Archive for March, 2009

BSFS Meeting

March 31, 2009

Last night’s meeting of the Bristol SF & Fantasy Society pulled an unprecedented 15 attendees. Scary — we hit double figures and beyond!

And there’s talk of an event in September. More details to follow.

And today the actual copies of Future Bristol arrived. Yippee!


P-Con Nearing

March 27, 2009

In about two and a half hours I’m off to Dublin for Phoenix Con VI, so I’ll go quiet for a couple of days, unless I’m one of the people lucky enough to get wi-fi access. I’m looking forward to it — despite the fact that the slavedrivers have put me on four panels and a ‘meet the author’ session.

Winning The Lottery

March 26, 2009

My day job is in a hospital  working about fifteen hours a week. It’s a balancing act between how few hours I can do to keep our finances ticking over while not slowing up work on the next novel.

At least that’s the theory.

In practice my employers will go to extraordinary lengths to delay paying their staff.

For a three day week, I have to complete no less than twenty-seven data entries on a time-sheet; my name, NI number, employee number, and for each day the date, start time, end time, break, total hours worked, and location. On top of that my boss has to complete four more entries for each day worked.

If any of them are omitted or filled in incorrectly in any way, my pay for that week is delayed while the query is resolved. Furthermore, the complexities of our National Insurance scheme mean that if I get two weeks pay in one week, and none in the other, rather than pay in both weeks, I lose about £10.50 per time. Furthermore, if anyone else makes an error, or there delays because of the internal post, I again lose out. 

Then they decided to cut all lines of communication apart from a web form that can only be filled in on the employer’s intranet site.

On at three occasions this year my pay has been delayed because of my own errors — but on another four occasions it’s been delayed by someone else’s mistake or procedural change.

That means that fifteen per cent of my pay has been delayed by a week.

Sometimes I feel that I’d be better off doing the lottery. Sometimes when I get paid, it feels as if I’ve won the lottery.

My Own Personal Twilight Zone Moment

March 24, 2009

As I sat on the bus on the way home tonight, I toyed with what music I wanted to listen to while I worked. I decided that since it had been years since I’d listened to the Don’t Look Back album from Boston, I’d like to hear it again. It’s over thirty years old now, but it’s a great side one especially. 

Unfortunately I only have it on vinyl, so  I decided to download it from Napster.

Half an hour later I wrote a disgusted note to them, got the album down from the attic, and cleared the clutter off the turntable.

While the album was playing I caught up on correspondence, and then decided to see what my teenage heroes were up to nowadays.

And as vocalist Brad Delp launched into A Man I’ll Never Be, came the TZ  moment — bearing in mind that I’d not listened to the album in years– as Delp sang "I can’t get any stronger/ I can’t climb any higher / You’ll never know just how hard I’ve tried," I read the awful newsof his suicide two years ago.

I know that it’s pure coincidence, I know that there’s no significance to it, but I’ve never felt so weirded out.

I shot across and had that damned album off the turntable before you could say "Tom Sholtz."

Hopefully things will return to normal the next time I get out an old album.

Pyrrhic Victory

March 23, 2009

I think I may just have lost a sale, due to speaking my mind.

A piece that I submitted some time ago came back to me for revisions. No issue there; I’m happy to make changes as per an editor’s requests.

"I would like you to…." is fine. What I won’t tolerate is questions in caps (= shouting) or repeated comments like "You need to…"

I don’t need to do anything to a piece. I *need* to pay my rent, and go to work in the morning. That is *need*.

So I wrote saying exactly that, politely but firmly. I added that he will have the revisions next week, but I suspect that I’ll get a terse note back saying "Don’t bother."

But sod it, I’m being paid for my work, not to be a punch-bag for some upstart who wants to vent his creative spleen on me.

I’ll just have to write something else instead. It may be a pyrrhic victory, but I’ll settle for that.

Sunshine = Productivity?

March 22, 2009

It’s been another lovely sunny day, although that’s due to end soon, and it’s a real pleasure being able to take the laptop out into the garden while Kate reads. If I sit with my back to the sun, I can keep working without losing the laptop’s screen in the sun. I’m not sure whether there’s an established link between sunshine and productivity, but certainly my productivity has soared this week

Today I’ve written the obligatory 000 words, thereby passing the midpoint of Damage Time, finished reading –and reviewed– The Interpreter by Brian Aldiss, written most of a capsule article on Brian Aldiss for the benefit of the less knowledgeable readers on Suite101, and read –and reviewed, as well– most of Interzone 221.

It’s back to work in the bowels of the Eye Hospital tomorrow, which is one of the reasons why I want to get ahead.

 Another reason is that I’m in Dublin next weekend for P-Con VI. I’m on some interesting panels:-

13:00 Sat – Room 2 – Money in SF

How does it work, and how much is a Credit worth in Euro anyway?

16:00 Sat – Room 2 – High Priests and Priestesses of Love

An agony aunt response to questions of love supplied, anonymously, by Convention members.

 14:00 Sun – Room 2 – The End of the World as We Know it?

Are we about to enter the standard issue dystopia that sf has been warning us about (fluctuating oil prices, economic collapse, global warming etc.)?

 15:00 Sun – Room 2 – Genre fiction magazines

Genre fiction magazines are finding it more difficult to survive.  What are the options for survival, or are they a "dead horse"?

 If anyone has any thoughts on these topics, do share…



March 21, 2009

Wales 15, Ireland 17.

I’ll be in Dublin next Friday. I have a feeling that after 61 years of waiting for a second ever Grand Slam, the place will still be rocking.


March 21, 2009

I’m happy for Mary Robinette Kowal, whose marvellous ‘Evil Robot Monkey’ is now on the Hugo ballot for Best Short Story, and deservedly so, and Aliette de Bodard, nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer. Equally deserving.

But sad for my friend Ted Kosmatka, who wrote the wonderful ‘Divining Light’ and ‘The Art of Alchemy’ and hasn’t seen either of them get the appreciation that they deserve, and James Moran, whose ‘The Fires of Pompeii’ is IMHO the best ever Doctor Who episode.

Oh well, I’m sure that their reward will come in time.

Mass Production

March 20, 2009

It’s been a good day today.

I got my 000 words written by 11 am, and this afternoon reviewed issue 4 of Polluto magazine — the review will appear soon– and this evening tore a friend’s synopsis to pieces (in a good cause, of course!).

In between I managed to replace the speakers on the new PC, help Kate get four bags of compost back from the garden centre, and most enjoyably went for lunch with Kate at the pub. As I drank my second pint and ate my fish and chips,  I commented that this was one of the joys of being self-employed, sitting in the sun, watching the office workers bolting their food.

Kate corrected me: “This was the point of being self-employed.”

She’s right. But the sunshine wouldn’t have been half so enjoyable if I hadn’t got all that work done.

New PC

March 19, 2009

I had my new PC delivered today.

The good news was that it worked and it was fast.

The bad news was the installers hadn’t copied across any of the programmes across as they had agreed to do, so the files were inaccessible, and they denied that they’d ever agreed to do so.

Good news came a little later when one of the staff rang back and said that he hadn’t been in the shop when the manager put my irate phone call on speakerphone but as he’d heard what had happened came shooting over to fit the missing programmes.

Bad news came when I turned on the speakers to find that one of the jacks didn’t find the socket.  Nice of the original installers to mention that.

Guess I’ll be going back to the shop tomorrow….