What are you working on now?
At the moment, I’m working on my eighth novel, River of Light. It’s set in the same universe as my Shoal Sequence books, which follow a woman named Dakota Merrick through the seismic upheavals in human society some centuries in the future produced by the opening of a technological pandora’s box. This book, however, features new characters and a new story, although the astute reader will recognise one or two characters from previous novels.
What have you recently finished?
I recently finished a book which is coming out later this year, called The Thousand Emperors. It’s a sequel of sorts to a previous novel called Final Days, which was about the end of the world.
Describe your typical writing day.
My writing day typically starts with vast bouts of procrastination overcome only by sheer force of will and half a gallon of coffee. I always read those accounts of authors who get up at the crack of dawn, drink a gallon of vegetable juice and then crank out fifty pages of brilliant, insightful prose before going on a twenty-mile run before midday with envy and, I think, a touch of scepticism. Mostly I just drink coffee, make ‘bleurgh’ noises at my laptop and click-trance my way into such a profound state of boredom that I realise I would actually rather do some writing on my book than go on. It truly astounds me that this hopeless, pathetic process somehow produces a book a year.
What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Out of all my back list Stealing Light seems to get the most attention. It was my third book, and a borderline bestseller, which was nice given my second kind of tanked. But I still have affection for that second book (called Against Gravity). It’s like Marmite: you either get the ending, or you truly, absolutely hate it. And yet I can’t see any other way the book could possibly have ended, and it does have its fans (slight spoiler: I stole the ending from John Carpenter’s The Thing). I’m still proud of it, and not just because it’s the only one of my books so far which actually got an enquiry about rights from Hollywood. It’s easy to say I wish I could write it again because one of the dangers of being a novelist is that you want to rewrite everything you’ve ever written, including the book you just handed in five minutes ago. But I do think one day I want to explore the same themes in another book. But if I was going to say ‘take a look at this’ out of all my work, it would be that one. Plus, it’s just been reissued for Kindle (as has my first novel, Angel Stations), and will be reappearing later this year in a new print edition.
Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I can think of a few writers I’d like to plug, but I may have to claim self-interest as I publish some of them through my recently-started ebook reprint label Brain In A Jar Books. We’ve got work coming out from writers of the calibre of Hal Duncan, Mike Cobley and Phil Raines – Phil has never published a novel, but has produced nearly two dozen pro-published short stories, many of which have won literary prizes or appeared in Year’s Best SF anthologies. I’ll be publishing the first ever collection of his short fiction in the next couple of months.
Apart from that, there’s a few excellent writers making good use of Kindle to publish their own work, in parallel with their regular work for major publishing companies. William King writes for Warhammer, but is publishing several fantasy novels as ebook originals. So is KW Jeter, who’s written some of my favourite novels over the past twenty or thirty years.
Also, everyone should go out right now and harangue Simon Ings until he produces ebook versions of his fabulous novels, which were at times a huge influence on my own work, and which were certainly the inspiration for Against Gravity.
If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
The best writing advice in five words: just tell the damn story. Look at the very greatest writers, from Hemingway to Shepard: what do they do? They just tell the damn story. Concisely, using just the right words, without going off track or losing the point. That’s what you’re aiming to do as a writer. Tell the damn story – succinctly, clearly, and with focus. And yet the world is filled with would-be writers who simply cannot grasp this simple truth. I like to think I’m getting there, slowly.
So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
The future of publishing is a good one for writers, I think. I still believe very much in the necessity of the professional publishing marketplace, but writers finally have an opportunity to sell their own stuff in parallel with that, especially stuff which might be just as good as their work accepted by publishers, but which is nonetheless of sufficiently niche interest that is unlikely to be profitable for those publishers. What’s nice is that with the publisher out of the loop, even a niche market can sometimes prove to be quite profitable. The aforementioned William King is producing a series of ‘Lovecraftian gunpowder fantasy’ novels, hardly an easy sell in this day and age to a major publisher, and yet he’s making something like an actual living out of selling them direct.
Ten years from now, we will see ‘espresso’ book boutiques in dedicated Amazon stores in every city in the world, producing freshly minted copies of any book in existence. Twenty years from now, a more advanced version of that machine will be in your kitchen, or living room, and will be knocking out spoons, remote controls and random bits and bobs from downloaded ‘maker’ recipes along with the current bestseller. And major military interventions will take place over issues of copyright. I’m not kidding.
Gary Gibson is a Scottish science fiction author published in the UK by Pan Macmillan/Tor UK, and represented by The Dorian Literary Agency. His most recent book is Final Days, published in August 2011. Find out more about Gary and his work at his blog, White Screen of Despair.
Gary Gibson wrote the chapter ‘From slide–rules to techno–mystics: hard sf’s battle for the imagination’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).