Two weeks later…
February 12th 2014
So, time for a recap.
Arcanum is launched on a mostly-unsuspecting world on Jan 28th. This is not greeted with universal acclaim: there are rumblings in the nether regions about how (and I quote) “I thought this would be a book about magic”. Weeeel, yes and no. More on this in a moment.
As of now, Amazon.co.uk has Arcanum with 3 5* reviews, and on Amazon.com, 1 5* and a 4*. Which isn’t bad. Arcanum is also the Mysterious Galaxy Out-of-this-world Original pick for February. Which is also not bad.
I have a book launch/signing at Forbidden Planet in Newcastle upon Tyne this Saturday (15th Feb), 1-2pm.
Now comes the rub. Friend and colleague (and esteemed script writer) Philip Palmer tweeted last week: “Reading Simon Morden‘s Arcanum – not just a fantasy novel but a glorious hymn to the miracle of science”. Cheers, Philip. That’s pretty much the cat out of the bag.
Okay. Take a deep breath and say it with me: Arcanum is not just a fantasy novel. It’s not, to quote one of the Amazon reviews, about “a merry band of heroes in search of a MacGuffin.” Firstly, the band of heroes aren’t particularly merry, because there’s very little to be merry about – having dodged one existential threat, they find themselves facing another, and this time no amount of fancy footwork will get them out of trouble. Secondly, there is no MacGuffin. Or rather, there is a MacGuffin, but it’s one the heroes have to make themselves, literally forging their own victory out of nothing but ideas and hope.
Arcanum is about politics and social order and religious pluralism. It is also, at its beating heart, about science, both its practice and its philosophy. So you could argue that Arcanum is science fiction – it’ll be interesting to see whether or not it’s considered for any of the SF prizes (like the Clarke Award, hint hint), even though it’s not the first thing you’d point at and say “that’s science fiction”.
Arcanum has wizards and warriors, elves and dwarves, giants and unicorns. It portrays a world in which magic is not just possible, but has been the pre-eminent source of power and authority for centuries. It is also a glorious hymn to the miracle of science. Who says you can’t have both?