. He’s rightly popular, but aside from a couple of stories his work has failed to capture my imagination. (Note, this is not why he gets three stars rather than four or five. I try to put aside my personal preferences when reviewing). This is the second time I’ve tried to post this. The first time I got a very rare WordPress error message. Spooky. Stross controls the internet! From Death Ray #21.

Charles Stross/Orbit

THREE STARS

Collection of shorts from the incredibly prolific Mr Stross, Hard-core nerd futures ahead!

Charles Stross is regarded by some as the Great White Hope of SF, a man whose imagination and expertise allow him to create the kind of story others cannot. Some of this is true, some of it simply isn’t.

There is no denying Stross’ credentials. He holds twin degrees, one in pharmacy, the other in computer sciences. This colours his work to a great degree, in a positive way. There are precious few writers out there who can convincingly utilise the terminology of both biology and IT; there’s deep science in what Stross writes.

However, there’s a degree of narrowness to his concerns. Many of his stories obsess over Cold War style spy-jinks, codenames clutter the prose whether he’s giving us a Lovecraftian pastiche or a straight-up SF tale. There’s also a cul-de-sac viewpoint to his protagonists, like they’re stuck at the end of a long a bag peering out at small circle of the universe, not really a part of it. The story ‘Unwirer’ (written with Cory Doctorow) is a good example, where the activities of one band of geeks in one branch of technical endeavour is paramount in shaping our world. You could look at today, from a certain viewpoint, and say the same, but what about all else that happens around it? There’s a sense of detachment to these stories, they feel ungrounded. Stross sets the stage for his ideas, then has mouthpieces deliver his point in long dialogues. Character is not much of a concern, nor is reader experience. These are lectures thinly coated in narrative.

Of course, Stross is not alone. Many SF writers have done and continue to do the same. SF is about ideas after all, but this focus on them to the exclusion of all else is peculiarly old school. While there is a lot to admire about Stross – and when he is good he is very good – his work is not for everyone.