Monthly Archives: July 2012

“So you’re a writer…?”

Most authors have had this response: one of the worst things someone can say upon discovering you’re a writer – “Lovely. So what’s your pen-name?”

The sub-text, of course (sub-text? Hell, it’s the text), is that they clearly don’t recognise your name so you either write under another name or you’re just a bit crap.

But still… at least there was a bit of cachet about being a writer: the listener expected to be impressed. (To digress, one of the very worst responses I had was a swift follow-up to the pen-name question: “So what kind of things do you write?” When I mentioned science fiction, the response shifted abruptly from hugely impressed to a complete change of subject. She might just as well have said, “So not a real writer, then?”)

Recently, I’ve noticed a new reaction when someone hears you have a book out. It’s no longer about your pen-name: people are more accustomed to not recognising authors’ names. The response is, in many ways, far better informed. It’s “Oh, is that with Lulu or CreateSpace? Or is it just straight to Kindle?”

Everyone’s a writer now. Or, at least, they can be – it’s just a matter of mastering a few online forms and a bit of formatting.

The democratisation fo publishing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, of course. There are lots of writers emerging through this route who may never have found an audience only a few years ago, and commercial publishing was certainly overdue a shake-up.

But for a writer who has been working away for ten or twenty years, and battled through the layers and layers of rejection and publishing meetings and marketing and distribution woes… It’s always been tough getting published by the big guys. The vast majority of writers who try, don’t succeed. Having got through all that, it was a huge thrill to get copies of your book, to hold them in your hands, to find them in bookshops.

And one of the small rewards was the bragging right: to be able to say, “Yes, I’m a writer” and have your listener at least assume that they might have heard of you. Is that with Lulu? just doesn’t cut it, when it comes to bragging rights.

Is this such a great loss? Maybe not. It certainly doesn’t matter to the vast majority of people.

But publishing has changed. Publishing has really changed.


Great review for alt.human (aka Harmony) at the Guardian

“Brooke excels at depicting unknowable and scarily arbitrary extraterrestrials and a human race crushed by endless cruelty and domination. Recommended.” – The Guardian

The Penny Dreadnought Files: Transcript of the Debriefing of Agent #742C – a guest post by Mr Everington

“So, what can you tell us about these so called ‘Abominable Gentlemen’, Agent #742C?”

“It’s worse than we thought, sir.”

“What do you mean? I thought they were just writers?”

“Well sir…”

“And not even proper writers, but – and I can barely bring myself to say this – genre writers. People fixated not just on what isn’t, but on what can never be.”

“I’m not sure how we could ever truly know what can never be, sir”

“This isn’t a philosophy class Agent #742C. This is you telling me whether these Gentlemen really are Abominable. Or Gentlemen. What are they each like individually, when they’re not calling themselves damn silly names?”

Alan Ryker is a cad, Sir, and Iain Rowan a rotter; Aaron Polson is a ruffian, and James Everington a n’er-do-well.”

“Hmmm. And are they really writers, or is it all just a cover for nefarious activities?”

“Well they do publish fiction sir. Both separately, but also as a group in a series of themed anthologies called Penny Dreadnought…

“Well, it’s a nice title I give ‘em that. But no – genre writers. Can’t be any good.”

“And they’ve recently published all sixteen stories from the first four volumes in an Omnibus volume, sir. You can buy it on places like Amazon and Amazon UK – I’ve checked and it is legitimate sir. Proper artwork and formatting and all that. But…”

“But,  Agent #742C?”

“But I don’t believe a word of it sir! They’re supposed to be horror writers! This Penny Dreadnought thing should contain stories about zombies or romantically inclined were-bats! That’s what horror readers want, isn’t it? It’s what Mrs #742C reads sir, and…”

Penny Dreadnought“I have no desire to learn the squalid secrets of your marriage, Agent #742C. So if it’s not that sort of thing, what sort of stories does this Penny Dreadnought Omnibus contain?”

“There’s ambiguity sir. Things that are unclear and make you think, long after you’ve finished the story… and… ”

“Don’t falter now Agent #742C.”

“And strong prose and characterisation – like real books! There’s even stories based on the theme of ‘epistemic doubt’ sir! They reference Descartes.”

“Good Lord!”

All the stories are like that sir. Literate and street-smart”

“You’re right, these can’t possibly be horror writers! What possible justifications can they give?”

“They claim they are part of a long line of ‘literate horror’ sir…”

“Wash your mouth out Agent 742C!”

“… which includes such people as Shirley Jackson, T.E.D. Klein, and Algernon Blackwood sir. They claim they grouped together as the ‘Abominable Gentlemen’ because they all shared similar sensibilities as writers, and wanted to band together to put out the best of their stories…”

“I don’t think I’ve ever come across a case as bad as this before. I don’t mind admitting to feeling some nausea.”

“They claim publishing their work together in this way allows them to increase their audience and allows their readers to find new and exciting authors. Further issues might even feature guest Gentlemen sir, of either gender, who are also writers of unashamedly high-brow horror…”

“I think I’ve heard enough. You’ve read this abomination – what do you suggest we do Agent #742C?”

“Nuke the site from orbit Sir?”

“Oh, you will go far Agent #742C.”

The first Penny Dreadnought anthology is available now and more information is available on the PD website. The Gentlemen themselves have been conspicuous by their absence since this debriefing took place, but hope to be bringing you more tales of nefariousness soon.

…and normal service is about to be resumed

After a break for distractions like, oh, getting married, the Keith Brooke/infinity plus blog is going to start waking up again. Lots of good stuff lined up, with author interviews, guest posts and general musings on writing and publishing. We’ll also be posting details of new infinity plus books as they appear, with lovely works by Nir Yaniv, Eric Brown, Robert Freeman Wexler and more lined up. Things are getting busy again!

%d bloggers like this: