Fish, chips, cup ‘o tea

IMG_2604Quick one, because I’m on deadline and books don’t write themselves. It’d be kind of awesome if they did, but then I guess I’d be back on the dayjob and wowwww is that a thought that makes me want to stab myself in the face with this keyboard . . .

But what’s not depressing enough to inspire death by laptop?

FOREIGN RIGHTS SALES, BABEH

So! I’m very pleased to announce to all my UK fans that rights to ILLUMINAE have officially sold in the UK! Huzzah! Jam and Crumpets! Scones for all! Pip, pip, what ho old bean!

Publication date is September, 2015, just a few weeks after US publication. The UK edition will have its own fancy pants cover, so if you’re one of those people who needs to own every iteration of a Thing (and oh, how we love you guys), here’s another pokemon for you to collect.

In other ILLUMINAE news:

  • An awesome author whose work Amie and I both love has just finished reading the book and lurrrrved it. So looks like we’ll have a few more nice blurbs for the cover. More deets soon.
  • Speaking of covers, we should have a final one for you soon, too. We’ve seen preliminary designs and they’re cooler than a penguin with his pants off.
  • Early reviews from the first round of ARCs are coming in, and they’re AWESOME.

I think that’s it. Back to work.

*smoke bomb*


Newsflash: the Firefly guys were villains

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Update: I’m told there was Cracked vid posted late last year that covered this same topic. And here I was thinking I was being all original and shit. Tune in next week when write a 70,000 word thesis about how the rebels in Star Wars were the bad guys in Return of the Jedi only to find out Kevin Smith did that shit back in 1994.

Hello droogs.

So. This started as an idle tweet a few days back and devolved into a drunken conversation in which me and a buddy both proved we’ve spent waaaaaaaay too much time watching Firefly. And I’ll preface this waaaaaaay too long blog post by stressing that I lurrrrrrrve the Firefly series and Serenity movie. I love them in the pants. Were I unwed, I would take my Collector’s Edition Boxed Set in a manly fashion.

…wait, ew.

I genuinely believe Firefly is the best thing Mr Whedon has ever given us, up against some stiff competition. So I don’t want anyone thinking I’m a Whedon hater or this comes from a place of anything but love for the dude’s work. I’m just a nerd who likes to spitball about this stuff. And while, like many of you, I’ve got nothing for lurrrrve for Firefly and the crew of Serenity, I’ve got some bad news, droogs:

Mal Reynolds and the crew of Firefly were the fucking bad guys.

And I don’t mean in a Loveable Rogue archetype kind of way. I mean they were the straight-up villains. They’re the kind of people who, if you read about them in your holonews over your morning bowl of Jupiter Loops, you’d thump the table, complain bitterly to your lovebot about the slow collapse of civilization and demand to know WHAT THE FRACK your taxes were paying for.

. . .  sorry, wrong universe . . .

But I mean, really, THINK about it for a second. You’ve got a collection of ex-soldiers, fugitives, psychotics and ragtags now operating as a mercenary band, paying no attention to laws and regulations that govern civilized areas of space. They willingly do business with pimps, organized criminal cartels, corrupt bastards and full-tilt, pants-on-head-crazy sociopaths. And worst of all, with the exception of Simon and River, this is a life they CHOOSE. Mal, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee and Jayne are career criminals, who believe that the rules applying to everyone else in the universe simply don’t apply to them. People who freely lie, cheat, steal and murder their way across the galaxy in a desperate and misguided attempt to remain “free” from Alliance “control”. Because fuck you buddy, you can’t take the sky from me, and if you try, I swear me and my pretty floral bonnet will end you.

Now. The justification we’re given to excuse Mal & Co’s flagrant disregard for the laws of civilization are that the Alliance are “bad m’kay”. But what evidence are we really presented for this rationale?

Most Alliance people we meet in the series are just soldier boys doing their job. Space cops, basically. If they get given a galactic APB on some wanted fugitives, they don’t question the proofs of the case. There’s no galactic equivalent of the Serial podcast, through which the Alliance goons can sit around debating the merits of the evidence against Adnan . . . I mean River and Simon. They just do their damn job. Arrest the criminals, and trust the system to bring justice, because that’s the system their society built.

Now let’s talk about that system for a minute. From what we see of Alliance controlled space, it doesn’t seem all too PUREST FUCKING EVIL™ to me. They don’t have Universal Kitten Drowning Day or insist everyone listen to Top 40 radio. In fact, Alliance space seems pretty awesome. First off, it’s a democracy, as evidenced by the existence of a Parliament. People actually get a say in who governs them, as opposed to the outer rim. They have public heath care (as evidenced by the Alliance troops escorting medical supplies in the Train Job) and freedom of religion (Book follows a judeo-christian theology whereas Inara’s religious activities in Serenity seem more in line with theologies like Buddhism). They have a police force that protects and serves on a galactic scale. An administration large and efficient enough to successfully govern dozens of civilized worlds (ponder the size and complexity of a government that manages a single planet for a second, let alone dozens) and an economy that’s prosperous enough that even a wandering space prostitute can make a decent living.

Compare this to what we see of uncontrolled space. We have the areas controlled by Niska – a mass-murdering psychopath with a fondness for electrocuting people’s groins. We have Patience – a double-dealing warlord who “got herself elected mayor” and rules by the law of the gun. We have Ranse Burgess, who owns the local authorities and brutalizes a brothel full of space hookers with his laser pistol and rather unconvincing landspeeder . Time and time again on the fringe, we see examples of people with superior firepower or money terrorizing the members of the local populace. The areas where Alliance presence is thin or non-existent, ie, areas that by Mal’s rationale are “free”, are lawless wastelands governed at the point of a laser or car-battery connected to your joy factory. But oh wowwwww, they have ponies so I guess they’re the liberated ones.

Example – compare and contrast the way sex workers are treated in Alliance and non-Alliance space. In Alliance space, prostitution is legalized, regulated and considered an honorable vocation. Inara is treated with respect, and her companionship a sign of prestige. In fringe space, sex workers are treated, omg spoilers, like absolute shite. Brutalized and murdered by anyone with some pew pew at their disposal.

Our only two demonstrable examples of “the Alliance is bad, m’kay” are the project that spawned River Tam, and the Miranda disaster. And yes, these are some pants-wettingly awful things, but hold your fucking space ponies, kids. Alliance space is vast. The number of people employed in the bureaucracy must be in the hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions. The Serenity movie goes to great lengths to explain how ultra tip-top secret squirrel both these projects were. Can the actions of an obviously covert, off-the-books cabal within the Alliance leadership be used as excuse to write off the entire system as some kind of evil totalitarian regime? In an administration of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, can you honestly expect there not to be a few bastards? How do we know the average member of the Alliance parliament wouldn’t have condemned the actions at Miranda? How we possibly imagine they didn’t? I mean, our only clue is that the “Top Member of Parliament” who came to inspect River knew about the Miranda incident – for all we know, he/she could have been the toe-cutter who came in and kicked heads and imprisoned/disappeared all the bastards involved after the Miranda project went hell in a space handbasket? Do we honestly believe Parliament is sitting around twirling their mustaches, stroking hairless cats and pondering ways through which to make the universe a crappier place to live?

Now, we’re TOLD that the Alliance fought a bloody war for domination of the settled worlds. But who tells us this?  Mal and Zoe, who both fought against the Alliance and lost. Their point of view is naturally going to be biased. The actual reasons for the war are vague and hand-wavey, basically coming down to “they wanted to control us, and we fought back”. But Whedon has said repeatedly that the Firefly crew were inspired by tales of the American civil war – if we take that comparison to it’s logical conclusion, the Alliance are the Union states (since they, you know, WON). Meaning the Browncoats were the fucking Confederacy. And I’m sure if you asked the average Confederate soldier why he was fighting, he’d have regurgitated the exact same mouthful of monkey jizz that Mal spouts – that they were resisting an oppressor who wanted to subvert their way of life. Take away our freedom. “Control” us. Right?

Looking at the state of the ‘verse outside Alliance controlled space, exactly what kind of “freedom” were the Browncoats fighting for? The right to hitch people’s testicles up to car batteries and make mud for a living?

So. The Confed . . . sorry, the Browncoats lose the war. And what does Malcolm Reynolds do? Does he sit back and decide that, hey public healthcare and an organized police force that applies a universal system of law and order doing away with oppressive local warlords and ushering an age of stability and economic prosperity sounds like a fan-fucking-tastic idea? Hellllll naw. He stamps his feet, buys a spaceship and decides “Fuck the law. Fuck the Alliance. I want to do what I want, when I want, and if that means I have to become a criminal, it’s better than being oppressed by the man and his pinko public medical aid bollocks. Fucking socialists.”

(I’m joking about the socialist part. Mal is more of a fascist)

So. Let’s look at our (lovable, very lovable, I really do love these guys, folks, i’m not even kidding) crew:

Zoe. A loyal 2IC who attempts on repeated occasions to convince Mal what a colossal bleeding asshole he’s being, Zoe serves as a kind of She-Ra/Jiminy Cricket hybrid, demonstrating time and time again she has a conscience in between her bouts of ass-kickery. And yet, she continues to ride with Mal even after his stubbornness and inability to accept any kind of governance drives them repeatedly into danger, eventually resulting in the mass-slaughter of thousands of people and the death of her husband. Her loyalty to her Captain is admirable on the surface, but the longer you stare at it, the more it starts to appear like some bizarre form of space Stockholm syndrome.

Jayne. A mercenary who sold out and murdered his former employers after the offer of more money from Mal. A killer who repeatedly demonstrates a total lack of morality, who delights in the prospect of violence. The kind of man who who’d happily trade a human being for a gun, and names his firearms. Yeah sure, he’s got some good one-liners and a sweet hat, but the dude is a dead-set FUCKING SOCIOPATH.

Wash. Poor Wash. A loveable manchild, who remains largely shielded from the day to day brutality of his wife and her comrades’ wetwork inside his cockpit with his toy dinosaurs. Who, when he meekly voices his unease at the increasingly amoral actions of his captain, is told to just shut the up and fly the ship or get out and walk. Who’s loyalty to his wife, and thus, inadvertently, his captain, ultimately gets him playing the role of Special Guest Protein in a rather surprising shish kabob. D:

Kaylee. Another babe in the woods type, mostly insulated from the carnage inflicted by her captain and crew. A young woman of little education (her mechanical skills are self taught, she just has a “gift for it”) who gravitates to the trappings of actual civilization whenever exposed to them, eg, her wistful obsession with Inara’s tales of her clientele and visits to civilized worlds, and her infatuation with cultured society’s trappings in Shindig.

Shepherd Book. Another of Mal’s Jiminy Crickets, who’s repeated failed attempts at providing his Captain with moral guidance see him eventually throwing his hands in the air (wave em like you just don’t care) and leaving the crew for greener, less blood-soaked and dodgy-as-fuck pastures. Oh, and then he gets murdered for hanging with them anyway. You’ll note that Book, who more than anyone else on the crew has actually spent extended periods of time in Alliance space, doesn’t seem to be possessed of the same blistering hate-induced boner of rage Mal does when it comes to the Alliance or their “control”.

Inara. Another member of the crew who spends extended time in Alliance space and seems to have absolutely no problem with it. A cultured and learned woman, who really only seems to stay with the crew because of her fondness for Kaylee and her feelings for Mal. You’ll notice the two people on Serenity who actually demonstrate some degree of education and aren’t wanted fugitives, Book and Inara, freely intermingle with Alliance society and don’t seem to have any real dramas with the way Alliance space is run. And like Book, Inara eventually makes like a well-dressed space tree when Mal gets too frothy at the mouth.

River. She goes where Simon goes. She has no choice. I’ll note again however, that her treatment at the Alliance’s hands is one of our main pointers towards them being made of pure Puppy Kicking Evil™. But again, we only get River’s side of this story, and she’s an unreliable narrator at best. What if the project that spawned her was an attempt to control her powers, which, if manifested without some measure of training, could result in a Tetsuo-style meltdown and the deaths of millions of people? What, if left untrained, she’d be a danger to everyone around her? We don’t know, is my point. We only get her hand-wavey hysterics and Simon’s assurances that they cut out bits of her brain. And yes, she did go through a very un-fun time. It sucks. But it’s better than her blowing holes in the moon, is all I’m saying.

Simon. A nice guy who gave all he had to rescue his sister. But why? River’s hidden messages in her letters to home were his first clue all was not well with her supposed school. But what if River’s increasing psychosis was a result of her developing powers? What if the damage to her amygdala (which he discovers in Ariel) was actually a symptom of her mutation, rather than a result of the project she was enrolled in? We know sweet FA about what happened to River, or how, or why. So while Simon’s actions might be admirable from a certain POV, he may be operating on a baseline assumption that is inherently flawed. All that aside, Simon IS a character with a moral compass, and he also demonstrates an increasing level of discomfort with the actions of Mal and his crew, eventually, AGAIN, leading him to GTFOASAPKTHXBAI in Serenity.

Do you notice a pattern here? Virtually everyone in the series with an education and a demonstrated sense of right and wrong end up bailing on Mal because he’s an amoral prick.

Which brings us to

Captain Malcolm Reynolds. You want to talk about ruthless totalitarian authority? Forget the Alliance, my friends. Look no further than Mal. This is a guy who tolerates zero insubordination on his ship. Who, when questioned by his crew in Serenity – people he claims to love and/or care for – actually threatens to fucking shoot them if they get in his way. A man whose desperate and misguided attempts to resist Alliance “control” and live a life of “freedom” sees any kind of moral compass he might have possessed completely erode. In the Firefly pilot, he tells Simon that, if Kaylee dies after Simon operates on her, he and his sister will be murdered shortly thereafter. In a later scene, he actually tells Simon that Kaylee did indeed die, inducing a moment of slow-mo, trouser-browning panic in the boy just to get a fucking laugh (and hell yes, it was hilarious, but woe betide you if  you believe these are the actions of a balanced man).

He repeatedly does business with murderers, bastards, and psychopaths. And sure, sometimes when he’s presented with face-to-face irrefutable proof of the immorality of his actions (ie, in The Train Job when told the shipment he’s stealing was, oh holy shit call the police, actually needed by the people he was stealing it from) he sometimes gets squeamish. But he still deals all the time with characters like Niska knowing exactly who they are and what they do. He knows these people are ruthless, murderous pricks. But as long as he’s not directly confronted with evidence of their brutality right in his (devilishly handsome have i mentioned i love him) face, he’d rather take the blood-soaked money of a pimp thuglord like Badger than earn a legitimate living within the confines of a perfectly regular and orderly society.

And why? Basically? Because he’s a narcissistic psycho and a bad fucking loser (and I love him, I really really do).

Seriously. Malcolm Reynolds’ twelve-headed hydra wang of hate for the alliance doesn’t come from outrage over the dubious morality of a couple of black bag cabals within the government – he has no inkling of their abuses of River or the Miranda incident until long after he turns outlaw. It doesn’t come from some irrational hatred of public heathcare or a regulated sex industry. It comes from the innate, unswerving knowledge that he knows better than anyone else. And the thing is?

Mal knows dick all about the Alliance. We’re never given any evidence that he’s spent time living in controlled space. He was a Browncoat footsoldier. A front line grunt. If the future is any analogue of the present, the dudes who get sent out to the front line to fight? They’re the poor. The uneducated. The expendable. The people who fall for the propaganda machine’s spin because they’re never taught to question. In all likelihood, Mal was convinced of the wrongness of Alliance control in the exact same way that troops who participated in the invasion of Iraq were convinced of the wrongness of the Hussein regime – a carefully orchestrated campaign of complete and utter bullshit. And the poor lad bought it hook line and sinker, suffered a traumatic and life-changing front line slaughter experience, and limped away from the war convinced that the Alliance leadership – every last democratically elected one of them – are a pack of fucking Stalins.

Mal talks about “Earth That Was” being “used up”, prompting humanity’s exploration and colonization of their new systems. He offers no real scientific explanation. Gives no demonstration of any real understanding or education about the fall. Can you imagine a character like Inara summing up the cataclysmic events leading to the fall of the cradle of human civilization in such childish, sitting-around-the-fireside-swapping-yarns kind of language? Mal is a rube. A rube who got duped into believing an enemy existed where actually there was just a differing point of view. And he picks up his hate baggage and carries it with him from that point on. He names his ship – the very symbol of his freedom – after the murderous defeat his troops suffered during the war. He nearly spends every waking moment living inside a physical manifestation of that defeat. And over the course of his journey in the series, and particularly the Serenity movie, he becomes the very monster he mistakenly beheld in the Alliance.

He’s a dictator, brooking absolutely no dissent among his people. Exercising control and demanding absolute fealty even when questioned by his oldest and most trusted friends. His actions lead directly to the death of most of his closest allies, Shepherd Book, Wash and thousands upon thousands of Alliance soldiers in the skies above Mr Universe’s lab. And why? To expose the actions of a secret cabal of black baggers in the hopes of bringing down the Alliance? Can you imagine, for one brief second, the ramifications if the Alliance government actually collapsed after the Miranda revelation? The carnage that would result if a government responsible for safeguarding dozens of worlds and the lives of billions upon billions of people fell over? Given what we see of fringe space and the alternatives – rule by warlords like Burgess and Patience or psychopaths like Niska – can you imagine what might rise in the Alliance’s ashes?

But none of that matters, see. The possible fallout from the Miranda transmission isn’t even considered by Mal. He abandons his crew to die (only River’s moment of murderous lucidity after Simon is wounded saves them all from torturous deaths at the hands of the Reavers) in order to deliver his “truth” to the universe, without even realizing that in the process, he’s drenched his hands with more blood than the average Alliance bureaucrat could ever imagine let alone match, and, worse-case-scenario, doomed the universe to a period of bloody upheaval and murderous civil war.

But, you can’t take the sky from him, right?

Again. I love the show. It’s funny and smart and wonderful. I love the characters. They’re rich and layered and as fun as a game of zero gee nude volleyball to watch. I love me a good rogue, and I’m as enamored with the idea of sticking it to the man and living free and doing and saying whatever the hell I want as anyone. Mal and his crew are awesome protagonists. In their own heads, they might even be heroes. But to the average inhabitant of the Firefly universe?

STONE. COLD. VILLAINS.

Discuss.


The making of: ILLUMINAE ARCs

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Hello droogs,

Excitement afoot! My legion of flying monkeys has informed me the first ARCs of ILLUMINAE have made it out into the wild and were snatched up by a bunch of eager beavers at ALA Midwinter. Not sure what the hell beavers will do with ARCs or how they got past ALA security, but investigations are apparently underway. Hopefully some librarians and bloggers got copies, too.

Frackin’ beavers . . .

For those of you who don’t know, “ARC” stands for “Advanced Reader Copy”. They’re basically an early version of the final book, sent out to media, librarians, bloggers and nice author-type people who’ve said they’re willing to paw through the pages with the intent of giving it an endorsement (presuming they don’t open the book to discover the words are scrawled in pure suck). ARCs have usually only gone through early revisions prior to printing, which means there will be typos and formatting boo-boos inside, but for the mmmmost part, they’re 95% of the finished product.

The ILLUMINAE ARC is a little different (you’ll hear the words “is a little different” a lot when it comes to this book, my droogs). No word of jest do I speak thee when I say the production has been an undertaking of biblical proportions. See normally, putting a book together is basically a matter of cut and pasting from the manuscript, putting in page numbers and maybe some fancy chapter headers, and bang howdy, let’s all go to lunch. But ILLUMINAE?

Oh, my sweet summer child. What do you know of winter?

To give you some indication of the sheer level of whathefuckery involved in creating this beast: The InDesign documents publishing houses work with in producing book contain “tags” to identify various aspects of the manuscript file. Random House corporately works with less than a half dozen standard tags for the majority of its fiction—both adult and children’s books. Less than six. For the ENTIRETY of Random House and its imprints. For ILLUMINAE, the RH corporate pub ops team (pub ops, man they sound like badasses) created nearly 4 dozen custom tags. From scratch, just for this one book. Every single page needed to be hand crafted. All 600+ of them. We’ve had illustrators creating space ship schematics and comic strips and movie posters and all kinds of crazy stuff, a bunch of designers working on different page templates, logo designs, experimental typography, yadda yadda.

It. Is. Madness.

Amie and I send the design guys cupcakes every now and then to make up for it, but I’m sure they’re still plotting our gruesome deaths. Well . . . mine, at least. I mean, I’m the guy who used to be the Designer, so I’m the guy who is now the Pain In The Designer’s Ass. But anyway, the upshot of all this?

HOLY SHIT THE ARCS LOOK FUCKING AAAAWWWEESSOOOOOMMMMEEE.

I’ve been pawing through mine all day and grinning like a lunatic. I was so busy gawping at it, I burned dinner and set off the smoke alarm and gave my dog a heart attack. Poor little dude. :(

Anyway. Making books is a strange gig. Amie and I began writing this one in Feb 2013. It started as a half-joking conversation over brunch one Sunday morning in a Fitzroy cafe. It’s been part of our lives almost every day for two years. And through a lot of luck and the support of an amazing editor and an amazing team and literally thousands of hours of work from dozens of people, we finally get to hold it in our hands. And soon you will too. I can’t even begin to tell you guys how excited we are about you guys reading this thing.

For those of you who can’t get an ARC, I leave you with the intro letter from our amazeballs editor.

 

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Serendipity, or WTF does “ILLUMINAE” mean?

Ill

So.

I have a new book coming out this year called ILLUMINAE. I co-wrote it with my bud and partner-in-crime (and recently crowned New York Times bestselling author, I don’t know if they actually get crowns but still, yyyyyeah grrlfriend), Amie Kaufman. It’s the first in a trilogy named THE ILLUMINAE FILES. It drops in August and it’s like no book you’ve ever read. I cross my heart and pinky swear.

I PINKY SWEAR, DAMMIT.

(you can read my ‘review’ of it here, btw)

A couple of folks have asked me “So wtFFF does Illuminae mean? Is that even a real word thing or did you just make it up to look like you wear fancypants?”. To which I reply “yes” and “yes”.

See, book titles are a bitch. And I don’t mean “bitch” like Calhoun in Wreck It Ralph, all hardcore on the outside but with a heart of gold on the inside. I’m talking like Alien Queen. I’m talking Ma Ma in Dredd. I’m talking Maggie Thatcher here, droogs.

A lot hangs on a book title. One might venture a book like TWILIGHT might not have sold as well if it was called I’M DATING A VAMPIRE NAMED EDWARD AND HE IS JUST DRRRRRREAMY ASIDE FROM THE WATCHING ME WHILE I SLEEP AND BEING A HUNDRED YEARS OLDER THAN ME THING (My bride tells me the original title was FORKS, so good move whoever decided to deep six that idea). And GONE GIRL probably wouldn’t have been an unmitigated phenomenon if it was called MARRIED PEOPLE ARE ALL FUCKED IN THE HEAD.

Actually, maybe that would sell a bazillion.

So. Titles. They suck. And authors agonize over them. When Amie and I started writing this bookthing, the codename I gave my copy of the ms was VOID (yes I give all my manuscripts codenames, I am james bond all up in this thang). But Void was never going to fly – the connotations to bodily functions alone make it a no-starter. Which might sound puerile, but puerile is the internet’s middle name so this is the kind of mind-breaking crappola you need to contemplate when dreaming up a title. “Is there any way someone can twist this into a silly word?” “Does it rhyme with any bodily functions?” “Does it mean something rude in Russian?”

So. Early on in the piece, I was tossing around the word “Illumine”

Illumine
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), illumined, illumining.
1. to illuminate.

because it’s the name of a song by one of my favorite bands, and the book is about shining light on the awful truth about what went on aboard this refugee spaceship fleet, what with the conspiracies and plagues and insane artificial intelligences and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAA. But as a title it was a little meh.

So then I go to a Tool concert.

Tool are one of my favorite bands. They’re as close to religion as I get. So they’re up there playing a song called Lateralus, which (I suspect) is a song about opening yourself up to random possibilities and contemplation of the constant expansion of the universe and along with it, our consciousness as a species (they’re punching a little above the weight of your average top 40 song, is what I’m saying). Anyway, they’re playing Lateralus and there’s this amazing, mind-bending light show that looks like this:

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GLORY TO THE HYPNO-TOAD

 

and I get to thinking. Why not make up a word for the title? You’re a fucking writer, why not just invent a word that’s entirely your own? YOU MAKE THINGS UP FOR A LIVING. And so I circle back to Illumine, and start playing with letters in my head and there in the middle of this crushing psychedelic lightshow and massive breakdown, I ask myself Kristoff, are you REALLY this much of a wanker?

And of course, the answer was yes.

Because at this stage, we hadn’t even sold the book yet, and it was different and crazy and would cost a bazillion dollars to produce properly, and no publisher was ever going to buy a book this strange and even though Amie and I LOVED IT IN THE PANTS it’d probably never sell. So hells with it.

I bounce the idea off Amie. I think I sent her a text before the song had finished. And she liked it, so bam, we had our name. ILLUMINAE it was. Like I say, no one was ever gonna read it anyway.

Fast forward about a year and a half. Surprising everybody, most of all us, we’d sold ILLUMINAE to Random House. Which was like HOLY SHIT, THAT IS A THING. And Amie is sitting on my couch and we’re bouncing around timelines for book 2, and she’s talking to a buddy of hers on Gchat who speaks Latin (Yes, Amie is 100% metal. Her friends speak fucking Latin) and somewhere along the line, the friend tells us Illuminae is actually a real word. I didn’t make it up, after all.

Illuminae
noun (Latin)
1. those who shed light
literally, the radiant ones

From our translator:

“Illumino” is a Latin verb meaning “to shine.” This is usually turned into an adjective as IlluminATus, but latter day Romans played just as fast and loose with their grammar as we did, so it’s perfectly reasonable that someone decide to drop it down to just “illuminus.” Adding the ending “ae” instead of “us” makes the word female and plural. With Latin, which so often takes shortcuts through grammar, you can make an adjective function like a noun, so the descriptive word “radiant” is simply extended to mean “radiant ones,” with the “ae” ending giving it that feminine vibe.

Ta-dah!”

Which about fits this story and these characters as perfectly as anything, ever.

So. Serendipity. Coincidence. Call it what you will. I guess I’m glad I went to that Tool concert, is what I’m saying.

That and “fuck top 40″.

 

“Lateralus”

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
Lets me see.
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn beyond the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

Black then white are all I see in my infancy.
red and yellow then came to be, reaching out to me.
lets me see there is so much more
and beckons me to look through to these infinite possibilities.
As below, so above and beyond, I imagine
drawn outside the lines of reason.
Push the envelope. Watch it bend.

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition leaving all these opportunities behind.

Feed my will to feel this moment urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.

I embrace my desire to
feel the rhythm, to feel connected
enough to step aside and weep like a widow
to feel inspired, to fathom the power,
to witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
to swing on the spiral
of our divinity and still be a human.

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
between the sounds and open wide to suck it in.
I feel it move across my skin.
I’m reaching up and reaching out.
I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
And following our will and wind we may just go where no one’s been.
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been.

Spiral out. Keep going…


French KINSLAYER cover

Just got the artwork for the French KINSLAYER cover, done once again by the amazing Miesis Illustration. I must be the luckiest person around when it comes to cover art.

OUR SHIELDS CANNOT REPEL BADASSERY OF THIS MAGNITUDE.

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ENDSINGER Launch

Hello all,

Happy NY and all that jazz. I’ve been slacker than a slacker’s slack bits about blogging lately, but I’m going to try to be a little better this year, I do solemnly swear. In the meantime, here’s some photos from the ENDSINGER launch party.

I held it in conjunction with Amie Kaufman and the launch of her new book THIS SHATTERED WORLD (co-written with the awesome Meg Spooner). In case you didn’t know, Amie and I have written a sci fi series together, the first book of which comes out this August, and it’s gonna knock you out of your shoes.

Meantime, pics! Much love the wonderful and talented AmberLousie Hart for shooting for us! And thanks to everyone who came along and made it such and awesome night!

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The goods

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The guilty parties

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Useful for door-stopping, hurling at rowdy children, lighting fires on cold winter nights.

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Peoples

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More peoples :)

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To the wrong place, you may have come, perhaps

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Teh lewts

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Speeching!

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More speeching

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Books and booze. WINNNNNNING

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The pretty

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That’s quite a line :P

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Um, how do you spell Jay again . . .

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Waaaaaaiting

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Still waaaaaaiting….

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Shameless plug for the awesome folks at Dymocks. Thanks for having us!

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I apparently said something funny here. Someone call Guinness.

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You know what they about guys with big books…

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Me and the lady who makes it possible

 


ENDSINGER – Prologue

Endsinger
T
he thing inside their mother wanted out.

Swollen and heavy as stone, Lady Sun fell westward into the waiting oceans. A chill followed her descent, coiled in the mountain shadows, creeping towards the dusty little farm and its withered fields. The wind brought the brittle bite of approaching winter, the vapour from the deadlands stirring like a lover at its touch, rippling with the sound of their mother’s screams.

Tetsuo and Hikita crouched together in the dirt, all grubby faces and threadbare rags. The children had fled the house when the noise became too much. Their mother’s agonized cries had reduced little Tetsuo to tears, and Hikita took his younger brother’s hand and led him out into the dark and quiet. Hikita knew he must be strong. He was the man now. Thin shoulders only ten summers old, carrying the weight of his family and the weight of the world.

Their neighbour had arrived with the midwife, and now the women clustered about the bed as Mother wailed, stepping outside only to dash buckets of red water onto cracked earth, or wring bloody rags between their fingers. Hikita would watch them then, his eyes hidden behind soot-smeared glass, black and empty as the dusk above their heads.

He knew what another mouth meant for his family. Knew their pitiful stead wouldn’t have enough good earth left next season to feed three, let alone four. But the baby was coming, whether he willed it or not. There was nowhere else for it to go, after all.

Tetsuo stabbed at the ashen earth with a stick. The blood lotus crop around them swayed and rolled, voices whispering in the husk-dry leaves.

‘Do you think it will be another boy?’

‘Only the Maker knows,’ Hikita replied.

‘I would like a sister.’

‘I would like the cur who put that baby in her to be at her side. I would like Father to still be alive.’ Hikita scowled, climbing to his feet. ‘Like has nothing to do with life.’

He stared at the Tōnan Mountains to the west; jagged fists raised against the setting sun. Between Hikita’s feet and those stone roots, miles of deadlands stretched into the dark – cracks in the earth running twenty feet deep, wreathed in choking fog. Through the fumes, he could see a broken wagon here, a collapsed barn there. Farmsteads run to ruin, swallowed by the blackness spreading from the Stain. He knew somewhere in those mountains loomed First House, the heart of Guild power in Shima. The ones who fed the lotus with the blood of roundeyes, or so the radio sometimes said. The ones who were bleeding this land dry for the sake of fuel and flowers.

Sometimes, when the sky-ships flew overhead, the windows would rattle and little Tetsuo would wake from his sleep, thinking demons were rising from the Hells. But Hikita knew the oni had better things to do than trouble the sleep of foolish boys. The Endsinger’s children dwelled below the earth, deep in the Yomi Underworld. It was men who stained the clouds in their roaring machines. Men who turned the sky to red, the land to ashes, the rain to black. Not demons. Not gods. Just men.

A trembling wail split the dusk, Mother shrieking, throat raw. Hikita scowled again, lifted his kerchief and spat. Brother or sister, it didn’t matter. He’d hate that child. Hate it as he hated its father, with his smooth talk and smoother smile. A dog who took advantage of a widow’s loneliness, left her in dishonour, a bastard in her belly. He’d kill him if he saw him again. Show him that though they lived on the Stain’s edge, in the poorest lands in all the seven islands of Shima, they were still Ryu clan. The blood of Dragons still flowed in their veins.

The windows began rattling and Hikita looked up, expecting to see a Guild sky-ship lumbering out of the dusk. But the sky was an empty, fading red, scabbed with storm clouds. The rattling intensified, the earth trembling so violently he fell to his knees. Tetsuo crawled across the bucking soil, a great belly-sore rumble beneath them. The brothers held each other as the island shook, Tetsuo crying out in fear.

‘Another earthquake?’

The fifth in as many weeks. The rumbling stilled, choking slowly, until the skitter of rotten earth into the deadlands fissures was the only noise. A thin cry began; a newborn’s first bewildered plea as it was dragged from bloody warmth into this world of men. Kicking and screaming.

‘It’s here!’ Tetsuo cried, the tremors forgotten.

He slipped from Hikita’s embrace and dashed into the house, dirty heels beating the verandah like drums. Hikita stood slowly, listening to the hungry wails from their newest mouth. He could hear his mother crying, the joy in her voice as she called for him to come meet his new sister. And the boy shook his head and licked the ashes from his lips, looking across the tall stalks of blood lotus to the desolation around the mountain’s feet.

He blinked. Squinted in the gloom.

Tiny lights. Blood-red. A pair, shining between the lotus fronds. The crunch of little feet in dead leaves and deader earth. Hikita peered into the dark, the wails of his new sibling filling his ears. The deadlands fumes were an oil-thick shadow, rippling like black water. The lotus stalks bent gently – something moving through the crop – and the tiny lights flickered out, once, twice, winking like the long lost stars in the skies overhead.

No, not winking, he realized.

Blinking.

A figure shuffled from the stalks, covered in black earth and ashes. It stood two feet high, but its arms hung long and low, back bent as it shuffled forward and snuffled at the air. Its eyes were scarlet, casting a bloody light over heavy brows, hairless skull, swollen lips. It saw the boy, lips splitting into an idiot grin like a toddler who’d just found a new playmate. But its teeth were yellowed fangs, tusks protruding from its lower jaw, and Hikita realized that beneath the mask of dirt and ash, its skin was midnight blue.

Uh-uuhhhhhhhh,’ it said, holding out its arms.

Hikita’s eyes were fixed on the talons set in those grasping fingers, sharp as katana.

Gn-uhhhhh . . .’

‘Oni,’ he breathed. ‘Lord Izanagi save me.’

The demon flinched at the Maker God’s name, eyes growing bright and wide. It loped forward, knuckles dragging in the earth, a shriek of rage spilling from crooked fangs.

Hikita screamed. Screamed with his sister, here on her birthing day in the shadow of those broken peaks, amidst the rot creeping like a cancer across the island’s skin. Screamed as if it were his final breath. As if it were all he was, and all he ever would be.

As if the world itself was ending.

_______________________

ENDSINGER releases November 25, 2014.

You can pre-order your copy here:

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

iTunes

BooksaMillion

Indiebound

Amazon

Book Depository

 


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