2023 In Review

December 31st, 2023

My God, can it truly be that another year has flashed past? Happy Birthday to me! 49 today, 17 years since I was first published and god damn it if I’m not still a fresh new voice in this genre. This time last year I was hoping for better times ahead following twelve months of war and political turbulence, and it feels like we we’ve had nothing but even worse warfare and political turbulence since, with next year looking no better in prospect. Starting to wonder if this might be a bad time to be writing intensely dark and cynical fiction. Maybe I should try my hand at something light and hopeful… Ha! As if…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – It’s now been a full two years since I had a new novel in the marketplace but there have been a few Joe Abercrombie related releases. The Great Change and Other Lies – a very handsome novella length collection of short stories to go alongside the Age of Madness, and with art by John Anthony di Giovanni – came out from Sub Press. The physical copies are all gone but I believe you can still get it on ebook. And some truly beautiful letterpress editions of The Blade Itself with art by Tommy Arnold were released by Curious King, who are doing some awesome things in the ultra-high end limited edition space. Kind of incredible how that part of the market has developed over recent years, that a few hundred books costing between 200 and 2,300 (!) pounds could all sell out within an hour or two of going on sale. Vance Kovacs is currently at work on the art for Before They are Hanged, and we’re hoping that one will work its way out at some point next year…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Not my most productive year on record, I will admit, but I have made steady progress: finished The Devils, edited and revised it, and I’m just now getting towards the end of the line edit (that’s where your editors go through and mark up the manuscript with specific concerns and recommendations). I still want to give it a last read over and polish in the first half of january, then it’ll go for copy edit (that’s where a specialised copy editor goes through with an eye on the technical details), but it’s very close to finished – we’re even pretty close to a finished cover concept, which looks like it’s gonna be quite a departure for me…

How do I feel about it? Always tough to say at this stage. Fewer than a dozen people have actually read it so my own feelings change whenever I get a new opinion. I generally hate every book while I’m writing it then get gradually more pleased with it as I revise, and that’s happened here. It’s certainly a bit longer than intended (which happens pretty much every time). Currently running at 215,000 words which puts it on the longer side of my books – longer than the Blade Itself or any of the Age of Madness (or any of the Lord of the Rings volumes, I believe, though those seem petite by today’s standards) – but shorter than Best Served Cold or Last Argument of Kings. Certainly it’s a bit of a different tone from the First Law – very much adult still, I guess you’d say, with much sex, violence and horror, but more episodic, more knockabout, maybe, less deliberately dark and cynical, more deliberately humorous though I doubt anyone would call it a comedy. Way higher on the fantasy elements than the First Law though also much less of an epic fantasy, set as it is in a kinda sorta messed up version of our world. I will not dignify it with the term alternate history. It’s a tough book to categorise, though I’m sure that will not stop people trying.

Disappointing for some of you, I am sure, but it’s currently looking like The Devils won’t publish until early/mid 2025, which’ll make this the longest gap in my publishing thus far. Partly that was a date we plucked from the air which gained a kind of inevitability the longer it stayed in the diary. Partly it’s a function of the bigger, slower and more distributed US market, where I’m less well established, and my publisher want plenty of time to get the word out and set this up as something new and exciting and different to give it the best chance of the MASSIVE SUCCESS it, and I, obviously deserve. Still, there’s always an upside, and with any luck the time will mean translators can get busy and have some of the key foreign editions come out around the same time as the UK/US ones. Hopefully a later release for the first book also means a shorter gap before the second, which I’ve started writing, and I’m already a couple of chapters into. This one’s gonna be shorter (of course), and I hate it already (of course).

TV AND FILM – I’ve actually been writing on various film and tv projects for years now – starting on adaptations of my own books (as yet unmade), but more recently adapting other people’s work (also largely as yet unmade) – which is one reason why the book output over the last decade has been a little lumpy, let’s say. In general I really enjoy it – with books you get pretty much sole creative control, but it’s also often lonely work where you spend a lot of time in your own head – so it’s nice to spend some time working as part of a bigger team, and sometimes on things where the emotional investment isn’t quite so huge. But it can also be a seriously frustrating business, which comes in fits and starts, all consuming for a few months then suddenly gone. There are lots of stakeholders, lots of opinions to be considered, lots of notes to act on, you rarely get to do things just your way. Projects get picked up with huge excitement, race forward, then stall and collapse only to be unpredictably born again in a new form. You can spend years quite profitably developing things that never get made, or even announced.

But this year one of these projects actually did get announced – a film adaptation of Best Served Coldwritten by me, with Tim Miller (who I’ve been working with to bring the First Law to the screen for years) attached as the director and Rebecca Ferguson attached to play Monza. Another frustrating thing about this world is you can’t really talk about anything until someone else talks about it, so all I can really say about it right now is that it’s in the works, development continues, but there are no certainties, we’ll see what we see. I might be on set in a few months . . . or I might very easily never be.

Working in the business myself starts to make it feel a bit weird criticising other people’s work, so let me dial back my usual roundup of what I’ve watched this year and just recommend a couple of things I’ve really enjoyed. In the film space, I’d say Leave the World Behind was the thing I liked most – perhaps didn’t pay off as well as it might have, but a really fascinating premise with some gobsmacking moments. Animation-wise I continued to enjoy Vinland Saga and I really liked Blue-Eye Samurai – who knew I’d go for a female-led gritty revenge story with vividly realised characters in a dark and ruthless world? Then on TV I still find Brassic a lot of fun – love me some Joseph Gilgun ever since his This is England days, I liked Boiling Point – love me some Stephen Graham ever since his This is England days, I find Slow Horses very reliable, finely crafted and acted entertainment, and the second season of The Bear was maybe a little patchier than the first, but when it was good, truly excellent.

GAMES – Everyone says it’s been a great year for games, but I’ve actually found it a little bit underwhelming. Maybe more me than the games. Started out by replaying Cyberpunk on the PS5, which I actually really enjoyed, though honestly I’d quite enjoyed it on the PS4. Final Fantasy XVI, very unusually for me, I just got bored of half way through, and stopped playing. It was… okay, I guess? Diablo IV I had some fun crunching through with a friend, but though it has its charms I found it got pretty dull after a while. Alan Wake 2 looks very interesting – I’m a big fan of Remedy Games and loved Control – they really do stuff like no one else. But I’ve only just started that. Which really does leave quite the open goal for Baldur’s Gate III as my game of the year. That really should be a home run for me, I loved the first two back in the day, and I certainly did enjoy it, a lot at times, but, I dunno. Maybe it was the huge hype and orgasmic reactions all around but I actually found large stretches of it a little bit – disappointing would be the wrong word – just not as great as I’d hoped? I’m sure it’s rose tinted specs but though on paper it’s an enormous game with unmatched quantities of content, great voice acting and characters etc. etc. it somehow felt, I dunno, confined? Never got the sense of exploring a huge world. I enjoyed it a lot, and there’s much to admire, but it never gave me the feeling of awe I got from Elden Ring last year.

THE YEAR AHEAD – With The Devils not due to come out till 2025, 2024 looks like it’ll be a bit of a strange one. Working on the sequel, of course, and hoping to get a good chunk of that under my belt. Couple of events coming up, including Gollanczfest in March. Then there are a range of Film and TV things teetering on the brink of going which will undoubtedly take up a fair bit of time and energy, but when, and how much, and whether they’ll ever actually make it to the screen, remains to be seen. If I hear, you’ll be the first to know…

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, news, progress, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2023.

35 comments so far

  • Mark Trowbridge says:

    Happy Birthday Sir, your update provides a JOYOUS end to 2023! Huzzah! I hope 2024 brings Best Served Cold into production, that would be your finest belated birthday gift ever!

    Now, back to Audible to start them all again…

  • Dan says:

    2025 ;-( – time for the film to be made/released I suppose.
    I couldn’t get on with deathloop last year, but with all the lovely weather it has clicked for some reason and helped the get through the storms. I think the embedded humour helps. Happy new year!

  • Cody H says:

    Happy birthday, Joe!

    Ive mentioned this before but we happen to share a birthday. Just crossed the grand threshold into 30 myself. I’m looking forward to yelling at children about the good old times now.

    Anyway, always love these updates and your various thoughts on the stuff you’ve done over the year. Keeping my fingers crossed for any of the items you’ve worked on making it to the screen. But I wont get my hopes up too high. After all, you have to be realistic about these things.

    In the meantime, I hope that many good things find you in 2024. Heres to a great birthday and a wonderful new year!

  • Timur says:

    Happy New Year and Happy Birthday, maestro!

    Kinda sad the new book won’t release next year, but I sincerely hope that the gap will bring you the long-awaited and well-deserved success.

    Hugely excited for Best Served Cold with Rebecca Ferguson, easily one of the best news this year for me, couldn’t pick a better lead. Let’s cross our fingers it will be made in the end.

    Hope you’ll have a wonderful year! Cheers!

  • Trev Williams says:

    Many happy Returns Joe.. or not until 2025 it seems.. very much looking forward to the new Trilogy? The wait will only heighten my anticipation…
    One of the best news bites in recent months has to be the movie of “Best Served cold” and Ms Ferguson heading lining is perfect… if this movie isn’t realised after the dross we’ve had on screen of late it will be a travesty… We need dank, dirty, dark, realistic stuff on our screens in these times… let people know how really y bad things could be! …
    I await be bated breath. Many thanks for All you do. Keep at it chief.
    Happy new year

  • Francesco Casagli says:

    Dear Lord Grimdark, tks a lot for your detailed message for the end of the year! I’ve started reading your first trilogy and for sure it is an absolute masterpiece! Ready to continue to deep dive your past and future works. I totally agree with you on BG3 and I’m sure that AW2 will conquer your heart … and soul …

  • Mark Fairfax says:

    Happy Birthday & New Year Mr. Abercrombie,

    Looking forward to ‘The Devils’ and with the slightly longer wait it gives me a chance to finish my stacks of books. Always room for one more though… so any chance of a UK release of The Great Change and Other Lies novella? (Even just as an ebook).

    Here’s hoping your other projects come to fruition!

  • Paul Omasta says:

    Happy Birthday Sir!
    Love your work and can’t wait to see what the next couple of years brings us!!

  • Sam says:

    First and foremost; Happy Birthday!

    Second and secondmost; now that Mickey Mouse is looking like it will be entering the public domain in 2024 can we look forward to Mickey Mouse being one of the main characters in The Devils series?

  • Steve Henry says:

    Happy Birthday and Happy New Year to you, Lord Grimdark. It truly is a pleasure to read anything from you whether it be about a body floating in the docks or update on your life. I’m on the final part of The Heroes and continue to admire your work. I want nothing more for all of first law to translate into film so my nitwit friends who do not know how to read will finally understand why I say that your writings are the way, the truth, and the light. Cheers.

  • Richard says:

    Happy Birthday Joe. Hope all the development work with Mr Miller finally comes to fruition, it’s been a long road. Still wish Shattered Sea had become a reality at Evergreen, Mr Kroopf remains a huge fan. Tend to agree with you on the gaming front, though if you never got to play Wayfinder I’m horrified, it should be in this list! We still need to find a way to adapt First Law into the interactive world . . .

  • Lily Anne Crow says:

    Happy birthday, you legend! I hope your beautiful wife treats you like a king.

    You’re only 3 days younger than me. (I’m sure I posted that somewhere last year…) Any life goals before you hit the big 5-0?

    I’m on my umpeenth listen through of all your First Law books. Your ability to include details that only become relevant later, when certain truths are revealed, is quite amazing. Such planning and forethought! You must have so many notes…

  • Luke Dillon says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe!

    Did you get around to playing Phantom Liberty, by any chance? It plays on Cyberpunk’s main story in a couple ways…

  • Anna and Igor says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe!
    Good luck with all your projects. We`ll be waiting, we are patient. Would be great to have some new information about the film. A lot of recent adaptations were just disappointments… What did they do to `The Witcher`… Let`s hope you won`t let anybody spoil a great book!

  • Arthur says:

    Happy New Year! You are my favorite fantasy author. I read all that you wrote. Happy to hear that you have finished a new book.

  • Eddy says:

    Happy birthday Joe and Happy New Year. All the best to you.

  • Nick T says:

    Happy birthday sir! You are the best author in the business, everything you write is an instant classic! I’m incredibly excited The Devils, thank you for these posts, they always make the wait easier to bear.

  • Dale Barrett says:

    So, can I infer from your comments that you’ve finished with the world of The First Law for the foreseeable future? Must say I’m disappointed as I’m a huge fan. Haven’t loved anything as much since I first read Tolkien and Howard 60 years ago. And at nearly 76, I daresay I may not have that long to wait for more. Will still check out “The Devils” if I’m still here in 2025. Oh, and Happy New Year!

  • Tom says:

    Hope you had a lovely birthday and Christmas period Joe. Roll on the big five-oh, eh?

    Buzzing to read The Devils, congratulations on the latest milestones. About to finish my 5th (6th? I’ve lost count) run through of the audiobooks, if I could use my mounting audible credits to pre-order the new series it would be ideal. My obsession should surely be cause for concern, but it’s reassuring to see others in precisely the same boat and we’re quite clearly enjoying ourselves so who bloody cares.

    Had my first-born this year, 11months old already. Fought hard for ‘Monza’ but wife wasn’t having it. Anticipating my next battleground in a year or so for baby Whirrun – I won’t hold my breath.

    Thanks again for all your hard work and bringing such wonderful characters to our lives. Wishing you and the fam the very best 2024. Tom, Cath, baby Alisaie

  • Rick says:

    Hey Joe,

    Happy belated birthday! I was wondering if you could say what stage of pre-production Best Served Cold is in? Our locations scouted? Have any roles aside from Monza been cast? Have sets been built or costumes designed? Also, I’m really hoping this movie gets made and gets at least a 2 and a half hour runtime!! The longer the better!

  • Charlotte Goodwin says:

    It’s always nice to hear what the life of other writers looks like. Especially real, live, published ones who have actually had some success!

    I’ve been writing a little over 2 years, I guess there’s still time for me.

    Anyway, good luck with this year’s projects. Hopefully I’ll see you in the flesh at Gollanczfest – my ticket’s already booked!


  • Dan says:

    Do you think you will ever get over your girlboss phase that started with Sharp Ends? Clearly you got the industry wide memo that went out around that time. It would be pretty fucking great if you remembered how to write about strong men. I won’t hold my breath. I’m sure there is a ton of pressure from the leftist cunt publisher but I guess I hoped you had a spine.

  • BathDragon says:

    Shame no book this year but the new direction sounds interesting. Have to disagree about BG3; I loved it and thought it was the best game for over a decade.

  • Alexander Johnson says:

    Heya Joe,
    Glad to hear you’re doing well! You’re right that it’s been a hell of a year. For me, your stories make it all a bit easier to handle. Has anyone complimented you on your prose lately? If not, allow this message to suffice! I’m nearing the bittersweet end of the available audiobooks, but I’ll likely listen to them again just like another reader here likes to do. I’m looking forward to The Devils!
    Walla Walla, WA

  • Ranmasa says:

    I have always thought that BSC was your most cinematic story and kept thinking about it being made a movie while reading for the first time, years ago. Having said that, I can see it better as a TV series as it’s such a long book. I have not followed your blogs as much in 2023, so this is the first time I heard about the new project (The Devils). Looking forward to hearing more about it in the coming (many) months and I applaud your courage to get out of the “restrictive” boundaries of the world of the First Law. For me, at least, more humour and less tragedy in your books is a good thing. Some of the first law novels have such dreary, nihilistic endings… Best of luck and success!

  • Maria says:

    Would love to see a character written in who comes off as coy but within one chapter hows his ass and then gets it handed to him, preferably by a female character. You could name him…Dan.

  • James Moorby says:

    I’ve just finished the wisdom of crowds audiobook, and can honestly say your books have provided me with many hours of entertainment, so much so that most mornings on my train commute to and from work I regularly pulled a psychopathic grin (generally when Glokta or Orso were speaking) which most likely disturbed my fellow public transport wage-slave compatriots.

    I can’t wait for more of your books and the film adaptation.

    Also, you’ve inspired me to be more imaginative, and one day I will possibly try and write my own fantasy story probably as a form of catharsis. However I have a few more medical exams I need to pass before being able to focus my energies on other hobbies.

    Cool to see that you liked Vinland saga. I highly recommend trying an anime called ‘Monster’, its old but gold.

    Best wishes for 2024 from a fellow ex-LRGS victim
    James, a 27-year-old Morveer superfan.

    P.S. The commenter above me appears to be a nonce

  • Chris says:

    Any chance you could sling a copy of The Devils over my way?

  • Chuck Moeller says:

    2025!!!! When does the audiobook come out? Poor Steven Pacey is going to starve to death. Joe you’re big enough to get the release done earlier. The Devils will be a “Massive Success” in 2024 if you let it. I won’t beg much, better yet, not at all. Please just get it released sooner. Thank you.

  • Ferdinand Kittlaus says:

    Love the updates and I look forward to all your upcoming projects! Godspeed!

  • John Sheppard says:

    heh heh, happy birthday ya big beautiful bastard!

    lovely news about The Devils, looking forward to it rather a lot. almost time for me to read through your works again, it’s that time of year and the news is pissing me off on the regular, so ya know…

    as for male vs female characters, unlike certain whiny babies I don’t give a fuck which you write, I always enjoy them and find them very convincing. and you often manage shit I’d never have believed before, like when I suddenly found myself really enjoying the view from inside Glokta’s head! you have given me much enjoyment over the years, and more than a few great big belly laughs, and quite a few moments of “damn, I wish I’d written this!!”

    I look forward to whatever shows up next, and may Bona Fortuna bless you and yours in this coming year.

  • Tobias says:

    Happy belated B-day Joe! And about the year… well it’s too depressing to dwell on that for long…

    This one is regarding the important things in life: “Will The Great Change and Other Lies also have an audiobook version?”

  • Taliesin says:

    Hi Joe,

    Do you think…there is any chance The Devils may come out this year after all? I read the blog post but since its basically finished…I would hope there is a chance of a quicker turn around. Obviously you would know best so just thought I would ask here.

  • Davids says:

    I’ve stopped reading. I don’t know why. I just kind of fell out of the habit. Last book I read was The Wisdom of Crowds. Loved it but didn’t know where to go next.

  • Christopher Sparrow says:

    With regards to gaming, I switched from computer to co-operative board games a few years ago and there are several that have been more satisfying than any computer game I’ve ever played. Aeon Trespass Odyssey, Kingdom Death Monster and Oathsworn to name a few. They can all be played with other people or play just as well solo. Basically it’s the players versus the game system and they have a great narrative flow. I’d love to see your books adapted to a game of this nature.

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