Welcome to SimonMorden.com

This is the website of Simon Morden, author of the Metrozone series, published by Orbit Books in the UK and USA.

Here you can read Simon’s latest News and Blog Posts, find information on his books, read published essays and get in touch with the author.

Sign up for Simon’s email newsletter, Bread and Salt.

If you’re here for the Alchemist’s Dream boardgame, then click here.

If you’re here for the Heart project, this is the main page.

So that’s the second novella…

April 19th, 2016

My first novella was Another War – published by Telos in 2005. I’ve left it rather a long time to write another, but I’m delighted to say that my second novella, At the Speed of Light, has just found a home at Newcon Press. Newcon, brilliantly run by the lovely Ian Whates, has a reputation for producing books that are high quality inside and out. At the Speed of Light is a diamond-hard SF story, clocking in around 45,000 words, and all the action takes place at 99.99999% of c. Expect shenanigans.

Publication is most likely in the first half of 2017.

Posted in: From the Author, News and Updates by Simon Morden on April 19th, 2016
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Introducing Bread and Salt, the newsletter

April 14th, 2016

This is something I’ve been considering for a while, about how to remind occasional readers that I exist, that I’m putting out new stuff, and I still have old stuff in print. And other, stranger bits and pieces.

Several of my colleagues have gone down this route, and it seems to be working for them – so here we go. Bread and Salt (a title that took literally minutes to think up – this is its meaning) will be a semi-regular newsletter. It’s unlikely to be as frequently as once a month, and most likely to be once a quarter. Because I really don’t have that much to say.

If you’d like to receive Bread and Salt in your inbox, please click this link (which will send you to tinyletter.com, the distributor).

Posted in: From the Author, News and Updates by Simon Morden on April 14th, 2016
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How to get a literary agent

April 12th, 2016

There are probably loads of places on the internet to go to for advice on this – but someone came to me and said “Simon, you’re old and have been doing this writing thing for a while now. How do I go about getting an agent?”

And lo, it was true. I am old. I have been doing this writing thing for a while now. So I replied, then thought. “Actually, I could post this on t’website.”

So, without further ado, here is my non-definitive and possibly inaccurate guide to getting a literary agent. Any suggestions and amendments via the comments welcome.




Firstly, well done. Actually finishing a novel-length work makes you a writer, as opposed to an aspiring writer. It’s not an easy thing to see it out to the end, so kudos for getting this far.

Secondly, and importantly, realise that this probably won’t sell. Mine didn’t. Neither did the one I was writing while I was hawking the first one around, but that one did get me an agent. The one I was writing while he was hawking the second one around did get picked up. So, after a pause, start writing the next one. All the things you’ve learnt writing the first one will be applicable to the second one, and if by chance, you do get some interest in the existing ms, you can say (and agents and publishers really want to hear this) that you’re half way through another. They don’t want an author who’s only got one book in them: they – and you – need to play the long game.

Now, to attract an agent is a rare and difficult thing. So you have to give this your best shot, because each time you send it out, it will be your only shot with that particular agent, with that particular work.

Make sure your ms is polished. Whatever structural flaws it might contain, it ought not have any spelling, punctuation or grammar errors. Because nothing says n00b like a spelling error. In practice, this means that at least one other competent adult will have gone through the whole ms, marking corrections and making suggestions. Which you’ll then apply.

Most agents don’t want the whole ms in paper form – I only see actual paper at the page proof stage, which is the last bit before publication, and even then, not always, so don’t worry about printing stuff out. What they’ll probably want is a covering letter, a synopsis, and the first 3 chapters/10k words.

The covering letter is one side of A4, with your contact details, title, genre, and length of the story (for a novel, at least 80k, preferably between 80-110k, though with fantasy, there’s a bit of elastic at the top end, even for a first novel), whether it’s a stand-alone or part of a series/trilogy, and anything that might indicate relevant experience – journalist, copywriter, medieval re-enactor – or celebrity status. That’s it. They don’t need to know your life story.

The synopsis is your sales pitch, so treat it as such. Sweat blood over this, because if it sucks, they’re not going to read the sample. The less sucky it is, the more chance there is that they’ll read the sample. I’m genuinely bad at synopses, and my agent despairs of me, so we’ve done quite a lot of work over the years on making them, if not good, at least workmanlike.

A synopsis shouldn’t be your story. It should be a story about your story, about how exciting things happen to interesting people, and how the protagonists react to those difficult events in different ways. I write mine in the form of:

  •  Intro – thematic feel and overall arc
  • Set-up – the world as it is in the beginning
  • Trigger – how the protagonists get involved in the story
  • Ascent – what happens when the protagonists get involved in the story
  • Bios – short paragraphs about the protagonists, their hopes and fears (and not what they look like) as they progress in the story.
  • Climax – what happens in the build up to the denouement
  • Pitch line – your story is awesome because it’s like X with added Y for the Z generation, for fans of A, B and C.

A synopsis is a work of art in its own. It needs to be as exciting as your actual story is. Seriously, spend time on it. And get it in on two pages of A4.

Then the first three chapters. Make sure these are utterly error free. And make sure they are the first three chapters, not chapters 8, 12 and 18, because they’re the most explosiony ones. It doesn’t have to be all fireworks, but if it doesn’t grab from the start, then it’s not happening.

So that’s your package. All you need to do now is find the right agents to approach. This is another difficult, and separate job. Sorry about that.

You need to identify: agents who accept adult fantasy (not all do), who are also open to submissions (not all are). Agents are looking for reasons to reject a submission. Don’t give them one – that means tailoring your submission to exactly how they want it formatted and sent.

The ones that are most likely to accept a new author are: those who have just started and are building up their client base, or have just hired someone new to expand their client base. Older, established single-person agents are less likely to be looking to take on new clients, because they already have sufficient authors to keep them busy and paid.

Posted in: From the Author, Non-fiction by Simon Morden on April 12th, 2016
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Eastercon 2016

March 17th, 2016

Which is next week in Manchester – Easter is almost as early as it can be this year (March 22nd is the earliest, for you ecclesiastical nerds out there).

I’m doing two official things. Secondly, I’m on a panel on Sunday, 10-11am: How High is your Brow? (Rooms 8&9)

Science fiction and fantasy have long had a tumultuous relationship with the world of “highbrow” art. There are divides in funding, attention, and prestige between artforms deemed (by some) to be “serious” and those deemed to be “popular”, and it sometimes seems that never the twain shall meet. What would science-fictional high culture look like? (SF opera?) How are discussions about “high” art shaped by social class and background? How do we, as science fiction readers and writers, challenge the divide? In what ways do we find ourselves reinforcing it? Can we just ignore it — and why, or why not?

Which should be fun. At least no one will be able to criticise me for bringing class into it, because look! It’s right there in the description.

And firstly, I’m bringing The Alchemist’s Dream to Eastercon! The session is Friday, 20:30-21:30 (Room 10)

Come and play a brand new game designed by first-time games designer, Simon Morden. The Alchemist’s Dream is a two player game with draughts-style movement across a hexagonal grid. There are no dice, very simple rules, and the object of the game is to eliminate your opponent’s playing pieces and capture their ‘home’.

There are 6 spaces available so please reserve at Ops. There will be informal opportunities to play the game over the weekend in the Games Room if you miss out.

The important things to remember here are: it’s on Friday – I won’t have much time to drum up support, or remind folk it’s happening, and there are only 6 places available on the night. It’d be brilliant if I had a full room, because I genuinely want to see what experienced gamers make of my little effort. I’ll usually be porting a copy of the game around with me, so if you fancy a go, you can either stop me on an ad hoc basis and see if I’m free / make a play-date for later, or you can email me now at brilliantthings@blueyonder.co.uk and we can negotiate a time if you can’t make the Friday evening session. During the con itself, you can either email or poke my twitter feed (@ComradeMorden).

Posted in: From the Author, News and Updates, Non-fiction by Simon Morden on March 17th, 2016
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Afloat on the ocean of Down

March 4th, 2016

Well, that was … busy.

First, a signing at FP in London – well attended, I GOT TO MEET PAT CADIGAN. Pat – if you don’t know – was at the forefront of the cyberpunk movement with books like Synners and Fools, and they had an enormous influence on the genesis of the Metrozone and Freezone. And I got to tell her all that after I’d got my breathing under control. They say you should never meet your heroes: in Pat’s case, that doesn’t apply, because she’s as brilliant and funny and sharp in real life as she is in her fiction. And she’s kicking cancer’s arse. And I signed a copy of Down Station for her. I SIGNED A COPY OF DOWN STATION FOR PAT CADIGAN. We’re good here.

Then, a reading at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which is held in the roof-top bar in an outrageously upmarket hotel in Holborn (for reasons that are fascinating, but incidental). Inevitably, my discomfort rose to almost-but-not-quite critical levels, but I adulted and gained admission, whereupon seeing friendly faces calmed me. I don’t what it is about posh, but I just don’t do it. Then when we all reached the top, the full moon was rising red over the London skyline, and that was a diversion, and even though I was down to read third of three, it didn’t matter much. Thank you for putting up with my coarse northern ways, and those in the audience who later admitted to being born and brought up in the north-east but have been travelling incognito since through the publishing world. Your secret is safe with me.

All during that, I was staying at my mum’s, and replacing fence-posts, and trellis, and doing other gruntwork in the garden. Bookended by two roughly seven hour journeys to and from. I was driving pretty much for the whole of Down Station’s launch date.

How did that go?

There’ve been lots more reviews. No, I’m not going to show you the rubbish ones, of which there are fortunately few. As I said previously, it’s not going to be for everyone, however much I’d like it to be. What I want, what I need, is for Down Station to find its audience.

So, from Amazon (and in all seriousness, if you enjoyed the book, leave a review – it does make a difference):

Down Station is one of the most intriguing novels I’ve read in a fair while and I doubt I’ll forget it.

The book has, then, a very engaging and serious moral strand as well as the sheer sense of adventure that comes form exploring – and surviving in – a new land.

This is an interesting read with a great new world to immerse yourself in, it is fantastical and thrilling, a great book to add to your fantasy/sci-fi shelf.

And from elsewhere:

To wit, in terms of plot and pace, Morden’s ninth novel is tight and taut—and I’d argue that its relative brevity is a boon to boot. At approximately 300 pages, Down Station is a ways off wearing out its welcome when the literary kitchen closes its doors; though the portion sizes might be on the slight side, chef serves up a satisfying three-course meal here, leaving readers stuffed enough, but not so full that they won’t have an appetite for more when it’s over. And in case you weren’t aware, there will be more, folks: The White City beckons, and after that… why, this whimsical world is Morden’s oyster. (Tor.com)

A shining example of why I think a come back of modern portal fantasy, could make a significant impact on the genre. (Book Frivolity) The actual review is an audio one, linked here.

A twirling mix of fantasy, reality, a strange new land, and strange new people. (Planet Books)

I’ve been asked what the situation with US distribution. Bear with us, because we’re sorting that out. I know for sure that the kindle version is available here, and if you’re desperate for the hardcopy, then one of these is probably your best bet.

Also, The White City is due out Feb 2017. But since it’s written, and edited already except for the line edits, it might be brought forward to the end of this year instead. Watch this space.


Posted in: News and Updates, Reviews, The Books of Down by Simon Morden on March 4th, 2016