Update 21st March 2016
by Duncan Lunan - 09:47 on 23 March 2016
Update 21st March 2016
A great deal has happened since the turn of the year and I've been too busy to write updates till now. To start with the regular commitments, I've been keeping up my regular astronomy column The Sky Above You, which has been going since 1983 and currently appears monthly in Troon's Going Out, the Ayrshire Post, and on the Astronomers of the Future webpage, as well as quarterly in Wyldwood Radio Magazine and The Word on the Streets, and three times a year in Jeff Hawke's Cosmos. I also produce write-ups on the monthly meetings of the Astronomers of the Future Club, for the website and often published in the Troon Times and/or the Ayrshire Post.
Jeff Hawke's Cosmos has been appearing since 2003, reprinting all the classic Jeff Hawke stories created and drawn by Sydney Jordan. To date the editor Bill Rudling has published 27 editions of the magazine, two books (one in its third edition) and a supplement. It's been my privilege to write notes on all the stories as they've been reproduced, along with the astronomy col umn for each issue, accompanied by 'Space Notes' and occasional other articles. With the publication of Vol. 3 No. 9 in January we have covered all 70 of the original Hawke stories, plus 26 of the ones first published in the Daily Record as Lance McLane and then recaptioned as a new version of Hawke for international syndication. We've now reached the stories which I wrote, starting at the end of 1982, and the first three of them are in Vol. 9 No. 3, with three more to come in Vol. 10 No. 1. Meanwhile Bill's next project is to produce the first five McLane stories, which weren't recaptioned as Hawke, and because the Daily Express agent couldn't supply those, it's fallen to me to scan and edit them episode by episode from my collection of Sydney Jordan's work which I started in 1954, when I was 8 years old. I now have all but two episodes in one form or another, out of a total of around 10,000 – we won't know the exact number till we finish, at the end of Vol. 10. In addition Bill intends to reprint the alternative version of Hawke which appeared in the Junior Express and Express Weekly, 1954-56, drawn by Ferdinando Tacconi. I've supplied notes on them as well.
Also for the first time since the 1950s there is a new Scottish science fiction magazine, Shoreline of Infinity, edited by Noel Chidwick and Mark Toner, available for order online either in paperback or PDF. Issue No. 3 is just out, published on March 21st. I'm reviewing books for each issue, and No. 2 in December included one of my unpublished short stories and an interview with me by Paul Cockburn. They've accepted another story from me and I've just submitted a third. In addition they're going to publish a new edition of my time-travel stories. It will include all the stories from With Time Comes Concord and Other Stories, published as an e-book by Gary Gibson's Brain in a Jar in 2012, but it will have my original title The Elements of Time and will include an extra story, 'Galileo at the High Frontier', which the Centre for Contemporary Arts commissioned from me in 2012. The title story 'With Time Comes Concord' was illustrated by Sydney Jordan when it first appeared in Analog, and for The Elements of Time he's produced a colour cover and new black-and-white illustrations for each of the other six stories.
There's another new outlet for Scottish fantasy, supernatural and SF writers. (You wait 60 years for one and then, like buses, two come at once.) Michael Collins, husband of Mandy (Scottish editor of Spooky Isles) has started an online publication called The 40p (www.the40p.com), which isn't exactly a magazine (no editorial or other usual features) but offers individual stories online at 40 pence apiece. My own previously unpublished 'Demon' is among the first, with more by Jim Steel (book reviews editor of Interzone), Mandy and Michael themselves, and others.
Michael, Mandy, Jim and I are all members of the Glasgow SF Writers' Circle, along with Hal Duncan, Gary Gibson, Michael Cobley, Neil Williamson and others too many to mention. The GSFWC meets fortnightly on Tuesdays in the Ogilvie Centre of St. Aloysius Church on Rose Street, along from the Glasgow Film Theatre. The group began from the first of six creative writing classes in SF and fantasy which I ran 1986-92 for the Glasgow University Dept. of Adult & Continuing Education, immediately after each year's SF and fantasy short story competition for new writers, which I ran for the Glasgow Herald. Consequently this year marks the 30th anniversary of its beginning and group members are editing a commemorative anthology, to which I've been invited to contribute a new story and an Introduction. I've submitted both and await the outcome.
Meanwhile I have two book reviews in issue 263 of Interzone, with another just commissioned, and despite the hassle of changing email address, this week I've supplied three nonfiction book reviews for Concatenation. I have another to write for issue 4 of Shoreline of Infinity for mid-April, and so it continues.
Sunday, 20th March 2016 was a remarkable day, the spring equinox, and the 37th anniversary of the completion of the Sighthill stone circle, by Royal Navy helicopter, on March 20th 1979. I designed and built the circle, the first astronomically aligned one for over 3000 years, when I was Manager of the Glasgow Parks Astronomy Project in 1978-79. Just after my book about it The Stones and the Stars was published in November 2012, Linda and I were informed that the circle and the park were to be removed to make way for new housing development. The petition to save it started by Mandy Collins now has nearly 6400 signatures, and the support from the Pagan and Druid communities has been invaluable. An excellent report appeared in The Herald on Monday 21st. The anniversary and the equinox were marked by a special event at the circle organised by the North Glasgow Arts Trail, with live music and featuring on-site firing of ceramics in paper kilns by the artist Kevin Andrew Morris. It was nice to meet old friends including Jack Forbes, a strong supporter of the campaign, dowsing expert Graham Gardner, and Urban Archaeologist Kenny Brophy. When asked to speak, I reminded the company of the circle's dedicatees, Prof. Alexander and Dr. Archie Thom, Prof. Archie Roy and Dr. Euan MacKie, who is the only one still with us; and of the team who worked with me on the circle project, particularly the Technical Supervisor John Braithwaite and the project Secretary Jean Coles, who likewise have passed on.
On a happier note, the City Council has now confirmed that if the stones can be removed intact in two weeks' time, I will be commissioned to recreate the circle at a new site on the east end of the present park. In 1979 there was a distinct 'Time Team' feel about the final preparations, with no time to make observations beforehand or to refine the calculations. Observations since have shown that most of the stones' alignments are accurate but some could be improved – so demonstrating that the neolithic builders could have achieved the accuracies claimed by the Thoms, Prof. Roy and Dr. MacKie, by naked-eye observation. Having made that point, the aim this time should be to make the new circle as accurate as possible. When the removal of the stones was expected last year, the Druids and Pagans held a joint event to bid farewell to the circle, including the symbolic burning of a phoenix, in hopes of its resurrection. We've been assured that great care will be taken with the removal, so we must hope that the rebirth will take place as planned.