December 2011 Archive

2011 In Review

37 today, and another year flows beneath the bridge.  Go quick, don’t they?  From a personal standpoint I moved back into my house and continued the long building project, only now lurching dysfunctionally to a close.  Had a third baby.  Published a fifth book.  The good thing about babies is that they’re actually quite good fun to make, the hard work and expense starts after.  The good thing about books is that, while they’re quite hard work to make, once they’re published they require minimal maintenance and with any luck actually make you money.

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – Yeah, I really can’t complain.  Well, I could.  As a venomously ambitious sociopath without the emotions of guilt, shame or regret, it galls me deeply that anyone in the world sells more books than me.  But I really shouldn’t complain.  The Heroes came out in January, made no. 3 on the UK Hardcover bestseller list and stayed in the top ten for four weeks, which makes it by far my fastest selling book.  Didn’t do too badly in the US either, especially in ebook format, which is rapidly becoming a significant slice of the pie, especially from an author’s standpoint as royalty rates can be five, six, even ten times higher than on a heavily discounted paperback.  Various translation deals were done for various books of mine, including first deals in Brazil, Italy (which had been strangely stubborn), and simple and complex Chinese.  I think that puts the Blade Itself in about 25 languages now, though don’t ask me to list them.  All 3 of the First Law books have now sold over 100,000 copies in their various UK editions.  You’d be amazed how hard it is to get reliable sales figures, especially from overseas, but in all languages and editions of all my books we reckon we’re at well over a million sold.  And all this for a load of nonsense I dreamed up in the middle of the night purely for my own amusement.  I really shouldn’t complain.

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – I will admit, not my best.  I’ve written about two thirds of the first draft of A Red Country so far, and I reckon it’s going to need a fair bit of work when it’s finished.  Indeed a couple of chapters near the front might well need total rewriting from scratch, which will be the first time I’ve ever really done anything along those lines.  Why the slightly disappointing work rate?  The house was a mess when we first moved in and serious work didn’t end til April.  Then my new baby appeared, the eldest started school, Skyrim was released … so many distractions, so many excuses, and attempts to routinise the working day haven’t really panned out yet.  Hard to believe I wrote Last Argument of Kings in about 14 months while still working more or less full time as an editor.  But then I had no kids (or just the one baby towards the end) and a long-established plan to work from.  Full time authorship is a bit of a different deal, with an awful lot of additional stuff to do.  But I’ve had a good few days since Christmas, as it goes, and I’m hopeful I can hit my stride a little better next year.  We shall see…

BOOKS – This year I have been reading mostly fiction and non-fiction related to the American West.  Non-fictionally I’d say the best thing was actually Ken Burns’ TV documentary series on the subject.  A lot of the non-fiction books have been a little dry and specific – if anyone knows of any really good western non-fiction do comment below.  Some of the fiction’s been great, though.  Pete Dexter’s Deadwood, Elmore Leonard’s Western Short Stories, AB Guthrie’s The Big Sky and Richard Matheson’s Journal of the Gun Years were some of the highlights.  Call me ridiculous but I don’t think I’ve read a single fantasy or sf book this year.  Just haven’t really had the time.  One of these days, probably when I’ve finished the latest book, I’ll have to sit down and crack through a few recent genre classics that I might pontificate at length about just how far short of my stuff they fall…

TV and FILM – I may have interviewed George RR Martin about Game of Thrones for Sky TV, but I haven’t actually got to see the series yet.  How indescribably lame is that?  The televisual highlight was probably the first two series of cynical Danish procedural The Killing, with Spartacus: Blood and Sand providing some gore-daubed entertainment in the background.  Film wise I can’t think of much new that really floated the boat for me this year.  The Conan re-imagining sucked.  X-Men First Class was surprisingly good.  Otherwise I shrug my shoulders and concede that Unforgiven, Lonesome Dove and Deadwood are as brilliant as they ever were.

GAMES – Excellent year again.  Skyrim was my game of the year in the face of tough competition, and redefined fantasy roleplaying.  Dragon Age II didn’t.  Rage was kinda rubbish.  Deus Ex was kinda alright.  Dark Souls was fascinating but so, so hard.  LA Noire was fascinating but so, so flawed.  InFamous 2 and Arkham City were both excellent but perhaps lacked that special spark.  Resistance 3 I thought was very impressive, I don’t think I’ve seen so original and atmospheric a first person shooter in a long time, not that it’s my genre of choice mind you.  Uncharted 3 I’m playing now and all I can say is those guys can do a grandstand sequence like no one else.  It’ll probably be my no. 2 for this year.  Very much looking forward to the new Mass Effect in the new year, though…

BEST REVIEWS – There was a fair amount of praise for The Heroes even if I say so myself.  In the UK I managed to pull off the not inconsiderable feat of uniting The Guardian (“it’s imbued with cutting humour, acute characterisation and world-weary wisdom about the weaknesses of the human race. Brilliant.”) and The Sun (“Don’t miss it or you deserve to be gutted like a stuck pig, your entrails left to feed the crows.”) in enthusiasm.  Time magazine called it, ‘a magnificent, richly entertaining account of a single three-day battle’, while SFX said ‘an action-packed novel full of brutality, black humour and razor-sharp characterisation,’ and gave it all the stars they had.  Five, in case you were wondering.  I could go on.  No?  Oh.  I’ll leave the last word to Sci-Fi Now, who in their latest issue have declared The Heroes their best book of 2011.  No, seriously, they have: “Some books successfully capture the geist of the times and speak to the evolving expectations of the genre’s readers … this cynical, gritty, and realistic fantasy homage to the epic war movie is character-driven writing of the highest order.  It’s bleak and thoroughly modern view of human nature through a dark fantasy lens is a showcase for how much the genre has changed, and why Abercrombie holds his position at the forefront of British Fantasy.”  Zing!

BEST WORST REVIEW – The usual crop of amazon one-starrings, blog-lashings, accusations of overratings and offhand chat-room pastings, but one meaty slice of criticism bestrid the others as ’twere a colossus over pygmies, and it was, of course, Leo Grin’s fire and brimstone assault upon modern fantasy or, as he had it, “postmodern blasphemies against our mythic heritage” and “Abercrombie’s jaded literary sewer” in particular.  And a proper storm in the internet teacup ensued, didn’t it, though?  My own response became my most commented-upon post of this year or, indeed, ever, by some considerable margin, with 224 comments and 26 trackbacks.  I cannot imagine that I have ever seen so many people resolving to buy and read my work as I did in the wake of that article.  Proof, if any were needed, that there is truly no such thing as bad publicity.  I can only hope that I continue to “shock, outrage, offend and dishearten,” critics everywhere in the months to come.  I’d say it’s a virtual certainty…

Happy new year, readers!

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NPR’s best of 2011

Author and critic Lev Grossman has posted his favourite five sf&f books of the year at NPR, and stone me if he hasn’t included The Heroes: ‘Abercrombie is a Brit who’s not nearly as well-known in the U.S. as he should be.’ I can only agree.  I should be bigger than General Electric. ‘It’s as […]

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Viking Stylings

Leif Johnson interviewed me recently for an article over at The Escapist about the use of Viking culture in Skyrim, and indeed the relative underuse of Viking themes in computer games.  Well worth a look for those many of you who’ve been playing it over the last few weeks.  I thought I might as well […]

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Signed Books! Worthy Causes!

Have you for many years dreamed of owning a signed copy of one or more of my books but just couldn’t be arsed to drive the seven hundred miles to my nearest signing? Then rejoice, for Christmas is coming and I need to free up some room in my basement.  Therefore be it known that various […]

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OK, so it may sound like a sex act you’d perform to get into the mile-high club, but it’s an absolutely brilliant game.  Nowhere in RPGs will you get anything that comes close for scale, grandeur, variety, content, immersiveness.  It’s magnificent. To a degree that’s always been true of the elder scrolls games – their […]

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