genre stuff


Drakenfeld Review Copies – A Call to New Bloggers


UPDATE: All proof copies have now been claimed! I’m completely out. BUT. Drop me a line around the end of September and I may well have a couple of extra hardcopies…

Advance reading copies for Drakenfeld have been printed! And no doubt they’ll be going out to reviewers and bloggers pretty soon. All good. All exciting.

But, I’ve always thought it’s pretty frustrating for those new bloggers to actually get their hands on review copies, trying to build up a catalogue of posts so that publishers will take notice enough to get you on their mailing lists. At the same time, I’m also a fan of supporting new blogs, new reviewers. It’s pretty healthy from time to time to spread the love a little; to get some new blood talking about books and to freshen up debate.

So I actually asked for some extra proof copies of Drakenfeld to be printed.

Here’s the deal. If you’re a relatively new blogger and fancy giving Drakenfeld a read, drop me a line about your blog and I’ll send you a copy. I’ll include your review – even if you hate the book – on a round-up of reviews. Maybe I can persuade my publisher to at least tweet it too.

I’ve only got a dozen or so extra copies spare for this purpose, so if you’re a new genre reviewer and you want a copy of Drakenfeld, you know what to do. Likewise if you’re an established blogger, please do give this post a tweet to this so that other bloggers can find out about it.


Book Haul – Penguin Crime Paperbacks

Penguin Crime
Sometimes you can raid a second-hand bookshop with great success. The weekend proved very fruitful, as I acquired this massive haul of Penguin crime paperbacks, with their iconic green covers. My collection expands. Also, I was doubly lucky as the chap who served me tends to give random discounts now and then, so the above only cost me £20.


On Pirates

For some reason there’s still a debate in genre circles about book piracy, one that seems totally irrelevant to the modern publishing business. For a moment I thought I was in 2009 all over again. However, there are some interesting and fairly witty pieces floating about, and one of them is by fellow scribe Chuck Wendig, who really hopes you don’t pirate his book. There is wisdom there – check it out.

On the same subject, Steve Mosby linked to this powerful piece on music downloads, which I think deserves even wider coverage, particularly because it ends with this to ponder:

Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!

Congratulations, your generation is the first generation in history to rebel by unsticking it to the man and instead sticking it to the weirdo freak musicians!

I am genuinely stunned by this. Since you appear to love first generation Indie Rock, and as a founding member of a first generation Indie Rock band I am now legally obligated to issue this order: kids, lawn, vacate.

You are doing it wrong.

Beautiful, no? Anyway, I’m of the opinion that the piracy issue won’t ever be settled by discussion in the publishing world – it’s likely to be settled by large corporations, Internet Service Providers and governments, who together have the power to make life difficult for people who use torrent and file-sharing sites. We wished these big players would catch up with the digital age – be careful what you wish for, I say…


Opening Bars of Rheingold

What an opening, eh? This is apropos of nothing, like most of the posts on this blog, but I often wonder why people interested in fiction of the fantastic rarely – if ever – discuss Wagner’s Ring Cycle. And particularly the various epic interpretations of it – such as this one by the Met Opera. From the motifs and crazy imagery to Wagner’s themes and use of myths, there’s a lot to be plundered talked about and analysed by genre types, I’m sure.


Recent Reading

DuneI realise it’s been quite some time since I’ve talked about what I’ve been reading. That’s mainly because I find it so enjoyable to read books without feeling the pressure to talk about them anywhere in a review – it makes me have a great deal of respect for book reviewers. But on my reading pile towards the end of 2012 there have been some very good things and some pretty standard things. Dune needs nothing more said about it, but I’ll chip in with a few thoughts. I enjoyed it immensely. It was intellectually satisfying whilst possessing a sound plot – for me it’s the holy grail of writing, when both of those qualities are done well. Everyone knows the plot by now, and if you don’t then a few minutes of googling will set you right. But I thought it worth mentioning Herbert’s ecological thinking, which was very advanced for his time. The language he uses to talk about systems put me in mind of the work of Fritjof Capra, whose work only had influence many years after Dune was written. There was a culture shift in talking about ecology from it being a very broken down analysis of contained systems to a thoroughly interdisciplinary approach, with materials shifting between them, and Herbert discusses the environment of Arrakis in a very much forward-thinking way for the time. This is also at a time when Silent Spring, arguably the full-scale launch of the modern environmental movement in popular culture, was only just published in 1962. How Herbert describes environmental protection in 1965 wouldn’t be out of place today.

So yes. There’s more to be said about that and, if I can find the time and the inclination to do so, I probably will.

Chinatown BeatAn okay-ish crime novel I read just before Christmas was Henry Chang’s Chinatown Beat, by Soho Crime – an imprint I’ve been impressed with in the past. Chinatown Beat tells the story of Detective Jack Yu who is assigned to Fifth Precinct, Chinatown, where he grew up and gets access to places that white American officers can’t. There’s plenty going on from gang rivalries to underground casinos and prostitution rings. Gritty in the properly gritty manner – not for the sheer sake of being violent, that kind the fantasy genre is plagued with, but a much more considered and emotionally resonant kind of gritty, where the shock really comes from the fact that: this is how people actually live.

The crime is fairly so-so, and the chapters were a bit to rapid-fire for my tastes, but it was a satisfying read. Chang has some good turns of phrases scattered about, and sets up mood and character well. The whole didn’t quite come together for me, though.

Other things of note. Gary Taubes’s Diet Delusion, which I suspect should be compulsary reading for any one giving shoddy nutritional advice or who is interested in the science (and history of science) of how our body reacts to different types of food. I can’t recommend this book enough and it will make you angry at the terrible advice, based upon the low-fat diet philosophy, that our governments give today. Taubes absolutely skewers the kind of studies that have been done in the past, and which have been relied upon to provide such advice, and points out precisely why the obesity epidemic and associated illnesses are here to stay.

Daniel DerondaFor 2013 I have a bit of a different aim in reading. Not having studied English at degree level, I want to better familiarise myself with mainstream fiction classics. But I also want to ensure that I’m reading a large number of female writers – hopefully 90% – to make amends for historical ignorance. I started off with Daniel Deronda, which I finished last night. More thoughts soon perhaps. It’s a very big book and needs to be digested thoroughly.

And last year was a big year of historical research for Drakenfeld, and books on ancient civilisations are very much dominated by men (Mary Beard being one wonderful exception), so I’m going to search high and low for female scholars this year as well.

Yes, it’s positive discrimination. No, I don’t care.