DARK SKY IN ONE WEEK!

Hello, America! And a happy Independence Day to you (and a happy belated Canada Day to you too, Canada).

In one week’s time (that’s the 11th July for those of you counting) DARK SKY is released in North America. I’m incredibly excited about this, but also a little nervous. Why? Well, DARK RUN did okay in the UK in terms of sales, but did much much better in North America. Like, four-times-as-well-in-half-the-time better. So I’m really excited and hoping that DARK SKY can continue the trend, but I won’t lie, there’s always the slight worry that it won’t.

However, I can at least report that there’s some good press for it! Andrew Liptak over at The Verge has been kind enough to put DARK SKY on his list of 16 SFF and horror books that people should read this July, and I’m delighted to say that it’s received this rather lovely starred review from Publisher’s Weekly! I’m quite happy for it to be called a “heart-stopping sequel” and to get quotes like  “Brooks writes action that is nearly nonstop and pleasingly varied while still allowing time for character description and development. This is a great space-rogue adventure in a setting with vast potential for further stories.

So, let the count-down begin! And if you haven’t pre-ordered it yet, then feel free to do so to make sure you don’t miss out…

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A Little Late To The Party

In two weeks, DARK SKY will be out in the US. Just two weeks. But I’m not going to write about that this evening. I’ll write about that in a few days, probably.

Tonight I’m going to write about Wonder Woman.

First off I should say that the thoughts I have on it cannot be properly explained (at least not by me) without going into spoiler territory. So if you have not seen Wonder Woman, I advise you not to read on yet. At least if you care about spoilers. And hey, go see it. It’s the first female-fronted mainstream superhero movie in however long, it probably deserves some support.

So apart from supporting it as a challenge to the massively male-dominated superhero movie scene, is it worth supporting? Is it a good movie? Ehhhh… no. Not in my view. It’s okay. There are certainly some good bits. But overall… well, let’s get into that.

First off, the good bits:
– Badass Amazons. Loads of female warriors of various different sizes and shapes kicking arse. Great.

– The chemistry between Diana and Steve was actually really good. Particularly in the sailboat.

– In fact, many of the performances were really good. The actors did excellently at portraying what they were told to portray. Can’t fault that.

– Diversity! Sikh British soldiers! A Native American guy! A North African guy (I’m assuming via the fez)! Something showing that it wasn’t just a whole bunch of white guys and some black Americans (if you’re lucky) on the side of the Allies was a really refreshing change. And there was racial diversity in the Amazons, too. Excellent stuff.

– I had no idea David Thewlis was in the movie, let alone what role he was playing, so that was a pleasant surprise. And he did it quite well, until it got a bit too CGI. But it was good to see him bring out the menace that lurked in Remus Lupin at the point in Prisoner Of Azkaban where you find out he’s in league with Sirius Black and you’re supposed to think that’s a bad thing. I also liked the bait and switch they did; I saw that coming, but not who the switch was going to be.
And now, the bad bits:

– Do the Amazons all wax, or something? Or are they all just born without body hair?

– Aaaaand basically, all of the plot. Lazy, lazy writing. See below.

– Hippolyta doesn’t want Diana trained. Then she does. Then she doesn’t want Diana to leave the island with Steve. Then she realises she can’t stop her. So with her daughter going out into the world, knowing full well what she is, does she send any help with her? Does she send an army of Amazons out to protect the world, their sacred duty and everything, and also maybe help keep Diana safer? NOPE. On your own, love. WHAT.

– Diana has a plan. She carries out the plan, or thinks she does. Then she finds out that the plan hasn’t worked, and her reaction isn’t “Oh well, let’s try to stop all the horrible deaths”, it’s “well, clearly if that doesn’t work everyone deserves to die.”

– And speaking of dying (and this is my main gripe)… most of this movie is one superhero knocking seven bells out of mortals. And yes, she’s using knees and the shield and throwing people into walls and stuff, but she *does* use the sword, and she *does* deflect bullets into other people, and she tips over tanks with people inside them and she collapses buildings on top of people. She kills a hell of a lot of German soldiers and, get this, she does so while believing that they are acting under the influence of Ares. So far as Diana is concerned these people aren’t in their right minds, and yet she kills them anyway.
And you know what… okay. We can have a conversation about that. We can talk about how she’s trying to get to Ares to bring the war as a whole to a close. We can talk about how she knows she can’t get there with these people in her way, and they’re not going to stop being in her way while they’re active combatants, so she has to take them out. We can talk about necessary collateral damage (you know, what she ranted at the British Colonel about). We can talk about the end justifying the means. BUT WE DON’T. We don’t have that conversation. We don’t have the bit in Captain America: Civil War where Tony and Steve (Rogers) argue over what is an acceptable use of their abilities, and who should get to decide how they’re deployed. She just goes ahead and does it.

– Getting into (and out of) the castle of the German High Command was ludicrous. A Native American guy just wanders up and steals a posh car, because there’d be no-one watching them. Then the guard lets in someone without an invitation because it’s all got a bit awkward at the gates (and lets remember he’s working for a General who likes to shoot captains in the head to keep the men on their toes). Then Diana just mugs a socialite woman and… what? Gets in the car and the driver doesn’t notice? Walks up with a sword sticking down the back of her dress and says she forgot her invitation? And then after Steve stops her from killing the General she just runs out again and he follows her and none of the guards think this is at all strange?

– We’ve found the general! He’s at an airfield that must be pretty much right next to the castle where the high command were! We’ll signal this using smoke signals, because we have a Native American with us (right…), and we’ve somehow managed to cut down a pile of trees as big as all of us put together and set them on fire and even though we’re right next to the airfield no one’s patrolling or has noticed this…

– The fact that Diana needs to “believe in love” to actually bother to save anyone is… awful? I mean, if you combined the endings of The Fifth Element and Captain America: The First Avenger, you basically have the ending of Wonder Woman. And don’t get me wrong, I liked both those movies, but come on.

– And so at the end, when Ares is defeated, the German soldiers and the (three) Allied soldiers are all happy and laughing or crying and they’re free from Ares’ control. Even though he told Diana under the Lasso of Truth that he wasn’t controlling them, he just gave them ideas. But if that’s the case, then why weren’t those Germans still trying to shoot  Samir, Charlie and the Chief (and Diana, although I guess I can understand not trying to shoot her when she’s just killed a god and also killed a whole bunch of your mates)? Which was it?
If it was that they were under his control (as is suggested by what actually happens), I find that really uncomfortable. Not only does it mean that, as mentioned above, Diana’s slaughtering her way through what are essentially people without mental capacity who also have no hope of matching her in combat, it also means that this film has completely removed human agency from the entire First World War. Think about that for a moment. This isn’t the Red Skull. This isn’t “Yeah, Hitler was a thing, this is just one of his goons who went even more rogue, that you haven’t heard about”. DC has gone “That massive global conflict that killed millions? That wasn’t the result of incredibly complex human politics. A god did that.”
A god did that.
We’re watching conflict spread over and around the Middle East on a terrifying scale, here, now, in this timeline. Daesh/Isis/Isil is butchering people and destroying cities and generally fucking over a few countries-worth of people, not to mention influencing people who may or may not be directly associated with them to commit acts of terrorism in the cities of the “Western World” too, and they are doing it (or they claim they’re doing it) in the name of a religion. In the name of a god.
I hope you will forgive me if I say that I find “A god did that” to be an unhelpful oversimplification for anything, given where we are at the moment.

So, that’s where I am with Wonder Woman. It looked fantastic and had very good acting, I’m just perplexed at what the actors were asked to do, and how little sense most of it made. I appreciate that it’s fantastic to finally have a superhero movie about a female superhero, but I’m somewhat appalled that she’s presented as a superpowered, naive child who’s incredibly intelligent in some ways but appears to lack much in the way of logical thought and whose personal ethics appear to be shaky at best and downright terrifying at worst. She really is basically Leeloo from The Fifth Element, but more powerful.

It’s so annoying. I wanted to like it. Loads of my friends love it. I wanted it to be the movie where DC knocked it out of the park instead of desperately trying to copy and play catch-up with Marvel. And yes, DC did a female superhero movie first, and that’s good. But I can’t say that it’s a good movie. It’s a movie which has good bits to it. And that’s a real shame.

However, at least it’s made loads of money, so maybe studios will at least realise that female superhero movies can be bankable, and they’ll keep making them.

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A Rush Of Democracy To The Head

I should probably be blogging about the upcoming North American release of DARK SKY. And I will. But it’s (still) not out for over a month, and right now I have more important things on my mind. Yes, more important than the US release of my second novel. I know, I know.

On Thursday June 8th the UK has its General Election, as by now I hope you would have gathered if you have any ability to vote in it. And there’s a been a whole boatload of facts shuffled backwards and forwards, and opinions raised and shouted and various things brought up and discredited. And I’m not an expert in economics, nor am I particularly well-versed in the politics of international relations, and I certainly have no expertise in countering terrorism. So I could link to the article penned by over a hundred economists worldwide who say Labour’s financial plan would be better for the country than the Conservatives’, and I could link the article from techno-security experts who claim that Theresa May’s plan to basically decrypt everything in the country would be a) virtually impossible, b) very expensive and c) probably the worst idea anyone’s ever had in terms of financial security at least since someone first said “Hey, let’s get a mortgage from the Lehmann Brothers”, and probably well before then, and I could point out that a whole bunch of people (including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, at times) have thought that bombing people in other countries is likely to lead to more terrorists, not less… but I don’t actually know if they’re telling the truth, any of them. I don’t have the expertise or knowledge to look at what they’re saying and go “Hmm, yes, valid points”, or alternately, “what a load of codswallop”.

All I can basically do is go on a gut feeling. Do I know if Labour can do what they’ve outlined in their manifesto? No. Do I know if it’s costed correctly? No. On the other hand… do I *want* Labour to do what’s in their manifesto? Pretty much, yes. Do I think the Tories can achieve what’s in their manifesto? Probably. Do I *want* them to achieve it? HELL NO, by and large.

See, that’s the thing. I might not be an expert in all the stuff I laid out above, but I’ve worked with some of the most vulnerable members of society for the past thirteen years and I know as sure as I can know anything that five more years of a Conservative government is only going to lead to more misery, more poverty, more hunger, more food banks and, yes, more deaths. Potentially avoidable deaths. Some people will undoubtedly be better off under a Tory government than under a Labour one, but it’ll be the people who wouldn’t be that badly off under a Labour one either, when you look at the big picture. I mean, as a reasonably affluent middle-class 35 year-old married White British male, I’m pretty much the Tories’ target audience. I’d probably be better off financially under them than under Labour, but not spiritually. Damn right I’ll pay more tax if I think it’s going to go to the NHS rather than to give tax cuts to billionaires and Google.

As for the rest, it’s pretty irrelevant. Sure, vote for the SNP in Scotland: hell, I’d probably vote for them if I could since they’d likely just ignore the referendum result and halt Article 50 by any means necessary. The Lib Dems could have nailed their colours to the mast on that front but they bottled it and went with a “second referendum” approach, so they and their minibus full of MPs are going to continue to be a sideshow unless May winds up a handful of seats short of an actual majority, in which case we’ll see if Farron is made of sterner stuff than Clegg. The Greens are lovely (and got my vote in the last election, because I live in a safe Labour seat and besides, no way was I going with the Tories-in-red-ties Labour or the Lib Dems that had legitimised Cameron and his cronies) but they’re not relevant now except in Brighton. And I’m not going to dignify The Other Ones by naming them, I’m pretty sure it’s all just Adrian Edmondson doing a bizarre long-form comedy skit, and he actually seems to agree.

And then we have the fact that Theresa May called this election based on her huge lead in the polls and then watched it crumble away, as she tottered around parroting catchphrases that got rebooted every fortnight and meeting carefully-selected groups of registered Conservative voters, at least since she met that lady with the learning disability in a market. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn actually found some charisma from somewhere and began treating the whole country like it’s all his personal constituency, and people have actually lapped it up. The man’s on the front page of Kerrang! this week, for crying out loud. Not that my MP will approve: Chris Leslie might be Labour but he hates Corbyn with a passion. “I never voted for Brexit, no matter what the Lib Dem leaflets say!” he whines in his latest email. And no, he didn’t vote for it, but he didn’t vote against it either, even though he says he thinks it’s an abysmal idea that will wreck the country and Nottingham: he abstained, which is like putting your fingers in your ears, whistling and hoping someone else will fight the forest fire for you. I can’t stand the man’s self-serving brand of politics and lack of loyalty to his party, but I’m voting for him because I don’t want the faintest chance of Nottingham East turning blue. But that aside, just looking at the two leaders, you have one who called the election based on her “strong and stable” leadership for Brexit etc who then didn’t turn up to the Leaders Debate and sends other prominent Tories out to speak to the media for her, and a bloke who’s been up and down the country drawing huge crowds.

Not that it’ll matter. That’s the sad thing. Despite the sudden charisma injection, despite the rallies, despite drastically narrowing the polls, Labour are still behind. Someone worked out that if every demographic turned out to vote at the level the over-65s do, we might get a hung parliament. That’s best case scenario, for those of us who really don’t want the Conservatives in government: they might not get a full majority. But they probably will. And then two things will happen:

Corbyn will suffer another leadership challenge. And this one might work.

If Theresa May doesn’t extend her majority she’ll probably suffer a leadership challenge too. Johnson, Gove or Rudd would be my guess, although after Rudd’s showing on the Leadership debate I think that one’s less likely. And then, after the Tories got into power off the back of campaign literature that was basically “Theresa May and her friends” we’ll potentially have a new Prime Minister that isn’t Theresa May.

And we’ll be right back where we started.

So on June 9th, I’ve booked the day off work to go and watch polar bear at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park to cheer myself up. But if you’re reading this, and you’re eligible to vote, and for whatever reason you haven’t decided who to vote for yet and you’re prepared to take the advice of a speculative fiction author with a stupid haircut… please, vote for whoever in your constituency is most likely to beat the Conservative candidate.

Unless it’s The Other Ones.

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DARK DEEDS release date and cover art!

So.

In July, North America gets DARK SKY, just over a year after DARK RUN came out. But then, hard on its heels in October (October 10th, to be exact) comes the third in the quintology (assuming I get that far), DARK DEEDS!

Now, I’ve seen the cover art before, and I’ve also had an idea of when the release date was. What I didn’t realise until today is that Amazon and Barnes & Noble both have the cover art and the actual release date, and have them on their websites. So I figure, well, I can share them now as well.

Feast your eyes:

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 18.18.08

Rather nice, I think you’ll agree.

Now, this is of course the North American release date. You can get it in the UK via mail order, but I’m not yet sure what the deal with be with actually getting it off the shelf in Waterstones and the like. More news as we get it.

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Scifi Scarborough

Last weekend I went to Scarborough for Scifi Scarborough 2017.

Getting there was a small adventure. I’d planned my route out, noted it down on a page in a notebook which was open on the seat next to me for (careful) reference, along with the necessary page of the UK road atlas, as is my habit. However, since I last made a long trip anywhere I’ve got a new car (when my old Peugeot 206 scraped through its recent MOT with a laundry list of expensive repairs required I bit the bullet and upgraded to a far newer car that, while expensive itself, will hopefully not need any further money spent on it for quite some time). This car has all sorts of flashy features (which weren’t why I bought it) including the ability to link itself to my phone and be its own satnav. So I’d put that on, mainly to help with navigating the smaller streets of Scarborough when I got there.

Thing is, though, my phone is an iPhone, and so the map system that was linked to the car was Apple Maps, not Google Maps (which is what I’d plotted my route on). And so I found that actually it wanted to take me a different route to the one I’d planned. “Take the exit onto the M18″ it told me as I was going up the A1(M), to which I said “Nope, don’t think so.” And then I looked ahead and saw that just past that junction the A1(M) seemed to be slowing to a crawl, so I said “I hope you know what you’re doing,” and took the exit onto the M18, trusting myself completely to a satnav for the first time in my life.

Amazingly it worked, and I got to Scarborough okay.

I’d never been to Scarborough before. It’s a small coastal town nestling at the southern edge of the North York Moors National Park, with a harbour and the ruins of a castle (see below):

Scarborough Scarborough Castle 2 Scarborough Castle from the North

I had a chance to go and check out the castle on the Friday afternoon, before the ‘Fest itself started on the Saturday morning.

One thing I can’t really tell you about Scifi Scarborough is what was there outside of the hall where my stall was, because I was there on my own and I couldn’t really leave the stall to go and see what was on! I know that various workshops and stuff took place, partly because I was sitting next to Jon Campling:

He was friendlier than this.

He was friendlier than this.

He was running ‘wand workshops’ where he would teach people five ‘attacking spells’ and five ‘defensive spells’ that the actors were taught for the Harry Potter movies, since they were apparently based on actual fencing moves, and then they’d apparently do them while the audience made noises. You can see his left hand (as King Regis from Final Fantasy) in this picture of me at my stall taken by J.S. Collyer (Jex), my con buddy who was sadly on the other side of the hall.

Me at Scarborough

Jon was really envious of the quality of my table covering. Tenner from Wilko’s.

One thing I will say about Scarborough was the quality of costumes on show. I didn’t get pictures of the perfectly kitted-out Darth Vader, storm trooper and scout trooper, or the selection of Judge Dredd judges, but I did get a few others:

Pirates R2-D2 Pyramid Head Bioshock Ripley Batman

I also met a lot of nice people who came over to chat and, in some cases, buy my books! I also gave some advice to a couple of authors who were a little further back on the progress bar than myself, and found out that I’m apparently famous in the deaf community (it seems that all it takes is for one deaf person to notice that an author wears hearing aids and words get out, at least that’s how it was told to me by someone whose sister had already heard of me).

Fun though it was at the con, it did seem almost a shame to be stuck inside when what I saw of Scarborough looked so nice in the sun.

Scarborugh in sun Scarborough beach

After the Saturday I grabbed some dinner on the sea front with Jex, and I can heartily recommend Scarborough’s fish and chip shops. The harbour looked particularly nice:

Scarborough harbour

and I also went around Marine Drive to take some photos of the sea bird colony I’d noticed on the headland cliffs when I’d driven around it that morning:

Scarborough headland

On Sunday evening after a full two days of sitting behind a table, chatting with people, selling and signing books, it was time go home. I’d had a very nice weekend, but what I hadn’t managed to do was cover my costs: when you add in travel, accommodation, the cost of hiring a table there and also the cost of the books in the first place (I get them cheap from my publisher if I want to sell them on, but I still have to buy them), you have to have a lot of interest from the public before you can actually make money selling books at a con. I’m viewing it more as an investment, and a chance to meet and chat with people.

So, Scarborough… I may be back next year. We’ll see!

Me in the sun

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TO SCARBOROUGH!

A quick reminder that this weekend it’s Scifi Scarborough and I’ll be there with a table and some books (and also my band’s CDs, just in case) in Artist’s Alley. So if you see me, come and say hi (and buy a book?)!

SFS_2017_Poster_A_WEB

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Where I’ll Be In 2017

Well, Nottingham mainly.

HOWEVER, I will also be around and about at a few places doing The Author Thing, and here they are:

SCI-FI SCARBOROUGH, 8-9TH APRIL

SFS_2017_Poster_A_WEB

I’ve never been to this before, but I’ve been told by J.S. Collyer that it’s excellent so I’m giving it a shot. I’ll be in the Artist’s Alley with a table full of books to sell and/or sign, so come and say hi if you see a bloke with a mohawk.

 

EDGE-LIT 6, DERBY, 17TH JULY

PrecompiledPage.axd

A one-day event, this. I’m not selling anything, just wandering around and seeing what’s about. I’m also intending to hunt down RJ Barker who apparently has a big fluffy coat and therefore presumably qualifies as big game. I haven’t been to this before either, but I’ve heard good things.

 

NINE WORLDS, LONDON, 4-6TH AUGUST

nine worlds

 

Now, Nine Worlds I have been to before, twice, and you can see my blog posts about the experience elsewhere on this site. It’s an incredibly fun event and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone with an interest in ‘geek culture’. I’m hoping to be involved in some panels and the like, but nothing’s organised yet. Hell, the venue isn’t even finalised yet, although it sounds like it’s very likely to be at the Novotel West in Hammersmith, like last year.

So that’s where I’ll be this year – if I end up being anywhere else, I’ll add them!

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Who Killed Barack Obama?

Today, the USA saw Donald Trump sworn in as their 45th President. It’s no secret to say that I despise the man and what he stands for, and think that this development is somewhat terrifying.

Eight years ago I was in a punk band called XPD. We wrote a song inspired by what were at the time recent events. I present the lyrics (and the MP3) below.

WHO KILLED BARACK OBAMA?

Everyone’s got hope so I’m sorry to disappoint
It might seem a brave new dawn, but I think you’ve missed the point
That nothing has really changed, all the attitude’s the same
And someone’s gonna want to keep the status quo

Who killed Barack Obama? Yes a culprit must be found
Can we blame the CIA or a subversive underground?
A terrorism plot to destabilise the West?
The responsibility lies with us

If you make a man an idol he is judged beyond his means
Bound by law and due process, more limited than he seems
Expectation weighs down hard, feel the pressure of the past
And all too soon resentment creeps back in

Luther King was shot down in his prime before the dream got stuck
Kennedy is best remembered for not knowing when to duck
Guevara’s face is selling shirts for market stalls and band adverts
A symbol now detached from all meaning

Who killed Barack Obama? Yes a culprit must be found
Can we blame the CIA or a subversive underground?
A terrorism plot to destabilise the West?
The responsibility lies with us

Who can save us now?
Who can save us now?

We killed Barack Obama, yes it’s time to take the blame
Unrealistic expectations helped him to his grave
Not a saint and not your saviour, just as human as the next
The responsibility lies with us

The responsibility lies with us

 

The song wasn’t just a literal-but-premature obituary to the 44th President, although we were there at band practice going “there’s no way the racists over there will allow this, will they? Surely someone’s going to kill him?”. It was also a musing on the fact that you cannot heap all your hopes and expectations onto the shoulders of one person and forget to do the work yourself, because you will be disappointed. That stands true: Obama lived through two terms, and did many good things, but there were also disappointments of the things he didn’t do (especially when the Democrats also had control of the Senate). He wasn’t perfect. He was never going to be.

While this is a far more depressing turn of events now, the important thing is to remember that the same is true in reverse (and also, for that matter, true in my country as we’re now mired in the ghastly clusterfuck of a Brexit negotiated by people who seem to have no grasp on reality): do not heap all of your fears onto one person. Do not give up. Do not forget to act.

Most things can pass in time. But some things can pass more quickly if you work to speed the process along, and can have less of a bite if you work against them.

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Some unsavoury company

I’ve been meaning to do a blog post for a while, covering stuff like Rogue One (it’s very good, by the way) and other general things, but I was a bit busy (or lazy) and didn’t, and now something rather more pressing has emerged.

Yesterday it was announced that a rather unpleasant individual who actually managed to get himself banned from Twitter (which is practically impossible) has received a $250,000 offer for an autobiography from Simon & Schuster. S&S are one of the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses and are the parent company of my US publisher, Saga Press. There was an immediate backlash against this announcement, as this individual (whom I won’t name, since he’s had enough publicity) has made himself decidedly unpopular with some people going so far as to label him a white supremacist. I don’t know if that’s quite accurate – he seems more like a Katie Hopkins-esque shit-stirrer who feeds off controversy whether or not he believes what he spouts – but whether it is or not, there’s no doubt that his words and actions, and the words and actions of those who follow him and whom he’s encouraged, have caused a great deal of hurt and misery to those who have been targeted.

Now, the Chicago Book Review took to Twitter to announce that they will not be reviewing a single book from S&S for all of 2017 in protest at their decision to give a broader platform to someone whose public persona and actions are largely based around victimising others (it seems reasonable to assume that an autobiography would continue such a theme). I have two books coming out in 2017 – the US release of Dark Sky in July, and then Dark Deeds later in the year – and I am, technically at least, a Simon & Schuster author. I responded to the Chicago Book Review’s tweet, explaining that such a blanket ban will affect many authors and imprints who would want nothing to do with the sort of agenda that the book they’re concerned about would be promoting.

And then my Twitter blew up.

I’ve had a whole gamut of responses but they can basically be broken down into three types:

a) “You should find a new publisher”. This varies from “your current publisher doesn’t deserve you” to “if you are in business with them you’re giving money to Nazis” (one guy actually told me he couldn’t imagine working for the people who published Mein Kampf. Although we don’t know what the future will hold for the writer of this autobiography, that seems like it might be a slightly extreme analogy). What all of these people don’t seem to realise is that I have a contract with Saga, and the contract for Dark Sky was dealt with as far back as February 2015. Many other authors will be in the same boat: even if we wanted to pack up shop and move, it’s not like we can, legally. And also, getting a publisher’s not like hailing a taxi! But more importantly, I don’t want to pack up shop. Saga Press is a brilliant place staffed by people who love diverse fiction and would have no truck with the promotion of racism, misogyny and the rest of it. A few weeks before Christmas I was having a conversation with my editor Joe Monti about the themes for my next project which features rival cultures learning (somewhat imperfectly, and with some conflict) to adapt to and accept each other. He was completely on board with it. They’re cool people there, publishing some wonderful, forward-thinking fiction from excellent people (I don’t really include myself in that, at the moment I mainly just have explosions and spaceships). They also don’t have any control over what the parent company does.

b) “You’re a whiny Millennial/snowflake/liberal” and/or “You’re a victim of the Left’s drive for censorship”. I think the the first part is down to the fact that I’m not happy about S&S’s decision either, and I made that clear. Well, bite me. The guy can say and write what he likes (within existing legal frameworks concerning hate speech and so on) on his own website or wherever, that doesn’t mean I want him to get a global publishing deal. I also think that people fail to understand that “censorship” doesn’t really mean “I don’t think you should publish that”. Censorship is, in its main use, about someone who has the power to ensure that something doesn’t get published. There’s a difference between power and pressure. The only thing the Chicago Book Review would actually be censoring is their own output. They are seeking to use this to put pressure on S&S not to go through with the deal, but they don’t have any power (likewise, the staff at Saga might be able to speak up and use their voices to say “Hey, this might damage us”, but they don’t have any power to change things themselves).

c) “Your response to this has been very reasonable, I’m going to follow you on Twitter/wish you good luck/buy your book when it comes out” (unsurprisingly, I like these people the most).

 

It’s still going on – my Twitter notifications have never been so busy, with people telling me I’m actually racist, liking all of my tweets in one go, liking tweets where other people have said I should get a new publisher if I’m so bothered about it, and so on. I’m sure actually famous people get this sort of thing all. The. Time. But it’s a bit bizarre for me to have sparked so much controversy just by saying “Hey, I kind of agree with your stance in general, but would you consider the wider ramifications of your proposed course of action?”.

So in conclusion, here is a picture of me trying to play FIFA 17 online with Nimbus sitting on my shoulder:

Nimbus

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Good News in a Bad World

Donald Trump. Egad. I mean, really? And the UK still seems to be pushing ahead with Brexit, without much sense of having a plan or even a clue. I’d much rather we didn’t leave the EU, but if we’re going to I’d far prefer for us to have something outlined that might give us a fighting chance in the world economy. Not much sign of that, sadly, unless “have our cake and eat it” is a plan.

But I can do nothing about that. All I can do is be happy and grateful for the smaller things in my life that are good.

First of all, we have a confirmed release date for the US edition of DARK SKY, which will be coming out on July 11th from Saga Press. I’m really excited for this: I think it’s a better book than DARK RUN (I know I’m hardly likely to say that it’s worse, but honestly, I think it’s better) and I hope everyone on that side of The Pond will agree! I’m also looking forward to seeing the final cover for it too, I saw the rather fantastic initial artwork a while back (by John Harris, just as DARK RUN was) but I haven’t seen the finished product yet.

Secondly, as I have mentioned online previously, I’ve started doing freelance work for Black Library, the publishing wing of Games Workshop. What I thought I’d do at this point is to give a brief overview of how this came about, and what it entails.

First of all, I live in Nottingham and have done since 2000 (full time since I graduated in 2003). Games Workshop’s HQ is in Nottingham. As a result, it is no surprise that I have encountered many people over the years who work for them given the cross-over with interests in fantasy and science-fiction, and indeed with the rock/punk/metal etc “alternative music” subculture.

Every year (I think) Black Library does an open recruitment month, where anyone who’s interested is encouraged to apply to write for them as a freelancer. I tried this a couple of years ago and had to do a couple of short fiction pieces, no more than 500 words long.

They didn’t want me.

Then, earlier this year, a writing vacancy came up in the newly-created Specialist Games department. This would involve some areas of games design but also writing background text and the sort of flash fiction that fills gaps in the company’s rulebooks, and so on. So I applied to that, as it sounded like a really fun, interesting job.

They didn’t want me for that, either (although I did get good feedback on the short story I’d written as part of the application).

Then, a couple of months ago, I was chatting to a friend who works for Games Workshop and has also had some novels published with Black Library and, at least half-jokingly, said “Oh, I don’t suppose Black Library would be interested in a novel about [not particularly serious Games Workshop-related idea] from a randomer, would they?” To which my friend replied “Well, you’re not a randomer, you’re a published author. I’ll drop one of the commissioning editors a line.”

And he did. And then I found myself talking to an editor at Black Library who asked me a bit about my knowledge of the company and its products, and then gave me a brief to write the first thousand words of a short story on. I did this and sent it to him, and he and his fellow editors were happy enough with it that they commissioned the full-length piece from me, and sent through a Contract To Provide Goods Or Services to Games Workshop (which involved me having to confirm that I don’t break EU laws on child labour and similar stuff, which I certainly don’t think I do…).

So I wrote the full-length short story and sent it in, and then had to do an invoice. I’ve never done an invoice before! Luckily I was able to tap up another freelance author I know, who gladly gave me some advice on what should be on an invoice and when I should send it in, and so forth. And now I wait for the rest of the editing process, to see what changes I’ll need to make so it fits in with my editor’s vision of what he wants.

And so there you are. Suddenly, I’m not just a published novelist releasing novels through Saga Press and Del Rey UK, I’m also a freelance author.

(I’d like to give thanks to Gav Thorpe and Andy Hoare for their assistance with my burgeoning Black Library career, as well as Stuart for the feedback on my initial draft)

One of the main lessons here is a lesson I’ve espoused before (bottom of that entry): sometimes it’s not just what you can do and how hard you work, sometimes it really comes down to luck. It might be a case of being in the right place at the right time, or it might be a case of who you know (or both: I wouldn’t have met the friend who put in a good word for me had I not been living in Nottingham). Neither of those things in and of themselves are likely to give you a new opportunity if your writing sucks and you have no work ethic, but sometimes it can be enough to open a door that would otherwise have remained shut (the other thing is persistence: if I’d just given up on writing for Black Library after my first rejection and hadn’t even mentioned the possibility afterwards then it wouldn’t have come about either, or at least not in this way).

Pretty much every part of my writing career has, in one way or another, come down to luck. Knowing the right person, being in the right place at the right time, seeing the right link to click, or whatever. So if you happen to be reading this blog as a writer who’s struggling to get recognition: keep trying. At some point you might get the break that means that, if your work’s good enough or simply what someone’s looking for at that moment in time, you’ll be up and running. And once you’re up and running, other doors can start to open.

And that, for me, is a good thing in a world that, while maybe not truly bad, certainly isn’t always good.

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