Second One Way map

May 17th 2017

Posted by: in: From the Author, One Way
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Traditionally, if you supply a map in a book, the characters have to go to every damn place marked on it. It didn’t happen for Arcanum, and I’ll be damned if it’s going to happen here. This is a close up of Rahe crater on Mars. Marvel at the detail, and quail at my leet drawing skillz0rs. Or something.

(as before, click for huge)

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One Way map fresh off the drawing board

May 10th 2017

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates, One Way
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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.

Click for huge!

See that oval-shaped crater just on the northern flank of Ceraunius Tholus? That’s where we’re going.

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Workers of the world unite!

May 1st 2017

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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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Cover reveal for The White City

August 16th 2016

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

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Afloat on the ocean of Down

March 4th 2016

Posted by: in: News and Updates, Reviews, The Books of Down
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Well, that was … busy.

First, a signing at FP in London – well attended, I GOT TO MEET PAT CADIGAN. Pat – if you don’t know – was at the forefront of the cyberpunk movement with books like Synners and Fools, and they had an enormous influence on the genesis of the Metrozone and Freezone. And I got to tell her all that after I’d got my breathing under control. They say you should never meet your heroes: in Pat’s case, that doesn’t apply, because she’s as brilliant and funny and sharp in real life as she is in her fiction. And she’s kicking cancer’s arse. And I signed a copy of Down Station for her. I SIGNED A COPY OF DOWN STATION FOR PAT CADIGAN. We’re good here.

Then, a reading at the Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, which is held in the roof-top bar in an outrageously upmarket hotel in Holborn (for reasons that are fascinating, but incidental). Inevitably, my discomfort rose to almost-but-not-quite critical levels, but I adulted and gained admission, whereupon seeing friendly faces calmed me. I don’t what it is about posh, but I just don’t do it. Then when we all reached the top, the full moon was rising red over the London skyline, and that was a diversion, and even though I was down to read third of three, it didn’t matter much. Thank you for putting up with my coarse northern ways, and those in the audience who later admitted to being born and brought up in the north-east but have been travelling incognito since through the publishing world. Your secret is safe with me.

All during that, I was staying at my mum’s, and replacing fence-posts, and trellis, and doing other gruntwork in the garden. Bookended by two roughly seven hour journeys to and from. I was driving pretty much for the whole of Down Station’s launch date.

How did that go?

There’ve been lots more reviews. No, I’m not going to show you the rubbish ones, of which there are fortunately few. As I said previously, it’s not going to be for everyone, however much I’d like it to be. What I want, what I need, is for Down Station to find its audience.

So, from Amazon (and in all seriousness, if you enjoyed the book, leave a review – it does make a difference):

Down Station is one of the most intriguing novels I’ve read in a fair while and I doubt I’ll forget it.

The book has, then, a very engaging and serious moral strand as well as the sheer sense of adventure that comes form exploring – and surviving in – a new land.

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.

And from elsewhere:

To wit, in terms of plot and pace, Morden’s ninth novel is tight and taut—and I’d argue that its relative brevity is a boon to boot. At approximately 300 pages, Down Station is a ways off wearing out its welcome when the literary kitchen closes its doors; though the portion sizes might be on the slight side, chef serves up a satisfying three-course meal here, leaving readers stuffed enough, but not so full that they won’t have an appetite for more when it’s over. And in case you weren’t aware, there will be more, folks: The White City beckons, and after that… why, this whimsical world is Morden’s oyster. (Tor.com)

A shining example of why I think a come back of modern portal fantasy, could make a significant impact on the genre. (Book Frivolity) The actual review is an audio one, linked here.

A twirling mix of fantasy, reality, a strange new land, and strange new people. (Planet Books)

I’ve been asked what the situation with US distribution. Bear with us, because we’re sorting that out. I know for sure that the kindle version is available here, and if you’re desperate for the hardcopy, then one of these is probably your best bet.

Also, The White City is due out Feb 2017. But since it’s written, and edited already except for the line edits, it might be brought forward to the end of this year instead. Watch this space.

 

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Two weeks till the train leaves

February 4th 2016

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

This has been a long time coming. A change of publisher, a change of editor, a change of direction: if I’m trying to constantly challenge myself as a writer, I’m doing it the hard way, it seems.

I’ve wanted to write a ‘proper’ portal fantasy for a while, and now I’ve done it, it’s inevitably not quite like anyone else’s. A portal fantasy is, for the want of a better definition, the pitching of ordinary people into an extraordinary environment. I can check both those off: Dalip and Mary, Stanislav and Mama, are just regular folk, doing their daily jobs, when they discover the entrance to Down. And when I say ‘discover’, it’s literally that. They open a door, and there it is.

Because Down is not Narnia, or Barsoom, or the Pliocene, I have to chase them over the threshold. Down is a world with a conscious magic woven into every leaf, rock and blade of grass. It’s a terrifying, beautiful place, full of danger and wonder. Neither do they find themselves alone, which is altogether more perilous. Down Station is the beginning of the story of how Down sits alongside our world, and their fates are intimately joined together. The story continues in The White City – which, because this is publishing, I’m doing the edits for now, while thinking about launching its predecessor.

I could give you all kinds of spoilers and teasers. Let’s not do that. Here are some reviews:

This is a very fast paced book, with intense moments of danger as well as being full of wonder. There are so many things to discover in Down not only geographically but historically…Morden has written a book full of mysteries that are just waiting to be discovered. (Fantasy Book Review)

Down Station is a fun and interesting read which I zipped through in no time at all! (Books By Proxy)

The world is an interesting and well realised one. The central characters are believable and feel entirely human (though I would like to see more of the supporting cast in the sequel). The plot rattles along nicely, and kept me enthralled to the last page (Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviews)

Once again Simon Morden takes the fantasy genre and moulds it wonderfully…What makes Down Station so great is the immaculate pacing and the way character shapes fate for each of the well-drawn main characters (The Sun)

And a few from Goodreads:

The story was a kind of fantasy that I rarely see, very Robin Hobb-ish, and by the end, some of my questions were answered, and I had a lot more and GOD DAMN IT I NEED BOOK TWO.

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.

Overall, this is an excellent, fast-paced, and satisfying read, and I’m very much looking forward to reading more of Mary and Dalip’s adventures in Down.

Which are all nice. It is, of course, not everyone’s cup of tea – as I discovered with Arcanum, fantasy readers are sometimes quite conservative in what they’ll accept as fantasy, and if it’s too different to what they expect, they’re not going to like it. I’m going to warn you now: Down Station is different. At times, it’s startlingly different. It’ll keep you guessing. It’ll surprise you. It won’t give you all the answers, and the answers it does give are often replaced by better answers later on.

Obviously, I want you to buy it, read it, love it, and talk about it to your friends. That’s because I want this story to entertain as many people as possible – and starving in a garret isn’t a great way to go. But if I was going to go on and wish for one further thing, I’d say this: I want this story to breathe. I want you to imbue Down with life, to think of the rarely-opened doors as you pass them by on the street, to wonder what you’d do in Down and what you’d become. Because that would be brilliant.

I came across a quote from the theologian Frederick Buechner: even though he was writing about this world, it sums up Down so perfectly, I wonder if I hadn’t been subconsciously channelling him.

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

One last thing: don’t forget the signing at Forbidden Planet in London on the 20th February with me and Tricia Sullivan, between 1pm and 2pm.

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Down Station giveaway via Goodreads

January 20th 2016

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates, The Books of Down
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Gollancz are lovely and know that you want to get your hands on a copy of Down Station. So they’re giving a massive 15 copies away on Goodreads. The draw is open now, and closes on February 15th. Follow this link for the right page.

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Love and Fear in Down

January 11th 2016

Posted by: in: From the Author, Metrozone, The Books of Down
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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

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And now the end is near

December 31st 2015

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Not so much near, as here. It’s always a bit odd, as far it goes. New Year’s eve is just another night, like all the others before it and after it. Nothing even happens in astronomical terms: it’s no solstice or equinox, that’s for certain. And these days, it doesn’t even mean that you spend the next few weeks having to rewrite cheques, because you’ve got the date wrong. I’m struggling to remember the last time I wrote a cheque.

And, of course, there’s the enforced reminiscences. I’ve just gone through all the blog posts from here, and all the things I put up on the Book of Face, simply to remind myself what I’d got up to during 2015.

1. Running. A lot of running, in fact. I never used to see myself as a runner, or even someone who’d enjoy running for itself. I used to play football, before I became susceptible to one particular injury that’d leave me flat-out for a week at a time. Football involves a lot of running, but mainly short sprints stretched out over 90 minutes, and not the sustained running for much longer periods. Then I moved on to cycling and swimming and walking, and never thought that much about running until a couple of years ago, when the Girl needed someone to take her to Parkrun, and … bang. I’m up to 94 Parkruns, and on a flat course, I can get home in under 26 minutes. I can also do a sub-1 hour 10k. I could go for longer, and that’s one thing I’m definitely aiming for in 2016. That, and regularly breaking the 26 minute barrier at my local Parkrun.

2. Writing. A lot of writing, in fact. Two novels (The White City and The Alchemist’s Dream), one novella (At the Speed of Light), one short story (Diggers). That’s roughly 220,000 words. But that still only works out at just over 600 words a day. And even though I’ve had no books published this year, I genuinely feel like I’m at the most productive I’ve been for a decade. I got to speak at Greenbelt again this year. I read out a story at the mid-summer Phantoms at the Phil. I’ve changed publishers – Orbit to Gollancz. I’ve a new editor (more by accident than design, and Simon, if you’re reading this, you were brilliant, and thank you) (and Gillian, if you’re reading this, you are brilliant, and thank you). I’ve more projects, finished and potential, than you could shake a word-covered stick at. So I’d like to get moving with those, while still creating new things next year.

3. Ancillary stuff. You all know about The Alchemist’s Dream game already: that’ll get showcased at Eastercon, but also other times and places too. I’d like to have made at least one serious attempt at getting a games manufacturer interested by the time 2017 turns up. More mountains: I spent a week, mostly on my own, in the Cairngorms in high summer, just walking through forests and up glens and along ridges and up to windy tops: I’d like to do that again. And use my writing in different areas: there’s a whole world of screenwriting and non-fiction I haven’t really explored, or had time to explore yet. Let’s see.

If there’s one bit of advice I’m going to try and hold on to, it’s going to be this. Be bold. Which at first sight, is a bit odd, but this will mean me taking risks. It’ll mean making mistakes. It’ll mean failing. It’ll mean getting up again and doing it better. It’ll mean not writing safely or easily, and leaving myself open to criticism. It’ll probably mean upsetting people. It’ll mean not apologising, when my first instinct is always to avoid conflict. I have no idea how this is going to manifest itself, but I have all year. And if I look like I’m slacking off, you have permission to remind me of this.

Watch this space.

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