Good News From Outer Space

Just got word from Pan via my agent that the first paperback run of Stealing Light is about to sell out after less than a month on sale, and as a result a reprint has already been ordered. Nice.


progress, editing, new book title

One week to go before the new book has to be emailed to the publishers, and I've been at it pretty much ten or twelve hours a day. Yeah, yeah. Poor me. I get it. I anticipate lots of vacant staring interspersed with bouts of furious typing between now and next Wednesday when it gets fired off to Tor.

The paperback of Stealing Light has been out a couple of weeks now, and seems to be selling well, and certainly scoring higher than the previous two. Last time I looked, it was at number two on Waterstone's sf and fantasy bestseller lists, right behind Terry Pratchett. It's been floating pretty high on Amazon as well.

I got bored with the title 'Stealing Fire'. Sounds too much like some crappy action movie, possibly starring Steven Seagal. Even if the new book does indeed contain much, yes, much running around, shooting and blowing things up. Therefore I rename this book 'Nova Light', which not only sounds better, it also continues that whole thematicy-namey-thingy I was aiming for.

So. 'Nova Light'. Sounds about right.

Now I just have to figure out what the hell to call the third book when it's done.



I read about a piece of online software called Wordle on Justine Larbalestier's blog; it takes a piece of text - even a whole book - and turns it into a picture of the most common words based on frequency. In terms of what's important in the plot of the new book - that being the text I fed in - it's actually pretty accurate. 'Remembrance' and 'Honeydew', by the way, are the names of two characters.



Erscheinungstermin: April 2009, as they say in Germany.

I do like this cover for the German publication of Stealing Light, and I'll really have to drop a line to Random House/Heyne and ask them very nicely if I can have a larger jpg of this illustration. This came from randomhouse.de's own page for the book, and the title sounds like something you'd shout as a warning to someone in dire and immediate danger. As in, "Run, run! Lichtkrieg!" And I especially like that hint of sunlight creeping stealthily around the side of a doomed planet ...


One week in & Lewis Shiner

Stealing Light seems to be doing well since it came out in paperback; it's definitely floating a bit higher on Amazon than the previous books were, which bodes well. Right now I'm powering through the more-or-less final draft on Stealing Fire.

A couple of recommendations: a book collection/cataloguing/community website called goodreads.com. It has the usual stuff about being able to upload info about your books, something I find particularly enjoyable since the real things are currently stuffed into a cupboard back home. Books, I'm sure you'll agree, are meant to live on shelves, not in darkened cupboards.

One of my favourite authors in the Eighties was Lewis Shiner. I first encountered him in a short story called 'Jeff Beck', printed in Asimov's. It was in the second or third copy of the magazine I ever bought, about the time I started buying Asimov's regularly for what turned out to be several years. That story particularly appealed to me because I was learning to play guitar at the time (although I was more of a Jimmy Page and Hendrix fan). Looking back at it now, it makes even more sense than it did then. I did in fact learn to play guitar at least passably. One could easily read the story and substitute 'writing fiction' for 'playing music'. Shiner also wrote one of my favourite novels - Glimpses.

He's got a new non-genre book out called Black & White which sounds very interesting, but even more interesting is that he's in the process of putting every single piece of fiction he's ever had published up on the net. I consider this to be a very, very good thing because until relatively recently Shiner was very much in the 'whatever happened to ...' category of writers. He was published very regularly in Asimov's and F&SF before fading off the radar during the Nineties. I've missed his stuff. He has a website where you can also download the complete text of his new book.

As an aside, I have a still-growing list of free downloaded fiction, much of it from Tor. All of it together is in itself reason enough, should I ever have the cash, to buy an epaper device if and when they become cheap enough.


Stealing Fire

Since I'm in an excerpt-posting mood, here's the first page (or 250-ish words) from the start of Stealing Fire, the sequel to Stealing Light I've been writing for Tor. It's due in by the 1st of July, so busy, busy, busy.



Orion-Perseus Arm/Milky Way
32,000 light years from Galactic Core/2,375 light years from nearest edge of Consortium space
0.15 GC Revs since Start of Hostilities (approx. 15,235 years [Terran])

Inside a Shoal reconnaissance corvette, lost and hunted through a dense tangle of stars and hydrogen clouds a thousand light-years wide, a Bandati spy was being tortured by having his wings pulled off one by one.

In order to accommodate the prisoner, an air-breather, the bare steel vault of the corvette’s interrogation chamber had been drained of its liquid atmosphere. Misted brine formed heavy, wobbling droplets in the oxygen/nitrogen mix that had replaced it, floating in the zero gee like tiny watery lenses.

The Bandati had been pinned to an upright panel placed in the centre of the chamber, where the floor dipped to form a shallow, stepped well. The Shoal-member known as Trader in Faecal Matter of Animals noted the enormous iron spike that had been driven through the creature's lower chest in such a way that it was held immobile without, to his surprise, immediately threatening its continued survival. Nonetheless, it was not difficult to discern from the Bandati's ceaseless struggling that it was in some considerable distress.

Cables had been epoxied to the chamber wall directly above the scout's head, and hooks attached to the trailing tips of these cables had been inserted into the outermost edges of its five remaining wings. The tension in these cables pulled the wings wide, as if the Bandati were frozen in the act of gliding through the dense atmosphere of the world on which his kind had originated. Trader was reminded of a display he had once seen of small winged invertebrates, row after row of colourful dead husks pinned to a wall, carefully mounted, labelled and categorised.

Clearly, the interrogators had been in a creative mood when they had been ordered to extract as much information as possible from the spy."


Paperback Out

Today's the day - the paperback of Stealing Light is now out in the United Kingdom, and other places as well as and when it becomes available.

Here's an excerpt of the first page:

"Standard Consortium Date: 03.06.2538
25 kilometres south of Port Gabriel, Redstone Colony
Port Gabriel Incident +45 minutes

It was like waking up and finding you’d just sleepwalked through the gates of hell.

Dakota drew in a sharp breath, feeling like she’d first awakened into existence only a moment before. She stood stock still for several seconds, the touch of freezing rain clear and sharp on her skin.

Trying to take it all in.

Bodies were scattered all around her, under a slate-grey sky from which snow fell in sporadic squalls. Most had been cut down as they ran for safety. It was a scene of appalling carnage.

She remembered with dazzling clarity what it had felt like to kill them.

Her hands hung uselessly by her sides, Consortium-issue assault pistol still gripped in one fist. Fat-bellied Consortium transports rumbled far overhead, dropping down from orbit, looking to salvage something – anything - from the disaster of the assault.

The worst thing was that she remembered so much. Every moment, every scream, and every death: it was something she was going to have to live with for the rest of her life.

That made the decision to kill herself a lot easier."


Earthquakes and Arguments

Had my first earthquake the other night. Em reckoned it was maybe 3 on the Richter Scale, but I don't have the necessary experience to pass judgement. It was like a gentle rocking motion, entirely silent, for seven or eight seconds. There was something weirdly comforting about it, as if the Gods of the Continental Drift were rocking me to my sleep.

Anyway: Richard Morgan, another Glasgow author, recently posted online an essay originally written for an anthology in which he decries the SF field for its infighting and general bitchiness. I can well understand some of his bewilderment given that he arrived on the scene, convention and community-wise, relatively recently.

"... I'm still a relative novice in this place. I mean, I've always read SF and Fantasy, for the reason I guess most people read anything -- because I like it. But before the publication of my first novel, five years ago, I knew next to nothing about SF fandom, had never attended a con in my life, and was quite unaware there might be anything to warrant the wielding of such savage rhetorical weaponry. So I was a bit (actually a lot) taken aback to see these squabbles arising, and even more taken aback to learn that this kind of back-biting is nothing new in the genre. Trawl back through the short history of SF and you can see the exact same bitching and lekking oneupmanship set loose time and time again. New Wave writers lambast and laugh at their predecessors from the so-called Golden Age. Individual authors ally or square up to each other with ludicrous intensity. Lots of furious lit. crit. goes flying this way and that. Splat! Pow! Blood on the dancefloor. Oh, but the times, they are a-changing -- here comes the hard-SF revival to "take back" the genre, to barricade themselves in the genre cabin with their technophilic faith and new frontier spirit and hold off the weirdos for a while. Then cyberpunk kicks down the door all over again, proclaims itself dangerous and subversive (but over here, in this corner, some New Wave purists scoff).

And so it goes, drearily onward until we wind up squabbling all over again about how cool and cutting edge and unlike other fantasy writers we are in the New Weird, or more recently how hopelessly wrong and dangerously irresponsible anyone is if they're writing Faster than Light drives into their SF, or (see above) how goddamn fucking militant, humorless, and annoying anyone is who says it's off base to write FTL into ...

So forth."

I have great sympathy for what Richard says, yet at the same time I'm not sure I agree one hundred per cent. Now, I admit to openly dissing 'high' fantasy on this blog, although at the same time I made it clear it was purely a matter of personal taste; for a lot of people an interest in SF has gone hand in hand with an interest in fiction of the Tolkien/Elric/White Gold Wielder variety - just not me. In that respect, maybe I'm one of the guilty ones.

But still, I can't help feeling that all this posturing, infighting, and declarations of intent are the signs of a healthy genre. The reason people are arguing with each other is because they're passionate about what they believe in. I don't know that I'd necessarily prefer it if those same people were instead dispassionate about SF. If people weren't announcing manifestos, having flame-wars with each other and generally having wildly varying ideas about what sf is or isn't ... it would be kind of boring.

Wouldn't it?

To me, I'd say all the bitchiness is a sign that things aren't nearly so moribund within the genre as some have claimed. I'm not saying the arguments and fighting are always healthy, or necessarily mature; but I am saying it feels more alive than some genteel, mannered alternative. At least the way things are, it feels like people give a damn.