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Writing Playlist

I often listen to music while working on stories and novels. Listening to music can mask distracting noises from the outside world. It can also help propel the rhythm of a piece of writing. But the music has to be carefully chosen.

Lyrics can be a problem. I find writing while listening to someone else’s words as difficult as doing mental arithmetic in a room full of people shouting out random numbers. I find myself singing along instead of coming up with my own sentences. A catchy beat can have the same effect. Therefore, instrumental music works best for me. I find film soundtracks especially useful, and often listen to the following CDs because they manage to be both atmospheric and dramatic without being too distracting. I find Blade Runner particularly good for “setting the mood” when writing science fiction.

My regular writing playlist also includes albums of classical music, jazz and electronia. Placed on random shuffle, they seem to keep the critical side of my brain occupied, allowing the creative side to run riot over the keyboard. In addition, these albums complement each other rather well, and random shuffle throws up unexpected similarities and resonances between seemingly unrelated tracks.

In no particular order, my “writing” playlist includes:

  • Blade Runner by Vangelis. The classic electronic score to one of the all-time great science fiction movies. Curiously nostalgic and futuristic all at the same time. I have the three CD version, with all the extra music they put out for the film’s 25th anniversary.
  • Music For Airports and Apollo by Brian Eno. Two great albums from the master of ambient music.
  • Moon by Clint Mansell. A superb soundtrack to an interesting film.
  • Glassworks and In The Upper Room by Philip Glass. Experimental music with a hypnotic vibe.
  • Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis. The kind of music that makes me imagine neon bar signs reflecting off rain-slicked pavements, and yellow cabs cutting past in the darkness.
  • The Social Network by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – ambient electronica with a dark, scuzzy edge, and plenty of homages to work by Eno and others.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what works for you?

Interview: Science Book A Day

There’s a short interview with me on the Science Book A Day website, in which I answer five questions about Ack-Ack Macaque.

I just tried to make it plausible. There’s no point chucking a load of cool stuff into a narrative if the audience aren’t going to believe it. There’s nothing worse than being bounced out of a story by something so totally unlikely that it ruins you suspension of disbelief. So, although I combined a lot of weird and fun stuff in these books, I really tried to do it in such a way that it made sense within the world of the story, and that everything was explained. for instance, I didn’t just assume that my parallel world had Zeppelins, I provided a historical and economic reason why they were there.

You can read the whole interview here.

Japanese deal for Ack-Ack Macaque


Tokyo Sogensha Co., Ltd. have acquired Japanese rights in SF novel ACK-ACK MACAQUE by Gareth L Powell from Corinne Shioji of The English Agency (Japan) Ltd in Tokyo, representing the John Jarrold Literary Agency. The book was published in the UK and US by Solaris in 2012, and has been highly praised:

‘Powell primes an explosive narrative with brilliant cliffhangers’ –The Guardian

‘More fun than a barrel of steampunk monkeys … It’s an over-the-top, verbally caffeinated adventure story with smart, nasty ideas and plenty of pulp. What makes it truly special is Ack-Ack, the action hero who can cut through any strategy session or infodump’ –Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

‘Any book that makes me grin like a buffoon whenever I crack it open is a definite winner. Full of great characters, fast moving plot and lashings of first-rate action, I can t recommend this highly enough’  –The Eloquent Page

ACK-ACK MACAQUE has been shortlisted for the British SF Association Award for Best Novel, which will be announced over the Easter weekend. The sequel, HIVE MONKEY, was published in 2014.  A third volume will follow early in 2015.

Contact John Jarrold for further details.

John Jarrold – e-mail: 

Interzone review

As well as containing a new short story of mine, Interzone 251 contains a full-page review of my latest novel:

Hive Monkey is a highly enjoyable romp with page-turning action spread over forty chapters and has an enjoyable penchant for the surprising narrative twist.”

2000 AD

Thanks to Solaris Books, you can download and read the ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’ strip I wrote for 2000 ADThe strip was published at the beginning of 2013 and forms a prequel of sorts to the novel.

Click here to download.

Are you looking at me?

Solaris Books made this rather excellent and in-your-face banner to promote Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey. (Click picture to enlarge).


Space Opera


The table of contents has been made available for the Space Opera anthology, edited by Rich Horton.

  1. “The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee
  2. “The Wreck of the Godspeed” by James Patrick Kelly 
  3. “Saving Tiamaat” by Gwyneth Jones
  4. “Six Lights Off Green Scar” by Gareth L. Powell
  5. “Glory” by Greg Egan
  6. “The Mote Dancer and the Firelife” by Chris Willrich
  7. “On Rickety Thistlewaite” by Michael F. Flynn
  8. “War Without End” by Una McCormack
  9. “Finisterra” by David Moles
  10. “Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik
  11. “Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker
  12. “The Muse of Empires Lost” by Paul Berger
  13. “Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette
  14. “Lehr Rex” by Jay Lake
  15. “Cracklegrackle” by Justina Robson
  16. “Hideaway” by Alastair Reynolds
  17. “Isabel of the Fall” by Ian R. MacLeod
  18. “Precious Mental” by Robert Reed
  19. “Two Sisters in Exile” by Aliette de Bodard
  20. “Lode Stars” by Lavie Tidhar
  21. “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  22. “The Tear” by Ian McDonald

The anthology will be published by Prime Books in April this year.

And so it begins…

Here’s a headline from the Guardian‘s website that should set off alarm bells for readers of Ack-Ack Macaque:

Genetically modified monkeys created with cut-and-paste DNA

The article goes on to say:

Researchers have created genetically modified monkeys with a revolutionary new procedure that enables scientists to cut and paste DNA in living organisms. The macaques are the first primates to have their genetic makeup altered with the powerful technology which many scientists believe will lead to a new era of genetic medicine.

So, what do you reckon? Sounds like life’s starting to imitate art, doesn’t it?

You can read the whole article here.

Thanks to Lou Morgan for pointing it out.

The Guardian reviews Hive Monkey

HIVE MONKEY COVER In his Science fiction roundup column in The Guardian, Eric Brown reviews Hive Monkey, writing:

“Ack-Ack Macaque is back to save the world in Gareth L Powell’s fourth novel, Hive Monkey (Solaris, £7.99). Ack-Ack is a surly, cynical, hard-drinking, bellicose monkey uplifted to sentience with the aid of a gelware brain implant. He is now the pilot of a vast airship and, with the aid of streetwise Glaswegian computer hacker K8, washed-up SF writer William Cole and airship owner Victoria Valois, is attempting to save the planet from a hive-mind horde bent on invading from another dimension. Ack-Ack is an inspired creation, a monkey with attitude, issues and a hole where his heart should be, and his latest deftly plotted adventure is riotous fun.”

Read the whole column here.

Book birthday: Hive Monkey

HIVE MONKEY COVER Exactly a year after its predecessor, the second novel in the ‘macaque trilogy’ hits bookshelves in the UK today; and to celebrate, Solaris Books has made the first chapter available to read online.

Click here to read the first chapter of Hive Monkey.

Click here to order from

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