Category Archive for ‘Uncategorized’
Posted on January 31st, 2014 in process, Uncategorized
Call them what you like: Bound Proofs, Galleys, Advance Reader Copies (ARCs), Advance Reader Editions (AREs), Advance Reader Special Editions (ARSEs), they are a staple of the publishing world. Essentially these are not-quite-final versions of the book sent out well before publication, to reviewers that they may have time to review, to other authors that they may have time to endorse, to reps and booksellers that they may become enthused about the project in time for release, and occasionally to lucky members of the public that give the author thousands of pounds. Ha ha, that last one’s a joke. Maybe.
Sometimes ARCs are unedited typescript bound in brown paper. Sometimes they’re almost indistinguishable from the finished product. These days, with short run printing getting ever more accessible, you sometimes get ARCs that are more lavish and lovely than the finished product. Certainly they’re a key marketing tool in building awareness and buzz around a book, and here are the two ARCs for Half a King, US (left) and UK (right):
MMMMM. Interestingly different approaches. Del Rey’s US Arc looks very much like the finished book might, without the effects on the cover. For the UK one HarperCollins have gone for something that will look nothing like the finished book, just aims to get a simple punchy message across to the trade, and perhaps particularly to booksellers and others who might not normally pick up a fantasy book. Nice foil, as well. The UK one’s also a slightly unusual size – same width as a standard trade paperback but a little shorter, a little squarer – which apparently they’re going to follow through with on the actual hardcover. The UK proof – partly through setting, partly through paper stock – is nearly twice as thick as the US one. The final UK hardcover won’t look anything like either of these, incidentally. Back cover…
US gets copy and some info about the release for the trade, UK has kept things sparer by printing a lot of the other stuff on the inside cover. These are in the hands of readers EVEN NOW, so I being to get nervous in anticipation of reactions. We shall see…
The actual book, in case you didn’t know, is coming out in July.
Posted on January 25th, 2013 in Uncategorized
A short while ago I was admiring Brent’s commitment to the cause by getting a full sleeve done First Law style. Ever since I have been positively bombarded by photos of people’s First Law themed tattoos. Well. Two of them.
Step forward the chest of James:
And the freshly inked forearm of Hayden:
Congratulations, fellas, you are true fans. Now who’s going to get one half of their entire body tattooed with runes a la Fenris the Feared. Well?
Posted on September 3rd, 2012 in Uncategorized
Some of you may be interested to learn that I’ve put up a little extract from Red Country for your viewing pleasure. You can see it here. Just a brief taster to whet your appetites. And the relevant links should now be live, for those who’ve been complaining…
You may have noticed some other long overdue building work has been going on at the site, of late, and there’ll be a bit more in due course. In particular, for those who’ve been asking, the maps from the Heroes are now available at reasonably high resolution, which may be useful to those of you with fuzzily digitised ones on your ebooks. By heavens, I am too good to you…
Posted on November 9th, 2011 in Uncategorized
Ah, Christmas is well on its way, and what does that mean? That’s right! The endless round of Best of 2011 lists has already begun. Isn’t that a little unfair on those books that will come out in the last two months (some 17%, after all) of the year? Yes, maybe it is. But who cares about fair? Not me, that’s for damn sure. Because I note in passing that no less an organisation than Amazon.uk have published their list of the best books of 2011, and this ain’t just fantasy, or even just fiction, this is everything. And look who’s tucked in there at No. 22, a little below Julian Barnes’ Booker Winning Sense of an Ending and a little above The World of Downton Abbey? Why it’s only Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes. Hello.
So does this mean that if you still wrongheadedly insist on saying my books suck that Amazon will call you a liar and flush your head down the toilet? Well, not totally. I don’t doubt that quality came into the decision making process, but Amazon weren’t born yesterday (1994, actually), and as a very successful bookseller I daresay they always have at least one eye on commercial concerns. So perhaps a better name for this list would be, 50 books we think we’re going to be able to sell the most shit-loads of copies of up until Christmas, 2011. But is that such a bad thing? Now I’m wondering which list I’d rather be on. The Best Books. Or the Books we think we’re going to be able to sell the most shit-loads of copies of.
Let me think about that.
For about three seconds.
Posted on October 12th, 2011 in Uncategorized
Hmmmm. I notice it’s a good couple of weeks since my last post around here. When I started blogging I always said I’d try and do at least a post a week, and by and large I’ve kept to that, at times nosing up towards two a week, indeed, you lucky people. The last thing you want to do is have one of those blogs with three posts on March 4th 2005 announcing your arrival on the internet, four posts the following week, one the week after, then one in October 21st 2005 saying you’re sorry you haven’t been maintaining the pace but now you’re back to stay . . . then nothing. No one wants one of those blogs. Like a garden, a blog must be regularly tended if it is to bear fruit. But lately there has been some drop off in the frequency of posting here, I will confess. Could it be . . . I just don’t have as much to say as I once did? Have I run out of strident opinion and hilarious commentary? Or perhaps it’s a long time since a book came out, I’m in that wintry period between releases and there’s less news than at other times? I guess the most interesting posts are those that react to some blip on the blogosphere, or give some insight into the writerly or publishing process, and on the whole you can’t really hurry those, they come when they come. You want to put out stuff that’s worth reading, not just blah blah to fill the space. So I guess what I’m saying is I’m still here. Just no post to write today.
Except this one, I suppose…
Posted on January 27th, 2011 in Uncategorized
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I recommend to you my latest book, The Heroes, published today in the UK by Gollancz, and available NOW from all quality emporia of the printed word, and for that matter of the digital word too. Further information here. I think it’s rather good, but why take my lying word for it? Comments from assorted reviewers include:
“The Heroes is an indictment of war and the duplicity that corrupts men striving for total power: bloody and violent, but never gratuitously so, it’s imbued with cutting humour, acute characterisation and world-weary wisdom about the weaknesses of the human race. Brilliant.”
— Eric Brown, The Guardian
“Delivered in Abercrombie’s trademark witty style … This is an action-packed novel full of brutality, black humour and razor-sharp characterisation.”
— Dave Bradley, SFX (5 star review)
“It’s an excellent tale and arguably Abercrombie’s best book yet … Its pace really showcases his talent for differently voiced and realistically motivated characters … any genre fan can enjoy what’s one of the best fantasy books of the past year.”
— SciFi Now (5 star review)
“This blood-drenched, thought-provoking dissection of a three-day battle is set in the same world as Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself, etc.), but stands very well alone … Abercrombie never glosses over a moment of the madness, passion, and horror of war, nor the tribulations that turn ordinary people into the titular heroes.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
For those of you for whom the book alone is not enough, and who require a signature to go with it, I will be at Forbidden Planet in London tonight, talking, reading, and signing copies, Guildford Waterstones the following day, and Toppings of Bath that night being interviewed by Dave Bradley of SFX. The tour will continue the following week, full details here.
And though our American brethren were not due to receive The Heroes until February 7th, I notice that those early birds at Amazon.com are actually already shipping it to citizens of the good old US of A. I say that only in passing. And link to it. LIKE THIS.
You can also see me talking about The Heroes in the actual flesh upon the facebook page of my publisher, Gollancz, should you desire. Hmmm. I strangely look like my brother more with every passing year. It’s not just the nose, it’s the whole manner. But anyway, I shall be offline for a couple of days, but hope to update you at some point from the road. Go forth, my children. Buy, read, and enjoy…
Posted on August 5th, 2010 in Uncategorized
Final copy for The Heroes:
“They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.
Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he’s far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it’s his own.
Prince Calder isn’t interested in honour, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he’ll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn’t have to fight for it himself.
Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins any more, he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him?
Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts, or even the strongest arms that prevail…
Three men. One battle. No Heroes.”
Oh man, I’m so psyched! I can’t wait to read this! Oh, hold on, I’ve read it fifty times. I can’t wait to STOP reading it.
But I bet YOU lot can’t wait to read it. Only 167 days to wait, people!
Posted on June 24th, 2010 in Uncategorized
Progress on the editing and revision of The Heroes presses doggedly forward. I’ve finished a second draft which means I now have a complete and hopefully coherent book considerably tighter, more focused, slightly simplified, and lacking in characters who suddenly disappear and are never mentioned again. It’s also some nine thousand words shorter than the first draft. Readers sometimes get nervous about these kind of cuts (don’t destroy those valuable words! That’s two whole short stories!) but believe me when I say these cuts are nothing you’d want to keep. Only one thing even approaching a full scene was cut, and that one was crap, added nothing to the story, and contained nothing either particularly witty or exciting – that’s why it got cut. The rest is all sharpening shoddy paragraphs, removing repetitive dialogue, and tightening up at the micro level. A short story made from the bits cut out is nothing anyone would want to read, believe me, and the book benefits in the same way a boxer might from sweating out a few pounds before a fight.
I feel as if the central characters are all working pretty well, their stories making sense and binding nicely together, but there’s still a fair bit of work to do. I’m already some way into the third draft, or the second round of editing, in which I’m addressing some character points that my editor has brought up, taking a look at a few scenes that aren’t working as well as they might, and trying to add some detail to the setting. I suppose you could call it worldbuilding, though not of the, “I shall destroy thee, as king Zanvonzulus the Fifth did the Smejians at the Battle of Saphontes Heights bringing the Third Flidgian War to a victorious close after seventeen years of fighting in the year three thousand seven hundred and twenty two by the Brapfistic Reckoning, varlet!” but hopefully of a more subtle type. Adding as much variety and detail as I can think of to the characters’ impressions of the landscape, especially important when pretty much the whole book is set in one place and one time. Trying to keep the weather consistent, and as varied as possible, and to make the characters’ experience of the weather more visceral and personal – the feel of wet armour, the sun beating on sunburn, and so on. And finally trying to work in some incidental detail of the two armies and the cultures they’re drawn from, giving some more texture and conviction to the backdrop, if you like. Often this can be done just by replacing and refining what’s already there. So rather than another set of bland soldiers tramping past, perhaps there’s a regimental wedding going on? Or a soldier being lashed for thievery? Or provisions being weighed out? Those kind of details can sometimes give a recurrent little hook to a scene, or draw some thought or speech from the point of view character that fleshes out and helps to illustrate their personality, hence killing two birds with one stone. I’m all about the killing of the birds.
Anyway, that third draft should be wrapping up early july, at which point there’ll be another run through, this time separating each point of view character out, looking at them individually, seeing if the balance of their story needs any additional tweaking but mostly concentrating on the voice for each character and the detail of the language, trying to make them stand out from each other as much as possible. By the time that’s done, I’ll probably have the copy edit back to look at. From the point of view of readers, still looking good for a January 2011 release, I hope.
In other news, Swords and Dark Magic, the sword and sorcery anthology in which my short story, The Fool Jobs, is appearing (along with a cornucopia of stories from masters of the genre old and new) is now out and available in the US. Afraid it has no UK publisher as yet, but I’m sure they’re looking.
In other, other news, Mass Market Paperbacks of Best Served Cold are now out in both the UK and the US. Don’t they look lovely, folks? I really like the graphic, gritty, commercial stylings of the US one, but also love the (now award winning, mark you) parchmenty appeal of the UK. Particularly like the fact that the UK one wraps around with no writing on the back, encouraging the browser to pick it up, feel it, and find the blurb on the inside cover. How could they resist…
In other, other, other news, there’s an interview with me up at the Examiner. Enjoy…
Posted on June 20th, 2010 in Uncategorized
Back from holiday down in Devon, and I failed to win the David Gemmell Legend Award the other night, which went to Graham McNeill for Empire. Curses. But on the upside, Best Served Cold did win for cover art, so congratulations to the artists Didier Graffet and Dave Senior and the designer Laura Brett. Talented people, and much deserved. The one criticism you could make of their covers for that book is that they are too far apart. A ha ha. If you’re interested, you can read a little more about the development of that now prize-winning cover here.
The event was a little less well-attended than last year due to an unfortunate scheduling convergance with the England-Algeria game, though judging on what I hear about that goalless shambles I’m glad I didn’t see it. Very good to see various people from the business, and to meet the aforementioned McNeill, Pierre Pevel who won best newcomer for his book The Cardinal’s Blades (or Les Lames du Cardinal, for it is French), and particularly from my point of view Didier Graffet, the artist responsible for the sword on the UK cover of Best Served Cold, and for the equally beautiful yet dangerous axe which will grace the UK cover of The Heroes come January.
Good to see a French book on the shortlist for the main award and winning for newcomer, given there was a Polish winner last year in Sapkowski – nice to feel that there is some serious international involvement. McNeill was something of a surprise, given the presence of the commercial juggernaut that is Wheel of Time. For those unfamiliar, McNeill writes what might be called shared world or tie-in fiction, in his case in the Warhammer world, one which I used to gamesmaster campaigns in back in the day and have always been a big admirer of. No doubt those who are not great fans of the whole idea of the Gemmells will see this as further evidence of the prize’s critical worthlessness/damage to the genre/undiluted evil etc. but to that I can only shrug my shoulders. To me it just seems evidence of the importance of shared world fiction as a slice of the market (which is pretty self-evident from visiting the sf/f section of any bookshop), that Black Library are very good at making it and have developed a big and very committed audience, and for that matter that a lot of people must have bought and liked McNeill’s book(s) in particular. No doubt the arguments about whether publicly voted awards are any use will continue, but I would note that for an award that was supposed to be pathetically predictable it has so far produced two winners out of two that no one really predicted. I’m interested to see how it develops, and continue to support the project wholeheartedly, right up until the moment when I am no longer nominated, at which point I will decry it as a farce, sham, and danger to our beloved island.
In other, related news, I note in passing that Best Served Cold has been shortlisted in the Best Novel category at this year’s British Fantasy Awards. I’m quite pleased about this, as the BFAs tend to have a big slant towards horror on the whole (in fact I’d say mine is the only straight ahead fantasy book on the shortlist). Can’t honestly imagine I’ll win this one either, though…
Posted on June 9th, 2010 in Uncategorized
The western is a genre somewhat neglected by the computer games industry. There have been a few reasonable efforts over the years, enjoyable romps with which to six-shoot away a few cactus-themed hours, but nothing particularly memorable. Until now, that is.
Red Dead Redemption is in theory a “spiritual successor” (whatever that means) to Red Dead Revolver, a Playstation 2 game which I think you’d probably have to lump along with the aforementioned reasonable yet unmemorable western efforts, but in fact Redemption has a lot more in common with developer Rockstar’s mega-franchise Grand Theft Auto. That’s no bad thing. When GTA III came out in 2001, the first of the series in 3d, the combination of huge game world, open-ended play and edgy ultra-violence was revolutionary, and its two sequels (or perhaps spiritual successors) Vice City and San Andreas further expanded and refined the concept of non-linear, crime-based gaming in huge and beautifully realised sandbox worlds.
I’d been a little disappointed with the most recent outing, Grand Theft Auto IV, which undoubtedly created an amazing world, but I felt the game within it was a bit bare, a bit empty, a bit lacking in the wealth of side-tasks and detail which had always made the series so compelling. So were Rockstar able to refresh the concept and add something new through the western setting? Resoundingly yes. In fact they’ve taken the whole thing to new heights. It’s bigger, bolder and more beautiful with better gameplay and pacing, but it’s also subtler, wittier, with better character work, even more atmosphere, and a level of thematic and emotional involvement which is all too rare in computer games. To put it simply, Red Dead Redemption is fucking stupendous.
So, John Marston is an ex-outlaw who has been blackmailed by an unscrupulous government into hunting down his one-time partners in crime, and his bloody quest will take him across beautifully realised analogues of 1910 Texas, Mexico, the Great Plains and Chicago. The decision to set the game in 1910, as the west is dying, rather than, say, 1880, is a masterstroke. Civilisation is coming, the government is tightening its grip on the wildnerness, the buffalo are facing extinction, the motor car is replacing the horse and the machine gun the revolver. Marston is no eager kid wanting to make a name for himself, he’s used up and worn down, the last of his breed, a fish out of water in the encroaching modern world. Rockstar’s satirical streak also seems to work better in this context. It’s more restrained than GTA, less lurid, less juvenile. Red Dead Redemption is an adult game in every sense.
As one would expect in the wild west, there are a lot of shootouts, especially in the missions that make up the central plot of the game, and while they can be great fun they’re generally pretty easy, thanks to Marston’s superb auto-aiming and dead-eye capabilities (you can slow down time for brief periods in order to paint targets on various part of your enemy, then unleash a hail of lead that sends banditos spinning like tops or, if you’re really good, shoots the guns from their disbelieving hands). But it’s actually the quieter, often unscripted moments that really soar. Breaking wild horses in the desert as the sunset leaks out over the mesas. Squatting in the snowy trees, buffalo rifle levelled, waiting for that perfect shot as a grizzly bear snuffles past. Hunting for confederate gold among the mountain peaks in a lashing lightning storm. An impromptu gunfight in a saloon after a few too many whiskies after I blew the piano player’s brains out because I just didn’t like what he was playing. Alright, that last one wasn’t a quiet moment, but you see what I’m saying. The game world is so detailed, so filled with wildlife, personality, and random occurrences, that a gentle ride between two towns can turn out to be more memorable than the most painstakingly scripted sequence in other games.
They’ve really hit the sweet spot in terms of pacing as well, and the way in which the game rewards exploration and draws you into participating in its many, many side-tasks. I loved San Andreas but I can remember getting a little bored of it by the end. I never tired of Red Dead Redemption. Indeed if it had required me to herd cattle around the map for another thirty hours without a shot fired I’d probably have happily put my chaps on and got those beefs on the road. There are hunting challenges like killing cougars with a knife, sharpshooting tasks like shooting birds from a moving train, bandit hideouts to be cleared, gambling games to master, even a pretty decent simulation of poker which more than once ended up in bloodshed in the street after I was accused (correctly, I will admit) of cheating.
To begin with I wasn’t sure about character and plotting but here, as with so much else, the designers have made some bold moves that pay off big in the long run. Rather than laying out the whole plot and history of the central character with heavy-handed exposition at the start, they let it drip through in conversations and offhand remarks as you go. You end up with a rich sense of history, almost as if the game is a direct sequel, but it never gets in the way. Facial animation is perhaps one weak spot. They’re a touch wooden even for steely frontiersmen, especially when you compare them to recent games particularly strong in this area like Uncharted 2 or Heavy Rain. But it’s made up for by some great voice acting, motion capture and a truly excellent score.
There are quite a lot of lengthy cut scenes, and here you’re watching rather than playing. Marston is always Marston, gruff and laconic but basically decent and honourable, which works well enough if you’ve been playing in a gruff but honourable way the rest of the time but is rather jarring if you’ve been acting like a psycopathic desperado (what, me?) But I guess there’ll always be a tradeoff in computer games between making the central character a kind of blank slate, offering dialogue and behaviour options to the player and a bit more roleplaying, as it were (Mass Effect being a good example) and those giving the central character a vivid personality of their own, allowing perhaps for sparkier if more limited dialogue (as in Uncharted 2). Either way, the recipe worked here, and I came to love Marston and his oddball crew of employers, sidekicks and adversaries. The ending, in particular, is absolute genius, bold and fitting, and it left me raw, forlorn, and hollowed out in the way a really great book does. You can’t say fairer than that, now, can you?
I’m not a man prone to hyperbole (except, of course, when applied to myself or my own work) but Red Dead Redemption stands head and shoulders above the rest in a year that seems to have had a lot of very good games. I’ll see how it settles on me, but at the moment, I’d say it’s on a short list of contenders for my best game ever…