May 2011

I am becoming a curmudgeon. According to Mrs H, that is. To see her point of view you have to look back on the start of April when the kids began their Easter holiday. We went down to Cornwall again (of which more later) for a week with friends. All very nice. Then the holiday went on and on before arriving at a very late Easter. I don’t know what it’s like for everyone else, but I tend to do less work when Sophie and Felix are on holiday. I know I shouldn’t, and that’s a big part of Mrs H’s complaint that this is all self-inflicted, but the weather’s been so nice and they’re out in the garden close to the writer’s shed, and they grow up so quick that it’s important not to miss any of this time... Then Easter itself is here. This year I was guest of honour at Eastercon, so that’s another four days without any work at all. Once I’m back it’s just a few days before the Royal Wedding which is yet another public holiday, which leads into the weekend, which is followed by the first May public holiday. By then I hadn’t written anything for what seemed like weeks, and the curmudgeon comment was aimed and fired.

I admit it. I don’t like enforced breaks from writing. Especially not when I’m in the middle of a book which is going well. There’s also the notes to take into account. Right now in addition to writing Great North Road I’m developing the Fallers trilogy, which will probably be the next SF project -that’s the one set in the Void. I’ve also had a idea for a not-quite-conventional novel which my publisher has shown an interest in. And finally! I’ve found someone who is going to publish my kids book. I’d like to make it clear here that this is not a Young Adult book, as everyone automatically assumes, because that’s the current super trend in publishing right now. No, this is for children in the 8 to 12 age range. In other words something Sophie and Felix can read as soon as it’s published, or if they behave: as it’s being written. (You think blog and magazine critics are bad? They have nothing on these two.) Which makes a total of seven books backed up in my head, all of which are urging me to get out and spread themselves across the page. I need to get this stuff written! So I’d like the world to stop shoving holidays in my face and please let me get on with it. Thank you.

The more numerically astute among you will notice the maths doesn’t quite add up here. What started out two years ago as a nice idea for a twenty page illustrated kids story has now developed into a three book series with the provisional title: The Books of the Realms. One day I really will do a slim stand alone book. Don’t hold your breath.

So, Cornwall. Once again I was out on the beach in StIves with my (ahem) learner surf board, which is but a short swift step on the way to using my real surfboard. This thing is basically the size of a table top and made from very buoyant foam. Anyone can stand up on one of those. Except perhaps someone of my age and weight. Anyway, I feel I now have a possible new author photo for the cover of the next book.

Then again maybe not. I will be back to Cornwall to continue my Canute-like battle with the waves in the autumn. My innocent suggestion to Mrs H that I spend the summer down in Cornwall by myself to ‘research’ how to surf were met with a words a lot worse than curmudgeon, the sentence also included: No.

Eastercon this year was in Birmingham. I’ve never been Guest of Honour at this convention before, and every time I’ve attended I haven’t quite noticed how hard the guests work. As usual, there were plenty of interesting panels which I would like to go to myself, and as usual between my panels I wound up in the bar catching up with people I haven’t seen in ages. Big thanks to the organisers who invited me and made sure I was very well looked after. And thanks also to everyone who came along to my events and helped make them so enjoyable. It’s always a pleasant surprise when I do get out of the shed go into the real world and actually meet readers. If I wasn’t such a curmudgeon I’d do it more often.

I usually end these posts on a round up of what DVDs and films I’ve seen and albums I’ve listened to. However in an attempt to appear topical I’m just going to make a comment on the Big Debate about SF and how it doesn’t get noticed/respected by the literary establishment. I don’t give a shit.

Iain Banks wrote a reasonable enough article on this topic in this week’s Guardian, which I would normally completely ignore except there were comments which included me. Ego simply won’t allow me to pass by on the other side of the road. Therefore in the interests of that other well known internet hobby of SF authors embracing our one star reviews, the relevant sections were...

By thomas333

It's true, Iain. Highbrow literary types playing at sci-fi tend to make themselves look stupid by trying things that Sturgeon or Moorcock or whoever did much better decades ago. Although a fair few contemporary skiffy authors are so unbelievably slapdash and half-arsed prose stylists (not you of course; looking at the likes of Peter F Hamilton here) that it's hardly surprising that people think 'surely I could do better than that...' Sci-fi's literary reputation would be higher if its fans would show a spot more discrimination, I reckons.

...followed by...

Devianthinc

What?! I love Peter F Hamilton and think he's second only to Mr Banks with regards to constructing multi-layered and believable societies. The skill at drawn out story telling in the Nights Dawn trilogy was amazing - so many threads wound together in such interesting ways, nothing was rushed and yet despite each book being over 1000pages long I never felt it was dragged out. They're not sci-fi novels of unique ideas (most of them have appeared before in one form or another), but I love the combination of sophisticated ideas and gung-ho action. The only downer is the fall-back to young, male, protagonists with Bond-like charm (something I seem to remember Iain talking about when I saw him speak at the De La Warr - a brilliant night BTW). But like the article says - Hamilton really engages in the dialogue of sci-fi. That said, I've recently read Quantum Thief, which has all the action of either a Banks or Hamilton novel, but with ideas from the frontier of sci-fi that make both Banks and Hamilton seem terribly crude and out dated by comparison - sorry Iain (I still think you're brilliant).

...I owe Deviantinc a drink, I think. And then came thomas333 again...

To me Hamilton comes up with some really great big ideas. This makes his tendency to write sentences that make me want to gouge out my own eyes still more regrettable. (Not too keen on the tendency to pad works out into thousand-page behemoths with descriptions of what people had for breakfast, bullshit about their property development businesses and totally uncalled-for sex scenes, either!) I faithfully read (and greatly enjoyed) the Nights Dawn, and the commonwealth saga thing was pretty good too. But then having finished the first book of the 'void' trilogy I decided I just couldn't face any more of this stuff - the flaws were much closer to the surface, I felt. To me he feels like he should be a much better writer than he is - his success has maybe meant he's stopped giving a damn about the actual texture of his prose? Feels like he's phoning it in these days. Dunno.

Right then, I really have to go and check my phone bill.

Peter F. Hamilton
Rutland
May 2011

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