Nothing worse than Victory

July 9th, 2012

So, the film of Conan the Barbarian (not the Momoa one, that one’s dead to me, the Arnie one), ends pretty much the night of Conan’s victory over Thulsa Doom.  Finally, Conan has achieved his life’s ambition and killed the man who killed his mother and father and destroyed his people and took his father’s sword and stole his life and yada yada.  Victory!  But what happens then, do you reckon?  Does Conan go on a big celebratory bender for three days, laughing and singing and joyfully backslapping, then settle down happily to one of the cornucopia of new life options that have opened up, any one of which, surely, is far superior to brooding over the as-yet not-death of his arch-nemesis?

Perhaps you think so.  My guess is not.  My guess is Conan slumps into a navel-gazing melancholy tailspin, all the worse because he knows this is supposed to be great.  In fact if I recall correctly there’s a shot at the end of Conan sitting on the steps of Thulsa’s burning temple as night falls with his enemy’s corpse some way below, chin propped thoughtfully on his hand, staring into the distance.  Maybe he’s supposed to be thinking deep thoughts on the meaning of existence, but to me he’s thinking, ‘oh, great, what the shit am I going to do now?’

For the last year or two my arch enemy has been Red Country.  I don’t mind saying that this has been a tough book to write.  Not as tough as Best Served Cold, maybe, but close.  It has taken everything from me (alright it’s been hard work) and my every waking moment has been bent on its destruction (alright, its successful completion).  Now, it is over.  I have hacked its head from its quivering body and displayed it to the masses.  I’m stretching the metaphor, but work with me.  I’ll admit the corpse is still twitching a little, I’ll be reading over and doing a final pass on the language up until the end of July, proof read thereafter, but it’s copy edited and the version from which proofs will be made has been sent off to the publisher.  I’ve even done a rather amusing (if I say so myself) little extra for Waterstone’s hardback edition.  I’m actually starting to get happy with the book too, and a good deal earlier than I’d originally planned.  I mean, I’ll be happier when more people tell me how ace it is, but I’m no longer shitting my pants over whether it’ll work or not.  So I should be delighted.  I should finally feel free, like someone’s taken a rock off my neck.  I’ve been aiming at this moment like a buried miner crawling towards that chink of daylight, right?

But I’ve got to say I feel sore, stressed, narky, tetchy, depressed and directionless.  Some would say that’s about normal for me.  In which case, more so than normal.  Perhaps this is why I always say I’m going to take a break after the next book, then as soon as I finish, start on the next one.  Probably Conan takes a breath, thinks about it, then sharpens his sword and sets off happily to hunt down Thulsa Doom’s third cousin twice removed.  Didn’t he have something to do with it too?

Hmmm.  I think, for now, I will get mildly drunk, and play Red Dead Redemption.

Posted in process by Joe Abercrombie on July 9th, 2012.

49 comments so far

  • Roger says:

    Congratulations for having beaten the foe!

    I know that you feel empty, now. As if your whole life is purposeless and nothing but whisky competitions remain. But you have one thing that Conan had not. You have greater enemies to defeat!

    I hear a huge trilogy coming to town. They say it’s huge and merciless.

  • Lor says:

    Lou posted a pic earlier of the instructions she left you, you should follow those, they are wise words.

    Also congrats, finishing is the toughest part. And I’m sure we’ll all absolutely love it when it makes its way into our eager, grabby hands. Go treat yourself.

  • BC Woods says:

    I feel like this a lot lately.

    I’ve found that if it hurts to stand still the best thing to do is just never stop moving.

    Yesterday I got drunk and went kayaking. I was way too busy making sure I didn’t fall over and drown to think about how life is meaningless bullshit. And I sang all the songs from the Pippi Longstocking movie.

    You should try something like that.

  • DrBargle says:

    You find something similar when Olympic athletes are interviewed – they win, hurray! But, what now? Four years work, and now it is over.

    I did some research interviewing the people who sequenced the human genome – the ordinary technicians as well as the lead scientists, and it was a similar story for lots of them. A brief moment of celebration, and then a sense that they had lost their purpose – the thing that made them (and their work) special. It’s just not the same sequencing the genome of the zebra fish, no matter how important it might be scientifically.

  • Gary says:

    Hmm booze and video games. A great combo 🙂

    Have you considered a holiday, somewhere abroad for a couple of weeks? Can’t beat a nice old relaxing holiday, soaking up the sun, chilling by the pool etc. Although, I myself am also a parent so being able to relax on holiday is something that practically disappears when the little blighters come along, but you get my gist 😉

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Whenever I go on holiday I think – Yay! Finally I can get some work done!

    I’ve found that it hurts to stand.

    Dr. Bargle,
    Yeah, but olympic athletes are not in the kind of peak physical condition what I is in.

  • BC Woods says:

    Pretend to be the author from Misery and just crawl around your house and imagine that Kathy Bates is chasing you?

  • Tykh02 says:

    Mr. Abercombie,

    I can’t wait to get my hands on your new book. Now you’ve mentioned the Waterstones edition I think I’ll be ordering my copy from there! UK I hope :-/

    Oh how I wish Red Dead made it to the PC 🙁 A group of us were hoping to get together to, sadly, play poker and shoot cheaters.

  • Dogman'sBladder says:

    Your assessment is correct Joe, you need to write books 14 hours a day, seven days a week, without ever taking a break between them. That is the only way you will ever be happy, so with that said can we expect the next three books on your contract released in 2013? 🙂

  • Chad says:

    There’s that bastard Ninefingers to defeat. Go kick his ass (i.e., write some more about him). He’s laughing at you!

  • Sean says:

    Ok, if we are going to use Conan as a’s barbarian goes on to be king with a lot of bloodshed and wenching along the way!
    I’ve not played RDR, but, Skyrim’s great for stress relief!
    Can’t wait for your Canadian release, buddy!

  • I hear you. My last novel ras published two weeks ago. I am still directionless and depressed.

  • James says:

    Joe, send me a copy of the proof and I’ll cheerfully tell you how fracking ace it is. I can tell you lots of times if it helps. With a big, happy smile on my face.

  • Jason says:

    “Joe-nan, what is good in life?”

    “To conquer your book… to see it published for the world… and to hear the exultions of the readers!”

    *celebratory toasting*

  • Josh says:

    Awesome. Can’t wait to read it, Joe.

    If what you say holds any indication, the harder you fight to finish a book, the better it is.

    At least in my experience. I’ve had it reserved at amazon for a few months now.

    Now I’m just going to imagine you typing in those last few pages with this music playing in the background:

  • Kyle says:

    That kind of stress is evident that you take pride in your work and the reason you stand on a pedestal above other writers. I for one can’t wait to read it!!

  • Kevin says:

    I am selfishly pleased to hear how stressful it is for you to stop writing. Thanks for all your efforts, I have Red Country pre-ordered and can’t wait to read it.

  • Bryce says:

    It’s the ‘journey’ that’s important, the ‘end’ always a bit of a disappointment. Unless it involves dancing lesbians.

  • Joel Gates says:

    So do you get as nervous as I do when people read your stuff? It would seem impossible, because you are a kick ass writer. I recently had a book published and as soon as I realized people I know might actualy read it, I was scared to death!
    Drinking and gaming works for me too though.


  • Joel Gates says:

    Oh yeah…and what does Conan do after slaying his arch nemesis? My guess is he does go on a bender. Then he probably gets challenged by some other tough want to kill the guy who kill Thulsa Doom. Of course Conan kills that guy too. After enough of this, people hire him for killing and he’s always been fond of stealing so before long he goes from hero to thief/sword for hire and is probably not pleased with how he got there. So more drinking, stealing and killing ensue.

  • JonathanL says:

    I like works of fiction (and non, I suppose) that pay attention to that part of the story. Where yes, there’s a plot, but it follows what happens AFTER supposed victory. It’s what I like most about A Song of Ice and Fire – the story is almost as much about a story that played out twenty years earlier as it is about the current plotline, about what happened AFTER a rebellion succeeded.

    The mention of gymnasts makes me think of local source of pride Shawn Johnson, who did wonderfully in Beijing, came back, cashed out, and then realized she wanted to compete more – that her career had peaked at such a young age seemed unfathomable. So she started a comeback effort, though that has fallen short. Now she’s retired from the sport. Gotta find a new mountain to climb.

    So long as you’ve got a new mountain to climb, whether it’s more fiction or more comparisons of forms of alcohol, I’m sure I’ll be there for the blow-by-blow.

  • Al Harron says:

    It’s largely pointless to bring Howard’s Conan into a discussion of what Milius’ Conan would do, considering Howard’s Conan had nothing equivalent to Milius’ Conan’s lifelong search for revenge. His family and tribe weren’t wiped out, he was never sold into slavery, he was never stuck in pit fights or formally educated, and never embarked on a Quest To Find The Wizahd Who Keeled His Faddah. As such, Howard’s Conan would never experience this “then what?” feeling, since he would move on to do something – anything – else.

    When he tired of being a thief, he tried his hand as a mercenary. When the wars dried up, he became a pirate. When his ship and crew were lost, he joined a bandit tribe. When it was wiped out, he became a mercenary again, and so on, until eventually he became king. He didn’t engage in deep personal reflection like his predecessor Kull since the Cimmerian mind was prone to melancholy and “monstrous dreams,” which is probably why Conan drowned himself in wine, women and song.

  • ColinJ says:

    I remember not ‘getting’ the ending of CtB when I was a lad and being pretty disappointed. But now, older and smarter I really love it and think it’s an incrediby strong, gutsy way to leave the story. It gives you that “Well… what’s next?” feeling that most film-makers (Spielberg chief among them) just don’t have the nerve to do.

  • AntMac says:

    Congratulations. Huzzah huzzah huzzah!.

    Not long now till I get it, oboyoboyoboy!.

    I am worried about you feeling sad though. Maybe you should instantly start another one?[/greedy]

    Go fishing mate!.

  • Patrick89 says:

    Hey joe, why dont u start something getting your head free, like, lets say running? At some point theres nothing else in ya mind, except “one step after another, just one f…ing step more”. Works for me, though. As always, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us unworthy peasants 😉

  • Ranma says:

    Congratulations! I wish you to find even more happiness in starting a new book, even more challenging, and enjoying the hard work!

  • Chris says:

    I read recently that the anticipation of something is processed in a different area of the brain than the actual experiencing of something – hence why pretty much anything you’re really looking forward to is never that satisfying… therefore perhaps your alcohol and gaming plan is ideal, die treacherous brain cells!

  • Michael says:

    There was an interview with Ian Rankin at the Hay Festival where he described taking a year out after writing the last ever Rebus novel. He said he was so busy doing stuff during that year that he decided to go back and write another novel to claim his life back. Writing became almost a vacation in itself.

    As an aside Joe, what do you think of the decision to retire the man who made him a few quid (Rebus), which to my mind was brave and admirable, and to resurrect him a few years later. Is that a difficult thing to justify as an author?

  • Thomas says:

    Dear Joe
    Does the “little extra” stuff in the Waterstones edition also apply when ordered from their homepage and shipped overseas?

    Any chance of you ever writing a children´s book?

  • Idlewilder says:


    Do you know if the audiobook for A Red Country will be released at the same time as the book itself?

  • periklis says:

    Is this the link for the “extras”, Waterstones’, edition?

  • Xan Perillan says:

    Are you sure it´s a good idea to mention Conan? You´ll bring that “hollowed truths of our forefathers” guy screaming right back…although, after the initial wtf, he was good for a few laughs…

  • A-drain says:

    RDR was bomb. I had the wonderfull idea of putting a tied up woman on the train tracks a la a bad western and I was rewarded with an achievment. One of the best gaming moments.

    I feel your pain with the book. It’s like when people ask if you excited about your new baby. You say yes but really what you think is that mostly you’re tired, stressed, and bewildered. But time goes on and before you know it you’re excited that the little monster stopped shitting black goo.

    Congratulations on the hard work and the completion of another great book.

  • Phil Norris says:

    Ok, I’ve got it on pre-order with Amazon, does that one have the “something extra”?

  • BC Woods says:

    Hey Joe,

    I just wanted to pop in and say I hope it didn’t seem like I was belittling the funk you’re in the other day. Or aggrandizing it. I respect funk, but I know it’s never a good idea to assume anything about the levels or characteristics of someone else’s funk.

    Just wanted to let you know I’ve been stuck in that navel-gazing directionless place before. Not that I think it helps to know that necessarily, but it might. I understand that feeling of being chased by the Nothing from the Neverending Story with no sign of ET’s magic glowing finger of life and healing anywhere in sight. As silly as that is.

    So, I think you’re awesome for whatever that’s worth. And I hope you’re feeling better.

    Although, if you’re looking to get in shape, I’ve lost 80lbs literally running away from metaphorical darkness so far and it has a lot to be recommended for it.

  • Morgan says:

    Uh —

    After Conan slays Thulsa Doom he pitches a full boner and puts Thulsa’s head on his cock. Conan then proceeds to slay that little snake-cult, but unfortunately they had to cut that out of the movie due to time restraints.

  • AntMac says:


    Moving on . . .

    It occured to me to wonder, what did Churchill do after VJ day?.

    Then I looked and realised he had already been voted out of office. (ouch)

    So, no noble example for you there, eh?. 😛

  • You have our thanks, Mr. Abercrombie. I’d raise a glass too, but someone’s already emptied all the bottles.

  • Jacob says:

    The journey is more important than the destination, perhaps?

    Can’t wait to read the new one Joe. All the sweat, blood, tears, alcohol stains, burn marks, blood smears, and unmentionables shall finally pay off, eh?

    Or you can do what most authors do – Genre switch to the behest of your diehard fans. 🙂

  • Muzza says:

    Great work Joe

    We were talking about the exact same thing at our CrossFit gym the other day.

    You spend months training to beat a PB on your olympic or power lifts. Success! You do it! So you decide to have a go for a few kilos more…and miss the lift.

    All you can think about is the missed lift and not the massive success. Weird.

    So you also end up hunting down Tulsa Doom’s 13th cousin…bump into Conan and end up on the drinkl wiht him moaning about your missed lift.

  • Heather says:

    Next step solved. Clearly you were watching the wrong movie:

    “Inigo Montoya: Is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.

    Westley: Have you ever considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts. ”

    Have fun on the high seas, Joe. We’ll be watching for you!

  • James Webster says:

    Another question on the little extra… why the favouritism? As an exclusive ebook reader, am I going to be left out, just because I have abandoned the dead tree format?

    Or will Waterstones be selling an appropriate epub edition with said extra included?

    Love the UK cover, by the way.

  • Yulwei says:

    If you’re wandering what to write next I wouldn’t be opposed to a story set in the South exploring the mystery that is Khalul and his theocracy and catching up with the dread Ferro.

    That being said relax and take it easy you’re cranking out books a lot faster than many writers so if you took a year off you wouldn’t have a mob of angry fans at your door

  • Travis says:

    Allow me to join my voice with those clamoring for more knowledge about this “something extra”.

  • Erik says:

    after the long intro about Conan I thought you were going to segue way into writing a Conan novel after the completion of Red Country. that would be ACE!

  • Peter says:

    Congrats, Joe! And that’s a great point. Crap. Now I need to re-watch Conan the Barbarian…

    Also, you should totally find yourself an Iron Throne prop, then do the Conan pose while seated in that. 😀

  • slayerformayor says:

    Um…excuse me…but after the events in Conan the Barbarian, Conan teams up with Tracy Walter, Mako, and Grace Jones to stop Andre the Giant from destroying the world.

    Pfff…gahl! **Adjusts monocle**

  • Liz Parkin says:

    Hi, whatever you do next, please could you involve Glotka as for some reason I have developed a soft spot for him.

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *