A podcast of Scienceville is now live

I'm happy to say that my novelette Scienceville, which first appeared in Interzone and which is also available to download here for people who subscribe to my mailing list, is now also available as a podcast from Starship Sofa. The Starship Sofa podcast has been running for years now, and it's one of the best science fiction audio drama podcasts going, indeed perhaps even the best. The story is narrated by Thomas Pipkin, who does a terrific job of handling all the many accents, both male and female.

If you want to take a listen, go here


Libraries, and why they're important to writers as well as readers.

Apart from the fact they're a really good place to borrow free books, libraries - and I'm talking about British libraries here specifically - can be a source of sometimes significant income for a writer.

I'm not sure enough people are aware of this, and since a new annual payment has just rolled around, I think it's worth highlighting. Every year, the UK library service takes all of the loans its made of an author's book and pays the author based on the number of loans. The amount of money varies from year to year, but this year, it's 8.2 pence per loan.

That's one of the great things about UK libraries; not only do they let you find writers you like for free, they still pay the author. Yes, it's a minimal sum, but it's also a good way for people to find writers they like - and to later go and buy their books instead of just borrowing them.

Again, 8.2 pence a throw might not seem like much, and it isn't: but it adds up, and fast, especially if you've got a good few books out, like me. It's one of the things I look forward to and factor into my annual income.

This year, I'll be getting about £450 in total - the equivalent, at current exchange rates, of $620. It's not the highest, or the lowest, payment I've had. The lowest was £251 in 2008, the highest £840 in 2016.

I had ten novels published through Tor, and all are represented in the latest statement. Extinction Game this time around has the highest number of loans: just under one and a half thousand. Against Gravity has the lowest number of loans, at just 67. All the others range between that figure and the one for Extinction Game.

You can see how it adds up quickly. That money goes towards food, bills, mortgage, etc, etc. and the  less libraries there are, the harder it will be for most working writers. So if you can't afford to read my books or anyone else's, remember: every time you borrow one of my books, I will benefit. 


New Year, New You!

So, you know, I've been busy doing stuff, and some of that stuff has been on Patreon (see the link on the right).

I feel slightly awkward shilling for myself in this respect, because, as I've said in the past, I don't see myself as being terribly good at doing things like hand making chapbooks or dashing out quickie short stories for an exclusive audience: I'm more of a quietly-working-in-silence-and-refining-everything-to-the-nth-degree type of writer. Patreon is really a form of performance - musicians using Patreon perform music, artists post artwork, and writers write in whatever public ways it's possible to do that.

But I'm not really a performer that way. Instead, I've been posting some occasional exclusive and more semi-exclusive stuff. Over the past three months, my few Patreon supporters have got from me: a couple of deleted chapters from Survival Game (including story notes), a short story first published in a Scottish sf magazine, and a novelette set in the same universe as Extinction Game and Survival Game.

Anyhoo, next time around I'm going to be putting up a blog post exclusive to Patreon supporters. If you've ever wondered what the next book in the Shoal Sequence would have been about, you can find out - but again, only if you're a Patreon supporter. The blog entry should go up on Patreon a couple of days into February. 


The Great Muse yells Bingo: or, that was 2017

That's my editing work done for the year. The last couple of months have been super-busy with a ton of work coming in. I'm a long way from complaining, but hopefully I can spend the next couple of weeks catching up on other, more personal projects. Meaning, of course, I hope to do a lot more writing through to early January.

So I thought it might be nice, now I actually have time to do things like blog, to take note of this year. What I've been doing, what's ahead, and what I read that I got a kick out of.

Over the past twelve months I've been keeping busy producing fiction in the form of three novellas - although one of them, still in progress, is edging deeper into novel territory.

The first, Ghost Frequencies, a contemporary ghost story and hard sf thriller, is to be published in the near future by NewCon Press, a highly-regarded small press in the UK well-known for the quality of their work.

The second, Devil's Road, is quite a different beast, being more in the vein of science fantasy/horror. Not only that, unlike pretty much anything else I've ever written, it's influenced by cinema rather than literature. In a way, it's a love letter to the science fiction films of the 1980s, particularly those directed by John Carpenter. It's still currently under submission to a publisher, but I'm hopeful it'll sell.

The third is, of course, a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, tentatively titled Last Tour of the Apocalypse. I'd figured this would top out at somewhere around forty thousand words, but at the time of writing it's slightly north of 55,000 words and about three quarters of the way through a substantial and deep second draft.

I also got started on a full-length novel, called Proxy. That's stalled for the moment at about thirty thousand words. Progress with it is fine, but I've decided to put it to one side and concentrate on finishing Last Tour.

Well, hopefully in the next year I might sell Echogenesis, which I spent most of 2016 writing after my relationship with Tor UK ended in late 2015. I'm pretty confident it'll sell, but when is another matter. Mainstream publishing, even two decades into the 21st Century, remains as glacially slow as ever. My plan for next year is to finish Last Tour, then finish Proxy, and then begin another project.

Hopefully I'll get enough editing work to sustain me, but more stable employment is something I need to consider in the coming year, as I will no longer have regular payments from a publisher to sustain me outside of bi-annual royalty payments and a single annual payout from British library services. Those alone can add up to a couple of grand, and hence are not insubstantial, but again aren't enough to live on.

In case you're wondering how I feel about all this, I'm fine. I'm confident both in my abilities as a writer and in my prospects for selling the stories I write. I've read enough biographies of writers and also met enough well-known writing professionals to know that dips in one's fortunes are far from unexpected. There is no slow and steady progress for most working writers: instead it's a craggy sine-wave of peaks and deliriously long troughs.

On the other hand, I'm writing Last Tour in the full knowledge the chances of any mainstream publisher taking it on are roughly nil compared to, say, my chances of writing something entirely original. There's interest from at least one small-press, but first I have to finish the damn thing. And if it comes to it, I have no objections to self-publishing it.

About halfway through the year, I started using a piece of software called Timing. It culls data and tells you how long you've spent working on specific projects or in specific apps. As a result, I know that since about mid-June I've spent approximately 271 hours writing fiction, and 172 hours working on book critiques.

Until a couple of months back, I avoided doing too much critique work so I could focus on writing fiction, living mostly off savings and the last incoming payments from Tor UK as well as royalties. As a result, since the start of 2017 I've managed to write about 150,000-160,000 words of fiction: two novellas, a second draft of a short novel, and the first thirty thousand words of the first draft of a full novel.

If I assume my output in the first half of 2017 is roughly equivalent to that in the second half (to be honest, I think it's probably a lot more, but let's keep things simple for now), I've spent a total of perhaps 550-600 hours writing fiction.

If you break that down into days, it doesn't actually seem that much compared to, say, a year of full working days. But writing tends to come in sudden stops and starts, with a great deal of work often done in a relatively short period of time. It also doesn't necessarily include the time spent staring at a screen, trying to figure out what happens next, or walking the dog and letting ideas roll around in your head until the Great Muse yells Bingo. Add that in, and realistically I'd say the figure is closer to, I dunno, maybe 800 hours?

Since I was writing Last Tour without the hope of a book deal, I started a Patreon account. I had a long, hard think about this before I decided to set it up, partly because I knew (and said) that I wasn't likely to come up with much in the way of 'rewards': new or original stuff you couldn't get elsewhere, made specifically for a Patreon audience. Some people are really good at that kind of thing (Hal Duncan) because, after all, a lot of the people on Patreon are essentially performers. Writers aren't really performers, after all. And while some churn out short stories for Patreon, I'm much too much of a slow and careful writer for that to really fit my personality.

And then again, I've not really gone out of my way to promote it, because, after all, what do you get out of it except the thing I'm already doing anyway? At the moment, it's got two tiers - one, for a dollar a month, where you get nothing but the joy of supporting me, and another, for five dollars a month, where you get some piece of work chucked your way - excerpts from Last Tour, for instance, or a previously unavailable short story.

In 2018 I hope to finish Last Tour and talk to those interested in publishing it - as I say, a small-press. Or, I may self-publish it or, as I've been thinking, do both. Then I hope to finish and sell Proxy, along with Echogenesis. Then, hopefully at last I'll be able to start on something closer to what a lot of people would clearly really prefer I get to work on - a space opera of some nature.

Reading: in 2017, I read about sixty books. Of these, the standouts, for me, were Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell; Bird Box by Josh Malerman; I Am Providence, by Nick Mamatas; Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty; The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka; Afterparty, by Darryl Gregory; and Thatcher Stole My Trousers by Alexei Sayle.

If I had to pick three favourite out of those, it would be Homage to Catalonia, Afterparty and Six Wakes. 

I read a couple of excellent novellas published by Tor.com, who, to me, are clearly just about the most interesting publisher around right now. Unlike most other publishers, they seem willing to explore different models better suited to the 21st Century. I read and particularly enjoyed The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford and The Ghost Line by Andrew Neil-Gary and JS Herbison. Both are haunted house stories, although one is set in contemporary America and the other is set on board an abandoned liner lost somewhere in the solar system.  In non-fiction, I found Ashlee Vance's biography of Elon Musk to be highly enjoyable. A remarkable man, but clearly not an easy one to be around even in the best of circumstances.

I also re-read some old favourites - I have a habit of buying books I already have in hardcopy if they turn up cheap on Kindle. I re-read Excession by Iain M. Banks, to remind myself how he handles space opera. I finally read the final book in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's series, completing a story I first came across on Radio Four sometime in, I think, 1981.

I don't normally write about books I didn't like, but I feel I need to mention Dave Egger's The Circle as one of the best-written dumb books I've ever come across. Talk about craft in the service of idiocy. I thought at the time of writing a very long, very detailed review of the book at the time I read it, but all I'll say right now is that it's one of the most witless, light-weight and badly thought-out books I've come across, built as it is around a core message that bears little relationship to actual human behaviour. It's the literary equivalent of an old man in the street shouting at everyone passing him by that using mobile phones is going to make their gonads shrivel. Egger's is clearly a fine writer - I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius some years ago, although I never completed it - but I wasn't in the least bit surprised to discover he made a point of not doing any research before writing this book. It shows.

And that's it. On to 2018!


Coming up on Patreon

Back when I learned Tor UK wouldn't be looking for a third Extinction Game book from me, I put away the outline I had and didn't look at it for at least a year. Then I glanced at it again and figured I might as well get a novelette out of it. A month or so later, I had the second or third draft of a story called The Long Fall, which came to about eight thousand words. I'd taken one of the central scenes from the unwritten third book and massaged it a bit and condensed certain details and left many others out. I thought it worked quite nicely and submitted it around some short story markets. It got some nice comments, but still got rejected every time. Oh well!

Then I sent it to another magazine and they asked, how about something a bit longer? They were thinking of doing a line of novellas in the near-ish future. I said I'd keep that in mind and thought a bit more.

Cut to earlier this year, when I wrote two novellas of about thirty-four thousand words each in rapid succession. One, Ghost Frequencies, will be published by Newcon Press, most likely some time in the New Year. The other, Devil's Road, is still under submission to other publishers. The suggestion of expanding the short story - that, remember, had started as a novel - but into a novella, took hold.

Then I got a little more ambitious. I could make it into a long novella or a short novel, meaning between fifty and sixty thousand words. This might have been a problem were I still under the constraint of a book contract, but outside of one, I could do what I liked. So I took the novel outline and started rejigging it. A couple of months ago I wrote a fast, loose first draft in less than thirty days that came to about 35,000 words, incorporating The Long Fall.

More recently, I started an account at Patreon where I now have a few supporters. Last month, subscribers got a short e-chapbook containing different versions of a deleted scene from Survival Game. In early December, I'm going to post The Long Fall for subscribers. I think it's a solid story, and provides a little more information about its protagonist, Nadia, and her partner Rozalia. This time around, Jerry and Katya are firmly on the sidelines. It'll also give you a sense of where the third Extinction Game book will go once it's eventually finished.

This third book sits in a funny place. It's a sequel to two books that came out from my previous publisher, and as such, no major publisher is going to touch it with a barge-pole (small presses and the like, however, are a different matter). So why write it? Well, I've done self-publishing before, but never of my own stuff, particularly. Just other people's stuff.

I can't deny there's a temptation to go it alone on this one, but there's more to indie publishing than just sticking a file up on Kindle and clicking 'publish'. The idea of having the support of a small, enthusiastic press has enormous appeal. So right now, things are just a little bit up in the air, in my head at least.

Remember: if you're at all curious to see the alternative version of the Survival Game ending, sign up at Patreon and slap down your filthy lucre. Come the end of this month, it'll be joined by The Long Fall. 


Scrivener 3: my review.

Scrivener 3 is officially out! I've had the opportunity to beta-test it for the past six months or so, and what's really amazing is that it improves on something I might once have said couldn't be improved on. Note that right now the Scrivener 3 update is for Mac users only: my understanding is the Windows upgrade should be available sometime next year. In the meantime, let me have the great pleasure of showing some of the ways I've made use of it so far.

They have, so far as I can see, rebuilt it from top to bottom, and essentially rationalised much of the program. If you're familiar with the old Scrivener, you'll know it featured such tools as a scratch pad, but that's all gone now (Correction! It turns out I'm wrong about this, and in all this time I managed to miss it: it can now be found under Window->Show Scratchpad). Instead, there are merely documents, and bookmarks.

At its most basic level, Scrivener 3 is split into three areas: the binder on the left, the inspector on the right, and the text editor in the middle. Scrivener refers to a book and all of its associated files as a 'project', and when you open Scrivener for the first time, it asks you to create one. It's a project rather than a book because each Scrivener project holds not only the text associated with a book, written or unwritten, but all the other miscellaneous notes, reference images, web links, character sketches and so forth that go into the creation of the central document.

As before, the binder on the left contains several folders, central to which is the Draft folder. As you write, you can split a document up into chapters, and these become visible as separate text documents in the Draft folder.

When I first started using Scrivener, I was more familiar with writing in Word, which presented a book's text as a single long scrollable file. Fortunately, Scrivener has something called 'Scrivenings'. When you click on the Draft folder and select to view it as Scrivenings (View->Scrivenings), it presents all your chapters as if they were a single, long, scrollable document - and indeed that's the way I, and many people, I think, prefer to write. This doesn't prevent you from (say) moving chapters around inside the Draft folder, or splitting them or merging them together, depending on what your novel (if that's what you're writing) requires. That, as always, is one of Scrivener's strengths.

So far, so familiar. But the real power of Scrivener 3 lies, for me, in the inspector bar.

Near the top of the Inspector bar are five icons in a row: Notes, Bookmarks, Metadata, Snapshots, and Comments/Footnotes. The important ones for most people's purposes are Notes and Bookmarks.

When you click on Notes, you get a box for a brief synopsis of a chapter, and below that space for lots and lots of, well, notes. Even if you've got a bunch of chapters displayed as a single document in the main editor,  you'll see that same notepad and synopsis box. You don't have to use them, but they're damn convenient. The notes displayed are chapter- or document-specific. If you display a particular chapter in the main window, or any other document, you'll see any associated notes you have there on the right.

The real power, for me, is in icon 2 - the Bookmarks.

For instance: say you have several chapters or documents displayed on your main editor as a single scrollable file (View->Scrivenings). But say you want to refer to notes that aren't chapter- or document-specific, such as an outline.

Say that outline is saved as a text file in the binder, under 'Research'. You click and drag it across the screen and drop it into the Bookmarks window. It then remains there, with its text displayed below where you can easily refer to it. You can bookmark as many files as you like. Great, or what?

But then it gets even better.

Note that while you've selected Bookmarks in the Inspector, a panel reads 'Project Bookmarks' near the top. Click on Project Bookmarks and you'll see you can also select something called Document Bookmarks.

Perhaps, while working on Chapter 2, you want to refer to events in Chapter 1. While Document Bookmarks is selected in the Inspector, and while Chapter 2 is open in the main editor, you could drag Chapter 1 from the Binder into the Inspector.

This creates a bookmark specific to the document you're working on in the main editor. From now on, whenever you select Chapter 2, and so long as the Inspector is set to Document Bookmarks, you'll see the text of Chapter 1 for easy reference.

Why is this great? Because the power of Scrivener lies in being able to have a large number of different documents open at once so you can cross-reference them while you work in the Main Editor. Document and Project Bookmarks make this much easier and, for me, the main selling point of Scrivener.

Of course, there's more - particularly the Copyholder. Perhaps as well as Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, I also need to refer to my outline. Then I might switch to Project Bookmarks, right-click on my bookmarked outline in the Inspector, and select Open in Copyholder. This opens the outline in a small window for reference (see below).

It's all about getting as much relevant information in front of you, at once, as possible.

Here's an example of something I've been working on:

This is a screen grab of a short novel/long novella I've been writing. From left to right: Binder, Main Editor, and Inspector.

The Main Editor is further split into two vertical windows (to get this, navigate to View->Editor Layout->Split Vertically). The left-hand window displays the book-in-progress in Outline view. This allows me to check various items of metadata associated with each chapter, such as: where, when, and who, as well as a brief synopsis.

Over on the right, you'll see I've selected 'Project Bookmarks', with a list of bookmarked files beneath. Note that many of the same items that appear in Project Bookmarks also appear in the Notes/Synopsis folder in the Binder on the left. While writing, I keep the Binder hidden.

As you can see, I also have a chapter open in Copyholder beneath the Outliner. I get that by right-clicking on - in this case - the lowest item in Project Bookmarks and selecting Open in other Editor's Copyholder. This gives me the maximum amount of information as I work, allowing me to access notes and ideas, other chapters, as well as keeping an eye on which characters feature in a scene, and when.

But wait, there's more! Take a look at this:

If, like me, you're something of a stats junkie, Scriv 3 will give you endless detail concerning your writing habits. How many words, on which days, and a daily average. Go to Project->Writing History.

But even that's not as amazing as Linguistic Focus:

That's right: now there's a menu that isolates dialogue, nouns, pronouns and adverbs, etc, by dimming the rest of the text. When I saw this for the first time, I laughed out loud because it was so incredible.

Note that in the above screenshot Document Bookmarks is open on the right, meaning it displays bookmarked documents specific to that chapter and no other.

Lastly, here's an image of Scrivener with the Notes tab selected, rather than bookmarks:

As you see, there's a chapter title, a brief synopsis area, and below that room for making chapter-specific notes.

All I can say to finish is that, once again, Scrivener 3 has proved to be an absolute world-beater. By simplifying it, they've made it even more sophisticated. I'm very impressed. 


Word on the Street is...

...that I've got another post up on Patreon. Alas! It's locked to patrons only. I KNOW. Walls are coming up ALL OVER THE INTERNET. It's a sign of the end-times, lemme tell ya.

In that latest Patreon post, I talk about:

  • Some publishing news regarding Extinction Game Three.
  • Progress on writing it, so far. 
  • To chapbook, or not to chapbook.

Never fear, I'm not locking away every blog post. I'll still be posting here in my generally erratic, when-I-get-round-to-it way. But why can't I share everything with you, you cry? Well, my friend, you need to be on the inside track these days. In with the in-crowd. Moving with the movers. So ask yourself: are you on the inside? Because if you are, you're already a patron.


Dear Readers, It's Time We Talked

So I thought it might be time for a little chat. Just between you and I, you understand. A little tête-à-tête, as it were, about the future and where you and I see ourselves between now and then.

I appreciate your loyalty. I've enjoyed and been deeply touched by your occasional emails telling me how much you liked this or that book. I've been even more touched by those of you who have chosen to give me the occasional small (and even not so small) contribution through the 'buy the writer a coffee' link. It makes me feel, in some small but important way, like what I do matters.

And things have been looking up: Newcon Press's decision to publish Ghost Frequencies sometime in the next year or so gladdens my heart, particularly since it's a terrific story - one of the best I've come up with, in my opinion.

In fact, I feel like my writing has grown from strength to strength over these last few years in particular. That knowledge, unsurprisingly, makes me want to write more - lots more. And there is a lot more to write.

But there are just one or two pesky realities getting in the way.

I've been coasting these last few years, financially speaking, on income from my ten books from Tor UK. And while I'm still a long, long way from being impoverished, I'm at the stage where I need to look ahead and decide sooner rather than later whether I can afford to keep on writing full-time. Or even part-time, depending on how you measure the hours.

Now, all this may change if or when I get a book deal for Echogenesis. Right now I make a little income from book doctoring and mentoring, but such work tends to be sporadic and it takes up a lot of my time. This is unfortunate, because the one thing I think I'm really good at is writing science fiction. I'd like to write lots more of it, and I'd like for you to get to read it. But I also need to eat and keep a roof over my head. I'd also like to be able to afford to attend the occasional Convention. And buy my dog Cooper the occasional tasty treat.

I also know some of you would really, really like to see a third book in the Extinction Game series.

So here's something you don't know: in August, I wrote the first draft of the follow-up to Survival Game in just three and a half weeks. I did partly in order to see if I could write a full draft of a book in less than four weeks. I also did it knowing that the chances of it getting professionally published are vanishingly small. Almost by definition, it would either be self-published or put out by a small-press.

And that's fine. But time is money, and if you want to see it come fully to fruition, I'm going to need your help. A fast first-draft is one thing, but the long, hard slog of the second draft is another, and always takes a great deal longer. And then there's the third draft, and beta-readers, and further revisions, and so forth - a process that can easily eat up most of a year. Not to mention that while all this effort will be going on, it won't be bringing me in any money.

For this reason and others, I've been thinking hard about sites like Patreon recently. I've seen really quite a lot of writers signed up to it, some very well-known indeed, some less so, but all of them skilled and talented people nonetheless.

As you know, I recently ran a poll for what you'd like me to write next, and space opera came out far ahead of everything else. Well, I love writing space opera, and I fully intend to write more of it (and indeed I already have, in Echogenesis, a planetary adventure in the classic mode).

But before I get to that, there's a few things I'd like to do first.

First, I'd like to finish that third Extinction book. Then, I'd like to write and finish Proxy, a near-to-intermediate future cyberpunkish thriller about identity theft and body-swapping.

Proxy isn't space opera, but between you and me it's a great idea. I have a twelve-thousand word outline for it that is, frankly, awesome.

So here's the deal. My plan is to write Extinction Game Book Three, then write Proxy (or possibly both at the same time), then start work on outlining and planning that stinking great space opera (and possibly series) you all want me to. Which, trust me, will be epic.

But I can't do it without your direct support. Your direct financial support. Especially regarding Extinction Game book three: if I were to self-publish it, it would need edited, and editing costs money. So would a book cover.

And that, most likely, along with everything else, means Patreon.

There probably wouldn't be a great amount in terms of monthly rewards. I don't do chapbooks, I'm horrible at doing either podcasts or video. I am good at sitting down in a damn chair and writing in silence for hours. I guess I could shift my blog writing there, and maybe answer the occasional writing question, and maybe even critique people's own writing if they sign up to support me at a certain level.

But this isn't a definite decision yet. I'm still thinking about it.  I'd need to aim for at least $300US a month for it to really make a difference.

$300 dollars - or about a dollar a month from just three hundred of you, over the space of a year, year and a half - would make writing that third book feasible. Without that, I'm not sure it could be finished within that time, if ever.

Should I run a Patreon, at the very least I could share deleted scenes from previous books, or notes and synopses from the same, and also my writing notes that show how different books were put together over a period of months or years. I also have some back copies of recent books which, I suppose, I could sign and send out to higher-tier supporters.

There's a lot to think about. But to repeat - without that support, the chances of their being a finished third Extinction book are much, much lower.

Hooray, you might say. Now you can write that space opera! Well, that's true. But it's still only the germ of an idea. And there's a secret to writing you really need to know: the best books are written by authors being true to themselves. True to the best ideas they have, as well as to their audience. I know that you want the best work I can give you - and that's what I'm offering, regardless of the specific sub-genre.

So all this is just to let you know where my head is at right now. I have a lot of plans for writing. And it may be up to you to help me make them come true.

Your comments and thoughts are appreciated. 


New announcement: Ghost Frequencies acquired by Newcon Press.

It's my pleasure to announce that Newcon Press have acquired World English Rights to my novella GHOST FREQUENCIES, and will publish it in hardback, paperback and ebook.

Ian Whates of Newcon Press said: “I’m delighted at this opportunity to work with Gary Gibson, an author whose brand of thrilling science fiction I’ve long admired. GHOST FREQUENCIES is a gripping tale of science applied to the supernatural, and the terrifying possibilities that lurk in the overlap. The story will form part of a ‘Strange Tales’ quartet of novellas currently taking shape and it represents a fabulous addition to the NewCon Novella series.”

It's a story literally twenty years in the making, for reasons I'll go into closer to the time of actual publication. Some ideas just take time to figure out how to do them right. The date of publication isn't set, but it'll be either next year or possibly 2019.

In the meantime, I'm working on some other projects, including one in particular which I'll talk about soon here.

My agent, John Jarrold, has put up a press release


Four Things I liked This Week

A few things I've read, heard, seen and otherwise enjoyed or found useful over the last while:

Pounding out a few hundred thousand words per year tends to be brutal on keyboards. I was forced to put aside my Apple bluetooth keyboard when the down-arrow button popped out and refused to be put back.

At first, I was taken aback to realise just how often I use a key I thought I'd hardly miss, and started researching the cost of new keyboards. Then I discovered Karabiner, which makes it ridiculously easy to remap keys. Now the right-hand option button functions as the 'down' key on my Apple keyboard, and I saved myself a lot of money.

I always had a soft spot for Egan's fiction ever since I first encountered it in the pages of Interzone back in the Nineties and late Eighties. This is one of his more 'accessible' pieces, in the form of a short novella published by Tor.com about a movie executive reborn by choice in a new body in the near-to-intermediate future. I can easily see it as a lo-fi independent science fiction film, which would be fitting given the subject matter.

A very twisty Hitchcockian thriller from Spain in which the CEO of a new company wakes up in a hotel next to the body of his mistress. Of course, nobody is who they appear to be, and nothing is what it seems. This one kept me guessing all the way to the end.

A nice little photo filter app with a variety of pre-set filters that give your pictures a very nice, moody edge. I liked this enough I ended up playing with it for quite a while, and it could be genuinely useful for designing (say) ebook covers, especially when compared with other apps or software such as Pixelmator. 


Poll Results

A couple of weeks back I posted a poll in which I asked people to pick which future writing project of mine sounded promising based on a one- or two-line description so I could try and gauge what kind of book people might like to see from me. I think anyone could have guessed what the results might be, but I still hoped for a surprise.

I've been meaning to post about the results for a while now. I would have done so sooner, but I got caught up in writing a new manuscript - which I talk about further down the page. That’s just about finished, so now I think I can talk at last about the poll.

I figured most of you would vote in favour of the description that most resembled the kind of books I’m known for, so of course it’s no big surprise that it came out well ahead of the others. Although I was perhaps a little surprised at how far ahead.

And there was another unexpected result related to the two other choices I gave you.
Here's a screen grab to show you what those results actually look like.


As you can see, the vast majority of you are overwhelmingly in favour of Ghosts of the Deep, which I described as far-future hard sf. The other two contenders, Proxy and Black Dog are, by comparison, a long way behind. But the poll demonstrates they do have their supporters, however lightly sketched  the description of each is.

I was certainly surprised that Black Dog, which I described as Seventies-set Lovecraft, scored higher than Proxy, given Proxy is, ostensibly, cyberpunk. Of course, I didn’t actually use the word cyberpunk in the survey, and maybe that was a mistake.

Maybe it's time to talk a little more about these ideas, and how far they've been developed.

Of the three, Proxy is by far the most thoroughly developed. It currently exists as a detailed six-thousand word outline, and it got an enthusiastic response from my editor when I was still with Tor UK. Unlike the majority of my previous books, Proxy is set only thirty years in the future, and revolves around post-human mind-swapping in the criminal underworld of near-future New York.

Black Dog, by complete contrast, is intended to be full-on horror fantasy, depicting the rise to prominence of a thug-like band manager in the late sixties and early seventies with a great deal of black magic and occult goings-on. Think Valley of the Dolls by way of The Song Remains the Same  and Phantom of the Paradise.

So, yeah. A long way from Stealing Light. But of course, the idea of doing something so utterly unlike anything I’d ever done before is what makes it so enormously appealing. And, like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve read a shedload of Lovecraft, as well as fiction that makes use of the whole Cthulhu Mythos.  So it's natural I might want to write something like that.

Both Black Dog and Ghosts of the Deep, however, are only lightly sketched-in by comparison to Proxy. Even so, this poll is a really useful reminder both of where my strengths lie, and therefore of what I should focus on.

But neither do I want to get stuck in a rut of always writing books that use broadly the same settings and themes. A way out of that is to write more, and more varied stuff. And, indeed, the writing project that took up much of my time this month was a deliberate attempt to see if I could write a first draft of a novel in less than a month.

As it turns out, I can. Therefore if I can write more, and faster, then I can hopefully produce a greater variety of books - not just the ones people want and expect from me, but ones that let me flex my creative muscles. It’s equally possible that some of the ideas I've talked about here could be novellas rather than novels since, after all, they take much less time to write.

The other big takeaway from the poll for me is that running an occasional poll is not only fun, but genuinely insightful. Sure, sometimes the results aren’t always that surprising. But at the very least it's a direct link from your brain(s) to mine, and that's pretty useful.