2022 In Review

December 31st, 2022

Another New Year’s Eve rolls around all too soon, and we all know what that means. Happy birthday to me! 48 today and STILL a fresh new voice in this GODDAMN GENRE. This time last year I was crossing my fingers for better times ahead as the pandemic faded in the rear-view mirror. Hasn’t quite turned out that way, with war and inflation and untold economic and political turbulence, but hey ho. Maybe next year…?

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – First year since 2018 I haven’t had a new book out, which feels a little strange. You always worry you’ll suffer when you’re not flooding the marketplace with new content, but Age of Madness came out after a lengthy break, and I’m pretty happy with how that turned out. To my shock and amazement the First Law books, and especially the original trilogy still sell well (better than ever, in some ways) 17 years after The Blade Itself first came out. I am aware of my immense good fortune there, but I’m also aware nothing lasts forever. Resting on one’s laurels is never an option.

I haven’t been entirely idle, however. Undertook a first foreign trip to my old stomping ground Celsius festival in Spain and immediately got Covid. Then visited Lisbon for Portugal Comic Con and was among those who didn’t get Covid. Had a great time at both, incidentally, when I wasn’t self-isolating, but it’s clear this is gonna be a feature of cons and festivals for the foreseeable future. May mean I have to be a little choosier about those events I do attend. No new novels appearing any time soon, but there’s some interesting stuff going on in the limited edition space, which seems to be a big growth area in publishing of late. Some ultra high end letterpress editions of The Blade Itself from Curious King sold out within a few hours at a price I personally would not believe people will pay, the awesome limited of The Trouble With Peace came out from Sub Press, and the artwork from John Anthony di Giovanni arrived for a limited novella coming from Sub Press next year, The Great Change and Other Lies, which collects three short stories that were exclusive to Waterstones editions of The Age of Madness books in the uk along with a brand new story. More news on the release of that as I have it…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Slow going this year, I must admit, mostly because I’ve been spending most of my time on various side projects. Can’t speak about those, though one small thing I can mention was my first proper screenwriting credit, on an episode of Love Death and Robots: Mason’s Rats, based on Neal Asher’s short story. But The Devils was always designed as a project that could fit in around other things, and I have made some progress, up to three quarters of the way through now, some 160,000 words of first draft. That was supposed to be about the full length when I began, but it’s grown somewhat in the telling, as they often do. I’ll admit I was feeling pretty bleak about it during the writing, but it’s hardly the first time, and experience has taught me the best thing to do (the only thing, indeed) is push through, and pick up the pieces later. Everything will feel better in the dawn! Having finished the third part, cut down and revised it, I’m feeling a lot more positive. Now to plan and write that all-important last part, before gathering some editorial input and subjecting the whole thing to several brutal rounds of revision. Can’t really commit to a publication date yet, since it really does depend on a lot of other impossible to predict factors, and I reckon I’ll need a fair bit of time to revise and sharpen this up, but I will certainly mention it when the first draft’s finished.

TV AND FILM – My film watching is still at a low ebb. Getting to the cinema is such a lot of effort, and although I’ll happily sit down and watch two or three episodes of TV of an evening, committing to a whole film always seems like a step too far somehow. My wife and I tend to broadly agree when we go to see a film, but I really liked Living while she found it intensely dull. Elvis was a highly enjoyable assault on the senses. Top Gun: Maverick felt like a big, bold, brassy macho throwback in many ways, but you’d have to say it was superbly well made and a lot of fun. Glass Onion seems to inspire intense love and hate but I just … quite enjoyed it, I guess? Lots of great moments and performances but, like Knives Out, I didn’t find it all that effective as a mystery and the ending felt kinda contrived. Marvel stuff seems to have gone off the boil after several years of dominance. I loved Doctor Strange and Thor Ragnarok, but Multiverse of Madness and Love and Thunder I mostly watched with a kind of baffled wince.

Egad I’ve watched a lot of telly, and quite a lot of it was very good. No doubt there are many I will fail or forget to mention, but some of the standouts: Severance was arresting, original, and brilliantly designed. The White Lotus had some great writing and observation. For All Mankind is a pretty ripping space exploration yarn with a side order of alt history. Sherwood was a really involving British crime drama. The English was a dark and gripping western with some incredible cinematography. Maid and Dopesick were highly watchable miniseries. Cobra Kai is always good for a laugh. The Bear was a highly original and really gripping watch – unusual format with every episode a little gem, as carefully formed as a one of its lead character’s Michelin starred plates. I also managed to catch up on 5 seasons of Yellowstone, which in many ways is really traditional long form US TV, occasionally somewhat over the top but highly watchable nonetheless. I really enjoyed its prequel 1883 as well, a wagon trail western with shades of Lonesome Dove, which is always a good thing.

Moving closer to the fantasy realm, I watched a couple of Marvel offerings with the kids – Moon Knight and She Hulk, both a bit patchy, for my money, with stuff to like and stuff not to. On the Star Wars side, I watched Boba Fett and maybe two episodes of Obi Wan which were both pretty awful, frankly, then was knocked on my heels by Andor, which I thought was just brilliant – dark, grown up, thoughtful, acutely observed noir somehow transposed to the Star Wars world. Much the best thing they’ve produced since the original films, in my opinion, though that bar, with the possible exception of Rogue One and bits of The Mandalorian, ain’t that high for me. I loved Dark and so had big expectations for its spiritual successor 1899, which I think largely paid off with some truly gobsmacking moments, though the jury’s still out on whether the endless puzzle boxes can open to reveal something meaningful or, in the style of Lost, will just hold more puzzle boxes. Which brings us by a roundabout route to the three towering fantasy series of the past year: Wheel of Time, Rings of Power, and House of the Dragon. I think it ill befits me to be negative about things that are so close to what I work on myself, so let’s just say this: I really liked House of the Dragon.

GAMES – I finally got a Playstation 5 this year, and played a few of the big releases, several of them instalments in series I’ve enjoyed before. Horizon: Forbidden West had a lot to admire, though I felt like it didn’t push the formula or worldbuilding much beyond the excellent first game, and the basic template of an open world scattered with tasks in various categories is maybe starting to feel a little bit tired. I felt a bit similarly about God of War: Ragnarok – don’t get me wrong, class leading writing, acting, and character design with some genuinely emotional moments, but it didn’t blow my mind the way the previous instalment did, or ever have me really itching to pick up the pad. The thing that did blow my mind? Probably surprising no one – Elden Ring. I’ve always liked the Dark Souls games, and some might say this is very much an evolution of the form, but I don’t know, something about the scale, the scope, the open world and the stunning fairy-tale-gone-bad vistas it creates, the crazy story told in tantalising fragments, and the slight dialling back of the difficulty somehow propelled what was already a unique experience to a whole different level. There’s a sense of wonder to it that seems, without wanting to get too pretentious, almost to touch the numinous at times. Horizon and God of War are great games, but Elden Ring feels like something new. Certainly that would be my game of the year, though I would observe I was shocked and actually a little bit horrified when I looked back at my year’s stats, to find there was a game I’d spent more time playing than all three of the ones I’ve mentioned put together. Goddamn, it was Crusader Kings 3. I’ve always loved strategy stuff, and Paradox’s particularly intense and detailed versions of the form in particular, but it was a long time since I’d played any (because, ironically, they end up taking up too much time). Loved playing this one…

THE YEAR AHEAD – I think it’s highly unlikely the Devils will publish in 2023. I hope we’ll make 2024 but of course I make no promises. Depends a lot on these pesky other projects, which I very much hope I’ll be able to talk about at some point in the coming year. But no promises there either, of course. As Nicomo Cosca might say: “promises are pretty, but what can you buy with them…?”

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards, and (for yet another time) let’s just hope this one is better than the last…

Posted in announcements, film and tv, games, progress by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2022.

31 comments so far

  • Sally says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe! Hope you have a wonderful day I always love to read your year in reviews. I need to go back to ‘Elden Ring’, so many of my favourite fantasy authors have said how brilliant it is.

    Happy New Year!

  • CW says:

    > I think it ill befits me to be negative about things that are so close to what I work on myself, so let’s just say this: I really liked House of the Dragon.

    this made me laugh, very English of you

    Have a great birthday and a fulfilling new year

  • Sean says:

    Happy Birthday! Lot of similar watching in your lists, might I suggest Archive 81 too. Netflix cancelled it so bear that in mind but the series holds up and had some great moments (and soundtrack).
    Currently halfway through Wisdom of Crowds so that’ll be taking me into the new year!

  • Wesley says:

    Such an interesting year! I hope you have an awesome 2023 and gear up for a mad one to finish 2024 for your 50th lol

  • Kelly Smith says:

    HB to you & I hope this year is a good one
    Love love love all your books
    have read them all many times presently re listening to the Blade Trilogy and still lol at the marvellous characters and wonderful dialogue
    Thank you for so many hours of joy you bring every time I re read your stories they just never get old
    Happy New Year

  • Pete says:

    Happy Birthday! I thought Mason’s Rats was great. I enjoyed the whole series but that was a standout. Loved the combat scene. I hope that, should your screenwriting credits ever extend to live action in the future, there’ll be a similar level of gratuitous visceral splatter on display. And a bit of screen time for Stephen Pacey somewhere too.

  • Roy says:

    Happy Birthday!
    I’m one of those who bought the First Law Trilogy this year. I really love these books, they’re even better than I expected. Also my first English read since my native language is Dutch, but now i’m wondering why i didn’t read in English sooner. Currently finishing Last Argument of Kings, and looking forward to the stand-alone novels and ofcourse the Age of Madness-trilogy!
    Best wishes for 2023, greetings from Belgium.

  • Timur says:

    Wisdom of Crowds has been the best read this year since it’s always the case with your books when they come out. And currently rereading The Trouble with Peace, which is still highly enjoyable.

    Take as much time as you need, maestro. Best Served Cold wasn’t fun to write, as I know, but it still
    came out pure gold.

  • Ralph says:

    Happy Birthday, mate!

    The First Law has gone to the top as my favourite fantasy setting. I just finished The Age of Madness and I am still psyched about it!

    I somehow missed Sharp Ends, so I am audio-reading that now after which I will in all likelihood re-read the bloody lot.

    So far I have managed to get a handful of people hooked on your books, but my mission to get everybody and their mother to read The First Law continues.

    Thank you for giving me a fantastically crafted world to escape to and have a wonderful birthday and a smashing 2023!

    Ralph

  • Steven Hewison says:

    The Father in Law got the First Law Trilogy from me for his Secret Santa present this year. That’s the third time I’ve gifted the set! (Commission you say??).
    Happy Birthday and Happy New Year matey
    All the Best
    Steve

  • Victor says:

    Happy New Year Joe!

    If you are interested in animated shows then may I direct your attention to Vinland Saga?

    An anime centered around the explorer Thorfinn. Based on historical events with a sense of heroic grandness, I think it wouls be right up your alley.

  • Anna and Igor says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe! We wish you luck and new inspirations in the coming year. Go on with screenwriting, Mason`s Rats was really good.

  • Susan says:

    Happy New Year
    I just wanted to say I will always read whatever you write. I got my son hooked on the Blade series, it’s heart warming when a mother can share her love of grim dark.
    Thanks for the tv series comments. I need some new ones.

  • Ali says:

    Happy New Year! I’m reading/listening to The Heroes. It’s my favorite book of yours so far! I can only imagine how awesome the Age of Madness trilogy is.

  • Conor McV says:

    If you didn’t see them this year, I hope next year you get time to check it the films The Norseman and Benedetta. Two excellent edgy and thoroughly enjoyable historic films about very different place and times but I think you and anyone else reading this would dig them.

    I also, ahem, “enjoyed HOTD” and will happily say na more about those other two.

    Best nerd-relevant think I saw all year was Peacemaker, hilarious and lots of fun violence. Atlanta and The Rehearsal were the other two big shows in what was a really good year for TV.

    My best reads of the year were rereading The Third Policeman, trying Tim Powers, Ann Leckie and Adrian Tchaikovsky for the first time and finally knocking Naked Lunch off my shame list. Looking forward to the shorts and whatever else you’ve got brewing.

    Athbhliain faoi mhaise duit!

  • ColinJ says:

    Best film of the year for me was Ti West’s brilliant, demented, technicolour descent into insanity, PEARL.

  • Oscarlito says:

    Blast my nuts! Another year has gone by already and I haven’t read any of your Shattered & Madness books. Well , as a birthday present, I should start right away and wishing the Devils will get out by the time I finished both series.

  • Wombat of Hoskopp says:

    Happy New Year and Happy Birthday.
    If those side projects are a TV series for First Law, please just get the actors to mime and have the impossibly amazing Steven Pacey do the voices.

  • Patrick Lundgreen says:

    Thanks for the update Joe, I always enjoy reading them.

    Happy new year

  • Colinj says:

    CRUSADER KINGS 3 really blew my mind at the moment where your character text reads something like: ‘You notice your daughter has become a very attractive young woman’, and then you marry her

    I’m like daaaaaamn!

  • Ethan says:

    Glad you had a good year Joe – especially glad that you like that twisted game that goes by the name of Crusader Kings III, and I’m not saying that because I’m a developer for both the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones mod for it (the LOTR one you should totally play by the way, no bias at all).

    Cheers, and here’s to another year of you writing words for all our enjoyment!

  • Unaiza says:

    Happy New Year Mr. Abercrombie 🙂

  • Vedran Mavrović says:

    Happy B-day and all the best in the New Year!
    Take care, Joe, and keep them books comming.

  • Kevin Sinclair says:

    Can’t wait for more books Mr Abercrombie.
    Crusader Kings3 is awesome.
    House of the Dragon was the best of the pile, but the pile was steaming…
    I loved 1899, it was up ther for best tv show of the year that I’ve watched, though Arcane, edges it for me despite coming out late 2021 Iit took me a while to get around to it.
    Glass onion offered so much but delivred so little at the finish. Disapointing end for sure.

  • Michael says:

    Hey Joe

    Great update, first time I’ve came across your site but loved reading all your updates. Hoped you had a great birthday and looking forward to your future projects.

    Thanks

  • Stephanie Edwardsen says:

    Happy birthday and new year!

    I’m devastated I missed out on special edition printing of The Blade Itself, but that’s on me for leaving behind most social media.

    My recs for you:

    -Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (space necromancers with a killer character narration)

    -XCom2 or its newer marvel-branded iteration: Midnight Suns. They’re fun turn-based strategy games. XC2 is a lesson in humility and true odds/probability and a bit more satisfyingly crunchy in gameplay.

    Non sequitur side note: Red Country is a brilliant fantasy western and underrated – I always wondered if you enjoyed Lonesome Dove and this post has confirmed you’ve at least partaken.

    Looking forward to hearing more about All the Stuff, even if there may not be a book in 2023! Cheers!

  • Ferdinand Kittlaus says:

    I love the updates and incites. Keep em coming. 240 characters on twitter doesn’t do your talent justice. Merry Christmas , Happy new years and Happy birthday!

  • Adam Cunliffe says:

    Happy new year, Joe!

    Ive never written to you here, but this feels like the right time. I’ve just begun A Little Hatred, and while it seemed impossible at first blush .. I believe you’ve outdone yourself yet again. Book #8 in this world and you’ve not stopped improving. I’m in love with the characters, old and new, and I feel genuinely educated by the odd bit of wisdom you impart through them. I’ll be damned if I’m not belly laughing like an idiot each and every time I pick the thing up. And I don’t believe I’ve ever put it down without exhaling comically and saying out loud, to no one in particular, “holy shit”. Or something to that effect.

    I appreciate you more than ever these days, man. You’re the greatest there is and I don’t care if that’s blowing smoke. You deserve the praise.

    And hey, what do you know? Our tastes in games and television align dramatically. You’re not only delivering some of the best entertainment I’ve ever received, you’re devouring the other good stuff right alongside me.

    That House of the Dragon line was hilarious.

    War and uncertainty aside, I hope you have a wonderful year visiting with fans, relaxing with family, and toiling away on The Devils.

    Sincerely,
    Adam C

  • Nick says:

    Happy New Year Joe!! Just stumbled across your website, I’ve read your books over the past couple of years and think they are great, due to covid I’ve read more books in the past 2 years than I have in the past 25, and it’s really rekindled my love of reading, I especially love your characters Glokta, The Bloody Nine and my absolute favourite Caul Shivers!! I laughed when I read you’d been playing Elden Ring as I got utterly whipped playing it too last year – I’m curious, what was your build? Thanks for making a shite couple of years so much more bearable man, keep up the good work 🙂

  • Nick says:

    The real question is, how the fuck has the first law not been made into a tv series yet?

  • Felix says:

    I also loved Elden Ring and I agree with everything you said! I also feel like the story is really underrated. Very cryptic of course, but when you put the pieces together, it’s amazing. You should write a book adaptation of it, Joe!

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