June 2015 Archives

2014 saw the publication of two long format Laundry Files stories—the novella "Equoid" and the novel "The Rhesus Chart", the fifth book in the series. I wrote them at different times and for different reasons, but they share a common theme. (It was also around this time that I got the memo from editorial at Ace—all series of three or more books must have a series title—and was handed "The Laundry Files"by default.)

So let me tackle "Equoid" first. "Equoid" has an origin story all of its own, which I've described at length (and I don't have the energy to repeat myself). What I didn't explain in that essay was why I went with unicorns.

hardback book

Yes, I've got a new book coming out real soon now: "The Annihilation Score" (US kindle edition) (UK kindle edition) comes out on July 2nd in the UK and July 7th in the USA (yes, different publishers release books on different dates: who knew?).

Amazon and the big bookstore chains won't sell you a copy ahead of schedule, but if you happen to be in Edinburgh on Wednesday July 1st I'm going to be reading from (and signing copies of) "The Annihilation Score" at Blackwell's Bookshop on South Bridge at 6:30pm. The event is ticketed but free; tickets available from Blackwell's, more event information here.

If you really, truly can't wait to get a taste of the book, Tor.com will be running an extract on June 30th (and I'll be mirroring it here)!

In addition, I'm going to be doing an AmA—Ask Me Anything—on Reddit's /r/Books subreddit on Wednesday July 8th at 2:30pm ET (7:30pm here in the UK), and (needless to say) talking a lot about the Laundry Files and "The Annihilation Score" for a couple of weeks. Including, if I remember, writing the Crib Notes to "The Rhesus Chart" (now that it's out in paperback) and trying not to give too much away about the overall trajectory of the series (hint: book 7 is mostly written, and I know where book 8 and 9 go in considerable detail—yes there's a series story arc).

What if you want your very own signed hardcover book and can't make it to Edinburgh on July 1st?

Well, Blackwell's will have signed stock to hand after that session, and are happy to sell via mail order: their contact details are here. In addition, Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh's specialist SF/F bookshop, will also have stock and are happy to ship signed copies of the Annihilation Score anywhere on the planet: ordering details here.

Finally, I'm going to be in the United States for Sasquan, the 2015 worldcon, so by late August there are likely to be signed copies available in Seattle and Spokane, if not further afield—and I hope to be able to announce a reading, signing, or other meet-ups in Seattle and Spokane nearer the time.

I grew up reading comics; but unless you're British and of a certain age, they almost certainly weren't the comics you grew up reading.

I'm British, ~50 years old. The weekly printed-on-crap-newsprint kids' comics market was dominated by D. C. Thompson & Co., rigidly gender-segregated, and on the boys' side of the counter contained plenty of short strips heavy on two-fisted derring-do and schoolboy humour, but not so much on superheroes: comics like The Beano and The Hotspur set the tone. For the more militarily-minded there were Commando comics. And, like a bolt from the blue, 2000 AD arrived in 1977, when I was twelve and just about growing out of the whole comics thing; that probably kept me hooked for an extra year, and I have fond memories of the early tales of Judge Dredd. But then I discovered D&D and that was that.

It's a truisim in fiction publishing (as well as movies) that nobody knows anything about what the next big thing will be. The best we can get is some vague entrail-reading on the part of editors, who see far more hopeful monsters cross the transom (or arrive in their submissions email queue) than you or I can ever expect, and who therefore may have a slightly tighter grasp on the zeitgeist than those of us who form our judgements on the basis of new arrivals in the bookshops—arrivals which were commissioned or bought 2-3 years ago.

But what if we could make testable predictions about trends?

(Hugh Hancock here again. Charlie's still beating the squamous and eldrich tentacles into malleable literary form, so I'm filling in for a few days. He'll be back soon.)

It's a weird time right now.

That's true in general. It's fascinating watching sci-fi authors like Charlie sprinting increasingly fast to keep ahead of the Bear Of Social And Technological Change. But it's specifically true right now for storytellers of all stripes, from comics artists (which category, somewhat to my surprise after two decades of movie-making, now includes me), to writers, to games designers, to filmmakers (also still including me).

Over the last year or so I've been taking a step back from my previous single-minded pursuit of performance capture and Machinima to get a broader understanding of the opportunities for anyone who wants to tell stories right now. Whilst Machinima has been pretty good to me, letting me travel all over the world, giving me the opportunity to pretend to be a Muppet on live CNN, and letting me tell stories ranging in scale from feature films to experimental arthouse shorts, it became clear to me that the landscape was changing pretty fast and I was probably missing out on all sorts of interesting things. So over the last year, I've experimented with comics, game development, prose fiction, a little bit of app development, virtual reality and filmmaking in many and various flavours.

And it's no exaggeration to say that the world of a lot of these artforms has been upended -- or in some cases entirely created -- in the last decade or so. And the next decade's going to make the last one look comparatively stable.

So what media are going to rise? Which are going to fall? Is VR going to look awesome then fail to deliver again?

I've got no certainties, but I do have some hunches and a lot more information than I had a year ago.

Feature Films

Right now, the world of indie feature films is fucked up.

(Hi - Hugh Hancock here. Charlie is still grappling with a Laundry Files novel, so I'm helping fill in this week. He'll be back later.)

Just why is Cthulhu so popular?

Sure, H.P. Lovecraft's horrifying vision of an uncaring universe is pretty good stuff. Sure, he was one of the first writers to tie all his creations into a single semi-coherent universe. Sure, he was drawing on and remixing ideas from older writers too, such as Robert Chambers' "King In Yellow".

But there are a lot of great fictional universes out there -- even great horror universes. What is it that makes writers -- including both Our Gracious Host, Charlie, and myself -- gravitate so hard to the big squid?

This is something that I've been thinking a lot about recently, because almost all my artistic output at present has a strong Cthulhu flavour. Notably, even the title of my just-released comic is taken from the Mythos and its forebears: Carcosa, the City By The Lake in which the King In Yellow waits.

So why does the Mythos have such draw? Is it because the Mythos is classic?

Absolutely not. It's because, comparatively speaking, it's modern.

The Cthulhu Mythos is almost 100 years old. And it's the most modern part of our mythology that we're allowed to access.

A product testimonial of sorts:

I've now had my new retina Macbook for about two weeks, and completed my first multi-day trip from home with it. Verdict: it's not perfect but it's a keeper. On the other hand, it raises some disturbing questions about the future ...

I get asked this question a lot, so I'm going to answer it once, definitively, here on the blog: where are the UK audiobooks?

(More specifically: "The Atrocity Archives" and "The Jennifer Morgue" were released as audiobooks in 2013. Why aren't any of my other novels available as audiobooks outside North America?)

I'm going to tackle this in two stages: first with a bit of background, then with an FAQ.

My Dark Age adventure, Shieldwall: Barbarians! is Young Adult, meaning, in this case, Sharpe or Conan but without the shagging, and with slightly more moral compass - really you can read it as being "in the tradition of" Harold Lamb and the Pulpmeisters of Yore and ignore the YA tag. When I wrote it, I had in my head "Robert E Howard does Rosemary Sutcliff (but not that way (though they would have made a lovely couple))".

It's also an old-school young officer story, albeit with a barbarian prince as the protagonist, and it's set in the Dark Ages during Attila's invasion of Europe. 

All this seemed like a good idea at the time.

So I have been defending Traditional Eurocentric Quasi-Medieval Fantasy (Traditional Fantasy for short), and in the process growing a thicker skin.

We've done "Piss off, I enjoy this stuff" and why I think it needs saying. The latter  part of that - OMG the Bad People are Beating on the Pixy Folk -- was perhaps a little controversial. However, it's not everyday one gets compared not just to the "puppies"* but also to the "gators"**!

*Black Gate Magazine, where I blog, of course turned down a puppy nomination. It shouldn't take much empathy to imagine how that felt, and how easy it would have been for us to collectively shrug and plaster our stuff with "Hugo Nominated" - this isn't just about getting a pretty badge, it's about how our hard-won careers shape out.

** As for the "gators" comparison; I'd put in some time meditating on my male self-entitlement except I'm too busy keeping house for my more dynamic wife, facilitating my daughter's interest in science and astronomy, and bringing up my son to, among other things, treat people as people rather than "other" them because they have a different perspective.

My next post, "The walls are high, but the sandbox is lovely", being more about literature, led to an interesting discussion with some bemoaning of the way that Traditional Fantasy still seems so dominant (is it dominant?)

Elderly Cynic made a very perceptive comment:

Actually, the modern stories are NOT built on European history, so
much as the tradition of romantic fables ('Arthurian'), and that is
very much a Western European phenomenon.

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