Down Under

Posted on November 2nd, 2012 in interviews, reviews

So after saying I wouldn’t be around for a few weeks, here I am again, jetlagged, in Australia.  That’s some gruelling journey right there, 27 hours by cab, train, train again, plane, plane again, and cab again, but, man, the weather is good.

Anyway, a few things to draw your attention to, in passing.  There’s an interview with me over on Fantasy Book Critic in which I say stuff about stuff and talk a little bit about what might come next…

Then reviews of Red Country continue to appear.  A hum-dinger from Eric Brown in the Guardian:

Abercrombie rings the changes with his sixth novel, tipping his hat to the Western genre but continuing his mission to drag fantasy, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century with his characteristic mix of gritty realism, complex characterisation, set-piece scenes of stomach-churning violence and villains who are as fully rounded as his flawed heroes … Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else: Red Country is a marvellous follow-up to his highly praised The Heroes.”

I like that.  Then there’s an interesting take from Justin Landon, of Staffer’s Book Review, who combines some stiff criticism with some fulsome praise:

Joe Abercrombie is the best living fantasist. Notice, I didn’t qualify that by saying he’s the best living British fantasist, or the best living fantasist who doesn’t write A Song of Ice and Fire, or the best living fantasist who isn’t quite as good looking as China Mièville. I say this, not to trade in unnecessary superlative, but because I genuinely believe it. He’s subversive, creative, authentic, and all together, undeniably, modern.

Aw, shucks.  I mean I wouldn’t say best, necessarily.  Top two, maybe.  Another good one from Mark Yon at SFFWorld, though not without caveats:

“Red Country is as dark, as cynical, as violent and as grimly-humorous as we have come to expect. The characters are as un-stereotypical as ever. The ‘heroes’ are not your clean-cut type, your ‘villains’ are at times worthy of your sympathy … It shows all of Joe’s strengths and is easily on par with previous books, which is all the recommendation some will need.

But forget about all that boring book crap, because perhaps most excitingly of all, there is now an edited video up on YouTube of the fabled star-studded authorial D&D session which took place at ConFusion in Detroit at the start of the year.  Players included me, Peter Brett, Brent Weeks, Scott Lynch, Pat Rothfuss, Jim Hines, Elizabeth Bear, Jay Lake with Saladin Ahmed and Myke Cole sharing the Dungeon Mastering responsibilities, and the filming done, incidentally, by the aforementioned Justin Landon.  We didn’t get far with the module (Keep on the Borderlands, an absolute classic), but it surely was quite the nostalgic laugh.  Perhaps we’ll pick it up again at some other convention in a couple of years.  I look forward to the moment when daring half-elven thief Darque Shadeaux leads his party once more toward danger.  Or at least follows his party around danger…

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  1. Welcome to the colonies! I mean, the Antipodes. Hope your tour is the best yet. :)

  2. PS: My copy of “Red Country’ came in the mail yesterday (hardback this time – nice), so I guess that means Gene Wolfe’s ‘Claw of the Conciliator’, Powys’ ‘Porius’, Hollinghurst’s ‘The Stranger’s Child’ and (would you believe it after all these years?) ‘Salem’s Lot’ all go back on the ‘must-finish-next’ pile…

    PPS: Hey look! No f#@*$%g Oxford commas!

  3. I just started reading Red Country, loving it! Shame I missed you at BristolCon, would have loved to say hi in person, but you had already gone by the time I reached the bar. So, not quite as good looking as China Mièville? That must hurt… ;) Have fun Down Under!

  4. I am just about to embark on my Red Country journey. This time I am going to listen to Steven Pacey and also follow the text at the same time. Just like I used to as a kid listening to Johnny Morris reading Thomas The Tank Engine stories. Can’t wait.

    Have fun down under.

  5. DAMNIT! There was a serious SPOILER in that Fantasy Book Critic review, Joe. I just received my copy of Red Country, I just started reading and I had no idea a certain character was coming back….I hate spoilers!

    Oh well….c’est la vie I guess

  6. It’s interesting how writers develop. In 2010, I would have said that I really liked your work and loved China Mièville’s. Best Served Cold was my least favourite of your books, whereas Kraken I quite enjoyed. However, in 2012, following Mièville’s Embassytown and Railsea and your Heroes and Red Country, my preference has definitely switched.

    I thought Railsea was awful and I didn’t manage to finish it. Embassytown was better, but I enjoyed it less than Mièville’s earlier work. Your Heroes was marvelous, and Red Country is brilliant (I’m 75% of the way through, so you could still ruin it if you tried!).

    Still, City and the City, is my favourite novel by either of you. ;-)

    Phil

  7. May be the best of three stand-alone novels, but original trilogy seems much better for me.

    Protagonists are such shitty persons again, as in BSC and The Heroes. And fighting/riding scenes are really long, but may be i have forgotten how it was in The First Law. But i was good surprised by the short lenth of th duel with Golden.

    Shifting POW’s to the side-characters works good, this was missed in previous books, except of The Heroes, And minor characters really are well developed, Sweet and Cantliss are my favorites.

    May be it is a shame on me, but i have missed Shy’s age, was it introduced in the begining of the book? I thought that she was 15-20, then it occurs that she was 17 before she even met Lamb…

  8. Hey, I got a copy!. Walked into a shop that just two days before they had not one single solitary clue about it even existing, and there a pile were on the shelf right by the door.

    An employee saw my hands snap out and close in a claw-like grip, and observed the amazed chuckling , and said “What is it with this guys books, that you all do that!”. ( the honest truth! )
    I gave a quick excited gabbling of praise, and a woman picked up a copy right away, and said “Thanks mate” to me.

    =]

    It is a paperback* NZ$ 36.99 ( arrgh, stagger, reel, clutch wounded purse! )

    and I have to say, the cover is the best any of your books has had. The whole thing works, the colours, the embossing, the texture of the fine card, Knives!, Gold!. The best bit is the Eastwoodian terseness of the blurb. I sat patting the book happily for a while. =]

    COLOUR ME HAPPY !

    *( sorry Joe, I will give you five bucks if you ever come across the Tasman, to make it up to you, but it will sit properly alongside your other books’ copies on my shelf. )

  9. First off I think it’s incredibly amusing that two of my top three authors (being yourself, Scott Lynch, and Jacqueline Carey)hungout together :) On another note, I’m curious if you are aligned with “the signed page” and if/or its possible thatI could order the Uk copy of Red Country

  10. Hey Joe,

    Welcome to Oz mate. Genrecon was awesome, and I have to congratulate you on how approachable and warm you were. Some great anecdotes, had the room in stitches. Excellent work.

    The offer of the couch in melbourne’s still open. I’m no Mr Darcy but…

  11. Welcome to Australia, Joe.

    We appreciate the effort you’ve made to get here and visit fans. I hope it goes well.

    ‘Red Country’ tour… oh, the irony (though perhaps not where you are travelling.)

    I’ll have to try and get to that canberra gig, only 5 hours drive from here so could be OK.

  12. “They’ll probably take place chiefly in the Union about 20-30 years on from the First Law, centering on a civil war, with some of the characters from the First Law moved into the background and their children being some of the central characters.”

    This certainly got me excited. I’m wodering, though, if they quoted you correctly, since 20-30 years after the First Law proper (-15 years after Red Country) would leave little time for those children to grow up. I’m guessing you meant 20-30 years after RC.

  13. But, surely, Logan played at the double-backed beast with lovely Ferro, and Adree coerced Jezal into angry sex ( plus he has a shrew officially in his sack, and Ardee may even try for twins with Glokta ) , Calder has wifey, and the Northmen took time off from pillaging and burning to explore the other traditionals, even Crummock-i-Phail got a pretty little civilised woman!. . .

    There will be a WHOLE LOT of 30 year old children who have grown up angry, with suitably forked up rolemodels !.

  14. “I’m wodering, though, if they quoted you correctly, since 20-30 years after the First Law proper (-15 years after Red Country) would leave little time for those children to grow up. I’m guessing you meant 20-30 years after RC.”

    Perhaps it’s a bildungsroman or coming-of-age story? That would be a new genre…

  15. I mean, a new genre for JA’s genre-hybridity approach. :)

  16. AntMac,

    Good thought about Jedzal’s children. They’ll certainly have a role to play, and if Ardee had a bastard son from the king, he could be a wild card during a civil war.

    The others are more complicated: if the new trilogy took place 25 years after TFL, Calder’s son would be 15. The potential children of, let’s say, the Dogman or Monza would be about the same age or younger. I don’t know if a story about a civil war would need “some of the central characters” being underage teenagers.

  17. I think we can forgive JA using some artistic licence in the age of the kids – you can’t really expect him to predict that 6 years after the first book was released he’d be thinking about a trilogy based on the children produced by characters in that book . . . so what if the timings are slightly off.

    I think Monza and Shivers’ kid will be interesting as (IIRC) she claimed that he’s Duke’s kid, not some Northern bastard’s . . I’d like to see a Sarah/John Connor relationship there, and definately not a preening spoilt brat rich kid :(

  18. Oh, and whats-her-face’s kids, the red-headed practical . . especially with their father . . . although they would need to be older as they were kids in the second book

  19. Joe,

    I am immensely curious who would be joining you in this “maybe” top-two author list. Or if you had a short list of candidates for your partner as candidates…I’d certainly give it a worthy investigation.

    Of course, the word “living” sent a pulse through my veins as I am currently approaching Knife of Dreams in my WoT reread. Very much looking forward to his final contributions as they appear embedded throughout AMOL.

    I don’t mean to draw attention from you at your time of glory (no, never…I sweaaaaar)… … …but yeah, totally curious who else you place that high because your my current living #1. Though I’d rather borrow the “21st century” distinction.

    Shit, did I forget honorifics at the start of this letter? Editing is for the pro’s! I’ll just stick with it.

  20. Oh yeah…and of course I’ve preordered and await the 10th for my prized new hardcover! WOOOOO! So close…

  21. The Horrible American “Kid Movie” genre crapola is fixed firmly in many heads.

    Goonies and Stand by me have a lot to answer for. Can we get a lynching party worked up?. I think only the actors, directors and producers actually NEED to swing . . .
    :)
    The mention of “Children” triggers ideas in peoples heads of a gang of plucky youths struggling through a world where only their actions are of interest to the lens.

    “centering on a civil war, with SOME of the characters from the First Law moved into the background and their children being SOME of the central characters.”

    SOME SOME SOME SOME SOME.

    Though, Goonies with broad-swords, treachery, monsters and poisoners has possibilities.

    HEY HEY HEY, we could hold a “Guess his next Genre Excursion” competition !.

  22. Son of Glokta could be very cool. Mind of a torturer, sword-skill of Bremer dan Gorst[sp]. It’d also be very interesting to see how the remaining Magi are involved in such a civil war (one in particular I’d like to see return).

  23. Read the Red Country.
    ****Potential Minor Spoilers****

    One question : When did Lamb meet Shy’s mother(a certain red haired ex-practical…) and promised her to take care of her children ?
    IIRC, the last time they met, they fought and the “big Northman knocked the shit out ” of her.

  24. Mayank,

    Brilliant thought. Shy could be the short for Shylo, and we saw Vitari with two daughters and a son in BSC.

    However, I don’t think it works time wise. BSC takes place 10 years ago, and Pit and Ro would not be born yet. And by that time, Lamb was with Shy’s mother already.

  25. Joe,

    Re-reading the First Law trilogy and currently on Last Argument. Don’t let it get to your head or anything, but you are without a doubt the best fantasy writer currently in the game. Bar none. I say currently because I’m a big fan of Robert E. Howard’s, another fantastic writer that has done more for the genre than has been given credit for. Like you. Your growth as a writer since The Blade Itself has been a joy to watch. Can’t wait for Red Country. Enough with the ass kissing. Cheers as you Brits say.

  26. Sorry, a question for you and others commenting here if any care to respond. Why is it that people always cite Tolkien as the father of modern epic fantasy and never Howard? I think a LOT of the fantasy coming out today owes a debt to Howard. And no, I’m not writing a Howard biography or trying to plug something. Just curious. Recently reading Howard, the original stories not Sprague, and Conan has more in common with fantasy as it is written today than anything Tolkien put out. The stories are short, so not epic in that sense, but dark and filled with “all the good stuff.” Although a warning, some of Howard’s stories have slightly racist elements. Maybe I just answered my own question as to why it’s not popular, I don’t know.

  27. Darque is the most frightening character you have created. I no longer feel safe.

  28. Andrew,

    it’s because Tolkien had a major success, his work is more influential and he wrote in the format of book series. Only after him this format becomes common. Before there were just single books (Dunsany, MacDonald, Mirrlees), or short stories collections (Howard, Lovecraft, Leiber). Although, Wizard of the Oz seems to be an exception, but it’s young-adult genre.

  29. Andrew.

    I think there are many reasons. Just a couple off the top of my head.
    Tolkien was a person of some standing in the Commonwealth nations even outside of his major fiction works. I am not sure what might be the US equivalent, but the fact that he was a “Don at Oxford” carried heavy weight, maybe something like a US sports-star is important in a cultural way?. This allowed his “little book” to be reviewed and referenced and acclaimed by “serious writers” and media, without their feeling they were making dorks of themselves, “He is a DON at OXFORD !”.
    Howard was just a popular pulp fiction writer, who died before he was thirty.
    Howards personal story was all in the past tense almost before his characters got real lasting traction in the world culture, Tolkien was someone that kept making at least interesting journalism quotes that could be put alongside references to his craft.

    Howards work is good, but set in what is always clearly meant to be OUR world, just an earlier time. The monsters are sort of commonplace and “standalone”, things people used to believe in, as if one of the old maps was being explored, “Here be monsters”. A lot, if not the majority of his early work was clearly JUST history written out on pulp, men the only monsters.
    ALL of Tolkiens work is high fantasy.

    And of course, Tolkien is just the superior writer. It isn’t even a contest.

  30. Plus, a lot of Tolkiens work and characters have similarities with christian religious figures.
    AFAIK, Joe’s works have little similarity with any religious works.

  31. Sziuku,

    Good point. Success certainly helped and I’m sure while Howard had success at the time, it was nowhere near Tolkien’s.
    Although I don’t think Howard’s Conan stories would have been well served as novels. Their size is just right.

    AntMac,

    The Don at Oxford is the American rough equivalent of Don Corleone. Tolkien is the superior writer, BUT sometimes you just have to have decapitations, women and plunder. If Howard were alive today I think he’d be a big fan of Abercrombie and a few others. I simply meant that the tone of the story is more apparent in the gritty fantasy of today. The cynicism and the gore. While bowing at the altar of Tolkien, I just wondered why I never hear more about Howard.

    mayank,

    Another good point. And I’m glad Joe’s don’t. It’s refreshing.

  32. Hey, I wasn’t knocking his work, except in how it compared to the other blokes stuff. And anyway, it is like comparing cabinet making wood-work by some Master-craftsman being paid by the state to keep the art alive, to factory line discount furniture making by underpaid wage-slaves.

    . When you consider how discouraging the US writing must have been as a livelihood at the time, pennies per page, never a chance at any riches, just grinding away, it is amazing that so many perfectly readable things were written then, and Howards works are very much readable.

    Tolkien was in a job that hardly amounts to labouring, they don’t even butter their own scones, the Dons, and they had a lot of time to sit about in their writers caps. He wrote and re-wrote his works for years, decades in some instances, hardly a surprise they were better. And of course their educations were not even in the same order of magnitude, so maybe we have to say it was Howard that was the better “actual” writer, and Tolkien just the better “trained” writer.

  33. I didn’t get the impression you were. And your analogy is great. I of course never considered the conditions both were writing in, so thanks for the insight. I imagine their approach to writing was very very different. I picture Tolkien, as you said, sitting around pondering, surrounded by dusty old volumes in some dark paneled study. Howard furiously typing in his room, working at the frenetic pace needed to make a deadline.

    I’m preaching to the choir, AntMac. I don’t really have an investment in other folks reading Howard’s stuff. I think they’d like it, though. People are always looking for something to read between their favorite fantasy writers’ releases and their good quick fixes.

    Coincidentally, I read they are set to make another Conan movie. The first one was ok, but the others…

    by the way, I haven’t been a regular here but has Abercrombie sold his book rights or heard any muttering of possible films/series?

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