a biography

typed first page
Gyron - back of box
Cyberon 3 - back of box
Kryomek Hivestone - © Glen Fabry
US edition of The Chosen
German edition of The Chosen
UK edition of The Chosen

I was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1961. When I was six, my family came to London and, then, Dundee in Scotland. I grew up there. In 1979 I began a degree in mathematics at Dundee University. I had been discouraged to do either architecture or ancient history - the latter being a lifelong passion. It was during the summer holidays of perhaps 1982 that I conceived what was to become eventually The Stone Dance of the Chameleon. I hammered out a first version of it on an old typewriter. The finished manuscript was around 600 pages and almost total rubbish.

In 1983, I moved to London without a job. Hearing that programmers were being sought to write a computer game, I pretended to more knowledge than I had and was employed. Learning machine code programming as I worked with three others (Dominic Prior, Phil Mochan and Mark Wighton), we produced Gyron for the ZX Spectrum. This became the first of several computer games that I worked on which explored a developing interest in virtual worlds. Though successful, Gyron did not make us much money. We agreed to convert the blockbuster Elite over to the Spectrum and Amstrad. During this process we all moved to Edinburgh.

Elite completed, our team lost two of its members. My friend Dominic and I then wrote Hive. After this game we dissolved our partnership. I ended up back in London working for Rainbird, my publisher, as a development manager. During this time I supplied the initial design for Carrier Command and helped along many others. I left Rainbird to return to Edinburgh where I developed some ideas of my own and worked with another team on EPT (a sort of precursor to something like Eve Online). These projects came to nothing. However, they led to my joining the EPT team (The Assembly Line) in Bristol the result of which was Cybercon III, which I designed, but did not program, and which I believe to be the best work I ever did in this field. Like so many earlier projects, the extreme demands it imposed on the development team broke it apart and I returned to Edinburgh.

Part of the reason for this return was that a friend, John Robertson, had set up a company called Fantasy Forge producing tabletop wargames and asked me if I would design a world for him. This culminated in the publication - admittedly by ourselves - of my first book, Kryomek. I wrote this and the sequel, Hivestone, because someone had to. These books were intended merely to support the game rules and the resin and metal models with which the game was played. However, it was this experience which re-energized my will to write. Our artistic ambition and general inexperience contributed to the collapse of this company. Hivestone was only published later - in a somewhat bastardized form - by a company that bought the rights from the defunct Fantasy Forge. There was an interlude during which I fell back into computer games: a crazy year and half where I designed Nightmare Circus. This was a doomed project for Sega in the US, programmed by a team in Oslo, Norway, who I ended up project-managing on site. When, unexpectedly, Sega removed from the market the machine the game was designed for, the game ended up being solely released on cable in California, and in cartridge format in Brazil.

Thoroughly disillusioned, I turned to writing in a serious way. The Stone Dance had been maturing all that time and, over the years, every so often, I had dabbled in its world. It seemed the obvious thing to do. I had no idea how long it was going to take to write. If I had had, I do not imagine I would have had the courage to attempt it. The first couple of years were spent writing some parts of it and rewriting these until I felt that I actually knew, to some extent, what it was that I was doing. I presented an early version to my agent Victoria Hobbs. She helped me rework it and at last we submitted it to a number of publishers. Bantam Press (an imprint of Transworld) took it and The Chosen was published in 1999. Before this happened I had already secured publication deals in Germany, the Netherlands and the USA. Later I was very pleased to have my books translated into Portuguese.

For all manner of reasons - not least the way that I chose to write the Stone Dance - my books went way over deadline - I chose to follow my vision over being commercially sensible. Alas, these choices led to the completion of the books extending well into the 'period of difficulty' that publishing is still in - and, on completion of the trilogy, I was bitterly disappointed when both my US and my German publishers decided not to publish The Third God. (One of the reasons that Klett Cotta, my German publishers, may have chosen not to publish this third book was because Wolfgang Krege, an excellent translator, had died.) The Third God was published in the UK and in Portugal. When it came out, it was barely reviewed, and it felt to me as if, after spending years creating a ship, it had slid down the slipway, and sank with barely a trace. I had hoped for more *wry grin*

I can't deny that the way this project came to a close left me floored. It was quite some time before I managed to pick myself up. During this period of soul-searching, I worked on a number of projects - none, save one, has yet been completed: Matryoshka, a novella that is still not published - though I am thinking of releasing it soon in ebook format. It was an attempt to write something a tad shorter, and in this I succeeded perhaps too well *wry grin* - in contrast to the Stone Dance's 2000 pages, it is only 76 pages long...

More recently I have been working on some graphic novels with my friend, the artist Adrian Smith. I have completed the design and scripts for 3 comics, and one of them, War in Heaven has now been published by Madefire.