Archive for the ‘Life’ Category


Monday, January 2nd, 2012

The rumors as to my kidnapping at the hands of fanged space rabbits are unfounded. I have returned. But things are not as they were. To wit: I’m now living in Los Angeles, and I have a new novel coming out this spring. Which I will tell you all about in due course!

But enough about me, I know that what you really care about is seeing a photo of my new kitten. His name is Catticus Finch, and though his older “brothers” Ajax and Captain Zoom find him somewhat annoying at times (because he only has two speeds, Asleep and Insanely Hyper), they have accepted that this is now a three-beast household. My sister tells me this essentially makes me a crazy cat guy, to which I plead GUILTY AS FUCK.

And btw, happy new year!

Norwescon Schedule

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

I’m heading to lovely Seattle in a few hours for Norwescon; here’s my schedule of panels:

Friday, 1 p.m. Tomorrow’s World: What amazing advances in technology are about to change the way we live?

Friday, 4 p.m. Energy Weapons: A Reality Check.

Friday, 10:30 pm. Reading. (Incidentally, this’ll be the very first reading ever from the third book!)

Saturday 2 p.m.  The Clarion Writers’ Workshop:  What’s It All About?

Saturday 10:30 p.m. Can We Change the World Through Science Fiction?

Hope to see you there!

Ten books

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

If it’s a viral meme, count me in. Besides, it’s not like I need an excuse to talk about my favorite books. In no particular order:

1. American Tabloid, by James Ellroy. Ellroy’s foray into political conspiracies continued through two more books (Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s a Rover) but this is the standout: a whole new way to view the Secret History swirling around JFK in the early 1960s.  I make a point of re-reading AT every year, and it only seems to get better each time.

2.  Thucydides, the Peloponnesian War. The genius who invented the whole idea that history could be objective. . even though he was one of the combatants in the war he was chronicling.  I recommend the illustrated version, which has a map on every single page.  This isn’t one of those books where you can just put some maps at the beginning, and turn back to them to find the name of that damn town that’s somewhere on this isthmus . . . or maybe over here. . ah fuck it.

3.  V for Vendetta, Alan Moore.  Superheroes have never really done that much for me, which I suspect is one reason why I regard V rather than Watchmen as Moore’s masterpiece.  Btw, have you ever noticed how both graphic novels have a character achieving an epiphany through hallucinogenics?

4.  Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, The Illuminatus Trilogy.  Okay, technically that’s three books, but they’re published as one volume, so there.  Crowley, giant yellow submarines, Cthulu, talking dolphins and the hint that this is more of a gateway than a book:  Wilson and Shea put themselves on the map for good with this one.

5.  Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah.  I may be the only person out there who thinks this is better than Dune (though before you send me hate-mail, I’m obsessed with them both).  Only a portion of the length of its predecessor, the second book focuses on a single problem:  how do you conspire against a being that can see the future?  Messiah also includes the best single quote in SF:  “This whole thing is explosive.  It’s ready to shatter.  When it goes, it will send bits of itself out through the centuries.  Don’t you see this?”

6.  John LeCarre, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Another book focused on a specific problem:  how do you find a double-agent when that double-agent works in your own counterintelligence department, and by definition will be aware of any investigation?  The climax is all dialogue and all the more devastating for it.  My agent actually pitched my work to Bantam as “LeCarre on sci-fi crack”; hype, sure, but hey, that’s what you have an agent for.   But I guess it’s fitting, as I probably read more LeCarre than I did science fiction while I was working on the first Autumn Rain novel.

7.  Edward Gibbon, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  What I love about Gibbon is that he just doesn’t stop; he kept his history going all the way up to 1453, when the Turks overran Constantinople–three volumes across a few thousand pages, and not once does his style falter.  Virginia Woolf called his sentences “finely crafted jewels”; they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

8. Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger.  Here Wilson throws off the fiction guise and talks directly and dispassionately about what’s really going on, politically and metaphysically.  Best line:  “study enough conspiracy theory and you ultimately become either paranoid or agnostic.  I became agnostic.” It’s also fascinating for what it tells us of the man’s own life story; not your typical entry into the counterculture, that’s for sure.

9.  Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel.  The third history book I’ve listed, but if you only read one, read this one.  For me, this was a whole new way of looking at history. Did you know it all depends on how many types of domesticated animals your civilization has?  Me neither.

10.  Isaac Asimov, Foundation and Empire.  The great thing about Asimov is that he didn’t dumb his stuff down; instead he pulls the audience up to his level. And I guess FAE would have to be my favorite; not only do we have the dapper wonderkind general Bel Riose, but the novella involving the (first) search for the Mule has an ending that blew my eighth-grade mind, and still does today.

Peter Watts Convicted

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Peter Watts was convicted this past Friday of obstructing a border guard. His own post on the matter is so stoic as to verge on the heroic; I seriously doubt were I the one to be punched in the face by a border guard that I’d be as calm and dispassionate as Watts.  Worth noting, too, is that he wasn’t convicted of the assault charge, even though the press continues to report it in those terms. Given that members of the jury have written to Watts expressing their dismay at the wording of the statute under which they were forced to convict him, one can only hope that the judge sees reason, lectures the cops from the bench, and hands Watts a suspended sentence.

One thing I find fascinating about how all this has played out is that it’s very much a Rorshasch test for one’s own proclivities.  The law n’ order anger-management types out there are crowing about how Watts Got What He Deserved, while those who think Uncle Sam Sucks are damning the “stupid” jury for not engaging in jury nullification while they rant on about how awful and corrupt America has become.  I’m certainly not going to claim any special objectivity on this; Watts is a good friend of mine, not to mention the reason I’m in print.  But as the man’s noted in his work, we don’t make as many conscious decisions as we might like to think; we simply ratify decisions already made for us by our subconscious/hindbrains.  Much of the reaction to his own ordeal is a case in point.

The origins of Homeworld

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Gaming goddess Roz Clarke has posted an interview with me about my part in the first Homeworld game, and the relationship between gameplay and narrative.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone on record regarding my experiences with Homeworld, beyond simply saying that it changed my life.  But now the full story can be told.

Happy Birthday to ME

Friday, March 5th, 2010

I’m 39 today.

People keep asking me how does it feel to be old?

The scarier question is how does it feel to be middle-aged?

Pretty good, actually.

Especially since right now I’m having coffee while watching Captain Zoom lick his ass with the carefree abandon of a creature who cares nothing for birthdays, and is, as Borges pointed out, effectively immortal, given that he knows fuck-all about death.

I told him, but he wouldn’t listen.  I said, “Captain Zoom, death will come and wrap you in its steely arms, hahahaahahahahaahahaha.”

He pondered this, and then continued to lick his ass.

RIP Polly’s Cafe U Street

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

U Street in D.C has done a lot of transmogrifying in recent years–some of it for the better, some of it  . . .well, the latest casualty is Polly’s, which had been around for donkey’s years, and was one of the diviest dive bars you were likely to come across.  I rode my bike over there last night for a burger and a beer only to find a handwritten note on the door saying that place had seen its last day.

Nor was its passing mourned in all quarters.  Local blogger  Prince of Petworth gives it a justified shout-out, but many of the commenters seem to have been put off by alleged olfactory issues across its final phase.  In the spirit of full disclosure, my sense of smell sucks, and I always sat near the window anyway, where I didn’t have to listen to gentrified fuckwits complain about how they didn’t have their favorite designer ale on tap.  I can forgive a lot if a bar has welded metal sculpture, a wood fire and more than its share of my favorite drinking memories from the last decade and a half.

(Though I got my burger and beer at Saint Ex, which rocked as always.)

Return to the UK

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

I’m flying to the UK tomorrow for my grandmother’s funeral.  This will be the first time I’ve been back in two and a half years.

My grandmother was born in 1916, same year that zeppelins rained bombs on London.  She hadn’t recognized anyone in a long while now; after my grandfather (to whom BURNING SKIES is dedicated) died in 2003, she endured a long decline, both physical and mental.  So her passing is closure of a kind.

I was fortunate, in that when I worked for these guys, I was sent across the pond at least three times a year, and always made sure to spend spare time up at my grandparents’ house in Hitchin.  And the flights were great, too:  six to eight hours of uninterrupted hacking away at Autumn Rain and their ilk.  I remember like it was yesterday the pissed-off guy in the seat in front of me asking me if I could stop typing so hard.  How could I explain to him that the words were burning so hot I couldn’t help it?  I wanted so badly to get the books published while my grandparents were still alive and cognizant.  But there are some things we don’t get to choose, and most of the ones that matter come down to timing.

The new kittens!

Friday, September 25th, 2009

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the two new members of the Williams household, shown here while studying the habits of fake mice in bathtubs. photoThey are:

CAPTAIN ZOOM (aka “the White Lion”):  When Zoom purrs, it sounds like a lawnmower starting up.  And he is always purring:  possibly the most extroverted cat I’ve ever met.  This is good news, because his friend is a little shyer, and needs someone to set an example.

AJAX (aka “L’Orange”):   For the first few days, Ajax was convinced the entire thing was a trap, and that any moment now he and Zoom would be consumed with gusto.  However, discovering the pleasures of the Belly Rub made him forget any such theories, and now he rivals Zoom in his quest for attention.

THEIR MISSION:  should they choose to accept it . . .  to consume fish at prodigious rates, chase each other at 3 in the morning, and sleep all afternoon.  We’ll see if they can handle it.

Leave no pet behind

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Fellow SF Novelist Dave Freer is emigrating from South Africa to Australia, but the costs of quarantine and transport for his four pets run to 19K. He’s set up a special storytellers bowl site where you can contribute $ to an ongoing novel he’s working on; please consider doing so, as those pet-owners out there know how hard it would be to leave an animal behind.

And speaking of animals, there will be a Special Pet Announcement on this site shortly.  The search for Spartacus’ successor is over!  Stay tuned for details.