Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Tyrant’s Law Cover Art and Copy

by Daniel Abraham

It’s not quite the final version, but it’s close enough.  Behold what the fine folks at Orbit have wrought.

The great war cannot be stopped. 

The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide. 

Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a “loyal traitor” and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him. 

Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that’s taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder’s one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety. 

And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako’s soldiers in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.

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Two bits of news and an irony (in the Alanis Morrisette I-don’t-think-that’s-what-the-word-means way)

by Daniel Abraham

First big news:  Check this out.

Book Three of The Expanse and the covers still rock

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New Clarkesworld Article

by Daniel Abraham

Just a head’s up, I have a new article up at Clarkesworld.

The thing is, I don’t write online book reviews. I signed up for Goodreads, and I get notifications all the time about things my friends have read and what they thought of them. When I get something from Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Powell’s, I’ll cruise through the reviews and see what people said—not just about the book, but to one another in the comments about the reviews. But when the time comes to decide how many stars to give something I just finished, I almost never do.

It took me a long time to figure out why I’m so reluctant, but here’s what I’ve come to: The more I practice something, the better I get at it.


Gods of Risk, Novellas, and Science Fiction as Mode (not Genre)

by Daniel Abraham

The new Expanse novella is out today ( Amazon | B&N ).  Gods of Risk is set shortly after Caliban’s War, and includes one of the major characters from Caliban.  It’s also actually a novella (as opposed to Butcher of Anderson Station which was a short story), and so has about as much plot and action as a two-hour movie.  I think it’s a good story, it’s less than half of what a movie ticket costs anymore, and it’s available now.  Follow your conscience.

Mars-based crime novel space opera.I’ve written about this elsewhere, but one of the interesting things that  ebooks have done is change the status of the novella.  When I started up my writing career, the common wisdom was that novellas — that is to say stories between aout 17,500 and 40,000 words — were the things to write if you wanted to win awards.  There were a coule reasons for that.  First off, that’s a gorgeous length for a lot of stories.  Long enough that you get to stretch out and really explore a character or an idea, not so long that it feels padded out.  And, as I said, it’s about the same amount of plot as a movie, so modern readers like myself are already very familiar with the size of the story.  You’ve probably seen films that were based on novels where the filmmaker had to gut the book to make it fit.  You’ve probably also seen movies based on a short story where they had to make stuff up and vamp for a while to till out the time.  Novellas are the sweet spot in between.

And the other reason they were the way to win awards was that nobody published them.  They’re too short to really justify a print run, when for just a little more money you can print a novel and sell it for considerably more.  Or, if you’re a magazine, you’d be devoting almost your whole issue to a single story.  And so, come awards time, there were always a lot fewer novellas to pick from.

But the world has moved on, and good that it has, I say.  Now we can publish ebook novellas at decent price, and get all the advantages of this length of story with pretty nearly none of the drawbacks (apart from it being only in ebook format).

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about this particular story is that — like the rest of the Expanse books — it borrows from a lot of genres.  Samuel Delany was the first person in my reading who talked about science fiction as a mode.  Because he is much smarter than I am, I didn’t know what he was on about at the time.  As I’ve thought about it, the best sense I’ve made is that science fiction doesn’t have a single ur-plot.  When I pick up a romance, I’m pretty clear that there’s going to be a man and a woman, and they’re going to overcome obstacles and fall in love at the end.  I pick up a mystery, and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a crime, and by the end of the book, we’ll figure out who did it.  With science fiction, on the other hand, you can’t tell.  Maybe it’s political and personal intrigue mixed with the high science of terraforming or a coming of age story set in a culture that isn’t Earth or a first contact story or an ecological collapse story.  When Delany calls science fiction a mode rather than a genre, I think he means that when you pick up a science fiction story, you could be picking up *anything*.

That’s part of why I love these projects.



A few thoughts on losing the Hugo

by Daniel Abraham

I am back home after Worldcon.  It was a great weekend.  I am very glad I went, and I’m very glad to be home.  There are a lot of people who are very dear to me who I got to see and spend time with, and some conversations that may, I think, shape some largish part of my day-to-day life for years to come.

As you’ll have heard by now, Jo Walton’s love letter to fandom Among Others won the best novel Hugo, beating out Embassytown which beat out Leviathan Wakes.  I wanted to say a couple words about that.

First:  I am and have been a squeeing Jo Walton fan ever since I read Farthing.  I read Among Others aloud to my Darling Wife, and I think it’s a lovely book.  When Jo won the award, I couldn’t stop grinning for her.  Hell, I’m still smiling about it now.

Second:  I am proud and delighted to be mentioned in the same breath with the other authors who were on the ballot, and in the angry grumbling about how close the nomination count was.  (Leviathan Wakes squeaked on.  I mean *squeaked*.)

Third: This is all fun, and none of it matters.  No one who loved Embassytown should love it less because it got a few less votes than Among Others.  No one who admires Charlie Stross is going to turn away from him because he was a couple nominating votes shy of the short-list this time.

Literary awards are a beautiful kind of nonsense, and I was delighted to be swept up in that dream for a little while, and I’m delighted to wake back up from it.  I love my community with all its little triumphs and its occasional hilarious failures of grace.  I love all the folks who are grumpy because we didn’t win, and I love all the folks who were grumpy that we were nominated in the first place.  I am delighted for Jo and for all the other winners.  I appreciate all the time and attention that people have put into this lovely little event, and who will again next year as well.  Really, it was a delight to come and play.

But now I am home.  I have deadlines and bills and dishes, and this part?  It’s actually the part that I love.

Thank you all for being part of this.  I will be a bit scarce for the next couple of weeks, playing catch-up and all.  And I hope to have more news soon.


A Worldcon Clarification

by Daniel Abraham

Because it came up elsewhere:

Yes, I am only appearing on one panel at Worldcon.  No, it is not because I was unwilling to do more.  If you check out how much I’m doing at Bubonicon this weekend, you’ll see it’s much more than one panel.

I ain’t saying success won’t spoil me, just that I’m holding out for more success before I get all spoilt.  🙂

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Caliban Speaks!

by Daniel Abraham

Which is to say has Caliban’s War as an audiobook releasing today, complete with Jefferson May.


Valente, von Trier, and Obstructions

by Daniel Abraham

So it happened like this.  A few years back I was at Walter Jon Williams’ Rio Hondo Workshop with Catherynne Valente.  Now I’d just read her Orphan’s Tales books, and had been delighted and blown away.  Structurally there were (and are) some of the prettiest, most elegant books I’ve ever seen.  Reading them was like watching some gorgeous clockwork move through a predetermined and unpredictable course.  I’m a hard sell for books these days, but I loved those.  Working with her at the workshop was a real treat.

“Out of limitations comes creativity.” — Debbie Allen

In the course of the week, she brought up a film I hadn’t heard of before.  The Five Obstructions.  It’s a documentary of sorts by Lars von Trier.

So yeah.  Lars vor Trier.  Lemme tell you about me and Lars von Trier.  The first time I came across him, I was living on Staten Island and working in Manhattan.  The Angelika is this wonderful little movie house on the edge of Soho, and it showed films that weren’t on anyplace else.  My fiance at the time (not my wife now — long story) and I went there to see something called The Kingdom.  I knew pretty much nothing about it.  It turned out to be four episodes of a Danish miniseries directed by this fella named Lars von Trier.  It was grim and it was horrific and it was funny as hell.  The production looked like it had been done with no money, and the editing jerked and jumped.  The special effects were minimalist and surprisingly effective.  I loved it, and declared myself a lifelong von Trier fan.

It took Lars years to talk me out of that, but he managed.  I sat through Breaking the Waves, which I almost couldn’t watch because of the Blair Witch-level of unsteady camerawork.  I watch Zentropa, which I tried hard to love and managed almost up to the end.  I read his Dogme95 manifesto and wasn’t particularly impressed.  When Dancer in the Dark came out . . . honestly, I just didn’t have it in me.  The films he’s done since, I’ve just taken a pass on.  Antichrist.  Melancholia.  Nah, man.  I’m done.

Except The Five Obstructions.  Because it’s freaking brilliant.

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Another Terrible Idea in Free Verse

by Daniel Abraham

The attacks are inevitable

and insure its survival

whatever the paperwork shows

whatever the paperwork shows.


Below all the mudslinging lies a real divide

We’re falling behind

whatever the paperwork shows

whatever the paperwork shows.


Half-truths and weak arguments

whatever the paperwork shows

what the numbers show

whatever the paperwork shows.

Four Pinocchios.


(All phrases in the above doggerel are taken directly from a Fareed Zakaria article and remixed, mostly as an in-joke with a former editor of mine.  Continue walking, citizen.  There’s nothing to see here.)


Where in the World is Daniel Abraham?

by Daniel Abraham

I’m going to be at Bubonicon in Albuquerque and Worldcon in Chicago by the end of the month.  If any of y’all are in the vicinity, here’s what it looks like:


Friday, August 24:

7:30 PM  55 Minutes with Daniel Abraham (Reading)

9:30 PM  PUMP UP THE VOLUME: WRITING BIG SCIENCE FICTION: D Abraham, M Cassutt, B Sanderson, WJ Williams. Moderator: S.M. Stirling

Saturday, August 25:

D Abraham, S Gwylan, S Krinard, J Saberhagen. Moderator: C. Willis

3 PM Panel #15 – ADAPTATION: FROM EXISTING STORY TO FILM SCRIPT/GRAPHIC NOVEL D Abraham, M Cassutt, S Phillips, M Snodgrass. Moderator: I. Tregillis

Sunday, August 26

10 AM Panel #18 – WHAT’S SPACE OPERA, DOC? THE FAT LADY’S NOT DONE SINGING S Broom, LJ Mixon, M Snodgrass, WJ Williams. Moderator: D. Abraham

Bubonicon also sports a mass autographing and an extra signing just for George and Brandon.


Saturday, September 1

3 PM Autographing session

Sunday, September 2

10 AM Clarion Call (Panel)

There was going to be a reading, but it was scheduled Monday morning about half an hour after I’m due at Midway airport, but if y’all are hanging out at the airport, I’d be happy to tell you a story.

So upshot?  If you’d like to see me on stage talking with some of the most brilliant minds in the industry, come to Bubonicon.  If you’d like to hang out with me at a bar or coffee shop, come to Worldcon.