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Kairos: 2 Days Free Download

Wednesday 8th May. Rain in the night, and a soft grey day to follow, a frog and a toad in the fish-pool (not together, of course: minding their own business at opposite ends). And now I realise what I've been missing for so long out there. Slugs and snails have appeared in force!

Kairos: Free download from Amazon Kindle May 10th and May 11th

It had to be added to the e-collection, for completism, but for years, I've thought of Kairos as terminally obsolete. All near-future sf is doomed to be blatantly at odds with the facts before long & often it doesn't matter a great deal: but who would want to read about such a shabby, debt-ridden, paranoid alternative present? This beleagured feminist bookshop owner, with her girlfriend going crazy on the scrapheap of graduate unemployment, and her scrabbling samizdat networks of protest. Their ex-friends, the well-heeled gay couple, in danger whenever they step out of their ghetto with the invisible walls. The unlikely great gulf that's opened up, swallowing the prosperity of the masses, in the heart of Western Civilisation... Homophobia? Thing of the past, to suggest otherwise is just insulting. Feminist? Can anyone even say the word without embarrassing themselves? Protest? Nobody does that! There's no such thing!

But time is a helix, and Otto Murray's world, now technically a fictional version of our recent past ("first decade of the twentyfirst century" is the only date you get for the action), looks weirdly familiar. Or at least I thought so, when I was preparing the text for epub*. The despair of the debt-ridden. Food Banks. Riots. Financial collapse. Second, third and more generations of the traditionally unemployed (or zero hours contracted), festering in the hinterland. The Secret State. Occupy and all that. And that "Islamic War" (though we don't call it that, and "we" have had troops on the ground; probably will have again), its shadow growing and growing... Strange omissions and skewed assumptions begin to stand out, like clumsy period touches in a novel supposed to be about the Eighties, but clearly written just the other day.

Those BREAKTHRU reps! Stalking the dissidents in their golden, sexed-up, angelic fancy-dress. Straight off Top Of The Pops, circa 1984. No digital networking devices (an absence that kept bothering me). And I notice I assumed there'd be a much heavier dependence on Nuclear Power by now. More serious accidents too, andpeople would just live with the consequences... Bit ahead of myself there, still: I blame Chernobyl. But I had the obsession with fancy food right down!

The shocking parts are still shocking. I remember, a friend of mine (Rachel Pollack, I think) said she really, really couldn't take what happens between Otto and her former best friend, James Esumare. She's dead right, it's awful. But it seemed necessary to me, and still does. Bad things, bad things come running out, when the old house falls down...

Reviews: One contemporary and one modern.

(NB, academic interest only. If by chance you'd like to read the book without knowing how things turn out, beware "spoilers" esp. in the Niall Harrison essay. Stuffed with them.)

"...a peculiarly British drabness..."

"...THERE are moments in life when you suspect yourself of harbouring old-fashioned notions..."

The Cosmic Background

Whatever else it is, Kairos definitely isn't anything like sci-fi anymore. Not a scrap. So why does the epub of this socially radical supernatural thriller share a cover design with the "Space Race", hard sf based Escape Plans? Sheer laziness?

Not at all! It's me method-acting, thinking like a real sci-fi publisher...

No, there's a proper reason. With Escape Plans, I made a conscious decision to tell the same story, the story of the Great Escape that sf longs for, as in Divine Endurance, but in a different context. When I got to Kairos I felt I had a theme and variations going. What if the people who long for change, who hunger and thirst for change, who endure persecution in the name of a new heaven and a new earth, should suddenly be overwhelmed by change itself, by the "moment" when everything leaps into another state, on the most humungous scale imaginable? They haven't a clue what's happening. This is not a disaster movie, nobody has a clue: and yet, inextricably, they are defining the outcome. Deciding which side up the coin lands just by being there; being the observers.

There's this version of the Standard Model (or there was, I haven't heard of it for a while), where the expansion of the universe ends in a contraction, called The Big Crunch. And then everything just starts expanding again, only with all the rules reversed.. That sounds appealing, I thought, as a lover of puns.

Didn't James Tiptree say, It'll never change, unless it all changes...?

Arguably, the yellow figure inscribed on the cosmic background should be a tesseract or something for Kairos, in homage to another ancient and dodgy supernatural thriller, called Many Dimensions. But I couldn't figure out how to draw a tesseract in Paint, so I had to make do.

*This e-edition is revised from the original 1988 hardcover digital files. There are no material changes, but it may not be identical with the Gollancz 1995 paperback.

Anyway, that's the lot. Kairos Free Download Amazon Kindle store May 10th May 11th

Our Neighbours...

Tuesday 7th May, a beautiful warm clear morning, soft overcast gathering now. Still no swifts but I won't give up on them yet. The migrants are all arriving late, and a pack of swifts were spotted yesterday, passing the Pointe de Grave and heading this way. Maybe we'll yet see them again here in Roundhill, one more time. See left for a photo of my neighbours, the gulls. Hobbies include dropping moss, pooing copiously, and staring at Milo through the landing window, on purpose to annoy him (Ginger is hard to wind up). Last week, one of the couple came up and rapped on the glass. But I am not yet scared. Time was, not so many years ago, our teeming colony of rooftop-nesting Herring Gulls kept us awake, screaming and yelling and having neighbourly fights, all the way from May to October. No longer... Silence of the Gulls. I'd like to think they've moved on, but their amber status on the RSPB list seems to tell me different. Population in steep decline, same old story. Even Herring Gulls! This is the second year these two have nested on my chimneystack, I know they lost at least one chick last year (found its broken little body). Hope they have better luck this time.

What a busy holiday weekend! Have been thanked by Ed Milliband for helping him to win a terrific victory (Honestly, Ed, it was nothing). Have walked out in the Ouse watermeadows, spying on fish and frogs and birds & collecting mud. Have set out to go bluebell-viewing (Saturday), but turned back owing to having noticed it was cold, grey, actually raining quite hard and those Weather Persons had been just plain LYING to us... Have temporarily wrecked my back, gardening on Sunday, and spent the really pretty day (Monday) flat on it, watching the sky...

Escape Plans, PS:

I'm charmed to see how many of you have taken up the free download challenge (passing 250, last time I looked. Wow); despite me trying to scare you off. If any of you actually reads the book, and can prove it, I'll have to think up some sort of prize. Another PS: the second of Peter's birthday books (the ones that failed to arrive and worried me) was Tubes, Andrew Blum "A Journey To The Centre Of The Internet". I thought this would be gonzo journalism, given Blum's Wired credentials, and I thought it would be an overnight sensation, given the content. It isn't and it wasn't, though it has taken off now. In fact the prose style, pedestrian and often clunky, is its weakest point (other weakest point, clearly a little bit gagged: these are people eg the mighty Google, you wouldn't want to mess with). But gripping, eventually, and a thorough education in what that cute term "the Cloud" really means. Not at all about the Systems that actually keep us alive, maybe, but still, an admirable profile of the digital entity (or entities) that was God: the way it happens in the real world