Scott Lynch's Blog
March 30, 2013
Yep, that’s who’s scruffy-lookin’.
I am at Minicon 48 this weekend, along with my girlfriend, the lovely and talented Elizabeth Bear. We’re reading on Sunday, Bear at 12:00 PM and Lynch at 1:00 PM, in Veranda 1/2.
The Republic of Thieves continues to speed on its way toward its destiny; my editors on both sides of the Atlantic are pretty pleased, and with just a few adjustments, the book will be going to copyedit. I do not have any news at this time about a timetable for audio versions or releases in other countries, but as soon as I get any scraps of concrete info over the next few months I’ll shout ‘em.
There is more news coming soon, but for now I can at least say that the official launch-day signing event (and party) for The Republic of Thieves will be held at Pandemonium Books in Boston, from 7-9 PM on Tuesday, October 8th. Bear and I will both be there!
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
March 18, 2013
Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you now know that the semi-mythical beast known as The Republic of Thieves has at last been captured in the wild and given official release dates: October 8th in the US and October 10th in the UK. You can read the Gollancz announcement here and the Del Rey Spectra announcement here!
So what’s the deal with all the wacky release dates we’ve seen over the years?
They were more or less artifacts of bookseller databases. Basically, if a book is going to be available for pre-order, it needs to have a release date attached, any release date, even a ludicrous or fictional one. That release date kept shifting as the book kept failing to appear. Eventually, my publishers stopped even consulting tea leaves and the projected dates became still-more loosely tethered to reality. Add inertia and hearsay to the mix (some sites continued to post long-outdated fictional dates, others falsely reported that the book had been published) and you have the ingredients for a gigantic confusion pie.
And how do we know this release date is the real one?
I have Tweeted several times that I would vouch for no release date until I formally shouted it, myself, from the ramparts of my own blog and other social media. This is me shouting from the ramparts. October, 2013 is not a random guess from some poor sod behind a database. My publishers in New York and London hold a revised version of the complete manuscript that pleases them both; with that in hand to work from they have set forth a release date that is not a mere prayer of hope muttered over an empty cocktail glass. In short, to prevent the release of this book, you must now obliterate the planet Earth. Good luck with that.
What about release dates in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, etc.?
I do not have that information at my fingertips, but as I acquire it I’m going to try to set up some sort of central repository of known availability dates.
Now, the next few items are mild spoilers, so if you’re the sort of person who wants to preserve as much of the surprise as you can, skip the rest of this entry until mid-October.
When does The Republic of Thieves pick up chronologically?
The “present day” thread resumes the story a few weeks after the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies. The flashback thread shows several episodes from Locke’s early years, and then a long adventure from when Locke, Jean, and Sabetha were about sixteen.
So Sabetha is actually in this thing?
Yes, Sabetha Belacoros is finally revealed in person for the first time and is a major character in The Republic of Thieves.
Do we find out more about the Bondsmagi?
The Bondsmagi are fairly integral to the plot. We meet several more of them and explore their home city of Karthain.
What else would you say to tempt us without spoiling?
Well, you’ll get to spend more time with Calo and Galdo Sanza, as well as Father Chains, and there are cameo appearances by a few other familiar faces from The Lies of Locke Lamora. You’ll find out how Locke and Sabetha met (you can read it right now, in fact). You’ll witness the very awkward teenage years of the Gentlemen Bastards. You’ll find out more about the customs of the hidden religion of the Crooked Warden. You’ll see Locke and Sabetha deploying the full panoply of their skills, against one another and against the world. You’ll discover who brought proper coffee-making to Therin society, and you’ll learn vital elements of crossbow safety!
Now that TRoT is in the bag, what are you doing?
My immediate project is to refinish a novella (another long overdue project) called The Mad Baron’s Mechanical Attic, which will be published by Subterranean Press.
Although TMBMA and its companion, The Choir of Knives, were conceived as prequels to The Lies of Locke Lamora, I have decided after lengthy reflection that I’m not willing to contribute another inessential prequel to our society’s towering heap of the damn things. Although I think TMBMA is a fun story with a great cast and setting, it ultimately revealed nothing surprising about Locke and Jean’s history and it stretched the boundaries of what I consider acceptable retconning. I have come to believe that prequels should cast some accepted facts of their universes in a new light, and I just didn’t have anything up my sleeve in that department.
What I am deeply interested in, however, is the further adventures of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen now that I’ve recovered something of my ability to push them forward. Thus, I am retooling these novellas as a bridge story between the events of The Republic of Thieves and The Thorn of Emberlain, one that is entirely optional but hopefully enriching.
After that, I will resume work on The Thorn of Emberlain, already in progress.
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
September 14, 2012
At this time, I am declaring Operation Steve and Emma to be a resounding success; thanks to your astounding generosity (and to the fact that those two have spent decades engendering warm feelings across the planet), I think they’re now as taken care of as they can be. Both are recovering from their surgeries, and have useful bulwarks against lost time, unforeseen disasters, and un-fun complications. I’m also stuck coughing up the complete list of incentives I offered.
And so, I’m turning the beam of Whatever This Not-A-Kickstarter Thing I’m Doing is on someone else. For the future, unless any sudden new emergencies erupt and need to be dealt with, (come on, writers, just quit having mortal frailties already) the 2/3 of QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS donation income I give away will be going to lend a hand to Jay Lake.
As Jay has recently discussed quite nakedly on his own blogs, he’s currently in his third go-round with his virulent, recurring, simply-will-not-take-the-hint liver cancer. Jay has recorded, in excruciating detail, all the long physical and emotional struggles of his previous surgery and chemotherapy regimens, which have stolen his life for months at a time but not yet shut him up for good. If there’s anybody on earth who’s a Goddamn Cancer Professional, it’s Jay. Chuck Norris desperately wishes that his facts could be anywhere near as bad-ass as Jay Lake Facts:
Jay is trying to be level-headed and pragmatic in his pronouncements, but he says the math is clear… his mortality horizon is likely creeping into a single-digit number of years, and it’s not a big number. And that’s with a significant amount of remaining time being stolen, as before, by the hardships of treatment.
Jay has always worked hard to keep his financial house in good order, but the next few years are going to kick the shit out of much of what he’s worked for. Jay’s got to deal with providing for his teenage daughter, his treatment, his legal and estate expenses… and all of us want to see him claw enough time from this goddamn illness to write at least a few more things, and drop by at least a few more cons.
So know, if you leave a tip in Violet’s tip jar, that that’s where most of it is going for the foreseeable future. Jay’s new round of chemotherapy starts on September 21, one week from this writing. And if you’ve ever appreciated his work or enjoyed his company, let me gently stress that the time to send him notes and good wishes is sooner rather than later.
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
What a week or two it’s been. Technology has made me its chew toy several times over, and I’ve been smacked in the face by piping-hot anxiety attacks fresh from the neurological oven. On the bright side, I survived my first Worldcon and my girlfriend walked away with her third Hugo award. She’s now here in Wisconsin for a few weeks, and is essentially the reason I’m still coherent and functional.
I’ve been organizing the house and packing things, since I expect to leave this place before November (total distance of my intended move is about one mile, nothing dramatic), and I keep stumbling over the detritus and evidence of my ex-marriage in the goddamnedest places. The mementos of a 12-year relationship simply get everywhere, like fine volcanic ash. My reaction has been variable. Sometimes it feels like those things happened to another person entirely and sometimes it feels as though they happened five minutes ago. The scribbles on one envelope recognizably belong to the woman who left me in 2010; the writing on the very next piece of paper just as clearly belongs to the girl I fell in love with in 1998. Throwing them in the same box feels disrespectful to one or the other; I can never figure out which, and I never want to think about how long I’ve held these crumpled old things poised above the box while trying to decide… fuck it, sigh, mumble, sigh some more, into the box they both go. Into the hermetic memory vault I’m sealing up for Eventually Whenever. A little present tucked away in a corner of the TARDIS for some future regeneration to stumble over and curse me for. That’s the way it works. I had to clean up the mess the last guy made of this place. Future Me can figure out what to do with the papers.
In happier news, there is more Violet. QUEEN OF THE IRON SANDS continues with the second part (of three) of Chapter 8: Across Savage Mars. I hope to get the last third, the longest bit by far, up some time this weekend. E-Book making is frustrating at the moment, but good old HTML and RTF are so simple even a clusterdunce like me can reliably tame them.
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
August 25, 2012
I’ll be on three panels, as well as attending the Hugo Awards ceremony. This will be my first Worldcon. My panels are:
Friday, August 31
VIOLENCE IN FANTASY
10:30 AM, Wright: Silver West
The use and misuse of violence in SF and fantasy. How much is too much?
Saturday, September 1
WHY FANTASY DOMINATES SCIENCE FICTION
10:30 AM, Grand Suite 3: Gold East
How and why did fantasy emerge as the dominant commercial and literary force in the genre? Where did science fiction lose its way, in terms of attracting and keeping its share of the fans? What can written SF learn from motion pictures and television, and vice versa? What can SF learn from the more successful fantasy works?
DISASTER RESPONSE IN SF
7:30 PM, Gold Coast: Bronze West
Apocalyptic natural disasters, hungry zombies, devastating plagues. These are all mainstays of SF&F stories. The federal government has real National Incident Management System (NIMS) for dealing with them. How would NIMS react to some science fictional scenarios? What would the response look like?
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
August 24, 2012
I’m back home in Wisconsin, and more or less well, and upright and functional again after getting savagely whiplashed by that damned virus I brought with me… chills! Shaking fits! Lassitude! Sweating fits! Major stomach upset! Everything but a chestburster. Not quite the begging-for-death spectacle that H1N1 was a few years back (imagine a weekend in which approximately 20 pounds of sweat jet from every pore in your body, like you’re some sort of water porcupine). Nor the pneumonia that made my 2006 UK book tour such a joy for everyone. Nor the binary clusterfuck that resulted when I returned from my 2010 UK visit with a nasty flu, and neglected to refill my antidepressant prescription for… a truly stupid length of time. But this thing made a solid fourth-place showing in the Pathogen Olympics.
From the Department of More Gooder News: I did manage to see both Emma and Steve at lunch last week before I was confined to sick bay, and I dispersed to them their shares of your generosity that had poured in by that point (I expect to see them again after Worldcon). Emma was on her feet again post-surgery, with a fetching bandana covering her Sweeney Todd-esque surgery souvenir.
Steve had his own surgery two days ago; by all reports it too went well, and he’s back at home, tweeting and chafing under his post-op instructions, which appear to be “don’t have any fucking fun for two weeks or you will explode.”
Now, thanks to several ludicrously generous donations of late, we are PAST the $4,000 mark, and thus past the point where I owe you the crown jewel of your faux-Kickstarter “prizes.” Oh, you poor creatures. I am still hard at work on the bigger QotIS e-book, having set myself a bit backwards while attempting to work on it while I was still sick and feverish. I have, however, had a long dance with a scanner.
Context! When I was a teenager, I suffered from the delusion that I was going to grow up to be a comic book self-publisher. In those long-ago pre-ebook days, self-publishing went through a sort of mini-golden age wherein all kinds of hip, quirky, niche-hunting stuff that had no chance in hell at any major publisher managed to flourish, or at least bob gamely a few times before sinking. It seemed like genuinely important battles over creators’ rights were being fought before my eyes, month by month, in letter columns and at summits and conventions in exotic places like Everywhere Else But Where I Lived. I wanted to be Dave Sim when I grew up… in those amazing times before he went catastrophically bugfuck nuts, he was my honest-to-god hero.
My collection included Cerebus, True Swamp, Wandering Star, Stray Bullets, Bone, Rare Bit Fiends, Starchild, Strange Attractors, Hepcats, Poison Elves, A Distant Soil, and similar charming weirdness. Said collection, by the way, was stolen in 2000 (whether the thief was expecting pristine Wizard magazine price list investment fodder, or just happened to have randomly exquisite taste in comics, I’ll never know).
Anyhow, there I was, dreaming of a future writing and drawing until my spine snapped in half. Fortunately for myself, and for everyone spared an opportunity to read the stuff I planned, I lacked the discipline to take my illustration past a certain plateau. The following sketches in a 10 x 15 pad still survive; I adjusted the scans a bit in Photoshop to make the pencil work as clear as possible. Thumbnails link to larger versions.
1. Cover sketch for Orbison the Alien, 1994-1995
Orbison was intended to be my first foray into self-publishing, a four-issue limited series about an alien broadcast monitor who crashed his personal saucer on Earth and was forced to scrounge up temp work, attempting to communicate using the limited patois of pop culture references he’d gathered from scanning our TV channels. If it sounds like a one-joke concept, that’s ’cause it was. I planned to write, draw, and publish this during my senior year of high school, and by providence I discovered roleplaying games instead. Which was amazing luck… even if I had managed to create the pages, any attempt by me to run a business at that point would have been raw atomic failure.
2. Concept sketch for The Mutt, early 1995
The Mutt was the project I intended to follow Orbison with, a seven-issue science fiction series based on the dumbest premise ever… well, surely a dumbest premise ever. But it did feature a moderately cool alien species obviously based on Velociratpr/Deinonychus. I called ‘em the Chensakau (and later adjusted that to the more poetic Chensathra). The influence of David Brin’s Uplift universe on this project was extreme.
3. Chensakau cybernetic combat skeleton concept, 1995
The Chensakau were intended to be a cybernetics-happy species, for a very Cyberpunk 2020 value of ‘cybernetics.’ Their elite royal commando formation, the Giirdaan Regiment, were augmented to ludicrous extremes. You can see from this conceptual sketch of a cybernetic skeleton replacement that I had no real grasp of concepts like “surgically feasible” and “guaranteed death on the operating table.” I mean, damn. Poor space reptiles. “Now comes the part of the operation where we hold your brain very, very gently while we replace your entire skull all at once. This is why you earn your hazard pay, lizard marine!”
I must give my dumbass teenage self a tiny bit of credit, and admit that there are perhaps less cool things in the universe than the notion of hundreds of cybernetic velociraptors pouring across a landscape with laser guns in hand and grenade launchers sticking out of their spines.
4. Chensakau architectural concept, 1995
The original caption, which didn’t fit into the scan, read: “The Imperial Tower, 15,000 feet high. Home of the Empress on the Chensakau Homeworld.” I was aiming for a bio/mechanical hybrid aesthetic, buildings that looked almost grown, studded with technological features and surfaces. This is a concept I’ll revisit at some point, in a story that makes sense.
5. Extraterrestrial dinner conversation, 1995
I’m not sure if the diner on the left was meant to be a Chensakau, or just a variation on a theme. Another major influence on me all those years ago was Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials, an extraordinary work created by a genuine artist when he was just a couple years older than the Scott that produced these sketches.
6. Embarrassing Cyberspace Trilogy Fan Art, 1995
A third major artistic lodestone in my teenage years was cyberpunk, particularly the earlier work of William Gibson and the goofily lovable CP 2020 roleplaying game. This, I think, must have started out as a sketch of one of my characters; by adding MAAS-NEOTEK to his t-shirt I suppose I transmogrified it to Gibson fanart. And doesn’t the woman in the background look thrilled to be there?
More to come…
Mirrored from Lynch Industries.
August 2, 2012
I am absolutely going to continue reading LJ, routinely logging in, and surveying my friends list. But henceforth, my primary blogging will be at:
P.S. Most of the relevant stuff there will be mirrored here.
P.P.S. I am going to close down my Dreamwidth account, which I never found an easy way to deal with.
May 21, 2012
It's been a while since I bored into a book like a hopped-up literary woodpecker, so here's some brain spillage originally written last year and never posted.
Left: "Black Destroyer," 1939
Right: Current edition from Orb Books.
Hot jets, Kinnison! What a jaunt in the way-back machine this is. I first became aware of The Voyage of the Space Beagle via Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials as a kid, and once again waited a mere two decades before reading the source material. At this rate, I'll have all of my seventh-grade math homework turned in by December, 2013.
Voyage is a 1950 fix-up of four previously published short stories, forming a loosely chronological account of the titular Space Beagle's multi-year exploration beyond the confines of the Milky Way. Its thousand-man crew, chemically castrated for the duration to keep their minds firmly on Doing Science, is preyed upon by a series of increasingly dangerous creatures, and must also deal with internal pressures, scientific disputes, and a case of dreaded SPACE MADNESS.
The Voyage of the Space Beagle was influential as all hell, out of proportion to what's actually on the page. Philip K. Dick claimed van Vogt as a major influence; so did Harlan Ellison. You can see it here, a distinct flavor that was carried into Ellison's early SF work. You can also see this book's profound effect on Star Trek, with its strange planets, predatory aliens, and mysterious threats to the ship. Van Vogt even took legal action against the producers of the 1979 movie Alien, a suit that was settled out of court, based on arguable similarities between xenomorphs and his own egg-implanting Ixtl.
Voyage is an affable relic of the Big Science Done Big era of SF. The ship jaunts about at hyperluminary speeds, courtesy of Whoosh-Zoom engines powered by authorial whim. There are all the expected toys... gigantic heat-rays, semi-portable atomic furnaces, visiplates, vibrator guns. It has the same ludicrous-but-lovable feel of Doc Smith's Lensmen series, where scientific progress is almost always just a matter of dumping more power into a bigger thingamajig (if you yelled "BUS BARS!" just now, bless you).
What it isn't, curiously enough, is a true log of a voyage and its voyagers. The episodic nature of the story would be less stark if there were some context provided, some glimpse of home, some notion of how the Space Beagle compares to anything else humanity is doing. Exploring vacuum in a vacuum is not as interesting as it could be. No real narrative integument was provided when these short stories were stitched into the vague shape of a novel.
Also, the real heart of the book, for which the voyage is merely a framing device, is how an advanced interdisciplinary approach to the sciences called Nexialism proves the best solution to each of the Beagle's challenges when the more stratified and traditional sciences allegedly fall short of the big picture. This is all well and good as far as hobbyhorses go, but it would have helped the story if some of the solutions implemented to fend off each alien attack weren't so conveniently dim-witted.
For example, in the novel's first major incident, adapted from the short story "Black Destroyer," a panther-like creature called coeurl feigns harmlessness to get aboard the Beagle. Coeurl is actually a ravenous, ultra-strong, life-draining predator, with the ability to detect and manipulate energy using whisker-like appendages. It can neutralize the deadly force of human weapons, a fact the humans realize once the thing is on the loose and killing people. So, when coeurl (constantly referred to by the men as "pussy")* locks itself in the Beagle's engine spaces, what do they do? Do they even attempt to poison it? To asphyxiate it? Nope. They wheel out their gigantic heat-ray projectors and start melting their way into the engine room.
Yes. To deal with an energy-manipulating creature, they hurl more energy at it! While it's mucking with the ship's engines, no less. The Beagle is described as having a truly impressive workshop capacity, but even so, you'd think the notion of blasting apart your own engine compartment when your ship is thousands of light-centuries from home would give sober and non-libidinous men pause. What do they expect to do if they melt their propulsion center, break out the oars?
There is also a puzzlingly gimlet-eyed overuse of purely speculative social science (though van Vogt deserves props for making his social scientist, Korita, Japanese in a time when the Japanese were not exactly sympathetically portrayed in much American media). Korita is constantly brought on stage to speculate on the social structure and cultural foibles of the singular aliens the Beagle encounters, always in the complete absence of any shred of context or evidence. Yet Korita is made to accurately diagnose potential weaknesses in the hearts and minds of these creatures (nobody even brings up the possibility that these entities might be outcast or atypical) This ain't science, even in a context that generously allows for atomic rayguns and Whoosh-Zoom engines. It's bullshit without a scaffold.
Despite this, The Voyage of the Space Beagle still moves smoothly across the eyeballs in a way too many of its contemporaries couldn't aspire to even when they were fresh. It's reasonable and penetrable fun; penetrable, perhaps, because it had such a hand in defining a certain geometry of space opera still quite familiar to us decades later.
Damon Knight was often criticized for his perceived harshness toward van Vogt's work, but I think Knight judged fairly in 1950 when he wrote: "...this department's thesis on van Vogt is (a) that the man has a very respectable talent as a writer, and (b) that he consistently misuses it." Van Vogt operated energetically in both the thoughtful and thoughtless modes of invention, and if he fell short of constructing mature narratives, at least he had the ability to occasionally evoke real feelings of mystery and awe.
*It is an exceptionally juvenile cheap shot, I admit, but it's difficult to keep a straight face at frequent reference to how the voyagers "beat pussy" and "chased pussy off the ship." They're two million light-years from the nearest woman and drenched in libido-deadening drugs; no shit they chased pussy off the ship.
May 18, 2012
This isn't "a sense of entitlement" issue. When did the notion of not bending over for masochistic random aggravation in the course of our amusements become suspect? My copy of Skyrim doesn't jump out of my XBox 360 every time someone at Bethesda accidentally nudges a server. The Amber novel I was reading last night didn't burst into flames if I ceased to maintain psychic contact with Roger Zelazny's ghost. You say you've got a game that offers all the technological aggravations of an MMO, all the time, even when I'm not receiving any of the benefits? I say that makes my bookshelves look even more attractive than usual. En Taro Adun, Blizzard. For the first time since 1995, I'm watching one of your trains pull out of the station without me on it.
Hey, that girl I like, booksmith extraordinaire Elizabeth Bear, has another delightful thingy freshly available. It, too, will not become unreadable when your internet connection goes down.
Bear and I will be at WisCon 36 next weekend! I am not doing any panels or formal events (save for the mass signing thingy on Monday), but I have volunteered to be a dutiful bar-gnome at the CHICKS DIG COMICS launch party, in room 634 from 9 PM Saturday until Jesus-It's-Late-AM Sunday.
Also: CHICKS DIG COMICS. Buy one. Read it. Use it to swat people who don't fucking get the picture. Just don't aim for their heads; the skulls are usually too thick for physical attacks to have any effect.
At said WisCon, I will be handing over some papers to the awesome Lynne Thomas, and thereby taking my first step into the dark recesses of the SFWA Collection at Northern Illinois State University. It will not be a terribly exciting archive at first, but NIU will be the place to go in the future if you're a scholar wishing to be thoroughly bored by my manuscripts, juvenilia, and detritus.
This is the first year in which I'm going to be attending a Worldcon, and also the first year in which I'm going to be voting on the Hugos. Much of that near-future time I'm not spending swearing at my internet connection will be spent dutifully reading the voters' packet material, which just became available.
I am thoroughly impressed with just how quickly the more egregiously, obviously comprehension-challenged responses to John Scalzi's "Lowest Difficulty Setting" piece began to resemble rants from the motherfucking TIME CUBE guy. YOU ARE EDUCATED STUPID, JOHN SCALZI! Pro Tip: Time Cube Guy is not an emulational model. If you find your arguments resembling his in tone and coherence, back away from your keyboard. Apply vodka liberally to all unsoused brain nodules. When you awaken, open an account at the nearest clue store.
I wish I could tell you a Very Neat Thing. Actually, I have three specific Very Neat Things I am kinda dying to announce. One is good to spill the beans on, one is nearly so, and one is still under publicity embargo. I'd kinda like to be able to spill more than one simultaneously, though, so let's hope I get some directions this coming week.
Hints? You want hints? You have me confused with GRRM.
I wish my bank account had me confused with GRRM.
May 3, 2012
TO THE MAN WHO DESIGNED THE TABLE I JUST ASSEMBLED
Oh, it's death for you, my boy
but not for a good long time.
An elastic interval, shall we say, between points A and B
where B is the furnace, and A a fine assortment
of power tools.
Yes, we're going to have some words, you and I
Though whether they'll come before or after
is an open question.
I like to give my whims room to breathe.
See, I never understood how events might conspire to make a supervillain
I’m fresh from the forge.
With hex wrench imprints on nine fingers.
In fact, if I ever see another piece of lacquered particleboard
I'm going to punch a baby dolphin to death. Yes.
And take the corpse to a childrens' hospital.
And give it to a kid hooked up to a dialysis machine.
Because it's not like he'll be able to run away.
By the way, when I said piranha
you thought I meant tank?
I meant solution.
Seems I spent my aquatic horror budget on the blue-ringed octopus.
You wouldn't think you could slip such a thing through customs
(and honestly you're not supposed to)
but have you ever read Bruce Schneier's blog? Edifying stuff.
Anyhow, pay attention now
As this concerns you:
My Allen Wrenches have just come white-orange off the fire
and tied up like that, you look like a table.
So much like a table.
In very serious need