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Spin your Science finalist

Uncategorised Posted on Tue, December 26, 2023 18:27:31

Locus Magazine, the unofficial newspaper of the speculative fiction world, mentioned the possibility of entering a short story competition that was being run out of the Indian Festival of Science and which was open to writers from all over the world. The competition was called, ‘Spin your Science’. I entered a story called One Ring to Find Them which is closely based on my day job and was very pleasantly surprised to be one of 20 finalists. At the time of writing, the top 3 stories have not been chosen. It is unlikely my story will go further, as I would expect (and hope) it should go to an Indian writer. Nonetheless, my story will be published online and in their annual magazine. Apparently, the finalists’ stories/poems will be put on a chip with the idea in the future it will go to the moon!

Once links are available, I will post them here, meanwhile here is the announcement of the finalists.

Steve Hackett –Genesis revisited, in concert

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, May 27, 2023 16:44:39

On Thursday just over a week ago, I, together with my wife and a prog rock friend, went to see Steve Hackett’s penultimate concert on his current tour. A great musician in his own right, he is often best identified as Genesis’ former guitarist. It was a very special evening for several reasons.

Firstly, a Steve Hackett concert in Birmingham, UK, was the first date between me and my new girlfriend. It was just him on guitar and his brother John on various woodwind instruments. When a rock musician strips back to such a simple setup, their skill as an instrumentalist (or lack thereof) is immediately exposed. It was a tour de force and we were both very impressed. Clearly this was a good start to our relationship as we’ve been married over 30 years!

Secondly, my friend is a talented musician who has played keyboards for a Swedish Genesis tribute band—and he is, therefore, a great fount of knowledge concerning all things Genesis, and valuable commentator at such an event. He gave me an unexpected aside as the concert was starting: the lead singer in Steve’s band, also a Swede, had been a lead singer in his own band in the past.

Finally, it was a really great concert.

Cirkus in Stockholm is a relatively small, intimate venue, so there’s no need for massive screens to see the performers on a distant stage. The evening was split into two. The first half was Steve’s own material much of which I was familiar with. Steve started and finished the session with excerpts from Voyage of the Acolyte; a solo album that he made whilst still being a member of Genesis. The second half was dominated by a complete performance of Genesis’s 4th album, Foxtrot. It contains classic songs like Watcher of the Skies and Supper’s Ready. I last heard the latter live whilst on holiday in Barcelona. I spotted Musical Box, the Canadian Genesis tribute band, on a poster and, abandoning our teenage daughters for the evening—in a complete role reversal—we spontaneous launched ourselves across the city to the venue. As Steve and his band played the whole album, I really enjoyed hearing the other songs from the record: songs which I suspect have rarely been heard live since the 1970s.

Then there was the encore.

An unmistakable piano introduction and they launched into my favourite Genesis song, Firth of Fifth. My friend has previously told me this is the favourite audition piece for anybody wanting to play keyboards in a Genesis tribute band. Genesis themselves haven’t played the whole track for a long time, skipping the introductory piano. I listened to a YouTube interview recently with Roger King, Steve’s keyboard player. He explained that Tony Banks abandoned this impressive piano piece because it wasn’t possible to play properly with the older electronic pianos. Roger, with modern technology and great skill, made a fantastic job of it on this occasion. The other highlight in this piece is Steve’s soaring guitar solo, which he played so evocatively, and without the frilly embellishments that Genesis’ touring guitarist superimposes on the song.

Within the last couple of years, I have seen Genesis for the first and last time, Steve Hackett for the second time and this coming week Peter Gabriel for the umpteenth time. Gabriel is the artist I’ve seen most live over the last few decades. His live shows have been consistently outstanding. I would have loved to have seen Genesis or Steve with the same frequency, but never had the opportunity.  And now back to science and science fiction, although Watcher of the Skies, the track that launches us into Foxtrot, is pure SF!  

Two great fantasy novels

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, January 05, 2023 10:13:58

I mostly read science fiction rather than fantasy and watch crime shows on TV. However, every so often, I dip a toe into fantasy, particularly those books that don’t involve an epic door-stopper series. In 2022, the two favourite books I read, period, were both fantasy and I decided to record my impressions for posterity here.


I have not read Susanna Clarke’s much lauded fantasy novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell and so Piranesi was my first introduction to her work. I would recommend it unreservedly. It doesn’t seem to have won as many awards as I might have expected, despite being well-regarded critically. It has a unique world and character and is brilliantly written. I am still haunted by the images of the gigantic rooms and the faint but present homage to the worlds revealed in Lewis’ A Magician’s Nephew. The subtle revelation of Piranesi’s plight and the constant shifting of the literal and metaphorical tides create such a refreshingly unique world and a seemingly tragic inhabitant. Nothing is quite what it seems, right until the end. On my copy of Robert Holdstock’s fantasy, Mythago Wood, there’s a praise by Alan Gardner in which he says Holdstock’s book is “a new expression of the British genius for true fantasy”. I would say the same about Piranesi.

You can find this on Amazon, just search on the name. I tried to link but Amazon just emblazoned a whole lot of unwanted stuff into my article.

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms

By complete contrast in tone and execution, I very much enjoyed another masterful fantasy by another British author, David Gullen. An established writer, his short fiction is now turning up in hallowed genre magazines like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Gullen throws into the melting pot a vivid portrayal of the British seaside town of Brighton and its visitation by a mermaid. There are many tropes here, the mermaid herself, ancient history, magic, and Tim Wassiter, the not entirely competent private detective who leans on magic as his modus operandi. Nonetheless, Gullen brings these things together in a seamless and refreshing way, lacing his story with romance, menace and subtle humour in equal measure. The characters are vividly portrayed, and I particularly fell for the seemingly independent ‘Hand’ of Persistent Smith, one of the detective’s assistants. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a book so much. Dave was also one of my tutors at the 2014 WorldCon writers’ workshop in London and his input to my short fiction was and is very much appreciated.

Fission #1 is out in the World

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, March 13, 2022 14:52:57

As I kind of expected Fission was released as an e-book to members of the BSFA late summer. They mentioned physical copies going to authors and that, after some delay, this is now underway. Due to Brexit, and the time it now takes for post to get from the UK to Sweden, I’m not surprised I have yet to receive my physical copy. Even the simple Christmas card my sister sent us seemed to have had a customs stop!

The good news is that the BSFA have now released Fission #1 as a paperback available on Amazon in UK, USA and Sweden. The links for US (which gets a nice picture of the cover) and the UK (which does not) are below. Searching Fission #1 on will also get you to it in Sweden:

UK link below

Meanwhile, I’ve submitted a story to Fission #2. Publication in the second issue is less likely because a) they are paying authors (so there will be much more competition) and b) the editor who liked and accepted my story for the first issue has stepped down and two new editors have stepped in.  I have learnt that so much of publication is finding an editor that likes your work, unless you’re clearly brilliant (which I am not). I’ve also submitted a very science orientated and short in length story to a US magazine.  Meanwhile novel revisions continue…

New story in Fission magazine

Uncategorised Posted on Sat, July 10, 2021 14:14:07

In my short fiction writing journey there’s some important news! My short story “The First and Last Safe Place” has been selected for the first issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s new fiction magazine, Fission. This magazine is intended to be an annual anthology of short fiction. Whilst I am still wrestling with my novel revisions, it’s a great encouragement to have a story selected by Allen Stroud, the editor of Fission who’s also the current Chair of the BSFA.  It’s a unique opportunity for my fiction to reach a much bigger audience than it has so far, so I am very grateful that Allen liked the story. The details of the publication (probably sent as a mailing to members), is still unclear, but I will update when I have more information.

The Gift of Grogu

Uncategorised Posted on Wed, March 31, 2021 07:25:51


As a man with two daughters (whom I love dearly), I didn’t have great expectations that there would be someone like me. This just goes to show that although I am a biological scientist, my grasp of genetics is somewhat flaky—to say the least! Not everything is channeled through sex-differences.

In fact, I have learned a lot about myself as I have observed my children grow up. I even wonder whether Gene Wolfe’s classic novella and title story that begins the book The Fifth Head of Cerberus was inspired by his own observation of his children.

My youngest daughter returned from her Scottish Art school and her studies in animation rather abruptly around a year ago, just as lockdown was about to start and as her university switched to remote learning. She finished her studies by distance and despite the traumatic extraction, passed with flying colours.

Not surprisingly, given the subject of her degree studies, she had subscribed to Disney plus, and in common with her Dad has a soft-spot for SF and fantasy, particularly in in the visual arts. Consequently, she’s been a willing companion for the three science fiction World Conventions that I have attended. So, she invited her parents to watch The Mandalorian with her. It’s one of the better Star Wars spin-offs, and whilst the titular character is interesting and well-drawn, it’s The Child, a member of Yoda’s species, who steals the show. I knew she was was labouring away on some work of art for my Christmas present, but I was firmly excluded from watching the process. She considers herself a digital artist but also works with physical media. Nevertheless, the present I received was painted digitally. My jaw dropped when finally I saw it. Here it is in all its glory below.

The Child -Grogu

We had some debate about the eggs he’s eating, belonging to the poor frog lady. I argue that it’s just like eating chicken eggs as they were unfertilized, given the story was their journey to find her husband for the fertilization job. None-the-less, they were the last of their species… If you want to see more of her art, follow her on Instagram:@pandaswings –and here you can also see how she built up the picture.

After this burst of blog activity, another announcement will follow shortly—watch this space…

Adminstrative note on comments

Uncategorised Posted on Wed, March 24, 2021 07:45:30

Some time ago my website host moved this blog to WordPress. This was generally a good move, though their first shot at it corrupted all the text formatting. They did sort it out fairly quickly, thankfully. Under the old regime, the comments didn’t function properly. That is, there was no mechanism to approve the comments and rather than be spammed out I switched this off.

I switched on comments on again with the new WordPress (which has the ability to screen comments) and then left this blog alone for quite some time. Quite some time, it seems, is plenty of time to get spammed. So when I finally updated the blog, I peeked into the pending comments. Of the approximately 450 comments all but 3 were straight spam. The remaining 3 were at least trying to relate to the subject of the website, if not the post they associated their comments with. Needless to say, I didn’t approve these either. I then installed a spam eliminating program offered by the webhost.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that comments are now activated again and I promise to regularly check.

If you want to contact me directly try cj (the funny at squiggle)

A more interesting post will appear here shortly!

1756 to patient zero, and back again

Uncategorised Posted on Sun, March 21, 2021 17:43:47

A piece I wrote for this blog (but never posted) about a year ago began like this:

Several weeks ago, at 7 am, as I drove to the training I do most weeks, it was light for the first time, a sign that Spring is in the air, a feeling reinforced by the appearance of snowdrops and healthy sprouts of daffodils. Well, snowdrops—poor sods—are going to have to think about a new name.

It was the middle of February and winter in Stockholm seemed to have passed without snow and as I write this at the end of March 2020, apart from a short-lived dusting, snow has remained absent. We’ve lived here over 20 years and always had snow every winter. One of the main Swedish newspapers (Dagens Nyheter) announced it was the warmest January since 1756. Is the climate changing? No, it has changed—drastically.

Is this a political comment? No, not at all, it’s a scientific one. William Gibson, the guy credited for coining the word, Cyberspace, returned to writing SF in one of his more recent novels, The Peripheral. In this book he described a calamitous event which he called the Jackpot. In fact, we learn that this isn’t one calamity but a convergence of several. I now learn that the Jackpot idea’s original source was probably from Robert Heinlein. This neatly leads me to the present day where something rather worse than the delay of winter is emerging in Wuhan, China: a new kind of corona virus.

And then 2020 disappeared into a pandemic that would put the best SF dystopia’s to shame. Like many things that take the human race by surprise and hit us over the head when we’re least expecting it, with hindsight, it could have been predicted. (Plastic, I’m looking at you!) The possibility of this event had been foreshadowed by previous coronavirus outbreaks and the crossover from the world of wildlife to the human population encroaching on it.

The personal fall-out has been devastating, not just among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, but the knock-on effect of losing intensive care beds (not to mention the carnage wrought on medical staff) has been predicted to kill as many people as the virus itself. Married to somebody working in the health services, I hear of the effects first hand. However, the full economic impact and the dissolution of people’s livelihoods have still to be fully felt. And it is a coronavirus, so thinking of the flu (which requires annual immunization), it looks like the so-called ‘new normal’ will be with us for some years to come.

Here in Sweden, we had lock-down lite, which worked here in the first wave due to the conformist culture where people generally carefully follow the recommendations (and probably the lower population density). However, I think by the time we got to the second wave, conformist fatigue reared its head.

On reflection, the feeling I got over this last year was not one of living in a SF Dystopia, but more like an Alternative Reality: familiar things still exist but everything is distorted in unimagined ways by the slight of some author’s hand. The better news in 2021 was we had more snow here than for many years. Whilst this is probably one of those dips that you see on the graphs of gradual temperature rises, at least the poor snowdrops got a temporary reprieve of their name.

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