2020 in Review

December 31st, 2020

Well, it’s New Year’s Eve, so I guess I must be 46 today, and what a strange and messed up year 2020 has been. I’ve been able to stick to my plans for The Age of Madness but other than that all bets have been off, and with new strains of Covid appearing and tougher lockdowns coming in across the UK it looks like a bumpy ride for the foreseeable future as well…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – Publishing has, without a doubt, fared an awful lot better than some industries, but it’s still been a weird, worrying, and hugely disrupted year. Big front list fiction titles have generally kept on trucking, for non-fiction and less established authors it’s been tough. Bookshops were largely shut down in spring with the result that some big books were held back leading to an unprecedented splurge of releases in August and September. Traditional book events were all off, of course, so we had online events instead, with mixed results. Still, The Trouble With Peace came out in September and sold about as well as A Little Hatred, exactly a year before, in spite of all the difficulties, which was a solid result, I think, just clipping a highly competitive UK bestseller list at number 10 and doing particularly well in Audio, which is becoming a more and more important share of the market.

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – I believe, with a wry laugh, that the plan at one stage had been to dust off book 3 of the trilogy last year, slap my palms together at a job well done, then fire immediately into my next project so that it was well underway by now. Needless to say, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Projects tend to expand to fill the time available, and I’ve been continuing to pick away at The Wisdom of Crowds for most of this year. It’s now out for its copy edit, so pretty much finished, and I’ve started a bit of exploratory writing on the next thing, and I’m remembering how difficult it can sometimes be to get into something completely new, especially in the current climate with all its frustrations and distractions. Hopefully in the new year I can settle down to it and make some progress but it’s a totally new setting, new concept, new set of characters, so it’s gonna take a while to get comfortable with it, and no doubt there’ll be several months of wailing and gnashing of teeth and wanting to trash the whole concept. We shall see.

TV AND FILM – I’m not sure I’ve watched a new film all year – clearly there wasn’t much released and the cinema was mostly out, but when it comes to watching films at home I find I can never quite face the two hours it takes. A lot of my ongoing favourite TV shows didn’t deliver new seasons this year, but there was no shortage of stuff to watch, that’s for sure, and probably forgetting half of what I took in:

The 4th season of The Crown I found better than the 3rd but still a bit ponderous. The Undoing was a tantalising setup but sort of wandered off into no man’s land in its last episode. Season 2 of The Boys was still highly enjoyable – it maybe lost a little of its impact and focus compared to the first season but it’s worth it just for Anthony Starr’s brilliant turn as Homelander. Warrior is a great show, I think – never losing sight of its mission to serve up crunching bare-knuckle action but finding time to explore plenty of interesting characters and situations along the way. I’m thoroughly enjoying watching The Mandalorian with my son – after really not liking the last couple of films it’s nice to be rediscovering an excitement for Star Wars. Star Trek’s new offerings, sadly, I’ve been less excited by – as a huge fan of Next Generation I really wanted to love Picard but . . . I did not. Discovery’s more of a frustrating mixed bag – they can do good episodes but they never seem to be able to put two of ’em together. Bosch is an unpretentious show that I always seem to really enjoy. I watched three seasons of The Sinner – the first was great, the second was good, the third was a bit weird. Watchmen was brilliant I thought – a rare example of a high concept adaptation of a beloved property really delivering right up to the end. Then The Queen’s Gambit was a rare example of something being as great as everyone said – just an original concept very well realised and acted. I managed to finish the year on a high with Tim Minchin’s Upright – a thoroughly enjoyable little bittersweet gem.

GAMES – When lockdown began I got on a bit of a strategy kick, the pick of which was probably Frostpunk – a really cool and ruthless take on the city-building genre which pits you against an icy environment and an ever plummeting temperature. Those sorts of games are usually sedate but on the harder difficulty settings this one is truly gruelling. Cyberpunk 2077 has obviously caused some controversy, to say the least – I hadn’t really been much following the hype for it so I didn’t necessarily find myself hugely disappointed. I played on PS4 and didn’t find it as buggy or crashy as some had reported (though it certainly is buggy and crashy). At times it looks incredible, even on PS4, and the character designs and animations in particular are superb – never have people seemed so believable in an open world game of this kind, for me. It does feel unfinished though – lots of clunky menus and shonky gameplay features, and perhaps most seriously, though the neon concrete world is amazing in its scope and detail, there’s a bit of a lack of background content to really draw you into that world and make you feel like you live there. So I left Cyberpunk unfinished, thinking I might enjoy it more when I’ve got a PS5 and there’s a proper patched, improved and updated version available. I’m half way through Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and actually enjoying it a lot, though that AC schtick is maybe getting a wee bit tired 615 games in. So that leaves my game of the year split two ways:

The Last of Us 2 was brilliant in many, many respects, virtuoso stuff at times, though I felt it didn’t have quite the beautiful character-driven simplicity of the first game (the remaster of which I played again right after finishing the sequel), and at times could come across a tad manipulative. Ghost of Tsushima was the unexpected gem for this year, which applied an Assassin’s Creed-like open world approach to feudal Japan but with beautiful looks, some slick gameplay and bags of style and polish.

THE YEAR AHEAD – Last year I predicted a lot of travel for this year. Shows what I knew. Next year it all depends on how vaccination goes, I guess. I would have been guest of honour at Boskone in February – that’s cancelled in person, of course, but they’re still going ahead with online panels and events. I’d very much like to be in Aviles in Spain for the 10th anniversary of the Celsius festival in July, where I’ve been a frequent guest in the past. Then the final part of The Age of Madness trilogy, The Wisdom of Crowds, is going to be out in September, and I’d love to be able to tour again at that stage and visit some bookshops in the UK. But time will tell, I guess. Other than that, it’s battening the hatches and getting stuck into the writing of what comes next.

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards, and let’s just hope this one is better than the last…

Posted in announcements, film and tv, news, progress by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2020.

35 comments so far

  • Sebastian says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Hopefully 2021 won’t be as shit, but let’s raise a glass to cynicism!

  • Steven says:

    Feel exactly the same about Picard.

    Happy New Year.

  • Ângelo says:

    Happy New Year, you slightly less beautiful bastard!

  • Danny Pearman says:

    Happy New Year, few bits in this I will need to check out, did you ever watch ‘into the badlands’?, really enjoyed up, especially Season 2 when Nick Frost comes into the cast (makes the difference), finished watching Season 3 a couple of days ago and found out that Season 4 has been cancelled………or has it (maybe a graphic novel or something around the corner).

  • Gleb says:

    Thank you for this review. Happy Birthday and Happy New Year! С наступающим!

  • Michael says:

    Here’s hoping for a better 2021. That said, you have to be realistic about these things…

  • Hans Erik Johnsen says:

    O’Happy day, Mr. Abercrombie – it’s really something when more than half the world celebrate one’s birthday!!
    I have one major wish for the coming year (apart from the health and safety issues we all share) and that is for the First Law trilogi to be made into a Tv-series. And with a “Game of Thrones” budget – wich is vital. (I’m known for my modesty)
    D & D – do you copy?

  • Aaron says:

    Happy birthday! Loved The Trouble with Peace and can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends.

    Ghost of Tsushima was a highlight of my year too, unexpectedly brilliant and beautiful. Best wishes for the New Year!

  • Steven A. Hopkinson says:

    Thank YOU for delivering another thrilling novel. We are all lucky to have you!

  • alec keene says:

    Your picture below remind’s me of Somewhere in the North 576. I see Cracknut Whirrun of Bligh crossing one way and Javre Lioness of Hoskopp coming from the other end. Best not forget her sidekick etc Shev trailing behind.

  • An Ambivalent Fan says:

    Happy birthday, Joe. I love reading and hearing about your writing process as much as I like reading your books. Have you thought of doing a podcast or even just livestreaming when you’re signing books?

  • Timur says:

    This year was amongst the most challenging ones in my life if not the most, but it was also the year I thoroughly enjoyed you craftsmanship with the pen. I’ve read all of it (except the last two for now). Frankly, I am rereading the Red Country right now after I reread the Best Served Cold. Your books have been the best discovery of this year and helped me to understand my preferences in art. Thank you, and I forgive me for pirating them all. I will redeem myself when I get the first true job.

    P.s. Your novels were also among the first ever books I started reading in English, which was a bit challenging at the beginning, but now I am finding myself deeply enjoying the English prose.

  • Dennis Henley says:

    Happy birthday, Joe. We are all hoping for a better year in 2021.

    Only movie I saw in a theater (a total of 4 people and we were way socially distant) was The Personal History of David Copperfield with Dev Patel. Loved it and also the way the movie managed to throw in some literary criticism about the novel and the excess of (and necessity for) some characters.

    If you’re turning your hand to new worlds, how about a murder mystery?

  • Andrew S. says:

    The Trouble With Peace doing particularly well in audio – no surprise there. Steven Pacey is without equal. It’s how I’ve consumed your writing this whole time, and I regret nothing.

    I got a little excited seeing a “TV and Film” heading – it turns out that it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

  • Coleton says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe! I’m so excited for The Wisdom of Crowds, it’s going to be epic. The Trouble With Peace was absolutely phenomenal.

    Your writing is so inspiring to me, I study your work in hopes of being able to write with even a fraction of the skill and depth you possess some day.

    Also, I have to say, the hanging scene at the end of The Trouble With Peace has to be one your finest peices of writing, ever.

  • James Trautner says:

    Okay I went through all of the Blade Itself novels over the last few months, i think nine of them total and they are great, thank you for that, looking forward to September to finish it up. And yes Picard was very disappointing, I’m not sure if they had every watched TNG as it really did not seem like Picard at all. But anyways thanks for all the great books!

  • Igor says:

    Happy Birthday\ New Year, Joe!
    The second book of The Age of Madness with surprising twists and rapidly changing characters was good. It`s a pity to wait almost a year for the final part. In a talk with Andrzej Sapkowski you wrote about your attitude to creating long epics. As for me his Hussite triligy is much better as a series, than The Witcher. It`s more solid. What about your plans? Maybe something brand new, a sci – fi novel or i don`t know a love story?
    With best wishes, your enthusiastic reader.

  • Achtung Panzer says:

    Happy New Year, Happy Birthday!

    Thanks for all your wonderful creations and just to say that The Heroes is the most enjoyable work of fiction I have ever read (4 times and 2 Audio listens), ever.

    Cheers

  • Matt Ley says:

    Happy New Year! Hopefully 2021 will be better, but I think everyone found 2020 to have its own silver linings if you look hard enough…hopefully you had great quality time with your family!

  • Andrew Glen says:

    Many happy returns that man, you keep producing the literary goods like you do, and take the time out for the stuff that matters in-between; that’s quality gaming, decent tv and assorted family stuff (sort in order of individual preference). Raise a glass of your preferred tipple tonight to the damnation of 2020 and a second to the hopes 2021 isn’t more of the same. Slàinte Mhath to all of you fellow appreciators of great literature.

  • Etienne says:

    Happy birthday Joe and a very Happy New Year to you and the family. After the bin-fire of 2020, 2021 can only be sunnier.

  • Espen Nærum says:

    Happy birthday, Joe, and thank you for all the great time spent reading your books. Really looking forward to “The Wisdom of Crowds”. Wish you all the best for 2021!

  • Mikhail says:

    I’m finishing The Trouble With Peace right now, and this is probably my second favorite book of all your masterpieces after Best Served Cold. This novel doesn’t allow you to relax for a minute, and I really enjoy all these plot twists and incredible characters. And, of course, I sincerely admire the magic language – very figurative, aphoristic, simple and accessible at the same time. Although I read the book in Russian translation 🙂

    Happy birthday and Happy New Year! I am really looking forward to the end of the trilogy and very excited about the plans for your new stuff! All the best and stay safe! Your fan from rebellious Belarus.

  • Matt says:

    Given that your responses to Star Trek this year felt similar to mine, I have to know — did you watch Lower Decks? Thoughts?

  • Truck de Dante says:

    As I was diagnosed with terminal cancer on the 3rd of January 2020, it was always going to be an ‘interesting’ year. Turned out, everyone was going to have to suffer with me.

    Whilst I feel it is, usually, unfair to pressure an author to ‘fast track’ their work – would you mind awfully advancing your schedule for The Wisdom of Crowds? I would like to know how things conclude.

    A little praise for all who write, for some of us it means so much. Keep on doing what you do, for all of us.

    Blwyddyn Newydd Dda

    Truck

  • David says:

    Cheers to you, Joe, and wishes for continued success in 2021!

  • Henrique says:

    Happy birthday, Joe. Thank you for the review. Is there any book you read in 2020 worth mentioning?

  • Wombat of Hoskopp says:

    Happy Birthday and Happy New Year!

    Hoping for a better 2021, but as a wise man once said, you’ve got to be realistic.

  • Shafer Caudle says:

    Joe! You’ve ruined the fantasy genre for me and basically reading in general. I try rereading old books I used to love and nothing lives up to your writing anymore. All I can do is just reread your god damn books over and over again and my wife and friends are starting to worry about me!
    There really needs to be an official Joe Abercrombie support group for victims like me.
    You’re a genius man! Keep it up!

  • Tom Vigström says:

    Happy birthday and happy new year Joe. Really looking forward to how you are going to tie everything together in Wisdom. Any chance you will realese a sample chapter during the next couple of months? Also, your new project, did a publisher really pickup your pope-army idea?

  • Duane Smith says:

    Happy belated birthday Joe,have read all your books,halfway through the trouble with peace as great as ever.Have got my son into yours books as well.Lets hope we all have a better year.

  • Griffin Cooper says:

    Hey Joe! Obviously I don’t know anything about the new projects you’ll be working on going forward, and whether or not Wisdom of Crowds is the last taste we get of the First Law universe for awhile (or forever), you have gained a lifelong dedicated reader in me. Anything you release will be something I eagerly will be waiting to jump on. Happy birthday, and I hope 2021 treats you well.

  • Michael Cockerham says:

    Your books have kept me from falling into despair. I had to rebind several of the trade paperbacks to make them into canvas sheathed hard covers so that they could withstand the rigors of constant reading and re-reading. They are now battle worn armor in the war on depression. Happy Birthday and Thank you.

  • Neil says:

    So skip Into the badlands after season one. Warriors doesn’t look like it will get a third season, due to cinemax stopping original programming.Which is a shame, since it was good.

    I would recommend Banshee if you liked Warriors.

    I liked Star Trek discovery more than mandolrian, however happier with the expanse this season.

  • Gandherva says:

    You are a great author. I do think you make a lot of unexpected scenes but it could be even better. I will suggest you to watch Attack on Titan anime (or manga) if you haven’t done it before. I think you might enjoy it and likely you can also get inspired from it.

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