Now Playing: Yeah, yeah, yeahs
News of the ten book contract is out there now, so many thanks for the congratulations and good wishes I've received, and the many kind things I've seen here and there on the internet. As some have noted, while it's good for me - no bones about that - it also says something encouraging about the state of the genre. Far from dying on its feet (I've been reading obituaries for SF for about as long as I've been reading them about rock music) it's not doing at all badly, and may even be in the ascendant.
The contract doesn't change much as far as my writing habits are concerned. I've been hitting about a book a year since I started with Orion in 1999 - in fact we've done nine novels and three collections in ten years, or will have by the time the year's out - and all that's really required of me is to keep on the same level of productivity for another ten. It's not to be taken lightly, but at the same it's not too daunting. I've always wanted to be a prolific writer, and so a book a year feels about right to me. The idea of spending two or three years of my life on a single work fills me with existential dread, although that's purely a reflection on my own approach to the craft, which is very much a case of diving in and immersing myself in a book at a level which would almost certainly drive me insane if it lasted longer than six or nine months. To put it in rock terms, I'd rather be Neil Young than one of those artists who only releases work every three years or so. At that same time, I'm aware of the hazards of over-production: there are writers whose work I followed assiduously, until they gradually outstripped my capability to keep up. In many cases I simply stopped them reading them entirely. Obviously I'll be hoping that isn't the case with all my readers, but at the same time I'm mindful of the possibility. Above all else, I'll be working hard to improve my books and stretch my range, while at the same time hopefully delivering the kind of big SF kicks that I'm perhaps best known for. Sitting here now, I can honestly say that the last thing I feel is complacent or smug. Excited and apprehensive in equal measure is more like it - and acutely aware that I've been fortunate on many levels. For all its flaws, my first novel found a readership, and while it wasn't everyone's cup of tea - hell, I'm not even sure it would have been mine - REVELATION SPACE did get me off to a good start. I'm in no doubt that timing and marketing played a massive role in that, but what mattered was that it provided a foundation for the subsequent books. I'm also truly grateful that both my publisher and my readers (or enough of them, anyway) were happy to see me strike off into different fictional universes, be it the faux-1959 of CENTURY RAIN or the near-future spacefaring solar system of PUSHING ICE. I love doing the Revelation Space stories, but - gratifyingly - I've never felt like I was a prisoner of them. Maybe that's why I still like doing them.
I've been lucky in many other ways. I've worked with a supportive and understanding editor - the excellent Jo Fletcher - for all my novels to date, and my agent Robert Kirby has been a genuine star. But I've also had the benefit of a great family, a wonderful and supportive wife, and friends who've been there when I needed them. I had a great job at ESA which involved working with some truly smart people (people who made me realise that I'm actually a bit of a thicko on many levels), and for most of the last fifteen years I've had the financial security to be able to treat writing as a glorified hobby - something I'll do so long as it's fun/challenging/whatever. That's still pretty much my attitude: it almost never feels like a day job. I've also had the benefit in my adult years of stamina and good health - something you can never take for granted. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the current SF and fantasy scene will know of writers who are dealing with issues of personal health that would make almost all the usual writerly grievances - certainly any that I ever have to deal with - look very trivial indeed. So I'm not only lucky, but mindful that there are writers (and readers, for that matter) out there who'd love the certainty of ten years of life, let alone ten years of income. So yes, a very happy camper here.
That's about it for now, I think. Time to mention, if you aren't already aware of it, that there's a new story of mine ready to download as an audio podcast from the Guardian:
See what you make of it - and don't be too put off by the narrator.