“Death of a Naturalist” By Seamus Heaney

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,
On shalves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hadges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.



Hey, kids. I’m back online with full support from Apple after my recent debacle with the Chardonnay. I really didn’t think I could become more of an Apple fanboy, but I am… Did anyone break the interwebs while I was away having cream teas in the country? Were there any of those pesky flame wars and existential crises?

Anyway, Julie from Pan Mac emailed me earlier today to say that Nights of Villjamur was going to have to be reprinted, which was rather lovely to hear. I mean, it’s not the bestseller lists by any means – it’s my hardcover debut, after all! – but it’s certainly better than having the novel stink out the shelves.


Jimmy Eat World

For your summer driving pleasure. I’m away from the desk for a couple of days this weekend so enjoy the sun.


If You’ve Emailed Me This Week…

… could you email me again?

I had a slight “incident” with my MacBook and a moderately priced Chardonnay, and it’s out of action for at least two weeks if not forever. So until I get myself sorted, and continue to work on a steampunk-esque iBook, could you possibly resend your email?


Yarrr… (Post on Pirating)

Yarrrrr! Someone wants me to be pirated.

Hmm. Okay, so I know the ebook market in the UK for SF and Fantasy is miniscule against the physical book. Once you wade through stats and spin on the rise of digital sales (which, are often bumped up massively by mp3 audiobook downloads), you realise how small we’re talking for ebook fiction markets at the moment. Yes, there is a future and a place for them, and sure, you might be a reviewer with dozens of books to blast through on holiday, but let’s not get carried away when we’re talking about the vast majority of the SFF market.

I’ve ranted elsewhere that people love them book things – hey, it’s the perfect cheap portable device!

So what do I think now that I see someone actually wants pirated versions of my book uploaded to the interwebs? Well… meh.

What do any other writers think about having their own work pirated?

Is it any different (in theory) to people lending your physical book to someone else? Many authors make a habit of releasing their work under Creative Commons Licenses, to make sure it’s out there, if anything as a word-of-mouth tool. Other publishers have released free ebooks to promote an author’s backlist. I’m all for that jazz. Speaking solely as me as a writer here, I’m not so fussed about free copies going online. The more people that read me, great. It’s such a tiny percentage of genuine readers, and I can see through a lot of the spin “ZOMG teh end of books!” I ain’t gonna lose sales here. I can see publishers viewing this differently – it’s a tough argument to make, and if they lose a single penny in a competitive market, that shows.

And let’s not even bother comparing it to the music industry – books and music are vastly different entities. If anything, those differences (music has for decades been played on a device, is more passive, is casual, was influenced deeply by single sales so you wouldn’t get the same for chapters, you don’t skip from chapters of one book to another, yadda yadda yadda) to me suggest people are more likely to gloss over this sort of thing.

The only reason I would be pissed off if my book was pirated would be if it was torrented before the release date, but only if people went on to use it as spoilers. “OMG so and so DIES!”

Anyway. I’m off to buy myself an eye patch. Yarr etc.


Let’s Talk About Content, Baby

So there’s another article on the perception of fantasy readers.

But even SF fans have it easy compared to followers of fantasy. These are the people Red Dwarf fans sneer at for being nerdy. They are the zit-ridden little brothers of the SF geeks, whose even-less-healthy obsessions include trolls, giving Anglo-Saxon names to phallic weapons, and maidens with magical powers.

Sigh. Firstly: the dude clearly hasn’t been to DragonCon – if nerds look like this, sign me up. But is it me, or is there too much debate about the image of fantasy these days?

I remember discussing the Gemmell Award with a friend recently, and we both couldn’t find much wide-screen discussion on the quality and content of the books, of the literature, of what it offers, the context within genre (the taxonomy even), the nuts and bolts and nuances of the text, standing the books alongside each other and digging deep. All that I’ve seen is Damien G Walter’s thoughts, but little else other than a report of the night, or a brief note on the winner, or those cool little axes (yes I do want one, but that’s not the point.)

Compare this with the Clarke Award shortlist discussion.

Rampant debates followed in various forums and blogs, and on occasion veered into a belle-lettristic circle-jerk (but that’s all part of the fun, right?). The point is, the books were being examined in ferocious detail, and that meant people are interested in SF as a literature.

So where is the wider analysis of the Gemmell Award books? Why hasn’t anyone cranked-open these bad boys (and girls – we are gender neutral here!) to open up a wider discussion on the merits of the books against each other, a real show-down to get people talking about what’s in the books, rather than talking about the people holding them?

I love reading fantasy fiction and all that it can offer, from the fast entertainment to the deep reflection, the challenging content. That sensawonder. But I think we can get caught up in the aesthetics of fantasy as a genre, rather than the content of the individual books. We’re asked to celebrate all that’s good about fantasy – and I’m totally for that – and I think the forums and blogs celebrate the genre well. The community throngs.

But how can we persuade those who look down upon us to treat fantasy literature with more respect if we’re not respectfully discussing these great books in detail ourselves?