LuxCon? I really have nothing to say that I haven't said in previous years. A lovely Con run by lovely people. They always have the coolest guests of honour. This year's English language GOH was Belfast's own Ian McDonald of whom you have seen me rave on this page more than once. It was great to hang out with him and Wolfgang. It was even better to eat frites and to star on the winning team of the table quiz -- take that Mancunicon!
I've just completed David Mitchell's Black Swan Green.
It's yet another one of those books about growing up in the '80s, with all the usual elements -- you know, the music, the video games; awkward discos; casual racism; dodgems. So, yeah, more of the same except that it is astonishingly well written with tremendous characterization. I loved it by the end and especially appreciated the slight aftertaste of magic realism that threw everything else into relief.
Whether you're a refugee from the '80s, or simply a wannabe, Black Swan Green carries Peadar's highest recommendation.
I also found time to reread Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. More of that another day...
But I can share this evening's review of The Call from the very influential blog, The Wertzone.
"It's a short novel at 320 pages, but it moves fast, is extremely bloody-minded and has a body count that might make even George R.R. Martin wince. It's also very smart, with its premise and "rules" interrogated by the characters as much as by the reader, and tremendously adult. It may be marketed as a "YA" book but it does not pander to presupposed juvenile tastes. It treats its audience with respect and credits them with intelligence."
Yeah, any paragraph that has both my name and GRRM's in it is one I'll be taking out of the scrapbook in years to come and fondling in a very creepy fashion...
The interview seemed to go down well and Ian was still speaking to me afterwards, which is always a plus. And necessary too, because later that night we had to perform an hour of improv comedy together along with Jo Playford and Roz Kaveney.
Those two events left me entirely without energy for the next few days, but that's all good. I spent my time wisely, by dining in great company, by manning the Dublin 2019 desk, and, for the first time in more than a decade, by playing a game of D&D with Adrain Tchaikovsky and a hilarious, wise, insane, bizarre band of adventurers. You know who you are and may the Gods of Chaos have pity...
No sooner had the game given way to silence, than another group, the infamous "Czech M8s", tricked me into taking part in a table quiz. Did we win? No. Did we come last? A little. Define "last". In some cultures, losing by a huge margin is considered a sign of modesty and beauty. *cough*
On the final day, I found myself on a panel about "Reading My Enemy". Nick Larter kept the whole thing flowing smoothly. The audience challenged us with great questions, and before I knew it, I was pelting for my room in order to check out in time.
The hotel staff smiled in the appropriate manner. They set out a decent vegetarian breakfast too, which shocked me -- in a good way.
Nor did the heart of Manchester itself shy away from providing magnificent food of all kinds. I had an amazing desert in 1847, for example. Rich, delicious and even decadent. That last word in particular is not something a vegan gets to say very often, but there you have it.
Anyway, I haven't named many names here. I hope my friends know how I feel about them. If not, ask! Answers will be provided within 21 days.
August 30 is the on-sale date.
- Current Mood: accomplished
But the truth is that I swap favourites around in my head every single minute of the day.
One of those books that often flies to the very top, however, is Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter. It's the story of a girl stolen off to a fantasy world that somewhat resembles Middle Earth. Or would do, if Middle Earth had developed modern technology.
It's a land where sentient, Iron Dragons rain fire down on the Kingdom's enemies. Where grinning elves, sporting machine guns, pose for photos on piles of dead orc civilians. Where a shy boy nervously asks a girl on a date -- to a public evisceration.
It's witty, humourous, beautiful, shocking and amazing. It's all the adjectives, and if we allowed adverbs in this part of the world, they'd be in there too, fighting for a place at the top table.
So, yeah. Much love.
Now, imagine my reaction when, by complete chance, I found myself sitting opposite the author at a table at Boskone. I didn't embarrass myself. I didn't! Calmly, without shaking, I got him to sign his latest book. I admitted a slight admiration for The Iron Dragon's Daughter, and for its equally brilliant semi-sequel, The Dragons of Babel.
He smiled. Gave no indication of impatience. Wore a dangly earring. He mentioned in passing that he might just be writng a third Dragon book.
"Yes, yes, very good," said I, a man of the world.
But already, I'm counting down the days...
And what have I been up to since my return with magic in my eyes? Reading, of course. Watching, indeed.
As expected, I greatly enjoyed Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Tiger and the Wolf. Many of you will too. He achieves that wonderful trick that Bernard Cornwall got so right in his Winter King trilogy, of making the divine seem both real and delusionary all at the same time. The characters believe it. The readers believe it. But there's very little actual evidence for the miracles we witness.
The book is set in a world where bronze is just starting to give way to iron and where every single human being has the power to shape shift into the spirit animal of their tribe. Tchaikovsky -- or, as I call him, Adrian -- takes full advantage of this, filling every action scene with tactics based on both human and animal abilities.
The characters are great. Emotions? Yes! Moral dilemmas? For sure. Complex relationships? You will find them here.
But as with people, so with books: when I've used them up, taken the best from them, I move right on, whistling and skipping, with a song in my heart.
Up next is the Boskone anthology, The Grimm Future, in which I have a story of my very own. As you might guess from the title, the tales within are based on those collected by the brothers Grimm.
Halfway through, it's been fun so far. Atmospheric. There are lots of... forests. Giants.
Just a quick note to say... Better Call Saul. Seriously, one of current TV's most loveable and pitiful characters. Slyly funny. Ridiculous. I'm glad Netflix are only releasing one a week, or I'd have the whole thing watched already and be pining for more.
The Knick is back for season two. It's still good. Still messed up. But now that the novelty factor of season one is wearing off, I'm wondering if I can still call it "great"? Definitely worth your time, though.
Vinyl, a new show about the record business in the 70s takes about 45 minutes to get into. But now that I've seen a good two hours, I find myself falling in love. We follow a bunch of hardened, drugged up cynics -- think, to a lesser extent, "Wolf of Wall Street". But after a while, you begin to realise that the main character -- a total waste of a human being -- genuinely ADORES music and everything about it. It gives heart to something that could have been just another Entourage.
Can't wait to see more!
Also, Better Call Saul is back!
I very much enjoyed Prentice and Weil's Black Arts. It's a YA fantasy about a thief in Elizabethan London. I know, I know, you think you've seen this movie before. But this has a delightful creepyness about it -- just read the prologue in the Amazon free sample chapters.
I also like how when the main character messes up, the consequences are often very severe. It brings out the peril, I find, oh yes.
Next up, will be Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Tiger and the Wolf. I always look forward to his work, until I find, all too soon, that I'm looking back at it.
I got the first draft of The Cauldron done in time for Boskone! I'm delighted with myself, although I left so many messes behind me that fixing them will have me cursing like a sailor for months to come.
I'll see some of you very soon. And some of you much later.
I've just returned from a magical trip to Oxford with my bag full of books and my headmeat full of delightful memories. Other than the apology section, what follows is an attempt to mummify these experiences for my own future perusal. You might want to skip the lot of it!
The Apology Section
First, let me apologise to those of my Oxford friends that I failed to contact while I was over there. I hope to make my excuses to several of you at Mancunicon in person. But this was always intended to be a busy, busy few days, and so in fact, it turned out...
Fantastic Goings-on -- Monday
Too much happened in too little time to list it all. I signed 500 proofs of The Call with my sinister claw. I renewed my acquaintance with the whole crew at David Fickling Books, and I can tell you, I'd sail any sea in such fine company.
I was introduced to Emma Draude, who is to be the UK publicist for the book. Calm, lovely. Note-taking. Clever. A appreciator of fine curries. A sharer of cake. Not peanut intolerant, if I'm any judge.
After lunch, we made a few videos, with Phil and Carolyn chipping in to edit on the fly. Many of these will turn up on the interwebs some time soon in order to
And finally for Monday, there was a party for various authors and booksellers. A writer should steer well-clear of clichés*, but the children's book industry is populated almost exclusively by sweethearts. Which doesn't mean they can't be tough -- just that they don't want to be. The room was filled with great conversations and the type of snacks that would have brought ancient Rome to its knees.
The authors were fantastic. Without naming names, I met at least one scribbler I have long admired, and several whose work I will be starting in March when my reading time is my own again.
The book trade folk displayed far more friendliness and excitement than they had to. I love them all and want them to have my
Tuesday in Paradise
I spent the morning on an impromptu tour of Blackwell's Books on Broad Street. Wow! What vasty, multidimensional depths! With cabinets of precious first editions like jewels and the office of the founder's son, preserved in amber with all its old splendour. The staff there are amazing in their enthusiasm. I feel I should name names here, but this is the scary internet, so I won't. But A, B and C (or N), you are stars. It was a great experience.
After that it was back to the DFB offices to talk contracts.
Yes, the second book is now an official thing with a deadline and all that good stuff. More about that next week maybe.
For lunch, the brilliant angalin invited me into the heart of an Oxford College. I loved it! I was expecting typical university canteen food, but everything tasted as if somebody had lavished actual care and love on it. The staff too, were all smiles -- you know, as though they liked their work. You won't catch me grinning like that tomorrow morning at my day job.
One more trip to the offices to say my goodbyes and to steal the most recent copy of The Phoenix and that was that.
A day so perfect Lou Reed would have written a song about it.
*Yes, I know.
Full details are below for any interested...
Things I Wish A Pro Had Told Me
Friday 14:00 - 14:50, Harbor III (Westin)
There's nothing like 20/20 vision when you're looking in the rear view mirror. Professionals share their experiences and swap stories about their own writing and career decisions—perhaps musing how a little helpful information might have gone a long way. Find out what they wish they had known, and hear what the pros have to say about your queries during Q&A.
Walter Jon Williams (M), Brendan DuBois, Christopher Golden, Peadar Ó Guilín, Charles Stross
Friday 17:00 - 17:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Plotting and choreographing fights, whether formal battles or street brawls, is a basic item in the working writer's toolbox. What happens when there's magic in the mix? What changes? What doesn't change? What's a really bad idea? And how do you make it seem real?
Django Wexler (M), James Minz, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Peadar Ó Guilín, Fran Wilde
Mars Needs Moms
Saturday 10:00 - 10:50, Griffin (Westin)
Family can be the backbone of a young character — or his total destruction. The influences, the baggage, the support network within a family all come with benefits and costs. At a time when nontraditional families are on the rise and parents in fiction are growing scarce, what role do families play in our tales? How is the changing configuration of the nuclear family influencing the characters within our favorite stories? And where have all of the mothers gone? Mars?
Fran Wilde (M), A.C.E. Bauer, Emma Caywood, Peadar Ó Guilín, Django Wexler
The Grimm Future -- The Anthology Group Reading
Saturday 16:00 - 16:50, Griffin (Westin)
NESFA Press presents a special reading for this year's Boskone Book: The Grimm Future, edited by Erin Underwood. This exciting new anthology of reimagined Grimm's fairy tales brings you 14 original short stories with a science fictional twist. The Grimm Future features cover art by Boskone 53’s Official Artist, Richard Anderson, and original stories by Guest of Honor Garth Nix as well as program participants Dana Cameron, Max Gladstone, Carlos Hernandez, John Langan, and Peadar Ó Guilín.
Erin Underwood (M), Carlos Hernandez, Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, John Langan, Dana Cameron, Garth Nix
Boskone Book Party
Saturday 18:00 - 19:20, Galleria-Stage (Westin)
Join us for Boskone's Multi-Author Book Party, see what's new from authors you love, and discover new favorites. Boskone is also launching three NESFA Press books tonight: The Collected Stories of Poul Anderson Vol 7, Conspiracy!, and The Grimm Future.
Sunday 11:00 - 11:50, Marina 4 (Westin)
Females were once seen as the weaker sex and assigned weaker social roles. Now, they are taking full and equal parts, at least within fiction. From Cersei Lannister to Rey, Jessica Jones to Breq, and more, women are taking leadership roles as both protagonists and antagonists within the story. And those are just the characters! What about the writers of these fantastic women? Whom should we be reading? What's next?
Theodora Goss (M), Carrie Cuinn, Max Gladstone, Peadar Ó Guilín, E.J. Stevens
- Current Mood: cheerful
Let's just get the big stuff out of the way, shall we? Let's get it right... out... of... the... way.
I have finally changed my twitter handle from @theinferior to @TheCallYA. The reasons are obvious to anyone who knows that my new book, The Call, is out this year. I just hope my next book doesn't have a title like "Peadar is Crap" as I believe that handle is already taken. Also, peadariscrap.com, .org. and .net are all heavily used for some reason.
Coincidence of the Day
Other peoples' coincidences are boring, they really are. Even so, this one made my hair stand on end just a little.
I've already spoken above about The Call. It opens with a quotation from a hugely famous Irish poem called (in translation) The Lament for Art O'Leary.* It was written by the wife of poor Art, on the occasion of his murder.
He was a real person. A great soldier who "served the Empress Therese as Captain of the Hungarian Hussars". His wife, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill is the aunt of one of the most influential people in Irish history, Daniel O'Connell, a.k.a. "The Liberator". Her own achievement in writing what most consider to be the greatest Irish poem of the 18th century is no small one.
Anyway, I took the quote for my book and I used another few lines as an actual plot-point, but I only ever knew the basics of the story. The guy was murdered. Possibly because he refused to sell his horse.**
Recently, I've been working on book 2. I open up google maps, desperately trying to figure out where my characters are going to go next, and right down the road along which they're retreating, I see a Castle I never heard of before, called Drishane. Brilliant! They can go there. It couldn't be more perfect...
I write the scene.
That night, because David Bowie died, I spent a long time on twitter. Along with all the Starman stuff, is a link that somebody posted to an article written in 1949 about Art Ó Laoghaire. It turns out, that the place his murderers gathered before going off to ambush him***, was, of course, Drishane Castle.
Needless to say, I rewrote that scene today!
*The proper title is Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire.
**There's a lot of history in this statement that I won't go into now.
***If it was an ambush. There are several versions of what happened, some of which seem to indicate that O'Leary was being very provocative.
- Current Mood:Full of Serendipity