Saturday, 16 January 2077

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After much debate (and some requests) I have signed up with crowdfunding service Patreon to better support future blogging efforts. You can find my Patreon page here and more information after the jump.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Patrick Stewart officially retires as Professor X

Patrick Stewart has announced that, at the age of 76, he has retired from playing the character of Professor Charles Xavier in 20th Century Fox's X-Men series of films.


Stewart debuted in the role of Professor X in the movie X-Men (2000). He reprised the role in X2 (2003), The Last Stand (2006) and Days of Future Past (2014), as well as brief appearances in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013). His final role as Professor X comes in Logan (2017), which also marks the final appearance of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine (although Jackman hasn't completely ruled out a comedic cameo in a future Deadpool movie, given his online banter with Ryan Reynolds).

Stewart's decision to leave the role is unsurprising. Given the events of X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) and the ongoing rewriting of the X-Men film continuity over the last few films, as well as Jackman's decision to retire, it's clear that Fox will taking future X-Men films in a different direction, perhaps leaning more on the new cast with Hugh McAvoy playing the role of a somewhat younger Professor X, or even contemplating a full, from-scratch reboot after twenty years of the current, increasingly convoluted continuity.

Stewart was given the role by director Bryan Singer in 1999 following a fan campaign to have him cast in the role. It gave Stewart his second popular Hollywood role following his performance as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation from 1987 to 1994 and four spin-off films: Generations (1994), First Contact (1996), Insurrection (1998) and Nemesis (2002). During the making of the X-Men films Stewart met Ian McKellan and the two distinguished actors formed a strong "bromance" that has continued ever since (with McKellan officiating at Stewart's wedding).

Although Stewart has departed the role of Professor X, he will continue working as an actor on screen, on stage and in voiceover work. His next role will be as, er, Poop in the animated Emoji Movie.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

More information on Stephen Donaldson's new fantasy trilogy

Way back in 1977 Stephen Donaldson helped shape the modern fantasy genre with Lord Foul's Bane, the first book in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. He has completed three series in the same setting, totalling ten books, as well as an additional fantasy duology (Mordant's Need) and an excellent five-volume space opera, The Gap.


Donaldson is now working on a new fantasy trilogy, The Great God's War. The first novel in the series, Seventh Decimate, now has a cover blurb:
The acclaimed author of the Thomas Covenant Chronicles launches a powerful new trilogy about a prince’s desperate quest for a sorcerous library to save his people.
Fire. Wind. Pestilence. Earthquake. Drought. Lightning. These are the six Decimates, wielded by sorcerers for both good and evil. 
But a seventh Decimate exists—the most devastating one of all...
For centuries, the realms of Belleger and Amika have been at war, with sorcerers from both sides brandishing the Decimates to rain blood and pain upon their enemy. But somehow, in some way, the Amikans have discovered and invoked a seventh Decimate, one that strips all lesser sorcery of its power. And now the Bellegerins stand defenseless.
Prince Bifalt, eldest son of the Bellegerin King, would like to see the world wiped free of sorcerers. But it is he who is charged with finding the repository of all of their knowledge, to find the book of the seventh Decimate—and reverse the fate of his land.
All hope rests with Bifalt. But the legendary library, which may or may not exist, lies beyond an unforgiving desert and treacherous mountains—and beyond the borders of his own experience. Wracked by hunger and fatigue, sacrificing loyal men along the way, Bifalt will discover that there is a game being played by those far more powerful than he could ever imagine. And that he is nothing but a pawn...
The novel will be published on 14 November 2017.

AMERICAN GODS gets an airdate

The TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods has now gotten an air date.


The eight-episode first season debuts on Sunday 30 April on Starz in the United States. It will air the following day on Amazon in the UK.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Chris Wooding completes latest novel

SF and fantasy author Chris Wooding has just finished (about six hours ago) his latest novel.


Wooding has written science fiction, YA dystopias and fantasy dieselpunk (in his excellent Tales of the Ketty Jay series), but his only overt work of secondary world fantasy to date was the excellent Braided Path trilogy, which was inspired much more by Asian history and trope. His latest work is different: a much more "traditional" epic fantasy series where he can play around with the tropes of the established genre.

On a Reddit AMA a couple of months back, he described it thusly:

The new book is my first attempt at doing, er, I suppose you'd call it 'traditional' fantasy. I grew up on Shannara, LOTR, Dragonlance and that kind of thing; they were the books that got me into fantasy. And I realised in almost 20 years of writing I'd never actually tried a fantasy story in that kind of world: the kind of pseudo-European environment that most readers identify as fantasy. My big series were always set in weird environments: in Broken Sky everyone had a 'superpower' through their spirit-stones; The Braided Path was Oriental flintlock fantasy shading into science fiction; Ketty Jay was dieselpunk fantasy. This new one, I'm not throwing out all the tropes at the start as I usually do. I want this one to feel like a fantasy, like the books I loved when I was a kid. And then I'm going to tell a story working within that format, and try to make it all fresh and new, using all the ensemble casting and characterisation skillz I honed during the Ketty Jay books. It's not going to be like the fantasy of the 80s and 90s, with its black and white morality and clear-cut heroes and villains; nor is it going to be grimdark. It's a pretty lo-magic setting. Beyond that, all I can tell you is that I'm having a total blast writing it. There's a certain freedom in being able to employ the assumptions and traditions of fantasy fiction and concentrate on story and character, instead of starting everything from scratch.
The book will likely be published in 2017 or 2018 (2018 may be a touch more likely at this point, but we'll see). Given the quality of Chris's previous work, I'll be checking it out ASAP.

Filming of the young Han Solo movie begins

Filming began yesterday of the second stand-alone Star Wars prequel movie. This film, as yet unnamed, focuses on the young life and times of Han Solo and takes place roughly halfway between Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One/A New Hope.


The movie is directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) and written by father-and-son team Lawrence and Jon Kasdan. Lawrence Kasdan has been working on Star Wars for almost forty years, having worked as a writer on The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. This film will apparently be his swansong on the franchise.

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo, Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian, Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-star.

The film is set for release in May 2018, although a delay to December seems quite possible.

Meanwhile, the next Star Wars movie is The Last Jedi, the sequel to The Force Awakens, which will be released this December.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

JV Jones breaks silence, joins Patreon

Fantasy author JV Jones has joined Patreon and restarted her Twitter account, breaking over three years of total silence.


Jones is the author of the superb Sword of Shadows series, consisting (so far) of A Cavern of Black Ice (1999), A Fortress of Grey Ice (2002), A Sword From Red Ice (2007) and Watcher of the Dead (2010). A fifth book, Endlords, has been promised, with the series overall expected to last for either five or six volumes. The Sword of Shadows is a sequel to her earlier Book of Words trilogy, consisting of The Baker's Boy (1995), A Man Betrayed (1996) and Master and Fool (1997). She has also written a fine stand-alone fantasy novel, The Barbed Coil (1997).

Jones reports that the last few years have been very difficult but she is now getting her writing career back on track, with finishing her current novel in progress (presumably Endlords) a priority. She is also planning to release blog entries and articles via Patreon.

This is excellent news. It's good to see Ms. Jones back writing and hopefully we'll be seeing the end of the story she started over twenty years ago soon.




Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

Friday, 17 February 2017

HARMONQUEST returns for a second season

Dan Harmon's fantasy roleplaying/improvisational comedy show HarmonQuest is returning for a second season.


The first season of the show was one of the unexpected highlights of last year. It was very funny and revelled in showing the fun that people can have playing a pen-and-paper RPG. The season ended in an epic battle (where the regular crew were joined by Nathan Fillion) against the forces of evil and were triumphant, but at the cost of one of their number being sucked into a portal into an other dimension. It was a bit of a cliffhanger, which I assume will be addressed in the new season.

Guest stars this season will include Harmon's Community buddy Gillian Jacobs, Elizabeth Olsen (late of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Scarlet Witch) and comedian and actor Patton Oswalt.

The second season will air on Seeso in the summer.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Neil Gaiman working on a NEVERWHERE sequel

Neil Gaiman has confirmed that he is working on a sequel or successor to his 1997 novel Neverwhere (itself an adaptation of the 1996 BBC mini-series). In an interview with the UK's Channel 4 News, he says he was sparked off by the idea of including refugees in the world he created. Gaiman spent some time last year in a refugee camp in Jordan.


Gaiman did not provide much more information than the following:
“I’m working on a new novel. For the first time in twenty years I’m going to go back to my novel Neverwhere. For me it’s taking not only the dispossessed, not only the homeless, not only those who fall through the cracks, but also the refugees. Also, people who are fleeing war, fleeing intolerable situations, barely getting out with their lives and then what happens to them next."
Neverwhere started off as a BBC TV series, developed with comedian Lenny Henry, before transitioning to a novel the following year. In 2013 it was adapted for the radio, starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sophie Okenedo, Sir Christopher Le and Anthony Head, In 2014 Gaiman wrote a long-promised spin-off novella, How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, for George R.R. Martin and Gardener Dozois's anthology Rogues. This in turn was adapted for radio last year.

The new novel will be called The Seven Sisters. No date has been set for publication.

Neverwhere was hugely influential on the development of modern urban fantasy. China Mieville cites the novel as a major inspiration for his novels King Rat and Un Lun Dun.

Gaiman was speaking ahead of the launch of his new TV series, American Gods, which will air in the USA on Starz in April.

Gaiman is also writing the script for a TV adaptation of his collaborative novel with Sir Terry Pratchett, Good Omens. After almost twenty-five years in development hell, this has finally been greenlit for production by the BBC and Amazon.


Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.


The Longest SFF Novels of All Time

With the recent news that Brandon Sanderson's Oathbringer is going to be very big indeed, I thought it'd be interesting to look at the longest SFF novels and series.


These lists are not exhaustive and consistency of reporting these figures can be quite variable. I have opted for word counts as the most accurate way of estimating length, as page counts can vary immensely based on page margins and font sizes.


Longest Novels

1. Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest
667,000 words • 1845-47

This long novel was serialised in "penny dreadfuls" of the mid-19th Century and chronicles the adventures of Sir Francis Varney, a vampire. This book's genre credentials have been disputed (with the suggestion that Varney is actually a madman rather than a real vampire), but there seems to be a general acceptance that the book is a genuine work of the fantastic, and the longest SFF work ever published in one volume (which it was in 1847). The book was also influential on Bram Stoker's later Dracula (1897) and introduced many of the tropes of vampire fiction, including the "sympathetic vampire" protagonist.


2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
645,000 words • 1957

Highly debatable as a genre work rather than a political novel, although the story is partially set against a dystopian background and genre historian John Clute identifies the novel as SF (plus it inspired the very SF Bioshock video game series and fantasy Sword of Truth series), so okay, we'll count it.


3. Jerusalem by Alan Moore
615,000 words • 2016

Alan Moore's prose magnum opus is a massive, dizzying and baffling journey into the surreal. It's so huge that it is available in a two-volume edition in a nice slipcase.


4. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
545,000 words • 1996

Infinite Jest has primarily literary allusions, although the book's setting - a North American superstate consisting of a unified Canada, USA and Mexico - is a futuristic dystopia. The book could have even been bigger, with 250 manuscript pages trimmed for length by the publishers.




5. To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams
520,000 words • 1993

The concluding volume of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is bigger than the first two novels in the series (The Dragonbone Chair and Stone of Farewell) combined. A titanic, shelf-destroying novel, it is only available in mass-market paperback in two volumes, subtitled Siege and Storm.


6. The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
502,000 words • 2001

The fifth volume of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander historical romance series, spiced up by a time-spanning culture clash, is absolutely gigantic.


7. A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
501,000 words • 2005

The sixth volume of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander historical romance series doesn't quite match its predecessor.


8. Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle
500,000 words • 2000

Mary Gentle's novel is a dazzling mix of SF, historical drama, fantasy, alternate history and generaly bizarrity. The novel was published in one volume in the UK, but the American publishers released it as four in the USA.


9. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (estimated)
495,000 words (estimated) • 2017

The final word count could go up or down, but Brandon Sanderson has estimated that the third volume of The Stormlight Archive will be 25% longer than the already-huge second volume.

10. The Stand by Stephen King
472,376 words • 1978

Stephen King's biggest novel in a single volume, notable for also foreshadowing The Dark Tower series. The above word count is for the expanded and revised edition.



11. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
470,000 words • 1954-55

This book needs no introduction. The most influential fantasy novel ever written, often incorrectly cited as the biggest genre novel of all time. Due to paper shortages after the Second World War, the book was released in three volumes, inadvertently creating the classic fantasy trilogy at the same time.


12. The Naked God by Peter F. Hamilton
469,000 words • 1999

The biggest space opera ever written, even more remarkable because it was the concluding volume of an even bigger trilogy, The Night's Dawn.


13. It by Stephen King
445,134 words  1986

Arguably Stephen King's most famous single novel.


14. Sea of Silver Light by Tad Williams
443,000 words • 2001

This is the concluding volume of Tad Williams's fantasy/cyberpunk mash-up Otherland. Williams likes to end big.


15. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
422,000 words • 2000

George R.R. Martin started his Song of Ice and Fire series being somewhat concerned about the word count and went to great lengths to keep the first two books down to a friendly 300,000 words or so apiece, dropping chapters back into the next volume if necessary. However, with Martin planning a five year time-jump after this book, he had no choice but to write the story to its natural conclusion. The result was a book that pushed the UK publishers to the limits of what they could publish in one volume. The paperback version, in fact, was released in two volumes.


16. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
420,000 words • 2011

The difficult-to-write fifth volume in A Song of Ice and Fire ended up being somewhat longer than A Storm of Swords, but Martin cut it down to slightly shorter in the final sweat and edit.


17. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
415,000 words • 1999

Neal Stephenson's first gigantic book, but not his last (although this remains his longest book) is an interesting romp through WWII history, cryptography and weirdness. A stand-alone, but it also acts as a thematic prequel (and actual sequel) to his later Baroque Cycle.



18. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
402,000 words • 2009

The seventh Outlander novel is huge, but feels quite modest compared to the longest books in the series mentioned above.


19. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
401,000 words • 1996

The fourth Outlander novel. Given the several books in the series that are just under 400,000 words, I can only assume that the author gets through a lot of keyboards.


20. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
400,000 words • 2011

Patrick Rothfuss's sequel to The Name of the Wind is considerably larger. It remains to be seen if the final volume of The Kingkiller Chronicle, The Doors of Stone, will be bigger still.


21. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
400,000 words • 2014

The second volume of The Stormlight Archive is about to lose its record-setting status as Sanderson's biggest novel and the biggest novel in the series to Oathbringer. But it's still pretty big.



Below 400,000 words, the number of fantasy and SF novels in that size bracket shoots up massively. So rather than try to come up with an exhaustive list, here's some notable SFF novels with their word counts:

  • Lord of Chaos is the sixth and longest Wheel of Time novel, clocking in at 395,000 words.
  • Toll the Hounds is the eighth and longest Malazan Book of the Fallen novel, reaching 389,000 words.
  • Maia, by the late Richard Adams, is 379,130 words.
  • Magician, by Raymond E. Feist, is a relatively breezy 313,410 words (about 330,000 words in the 1992 extended edition). Which makes the decision to publish the novel in two volumes in the United States (as Apprentice and Master) all the weirder.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell is 309,000 words.
  • Temple of the Winds, the longest Sword of Truth novel, is a modest 307,520 words in length.
  • The Order of the Phoenix, the longest Harry Potter novel, is 257,045 words in length. That's over three times the length of the shortest novel in the series, The Philosopher's Stone
  • The Sword of Shannara, the novel that gave birth of the modern fantasy genre, is a relatively modest 228,160 words. It's also still Terry Brooks's biggest novel, by far; none of the other Shannara novels top 200,000 words and only three top 150,000 words.
  • SF is generally a lot shorter than fantasy, but the fact that Frank Herbert's seminal Dune is only 188,000 words - shorter than three of the Harry Potter books! - might be surprising.



The Longest SFF Series

This is a much more debatable list, since some series are more diffuse than others. The Riftwar books, for example, form nine distinct series, but also have narrative elements spanning all twenty-nine books in the series. The same is true of the Shannara series. The Discworld books I haven't even attempted to fit on here for this reason. This list is therefore a bit more speculative.

  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (15 volumes): 4,360,000 words.
  • The Shannara Series by Terry Brooks (28 volumes, incomplete): 3,865,000 words.
  • The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist (29 volumes): 3,831,670 words.
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (10 volumes): 3,274,000 words (5.5 million including all related works by Erikson and Ian Esslemont).
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (8 volumes, incomplete): 3,227,000 words.
  • The Cosmere by Brandon Sanderson (11 novels/1 anthology, incomplete): 2,971,940 words.
  • The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind (11 volumes): 2,761,170 words (3,643,650 including the sequels).
  • The Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts (9 volumes, incomplete): 2,600,000 words.
  • The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson (10 volumes): 2,062,000 words.
  • The Belgariad/Malloreon by David & Leigh Eddings (12 volumes): 1,861,000 words.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin (5 volumes, incomplete): 1,749,000 words.
  • Worm by John McCrae (30 "arcs"): 1,680,000 words.
  • Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott (7 volumes): 1,622,720 words.
  • The Solar Cycle by Gene Wolfe (11 volumes): 1,368,000 words.
  • The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson (3 volumes, incomplete): 1,275,000 words.
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King (8 volumes): 1,256,000 words.
  • The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton (3 volumes): 1,247,000 words.
  • Otherland by Tad Williams (4 volumes): 1,189,000 words.
  • The Second Apocalypse by R. Scott Bakker (7 volumes, incomplete): 1,172,000 words.
  • Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams (3 volumes): 1,126,000 words (1,542,440 including The Heart of What Was Lost and The Witchwood Crown).
  • The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson (3 volumes): 1,125,000 words (1,540,000 including Cryptonomicon).
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (7 volumes): 1,084,170 words (1,183,370 including The Cursed Child).
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (6 volumes, incomplete): 1,077,560 words.
  • The Elenium/Tamuli by David Eddings (6 volumes): 1,006,000 words.
  • The Sword of Shadows by J.V. Jones (4 volumes, incomplete): 945,047 words.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (6 volumes): 839,000 words.
  • The Expanse by James S.A. Corey (6 volumes, incomplete): 834,000 words.
  • The Acts of Caine by Matt Stover (4 volumes): 768,000 words.
  • The First Law by Joe Abercrombie (3 volumes): 618,000 words (1,216,000 including the stand-alone sequels).


Why Page Counts Vary

It's remarkable what difference shifting a margin over by a few millimetres can make. One-volume editions of The Lord of the Rings, for example, can vary from 750 pages (for tiny-font editions on onion paper) to the better part of 2,000 (for large-print versions for readers with bad eyesight). Back in 2001 Pan Macmillan were able to squeeze thepaperback of The Naked God (469,000 words) into almost the exact same page count as its predecessor novel, The Reality Dysfunction (385,000 words) despite being significantly longer, just by manipulating font sizes and margins.

This is why page count is a poor guide to working out a novel's true length, and word count is more reliable indicator.

Word counts can also differ, depending on the programme used (most modern word counts come from the ebook editions) and how they count punctuation. Some counters will also include cast lists, footnotes and appendices, others will disregard them. The publishers may even give differing word counts because they did a count before the last edits were finalised, or they forgot that the new edition has more stuff in it.


Sources

SFF blogger Abalieno has been keeping tabs on book lengths over on Looping World for many years and some of these figures come directly from there. Excellent work from him there.

Reading Length is a great site which extracts book lengths from multiple sources and then works out how long it will take to read the book. It tends to the conservative, so some of the above figures may actually be less than what is actually the case. However, it does make mistakes: its word count for Dune, for example, is for the 50th anniversary edition which includes several hundred pages of bonus material which isn't part of the novel.

Novel Word Count doesn't seem to be as exhaustive as it was planned to be, but its Stephen King page is pretty good.



Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.