So, Emily Wu, the Product Manager for Macmillan books in Australia, told me that they supply books to a good specialist science fiction/fantasy bookshop in Sydney called Galaxy Books, who asked whether I might be interested in providing a guest blog for their website. I’ve never done a guest blog before but, being an SF writer and avid SF reader, how could I possibly refuse a request from someone with a name like that?
Y’know, I loved Ringworld, and Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven and maybe she’s related to Louis Wu? Maybe she’ll send a Pak Protector after me if I don’t do this blog. Maybe she is a Pak Protector!
I emailed the store manager Mark Timmony about this and he replied with ‘Basically I have been letting author’s run wild talking about the world(s) their latest title is set in and the themes they wanted to/were exploring that are not immediately obvious from the blurb’. Well, a chance for me to waffle on about one of my books… It’s a no-brainer really.
Okay, here’s one of the selection of blurbs I wrote up for The Technician:
Twenty years after the fall of the Theocracy, a religious policeman, Jeremiah Tombs, the only living survivor of a hooder attack, has escaped his sanatorium. The scorpion drone Amistad lets him run, for though Polity technology could cure him, the AIs are reluctant to meddle since it was the near mythical Technician that attacked him, and it did something to his mind that even they don’t understand.
The amphidapt Chanter pursues the Technician in his mudmarine, trying to understand the grotesque sculptures of bones the creature makes with its victim’s remains, trying to understand its art. He is recruited by Amistad, along with ex-rebel Commander Lief Grant, and a lethal black AI everyone thought was dead.
Tombs could possess information about the racial suicide of the Atheter, but his self-destructive madness needs to be cured by confrontation with the reality about him, a reality in which the religion-hating Tidy Squad wants him dead. And meanwhile, in deep space, the mechanism the Atheter used to reduce themselves to animals, stirs from slumber and begins to power-up its weapons.
Right, time to heat up the waffle iron.
The planet Masada, the planet where this is set, first puts in an appearance in the second book in the five-book Cormac series: 1. Gridlinked, 2. The Line of Polity, 3. Brass Man, 4. Polity Agent, 5. Line War. There was, quite simply, one reason I wanted to return there –gabbleducks – and, initially, that was the title of the book I was writing. These creatures are the deliberately devolved descendents of the Ather mentioned above, and they have grown in the telling, sparking off three short stories Softly Spoke the Gabbleduck, The Gabble & Alien Archaeology, which appeared in Asimov’s Magazine, some ‘Year’s Best’ collections and now finally reside in a collection with the overall title The Gabble. I wanted to write more about them, expand on them, but it didn’t quite work out that way.
First let’s take a look at Neal Asher’s desk and the preparations he’s making for his next book. Post-it notes on the pin board? No, just some Jon Sullivan covers, the Greek alphabet and last week’s shopping list. Rough synopsis on the screen. No, just a ranty blog about smoking bans or political correctness. Some ideas jotted down on that pad? No, they’re from the last book. Research notes? Get out of here, haven’t you heard of Google?
Actually, I did do a little preparation for The Technician by reading The Line of Polity and Alien Archaeology to remind myself of some cogent points. However, when I write a book I embark on the same voyage of discovery as you guys when you pick up a book and open it, except my voyage starts at a blank page.
With this book I started by writing about a toadman called Chanter and his interest in the grotesque art of a hooder called the Technician and, when on my voyage I found out that the Technician was a two-million-year-old biomech war machine, that kinda hooked my interest.
Next I wrote about Jeremiah Tombs, ensconced in a sanatorium for over twenty years, mad as a box of frogs after having had a very nasty encounter with the Technician, and it having done something quite odd to his mind. I wanted to know exactly what that hooder did to him, and the only way to find out was to write my way there. Along the way it seemed the right thing to do to drop in the war drone Amistad (The Shadow of the Scorpion), a black AI called Penny Royal (Alien Archaeology) and some inevitable interference from that alien entity called Dragon, who suicided on Masada, and rose again as an entire race. But even with all these, the threat levels weren’t quite high enough and the chances of planetary extinction remained low, so it was necessary to spice the mix with a billion tonne ancient genocidal mechanism.
Keep it simple, I say.
Of course there are gabbleducks here, but they don’t feature so much as the Technician itself, hence the change of title. I guess that leaves things open for me to do a book called Gabbleducks sometime in the future.
Now, to conclude, because I’m running out of steam and don’t know how to waffle on without giving too much away, I have to wonder if you are any the wiser for reading this? Probably not, but I hope you’re intrigued…