Monday, April 18, 2011


What is it about Mondays? They're low, vile, underhand, snarky, sneaky beasts that leap out on poor unsuspecting authors* what hardly ever did anyone any harm, and beat you about the lugholes.

Which is odd because I never get to that biblical injunction about a day of rest, so why should Mondays be worse and sometimes worser**?

Still, despite the running chaos I do have some positive news to report: You may remember I posted a snippet here about a coal-fired submarine? Got some good advice on that from a reader here... and lo and behold, the proposal has sold -- CUTTLEFISH along with its sequel - tentatively titled 'the Steam-Mole' have been bought by Pyr Books. I think the book could fairly be described as Alt-history meets Steampunk and probably not the clean fit into steampunk it could be. The book does not leave out the enormous environmental impact of coal-burning (far worse than oil, IMO, because of the carbon black) or exist in a quasi-Victorian in which the social impacts and stratification of Imperialism is glossed over. So while we have the Victorian/Edwardian costumes, and the weird steam and smoke and brass and cogwheel world of typical steampunk, I am afraid we don't quite manage to gloss over women's logical place in this Alt. Hist. And no. Mrs Pankhurst did get clapped in irons, but as millions of women did not go out to work in the factories of WW1... the world isn't quite as liberated as ours is.

So I have my heroes travese a world turned into an eclogical disaster area by 20th century industrialisation with coal instead of oil, and in which WW1 was a very brief thing and King Edward VIII never even met Wallis Simpson, but married a Prussian princess to heal wounds between England and Germany. The Empire endured... at least until this book. And it ain't pretty, least of all if you're Irish, Indian, or Australian for that matter. Or not part of the upper class, actually.

I have a feeling I should probably rather have gone with the tide with this, but it's too late now... It irritated me.

Anyway almost all subgenres have their tropes that irritate someone: These are some of mine.
Historical fantasy - what are these 21st century urban-dwellers doing in this rural feudal setting?
SF - What happened that FTL suddenly got so easy? Why are biosystems not at least double redundant?
Urban fantasy - who is that A-hole with sparkles? Where is my stake?
Paranormal Romance - what is this thing with man-titty?
YA - why is so much YA chicklit?

And what are yours?

*and other life-forms, proving that at least they'll your equal-opportunity oppressor.
** It is too a real word. Just not English... yet.


MataPam said...

I see. You saved the Empire with a political marriage, just so you could break it in your own preferred fashion!

The FTL thing doesn't bother me. It's just a devise to cut down all the boring travel time in a book. Without FTL, you have to either deal with decade long trips, or stick to single planetary systems and deal with weeks and months and years of travel time. Pleas for help tend to get answered rather late.

In dystopian stories, the survivors run around scavenging stuff. Why aren't they repairing or rebuilding irrigation systems and growing crops? Potting pottery? Blacksmithing all the iron laying about into something useful? Herding cattle sheep and goats? Hunting wild animals? Spinning, weaving, sewing?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Well, Dave, I knew you'd have to take your own dark twist on steampunk.

Congratulations on the 2 book deal!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

To answer your question I like to read genre books that push the boundaries of the genre.

Chris L said...

Hi Dave,

Cuttlefish sounds really interesting.I haven't read much steampunk so not much to compare it to.

I'm with Pam on FTL, otherwise all space-based SF would end up dealing with the same issues over and over. I guess there are other ways around the problem but easy FTL is the most straight-forward I guess.

One of the things that annoys me about both SF and Fantasy is when an author creates a stereo-typical "horde from hell" and then expects the reader to believe that they can attack the good-guys in a rational manner.

Insane maniacs who can somehow fly spaceships. Or armies of goblins, driven mad with bloodlust who form into coherrnet fighting units and attack on command.

It happens all the time and I just don't get it.

Brendan said...

I think to a certain extent readers look for familiar tropes in books they read and largely accept them as long as they haven't become so overused that they have slipped into stereotypes.

It does make it more interesting when people play with or create limits for the deus machina. LeGuin had instant communication(and instant death) via ansible technology but her people had to take things slower.

Stephen Donaldson in the Gap books realised the difference between super fast and instant communication and transport and what may happen when a society forgets the difference. He also played with the mechanics by making some people prone to psychotic events when transitioning.

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of fantasy, so....No more copying other people's fantasy creatures, please!! No more elves, dwarves, talking animals, vampires of any complexion, and if you write a wizard they better have their own unique magical ways. And absolutely no more Arthur, thank you. In fact, no Britain at all unless the author is British.

Of course, for each one of those I can think of a really well-written example that was genuinely unique and that I genuinely enjoyed.

PS Cuttlefish are my favourite animal in the world. Hurrah for face tentacles!

Louise Curtis

Kate Paulk said...

Congrats on the sale!

My pet peeves? Oh ye dogs, I've been airing them here every Thursday for months. They like the fresh air, too. They keep growing. And multiplying.

(And the Lord said "Go forth and multiply" only he didn't use that exact phrase...)

Dave Freer said...

MataPam actually I saved the Empire by a single non-marriage. Clara Immerwahr had her fight with Fritz Haber before marriage, and not later. The Empire is coming apart for the reasons that Empires do ;-).

FTL - what bothers me is the sheer laziness of some authors - it's far from universal. Some authors do posit some extension of logic for FTL - be it subspace or wormholes. That still feels like sf. When the difference between sf and fantasy or lit erary fiction or mystery stories is the setting... and that's done without much handwavium, but the equivalent of put your pedal to the metal, that irritates.

Dystopia... I would grow crops and fix plumbing. You probably would. Joe the inner city clerk and his wife the telemarketer... probably wouldn't know where to start.

Dave Freer said...

Rowena - always something different. It's a hopeful book, none-the-less

Dave Freer said...

But Chris L I'm a gibbering insane manic and I can be quite rational when getting my scuba gear ready!;-). Yeah... just how did Mordor FEED its hordes!?

Dave Freer said...

Brendan - but where is the line? When does it pass beyond 'need not explain, reader gets it, to stereotype?

Dave Freer said...

Twittertales - while I get what you're saying... I have to see some of Brendan's POV here too. It does help readers to have familiar tropes to hang a story on. And as you say, a really good author can make the oldest seem new again!

Dave Freer said...

Kate have you got any peeves you've taken to the peeve shelter to be put down? ;-)

Kate Paulk said...


My peeves only ever go to the no-kill shelters, where they can find a good home. That's when they don't eat their way out and go feral, at any rate.

Amanda Green said...

But, Kate, do they sparkle so caring folks can find them in the dark and take them home?

Kate Paulk said...

Amanda! Wash your mind out with soap right now! Good peeves never sparkle.

Brendan said...

Dave, the line is probably when an author's sales plummet and a majority or reviews start calling the author out as a borong hack.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

My own issue is with history. I have the same problems you have with painless steampunk, and it's compounded by others with happy serfs in medieval fantasy. This is actually a huge issue because there's a whole generation in the states who think tech is OPTIONAL and we'd all be happier, healthier, live longer, etc. in a feudal, rural society. That these are kids who scream if separated from their ipods for ten minutes doesn't make it better.
And I've told you in private, but now in public -- CONGRATS ON THE SALES.