Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Multi-Author Interview Action plus a German Book

Jeff VanderMeer, author of some rather fine books himself, interviewed a whole bunch (well, four anyway) of more or less new fantasy authors for the Amazon book blog: me, Joe Abercrombie, Karen Miller and Brandon Sanderson. So that's four sets of answers for the price of one. Part One of the interview, and Part Two. Plus, as an added extra, the out-takes.

In other news, it looks like the German edition of Winterbirth is gradually emerging into the daylight: if a certain well-known online translation engine can be relied upon, seems to be saying it's in stock, at least. That doesn't necessarily mean it's out there in Germany's bookstores just yet (although it might be - any info from German informants very gratefully received!), but it should be imminent.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Resuming Normal Service

A quick round-up post, just to demonstrate that normal service has been resumed following the brief digression that was that Blog Action Day thingy.

First, a nice review of Winterbirth at the book review site that has the name all other bookbloggers probably wish they'd thought of first: Bookgasm.

Second, I feel vindicated. I knew the movie of The Dark is Rising was going to be a turkey as soon as I saw the trailer (here's the proof of my grumpy prescience), and the BBC's film critic of choice, Mark Kermode, has confirmed my suspicions. He can be heard dissing the film, along with several others, in the podcast here (it'll be harder to find after the next few days but probably still there somewhere). For what it's worth, I'll second the nice things he says about Once: a sweet little film with good music.

Third, one of the best blogs in the whole wide world, Strange Maps, has been quiet for a while but had a flurry of updates in the last few days. The maps themselves are the main attraction, but there's loads of interesting stuff in the accompanying text. Some favourites amongst the recent additions: the map of the apocalypse, the Belgocentric map of Europe, the Sarajevo siege map, and of course Scotland - Land of Heroes and of Cakes.

Fourthly, I'm still fumbling about on Facebook, trying to figure out what all the bells and whistles do (and whether there's any point to the damn things). So here's a Profile Badge I made earlier. Meh. But hey, at least now I know what a Profile Badge looks like.

this is Brian's profile

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Monday, October 15, 2007

A Blog Action Day Post

So, today is Blog Action Day, meaning that in theory bloggers around the world are talking about environmental stuff. Here comes my token gesture in that direction: a bit of a ramble about writing, influences and wildlife.

Every writer's a stew of conscious and unconscious influences that shape what they write. They're like a host of semi-visible fingerprints that the author leaves all over the text, some of which only he or she can see, some of which he or she will probably be the last one to recognise. In its own small way, the natural environment is one of the very faint, smudged fingerprints I left on Winterbirth. My preoccupation with natural landscapes and wildlife just kind of crept into the book along the way. I imagine it's not something that most readers register, and nor should they since it's mostly just minor background details, although one or two have mentioned it in reviews or suchlike.

Behind all the in-focus stuff in Winterbirth to do with battles, conspiracies and general strife, there are buzzards circling above forests, bears snuffling around in the undergrowth, geese flying south for the winter. It's just the way my mind works: the sound and sight of vast flocks of geese overhead is as much a sign of impending winter to me as are the shortening days and the increasing prevalence of miserable weather (mind you, this year the weather actually improved once September got going, which tells you something about the damp squib that was summer). So you get geese flying down the Glas Valley as winter closes in, just as they're flying south over my house this month.

The natural world that features in Winterbirth and the rest of the trilogy isn't really drawn from the present day, though. It's based on a long lost Britain of hundreds or even thousands of years ago: it's a richer, wilder and more dangerous kind of Nature than what we've got now. There are still bears and wolves, both long gone in the real world; there are even - to judge by the names I gave the Kyrinin clans - wild boar, wild horses, and gigantic wild cattle, all of which were once British citizens but no longer. (Although to be strictly accurate there are wild boar lurking in some corners of the island again, much to the consternation of some observers.)

I can't really have the kind of wilderness experience that the Godless World would offer to a visitor here in the UK any more, but there's still plenty of stuff that gives me great pleasure and enriches my life, some of which has turned up on this blog. Since we're in Blog Action Day mode, it's worth remembering how fragile these things are. I posted some photos from the Isle of May a few months ago - a place that possesses a kind of natural magic. But all the hundreds of thousands of seabirds that throng that island, and the rest of the Scottish coastline, are facing potential disaster as the food chain collapses under the influence of overfishing and warming seas. I also posted photos from the Isle of Mull, but unfortunately didn't have one of the golden eagle that we watched patiently quartering the slopes in search of prey. Every time that eagle swoops down on some carrion, it's running the risk of being poisoned. I posted a photo of a poplar hawk moth, a chance discovery in the Edinburgh grass. And ... you're probably detecting a pattern by now ... sure enough, Britain's moths are in trouble, too. Many of them seem to be spiralling towards rarity, or even extinction.

Sometimes I kind of regret that I can't share this island with the wolves and bears I populated the Godless World with, but there'd be no 'sometimes' about the regret I'd feel if we lost what we've managed to hang on to by way of wildlife. My life will be that tiny little bit poorer if one year there are no more puffins nesting on the Isle of May: it might sound silly, but it's true. And in this modern, crowded world, the only way we're going to hang on to it is if at least some of us are paying attention, and making an effort to keep it. All it takes to lose a species nowadays is indifference. So for that reason if for no other, seeing thousands of bloggers take the trouble to talk about environmental issues is kind of cool.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five Things

I'm still getting an occasional query about signatures, so just to clarify: last I heard, somewhere in the Orbit UK offices there's a pile of bookplates that I signed a while ago. If you'd like one to stick into your copy of Winterbirth, drop them a line and they might be able to help you. The only other option if you want a signed copy is to buy one, I'm afraid: if you order Winterbirth from Transreal Fiction - they can still get hold of the UK hardback as far as I know - I can sign (and optionally dedicate, date, whatever) it before it's shipped out to you.

I am, on a more or less experimental basis, on Facebook. To be honest, I really don't get this whole social networking lark. I have a niggling, grumpy old man suspicion that it's all a bit Emperor's New Clothes, but let's ignore my no doubt ill-informed misgivings for now. If you're in there too and want to do the friend thing, feel free, but please bear the following in mind:

(a) if I've never heard of you, any friend request is likely to fall on deaf ears unless you include a message that you're a Winterbirth reader, or some similarly plausible excuse for getting in touch;

(b) I'm not actually likely to do much in the way of social networking in the foreseeable future (I know, why be on Facebook, then?). For the time being at least my visits to Facebookland are infrequent and brief, and

(c) don't be surprised - or offended - if one day I have up and disappeared completely. It might just happen, if one too many people try to turn me into a pirate ninja zombie vampire or whatever.

I spent two very pleasant hours listening to the Starship Sofa guys talking about Interzone magazine. It's the usual rambling, diversionary discussion, taking in everything from Goth bands of the 1980s through the merits of various Star Trek: TNG characters to Michael Moorcock's cat and its contact lenses. There's a good interview with one of the Interzone editors in the second hour, too. You can get the mp3 (episode 60) here.

Next week there's a Blog Action Day when bloggers are invited to post about environmental issues. I'm not really into this kind of stuff - arbitrarily selected collective action days of dubious efficacy, that is, rather than environmental stuff, which on the whole I am into - but I might participate. Haven't decided yet. In the meantime, here's an arbitrarily selected (and gently photoshopped) picture of some wildlife, to see if I can get myself in the mood: an eider duck I snapped on the Isle of May way back in the Spring. Probably the coolest duck in the world. In so far as any duck could be said to be cool.

I inadvertently watched some of a CSI Miami episode last night. Coincidentally, it's just been identified as the most-watched TV show in the entire world. Now CSI Miami was OK when it started, but some time ago it not so much jumped the shark as harpooned it, hauled it up onto the beach, slapped some lipstick and a dress on it and took it out on a date with a view to producing lots of little human-shark hybrids. It's entered such extreme realms of ludicrous improbability and self-caricature that it's almost reached the level of surreal, comedic art. I mean, seriously: the biggest TV show in the world?!? You people are nuts. All of you.

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