Some folks noticed that Amazon has a fairly large delay on delivery for The God Engines, and wondered if that was somehow related to what was going on with Macmillan. No, quite the opposite: The darn thing sold so quickly that additional printings had to be made and those are now working their way towards Amazon and toward other retailers. They should be delivered presently. In the meantime remember that Subterranean Press has copies to sell, being the publisher and all.
I was alerted via Twitter and e-mail that my Tor books were back on Amazon, but as I was out of pocket at the time (I was hanging about with my friends Mykal Burns and Wil Wheaton), I only just now got back to my browser to confirm with my own eyes. My eyes say: Yup, looks like they’re back. The physical books at least; the Kindle version still seem to have gone missing. Sorry Kindle folks. I am told reliably that it’s possible to buy them elsewhere and have them ported into your Kindle, so that might be the ticket for you, although I’m sure it’s probably a pain in the ass to do so.
I’d note that the reappearance of the physical books on Amazon happened this Friday just about the say time they disappeared the previous Friday; I’d be guessing that’s not a coincidence. But in any event I’m glad the author-hurting portion of the Amazon/Macmillan negotiations appears to be largely done with. Wish it had happened sooner.
When is a zombie not quite exactly a zombie? For James Knapp, and his new novel State of Decay, it’s when you you take the idea of the undead and give it a whole new socio-political spin — a spin that incorporates free will, social castes, an unending war, and other such fun things. I could tell you more about that, but this is a Big Idea post, and you’re not here for me. You’re here for the author to explain it all for you. And here he is!
I didn’t write a zombie story. In fact, although the word ‘zombie’ appears in almost every piece of marketing I’ve seen for State of Decay, it only appears once in the book itself. I can understand why it gets billed like this – my ‘revivors’ are the dead reanimated, and I purposely play with some of the classic zombie mythos – but I still wouldn’t call it a zombie story per se. I’ve seen it called urban fantasy, science fiction, horror, and a thriller (no one’s accused me of romance yet)…all this is fair, and if you like those things (as I do) then I believe you’ll like State of Decay, but to me the story has always really been about two basic ideas:
1. Is consciousness the same thing as a ‘soul’, and if not then where might those two things intersect?
2. As citizens of a society, what do we owe it and in turn, what does it owe us?
…and to a somewhat lesser degree:
3. How many PSI can a human bite deliver?
If the first two questions sound high-handed, rest assured third one does get answered, and in the way that you’re probably thinking. At its heart, I would call this a thriller; weapons (and bodies) are smuggled, murders are investigated, conspiracies are unraveled and the risen dead lurk in the shadows of city streets. Still, if you were to strip away all of the shell casings, cybernetic implants and arterial blood spatter (though for the life of me I don’t know why you would ever do that), then the first two concepts are what would be left behind. Don’t get me wrong; I like talking about arterial blood spatter as much as the next person, maybe more so, but here I’d rather talk about some of the underlying concepts that, to me, drive everything else.
I liked the idea of a vast meritocracy where a citizen’s worth depended on their level of service to their society, but part of what interested me were the inevitable abuses of such a system. For my story I decided on tiers of citizenship that, on paper, would work like this: Top tier was earned through military service, bottom tier was for those who refused to serve, and a middle tier was afforded for those who were willing to sign their bodies over to serve as reanimated soldiers after death. In theory, you could start at a lower tier and, by serving the community, work your way up rather than serve.
That’s on paper – in reality (my story is reality, right?), top tier lost much of its meaning to those who weren’t rich, bottom tier became synonymous with poverty, and most people picked the middle ground. This was actually by the design of those in charge, because second tiers still have to pay their taxes while earning a decent wage, and then they eventually die off to help provide a virtually limitless supply of foot soldiers. As for working your way up, the next tier was really just a carrot on a string; you would never feasibly be able to reach it.
If reanimation was to be an easy option, that raised the question ‘who would willingly sign up for such a thing?’ Especially when there are murmurings that a donor’s body might go on to commit all kinds of horrible atrocities? I felt that if the government was careful enough to keep the revivors, the war, and the aforementioned horrible atrocities far enough out of the public eye then that answer would be ‘most people’. It’s always easier and more tempting to pay later than to pay now – that’s why the Devil’s pact-printing machine is always low on toner.
In State of Decay you might decide, just before you slide into that guard rail, that maybe second tier was a mistake after all but it’s still your signature on the dotted line. The Devil always comes to collect in the end. In your invulnerable youth you might not care what happens to your body after you’re dead, but you might end up with a long time to think about it; If a person could be brought back from death with the same memories and abilities, how would that differ from being alive? If you’re conscious, in the same body, with impulses moving once more through your same (albeit no longer warm) brain, are you the same person? Or does something else, something less definable, get lost in the translation? Would choosing second tier be avoiding service, or just delaying it?
Of course, if a person who signed up for reanimation had second thoughts they always had the option of pedaling faster toward the top tier; that carrot on a stick they’d never reach. Not in time.
I could corner you at a party and talk about this until you eventually prayed for the sweet release of death, but my word ration runs dry. I considered utilizing the last hundred words or so for a treatise on arterial blood spray, but instead I think I will leave you with this: At the beginning of this piece I said there were two main themes, but I lied a bit; there is a third theme that I can’t discuss without (I feel) giving too much away. While I know the inevitable spoilers will come, I’d like to keep it on the down low as long as possible. Just know it involves the question of free will and becomes one of the major ideas behind the second book in the series. All three of these concepts (four if you count the biting thing) are the threads that tie the trilogy together.
This is the first step in main character Nico Wachalowski’s journey; here he will begin to learn some truths that he’d never even considered before. To do that, he will have to deal with a string of murders, a disturbed psychic’s obsession, an ex-lover’s questions, and domestic terrorism.
Oh, and zombies. Sort of.
Read an excerpt of the novel. Follow James Knapp on Twitter.
Here you go:
Yes, raining in southern California, which I have been led to believe is its natural state in the last few weeks. But I just escaped Ohio in front of what appears to be a soul-crushingly immense snow storm, so I don’t think I will complain (and also, I hope I can find my car at the airport when I get back). Also, my view out the window is likely to change because my honor bar fridge is leaking and there’s a puddle in my room, so I’m changing rooms later today. Which is not to say the hotel I’m at is not otherwise fine; it’s got free wifi, for one, which makes me happy.
I’m sure ambitious Los Angelenos can figure out by the shot where exactly it is I’m staying, but I warn you now it’ll do no good to stalk me here. I’ve a busy schedule and won’t be here a lot. Also, if you show up to my room unannounced, well, you know. That’s creepy, dude. Stop it.
Every couple of hours someone sends an e-mail or post saying “Your book is back up on Amazon!” and point to the same thing, so I want to post this to clear up the confusion. The one physical version of Old Man’s War that’s up on Amazon is “Bargain Price Paperback,” which is to say the remaindered trade paperback edition; as far as I know Amazon never stopped selling it.
The thing to know about this is that the remaindered books aren’t royalty-bearing books, i.e., I don’t get a cut when Amazon sells them. Amazon likely bought the books in bulk when they were first remaindered, for a substantially lower cost than “new” books, and my contract states that the cut I get for such bulk buying is very tiny indeed.
All of which is to say at the moment Amazon is happy to sell you OMW directly, just not a version I get any real payment for. All my other Tor books — the versions I receive royalties for, anyway — still appear to be down across the board. You’ll know when Amazon is no longer screwing with me when all my Tor books once again have “Buy Now” buttons in their mass market paperback (or in the case of Agent and Hate Mail, trade paperback) versions. Those are the versions of my Tor books currently in print. And, of course, when the Kindle versions re-appear.
Likewise, to address other similar posts and e-mails, only Amazon.com is doing this, so all the international affiliates have books, and Amazon’s Audible division is also still selling my audio book versions.
Finally, my non-Macmillan titles are still in Amazon (including The God Engines) and always have been, so their presence doesn’t mean Amazon’s delisting has lifted, it’s just that the book isn’t one of those affected.
I do think all these e-mails and posts make a point about how arbitrary and random this delisting of Amazon’s appears on the consumer side. I mean, heck, all of you here have been aware of this from day one. Imagine what it looks like to normal humans trying to shop on Amazon. The longer this plays out, the worse it is for Amazon’s reputation as a place where you can get anything.
Anyway. That’s the update on that today.
My In-N-Out Double-Double from earlier this evening, before I consumed the hell out of it. You would not have wanted me to take a picture of it after I had done so.
In other news, yes, I’m in California. LA to be precise. Doesn’t my typing look three hours later to you than it normally does?
And now, sleep.