Now that he's made the announcement on his own 'blog, I guess the secret's out: The Emperor's Blades is coming to HBO! Congratulations to Brian Staveley — you're in the big leagues now, Brian! Gonna have to get yourself a beard and one of those Greek fisherman hats!
The Book Event at Towne Book Center in Collegeville, Pennsylvania is set for this Saturday, April 5, at 3 p.m. Originally scheduled for early February, this Event had to get moved because of heavy snow. But now that the weather has improved from Utterly Horrid to Merely Unpleasant, the Event is back on! Come see me, Brian Staveley, and Ramona Wheeler talk about our books, sign copies, and read selections for the entertainment of good Pennsylvanians.
Also: another review of Darkling Sea, from Right Fans. (Spoiler: they liked it.)
On Sunday, March 30, I'll join Brian Staveley and Ramona Wheeler for another joint Book Event at Flights of Fantasy Books and Games in Albany, New York. It all happens at 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome.
If you haven't read enough interviews with me about A Darkling Sea, be sure to check out Andrew Liptak's piece for SF Signal, in which I reveal the Zeppelin Connection among other things. Because there's always a Zeppelin Connection.
This past weekend my celebrated wife Diane and I drove through irritating Connecticut traffic to Rye Brook, New York for this year's Lunacon, the venerable New York science fiction convention. We had lovely weather, and took advantage of the fact that one of our kids is two weeks away from legal adulthood to have a little working getaway.
I'm not joking about working, either. The Lunacon organizers got full value from me: I participated in nine events from Friday evening to Sunday morning, with six of them on Saturday.
But it was fun work. I got to meet comics legend Walter Simonson, talk about Rudyard Kipling, try (and fail) to master the hula hoop, discuss how to use games for education, argue about inter-temporal trade, gush about the film Gravity, discuss human exceptionalism in science fiction, and thrash out how to combine mythologies in fantasy.
In between events I got to share drinks and canapes with the magisterial Michael Flynn, consume large amounts of meat with the Masonic operative Walter Hunt, and — of course — buy books in the dealer area. Like everyone else I was baffled by the layout of the Hilton Westchester hotel. And in the nearby town of Port Chester (which has a large South American population) I took the opportunity to get empanadas at a Uruguayan bakery.
So, overall it was a fun time. After my experience at the New York Comic-Con last fall, I was a little surprised at the intimate, old-school feel of Lunacon. It strongly resembles Boston's equally venerable Boskone, and feels almost like a private reunion of longtime SF fans.
If you're going to be near Westchester County, New York this weekend, please consider stopping by the Hilton Westchester hotel in Rye Brook for Lunacon, New York's venerable science fiction convention. I'll be there, and here's my schedule:
Friday, March 14, 5pm: Alternate Technologies in Historical Fiction — I'll be moderating a panel as we discuss what technologies might have come early, what alternative paths technology might have taken, and what's just flat-out impossible.
Saturday, March 15, 12 noon: Autographing — Bring me anything and I'll sign it. Copies of A Darkling Sea are a good choice if you can't think of something you want signed.
Saturday, March 15, 1pm: Kipling's Fantasies — I get to join a very distinguished group of panelists to talk about Kipling's beast-fables, ghost stories, and science fiction.
Saturday, March 15, 2pm: Gamification in Education — Once again I'm moderating a very distinguished panel as we talk about how to use games in education, and how to make games educational.
Saturday, March 15, 4pm: Inter-Temporal Trade — How would trade between different times work? This should be a fun exercise in pure science fiction idea-banging.
Saturday, March 15, 5pm: The Mission of Gravity — I get to put on my movie-geek hat and talk about the recent hit film Gravity.
Saturday, March 15, 7pm: What IS It About We People? — Do we portray humans accurately? Can a human really view our species objectively?
Sunday, March 16, 10am: Mix-and-Match Myths — A panel about a subject which has vexed me for a long time: if all myths are true, how do you deal with the contradictions?
Sunday, March 16, 12 noon: Game Design Workshop — I'll help aspiring game designers figure out how to turn their ideas into games.
A little housekeeping here.
I'll be a guest at Lunacon in Rye, New York this coming weekend (March 14-16). If you're in the area, come and hear me talk about games, time travel, and Gravity, among other topics. You can also hear some expert science discussion by Dr. Diane A. Kelly.
March 30 I'll join Brian Staveley and Ramona Wheeler at Flights of Fantasy in Albany, New York at 7 p.m. for readings, book signing, and questions.
If you still want to read more interviews about my book, here's one at the book 'blog My Bookish Ways.
. . . And here's an interview at Clarkesworld.
Despite having written a guest blog post about who I'd like to see in a movie version of A Darkling Sea, I'm pretty certain that it's one book which will never be filmed. As I pointed out in the blog post, it's about the most unfilmable novel ever written. Most of it takes place in pitch darkness, and half the main characters are giant lobster-things.
But, as I was dropping off to sleep one night recently, it came to me that A Darkling Sea would make a pretty awesome stage musical.Seriously! You wouldn't even need much of a set. Most of it would be black, or maybe very faintly blue-lit, with spotlights on the characters. The Ilmatarans can be giant puppets, with spotlit singers doing their dialog and musical numbers, à la The Lion King.
Picture it: we start off with a big rousing showstopper for Henri Kerlerec, setting him up as the center of the story. We give Broadtail a song about how much he wants to be accepted by the company of scholars. Kill off Henri while the Ilmatarans sing a reprise of his own song.
Romantic duet for Rob and Alicia as she lures him out of his self-imposed isolation. Then the Sholen arrive, with another big number about how much they care about protecting Ilmatar. Comic montage of them interviewing the humans. Alicia shows Tizhos the glowing bacteria.
Broadtail has his fight and trial. We end the act with a split number as the Ilmatarans of Broadtail's community sentence him to exile while the Sholen tell the humans they have to evacuate . . .
Am I crazy for thinking this could be great? Would any theater audience actually sit through a full-length show about singing lobsters on another planet?
There is this to consider: musical fans and science fiction fans look more and more alike with each passing year. They tend to be obsessive about certain works, have their own vocabulary of in-jokes and quotes, and often dress up oddly. As far as I know, there aren't conventions for musical fans (yet), and the SF fans don't have to make pilgrimage to New York and shell out $100 for a seat. A good science-fiction musical could effect a fandom merger.
If any aspiring songwriters want to take a crack at this, get in touch with me. It'll be great: we can use the old barn, and everyone will come!
February 2014 was a revelation to me. Up until A Darkling Sea came out, I still had the quaint belief that the author's job was to write stuff and the publishers took care of selling it. I forgot that one of the most effective selling tools in the publisher's kit is the author. During February I hit the road as a pitchman for A Darkling Sea.
Tor Books did something clever. They had three first-time authors based in New England with books coming out at the same time. So they sent us around as a little traveling show.
My fellow road crew:
Brian Staveley, author of The Emperor's Blades, the first volume of a Big Honkin' Fantasy Trilogy. Great guy, very energetic and enthusiastic. He's been a teacher and so could use his classroom skills to manage our book appearances.
Our first appearance was supposed to be at the Towne Book Center in Collegeville, Pennsylvania on February 4, but a catastrophic blizzard the night before made it impossible to get there, so it had to be cancelled. We're still hoping to reschedule that one.
The second date was the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Holyoke, Massachusetts on the following evening. That was the closest venue to my house. Unfortunately, the same blizzard which overwhelmed Pennsylvania had brushed Massachusetts, and hardly anyone showed up.
A couple of days later the three of us reconvened in Worcester, Mass., at Annie's Book Stop. By that point people had dug themselves out a bit, and we had a small but fun gathering. The staff at Annie's are all hard-core SF and fantasy fans, so it was almost like a miniature science fiction convention.
The next day I drove the length of Massachusetts to a second Barnes & Noble appearance at the store in Hingham. That was a Saturday with much nicer weather, so the turnout was better. (The bookstore staff did something clever: they set up our reading/signing right next to the store cafe, which effectively doubled our audience. At least a couple of people from the coffeeshop drifted over to the signing table afterward.)
Another couple of days off. I discovered that it isn't as easy as I thought to alternate between road trips and writing, especially since I still have to squeeze in parts of domestic life as well.
On Tuesday the 11th we met in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at RiverRun Bookstore. That whole day exceeded expectations. Portsmouth was a lot bigger, nicer, and more interesting than I had thought it would be. I drove out early and had time for a nice dinner with Ms. Wheeler and her companion. If you happen to be in Portsmouth I can unreservedly recommend the restaurant Cava.
RiverRun Bookstore is not a huge store, but the manager is intensely professional. The event was well-planned and well-promoted, with New Hampshire SF giant Jim Kelly serving as moderator for a panel discussion by the three touring writers. We drew the biggest crowd of the tour so far.
Another day off, during which I worked to catch up on stuff I'd missed while on the road, and kept an anxious eye on the weather forecast. Note to self: see if I can arrange for my next book to come out in a more pleasant time of year.
On Thursday the 13th I drove out to Cambridge in light snow which turned to sleet as I got closer to the coast. I stopped off at the legendary Pandemonium Books and Games to "sign some stock" as we old hands at the book-promotion game put it.
Personal aside: I don't understand buying a signed copy of a book. I'm happy to sign them, and if my scribble helps move inventory, then I'm all for it, but I don't understand it. The signed books I own are signed by people I know or writers I admire, and I got them to do it myself. But just a random signature? I don't get it.
After an unpleasant walk through deepening slush (doesn't anyone shovel their sidewalks in Cambridge?) and a sub-par dinner I got to the mighty Harvard Coop bookstore feeling a little cranky. The staff there, however, were extremely professional and enthusiastic. They must have done a fantastic job of getting the word out, because we had a very good crowd despite the vile weather. Ms. Wheeler was unable to get there, but Brian Staveley and I managed to keep the audience entertained. Afterwards we adjourned to a nearby pub with some of the people from the signing, and the weather even started to improve. Definitely a successful evening.
As the Boskone science fiction convention began the following day, I simply stayed the night at the convention hotel on my publisher's nickel (a whole bunch of nickels, really). I signed more stock in the dealer room at Boskone and participated in a group reading by the mighty Cambridge SF Workshop. It probably says something about how frazzled I was getting that I can't remember what I read. Something, probably fiction.
I only had about twenty-four hours at Boskone, because on Saturday the 15th Brian and I were scheduled for a reading on his home ground: Bartleby's Books in Wilmington, Vermont. I drove directly there from Boston and had some moments of genuine anxiety as I penetrated deeper and deeper into the wilds of southwestern Vermont with the low gas light on my dashboard glaring at me. Happily I had enough fumes in the tank to reach a station in Wilmington, so Tor Books didn't lose a promising new writer to bears.
After that I had a whole week off, with no worries but my kids home from school on vacation and another seige of abominable weather.
The big finale to our tour was this past Monday, at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in sunny Manhattan. I spent the morning getting to New York by car and train, and then spent the afternoon strolling from my hotel to the bookstore on foot. Along the way I got to visit the Tor Books offices in the historic Flatiron Building. (Sadly, the inside of the building is fairly generic-looking, unlike Daniel Burnham's wonderful gaslight-era exterior.)
I was a little uncertain whether a bookstore in New York's trendy SoHo district would draw a lot of science fiction readers, but the Housing Works event blew away all my expectations. The store volunteers did a superb job of promoting it as part of their ongoing "Geek Week" event showcasing science fiction, fantasy, and comics. Tor Books ponied up for an open bar, and the result was a packed house. There must have been more than a hundred people in the store.
For this event the travelin' threesome were joined by California dark fantasy writer David Edison, author of The Waking Engine. The four of us answered questions about our books and random topics, played a round of "Exquisite Corpse" to spin a story based on elements suggested by the audience, and (of course) signed a lot of books.
I spotted several New York-based writers in the audience: the fantasy-writing duo of Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, and fantasy-technothriller pioneer Myke Cole, among others. A great time was had by everyone.
So what do I think about book promotion?
I suppose this is where I get to go all rock star and talk about how hard it is being on the road, but the simple truth is that I enjoyed the hell out of this book tour. Writing is a solitary activity, so getting out and meeting people who like books — my book among them — is a tremendous ego boost. For now I'm perfectly willing to go wherever my publisher feels like sending me.
BUT, I have learned that book tours are pretty much full-time work. While I did get a little mental plotting and brainstorming done during my solitary hours behind the wheel or in the hotel room, I eventually gave up taking my laptop along. (For one thing, having it in my bag made me worry all the time about losing it.)
I got a few opportunities to have nice meals, but I also wound up gobbling down something at Burger King a couple of times. In future I'll try to allow more time for travel, especially when I'm driving in dodgy weather.
There's one stop left on the tour: Flights of Fantasy Books and Games in Albany, New York. I'll be there March 30. Come on out and get a book signed!