June 26th 2017
When I mentioned a few months ago that At the Speed of Light was still selling, I was expecting the drop-off in sales to happen any day soon, and for the title to sink into a well-deserved obscurity. June 23rd marked the six month mark after publication, and … it’s still going. Not quite as quickly as as it was before, but still decent, still up there, still finding its audience.
Which is both incredibly gratifying, and oddly confusing, because I’d never have predicted that this slim, somewhat technical volume, would become probably my best-selling book of recent years. And because I didn’t predict it, and don’t really understand the reasons behind it, I can’t learn any lessons from its success, and I won’t be able to replicate any kind of ‘formula’ for future stories.
It hasn’t had the best reviews, either: on Goodreads (which gets more volume of review-data, as opposed to written reviews), several people have said WTAF and marked it accordingly, although I’ve escaped the ignominy of a 1* review so far. But those who’ve quietly appreciated the story have given it their stars, and have clearly, if inexplicably, recommended it to their friends.
So a book, that was partly written in a shed in a Scottish forest, that is all about special relativity and the technicalities of manoeuvring at light speed, that features a minimal cast and a lead character called Corbyn… Hell, I don’t know. It’s clearly chimed for some. I literally have no idea why. And perhaps, at some point I should try to get him home, or at least to somewhere he can call home. I’m busy till the end of the year, but perhaps after that? Who knows? I don’t, except that I should really try and get a copy into the hands of the other Corbyn, just to say an elliptical and improbable thank you.
May 30th 2017
Gah, almost forgot to post the third map – so here’s Mars Base One in all its hand-drawn glory.
May 10th 2017
It’s been a while since I’ve had to draw technically accurate maps of other planets. But here you go – this is the stage for One Way.
See that oval-shaped crater just on the northern flank of Ceraunius Tholus? That’s where we’re going.
May 1st 2017
Happy May Day celebrations, comrades, and forward the new republic!
A brief update as to what’s going on, and what will be going on:
At the Speed of Light is still selling stupidly well, three months after its release. I’m not quite sure what I’ve done to deserve it, but I’m certainly very grateful to everyone who’s bought a copy (and especially those who’ve taken the time and trouble to leave a review either on Amazon or Goodreads). We had excellent ‘launch’ for the first set of four Newcon Press novellas at Eastercon, with the last three of the boxed sets going to the first three people in the queue. After no novellas from me for almost a decade, there are two along at once – I’ve an entry in one of the later sets as well, but more news on that when the titles have been firmed up. I should also write more stories of novella length, because I’ve rediscovered that I really enjoy telling a story over that length.
One Way, the Mars thriller that I’m writing for Gollancz, has passed its first draft stage, and I’m into the edits, both self-imposed (I can’t keep continuity together to save my life) and editor-suggested. I found writing the final few chapters extraordinarily difficult: none of the people involved are necessarily ‘good’, but dammit, no one deserves to die like that. I think that bodes well, and the editorial feedback I’ve got so far has been overwhelmingly positive, which is nice. Yes, it’s magnificently pulpy, but as you’d expect from me, under the bonnet, all the science is absolutely on rails, and there are some surprisingly poignant scenes which hopefully counterbalance the growing feeling of dread as the story progresses. One Way will be published (under the cunning pseudonym of SJ Morden!) in February 2018 (available for pre-order now!) and the sequel (it’s a duology!) concluding the story will be out in October 2018.
Back, back in the mists of time, I was asked to do a short story for inclusion in a plant-based anthology (not just because it’s printed on dead tree, but because that’s its theme) called Improbable Botany. It’s finally going to be a thing, and again, more news as it happens. The cover is currently embargoed, but it is very fine indeed. My story is called ‘Shine’, and inevitably I went a bit off-piste with it, but other authors include Adam Roberts and Justina Robson, so it’ll be worth getting any way…
January 10th 2017
10 days to go until the release of my next novella*. And when I say next, it’s only my second (after the tentacular Another War). There isn’t much I can tell you upfront about it, because to say too much would be to ruin the reading experience – it’s a multiply-layered mystery, set in the deepest of deep space. It’s very much a return to Proper Science Fiction, written with a calculator in one hand and a text book in the other, while I peck out the actual letters with my nose: you don’t get to see any of my working, but it did need to be there, lurking in the background, for plot purposes.
So what can I tell you about it? Apart from the fact that it’s brilliant and has a spaceship on the cover which I’ve never had before. Or that I had the best time ever writing it.
- I bought a book on special relativity so I could check through what I remembered and incorporate the latest thinking.
- I wrote some of the ms in a shed in a forest in the Cairngorms, recharging my little laptop up from a car battery which itself was topped up using a solar panel.
- I am currently obsessed with artificial intelligences, how they might perceive the world and how they would arrive at an ethical framework.
- You’ll notice some nods to some of the SF greats: Philip K Dick, Arthur Clarke and Larry Niven specifically.
- The MacGuyvering that happens is done in real-time. None of the story was plotted out first, and I just hoped I could work everything out as I went along.
The book comes in three flavours: ebook (kindle), paperback, and signed, limited edition hardback, and is part of a 4-set collection of SF novellas from Newcon Press, with contributions from myself, Alistair Reynolds, Anne Charnock and Neil Williamson. The set will be ‘officially’ launched at Eastercon this year, but I wouldn’t necessarily wait if you want the hardback. The Reynolds has already sold out…
Buying details are here.
*shorter work – it clocks in at 35,000 words. Please don’t get cross online because it’s not a full-length novel, like one Amazon reviewer did for Alistair Reynold’s The Iron Tactician, because they didn’t read any of the details and subsequently felt ‘cheated’.
December 22nd 2016
Just a quickie before Christmas – there’s a giveaway, organised by Gollancz, of both Down Station and The White City. Link is here.
October 28th 2016
Book blog Bart’s Bookshelf have snagged a copy of both Down Station and The White City from Gollancz, and they’re giving them away!
October 27th 2016
In all the rush to do blog posts and email interviews for other people, I completely forgot to do one for here…
So here we go: the second Book of Down, The White City, is published today and is available from all the usual outlets. While I do usually try and make sequels at least have the potential to stand alone, The White City isn’t going to make a whole lot of sense without having read Down Station, but fortunately there are two low-cost options to catch up – the mass market paperback (retailing at a reasonable UK£8.99) or the Kindle e-book (priced at a ludicrous UK£2.99). Of course, the original trade paperback with the bigger shinier cover is a thing of wonder, and probably worth getting just for that.
The White City follows directly on from events in Down Station. It’s a bit of road trip (although, not giving anything away that the cover doesn’t, much of that is by sea), and because my
player characters don’t pay any attention to the DM, they split the party early on. Which, inevitably, leads to shenanigans of the highest order when they do get back together again.
As with all my books, you can file it under ‘intensely personal’, because that’s the nature of the beast, but this one was more so than most. The first book I’d written after my father died. I was worried enough that I sent a note along with the first draft, telling my editor pro tem that she was to tell me if there was leakage from the Real World into the Down, because I was too close to the manuscript to spot it. I appear to have got away with it, mostly. The story is chiaroscuro: the dark is as dark can be, but the lighter stuff (pirates!) is quite fun. Until that bit turns dark too. But the ending – I hadn’t known until that point what was going to happen, and I was shocked. I think you will be too. But shocked in a good way.
So, here it is, my *counts fingers* ninth novel/novella. Enjoy.
August 16th 2016
(Click for bigger)
Well, isn’t that smart? The good folk at Blacksheep have done it again, and given me a cover to be proud of. The White City (Down #2) will be available in trade paperback from all the usual outlets, 27th October 2016. You can pre-order it now, of course. In the next couple of days, I’ll be making up a page on this site, for easier navigation…
August 4th 2016
Warning: this is a long one, and possibly a bit rambling. tl;dr, the title.
The amphitheatre is now little more than a ruin. The gates have gone and the seating disassembled by the unscrupulous and opportunistic to become carts or tables. The shrines have vanished, no doubt after being desecrated, and their niches lay empty and abandoned. The spectacles, the pageants, the contests of my childhood will never return. It is now dark where it was once light. Soon the Saxon wolf will overtake us. Many have left the town already. The rest will leave soon. No one will remain who remembers. Not even me.
Commios Atrebates, circa 390 AD
When I’m down at my mum’s, in the family home in the village I was brought up in, my usual morning running route takes me to the old Roman amphitheatre at Silchester, where I stop, take a breather, and then run back. It’s a very pleasant route – most of my running is usually either urban or in the park – through the back lanes where there’s hardly any traffic at all, and mostly I’m left to my own thoughts as I navigate a twisty-turny course between high hedges and up/down big hills.
It doesn’t look any significantly different from four decades ago, when I used to walk and cycle the same back lanes, and the temptation is to think of the landscape as timeless. It’ll always be that way, and there’s no reason for it to change. Which is, of course, nonsense, and evidence literally stares me in the face at the half-way point: the amphitheatre.
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