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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 www.adamroberts.com, 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

NewCon at Ten

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

book_now_we_r_10_perfect

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:

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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

ColeridgeShakesCover

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 amazon.co.uk'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

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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, 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.

It was the announcement of the 2016 Clarke shortlist that really crystalised my situation for me. I wasn’t surprised, exactly, that my novel didn’t make that list, since nothing by me has for almost a decade now. But I was dejected, and this in turn compelled me to have a long hard think about my writing, which is part of the reason why I've written so little this year. I know the Clarke judges; indeed a couple of them are friends of mine. I respect their critical judgment, and I know that there was nothing personal in their decision to omit my title. Indeed, that’s not the right way of framing it: they didn’t deliberately exclude The Thing Itself from their shortlist; they just didn’t include it, and they didn’t include it because it didn’t meet their ‘good enough’ threshold. It wasn’t one of the six best books they read, simple as that (conceivably it wasn’t one of the twelve, or twenty, or hundred best books they read. Who knows?). I came out of my long hard think with a lowered but also I suspect truer sense of my merits.

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: I'll be publishing nothing in 2016, I think; and in 2017 will be publishing a shorter SF whodunit, designed to be entertaining and readable and so on. We'll see how that goes, I guess. *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

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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

AyeWrite

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

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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

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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

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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”, Tor.com

Jeff Noon, “No Rez”, Interzone 260

Nnedi Okorafor, “Binti”, Tor.com

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!

Russianjackglass

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Thing Itself: the Update Itself

By Adam Roberts | February 1, 2016
Categories: Reviews

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I appreciate that endlessly harping on Thing Itself related news is liable to get dull, though I hope you'll indulge me for one more update post. There are a few things to report, you see.

One is this, which is extraordinary, amazing and, for me at least, very exciting indeed.

Another is that the novel made the Locus Online 2015 recommended reading list, which is nice.

Jonathan Strahan's estimable Coode Street Podcast recently talked about the novel, too, with James Bradley and Ian Mond contributing to the discussion; which is even nicer.

There have been a few more reviews, too. Here's the opinion of the Nudge 'Book Geeks' people:

"There are some incredible ideas and boundless leaps of imagination. The plot strands that seem to be disparate all appear to eventually make sense. You’re left wondering about the nature of reality and our place in the universe – themes of all the best science fiction. You’re left reflecting on the book long after you’ve finished. Roberts is one of the best contemporary writers of original science fiction in terms of technical skill, vision and storytelling. The Thing Itself is a brilliant book for many, many reasons."

On the downside, no US publishers have elected to pick the book up (although Gollancz hope to distribute their edition in the States later this year, at least to some extent). Still, I try to console myself with this amazon.com reader's review:

"The cleverest novel I have ever read. Mind blowing in scope and content, you have never heard the ideas he comes up with in between the pages of this book. The last chapter is so... it's just so COOL. No other word to describe it. I put the book down upon finishing and sat back with a smile remembering all the awseomeness that I just consumed. Much more than the synopsis leads you to believe, it has to be read to be appreciated. There was a point in the story, about 60% in on my Kindle when there was something introduced that led me to believe that this could be jumping the shark but I was then floored by the way Mr. Roberts broke convention and used a tired plot device to explain things outside of the human structure of reasoning. I thought we had a Deus Ex Machina but we got a whole other thing completely, and it's totally original in the execution. Fun, smart, intelligent, difficult at times but a completely satisfying read."

And finally, it would be remiss of me not to note Crooks and Kings' 'Review Type Thing' of the novel, which may be the best review I've ever received. I say so despite the fact that it includes the following, on the novel's chapter 6: "I hated this chapter so fucking much. I’d go as far as to say that this chapter is my least favourite thing I’ve ever willingly read". But it also says the following: "This book is incredibly special to me ... This is easily among the greatest books I’ve ever read, and now all I need is to find the right people to recommend it to." Which is nicest.

I'll try to go easy on Thing Its-hard-sell in future.

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Review

By Adam Roberts | January 11, 2016
Categories: Reviews

From:

Like most of Robert's novels, The Thing Itself is a book you need to take your time with, it has so many ideas, written in so many different ways that it would be quite easy to lose your way should your attention falter for just one moment. It is also however a masterpiece of science fiction, the writing is superb and the ideas simply inspired. Once again Robert's has surpassed himself.

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What I Did in 2015

By Adam Roberts | December 31, 2015
Categories: Chitchat

Three things, predominantly. Fiction, twice:

2015roundup

Quite taupe, that image, though: isn't it? On the left is my latest collection of short fiction, Saint Rebor (Newcon Press), which contains my two best short stories ('What Did Tessimond Tell You?' and 'Trademark Bugs') along with ten others of varying quality. If you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber you can download this collection for free, it seems; if not it'll set you back £2.99 for the eBook and rather more for the 'collectable' hard-copy.

On the right is The Thing Itself, which came out on the 17th Dec and which I've been plugging earnestly ever since, even unto the point of starting to annoy people, I don't doubt. So I won't go on about it again, here. Beyond, that is, noting that it's £8.99 in paperback at the moment. Scroll back through the last few posts on this very website for reviews links etc. It's probably my best novel, though.

Non-fiction, once:

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Collected reviews, with a lengthy all-new intro on the state of the genre in 2014. Same deal with Kindle Unlimited customers, it seems; a little pricier for those who might wish actually to buy the book.

What else? Well, there was a US edition of Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea and a Chinese edition of Jack Glass; I had a story in Penelope Lewis and Ra Page's anthology of original fiction Spindles ('Raveled Sleeve of Care'); and I contributed a story to Rebecca Levene and Lavie Tidhar's Jews Versus Zombies volume. And in December SFX profiled me, with a full-size image of me hanging out with a couple of Ent friends.

ARTrees

So that was my 2015. What of next year? Well, one thing sure to happen is the second edition (very greatly revised and expanded) of my Palgrave History of Science Fiction will be published. Beyond that, plans are more or less fluid. Fluid can be good, though. It depends on the fluid.

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What Does Brian Clegg Think of The Thing Itself?

By Adam Roberts | December 31, 2015
Categories: Reviews

It's the question on everybody's lips. And the answer is to be found here, on Brian Clegg's website. Indicative quotation:

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.

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Itselfy Reviews

By Adam Roberts | December 27, 2015
Categories: Reviews

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I'll do a 2015 round-up post on the eve of the New Year, I suppose; but until then let me note two reviews of The Thing Itself. One is by Alan Jacobs, who read my novel, and went on to read some Karl Barth, and juxtaposed the two on his blog. Of the novel he says: "The Thing Itself is all kinds of amazing, and very hard to describe: if you imagine a mashup of The Thing, Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and Kant’s metaphysics, you’ll … not quite get it. Just read it, please." He also poses this question:

"What if we thought of our current debates about God, our current confrontations between theists and atheists, as the inevitably sorry by-products of a failure to grasp what [David Bentley] Hart argues, what Barth argues, what Kant says when he presents us with his Fourth Antinomy? And what would happen to our conversations if we took seriously the possibility that we don’t have any real idea what we have been arguing about?"

That's a good question, I think. And then, in more conventionally SFnal mode, the estimable Paul Di Filippo reviews the novel over on the Locus Online website. He also brings in God, although in a much less Karl-Barthy manner: "God bless Roberts's craftsmanly productivity, which keeps us fans reliably supplied with a fresh annual fix, year after revolutionary year". I am blessed! Excellent. Di Filippo ends his review:

"In crafting the character of Charles Gardner, Roberts gives us an utterly believable antihero whose fumbling actions bespeak a completely human set of both virtues and flaws. Like some wounded Fisher King, Charles would like to redeem humanity, but is held back by his inner turbulence and angst. Ultimately, he pushes himself beyond his worst aspects into some kind of redemptive victory. And in Roy Curtius, Roberts gives us a Faustian figure who is neither wholly reprehensible nor vile, but rather a fellow seduced by the dark side of his own nerdy genius. Together, the two enact what is surely the best cat-and-mouse game of this nature since Frank Robinson’s The Power, a hidden template, I think, for this book.

In the end, though, Roberts transcends the simpler SF of Robinson’s era, and exhibits the same postmodern ramping up that he has brought to a dozen other different SF 'power chords.' If Greg Egan and Stanislaw Lem had conspired to rewrite John D. MacDonald’s The Girl, the Gold Watch and Everything, the result might have been half as ingenious and gripping and funny and scary and invigorating as The Thing Itself."

The 'power chords' ref is especially neat.

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Today’s the Day …

By Adam Roberts | December 17, 2015
Categories: Book News

StarWarsLastSupper

... my new novel, The Thing Itself, is released. You can buy it here, if you want to (here's a US equivalent of the same online bookseller).

But maybe you're not sure if you do want to buy? I can't blame you for that. Perhaps a review would help? Here, published today, on publication day no less, is Niall Alexander's tor.com review. What does he think? Well, he ends thuswise:

I never imagined I’d find myself so readily recommending a novel “about why you should believe in God,” but by the end of The Thing Itself, Roberts—an atheist, according to the Acknowledgements—has so perfectly framed his case that I—another non-believer, I fear—came away from it with my spiritual convictions variously shaken. No phrase of the praise I would happily heap upon the remarkable achievement this tremendous text represents could outstrip that there statement, so let’s call it a day, eh? Except to say that though The Thing Itself is many things, all of the things The Thing Itself is are evidence of Adam Roberts’ inimitable brilliance.

So there you have it.

And the other SFnal thing, less itself, that is happening today? We're off to see that tomorrow, as it happens.

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Things Themselves

By Adam Roberts | December 16, 2015
Categories: Book News

So: my author copies finally arrived.

Thingsthemselves

There have been some reviews, ahead of Thursday's publication date (hmm: I wonder if anything else sciencefictional is launching on Thursday?) It was discussed on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Review, where the three talking heads proved divided amongst themselves: one disliked the novel, saying it was too clever for its own good; one was on the fence about it; but one, John Tusa, loved it: saying 'I'm very very glad I read it' and that 'Adam Roberts has this extraordinary, restless mind'.

Other review news: the novel is the lead review in the latest SFX, where it gets four stars out of five. Upcoming4me called it 'a new genre in itself', and said it was 'deeply fascinating but hard to understand'. And the estimable Kate Atherton, over at her For Winter Nights blog, had this to say:

"The Thing Itself has a wonderful fluidity and grace. Its ideas are complicated but the novel is also accessible, lightness easing the complexity. There is humour and great character, real depth of emotion – fear, love, panic, guilt, terror, guile – and also enormous sin. Contrasting with the humanity on parade are the glimpses of something other worldly, slotting into each of the stories with such originality and quirkiness. I had to re-read several passages to check that I really had just read what I thought I had. I loved the strangeness.

I do appreciate a novel that makes me think while also entertaining me. The Thing Itself marries the two to perfection. There is so much packed within these pages and, without doubt, it’s one of those memorable novels that will stand to repeated readings over the passing of time. A book of the year for me, for sure."

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The IceThing Cometh

By Adam Roberts | November 30, 2015
Categories: Book News

TI

According to my publisher, this book now actually exists, as a tangible thing. I haven't seen a copy yet, but still: looks handsome! Full of Kant-y goodness, you know.

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Sledge-Lit 2015: Derby, 21st November

By Adam Roberts | November 16, 2015
Categories: Events and Appearances

I'm appearing at this one-day event on Saturday, alongside the estimable Alison Moore, Charlie Stross and Rob Shearman. The schedule of the day is here.

Derby is a fine town. You should come along, say hello, and so on.

[Update]: I went, I saw, I lectured. You can read an account of my GoH speech here.

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Spindles: Stories from the Science of Sleep (Comma Press 2015)

By Adam Roberts | October 26, 2015
Categories: Book News

Spindles1

My author copy of this handsome-looking volume, edited by Penelope Lewis and Ra Page, arrived today. My story, 'Raveled Sleeve of Care', closes the volume, and has an afterward by the editor, Dr Lewis, herself. It is about the sinister Dr Slechterschlaf, and his proposed cure for sleep.

Spindles2

More, including purchasing information, at the Comma website.

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Chinese Jack

By Adam Roberts | October 25, 2015
Categories: Book News

ChineseJack

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Memory, Natural and Unnatural

By Adam Roberts | September 25, 2015
Categories: Events and Appearances

The Nature of Memory
Perspectives from Art, History and Neuroscience


6.30 – 8pm | Tuesday 29 September
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, London School of Economics

Jessica Bland, Principal Researcher in Policy and Research, Nesta

Sebastian Groes, Senior Lecturer in English Literature (University of Roehampton)

Adam Roberts, Science Fiction Novelist and Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature (Royal Holloway, London)

Barry C Smith, Professor of Philosophy (Birkbeck, University of London) and Director of the Institute of Philosophy

Chair: Hugo Spiers, Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology (UCL)

Our ability to recall the past is a fundamental feature of what makes us human. While neuroscience has advanced our understanding of memory, how do these insights relate to memory as understood in the classics, literature, philosophy and art?

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Well I Like Ebrei, and I Like Zombi, but Which Is Better? There’s Only One Way To Find Out …

By Adam Roberts | September 20, 2015
Categories: Book News

jvz-italian-cover

From semi-editor Lavie Tidhar, I learn that an Italian edition of Jews Versus Zombies is now on the cards (including my story 'Zayinim', at which, as I have already noted, I worked assiduously for months, perfecting and titivating the sentences, balancing the structure, refining the narratorial voice and undertaking whole weeks of detailed zom/hebie research). Which is molto cool-o. Lavie has more news though, for it seems the volume has become the focus of the high-powered academic attention of which it is so richly deserving. He reports:

An academic at Wesleyan University is giving a lecture based around Jews vs Zombies at the Association for American Religion meeting. Here is the description:

Tza'ar Ba'alei Chayim? Jews as Predators and Prey in the Zombie Apocalypse

There is an ongoing debate in Judaism around whether "stewardship" or "dominion" is the proper way to define our relationship to the rest of creation. What does it mean to have control over the Earth? And how do we practice tza'ar ba'alei chayim, concern for the suffering of living things, from our place at the top of the food chain. The short story collection Jews vs Zombies pushes those questions to their logical, and sometimes illogical extreme by plunging us into the post-zombie apocalypse where humanity is no longer the alpha predator. As both predators and prey, the Jews in these stories have to navigate new ethical concerns that Genesis never imagined.

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Rave, Rave Against the Dying of the Light

By Adam Roberts | September 12, 2015
Categories: Book News

123RaveAndLetDie

So my latest, and in all likelihood last, collection of SF essays and reviews is now out -- Rave and Let Die: the SF and Fantasy of 2014 (Steel Quill 2015). 269 pages of material, including several never-before-published reviews of books, a lo-o-ong introduction overviewing the state of the genre, and a sort of short-story to finish things off. Steel Quill is an imprint of Ian Whates's NewCon press, so contact him for hard-copies; or you can buy the eBook for the insultingly low price of £2.99 over on amazon.

What else? Well, today (Saturday 12th Sept) there was a Forbidden Planet signing event: that's Ian on the left, James Lovegrove in the middle, and on the right it's ... no: wait. Isn't that George Clooney!!? [peers closer at photo] No. No -- my mistake. That's me on the right.

123RaveAndLetDieSigning

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Judging

By Adam Roberts | September 4, 2015
Categories: Events and Appearances

The University of Glasgow 'Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities' group is running a writing competition. You might want to enter it, you know.

We are pleased to announce a creative-writing competition for science fiction on the theme of medicine, health, and illness.

Science fiction has a long tradition of medical stories: Frankenstein (reanimation), The Island of Doctor Moreau (surgery, tissue grafting), Brave New World (eugenics), Flowers for Algernon (disability), I Am Legend (contagious disease), The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (terminal illness), Woman on the Edge of Time (psychiatry), Never Let Me Go (cloning, transplantation) … and many others. Our creative-writing competition is intended to stimulate new work in this fruitful area.

We invite science-fiction short stories (and also self-contained novel excerpts) of up to 3000 words that address themes of medicine, health, and illness. Some possible ideas for work might be:

Future/alien medicine and doctors
Computerized/robotic healthcare
Engineered diseases and alien plagues
Future/alien conceptions of health and illness, including mental health and illness
Utopian/dystopian visions of health, illness, and medicine
Cosmetic and/or elective surgery/transplantation/modification
Present and future disabilities, and their social/cultural (de)construction
Public health and population health, at a global or galactic level
Alternate medical history (what if a medical pioneer had died young, and/or a particular discovery/advance never been made?)

Entries should be no more than 3000 words, and no entrant may submit more than two entries.

The top three entries, and up to seventeen runners-up, will be published in the competition anthology.

First Prize: £300
Second Prize: £200
Third Prize: £150
Runners-up: £50

Entry is free of charge and open to anyone over 18. Please see the full competition rules.

Entries should be submitted by the deadline of 31 January 2016 using the online form.

I mention this here because I've agreed to be a judge. So, enter, and I will be all ...

judgmenttime
... on your work.

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Unfilmable

By Adam Roberts | September 3, 2015
Categories: Chitchat

The evergreen i09 has a list of 'The 10 Most Unfilmable Books (That Absolutely Must Be Made Into Films)'. You could click on the link, if you wanted to, and find out which ten unfilmable books they think should be so honoured. If you wanted to.

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Thing Itself, The

By Adam Roberts | August 26, 2015
Categories: Book News

THE THING ITSELF nick fiddle

As SF Signal notes, this is coming soon. Currently slated for a 17th December 2015 release. It's the novelisation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason the world has been waiting for. Also, it solves the Fermi Paradox. You're welcome.

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Landor’s Cleanness

By Adam Roberts | August 6, 2015
Categories: Book News, Lit Crit

I've neglected this author website rather shamefully, and from now on I shall try to be a little more assiduous with updates. Starting with notice that the TLS has reviewed Landor's Cleanness (Oxford Univ. Press 2014). Not wholly dithyrambic, but a pretty positive judgement overall by Jacqueline Bannerjee. I can't deny the 'rather desperately chatty', nor that Landor's reputation is probably unsalvageable. But I'm happy with 'noble', 'close, well-considered and best of all honestly questioning', and 'worth waiting for' is like that old ad for beer. Heineken, was it? Later on she calls it 'a big publishing event', which is nice, if clearly untrue.

LandorTLS1

LandorTLS2

LandorTLS3

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2015 John W. Campbell Memorial Award Finalists

By Adam Roberts | May 11, 2015
Categories: Awards

The Campbell finalists' list has been announced. And here it is:

Nina Allan, The Race (Newcon Press)
James L. Cambias, A Darkling Sea (Tor)
William Gibson, The Peripheral (G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Daryl Gregory, Afterparty (Tor)
Dave Hutchinson, Europe In Autumn (Solaris)
Simon Ings, Wolves (Gollancz)
Cixin Liu (Ken Liu, translator), The Three-Body Problem (Tor)
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf)
Will McIntosh, Defenders (Orbit)
Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Redhook)
Laline Paull, The Bees (Ecco)
Adam Roberts, Bête (Gollancz)
John Scalzi, Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future (Tor)
Andy Weir, The Martian (Broadway Books)
Jeff VanderMeer The Southern Reach Trilogy (FSG Originals)
Peter Watts, Echopraxia (Tor)

You'll notice that Bête is on that list. You'll notice, too, how chuffed I am at that fact.

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Alan Jacobs on Bête

By Adam Roberts | April 14, 2015
Categories: Reviews

Hard to think of a contemporary writer-critic I esteem more highly than Alan Jacobs. Over at his 'New Atlantis' blog Text Patterns, he gives his reactions to reading Bête.

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Caroline Edwards and me, 12th May 2015

By Adam Roberts | April 14, 2015
Categories: Events and Appearances

nottingham popcult.jpg-large

Hope to see you there.

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