Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Spacerocks



I'll be participating in Spacerocks, a one-day event at the Indigo in London on April 22nd, 2018. Other guests will include Tim Peake and Charlotte Hatherley, one of whom has been into space, and one of whom has played on several rather fabulous records - two equally noteworthy accomplishments, in my world.

Spacerocks has a Facebook page, which you can visit here:

https://www.facebook.com/spacerocksofficial

There is also a Twitter handle: @spacerockslive

And an Instagram thing which I don't really understand.

I'll be posting more information in the coming weeks. It should be tremendous fun.

Al

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Direct from Mexico

I bet my wife a bottle of beer that Trump wouldn't make it to the end of his first year.



I lost.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Mark E Smith

Mark E Smith, who died on January 24th at the age of 60, was the singer and primer mover behind The Fall, one of the most enduring and prolific groups to emerge from the British punk explosion in the mid 1970s. Smith's death came as a jolt, but not quite a shock, as it had been clear for some months that he was in very poor health. Of course I had hoped that he would make a recovery and resume touring, but the omens were not good.

The Fall's music had been an all-consuming obsession of mine for nearly thirty years. I felt that I came to them rather late, for they had already been active for a decade when I bought my first Fall record, The Frenz Experiment, which I obtained from the bargain bin in a branch of John Menzies, in St Andrews, Scotland, in 1989. 


I think it was always my favorite Fall record, or certainly a consistent fixture in the top three. (The other record I bought that day, incidentally, and which I also still own, was a copy of OMD's The Pacific Age). 

In hindsight 1989 was a good time to get into The Fall as they were both visible and prolific, attaining a degree of mainstream success that, while not quite making them a household name, was still a relative high-water mark in their career. They were on the radio quite a lot; their posters were in student bedrooms, they were mentioned in pop-culture in things like Viz, Irvine Welsh and Martin Millar books. John Peel was still a central figure in UK radio and the Fall were never far from doing another session. They were on a major label (not with The Frenz Experiment, but with Extricate, which came out the same year, on Fontana) and this flirtation with conventional success would continue for a few more years, with perhaps the last gasp being 1993's Infotainment Scan, which got quite high in the album charts. In 1991, a song of theirs was even used in the soundtrack to the film Silence of the Lambs - yet mixed so low in the scene that even diehard Fall fans might have missed it.

The Fall - and Smith - were a unique and prickly proposition. Their early records are the only ones that fit into any preconceived musical categories, being steeped in garage/punk/rockabilly. Within a few years, though, they were off the map - any map. There was a deep weirdness to both the music and Smith's worldview that was barely tempered by the LA pop-rock influence brought to the band by Brix E Smith, whom Smith had married. The music took repetition to unheard of extremes. Smith's lyrics, delivered with the hectoring intensity of someone trying to control a village fete through a malfunctioning megaphone, veered from sci-fi to psychedelia, taking in Philip K Dick, drugs, MR James, drugs, time-travel, ghosts, drugs, psychic phenomena, the North, while at the same time railing against (it seemed) all other groups, all other musical personalities, all other forms of music, all other human beings, barring those born within a very specific part of Salford/Manchester. Over the years Smith's antipathy to the "south" and "southerners" would encroach further and further north, until even "South Manchester" was too far south for him. He had little time for fans in the conventional sense of the word, and even less interest in his own recordings.

I saw them on about half a dozen occasions over twenty years, with all but one of those concerts taking place in the Netherlands. I never met Smith, although I dreamt about him with some regularity. The closest I got was the occasion when I gave a lift to Neville Wilding, a guitarist who played with the band for a short period around the end of the century. Due to some mix-up or disagreement, Nev had been required to make his own way across the English Channel and needed ferrying from the Hook of Holland to Nijmegen. A friend and I picked him up in my 1989 BMW and drove him to the venue in time for the sound check. Nev insisted we stop at a petrol station and buy quite a large amount of beer, so we did. On the drive, Nev sat in the backseat cracking open one tinny after the next. Later, I carried his guitar inside for him. I didn't have a ticket for that performance, but I did catch them a night or two later. Oddly, Neville was walking out just as we arrived at the venue. He gave us a cheery wave as he passed - turned out he'd been sacked, just one of the sixty-odd members of the group to pass through  the ever-revolving turnstile of The Fall. He did return to the band for a period, I believe.

I had one other, minor link to the band's music. In 1994, at the dawn of the World Wide Web, I signed up for a mailing list dedicated to The Fall. It was a way for Fall fans to share their enthusiasm for the band, trade stories, discuss gigs and hard-to-find releases, and I found it invaluable. In fact, I'm still on it, nearly a quarter of a century later. Early on, though, one of the main "jobs" for people on the list was to transcribe lyrics, so that we could all pick over them and puzzle out their meaning. Quite a lot of the catalogue hadn't been done, so I volunteered to transcribe "Athlete Cured", one of the tracks off The Frenz Experiment. My transcription eventually entered the "lyrics parade" and as far as I'm aware any transcription of Athlete Cured on the internet now probably derives from my initial version, which was done by painstakingly lifting and lowering the needle on my vinyl copy.

I bought every Fall album, of which there were many, and there is still no group or musician whose output comes close to rivalling them, in terms of the number of official and semi-official releases. Neil Young would be the next, but I don't think even Neil touches The Fall - although of course we can hope for more Neil Young recordings, and there will be nothing new from Mark E Smith.

Smith was not necessarily the most likable person in music, but he was admirable, and single-minded, and possessed of tremendous energy and imagination, and for those of who tuned into the fringes of his deeply weird mind, nothing would ever be the same again. Thank you for the music, Mark.





Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Ursula Le Guin

"She was a better writer than any of us, past or present – we have lost our benchmark of excellence."

Christopher Priest has said all that needs to be said. I had never met her, nor read enough of her, but I regard The Lathe of Heaven as one of the greatest SF novels of the last fifty years.

Read the rest of Christopher Priest's remarks here:

https://christopher-priest.co.uk/ursula

Friday, 5 January 2018

New Prefect Dreyfus story

In advance of Elysium Fire, which appears at the end of this month, I've written a short story featuring Prefect Dreyfus, and which I hope will serve as a gentle introduction to the world of Panoply and the Glitter Band for those who have yet to read the first novel.

You can read "Open and Shut" over at the Gollancz blog:

https://www.gollancz.co.uk/2018/01/open-shut-short-story-alastair-reynolds/

I hope you enjoy it.

Al

Monday, 4 December 2017

Two things that are new, some stories, and another novel

I've been head-down writing a new book for most of this year, so updates have been few and far between, especially these last few months. I'm pleased to have delivered the book in question, the direct sequel to Revenger, and hope to share a bit more news about it as we go through the usual editing cycle. The book does have a provisional title, but it won't be Revealer, although you'll see that listed here and there. That was a working-working title which wasn't ever meant to be shared with the world, although I really ought to know by now that these things soon escape into reality.

What can I say about it? Not much. Like Revenger, it's a first person narrative, but the voice this time belongs to Adrana, not Fura, and I think that lends the book a somewhat different feel, as well as giving us a different eye on Fura. I think it fair to say that this book is "dark". My next full-length novel will be a continuation of their story.

I might as well mention a few short story related things while I'm at it, some of which have been touched on in earlier posts.

"Holdfast", my story in Extrasolar (edited by Nick Gevers) has now been published, in a very handsome hardcover edition from PS Publishing:

http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/extrasolar-hardcover-edited-by-nick-gevers-4319-p.asp


"Night Passage", my new story in the Revelation Space universe, appeared in Infinite Stars, edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and I'm pleased to say that it's already been picked up by one of the "Year's Best" anthologies.

https://titanbooks.com/infinite-stars-9264/

"Belladonna Nights", which takes place in the House of Suns universe (but prior to that novel) should appear in Subterranean Press's The Weight of Words before the end of 2017, although I've yet to see a copy:

https://subterraneanpress.com/slider-tabs/at-the-printer/mckean-the-weight-of-words

And that story has also been picked up for one of the Year's Bests, and I'm delighted by that as well.

I also wrote a story, exactly 2001 words long, for a tribute anthology to a certain author born one hundred years ago, but it now looks as if that book will be delayed until next year. More news on that one in due course.

Other than that, the only outstanding story of mine is "Different Seas", which will appear in Twelve Tomorrows, from MIT Press, again in 2018, although as yet I can't find a link to the coming edition.

So what else is new?

First up, the Foruli limited edition of Revelation Space is now out in the world, and, although I say it myself, I think it's an extremely impressive and desirable thing. It probably deserves a blog post all to itself, but for now, you can learn a bit more about it here:

https://foruli.co.uk/editions/revelation-space

(Click on the "images" tab to see a hint of the art prints that come with the signature edition).

It's taken quite a few years to get this thing into existence, but I think the wait has been worth it, and I hope the book does well for Foruli. Obviously, it's not cheap, but that's what "limited edition" means, and I think Reynolds completists, if such beings exist, will definitely want this.

The other thing that those hypothetical completists might want - and again, this merits a post of its own -  is the new album by Sound of Ceres, who are Ryan and Karen Hover from Colorado, and who make quite lovely music.

https://soundofceres.bandcamp.com/

Because, other than being very enjoyable in its own right, the record includes an original piece of fiction by me. That's right, a brand new short story, otherwise unavailable. It's not just any old vignette, either. I was sent the lyrics, and some early mixes of the tracks, earlier this year, and I tried to riff off the images and moods therein, creating a short story that has an integral relationship with the sounds on the album. It's a beautiful recording, especially in the vinyl edition, and very much recommended for those who enjoy dreampop, Cocteaus, analog synth sounds and so on. Really rather fantastic.

That's it for now. I have a short story to write next, then a novella, and then back into the world of Revenger. I hope all is well with everyone and wish you a satisfactory end to the year.

Al





Sunday, 12 November 2017

Sherlock Holmes: Indestructible

In 1942 Basil Rathone and Nigel Bruce starred in their third film together, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror. Set during the second world war, rather than the more usual late Victorian period, this briskly paced film includes a title card which explains that the titular detective is "ageless, invincible and unchanging".

Before we are introduced to any of the characters, the central problem is made clear. A Nazi propaganda station is broadcasting as "The Voice of Terror", crowing over recent military successes and making stark threats about sabotage attacks which have either happened or are just happening as the broadcast takes place. As the radio transmission plays out, we are shown some of these terrible events. In one sequence, for instance, we are informed that "an important diplomat boarded a train at a little station outside Liverpool", followed by shots of the signal levers being worked by seemingly ghostly means, leading to the rails being divided and a catastrophic crash, with the train hurtling off the tracks and down a ravine. Throughout the broadcast the phrase "This is the Voice of Terror" is repeated in ominous fashion.



I couldn't help wondering if this fictionalised version of Nazi propaganda broadcasts might have been the direct inspiration for the alien threats at the start of each episode (or sometimes after a lengthy "cold open") of Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons - see here, for instance, at around 6.15 minutes:


Tonally, they are very similar, and of course the Mysterons often went about their acts of alien sabotage by ghostly means, making levers work by themselves, etc. There is also the matter of Captain Scarlet's Mysteron-induced invulnerability, making him ageless, invincible and unchanging. Elementary, one might almost say.