Very quick. I wouldn’t even be posting this except that a minor point came up that requires clarification. Totally technical thing.
The Magician’s Land is eligible for a Hugo this year, and obviously I’d be over the moon, way over, if it made the final ballot. I’ve never been on one. But it’s been pointed out to me by a couple of people that technically it might also be possible to nominate the Magicians trilogy as a whole, instead of just the book by itself. (This rule came up last year when the Wheel of Time series was ruled eligible in its entirety.)
But—having talked to a couple of people who understand the process way better than I do (which is basically not at all)—for various reasons I think it’s better not to take the whole-trilogy approach. So just in case you’re a Hugo voter and you think you might want to vote for the books, I’m suggesting that people just vote for The Magician’s Land on its own.
Though it’s probably all academic in a year stuffed full of excellent work by the likes of Jeff Vandermeer, Ann Leckie, John Scalzi, Jo Walton, William Gibson and many, many others — there’s a good list of Hugo-eligible books here. The competition’s beyond stiff. I’ve gotta stop publishing in the same year as these people.
I’m not going to publish anything at all this year, except for journalism (and blog posts). It’s a writing year for me, not a publishing year. But I do have a few public appearances coming up. On Wednesday, February 18, I’ll be doing an extremely fun event called Person Place Thing in Brooklyn, where I’ll be talking and telling stories, and there’ll be music by Mamie Minch. Then on March 9 I’ll be reading as part of the 6th anniversary of the Franklin Park Reading Series, which is a great series. Its name notwithstanding, it happens in a bar, not a park.
All right. The period of mourning for the TV show is now over.
No wait! Just a little bit more mourning — there. Done.
Hang on, now I have to mourn my not getting a Nebula nomination. OK, now I’m done.
It’s Monday morning, and I’m wearing my special fancy writing slippers — black with golden fox-heads embroidered on them. I was going to try to find a picture of them online, but there doesn’t seem to be one. Even the manufacturer appears to have discontinued them. Or maybe mine are the only pair ever made, and they have magic powers.
Though probably it’s that first one.
I’m wearing them because I’ve taken a leave of absence from Time. I’ve spent the past couple of months outlining the new book, and taking a tentative cut at the early chapters. Now it’s time to lay down some prose. In bulk. Bulk prose.
So I’m not going to be off the grid for the next couple of weeks, exactly, but I won’t really be on it either. I’ll be sort of next to the grid. I can see the grid from where I am. But this is the part of the process where the book really happens, so I have to get focused.
I feel a lot of pressure, because I don’t have a ton of free time to write my books, and when I get some I have to seriously use it. Pressure is good for me though. In school I was a good test-taker — I was one of those annoying people who always kind of sucked along during the semester but then somehow came out of it with a decent grade, because suddenly during the test I woke up and started paying attention.
So it’s test time. Time to wake up. Smell the coffee.
God I need some coffee.
I get a lot of mail from readers. I read as much of it as I can, and I answer as much as I can, but I never get to it all. Neal Stephenson is eloquent on the subject of why he can’t answer mail. I have the same problem. Except not as eloquently.
There ought to be something like a square-cube law of writing, whereby after an author writes a certain amount of words, the amount of mail those words generates makes writing more words impossible … well, maybe there oughtn’t.
At any rate, in lieu of dealing with my mail the way I’d like to, I’ll answer some FAQ’s here. If you click through there’s a treat at the end, courtesy of Christopher Shy.
Will there be another Magicians book?
Yes. Working title: The Magician’s Land.
The Magician King came out exactly two years after The Magicians. I’m hoping to stick to that pace. I have a very detailed outline of the new book, and I’ve written the first few chapters.
Will Alice come back?
I could tell you, but it’s really better if I don’t.
Will that be the last book? Is this a trilogy?
Will you come speak/read/sign at my convention/conference/school/cosmogenesis/etc.?
Maybe! If I can. I like making public appearances when I can fit them in. Give me details. I have a lot of events scheduled this year already, none of which appear on the Events page of this site yet, because my fingers are weak and tired.
How did you get published in the first place?
Greetings from the far side of the world. Or if you live in Australia, the same side of the world. My wife Sophie is from Sydney, so we come here about once a year.
I’m not one of those obsessive Australophiles, but I do like it here. It’s hot. It’s a totally different biosphere, with all kinds of weird flora and fauna – giant spiders, sulfur-crested cockatoos, etc. The wine is good, and the food is really good. Though everything is expensive, even by New York standards.
The beaches … the beaches beggar description, especially if you grew up in New England, where the beaches are few and grey and punishing. The beaches here are huge and wild, with gigantic turquoise surf, and they’re everywhere. You think people are exaggerating about them but they’re totally not. Supposedly when Jonathan Ive was looking for the perfect color for the original blue iMac, he found it in the surf off of Bondi beach, which is in Sydney.
(When the characters arrive at Benedict Island in The Magician King, the description of that beach is based on Smith’s Beach near Perth, which is where I was at the time.)
Also it’s a chance to give a few interviews in a books market where I’m not very well known. Basically the worst thing about Australia is the flight over. This time around it took 48 hours, because we got diverted to Hawaii, and I spent a day hanging out eating junk food at the Honolulu airport Best Western, a place so seedy that it looked like an Elmore Leonard novel was going to break out at any moment.
Another reason I’m here is to get seriously cranking on The Magician’s Land, though those beaches, and that wine, and the fact that Halcyon’s nanny is 10,000 miles away are all eating into my writing time. Also there’s a huge number of administrative and webby tasks needed to keep the business of a 21st century novelist alive, and they never seem to end.
Like updating my events page, which I haven’t done in months. In lieu of that, I’ll just mention that I’m speaking at Yale in February, and Oxford in March (on the same bill with Jeremy Paxman, which if you loved University Challenge like I love University Challenge, and I know you don’t, would be incredibly exciting), and Clemson in April.
I’ll do a proper tour when the paperback of The Magician King comes out in June. Till then: actual writing.
Sorry about that. I hate that I didn’t blog for a month. This blog is really important to me, but various not-very-exciting things have been happening that resulted in my ignoring it for a month.
For example: I toured Canada for about three weeks. I went to Texas twice. I wrote a bunch of things for Time — the night Steve Jobs died I co-write an entire cover story in four hours — and I’ve been editing Time’s annual Best Inventions issue, which is interesting, and also beloved by advertisers. All good things, but also really time-consuming.
Also my wife’s been working on a novel which is so good that it will render all of my work as dross. I’ve been helping her with that (as she helped me, a lot, with both the Magicians books).
Speaking of which, I’ve also been working on the sequel to The Magician King. Also an as-yet-untitled, unrevealed non-Magicians project that I will try to write concurrently with that sequel, but it may have to wait till after that’s done.
And I’ve taken up writing a weekly books column for Time‘s entertainment blog. I just don’t have space in Time to cover all the books I read, so I’ll take care of the overflow there.
Also it took me like a million tries to beat stage D8 (“Dark Pool”) of TowerDefense. (Two words: splash damage.)
Now the immediate future. I’ll be in Miami on Nov. 19-20 for the Miami Book Fair, where I’ll be doing what should be a really excellent panel with Mat Johnson and Colson Whitehead. Right before that, on November 17 in New York City, I’ll do a reading as part of a PEN American event. Shortly after that, on December 6, I’m co-hosting the annual Housing Works Gin Mingle with Gabrielle Hamilton (whose restaurant Prune has the best bone marrow in New York, if that matters), Téa Obreht, Touré and — wait for it — Colson Whitehead again.
There. That was the blog post that took care of all the boring stuff that I would have said in a month of blog posts. The next blog post, coming soon, will actually be interesting. No — it will be riveting.
“Anything you can’t cope with is therefore your own problem” – Trillian, a.k.a. Tricia McMillan, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’m back from tour. The Infinite Improbability Drive is off or at least idling. The list of things I can’t cope with is still worryingly long.
A word about tour. Tour was great. Actually it was amazing. There was a whole new vibe out there. When I went on tour for the paperback version of The Magicians, I saw maybe twice as many people as had come out for the hardcover version. Something had changed. But this time something had really changed. This time I got, like, 5-10 times as many people as for the paperback. Let me tell you, that means a lot to a writer.
(Also increasing: the amount of e-mail I get. I’m really, really sorry I’m so crap about answering it. The math of it is all wrong: the busier I get, the more e-mail I get, and the less time I have to answer it. It should work the other way.)
I was also surprised by how tough the tour was on me and my family — my being away for that long. Sophie has to pick up a lot of slack when I’m away, and it’s not like she doesn’t have her own professional gigs to deal with. It’s tough to strike a balance. I don’t how much it bothers Halcyon, who’s 1 and therefore still kind of one with the universe in that way that babies are. But Lily (7) basically welded herself to my leg the minute I got home and refused to let go. And I knew how she felt. Maybe I’ll take her with me next time.
I’m not going to do a big roundup of the reviews. Google will do a better job than I will, and it gets paid more than I do. Suffice to say that they’ve been good! And that it’s been interesting watching reviewers and their reviewing organs try to decide whether The Magician King is literature or fantasy or art or entertainment or trash or whatever. (Correct answer is: yes.) Though I will cop to being happy that The New Yorker, that pillar of literary culture, did a short but nice review (this link is pointless unless you subscribe to the magazine, in which case it’s pointless anyway. Sorry.)
And now onwards and upwards! Or at least energetically sideways! There are more projects in the works, which I’ll announce when I can. I have plans for a third and probably final Magicians book. I know how it starts and how it ends, and a certain amount about the middle bits. Damn those middle bits.
I’m just back from Oxford, where I watched my genius sister-in-law get her doctorate in curing cancer.
I love Oxford. My mom went there, and she hated it, and it’s always fun to love the things your parents hate. (In fairness to my mom, as a scholarship student and a woman she ran into a lot of really toxic class and gender prejudice at Oxford. Sorry mom.)
But come on! Tolkien and Lewis taught there. It’s like the Trinity test site for modern fantasy. I made a pilgrimage to the original lamppost that inspired the one in Narnia:
You can’t see the overflowing dumpsters to my left. It’s just as well.
Meanwhile I have shifted modes. My current mode is definitely not my favorite mode, or a mode that I’m any good at it. It is my promotional mode. When you stop writing your book, you have to start forcing everybody to look at it, know about it, and think about it, until their brains are empty of all else.
To that end you give interviews. You write snappy little mini-essays. You go to Comic-Con and sit on panels. (Mine is Thursday at 3. We got the death slot opposite the Game of Thrones panel, but come on! You’ll never get into that one.) It takes up a lot of one’s time that would be better spent blogging. But I will try to keep up better than I have been.
One housekeeping note: I have a story in a new anthology called The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. I don’t often write short fiction, but I was really proud of the piece. The way the book works is, they gave writers pieces of art to riff of; mine was a lovely sketch by Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame. And there are other, better pieces in the book by the likes of China Mieville and Alan Moore. An excerpt from my story is here.
I was working on a headline with “link-unabula” but it just got really arcane really fast.
All right, if I posted at a reasonable rate I wouldn’t have to cram all this stuff into one post, but I don’t, do I? I’ll start doing so soon.
— I’m on the cover of Locus this month, along with the incredible Ted Chiang, whom I have long admired from afar.
— I wrote an essay in Time about fan fiction, which I’ve been thinking about for a long time. My first draft was 8,000 words, and that didn’t seem like enough, and it’s running at 3,500 words, so I’m really proud of it, but some caveats apply.
— The first trade review of The Magician King (a bit spoilery, so reader discretion advised) in Kirkus
— Jennifer Weiner recommended The Magician King on The Today Show. She referred to The Magicians as “Dirty Harry,” which I’ve been wanting somebody to do for literally years.
— A propos of nothing (or I guess a bit of that fan fiction essay) I was reminded the other day of my great love for A Very Potter Musical, a fan production that pastiches and parodies the original. (The guy who plays Harry, Darren Criss, has now surfaced as a regular on Glee.) They make a lot of edgy choices, like for example Cho Chang’s entrance at 0:25 in Act 1, Part 2. (I could get into a long discussion of the live YouTube version vs. the vastly inferior studio soundtrack recording … but no.)
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 just back from a month in Australia, where it was summer, and the animals are all different. Seriously, they have sulfur-crested cockatoos and blue-tongued lizards and huntsman spiders just running around like it’s no big thing.
Trust me, it’s a big thing. Australians say huntsmen don’t bite. Don’t believe it. I heard them talking about it, they totally do.
I went to Australia for the Perth Writers Festival, which was really terrific. Perth is one of the remotest major cities in the world, and you really feel like you’re at the writer’s festival at the end of the universe. (Prices are comparable to Milliways, because Perth, despite its remoteness, is a mining center and quite wealthy.) I got to sit next to Margo Lanagan onstage, which alone was worth flying 30 hours for.
(Movies watched on the flights to and from Australia: The King’s Speech, The American, Red, The Town, True Grit, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.)
Then we drove down to the Margaret River, which is one of Australian’s wine regions. If you took a bunch of Hawaiian beaches and spot-welded them onto the Cotes du Rhone, that’s what you’d get. If this place were any closer to civilization it would be mobbed. You taste wine all day, then you go and frolic in the Indian Ocean while dolphins swim by.
I was also in Australia because my wife is Australian, and we wanted to hang out with her family, in the city of her birth (Sydney, not Perth). Plus it’s summer in Australia. And if we don’t start exposing the baby to huntsman venom now, it will never built up an immunity.
Also: The Magician King will be out August 9. More on that in a bit.