|The Early Days of a Better Nation|
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
My novel Descent (UK/ANZ/Amazon UK/ sample here) is being launched at Edinburgh's fine bookshop Blackwell's on Thursday 6 March.
Date: Thursday 6th March
Venue: Blackwell’s Bookshop, 53-62 South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1YS
I'll be reading from the novel and answering questions and generally talking about it. I've described Descent as being 'about flying saucers, hidden races, and Antonio Gramsci's concept of passive revolution, all set in a tale of Scottish middle class family life in and after the Great Depression of the 21st Century. Almost mainstream fiction, really.'
The event finishes at 8 pm, and no doubt discussion will continue in one or more of the local pubs.
This event is ticketed, but tickets are FREE. Tickets are available from the front desk at Blackwell’s Bookshop or by phoning 0131 622 8218
For more information or if you would like a signed copy please contact Ellie Wixon on
0131 622 8222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 21, 2014
On this year’s MA Creative Writing course at Napier University about half the students come from the US or Germany, and at commencement last September I felt like telling them how lucky they were as writers to be spending the next year in a country whose future was up for grabs in that very year, and how the buzz of argument and excitement around them would light up their work for years to come. How often, outside of outright revolutionary situations, do writers have a chance to overhear or take part in passionate and wide-ranging debate about politics and society in every café or pub or bus queue?
If I’d said that, of course, the students from Scotland would have laughed in my face, and the students from other countries would by now have five months of perplexed disappointment behind them. This month, though, with a few polls showing a small shift to Yes followed (not coincidentally) by a drumbeat of solemn warnings from businessmen, bankers, a united front of past, present and would-be future Chancellors of the Exchequer, and a past Prime Minister about the economic consequences of separation has set the land loud at last with the sound of tables thumped, pints splashed and cups and keyboards rattling.
Well, up to a point…
Anyway, my contributions so far have been my widely unremarked essay in Unstated and a recent blog piece for the social research site TheFuture of the UK and Scotland looking forward to Scotland After No, with Pat Kane putting the case for the other side. We each gave it our best shot, and raised not so much as a twitterstorm among the zealots.
So I was delighted to get an invitation from the illustrious Edinburgh University Socialist Society to take part next Wednesday, 26 March, in:‘a panel-style debate on Scottish Independence , with a socialist twist. We will have four speakers, all from the left, from both pro- and anti-independence positions but not attached to the two main campaigns.
The speakers are:
Jim Sillars, former SNP deputy leader and author of "In Place of Fear II: A Socialist Programme for an Independent Scotland".
Cat Boyd, trade union activist and member of the 'Radical Independence Campaign', a coalition of the left and far-left seeking independence as a means to achieving a greener, more equal society.
Pauline Bryan, labour movement activist and member of the 'Red Paper Collective', a labour-movement campaign seeking to emphasise class above nation in the referendum debate.
Ken MacLeod, science fiction writer and "techno-utopian socialist".’
Time: 17:45 until 20:00.
Place: Appleton Tower Lecture Theatre 4
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Just a quick heads-up for two imminent launch events for Fever Medicine, a graphics-heavy short novel by Shawn Harmon.
I was lightly involved in making suggestions for the first draft, so I'm biased, but I don't think I went too far when I described it as
'without a doubt, the best Edinburgh-set near-future cyberpunk tartan noir comic-style-illustrated short novel on medical ethics and public health policy … well, ever. It really is very good. With a vivid, violent and fast-moving plot, interspersed with well-placed boxes of factual information and challenging questions, it’s educational as well as entertaining. The illustrations and graphic design were done by highly talented students at the Edinburgh College of Art, and are a credit to the artists and the college.'
Details (with thanks to Joe Gordon and Jennyg):
Where: Pulp Fiction, Bread Street, Edinburgh
When: Friday, 24 January 2014, 19:00-20:00
‘Human Enhancement and Fever Medicine – Launch of an Illustrated Novel’
Shawn Harmon, the author of Fever Medicine, will introduce the genesis of this illustrated novel, followed by a brief reading, and will then invite those present to participate in a dialogue around the ethics of human enhancement. The discussion will be followed by wine and nibbles. Numbers for this event are limited.
Free tickets can be obtained through Event Brite.
Copies of Fever Medicine can be purchased on the evening.
Where: Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh
When: Monday, 27 January 2014, 18:00-20:00
The University of Edinburgh’s J Kenyon Mason Institute for Medicine, Life Sciences and Law is pleased to announce the following public event:
Title: ‘The Art and Science of Science Communication Through Arts: The Case of Fever Medicine, an Illustrated Novel’
A panel of experts chaired by Professor Jonathan Gibbs of the Edinburgh College of Art will discuss fiction and the arts in science and law communication. Shawn Harmon, law lecturer and author of Fever Medicine, will speak about the creative process which resulted in Fever Medicine, an illustrated novel that explores a range of legal and bioethical issues in a near-future setting. Award winning Scottish author, Ken MacLeod, will talk about the fiction writing process and the science fiction ‘toolkit’. Catherine Southworth, teacher and Communications and Outreach Manager for two EU-funded stem cell research consortia, will discuss science communication and her experience in the development of ‘Hope Beyond Hype’, a comic book format stem cell science teaching tool.
The panel presentation will be followed by an open discussion and thereafter by a wine reception. Numbers for this event are limited.
Free tickets can be obtained through Event Brite.
Copies of Fever Medicine can be purchased on the evening.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
I saw you strong and free, like the future.
what Althusser saw: the structures
replicate across time like molecules in a cheap graphic.
The 'you' addressed here is long gone from my life, and flourishing in her own, but the lines reminded me that I'd never actually read Althusser. So I went and read my old black Penguin University Book paperback of Althusser's For Marx, which turned out to make sense if you take it slowly. This in turn made me take a lot more seriously the critical literary theory that is an essential part of the Napier MA Creative Writing course. (I already knew that learning the theory worked wonders in terms of making students much better and more confident writers, but I'd idly assumed it was a sort of side-effect of lots of hard thinking.) An early consequence of this was a story I wrote this month for Jonathan Strahan's forthcoming anthology Reach for Infinity. I'm delighted to say that '"The Entire Immense Superstructure": An Installation' has been accepted, so yay!
My editor got back to say my publishers were interested in -- in fact, really excited about -- the least developed of my book ideas, so yay! again but of course that means I have to develop it into something solid by the time the Christmas trees go in the brown bins, so no rest for the wicked.
Have a good 2014, everyone.
Monday, December 23, 2013
That fine online magazine Aeon has today published my article on Colin Wilson, who died earlier this month and for whom I retained a sort of sceptical admiration long after my teenage enthusiasm waned. Reactions to his death suggest that that early enthusiasm and continuing admiration was more widely shared than I'd thought. If you'd like to comment on the piece, please do so there.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
On Wednesday evening I'll be at Edinburgh City Chambers, speaking at a free public seminar organised by the Edinburgh Active Citizenship Group, on the topic of 'A Year to Go to the Big Vote'. Needless to say, I'll be arguing for a No vote. My sparring partner will be pro-independence blogger Kate Higgins. The event runs from 7 - 9 pm, doors (and Word Power bookstall) open 6.30, admission free.
At the end of next week (Sun 29 September), I'll be at Shoreditch Town Hall, taking part in FutureFest, a festival of ideas and discussion about the future, organised by education/innovation charity Nesta; specifically, I'll be speaking in the Sci-Fi Writers' Parliament, in which SF writers including Pat Cadigan, Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross will propose radical legislation for future polities.
The following weekend, on Saturday 5 October, I have a session at the Wigtown Book Festival, talking with Stuart Kelly about my own work and that of Iain Banks.
At 8.30 pm on Wednesday 9 October I'm in a formal debate as part of the Durham Book Festival, on the challenging question 'Is great science great science fiction? Do we create scientific facts or do scientists simply discover what’s already there?' with Professor Tom McLeish (molecular physicist), Professor Patricia Waugh (English studies), and Dr Andrew Crumey (novelist and former physicist).
After all that, the panel on Technology and sutainablity: Kill or Cure? on Saturday 19 October at Battle of Ideas should be an absolute walk in the park, I don't think. But I'm looking forward to it.
Monday, September 16, 2013
My visit was as a guest of Fairies and Flying Saucers, the university's research cluster on fantasy and science fiction, and they looked after me well: Joseph Norman was at the bus stop to welcome me, and he showed me to the comfortable accommodation of the Lancaster Lodge and then met me in the bar for a pint or two before he and others took me out for a curry.
The conference was held in the Antonin Artaud building, and it ran smoothly, with breaks and refreshments at just the right times. My opening talk was billed as the keynote, which it certainly wasn't: despite much preparatory thinking and note-typing, when it came to delivering it I fell between the two wobbly stools of rambling anecdote about the man (and boy) and amateur analysis of the work. However, the audience listened sympathetically and laughed occasionally, and the questions that followed were well asked. SF critic Paul Kincaid was kind about my talk, and gave the whole conference such a good write-up that I really can't better it. (A full report is projected for Foundation issue 116, a special issue on Iain.) Two new books, The Transgressive Iain Banks: Essays on a Writer Beyond Borders and Gothic Dimensions were passed around, and their editor and author respectively each gave well-received and stimulating talks. It's exciting and indeed moving to see so much scholarly interest in Iain's work, coming at it from so many different academic angles.
Joe kept things on schedule, and after the conference finished on time, I had an hour for a reading -- from the opening of Descent -- and a Q&A, all professionally and unobtrusively photographed. Then about twenty of us headed through a light rain to dinner and subsequent pints and conversation at the fine local pub The Malt Shovel, whose very existence I had managed to miss in all my years at Brunel.