The Solitary Bee

The Solitary Bee is my latest half-baked venture into the blogosphere.  It's a sort of internet magazine which I hope will expand to cover all sorts of topics, but at present, since I'm the main writer, is inevitably tending to focus on the stuff I like and know about; books, films, telly, usually of a genre-ish sort.  Jeremy Levett has contributed an excellent piece about the new Robin Hood movie which I think everyone should read, and there's a spot of music, too.  The Bee welcomes comments and encourages Followers.  Buzz over and have a look at it by clicking on the sticker (above, right), or just use this link here.

The Graveyard Book Wins the Carnegie...

To London this week for the ceremonial dishing out of the coveted Carnegie Medal.  (That's me in the back row, wearing what I'm starting to think might be the last neck-tie in captivity.)  While it was nice to be nominated, I never imagined that Fever Crumb would get it, which was lucky, because she didn't.  The winner was Neil Gaiman's all-conquering The Graveyard Book, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, since it's an excellent book which has already won the Newberry Medal, the Booktrust Teenage Prize, the Mrs Joyful Prize for Raffia-Work, etc. etc.  I've not encountered Mr Gaiman's work before, although I know he's terribly famous and prolific (I completely stopped reading sci-fi and fantasy for about fifteen years starting in 1984, so the writers who came to prominence during that time tend to have slipped under my radar).  Anyway, I didn't expect to like The Graveyard Book - ghosts and vampires being Not My Cup of Tea - but it soon won me over; it's a charming story which manages to be both sweet and macabre, and you probably don't me to tell you to dash out and buy it.

It was also good to see Freya Blackwood pick up the Kate Greenaway Prize for her beautiful illustrations to Harry and Hopper.

Blog Changes Underway

I've been using the down-time between drafts of the new book to start making some changes to this blog.

Back when I first set up my own website I included a section called 'Reeve Recommends', which I intended to fill with reviews and articles about favourite books and films and things, particularly the ones which I remembered from my childhood and teens.  The idea was, I think, that people who'd enjoyed my books might like to know about some of my influences (apart from the obvious ones) and that younger readers who might not have come across these things could be given a nudge in the right direction.  But it's so much easier to update a blog than a website that I've hardly ever added to it, and most of the reviews that I do post have ended up here.

That is (as they used to say on Tomorrow's World) until now.  As well as updating this blog Ian at Graphic Alchemy has been designing a sort of sister-blog for it, which I hope to have up and running from the middle of next week.  It's called The Solitary Bee, and it's looking decidedly snazzy.  Henceforth all my book reviews, film-related burblings and random rants and ramblings will relocate there, leaving this blog to deal with my own books and occasional little meanderings about life here at Bonehill.

Unlike this blog, which is a strictly take-it-or-leave-it affair, the Bee will welcome and indeed encourage comments, and if it proves popular I may invite other people to contribute material too, though I'm not sure yet how that will work.

Meanwhile, things seem to be going well on the new facebook page, so thank you to everyone who's left comments and questions there.  I'll post a link to The Solitary Bee there and everywhere else I can think of as soon as it's ready for viewing.

Scrivener's Moon

Up in the north of Fever Crumb's world, beyond the Fuel Country, where the nomad empires roam with their herds of mammoth and reindeer and their ramshackle rolling castles, the last month of summer is known as the Scrivener's Moon. That's the season Wavey Godshawk chooses to undertake an expedition to a mysterious old-tech site which is supposed to be connected with the Scriven race, and it's also the title of my next book, which will hopefully be published in spring 2011.

In some ways Scrivener's Moon is going to be a return to the scale and scope of the first four Mortal Engines books; there's an an epic journey, a large cast of characters, and several interweaving storylines. There is a bit about the Scriven, a bit about the Sixty Minute War, and a lot about the nomad empires and the construction of the new London. There's also an awful lot of tidying and rewriting to do before it's ready for publication, so I'd better stop writing this and get back to work...

Ship Breaker

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. I picked up Paolo Bacigalupi's novel Ship Breaker purely because of its striking dust-jacket, on which the title appears to have been scratched into a rusty boiler by a patient maniac, and I'm happy to report that the book more than lives up to it.

The story is set on and beside the Gulf of Mexico, a part of the world which is currently famous for having rather too much oil all over it. In the world of Ship Breaker, however, there is barely any oil left at all. The book's hero, Nailer, is a boy who makes his tenuous living by stripping salvageable copper out of the hulks of abandoned supertankers which have been grounded on a beach near New Orleans - or near where New Orleans used to be, since the city itself has long since been drowned by 'city killer' storms sweeping in off the Gulf. Out on the ocean, hi-tech clipper ships race along the horizon, shooting their microfibre sails aloft to catch the jetstream. When one of them comes a cropper on a reef near Nailer's beach, carrying the heiress of a wealthy trading clan, he finds himself propelled into a rattling adventure which leads him through the sweaty ports of the Mississipi Delta and out eventually onto the high seas and a sailing ship chase which could have come out of Patrick O'Brian. (I loved everything about Ship Breaker's clippers, which are like object-lessons for arts-grad steampunk tinkerers like me in the way that sci-fi can recreate the excitements of a historical novel while still presenting plausible future technologies.)

There are a lot of near-future dystopias about at the moment, and before I read Ship Breaker I feared that it was going to be one of those pointlessly depressing books that drags you through a horrible Third World future while the author goes, "REPENT!" (Surely there's enough to be depressed about in the actual Third World without inventing thinly disguised future versions?) Or might it just wallow in poverty-chic, like that dreadful James Cameron-produced dystopia-lite TV series Dark Angel (in which characters who look like supermodels mooch around a cityscape so much less dystopian than bits of most present-day US cities that it's impossible to see what they're all grumbling about)? But no: Mr Bacigalupi nimbly avoids both of these traps; the world he creates is vivid and gritty enough to make readers think about what real poverty means, but his book isn't a Dire Warning; it's an adventure story, like something Robert Louis Stevenson might have written if he'd read a bit of William Gibson. There's a certain simplicity about the plotting and characters which suggest it's aimed squarely at the YA market, but simplicity is no bad thing: it certainly kept me turning the pages, and I'm goodness knows how old.

I gather that Mr Bacigalupi has also written several adult novels, and I'll be seeking them out soon. I'm sure they'll be worth reading; I hope their covers are as good as Ship Breaker's.

The Black Angel

If you noodle around on the internet for long enough when you ought to be writing novels you can discover all sorts of things, and recently I turned up an article about a film so obscure that I've always assumed I was the only person who remembered it.

Back in the dim and distant early eighties, my dears, it was still the habit of cinemas to show a supporting feature along with the main movie, instead of just adverts and trailers. These films were usually documentaries of quite stunning tedium about pencils or mat-weaving. (I spent many a Sunday in the summer of 1981 sitting through all three showings of John Boorman's Excalibur at the Brighton ABC, and whole scenes from the dull documentary about a racecourse which accompanied it are still wedged in my long-term memory). But sometimes you got a small half-hour drama, and when I went to see The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 the film that came with it was The Black Angel, a mystical, mediaeval tale about a knight errant, which turned out to appeal to my teenage tastes much more than the main feature did.

Now, thanks to the miracle of the internet, I learn that The Black Angel was the work of Roger Christian, the genius art director on Star Wars and Alien, who funded this short but beautiful movie with £25,000 he was given by George Lucas. Sadly, no print or even fragment of it seems to be available - I've searched YouTube in vain - so I have to rely on my thirty-year-old memories to review it.

As I recall, it was about a lonely knight encountering a mysterious maiden and then fighting the titular Black Angel, an evil warrior who turns out to be... Himself! Or Death! Or something like that. It's all a bit of a blur, to be honest. But what has stayed in my memory all these years was its atmosphere. Shot in Scotland among mountains, woods and fast-flowing rivers, it captured the feel of upland Britain in a way that I don't think I had seen before. I used to go on holiday to places which looked that like, and my imagination was always populating the glens and crags with Tolkienesque characters, so The Black Angel seemed to crystallise images which were already lurking half-formed in the corners of my own mind. I had much the same feeling when Excalibur came out the following year, so it's fascinating to discover that John Boorman was a great supporter of Roger Christian's film, and consciously strove to emulate its look and feel.

All I have to do now is find a way of seeing the thing again. Till then, I'll have to make do with my memory, and this solitary black and white still.

(The full interview with Roger Christian is at, from where I also swiped the picture.)

Booked Up, and a POWEM.

To London this week to record a short video piece for Booked Up, the scheme which aims to get a free book into the hands of all Year Seven children. This year the list of books they can choose from will include Fever Crumb, so I had to do a quick 30-second spiel about it for their website, and also read an extract. Talking to cameras isn't something I enjoy or feel that I'm much good at, but the reading was fun. I'm reading The Lord of the Rings to Sam at the moment and a chapter of Tolkein per night seems to exercise the reading-aloud muscles wonderfully. I'll post a link to the videos when they are available, as long as they're not too embarrassing.

I don't know if this is the influence of Professor Tolkein, too, but when I came home I found that Sam has written a POWEM. He's never been very keen on reading or writing, and shows no sign of wanting to follow in my footsteps (which is a Good Thing, since the e-bookalypse is almost upon us and I don't think it will be possible to make a living writing stories for much longer). Still, it's nice to see him experimenting a bit with language. I think this is rather good.

The Tree Powem
By Sam Reeve

The wind blows silently on the tree top
As I sit there
Unscared of the big black Fox.
The pine needles fall
And I drop to the floor.

Now We Are 50

I've been pleased to see the number of 'followers' of this blog slowly growing over the six months that I've been writing it, and now (unless we've lost anybody while I've been typing this) it's finally passed the 50 mark. Thank you all for signing up; you're much appreciated and I hope you find something of interest here from time to time.

Last week was a busy one: I've been trying to finish the latest draft of Fever 3 (which has a working title now, soon to be announced) and also making a start on Traction City Blues, my story for next year's World Book Day. Not only that, but it's been Sam's half term holiday from school, so I keep getting dragged away to play Warhammer or help build dens. And it's been really hot, so a certain amount of flopsying about has been occurring (I'm not really suited to hot weather). This week I hope to polish off the WBD story, and then I have to go up to London for a couple of meetings. Normal bloggery will be resumed as soon as possible.

Fun with Facebook

While I was probing the dark mysteries of facebook's privacy settings the other day - prompted by the discovery that everything I posted there seemed to be being re-posted to something called an 'interest page' - I sort of inadvertently set up a 'fan page' for myself. I'm not sure how much use it will be, and I don't want it to compete with the splendidly-titled 'Mortal Engines Is A Work Of Genius' page (see the link in the sidebar) but since it's there I suppose I should see if it's any use. At the moment it consists of a picture of me looking a bit glum, but if you'd like to leave any comments or queries I'll do my best to respond.

You can get to the page from this here link.