Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Deep down he's a nice guy.

This expands on a tweet I made which says:

I saw a reader looking for: "a protagonist who has issues and violent tendencies but deep down is a swell guy"

For me it raises an interesting philosophical point though - what bad things can you be whilst still "being a swell guy deep down", and which bad things preclude that?

Does it even mean anything to be a "swell guy deep down"?

It feels like a question that needs more room than Twitter can easily give it. In some sense it's a question that Prince of Thorns set out to ask, leaving the answer (or more accurately: the spectrum of answers) to the reader.

Let's make no mistake about it, Jorg is not a swell guy deep down. My experiment was to immediately heap him with unforgivable crimes and then see what happened when I made him charming, somewhat funny, very young, and the victim of his own tragic circumstances. I hoped that most readers would find him interesting and enjoy reading about his adventures. Whether they would like him or excuse his behaviour in their minds was far less clear cut. That was the question - and it could be taken as a version of 'how deep do you have to dig to find the swell guy?' The book wonders if that answer is: "forever".

Stepping away from any particular character or book though, the question remains interesting. There's certainly an enduring concept of the antihero / thug / villain with a heart of gold that's difficult to reach, but scratch deep enough and you'll see its colour. At the very last, when the crunch comes, they'll do the right thing.

But doing the right thing at the end of a long string of wrong things is certainly not the same as being a good guy deep down ... or maybe it is ... in which case being a good guy deep down is just making a good/kind/just decision in extremis.

To be honest, I have difficulty with the whole concept of being a good guy deep down. Does it perhaps just mean that there's the potential for you to be a good guy given the right circumstances? That a redemption arc beckons but might not be taken if the conditions don't arise?

Because surely you're either a good guy or something else on the spectrum between the shifting sands of good and bad. A good guy deep down? You could be a terrible person who does a few nice things. A murderer who is genuinely kind and helpful to a disabled child maybe. That's just an example of people being complex things. Bad things tend to disproportionately poison the well. Someone who has devoted their life to good causes and has only once ever tortured a child to death ... they're still not someone you're going to feel relaxed leaving your kids with. Even someone who donated a kidney and has spent their whole life working for charity is still pretty tainted if you discover they kick a particular dog on the way to work every day.

The "deep down" suggests that for this person the bad acts are in the majority. I'd say that person is not a good guy, and even if they are guaranteed to do the right, or even heroic, thing when it comes to the crunch, I'm not comfortable calling them a good guy.

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Thursday, 12 August 2021

Finalists for the 7th SPFBO

 300 contestants are being narrowed to 10 finalists.

Finalists (so far) for SPFBO 7

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off finalists are listed and scored on this page

The process of selection is in progress, and is documented here.

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Sunday, 1 August 2021

Prince of Thorns is TEN today!

 Prince of Thorns has been on the shelves for a decade!

The UK paperback is in its 25th printing.

I'll take the chance to say thanks - thank you to my readers (and my publishers) for letting me spend the past ten years writing stories, and more than that - living in them. It's been an unexpected privilege.

Check out the 9th8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd, and 1st birthday round-ups. 

I now have 15 books on the shelves!

The most recent addition was The Girl And The Mountain, in April.

Being a numbers guy as well as a words guy I like to keep track of things and record them for when I'm doddery and old, looking back at my 'glory' days.

On Goodreads Prince of Thorns has passed 100,000 ratings!

I have been very neglectful of the blog of late, and it's shown in plateauing traffic, but still ~30,000 hits a month isn't too shabby and this year it cruised past 3.5 million hits in total.

And my quest to conquer Twitter crawls on...

Well, that's my annual stock-take. Over & out, until next year.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Goodreads Statistics

Since I've been given shit before for info-graphics based entirely on the opinions voiced in the Fantasy-Faction facebook group, here are some explanations and disclaimers.

I asked this question to the group's 28,100 members. This blog post is for them.

"The most famous/significant fantasy author you've yet to read?"

At the time of writing there are 177 answers. It stuck me how differently the members viewed significance and fame - this of course through the filter that these are authors they have not yet read. 

It's possible that those giving the most obscure answers were spectacularly well-read and really had read all the famous/significant fantasy authors. Moreover fame and significance are not the same thing. Many fantasy authors and hardcore readers consider Gene Wolfe highly significant, his recognition among the wider readership (i.e fame) however is much lower.

Not a single one of these authors is here because I chose them. Not a single author is absent because I chose to ignore them. They're simply the ones featured in the answers to the above question on that group. I have no input regarding the demographics of the authors featured.


The area of the circles are proportional to the number of Goodreads rating that author has. The height on the diagram is roughly correlated to that size. 

An author's number of Goodreads ratings is correlated in some degree to the number of sales they've made, and thus in some degree to their fame, and has some more tenuous association to their significance - at the least it's hard to be significant if nobody has read your work. 

The relation between Goodreads ratings and sales is time dependent - you can compare books from a similar period and published during Goodreads' existence quite well. The older the book the larger the number you would need to multiply the ratings by to get the sales. Thus two fantasy books published in the early 2010s could have their sales compared with some confidence via ratings numbers.

It is NOT the case that much older books can be compared to newer ones in this manner. Stephen Donaldson (for example) has certainly sold 10x my numbers, but did so largely in the late 70s. His relatively low number of ratings is more an indication of how many people are reading those books today, combined with how many people remember them etc. The fact that Tolkein can still sit near the top is testimony to the spectacular and enduring success of his work.

So, with all that said - here's the data:


Monday, 12 July 2021

10th anniversaries!

Today, as well as being my dad's 81st birthday is the 10th anniversary of A Dance With Dragons' release. A series I got my dad into reading.

I reviewed ADWD for the Sunday Express (UK national newspaper), again - thanks to my publisher for the gig - and my review ended thusly: "Turning the final page you can only be disappointed . . . to find it is the last, and you’ll immediately want to reach for the next volume. And there maybe lies the rub."

I have very positive memories of ADWD, not least because my UK publisher gave me a huge boost by giving away 1,000 copies of Prince of Thorns with ADWD copies bought in Waterstones. ADWD marks the start of my publishing journey, and Prince of Thorns celebrates its 10th anniversary at the start of August (pre-order your 10th anniversary edition while there are some left)

I'm still keen to read Winds of Winter, but there's plenty to keep me busy meantime.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

A blog post about the blog!

Over the years the site that hosts this blog (Blogger) slowly changes the tools it offers to oversee things.

For example, the traffic monitor has a new look:

3,620,000 visits ... not bad!

It also shows you more of your most popular pages. And it's fair to say that the SPFBO has come to dominate my blog traffic! This is the all time popularity chart. The SPFBO homepage top of it with 61,800 view to date.

However, for the interested - here are links to my most popular non-SPFBO blog posts, ranked in order.

The biggest fantasy debuts in the past decade!

The World's Best Selling Fantasy Books

Grimdark. We're nailing it down!

Anatomy of a burglary - a four-act play.

Leading causes of fantasy deaths.

Towering Fantasy

Covers. (with a mere 15,000 views)