Sunday, 22 June 2014

People and Paper

Before I forget, I wanted to mention something cool that happened at a wedding recently.

I was stood outside the venue, sipping a Prosecco in the sun, when I was tapped on the shoulder and introduced to a lad of about ten years old. His mum explained that the boy (let’s call him Tom) was a science fiction fan.

We shook hands. Tom said that his absolute favourite was Doctor Who. We discussed the relative merits of television Doctors for a few minutes, then moved on to the novels. He said he preferred the books to the TV show, because books could do things that TV couldn’t.

Listening to this brilliant, bright kid speak, I realised I had an opportunity. I could ask a bonafide next generation reader how he likes to consume his books.

The point is, I like my collection. It's been torn apart, displaced and rebuilt many times since I was Tom’s age - but in my early teens I was spoilt enough to build up great stacks of comics: 2000AD, Groo, Asterix. Paperbacks too: George Orwell and Roald Dahl. Much of it's lost or boxed up now, but in those years I was a conscientious curator. My friends were too.

I’ve often wondered: has this all changed? Some commentary gives the impression that today’s kids have no need of shelves, only access to the great cloud. You could easily believe that the days of hardcopies are numbered. Oh, I’ve heard arguments against that, but mostly from authors and publishing folk, which naturally feel unreliable. It seems a sad notion, that future children might sit in empty rooms, with no clutter save a single, glowing slab.

I asked Tom if he did all his reading on Kindle.

“No, I like books,” he said firmly.

“You collect them?”

He said that he did, but noted that his pocket money restricted him to one book a month, so it was slow going.

It’s probably obvious to someone who has children, but I was surprised and delighted: so the kids are still building little libraries. For now, at least, they’re still re-shuffling shelves, preserving paper, accumulating treasure.

Bless the lot of them, I say. May Tom’s shelves overflow, and the collector spirit live on.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

So a few thoughts on Edge of Tomorrow before I forget: saw it at the Vue, a great dirty brick of a multiplex, after cheeseburgers and coffee. (MacDonalds coffee is good. Is that bad?)

1. Weasel factor: I like that this movie has the guts to have its main character start out as a scumbag. His cowardly attempts at draft dodging are engaging, because you can relate to someone who’s terrified of being shot to pieces in battle.

2. Tom Cruise. I think he might actually be getting better as an actor. He does simple things well. Oblivion and War of the Worlds were average, but he was oddly watchable in them. He’s good in this too.

3. Paxton Squad: they were a little weak. Not terrible, but casting Bill can’t help but make you compare it to Aliens. It actually has a decent stab at doing the Sulaco Squad thing, but it’s not quite confident enough.

4. Rita Vrataski: The Director might have been slightly in love with Blunt, but that’s fine - he hasn’t tried to smother the script with romance. Refreshingly her character’s not defined solely as love interest.

5. Hollywood Ending. It’s a harsh thing to say about what is a very strong script with a much better sense of humour than most of its peers - but I think they might have had a bit more fun with the last five minutes.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Barricade: it's publication week

Very brilliant to say that we have reached publication week for Barricade!

Heaps of cool stuff's been happening - last Sunday I was privileged to take part in a panel discussion at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, talking all things science fiction with the very brilliant Stephen Hunt, Mitch Benn and Ben Aaronovitch.

It was great to meet such accomplished folk and sip a beer with them afterwards. My editor Simon did a top job moderating, noting that it took ten minutes for the conversation to turn to Star Wars/ Trek. I brought up Star Trek: Voyager, which I guess made me the most hopeless case of all...

Meanwhile the brilliant team at Gollancz have been getting the word out near and far, through Barricade "taking over" the website at sfx, and by previewing the first few chapters for free on the splendid Gollancz blog.

Opening this week is the blog tour  - a heap of articles I've penned to share with the scifi community's premier bloggers - I will post all the links here in one batch the moment they're up but the calendar is right here...

The book's got a few cracking early reviews, which I will post soon. Finally, just remember you can buy the ebook for £1.99 on Amazon until the end of the week. That is actually cheaper than chips - round here anyway...