Go Completely Digital?

Here’s an email I recently received. Perhaps those visiting here would like to address some of his points? I do have some answers, but let’s see what others have got to say….

You should put a section on your blog so people can raise questions without resorting to emailing.

This is a question that’s been annoying me for a while. I grew up with books and with tapes, then CD’s then crappy windows media player and now all my music’s on a 300Gb hard drive as well as every important (and unimportant) photo from my life.

I feel good that all my music’s accessible this way and I’ve binned, or sold all my old CD’s. That was easy.

I also threw all my books prior to 5 years ago away, which at the time seemed good but now is a niggling regret. Mainly because my daughter has just started reading ravenously and a lot of the stuff I had she’d love (she got into fantasy via Harry Potter!)

Should we throw away books in favour of digital text? I’d love to think this is progress but most of the writing I’ve discovered is through browsing bookshops. I buy books from Amazon from time to time
but I don’t ever discover anything via that. Discovery’s are always made in bookshops, be it from a cover or a few first pages etc… I have never found that from a web based system.

I bought a beautifully bound and illustrated edition of “the secret garden” for my daughter as well as a new edition of Philip Pullman’s “Northern lights” Which I know she’ll enjoy (she’s 7 I can’t subject
her to the wonders of masada yet)

A year ago I had this conversation with my partner while considering buying an e-reader. She was horrified that I’d consider sending our books the way of our CD’s and at the time I thought that was
ridiculous however now I’m wondering how people will find new fiction without bookshops? I’m happy that I can access medical journals for work instantly and without wasting tons of paper a year plus emissions related to moving articles to me only 5% of which I want to keep and I don’t know how I’d work without Zotero to catalogue my articles now but I just can’t get comfortable with the loss of bookshops.

Sci-fi never really touches this, writers always just seem to accept that all information is always permanently available at minimal cost to anyone who want’s it but never get into how people might access fiction or even look for it? The only time I’ve heard mention of libraries properly is Ian Banks in “The Algebraist” where the dwellers keep vast uncatalogued libraries stretching back millennia and

Is the future just a library of information where fiction is controlled only by corporations such as Apple and Amazon who “Recommend” the fiction they know you’d like (scary). Or is it vast
quantities of fiction churned out by anyone who feels they can be an author dumped into a huge repository where no one can discover anything of quality? Either way it looks pretty shit for my children or grandchildren.

Sci-fi seems to be comfortable with future tech but lacks depth in social problems. Do you think someone should try writing from that angle?

Kind regards



It’s been quite surprising to read what those who have been buying books in the recent sale have been saying. Some of them read my books from the library and now want their own copies. Some bought them for kindle and now want the material thing. A few have thanked me for how open I am on my blog, and I am also ‘the man’ or ‘I rock’. And one of the killers is those who have worn out their copy of their favourite and now want a replacement. Also, actions speaking louder than words, I’m astounded how some American readers are quite happy to pay extraordinary postage.

It’s quite humbling to have become an indelible part of some people’s lives. I know what that means when I open up one of my collection and remember the reading pleasure. It is quite an honour to be in that position. Aw, I’m getting all soppy now. Thanks people!

Now, I need to have a rant about something…


Or maybe not. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. It must be getting on for a quarter of a century old when I was young, and couldn’t be bothered to shave…

It was a football match played for charity, but in an extremely muddy field with about fifty people on each team and a ball that was about six feet across. And no referees.

Who Reads My Books: Chris Haringa

I am Dutch, 65 years of age and what Neal would call a ‘stinking old hippy’. I read heaps and heaps of SF until I was 20-something, then suddenly had enough, and never touched the stuff again apart from some fantasy. I studied chemistry without realizing what I was in for, then after half a year I found out, and dropped out. Since then I’ve worked as a labourer, factory worker, white van driver, salesman in a DIY shop, and a patient transporter for a hospital, but spent at least half of the time not doing shit but talk with me mates stoned out of my mind….

I got married in the UK to an English lady somewhere along the line and, when our first son was due to arrive, decided it was time to take life seriously. I went to a state subsidised school to become a carpenter, again without a clue what it meant to be a carpenter in everyday life. So there I was at 7 in the morning amongst my fellow carpenters, who could only talk about sex, cars and sports, which made me feel kind of lonely…but I was a responsible person now so had to hold on. I did so for 3 years until one November morning – zero degrees above zero, 7 in the morning, a touch of flu but not enough to call in sick, me standing on a ladder in the door opening of a vast building screwing in a rail to hold up big sliding doors, with wind howling past me. I felt so desperate I started to pray ( never saw a church from the inside hahaha), ‘Please dear god help me out of here, can’t stand it anymore!’ At that moment one of my co-workers came up to me and said, ‘Chris please step down from the ladder, I have something to tell you.’ So I did, and when I reached the ground he talked to me for a bit and then suddenly pushed me in the chest because he saw the big metal ladder being blown over by the wind and coming in our direction. It hit me on the big toe and broke it in two places, and would have smashed my head to bits if he would not have pushed me….

So there I was with my foot in plaster, right next to the heater being served nice cups of tea by my lovely wife… and I never went back. My next job was as an EEG/EMG technician in a general hospital. I went to evening classes for that for two years, and kept the job for ten years. Nice and warm inside the hospital, friendly people, but I got bored and, because the Misses was English and kind of homesick, we decided to give it a go and try to make a living in GB. So off we went with our, by that time with 5 kids, to a winter let in the Cotswolds.

We had a good friend there: a very successful graphic designer who promised us to set up a business together, but he failed to do so because his marriage sort of exploded. The only work available at that time was carpentry again, for much less money than I would have made doing the same in Holland. And apart from that I’d done that, seen that. So back to the Netherlands again where an old friend told me that a local comprehensive school, close to where I lived, needed a teacher to take care of the practical part of the physics lessons. To be honest I don’t think they would have hired me was it not for the fact that one of my closest friends was on the board of directors at that time…

So that’s what I did for the last 25 years and now, being 65 and all, the big holiday has started! Met Mr Asher and his wife in Greece a couple of years ago, didn’t know he was a writer at first, pleasant people to talk to over a pint or a glass of wine (contrary of what one would expect reading his blog….hahaha) One day he told me to read one of his books, but I had my doubts not being interested in SF anymore (I prefer modern American literature like John Irving, Tom Wolfe, Donna Tart and the like) but thought, whatever, I’ll give it a go. After a few chapters of Gridlinked I thought that I made the right decision a long time ago, enough SF, but I felt I should finish the book. The funny thing was that although I was not interested at all in the story, the writer managed to grab my attention so I turned a page and another page until I realized I had a page turner in my hands, well done Mister Asher!

April into May

Monday April 25th

The temperature has climbed in a minor way, hovering at about 12C up here in the mountains and maybe rising as high as 20 down in Makrigialos. It’s still nowhere near where it was last year and my shorts are still confined to a chair in the bedroom. The apotheche door is still jammed shut and I still have no need to divert grey water for the plants here.

However, on the good news front, the ruin is all but complete. But for the discovery of an unattached pipe for the water tap outside, the plumbing is complete and not leaking. The walls are painted, ceiling and other interior woodwork is varnished and the lights are up. Before we move the bed up there all that’s needed is a shower booth, things like toilet roll and towel holders and a bathroom cabinet. Then we have to get a fridge, a small cooker and other smaller items like waste bins etc.

Wednesday April 27th
So many of the programs we pick up on the satellite are platforms for snake-oil salesmen, whether that snake-oil is God or slimming pills or surgery, so I shouldn’t really complain about BBC World. However, those other programs make no claim on balance and integrity. Yesterday we were hit repeatedly with the phrase ‘refugees fleeing the violence in the Middle East’ yet all we got to back this up were interviews with young Tunisian men in railway stations. Now, according to the BBC, freedom and democracy have arrived in Tunisia, the despot has stepped down and all is tea and cucumber sandwiches. What we basically have here, as anywhere the welfare state hasn’t spread its stifling tentacles, is young men looking for work. These ‘refugees from violence’ are actually fleeing the thing that had them chucking rocks at their leaders in the first place: poverty. It’s the economy, stupid. Of course there doubtless are refugees from the violence in Libya out there, but they’re probably a bit far from the hotel bar for our intrepid BBC correspondents.

Ah, now that’s more like it. We went up to Handras and then Ziros to celebrate someone’s birthday and in a kafenion were put in contact with a guy selling a nice rose wine for €1 a litre. We bought five litres and will doubtless be seeing him again – he’s not going to be running out any time soon since he has 25,000 litres on tap…

We had more pissing rain last night, and there’s still no sign of the promised global warming. We’ve ordered another two tonnes of wood for the stove, which will maybe turn up today. I’m hoping we won’t get to use much of it this ‘spring’ and can save it for next autumn and the start of winter. But it seems that every time it’s looking like it’s warming up, another shitload of cloud comes over the horizon and the temperature drops.

Monday May 2nd
I moved the bed and some other bits and pieces up into the ‘ruin’ over the weekend (the words ‘the ruin’ have stuck despite it being cleaner, drier and newer than the main house) and can now concentrate on other work. Having cleaned out the spare room I bleached the mould on the walls and ceiling, treated and varnished the beams and used up the remainder of the paint on the walls. I’ve also been varnishing the pergola and generally working on other stuff until completely knackered. The weather is still crappy – cloudy, damp and cold – though things are looking better this morning. During the royal wedding, when I intended to go fishing with ‘the boys’ whilst Caroline watched the wedding with ‘the girls’, it absolutely chucked it down, so I ended up drinking far too much wine.

We’ve just seen on the news that Osama Bin Laden has been killed. Perhaps it is a good thing to have access to BBC World, since when Michael Jackson died we didn’t find out about it until about three weeks afterwards. Then again, does knowing these things make any difference to us at all?

The cynic in me immediately wondered what news was being covered up by this, that maybe the killing of Gadaffi’s family was something the powers that be wanted kept low key, but, just maybe, the announcement was being held over until after the wedding. Anyway, this is a good media victory for America and has reduced the number of murderous people-hating psychos by at least one.

Wednesday May 4th
I’ve just received an uncorrected proof copy of The Departure (thanks Julie) and here, for your delectation, is a picture of what you can’t have until September…

The temperature is climbing. This morning at 10.40 it is over 20C – the first time it has risen so high since we’ve been here. I’m actually contemplating putting on my shorts and venturing outdoors.

Meanwhile, I was going to post a picture of Makrigialos beach for Chris (Dutch physics teacher) showing how much the sea level has dropped here. However, the one time I remember to bring my camera down the sea is back where it was before.


One here from someone called Derek Pasquill which is very nice but leaves me scratching my head a little. Search ‘pasquin’ and you get some interesting results:

A lampoon; a satire. At the opposite end of the city from the statue mentioned above, there was an ancient statue of Mars, called by the people Marforio; and gibes and jeers pasted upon Pasquin were answered by similar effusions on the part of Marforio. By this system of thrust and parry the most serious matters were disclosed, and the most distinguished persons attacked and defended. (I. D’Israeli.)

Asher’s Universe

Asher’s universe might be summed up by the following:

There is no necessity for anything, but that there is something is better than nothing. Everything though can sometimes overwhelm even the most advanced AI or stubborn human. Musn’t grumble, and in the far-flung corners of the universe an essentially cheerful and laconic Billericayan stoicism retains its grip on reality. The good guys tend to win, what goes round comes round, simplicity collapses into complexity, and complexity evolves into simplicity. One might say it is just one thing after another.

What Asher’s universe has in spades is coherence, and it shares this attribute with other fictional constructs:

– George Herriman’s Coconino County
– Sterling E. Lanier’s Metz Republic
– J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth
– William Faulkner’s Yokonapatawpha County

What is coherence? Here is a quote from the glossary at the back of Simon Bell’s Elements of Visual Design in the Landscape (second edition), Spon Press, London, 2004, p.182:

Coherence – a term used by the environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan to describe one of the cognitive variables that define an attractive landscape. It means the fact that the scene makes sense and that all the parts fit together. It can be related to the design concept of unity.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the stories in Asher’s universe concern the sudden upcroppings of complexities where these might be least expected, disrupters intent on the vigilant dexterity of their self-interest, which threaten hard-fought for coherence. Hard space opera then – ginglymusiferous, enthralling, at times hallucinogenic, quite possibly addictive, and not to be missed for the world.


Hmmm … I do make a habit of claiming descent from my Italian forebears – my name is Derek Pasquill btw – after Pasquills who settled sometime ago in Lancashire (my grandfather was a bricklayer hence an interest in George Herriman’s brick-throwing mouse, Ignatz, and also Menzel who spent some time depicting bricklayers, and other workers, in his paintings and drawings) – I’m probably the first Pasquill to bring some literary self-awareness to this line of descent though.

From my wikipedia entry (which, after an unsurprisingly short space of time, ended up in the wikibin):

Of ephemeral interest, the origin of the family name “Pasquill” may be traced to Pasquino (Lat. Pasquillus), one of the talking statues of Rome, and subsequent literary history of the word as a synonym and designator for an anonymous lampoon or squib. See Thomas Nashe and the Marprelate Controversy for an example of pasquil usage in sixteenth-century England.

The name ‘Derek’ is, of course, contained in the Dutch term for rhetorician, Rederijker, and, as pasquils were often proclaimed at late medieval Rederijkerskamers (Chamber of rhetoric), insertion of the imaginary nickname ‘Red’ into “Derek ‘Red’ Pasquill” produces a macaronic language device accentuating this historical connection.(1)

(1) Veldman, Ilja M. Maarten van Heemskerck and Dutch humanism in the sixteenth century. Amsterdam, Meulenhoff, 1977.


But … to return to the review – I have been reading the Polity World series for the past few weeks, and the sentiment at the end – not to be missed for the world – even though there is some play on universe/world – is one that I do not think can be argued with. In particular:

— Mr Crane – I can see why your readers find him so popular – he is a compelling character;
— The Gabbleducks;
— The use of Edward Lear to name the runcible, quince etc;
— U-space, U-tech, U-continuum;

and so on. The metaphysics at the beginning of the review – anything, something, nothing, everything – it’s just one thing after another – well this is based on other readings which perhaps mistakenly I have tried to shoehorn into your universe. And I’m still puzzling over Gotthard Gunther’s

Parts of the Universe have a higher reflective power than the whole of it, which may be connected in some way.

Interview with Jerry Pournelle.

Good interview with Jerry Pournelle here on Pyjamas TV.

Glenn Reynolds sits down with science-fiction master Jerry Pournelle to discuss the Japanese reactor meltdowns, atomic energy, the climate, and the future of artificial intelligence. How prepared is the United States for disaster? Pournelle wonders whether FEMA and the decline of civil defense has put America at even greater risk in the event of disaster.

Simon Kavanagh Interview

This is an old interview on the SFX site but still interesting for all that. Simon Kavanagh is a literary agent who works for Mic Cheetham’s. Before that job he also read some typescripts for Peter Lavery at Macmillan. One of the typescripts dumped on him, along with the question, ‘Is this any good?’ was from a little known SF author and bore the title Gridlinked…

SFX: What’s the most powerful lesson you’ve learned about the writing business?

“That plot is everything. I once heard an editor say that ‘character’ was the most important element of a novel. Tosh. Dickens creates great characters – but Oliver Twist would be a bloody short book if Oliver lived with his mum and dad. It’s a constant curiosity to me that this element of fiction is so ignored by literary critics. Stephen King and Peter F Hamilton, for example, are Paramount Grand Masters of plot – but that aspect of their work is never given the ‘literary’ credit it deserves. Then again – who cares? They sell well and the public get their money’s worth. So bear in mind that publishing exists in a world dominated by sales figures. It has to in order to survive and compete with film, TV and games. It’s not exactly ‘three strikes and you’re out’ but you have to sell copies in order to survive.”

SFX: What’s the biggest mistake that inexperienced writers make when trying to break into the SF scene?

“The biggest mistake is trying to be someone else. Don’t try to be Tolkien. Don’t try to be Neal Asher, JK Rowling or Ken MacLeod. All writers steal ideas, scenarios, inspiration, characters from each other – how could they not? But they have to find their own voice in which to tell their story. If I’m in a bookstore and want to read something like George RR Martin then I’ll buy George RR Martin and not the chap who’s like him. That’s easy advice to give, but incredibly hard to implement when you’re staring at a blank page.”