Archive for February, 2009
“It’s no game serving down in the city”: Richard Morgan had a really interesting post last week on Suvudu.com, regarding the essentially simplistic nature of Lord of the Rings, and the flashes of tantalizing complexity we nonetheless see from time to time beneath that surface. Inevitably, he ran into all the usual trouble from the legions of Tolkien fans who can’t stand the idea that the books might be anything less than perfect. Which is something that Morgan may even have anticipated: die-hard fantasy readers are a notoriously excitable bunch, so what better way to promote your own epic fantasy than to start lobbing stinkbombs at the Big Enchilada? I’m guessing THE STEEL REMAINS sales are up this week. . . .
Still, putting aside all vitriol and speculation, I think Morgan’s fundamental point is an absolutely valid one—and it made me check out the orc captains’ dialogue that he cites at the end of TWO TOWERS. He’s right; it’s fascinating—four pages of sheer brilliance utterly at odds with the overall tone of the work—and it makes one wonder what the series would have been like had the whole project been shot through with that kind of world-weariness and complexity. My honest guess is that (Morgan’s hopes aside) it probably would have been a lesser book, as I don’t think that’s where Tolkien’s heart was at. Ultimately, we need fairy tales, and he provided us with what I would continue to maintain is one of our greatest.
As for all the crap it spawned, I’ll save that for another post.
As I continue to flail away at mine, I’m thinking about trilogies 24/7 these days. Dan Meth (great name) posted on the subject recently, assessing twenty-one Hollywood trilogies, and arguing that the second movie is often the best (e.g., EMPIRE STRIKES BACK), and the third is usually the worst (e.g., TERMINATOR 3). I pretty much agree with his ratings, with the following exceptions:
—Spiderman 2 was overrated.
—the Matrix sequels were good-not-great-but-certainly-not-putrid. I’m not the first to note that the second disappeared up its own philosophical arsehole, but the third made up for a lot of lost ground, and worked for me as a finale.
—I haven’t seen Die Hard 3 yet, but I fully intend to.
—Alien 3 is worth a second look. Though I sure wish they had gone with William Gibson’s version.
My novel MIRRORED HEAVENS is now available in mass-market at Amazon.
The Mirrored Heavens went through more opening sequences than most books have pages. The N minus one version is posted below: this was the first page of the draft that Jenny Rappaport accepted for representation, and that Juliet Ulman at Bantam bought—and then promptly suggested I cut. And she was quite correct to do so. There was a time I thought this was prose that moves the universe; now that I’m a little more objective, I can see that as good as it was, it was all guitar solo and no riffwork. Still, in many ways, for many reasons, it remains the alpha and omega of everything I’ve ever written. Cue Claire Haskell, in dream-state:
They said things to her then, and some of them she remembered. They made promises, too, just like they always did, and even then she watched herself believe them. She didn’t believe their faces, though—the old man, withered in spirit yet not in mind; the orbiting gazes of the handlers, even the reflections of herself: all those simulacra, conjured up for the present purpose, and hinting in no way of the real purpose whose business they were about.
No. She didn’t buy it for a moment.
Except . . . it was the old man. It had to be. Because she’s seen that face before. Same one she sees now. Its eyes are wide. Its lips are parted. They’re whispering to her the way they always do: of errands to accomplish and gauntlets to traverse. Of barren shores and sprawling tundra. Of teeming cities and discolored skies. Of the room about her, and the chair beneath her: she feels that seat shift, but only later does she realize that that’s because it’s set upon the sea. See, this is how it works. Preserving the integrity of the inner enclaves means that their interface with those who carry out their orders must be judiciously configured. Which is why all primary briefings of agents take place under the trance, get considered by those agents only in retrospect. Such is the price of surety. Yet nothing’s ever sure. Was he really there? Was it really him? She wants it to be so badly. She hates herself for wanting it. Her mind babbles on and on and it’s all just background for this:
They said things to her then, and some of them she remembered. They made promises, too, just like they always did, and even then she watched herself believe them. They told her of long-ago obsidian and the eyes of cats aglow in moonlight. They told her these things were true. But she just turned away, forsook the faces that shimmered through that mist, embraced the greater darkness of the place from which she came—that dark where she could never see that smoke, that black where she might yet forget about that fire.
But now memory crashes down upon her.
A myriad flarings overhead. Taking the place of stars. Taking the place of space. A myriad flames: resolving into symbols. Into signs. Into letters: of every alphabet, from the extinct to the extant to the not-yet-invented, shifting in the sky above her, burning through the far flung haze beyond—and yet in all those fiery patterns mocking her with what she’s known all along . . . that every last letter combined into all the words that ever were can never even begin to equal the merest fraction of all the things that they might, perhaps, have said.
You guys have got to check out the size of this thing (er, this isn’t what it sounds like).
I love how the ratcatcher is identified only as “Mr. Xian.” And no, I’ve no intention of showing this to Spartacus the Cat. His world is complex enough as is.
Money quote: “Mr Xian is believed to still be in possession of the animal, after stuffing it into a bag and departing the scene.”
My lovely and talented agent, Jenny Rappaport, has told me that I absolutely HAVE to post on my blog that I’m eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and that MIRRORED HEAVENS is eligible for a Hugo. I feel a little uncomfortable mentioning this, but I unswervingly follow Jenny’s advice in all things related to the literary business, and she has asked me to post this twice now, so there you have it. And hey, the nomination forms are here.
My own recommendation: by all means nominate me for a Campbell, but for the Hugo, I’d recommend either ANATHEM or LITTLE BROTHER. However, with this display of modesty and restraint (and, er, realism), I’m really just buying myself the right to shamelessly pimp the sequel BURNING SKIES, which you really ought to be thinking about for next year’s Hugo, even though you haven’t read it yet because it’s not due out for another few months. I’d say it’s my masterpiece, but if that’s really the case, then I’ve got a real problem, as the third book has to be even better. Did I mention that last book’s three hundred pages behind schedule? I am so fucked.
Oh, and nominate John Joseph Adams for Best Editor, Short Form, because the guy has launched a new golden age of SF anthologies and is, yanno, the Slush GOD.
I’m way behind on this—scarily behind—but if I stay on schedule I should be able to make up the deficit soon enough. But it’s a weird feeling to be writing this book at all. You guys have been aware of Autumn Rain for (at most) just under a year now, and you’ve only seen the first book (but did I mention the sequel THE BURNING SKIES is due out in May?); this trilogy has been the center of my existence for more than eight years, and the idea now that I’m writing the final book in the series is very strange indeed. I’m preparing to say goodbye to the characters who have haunted my dreams for basically this entire decade, and it’s funny, because they’re the ones who wanted to be published even more than I did. They babbled and clamored in my head and demanded to be let loose upon the world, and it was all I could do to do everything to oblige them.
Sorry for the low profile these last few days, but I have now sent in all the changes to the BURNING SKIES manuscript except for one sentence that I intend to spring on my unsuspecting editor once I’ve mulled it for another 24-48 hours. (It’s a long story.) Thoughts/news in the meantime:
—Can you believe that two satellites collided? Rest assured that’ll be the first “incident” on many future timelines.
—Tony Smith over at Starship Sofa has declared MIRRORED HEAVENS his book of the month! I don’t know what’s cooler, hearing him wax poetic about the book’s opening, or hearing him wax poetic about the book’s opening in that groovy Scottish accent. Check it out, it’s at 1:24 on this—though as per usual from Tony, the whole episode is great.
—Spartacus (who is now far more popular than me) will be allowed no more soft food until I can get him into the vet.
—BURNING SKIES is going to blow your #$# minds.
I’m heads-down right now dealing with book two proofs and Spartacus the Cat’s latest “accidents”. . but check out my recent appearance on FAST FORWARD, the Arlington-VA based cable TV show, where host Tom Schaad and I talk about the world of MIRRORED HEAVENS and the impending sequel, BURNING SKIES (which right now is like a giant spaceship in a hangar bay with mechanics crawling all over it—gotta go. . . )
Spartacus the Cat here! I’m back while Dave frantically works on the proofs for BURNING SKIES. He took a day out for ComicCon in NYC on Saturday, leaving at 7 in the morning and getting back well after midnight. I found this annoying, so I had a little “accident” on the rug. Harharharhar. Now he’s afraid to leave the house.
Anyway, he did all sorts of things up there, like signing copies of MIRRORED HEAVENS and meeting cool people; I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it, but he also brought me back a new friend! I’d like you to meet Rex the Lion. Rex is from www.squishable.com, which is run by a guy who used to row alongside Dave back in the corporate slave galley. I know Rex looks so realistic he’s probably fooled you into thinking he’s a real lion, but I have a very acute sense of smell so I know he isn’t. But he’s still fun to have around. We spent the morning talking about how to get down the fire escape and meet some of the female alley cats. Meantime, I think I might have an accident on his head to show him who’s boss.