I won an award!

So while I begin to setup my life here in Bristol, creating lecture courses, setting up research projects and catching up with old friends, I received some unexpected but pleasant news.

A paper I published a year or so ago has won an award from IOM3, the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. The award is the 2017 Cook/Ablett award for publication of particular merit in the field of metals, which is a long but gratifying name!

The paper in question is one I wrote on the use of atom probe tomography to analyse the chemistry of interfaces between phases in metal alloys for aircraft. Atom probe tomography, the technique I specialised in at the University of Oxford, allows us to look at how the chemistry of a material changes on the atomic scale, and for applications like aircraft engines, even the slightest change in the amount of a particular element at the boundary of two phases can dramatically change how it responds under stress and at high temperatures.

A figure from the paper - the red surface is a Laves phase particle (mostly tungsten and molybdenum) in a maraging steel, and the green surfaces are smaller nickel-aluminium rich beta-phase particles. In this case, the Laves phase has grown bigger as the beta particles have precipitated, meaning that the interface between the Laves and matrix is complicated with different concentration profiles from the two positions marked by arrows.

A figure from the paper - the red surface is a Laves phase particle (mostly tungsten and molybdenum) in a maraging steel, and the green surfaces are smaller nickel-aluminium rich beta-phase particles. In this case, the Laves phase has grown bigger as the beta particles have precipitated, meaning that the interface between the Laves and matrix is complicated with different concentration profiles from the two positions marked by arrows.

It's always gratifying to get recognition for the work we do as scientists - and this is a paper where we really went in-depth on the nitty-gritty of analysing atom probe data, so the publicity it got will hopefully get people thinking about how they do their analysis. My thanks go to my co-authors, in particular Baptiste Gault (now at MPIE), who did a lot of the awesome simulation work. 

A much belated update - with many changes!

It's been over a year since I last updated this blog. 2016 was a difficult year both around the world and personally, which I won't get into here. But 2017 has started with much positivity and change.

In January 2017 I started a new position, returning to Bristol, the city and university where I lived for 9 years and studied for both my MSc and PhD. I am now teaching in the department of Physics where I did my undergraduate degree, which is a wonderful and strange experience. 

Since starting, I went straight into lecturing (My first lecture was three days before my start date!), teaching a masters course on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, which involved lots of interesting discussions of materials science, radiation damage and the way fuel is made and disposed of in nuclear fission and fusion reactors. It was also very interesting to use my experience in the renewable energy industry to talk about climate change and energy policy, which is something I will be expanding on next year's course - the choices of how we power the electricity of networks of the future is a fascinating and vital debate.

I will also be designing a new Introduction to Materials Science course for the Physics undergraduate course, which will be great fun, especially designing some practicals to do in my classes! I really enjoy teaching, and it's a real pleasure to do more of it in my new role.

I'm also still doing research, and will be returning every now and then to Oxford to do some experiments with atom probe tomography, which is a technique I find both fascinating and enjoyable. I'll also be adding in new techniques to solve materials science challenges, including high speed AFM developed at Bristol, X-ray diffraction and tomography, NanoESCA and electron microscopy. 

I have continued to publish lots of scientific papers and even won an award recently - the Cook/Ablett award for publication of merit in the field of metals, from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3), which was a great honour. 

I hope to be a bit better about keeping this blog up to date. I'm still writing fiction, and the Maelstrom's Edge project is still going strong, with lots of exciting new models coming in the future. To a positive future!

Making miniatures - converting the models from the Maelstrom's Edge boxset!

After working on Maelstrom's Edge for about 4 and a quarter years, designing the fluff and writing hundreds of thousands of words of stories set in our new universe, it was amazing to finally get the box set in the post and see the models we'd spent so long creating. I'd had a few of them earlier, but most of these were as new to me as to our backers! 

As well as a writer I've always been a gamer and hobbyist. I have a big space wolf/space marine army, as well as tau and IG in various states of assembly. Making stories and customising the models to fit that were always the most enjoyable thing for me - I spent a lot of time kitbashing Necromunda gangers out of pretty much every different sprue I could find. My sculpting and painting isn't as good, but I have a lot of fun creating custom poses from multipart plastics. 

So, with all of the sprues in hand, I set out to see what I could make from my Epirian and Karist sprues. My photography isn't the best, but hopefully people get the idea! 

Hunter

First up, the Epirian robots. I'd had a play with the Contractor sprue before, but this was my first opportunity to play around with the Hunter, Scarecrow and Drone sprues, which are so much fun to kitbash. First off, a Hunter, armed with Maglock Chaingun, Supressor Dual Machine Gun and Strike Missiles. I put the Chaingun on the other arm to get an aiming pose, and used green stuff to fill in the gaps between the arms and shoulders to enable a wider stance. The Strike missiles are easy to pose if you slice the bottom mount off and then rotate the missile itself. 

Scarecrow

The Scarecrow is even more customisable. I made some steps from plasticard so that the multi-jointed legs could climb up it, and cut off the elbow joint from the Clingfire Sprayer so that I could put the Railrifle on the left arm. I'm quite happy with how easy it was to make such a dynamic pose suited to the Scarecrow's behaviour as a lone bot patrolling, taking out intruders from a distance. 

This is my first Spider drone. The main ability of the four-legged ground drone is the way they hug the terrain, their bot protocols giving them a choice of three different bonuses based on utliising the cover of the buildings and rubble around them. I wanted to bring this across in my squad, so I've tried to create a pose where the spider is crawling up a piece of building (made from heavy plasticard with a bunch of bits from the terrain sprue), keeping its profile low to avoid enemy fire. There's not actually any conversion done to the spider other than twisting and bending each leg so that the foot is flat on whichever surface it touches - I did this after I'd made the terrain. 

Lastly there's my first attempt at a Mature Angel. These are just as much fun to model as they are to write about. Apart from the core of their torso, most of the alien body of the Angel is made up of morphing flowing void gel, which means they can adapt their limbs to suit the situation, creating claws, legs, tentacles or limbs as suits them. This was a relatively simple hack to display that, twisting the clawed forelimbs and then using the two additional claws plus some green stuff to give them two additional legs, giving them a nice crab-like feel. 

Karist

I'm using a bone-coloured scheme for my Karists - the Tempest above being the first I finished, which I think should complement the deep purples and blacks of the Angels really nicely. I'm not sure about the metallic gun, I feel that could be made more interesting, suggestions welcome! 

More to come in future as I explore the possibilities of the other sprues and start painting in earnest, but just wanted to show what is sitting on my desk inbetween writing sessions!

Maelstrom's Edge: Battle For Zycanthus arrives!

It's finally here! Approximately four years and four months since I was first approached to work on the project, the launch box set of Maelstrom's Edge is in the wild and has arrived in the hands of our Kickstarter backers. It's also the first time I've had a look at the whole thing myself.

The Maelstrom's Edge: Battle For Zycanthus box set, together with my two co-written tie-in novels.

The Maelstrom's Edge: Battle For Zycanthus box set, together with my two co-written tie-in novels.

It's a satisfyingly heavy box, packed full of sprues - exactly how you want a new game to arrive! The box art is beautiful, too, and I've not noticed any typos in the back cover text I wrote, which is good!

A very full interior...

A very full interior...

Inside the box is a veritable horde of plastics, tokens and cards. I've seen some of the infantry models before during our tests, but this was the first time I have had the opportunity to build the robots and Angels, and the first time I've ever seen the Handler, Kaddar Nova and Shadow Walker models in the flesh. The plastic is so crisp and the details are great, and the multipart models are great fun for converting - I've started building my Epirians and will post some pictures in a few weeks time. 

There's also the cards - unit cards for points costs and army building (that let us tweak the stats if we need to without reprinting the rulebook), mission cards for easy selection of which game to play, and an entire extra game using cards to represent fleets of ships battling for resources on worlds threatened by the Maelstrom. I'm looking forward to playing that in particular. 

The Maelstrom's Edge A5 rulebook details all the game rules, the army building for the first two factions, as well as lots of rich background to the Maelstrom's Edge universe

The Maelstrom's Edge A5 rulebook details all the game rules, the army building for the first two factions, as well as lots of rich background to the Maelstrom's Edge universe

The biggest thrill for me, aside from the models themselves, is the 144 page full colour A5 Rulebook. Jon 'yakface' Regul has created an amazing ruleset full of dynamic action and careful battlefield tactics, and the diagrams and pictures in the book really do justice to it. There's also details on how to build armies for the first two factions - the corporate robots of the Epirian Foundation and the religious fanatics of the Karist Enclave.

I'm really proud of the fluff section, which I wrote a large part of. As well as delving further into the background of the Epirian and Karist factions, we also talk a lot more about the broader Maelstrom's Edge universe, including further details on future factions, which I'm very excited to start working on, like the exosuited House Champions of the Remnant Fleet, the ragtag rebels and revolutionaries of the Broken and the bizarre posthumans of the Kaigus Pact, changed after thousands of years living in the microgravity of space. These are the three factions we want to expand into next, and each should porvide a very different experience on the tabletop and in the fiction. There's also teasers for where we might go even further into the future, with hints at factions further from the Edge like the aquatic Tragunite Host and the the AI hunters of the Comm Guild. 

We've put so much effort into designing a universe and game to match the dreams we always had for a tabletop wargame. It's so amazing to finally see it in the flesh, and to start getting positiv feedback from our backers. I look forward to exploring more of the universe and creating more great content in the future!

Maelstrom's Edge shipping soon!

So after 4 and a half years of work, and many hundreds of thousands of words, Maelstrom's Edge is making its final steps into the public domain this month. Our Kickstarter backers will be getting their copies soon, as we ship the first collection of box sets into the wider world. 

Over on the Maelstrom's Edge website, the store is starting to come together, and those that didn't back on the Kickstarter can order copies of the boxed game, as well as hard copies of the two novels that Stephen Gaskell and I cowrote for the project, Maelstrom's Edge: Faith and Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice. For those that prefer ebook format, it's of course still available on Amazon Kindle. 

It's been a lot of work to get it to this point - we've spent the time since the Kickstarter refining the rule and fluff content for the 144 page rulebook, as well as all the associated content - the back of the box, the flyers, etc. Everything is more or less back from the manufacturers, so the boxes will be assembled and sent out to our first backers.

I'm really proud of the work we've done to create the first two factions, the rules, the background and the miniatures, not to mention all the fiction we've written (there's some great short fiction still to come!)

I'm also very keen to start exploring the next phases of the project - the fluff section of the rulebook hints at the future factions we want to explore. I'm a big fan of all of them, whether it's the gladiatorial spec-oc teams of the Remnant Fleet, the rag-tag warbands of the Broken or the high-tech of the Comm Guild's Darkener operatives hunting down rogue AI. But the ones I'm particularly excited about expanding into miniatures are the two alien races - the many-bodied creatures of the Tragunite Host, who can reassemble their coral-like component organisms into different larger forms, and the freaky bio-enhanced posthumans of the Kaigus Pact, gangly creatures that have evolved from humanity's first forays into space, twisted after millennia living in low gravity. 

We have loads of plans for future miniatures, rules and fiction, and hopefully when people see the quality of our first release they will be excited too! The more successful our initial box set, the easier and quicker we can move onto the new factions, as well as fleshing out the armies of the Epirian Foundation and Karist Enclave. So we hope that our loyal Kickstarter backers enjoy their first taste of Maelstrom's Edge in the Battle for Zycanthus box set, and please spread the word if you do - the more players we have, the faster we can explore the wider universe we've created!

The Maelstrom's Edge Kickstarter is finished!

It's been a long and bumpy rollercoaster ride for all the people at Spiral Arm Studios who've been working on the Maelstrom's Edge project over the course of our 41-day Kickstarter, but we finished with an amazing 813 backers for a combined total of $70,105 raised!

We added loads of content to the $90 sweet spot pledge over the last few weeks, and hit several of the stretch goals we really wanted to hit - getting the funding to record 4 more audiobooks (likely to be 2 by Stephen Gaskell and 2 by me) at $55k, and getting through $60k is really great as it means the larger models like the Hunter and Angel get their own custom-made bases, which is really important to me as a modeller as I can convert more great poses.

And literally 1 minute before the end we got to the $70k stretch goal where all backers get free digital copies of my first novel (co-written with Stephen), Maelstrom's Edge: Faith. It would be really exciting to have more people reading it!

Writing for Maelstrom's Edge has been a blast and the money we've raised ensures we have the best possible launch product we can, and also helps us begin planning for the design of future content - new units, new factions and new novels - exciting times!

Some Maelstrom's Edge short stories!

We're halfway through the Maelstrom's Edge Kickstarter and things are going well - nearly twice our initial target already! We're hoping that over the next three weeks we can raise a bit more to reach some stretch goals and add better value to the boxset - the free terrain sprue at £45k and the new base sprue for the Hunter and Spider robots at £60k would be awesome. Every bit we raise is going back into the project to invest in the next set of models, not just for the Epirians and Karists but also for the three more factions in development. 

As part of the Kickstarter updates, we've been releasing short stories set in the Maelstrom's Edge universe, by me and my fellow Lead Writer Stephen Gaskell. As well as an audiobook of Stephen's story 'Transit', there have been three of my short story released so far. 

In the most recent update, we see how the Scarecrow  patrol bot for the Epirian Foundation defends its territory from intruders. When a naive young Karist priest decides a rural farm is an ideal location to steal resources, he doesn't plan for the Scarecrow keeping watch over the buildings. This is one of the first stories we wrote when designing the universe, and it's a nice short intro to our new unit. The Scarecrow is amazingly poseable with every limb having complete freedom and I'm very excited to get my hands on the sprue! 

A few days ago we shared another story showcasing an Epirian robot, in this case the heavier-duty Hunter warmech. Hunters are specifically designed for combat, unlike the smaller robots in the box set, which are adapted for battle from civilian designs (the Scarecrow was originally a crop duster, for example). This short story was written during the Kickstarter itself, and takes place during events of the second novel, Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice, where the Karist Enclave has launched a full-scale offensive on the city of Pike's Basin. A Epirian Handler has left his bots on patrol whilst he sneaks off to be with his girl, and is left to rely on two Hunters to save the train depot he's supposed to be protecting. Canny readers will spot that this story explains why the characters in the novels later use the trains to get where they need to go!

The Shipyard was another early story I wrote at the beginning of the project, showcasing the way an Epirian Handler interacts with her bots, as well as teasing a few details of the Broken, one of our future factions. Like the Scarecrow, The Shipyard is set after the events of the novels, when conflict between the factions has erupted into the open. We're looking forward to exploring this timeline more as things progress.

There'll be more stories to come over the course of the Maelstrom's Edge Kickstarter! Hope you enjoy reading them!

The Maelstrom's Edge Kickstarter is live!

So after three and half years hard work in our spare time, the Maelstrom's Edge project has finally seen the light of day on Kickstarter - see the video below to see what we've been working on!

Maelstrom's Edge is something I'm very proud of - not just the two novels but also the background, models and game - Jon Regul has done a tremendous job writing a really clean and concise skirmish ruleset which is a lot of fun to play, and the multipart plastics are a job to build, convert and paint. Everything is very close to finished so the time to delivery after the Kickstarter finishes should be much quicker than for many projects - we hope to deliver before the end of the year. 

 

Now the long road of development is nearly over and all that's left to do is watch what happens - it's both exciting and extremely nervewracking!

Read an excerpt from Maelstrom's Edge: Faith!

So you may be aware that Stephen Gaskell and I released two cowritten novels last week as part of the launch of the new scifi miniatures game Maelstrom's Edge.  Maelstrom's Edge: Faith and Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice are stories set in a galaxy where the Maelstrom, a tidal wave of dark energy, is devouring the galaxy from the core planets outward. The novels are set on a world a few light years from the Maelstrom's Edge, where the interests of the corporate Epirian Foundation and the mysterious religious Karist Enclave have turned their attentions.

This is an excerpt from Chapter Five of the first book, Maelstrom's Edge Faith, where a pair of Epirian lawmakers encounter the Karist Enclave, including a monstrous alien Angel, for the first time. 

Kyle Wynn is an Epirian Sheriff keeping the peace in the small desert town of Venusai on the planet of Zycanthus. When he and his partner Randall get reports of terraforming robots disappearing in the desert, they head out to investigate. When they find a set of footprints and strange markings in the sand, they follow them, never expecting the dangers they are heading into...

Desert Sheriff

Maelstrom's Edge: Faith
Excerpt from Chapter Five

Wynn and Randall tracked the footprints for several hours. They sent the drones a few klicks ahead of the prowler, set them crisscrossing the trail with infrared cameras. The evening had really started to set in now, and only the dull purple glow of the Maelstrom in the east gave any illumination. It cast cruel shadows in its sickly half-light.

“I hate that thing,” Randall said, staring up at the bruised sky. “Just staring down at us like that, so you never forget that it’s coming.”

Wynn wondered if the Maelstrom was all that was coming to Zycanthus. When he had been a prospector, he’d heard stories from worlds close to the Edge. Before their destruction, there had been reports of strange creatures attacking isolated outposts, shadowy coups, riots and public executions. These stories seemed to get more and more intense and confused as the Maelstrom got closer, ending in tales of destruction that Wynn had always written off as a product of the panic that set in as the planets fell apart.

Now he wasn’t so sure. The footprints continued to march across the sand for klicks, rarely breaking out of their steady pattern. Wynn thought he could spot at least five different tracks, but he also occasionally saw the imprint of something larger, but always indistinct, as if the thing making the impression was hardly touching the ground at all.

They were nearly at the location of the third terraforming drudge when the signal of one of the patrol drones winked out.

“Huh?” Randall tapped a monitor, on which the drone’s sensor feeds had been replaced by static. “Where did it go?”

Wynn said nothing. He was watching the other patrol drone’s feed. It was hovering above a ravine. In the rocks at the bottom, he could see five figures, clad in frost-white armour. Heavy carbines dangled from their shoulders, and canisters filled with purple energy were strung around their waists. They were the most dangerous looking people Wynn had ever seen on Zycanthus, and they were staring straight back at him.

“Randall,” he said, “We have company!”

Wynn flicked a switch and sent the video feed to Randall’s station. Hidden in a hollow, the group of armoured figures stood, checking heavy looking weapons. From the looks of it, they were military, but Wynn didn’t recognise their markings, two scythe like points either side of a circle, deep black against their white armour.

“Who the hell?” Randall said. “Those are not a bunch of kids. When exactly did we get invaded?”

“Apparently a few days ago,” Wynn murmured, studying the footage. The soldiers held themselves bolt upright, with the discipline of many years of training. Their armour was wickedly curved at the edges, and their helmets had only one eye, with a trio of small lenses where the other eye should have been. “They can see the probe,” Wynn said. “Why aren’t they shooting it down?”

Something flashed across the drone’s camera, blocking the view to the soldiers. Something big. Wynn took in a dark blue body, with a gaping maw above glassy, alien eyes. Below the tortured face, the structure faded away into an amorphous mass of tendrils. Wynn and Randall had one more look at its face before a lithe limb snaked out and snapped into the drone, and the video feed cut out.

“Call for backup,” Wynn said, staring at the screen. “Call for backup right fucking now."

“I’m trying!” Randall said. “There’s no satellite coverage out here, I can’t get a signal.”

“Well, keep trying!” Wynn said. He grimaced as he imagined what that creature would do to the prowler. The vehicle was tough, but it definitely hadn’t been designed to be alien-proof.

“What the fuck was that thing, Kyle?” Randall reached over and locked the prowler’s door. “What did they bring here?”

“I think they called them Angels,” Wynn said slowly, thinking back to the stories he’d heard out in the black. “I heard some spacers talk once about how they show up as the Maelstrom approaches. How the hell did it get here?”

“Sheriff,” Randall said. “How far away was that drone?”

Wynn looked up. In the gloom of the Maelstrom-tinged sky, he could see in the distance the raised silhouette of a pair of recessed cliffs, below which a ravine fell down to the dry riverbed.

“They’re less than a mile away,” Wynn said.

“Who are these people?” Randall said. “And what the hell do they want with us?”

Wynn killed the engine, and reached for his rifle.

“I don’t know,” he said, turning the headlamps and the lights of the cab off. “But I think if we don’t kill them, we’re not going to make it back to Venusai alive.”

“Wait,” Randall said. “Sheriff, what are you doing? Why aren’t we getting out of here?”

Wynn turned and pushed his deputy against his seat, his face close.

“You saw that thing, Randall. That Angel, or whatever you want to call it. Whatever it was, that thing was flying. Do you really think we’d get far?”

Randall fell silent. Wynn reached over the seats and grabbed Randall’s shotgun and ammo pack, and shoved them into his deputy’s arms.

“The course they’ve taken,” Wynn told him. “It leads right back to Venusai.”

“What?” Randall’s eyes bulged wildly. Wynn had seen men taken by panic before during the hairier moments of prospecting new worlds. They couldn’t afford for that to happen today. Not if they wanted to get out of here alive.

“Now,” Wynn said as calmly as he could manage, “I don’t intend for that to happen. I intend to stop them before they can go home to Rania, Maggie and the rest of the town. So I’m going to get out of this truck as quietly as I can, move to a defendable position, and take them down. I can’t do it by myself, so I need you to calm down and move with me. Can you do that?”

Randall thrashed about for a second, his eyes darting to every possible escape route. Then his body seemed to relax, and he nodded.

“Ok,” he said. “All right. I’m not going to let whoever they are get to Maggie.”

“Then let’s go before they get here,” Wynn said. He pulled his rifle onto his shoulder and cracked open the driver’s door of the prowler.”

“Sheriff, wait.”

Wynn’s heart sunk. If he couldn’t get Randall to overcome his fear, they’d be sitting ducks in the cab of the prowler. But to his surprise, his deputy wasn't cowering. He was clambering over the back seat into the control centre jabbing a finger at the controls. He passed Wynn a headset with a bud microphone curling down from its strap, and then put one on himself.

“We need all the help we can get,” Randall said. “I’m activating all the remaining drones. Even the unarmed ones can provide a distraction.”

“You can’t stay here,” Wynn insisted, pulling on the headset. “You saw what that thing did to the terraformers, we’d be carved apart.”

“I’ll stay long enough to get all the drones moving,” Randall said, stabbing at the control panel, “and then I’ll take the remote headset and move to higher ground. But it’ll take a few minutes to get them all activated, so you should get somewhere you have good line of sight, and I’ll join you later.”

Wynn hesitated for a moment, then nodded and clambered out of the cab. Randall’s plan was about the best they could hope for, and it would do neither of them any good to waste any more time.

He dropped the last few rungs of the ladder to the ground, and set off on a crouching run towards a series of escarpments leading up to a rocky bluff to the right of the prowler. As he left the vehicle he heard the whine of several drones starting up, and a couple sprung up from the rack and began buzzing about the sky, as he pulled himself up onto a prominent cluster of boulders.

Wynn dropped to a prone position and unfolded the stock of his rifle, resting it against the edge of the rock, looking down at the prowler some twenty metres away. His rifle, an Ednotech maglock weapon, had been with him since his prospecting days, although he’d upgraded pretty much every component over the years. He cocked the rifle, pulled the butt in against his shoulder and settled his eye at the scope. Just like old times.

For several minutes, nothing happened, except the occasional flash of movement as a drone left the prowler’s rack. Wynn began to hope that maybe the intruders had not heard the prowler, had assumed the drones were on their own and carried on walking. But then he saw a flash of off-white armour plating at the foot of the valley and all thought of getting out without a fight vanished.

“I see them,” Wynn told Randall through the headset. "At the foot of the valley. Try and keep the drones hidden until I can get a shot off.”

“Gotcha,” Randall replied. “Three more to launch.”

Wynn tapped the microphone in reply, and settled into his position. He watched the soldiers advance, using the cover of the boulders that lined the valley, moving in pairs. There was no hope of Wynn getting all of them in one go, they were too well trained for that. His first shot had to work.

One of the soldiers peeled off the main group and crouched, aiming his weapon at the prowler. It was a larger gun than the others, with a belt that fed canisters of what looked like cybel energy into the magazine. Cybel energy, harvested from the cybel network that linked the stars, was incredibly potent and powered many of the ships and industries of the galaxy, but the stuff was so volatile that only the most foolhardy or brave would use it as a weapon.

The soldier barked a command at the other three and fired a round off. The ball of purple-white energy looped up in the air like a mortar shot, splashing into the ground with a sound like thunder. A crater exploded into being in the sand beside the prowler, rocking the vehicle and spraying it with debris but not harming it. With his range sighted, the soldier shifted position for another shot.

He would not get another try. Wynn squeezed the trigger of his rifle, sending a bullet straight down the line of the valley. The shot splintered the soldier’s helmet just below the three lenses that covered the soldier’s eye, spraying most of his head onto the rock behind him. The soldier collapsed to the ground, lifeless.

The others span and aimed their carbines in Wynn’s direction, trying to work out where the shot had come from. Wynn reached forward slowly and capped the lens of his scope, hoping to stay hidden for just a bit longer.

“Ok,” he said quietly into the mic, “They know I’m here. Go crazy with the drones, and then get to cover.”

“You got it,” Randall said. A phalanx of patrol drones rose from the stones, pinging laser shots at the soldiers, sending them diving for cover. While they were distracted, Wynn risked another shot, but the soldier in his sights moved at the last moment and the bullet impacted harmlessly into the sand.

One of the drones found its mark, burning a dark hole in the back of one of the soldiers’ armour, sending him sprawling. The remaining intruders sprayed shots at the drones, sending two robots crashing to earth. Then the soldiers hunkered down out of sight and called out to someone behind them.

A tortured sound filled the air, like the squeal of metal on metal. The desert breeze carried the smell of ozone, reminding him of the workshop’s smell when Rania used her plasma cutter. Then the monster emerged from behind the shadow of the escarpment.

The creature was massive, as tall as the prowler. Its features were squid-like in some ways, and bat-like in others, but attempting to compare it to an animal could only vaguely approximate its strangeness. Its body was an elongated smooth surface, with a number of limbs stabbing out from it. Two of these furled back against its body, thin membranes hanging between them as wings. More indistinct limbs propelled the beast along the ground, while at least four more tendrils dangled in front of it, their tips armed with sharp spikes or pseudopods. It was a deep dark purple, almost but not quite black, that seemed to be eaten up by the Maelstrom-tinged shadows of the escarpment.

Behind the creature was a much smaller figure, a crooked, thin man in a hooded robe, carrying an awkwardly large satchel across his back. He had a large staff held in both hands, a large flask of purple cybel energy at its base. The man used the other end to stroke the skin of the creature, and prod it forward towards the prowler. The creature opened the maw at the centre of its body and screamed that tortured metallic sound, like two spaceships colliding.

“Skyfire,” Randall swore. “Are you seeing this thing, Kyle? Is that really there?”

“An Angel,” Wynn muttered. “It’s real all right. You better get out of there.”

“Are you kidding me?” Randall said. “Against that thing? I think I’d rather take my chances in the prowler. Let’s see how it likes a bit of the Foundation’s finest.”

Randall’s surviving drones rejoined their formation, hovering in one place to let the last few launch from the prowler. Then he sent the five robots flying at the new appearance, buzzing the creature with the lasers and light machine guns mounted on their wings and cupolas.

The Angel screeched and flinched at the impacts on its body. Through the rifle’s scope Wynn could see most of the bullets passing harmlessly through the creature’s body, the holes they made closing behind the slug’s passing like it hadn’t even been hit, as if the drones were firing through water. Then with a sudden movement, the Angel leapt forward, its wings unfolding and tendrils leaping out from its body, further than their original length appeared to allow, the creature’s flesh changing in mid-action. Within seconds the drones had been smashed to the floor, strewing mechanical parts across the sand.

“Well,” Randall said in a breathless voice, “Storms. That could have gone a bit better.”

###

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from the novel Stephen and I have written together. You can read more in Maelstrom's Edge: Faith - on Kindle now!

Maelstrom's Edge: Faith and Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice are now available on Kindle!

In late 2011 I was asked to join a creative project creating a new science fiction miniatures wargame. Over the last three and half years in my spare time I've worked with a fantastic team of writers, designers and artists to design a universe and the game and miniatures to go with it. Today we went public on the Maelstrom's Edge project - we'll be going to Kickstarter on the game very soon!

I've also written two books - with my fellow Lead Writer on the project, Stephen Gaskell. It's been a lot of effort to get them finished, but at last, finally, today we have launched the novels on Kindle - Maelstrom's Edge: Faith and Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice, books one and two in the Battle for Zycanthus series that ties in to our first boxed game. 

covers

Maelstrom's Edge: Faith is the first novel in the Maelstrom's Edge universe. In the far future, a golden age of exploration and progress has been shattered. Humanity and alien alike are on the very edge of annihilation. 

A gigantic apocalyptic explosion of dark energy known as the Maelstrom is rapidly expanding out from the heart of the galaxy, destroying everything it touches. As worlds and stars on the Maelstrom's Edge are obliterated, those who have the means flee towards deep space, while those left behind fight for the chance to escape. 

In Maelstrom's Edge: Faith, conflict and conspiracy grows as the Maelstrom nears the doomed world of Zycanthus. Sheriff Kyle Wynn is one of many living in the shadow of the Maelstrom. When his desert patrol is ambushed by strange warrior cultists, Wynn realises that there are other forces at play on Zycanthus besides the corporate interests of his Epirian Foundation bosses. 

Zafah is a missionary from the Karist Enclave. The Enclave see the Maelstrom as a chance to ascend to a wondrous higher plane of being, but Zafah’s mission to save the people of Zycanthus is threatened by the world's heavy-handed security enforcers--and her own conscience. 

Wynn is convinced that the Karists are a threat to his family and Zycanthus. Can he uncover the intentions of the Karists before it’s too late, or will Zafah’s secretive organisation succeed in their mysterious aims?

Maelstrom's Edge: Sacrifice follows on from the events of Maelstrom's Edge: Faith. The Karist Enclave's plan to save the world of Zycanthus is in tatters. Shocked by their terrible losses at the hands of Epirian forces, Zafah joins the Karist military knowing the time for artful persuasion is over. 

Meanwhile, Sheriff Kyle Wynn is struggling to convince his Foundation bosses of the threat the Karists still pose. But when he infiltrates a Karist base, he discovers that their intentions are far greater and more dangerous than even he could have imagined... 

Zafah and Wynn are thrown into an escalating tussle for supremacy of Zycanthus, both on the planet's surface and in orbit. With the shadow of the Maelstrom hanging over them, the outcome of this clash will decide the fate of millions. Will the robotic might of the Epirian Foundation or the inner faith of the Karist Enclave emerge triumphant?

I'll be doing some blog posts on the design and details of the universe over the next few weeks, but in the meantime you can purchase both books at the Amazon links below!

Science continues...

The last touches are being put on my two novels, and the game they tie into, Maelstrom's Edge. Much more to come on that in a few weeks time, including details of the Kindle release.

In the meantime, there's plenty of work to be done at my day job at the University of Oxford. I've had one new paper published in the last few months, in Applied Physics Letters. APL is a journal I tried (and failed) to publish in during my PhD, so it's nice to finally see something with my name on it in that prestigous journal!

The paper is using the atom probe machine that I run at Oxford to look at the distribution of indium in InGaN/GaN quantum wells. Quantum wells are one of the most significant applications of quantum mechanics used in the real world, where they are used in LEDs. Thin layers of a doped semiconductor, in this case Indium Gallium Nitride, are sandwiched between another layer (Gallium Nitride here) with a different band gap. By restricting the width of the doped layer to a few tens of nanometres, you can confine the carrier electrons or holes so that they can only release energy at a certain wavelength. This means with the right well dimensions, when you apply an electric field they will emit a specific colour of light, perfect for LEDs.

The atom probe in my lab allows us to study these materials at the atomic level, to see exactly how the layers of InGaN are distributed. In this case, we wanted to look at two different orientations of the wells, and found that in one growth plane, the Indium is very evenly distributed throughout the wells, whilst in the other direction, clustering of In occurs that can have degrade the performance of the device.

I have another more technical paper on this work due to be published in Microscopy and Microanalysis soon. I'm working on a bunch of other papers at the moment which should be submitted soon, to reduce my backlog of data from last year. Once these three papers are submitted, I can move on to working on some exciting new experiments, such as fossils and meteorites!

In other news, I was very honoured to be selected as the David Cockayne Junior Research Fellow at Linacre College starting in October this year. Belonging to an Oxford college as a fellow is a great honour and will allow me to mingle with some very distinguished colleagues as well as eat some tasty dinners!

The novels are finished - and Maelstrom's Edge is revealed at last!

So for the last three and a half years I've been working on a secret project that no one has been allowed to know about - and despite writing hundreds of thousands of words of fiction and background material, it's only now that we're finally in a position to reveal it - Maelstrom's Edge.

I was approached back in the summer of 2011 to join as one of the lead writers in a small team working on a new science fiction miniatures game. The idea was to create a completely new and unique far future universe as a setting for a new tabletop wargame with high quality plastic models. 

We wanted to do this right - wargaming is a very competitive business and there are lots of other companies out there. We wanted to take the time to work in secret on something that felt unique and innovative across all parts of the game - that everything in the models, art design, game rules and the background would be new and exciting. 

The setting was key. We wanted a universe that had the broad appeal and wow factor of great space opera, but with a nod to the trend towards the grittier, more mature themes that modern science fiction has embraced in recent years - closer to the darker 2003 remake of Battlestar Galactica rather than the cheesier original version. We wanted the Maelstrom's Edge universe to be morally complex and populated with flawed characters – the technology may have changed, but mankind still faces the same problems it always has.

We also wanted to keep to a fairly hard science fiction feel - including awe-inspiring elements like aliens, powerful new weapons and faster-than-light travel, but trying to make any such invention feeling grounded in enough worldbuilding logic to feel realistic within our setting. Stephen and I having a background in science helped with designing things like the cybel network to be internally consistent and believable.

With the initial design goal to create a miniatures game where players would battle a number of different factions against each other, we wanted to create a setting where each of these factions would have a legitimate reason for conflict. There is no absolute good or evil faction in Maelstrom’s Edge – each organisation has its own understandable motives for the way it acts. We have also made sure to include conflict and friction within each organisation, to allow conflict both between different factions and between splinter groups of each. 

The result was the universe of Maelstrom's Edge, a far future science fiction setting where a golden age of exploration and innovation has been ripped apart and humanity is on the very edge of annihilation. The Maelstrom, a gigantic apocalyptic explosion of dark energy, is rapidly expanding out from the heart of the galaxy, destroying everything it touches. As worlds and stars are obliterated from existence, those who have the means flee towards deep space, while those left behind fight for the chance to escape - and for the resources in the worlds under threat. 

For millennia before this catastrophe, humanity spread across the galaxy at sub-light speed, painstakingly eking out an existence in space and on barely habitable worlds. Then the cybel network was discovered. A gossamer web of dark energy threads stretching between every star, the cybel network allowed humanity to colonise thousands of worlds across the galaxy's spiral arm. All the progress that the cybel network brought, the Maelstrom took away. The Maelstrom erupted from the centre of humanity's worlds a millennium ago, racing down the cybel tunnels, splitting them apart and spilling their destructive energy out into real space. 

The Edge is a stormfront, light years wide, where real space meets the Maelstrom’s tide of roiling, coruscating energy. The apocalypse is coming inexorably to every planet on the Edge. In the decades leading up the Maelstrom's arrival, every person is forced to make a choice about how they want to live the remainder of their existence. Unite or divide, give or take, love or hate. Those living on the edge are not bulletproof or elite. They are ordinary people caught up in a bewildering cataclysm, their only goal to survive as best they can. 

The design of both the Maelstrom’s advance and the relative difficulty of interstellar travel means that it is intentionally impossible for everyone to escape its destructive clutches. Worlds do not have the time or resources to evacuate everyone before they are destroyed. This forces the characters in our universe to confront cold, hard choices about what they do in the face of this implacable enemy – do they run, or try to save as many others as they can? Do they fight for the last remaining ships, or loot the helpless? By forcing humanity into such a difficult position, it encourages nuanced, morally grey decisions and characters, which is just what I want as a writer to encourage me to think of unique situations for stories - and also for scenarios for the game itself. As someone who likes to play miniatures games, I always found it irritating when I turned up to play a game with the same army as my opponent - in most settings, this doesn't make sense. But the stress of the impending destruction the Maelstrom brings means that organisations and governments come apart under the stress - and civil wars and internal strife are all possible as armies from the different factions battle to save themselves.

As part of that work, as well as countless pages of background design for the universe and game design, my fellow lead writer Stephen Gaskell and I have written a lot of fiction content - a bunch of short stories, as well as two novels set on the world of Zycanthus - Faith and Sacrifice

These two books form a story that tells of two of the factions battling it out for control of Zycanthus, a planet a few tens of lightyears from the Maelstrom's Edge. The corporate Epirian Foundation owners of the world are trying to extract what resources they can in the last few decades before Zycanthus is destroyed by the Maelstrom. The secretive religious extremists of the Karist Enclave however, have identified Zycanthus as a key world for conversion to their beliefs - that the Maelstrom is not the end of everything, but the beginning of a new age for mankind - that if they prepare their souls for the Maelstrom's embrace, they will ascend to a new plane of existence.

In the first novel, Faith, Epirian Sheriff Kyle Wynn is ambushed in the desert by a Karist landing party and left for dead. He begins to uncover just how deep and wide the Karist infiltration of Zycanthus goes - and how dangerous it might be. Meanwhile Karist priestess Zafah has travelled to the world to try and teach people of the salvation that Ascension can bring - but the reaction of the Epirian security forces to her missionary work forces her to consider more direct methods of teaching the people the Karist Way. With both sides adamant that their way is best, the stakes are raised for a cataclysmic battle for control of the Zycanthus star system in the second book, Sacrifice.

I'm pleased to say that both books are finished and have been sent to the printers. We'll be doing a short print run of hard copies for the game's launch at the wargaming convention Salute in London on April 25th, and they are also available as ebooks on Amazon Kindle right now!. 
 

Very exciting to finally be able to share some details with everybody and looking forward to seeing the reactions to something we've been working so hard on for so long!

Arcadia by the Southside Players

One of my closest friends, Tom Morgan, is directing the Southside Players production of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard later in Balham later this month. As part of the promo work for the play, he asked me to write a couple of video shorts featuring the characters from the play on related subjects like Newton's laws, Determinism and Chaos Theory.

You can watch the first one here:

Arcadia is on at the Chestnut Grove Theatre in Balham between Wednesday 18th February and Saturday 21st February. Come along!

Novel nearly done!

I've been working on it for three and a half years, but the novel I've cowritten with Stephen Gaskell, Sacrificial, is nearly done, although it's still under wraps so I can't tell anyone about it! The final proof copy went out to my beta readers last night. I'm hoping to finish any final edits in early March for release in April. Keep your eyes peeled for then!

I had another scientific publication this week, although I'm not sure I can claim much credit! Kane O'Donnell did all the hard lifting for this one. It's a summary of the computational simulations he's done on the diamond surface using various alkali metals in combination with oxygen. I did a little of this for my thesis.

I'm working on many other papers at the moment, things are really busy! I'm also helping to write some promotional videos for my friend Tom Morgan's production of Arcadia by the Southside Players in Balham this February. Should be fun!

Reading: My novel!
Watching: The Theory of Everything
Listening to: The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

New scientific publication

So after three years of silence, I finally have a new scientific publication out - a review paper on my PhD thesis work in Physica Status Solidi (a) with my old postdoc, Kane O'Donnell (who did most of the hard work!)

The paper summarises a lot of the computation and experimental work I did during my PhD, which was up until recently kept secret whilst the patent on the discovery went through. 

The main part of our work was the prediction using computational theory that alkali metals (in particular lithium) on the oxygenated diamond surface do some interesting things. Diamond has this ability to display this unusual property called negative electron affinity, where changing the first couple of atoms on the surface can alter the surface electronic states so that the conduction band sits below the vacuum level. That means that any electron given enough energy to be promoted from the occupied valence band into the conduction band will naturally sit above the vacuum level - i.e., it's easier to be ejected from the sample into the vacuum than to fall back to the valence band. This makes it really awesome for electron emission for field emission devices (for super efficient, high resolution displays) or thermionic devices (for converting heat from the sun or waste heat from power stations directly into electrical power). 

We predicted that lithium in particular is great for this as lithium is much smaller than other alkali metals (it only has 3 protons/electrons), which means it can sit between surface atoms, rather than on top of them like with bigger alkali metals like cesium or sodium. As they like to be positively charged,  these alkali metals form an electric dipole on the surface, where the top surface by the alkali metal is positively charged, and the carbon lattice is negatively charged, essentially making it attractive for the electrons to be emitted from the surface. However, on the bare surface of diamond there is not much to bond to and the alkali metals don't stick very well.

We found that if you oxygenate the surface (easily done by ozone or acid treatment) of the diamond, then add the alkali metal, the alkali metal is much much more strongly bound, and has an even stronger electric dipole. Lithium in particular, but also sodium and magnesium to a certain degree, are awesome for this, because their small size lets them sit between the oxygen atoms, and then the positive charge of the lithium pushes the lone pair electrons in the oxygen atoms into the carbon lattice, creating an even bigger dipole and making the path from valence band to vacuum even stronger.

We took the computational predictions and did experiments using ultraviolet and x-ray photoemission. The first tells you what the valence band structure is (and therefore what the electronic behaviour at the surface is), whilst the second tells you about the core electrons (which tells you which elements are on the surface and how they are bonded.) Luckily for us, the experimental results confirmed the computational predictions, and I got my thesis (and some publications and a patent). It's nice to see that work finally see the light of day, as I'm really pleased with what we achieved.

Fun at Worldcon

So last weekend the World Science Fiction Convention rocked up at the Excel centre in East London. As a British scifi writer, it would be rude not to attend something so close, so I took the bus down from Oxford on Thursday and had a fun few days chatting with writers, attending panels and enjoying the awesome sights of the con, like the incredible jawa to the left (complete with glowing eyes and Utini! sound effects.

There were all kinds of cool things - giant games of Pandemic! and Ticket to Ride, cool artwork and science displays, and many many many geeky things to buy. I was staying in a hostel and trying to stay light, so the only thing I picked up was a copy of the board game Coup, which is a quick little game of cards that combines aspects of Poker and The Resistance, in a Dune-esque setting. You have two cards in front of you, face down, with different roles possible that do different things (Duke earns 3 coins in Tax, Assassin kills someone else's card for a cost of 3 coins, Countess cancels Assassin, etc). You have to state which card you're using, but you can bluff. If someone challenges you on it, the loser has to sacrifice a card, and if you lose all your cards you're out. It's a simple game, but it's a fun little 15 minute palette cleanser between larger games.

Among the biggest draws for a lot of people was George R.R. Martin, who did several panels on Game of Thrones, as reading a piece from the new 'World of Ice and Fire' book. I didn't see all of it as I was in meetings, but there were the appropriate numbers of grisly deaths, as well as an admission of guilt over how late the next book is!

 
 

I also went to a fascinating panel discussion between Christopher Priest, who was nominated for the 1983 Granta 40 writers under 40 feature, and Naomi Alderman, who was nominated for the same honour last year. It was interesting to see two great writers of genre who are on the border with literary fiction talk about the divide and how the gatekeepers of literary fiction will select works of genre fiction (like 1984 or the Handmaid's Tale) and decide they are 'literary', but then use the worst examples of scifi and fantasy to dismiss it.

Naomi Alderman used a wonderful example of how great speculative fiction can be to address topics that 'realistic' literary fiction struggles to address without our inbuilt biases getting in the way. In the movie Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven wanted to look at how it was like for the kids growing up in the Nazi youth, being indoctrinated against the 'other' (the bug aliens), and become a militarised and intolerant society. If he'd written a realistic film addressing the same topic, we as viewers would have been unable to get the association of the kids as Nazis out of our head, and all of the time we would have been unable to concentrate on Verhoeven's point (that it's really easy to be sucked in) because of the inbuilt association of evil. But in a scifi setting where we don't immediately leap to that conclusion, it's not until Neil Patrick Harris' Gestapo-like character appears at the end to enslave the brain bug that our mind really makes that Nazi connection and we get Verhoeven's point, that what can start as an innocent nationalistic pride can end up being something much more subversive and dangerous. 

I also had some great meetings at Worldcon for the sekrit projekt, which is finally almost at the stage that I can talk about it. We've lined up some incredibly exciting things that I can't wait to show the world in a few months' time.

Listening To: My Morning Jacket - Circuital
Reading: Defenders by Will McIntosh
Watching: Fringe, season 5
Playing: The Last of Us Remastered, Assassin's Creed: Black Flag (on my shiny new PS4!)

Worldcon!

I'll be attending the World Science Fiction Convention in London, Loncon 3, next weekend. If anyone else is going to be there, please say hello!

The machine I look after at the university is now in its 5th week of servicing. We've replaced pretty much every component on it and it's still not quite back to full health. The downtime does mean I can get some writing done, but it's very frustrating!

This weekend I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy - great example of how to do a scifi blockbuster right. Packed full of character and wit, and edited extremely well - very few wasted moments. 

We also played another couple of games of Risk:Legacy. If you at all like narrative gaming or Risk, you have to play this game. Each time you play, you change the board by placing stickers and naming continents that change the gameplay for next time. In addition to this, there are six envelopes that you only open after certain events happen, which completely change the narrative of the game, even introducing new factions and sections of rulebook.

We've played six games now and what started as a fairly simple game of Risk has evolved into an insanely unique and customised board full of places named after me and my friends (Tomonto, Tomkyo, Olstralia, Jamazonia, Jennisburg, Dougsinki, Kashakstan...) The fact that each game takes around 2 hours instead of the usual day and a half (you need to claim 4 victory stars rather than take over the entire board, and the losers who survive also get to change the board for next time) makes it much more enjoyable too. There's even an envelope at the bottom of the box that simply says 'Do Not Open. Ever'. so far we've resisted the temptation...

Listening To: Spoon - Rent I Pay
Watching: Guardians of the Galaxy
Reading: The Screenwriter's Workbook - Syd Field

New role as editor of Materials Today Communications

Although I'm continuing to work as lab manager at the Atom Probe group in the department of materials in Oxford University, and work on my top secret writing project (which is almost at the point that I can start talking about it!), I've also taken on a smaller new responsibility recently, which is quite exciting.

I am now Managing Editor for the scientific journal Materials Today Communications. This is a journal setup by Elsevier to act as a conduit for papers across the entire range of Materials Science. It's an innovative project, and the idea is interesting one.

Scientific journals these days are extremely oversubscribed, with many of them receiving hundreds or even thousands more papers and articles than they can publish. Whilst some of these articles are turned away by editors or during peer review, many are still presenting good science and are worthy of publication, but there just isn't enough space. Some of the journals with the highest impact factors turn away as much as 80% of submissions!

 

 Materials Today Communications is intended to be a solution for this problem. Scientific articles submitted to other Elsevier journals that go through peer review and are considered good science, but cannot fit into the intended journal, will be referred to me at  Materials Today Communications, and published there instead, should the authors accept this transfer. This means the authors do not need to reformat their article and resubmit to another journal, and that the process of peer review is not unnecessarily repeated in the new venue. 

My role as managing editor is overseeing the transfer process and ensuring that authors have revised their manuscripts according to the changes recommended by peer review. It's a part time role that will scale depending on how many papers accept their transfers, but it's really nice to have the opportunity to combine the two parts of my life - writing and science. 

Hopefully more on my creative writing work soon - I've been working really hard on it for the last couple of years but it's all still under wraps - but there's so much cool stuff to show people when we finally get the ok to go public!

Reading: Command and Control by Eric Schlosser
Listening To: An Ocean Beneath the Waves by The War on Drugs
Watching: Boyhood by Richard Linklater

In Oxford

So after a very intense six months, I've come to remember that I have a website, and realise how much it has been neglected! 

After many stressful weeks working as a consultant in the renewables industry, I decided in March that it wasn't for me, and that I wanted to return to research. Happily, my first opportunity turned into a position, and I now work in the atom probe group at the University of Oxford as a postdoc. Not a bad place to come to restart your academic career!

It's really good to be back in the lab, reading papers and analysing data. I'd forgotten how much I missed the creativity of it. My role requires me to help in the running of the instrument and the laboratory, as well as running samples for industry and academic partners. 

Running the LEAP atom probe at Oxford

Running the LEAP atom probe at Oxford

Atom Probe Tomography is a very interesting subfield of material science that allows you to image the atomic structure of a material in 3 dimensions. Samples are sharpened into very fine tips (50nm in radius at the top, too small to see even in a microscope!) either using chemical etching or ion-beam milling. They are then subjected to a very high static electric field (5-10kV), in addition to a pulse of either AC voltage or  a high power laser. The voltage or laser pulse puts the atoms in the tip 'over the top', evaporating a few thousand per second.

The atoms evaporated are then collected by a delay-line detector which records their position and mass/charge ratio (which tells you which element they are). Over several hours the atoms evaporated from the surface can be reconstructed to give a 3D map of the tip, allowing you to track things like precipitates in alloys, radiation damage in nuclear reactor walls or dopants in semiconductors.

Being the guy running this kit is a great opportunity, as I get to learn all about a new technique on a number of different projects, building up my skills and knowledge so that if one day I want to do my own research proposal, I know the strengths and limitations of the device and technique.

I'm still writing, mostly on the big sekrit projeckt, but I'm also going to start using this place to talk about my research as it's interesting (to me at least!)

Migrating to Squarespace

I have been a writer for more than ten years, and have been blogging on livejournal, blogger and facebook for a similar amount of time, although my posting regularity and medium has changed over the years. I was also a daily blogger on the excellent Futurismic for a year, posting about science, technology and geeky stuff. 

Over the last two years, I have had a lot more fiction publications, and am working on three novels, including one for a confidential project I'm very excited about. As my fiction career begins to get serious, I've realised that I really need an official site to represent it, and so I've migrated these seldom-read blogs across to my new website at TomasLMartin.com.

I'm using Squarespace 6 to design and host my website, and have found the backend incredibly efficient and easy to use, although there are still some features I used to use in Wordpress that I understand are not yet operational (migrating posts, customised layouts, etc). I've dabbled in programming during my masters project (particle physics simulations using C++) and my PhD (atomic structure simulations using CASTEP/Fortran), but I've never been truly fluent at it. Squarespace allows me to make a good website without having to resort to that level of technical input (unless I want to). Here's to the new website!

Listening to: Thievery Corporation - The Richest Man in Babylon
Reading: Junot Diaz - Drown
Watching: Homeland series 2