Ken MacLeod's comments.
The title comes from two quotes:
“Work as if you lived in the early days of a better nation.”—Alasdair Gray.
“If these are the early days of a better nation, there must be hope, and a hope of peace is as good as any, and far better than a hollow hoarding greed or the dry lies of an aweless god.”—Graydon Saunders
In personal and family matters it's been a good one. In terms of work, though, it's been something of a forced march. Entirely my own fault: I was doing work in 2015 that I really should have done in 2014. Instead, I deluded myself that with enough research and planning in 2014, I'd be able to write the first draft of a novel at a speed I'd never attained before. This made me uncannily relaxed about giving a lot of attention to the Scottish independence referendum campaign, having a good time at Loncon 3, and so on.
In a sense I was right: I did write two novels this year, but they each took longer than I'd allowed for and left little time for anything else. At the moment I have the page proofs of the first, the second is with my editor, and the third is due for delivery mid-April. The plan is for the books to be published at six-month intervals from May 2016, and so far it's on course.
What's it about? Well ...
The general title of the trilogy is The Corporation Wars, and the books are sub-titled Dissidence, Insurgence, and Emergence. It's a far-future space opera about uploaded dead war criminals conscripted to fight an outbreak of robot sentience in an extrasolar system, and kept sane by copious amounts of R&R in immersive VR environments, some of which are beta-tests of a planned future terraforming and some of which are based on fantasy RPGs. The conflict rapidly becomes much more complicated ... but has this been the plan all along, or has a clever stratagem all gone horribly wrong?
So I've been busy. Among the other things this has left time for:
Giving a course, with Mike Cobley, on writing SF and fantasy at Moniack Mhor; talking, with Nathan Coombs, about space and socialism at a Manchester Spring event (video here); delivering a keynote (links to video and transcript here) at FSCONS in Sweden; and taking part in various book and science festivals.
Over the past few months I've been reading every Scottish poem published in 2015 (a still ongoing project, as they keep on coming) to select and introduce the next of the annual Best Scottish Poems, an awesome responsibility and a new challenge.
Among the things all this hasn't left time for is what ate so much of my time in 2014: involvement, however marginal, in actual political campaigning and argument.
At 2 p.m. this Saturday, 28 November, I'll be interviewed by Lisa Tuttle at Tarbert Book Festival on the Poems of Iain Banks and on my own writing. The whole programme is interesting and varied -- if you're in the area, do check it out.
Tomorrow, Sunday 23 August, I'll be at the Edinburgh International Book Festival talking about and reading from Poems by Iain Banks. The event is chaired by Stuart Kelly, who knew Iain well and chaired events with Iain and me several times, so it promises to be something special.
Details: Sun 23 Aug 2:15pm - 3:15pm Garden Theatre
In case you can't make the event and the signing afterwards, you can pick up signed copies at the Waterstones on-site shop and local branches. And if you miss that, copies signed by me and (if you like) personalised will still be available from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh.
In 1979, the French radical intellectual Régis Debray tossed a tear-gas cannister into the complacent, cross-class nostalgia for May 1968. He saw the significance of les événements not as a failed overthrow of French capitalism, but a convulsive convergence with the wider West, saying (if memory serves) that 'We had to imagine ourselves as Chinese, in order to become Californians.'
I can't match his gloomy verve, but I'll make a similar suggestion about the lesser upheaval of 2015 in Scotland. This is a country that never took to New Labour, but has suffered and enjoyed all the changes in class composition and identity to which New Labour was a reaction. And yet we've cherished our self-image as keepers of the flame. Our refrain has been: 'We didn't leave Labour, Labour left us.'
Now, in the name of Old Labour values, we've overwhelmingly elected a party that stands on almost all issues to the right of even the present Labour Party, let alone that of Donald Dewar and John Smith. The SNP is a party with a fresh, charismatic leader who appeals to all classes and who proclaims a business-friendly programme in social-democratic language. In doing this she has enabled us to at last catch up with the post-socialist world, without losing face or backing down. We had to imagine ourselves as Venezuelans, in order to become Blairites.
Interested in writing science fiction and/or fantasy? Michael Cobley and I are teaching a short course from 1 pm Thursday 13 May to noon Sunday 17 May at Monaick Mhor, the creative writing centre in the Highlands near Inverness. The centre is comfortable, accessible, spacious and beautifully situated. Though we already have a healthy number of bookings, a few places are still available. So if you're interested, book now.
After that my diary is reassuringly blank until the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, which is just as well because I'm writing the second volume of a space opera trilogy, having just recently delivered the first to the tender mercies of my brilliant editor. It's all rebel robots and walking dead space mercenaries in an extrasolar posthuman conflict, and therefore something of a shift from my recent focus on the near future.
My work to date is the topic of a forthcoming seminar at Crooked Timber, where some very bright and sharp critics dissect the books and I pick over the resulting anatomical diagrams (usually to explain where what has been charitably read as a deep engagement with a significant body of rigorous thought has in fact been gleaned from, but them's the breaks.)