Daily Archives: February 22, 2010

USA Today Piece on Science Fiction and the Oscars

I point to it because I am quoted in it. Yes, I am just that self-serving. But it’s a pretty good article, even without the bit I provided. I was interviewed for the piece while I was loitering at the airport in Atlanta, waiting for my connecting flight, so for several moments I was that guy at the airport, you know, the one talking loudly into his cell phone, oblivious to the annoyance of others. Sorry, Atlanta.

Just Arrived, 2/22/10

Look what the cat dragged in:

* White Cat, by Holly Black (Margaret K. McElderry): Holly’s latest YA, featuring a good kid in a family of black magic con men, drawn unwillingly into one of their schemes. We’re big fans of Holly’s stuff here in the Scalzi household, and this one looks particularly cool. Out May 4.

* The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O’Connor McNees (Amy Einhorn): This debut novel imagines a romance for the historically-not-known-to-have-had-a-romance writer Alcott. But can Alcott have romance and independence in the 1850s? McNees will be along in late March with a Big Idea piece about this book, which will arrive in book stores in early April.

* Mistwood, by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow): Weird fact: I was looking at the cover of this book this morning and the looked over to my Twitter feed, and there was tweet from Ms. Cypess pointing to something on Whatever. COINCIDENCE? Well, yes. But still amusing. This debut fantasy features a shapeshifter who must protect a king — if she can just remember how. Out in May.

* Petrodor, by Joel Shepherd (Pyr): The second book in the Shepard’s “Trial of Blood and Steel” fantasy quartet, featuring the series heroine Sasha struggling mightily to stop a madly onrushing war. Because war is bad, people. Out next month.

* Watcher of the Dead, by J.V. Jones (Tor): The fourth book in the “Sword of Shadows” series. Three heroes arise to try to reclaim a chaotic world. Out in April.

* Pleasure Model: Netherworld Book 1, by Christopher Rowley (Tor): This collaboration between Tor Books and Heavy Metal Magazine seeks to revive the look and feel of pulp novels; at the very least they’ve got the artwork down. Story involves a cop and a genetically-designed sex slave, working a murder case. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly as you’d expect something from Heavy Metal to be. Out now.

* Repo Men, by Eric Garcia (Harper): Rebranded paperback version of The Repossession Mambo, with the title changed to reflect the name of the upcoming movie based on it, starring Jude Law. Because, hey, if a major motion picture based on your book was being released under a slightly different name, you’d probably put out a rebranded paperback, too. Out March 9, with the movie out ten days later.

The Big Idea: Robert McCammon

Surprise! While usually I post one or two Big Ideas a week, this week there are three. Because sometimes I overcommit. Hey, it happens. It’s not like it’s a bad thing. Especially in this case, because this week’s first Big Idea comes from New York Times bestseller and Stoker and World Fantasy Award-winner Robert McCammon, who is back in action with Mister Slaughter, a book of intrigue and murder set in colonial-era New York, and part of a series featuring professional “problem-solver” Matthew Corbett.

And in the writing of the series, McCammon found himself constructing not only a multi-volume adventure, but also something else entirely — the sort of apparatus first thought up by no less than H.G. Wells. McCammon explains, below.

ROBERT McCAMMON:

Suddenly I found myself creating a time machine.

Yes, I read the book and saw the movie (both versions, enjoyed the one starring Rod Taylor the best) but here I was actually putting one together, strapping myself into the red leather seat and traveling with a hum of computer and whisper of pages into the past.

What was I thinking?

And, more importantly, where was I going?

Or, to be more correct, where am I going?

Well, I do know where I’m going but I’m not sure how I’ll get there yet. This is all preface to say that I find myself writing a mystery/suspense series set, among other locales, in the town of New York, population five thousand citizens, in the 18th century. I never intended in my long career to write a series. Creating a time machine was not on my agenda. But suddenly I began to put odd pieces together—my love of history, of the detective novel, of the supernatural and macabre, and yes even of science fiction—and the thing began to first whisper, then hum and whir. And I was off on a voyage unforeseen and frankly quite frightening.

I am writing about a young man named Matthew Corbett, an orphan and law clerk, who becomes by his wits and circumstances a “problem-solver” in New York. This occupation brings him into contact with both gentlemen and ladies of that era as well as cold-blooded killers and those dark souls—both male and female—who would like to use his head as a hatstand. In particular, Matthew through the course of this series comes to the attention of one Professor Fell, a shadowy emperor of crime who has interesting plans for both the future of the colonies and Matthew’s own destiny.

I’ve written three Matthew Corbett novels so far, namely Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, and the newly released Mister Slaughter.

My big idea was not just to write one book, but to write ten books that flow together as one. Events of the first book spur events in the second, and events in the second drive the third book forward. Characters move from one book to the next. The time frame between each book is at most a season. Someone who plays a minor role in one book may appear as a major character in the next. Mysteries and plots are solved and completed in each book, yet some threads—and questions—are left to be completed in the next volume, or the one after that. I know what the major plot is, and what the overwhelming purpose is that Professor Fell has set his sight upon, yet how I’m going to get there is both the challenge and fearsome fun of directing this particular time machine.

And it is fun, really. One of my challenges is to make it so. To make the characters real, to use suspense and an essence of “strangeness” that hopefully makes a book memorable, but also to emphasize humanity and add a good measure of humor to the mix. I’m challenging the reader in a way, as well, because hidden in each book (and sometimes not hidden very deeply beneath the surface) are the names of three or four fictional detectives. So, in a way, this particular time machine is a demonstration of my affection for the detective story, and the great characters who have gone before.

Or, in the case of my time-traveling machine, characters who have not yet been born upon the stage, but are destined to leave their mark upon a particularly impressionable young reader in the far-distant era of the 1960s.

I hope my character of Matthew Corbett can stand cloak-and-tricorn with the best of them. He will go through many trials and tribulations. He will pass across the lives of many beautiful ladies and many villains who wear their ugliness like badges of crooked honor. He will come to many a rough road and treacherous wilderness, on his journey into the dark territory of Professor Fell.

It’s my hope, also, that Matthew is worthy enough to find a place in someone else’s time machine in the unknown and unknowable land we call ‘the future’.

—-

Mister Slaughter: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s|Subterranean

Read an excerpt of Mister Slaughter (pdf link). Learn more about the Matthew Corbett series.

One Star Reviews Revisited

Because I think in the wake of Nebula and Norton nominations it’s relevant to do so, here are some snippets of one star reviews of my recent work, via Amazon:

The God Engines:

It is hard to believe that John Scalzi wrote this hot mess! Bad premise, bad plot, bad characters, bad ending – the only GOOD thing about it was that it was mercifully short! Please bring the REAL John Scalzi back!

This book, though beautifully written, did not hold my interest, and I didn’t like even one character in it. Darn.

Zoe’s Tale:

This is probably the only book I have returned to Amazon for a refund. It is really that bad. Bad, bad, bad. It is truly beyond belief that a writer of Scalzi’s talent would put this book on the market.

I’ve ready 5 other Scalzi novels, enjoying each, but couldn’t make it past 60 pages of Zoe’s Tale. It was that excruciating/boring. If John wants to write a novel like this, then fine, he should have written it as a stand-alone novel. He shouldn’t have tried to push it by tacking it onto the coat-tails of this franchise.

Zoe’s Tale contains so little action and is such a regurgitation of The Last Colony that I quickly resorted to reading it only on my exercise bike. Even pedaling away at 90 rpm, this book was barely engaging enough to keep my attention.

Yup, those are my works currently nominated for awards, folks.

Why do I bring up these terrible reviews? Oh, for the same reason I brought up my one-star reviews the first time I did a couple of years ago: I think it’s useful for all us writers to remember no one work pleases everyone, and you can’t make anyone like it if they don’t, and you can’t keep them from telling other people what they think of it, even if they hate it… and that’s fine. Learn to deal with it. Otherwise it doesn’t matter how much success or praise or satisfaction you earn through your writing, you’ll still obsess over those one-star reviews and it will eat away at your joy. That’s no way to live.

So: own your one star reviews, don’t let them own you. And once you own them, let ‘em go. You’ll feel better, and you’ll worry less about them going forward. Try it for yourself. You’ll see.