Although I’d booked a weekend break away in a Derbyshire country cottage as a holiday, with the laptop packed, it was bound to be a writer’s retreat too. For both of us – wife came too – because she had Masters ‘crap’ (her words) to do while I worked on critiques and volume 3 of ARIA. We nearly didn’t go because the forecast was for snow, and Gaynor confided she’d rather had gone to a nice warm hotel, preferably in London. Aarggh. Justification then of my comment in a short story that holidays for wives is shopping in another place. Don’t shoot me down; it is true! Well, nearly so. In the end although we encountered snow and sleet enroute, and the police blocked the road between Macclesfield and Buxton because of an accident, we made it to a converted farm barn in the village of Hulme End between Leek and Matlock. Why is it that in the evenings away from home, even with the TV on in a corner, I chisel away far more words than at home? And that’s what happened. 2, 000 words on Friday, another on Saturday night and more early this morning. That and a critique of some of the short science fiction stories in the BSFA’s Orbiter group.
Oh, and I read the whole of The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett. I spent the first half of the book not liking it then I slowly warmed to the theme but without reaching red hot. I have an inbuilt distrust of science fiction books with a religious angle and this one had several. In the future an atheist enclave are surrounded by extreme religious bigoted communities of all the major religions. They hate the atheists, fair enough, but also their robots, calling them ungodly, manifestations of the devil. No one argues that if God existed he might have made Man clever enough to make robots to do the chores and work that humans find difficult or distasteful. The atheists’ rulers fall into the cliched trap of corruption and so end up having to accept religions after all. In fact they developed robots in order to cut down on the number of religious people allowed into the enclave to work. Sounds rather like the Israeli situation only read atheism for Judaism. Our protagonist hero smuggles a beautiful robot sex-worker into the outlands but is too stupid to make her wear a burka or a headscarf so the bigots kind of spot her beauty and become very curious. Too many silly things, and typos, to make me endorse this one I’m afraid. Never mind, just enjoy the pictures taken on Saturday Dec 10th in Derbyshire. Cold but dry and a terrific 7 miles walk in the Manifold valley back to the cottage. Near the village of Wetton, after a pub lunch in Ye Olde Royal Oak (been a pub open there for nearly 300 years) we walked up the Manifold Valley past a cave known as Thor’s Cave. Next time I’m taking a torch and find out what Thor had for dinner.