Here’s an article about how tough it is to make good money as a writer published by The Guardian a few days ago. Obviously I have a vested interest in such things. As I read it however, it became abundantly clear that my definition of a reasonable amount of money and their idea of a reasonable amount of money are worlds apart. When I got to the part about Joanna Kavenna’s advance for The Ice Museum (non-fiction, sounds intriguing. I’m going to have to read that) my jaw sagged open. And there was me thinking “jaw dropping” was a just one of those idioms that make useful linguistic shorthand. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: literary fiction, money, The Guardian, writing
Tags: Heart of the World, Review, SFX
Book two of the Heart of the World series. From SFX #212, published in 2011.
Author: Col Buchanan
Evil hedonists take on island democrats
Buchanan’s entertaining Heart of the World series continues with an invasion of Bar-Khos by the Empire of Mann. Meanwhile, super-ninja Ash tracks the wicked Matriarch, and Mannian assassin Ché begins to doubt his loyalties.
Stands a Shadow offers plenty –battles, genocide, shipwreck, intrigue, and compelling new characters. Buchanan’s writing is strong; even if he undermines the effect of his descriptive powers by being equally descriptive of plant pots as he is of sieges, he creates occasional moments of total immersion for the reader.
The shoddy geography and linguistics of his world irritate as much as the first time round, and a worrying promise of things to come threatens to undo the power of the first book’s brave finale.
But although one wishes the author would paper over the joins between the tale’s elements more skilfully, we’re discussing the finish. The underlying construction is sound, the story gripping. With steampunk, magical, and historical influences, this is one of the most refreshing new fantasies out there.
Did you know?
Farlander, book one of The Heart of the World, won the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy in 2010. Well done there, Mr Buchanan.
Tags: Death Ray, raymond e feist, Riftwar
This is the second of two interviews I’ve done with Raymond E. Feist, conducted in late spring 2008 for Death Ray #12. He’s a somewhat bombastic, very talkative man, yet unlike some of the “white male writers with beards” contingent I’ve spoken to, his self-confidence (and he is supremely self-confident) never tips over into offensive arrogance. Further points in his favour are his candour, and his professionalism (as far as one can judge it from outside).
I loved his books as an adolescent, but got bored after five or so of them. Although this is standard for me with most writers, in this case it was part of a wider process of disenchantment with epic fantasy. I abandoned the genre in the late 1980s, not returning to it until I began working on SFX in 1997, and then only under sufferance. A combination of my own developing tastes and my urge to experience new worlds and new writers, I suppose. More frankly, I kept reading book after book that was just awful. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy fantasy, and read more of it now than I did. But unlike science fiction, it’s harder to find fantasy’s gems amid the dreck. For a long while I became exhausted looking for them.
You could point at Feist, with his umpteen books, as the bannerman for the franchisation of the genre and its domination by an industry standard of tediously predictable frolics, but so what? More power to him. He writes stories people enjoy, and is rewarded for it. That’s the way it should be. And he is, let it be said, among the better multi-book fantasy saga writers.
Speaking to Feist is a bit like being hit by a very large wave. Overwhelming but fun. When all’s said and done, he’s very hard not to like.
He’s one of the top-selling fantasy authors on the planet, a powerhouse of prose whose 24-book (and growing) Riftwar cycle dwarfs those of even the most prolific author. A real magician of words, He’s Raymond E. Feist, and he likes to talk.
At twenty-four books long, the Riftwar saga is one of the most extensive of all the grand fantasy epics. Written by Californian Raymond E. Feist over a period of more than 30 years, Riftwar began with the smash hit Magician, first published in 1982. Magician is typical of the genre, a huge fat wedge of a book. Beginning with the story of an orphaned boy, Pug, before opening up to cover a decade of interplanetary war. Feist’s books are not art with a capital “A” (his own words), they’re derived from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting he and his friends created while they were at university in San Diego, and contain the full Tolkien menagerie of Elves, Dwarves and so forth. So far, so familiar.
Where they are not typical is in their expert artifice. Feist is a master of fast-paced epic storytelling, his characters are heroic but mortal, struggling through massive wars with enemies both human and monstrous who gain access to his the world of Midkemia via magical “rifts” (we’re talking a wizardly stargate here). Magician is a masterclass in storytelling, a sweeping epic which sees Midkemia plunged into chaos as men from the world of Kelewan invade without warning. Caught up in the decade-long conflict are the boy Pug and his adopted brother Tomas both of whom, by different paths, become powerful men. Feist’s books are set against an intricate backdrop which, though initially it appears to have been drawn from the usual catalogue of fantasylands, is a superior example of the type. On the cover of his latest Wrath of a Mad God, a quote describes his work as “A guilty pleasure”. That this grudging praise comes from The Guardian newspaper says it all – this guy is good at what he does. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Lion Time in Timbuctoo, Robert Silverberg, Short Stories, Ursula Le Guin
In a fannish, book-loving way, of course. Although from his pictures he’s an imposing figure of a man even late in life, I have to admit.
I’ve had a quick, palate-cleansing break from my big pile of Black Library catch-up reading, and wolfed down Lion Time in Timbuctoo by Silverberg. Here’s a quick review of it I posted on Goodreads.
I discovered Robert Silverberg late, very recently in fact. I’d probably read a couple of his stories in anthologies here and there, but even though I’d had a bunch of his stuff hanging around the house for over a decade (a legacy of my SFX days), I only got round to reading his work these last six months. What an oversight. Silverberg has become one of my favourite authors.
This collection of stories from the 90s more than adequately demonstrates the man’s amazing imagination, his brilliance with the language, and, most important of all, his deep humanity. This guy gets people, he gets them like Ursula Le Guin gets them – that’s high praise, by the way.
If you’ve not read Silverberg, I recommend you do. Anything. Not necessarily this book, although it’s as good a place as any to start. My favourite story in this collection? Crossing the Empire. Sublime stuff.
For the benefit of readers of this blog, here’s a list of the stories in this particular book:
Lion Time in Timbuctoo
A Tip on a Turtle
In the Clone Zone
Hunters in the Forest
A Long Night’s Vigil at the Temple
It Comes and Goes
Looking for the Fountain
The Way to Spook City
The Red Blaze is the Morning
Death Do Us Part
The Martian Invasion Journals of Henry James
Crossing Into the Empire
The Second Shield
Tags: Arthur C Clarke Award, David Gemmell Legend Award, writers are nuts
This is a crazy nuts time of year. This is the way it usually goes: Coast out of Christmas, finish off the previous year’s work, hustle for this year’s work, get rained on, get struck down by successive waves of germs brought home by Benny, fill in a ton of forms various organisations I work for all need at once, become enraged by the changes various organisations I use wreak on their services all at once (and without warning), pay my tax (HOWL!) and get mildly miserable owing to a paucity of sunlight. I think I’ll be taking those vitamin D tablets again. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Blood Eye, brand new book review, Giles Kristian, Norse, Viking, Vikings
And this one is TOTALLY NEW! Yep, I didn’t just scrape this off a disk somewhere. It’s a book about Vikings, by Giles Kristian, published around 2007. Here are my thoughts.
I won’t bang on about the plot: Young man meets Vikings, is taken in, finds he is a natural killer and has bloody adventures in Southern England in the 8/9th century. That about sums it up.
I like Vikings, for a whole parcel of reasons. I studied them at university, and married a lady Viking. I’ve had this lying around for ages and fancied something Norse. Blood Eye adequately captures the spirit of the era and is overall entertaining, but there are some major issues with it.
Firstly, although the prose is very well written, the structure is poor, with not one but two pairs of near-identical incidents. In the first act of the book the Vikings are twice invited into mead halls, where friendly feasting turns violent. In the third act, our hero Raven is rescued at the last minute by the unexpected arrival of his Viking pals, again twice. Sure, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, but it’s slack storytelling that should have been ironed out.
Secondly, global amnesia is the hokiest plot device in the world (when we meet the protagonist he’s living in an English village and can’t remember anything from before a couple of years ago. Is he English? Is he Norse? Read the whole series to find out if he’s secretly the son of the king of Norway!) It takes a lot for me to forgive amnesia, and there’s not quite good enough in here for such forgiveness to be forthcoming.
Thirdly, there’s the odd historical inaccuracy (to my mind at least). Pines are mentioned a few times as growing in England, but there are only two conifer types native to Britain – the Scots pine and the Yew. (Yeah, yeah, picky, picky). Pines were never grown widely here until relatively recently. Also, and this is something that I always grumble about when reading Dark Age era fiction, is the level of mutual intelligibility between Norse and Old English. It’s debatable how much, but there was at least some, even the modern descendants of the languages have a lot of similarities, so Norsemen standing around talking loudly about killing Old English speakers in total safety wouldn’t be possible. As I see it, anyway – I may be wrong, I’m sure Kristian did his research.
Bernard Cornwell handles both the “torn identity” (admittedly, it’s a useful narrative in to the world) and language issue better in his Viking stories.
But, the main character is extremely engaging, and it’s well written. Perhaps I’ll check out the others in the series.
A review of Ghost Whisperer from Death Ray 16. Yes! You guessed right, my internal gear stick is out of the “can’t be arsed slot” and we’re into first gear, trundling through old Death Ray articles. Only a handful of big interviews and four issues to go, then done! Huzzah.
TWO AND A HALF STARS
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad, Jamie Kennedy
The show about beautiful girl who can communicate with ghosts coasts on into another year. Rick Payne (Jay Mohr), ghost-whisperer Melinda Gordon’s professorial accomplice and series regular for two years, bows out in episode one, leaving a slot free for another male believer – step in Eli James. Like Payne, he’s an educated man, giving some backbone of learning to Melinda’s folksy wisdom and feminine intuition. Only this one is a modern-day medium too! Eli can only hear spooks, not see them, and lacks Melinda’s experience, but his training as a psychologist gives him both medical knowledge and insight into the minds of the dead. He’s a good mix of greenhorn and pro, the writers (and actor Kennedy) have done well to make the character well-rounded. It’s too often the case with supporting males these days that they are either hunks, troubled hunks, or nerds. A nice addition to the cast.
Other than friends new, it’s business as usual for the fragile beauty. Melinda is trying for a baby in between solving the woes of the departed. In episode two she has to confront her upsetting high-school past, and there are dark hints of a new, series-arching menace to her. In this case it is not a powerful ghost or dark whisperer, but the revelation that her abilities may bring with them a touch of death.
If soapy, heartwarming, forgettable drama is your thing, Ghost Whisperer continues to deliver.