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SubPress
Posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 - 02:49 pm:   

Hi Steph,

I really loved THE YEAR OF OUR WAR when I read it earlier this year. The Edward Miller dj was perfect for it, as well.

Can I trouble you to drop me an email (subpress at earthlink dot net)?

I run Subterranean Press, which has published a few folks you might have heard of: Dan Simmons, Joe R. Lansdale, Poppy Z. Brite, Peter Straub.

I'd like to talk with you a moment about something.

With all best wishes,

Bill Schafer
www.subterraneanpress.com
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Steph
Posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 04:02 am:   

Absolutely. Please check your inbox later today.

I'm in Stockholm at the moment (looking at the Vasa warship -- essential research :-) ). But I'll be home next week.
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Adam
Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2004 - 07:11 am:   

Hi - I've just added The Year of Our War to my reading list, because it sounds fabulous.

I just wanted to mention the Vasa museum, though - it's extraordinary isn't it. The (extremely well-preserved) remains are haunting and beautiful - almost other-worldly, but more impressive in the knowledge that it *is* real.
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neilw
Posted on Thursday, January 13, 2005 - 08:12 am:   

Hi Steph

Can you email me please. I have a long ago promise to honour, but no longer have your email.

Neil Williamson
neil(at)williamson01(dot)fsnet(dot)co(dot)uk
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Steph
Posted on Saturday, January 15, 2005 - 03:15 am:   

Hi Neil. I remember. I'll send a mail soon.
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Henry Kaiser
Posted on Thursday, November 10, 2005 - 05:21 pm:   

Dear Steph Swainston,

Just really enjoyed reading NO PRESENT LIKE TIME
here in a tent on the sea ice of the Ross Sea, Antarctica.
I love how I can feel the rest of the world and events
in your imagination existing far beyond the bounds
of the two novels.

Drop me an email address c/o the webmaster at
http://www.henrykaiser.net/
and I could send you some pix from here.
It's very otherwordly, especially under the ice
where I spend time each day as a research diver.

Henry Kaiser near McMurdo Station at NEW HARBOR, ANTARCTICA
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Steph
Posted on Wednesday, December 07, 2005 - 12:41 pm:   

Henry,

Fantastic! Sorry it’s taken me ages – I’ve sent you this in an email as well. I’d love some photos, I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica. How lucky you are! I’m guessing you’re still in the tent and enjoying a polar summer.

A friend of mine was in Back Bay in the’60’s and another guy I knew, Nigel Larkin, was with the British Antarctic Survey (Ross Shelf, Charcot Island, the edge of the Plateau) in 1999. I should imagine the white wilderness changes you. I would probably end up an even more rabid conservationist than I am.

I once knew an ice-diver but I’ve never seen a hole in the ice quite as deep as the one in the picture on your website. I’ve tried diving but can’t ‘equalise’ so its one activity closed to me. Send me a line about your research, though; I like hearing about people’s research. Nigel, for example, I last saw him restoring the West Runton elephant. Very cool.

I’ve been writing ‘Castle’ since the summer of 1982, 23 years. So many more stories and a lot more theory exists than I’ve put in the book. More will emerge. I can look back over two crates of notebooks, sketches and maps, since the Castle world was first a playground game in my primary school, with 12 kids playing the characters. It then evolved in my personal diaries as I started to pack as many events and as much detail as possible from my own life into it. It has always been running, in real time, in the back of my mind. But I won’t present everything and I won’t let it run dry.

Cheers! Chat up a penguin for me. Steph.x.
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Michael Haulica
Posted on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 06:59 am:   

Hi Steph, I'm an editor for Tritonic Publishing Group (Bucharest, Romania). I'm interested to publish your books in Romanian translation. Could you send me by e-mail the name and the e-mail address of your agent? Thank you.
Michael Haulica
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Steph
Posted on Wednesday, January 04, 2006 - 11:52 am:   

Hello Michael -- I've replied by email.
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Mark Stewart
Posted on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - 06:14 am:   

Hello Steph

I had the pleasure of meeting yourself, Chris Priest and China Mieville at last year's Kingston Readers Festival.

I was fascinated to listen in particular to the way in which you and China described your processes for world building and character creation. I have spent the intervening year working on my own novel which is now all but completed. I would welcome your advice on one particular point, bearing in mind the genre prejudice that was discussed during the Readers Festival meeting.

Is it possible to correspond briefly with you via email? I won't take up more than a few moments of your time.

Best regards.

Mark
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Saturday, June 10, 2006 - 02:43 pm:   

Hi Steph,

I came across "The Year of Our War" at an obscure Belgian bookfestival and have been hooked ever since ;)

Some time ago I initated an article about you at wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steph_Swainston
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Year_of_Our_War
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Present_Like_Time

If you want anything added, changed or removed just let me know. Or, since this is the wikipedia, you can of course implement any changes yourself as well.

Looking forward to your new book!

Daniel
(from Austria)

P.S. In case you're interested in my experience of "The Year of our war" (not really a review), take a look at
http://danieleu.blogspot.com/
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 01:03 pm:   

I've just sent Castle3 to the publishers.

Hi, Mark

I remember the Kingston Readers' Festival. I was ill with back pain that night, but I think I managed to hold my own against China's arrogance and condescension. He was like that at university as well; I don't know why I expected any different.

As I said in my email, you're welcome to talk about this online. By 'genre prejudice' I didn't mean the prejudice that people outside F&SF have for the genre - we all know about that. I was talking about the fact that F&SF genre critics and people who read only in the genre are not able to interpret some books which come from a more mainstream tradition. They lack the 'toolkit' to interpet them and must do so only on the basis of their own usual reading.

You can see an example of this in John Clute's review of YOOW above. He makes many mistakes in explaining the book because he does so from a standard (heroic) fantasy viewpoint. He omits the aspects of the book I consider most important. I don't have or write from a standard fantasy background myself - at least, not for fifteen years. As a result critics are usually just plain wrong about my work.

(Besides, it's bizarre that critics make something up rather than just asking what you meant. Maybe they should only examine the work of dead authors.)

Thank god for readers like yourself and Daniel, and the Antarctic chap above. Still, it is clear to me that the gulf between genres is as wide or wider than ever, and it will never close.

The vital thing is not to get worked up about it. Keep going and let people take what they want from your writing. Each will have their own interpretation and that's something to be celebrated, not decried.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 01:22 pm:   

Hi Daniel,

Thanks very much for your comments especially on your blog. This is EXACTLY the sort of experience I find most interesting. You see - you picked it up because the title was different, despite all the crap the publishers put on the blurb. For the next book, 'The Modern World', I couldn't make the US publishers accept the title. They insisted on 'Dangerous Offspring' instead. They want to make Castle look the same as their other heroically packaged fantasy... you wouldn't believe some of the draft cover art; it's given me grey hairs and a nervous twitch just looking at it.

There is an immense pressure to conform. I reckon my job is to ignore that pressure. I'm getting better at it but I wish I'd realised it earlier.

Yes, I have been writing the Fourlands since I was young. In its orginal form it dates back to 1982 and I've records going back to 1987. It was very different then, of course, and it has evolved through stages. The problem is the good changes have also come about through response to pressure, so the world has always been susceptible to outside influences. Lots of people have done what they want with it, and it's collected their suggestions, dropped some, kept others.

That's why I love the fact people I'll never meet are now using and changing the world for their own purposes - for example online gamers. Brilliant!
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - 04:00 pm:   

Hi Steph,

Many thanks for getting back to me and I’m glad to hear you found my ramblings interesting :-). I’m just back from Neil Asher’s Polity (in the literary world) and preparing my move to Brussels (in the real world) - sorry for the late response.

I googled (or rather “searched with google”) “The Modern World” and found the following cover design, which I thought was very nice:
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/steph-swainston/modern-world.htm

I much preferred the “Spartan” covers of your previous books (with the sliver wings for your first book and the sword for the second one) to the covers which actually depict Jant. Google showed me there is really a lot of different covers, in particular for the foreign language editions. By the way did you know that “the year of our war” was translated into German simply as “Komet” (i.e. Comet)? I haven’t read the German version so I can’t judge how good the translation as a whole is but it seems the translator didn’t take that much time with the title.

I also read your response to Mark on the message board: don’t get too annoyed with critics like Mr. Clute. Just think of the Polish-German critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki who once tore a novel apart and trampled on it, shouting “this book is bad, bad, bad” (with a Polish-German accent). So I guess Mr. Clute is still preferable to that ;)

One more thing: since I will move to Brussels I was thinking of maybe attending one of the Science Fiction events in the UK. Since I have never done so before, I was wondering if you could recommend one or two particularly interesting conventions, conferences (whatever they are called). Will you present your new book (reading in a bookstore or something like that) once it is published?

Kind regards and best of luck with your literary work!


Daniel
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Barry Murphy
Posted on Sunday, September 10, 2006 - 01:29 pm:   

Hi Steph,

I'm just an ordinary fan, studying science in Ireland, and I just wanted to thank you "in person" for writing the Castle books!

The Fourlands has become my favourite fantasy world, overtaking Terry Pratchett's Discworld (and I've read 34 of his books :-) ) and my girlfriend and my mother both agree!

I have been wondering are YOOW and NPLT part of a trilogy or an extended series? It says on my copy of NPLT that it's the second instalment of a trilogy... Please say you've revised this to a series! You've got to tell us more stories of Jant and the other Eszai!

Well, if you wouldn't mind chatting to a fan please drop me an email at

baz at unreal dot ie

Thanks Steph!

-Barry
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Barry Murphy
Posted on Monday, September 11, 2006 - 11:12 am:   

Hey, another post I've gotta make...

After finding this place and reading some more about the Fourlands, I had been thinking about it going to bed last night, and during the night I had a really vivid dream.. Insects had broken through to Earth, and I was in one of the last walled cities, with everyone preparing to make their last stand.

I was with a friend of mine and his family, and his youngest sister wanted me to pick her up, so I did and carried her around looking at all the other people there.

They were all ordinary people, not soldiers or police, and they were making weapons from whatever they could find, but it was obvious that they had no chance. It was so sad!

I woke up when we were waiting on the walls for the Insect swarm, but I still had a terrible feeling of despair in the pit of my stomach, and it stayed with me for the next few hours in work! Just gave me a real insight into what it would be like living like that! It sucked!

-Barry
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Hugh Jones
Posted on Thursday, September 14, 2006 - 04:31 am:   

Hi Steph

Thankyou. What a joy, albeit a dark one, to find such unusual novels. As someone who reads eveything from "modern classics" to noir and (only occasionally these days) sf&f, I was delighted to find myself in a world where Swift and Peake seem to have got it together with Hunter Thompson. The only sf&f writer you remind me of is Neal Stephenson with perhaps a touch of Iain Banks (although not his sf&f). Only trouble with your bloody books is once I start reading I don't get any work done!

Oddest of all is that as an ex music tour manager and event producer the imortals remind me of many people I've worked with, both creative and technical. Most seemed to be extraordinary in one way or another and determined to make life dramatic. Fortunately I don't think I've yet met a San.

I look forward to more of the same - how about something shorter that could become a radio play (sorry, cheeky to interfere).

All the very best.

Hugh Jones
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 01:48 pm:   

Hi, guys. Sorry it’s taken me two weeks to get back to you. I’ll be swifter in future. I’ve been in the Alps for a week – a holiday and research for the next Castle book. In Chamonix valley I saw a golden eagle soaring in silhouette over the pine forest, carrying a snake. The snake was writhing and dangling from the eagle’s talons. What an iconic image!

Then a book ‘My Name is Red’ by Orhan Pamuk grabbed my attention all last week. I recommend it and I’m looking out for Pamuk’s other novels.
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richard morgan
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:03 pm:   

Hi Steph,

Try Pamuk's "Snow" - it's more contemporary, so makes its points in a less ornate fashion than "Red". Very evocative in places, and a real insight into the mess between trad. islamic tendency and political modernism in Turkey. It does flag a bit in places too, but then that may just be me - I found a lot of "Red" hard work as well.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:08 pm:   

Daniel, hi.

I hope the move to Brussels is going well. I stayed in Brussels for six weeks in an amazing old house belonging to the Musee Nationale. Bar lunches lasted all afternoon, they were great. In the Fourlands, the Rachiswater Grand Place is based on the Brussels Grand Place. Incidentally the UK typesetter changed it to ‘Grand Palace’ which just shows how difficult it is to get a new kind of fantasy published without mishaps.

Yes, I do prefer the ‘spartan’ covers too, but only the US covers are very intrusive into the reader's imagination. The problem with the silver-on-white is it doesn’t show up well online or in the bookshops. They get dirty easily too – book distribution warehouses can be dusty; I worked in one so I know. I remember not even having a ladder; I had to climb the shelves to look for stock.

There is quite an extraordinary variety of covers. The French and Spanish ones are great, albeit the Spanish one has Jant with a trident and blond hair for some reason (I like it 'cause he looks like Iggy Pop).

Thanks for telling me about the German version. What the hell have they done with the cover? Pink?? I had nothing to do with that, OK? Jant doesn’t fly naked. He’s the Emperor’s Messenger, not a nudist.

German cover art

OK, laugh it up.

I send a description of Jant to any artist who asks but mostly I'm not in contact with foreign publishers. If an artist tries to represent a book he hasn’t read, what comes out is a picture of their prejudices rather than a picture of the story. The US cover of YOOW was influenced by marketing; the artist Christophe Sivet was very receptive but the chain of ‘Chinese whispers’ was much too long – from me to the USA, to Findhorn community in Scotland to be translated into French, to Christophe in France.

I’m not bothered by critics. I was just saying that Clute criticised from a standard fantasy viewpoint, a paradigm that Castle wasn’t meant to fit. As Goya said, ‘There are also literary asses.’
But let’s leave them there, talking to themselves. I’m more in the generous mood of Tristam Shandy’s comment to critics: ‘Go, poor devil; get thee gone. Why should I hurt thee? The world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me.’

About the SF events in the UK: I’ll have a website up shortly which will keep you posted. I don’t yet know what events I’ll be attending when The Modern World is published but check the website.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:12 pm:   

Daniel, hi.

I hope the move to Brussels is going well. I stayed in Brussels for six weeks in an amazing old house belonging to the Musee Nationale. Bar lunches lasted all afternoon, they were great. In the Fourlands, the Rachiswater Grand Place is based on the Brussels Grand Place. Incidentally the UK typesetter changed it to ‘Grand Palace’ which just shows how difficult it is to get a new kind of fantasy published without mishaps.

Yes, I do prefer the ‘spartan’ covers too, but only the US covers are very intrusive into the reader's imagination. The problem with the silver-on-white is it doesn’t show up well online or in the bookshops. They get dirty easily too – book distribution warehouses can be dusty; I worked in one so I know. I remember not even having a ladder; I had to climb the shelves to look for stock.

There is quite an extraordinary variety of covers. The French and Spanish ones are great, albeit the Spanish one has Jant with a trident and blond hair for some reason (I like it 'cause he looks like Iggy Pop).

Thanks for telling me about the German version. What the hell have they done with the cover? Pink?? I had nothing to do with that, OK? Jant doesn’t fly naked. He’s the Emperor’s Messenger, not a nudist.

German cover art

OK, laugh it up.

I send a description of Jant to any artist who asks but mostly I'm not in direct contact with foreign publishers. If an artist tries to represent a book he hasn’t read, what comes out is a picture of his prejudices rather than a picture of the story. The US cover of YOOW was influenced by marketing; the artist Christophe Sivet was very receptive but the chain of ‘Chinese whispers’ was much too long – from me to the USA, to Findhorn community in Scotland to be translated into French, to Christophe in France.

I’m not bothered by critics. I was just saying that Clute criticised from a standard fantasy viewpoint, a paradigm that Castle wasn’t meant to fit. As Goya said, ‘There are also literary asses.’
But let’s leave them there, talking to themselves. I’m more in the generous mood of Tristam Shandy’s comment to critics: ‘Go, poor devil; get thee gone. Why should I hurt thee? The world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me.’

About the SF events in the UK: I’ll have a website up shortly which will keep you posted. I don’t yet know what events I’ll be attending when The Modern World is published but check the website.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:17 pm:   

Hey, Barry!

Thanks for your kind words about Castle. Better than Pratchett? Bloody hell. I used to read Pratchett up until ‘Guards! Guards!’ and then I sort of grew out of it, but I still think ‘Wyrd Sisters’ is a fine and clever book. I think he writes them too quickly so instead of letting new ideas arise, now he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel. The postal system of Ankh Morpork? What an excuse to do a Mercury-type character. What next? Ankh’s health service? Pension scheme?

I never intended the Castle books to form a trilogy. The fact that ‘trilogy’ is on the cover is completely due to the publishers. Publishers have trilogies on the brain! Yes, I do intend to do another couple of Castle books and I'm working on the next one now.

I’m pleased that my writing actually gave you a dream – though, OK, not a pleasant dream. We shall have to do better ;-) If I don’t write for a while I start to dream about the subject I want to write about; because my subconscious is working on it. I often have very vivid dreams of flying sequences in the Fourlands.

Waiting for an Insect swarm is definitely the worst. When an Eszai has pointed out the direction the Insects will come from, and you’re tense to every movement and shadow as the night falls, staring at the horizon until your eyes are dry waiting for the first Insects of the swarm. During the fighting when the adrenaline kicks in and your body takes over; you’d be almost relieved that you don’t have time to think.

Barry, I’m happy to chat about anything you want. Just drop me a line.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:45 pm:   

Hi Hugh,

Thank you for your post, and doubly thank you for the comparisons. I don’t think Jant would appear on Radio 4 any time soon, though. I'll write scenes set in our world for that.

It’s great to know you recognise the Eszai. These creative ambitious class A types, who can be both hell and very rewarding to have around; they take things in their hands and change them. I’m sure the music/events industry is full of such characters.

San isn't a psychologically recognisable character to us; with thousands of years of experience and total mastery of himself he appears very alien. The people of the Fourlands see him as a benevolent figure, as he relies on moral influence rather than coercion.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 02:52 pm:   

Hello Richard

Thanks for the tip. I'll certainly find 'Snow' next. I didn't find 'Red' hard going but it is incredibly tempting to follow his structure of several first person commentaries. I was thrilled by the various ways of changing between characters, sometimes producing a three-dimensional impression of the building/streets they were in by the relation of the characters to each other.

I have to rein myself back from trying out all these techniques in one go - at the moment I'm being influenced on structure by too many books at once!
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richard morgan
Posted on Sunday, October 01, 2006 - 03:47 pm:   

Yeah, I seem to remember hearing an author being interviewed a while back (can't recall who, might have been JCG) and when he was asked what he was reading, he said no fiction at all because he was trying to write a book at the time and any fiction he read would inevitably leak in and skew/screw up his own style.

Multiple first persons - hmm, they're a bit of a pet hate of mine. I like to get comfy with my narrator, don't enjoy being swapped around. Only thing I hate more is a first person narrative interspersed with third person narrative from someone else's point of view - now, that's just cheating!!!

So, will the next Castle book be a departure from Jant ('cause I'm sure going to miss him if it is), or even a departure from first person?
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, October 07, 2006 - 02:19 am:   

Oh, I'll be dying to talk about it when the next deal is done. If you want to chat by email that would be cool.
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2006 - 03:31 pm:   

Hi Steph,

Thanks for your post, has taken me a bit to come back to you, sorry. I
am settled in in Brussels now, I was there two years ago so I knew
what to expect (run down, bad service but somehow I still love it).
Cool to know that you have actually incorporated the Grand Place in
the Fourlands. Once the new book is out maybe the British Council here
would be interested in a reading (I haven't got any special
connections to them though).

I have had quite a few jobs myself but working in a bookshop hasn't
been part of it – yet. I'd probably spend the whole day reading and
not serving the customers.

Looking forward to your website – let me know when it's up and running.

All the best,


Daniel

P.S. Here another cover I found, gets some points for originality from me:
http://www.nok.se/images/titlar/27/10792-2.JPG
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Larry Ketchersid
Posted on Sunday, November 26, 2006 - 12:52 pm:   

Steph, excellent books, I put reviews of NPLT on all the amazon sites that take English (because my Spanish is only passable, my French and German terrible and my Japanese non-existant!!), will put up one for YOOW in a bit (may need to re-read it).

Will you be doing any signings in the US (I am in Texas). Possible trip to Manchester/Oxford in March if there will be any signings there.

If you need a break from writing to read, I'm always looking for other authors feedback of my book, Dusk Before the Dawn.

Best of luck,
Larry
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, December 16, 2006 - 07:30 am:   

Hi, Daniel

The website is up now at: www.stephswainston.co.uk Drop in any time. The ‘blog’ is more of a newsdesk; I’m only putting up articles of relevance to the castle mythos and my writing, but I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.

Ooh, there wasn't much time to read in the bookshop where I was working – it was a huge Blackwell’s in Oxford. It was the first one of the chain (1879) so it simultaneously managed to be old and dusty in its ways – with aged members of the Blackwells family wandering through – and massive and sparkling with unnecessarily large piles of new books. Parts of the shop were rented from Oxford colleges, giving the whole thing a sort of medieval feudal atmosphere. Sometimes you felt like a family retainer from Gormenghast, sometimes it was like being in a supermarket. I worked my way up from Politics in the basement – where there were no windows, and everyone felt ill all the time, to Classics in the attic, with window seats overlooking the Bodleian. You could get out onto the roof, too; I used to eat my sandwiches on a level with the roofs of the city, looking out at the Sheldonian Theatre. I love the Sheldonian – I incorporated it into the Castle as the theatre. You can see it at the beginning of the second chapter in No Present Like Time.

Hope you’re doing well in Brussels. Here’s a photograph of the Guilds' Houses, for the benefit of people who haven’t visited, so they can see why I love it: Steph's photo

Second from right: the Sailor’s Guild (‘The Horn’, 1697) built to look like the stern of a galleon. And next to it, the Archer’s Guild (‘The Wolf’, 1690) has arrows carved in the masonry. It’s less baroque than the others, more regular with symbolic sculptures, just as Lightning would build it. Of course, Lightning would never build next to Shearwater Mist, whom he hates, and anyway, the Fourlands hasn’t had guilds since the turn of the first millennium. But I wanted to make the architecture of Rachiswater look this beautiful.

Have you been to the Museum of Natural Sciences? It is worth it for the Bernissart Iguanodons. They used to have ten full iguandon skeletons, black and tarry, charging across the hall in an immense glass case. It was breathtaking – like an X-Ray of a whole herd of dinosaurs. They’ve changed the displays since I was there – some displays were quite old-fashioned – and the drama of seeing that number of dinosaurs posed in motion seems to have gone, but the gallery still looks good.

Oh, yes, the Swedish cover. That is an excellent cover, and the whole production is wonderful too. I wish I could show you – it is a neat hardback with different insect illustrations throughout the entire book. There is a different black and white insect on a separate page beginning every chapter. They look like they’re crawling on the paper! They’re not artist’s impressions but real insects (I like the preying mantis best). Whoever designed the edition put a lot of thought and effort into it, for which I’m very grateful.

If I don’t hear from you again before Xmas, have a great time.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, December 16, 2006 - 10:26 am:   

Hello Larry.

Thanks for your post and doubly thanks for putting up the reviews.

There are no trips planned to the US as yet, but I’m not ruling it out for 2007. I might set something up in Oxford – but anyway, if you watch the website any trips and signings will be announced there. I'll let you know.

I like your website by the way. I had a good read of your Dusk Before the Dawn chapter. I’m going to put some first chapters up on my site soon, including the one beginning The Modern World.

Cheers and have a relaxing holiday.
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Tuesday, December 26, 2006 - 04:40 pm:   

Hi Steph,
Great website, I really like the “look and feel”. I am back in Vienna for the holidays, visiting friends and family. In case you haven’t visited there is some very interesting architecture there as well (doing my bit to support the Viennese Tourist Board there). Generally I am enjoying Brussels a lot, in particular the international athmosphere, but I needed a break from work. The Oxford’s shop sounds fascinating, I like the comparison with Ghormenghast. I’ll make a point of visiting if I get to go there again but I doubt they’ll let me on the roof (in the BBC movie there is a great scene of Steerpike on the roof looking at Ghormenghast, I guess that must be how it feels like).
I was once unemployed in Brussels so I had the time to visit all the museums, even those of the so-called famous Belgian painters (like Wiertz) who nobody outside of Belgium has ever heard of before. I did see the Iguanodons as well, quite impressive (they are now marketed as the Star attraction of the Museum). I even had a Iguanodon model as a child (I was a dinosour enthusiast).
Hope you are enjoying the Christmas holidays and all the best for 2007,
Daniel
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 09:01 am:   

Hi Daniel

Yes, it was like being Steerpike looking down on the roofs of Gormenghast – or rather, like Jant looking down on the quadrangles, lawns and courtyards of the Castle. I put that into the next book, where he flies in to the Castle and lands on the spire of the Throne Room. Bits of Salisbury Cathedral and about twenty other real buildings comprise the Castle as well. It’s very bounded, though; its shape and history are well known. It wasn’t inspired by Gormenghast, but rather by the places I visited when much younger.

I liked that BBC Gormenghast series, good acting and costume – but the depiction of Gormenghast was too light, bright, colourful and airy. They made a cardinal mistake showing the castle from the outside in the credits and first episode. You aren’t supposed to see it from the outside! It isn’t to be thought of as a bounded entity, a circumscribed, distinct building constructed all at one time. It’s supposed to ramble on for practically ever. The inhabitants don’t leave. Gormenghast is their whole world – they have no idea what it looks like from the outside and little self-awareness of what they look like from the outside. They would find it hard to live outside the Castle and would only have the vaguest conception of the badly-modelled lands over which the white crow flies at the beginning. So the TV production does not place us with the characters sufficiently. They should have our empathy but we are visitors from outside so they appear alien.

Given the opportunity and the budget I would have filmed it in different real old buildings in England. That would have looked substantial. With some camera trickery and scene changes you could make them seem part of one huge castle. So you would have the authentic dust and shadows – worn steps, crumbling alcoves, precipitous walls, cobwebbed attics. It would be like a Shakespeare play acted in the grounds of a country home or Oxbridge college. These buildings full of nooks and crannies already exist. The Harry Potter films used them. Peake himself used them, so why oh why did they build models?

I would also have short sequences of pencil-shaded animation that the characters blur into and out of. The cream and grey shades and furtive or boisterous movements would be a good reflection of Peake’s prose.

Daniel, I haven’t been to Vienna but I’d like to go. I like the look of the Hundertwasser House.

The first part of the opening chapter of The Modern World is available on my website now. Sample chapters of the other books are there as well.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, January 27, 2007 - 09:02 am:   

Website link for sample chapters: http://www.stephswainston.co.uk/the_books
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Friday, February 23, 2007 - 04:28 pm:   

Hi Steph,

thanks for the posting - I also really like the website. Great idea to post the first chapter of the new boom!

Before Christmas I went to the Brussels christmas market. Here two snapshots of larger than life insects from a carusel there (there were a lof of other weird figures there as well)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielsp/400211333/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielsp/400203502/

I saw them and I thought of you ;)

All the best,

Daniel
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, April 07, 2007 - 09:39 am:   

Better than horses! I like the grasshopper best. Someone must have had fun making that, especially if it's sheet metal and sparks had to fly.

Ants *should* be that big. And they *should* have reins.
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, April 07, 2007 - 10:11 am:   

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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, April 07, 2007 - 10:11 am:   

Oh, and Daniel: I know I criticised the German cover of YOOW above (he's naked, but he doesn't have a knob? Okaaayy.) But their cover of NPLT (Die geschenkte Zeit) is much, much better. I really like it:

German cover of NO PRESENT LIKE TIME (Blanvalet)
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Daniel Spichtinger
Posted on Friday, April 27, 2007 - 07:45 am:   

Hi Steph,

re the YOOW cover: I guess maybe the graphic designer thought the was an angel and therefore sexless...who knows. Yes, I second cover is better.

I was in London recently (great city but way to expensive) and went to a big Waterstones there, browsing for books. I came across a paperback of the YOOW, basically the same design as the one I have but in black instead of white. A pity "the modern world" wasn't out yet, otherwise I would have bought it on the spot :-)

Would you consider another draw on your homepage, this time with signed copies once they are out?

Best from Vienna (moved again),

Daniel
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Steph Swainston
Posted on Saturday, May 26, 2007 - 09:31 am:   

The black cover for YOOW is the reprinted edition. I think it works a lot better than the white one: it shows up on screen and it matches the black cover of THE MODERN WORLD.

I can't do a draw on my website unfortunately, because I don't have any spare copies to offer as prizes. I'll see if we can do this for the next book.

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