Posts Tagged Conventions

EasterCon 2013 – EightSquared Bradford

I’ll be in Bradford for Easter weekend for the 64th EasterCon and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the event. I have a number of sessions programmed throughout the weekend – see below for details:

Friday 29th March

  • 6:00 PM – Avalon, Sherwood Forest and Alderley Edge: The Magical British Countryside
    • How does the landscape of Britain affect stories set in it? Where does the magic lurk, and how does it inspire writers? Sue Mason moderates Tiffani Angus, Anne Sudworth, Mike Shevdon and Freda Warrington.
  • 9:00 PM – Underground London
    • Take one London. Add magical society hidden from most people. Mix in famous places from the city, and optionally garnish with police procedural. Why is this such a great recipe? With Paul Cornell, Roz Kaveney, Anne Lyle, Simon Morden and Mike Shevdon.

Saturday 30th March

  • Genre Get-Together – Fantasy
    • A chance to meet the authors, get books signed and chat about books, stories and other stuff.

Sunday March 31st

  • Author Readings
    • I will be reading from The Eight Court, along with the lovely Emma Newman who will (I hope) be reading from her new book – Between Two Thorns.

If you would like a book signed or just to say hello, I will be around the convention for most of the weekend. There are a host of events, panels, games and discussions with plenty to do throughout the weekend.

If you’re at the event, please come and say Hi – it’s always nice to meet new friends. See you there!




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Olympus 2012 – EasterCon

From Good Friday until Easter Monday I shall be at EasterCon, which this year is being held at the Radisson Edwardian Hotel Heathrow. On Friday afternoon at 3pm I will be on stage with weapons. For reasons of safety and self-preservation, I will not be loading those weapons, but we will have some interesting pieces of video to entertain and amaze you, and I guarantee that if you see archery in a fantasy film after that, you will not see it in the same light again. It’s a promise.

Me with a Magyar Horse Bow (photo courtesy of Sandy Auden)

I will also be around for book signings on Saturday and Sunday evening, so bring your copy along and I will be happy to sign it for you.

Hope to see you there!

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Why Care about Copyright Theft

Originally this article was going to be entitled “Why Care About eBook Piracy”, but that’s the wrong term. Piracy is what happens off the coast of Somalia, or in the South China Seas when armed men board your craft, kill your crew, and steal your cargo. Unfortunately the term also has a certain glamour borrowed from high adventure stories.

We should stop calling Copyright Theft, Piracy for the same reason that the police stopped using the term Joyriding and now use the term, Taking Without Consent. Joyriding makes it sound fun and cool, whereas it is actually reckless and destructive. Equally, there are no pirates boarding eBooks. It’s just people exploiting the hard work of others for their own benefit.

Let’s be clear, distributing copyright material without the consent of the copyright holder is illegal. It’s also extremely easy to do. In fact it’s so easy, many people have done it without realising. We also need to be conscious of the degree of illegality taking place, and of the harm caused. In this country we don’t generally prosecute people for exceeding the legal speed limit by 5% on the motorway because it’s within the margin for error and the harm done is minimal. Similarly, should we prosecute someone for sharing their favourite eBooks with their friends?

Consider these scenarios:

Bill reads an eBook and likes it so much he emails a copy to Jane with a note saying,”read this, you’ll love it.” – This is illegal, but it’s also a personal recommendation that most authors and publishers would value hugely. The scale of the illegality is tiny, and the harm done is negligible, right?

Bill takes his entire eBook Library of 200 eBooks and copies it to Jane’s PC, so that she can read his books if she wants to. Actually Jane’s taste differs hugely from Bill’s, but she takes them anyway because it’s easier than sorting through them. – The scale here is slightly larger, but the harm done is still small. Jane may only read one or two of Bill’s books and it may result in her discovering a ‘new’ author. To an extent Jane has simply mitigated the risk of spending money on a book she wouldn’t normally buy.

One million people do what Bill did and copy their eBook Library to their friend’s PC. Now the scale of the problem is much larger. Even if they only read 1% of the books, we are talking about 2,000,000 copies (200 books x 1M people x 1%) – ask any author or publisher whether they can afford to lose even 10,000 sales and your answer will be clear. The trouble is that it’s not 10,000 sales – those people would not have bought that book. They only read it because it was there. They would have bought something, though. There was a sale lost somewhere.

Now take Bob, no relation to Bill or Jane, who sets up a website hosting uploads from his clients. Bob has 100,000 clients who pay $5 a month to access his ‘Premium Content” which is 70% material for which he is not the copyright holder. Bob doesn’t upload the material – please note – his client’s do, and as there are 100,000 of them he can’t possibly keep up with what they are doing. Nevertheless, Bob is hosting well over 100,000 eBooks (and videos and music) and he’s receiving half a million dollars a month to run a website.  With revenues of $6M a year, Bob is thinking of retiring, but actually his business takes so little time and effort, why bother.

Those of you old enough to remember the eighties in the days before MP3 players will recall the Sony Walkman, a portable player which used cassette tape. You will also remember the campaign, Home Taping is Killing Music – People would record their favorite tracks from the radio onto tape and play them while they were out and about. This was, of course, illegal but a lot of people did it, so it became acceptable behaviour. The Home Taping campaign was about raising awareness that this was affecting record sales. It was a drop in the ocean compared to what MP3 and home broadband did to record sales a few years later. By the end of the century the music business was in serious trouble. It’s interesting to note that most successful bands now make money from touring, not from selling records.

If we roll that example forward to the world of eBooks, we can see that it won’t be long before book publishers will be forced to change or disappear. You might see that as a good thing, venting your frustrations on media giants like News Corp (owner of HarperCollins) or Bertelsmann (owner of Random House) but those businesses are diversified and if there’s no money in books they will find something else. Most often, it’s the smaller enterprises that suffer most. If you’re a publisher with a staff of 500 you can make cuts. If you’re a publisher with a staff of two, that’s a lot harder.

By copying their eBook Libraries, Bill and Jane are undermining the system they rely on for new material. If you don’t think that’s true, look at how the earnings of mid-list authors have fallen over the past ten years. Look at how booksellers have been forced to focus on the sales of material with TV tie-ins or cross-media promotion – they simply can’t afford to market books for their own sake.

It used to be the case that publishers could only afford to pick winners, simply because the costs of publication meant that if your books didn’t sell you had to absorb the costs of editing, production, printing, marketing and distribution – most of which were incurred before you’d sold a single copy. Nowadays it’s possible to launch a book with minimal production costs – to test the market before you commit to print. That means that publishers don’t have to be as discriminating, and equally they can afford to take more risks. The flip-side is that selling 5,000 copies of a book becomes economic for the publisher who can simply move on to the next book. Unfortunately, 5,000 copies isn’t economic for the author, unless it’s a hobby and they’re not expecting to make any kind of living from it.

And with 10,000 ‘new authors’ for every existing author waiting in the wings for their chance at publication, expect to see a boom in the number of new books being published and a crash in the author’s earnings from their work. That’s without self-publishing, where it really is about publishing the maximum number of people possible, at their own expense.

I hate to be pessimistic, but this game hasn’t played out yet. It’s likely to get much worse before it gets better.

Bob’s not worried about that though. There are plenty of people willing to upload their own material. He doesn’t need the publishers; all he needs is an endless supply of new writers who want to be ‘published’ and will therefore upload their own material for free in order to achieve their fifteen minutes of fame. And the best bit is, because they are the copyright holders – it isn’t even illegal.

Happy Bob.


Catching Up – BristolCon

As some of you will have noticed it has been quiet here on the website for a while – all for very good reasons, I assure you. I have been working hard on Strangeness and Charm: Book 3 in The Courts of the Feyre series, and I am finally at a stage where I can take a short break from it and catch up with other things.

One of those things was facilitated by Sandy Auden, writer, reviewer, and photographer. Sandy was at BristolCon this year and had the foresight to bring her camera with her. One of my reasons for being there was to give a talk on Archery in Fantasy, a whirlwind tour of the use of the bow and arrow in genre fiction, and Sandy was on hand to take some shots.

Mike with a Magyar Horse Bow (photo courtesy of Sandy Auden)

Pictured left is is a Magyar Horse Bow, or rather a replica example of one, made by the Hungarian Bowyer Csaba Grózer. This is the design used by the nomadic tribes of the open grassland of the Eastern Plains of Europe.

You can see that the bow is quite short, but it will draw easily out to thirty inches (which is about my limit) and is fast and sweet to shoot. It doesn’t jar against the hand but has a very ‘live’ feel.

The ends of the limbs, as you can probably see in the picture, are solid wood, and are called Siyahs. They act as levers on the end of the limbs so that the geometry of the bow evens out the draw weight over the length of the draw, making it smooth and fast.

Magyar bows of this nature were typical of a period about 4,000 years ago, so this is more ancient that an English Longbow, which would have been more common about 500 – 600 years ago.

Drawing a Compound Bow (photo courtesy of Sandy Auden)

In contrast,  the bow on the right is a very modern example. This is a compound bow, typified by the eccentric cams on the ends of the limbs which act to change the apparent weight as draw it. This bow is set at 55 lbs peak weight, but at full draw I am holding only around 20 lbs, allowing me more time to aim and settle before releasing. Obviously I didn’t actually release, as there’s no arrow on the bow, and dry shooting a bow is very bad for it since all the energy stored in the bow has nowhere to go but back into the bow.

Compound bows were invented in the 1960s and have been developing ever since. This is an American design, manufactured by Bowtech Archery or Oregon, and is my competition bow. It’s a Bowtech Guardian – very fast and very quiet.  A superb feat of engineering and design.

So I had a great time explaining how even the masters of Fantasy can get archery very wrong – and how some get it so right. I explained paradoxes, demonstrated stringing, showed off bows ancient and modern, with a really friendly audience who asked lots of interesting questions.

The only problem was we ran out of time. If I do it again, I’ll try and get a longer slot. Many thanks to Sandy for some excellent photos in tricky lighting conditions.


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British Fantasy Awards 2011 – On Reflection

Brighton in October

There has been considerable discussion over the past week about the British Fantasy Awards, who won them and why.

I was at FantasyCon in Brighton this year, and had a great time. The organisation was excellent, the venue worked well and it was great to see everyone there – the weather gave the whole weekend a summer holiday feel. I didn’t stay for the Sunday afternoon as I had a five-hour journey including a replacement bus service and London rail closures to negotiate and so I missed the awards ceremony, but it would be a shame if controversy over the awards overshadowed an excellent event.

Many thanks and congratulations to Marie, Paul and the whole team for all their effort in making FantasyCon 2011 a success.

The awards, though, were not a success and have culminated in the unfortunate situation that Sam Stone has handed back the August Derleth Award for Best Novel after there was criticism of the selection procedure and the method by which the books were shortlisted. It speaks volumes for Sam’s integrity that she gave back the award.

According to the rules of the society, the British fantasy Awards are presented on the basis of the votes from the membership of both the society and the members of FantasyCon, but while readers of genre fiction number in their hundreds of thousands, members of the BFS and FantasyCon number only in their hundreds.

It has been remarked upon before that the BFS has a strong bias towards Horror, a part of genre fiction which has been in decline in recent years. The fact that FantasyCon and the BFS Awards therefore have a strong bias towards Horror, and that the awards tend to go to authors known by the membership of FantasyCon who have worked hard to build a following in that group, should come as no surprise. It is a natural consequence of the process as it stands.

The 2011 shortlist for Best Novel, known as the August Derleth Award, is shown below:

  • Apartment 16 ‘ Adam Nevill ‘ Pan McMillan
  • Demon Dance ‘ Sam Stone ‘ The House Of Murky Depths
  • Leaping, The ‘ Tom Fletcher ‘ Quercus
  • Pretty Little Dead Things ‘ Gary McMahon ‘ Angry Robot
  • Silent Land, The ‘ Graham Joyce ‘ Gollancz

There are no works of Fantasy on this list. Some of them might be described as Dark Fantasy, but the emphasis is on the dark element, rather than the fantastic.

August Derleth was the person who first published H P Lovecraft. He was a writer himself and coined the term “Cthulu Mythos”. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the August Derleth Award for Best Novel is rarely won by a work of Fantasy and is usually awarded to a Horror writer. Some years there are no works of Fantasy on the shortlist at all – as was the case this year. This is not because no works of Fantasy were published, or that none of them were worthy of recognition.

After the events of this year’s awards, the BFS is at a crossroads. For its awards to mean something, it needs to reestablish the credibility of those awards and the process that selects the winners. A first step to that, perhaps, would be to openly promote the August Derleth Award as an award for Horror writers, making the de facto situation a reality.

Then people might stop wondering why so few Fantasy works end up on the shortlist, and the winners of the award would get recognition from the people who appreciate the best in Horror fiction.


FantasyCon 2011

FantasyCon is a little later in the year than usual and in Brighton instead of Nottingham, giving those in the south of the country and opportunity to come along and meet your favourite genre fiction authors. This year has special guest, Christopher Paolini, famous not only for the Inheritance series but also for his somewhat unconventional rise to fame.

There will also be Guests of Honour: Gwyneth Jones, Sarah Pinborough, Peter Atkins, John Ajvide Lindqvist, plus Brian Aldiss, author of over 80 novels including the superb Helliconia trilogy, two of which won BSFA Awards with the other nominated, and Joe Abercrombie, author of The First Law trilogy, one of my personal favourite fantasy series. Details of the Guests of Honour can be found here.

I shall be reading on Saturday at 4:30 in Reading Room 134, but come early and hear Anne Lyle read from her Elizabethan historical fantasy, The Alchemy of Souls, at 2:30, the incomparable Mike Carey at 3:30, and M D Lachlan‘s norse Wolfsangel series at 4pm, then stay for Jaine Fenn after my reading at 5pm. It’s looking like a superb afternoon, and that’s without leaving the Readings Room.

Hope to see you there.

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News of Book Three…and Four

Angry Robot

The news has broken, and you can read about it here and here, but since you are on my website I can tell you about it myself.

I am pleased to announce that Angry Robot Books have agreed to publish two more books in the series, The Courts of the Feyre. The third book in the series, Strangeness & Charm, concerns what happens when the escapees from The Road to Bedlam are released into the wider community, and the fourth brings this series to a finale with The Eighth Court.

These books will feature Niall and Blackbird as well as Niall’s wayward daughter Alex. The stories will be complete in themselves as with Sixty-One Nails and The Road to Bedlam, but will be best enjoyed as a series following Niall’s adventures through the four-book sequence.

The reason for the late announcement on the website is that I have been on a research trip to track down a rare medieval survivor, along with some surprises that even I did not suspect. All I can say at this stage is that these fit perfectly into the stories being written at the moment and you will see the fruits of that trip presently.

Strangeness & Charm is scheduled for June 2012, with the fourth book, The Eighth Court, due for release in early 2013.