Cheeseburger Gothic

The sci fi machinery of publishing

Posted 4 hours ago into Books by John Birmingham

Jason Lambright has a really lovely piece over at his Interstelar Valley blog pondering the wonder that is the production and release of a book...

A book launch by a major publisher is an astonishing display of logistics, marketing, programming, and execution.

As I stood in the little book store thousands of miles away from the author, these thoughts went through my head. I picked up a copy, leafed through it, and carried it to the register. It seemed that I wanted to purchase another hardcopy as a gift to my old Team Sergeant, so this book, copy XXXX of who knows how many thousand, left the store with me.

It rode on the back seat of my car. As I drove, I marveled at all the threads that came together to make the book’s journey complete. Had the idea to write this article, put the book in front of some Indian corn and took a picture. Sent the picture via my phone to the computer. This is another technological marvel that we take for granted.

Totally worth a read at the Valley.

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Nice interview and TCS extract at SyFy

Posted Yesterday by John Birmingham

I did an interview with these guys (while trying to get a grumpy teen out of the door and off to school), and they grabbed and extract which you can find here.

3 Responses to ‘Nice interview and TCS extract at SyFy’

she_jedi asserts...

Posted Yesterday
"The Cruel Stars is a decapitation strike on a star-spanning society in more ways than one..."

So you've moved on from destroying the world, and now you're destroying galaxies??? Overachiever :P

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted 22 hours ago
surely you have the hang of getting a moody teen out the door by now, you have years of experience and treachery to rely on.

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jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted 20 hours ago
Nice that SyFy's getting the word out; good little piece.

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The Cruel Stars released

Posted Tuesday into Books by John Birmingham

Today The Cruel Stars began to appear on bookshelves around the country. They'll magically pop up in stores across the US and the UK tomorrow, progressively rolling out through the week. Of course anyone who ordered the digital version will have their's by now. I'm confident they'll enjoy it.

I'll start pimping hard in the morning. I've learned there's not much point jumping the starter's gun.

To everyone who helped with the beta read, sincere thanks. It's a much stronger book for your assistance. I'm very happy with it. All of the various editions look great, but the British hardback in particular is stunning. A real tribute to the bookbinders art.

The audiobook should also drop overnight and I'll grab copy for myself. One of the things I do enjoy about the audio versions, it's just a little bit like getting to experience the story for the first time. That is something special.

Now of course, I'll have to fire up the anti-matter drive and fold into the sequel.

15 Responses to ‘The Cruel Stars released’

KreepyKrawly is gonna tell you...

Posted Tuesday
Yup, the beast dropped the ebook into my email this morning, getting into it tonight ß-Þ

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted Tuesday
I have been in a state of eternal *squeeee* ever since my ebook appeared on my devices last night. Cruelly I have been stymied from diving into The Cruel Stars completely due to having to turn up to my job and actually, you know, work. It is an OUTRAGE.

jason has opinions thus...

Posted Yesterday
I think Mr Birmingham needs to address this terrible oversight. I too need to go to work, do family stuff, all of the things which stop me from hunkering down for a serious reading session. I believe Mr Birmingham should show some consideration and time book launches to coincide with my holidays, or at least weekends. Sadly all he thinks about is providing for his family and not a skerrick of consideration for my needs.

NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted 5 hours ago
Wrong. Mr Birmingham artfully times his releases to coincide with my birthday. Making gift from daughter most excellent.

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Blarkon swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Tuesday
Ordered the UK HB from Forbidden Planet as "Them Across The Lake" (as the Redmondians call them) don't ship to Oz from their UK outpost.

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Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted Tuesday
My e-book is loaded and ready for the train ride tomorrow, good luck and godspeed Birmo on the sequel.

Presume the usual threats to provide 5 star reviews to the Bezo's beast.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted Tuesday
I ordered mine from the US Amazon purely to use my stranded gift card. Actually I ordered three (for obvious reasons). I feel like ms insomniac is going to question my sanity even more than usual. It will be nice to re-read after such a long time.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted Tuesday
OMIGOD. I HAVE NO OTHER FAVOURITES.

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jl ducks in to say...

Posted Wednesday
This process of watching TCS unfold has been excellent. Very sweet to see it on the shelves!

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted Yesterday
I think i'm going to pick this one up at an actual brick and mortar and have some enforced "reading time for dad". I have a huge blackberry patch that i have been carving a tunnel into with the plans of making a nice cool arbor for summer (and, well, it relieved the boredom of pulling the stuff out if i had a goal other than "lets just rip all this stuff out"). I have dreams of sitting down in the cool shady tunnel and picking blackberries nonchalantly off the canes without getting up whilst reading a book where the kids can't find me. The reality of course will be the thorns ripping a gash in my head because i didn't duck enough on entry and the juiciest blackberry is juuuust out of reach and if only i could poke through that gap... ouch! And then when i get up for another one i tread on a tiger snake because he came in to get out of the blaring sun as well and found a nice shady spot and some rude bugger just trod on him and it won't be a dry bite because that guy was asking for it anyway treading on an unsuspecting snake trying to relax.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted Yesterday
Spookily, this scene, or something like it, is in the book.

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Vovchara has opinions thus...

Posted Yesterday
I like it. I was a bit apprehensive when I've read the excerpt before. All that fancy-schmancy technology is something I actively avoid in sci-fi, but you turned it around. Making something which is often a weakness in fictional storytelling into a strength.
Besides, I love the characters you create. In every single book up to date. This one is no different.
The only minor complains, would be Navy personal, and the way they behave, not quite Jack Campbell and H. Paul Honsinger :P But still good characters.

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Bondiboy66 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted Yesterday
As a practicing Luddite* I intend to hie myself to purveyor of Paper Books forthwith to get me a copy.




*not really - I just prefer a paper book because the batteries never run out, and also as an Up Yours to the phone junkies on public transport (although I tend to ride my motorbike these days, and reading is bloody hard when riding)

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SAS asserts...

Posted 9 hours ago
JB nearly finished my kindle copy, you mentioned an Audio version any idea when the UK Audible will be out? want to listen at work :)

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted 4 hours ago
I've asked my agent to get on it. The audio rights were sold for the US but not outside. Audiobook available on American store, if you have an account there.

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Burger Lite. The last twelve months

Posted August 8 by John Birmingham

I stepped on the scales yesterday (for my birthday) and had a pleasant surprise. But first some context. I stepped on the same scales about a year ago and had another surpise, not so pleasant. And really not much of a fucking surprise. It was more a confirmation of what I already suspected. I was a mess.

Some of you will remember that I took the death of my dad pretty hard. It's tipped me into about six months of depression, which had physical as well as psychological consequences.

Before that happened, however, I had other problems. Specifically a couple of the discs in my lower back were starting to grind together, trapping nerves between them. I first became aware of it at a genre fiction festival in Sydney. I was standing around enjoying a drink at the Saturday afternoon cocktail session, as you do, when I started getting shooting pains down my side. Electric tingling in my feet and legs. With about a quarter of an hour, I had to sit down. It was agony to keep standing.

I'd had similar issues over the previous couple of months with my standing desk, finding it more and more unpleasant to remain on my feet for any length of time, eventually returning to just slumping into my chair for six or seven hours a day. It caught up with me in Sydney.

Just over 12 months ago I hopped onto my scales, which are these fancy digital magic boxes that measure not just weight but a whole bunch of other stuff, including, gulp, body fat. Apparently they pass a small electrical current through your body to measure resistance. The current travels through fatty tissue and muscle fibre at different speeds. Or some shit. Anyway the results weren't good. I weighed 98.3 kg and 32.9% of that was fat.

I'll jump to the spoiler. Hopped onto the same scales yesterday and I was down to a touch over 92 kg, but more importantly only 18% of that was fat. I'd dropped about 16 kg of fat and packed on about 10 kg of muscle.

How?

The usual way. Eating less crap, doing more exercise. Specifically I've been doing a lot more strength training. I'd always try to throw some weights work into my gym routine, but I'd never been particularly directed about it. I never really improved.

About nine or ten months back I started working with a personal trainer, a mate from the dojo, Darren Rae, one of our black belts who had switched careers from moving stuff around a warehouse, to torturing fat bastards like me into shape.

We spent the first couple of months, yes months, building up my lower back strength, creating a sort of girdle of muscle mass around the degenerating spinal discs. This had a pretty spectacular and immediate effect on my lower back pain. It mostly disappeared. I still get twinges every now and then, especially if I'm slumped into my chair on a deadline for seven or eight hours a day. But the chronic, debilitating pain seems to have been banished.

Having laid the foundation we then started to build out the rest of my frame and build up some endurance with boxing and kickboxing work. I still have a fair way to go. There's another seven or eight kgs of body fat to burn off and at my age I have to be careful not to overdo it, particularly not with my knees which I trashed many years ago doing hill sprints.

I aim to get back to my fighitng weight by Christmas. But again, I'm an old bugger now, so I wont actually be fighting anyone or anything other than the desire to eat donuts at every meal.

20 Responses to ‘Burger Lite. The last twelve months’

Naut would have you know...

Posted August 8
Nice work JB, this stuff doesn't get any easier.

I have been experimenting for cutting sugar for a month at a time.

It's tough to do both physically and practically, but it makes a serious difference. Especially if you can train in a glycogen depleted state.

The challenge is not losing all the gains when you reintroduce sugar back in.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted August 9
Yeah, I’m not an anti-star fanatic, but I did recognise it as White Death. And I love it so.
My main source of sugar was cups of tea. I’d drink heaps of them during the day, each with one tea spoon. I cant come at tea without it, so I switched out 7-8 cups of Yorkshire Gold for green or Jasmine tea, both of which I dont mind. I dont love them. But I dont mind them either.
That one small tweak took about 700-800 calories a week out of my diet.

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Dirk asserts...

Posted August 8
Congrats JB on the gains.

Maybe riding a bike instead of driving the beast for the small trips in and around Bris might help, but that depends what other kinds of risk using pedlepower would have.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 9
I do have a bike but I live in a very hilly neighbourhood and never quite figured out how to work the gears. Instead I walk. I figured that if I walk to my local bar and have two glasses of wine, I’m still in calorie deficit when I get home, up the big hill.

Doccs reckons...

Posted Yesterday
Walking makes your legs lean -but the middle not necessarily.
Steps don’t translate well to calories.

If you’re training that’s better but cycling is good as well.

As my fitbane tells me -I walked the Nile and back ....

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted August 8
Glad it went well.

You have a weird arse birthday ritual in my opinion.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted August 9
It is a little odd, yes.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted August 8
I wish I had done as well as you. I'm stuck around 115 and I have no idea what percentage of me is fat. I have lower back issues too and it's paradoxical that exercising actually makes it better.

With a standing desk I was told that you need to alternate between sitting and standing on a regular basis, ideally every half hour. Now when I work from home I always stand, and when I'm in the office I always sit.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted August 9
The back pain is a killer. It demotivates you for anything other than eating lots of donuts. It was a little frustrating working only on my lower back strength for months, but it did finally start to pay off.

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted August 12
Apparently you can get standing desk stools (yes, it's exactly as irrational as it sounds) but it means you can remain active and engage your core muscles and legs muscles and lean while using your standing desk. They have a low back profile to force you to sit up properly, and you can rock or wobble while you're working and engage muscles differently throughout the day:

https://au.varidesk.com/en-au/products/standing-desk-chair-varichair

This might be an option to keep your different muscles groups active and take some pressure off your back?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 12
By odd coincidence I've just come off two hours of standing desk usage without problem.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted August 12
Wonderful! *Virtual high five*

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jl mumbles...

Posted August 8
Excellent! Makes me feel like a piker.

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beeso swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 9
The really interesting thing I've found is hitting what seems to be my body wants to be its natural equilibrium. I am sitting at 82kegs and 16% and I don't think it would be healthy to reduce my intake any more (fasting twice a week). I could completely cut the red wine and coffee I guess, but I don't see the trade off worth it.

Instead i'm trying to learn a few athletic skill that keep me playing around physically at home outside of structured training, the boys are trying them as well and it is good fun.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted August 12
This is a great result JB, very inspiring. At Easter I took up reformer Pilates, and I'm now doing 4 sessions a week (Mon - Thurs, and then I recover over the weekend). I've not weighed myself, and I'm not sure if I'm seeing any results in dimensions yet, but I'm definitely getting my flexibility back, and I feel a lot stronger and capable. I shattered my right ankle about a decade ago, and my balance was shot after that, but that's definitely improving.

My main issue has been my hips and lower back being stiff and painful (hello office job!) and both have improved out of sight. Now everything hurts because I'm exercising, not because I'm sedentary. I'm still calling it a win.

I remember after my first session, I rolled over in bed the next morning and my abs all went "OH HAI!". I'm still finding muscles I didn't know I had lol.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted August 12
Yeah, Pilates is supposed to be great. I can't come at it, because I'd just want to be at a jujitsu class, but I hear it's really good for core and flexibility.

she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted August 12
It's brilliant, and it's a way harder workout than one would think, although it's easy to scale to your fitness level and flexibility. Every now and then a gym junkie will rock up to give it a go and they stagger out after a 45 min workout wondering WTF they just went through lol.

insomniac asserts...

Posted August 12
I had an osteopath once who just had his hands fingers up underneath my back as I was lying down, apparently doing nothing, but the next day I'd be aching as if I'd done something much more physical.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted August 13
As i get older i appreciate tales of people able to make gains like that. (still in the 40-50 bracket age wise and in the lower end of the 90-100 weight bracket). I discovered over the weekend that playing with the kids in the snow (all weekend) reminds you that yes there are some muscles in there and over there and that one round the back you don't think of often . . . and don't you even think of limboing under the snow jackets drying out hanging from the door lintel.

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted August 13
That makes me ouch just reading it!

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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 asserts...

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 reckons...

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 ducks in to say...

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 swirls their brandy and claims...

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

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

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 asserts...

Posted July 23
Agreed. First class.

Ceramic mutters...

Posted July 25
They really are stunning!

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insomniac puts forth...

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

insomniac puts forth...

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 swirls their brandy and claims...

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

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted July 29
I wants the precious.

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pitpat would have you know...

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

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted August 2
There will indeed!

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NBlob ducks in to say...

Posted Friday
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 ducks in to say...

Posted Friday
Magic 8Ball says 20 Aug.

NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted Saturday
Noice.

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she_jedi reckons...

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

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KreepyKrawly has opinions thus...

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

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Carpe Donktum

Posted July 12 by John Birmingham

A New Yorker report on the WH 'social media summit' that is both hilarious and a little bit terrifying.

When the closed-door summit met, in the East Room, most of the seats were filled by such stalwart maga memesmiths as Bill Mitchell, whose indefatigable pro-Trump cheerleading has made him a target of mockery even on the far-right; James O’Keefe, who styles himself as an investigative journalist but acts more like an opposition researcher; Charlie Kirk, whose organization, Turning Point USA, keeps finding itself mired in racism scandals; and a stay-at-home dad from Kansas City who goes by Carpe Donktum. This was not Mr. Donktum’s first invitation to the White House. Last week, while some of the country’s top legal minds scrambled to justify the President’s mercurial and self-contradictory desires related to a citizenship question on the census, the President himself spent twenty minutes relaxing in the Oval Office with Donktum, whose job, according to his Twitter bio, is “the creation of memes to support President Donald J. Trump.” “Where is the genius?” the President asked as Donktum entered the inner sanctum of American power. “I want to meet the genius.”

4 Responses to ‘Carpe Donktum’

FormerlyKnownAsSimon mumbles...

Posted July 12
oh no - i googled donktum in Chrome (to see if it has some meaning like 'seize the donkey anus' or something). Now the profile they are building on me is messed up and i'm going to get recommendations for the wackos. Damn it. Rookie mistake at my age.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 12
You poor damn fool.

savo mutters...

Posted August 3
So what does it mean? You have sacrificed yourself for the greater good you should let the rest of us know. I certainly don't want that query on my profile history.

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Dave W would have you know...

Posted July 15
I'm only just starting to realise that there is a whole other definition of genius/expert out there. This is around a dismissal of expertise based on booklearning and experience.

So if that traditional view of expert is out, then what is in? What is valued? What is the redefined version of 'correct'?

But what this also does is sweep the rug out from underneath those with the traditional view. Yes, I am out of touch, obviously. I can't grasp the value of a Kirk, Mitchell or Donktum. But I also don't understand what Ivanka, Kelly-Ann Conway or even Trump himself have that makes what they say ring true to a segment of the population.

Obviously that ill defined (and perhaps undefinable) concept of Truthiness. But in a related sense, is there trustiness?

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