So, the first round of the Suvudu cage match has ended, and Ray Lilly survived. He’ll face Tyrion Lannister, a character so popular his name is in WordPress’s spell check (j/k). To be frank, I’m a huge Song of Ice and Fire fan, and of Tyrion in particular. I’m looking forward to this, and I have an idea or two that I think will be fun. We’ll see.
As for round one, things got contentious early and stayed that way, but that’s not a big deal. What is a big deal is that I think people might have gotten the wrong idea about R. Scott Bakker’s books.
If you skimmed through the comments looking at his fans’ description of the Kellhus character, you might think Bakker has written a munchkin’s wet dream, but the books are more interesting than that.
Check out this review of The Darkness That Comes Before by Victoria Strauss. Here’s her review of book 2, The Warrior-Prophet. At this point, the trilogy is complete and the second trilogy is nearly finished.
Anyway, these Suvudu cage matches are supposed to be an opportunity for readers to try out new books. Here’s the Prince of Nothing series:
Check them out.
Commenters on Ray Lilly’s cage match have gotten pretty hot, calling Ray a “mary sue”, saying my writeup was weak, and a couple of other insults.
I don’t link to it because I want people to rush over to my defense (please don’t). I pretty much expected this and at least one of Bakker’s readers has already backed off and expressed regret at letting things get too serious. Besides, much worse has been said in Amazon.com ratings. No big.
Still: interesting human behavior and it’s cool to see that Bakker has such passionate readers.
Added later: I’ve tried twice to post a comment on that thread to say “No blood no foul” but my comments aren’t showing up. What’s more, the page won’t reload with newer comments, even after I clear my cache. I wonder what’s going on?
reading The outside world: internet publishing wasting time
by Harry Connolly
The poll is up. Head over there to read the fight scene featuring Ray Lilly, and see him take damage like never before (and of course he has no idea he’s in a cage match).
If he wins I get to write another one, so why not drop a vote for him?
added later: Hey, be aware that this one gets a little… intense. Don’t click through if you don’t want to read a scene that’s very physical and a little over-the-top.
Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed that I’m not much interested in awards. I don’t pimp my own stuff and I don’t talk about yours. When the Hugos or Nebulas get handed out, I skim blogs for drama but otherwise ignore it. A few days ago I got a notice from SFWA announcing the Nebula Award nominees for this year and I deleted it unopened (not that I didn’t see all the names plastered all over my window into the web by lunchtime.
I don’t have anything against awards, but I just don’t care.
Well, as I was scrolling past one of the many, many copies of this years Nebula Award nominees, I noticed one particular book up for the “Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy”
“Hey, son. Remember that book The Boy at the End of the World by Greg van Eekhout? You liked that, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, it was awesome! He should get paid a million dollars to write a million sequels.”
“Well, it’s up for a big award.”
He read over the list, but The Boy… was the only one he’d read. “Cool!”
“Do you want it to win?”
“Yeah, Dad. Tell everyone I said they should vote for it.”
In 2007, I had just started reading The Fox by Sherwood Smith (the mmpb will be rereleased in April) when I signed with my agent. I’d enjoyed the hell out of Inda, the first in the series despite the long section set in military school. I’m not a big fan of school stories, but Inda won me over.
The Fox is even better. I don’t want to go too deep into it, but it’s a fantasy set mostly on sailing ships with lots of politics and action. The best thing is that the characters are so very real.
You hear a lot about gritty/realistic fantasy, and it’s always so cynical, as though realism is people behaving really badly. The characters in these books cover a wide range in a way gritty fantasy usually doesn’t–using omniscient POV, which isn’t used often enough.
And the world-building is terrific, yes, and there are so many characters it sometimes is hard to keep track. The hero is one of those super-capable types that make fantasy fun, but he has enough quirks that he rises above the generic hero stereotype. The whole thing is terrific.
There are two more books (which I’ve already bought) and the series is complete. You should totally read it.
The auction for The Wooden Man and the ghost knife prop has ended but the Worldbuilders fundraiser will continue until February 7th. It’s a lottery system; for every $10 you donate, you get a chance to win any one of hundreds of prizes.
Most are books, signed by the author. Some are ARCs of unreleased novels. Some are graphic novels. Look at this!
An ARC of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust
A “Best of” collection by Caitlin R. Kiernan
A full set of Tad William’s SHADOWMARCH
An ARC of Seanan McGuire’s newest novel
And much, much more stuff.
What’s more 50% of your donations will be matched.
Don’t miss your chance for some terrific books.
reading The outside world: everyone loves blue dog harvest of fire internet man bites world
by Harry Connolly
The Dusk Society set a… well, is it a new low? Because I’ve read some genuine shit in my time, and this book, while it was definitely bad, was mostly just dull and anti-dramatic. The villain continually thought up reasons not to kill his enemies, the photo-based art was ugly, and if there was an interesting way to get a plot point across, this book dodged it.
Sure, it’s supposed to be fore kids, so they didn’t want a lot of bloody murder, but you can’t call a villain worse than Satan if all he ever does is collect magic trinkets and tell his henches not to kill people.
The plot covers the recruitment of four modern teens into a monster-fighting society (they each have Speshul Powers Or Skills). I got bored with it less than halfway through, but my son read the whole thing, laughing all the way through.
Then you get to the end of the book, when the sexy teacher in the bad clothes who inducted the students into the Dusk Society offers a contract to the reader. Would YOU like to be a secret monster fighter???
The large size is easier to read. But here’s what the contract says:
I solemnly promise to serve The Dusk Society, with my life* if needed.
I understand that my life will at risk–everyday.
Signature of member
Notice that asterisk? What it refers to is handled in a caption, not even on the contract itself. It reads:
*UPON DEATH, ALL YOUR LIFE SAVINGS AND PROPERTY WILL BE SEIZED BY THE DUSK SOCIETY. WITHOUT NOTICE, THE DUSK SOCIETY MAY ALSO EXERCISE THE RIGHT TO ACQUIRE THE SAVINGS AND PROPERTY OF ANY SURVIVING RELATIVES.
That is one helluva clause, isn’t it? I’m tempted to make a joke about asking kids under 18 to sign contracts, or about the ways cults enrich themselves from their members, but in truth this sort of dopey story choice just makes me depressed.
By the way, that thing beside the couch is a cat.
Some years ago, when Miss Snark was active online, she recommended that aspiring authors read debut novels to study up on what’s selling. I did that for several months straight, and one of the books I read was Joshua Palmatier’s The Skewed Throne. It was pretty intense stuff.
Since then he’s released a new series under the name Benjamin Tate, and since I will probably be adopting a pen name for my post-Twenty Palaces writing, I asked if he wouldn’t mind talking about it a bit. Here he is:
First, thanks, Harry, for having me guest blog today. I hope your readers enjoy!
One of the most common questions I get as soon as I introduce myself at signings or on panels at conventions is, “Why are you published under two names?” If you weren’t aware, I have a split personality. My “Throne of Amenkor” series and most of my short stories are published under my real name, Joshua Palmatier. I also edit anthologies under that name. My newest series (check out LEAVES OF FLAME, just released) is published under the pseudonym Benjamin Tate.
The short answer to that question is easy: marketing. All of the more detailed reasons I’ll get to shortly boil down to that: marketing. The publisher is attempting to make as much money off of the books produced by the author as possible. Marketing is what drives the publishing machine, and most decisions—from the cover art, cover copy, even what appears inside the book—comes down to what the publisher thinks will sell the most copies.
Let’s talk about some of the marketing reasons that a pseudonym might seem like a good idea. I’ll only hit a few, some of the more obvious ones, because I don’t think you want the entire novel. And the reasons are numerous enough that you could probably get a book out of this. Let’s stick to two:
First, SALES: I’d hazard that this is the most common reason a pseudonym is used. Basically, the number of copies ordered by the bookstores like Barnes & Noble depends on the number of copies of previous books sold by that author. If the author is new, B&N has no previous numbers to base their ordered on, so it comes down to how well the publisher can excite them about the book. But once the author has a second or third book on the shelf, the publisher can talk all they want, but B&N is going to look up the previous sales before they order the new book. And in general, if the previous book sold, say 20 copies in one store, they will order FEWER copies of the new book. I see you shaking your head; I shake my head as well. I don’t understand it, but that’s how it happens. Sometimes the publisher can convince the bookstore to order more, if the title has some particular buzz or other selling point, but most of the time not. What happens is what writers and publisher refer to as the “death spiral.” Book 1 sells 20 copies in a particular store; the store orders in 15 copies of book 2 (and typically won’t reorder if these sell out); the store looks at the 12 copies of book 2 sold when book 3 comes out and orders 10 copies for the store; etc, etc, etc. You can see where this is heading.
So, if a particular series from an author is caught in the death spiral, when that author introduces a NEW series, the publisher can risk the bookstore looking back at the old sales and saying it didn’t sell well, we aren’t going to order much of this new series, even though its new . . . OR the publisher can introduce the new series under a pseudonym. The bookstore has no previous sales records to look at, so they order 20 copies, as if it were a debut author. And then the publisher and author hope that the book and pseudonym takes off and avoids the death spiral.
A second reason for using a pseudonym is GENRE. Often an author is interested in writing in more than one genre of fiction, say fantasy and mystery, or science fiction and romance. In this case, the author may want to keep the marketing of the two genres separate. You don’t want the exuberant fan of your cozy mystery novels seeing your name on the cover of a new book, pick it up expecting a cozy mystery, and then discovering that the new book is erotica. That could alienate your fan. (Or it could make them an even bigger fan, who knows? It’s a risk.) To avoid this possibility, you write one genre under one name, and the other under a different name, thus keeping the two genres separate. No one accidentally picks up your western novel when they’re a fan of your science fiction. This can also be done for subgenres as well—say using one name for your historical romances and a second for your paranormal romances, just to keep them separate.
As I said, there are other reasons for using pseudonyms, but I think those are the two main reasons. Both of them come down to marketing in the end—whether it’s marketing a new name to escape the sales records, or marketing a new name for a particular genre. Which reason was it for me? I have to admit it was the death spiral. While the sales of my “Throne of Amenkor” series weren’t horrible (they were modest), my publisher felt that I might be able to expand my audience by using what’s called an “open” pseudonym—basically a pseudonym whose real identity wasn’t kept secret after the release of the new book. It was hoped that the “Joshua Palmatier” fans would learn that I was now writing under the “Benjamin Tate” name and buy the new books, while I’d pick up new readers for the “Ben Tate” books by catching people browsing the shelves and running across this debut author.
Joshua Palmatier (aka Benjamin Tate) is a fantasy writer with DAW Books, with two series on the shelf, a few short stories, and is co-editor with Patricia Bray of two anthologies. Check out the “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy—The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, and The Vacant Throne—under the Joshua Palmatier name. And look for the “Well” series—Well of Sorrows and the just released Leaves of Flame—by Benjamin Tate. Short stories are included in the anthologies Close Encounters of the Urban Kind (edited by Jennifer Brozek), Beauty Has Her Way (Jennifer Brozek), and River (Alma Alexander). And the two anthologies he’s co-edited are After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar and the upcoming The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity (March 2012). Find out more about both names at www.joshuapalmatier.com and www.benjamintate.com, as well as on Facebook, LiveJournal (jpsorrow), and Twitter (bentateauthor).
Just to throw my own two cents in, when I first started coming online in the middle 90′s, I discovered that some editors hated pen names and actually refused to honor them in their magazines. Apparently, writers used to use them to hide the shameful truth about their second, science fictional careers and this editor (who is dead now and shall remain nameless) just assumed that anyone using a pen name was being insulting. Oh, genre, you’re so wacky.
Hey, check out the cover to “Tate’s” new book:
It looks fantastic.
Stephen Blackmoore’s new novel is out from Penguin (in trade, no less) and over at the B&N review blog, Paul Goat Allen gives it a terrific review, saying: “… the story is relentlessly paced and literally filled with nonstop action from the first page to the last” and “If City of the Lost is any indication, Stephen Blackmoore could be the illegitimate lovechild of James Ellroy and George Romero – zombie noir at its bloody best!”
And I’m all: Damn. It’s a zombie novel? I knew the guy came back from the dead, but I didn’t know it was zombies. Still, it just got a great review from a guy who wouldn’t look at a twenty dollar bill if it had my name on it.
That was my wife and son’s reaction when I read the final line of The Hobbit to them last night. (It was this edition, so we had to stop often to admire the artwork–although I can’t say I was fond of the way the elves were portrayed.)
As family reading time goes, this was a long one, or maybe it just seemed long because I was the only one reading it. Usually we trade chapters between the three of us, but there was no way I was going to ask my dyslexic wife to read all those dwarf names over and over. That would have been hell for her. And since my son is not enthusiastic about reading aloud at the best of times, I gladly took on the task myself.
The only problem: we were watching DVD previews of… something last week (not a good sign, eh?) and the LOTR blue ray was one of them my son was startled to hear Elijah Wood say the name “Gandalf.”
“Didn’t you know?” I said. “The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are set in the same world. They’re connected.”
“Oh. Let’s read those next.”
And my heart sank. I’m happy that he’s (finally) warming up to fantasy, but there’s no way I can ask my wife to read LOTR aloud, so all the books would be on me and me alone.
Not only that, but much of Fellowship… is freaking dire. I’m sorry; I know there are people out there who lurve the books so much they read them every year or whatever, but too much of the early travel stuff is just tedious. And Bilbo’s birthday party takes forever to get to.
I’m tempted to break the family rule and skip the books in favor of the movies.
Here’s the first chapter of Circle of Enemies.
It was August in Seattle, when the city enjoyed actual sunshine and temperatures in the eighties. I’d spent the day working, which made for a nice change. I’d just finished a forty-hour temp landscaping job; dirt and dried sweat made my face and arms itch. I hated the feeling, but even worse was that I didn’t have anything lined up for next week.
As I walked up the alley toward home, I passed a pair of older women standing beside a scraggly vegetable garden. One kept saying she was sweltering, sweltering, but her friend didn’t seem sympathetic. Neither was I. I was used to summers in the desert.
When they noticed me, they fell silent. The unsympathetic one took her friend’s hand and led her toward the back door, keeping a wary eye on me. That didn’t bother me, either.
I stumped up the stairs to my apartment above my aunt’s garage. It was too late to call the temp agency tonight. I’d have to try them early Monday morning. Not that I had much hope. It was hard for an ex- con to find work, especially an ex-con with my name.
I’m Raymond Lilly, and I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve killed. more »
Urban fantasy tropes go way back to the pulps and comics of the early 20th century. Weird Tales was publishing hard-boiled PIs vs. supernatural horror very early, and Dr. Occult (among others) appeared in the comics in the 30′s. But pretty much all of it was marketed as horror.
When the horror boom collapsed in the 80′s, people started calling their horror “dark fantasy” to separate it from the serial killer and splatter punk stuff. At the same time, Charles de Lint was doing his thing, and War for the Oaks made its big splash.
I have no idea why it got the name “urban” though, except maybe from urbanites’ bias that city=modern and rural=the past.
But I don’t think the genre hit its stride until Buffy came along. I mean, there were people writing it before, but Buffy seemed to have a powerful effect on the readership. Readers who loved the shows began snapping up the books.
What’s more, BtVS showed how powerful and effective paranormal romance plots could be, and it enshrined the new story structure of the UF, which was a break from the de Lint style. That was:
Horror fiction + protagonist with agency = urban fantasy.
It seems to me that the genre has sort of backed into the crime thriller format (I’ve said “mysteries” before, but that was stupid of me. Mystery novels are usually extended series of interesting conversations. Thrillers have more violence, and it’s the thriller that UF has emulated.)
Once the protagonist gets juiced up the vampires and werewolves become more like thriller-ish super-criminals, and the protag no longer flees in terror. That just pushes the story toward this:
Awful event -> What caused this? -> investigation <--> violent clashes <--> plot twists | (until finally) extended climactic battle.
Which is a classic thriller style.
I’m not an expert in any of this, but this is how it seems to me.