Wednesday, February 27

They come at him one at a time, each warrior in turn charging toward honorable single combat.
They come two at a time.
By the time they begin to come in groups, they have to scramble over the bodies of their dead comrades to reach him. A pile of bodies.
A pile that becomes a wall, a rampart.
Ganner Rhysode builds a fortress of the dead.

That makes me feel inferior.

Doesn't look like much, here . . . but in context, the emotion that very, very simple, straightforward prose evokes make me wonder if I was using the same brain then that I am now.

Here's the thing:

I am very happy, and deeply honored, that my fiction has been important to several folks 'round these parts, and elsewhere. But you all should understand: it's not because I'm anything special, or because my stories have some particular depth or significance. What is special is the intersection of my words with your imaginations.

You've probably heard it said that "What you get out of it depends on what you put into it." What you may not have realized is how literally true that platitude becomes when you apply it to the act of reading fiction.

I've tried other formulations of the same sentiment, especially in Blade of Tyshalle: "What any work of art means depends on who you are when you look at it." And, once or twice, in reference to uncomplimentary reviews: "When you judge a book, the book also judges you."

These are all ways of saying the same thing. Look: a work of fiction is not words on a page, or on a screen. That's part of it, and it's not the most important part. The actual story--the Real Novel--is what unfolds in your head as you read those words.

You get it?

This is why I can find myself feeling inferior to authors some readers might not consider my equals--because their books inspire in me feelings and images and all manner of experience that I can never get from my own books.

Except sometimes, a few years down the road, when I have enough distance from a story I've penned to approach it as a reader, rather than as its author. Then I do occasionally feel inferior to my (younger) self.

So this is the thing I really want to drive home for any and all people who find something special in my books (or, for that matter, in anyone else's).

It's not the book. It's you. It's your mind doing all the work. Your commitment, your willingness to be touched, your suspension of disbelief and the power of your imagination. That's why there are many, many people who will never be moved by some story you love -- or, for some impoverished souls, by any story at all.

If you find something extraordinary in one of my books, it's because it was already inside you, and the words just helped you locate it, that's all.

And for those who don't find anything extraordinary in any of my books, fuck you anyway. Read something else, punk ass.

Monday, February 25

In response to the question "Michael" left on my last post: I don't really read much fiction any more. I recommended Scott Lynch because his publisher very considerately floated me an ARC of The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I thought was the best fantasy adventure I'd read in maybe ten years. It was, however, entirely painful for me to admit this, as Scotty is a friend of mine (as well as some fifteen years my junior) and I think he's already better at this shit than I am.

This is why I rarely read new SFF authors: professional jealousy. My reaction to a book by a new writer usually falls into one of two clearly-defined categories:

1) How Did This Pile of Dogshit Get Into Print -- and Why Is It Out-Selling My Books Ten-to-One?


2) This Is How I Would Have Written My Own Books, if I Weren't a Complete Fucking Loser.

You can see how this unfortunate quirk of psychology makes reading my peers kind of painful.

So I mostly read non-fiction, and classics. If I'm going to feel inferior anyway, I prefer to feel inferior to Hemingway, Chandler or Conrad, y'know?

Sunday, February 24

Hey, everybody.

A couple things: Caine Black Knife looks to be the shortest (in word count) of the Acts of Caine, for two reasons:

1) unlike the other two, this one is All About Caine (he's in every single scene), and
2) I'm trying something new with this novel . . . a narrative technique borrowed from comics (and minimalist fiction), one that Scott McCloud, in his seminal work Understanding Comics, refers to as "psychological closure" -- which is a term for how our minds fill in detail that isn't actually shown. Hemingway was probably the greatest English-language master of this technique, and you all know my long-standing affection for Uncle Ernie.

So, essentially, I was (and still am) trying to figure out a way to write an entire novel without any Boring Crap -- you know, the linking narration and scene transitions, the background info-dumps, that kind of shit. Now I know some of you actually like the info-dump kind of stuff (I'm looking at you, Ilya!), but personally I can't stand it . . . and it's my story, after all. If I did it right, all pertinent questions will be answered, at least tangentially. I'm just trying to distill the story . . . if Heroes Die was a sixpack of strong beer, and Blade of Tyshalle was a magnum of amarone, then Caine Black Knife will be a gallon of barrel-proof bourbon.

If I screwed it up . . . ? Well, so it goes. Del Rey no longer expects to make any kind of serious money off Caine -- as near as I can tell, they are publishing this book due to some arm-twisting by my estimable editor, and to keep me happily plugging away on Star Wars. Which works for me.

As for the Bush Administration's ass-hattery, well . . . I get tired of being angry all the time. So I've been pretty much ignoring their crap.

If any of you are interested, I voted for Barack Obama in the Wisconsin primary . . . though if Senator Clinton stages another improbable comeback and wins the Democratic nomination, I will happily support her for President. There are many things to admire about John McCain, but his politics are not among them.

Tuesday, February 12


Those of you who've stuck with me this far might still be interested: I'm proofing the copy-edit on Caine Black Knife. So it's on track for October. So far.

That's all.