Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Friday, June 27, 2008

Interview Encore

It's a double dose of interview action this week, as I have also been answering questions over at the website of fellow Orbit author Jennifer Rardin (author of the Jaz Parks series, which involves the CIA, assassins, vampires, demons, witches and - in a future instalment - Scotland. Excellent location choice there, Jen.) It's a fun little number, covering such never-before discussed topics as why I think Aeglyss might enjoy talking to dogs, and which planet I'd like to visit.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

1x Interview, 1x Giveaway

I've been interviewed at mighty length over at A Dribble of Ink. Go have a look, if you like.

Plus, we're now in the final week of the great big Bloodheir giveaway on Facebook. Three lucky winners have already been picked out of the hat (actually, rumour has it they're being selected using an old set of D&D dice, but I don't know how credible such rumours are ...). One more chance to win, this Friday, so if you like the idea of getting your hands on a signed, dedicated hardback of Bloodheir, go sign up as a fan at the Winterbirth page on Facebook. You've got to be in it to win it. Or something like that.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

What's In My Feeds?

A dip into the pond of my podcast subscriptions to see if anything of any interest to someone else might turn up. Nothing in here that podcast veterans won't already know about, I suspect, but you never know ...

PodCastle: the fantasy sibling of the long(ish) established EscapePod (sf) and PseudoPod (horror) fiction podcasts. Haven't managed to listen to more than a handful of the stories they've put out, but there's been some good stuff. I liked, for example, The Osteomancer's Son by Greg van Eekhout, partly from a technical point of view: takes a clever writer to effectively sketch in as much context and backstory as you'd expect in a modest novel without crippling a short story. Plus, the central idea of doing magic with bones is nicely spun, I thought.

Adventures in SciFi Publishing: lots of author interviews, sf/f publishing news etc. etc. For some reason I can't quite pin down, I just find this one really, really easy and relaxing to listen to. Possibly something to do with having aurally personable hosts and a tone that's enthusiastic without becoming over-excited or feverishly fannish.

In Our Time: the heavy duty end of the podcasting spectrum. This is a BBC radio programme which basically consists of academics discussing their specialist subjects. Covers a huge range of stuff: history, science, philosophy, literature. Often more accessible than it sounds, though it does rattle along at a fair pace, and you have to been in the right kind mood. If it's on a subject you're curious about, worth checking out. Recent ones I've listened to: The Library of Nineveh, The Black Death, Lysenko. (None of which I seem to be able to link to directly, unfortunately - past episodes seem to get scrubbed from the website, so I guess you need to subscribe to the feed and grab anything you want as it shows up.)

Starship Sofa: the long-running podcast on sf writers has gone through big changes in recent months. It's now putting out a mid-week sf 'audio magazine' with one or two bits of fiction, some non-fiction, even poetry. An interesting venture - I'm flabbergasted by the amount of effort various people must be putting into this podcast, and others, for basically zero financial reward. It's a real 'for the love' thing, and more power to their audio elbows, I say.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Return to The Isle of May

A ritual of sorts has been enacted: the all but annual trip to the Isle of May (2007 version was recorded here). Good news for me, since it's one of my favourite places. Less predictable in its consequences for readers of this blog, as it leads inexorably and inevitably to ... my photos! Hooray.

That's the Isle in question, and very pretty it is too, but here's the real reason I actually take the hour long boat trip required to reach it:




The birds, obviously. But there's no denying the place itself is so extremely pleasant it might be worth even if there was nothing with wings within ten miles of it:


The last of the bird pictures, by the way, is an Arctic tern. These are heroes of the bird world, going from the Antarctic to the Arctic and back again every year (and no, Scotland is not quite in the Arctic - for all that it feels like it occasionally. I guess our Arctic terns are ever so slightly less motivated than most of their brethren). Watching them, if you take a moment to reflect that not so very long ago these very birds were surfing the breezes of the Antarctic Ocean, perhaps even dodging Antipodean icebergs, it blows your mind just a little. I think they're fantastic.

That sentiment is not, it has to be said, mutual. This year, the tern colony has taken a collective decision to locate itself right next to the landing stage. To reach the boat, therefore, you have to run the gauntlet of righteously agitated and protective parents. I am thus able to leave you with this world exclusive video. A brief (and I do mean brief, like 2 seconds brief, so pay attention) clip revealing, for the first time anywhere, the sound a fantasy author makes when the immensely well-travelled beak of an Arctic tern connects with his skull at high velocity:

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Friday, June 06, 2008

On the Placing of Product

Saw a piece the other day about the efforts ITV (Britain's main non-BBC terrestrial TV network, for anyone who doesn't know) are making to get our broadcasting rules changed so they can do product placement in their shows. I don't mind a bit of subtle product placement in my movies, or even non-subtle stuff when it's an accepted and loved tradition in a particular franchise - as the chap from ITV pointed out, a Bond movie wouldn't be quite a Bond movie if you didn't know precisely what make of car he was merrily thrashing around the streets of that European metropolis.

But product placement does bug me if it bounces me out of a movie's narrative thread, i.e. whenever I consciously think: 'Oh, look. They're trying to sell me something.' As it did, I regret to report, in Iron Man, when Tony Stark's most fervent wish upon returning from his Afghan captivity was to get an American burger down his neck. And not just any American burger. Oh no. They make sure you know who makes - in the opinion of one mega-wealthy arms dealer at least - the best American burgers.

But then it occured to me: perhaps I'm just jealous. I'm bitter because books don't offer quite the same scope for a lucrative sideline in product placement. Not fantasy, anyway. Quite aside for the pitifully small audience size compared to your average blockbuster movie, at first glance there's a distinct shortage of brands that could fit into your average tale of sword-and-sorcery hi-jinks in an imagined world. Never one to trust a first glance, though, I could try, if there were any companies out there willing to fund my descent into tawdry commercialism.

There are a few mentions of apples and orchards in the trilogy. Who's to say they couldn't be apples of a breed that coincidentally shares a name with those appearing on our own supermarket shelves? This is fantasy, after all. I can call my apples anything I like. In Bloodheir, Lheanor mentions to Orisian that he plans to plant some trees. This, I now realise, is a missed opportunity. He could have been much more specific: 'Apple trees, perhaps. Golden Delicious. Oh, how my beloved wife adores their sweet and crunchy charms.'

Or agricultural suppliers. I could have the invading host of the Black Road stumbling across an abandoned barn full of seedcorn bred by that famed farmer Monsanto, and falling into paroxysms of joy at their good fortune. Kanin: 'It yields twice the crop of old-fashioned varieties, you know.' Wain: 'Really? I heard thrice.'

The payments involved might be individually modest, but they'd add up if I could cram enough in. Of course, in hindsight what I should have done was approach the whole story with a much more science fictional bent. A few inter-dimensional rifts or trans-temporal ruptures would have opened up a host of possibilities:

"The flickering rift spat out a lean, sleek iron carriage that dropped down onto the grass with a satisfyingly well-crafted thump. It rocked, for a moment, on its fat black, strangely grooved wheels, then settled into elegant repose, its sweeping form speaking eloquently of leashed power.

Orisian leaned close and brushed aside some of the inter-dimensional dust that had accumulated upon its glittering metallic skin.

'What does this say?' he murmured, squinting at the words he had undercovered. 'Aston ... Aston Martin.' "

Works for me. If the price is right, of course.

NOTE: None of the above should be taken as my personal endorsement of any product or brand. As it happens, I feel Tony Stark could have made worse choices as far as burgers are concerned, but I'm not a particular advocate of Golden Delicious apples or Monsanto anything. I would, however, be simperingly grateful if any Aston Martin executive happens to read this and feels like offering me a free sample of their wares, in which unlikely event I can guarantee my endorsement would be unreserved and heartfelt to a frankly pathetic extent ...

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On the Subject of Signed Books ...

Just to add, further to last post about the Facebook giveaway: I should perhaps mention, for those who don't already know, that if you're not on Facebook, but still have a craving for a signed, dedicated etc. copy of the Bloodheir hardback, you can get one (but I'm afraid you'll have to pay for it). I can sign, inscribe or otherwise vandalise as instructed any copies ordered from Transreal Fiction in Edinburgh before they're shipped out to you. It costs cover price plus post and packing. Not as good as a free competition, I know, but a good deal more certain in outcome and it doesn't require you to join one of those pesky social networks if you're allergic to them ...

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Free Bloodheirs on Facebook

Post title kind of says it all. Further details are here, but it all boils down to this: each week in June, everyone who's signed up as a Fan on Winterbirth's page on Facebook gets entered into a draw to win a signed, dedicated or otherwise personalised copy of Bloodheir. Sounds like a bargain to me. (And there's not exactly a gigantic army of fans on there at the time of writing, so if you go join up now you're in with a fighting chance. Not that we're actually going to make the fans fight each other, obviously. Though that might be worth bearing in mind for future competitions ...).

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