Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Flash Fiction - Red Sun

We spent so long living in the shadow of the end times that we failed to notice the light growing dim. By the time darkness had descended it was too late to fight against it.

We were all experts of the apocalypse, or so we thought. We had spent decades conjuring visions of the future on the silver screen: countless hours of zombies stalking the living; road warriors driving lost highways; aliens obliterating every major city; monsters emerging from the sea. We mythologized our extinction, reveled in the myriad forms of our own destruction, telling cautionary tales yet returning to our hum-drum lives no wiser than before.

There was no single event, no point in time one could reference, no great singular scourge of humanity. Ours was a sevenfold collapse, a dying breath decades in the making. Not the immense terror of Revelations, rather an entropy that tugged at the loose threads of reality. Our disordered lives unravelled, societies came apart at the seams, our world ripped along worn creases.

It was the taste of cracked lips when water became more precious than gold. You could hear it in the wheezing cough of every vehicle, thirsting for petrol or diesel. You could measure it at the height of summer, and in the deep chill of winter. Even the light changed, a ruddy hue bleeding through every pane of glass. And as the world changed, so did the people. Tolerance, already long out of fashion, was now a gaudy affectation belonging to the past. Distrust was the new currency, the more you had the longer you lived. And greater than all these things, guilt. A profound sorrow lingered, that we had done so little to prevent our predicament, paid lip service to the gods of renewal, damned the graces that sustained us.

Those not mad with grief could agree on one thing: we did not need zombies, had no use for aliens. The greatest monsters at the end of the world were ourselves.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

The Boy Who Wrote Blog Posts

I wrote some pieces to celebrate the launch of The Boy who Wept Blood recently. I'm gathering them together for my own amusement. I figure I've written them so I may as well curate the links.

I wrote for Sci Fi Now magazine on class in Fantasy and The Erebus Sequence.

Meanwhile, I put forward why we need more diversity in genre (and indeed, everywhere), over at We Love This Book.

I witter on in my usual scattershot style at the Gollancz blog and the fine folk of Forbidden Planet put me to the question. And what questions they were.

The first batch of reviews have also been published.

The Eloquent Page says 'Patrick firmly establishes his well-deserved place as part of new breed of UK based fantasy authors.' (No pressure for book three then)

Over the Effing Rainbow declares that 'Maybe February is early days for saying this, but to hell with it. I just found one of my favourite fantasy books of 2015.'

And as if that wasn't high praise enough, Upcoming4Me says 'It is all that a sequel should be – it is bigger, bolder and cleverer. Readers who like their fantasy intelligent and historical shouldn't miss this one.

I couldn't have hoped for a warmer reception in the week following publication and I'm grateful to all the reviewers who took the time to read The Boy who Wept Blood.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


I’ve been keeping half an eye on the whole Gamer Gate hatefulness, as anyone with passing interest in games and an internet connection is wont to do. Needless to say the responses are extreme, unhinged and determined by a medium where the illusion exists one can say what one likes without consequences. That medium being the internet, of course.

There is one medium where the writer is still held accountable for what one says, in the text itself, or the reader’s interpretation of it. I’m talking about novels, of course.

2014 (and many years before it) has seen hot debate around the issues of women in publishing, and women characters in books. One of the aspects of the topic is discussion around women characters who possess some modicum of agency (or lack of), and that fictional women fall prey to being just another reward at the end of the quest, or a victim that spurs the male protagonist to avenge her. And, of course, some novels just don't really contain women characters at all. 

I recently wrote some answers to an interview and the question of ‘strong female characters’ reared its head. Cue eye roll. I’ve come to hate that expression as it seems to suggest that it’s unusual for ‘female characters’ to be ‘strong’. ‘Strong’ is a misnomer here. The problem is not that female characters lack strength, either of spirit or arm, but agency, a powerlessness to change one’s own circumstances and the environment around them.

It was while I was writing my response that I realised the problem is not whether these characters are ‘strong’, whatever you claim to think ‘strong’ means, but the fact we treat fictional women in genre as something unusual. Women, fictional and real, are people, just as men are people. This process of othering, of making women seem mysterious, unfathomable and to all intents and purposes alien, is like a cancer at the heart of thinking about character.

‘Every character should want for something, even if it is only a glass of water.’ So sayeth Kurt Vonnegut in his eight rules of writing. Note he doesn’t say ‘Every straight, white, male character should want for something, even if it is only a glass of water.’ Nor does he say ‘Every strong female character should want for something, even if it is only a glass of water.’ Kurt Vonnegut just talks about characters, regardless of genitalia, sexual orientation, whether they’re the protagonist, supporting cast or one of the extras (I can’t help but think in film terms).

This kind of thinking around gender in genre requires a maturity of the male reader to admit that he has been a willing or unknowing party to the insidiousness of the male gaze. This thinking requires the male reader to think of female characters as something other than romantic sub plots, victims who serve no other purpose than to indicate the world is ‘gritty’, or to provoke the protagonist into action. It also requires writers to reflect on their own work and face up to the quality or dearth of women in their own stories.

Regarding my own work, I can admit I used the damsel in distress trope in The Boy with the Porcelain Blade, but also that I tried to subvert it. My first novel has been out in the wild since March and I realise it has problematic elements. I’m not sure how I’d change these, but I am keen not to repeat them.

I hope, as a community of fans and writers, we all strive for a higher standard. It’s not beyond the realm of the Fantastic to imagine stories where men, women, people of colour, and gay characters all receive attention.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Boy Who Wept Blood – Events

Being a writer seems to consist of waiting around with nothing much going on and then...

8th January sees the release of the paperback edition of The Boy With The Porcelain Blade. Rest assured I will be safely ensconced in a London boozer raising a glass to Lucien and friends.

Thursday 29th January is the big one. The Boy Who Wept Blood, book two of The Erebus Sequence is released and I’ll be at Waterstones flagship store at Piccadilly. 

My editor, Simon Spanton, will interview me about the books and my experiences being a debut author. I suspect there will be wine. There had better be wine.

You can find event info and ticket booking HERE

Saturday 31st January sees me signing for Forbidden Planet in Southampton. I had a great time at the store last year and am looking forward to returning. 

You can find the event information HERE

Finally, on the Saturday 7th February (Edit: date change, now the 21st), I’ll be heading to Waterstones Kingston with Jen Williams, author of The Copper Promise and The Iron Ghost, and co-founder of SRFC. We'll be signing and discussing of our books and Fantasy in general.

All in all it’s going to be a manic few weeks and I look forward to seeing you all, signing lots of books and enjoying a drink or two.

Something I should have mentioned back in October: I was delighted to be included on a series of audio short stories presented by Pseudopod.

It’s a strange little Halloween story that I wrote in two sittings. I hope you enjoy it. There’s also a ton of talented authors on the same podcast, so check them out.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Experiments and Secret Projects

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Some of you might know (out of the seven people who drop in here) that I was made redundant from my old bookselling job just as I signed the deal with Gollancz for The Erebus Sequence. I managed to blag myself two months copy writing work to keep the wolf from the door before I received my signature advance. I took a long hard look at my bank account and said, ‘I’m going to give myself permission to be a full time writer. Just for  while.’ 

It was an experiment really, both in terms of keeping the momentum going and if could I survive between advances. It’s far too early in my career to think about royalties, before you ask. I’m still paying off the advances.

Alas, as the leaves turn and a chill wind gusts through London’s dirty streets the experiment has ended. I had about fifteen months. I wrote books two and three of The Erebus Sequence. Book two’s publishing date has been brought forward a month to 29th January 2015. Book three will still see the light of day in 2016 as far as I know.

I also managed to write two short stories set in Landfall, one of which has found a home, though I can’t tell you where yet. I’ve also been lucky enough to have stories accepted by NewCon Press, Fox Spirit and Snow Books. That probably sounds like some ferocious momentum but I have to confess to losing my way after the string of events that took place in London this summer. Doubts crept in: I wasn’t sure what I was writing next, I wasn’t sure if it would sell, do grown adults really stay in their pajamas until noon? Is it reasonable to eat pizza more than once a week? Serious questions, I’m sure you can agree.

Why am I telling you this? you may ask. Generally the posts on this blog about being a writer and the industry itself are by far the most popular. I could write a post about Destiny but Joe Abercrombie did it (and did it better), I may yet write about how good Ancillary Justice is but for now I am rambling about Being A Writer. I heard George RR Martin speak this summer with Robin Hobb and he notably said ‘Writing isn’t a career for anyone who enjoys security.’ (I may be paraphrasing him badly. You get the jist). 

The reason I’m writing this post is to illustrate, as if you needed telling, that creative careers are often a leap into the unknown. My three book leap has ended for the time being. Writing will once again take place in the interstices of real life: scribbled notes on buses, ideas for names in lunch breaks, quiet nights in writing new scenes and losing at online Scrabble against my mum. Important Writerly Stuff. Being forced to claw creative time out of a day packed with the mundane is a good incentive. It’s a way to cultivate discipline; don’t wait for the right mood, just write, because this is all the time you have.

If this sounds downbeat then fear not. New Secret Project is growing all the time. I’d forgotten how strange it is creating a new world from scratch,but it is coming. I’m looking forward to introducing you to a new cast of no-nonsense characters and lonely, windswept locales. I’m looking forward to telling stories of Empire and unreliable histories, of oppression and rebellion. 

I’m looking forward.