One year (and a bit) on…

Posted: September 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

Okay, so it’s more than a year since I posted a blog post on this website, and if I’m honest with you, this one here is likely to be the last. I’ve tried to muster up the enthusiasm to write material for the site, but although I’ve been very touched by the comments from those of you who’ve read my ramblings over the last few years, the amount of attention I can capture with tedious stories of my life is fairly small, the effort to write this stuff is fairly large, and my enthusiasm for long-form internet communication has dwindled all the while.

Back when I became a novelist, every publisher wanted you, as a writer, to have a blog. It was regarded as a magical marketing tool, a way for writers to reach out to their audiences and, if I’m cynical about it, for publishers to outsource the responsibilities of marketing to the authors themselves.

Well, maybe it worked in the early days of blogs. They don’t work now. Rubbish writer’s blogs are part of a larger problem with modern publishing which I have neither the minutes nor the inclination to spend on discussing today.

There are writers with successful blogs, but they fall into one of two camps: They’re either already famous, or they are bloggers as well as writers, meaning they blog for blogging’s sake rather than to gain notice for their books. Indeed, one of the writers who fits into both these categories (he’s famous now. He didn’t use to be. His books and his blogging have separately won him his acclaim) is Chuck Wendig, and he has said himself several times that shouting out into crowded cyberscape is no way to garner publicity. The best way to sell books is to write good books. So it has always been. The internet is not an enchanted wand that circumvents this certainty, so I’d rather put the effort into making my fiction better, and let that speak for me.

It doesn’t help that I’m reluctant to discuss anything even remotely contentious online.  You would not believe it from what I have written on this site, but I think. A lot. I enjoy a good debate and exploring other people’s point of view. I’m firmly of the belief that a glowing screen, whose naked worlds are bereft of all the human subtly face to face communication allows, is not the place to have one.

Frankly, I think the internet to be poisonous. It has polarised opinion enormously, almost to early modern levels, a time when religious outrage – and then war, and atrocity – was fuelled by the advent of widespread printing. The amount of shrieking, self-satisfied nonsense belting back and forth across the ether depresses me, whether it is ludicrous misinformation, the astoundingly illiberal attitudes of liberals or the hideous prejudices of the far right. We seem to have lost the capacity to look objectively at anything.

Perhaps we never had it, and the internet has simply laid bare the innate inability of humans to look beyond their own little piece of the world. Either way, call me a coward, but I had one experience of writing a (deliberately) provocative piece, and have no desire to repeat it, no matter that it garnered me a whole ton of hits.

So, the internet itself, perhaps human nature, is the key factor in my decision not to blog any more. A very close second is life catching up with me. My parents are getting older, my son is still young, and I really do have to write five or more books a year. Time I have little of, and blogging requires a lot of time.

What does that mean? Well, I was struck by this comment made by Morvael back in April (anonymity is another thing I don’t like about the net. I like to know who I’m talking to. It baffles me when I meet people in person and they’re surprised I don’t recognise them from their internet comments! Sorry Morvael, whoever you are. You’re a nice person, this aside isn’t aimed at you at all, but at the custom of unaccountable facelessness).

I understand the problem, I have a similar one 🙂 I just worry it may bite you at some time in the future, with such site being a dead weight taking you down in the eyes of the web denizens. Sometimes it’s better to remove an outdated site altogether and replace it with a simple placeholder (for example linking to your books on Black Library, Amazon, Good Reads), than keeping a stale one showing old (outdated and thus untrue) information.

I’m going to take Morvael’s advice. Soon I’ll replace the posts on this page with a simplw bio and information about how to contact me. Of course, all my old reviews and so forth will remain accessible, and I will always answer comments put up here. Furthermore, you can speak with me via Twitter, my Facebook page, wherever else I may be lurking – I always answer if I can. But a dead site is a bad site. It needs repurposing.

This is not an end to blogging altogether. I published a fair bit of hobby material here on Haley’s Comment, I still write it, but it now goes onto the Warhammer Community Website. Seek out my models there, if you’re interested.

If you want to talk to me about serious stuff you can find me in the pub, where we may compare radically opposed ideas in an atmosphere of human amity, rather than as raging robots, tired and frustrated by the petty evils of day to day life, and desiring to wash away our own anxieties in a welter of late-night digital blood-letting. We can make only enemies this way. Be warned, you are never as right as you think you are. Ersatz rage can all too easily turn into the real thing.

As can the blood.

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Brexit had me hiding from social media these last few weeks. It’s precisely the sort of complicated issue that is impossible to discuss on the confirmation bias machine that is the modern web, so I’ve steered well clear. Potted version of my opinion runs thusly – I can see both sides of the argument, and although I was shocked and very saddened by the result, it won’t be the end of the world. Life goes on.

And so moving on. Commercial necessity brought me down from my ivory tower (well, it looks like an ivory tower, but it’s constructed from papier-mache made of the torn up drafts of rejected stories and the glue of scorn) with the release of The Ghoul King last week. I thought maybe it would be a good time to talk about what’s coming soon.

Last month I went to Nottingham to visit Black Library and discuss my schedule for the next couple of years. The upshot of this is that I’ll be writing plenty for them throughout 2016-2017, including a fair bit of Horus Heresy. We made some further, tentative plans for 2018. If you like my Warhammer stuff, you should be happy. I’ve finished Dante, and am literally about to start typing my next project for them today.

Coming out from BL over the next few months are Shadowsword, the sequel to Baneblade. Crusaders of Dorn collects all my Black Templars fiction thus far except The Eternal Crusader. It includes a text version of my audio drama “The Glorious Tomb” and a brand new story, “The Uncanny Crusade”. And of course there’s The Beheading, the Terra-shaking conclusion to The Beast Arises.

In not-Games Workshop land, I’ve three short stories coming out in anthologies; one which I don’t think I can talk about yet. The second is “The Reckoning”, a mythos-slanted take on Christopher Marlowe’s death for Jonathan Green’s Shakespeare versus Cthulhu.

The third should make a few of you happy. I can reveal that I’m finally writing another Richards & Klein story (though this is more Richards than Klein), which will be actually published in an actual book. I did start a novella for self-publishing purposes, but I’ve been held back by my massively packed schedule and a narrative problem – to advance the story, I need to write about what happened to Klein’s wife, which needs a novel, and the novella wasn’t about that so there was an odd jump in the story and well, you know. Time, never enough time. The novella stalled. I will get back on it at some point.

I’m also writing another top-secret fantasy book which I can say nothing about, and finally, I’ve been working on a collaboration with a certain other SF author. We’re close to getting that to publishers, so will announce it when there’s something concrete to say.

 

ghoulking-largeOut this week is book two of the Dreaming Cities trilogy, The Ghoul King.

In a dark, post-apocalyptic future, mysterious angels rule the shattered North American continent in the name of the Lord.

The Knight, Quinn, is down on his luck, and he travels to the very edge of the civilized world – whatever that means any more – to restock his small but essential inventory.

After fighting a series of gladiatorial bouts against the dead, he finds himself in the employ of a woman on a quest to find the secret to repairing her semi-functional machine.

But the technological secret it guards may be one truth too many.

The Ghoul King is out from Tor.com Publishing, where it is available as a paperback and DRM-free ebook in all formats. You can also buy it from all your favourite vendors. Here’s the link for the first part, The Emperor’s Railroad.

The books are a novella series conceived to be akin to a TV serial, with each one being an “episode”. They’re each self-contained, but build a big story. Quinn’s reality features my characteristic deep world building. I believe a good SF/fantasy story should introduce you to a living, breathing world through its characters. I’m not a fan of worlds dominated by a big idea, which beyond being hosts for a single parasitic meme, don’t have a life of their own. I like settings that make you feel if you took a right turn off the page and wandered about, they would appear real. “Whole cloth” worlds, I call ’em. It’s what I strive for.

But good drama is powered as much by revelation as by character, so in each episode of Quinn’s adventures there’ll be some substantial information about the Dreaming Cities. I promise, eventually, you’ll know exactly why Quinn’s world is the way it is…

A review from #SFX249.

TWO AND A HALF STARS

Author: Will McIntosh

Publisher: Orbit

482pp

Genetically engineered pudding

When telepathic “starfish” aliens invade Earth, humanity is in big trouble. Our only hope is the genetically engineered defenders, created to have unreadable minds. But what do you do with a new race created for war when that war is done?

Defenders reminds us of Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson and other, similar tales – a terrible threat, civilisation overthrown, a plucky band of characters who are gradually drawn together, the chapters headed with their names and time-stamped.

But Defenders is a fairly unexceptional example of both the alien invasion and apocalyptic subgenres. Firstly, it’s predictable. Indeed, the first twist, of the defenders turning on their creators, is heavily hinted at in the cover blurb, but it’s not very surprising when the starfish ally with their original enemies either. There’s plenty of handwavium on display too – the aliens can read our minds because, well, serotonin; humanity’s only defence against the starfish, whose invasion starts off very low key, is to create an entirely new race from scratch at the 11th hour, using technologies that are poorly understood; while the starfish’s motives for aggression are not terribly believable.

None of this would matter too much if this were a gripping invasion story, but it is not. It seems to be setting itself up to make a point, but the intellectual content is paper thin, while the war part of it pedestrian. McIntosh writes well, and his characters are great, but ultimately it’s not enough.

Did you know?

Will McIntosh won the Hugo Award for his short story “Bridesicle” in 2009.

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As promised, here are a couple of beastmen. Me and my regular gaming partner are playing a little Path to Glory campaign at the moment. As I’ve bought a fair few beastmen to play with in Age of Sigmar, I had to include some in my warband. The campaign has given me the excuse (if I really needed one) to buy some Slaves to Darkness models too. I find the start collecting boxes great value, so I got one of those and a box of Chaos Marauder Horsemen. Actually, only the Chaos Warriors are currently in my little army, but like I said, excuses to buy more models…

I really enjoy the opportunity to put whatever I like in my army. It works particularly well with Chaos, which is so diverse an alliance. I’ve got a bit sick of painting orruks for the time being, so having that all important gaming rationale for working on a bit of this and a bit of that is very welcome.

One thing I’ve noticed in putting all this stuff together is how constrained the sculptors were by having to get the units in old Warhammer to rank up. The older models, while nerd-ticklingly cool, lack the dynamism of the latest Age of Sigmar products, so I did a fair few arm and weapon swaps on my 30 beastmen to get a bit more variety and some attacking poses.

I’m halfway through the first little lot of ten Gors. Then I’ve ten Ungors to paint. I dismissed these as being puny in game, but I’ve become rather fond of their goaty little legs and their angry little faces. Pictures soon(ish).

Letters to Lovecraft, a book review

Posted: June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

A review from #SFX257.

Lovecraft pic

THREE AND A HALF STARS
Editor: Jesse Bullington (editor)
Publisher: Stone Skin Press
280pages

Love letters to Lovecraft
If your skin crawls at Lovecraft pastiche or sub-par mythos shenanigans, don’t be put off this book. The premise is intelligent – to engage with Lovecraft through his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature”. The eighteen authors picked a quote, and wrote a story inspired by it. The results are variable, and the introduction could certainly have been pithier. But although non-Euclidean geometries and Deep Ones raise their fish-eyed heads, refreshingly the majority of the stories are non-mythos, and all are fiction of the better sort.

Chesya Burke’s “The Horror at Castle of The Cumbernauld” is most affecting. This tale of gross injustice shocks with its real-world horror, and is also genuinely “weird”.

In fact, Burke’s story is so effective it brings into stark focus the problem with modern horror: few of these stories are horrifying, frightening, or even that weird. Lovecraft’s own fiction is so chilling because its wellspring was the real (if repugnantly erroneous) terror he felt for the other. Burke’s story works because it too is powered by strong emotion – she is an African-American writer directly engaging with the terrible engine of Lovecraft’s creativity.

Unlike in H.P.’s time, modern life is too lacking in pain, madness, and fear to inspire terrifying literature. Most of us have enough to eat, and spare pennies to spend on Cthulhu plushies. Letters to Lovecraft reflects that.

Did you know?

Jesse Bullington is a writer who expends his efforts exploring Lovecraft’s mythos. This is his first anthology.