Friday 28 January 2011

SciFi Now and other goings on

As noted in the comments to my 28th December post (thanks) the current issue of SciFi Now (150) has some stuff from me in it, if anyone's interested. I did a short editorial, a book review (Jon Courtenay Grimwood's The Fallen Blade, which I'm pleased to say I liked rather a lot), some commentary on six space-based films that I'm fond of, and a sidebar paragraph on the issue's classic SF book discussion, which I selected. I also chose the other reviewed book titles, although, somewhat disappointingly, there was no SF at all in that month's tranche. Statistical blip, or a sign of imminent End Times? Anyway, it was fun and if you've not had a look at SciFi Now before, it's always an enjoyable read. (SFX is great as well! How's that for fair and balanced reporting?)

I'll apologise now for general lack of activity round these parts in recent weeks (actually, make that months) and equal tardiness in the matter of email correspondence. I've never been great at it, but things tend to fall to pieces in spectacular fashion in the latter stages of novel writing and "Blue Remembered Earth" was no exception. (By the way, it's the done thing in publishing circles to put novel titles IN ALL CAPS but to me it always looks like shouting, so at least for the purposes of the blog I think we'll gently let that one drop).

I mentioned in my December post that there's a possibility of two novels from me this year, and I hope that's still the case, but I'm still waiting on the go-ahead for the non-obvious project; hopefully before long I can be a little more up front about it. I always get irritated when other writers blog about their secret projects, and look, I'm doing it myself. Tsk! Mainly though, I don't want to jinx things.

Not being able to crack on with that, and with a few other things stalled for various reasons, I've dived immediately back into rewrites on "Blue Remembered Earth". I'm still waiting on editorial feedback but now that the dust has settled I can see areas where I'd like to trim things back a bit. The submission draft was 212,000 words, which is a lot longer than any recent book of mine. Ideally I'd like to get the final manuscript down to about 180,000, which would put it in the same sort of length as Terminal World, House of Suns, The Prefect and so on. The last really long book of mine was Absolution Gap, and I've no great desire to go back to doing edits on 275,000 word novels. More than anything, because it's the first book of a trilogy, I don't want to set a precedent that ends up in the third novel being ridiculously long ... because, let's face it, has there ever been a trilogy where the books get shorter? Answers on a postcard to the Outer Hebrides.

That's about it for now. I have a couple of short story things I need to get done, and as winter turns to spring I'll be doing a bit more travelling (although not as much as last year, I hope). Those who are waiting on a response for me, thanks for your continued patience, and to those who are regular and frustrated readers of this blog, I aim to do just a tiny bit better in 2011. Thanks for sticking around.


  1. Yikes! My 75,000 word, unpublished mess of a novel seems like War and Peace when I look at it.

    But 200,000 plus. Wow. I never thought of the word count for your novels. I never realized they were so long. I guess when their good enough I don't pay attention to the length.

  2. Well, thanks, but 200,000 is a lot of words and a lot to demand of the reader, I think, which is why I've been making a concerted effort to make the books shorter. TW was actually about 170,000 when it was submitted, but gained a little during editorial rewrites. Almost everything I write ends up over-long; the hard part is finding stuff to cut. I generally aim for 10% as an absolute minimum and then work as hard as I can to find more that I can trim, but I've not always been as thorough as I could be. The hard part is having sufficient detachment to step away from the book or story and see it through fresh eyes, but that's easier said than done; ideally we'd all put our stories aside for a year before coming back to them. Alas, the realities of publishing don't really allow that.

    75,000 words is a good length for a book, I'd say - I've just read a novel by a well known and highly regarded SF writer than came in well under 90,000, so you're in respectable company. I personally think there are good short books and good long books, but there's no doubt that the classically short SF novel still has a lot going for it.

  3. Thanks for your insight, it's greatly appreciated. After thinking about it for a few minutes I suppose Joe Haldeman writes pretty short novels and is still actively publishing today. So you're right, length shouldn't be my problem... the words though, now that might be a problem.

    As far as putting things away for year before pulling them back out. Well, there is a plus side to being unpublished. I've got a closet full of them.


  4. I've always liked the length of your books - primarily because you are an author that can handle a large book without getting lost. You can write long books where a lot of people can't. Heck some of your worlds are so fun that I'd definitely forgive a bit of the old Neal Stephenson tangent wandering because I trust it would all turn out to be quite interesting.

  5. I am at abot 40000 words now, and still running through the cycles of filling it up. It takes me weeks to read a general 700pages book, the shorter the better;-)

    LG Aurora

  6. I had the misfortune of pulling out a book I'd written 3 years ago and giving it the re-write that I thought it deserved only to find that it had gaping holes in it. It was already approaching 100k and it blew out after 3 months of re-write to over 300k. It's now back in the drawer. Perhaps in another 3 years...

  7. I don't think the length of a book matters that much as a reader as long as every word is worth reading. I've read great books ranging from 150 pages to 1500 pages that have kept me gripped throughout. I've also tried to read books from 150 pages to 1500 and had to give up 20 pages in because I just knew the rest wouldn't be worth reading.

    The thing I've found with your books so far, Mr Reynolds, is that they're very readable. The first I read was Revelation Space, and despite not having a clue what was going on in the first 50 pages or so, I was compelled to keep reading because it was exciting.

    Ultimately what I'm saying as a reader (at least my point of view) is: there's no difference between reading 10 books of 150 pages or 1 book of 1500 pages, as long as the content is good it doesn't matter.

  8. Hello Alastair
    I wonder where some of your character names come pure accident, over the last two days, I've seen "Manoukian" on a sign in an Eric Rohmer film and "Tringtignant" - an actor's surname in "Three Colours Red". Probably pure coincidence I guess. That's what being off work with flu does to you - one sees links to things in french films that may or may not be there

  9. Hello Alastair
    I wonder where you may get some of your character names pure chance, over last two days I've seen "Manouhkian" on a sign in an Eric Rohmer film, and "Tringtignant" - a french actor in "Three Colours Red". I always wondered about those names in your books. Thats what being off work with flu does - one sees links to things in French films that probably aren't meaningful at all

    best wishes

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  11. Hi!

    I am a university student in Sweden that is studying comics. As a degree project I want to do a comic adaptation on Terminal World. (Not for print or anything, just schoolwork)
    I would love to have your opinion and thoughts on my work. You can reach me at

    Jennie Sörensen

  12. Peter: I get a lot of the names from just everyday observation. I saw Manoukhian on a sign in Lisbon, I think it was a fashion advertisement or something. I watched the Three Colours trilogy some while ago so that may be where Trintignant came from, although I think I was already vaguely aware of the actor's name. Quillon, the main character in Terminal World, was original "Noctilien", which I saw on the side of a bus in France. There are lots more ...

  13. Jennie - I'll drop you an email, probably later today (off out now).