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.
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.
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.
April 7th 2013
“The Curve of the Earth successfully opens a whole new chapter for Petrovitch in the best possible way by exploring whole host of new avenues, hopefully leading to many more adventures.”
“Morden peppers the swiftly moving story with high energy action scenes, some of which are impressively original. To the extent that The Curve of the Earth feels like an extended set-up for the next novel in the series, it at least whets my appetite for whatever might be coming next.”
“Great dialogue, great characters, great settings – this takes post-apocalyptic worlds to a new height, with sensational results. Absolutely riveting!”
“I just slammed through it, and it’s a blast.”
March 28th 2013
Amazon have inexplicably delinked the Kindle versions of The Curve of the Earth and the collected Petrovitch trilogy from both their UK and US sites. Hopefully this will be rectified shortly, but the links below should still be live.
My spies tell me – I have spies now, fear me – that the US links are live, just that I can’t see them from this side of the pond.
in case you need them…
March 19th 2013
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
Tags: Degrees of Freedom | Equations of Life | Metrozone | Orbit | Philip K Dick award | Samuil Petrovitch | The Curve of the Earth | Theories of Flight | Thy Kingdom Come
Or, as my editor said on the phone yesterday, “It’s really difficult to embargo a book these days…” The Curve of the Earth has been spotted up and down the land, and other lands, previous to this day, and The Evil Tax-dodging Corporation Which Must Not Be Named (no, not the one that sells coffee, or mobile phones. The other one) seems to have been shipping copies since the weekend. But today is the Official Launch, so I should really post about it.
It’s a funny old business really. Here I am, in the middle of the final edits for Arcanum, and a book I wrote a year ago is coming out now. There’s a slight feeling of “is this happening to me?” about it, an air of bemused detachment, because while I lived and breathed this story during its creation, and then all over again for the edits, it’s now in my past, while for many of you, it’s in your present or even your future. This launch is certainly less nerve-wracking than the bang-bang-bang release of the first three books. I’m older, and a lot more sanguine, for one thing. More confident even (thanks again, Philip K Dick award!). What I’m looking forward to most is hearing what you think of it: Petrovitch is all grown up. He’s been at more-or-less peace for ten years. Then … this happens. And dear Lord, he’s angry. Not incandescent angry, but coldly calculating angry. Which makes him far more dangerous to both his enemies and his friends.
Do you need to have read Equations of Life, Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom to enjoy The Curve of the Earth? Actually, no. The story will probably be richer if you have, but I’ve written it in such a way (avoiding the as-you-know-Bob infodumps) that it’s not necessary. Orbit have kindly released an ebook omnibus if you need to catch up, but you can reasonably do that afterwards if you want, just in the same way it’s not necessary to have read Thy Kingdom Come before starting on Equations. Someone told me they’d read the original trilogy in reverse order. Okay, not recommended, but hey.
However you choose to read about Petrovitch, his world is now four books and a short-story collection long. Enjoy responsibly. You can, of course, hear from the man himself in this exclusive interview posted at the Orbit website. It’s a bit sweary (as you’d expect) but it’s quite enlightening. It was recorded just before the events of The Curve of the Earth, so it should give you some idea to his state of mind at page 1…
March 19th 2013
As you can probably guess from the title, the French language rights to Equations of Life (or “Les équations de la vie” as we’ll be calling it from now on) have been bought – by Panini France. Ce qui est agréable.
Also, where was Google Translate when I was struggling with both French and German at school? Kids today, eh?
March 10th 2013
Comrades! Some running dog capitalist has put a copy of Thy Kingdom Come on Amazon UK for £100. Which is a startling amount of money, especially when there are 8 unsold copies (the only unsold copies, in fact) appearing on the NewCon Press stall at this year’s Eastercon for the original (and best) price of £25, a large proportion of which goes to the Red Cross. Ian Whates of NewCon has shown himself to be a fellow traveller in that he’s not taking a cut either.
But – don’t buy them until I’ve signed them, which I should have done by Friday lunchtime. Alternatively, buy them and leap out unexpectedly at me
while I’m holding a drink, and I’ll do the honours. Because all the smart money is on Joey HiFi’s cover winning a BSFA, right?
February 19th 2013
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
Tags: Degrees of Freedom | Equations of Life | Metrozone | Orbit | Samuil Petrovitch | The Curve of the Earth | Theories of Flight
Do you have an ereader – any variety? Do you think that you’d like all three original Petrovitch books for little more than the price of one?
Excellent news: because Equations of Life, Theories of Flight and Degrees of Freedom have been packaged under one sparkling new cover, giving new readers just enough time to experience the Thrill-Ride(tm) that is the Philip K Dick award-winning Petrovitch trilogy, before diving headlong into the New Cold War shenanigans of The Curve of the Earth.
It’s available for pre-order now, and will descend like an avenging angel onto your device at the stroke of midnight on the 1st March.
January 22nd 2013
Stop blinking, you at the back. You read it right.
Now here’s an extraordinary thing. Orbit have, with usual good taste (thanks, Lauren!), put together a rather fine cover for The Curve of the Earth, for which I have the proofs. Being a rather inquisitive sort of bloke, I wondered who’d done the actual artwork you can see behind the words, and that led me to German Digital Artist Christian “Taeger” Hecker.
The Curve of the Earth cover is a detail of Phoenix Rising. What’s more, he’s animated it.
How cool is that?
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