Three more days until Christmas, and we have two very excited small children in the house. Which is lovely, except for when I try to get some work done. There are, after all, more important things to do right now, like bringing in the tree for them to decorate, bringing in the logs each morning for the log burner stove –and boy am I glad I ordered a huge delivery of logs this summer. Even better I actually built a log store for them so they don’t get wet. Then there’s the concern about the grocery delivery van making it to the house on Christmas Eve, or am I going to be driving/skidding into town to buy food to survive the holiday.
Yes folks, welcome to the UK 2010, where we in good old Rutland had an entire five inches of snow last night and the world is now white silence. Emphasis on the silence there. The only noise I hear is everyone over on the continent laughing at us as they go about their lives without interruption. Now this is the point where my usual self would start some politically incorrect jokes about global warming and climate change. Not today though. Why? Frankly I’m too scared of Mark Charon Newton (check out the scratch-your-eyes-out spat between him and Neil Asher –now that’s what I call entertainment), who I’m going to be sharing a chalet with at the SFX weekender in six weeks time. This cold snap is an interesting lesson in preparation and technology, though. The cottage I live in is about three hundred and fifty years old, in fact this whole village is classic picture postcard pretty, and I’m sure back then they could cope with snow in respect to their life and livelihood, they understood about seasons and getting ready. I’ve talked a few times this year on tour and at events about how wealthy we are today compared with people living a hundred years ago, and not merely in financial terms. I still believe that, but the simplicity of life back then is wonderful false nostalgia. Socially we as a species might have improved (yeah I know: on average -maybe), but are the more sophisticated systems we depend on these days to bring us that elusive ease-of-life naturally more vulnerable to bad weather? And if so, why: discuss. Which is what I did at Novacon in November; Charlie Stross and I were on a disasters panel with the real experts who work for government and plan for these things on a day to day basis. I say: took part, in reality I managed to talk for up to a minute during the hour because like everyone in the room I was listening and laughing at how truly incompetent people are in real life. Honestly, it was enough to turn me into a survivalist.
None of this cynicism has stopped me from writing a fresh introduction to the Mandel books in preparation for their re-issue in America by Del Rey next year, during which I modestly claim loads of credit for predicting the Credit Crash and Warming, along with hacker groups and MacBook Pro. Yes, I finally signed the US contract. We got there in the end.
So in the year since I last delivered a book, what’s up on the writing front? The collection Manhattan In Reverse has been edited and proofed, and will be coming out next year. My children’s book project is stalling horribly, though there is a faint glimmer of interest from one publisher. I need to do some serious re-writing of the section already completed, which I will attempt to get round to in spare moments over the holiday. But the good news is that I’m 60,000 words into Great North Road, and high on that author paranoia I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs. I’ve actually sent that initial section to my agent to read this Christmas, telling him to be as critical as he can be (and he can do that, trust me). It struck me as I was a month in, that this is the first new universe I’ve constructed since I started writing Pandora’s Star back in 2002. Eight years is a long time in this business. And how long will this stand-alone book be, I/you ask. Well, I’m writing sections by days rather than chapters. After 60,000 words I’m five days in, and the story takes place over about 120 days. Er... I might need to take a look at that structure again.
On the viewing and listening front- I’ve got Taylor Swift’s new album: Speak Now. Surely it’s illegal for someone that young to be this talented? And for those of you who remember what happened to my copy of her last album, I have taken precautions this year is all I’m saying. So far I remains in my possession. So far.
And viewing? Well now, a whole new experience for me here. Sophie has discovered the X Factor. For however many years it’s been on I have managed to completely avoid it. See, this is the benefit of working alone: no water cooler to gather round where there are required topics to discuss. No more. As with all car-crash events there is no way you can avert your horrified gaze. I even started out cheering for (V)Wagner, until he grew really truly awesomely annoying. And yes Matt shouldn’t have won, and his single is completely wrong for him, and the dancers on that last show were inappropriate for family viewing, and as for the final indignity: I had to use my iTunes account to download one of the songs for Sophie. That’s on my official government record now, like a criminal conviction or a police DNA database entry it can never be wiped from existence no matter how much Amnesty protests on my behalf. Thank the Dreaming Heavens it’s finished. Oh wait, we started watching Strictly Come Dancing. And we even phone voted for Pamela. My life is over.
Season’s greetings to you all wherever you are.
Peter F. Hamilton
In the snowy, cold Rutland of December 2010