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If you’re here for the Heart project, this is the main page.
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.”
I’ll be at Eastercon again this year, and am on two panels.
Firstly, the Worldbuilding workshop (Sunday, 1730-1830, Bleriot), where we (Victoria Donnelly, Marcus Rowland , Bridget Wilkinson and myself) will coerce the audience into making snap decisions about a fictional country called Brittia.
Secondly, I’ll be in conversation with Dave Clements and Jaine Fenn on “What is a planet anyway?”, with almost the last item on the entire programme. (Monday, 1345-1445, Bleriot).
Otherwise, I’ll probably be in and around the bar, going to talks, buying books, and getting my talking for the next six months out of the way. See you there!
It’s 2015, and I haven’t posted anything yet this year. For which I apologise, because it’s not like things haven’t been happening – a lot of stuff which isn’t appropriate to share, because Internets. But in and around all the disasters and set-backs and frenetic busyness that’s going on, writing is still a thing.
So: Down Station, being the First Book of Down, has leapt over the hurdle that is the editorial stage. We’re now onto the copy-edit, and as soon as I know the proposed publication date, I’ll let everyone know. It is, reasonably said, a strange and wonderful story. If I was going to describe it in a sentence, I’d call it ‘a grittily realistic fairytale’, and I trust that’s going to be enough to intrigue you to want to read it.
The White City, being the Second Book of Down, is in the process of being written. I’m about a fifth of the way through, and it’s shaping up very nicely.
Both Down Station and The White City are going to be published by Gollancz, who are ‘my new publisher’.
What does that mean for Sam, Maddy, and the rest of the Freezone crew? I’m not sure yet. I have an extant first draft of Petrovitch 5, The Edge of Space, so yes, there is more to come, I just don’t know when. There will, with luck and a following wind, a sixth following on from that.
I am officially booked to read a new ghost story at the Lit and Phil’s ‘Summer Phantoms at the Phil’ evening, on the 19th of June – as opposed to last year, when I was (literally) the last-minute stand in. You’ll get a new ghost story, too. I have Ideas already.
I’m also going to be at Eastercon again – no news yet of panels etc, but feel free to come and say hello.
That’s about all for the moment. More as it develops.
Which (as I am fond of saying) is nice.
The list is quite short – 11 books in total, for the year’s best SF&F, and I’m strangely grateful that they don’t specify whether Arcanum is F or SF. For it is both. I’m also told that “Kirkus never like anything”, so if they’re being really picky, and I still get picked, that’s a good thing, right?
Elisabeth Bear, Alena Graedon, Daryl Gregory, Lev Grossman, Will McIntosh, Elizabeth Moon, John Scalzi, Charles Stross, Jeff VanderMeer , Andy Weir… and me. Not bad company, really. The full list of 100 is here, and the SF&F bit is here.