World Building at SF Signal

Hey y’all,

I was recently asked my thoughts on an example of excellent SF/F world building by the good folks over at SF Signal. Go on over and see what I and plenty of folks smarter than me had to say about it. Why not? My god, you’re reading my blog, you can’t have much else to do right now.


More Unicorn

Well, heard back from my genius editor at Orbit about The Eternal Prison, so the long dark tea-time of my soul begins in earnest. Meaning I have some revisions to make.

Here’s my recollection of the conversation, which should go a long way to illustrating the Exciting Life of a Novelist in These, The End Times:

Genius Editor: Hello! Put on some pants and listen.

ME: Uh. . .pants, pants, pants. . .hold on. . .pants, pants, where the hell–ah! Here’s a pair. Not mine, but will have to do. <grunting noise> Whew! I’ve, uh, gained a few–okay! We’re in. Shoot.

GE: I just got done with The Eternal Prison. Excellent. Best one so far. You’re a genius.

ME: Hooray!

GE: Wait, don’t start drinking yet.

ME: <pausing with bottle in air> Uh, okay.

GE: I could not help but notice that we seem to be missing several chapters. Like, the whole sequence when they visit the Center of the Earth to retrieve the magic ring? Aside from not really being in concert with the universe you’ve created in the first two books, this whole sequence is just not there. At the end of one chapter they say they’re heading to the Center of the Earth, and the next chapter it’s like fifteen years later and that whole adventure is recalled in flashback by the characters. Very few flashbacks. It was very confusing. Was there a Unicorn? Because there was a lot of Unicorn imagery that might have made more sense if we’d been given that part of the story.

ME: Got it: more unicorn. I can do that.

GE: And, frankly, the whole last third of the book seems like ten chapters from a totally different book, just pasted in with the character and place names searched-and-replaced. Which I can tell because the search-and-replacing was sloppy, resulting in Avery Cates being referred to as Avery DorCatesothy throughout. Aside from this sort of unprofessional mistake, the last third of the book, as a consequence, makes absolutely no sense. Suddenly they’re in a zeppelin on an alien planet? And there’s elves?

ME: Uh. . .would more unicorn solve this as well?

GE: No, frankly, it would not. I think you have to re-write the whole last third. You know, so it makes sense.

ME: Uh-huh. Sure, sure. No problem.

GE: Good.

ME: What, exactly, does “make sense” mean, in this context? I really don’t see why more unicorn wouldn’t work here as well. It would, you know, create a visual link between the two sections.

GE: Moving on, I can’t help but notice that several chapters interspersed throughout the manuscript are, in actualilty, Wikipedia entries, simply cut-and-pasted into the file, with no attribution or explanation. The entries don’t even seem to have anything to do with the story. For example, chapter 17 is the entry for the Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden.

ME: Shows what you know. This is deep, Joyce-ian stuff, here. You have to look deeper. I am a genius. Of sorts.

GE: Well, we can’t publish it like this.

ME: Right! I’ve been taking notes. Let’s see. . .basically, you want more unicorn. That’s what I’m getting.


ME: Oh! Right. And lose the Wikipedia stuff, despite the fact that that’s the core of the book and will win awards for us. But I should delete the Wikipedia entries. And more unicorn. Got it! When do you need a rewrite? I’m pretty open, I could have it to you by tomorrow morning. Maybe noon, but probably morning.

GE: …

ME: Holy shit, do you think there’s a Wikipedia page on unicorns? Damn, I might have this re-write for you by tonight.

GE: <dial tone>

My memory may not be what it once was, so some of the details may have been fudged in there. Back to work!


The Eternal Prison

How Jeff DealsSo, I handed in the final manuscript of The Eternal Prison today, otherwise known as Avery Cates #3. My editor at Orbit is brilliant and a little frightening, but I think this story is kick-ass and I can’t wait to hear what she thinks. Besides, the very few people in this world I trust to read rough drafts of novels (i.e., The Wife and The Agent) have given it their seal of approval.

Still, makes me nervous. In a weird way I’d almost prefer to keep all my works hidden, just for me to gloat over. I think a lot of writers have this reluctance to release their work into the wild, and we all have different ways of handling it. Me, I drink. When I’m nice and liquored up I call my editor at 3AM and slur on and on about how genius I am, and then email the manuscript to her. Then I wake up 2 days later in Philadelphia. This process has worked pretty well so far.

Anyhoo, now we await the Edit Letter, which is where my editor tells me how ungenius I am and gives me her opinions. Sometimes these Edit Letters are thin and easy to deal with. Sometimes they are tomes of grave horror. We’ll see which way this one goes. If I am drunker than usual in a few weeks, you’ll have a clue.


From The Inner Swine…

I’m putting together the new issue of my zine, The Inner Swine, and thought I’d cross-post this essay written by me and old friend Jeof Vita (also the cover artist for TIS). It’s about the comic book we co-authored a decade ago, mentioned previously on this blog. Enjoy! Or don’t, bastards.

Jeff and Jeof Wrote a Comic, Once
The Birth, Glorious Existence, and Sudden Demise of Evil Boys, Inc.
by Jeff Somers & Jeof Vita

JEFF SOMERS: THE YEAR was 1996. I was 25 years old and had just started to realize that working a 9-5 job for a living was a liquor-greased slide into hell. Bill Clinton was President, and everyone was complaining that Alanis Morrisette’s hit single Ironic didn’t contain a single ironic statement in it. The Macarena was waiting in the wings like a bloated spider eager to feast on your bodily fluids, and The Inner Swine was not yet the international sensation it was soon to become.

This was also the year TIS cover artist Jeof Vita and I co-wrote a comic book.



Xerography Debt

I suddenly realize that I have been shockingly lame in not plumping for Xerography Debt. What is Xerogaphy Debt? Heathen. XD is a zine-review zine, which is to say it is a DIY, underground publication that reviews other DIY, underground publications. They’ve reviewed my zine, The Inner Swine, many times, and for the last few issues I’ve contributed a kick-ass column called It Means Its Wank. No, really, that’s the title.

Fun fact: XD used to be called Xerox Debt until they got flack from Xerox about the trademark. Seriously.

There are thousands of zines out there, folks. Like anything else numbered in the thousands, most are crap. The rest can offer perspectives and writing you just won’t see anywhere else – finding the gems among the chaff is the trick. And that’s where a zine like XD comes in – the reviews give you something to go on when sending dollar bills in the mail for ziney treats. There are other zine-review zines out there – Zine World being the  yang to XD’s ying – as well as purely zine-review web sites, like Zine Thug. But naturally, since I have a column in XD, I think it’s the best. The best! Plus also too, Davida, the main force behind XD, is super cool. Plus also also too, she just started a blog for Xerography Debt, which I occasionally post to. I don’t get invited to contribute to too many blogs, because of the cursing. And the drunkenness. And the inexcusable inability to spell. So when it happens, I get very emotional about it.

If you’re curious about zines and DIY publishing, check out XD and maybe order something that looks interesting. Why not? For two bucks and a stamp you might discover something amazing. You might also get a crudely illustrated diary from a very boring person. Not knowing is part of the adventure of zines!


Footloose and Fancy Free

Well, just finished the first draft of The Eternal Prison, Avery Cates #3. And, who knows, possibly Avery Cates Terminus, you know? I’m only contracted for 3 books, so future installments in that man’s slow descent into a violent and painful death (you know it’s inevitable) are, for the moment, theoretical. I have ideas, though.

Of course, first draft just means I’ve stopped writing for a few days while 2 or 3 trusted minions read it and deliver to me their comments. Then I take their comments, get drunk, and if I agree with anything I revise again before sending it on to my editor. That’s when the real nail-biting begins, because if I get a 33-page memo from her about what she doesn’t like about the manuscript, the drinking begins in earnest, baby.

Meanwhile, we just sold Italian rights for The Digital Plague, which means a slightly better chance that I’ll earn out the advance and not be kidnapped and held hostage by my Corporate Masters, locked in a crawlspace for weeks, living on pipe runoff and rat carcases while my wife struggles to raise the eleventy billion dollars they demand for my safe return. We’re huge in Italy! And thank god we’re huge somewhere.

And, as a random thought, I watched Frank Darabont’s The Mist last night. I’d read King’s story eons ago, and thought the film was very well done. The ending, which differs from the original, was a goddamn kick to the head though. I was flabbergasted. In a good way. If I’d been drunker I would have wept, but luckily I was somewhat sober.


Fun with Reviews

Okay, so a little ego surfing today yielding the following trail through the heaven and hell of being a writer. First off, we stumbled across Wred Fright’s review of The Digital Plague. Full disclosure: Wred’s a zine acquaintance so we dig each other’s musky odors and cocky strut from the get go, but he does say

“Fans of Somers’s longtime zine The Inner Swine will find much to like here, as will any devotee of cliffhanger thrills, futuristic action, brutal humor, and thought-provoking commentary on the future of society and technology.”

Huzzah! At the same time, I came across a comment on a bulletin board that sported what will become the slogan of my nightmares for some months to come, found here [emphasis mine, because I enjoy taunting myself]:

“I’ve just finished The Electric Church by Jeff Somers. It is the shittest book I’ve read since Punktown by Jeffery Thomas.

BOO-YA, now that is what an author likes to come across. It’s like going down to the kitchen to get a glass of water in the middle of the night and stepping on a broken glass! I’m thinking of having mugs and T-shirts made up.

Ah, but the universe, she is merciful as well as cruel, because my ego-Googling also turned this awesome review of TEC in The New Straits Times, which is out of freakin’ Malaysia, boyos:

“A brilliant novel within its genre.”

So we’ve just been through all of life’s emotions in one blog post. Some wonder why I insist on pointing out things like the middle review; I think I simply enjoy Schadenfreude wherever I find it, even if I find it in me.


Brutarian #51

Brutarian #51As many of you know, I write a regular column for the magazine Brutarian, which is probably the best magazine out there you can’t easily find on racks. Four bucks an issue to Dom Salemi, 9405 Ulysses Court, Burke, VA 22015.
Aside from my genius column (“The Inner Swine Guide to Ignorance”), there’s a regular column from the hilarious Gene Gregorits and fiction from D. Harlan Wilson and Libby Faucette, and an interview with Joe Hill among others. Damn, you should possess this. For one more reason, in this issue there’s even a really nice review of my novel, The Electric Church. Conflict of interest? Perhaps, but I doubt I’d have gotten a rave just because I write a stinking column for the mag.

“A thrilling, top-notch roller coaster ride filled with all manner of thrills, spills, and chills that, in the process manages to turn the conventions. . .of cyberpunk on its head.”




It’s a gloomy morning in Hoboken, and while I’m enjoying the nifty little weather icon in my AWN Dock I just installed on my Kubuntu desktop (I lurves the eye candy, even though whenever my friend Jeof Vita sees my desktop he accuses me of secretly wanting a Mac, which infuriates me) the tiny clouds are a little grim to my eye. I’ve been going through a bit of home-improvement fever, too, resulting in much aching and sleepiness. Nothing like wiring up three or four new light fixtures, along with the accompanying drywall repair and painting, to make one feel one’s age.

In the writing front, I’m almost done with the seat-of-my-pants first draft of Avery #3, about 3-4 chapters from the very end. Thus, writing has slowed to a crawl. This always happens to me. I like having a lot of blacktop out in front of me, with vague but blurry ideas of where things are going and lots of room for sudden ideas and twists. Once I get to the very last few inches I generally know exactly what’s going to happen, and actually writing it becomes something of a chore, somehow.

I don’t like to plot out too much, or do outlines, or anything like that. The technical term, I’ve learned, is Pantsing(1). Some people plot, some people write by the seat of their pants, just making it up as they go. I Pants. Plotting just makes me sick, to paraphrase Gene Wilder in Blazing Saddles.

So, 3-4 chapters to go and it’ll probably take me 3-4 years to finish. Just kidding, editors and agents who might be reading this! Damn, I wonder if this is what J.D. Salinger’s been up to for 60 years? One chapter to go and he just can’t bring himself to finish?

Yes, I just brought up Salinger in connection with myself. I am going to be punished. For hubris.

(1)This is appropriate since I spend so much time searching for lost pants, and going about pantsless.


It’s All Happening

Ah, the writing life. The indignities we sensitive artist types have to endure. The slings and arrows of unsatisfied readers, the hell of promotion–it is all ours to enjoy. A few things:

– First off, The Electric Church was involved in Fantasy Book Spot’s 2007 best Of Tournament, and before I even knew clearly what was happening TEC lost 6-1 to Gene Wolfe’s Pirate Freedom. For god’s sake, I was put up against Gene fricking Wolfe. If I’m going to be put up against geniuses – the man wrote The Book of the New Sun, a work I am still struggling to fully comprehend – then I might as well just go home. Damn you all.

But at least I didn’t suffer the indignity that Nick Mamatas suffered in the same tournament.

– Secondly, The Digital Plague, TEC’s sequel, has just been optioned by The Science Fiction Book Club! That totally rocks.

– Finally, I’ll be reading at KGB Bar in Manhattan in August. HUZZAH! Number one, me reading. Number two, me doing something other than heartfelt wishing to promote my own books. Number three, a tavern. Damn–I can get liquored up, stumble to the microphone, pass out, and still get credit for promoting my books! It’s a win-win!

WHEN: August 20th, 2008,
WHERE: KBG Bar, 85 East 4th Street, NY, NY
WHY: Jeff drinks and can only read when drunk

I realize this is a bit early, but naturally, all of you are coming. Simply by reading this post you have agreed to attend this reading. No, seriously–my last reading could politely be described as a debacle, so I will be using all manner of pleading, cajoling, threats and chicanery to get people to come to this one, so you might as well mark your calendar. If I have to slip you a mickey, roll you up in carpet, and drive you there in a van myself, I will. Don’t push me on this.