December 10th 2013
Got sent this in the post over the weekend – it looks rather smart, especially with the quotes from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus on the back. It’s almost like a real book! Clicking for bigger is virtually compulsory…
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.
September 1st 2013
I don’t think I’ve posted this yet, so here it is: it is indeed very shiny, and the lettering is simply gorgeous. I’ve now written a book with the title in flaming letters! Yay! In case there’s any confusion about the publication date, it’s not November this year – it’s the end of January 2014. I’ve only just signed off on all the proofs and stuff, and even the mighty machine that lurks at the heart of Orbit Towers doesn’t turn that fast…
(click for bigger)
July 24th 2013
Well, I can hope.
Actually, that sounds a bit curmudgeonly – what I’m trying to say is that once the page proofs are out of the door, that’ll be it. I won’t own the story any more, because it’ll be on its way to becoming yours. The proofing of the book has been, er, problematic, and that’s probably all I want to say on that front. Suffice to say, what errors remain are hiding really, really well, as this must be the most proofed manuscript of recent history. So once I turn the paper marked ‘page 768′, I’ll be done.
If you want to know what 768 sheets of A4 look like, wonder no more:
I’ve just over three weeks to do all this. See how I suffer for my art…
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.
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 14th 2013
Simon’s UK publisher here. Next week marks the publication of the fourth Samuil Petrovitch adventure The Curve of the Earth. To celebrate this momentous occasion, we’re incredibly excited to be able to offer you a chance to win a limited edition of Thy Kingdom Come in association with Pornokitsch
The book is signed by Joey Hi-Fi and Simon Morden himself, and tells you all you ever wanted to know about the apocalypse that led to the breakdown of social order and the establishment of the Metrozone.
The winner and three runners up will also receive a set of three limited edition Samuil Petrovitch stickers. These beautious specimens detail various Russian swearwords, common Petrovitch usage, and a very English translation.
This competition is now closed. Good luck to all those who entered!
Please note this competition is open to UK residents only. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
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?
January 16th 2013
So marketing didn’t like the title of the fantasy brick. After thrashing around several ideas (many, many severals), this is what we’ve come up with: Arcanum. A good Latin word, meaning a secret. And if there’s one thing the book is full of, it’s secrets.
A thousand years after Alaric the Goth crossed the Alps with his rough alliance of northern tribes and wild, spell-wielding shamans to crush the Roman empire, Europe has become an almost civilised place.
Despite the wars that wash across the continent, the little mountain kingdom of Carinthia remains untroubled and untouchable. Rich through trade and centuries of peace, it owes its success to being the home of the Order of the White Robe, whose legendary hexmasters can destroy whole armies by turning the field of battle into a glittering lake of lava.
Magic is Carinthia’s wealth, its protection and its way of life. So what does a magic kingdom do when it runs out of magic?
What indeed. Arcanum is now mostly finished. It’s the most ambitious story I’ve ever attempted. It’s certainly the longest – the first draft was over 300,000 words, and I’ve got that down to 280,000 in the second. The most gratifying part of reading the manuscript through was that when I was encountering words that I hadn’t seen for over a year, it still read well and felt like the beginning belonged to the end, despite it being so far removed from it.
The other joy was finding that, despite all the statecraft of contending kingdoms and principalities, it remains intensely (and often uncomfortably) personal for the characters involved. If I’ve learnt anything from writing the Petrovitch books, it’s this: make sure there’s always something to lose. And there is, on every page: status, wealth, power, knowledge, love, life, legacy – the whole kingdom, even.
Arcanum is due out in November. There’s still a bit of work to do. But there will be maps. I’ve never written a book that needed maps before.
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