At the Speed of Light, six months later

June 26th 2017

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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.

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Workers of the world unite!

May 1st 2017

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates
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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…

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Eastercon 2017 schedule

April 10th 2017

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(Ah, website, I’ve neglected you for so long. Apologies. I’ve been incredibly busy, and now I’ve stopped being quite so incredibly busy for a moment. I’ll catch you all up with the news soon…)

Friday: 6.30-7.30 – Newcon Press books launch, amongst which will be _At the Speed of Light_. Come for the books, stay for the free wine!

Friday 8.30-9.30 – Gollanczfest17 introductory event. I’ll be re-enacting scenes from the epic quest “The Seven Trials of Count von Katzenberg” and drinking more free wine (only one of these things is true, although I’ll show you my aghast face if you really want)

Sunday 8-9pm – Literary beer. You’ll need to sign up for this, probably at Ops. Interactive table talk – and beer – about pretty much everything and anything. Ask me questions. Marvel at my witty, erudite and probably illegal answers.

Monday 10-11am – Populism in SF/F – panel discussion about whatever the panellists decide the title means, but it’ll probably be about the use of populist movements as both plot drivers and social commentary in SF/F. No free wine at this one. Sorry.

Easstercon will be held at the Hilton, NEC Birmingham 17-17 April 2017. Website is here!

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At the Speed of Light is almost here!

January 10th 2017

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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.

  1. I bought a book on special relativity so I could check through what I remembered and incorporate the latest thinking.
  2. 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.
  3. I am currently obsessed with artificial intelligences, how they might perceive the world and how they would arrive at an ethical framework.
  4. You’ll notice some nods to some of the SF greats: Philip K Dick, Arthur Clarke and Larry Niven specifically.
  5. 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’.

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So that’s the second novella…

April 19th 2016

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My first novella was Another War – published by Telos in 2005. I’ve left it rather a long time to write another, but I’m delighted to say that my second novella, At the Speed of Light, has just found a home at Newcon Press. Newcon, brilliantly run by the lovely Ian Whates, has a reputation for producing books that are high quality inside and out. At the Speed of Light is a diamond-hard SF story, clocking in around 45,000 words, and all the action takes place at 99.99999% of c. Expect shenanigans.

Publication is most likely in the first half of 2017.

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Look upon my works ye mighty

November 10th 2015

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates, The Books of Down
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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.

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