Don’t miss out! These will go fast…
Delighted to be the first Book Of The Week at the Steampunk Community Bookshop on Facebook with the Factory Girl trilogy.
The anthology No More Heroes is now available to pre-order from PS Publishing. Edited by Ian Whates, the collection celebrates musical heroes who we have lost too soon, and includes my story ‘The Birth Of Liquid Plejades’ about Edgar Froese. The collection features stories by other authors, many familiar to genre fans: Keith Brooke, Tim Lebbon, Storm Constantine, Neil Williamson and many others. Not to be missed! This will sell out soon, so don’t delay…
After Memory Seed and Glass were published, I, like a lot of midlist authors, was dropped by Orbit. However, interest continued in my debut during the years that followed, leading me to write three short stories beginning at or set in the Spired Inn, a location I used throughout the novel.
The first was written for Keith Brooke’s Infinity Plus, then a site online for British authors in particular. Called The Green Realm Below, it told of events over a vast time scale, allowing the reader to experience the future of Kray away from Zinina and the Clocktower. The second was written for an anthology and was called Dr Vanchovy’s Final Case. This was fun to write – a detective story, set almost entirely in the Spired Inn. I brought in two male characters, the titular detective and Barakystys, a youth employed by Dhow-lin. The third story was called Granny, and detailed the harsh life-or-death rituals and customs of the Cemetery revellers, not least Granny herself.
These three stories received little coverage, and after the third one I moved on to other projects. Fast forward to 2018 and I received an email from my friend Ian Whates at Newcon Press. We had for some years discussed an anthology of my stories, but never managed to make it happen, so Ian suggested we extract the three Krayan tales from what we already had and that I write two new stories to make a new work. I was absolutely thrilled to receive this request, not least because it gave me a bona fide excuse to make a final return to Kray. In addition, the work was guaranteed publication with Newcon, making it an attractive proposition for me.
Writing Funeral For A Pyuter and First Temple (which featured the return of Barakystys) was a delight. I was amazed how easy it was for me to immerse myself once again in Kray. I think that city and the scenario as a whole must represent me in some deep way, because I’d forgotten none of it and felt all the old fascinations. Ian’s offer also allowed me to write a piece set in the Galactic Quarter, which I had not properly visited in the original novel.
The new cover for the 25th anniversary edition of Memory Seed echoes the Art Nouveau-styled cover I designed for Tales From The Spired Inn. The two books are definitely of a piece.
All in all, writing the Newcon anthology was a wonderful experience for a lucky author.
Here are the links to the new paperback edition of Memory Seed.
The 25th anniversary edition is out today from all the usual places!
The Climate Emergency in 2021 is worse than ever. In 1992, I was thinking about global warming, the ozone hole and humanity’s ethical attitude to the planet. Many people thought about CO2 and spray cans, but fewer considered how we should be conceiving nature and the environment. As individualistic Westerners, most, if not all of my readership considered themselves apart from nature, if not actually above it, and perhaps would have been surprised by my advocacy of ethical change. I’ve long thought the Climate Emergency requires an ethical solution, not a technological one – or, at least, an ethical solution with a bit of technology thrown in. The problem is our carbonised technology, yes; but below that is a deeper layer. Us.
Of late it has become rather unfashionable to claim human beings are qualitatively different to animals and the rest of nature, because to many people that distinction implies we are a special case deserving special treatment – i.e. we can carry on polluting etc. I say human beings are qualitatively different but don’t deserve special treatment. To use David Attenborough’s mode, we have to co-exist with nature. We do share this planet, and all life is worthy and valuable purely through its existence. Nature has a right to life just as we do. I see no conflict in human beings being conceived as different and in us living ethically with nature on a single planet. We simply have to stop pretending we are the masters with a right to exploit and despoil. We also have to stop pretending we are entirely free. We are not. Living on one planet limits us – a very hard fact to swallow.
The thing is: we have to choose our future. At the moment that is very difficult, because we have not yet learned to create just, insightful societies based on true human needs. What we have at the moment is a terrible array of beasts on our back: narcissism, patriarchy, capitalism, religious and magical thinking, and a basic, widely-shared lack of understanding of ourselves – which, to be fair, is largely due to our current historical position.
Currently, we are beginning to put into place the technological fix, and – who knows? – perhaps that will be in place by 2050 or 2060, as appears necessary. But with humanity currently playing with AI fire and addicted to its own digital media, those beasts on our backs are getting heavier and more powerful. The ethical solution seems to be a long way off.
I hope a time doesn’t arrive when those beasts halt all ethical progress, because then we would be slaves. One of the central messages of Memory Seed is that we can’t be saved – we have to save ourselves. But if we are enslaved, that feat will be almost impossible.
I was young when Memory Seed as it is now known (originally it was Kray) arrived in my conscious mind, and still young when it was published: 30 and 34 respectively. It is not a perfect novel, and there are things I would change. But what things?
One of my main inspirations for the story was environmental destruction being wreaked upon the planet. That destruction had first come to general attention in the 1960s and 1970s, but there was a media focus on it at the end of the 1980s, which deeply affected me. The Green Party made gains in various elections at that time – one of many symptoms of growing unease. I had for a long time been fascinated by James Lovelock’s work, not least the Gaia Theory, though at the time, and to his great annoyance, Gaia was hijacked by a motley band of Green fantasists and New Age nobodies. Though I was never one of their number, I did bend the applicability of Gaia Theory for literary purposes.
The situation of the city of Kray is desperate. These are end times. The final city on Earth, it is under attack from planet-wide deadly vegetation, mutated viruses and germs known generally as the pestilence, and by pollution leading to, amongst many effects, feminisation of male animals and human beings.
In a nutshell, I changed Gaia Theory from science – which it undoubtedly is, since it is generally accepted that it has made accurate predictions, amongst other tests of the Scientific Method – to literary metaphor. In those final scenes when the planet seems to be dashing the last dregs of humanity against the rocks of its own city I expressed the “anger” of the Earth against human beings. That storm seems intended to wipe them off the face of the planet, leaving only the plants, animals and fungi of the penultimate chapter, which, in a literary and real spring, begin recolonising what once was human territory.
Perhaps it is going too far to say I would change that aspect of the book, since those final metaphoric scenes do give the finale their power. But I do need to state that Gaia Theory is not conscious, nor is it teleological. If we describe it as Earth Systems Science (which Gaiaphobes are wont to do) then we see what it really is: a collection of positive and negative feedback loops which, taken as a whole, allow the Earth to regulate its own environment. That regulation is automatic and non-conscious – a process of maths and science.
In fact, in a way I did make this point myself a decade or so later in Urbis Morpheos. In that novel I posited a number of ways conscious characters could interact with the systems of Earth Systems Science. Urbis Morpheos also is about the way human beings perceive and interact with the environment, but, set a million years hence, that includes the manufactured environment, which in my future vision has grown to such an extent the natural environment is limited to havens. And I posited an equivalent: Agaiah.
We should not create an Agaiah, however. We need to understand Gaia.