Archive for June, 2011
The first finished copy of The Magician King arrived today.
(It is impossible for me to experience this without thinking of the last scene in Back to the Future, where Marty McFly’s dad gets his finished copies of A Match Made in Space.)
The book looks like this:
It’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s about to start making its way out into the world in that weird, furtive way that books do. Bookstores will accidentally sell it early, and copies will show up on eBay, and leak out from the warehouse and such. Then it’s officially on sale August 9.
(And of course some people have been reading ARCs and galleys. If you’ve done this, remember the galley is not a finished draft. I know I say that too often. But that draft really is pretty rough compared to the real thing. The real thing is smooth, man. Or smoother anyway.)
And then feedback will start making its way back to me. Trade reviews, Amazon reviews, GoodReads ratings, sales data, over-the-transom e-mails. It’s already starting.
Roland Chambers is the author of two excellent books that are excellent in very different ways: one is a children’s book called The Rooftop Rocket Party, and the other is a biography of Arthur Ransome called The Last Englishman.
He is also a dear friend of mine. He’s also the fellow who made the gorgeous, full-color maps for The Magicians and The Magician King. (You can see them here and here.) Here’s a close-up of one of the details he did for the Magician King map:
So beautiful. How does he work? He does one make a map for a fantasy novel? Let’s find out. Over Gmail chat!
me: is now good?
Roland: yes fine
me: OK, we’re doing this. question one: how’d you learn to be an illustrator? art classes? self-taught? pact w/ the devil?
Roland: I doodled a lot at school, that was about it. I wish I’d gone to art school though. Sometimes.
me: Did you have particular illustrators whose stuff you liked, and wanted to emulate?
Roland: Yeah. The first illustrations I really liked were the ones in the D&D Monster Manual and the one with the gods and demi-gods. They were amazingly cool to me at the age of 10 or 11, though it meant all my figures had ridiculously narrow waists and usually wore helmets, which meant I was a late starter on faces. Next up was Gerald Scarf, because he was insanely good at faces, well at everything really. He could turn anything into anything else – Enoch Powell for example (a racist British politician) as a fluttering Union Jack. Amazing. But I could go quite a long time reeling off people I admire.
me: I had some very un-sacred feelings about some of those demi-goddesses.
Actually the activity over here is appallingly frenetic. I went to Toronto, talked about the future of the book, then got stuck in the airport Sheraton overnight on the way back, from which I drunk-tweeted up a storm. In about three hours I’m going to be interviewing Neil Gaiman onstage.
(I just keep saying that over and over again. Each time I get a little cooler.)
But most of the activity is happening below the surface, meaning I can’t talk about it. I’m writing some interesting essays I can’t talk about. I’m getting some fantastic art for the Magicians store, but I can’t show it to you yet (and we need more. More!) There’s some cool secret things coming that are so cool and secret that I can’t even make veiled allusions to them yet.
Oh, and the new website for The Magician King went up. I had nothing to do with it — I didn’t even know it had gone up! — so I can say that I think it’s lovely and elegant. And The Magician King got its first review, from Kirkus, which is one of the ‘trades’ (meaning it’s for booksellers and librarians and such, and it runs reviews well in advance of a book’s actual publication). It was a great review.
But it’s not up yet. So I can’t talk about it.
I’m going to run a little contest, just to make it interesting. Any art that gets submitted in the next three weeks, I will post on a gallery on Facebook. I will then encourage people to like it. The creators of the three most-liked pieces will get a signed copy of The Magician King.
So there! Now you have no excuse.
And when I say “help me,” what I mean is “do it for me, because I can’t.”
Here’s the deal. And it’s kind of a big deal to me. CafePress, renowned online retailers of merch, has approached me about setting up an authorized store for Magicians-related stuff. The way I understand it, people will be able to make Magicians-related items and sell them through CafePress, and they’ll also be able to order things like shirts and shot glasses and other useful things with Magicians– and Brakebills- and Fillory-related words and images on them.
This isn’t a money thing. OK, there are tiny bits of money in it for me (and for you), but mostly I just think it would be cool. These are things that I want to own.
But in order for it to work, we need to feed the store art. First and foremost, we need a design for the Brakebills crest — the old key-and-bee shield. Yes, a version of this does crest does already exist — you can see it on the Brakebills website, for example. But the thing of it is, even though I made up Brakebills, I don’t actually own the rights to that particular image, and licensing it would be expensive. (Don’t try to work out the logic here, you’ll just end up having to make a saving throw vs. madness.)
So we need a new Brakebills crest. We could use a new one anyway — I never thought the old one looked quite heraldic enough, to be honest. I would try it myself, but this project needs someone with actual graphical talent, which I totally lack. If you’re looking for a description of the crest, it’s on p. 49 of The Magicians:
Each jacket had an embroidered coat of arms on it, a golden bee and a golden key on a black background dotted with tiny silver stars.
But that’s not all we need. We need Physical Kids logos, Brakebills South logos, clever t-shirt slogans (“Talking Bear Wants Schnapps,” “Hogwarts + Sex = Brakebills” — see, like that except clever), maps of the Neitherlands, clock trees fan art, Fillory and Further book covers, Brakebills ties, knitted Brakebills scarves, Two Moons shot glasses, anything at all visual or merchandisable related to or inspired by the books.
If you’re at all artistically talented, which I am totally not, I invite/implore you to take a shot at it. If you teach art classes, you could have your students take a shot at it. If you make fan art and want to get paid for it, now is the time!
For now, since the CafePress Magicians store isn’t officially up yet, submissions have to go through me. I’ve set up a gmail acount for the purpose: magiciansart at gmail dot com.
That’s all I got. Post any questions in the comments? Official image guidelines for CafePress are here, though I don’t know what half of that stuff means. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
I have now managed to input most of the dates for the Magician King tour into the Events part of this site. If you want to know if I’m coming to your city, and when, look here.
And yes. I am bad at HTML.
There are still a few events the details of which are still floating around and need to be tied down, but a list of the cities I’m coming to (so far) looks like this:
New York, NY
San Diego, CA (x2)
St. Louis, MO
Menlo Park, CA
Chapel Hill, NC
If you live in any of those cities, come and listen and hang out. Also I need a name for the tour. The last one was called Wand Ambition. So…top that.
And if you’re in New York, my Q&A with Neil Gaiman at the 92nd St. Y is coming up on June 21. Do come to that if you’re in the city.
During the early phase of our courtship, my wife used to preface questions with the phrase, “starter for 10!” I chuckled knowingly at this. But in truth I did not understand.
Then I figured out I could use our corporate VPN to fool the BBC into thinking my computer was in London, and now I understand. “Starter for 10” is a catchphrase from University Challenge, a British quiz show that features teams of contestants from different universities and has been airing for like a million years. I have become obsessed with it. It’s hyper-literate and no-bullshit and endlessly interesting.
Here is a youthful Stephen Fry on University Challenge, almost blowing a question about Walter Matthau:
I can’t be on University Challenge, because I am 1) American and 2) massively old. But I can pretend to. My friend Leigh Ann Hildebrand and I are going to run a samizdat episode of University Challenge this year at WorldCon in Reno, with me as the host. We want you to play.
Details are here. It’s going to be hugely fun. We’ll be fielding teams from Hogwarts, Miskatonic, Unseen University and Brakebills. Except not really, because those places aren’t real. If you’re going to WorldCon, and you want to play, get in touch with Leigh Ann here or with me here.
Fingers on buzzers…
The little lobe of my brain that serves as a Geiger counter for detecting blog posts theorizing about genre has been ticking with ever-increasing rapidity these days. It’s ticking so fast that it has crossed the threshold that unlocks another lobe of my brain, a top-secret lobe that contains a sealed black folder labeled RAGNAROK PROTOCOL that’s supposed to contain a blog post about genre.
Whoops. It’s empty.
The truth is I already said most of what I could think of to say about genre here, two years ago, in the Wall Street Journal of all places.
Interestingly, that piece turned out to be somewhat controversial, which was the last thing I expected, which shows you how little I know about genre, and for that matter, people. Some people who I really respect wrote some pretty sharp, pointy things about it. Basically the article was just my attempt to make the old literary-fiction-‘n’-genre-are-mergin’ argument, and ground it in a particular take on 20th century literary history. I just think that sometime in the early part of the 20th century social status, narrative, genre and shame all got woven together into a big tangled knot that we are only just now unraveling.
And it was the Modernists who did it. The Modernists, I say.
Enough people said I was wrong about this that I went and said the same thing, only shorter and testier, here a few days later. That oughta show’em!
In the intervening two years I haven’t gotten much past that, which probably says more about my low attention span and drastically declining neuroplasticity than it does about the soundness of my argument.
My only further reflections are these: