Authors are influenced by all sorts of things – their favourite writers, their childhoods, the amount of caffeine consumed at any one time. Sometimes though the influences that shape a book can come from stranger places, or show themselves in unusual ways. The Ninth Rain was a book that formed through an alchemy of oddities, so here are a few of the things that have their fingerprints on the first volume of the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Continue reading
Getting off my butt to run is hard: I don’t like running. I’ve just eaten. I am going to get cramps. I have something else to do. It is far too late to run. I can always do it tomorrow. I’m tired.
Putting my shoes on run is hard: I know what is going to follow. It is too hot. It is too early. It is possibly unsafe to be on the streets. It is embarrassing to lumber within the sight of the neighbours. I am not unfit. I could do this tomorrow. I’m tired.
Staggering through those first five minutes of a run is hard: I don’t deserve to be in optimal condition. I have failed myself. There is no point to this literal exercise. What’s the use? I’m only going to get sidelined by something else again. I’m worthless. I should give up. I’m tired.
Everything is exhausting lately. Continue reading
In an 1895 notebook, Samuel Clemens (who you might better know by his pen name: Mark Twain) wrote,
“It is the strangest thing, that the world is not full of books that scoff at the pitiful world, and the useless universe and the vile and contemptible human race – books that laugh at the whole paltry scheme and deride it…. Why don’t I write such a book?”
During the last years of his life, Twain tried to write that book. He never finished it. Instead, he left us with three quite different incomplete attempted manuscripts, now carefully put together in one volume by the University of California Press as part of their Mark Twain series. Continue reading
You know, one of the coolest things about SFF is how it invites us to mothball our skepticism and explore just about any metaphysical concept. Avatar Aang lives in a world where reincarnation is inarguably real. So does Rand Al-Thor. Just so, Narnia is a world with a concrete moral order, and the Marvel universe is absolutely lousy with gods. Fate, karma, magic, ghosts – you name it; we’ve got a franchise for it.
But here’s one big idea that I’d like to see getting more air-time: animism. It’s one of the oldest belief systems in the world, and put simply, it’s the idea that non-human creatures and things have souls, and therefore should be treated with awareness. In sci-fi and fantasy, animism usually comes to the fore whenever a creator wants to craft a culture that’s all about living in harmony with nature – your wood-elves, blue cat-people, et al. The problem is usually that they are so dang harmonious that they would never be worth writing about if they didn’t get bulldozed by the plot. (Literally, if we’re talking Ferngully and its like.) Continue reading
Write what you want to read, write what you know, but just damn write.
I’ve read a lot of advice about writing. I’ve quizzed dozens of writers about how they do it. I’ve had kindly publishers and agents and assorted industry types give me tips. And now, having been a writer of fiction for several years, I reckon I’m in a position to start dishing out advice myself with all the puffed-up simian surety every slightly drunken expert has.
I am often slightly drunk.
Using the power of my brain, I reckon I can boil down much of the advice I have received to the above the statement. It’s not the whole story — for who could be so bold as to assert such a simple truth and mean it it wholeheartedly! The world is a whirling, multi-dimensional quantum construct whose elements, seen and unseen, are interlinked in ways incomprehensible to our puny mortal minds. Continue reading
I have the devil’s own luck when it comes to titles, at least as far as that there Jonathan Oliver at Solaris is concerned.
Tide was published in 2009: fast forward to 2011, when I pitched Jon a novel called Ghosts Of War. He liked the story and commissioned it, but suggested a different title, quite reasonably pointing out that Ghosts Of War gave away the plot. Continue reading
One of the things that motivated me to write The Four Legendary Kingdoms was a desire to explore humanity’s fascination with myths, in particular, the myth of the Twelve Labours of Hercules.
I’ve long been intrigued by the Twelve Labours: those twelve tasks given to the great warrior Hercules that were so monstrously difficult they inspired the adjective “Herculean”. More than that, they were so momentous they are still talked about today, 3,000 years after Hercules supposedly performed them.
We all vaguely know the Labours: defeating the Nemean Lion (with its impenetrable pelt) or slaying the Hydra (with its many regenerating heads) or capture the Cretan Bull. Continue reading