Monthly Archive: August 2009

Me Reading TEP

I really should not be allowed so much free time on the weekends, or access to liquor and a video camera. Doesn’t my publisher have handlers to, um, handle me? I mean, my goodness.

Anyway, if you’re one of the people who have asked me if I’m ever going to do a reading in your area, here’s something to tide you over: That’s right, me doing a short reading from The Eternal Prison! Tell your friends.

Lemme know what you think.

Genre Anxiety

I live a life of intrigue and adventure, but occasionally I like to pretend to be boring and just sit around my house drinking booze and watching TV – you know, so I don’t lose touch with the common man. You can’t write noir-SF novels if you’re Indiana Jones all the time. Sometimes you gotta stay home, have a few belts, and watch a couple of episodes of Project Runway, because that’s what the common folk watch. And also too my wife, The Duchess, totally makes me.

Anyway, while working on my fourth bourbon (Project Runway is a four-drink show; America’s Got Talent, which my wife also insists I watch, is a whole-bottle show, and I frequently have to be carried to bed after an episode) I saw a car commercial which involved people debating whether to buy a new car, and then being visited by themselves from the future and told that buying the car would be the best decision of their lives. Then the salesman says something along the lines of, “You should buy it! But not that one from the future. It’s a time/space continuum thing.”

Now, on the one hand this commercial and I are totally Fail together because I can’t recall what frickin’ car it’s supposed to be selling. My brother once told me that they’ve done studies and found that interesting, creative commercials didn’t work because people remembered the interesting, but not the product, whereas bad, annoying commercials worked because people totally remembered the product. I’m not sure where I was going with that, since this commercial was annoying and I couldn’t remember the product, but let that drift. The other hand I was working towards is the fact that this pretty much proves Science Fiction is no longer really a genre. For god’s sake, we have time travel and temporal paradoxes in car commercials.

Consider also: Inglorious Basterds, the new Tarantino movie. It is ultimately an alternate history story, as I’m sure it’s no spoiler to mention that Hitler gets machine-gunned in the face at the end of the movie. Granted, no effort is made to explore the possible timeline such an action would have resulted in, but there you have it: alternate history right there on the big screen. Science Fiction is the new Western: It will be everywhere for a while as mainstream audiences who sneered at Star Trek and Doctor Who lap up this exotic new flavor (watered down by mainstreaminess) and then it will be forgotten for a bit until its eventual discovery by post-post modernists.

But, believe it or not, I digress.

It’s fascinating how  many authors despise genre and don’t like to be painted with its coarse brush; IO9 just did a little piece about this phenomenon and I think the title says it all: “It Causes Me Pain To Classify My Post-Apocalyptic YA Romance As Science Fiction” Uh, really? Of course, maybe this is cold hard business sense, because YA Romance is a better-selling category, but there is, I think, a real wish by a lot of authors to be considered “magical realism” or some other ‘literary’ category, anything but SF or Fantasy or Horror.  And while some of it may have to do with the nuts and bolts of marketing and promotion and advances, all of which are a bit healthier on the ‘literary’ side of the yard, some of it certainly has to do with the lingering stench of geekdom and cat-piss that envelopes the words science fiction and fantasy for many.

Even as SF/F leeches into the mainstream (eventually becoming the mainstream as it devours healthy cells and replaces them) it remains, for the moment, the comic-relief. Mainstream movies now have characters that are geeks, who quote Star Wars and speak Klingon – heck, there’s a situation comedy on CBS that centers on a group of adorable genius nerds – but the geekiness is there for amusement, and the characters are always sort of embarrassed and self-deprecating about their nerddom. The point being, even as geekery eats the universe it remains sort of disreputable, and thus the genre anxiety of writers who wish to be taken “seriously” instead of lumped into the category of SF/F or Horror or what have you.

The term “magical realism” was invented for these folks. It basically means: Fantastic fiction that ought to be taken seriously. Unlike that fantastic fiction over there.

Oh well. I’m hungover this morning, and thus cranky. I have to get back to my fourth cup of coffee and listening to one of my cats howl every three seconds for no good reason that I can determine, as he runs away from me every time I go to demand an explanation. This is a game we play sometimes. I hate this game.

We Can Has Movie

Well, I’ve sold the film rights to the Cates books. This has actually been brewing for a while but I have a firm policy of “cash, or didn’t happen”, so I’ve been waiting around for a check before announcing anything.

Now, the chances that 18 months from now nothing has happened are pretty strong, so it’s not time to buy solid gold toilets yet. But it is time to start shopping for solid gold toilets, so I’ve requested a copy of Solid Gold Fixtures International for some bedtime reading over the next few months.

And no, none of you can be in the movie. Hell, even I can’t get a part, despite (or perhaps because of) my desperate pleading.

That is all.

This Week’s World’s Best Reader

Friends, over on the forums someone asked me about subscribing to my zine, The Inner Swine, which I’ve been publishing since 1995 (damn, I am old), and I told everyone that if you’re a member of the forum you can have half price subscriptions. Yesterday I got a check in the mail, along with this note:

And THAT, my friends, is some real nice letterhead. So Blueman is my World’s Best Reader this week, and you are. . .not.

I Play Guitar So You Don’t Have To

That’s right! MOAR SOMERS GUITAR! I knew you all wanted some, so here it is. It’s actually been a while since I decided to throw aside caution and common decency and risk mockery and humiliation by posting some of my lame songs. It takes some serious boozing to get there, my friends. Serious.

Anyway, for your listening pleasure below. The usual disclaimers: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.

So there.

Couple Few Reviews

Here are two interestin’ reviews found on the web:

“. . .Somers’ Avery Cates books are a bit like a classic noir novel, an action blockbuster and an episode of Leverage in one gritty, dystopian sci-fi package. They are bold, unforgiving exercises in gunfire mayhem, sarcastic banter, and improbable jobs that work just by the skin of their teeth. . .If you’re a sci-fi and/or noir fan, you should be reading these.” —

“. . .Warning: If you have not read Jeff Somers’ two previous books, skip THE ETERNAL PRISON altogether, since the author is not one to rehash the past events for newcomers. And to be honest, it is a bit of a struggle even for those who have read the novels before it, because Somers tries a different tactic in this third installment that will confound even the most ardent reader.” — Bookgasm

I’m actually kinda pleased by both reactions, because I do think TEP is a little more challenging and complex than previous. So what do y’all think? Too complex? Hard to digest? Be interesting to see what folks think.

File this under: Huzzah!

What’s Left in SF?

Ah, the writer’s life: Last night I was working on the penultimate chapter of Cates #4, The Terminal State and I hit the line I’d seen in my head for months now, finally getting to the real climax, y’know? And of course the line kind of fell flat on the page and the beat is all wrong because it’s too early in the chapter and it all ended in tears. And booze. Booze and tears, and an exasperated wife pretending to be absorbed in a magazine. This happens a lot, at least for me: It’s like when you’re waiting on a movie to come out for a year, building it up in your head, and then it arrives and it’s. . .just a movie. Good, fine, but not exactly revelatory.

I cry then, too. That’s why I have so few friends.

So the best thing to do when you hit a moment like that is to just stop working, go pour yourself whatever it is that soothes you, and think on other things for a while. So I thought about my post from the other day discussing The Singularity and writing SF set in the future and all that, and I thought, well, things are getting a bit tight for SF, aren’t they? A lot of SF miracles are actually coming true – perhaps not as quickly as we’d like, and perhaps not quite there yet, but on the horizon. It’s not so easy these days to come up with something vaguely science-based to wow readers with. And some of the old stand-bys (time-travel, flying cars, pigs in space) are a bit shopworn; you don’t have to go see The Time Traveler’s wife to wonder when in hell frickin’ time travel became grist for a mopey mainstream drama. Se Lost, fer god’s sake – SF is bleeding into the mainstream, which means when you write your terrific time-travel story it might be good, but it won’t wow anybody. Not any more.

Maybe this is why we’re seeing the rise of vampires and werewolves and such. <BEGIN UNRESEARCHED HALFASSED OPINION>Because, vampires and werewolves and witches will never actually come true, so they will always remain pretty wowy-zowy if handled with talent and vision. Your cracklin’ warlock-in-real-life story is never going to be surpassed by the antics of real-life warlocks, after all. I think there’s appeal in that as we watch older SF works become quaint and goofy with their old-timey concepts of space/time, world politics, and population densities.</END UNRESEARCHED HALFASSED OPINION>

The other side of this “problem”, if you want to call it that, is the fact that the current trends in science are pretty vague and complex. I mean, rocket ships having battles in space is something we can all picture. String Theory, sadly, is beyond me. Maybe not you, but certainly me. As science digs deeper into the basic threads that make up the universe, applying those theories to an exciting story gets harder and harder, as eventually you have a group of people standing around doing nothing for 20 pages, and then the cosmos explodes.

Actually, I think I’ll write that story myself right now. . .

Of course, I’m a little dimwitted, so plenty of folks are probably racing along writing amazing SF with all the new hot science properly applied while I sit here weeping for the time when I could just take your standard western, set it IN SPACE, and sell a story. The obnoxiously talented Sean Ferrell*, in fact, drunkenly told me about an SF story idea of his a few months ago that was absolutely terrific. So it’s probably just me. As my incompetence is legendary, this surprises no one.

*I’ve decided this is his title from now on: The Obnoxiously Talented Sean Ferrell. I want to steal his ideas.

Free Short Stories

I don’t know about you, but I remain kind of excited that book #3 in the Avery Cates series, The Eternal Prison, is out. So I’m gonna continue to party like it’s 1999 here. Towards that end I’ve posted two short stories set in the novels’ universe over at The stories are both free to read and distribute as long as my copyright statement is retained.

The story “Oldest Bastard on the Block” was tweeted last week over at  The story “This Was Education” hasn’t been officially released anywhere before, although some folks will recognize it and chuckle conspiratorially under their breath. Both are set somewhere between The Electric Church and The Digital Plague, with OBB being first in sequence, though they’re not directly related to each other.

Surf on over and enjoy! Comments and feedback very welcome.

Book Giveaway Winners

Well, after much debate, consideration, and some contemplative cocktails, I’ve selected the three winners of the Avery Cates signed book giveaway! Congrats to Glenda Gerde, Michael Wallace, and the mysterious Diane in the comments of that post – Diane, contact me with your shipping info!

Thanks to everyone who entered! This was a lot of fun and I’m sure we’ll do it again soon enough.