2013 in Review
Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday dear MEEEE-EEEEE. Three cheers, anyone?
Yes, indeed, another year has flowed beneath the bridge at ever-increasing speed and I am 39 today. It’s round about 12 years since I started writing The Blade Itself back in 2001. Some 9 years since I signed my first book deal, and 7 and a half years since The Blade Itself was published in 2006, would you believe. Got a feeling it’s hard to argue that I’m new on the scene any longer… An interesting year this has been. Didn’t publish any new novels, but I made some big deals for three and wrote most of two of those.
Let’s break it down a little, shall we…?
A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – In spite of all my complaints, I really can’t complain. No new novels published, though I did have short stories in a couple of anthologies: Legends and Dangerous Women. The Blade Itself continues to come out in languages and territories that have yet to be exposed to the sunny radiance of my literary presence – I think we’re up to nearly 30 translation deals now. Partly due to the huge success of GRRM’s Game of Thrones, I’m sure, The First Law books, especially the trilogy, would seem to be selling better and wider than ever. Which is nice. I’m told all six books, in all languages and formats, have sold somewhere around 3 million copies now, which really does beggar belief for stuff I dreamed up in the middle of the night for my own amusement. Less travelling this year, but a much enjoyed second visit to my pals at Celsius in Spain, and my first trip to Russia saw 250 people in a bookstore in St. Petersburg and a sleeper train back to Moscow with a very nice man who works in oil and gas called Mikhail. I spent most of June locked in negotiations for the publishing of my new YA (ish) trilogy which will be starting in July in the UK and US with Half a King, more detail on all of that over here. It looks as if 2014 might be a very big year for me…
A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – A strong year, especially at the start and end. Quite possibly my most productive ever, certainly since 2007ish when I was finishing the First Law, long before I was a full-time writer and there were so many child-based and administrative demands on my time. I wrote the second half of Half a King, revised and edited it, planned Half the World and drafted three quarters of it, and wrote three short stories. Overall the move to a (slightly) different style of writing does feel like it’s done something to refresh my interest and recharge the batteries though, you know, it’s amazing how fast work becomes work again…
BOOKS – A level of reading that makes last year’s pitiful level look amazing, and most of what I did read was non-fiction about vikings. One thing that I did very much enjoy was Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles starting with The Last Kingdom. Strongly written adventure stuff with some great battle scenes and a feeling of authenticity. I burned through four of them while in Russia, then got stalled on the fifth. Perhaps a slight sense of diminishing returns when read back to back. Otherwise, my tottering to read pile just gets ever higher. Don’t think that bad boy’s going to get any smaller, now…
TV and FILM – Boy it’s been slim pickens film-wise, I have to say, adding considerably to my ongoing conviction that the interesting stuff mostly happens on the small screen these days. Can’t think of anything that really did much for me at the cinema since I squeezed into the most packed viewing ever to see Les Mis back in January. Those big scifi and superhero blockbusters I saw didn’t do masses for me. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness a hell of a lot more than its predecessor, but that isn’t saying all that much. Kick-Ass 2 was entertaining but not exactly deep. Pacific Rim I thought was mostly nonsense and, no, geekdom, not in a good way. Man of Steel I didn’t even enjoy thinking about watching. The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug was a good deal better than the first instalment but a long way short of the Lord of the Rings, with the story bloated up like a steroid-popping body builder losing all charm and personality in favour of ACTION and SPECTACLE. Ah, well. TV was a great deal more promising. Breaking Bad got better and better (or possibly worse and worse) though I haven’t yet seen the final episodes so SHUT UP SHUT UP. Game of Thrones Season 2 was good, sometimes very good, after a slightly wobbly oversexed start. Hannibal was largely riveting stuff with some awesome design and some great performances, Vikings was an interestingly off-beat and authentic-feeling effort that I look forward to the continuation of, Hell on Wheels 1 and 2 were also promising. Justified Season 3 continued to improve on the sparky character-led police hijinks of the previous two series. Spartacus Vengeance was more of the same brilliant/awful lurid schlock. The Danes offered us a great final season of Borgen, and a not-so-great final season of the Killing. The French offered us the initially gripping and ultimately baffling The Returned. Sons of Anarchy I find watchable enough in the main but I wouldn’t be that bothered if I saw no more. Dexter still offers a few things to like but is really dribbling away by Season 6. I enjoyed Season 2 of the Walking Dead in spite of many issues, however they’ve sorted out most of those by a storming Season 3, the end of which I haven’t quite got to. Probably the most pleasure I got out of TV was soaking through my t-shirts with tears watching the full five season run of Friday Night Lights. You wouldn’t think a show about a Texas High School football team would be my cup of tea at all but, heavens, the acting, the scripting, the storytelling, the commentary on american life, the raw emotions. Brilliant Stuff. I’m tearing up again! Help me, coach, teach me how to be a man! Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose…
GAMES – After a slightly disappointing 2012, 2013 will be remembered as an absolutely vintage year. Good stuff often happens at the end of a hardware generation and some of this year’s releases were particularly noticeable not only for their technical strengths but for their strengths in character and narrative. The White-Knuckle Tomb Raider Reboot then the Mind-Bending Bioshock: Infinite both delivered powerful central story lines. For me, in spite of a far smaller budget, Telltale’s harrowing Walking Dead video game got closer to the holy grail of interactive drama than the fascinating yet flawed Beyond: Two Souls. Grand Theft Auto 5 was pretty triumphant however you look at it. The one player campaign may not quite have had the depth and thematic cohesion some of the previous outings offered, but for sheer quantity of content and realisation of a living, breathing, beautifully detailed free-roaming game world it is untouchable, and its multiplayer incarnation was rich and varied enough to get me finally playing something online for a significant chunk of time. In spite of the fierce, fierce competition, though, my game of the year has to be the magnificently stark and uncompromising The Last of Us, which for boldness, characterisation, detail of setting, richness of experience, seamless fusion of action and story and sheer narrative drive from first frame to last set new standards for scripted games.
BEST REVIEWS – No new books means no significant splurge of reviews, and I must confess that I’m finding reviews as a whole just a lot less fascinating than I used to. Partly it’s that you see the same points and arguments repeated over and over, partly it’s that I’m just not as fresh and interesting and review worthy as I once was, partly it’s that when you put together a hundred reviews of a book you tend to see pretty much every viewpoint expressed somewhere, and partly it’s that there seems to be less and less connection between the critical and commercial spheres and, I dunno, the commercial sphere just interests me a lot more. It seems more honest in the main. I get bored by the contempt for success and the celebration of obscurity you seem to get from a lot of ‘serious’ critics. Still, no doubt when people start to react to Half a King I’ll be glued to the interwebs for every grain of opinion once again…
CONTROVERSIES – Ongoing criticism of cynicism and darkness in fantasy, not to use that elusive term ‘grimdark’, caused me to write a post on The Value of Grit early in the year, which prompted a fair bit of response, but in a way it’s a reheating and re-examination of a familiar circular argument. There’s a degree to which, once you’ve spent a fair bit of time about the internet genre scene, you start to see the same comments and controversies coming up over and over in one guise or another and you’re forced to wonder whether you have any further substantial contribution, or even frothy outrage, to offer. That, and the fact I’ve talked about pretty much every aspect of the publishing scene at one time or another has caused me to cut back on the blogging slightly this year. I’m still going to be talking about TV, games, whisky, publishing, my forthcoming work, and all the other stuff I’ve always talked about when there are substantial posts to make, but I’m also reasonably active on Twitter these days (@LordGrimdark), and some of the smaller comments and announcements (not to mention arguments) are happening over there…
Happy new year, readers!
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