Tuesday, 23 April 2013

First Date / For Life

A couple of new short stories out this month...

Firstly, we have First Date up at AE - The Canadian Review of Science Fiction, in which a young man goes to a futuristic brothel, of sorts, and gets something very different to what he bargained for.  Honestly, I'm not sure where this one came from!  I guess I must have been thinking a lot about sex and the future ... those are pretty normal things to think about, right?  Anyway, as science fiction that I wrote maybe six years ago, I think it holds up pretty well.  I really like the central idea of ordinary people being commoditized and then marketed to each other.  I mean, I don't like it, but it's certainly something that's happening more and more as an aspect of social media - which admittedly I can't really pretend to have predicted, since it clearly existed six years ago.  Oh well!

By contrast, I know exactly where For Life - available for readage at Flash Fiction Online - came from.  I was living alone in North Shields, in an area that was far too reminiscent of Silent Hill for comfort, doing a job I hated with a passion, not seeing much of anyone and writing Giant Thief and trying to stockpile a bit of cash, because I'd heard that it tends to come in handy.  Reading For Life now, it's a weird mix of fact and fiction, and it would probably be a disservice to anyone who reads it for me to untangle the two ... suffice to say that the stuff with the swans is more or less true, the rest more hit and miss.

Right then.  They're both pretty short, so if you read quickly, you could probably get through the pair in ten minutes.  Consider it a challenge!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Prince Thief Handed In

Wow ... so, yeah, Prince Thief is done.  Done, dusted, and handed it in to Angry Robot and my agents.  Actually, it's been handed in for over a week now, but I'm still getting to grips with that fact; it's going to be a while before my brain accepts that I can go a day without writing about Easie Damasco and not worry that I might blow my deadline.  It's hard to know just how to feel about something like finishing your first novel trilogy.

Who would steal this man?
I mean, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't relieved.  Writing two books in a year apiece around full time work has been about the toughest thing I've ever had to do and, for a variety of reasons, writing Prince Thief has been harder than writing Crown Thief.  (Just for starters, the first draft of Prince Thief was over 10000 words longer than the final draft of Crown Thief.)  It's fair to say that for the last thirteen months, I haven't done a great deal except work, write, eat and sleep - and I haven't done anything like enough of that last one.  In fact, that's basically my plan for the rest of this month.  Asides from brief consciousness breaks to do my day job, I'm going to sleep until May.  And it's going to be brilliant.

But ... I'd be equally lying if I said I wasn't going to miss Damasco.  And Saltlick and Estrada and Alvantes, not to mention the Castoval itself, a setting I've only grown fonder of as the series went on. I've spent over five years with these books, and it's weird to think of that coming to an end.  Five years ago I'd have laughed derisively at any writer daft enough to refer to their characters as if they were real people, to suggest that said characters had come to seem almost as real as their friends and family.  And in fairness, I'd have probably been right to scoff, but there it is; I'm going to miss Damasco, and it's strange to know that where I leave him at the end of Prince Thief is where we go our separate ways for good.

Is no one safe from Damasco?
Not that that's a bad thing, don't get me wrong.  Ever since I began to consider expanding Giant Thief, I thought in terms of a three book arc.  There's no doubt that Prince Thief ties up the wider story that I started all those years ago, and I'm comfortable in saying that there isn't a plot thread or character arc that doesn't get wrapped up by its conclusion.  (I'm sure someone will correct me on this eventually but hey, right at this minute I'm okay with saying it.)  Sure, there are other Tales of Damasco that could be told (and one that I'd have kind of liked to tell) but I'm looking forward to starting the next big thing, to trying something completely and absolutely different and putting all of what I've learned about writing novels into practice without the constrictions I inadvertently set myself with Giant Thief.

But that's a ways off.  In the meantime, I started my next graphic novel today, a sci-fi horror thing called C21st Gods that feels as if it's been gestating forever.  And hey, it's not like I don't still have the copy edit on Prince Thief and my own last check-through to do, at the very least.  I guess I haven't entirely said my goodbye's to that reprobate Damasco yet!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Eastercon 2013

This year's Eastercon had a lot to live up to.

Last year's was possibly the best of the conventions I've been to, with a comfy, modern venue and something not far off the perfect balance between entertainment, edutainment and providing a suitable venue in which to drink too much with friends and complete strangers.  Not to mention George R R Martin chillin' in the bar, the Iron Throne sitting in the lobby and, oh yeah, the fact that I met my partner Jobeda there.
No idea who these two are.

Meanwhile, Eastercon 2013 (henceforward, EightSquared) was set for a major weekend anyway, what with it coinciding with the deadline for me handing in Prince Thief - and with two novels plus a chapbook behind me, it felt like it might just be my first 'Con as something other than a newbie author.

With all that baggage, it shouldn't be taken as too much of a criticism to say that EightSquared was good rather than great.  In fact, given that it was organized in half the time of last year's, it's actually a fairly large compliment.  The only things that really let it down were the venue, (nice enough, but sorely in need of a larger bar space and some food that hadn't been brought in from the local school canteen) and a lack in the sort of ambition that's needed to shake up the UK Con template and drag in bigger, wider crowds.

Which isn't to say there was no ambition on display; only that, where it was most noticeable, it seemed to have gone into getting the nuts and bolts stuff right.  The Eightsquared committee made no bones about their commitment to gender parity and from what I saw they pulled it off, thereby setting the example that everyone else will be expected to follow.  I was also pleased to see a serious attempt to cut down on the staggering paper wastage that tends to go on at these things, (and hey, I say this as someone whose book would have been a freebie if they hadn't wisely steered away from that whole big bag o' books thing.)

As far as content went, most of what I made it to ranged from solid to excellent, and the events that I was in on all seemed to be well received.  Of my two panels, the one of superhero movies got a bit bogged down in fandom nitpicking (as such subjects will) while the one on older female characters in Fantasy and why there are so few of them, which I'd worried might be under-attended due to an early slot on the day the clocks sprang forward, turned out to a real success; I felt that by the end we'd made some good, important points.  For sheer fun, though, my favourite commitment of the weekend was the Graphic Novels Selection I did on the Friday night with Stephen Aryan, C E Murphy and Alys Sterling, wherein we basically rattled on about some of our favourite comics to a small but obviously enthusiastic audience.  I was definitely heading towards sloshedness by that point, and there are few more enjoyable things that prattling on tipsily about things you love to a group of people who seem genuinely interested.

Who would be fool enough to give Ian Sales a raygun?
As usual, though, the choicest pleasures of the weekend were to be found in the bar.  It was great to catch up with some old friends, to get to know people I've only met in passing before, and to meet a whole load of people who will hopefully become friends down the line.  One thing that Eastercon gets right more than any other Con - and I have no clue how they do this, something in the water maybe? - is that everyone is amazingly friendly, cheerful and eager to get into an in-depth conversation at even the slightest opportunity.

Oh, and speaking of friends, let's close with a huge well done to Ian Sales, whose novella Adrift on the Sea of Rains - which I heaped praise upon a few weeks ago - picked up the BSFA award for Best Short Fiction.  The full results can be found here.