June 2013 Archives

While "Neptune's Brood" comes out officially on Tuesday, you might have missed the fact that The Apocalypse Codex came out in cheap paperback in the USA last week. So if you've been waiting for it, now is the time to buy it.

Oh, and it just won the 2013 Locus Award for best fantasy novel!

Important news: although Neptune's Brood is officially published next Tuesday, and Big River Co won't release the ebook early or ship dead tree editions before Monday, I am receiving reports that hardcovers have been sighted in the wild in branches of Waterstones!

And if you want to read the first chapter, Orbit (my UK publisher) have made it available here.

Buy my book; help pay my elderly cat's vet bills.

(We now return to our usual programming, namely me writing too much and you folks haunting the comment threads wondering when I'll post a new update.)

(Sorry 'bout the delay: I've been really busy.)

I have a confession to make: I am not a gamer. No, really and truly. My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, which was so crap that I sold it after two months and bought a Casio FX-702p — a glorified programmable calculator, but I still have it and it still works. I lived computerless until 1985, when I bought an Amstrad PCW8256, and went straight from there to PCs. My computing trajectory therefore missed out the Commodore 64, the Spectrum, and then the 16-bit machines — Atari ST, Amiga, and Archimedes — and then diverged into the UNIX/Linux world. By the time my work machines were able to run games reasonably well, my eyesight and reflexes were those of a thirty-something. Lacking years of twitching (or rather, having keyboard reflexes fine-tuned for vi, not missile launchers), I am consequently crap at almost all computer games.

However ...

Neptune's Brood is due on bookshelves in just over two weeks' time. (And some of you lucky people will probably be able to get your hands on paper copies of it a bit earlier.)

It's set in the same universe as Saturn's Children, but a whole lot later. That one was originally written as a stand-alone novel, so why am I going back to the setting?

"Glasshouse" happened by accident, through a collision of unexpected intersections. But it was a happy accident, in the end.

Rewind to 2003. I'm still working on the last stories that went into "Accelerando", still unsure what comes next, and (I think) working on "The Clan Corporate". To distract myself from going mad hitting magazine deadlines (I'm writing 3-4 magazine articles a month to keep the wolf from the door, for novels at this point only amount to about 50% of my income) I'm fitfully poking at a colony of Sims. (It's amazing how much fun the Sims are, once you chuck the suburban dream narrative out of the window and start getting into surreal architecture, shark pools, and walling your virtual victims up in dungeons.)

And then a book by one of my favourite SF writers is announced—a new title by John Varley. As it happens, I've been waiting about seven years for "Steeltown Blues", the third in the trilogy of Eight Worlds novels that started with "Steel Beach" and "The Golden Globe". So when it transpires that he's written a book about time-traveling mammoths instead, I'm ... well, I'm about as pissed off as those Charles Stross fans who keep bugging me for a third Eschaton novel.

My US publisher, Ace, has released an excerpt—actually, half the first chapter—of next month's novel, Neptune's Brood.

You can find it via this link on Tor.com:

"I can get you a cheaper ticket if you let me amputate your legs: I can even take your thighs as a deposit," said the travel agent. He was clearly trying hard to be helpful: "It's not as if you'll need them where you're going, is it?"

Your perennial Ohio-exiled New Yorker returns, on an urgent mission: To save our beloved New York City.

For decades, somebody or other has been out to destroy New York. From King Kong to The Day after Tomorrow, the aim has proved irresistable--in fiction, and in fact. 9/11 didn't succeed, nor did Hurricane Sandy (although thousands of mice were lost to science.) But what of the inexorable greenhouse-fueled march of sea level?

Since the hurricane, serious people are taking seriously the inevitable and actually talking real solutions. Before we get to that, I'd like to offer my own.

Relocate the city to Ohio.
When Mayor Bloomberg visited Kenyon College to receive his honorary degree (which I presented in Latin--that's me at right, behind), he must have got a good look at our bucolic inland campus. His speech on gun control and gay marriage drew enthusiastic applause. Why can't the mayor return--and bring the rest of the city with him? We'd love to have New York next door, with Indian restaurants and Kinky Boots and all.

After Katrina (Beasts of the Southern Wild), persuasive arguments were advanced against rebuilding New Orleans. It's ecologically unsound, the people are poor, the public schools are a failure. If New Orleans was geographically unsound, what of New York? Been to Battery Park lately? I took extensive notes before The Highest Frontier.

I still favor this option, but for any two New Yorkers you'll have three opinions, so here are alternative scenarios reported by NPR.

Replace streets with wetlands.
This too was a promising recommendation for New Orleans--rebuild the wetlands that act as shock absorbers, scrubbers, and garbage filters. New York, too, is built on landfill, and the Statue of Liberty on what should have been wetland. Let's built streets of absorptive materials that respond flexibly to storms, sponge up the excess water and channel it off. More parks instead of buildings would help too.

Admirable plans, should definitely pursue. But, getting back to that sea level rise, we may be too late to stop with created wetlands.

Build offshore floodwalls.
The Dutch approach; they're expert, it works for them. This approach made it into The Highest Frontier. A SUNY professor envisions a "set of barriers that would span the harbor between New Jersey and Long Island, and another between Queens and the Bronx." This idea is most likely to appeal to the American engineering spirit. A barrier tall enough to keep out anything, and it adds to the skyline.

But can any barrier be tall enough to keep out the rising seas? Or does it just stave off disaster, and make it worse?

Move up, above the floodplain.
Like "the bathtub" in Southern Wild, why not abandon the lower floors? Effectively build on stilts? Eventually steer gondolas down the canals? Some businesses have already chosen this approach, moving "essential equipment" to upper floors. The NYU lab where the mice died won't house mice there again. Maybe Hushpuppy's dad had the right idea. Although it reminds me of that haunting scene of post-human NY at the end of Spielberg's AI.

If you have thoughts, now's the time, probably past time. How shall we save New York? And London, and Shanghai?

One of the giants of 20th and 21st century Scottish literature has left the building.

(As with "The Atrocity Archives" I need to refer you first to the essay I wrote, by way of an afterword, which is included in the book. This crib sheet is about all the other stuff—think of it as metadata about the inception and writing of the novel, rather than the James Bond oriented contents. For the most part.)

boxes of books in my hall

This just arrived, courtesy of UPS. It's one of two boxes; just visible, top left, is one corner of the carton of American mass market paperbacks of "The Apocalypse Codex". Front and centre, of course, are the American "Neptune's Brood" hardcovers — or as I prefer to think of it, the mermaid boobies edition. (Because nothing says "high-concept financial caper novel" or "allegory about banking corruption and the 2007-2008 financial crisis" like mermaid boobies on the dust jacket ... oh well, at least Kirkus gave it a starred review ...)

They exist, they've been printed, and if I got my author copies, it means they're even now winging their way to warehouses and distribution hubs. Launch date is July 2nd, and if you order the ebook or buy from a big box supplier that's when you'll get your copy, but they might begin showing up a few days earlier in smaller stores.

It's an increasingly rare sight, by the way. The industry hasn't yet come up with a satisfactory model for sending complementary ebook copies for authors to hand out to their friends. So I'm wondering how much longer this is going to be part of my working life ...

(If you want to pre-order your own MERMAID BOOBIES dust jacket, with a book thrown in for free—or even some of my other books—you can follow the links here.)

And in other news (from my editor at Orbit) ...

This is going to be slightly abbreviated, because I've already written about the creation of this book — originally written as one big fat brassy thriller/SF novel in portal fantasy drag, chopped in half for publication as two thin fantasies, then reassembled as "The Bloodline Trade" for the UK market — in several places. In fact, for the revised, authoritative version of the crib sheet, read this essay before continuing to the footnotes below the fold.

I'm in Tallinn, Estonia.

Tomorrow, as part of the HeadRead literary festival, I'll be interviewed by Mart Kalvert at the Estonian Writer's Union at Harju 1 in the old town, from 3pm. (This is a correction. Interview at 3pm, not 5pm.) I believe admission is free; in any case, it's going to be shown live on the huge videoscreen above the Writer's Union doorway if you can't get in.

It will be followed by signing of books, and then beer!!, or at least an attempted pub crawl through the old town, starting at Hell Hunt (Pikk 39) at 6pm.

If you can read this, and you're in Tallinn, and you want to come along, you're welcome.

Just dropping in to explain that blogging is sparse this week due to my being in Tallinn, Estonia, without a laptop, for the HeadRead literary festival. Tallinn is in the grip of an extraordinary heat wave, with daily temperatures reaching a savage 22 Celsius -- quite extraordinary for this Baltic state -- so I'm spending my time exploring when I'm not busy doing conference-related things.


normal service will be resumed next week, with a crib sheet post about "The Jennifer Morgue" -- good timing, for on Wednesday I'm sure in a studio to record something related ...

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