One year on
June 10th 2012
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Ignite, Metrozone, News and Updates
Tags: audio book, Degrees of Freedom, Equations of Life, Greenbelt, Ignite, Lauren Panepinto, Metrozone, Philip K Dick award, Samuil Petrovitch, Theories of Flight
I’ve been contemplating writing this post for a few weeks now (which is why it’s gone a bit quiet), and it appears to be the case that the only way to get my thoughts out is to just start and see what happens: which is pretty much how I write books anyway…
I’m not one for annual celebrations. I’ll be more specific: I’m not one for annual celebrations that involve me. Birthdays, having had so many of them, are something I can honestly take or leave. Cake is nice, but the fuss involved for the rest of the family is out of proportion. Christmas is important for other reasons, but not necessarily the gift-giving and mountain of food cooked. My wedding anniversary, I admit, becomes more significant with every year that passes because it actually represents an achievement that is greater than simply staying alive. But one orbital revolution is pretty much the same as the next. What matters is what’s done during it.
It’s been a year since Degrees of Freedom was published, and by extension fourteen months since Equations of Life started to savage the eyeballs of the world. How did that work out for me? Pretty well, it turns out.
I had some concerns. Chiefly, the covers and the publishing schedule. No one was ever going to argue that the cover art (designed by the hugely talented Lauren Panepinto) was neutral. Some people loved them. Some people hated them. It’s impossible to tell whether or not they boosted sales or suppressed them. They were, however, talked about in the best Wildean sense. For a Z-list author, that wasn’t a bad gamble to take.
Publishing three books in three months is like taking a writing life and smashing it repeatedly against a wall. It’s a big thing, releasing a book into the wild: there’s an awful lot of emotional energy stored up in just one novel, along with the concepts of ‘professional’ and ‘career’. To do that bang-bang-bang? I’d underestimated how draining it would be. Reception was magnificently mixed from the ‘what fresh hell is this?’ to the ‘crowning moment of awesome’. Realising that not everybody like your book and watching them say so in a public forum are different things. My skin is considerably thicker than it was a year ago, and probably a good job too.
As time went on, several good things happened. Sales, while not stellar, were good enough – Equations of Life earned a reprint in both UK and US editions, and what’s more surprising is that it’s still selling. I’m given to understand that most books sell most copies in the first six weeks after publication; not young master Petrovitch. I don’t know what that means yet, but if new people are still discovering the Metrozone while there are newer, shinier books out, then I’m happy.
The audio books of the Metrozone were a revelation, and certainly the closest you’ll get to a cinematic experience for the foreseeable future. Toby Leonard Moore has done a simply stellar job of reading them, far, far better than I could ever do.
I’ve also got fan mail, and not in the creepy odd way, either. Smart people have written to me about stuff. I’m a bit behind in my replies, but I’ll try and get around to everyone shortly. It’s fascinating to hear about where you are and what you do, and how we stumbled into each other’s orbit. And fans have also got me into tvtropes.org, one of my all-time favourite websites. The Metrozone is built on tropey goodness, played straight, lampshaded and averted, often all at the same time, and I’m delighted to find my books in there.
I obviously need to mention the Philip K Dick award. If the three-in-three months schedule has a legacy, this was it. The first time a trilogy of books was nominated, they won. ‘What does it mean to you?’ people ask. It means that every book I write from now on will have ‘Winner of the Philip K Dick award’ on the cover. It means that I probably have more artistic freedom to do other things. It means I get to write some short stories again for a couple of anthologies I’ve been invited (invited!) to be part of. It means I’m very busy at Greenbelt this year, and probably at Eastercon next.
It does mean there’s an extra weight of expectation – one I’m putting on myself – to be better still. Book 4 of the trilogy ‘The Curve of the Earth’ is already at the publishers and it’ll be out next March. It is, I think, a different book again to books 1, 2, and 3. Expect an older, more thoughtful Samuil who’s capable of even greater acts of destruction simply because he’s better resourced. There is Science! of course, and big explosions, but the real drama is in his cybernetic heart.
The work in progress is Ignite. Followers on Facebook will know this has now passed the 200,000 word mark, and I’m probably heading towards 300,000. It is a startlingly different beast, and I have no idea how it’s going to be received by my publishers when they get hold of it – the Metrozone it most surely isn’t. My agent, however, is reading it in chunks – when he got to the end of the last of the chapters I’d sent him, he wished wistfully there were more. This is a hopeful sign. I have until the start of December to finish it – leaving myself some time to revise the manuscript too. It will be done – I haven’t missed a deadline yet, but it is very, very big. I do wonder if I’ve simply bitten off more than I can chew, but if I’m going to fail, I’m going to do it spectacularly. Wish me luck.