About Adam

Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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This is, official homepage of British science fiction writer Adam Roberts. Please use the links in the menu bar above if you're here to find out more about Adam's published books to-date, or more about Adam himself, or if you want to get in touch with Adam.

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Latest News

Real-Town Murders: SFX review

By Adam Roberts | August 21, 2017
Categories: Book News, Reviews

My new novel, The Real-Town Murders, is officially published this coming Thursday (24th August), but already there are some reviews of it in the world. Above is what Jonathan Wright, of UK genre's premier magazine SFX, thinks of it. It's a pretty positive review, although as you can see I am docked a star for being too clever-clever (ah, how that phrase has dogged my career! Ah well.)

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Anthony Burgess and Adam Roberts, “The Black Prince”

By Adam Roberts | June 10, 2017
Categories: Book News

I have a favour to ask.

So: Unbound are hoping to publish my collaboration with Anthony Burgess, The Black Prince. If you visit the Unbound page you'll discover more about the project: in a nutshell, I took Burgess's idea from the 1970s to write a historical novel about the Hundred Years War in the style of John Dos Passos (one of many projects the ridiculously prolific Burgess never finished), his basic structure and an unmade screenplay he wrote, and completed the novel. Just the idea that there might exist in the world, some day, a book with Burgess's name and mine on the cover fills me with an excitement it's hard to convey: so dedicated a Burgess fan-boy I am. In order to prepare for writing this project I re-read the entire run of Burgess's fiction, which only cemented for me my sense of how extraordinary and important a writer he was. I hope I have done his genius justice in finishing his idea: part of me thinks I have. At any rate it's unlike any other historical novel of which I'm aware.

For this to become a reality, though, I need anyone interested to pledge to support the project. You can do that at the Unbounders page, and if enough people do then the whole book becomes a reality. For each pledge you get a copy of the book with your name in it, additional material (depending on which pledge you opt for) and my genuine and unceasing gratitude.

5 Comments to-date;

Real Town Murders

By Adam Roberts | May 19, 2017
Categories: Book News


Cover reveal: book comes out 24th August. It's part locked-room puzzle-whodunit, part SF/Hitchockian thriller, and part literary-pretentious meditation on location, gender, bodies and death. So, that's three parts; but you get all three for one low, low price!

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2017: the Story of Far

By Adam Roberts | May 18, 2017
Categories: Chitchat

Another quick retrospective.

So: in 2016 I published the short novel Bethany (if you're curious, here's what Interzone thought of it), various short stories in various venues, blogs and reviews and whatnot. I also, in what was, for me, last year's biggest SF-related publishing event, put out the second edition of my Palgrave History of Science Fiction. We're now at the stage in 2017 when all the genre's awards have been announced, and the various other signs of esteem made manifest, which means that the predictions I made in this post, from a year ago, have been borne out. I do indeed appear to have transitioned from being a writer whose work was shortlisted for, but didn't tend to win, awards, to a writer whose work is not even shortlisted. All of this year's awards and markers of community esteem have come and gone, and my name hasn't troubled any of them.

This'll be the case in 2018 too, I think. Real Town Murders is coming out in late August, and is a straightforward SF puzzle whodunit. I hope it sells some copies, that people like it, are puzzled by its puzzles and entertained by its Hitchcockian adventuring, but that's as far as my ambition for this title goes. Beyond that the only other project of mine happening in 2017 that might, even conceivably, interest the genre community is my ongoing H G Wells blog, and very obviously that's not going to appear on any 2018 award shortlists. To summarise what I said in my previous, 2016-in-retrospect post, there comes a time, if you stick at the business long enough, when, as it might be, 'I have never been so much as longlisted for a Hugo/Nebula' pivots into 'I will never be so much as longlisted for a Hugo/Nebula', and when that moment comes you have to find a way of handling it—I mean on a personal level. Resentment is neither merited nor healthy, giving-up is too feeble and pretending that things are better than they actually are is merely fooling yourself. But it is, I discover, possible to settle more-or-less comfortably into one's failure. Turns out: it's not so bad.

Reflecting back on last year's 'Story So Far' post, and comparing my state of mind this year, I can record that I am markedly less upset today than I was a year ago. So that's good. Indeed, re-reading that old post is a rather uncomfortable experience for me today: I was, when I wrote it, evidently still in the process of trying to talk myself into a state of acceptance of my failure. Now, a year on, that acceptance is rather more intuitive and actual. It's a process, I suppose, as many things are. Ah well.

If regret still nibbles, mouselike, somewhere in the barn of my brain it probably has to do with my Palgrave history of SF. The first edition of that work was perfectly overlooked by awards, as also by other academics, the broader debates about the nature of the genre and so on. It had some problems, that first edition; and I worked hard at addressing those for the second edition, as well as expanding the book considerably, with whole new chapters. I daresay the complete lack of recognition for, or engagement with, this book only indexes its many inadequacies, but it does sadden me a little, because the argument I make in this book still seems to me both original and, well, true: that SF begins not with Gernsback, Wells, Verne or even Shelley, but with the Protestant Reformation, when 'science' as we understand it today starts to coalesce and a new 'science' fiction buds off from the broader traditions of Fantasy (Fantasy being the default mode of storytelling throughout human history, from which things like 'mimetic fiction' and 'the realist novel' are relatively short-lived aberrations).

Some people may think this thesis wrong. Others, conceivably, may simply shrug a 'so what?' But I do think there's more to my argument than just trudging through a ton of SF texts published in the 17th through to the early 19th centuries that nobody reads any more, and that only scholars could find remotely interesting. Which is to say, I think that the DNA, as it were, of modern SF contains elements from the Protestant Reformation, and properly understanding contemporary SF means understanding that. I'm not saying that SF is in any affiliative or doctrinal sense Protestant: clearly great SF is being produced all around the world by writers of many different religious beliefs and by writers of none. But I do argue that SF is still marked by its origins, and those origins were, basically, Protestant. A parallel I explore in my book is Capitalism, an economic philosophy that has come to dominate most of the globe, and which has its roots in the specifically Protestant work ethic and mercantile exchanges of 16th- and (especially) 17th-century northern Europe. We would not today insist that living a life shaped by Capitalism, or holding a fundamentally Capitalist ethos, disqualifies one from being Catholic, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish. Nonetheless, the (to use the inadequate metaphor once again) DNA of Capitalism contains a quantum of northern-European mercantile Protestantism. So with SF. We might say that the connections between the often commodity driven, trader-and-colonist, individualist imagined worlds of much 20th- and 21st-century SF owes as much to the determinations of Capitalism as it does to Protestantism; but I'd prefer to argue that these two latter things cannot be neatly separated out from one another. I go on to quote Gary Westfahl:

‘Although science fiction was created in the marketplace,’ says Gary Westfahl, ‘and always seemed comfortable in that milieu, its leading figures, paradoxically, constantly struggled against the natural pressures that the market exerts upon its products.’ [Westfahl, 81] Some might object to the characterisation of market forces as ‘natural’, and distance themselves from the tacit characterisation of such people as fools for opposing market Capitalism. Not Westfahl, who thinks that ‘after several decades’ of resistance, such individuals ‘finally lost that battle’. We should, he insists, ‘celebrate this triumph of the marketplace’. We may not wish to do this, but we will find it hard to deny the bald fact to which Westfahl refers. SF is a marketplace product, not only by contemporary happenstance of sales, but because precisely this capitalist logic is part of the cultural revolution that created SF in the first place.

At any rate, if the argument of the Palgrave History has failed to convinced my fellow scholars, at least I have made my case, and at exhaustive length, so I can stop worrying about that now and move on to other things. Onward!

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New Short Fiction for May

By Adam Roberts | May 10, 2017
Categories: Book News, Short Fiction


A (free!) short story: 'In the Night of the Comet'.

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Some Recent Reactions to “The Thing Itself”

By Adam Roberts | April 30, 2017
Categories: Reviews


Reactions to The Thing Itself continue to bubble under. On Twitter Gwilym Eades‏ called it ‘one of the best novels of any genre’ and ‘[the] Kind of book u finish reading & u want to read everything else by the author’, and added a link to his blogpost discussing the novel; and Philip Christman has reviewed the novel very generously for the Christian Courier, saying it ‘provides all the thrills of an airport-bookstore read, and a universe besides’. Particularly gratifying for me is that he also says the book ‘provokes some important questions’, in particular: ‘is the God of Kant also the God of Abraham, Ruth and Jesus? Karl Barth for one would say no’.

Also, and though it's not specifically related to TTI, I'm a huge-enough XTC fan to have been ridiculously chuffed by this tweet from Jonathan Thornton.

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H G Wells Blog

By Adam Roberts | April 24, 2017
Categories: Blogging

Wells terracotta bust Jo Davidson 1930

I'm reading through the complete run of H G Wells books (fiction and non-fiction both) in order, and blogging about each as I do. You'll find the results on my Wells at the World's End blog, should you be interested. Be warned though: some* of the posts are pretty long ...


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Bethany (2016)

By Adam Roberts | March 23, 2017
Categories: Book News, Reviews


The most recent Interzone includes a full-page review of my short novel Bethany. Here's the final paragraph:


I say a little about how I came to write Bethany at the end of this (be warned, quite long) blogpost on Endo's great novel Silence. It's the last three paragraphs, so you can scroll down to those if you like. Or not.

2 Comments to-date;

Russian Esquire list 10 Notable Translated Novels

By Adam Roberts | March 15, 2017
Categories: Book News

... and guess what's number 10. Мне очень приятно!

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Kim Stanley Robinson and Francis Spufford

By Adam Roberts | February 14, 2017
Categories: Events and Appearances


... are appearing in Waterstones Piccadilly on the evening if the 3rd April, 2017. Starts at 7pm. My understanding is that tickets are limited, so if you're interested you should probably reserve yours sooner rather than later. I'll certainly be there, and as it says on the other end of that link, I have written 'works in both the fiction and critical genres.' So there's that too!

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New for 2017

By Adam Roberts | February 6, 2017
Categories: Chitchat


I've been neglecting this blog lately, and will strive to neglect it less in the future. There's been little to report, though. Life has been going on, of course; though I'm not vain enough to believe that anyone is interested in bulletins from that front. Same old same old. As noted in previous posts on this website, 2016 was a quiet year for me publication-wise. The Thing Itself was selected as the book of the year by the great critic John Wilson, which delighted and rather startled me. A couple of the Strange Horizons reviewers honoured it likewise; which was lovely, if achronological, since the novel is a 2015 title. Ah well.

One SF-related thing I did publish in 2016 was the much-expanded 2nd edition of my Palgrave History of Science Fiction. This hasn't made any awards shortlists or anything, and, following my resolution of the 23rd Aug inst. infra, I am blithe about this fact. That said, I was pleased on behalf of Anna McFarlane and Paul Graham Raven, excellent young critics both, whose chapters from the Glyphi Adam Roberts: Critical Essays (ed. Christos Callow Jr. and Anna McFarlane, 2016) volume made the BSFA Awards longlist. Congratulations to them, and fingers-crossed for when the shortlist is announced. (Glyphi have allowed interested parties to download the two chapters in question; if you click the previous link you may still be able to do so, if you're interested!)

Some new things are coming from me, probably, later this year. I'll keep you informed.

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Dec 8th: Contemporary Writers Launch: Adam Roberts, Rupert Thomson, Tom McCarthy

By Adam Roberts | November 28, 2016
Categories: Events and Appearances


See you there?

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Eurocon Barcelona 2016

By Adam Roberts | November 28, 2016
Categories: Events and Appearances


I was there. The above is a photo of Aliette de Bodard and I enjoying a laugh over that most chucklesome of topics, Jules Verne.

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By Adam Roberts | November 22, 2016
Categories: Book News, Non-Fiction

Well, it's been a pig of a year, I think we can all agree. But, look: this website is about what I write and what I publish, so let's focus-down our disappointment onto that for the time being, shall we? Which is to say, onto two things, sciencefictionally speaking.

The first is non-fiction: the revised second edition of my Palgrave History of Science Fiction. This is a comprehensively revised version of the 2006 first edition, including wholly new chapters (a new last chapter presents an account of 21st-century SF) and lots of extra new stuff and titivations and so on. It's not cheap I'm afraid, but you might want to order a copy for your local library. As a for-instance.


The second is fiction, a short novel called Bethany about a man who goes back in time to shoot Christ with a high-powered rifle, with this peculiar wrinkle: he plans on killing him after he has resurrected but before he ascends to heaven. This is about 35,000 words of text, so 'short novel' (I'm not sure whether, under the SF community's fiercely regulated nomenclature, it counts as a novella, novelette or novelicule) describes it. Were it published in hard copy it would be something like 140-pages long. Ah, but it's not being published in hard-copy: it's available only as an e-book title, and you can, if you are so minded, buy it from here.


This is the only book-length (or small-book-length) fiction I'm publishing in 2016. Slim pickings, I know. But, unlike the Palgrave book, it is at least relatively cheap: $/€ 3.99, £2.49. For a whole novel! A short novel, but still. Next year Gollancz will be proper-publishing my next full-length-novel, The Real Town Murders. So there's that to look forward to. If you're a looking-forward, 2017-surely-can't-be-as-ghastly-as-2016 sort of a person.

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Stranger yet and Stranger, more Horizoned still

By Adam Roberts | November 19, 2016
Categories: Reviews

The very same day that the US Election result was announced on the world's media, this review of The Thing Itself by Kevin Power (himself no mean writer) was published. It may be the best review I've ever received. Funny old world, isn't it, though? Swings and roundabouts, and so on, and so forth.

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Thing Itself in The Guardian

By Adam Roberts | November 1, 2016
Categories: Reviews


Clickage will embiggen. From last Saturday's Guardian Review (30th Oct 2016), occasioned by the mass-market paperback. Apologies for the slightly jaundiced flavour of this photo, and the crease running down the middle of it. That's life, though!

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My Cameo in “The Walking Dead”

By Adam Roberts | October 29, 2016
Categories: Book News


Thanks to Adam Whitehead for bringing this to my attention. It appears that I, sort-of, appeared briefly in the latest episode of the long-running TV series The Walking Dead. Cool!

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Ejército Nuevo Modelo

By Adam Roberts | October 22, 2016
Categories: Book News, Events and Appearances


Ediciones Gigamesh are publishing a Spanish-language translation of my New Model Army, and here's the cover art. Creo que podemos estar de acuerdo, esto es lo más excelente trabajo. ¿No?

It's being launched at Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona (4, 5 & 6 November) where I will also be. Come along and say hello, if you're there. If you don't the scary Queen from the cover will haunt your dreams.


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The Paperback Itself

By Adam Roberts | October 17, 2016
Categories: Book News


Last week saw the mass-market paperback publication of my latest, and, we can be honest, best, novel: The Thing Itself. This link will take you to the page where, I note, it's on sale from some vendors brand new for a mere £3.63. That's a little over 30p for each of the twelve sections that make up the whole! Not much, considering that those twelve not only provide a variety pack of science fictional goodness and a primer in the Critique of Pure Reason, but will also persuade you to believe in God (if you don't already).

I know that not everybody approves of amazon, and there are good reasons for being wary of it as a retailer; but I wanted to include the link so I could quote a few of the reader reviews from there. So Kate calls it 'a fabulous, clever novel'; Andrew Wallace says its 'another great novel by the Godfather of British SF' and Brian Clegg describes the novel as 'a mind-bending delight' adding:

and nothing like the combination of the title and the cover suggests (yet even this deception is not entirely straightforward). Anyone versed in the genre would instantly make the leap, with the combination of 'The Thing' and a polar setting, to the classic science fiction film The Thing -- and indeed Roberts does make a passing bow to this in the opening of the book. However, the monster in the movie is about as crude as they come -- here, what we experience as alien is both horrible and transfigured as a possible reality for the concept of god. ... I can say without any doubt that this by far the best science fiction book I've read all year. I can also say that it won't be to everyone's taste -- so don't blame me if you don't like it -- but to some it will be a revelation of what science fiction can be. This is the kind of science fiction that should be winning the Booker Prize. Simple as that.

So there we are. On the other hand, 'Rascible' thinks it 'a bit of a muddle'; so not everybody is entirely enamoured.

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By Adam Roberts | October 17, 2016
Categories: Book News


Christos Callow and Anna McFarlane have edited this splendid collection of critical essays about my writing. It's a rather astonishing thing, in fact, to have so many insightful and eloquent critics turn their attention on what I do, and I'm almost exactly as abashed as I am honoured. You can buy a copy here.

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Jurassic London: Brown Bread

By Adam Roberts | September 1, 2016
Categories: Book News


That most excellent press 'Jurassic London' have decided to call it a day. They are issuing one last anthology (including a story by me, but a great many better stories by other, greatly better writers too) which they are calling The Extinction Event: 'our final anthology,' they say, 'a celebration of five great years, and a hearty thank you! to all the authors, artists, partners and readers that made Jurassic London possible.' You can buy one of the few copies of this valuable artefact on their website where they say: 'The Extinction Event will be published on 20 October, and only as a slipcased hardcover, limited to 150 numbered copies. It comes complete with black and white illustrations, colour endpapers, a snazzy ribbon bookmark and everything else we could possibly throw into it. This will be the only edition. Once they're gone... they're gone.' Snap 'em up, I would.

There's also a launch, on the 20th October, which I'm going to make every effort to get to if I possibly can, and where books will be signed, and costumes worn, and fun will be had. Sad, but glad. If you see what I mean.

There's also a facebook page, if you're into that sort of thing.

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NewCon at Ten

By Adam Roberts | August 23, 2016
Categories: Book News


Something else that happened over the summer was the 10th anniversary of Ian Whates' excellent Newcon Press. To celebrate this auspicious event , Ian commissioned SF stories on the topic of 'ten', and the result is the volume whose handsome cover adorns the top of this post. I think you should buy it, and you can take that as a disinterested recommendation, because I'm not even in it. Ian did ask me for a story, and I wrote him one, called 'Between Nine And Eleven'; but he chose to include it in a completely different anthology. This one, in fact, which is also worth your money:


The truth is NewCon has consistently been one of the best of the many small presses in SF, and Ian is nothing short of a national treasure. It, and he, deserve your support.

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EUP’s Roberts’s Coleridge’s Shakespeare

By Adam Roberts | August 23, 2016
Categories: Book News


One week to go until the release of this title: Coleridge: Lectures on Shakespeare (1811-1819) (Edinburgh University Press 2016), edited by, well, me. It's £85. Yes, I know, but I don't get to set the price. Still, even though it hasn't been published yet, it's already's 559,223th bestselling title. Say no more.

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2016: the Story So Far

By Adam Roberts | August 23, 2016
Categories: Awards


Two-thirds of the way through and I think we can say: where fiction is concerned, 2016 is not turning out to be my year.

So: 2015 saw the publication of The Thing Itself, my sixteenth novel. I write a particular sort of fiction, and it’s not one that everyone (or even most) people grok. But given the sorts of things I’m interested in doing, as a writer, I don’t see that I’ll ever write a better novel than this one. Actually, I’d go further and say that my last few novels, say from New Model Army on, have been easily the best things I have done.

I don’t have a novel coming out in 2016. Indeed, so far this year I’ve written not very much. After all, confidence is a preference for the habitual auteur of what is known as ... WRITELIFE! and it turns out to be a quality that suffers more from the attritional than the sudden shocks.

As I note here, the odd thing is that outside the SF world, The Thing Itself has been really well received: some very good reviews, and colloquia such as this (very enjoyable) one. But inside the world of SF it has flopped. Of course, that it has failed to become a bestseller is hardly a surprise: it’s a sciencefictional novelisation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Hardly the stuff of airport bestsellers. That it has failed to win or even to be shortlisted for prizes, or made any ‘best of year’ lists, or garnered any of the other signs of esteem with which SF recognizes its best, is more of a disappointment for me. It did make the Kitschies shortlist, to my surprise and delight, although it lost out in the end—not to N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season as I was expecting, but to Margaret Atwood's not-bringing-her-A-game The Heart Goes Last. Of course, it goes without saying that even weak Atwood is major news, bookwise. Thereafter The Thing Itself has conspicuously (conspicuous, that is to say, in its inconspicuousness) failed to make the shortlists of the Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, Tiptree, BSFA, Locus, Hugo or Nebula awards. If you click this link you can find a lengthy list of other SF awards for which it has also failed to be shortlisted. Earlier in my career my books tended to make award shortlists but not to win the awards, which made them what in racing they call ‘also-rans’. Latterly, though, my writing has shifted from being an also-ran to a not-even-ran.

Of course, rather than accepting that my novel has failed, I might revert to the personal assessment noted above. I really don’t think I’m going to write a better novel in my career. But there is genuine danger, I think, in prioritising the personal over the community judgment. It slides so easily into the preen of the maniacal ego, the full Ayn Rand self-delusion: ‘you idiots refuse to recognise my genius! You’re all blind!’ and so on. Pff. Ockham’s razor has a simpler explanation: The Thing Itself failed to go over because it wasn’t good enough. And if it’s the best I can do, then logic dictates that I’m not good enough. Logic is a hard mistress but only fools refuse to serve her.

Of course, individual markers of esteem are specific data points, liable to varying degrees of distortion. What I’m really trying to do is pin-down a more subjective, overview sense of things. It’s been growing in me for a few years now, and writing The Thing Itself was, amongst other things, an attempt by me to turn that tide—to (apologies for the cliché) give it my best shot, to go for something more ambitious. Obviously, it hasn’t worked. On the subject of tides, I ought to have listened to Canute.

I appreciate that for many people, especially unpublished folk hoping to become writers, ‘failure’ in this context will look like the wrong word. In another sense I haven’t failed. I’m trundling along, as I have been for years, and if my trundling is too low-gear ever to win the Clarke, or get an American deal, or be asked to GoH a UK con—to pick a random selection of indices of community esteem—then it at least is a trundling. For those without even that trundle, what I’m saying here may well look ungracious. It’s not that my career as a writer has been a series of unalloyed catastrophes: I wouldn’t have got to book 16 if that were true. I have had some intelligent, engaged readers, for whom I continue to be genuinely grateful. I have had some good reviews. One of my novels (Jack Glass) even won a couple of awards. As a white straight male, I haven’t had the sorts of obstacles placed in my way that women writers, writers of colour and LGBT writers tend to face—I’m very aware of that. Still, you who are reading this post will have some sense of what I mean, and you will, I’m pretty sure, nod a wry nod of recognition when I talk about the broader lineaments of my career as a writer. You see what I’m getting at, here. ‘Failure’ is a stark word, and no doubt a too brutal one for this context, but you see what I mean when I use it. Certainly there’s no merit in trying to live in denial. Churchill was asked, late in his life, why he considered himself a failure after all the things he had achieved. He replied: ‘to achieve all that, only to achieve nothing in the end!’ When I was younger I thought that a symptomatically psychopathological reply, an index to depression. Now I’m rather more sympathetic to it. It embodies a strange truth, I think, and one that needn’t be depressive. (I’m not depressed, for example.) At what point in a career does it behoove a writer to take stock and concede that it hasn’t worked? Not by book 3, surely; maybe by book 12? Or if not 12, then, what: 13, 14? 16? Or else, which magic number is the bellwether?

Good word, 'behoove'.

Ah well: it’s fine. First world problems, and so on. I feel no self-pity, not because I am pitiless, or so unegotistical as to have no self to hurt, but because the situation doesn’t merit it. There are two contexts, public and personal. In the larger sense of ‘SF’ in the round, my failure is a non-event, the very definition of a self-correcting issue—for if what I do mattered to SF then it wouldn’t fail, QED. The genre is currently in a place of rude strength and promise, and whether I personally succeed or fail is a perfect irrelevance to that. The only way in which it might be relevant is as an object lesson for other writers, and especially up-and-coming or would-be writers. A small constituency, but not an unimportant one. And as far as that goes, the moral is presumably: don’t do as I do. I’d boil this down to: don’t write novels that stray too far from the median of SF-Fan interest: don’t be too pretentious or clever-clever, don’t try to be too ostentatiously experimental or oddball. Of course, by the same token, I urge you: don’t be too middle-of-the-road or bland, don’t set out to write sell-out commercial pap. It’s a balance, as in so many things. Try to orient yourself—as I have, frankly, failed to do—in terms of where the genre is, and where it’s going. And here’s a little more advice: be better than I have been at cons and public appearances, at putting yourself about and pressing the flesh. A social media presence is important, but it’s not enough on its own. I’ve blogged and tweeted a great deal this century, but I’ve never been to Nine Worlds or the SFX Weekender (I mean, I’ve never been asked: but you should definitely go), rarely to Eastercon, once only to Worldcon and that was because it was in London. You need to get out there to a much greater extent than I have. You need to self-promote.

The second context is the purely personal one. And here the public crosses over into the private. If you really want to become a writer then you will have to develop a strategy for dealing with disappointment, since disappointment will come. I’ve tried various things, over the years, and this is the latest: which is to say, I've decided that consoling myself with the thought that next year could be better does me more harm, psychologically-speaking, than good. That’s a purely personal judgment, of course, and might not work for you—probably won’t, indeed. You need to hold tight to a quantum of self-esteem in order to be able to keep working, and only you can judge to what degree disappointment depletes that. My sense is that individual knock-backs are more survivable than you believe, but that the longer-term drip-drip, alas, is less. Though mourning stoop can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as ... WRITELIFE!

Enough of the doleful countenance: I’ve reappraised. My next novel, coming from Gollancz in 2017, will be a lot less ambitious (a lot less pretentious, you might say). It will be a near-future puzzle whodunit, and I hope it's entertaining, ingenious and readable. But that’s all it will be: it will attempt no Thing Itself-style contortions or clever-clevernesses, it will push no envelopes, certainly not to tearing-point. It will be small and humble so you don’t confuse it with mountains. I hope, obviously, that people buy it, at least in enough numbers to make it worth Gollancz’s while to keep publishing me. But I know ahead of time that it won’t get shortlisted for any prizes or make any best-of-year lists, and knowing that fact will guard my bruised ego from the annual round of hurt and despair known as ‘awards season’. That fact alone is valuable enough to me at this stage in my life.

Indeed, this is the (unexpected) discovery I have made. It is that having been holding out against failure for a long time, having been committing to hope, trying to make what the writing better and so on, it is rather liberating to let all that go. I’m never going to win a Clarke, never going to get shortlisted for a Hugo, never going to get an American deal, and it's …. relieving, actually. The emotion is a largely positive one, muddied if at all only by a slight sense of embarrassment that I ever thought those things in the first place. Indeed, given our culture’s toxic Trumpoid obsession with winning, winning and winning again, with winning so much we get tired with winning, there may even be a principled merit in failing, provided only we accept the failure as our own, and don’t try to shuffle off responsibility onto others. As far as that goes, I have been privileged to have had a group of brilliant people around me: publishers, friends, supporters. The failure has nothing do with them, and everything to do with me.

It’s possible, and even likely, that my relief here has to do with some strange recognition, what you might call a homecoming. Because, of course, failure has always been one of my main themes as a writer, one of my major fascinations. There are plenty of people who write can-do hero characters, who structure stories around monsters defeated and challenges overcome, boldly-going and uplifting. I’ve always been more interested in the ways life is a tapestry of passivities and small-scale failures; I’ve always found underachievers both more dramatically interesting and less aesthetically mendacious. Karma, you could say. There are other, more complicated registers of affect too. In an age that prizes simplicity and success there is some contrarian pleasure in being difficult and failing. Failure is pure in ways that success, which is always compromised, can never be. And failure is English too: culturally and socially and personally. Plus as they say (and they say truly): it's hardly the end of the world.

So: in 2017 I will be publishing a shorter SF whodunit, designed to be entertaining and readable and so on. We'll see how that goes, I guess. Until then ... *Sings* Awlll the people ... so many people ...

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The Thing Itself: Cambridge Event 15 June 2016

By Adam Roberts | March 19, 2016
Categories: Events and Appearances


I'm very excited about this: a discussion of The Thing Itself, and related matters of doubt, faith and fiction, scheduled for the 15th June, from 7:30-8:30pm. It will take place in Great Saint Mary's, the University Church, in the centre of Cambridge, and will involve discussion between Francis Spufford (author, most recently, of the crystal-sharp and brilliant New York historical novel Golden Hill), Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of the humanities at Baylor University and author of many books, including the recent The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography (Princeton, 2013), and Baron Williams of Oystermouth, also known as Rowan Williams, eminent theologian, critic and poet, and formerly Archbishop of Canterbury. I'll also be there, mugging desperately to try and keep up to snuff amongst such luminaries. It would be wonderful to see you, if you can make it.

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Aye Write: I Appear

By Adam Roberts | February 23, 2016
Categories: Events and Appearances


Aye Write 2016 is Glasgow's literary festival, and an excellent and stimulating festival it is too. This year I'll be appearing 12th Mar 2016, 6:00pm - 7:00pm, in the Mitchell Library on Berkeley Street. I'll solve the Fermi Paradox for you, urge you to buy my book, and crack a few jokes. May have a drink afterwards too, if you're around and fancy a swift one.

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Darey Dawn’s artwork for the Russian Jack Glass: full image

By Adam Roberts | February 19, 2016
Categories: Book News


Beautiful isn't it? The artist, Дарья, posted this to deviant-art earlier today. You may need to click on it to enjoy its full glory.

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Guardian review of THING ITSELF

By Adam Roberts | February 11, 2016
Categories: Reviews


Oh, that photo. Still photographic representation aside, Julian Baggini's actual review says some nice things: 'This is really walking the literary high wire, and Roberts not only keeps his balance, he makes the spectacle compelling. I can’t think of another such ostentatiously clever novel that is so dramatically successful, as rigorous psychologically as it is logically. Like Kant’s thing in itself, Roberts’s eponymous novel does not fit into any standard categories.'

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BSFA Award shortlists 2016

By Adam Roberts | February 8, 2016
Categories: Awards


The BSFA Awards shortlists for the best SF of 2015 have just been announced. And here they are:

Best Novel

Dave Hutchinson, Europe at Midnight, Solaris

Chris Beckett, Mother of Eden, Corvus

Aliette de Bodard, The House of Shattered Wings, Gollancz

Ian McDonald, Luna: New Moon, Gollancz

Justina Robson, Glorious Angels, Gollancz

Best Short Story

Aliette de Bodard, “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”, Clarkesworld 100

Paul Cornell, “Witches of Lychford”,

Jeff Noon, “No Rez”, Interzone 260

Nnedi Okorafor, “Binti”,

Gareth L. Powell, “Ride the Blue Horse”, Matter

Best Non-Fiction

Nina Allan, “Time Pieces: Doctor Change or Doctor Die”, Interzone 261

Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce, Letters to Tiptree, Twelfth Planet Press

Jonathan McCalmont, “What Price Your Critical Agency”, Ruthless Culture.

Adam Roberts, Rave and Let Die: The SF and Fantasy of 2014, Steel Quill Books

Jeff Vandermeer, “From Annihilation to Acceptance: a writer’s surreal journey”, The Atlantic, January 2015

Best Artwork

Jim Burns, Cover of Pelquin’s Comet, Newcon Press

Vincent Sammy: “Songbird”, Interzone 257

Sarah Anne Langton: Cover of Jews Versus Zombies, Jurassic London

I am delighted, honoured and amazed (indeed properly surprised) to appear on the non-fiction list. Now, since I am also a BSFA member I get to vote, but here, in hostage-to-fortune style, I'll note that I do not expect my own votes to correlate with the majority. So I plan to vote for: Robson, Okorafor, McCalmont and Langton. I predict the prizes will go to: Hutchinson, Noon, Krasnostein/Pierce (though Nina Allan has an outside chance) and I don't know, maybe Jim Burns, but very possibly Langton. Then again it's the sort of list where both those spreads of results would be fine: Europe at Midnight and Luna are both great novels, after all. Roll on Manchester.

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Glassy Dshchek

By Adam Roberts | February 5, 2016
Categories: Book News

Russian cover. Nice!


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