Sunday, 20 January 2013

New Sales: Pseudopod and Beneath Ceaseless Skies

It's been a surprisingly good few weeks for short fiction sales, especially given that I haven't had a whole load of time to send stuff out lately, what with all the work on Prince Thief and Endangered Weapon and, oh, that day job thing I try not to think about.

First up recently came Pseudopod, taking my short story Prisoner of Peace - also recently accepted for Eric Guignard's very-likely-to-be-wonderful After Death anthology - and, due to some scheduling mix-ups and my usual confusion, leading to me tying myself in knots over whether a story that had been accepted but not printed could actually be called a reprint.  Fortunately it can, since After Death comes out in March / April time and Pseudopod are planning to run Prisoner on the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing, for reasons that I can't explain without giving the whole thing away.*

Then, soon after, Beneath Ceaseless Skies editor Scott Andrews expressed interest in my Leiber-pastichingly-titled tale Ill-Met At Midnight**, with some reservations ... he wasn't entirely sold on the ending and asked me to make a few changes.  I duly went back to it, while sitting in the roof garden of our hotel in Marrakesh on a sunny December afternoon - one of the most pleasant bits of writing I've ever done.  And it did the trick!

Clearly, there's a moral here.  I now know where I've been going wrong all these years, and it has everything to do with not writing everything in beautifully sunny North African locations.  Expect this to be redressed the very moment I make enough money to emigrate...

* In fact, come to think of it, running it on the anniversary of Nagasaki already gives the game away a bit.  But it's also very appropriate, so I think it's probably okay.

** Which I recently read aloud at Fantasycon 2012, if you happen to be one of the nine people who was there.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

A Review: Adrift on the Sea of Rains

A few months ago, I misguidedly promised Ian Sales that I'd read his (rather beautifully, it must be said) self-published novella Adrift on the Sea of Rains and that if I enjoyed it I'd say something nice about it in public.  I figured I could get away with reading a page or two, dismissing it and then quietly forgetting about the whole thing, having at least been nice enough to splash out on a copy.

Now, maybe I should have guessed from the fact that so many big name authors have expressed their admiration for Adrift - see, for example, Lavie Tidhar's gushing praise here - that my scheme was flawed.  Probably I'd just assumed Ian had preyed upon the basic weakness of every writer and plied them with free booze.  Needless to say, I wasn't banking on Adrift on the Sea of Rains turning out to be one of my favourite reads of the year.

But it was, and a month on from reading it, with nothing else pressing to talk about, it still is ... so I guess it's time I said something nice.

I won't spoil too much of the story, since Adrift unfolds in such a delicate and careful fashion, in such neatly unfolding layers, that you're better coming to it with minimal foreknowledge.  Our cast are a crew of astronauts - or lunanauts? - trapped in an impossible situation by a cruel yet very plausible twist of geopolitical fate, and then offered a tiny sliver of hope and an ever-diminishing window in which to take advantage of it.  How they go about doing so, along with a parallel back-story that steadily fills in the gaps of why things went so wrong in the first place, is the meat of Ian's tale.  Try and imagine something akin to Clarke's A Fall of Moondust had it been written with some of Gene Wolfe's elusiveness and you'll have a fair idea of what to expect.

I know Ian's proud of the hard science aspects of Adrift, and justifiably so; he's brought a physicality and a richness of detail to his tale that's terrifically hard to get right without falling into nitpicking, and without sacrificing the all-important sense of awe that a story like this needs.  But what makes it that bit more fun (and for something so determined to be scientifically rigorous, Adrift is a whole hell of a lot of fun) is how all that rich scientific realism is coupled to such a basically preposterous plot; that Ian takes his believable characters and their believable setting and hurls them at a concept that include Nazi mad science, inter-dimensional travel and cold war paranoia at its most extreme.

It's preposterous, it has no right to work, and yet it does, with remarkable elegance.  It achieves everything a good story needs to and does all of it well, which is greater praise that it might seem on the surface.  And unless you're a certified expert on the US space program, it will probably even teach you stuff - not to mention igniting your interest to know more, so that you can begin to separate out Ian's carefully woven web of fact and fiction.  In short, it's small wonder of modern science-fiction and, if that sounds at like your thing, you really should go buy a copy.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

2012; or, My Damasco Year

At the end of 2011, I wrote about what a tough year it had been on a personal level, what an unexpectedly triumphant year it had been for my writing, and how everything had somehow ended in a weirdly positive place.  So I guess I can't just say the same again this year, right?  No?  Well, okay then.

Anyway, looking back, it feels a lot like stating the obvious.  Any year where you try and write a publishable novel from start to finish around a more-than-full time day job is never going to be easy, and any year where both your first and second novels are released is going to have its moments of pure unadulterated awesomeness.  It's almost impossible to look back at 2012 right now and believe that I managed to cram so much of either into it; that this time twelve months ago I was putting the finishing touches to Crown Thief, waiting for Giant Thief to come out, and getting ready to move to London to start my new job.

Now London is my second home, Giant Thief's release seems an awfully long time ago, even has been out for a while, and all my energy is going into finishing the second draft of Prince Thief and ending a story I started five years ago, with no idea at all of what I was getting myself into.  For me, 2012 has definitely been the year of Easie Damasco, and I'm deeply glad that for every reader who's failed to get on with the despicable reprobate there have been plenty more who've taken him into their hearts.  It's more than he deserves, frankly, but it's still pretty amazing to realise that my books are out there in the world and that Damasco, in however small a way, has broken and entered his way into the minds of complete strangers.  Hard work it may be, but this novel writing lark definitely has its rewards. 

But what's really surprising is all the other stuff that's happened.  I didn't expect to get much else done in 2012, all things considered, and I was reconciled with letting the other strands of my writing - all those many, many strands! - fade into the background for a few months.  What a nice surprise, then, to win my first writing contest, via This is Horror and Spectral Press, and as a result to have my first chapbook published, meaning I ended up with not two but three whole books out in one year.  And how unexpected it was that I managed to get a bit of short fiction out there, and even, just as the year began to expire, to make a few good sales. 

Now I get to look forward to 2013, and to think hard about where I go after Damasco and I finally part ways.  I know I should have at least two new books coming out, in the shape of Prince Thief and, (in some more not-entirely-expected good news), the first Endangered Weapon B trade paperback - not to mention the German edition of Giant Thief and the audiobook of Crown Thief.  But who knows what else might happen?  The same goes for my planned projects; right now, my agenda for the coming year involves finishing Prince Thief and the second volume of Endangered Weapon for the end of March, then writing a science-fiction novella, then writing at least one draft of a new, as-yet-untitled novel while simultaneously rewriting my second book War for Funland more or less from scratch,  plus putting together a short story collection and likely writing a second graphic novel that's been at the drawing board stage for a while now.

But good plans are made to be unplanned, right?  And really, I'm mainly saying this so that I can look back on this post in twelve month's time and feel stupid.  Because, as the bloke from Stingray so famously never said, anything can happen in the next twelve months.