Just for a bit of fun, thought I might resurrect one or two old posts. It’s simultaneously pleasing and a bit depressing to realize how long this website’s been ticking over, and there’s a ton of stuff hidden away in the archives I’d forgotten about until I was looking in there for something the other day. So let’s drag some of it back into the light. Starting with this, which I posted way back in 2008:

Took a break earlier, away from the computer, with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits (fig rolls – some of the world’s finest biscuits, if you ask me). The mind tends to wander at such times. The results of that wandering, on this occasion: bad jokes. So. Bad jokes:

Q. How many fantasy authors does it take to change a light bulb?

A1. Only one. But it’ll take a long time. They have to prepare an obsessively and redundantly detailed map of the whole room first.

A2. Fantasy authors can’t change light bulbs. Only orphaned farmboys, destined from birth to change the light bulb in accordance with ancient prophecy can do it.

A3. Dozens. JRR Tolkien has to go first, to show everyone how to do it right, and then all the rest take turns removing and replacing the light bulb, in very slightly different and generally inferior ways.

A4. One, but they need an agent to hold the ladder. And then the agent is entitled to 15% of the resultant light.

Needless to say, I don’t necessarily subscribe to any of the pejudicial preconceptions implied herein. Except for A4. That’s not a preconception, that’s a truth.

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Here we are, back with Moving Pictures on a Friday, because this caught my eye:

Not even sure I knew it was coming, to be honest. Maybe I did and then forgot. Either way … five things about it:

1) That’s one film that really didn’t need remaking, don’t you think? Not that that ever stops a remake nowadays, I guess. So fair enough. Have at it, Hollywood!

2) Denzel’s sporting some fine facial hair. Not as good as Yul’s bald pate, but at least a little bit eye-catching.

3) Chris Pratt is going to be in every big film from now on. Is that the plan? Because I like him a lot, but it’s starting to get hard to see him as anything other than CHRIS PRATT. Whatever character he’s playing is disappearing behind the fame that is CHRIS PRATT.

4) Looks rather like they might have one token good Native American and one token bad Native American.  I really, really hope they don’t play those tokens and then have them fight each other to the death, because if the good Native American’s purpose in the plot is to kill the bad Native American that’s just … well, it seems like a lousy idea, that’s all. Deeply last century.

5)  Have I mentioned that I wrote a book – The Free – partially inspired by The Magnificent Seven? Or, more accurately, inspired by the film M7 itself is a remake of: Seven Samurai.

Have I further mentioned that there are three e-novella prequels to The Free coming out this year? Oh, I have: all the details are here. Anyway, the first of those prequels is available right now, everywhere e-books are sold. It’s called Corsair, and it’s over 20,000 words of mayhem and formative character moments in a world where magic is dangerous, unpredictable and at best a double-edged sword. A little taste of my version of The Magnificent Seven!

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I’ve got a new novella out today! The first of three, in fact, that’ll be showing up over the course of the next few months.

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Here’s what it says on the Orbit website about what’s happening:

“Drawing comparisons to films like Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, THE FREE received widespread critical acclaim upon publication, and received starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal.

The good news is that the adventures of The Free don’t end with this novel – far from it! The world that Brian has created is too large, and the history of the Free too bloody and tumultuous, to be explored in just a single novel. So we’re very pleased to announce three new novellas that will explore the eventful past of this famous mercenary company, all of which will be published this year.”

So, yes. These novellas are set in the world of my novel The Free, and they’re all stand-alone prequels to that book.

You don’t need to have read The Free to make sense of them – nor, come to that, do you have to read them to make sense of The Free – but they do fill in a little bit of the backstory for some of the main characters in that book, explain how some of them wind up where they do, that kind of thing.

So if you’ve read The Free and would like to know little things like … oh, I don’t know … what was young Yulan’s first big mission, or how did Wren and Kerig meet, or what actually happened when the Free chased slavers into the Empire of Orphans … well, these novellas might be what you’re looking for.

And if you haven’t read The Free, these novellas are for you too. Perfect way to sample the world and the characters without straining your wallet!

The first of them – Corsair – is available now in any and, as far as I know, all places where e-books are sold. Exile, the second, will show up in June; Tyrant, the third, will poke its head up above the battlements in September.

The e-book  of Corsair is awaiting you on Amazon UK, Amazon US, B&N/Nook, Google Books … all the usual places.

Went to see Song of the Sea a few days ago:

Song of the Sea – Official US Trailer from GKIDS on Vimeo.

It’s by an Irish production company called Cartoon Salon. Didn’t know at the time I saw it that Song of the Sea was an Oscare nominee last year, but it was well worth that nomination. The trailer really doesn’t do it justice, I don’t think: a rare(ish) case where the actual film is way better than the trailer makes it look. It’s gorgeous to look at, loaded with emotion and mythic resonance.

Like a vast army of folk, I’m a big fan of Studio Ghibli – the Japanese wonder-workers behind things like Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro etc. etc. The thing about Song of the Sea is, I was completely gobsmacked by how much it reminded me of the tone, feel and thematic weight of Studio Ghibli’s output. It’s not copying the Japanese style or preoccupations, but it’s the only Western animated film I’ve seen in years – maybe ever – that matches Ghibli’s artistic ambitions, mythic aspirations. It’s really good. You should check it out sometime if you like that kind of thing.

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The world’s so big and complicated these days I imagine there’s always some kind of golden age going on in some corner of it, geographical, cultural, commercial, whatever.

It occurred to me that there’re arguably three golden ages going on in bits of the cultural/media world that I pay attention to. I have caveats and pessimisms for this post,too, but let’s do the happy stuff first.

TV drama. I seriously doubt there’s ever been more scripted TV of decent or better quality available for our viewing pleasure. We have relatively modest TV pipes running into the Ruckley residence – Netflix and (only the Brits’ll know what this means) Freeview – but they still churn out more stuff than it’s possible to stay on top of, given the fairly limited time that gets spent on watching the box. But the choice is there.

TV drama reflects, like so many other bits of the cultural landscape, the invasion of the ‘mainstream’ by geek-accented product and I couldn’t be happier about that. And of course with Netflix, the multiplication of broadcast channels and the advent of the DVR there’s an ocean of both old and new material to merrily drown yourself in. I was about to namedrop specific TV shows here, but to be honest there’s no point. The list could go on almost indefinitely. That’s a total transformation of what the TV world was like just a few years ago. And the reponse to that blossoming of availability has been the production of more good stuff than ever before.

Comics. Comics actually have a specifically defined Golden Age, so this isn’t The Golden Age, but it’s surely a golden age. There’s a greater variety of comics and graphic novels more widely available – digitally or on paper – than there has been in a long time. Probably ever. Online bookshops make them accessible in collected form to almost anyone. The graphic novel section is, by all accounts, one of the bits of bricks-and-mortar bookshops that’s actually thriving. They’re a big deal in libraries.

Unless you’ve been reading comics for a while, there’s something you might not be aware of, though. For all that certain types of comics (superheroes, notably) used to sell way more twenty or thirty or forty years ago, I can absolutely assure you of one thing: waaaay more objectively well-crafted and smart and technically accomplished comics are being produced now than was the case back then. The average quality of art and writing has improved a lot. The sheer volume and diversity of comics and titles and graphic novels being published has been accompanied by an uptick not only in the obvious measure – choice – but also in quality of craft and in ambition.

Podcasts. I talk about podcasts often enough here, so I won’t belabour this one. But come on: this has to be a golden age of podcasting, doesn’t it? There are uncounted thousands of the things, in every imaginable genre, covering every imaginable topic, taking every imaginable form. I spend far more time consuming podcasts than I do any other medium and I can’t do more than scrape the surface of the possibilities.

On one level podcasts are nothing more than radio on demand, but my ears are constantly filled with stuff that would never get on radio in a million years, for commercial reasons or because of silly geographic restrictions or whatever. Whoever you are, there are quality podcasts about almost exactly your interests, and accessing them is childishly simple. That’s pretty amazing.

Which is the peak of my merriment and optimism.

A couple of golden ages I’m pretty sure we’re not in. Movies and novels. It’s a commonplace to moan about the current state of Hollywood movies, so I won’t go overboard. I enjoy a spectacular blockbuster as much as the next person, but … well, I can’t summon up any enthusiasm for trying to claim the golden age of the franchise blockbuster as a particularly worthwhile kind of golden age.

Talking about novels, I’m on much shakier ground. I don’t read many these days, so I’m barely qualified to comment I suppose, but it doesn’t feel like a golden age. In many ways it feels just like business as usual, with at best an average distribution of quality product. I don’t detect a glut of innovation, boundary-expansion, inarguable genius. That’s OK. It’s just not what you’d call a golden age.

All the media – every single one – I’ve mentioned above are in the grip of ongoing technological and distributional revolutions. Those revolutions have, I think, caused or at the very least facilitated golden ages in TV and podcasting (comics to a lesser extent, but they’re part of the mix there too). But those same revolutions have emphatically not triggered golden ages in music, movies or prose fiction. If anything, I’d say they’ve had the opposite effect. Funny how things turn out.

Which brings me to my final point: how things might turn out. I reckon two of my three golden ages are heading for a fall. TV and comics. It might take years, but because of the revolutions in distribution and technology, and because of the ‘buzz’ surrounding these media, there’s an inevitable consequence: oversupply.

Once you reach a certain mass of available content, you can add as much new high quality content as you like and people just won’t have the time or inclination to consume it. So producers overextend. Retrenchment sets in. The golden ages wither and fade. I’m far from the first to suggest a tight, maybe imminent, time limit on TV’s golden age. In the case of comics, there might even be a crash – it’s a much smaller and more fragile market and it’s done that before. Probably not, though. Probably just a decline, a re-setting of the baseline. Fingers crossed.

Podcasts, though. Their golden age has legs, I reckon. Obviously, I’m biased, being an addict, but think about it. They’re new, and their audience still has lots of room to grow. They’re the only one of these media that can be easily consumed while you’re doing something else. Digital audio players in cars are only just really becoming 100% standard. And they have one other huge advantage over most other media: they’re free. We have a winner!

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As noted many times here, I’m a hopeless podcast addict. The rest of the world seems to be slowly catching up with my good taste, but frankly there are still too many of you out there who need to get on the bandwagon asap. Therefore I stubbornly keep proselytizing.

I’m not much of a binge watcher (or reader for that matter). I’ve got neither the time nor the inclination to gorge myself on exciting new TV shows. One episode a day is more than enough, and more than I can usually manage, no matter how awesome the show is. For the record, the closest I’ve got to binge-watching anything in years was Netflix’s Daredevil, and that took me about three weeks I think – which is not very close to bingeing at all, really. (Liked it a lot, for the record).

Podcasts are a bit different, though. When I happen across one that’s been around for a while, if I like it I tend to power through the back catalgoue pretty fast. That’s the joy of a medium you can consume while doing other things, I guess. So, here are some well-established podcasts that I discovered long after they launched and therefore was able to binge on. Perhaps there’s something here to tempt you?

I Was There Too. Conversations with supporting or bit-part actors from famous movies. Enormous fun, especially when you know the movie in question well. Lots of behind-the-scenes anecdotes, interesting snippets about acting, nostalgia for the movies of your (my) youth.

You Must Remember This. Still on a movie theme, but now with a hint of a historical flavour. As the podcast itself puts it, it’s about ‘the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century’. Mostly, it’s about the lives of the stars and the culture of their times, with bits of specific film history thrown in. It’s often fascinating stuff. The most recent season was entirely devoted to the Manson Family – their crimes and numerous connections to the film and music scenes of Hollywood. Extremely creepy – even disturbing – in parts, but enormously detailed and interesting.

The British History Podcast. Gliding on over to full on history now, and it doesn’t get much more full on than this. This might be the most bonkers (in a good way) podcast history project I’ve come across. The aim is to recount the entire history of Britain, and as of today we’re at episode episode 173 (173!) and haven’t even reached the 9th Century Viking invasions. Everything you ever wanted to know, and a huge amount of stuff you didn’t even know you wanted to know, about the early history of Britain is right here waiting for your ears to be applied.

The History of English Podcast. And continuing our smooth thematic links, here we’ve got history but now with added linguistics. The effort, research and knowledge that goes into this podcast boggles the mind. It’s the history of the English language, from its very earliest roots in prehistoric Indo-European to the modern day. It’s a mixture of historical narrative with heavy – and sometimes I really do mean heavy – doses of linguistics, phonetics, etymologies. For a writer, it’s utterly fascinating. Just as interesting for a reader, really. It does require your attention, though. The information is conveyed very clearly and carefully, but there’s a lot of it and it’s undeniably sometimes complicated and a bit arcane. But if you like words and language, listening to this is endlessly surprising and revelatory in a ‘So that’s why …’ sort of way.

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Breaking myself into renewed blogging gently with an easy Moving Pictures on a Friday post. Easy, because there’s sooo much to be said about this trailer and yet at the same time it completely and utterly speaks for itself, so I’ll just let it do that:

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Well, The Free was a Kindle Daily Deal in the US last month, which meant folks could get the e-book version at a bargain price for one day only. That was nice, and might mean a few new visitiors wandering around these pages.The Free Cover gif

Just in case, a couple of quick pointers for any new browsers. You can see info about my other books, unsurprisingly, on the Books page here. I’ve written some short stories too and you can read one of them online for free over at Lightspeed Magazine: Beyond the Reach of his Gods.

And if you liked The Free, want to stay in touch with what I’m up to, get an occasional shot at winning a signed copy of one of my books, all that kind of thing, the perfect place for you is over at the Facebook page where people who like my stuff hang out: Winterbirth on Facebook. You can also follow me on Twitter, if you’re so inclined.

You can also, of course, subscribe to the feed for this blog, so you don’t miss future content. Been on a bit of an extended blog holiday these last few months, but posting’s going to be picking up again now.

And finally a last little bit of news – more like a hint of news, really: the world and the characters of The Free have more story left in them, and it’s on its way. More details on that in due course …

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Moving Pictures On A Friday. Offered without comment, this one, except to say – for those curious about the inner life of writers – that it touches (in, for once, a relatively positive and encouraging way) upon what, after family, friends and all that, I think engages and interests and impassions me the most. I tend to see the world in shades of grey, which makes my opinions on a great many things kind of complicated, not always that strongly held. Not so wildlife and the natural world. If you want to see me go all black and white and angry about something, what our one species has done and is still doing to the millions of others we “share” the planet with would be the place to start …

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I’m over on Reddit today, inviting people to Ask Me Anything. So if you’re a Reddit user, please swing by and drop off a question for me to answer later on. You can even watch me answering stuff live there from about 6pm CST.

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