Well, yes. Three weeks since the last post, and even longer since the rest of the site got refreshed (the links page is in need of some serious housekeeping, for instance) and I'm sure ... well, I guess maybe there's someone somewhere who noticed, and maybe cared just a little bit.
But there is a reason - aka an excuse. (Aside from me being busy writing and stuff, obviously, which is my standard justification for anything and everything I don't do). Significant changes are in the pipeline for brianruckley.com, so I figured I'd hold off until v2.0 emerges. So it's good news, really: a brand spanking new brianruckley.com is en route! But the pipeline in which it currently resides has been of slightly indeterminate length, hence the drop-off in activity while those involved awaited a measuring tape. I can now report that the end of said pipe is within sight and my virtual facelift will occur in the not too distant future (which is still not exactly a precise prediction, I know, but we're talking weeks rather than months, assuming no disastrous interventions by the gods of chance).
So things will remain subdued around these parts until then.
In the meantime, look: pretty picture. Specifically, the cover to the recently released Czech edition of Bloodheir (thanks to Martin for sending me the image).
Enough of this Autumnal blogging inactivity. Got to take baby steps back into the habit for fear of straining my moribund blogging muscles, of course, so just a couple of quick notes to start with:
Czech edition of Winterbirth emerges blinking (and perhaps even bawling?) into the world, under the title ZROZENI ZIMY. It sports a distinctly striking cover - not sure who, if anyone, the specific characters are supposed to be, but they definitely look ... alarming. Tempted to think of them as some heavily-armoured version of Wain and Kanin, but who knows? Thanks to reader Martin for sending me a useable jpg of the cover.
My parents were awesome. A completely and unreservedly true statement, of course. In fact, they still are awesome, but that's not the point. The point is this: the My Parents Were Awesome blog. I don't know if it's just me, but I find it an extraordinarily affecting, interesting, hypnotic, moving, evocative etc etc site, given that it is such a simple idea: reader-submitted photos of their parents, mostly as young(ish) adults, offered without commentary, without location or context or anything but the most simple identification. Page after page of them, and as I work my way through them it feels like I'm looking into lives, into stories, into the past, into other worlds almost; and I invariably find myself thinking 'Why, yes. What obviously awesome people. Just look at them. They look wise, and fun, and kind, and thoughtful. Awesome.'
It's a silent, restrained archive of childrens' love and respect for their parents, an acknowledgement that those parents lived lives as rich and strange and individual as anything their children have managed. Fantastic stuff.
Sometimes it's hard not to be a bit despondent about the way bookselling is going. Latest manifestation of the increasingly uphill slog bookstores are facing in the UK is that Borders UK seems to be heading for the exit. (Not the same company, incidentally, as Borders in the US, which is having it's own possibly even more severe problems). I know this is just the market doing what it does, and I know online book sales, and the brutal discounting of best-sellers in supermarkets, and eventually - even in the laggardly UK - the rise of e-books all have their pluses for the consumer, but it still feels regrettable that it's becoming so difficult for even those with some scale on their side to make money out of bricks and mortars bookstores. I can't help but think that the domination of the mass bookselling market - online and offline - by so few players is not going to prove an unreservedly good thing (to put it mildly) for either readers or authors in the long run.
On a more cheery subject, one of the entirely unpredictable amusements the internet offers is provided by the mindless working away of the automatic translation gremlins. Latest manifestation I've noticed is a version of an sf signal mind meld I was involved in the other day, on the subject of gloominess in sf. It's clearly been translated into French and then back into English again, with the results that I apparently said, amongst many other similarly weird things:
The unhurt put candid, in its chichi quieten, is a youngster of the 20th century
When writers are more interested in how lavish shades of bloodless they can reproof up with than in hellish and unblemished, you inevitably aim up with a more less rose-tinted phantom of charitable possibilities.
There seems to be some kind of poetic, profound wisdom hiding in there somewhere: much more poetic and profound than what I said in the original interview. Perhaps I should put all my answers through a couple of rounds of online translation before submitting them in future?
And finally, I was pleased to discover that one of my favourites amongst the innumerable cgi shorts that show up on the internet these days is moving towards expansion into a full movie. Here's the original short, a fun slice of sf:
A whole load of other interesting people have also been interviewed there- at least I know some of them are usually interesting; whether they're interesting or not in this particular case, I can't be sure, since I don't read Dutch. Heck, I can't even be sure I was interesting, but there I am, chatting merrily away in a foreign language.
And in case anyone missed it in the comments on the previous post, first review has showed up for the previously mentioned Rage of the Behemoth anthology, over at the jolly good Grasping for the Wind blog. Modesty prevents me from pointing out which of the stories gets the biggest thumbs up. No, really. It does. Big bully, that modesty stuff.
Every so often, you get a reminder of why the internet and e-mail are such fine things. A minor example: a flurry of e-mails from readers this week, and I can tell you, there are few things more likely to lift the spirits of a writer - it being, as everyone always says, such an isolated and potentially lonely old business - than hearing direct from the readers (assuming they're polite and friendly readers, of course).
The best thing is, it's a two-way process, so I can fire a random questionout into the virtual ether, and get an answer back in basically no time at all:
"The title Zimowe Gody means more or less Winterbirth. 'Zimowe' means winter (as an adjective). 'Gody' is the traditional Polish name for a wedding, but also may be used for other festivities (like your book's Winterbirth)."
So now I (and you) know. Fantastic. Thank you, Pawel. Incidentally, googling 'Zimowe Gody' - an entirely pointless exercise due to my ignorance of the Polish language, but I couldn't help myself - did at least reveal one thing of which I was previously unaware: Poland appears to have a frankly staggering number of online bookshops. Dozens of the things, as far as I can see. No idea why so many.
And the two-way thing works in reverse, so people can ask me questions or make suggestions, like Andy, who wants an extract from Bloodheir putting up on the website or the Facebook page asap, please, thank you very much. A little bit of patience is required on this front, I'm afraid. Such a thing will be along before too long, but it's not going to be in the next few days or anything. There's a good chance it'll show up on the Facebook pagefirst, but that's not certain. This is, in fact, a rare example of something showing up in print before it's online: I know, for I have seen it (and it is good) that Orbit US have produced a little sampler booklet containing short extracts from not only Bloodheir but many of the other fine books they'll be publishing this year. But that's not something you're likely to stumble upon unless you're in the publishing or bookselling trade, I imagine, so that's no great help to Andy or anyone else, really. Sorry.
And to end on a morbid note, when I talked about the Forth Rail Bridge a few posts back, the Millau Viaduct was flagged up in the comments (thanks, Simon), as another bridge-type thing laden with the Wow Factor. Quite true: it's a stunner, although it might be ever so slightly too perfect and clinical-looking for me to really love it. Not sure.
Thinking about these two amazing constructions raised a question in my mind, and thanks to the internet, finding an answer was trivially easy:
Number of construction workers who died in the three years (2001-2004) it took to build the Millau Viaduct: 0. Yes, that's precisely zero.
Number of construction workers who died in the seven years (1883-1890) it took to build the Forth Rail Bridge: No one really knows, but probably something like 98.
How things have changed. Those Victorians knew what they were doing when it came to putting together brick and steel; health and safety at work, not so much. Just last year, a memorialwas finally created in memory of those who died working on the bridge. But what I find more moving, for some reason, is that you can go and see the name, age, job and the exact day they died for many of them right here. It's a strange experience, to scroll through those lists, and one that would be impossible without the amazing internet.
Of course, things have not changed so much everywhere. The death toll of construction workers is only one - and arguably not the greatest - of the costs associated with this infamous megaproject, but still: apparently, over 100 of them died. That's a lot of dead workers, if true. I wonder if they'll get a memorial? Or have their names listed on the internet?
There's a sneak preview to be had on Winterbirth's Facebook page: the new map that will be appearing in Bloodheir is posted in one of the photos albums there. I think the photos are one one of the things you can access there even if you're not signed up on Facebook, so anyone who reckons they know what new territories the action will be moving into in book two can go have a look and confirm their suspicions.
If you are a Facebooker, you might want to consider adding yourself as a 'Fan' of Winterbirth. There're likely to be one or two more bonuses showing up there for fans over the next few months, possibly even including the chance to get your hands on a free advance copy of Bloodheir. And in other news, looks like the Polish version of Winterbirth has emerged into the light of day, published by Kurpisz. 'Zimowe Gody' defeats the Polish translation engines I've been able to find in a quick online trawl, but there seems to be a 'winter' in there somewhere, so maybe it's a more or less direct translation of Winterbirth. Should anyone fluent in Polish happen to be passing by, feel free to enlighten me.
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, Amazon.deseems 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.
Item the First. Although I've not had official confirmation, I think this is the cover to the Russian edition of Winterbirth. Now Russian sf/f book covers are famously ... what's the word ... different, and this one is no exception (I have no clue who those figures are), but I consider it a badge of honour and a pleasure to get one of these to my name. I get a little, always vaguely disbelieving, thrill from each of the translation deals done for the book, and there's something faintly exotic and surreal about the idea of it being on sale in places like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Item the Second. Here's two Winterbirth reviews for the price of one (well, maybe one and a half for the price of one): the proprietor of Gav's Studio did a review and then went back a couple of days later to add to it. Interesting to see someone reflecting on a review and revisiting it - not something you see very often in the blogosphere.
Item the Third. Edinburgh has now entered the month or so of collective weirdness that is Festival season. I'll write about this more here soon, since it'd probably be some kind of dereliction of duty for an Edinburgh inhabitant with a blog not to at least note that their city has gone thoroughly mad around them, but for now just thought I'd note that Transreal Fiction, Edinburgh's sf/f bookshop, is hosting a Bestiary of Authors: an exhibition of informal photos of genre authors. For those who can't go along and see the real thing, a selection of the images can be viewed online here.
Item the Fourth. Decades of commercial, industrialised whaling failed to achieve it, but we got there in the end: the probable extinction of a cetacean. That's one less species of dolphin to worry about, which I'm sure is a great relief to all of us.
More bookskins. The German edition of Winterbirthis due out some time around November. I'm guessing, since there looks to be a line of figures winding its way between the pointy mountains, that this is an image of the Vale of Stones, through which first refugees and then armies march in the book. The trilogy's got the overall title of 'Die Welt aus Blut und Eis' (The World of Blood and Ice) in German, which sounds suitably dramatic. Wagnerian, even?
And the final version of the cover that's going to be used in the US and on the UK paperback(released in September and August respectively) has emerged, slightly different from - and I think ever so slightly improved on - the one I posted a while back.
I've liked, in one way or another, all the covers I've seen applied to Winterbirth so far. No doubt some of them will work better than others in drawing attention to the book (and selling it, which is my favourite part of the process obviously), but I don't really feel able to judge that (yet - I wonder if publishers dread the moment when authors start to develop and voice strong opinions about things like cover art?). What I can say is I'm a big fan of the UK paperback cover, which is the only one I've seen a hard copy of. It's got a nice cold, gritty vibe going on. Plus, although you can't tell it from this image, the word 'Winterbirth' is embossed and has a bit of a metallic sheen to it. To be embossed is good; to be embossed and shiny is doubly good. You see how easy authors (well, this author at least) are to please?
Snippet the First. After much umming and ahhing and scratching of head, Book Two in the Godless World trilogy has finally got a definite title: Bloodheir. Took longer to settle on a name than it did to write the damn thing ... Amazon is still calling it Winterbirth v.2 (EDIT: actually, today they're calling it Bloodheir: v.2, which is nearly right), but trust me, it's Bloodheir. Looks like it should be in UK bookshops early April 2008. Before anyone asks, no I don't know what its US or Australian publication dates will be - will try to find out at some point and report back.
Snippet the Second. Another translation deal has been done for Winterbirth - Greece, this time. News of these overseas deals comes out of the blue to me, since other people are doing the hard work of trying to make them happen, so each one is an unexpected little nugget of pleasure.
And finally, an update on DARPA's project to create hybrid insects that I mentioned a post or two back. The Times has details on the plan: cyborg moths! You couldn't make this stuff up. Well, you could, but only if you're an sf writer.
Behold, the cover of the Dutch edition of Winterbirth, which I'm liking. The bilingual amongst you (which in the UK would be precious few, in Holland - as far as I can tell - pretty much everybody), will notice that it's not actually called Winterbirth. A name change was recommended for the Dutch market, which was fine by me. As a result, it turns out that I've written a book called (in that one corner of the world) Swords of Honour. Last I heard, it's published next month.
There's a very friendly review of Winterbirth over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. If all goes according to plan, I should be doing an interview for that site soon, too.
A PS to my last post about Interzone:I discover (via the excellent UK SF Book News) that there's an ambitious newcomer on the UK sf/f/h short fiction scene: Hub Magazine. While idly poking about their website, I further discover that they have a competition in their first issue, in which they seem to be giving away copies of Winterbirth. Now if that doesn't tempt the masses into subscribing nothing will. Maybe. Or not. Anyway, quite aside from their excellent taste in competition prizes, any new fish in the small pond of UK genre magazines is to be welcomed.
Plus: Looks like another European sale of the Godless World trilogy is sorted out, this time for the Czech Republic. Hooray.
Just in case any non-Brits are visiting (and very welcome you are, if so), it might be worth mentioning that there are to be translations of Winterbirth. Dutch, German, Russian, Polish and Romanian editions are in the works so far - exciting stuff for your average first-time author who thought just trying to get a UK publishing deal was being optimistic!
The first to see the light of day is likely to be the Dutch edition from M, scheduled for around April 2007. Current plans are for the German edition, from Piper, to hit the shelves in Autumn 2007. I am in awe, by the way, of those who have the skills to translate a novel. Being functionally illiterate in any language but English myself, their abilities seem almost magical to me.
And for anyone toying with the idea of buying the good old-fashioned English language version of Winterbirth, a reminder that if you contact Transreal Fictionthey can sell you a signed (and optionally personalised!) copy, as reported in this post. It may be an enormously valuable heirloom one day. Or a handy signed doorstop. Never know when you might need one of those.