Go where your energy is, and when you come to a point where you need to make a story choice, go with the less comfortable one. It’s only time and paper. Ride the wrong way for a while and see what happens.
– Warren Ellis, from this post.
There exists, for everyone, a sentence – a series of words – that has the power to destroy you. Another sentence exists, another series of words, that could heal you. If you’re lucky you will get the second, but you can be certain of getting the first.
Philip K. Dick – VALIS
[Full Disclosure: My first idea for a title of this post was “I got 99 Problems, but a Ditch Ain’t One (Because I’ve Already Been Digging It)”. I am a terrible human.]
It’s been a while since I posted any writing advice or resources, so let me rectify that now. Near the end of last year I got onto Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace‘s podcast Ditch Diggers. Now, whilst I’m sure there are a hundred podcasts out there related to writing, the thing I like about Ditch Diggers is the way they aproach writing as a job – a job that you should be paid for.
Amongst some writers and readers, there seems to be an expectation that you should only ever create something for the love of it. Now, I see where they’re coming from, because a mercenary approach to art is how we end up with awful film novelisations, tired tie-ins, lacklustre (or downright terrible) film remakes. But on the flip-side, one day I would like to write for a living – so, until we get Universal Basic Income, that means considering the financial aspect of writing – and also, if I create something that has value, why shouldn’t I expect to be paid?
Or, in other words, Fuck You, Pay Me.
I opened with that quote (or maybe paraphrase?) from VALIS to illustrate a point about the merit and beauty of art versus the reality of making a living. That is to say: of course I want to write stories and books that resonate with people, that contain a single line that could heal a person, but I’m not there yet, and I might never get there. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t publish. And that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid while I continue honing my skills in whatever form or genre I choose to write in.
Anyway, Ditch Diggers. Subscribe to it wherever you get your podcasts from, and if you go back through the archives, might I recommend:
Have you read any of Steve Aylett’s books? Have you even heard of the man? Possibly not, so let me evangelise at you about Steve Aylett’s Beerlight books. Over at Tor.com, I give a run down of each of the Beerlight books, providing some choice quotes, and detailing some of the great science fiction ideas in the books.
Over at Tor.com, they were kind enough to let me wite about five books featuring a collapsing New York City: Jack Womack’s Random Acts of Senseless Violence, Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Nnedi Okorafor’s The Book of Phoenix, the comic series DMZ, and Colson Whitehead’s Zone One.
Check it out here.
This was my first interview, and I’m keen to do more. I’m looking forward to being interviewed by someone who’s read Killing Gravity, and having a real conversation about it. But I guess that will probably have to wait until after its release.
This year I set myself the goal of reading 52 books, where a ‘book’ is a novel, novella, story collection, or non-fiction book. Sadly, I have failed in my quest. Not by much, granted, but I doubt I’m going to finish 5 more books in the next 2 weeks.
I set a couple of rules this year, too. First was no re-reads, because I had so many books I wanted to read for the first time, and I knew re-reads would just slow me down. Second was an even split between books by men and books by women. Of course this second rule made me realise how white my reading was. And also, that binary split potentially allows plenty of non-binary authors to slip through the cracks. Which are two things that I’m going to address in my reading in 2017.
Below the jump, find the lists of all the books and comics I read. The stand-outs are marked in bold, and I’ve added some thoughts on some of them.
I mentioned this just briefly last time, but just in case you missed it: did you know you can preorder Killing Gravity? It’s only early in the book’s push – we’ve revealed the cover, but not an excerpt yet, and I haven’t had a chance to do any interviews (and perhaps I won’t – I’m still a nobody after all). But trust me when I tell you, it’s a good book. If you like the telekinetic carnage of Akira, or if you want a space opera that’s focussed on one small group of people and not a huge fight for galactic control, or if you just really like Tommy Arnold’s cover art, then you can preorder it now. You can find it online at Barnes & Noble, Wordery, Amazon, and the Book Depository.
And, OF COURSE, you’ll be able to ask for it at your local independent bookseller. Any bookstore with a decent range of science-fiction and fantasy will be able to source it, and in fact Powell’s already has it on their site for preorder (Powell’s is an amazing store. Bibliophiles simply must check it out if they find themselves in Portland). For my fellow Australians, any store that carries books from Tor.com’s range will be able to order it in for you – like Readings for instance – but depending on the databases a store uses, they might not be able to find it.
So there you go, my very first proper shill. I’m immensely proud of this book, and I hope it does well… if only so enough people hang around and read the sequel that I’ve been wrestling with these past few weeks.
When I woke up this morning my phone was blowing up with twitter notifications, because the Killing Gravity cover got officially revealed at Barnes & Noble’s SFF Blog.
Click the link, go on, click it. You’ll see the awesome cover, with art by Tommy Arnold, and read a blurb that’s so good I want to read the book. You might also notice that Killing Gravity is due out on May 9th, 2017, and is available for pre-order, which is very cool and weird and another one of those things that makes me realise ‘oh shit, this is real, isn’t it?’.
Over at Tommy’s website he posted a version of the cover art sans title, cover quote and that jerk name, which looks a little something like this:
And Tommy was also kind enough to share some of his working sketches on twitter:
In A and C, you’ll see how Tommy was toying with getting Seven into the art too, which I love. Seven is Mars’ weird experimental cat thing, and a special part of the book for me. In some ways, Seven is the heart of the book – I mean, not really, but pet owners will know what I mean when they read it. She’s vicious and loving and lazy and crazy just like any good cat.
But I’ll talk more about that later.
Read this story by Bo Bolander, now. It’s a shiv of a story – short and sharp, ready to get stabbed in under your rib cage: Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies
So, no. You don’t get a description of how he surprised me, where he did it, who may have fucked him up when he was a boy to lead to such horrors (no–one), or the increasingly unhinged behavior the cops had previously filed away as the mostly harmless eccentricities of a nice young man from a good family. No fighting in the woods, no blood under the fingernails, no rivers or locked trunks or calling cards in the throat. It was dark and it was bad and I called for my sisters in a language dead when the lion–brides of Babylon still padded outside the city gates. There. That’s all you get, and that’s me being generous. You’re fuckin’ welcome.