Saturday, December 31, 2011

Joe Abercrombie - Year In Review

Artful Joe writes here about how 2011 unfolded for him, touching on writing, gaming, book sales and general family stuff:
A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – I will admit, not my best.  I’ve written about two thirds of the first draft of A Red Country so far, and I reckon it’s going to need a fair bit of work when it’s finished.  Indeed a couple of chapters near the front might well need total rewriting from scratch, which will be the first time I’ve ever really done anything along those lines.  Why the slightly disappointing work rate?  The house was a mess when we first moved in and serious work didn’t end til April.  Then my new baby appeared, the eldest started school, Skyrim was released … so many distractions, so many excuses, and attempts to routinise the working day haven’t really panned out yet.  Hard to believe I wrote Last Argument of Kings in about 14 months while still working more or less full time as an editor.  But then I had no kids (or just the one baby towards the end) and a long-established plan to work from.  Full time authorship is a bit of a different deal, with an awful lot of additional stuff to do.  But I’ve had a good few days since Christmas, as it goes, and I’m hopeful I can hit my stride a little better next year.  We shall see…

Friday, December 16, 2011

NPR: The Year's Best Sci-Fi, Fantasy

NPR has published their list of what they consider the best Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2011:
2011 was a good year to be a reader of science fiction and fantasy, although lately every year has been a good year: Not only are the books getting more popular — thank you, Game of Thrones — they're getting more interesting, evolving and morphing in weird, fascinating ways.
They're also interbreeding with other genres to produce wild new hybrid forms, like historical science fiction romances and hard-boiled fantasy detective novels. They're commenting on current events and swapping DNA with literary novels.
Brilliant writers like China Mieville and Catherynne Valente are rethinking the basic rules of the game, telling stories that look like fantasy and science fiction, but which make us feel things that those kinds of books aren't supposed to be able to make us feel.
Here are five of the best, most interesting, most mutated science fiction and fantasy novels published this year.
More love for A Dance With Dragons.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joe Abercrombie on Vikings (Skyrim)

(Extra)Ordinary Joe was interviewed for an article at The Escapist and has reproduced the whole interview here:
Well there’s always been a strong current of Viking inspired novels, both historical fiction (like Robert Low’s the Whale Road), fiction that mixes historical and fantasy (like MD Lachlan’s Wolfsangel), and out-and-out fantasy in invented worlds.  And Skyrim is far from the first fantasy roleplaying game to tackle the area.  I fondly remember the hugely flawed but very atmospheric Gothic 3, though it had nothing like the detail and grandeur of Skyrim.  Probably there’ll be some extra interest in the area, in the way that anything successful encourages imitation, but what I applaud about Skyrim isn’t so much that it uses Viking influences, as that it uses them with care and imagination.

N.K. Jemisin Recommends

Over at The Book Smugglers N.K. Jemisin has listed her favourite reads of 2011:
I haven’t had a ton of time to read this year. Cranking out five novels in a 3-year span will do that to a girl. Still, partly because my reading time is so limited, I’m very quick to discard a book if it doesn’t capture me immediately — so what’s listed here are the books that have swallowed me whole and only occasionally let me out for fresh air before swallowing me again. Consider everything here massively recommended, in no particular order.
And if there’s one perk of being a published author that I shamelessly take advantage of, it’s getting my hands on the good stuff early. So apologies in advance, but this list contains a lot of stuff that’s not out yet. More for you to anticipate!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fantasy Book Critic Recommends

Over at Fantasy Book Critic the peerless (and tireless) Liviu Suciu has gathered the covers of his highly recommended books for 2011.

I'm surprised to see A Dance With Dragons so highly regarded (I thought it was meandering and that Martin could easily have cut two thirds of it and folded the rest into book four) but it's nice to see Richard Morgan, K.J. Parker, and Kate Elliot are all well placed.  No Steven Erikson though?  The Crippled God was February 2011; I wonder if Liviu has read it.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Pat Rothfuss on NaNoWriMo

The beardy Mr Pat Rothfuss took a running jump at writing a whole novel in November (NaNoWriMo) and here he writes engagingly about the results:
Now I *did* start a week late. But even so, you have to admit that my graph looks…. um…. sad. One might even call it “wretched” or “sickly.” A particularly scathing person might even use the word, “flaccid.”
I wouldn’t use that word, mind you. But someone might.
When I contacted Veronica to see if she was okay with me using her stats in my upcoming blog, she said something along the lines of, “No problem. Thanks for reminding me I need to get my writing done for the day. I should really quit playing Skyrim…”
Her offhand comment filled me with a burning shame and fury. She was beating my ass AND PLAYING SKYRIM AT THE SAME TIME?
Fueled by shame, I wrote 15,000 words over the next four days
I love hearing about all these fantasy authors playing Skyrim :)


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Joe Abercrombie on 'Skyrim'

Mr. J Abercrombie has been playing the new Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim:
The good news?  There’s loads of it.  While keeping what was best about it’s open-ended forebears, Skyrim triumphantly overcomes the drawbacks.  Well, most of them, anyway.  And it’s in the setting that it really scores BIG.  Skyrim is a nordic, viking-y sort of a place and it’s concentrating on that theme that has really drawn everything together.  Armour and weapons have nordic swirls, houses have dragons carved on the roofs, mammoth-herding giants roam the tundra and dragons haunt the skies.  The fighters guild in Oblivion were some fighters.  In a house.  Who fought stuff.  The Companions in Skyrim are a load of Valhalla obsessed nords who sit round a firepit in an upended longship.  They’ve got an ideology, man.
I wanted to love Skyrim, I wanted to dive in and not come up for air until the spring, but I can't get past the awful, clunky, insipid combat.  The world is incredibly detailed and undeniably immersive; the lore is rich and nuanced; the quests many and varied.  But the combat is bloody awful.

In 2009, when I first played Demon's Souls on the PS3, I worried that the melee combat was so good that the game was going to render all future RPGs pale and worthless.  And so, having gone directly from Dark Souls (the sequel to Demon's Souls) to Skyrim, I'm finding the combat to be very watery: you basically just flail about with your weapon with no real sense of how you're doing.  It wouldn't be so bad if 95% of the quests didn't require combat to bring them to completion.  Maybe I'll try again with Skyrim in a year or so.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Orb, Sceptre, Throne

I just noticed Pat has the cover and blurb for Ian Cameron Esslemont's latest Malazan novel, Orb, Sceptre, Throne:
The epic new chapter in the history of Malaz -- the new epic fantasy from Steven Erikson's friend and co-creator of this extraordinary and exciting imagined world.

Darujhistan, city of dreams, city of blue flames, is peaceful at last; its citizens free to return to politicking, bickering, trading and, above all, enjoying the good things in life. Yet there are those who will not allow the past to remain buried. A scholar digging in the plains stumbles across an ancient sealed vault. The merchant Humble Measure schemes to drive out the remaining Malazan invaders. And the surviving agents of a long-lost power are stirring, for they sense change and so, opportunity. While, as ever at the centre of everything, a thief in a red waistcoat and of rotund proportions walks the streets, juggling in one hand custard pastries, and in the other the fate of the city itself.

Far to the south, fragments of the titanic Moon's Spawn have crashed into the Rivan Sea creating a series of isles... and a fortune hunter's dream. A Malazan veteran calling himself 'Red' ventures out to try his luck -- and perhaps say goodbye to old friends. But there he finds far more than he'd bargained for as the rush to claim the Spawn's treasures descends into a mad scramble of chaos and bloodshed. For powers from across the world have gathered here, searching for the legendary Throne of Night. The impact of these events are far reaching, it seems. On an unremarkable island off the coast of Genabackis, a people who had turned their backs upon all such strivings now lift their masked faces towards the mainland and recall the ancient prophecy of a return.

And what about the ex-Claw of the Malazan Empire who now walks the uttermost edge of creation? His mission -- the success or failure of which the Queen of Dreams saw long ago -- is destined to shape far more than anyone could have ever imagined
Love that title!  Can't wait to read this.  Who do you think that 'ex-Claw' is?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Kindle Lending Library

This seems like it's worth repeating:
With Prime, Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers – as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.

I made the leap to a Kindle last year and love it for all kinds of reasons: this feature makes the device even more useful to me.



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beyond The Veil

October was a crazy month for me work-wise and now I feel like I'm swimming from it to the far shore of the Winter Veil break in mid-December.  I've not had time to post here or write up my thoughts on Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves, which I thought excellent: easily my favourite fantasy debut since Scott Lynch revealed The Lies of Locke Lamora.  

So, I surface briefly and point you to the Inn at the Crossroads, an amusing cooking blog specializing in food served in G.R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series.

Happy November!


Monday, October 3, 2011

Prepare To Die: Dark Souls


Friday, September 30, 2011

N.K. Jemisin: Snippets 3

Here's Part 3 of N.K. Jemisin posting chunks that were cut from her Inheritance trilogy:
This first scene is from an alternate version of The Kingdom of Gods that would’ve been narrated by Shahar. I thought at first that it would be best to stick to the series pattern of a female PoV character, if not protagonist (the story still would’ve been about Sieh) — but the problem with a female Arameri protagonist was that it would’ve been hard not to tread much of the same ground that I did in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Mortal politics with a side of godly shenanigans, that is — when what I really wanted to do was something drastically different. I wanted something that would not focus on the Arameri, though they’d still be important to the tale, of course. Something that would put the gods front and center, instead of those mortals caught up in the gods’ business. For that, I needed the protagonist to be a god — so although I really, really liked Shahar’s PoV, I couldn’t do enough with her. I reluctantly gave it up and started over with Sieh.


Saturday, September 17, 2011


Another excellent Scott Lynch interview; this one from our friends over at Fantasy Fiction:
Well, the setting is in many respects very necessary to any success of the work, because a character like Locke needs a sufficiently complex world to operate in if he’s going to be any recognizable sort of con artist. You need social fluidity, middle classes between the peasants and the nobility, and you need a more generally literate and cosmopolitan society with lots of various forms of banking and lending. You couldn’t have someone like Locke, without the aid of magic, slipping effortlessly back and forth between societies like the Rohirrim and the Gondorians in Tolkien’s work, because the societies are too small, the rituals and class barriers too thick, the borders too guarded, everyone too well known to everyone else of similar rank. A master of disguise could live several different lives at the heart of Rome, but not in a legion camp in northern Gaul, if you see what I mean.
I wanted to keep the supernatural elements of the story, the magic, monsters, and mysteries, rather nebulous and only explained to a certain limited point. I just think they’re so much more effective that way, more beautiful and more scary. Certainly it raises questions in the minds of some readers, and even I sometimes have to curb the wish for more information when I’m reading other books. But dammit, the imagination needs to be flexed as well as fed, and writers should stay in practice with the fine art of omission as well as inclusion.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Firsts in Fantasy: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Over at Tor, Bill Capossere is making a pretty good case for why you should read Steven Erikson's remarkable series The Malazan Book of the Fallen:
Characters that are actually complex, not the faux complexity that pretends to opaqueness but is eventually, comfortingly explained. True complexity encompasses contradiction and confusion. Like real people, Erikson’s characters change their minds, their personalities, have murky motivations or motivations that remain stubbornly unclear or unrevealed. Most of us, if we were honest, would be hard-pressed to say we truly “know” anyone, or more than a tiny handful of people. Why then should we expect to “fully understand” characters?
If you've read this blog for longer than a month it should be no surprise to you that Malazan is my favourite sequence of novels.  I've never read anything so complex or nuanced. It does ask a lot of its readers, but if you have the patience the rewards are rich.  So, as Bill writes: " waited a few years, finished A Dance with Dragons in three days, and now you’re kicking yourself for rushing through it even as you’re jonesing for something else to get you through the next several years until book seven. How about ten books, plus a handful of novellas, plus a promised new prequel trilogy: think that might tide you over?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joe Abercrombie: Structure

One of the things I appreciate most about the internet is how many authors are using it to make the process of their work more transparent.  Many writers have blogs, or use twitter to keep in touch with their fans and I think it's useful for people who want to write, or people who are already published: seeing our problems and issues reflected back is helpful and inspiring.  In much of life, community is the answer.

Joe Abercrombie posts here about developing good habits and adapting ones life to writing every day:
It doesn’t help that most of us writers start out as hobbyists, amateurs, enthusiasts, burning the midnight oil after a day’s work at the day job to get a chapter finished for nothing more than our own amusement, hoping perhaps one day we’ll get published, maybe even make a living from it.  Things change as it shifts from being a leisure pursuit to a work one, and when, perhaps, against all expectations, you’ve finished that book or series you always dreamed of writing and have to think of something new you want to write, digging a little deeper for ideas and methods.  Inspiration and enthusiasm wane, perhaps, over the grinding years, and the shortfall has to be made up by earthier virtues of craft and application.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Interview: Scott Lynch

Over at Threat or Menace there's a new interview with Scott Lynch, author of the terrific Gentlemen Bastard Sequence:

He (Locke Lamora) was originally conceived for, believe it or not, a Star Wars roleplaying game, using the “force adept” class that Wizards put into its d20 version of the game. The backstory was that there was this tiny, out-of-the-way, somewhat idyllic planet that kept itself out of galactic turmoil generation after generation through the efforts of a small corps of Force-sensitive special envoys. They were diplomats, spies, saboteurs. They juggled political crises and bribed officials and arranged quiet coincidences to keep deflecting harm from their homeworld.

Locke was one of those guys, sent out with a bunch of standard-issue tramp freighter yahoos on some mission. The game was sadly quite short, but I enjoyed the character concept enough to keep toying with it. Eventually, I became passionately certain that the character in the book shouldn’t have any supernatural powers, and once I tore them out he became sort of recognizable as the Locke we now have on the page.
Lot's of great stuff in there including which fantasy games Scott played and his thoughts on the fantasy genre.

[source: Pat]


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Cover Art: Orb, Sceptre, Throne

The redoubtable Pat has posted the cover art for Orb, Sceptre, Throne the next Malazan novel by Ian Cameron Esslemont:

Great colours and tone, and I love the title.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Kate Elliot: Some thoughts on openings in novels

The excellent Kate Elliot has posted some thoughts about openings in novels:
Any opening can work if it does work, but avoid what seems flashy or sleek just for the sake of flashiness or sleekiness.  There should be more than one reason to choose a particular point of opening.  Maybe it’s cool AND emotional;  maybe it’s emotional and quiet and has subtle foreshadowing;  maybe it’s kick ass action but so clearly laid out and with such a strong hook for the reader to identify with the protagonist that there’s no problem with the reader feeling distanced from the scene.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Ch 13,14,15

Here are Chapters 13, 14, and 15 of Amanda and Bill's re-read of Steven Erikson's House of Chains:
What an incredible sequence! As Heboric swirls in the blackness, and observes the stars and then the drifting jade statues, I was utterly gripped. And felt a massive sense of foreboding actually: “Thus, the Crippled God was brought down to our world. Through this...this terrible puncture. And these giants...follow. Like an army behind its commander. Or an army in pursuit.” That makes me wonder slightly whether the Crippled God is as bad as he’s been made out to be, to be honest. I only say this because if I had an army of faceless, sexless jade statues that eat otataral coming for me, then I would be getting a bit worried and using what I could to defend myself...
Chapter 13, here
Chapter 14, here
Chapter 15, here


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hamlet's Dead Gay Ghost Dad

So, uh, Orson Scott Card has written a book called 'Hamlet's Father', which is kind of a, shall we say a streamlining of Hamlet; a slimmer, leaner re-imagining for a modern audience.  Which is a fine endeavour.  There have been some excellent interpretations of the works of Shakespeare, from Ian McKellen's Richard III, to Ethan Hawke's Hamlet, except OSC can't help himself from injecting into the play great swathes of his own particular brand of bigotry.  From the Rain Taxi review:

Here's the punch line: Old King Hamlet was an inadequate king because he was gay, an evil person because he was gay, and, ultimately, a demonic and ghostly father of lies who convinces young Hamlet to exact imaginary revenge on innocent people. The old king was actually murdered by Horatio, in revenge for molesting him as a young boy—along with Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, thereby turning all of them gay. We learn that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are now "as fusty and peculiar as an old married couple. I pity the woman who tries to wed her way into that house."
OSC has publicly declared his homophobia... here, and, I don't have much patience for this kind of nonsense, so here's Scott Lynch's elegant response, and Amanda Downum's reaction.

Today is also National Buy A Book Day!

I recommend you head out into the world today and buy a book, any book, even Scott Card's Hamlet book, if you want to, because the best thing to do with any ideology you find objectionable is to share and discuss and examine it.  


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

World Fantasy Convention 2012 - Toronto

Thanks to Scott Lynch pointing out that he'll be at the World Fantasy Con next year, I just noticed it's being held in Toronto (my home town) in November 2012.

The guests of honour include Elizabeth Hand and Tanya Huff, and Scott will be there in some capacity, so perhaps it's time to get some tickets locked in.  The registration rate will increase as it gets closer to the convention so the earlier you join, the cheaper it will be.  Purchase tickets here via PayPal.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Ch 10,11,12

Here are chapters 10, 11, and 12 of Amanda and Bill's re-read of House of Chains:
And then the discussion between Fiddler and Gesler is something else entirely — sharp, with much more going on than is actually said. The philosophy and ideas are perfectly balanced here, talking about the faith and truth required by soldiers. Faith in the soldier by your side, and faith that you cannot die. I particularly appreciate what Gesler brings to the discussion; the fact that faith in your commander is essentially what will give soldiers the other two faiths. There is a real difference then between someone like Tavore and someone like Whiskeyjack.
Chapter 10, here
Chapter 11, here
Chapter 12, here

I am still involved with Martin's A Dance With Dragons, and author Douglas Hulick very kindly sent me a copy of his novel, Among Thieves, which I am anxious to read, so it looks like it will be a while longer before I return to my own Malazan re-read.  I still have yet to read The Crippled God, and I think a part of me just doesn't want to read it; doesn't want this remarkable series to be concluded.


Women Fighters In Reasonable Armor

Here's something fun: a tumblr blog containing artwork of female fighters who are not dressed in some variant of a chain mail bikini.

[source: Boing Boing]


Monday, August 29, 2011

Snippets 2: The God's Realm

N.K. Jemisin, author of The Inheritance Trilogy, has been posting chunks of material that she cut from her books and discussing why she cut it.  Here is part two:
One of the things I had to spend a lot of time on, in creating the Inheritance Trilogy, was figuring out what went on in the gods’ lives when mortals weren’t around to see them. This was something that I knew might never actually show up in the story — the gods are the focus of the trilogy, but it’s their interactions with mortals that matter most — but I still needed to understand it. I’ve heard other writers compare worldbuilding to an iceberg, and I think that analogy fits perfectly: readers see only ten percent, but writers still have to imagine the other ninety. So even though the story wouldn’t spend much time there, I had to imagine the unimaginable: the gods’ realm.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why Does It Take So Long To Translate A Book?

Over on his blog, Pat Rothfuss is answering a question from a fan about translations of his books:
Names are important things. And real names, names that actually exist in the world, don’t make a lot of literal sense. This is because real names tend to accrete and evolve over time.
I work hard to create real-seeming names for things in my world. Names that give a strong impression without actually saying anything. Names like Mincet lane, and Cricklet, and Downings.
These real-seeming (but in reality made-up) names sound really good in English, but they’re a huge pain to translate.
2. I have an odd turn of phrase.
If you haven’t noticed, I tend to make a lot of anormal word usements.
Take, for example, the very first page of the book when I say, “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.”
How do you translate that?
I wish I could speak another language.  I speak fluent shite but that only lets me blend in when I'm kicking around Glasgow.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pratchett's Women

Following on from her post last week about her favourite female characters in fantasy, Karen Miller has written further on Terry Pratchett's women:
Much has been said and written about the inclusion, or exclusion, of female characters in speculative fiction. A common observation made is that, so often, too often, women in fantasy, science fiction and horror fiction are reduced to objects of desire, sexual adjuncts to men, rendered pathetically helpless so they can be rescued, or are killed off as soon as possible in order to provide motive for the male hero’s journey, or pretty much airbushed out of the narrative altogether. Unfortunately there is merit in these criticisms of the genre, but one thing I can say without hesitation: you simply cannot point that particular finger at Terry Pratchett.
I've never been much of a Pratchett reader - what I had read felt like a particular brand of English humour writing, like Jasper Fforde: containing too much of a knowing wink to the reader; a bit too precious and twee - but Karen's comments are forcing me to take another look at Pratchett.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Malazan Re-Read of the Fallen: House of Chains, Ch 7,8,9

Here are chapters 7, 8 and 9 of Amanda and Bill's re-read of House of Chains:
Cotillion’s statements about his view toward Laseen and the Empire of course bring up some questions. After all, in GoTM, we have Cotillion telling Shadowthrone: “Laseen remains our target, and the collapse of the Empire she rules but never earned.” So it appears that either this is a contradiction of character/plot or Cotillion and possibly Shadowthrone had planned to take down Laseen but since then they’ve learned other things that make a strong Empire more important (I lean toward the latter). Others?
Source: Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Joe Abercrombie - Red Country

Joe Abercrombie's next book is a 'fantasy/western', a collision of genres in the same way that The Heroes was a fantasy/war story, and Joe is making progress on the first draft:
So I’ve finished the first draft of the second part of my latest masterwork, workingly titled, ‘A Red Country,’ or possibly just, ‘Red Country,’ we will see on that score.  For those who have failed to follow this blog religiously for the past few months (shame on you faithless scum), it is another semi-standalone set in the world of The First Law, and fusing fantasy elements with western elements, in the same way that The Heroes was a fantasy/war story and Best Served Cold fantasy/thriller-ish.  That puts me about 40% of the way through a first draft, though I suspect there’ll be a fair bit of work to do once the first draft is complete.  Isn’t there always?  Now the terrifying wait for feedback from my editor and readers while I try and sort out what exactly I’m going to do with my next part.  I guess one could say that if Part I was a little bit Searchers then Part II rolled into Lonesome Dove territory and Part III has something of a Deadwood/Fistful of Dollars motif.
I feel a fair bit more comfortable with this second part than I did with the first, as you’d expect or at least hope.  One generally aims to get a better and better handle on the plot, settings and characters as one goes through a draft, until by the time you’re finishing your first draft you know pretty much exactly what you’re aiming at, and editing becomes largely a case of bringing earlier parts into line with that final one.
I’ve made quite a significant change to the personality of one of my two central characters – or perhaps not a change but a clarification, a shift of emphasis and a refinement of style – and he seems to be working quite a bit better now.  In essence, I’ve made him a bit more of a shit than he was before, which tends to be a fruitful direction for me to go in with characters on the whole.  Who knew?
It’s taken me a little longer to get this part together than I’d hoped, what with one thing and another, but if I can up the pace a little from here on in we should still be looking at delivery early next year and publication somewhere around late summer early autumn 2012.  Such is the hope.  But you know what they say about hopes.
Don’t make a parachute out of ’em.
Source: Joe


Karen Miller - Favourite Female Characters

Orbit has tackled Karen Miller and asked her to write about her favourite female characters in speculative fiction (which is what they call 'Fantasy and Sci-Fi'):
Looking at all these favourite female characters, I can see they have a few things in common. They are brave and bold and never defined or judged by their physicality. They’re independent, not relying on men to save them or think for them or be their reason for existence. They love, but love is not their sole function in the narrative. Like Terry Pratchett’s women, they are fabulously interesting and entertaining human beings who just happen to be women … and they live lives of adventure and mystery and  purpose. They don’t exist as props for men.
I'm surprised how much credit Karen gives to Terry Pratchett - I haven't read much of him, and what I have read I found a bit twee - and she may have convinced me to give him a closer reading.  I'm also a little shocked there's no mention of Steven Erikson, whose books are filled with capable, compelling, multi-facetted women.

Source: Orbit


Friday, August 12, 2011

Joe Abercrombie - New U.S. Covers

The delightful and savage Joe Abercrombie has posted new cover images for the U.S. trade paperback re-release of The Heroes and Best Served Cold:
The cover is one of the most important tools a publisher has to actually sell a book – with the majority of books where your publicity and marketing budgets are going to be tiny, much the most important.  If a bookseller really likes a cover they might stock it much more prominently.  If they hate it they might refuse to stock it at all.  A great cover won’t necessarily make you a smash hit, but it’ll certainly go a long way towards it, and a bad cover can without doubt sink a book, so it’s vital that, whatever else, a cover have solid commercial concerns at it’s heart.
I was  bit underwhelmed by The Heroes (I'm a huge fan of the writing but I felt like I was on page 400 before I learned something I didn't already know from Joe's previous books), however I adore Best Served Cold, and really like the new cover:

I have the U.K. hardback but may have to order a copy of this to go along with it.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Snippets 1: The Broken Kingdoms

N.K. Jemisin, author of The Inheritance Trilogy, has posted some of the passages, which for various reasons, she cut from the manuscript of The Broken Kingdoms:
Like many authors, I make lots of false starts in the process of writing a novel. Some had legs, but just didn’t go far enough toward my goal; some were badly-written crap; some would have been beautiful — in a different novel. I tend to keep most of my significant text cuts, just because I’m a textual packrat and I’m always worried I might change my mind about that turn of phrase, this patch of description, and be unable to recreate it just that way if I delete it. So instead of deleting those bits, I store them in “snippets” files, one for every book. I’m going to share a few of the better snips here and explain why I wrote them, and why I didn’t continue them. Note: spoilers will abound in these posts, so consider this your fair warning.
This had potential, and I actually wrote several more scenes from Shinda’s point of view. I’ll post more of them later. Ultimately, though, I decided to remove them because the history of the demons works better as a distant, imperfectly-understood thing — and because Shinda’s story didn’t really add anything to the story. After all, we know his tragic fate. Detailing it would’ve added wordcount, but no forward movement to the plot.
Fascinating stuff.   Read the full article here.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - House of Chains, Ch 5.6

Amanda and Bill lay out their thoughts on the re-read of the Malazan novels; Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of Houe of Chains:
I like this flashback, showing Gamet’s part in when Felisin starts her path towards the otataral mines and then Sha’ik beyond. And Kollen must be Baudin — Felisin’s protector right from the very beginning at the behest of Tavore. From the sounds of it, the new Adjunct knew that she could only protect her parents OR her sister, and chose Felisin. People have been keeping their eyes on her right from the beginning, possibly questioning her loyalty, and so Tavore has had to forge an armour of Cold Iron.
In other news, I'm halfway through A Dance With Dragons, and while it's nice to visit with these characters again, nothing much has happened.  Thus far, it's all filler while we wait for people to take their places.  Right now, I'm anxious to burn through this and turn back to my own Malazan re-read (I am about to start Toll The Hounds), but maybe Martin has some surprises in store for the second half of the book.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Epic Fantasy Chat

Over at Clarkesworld Magazine there is a giant discussion about the question of epic fantasy - what it is, how do we recognize it, why do you write it - and there are some heavy hitting authors chiming in:
Patrick Rothfuss: Honestly? I'm not sure I do [write Epic Fantasy]. As I mentioned above, if you think Epic Fantasy means "big" fantasy, then yeah. Sure, I write it. My books are long.
But if Epic Fantasy means a story that centers around clashing armies, apocalypses, and other titanic, world-changing events, then that's not really me.
I don't care so much about making a distinction between epic and urban and arthurian, and all the other boxes marketing departments put fantasy work into.  I'm just happy so much quality fantasy is being written and published.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Republic of Thieves

There's a new blurb for Scott Lynch's The Republic of Thieves, the much-anticipated second sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora:
Scott Lynch continues to astound and entertain with his thrillingly inventive, wickedly funny, suspense-filled adventures featuring con artist extraordinaire Locke Lamora. Now, in his most captivating novel yet, readers reunite with Locke – and meet the only female Gentleman Bastard. . .

George R. R. Martin has called Lynch "a bright new voice" and his hero, Locke Lamora, "a charming rogue." In THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, having pulled off the greatest heist of their career, Locke and his trusted partner in thievery, Jean, have escaped with a tidy fortune. But, poisoned by an enemy from his past, Locke is slowly dying. And no physiker or alchemist can help him.

Yet just as the end is near, a mysterious Bondsmagi offers Locke an opportunity that will either save him – or finish him off once and for all. Magi political elections are imminent, and the factions are in need of a pawn. If Locke agrees to play the role, sorcery will be used to purge the venom from his body – though the process will be so excruciating he may well wish for death.

Locke is opposed, but two factors cause his will to crumble: Jean's imploring – and the Bondsmagi's mention of a woman from Locke's past: Sabetha. The love of his life. His equal in skill and wit. Locke was smitten with Sabetha from his first glimpse of her as a young fellow-orphan and thief-in-training. But after a tumultuous courtship, Sabetha broke away.

Now they will reunite in yet another clash of wills. For the opposition knows of Locke's recruitment and has cleverly secured Sabetha as their countermeasure. Faced with his one and only match in both love and trickery, Locke must choose whether to fight Sabetha – or to woo her. It is a decision on which his life may depend
I wonder if this oft-delayed book is now nearing publication?

[source: Pat]


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - House of Chains, 2,3,4

A flood of updates from Amanda and Bill on their re-read of House of Chains:
We’ve had brief, very brief, mention of the Forkrul Assail in earlier books — Mappo called them “the least known of the Elder Races” in Deadhouse Gates. Beyond that we simply get their name a handful of times. This is our first real introduction to them then, and it’s a good idea to keep in mind their speed, their deadliness (think of what we’ve seen Karsa do), and their focus on “peace,” which as Amanda pointed out sounds a lot like a synonym for death. Not to mention of course their endurance and will — think of Calm entombed under the rock all those years and still sane. Or at least, seemingly so. (and we will meet Calm again). Consider her hand: “chewed, clawed and gnawed at; though, it seemed, never broken.”
Here are the links: Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4.

I got as far as Toll The Hounds in my own re-read, and was then sidetracked by George Martin's Dance With Dragons (which I'm 45% into), but I expect to return to this remarkable series in a few weeks.  I saved Book 10 for the re-read, and while I anxious to see how everything plays out, I think a part of me just doesn't want to read it; a part of me just doesn't want it to end.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Problem of Karsa Orlong

With Tor moving on to House of Chains, in its Malazan Re-read of the Fallen, it appears Steven Erikson thought this a good time to write an article about his character Karsa Orlong:
    So I ended up punching both ways. It’s a damned wonder I didn’t lose everyone after ‘House of Chains’ (or, more accurately, during the reading of ‘House of Chains.’). Structurally, I could not have introduced Karsa any earlier than I did. After three novels (all subversive in their own, unique ways) I was ready for something more overt—I was ready to take on the barbarian fantasy. At the same time, an entire novel of that relentless point of view would have been one bridge too far. The struggle between barbarism and civilization is not just specific to Karsa or even his tale: it is the struggle within each of us, as we battle desires with propriety, and as we battle need with responsibility. In the remainder of the series, those battles are played out on grander scales. It could be argued that civilization’s greatest gift is compassion—the extension of empathy, even unto strangers, and as such acts in half-formed opposition to barbarism with its pragmatic viciousness, and if compassion must be our shield, it is against our own baser natures.
It's a lengthy and interesting piece, and in it Steven reveals that he has plans for a trilogy featuring Karsa.  Check it out here.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Among Thieves - The Mad Hatter

There's been a ton of praise for Douglas Hulick's Among Thieves, and I really want to read it but, for some odd reason, it's not yet up on the NA Kindle store (even though Kindle U.K. has it).  So, I will have to be content with reading yet another glowing review.  This one curtesy of The Mad Hatter:
Nearly perfect with its execution, Among Thieves is a twisty journey full of intricate layering and unanticipated surprises. Just when you think it can't get any deeper Hulick drops you in a sink-hole that will leave you stunned. Don't rush through the book as you could easily miss important connections that will help you from falling off the path. The pacing is perfect with lots of high-tension. 


Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - House of Chains: Prologue, Ch.1

Amanda and Bill, over at, have begun House of Chains on their fascinating Malazan Re-read of the Fallen:
Gosh, this is a very dark beginning, isn’t it? Siballe’s taking of the sacrifices to create her own hidden tribe, and their foreboding premonition that only one will return from the raid to Silver Lake. I’m accustomed to dark from Erikson, but this is taking the biscuit. *grins*


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Limitations of Womanhood in Fantasy

The excellent and insightful N.K. Jemisin has posted some thoughts on Womanhood in Fantasy:
Let’s put aside more technical definitions of character strength (like agency) and focus on gender roles. I see a lot of women in fantasy who are power brokers, good fighters, sexually assertive or dominant, technically/scientifically and sometimes magically competent — all good things. All in defiance of the kinds of stereotypes that have plagued women in America*. But I’m beginning to wonder if, along with rejecting the stereotypes imposed on women by society, we haven’t also rejected all characteristics commonly ascribed to womanhood — including those that women might choose for themselves. Why is it hard for a female character to be considered strong if she’s self-effacing or modest, for example? Lots of women who are trailblazers and asskicking heroesare modest. This is all of a piece with America’s ongoing devaluation of traditional women’s gender roles, like being a housewife. (Or a househusband; we also devalue men who chose “women’s work”.) I can’t remember the last American fantasy I read that starred a housewife. I’m hoping there are some out there — recommendations welcome — but offhand, I can’t think of any.But housewives can be great characters, if they’re written right.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

George R.R. Martin Interview

The author of the Game of Thrones series is interviewed here and he talks at length about sex, fantasy and 'A Dance With Dragons':
There's no doubt that I've wrestled with this book and the complexity and size of the series, and that may be one reason why my writing has slowed down. But my intent right from the beginning was to do something huge and epic, with a cast of thousands and many different settings.
With the general construction of the books, in some ways I took the Lord of the Rings as my model. Tolkien begins very small, in the Shire with Bilbo's birthday party, and from there, the characters all accumulate. First there's Frodo and Sam, and they pick up Merry and Pippin, and then they pick up Aragorn in Bree, and they pick up the rest of the fellowship in Rivendell, but they're still altogether. But then at a certain point, they begin to go separate ways—Frodo and Sam cross the river, Merry and Pippin are captured by orcs, and Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas are chasing them, and they continue to separate. You get this sense of everyone being together, and then the world gets bigger and bigger.
My scheme is very similar to that. We begin in Winterfell, and everyone except Daenerys is in Winterfell, even characters that don't belong there, like Tyrion. And they set off together and then they begin to split. In that sense my books are bigger than the Lord of the Rings because there are more characters and they split further apart. It has always been my intent, as with the Lord of the Rings, that eventually it would curve around and they would start moving back together. I think I'm reaching the turning point, that's starting to happen now.
Maybe I did make it too big two books ago. But I've thrown the balls in the air and I feel obligated to keep on juggling them as best I can. You can't just forget about some of the balls, you have to deal with the plot threads that you've introduced. If I can pull it all off the way I want hopefully it will be great. And if I don't, I'm sure the world will let me know.


Writing Wrongs - Amanda Downum

Amanda Downum wrote The Necromancer Chronicles, which I thought sometimes uneven but often excellent, with an interesting and compelling character - Isyllt Iskaldur, the Necromancer - at its centre.  Here Amanda composes some thoughts on her novel writing process:
Now that I have a title and a blurb, I have to start worldbuilding. This is the fun part, usually. I have to create the Serpentine Kingdoms, their culture, the gods Ravana and her friends work for, etc. This will involve much googling and reading of Wikipedia, and probably digging through for awesome photos. I could start writing without the worldbuilding, but that leads to the hell of bracket notes. I also need to figure out who the antag is, and what the clashing goals are. That "rival priest" in the blurb isn't a real person yet. Right now I have a first paragraph written, but I can't get much farther until I can see the setting and know who the major players are.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steven Erikson Q&A

Now that Amanda and Bill are finished their re-read of Memories of Ice, Tor is offering the opportunity for people to ask Steven Erikson questions about the novel:
The procedure is the same as it was whenGardens of the Moon, Night of Knives, and Deadhouse Gates were wrapped up. Post your questions to Steven in the open thread below and they’ll be answered by the author himself! Keep in mind that the timing of the answers is subject to Steven’s schedule.
Go here and post your question in the comments section.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Dance With Dragons - Character Refresh

George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons is out next week and since it's been a few years since book 4, Tor thought it might be a good idea to put together a little refresher on where the main characters are just before the book begins:
The Catelyn Stark (Lady Stoneheart): Inhabited with the spirit (“fire”) of the now deceased-for-real Beric Dondarrion, she leads the Brotherhood Without Banners with red priest Thoros of Myr, who is able to revive the slain. Their motives are vague. Last seen hanging Brienne of Tarth for Brienne’s seeming betrayal of Catelyn’s request to protect her two daughters, Arya and Sansa.
Check it out if you're having a hard time remembering where Arya is, or if anyone you love is still alive :p


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Echo City - Tim Lebbon

Orbit is pretty excited about Echo City, the new book from Tim Lebbon, and maybe you should be too:

Echo City lies at the heart of a poisonous desert. It is a place ruled by tradition, where history has been forgotten and the secrets of the past are little more than echoes beneath the dusty streets. The inhabitants of this labyrinthine metropolis know but one truth: they are alone in the world. No life exists beyond their walls.
So when a stranger from beyond the desert arrives, everything they’ve believed in is suddenly proven false. As centuries of tradition and stasis come to an end, different political groups prepare to fight a war for the future of their city.
If you need a bit more of a tease, there's an exclusive extract here.  The Kindle edition is $6.39 right here.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Scott Lynch - Planned Parenthood Benefit Auction

Scott Lynch (author of the sublime Gentlemen Bastard Sequence) is offering up special international editions of his books as a benefit auction for Planned Parenthood:
Planned Parenthood is under siege from maniacs in more than one state; hypocritical lunatics who don't seem to grasp that it offers a broad slate of essential health and life-saving services including STD testing/treatment, cancer screening and preventive treatment, and contraceptive services. Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from spending any of its federal funding directly on abortion services, but that's just not good enough for the lunatics, because it's not really about the "sanctity of life" for them (if it were, they'd show decidedly more interest in the health and safety of those precious little life forms once they leave the womb)-- it's about leveraging all the powers of the state they can possibly get their hands on to control women and intrude on the most private aspects of their lives.

Marvellous!  Check out the auctions here and here.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Malazan Re-Read of the Fallen - Ch 25 & Epilogue

Amanda and Bill close out their re-read of Memories of Ice over here and it's understandably filled with emotion and anguish:
Those Bridgeburners are everything characters should be in novels: realistic, three dimensional, humorous, angry, mournful. Their dialogue is sarcastic and biting, but at times honourable. We’ve seen them despairing, desperate, furious, bantering and soldiering. We’ve seen the very best of them and, dear Gods, I’m going to miss them. Someone asked in the comments why I didn’t mention Hedge’s death particularly in a previous analysis—the fact was, I couldn’t face yet another of the Bridgeburners to have gone down. I love them. And this tiny remnant is almost worse than if all of them have died. The survivors having to dwell on the departed is more than painful.
Memories of Ice is my favourite novel, in any genre, by any author - it has everything I want out of a novel: compelling characters, interesting story arcs, awesome set pieces, pathos, humour, stone, swords... - and following along as Amanda reads it for the first time (and Bill re-reads) has been great fun.

The next in the series, House of Chains, was a jarring change of pace for me and I wonder how Amanda will take to it.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing, Narrative - N.K. Jemisin Interview

Here is an interview with N.K. Jemisin (author of The Inheritance Trilogy) in which she writes about the crafting of her first novel:
Well, I wrote the novel twice.  The first time, back when I first came up with the idea, it was very traditional epic fantasy:  third person, a male protagonist; there was a journey to acquire the MacGuffin of Power (the Stone of Earth), I think there was some swordplay here and there.  Very traditional, and a bit boring.  It didn’t sell — rightly — and I trunked it.  But years later I decided the concept had good bones, so I shed the treatment and started fresh, stopped trying to adhere to tradition and boring myself, and wrote it the way I felt like writing it.  That basically meant using the old novel as a kind of very detailed outline, and otherwise completely revamping the whole thing.
That’s not my usual writing process, though — who can afford to write every novel twice?  I usually write a detailed outline of maybe 15-20 pages, including character profiles and brief worldbuilding notes.  Sometimes I start a wiki — I’ve done that with the Inheritance Trilogy, so I can easily look up concepts or made-up words I’ve forgotten from book 1 to book 3.  Then I usually write a few “test chapters” to get the voice of the story right — I try different characters’ PoVs, different tones, first person and third person, and so on — and once I feel that one of those chapters works, I start writing in earnest.
 The piece is short but there's some interesting stuff in there.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Malazan Re-read of the Fallen - MOI Ch. 25

Over at, Amanda and Bill are tackling Chapter 25 of Memories of Ice.  It's a very large chapter, with lots to discuss, so they broke it down into two parts.  Part 1 is here, and Part the Two is here:
And now here is the price of war writ large: “His gaze fell once more on his few remaining followers. All this, just to get fifty paces inside the gate.” Makes me feel that this is what the soldiers in World War I must have been thinking as they advanced their trenches a few feet and counted the cost. And yet, we know that had this offensive not been launched, the Pannion Seer would have continued to advance and do to other cities what he did to Capustan. Is the cost worth it? When you’re measuring the cost in lives, it’s always a hideous choice to make. A duty—the duty we’ve seen mentioned by people like Whiskeyjack and Paran and Picker.

As always, don't head over there unless you've read the book; these breakdowns are festering with spoilers.


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