Adam Roberts's Blog

December 18, 2014



... in a more-literal sense than is usually implied by these sorts of headlines.


1. Bête, a novel: it's the best of me. £6.49 on Kindle; still some hardcover copies left in stock (pricier, but makes a better gift. Look at that cover art! I mean, obviously I can't claim any credit for the cover art. But you have to agree: it is a thing of beauty).


2. Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea, a novel. Gorgeously illustrated by the sublime Mahendra Singh. A piffling £5.49 on Kindle; only four hardcover copies left anywhere in the world. What are you waiting for?


3. Sibilant Fricative, a collection of essays and reviews. I believe that all hardcopies of this title are sold now; so it's Kindle only: but at £3.42 it's a steal. (Many of the pieces in that volume first appeared on my Punkadiddle blog; but I've taken that blog down now, so if you want to read those pieces you gotta buy the book. Cunning, no?)


4. Get Started in: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy (Teach Yourself: Writing). Freshly published!


5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (Edinburgh University Press). The first new edition since 1983 of this foundational classic of literary criticism; all annotation loose-ends tied up, new facts about the tortured compositional history of the book uncovered, 200-pages of introductory matter. And an eye-wateringly expensive price. What you gonna do? Academic publishing is a strange thing.


6. Landor's Cleanness (Oxford University Press). The best critical monograph on Walter Savage Landor available! Well, strictly speaking, the only critical monograph on Walter Savage Landor available. But that's still something.


---

A: So. That's a lot of books.

R: It is.

A: For one year, I mean.

R: Well, it's not quite as Stakhanovite as it may, at first blush, appear. It's more a reflection of the exigencies of publishing, or more specifically of different kinds of publishing.

A: How so?

R: Well: take the two academic titles. Landor's Cleanness was written 2011-12, and OUP decided they wanted to publish it towards the end of that latter year. If it's taken until October 2014, that's partly because the wheels of academic publish grind slow. The Biographia Edition was also mostly finished by the end of 2012; and revised and readied for the press in 2013. Of all the titles in the photo above it was the one that took the most labour, partly because compiling it and writing the intro was just a laborious business, and partly because the proofing was an immensely painstaking matter. It's a scholarly edition of a classic of English letters; I had to get the text right.

A: Still!

R: Well, except that my day-job is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, and pursuing research of this kind (Coleridge, Landor) is a large part of that job. Those two titles represent the main focus of my Professorial energies for nearly four years; that they both happen to appear within months of one another is just a coincidence.

A: And the Sibilant Fricative thingy?

R: Again: it's a collection of essays and reviews written over a five year period (indeed a couple of the pieces are even older than that). The labour was in pulling them together, and in that task I was aided by the mighty Ian Whates.

A: Two novels though!

R: That's a little anomalous. I don't usually publish two novels in one year! What happened is that Twenty Trillion was originally slated to appear in late 2013, but got bumped back (in the event I didn't publish a novel in 2013). Bête is the novel I'm conscious of having been writing 2013-14, and it was trickier to write than most of my fiction. Chris Priest called it 'sluttishly freeform', which (I confess) rather pleased me, in part because it means I was able to bury what might otherwise have been too procrustean a substructure (to do with riddles, Sophocles, St John, Mythago Wood, Ted Hughes and a couple of other things).

A: So will there be two novels from you in 2015?

R: As if.

A: And the Get Started In?

R: That was a commission. Being a professional writer means taking commissions seriously (provided only that they are serious commissions; as this was), and therefore finding the time to write them, to spec and as well as you can.

A: So!

R: So.

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Published on December 18, 2014 00:17 • 16 views

October 1, 2014


That most excellent critic Niall Alexander has reviewed Bête (in slightly spoilery mode) over at Tor.com. Snip: "This, then, is not some novelty novel, but a fully-fledged philosophical fable for our age. Affectionate albeit barbed, far-fetched yet oddly plausible, and dark, but not without a certain spark, Bête is as smart and as satisfying and as challenging as anything any of the Adam Robertses have written."

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Published on October 01, 2014 09:32 • 17 views

September 19, 2014

Very nice.


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Published on September 19, 2014 10:33 • 15 views

September 18, 2014

... and it's a doozy. The last three paragraphs:


"Graham, as narrator, is a character we can all identify with, a man who knows his flaws and accepts them as part of who he is. It’s a pleasure to read about him and, thanks to the skills of the author, we’re immersed in his journey rather than simply being told about it. There are moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, yet when Graham feels pain, we feel it too; when he hurts, we hurt along with him, to the point of sharing his sadness. Be warned – there may be tears.


As the novel progresses, society inevitably alters and adapts to the new animal intelligences and, while it’s all very believable, it’s not necessarily in the way the reader would expect. Ultimately, because Bête is about this one man, it’s all seen through his eyes; it feels post-apocalyptic at times until being reminded that society, however different, still exists.


The greatest science fiction novels take into account the changes on the people affected by the advances in technology, and Bête ranks with the best of them. What could have been just quirky and satirical – it is both – becomes so much more through intelligent writing that takes the reader through a whole range of emotions. Bête is a wonderful book that, once begun, insists on being read in one sitting; darkly comic, it’s a deeply thoughtful, moving and uplifting story from a master of the genre."

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Published on September 18, 2014 11:31 • 8 views

... and it's a doozy. The last three paragraphs:


"Graham, as narrator, is a character we can all identify with, a man who knows his flaws and accepts them as part of who he is. It’s a pleasure to read about him and, thanks to the skills of the author, we’re immersed in his journey rather than simply being told about it. There are moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, yet when Graham feels pain, we feel it too; when he hurts, we hurt along with him, to the point of sharing his sadness. Be warned – there may be tears.


As the novel progresses, society inevitably alters and adapts to the new animal intelligences and, while it’s all very believable, it’s not necessarily in the way the reader would expect. Ultimately, because Bête is about this one man, it’s all seen through his eyes; it feels post-apocalyptic at times until being reminded that society, however different, still exists.


The greatest science fiction novels take into account the changes on the people affected by the advances in technology, and Bête ranks with the best of them. What could have been just quirky and satirical – it is both – becomes so much more through intelligent writing that takes the reader through a whole range of emotions. Bête is a wonderful book that, once begun, insists on being read in one sitting; darkly comic, it’s a deeply thoughtful, moving and uplifting story from a master of the genre."

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Published on September 18, 2014 11:31 • 11 views

September 17, 2014



Jon Courtenay Grimwood: four and a half stars. I'm delighted; Jon is one of the most astute critics (quite apart from being one of the best writers) of his generation. Over on twitter he said: "pretty sure I said where Professor Roberts and Adam Roberts meet. Certainly meant it." My cup runneth over.

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Published on September 17, 2014 06:19 • 15 views

September 13, 2014


It's always a slightly nerve-wracking time, immediately before and immediately after a novel comes out. Reviews are posted. And must be read. Inevitably, every time you read a new review your heart glollops a bit with fear (after all: maybe this one will be the one that utterly cremates your writing and crushes your butterfly-fluttering soul). Luckily for me, this The List notice of Bête (the first review of the book I've seen) is not too negative:


Imagine if your food could talk back to you? That’s the extremely high-concept opener much-decorated sci-fi author and academic Adam Roberts plays with in his latest novel, opening on a bizarre but starkly amusing sequence in which a cow tries to reason with the farmer who’s about to fire a bolt into its head. By page three he’s already quoting The Smiths’ ‘Meat is Murder’ to him, and the farmer’s almost spurred to fire just for that.

The conceit in this instance is that many of the world’s animals have been ‘chipped’ in order to allow them to speak as normal humans do. Roberts’ prose is intricate and rich in scientific language and explanation, but it’s also dryly funny and on-the-nose when it wants to be, making this book about so much more than a quirky sci-fi concept. Like the best speculative work it unpeels greater themes, from the morality of AI to humanity’s relationship with its food sources, and also what the very act of possessing language and expression does to our minds.


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Published on September 13, 2014 08:31 • 16 views

September 8, 2014

This meme was circulating on Facebook, and I succumbed: ten books that have 'stayed with me', or had a particularly shaping influence upon me. I'm copying my answers across to here too. The strange thing was, almost as soon as I posted this list to FB I felt (as I noted in the comments, there) 'more than a little nervous, actually. Posting this feels -- weirdly exposing. Like I've given away the key to my soul. Perhaps I should delete it.' Of course, this unease was a sort of optical illusion. Nobody else cares enough about my choice of books for said choice to leave me, in any way, vulnerable. That was the feeling, though. Odd, no?


So! 10 books that had a properly shaping influence upon me. Since this is about forming me and my taste the list is going to skew adolescent, and accordingly more than a little gauche. Nothing to be ashamed of, that, in and of itself; although it's a bit worrying how male my key texts all used to be. Anyway: here we go.


1. Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are. One of my holy books.


2. Tintin. I'd tag the whole of Hergé's output if I were allowed (and who's to say I'm not allowed? You? YOU'RE not the boss of me.) But if I'm not allowed, I'd settle for the two moon mission books. I havered between choosing this and choosing the two Lewis Carroll Alice books, which, in some sense, occupy a similar picture/text place in my imagination's storeroom.


3. The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings. One novel, you know.


4. Tennyson's 1832 Poems -- this began with falling deeply for 'Mariana', mediated through a profound reaction to Millais painting of the same name; but it lead quickly through into all his other early lyrics. The Lotos Eaters! Ah, The Lotos Eaters.


5. Macbeth. [MACBETH? Argh! Hot-potato-orchestra-stalls-Puck-will-make-amends. *tweaks nose*] This was my O-level Shakespeare; the tomorrow-and-tomorrow speech still has the power to lift the tiny hairs at the back of my neck. Not my favourite Shakespeare any more, but the most shaping and influential of his plays on my *coughs* development.


6. Robert Graves The White Goddess.


7. Nabokov, Pnin. "Lolita" is probably a better novel, and Pale Fire certainly a cleverer one, but Pnin is the most moving, as well as the funniest. It also contained some of Nabokov's best prose. It's also short. I read my Dad's old penguin copy. If I weren't allowed Pnin I'd choose "Signs and Symbols", my single favourite ever short story.


8. Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London. I was a suburban middle-class kid, and material deprivation was a purely notional matter in my life. This book made poverty real to me, imaginatively, and changed the way I saw the world. I could fold Nineteen Eighty-Four in here, too.


9. Dickens. I'm tempted to mention either Little Dorrit or Our Mutual Friend, as they are now my two favourite Dickenses. Dickensseses. But the fact is, it was reading Dombey and Son, and more particularly the chapters detailing little Paul's decline and death, that first took the top of my head off. I remember reading it mouth open at the sheer skill of the writing.


10. Roald Dahl, "A Piece of Cake". This is a tricky one, really: I read Dahl's kid's writing, of course; everyone read it when I was growing up. It was almost compulsory. And there was a TV series made of his adult 'tales of the unexpected' short stories, which was also pretty popular. But this one short story was in a different category: a brief, autobiographical piece about him flying a Gloster Gladiator over the desert, crashing it and waking up in hospital with his burns all bandaged. I remember reading it as an early teenager, for no real reason, just because I chanced upon the paperback. It had the most profound effect upon me. I'm not sure I could diagnose why, or how: it's not a twist-in-the-tale piece, or a sample of his grotesque monstrous inventiveness. Indeed, it's rather oblique. Nor was I particularly interested in world war 2, or the RAF, or flying or anything like that. But the plain fact is: before I read it I had no ambitions to be a writer (I wanted, in point of fact, to make animated cartoons). Then I read it. And after I had read it I wanted to be a writer. Simple as that. Perhaps it had to do with its obliqueness, or its queer reticent potency: it struck me very forceably at a very deep level and I couldn't see how it had done so. At any rate, something vast shifted about inside me as with the motion of great waters, and I wanted to be a writer. Which is, now, what I am.


No science fiction? I know! And I read SF obsessively as a teenager (as I still do). Le Guin would be the eleventh title: The Dispossessed most likely. Though I also loved Earthsea.

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Published on September 08, 2014 01:56 • 13 views

September 4, 2014

I'm extremely excited by this ... you can tell, by the ellipses ... these are the ellipses of an excited author ...


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Published on September 04, 2014 02:53 • 17 views

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