January 11th 2016
One of the philosophical concepts I had to consider when writing Down Station was that of Libertarianism. Down has a great deal of space, and natural resources, and people are free to do whatever they want, in that they are literally free. Down has no government, no imposed order, no unifying code. Down is – deliberately so – a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which anything can be written.
And given that abundance, and given that space, it could reasonably expected that people would individually or in small groups, set themselves up and live free lives, unfettered by a morass of rules and restrictions. Down is made for liberty.
One of the practical criticisms of Communism is that it doesn’t allow for human nature: that, having taken away the incentive for personal gain, no one will do the necessary grunt work, resulting in an impoverished, collapsing society. The only way thereafter to ensure that the farms keep harvesting and the machines keep turning is coercion. In other words, fear.
It’s also a practical criticism of Libertarianism. Having elevated the concept of personal autonomy to be paramount, there is an inevitable conflict between personal autonomies. Human nature, being what it is, will again result in an impoverished, collapsing society. Fear of the other – the non-aggression principle being as much use as a candle in a hurricane – is the only law.
There are, I believe, two reasons to … I’m not even sure what the word for the concept here is, since experience tells me that my ethical standards are the product of both my choices and my upbringing, and that’s the same for all people, at all times … I’m going to go with ‘follow a set of moral rules I have not wholly designed for myself’. So, sorry, sociopaths.
One is fear. It could be a social fear – shame – that leads compels me to fulfil my obligations. It could be judicial fear, the fear of personal or financial sanctions, that means I keep the law to avoid prison. It could be a more visceral, violent fear, that pain will follow if I don’t comply to an order or expectation. Fear is a powerful incentive, but only applicable if I think you can carry out your threat. If there’s no chance of sanction, there’s nothing to stop me from doing whatever I want, should I wish to do it.
The other is love. Love works all the time, even when there’s no one looking. Love is not an overseer. Love leads me to follow the Golden Rule (expressed positively as ‘Do to others what you would want them to do to you’) far more effectively and completely than fear ever will. Mutual respect for the other person, philia, and the urge towards charity, agape, are the cornerstones on which we build our communities.
I can imagine a communist society that’s inspired wholly by love. I can (with a greater stretch) imagine a libertarian society that’s inspired wholly by love. The problem with both of these is that humans are not generally wholly inspired by love, and those of us who try to be, are not all of the time. And even in the post-scarcity environment that say, the Freezone aspires to, communism is much more likely to be successful than libertarianism. The Freezone acknowledges our natural urges: that’s why there is human governance, and that it is exercised in tandem with an all-seeing AI.
My personal view is that libertarianism is just as capable of crossing the event horizon as communism. Human nature will produce a Somalia or a Congo as readily as it will Stalin’s USSR or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. But we don’t even have to go that far to see that those who have lost their fear of consequences act out their ambitions on the streets of our largest cities: libertarians don’t seem to be moving to those places we consider ‘lawless’.
There are nuances here: considering the nature of minarchies, and ‘night-watchmen’ states alleviates some of the problems, but still leaves the fetishisation of property rights unchecked, and that the only right of the poor is to starve to death.
Down, while not a paradise, had the potential for a new start. That it turned into a brutal, unforgiving world is not its fault. It’s ours.
Down Station, the first book of Down, will be published by Gollancz on February 16th 2016
December 4th 2015
(photo credit: Peter Humphrey Photography)
It’s a little over two months to publication of the first Book of Down, Down Station. Which means the wheels of the publicity machine are slowly grinding into life (fortunately, it’s not all left to me, because no one will hear of it otherwise…).
There’s been three reviews so far – and all of them good, which is a relief, because no one needs a crap review at this stage in the game. They are, in no particular order:
Fantasy Book Review, who give Down Station 9/10. Which will do for me. “Morden has written a book full of mysteries that are just waiting to be discovered.”
Books by Proxy, who slap on 3.5 hearts/4 stars, and opine, “Down Station is a fun and interesting read which I zipped through in no time at all!”
Random Redheaded Ramblings, hefts 4 stars at it, and lo: “This is an interesting read with a great new world to immerse yourself in, it is fantastical and thrilling, a great book to add to your fantasy/sci-fi shelf.”
There is further news, however, news which had me all a quiver, and I still have a frisson when I think about it. There’s going to be an audiobook of Down Station – complete and unabridged, clocking in at a mighty 11 hours and 17 minutes – from those lovely people at Oakhill Publishing. And they’ve got Cathy Tyson to read it. Cathy Tyson’s been in lots of things – but people of a certain age (my age…) will always remember her starring opposite Bob Hoskins in the 1986 Neil Jordan film, Mona Lisa. That Cathy Tyson. Which, when you realise what Down Station is about and who one of the two POV characters is, is the absolutely perfect choice. Good work.
November 21st 2015
When you were a child, was there ever a door, a gate, a wardrobe, that was always locked and you were never allowed to see inside? Can you remember what it was like when you finally got to see what was behind there? That feeling of anticipation, of wonder, followed by … what?
Too often, disappointment, because as the door swings wide, there’s nothing but the mundane beyond. Sometimes surprise, as all your expectations are swept to one side and replaced by what really lies within. Sometimes… probably best not talk about those times, because that’s the stuff of nightmares. Very rarely, then, do we open the door and find exactly what we were hoping for.
I have a fascination for these things. Locked doors. Abandoned buildings. Hidden, forgotten secrets. Discovering that there are underground stations in London that once existed, and are now gone from the map, thrilled me, just as it has done for many writers before me. And I won’t be the last either.
Down Street station is a real place. It was used during World War II as bomb-proof offices, for the Railway Executive Committee, and for sometime by Winston Churchill. After the war, it’s only been used as an emergency exit point from the Underground.
Which is exactly what I wanted it for.
“As the wall of heat drove them back, the taller man reached out, straining for the push-bar, to drag the door shut again. Instead, he fell into it, and it began to swing out wide.
The air itself seemed to tear in two.
Instead of fire, there was water.
A wave slapped through the open doorway, and a gust of wind blew into the smoke-filled corridor, dragging a spiral of soot outwards and away. It curled into the blue sky studded with clouds shaped like torn sheets, and a bird – a seagull – darted by at head-height. It wheeled back for a second look, before flapping once and soaring towards a tall headland of jagged black rocks.”
November 10th 2015
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, News and Updates, The Books of Down
Tags: At the Speed of Light | Down Station | Gollancz | The Alchemist's Dream | The Books of Down | The White City | writing
Now to return you to our regularly scheduled updates…
Firstly, an apology: it appears that the ‘comments’ part of the site is broken, and has been broken for some time, possibly months. I don’t have the permissions to delve under the bonnet to try and fix things, so I’m going to have to find someone at Little Brown to sort this for me. I’ll post again when it’s done.
Secondly, writing. I’ve been busy. Really busy. So I’ll break this down into bits.
Down Station: you’ve all seen the spiffing cover, designed by the wonderful people at Blacksheep. I’ve gone through the page proofs, sent everything back, grabbed a couple of the uncorrected proof copies at GollanczFest in Manchester (more on this shortly), and it’s ready to go. The publication date is set for 18th February 2016. Think of it as a late Valentine’s gift.
The White City: the sequel to Down Station is written, and the manuscript is with my editor. At some point, probably before Christmas, I’m going to have his response, and then I’m going to have to sit down and forge the best book I can from the somewhat ragged draft I sent in. It’s all part of the process. And there’s still no map.
At the Speed of Light: what? What’s that? I’ve written a novella. A hard – diamond hard – SF novella of 35,000 words, doing pretty much what it says on the tin. I’m hawking it around at the moment, but people I’ve shown it to are saying nice things about it. All the technical details in the story are, as far as I can tell, correct.
The Alchemist’s Dream: I’m sorry, I’ve written another novel, entirely unconnected and pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever written before. It’s a cross between Jeeves and Wooster, and Holmes and Watson, and Arabian Nights. If you wanted to classify it, and I’ve no idea why you would, it’s a historical but fantastic fantasy entirely without magic. Or swearing, which is a bit unusual for me, but I wanted to try and tell a story using all the traditional story-telling elements, including places where you can boo and hiss at the villains, cheer the heroes and slap your thighs to your heart’s content. So while it’s not all entirely serious, it still is. I wanted to have fun, and I did. Hopefully, you will too.
The Alchemist’s Dream, the board game. This is the last, I promise. When I started the book of the same name, I realised I needed to invent a board game to go in it, as it’s pivotal to the story. So I did. Then it got a little out of control, and I ended up with an actual board game, with rules, fully playable, and I’m commencing beta-testing it shortly. I’ll post more about it shortly too.
September 11th 2015
It’s official, because Gollancz have said so. Publication date is 18/2/2016 (and you can, of course, pre-order it from your usual outlets, not just The South American River).
The cover. The cover is gorgeous. It is compulsory to click for bigger.
Furthermore, if you follow the Gollancz link bove, you can enter a draw to win one of three proof-copies, and get your hands on my limpid prose long before anyone else does.
Lots more of Down Station to come in the next few weeks and months.
June 16th 2015
I have been officially busy, and progress (not this kind of progress) has been made.
Firstly, a correction. Phantoms at the Phil is on the 3rd July, and not on any of the other dates previously advertised. Today was going to be the day I started writing my story. I’ve been enveloped in a cloud of post-book exhaustion, so will start tonight. Or tomorrow morning. Honest. Tickets usually sell out, so get in while the going’s good.
Secondly, I have done made a book. The White City (being the Second Book of Down) is wholly extant at 97,000 words*, and while parts of it are eye-poppingly strange, I think it works. Some of the plotting is deliberately audacious, not so much as to challenge you, dear reader, but to stretch me as a writer – being comfortable isn’t a place where I want to be. It’s off to the agent, and subsequently to the publisher. Down Station (being the First Book of Down) is scheduled for release on 18th February, 2016, and The White City will probably follow a year later. Or maybe sooner if a slot falls free. I have seen a rough cover for Down Station, and it’s gorgeous. So it’s definitely happening.
Thirdly, I am at Greenbelt again this year, and will be talking about writing faith well – using the examples of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. I appreciate that last choice is a little risky, but bear with me, it’s brilliant. The talk is currently scheduled for Monday afternoon in the Literature tent. I also note that me and AL Kennedy (also appearing) share an agent. Hopefully we can meet up and compare notes about how fantastic he is…
Fourthly, the second-ever Gollancz Festival is now extended to two days, and I’m provisionally booked in to be in London on the 17th October.
That’s about it so far – keep well, keep safe.
* eagle-eyed readers will note that on 13th April, I said The White City was just over 30,000 words. Two months later, I’m at 97,000. I’m quite pleased with that.
April 15th 2015
While Monday’s post dealt with the past, today’s looks forward, because, you know – science fiction and all that.
I’ve already mentioned that Arcanum wasn’t submitted for the Clarkes, despite being in the very strictest sense, an utterly SF book. It has, however, been submitted for the David Gemmell Awards, which is decided by popular vote. I am very aware of my place in the food chain, and there are proper fantasy writers on the list who outrank me in every way. All I’m going to say here is that it would be nice to make the shortlist, and for that, Arcanum needs votes, which you may deliver here. If you’re looking for heroes, then Peter, Sophia and Frederick aren’t such a bad bunch to emulate.
Down Station has a publication date, which is February next year – that means a whole year without a book. It does give me some time to both recharge the batteries, and more importantly, write. The White City (being the Second Book of Down) is progressing, and will be done by summer. After that, there are a multiplicity of options, but only one of me to do the work. Despite that, I already have two books in hand, so I do need to choose wisely.
I’ve agreed to do a couple of short stories: one ghost story for the perennially popular Phantoms at the Phil event, which is performed, live, by the authors, to a full house in Newcastle’s Lit and Phil library; and another for an anniversary anthology. Short stories were what I started on, and I find writing them a peculiar kind of joy. On one hand, they’re bloody difficult to pull off, on the other, the satisfaction when you manage a really satisfying ending is out of proportion to the length of the thing.
On a slightly sideways note, I returned from Eastercon to find a royalties cheque waiting for me. For Another War which, after 10 years, has earned out its advance. That, comrades, is playing the long game.
Next year, as well as Down Station, will see me crossing the pond to be Guest of Hono(u)r at InConJunction in Indianapolis. Which will be … interesting. I’ve never been a GoH before, anywhere. I’ll try not to blot my copybook between now and then, or at the con itself. I’ll take advice, because I don’t want to make n00b mistakes, but it’ll still be me no matter what. You’ve been warned.
February 10th 2015
Posted by: Simon Morden in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates, The Books of Down
Tags: appearances | Down Station | Eastercon | Gollancz | Metrozone | Samuil Petrovitch | The Books of Down | The White City | writing
It’s 2015, and I haven’t posted anything yet this year. For which I apologise, because it’s not like things haven’t been happening – a lot of stuff which isn’t appropriate to share, because Internets. But in and around all the disasters and set-backs and frenetic busyness that’s going on, writing is still a thing.
So: Down Station, being the First Book of Down, has leapt over the hurdle that is the editorial stage. We’re now onto the copy-edit, and as soon as I know the proposed publication date, I’ll let everyone know. It is, reasonably said, a strange and wonderful story. If I was going to describe it in a sentence, I’d call it ‘a grittily realistic fairytale’, and I trust that’s going to be enough to intrigue you to want to read it.
The White City, being the Second Book of Down, is in the process of being written. I’m about a fifth of the way through, and it’s shaping up very nicely.
Both Down Station and The White City are going to be published by Gollancz, who are ‘my new publisher’.
What does that mean for Sam, Maddy, and the rest of the Freezone crew? I’m not sure yet. I have an extant first draft of Petrovitch 5, The Edge of Space, so yes, there is more to come, I just don’t know when. There will, with luck and a following wind, a sixth following on from that.
I am officially booked to read a new ghost story at the Lit and Phil’s ‘Summer Phantoms at the Phil’ evening, on the 19th of June – as opposed to last year, when I was (literally) the last-minute stand in. You’ll get a new ghost story, too. I have Ideas already.
I’m also going to be at Eastercon again – no news yet of panels etc, but feel free to come and say hello.
That’s about all for the moment. More as it develops.
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