Vaguely Disreputable Weblog


The four Dance of Gods books are available again! In the paper of the new age, which of course means electrons, the Spells have now been published as ebooks for Kindle. 

All my thanks go to the pioneering folks at JABberwocky, especially Joshua Bilmes and Jessie Cammack, and to cover artist Isaac Stewart. I appreciate the hard work you've all put in to make this happen!


It was pointed out to me recently that I've vanished from these pages without a trace. I know, that was rude; many apologies. On the (potentially) brighter side, I've been writing intensively on two book projects. The first one gradually started pushing back harder and harder, and I finally decided to put it on hold. The second one is moving along much better and I'm staying with it; we should know in a few months where it's gone. For future reference, it's called I Want to Rule the World

Hope to see you all again soon...

Match it for Pratchett

Since Terry Pratchett donated $1M to Alzheimer's research, a web effort (naturally) has emerged to match his donation. The Alzheimer's Research Trust is his charity of choice - if you give there, add a note in the comment box so they know your contribution is "In honour of Terry Pratchett"...

Sometimes the Missing Return

One of the first things I did when I was setting up this site was add the section titled "Endangered and Missing" that appears on each page, at the bottom of the left-hand column, and the first two authors I thought of for it were Barry Hughart and David R. Palmer. I've received an email this morning from the great folks at Subterranean Press that references an ongoing discussion at John Scalzi's site on this exact subject, in which Mssrs. Hughart and Palmer are mentioned numerous times ... but, most excitingly, Subterranean Press is actually taking action (at least in part due to this discussion), and they intend to release a collection of all three Hughart novels. Trade hardcover for $38, and the limited:

For Mr. Hughart’s most ardent fans, that’s not the biggest news. In addition to the trade hardcover, we’ll be producing a 200-250 copy limited edition that will feature not only a leatherbound edition of The Chronicles. In addition, for the first time, Mr. Hughart has given us permission to publish the first draft of Bridge of Birds, which features Master Li as a nineteen-year-old, and Number Ten Ox as a bit player. This slipcased set will be a true rarity.

Terry Pratchett's abominable news

There's no pleasant way to report this awful news - Terry Pratchett has announced that he has a rare, early-onset form of Alzheimer's Disease:


I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news.  I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early
onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism.  For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I
expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers.  Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)


PS  I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should
be interpreted as 'I am not dead'.  I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as
will everybody else.  For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell.
I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I
would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

I'm doing my best here to follow the man's request to keep things cheerful. With so many challenges around the world today, to people and societies, it is worth keeping in mind that we live in an age of wonders. Diseases and medical afflictions keep moving, one by one, from "incurable and fatal" to "chronic and treatable" and even occasionally to the "curable" columns. Those of us who are in a position to take advantage of these wonders, through time, place, and means, should count ourselves among the luckiest souls in human history. Mr. Pratchett should certainly be able to have the best that modern medicine and technology can provide applied to his care; I hope this will be enough.

Irony is just about the easiest thing to ring in, but I'm sure others will also note the fresh resonance to Vernor Vinge's remarkable Rainbows End, where the works of Terry Pratchett play a major role, and where one of the principal characters is being treated for post-Alzheimer's Syndrome...

The Merchants' War

My admiration for Charles Stross, as an exemplar of currently active authors, is already splashed lavishly across this site. I've also commented on the extent to which I've been struck by the way he and I have come up - completely independently - with similar solutions to particular matters of plot development; an example of convergent evolution in action. Even given this, The Merchant's War still knocked me for a bit of a loop. I've noted the attempts to brand this thoroughly SFnal and beautifully extrapolated series as fantasy with no little amusement - if it increases sales, so much the better - and I'm certainly the last person to be able to complain with a straight face about complete lack-of-resolution cliffhanger endings, but for anyone who's made it through the Spell books, the revelations in Chapter 5, around page 112, say, may make you very happy. They certainly did this for me... and now, another year until the next one. (Oh, all right: aargh!)

"No plan survives... with the enemy", but even though it would be misleading to count my reading list as an enemy, nevertheless the process of maintaining a life outside the grand goal represented by the pile of pending books is more challenge than my abilities - or the number of hours in an average day - have been able to navigate. Which is to say, poster Chuk has asked about whether I've gotten to some of the books on my list. (Which also means that someone is actually reading these notes! Egad!) But the direct answer is "no," or in a more hopeful rephrase "not yet," although hope does spring eternal. Instead, I've been pushing to finish editing and posting the Spells (last chapter of Spell of Fate uploaded last night, Apocalypse moving ahead even as we speak), making notes for a proposed new book project, engaging in actually remunerative activities (clearly appropriate, since the last time a cent rolled in from fiction writing was around 1993), preparing for the Leopard install, and so forth and so on...

Halting State

I've mentioned elsewhere on this site that Charles Stross is right at the top of my list of favorite current authors, so it should surprise no one that I eagerly attacked Halting State as soon as it arrived. I was actually even more eager than that - ever since he reported on his site eighteen months ago or so that he was working on a "near-future thriller set against the world of massively multiplayer virtual reality games", I was as expectant as I've been about any book in years. Near-future is about the hardest thing in SF to pull off, and given Mr. Stross's demonstrated fervor for attacking big conceptual challenges head-on with pit bull ferocity and doing his best to rip their throats out, well, I was sure he was not about to sidestep the possibilities and have his narrative take place in a Starbuck's over lattes, shall we say. And did I mention - as long we're talking conceptual challenges - that it's all written in second-person voice?

It's a good book. It's a very good book, and a very smart book. It evolves so nicely, in fact, that it would be unfair to discuss the plot more than elliptically. He's used bits and pieces of tropes, plot devices, turns of phrase, and a few tics that we've seen before, but it's all assembled into a neater, tidier package this time. The conceptual infodump overload that could leave a reader with the full somatic nausea of futurelag in Accelerando is under much more control here, although of course we're only traveling ten years out, and not close to the Singularity, either. (He's also extrapolating along an axis I know a lot about professionally, as well as through general net-aware sponge-knowledge.) Indeed, it feels as though he may have deliberately intended Halting State to have breakout potential; in a way it's almost a miniature, compared to some of his other grand canvases, and could easily appeal to a much broader audience than he's addressed above. Definitely check it out! He's made it easy - the prologue and the first three chapters are posted for download...

A review for Catastrophe's Spell!

The first fresh review for Spell of Catastrophe in, oh, the last twenty years has been posted by Chris, the Book Swede. I've installed a nice quote over to the left...

Empire of Ivory

Naomi Novik's Empire of Ivory, fourth in her Temeraire sequence, ends up in a much more interesting place than I initially thought it was heading. Temeraire is a resolutely SFnal piece of work, for all that Del Rey is taking advantage of the dragons=fantasy stereotype, and from what we've seen thus far is a solid piece of worldbuilding, thoroughly in Aubrey-Matarin territory. Ms Novik clearly knows her Napoleonic wars very well, and the extent to which the story tracks the historical flow of campaigning had led me to expect that she would continue to hew to the grand sweep of events in our own timeline, with the dragons ultimately having no net impact major enough to derail the important milestones of Napoleon's rise and fall. This may still be the case; I find it hard to believe that she will abandon the chance to dramatize the advance to Moscow in 1812 and the succeeding events through Elba, or the Hundred Days and Waterloo. But during those stretches when continental Europe was quiet, I had assumed that Ms Novik would be taking us off to other parts of the globe, inserting interludes of drawing-room activity (in O'Brian's fashion as well), and otherwise spinning intrigues and side-plots that would not materially affect her ability to return to Europe when Napoleon again sets forth and the red-letter battles recommence; that her alternative history would remain conservative, rather than disruptive.

What a week it's been...

This site has now received almost 9000 visitors, a similarly large number of downloads, and many, many emails. Thank you to everyone who visited, sent words of encouragement (mostly), or contributed typos, proofreading, and other suggestions. I've already received orders of magnitude more feedback than I did during the entire time the books were being published, and an actual fanbase is apparently coalescing. I take this very seriously, which leads to the main topic of this post: Spell of Apocalypse.

Several days ago, I received an email from reader Nick, from Canada. He read the pdf of Catastrophe and then was lucky enough to land actual paperback copies of Intrigue and Fate, which he had just finished devouring. This meant he had now encountered the absolutely-everything-up-in-the-air cliffhangers at the end of Fate - and now was completely unable to locate a copy of Apocalypse. Not a surprise at all; Apocalypse sold something fewer than 500 copies, if I recall correctly(When they were published, the big bookstore chains, led by Crown, were very active in tracking book sales using their computerized inventory systems, and without a promotional push from the publisher, would order no more copies of any succeeding titles than had already been sold by that author. This was obviously a self-fulfilling prophecy trap, especially when coupled with the "perishable goods" approach to stock management; when the new book in a series came out, it was difficult - outside of the SF specialty shops - to get the previous volumes, so why would a browsing shopper bother? This explains why the third and especially the fourth book are fairly expensive and hard to find. Update: here's a column by Norman Spinrad which updates the BookScan sales tracking trap with a modern example.) 


Today was certainly active here at Vaguely Disreputable Plaza. Any day your site gets a mention in BoingBoing, the desktop fireworks are let slip with a vengeance, crying havoc all the while! Many thanks to Cory Doctorow for the article, cover art for Catastrophe's Spell and all. In the first traffic analysis sweep this morning the site had already received 2000+ visitors as a result of the coverage today. Thanks as well to everyone who stopped by!

My failure to post on this page recently is only partially due to the two-day power outage my neighborhood here in Los Angeles experienced earlier this week ... although that didn't help. All outlets are once again live and the infrastructure largely restored, and the air conditioners are humming again (although never below 78º Fahrenheit). Also, I've been spending as much time as possible actually getting the Spells ready for the site, since they are after all the main point here, along with some intensive work on a new writing project. We shall see...

Red Seas Under Red Skies

I finished Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies the better part of a week ago, and have been considering whether it would be worth making some remarks about it. I've definitely bought into Mr. Lynch as an important and exciting new writer with plenty of heat behind him - bought into him quite literally, in fact, as I find myself, rather to my surprise, owning four copies of The Lies of Locke Lamora (the US trade hardcover, another copy of the US trade hardcover from Clarkesworld, autographed and with a printout of the prologue of Red Seas, the UK hardcover, and the Subterranean Press limited); all of them purchased, not one of them a review copy or other freebie. I just don't do this any more. Years ago, when I was still in my intensive collector phase, sure, I not infrequently would end up with multiple copies of a book in various editions. (My collecting habit had taken off and then gone completely out of control during my undergrad time at UCLA, when one of my part-time jobs was worker bee at A Change of Hobbit; I'd been hanging around so much anyway that the owner, Sherry Gottlieb, and the manager, Lydia Marano, decided I might as well be on the payroll, such as it was ... but my real motive was Books At Cost. Oh, those halcyon days!)

An obligation or just a custom?

It is clearly customary for the proprietor of a website-with-blog to make occasional comments on what one is reading, watching, partaking of, and/or otherwise consuming to enrich one's life. Customary, or an actual obligation? I've been unable to find any clearcut guidance in the various terms of service to which this site is subject, so let's say customary, and leave it at that.

So, herewith:

Books underway:

Reaper's Gale. A quantum level of complexity beyond any fantasy ever attempted. The undertow from the previous six books has now built to mind-sucking magnitude, making it increasingly difficult for me to move quickly through the text. On the other hand, the meaning behind certain important matters is stated clearly for the first time.

From a writer's standpoint, reading Erickson makes me feel like a gnat staring up at the expanse of Mount McKinley. Of course, just about anything short of War and Peace (or the speculative fiction equivalent, Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy) is a miniature compared to the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

We have liftoff!

It's alive!

In the wheel of karma that is the existence of a web site, perhaps the key passage is between unpublished and published (not too far afield from the path of a writer, hmm?) After weeks in preparation, has now crossed the digital Rubicon and is available for your browsing pleasure (one can hope)...

Is something happening?

Perhaps there's something in the air (or in the ether). Yesterday, I finished re-editing Spell of Catastrophe and started making final preparations for launching this website. Today, BoingBoing reported that "Lewis Shiner has begun to post all of his short fiction online for free, under a Creative Commons license" on his site. As it happens, Lewis Shiner is one of the other authors I'd already listed in the sidebar titled "Endangered and Missing". While his Fiction Liberation Front is focused on short fiction and articles, for which there no longer seems to be a viable off-line market, but I think the goal of using the Internet's capacity for electronic distribution to put orphaned works in front of potential readers is the same as my goal with this site.

Vive le manifesto!

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