Five books I really, really wanted to read in 2006

But alas, life got in the way. Hopefully I'll finally get to them in 2007.

- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

- Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

- American Gods by Neil Gaiman

- House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

- Infoquake by David Louis Edelman

As you can see, the first four have been on my "books to read" pile for a few years now. What can I say!?! Too many books, and too little time!;-)

Happy New Year to everyone!:-)

New Brandon Sanderson Interview

Once again, I acted as the middleman to help get another interview, this time with Brandon Sanderson. The French translation has been up for a while now, but I was just notified that the English version has been posted.

You can find the Q&A here.


This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 26th)

Nothing to report in hardcover. . .

In paperback:

Eric S. Nylund's Ghosts of Onyx is up three positions, finishing its sixth week on the bestseller list at number 21. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is down five spots, ending its third week on the NYT list at number 23. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Tempest is down 10 positions, finishing its second week on the prestigious list at number 31. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

2006 Year-End Awards

Hi guys!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I was finally able to put together my list of awards, so the wait is over! There's a bit of humor, of course. And as always, many of you won't agree with my selections. That's quite all right with me, as long as we agree to disagree!:-)

Happy Holidays!


Although the Fantasy Hotlist Awards has a nice ring to it, I'm afraid I'm looking for something with a little more cachet. In the film industry, one can win an Oscar. In the music business, you can take home a Grammy. To celebrate American Theatre excellence, one can win a Tony. So in speculative fiction, why couldn't we have a Terry?

Imagine the prestigious trophy. Can you picture that little golden statuette of man with his arms crossed against his chest, his entire demeanor radiating unflagging steadfastness? Can you see it in your mind's eye, sporting a pony tail and a beard, a hard-faced mien meant to project unyielding toughness, yet not quite capable of concealing the underlying ridiculousness of his expression? Yes, a Terry is just what we need! A plaque bearing the inscription "Fantasy is for hacks" would be the perfect finishing touch, making a Terry the second-most sought-after accolade after the World Fantasy Award. What say you, the fans!?! Could we be onto something here!?!;-)


1- The Thousandfold Thought (R. Scott Bakker)
2- The Bonehunters (Steven Erikson)
3- Vellum (Hal Duncan)
4- River of Gods (Ian McDonald)
5- The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch)
6- Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik)
7- Crossover (Joel Shepherd)
8- Winterbirth (Brian Ruckley)
9- The Crooked Letter (Sean Williams)
10- Blindsight (Peter Watts)

Okay, so some of these books were released earlier in the UK or elsewhere. And yet, those titles are part of the list because I read the North American version which came out this year. But I see you coming. You'll counter by telling me that some novels in the top 10 are not yet available on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Well, I live in Canada, which means that I, supposedly, have the best of both worlds (my country being part of the Commonwealth and all that crap!). And it's my own damn list, so I can do what I want!;-)

There are three Pyr titles in that list. Hopefully most of you will be smart enough to understand what that means. . .



I enjoy every online community I frequent, but Ran's board is where it's at! Mainly because everyone from everywhere seems to converge there!


- Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

Honorable mention: Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

I'm a recent Malazan convert, as you well know. What can I say!?! It's been that kind of year!


- Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist

Honorable mentions: King of Foxes and Into a Dark Realm, both by Raymond E. Feist

Yikes! Tough year for Feist, one of my favorite fantasy authors.


- Melanie Rawn, author of Spellbinder

Honorable mention: Raymond E. Feist, author of Flight of the Nighthawks

Welcome back, Melanie! And Feist proved that he could still write some ripping yarns!


- We have a tie between R. Scott Bakker and Scott Lynch!

Honorable mentions: Hal Duncan and Terry Goodkind, for his patented Yeard!


- City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff Vandermeer

I know I'm going to take some heat for this one, but this book simply didn't live up to my expectations. It's not bad -- far from it. The hype surrounding this one was probably too strong. And I guess the squid lore didn't quite do it for me. . .


- Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Honorable mentions: Forest Mage by Robin Hobb, The Mark of Ran and This Forsaken Earth by Paul Kearney



I read and enjoy many blogs on a daily/weekly basis. I think my list of links attest to that fact (though I don't update it nearly often enough, I know!). But this year, William Lexner gets the nod.

I mean, come on! Stego's been accused of single-handedly killing Emerald City (seriously, it will be missed)and nearly destroying the Hugo Awards! And here I am, doing interviews with authors such as George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card and Guy Gavriel Kay, receiving Erikson's Reaper's Gale manuscript months in advance, as well as other such nonsense. Hmmm, it must be nice to have that kind of notoriety.

Keep up the good work, William!


- Hal Duncan, author of Vellum

Honorable mentions: Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora; Naomi Novik, author of Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon; Brian Ruckley, author of Winterbirth; Joel Shepherd, author of Crossover

I can't recall another year in which there was so many impressive debuts. Still, for writing such an ambitious and mesmerizing book, Duncan takes the cake!

Now Hal, I'm aware that this isn't exactly the WFA. But it's still something. . . Right!?! Let me make it up to you by sweetening the deal a bit. First drink on me, should we ever meet in person. How about that!?!


- Lois McMaster Bujold, author of Beguilement

Who else, really? Every time this woman writes something, it ends up winning an award. Poor Kay, Ysabel has no chance to capture the WFA. . .

On a more serious note, Peter Watts' Blindsight appears to be a sure nominee for the next Hugo Awards.


Unlike many blogs and websites out there, I don't have resident hecklers and haters. Be that as it may, I nevertheless receive occasional emails and PMs ripping me and my posts. Hence, I've decided to give you a little sample of what sometimes comes my way.

Some of you have already read or heard of the "Lemmings of Discord" rant I received last summer. For your reading pleasure, hereby you will find the best parts of that message. It's from Ron Wilson, aka MyStar, close friend of Terry Goodkind and webmaster or admin of the author's official website. At the time I was trying to get an interview with Goodkind, hoping the give him an opportunity to address many of the controversial issues that surround him. During that same period, the Goodkind parody threads on westeros really took off, and like many I made it a point to read them every day. Well, MyStar saw a glib remark from me on one of those threads, and that was the end of it. For the record, I must admit that our correspondence prior to that moment was very civil. After that, however, well let's just say that I never got a Christmas card from him. Oh, and he doesn't hold the people at westeros in his heart. . .

Here's a taste of what he had to say (the spelling and grammatical errors are his, not mine):

And as for "detractors" the 5 people at your westros board don't really count as "detractors", more along the lines of hecklers and gits. But I've got better things to do with my time than spend reading or interacting with people who are incapable of any kind of coherent thought. Attacking Goodkind for what they admire in GRRM or Bakker etc... sorry pot calling the kettle black simply doesn't warrant time from me. [...]

I've read many of your reviews for some time now. While I will admit you have wrangled a few interviews, they came not from
anything "you" did but rather you asking (most persistently I might add, so says the people offering these reviews) to do them and trying to sell yourself to the task. Mediocre at best. I've seen worse interviews, but I've seem much better as well. You seem to get hung up on "your view of things, from your perspective only", and not allowing that opposing views have any merit.

Yet, you not only lower your self by your close association with these trolls, but the quality of your work. You forget to remove yourself from a neutral standpoint and rather encourage the shtick. Bad form! I can only imagine that publishers getting excerpts of your behavior and lack of professional demeanor are going to be frowning at your so called ability to be fair and respectful. [...]

These poor pathetic people have no clue as to anything Goodkind is writing about. Faith of the Fallen in any poll out there is always 9 out of 10 top favorite of the series. That you and these lemmings of discord find it reprehensive is telling indeed. Telling everyone that you indeed have missed the whole point of the book as well as the series. No wonder you cannot tell good literature from mindless drivel. These people of Westros et al. read a paragraph, them proceed to eliminate anything they do not want to be there, and instead focus on only what they wish to see. [...] Sorry these people you hang out with have no idea about any thing other than their mindless attempts at twisting the series into something unrecognizable and vile for their own sick entertainment. [...]

You seem to be under the impression that because you read a wide Varity of "Fantasy" that you are the rule,when nothing is further from the truth. The "small" number of vulgar voices at westros et al, is but a scattering of sand in a vast sea of readers. Having just gotten back from the book signing and Meet the Author" I arrange for Terry, I have come away with some new insights. Goodkind readership is vast and world wide. These people are not only willing to travel from all parts of the world to get a book signed but to meet the man himself and tell him face to face what truly phenomenal work he has done. I've been to many many book signings by Goodkind and never once have we ever heard anything but praise and adoration of Goodkind and his work. This weekend has shown that you and your band of troll are not only wrong, but far far in the minority. Something I honestly think you are aware of but refuse to admit. [...]

Pat, the thing about all of this is honesty and respect. You show neither. You may well not care for Goodkind, fine. I've no problem with that. But you not only do yourself a disservice, but you fail all of your readers when you refuse to see that there are more positive aspects to Goodkind and his works that you are willing to let on. You do yourself a disservice when you try to dismiss the facts that are so clearly evident and rather try to diminish them by refusing to admit that Goodkind and his series has merit. Trust me when I say, you will never achieve your goals until you embrace that which you refuse to admit...the truth. I do think you have potential, as long as you can keep your focus and stop letting your friends direct your thoughts. [...]

There you have it: The truth will set us free. So forget about Bakker, Duncan, Erikson, Miéville, Gaiman, Kay, and the rest. Go read the SoT and get real!;-) As to all you trolls on westeros, see how you've ruined my reputation! Bastards, every last one of you!;-)

At least he recognized the fact that I read a wide varity of fantasy novels!


- Pyr

A breath of fresh air in both the fantasy and science fiction genres.


- Kitty Goes to Washington by Carrie Vaughn

Okay, so she's won this award two years in a row. I guess I didn't think that Vaughn could do it again. . . But she certainly did!


- We have a tie between R. Scott Bakker (December 2005) and Steven Erikson (January 2006)

Honorable mention: Peter Watts (December 2006)

I've been very fortunate to get all those interviews in 2006. To me, it's a real privilege to have the opportunity to ask questions to some of the most popular novelists out there. Hence, each Q&A was an enjoyable experience for me. Hopefully the authors feel the same way!:-)

So why Bakker and Erikson? Simply because these two were the first to really take the ball and roll with it. Political correctness was left behind, and that made for two very refreshing interviews. I may be wrong, but I'm persuaded that these two interviews truly helped generate interest in this blog. Which, in turn, subsequently allowed me to secure interviews with notable authors such as George R. R. Martin, David Eddings, Jacqueline Carey, and all the rest.


- Scott Lynch

Hands down, this award can go to no one else! The Lies of Locke Lamora showed that this guy has it all and could possibly go all the way. Unless it was a fluke (which I doubt), Red Seas Under Red Skies should establish Lynch as one of the elite of the fantasy genre.


- Scott Lynch

Honorable mentions: Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson, Joe Abercrombie, John Scalzi

I don't believe any other writer was more present "everywhere" in 2006. Whether it was on, on westeros, on The Right People, Scott was always there to answer questions. Heck, the guy even sent someone a personalized autographed copy of his debut for her parody of a Goodkind story using Lynch's own characters! Who else would set up a contest in which the prize is an ARC of his upcoming novel for the person who created the best drink that symbolized The Gentlemen Bastards!?!


The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

So vast in scope, it blows my mind! Erikson and Esslemont truly created something special.


- Terry Goodkind

For his outstanding contribution to all things idiotic, this one can go to no one but TG. Hard to put a finger on exactly what clinched it, as we could probably ballpark the amount of material worth winning him this award. Comparing Canadians to Iranians last spring comes to mind, though. . . Very special thanks are owed to Larry (Dylanfanatic), who doesn't miss much when it comes to yet another Goodkind cretinous moment! The beauty of it remains that most members of the author's forum regard Goodkind as wisdom made flesh. . . Food for thought. . . Oh damn! Since Goodkind doesn't write fantasy, can he still win this distinguished K-Fed Award!?!;-)


- Scott Lynch

For writing an entertaining debut like The Lies of Locke Lamora; for being accessible to fans and critics in a manner that is above and beyond the call of duty; for his candor and good humor.

For all of the above, this Terry goes to Scott!

***DISCLAIMER: The owner of this blog would like to reassure the public by informing them that no bribes were received during the selection process of these awards. To anyone dimwitted enough to believe that bribes are the only way Mr. Scott Lynch could have won so many Terrys, please bear in mind that the owner of this blog is still waiting for the initial bribe he was promised for writing a positive review for Lynch's fantasy debut last June.

There you have it, folks! Hope I didn't ruffle too many feathers!;-)

Enjoy the rest of the Holidays!:-)


If you've been frequenting popular SFF message boards lately, you are aware that a lot has been said about Peter Watts and his latest hard scifi novel, Blindsight. The more so since the author has made the book available for free on his website Many critics and readers opine that Blindsight should be a sure contender for a number of awards, and few people disagree. In addition, my recent interview with Watts leaves no one indifferent, at least judged by the responses I've been receiving. All of which, in the end, is for the best, for I believe that the more people get to know Peter Watts, the more will give Blindsight a shot. Those who do won't be disappointed, let me tell you!

Whenever I hear the appellation "hard-SF" I'm a bit concerned, because such works habitually require a Science degree or Ph. D. in order to understand what the concepts contained within the novel are all about. Neophytes never know if they'll "get it." Not so with Blindsight, though at times things are not that easy to follow.

The notes and refrences found at the end of the book show what sort of extensive research the writing of Blindsight required. Many claim that Peter Watts is on the cutting edge of science fiction. Be that as it may, although Blindsight is based on science and contains loads of scientific facts and jargon, the book also tackles enough philosophical issues to make it truly stand out from the other scifi works out there. As such, that makes Blindsight a demanding but utterly satisfying read.

The permise is traditional: First Contact with an alien race. Typical, you say? Not so, at least beyond that premise. Watts has many surprises up his sleeves, have no fear. The presence of vampires alone should pique your cusiosity.

I found Watts' cast of characters rather unique. When I originally read the blurb, I wondered what the hell it was all about. A linguist with multiple personalities, her brain surgically partitioned into four separate, sentient cores. A biologist so interfaced with machinery that he's barely human anymore. A pacifist warrior. A Synthesist with half his brain gone, there to act as a conduit between the mission and Earth. And a vampire to command them all. I found the story to be well-crafted and interesting, but it's the characterizations that really make Blindsight such a good reading experience.

Some readers have complained that the book is too "talky." I beg to differ in that regard. There is a panoply of facts and information that needs to be conveyed to the readers through the dialogues between the different characters. Otherwise, had this simply been part of the narrative, it would have been info dumping in industrial quantity, which in turn would have turned Blindsight into a sluggish and uneven read.

Kudos to the author for maintaining the omnipresent "don't know what will happen next" feeling throughout the novel. Flashback scenes similar to the ones found in Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora help flesh out events and characters. Again, that prevents the "real time" narrative from being filled with too much info.

All in all, if you are looking for a fascinating and thought-provoking book, Blindsight is definitely for you! And with a second printing on the way, you should have no problem getting your hands on a copy. Some say that Blindsight should capture the Hugo Award next year. Well, I wouldn't be surprised if it does. . .

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info on this book: Canada, USA, Europe

The Year that Was

Well, 2006 has certainly been an exceptional year in the fantasy genre. I can't recall a year that saw the emergence of so many new and exciting writers. Hot debuts were numerous, for which we are all extrmely grateful! Moreover, it sure looks as though authors like Scott Lynch, Naomi Novik, Hal Duncan and a few others will not be "one hit wonders," and will entertain us for years to come. Honestly, the future has seldom looked so bright.

For me personally, this year saw the Hotlist skyrocket in ways that I'd never envisioned, even in my wildest dreams. I was incredibly pleased with the site's performance of 2005. Frankly, I doubted that I could do much better. So you can easily understand my shock when I now realize that my hit and page view counts have increased by a margin of more than 400%. Crazy stuff, that!

To my complete surprise, I've just discovered that I've managed to review 44 novels this year. It is surprising when you consider that I've spent the better part of 2006 working and completing a novel, all this between work and life in general. For the life of me, I can't begin to comprehend how I was able to read so many books!

In terms of interviews, I racked up 24 of them. That, more than anything else, is truly amazing. Living in Montreal, I've never had the opportunity to meet my favorite authors. Hence, as a fan of the genre, it's really rewarding to have the chance to chat with authors such as Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin, David Eddings, Robin Hobb, R. Scott Bakker, etc. Interacting with such people is pretty damn cool, let me tell you!;-) Another thing that turned out to be pretty neat is the fact that most of those interviews were translated in a number of languages. To all of you readers speaking a foreign tongue and wishing to translate a Q&A I've done with an author, just ask me and I'll be happy to oblige. As a French Canadian, I've developed very nice relationships with the communities of two great websites, and Un gros merci à Laure, Annabelle, Emmanuel et Thys (désolé, mais je ne connais pas ton nom!) pour leur bon travail!:-) I don't consider myself a particularly gifted interviewer, but most of you appear to enjoy the interviews. That's good enough for me! In addition, 2006 saw my interviews appear on, making them available to a much larger audience. Special thanks to Dag for inviting me to get on board!

Back in 2005, I was lucky enough to run a few contests. Nobody was doing it, and I was quite pleased with myself when months of waiting paid off and I was able to find some support from a couple of publishers in that regard. That got the ball rolling. . . This year saw these contests go through the roof! Indeed, in 2006 I ran 47 different contests which allowed you lucky bastards to get your hands on 153 books! Needless to say, I think I've made a few of you happy. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the editors, publicists and authors who have helped me make this a possibility. Their support is very much appreciated.

Last but not least, 2006 saw the blogosphere create some waves in the publishing world. And even though the legitimacy of online reviewers continue to be put in question, something finally dawned upon me. Respect is not owed to us out of hand. Respect must be earned. And I'm persuaded that 2006 proved that quite a few bloggers out there are doing a terrific job. That's exactly what we must continue to do. Respect will come in its on time, if it ever comes at all. . . Still, more and more people in the industry recognize the value of this medium, and the SFF online community has been behind us from the very beginning. In and of itself, that's proof that some of us are making enough noise to be heard and listened to.

I'm also pleased to see that more and more bloggers no longer see the others as competition. It's nice to see so many people linking articles/reviews/interviews/yada yada yada posted by other bloggers. United like this, I believe that we represent something bigger, something better. And the more we collectively allow readers to find out about what's good on the internet, the more, in the long run, we help our own cause. So to all you guys -- Jay, William, Rob, Ken, Race, Adam, Larry, Jake, and so many others -- keep up the good work!:-)

Many thanks to everyone -- in and out of the publishing industry -- who has helped Pat's Fantasy Hotlist become what it is today. To the visitors who stop by in such numbers every week, I'll continue to do my very best to deserve your loyalty.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!;-)

Peter Watts Interview

Hi there,

Here is the Q&A William Lexner (Stego) and I did with Peter Watts, author of Blindsight. I'm almost done with the novel, so you can expect a book review soon.

Watts doesn't pull any punches in this interview, making this something you probably should read, even if you have never heard of the author. Candid doesn't begin to describe him!;-)



- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is BLINDSIGHT.

If you want a one-line precise, Blindsight uses the conventions of a first-contact tale to explore the nature and significance of sentience. But I can do better than that-- the whole damn novel's posted on my website, here Or if you're just looking for a taste of cinematic atmosphere, go here Poke around a bit. The site's still under construction - I haven't finished the alien necropsy page yet, for one thing - but there's more than enough to give you a sense of the book.
Ah, hell. I may not have finished the necropsy page, but as a bonus for your readers, here's a picture of one of my aliens (see first image at the top of the post)

- I was able to catch a part of your rant against the dustjacket art for BLINDSIGHT at Readercon.

Okay, this is a bit disturbing, since as far as I can remember the only times I talked about that were at a private book-signing session in the Clarkesworld suite (with only two other people present) and at my reading (which was scarcely better attended). So unless this rant of which you speak was just a part of an conversation overheard at a urinal somewhere, I really am a nutjob. With senile dementia.

- What exactly was it about the original art that upset you to the point of having so many alternate covers created?

Right off the bat I want to make two points First, the artist, Thomas Pringle, has scads of talent and I really like his stuff (his Blindsight concept sketches that Tor didn't use -- which I recycled for the alternates -- are just gorgeous). Secondly, while I have had my share of problems with Tor over the years, the one thing they never ever dropped the ball on -- prior to Blindsight -- was cover art. No one could ask for better covers than the ones Bruce Jensen conjured up for my rifters books. So I'm slagging neither the artist nor the overall performance of Tor's art department here.Further, I even liked the concept sketch that the final cover was based on -- it wasn't my favorite of the dozen or so that Thomas submitted to Tor, but it was my favorite of the three that Tor passed on to me. In fact, here it is, below left, in all its dark gloomy glory: (see second image at the top of the post)

And here's what they did to it: (see third image at the top of the post)

Nothing at all against the concept, even if it does give away a bit more than I'd like about the McGuffin. But the execution, boys and girls. The layout. It sucks the one-eyed purple trouser eel. The spaceship, originally a dark ominous contraption that evoked the hardware of 2001 or Alien, has inexplicably morphed into some brightly-lit Buck-Rogers corkscrew with wings. It has the texture and detail of a pencil sketch imported from an entirely different illustration-- the lighting isn't even consistent with the rest of the image. The red border, the Exorcist-pea-soup color of the lettering-- the word "lurid" comes to mind. And the blurbage-- for some reason, every blurb on the cover raved about some book other than Blindsight, which to me (speaking as an sf reader here, not a writer) is always cause for suspicion. This is especially puzzling because I know that Tor had some really kick-ass Blindsight-specific quotes in hand, and I've never received a satisfactory answer as to why at least one or two them weren't used.

So. Cover art and blurbs, which I'm given to understand comprise two of the three primary variables upon which retail chains base their purchasing decisions (the third being author's previous sales figures, which can't be tweaked retroactively short of time travel and/or fraud, and which in my case were evidently pretty dismal). Is it any wonder that one of the two biggest book chains in the country chose not to preorder any copies?

Now I should point out that a few people have told me that they don't mind the official cover at all, and one or two (not even connected with the industry) opine that the official cover is actually better than any of my alternates. But that seems to be the opinion of a small minority. And when I saw the sketches that Tor opted not to use, I just about cried. They were great. They conveyed loneliness, they conveyed carnage, they conveyed darkness and light and haunting mystery, and it just seemed that they all put a more evocative face on my words than did the official jacket. So, with the artist's permission, I did the alternates (which also come with relevant blurbage)

(BTW, if any of you are interested in how I envisioned Theseus when I wrote the book, check out There, you'll find a full-frontal-nudity annotated shot. (Fully clothed, as in the book, Theseus wears a carapace that makes it look a lot less interesting to the geeky eye.) It's based on one of Pringle's sketches, although I've radically changed the morphology of that ship to reflect my mind's eye.)

- And for the collectors out there, are these alternate covers still available?

Infinitely available. There are half a dozen alternates (seven if you could the featureless black "Smell The Glove" homage) Just go to .and download whichever jpegs you want. They're formatted to print at the correct size, although you're on your own when it comes to finding a piece of paper 20" long. I got a bunch of laminated copies done at the local Staples and I gotta say they look pretty good.

- On your website, you provide additional information and background for your novels on a scale that is positively Tolkienian. Your passion in the work is evident, but I'm curious as to what inspires you to go above and beyond what most authors do. What is driving you to provide this resource?

I really, really don't like conventional forms of self-promotion. While I love hanging around with people at cons, I tend to avoid doing signings, launches, and readings because I'm always afraid that nobody's going to show up. So online promotion's pretty much the only other option.

A lot of author websites are just that-- they promote the author, they jump up and down and thump their chests and shout out "Look at Me! Buy My Books!" It is to cringe-- and I'm not being all smug and superior here, because I too crave fame and adulation. I'm as much of an attention-slut as anyone in this business (or I would be, if more people paid attention), but although I am a needy sonofabitch, I don't want to look like one. So what do you do if you want to draw people to your website, but you don't want to make yourself look like a narcissist?

Well, if you're not going to promote yourself, the only other thing to promote is the material. So that's what I do. I build a little parallel environment, an immersive thing that plays it straight and tries to make you forget that you're even talking about a book, written by a professional liar. I want the site to feel more documentary than fictive, which is why I present it in the form of confidential memoes and surveillance telemetry excerpts and so on. And when you do that-- when your goal is to induce the sense that the surfer is actually spying on a real future-- then you can't afford to intrude as an author and point to yourself, because that shatters the illusion. (Although I do have one wing of the site - "The Real World" -- which is more conventionally All About Me.)

Overall, I think it's a pretty innovative approach. The only down side is that, judging by my hit counts, it doesn't actually work.

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write BLINDSIGHT in the first place?

A throwaway line in an afterword by Richard Dawkins, from an early-nineties anthology of ecological and evolutionary essays collected into a light blue trade paperback with a picture of a wasp's nest on the front. I do not remember the name of the book, and I can't find it on Amazon (at least, not under "Dawkins").

Anyway, he was winding down the book, and mentioning all the things we still didn't know about life, and consciousness was on the list: "We don't know what it's good for," he remarked (I'm paraphrasinig here); "one can certainly imagine a meat robot, shaped by natural selection, that behaves exactly the way we do." Of course, he was just rehashing the classic Zombie argument, but this was the first time I'd ever encountered it and it kind of got into my brain and festered. For over ten fucking years it festered. And if I've made any contribution to the field at all, it's that perhaps I'm the first one to give up. (SPOILER ALERT: skip the rest of this answer if you don't want to read Blindsight's thematic punchline.) Everyone else is still looking for some reason for self-awareness to exist, some adaptive advantage that it confers. And I really, really hope they're right, but I can't think of one. And you know, in evolution, not everything is adaptive. Most mutations are neutral or deleterious. So maybe there is no advantage, maybe it's a fluke, maybe it's actually maladaptive and on the way out. I suspect a lot of people might be haunted by that possibility. I think I'm the first one to openly fart at the funeral, though.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the scifi genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write BLINDSIGHT?

Well, I was a little tired of aliens, both literary and cinematic, that basically seem to be humans in rubber suits with one or two cultural knobs cranked to eleven. On the other hand, it's a bit too easy to throw a big black slab at the audience and say "There's no point in even trying to understand the aliens because they're, you know, alien". If something evolved in Darwin's universe, it's damn well going to adhere to certain natural laws, and that makes it tractable. So I wasn't so much breaking a convention as I was treading the razor's edge between two conventions. I tried to ensure that everything was deeply weird-- life without genes, intelligence without conventional cephalisation-- but nothing was unjustifiable.

And of course there are the vampires. That was just a kind of intellectual wank for my own amusement: I wanted to see if I could take one of the most absurd and unjustifiable creatures ever to spring from myth, and plausibly handwave a scientific justification for all those absurd elements. Again, I wasn't really shattering a convention (although I was definitely poking it with a stick and laughing at its discomfort); I was reinforcing the standard mythology using biological rationales. I didn't know if I'd be able to pull it off until I came up with the Crucifix Glitch; after that it was, Hah! Bring it on!

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Well, I think my prose generallly kicks ass. And I'm more than decent at thought experiments. Characterization, maybe not so much. I'm kind of like the Rush of character development: I do one or two things really well, but I know my limits. My characters are always quite human, but they're not very humane. And I've been told that here in the real world, at least one or two people are.

I'd kill to have characters as heartfelt as Elisabeth Bear's, for example.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a Hugo Award? Why, exactly?

NYT bestseller This has nothing to do with literary snobbishness (Christ knows I have to put up with enough of that shit here in Canada, what with a literary establishment that won't even look at a story unless it's about the lonely young daughter of a distant father, coming to terms with her burgeoning lesbianism on the misty and windswept shores of the Canadian Pacific. I mean, give me a fucking break.) The simple truth is, I got cats to feed, and rent to pay, and while I'd certain take any accolade anyone wanted to shove in my face, a NYT bestseller simply implies more bucks in the bank.

Unless it doesn't. In which case I'd go for the Hugo.

- In all honesty, I must admit to never having heard of your work prior to BLINDSIGHT, yet you have a few novels in your backlist. Can you tell us why we should pick up your earlier work?

The best reason for reading my stuff was perhaps best summed up by James Nicoll, who once said: "Whenever I feel my will to live becoming too strong, I read some Peter Watts". Other than that, I got nothing.

- Other than BLINDSIGHT, which of your works do you believe to be your strongest?

That depends what you're looking for. In my experience, people who aren't habitual readers of sf tend to prefer Starfish: it's heavy on ambience and angst and environment. It's moody, and you can kind of ease into it without too much background. Maelstrom, on the other hand, tends to appeal more to hardcore tech-heads: it's jam-packed with ideas, it hits the ground running, and it has a much denser feel than its predecessor. A lot of people who clapped politely for Starfish stood up and cheered for the sequel; conversely, a lot of people who loved Starfish felt completely clobbered by Maelstrom, and couldn't get into it.

If you've got a fetish for conspicuous consumption, Behemoth is definitely your choice. You get to pay twice for the same novel.

- The fact that you have your own website is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me going. Interactions with publishers and agents tend to be more frustrating than encourageing. And given my royalties, there's no way I'm in this for the money.

It's actually one of the coolest things about being an author: people who are way cooler than you look you up and want to buy you beers (in fact, I'm nursing a bit of a hangover from one such an event even as I type). If I ever need the services of a private eye, a criminal lawyer, or a black-ops military computer dude- or if I need a Porsche serviced- I now know where to go.

Of course, the downside is the occasional stalker who lurks in the lobby of the Holiday Inn waiting for you at 2am. And no matter how interesting one's correspondence with fans can be, they tend to devour all your time. (Which is why I've owed certain e-mails for six months or more. To those people-- you know who you are-- er, sorry.)

- Are you surprised by what little support you receive from the Canadian media? Writers like Steven Erikson and R. Scott Bakker rank among the best speculative fiction authors out there, yet you Canucks appear to get very little recognition in your own country.

Yeah, well you know what they say about a prophet in their own land.

Actually, there are pockets of support: John Burns at the Georgia Straight isn't shy about noticing my stuff; Douglas Barbour gets pro-sf pieces into the Edmonton Journal now and then; and of course, Spider Robinson sings the genre's praises whenever he can in the Globe and Mail. Even the official Canadian Literary Establishment pay tribute in their own peculiar way, generally by grabbing ideas the genre has been playing with for decades and repackaging them as "real" literature. I was quite impressed, for example, to read that Margaret Atwood had singlehandedly pioneered the idea of a biotech dystopia Oryx & Crake. (Although I should add that I am quite a fan of Atwood's prose, and to give the devil her due she does seem to have become a bit less strident with that I-don't-write-sf-because my-stuff-is-good schtick that she was so fond of a few years back. If only the same could be said for the Canada Council.)

Fuck 'em. You want Canadian sf, read On Spec.

- A lot has been said on the subject of online reviewers vs print reviewers these last few months. Many people in the industry still don't hold online reviewers in high esteem, while others appear to grudgingly agree that a few of them are legitimate. What's your take on the topic?

I haven't been following that debate. My sense, though, is that if there's a significant difference between online and print reviewers, it's one of clarity as opposed to substance. I have read supremely articulate and insightful reviews on personal blogs; I have read extremely shallow and inattentive reviews in mainstream print. But insights aside, I think the print reviewers tend to be better at the actual craft of writing. This only makes sense, since you have to pass at least some sort of rudimentary journalistic muster before you get a print column; any doof with a freebie Livejournal account can be an online reviewer. (And indeed, some of the most articulate online reviews I've read hail from people with roots in print)

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

That ship may have sailed. There was a time, not so long ago, when science fiction was the only literature capable of containing some of the grander and scarier possibilities waiting down the road. When you're the only literature capable of plotting a course through the future, you damn well deserve respect. (When it comes to real-world relevance, a story about the ethics of cloning is certainly going to kick the shit out of yet another dreary coming-of-age tale set in post-World-War-Two Ireland.) But more and more of those worldchanging elements are imminent now, or even passe. We've already got clones and gengineering. We've got rudimentary nanotech, proof-of-principle invisibility cloaks, melting icecaps, underwater resorts under construction, AI that some people describe as "conscious", and - just maybe - working prototype FTL inside a decade. The fact that you or I may be supremely sceptical of some of these claims doesn't matter - the point is that these undeniably sfnal concepts are being discussed in mainstream media as serious news stories. You don't have to postulate new technology to write science fiction any more. You don't have to step outside the present day. The fundamental role of speculative fiction is to address the question "What if things were different?". Well, here we are, in the twenty-first century. And things are different. And Bruce Sterling and William Gibson are writing mainstream novels that happen to feel exactly like sf.

So what does this leave us? It leaves us nerd-rapture singularity stories - which will either staledate in a decade or two (if the Kurzweillians are wrong) or will become irrelevant along with everything else during the Great PostHuman Uplift (if they're not). It leaves us with far-future Roman Empires in Space. It leaves us with thought experiments about the shape life might take elsewhere in the universe. What it won't leave us with is any monoply on the relevant, world-changing ideas that science fiction has always hung its hat on.

Don't get me wrong. Science fiction deserved respect. It deserves respect. But perhaps it's tougher now to make the case that the world needs something explicitly called science fiction, because so many of these issues can now be explored in mainstream fiction. And Time Magazine will always have a way bigger audience than Analog.

(I hope I'm wrong about this, by the way. I would welcome rebuttal. I rather like this particular ghetto.)

- What can you tell us of your upcoming projects?

This implies that there are going to be any.

I'm actually pretty burned out after Blindsight -- not so much the writing per sé, but the whole business life of the midlist writer. Blindsight has been getting amazing reviews. People keep talking about it as a potential award-winner (and it might have been, if Worldcon wasn't scheduled for Japan in '07). And yet, seven major publishers turned it down flat, and the eighth - well, let's just say the cover art was the tip of the iceberg. When I started down this road I would sit at my keyboard, wired with excitement, thinking about how best to explore an idea. Now, I sit and wonder how many of those explorations will get mutilated because the market has changed again and the bean-counters only concern with "story" is whether the paper it's printed on will retail for less than $24.95. (And to preempt those who might think I'm just another whiney author with an inflated sense of the deathlessness of his prose; even my editor has choked on these constraiints. He was forced to ask me to cut four thousand words from Blindsight while at the same time admitting that he couldn't see any way to do that without compromising the story. And that was after I'd already cut several K from the submitted draft. And that was after submitting a draft that was ten thousand words shorter than the contract called for, because my previous novel got split in half for being too long and I wanted to make sure that never happened again.)

So, yes. There may be other projects. I still have novels incubating in my head - I'm even playing with the idea of a faux-documentary coffee-table book called "Proceedings of the First Biennial Conference on the Evolutionary and Biology of Vampires", although Tor has told me they aren't interested. But for the moment, at least, the fun has gone out of it.

Many thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you continued success in your writing career and best of luck with BLINDSIGHT.

Thanks. I think I'll go kill myself now.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 19th)

Nothing to report in hardcover. . .

In paperback:

Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams is up two positions, ending its second week on the bestseller list at number 18. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Troy Denning's Star Wars: Legacy of the Force: Tempest debuts at number 21. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Eric S. Nylund's Ghosts of Onyx is up seven spots, finishing its fifth week on the NYT list at number 24. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Brian Ruckley Interview

Hi there!

Well after reading Winterbirth, one of this year's very good debuts, I knew I had to interview the author. So here is the resulting Q&A. You'll see that Ruckley has a lot of interesting things to say. If there's still room on your Christmas list, you might want to add Winterbirth to your other gift ideas!


- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the tale that is WINTERBIRTH?

It’s at the gritty, heroic end of the fantasy spectrum, I guess. The basic plot revolves around an old, unresolved conflict (between two factions called The Black Road and the True Bloods) starting up again, and how various characters get swept up in it. The main emphasis is really on how this cast of characters survive - or don’t - when their world starts coming apart all around them. And in the middle of everything, there’s this one character who eventually turns out to be much more dangerous than anyone really appreciated …

- What can readers expect from the subsequent two volumes of The Godless World trilogy?

Well, pretty much everyone involved finds themselves getting deeper into trouble. Bk 2 picks up more or less right after the end of WINTERBIRTH. There are some fairly drastic plot developments in it that set up Bk 3, so that by the end of that last book, a lot of the characters who thought they had a firm grip on events have found out they don’t. We see (I’m using the word ‘see’ loosely here) a little bit more of one of the other non-human races, and there’s plenty more fighting, death, victory, defeat, all that kind of stuff. And more snow. And shellfish. There are two buckets of shellfish in Bk 2.

- What's the progress report pertaining to the second and third volume of the series?

The progress report is that there has been progress: Bk 2 is nearing completion. Bk 3 exists as notes and thoughts filed away in the back of my head.

- Since WINTERBIRTH is your fantasy debut, could you tell us a little of the road that saw this one go from manuscript to published novel?

It’s been a painless but quite long process. One of the things I really didn’t appreciate when I was daydreaming about being a writer back in the 1990s was just how long the time lags can be. I think from me having what I thought at the time might be a final, complete manuscript, through finding an agent, then finding a publisher, then the book actually being in bookshops has been something like four years. Four years! I think my key pieces of good fortune were in getting an agent quite quickly since that takes some of the pressure off (they get to worry about finding a publisher instead of you) and then getting a publisher who had some good and constructive suggestions to make regarding the text, but kept them general and left it up to me to work out how best to implement them.

- What's been the overall response you've received from readers concerning WINTERBIRTH?

Pretty good - it’s been interesting the extent to which different people pick up on different elements of the story: some people are interested in the Black Road, some in the Kyrinin, some in the characterisation, some in the world-building etc. That’s kind of obvious, I guess, but I’m still the wide-eyed newbie staring around and finding all sorts of things about the process interesting and surprising. The kind of feedback I’ve been most relieved to hear is when people say the pacing’s OK, and the plot keeps them interested. I figure the one thing you absolutely have to do as a writer is get people to want to turn the page and find out what happens next. So long as I get at least a reasonable proportion of the audience involved like that, I’m pleased.

- How does it feel to see that WINTERBIRTH will be one of the first novels published by Orbit's American imprint?

Like I got pretty lucky, really. At the time I signed the contract with Orbit in the UK, there was no such thing as Orbit USA. In between me submitting the final manuscript and it getting published in Britain, suddenly it was: ‘By the way, we’ve decided to set up in the US, and we’d like to take WINTERBIRTH with us.’ It’s all mildly nerve-inducing too, mind you - there’s something simultaneously cool and vaguely intimidating about being part of a ‘launch’ line-up.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

At this stage in my career (i.e. just stumbling off the starting block), it’s no contest, I’m afraid: NYT bestseller. Its impact on my (or anyone’s) prospects of making the whole writing thing work as a career choice would be vastly more significant. I don’t expect either of these things to happen to me in the near future, so I doubt I’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons too carefully.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I’d say I’m reasonably good at giving characters a bit of texture, not bad at creating a certain sense of place and context for the action to happen in, and hopefully I’ve done reasonably well in maintaining a pace and direction to the narrative. People have told me I’m quite good at writing violence too, which I assume is meant as a compliment. I suspect, though, that this is a line of work in which you’re never likely to be 100% satisfied with your own efforts. Even if you think you’ve managed to do something well, you’re still left thinking ‘I’m sure I could do it better …’

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write WINTERBIRTH and the rest of the series in the first place?

Well, if you go back far enough, I guess the very first spark was watching the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia on TV in the early 1990s. There were all these people killing each other largely because of hatreds that dated back hundreds and hundreds of years, and it just struck me that it would be interesting to do fantasy fiction that recognised the immense destructive potential of history, and nationalism, and so on. Before anyone starts worrying that WINTERBIRTH’s some heavy historical text, I should say the book that eventually emerged is only distantly related to those very first inklings of an idea, but you can still see some faint traces of that first thought in there, I think.

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write WINTERBIRTH and its sequels?

Maybe tweak a few conventions, but not necessarily break them. For example, I was going through a brief bout of grumpiness about the prevalence of fantasy heroes whose sole function in the plot is to embody some ancient prophecy or other, since that didn’t seem to leave very much room for free will and choice, so I thought I’d do a story where the closest thing to a prophecy was actually on the side of the bad guys (though I don’t really think of anyone in the book as bad guys, to be honest). And I thought, instead of having a dark lord or something similar, I’d have the key villain emerge, and change, as the story progressed.

More than any specific tinkering with individual conventions, though, I think I wanted to go for a tone or texture that at that time didn’t seem too common in the genre: a bit grittier, a little injection of realism, slightly more shading to the characters, that kind of thing. Of course, I started thinking about the trilogy so long ago that by the time WINTERBIRTH actually got published, the conventions had changed anyway. There’s a lot more grittiness and complex characters, and a lot fewer stereotypical dark lords, about these days. I mean, GRRM, Steven Erikson … kind of redefining some of the baseline, aren’t they?

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

I don’t find my characters too unruly, on the whole. Generally speaking they do what I tell them to do - and if they don’t, I go back and rewrite them to make them more compliant. That’s the godlike power of a being an author! That said, I do find some characters (the Shadowhand and Aeglyss spring to mind) more enjoyable to write than others, and a couple have somehow manipulated me into giving them bigger parts than I originally planned: there’s one called Roaric who looks like he’s going to get a bit more coverage than I expected, and Tara Jerain, the Shadowhand’s wife, snuck into book two as a point of view character while I wasn’t looking.

- For obvious reasons, many authors steer clear of religion. And yet, with the Black Road you have made religion an integral part of the tale. Was that a deliberate choice right from the beginning?

Yes and no - it’s more a consequence of my initial choices than a central decision in its own right. As I mentioned, my first thought was to write about how history and the past shaped events rather than religion specifically. Fairly early on, though, I came up with the idea of banishing the gods from my invented world, and that led to the notion of having a faction who were driven by the desire to bring the gods back. Almost all the choices I’ve made are story-driven rather than theme-driven, to be honest.

Even now, anyway, I’m not sure it’s really about religion - the characters may not see it this way, but I suspect the Black Road is about, not so much a religious desire to bring the gods back (who’s to say there ever were any real gods, anyway?) as a more generalised desire to recover some notional, lost ‘golden’ age, i.e. it’s still about people being fixated on the losses and injustices of the past, rather than on the possibilities of the present or the future.

- The fact that you have your own website is an indication that interaction with your readers is important to you as an author. How special is it to have the chance to interact directly with your fans?

It’s been a real pleasure, as a newcomer, to discover the whole website and interaction thing. I was kind of aware, before I got published, that there was a lot of genre-related stuff going on out on the internet, but it’s been a real eye-opener just how active and lively the community is. I think the whole interaction thing is potentially fantastic, though I don’t think I’ve figured out yet how best to use the technology. I’ve got a bit of a blog going, and a section on the website where readers can get some more background information about the world in the books - hopefully it’s just a start.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

Do I think the spec fic genre as a whole will ever be regarded by the arbiters of ‘high’ literary taste as being equally valuable as literary fiction? No. Do I think that matters? No, not particularly. Like most other genres - generalising horribly - sf tends to be more interested in things like plot, narrative, speculation (obviously), commercial success even, than a lot of mainstream fiction is. Quite a bit of literary fiction seems to me to have abandoned the old-fashioned virtues of telling an exciting, engaging story. That said, there will always be a handful of books that cross the divide and achieve wider notice and respect - I suspect they will generally be stand-alones, though, not series. Not many faster ways to alienate the literati than writing a fantasy trilogy. No Nobel Prize for me, then … ho hum.

- In the long run, what will differentiate The Godless World from the other popular fantasy series on the market?

Its unprecedentedly high sales figures. As if. No, I’d settle for people thinking it was an engaging story, well told, and with good, believeable characters. Actually, one differentiating characteristic does occur to me: it is, I promise, only a trilogy. The story has a definite beginning, middle and end, so there will be no Books Four, Five etc.

- Do you have any plans beyond this fantasy trilogy?

I have no shortage of ideas, but no definite plans yet. My publishing contract covers just these three books at the moment. I’d certainly like to write more fantasy - I’m pretty sure I’ll get better at it the more I practice.

- Anything you wish to add?

Only to say thanks for inviting me over here, and to invite anyone who’s interested to have a look at, and use it to do some of that interaction stuff we were talking about earlier, if they feel like it.


Hi there,

Guy emailed me last week, pointing out that the rights to The Fionavar Tapestry were held by HarperCollins, not Penguin Books. Hence, it did appear that his first trilogy wasn't part of the backlist which constitutes the prize of this contest.

Well, I'm happy to report that The Fionavar Tapestry will be part of the prize. HarperCollins just got back to me and they have accepted to supply the trilogy.

Many thanks again to the folks at both Penguin Books Canada and HarperCollins Canada for their support. Everyone has time to register for this contest, as the winner will be announced in early January.

Best of luck to all the participants!:-)


I went to see Mel Gibson's Apocalypto this afternoon.

Considering the fact that this movie chronicled the fall of the Mayan Empire, and based on Gibson's previous films, I was aware that this one would be violent -- graphically so. There's a lot of blood, make no mistake. Lots and lots of it, so this one is not for the faint-hearted. Then again, if you've seen Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ, then you should know what to expect.

The Good: This movie is visually stunning. The beauty of the vistas is at times breathtaking. The entire environment, the costumes, the battle scenes, the action -- everything is spectacular. The talented James Horner scores this one. And although this soundtrack is nowhere near as good as what he came up with for Braveheart, it still creates a wonderful musical backdrop for this film.

The Bad: The plot, or lack thereof. If you're going to see this one hoping for fascinating characters and storylines, then perhaps you should reconsider. In a nutshell: Jaguard Paw learns of a mysterious menace; Jaguar Paw gets captured; Jaguar Paw escapes; Jaguar Paw tries to get even. Pretty linear, and at times quite predictable.

Apocalypto is not a bad movie, but it certainly isn't something to write home about. Still, a nice way to kill a few hours one Sunday afternoon. And it's the sort of flick one needs to see on the big screen, so don't wait for this one to be released on DVD. Unless you have a killer home theater system, of course.

If you're in the mood for some action, blood, gore, and gorgeous scenery, Apocalypto should be worth the entre fee. If you're not, you might want to stick with Night at the Museum!

Orson Scott Card interview

Nice way to commemorate the 500th post of this weblog, eh!?!

I'd like to thank everyone who submitted questions for this Q&A. Alas, only a select few could comprise this interview. Still, I welcome your interest!

Many thanks also to Jodi Rosoff and Amber Hildebrand, without whom this Q&A would never have seen the light. Finally, my thanks to Orson Scott Card, for taking some time off his undoubtedly busy schedule to answer our questions.



- After what can only be called an illustrious and prolific career, what motivates you to keep on writing?

Nobody will pay me to do anything else.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

I've always concentrated on the inner life of the characters, so the readers feel as if they've lived inside somebody else's skin.

- EMPIRE seems to be rather different from your previous works. What compelled you to write such a novel?

I try never to write the same book twice. I hope all my novels feel different from all my other novels. This time, though, the difference is one of genre -- Empire is a "thriller," which means it centers far more on action and adventure than most of my other work. Also, it's quite contemporary, which means I have to fit it into the real world rather than simply making up whatever details I need.

- Without giving anything away, what can you tell readers about EMPIRE?

An officer working at the Pentagon has been assigned to guess what plans terrorists might use to cause mayhem in the DC area. He is shocked when one of his plans is actually used by terrorists to assassinate the President -- meaning that somebody in the Pentagon has leaked his plans to the enemy. What is more devastating is when this turns out to have been only a prelude to the conquest of New York City by, not foreign terrorists, but Americans in an attempt to start a blue-state-vs.-red state civil war. Instead of taking sides, the heroes of Empire try to quell the war before it can get fully started.

- What advice would you give a younger Orson Scott Card concerning his writing career? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

Actually, I think I -- and my agent and publishers -- have done about as well as we could at every stage. Even the mistakes were what allowed me to learn to do better the next time -- so I can't even wish I hadn't made them!

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write both the Ender series and the Tales of Alvin Maker?

The Tales of Alvin Maker was a deliberate attempt to answer Spenser's Faerie Queene with an epic poem in the American vernacular, using American folk magic as part of the setting. The resulting poem, "Prentice Alvin and the No-Good Plow" became the root of the Alvin Maker series.

"Ender's Game" began when I was sixteen and had just read Asimov's Foundation trilogy. I thought: I want to write a science fiction story. My brother had just come back from a stint in Korea, and using his experiences in training and in the military, plus what I had learned from reading over the years, I tried to imagine how one might train soldiers for combat in the three-dimensional battlefields of space.

- Will MASTER ALVIN bring the Tales of Alvin Maker series to a close?

No matter how long the seventh volume is, it will be the last one. Which is not to say I can't do additional side-stories, like "Grinning Man" and "Yazoo Queen," which have already been published separately from any of the Alvin Maker books.

- In light of the current market, are you tempted to write one of those enormous fantasy epics which continue to be the most successful series at the moment?

Not just tempted. I have wanted to do so for a long time. But I love working with contemporary fantasy, where characters from our world have to deal with magic from other times and places, as in Magic Street and Enchantment. So ... look for something rather soon from my "Mithermages" universe (only "Sandmagic" has been published from that world, though a soon-to-come anthology edited by Gardner Dozois will include the story "Stonefather," which is one of the best I've written in years).

- What project will you be tackling next?

Mithermages, as soon as I get the Ender Christmas book done. Not to mention my rewrite of Taming of the Shrew. And the retelling of Hamlet for a ghost-story anthology. Just little things.

- Any news about the ENDER'S GAME movie? Any details you wish to share with your fans?

Still under option at Warner Brothers. I've written a script that I believe would make a great film. Hope they see it the same way.

- How would you like to be remembered as an author? What is the legacy you'll leave behind?

If I've pleased readers in my own time, that's all I can hope for. To have any of my works transcend my own era and continue to speak to future generations is merely a bonus, to be neither aspired to nor counted on.

- Do you have a different approach when it comes to writing fantasy or science fiction?

Do you mean a different approach BETWEEN those two genres, or different from others? If the latter, then both SF and fantasy require world creation that uses up a lot of expository space that contemporary novels don't require. Yet they also give a great deal of freedom to the worldmaker to hone and sharpen a society in order to make a clearer contrast with the present day.

Between sf and fantasy, though, the differences are paper-thin. If you're writing fantasy well, it will be as intellectually rigorous and inventive as science fiction -- perhaps more so, since every speck of belief in magic systems must be earned and re-earned throughout the book, while scientific speculations don't require as much support to be accepted by the reader.

- You frequently blurb novels by new authors such as David Farland and Brandon Sanderson. Is it important to you to give those newcomers a hand with a positive review?

I don't give newcomers a hand. I give honest comments on brilliant books. If they happen to be newcomers, that just makes me hate them more, even as I praise their books .

- L. E. Modesitt, jr. claimed that Tom Doherty is one of the most underappreciated men in fantasy. Do you agree with his assessment?

I don't think Tom is underappreciated by authors or booksellers. We know he's a wizard of a publisher -- working with him is the reward you get for writing well and treating people nicely. The general public may not know about him, but then why would they? The publisher's job is not to stand in front of his writers, blocking the view -- rather it's to put their work on the stage, well-lighted, curtain open, for the audience to admire, without ever noticing the publisher at all. If Tom Doherty were famous with the general public, it would be at the expense of the books he publishes. So he does not seek fame for himself.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

The last thing we need is the respect of the academic-literary establishment. Look how they've killed the readability of the books that follow their dogmas! Who wants them working the same ugly magic on our books? We made up our own rules, and our rules work better than theirs. The real question is when the academic literary establishment will finally realize that we do our job and their job better than they do.

One might even say that the very best of the literary writers -- Anne Tyler, Richard Russo, and now Diane Setterfield, author of the brilliant The Thirteenth Tale -- achieve many of their effects because they share some of the key values of the best of the fantasy writers: The willingless to let characters act nobly, an intensity-with-clarity in their language, and magnificently thorough and fascinating world creation.

The Crooked Letter

Well, what can I say? Another Pyr title, and another quality offering. They might still be the new kids on the block, yet Pyr have certainly demonstrated that they will establish themselves as one of the best speculative fiction imprints out there. The powerhouses should take heed, because this smaller publishing house is creating waves that will soon be impossible to ignore.

Sean Williams' first installment in the Books of the Cataclysm series is a case in point. The Crooked Letter shows that Pyr is willing to take chances and publish works that could elevate fantasy to new heights.

The premise of the story is rather interesting. When mirror twins Hadrian and Seth Castillo decide to travel around Europe, little do they know that their backpacking adventure will be the harbinger of the end of the world. Yet when Seth is murdered in front of his brother, reality appears to unravel. Hadrian regains consciousness, only to realize that the world he knew has become a nightmarish landscape. As for Seth, on the other side of death he discovers that his troubles are only just beginning. The twins discover that they are at the heart of a Cataclysm that will destroy reality as they know it. Caught in different realms and beset on all sides, they must somehow find a way to prevent that catastrophe from occurring.

The worldbuilding is of the first order. Williams shows just how fertile his imagination is, all the while pooling themes from humanity's myths and legends. Much like Hal Duncan's Vellum and Tad Williams' Otherland, readers never know what's coming next. Anything can happen in The Crooked Letter. The novel's hallucinatory imagery is without a doubt its best feature.

On the downside, the book suffers from a few pacing problems. Nothing that will spoil your reading experience, but there are a number of "slow" scenes.

The characterizations are hit or miss, for the most part. Some are very good, while others leave something to be desired. I would have liked for the author to work a little more on the twins, for at times they don't seem to be three-dimensional characters. After all, Hadrian and Seth are central to this story. In any event, the ending resolves a lot of those issues. Still, it would have been nice to see more character development early on.

The storylines are not always easy to follow. But in this enthralling postapocalyptic tale, I believe the setting was meant to disorientate readers. So just buckle up and enjoy the ride! The ending will shine some light on everything, have no fear.

The Crooked Letter is a superior tale, one that should satisfy even jaded readers. Surreal, imaginative, captivating, unique -- there's a lot to love about this one. Add this novel to your "books to read" list.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe

Win the entire Guy Gavriel Kay Backlist


Well, I was trying to get a copy or two of Ysabel for a Guy Gavriel Kay contest when Penguin Books Canada made me this offer instead. How could I possibly say no!?!:-) I mean, each and every book in that set is a quality read. For anyone interested in discovering the works of this incredible author, this contest is for you!

So here is the prize:

The Fionavar Tapestry

The Summer Tree
The Wandering Fire
The Darkest Road


A Song for Arbonne

The Lions of Al-Rassan

The Sarantine Mosaic

Sailing to Sarantium
Lord of Emperors

The Last Light of the Sun

The rules are the same as usual. First off, you need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "KAY." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 12th)

In hardcover:

Orson Scott Card's Empire debuts at number 34. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

In paperback:

After selling well over 500, 000 copies in hardcover in North America alone, Robert Jordan's Knife of Dreams debuts at number 20. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

Eric S. Nylund's Ghosts of Onyx is down seventeen positions, ending its fourth week on the bestseller list at number 31. For more info about this book: Canada, USA, Europe.

News and such. . .

Hi there!

This is a little update to let you guys know what I'm currently doing and what's coming up on the Hotlist. Stay tuned for those year-end awards, coming your way at the end of the month.:-)


I'm presently reading Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter, another quality read from Pyr. When I'm done with it, I'll likely jump to its sequel, The Blood Debt.

During the Holidays, I'll sit down and read what could be one of the most anticipated fantasy novel of 2007. Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind is being hailed by Daw Books as what could well be the next "big" thing in epic fantasy. Betsy Wollheim claims that it's the best debut she's seen in the last 30 years. Can't wait to see what the buzz is all about!

Upcoming book reviews will include Hal Duncan's Ink, Dan Simmons' The Terror, Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragons of the Dwarven Depths, Katherine Kurtz's Childe Mordan, Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel, Peter Watts' Blindsight, and many more!;-)


Questions have been sent to both Peter Watts and Orson Scott Card, so you can expect those interviews to appear on the Hotlist soon! I should finalize my list of questions for Brian Ruckley early this week, so this is another Q&A which should be coming your way in the near future. As I mentioned before, my interview with Guy Gavriel Kay will go live around the end of January, to promote the release of Ysabel.

As for the new year, who knows what will happen in terms of interviews. Who would you like me to interview!?!


Funny, but I never -- ever -- thought that I'd get the opportunity to run this many contests. I know how much you guys enjoy those competitions, and the publishers seem to love them as well. Hence, I guess it safe to say that there will be many more of them in 2007.

Here is a list of titles that will most probably be up for grabs in 2007:

- Steven Erikson's Reaper's Gale
- Tad Williams' Shadowplay
- Joe Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged
- Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind
- Ian Cameron Esslemont's Night of Knives
- Dan Simmons' The Terror
- Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies
- Hal Duncan's Ink
- Ian McDonald's Brasyl
- Raymond E. Feist's Into a Dark Realm
- Guy Gavriel Kay's Ysabel

I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but that's the way it goes. I'll be receiving many 2007 catalogues in the coming weeks, so there will be more contests to come.

As always, I welcome your comments. So please don't be shy and let me know what you like and what you don't like. Blogging is neat and all, there's no doubt about it. But it's no fun without an audience! And without you guys, I wouldn't be where I am today.


SONS OF THE OAK contest winners


The names of our two winners have been drawn. Both will receive a copy of David Farland's newest Runelords novel, Sons of the Oak. Many thanks to Tor Books for supporting yet another contest.:-)

The winners are:

Stanley Eubanks, from Manchester, England.

Eric Reid, from Tampa, Florida, USA.

Thanks to all the participants!;-)

Joe Abercrombie interview

Hi there!

Here's a Q&A I just did with Joe Abercrombie, author of The Blade Itself and Before They Are Hanged. From his answers, it's obvious that Joe is a funny and fun-loving guy.



- For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, can you give us a taste of the tale that is THE BLADE ITSELF?

The occasionally mysterious, often bloody, and always entertaining misadventures of Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, Inquisitor Glokta, crippled torturer, and Jezal dan Luthar, sneering young nobleman.

- What can readers expect from the subsequent two volumes of the series?

Put simply, a continuation of the story. An epic sweep of love and war, and all that. More hard-edged characters and pithy dialogue. More mystery and magic, more torture and intrigue and a few big surprises along the way. A widening of the scale with some grand set pieces and gruelling action as the characters are caught up in momentous events, all building to a thrilling climax. You get the picture. You'll laugh, you'll cry. If you're a rival fantasy author, you'll cry a LOT.

- Since THE BLADE ITSELF is your fantasy debut, could you tell us a little of the road that saw this one go from manuscript to published novel?

It's been an epic quest, Pat, no doubt about that. I started writing it in 2001, really just for my own amusement. I was a big fantasy fan when I was a kid, played a lot of role-playing games and so on, and had a few ideas hanging about from that time. I’m a freelance film editor, so I end up with quite a lot of time off in between jobs and I thought I’d give writing a try. To my great amazement, I was pleased with the results right from the start. The characters took on a real life of their own and I started to really enjoy writing it. I showed a few chapters to my family, who were astonished to find it didn’t completely suck. That was all the encouragement I needed.

Two years later my first draught was finished and I decided that, since I’d written the bloody thing, I might as well try and find a publisher, and I began to send sample chapters off to literary agents. A year of photocopied rejection letters followed and I became rather depressed. Then a friend of mine who works for an educational publisher happened to be on a desk editing course with Gillian Redfearn, editor extraordinaire at Gollancz. He mentioned, with great reluctance, that a friend of his had written this fantasy book and would she mind terribly if he sent her some (yawn). She read some, liked it, read some more, liked it more. Ten days later I got a call from Simon Spanton making me an offer. I nearly wet myself.

- What do you feel is your strength as a writer/storyteller?

Characters, dialogue, humour, action. And the unfolding of the whole series will hopefully demonstrate that I can put a plot together in a tight spot as well (fingers crossed). The area for which I’ve garnered the most praise, however, is the nice feeling paper in which my books are bound. If you like nice feeling books, you can't go wrong with The Blade Itself.

- Do you have any plans to create a website or a blog where potential readers will have the opportunity to read sample chapters and learn more about you?

I have enormous amounts of plans for all kinds of things, but not all of them get realised. Not many at all, in fact. One might almost say there is a considerable gap between my planning and reality. Blogging scares me. I mean, what if no-one turns up? It's like you sent out the invites, and filled out the name-tags, and warmed up the fondue, and nobody came to the party. I'd love to have a website. There just always seems to be something else to do. Especially since I now have a six week old baby. Never enough time . . .

- What was the spark that generated the idea which drove you to write THE BLADE ITSELF and THE FIRST LAW series in the first place?

No one thing, really. It’s a reaction to some of the things I didn’t like in a lot of the epic fantasy I read as a kid – cardboard characters, clearly defined heroes and villains with no shades of grey between, a fixation with worldbuilding over storytelling. Not that there isn’t some great fantasy out there. I just thought there was room for some more . . .

- Were there any perceived conventions of the fantasy genre which you wanted to twist or break when you set out to write THE BLADE ITSELF and its sequel?

Absolutely. Taking a slant-wise look at some of the clichés of epic fantasy was always one of my main aims. Of course, the risk you take when you put a lot of tired old tropes in a book is that readers won't realise that you're trying to do something different with them. They'll just see a book full of clichés. But hopefully, as the series progresses and the tone darkens, it'll become clearer what I'm up to. That or everyone will have stopped reading.

- Characters often take a life of their own. Which of your characters did you find the most unpredictable to write about?

I enjoy them all. I try to write in a different style with each of my six narrators, to communicate some sense of what it's like to be inside their heads. When I finish a long chapter with one it's nice to move to another. Almost like writing a different book.

- Given the choice, would you take a New York Times bestseller, or a World Fantasy Award? Why, exactly?

Either one would be rather nice, of course. But in the unlikely event that I was offered the choice (perhaps by the devil?) I think it would have to be the bestseller. Critical acclaim is lovely, for sure, but I don't think there can be a greater compliment for an author than that a lot of people should buy your book. That means a lot of people reading it, and, hopefully, liking it.

Oh, and the money, of course. I need food and clothes.

- Honestly, do you believe that the speculative fiction genre will ever come to be recognized as veritable literature? Truth be told, in my opinion there has never been this many good books/series as we have right now, and yet there is still very little respect (not to say none) associated with the genre.

There does seem to be a certain stigma attached to fantasy – but I’m not sure it’s so much worse than that attached to crime, or romance, or any niche fiction. They may be closed worlds to a degree, which is part of the attraction for a lot of fans, but the up-side of being part of a genre is that you can find a solid base of very dedicated readers who know what they like and will come back for more. And it doesn’t seem to have stopped Tolkein or Rowling from shifting a few units, or Phillip Pullman from being seen as a heavyweight literary author.

It doesn’t matter what you write, you’ll never be loved by everyone, and the sooner you accept it the happier you’ll be. For me personally, as long as I can find a decent number of readers who like what I’m doing and want to buy my books, who cares?

- Pyr are slowly but surely establishing themselves as a quality outfit in the publishing world. More and more, the Pyr logo is associated with quality products and great reading experiences. Your addition to their roster shows how diversified they wish their readership to remain. What differentiates Pyr Books from the other fantasy/scifi imprints out there?

It's tough for me to say because I still know very little about the US market. Or the British market. Or anything, some would say. But my first impression of Lou Anders, who runs Pyr, is that he knows and cares a lot about what he's doing, and puts a great deal of energy into every aspect of the books on his list. He seems to have a really good nose for intelligent sci-fi and fantasy, and the great reviews his books get, more or less across the board, are testament to that. I guess the bottom line for any imprint is the judgment of the editor who decides what to buy, and from what I see and hear, Lou has great judgment. I mean, he bought me, after all . . .

- The narrative of THE BLADE ITSELF is extremely humorous in tone, somewhat of a throwback to David Eddings' heydays. Was this something you consciously set out to do, perhaps to differenciate yourself from all those dark and gritty fantasy epics?

I certainly think that fantasy often falls into two types – immensely serious or slapstick. Real life is neither one, and I didn’t want my books to be either. I didn’t make a big effort to make it amusing – I’m not sure that you can. I just tried to amuse myself as much as possible. Some people have found it funny, others not so much. But I feel strongly that something can be humorous and still be dark, often at the same time. After all (said the author with the highest pomposity) you cannot have shadow without light . . .

- With Scott Lynch and yourself, Gollancz unleashed two authors who seemingly aim to write "fun" novels. With the emergence of writers like you guys and others such as Naomi Novik, do you believe that the fantasy genre needed this refreshing outlook that was so important during the 80s?

As I’ve said, I think that epic fantasy can sometimes take itself way too seriously. For me a book should first of all be entertaining, carry the reader along. But fun doesn’t have to mean childish, or disposable. If you can make some serious points along the way, that’s all to the good.

- THE BLADE ITSELF is the living proof that the internet can provide a lot of exposure for a book. Do you feel that most publishers don't yet understand the full potential of this tool, in terms of exploiting the wealth of fantasy-related websites, message boards, and blogs?

Yeah, the internet provides a lot of opportunities, I'd say, especially for new authors for whom there's little or no marketing budget, or for writers still looking for that elusive first deal. For me it's great to just get opinions about what I'm doing, and some sense of involvement with the people reading the things, many of whom are vastly more knowledgeable about Fantasy than I am. Writing can be a lonely profession, so it's good to have such an easy means of meeting readers - as long as they like your stuff, of course.

As far as most publishers go I couldn't really say. The editors I've been working with seem pretty well aware of what's going on. Lou Anders and Pyr are very much on the case, running their own blog and linking to the blogs of all their authors. And I know that Simon Spanton, one of the big important men at Gollancz, keeps his eye firmly on the various chat-rooms . . . possibly at the expense of doing actual work. But then, that's how he discovered Scott Lynch, and he seems to be doing reasonably well.

- Since I already have an "advance reading copy" of BEFORE THEY ARE HANGED, it means that you are hard at work on the final volume of the trilogy. Is it a challenge to bring this series to a close?

Yes and no. I started the series with the ending firmly in mind, so a lot of the planning has already been done. I've been thinking about some of the final scenes since the start - the difficulty is in writing those scenes with sufficient oomph, if you will. So far I'm happy with how it's going . . . but then I always am until someone tells me I'm shit.

- In the long run, what will differentiate THE FIRST LAW from the other popular fantasy series on the market?

It'll be WAY better. But seriously. It’s character-centred. It’s got humour without being slapstick. And it’s under tight control. Fantasy’s always been long and complicated, it’s part of the appeal, but, for me, some series seem to have got a bit out of hand lately. They start well (sometimes brilliantly), then wander off into a morass of endlessly multiplying characters and plot threads, never finding a convincing resolution. I can promise you now that will not happen with The First Law. Three books, delivered no more than a year apart, then end with a bang. That’s my policy.

Unless someone were to offer me money to write more, of course.

Then you can have three hundred.

- Anything you wish to add?

Buy The Blade Itself, and its sequels. Buy them in softback and hardback. Buy them again when they come out in America. Recommend them strongly to your friends and family. Then perhaps I can get a World Fantasy Award AND a New York Times Bestseller, and you can ask me which I enjoyed more . . .

- Thanks again for accepting to do the interview. I wish you continued success with your writing career, and best of luck for the North American release of THE BLADE ITSELF.

Any time. And thank you.