Highlights of a sci-fi writer
2011 was a bloody amazing year. In no particular order…
Creative frenzy: 14 short stories in 41 days.
It began during the Christmas break and didn’t stop. Over a month of non-stop furious writing, 14 very different short stories one after the other: Arnos Vale ; Corrupt Moon ; Cypher ; Dilemma ; Devil’s Spring ; Flinch ; House of Heavenly Light; Killing Candy; Masters of Chaos ; Merchant of Oropas ; Oracle; Pain ; Sim ; The Tainted Moor
I went to New York to see my publicist Mr Hayes and visit friends; he and I took a three hour road trip up into the mountains to spend the weekend at his stunning country house. Interior decor like a showhome – thanks to his wife, of course. She wasn’t around so we walked 50 minutes through the forest and heavy rain to the local bar; coming back, trudging through the now very dark forest and using mobile phones as torches I asked him why he kept jingling his keys. “So the bears don’t get a surprise when we go by,” he told me. I sobered up a little then. Getting back we drank bourbon (Hudson Valley) until the late hours whilst our clothes dried on the cast iron stove. Freaking great fun.
It’s only a building – and it’s been renovated in the past few decades so really… how close can you get to the master of cosmic horror standing there? Well, pretty close actually. To stand there and think the very man would have maybe stopped in this very spot as he deliberated where to go that day…
The joy of new people – introducing Ms I.A.
I meet new people all the time and enjoy the random adventures that life that sling you through if you’re open to the experience; but rarely do I meet somebody who becomes such an immediate and life-long friend. I can count such people on the fingers of both hands… and this is one of them.
Bond-like moment riding a series of cable-cars, ever higher, up to the Schilthorn where they filmed the movie: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
A cable car ride like no other in the world. Four phases take me past vast hulking cliffs to the top of the Schilthorn, a mountain peak rising to over 9,000 feet, and location of the James Bond film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. I get eye-popping views of the Eiger, Jungfrau, Mönch, Mont Blanc and a hazily distant two-hundred other peaks. But the silver-mirrored structure at the top – now a restaurant – is the same place used by Telly Savalas, playing Blofeld, as a master-criminal mountain hideaway. I’m there, staring at it… but I’m also a young boy, sitting in my parents house watching the movie on TV.
Hotel Dorint, Beatenburg, Switzerland
When I first opened the door to my room I nearly fell over laughing in utter delight; a view of a spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom and bathroom, leaving a clear space for the lounge and sofa area that ended in a sliding glass door… a balcony with the most jaw-dropping view. An amazing hotel. Add to wish-list: spend longer there next time and write an entire novel.
Sledging at 11,782 feet (3,571 metres) on slopes of Jungfraujoch, Switzerland
It took three separate trains to get from Interlaken up to Jungfrau. The final train spent an hour pushing upwards at a steep angle through some tiny wormhole in the vast flanks of the mountain… I felt like I was in some kind of Jules Verne or H.G.Wells epic.
The tunnel runs behind the north face of the Eiger, stopping at Eigerwand, where there is a window (empty aperture) about 8 m long and a metre high, halfway up the face itself. This window was used for one of the final scenes of a Clint Eastwood spy movie the The Eiger Sanction. The train stops for five minutes so you can actually get off to admire the view: I did so and was able to peer out of another window looking out on the Eismeer or “Sea of Ice”.
Unlike Schilthorn, which was just a small eating place – the complex at Jungfraujoch is huge and wandering around it was very much like being in a Bond film, or some other Thriller / Adventure as you shuffle along barren tunnels carved out of virgin rock – head pounding from the altitude – everything feeling a little spacey and surreal.
Sledging was spectacular. You’re on the roof of the world and just have this endless vista ahead and below you with jagged mountain peaks snarling black and frozen fangs above you on all sides.
Visiting Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como, Italy.
They call Bellagio the pearl of the lake. It’s a wonderful place where you could easily lose several days.
Being in Santiago with great friends – part of The Fellowship
Santiago for me is a place where spirituality meets arcane magic – a place of hidden witchcraft and lines of energy, beneath vast facades of ancient stone; baroque and gothic structures jostle against the skyline… narrow cobblestone alleyways, arched colonades, small shops and market stalls, vast anonymous walls dotted with small windows covered by rusting black metal grates. It’s a place where I was able to shut down and dwell truly in the moment… to share a few days with some great friends, eat a lot of amazing food, drink a lot of coffee and sup red wine for next to nothing – late into the night.
It was here that I had an encounter with a mysterious and solitary artisan – I purchased an ornately hand-crafted leather-bound notebook; and then when I tried to take the others there – he was gone.
I’m a complete nut for Poirot and for the Hound of the Baskervilles. Devon and Cornwall became the destination, and things Agatha and Conan Doyle became our target. This is by no means a comprehensive or serious in-depth study of these two fantastic writers, rather it is a travel blog covering a small part of the amazing atmosphere and stunning locations that saturates this wonderful and yet small part of the British Isles. Dartmouth… Burgh Island… and then down onto the Moors.
Swimming in the ocean under a full moon – in November
A house owned by my good friend Lone Pine who lets me use it from time to time for weekend stints. I took my group of Yellow Dawn players there.
The place sits right on the edge of the ocean… Not apparent until you park up and make your way around the side to get to the sliding glass doors there. Stepping around the corner carrying our bags, each one of the lads slowed their pace, became alert and looked deeply happy as they were struck by the chill sea breeze… a tangy smell of brine and the thunderous rumble of waves crashing on the nearby beach.
I dumped my bags; grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels and ran up and over the shingles, and down to the foaming surf. Plonked myself down and supped as I watched the last colours bleed from the sky. The others joined me and we stayed there until it was totally dark; a bright and luminous half-moon appeared and flooded the terrain in alabaster light, and a thousand stars blinked into life above our heads.
Later that night, I left the house again and came across the beach wearing nothing but my under-kacks and a T-shirt and sprinted into the ocean, shrieking as the icy waves first crashed around me and I tumbled like a rag-doll, over and over in the roaring churn of the sea. The waves were black, bulging and glass-like in the moonlight. Eerie and beautiful. Being there, in the sea, surrounded by so much wild noise and motion, the icy cold replaced by the body’s survival mechanism bringing a sense of heat to my skin…
I whooped and flapped my arms as I bobbed up and down, I called back to the shore where my friends stood watching or taking photos: come on! come on! This is fantastic! Come on in! Nice Guy Tony held open a towel and gestured with it, looking concerned, “Come on Dave, this is madness – this is the whisky – you’ll freeze out there.”
Getting back inside I found my legs were nearly blue. Hot shower and more whisky. My skin tingling, the face rippling with a deep smile.
That night I slept with the bedroom window wide open. I drifted off to sleep with the thunderous sonic boom of huge waves pounding the beach followed by the hiss of foamy surf raking the pebbles back into the primal embrace.
Same ocean – different weekend – another Hayling Island moment of bliss
Another weekend visit to the Island – this time to spend a couple days with Oj and Lone Pine and his new lady; it was a bright but freezing cold day. I went out into the ocean again and spent most of the morning there. Just beautiful.
Swimming under the stars in Clifton Lido
Clifton is a lovely part of the city of Bristol. The Clifton Lido is tucked away behind a row of Georgian mansions like some sort of hidden jewel of the city. What an amazing place. We got there after dark and the gently heated water of the pool had a haze of steam churning above the placid surface, everything illuminated by soft, luxurious lighting. Looking up you could see stars framed by the roof tops of the surrounding structures. There was a sense of being in a movie about the place, “Very Bond” I thought.
It’s quiet, civilised and genteel. There’s a huge hot tub, a steam room and a sauna. After an hour and a half of swimming and sitting in the sauna with regular “shocks to the system” from the cold bucket that sits above the shower area like some medieval implement of torture (self-activated), we all got dressed and made our way into the restaurant. Skin tingling. Biochemistry loaded with a euphoric cocktail of hormones. We were all glowing, starving and felt amazing. And then they served the food. Oh my god. The food… is incredible. I had a mountain of meat (still bloody) to die for. A feast.
After that we strolled down towards the city centre, to Park Street and the lavish Goldbrick House for cocktails. Rather a lot of cocktails actually. Ahem. The night was made by Nick, barman by evening and politics student by day: and a dead ringer for the late John Belushi. Top man. I stuck to anything whisky based, exploring subjects on and off the menu with Nick as my guide…
Christmas and New Year in Bristol with friends who are family
For just about every year in my life, Christmas was a time I’d go back home to Newcastle. That’s not possible now so instead I had Christmas at my house in Bristol with good friends Sharky Bones McCoy, Miss Scarlet and the incredible Oj. It’s about building new routines, remembering what’s been and gone with a smile on my face rather than lamenting what’s been lost.
- Scattering my mum’s ashes: my sister and I chatered a boat and sailed out into the North Sea. Although a positive experience – release, saying goodbye – I’d had preferred not to have to been doing this at all.
- Car weirdness: rear shunt that caused zero damage; taxi driver in Catskills falling asleep at the wheel, 2 seconds from a 50 mph collision with stationary SUV; Palisades Interstate Parkway closed north bound due to a car on fire – people still inside?; cooling system of my Rocket exploding one night and filling car with hot steam – then a 5 hour ordeal to get home.
- Foals – Total Life Forever: New York, Catskills – The Country Club and a forest in the rain.
- Daft Punk – TRON OST: Switzerland on a train
- Zombie Zombie: Horror on the Orient Express
- Trentemøller – The Last Resort: Writing up hidden meanings and symbolism of The Ninth Gate
- Fahrenheit Project Part 7: Yellow dawn overhaul
- Solar Fields – Origin #1: euphoric and uplifting positive visualisation and dream-wishing
- Gary Numan – Dead Son Rising: Yellow Dawn overhaul