Tag Archives: writing career

Twenty-five years

So… almost to the day, I’ve been twenty-five years a professional writer (the editing, publishing, book-designing, etc, were added a bit later).

The tally so far:

  • 73 short stories, the first published two years after I started writing professionally (I count August 1987 as the start of my pro career because that’s when I started to write full-time, albeit with no income to start with, and the first story I wrote that month was ‘Adrenotropic Man’, my first sale to Interzone) and several featured in recommended lists and Year’s Bests
  • 8 novels under my own name
  • 4 young adult novels as Nick Gifford
  • a collection of short stories written with Eric Brown (is this one book or two? The first edition in 2000 included a couple of solo stories; the 2008 edition dropped those two and added a new collaborative novella, and so is quite substantially different)
  • 6 collections of my own short fiction
  • getting on for 200 book reviews for a range of publications, including the Guardian, Interzone, Foundation and many more
  • 2 or perhaps 3 anthologies co-edited with Nick Gevers (see why I have trouble counting up how many books I’m responsible for? There’s the difficulty with how to count my collaborative collection written with Eric Brown, and here there’s the question of how to add up two separate anthologies which were later published by a different publisher in a single, fat volume – two books, or three?); we also co-edited an issue of Interzone
  • editor of a non-fiction, kind of academic book about SF
  • 10 years of editing the online genre fiction showcase infinity plus, featuring over 2 million words of fiction, more than 1,000 book reviews, more than 100 interviews and much more
  • a fair number of non-fiction essays, interviews and journalistic pieces
  • and a few things under various other pen-names

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve kept myself busy for the last twenty-five years.

So where does this leave me?

Quite frustrated, as it happens. All this work, all those fantastic reviews, and yet still I seem to be the kind of writer very much admired by a smallish number but unknown to most; I’ve published regularly, but have rarely had a regular publisher for more than a few years; I’ve had at least one pretty big bestseller, but that was nearly ten years ago now; I think I have a reputation as someone who works away and achieves a lot; and I think my last four novels are among the best things I’ve written.

Is that enough?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m craving awards and media attention (although it’d be nice not to feel that each book is published into a vacuum), but I really do wonder if all the personal sacrifice is worth it.

Twenty-five years in the business and yet again I’m faced with slogging away at a book that I’ll care passionately about but may never be published.

Twenty-five years, and this year I’ve had two books published by fantastic publishers (Solaris and Palgrave Macmillan) and am I really thinking that now might be the time to go into semi-retirement? By this I mean that I love to write, and want to continue, but I’m just bone-tired of slogging away writing on spec when my editing and pseudonymous writing bring more regular and guaranteed response and reward, even when what I regard as ‘my own’ writing is what I really love to do.

If anyone likes my work enough to ask me to write a story for their publication then I’d love to hear, but right now, well… right now, other than for those invitations, I think it’s time to dig out those slippers and take a break from working on spec.

Note: tomorrow I might feel entirely different. We’ll see.

Guest blog, Eric Brown: First novels

First novels are curious creatures because they are rarely, of course, first novels.

It’s very rare for a writer to sit down, write a first novel, and a little way down the line have it published. More often than not, a ‘first’ novel is the result of years of laborious apprenticeship, writing numerous novels in order to learn the craft, and abandoning them to the bottom drawer or, more drastically, to the flaming hearth.

There are exceptions, of course. J.K. Rowling’s first effort found a publisher – after numerous rejections – and I seem to recall it did rather well. And the host of this site, Keith Brooke, sold the very first novel he wrote, Keepers of the Peace, damn him.

But for the rest of us, the hill is steeper.

Meridian Days by Eric Brown

Looking back on my career, the hill seems to have been a mountain of my own making.

You see, I was labouring under a misapprehension from the very start.

In my late teens I read somewhere, in an interview with the SF great Alfred Bester, that all writers must write a million words of rubbish before they finally become published. Now, had I read that the prescribed total should be a hundred thousand words, I might have been published a lot earlier… But that magical million words lodged in my brain and wouldn’t be shifted – affecting me, I’m sure, subconsciously, and ensuring that Meridian Days came out when it did.

Meridian Days, my first novel, was in fact around my twentieth written novel.

The very first novel I wrote, I recall, was a terrible pastiche of two of my favourite writers at the time, Leslie Thomas and Tom Sharpe. It was horribly written, cliché-ridden, badly plotted, and unfunny… which for a comedy novel was the ultimate crime. But at least I finished it, eighty thousand words written longhand over a period of eighteen months. I even typed up the first two chapters, before realising how bad it was and abandoning the thing.Then came a slew of very short science fiction novels using the usual tropes: time-travel, alien invasions, future dystopias. These were short because while living in Australia for four years until the age of eighteen I’d come across the Ace Double range of SF novels (they also published westerns, romances and thrillers in the same format); each one was between around 25k and 55k – giving me the false impression that this was the length of SF novels. So I churned out dozens of the things, and even submitted one or two of them to paperback houses in the UK and US – Hamlyn, I think; Sphere, and in the States Major Books (that ms was returned with the note on the package that the company was no longer in business). I have a vague recollection of receiving a rejection letter from my now agent John Jarrold, when he was a commissioning editor.All the while I was writing short stories in various genres: SF, crime, mainstream, and getting nowhere.

In ’84 I spent a year in India, and that seemed to spark something – that, and the fact that I’d written a million words of rubbish, and a few years after I got back I began writing the short stories which would be published in Interzone, beginning in ’87.

A year later, on the strength of these tales, I was approached by an agent: did I have a novel I would like him to look at? Well, I had twenty of the things under my bed, but none of which I thought up to scratch. I bundled together a collection of shorts instead, and miracle of miracles Pan Books bought them. The volume appeared as The Time-Lapsed Man and other stories in 1990.Of course, Pan then wanted to see a novel, so over a period of nine months I wrote Meridian Days, a short novel of doomed love, extraterrestrial colonies, matter transmission, and much more, which was published by Pan in 1992.My first novel.

Or my twentieth… which now is reincarnated by infinity plus ebooks.

Now available from Amazon UKAmazon US and SmashwordsMeridian Days by Eric Brown.

Meridian, twenty light years from Earth and with just a tiny scattering of inhabitable islands, seems the perfect place for Bob Benedict to escape the tragedy of his past. But when he meets Fire Trevellion he is drawn into a world of corruption and murder that is far darker than his past. Soon it’s all he can do just to survive…

“British writing with a deft, understated touch: wonderful” – New Scientist

“SF infused with a cosmopolitan and literary sensibility… accomplished and
affecting” – Paul McAuley

“One of the very best of the new generation of British SF writers” – Vector

“Eric Brown has an enviable talent for writing stories which are the essence
of modern science fiction and yet show a passionate concern for the human
predicament and human values” – Bob Shaw

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