Monday, June 30, 2008

My favourite indie bookstore in the whole of Australia

Fantastic Planet!

Sadly I don't get to visit, since they're in the middle of Perth and I don't go near the city. But they do bring a smile to my face with every Hal Spacejock release ;-)

June's Bestsellers
1...Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Simon Haynes
2...The Sharing Knife 2: Legacy, Lois McMaster Bujold
3...2012, edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Ben Payne
4...Newton's Wake, Ken Macleod
5...The Sharing Knife 1: Beguilement, Lois McMaster Bujold
6...Making Money, Terry Pratchett
7...The Last Argument of Kings, Joe Abercrombie
8...Reaper's Gale, Steven Erikson
9...The Workers' Paradise, edited by Russell B. Farr and Nick Evans
10..Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2007 edition, edited by Angela Challis

You'll find their website here

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

BBC on Youtube

How cool is this? BBC has an official Youtube channel. Over 2500 official videos. Fun ;-)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

20 most popular SF sites on the net

Not sure what to make of these figures ... the results are measured from people who use the Alexa toolbar

According to Alexa, these are the 20 most popular SF sites:

1. Wizards of the Coast
Bantam Spectra
Fantastic Fiction
White Wolf
Science Fiction Weekly
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Baen Books
Science Fiction & Fantasy World
The Trek BBS
Del Rey Books
SFF Net People
Nielsen Hayden, Patrick and Teresa
SF Signal
Locus Online
Pournelle, Jerry
Tom Doherty Associates (TOR)
The Heinlein Society
Hal Spacejock

Yeah, right.

And for more laughs, the Top 10 most popular SF author sites on the web

1. Fantastic Fiction
SFF Net People
Nielsen Hayden, Patrick and Teresa
Locus Online: Science Fiction News, Reviews, Resources, Pers.
5. Pournelle, Jerry
The Heinlein Society
7. Hal Spacejock
8. Charlie's Place
David Peter (Official)

So now I can retire a multimillionaire and give the writing game away. Huh.

(I note more than half those on the second list aren't even authors. If the rankings are as suspect as the categorisations there's no wonder it's stuffed.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Video games meme

While I'm distracted working on the plot for Hal Spacejock 5, here's a meme for the games players amongst you.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have played

2) Underline the games you LOVE(D).

3) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've played 6 and force games (and probably emulators) upon them.

Note - I'm a PC gamer so console games are usually an automatic no. My comments are in []

100 - River City Ransom (aka Street Gangs)

99 - Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss

98 - BattleToads [Sinclair Spectrum version]

97 - F-Zero

96 - Mafia

95 - Herzog Zwei

94 - Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six

93 - Quake II

92 - Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest)

91 - Virtua Tennis

90 - Master of Orion

89 - Alone in the Dark

88 - Final Fantasy VII

87 - Thief II: The Metal Age

86 - Final Fantasy X

85 - Prince of Persia [Original 286 version]

84 - Ultima VII: The Black Gate

83 - Contra

82 - Gunstar Heroes

81 - Freedom Force

80 - Baseball Stars

79 - Shining Force II

78 - Star Wars (Arcade)

77 - Archon: The Light and The Dark

76 - Tetris Attack

75 - Crimson Skies

74 - Syndicate

73 - Return Fire

72 - Galaga

71 - Half-Life: Counter-Strike

70 - Pokemon Red/Blue

69 - Lakers vs. Celtics and the NBA Playoffs

68 - Starsiege: Tribes

67 - Rayman 2: The Great Escape

66 - Homeworld

65 - MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat [Loved tricking out the robot with 8 machine guns]

64 - Advance Wars

63 - Sonic the Hedgehog

62 - Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

61 - Sam & Max Hit the Road ["You'll fry like a Pork Sausage." Oh yes.]

60 - Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

59 - Bionic Commando

58 - Super Smash Bros. Melee

57 - Mike Tyson's Punchout!

56 - Final Fantasy III (VI)

55 - Fallout

54 - Panzer Dragoon Saga

53 - Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings

52 - Metroid Prime

51 - Grand Theft Auto III

50 - Wing Comander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi [I was an Atari ST gamer at this point]

49 - Grim Fandango

48 - The Secret of Mana

47 - NHL 94

46 - Super Mario World

45 - Battlefield 1942

44 - Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

43 - Soul Calibur

42 - Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

41 - System Shock 2

40 - Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution

39 - DOOM [Got an SB card for my wife's new 486DX2 just so I could play this]

38 - Madden NFL 2004

37 - Wave Race 64

36 - Command & Conquer: Red Alert

35 - Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

34 - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

33 - God of War

32 - Resident Evil 4

31 - SimCity 2000

30 - Halo

29 - GoldenEye 007

28 - Half-Life 2

27 - Burnout 3: Takedown

26 - Final Fantasy II (IV)

25 - Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

24 - Tecmo Super Bowl

23 - Super Mario Bros. 3

22 - Half-Life

21 - Deus Ex

20 - Ms. Pac Man

19 - Metal Gear Solid

18 - ICO

17 - Star Control 2

16 - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

15 - Super Mario Kart

14 - Rome: Total War

13 - Chrono Trigger

12 - X-COM: UFO Defense

11 - Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

10 - Super Metroid

9 - Star Wars: TIE Fighter Collector's CD-ROM

8 - Street Fighter II

7 - StarCraft

6 - Sid Meier's Pirates!

5 - Super Mario 64

5a - Lego Star Wars

5b - The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

4 - Sid Meier's Civilization II

3 - Tetris

2 - Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

1 - Super Mario Bros

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Andromeda Spaceways Issue 35

Another destination reached, not too many lives lost.

Andromeda Spaceways, specialists in intergalactic passenger misplacement, pioneers of rude interstellar inflight service, justly acclaimed for the inventiveness of their fine-print responsibility disclaimers, and credited with having provided the five best textbook examples of spaceliner crash landings, are not content to rest on their laurels. Or anybody else's, for that matter. Laurels, after all, can be a mite uncomfortable. But anyway ... yes, now I remember. New inflight magazine issue out now (!) Edited by visiting Betelgeusian anthropologist-gourmand Arrrrarrrgghl Schlurpmftxpftpfl (!!) Stories by nine Earthlings, sampling ASIM's patented blend of SF, fantasy and horror (!!!)

ASIM issue 35. Available in print or pdf, or from your nearest intergalactic inflight magazine stockist. Buy it. Read it. Eat it. (Consumption recommended only for Andromeda Spaceways steerage-class customers. May contain traces of nuts.)

Feel free to share this press release!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Free software you cannot miss

First, if you're sick of Adobe Reader bloat, with the huge installer to download, mysterious services running in the background and long, long loading times, then the free Foxit PDF reader is for you. I uninstalled Adobe and bunged this nice light (under 3mb) program onto my machine instead. PDFs open so quickly it's almost like the golden days of Adobe 3 & 4.

Second, the giant killing web browser Firefox 3.0 is out today. I've been running the beta on my laptop, where it was noticeably faster than Firefox 2.x, but I've now upgraded my desktop PC to the stable release and it's lightning quick. Be sure to install the Adblock Plus and NoScript extensions and your browsing will be safe and pleasurable. (With adblock plus you select the subscription option at the top of the list. With NoScript, you'll need to enable Javascript for each of your regular websites - online banking, news sites, blogs, etc - but none of the other websites you might come across.)

Third, OpenOffice 2.4.1 is out. This fully-featured office suite is a large download (around 120 megs), and while it's not all that nippy to start up it's still a pleasure to use. I gave up on MS Office after using the '97 edition for years, and OO does everything I need - you get a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation app (similar to Powerpoint) and a DTP program for brochures, flyers, etc.

Finally, if you're looking for an antivirus solution, try AVG 8. There's an unrestricted free edition for personal use, although the first thing I'd do is switch off the safesearch browser plugin, since it's a drain on your bandwidth.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Plotting a new book

I'm not sure how many authors sit down with a blank page (or a blank mind), and start thinking about their next book from scratch, but I'd guess it's almost none of them. We all have folders full of half-finished stories, bits and pieces of novels that went nowhere, great ideas we never bothered to develop, wonderful short stories which editors weren't smart enough to snap up and publish ...

It's not wasted effort, though. In fact, all this stuff is essential to me, because THAT'S where I get my ideas from. Not just the ideas, but the situations and the oddball characters who will be struggling with all the problems I'm about to unload on them.

This passion for raw material is one of the reasons I've participated in NanoWrimo over the past three years. Some 'real' writers turn their noses up at it, but not me. You get one month to bash out 50,000 words without a peep from your internal editor, and that 50,000 can produce a nice rich vein to mine later. (Looking back, I believe the only thing I used in Hal 4 from my 2005 effort was the surname of one of the characters. Everything else was dropped or edited out during rewrite after rewrite. But it was a GOOD surname, and I still have the other 49,999 words to use in the future.)

The point is, there's no harm in writing for the sake of it. It's much easier to build a bridge if you've just spent a year making steel beams and rivets, rather than a year tinkering with the plans.

The same applies to ideas. I keep a folder for each Hal novel (they go up to 8 at the moment), and when I get an idea or a situation which might suit one of them, I open up the relevant file and paste it in. Will I use all the ideas? Certainly not. But at least I'll be able to pick and choose.

Which brings me to the plot of Hal Spacejock 5. I was writing a book called Hal Spacejock: Legacy back in March 2004, when the publisher signed me up for the first three books. I thought I was going to use Legacy for the current Hal book (No Free Lunch), but I was wrong. I also thought I'd use it for NanoWrimo 2005, 2006, 2007 but I was wrong there, too. (Hence eight Hal plots.) Instead, the idea has been bubbling away for the past four years while I worked out who the antagonists might be, how the story might unfold, and how Spacejock and Clunk get caught up in it.

I think I'm ready to tackle the Legacy plot now, although I'm still fond of the artist plot and the military plot. So, I'll take a couple of pens and a clipboard full of blank paper, and I'll spend two or three weeks scribbling furiously at all times of the day and night. Some of it will be ideas, some will be snatches of conversation or situations, and all of it will help to shape the plot outline. The question is ... for which book?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Deja Vu

I just watched Stargate SG-1 season 8, episode 19 (Moebius Part 1) In brief, the team goes back 5000 years to get hold of an artifact, and during the mission Dr Jackson decides to hide the artifact in a location which he knows will be dug up in the future. Dr Jackson then makes a comment that when it's dug up again, their future selves won't actually need to go back in time to hide the item, since they'll already have it in their possession.

I believe the episode first aired in 2003 or 2004. Three years earlier I had a flash fiction piece published in Antipodean SF, an online webzine. (The same story has since been reprinted in Flashspec Volume 1)

I'm posting the whole piece below for the benefit of all those writers out there who read or see something which they're certain has been pinched from their own ideas. Sometimes, coincidence IS the only explanation.

Pastimes by Simon Haynes
Published in Antipodean SF May 28, 2000

National Library of Australia archive of the issue

Miles looked thoughtful. "A one-way trip?" He glanced at the android standing near the end of the workbench. From a distance of five metres or so, it was indistinguishable from a human. Any closer and the hair and skin were obviously modern synthetics. It was wearing a backpack over loose white robes, with a minicam gripped in one hand.

Reynolds cleared his throat. "It's the only way. We send the robot back in time, it records the stuff we want then hides the data cube."

"Where? Where would it be safe for five thousand years?"

Reynolds glanced out the window. The sun was setting behind the Sierra Bernia range, throwing the slopes of the jagged mountains into deep shadow. "Up there."

"What happens to the robot once it's hidden the cube?" asked Miles.

"It will self-destruct."

"Won't the university board object to that?"

"Not when we show them the data on the cube."


Miles panted hard as he walked the last few meters over the hot, dusty ground. He stopped for a moment, sucking in air and flapping at the persistent flies as Reynolds glanced at the jumbled rocks nearby.

"Somewhere here would be good."

Miles nodded. "Program the exact coordinates. Wouldn't want to dig all this up to find it."

Reynolds walked towards a huge slab of rock that had been rounded by thousands of years of harsh weather. "Ideally you'd want it under something like this," he said, patting the rock. To his surprise, it moved. He heard a gasp and turned round.

Miles was staring at him, his face white.

"What is it?"

"Think, man! You're going to get the robot to put the cube under that rock, right?"

Reynolds nodded.

"Have you positively made up your mind?"

"Yes," said Reynolds sharply. "What's your point?"

"Don't you see?" Miles' voice tailed off as he stared at the rock. "The robot is going back in time to hide the data cube under that rock. If it succeeded, it must already be there!"

Comprehension dawned on his collegue's face. "All we have to do is dig it up." He dropped to his hands and knees and started scooping at the loose dirt. Miles joined him, and within five minutes they had found a dusty cube. When Reynolds held it up to the sun, it glowed amber as the light shone through it.


Five minutes later they were walking down the narrow, rocky track as they headed back to the lab.

"You realise that now we've got the cube, there's no need to send the robot back in time?" asked Miles.

Reynolds stared at him. "Of course we have to send it back. If we don't, we'll have created a paradox."

Miles laughed and patted his pocket. "We can't have done, the cube's right here." A strange looked passed over his face. "Hey, it's gone!"

"What has?" asked Reynolds.

- END -

(Now, I must dig out my short story about the boy with the funny shaped scar ...)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hal 4 review

Simon Haynes is a very talented author who takes what could be a predictable plot, adds twists and turns and a unique sense of humour, and produces an adventure that will hold your attention from beginning to end.

Read the rest here

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Back scratching

Word of mouth, publicity, blog buzz ... it's all good news for a book, and with that in mind Clunk just whispered a cunning plan in my ear. (Hal's idea doesn't bear repeating.)

So, if you'd like the chance of a signed copy of Hal 1, 2, 3 or 4, just do a blog post about the free Hal Spacejock ebook and leave a link to your blog in the comments trail below. In a week or two I'll pick someone at random as the recipient of a signed novel. (I'll post it anywhere in the world, too!)

I haven't mentioned the ebook for at least 12 hours, but if you're a new visitor to the blog or you've already forgotten what the ebook release was all about you can refresh your memory (and pinch bits to cut & paste) right here

(If you've already posted about the Hal ebook ... thanks! You can still leave a comment with a link because the comp is open to all.)

Thanks Clunk - I can see why Hal keeps you around ...

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Odd Man Out

I had an email from a US high school teacher this morning, who was just checking whether the Hal Spacejock ebook was a temporary thing, or whether it would be available permanently. Reason being, she'd added Hal to her list of recommended summer ebooks for the students, and she didn't want it vanishing before they could get to it.

The ebook should be permanent, barring multi-million dollar offers from overseas publishers, so I reassured her on that point. However, what made me laugh was the composition of the list (all freely available ebooks, remember). Talk about being the odd man out ...

A Double Barrelled Detective Story by Mark Twain
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Emma by Jane Austen
Hal Spacejock by Simon Haynes

I wish my school teachers had been that cool.

(EDIT: The Hal ebook makes no concessions to US readers, by the way. It's "as published in Australia" with British/Australian spelling, colloquialisms, lifts, boots, colours, pavements and all.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Published twice in one day

Sort of, anyway. I just got the latest issue of Australian PC User magazine and they've run my letter on using Gmail plus your regular ISP address plus my yMail software to keep spam to a minimum.

And, of course, Hal Spacejock 4 just came out.

Hence seeing my name in print twice in one day. Sort of.

*EDIT* Make that three times. The local paper just came out, and they've published an article about Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch and the Hal 1 ebook.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

On the serious side of funny

I know, I know ... Hal is a loon, he crashes his ship into things, he's over-confident, he couldn't make money as a crude oil salesman. Laughs, disasters, mayhem.

However, there's another side to the Hal books, and one which I rarely see recognised in reviews and comments. Rest assured I'm not going to go all 'comic actor aspires to play Hamlet' on you - entertainment is my game, and in my novels I'll always choose funny over sending a message - but it's nice when someone picks up on the satirical aspects of Hal.

Because I DO use the books to flag concerns about the nature of humanity, our throwaway society, greed, racism, more greed, self-interest and so on. It might only be a throwaway line buried somewhere in the text, but it's there all the same. (I didn't earn two degrees and learn three languages just because I was quick with a quip. There's something ticking away behind the half smile ...)

So it was nice to see SFFworld's comment in their news release regarding the Hal Spacejock ebook: "Deliberately mixing anachronisms with futuristic gadgets, Haynes pokes wicked fun at our own Ipods and cellphone obsessions, while looking more seriously at issues of identity, friendship and freedom."

Spot on.

Unfortunately, comic SF has top billing in the sugar-laden artificially-coloured breakfast cereals category. It's quick, tasty and sweet, so it can't possibly contain any goodness. Then again, if you're trying to tempt kids who refuse to eat breakfast ...

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Cat & Muse Hal Spacejock interview

Jackie Kessler asked former demon, JEZEBEL, to interview Hal Spacejock for Cat and Muse, the blog where characters take center stage.

The results just went up (so to speak): This ain't the love boat, alas

My favourite snip:

JEZ: Which is better: sex or chocolate?

HAL: I’ve had chocolate once or twice over the past year. Alas, I can’t say the same about sex.

(Chocolate sex? Oh boy. When google gets hold of THIS post my blog reading demographics are going to change rather a lot. Or not, as the case may be...)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Fantastic Planet & Creaking Shelves

Two bits of bookstore news, one in Australia and one in Scotland. (You had the US news yesterday - trying to share things around a bit!)

First, I just saw the new arrivals post on the Fantastic Planet blog, and they've now got copies of Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch (book 4 in the series)

A couple of weeks ago I agreed to go in and sign stock for them, so it looks like it's time for me to follow up on the promise.

(Fantastic Planet is in the city of Perth, Western Australia. Each of the three previous Hal Spacejock books has been a top 10 bestseller at one stage or another, so you can't fault their excellent sales team!)

In other bookstore news, The Creaking Shelves Bookshop (love that name!) in Wigtown (Scotland's National Book Town) has been in touch about stocking the Hal Spacejock series. They're talking to my publisher now, and fingers crossed they can come up with something between them because having an outlet or two in the UK would be fantastic.

One final note: would you believe the "Creaking Shelves" shop owner won a signed copy of Hal in a draw a year or so back, before she even owned a bookstore?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, June 02, 2008


I signed up for BookCrossing a couple of years ago, and haven't done anything with it since.

If you've not heard of BC, you take hold of a book you want to get rid of, enter the details on the site, get a unique ID and then paste in a label/hand write instructions inside the cover. You then leave the book somewhere, all furtive like, and nip back to the PC to document where you put it. Some of the 'hiding' places are in plain sight, while others are more creative. (One memorable one said 'on top of the ATM at the foot of the stairs') Hopefully, whoever finds the thing then follows the instructions on the label: Go to the bookcrossing site and enter the ID, which tells everyone they picked it up.

Anyway, I just registered a brand new copy of Hal Spacejock No Free Lunch and hid it in the local park (all furtive, like).

Now I just have to remember to check the BC site from time to time, to see whether anyone admitted to picking it up ...

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

For US Hal fans ...

... or those looking to become one.

Powell's Books just listed 20 copies each of Hal Spacejock books 1, 2 and 3, in stock now for immediate delivery:

These copies are already in the US, so it's just a local postage charge.

Perfect timing for those who took advantage of the freebie Hal Spacejock ebook and are wondering what Hal Does Next.

(The books are A-format trade paperbacks, which is the most usual size for books published here in Australia.)

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Yes, it's June the 2nd, 2008, and Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch hits bookstores across Australia and NZ. Book four in a series I never really believed would be published.

I remember the first time I saw a copy of Hal Spacejock 1 (the Fremantle Press edition) in a bookstore. We'd gone away for a week to recharge our batteries before the book launch, and on the last day I dropped by Dymocks Busselton to browse. There they were ... two shiny new copies of Hal Spacejock, sitting on the shelf!

They were spine out, like all the others on the shelf, and I'd heard about this trick where authors turn their books face out whenever they visited a store, to make them more prominent. I circled the shelves until nobody was looking, then took my books and tried to turn them. Unfortunately the shelf was packed tight, and there was nowhere near enough room.

I scanned the shelf and my gaze fell on this thick Peter Hamilton book at the end. Without that one there, mine would have plenty of space to be turned face out. But what could I do with the thick book? All the other shelves were crammed too!

Then ... inspiration! I grabbed the big fat book, shuffled the rest of the shelf along, and turned the two copies of Hal Spacejock face out.

Then I went to cough up $22 for my new Peter Hamilton book.

And people wonder where I get the inspiration for some of Hal's daft antics ...

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)