I started the whole Sci-Fi/Fantasy thing as a spotty nerdy teenager. Managed to lose the spots and teens, still a nerd! Cut my teeth as many of us do on Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Flirted slightly with the extremely misogynist John Norman and his planet Gor (I was a teenager!) and the “esteemed” Ron Hubbard. I later diversified to Sci Fantasy and remember devouring the Belgarion series by Mr and Mrs Eddings. I had an open order for every book as it came out. I still have quite a collection of hard copy books but nowadays most books are “Kindled” on the Ipad.
I got into Richard Morgan’s early books a few years ago and while waiting for the next in the series looked around for similar genre, found the Polity, and was converted! I love the whole Polity universe as it is painted on such a large canvas, there’s blood, gore and hydraulic fluid aplenty but generally Neal’s tone is one of optimism (As long as you don’t let the humans control anything critical). I also find listening to the audio versions an excellent way of covering large distances in the car without being bored to insensibility. Neal, thanks for the mental pictures, whether it’s C or Si based, you flesh (HiCr) out a character superbly. While waiting on the next polity instalment, I’m revisiting Gemmell and Pratchett, both sorely missed.
As for myself, I trained as a foundry engineer at college, left knowing everything and that I was the pinnacle of evolution. One week on the shop floor in a heavy steel foundry soon sorted that out! I started as a technician and worked myself up through production and then into sales. Covered steel, iron, aluminium and nonferrous alloys, die casting, moulding, investment casting and MIM before moving into the black art of metal powder manufacturing.
Anybody who has been associated with foundries will know our aversion to extremely hot metals combined with water. So when it was first explained to me during the factory tour that they atomise a 1650 C metal stream with high pressure cold water, my first instinct was to run!
Fortunately I stayed and moved into the position of Sales Director and got to learn so much about pressing metals, filtered metals and my favourite the spraying of metal powders. Who cannot be impressed watching a -53µm superalloy powder being sprayed through a miniature jet engine at multiple Mach!
I worked within the engineering group for over 10 years before it was sold to an “Entrepreneur” who wanted to take us all back to “grass roots” Translation, stop trying to stay on the leading edge and make lots of simple things that can be copied and made cheaper in other countries. Ah, the foresight!
I left and the group was bust in 12 months
As many do when we can’t fall back to a real job immediately, I became a consultant! One contract involved doing due diligence on an obscure metal powder company in the middle of Slovakia. I had an option of this or a similar company in Oslo. I had spent most of my commercial life working in Asia and West Coast USA. I hate the cold! Due to an incredible lack of geographical knowledge, I presumed the town in Slovakia with the same latitude as Paris would be a better option in December than Norway. Brilliant deduction, I arrived in Zilina “International” (2 flights a week only to Prague!) Airport on the 19th December 2005 to find out that the temperature of -27C did exist outside the polar regions, f***king Oslo was +6C!!
At this time, Slovakia was still very “Socialistic” – grey concrete buildings, no colours aside from the candle lit cemeteries, and of course a metre of bloody snow everywhere. I was slightly surprised therefore to find that my source of more appropriate hat and gloves was a bloody big white building with Tesco writ large on the side. Despite this, the people were lovely even if the factory was tired, unkempt and downright dangerous in areas. I did the due diligence, I reported back and the German company I was working for, purchased the complete site.
A couple of months later I was tasked with going there as a technical consultant for a 3 month contract, 11 years later I’m still here (must cancel that return flight!) now a Managing Director and have never been so content.
I have a lovely house in the village with my very own mountain! The people are still lovely although the language is an utter bastard (Slovaks are SO proud of this), we now have a modern, productive and profitable company and a management team second to none.
I’m still a nerd, and as I’m a totally selfish bastard I live on my own. I still enjoy messing around with computers and playing with the latest available tech. In the UK I was heavily into car restoration and car building but nowadays the idea of a 5 speed gearbox crushing my nagers whilst laying on a cold concrete floor doesn’t have the appeal, I’m getting soft.
One of my first projects during the house reconstruction was to convert one of the garages into a model railway room, if it’s good enough for Rod Stewart it’s good enough for me. Always wanted one as a kid and as I now have the space, money and total selfish indulgence, I can allow my inner child to run free. Of course I tie it in to computer / tablet control / remote access etc.
Holidays in Asia and/or South France are still enjoyable, weekends working on small trains or in the garden, life is good!
Oh and the liking for warm climates? It got down to -30C in the village this Winter! 😉