Archive for October, 2013

So thanks to twitter again today, I’ve noticed a phenomenon in SFF publishing. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it, but it happened again today and hey look! For once I have the time to do something about it.

So what the hell is it? [Insert Monty Python and the Holy Grail yelling GET ON WITH IT!]

Short answer, international cover art is way cooler.

humandivEhumandivjapanesexample A…. John Scalzi‘s Human Division dropped in Japan with this pile of kick ass on the right. Now… don’t get me wrong, the US version looks pretty damn spiffy but it also looks somewhat traditional. I don’t need to be a marketing genius or some sort of cultural expert to see that the manga looking cover is going to have a lot more attraction in Japan than the traditional space station.

Now actually, as far as traditional SF covers go, I think the Human Division cover is pretty damn spiffy. It’s got a nice color palate instead of black starscapes. But, I am partial to covers that show characters and while the Japanese cover doesn’t show an actual scene from the book, people are always more interesting than tech alone. I also agree with what Scalzi said himself that it’s great they show Ambassador Abumwe and not just the shooters.

So both good, but Japan wins. Like woah.

lockelamora-uslockelamora-ukExample B…. Scott Lynch‘s The Lies of Locke Lamora. Full disclosure, Lies is one of my all time favorites. But I totally did not pick it up off the shelf because of the cover. I actually picked up it’s sequel off the shelf first because of it’s cover. Again with the US cover, kind of traditional. I dunno what the hell Locke is supposed to be thinking sitting there. He’s certainly not being a very good thief sitting out in the open like that. It would bother me a lot less if that was something that happened in the book, but he never stares off at Camorr’s towers looking all pensive, wry and slightly emo.

UK over on the right still has Locke perched in odd places for some reason, but that captures the feel of the city and the book so much more. Locke’s version of Camorr is the dirty slums where you’re more likely to get shanked and dumped into the canal.

UK absolutely wins here and I’m pretty sure they stayed with the same artist for all the covers going forward, US and UK.

breachzone-usbreachzone-ukExample C…. Myke Cole‘s upcoming (and greatly anticipated) Shadow Ops Breach Zone, or in the UK, just plain Breach Zone. Now, again here, I don’t think the American cover is bad, I just think that the UK one is a whole lot better. Over on the left, Harlequin looks pretty damn impressive. Scylla looking pretty cool down in the corner but it’s totally Harlequin’s show and he could be a poster child for a recruitment poster there. Which is the point. We know this because we’ve met Harlequin before and I think the cover captures him pretty well.

But poor Harlequin can’t hold a damn candle to Scylla over in the UK on the right. She is fucking Bad Ass. Capitol letters and all. Seriously. Like Betty White, Scylla is sick of your shit. It captures the character more perfectly than any cover I’ve seen in a while. I want to find some British pounds to get my hands on that one.

Also, there’s a new blurb on the UK cover. The Peter Brett blurb on the left is a good one, (though nothing beats “I do not wish Sam Sykes dead” in Tome of the Undergates) but it’s the same one through all three books.

I’m getting into the rhetorical territory here now but I’m wondering why the covers are so different. The Japanese cover isn’t too hard to figure out but do the marketing departments in London and New York really so divergent? I was clicking around on goodreads and some people have wild variants around the world with their covers. Peter Brett, China Miéville and the afore mentioned Sam Sykes all have completely different covers out in EuropeIf you call up Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, one of my favorite covers, it’s the same across the world. I’m not sitting around in the publishing house or anything but I think it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall to get some insight into the why’s of these decisions.

Problem of the Popular and Fun

Posted: October 20, 2013 in Genre, Reading
Tags: , ,

Nerds were disliking popular things before it was popular to dislike popular things. It’s like nerds are hipsters about being hipsters.

Does that sound stupid? Yeah it does. And it is. People really need to just like what they like. For some reason in the SFF world, the popular gets a really bad rap. Tie in novels, in particular, seem to have this huge reputation to overcome. But they still sell oodles and oodles. They’re like dirty movies, no one admits to having ever seen one. For some reason the genre has these weird notions of itself.

This started noodling around in my brain back at the end of the summer and a twitter conversation I witnessed between Sam Sykes and Scott Lynch. One of them called it the “consternation” of liking popular things. And then today Sykes dropped a blog post about Drizzt books and fun. Fun is considered a Bad Thing in fantasy, especially when it’s popular fun. GRRM is popular, but everyone dies so there’s gravitas. All the classic tropes of high fantasy going back to Tolkien are poo-poo’d because Tolkien did it first.

When I was fourteen, I would look at them and think: “Damn, I like that.”

When I was twenty-five and starting to read blogs and learn more about fantasy, I would think: “Man, stop.  You shouldn’t like that.”

And now that I’m twenty-nine and slowly losing patience and brain cells, I think: “Wait, why shouldn’t I like that?”

-Sam Sykes

Back in film school, I saw a very similar thing with horror movies. As the genre aged and made more dollars, it was looked down on more by the “serious” creators. By the time I hit the end of film school I felt that same lack of giving a fuck Sam does in his above quote and I got tired of talking up all the stuff film kids were “supposed” to like.

People should just like what they like. The popularity and marketing of something hitting a critical mass doesn’t change what it is. Need an example? Forthcoming! Here’s a popular sci fi book I’m going to summarize.

An alien race with very insubstantial bodies takes over other cultures by latching on, pod people style, to other beings. They co-opt the bodies of humanity and treat everyone as almost like a living zoo. The aliens like to experience different cultures and whatnot. One of the last members of the human resistance gets caught and an alien gets dumped into her brain. Except this woman’s consciousness doesn’t fade away. There’s an alien and a human residing inside the same noggin now and they’ve got to come to terms with that pretty damn fast because they’re being pulled by the human resistance that wants to save the woman and the alien officials who aren’t really keen on double-people.

That’s sounds pretty fun right? Pretty damn cool with pod people and such. Spies and resistances. Two people in one head is something I always find fun.

Well guess what?

That’s The Host. You just thought a Stephanie Meyer book sounded interesting. One of the most ragged on authors of all time who has made a metric ass ton of money in the process.

Yup, I read it. Didn’t know who the hell she was way back then. My wife read the book and she said “Hey I think you’d like this” and since she doesn’t usually read SF, when she does there’s got to be something pretty damn nifty about it. And yup, there was a little bit of smooching in it. She writes in a very …. even style, to pick a word that doesn’t come with built in negative connotations. But it got the job done. I enjoyed it well enough and had fun reading it.

Oooh there’s that scary word again. Fun.

Fun comes in all different forms for all different people. When it comes to genre tropes, the fact that they’ve lasted long enough to even become tropes for us to poke fun of (while we secretly keep buying all of it) means that people must like them. As writers and readers, we should never be stagnant and stale in our use of tropes. They’re a tool and shouldn’t be a limiter. But don’t treat fun as a dirty word. Fun should be why you’re reading. Fun should definitely be why you’re writing. To quote Ben of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, “If it’s not fun, why do it?”

We should all give less fucks and just like what we like and have fun with it.

republicofthievesI’m un-neglecting my blog for once! I’ve been busy on the new novel, shopping the old one still, and an odd little short story. But more than all that, this last week, I’ve been busy with The Republic of Thieves.

If you don’t know about The Republic of Thieves and the Gentlemen Bastard books by Scott Lynch… Go! Read them now! This post can wait!

Seriously, this series is one of the books I recommend the most. It is Ocean’s 11 set in a fantasy world. Books like this have the broad appeal that can draw in new readers to the genre. I read the first two books, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies back when Seas was fairly new in 2008 and have been eagerly awaiting book three since then. Well it finally dropped and wasn’t I just ecstatic that the book release even was up the road in Massachusetts.

Seriously, there is not much that willingly gets me to drive to Boston. That place sucks. A lot. But all the cool writerly stuff happens in Massachusetts and not Rhode Island. (I swear, we really are different states.) I won’t gripe about driving in Boston. Much. A lot of one way streets. Without pavement. It took twenty minutes to get off the exit ramp off the Mass Pike. New Englanders are all nodding knowingly with solidarity.

Scott Lynch reading from The Republic of Thieves

Scott Lynch reading from The Republic of Thieves

So Pandemonium Books is an awesome little store, even if it is inconvenient to get to. We seriously broke the fire code for this reading. It was standing room only. We weren’t far from needing those guys from the Tokyo subways and their sticks. The event was even a two for one. Scott Lynch’s partner, Elizabeth Bear also had a book coming out, Book of Iron, one of those awesome little Subterranean Press minis. I met both of them at Readercon this past summer and Bear was also at Boskone last winter. They’re both very friendly people and great speakers on panels and such. They’re even better when they’re bantering with each other, very witty and well spoken. Each of them treated the room to a reading from their new books.

Even cooler? When I got up to the front of the line, Scott was like “Oh! You’re Mike from twitter!” and in my head I was all “I just won at twitter.” And he remembered that I build submarines for a living. I may hate my job but I forget that other people who don’t work with me find it impressive. My whole set of Gentlemen Bastard books are now all signed and personalized. Not pictured is Seas where it says I’ve “got the right attitude when it comes to work and books” because I told him I was taking the next day off just to hole up with the book once my kiddo was at daycare.

It was a fantastically fun time. When I get jealous about people going to all the fun cons and stuff scattered

"We all live in a nuclear submarine!"

“We all live in a nuclear submarine!”

across the country and the world, I remember that sometimes they’re only one state away from me. Sometimes it’s my turn to do the fun stuff. And someday Rhode Island is going to take over and we’ll get our own cool people events too. Seriously, I’m turning into a real Rhode Islander and 50 miles away requires packing snacks.

Oh so how was the book? Bloody fucking fantastic. There were two Book Throwing Moments. TWO. On the

They brought cookies!

They brought cookies!

same page! Book Throwing Moments are the best things ever by the way and I haven’t run across one since I was reading Well of Sorrows a year and a half-ish ago. BTMs have happened… maybe a dozen times ever?

Once every two years or so sounds about right. So in twenty years of reading SFF that would be about ten or eleven. Ever. Some of my all time favorites don’t have a BTM and Thieves has two in what may be one of the best chapters I’ve ever read.

I could talk all sorts of shop about this book. The ins and outs and the mechanics and what works and what doesn’t quite and how it fits in with the other two books. But that’s not the hat I’m wearing today. Today, I’m wearing a reader hat, a fan hat and I want to impart how much this book is a joy to read and how much everyone should be reading Scott Lynch.

Go. Do it now.