Tuesday, August 28, 2012

If you are anywhere near Bard, come and be my Guinea Pig

I'm staying in an ancient farmhouse in New York State, several miles from Bard College, 90 miles North of New York.

It's astonishingly peaceful here.

It's the first time Amanda and I have actually lived somewhere, without any other people in the house, somewhere that wasn't a hotel, in about 18 months. It's really good. This morning we went for a five mile walk, and we talked the whole way. So much to catch up on.

It's the calm before the storm of course, as she's going to spend the best part of the next 14 months on the road with her band, and we'll catch each other as we can. I'm trying to figure out where I'm going to live for most of that time (current front runners are London, New York and San Francisco, for the curious).

Amanda is working with the Bard theatrical/performing arts department and her band, all under the direction of Michael McQuilken, to build make and sculpt the tour they're going to be doing. Somewhere in there she got MIT involved and so now has a lot of very strange high tech stuff that has never been let out of the lab, including the ability to play people as instruments. She's doing a couple of test shows for the public before the tour, on Sept 5th and 6th.

I finished a quite long, and very late, short story the other day, rather to my surprise. I nearly gave up on it a few times along the way, but didn't want to disappoint the people who were waiting for it. I sent it to the editors nervously. They loved it, and so (to my relief) have the few other people I've shown it to.

The story has a title that keeps changing, but is more or less something to do with the image above (borrowed from here).

I want to read it aloud to an audience to find out what really works and what doesn't, as I do the second draft, and to see what I need to fix. I think it's going to be somewhere between 50 and 60 minutes long to read aloud. Depending on how long it is I may read a few other things to make up the time to about 70/80 minutes. (Any requests?)

I talked to Bard, hoping for an empty classroom and a few students with time on their hands.

They gave me their biggest theatre, the Sosnoff, on Wednesday the 5th of September at 6 pm. (Details here.) It's in the amazing Richard B Fisher Centre for the Performing Arts building.

It's completely free to get in. You are, after all, guinea pigs.

Bard will be seating on a first come first served basis, but 900 seats is a lot of seats to fill, so you should be able to get a seat, if you come. (If you're coming from far away, get there earlier.) (Also, if you are hesitating, please come.)

If anyone's already going to see Amanda and the Grand Theft Orchestra that night (doors open at 7:30) wants to come and see me first, I will definitely finish in time for that. (They'll be in a different theatre about 100 feet away.) (You can reserve tickets for the Amanda show here. And if you don't want to see me, or can't make it, she'll also be performing the following night.)

Edited to add a picture from our walk this morning.

Authors. You can't give them away.

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong

Neal Stephenson and I were not standing in order to make it quite clear who Neil #1 was and would always be.

I spent a couple of days in Neil Armstrong's company. He was as nice, as modest and as wise as anybody could have hoped for. If you ever wondered what my face looks like when I'm going "This is really happening, and I am the luckiest man in the world," it looks a lot like it does in this photo.

His achievements were the stuff of legend, and I am lucky to have known him, if only for a brief time,  I am sad that he's gone, proud as a member of the human race that he did what he did for all of us.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leavings and Partings

When I started this blog I didn't even have a digital camera, and Maddy was six. Here's a photo of us from 2005, age 11, taken on an old Nokia phone, the earliest photo I can find of us together on this computer.

Here's guest-blogger Maddy in 2007 in Budapest, directing Hellboy 2, to the bewilderment of Guillermos Del Toro and Navarro.

She took this last week on her phone, when we went on a short father-daughter road-trip. She's seventeen going on eighteen.

In two hours she drives off across the country to go to college.

I'm so happy for her, so completely proud, but, at the same time, the joy is suffused with melancholy: I feel like an era is over, in a way that I didn't when Mike and Holly went to college. That was that.  I've co-raised three remarkable children and now have an empty house. (If you exclude the dogs, houseguests and all the people wandering around.)

And I've been waiting for so long for a time when I could go anywhere and do anything (as long as the anything is writing stuff people are waiting for), and now it's here and I have absolutely no idea what to do with it. (With perfect timing, Amanda starts rehearsals for her 14 month World Tour this week, and says "Why don't you go somewhere that makes you happy and write?" She's right, of course, as she normally is. I just need to work out where that is.)

Right. I will go for a jog by the river now, and then type out a story.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison

I was 23 when I met Harry Harrison, thirty years ago. We met at Seacon 84, a science fiction convention in Brighton. I asked him if I could interview him for Knave, and he said yes. We did the interview, and took photos, around the Natural History Museum, as Harry had written a novel called West of Eden, about intelligent dinosaurs.

I'd been a fan of Harry's since reading the first Stainless Steel Rat story in an ancient copy of Astounding Science Fiction I'd found as a boy. I'd loved his books and stories. I had them all.

I instantly and hugely liked the man - and his wife, Joan, of whom I said on this blog, when she died, a decade ago,

 Joan was the kind of person who made you feel, instantly, like family, if she liked you, and she liked me. When they'd talk about the famous SF people of the 40s, 50s and 60s, she was the one who'd say things like, "Well, of course his wife left him, and I couldn't blame her, it was just after that party, the one where he hit Bob Sheckley with a glass ashtray, you remember, Harry?" giving me a much more interesting and personal version of the history of the Science Fiction field than I might otherwise have had.

Harry agreed to write (for nothing, which was good as Kim and I had no money) an introduction to my first SF related book, Ghastly Beyond Belief, by me and Kim Newman - a huge boost and vote of confidence for two nervous young authors.

We stayed friends as years passed.

He was crusty, curmudgeonly, opinionated and a real delight to know. We last had quality time in 2004, when we had breakfast together in Boston.

I heard this morning that Harry had passed away.

I went looking for the original interview to post here. I could only find the last two pages, but seeing they end with Harry Harrison's advice to young writers, here they are. (If you click, they should be readable.)

Edit to add, Shield Bonnichsen just sent me the missing pages. Here's the whole interview.

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