Update 20th July 2016 by Duncan Lunan
by Duncan Lunan - 09:57 on 21 July 2016
Update 20th July 2016 by Duncan Lunan
It's four months since my last report, and again that's because so much has been happening. I've been continuing my monthly column 'The Sky Above You' for the ACTA SCIO website, Astronomers of the Future, Troon's Going Out and the Ayrshire Post, as well as the quarterly versions for Jeff Hawke's Cosmos and Wyldwood Radio Magazine. Astronomers of the Future meetings have continued at 7 pm on the last Thursday evening of each month, at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon KA10 6AG, and in the last months we've had excellent talks from Nick Martin of the Ayr Astronomical Society on astrophotography, Alan Cayless of the Stirling Observatory on meteorites, Prof. Colin McInnes on the search for extraterrestral technology, and Robert Law of the Mills Observatory on his recent visit to Kennedy Space Centre. My reports on these have been appearing in the Troon Times and sometimes the Ayrshire Post, and Gewrry Cassidy's report on Colin McInnes's talk is in the latest edition of The Word on the Streets. At the end of July we have John Pressly of the Coats Observatory talking about Tycho Brahe, and at the end of October Prof. Martin Hendry will return to explain first-hand the detection of gravitational waves, in which his group at Glasgow University has been closely involved.
Vol. 10 No. 1 of JHC is now in press, and meanwhile the Jeff Hawke Club has published its third book, Earthspace, presenting the first five stories which were published in the Daily Record as Lance McLane in the mid-1970s. As usual I've supplied critical notes on each story, and a technical article on the starships featured in them, but this time I've also taken a large part in the production and helped with other people's contributions. This brings the total number of books to which I've contributed to 31, with two more in preparation: one will be my notes for the Jeff Hawke Club's book of the young adult version of Jeff Hawke, published in the Junior Express/Express Weekly in the mid-1950s, and the other will be Thirty Years of Rain, the 30th anniversary anthology of the Glasgow SF Writers' Circle, to which I've contributed an Introduction and a new story. The editors appealed recently for flash fiction to round out the collection, and I've submitted two 100-word 'Drabbles', but have yet to hear if they'll be used.
Meanwhile in April, contractors for Glasgow City Council went ahead with the demolition of the Sighthill stone circle, which I designed and built as Manager of the Glasgow Parks Department Astronomy Project in 1978-79. As promised, great care was taken with the removal of the stones and they all came out intact, and were buried near the intended site for re-erection. The topsoil was also removed and preserved, and those whose loved ones' ashes have been scattered at the original site have been promised that they will be replaced at the new one. The event was extensively covered by the media and on the City Council website, and a report by Gerry Cassidy is in the current issue of The Word on the Streets. The time capsule was recovered from the foundation of the central stone; the lid came off, which wasn't unexpected given the problems we had with it at the time, but the real surprise was that the sealed packages inside were outwardly intact. They will be reburied unopened, with new additions, when the circle is regenerated. Contracts for the next phase are expected to be awarded before the end of the year, and discussions are ongoing.
I've continued writing reviews for Interzone, covering The Medusa Chronicles by Steven Baxter and Alastair Reynolds for issue 264 and Not So Much, Said the Cat by Michael Swanwick for # 265. For Concatenation in April I reviewed Ulinka Rublack’s The Astronomer and the Witch, Johannes Kepler's Fight for His Mother, Katherine Blundell’s Black Holes, A Very Short Introduction, and David A. Rothery’s Moons, A Very Short Introduction. For Shoreline of Infinity Issues 3 & 4 I've covered Charlie Jane Andrews, All the Birds of the Air, and Ken Macleod’s The Corporation Wars – Dissidence, which turned into something of a political essay, relating it to recent Guardian articles by George Monbiot and much older Analog editorials by John W. Campbell. My next Shoreline review will be Drowned Worlds, Tales from the Anthropocene and Beyond, edited by Jonathan Strahan, and I doubt if I can get through that without mentioning some of the climate scepticism on Benny Peiser’s Cambridge Conference Net, and a nod to Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. At the moment I have new publications to take to almost every meeting of the “Troon Writers” club, which I’m now chairing; we’ve had to change from fortnightly meetings to the first and third Thursdays of the month, at 4.30 pm in Troon Library, to avoid clashing with the AOTF meetings on the last Thursday.
In April 2012, after 23 years without a book of my own, the duck was broken with e-book publication of a collection of my time-travel stories, With Time Comes Concord, by Gary Gibson’s Brain in a Jar. Now out of print, it has been taken over by Shoreline of Infinity and will be published in paperback and PDF with a new story added and with my original title, The Elements of Time. The four classical elements are represented in the collection's main stories, featuring time travel by land, sea, air and fire, supported by three shorter stories also involving time travel. Three of the main stories were first published in the USA, in Analog, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and the anthology series There Will Be War, and all three were nominated for the Science Fiction Writers of America Nebula Award. The fourth was to be published in Amazing Stories, when the magazine ceased publication, and the others appeared in the UK, in Dream, West Coast Magazine, and the Centre for Contemporary Arts collection To Arrive at Where We Started.
I've been trying for years to arrange for Sydney Jordan to come to give a talk to Astronomers of the Future, and other groups before it. Sydney, from Dundee, is best known as the creator of Jeff Hawke, the world's longest running science fiction comic strip, from 1954 to 1988. Most of the stories involved spaceflight and astronomy, and he took a lot of trouble over authenticity. As a long-term collector of his work, I was delighted when we met in 1978 and he asked me to write stories for him; I wrote or contributed to ten of the later stories, and we've continued to work together since. In particular he provided the artwork for my book Children from the Sky and much of the art for Incoming Asteroid! and Waverider, which is still in preparation. Sydney has now provided all the artwork for The Elements of Time: he illustrated the 'air' story With Time Comes Concord for its first publication in Analog, and he has now done the same for all the other six stories as well as a colour cover.
The launch will be on Wednesday, 7th September at 7 p.m. in the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, Ayrshire KA10 6AG, with music and readings, as part of Shoreline of Infinity's highly successful series of 'Event Horizon' performance events. Gerry Cassidy has kindly given notice of it in The Word on the Streets. Two local musicians have volunteered to take part and it looks as if a good night is shaping up. The big news now is that Sydney Jordan and his partner Jan will be coming. He's now 88 and doesn't want to give a full-length talk, so to prepare for it I have in mind to give a talk about Sydney and his work at the AOTF meeting on Thursday August 23rd, so that on the launch night we can do a double-act question and answer presentation and open it up to the audience. Admission to the launch is free and all are welcome, so please feel free to pass this on to anyone who'd be interested.