Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One Man’s Poison...

Whilst carrying out some research into vivisection (of all things) for a future project of mine, I came across the following pieces of received wisdom on the internet. They all relate to the arguments against using animals as test subjects for products which are ultimately going to be for human use. These little nuggets of knowledge certainly made me open my eyes and I suspect you might find them interesting too.
  • Parsley is a deadly poison for parrots.
  • Arsenic, a poison to humans is harmless to the sheep. Sheep, goats, horses and mice can also eat hemlock in huge quantities – whereas it is a poison to humans.
  • Lemon juice is poisonous to cats.
  • A hedgehog can eat enough opium at one sitting to keep a hardened drug addict high for a fortnight.
  • Morphine is an anaesthetic for humans, yet if it is given to cats it produces a state of frenzied excitement.
  • Vitamin C is not needed at all by dogs, rats, hamsters and mice, as their bodies produce Vitamin C of their own accord. If humans, primates or guinea-pigs are deprived of Vitamin C, they will die of scurvy.
  • Simply inhaling the fumes of prussic acid is enough to kill humans, yet it can be drunk without harm by toads, sheep and hedgehogs.
  • Scopolamine can kill humans with a dose of just 5 milligrams. Dogs and cats find 100 milligrams harmless. This is very worrying when it comes to working out safe dosages, as it is calculated by looking at the relationship between body mass and dosage. If we take the average cat to weigh 4 kilograms and the average human to weigh 70 kilograms, this means the correct dose of scopolamine for a human would be 1800 milligrams - 360 times the actual safe dose.
  • Penicillin, the first antibiotic, was tested on mice. Had it been tested on guinea pigs, it would have been considered dangerous, as penicillin affects the floral bacteria in guinea pigs' stomachs, and kills them within a few days.
  • Health warnings on cigarette packets were held up for years during the 1960s whilst scientists (paid by tobacco companies) proved time and again that smoking cigarettes does not cause lung cancer in rats and mice, despite the fact that by that time, there was already plenty of documented human evidence to show that cigarettes were dangerous!
  • The unreliability of animal testing was shown to disastrous effect in the case of fialuridine. This drug passed its animal test phase with no problems, but when it was given to fifteen volunteer humans, it caused acute liver damage, killing five of them and forcing two others to have liver transplants.

With all of the above arguments against animal testing, it does make you wonder how many tests were carried out, and for what reasons, for them to find all of this stuff out, doesn’t it.

Leviathan Rising

Abaddon Books have recently listed my next novel to be published them on their official website, so I can now publicise it here too. (A few of the cryptic comments I have made in some of my earlier posts should make more sense now, as a result.)

'Leviathan Rising' is the third in the Pax Britannia series and the second to feature the dandy adventurer and agent of the throne, Ulysses Quicksilver. It is quite a departure from the first novel ‘Unnatural History’ as it isn’t set in the British Empire of Magna Britannia and it doesn’t feature many of the recurring cast of characters set up in that first book. However, it does draw on little asides I managed to slip into ‘Unnatural History’ and sets up some more for future books to explore.

In terms of ongoing continuity, ‘Leviathan Rising’ takes place almost directly after the events of ‘Unnatural History’ and a number of months before those described in ‘Fruiting Bodies’, the short story (or rather novella) that appears in the back of Al Ewing’s ‘El Sombra’.

Whereas Ulysses Quicksilver's first outing was a straight action-adventure story, 'Leviathan Rising' is something of a murder mystery as well. I like to think of it as 'Murder on the Orient Express' meets 'The Abyss'. There's a whole host of other film and literary references in it too, but I won't spoil the fun by giving away what they are here... at least, not yet.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

"Around the world in eighty days – in style!"

This proud claim, made by the Carcharodon Shipping Company, is about to be put to the test as its newest and most magnificent submersible cruise liner, the Neptune, sets sail on its maiden voyage around the world. Among the great and the good who have been invited to join this historic cruise is Ulysses Quicksilver, dandy adventurer and hero of Magna Britannia, enjoying a well-deserved sojourn after the traumatic events of Queen Victoria’s 160th jubilee celebrations.

But only days out from the undersea city of Pacifica disaster strikes. First a brutal murder is committed and then an act of sabotage sends the Neptune plunging into the abyssal depths. Trapped at the bottom of the sea, teetering on the edge of the unfathomable Marianas Trench, the few who survive the tragedy discover that their problems are only just beginning.

For far below, in the cold ocean depths, a decades’ old secret awaits them. Lurking in the oppressive stygian darkness is the legacy of a protracted cold war waged between Magna Britannia and the Chinese empire. The Kraken has awoken. Rising from the abyss, like the Biblical leviathan of legend, it hungers and when it hunts none shall escape its primeval fury.

The cover is by the inestimable Mark Harrison and the book will be available from March 2008. You can find out more here, at the Abaddon Books site.


Having been writing for some years now, a number of my books have been translated into foreign languages. The first was (incidentally) my first book to be published, ‘Spellbreaker’. More recently, my work for the Black Library has begun to see print in foreign editions.

The Spanish publisher Timun Mas has now translated all of my Warhammer books and made them available to Spanish speakers the world over. So, if you are so inclined you can find out more about ‘Los muertos y los condenados’ (‘The Dead and the Damned’), ‘Nigromante’ (‘Necromancer’) or ‘Tormenta mágica’ (‘Magestorm’) check out the Timun Mas website here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Its. All. About. The. Money.

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to be invited to the paperback book launch of ‘Contract’ by Simon Spurrier, held at a subterranean venue in central London. I already have the hardback edition of said book, but it was great to be part of the celebrations and to spend an evening chatting with various creative types.

As well as seeing Si, I caught up with accomplished artist Frazer Irving (who was showing off his new iPhone), and spent a very cordial time chatting with Matt Smith, Tharg’s current representative on Earth*, and his lovely wife. The evening became a little surreal with the arrival of the Kitekat Kabaret, which included an old man’s rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ – performed in the style of a 1930s jazz pianist – but a good time was had by all, and congratulations to Si, who not only pointed out his literary agent to me, but also his film agent. Very cool.

Si Spurrier looking suitably pleased with himself.

I should take this opportunity to tell you a little more about the book being launched that night. Simon describes ‘Contract’ himself as, ‘a Post-Pulp splat of urban crime weirdness’. The blurb on the back of the book has this to say:

Life becomes complicated when the dead won't stay dead, in this stunning debut by Simon Spurrier. Michael Point doesn't seem anything special. He dresses conservatively, is thoughtful, methodical and well spoken. He also happens to kill people for a living. It's not about getting back at the world; for Michael it's much simpler than that: It's All About The Money. But things are starting to get strange: his hits are coming back to life and trying to kill him. Is he losing his mind? Or is could it be that the things he sees aren't delusions at all, but hints of a divine conflict: a heavenly war, sucking him in?

It’s an intense read, written in a highly original voice. The Times describes it as, ‘a tour de force’, and SFX magazine says, ‘Spurrier is very, very good... Contract will most certainly satisfy your faintly unnatural lusts...’ If you get the chance you should pick it up. That said, this being a site visited by interested readers of all ages, I would give it a definite 18 rating (in case you hadn’t worked that much out for yourselves).

But that’s not all. Simon Spurrier and the aforementioned Frazer Irving are also collaborating on a new comic book series at the moment. Entitled ‘Gutsville’, it’s all about the descendants of a Victorian passenger ship swallowed by some leviathan sea monster who are now surviving as a community inside its stomach tract. Here’s a little more from the official Gutsville blog:

1846. The British barque Daphne, bound for Australia, sails from Portsmouth; crammed with colonial passengers, aristo-adventurers and frothing missionaries. Four days from Sydney the waves are wreathed in sparks, the sky runs like quicksilver, and the very sea seems to open wide and swallow…

2006. The descendents of the Daphne’s passengers eke out a desperate life in Gutsville: a shanty-city held together with mucal slime and weed. They live in the belly of a great beast whose exterior none have seen and whose innards are all they’ve ever known. Here in the dark, lit by methane lamps, harvesting moulds from pus-polyps set into the viscera of an impossible being, a new culture has arisen: a mongrel-society of Victorian values, religious doggerel, and survivalist justice…

And always the question – whispered in secret gatherings beyond the eyes of the watchful Jonahkin priests:

What is the beast..?

On this occasion, Si and I must have been visited by the same muse, as my current project features the passengers of a Victorian-styled submersible liner evading the predations of a monstrous sea creature. But that’s where the similarity ends. I’ll post more about ‘Leviathan Rising’ at another time.

Bye for now.

* The editor of legendary comic 2000AD, for those of you not in the know.