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2021 in Review

What’s that you say? It’s New Year’s Eve, I must be 47 goddamn years old today, and ANOTHER year passes under the bridge? Those bastards keep coming, don’t they? And this one has, I think it’s fair to say, been particularly hard work on the whole. I don’t think any of us really imagined a couple of years back when this pandemic started that we’d still be in its grip two years on, but here we are, hoping for better times soon…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – As I was saying last time around (with a considerable feel of groundhog day), publishing is faring an awful lot better than many industries, and I’m hugely lucky to be able to work from home, without too much practical disruption to my routines, such as they are. I was also lucky that my latest book, The Wisdom of Crowds, dropped in September when restrictions were at least a little bit relaxed, and (unlike with the previous book) I could get out on the road and look some readers in the eye (if not the lower half of the face). Still a lot of online events going on, which is a trend I’m sure will continue even when (if) things open all the way up again. The Wisdom of Crowds did very nicely in a very competitive week, making 5 on the UK bestseller list and just clipping the US one at 15. But I’m actually now selling as many e-books in that first week as hardcovers, and actually somewhat more audiobooks than that – which is testament to the ongoing big growth in that area of the market as well as the magisterial reading skills of Mr. Steven Pacey, of course…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Well, the Age of Madness is written, published, and out the door. A 5 year or so project already dwindling into the past. Counting a collection of short stories, I now have 13 books in print, if you believe that. There was some finishing off to do on The Wisdom of Crowds but most of this year’s book efforts have been spent on my next project, a new thing, new world, new characters, new tone, with the working title of The Devils. I’m now about half way through a highly tentative first draft but I want to sit with it, let it marinate and stew in its own juices for a while. It was meant to be shortish (of course) but it’s not turned out that way (of course). Currently a shade over 100,000 words so it would be a profound shock if the finished article was any shorter than 200,000, which is much the same length as my last couple of books. However I try, I always seem to end up there or thereabouts…

TV AND FILM – Again film has very much played second fiddle with the cinemas being largely closed up. The two that stand out in the SF&F realm were Spiderman, No Way Home, which I found thoroughly fresh and enjoyable and even a little bit moving after a few rather uninspiring Marvel efforts, and Dune which – though I thought it could’ve focussed a bit less on Paul and a bit more on the setting and secondary characters – was overall a highly watchable adaptation with some stunning design and visuals.

On the TV side I always forget about 50 things I’ve watched, so this is by no means exhaustive, but some things that stand out: Dark was a magnificent piece of gloomy German sci-fi that slides effortlessly from small town soap opera into apocalyptic tangled time-travel epic across the dimensions. Bosch I’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed all 7 seasons of and could probably have watched another 7. Raised by Wolves was weird but interesting. Ted Lasso was highly entertaining and a rare life-affirming property in a grim landscape, though I wondered if there were signs of it losing its way in the 2nd season. Money Heist was a nice, fresh, twisty robbery caper with lots of strong ideas and good characters. The Terror and The North Water were two gripping complimentary takes on the fundamental inhumanity of man set against ships trapped in ice. The Witcher I think got better in its second season, with some stronger background cast and more focus on overarching plots, but it still has some slightly cardboard-y moments. The second season of Warrior remained fast-moving and highly watchable. Gomorrah has been a stand-out favourite of mine for the past few years but I felt this last season was rather a let down. Seemed that they’d run out of ideas, became increasingly stiff and unconvincing, with old characters feeling ill-served and the new intake of brooding thugs failing to make much of a mark. I still think the first three seasons are brilliant, mind you. The last season of Narcos was still good but felt like it didn’t have much new to offer, with sad stubbly men once again failing to shift the needle on systemic corruption. Succession I felt had gone off the boil slightly at the start of its third season but the last few episodes were savagely, almost unwatchably good. The biggest surprise for me was Arcane – I don’t always connect to animation but this was just great, involving fantasy, bursting with energy and invention. Cracking world building without being laborious, strong writing, and brilliant characters, character designs and attention to detail.

GAMES – Unusually for me I’ve played very little on console over the last year. The only notable thing was a brief, nostalgic, and quite enjoyable flirtation with Elite Dangerous. Lack of availability and lack of anything I’ve felt I really needed to play has meant I haven’t got a next generation console yet. But I discovered, to my cost, that my laptop will run Total War: Warhammer and Three Kingdoms pretty adequately, so I’ve mostly been playing those, if I’m honest. Oldies but very, very goodies, and I really can flush a lot of hours down the Total War toilet still…

THE YEAR AHEAD –  There’ll be no new novel from me in 2022, sadly, though writing will continue on The Devils and I hope we’ll have a pub date in due course. There are, as ever, other pots on the boil so it’s possible one or other of them will finally bubble over in the meantime. We will see. There should, however, be some exciting news for fans of limited illustrated editions in the new year, and I believe Subterranean Press are aiming to package the three stories I wrote for special editions of the Age of Madness (called The Thread, The Stone and The Point) along with a fourth, already written but as yet unpublished, to make a little novella with illustrations by John Anthony Giovanni, titled The Great Change (and Other Lies). More news on the possible publication of that when I have it, but hopefully around September. Then I’d like to take some of the trips I’ve long planned but not been able to follow through on because of pandemic issues – to France, Portugal, and in particular another visit to Aviles in Spain for Celsius festival in the summer. Fingers crossed things will open up enough for those to be possible as the year wears on…

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

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The Wisdom of Crowds – Out Today

And so The Wisdom of Crowds is published in the UK (by Gollancz) and the US (by Orbit) this very day in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook read by the magisterial Steven Pacey. Always a bitter-sweet moment for an author, like dropping your kid off at college and hoping they’ll get on okay without you, but […]

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Wisdom of Crowds Tour – Update

With the book coming out in a mere 4 days (I know, so exciting) a little update on events: London Piccadilly is now sold out but if you’re in London you can see me the following day at Forbidden Planet. And the Virtual event with Steven Pacey is now going to be on Monday 20th at […]

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Wisdom of Crowds Tour

The Wisdom of Crowds is coming in less than a month and I am very pleased to announce we’ll be doing not only some online events, but a few IN-PERSON ones too. Here’s the schedule: And a link to my publisher with further info and ticketing options. We’d obviously love to do a more comprehensive tour […]

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The Wisdom of Crowds US Cover

And Orbit’s hardcover of The Wisdom of Crowds in the US will look something like this: As with the other books in the series, art by Sam Weber and design by Lauren Panepinto. The three of us did a little event yesterday to celebrate, talking about the design process and answering some audience questions. You […]

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The Wisdom of Crowds UK Cover

The UK cover of the final book in The Age of Madness trilogy, The Wisdom of Crowds, is finally ready to be revealed… Design once again by Tomás Almeida, though obviously there’s no way he could have done it without me endlessly arguing over the exact colour of foil we would be using. And the […]

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2020 in Review

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 […]

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The Wisdom of Crowds Cover Copy

Yes, yes, I know The Trouble With Peace only just came out a few weeks ago, but I’m in the process of finishing off The Wisdom of Crowds, the last book in the trilogy, and part of that has been getting the cover copy straight.  Of course the book won’t be out until September 2021 […]

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Progress Report August ’20

Believe it or not, The Trouble With Peace is out in two short weeks, and the US and UK hardcovers are both in my possession: UK art by Tomas Almeida, US by Sam Weber and Lauren Panepinto, and both beautiful in their own pleasingly distinct and different ways. Promotion ramps up, as you’d imagine. You […]

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The Trouble With Peace (Virtual) Tour

The Trouble With Peace is out in but 18 days, people.  Due to the ravages of Covid, the usual practice of filling a bookshop shoulder to shoulder with people who then queue up to be breathed on by an author has rapidly fallen in popularity.  But if the thought of NOT seeing me talk about […]

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