This is an experiment. There’s a site called genius.com that hosts annotate-able excerpts from things. (My main association with this site is a shuddering awe at how much that domain must have cost, but it does have other good qualities.) One of those things is this passage from The Magicians. (Two others of them are passages from The Magician King and The Magician’s Land.)
I did a little starter annotation of it back in July, then sort of forgot about it. Then the other day I ran into a guy from Genius who reminded me that this thing is supposed to be embeddable. So I’ve embedded it below, in case it’s of interest.
I’m serious. This is not a theoretical question.
I’ve never done a book trailer before. A theme song, yes, but never a proper trailer. And I wasn’t going to do one this time either, except that I had an idea that I liked too much to leave it alone. But I need your help with it.
Here’s the idea: I’m going to put together a video of the first few paragraphs of The Magician’s Land being read aloud. But I’m not going to read them. You’re going to read them.
It works like this. I’ve split the reading up into individual sentences. They’re at the bottom of this blog post. Each sentence needs a reader. If you’re up for it, pick a sentence and make a video of yourself reading it aloud and then send the video to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (I recommend using wetransfer.com for files over 25 MB). When we’ve got all the sentences covered, an actual video editor will stitch the videos together and make it all look pretty. The result: a crowdsourced book trailer.
Boom. Pretty simple, really. But there’s also a twist. And a catch.
The twist is that I’ve asked some of my writer-friends to read sentences too. There’s going to be some cameos. I’ll announce names in a couple of weeks, but I think it’s fair to say that these are writers whom you know and love. I certainly know and love them. They’re definitely the sort of people one wants to be in a trailer with.
The catch is that I’ve got a limited number of sentences to go round. I don’t know how many people are going to want to do this, but we’ll probably end up having to make some choices about which videos to use. So think about fun/creative ways to do your reading. You could read in a tree. Or in costume. Or underwater. You could act out your sentence, or sing it, or make an animated short out of it. Not that any of this is mandatory, but fair warning: if we get a lot of submissions we’ll probably use the funnest ones first.
If you’d like to be part of this, scroll down for a list of the sentences to choose from. We’re going to try to wrap up production by June 1, so send your videos in before then.
That e-mail address again: email@example.com.
And here are the sentences that need reading. The ones in brackets have already been claimed for a Celebrity Writer Cameo, so just choose from the non-bracketed ones:
[1. The letter had said to meet in a bookstore.]
2. It wasn’t much of a night for it: early March, drizzling and cold but not quite cold enough for snow.
3. It wasn’t much of a bookstore either.
4. Quentin spent fifteen minutes watching it from a bus shelter at the edge of the empty parking lot, rain drumming on the plastic roof and making the asphalt shine in the streetlights.
[5. Not one of your charming, quirky bookstores, with a ginger cat on the windowsill and an eccentric, bewhiskered proprietor behind the counter.]
6. This was just another strip-mall outpost of a struggling chain, squeezed in between a nail salon and a party City, twenty minutes outside Hackensack on the New Jersey turnpike.
7. The cashier didn’t look up from his phone when the door jingled.
[8. Inside you could still hear the noise of cars on the wet road, like long strips of paper tearing, one after another.]
[9. The only unexpected touch was a wire bird-cage in one corner, but where you would have expected a parrot or a cockatoo inside there was a fat blue- black bird instead.]
10. That’s how un-charming this store was: it had a crow in a cage.
[11. Quentin didn’t care.]
[12. It was a bookstore, and he felt at home in book-stores, and he hadn’t had that feeling much lately.]
13. He pushed his way back through the racks of greeting cards and cat calendars, back to where the actual books were, his glasses steaming up and his coat dripping on the thin carpet.
[14. It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home.]
15. The store should have been empty, coming up on nine o’clock on a cold rainy Thursday night, but instead it was half full of people.
[16. They browsed the shelves silently, each one on his or her own, slowly wandering the aisles like sleepwalkers.]
[17. A jewel-faced girl with a pixie cut was reading Dante in Italian.]
[18. A tall boy with large curious eyes who couldn’t have been older than sixteen was absorbed in a tom Stoppard play.]
[19. A middle-aged black man with elfin cheekbones stood staring at the biographies through thick, iridescent glasses.]
[20. You would almost have thought they’d come there to buy books.]
[21. But Quentin knew better.]
p.s. By the way this whole idea was inspired by an amazing project called Star Wars Uncut which is really worth checking out, and might be useful if you’re looking for inspiration
So that’s going well. But it bothers me that I haven’t been blogging. I love blogging. When I’m doing heavy novelizing I tend to blow it off, but in my more lucid moments I realize it’s an important part of what I do as an author.
And plus it’s fun. Though it makes me feel old that I don’t have a tumblr. Whatever the hell that is.
So I’m kicking off this week’s work (and my first day out of bed after four days of a brutal cold) with this minor but nevertheless real and actual blog post. The point of which — besides to congratulate myself for writing it — is to show off this letter ‘o.’
A few weeks ago I got wind of a charity auction to benefit the Book Industry Charitable Foundation: they were selling off the letters from the sign outside the original flagship Borders store in Ann Arbor. It was a good cause, and plus I have sentimental feelings about Borders: they backed The Magicians to the hilt, to the point where they even flew me up to Ann Arbor and took me to dinner. They have a lot to do with its success.
And I have sentimental feelings about bookstores. And signage. So I looked at the bidding, chose the cheapest letter, and put down my money.
It makes me want to reconstruct the cover of one of my favorite books from childhood:
There’s a lot of reasons why I haven’t been blogging much lately, but here’s the most important one: my new son. His name is Benedict Christopher Lev Grossman.
This is him at about four hours old. Note in particular his hair. He was almost two weeks late, and I’m pretty sure he spent the extra time touching up his blond highlights.
His name is Benedict, but mostly we’re calling him Baz, which is the Australian way of shortening pretty much every name that starts with a B. (His mom’s Australian. If you’ve ever wondered about the slight but detectable pro-Australian bias in the Magicians books, there’s your answer.) He has also been addressed as Basil, Basil Brush, and Mr. Brush. I don’t think anybody has actually called him Benedict yet.
I’ve talked in the past about the general question of child-bearing, which is something I think about a lot, to the boredom and disgust of Younger Me who couldn’t have cared less about that stuff. Younger Me, if you’re reading this blog, bail now, dude.
Having kids is a practice regarded with fear and suspicion in my family. I now have three children– there’s also Lily, 8, and Halcyon, 2 — which makes me something of an outlier among Grossmen. Neither my sister (older) nor my brother (twin) have kids, and to be honest I never thought I would either. I thought having kids would get in the way of all that other important stuff I had going on, like, I don’t know, writing and drinking and traveling around.
And it does. A lot. Just for example: I was supposed to be at a conference in Zürich this weekend. I’m not. I had to cancel, because my family needed me here.
But there are other ways to look at it. One is that the business of making new people is actually really important too, because otherwise where would new people come from? I mean, there’s always more people, but what about new people who care about the same stuff I do? I think of children sort of like Voyager probes, except instead of sending them out into space you send them forward in time. They carry messages from your civilization inside them, on into the weirdness of the future. They keep going and going long after you’re gone.
There also this: I personally needed to have kids to become the person and the writer I wanted to be. This is not a universal thing; I’m not recommending having children as a writing tip. I think it only applies to people who even as adults are the emotional equivalent of frozen cavemen, and who need somebody to thaw them out and seriously kick the shit out of them, emotionally speaking, before they have any idea who they are or what they’re doing. I was one of those people. Having children did that for me.
I bitch and moan a lot about how I’m always changing diapers and giving baths and making school lunches and strapping and unstrapping little people into and out of car seats while I could be writing books. And it’s true: it’s insane how relentless and exhausting raising kids is. If anything it’s tougher than people make out. At this exact second there is a tiny person lying on the bed next to me making a noise like an air horn every time I take my finger out of his mouth to type. (Brief rant: modern American society sucks at child-rearing. Humans evolved to live in communities, with their extended families around them. Trying to raise kids as a twosome, alone in your locked house, with no family around and both parents working full-time, is ridiculously hard. We’re doing it wrong.)
But it’s also true that I never wrote a book I was proud of till I had children. I started The Magicians two months after Lily was born, and that’s not a coincidence. Before that happened I never wrote anything worth a damn. Maybe I would write more if I didn’t have kids, but I’m not at all convinced that anything I wrote would be worth reading.
Usually I prefer to wait to blog till I actually have, you know, something to say, rather than just moving pre-existing facts around. But I’ve had so many deadlines this week I barely had enough thoughts to fill the stuff I got paid to write. All that’s left over is a thin, viscous residue. But I present it to you here.
First, I’m embedding below the playlist of submissions so far to the Magician King Song Contest. There’s some astounding performances in here, truly astounding. I’ll feel so bad when they totally lose to my awesome cellistical stylings.
But there’s still the long weekend to enter! You’re good up through midnight, May 28. Details here.
By saying “first,” I feel as though I’ve locked myself into a numbered list format, so: second, after reading this article in the New Yorker about literary fiction and genre fiction, I felt compelled to write up my thoughts on the same subject. The post went a little viral.
Third — OK, after this I’m done with the numbers — next Tuesday, the 29th, there’s a party for the paperback release of The Magician King. Come. You’re all invited. I’m going to have an on-stage chat with Ryan Britt, maybe answer a few questions and sign a few books. Then every one will be given drinks and we’ll all hang out.
Finally: I’m doing an AMA on Fantasy Reddit on the night of Wednesday, May 30. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. Afterwards, to relax, I will have myself torn to pieces by wild dogs.
Entries for the Magician King Song Contest have surged since that last post, from zero to I believe two at this point. So that’s a factor of — I don’t even know what that is. They don’t even have math for that. That’s like an irrational number or something.
But you know what’s not an irrational number? 250. Dollars. The fruit is hanging very low here. Do you play something? Anything? Are you in a band? An a cappella group? An orchestra? Do you know someone who is? Do you have a sousaphone? I think you might have one. Seriously. Just check again. I’m pretty sure I saw it.
Do me a favor and spread the info around. Think of it like Kickstarter, only I pay you. Don’t make me produce a humorous video to promote this contest, people. Don’t force my hand. I will do it.
Some other news:
— I’m at the Sweet! Actors Reading Writers series tonight. An actress named Soneela Nankani will perform a Julia passage from The Magician King. Should be cool.
And I’ve been roughing out dates for a summer tour. New York, Boston, Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco (and environs), Milwaukee … you can see the events as they go up here.
I’m not exactly a mad genius of self-promotion here at Magicians LLC, but I did once do something really clever: I asked Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder to write a theme song for the Magicians books. It’s called “I Wanna Be a Magician,” and it is deeply, deeply excellent.
It goes like this:
(I know I just broke the frame of my own blog. I suck at YouTube. And blogs.)
I love that song so much. I love it as much as the books the theme song of which it is (<–professional writer!) I firmly believe that it should be played as often as possible, in as many ways as possible, by as many people as possible.
So with that in mind, and in honor of The Magician King being published in paperback on May 29, I’m holding a contest for the best cover version of “I Wanna Be a Magician.” Parry picks the winner. The winner gets a cool $250.
There are no holds barred here. Any and all instruments are acceptable. Improvisation is encouraged. You can add variations, facemelting solos, virtuoso cadenzas, new lyrics, new verses, whatever you like. As long as we can recognize the song, it’s in. I don’t care if you have a band, or an orchestra, or an a capella ensemble, or a mellotron, or a hammered dulcimer, or a hammered mellotron. Cover the song and you’re in the running.
To enter: upload your entry to YouTube and give it the tag “magiciankingsongs.” I will then add it to this YouTube channel. This may be an awful and klugey way to run the contest, but as I may have mentioned I suck at YouTube, and I couldn’t think of anything else. We’ll announce the winner here on May 29.
Parry has graciously provided the chords and lyrics, as I am a musical idiot:
I WANNA BE A MAGICIAN
[verse] G Bm I wanna be a magician Em G And study at Brakebills Am C Wander though the hedge maze G D And cast magic missile spells [verse] G Bm Wanna go where the clock-trees Em G Are ticking in the breeze Am C 'Neath the shade of Castle Whitespire G D In the laaaaaaand of G Fillory [bridge] Em D Hunt the Seeing Hare and C G The Questing Beast Em D Ride the Cozy Horse with C G Its coat of velveteen Em D Charge the Ember and the Chatwins C G To the Western Sea Am Em And defeat the Watcherwoman D In the land of Fillory [battle section] Em Bm Em Bm [verse] G Bm You can keep New York City, 'Cause Em G there's nothing here for me. Am C Wanna be a magician G Bm D In the laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand of G C Fillory Bm D [outro - repeat X 10,000,000] G C I wanna be a Magician Bm D (in the laaaaaaaaand)
That’s all I got. Go! Questions? I’ll answer’em in comments.
It’s time I outed us: we’re pregnant. Or Sophie’s pregnant. I’m just getting fat. Between us, we’re going to have a baby in September.
I can’t tell you how happy I am about this. But I can tell you this funny story! When it was time for Sophie to go to the doctor and find out the baby’s sex, she was in Australia, but I was still in New York. (There’s a long, very TMI story about why I wasn’t there that only barely redeems me from being a crap husband/father. Anyway.) As soon as she found out, she texted me the result, as follows: “it’s a boy — a boy with a willy!”
It’s not every woman who would make a Blackadder reference at a time like that. It’s not every woman who could.
In a much-much-less-important but still-worth-mentioning development, I won’t be able to make it to WorldCon this year. I wish I could, but the baby is actually due during WorldCon. So I’ll have to deputize someone else to pass on the Campbell tiara.
It’s especially awkward because The Magician King is up for a Hu^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H no wait, scratch that last part. Not a problem.
So to recap: after two daughters (currently 7 and 1 respectively) I will soon have a son, and will probably have to rethink everything I thought I knew about parenting. Which wasn’t much, but still.
Also, naming rights are still available. I take PayPal.
I’m still in Sydney, still only online once in a while. I’m back February 3. In the meantime look at this image of the Physical Kids encountering their first clock-tree.
I have the script for the Magicians pilot. OK, I had it all weekend. I’ve just been told that I can talk about this.
First let me say: I can take zero credit for this thing. It’s by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz: they did X-Men: First Class and Thor, as well as a ton of TV work on Fringe, the Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda. Frankly I didn’t want to get too involved: it took me 40 years to figure out how novels work, I wasn’t going to understand screenplays or teleplays or whatever right they are right off the bat. I’m not a Scalzi or a Gaiman, leaping nimbly from medium to medium with the grace of a gazelle. We chatted back and forth quite a bit while they worked, but I’ve never met them in person. I didn’t know what to expect.
I certainly didn’t expect this: it is fantastic. Amazeballs would not be too strong a word to use about this script. I’m not even trying to be funny. If I didn’t think so I would have just kept mum, but I can’t keep mum. It’s just too good.
I also can’t tell you too much in the way of details yet. But I will say:
— I laughed my ass off, start to finish. It’s funny.
— It’s edgy. This isn’t HBO, so there’s a limit to what can happen and what can get said, but somehow the darkness is there, all of it. I don’t know how they did that.
— It’s TV. The big challenge was always going to be to reshape the bones of the story, to take it apart and put it back together so it fit into episodes instead of chapters, and seasons instead of books. The Magicians (book) is a slow burn, but in TV you can’t afford that. This first episode — it’s a monster. It’s this dense, intense mystery that sucks you right in. I was dying to know what happens next, and I already know!
— It’s moving. I’ve said elsewhere that what great fantasy does best, for me, is longing. When I read the script, I felt that — I felt the longing. I’ve never seen anything else like this on TV. These are just smart writers who know their medium and know fantasy. We got very, very lucky.
With a little more luck, you’ll get to see what I mean. It’s with the network now.