Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Fantasy casting the Dark Arts series

I have been asked, notably in two interviews by Paul Semel, about what actors I would cast in the key roles of my Dark Arts series if it were being produced today, and if money and talent availability posed no barriers. Because I tend to picture my stories as movies in my imagination before I write them, this is a matter to which I’ve given much thought over the past few years.

These days there are so many great premium long-form series running on so many different channels and services that I can’t really say I have a preference for which one I’d most like to see host a Dark Arts series. All I can say for sure is that I’d rather it be on a premium subscription service than on network television, but at the same time, several cable channels have impressed the hell out of me with their series work (including, but not limited to, AMC, FX, and BBC America).

So, who do I wish would star in this daydream blockbuster of mine?

TOM HOLLAND as Cade Martin
I feel like Tom Holland has the perfect combination of vulnerability and boyish innocence on the verge of becoming cynicism to play the lead role of book one, The Midnight Front.

SUSANNA SKAGGS as Anja Kernova
I was blown away by the subtlety and emotional depth of Susanna Skaggs’s performance in the final season of Halt and Catch Fire — so much so that I find it hard to picture anyone else as Anja Kernova, “the Saint of Stalingrad.”

TOMMY FLANAGAN as Adair Macrae
I’ve been a fan of Tommy Flanagan’s work for years. His recent work on the FX series Sons of Anarchy was especially powerful. He carries with him an aura of danger, gravitas, and loss that makes him the perfect choice to play a 357-year-old Scottish vulgarian master sorcerer.

MICHAEL FASSBENDER as Kein Engel
If you’ve seen Michael Fassbender in the recent Alien films, or as Eric Lensher/Magneto in X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, you already know that he has a knack for portraying characters of cold, ruthless power. That makes him the ideal candidate to play the series’ arch-villain.

DIEGO LUNA as Father Luis Roderigo Pérez
A key character in book two, The Iron Codex, Father Pérez starts out as a rival to our heroes. He is decent, pious, and brave. I think that Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) would be the perfect actor to bring this character to life on the screen.

PARKER SAWYERS as Miles Franklin
Assuming this talented and charismatic actor (Pine Gap) can muster a good London accent, he would be a superb choice to play Cade’s best friend at Oxford (and, in the sequels, his partner inside MI6).

SARAH POWER as Briet Segfrunsdóttir
Perhaps best known to SF fans as Pawter Simms on the Syfy series Killjoys, Sarah Power has a regal quality, excellent emotional range, and a knack for playing the smartest person in the room. All of these traits make her a sublime choice for a villainess in search of redemption.

VOLKER BRUCH as Dragan Dalca
The star of German hit TV series Babylon Berlin, Volker Bruch possesses great charm and intensity, as well as excellent physicality. As soon as I saw him, I was able to picture him as the villain of book two, The Iron Codex.

ODED FEHR as Khalîl el-Sahir
With a magnetic screen presence, an aura of mystery, and a rich voice, Oded Fehr has all of the qualities I would expect for an actor looking to play a wise and ancient magician — in essence, this series’ Yoda.

So that’s my wish list for the most major roles. There are some important supporting roles from book one that I have never successfully cast in my imagination (such as Stefan Van Ausdall, Nikostratos Le Beau, or Siegmar Tuomainen), but who I will recognize if I ever see actors who match my mental portraits of those characters.

How to Support Authors Whose Work You Love: Pre-Orders

When you like certain authors’ work, there are three key things you should do to support them: Pre-order their books, post online reviews, and promote them through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth praise for authors’ work is the greatest gift readers can bestow. Reviews rarely lead to sales. Praise often does.

Online reviews of books are vital to authors. It takes 25+ reviews to trigger beneficial effects from most retail sites’ algorithms. The most important thing to remember when leaving reviews of a work you’ve read is to be truthful, thorough, and fair.

That brings me to pre-orders. Online pre-orders are critical to the success of many books. I know some fans resist them. Don’t.

Waiting for a series to finish before you decide to buy it is a good way to guarantee that your favorite authors will get pushed off the shelves. It serves to kill new series before they get started.

Publishers and retailers use online pre-orders to gauge public interest in new books. This determines how they treat those books. Strong pre-orders for a book can inspire a retailer to increase its print order. It can propel a book onto bestseller lists.

When a publisher sees that a book has garnered strong support from pre-orders, it might invest more in its marketing.

Pre-orders help readers, too. Many online retailers guarantee pre-order prices, so you can lock in the best price.

So, if you love books, or like the work of a certain author, be sure to pre-order their books. It matters quite a bit.

FYI, The Midnight Front, Book 1 of my Dark Arts series coming January 30, 2018, from Tor Books, is currently available for pre-order in the format of your choice—hardcover, paperback, eBook, or digital audio. I’m just sayin’.

Also, if you’re an author who has a new book coming out in the next five to six months, and if that work is now available for pre-order in at least one format, please feel free to post links to your pre-order pages in the comments below!

#SFWApro

Pros: I Seek Your Convention Advice

This is a request for advice from my fellow authors and other publishing industry professionals, particularly those who attend a fair number of conventions.

I am pondering my convention schedule for 2017. There are some shows I attend every year — Farpoint (February, Baltimore); Shore Leave (July, Baltimore); New York Comic Con (October) — but I am looking to reach new communities of potential readers and to expand my professional network.

Part of the challenge I face in planning my 2017 con schedule is that my budget is limited, and most of the events that interest me are costly to attend. Committing to expenses such as these requires me to plan far in advance in order to keep costs under control.

Another factor that complicates my decision-making process is that, as of this writing, I still don’t know if my original novel The Midnight Front will be published next year or not. If it is coming out next year, expanding my schedule to cons I’ve not visited before could be useful. If it’s not coming out in 2017, I might be spending a lot of time and money for no reason.

Some of the shows I am considering adding to my schedule are:


ConFusion (Detroit, January) — I’ve applied for Professional Guest status, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be accepted, or what considerations they’ll offer me if they do.

SFWA Nebula Conference (Pittsburgh, May) — I know this draws a lot of high-profile fellow authors and other industry pros, but if I’m not nominated for a Nebula, is it really worth the cost of attending?

Phoenix Comic Con (Memorial Day Weekend) — This event seems to draw a fair number of high-profile SF/F author guests.

ReaderCon — I know I won’t be considered for programming at this event; I’d go to this just to attend panels and socialize. But some peers have told me that I’d most likely be snubbed by the majority of attendees because of my extensive work for Star Trek.

Comic-Con Int’l. (San Diego, July) — A big show, tons of noise, hard as hell to get noticed even for a moment. But if I knew I would have a new book out in the fall, and possibly ARCs to promote at the show, this could be worth the trouble.

GenCon Writers Symposium (Indianapolis, August) — I *really* want to be part of this, but the hotel situation is kind of a nightmare. As in, San Diego Comic-Con bad. But again, if I knew I’d have ARCs to peddle…

DragonCon 2017 (Atlanta, Labor Day Weekend) — I’ve applied for Pro Guest status, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be accepted, or what considerations will be offered by the con.

World Fantasy Con 2017 (San Antonio, November) — After all the brouhaha surrounding this year’s WFC, I wonder if I should even bother signing up for next year’s show. I know it’ll be run by different people than this year’s show, but I worry that WFC’s problems are instutional at this point.


So, what say you, fellow pros? Which, if any, of these shows would you recommend I consider spending my very limited time and money to attend?

An Editor (long form) and a Hugo

When it comes to The Hugo Awards, the lion’s share of pre-Worldcon debate and discussion seems to focus on the nominees in the prose fiction categories. This is not one of those posts.

I’m writing this to tell you why TOR/Forge Books senior editor Marco Palmieri deserves your Hugo Award nomination in the category of Best Editor–Long Form.

Marco Palmieri, TOR Senior Editor (2015) for Best Editor Hugo

Full disclosure: Marco and I have been friends for many years, he has acquired books from me in the past, and I currently am working on a trilogy of original contemporary fantasy novels for him at Tor. That is not why I am writing this post. In fact, I suspect he would prefer I didn’t, because he is a modest man who prefers to let his authors be the stars. He would never campaign for an honor such as this—which, in my opinion, is just one of many reasons why he should receive it. (more…)

“If You Were a Puppy, My Sweet”

by Glenn Hauman & David Mack

If you were a puppy, my sweet, you would be a wild one. You’d be big and neutered, just like human-you. You’d bound from place to place, unburdened by any thought of consequences, full of energy and bereft of conscience. Some would delight in your antics, your perverse rejection of dignity. Others would quail from your manic slobbering and call you a nuisance, but you would be excused, because that’s just how puppies behave.

If you were a wild puppy, I’d hear you yelp. I’d bear your endless braying and wonder what you were going on about. Sometimes you’d growl at people passing by, innocent people doing things you didn’t understand or thought dangerous, and you’d bare your tiny fangs in an impotent snarl. Other times, you’d bark at shadows or at nothing at all, and I would imagine that in your head you were facing down dinosaurs with mighty roars. You’d be crazy-brave.

If you were crazy-brave, you’d be impossible to housebreak. No matter how many times I tried, you’d have a mad streak in you, which would become a different streak on the floor. You’d confound me by defecating in your own den, devouring your mess, and doing it all again. I would do my best to help you stop, but you would be defiant, my sweet. You would become angry and think I was trying to stop you from doing anything you wanted, at any place and any time. And that would make you sad.

If you were sad, I’d try to make you happy again. I’d add something solid to your imbalanced diet of red meat. I’d give you a chew toy to see if it cheered you up, hoping that having something to gnaw on would satisfy you. I would enter you in a dog show, but no award would suit you. You’re too proud to be placated by such small gestures; you would never be satisfied with any bones thrown your way. You’d resist my advice until you made yourself sick.

If you got sick, I’d take care of you. I’d take you to the vet and get you all the medicine you needed, and I’d be on the watch for any of the horrible diseases you could get: Lyme disease. Worms. Fleas and mites. Arthritis. Puppy strangles. Parvovirus. But you’d slip your leash, flee into the night, make friends with the wrong animals, and come home infected with rabies.

If you came home infected with rabies, I’d watch, helpless, as you twitched and foamed at the mouth. I’d stay back as you lashed out at nearby objects, attacking and biting anything in range, trying to infect everything around you with the very thing that has driven you mad. I would try to soothe you as your voice became dry and rough and hoarse, the spasms of the muscles in your throat degrading your bark to a miserable “chorf.” I’d be heartbroken as the disease consumed your brain, and I’d wish there was something, anything, I could do to free you from its madness.

If I could free you from your madness, we’d both see you’re not really rabid, that you do what you do with the power of reason. We’d know you were once a thinking human being, responsible for your own actions—an honor you sacrificed to become this gibbering beast I can’t understand. I still wouldn’t know what you hoped to become. I couldn’t tell if your plans went ass-over-teakettle or if you planned to become this all along. I’d know you once were human, but that you chose to turn your back on that for reasons known only to you… to become something different.

If you became something different, all you’d do is howl strange love songs to your legions of the spittle-flecked, and you’d respond to nothing but dog whistles. Even so, in spite of evidence and experience, I’d try to reason with you.

If I tried to reason with you, I would soon discover it to be in vain. I’d realize you thought your fury would make you big and strong, and maybe you’d fool more than a few, but I would see the truth: I’d see that you’d shrunk, your stature diminished by your swelling savagery. You’d still think yourself a creature of courage and strength and righteousness, whose claws and fangs intimidate your foes effortlessly, but your anger and delirium and weakness would only make you an object of scorn, a walking tragedy defined by wiser souls than you. Honor and glory would desert you, and all you would be left with are your regrets and your incurable rabies.

If you were afflicted with incurable rabies, no one could save you as you weakened and drooled, a grotesque public spectacle. I would be sad but resigned to your tale’s inevitable conclusion, and you and all your puppy friends would be sad, too.

If you were sad and rabid, I would bring you with me to the wide-open rampart, and we would watch the mighty spaceships fly. I’d tell you to look up, and we’d see those ships break our world’s surly bonds to depart for alien shores. We’d wish their crews well as they explored great wonders yet unknown. Then you’d fill the lengthening dusk with your pitiful whimpers as the shiny rockets soared away … without you … never to return.

with a tip of our hats to Rachel Swirsky

(Read the backstory behind this piece, and our apology to Ms. Swirsky here.)

Speaking Truth to Puppies

Glenn Hauman and I have just posted, on the Crazy8 blog, reposted here on my blog a piece of short … I guess one could call it fiction, though it’s more of an essay, while at the same time a work of parody. It’s titled If You Were a Puppy, My Sweet.”

As the title gives away to readers familiar with the recent Hugo awards kerfuffles, the story is written in a format that parodies author Rachel Swirsky‘s Hugo award-nominated and Nebula award-winning short story, If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love.”

Though our story mimics the style of Ms. Swirsky’s, Glenn and I want to make clear that we intend no disrespect to her or to her story. Our reason for choosing it as our template was the story seems to have become a lightning rod for the ire of Rabid Puppy and Sad Puppy supporters — two of whom today published a far more mean-spirited parody of it on the blog of Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day.

Also worth noting is the fact that while we informed Ms. Swirsky of our story before its public dissemination, she in no way endorses it or approves of it. We hope she can forgive our decision to proceed with its publication as a retort to the parody on voxpopuli.

At any rate, Glenn and I hope you all enjoy our latest stab at parody and that the court of public opinion doesn’t revoke our poetic licenses.

ETA: The story/essay has been moved from the Crazy8Press blog here to my blog because an internal decision was made by Crazy8Press’s management to disavow any implied endorsement of the piece that might have come from it residing on their servers.

Write back (not) in anger (#SFWApro)

hugo_rocketTo be a writer is to invite criticism. It can be hard to decide with which critics, if any, one should engage. Polite critics can sometimes be acknowledged with courtesy, but as a general rule it’s best to accept their feedback in silence and not attempt to rebut their points, especially when one is discussing matters of subjective opinion.

Poison-pen critics should in nearly all cases be ignored, except when the author of such a letter offers one the possibility of a “teachable moment.” Even then, unless it’s a subject that seems in dire need of examination, most such impulses to retort to one’s detractors run the risk of leading one to self-immolation. In those rare instances when one elects to respond to a detractor, a measure of restraint still is called for.

Every once in a rare while, however, one must sound the trumpets and let slip the dogs of war.

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