Cheeseburger Gothic

Del Rey Challenge Coin

Posted February 1 by John Birmingham

Sometimes publishers send you things. Usually books. But my publishers sent me this cool 'challenge' coin for Christmas. As the text explains, challenge coins have been given as tokens of 'valor, service and camaraderie' since Roman times. Legionaires who'd proved themsevles particularly stabby on the battlefield got an exta coin in their pay pouch at the end of the week.

Apparently some military units still gift their members with special one-off coins, and the soldier who cannot produce their coin when challenged is up for an expensive round of drinks.

Del Rey's heavy coin of solid black Adamantium was minted solely for Del Rey's authors and the letter professes that it is given as emblem of the comradeship of the house and in appreciation for our work.

But just quietly, to get one you have to straight up murder at least two authors from Baen Books first.

12 Responses to ‘Del Rey Challenge Coin’

she_jedi mutters...

Posted February 1
In an age of disappearing publishing houses and the sense that just to be published is an honour and a privilege, it makes sense for publishers to expand their operations into complementary industries like covert assassinations, and cross skilling their authors to contribute to both business models. Handing out sexy black coins would be a fairly cost effective way of identifying the more, shall we say, productive authors....

she_jedi mutters...

Posted February 1
This triggered an idea for JB’s next airport novel to replace the City and the Tribe. A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other. An up and coming author gets their first book contract, only to discover that in order to be published they’ll have to train to become an assassin, and they’re horrified to discover that the world’s deadliest woman is a beloved children’s book author. The new author gets teamed up with a world weary international super author/assassin who writes books about ‘splosions and is renowned for his research and the realism of his fight scenes, but what the critics think is fiction is based on his exploits in his secret shadow career.

“Just be grateful you got recruited by Del Rey,” Birmingham murmured into his whiskey glass. “They just give you a black coin once you’ve made you bones taking out a couple of authors from Baen. Those psychos at Hachette take your pets and your family members hostage until you’ve earned your book royalties back.”

The ageing assassinauthor leaned back in his armchair and smoothed the lapel of his smoking jacket. “And leave the cooking book people alone. Christ, they make the stabby happy jerks at Simon & Schuster look well adjusted. Never trust someone who can poison you a thousand different ways AND has the tools to carve you up like a Christmas ham. They get worse when they cross genres too. The shit the Sales and Crabb team have pulled over the years…. I didn’t want any of this. I wanted to be a serious writer, creating dissertations on the fracturing of society as we know it. Instead I write airport novels where I’ve destroyed the world in six different ways, all with a contractually obligated number of explosions, in between book tours where I’m inhuming tinpot dictators and wannabe supervillains and dodging the freelance hitters at Amazon.”

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
"A novel about how the world’s publishing houses are fronts for secret groups of authorial ninjas who are at war with each other."

Jesus Christ.

How are you not in charge of Random House already?

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted February 1
I'm sure if you flashed your challenge coin around your fellow Del Rey authors we could get a hit squad together to arrange an "accident" for the incumbent at Random House and get moving on this :P

HAVOCK21 has opinions thus...

Posted February 1
Did somebody intimate violence?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
I'm very excited by this.

Dirk mutters...

Posted February 2
One word and Dan Brown sleeps with the fishes ...

WarDog reckons...

Posted February 2
OK, I'm hooked, what's the release date? I think it would be a real writing challenge to keep it fresh past book 2.

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ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted February 1
Poul Anderson and Bob Asprin never saw it coming.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted February 1
I suppose you'll have to keep it about your person at all times, just in case there's a random book deal or some such. No pun intended.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted February 1
None taken, guvnor.

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jl reckons...

Posted February 1
This means I need to carry a coin with me everywhere now. In the past I'd only have one on Memorial Day or something.

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Free martinis

Posted February 1 into House keeping by John Birmingham

The post below is an extract from The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis, the anthology I collected over two years of writing Alien Side Boob. But specifically the non ranty, non political bits. Looking back, they're my favourites.

Because I've grown so weary and sick in my soul of social media, I'm making a real effort to pour the energy I would've spent composing tweets or drooling thru Facebook (not a typo) into slowly renovating the ol' blog here.

I like the idea of a quiet clubhouse where I can retreat from the madness of the online world. And I gotta feeling I might not be alone. So although I've published Martinis as a book—Kindle exclusive for now, so its free for KU readers—I'll be running a piece here every now and then. Partly to pimp the book, but mostly to warm up the joint.

I get so little joy from Twitter anymore. And I've pretty much always hated Facebook. Opening those sites and apps feels like compuslive self abuse, and not the good kind.

So pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and get cozy. But observe the one and only house rule. Be awesome to each other.

11 Responses to ‘Free martinis’

Barnesm mutters...

Posted February 1
Good to see you Mr Birmingham, things have been awfully dull around here... Now you're on this, I hope we are going to see some gratuitous sex and violence.

Murphy_of_Missouri asserts...

Posted February 1
Never Say Never Again.

Excellent film.

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Leftarc is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
Good to see you back in the saddle JB.
Whilst I enjoy a short, pithy snark as much as the next person, watching you dismember a topic or person limb by limb (sorry, watched Kill Bill this morning) in the long form is something to savour.

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HAVOCK21 reckons...

Posted February 1
I fkn SECOND BARNES'S FKN MOTION. I for one find the OTHER fkn worlds out there to be all of the above and somewhat more. Actually, a FKN LOT FKN MORE to be honest! And when I say that, I mean, full of the unwashed, tree huggin, lets slap somebody within an inch for a small comment, lets get angry and protest, lets not fk about, buut be PC and fear to tread ANYFKNWHERE!

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DarrenBloomfield swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
Hazzuh! Normal service has been resumed.

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HAVOCK21 ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Um, when you mention the house rule, is that with the same " intent" as the house rule at the former CBG Smack Down, octagon that was eighty versions of pure fkn awesome? Just trying to qualify what ya sayin.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted February 1
We all know the rules don't apply to you.

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tqft reckons...

Posted February 1
In a fit of efficiency a few weeks back I added the burger to the list of startup sites.
I could add it to my rss feed script but that almost guarantees not being read.

To ditch twitter or not, I don't know. If I had a life outside of work I might.

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
I may be missing something here. Exactly where do i get the free martini. It's 5 o'clock on a Friday so a casual libation would be appreciated.

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Murphy_of_Missouri mumbles...

Posted February 1
Hell, I might have to resurrect The Pondering Tree.

Then again, I might want to work on some new fiction first.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted February 1
Yes, you might.

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This, too, Conan finds best

Posted February 1 into Funny by John Birmingham

"Conan, what is best in life?"

To make the yellow light at the intersection with but a fraction of a second to spare, then to savour expressions of your enemies, the other, lesser drivers as they are bathed in the loathsome flash of the red light camera.

Conan, please, what is best in life?
To see a close friend stumble in public, to almost fall, and to regain his footing but only at the cost of great embarrassment. This. This is best. Most especially the embarrassment, but also the clumsiness.

Come now, Conan.
It is also best to find twenty dollars folded into your pocket. Not less, for there is little one can do with less. Not more, for with great riches, or fifty dollars, comes great responsibility. To accidentally find and wantonly spend twenty dollars is indeed best.

Conan, what is best in life?
Not the Celebrity Retweet, but the envy of your closest friends at your Celebrity Retweet.

Conan, is that really what’s best in life?
For Conan there is also pleasure to be had in the awkward, slightly uncomfortable moment when another must hold the door open longer than usual so that I might pass through.

Conan?
If the door is the entrance to a crowded restaurant or bar, and your long and awkward approach is long enough that a table opens up directly in front of you as you enter? This, this too is best in life. For some reason, greater pleasure is to be had in subterranean venues.

But what is truly best in life, Conan?
I speak true when I say that to freeze frame the TV just as your enemy is blinking so as to appear in the throes of a stroke, perhaps brought on by an explosive and unexpected end to a prolonged bout of constipation, this is best.

Conan, what is truly-ruly best?
To have a water balloon fight with small children in which your superior reach, speed and throw weight allows you to utterly drench them while you yourself remain dry.

Any more, Conan?
To drive one’s wagon to market, and pull into a parking space at the exact moment the wagon immediately in front of you pulls out, allowing you to claim the pull through slot and ultimately to drive away without the inconvenience of reversing, that is best in life.

Conan, is that seriously what is best in life?
The crusty edge on a muffin top also pleases Conan.

You’ve changed, Conan.
Conan does not change, not for mere pleasure, unless it is into a fleecy track suit, fresh from the warm cycle of the clothes dryer. This too Conan finds best.

Conan, there must be more than this.
Only the look on someone’s face as the elevator door closes with them still outside and Conan within, smiling, victorious.

From The Seven Stages of Drinking Martinis.

6 Responses to ‘This, too, Conan finds best’

jl would have you know...

Posted February 1
This was one of the very best from ASB. I laughed so hard I cried.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted February 1
Yeah, nice.

On the parking, while I still had to suffer the indignity of reversing, I did manage to arrive at the right time to grab a parking spot as someone left, in an otherwise completely busy supermarket car park, and after someone else, who appeared to have been driving around looking for a spot, possibly for some time, gave way to me. That was best, and surprisingly guilt free.

FormerlyKnownAsSimon mutters...

Posted February 1
oh dear god. That is evil. I dread that situation so much that when i build a time machine it won't be to kill baby hitler, it will be to make sure automobiles are never invented so that this situation (the person giving way) will never happen to me. Sure, saving all those people that had died through history due to automobile accidents is just a completed side quest.

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she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
My only regret about the closure of ASB is that JB never wrote an article on Conan vs The Microsoft Security.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted February 1
Oh man...

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
IT'S NOT TOO LATE! #Justsayin'

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The Stand. A ten part TV series

Posted January 31 into Telly by John Birmingham

CBS has green lit the latest adaptation of the King's masterwork. A ten part, one-off series for its streaming service. The golden age of TV can't last, but it's got a few years left to run it seems.

One of the writer/producers, Josh Boone, tells a great story about coming to the work as a young boy.

“I read The Stand under my bed when I was 12, and my Baptist parents burned it in our fireplace upon discovery,” Boone said. “Incensed, I stole my dad’s FedEx account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work. Several weeks later, I came home to find a box had arrived from Maine, and inside were several books, each inscribed with a beautiful note from god himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.”

6 Responses to ‘The Stand. A ten part TV series’

she_jedi asserts...

Posted January 31
That anecdote gave me ALL THE FEELS! Also, I'm very excited about a new adaption of the Stand, especially in this golden age of TV.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31
I know rite!?!

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Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted January 31
Wonderful book. Awesome news with a little trepidation around doing it right.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted January 31
The guy in charge sounds like a fan, which will probably work out okay.

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jason asserts...

Posted February 1
No offence John but The Stand is probably my favourite book in the genre. I cannot wait for this to hit my screen.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted February 1
None taken. Mine too.

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Polar Vortex explainer

Posted January 31 into Science and Tech by John Birmingham

Perhaps because we're roasting through another brutal summer down here, I'm all in on the polar vortex over in the US. If you've ever wondered how it all works, the New York Times has a cool infographic thingy right here.

15 Responses to ‘Polar Vortex explainer’

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31
Ah, the polar vortex. -2F/-19C on my front porch right now. Wind chills -25F/-32C. And that's a joke next to Minnesota or something.

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted January 31
I saw reports today that Chicago is colder than Antarctica. I can't even.

jl would have you know...

Posted January 31
Yeah, I heard the same thing. This is hell.

jason is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
Time to migrate to Australia. We don't even have the minus symbol in our weather department.

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted February 1
Believe me, I've given it thought.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon puts forth...

Posted January 31
Got a mate living out Ann Arbor way and he sent me a pic of his car dashboard -23C with the words "the sun isn't even down yet". He did a 30sec dash to his car and said in that time his fingers felt like they were going to drop off. It gets cold where i live in the mountains - maybe a bit of snow a couple of times a year. But quite frankly i think he'd call my winter "shorts weather"

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon ducks in to say...

Posted January 31
Got a mate living out Ann Arbor way and he sent me a pic of his car dashboard -23C with the words "the sun isn't even down yet". He did a 30sec dash to his car and said in that time his fingers felt like they were going to drop off. It gets cold where i live in the mountains - maybe a bit of snow a couple of times a year. But quite frankly i think he'd call my winter "shorts weather"

jl mutters...

Posted January 31
Ann Arbor is 8 hours north of me, so they are catching it. It was the weirdest thing today. The sun was shining brightly, and the thermometer dropped all day, sun or not. This morning it was 15F, by sunset it was -2F.

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Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted January 31
Otherwise known as, "Just another fucking winter in Missouri."

jl would have you know...

Posted January 31
Ah c'mon, Murph, this is pretty cold!

Murphy_of_Missouri reckons...

Posted January 31
Meh. Not really.

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Murphy_of_Missouri would have you know...

Posted January 31
Then again, I have more snivel gear at 47 than I did at 19 in KSA.

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jl would have you know...

Posted January 31
-21C here this morning. Close to a record.

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Bondiboy66 ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Dare I mention the arse baking heat we had here in Bondi yesterday? I dare - it was 39C until the southerly blew in and knocked it down to the early 20s. Even the ocean was 21C. As for this polar vortex....I get cold just reading about it.

Murphy_of_Missouri ducks in to say...

Posted February 1
Send it to Missouri please.

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MUP

Posted January 30 into Writing by John Birmingham

So, I have a calendar entry for a phone hook up with Melbourne University Press on Feb 11 to discuss a book I was going to do with them, The City and the Tribe, a sort of Leviathan-like study of tribalism and modernity. I'm not sure that meeting is even going ahead now, since the entire board of MUP and the head publisher, Louise Adler, resigned today.

The Herald has a report here.

There have apparently been disagreements with the University over the direction of the house. Odd, because MUP is one of the most successful publishing houses in the country. Although, allegedly some in the University disparage its output as 'airport trash'. (A pretty grotesque slur in my opinion).

Anyway, I'm not as unsettled by the shenanigans as you'd imagine. I've been staring at the Commitment Matrix on the white board next to my desk and wondering whether I truly have the time to invest in a big prestige non fiction project. I know from Leviathan how much work is involved and I have a couple of other projects that would likely pay a lot more for much less demanding work. Airport novels, by way of coincidence.

I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book.

Think I'll put my head down and lean into the other projects for now. Maybe have a look around next week.

13 Responses to ‘MUP’

insomniac would have you know...

Posted January 30
JB needs to be like Vegemite. You need to spread what you have thick and goodly. To spread yourself too thin - well, all you get is tasteless and awful.

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jason puts forth...

Posted January 31
Airport trash - I think what we choose to read on the plane defines our true love. 10 hours lost in another world or 10 hours cogitating the meaningless of existence (with footnotes). Give me mayhem any day.

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she_jedi reckons...

Posted January 31
I was deeply shocked by the MUP dust up yesterday, and ESPECIALLY by the "airport trash" slur; have these ivory tower snobs actually READ any of the 'ON' books that MUP produced (much less any of their other great books)? Katharine Murphy's On Disruption and David Speers' On Mutiny were brilliantly pithy and accessible treatises on events that are affecting us deeply but we as pleb airport trash readers may not necessarily be able to grasp, not having a conduit into the inner workings of these subjects. I'm also hanging out for the release of Paula Matthewson's On Merit, which should be a forensic tour de force on the LNP's woman problem.

It's sad that you may not end up with a publisher for the City and the Tribe straightaway, and I do understand the dilemma of producing more 'airport trash' to pay the bills vs challenging yourself on a big non fiction piece like this. I can't imagine the slog that went into researching and writing Leviathan, but can i just say that book is a fricking MASTERPIECE? Especially in the sense of a journeyman finishing his apprenticeship and producing his masterwork kind of way? You really earned the right to write airport novels after that one.

I am very much in favour of more 'splosions and 'airport trash', but would also very much like to devour a big non fiction treatise from you as well. Very few do blistering social commentary like you do, and I gave up the Boob to support the City and the Tribe and feel invested in it now (because it's all about me). But as I said when you pulled the pin on ASB, you have to do what works for you, and I'll buy whatever your publish anyway! xx

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 31
I still haven't spoken to MUP, but I assume there's no way this idea of mine fits into the academic monograph plan. It's the sort of book you buy in an airport, after all. (But you still feel superior to the Dan Brown readers).
I could send an email this arvo and sell it somewhere else, but I really have been looking at my white board and chewing my lip worrying about whether I had too much on.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 31
Yeah I can't see it fitting into their new plan of cutting off the revenue stream that would have helped fund the publishing of their monographs, which is very sad. The only good things that can be said about Dan Brown readers is at least they're reading, and that they exist to enable readers like me to feel superior.

Knowing nothing about the publishing process as I do, is it worth putting feelers out to see if you'd be able to sell it at all this year? If no one shows an interest then that's your answer and you can focus on the airport fiction instead of the non fiction. Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver? I'm leaning toward the challenge/personal growth project simply because I've flagged 2019 as my year of doing stuff I've been making excuses about forever, but that's my narrative, not yours.

What other works would you have to delay in order to deliver this one? Maybe we can vote a book off the island? :P

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted January 31
"Or is the dilemma that someone will throw a wad of cash at you (in lieu of a truckful of cash backed up to your door) and then you'd be stuck having to deliver?"

This.

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted January 31
Ah. Yep that would do it. I guess you have to decide how badly you want to do it vs your other stuff? :(

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Rob asserts...

Posted January 31
Academic writing. The stuff only read by undergrads because they have to? I've read some utter trash in my new degree.(mostly it says Marxism good, capitalist hegemony bad)

Give me the clever snark and gold plated hovercrafts any day.


and 'splosions.

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Dirk would have you know...

Posted January 31
From my ivory tower near the summit of mount Olympus, I have only one question:
Did you burn enough ink today?

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Brother PorkChop swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted January 31
Shame JB. I would have been keen to read this type of study. I did some courses on sociology and anthropology which I found really enjoyable. Since then (long long long ago) I have often thought of the tribal nature of societies and how football plays a role in continuing the tribalism BUT without the larger scale warfare. Yes, I know all about Chelsea headhunters (a friend of a friend was handed the knife) and lets not forget Millwall Bushwackers or FTroop.
Football can replace tribal warfare as an outlet for that aspect of our nature and I believe that over time this will prove to be true in Africa.
Thoughts?

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted February 1
I'm in two minds Porky. I really did want to write this book. It still fascinates me as a topic. But I also have to some debts to pay off and airport novels will do that.
As to the topic, there's a great book called The Professor in the Cage, which I'll write up here in a week or two. Middle aged English Lit professor takes up cage fighting. It's hella entertaining, but also goes deep on the same issues.

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HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted February 1
"I tried hashing this out with Dirk de Jager on Skype last week. I really want to avoid over-committing myself, but on the other hand I do have some financial damage from the last few years to repair and, just as importantly, I feel myself challenged to write this book"


I guess the hover must need a new polish or cut or whatever it is you outsource to some plebes etc...

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thetick swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted February 1
You gotta make your own decisions about how much work to do and stuff, but as an aside, I'd read the FUCK out of a book like that.

I mean, I'm gonna read all the rest of your stuff, but that sounds really interesting.

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