Thursday, November 30, 2006

Prador Moon Reviews

Other than to say thank you very much every now and again I don’t normally make any reply to reviews. Having seen quite a few of them now I know that every time I come across something negative in one review I can point at a number of others that flatly contradict that negativity in every detail. However (you knew that was coming didn’t you), despite the many positive reviews out there, I am getting a little hacked off with the nature of some of the adverse responses to Prador Moon. It is, apparently a) Too short b) Too expensive c) Too simple.
Now, let me just point out that it is simple because the story … erm, let me think … because it is short? In its way this book is a bit of a reply to those other reviewers who claim my books are far too complex and convoluted (though that wasn’t the intention). It’s a straightforward story with a lot less plot threads than usual something I’ve been aiming at more lately because my plot threads usually seem to proliferate during the writing of the first two thirds of a book and I then spend as much time extracting and discarding threads as I do writing the last third of the book. It’s short because that is what the publisher in this case requested. As to the price let me just say, “What's that got to do with me?”

Authors have as much to do with the cover price of books as the inventor of sherbet dips has to do with what they sell for in the sweet shop. And as for the kind soul who put up a two star review on without even reading the book and because of ‘a’ and ‘b’ above … well, the page count is there and the price is there, you either buy it or you don’t, but you don’t put up a negative review of something you haven’t even read!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Another Translation.

Ah, the juggernaut rolls on: the Czech publisher Polaris have now made an offer for Brass Man, which they intend to publish in the next twelve months. Thus far they have published The Skinner and Gridlinked, with The Line of Polity next. The Skinner won the Salamander Award (the picture here is of the publisher collecting the award) given by the Czech Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror as the best SF book published there in 2004. This was out of a shortlist of Blood Music by Greg Bear, Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds, The Scar by China Mieville and A Deepness Upon the Sky by Vernor Vinge. What an excellent list! The following year Gridlinked appeared on the shortlist, but didn’t win. What’s really good about all this, of course, is that most of the foreign publishers who have taken my first books for translation, are now coming back for more.

Other news: in a recent phonecall Jason Williams of Night Shade Books has expressed surprise and delight at the sales of Prador Moon. The first print run is all but gone and orders are still coming in. He also made a book club deal with it too. And it now seems likely that there’ll be a British edition of Prador Moon and a collection of Polity short stories including those published in Asimov’s, Interzone and elsewhere.

I’m presently working through the editing of Hilldiggers, with Line War now at over 40,000 words sitting to one side. Also set to one side at the moment is a another book I’ve started for Night Shade Books, which tells the story of Cormac’s early years.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Just trying to figure out how to put video clips on here. This is a cutesy picture of our pet chinchilla eating rose petals (she's now pushing up roses).

Peter Watts

Some while ago Tor US sent me an ARC of Peter Watts’ excellent book Blindsight, which I read almost in a state of shock because it was so good, and for which I wrote the blurb:

Blindsight is excellent. It's state-of-the-art science fiction: smart, dark and it grabs you by the throat from page one. Like a C J Cherryh book it makes you feel the danger of the hostile environment (or lack of one) out there. And it plays with some fascinating possibilities in human development, and some disconcerting ideas about human consciousness. What else can I say? Thanks for giving me the privilege of reading this.”

A short while after this I was checking a few things out on the net when I discovered Peter has an excellent website here -- particularly worth checking out is his lecture on Vampire Domestication To my delight I discovered that he already had four other SF books published, so I got chatting with him and arranged a books exchange. Subsequently I received signed copies of Starfish, Maelstrom, Behemoth B-Max and Behemoth Seppuku (The last two here are actually one book divided into two for the benefit of American book sellers – perhaps their staff have been suing for RSI damages caused by lifting any book of more than 110,000 words).

I’ve read all four books now and though I don’t think the last three are as good as Blindsight (which I have to say is the best SF book I have read in years), I definitely put them in a league ahead of most stuff out there. Really, if I hadn’t read Blindsight, Starfish would have been at the top of my best SF book list for the last few years, with the others a short distance behind it.

Why these books are not much more well-known and why they are not published in Britain is a complete mystery to me. Maybe, as some reviewers have opined, they’re too dark and cynical. Maybe they’re too intelligent. Whatever. I think they are far more deserving of plaudits than so many we’ve seen on the shortlists of various awards over very many years.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

German Sable Keech.

But the Japanese have got some catching up to do with the Germans. Bastei Lubbe have bought everything up to Hilldiggers, in fact they took Polity Agent before anyone had seen it and Hilldiggers before I’d even written it. I’m really grateful for their confidence in me, if somewhat spooked too.

My thanks of course to Stefan Bauer. It must be a bugger of a market there when it seems that every German I’ve encountered tells me they read the English version!

Here then is the cover of The Voyage of the Sable Keech. Please, no comments about loud and smelly flatulence, and no giggling. We are serious literary people here…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cowl in Japan.

Liz Johnson (Rights & Co-editions Manager at Macmillan) “…is truly delighted to report a Japanese deal for COWL. This is particularly exciting news as the Japanese fiction (and particularly Sci-fi) market is incredibly difficult at the moment - so many congratulations! Hayakawa Publishing Inc. will publish in paperback within 24 months.”

Excellent stuff – that’s country number nine after the USA, Russia, Germany, France, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, Spain and Romania.

Now, my thanks to Hayato Kato who approached me to get one of my short stories (The Veteran) published in Hayakawa's magazine. He took it upon himself to push me out there and doubtless this result is much due to him!

Casino Royale

As James Bond, Sean Connery looked tough, he looked like the kind of guy who could rip off your head and crap down your neck. Lazenby is a vague blur in my mind. To my recollection he had some of that Conneryishness but strayed into the territory of the Milk Tray man. Roger Moore, frankly, looked incapable of ripping the skin off a banana and probably needed a stunt double for any scene where he had to walk fast. Dalton and Brosnan are also vague blurs, the latter looking like he should have been selling Grecian 2000 before moving into a career in televangelism, but then both of these were overshadowed by special effects and an increasingly silly array of gadgets and improbable villains.

When it became known that Daniel Craig was to play James Bond, there were those in the media who immediately started attacking him. Having seen him in Archangel I thought this all a bit unfair. Now having seen him in Casino Royale I’d like the reporters concerned to be force-fed their own newspapers, anally. Craig was bloody excellent. He can do smooth, but with a nicely thuggish undertone, and has a lot more emotional depth than all the previous Bonds, including Connery. I think he’s the best yet.

It was also good that this Bond movie was without gadgets or ridiculous hitmen with steel teeth. Though updated, it was very true to the book. Are film directors starting to realise that CGI has levelled the special effects playing field and that story and character are once again of prime importance? I hope so.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Control Freaks

To these words add one of the phrases below: ‘If something is not done catastrophe will ensue, so I am going to make lots of new rules, regulations and laws that you must obey, because’

you are too fat,
you smoke too much,
the planet is warming,
you drink too much,
you drive too fast,
you produce too much waste,
you are racist,
you are homophobic ,
the terrorist threat is growing,
you might hurt yourself,
you smack your children,
you’ve got a job and others haven’t,
you’re too rich,
an Ice Age is coming,
the oil is running out,

Then, after adding your chosen phrase, now add these words: ‘and you are going to pay and pay and pay until your bum-hole squeaks.’ These particular words can also be added to the phrases below:

I want a cushy number in Brussels
I want to rescue the children of Africa
I want a fat pension,
I want another pay rise,
I want my son/daughter/wife/husband/aromatherapist to have a cushy number in Brussels
I want all people to be equal, whether or not that’s true
I want my party financier to have this contract

It’s easy enough to think of many more…

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Post.

Sigh, I sometimes wonder whether sending people signed copies of my books is worth the hassle. Some of you reading this may recollect my rant about the Canadian post office, with its stringent bureaucratic bullshit about how parcels should be addressed. They lost one parcel and returned another parcel to me (I did not put a senders address on the front, so some twat looked inside the parcel to find said address so as to return the parcel). But this was not the end of the matter. Sticking utterly to the letter of Canadian post office law I sent books in two parcels, because in one parcel they were nearing the weight limit and I didn’t want mistakes. These parcels were also correctly addressed and signed-for delivery.

The recipient of these parcels wasn’t in the office when they got there so one of the two parcels went to the local post office. He had to pay $8.00 in duties for for the privilege of collecting it. The second parcel, one that wasn’t even searched by Canada Customs, was decreed to be of a value in excess of $870.00 CDN. As the recipient said to me “WTF!!!! Are they on crack???” They tried to charge him almost $60.00 in duties on books whose value came $37.00 on the custom’s declaration form. “They’ve got to be on drugs!!!! And not even the good ones!!!!”

He observed:
“Neal, please don’t get me wrong because I’d never devalue your work because yes, I’m definitely a fan and I REALLY can’t wait to get those books in my hands… But, there’s no fricken’ way in hell I’m going to pay twice the amount of the declared value in duties so that some petty, self-important bureaucrat can pad his personal bonus for revenue generated!”

He disputed the duty charges and sent the package back to Canada Customs to be re-evaluated. Customs we’re then supposed to contact him so that they could have an “informed discussion” about the value of the contents.

“F*ck (again!!!)”

The final result of this was an apology from Canadian Customs. Apparently a computer glitch resulted in the books being overvalued by a factor of 10. How remiss of them.

My latest bit of fun, which prompted this bit of blogging, concerned a copy of Polity Agent sent to a guy in the USA. Despite being bubble-wrapped and placed inside a padded envelope, the book arrived with its spine damaged and dust jacket split top and bottom (see the pictures). I now must make a compensation claim (I won’t be paid the full value) and send another book from a limited supply. Be nice if the postal workers concerned treated parcels with a little respect rather than using them to practise drop goals.

Anyway, it is now an unfortunate necessity for me to send books wrapped in bubble-wrap inside corrugated cardboard boxes, which I’ll have to buy, so costs just went up.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Well, for various reasons I’ve not been reading as much as usual, and my ‘to read’ pile has been stacking up. First on my list upon returning to it was Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell. It’s always a little worrying reading a book by an author you’ve had contact with since you always feel the urge to say something nice even if you don’t mean it. I’ve tried to hammer down on that over the last few years. Now I will only comment on a book if it is one that grabs me and keeps me focused on it throughout; one I’ll read in preference to doing just about anything else. I’m happy to say that Crystal Rain is such a book. It’s got all the stuff I like: a bastard superhuman immortal, cruel rip-your-guts-out aliens, action, characters I cared about and a good story. If you like my stuff, I rather think you’ll like this too.