Tag Archives: writers

Snapshots: Jessica Rydill interviewed

Malarat by Jessica RydillTell us about Malarat.
Malarat is the name of a person and a place. It’s the title of the Duc de Malarat, a powerful nobleman who plans to put a puppet king on the throne of Lefranu. The Duke wants to rule the whole country so he sets out to attack the independent southern states. He’s backed by the Domini Canes, an order of monks who are a cross between the Inquisition and the Crusaders. The name means ‘Hounds of God’ and was a nickname for the Dominicans historically, when they staffed the Inquisition. They are commanded by a young man called Valdes de Siccaria, who is stunningly beautiful but malevolent.

Their main problem in attacking the south is the shamans, a group of humans with magical powers sufficient to drive them off. Siccaria develops a secret weapon called the Spider, made from iron. Shamans, being magical, react badly to iron, so he discovers a way to neutralise them and sets out to do so. He believes that they offend against the natural order of things, so he is determined to eradicate them.

The shamans learn about this through intelligence information but have no idea how bad it is until they experience it first hand. And then they’re in trouble. Only a handful of them are powerful enough to fight – most shamans just do healing, otherwise you can imagine – kerpow! So it’s an immediate problem for them as a group, and for the people they’re trying to protect.

In addition to that there’s a demon on the loose – no-one knows how it got out (or in). It tends to go round possessing people and hiding out, occasionally emerging to cause trouble.

How does it relate to your earlier work?
It takes place in the same world and the same country. I have ret-conned a few things, such as the name of the country (Lefranu). A lot of people thought it was set in Eastern Europe, but in fact it’s an alternate version of France. I wanted to emphasise that detail. The confusion arises because of the large number of characters with Russian names. In fact, they are all exiles or émigrés of various kinds. Climate change plays an important part in the background of the novel! A mini Ice Age has just ended, and some places have been left technologically and culturally stranded. It’s like the Victorian era with bits that are stuck in the past.

Though the story follows on from the events in The Glass Mountain, my second book, it can definitely be read on its own. It’s not a children’s book. There are some graphic scenes and the themes are dark. It continues to explore my interest (or obsession) with the underworld, and two of the narrative threads take place in the afterlife or spirit world, from the shamanic point of view. I use elements from Russian and Jewish folklore, together with some origin myths about the English. There’s an Anglit (or Englishman) with a mad and spectacular plan to colonise Heaven. He believes that his countrymen are the true Israelites (Ya-udi), as opposed to the Wanderers, and sets out to alter history accordingly.

Are there more Malarat stories to come?
There could be sequels. I’m working on something at the moment, but I’ve zoomed the perspective out a bit and brought in two more parallel worlds, one of which is supposed to be this one – up to a point. I hope the next one will be lighter.

What is the significance of Goddesses in your work?
Many years ago, I was hugely influenced by Robert Graves’s book The White Goddess with its ‘eternal theme’ of two men fighting for the love of one woman. And then after a life-long interest in the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, made famous by Holy Blood and Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, I came across the legend that Mary Magdalene had sailed to France with a group of companions that included two women also called Mary (a tradition still celebrated in the South of France today).

This triggered the idea of a hidden and heretical goddess-based religion in France, starting with the two Marys who settled in Arles with their Egyptian servant Sara. Not unlike the syncretisation of African gods and goddesses in Vodou, Candomble and Santeria!

That lay behind the creation of several goddess-based sects. Doxa, the state religion, is similar to Christianity with the Virgin Mary as part of the Trinity. Though it’s a matriarchal religion, men hold positions of power. The other religion is worship of the Lady, who appeared in Children of the Shaman as two separate divinities – the Bright Lady and the Cold One. They are aspects of her, dark and light, and in Malarat the Goddess has been reunited with herself. But she’s an ambiguous character– is she good or evil? What is she up to? She has her own way of being, her myth, and some of the characters get caught up in it. So though she seems benign, she’s ambivalent.

Describe your typical writing day.
I don’t have a typical writing day, but I find it easiest to write late at night when there are fewer distractions.

Some reviewers have suggested that your writing is filmic, or even designed to be filmed. What films have influenced you?
One of my all-time favourite films is Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman. It is a historical film with elements of magic and is really scary in places. It becomes a fight to the death between a young boy and his really horrible step-father, the Bishop, who is one of the scariest characters in film. I also like cartoons and anime and would love to be filmed by Studio Ghibli (in my dreams!). I wanted to convey that atmosphere of a fairly realistic world where nonetheless some strange things happen. And I enjoyed Cronos by Guillermo del Toro – I’d love to have seen what he made of The Hobbit!

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I’m planning to reissue my first book, Children of the Shaman, as an ebook – and its sequel, The Glass Mountain. They are both out of print now and I’d like to bring them back. And also to harmonise the language with that of Malarat. Some people criticised me for using untranslated French and I think that’s absolutely fair, so I want to remove some of the French and otherwise provide translations, as I have done in Malarat.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
There are so many good people out there. I love the work of Kari Sperring, who writes intelligent and thoughtful fantasy novels that deserve to be published in this country – her latest title is The Grass King’s Concubine. I’d like to mention Adele Abbot, whose novel Postponing Armageddon, an alternate history, is due to be published as an ebook in June. And I enjoy the writing of Meyari McFarland, whose Matriarchies of Muirin tales have been issued as a series of ebooks on Amazon.

Publishing is going through a period of rapid change. How has this affected you as an author, and what are your plans?
My plans are to carry on writing, and to see whether Malarat finds an audience. It is hard to predict how things will turn out in future. I would love to be published in a traditional manner, but the digital format gives me an opportunity that would otherwise be missing. The real problem is bringing readers to the novel – there is so much out there and readers are spoilt for choice. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice you are initially given about using social media is flawed since, as someone observed, the result can be writers trying to sell their books to other writers. (cf. ‘WRITING ON THE ETHER: Writers in the Inferno’ by Porter Anderson, guest-posting on Jane Friedman’s blog.)

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Not to self-censor on the first draft but once that is done to edit and re-edit. And then edit some more.

Malarat by Jessica Rydill

Jessica Rydill was born in Bath in 1959. She read English at King’s College Cambridge before training as a solicitor. In 1998 she gave up work to write. Her first two novels, Children of the Shaman and The Glass Mountain, were published by Orbit in 2001 and 2002. She lives just outside Bath with her husband and her collection of Asian Ball-jointed Dolls, some of which resemble characters from her invented world.

Buy stuff and find out more:


Sad Songs, With Lots Of Drumming – a guest post by Ian R MacLeod

The White Heather ClubYou have to be of a certain age to remember The White Heather Club. Back in the times when the TV was still in just one room in the house and you had to wait for it to warm up, vague grey shapes sword-dancing to tiddildy-dee music or singing about speeding bonny boats was what passed for light entertainment. Not that there was any choice, but it was a favourite in our family, my father being a typically nostalgic expat Scotsman. The first record that was bought for me (rather than that supposed landmark; the first you buy yourself) was a single of Andy Stewart’s A Scottish Soldier, which I remember enjoying a great deal. I also liked the theme tune to The Lone Ranger, which I didn’t then know was Rossini’s William Tell Overture. That, and Perry Como singing his way through the states of the USA (although I didn’t realise that either) in What Did Della Wear?

It’s easy to groan and try to shut the doors on the embarrassing things we thought we liked before we really knew about music. The novelty records and one hit wonders. But they’re there — they’re part of all our heritage — and their influence remains. My co-ordination is poor to this day, but apparently one of my favourite toddler pursuits was to go into the lounge and bang the poker against the coal scuttle and the fire grate; I’ve always been a frustrated drummer. I think I can still just about remember the noisy pleasure of those sessions, and perhaps that rat-a-tat martial drumming was the appeal of Andy Stewart’s song. That, and the solider dying.

Music was played each day on some big old gramophone as we marched into assembly at infants’ school, and again as we stomped around pretending to be dinosaurs or curled up like the seeds of flowers in something called “Music and Movement”. I have no clear recollection of what the music was, but it was “improving” and classical, and I reckon it may well have included some of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and the much more jagged Romeo and Juliet. He’s still a favourite composer. There always did seem to be something about classical music that I found interesting. My next “bought for me” single, actually an EP, came from my elder brother after I’d been to see Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, which takes its music from Tchaikovsky’s ballet. I remember being a bit disappointed as we sat waiting for “the tune”… but also how much I liked the nice lady ballet dancer photographed on the cover. One of my pleasures was to dress up in my sister’s old ballet costume, and pretend to be a fairy. I even went to school dressed that way once or twice when the occasion seemed to demand it. In those days no one seemed to worry about such behaviour.

After that, up through infants’ and on into secondary school, music, and dressing up, took a back seat. I had no great interest in what was becoming the “Top Ten”, but listened as most kids then did to Junior Choice on the BBC Radio’s Light Programme. I enjoyed songs such as The Little White Bull and The Ugly Bug Ball because they told a story, and particularly liked Puff the Magic Dragon, because it ended so sadly — “a dragon lives forever, but not so little boys…” But my two biggest favourites were Feed The Birds from Mary Poppins, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Great songs by any standard, and both filled with sad yearning. I suspect that this was the first music to make me cry, and to realise what an oddly glorious feeling that was.

A still from SnodgrassMy elder sister, meanwhile, had noticed this group called the Beatles, and I was very happy to dance along with her to the singles she bought and played on our new radiogram that sat in the lounge on the far side of the fireplace from the telly. Jolly, melodic stuff, and Mum and Dad liked the Beatles as well. In fact, everyone seemed to like the Beatles. But that very likeability made me wary. That, or perhaps their songs simply weren’t sad enough, and lacked the right kind of drumming. But I played Rain on the B side of Paperback Writer often, fascinated by the hypnotic way it drawled and jangled. My elder brother’s tastes went in the direction of Harry Secombe and Andy Williams, but there was one track on an LP of his that I also played and played. It was from an “original cast” (i.e. – not the people from the movie) recording of West Side Story, and was called The Rumble — a modern ballet piece, all jagged angles and mis-shaped chords. Then, and now, it struck me as fresh and sharp and brilliant.

School, being school, still involved random bits of exposure to music. We even used to get so-called “music lessons” each week for no reason any of us could understand, least of all the teacher. Still, one day he set about demonstrating the capabilities of his nice new stereo by playing us a surprisingly lengthy piece of classic music. To his credit, he explained how this symphony started sadly because the composer had had to travel to America without his family, and how it might help if we imagined him arriving on a big steamer into New York harbour, and to try to feel his spirits lifting as he sees the city skyline. I thought this was fabulous stuff, a story told in sound. And there was this churning sadness, those slow drums rolling…

A week or so later, I bought my first record with my own money, an LP of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and the music was even more fabulous than I remembered. In those carefree days, and I and most of my mates used to go home for lunch from our secondary school. As everyone else was out, I’d take my white bread and mashed banana on a tray into the lounge, turn on the radiogram, and let this music flow around me. This is it, I thought. This is something that I love. The sixties had moved on, and my mates were also buying records of their own. Not classical LPs, but singles from the charts by the likes of Herman’s Hermits and Sonny and Cher. I didn’t have any problem with much of this — I watched Top of the Pops just like everyone else — but at the same time I was happy to tell them that it was all a bit… well, simple.

So there I was, my head in the clouds and following on Dvorak with Holst’s Planet Suite and a compilation called Classical Fireworks which wasn’t quite on the same level. No easy decisions, seeing as LPs cost a lot. I liked being different — I liked liking stuff that other people didn’t know or understand or care about. As the radiogram had to remain in its sacred place in the lounge, I was also regularly inflicting my music on the rest of my family, or being told to turn it down, or evicted so they could watch telly. The Beatles, meanwhile, had gone a bit odd, and my sister seemed to have lost interest in them. Another of my random musical experiences at school was when our geography teacher took it upon himself to play their new LP called Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band instead of telling us about towns of the Potteries. I can remember hearing Lennon singing For the Benefit of Mister Kite, and thinking it was strange and wonderful, and like nothing I’d ever heard, least of all She Loves You and those other sugary hits. Not that I bought the record, of course. After all, I only bought classical stuff, didn’t I?

I had the radiogram in the lounge mostly to myself now, as my bother had left to get married and my sister was off at university, and my Dad only had a Black and White Minstrels LP and some Scottish pipes and drums stuff he played at New Year or when he got sentimental. When my sister returned with a boyfriend in tow, they were gracious enough to take me with them to see a film called 2001 A Space Odyssey, and my world was changed. Partly, of course, because of the look of the film, and the mystery of whatever story it was telling, but at least as much because of the music. Not just the iconic stuff by the two Strausses, brilliant though that was, but the other, weirder, pieces. When I played one of my mates some Ligeti from the 2001 soundtrack, I remember him commenting that he would, genuinely, rather listen to Mrs Mills on the piano. Which was great as far as I was concerned. More of this strange and wonderful music left just for me.

But, alarmingly, I found that I now rather liked some of the singles from what was now called the “Top Twenty”. Between buying Richard Strauss tone poems and exploring Karl Nielsen’s symphonies, my secret shame was that I thought some of Deep Purple’s stuff, and Alice Cooper’s, not to mention Cream and the Stones, was actually pretty good. I liked the drumming, and the riffs, and the sense of risk, and the jangling, twisting melodies. And then there was David Bowie. Not because of the way he dressed — my own dressing-up days were behind me — but because of the music. I particularly loved Life on Mars, with its soaring wistfulness, and Space Odyssey, because of Major Tom dying.

Maybe this pop and rock thing had something going for it after all. Not the stuff you heard all the time on daytime Radio One, of course, but by now I was listening to John Peel as I played with my Airfix soldiers on Sunday afternoons, and enjoying a new, different, sense of exclusivity. I never bought singles, but the first rock LP I bought was Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The classical link was obvious, but at least as important was that it came in Island’s cheaper Help series instead of at full price. That, and the cool gatefold cover. But it was great, and I absorbed it with the same edge-of-the-seat enthusiasm I’d had for Dvorak, Richard Strauss and Ligeti. I loved the shrieking, atonal bits where Keith Emerson attacked his keyboard. And then there was the drumming…

Ah! Drumming. It wasn’t something you got much of in classical music. Even Holst’s Mars doesn’t have the same propulsion as Karl Palmer at full tilt. My next LP, and the first live act I saw, was the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Drumming aplenty there, and brilliant solo playing. One of my favourite live musical memories is of John McLaughlin and Jean-Luc Ponty trading fours (although I didn’t then know what it was called) on the stage of the Birmingham Odeon. That, and Michael Walden’s thirty minute drum solo. For a long while after that, by now a sixth-former, then a college student, I bought complex jazz-edged rock music, often with very little singing. This was the era of prog rock, and there was plenty of this stuff to go around, although to my mind, as ever a musical snob, a lot of it was still a bit simple-minded. The Floyd, for example, who I liked for a while, at least until the NME laid into them for being lazily commercial. Not to mention Genesis. And as for Supertramp… Actually, I secretly loved my tape of a friend’s Crime of the Century because it was such a sad album.

From here on in, it probably all gets much more predictable. Step forward Henry Cow. Step forward Keith Jarrett and pretty much anything on the ECM label. That, and Steely Dan, and Joni Mitchell, along with a slow return to the classical stuff I’d always loved, especially the great, sad, romantic composers, combined with all the folk, ambient and avant guard music I began listening to. Thanks in major part to Richard and Linda Thompson’s brilliantly pessimistic I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, which starts with a song about suicide and ends with the fabulously bleak The Great Valerio, I finally realised that there was elegance and profundity in seemingly simple music. But probably the last great aha moment in my musical life came when I purchased, for no exact reason I can now remember, a copy of King Crimson’s Red. I already had In the Court of the Crimson King, but, if you discount the great cover and Twenty First Century Schizoid Man, that’s a surprisingly quiet album. I took Red from its sleeve, opened up the record player, which still sat in my parents’ lounge opposite the telly, and played it, and played it, and played it, and played it. Again. And again. I could play it now. In fact, I will…

The prowling thunder of the title track. The jagged, free-form of Providence. Above all, the churning mellotron chords which begin Starless, with that yearning guitar theme and those bleak lyrics about grey hope and sunsets that quitens to a riff which builds over clashing drums until the main theme returns in a howl of saxophones. Complex, intelligent music, played with a ferocious mixture of joy, anger and passion. Maybe it helped that Fripp and his band were imploding. Who knows? To me this is still, and always will be, earth-shatteringly brilliant. I could cry. I am crying. It all seems a very long way from Andy Stewart’s A Scottish Soldier. But then, I always did like sad songs, with lots of drumming.

Guest post by Ian R MacLeod

Ian R MacLeod’s “Snodgrass”, a story telling the life of a John Lennon who quit the Beatles just before they became famous, and ended up living in Birmingham and working for a while in the civil service will be shown in the UK on Sky Playhouse on 25 April.

Open Road Media will shortly be publishing all of Ian’s novels as e-books. They’re starting with a “Best Of” collection of short stories called Snodgrass and Other Illusions, featuring some favourites from his whole career, a few rarities, and individual afterwords.

For all the latest news visit Ian R MacLeod’s website.


New: On my Way to Samarkand – memoirs of a travelling writer, by Garry Douglas Kilworth

On my way to Samarkand - memoirs of a travelling writer by Garry Douglas KilworthGarry (Douglas) Kilworth is a varied and prolific writer who has travelled widely since childhood, living in a number of countries, especially in the Far East. His books include science fiction and fantasy, historical novels, literary novels, short story collections, children’s books and film novelisations.

This autobiography contains anecdotes about his farm worker antecedents and his rovings around the globe, as well as his experiences in the middle list of many publishing houses.

The style is chatty, the structure loose – pole vaulting time and space on occasion – and the whole saga is an entertaining ramble through a 1950s childhood, foreign climes and the genre corridors of the literary world.

Kilworth is a master of his trade. (Punch)

Garry Kilworth is arguably the finest writer of short fiction today, in any genre. (New Scientist)

Kilworth is one of the most significant writers in the English language. (Fear)

Snapshots: John Grant interviewed

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing a fairly massive encyclopedia of film noir. I’m not yet certain what the title will be – the publisher and I have batted around possibilities like A-Z of Film Noir and Dictionary of Film Noir. My personal favourite at the moment is The People’s Encyclopedia of Film Noir. It’s going to be very different from other books with similar titles in that (a) it’s going to cover far more movies, somewhere in the 2000 to 3000 range, I’m guessing – and (b) its coverage is going to be truly international – not just the usual suspects (geddit?) like the US, UK and France but also the other European countries, Eastern as well as well as Western, plus Australia, HK, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the South American countries, you name it. My eyes are getting sore from reading all those subtitles.

What have you recently finished?

I think the most recent book I’ve finished – aside from some stuff I’ve ghostwritten – is the novella The Lonely Hunter, which is coming out Real Soon Now from PS Publishing. I’m not sure exactly when: the pub date hasn’t been formally announced yet, but the artwork has been done and dusted and I’ve signed all the endpapers and so on.

What’s recently or soon out?

Well, I’ve just answered part two of that question!

As for its part one, last fall saw two of my nonfiction books released. One, from Prometheus, was Denying Science, which has so far been surprisingly well received. I’d been expecting far more of an uproar from the denialists than there’s actually been. One review site went berserk because, so far as the reviewer is concerned, climate change has been proven to be a complete hoax and I was living in a fantasy world if I thought otherwise. Meanwhile, in the real world, the daffodils have been coming up a month early around here the past two springs.

The book earned me, from writer Gregory Frost, an accolade that I’ll treasure ’til the end of my days: “John Grant is the living heir of Martin Gardner.”

The other major nonfiction book of mine to come out last fall was also my very first straight-to-ebook publication, Warm Words and Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews, collecting most of the reviews over the past fifteen years or so from venues like Infinity Plus and Crescent Blues that I’m still prepared to acknowledge. I was startled to find, when I was putting the book together, that the final text came to something over 150,000 words. If I’d put in the reviews I’m not still prepared to acknowledge, who knows what the total might have been!

This struck me – and my publisher, Keith Brooke of Infinity Plus Ebooks (hey, that’s you!) – as a perfect example of how ebook technology ought to be used. Not many print publishers would look at a collection of book reviews as a viable project, but the extraordinarily low production costs of ebooks made it, I think, worthwhile for author and publisher alike.

There were also ebook publications of three of my short stories in the Infinity Plus Singles range.

Describe your typical writing day.

Get up. Smooch wife, who’s usually up before me. Have pee. Make tea. Ruminate about pointlessness of latter two activities. Spoil various cats. Switch on computer. Stare at screen. Open up Thunderbird and check email. Open up Firefox and check cricinfo.com. Stare at screen a while longer. Open up WordPerfect 5.1 (because I’m a boring old fart and still prefer a DOS program that does everything I want to whatever the latest Microsoft product is). Start writing.

It’s slightly different at the moment, because I’m working on a movie book. As when I was writing the three editions of my Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters and my book Masters of Animation, not to mention the movie threads of David Pringle’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and my own and John Clute’s The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, part of the day is likely to involve watching one or more movies. My next phase of work on the film noir book is going to be a couple of months during which I have to watch and write about four, five or on occasion even six movies a day. Friends say I’m a lucky dog to get paid for watching movies. I tell them to try as much as a weekend’s worth of that sort of intensive viewing.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?


You mean you want me to narrow things down a bit? Well, of my novels I’m really proud of The World, The Far-Enough Window, The Dragons of Manhattan and Leaving Fortusa – all four of those do things I think really needed to be done, and in my humble opinion do them well. I’d also stand by my novel The Hundredfold Problem; one of the reviewers said that he read it on the basis that it was fun, and enjoyed it, but that it actually forced him to do some thinking about pretty profound issues. I can’t think of higher praise than that.

As for my nonfiction books? Well, the Disney and Fantasy encyclopedias, obviously. And I think I’m doing something worthwhile in the books I’ve been writing over the past few years on the misunderstanding of scientific issues: Discarded Science, Corrupted Science, Bogus Science and most recently, as noted, Denying Science. I was extraordinarily chuffed a couple of years back when John Marburger, formerly Science Advisor to the White House, congratulated me on these and described them as important.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

There are other authors and books?

In fact, I think lots and lots of books and authors deserve plugs. My reading tends to be, by design, pretty scattershot – I cringe when people say things like “I read a book by Melvyn P. Scroit and I loved it so much I read everything else he had written, front to back!” Me, if I really love a book, I start rationing out the other books by that author, to make sure I get the very best out of each of them. I still haven’t read The Quiet Woman by Christopher Priest, even though he’s one of my Top Ten Living Authors and even though it’s been on my shelf for fifteen years and even though I’ve read several of his other, more recent novels since getting that one. He’s good enough that I let myself read a novel of his no more than every year or three, or more. I’m a great fan of Ian Rankin’s Rebus books, too, but I still have plenty of those stashed to read. And so on.

With a writer like Carlos Ruiz Zafon, on the other hand – another great fave – it’s easier, because his books are being released into anglophone markets only slowly.

As for writers you’ve never heard of who deserve a plug? Well, there’s C.S. Thompson, whose City of Strange Dreams is, I think, pretty wonderful. And then there’s a whole slew of little known authors the reviews of whose books you can find in Warm Words and Otherwise, hint, hint.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

(a) Write. It sounds like a joke reply, but it isn’t. I’ve lost of count of how many people I’ve met who want to be writers but who seem reluctant to do the stuff of actually, y’know, writing. It was a piece of advice offered to me first by, of all people, Alec Waugh, who I met at some bash or other when I was even callower than I am today.

(b) Finish the first book. Again, it sounds like a joke reply, but isn’t. If you’re like I was, you’ll be about three-quarters of the way through that first novel, or more, when you realize it’s total garbage. Even so, finish it. For ever after you’ll know you’re capable of writing a full-length book. When you sit down to write the next one – the one that’s going to win you the Booker and draw the attention of the Nobel committee – you’ll know it’s not going to be one of those unfinished, unpublished masterpieces.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing?

Pretty morose, I’d say. The POD revolution and then the ebook revolution were supposed to “democratize” publishing, and that seemed to be a good thing. The major corporate publishers had reduced literature to the point that there was more interest in a new book “by” Lindsay Lohan than in something you’d actually want to read. Lots of very good books were not getting published because of this dumbass, short-termist, look-at-the-bottom-line attitude. Quite a few of those were getting picked up by small presses (e.g., Akashic) or medium-sized presses (e.g., the Prometheus imprint Pyr), which suffered the disadvantage that they weren’t able to bribe Barnes & Noble to pile the books up at the front of the store, but were still better than nothing at all. Even so, many good books were just not getting published. Come the POD and ebook revolutions, and this’d be sorted. What has in fact happened is that about a billion novels have been published among which a mere several are worth reading.

A lot of that billion have been published for free download. Given the choice between a free book and one you have to pay for . . . You’re following my line of thought, aren’t you?

So our hypothetical reader downloads to his or her Kindle, for free, dozens of books of the generic form Porno Zombies Hit On Sparkly Vampire High School Cheerleaders and discovers they’re all complete mindrot. Does that reader go back for more, even though this stuff is free? Does s/he go further, and investigate books that actually cost money?

You tell me.


John Grant is author of over sixty books, both fiction and nonfiction, and the recipient of two Hugo Awards, a World Fantasy Award, and several others. He coedited with John Clute The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and wrote The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters. Described in Argosy magazine as a “modern Renaissance man,” he has written on subjects as diverse as beer, dreams, science and beyond; most recent (fall 2011) is Denying Science. He is currently writing a major book on film noir.

John wrote the chapter ‘Infinite pasts, infinite futures: the many worlds of time travel’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).

Buy stuff:

%d bloggers like this: