JOHN MEANEY

25.2.12

SECRET SQUIRREL

So I mentioned that I've been putting together the initial chapters and outline of a non-SF book. (I didn't mention that I did a tonne of research last summer.) I've come up with another pseudonym, because that's how the business works. This time, while I'm not going to actively keep it a secret, my real name won't be mentioned anywhere in the book. Or here on the website, unless someone guesses it. (It's not even been submitted to publishers yet, so we're a long way from having a physical book in existence. At least a year, maybe two.)

Weird process, really. We've discussed it here before, though, when I invented the Thomas Blackthorne identity.

I spent last Monday in London, in order to attend the Orion authors' party. It's an annual event, this time marking the 20th anniversary of the company's existence. Ian Rankin gave a speech, following the CEO's round-up. Everyone got to stand around a dinosaur - the venue was the Natural History Museum.

So I got to meet up with old friends: Justina Robson, Maggie Furey, Jaine Fenn, Paul McAuley, Sarah Pinsborough (don't know her well) and Joe Abercrombie, along with editors and agents you probably won't have heard of. But if it weren't for them you wouldn't have read the books those other guys wrote.

Spent yesterday sedentary - good work writing-wise, but no training due to aggravating an injury Thursday night. Feeling better now after something that was half rehab, half training: an hour's sort-of walk along the river (Yvonne called it going for a limp); then 15 minutes on the punch bags (heavy, light and speed) with no proper rounds and minimal footwork; then a 50-minute chest and back workout (9 sets of dumbbell bench presses, 2 sets of flyes, 1 set of wide-grip pushups, 9 or 10 sets each arm of one-arm rows, 5 sets of kettlebell swings, 2 sets of lat pulldowns); and 15 minutes stretching. Feeling better now.

Watched the movie Warrior yesterday. A proper fight movie with proper actors - an MMA version of Rocky, to some extent. Except the MMA is more genuine than the boxing in Rocky. Turns out (from watching the DVD extras) that Greg Jackson was hugely involved in it: he's the best known MMA trainer in the world, and the actors and director wanted everything to look as real as possible. Nice work.

For pure drama, though, I have to say I really liked The Killing. We watched the Danish original. Most excellent. In fiction, recent trends and sub-genres haven't grabbed me personally - except for Nordic crime fiction. Jo Nesbø, Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell are great, and there must be more I haven't discovered yet.

And if Secret Squirrel doesn't ring a bell - I'm showing my age again, aren't I?

4 Comments:

Blogger Chris Mays said...

John, I don't mean to criticize your choices, and I'm looking forward to all your books in all your voices, but this local guy (Berkeley California) who's written a couple of things, and faced the same dilemma, has a different take on the matter, and I'm just bringing it to your attention.

Michael Chabon Attacks Prejudice Against Science Fiction

March 7, 2012 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger John Meaney said...

Cheers, Chris... If you're looking forward to reading all my books, we're on the same side!

Chabon's dilemma was different from mine. That's partly unclear because I'm talking about a new project for me, and obscuring the details.

In terms of considering all genres to be equal, Chabon and I obviously agree. My starting point and destination in this particular context are different: I'm already labelled as an SF writer (he'd be considered a literary writer, I'm pretty sure), plus I'm aiming to break into another genre that's not literary fiction.

SF sales figures are laughable to editors in other genres, and associating my name with such would kill the chances of getting a decent publishing deal - without which, I can't afford to write the book.

It's a tactical, not ethical, consideration.

Really interesting you picked on Chabon - the one book I ended up self publishing was New Jerusalem, an alternate history in which the start point is the same as one of Chabon's books: the independent Jewish state being founded somewhere other than Palestine/Israel.

I had the idea in mind years ago - I discussed it with my US agent in 2003, in Washington DC - and wrote it as a side project. Between Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union and the fact that UK publishers won't even look at a book featuring a Jewish spy as hero (and never mind that it's an alternate reality), both I and my agent gave up on the idea.

Charlie Stross and Al Reynolds both like it, so it can't be devoid of merit, but there was no point in putting more effort behind getting it out there through the usual channels.

The only circumstances under which I could undertake to write a book without a contract would be if I return to working in IT largely full-time, which would mean 2 or 3 years to write the book. That's somewhere around Plan Z in my current situation...

So it's back to whatever it takes to get a deal.

Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks have widely different sales figures. Here's another necessary use of pseudonyms: if you plot the figures as if by one author (he alternates between writing SF and literary books)you'd think that each SF book would indicate the beginning of a downward trend. If you were a bookseller, you'd buy in fewer copies of his next book, which guarantess lowers sales, in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Iain doesn't have the same prominence in the US as here, but in the UK he's one of our most prominent literary figures. Without the use of 2 names, he might have disappeared off the scene years ago.

I don't approve of the situation, but that's the way I read it.

The actual genre I'm trying to enter is contemporary crime/thriller. At least year's Eastercon, while on a panel related to publishing, I mentioned Lee Child as an example of a writer at the top of his genre. When I got blank looks, I asked if people knew who he was. All I got back was shakes of the head.

I was surprised.

March 10, 2012 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger John Meaney said...

I should add that I've been a fan of Chabon since Wonder Boys. And I had no idea that he'd written the John Carter screenplay.

So maybe I won't wait for the DVD to come out...

March 10, 2012 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Chris Mays said...

Thanks for the meaty response, John!

First things first: get published! Just like I can't hear Josh Cumberland whispering: 'But, my form was perfect... ' while he bleeds out.

New Jerusalem by some fellow named Meaney is queued up in the Kindle app on my iPhone, but first I'm re-absorbing Absorption before tackling Transmission.

I guess I'm pushing back a publication date for Tristopolis 3 White Bones once again... *sigh*

And finally, maybe you should wait for the DVD. Chabon gets third place screenplay credit for John Carter on IMDB after the director and another fellow who is most often a storyboard artist, so I'm thinking he wrote the first few drafts, and then the moviemakers took over. Worse, first weekend box office was $30M on a $250M budget (d'oh!) with the rest of the planet spending $70M. Not what Disney likes to see.

March 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM  

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