Daily Archives: February 16, 2010

The Cake That Refreshes

Why my neighbors are more awesome than yours: Because one of them — Alisha — made me this cake. Which is no ordinary cake. It is, in fact, a Coke Zero cake. Yes, yes. Made with the refreshing zero calorie goodness of Coke Zero! Although the cake itself is not calorie free. That would be silly and wrong. There is no such thing as a zero calorie cake, and if there were, it would be an abomination, some sort of mad flavored sponge designed to give starving supermodels something to do with their mouths besides jam endless Camel Lights into them. This is not that. No, this is loaded with calories and Coke Zero. Heck, even the frosting is made with Coke Zero. The is the most awesome cake made with soda ever. I hesitate even to eat it. However, Krissy and Athena have no such hesitation, so it’s going to get eaten later tonight no matter what. Might as well join them.

Thanks, Alisha. Your Coke Zero cake is deeply appreciated and revered.

Me Stuff, 2/16/10

Some notes:

1. I have now officially caught up with e-mail from the last two weeks, so if you’ve sent me e-mail in the last couple of weeks and was hoping for a response but did not get one, go ahead and resend your e-mail. The exception to this is Big Idea proposals — I’ve got a couple of those I’m still mulling over, so don’t send those again.

2. Speaking of The Big Idea, one thing I want people to remember is that to be considered, books have to be offered to brick and mortar bookstores on a returnable basis, i.e., the traditional sort of set-up that bookstore take books from publishers by. If your book is not returnable, I’m not at all likely to say “yes” to your Big Idea proposal. Yes, this is my way of weeding out the self-published or vanity published. If I make an exception it’s for exceptional reasons which show real innovation — for example, in the near future I’ll do something with an iPod/Kindle-distributed graphic novel. But exceptions are called “exceptions” for a reason.

3. Subterranean Press noted today that The God Engines is going into a third printing and that TGE is now my largest-selling SubPress title, both of which I think are pretty damn nifty. Thank you. Subterranean also notes that if you’re still hankering for a first edition, they themselves have a few left, but you better get on it.

4. As most of you know my 2010 science fiction convention is intentionally sparse, but 2011 is beginning to fill out a bit: Specifically, I’ll be the Guest of Honor at Capricon 31, in Wheeling, Illinois (suburban Chicago) next February 10 – 13. Joining me are John Picacio as the artist Guest of Honor and Janice Gelb & Stephen Boucher as fan Guests of Honor. Here’s the Capricon Web site, although at the moment it’s still showing information from this year’s convention. No other firm 2011 commitments at this point, but when/if there are I’ll post them.

That’s me today.

Just Arrived, 2/16/10

What came in before the snow walled us in again:

* The Lost Fleet: Victorious, by Jack Campbell (Ace): Sent this in ARC form. I do believe this is the final book in the very successful “Lost Fleet” series, so Campbell fans, gird yourself. This one comes out April 27.

* Guardian of the Dead, by Karen Healey (Little, Brown): This YA takes place in New Zealand and purports to tap into the mythos of the Maori to tell its story. Nifty, I say; I love me some New Zealand. Out in April.

* Changeless, by Gail Carriger (Orbit): I’ll let the cover copy speak for it: “A novel of vampires, werewolves, dirigibles and parasols.” Italics theirs. It must mean something. Also out in April.

* A User’s Guide to the Universe, by Dave Goldberg and Jeff Blomquist (Wiley): I’m afraid to open this because I’m worried I’ll find out I’ve been using the universe all wrong. What would the penalty for that be? I don’t want to find out. This pop science book is out next week and its authors will be doing a Big Idea piece in a few weeks’ time.

* Food, Wine: Burgundy (The Little Bookroom), by David Downie: This installment of The Terroir Guides (think of them as travel guides to wine country) goes deep into the Burgundy region of France to give you tours of the local vineyards, vinters, and restaurants. Makes me want to take a trip, it does. Out as of last week.

* The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance (Brilliance Audio): Vance’s classic 1950 novel, in audio form, read by Arthur Morey. Out today!

* The Agent: An indie film about an agent locking horns with a writer. I’m jazzed I’m being sent DVDs again. This is out in the UK and I am assured will be in the US at some near point.

The Big Idea: Alexey Pehov

Here we have a first for The Big Idea: Our first translated essay. Alexey Pehov writes in Russian, and in Russian, he’s done very well, winning awards and racking up sales over the last decade with his Chronicles of Siala series and other novels. Now his debut novel Shadow Prowler, the first of the Chronicles of Siala, has come to the English language (translated by Andrew Bromfield, who translated Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series), and Pehov wants to tell you about it — and how his desire to play with the form of fairytales propelled him out of the ordinary life of an orthodontist (no, really) and into an extraordinary life as a fantasy writer.

ALEXEY PEHOV:

People often asked me this question: You are a qualified doctor; you enjoy a great profession and a promising career; so why did you start writing? What was the catalyst for venturing into the creative world?

The desire to write this book didn’t begin right away. It was a long and roundabout process with ideas percolating in my mind for many years before finally forming themselves onto paper.

When I was seven years old, I realized that when a cartoon show or a book ended—that it was not the “end” at all. Because of one’s imagination, the story could continue or one could make up an entire new story. No need to depend on television, books or computer games anymore!

A person could close his or her eyes and imagine any situation and any characters with their own set of magic system and relationships… and that imaginary world could even live on in one’s dreams: Diving to the depths of the warm sea, climbing towards a snowy peak or watching the setting of two suns.

My dream to create new worlds as a writer, however, could only be realized after graduation, as studying took up all of my time.

Despite coming to writing later in life, how lucky was I to discover the best form of escapism—turning back the clock to childhood and returning to the world of fairytales. What kid doesn’t like magic and adventure?

Some people say that life consists of a series of coincidences and complex decisions. And when we make complex decision, we only choose one side of a complicated issue.

Unlike real life, fairytales often involve clear-cut extremes: good and evil, ugly and beautiful, rich and poor. With my own stories, I like to include the grey area in between. A story without nuances is like food without salt or pepper. You can eat it, but it can taste rather bland.

I had always wanted to transform the world depicted in fairytales into a more controversial—or even contradictory—one. A world where the heroes and the enemies are not immediately apparent, where characters sometimes break out of their fairytale archetypes. A world not unlike our own real world.

Therefore, readers may be surprised by some of the developments in Shadow Prowler, or even find some of its occurrences odd from the standpoint of classic fantasy.

So why did this Russian doctor choose to write stories of a fantastical bent?  Fantasy, for me, has always appeared as a bright, sparkling bird for which no limit in distance, altitude or speed exists. Fantasy has no boundaries.

Traveling is one of my hobbies, and in the past years, I had trekked to Mount Everest, biked the Sahara, navigated the Ecuadorian jungles and visited remote islands. Everywhere I went, I met such unique and exciting people—and any one of them could have been the hero for someone’s book.

So for my main character in Shadow Prowler, I chose to give him an ambiguous profession. At first glance, thievery and heroism may not be very compatible concepts, but this decision wound up working quite well. And as we know, in an adventure tale, stranger things have happened.

So welcome to the world of Siala! A story taken from the black-and-white pages of folk and fairy tales, so to speak, but infused with the multicolor complication of nontraditional heroes and battles. I hope you enjoy it.

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Shadow Prowler: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt of the novel. See the book trailer.