31 May 2006


Yesterday I sent off the final(ish) drafts of the short stories for Big Finish anthologies which have been keeeping me occupied me of late (and keeeping me so scandalously from you, dear reader).

Between them they come to well over 20,000 words, which explains why they've seemed such a marathon effort. That's over half the length of Peculiar Lives, which took me six months to write, and more than a sixth that of Of the City of the Saved..., which took me well over a year.

Of course there's still a certain amount of faffing to be done with both of them, as the editors get back to me with comments and suggestions as to how they might be improved, or made to fit better into their respective anthologies. In addition, one piece is actually a co-write with that volume's editor, so in that case there'll almost certainly be more toing-and-froing between us before we're satisfied with the result.

Still, at present I'm very happy with how both pieces have turned out. One's a straightforward short story -- albeit rather longer than usual at 8,600 words -- written to some fairly stringent (if largely self-imposed) restrictions which I'll talk about some more once it's been published. It shouldn't be too long before this one's announced, so I'll update you on that once the information's been released. I don't think it's giving too much away, though, to say that this one's the reason I've been watching quite so much early Doctor Who recently.

The other piece is actually five interludes to be scattered throughout a (different) anthology, together with the aforementioned co-written short story which forms its finale. This one's been particularly interesting to work on, as I've been developing an ongoing plotline which has repercussions in the other contributors' stories, and hopefully takes some cues from them as well. The plan is that this will result in a well-integrated and coherent collection which will read as a whole rather than a series of unrelated pieces. We'll see how well that comes off, but from everything I've seen so far the Ed in question is managing it most impressively.

It's also the first time I've co-written a piece of prose, which adds to the novelty value (at least for me -- probably not so much for you). Again, more information on this once the book's been announced (though I'm not sure at present quite when that will be), and once it's published I'll also update the website with some details of the unusual writing process.

Meanwhile, The Albino's Dancer, the Time Hunter novella which follows next-but-one in the series after Peculiar Lives, is due out imminently (the Telos website suggests 15 June). To celebrate the fact, its author Paul Dale Smith has updated his website with various bits and pieces, including a rather lovely imaginary Foreword to the novella. This makes excellent use of the various metafictional references in the Time Hunter sequence, and pleasingly references my own book and its narrator, Erik Clevedon. (There are also at least two pieces of fiction hidden as "easter eggs" on PDS's Albino's Dancer pages, which I'll leave you to find by yourselves.)

I read The Albino's Dancer a little while ago, and it's highly recommended -- certainly the best Time Hunter novella since Kitsune, (leaving aside Peculiar Lives, which I'm not really qualified to comment on). It's a witty, complex book that treats both the characters and the reader with respect, and has a plot like intricate origami. It comes highly recommended from me, and you can preorder it here.

09 May 2006

A Momentary Break in the Static

I'm sorry, once again, about the radio silence from these parts. I'm snowed under with various aspects of work and life at present, and keeping the blog updated is -- just for the moment -- rather more than I can manage on a regular basis.

Things which I am up to include two short fiction projects for Big Finish, both of which are for different reasons rather longer, rather more interesting and considerably bittier to write than the usual fare. I'm enjoying them both very much, but they are taking up large chunks of the available time. Expect to see moderately exciting announcements reasonably soon now.

I'm still hoping that time will soon allow me to post more regularly, and more interestingly, here and on Parrinium Mines. But, er, not the moment. Sorry.

If you were wondering, Club Sabbath was tremendous fun, despite some teething troubles -- it's probably already going down in urban legend as the night with as many M.C.s as there were comedians, after several of Lawrence's associates found their improv skills in demand following his early and impromptu vanishing act. What with the masks, it's always possible some of the punters present didn't notice.

Still, everyone involved was funny -- sadly Danielle Ward wasn't able to be there, but I was glad to have the opportunity to discover that Natalie Haynes is just as hilarious.

What's more, the London Stone is a surprisingly atmospheric and strange venue, belying the gothy kitsch of its owners' website. The whole of the cellar bar is painted to resemble a library in the idiom of Edgar Allen Poe, with the toilets hidden amusingly behind concealed doors in the painted bookshelves. Along with the predictable skulls and candles there's a large display case full of alchemical instruments. It's very odd.

The beer's hopeless, mind you. Still, it was tremendous fun to meet up with numerous splendid people, including Vigornian, Puffinry, Mags and The Ladylark, and to talk Doctor Who with some of them.

Back in Bristol, B. and I have discovered another rather decent pub in our near vicinity. This one is a bit gentrified, and some of the rooms do look a little like a furniture catalogue... but it does Bristol Beer Factory beers, and Wild Hare organic lager, and Pieminister's fantastic pies (the "Mighty Aphrodite" with aubergine, pepper and feta being particularly recommended), and is thus deserving of our custom.

Otherwise, things are manic yet strangely uninteresting. Our Buffy and Six Feet Under retrospectives have now progressed to seasons Six and Five respectively, and I'm reading books by two S.F.-or-affiliated authors about whom I've raved here previously: Priest's The Affirmation (a sequel of sorts to The Dream Archipelago, although predictably one which subverts it entirely) and McAuley's Fairyland , both of which are fantastic.

(My copy of Fairyland has "Philip Hallard 1997" written in the flyleaf. Frustratingly, I've only just got round to reading it.)

And -- while I usually make it a policy not to bang on about Doctor Who here more than my general career path makes necessary -- I can't resist pointing out that The Girl in the Fireplace was a beautiful, intricately-crafted clockwork miniature of an episode, single-handedly restoring my faith in the series after what I've felt to be a very rocky start to this season and to David Tennant's tenure as the Doctor. Praise be to Steven Moffat.

The Professor's Banoffee Pie

(So named for historical reasons which need not concern us here. Serves a smallish party, or a very greedy family.)

You will need:

around ½ a packet of digestive biscuits
[possibly butter and golden syrup]
toffee [see below]
8 to 10 bananas (overripe and/or bruised are fine)
1 pint of whipping cream
instant coffee
ground coffee.

Making the toffee

The classic technique is to buy a couple of tins of condensed milk, and carry out the following surprising procedure on them.

Place the tins -- full, intact and unpierced -- in a large pan of boiling water. Boil them persistently for around four hours, topping up the water frequently. Provided you remember that last bit, the tins will not explode.

At the end of this, take the tins out and place them in cold water to cool. When you open them you will, I promise, find that the inside of them has turned into toffee of a spreadable consistency.

Alternatively, if you're no longer a cheapskate student, you can buy this stuff instead. Mmm.

Assembling the pie

Put the biscuits in a bag and smack them about with a rolling pin until they've gone all crumbly. This can be a good way of working out frustration with work, or with your love life.

Either put the biscuit crumbs neat into a greased dish, or else microwave them for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, with a spoonful of syrup and a couple of knivesful of butter, to turn them into a biscuit base. Neat works fine, though.

Spread liberally with toffee. Don't forget to clean the knife afterwards. Mm.

Mash the bananas.

Yes, I said mash them. Sliced-banana banoffee is an abomination unto the Lord.

No, it's not going to end up too sweet. It's all under control, I promise.

Now spread mashed banana over the layer of toffee. God, that looks good. Yes. Yes.

Add a couple of spoonsful of instant coffee to the cream (you can use decaff if you're feeding children or unusually susceptible guests). Whip the cream until it's stiff and fluffy, like a randy bunny-rabbit.

Spread liberally over the layer of banana. Sprinkle with a spoonful of ground coffee (again, decaff if necessary). The bitterness of the coffee will offset the sweetness of the banana, bringing the sweetness of the whole within manageable levels.

Put in the refrigerator to set. Probably not for too long, though. It doesn't keep at all well, more's the pity.