Chris Wooding Header

Uncle Chris’s Writing Tips #2: The Protagonist Drives The Story, Dammit!

The demon leered at the boy. ‘Go through the door on the left, and you save your sweetheart, but your best friend dies. Go through the door on the right, and… well, you get it, right?’

The boy looked from one door to the other. ‘What if I just do nothing? What happens then?’

An expression of confusion crossed the demon’s face. ‘Er,’ he said. ‘No-one’s ever asked that before, actually. Well, you could just hang about, I suppose. But God knows what we’re gonna do with the other 300 pages in this book…’

This is one of those big, important rules that tricks beginner writers out time and time again. One that’s so obvious that it’s actually really easy to forget. The story is supposed to be about your hero. And heroes make choices.

Here’s the thing: what we’re interested in when we read a story is the decisions the characters make. If a boy’s father is cut down by invading marauders, we want to know if they’re going to pick up a sword and go the suicidal revenge route or escape and live to fight another day. Maybe they’ll sweep that tragedy under the rug, or maybe they’ll mercilessly hunt those marauders down ten years later. Maybe they’ll forgive themselves for being unable to defend daddy and get over their tragedy, or maybe they’ll nurse it and turn bitter. All those choices tell us who the character is. Witnessing a character’s actions is so much more important and effective that having the author tell us who they are and what they’re like (either directly or, God forbid, through the conversations of admiring sidekicks).

Nobody ever did anything by lying around like a spilled porridge slick. And if your hero is not really doing anything, then why tell a story about them? Why not tell the story about one of the peripheral characters instead?

Seems obvious, yes? But it’s actually something you have to keep your eye on, especially if you’re writing a fantasy or SF story. The writer can get so caught up in building an awesome world that they forget that the reader is primarily interested in the characters. It’s not enough to simply introduce an amazing new location or bizarre new monster every three chapters in the hope that it will sustain the reader’s interest for ever. The flashy stuff is cool and all, but what your readers really want to know is: is your hero gonna go and get revenge for his father’s death, or isn’t he?

The passive protagonist is basically the source of my annoyance in the last post. The hero who makes no choices is a boring one. There’s no personal stake in doing what your destiny dictates. And stakes are the other thing that makes a hero’s tale worth reading. Choices mean nothing if there’s no sacrifice involved.

Take the opening scene of this post. A classic Sophie’s Choice type of thing: you must choose between your lover and best friend, and whoever you don’t choose dies. Straightforward enough. But any power that lies in the scene comes from the groundwork the author has done beforehand. Hopefully, if they’re any good, they’ve made us love the sweetheart and admire the best friend as much as the hero does, and we don’t want to lose either. Just like he doesn’t. So now we’re biting our nails trying to work out how the hell he’s gonna get out of this predicament because he just can’t condemn one of them to death… can he?

Ah. That’s the choice. Is he clever enough to get out of it? Ruthless enough to choose one over the other? Noble enough to sacrifice his own life for theirs? That’s what we’re interested in. And it’s far more interesting than having the hero bust out a sword and go toe-to-toe with the demon, no matter how fiery and badass he may be.

So, a point to keep in mind. Who is your hero? If he/she isn’t making choices, why are they the hero at all? If he/she risks nothing by them, why do we care? The protagonist(s) are the engine of the story. Whether you’re writing fantasy, SF, crime or kitchen-sink drama, it’s the characters we care about, and the rest is just window-dressing.

Make sure the reader knows the stakes. We need to see how much the hero has to lose by their choices. Make sure the hero has choices to make. And make sure they’re hard. It’s their choices that move the story along, not the other way around. They should never be at the mercy of the plot: they make the plot.

Actions speak louder than words. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

Uncle Chris’s Writing Tips #1: The Folly Of Wilful Obfuscation

‘Old man,’ said the boy, ‘you have hinted at my great and terrible destiny and the power within me that may one day save the world. Won’t you please tell me who I am, that I may defeat the Dark Lord in Chapter Six, instead of having to plough through another seven books before our climactic showdown? Because honestly, you haven’t really come up with any reason why you shouldn’t, and you clearly know all my secrets, so you may as well, yes?

The old man chuckled. ‘Patience, my boy. You will know when the time is right.’

Aaaargh.

It seems that I’ve read so many stories like this. The hero is pushed around from pillar to post, herded from plot point to plot point by a wise (read: frustratingly reticent) mentor or an array of weird and wonderful characters all of whom know more than he does but for some reason won’t tell him. This is usually cloaked by some guff about how he has to grow and learn before he’s ready to understand the true nature of his heritage/mystical power/whatever, but there’s an even more teeth-grindingly annoying tactic, which I shall call the Lost approach.

The Lost approach is as follows: whenever the One Who Knows All The Answers (in Lost‘s case, it’s Ben, leader of the Others) begins to finally crack and start dishing the dirt, he only gets as far as a few cryptic hints before there’s an earthquake/someone screams nearby/an abominable snowman attacks, at which point the heroes hurry off to deal with it. When they’re done, for some reason the moment has passed, and no-one thinks to say: ‘Hey, Ben, what were you just saying about the mysteries of the island, I mean, it was pretty important information, right? Sorry about that abominable snowman and all, but y’know, carry on, eh?’ Instead they are content with the few scraps they’ve been given until the next time the writers need to drop us another hint, at which point the whole thing begins again.

For God’s sake. Sayid was a professional torturer. They could have dispensed with pretty much all of season 3&4 (and the rest for all I know; I gave up on that show by that point) just by tying the guy to a chair and pulling his fingernails out. Instead, multiple friends and allies died just because no-one would man up enough to shoot him in the nuts and make him spill what he knew.

A little of this is okay. More than a little and I start to go crazy. It drives me insane when I find myself reading a protagonist who spends the whole book being shuttled from place to place, following the meagre clues given by his wiser co-stars, and usually complaining about it as they do so. ‘What’s it all about?’ they wonder. ‘Why me?’ Usually there’ll be some collateral damage on the way: a best friend or lover gets killed. The protagonist laments the tragedy of it all, never once thinking that if they hadn’t been spinelessly following the dictates of their mysterious elders then their lover wouldn’t have gotten killed in the first place. But it doesn’t matter, because by that point I’m so mad at the hero for being such an utter wimp that I’ve thrown the book into the fireplace and followed it up with a tactical nuclear strike. Many’s the time I wanted to kill the entire cast of Lost. Whatever torments they’re going through now, they deserve them all.

The thing is, in situations like this it’s impossible for me to avoid the feeling that I’m wasting my time. If I could have been told the whole situation up front, why do I need to plough through a whole book just to have the information drip-fed agonisingly into my brain?

The issue here is lazy plotting. Of course you shouldn’t reveal everything up front, and drip-feeding information is far better than dumping it on the reader in one great wodge. But it’s bad drama to have a wildcard in your story that appears in a cloud of dry ice whenever the story slows down, just to tell the hero what to do next (or to offer him a hint, which amounts to the same thing, except that perhaps the author thinks the reader doesn’t notice that way). The hero should discover these bits of information by themselves. They should be earned, not given.

That’s not to say you can’t have a mentor. You just can’t have a mentor that keeps his information from the hero he’s trying to help, for no convincing reason. A good mentor figure was Gandalf. Right up front he’s all: ‘Dude, that’s the One Ring you’ve got there, we need to go and lob it in Mount Doom, oh yeah, and there’s Black Riders coming to get you, etc etc.’ If he didn’t tell the hobbits something, it was usually because he didn’t know it at that point.

So next time you’re putting together a story and you’re tempted to give your hero a hidden destiny or similar, think to yourself: why on earth do the people who know not tell the hero everything? If you can’t think of better reason than ‘The hero’s not ready to know yet,’ then you’re heading for trouble. Be ruthless with yourself. It’s hard work to come up with ways to dramatise the steps your hero will have to take on his way to pounding the Dark Lord, but having them provided for you by one of your characters is a cop-out, and it will make your story suck in the end.

More on this in the next pithy drizzle of wisdom, entitled The Protagonist Drives The Story, Dammit!

Signing On Thursday – Update

Quick update for those who are coming to Forbidden Planet on Thursday. The Signing (it deserves a capital letter of its own, I’ll have you know) will start at 6 and last for an hour, not an hour or two as I said in the last post. So don’t be too fashionably late, or you’ll miss us!

Am busy making lots of little tweaks to The Black Lung Captain to ensure that it’s the usual flawless gem you’ve come to expect from me *cough*. It’s incredibly time-consuming hunting down rogue sentences in a haystack of 160,000 or so, but worth it in the end. And no matter how many times I do it, I still find bits that make me scream when I open up the finished copy.

In other news, Dragon Age: Origins is brilliant so far. I have calculated exactly how many hours in a week I can feasibly play it without getting disembowelled by my editor or dumped by my girlfriend, and then I play a dozen more 😉

Narrative in Video Games (or, Let The Professionals Have A Crack, Why Don’tcha?)

Last Friday, Dragon Age: Origins was released for the PC and XBox. It’s a game I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, since it was developed by a company called Bioware, and Bioware are, frankly, the kings of storytelling as far as videogames go. Tragically, I still haven’t got to play it: my PC is too slow to run it properly, and I’ve heard the PS3 version is better than the XBox one, so I’m waiting for that. It comes out in a couple of weeks, which should neatly coincide with my delivery of the first ‘proper’ draft of The Black Lung Captain. Simple chance, or evidence of a divine intelligence that plays videogames? You decide.

The reason I’m excited is because Bioware is one of the only software companies I can think of that habitually treat videogames as a proper storytelling medium (the others are Black Isle – now defunct – and Bethesda Softworks). Videogames outsold movies for the first time ever last Christmas, and it’s an industry that’s growing fast, but a huge percentage of games released annually are still the same old stuff they’ve been churning out for years, with a fresh gloss slapped over the top. It seems that the only excuse anyone needs to come up with a new FPS (first person shooter, for those who don’t know) is some minor tweak of physics or slight graphical improvement. In this one, you can fight in zero gravity! In this one, you can absorb powers from your enemies. But wait, this one is set in the 60s! And this one has comic-style graphics.

People. They’re the same game. Most of them use the same game engine (the Havok engine, in case you care) which is why most of them, underneath the graphics, behave in a familiar way. I have the same problem with RTS (real time strategy) games. Dress ’em up all you like: in the end you’re only playing Command & Conquer Episode 27.

So why, you may ask, do I have a PC and an XBox and a PS3? After all, I’m evidently so cynical about the games market that I hardly ever use them, right? It’s because occasionally, perhaps once or twice a year, I find a game that does the kind of thing that I know videogames are capable of. A game that swallows you up, something that is more than just an orgy of repetitive destruction or a sequence of missions to be completed. Something that is more entertaining and absorbing than reading a book or watching a film. Usually – not always, but usually – it’s by one of the companies I mentioned above. Because they know how to tell a story.  Most other developers don’t bother. And by ignoring that aspect of videogaming, I truly believe they’re shooting themselves in the foot.

The most important thing, as an author, is to make your reader care about your characters. If you do that, then they’ll follow you wherever you like. If you don’t, you don’t have a chance. Similarly, screenwriters will allow us time to get to know the protagonist of a movie before the action kicks in. Otherwise, why do we care when their daughter gets kidnapped? Without that setup, it would be as emotionally engaging as reading about the kidnapping in a newspaper.

Videogames have an advantage over both mediums, because the gamer doesn’t need to be persuaded to empathise with the protagonist. Since they have control over the character, they automatically invest a portion of themselves in it. That little bundle of pixels becomes an avatar: the player’s representation in the game world.  That’s the hugely important difference between videogames and any other popular storytelling medium. In books or films, you are shown only what the author or director chooses to show you; you have no control; you’re a passenger. Games are the only medium in which you get to participate in the story (well, aside from Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, but we’ll leave them aside for now).

We shouldn’t underestimate the strength of that. I remember creeping through old houses in Resident Evil, terrified out of my wits, because my little avatar might get attacked at any moment by a zombie hiding in a cupboard. I knew nothing about the protagonist. The worst thing that would happen was that I would have to reload my last saved game when I died. But the psychological trick that put me in that house was enough to make me feel scared even when my character was barely a character at all.

Given that, wouldn’t it have been that much more powerful if I had known something about the character? If I’d cared about them, even a little?

The point is, the games player is begging to empathise. They’re primed and ready for it. In a situation like that, surely it would be easy for someone – say, a professional author, who was used to eliciting empathy in the much tougher medium of print – to grab that games player and twang his heartstrings like a lute until he was blubbering into his D-Pad?

Well, probably it would. The trouble is that games companies, like many major film companies, have traditionally regarded the story – and the writer – as the least important element of the package. The gameplay is the most important thing. Graphics, level design, game physics. The story? Well, it’s just there to tack together all those awesome levels we’ve just created. Give it to the office junior; he’ll do it.

Rhianna Pratchett, one of the few writers who gets a lot of work in the videogame field, sums it up nicely:

“Gameplay and story can sometimes have quite different goals that can often see them fighting for space. And nine times out of 10, story loses. It’s really about finding the common ground between the two and thinking about story early enough in the development cycle that it can properly fit together with the gameplay. Not just lie on top of it like a kind of narrative custard.”

Gameplay and story are not exclusive. They just have to be made to work together. The Half-Life franchise married the FPS genre with a good storyline, and allowed the player to learn about the world and the story by making it part of the action. That’s why it won a bazillion industry awards and still sells tons of copies today, whereas the technically superior Doom franchise has languished. Taking it further is Bethesda, whose Elder Scrolls titles have swept up awards over and over. Bethesda specialise in creating massive open worlds, and allowing the player freedom to do what they like in them. There’s a story there, if you want to follow it. If not, fine: there are plenty of other sub-stories you can follow. Hell, just go into the forest and punch out a bear, if you like.

That brings me to another important difference between books and films and videogames. Books and films are linear narratives. Games can be, but they can also be what’s called a sandbox or open-world setting, in which the player can behave as I described above. Many games fall in between – basically linear, but offering the illusion of freedom, or comprised of small sandbox ‘episodes.’ Either way, it requires a whole new take on storytelling. Instead of telling the player what they see, games companies are forced to create an interactive world and let the player discover. Since you can’t predict what the player will do, every angle has to be covered. I personally find this idea very exciting. Lack of linearity makes a traditional narrative hard, but you can instead have multiple narratives that the player explores at their own pace.

Now I’m not saying that every game needs to have a great story. Sometimes games are just games. But most games would have been improved by a great story. Half-Life wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is today without it: it would have been just another Doom or Wolfenstein. And I’m also not saying that any old writer can drop in off the street and understand how a videogame narrative works: Raymond E. Feist and Orson Scott Card have both been involved in videogames back in the day, with underwhelming results (though, to be honest, I don’t know how much input they were really allowed). But professional writers, in general, are well practiced at making people care about their creations, and they’re very good at telling stories. If the industry at large started using that resource, then the world of gaming might be that little bit more original, and a lot more absorbing.

And really, there’s no reason not to. Games nowadays, like movies, are multi-million dollar affairs. The hiring of a writer is the cheapest part of the package when compared to the millions spent on middleware and coding time. And, just like with films, that little bit of money and time can turn an average game into a good one, and a good one into a classic.

Luckily, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Some people in the industry, aside from those companies I’ve already mentioned, are waking up to the potential of storytelling in videogames. Electronic Arts, in particular, have begun looking into ways to get professional writers onto videogame projects at early stages of development. I hope it catches on. Not only for my own sake (can’t you tell yet that I’d love to get in on that action?) but for the industry as a whole. The first gaming generation, of which I am a part, never stopped playing them, you see.  We’re in our thirties now. We want grown-up stories, not simplistic dialogue and clumsy drama used as a bridge between one bout of carnage and another. Games are becoming incredibly sophisticated now, but the stories that power them are lagging behind. You wouldn’t get a plumber to wire up your electrics, would you? So get the professionals in!

Temporary Closure…

When I was a kiddie, I always imagined that the feeling of completing a book would be something like Stephen King described in Misery. A glass of Dom Perignon, a single cigarette and a single match, sit back and sigh, content in the knowledge of a job well done.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way for me. It’s true that I tend to accelerate as I get nearer the end, until eventually I’m spewing out 500 words a second in some kind of crazed literary seizure. This acceleration continues until I crash over the finish line and slump across my keyboard with smoking eyes and fingers worn down to little wiggly stumps. But strangely enough, the feeling when I’m done is never quite the one you’d expect. Instead, I become sort of vacant and indifferent towards my book for a couple of days. This is probably a bit of a mind-reset, I suppose. My brain needs the rest, and all my enthusiasm has run dry, since it all got poured into the finale.

The thing is, for me, a book is complete when it’s printed and bound and in my hands. Until then, I know there’s work to done. Writing those final lines only means I’ve earned a small break until I have to print it out and start editing it. And the finale that I’ve just written will be getting special attention, since I caned through it at the speed of light and no doubt it’s extra sloppy.

So I faff about listlessly for a day or two until I can be bothered to print the book, then I get on to editing it. That’s when I get excited about it again. The process of reading over the parts you wrote six or eight months ago reawakens all that enthusiasm. By then I’ve forgotten all the little details, so I spend my time oohing and aahing at all the cool bits that now seem as if they were written by someone else. (Speaking of Stephen King, he advocates putting your manuscript away for six months after you’ve finished it, just so you can come back at it with an objective eye. It’s good advice if you have the time, but I suspect my editor would feast on my liver if I started up with that.)

During that first edit, I spend most of my time dealing with all the little notes I left myself in the body of the manuscript. Things like ‘GO BACK AND MENTION THIS EARLIER, IDIOT’ and ‘DIDN’T HE GET SHOT IN THE LEG A CHAPTER AGO?’  Stuff like that. But with more swearing. I fix up all the major bits and smooth off the rough edges. I eliminate repetition of words and phrases, and take out all the unnecessary language and overwritten bits. Then it goes to my editor, who pulls me up on all the stuff I tried to get away with. Then I edit it again.

Nowadays it only takes about two proper edits, because I plan out my books much more than I used to. Before, I’d do four or five drafts. By the fifth, my soul would be withered and blackened and I would loathe the book I’d just lovingly crafted. It would take until publication day for me to want to see it again.

The moral of the story? Finishing a book is only the halfway point. Like crossing the finish line of a marathon only to be told that you have to run back to the start again. Except it’s, like, a million times more fun. And I’ve really never seen the point in marathons…

Retribution Y’all

Gather round, gather round. I am very, very (times infinity plus two) pleased to finally announce that Retribution Falls and The Black Lung Captain will be released in the US by Spectra, a division of the mighty Random House. The intention is to publish them back-to-back in paperback in October and November 2011. Obviously that’s, like, way far from now and if you’re reading this in the US then you are no doubt already navigating towards The Book Depository with credit card in hand, appalled by the vast gulf of time stretching between you and the moment when said books are nestled in your sticky mitts. But I’m still very happy about it, so there.

Progress Report (of sorts)

So here’s what I’m up to. In a week or two I’ll be done on the rough draft of The Black Lung Captain, after which I’ll spend a bit of time lying down with cold towels over my wrists and forehead, then I’ll get up and edit it into a proper first draft and give it to my editor sometime in the middle of November. Right on schedule, ’cause I’m a good little author.

After that, I’m not sure what’s next up. Due to publishing deadlines I wrote Malice, Retribution Falls, Havoc and The Black Lung Captain back to back without a break, so I’ve been neglecting my scripts. Maybe I’ll do a bit of screenplay work for a bit. Maybe something with zombies… wait, no. Anyway, what I will do is take a little break while I sort it out. Normally this would be the point when I sling on a backpack and go somewhere in the world I haven’t been, but what with Christmas coming up and plane fares being astronomical that time of year, I’ll probably put it off till early next year. So I’ll get bored after three days and go back to work. I don’t do inactivity well…

Meantime, Malice has just been released in the US. Everyone who hasn’t tasted that little slice of YA fantasy-horror-with-a-graphic-novel-twist, er, go taste it!

Forbidden Planet’s Latest Uber Sign-fest. And Me!

Thursday 26th November. A date that will go down in infamy. No longer are authors content to sit in spidery warehouses glaring balefully into the middle distance while waiting for the occasional meek passer-by to shuffle up with a coffee-mug-stained copy of their latest tome. No, I say! Now we make it a party!

Yeah, enough preamble. So on the 26th of next month, from 6pm on, there will be an informal gathering/fan meet/book signing/whatever at Forbidden Planet in London. Along with myself will be Adam Roberts, David Deveraux, Justina Robson and Paul McAuley, but if previous events are anything to go by then a bunch of other SF/fantasy authors may well be dropping in as well. We authors like to flock, you see. It gives us power. We’ll probably mill about for an hour or two then razz off to the pub to humiliate ourselves, a spectacle to which all are invited. So if any of you are still hanging on to the dregs of the notion that being an author makes you cool in any way, do come by and find out the truth.

Zombies. Seriously, enough.

There comes a time in the year when a young man’s thoughts turn to the occult, and the idea of blood sacrifice and feasting on the gooey brains of your enemies becomes even more tempting than usual. But Christmas is still some way away, and Hallowe’en doesn’t exist in England since the death of trick-or-treating. (Many parents are now convinced their children will disintegrate if they’re out of line-of-sight for more than thirty seconds. I blame the Daily Mail.) So I’m just gonna post this now.

I suppose it was the sight of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in my local Waterstone’s that got me thinking about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against sullying the classics. I’m with Mark Twain on the Jane Austen debate, who put it more delicately than I ever could, when he said “Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig (Jane Austen) up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” But it’s depressing to realise that the zombie genre has gotten so bloated, it’s finally burst and spewed its undead entrails into the mainstream.

Jane Austen with zombies? Honestly? Doesn’t that just sound like a washed-up movie exec’s cocaine-fuelled fantasy? Why not bring Jaws back from the dead and have the Ghostbusters hunt down his vengeful spirit at sea? Do we really need another ancient story resuscitated with a new twist?

Judging by the book sales, apparently we do.

The problem is that pretty much every worthwhile take on the zombie theme seems to have been done already. It started for most of us with Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Since then we’ve had comedy zombies (Shaun Of The Dead), teen-horror zombies (Return Of The Living Dead), docu-drama style zombie war (World War Z), zombies that kind of aren’t zombies but actually they are (28 Days Later, Hater), zombies doing social satire  (Dead Set), and so on and so on. Babylon Fields, a TV series in the US which never made it past the pilot, was an attempt to examine the social effects of the dead coming back to life and not trying to eat everyone.  The only thing that has stopped the zombie tale reaching the appalling ubiquity of the current glut of vampire stories is that nobody has worked out a way to make zombies sexy yet. Bits fall off, y’see.

You know what you’re getting with zombies. You know the first third of the book/movie is spent watching the characters work out rules that every living organism on Planet Earth already knows. You get infected if you’re bitten. Detach the head from the spine to kill them. Lure them away with raw meat or loud noise. Zombies are not that hard to deal with, really. Even the fast ones are dumb. All you generally have to do is grab some food, hole up and close the door till they get bored and bugger off.

Instead, drama is mined from the impossible stupidity of the protagonists. They leave the lights on to attract zombies, or unlock zombie-proof doors while storming away from their lover in a hissy fit. They shoot at explosive things at point blank range, or stray close to the windows because they somehow forgot there was a slavering horde of undead lurking outside, just waiting to rip their intestines out of their eye sockets. At some point, someone gets infected by zombie-itis. Instead of shooting them, our merciful heroes will wait till the very last moment, to eke out every last precious second of their existence while the audience marvels at the fragile beauty of life, like watching a butterfly’s wings beating in a frosted glade. After which the character will break out of his or her restraints and take at least two uninfected humans with them on their way to Hell.

Obviously I’m being simplistic – not every zombie tale includes all of the above – but there’s a point here. A zombie in itself just isn’t enough to make a story. Romero’s Dead trilogy, that introduced the wider world to zombies, was great because it had good characters and other drums to bang, about racism, consumerism, the ethics of scientists and the military, and so on. Yes, it had some of the failings I pointed out above, but it was also the first time they’d been done. There are only so many shattering observations on the state of humanity that benefit from the presence of zombies,  and those first three movies pretty much covered ’em all.

With the honourable exception of King’s Pet Semetary – which is not really a zombie tale at all, anyway – I can’t think of anything with zombies that isn’t basically copying the template Romero laid down. Shaun of the Dead was a funny take on the mindless drones satirised in Dawn Of The Dead. Dead Set updated it for the Big Brother generation. But they’re still retreads, however well dressed, and the points they make aren’t new. The fast zombies of 28 Days Later were seen as a reinvention of the genre, but they were just the same zombies as before, except they could run fast and they died a little easier. Nothing too groundbreaking there.

Now listen. I love zombies. Bringing dead stuff to life is officially awesome. There’s even a pinch of zombie pirates in the Manes of my own Retribution Falls. But I’m just saying: enough, please. All the bases have been covered. Leave the corpses in their graves. Zombies in space will not add anything the genre (oh, wait… Dead Space…). Victorian zombies will not add anything to genre. Nor will a tale from the zombie’s point of view, about a working-class guy scratching a hard unliving in the mean world of the non-decomposed. The zombie apocalypse has happened enough times now. Enough so that I’m pretty confident I’d do well in it, given the amount of advice I’ve had on the subject. Maybe it’s time to get thinking about a new way to end the world.

New Site

It must be tough. First you checked the site daily, eager for news. Then, when nothing came, you started checking weekly. Then monthly. Finally, accustomed to the glacial pace of my updates, you set fire to all my books and cursed me to various shades of Hades for not updating. Like, ever.

So here’s my Diwali surprise for the weary faithful who still look me up every so often. New site! New site! And after this redesign by my rather wonderful webmaster, I can stop being envious of those other mean sites which have been bullying mine for so long.  Sites with things like comment functions, archives, and all manner of sorcery along those lines. Sites with authors who blog about their daily lives as well as dispensing nuggets of valuable information about their craft and writing articles and reviews and suchlike. Joe Abercrombie, I’m looking at you!

Updates and general tweaking to follow soon. I still have to get to grips with some of the groovy editing functions laid on for me. In the meantime, drop in, leave a comment, introduce yourself.

More soon. Honest.