Sunday, 30 January 2011

MENTIONED IN DESPATCHES

I was told, early on, that the 'quality papers' had an aversion to SF/fantasy and the chances of pulling a review in them difficult. So I'm really pleased that both 'The Times' and 'The Guardian' have mentioned me in despatches.

Yesterday (29th) Kate Saunders (who, I understand, has appeared on an episode of 'Have I Got News For You' so as far as the Rees family is concerned, she MUST be worth listening too) reviewed The Demi-Monde in the 'In Short' section of the Times' Saturday Review. This is what she said;

'In the first of a projected four enormous volumes, the Demi-Monde is a virtual world; the most advanced simulation yet devised. Thirty million people are ruled by the worst tyrants in history and locked in eternal conflict. But something has gone wrong - the 'sim' of Nazi Reinhard Heydrich has kidnapped the president's daughter from the real world and hidden her within the Demi-Monde. Ella Thomas a young jazz singer, sets about rescuing the missing girl by infiltrating Heydrich's virtual domain. Complete nonsense, of course, but incredibly entertaining.'

Nice one, Kate! I had always hoped the DM would entertain and amuse (and hopefully provoke a few thoughts, en route) so being described as 'complete nonsense...but incredibly entertaining' is right on the money. Just like sex, I suppose, and that's pretty popular. I was also pleased that the book had been reviewed outside the usual SF confines...maybe there's real hope that it will appeal to a broader audience.

Eric Brown (ultra-prolific SF writer and possessor of a very neat turn of phrase) writing in 'The Guardian' of 8th January (SF Round-Up) wrote:

'The Demi-Monde is a virtual reality simulation create by the American military to test their soldiers in urban warfare: it's hell, in other words, peopled by such evil historical characters as the Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, Aleister Crowley and Stalin's henchman, Lavrentiy Beria. As if that set-up weren't dark enough, the boffins up the ante by adding religious bigotry, racism and sexism. When the president's daughter gets lost in the simulation, jazz singer Ella Thomas is sent in to retrieve her. Despite the contrived concept, Rees makes the book work: the world he's created is a psychopathic nightmare, while Ella, by contrast, is a touchingly vulnerable heroine whose quest is fraught with both physical and psychological dangers.'

Thanks for that, Eric, much appreciated.

So all-in-all my first encounters with the quality press have been pretty painless. Sigh of relief time.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

RENEGADE WRITERS: 26TH JANUARY

Okay, this week I’m going to concentrate on just one of the pieces read at Renegades. No disrespect to the other readers – it was a very good evening, quality wise – it’s just that I think Peter C is onto something.

He bought back ‘Tumbling Dice’, the story that had made its debut last week. But this was V:2, a revised and rebuffed revision of the original. I think this is an excellent strategy: keep worrying at one thing until it is right. In this case Peter had switched his protagonist to 1st Person mode and I think it works much, much better. But there is still slack, and taking this up will make a good story…great. Some of the ideas knocked around at the meeting were:

• Make Graham and not the hitch-hiker the psychopath. Maybe the hitch-hiker is simply obsessional (forever counting, forever throwing his make-believe dice) but otherwise harmless. Maybe the hitch-hiker’s size and demeanour make him more threatening than he actually is (a big guy must be trouble etc.). This will set up a great twist at the end.

• The ‘as though he read my mind’ tip has to be developed! Ditto, ‘it’s all the same’ regarding the CD tracks.

• In retrospect I think Peter’s right not to make either of the protagonists too uni-dimensional (that’s always my inclination). Make the reader care about them. Bring us into the realisation of their madness gradually. Seduction rather than rape.

• The idea of story being circular has legs. The idea of beginning and ending with the same sentence - ‘I’m going to Brum…that any good for you?’ or something - is pretty creepy!

• The rejection motif is a good one: cars driving past the hitch-hiker; CD being ejected from the player; hitch-hiker too big for the seat…

• Keep the hitch-hiker counting, counting, counting.

I think this could be a f****** great story, but it needs time to mature and that will take another three or four revisions.

And this, folks, is what makes reading groups a blast: someone comes up with something really choice and you get to watch it evolve. A really good evening!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

THE FORTHRIGHT BRIEFING

I did a few blogs for Quercus recently the aim being to try to explain in a painless way the various parts of the Demi-Monde. I came up with an army briefing motif, using one of the characters who will feature in later books, neoFight, Eugene 'Big Bad' Badowski. I thought it would be a good idea to post them on my own blog too.


US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC)

Fort Jackson, neoFight Briefing Area, 8th June, 2018

ATTENSHUN!!!


Along with the other rookies gathered in the hall Private Eugene Badowski rose – reluctantly - to his feet. He hated the briefings given by Captain Simmons: the guy couldn’t lead a dog on a leash.


‘Greetings to all you neoFights of the 5th US Combat Regiment. Please...stand easy.’


The fifty or so grunts shuffled back down into their seats Badowski’s groaning in protest as he did so, but then when it had to support two hundred pounds of gym-hardened muscle that wasn’t surprising: he wasn’t called the Big Bad for nothing.


‘You guys and gals had thought you were gonna be shipping out to the Asia Minor theatre to mix it with bad asses like the nuTaliban and the ultra-Mujis who have been kicking our butts for the last ten years but there’s been a change of plan. Uncle Sam in his infinite wisdom has decided that you are the very people to send on a real important mission...a holding mission. And the things you’ve gotta hold are the US Army’s redoubts in a place called the Demi-Monde.’


There was no reaction, just a few furrowed brows.


The Demi-Monde?


‘To explain: the bigwigs here at TRADOC have been using a computer simulation to prepare neoFights like you for the stresses and strains of Asymmetric Warfare. Unfortunately this simulation has gone FUBAR and it’s our job to enter this virtual world - the Demi-Monde - and fix it.’


Badowski’s asshole began to twitch: he’d heard rumours about the Demi-Monde and none of them were good.


‘This is the Demi-Monde,’ and the Flexi-Plexi screen behind the Captain flared into life to show a map of a circular world. ‘Classified Top Secret, the Demi-Monde is the most sophisticated computer simulation ever devised. To play the Demi-Monde you have to be hard-wired into it which creates a full sensory by-pass. Once you’re plugged into the Demi-Monde it’s the only perceivable reality: you’ll have no memory of the Real World. So, guys and gals, make sure you pack plenty of spare underwear because you’re in for the ride of your life.’


Yeah right. Badowski yawned: as far as he saw this was so much horse feathers; no computer game was gonna put the frights on the Big Bad.


The Captain must have read his mind. ‘I’ve a feeling those sad-ass computer-gamers amongst you don’t believe me, so prepare to be a-mazed. The Demi-Monde is the first program to be run by ParaDigm CyberResearch’s ABBA-class of quantum computers, computers possessing almost unlimited processing power…enough to simulate sentience in each of the thirty million digital duplicates – the Dupes - that populate the Demi-Monde.’


Badowski’s asshole gave another warning tweak. Thirty million Dupes was a powerful lot of characters for any computer to simulate.


‘Yeah, there’s thirty million of these cyber-suckers waiting to meet, greet and turn you into meat. But ABBA went further. Research has shown that the warlords who lead enemy forces in Asymmetric Warfare Environments tend to be psychotics…the type of charismatic lunatics we in the military call Singularities. So we had ABBA select appropriate individuals from history - people like Mao ZeDong, Beria and Selim the Grim - model them and then seed them into the Demi-Monde. These PreLived Singularities look, think, and act just like their Real-World equivalents did and as their Real-World equivalents were horrible, horrible people, so are their Dupes.’


Nuts. No computer could resurrect dead Singularities. It wasn’t possible.


‘Horrible but real smart. So smart that they’ve come to understand that neoFights like you enter and leave the Demi-Monde through cyber-portals scattered throughout their world. So smart that they’ve begun to close these portals. Your job is to keep them open so the neoFights already in the Demi-Monde can find their way out.’


Bad news alert. There was something, just something, in the way the Captain said this that made Badowski pay attention.


‘Platoon Alpha is being assigned to keep the London portal open, this portal being located in the ForthRight Sector of the Demi-Monde, a Sector run by an ├╝ber-evil Singularity called Reinhard Heydrich. Yeah, that’s right, he’s the same Nazi b****** who organised the Holocaust, so you better believe it when I tell you the ForthRight ain’t no holiday destination. There are five Sectors in the Demi-Monde each with own power-crazed leader but as power-crazed leaders go, this mother is in a class of his own. So keep your eyes peeled for the Valknut symbol...that’s the emblem of the SS- Ordo Templi Aryanis, Heydrich’s bully boys.’


Badowski felt his Sergeant, Sol Edelstein, start to fidget next to him. For a Jew like Edelstein, going up against an evil mother like Heydrich wasn’t something that jingled his jangles.


‘What’s the ForthRight like? It’s a crowded hell-hole, with twelve million Dupes living so tight packed that they can’t bust a fart without the whole street knowing about it. Most of them are either of Anglo-Saxon or Slavic origin though there’s a sizeable minority of Jewish Dupes, known in the Demi-Monde as nuJus. As might be expected with a fascist like Heydrich in charge the nuJus are getting a pretty lean deal of it...not that the rest of the population are faring much better. The ForthRight follows a joyless religion called UnFunDaMentalism which espouses clean living, vegetarianism and an abstention from all the good things in life like alcohol, tobacco and recreational sex. Believe me, UnFunDaMentalism is about as much fun as a kick in the nuts.’


The Captain smiled. ‘Now for the benefit of Platoon Bravo let’s turn to the second Sector, the Quartier Chaud...’






Check out the Demi-Monde of www.thedemi-monde.com


All images © Rod Rees/Nigel Robinson

Sunday, 23 January 2011

ALBERTO PAULINO: OFFICIAL RECOGNITION

The Demi-Monde: #1 in Richmond WH Smith's!
Alberto Paulino is a book fan and collector and was the first guy in the queue at the Forbidden Planet signing. He has asked that I officially confirm this, which I am delighted to do.



Therefore, let it be known that Alberto Paulino was the very first person to have a copies of The Demi-Monde: Winter (ten of them actually) signed at a public event by yours truly!

Hope that's OK, Alberto, and thanks for this picture from the Richmond branch of WH Smiths. It really warms the cockles of my heart.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

NOWADAYS IT'S NO FUN TO BE YOUNG

Nelli and I attended a meeting at the girls' school intended to explain to us the mysteries - miseries, more like - of higher education. I came out worried, perplexed and very sympathetic towards the young people of today.

In my day (the one of gas lamps and biplanes) university education was free. Okay, only half as many people entered university then but those that did sure as hell weren't faced by the pressures and worries of today's generation.

First of all there's money. To be blithely told that even with a student loan there will be a £4,000 pa shortfall is quite a straightener. At £6.00 per hour that's equivalent to 16 weeks of fulltime employment, which seems a little excessive for somebody who is meant to be studying for a degree. Despite what the government claims this must have an impact on kids' willingness to go for a degree...who wants a £50,000 debts around their necks? This is UNBELIEVABLY short-sighted by the government.

Then there was the news that most of the leading UK companies won't even interview graduates unless the applicant has attended one of their internships or work experience programmes. This means that kids have to decide what they will be doing with their working lives at the end of their first year in uni and to have selected which company they want to be doing it with. Ridiculous.

Finally, there was the news that to get on a leading MBA programme post-uni, the candidate had to have displayed 'entrepreneurial ability'.

So today's undergraduates have to find a way of supplementing the government's parsimony, shoulder a ludicrous amount of debt, work all through their holidays and still find time to set up a business.

No...being young in the Britain of 2011 ain't no fun. Poor sods.

THE BLACK SWAN FAILS TO FLY

There had been real anticipation in the Rees household about seeing 'The Black Swan'. The two girls were would-be ballerinas in their younger days, Nelli is a great fan of Tchaikovsky and I was enticed by the 5* reviews. Unfortunately the film was a disappointment.

Basically it's the story of an obsessive, self-harming ballet dancer, Nina, who is given a shot at being a leading lady but who cracks and crumbles under the pressures (largely articulated by the company's ballet master) imposed on her by playing the good/evil duality of the Odette/Odile role.

Okay, let's start with the good things...sorry, good thing. The single-minded nature of the Nina character is wonderfully communicated by the cinematography: it's all tight angles, full-face closeups and claustrophobic sets. The apartment the character shares with her mother is small and narrow, a great metaphor for the girl's limited horizons, and even the theatre where she performs is a windowless, sealed world. That Nina lives only to dance and allows little else to intrude is a subtle and understated undertone to the entire movie.

But cinematography aside, I didn't find much else to applaud. A lot has been made of Natalie Portman's portrayal of Nina, but whilst I found her a convincing ballerina (but then what do I know?) she was too weak and weepy to be convincing. Surely a girl as dedicated as Nina is meant to be would have had more steel about her? She might be obsessive but I would have expected her to be determined and assertive. I found it difficult to believe any ballet master would have cast her, she was just too much of a nonentity. Where was the putative prima donna?

The story too, which centered upon her embracing the dark side of her personality, was similarly unconvincing. Oh, there was gore aplenty - 'gross' according to Ellie - and a good few jumps to be had but somehow it didn't hang together. I had the feeling that the film didn't quite know what it wanted to be: it wasn't a horror movie (no film featuring a major star wants the dreaded '18' certificate); it wasn't terribly erotic (one coy lesbian scene does not an erotic movie make); and the 'psychological drama' tag doesn't work either (there always needs to be a sympathetic foil of a character to make these successful).

One missed opportunity: in the final ballet sequences - when Odile - was dancing - it might have been an idea to have shown how Nina's mind expanded and to have made this a surrealistic, fantasy scene.

Portman's portrayal of Nina was pretty one-dimensional too (it's all been downhill since 'Leon') but the biggest downer was Vincent Cassel's performance as the ballet master. This is one GREAT actor and in the past has done some notable work. This, unfortunately, was a by-the-numbers performance.

All in all a HUGE disappointment!

One good thing: Kit says it's put her off biting her nails!

Nelli's score: 2/10 (she HATED Portman's dancing and what the choreographer did to the dance of the cignettes!)
Kit's score: 4/10
Ellie's score: Gross!
Rod's score: 4/10

Thursday, 20 January 2011

RENEGADE WRITERS:19TH JANUARY 2011

Bit of a change of scene. Since they are renovating the Potters - the Renegade's usual venue - we've become itinerant and yesterday Chez Rees was the hosting venue.

It was very nice (horrible word!) to entertain and to be able to have a glass of wine or two without the prospect of incarceration looming. The story telling was good too. Peter C (thanks for the CD!) kicked off with a piece called 'Tumbling Dice' about a hitch hiking psychopath which was interesting but taken, in my humble, at too fast a pace...we need to appreciate more of the psycho's thought processes, especially regarding the influence of the dice rolling around in his head! I think though there's real potential here.

Peter A (thanks for the book!) read 'The Lake' about a Shoshonee holy place which is violated by a bunch of rednecks with dire consequence. I think Peter fell between two stools here: it was too detailed to be a short story and two short to be a novel. The idea is good though and deserves more work.

Finally Jan read 'Lucy Lightfoot' a fictionalisation of a legend of the eponymous Isle of Wight witch. I thought this got off to a cracking start and Jan found an excellent way of doing her exposition without it seeming too much like and infodump. Problem was for a 6/7k story she tried to get in too much detailed pagan stuff: interesting, but it didn't move the story along. The other thing the story is begging out for is a real twist at the end. I hope she brings it back to the group remixed and remodelled.

A good evening.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

THE KING'S SPEECH

Now that Christmas is over there seems to be a run of films coming up that I actually look forward to seeing and the first of these was 'The King's Speech'. Although the girls were less than enthused they dutifully came along and I think, when the final credits rolled, even they had to admit it was a 'good film'.

In fact I thought it was excellent. I won't bore you with a plot synopsis, suffice it to say that the script was terrific and was, I think' a masterclass in 'show don't tell'. The temptation must have been to lard on the exposition (especially in these history-lite days of school) but apart from a brief scene-setter at the beginning this was handled much more subtly as part of the action. For example, the Queen Mother's (a great performance by Helena Bonham-Carter, and I'm usually not a fan) hatred of Wallis Simpson was neatly demonstrated in the party scene and the drab economic conditions of the time by a wonderful recreation of a smog-bound London.

Much has been made of Colin Firth's performance and he is bloody good - he has the most expressive eyes in all of modern cinema - but the whole cast was outstanding, notably Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce.

All-in-all a couple of hours well spent. The other interesting thing being that Burton cinema was fuller than I've ever seen it: if you build a decent script they will come.

Now is True Grit and Black Swan are as good....

Rees Family Rating: 9.0/10.0

Friday, 14 January 2011

CONCATENATION.ORG

Interesting review of 'The Demi-Monde: Winter' on the http://www.concatenation.org/ website. Lucy brought it to my attention and such is the lo-key nature of the site that I'd probably have missed it otherwise: it takes a no-frills attitude that borders on the aesthetic.

I digress. Jonathan Cowie's review is a good one, not simply because he likes the book but because he is provocative to the writer, viz:

'Finally, there are clear implications as to the Dupes' relationship with the Real World, the way they can theoretically perceive things and the possibility for extrapolation (such as to interact with other aspects of cyberspace)...In short there are tremendous possibilities for the author to explore above and beyond the construct of the Demi-Monde itself...he (me) needs to go to the next level...'

Serendipity being serendipity it was only yesterday that I was trying to explain how I planned to expand the borders of the Demi-Monde milieu beyond the covers of the four Demi-Monde books. I currently have three other books in some semblance of completion. 'Dark Charismatic', my reimagining of the Jekyll and Hyde story, explores the history of Singularities - or Dark Charismatics as they are known within the Demi-Monde. 'Locusts' majors on the manner in which ParaDigm became the pre-eminent corporation in the world and how it acquires the ability to provide the technology rife in the Real World which seems to transcend our own. Finally 'Invent-10n' looks at genesis of the unique and special power source so vital for ABBA - the first quantum computer - that runs the Demi-Monde to achieve its full potential.

Jonathan has quite correctly twigged that the technology underpinning the Real World of 'The Demi-Monde' is out of kilter with our own and that's because it isn't our own...it occupies TimeStream v:35...but that's another story or more exactly another three stories!

FORBIDDEN PLANET SIGNING


Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue, London
Yesterday 13th January was my very first public signing! Quite an intimidating venue too: Forbidden Planet the mecca of all SF-niks. I'd never been down to the basement before (I didn't even know it existed!) and it's veritable cache of all written and drawn SF/Fantasy publications. So no pressure then.
I'd been to the Quercus offices earlier and signed 21 copies (9 a repeat order which ain't too shabby and 12 for Carl a collector in Wales) so I was hoping that this was a good omen. All-in-all it didn't go too badly. I signed 19 for FP's mail-order customers and 35 for walk-ins. The great thing was how pleasant everybody was, the customers even taking the time to explain what lining is (a dedication quoting from the book). We came up with something novel here: Nelli wrote a greeting in Russian from one of the lead characters, Vanka Maykov. Everyone liked the posters too...I've got to remember to keep the remaining 200 for other markets.

Me, Rich and Iain (both from Quercus) and Jon from
Forbidden Planet. Jake is just out of shot.
 A big thank you must go to Jon Harrison, FP's Internet and Marketing Manager who was terrific! It was a blast being asked to sign FP's autograpgh book too.

FP also arranged for me to be video interviewed for their website. Russel made this a pretty painless experience but I think I was awful (stumbling over words, memory blanks, the whole nine yards). You can see for yourself how awful on http://forbiddenplanet.com/picks/rod-rees-demi-monde/.

The other important event of the day was meeting Jo Fletcher. Jo is setting up a new imprint for Quercus - Jo Fletcher Publishing I think - which will spearhead their assault on the SF/Fantasy book market. As DM, Spring, Summer and Autumn are going to be published under Jo's auspices I wish her every success.

The day was rounded off by a great meal, hosted by Lucy - Quercus' PR guru - at a Greek restaurant, Kanoki. Ron, Lucy, Iain and Jo made great company but unfortunately Jake couldn't make it due to a bad back. Get well soon, Jake!


Monday, 10 January 2011

VIDEO TIME 2 OR HOW I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO MADONNA

Okay, the video of me reading an extract from The Demi-Monde: WInter is now out there on YouTube et al and I HATE it. And the reason I hate it is simple: I took my eye off the ball.

I read an article a couple of years ago in which some item moaned about Madonna being a bitch control freak who micro-managed everything. And now I can understand why she's like that: you can't trust anybody. What I should have done when the video was being shot was the following:

1. Insisted on having a tele-prompt. It's impossible to give a decent performance when you're forever having to keep looking down at a piece of paper. In future no tele-prompt, no gig.

2. Sorted out the microphone. You have to be separately miked otherwise the sound is shit. Microphones on video cameras just ain't up to the job. In future no separate mike, no gig.

3. Checked the angle of the video camera. Lo-aspects are great when you wanna make a girl's legs look about a hundred metres long but they're TERRIBLE for faces. In future I get veto on camera angles, or no gig.

4. Checked the lighting. When you're 16 and have firm and flawless flesh you can take any sort of lighting, post 40 you've got to be careful or you end up looking like I did: Max Headroom with a penchant for pies. In future I set up the lighting or no gig.

Come to think of it next time I'll do the whole bloody thing myself, then I'll be able to maintain a Madonna-esque level of control.

Anyway, for the more goulish of you, here's the video. Oh, yeah, I better warn you there's some stiff language used.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

GET YOURSELF A BETA-BUDDY

Nelli is currently beta-reading Demi-Monde 3 and I would implore every would-be writer to find themselves a beta-buddy like Nelli. Nelli is BRILLIANT at reviewing and commenting on my stories, and not just because her command of the grammatical and spelling niceties of the English language is so much better than mine. No sir!


It was when we were driving to Derby this morning after dropping the girls off at school – a terrific time to discuss things: no distractions – and got to talking about DM 3 that her real importance to me as a writer was brought home. She’s almost finished reading the book and I started quizzing her with the usual questions: which bits worked and which didn’t; which characters resonated and which didn’t; what did she like and what did she hate...that sort of stuff. And having someone you trust to be perfectly frank and honest giving the answers is invaluable to a writer. But more, because Nelli is a woman she was able to give me a fresh perspective on the story.

She was particularly taken by a comment Misha made at Renegade Writers that female readers – especially younger female readers – are less than enthusiastic about sex in books. Nelli concurs and hence made the observation that some of the scenes in DM3 were too raunchy by half. Thinking about it I suspect she’s right, so I’ll tone them down a tad.

She also thought that one of the new characters – I won’t name him ‘cos it’s a spoiler – swore too much. I had written him a certain way but again she’s probably correct and I’ve decided to amend him slightly. It’ll take a heap of new research into idioms and patois but I’ve a feeling it’ll be worth it. A much more interesting character will, hopefully, emerge.

Finally she told me she thought one of the pivotal scenes – loads of exposition, folks – is too long. I suspected it might be but I thought it was so damned smart – hubris! – that I was loath to cut it. Now I see I’m gonna have to be brutal...pace is everything.

All-in-all that conversation has earned me about a week’s extra work on the keyboard, but I’ve a feeling the book will be better for it at the end. And that’s why every writer needs a beta-buddy: a beta-buddy you can trust, a beta-buddy who isn’t afraid to speak their mind and, ideally, a beta-buddy who is of a different gender and age-group to yours.

Good luck...I managed to marry mine.

NUMBER 87 (WITH A FALLING STAR)!

Just checked Amazon and there I am at number 87 in the SF 100 charts, Absolutely bloody amazing. Jesus, little old Rod Rees rubbing shoulders with the Gaimans and the Pratchetts of this world.

Oops...just looked again and I've dropped out of the hundred...glory is fleeting but obscurity is forever (Napoleon). Still I did make it into today's Guardian as one of Eric Brown's choices so it isn't all a day of disappointment.

Bollocks...I'm back in at # 70. God the stress! I'm used to things going up and down but this is ridiculous. My poor heart can't stand the excitement. I'm gonna have to go for a lie down. Where's that bottle of wine...get me a straw!

Friday, 7 January 2011

A GOOD DAY AND THEN...

I've always run with an objective - when I'm writing and not editing - of putting down 3,000 words a day but today has taxed this resolve to the maximum. I hadn't realised how much the book launch would impinge on my time and then...

But to begin at the beginning. My list of things to do for today included:

1. Follow up Lou's suggestion that I join the BFS Forum and alert BFS members to the signing next Thursday (13th) at Forbidden Planet. Sounds straightforward enough but for a technological Neanderthal like me it was a task...and hour's worth of tasking. So, for any of you interested if you tell me the third word of the fifth line on page 323 of the hardback edition of the DM then you could win a signed limited-edition poster!

2. Post an 'Event' on FaceBook. Another 30 minutes of buggering around.

3. Register me and Nelli for EasterCon and volunteer for any of their panels: 30 minutes.

4. Send the video of me reading an extract from the DM (and looking like a cross between Max Headroom and Billy Bunter while I'm doing it) to Rich at Quercus: an hour (don't ask, I'm still pissed off).

5. Send a copy of Nelli's 'Sex and Bile' nujazz sampler (it's f****** good, folks) off: 30 minutes.

6. Get involved with two FaceBook conversations (silly me): 30 minutes.

So that took four (four!!!!) hours out of my day. But not dismayed I was happily 2,000 words into my quota when...

I can say no more: all I can assure you is that on Monday - with the help of my lawyers - I am going to turn somebody's world to shit.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

6TH JANUARY 2011: A RED LETTER DAY!

Today I became a published author! The Demi-Monde:Winter has been officially released. Almost eighteen months since the book was signed by Quercus it finally hit the shelves. So I raise a glass to Nelli, Nigel, John, Nick and everybody at Quercus who has helped make this possible. Many thanks to you all!

Waterstone's Derby


RENEGADE WRITERS: 5TH JANUARY 2011

First Renegades of the year and it was a good one.

Tim seems to have decided to concentrate of his sex-o-drama story which is a GOOD IDEA! He's also come up with an interesting - but bloody challenging - new twist, having overlapping stories from his protagonist. This I know from personal experience is a really difficult stunt to achieve - I gave up in the end - but one if carried off with elan is very effective. I do tho' think he needs to have a different 'colour' for the two sections, perhaps demonstrating the different personaes of a paranoid and homicidal schizophrenic. It'll be very interesting to see how it unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Misha read from the second volume of her steampunky/dragons/nephelim story which centres around the building of the Clifton suspension bridge in a Victorian world set in an alternative universe. It is an intriguing idea, in many ways similar to the Alexia Tarabotti series written by Gail Carriger. The opinion was that she needs to ramp up the character of Isambard Kingdom Brunel a tad and I was a little thrown by the switches of POV. I'm a bit sensitive to POV at the moment because Gail Carriger changes it around with abandon and this is the one thing I really dislike about her otherwise excellently written books: she has a keen eye for Victorian detail and a good ear for dialogue.

I promised to let Misha have a copy of the SciFiNow edition with the acticle on steampunk. Mustn't forget.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

FASHIONS OF THE DEMI-MONDE ARE HERE!

Nigel has been chuntering away regarding the fashions for the Demi-Monde: I'm aiming these plates as being the Section dividers in the third Demi-Monde book 'Summer' and thus far we've got two Sectors completed: Quartier Chaud and NoirVille. The great thing is that Nigel's managed to capture the 'feel' of Victorian plate-work: these look as though they've come from 1870, the era that the Dupes in the Demi-Monde are trapped in.

The Quartier Chaud is the Sector that has embraced the religion of ImPuritanism - the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure as the creed's followers search for JuiceSense, the ultimate orgasm. They believe that only by achieving this will they be able to commune with their deity, ABBA. Their fashions mirror this rather sexy outlook on life and as the QC is made up primarily of Mediterranean stock with Venice pre-eminent then it will come as no surprise that the wearing of masks is de rigeur.

I think Nigel has captured the spirit of the organised depravity that's rife in the QC. Maybe the cod piece is a tad too optimistic but other than that it's spot on. And I like the nipple tassel...I hadn't thought of that so I'll have to write them in during the edit of 'Spring'.

NoirVillian fashions were more difficult. This Sector's a mix of African and Arab Dupes and the religion is HimPerialism, which celebrates male supremacy and the subjugation of women - or as they are called in NoirVille, woeMen. NoirVillian men are obsessed with bodybuilding as they strive to achieve the perfection of form prescribed by ABBA in NoirVille's holy book, the HIM Book. Father Peter Polykleitos’ has developed [Father Peter Polykleitos: ‘The Kanon: A Man’s Guide to a Heavenly Body’, Firm&Frisky Periodicals] has expounded his theories regarding the mathematical bases of aesthetic bodily perfection. These he has replicated in his famous sculpture ‘ABBA’ which is his representation of Man’s ultimate physical perfection incorporating as it does the idealised symmetria of all parts of the male body.


Polykleitos’ ‘ABBA’ has been declared to be ‘divinely inspired’ by the Church of HimPerialism and is now cited as the aspirational model of the male bodily for all devout HimPerial Men. That this form may only be achieved by much strenuous exercise is believed to have been ordained by ABBA as a means by which Men might prove their faith. As His Grace, Mohammed Ahmed al Mahdi has said [Mohammed Ahmed al Mahdi: ‘Transcendental BodyBuilding for Beginners’, Jerk Your Way to Heaven Books]: ‘by your sweat, ABBA will know you’.

And as for woeMen - poor sods - they have to subscribe to the tenets of subMISSiveness, which involves them being at all times Mute, Invisible, Subservient and Sexually modest. And one of the means by which this is achieved to to have them dress in a MISSqa an all-enveloping robe.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

I COULDN'T RESIST

I couldn't resist ('The Finest Novel of 2011?..c'mon I'm only human). This is the second review I got on Amazon.

5.0 out of 5 stars The Finest Novel of 2011?, 31 Dec 2010 By Quicksilver (UK)


The premise of 'The Demi-Monde' is so simple and compelling, it's hard not wish you'd thought of it first. This fine idea, coupled with some excellent thriller writing, would make for a fine novel. Blend this with some intriguing philosophical musings, more than splash of Steampunk, and the result is a cult-classic in waiting.


The 'Demi-Monde' is a computer generated world, built to train the soldiers of the US army. The novel is set in the near future where traditional warfare is over. The wars that Uncle Sam finds itself embroiled in are dirty and ill-defined. A recent advance in computer technology has allowed a vast world to be built, where conflicts mirror this style of 'Asymmetric Warfare'.


Such is the power of the computer, the denizens of the Demi-Monde are indistinguishable from those who life on the outside in 'Real Life'. Many of Demi-Monde's inhabitants are mirrored on the worst of humanity. In here, Beria and Robespierre rub shoulders with Lucretia Borgia and Reinhard Heydrich. These charismatic psychopaths vie for supremacy in a densely populated, fabricated world. The intention of its creators is that it would be Hell on Earth.

It is into this boiling pot that army recruits are dropped. Unsurprisingly, something isn't quite right. Somehow the President's daughter has been lured inside, and all the entrances closed down. Many sinister beings live inside the Demi-Monde, and now some of them want out.

It is quite hard to describe quite how good this first instalment (Winter) is. The scope of the idea is breathtaking and the Demi-Monde and its inhabitants brilliantly realised. The religious and political structures of the Demi-Monde, mirror those on Earth, but are exaggerated. The Demi-Monde is a place of excess, where attitudes towards gender, race and sexuality are taken to extremes. Rees uses his world to probe how different these views are from our own. Rees also poses questions about the nature of reality. If a computer can generate a life form that is indistinguishable from a human, do they gain human rights? Is pulling the plug mass murder? This book asks a host of questions, and better still, only hints at answers.

All this would be admirable, but wasted if the story was poor, or the action dull, but this is far from the case. The characters, though a little thin (after all most of them are computer generated) are heroic, varied and, in the main, believable. The action is relentless. The book is filled with spying, lying, tricking, fighting and er...dancing. It's wonderful. Being the first book of four, the novel's ending is left wide open with more cliffhangers than an entire series of 'Lost'. If you love steampunk novels, then you'll love the Demi-Monde. If you like reading, then you'll love 'The Demi-Monde'. If you like breathing, there's a pretty good chance you'll enjoy the 'Demi-Monde' too. I hope I read many books as good as this in 2011, but somehow I doubt it.

Monday, 3 January 2011

WHAT A SENSIBLE CHAP SHELLEY WAS

Percy Bysshe Shelley is going to feature quite heavily in the final installment of the Demi-Monde (which I'm just embarking on) so I've started reading about him in a more serious sort of way. And the more I read the more I'm impressed by the man. In fact the observation that it was a tragedy that he died so young has really responated with me: given a little more time Shelley could really have changed Victorian thinking and that for the better. Shelley was the revolutionary that Britain never had but so badly needed.

One piece from his Essay on Christianity (1859) really struck a chord:

If all the thought which had been expended on the construction of engines of agony and death – the modes of aggression and defence, the raising of armies, and the acquiring of those arts of tyranny and falsehood without which mixed multitudes could neither be led nor governed – had been employed to promote the true welfare and extend the real empire of man, how different would have been the present situation of human society, how different the state of knowledge in physical and moral science, upon which the power and happiness of mankind essentially depend!

I could never understand why the British government chose in an era of cuts and parsimony to renew Trident and Shelley wonderfully voices my disappointment.

It's going to take a lot of work getting him right in the DM but I think it will be worth it. If ever there was a man who needed to be more widely read it's Shelley!




Saturday, 1 January 2011

PALESTINE OR HOW TO WRITE YOURSELF INTO A CORNER

The problem with having to write a four-volume story - like The Demi-Monde - is that although, to a greater or lesser extent (and in my case it's so 'lesser' as to be nigh on invisible) the author has an idea as to how his or her story will unfold they inevitably find that something they've written in an earlier volume gives them difficulties in a later volume.

It might be something as innocuous as a character trait or, as in my case, a really thumping big 'oh shit'!

Not to bore you...I've introduced a homeland for my cyber-Jewish diaspora - the nuJus - and dropped it slap-bang in the middle of NoirVille, the Afro-Arab Sector of the Demi-Monde. The JAD - the nuJu Autonomous District - hence became my metaphor for Israel. Now you can guess why I did it: as I've used the book to examine (albeit with tongue firmly in cheek) some of the more divisive sociopolitical issues of the day I thought it would be a great wheeze try a similar stunt with the problems of Palestine. BIG mistake.

Now I've started to research the background to the Palestinian situation - delving into the British Mandate, the Arab uprisings, the growth of the Jewish resistance/terror (depending on which side of the political divide you're standing on pick your own adjective) groups and the religious sensibilities overlaying/infecting/corrupting the whole process - have I begun to understand how complex the whole sorry situation is.

It got so bad that I almost abandoned the whole thing: I was going to write around the JAD. It would, I felt be so easy to offend one side or the other and as I've decided in my dotage to adopt a wholly apolitical stance (having come to the conclusion that ALL politicians are either venal, incompetent - or indeed both - with f*** all strategic vision) this would be unfair. I have strenuously tried to be neutral in the book: the opinions evinced by my characters are theirs not mine.

But it was when I was reading about several of the more prominent leaders - both Jewish and Arab - in recent history that the penny dropped. The rhetoric (even the poetry) of both sides is almost identical! They were almost interchangeable. And that was the clue to how to approach the JAD...piss off everybody, that way nobody can accuse me of political bias.

But it will take some bloody careful writing...

cataTRONic

Just back from watching 'TRON: Legacy'. I've gotta say I went reluctantly - I hated the vacuous first instalment when it came out - but such is the dearth of watchable movies that it was this or Gulliver's Travels. Nuff said.

Okay let's make this quick and painless:

PLUS POINTS: The visuals. The film is total eye-candy and they do it extraordinarily well. I even thought the 3D worked and as I'm not a fan of this little cinematic digression that's a big concession for the Rodster. The music wasn't bad either though I don't think this was Daft Punk's finest hour (or finest two hours and seven minutes actually).

MINUS POINTS: Just about everything else. The story was hackneyed, cliched, predictable and unbelievably disappointing. Garrett Hedlund was a lead with a charisma by-pass, Olivia Wilde had all the screen presence of a salad (what is all the fuss about?) and Jeff Bridges - streets ahead in the acting stakes - firmly stuck in Dude mode. There was sod-all tension about the thing which given the amount spent on the special effects is a real achievement.

SCORE: I give it 4/10 (though to be fair the rest of the Rees family were impressed, so much so that they nudged the score up to a very respectable 8/10, so what do I know?).

FINAL THOUGHT: A lot has been made of how they digitally recreated a younger-looking Jeff Bridges. Well, the feeling was that - especially in the opening scene in his son's bedroom - it wasn't really terribly convincing. It might have been an idea to use this lack of realism in the plot, to have had the Grid messing around with Time and pre-introducing digital reconstructs. Just an idea...