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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Locus and Arcanum sitting in a tree…

February 14th 2014

Posted by: in: Arcanum, From the Author, News and Updates
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It’s a long review (as befits a long book, I suppose) and I’m not going to type it all out – it’s the better part of a page. Suffice to say, the reviewer thinks I’ve done rather well, and again, from the comments in the review, I’m gratified that they’ve “got it”. Yes, it’s epic fantasy: yes, it’s science fiction: yes, it’s a deconstruction of familiar tropes but it’s done with reverence and love.

Here’s the conclusion: “Any attempt to summarize a work this enormous, ambitious, and ultimately powerful can only give the reader a few starting points. I needn’t fear disclosing too much plot when so much lies ahead – along with fascinating characters whose actions, fears and ultimate fates become absorbing enough to lift the book well beyond the level of a clever concept. It achieves the drama of the best epic fantasy while taking the form apart and putting it back together, still very much alive.”

Also: book signing! Forbidden Planet! Newcastle! Tomorrow, 1-2pm!

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A Signing in Newcastle, or 5 days to go

January 23rd 2014

Posted by: in: Arcanum, From the Author, News and Updates
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You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to organise one of these things… however, we’ve done it!

The closest we could get to the actual launch date (28th Jan) is the 15th Feb. So not that close. But it’s not bad.

So – Saturday, 15th February, 1-2pm, at Forbidden Planet in Newcastle upon Tyne (59 Grainger Street, NE1 5JE). It’d be brilliant to see loads of people there, and not just because it’s me, but because shops like FP put on events like this to promote authors, publishers, and the SFF genre. If you’re thinking of coming, please hold off buying the book until the event – it’s only two weeks, and since you’re all grown-ups, you know about delayed gratification, right?

There’s also a Facebook page for the event. And obviously, spread the word to anyone who might not hear otherwise but would want to come.

If you’re not in striking distance of either Newcastle or London (where there’ll be a signing at FP in April) or Eastercon (that’s in Glasgow this year), then knock yourselves out and buy a copy as soon as you like! At some point, I’m going to have to go to the US and sign stuff…

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Arcanum becomes a recommended read, or 21 days to go

January 7th 2014

Posted by: in: Arcanum, From the Author
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3 weeks, and things are starting to warm up. Which is nice.

Arcanum has been highlighted by:

The Examiner has it on its list of new books for January – just one of 5 mentioned.

Barnes and Noble has it as one of its 10 SFF picks for January (chosen by their SFF buyer, no less).

The actual UK book has been sighted in Orbit Towers in London: suitable precautions were made to shore the building up before delivery. And in a final piece of news, a book signing is being arranged – watch this space of place, date and time.

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Eastercon 2012 – Olympus

April 1st 2012

Posted by: in: From the Author, News and Updates
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After charging down to London for the Olympic Park 5 mile run (not me, I hasten to add), I find myself back in the Metrozone next weekend for Olympus – the 2012 Eastercon. I’ll be there from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon, and am appearing on the official programme precisely once: the Personal is Political, on the ethics of writing, at 7pm on Sunday in Room 38.

I will, at most other times be found wandering the corridors of the Con hotel (note: no walk-ins: the Con is officially full), listening to panels and propping up the bar. I am, as ever, always up for a chat about stuff in general, the Metrozone in particular, and will sign pretty much anything as long as I’m not going to get arrested/divorced for it afterwards.

With luck and a following wind, I’ll be blogging Eastercon again. There’s also a small matter of the Philip K Dick awards being announced Friday night, Pacific Daylight Time. That’s an 8 hour difference, I think, so if the ceremony starts at 6.55pm PDT, it all kicks off at 3am on Saturday as far as I’m concerned. It’s also being streamed live on USTREAM, so I could, if I was conscious, watch someone else win the award! Feel free to commiserate with the humbled loser on Saturday morning.

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The London signing, and no, I didn’t predict a riot…

August 10th 2011

Posted by: in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
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While it’s unlikely that the Metrozone books are going to get blamed for inciting riots in the real London, it was nice to visit our capital city before it became wreathed in smoke, and hordes of looters made off with armfuls of expensive consumer products – and stuff from Poundland… I suppose the remarkable thing is that it doesn’t happen more often, given the obvious inequalities of not just wealth, but of opportunity and aspiration.

I live in a country where something like 80% of all the places at our top two universities go to leavers from just six schools – five of which are private. My kids don’t go to the one state school on that list, like 99.99% of their cohort. If either of them wants to go to either Oxford or Cambridge, then the odds are already stacked hugely against them, whereas for the moneyed elite, access to the dreaming spires is simply a matter of buying their children places. I’m sorry if I’m coming over all painfully middle class, but despite the fact they have every advantage in life (except fantastically wealthy parents), that’s the reality of it – and, in my own middle class way, it makes me want to burn stuff down. And don’t get me started on the banks.

Sorry, sidetracked there. Back to the signing.

It was lovely – the whole process was lovely. Forbidden Planet staff were lovely, my fellow authors were lovely (even if Nicole Peeler gets all the goodies – apparently it’s a Romance writer thing), and the pub afterwards was also lovely, even if we did manage to clear out their real ale stocks very quickly.

Everything, including the photographic evidence of beardage, is on the Orbit website.

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Signing reminder

July 29th 2011

Posted by: in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
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Just a reminder that Philip Palmer, Tim Lebbon and Nicole Peeler and me – and my beard – will be signing books (presumably ones we’ve written, but hey, we’re an open-minded lot…) at Forbidden Planet in Shaftsbury Avenue, olde London Town, from 3-4pm tomorrow, 30th July.

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The First Annual Orbit Summer Signing

July 8th 2011

Posted by: in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
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… or something like that.

There will be authors -Tim Lebbon, Philip Palmer, Nicole Peeler, and me. There will be books – Tim’s Echo City, Philip’s Hellship, Nicole’s Tempest Rising, and with luck and a following wind, all three Metrozone books. There will, undoubtedly, be some witty banter and authorial sagacity, and there will be the opportunity not only to buy books, but have them signed.

It will be in the Forbidden Planet store in Shaftsbury Avenue,  Olde London Town, 3-4pm on July 30th.

It would be brilliant if anyone’s within striking distance could come along (I know you’re all coming to see Tim, but share the love, okay?).

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Eastercon blog 3

April 25th 2011

Posted by: in: From the Author, Metrozone, News and Updates
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I’m not going to have time to do this in the morning, as I have to be packed and checked out of my room by 10am. And yes, I intend not to be up at the crack o’dawn. So I’m here with a cup of (decaf) tea and my 3G dongle, while the ventilators outside the window rumble away and the lights of the NEC shine through the nets.

Sunday. Easter Day. It’s weird not being in church – it was weird last year, and it will remain weird – attending an SF convention over what is several of the most significant days of the Christian calendar with no religious input at all is a strange experience for someone who has always attended at least two services over the four-day period. Yes, I am at work: not so much selling books, as doing that nebulous networking thing that may or may not produce fruit a month or a year down the line. Being seen and showing willing is almost important as meeting people and saying the right things.

Breakfast was a much more civilised affair – no light opera fans mixing it with the SF crowd – so I get to eat my own body weight in fried food again, wash it down with tea, back to my room to blog. That done, because I’d heard good reports about the pool, and having remembered to bring my trunks and goggles, I headed for the hotel pool.

And very pleasant it was too. Being roughly circular and having a strip in the middle laned off for Proper Swimming, I got into my usual swimming fugue of just swimming quite quickly, not worrying about the time or how many lengths I’d done, not really thinking about swimming at all. There were maybe three or four other people in the pool at the same time – certainly not enough to even be vaguely distracting. Just swim and swim and swim until I felt I ought to come out. To be recommended.

Truth be told, signings and readings are odd things for writers. What if no one turns up? I’d chatted to a few of the dealers, and they weren’t doing fantastic business, the Dealers’ room being much quieter than I remember it from Eastercon 2010 – perhaps the effect of folk having less money in their pockets, fewer attendees, the hotel prices. Also, as I found out from the Forbidden Planet people, the hotel’s restriction on leafleting and putting up posters: always a big part of a con, but not allowed except on the very few notice boards dotted around the hotel.

So I yakked to the FP folk, signed their stock, and flogged a couple of books to someone I managed to dazzle long enough that their good sense and judgement was clouded and their wallet opened. Straight after, there was another author event in the Fan bar. I got to sit next to Stan Nichol, who is lovely, but such was the (lack of) interest, we talked to each other pretty much for the whole hour we were scheduled to be there. The lovely Bella from Orbit graciously plonked a pint of Illustrius in front of me, and Liz Williams passed the authorial ‘Consequences’ game to me for a suitably outrageous addition. I had to work with an enraged giant porcupine in the previous sentence, but I don’t know why it was enraged, and what happened to it after I passed it to Stan.

Also signing was Rod Rees. I’d had my eye on a copy of his Demi-Monde for a while, and he very graciously, because I was his first and only customer the entire session, pressed a newly minted copy of the wonderous Quercus hardback on me, signed and stamped, entirely free. An amazing gift, and straight to the top of my to-read pile.

I had afternoon tea (or hot chocolate in Bella’s case) and played on Bella’s Sony e-reader thingy. I still remain to be convinced of its superiority over the humble paperback, but certainly, for an industry pro, it beats lugging around a dozen manuscripts. They certainly have their place.

The reading. It’s hard, when you’re a classic introvert, to read something you’ve written, out loud, in public. I used to have real problems (as in Too Much Information sort of problems): now I just get incredibly nervous. My secret weapon was BSFA award-winning, Nebula award nominated (and later on that evening Hugo award nominated too) Aliette de Bodard. She’s this tiny bundle of talent who is clearly going places, and I was very lucky to be paired with her – because people came to hear her, and stayed to hear me. I’m grateful. She read a hauntingly beautiful story about the Aztecs. I read stuff that made people laugh. I was even forgiven when I went on too long. But there were cookies and flapjacks as well, and the audience nommed appreciatively.

Phoned home on my steam-powered and increasingly unreliable mobile, then downstairs to hear the Hugo nominations. Orbit have two authors in the Best Novel category: Mira Grant for Feed, and NK Jemsin’s A Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

A long beer in the Fan bar with Roy Gray of Interzone, some mad New Zealanders, and a couple of others – the conversation naturally turned to rocket planes and real ale. And so to bed.

Tomorrow sees me here almost to the bitter end, but not quite. I’ve a panel at noon, and the train leaves late afternoon. I have to assume there’s a world outside the con for me to return to – it does become very bubble-like after a couple of days.

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