We all know these are strange times for publishing. I find it hard to get a handle on where the industry is going and if that destination is a good thing. I tend to be hopeful, confident fundamentally that people will always need stories, and therefore always need writers to produce them. The rest is just details, right?
But... I keep bumping up against strange, kinda unexpected twists.
There are the Kindle $9.99 protesters that go around leaving bad reviews on Amazon, really only saying that no Kindle book should cost more than that amount. Not sure how they came up with that, what amount of market research and analysis of production budgets and profit and lost calculations they've considered. I'm not saying what they should cost, I'm just wondering... I also think they might find that the price is only higher for a period of time - like the first year that the book is in hardback format. My Kindle version of Acacia: The War with the Mein is $6.39, and I figure The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) will drop in price too - once the print version heads into mass market paperback. I wonder if these folks that haven't read my books but have written negative "reviews" will come back then and remove them?
Or there's stuff like Amazon pulling Macmillan titles off because they couldn't come to terms on pricing/royalties for ebooks...
And then there are the folks that wrote protest "reviews" because my books weren't available for... ah... free. For free? (These reviews seem to have been removed, but still.) Just a question about that... How do people that advocate for free books explain how the author gets paid? Or does the author not need to get paid? That's absurd from my point of view, but that's because I know how many days, weeks, years of work writing a book is, how much it effects the circumstances of my family's life on a daily basis. Am I crazy for thinking that writing novels of 200k+ word length (that people want to read) is actually work? I don't make extravagant money writing. I make enough to sustain my family. If everything is free how can I do that? And if I can't do that, folks, I can't spend my life writing books. I just don't really understand this free book thing. If you do, please explain it to me.
And then there's the whole changing landscape thing. Independent bookstores gutted. The chain stores in trouble despite that. Newspapers not reviewing books much anymore. Lots of articles with titles like "The Death of Fiction". (That one is at Mother Jones. Kind of interesting, not just the article but the comment thread afterward.)
I'm not really advocating anything here. Just being dazed and confused...
Hi. I've just returned from an intense Stonecoast residency in Maine. That's what's kept me from posting much here the last few days. Love it, though. Great program, good people. Enough social interaction to keep me going for the next six months! I got to be there to welcome Elizabeth Hand to the faculty. Very good news for us!
I'll try to get myself settled back down and normal again. May take a while, though. Brain feels like mush right now. (Hence the incomplete sentences.) Also, I'll be heading down to NYC Wednesday for my KGB reading with Lev Grossman. It'll be terrific, I know, but I'm looking forward to returning from it and, uh... sleeping a lot.
I also wanted to direct folks to this post on the winners of the 2010 RUSA Awards. This is a division of the American Library Association that produces reading lists aimed at adults each year. Acacia: The War with the Mein got a mention - not as one of the winners, but as a recommended title in the Fantasy category. They've got other categories as well, and since I like many of the books they've picked I'm going to check out some of the recommended titles that I'm not familiar with.
There's an interesting post via Suite 101 on The Best Fantasy Books of the 21st Century. I'm not sure what Suite 101 is, but the post does seem pretty thorough and informed. And - heh - I get a mention. It's HERE.
And over at Fantasy Book News there's a post on the Top 10 Fantasy Books for 2010 - as in, books they're looking forward to reading this year. I'm not sure all of them are going to actually get in print this year, but let's hope. I can say that Acacia will be around, because, of course, it already is... Check out their thoughts here.
Okay. I need to prepare for a reading tonight. I think I'll do a three parter. A bit of Walk Through Darkness. A little of Sire Neen in The Other Lands. And I may close - if I'm brave - with a scene from my Wild Cards story. We shall soon see...
Noticed a pretty nice one in the San Jose Mercury News today. They slipped me in after Cory Doctorow, but I don't object to that. Actually, I think Cory had tails on his tux at the Hugos, so think of me as sliding in on them... The reviewer does want me to write faster than two years between books, though. Hmmm. Sorry. Not happening this time around.
The other one is from a web journal called Alexander's Philosophy. There's not a thing for me to complain about. Seems a perfect reading of the book and things I was hoping to do with it. Thank you much.
And then there's the random old bit of news that I come across on the internets some time... Like, this piece in Screen Daily.com. No, it's not film news on Acacia. It's film news on my first novel, Gabriel's Story. But don't get me wrong. It's not new news. It's like a year and a half old and there haven't been any new developments (that I'm aware of) since. It's just that I never saw it before.
It did provide me with a new tidbit: the working title. Yes, friends, Gabriel's Story isn't what they're calling it. Instead, it's The Horseman!
Posting it reminds me to mention that my reading with Jeff VanderMeer and Paul G. Tremblay is coming up. It's this Friday in Boston. (Details are in this post.) If you happen to be in the area, please stop by!
I've been a George Pelecanos fan for a few years now. After reading exclusively "literary" fiction as a graduate student, it was reading crime novels that first reintroduced me to the genres. Very glad it did, of course, since sff wasn't far behind.
Anyway, that's all part of my introduction to talking about a scene from The Night Gardener. The other part is... Remember that panel from hell I was on back at Worldcon? One of the many unfortunate aspects of that panel included a woman from the audience who - after claiming that she didn't "see" race - then goes on to talk about what she does when she sees a thug-looking kid "jive walking" (I can't swear she said that, but her body language at that moment came pretty close). What she does is to cross the street.
Now, part of what I wanted to say in response is that I don't believe she does see body language and reacts to it, but somehow doesn't see or react to a person's color. What I did manage to say on the spot was that I thought she was making some huge assumptions there. For one, she was assuming that a ghetto walk indicates a predilection to crime. Two is that such a walk is at all intended to send signals to her. I'd argue that a young man's walk - and his hair and his clothes and his music - is part of a survival dialogue between him and other young men. It can all mean a lot of things, but none of it means you can know (or should assume) what's going on in that young man's head.
That's why I was so pleased when I read this scene from The Night Gardener. The book is full of scenes in which Ramone, a white cop, worries about his teenage son - who is mixed race. We see them at home, with mother and father offering all the love and support they can, but we also get glimpses of the son, Diego, having to survive among his peers on the street and in school. Give this a read. Ramone has just stopped off to talk to his son briefly at a basketball court, where Diego was playing with his friends...
Ramone put his arm around Diego's shoulders and the two of them drifted down to the street. Diego returned to the court a few minutes later, and Ramone got in the Tahoe and drove off.
"Detective Ramone," said Shaka. "Man looked serious today."
"Thought he was gonna take you down to the station, something," said Ronald Spriggs.
"What he want?" said Richard. He told me to get home before dark. He asked me how school went today. He told me he loves me. The same way my mom always does before she hangs up the phone.
"Nothing much," said Diego to Richard. "He just told me to beat you Bamas to within an inch of your lives."
"You mother's a Bama," said Ronald.
Diego said, "Lemme see that rock."
And then the play ball again. It's characteristically brief, straightforward, and more insightful than it may seem. Blink and you'll miss how much Pelecanos is really delving into.
See why this scene means so much to me? It's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about, wishing that person at Worldcon would consider. Diego may have a family and inner life that's about love and support, but outside of his home he needs to act, talk, move in a certain way, with body language and attitude that's likely to look aggressive. You can't glance at him on the street and know what his inner life is like. You can't know if he's thinking about crime and drugs, or about how much he loves his parents, or about being late for band practice...
Just wanted to mention that some of my blogging this week is happening over at Babel Clash, the Borders Scifi blog. I'm a guest for the next week or so, along with Jeff VanderMeer, Paul Tremblay and Annalee Newitz. Jeff, Paul and me are reading in Boston next Friday, and this is part of the build up to that.
Interesting article in the Guardian. It's about book selling in Britain. There are, of course, a lot of parallels to the US industry. This is particularly interesting for me as I have fond memories of Waterstones. I wrote a bit of Pride of Carthage in one on Prince's Street in Edinburgh...
The article is HERE. Lots of comments follow it, and by no means do they all commiserate with the author!
Well... Ah... Cherie Priest. (Lovely person with what sounds like a terrific book.) Catherynne Valente. (Wonderful.) Jonathan Strahan. (Very nice chap.) Caitlin R. Kiernan. (Don't know her, but I'm sure she's lovely.) Peter Straub (Just heard him on NPR, sounds cool enough.)
Ah... and David Anthony Durham! The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) is at number 3 (not that the numerical order necessarily counts). I'm rather chuffed about this. I don't know if I'll be making any other end of the year lists, but I've made one - and a rather substantial one! I can now kick back and sit on my bum and enjoy my success for a year or two...
Not! I've got work to do. Don't worry, I'm on it!
Check out the list. It's interesting. A number of titles I hadn't heard of at all...
I just remembered that I forgot to link to a recent Mind Meld I took part in over at SF Signal! This one was about what "book first introduced you to fantasy". I'm in there with Brandon Sanderson and Pat Rothfuss and Kate Elliott and Ken Scholes and many more.
First, I'm happy to say that a long interview I did with Jeff VanderMeer has just gone up at the Omnivoracious Amazon Blog. Jeff asked great questions, as usual, and it was pleasure to chat with him. You can read it HERE.
Also, I got a "Debut Graduate" review over at Fantasy Debut! Tia was kind but very thorough with the first book, and I'm happy to say she gives another great review this time to The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2). She manages to avoid big spoilers (although she does give some specific plot details that you might not want if you to read if you prefer to read clean), but to also talk about the book in considerable depth. Oh, and she likes it! Actually, toward the end she writes, "This is now my favorite epic fantasy."
Larry has weighed in on The Other Lands (Acacia, Book 2) over at OF Blog of the Fallen. Very glad he did, as he has wonderful, in-depth and rather insightful things to say. He manages to avoid plot summary or spoilers, but he does delve into a lot of the thematic and stylistic choices I made in the book.
Hey. I was in The Washington Post today! That's always nice.
I'm glad to say I've been there before, through reviews of all my books, and because I've written reviews for them on several occasions. That said, I have my fears that I'll be appearing in their pages somewhat less in the years to come, if only because writers and novels don't have nearly the space there that they used to. Like so many papers, they've had to cut their stand-alone book section from the Sunday edition. I don't live in the DC area anymore, but I grew up there. I have to say it still seems impossible to imagine the Sunday Post without Book World in it. It was always the first part of the paper I read!
Anyway, Ron Charles was on hand for the Pen/Faulkner Gala, and he wrote this short piece. I'm glad to say I get a mention! It's HERE.
This morning started off so nicely. I had such plans. A few student stories to read, an interview for Amazon to finish up, a bit of time working with Maya on decimals, maybe even some time writing fiction: that sort of stuff. We Durham's took an early morning walk down to the lake, feeling all crisp and fall-like, getting into a routine, you know?
Came back to the house, gave one of the cats a quick bath. (Fleas, you see.) Gudrun and the kids got set up at the big table in the living room for a homeschooling morning, and I headed to the office to be productive. For about ten minutes, all was good.
And then a sudden burst of Scottish-inflected profanity came roaring through the wall. I jumped up, thinking something small might have broken, assuming an overreaction was quite possibly in play. What did I find? Well, it was a small thing. It was the combination of a glass of water and the backside of a pretty darn new MacBook. It was fizzing and popping sounds, and then loss of power to said MacBook. Gudrun had been working along with the kids when one of them (perhaps better left unnamed) brushed the glass over with a careless arm. And that was that.
New direction to the entire day. You may know that among other things Gudrun is a knitwear designer and blogger - see The Shetland Trader. Her computer is very important to her, full of patterns finished and in the works, photographs, all sorts of other stuff. We got right on the phone to the Apple Store and the whole family was in the car ten minutes later, driving the 45 mins down to Holyoke for help.
And help we got. The folks at the Apple Store were very nice, even as they told us that the computer was completely and righteously screwed. They ran all sorts of tests, and even sent us home with our soggy harddrive in the care of one of their machines, trying to see if anything could be salvaged from it. This actually took the entire day, and by the time we arrived home we learned the final news. No. Nothing. The harddrive was damaged enough that it's not worth it trying to get anything off it. So that's that.
I know in the grand scheme of things it's no big deal, but it's still one of those moments when one second things are fine, the next the smallest little action has changed things quite a bit. How did we deal with it? Well, with swift action that leaves me scratching my head just as much as the time four months ago when we bought two computers, two iPod Touches and Nintendo Wii in the same day.
1) We bought a new MacBook. Exactly like the old one, just without all that pesky personal data and hard work on it. (We actually did this while still at the store, knowing that the computer itself was dead, but that maybe we'd be able to salvage the harddrive and connect it to the new computer. No, we didn't just have $1,000 sitting around.)
2) We got beer, some clams and a lobster. (And no, we never get lobster. So why choose to do it when we've just spent $1,000 that wasn't sitting around? Maybe one thing leads to the other...)
Among other things he said about The Other Lands...
"Durham has a singular voice in fantasy, and it is, as one might expect, well-informed by his historical writing. There's a sophistication and clarity here that will enable readers to fully immerse in Durham's psychologically and morally complex story of magic, monsters and conquest... Great writing, complicated characters, moral and social woes that echo our own world in an imaginative fashion — this is what fantasy is all about. It's not about escape. It's about perspective."
I couldn't be more pleased. Thank you, Mr. Kleffel.
Has anyone noticed the changed appearance here on the website? If so, and if you like it, thank Shawn Speakman. He's done - in my opinion - a wonderful job of updating the site with images and art from the new novel. I'm stoked!
(The first time I looked at the site after the update, I had to hit the resend button for the changes to show. Just thought I'd mention it in case it's the same for you.)
As of September 15th, The Other Lands should be readily available at a store near you. If your favorite store doesn't have it, please ask them to order it. All my books are in print and available, but they're not always in store stock!
Also, please feel free to use these links to your online supplier of choice:
This if from Fresh Air last night. I found it an interesting discussion. Terry Gross talks to author T.R. Reid, who has just written a book that looks at health-care comparatively between developed nations.
I just noticed at Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published a print and audio version of Blighted Heart by Campbell Finalist Aliette de Bodard. Aliette is very cool. (And she was just a few votes away from being the Campbell "Winner" instead of finalist.)
Okay. Crunch day behind me now. It all went quite well, I think. No major gaffs at the panels, and lots of laughs. I particularly enjoyed the "We Are the Knights Who Say F***" panel with Guy Gavriel Kay, Patrick Rothfuss, Marc Gascoigne and special guest Ellen Kushner. Smart bunch of folks, those.
I even had it in me to spend some time up on the party floor, at the Brotherhood without Banners (GRRM's fan club) and at a smaller function to celebrate Paolo Bacigalupi's release of The Windup Girl. I spent perhaps too much time eying Mary Robinette Kowal's Campbell Tiara...
Which brings me to today. Today culminates in the Hugo Award Ceremony. I'm really curious to how it plays out for everyone, especially as I have some real favorites in the running. Overshadowing it all, though, is that I remain one of five contenders for that tiara. Somewhere the award plaque exists already, with somebody's name carved in it. But whose? About twelve hours from now, the world (at least as much of it that cares) will know.
Take a look, if not because of me than because you're curious about what authors were important to the likes of Charles Stross, Jackie Kessler, Peter V. Brett, Ken Scholes, Robert V.S. Redick, Colleen Doran and others...
Thing is, I actually believe it. Not only do I believe it, but I also think that the more people read any book the more people are going to not like it. That's just reality. So would you rather have a handful of raves from a few folks, or bushels of mixed reviews from the masses?
I remember a few times when someone at a reading has said they got interested in a book of mine because of such and such review, and that's why they bought it and brought themselves out to meet me... Sounds normal enough, right? Funny thing is that the times I'm recalling are times that the review in question wasn't a good one.
I was like, "Really? You read that review and... I mean, did you notice that the reviewer hated me and thought my children were ugly and wrote that concluding paragraph about how my feet stink?"
And they were like, "Huh?"
I could only conclude that what most people take away from a review of a book is that they... well... read a review of that book. If they read it they're more likely to remember it - the book, that is, not the specifics of the review. If they remember it they're more likely to assume the attention was good.
So, win/win? I think so. Most of the time, at least.
Over at SF Signal my mind has been melded with that of several other authors, including Michael Swanwick, Elizabeth Bear, Kate Elliott, Gregory Frost and others! Check it out here: God's by the Bushel.
How about an audio story for your Sunday morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever)?
"Mary Robinette Kowal's Evil Robot Monkey is very short and bitterly moving, about an uplifted chimp," says, Rich Horton in Locus. The story was published in The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction Vol. 2 (2008), and it snagged Mary a Hugo nomination just one year after walking away with the John W Campbell tiara.
Tony was born in Taipei, Taiwan, but moved to Canada when he was eight. He's Canadian, and smart! I definitely get the feeling he's smart. He's got the initials to attest to it. He's got a B.A. and a M.A. in Linguistics at University of Toronto, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from McGill University, Montreal, Canada. He's a member of SF Canada and the Codex writing group. (Yes, I'll admit. All these Canadian connections make the competitive part of me nervous, considering the location of this year's Worldcon. But being nervous is part of the whole deal, so be it.)
There's also this interview with Suzanne Church on the occasion of Tony's Prix Aurora Award Nomination. It's on a Facebook page, and I kinda dig the format. It may actually be the same as most print interviews, but the Facebook format makes it look just that extra bit interactive.
I had the pleasure of sitting next to Kay Kenyon at last year's World Fantasy Awards banquet. (Thanks for arranging that, Lou Anders.) She's quite gracious, and she taught me a thing or two about how to survey a room (looking for famous people and stuff) without looking like you're surveying the room. Useful advice.
Ever since then I've wanted to read her work, in particular the Entire and the Rose Series that begins with Bright of the Sky. I finally got to it, and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's sci-fi, but I find the characters, the world and the epic nature of the conflict to draw me in ways that good fantasy does. I don't quite know what I mean by that, but I felt the same way reading Peter F. Hamilton's The Dreaming Void. Her alternate universe is authentically weird, dangerous, fascinating.
Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say in a Starred review...
At the start of this riveting launch of a new far-future SF series from Kenyon (Tropic of Creation), a disastrous mishap during interstellar space travel catapults pilot Titus Quinn with his wife, Johanna Arlis, and nine-year-old daughter, Sydney, into a parallel universe called the Entire. Titus makes it back to this dimension, his hair turned white, his memory gone, his family presumed dead and his reputation ruined with the corporation that employed him. The corporation (in search of radical space travel methods) sends Titus (in search of Johanna and Sydney) back through the space-time warp. There, he gradually, painfully regains knowledge of its rulers, the cruel, alien Tarig; its subordinate, Chinese-inspired humanoid population, the Chalin; and his daughter's enslavement. Titus's transformative odyssey to reclaim Sydney reveals a Tarig plan whose ramifications will be felt far beyond his immediate family. Kenyon's deft prose, high-stakes suspense and skilled, thorough world building will have readers anxious for the next installment.
I particularly like Sidney's adventures among the Inyx. You'd have to read it to know what I mean, but I find the relationship between rider and mount - both sentient - to be really fascinating. Also, folks, there's the advantage that she already has three books out! The other two are A World Too Near and City Without End. They've all been well-received, and I believe the concluding volume, Prince of Storms is due out from Pyr in Jan 2010. All in all, some good reading.
You know when you see a link on somebody's site to somebody else's site, and you like what you read and then want to point people in that direction, but then you know you can't take credit for discovering the second author's post yourself because you only found it because of the first site?
Thing is, she wrote it in response to Justine Larbalestier's post on the topic. I liked hers too. Makes some good, clarifying points for aspiring writers. So go take a look at one also: Agents and Rejection. (She's got stylish boots, too.)
And my work here is done. I won't try to add any of my own wisdom on the subject. (Which is me trying to be wise by omission...)
Following on Mary Robinette Kowal's John W Campbell interview/promotion lead I offer some tidbits on Gord Sellar, one of my fellow finalists.
To start, here's Mary's interview with him. He's got a lot of interesting things to say, including thoughts on living in a non-English speaking country and the ways it effected his awareness of story telling choices and perspectives.
He's a musician too. He's "studied the saxophone, contrabass, jazz and classical music theory, and music composition, and I performed with various big bands and a live ambient-music group, in addition to leading my own ensembles and experimental groups." He even had a band of Australian and American ex pats doing an indie-rock thing. That's cool enough, but doing it in Korea is even better! Here's some video to prove it, from a performance at the Ssamzie Sound Festival. Unless I'm mistaken, that's Gord blowing the sax. Soloing, no less...
Gord is clearly living his life. I respect that very much. Honestly, I love it that these Campbell Nominees seem so bloody interesting. I don't know if I'll meet them all in Montreal at Worldcon. I hope to, but even if I don't I'm still happy to have been turned on to their work.
I don't know much about this journal, but I like the spirit of this. The Marginalia literary journal wants to commiserate with you on rejection - as well as give you a wee present for it. Here's what they're offering...
"Nobody likes rejection, but every rejection gets you one step closer to publication—we mean it! For a limited time, Marginalia is offering a Sad Bastard discount: send us ANY 10 of your rejection slips and a dollar, and we'll mail you an issue of Marginalia for your perusal."
Aliette lives in Paris. That's in France. Her first language in French, but she writes in English. (Puts me to shame.) In addition to being French, she's half-Vietnamese. She's published stories in Electric Velocipede, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Coyote Wild Magazine, Abyss & Apex, and Deep Magic, just to name a few. She incorporates non-Western cultures into her fiction, including Indian mythology and Chinese and Aztec inspired material. Cool. I think that's terrific - and not just out of desire to see more of the world in fantasy but because those cultures are surely rich in fantastic potential. She was a Writers of the Future winner in 2007. We have, apparently, arrived at the future.
And here's a link to another story by Aliette. There are plenty more available at her website, but I just read and enjoyed this one via Electric Velocipede; it's called The Dragon's Tears.
It sounds - according to Jay Lake - that something very big and very unfortunate is happening in terms of copyright law, something that will eventually effect us all. He's a smart guy. I believe him. I also feel a bit powerless to do anything or to shape my feelings about this into a usable form. How about you? Take a look at Jay's post to see what I'm talking about...
Last night my son and I were out with a flashlight and one of those sponge mops trying to hook some oranges from high in our orange tree. We've harvested all the lower ones already, and haven't gotten around to borrowing our friend's orange picker to get the rest. Hence, the questionable use of household cleaning supplies. I won't go into why we were doing it at night...
Anyway, we were doing a pretty good job, really. I'd just managed to scoop up an armful and was about to call it quits, when my daughter rushed out of the house shouting that Neil Gaiman was on The Colbert Report. You know how I am about Neil, yeah? Well, this news sent me stumbling toward the door, bumping into lawn chairs, dropping oranges and at risk of stumbling into the pool the entire time. I made it, though, and I watched Neil and Colbert chat about knives and death.
I saw this on The Swivet and almost thought it was a joke. And then I clicked through and read the article and... still thought it was a joke. But it's not, is it?
It appears that in an attempt to distance itself from "geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that" the Sci Fi Channel will be... um, changing it's name to SyFy.
I'm sorry. I'm still not sure this isn't a joke. It's not April 1st, right?
Have you seen this portrait? It's just been unveiled as possibly the only portrait of the Bard to have been painted during his lifetime.
It's not terribly different than other portraits I've seen, but there is a crispness to the details. This interests me not just because it's Shakespeare, but because I've come across the problem of attaching too much emphasis to particular images of historical figures that may not be true likenesses at all.
Hannibal, for example. I've always found it rather amazing that each book on Hannibal has images of him included, a coin, a sculpture, plenty of paintings. They all present them as if they are valid images, and people walk away thinking they are. But none of them are! Most of them were made hundreds (or thousands) of years after his death, by people that never saw him.
When I've pointed this out I've often have felt some reluctance to it. Like I'm making something vague that shouldn't be. It's like many would rather say, "I saw that bust of Hannibal, that's how I think of him. Don't know what your motives are for muddying the waters..."
I know what my motives are: being clear on the very limited certifiable facts of distant history, and being aware that imagery can redefine meaning in ways that aren't accurate - often intentionally so.
Anyway, I'm off post topic, but that's what I was reminded of when I saw this story. Here's a cat that was famous in his time, surrounded by artists in a culture in which portrait painting was big, studied by millions over the years. And only now might we be seeing the single portrait painted by someone that actually knew him in life? I don't see that the article below names the artist. Maybe they'll figure that out in another hundred years or so... New York Times Article.
I have this friend Pat. You might have heard of him. He wrote a book. People loved it. Made him famous and wealthy. His readers then promptly began demanding another book. Pat, being the generous guy that he is, wants to produce said book. Actually, he wants to have produced it like a year ago. Alas, easier wished for than done... This is one of several cartoons Pat has up on his blog. Also, he has a long, detailed explanation of what's up. I think it's a brave, honest and insightful mediation on the creative process and the pitfalls of... well, massive success.
In terms of how a new book begins to enter the publishing world? Well, Publishers Weekly is one of the places to start, and interestingly enough they're looking for reviewers - especially in genre areas. Says Rose Fox (the power that be in this area)...
"At this point I am only looking for people who have already done a lot of nonfiction writing, preferably book or movie reviewing, and are familiar and comfortable with the editorial process, small wordcounts (I ask for 180-200 words and edit them down to about 145), and tight deadlines. The pay is $25 per review and I generally send each reviewer about one book every two weeks, though if I bring on many more reviewers that may stretch to one book every three or four weeks."
I know, $25 will hardly put the kids through college, but think labor of love, though. Labor of love...
Some very good writer/student/friends of mine have started a Facebook group with the goal of aiding Realms of Fantasy. It's likely a tall order, but I do think it's important to rally behind causes you care about - especially when something like economics is dragging down a publication that fulfills some very needed roles for a literary genre. Realms of Fantasy did that. It's a publication I personally went to many times as I felt my way into being a writer of fantasy. It's been a very real resource for me, and I'm sure it has been for others too.
Hey folks. I'm off to the coast for some camping this weekend. Should be nice, shorts and tee shirt type of days. (Sorry to folks in the Northeast right now.)
I'd like to leave you with a link...
Shawn Speakman recently did a long, in-depth and quite interesting post In Defense of George RR Martin on Suvudu. I'm sure if you're a GRRM fan you'll understand the context of that without explanation. Go take a look. It may, perhaps, make it easier to carry on the wait for A Dance with Dragons.
What do you make of this - Quincy Jones' proposal that President Obama create a Secretary of Arts post? I heard about this the other day on NPR. The petition doesn't have anything in the way of details about what this position would entail. Still, though, I went over and signed it with a few mouse clicks. I'm not really that troubled by the details at this point. I just like the notion that our new administration will be more supportive of a lot of things that are important to me, including the arts.
I know critics of something like this will say that the government shouldn't be in the business of deciding what's art and/or that the market should decide what's of artistic worth and what's not... I don't buy either notion, though.
On the first point I think government can support a diverse and healthy artistic life without becoming an arbiter of taste and worth. Living in Scotland, I can't tell you how many times I saw the Scottish Arts Council logo supporting films, festivals, art shows, musicians, writers etc. It was wonderfully diverse group, and it's painful to imagine many of those projects struggling for funding. They weren't all projects that could turn a commercial profit, but so many worthy artistic endeavors aren't. It cost so little, but I can reward us with so much.
The English Department is pleased to announced that Edward P. Jones will be teaching a special one credit course for a small number of GW students.
English 193 (Studies in Contemporary Literature) will meet four Monday evenings in February from 6-7:30. Students will read four novels and discuss them with Mr. Jones: David Anthony Durham, GABRIEL'S STORY; Mary Lavin, IN A CAFE; Chaim Potok, THE CHOSEN; and Richard Wright, UNCLE TOM'S CHILDREN. Only ten students will be admitted to the class.
Do you know how much this excites me? Edward P Jones is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of All Aunt Hagar's Children, The Known World and Lost in the City. He's big time, having won just about every literary award and accolade this country has to offer. We've met before, and we even did an interview together a few years back for Mississippi Public Television (along with Jeffrey Lent), but still I'm thrilled that he thinks enough of my work - my first novel, at that - to include it on such a short list with those other incredible writers. I'm very pleased...
You guys know David B. Coe? I've seen his books around for a while now, but I haven't been able to crack on yet. I've just read a quite interesting interview with him, though, and maybe I'll have to finally give him a try. He's promoting a new book called The Horsemen's Gambit, which is the second book in his Blood of the Southlands trilogy.
What interests me in the interview is that he seems to have a similar approach to combining serious "real world" elements with his fantastic stories. Take this question and answer, for example...
Q) Race, prejudice, ethnic identity -- That all sounds pretty familiar. Is Blood of the Southlands set in a created world or our own?
DBC) It's definitely a created world, but as with all my work, Blood of the Southlands touches on issues of great importance in what we call, for lack of a better term, the "real" world. My LonTobyn series [Children of Amarid, The Outlanders, Eagle-Sage] touched on ecological themes. Winds of the Forelands and Blood of the Southlands deal with race. I have another project that I'm working on that focuses on drug addiction. I write books that I hope will entertain. I strive to make them fun -- as I said, there's lots of action and intrigue, romance and even humor. But they also deal with serious issues that resonate with social concerns in our own lives. I do this because I find it more interesting to write books that grapple with big questions. And if some of my readers come away from the books thinking about race or ecology or substance issues in a new way, all the better. The whole interview is here.
Take a look. He certainly seems like a nice guy, and he's living the full-time fantasy writer's dream. That's always a good thing to read about!
The very cool Allan Dujiperou conducted an interview with me for the French website Fantastinet. Thanks, much, Allan. I love the way I sound in French. For example...
Allan : Je dois reconnaitre que j'ai lu le premier volume et que j'ai ete impressionne par… Tout ! Pour beaucoup de lecteurs, ton livre est parmi les meilleurs de fantasy. Que ressens-tu quand tu entends ca ?
Anthony : Je suis enchante ! Bien sur, c'est exactement ce que j'espere entendre. J'ai travaille dur pour rendre l'histoire complexe, avec des personnages interessants des thematiques sous le verni de l'action. Je veux ecrire des romans << serieux >> qui font aussi passer de bons moments au lecteur. Entendre que les lecteurs ont trouve cela dans mon travail est tres satisfaisant.
Thanks to Jay Lake for alerting me to this article: Our World May be a Giant Hologram in New Scientist. I'm not sure whether that's alarming news, good news, or just kinda weird. And I do mean I'm really not sure because... well, because I can't understand a word of what they're talking about. The article is written in English. No one word confounds me. But reading it the beginning of each sentence is draining out of my mind by the time I get to the end of it. Nothing sticks.
Like, can you follow this?
Crucially, this provides a deep physical insight: the 3D information about a precursor star can be completely encoded in the 2D horizon of the subsequent black hole - not unlike the 3D image of an object being encoded in a 2D hologram. Susskind and 't Hooft extended the insight to the universe as a whole on the basis that the cosmos has a horizon too - the boundary from beyond which light has not had time to reach us in the 13.7-billion-year lifespan of the universe...
The holographic principle radically changes our picture of space-time. Theoretical physicists have long believed that quantum effects will cause space-time to convulse wildly on the tiniest scales. At this magnification, the fabric of space-time becomes grainy and is ultimately made of tiny units rather like pixels, but a hundred billion billion times smaller than a proton. This distance is known as the Planck length, a mere 10-35 metres. The Planck length is far beyond the reach of any conceivable experiment, so nobody dared dream that the graininess of space-time might be discernable...
Space-time convulsing wildly? A hundred billion billion times smaller than anything? The graininess of space-time? Huh? I don't know... It's beyond me, and it's the awareness that such things are beyond me that make me doubt I'll ever be comfortable getting in a space ship. As much as I love reading sci/fi, it may be forever outside my ken to write it.
In answer to Robert's request I participated in his series having authors talk about their favs for the year, books they're looking forward to, and things coming up for them next year. It's quite a series, and he has a lot of authors participating. Take a look if you're in need of some suggestions.
Here's a bit of what I said...
"The Dreaming Void" by Peter F. Hamilton. I loved the scale of this, the variety of plotlines and engaging characters. It's all well written. Just a smart as you could ask for. Some of the plotlines are hard sci-fi feeling; some are set on almost subsistence worlds and feel more like fantasy. Nothing is really resolved in the book, but with writing like this I'm happy to read on for a few more thousand pages. Definitely my kind of book...
I know the ole blog hasn't exactly received my full attention these last few days. There's celebrating to be done, don't you know, and it's not over yet. Gudrun has just gone off to pick up some new arrivals at the airport, friends of ours who are up to celebrate the new year. Neither of them have been to Shetland before, and one of them is a London lad. He's in for a few shocks.
Anyway, I'm feeling the need to post a link, so he's one I came across recently. I don't know this guy, Rick, but he was kind enough to say nice things about Acacia, and about a few other books I thought were quite good as well. Check it out here. Guy's got taste, that's for sure...
(For that matter, his blog is pretty readable in general, on lots of different topics.)
So, you think you've been in this business for awhile. You think you know how things work. You think that you can't be surprised anymore by the lengths to which people may go to puff themselves up shamelessly. And then... well then something sort of pops up and surprises you. I don't mean something totally new, but then again when you turn it a bit and look it in the face it's like... wtf?
I haven't spent too much time thinking about ghost writing. No big deal. It's celebs needing someone to "help" them right bios, right? Reasonable enough. We don't expect actors or sports stars or most politicians (Obama not included) to be able to put a series of sentences together to make a cohesive, honest or interesting narrative. The idea here is that the celeb - for better or worse - has experiences, charisma, fame, whatever - that people want to read about. They're bringing something to the bargain, and just getting a little help putting the sentences together. No problem.
Thing is, I recently heard some writer friends talking about ghostwriting fiction. That's right: fiction. Writing a novel, for example, by the terms of a contract, getting paid, and then having that novel published under some other actual person's name. I don't mean writing under a pseudonym. I'm talking: I write the book, I give it X, get paid, and then X pretends to all the world that he wrote it. Does this not sound fundamentally wrong? (The getting paid part is good, but still...)
That sounds kinda ominous. It's not so bad, though. Just a small piece in The New Yorker that looks at a few different quotes about the current state of publishing. Really just seems a bit inconclusive, and the Hachette statement about a book selling forty-thousand copies being a "disaster" for them seems a bit hard to credit...
Okay, here it is, the list of recommended sci-fi/fantasy books I've been trying to prepare for my father-in-law. I appreciate all the responses to my earlier query on this, and it has effected what I finally came up with. Honestly, one of the ways it effected it is that instead of recommending ONE book I realized I'd need to give him a shortlist and leave it up to him. So that's what I'm presenting here.
As I say, I did appreciate all the suggestions. The things I ended up recommending have at least little bit to do with the particular person my father-in-law is. (All good. All good.) Also, though, I was inclined to recommend titles that had a feel of tenure to them - either because they or the authors had been around for awhile. So don't think I've ignored or dissed the Abercrombie, Abraham, Lynch, Rothfuss, Ruckley contingent. I think those guys are awesome. I'm also glad to say I know most of them, and it does feel very good to be writing fantasy in amongst such promising emerging stars.
Okay, enough of that. Here are the books I think my father-in-law should consider. Are you paying attention, Laughton? Take a look at...
Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower. Loved this one. My first Butler book. Might be a little worrying to a man whose daughter lives in far away Central California, but I swear I'll take the kids and run before it gets this bad. Promise.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods. Neil made me feel all funny inside when I met him. Tongue-tied and silly. What can I say, though? He rocks the black leather jacket, and this book is... well, it's sort of like "A Great American Urban/Contemporary Fantasy", if such a category existed, and if it I didn't matter that a Brit wrote it.
Peter F Hamilton, Dreaming Void. I'm actually in the middle of this right now. It's the first Hamilton I've read, so some folks may have other faves of his instead. I'm just really enjoying the smart writing, the multiple plot lines and the amazing diversity of his far future. This is a novel of both high-technology and subsistence-based worlds, all woven into the same epic tale. Kinda like an exploded version of the mix we have going on earth.
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land. Classic sci-fi, yeah? I could see Laughton liking this one. I do think it shows some... uh... well, dating in terms of gender roles, etc. I had a mini-argument with Pat Rothfuss on this issue. (I won, by the way, though Pat may not know that.) Still, quite a book.
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness. I'm sure he's read LeGuin before, but maybe not this one. I think she's absolutely great. Wrote her a gushing note awhile back, actually. Didn't hear back, but that doesn't change my affection for her work.
George RR Martin, Game of Thrones. This one means inviting him into a big, unfinished, gigantic work. I have to mention it, though. I think Martin is tops in epic fantasy. (We're on a first name basis, you know? Hehe...)
China Mieville, Perdido Street Station. China. Okay. Confession. I haven't actually read him. I mean to, and I will, and I can't help but want to recommend him cause this book sounds so bloody good.
Richard Morgan, Thirteen/Black Man. Technically, Richard and I are exactly the same age. (Hence my assumption that I can call him by his first name - as with China above.) Still, he's cranked out some lean, mean books. This one isn't so lean, really, but I thought it was terribly smart. As I mentioned when I praised it before, it is a bit over-sexed. Err... But we're all grown-ups here, right?
Dan Simmons, Ilium . So, as I mentioned before, The Terror didn't go over that well with the prospective reader in question here. But Simmons got so much love from folks he seemed a reasonable one to include for a second try.
Neal Stephenson, Anathem (or The Diamond Age.) I haven't read Anathem yet, but I've loved several other Stephenson novels. I'm looking forward to this new one, and folks seem to think it's worth it.
Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light. And this is another star figure of sci-fi history that I haven't read. I guess I recommend it because Zelazny is on my too-read list also, and I've heard so many good things about him that he seems like a safe beat.
Okay. That's what I came up with this time. I think there's some good reading here...
A while back Pat approached a bunch of us writer types, asking for book donations that he could then use as lures to get people donating to his favorite charity, Heifer International. He got plenty of yesses - including one from me - and he's started to post about the books that are to be given away - and he's clearly been pulling in cash for a wonderful cause.
I'm writing this to encourage you to check it out. The first post about it can be found HERE, although that was from two weeks ago. Subsequent posts give more info and show some of the books on offer. I just sent mine recently, but I think it'll make an appearance there in the weeks to come.
Let me say this upfront. All the images in this post came from Todd Lockwood's website. They're all copyright Todd Lockwood. That link will take you there, and I recommend browsing the images. Good stuff. With the Holiday season around the corner, I think a quality fantasy print can make a great gift. I bought one for some of my special folks. (I also traded a book for a print. Barter rocks!)
This print was used for my friend Tobias Buckell's novel Crystal Rain. I promised my kids I'd post some images of Todd's prints, and this is me doing that. (Yes, my family is still hiding out in the windswept wilds of Shetland. I'm on countdown to departure day now. 25 Days!) So this is me trying to demonstrate to my kids that I know cool people...
I mentioned during my World Fantasy post that one of the people I most enjoyed talking to was the artist Todd Lockwood. He was one of the guests of honor, much in demand, but also much available, it seemed, for conversations in the bar and... well, mostly that. We talked art and careers and raising kids and... politics.
Hey, Sage. (That's my son - age seven.) You recognize this guy? Steven Colbert of The Colbert Report. You sometimes see him on your new favorite comedy show - Daily Show With Jon Stewart. (I have to admit, I'm not sure what it is about Stewart's comedy that my son likes so much. He's still in Scotland, where the show is popular. A few months ago I didn't think Sage was a likely candidate for political comedy. Perhaps the British environment has aged him and refined his sense of sarcasm.)
This one is became the cover os RA Salvatore's third Drizzt novel, Sojourn, detailing his emergence to the surface world...
Anyway... Yeah. I like Todd's politics. Remember now that this was about three days before the US election. I'm happy to say that Todd was with me on Team Obama, as were most of the folks I hung out with in Calgary. Lovely moment... Todd gets called up at the World Fantasy Award Banquent to say a few words. He approaches the mike solemnly, looks around, and says a single word. "Obama..." Resounding applause. This is the print I asked for from Todd in return for my book. It's weird. I dig it. My cats would understand, I'm sure.