The Next 11 Days

As most of you know by now, I’m off to Germany tomorrow to do my book tour (here are the cities and dates), and I’ll be there through the 23rd (and probably sleeping through most of the 24th). Here’s what you need to know about the next several days.

1. The cute little object above is a German mobile wifi hotspot that I have rented for the duration of my trip, so the good news is that (schedule permitting) I should be able to update here from time to time whilst I am on the road. I suspect I will be doing most of my updating whilst on trains, because I will be on trains a lot, and what else is there to do on a train besides sit.

That said, don’t expect long updates over the next several days, and I may not update every day. Hey, I’ll be busy being a cultural ambassador for my country. That takes time out of the schedule. As I have the hotspot, I should also be able to update Twitter now and again as well; indeed, I suspect that will be my primary mode of communication to all y’all when I am in Europe.

In short: I still plan to be mostly gone until the 24th or so.

(Also, before you ask, yes, I am aware that electrical sockets and voltage are different over there — I have already bought the requisite cords and adapters and made sure my computer’s power brick is capable of handling twice the volts. I think ahead, I do!)

2. While I’m away, I’ve asked my friend Kate Baker (who some of you may recall as the site manager suring my six-week hiatus last year) to watch over the site and have handed over the Mallet of Loving Correction to her, with the admonition to mallet when in doubt. So please be polite to her and each other while I are away, because if you’re not, wham, baby. Kate may also post here, depending on her own inclinations and interests.

3. No Big Ideas while I am away, but you’ll note I did three in a row this week, and I have another three scheduled for when I return, so you’ll be all caught up.

4. While I am traveling I will not be answering anything but what I consider absolutely critical e-mails, so unless you’re on fire, if you have something to e-mail me about, it should wait until October 24. And if you are on fire, why are you e-mailing me? Dude, you’re on fire. Put yourself out.


The Unspeakable Eldritch Horror of Our New Bunny

To the surprise of almost exactly no one around here, the name “Cthulhu” took first place in our “Name the Bunny” poll, with “Lord Snuggleston,” coming in a reasonably close second. Athena liked both names, so we’re combining them to give our rabbit the rather grand name of “Cthulhu, Lord Snuggleston.” Because if ever there was a noble ruler of Cuddlyshire, it would be the squid-faced lord of insanity, wouldn’t it. So, meet Cthulhu, Lord Snuggleston. I imagine for short we’ll call it “Hey, bunny.”

And for those of you no doubt slightly alarmed by the picture above, a somewhat more adorable picture for you:

There, that makes it all better, doesn’t it.

Update: 3:03pm: Please to find Cthulhu, Lord Snuggleston’s first fan art, from Dave Branson:

Adorably terrifying? Or terrifyingly adorable?

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Matthew J. Kirby

Sometimes the big idea when the author starts a book isn’t the same big idea that the author finishes with. Matthew Kirby had this experience with his Viking fantasy Icefall — somewhere between the first and last words of the tale, some telling particulars had changed… and so had the story. Kirby tells you now about the process of discovery, and Icefall’s journey to find its true self.


When I wrote my first novel, The Clockwork Three, I had a clear sense of the big idea, or rather ideas, going in, and the shape of the book changed very little once I began writing it. Not so with my second novel, Icefall, into which I went with one big idea, but emerged with another.

It all began with a dream, which isn’t as clichéd or mystical as it might sound. At the time, I was reading my friend Rebecca Barnhouse’s manuscript for her novel The Coming of the Dragon, a retelling of a portion of the epic Beowulf.  Rebecca so clearly evoked the Scandinavian world of Geats and Danes that I had Vikings plundering my thoughts, and apparently my sleep. I don’t normally remember my dreams, but this one was particularly vivid and haunting. In the dream, I saw three children clinging to each other in the courtyard of a fortress situated in a remote fjord. It was winter, bone-achingly cold, and an army of Viking warriors approached the earthen fortress walls. I knew the warriors had been sent to protect the children, and yet the children were terrified of them. I woke up as the army entered through the fortress gate, and I was left with a lingering claustrophobia and a fear that felt almost paranoid.

Upon waking, I began to ask questions, as writers do. Who were the children? Why were they there in that place? Who were the warriors, and if they were the good guys, why were the children afraid of them?

The answers to these questions led me to Solveig, the plain and undervalued second daughter of a Viking king. In Icefall, Solveig is sent with her brother and sister to a remote hall for their protection during a time of war, along with a few trusted servants and a company of her father’s elite berserker warriors. Winter descends upon the outpost, walling them in with ice and snow. But it soon becomes apparent that an assassin has been sealed in with them, and the traitor could be any one of them. With no way in or out until the summer thaw, and no way of knowing whom to trust, it is up to Solveig to uncover the truth and help her siblings survive the winter.

I thought that was the big idea of the book.  A dark, claustrophobic, Viking survival tale.

And then it came time to write the scene I’d dreamed about, and something unexpected happened. From between the berserker warriors emerged a character that I hadn’t known anything about when I conceived of the story. The king’s skald, or bard, had accompanied the berserkers to the fortress without my knowing it, and his presence changed everything. I had thought that over the course of the novel, Solveig would prove her worth to others and herself by saving her siblings from an assassin. But I learned that Solveig would also, and perhaps more importantly, become a skald, inspired and tutored by the man who sneaked into my book. Solveig would not only learn to tell stories, but to wield her stories as weapons to survive, and would ultimately use their power to save her loved ones.

Suddenly I had a new big idea. A bigger big idea. Icefall became a story about story. It is about the power of story to entertain, to comfort, to anger, to frighten, and to incite. It is about the stories we tell each other, but also tell ourselves. It is about truth, and lies, and the way we all use story to organize and give meaning to our lives.


Icefall: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the book page. See the author’s site.



What Science Fiction Film Has Ruined For Me

This week at I go over some things that science fiction film has ruined for me, and, yes, this includes Antarctica, the setting for both the 1982 and 2011 versions of The Thing. The penguins can keep the whole continent, as far as I’m concerned. As always, if you have some choice comment to add, add it there, where the bosses can see you doing it, thus making me look good.

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