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Retrospective

Thursday 9th September, damp garden, cool air, warm sunlight, blue sky and luminous cloud.

Reviewing the galleys for a story collection that spans thirty years is a salutory task.

It's nom de guerre, not nomme de guerre. I wonder how long that howler's been lying there, unquestioned by several copy-editors and proof-readers including me. Since the story first appeared in Interzone, I bet.

Colloidal cracking. Weirdly okay as an expression, but definitely a mistake. The well-known symptom of dry-rot infestation in an awful old wreck of a house is cuboidal cracking. I ought to know. I'm currently a reluctant expert on dry rot, again.

The pathological reluctance of Gwyneth Ann Jones to make up different names for her fictional characters. I can remember that Gwyneth Ann Jones character stating trenchantly on a convention panel platform that her characters didn't mean a thing to her. They weren't people they were labels, and she was too well aware that every "character" is really just a part the writer is playing. Didn't go down well. Did I know I was doing it? Ann, Anna? Of course I did. Francis, Frances, Francois? I think that one just sneaked in and established itself. On the other hand, the writers Francois Villon, Francois Voltaire and Francois Rene De Chateaubriand have meant something to me for a very long time; my father was deeply francophile, which had a big effect on me, I'm very fond of animals, and the other derivation of the name is supposed to be "free-man".

Guessing at near-future terms. The great William Gibson said, science fiction is not predictive, it's about the present (paraphrase). I totally agree, but in staging these dramas about our age's science/technology in collision with human society, we all make judgement calls on the sets, the decor, the language, etiquette, costumes of the future. I clearly thought I was onto something with "virtuality" (like, a reality, see, but virtual. . .) but nope, virtual world swept the board. I really was onto something with subscriber soap. The idea is, instead of watching highly trained celebrities wash their dirty underwear in public on so-called Reality TV, subscribers get their houses wired up for interactive surveillance, and anybody on the network can watch anybody else's little adventures, upsets and dramas of daily life. No holds barred exposure is hardcore, but "everybody" loves this game, and "everybody" starts acting as if they're in a soap opera the whole time (or in the Big Brother House). . . Spot the difference. I never was a docile consumer.

Merle is the French word for the black European thrush, the bird we call a blackbird in English, it makes a pretty name for a woman. Thrush, of course, is the name of the yeast infection. The pun's convoluted, but I'll let it stand.

What's left? A couple of stories deliberately suppressed, a couple of orphans (eg North Light) that simply never got chosen for reprinting. I hope I don't get pathologically convinced I have to make up another collection's worth before I die. Madness.