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

Break’s Over: The News Report

by Daniel Abraham

I had two books due on the first of the month, and then a little grace period to tweak one of them while the inimitable DongWon Song started on the other.  After that, I gave myself a few days to decompress, sit in the hammock, read a book (The Lock Artist), and watch the post-apocalyptic smoke of Arizona burning to death roll in from the west like a stormcloud.

But all that’s done now, and it’s time to get back to work.  I’m finishing up another issue of the Game of Thrones comic book (which, by the way, looks freaking cool — I’ve seen the colored art and lettering for the first issue, and I am quite pleased), working on a fresh Wild Cards story, catching up on email, composing a little essay on one of my favorite genre writers, hunting typos in the submitted manuscripts for Caliban’s War and The King’s Blood and reading proofs for a couple of short stories coming out in anthologies shortly.  Should keep me off the street.

I am waiting for notes back on King’s Blood, which sound like they’re coming shortly with Caliban’s War fast on their heels.  Plus which I’ve turned in the proposal for the next two MLN Hanover books and am now in the tenterhooks phase of that project.  I really enjoy writing the Black Sun’s Daughter books, and I’m always nervous in that gap between turning in the proposal and having them say yes, I get to do more of ’em.  I am, however, optimistic.

And I’m trying to stick with the read a book in a non-professional context every week.  Last week, as I mentioned, was The Lock Artist.  Next week, Painful Yarns: Metaphors and Stories to Help Understand the Biology of Pain.


Want to fly around Saturn?

by Ty Franck

Of course you do.  So go do it.


Sophomore Slump II: Why We Have Fan Fiction

by Daniel Abraham

I was going to make this just a comment in Ty’s post, but I think it deserves it’s own headline.

In a comment, “TheTick” said:

Your typical player of sports who the mainstream media says is having such a slump is almost always facing stiffer competition with less help and more responsibility.

John Simm: Daniel's to play Daniel Abraham in the VH1 Where-Are-They-Now reenactments.

My take on the “sophomore slump” for writers — and especially for those of us writing series — has more to do with reader’s expectations than the actual quality of the books.  When the first book of a series comes out (or the first episode of a television series, or — memorably — the first chapter of a book like Lucius Shepherd’s A Handbook of American Prayer), I get all excited.  I start preparing myself for the ride that I’m on.  The thing is, my idea of where things should go and author’s idea are wildly unlikely to match up perfectly.

I remember watching the first season of Life on Mars — the real one with John Simm — and actively rewriting the show as I watched it to the point that I don’t remember the *actual* show as much as my self-built private version.  The creative forces on it didn’t go where I wanted to, and so I was disappointed.  After the first episode, I had already pointed myself in a direction similar to, but not precisely aligned with where they were actually going.

The books are the same.  Just to take an example, in The Dragon’s Path, I introduce a minor character — Clara — who gets to be the center of a couple of chapters.  If her role expands in the second book, some folks will feel disappointed.  If it doesn’t, there will be some folks who are disappointed.  Over in Carrie Vaughn‘s Kitty Norville series, Kitty forms a serious romantic attachment with one character rather than another, and the partisans of the guy what didn’t get the girl are always going to feel that discomfort.

It’s a fine line, and some ways it’s not fair.  As an author, I’m asking readers to invest in the world I create, believe in and care about the people in it (oh, and pay me while they’re at it), but I don’t want them to take any control.

I think the sophomore slump is all about reacting to the real necessity of making narrative decisions, and wrestling with the fact that they can’t all be the decisions that all the readers would have made.  Readers aren’t monolithic, and there are going to be some who would prefer I’d done it the other way.  No matter which way I go, there will *always* be folks who would have preferred the other way.

Which, I think, is why we have fan fiction.

Fan fiction is where the readers can appropriate the world and characters and tell the story they way it is in their heads.  When I was talking about re-editing Life on Mars, I was basically making a little fan fiction version of the show for an audience of just me.  It was a freaking good show not because it was better than the real one, but because it was tailor-made to push my buttons.  I know.  I was the tailor.

So I’m worried about Caliban’s War and The King’s Blood, but not because I don’t think they’re cracking good books.  I think they’re better in some ways than Dragon’s Path and Leviathan Wakes.  But part of what makes them good books is that they make decisions.  They change their respective stories.  Things happen, and there will always be readers who would have made a different choice.  There’s literally nothing I can do about that except tell the story I’ve got as well as I can, accept that there will be a few grim reviews of the second books, and start writing The Poison Sword and Dandelion Sky.


The Sophomore Slump

by Ty Franck

So ‘Caliban’s War’, the second book in The Expanse series, went off to our publisher yesterday.   It’s a massive tome of 170,000 words, and I did a full re-read and edit of it in just two days before sending it off.  So this entire blog post may just be delirium caused by lack of sleep.

There’s a lot to like.  I like our new characters and what we put them through.  I still love Holden’s little crew on the Rocinante.  I like the glimpse we get of Earth and her politics in our future solar system.  And good grief do I love that ending.

Overall I think it’s at least as strong as Leviathan Wakes was, and in my opinion stronger.  I’m a better writer now.  Daniel understands the universe of the Expanse better than he did during the first book.  We work together very smoothly even when we aren’t typing in the same room.  The trust level has gone way up, on both sides.

But I’ve been warned about the sophomore slump.  So I am suspicious of my own happiness at the second book.  It’s gone out to our readers, so hopefully if we really blew it they’ll give us a heads up.

I did however do what my good pal Carrie Vaughn warned me to do.  I got the second book done before the sales numbers on the first one started rolling in.  I’m glad I did.   No matter what happens to Leviathan Wakes, it won’t stop me from finishing the second book.  So there’s that.


PodCastle Spotlight: The Dragon’s Path

by Daniel Abraham

Podcastle is trying its hand at book reviewing.  Come see what we came up with.

PodCastle » PodCastle Spotlight: The Dragon’s Path.


Howl (not quite a movie review)

by Ty Franck

My wife and I recently watched ‘Howl’, the 2010 release starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.  We both enjoyed the movie, though in a post “So I married an Axe Murderer” world Ginsberg’s stilted beat style poetry readings can seem a little campy.  Blame Mike Meyers for that.

But the court case at the center of the film got my wife and I talking about how quickly the concept of ‘obscenity’ has changed.  The publisher of Howl had to go through an obscenity trial in which various ‘experts’ got on the stands to debate whether or not Ginsberg’s poem had ‘artistic merit,’ because it contained curse words and graphically sexual written imagery.  And this was not in some ancient time before humans became civilized.  This was 1957.

The idea that a writer might have to go to court to justify his word choices by defending his work’s artistic merit seems laughable to us now.  My wife kept repeating, “why on earth are they wasting time with this stupid trial?”  She literally could not conceive of a world in which government prosecutors would spend taxpayer money to put a poem on trial for using the word, “fuck.”

Thanks, Allen.  Thanks, publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti.   Thanks, Judge Clayton W. Horn.  I’m happy to be writing in the world you guys helped create.


Space stations!

by Ty Franck

io9 has a nifty bunch of videos of possible space habitats.  The habitat in an asteroid video is posted next to a mention of Leviathan Wakes and Greg Bear’s book Eon.  This type of asteroid habitat is very different from the cramped corridors of our much less posh stations in Leviathan Wakes, but it’s what I imagine our Belters working their way up to eventually.

Also, getting mentioned in the same breath as Greg Bear doesn’t suck.


Last Rites

by Daniel Abraham

The final revisions of Killing Rites went in to your friends and mine at Pocket yesterday along with the proposal for books 5 and 6 of The Black Sun’s Daughter.  The whole sequence was intended to run 10 books, so if this goes, I will have made it over halfway to that goal.  Friends of Jayné Heller, cross your fingers and light your candles.


Pinoccio is a real boy!

by Ty Franck

Or, I’m a reel riter.  Or something.

But a giant box filled with copies of Leviathan Wakes just showed up.  As Daniel mentions on that tweeter all you crazy kids are using, there is definitely a feeling of Crispin Glover-ness to opening a box of your about to be published science fiction books.

Was this book inspired by a midnight visit from Darth Vader of the planet Vulcan, who threatened to melt my brain with Van Halen guitar solos?  I think we both know it was.


GeekaChicas Interview

by Daniel Abraham

GeekaChicas: James S. A. Corey is the two of you collectively. How did you meet? And why did you decide to write a book together?

Ty Franck: That’s two different questions. The first time I met Daniel, he bought me lunch and I thought he was a dick.

Daniel Abraham: Yup. Turns out my first impressions are not my strong suit.

Read the whole thing here.