Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Departures to Departures

Wednesday 14th September

After yesterday’s Internet session and after my ‘harbour swim’ I heard a strange noise coming from my bag on the beach. It took me a moment to figure out that this was my mobile ringing, since it was only the second time it had rung this year. It was Julie Crisp at Macmillan, happy to inform me that The Departure had risen to number 18 in the bestseller chart. I’m presuming, like with The Technician last year, this is the Bookscan chart, which is compiled from weekly sales of all books in Britain (though whether hardbacks are separate from paperbacks I don’t know).

I was a bit ‘out there’ during this phone call – feeling slightly knackered, still partially into Dan Simmons’ Endymion, and slightly wrong-footed by this contact from the outside world. I also saw it as par for the course with me. The Departure has gone three places above The Technician which, I’m told, finally went to number 21. This is how it has always been for me ever since my first story was accepted and the magazine concerned folded before publishing it – a steady climb of the ladder; another step up in ‘success’ but no massive leap and no huge critical praise and concomitant hype.

I have to add here that I now prefer this steady climb to the high peaks followed by deep troughs in the publishing world. I’ve seen authors receive huge critical praise for a first book then being hamstrung by expectation. I’ve seen authors’ first books being hyped outrageously and them briefly being a big noise in the publishing scene, whereupon the ensuing book or books are just whimpers. While I’ve been steadily climbing the publishing ladder, I’ve seen others falling off and landing hard.

However, with The Departure climbing into the top 20 this means, apparently, that a book of mine has passed some kind of watershed and has become a lot more noticeable. Whether this means they can put ‘Science Fiction Bestseller’ on the cover or you’ll be seeing it in shop displays of top 20s or in newspaper lists of the same I don’t know. Anyway, after the phone call and while part of the way into a carafe of white wine, I began grinning like an idiot.

Thursday 15th September
My goodness aren’t financial markets fickle things. A few politicians get together and state that they’re not going to allow Greece to default on a debt they can’t possibly pay and things are hunky-dory again (probably for a day or two). I’m astounded that anyone can actually believe a politician any more, but maybe there was an underlying message of ‘not yet’ that the markets were responding to. Meanwhile that dipshit Barroso tells us that the solution to the debt crisis is more European integration. Yep, the solution to the pain caused by hitting your finger with a hammer is to whack a couple more fingers. Of course the eurocrats want more integration because that means more power and money for them. Of course the eurocrats want to delay Greece’s default and the subsequent collapse of the house of cards because, whilst it remains standing, the big salaries keep rolling in and they can strut about on the European stage like the little tin-pot Hitlers they are.

Friday 16th September
Congratulations Denmark! The people there have voted in the centre-left and their new prime minister has promised to increase taxes, increase public spending and let in more immigrants. What an excellent way to completely butt-fuck your own country.

Monday 19th September
Well, I can’t correctly say that I finished the Endymion omnibus, since I was skipping large lumps of it as I drew towards the end...

The weather here this September has been very good so those who were saying that because the summer here started late it will continue late might be right, though in reality that was a fifty-fifty bet. The sea has also been surprisingly warm so I’ve been able to continue with my harbour swims with the result that my gut seems to be receding a little. The good weather has also brought out the kind of display on our bougainvillea we’ve been aiming for since we bought this place:

The black figs are also appearing in quantity on the tree next to our house. It’s nice to eat a few but more than say four or five a day results in frequent flier points in the toilet:

It looks to me as if I’ll be getting a ringside seat on seeing a country go bankrupt. The debt here is in the region of €450 billion which, divided over a population of 14 million, comes out at over €30,000 a head. To get its next loan so as not to simply run out of money the government must get rid of a 100,000 government employees and sell off a load of state assets. Instead it’s trying to leech more money out of the working public. The latest wheeze is a tax ranging from €3 to €16 per square metre of your home, the amount to be added to the electricity bill with the power being shut off for non-payment. ‘Vulnerable groups’ i.e. those already costing the state a packet, such as the unemployed, pensioners and irresponsible breeders with four or more children, only get to pay half a Euro. Meanwhile I have no doubt at all that the politicians here are salting away their disgustingly large salaries in foreign bank accounts.

Tuesday 20th September
And another load of chilli sauce to add to my stores:

I’ve made three lots now and the open jar of it I have in the fridge keeps getting topped up with the remainder from each boiling. I’ve also given away about four jars – two to Greeks who actually like the stuff one to a Bulgarian and one to an English couple. It occurs to me that if this country collapses and food was to be in short supply, we might be living on a combination of chilli sauce, figs and pickled onions, which I suspect would involve toilet paper in the fridge and frequent changes of underpants.

Incidentally, Huan Tan, I have your recipe and bought mangoes so as to follow it, but then decided I would rather make sweet mango chutney with them instead. I’ll be looking up a recipe for that today.

The Jupiter Conflict or Jupiter War is now approaching 114,000 words and its plot threads are resolving. I suspect I’ll finish it this month and that it’ll be a shorter book than both The Departure and Zero Point (though I’ve yet to write the chapter starts and this will only be the first draft). This I feel is a good thing. Have you ever noticed the ever inflating size of books in trilogies or other series where the author is suffering from plotline proliferitis and struggling to get it all nailed down with the last book?

Our neighbour Jean-Pierre is back and the Greek neighbours were on him like flies on an open wound. When I walked down to see him last night I asked two of the kids, ‘Jean-Pierre ina mesa?’ to which one said ‘Neh’ whilst the other corrected me by saying ‘Pedro’. I replied, ‘Oshi Pedro, ina Jean-Pierre’. The Greeks up in these villages like to give foreigners pet names – I started out here as Nico and all the Albanians here have their ‘Greek’ names even if their own names are used in this country anyway. I don’t like it and I don’t like the thinking behind it. It is the application of a pet name to a pet. It’s demeaning and a conversational method of downgrading someone. They call me Neal now, probably because I ceased to tolerate any more shit from them.

And finally, just to annoy various people we’ve seen here over the year, and who are now back in their home countries:


Chrish said...

And finally, just to annoy various people we’ve seen here over the year, and who are now back in their home countries:
Most annoying indeed!

Xanares said...

Congratz on breaking the top20 barrier Neal. More Pound Sterling is a lot more Euros which is a hell-of-alot more Drachmas - if it comes to that for Greece. Personally I think it's the only good way for them to go. Default on all their external euro debt.

It will be hard for some years, but then it will be over and they will be able to climb out through better competitive-ness and little debt.

Anyway, enjoy Crete - I've now moved to Malta again and it's just brill.

Jimmy Devine said...

Congrats on the chart position, well deserved, it's a cracking read and just what this reader has come to expect.

Just to check...I presume the "lovepower allows you to teleport around the galaxy" premise, marked Endymion's card for it?

Kirby Uber said...

i was so very very close to finally making real the crete visit this fall.

luckily for you, my continuing screw ups at filing my taxes keep surprising me with years later love letters from the IRS.

so close.


Spencer said...

Great to see the well deserved praise being thrust upon you. Havnt been on here for ages, didnt have a working pc, and having a baby grabbing you all day kind of takes up time ;) though i still found time to but The Departure, and have been loving every page! Last book i bought was Surface Detail, and although Mr Banks swings a big stick, youre swingin one with nails through it. Thanks for another tremendous read Neal!!

Neil said...

Grats on -20.

Okay before anyone goes off the deep end about immigration, you need to take a longer view of things and consider birth rates in the countries you live.

If you don't maintain population levels, you don't create the people need to start work in 20 years, to pay the taxes that you'll need to pay your pensions, roads and all the other crap that comes off the back off taxation.

The problem is that population levels have been dropping in europe and eastern europe/US.


And of course the people in each country that have the time to pop the children out, are often more dependant on the state than the people trying to come to the country to make things better for themselves. Of course there are exceptions, but just think the bigger picture and it's never that straightforward.

Have a look at Japan to appreciate the longer term impact of this. Maybe not for you personally, but for you children. The burden on them could be immense, if population levels are not kept up.


Roger Schweingruber said...

Bought it just now on Kindle - take my money, I'm sure you earned it ;-)

Roger Schweingruber said...

Just found "The Parasite" as well - never heard of that novella - what a day :-)

Mark T Croucher said...

Nearly finished The Departure. I have to say I am very concerned about the level of cynisism and slights towards the world today and it's state of decline.

Am I bollox. Great stuff Neal, it's easy to see why it's making an impact. The social observations at the start of each chapter have a very eerie feeling of prophesy to me.

Jay said...

I still think The Technician is your best work, shame it didn't peak higher.

Rob said...

Hi Neal, loving The Departure. You know a book is good when you wake up in the middle night unable to move cause you think a reader gun is trained you!

blh said...

any word if the ebook will Be published in the US. I would love to buy this book but i am unable to find it anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed 'Departure', got through it in 2 days - and it arrived before the official release date - makes it even better. It's got lots of projectile-induced brain showers, which for this reader makes up for not having the smartarse warbots that graced your previous books. I'll be reading it again in a couple of weeks, only more slowly to suck up the detail more completely. Well done, that man.

But whisper it quietly, my favourites are still 'Line of Polity' and 'The Skinner'.

Oh - I noticed that a copy of 'Mindgames - Fool's Mate' is up for auction on eBay UK, if anyone is looking for a copy. Only the third I've seen for sale in 5 years. No, I won't be bidding - I've got one.

Martin Sommerfeld said...

Just visiting the north of greece - we had wonderful weather for 10 straight days, just now it starts to be a bit rainy. I envy you your long time on crete, lucky the ones having a job that allows this. :-) Therefore all the more appreciated that you never bitch about how hard the live as a professional writer is.

Anyway, having looked at several supermarkets, electronic stores and so on, one fact springs to mind: When you take away feta, ouzo and olive oil you are lucky if you are left with 5% original greek products. (A lot) oversimplified: The cars are german, the air conditioning is japanese, the TVs korean and even the modern olive oil machinery is imported from Italy.

So when your main source of realistic income for the near future is tourism joining the eurozone with power economies like Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and thus making trips to your touristic sites much more expensive, seems like a bad idea. No idea what they were thinking.

So: For me defaulting and creating a new currency is the only real solution for greece. It surely won't solve all structural problems, as most of the debts were existing before the euro, but at least they can devalue when they need to. And in the process making trips to greece much more attractive again.
Everything else is just avoiding the inevitable for some more time.

But Neal, one has to admit that some of the euro imposed cuts have some sense. For example I remember you complaining about all that bureaucracy in greece. And monopolistic anti-market behaviour (Cabs, notaries, truck drivers, pharmacists). I don't think it would help if greece defaults and THEN takes all those little reforms back...

j purdie said...

Just bought The Departure from Waterstones. Three pounds off and five extra points on my card for not taking a bag to put it in. First hard back of yours I've bought. let's hope this helps push it up to number 19 and beyond.

Phil M said...

BLH: The Departure is on Amazon.com
USD 11.66 for Kindle


can you not buy this one for some reason?

Well done on the Top 20 Neal. Here's to many more

Xanares said...

@Spencer, how is Surface Detail? I've heard good things from others about it, but ended up buying another of Banks books (Matter) last time I Waterstoned.

blh said...

This title is not available for customers from:
United States

This is what i get whenever i try to purchase this eBook no matter where i find it its not available in the US.

Spencer said...

@Xanares Its pretty good, better than the last couple. i think before matter it was the Algebraist, i really didnt like that. But yeh, Surface Detail is well worth a read. But in the interests of keeping this blogs owner happy, read The Departure first!! ;)

Narg said...

"any word if the ebook will Be published in the US. I would love to buy this book but i am unable to find it anywhere."

BLH, just do what I did and change your kindle country setting to the UK. All you need is to put in a fake UK address(I used a UK publisher addy). Then just buy it form the amazon uk store. Once you download it just change your settings back.

Northern Fop said...

Hi Neal. I'm a long-time fan so I was a little taken aback by the negative reviews "The Departure" has received on Amazon. I was curious how a writer (well actually, you) deals with this.

Do you ignore it - after all the book is still selling by the bucketload - or try and view it as constructive critisism?

I suspect some of the whining is driven by the "but it's not the Polity!" brigade, but the reality is these reviews will have a negative impact on your income, which has got to hurt. [I get the impression from your blog that you're not yet on Tom Clancy levels of income...]

j purdie said...

Wow! Game changer for all SF writers:


Xanares said...

@Spencer, thanks! Hehe, I don't like hardbacks and have no kindle.. usually wait for the paper-backs to come out. But reading the Gabble and after that Hilldiggers await, so still a bit to go on the Asher-shelf. :)

SpMP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SpMP said...

Reading the news about the “FTL” particle, I remembered something from Gridlinked:
“Real scientists chuckled about SF writers’ inability to grasp plain facts. That they took this attitude, while their fellows were hacking the foundations from underneath Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity, showed a lack of foresight comparable to that of an eminent Victorian....”
Good call Mr. Asher

D said...

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait for the next! In your Acknowledgements you said, "Damn, I can't sign a Kindle!" What about signing limited edition ebook cover/sleeve for fans? Or even a customized cover/sleeve with autograph? While limited (only so many covers needed for an e-book), I'm sure there are plenty of fans, me included, who would love one. This could also cover the touchy issues of kindle-signing at bookstores. Since you're there to promote your book and the bookstore itself you can sign a cover they purchase for their e-reader. :) Thanks again for the great read!

Neal Asher said...

Sorry about that Chris!

Xanares, everyone agrees that, but for the eurocrats.

Jimmy, yes.

Well, Kirby, someone's got to pay that 14 trillion...

Thanks Spencer! Though you just reinforced my SF thug image.

Roger, The Parasite was a very old novella published by a small press.

Yes, Mark, but looking at the amazon reviews I see some aren't liking that.

Jay, different books for different reasons. The Technician is lurid high-tech weirdness, and I love it for that.

Rob, give it time - it'll be CCTV in the bedroom first.

BarryA, the way to writer's block is for the writer to always try to top what he did before.

Martin, the cuts make sense, but they're rather like cutting your spending on paperclips when you're thousands in debt. Ahd yeah, default migh also be an excuse not to reform.

Thanks JPurdie! Hope you enjoy it.

And thanks PhilM!

Northern Fop, I'll do a post on that subject, I think.

SpMP, heh heh.

stluc, it's certainly an idea.

Kirby Uber said...

"Well, Kirby, someone's got to pay that 14 trillion..."

haha, doing my fair bit. though apparently ones fair bit is open for redefinition it seems. *cough*

Roger Schweingruber said...

just read the parasite - great stuff, old but great - one must love kindle - had a great read for € 3.2

thylaxene said...

I finished The Departure a few weeks ago. I did enjoy it and as usual your books flow really well which makes reading them very easy... almost too easy, eg finish them too quickly! ;-)

But I kept reading this and was hoping this was a prequel series to the Polity Universe.... Sorry if I missed something mentioned before but I haven't been reading this blog for that long.

Anyway keep up the great work as your's are the only books I still buy in analogue form! :-)