Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Posts Tagged ‘richard morgan

Pure Extract Of Fantasy

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On the bus into town today I was reading extracts from three highly anticipated fantasies forthcoming from Gollancz. First, there was a brief snippet of The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie:

“Vol . . . un . . . teered?” Tunny wrestled with the word as if it belonged to a foreign language. “So they do exist. Just make damn sure you don’t volunteer me for anything while you’re here. Anyway . . .” He drew the lads into a conspiratorial huddle with a crooked finger. “You boys have landed right on your feet. I’ve done all kind of jobs in his Majesty’s army and this right here,” and he pointed an affectionate finger at the standard of the First, rolled up safe under his hammock in its canvas cover, “this is a sweet detail. Now I may be in charge, that’s true. But I want you lads to think of me as, let’s say . . . your kindly uncle. Anything you need. Anything extra. Anything to make this army life of ours worth living.” He leant in closer and gave the suggestive eyebrows. “Anything. You can come to me.” Lederlingen held up a hesitant finger. “Yes?”
“We’re cavalrymen, aren’t we?”
“Yes, trooper, we are.”
“Shouldn’t we have horses?”
“That’s an excellent question and a keen grasp of tactics. Due to an administrative error, our horses are currently with the Fifth, attached to Mitterick’s division which, as a regiment of infantry, is not in a position to make best use of them. I’m told they’ll be catching up with us any day, though they’ve been telling me that a while. For the time being we are a regiment of . . . horseless horse.”
“Foot?” offered Yolk.
“You might say that, except we still . . .” and Tunny tapped his skull, “think like cavalry. Other than horses, which is a deficiency common to every man in the unit, is there anything you need?”
Klige was next to lift his arm. “Well, sir, Corporal Tunny, that is . . . I’d really like something to eat.”
Tunny grinned. “Well that’s definitely extra.”

Then a longer chunk of The Dark Commands by Richard Morgan:

He pointed out over the rail, old memories roiling like the water. “You can see where the dragon tore its way out – that long, ragged hollow near the front, the pieces that flap about when the swell hits. The dragon comes first, it’s like a mother bird protecting its brood. Then there’ll be a couple of hundred smaller hatching gouges further back where the reptile peons and the higher caste Scaled Folk came out afterwards. Once that happens, the whole raft starts to rot. It loses a lot of its bulk and in the end the currents carry it back out to sea. This has probably been drifting about out here since the early fifties at least.”
“You really killed one of these beasts?” She was watching him keenly now, he knew. “With that blade you carry? Now that is remarkable.”
“I suppose so. As I said, I did have help.”
“Even so. Are you not proud?”
Ringil grimaced. “If you’d seen some of the other things I’ve done with this blade, you’d perhaps be less enamoured of my feats.”
“And perhaps not.”
Was she rubbing herself against him at the hip? Ringil turned to face her, met her eyes, caught the gleam of saliva on the teeth in her grin.
“My lady, I don’t quite know how to put this to you gently, so I won’t try. You are wasting your time with me.”
“Am I?” The grin was still there. “That’s a hasty judgment.”
Ringil sighed, pressed thumb and forefinger to his eyes. Was he really going to have to fuck this mad-woman before they made port.

And finally, there is the whole first chapter of The Republic Of Thieves by Scott Lynch:

Locke’s symptoms revealed themselves the day they entered the Cavendria estuary.
At first it had been nothing more than bouts of dizziness and blurred vision, but as the days passed and they slowly tacked against the current, he began bleeding from his nose and the corners of his mouth. By the time they reached Lashain, he could no longer joke away the trickles of blood, or hide his increasing weakness. Instead of taking on stores, they’d rented rooms, and against Locke’s protests Jean began to spend nearly every coin they had on alchemists, physikers, herbalists, and assorted cures and comforts.
From Lashain’s underworld, which was tolerably colorful if not nearly as vast as Camorr’s, he’d consulted every poisoner and black alchemist he could bribe or coerce. All of them had shaken their heads and expressed professional admiration for what had been done to Locke; the substance in question was beyond their power to counteract. Locke had been made to drink a hundred different purgatives, teas, and elixirs, each seemingly more vile and expensive than the last, until Jean began to fear that one of them would kill him before the poison finished its work.
After that, Jean had dressed well and begun to call upon the accredited physikers of the city. Locke was explained away as a “confidential servant“ of someone wealthy and important, which could have meant anything from secret lover to private assassin. The physikers too had expressed regret and fascination in equal measure. Most of them had refused to attempt cures, instead offering palliatives to ease Locke’s pain. Jean fully grasped the meaning of this, but paid no heed to their pessimism. He simply showed each to the door, paid their exorbitant fees, and went out after the next physiker on his list.

Although I won’t get round to them for a while, I’m looking forward to each of these novels. This is particularly the case for Abercrombie and Morgan who manage to perfectly balance wit and grit, adventure and realpolitik. Lynch I am more concerned about: I was disappointed by Red Seas Under Red Skies and, whilst the wit is never in doubt, I hope this is anchored to something more substantial this time round.

(As an aside, I was amused to note that each of these extracts begin with the principal character waking up in a state of confusion. In your face, creative writing advice!)

Written by Martin

14 August 2010 at 15:45

Burn This Manifesto

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It has been a short week but it has also been a hard, slow week. So not much content round here but I’m reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, I’m off to see Kick-Ass tonight and I will be returning to The Ascent Of Wonder soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate his creation of Twenty Years, Two Surveys Niall Harrison has been posting
individual survey responses, including one from Richard Morgan in which he says:

What do you consider the most significant weakness in science fiction as a genre?

A preparedness to accept very poor levels of quality in fiction (as discussed above) so long as the gosh-wow factor is cranked up sufficiently high. Recently I was asked in an interview if I watched much TV and in response I cited The Wire as the finest TV drama around. This wasn’t what the interviewer was after, so he rephrased the question and asked me if I watched much SF&F TV. But the way he prefaced the remark was, I think, very telling. Of course they’re not in the same class as The Wire, he said, but have you seen the new Battlestar Galactica or Heroes?

As I mentioned over there, this picking up on an interview I conducted with him in 2007 and it has in turn sparked a long and interesting comments thread on Torque Control. I agree with Morgan pretty much wholeheartedly, right down to the frack/fuck issue, and it has always been a sore point for me that most SF TV is so poor.

Niall also points me towards Ritch Calvin’s ‘Mundane SF 101′ essay in Volume 289 of SFRA Review. There are a couple of notable things about this essay. Firstly, it has recently won the Mary Kay Bray Award. Secondly, it describes Niall as “her”. Thirdly, Calvin writes that:

After the Manifesto was published, critics and criticism were swift and ranged from the well considered to the vitriolic. One of the first individuals to produce an extended commentary was Ian McDonald on his LiveJournal blog.

I feel like I deserve some credit since I’ve been hating on mundane SF since 2004. Thankfully it seems to have now died a death but there are always people happy to drink the Kool-Aid.

Written by Martin

1 April 2010 at 11:51

Posted in genre wars, sf, television

Tagged with ,

Don’t Cry, Emo Ringil

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The Steel Remains was going to be dark and gritty and all those buzzwords that mean serious business. It was going to blow the bloody doors off epic fantasy. So I was a bit surprised at the opening line and the breezy tone of adventure it sets for the opening chapter:

When a man you know to be of sound mind tells you his recently deceased mother has just tried to climb in his bedroom and eat him, you only have two basic options.

Now, it does take a turn for the dark but it is particular sort of dark: the gloom of a teenager’s bedroom. Ringil is a veteran soldier in his early thirties – the sort of person who takes dealing with zombie mothers in his stride – and he is enjoying his quiet life of drinking, fucking and general infamy. Then his mum turns up. How embarrassing. Before long she is rolling her eyes at his adolescent behaviour: “Augh. Do you have to be so coarse, Ringil?”

So Ringil obviously starts playing up, doubling the swearing and tantrums. Then his dad gets involved and things really kick off. For some reason there first meeting reminded me of this. It is all rather panto, aided by those helpful italics – oh, so that’s where the stress in that sentence goes – that turn the characters into hammy actors. At one point Ringil gets three separate lines of dialogue in italics ending in exclamation marks in half a page. He really means it! It’s so unfair, why doesn’t anyone understand him?

Anyway, I’m only a hundred pages into the book and rather enjoying it but as I say, I wasn’t expecting this jaunty teen angst caper. Apparently it is all the fault of this bloke.

Written by Martin

20 August 2009 at 18:18

Posted in books, sf

Tagged with

Tick Tock

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My review of God Of Clocks by Alan Campbell is up now at Strange Horizons.

In my first draft I went off on one about the evils of trilogies, missed deadlines and modern publishing in general. Thankfully for you lot most of this got cut. However, I will take this opportunity to reproduce the full quote from Richard Morgan that I mention in the review:

See, I’d always talked a good fight about making each book in this trilogy a self contained novel, but it wasn’t until quite recently that I realised how deeply satisfied I was with the ending of The Steel Remains. Sure, there are loose ends, but when wasn’t that true of one of my books? But my characters all ended up where I wanted them to be, they bedded down into the consequences and outcomes of what they’d seen and done with the pleasing clunk of emotional deadbolts falling into place – so rolling them all out of bed again, splashing water on their faces and getting them to open up and let in the morning light has proved a lot more problematic than I’d expected. I started at least twice and then had to tear up what I’d written because it was some weak-assed shit. Worse still, when I did finally get onto what felt like the right track, it involved at least a couple of scenes that I really didn’t want to write. If you guys thought The Steel Remains was brutal, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Written by Martin

3 July 2009 at 08:23

Kool And Sexy And Popular

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M John Harrison feels he is beating his head against a brick wall:

Good luck to Richard [Morgan] with his arguments for a realistically human view of humanity. I’ve been making them for many years & no one in f/sf has paid the slightest attention.

Harrison has achieved a lot in his career and yet he still finds himself having to make the same arguments he first made forty years ago. I can see why this is frustrating. The message is being heard in at least some quarters though.

OF Blog of the Fallen has more commentary here, including a long comment from Vacuous Wastrel:

I also think that, although I know you’re a Harrison fan, talking about him as a prophet in the desert cursed by his courage to a short and brutal life, killed by us the unthinking mob, might just possibly be slightly overdramatising, and over-idolising, the man and his importance. He’s not actually a martyr, he’s just not as unpopular as other people. Popularity is not a right, and its absence is no deprivation. His stoning to death by the public consists in him being substantially wealthier, more influential and more popular than most of those who hold less ‘prophetic’ opinions.

VW goes on to post about this and China Mieville’s recent comments on Tolkien, where he concludes:

Going by what I’ve read said by both of them, I consider Papa Tolkien not only more successful and a better writer than Harrison, I also consider him a better, more admirable, more emulandory person. I’m quite happy with the side I’ve been born (or raised) on. What reason does anyone have to pay attention to Harrison’s hegemonic sociopolitical opinions (which is what the geek-hate ultimately is)?

The last sentence tips it over into comedy, and I’m not sure what “emulandory” means but without having any interest in martyrs or messiahs I know who I would prefer to emulate.

Written by Martin

18 June 2009 at 11:47

Planting Flags

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I’ve just added a page for my articles and interviews. All two of them.

Firstly, there is my anti-manifesto manifesto, No More New World Orders:

It is understandable that Harrison can be a touch fractious on the subject. A writer of any skill strives to escape such chains and it must be galling to see each free generation approaching, desperate to slap on the irons. More galling still to see some writers rushing to embrace their jailers. The history of people like Harrison and Sterling suggests that there is very little point in manifesto building apart from at best, a critical propaganda organ, and at worst, a platform for posturing. Of course, neither of these have anything to do with producing fiction. With this in mind the Young Turks would do well to burn their manifestos, throw away their flags, cast off their hair shirts and get on with the business of producing art. That’s the hard part: leave the petty squabbling to the critics.

Then there is my interview with Richard Morgan :

Market Forces the screenplay – written long before the novel, yes, bulked up from an original short story I’d failed to find a publisher for – was a miserable experience for me. In the end, it felt like being stuck in that garbage compressor in Star Wars. Struggling to keep your head above water, flailing about looking for something to brace against an ever-tightening sense of constriction as control of the project slips from your grasp. That wasn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just the nature of the beast. A movie script is never a finished product, at best it’s only ever a working template, and you never really own it the way you do a book. Screen-writing requires you to be pragmatic, amenable to compromise, endlessly sociable and a good team player. I score very low on all of those, which is why I write novels.

One day I might get round to doing some more.

Written by Martin

6 October 2008 at 14:42

Posted in sf

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