November 17th 2013
Kirkus have reviewed Arcanum*. They like it enough to give it a starred review. They also said:
“…Morden, against a gritty, utterly convincing backdrop, anticipates every consequence and wrings out surprise after surprise. An enthralling read for aficionados of intelligent, impeccably rendered fantasy.”
Which was very kind of them.
Also, the interview I did for Publishers’ Weekly has emerged from behind the pay-wall. In it, I am witty and self-deprecating.
*here be slight spoilers. If you want to avoid them, don’t click through.
November 4th 2013
Just a public service announcement: a lot of websites seem to have Arcanum‘s old release date of November 19th, 2013 (i.e. two weeks time).
It isn’t. Editing the book (did I say how big the book was? Repeatedly? Oh, okay.) was a titanic effort, and we had to change the helmet on the rider*, too. So the release date is January 28th, 2014 – everything is as perfect as we can make it now, but trying to get it out this month would have been … less than ideal. You can, of course, pre-order it from your usual outlets, and if you’re a fan of the dead-tree variety of novel, please consider your bricks-and-mortar bookstore, or even the publisher’s own website (UK here)**.
I am genuinely excited to see what you all make of this. The noises from the gallery are so far very encouraging, which is nice – but it’s when it hits the shelves that it starts to live.
* it was originally a full-face helmet, a proper high-medieval pot. Though full-face helms did exist in earlier antiquity, it wasn’t the every day killing-and-plundering northern barbarian-wear I’d envisioned. So it was swapped to a open-faced helmet of the late Dark ages.
** I even emailed the Boss of Hachette, pointing out (as I did in the essay, Money flows to the author), how mad it was not being able to buy books from the actual publisher. Plans were already afoot, and have been brought forward in time for the festive buying-spree.
October 29th 2013
It’s not a secret that I’m a Christian – those two essays on Christian fiction and my ongoing relationship with the Greenbelt festival are a bit of a giveaway – and I can’t deny my faith (here, loosely defined as what I believe my religion is telling me about the world we live in and how I ought to live my life within it) has an effect on what I write and how I write. Neither would I want to deny it. I have a PhD in geophysics: that also affects what I write and how I write. I have a political stance, which etc… Writers are people, and people are complicated.
And if anything, being a “Christian writer” should have an effect – it’d be a weird-ass religion (or I a very poor adherent) if it didn’t. It means that I should keep to deadlines, or explain early enough why I’m not so that alternative plans can be made. It means that I should honour contracts, not try and wriggle out of them if a better offer comes along, and generally behave like a professional in a professional business. It means that I should keep appointments and engagements, or give people timely enough warning that I can’t make it – and not just because I can’t be bothered. It means that my interaction with fans, reviewers, other writers, publishers, agents and such like should be polite, calm and reasonable. (Because there’s more than enough drama in real life without putting it on the internet… oh, wait…)
If you’ve read any of my stuff, you’ll have probably noticed a couple of things. Firstly, what I write isn’t exactly “Christian fiction”. This is deliberate, for all the reasons I set out in the essays. It could be said that the Petrovitch books are almost the antithesis of Christian fiction: everything that shouldn’t be in there, is, and everything that should be, isn’t. I’m more than content with that – they are the stories I want to tell. Secondly, I do write about religion. I have characters who are religious. I have plots and sub-plots involving religious practice and belief. I do it a lot.
What provokes this post is a comment left on Mike Duran’s excellent blog, deCOMPOSE, by someone attached to Lion books in the UK – Lion are a Christian publisher, now owned (I think) by Baker publishing, a big US Christian publisher. This is the quote I picked up on:
“Lion Hudson (Oxford, England) represents the Baker Publishing Group in the UK, where there is considerable resistance to ANY religious element in a novel in the ABA (general) sector”
Okay. At face value, this is a fairly sweeping statement to make. I don’t have enough time or energy to compile a statistical analysis of all the fiction published by the Big 5/6 and rank them for their inclusiveness of religion – I’m busy writing books, which takes up most of my time. What you’re going to get instead is a data point.
I have never, ever, been asked by any UK publisher to tone down, diminish or otherwise remove any single religious element in any of my books.
“Ah, but what if you had?” you ask. Well, I haven’t, but if I had, I’d consider it along with any of the other editorial suggestions that make up the give and take of the editorial process. Because I’m not perfect, and the thing about editing a book is to make it better, not worse – kill your darlings and all that. I refuse (see above for behaving professionally) to throw a wobbly because a trusted reader is telling me “Simon, this bit just doesn’t work.”
And the reason that I’m provoked by a comment that there’s “considerable resistance” to ANY (note the caps, comrades) religious element in a mainstream novel is that I’ve, if anything, made that strand more, not less, significant in Arcanum. The differences in the religions of the main characters is a significant part of the plot. It’s in the backstory, it’s a driver for the action, it’s central to the motivations of some of the protagonists, and no one remains unaffected by the interplay of those beliefs. Furthermore, the two religions I describe aren’t simply made-up fantasy-book religions (quiet there in the stalls), but attempts at actual Germanic paganism and actual Judaism.
So why do I it? Why do I describe lives that have religion front-and-centre? Simply this reason: people sometimes do. By ignoring or downplaying the importance of faith in their beliefs, their practices and their interactions – good and ill, warts and all – they’re not fully rounded characters and less believable. That’s it. That’s why. Because it’s better writing.
I’m going to finish with this thought: if publishers are resistant to the religious element in your book, it’s not the ‘religious’ they’re objecting to. They’re objecting to the fact that the way you’ve done it makes your book suck. Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer-prizewinning Gilead is currently published in the UK by Virago. A more “religious element” novel is hard to imagine, yet … well: it does rather undermine the assertion.
October 5th 2013
Publishers’ Weekly have (behind the paywall) a review – nay, the first ever review – of Arcanum.
I’m not equivocal about reviews, and I don’t think any author is, no matter what self-deprecating noises we make: we either ‘bleed in public or bleed in private’, and especially when I’ve spent something like eighteen months of my life working on the manuscript, whether or not anyone genuinely likes it outside of the people who either wrote it (me), had to read it (editors, proof readers), or read it out of familial duty (wife), assumes an importance that can be a little unnerving.
Even more so that I when I was interviewed over Skype (I have Skype now – fear me, mortals!) for PW, I was listening very intently for any hint that the interviewer hated the book, and moreover hated me for writing it and wasting rather a lot of her time. I have warned you this is a BIG book, haven’t I? Fortunately, she’d liked it, asked me lots of smart questions about the setting and the characters, and about my somewhat original writing process (‘sit down and just write the damn thing’ may or may not have been one of my answers).
So, to the review (very helpfully sent to me by Patrick Heffernan of Mysterious Galaxy Bookshop, purveyor of all your genre needs.)
Starred Review: Science fiction author Morden (the Petrovitch Trilogy) makes a masterful foray into an alternate universe where, a thousand years after the fall of Rome, Europe is divided into numerous petty kingdoms and magic is a tool and a weapon. The cunning Order of hexmasters—whose enchantments create bridges, power cities, underpin commerce, and annihilate entire armies—is the ruthless power behind the throne in the German palatinate of Carinthia. When the magic abruptly stops, enemies amass armies at Carinthia’s borders and mobs take over its streets. Under-librarian Frederik Thaler and illiterate huntmaster Peter Büber are both certain that the library holds the kingdom’s salvation. Capricious adept Nikoleta Agana may be the last remaining hexmaster. Twelve-year-old prince Felix is thrust onto the throne after his father’s death in battle. Willful, shamefully unmarried Sophia Morgenstern is determined to protect her fellow Jews from terror-fueled pogroms. An engrossing rollercoaster of a plot winds up with a solidly satisfying climax that leaves the reader craving more. Agent: Anthony Harwood, Anthony Harwood Literary Agency. (Jan.)
‘Masterful’? Check. ‘Engrossing’? Check. ‘Satisfying’? Check. ‘Craving more’? Yeah, okay. We’re good to go with this.
September 1st 2013
I don’t think I’ve posted this yet, so here it is: it is indeed very shiny, and the lettering is simply gorgeous. I’ve now written a book with the title in flaming letters! Yay! In case there’s any confusion about the publication date, it’s not November this year – it’s the end of January 2014. I’ve only just signed off on all the proofs and stuff, and even the mighty machine that lurks at the heart of Orbit Towers doesn’t turn that fast…
(click for bigger)
July 24th 2013
Well, I can hope.
Actually, that sounds a bit curmudgeonly – what I’m trying to say is that once the page proofs are out of the door, that’ll be it. I won’t own the story any more, because it’ll be on its way to becoming yours. The proofing of the book has been, er, problematic, and that’s probably all I want to say on that front. Suffice to say, what errors remain are hiding really, really well, as this must be the most proofed manuscript of recent history. So once I turn the paper marked ‘page 768′, I’ll be done.
If you want to know what 768 sheets of A4 look like, wonder no more:
I’ve just over three weeks to do all this. See how I suffer for my art…
June 21st 2013
Hello. I’ve been busy: could you tell?
Probably only by the profound silence – I have many emails to reply to, letters to answer, ‘stuff’ to do, which I haven’t done. But I have achieved, oh yes.
My school reports, all sixty of them, are done: the little treasures will find out in, er, unalloyed terms, what I think of them shortly.
I have help launch a book, The Lowest Heaven, down in that London. The evening was terrific, fantastically well organised by the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory. We signed long and hard into the night, and I just about caught the last train back to my temporary lodgings by dint of cunning navigation of the Underground and sprinting between platforms. Me, sprinting: I know, not a pretty sight…
I have, hopefully, finished the edits to Arcanum. There have been …problems… which I shall gracefully elide over, but we are currently still on track for publication in January 2014 (and not Novemeber 2013 – please adjust your Christmas lists appropriately). It is a real beast of a book, currently resting like a beached bull seal at a mighty 285,000 words. And yet, it doesn’t feel long. There’s very little of the noodling that might usually be found in a fantasy brick (no T*m B*mbadil, for example), so it’s pretty much all plot. It’ll either be the a huge success, or an epic failure. I don’t think ‘equivocal’ comes into it, and I’ll happily settle for ‘flawed masterpiece’. Caveat Emptor! as they say in Carinthia.
I have also – shh, whisper it quietly – been working in conjunction with a producer about original script ideas for The Movies. I turned in something very first drafty today, and it might be that nothing ever comes of anything I do in this regard, but it’s not only fun, it’s really very different from novel writing. I’m used to just sitting down with a blank page and bashing the words into it, fully formed; this process is not so much that, more sketching part, have someone else sketch part, and so on, until you have a whole, which you can still change. Even working with another person is a bit strange. I’m sure I’ll cope…
So now I’ve got all those things out of the way, it’s time to get Petrovitch and company out of the suspended animation I left them in at around 30,000 words. Brace for impact.
May 23rd 2013
News from Greenwich is that not only are the hardback books going quickly (reserve your copy here), but the tickets to the exclusive ‘after dark’ extravaganza are also disappearing fast – get them here.
And there’s been two reviews of the anthology so far, both of them, er, stellar. The first was from Starburst, which mentioned me by name (which was nice), and the second from Tor.com (which unfortunately blows the cryptic meaning of my title out of the water – so, spoilers).
Niall Alexander on the Tor blog puts it very well – and is certainly the mood which I was going for.
There can be no questioning the value of this artful anthology: it’s as inspiring as it is inspired. But The Lowest Heaven is also a timely and ultimately touching reminder of what we stand to lose by turning inwards as opposed to venturing again into the unknown. Granted, the universe is vast—and vastly dangerous, I dare say—but consider the wonders we stand to discover; the places, the races!
I will definitely be there – the train tickets are booked, and I’ll be dashing about the South like a dervish for three days – I’ll have my signing pen with me.
May 9th 2013
Pandemonium’s latest is almost on us, and, (selects random accent from data bank – settles on cod Northern) “By ‘eck, lad, it’s reet grand.”
You all know from his work on Thy Kingdom Come what a fantastically awesome artist Joey HiFi is. The cover for The Lowest Heaven is utterly wonderful. If you look very closely at Mars, you’ll even see a tiny representation of the Pacific in orbit around it, from my story WWBD. Joey talks more about the process on the National Maritime Museum’s blog, and how the anthology ties into the Visions of the Universe exhibition by the Royal Observatory.
The table of contents is, er, impressive. I think that’s the right word. Behold:
- Introduction by Dr. Marek Kukula (Royal Observatory Greenwich)
- “Golden Apple” by Sophia McDougall (The Sun)
- “A Map of Mercury” by Alastair Reynolds (Mercury)
- “Ashen Light” by Archie Black (Venus)
- “The Krakatoan” by Maria Dahvana Headley (Earth)
- “An account of a voyage from World to World again, by way of the Moon, 1726″ by Adam Roberts (The Moon)
- “WWBD” by Simon Morden (Mars)
- “Saga’s Children” by E.J. Swift (Ceres)
- “The Jupiter Files” by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Jupiter)
- “Magnus Lucretius” by Mark Charan Newton (Europa)
- “Air, Water and the Grove” by Kaaron Warren (Saturn)
- “Only Human” by Lavie Tidhar (Titan)
- “Uranus” by Esther Saxey (Uranus)
- “From This Day Forward” by David Bryher (Neptune)
- “We’ll Always Be Here” by S.L. Grey (Pluto & Charon)
- “Enyo-Enyo” by Kameron Hurley (Eris)
- “The Comet’s Tale” by Matt Jones (Halley’s Comet)
- “The Grand Tour” by James Smythe (Voyager I)
Arts by Joey, edited by Jared Shurin and Anne C Perry. That’s not the end of the Joey HiFi love, either. The limited edition hardback version has a fold-out map of the solar system. It is a thing of wonder and beauty, and I can’t wait to see it for real.
There is a launch, on the 13th June, at Greenwich, at which I will (with luck and a following wind) be signing, along with as many of the others who can make it. The limited edition hardcover is only available from the Royal Maritime Museum. Accept no substitutes! After the 13th, the paperback and ebook will be released through the usual outlets. But you want that hardback, don’t you?
April 10th 2013
It’s all fairly self-explanatory: a Freezone logo is something I’ve been toying with for a while, and finally came up with a design I was both happy with and thought reflected the ethos of the Freezone. It’s on a Creative Commons licence, so you’re free to put it pretty much anywhere you like – it has a permanent page here, and a link to the 640×640 image.
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