April, a month here in England during which rain fell for an entire two days this year. When I attended the local book group evening the other week, they'd all just read Mindstar Rising which is set in post-global warming England, and I had a big job trying to convince them that SF "isn't about prediction".
I've just finished writing a story called The Demon Trap, and as always I tell myself: right that's it, no more short stories (actually it was 23,000 words). And Mrs H just gave me one of 'those' looks and said: yes dear. No no, this time I mean it, nothing more until I've finished volume three of The Void. I do this every time and never learn, I always believe the time between writing books is this huge gap in my schedule where I can just lounge around enjoying the stereotype writer's life of going down to the pub and attending fabulous publishing parties, when a short story can be typed out in, oh, a couple of hours. So two weeks after the deadline which an increasingly worried Gardner Dozois gave me a year ago, I finally delivered Demon Trap for his Galactic Empires anthology. Two weeks during which the page proofs for Dreaming Void were sitting unread on the table, my brand new vegetable garden waited to be dug over, and the family took a very pleasant Easter break with friends in North Wales, where I caught a stomach bug. In future years when I look back and ask: Where does the time go? that's going to make uncomfortable reading.
Well, the proofs have now been read, the garden dug over, various raspberry canes and asparagus crowns put in -they're organic ones (read: expensive) because I'm a nice middle class Kyoto-fearing boy, the new rainwater collection tank attached to the guttering, birthday presents for the kids bought, although that was on line so they haven't actually arrived yet with two days to go, and another batch of old CDs loaded into iTunes. All very productive. Now I'm back behind the desk wondering if the postman had a nice time at all those exotic publishing parties - because the invitations certainly never arrived here. However, I did have an interesting meeting with Macmillan who want to 'increase my online presence'. Clearly someone hasn't checked how far apart my blog submissions are; but they did mention setting up a section of Second Life around the Void, which sounds interesting. One too-fast investigation into what Second Life actually is, and I'm already worried about my dwindling supply of time, though I do see the logic in me logging on. Apparently several SF authors have even had virtual launch parties in there, so maybe I will get to go to a publishing party after all. The other marketing suggestion was to put together a graphic art film-style preview for a scene out of the book. Well that gets my vote. Watch this cyberspace.
Back to the facts. Confirmed: that The Dreaming Void will be published in the UK this August. I've started wrestling with the final batch of chapter outlines ready for The Temporal Void, which I'm hoping to deliver around New Year - and yes we can all look back at that claim around Christmas time and have a good laugh. And I'm starting to rig up an automatic irrigation system (slightly grand name for a hose pipe with lots of holes in it)for the vegetable garden, but regular blog readers know all about my track record on plumbing matters.
I've noticed other blogging writers listing what music they've been listening to, TV they've seen, books they've read, and films they've watched. Let's just say that my i-pod is slightly biased towards the 70's, though last week I laughed in delight when I heard Ozzie Osborne's cover version of All The Young Dudes. Again, you'll notice a 70's theme there. And once more for the record, no that Ozzie wasn't the basis for Ozzie in the Commonwealth books, I didn't even draw the connection until I was half way through writing Judas -by which time it was way too late to change. TV, the best thing shown in the UK for years was Life On Mars, which has been horribly over-analysed by reviewers everywhere. I'm not giving my deep and meaningful take on it, I just enjoyed the show, which was set in 1973. Books I've read. Ha! Yeah right, lots of those. Sitting on the bedside table is Michael Palin's diaries - yes, the one featuring his life in, er, the 70's. Oh dear. Films ... don't get to see them in a cinema these days unless we bribe grandma to come in and baby-sit for the afternoon, so its DVDs for us. My three year old has just discovered Toy Story, which was pleasing for me at first because it is a good film, although by the fiftieth viewing it has slightly lost its charm for me, but on the plus side I now have the useful life-skill of being able to recite the entire dialogue off by heart. Sadly on the Bad Parent front, she ran out of the room crying when we sat down to watch Wallace and Gromit's Close Shave, saying the robodog was too scary. It wasn't something I'd considered beforehand, but on reflection Nic Park's stuff is probably too frightening for the under 5s. I'm hoping for more success with Shaun the Sheep. Of the more grown up films I enjoyed: Stranger Than Fiction, Lucky Number Sleven, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and The Departed - though that last one might have benefited from being shorter. But then of all people, who am I to make that call?
Peter F. Hamilton
30 April 2007