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Beijing, Being Here

I Like China.  I like Beijing.  I like the people I meet here.  I love the food.

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I’m not too found of the bureaucracy.  However, whatever country you visit, there’s always some red tape that’s a pain in the backside.  You just have to live with it.

So, the journey here.  It was a pain.  It started off with the M1 closed down to 1 lane for absolutely no reason whatsoever.  Then my flight from Heathrow to Zürich was delayed by an hour, due to some ‘technical’ issue in Zürich – no idea what.  However, the Swiss Air A320 was comfy enough for the 1 hour 30 minutes flight time, even in economy. The on-board snack was fine (croissant).

There was supposed to be a 2 – 3 hour  stopover before the transfer at Zürich, but this disappeared so the transfer happened quite quickly.  Never travelled Swiss Air before but it was okay; although in Zürich after queuing to board, everyone in the queue (except those already in the know) was sent to a different queue to get our boarding cards stamped, then had to queue up again to complete the boarding.

Previously, my visits to Beijing were via large, 747-type long-haul aircraft.  In the newer planes there is a little more room in economy seating.  However, this time I was on an Airbus 330-300, and the economy seating was well below expectations, and only 3 toilets available.  For a journey of 9.5 hours covering around 8000 km, this was not a great place to be.  On the other hand, one of the stewardesses was very pretty.  🙂

I got very little sleep, it was so cramped – not to mention smelly with everyone around me farting every 10 mins!  Main meal was okay – honey chicken with garlic, rice and brocoli, but the caesar salad was not good.  The sweet was apparently carrot cake, though I couldn’t taste any carrot; and it came with a sprinkling of almonds, which everyone knows I can’t stand, that had to be scraped off.

However, arriving while it was still dark provided the reward of beautiful Beijing-by-night views from the plane:

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Eventually we arrived at the airport around 5:30 AM to be greeted by Chinese immigration control:

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It took the best part of 90 minutes to clear through here, though I must say the young lady wielding the stamp was actually very efficient and officiously pleasant.

Next, of course, my luggage didn’t arrive on the carousel.  I spent an age trying to find it.  There was no official to even speak with until well past 8 AM.  Eventually I went to the Star Alliance baggage reclaim, joining a queue of irate Chinese-speaking complainers.  (If every you come to Beijing, the one thing you will notice is that western-style politeness isn’t a strong factor when there’s queuing to be done.)  By 9 AM I’d recovered my bag and been out-queued for several taxis before finally landing one.

You will love Beijing taxis.  You never see any accidents, I have to say, but the way they drive here is maniacal!  Any road-space is taken by whoever gets there first: car, bus, truck, bicycle, pedestrian, whatever.  Best thing is to focus on anything else but the traffic.  But Beijing at night is as exciting as any othr world city, with the added bonus that you don’t feel threatened, as can happen in some places.

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Arrived at my hotel, the Park Plaza, one of the best in town, only to find they had no reservation for me.

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I don’t know how that happened but, fortunately, I knew the name of a Chinese colleague who is (a) well-known to a lot of people in Beijing and (b) well-respected/liked by same.  As soon as I said his name a room was made available at company-negotiated rates and, finally, at 10AM I was flat-out on the bed, snoring my head off until mid-afternoon.  I was, to use the vernacular, knackered.

Saturday night was a very enjoyable alcoholic iced beveage in the hotel lobby lounge (above photo) and then more sleep.

Sunday (overslept so missed breakfast) I was still feeling quite exhausted, despite a decent bit of kip.  I’d had plans for a little more sight-seeing but I just didn’t have that much energy left, and my hips were killing me, so I resigned myself to a day of recuperation so I’d be ready for the week’s work ahead.

To round-up, let me say if you get the opportunity to come to Beijing, take it.  China is a super place to visit.  I’ve done several of the Beijing ‘sites’ and they are well-worth visiting (Olympic Park, Forbidden Palace, etc.).  The country’s history is great and the people (apart from men clearing their noses and throats whenever they feel like it, and everyone barging and shoving all the time) are generally warm and friendly.  Watch some of the TV.  It gives you a very good insight into the psychology of the people.  Take the time to learn a few words (ni how = hello; shi-shi = thanks) and people are usually happy to give you a little of their time.  But be warned – when I was here in February this year I was virtually asked to marry a young lady (I was saved by my colleague at the time) so you never know how things will pan out!

Best wishes to all.

Nigel.  🙂

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Great Offer from NewCon Press

Thought I’d spread the word on behalf of my chum Ian Whates:

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Just to alert everyone that during this month I’m crashing the price on a whole load of NewCon Press titles, as part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations (including ‘Shoes Ships and Cadavers’ featuring our own group’s work) and Andy’s novel ‘The Outcast and the Little One. Books are discounted by as much as 80%, meaning that some titles are as low as £2.00, and they include many signed limited editions. Prices return to normal at the end of the month.

The offer includes titles by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Stan Nicholls, Steve Rasnic Tem, Gary McMahon, Liz Williams, Chris Beckett, David Mercurio Rivera, Kim Lakin-Smith, Eric Brown, Dave Hutchinson, Nina Allan, Keith Brooke, our own Ian Watson, Andrew Hook, Andy West, me, and anthologies featuring all sorts of people…
http://www.newconpress.co.uk/info/books.asp?offers=yes

I recommend everyone to go take a look!   🙂

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MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!

...And a Happy New Year to One and All!!!

…And a Happy New Year to One and All!!!

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Human Legion & Pelquin’s Comet

The latest in the Human Legion series, written (joint effort) by my good chums Tim Taylor and Ian Whates, is out on sale (available in all good South American rivers).  If you haven’t already started reading this series of SF books, you’re missing the boat!  Great space opera adventure in the best of traditions.

 

 

ALSO, don’t miss out on this wonderful SF by Ian Whates (solo effort), super writing by a master of the craft, absolutely recommended.

 

 

And if you have kids aged 11, give or take a couple of years, don’t forget

Good old-fashioned Fantasy-Adventure.  Best wishes to all.  🙂

 

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Author United’s letter to the Department of Justice

Unless Penguin/Random House (or equivalent) decide that my work is worthy of their commitment (which I suspect is entirely unlikely unless I am suddenly transported to a parallel dimension where birds swim and fish fly) then I whole-heartedly concur with Tim’s thrust, which is that the indie publishing business would be hammered in the event that the Big 5 one more became dominant!

Tim C. Taylor

There’s been a big fuss in the small world of publishing news recently because a letter has been written by somebody called Douglas Preston, and signed by some very important people who wish to return the publishing industry to the good old days when it was largely controlled by six big corporations (or maybe five now that Penguin and Random House have merged). It’s a big deal for me because this letter represents a direct threat to my livelihood. The text is long and boring and with lots of details that won’t make sense to publishing outsiders (or insiders for that matter). So I’ve taken the liberty of cutting out 99% of the words and rewriting it in metaphor. The essence of this very important letter remains unchanged. Indeed, I think it shines with more clarity in my version than in the original.

 

Dear Department of Justice,

Every year…

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5 Accomplished Authors Who Turned Out To Be Hoaxers

Interesting. I think I agree that it shouldn’t matter who the writer is, as long as their work ‘works’, i.e. appeals to their readership. On the other hand, I’m not sure I like the idea of someone writing stories based on or in the style of the original thinking of others. It might be clever and skilful, but it grates with me. Ian Fleming’s James Bond books are a case in point. Since his death, Faulks, Deaver and Boyd, Kingsley Amis and John Gardner have all increased the coffers of the Fleming estate (as well as their own bank accounts). And I’ve no doubt their efforts were excellent, and certainly people like Amis and Gardner are good enough writers in themselves. I know we all stand on the shoulders of giants but… it just grates with me, is all.

The Reader In the Tower

I present for your perusal this article from Cracked yesterday.

I have to admit, I’m a little conflicted.

On the one hand, ideally, writers should be honest about who they are. On the other, a good book is a good book, whether it’s a true story or not – and the reverse is also true.

Stories (especially ones purported as fiction in the first place) that suddenly go from best book this decade to most horrible trash ever written reveal more about readers’ bias than about their fraudulent authors. The identity of the author shouldn’t change what you think of their actual prose.

I’m reminded of the tragically short life of Thomas Chatterton. It was only after his suicide that those who had shamed him for being a hoaxer recognised that he was an immensely talented writer, who probably shouldn’t have told all those fibs about exactly where his manuscripts…

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Hearing words, writing sounds: examining the author’s brain

Interesting article in the Guardian. (Now don’t all start going on about their historically atrocious record on spollings!  They’re a lot better now.)

Anyway, here’s the opening paras with a link to the full article at the bottom.

The novelist Kamila Shamsie measures out her life as an author in chapters, punctuated by a familiar ritual.

“Usually at the end of writing every chapter I’ll print out and read aloud,” she says. It’s something she’s been doing since university, she continues, citing the Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali, who told her “there are things the ears pick up which the eyes don’t”. As she sits on the lookout for repeated words, unexpected clunks or unwanted dissonances, it “feels like listening”.

“I don’t know how to say that any better. It’s about the sound of the sentences.” After years of “developing your ear for the sounds of language” she doesn’t have to think about “why a particular clump of syllables sounds wrong to my ear. I just know that it does.”

Brain scans of participants in the Johns Hopkins study

Hearing words, writing sounds: examining the author’s brain

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The Scrapdragon, the Novel, FREE!

I thought you might all like to know that The Scrapdragon (the full novel) will be available for FREE DOWNLOAD from Kindle for 5 days beginning Monday 1st June.  Enjoy!

Book cover for The Scrapdragon

Book cover for The Scrapdragon

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Anonymity and the Internet

Anonymity and the Internet.  🙂

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The Scrapdragon Book 1 – An Adventure Begins – Review

The Scrapdragon Book 1 – An Adventure Begins – Nigel Edwards.

Naomi (the Reader in the Tower) has reviewed book 1 of my children’s fantasy adventure series.

Actually, Naomi’s blog is a growing repository of really good, independent, quality reviews and is well worth checking out before you decide what to read next.

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