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If you’re here for the Heart project, this is the main page.
If you’re here for the Heart project, this is the main page.
It’s official, because Gollancz have said so. Publication date is 18/2/2016 (and you can, of course, pre-order it from your usual outlets, not just The South American River).
The cover. The cover is gorgeous. It is compulsory to click for bigger.
Furthermore, if you follow the Gollancz link bove, you can enter a draw to win one of three proof-copies, and get your hands on my limpid prose long before anyone else does.
Lots more of Down Station to come in the next few weeks and months.
After living feral in a field for a week, I’m back, clothed and in my right mind, and I appear to have committed art. Or at least art criticism. What then shall we write? looks at three brilliant books – The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It also contains some guidance – they sure ain’t rules – for writing about faith and the faithful in fiction and, inevitably, all the answers I come up with involve hard work and uncomfortable choices.
But it does contain this sentence: Truth, in fiction, is an almost unbearably terrible weapon.
I have been officially busy, and progress (not this kind of progress) has been made.
Firstly, a correction. Phantoms at the Phil is on the 3rd July, and not on any of the other dates previously advertised. Today was going to be the day I started writing my story. I’ve been enveloped in a cloud of post-book exhaustion, so will start tonight. Or tomorrow morning. Honest. Tickets usually sell out, so get in while the going’s good.
Secondly, I have done made a book. The White City (being the Second Book of Down) is wholly extant at 97,000 words*, and while parts of it are eye-poppingly strange, I think it works. Some of the plotting is deliberately audacious, not so much as to challenge you, dear reader, but to stretch me as a writer – being comfortable isn’t a place where I want to be. It’s off to the agent, and subsequently to the publisher. Down Station (being the First Book of Down) is scheduled for release on 18th February, 2016, and The White City will probably follow a year later. Or maybe sooner if a slot falls free. I have seen a rough cover for Down Station, and it’s gorgeous. So it’s definitely happening.
Thirdly, I am at Greenbelt again this year, and will be talking about writing faith well – using the examples of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. I appreciate that last choice is a little risky, but bear with me, it’s brilliant. The talk is currently scheduled for Monday afternoon in the Literature tent. I also note that me and AL Kennedy (also appearing) share an agent. Hopefully we can meet up and compare notes about how fantastic he is…
Fourthly, the second-ever Gollancz Festival is now extended to two days, and I’m provisionally booked in to be in London on the 17th October.
That’s about it so far – keep well, keep safe.
* eagle-eyed readers will note that on 13th April, I said The White City was just over 30,000 words. Two months later, I’m at 97,000. I’m quite pleased with that.
While Monday’s post dealt with the past, today’s looks forward, because, you know – science fiction and all that.
I’ve already mentioned that Arcanum wasn’t submitted for the Clarkes, despite being in the very strictest sense, an utterly SF book. It has, however, been submitted for the David Gemmell Awards, which is decided by popular vote. I am very aware of my place in the food chain, and there are proper fantasy writers on the list who outrank me in every way. All I’m going to say here is that it would be nice to make the shortlist, and for that, Arcanum needs votes, which you may deliver here. If you’re looking for heroes, then Peter, Sophia and Frederick aren’t such a bad bunch to emulate.
Down Station has a publication date, which is February next year – that means a whole year without a book. It does give me some time to both recharge the batteries, and more importantly, write. The White City (being the Second Book of Down) is progressing, and will be done by summer. After that, there are a multiplicity of options, but only one of me to do the work. Despite that, I already have two books in hand, so I do need to choose wisely.
I’ve agreed to do a couple of short stories: one ghost story for the perennially popular Phantoms at the Phil event, which is performed, live, by the authors, to a full house in Newcastle’s Lit and Phil library; and another for an anniversary anthology. Short stories were what I started on, and I find writing them a peculiar kind of joy. On one hand, they’re bloody difficult to pull off, on the other, the satisfaction when you manage a really satisfying ending is out of proportion to the length of the thing.
On a slightly sideways note, I returned from Eastercon to find a royalties cheque waiting for me. For Another War which, after 10 years, has earned out its advance. That, comrades, is playing the long game.
Next year, as well as Down Station, will see me crossing the pond to be Guest of Hono(u)r at InConJunction in Indianapolis. Which will be … interesting. I’ve never been a GoH before, anywhere. I’ll try not to blot my copybook between now and then, or at the con itself. I’ll take advice, because I don’t want to make n00b mistakes, but it’ll still be me no matter what. You’ve been warned.
Strange to say, but this year’s Eastercon (Dysprosium, at the Park hotel, Heathrow) seems to have marked something of a turning-point: if not that, at least a waymarker for the onward journey.
It’s been almost six months since my dad died, a bit longer since I headed south to help my mum care for him, and pretty much a year since we got a concrete diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I went pretty much straight from visiting them before Easter 2014 to Eastercon in Glasgow, and everything I did from then on was viewed through the lens of ‘my dad is dying’. That, and Worldcon – my first ever, and in London to boot – was… not quite a disaster, but I was emotionally all over the shop. Sure, I can wear a stiff upper lip as well as the next Englishman, and I don’t think I made an idiot of myself at any point, but I probably made promises to do stuff that not only didn’t happen, but will never happen because I can’t remember.
The one professional decision that I made in that time was to finish Down Station, which was the ended in September. Because if I hadn’t, Gollancz would still be waiting for it, and they deserve better than that. There were other things I let slide – the one big regret I have now is not pushing for Arcanum to be submitted to the Arthur C Clarke awards – but spilt milk and all that.
I started writing again in January. Slowly, somewhat tentatively, but then more assuredly. The White City is over the 30k mark, and whether it’s too different in tone will be something I’ll have to discuss with my agent and editor. I also agreed to do a new ghost story for the Summer Phantoms at the Phil, after my somewhat impromptu appearance as a last-minute stand-in at Christmas.
So, to Eastercon. I can’t honestly say I ‘did’ much. I was on three panels, chatted to all sorts of folk, drank tea during the day, beer during the evening, went to a couple of readings and precisely one presentation (on the making of Robot Overlords, so nothing too highbrow). But I rediscovered that these were indeed my people. Throughout the weekend, I was attempting to do my least-favourite writing task, which is ‘summarise your book in a paragraph’. I got help with that too. I waved my geek flag high, played the appalling and reprehensible Cards Against Humanity, and survived on too little sleep and too much caffeine. I came away with a liberal dose of ConCrud, and feeling far more optimistic than I have done for ages.
What’s happened before inevitably shapes our present and our future. But there’s no reason for past events to control us. Time’s arrow only points forward. To quote Petrovitch, when told we’re all time-travellers, exploring the future one second at a time. “Some of us are moving much faster than that.”