Friday 31 October 2008

Happy Samhain!

On this night when the barrier between the material and spirit worlds is at its thinnest - when all manner of ghouls and ghosts lurk in the deep woods and wail across bleak moors - I like nothing more than to wallow in the glow of jack o' lanterns and sip pumpkin beer...and carve pumpkins like the fellow you see above. I'm quite happy with this chap, fashioned by my own fair hands. ;)

Anyway, I hope you raise a glass of whatever you're drinking and toast the spirits that roam the world tonight...

Happy Samhain

Thursday 30 October 2008

Gail Z. Martin Guest Blog Post

Guest blogging seems to have become more popular in the last few months, though it's a first for Speculative Horizons. I'm pleased to therefore host Gail Z. Martin - author of the popular Chronicles of the Necromancer series - on her October 'Days of the Dead' blog tour!

Given that there are plenty of interviews with Gail already floating around the interwebs, I thought we'd do something a bit different. Gail has therefore kindly written an article on her thoughts concerning innovation versus expectation in fantasy.

So, without further ado...

James asked me to write on the topic of “innovation vs. expectation.” As readers, we’re drawn to a particular genre because it promises that there will be certain elements in the story that we like, and yet we also want something new. As a writer, that’s a challenge, even today where there’s more acceptance of cross-genre stories and things that don’t quite fit the traditional category.

For me, that means working with the elements and archetypes that make an epic fantasy an epic fantasy, while putting my own spin on things. One of the fun things about writing an epic series is that you don’t have to shoot off all your fireworks before the end of the first book. Your world and your characters can unfold gradually, the way we get to know the real people and real world around us.

Expectation has a lot to do with the degree of innovation that a given reader demands. Genre novels have certain elements that make them genre novels. For example, in a romance, two strangers will meet, clash, fall in love and end up together. In a classic mystery there will be a baffling crime, a quirky detective, some red herrings and ultimately, the bad guy will get caught. Predictable? Yes. Does that stop people from reading romances or mysteries by the boatload? No. So obviously, those types of books satisfy a pretty big group of readers precisely because they meet expectations.

So as a genre writer, there’s always the tension between meeting the expectations that place you within the genre, and yet providing enough innovation that there are some surprises along the way.

I have learned that reading is an incredibly personal thing. Every reader takes something different out of the same book. That’s because we read based on where we are in our lives at a given moment in time and who we are at that moment. That’s why sometimes we’ll read a book at a certain age or stage and it will be incredibly life-changing, and then we go back a few years later to recreate the experience and something’s missing. Or we can’t get into a book at one time and pick it up later on and can’t believe we didn’t see how wonderful it is. The book didn’t change. We changed.

Our expectations as readers say a lot about our inner hopes, fears and dreams, as well as our unresolved issues and our insecurities. For example, there are some readers who love fantasy stories about princes and princesses. There are others who hate anything to do with royalty and want a poor-boy-makes-good story. There are some readers who like the fantasy of reading about handsome or wealthy characters living in a luxurious world, and others who only identify with a hard scrabble kind of hero. In all of those cases, it’s not the book that’s good or bad—it’s the filter that the reader brings to the story and the way the reader feels the story speaking to his own fears, dreams and wounds.

A large number of readers like certain types of books BECAUSE they want escapism without too much stress. We live in a world that changes by the nanosecond. Most people experience chronic uncertainty about their jobs, their relationships, their health, the economy and the price of gas. There’s something delicious about settling in with a book that is familiar but different. It’s not going to change your life. It’s not going to make you rethink your entire worldview. It’s going to entertain you.

Other readers want to shake things up. They grow impatient if a story follows any conventions of a genre, and yet they are drawn to genre fiction and have a love/hate relationship between the elements they like and the way those elements often play out. They want a book to rock their world. That’s OK, too—but they’re probably not going to agree on books with the first group of readers.

I think of innovation vs. expectation as the difference between going on a roller coaster and skiing down a double black diamond slope. Both are exciting. Both are entertaining. You could call both “thrill rides.” But there are important differences.

When you get on a roller coaster, do you seriously believe there is a high probability that you’ll be killed on the ride?

Then why do you ride it?

Because although you know where you will get on and where you will get off, you enjoy the ride in between. For many readers, books are like roller coasters. They pick a favorite genre for the same reason people ride a roller coaster. They have a pretty good idea of what will happen, but they want to enjoy the ride between beginning and end. Other books are more like the black diamond slope. Absolutely anything could happen and nothing is safe. Realize that the difference is a matter of personal preference, not an inherent statement of value.

Not every book has to please every reader. Take the Mystery genre as an example. There are cozy mysteries of the Agatha Christie variety. Forensic mysteries from Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwall. Paranormal mysteries, horror/mystery combinations—plus more.

Is Agatha Christie intrinsically better than Kathy Reichs? Pretty subjective. They all have fans—but those fans don’t usually read all the types of mysteries that exist.

Like mysteries and romances, fantasy also has subgenres. We don’t have to fight about which one is “better.” There’s urban fantasy, paranormal urban fantasy, epic/high fantasy, slipstream/time travel and a whole lot more. But within each, you’ll find some adherence to the conventions that make it subgenre. Knocking genre fantasy for containing the elements that make it a genre is like complaining that someone always gets killed in a murder mystery or that people always fall in love in a romance.

Today, a certain percentage of readers seem to be disappointed if the hero lives through the book. Maybe that’s a reflection of the times. But if the hero always has to die or events always lead to the end of the world or total despair, then that type of book also ceases to be innovative.
A lot of readers like to see good guys win (and live to tell about it). Their idea of a good book sees good triumph over evil, and true love endure. In the real world, good often loses, at least from the perspective of a single lifetime. Love disappoints. It’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And a “hero ain’t nothin’ but a sandwich.” To quote Bones McCoy, “Evil usually wins unless good is very, very careful.” So for them, an ending with some rays of hope is part of the entertainment experience they’re seeking and they want a book that delivers it.

What’s innovative? Well, that depends on where you as a reader are coming from. If you have never read a book like the one you’re reading, that book is, from your point of view, innovative. Everything is innovative at least once for someone. If you’ve read a lot of the same thing (which was apparently meeting your needs until you decided you wanted a change), something different is “innovative.” As a writer, innovation just for the sake of weirdness is usually not a winning strategy.

Not every element in a book needs to be earth shaking in order to offer innovation. It might be the way magic is used or the world’s political structure. It might be a religion or a type of creature. It might be the technology or the cultural assumptions or the gender roles or the lifespan. Change too many things all at once and it becomes difficult to identify with the characters or the story. What’s “too many?” That varies with the reader.

There will probably always be tension between innovation and expectation, which is how over 270,000 books get sold each year. The question isn’t, “Which is better?” For me, the question is, “What kind of book makes you happy?” And it’s perfectly OK if every person has a slightly different answer.

Many thanks to Gail for her article; it's always interesting to hear authors' opinions on topics like these.

Dark Haven, the next instalment in the Chronicles of the Necromancer series is due for release in February 2009. If you pre-order your copy through this website, you'll get 'virtual bonus items', so check it out.

New 'Best Served Cold' blurb

Here's what seems to be the final blurb for Joe Abercrombie's upcoming novel Best Served Cold:

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

Sounds promising. Best Served Cold is due out in the UK in June next year, and in July in the US. 

Wednesday 29 October 2008

'The Steel Remains' Sub Press edition artwork

This artwork for the Subterranean Press limited edition of Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains has already been doing the rounds on the blogosphere, but I thought it was too cool to not post here.

I really like this cover - I think it totally captures the spirit and style of the novel.

If you're interested in the signed limited edition of the novel, check out the details here.

Monday 27 October 2008

The best fantasy novel I've ever read...

On the basis that recently I discussed the worst fantasy novel I've ever read, I thought I might as well discuss the best fantasy novel I've ever read as well (actually, the truth is it's Monday, I'm tired and I can't be arsed to write the book review that I've been meaning to write for the last four days).

So, to the best fantasy book I've ever read. If you asked me who my favourite band is, or my all-time favourite album or film, I'd struggle. The truth is, I have no such problem with novels - when it comes to books, I have a clear favourite.

There are plenty of possible contenders: Lord of the Rings, Magician, The Scar, The Terror (strictly a horror novel, but given the paranormal and folkloric elements I think I can get away with calling it fantasy), Legend, The Elfstones of Shannara, Gardens of the Moon, The Lies of Locke Lamora...

But there's one novel that - in my personal estimation - stands head and shoulders above all of those I just mentioned.

That novel is George R. R. Martin's A Storm of Swords.

So, the burning question - why? The answer is quite simple. This book (and I include both parts one and two, as it was originally written as a single novel) is a masterclass in plotting and characterisation. Martin handles the various plots and storylines with remarkable skill, injecting the novel with a terrific pace that barely lets up. Time and time again the reader is hammered with revelations as the plot twists and turns. Not only that, but the novel contains some of the most brilliant scenes in epic fantasy. I won't say anything as I don't want to give anything away, but those of you who have read A Storm of Swords will know exactly what I mean when I say the following: Red Wedding, Fist of the First Men and - most of all - the shocking climax of the duel in King's Landing. That last scene in particular is just unbelievable, I think I actually squealed when I read it. Well, maybe. My mouth was certainly hanging open.

The characterisation is equally excellent. Martin lends such depth to his characters, such vitality and colour, and it's fascinating to see them change and develop as the story progresses. Two of the Lannister brood - I won't say who - experience such traumatic events, and it's simply wonderful to see how they react. No one working in epic fantasy can create characters quite like George R.R. Martin. I mean, these are people you care about. You share their problems and revel in their achievements - and this sort of genuine involvement is what reading should always be about, but rarely is.

So that's why I humbly consider A Storm of Swords to be the best fantasy novel I've ever read.


Anyone like to share their own all-time favourite?

Friday 24 October 2008

Early taster of 'Nights of Villjamur'

Mark Charan Newton, on his blog, has posted some snippets from his upcoming dying-Earth fantasy novel Nights of Villjamur:

Two young men talked in some local hand-language, their sentences needing a gesture and a glance for completion. Kids were sliding on patches of ice in horizontal freefall. A couple walked by, the blonde woman much younger than the man, and he judged them ‘respectable’ by the quality of their clothing. He was tempted to make eye contact with the woman, perhaps tease a reaction out of her. It seemed to matter, stealing a smile from that man’s life.


Lanterns were being lit by citizens who maybe had expected a brighter day. Glows of orange crept through the dreary morning, defining the shapes of elaborate windows, wide octagons, narrow arches. It had been a winter of bistros with steamed-up windows, of tundra flowers trailing down from hanging baskets, of constant plumes of smoke from chimneys, one where concealed gardens were dying, starved of sunlight, and where the statues adorning on once-flamboyant balconies were now suffocating under lichen.


Nothing had changed here for thirty or forty years, ever since it had been arrogated by the evening bohemians.
All along its lower walls were scribbles etched deep by knife blades over the centuries. Odes to lovers. Threats to all and anyone. Who watches the Night Guard? So-and-so sucks dicks. That sort of thing. Some of the cobbles were splashed with paint, too, and you could smell stale food despite the dampness. At night, lanterns would cast long, feral shadows down here, and if there was no breeze the darkness would become suffocating in such narrow confines.

I like this prose a lot, particularly the noir stylings. Personally I feel there's not enough decent stylists in the genre, so it's great to see a new author showing such strong prose...and also great that Tor are willing to publish something that may not be as commercial as the likes of Trudi Canavan, Karen Miller, etc...

Looking forward to this one very much indeed. Nights of Villjamur is out around June 2009. I'll be sure to do an interview with Mark nearer the time, as well as revealing the cover art (I've only seen a sketch of it so far, but it looks very promising).

Thursday 23 October 2008

Some excerpts...

Brent Weeks' debut novel The Way of Shadows is next on my reading list, and I'm looking forward to it given the very strong reviews its generated in the blogosphere. For those of you who think you might fancy it, you can check out an excerpt here.

I've also got Stephen Deas' The Adamantine Palace on my radar, having quite liked the excerpt he posted on his website. Stephen has kindly agreed to an interview which will surface early next year.

I posted yesterday about how I quite fancied Jasper Kent's Twelve but having read the prologue I'm not so sure; the writing style is not to my taste, though perhaps the prologue is written in a different style to the rest of the novel.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Recommendation for 2009: 'Twelve' by Jasper Kent

Quite like the sound of this one:

On 12th June 1812, Napoleon's massive grande armee forded the River Niemen and so crossed the Rubicon - its invasion of Russia had begun. In the face of superior numbers and tactics, the imperial Russian army began its retreat. But a handful of Russian officers - veterans of Borodino - are charged with trying to slow the enemy's inexorable march on Moscow.

Indeed, one of their number has already set the wheels of resistance in motion, having summoned the help of a band of mercenaries from the outermost fringes of Christian Europe.Comparing them to the once-feared Russian secret police - the Oprichniki - the name sticks. As rumours of plague travelling west from the Black Sea reach the Russians, the Oprichniki - but twelve in number - arrive.

Preferring to work alone, and at night, the twelve prove brutally, shockingly effective against the French. But one amongst the Russians, Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, is unnerved by the Oprichniki's he comes to understand the true, horrific nature of these strangers, he wonders at the nightmare they've unleashed in their midst...

Always meant to try more historical fantasy after enjoying Novik's Temeraire novels, so might have to check this one out. Plus vampires are just cool. Even when they have slicked-back hair and wear bow ties. Fortunately these ones - based on the cover art - don't.

In the words of agent John Jarrold:

"Jasper was one of the first writers I took on as a client," said Jarrold, "and I was never in any doubt regarding his talent. His story-telling, characterisation and prose are all outstanding, and the sense of place, in a crumbling Russia being invaded by Napoleon’s Grande Armée, is palpable.
"Twelve was first submitted in 2004, when the market for the supernatural was much less positive than it is today. Having seen that recent change in the market, I still felt it was a book that should be published, and three London editors were willing to take a second look – as was a publisher in the US.

"I couldn’t be happier for Jasper, or for Simon, who is a wonderful publisher, working with one of the best publishing houses in London."

Jasper Kent lives on the Sussex coast, and works part-time as a software consultant. He has also co-written several musicals, one of which was produced as part of the celebrations for the 3,000th anniversary of the foundation of Jerusalem.

Twelve is published by Bantam Press on 1 January 2009.

Article by Brandon Sanderson on his writing history

Something I'm always interested in reading about is how writers got to where they are today. Very few writers write a novel and see it get picked up straight away - normally it takes years of hard slog. As someone once said, you have to dig through a lot of dirt before you hit the gold.

Brandon Sanderson, author of Elantris, Mistborn and also of the upcoming final Wheel of Time novel - has written a piece about how he started out, explaining why his various projects failed and how eventually he managed to get the break he was looking for.

A particularly interesting point he makes is this:

"That year, 2002, I made three decisions....the second was that I was NEVER AGAIN going to write toward the market. It was killing my books. If I never got published, so be it. At least I would stop writing terrible stories mangled by my attempts to write what I thought people wanted."

This is intriguing because of how aspiring writers are always told to follow the market and find their place in it - there's no point in writing the sort of novel that went out of fashion thirty years ago (unless you don't give a toss about actually getting published). However, Sanderson's admission proves that while this advice is all well and good, it doesn't mean that you should write the kind of book that doesn't appeal to you. I guess ultimately it is about finding a balance - writing a novel that fits in with the market trends, but genuinely is something that you want to write (and the kind of thing you'd enjoy reading).

You can check out Sanderson's article in full here.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

'Legend of the Seeker' trailer (warning - it's not very good)

Thanks to Wert for the heads-up on this one.

A ten-minute trailer for the TV adaption of Terry Goodkind's yawn-inducing fantasy (it is fantasy, Terry, regardless of how much you deny it) series The Sword of Truth can be viewed here.

Having watched the trailer, I thought I'd just give my initial impressions.

  • I'm not sure why they've called it Legend of the Seeker. Admittedly The Sword of Truth is a pretty crap name, but the one for the TV series isn't much better.

  • The opening sequence (except for the fact that the mountain shots look far too similar to the start of The Two Towers) is actually pretty good, though as Wert has stated, the use of slow motion does grate a little. As does the bad guys' initial inability to put an arrow in someone's back despite being about five yards away.

  • The appearance of the magical boundary kills the credibility somewhat; the effect is a little ropey and everything just goes downhill from here.

  • It's been over ten years since I read any of Goodkind's novels, so I can't remember much about the characters, but Richard looks far too young to me. He's clearly a nice gentleman though, because he lets his horse share his apple.

  • The confrontation between the hopelessly bland bad guys and Richard and Kahlan is marred by stiff, 'Hollywood' dialogue (in other words, overly-dramatic and unrealistic) and the outcome is so blazingly obvious that there is subsequently no tension whatsoever.

  • Though not admittedly the fault of the adaption, the plot looks rather stale to say the least. The Seeker needs to obtain some sort of book before the EVIL DARK LORD gets hold of it. Or something. Boring. But that's probably Goodkind's fault. Still, at least the scriptwriters don't have to - at this stage - worry about how they're going to sidestep the pointless sex and rape scenes that proliferate the later books.

There's an official website for the TV adaption here, with various other odds and ends that I probably won't bother watching.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Book pr0n!

Some book pr0n for all you voyeurs out there. ;) 

Received these recently, courtesy of Pan Macmillan and Orbit:

There's been quite a buzz building behind the Brent Weeks novel, so that's jumped right up my reading pile. Wasn't sure about the artwork originally, but having seen the finished article I think it looks very smart indeed. Artwork featuring figures has really become popular; Orbit especially seem to use it quite a lot (Cannavan, Miller, Weeks, etc). 

I've always wanted to read some more Hal Duncan ever since I enjoyed his short story in the Solaris Book of New Fantasy, so his novel Vellum seemed a good place to start. Really like this guy's prose. 

I've read somewhat mixed reviews of Campbell's Scar Night, but I like the premise so thought I'd give it a go. Evidently one of my cats, Keiko, decided she fancied it as well:

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Artwork for Marco's Starfinder

Not quite what I was expecting (though I don't know why) but very nice all the same. John's also posted up some other artwork for the book on his blog so go and check it out. Looking forward to this one now...

Monday 13 October 2008

The worst fantasy novel I've ever read...

Adam over at the Wertzone wrote an article about some of the books, movies, etc, that came out ten years ago. I noticed that one of the books mentioned was Raymond Feist's Krondor: The Betrayal. There's nothing particularly significant about that...other than the fact that Krondor: The Betrayal is hands-down the worst fantasy novel that I've ever read.

I've always wondered how Feist - who wrote the classic epic fantasy novel Magician, as well as the very good Serpent War saga - managed to write such a shockingly bad novel.

There's only one redeeming feature about this book: it's not very long. Otherwise, it's a wonderful example of how not to write a fantasy novel. The plot is horribly linear with no surprises or memorable scenes, probably due to the fact that it was based on a video game of a similar name (which ironically was well-received by critics at the time of release).

The characters are depressingly dull and one-dimensional with no dynamic at all in their relationships. The writing itself totally lacks enthusiasm and flair. Granted, Feist was going through a divorce at the time, and clearly his head just wasn't in the right place. But still, that doesn't wholly explain it - the subsequent Krondor books (Assassins and Tear of the Gods) were not much better.

Even when you consider Feist's personal circumstances and the fact that he'd been hamstrung by the limits of the earlier computer game, it's still a terrible novel by his standards. In fact, worse than that - it could be argued that Krondor: The Betrayal signalled the start of Feist's decline in terms of the quality of his work. He might be as popular as ever (there was certainly a big turn-out for the signing I went to not so long ago) but the novels he's written since have been far short of the quality of his earlier work (though I ought to point out I've not read his most recent efforts).

All in all, an awful novel.

So, that's mine. Anyone else like to share their all-time worst fantasy novel?

Friday 10 October 2008

Major three-book pre-empt deal for debut SF novelist

From agent John Jarrold's livejournal:

"John Jarrold has concluded a three-book World Rights deal for Scottish-based Finnish SF writer Hannu Rajaniemi. Hannu’s debut novel (presently untitled) plus two further books were pre-empted by Simon Spanton of Gollancz for a high five-figure sum, on the basis of one chapter.

‘I received this chapter from Hannu by e-mail in the morning (and loved it), mentioned it to Simon when we were talking about other matters, and three hours later I had a very strong pre-empt offer,’ said John Jarrold. ‘After fifteen years in an editor’s chair I am very aware how unusual it is for an offer to be made for a debut novelist on only twenty-four double spaced pages – particularly at a time when many publishing executives are more interested in the opinions of their sales and marketing directors than those of their senior editors. So congratulations to Simon for his enthusiasm and the speed of his response, and much respect to those at Orion who trusted his judgement. I think everyone can judge the power of Hannu’s writing from the way this deal was done. This chapter leaves me thirsting for more!’

Simon Spanton said: ‘Yes, acquiring one book, let alone three, on the basis of a single chapter is a gamble; and not one I or any other editor is in the habit of making. But I’ve never been more sure of a hand than the one dealt to me by John and Hannu.

‘Hannu’s first chapter was entirely enticing; yes, it was brimful of energy, originality and fascinating science but these were bonuses. What caught me and left me desperate for more was the masterful way he set up the characters, created relationships between them based on intrigue and need and suggested a rich past and a dangerous future for all concerned. I haven’t been this excited after reading just one chapter in a long, long time and consequently I’m delighted to be able to welcome Hannu to Gollancz.’

The novel is due for delivery in August 2009."

Hannu’s short fiction has featured in INTERZONE, Finnish magazines, the anthology NOVA SCOTIA and two Best of the Year SF anthologies. Hannu has a Ph D in string theory and is a co-founder of ThinkTank Maths Limited, a technology consultancy.

'The Adamantine Palace' preview

This is an interesting one for 2009.

Here's the blurb:

The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of an empire that grew out of ashes. Once dragons ruled the world and man was little more than prey. Then a way of subduing the dragons alchemicaly was discovered and now the dragons are bred to be little more than mounts for knights and highly valued tokens in the diplomatic power-players that underpin the rule of the competing aristocratic houses.

The Empire has grown fat. And now one man wants it for himself. A man prepared to poison the king just as he has poisoned his own father. A man prepared to murder his lover and bed her daughter. A man fit to be king? But unknown to him there are flames on the way. A single dragon has gone missing. And even one dragon on the loose, unsubdued, returned to its full intelligence, its full fury, could spell disaster for the Empire.

But because of the actions of one unscrupulous mercenary the rivals for the throne could soon be facing hundreds of dragons . . . Stephen Deas has written a fast moving and action-fuelled fantasy laced with irony, a razor sharp way with characters, dialogue to die for and dragons to die by.

With the success of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, it's hardly surprising that we're seeing more dragon-orientated fantasy. Dragons are a bit of a tricky element to use in a fantasy novel; get it right and the result can be impressive, (à la Novik) get it wrong and the whole story can fall flat on its face (à la Maxey). Actually, the dragons in James Maxey's novels were pretty cool, it was the wooden dialogue and irritating characterisation that caused me to put down his book.

Anyway, The Adamantine Palace is - as far as I understand - Stephen Deas' first novel, so I'm interested to see how it pans out. Certainly sounds interesting.

You can find a 'trailer' for the novel at Deas' website.

The Adamantine Palace is due for publication by Gollancz on 19 March 2009.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Negative thought of the day...

Taken from David Anthony Durham's review of Brisingr that appeared on the Washington Post website:

"Despite the complaints, Paolini's books -- "Eldest" followed "Eragon" in 2005 -- have sold something like 15 million copies. That number has increased by more than half a million just this week with the release of "Brisingr," the third novel of a promised four in his Inheritance cycle."

It's enough to make you puke all over your cornflakes.

It's probably just the Harry Potter crowd, lapping up these books in the throes of their Potter-withdrawal symptoms, but it still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I mean - as much as I dislike J. K. Rowling's drama-queen antics and her growing army of lawyers - Harry Potter deserved to be huge, because it's a brilliant idea. Perhaps not original, but still brilliant.

Yet there's something inherently annoying at seeing the huge success of a badly written series that is - by all accounts - a stodgy, blatant amalgamation of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

Excuse me while I hurl myself off a bridge.

So much for the pot of gold...

Monday 6 October 2008

Stop the whining, please

Thanks to Larry for pointing this one out: a blog devoted entirely to some individual's pathetic whining about how long it's taking for George R. R. Martin to finish A Dance With Dragons.

Here's some of the bullshit this chump's been spouting:

"I was criticized for comparing GRRM to Erikson. All I was pointing out was the fact that Erikson writes every day, since it is his job, he is a writer. Am I asking George to do this? No. I'm just asking that he at least pretends to show that he cares. All we hear from him is what trip he was on, what convention, what pizza he ate on the east coast, what he is reading, what new products he has for us.

I mean seriously, have you every seen so much merchandising for a book series that A) isn't completed or B) hasn't been made into a movie? But as long as we are on topic, I will cite another poster who said Terry Pratchett comes out with a book every six months, Erikson, since 1999 has come out with 8 books that deal with the Malazan series, plus 5 other novellas that deal with Malazan, and 3 other novels. His books are just as long and detailed as GRRMs; in fact, i find them to be even more in-depth than Martin.

Robin Hobb, since Assassin's Apprentice (1995) has come out with four different trilogies. Terry Goodkind, another series of grand scale, started in 1994, has come out with 11 books in his series. I could go on, but my point is, yes all writers are different, but at least these writers, especially those who write books in a series, do all seem to have the same thing in common...they work."

Yeah, maybe Erikson, Hobb and Goodkind all release books more quickly than GRRM. But none of them are as good a writer as GRRM is (Goodkind is not even close) and their work is not of the same standard. GRRM is writing what many (myself included) consider to be the best work of epic fantasy since LOTR. You just can't rush this sort of undertaking. The mention of Pratchett is ridiculous; he doesn't even write in the same sub-genre!

"They (the above authors) respect their fans enough to continue to work on their novels and to release them in a timely manner."

Terry Goodkind respecting his fans? Good one. I mean, he only managed to slag off half his readership in that infamous interview that was posted on his website a few years back.

Don't for one minute try and feed me that shit about GRRM not caring about his fans. When I met GRRM at one of his book signings, he was one of the most humble, polite people I've ever met. When I got my book signed, I asked him if he could scribble 'Best of luck with your writing.' Not only did he do that, but he actually asked me what I was writing and we chatted about that for a couple of minutes. On the two occasions I've emailed him, I've received a response both times - which is more I can say of many authors. Overall, I struggle to think of an author who cares about his fans more.

"I'm not asking the guy to plug 10 hour shifts just to finish Dance, but its been what? Two years since A Feast of Crows? If I am not mistaken, I believe it took over 4 years between Storm of Swords and Feast. I would think a writer, who knew where his story was going, would at least by accident be able to punch out two novels over a five year period, unless that writer was just milking this thing for all it's worth, and that is just what the big man seems to be doing."

Just what does this guy want, exactly? You get the impression that these twats whining about the length of time it's taking GRRM to write Dance are the same ones who whined about Feast not being as good as Sword. It means GRRM is in an impossible position - if he quickly bangs out a sub-standard book, the whiners will complain it's not up to the standard of the earlier books. If he spends four years working to get it right, the whiners complain about the time it's taking. When you look at it like this, you can see why GRRM got pissed off with all the shit being posted on his journal in the first place.

The way I see it personally is quite simple. A Feast for Crows was, in my own estimation, disappointing. Therefore, I want the next novel to be as good as possible. If it takes George five years to write a novel this good, then I'll wait. Quality beats quantity.

Yes, the delay can be frustrating for fans of the series...but there's plenty of other decent fantasy to read while we're waiting. And as for all those 'fans' who bleat about how George doesn't care anymore, how he's working too slowly, how he's showing a lack of respect, etc: you're acting like prissy kids who are whining about not getting enough pocket money. It's not George that is lacking respect - it's you.

Still, I must admit that their worthless views make entertaining lunchtime reading.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Linky links

Some interesting stuff from the blogosphere this week:

Despite trekking around Europe, Aidan has still managed to find time to review The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Yet another highly positive review of this book; I really ought to check it out. 

Wert has been a busy bunny recently, blogging away at a frantic pace. He enjoyed  World War Z by Max Brooks (another book that I really like the sound of) and is currently working his way through Jordan's Wheel of Time, so if you ever wanted to know more about those novels now would be a good time to check Wert's blog out.

Jeff has discussed Pat's earlier review of Brent Weeks' debut novel The Way of Shadows and has raised several issues that he doesn't understand or agree with. I must admit I agree with Jeff on several of these points. I respect Pat for his achievements and I do enjoy his blog, but I'm not a fan of his reviews. Jeff has also interviewed Brent Weeks and has also reviewed his novel. I should say now that I'm glad Jeff continued blogging, as his blog is one of my favourites. 

Dark Wolf continues his weekly foray into the world of fantasy art. 

Graeme has also read and enjoyed World War Z by Max Brooks.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Ultimate fantasy book pr0n!

I saw a meme somewhere (can't remember where exactly) that required the participant to post a photo of their genre book collection. It was open to anyone, so I thought what the heck. 

On the left you can see most of my genre books (not including my Fighting Fantasy collection, which I posted earlier here). 

I don't think the photo really does it justice, it seems more impressive in reality. There's two rows of books to each shelf, so you can't see half of them (mostly the crap ones are in the back rows: Goodkind, etc). Then I've just shoved others wherever they fit...

I've taken some closer shots, which are below. And yeah, that is a hardback copy of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code you can see in the bottom right. It was a Christmas present (no, seriously). Still, to be fair I quite like Dan Brown's novels. Even if he can't write for shit.

Here's the top half. Note the secksy hardcover of LOTR on the right, and the signed advance reading copy of Abercrombie's Last Argument of Kings (third from left, top row). 

On the second row, books of interest include the proof copy of Paul Kearney's The Ten Thousand (third from left). Next to the Kearney is a first edition hardcopy of The Name of the Wind...which is as of yet unread. The heavyweight on the far right is GRRM's short story collection Dreamsongs, which is excellent and I highly recommend. Incidentally, the A Feast for Crows hardback next to that is signed by the great man himself. LOVES YOU GEORGE. 

On to the bottom half...the lower shelf is dedicated almost exclusively to my David Gemmell collection, which is still incomplete. Some really old Fritz Leiber novels are stacked on top, with a signed hardcopy version of Erikson's Toll the Hounds weighing them down. On top of the Erikson is a copy of a cat-themed short story anthology called Magicats, which was a present from an author who shall remain know who you are. ;)

Above is my Terry Brooks collection, most of which was purchased in my teenage years as I'm not an avid reader of his stuff these days (the copy of Morgawr is signed, as is the copy of Sometimes the Magic Works). More weighty Erikson novels are stacked on top, while on top of them is a signed copy of Terry Pratchett's Thief of Time. On the extreme right is a copy of The Art of Ice and Fire - a must-buy for any GRRM fan. 

So, that's it really - my genre book collection in all its geeky glory. W00t. 

This meme is open to anyone, so come on - let's see some ultimate fantasy book pr0n!