Edwin is going on tour! From 25 August to 19 September, Edwin: High King of Britain is touring some of the best book blogs around, being reviewed, interviewed and given away. So join him (and me) on the tour.
Apologies in advance for the supremely geekie nature of this post, but it’s a lament for a lost magazine and this generation’s denigration of the written word over images.
For many years, Games Workshop (the company that produces Warhammer and Warhammer 40k games) published the magazine White Dwarf – the monthly fix for people who like to paint little plastic figures and then fight battles with them using insanely complex rules. As part of the gaming experience, Games Workshop also developed the universes these wargames inhabited, employing some extraordinarily talented writers to do so (Dan Abnett, Justin Hill, Ian Watson). Every month, White Dwarf contained the new releases, interviews and features about the worlds of Warhammer and 40k, and a battle report, an in detail look at a battle with lots of background information opening up on to the wider fictional universes. And I loved it – I just loved it. I didn’t play the games much – the rules and gameplay are too lengthy and complex for the time I have available – but I became quite immersed in the shared universe the company and its writers and game designers had created. I used to look forward each month to White Dwarf arriving through the post (I even subscribed, that’s how much I looked forward to it).
And then, they stopped it. Without any warning, Games Workshop stopped sending me White Dwarf, and they replaced it with Warhammer Visions, a handsomely produced, thick small mag/large book, full of gloriously reproduced photos of wondrously painted Warhammer and 40k figures. At first, I leafed through it in amazement. And then I looked through it again, looking for the writing. There’s nothing there. Well, not quite nothing, but where before you’d get a thousand-word feature, now there’s a paragraph. One paragraph. The battle report has become pages of beautiful photos and about four paragraphs.
Damn it, what’s with people today? Doesn’t anyone read any more? Are you all just staring into some little screen (which will turn you blind before you’re old, you mark my words!). Come on, Games Workshop. Give us our words back, give me my worlds back! I have an imagination – I don’t need your pictures, I can make my own, if you just give me the words to trigger them.
This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a word but a picture.
The first review of Edwin: High King of Britain, from the indefatigable Publishers’ Weekly, is in, and it’s a goodie:
In the first installment of the Northumbrian Thrones, a new historical fiction series, Albert launches readers into the tumultuous world of 7th century Northumbria…Albert’s focus on the religious element does not detract from the political and dramatic aspects of the history he is portraying. Rather, it lends an extra dimension of psychological turmoil, because characters must deal with the problem of not only individual identity but also the beginnings of a national identity related to religion. Albert’s offering is a highly entertaining and refreshing work of historical fiction thanks to his emphasis on the precarious intersection of religion and identity.
This just gets better and better! After the wonderful message from Bernard Cornwell on Friday, my editor received an email from Justin Hill, author of Shieldwall (only the best novel about Anglo-Saxon England out there) this morning. He’s read Edwin: High King of Britain as well and he likes it too!
So, here’s what Justin (we’re on first name terms now, you see!) has to say about Edwin:
‘At the dawn of England seven kingdoms struggle for supremacy: but there is more than honour and power at stake; paganism, Christianity and the future shape of the English nation will be decided. A fast-paced and gripping tale of the great Northumbrian King Edwin, reclaiming one of our great national figures from the shadows of history.’
I am, I must admit, feeling slightly overwhelmed at the moment, but in a good way! By the way, if you’ve never read Shieldwall, I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s my review of it.
Once, Gething and Albert write, ‘Geordies ruled us all’. While not strictly true, there is no doubt that during its 7th- to 8th-century Golden Age, the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria was one of the great powers of Medieval England, home to ecclesiastical heavyweights like Bede and Alcuin, and to stunning artefacts like the Franks Casket. But these achievements are too often overshadowed by other kingdoms, particularly Wessex, the authors argue. To redress this, historical sources and archaeological evidence are woven together in a rich tapestry, using findings from the Bamburgh Research Project (CA 239) – of which Gething is a co-founder and co-director – and other excavations to expand our picture of Northumbria from the monastic and royal spheres that form the focus of most contemporary writings. This is interspersed with interviews from archaeologists and historians with expertise in a wide range of fields. A lively and interdisciplinary book.
An editor friend received the below email in response to a story he had rejected.
Your rejection of the walls proves you are a dunderheaded ignoramus. It is the classic story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman. It is sad that you, good sir, are in charge of what is and is not approved. An editor who uses, “omg” is by far, just some crazy man within his own world who lives with cats and is overweight, got picked on a lot as a fat child and wants to play in a pretend world where he is king and queen. Please, good sir, go to college. Take American Literature and bone up on your skills, read some books on editing and volunteer for an actual magazine as proofreader before naming yourself the judge of author’s work in your fat little world. By being a dunderhead in a faux position, you are stifling people with actual talent, unlike fatheaded and fat-bellied self. A game of jealousy on your part, will only hurt your overfed belly and jiggle your neck fat as you heckle from behind a monitor which the state paid for due to your psychological disability. Waddle yourself into a brick and mortar book store and pick up a collection of American Literature and do some reading. That, is free advice from a man with a degree in the science of rocketry.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Gilman is undoubtedly a classic. At 6,000 words it is also 4,000 words longer than the limit for my friend’s magazine. So a degree in rocketry appears to provide neither basic arithmetical skills nor graciousness in rejection (the letter writer had had one of his own stories returned previously).
Authors, being thin-skinned creatures with an unstable sense of the worth of their work, generally don’t subscribe to the view that any publicity is good publicity when applied to reviews. So, I’m delighted to get a good review from Publishers’ Weekly for Imam al-Ghazali: A Concise Life.
As the reviewer likes the format, it also bodes well for my upcoming book on Ibn Sina for Kube: Ibn Sina: A Concise Life.