Tim Pratt
SF and Fantasy Writer

Queen of Nothing Kickstarter

February 24th, 2015

As springtime grows near, a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of… Kickstarting another Marla Mason fantasy novel.

I just launched the campaign to fund Queen of Nothing, which will be the ninth full-length book in the series (tenth if you count short prequel novel Bone Shop). (At this point, I’ve crowdfunded more of these novels than I published traditionally, which is frankly mind-blowing to me. My readers are amazing.)

If you want to contribute, or learn more, you can check it out here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timpratt/queen-of-nothing-a-marla-mason-novel

QoNimage

It’s going to be a grand blend of mythic fiction and contemporary fantasy, with a lot of evil-god-punching, and all the usual snark and jokes and moral ambiguity and ass-kicking and calamitous mistakes that characterize the rest of the series.

Want to read about Marla? Here are links to some free stories set in her world.

Thanks, as always, for your support.

 

WhiskeyHorror Double Feature: Dead Snow 2 and The Woman in Black

February 25th, 2015

There have been two WhiskeyHorrors since my last report: one last Saturday, and one on Tuesday night. So much horror. So much whiskey. (Well, the usual amount of whiskey.)

Both times we mostly drank the 10-year-old Bulleit reserve, which is delicious. Also a bit of Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch, which I hear is hit-or-miss depending on which batch you happen to get, but our bottle is very good with soda and even tasty by itself over ice.

Saturday we watched Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, which was an improvement in pretty much every way over the first one — funnier, more lively, equally gruesome with better effects. It picks up immediately after the end of the first film… except all the Norwegian people now inexplicably speak English. (Guess it was a condition of giving the director actual money.) Martin Starr was amusing as the leader of an American “Zombie Squad” (though I wish the two women on the squad had been better written and fleshed-out) and the business with the tank was great. Recommended if you like funny zombie stuff and dead Russians hitting dead Nazis with shovels and, uh, generally enjoy films that involve snow.

Tuesday was rather more serious: we saw The Woman in Black, with Daniel Radcliffe being pale and sad in the English countryside as blank-faced children committed suicide all around him and in the past also. As the father of an adorable blond moppet myself, the film certainly gave me some terrible twinges. Stately and deliberate without being dull, with a good mix of jump scares and tension-building-dread stretches. At one point when Radcliffe’s character was Making A Plan to deal with the supernatural menace I complained that in many old ghost stories there’s not a damn thing you can do; the ghosts are just there, and will remain there, and there’s not a ritual you can conduct to put them to rest. I suppose I’ll adhere to local norms and avoid spoilers but suffice to say, I was pleased with how Radcliffe’s plan turned out. The ending is an utterly bleak downer — and yet because it’s not as bad as it could have been, it actually manages to feel weirdly hopeful!

We’ve also been watching the From Dusk Till Dawn TV series, which is total gonzo fun, very cinematic, well directed, engagingly acted, gross, grotesque, funny, smart, pulpy, and narratively complex. We’re four episodes in, and I can’t wait to watch more. (Note: not for ophidiophobes.)

WhiskeyHorror: The Den

February 11th, 2015
WhiskeyHorror report:

We drank Larceny, a wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill distilleries, with ice and the odd splash of bitters. Pretty tasty stuff.

We watched The Den, a recent found-footage (sort of) horror movie, quite tense and disturbing, with a nice mix of mounting discomfort, dread, jump scares, and graphic horror. (Plotwise it’s basically “Chatroulette, with murderstalking,” or “Hostel Online,” though it’s less torture-porn-y than the Hostel movies; which isn’t to say there’s no gruesome violence, because there is a bit.) The lead character was a bit passive/ineffectual for much of the film, to the extent that I said, “Wow, I wish she’d do something,” but as things became more imminently dangerous she did step up and make some impressive moves, and I ended up liking her character a lot. (I’m not saying things turn out well for her — it’s a horror movie, not a thriller where order is restored at the end — but at least she made the bad guys feel a degree of her pain.)

As we finished watching American Horror Story we needed a new show to add to the rotation, and after poking around Netflix a bit found Darknet, which even fits a bit thematically with The Den. It’s a Canadian anthology horror show (non-supernatural, for at least the first few eps anyway). Each episode has several intersecting storylines, with a non-linear approach to chronology, and an emphasis on twist endings which range from the silly to the delightfully creepy. (Of course, once the twist-ending thing was established, we started to see the twists coming, or at least to look for them.) It’s an amusing show, organized around the common thread of a website devoted to the macabre and murderous and disgusting. (Sort of 4chan meets the Morbid Reality sub-Reddit.) Fear Itself is still the better Canadian anthology horror series, but Darknet is fun.

Awards Eligibility Post

January 8th, 2015

My views on people posting lists of their award-eligible work have evolved. I used to think it was a little gauche, and advocated instead posting lists of works you loved, and urging people to nominate those.

Then some people very gently (more gently than I deserved) pointed out that I expressed that view from a position that was actually a locus of several overlapping forms of privilege. Particularly for new writers (who don’t get as much attention), and women writers (who are culturally pressured not to crow about how great they are, no matter how great they are), and writers of color (who can suffer from both issues and then some), it’s a way to raise the visibility of their work, and that’s something that needs to be done. Plus, a year is a long time, readers forget stuff, so there’s a utility to these lists.

For me, though, I dunno, I like getting awards, but I’m a nearly 40-year-old white guy who’s got his Hugo already, so here are some 2014 SF/fantasy works by women/people of color/new writers/all of the above you should nominate instead. (It’s not a very long list. I don’t read as much work in my genre as I used to, since most of my pleasure reading is crime/mystery.)

One-Eyed Jack by Elizabeth Bear. A triumphant return to the Promethean Age universe and one of the weirdest contemporary fantasies I’ve read all year. (Bear has won a few awards, too, but not for my favorite series, so give her some more.)

“Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters, Because They Are Terrifying,” Alice Sola Kim. A powerful story by one of my favorite short fiction writers.

“The Mothers of Voorhisville” by Mary Rickert. Genius work by a genius writer. She has a novel, too, The Memory Garden, which I haven’t read, but come on: It’s Mary Rickert. It’s gonna be great. 

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King, a weird and warm and heart-wrenching YA about petrified bats and difficult friendships and how to live now in the face of the onrushing future.

Phantasm Japan, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington, which didn’t seem to get as much attention as the SF volume The Future Is Japanese from 2012, despite being similarly great. (Disclosure: I have a story in this one. Probably the best story I published last year.)

All the stories in Flytrap #11. (Yes, I co-edited it, but I didn’t edit the fiction; Heather Shaw did.) “The Philiad” by Domenica Phetteplace is probably my favorite, but Jessica May Lin’s “Pickup Artist at the End of the World, Plus Stuffed Bunny” is also particularly great.

Go forth, read good art, and make good art, too, if that’s your deal.

2014 Year in Review

January 1st, 2015

I feel bad saying so, because I know this year was a psychotic uplifted grizzly bear armed with neurotoxin-coated machetes for a lot of people, but — 2014 was one of the best years I’ve had, personally.

The rest of this is mostly for my benefit, because I enjoy looking back on the past year, so forgive the self-indulgence, and feel even freer than usual to skip reading it.

I have continued the changes I made in 2013, which are mostly related to being less of a misanthropic hermit and more of a social animal, and as a result, I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt happier, more balanced, or more personally fulfilled. (For a long time I resisted the notion that I needed anybody, believing I was such a natural introvert that if I had books and whiskey I could happily forget the existence of the rest of humanity, but it turns out: nope. Ah well, it only took until I was in my mid-thirties to figure that out, could’ve been worse.)

I continued the habit I began partway through 2013 of writing down three good things that happened every day (with occasional notes on less-happy things, when they have sufficient mass to seem unavoidable). It’s got the same pleasures as the daily journaling I used to do two decades ago, but with rather less comprehensiveness, so it’s easy to keep up, and it does actually seem to make me happier.

Exercise and eating better also continued (funny how it’s easier once it becomes a habit), and while I could still stand to drop a stone or two, I’ve been maintaining pretty well, holiday excesses notwithstanding.

2014 highlights include:

The establishment of WhiskeyHorror, wherein my friend Katrina comes over and we drink assorted whiskey things and watch horror movies two or three times a month, always a high point of my week.

My wife getting a new job she didn’t like and then getting a new new job that she LOVES which includes vast quantities of free beer.

Many trips to Golden Gate Park, where my wife does dancing and me and the kid wander and frolic on the playground.

Road trips to Santa Cruz to hang out on the boardwalk, including one day with our friends Scott and Lynne and their son, while they were down from the frozen North.

A trip to North Carolina/South Carolina for my college sweetheart Adrienne’s wedding. Basically being buzzed the whole time with my boy D, drinking on patios. Hanging out with my high school sweetheart Amily. Sometimes you can go home again, for a little while, even when it’s not home anymore.

Lots of afternoon coffeehouse writing dates with my friend Erin. A few fine afternoons drinking beer on patios or bourbon in bars or cider in living rooms with people I adore.

Our friend Daryl came into town on book tour and we went out to dinner with a bunch of people including Aussies Garth and Sean, with much sangria vanquished, and some karaoke bourbon funtimes after.

Hosted a couple of barbecues and a rather epic birthday party.

Seeing my kid play a wolf in a school play. Rawr! And doing gymnastics at his gymnastic camp’s show.

The usual street festivals, notably Eat Real!

Playing ten million games with my kid, and also hosting some grown-up game nights too. Running a D&D game again!

Going to a few shows, notably the Three Drink Circus show at the Hotel Burlington in lovely Port Costa and our friend Jeff’s first art show at a gallery that had a big slide so my kid was even entertained.

Wonderful houseguests, including D and Jenn, who were gone too soon, alas, but such joy while they were here.

Writing stuff:

We published an issue of Flytrap!

Did a successful kickstarter for Lady of Misrule (and a failed one for Flytrap, ah well)

Did many writerly events: read at InsideStory Time, and at FreeMade SF (with my friend Ais playing ukulele in a Catwoman costume while I read my Batman fanfic “Batman and Wife”), our Flytrap launch, two book signings/readings at Endgame, Litquake, Litcrawl, talked to a writing class at Stanford.

Wrote a bit under a quarter of a million words, actually my least-productive year in terms of word count since I began keeping track in 2011. But I did some stories: “That Time Hell Froze Over”, “Mother of the Bride”, “Larping the Apocalypse 2: The Nano-Plague”, “Sorcerer’s Honeymoon”, “Manic Nixie Dream Girl”, “A Wedding Night’s Dream”, “The Maiden’s Kiss”, “The Real and the Really Real”, and “Hunters in the Wood”.  All sold (though a few were Kickstarter-related chapbook stories), some published, some forthcoming.

Wrote a few books: Liar’s Island, The Tesla Protocol (sequel to The Stormglass Protocol), and Lady of Misrule. The first two are done and delivered; the last one still needs some heavy lifting on revision but should be done in a couple weeks. Also did a ton of revisions and copyedits and so on, which is part of why my word count is low for the year. (The other reason is laziness, of course.)

There were bad things. The IRS hounded us for money we didn’t owe for most of the year. We lost my friend Jay to cancer. In general I wrote too many obituaries last year. I could come up with others. But here at the beginning of the year I am trying to focus on the positive: the good that went before, the good yet to come.

I hope there is goodness ahead for all of you.

Pretty Pictures

December 28th, 2014

I have art! First, the cover art for Lady of Misrule, painted by the incomparable Lindsey Look. Should be available for purchase in a couple of months (though Kickstarter backers will see an e-book sooner.)

Misrule_final_web

 

Next, The Deep Woods, coming from PS Publishing early next year — artwork by the great Galen Dara.

the deep woods_tim pratt_FULL COVER sm (1)

 

Finally, the artwork for Liar’s Island, out from Paizo next summer. Painted by Michael Ivan.

Liar's Island Wrap lo-rez

 

I am a lucky writer.

Big Book Sale 2014

November 24th, 2014

The piles of author copies in my house have gotten out of control again, so I’m doing a book sale. Hey, just in time for some major gift-giving holidays, how about that.

You can get signed and/or inscribed copies for cover price (rounded up so we’re not counting pennies), plus $5 shipping per book for mass market paperbacks and $7 each for trade paperbacks/hardcovers. The listed price includes shipping costs for the US.

For shipping outside the US, add an extra $10 to the listed price. (Overseas shipping has gone way up in recent years.)

Write to timpratt@gmail.com or post in the comments here saying what you want and telling me if (and how) you want them signed and/or personalized. I’ll do the math and tell you what you owe me and where to send the PayPal money.

First-come, first-served, which is why you should comment or e-mail instead of just sending money — I’d hate for you to pay for something I already sold. (First-time comments are moderated here, so don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up immediately, I’ll address them in order.)

I’ll run the sale for a week and a half or so, until midnight PST on 12/3/14, coincidentally encompassing various black/cyber/etc shopping days.

Here’s what’s available. First editions, unless otherwise noted, with the number of total available copies in parentheses.

Marla Mason series:

I have ONE (1) complete set of the Marla Mason novels to sell: that’s Blood EnginesPoison SleepDead ReignSpell Games, Broken Mirrors, Grim TidesBride of Death, and Bone Shop. The first four are mass-market paperbacks, the last four are trade paperbacks. I’ll throw in a couple of the short story chapbooks too. $125 for the lot. Alas, it is gone.

Now for one-offs:

Mass-market paperback of Blood Engines, $12 (10 9 copies available)

Mass-market paperback of Dead Reign, $12 (7 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Spell Games, $12 (6 copies)

Trade paperback of Bride of Death, $21 (4 copies)

Standalone novels:

Trade paperback of Heirs of Grace, $22 (10 8 copies)

Hardcover of The Constantine Affliction (as by T. Aaron Payton), $34 (10 copies)

Trade paperback of The Constantine Affliction (as by T. Aaron Payton), $20 (10 9 copies)

Trade paperback of The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl, $19 (1 copy)

RPG fantasy novels:

Mass-market paperback of Pathfinder Tales: Reign of Stars, $15 (10 9 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Pathfinder Tales: City of the Fallen Sky, $15 (10  9 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Pathfinder Tales: Liar’s Blade, $15 (10 9 copies)

Mass-market paperback of Forgotten Realms: Venom In Her Veins, $13 (6 copies)

I’ll do an RPG bundle, too: Venom In Her VeinsCity of the Fallen Sky, Liar’s Blade, and Reign of Stars for $50 if ordered all together, while supplies last etc.

Collections:

Trade paperback of collection Antiquities and Tangibles and Other Stories, $21 (3 copies)

Paperback of poetry collection If There Were Wolves, $15 (2 copies)

Trade paperback of collection Little Gods, $21 (Not the first edition that includes the poems, but the more attractive offset edition) (3 copies)

Anthologies I edited:

US hardcover of Rags and Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales (edited by me and Melissa Marr), $25 (4 2 copies)

British hardcover of Rags and Bones, $25 (4 2 copies)

Trade paperback of Sympathy for the Devil (edited by me), $23 (4 copies)

That’s it. Make your wishes known.

No Whiskey, Some Horror

November 1st, 2014

Haven’t done a WhiskeyHorror report in a while, because we’ve been watching episodes of American Horror Story, and the last actual movie we watched was my old favorite Trick ‘r Treat, and rewatches don’t inspire much in the way of musing for me.

But, hey, Halloween. Horror movie time. While my wife was out dancing last night, I decided to watch a couple of movies in my lonesome living room, even in the absence of whiskey, in the spirit of the holiday.

I finally watched Kevin Smith’s very odd Red State, which is less a horror movie (despite its initial premise) and more an oddball thriller. I liked John Goodman’s performance as an ATF agent, and Michael Parks was mesmerizing as the evil but charismatic preacher, but mostly the thing was a mess of endless noisy gunfire. I had some faint hope when they hinted at a weird twist ending, which wouldn’t have redeemed it but would have at least been interestingly strange, but they didn’t go that way. Alas.

After that I gave You’re Next a try. I’d ignored it in the past because it looked like a standard home-invasion thriller, and I figured it would just be gore and jump scares, but Netflix assured me it had a high user rating, so it seemed likely to have more going on than I thought. And while it does have gore and jump scares galore, it’s much funnier and more odd than I’d anticipated, a dysfunctional family drama/black comedy mingled with home invasion thriller, with some nice twists and ways to change things up and increase the tension as it goes on. Plus a smart, interesting, badass female protagonist, which is always a delight. Recommended, but maybe don’t watch it alone if you live in a big empty house that could possibly be full of hidden murderers in animal masks.

WhiskeyHorror: Horns

October 9th, 2014

Last night, we drank Glenfiddich 12 (I am not a sophisticated scotch drinker; I like smooth and mellow. I  hope someday to develop a taste for scotches that taste like arson in a peat bog, but haven’t yet), and watched Horns, the new film based on my favorite Joe Hill novel. (Except when N0S4A2 is my favorite. I go back and forth.) We also split a Shallow Grave porter from Evil Twin, which was super tasty. (And, you know, horror-movie thematic.)

Avoiding spoilers goes against my nature, but I’ll try as the film is so new. The basic premise is: Small-town radio DJ Ig Parrish is accused of murdering his longtime girlfriend while he was blackout drunk. He’s *pretty* sure he didn’t do it, and everyone else is pretty sure he did. One morning he wakes up with devil horns growing from his head, and people begin confessing, and indulging in, secret desires in his presence. He uses his new weird powers to try to figure out what really happened that terrible night.

I still love that setup. It’s so bizarre and leads to so many fun scenes. The bit in the doctor’s office when he goes to try and have his horns removed is fantastic, as is the reporters’ brawl.

Daniel Radcliffe does a great job as Ig, and was recognizably the same character from the book — basically well-meaning, but kind of a fuckup, with some weird baggage and personal issues. Ig’s more of a loser in the movie than he is in the book, but it works.

(Katrina and I, of course, couldn’t resist the occasional Harry Potter joke. “It’s like if Harry Potter grew up and started using meth!” “Why doesn’t he just talk to the snakes? He’s a Parseltongue.” But mostly he inhabited the character.)

Heather Graham is fun in a bit part as a waitress/witness hoping to use the murder trial to get famous on TV. The actor playing Ig’s best friend/lawyer Lee Tourneau didn’t impress me much at first, but he won me over at the end when a bit of manic laughter broke through the character’s calm facade, making it clear how much of a facade it was the rest of time.

The film isn’t as rich and strange as the book, but it would’ve been hard to get all the Treehouse of the Mind stuff into the movie in a way that made sense, the speech to the snakes in the foundry from the novel would’ve stopped the pacing dead, and it’s natural that the characters are simplified. If you like the movie (or hate it!) I do recommend reading the novel, especially for how it sheds more light on Lee’s character and motivations.

WhiskeyHorror: Dread

October 6th, 2014

A somewhat belated WhiskeyHorror report, as I was too busy to write about it: last week we drank sazeracs, and watched Dread, the 2009 adaptation of one of Clive Barker’s more memorable stories from The Books of Blood.

The film has something of a slow start, and is almost mumblecore as it begins, with its pretty-people-in-messy-clothes staring at distant objects and muttering at each other about philosophy and fear and “the beast.” (Which is not a literal beast, but, uh, something to do with fear.) About five minutes in I said, “So, we’ll give it ten more minutes and see if it gets good?”

And it got… better, at least!

The film keeps the story’s basic premise: college student Quaid is obsessed with fear, co-opts a weaker-willed student named Stephen into helping him study fear, and then goes way over the line, confronting people with their extreme fears in life-destroying and traumatic ways.

The bits with young Quaid being menaced by an axe-wielding lunatic genuinely troubled me (again, I have the “parent of a first-grader” weakness when it comes to horror movies), and there were several actually-horrific moments. (As opposed to many horror movies, which are atmospheric, or startling, but not actually horrifying — there was a lot of horror here.) I was afraid it would go into Saw territory, with increasingly elaborate and improbable “fear traps,” but it stayed quite plausible, limited to the kind of stuff a charismatic weirdo like Quaid could actually organize in his own house.

The film was mostly best when it followed the contours of the original story: the strict vegetarian locked in a room for days with nothing to eat but a raw steak, until she’s entirely broken psychologically and calmly devours the rotten thing, remains the most striking image from the story and the film both. (The deadpan line about letting her out afterward and cooking her some potatoes, lifted direct from the story, was good too.)

In contrast to the usual tendency of films to combine characters from prose fiction, this one splits up some characters, weirdly stealing the climactic moment away from the accomplice-turned-enemy Stephen and giving it to an exceedingly minor character instead — and it’s not like they gave Stephen anything better to do, so it was a weird choice.

The ending diverges wildly from the story, and while I kind of liked the final moment (which was super gross entirely by implication, with no onscreen gross-out required) even if it was logistically a bit flawed, it’s more disturbing to me because the ending of the film seems to validate Quaid’s insane theories about dealing with fear. Which is also pretty horrific, now that I think about it, so. True horror movie!

It’s always fun to see actors from big movies appear in tiny horror movies, and Katrina recognized Stephen from his role as a vampire in one of the Twilight movies (where he presumably had much cleaner hair).

If you had to pick between the story and the movie, I’d say, read the story, but fortunately life is seldom so viciously binary: if you like genuinely tense and disturbing moments and evil bromance amid gross stuff, it’s worth a look. Among the second-tier Clive Barker-inspired movies I’d place it below Midnight Meat Train but above Rawhead Rex. (The first tier, of course, includes the first Hellraiser movie and Candyman, with Lord of Illusions somewhere down at the bottom of the tier, while the king of the second tier is Nightbreed. This is known.)