For the handful of you who’ve not seen any mention of it, The Gollancz Festival will be taking place in London on the 17th and 18th of September and despite a petition from certain authors, I’m going to be there!
You can find all the details here – http://bit.ly/2caytM5 I’ll be there all day Saturday and as much of the evening as I can manage before I fall asleep, plus the Sunday morning. There’s also, I believe, a bonus event on the Monday night in Manchester featuring myself and a couple of bestselling novelists besides.
Swearing in fantasy – perhaps not quite the most polarising of subjects in the genre, but usually one where people have an opinion they’re unlikely to ever change. For several reasons I went back through my books recently and did a search for how often I’d included the word “fuck” in one form or another, curious at how things might have changed for me over the years. I’d specifically been looking at how sweary my mercenaries in Stranger of Tempest were, how much it was natural and how much I needed to try and be a bit more inventive or entertaining in their cursing.
Some people think there’s no place for it in secondary world fantasy – that it should be era-appropriate or world-appropriate. Others want to hear characters speak in a way that’s familiar, following some idea of realism or authenticity. For myself, I’m a fairly sweary person, but that doesn’t mean my characters should always be.
Doing the sums, it’s clear I’m reminded that I was overly cautious about it in the early days. For Stormcaller and Twilight Herald, while things hadn’t got as desperate as they did later on in the series, Isak is an angry young man from a poor background, and nowadays I realise that (particularly in the first edition of Stormcaller) he spoke a bit too proper, as it were. The more comfortable I got in the series, the more confident Isak became in his role and the more relaxed his speech became. And the more people swore, in part because of that but also simply because there were more veteran soldiers and awful things happening.
I read The Way of Kings recently, and to someone like me it really stood out how Sanderson had avoided real-world swearing. You swap in “fuck” for every time you have “storm” used as a curse and you’ve got a reasonably sweary book, so I found it interesting that he’d avoided the word. Battlestar got around it with “frak” in a way I got used to soon enough, it didn’t distract me, but in Way of Kings it nagged more. My impression of the US is that everyone outside of NY swears a fuckton less than the average Brit and Sanderson is of course writing for the US readership (and standards of US publishing). It’s a market where I suspect many more fans will put a book down at too much swearing, but to me it jarred to so overtly avoid it. I’ll be very interested to see if my language gets mentioned in feedback from US editors as we try to find a publisher for Stranger there, whether anything would need to be toned down even.
There’s certainly a lot more naughty language in the new series. It’s about hard-drinking and somewhat childish mercenaries so there was never a way to avoid that even if I’d wanted to. Moon’s Artifice wasn’t the same sort of book so the numbers dropped there, but for these ones I’d have felt almost dishonest to pretend they weren’t foul-mouthed folk. Like sanitising violence, it can be a tricky slope towards hypocrisy. You spend too much time glorifying it, enjoying the gory detail, and you come across pathetic and sad, but if you hide it you risk cheapening your work and more besides.
Authenticity, or a perceived version of it, is important for some and I can see their point in many ways. But I’m not writing a historically accurate novel and while there are some things that need to be broadly era-appropriate for the level of technology and state of society etc, I’m writing for people who live in the same world as me. Crucially I feel, I’m writing what I hope to be fun, exciting and occasionally irreverent books. To tiptoe around such things when most people aren’t experts in the field forces me to change the style I’m working towards.
If you don’t like swearing in books then that’s an entirely different matter and hopefully from the way the book is presented, you’ll be able to see what style it is before you pay money for it. I’m not out to deceive or offend, but I write for me first and foremost.
So, for those of you who’re interested, here are the figures.
How many fucks I gave in each book:
The Stormcaller: 6
The Twilight Herald: 2
The Grave Thief: 31
The Ragged Man: 52
The Dusk Watchman: 63
The God Tattoo: 12
Moon’s Artifice: 24
Old Man’s Ghosts: 20
Stranger of Tempest: 82
Princess of Blood: 142 (first draft), 71 (second draft) 84 (third draft)
That last figure, I’d not even intended to bring the number up again. I’d gone through every mention of the word and tried to be a bit more inventive or amusing with it – some of them worked, others I realised I just needed to say “fuck” and pretending otherwise would be silly. It’s going to remain on the list of things I’ll check at the end of each draft however.
My sense of humour may be childish and crude, but sometimes I need to rein it in a bit. Indulging myself needs to be justified in every case and one day my kids may be reading this. That’ll be a fun day…
So, I’ve been on holiday and am bewildered to discover the world has not stopped for me. As a result, I’m late about stuff and generally unprepared for reality. In case anyone is interested however, I’ll be at Fantasy in the Court tonight and at Nineworlds on Saturday with a panel in the morning and one in the evening. The rest of the time I’ll be loitering around the bar and would be delighted to be told exactly what’s wrong with my books over a beer!
As for those panels themselves:
First off, congrats to everyone for being shortlisted.
Secondly, here are the figures using my my semi-arbitrary criteria, after which I’ll put some more expanded thoughts.
The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron (Gollancz) – 2k ratings (not looking good for me so far, book 1 has 7k but it’d be a stretch to make that claim)
So, first and foremost, apologies to the Gemmell committee. Clear (and perhaps inevitably) it’s a more nuanced matter as to who’s getting the votes in these awards that I’d characterised.
As for further thoughts about the list. Cameron actually has sold better than I’d realised. They’re not vast numbers on Goodreads or Amazon but very good all the same. He’s got a very successful career in historical fiction I know, but I’m not sure that could explain it by itself. Correia’s fanbase is large and motivated on the awards front so… yeah, there’s that. Interestingly he’s the only one to not have a UK publisher on this UK-based award. Guymer is a Warhammer writer and so far as I’m aware they follow different sales paths – checking Goodreads and Amazon you’d think it’s sold almost nothing, let alone enough to get ahead of folk like Abercrombie on a popular vote.
As for Gwynne and Lawrence, they’re the least surprising ones on the list even if I didn’t think they’d be on it.
And lastly – I’ve got no bloody idea who’s going to win out of that lot! If I had to put money on it I’d go for Lawrence, but clearly there’s a lot going on in this vote so I’ll be keen to see the numbers if they get released. I’m reminded that I originally said it’d be a big old sausage fest, and there I did seem to get it right, but there’s probably a lot to be unpicked by others about the nature of various fanbases.
I’m delighted to say that, because the début class of 2006 was of such exceptionally high quality, Gollancz have decided to release a 10th anniversary edition of each of their four débuts from that year – Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson and myself!
The collector’s editions will be £15 hardbacks with special new covers and are going to look stunning on your bookshelves – especially as a complete set!
More details here, the books will be out in September, just in time for GollanczFest where three of us will be in attendance too.
Oh wait, that’s just the pre-order page for my book. Oops, the actual announcement is this one:
I was doing a bit of checking back in my files and found the cover copy of a book I’ll almost certainly never write – the third of the Empire of a Hundred Houses (probable) trilogy. Given it’s just sitting there, I thought I might as well post it for those who are curious. So, if you are I present you with The Army of Stolen Children:
The Army of Stolen Children
One person’s crime is another’s opportunity. You have to be special sort of bastard to believe that, but cometh the hour, cometh the madman.
The great beasts of the Empire of a Hundred Houses are stirring. After five hundred years House Dragon appears weakened to the other hegemonies – shamed by repeated failure to control the Imperial City while the ranks of their Astaren are bloodily thinned.
Investigator Narin had been looking forward to a quiet life with his new family, hoping the sanctity of the Emperor’s person would keep the city safe. But then a third faction announces itself, one whose origins are too close to home for comfort.
And this time there is no right or wrong, no side Narin wishes to choose. There is only the game of power, played by the high-born rulers of nations, but the opening move of that game is aimed directly at Narin and his friends.
The Army of Stolen Children is coming for them all.
So Wednesday was a little anniversary for me, assuming my memory can be trusted. Nope, nothing to do with meeting my wife, I dunno when that happened. Who keeps track of such things? There is, however, one date that has stuck in my mine – 16th of March, 2006 – because that’s the day I began a published author and The Stormcaller was unleashed upon the world.
Yup, my little (?!) boy Isak is ten years old.
Back then publishing had a different landscape, the interweb was a very different place, and the SFF community was almost entirely foreign to me. I’d just written a book because it wanted to be written. And then? Well it got released into English twice (three times if you count the audio edition), Russian, German, French, Czech and Polish. The English versions of Stormcaller have sold over 60,000 copies between them and just yesterday I got an email from a guy who enjoyed the series enough to take the time to write to me and tell me that, ten years on.
It’s been by far my most successful book; it’s paid a lot of bills and remains something I’m very proud of. Even when I got the chance to revise it I didn’t want to do much, just tidy up a few parts to make them easier to read. For better or worse it’s my debut book and the start of the million+ words that comprise the Twilight Reign. While it may not become a worldwide phenomenon with HBO series or movie deals, it’s still quite an achievement.
Some people loved it, some hated it. Some people wanted it to be another book by Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch (with whom I was published as a trio of debuts… I know, tough company right?), and were furious when they discovered a traditional epic instead. But lots of people loved it and I continue to feel humbled whenever I’m told someone’s read (and re-read) the idle thoughts of this modestly talented writer.
I’ve today sent the full ms of Princess of Blood to my agent and brother for first thoughts. It’ll be my ninth book to come out and this week I’ve had several hugely talented authors say humbling things about book 1, Stranger of Tempest, so tonight there will be wine. While I’ll be raising a glass to Isak, Mihn and all the others (not individually though, the cast list had approximately 500 names by the end) I’ll also be toasting two others in particular – John Parker, formerly of MBA and Zeno literary agencies, and Jo Fletcher, formerly of Gollancz now rightful queen of her own imprint, who saw something in the manuscript that made them willing to put more work in than anyone could reasonably expect.
And lastly, cheers to all of you who bought it. No refunds.
So my stand-alone novella Fear The Reaper is now on sale – the paperback edition anyway, the ebook’s listed as to be released in a week or two. It was a story I started just as a bit of practice and finished as a nice change of pace between finishing one series and starting the next, so I’m very fond of it for a few reasons and I’m inordinately pleased with how it looks now – photos don’t do the cover (by v talented artist Nele Diel, go find her on DeviantArt) justice, the proof I’ve got looks really great sitting in my hand.
So I’d be delighted if you went and bought a copy from somewhere like Amazon. They’re an unpleasant company who’re abusing a monopoly position, but it’s hard to avoid them in this game and I’d be a liar if I said I never bought anything from them so…
However, you could also place an order with me if you like. I’m going to get some stock from Kristell Ink and will gladly sign/date/scribble over them to your exact specifications, charging cover price plus whatever the postage is. If you’re interested, drop me an email and tell me where you’re based and I’ll let you know the cost. I will do drawings if people want, but I’m terrible at them and not even in a funny way, just a kinda sad scrawling way, so buyer beware there…
In case anyone’s curious, here’s what I’m up to at Dysprosium – I’ll be around from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and available to be bought drinks throughout most of that period. You’re very welcome to talk to me too should you want, but I understand that mostly people wouldn’t choose that so don’t feel you have to.
Friday at 17.30 – Cryptids: A Modern Bestiary?
Impossible creatures as the focus of literature and art, with Peter Harrow, Seanan McGuire, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Friday 21.15 – Apocalypse Yesterday:
The Apocalypse has come and gone: what is in store for the survivors? Are post-apocalyptic representations in literature, television and film true to current thinking? Has this changed significantly from Survivors to the Walking Dead? How does this affect people as people and their representation as characters in fiction? With John Bray (mod), Nigel Furlong, Sabine Furlong, and Sarita Robinson.
Saturday – 4.15 – Signing!
Naturally I’ll be the big draw at the Saturday signing. And by that I mean I’ll be doodling the size of the line in front of Jim Butcher… But there will also be Aliette de Bodard, Charles Stross and Adrian Tchaikovsky, so there’ll be a range of fans waiting there and idly wondering who I am.
Sunday 11.15 – Gollancz Room Party
The reprobates in the Gollancz stable will be herded out by judicious use of cattleprods to meet a crowd of people hoping to meet Joe Abercrombie
Sunday 12.15 – Reading!
John Kaiine (whom I don’t know but after a quick google looks like a cool guy, artist, photographer and writer) and I will be doing readings. I’m down as reading from Old Man’s Ghosts as it’s the new book out, but I’ve struggled to find a section short enough so I’ll be coming armed with the first scene of my next novel Stranger of Tempest too – which is brief, a bit bloody, and a little sweary, and thus sums up the book nicely.
But I have now found a scene from OMG so we’ve got a choice, depending on what people fancy and whether anyone’s interested.
So it’s been ten years this Sunday since I signed my first contract with Gollancz. Which remains somewhat astonishing to me, mostly that I’m still allowed to make stuff up when I should be working a proper job… But anyway I was going to do a giveaway of all my books to celebrate when it occurred to me that I’ve done a few of those over the years and it was maybe time to do something different.
Instead, I want your money. Or rather, I want it to go to my local charity. I’m looking for bids on a set of all my published books (that’s the entire Twilight Reign plus the two Empire of a Hundred Houses books, seven novels and one collection of short stories – plus, if someone proves particularly generous, perhaps also a promise for copies of the novella and novel I’ve written but haven’t come out yet).
The charity is Helen and Douglas House, a hospice for children and young adults with life-shortening conditions. http://www.helenanddouglas.org.uk/ – and in case you want to just throw money their way right now, the best place for that is via their website or here - https://www.justgiving.com/hhadh/ – the do brilliant work and are lovely people so well deserving of your generosity.
So put your bids in the comments here, as replies on facebook or twitter or emailed through my website even – I don’t care where, I’ll do my best to collate them and make it clear what the leading bid is. I’ll be covering postage (so kinda hoping for a UK-based winner ;0) ) and I’m open to negotiation when it comes to format, size of winning bid depending – I think I’ve got most of the ones printed – and will sign/dedicate/first line as requested so long as it’s vaguely reasonable.
I’ll leave this to run until Monday morning, get bidding!