Cheeseburger Gothic

Beautiful objects

Posted July 23 into Books by John Birmingham

A couple of days ago I received notice of a package waiting for me at the post office, a box containing a dozen limited edition proof copies of The Cruel Stars.

"Limited-edition proof" sounds a lot more impressive than it actually is. These are pre-release copies, usually generated from the text before the proofreader has had her evil way with it. So you get the occasional typo. But you also get to feel the book as an object in your hands for the first time. It's always exciting.

I gave a copy to Thomas (who's already told me it's a bit thinky - he hasn't got to the shooting and the swearing yet) and to some friends who were visiting for lunch over the weekend. The others will get salted around to various science-fiction fans in the city's bookshops and to a couple of journalists. I'll keep one or two copies for myself, because although proof copies are imperfect by nature, they're also very rare. A couple of dozen, as opposed to the tens of thousands of finished copies which will soon hit the bookstores.

Today, however, another package arrived. Much smaller. All the way from London. My English publishers, who have the rights to release the title in Australia and New Zealand, had emailed a couple of the finished hardbacks. Having already handed out a couple of copies of the proof edition, I didn't tear the packet open with trembling hands. In fact I put it on the kitchen bench, made a cup of tea, and went back to my work, forgetting about it for an hour or so. When I came up for lunch a bit later, I was surprised to see the parcel sitting there. My books, I thought. I should have a look at them.

Holy shit. I knew as soon I lifted them out of the bubble wrap that they were very, very different. They are beautiful. Hardback books often are of course, they have to be to justify the price. But the artwork, the finish, the fine details such as the light blue ribbon to mark your place, they all suggested an objet d’art rather than some gross commercial unit that would soon be making its way into the back of a goods truck for delivery into the retail channel.

In many ways they are the same object that arrived last week; the same pages, the same cover, the same contents. And yet holding them in my hands I am still taken, many hours later, by the way in which the aesthetics of the final artefact make it something quite different from all previous iterations. That, I suppose, is the magic of publishing.

20 Responses to ‘Beautiful objects’

Barnesm would have you know...

Posted July 23
I trust Thomas will still give a 5 star review on Amazon after all as the bard would put it "“If she must teem, Create her child of spleen, that it may live And be a thwart disnatur'd torment to her! Let it stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth, With cadent tears fret channels in her cheeks, Turn all her mother's pains and benefits To laughter and contempt, that she may feel How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is To have a thankless child!”

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jl mumbles...

Posted July 23
Yeah. There's something about a finished proof. I've got a few of them hanging around here- pretty sweet to hold your baby toward the end of the process and look it over. I've never had a hardback, though.

Ceramic mumbles...

Posted July 25
Same. To hold (or in my case, hug) something I created that didn't exist before - priceless.

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Sparty is gonna tell you...

Posted July 23
they look "class" and I know the contents are pretty outstanding....

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 23
British publishers, mate. Still setting the gold standard.

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted July 23
Gosh, they’re just SO beautiful!

jl has opinions thus...

Posted July 23
Agreed. First class.

Ceramic asserts...

Posted July 25
They really are stunning!

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted July 24
The one lying flat looks like it's charging.

insomniac would have you know...

Posted July 24
Nice, but

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted July 24
no question that they look the goods. I wish i could stack my shelves with hardcovers. Paperback will just have to make do! Been on a fantasy stint lately - looking for a bit of a change and scifi might just fit the bill . . . . : )

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WA n'ker would have you know...

Posted July 24
...meanwhie, city ways,
Life goes screaming on....

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted July 29
I wants the precious.

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pitpat reckons...

Posted August 2
Just a quick question. Will there be an audiobook ? Asking as a new convert.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted August 2
There will indeed!

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted August 16
Please Sir, can you tell us when they may be released into the wild. I have a handful of sweat stained notes awaiting.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 16
Magic 8Ball says 20 Aug.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 17
Noice.

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she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted August 19
One more sleep until this baby drops on iBooks. I am beside myself with anticipation!

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KreepyKrawly is gonna tell you...

Posted August 20
Has finally dropped at the beast. lucky, just finished a book. ß-Þ

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Did an interview. Did not disgrace myself

Posted July 11 into Books by John Birmingham

I spoke to Pete Wells from the Herald earlier this week abut writing for audio. I seem to recall meandering through the convo like a complete mofo.

But he has some pretty sharp editing chiops, so it came out all right.

Considering the very bleak premise of Zero Day Code, I asked if Birmingham is optimistic about the future of humanity.

“Look it depends what time of the day you catch me. Whether I've had a cup of coffee or not,” he laughs. “There are times, like everyone, where I feel pretty bleak about the future.

“But then I see some of the work that's being done, some of it by technologists, some of it by activists, some of it by people who were bad guys and became good guys … There's an awful lot of people who used to work in petroleum who've left it and they are working very, very hard to repair the damage they've done.

“And of course, you know, once we develop a carbon-free energy market there will be trillions of dollars to be made out of it. And never, ever underestimate the motivational power of human greed to solve the problems that human greed has created.

“But right now I'm in my nice office, looking out into the forest. It's a sunny day. So today, I'm optimistic. Ask me in an hour.”

Full report here.

6 Responses to ‘Did an interview. Did not disgrace myself’

insomniac ducks in to say...

Posted July 12
Sometimes I wonder what sort of world my young grandchildren will have to grow up in. Yeah there's lots of good stuff happening out of sight but I still think it's going to be a shithole with widespread and catastrophic population declines.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 12
I'm a pessimistic optimist : ) but i must say i have caught myself in the dark wee hours thinking about my kids future. Not the usual "are they going to be successful, will they get on okay" but more "is there going to be a future". Terminator 2 is seeming more like an instruction manual on what to teach your kids. Although i think the "AI is going to kill us all" is a red herring with years we have left. We are going to do it ourselves way before AI is smart enough to do it for us.

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she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted July 12
That was a great piece from Mr Wells, you did more than simply not disgrace yourself!

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pitpat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 14
Just finished it . Fantastic Thanks for the effort in research writing, and editing. This is only my second audio book ( first was World War Z) and it was a right up there with that. I loved the Rupert Degas's narration although I found some of the dialogue didn't mesh with my mental image of the accents and intonation. I'm not sure the medium is suited to wordy, snappy, info dense conversation - for me at any rate.

Hope it kills it and that you have a follow up ready to roll.

Will get a five star review on audible once I've bought a gen set, some long life supplies, cans of beans, some seeds. Have the Hilux and a good little petrol driven pump, need a winch tho - a manual one-, some decent fishing kit, maybe another compound bow and a fletching kit, a couple of flints, epoxy resin and a few other things that might come in handy. The rest can be sourced during the early days of the pillaging. Getting peeps out of the kill zones will be the tricky part.

Generally a bit of an optimists simply because the alternative seems such an interminable drag on the very limited time we have on this watery rock and enormous enjoyment can be had simply by sticking your head in some nature and sucking back. But love a good catastrophe novel to bring it back to the mean.

Cheers and Beers, Get Some Fun.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 15
Thx mate. I'm taking notes on your To Do List.

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Therbs swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15
If there's one thing which Zero Day Code tells us is that go-bags need to be really handy. One in the car, one at home, one at work.

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Zero Day Code

Posted June 14 into Books by John Birmingham

Those of you who've been following my End of the World project over at Patreon will know by now that Audible picked up the exclusive rights to the series a couple of months ago. The first audiobook drops on July 4, but there is a sample chapter available now on Soundcloud.

You can have a listen here.

Some of you may want to grab it on pre-order. If so, hit up this link.

And if you don't have an Audible account, you're in luck because you can get the whole book for free, by signing up for a trial. You get one title to keep, no charge, even if you cancel out.

Zero Day Code started life as my homage to Stephen King's The Stand. I've always wanted to write a big, conventional end of the world epic. ZDC is that book, and the start of a much longer story. It bakes in elements of cyber-war, espionage, climate crises, civilisational collapse and a classic old school military techno-thriller, with my favourite part of the whole of apocalypse genre - shooting and shopping as the world burns.

My thanks to everyone who's helped out over at Patreon.

14 Responses to ‘Zero Day Code’

Dave W puts forth...

Posted June 14
Wait just a gosh-darned minute, does this mean that it won't be available as something that I can absorb using my eyeballs?

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted June 14
Eventually. But the Beast paid a pretty penny for audio exclusive rights.

Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted June 14
Coollio- I'll investigate my options.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted June 14
Absolutely no offence meant to our stateside friends - i find a british voice over more listenable for some reason. But Rupert Degas seems to smooth in straight away. Sometimes the various US accents take a while getting used to . . . how does he go voicing the female parts? . . . . i guess i should get a copy! . . . . and i just looked him up - he's British/Australian, maybe that is why it fits in so easily! : )

jl mumbles...

Posted June 15
Ha, not so odd I have the opposite problem! I did find that Degas did an excellent job. Very smooth, enjoyable.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted June 15
I'm on-board, though with all these pre-orders I have, that recent experience when I went to pre-order the Cruel Stars only to find I have already pre-ordered its a ridiculous combination of happy surprise and 'do I have enough money in that account?' when they are released.

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jl reckons...

Posted June 15
This summer is going to be amazing. Two hits from JB in the same season. Spoiler: Cruel Stars is a very good book; I've pre-ordered two. One for me, one for my sci-fi junky dad. And yeah, of course I claimed my copy of Zero Day Code when it hits.

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted June 16
Please Sir will a dead tree version available for Bribane based #1 daughter to procure for my late August birthday?

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted June 17
No! No soup for you!
(Because the contract is audio exclusive for 18 months)

NBlob would have you know...

Posted June 17
Sad face.

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she_jedi reckons...

Posted June 17
Right, I have finally succumbed to the Beast and I've set up an Audible account. I have used my free credit to pre-order Zero Day Code. Huzzah!

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 17
This. This is how you become my favourite.

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Oldy reckons...

Posted June 18
Same. Looking forward to it.

Reading chapter by chapter on the Patreon is super-cool, but getting the finished version all at once will be another great experience.

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spiral mumbles...

Posted July 7
preordered it as soon as i could, i'm listening to it right now, the only gripe i might have with it is that almost all the women seem to be valley girls :D

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Jason Cox’s first book

Posted March 28 into Books by John Birmingham

A couple of years ago when I was collecting stories for the Dave Hooper anthology, I got this great little short from a guy called Jason. And then I got another one. And another one. And another. It just went on and on like the bombing of Dresden.

Except Jason’s word bombs were really good. All up he sent me seven pieces, and I’m pretty sure I used them all.

It’s been satisfying to watch him graduate to his own story worlds. His first novel, THE HARD MAN, dropped this week and he was kind enough to let me have an extract which you can read below.

I’ve already bought my copy right here, so I’ll be reading that.

2 Responses to ‘Jason Cox’s first book’

jl has opinions thus...

Posted March 28
Good stuff by Jason, I was privileged to have Beta'd this. Enjoyed this book, recommend for anyone wanting an entertaining, fast-paced read.

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Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted April 3
Its sitting on my kindle yelling at me to start. Who am I to deny a hard man?

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The Armored Saint, by Myke Cole

Posted March 27 into Books by John Birmingham

I usually think of fantasy novels as epic. Epic in in scope, epic in length, epic in the sheer fucking tonnages of old growth forest felled to provide their thousands of pages. I’ve got all George RR Martin’s GoT books in hard back on the shelf somewhere behind me, and on quiet nights I can hear the hardwood groaning under their weight.

I was surprised then to discover that Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint is a genuinely slim volume, in hardback running to just over two hundred pages. The hobbit’s tea party at the start of LoTR felt longer than that. (Much longer. I never actually got past it).

And yet Cole has written such a densely packed story that I can’t imagine it running longer. It would be too much to bear. Every word, every line seems honed to strike a critical blow at the reader. Nothing is wasted and there is nothing that could be reasonably added to improve this novel. Not even ‘splosions. It seemed as I read it so perfectly crafted that I had to keep stopping to breathe and control my seething jealousy. I read one chapter a day, usually at lunch time, because that was all I could handle. The characters are drawn so vividly, their concerns so intimate, and the peril into which they pass seems so dire that it would fuck with my head if I read any more than that in one day, or if I made the mistake of reading it too late in the evening.

You don’t want to lay your head down with this story playing out behind your eyes.

So what happens?

The story is told by Heloise, a village girl in a grim medieval theocracy where warrior priests violently enforce a rigid stratification of the settled order. In fact they call themselves the Order. For a backward, priest ridden primitive hellhole, there’s a lot going on here. I won’t give away any spoilers, because I’m not a monster, but I can say that the Order’s unchallenged power derives from their historic role of protecting the realm from monsters and demons.

Except nobody’s actually seen any for so long that a rational man might begin to wonder whether they ever existed, or whether its just a dodge dreamed up by these scripture addled psychopaths of the unholy Order.

I will confess myself somewhat fucking shocked to discover the truth of it. Cole has great fun misdirecting, misleading and generally fucking with his readers. The world he has created here is beautifully realised. The characters live, and you really, really, really end up invested in Heloise and her terrible dilemma.

I’m just stepping outside to buy the next novel in the series. I may be gone for some time.

7 Responses to ‘The Armored Saint, by Myke Cole’

insomniac swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 27
So...The Dave could be a prequel then. It's a short hop from 'The' to 'St.'.

insomniac mutters...

Posted March 27
Reading the extract in Amazon, it's pretty tight writing. Perhaps I should add it, and the others, to the invisible pile of Kindle shame.

she_jedi mutters...

Posted March 27
I added it to my invisible pile of iBooks shame when JB first mentioned he was reading it. This review has now prompted me to lift it from the invisible pile of shame and into the visible Reading Now pile of smugness :)

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted March 27
This review is excellent timing, because I finished my current book last night and was casting about for the next one. Sold!

Also, to be SUPER nit picky, you spelt Myke's name wrong in the title of your post. Autocorrect probably got to you again, but as someone who gets their name spelled wrong even when people have it spelled out in front of them in correspondence, I couldn't let it slide. Sorry :(

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 27
*Shakes fist at an uncaring sky*

"DAMN YOU, AUTOCORRECT!"

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Spanner reckons...

Posted March 27
Damn you JB. Damn you to heck.

My pre order of Tiamat’s Wrath: The Expanse audiobook just landed in my audible app.

I’m currently listening to Batavia by Mr Fitzsimonds on my commute.

I can’t juggle a dead tree book and two audio books.

I can’t just buy this and toss it on my pile of shame...or can I.

Yes. Yes I can.

STOP JUDGING ME YOU JERKS.

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted March 27
Look it’s all well and good for JB to casually toss another outstandingly great novel endorsement but for those of us with steadily accumulating to-read lists I’d appreciate if he would confine himself to only read those on my already voluminous ‘want to read’ books listed on my goodreads page.

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The Killer Awoke

Posted February 7 into Books by John Birmingham

Had a pleasant surprise this morning when I found a cheque—yes, an actual paper cheque, possibly delivered by carrier pigeon—in my PO Box. It was from Baen, for a story in John Ringo's Voices of the Fall anthology. I'd forgotten about that piece, and the money turned up fortuitously. The Aussie dollar is in free fall on rumours of an interest cut, and my car rego was due.

So I dips me lid to JR and Baen. (Even though I had to totally murder Tom Kratman and Larry Correia to earn my Del Rey challenge coin).

The book is due out in early March. You can pre-order here. For those who don't know Ringo's Black Tide Rising series, it's a fun zombiepocalypse saga, unusual in having an Australian family as the lead characters.

For my contribution to the anthology I decided to revisit an old favourite, Caitlin Monroe. We join her, as we did at the start of After America, recuperating in a Paris hospital, but this being Ringo's story world, the details start shifting early:

Caitlin took a sip of cool water and closed her eyes for a moment.
She knew this was bad.
Echelon never put anyone in the field without due preparation. But she’d been yanked out of her deep cover run against al Banna’s network and thrown at these wingnuts on half-a-moment’s notice, with a ten-minute briefing and a surprisingly painful shot in the ass of some unnamed anti-viral magic potion that gave her the worst dose of flu she’d ever had.
Caitlin cursed softly under her breath. She had no idea what day it was. No idea how long she’d been out, or what had gone down in that time...

...Caitlin’s hand was throbbing and her head was starting to spin. She desperately needed a moment to herself, to get her shit together. She forced herself to breath slowly. Stilling her racing thoughts. Her flu had mostly cleared. She hadn’t turned rabid. She needed to reestablish realtime contact with Echelon. Overwatch must have arranged for her to jump the line if she was in a private hospital room. She did remember that hospitals were already turning people away when she was in London.
“Eh up? What’s this then?” blurted Celia.
Everyone fixed on the TV screen, where an impeccably groomed Eurasian woman with a perfectly modulated BBC voice was struggling to maintain her composure. “…the quarantine, which was not agreed to by Washington, will be enforced by NATO using all means necessary according a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office. Outbound commercial flights are either returning to their points of origin or diverting to Halifax and Quebec in Canada, or to airports throughout the West Indies, where the plague is reportedly nearly as advanced as on the continental US.”
The women all began to chatter at once, much to Caitlin’s annoyance. On screen the BBC’s anchorwoman said that the US president and vice President had been evacuated ‘under fire’ from the capitol. A hammer started pounding inside Caitlin’s head as she watched the reporter stumble through the rest of her read.
“…US forces are heavily engaged at Guantanamo Bay, using heavy weapons on hundreds of naked victims.”
Interesting word, thought Caitlin. Victims.

7 Responses to ‘The Killer Awoke’

HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted February 7
I'll say it, having read the post and then looking at the cover art, I really didn't get much further...than re looking at the cover art!!!!!

Prolly un PC or isI it art appreciation?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 7
It’s Baen.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 7
Wow, the 80s called and wants its cover art back. Although the art explains the House of Del Rey's feud with Baen, no wonder they're getting their authors to murder their Baen rivals

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted February 7
I'm really starting to think , that Caitlin and Captain Jane Willet, my two spanky favs might just well have been replaced!

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Murphy_of_Missouri swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 7
I never imagined Caitlin looking as good as the ones on the cover.

Oh, and Thank God for Baen.

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Vovchara asserts...

Posted February 11
Tom Kratman wouldn't be a big loss. But if you touch David Weber or Eric Flint...

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HAVOCK21 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 13
hmm, that title. I think, now, in retrospection that its really code...you know, for " HAVOCK's ALARM CLOCK WNET OFF" hence, the KILLER AWOKE!

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