December update, publishing plans, and some book reviews

I had a chat with my agent about plans for the future this month, and about the two novels I currently have on submission to publishers. 

I gave him a brief outline of a new book I'm working on, called The Medusa Net (formerly The Europa Door), and he expressed considerable enthusiasm.That's a good sign, of course. But the market into which I'm trying to sell books has been undergoing upheavals for years and is going through even more. 

A few years back publishers were worried about the influence of increasingly cheap e-books, but that's nothing compared to the worry writers have about publishing companies becoming consolidated into vast international megacorporations. Now we find out that Penguin Random House is in the process of acquiring Simon and Schuster, meaning the Big Six of recent years have gone from the Big Five to, with this newest merger, the Big Four. 

That's not good for the range or diversity of writing or indeed for a diversity of voices. 

If there is any good news in relation to all this, it's the gradual rise of smaller but increasingly important players. Newcon Press in the UK, for instance, have become increasingly important in the publishing scene in the British Isles, publishing new novels by a number of authors previously under contract to big five publishers — including myself. 

So, of course, all this makes me wonder what the future is for my own books. Should I keep chasing after the kind of book deals I had in the early to mid-2000s? Or are those days long gone? Is the mainstream publishing industry of today only interested in commercial science fiction that comes from new, young and hungry authors? 

Such questions loom large in my mind these days. Right now, my feeling is to give it a while longer and see if I can sell the two books I have out on submission. 

In the meantime, I can work on The Medusa Net which, according to my agent, ticks all the boxes so far as the outline goes for what publishers are looking for. That will take me a year, minimum. Maybe even longer, since I'm not inclined to write in a rush these days. 

One thing I've tried to do over the past couple of years is always keep something coming out every year or so, whether it's self-published, through a small press like Newcon press or some combination thereof. 

Right now I don't have anything really to put out next year, although I did recently realise I have enough new short fiction for another collection of about the same length as Scienceville.I still want to try to sell some of those stories to magazines first, so if I do put another collection out it's more likely to be towards the end of next year rather than the beginning. 

Stories I guarantee will be in that collection are Warsuit and Our Lady of Holy Death. There will also be a story of approximately the same length set in the world of one of my novels currently under submission. 

Along with these, probably a few shorter pieces, with the total word count coming to about 30,000 words. As yet, I haven't decided on a title. I'd still rather have a novel or novella coming out in 2021, but needs must.

Also in the pipeline: I've completed an outline for a sequel to Ghost Frequencies which will most likely be called Phantom Circuits. I've also completed an outline for a separate novella called The Moon Man, which I'm expecting to be the first of a trilogy of novellas. 

Hopefully, I can get started on that as well soon. Anyway, I hope you all have a good Christmas and an even better New Year, despite the circumstances I know many of you will be labouring under. And what newsletter from me would be complete without mention of a few books I've read? 


Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown 
This is a weird one. It's set in what appears to be an alternative near future in which the United States has collapsed into civil war. A young American, the son of a dissident, is captured in Canada and repatriated to the US, while his adoptive sister is sent on a mission to find him after she makes the mistake of insulting the totalitarian President for Life in public. 

I gather Brown is a lawyer in real life, and I came away suspecting I might have enjoyed the book more if I'd had a better grasp of American politics. What made things even harder for me was the gradual realisation that it's not quite our world – there are several references to Reagan having been assassinated, and an early nineties album by John Lennon – which meant I couldn't quite be sure what other historical details I might have missed that had also been changed, but which would be intimately more familiar to someone native to those shores. 

It reads a little like Cory Doctorow channelling Philip K Dick. It's an interesting read, although I'm still not sure what I quite thought of it. Worth checking out, anyway. 

 The Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes 

 Quite a mouthful, isn't it? I've been meaning to read this for years ever since I learned it was a key influence on the writing of Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. 

The fundamental conceit is quite something: JJ posits that humans were not truly conscious until a few thousand years ago, and that the evidence lies partly in the physical right/left structure of the brain. To this end, he provides a wealth of evidence in both the fields of psychology and of archaeology, drawing heavily at times on classical texts such as the Iliad to make his point. 

 It's not remotely possible to do the book justice in just a few sentences here, and to be frank it's not the easiest read in the world, but it's certainly one of the most remarkable. I didn't watch the recent TV adaptation of Westworld, but I've been informed the book gets mentioned several times in that show in relation to the gradual coming to conscious awareness of robots. 

I'll admit I had ideas popping into existence in my head right, left and centre as I read. An arduous but fascinating read. 

Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee 

 More non-fiction: this time what essentially amounts to a biography of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction and its editor John W Campbell Junior, detailing the immense influence he had on the field, whether good or bad — usually both, in equal measure. 

 I already knew some of this from other sources, but it's only when I was describing the book to a friend that I realised how mind-boggling much of the story of Campbell and Astounding really is. Campbell was seminal in the discovery and promotion of Isaac Asimov, Robert a Heinlein, AE van Vogt… And a certain pulp author known as L. Ron Hubbard. 

 What distinguishes this history from others is that ANL touches on some of the hidden figures of the period — the wives and secretaries who were possibly equally as influential on the field as these men. It's also the story of Campbell's racism, and how that placed him at increasing odds with the younger writers whose careers he helped build. 

 But it's the really remarkable stuff that sticks in the mind — most of the scientists working on the Manhattan project read the magazine, so it's hardly any surprise government agents turned up at the publisher's office when the magazine published an article describing how to build an atomic bomb a few years before the American government actually built an atomic bomb. Then of course there's the appearance of Hubbard, originally a deeply prolific pulp author, who also became involved with other fringe characters such as Jack Parsons, the founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and close confidant of Aleister Crowley. 

Then came Campbell's promotion of Dianetics in the magazine before its evolution into Scientology, after which Campbell chased after even more bizarre notions such as the Dean Drive. There is also much about the careers of both Heinlein and Asimov with the benefit of modern hindsight.

Definitely much more than another dry history, and very definitely recommended


November Newsletter

I post my newsletter three times: first to my mailing list, then again to those on the mailing list who didn't open it the first time, then I post it to Facebook and here on my website. This time around I've had to completely rewrite the opening three times because, frankly, the world keeps changing at lightning speed. When I first put this out like, a week ago, there was no sign of an end to the pandemic, Trump still had a chance at winning, and there was no vaccine in sight. So, I make no promises about anything that happens between the time I write this addendum and when you actually read these words. Anyway, moving on...here's my November newsletter...this time with added Tony Ballantyne.

You may have seen in the news that Taiwan, where I've been living for several years now, received some praise due to its handling of the crisis. Where I sit right now I'm only maybe a couple of hundred miles across the Taiwan Strait from where Covid first broke out, yet there hasn't been a single recorded case of infection here for more than two hundred days. What few cases there have been originated with people arriving from abroad and then diagnosed while undergoing mandatory quarantine.

While life here continues largely as normal. I know it doesn't for many of you, and you have my sympathies. The world will be a very different place by the time we emerge from this crisis (written pre-vaccine announcement).


So far as life being relatively normal here goes, I recently purchased a second-hand electric bicycle, manufactured by Giant, one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the world and a company native to Taiwan. It's a neat little machine, halfway between a scooter and a traditional bicycle, and I got it primarily so I could load my dog Cooper into the front basket and take him to some different places around the city for the sake of variety as much as anything else.

Here you can see Cooper sniffing around under Fuhe Bridge, which connects Taipei to New Taipei City, a few miles from where I live. Past the open space you can see here there's a bunch of kids on rollerblades circling around under the watchful eye of a trainer, and past them is a badminton court. To the right is a long-running flea market, although you can't quite see that either.

And now the weather is cooler here, following a typically ferocious Taiwanese summer, I'm hoping to get out and do a little more regular cycling on my road bike. It's been some time since I tried to conquer any one of the hills and mountains surrounding Taipei, and I'm starting to feel that urge to visit them again. The scenery is frankly spectacular, and I'll try and make a point of taking some pictures and show you in the months coming.


I seem to be writing more short stories these days, mainly because my writing group here have been playing around with flash fiction prompts, and it's led me to realise can generate some half-decent short story ideas on the fly. Right now there's about half a dozen of these bouncing around different magazines in the hopes of finding a home.

And speaking of short stories, it's the return of the author feature! Those of you who were here at the start when I started putting out regular monthly newsletters will recall I ran some features covering new publications by various authors whom I felt might be of interest to you.

This time around it's Tony Ballantyne. Tony had several novels out from Tor UK about the same time I did, and since then he's also had books published by Solaris. Most recently, he's released a collection of short fiction called Midway via Keith Brooke's Infinity Plus imprint, and which got a very good write-up in the Guardian quite recently. Here's a few words from Tony about his book:


Short story collections don't sell. Everyone in publishing will tell you that.

Every writer who has a few short stories under their belt loves the idea of having them collected into a slim volume.

Unfortunately, very few people are interested in reading them.

Best selling authors have the clout to get their anthologies published. You can see them smiling in the publicity photographs, delighted that their precious children are out there in the world. Look closely and you'll see their agent and editor exchanging glances in the background. They're waiting for their charge to get back to the PC so they can start on the next novel. That's where the real money is.

And that's best selling authors. You'd have to be mad to write a short story collection.

I didn't intend to write Midway. I had an idea for a novel set in an old cotton mill near where I live. I was working on the preliminary notes when my father took ill. The next six months, the last months of his life, threw everything into turmoil. The mill stories got caught up in my thoughts at the time and became my way of dealing with the situation. I wrote little else that year, but it didn't matter. Midway was my catharsis. But I finished the book and life moved on.

I wondered at first about seeking publication. The stories were very personal. It was my wife who persuaded me to send them out into the world. As she pointed out, other people had been through the same thing. They might find them helpful.

It turns out she was right. This is the first book I've written that my friends have read. By that, I mean my non-writer friends, my friends who aren't SF or Fantasy fans. The vast majority of the people I know, in other words.

Of course, my friends have bought my books in the past, but that was just out of politeness. They read the first chapter, but it wasn't for them.  I don't have a problem with that, we all have different tastes and interests.

But to my surprise, this book connects with many people.  No, not to my surprise. My wife said it first, and she was right. This book is for people who've been through the same thing. People who recognise the situations depicted in it.

Someone said to me: this book made me cry. Well, that's why I wrote it, to try and understand those feelings. I think I understand them better now.

So, the book is out, it's published. If it sells a hundred copies I'll be delighted, but it doesn't matter.

Publication wasn't the primary aim of this book.

Get it here: https://www.amazon.com/Midway-Tony-Ballantyne-ebook/dp/B08KFGX1RP


GHOSTLAND by Edward Parnell

in some ways, this almost feels like a companion piece to Tony's collection of short stories, except rather than being fiction it's a work of creative non-fiction. Edward is a fan of a very particularly British kind of supernatural story, ranging from M R James through to Nigel Kneale and beyond, and uses the book to address those parts of the landscape of Britain that featured heavily in works by those writers and others of their ilk.

Along the way he visits the locations in which a number of famous stories were set and also the locations of a number of the more odd television productions of the 1960s and 1970s such as Robin Redbreast and Penda's Fen, both made for the BBC's at the time highly influential drama production series Play for Today. Parnell uses this as a springboard for writing about his family and the series of overwhelming tragedies visited upon them through those same years. All in all, it's nearly impossible to categorise, but endlessly fascinating if like me you have memories, however distant, of some of the odder corners of British culture and storytelling.

OBSCURA by Joe Hart

A curious one this, and I wasn't sure whether to recommend it. A woman is sent to a remote space station in order to carry out research into a kind of viral Alzheimer's that seems to be affecting the crew and where a paradigm-shattering scientific breakthrough has implications for the future of humanity on Earth.

All in all, it's an enjoyable story, but not one that hangs together quite as well as I had hoped. Nonetheless, it has some moments of bravura tension and some well-placed twists and surprises.

THE TEST by Sylvain Neuvel

A novella this time, and a very British one, centred as it is around the British Citizenship test for immigrants with its peculiar and, frankly, bizarre real-world focus on the most ridiculous minutiae of British history, most of it sufficiently obscure the average "man in the street" in the UK almost certainly couldn't answer a number of those same questions. And yet it's somehow a requirement for people seeking a new life in Britain.

This is set a little way in the future, however, and Things Are Not Quite What They Seem, and events soon take a very dramatic and very unexpected turn. I'd been meaning to check this out for a while, and learning it had been optioned by a major film company gave me the final push to check it out. Recommended.

And that's it for reviews and for this month! Currently, I'm listening to the audiobook of Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown.


October Newsletter: Interzone and Book Reviews

Continuing on with my experiment in posting a shortened version of my monthly newsletter here,  as well as to email subscribers. Keep in mind if you subscribe, you get to download a free prequel novelette to my most recent book, Devil's Road. There's other stuff, as below, that is often exclusive to subscribers.

Are you a fan of audiobooks? I got seriously into them last year after an eye operation meant I couldn't read my Kindle for a couple of weeks. Since then, I've produced a couple of my own based on my short novels Ghost Frequencies and Devils Road, with the first of those being narrated by the actress Seylan Baxter, whom some of you might have seen in a fairly recent episode of Doctor Who and also in the surprise hit horror film Host.

The audiobooks are available on audible.com and on audible.co.uk, but right now I'm giving away copies of Ghost Frequencies to users of the UK site – unfortunately, I've run out of the codes necessary in order to give away copies on audible.com. That's just a function of popularity — audiobooks are a lot bigger in the United States than they are in the United Kingdom, so freebies for audible.com tend to go a lot faster - and the fact that Audible on either side of the Atlantic provide me with only a limited number of such promotional codes. 

But I do still have some copies to give away to UK audible subscribers, so if you're interested click on the link below. Be warned: they tend to run out fast. 

And if you do like it, I'd be enormously grateful if you left a review, even just a couple of lines.


Quick note: I think you have to be a member of audible to take advantage of these, but joining audible doesn't actually cost you anything – not until you want to actually buy something anyway. Or at least, that's what I've been told. If I got that wrong let me know.


Excuse me if I big myself up a bit this month, but I don't publish that much short fiction and I like to trumpet about it when I do.

I mentioned in passing in the previous newsletter that I had a new story, Warsuit, in the current issue of Interzone magazine, which has for a long time been the premier British science fiction magazine. It's where I first found writers like Paul McCauley, Alistair Reynolds, Eric Brown, Liz Williams, Storm Constantine and many many others. Being published in the magazine that published those names and countless others over the last several decades is and will always be a big deal for me.

This makes my third fiction publication in Interzone since 1994. Most of the short fiction I've written has actually been in the last half-decade, with Scienceville appearing in Interzone in 2015 and subsequently recorded for Starship Sofa a year later, and Senseless appearing in Shoreline of Infinity magazine a little more recently. Those stories and others can be found in my collection Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds.

One thing that particularly distinguishes Interzone from other publications apart from the quality of its fiction is its appearance: it's one of the most attractive magazines there is, featuring artists as much as it does writers. I honestly don't think there's been a magazine focused around science fiction that's looked this good since the days of Omni. Take a look at the attached pictures of my contributor's copy that arrived here in Taiwan: image of interzone cover

interzone interior design
interzone warsuit design
m. john harrison spread

And the Internet being what it is, there are already a couple of reviews of Warsuit out there. Here's a snippet from a review on sfrevu.com:  "Story had a lot of heart. Well done."

And a very nice Goodreads review from user Jeppe Larsen: 

"“Warsuit” by Gary Gibson takes place in an otherwise unexplained war zone, following a scavenger hunter who finds a broken mechsuit robot that he hopes can bring him enough money to get off the planet. However, the robot, or Golem as it is called in the story, is still alive with the mind of its now-dead operator. Even though they are hostile to each other at first they conclude they need to work together to survive and as the story moves forward we learn more about these two people and some interesting developments and explanations about the war situation is nicely revealed. Also really well written."


Here's a quick rundown of some of the books I've read recently which I think you might like:

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks

I first read this as an e-book more than ten years ago, and before I bought my first Kindle – at the time, I had a Sony Reader, having become obsessed with the idea of E-ink devices ever since I read about an early Sony prototype in some probably long-gone technology magazine of the early 2000s or possibly even the late 90s.

I'm not precisely an aficionado of zombie fiction, but as you've surely guessed if you've been following along with his newsletters I do have a soft spot for the intersection between horror and science fiction, but WWZ is actually much more than that.

It's loosely modelled after a real-life book by the author Studs Terkel who, in the wake of World War II, travelled around the world interviewing different people about their experiences of the war. The author Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) takes the same structure for the story of the journalist travelling around interviewing people about their experiences during a zombie apocalypse which is now largely under control.

What you get then is a collection of short pieces written from different points of view from all around the world of people surviving a science fictional conflict whether it's from the perspective of Japanese nerds trapped in their apartment buildings or astronauts watching it all from the ISS. The effect is remarkable, lending the book as a whole a powerful sense of vérité that lies at the heart of its subsequent success. If all you've seen is the quite terrible movie starring Brad Pitt, trust me when I say the book cannot be judged on that basis.

MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Ostensibly a horror novel set in Mexico in the 1950s, but one which proved to have a surprisingly erudite science-fictional underpinning. I've seen the author's Silvia Moreno-Garcia's name about for a while – she's produced stories about settlers on Mars, a vampire novel set in Mexico City (Certain Dark Things) and I think also a couple of crime novels, but it's with Mexican Gothic that she's seen sudden and huge success with the book hitting the bestseller lists in recent weeks.

The story is about a young woman sent by her father to find out the fate of another member of the family recently married off to a wealthy young man who lives in a remote part of Mexico, in a huge and rambling house known as High Place built by the owners of a nearby silver mine. Of course, it soon turns out that something is terribly wrong, starting with the letter written by the young wife telling of voices coming out of the walls. 

On the surface, it appears in every way to be a full-on Gothic horror novel, but it isn't long before Moreno-Garcia reveals her fundamentally science-fiction roots in the rationale for everything that's happening – and does a fantastic job of it.


A non-fiction work. Essentially a biography of a novel, in this case, 1984. It's an attempt to assess both the influences and the cultural impact of Orwell's final work of fiction.

The first third covers many of the utopian and dystopian novels written prior to 1984, including works written by Hg Wells (The Sleeper Wakes), Yevgeni Zamyatin (We) and many others. The middle third covers much of Orwell's life, including the influence of his participation in the Spanish civil war and his time working for the BBC propaganda department during the Second World War up until the time of his death in early 1949 and immediately following the first publication of the book with which his name would forever be associated. 

After that, the book is primarily concerned with the impact on the book and its interpretation – and misinterpretation – in the following decades by creators, thinkers, artists and writers all across the political spectrum, as well as an analysis of the different adaptations both of 1984 and of works that either borrowed or outright stole from it. It's a remarkably erudite piece of work, and unfailingly well-researched. If you've read 1984 more than a couple of times, you probably need to read this.


Newsletter: story in Interzone, and a couple of books on sale

Thought I'd try and do something different this time and post a slightly altered version of my monthly newsletter to my blog as well as to my mailing list. 

Important things first: the digital edition of Interzone magazine (number 288) featuring my story Warsuit is out. You can buy the physical copy directly from TTA Press, or get the Kindle edition, or alternatively buy it through Weightless Books in a variety of digital formats

In conjunction, I've decided to put a couple of my recent books on sale, because why not?

So if you haven't tried either Devil's Road or my collection of short fiction Scienceville And Other Lost Worlds, you can pick them up for the next couple of days for just 99p/99 cents/euros/whatever on Amazon Kindle in the US and UK markets.

Note: there's an Audible version of Devil's Road, so if you buy the ebook and you're an audio fan, you should be able to get the audiobook cheap on Amazon (and which doesn't require you to have an Audible account).

And I do hope you think about picking up that issue of Interzone — not just because I'm in it (not that that's not a valid reason) but because it really is one of the finest and indeed one of the very best-looking science fiction magazines out there.


So here's an oddity for you: Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump, who recently wrote a tell-all book about her uncle, is a stone-cold science fiction fan. This small revelation, according to the fansite File 770, was uncovered by science fiction writer Michael Blumstein, and the proof is in her book Too Much and Never Enough. Here, she recounts an incident when she was just thirteen years old.

“Is that yours?”

At first I thought she [Ivana] was talking about the gift basket, but she was referring to the copy of Omni magazine that was sitting on top of the stacks of gifts I’d already opened. Omni, a magazine of science and science fiction that had launched in October of that year, was my new obsession. I had just picked up the December issue and brought it with me to the House in the hope that between shrimp cocktail and dinner I’d have a chance to finish reading it.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Bob, the publisher, is a friend of mine.”

“No way! I love this magazine.”

“I’ll introduce you. You’ll come into the city and meet him.”

It wasn’t quite as seismic as being told I was going to meet Isaac Asimov, but it was pretty close. “Wow. Thanks.”

If you're not familiar with Omni, it was a very glossy and very colourful science and science fiction magazine published from the late seventies by Bob Guccione, who was also the owner of the magazine Penthouse, of all things.

Omni is significant because it published some of the best science fiction around before its eventual demise in the nineties, and it's where I first encountered the short fiction of William Gibson amongst many others.

Notable names involved in editing the magazine included Ben Bova and Ellen Datlow, and there are few science fiction writers of note whose work didn't appear in the magazine. It also carried numerous science articles which were like catnip to a kid like me. I also know it was an equal influence on a number of other writers, including Richard Morgan.


At the moment, I'm fifteen thousand words into the book I'm calling The Europa Door. So far, it's going fine. I've been posting occasional rough first draft chapters (very rough) to my Patreon page. I've also got a couple of flash fiction pieces out on submission to some magazines.

The Europa Door contains many elements readers will be familiar with from my work — gritty, hard SF elements abound and the story is based around a mission sent to the outer solar system to find out what happened to a previous exploratory mission that went missing.

That said, I'm the kind of writer who gets bored very easily writing the same kind of thing over and over, and rather than doing that, I prefer to try and do something at least slightly different.

If you want to have some sense to what direction I'm taking the story in, I refer you to the classic British science fiction/horror TV series and film Quatermass and the Pit (better known in the United States as Five Million Years to Earth) made in the late 1960s.

I think one of thing that distinguishes British science fiction from its colonial brethren is that it tends to be much darker, and it's that darker quality that appeals to me as a writer.


I'm also trying a new approach to work, by working in more than one thing at once. I never used to do this because I used to have to work under deadlines, and didn't have the time for anything but the book I was being paid to write.

But because I no longer have to labour under such restrictions, I can work on other projects simultaneously with Europa Door. At the moment I'm putting together ideas for a sequel to Ghost Frequencies which will be called Phantom Circuits.

Ultimately, I hope to have three stories featuring the scientist and protagonist Susan MacDonald that might eventually be bundled together. That, however, is still some time away.


Okay, time to have a look at what I've been reading but I recommend to you.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
This one feels broadly comparable to Stephen King's famously huge book The Stand, in size if nothing else: I can't tell you how many pages it has because I listened to the audiobook, but since the audiobook run to more than thirty hours I'm guessing this thing is huge in physical format.

And, like The Stand, it shows a world dealing with a deadly pandemic.

That right there is probably going to put a bunch of you off, and under the current circumstances, that's fair enough. But if it doesn't, while it's at best broadly comparable to King's book, I'd say it's a great deal better. Further, unlike King's book, it lacks the mystical element, having a much more hard science underpinning to its events.

Even better, there are some points in the story that really took me by surprise, genuinely jaw-dropping moments that make this one of the most enjoyable things I've read in the past many months. So, definitely recommended if you like your books huge and long and epic.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson
I've been meaning to reread this one for a very long time - New Rose Hotel was always a personal favourite of William Gibson's stories, and I was very, very into the cyberpunk fiction coming out from the early Eighties through to the mid-Nineties. So I chose to listen to the audiobook and experience the stories in a different way.

What's funny is realising how much the stories are showing their age now - the Soviets appear in several stories, and even though dates are rarely specified in Gibson's stories, one might reasonably assume they are set in about the present period, writing from the perspective of the mid-80s. And there are other small elements that age the stories here and there - such as a reference to a cowboy hacker wearing a white terry headband, which is about as 80s as you can get. Still, all in all, it's the incredible style of the writing that carries you through, and while perhaps some of the details have aged, the writing itself hasn't. 

The Fisherman by John Langan
I haven't finished this one yet — Wanderers' huge size/length took me as long to listen to as any three other average-sized books – but so far it's pretty good. This may not be your speed if you're not into Lovecraftian fiction, but if you are, chances are you will find this right up your street.

And that's it!! Next time I'll try and post some pictures from my complimentary copy of Interzone when it finally arrives here in Taipei.



Up until now I've been sending out a newsletter at most once or twice a year, most often when I have something coming out, but I've decided to switch that up a little and start sending out a monthly newsletter instead.

This decision comes after a lot of thought, but at the very least it's going to function mostly as a replacement for the blog. I don't blog much on my website these days (although I continue to post very frequently on my Patreon, including all kinds of stuff I'm working on being made available to subscribers), so the newsletter will for most people be the main way to catch up on what I'm up to, what I'm working on, and what I'm reading. Plus the usual stuff/ranting/etc and maybe the odd interview of other writers as well.

I started the first monthly newsletter at the beginning of April and the response was pretty positive. Next one should be out at the beginning of May. Remember also that if you sign up to my mailing list, you get a freebie prequel to Devil's Road, Our Lady of Holy Death, which isn't available anywhere else


Newcon Press virtual book launch

No Eastercon this year so Newcon Press, who published my books Ghost Frequencies and now Devil's Road, have opted for a virtual book launch. Newcon Press really excel in publishing some of the highest quality sf and fantasy in the UK, so check out this link not just for my book but all the others from their increasingly vast list including the brand new book by Liz Williams, and many others.


Devil's Road is out! Plus sales and freebies

Devil's Road is out now in paperback, ebook and audiobook with a signed, limited-edition hardback coming from Newcon Press in a couple of weeks time. Here's where to get it:

Ebook & Audio: Kindle | Audible US | Audible UK | Audible Germany | Audible France

Limited-Edition Signed Hardback (ISBN 978-1-912950-47-8): Newcon Press

Paperback (ISBN 978-9574364602): Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Abebooks and others

There are also a couple of special offers running as of today.

1. Doomsday Game is on sale for £1.99/$2.99 on Amazon;

2. Scienceville & Other Lost Worlds is also on sale on Amazon for 99p/99c;

3. The lead story from that collection is free for the next week;

4. For a limited time, mailing list subscribers will be able to download a free audiobook of Ghost Frequencies, my 2018 novella published by Newcon Press and available on Audible. Note that there's a limited number of copies available, so it's very much first come, first served. A newsletter will be going out in a few hours to subscribers with a download link.

5. I've written a prequel story for Devil's Road, Our Lady of Holy Death, which is also free to mailing list subscribers. Again, a link is on its way with the same newsletter.

If you're not a subscriber and you want that story and/or that audiobook, now's the time to join. It doesn't cost you anything, and I only send out emails a couple of times a year.

Note: I use a service called Bookfunnel to host Our Lady of Holy Death so you don't have to dick around with downloading and then uploading a file. Once you've signed up and you click on the link, Bookfunnel will download the story directly to your phone, tablet, computer, Kindle, Nook or whatever you use. It's the same with Ghost Frequencies: there's very little faffing around.

I should also probably remind you that I have a Patreon where I post much more frequently than I do here, and where I mostly talk about book promotion and about writing, as well as posting up early drafts of new books and stories. I also talk about stories I'm either working on or that are planned for the near future.

And that's it! Devil's Road was enormous fun to write, and I hope you have as much fun reading it. 


Almost there

Just a couple of weeks to go and Devil's Road is out in the world.

I've pulled out the stops for this one. There's a simultaneous audiobook release, it has a great cover, and it's up on Netgalley (so if you're a reviewer or a librarian, feel free to eheck it out there. It's up until the end of the month). Some of the Netgalley reviews are already up at Goodreads.com and hopefully most of them will also make their way to Amazon.

And of course there's also the special Newcon Press limited-run hardback coming in the middle of March. The paperback of Devil's Road is going to be available to order from pretty much anywhere.

I've written a story, Our Lady of Holy Death, set in the world of Devil's Road. It'll be free to mailing list subscribers and I'll post a link to it on or about the release date - March 2. I workshopped it the other day and feedback was pretty positive.

All that, plus the day job, is pretty exhausting, but I'm enjoying every minute of it. My next post here will be on the day of release, and if you're signed up to the mailing list you'll get advance notice of some freebies as well as have access to that exclusive short story.


New Year's Resolutions and thoughts on publishing

New Year's Resolutions:
1: Blog more in 2020.
2: Write, at minimum, a complete first draft of a full-length hard sf novel. Think Interstellar, Expanse...and Event Horizon.
3: Write, at minimum, a complete first draft of a novella or short novel of between 30,000 and 50,000 words.
4: Write, complete and submit a television or film script.
5. Write, complete and submit a minimum of one short story no longer than 2,000 words.

This is going to be an interesting year for me, because it's the year I get to really test whether or not self-publishing provides me with a viable financial platform that can support me as I continue to write more.

To be clear, this doesn't mean I'm writing solely for money, but in order to write as much and as often as I would like to I need to be able to generate income from it so that it becomes self-perpetuating. If it's putting food on the table and paying my rent, I can afford to write more, knowing that will generate further income, and so on.

So far I've self-published two books. It bears repeating that neither of these are strictly the best ways of testing self-publishing in this respect. The first book I released was a short story collection. Such books sell a relatively small fraction of the number of copies an author can expect to sell of a full-length novel. That story collection by that well-known author you really like? It sold about a tenth as many copies as one of their full-length novels.

Nonetheless, my short story collection did well - much more so, in fact, than I could possibly have expected, and it continues to sell each and every month. My hope is that if I can sell this many copies of a short story collection, then if and when I publish a stand-alone book, it would, by an inverse arithmetical relationship, sell that many copie.

Or that's the hope I'm clinging to, anyway.

Doomsday Game was not,  I think, an adequate test of this relationship. Somehow it didn't occur to me when I wrote it that it might prove to be difficult marketing a book that's a sequel to two others that were traditionally published.

However, I had good reasons for writing and publishing it: if I'd written an original novel unrelated to any others, I'd have been stuck with the dilemma of whether or not to publish it myself or have my agent submit it to actual publishers. It would have seemed wisest to market it to traditional publishing markets. Further, the whole book was planned out and ready to write--although Tor UK turned it down for what don't really strike me as adequate reasons, given how well I'm given to understand Extinction Game did.

But if I'd written an entirely original and separate novel and sent it around publishers, I wouldn't be immediately generating cash from self-publishing and, to be frank with you, I kind of needed the money. Things were a little tight in the first year after Tor UK dropped me, and putting Doomsday Game out has, together with the sf collection, helped me catch up with myself, financially speaking. Together, they've made a decent amount of money. Not remotely enough to live off of, but enough to make further pursuing self-publishing seem worthwhile.

(I'm lucky in that what had until then been at best a part-time gig as a book doctor turned into an essentially full-time gig)

As I said, Doomsday Game was hard to market because the only people who would want to buy it were the people who'd already bought the previous two books. The first book did really well - in fact, as far as I can tell Extinction Game might well have been my most successful book since Stealing Light, and that's saying something. But Tor UK dropped me right before Survival Game was released.

Want to know what happens when a book is released by a publisher just months after they drop its author? It's abandoned and orphaned. It gets zero support and is effectively written off before it's even printed as an expected loss. It had a great cover, went through multiple edits working with a really great editor, had an intricate and carefully-worked out plot...and good luck, I suspect, finding it in many bookshops.

So if (say) ten thousand people bought Extinction Game, then maybe three or four thousand of those might have been lucky enough to find Survival Game...and since the audience for each successive book in a series always shrinks, that further reduces the potential audience for a third in the series, for which the only advertising I was able to afford were some Amazon ads and...that's it, really.

Nonetheless, it has sold, and well enough to make it worth it, even if it hasn't shifted quite as many as I'd been hoping.

So you can see by my reasoning that a book unconnected to any prior volumes, if self-published, has a better chance out of the gate. Hence my forthcoming book, Devil's Road.

It's short, but tight. I've come to an agreement with a narrator to produce an audiobook of Devil's Road through Audible's production arm, ACX. This time, the paperback edition is going to be available through Ingram Sparks distributor, meaning you could walk into almost any bookshop anywhere and order a copy (for reasons way too complicated to get into here, it won't be stocked in bookshops, but ordering it is certainly possible).

There'll also be a paperback edition simultaneously published through Amazon. The ebook, however, will be Amazon only: no Kobo, or Apple iBooks or anything like that.

Why? Because I made both Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds 'wide', ie available on digital stores other than Amazon, and it simply wasn't worth it. For every hundred ebooks I'd sell of either title on Amazon, I'd sell maybe two or three on all other stores combined.

This means my audience, such as I have, buys ebooks almost exclusively from Amazon.

I've seen other, well-known and otherwise traditionally-published authors taking their own steps into self-publishing come to the same conclusion and go Amazon-exclusive with their ebooks.

Yes, Amazon is evil. I agree. But Amazon is merely the sporing body of an underlying economic structure that increasingly rewards behaviour that works against, rather than for, the greater social good. I don't like that I have to rely on them so much, but to do otherwise is equivalent to giving up writing entirely.

Slave if I do, starve if I don't. Not much of a choice, really.

Ahem. Rant over.

It's also why this time I'm enrolling Devil's Road from the start in Kindle Unlimited.

For a monthly fee, it allows people to read a book 'for free' if it's enrolled in KU. This is in some ways a tragic and evil affair, in that it appears to be an attempt to turn reading into something closer to a Spotifiy experience, which would Not Be A Good Thing.

But in other ways it could also be a good thing, in that it allows those who have a KU account to sample books at zero risk by authors they've never heard of--most of whom are both self-published and have never been traditionally published.

I only occasionally had Scienceville...in KU, but when I did, it generated a small but substantial income. I went wide, because that's what I read I should do, but as I showed above this is not viable. I'd have been better off keeping the book in KU throughout its lifetime (at the moment, it's not in KU so I can offer it free to people who sign up to my mailing list).

Doomsday Game isn't in KU simply because the previous two books, being traditionally published, are by their nature 'wide' and not exclusive to Amazon.

Therefore the real test is to put Devil's Road into KU right from the start and see how that affects sales. And it can positively affect sales, directly and immediately.

So I have a lot riding on how well Devil's Road does. It'll tell me if it's worth my self-publishing at least one of the full-length novels I've written since being dropped by Tor UK, either later. in 2020 or in early 2021.

Okay. There's more I could say, but I'm going to save that for later blog posts. More coming up.