Well, I finally got my author copies of the Only Superhuman audiobook adaptation from GraphicAudio. It’s been getting uniformly 5-star reviews at their site, which is nice to see. Here’s what it looks like:
(There are seven discs, in four two-pocket sleeves. No liner notes or anything, just a GraphicAudio catalog and a promotional postcard for a couple of their other products.)
So what does it sound like? Pretty good. Naturally my experience of it is going to be different from most people’s, since I’ve had my own idea about what the major characters sound like for years, and can’t help comparing the voice cast and their performances against the soundtrack in my head. And naturally, a number of the voices and performance choices are different from what I imagined. But considering that I had no input into the production, it’s actually gratifying how close it comes to what I had in mind.
GraphicAudio is apparently based in the DC area, since (as far as I can Google) many of their actors seem to be stage performers from that area. Unfortunately, the end credits only list the five lead performers by role, so I can’t identify who played the rest of the characters.
The director and narrator is Nanette Savard (who also plays Lois Lane for the company’s DC Comics adaptations), who has a voice quality a bit like how I imagine Emerald’s voice — not much, but enough to make her an appropriate choice to narrate a book told mostly from Emry’s POV. (And enough to spark the idle thought that maybe the narrator is an older Emry, or maybe a descendant, telling the story in retrospect.) She does a solid job, striking a good balance between detachment and emotional expressiveness.
Emerald herself is played by Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan (billed here as Alyssa Wilmoth). She’s not exactly what I had in mind (she’s mezzo rather than full soprano), and she’s not the screamer Emry’s described as in the text (which might’ve been too hard on the actress’s voice, granted), but she’s actually quite a good choice for the role vocally, with the right kind of rough edge and attitude, and she does a good job of capturing Emry’s blend of street-hardened toughness and youthful vulnerability. I’m really quite pleased with her performance, especially in some of Emry’s big emotional speeches in the final chapter or two. Wilmoth’s husband Thomas Keegan plays Zephyr, and he’s almost exactly what I was going for — a mellow baritone with a very human, laid-back, amiable delivery, rather than something more robotic as I feared we might get. Having a married couple play Emry and her devoted ship is a good choice chemistry-wise.
Eliot Thorne is played, coincidentally, by Elliot Dash, who’s very effective in the role. Dash’s voice took me a bit of getting used to, since I’ve always imagined Thorne as sounding like Avery Brooks or Keith David’s Goliath from Gargoyles, a smooth, controlled basso, while Dash’s voice reminds me more of Paul Winfield’s, and he imparts the role with more passion and less reserve than I imagined. Still, he gives the role the gravitas, intensity, and oratorical splendor it deserves.
I’m afraid I wasn’t quite as impressed by Colleen Delany (also GraphicAudio’s Wonder Woman) as Psyche. She has broadly the right type of voice and does an okay job, but her performance is a bit too polished and announcer-like to be entirely convincing for me. Perhaps the problem is that the bar in my mind is set so very high. Psyche’s supposed to have an incredibly beautiful, warmly seductive voice, a smooth and mellow alto — my ideal voice-casting choice would be Gina Torres. It would’ve been difficult to find anyone who really lived up to my hopes.
As for the rest of the cast, there are more hits than misses, and I wish I could match the actors to the roles. The performers playing Greg Tai and Sally Knox are ideal. The portrayers of Emry’s parents splendidly capture their personalities; Lyra’s pitch is lower than what I had in mind, but that was probably a better choice in terms of casting a maternal voice. Arkady Nazarbayev turned out very well; I didn’t have a clear voice for him in my head, but they cast an actor who sounds uncannily like Clancy Brown, which is just the sort of voice-casting choice I might’ve made myself had it occurred to me. Javon Moremba is very close to what I wanted, and in fact the way their actor delivered the line “But I loved this car!” was almost exactly what I hear in my head. And while there was no hope of getting Hanuman Kwan to sound like he does in my head (because I wrote him with Roddy McDowall’s inimitably wonderful voice in mind, despite claiming he was Australian), their actor, while more of a Tony Randall-ish baritone, captured the delivery and personality I had in mind quite well. Plus, though it’s a tiny role, Blitz is handled better than I ever imagined, sounding almost like a Mark Hamill villain voice. Other supporting characters like Rachel, Lodestar, and Hijab are solidly handled.
There are a few choices that don’t work as well for me. I feel their Koyama Hikari was miscast; the actress’s voice and delivery would’ve worked well for Ruki Shimoda but just aren’t right for Kari. I’m not crazy about their Cowboy, whose accent is too goofy; granted, it’s supposed to be a corny affectation that Emry finds ludicrous, but they took it too far and I feel it undermines the character’s menace. And their Sensei Villareal is just completely wrong. Sensei is supposed to be a wise, charming mentor figure, a respected hero renowned for his integrity, an aging swashbuckler and Latin lover. (My mental model for the character was Henry Darrow, who played Zorro in two early ’80s shows and Zorro’s father in a ’90s show.) The actor here doesn’t come close to conveying any of that, and has a stilted and unconvincing delivery. It’s the one performance that works against, not only my own intentions and expectations, but what’s actually there in the spoken text.
Still, given how many voices they had to cast, and given my total lack of input beyond what’s on the page, it’s impressive that there were so few misses.
(Other “voices in my head” that guided me as I wrote: For Emry, Lenore Zann, the voice of Rogue from the ’90s X-Men animated series — though I often thought Bernadette Peters would be a good alternative, and lately I’ve felt that Amy Jo Johnson’s voice would be a great fit. For Tai, Daniel Dae Kim. For Javon, Khary Payton. For Bast, Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt. For Zephyr, I’ve always tended to imagine Kevin Conroy doing a deeper version of his Bruce Wayne voice, but I’ve never been sure that was the best choice; Zephyr’s supposed to have a voice women find really sexy, and that’s not something I’m particularly qualified to assess. Thomas Keegan actually sounds a lot like Conroy, though with a bit of David Hyde-Pierce mixed in.)
I do wish they’d consulted me on a couple of pronunciations, though, as well as some of the casting choices. They use Americanized pronunciations for “Villareal” and “Lydie Clement” (they rhyme “Lydie” with “Heidi”) when I intended them to have, respectively, Spanish and French pronunciations. On the other hand, I realize that I’ve been Americanizing the pronunciation of “Arkady” all these years, saying it like “arcade-y” when the Russian A is pretty much always pronounced “ah.” So the audiobook has set me straight on that one.
So what about the adaptation of the text? At nearly 8 hours, it’s fairly thorough, but not comprehensive; a significant amount of stuff is trimmed out. In particular, Kari’s scenes are heavily cut down, making her a considerably more minor character here than in the original. (Ironic, since I’ve grown very fond of Kari and intend to feature her heavily if there are sequels.) In general, supporting characters’ backstories are glossed over, so a lot of the personal detail — as well as some of the technical detail and exposition — is absent. Action scenes are streamlined, which makes sense from a pacing standpoint; and most of the sex is trimmed down or omitted, though a lot of the nudity remains (and there’s even one point where the streamlining of the text results in more nudity than there was originally). A few of the cuts are a bit awkward, though, deleting a scene but leaving in a later reference to something from that scene. (In particular, Kari’s battle peace and personal guilt are mentioned even though the explanations for both are deleted.) There are a couple of points where lines are assigned to the wrong character, but they’re ambiguous enough that they kind of still work that way. Also, it’s not based on the final copyedited draft of the manuscript; there are some details and word choices that I remember altering in the final version, and my last-minute addition of Kari using high-tech tessen fans as weapons is missing.
There are a couple of sound-editing choices that surprised me, but I realize it’s because of the lack of stage directions I gave. One is the scene in chapter 3 where someone notifies Lyra Blair of an incident young Emerald was involved in, which I wrote as dialogue-only for effect; I always assumed it was someone coming to Lyra’s front door, but here it was interpreted as a phone call. That probably makes more sense, come to think of it. And the brunch scene with Emry and Grandma Rachel (here called lunch instead) was supposed to be a very private, personal conversation in Rachel’s home, but they did it with restaurant ambience in the background. I guess I needed to make the setting clearer than I did. It’s a common failing of mine, writing a scene with too little description of the setting. Or maybe they chose to change it for acoustical variety. I suppose their interpretation could work if the characters were in a private booth or balcony of some sort, isolated enough that they wouldn’t be overheard by other diners.
But while there are some details that could’ve been improved if I’d been consulted (something I should try to negotiate for in future contracts), overall it’s an impressive work. The majority of the actors are appropriately cast and give good, convincing performances, and the sound effects and Foley work are good (although I’m not crazy about the use of sound effects for things happening in vacuum, particularly when they were being described in narration anyway). The music seems to be drawn from a stock library spanning a variety of styles, but it mostly fits fairly well and is used in appropriate places. All told, this is certainly the most lavish audiobook production I’ve ever heard.
In sum, this is a good supplement to the novel, but not an exact, unabridged equivalent to the prose version. Rather, it’s an adaptation, an alternative take on the story. To those who’ve only bought the audiobook, I’d recommend getting the novel for the complete, canonical story; if you don’t want to spring for the hardcover or e-book, the paperback’s only 6 months away, or at least you could look for it at the library. As for those who’ve bought the novel, I’d say the audiobook is still worth getting, a good interpretation of the novel, capturing the essentials of what I created (mostly) but putting a different spin on it, thus adding another dimension to the experience. Besides, I don’t know if there will ever be a movie adaptation (Hollywood doesn’t seem interested in female-led superhero films these days), so this may be the only dramatization the story ever gets.
And heck, it’s just impressive that a bunch of actors and other folks got together to put on a performance of something I wrote, to bring it to life. And that most of them really seemed to get it, just from what was on the page. Both of those are quite heartening, and I’m grateful for the hard work and care the creators and performers put into this adaptation.
I just checked Amazon’s page for the Only Superhuman audiobook, and it says they’ve nearly sold out – only 3 left in stock — and have had to order more copies. That’s a nice thing to see. Of course I don’t know how many copies they ordered to begin with, but demand exceeding supply has got to count as good performance in any case.
And if Amazon does sell out, the audiobook can always be ordered (in CD or download form) from GraphicAudio itself.
Unfortunately I still haven’t managed to get a copy of the audiobook myself. Hopefully that can be arranged soon.
I was checking my sales rank for Only Superhuman on the online bookstore sites just now, and I noticed they’ve now got the cover image for this September’s mass-market paperback edition of the novel. Here it is:
Note that they’ve rotated the artwork 90 degrees clockwise from how it appears on the hardcover. One thing I noticed about the cover art from the start is that it works pretty well in either orientation, so it’s kinda nice that it’s being used both ways. I also quite like the italicized and color-graded version of the title text. Oh, and I like it that my name is printed bigger.
In other news, the audiobook edition of OS has intermittently been making it onto Amazon’s top 100 sellers list for SF and Fantasy books on CD. It hasn’t been staying there consistently, and I don’t think it’s made it above #50 yet, but it’s nice to see.
It’s here! GraphicAudio’s page for their Only Superhuman audiobook now has purchasing links active:
It’s available in two formats: A set of 7 CDs available for a new-release price of $13.99 USD (regular $19.99) and an MP3 download for $12.99. Note that the run time has been revised to approximately 8 hours.
They also have credits available, though they don’t specify who’s playing whom:
Directed by: Nanette Savard
Starring: Nanette Savard, Alyssa Wilmoth, Colleen Delany, Thomas Keegan, Elliot Dash, Ken Jackson, Evan Casey, Yasmin Tuazon, Tracy Lynn Olivera, Barbara Pinolini, Richard Rohan, Christopher Scheeren, Michael Glenn, Kimberly Gilbert, David Coyne, Eric Messner, James Konicek, Elizabeth Jernigan, Nora Achrati, Thomas Penny, Michael John Casey, Joe Brack, Nick Depinto, James Lewis, Joel David Santner, Terence Aselford and Steven Carpenter
Book Adapted for GraphicAudio by: Johann Dettweiler
Dialogue Editor: Nathanial Perry
Sound Designer: Nathanial Perry
Additional Original Music by: Thomas Hogan and Dan Sondak
Producers: Richard Rohan and Duane Beeman
Executive Producer: Anji Cornette
There’s a sample clip from the audiobook now available at GraphicAudio’s site:
The clip doesn’t feature much dialogue, but the actress they’ve cast as Emerald Blair (not sure if it’s the same woman doing the narration, and the credits aren’t up yet) is reasonably close to what I had in mind. She actually sounds kind of like Tara Strong, one of my favorite voice actresses, who doesn’t sound quite like I imagine Emerald but who’s enough in the ballpark that I’d actually considered her as a candidate for Emerald’s voice if there was ever an audiobook. (Although I think my ideal choice would be Amy Jo Johnson. The voice I originally heard in my head for Emry was Lenore Zann, who played Rogue on the ’90s X-Men animated series, but Johnson’s work on Flashpoint has won me over.) As it turned out, I had no input into casting on the audiobook, so I was a little nervous about whether they’d cast Emerald appropriately. I’m much more reassured now.
I read along in the book as the clip played, and it’s not a complete, word-for-word rendition of the text, but most of it is there. Honestly, there were some bits of description that maybe they could’ve trimmed more. My rather verbose style actually sounded a little odd to me spoken aloud.
Today I went down to the building where my father used to work and recorded a radio interview which will be airing this weekend on Cincinnati Edition, a newsmagazine program that airs locally at 7 AM Saturdays and Sundays on NPR affiliates WVXU in Cincy and WMUB in Oxford, OH — just in time to tout my book signing next Tuesday. I had a nice talk with the show’s host Mark Perzel, who had very nice things to say about Only Superhuman, and who even knew my father before his retirement, something I either never knew or had forgotten. Anyway, the interview, which covers my Star Trek work as well as OS, should be up on their website as a podcast by Monday, I’m told, and I’ll post the link when it’s available.
Last year, I posted the design sketches I’d done for Emerald Blair, the lead character in Only Superhuman. These were illustrations I did years earlier, mostly 2002-3, before I wrote the book. Well, I also did sketches of Psyche Thorne, the other leading lady in the book, but I never got around to coloring them and I didn’t want to post them until I did. Which is something I only managed to do recently.
I hesitate to post these at all, since Psyche is supposed to be a woman of staggering beauty and allure, and maybe that’s something best left to the individual reader’s imagination. Also it’s questionable that my limited artistic abilities can come close to capturing that beauty, even with the excellent real-life exemplars I used as references. But Psyche’s looks are also somewhat unusual, an amalgam of ethnicities, so it may be hard for some readers to imagine what I had in mind. (I’m reminded of how many readers of The Hunger Games were surprised that Rue was black in the film, even though she was specifically described as dark-skinned the first three or four times she appeared in the book. Sometimes readers overlook elements of a physical description.) Besides, I went to all the trouble of finishing the drawings, so I might as well share them.
So here are my illustrations of Psyche Thorne, which, while far from perfect, give a reasonable indication of what I envisioned.
(click to enlarge)
I based Psyche’s face on several women of different ethnicities that I found to be otherwise similar in appearance and exceptionally beautiful. Mostly she’s a blend of two friends of mine from college, one a strawberry-blond Caucasian, the other African-American, but otherwise strikingly similar in appearance. I also used a photo of Kristin Kreuk to get some Asian influence in there, mainly in the eyes and nose, though I don’t think it comes across as well as I’d hoped. And she’s maybe a bit more chubby-faced than what I had in mind, though I think that’s mainly a shading issue with the cheeks. I am happy with the expression, though; it captures the blend of warmth and naughtiness I was going for.
I wasn’t very happy with the colored-pencil work I did. It was hard to get smooth texture, something that was more of a problem with Psyche’s rich complexion than with Emry’s pale one, and the colors I had available didn’t match the skin and hair tones I was going for very well. So I did a lot of work in the computer to fix it — superimposing translucent layers of solid color that better matched what I wanted, and softening and blurring the pencil lines as much as I could without losing the shading detail. It’s not perfect, but I think it came out reasonably well, considering.
So for the second, full-length drawing, I decided to do the coloring entirely in the computer, something I have very little experience with. I had a few false starts, but I finally got a handle on it, I think. This depicts Psyche in the outfit she wore for her big introductory scene in Chapter 7.
(click to enlarge)
The shading isn’t as nuanced as I could achieve in pencil, but I think it gets the idea across reasonably well. And I like the translucent effect the paint program let me achieve with the outer dress layer. Easier than trying to create that effect in colored pencil would’ve been.
If her pose and proportions look a little exaggerated, rest assured I based it all on photo reference. I chose a slinky, provocative pose to fit the character and the outfit. She’s angled a little to the viewer’s left, which makes her waist look narrower than it is. Also, she’s a full 6 feet tall, which makes her seem skinnier in proportion. I wanted her to be tall, slim and leggy in contrast to Emerald Blair’s mesomorphic physique. Emry’s build is inspired by tennis star Serena Williams, while Psyche’s owes more to Maria Sharapova.
I don’t know if I’ll do any more character art for Only Superhuman. Again, these are sketches I did years ago, when I had more free time for drawing, and I’m rather out of practice. But I wouldn’t be averse to seeing fan art, if anyone were interested.
I’ve been interviewed by the book blog The Qwillery about Only Superhuman. Here’s the link:
There’s also a giveaway of a copy of the novel, which you can enter simply by commenting on the interview post. Details at the link.
I just got back from running some errands, starting with depositing the advance check I just received for my current Star Trek novel — which I’m still not cleared to reveal any specifics about, as far as I know. It’s the second book advance I’ve gotten in as many weeks, which is a nice state of affairs.
After that, I went to the local Joseph-Beth Booksellers store so I could see my book on the shelf:
And hey, I’m almost right next to a book by my NYCC co-panelist Amber Benson!
I also introduced myself to a store manager there and tried to get a sense of how the book was doing, but that was inconclusive. They had 10 copies in stock at that store, which I’m hoping is a good sign, since at Books by the Banks (which Joseph-Beth supplied the books for), there were dozens of copies on hand. But it’s hard to be sure.
On the way out of my parking space at Joseph-Beth, my car was almost bumped into by a minivan with a Romney-Ryan bumper sticker, because its driver wasn’t paying attention. Which seems very fitting to me.
Anyway, after that came the roughest part of my trip, which was trying to take my nonfunctioning vacuum cleaner in to the local warranty service center. I wasn’t sure whether the vacuum had broken or both batteries had simultaneously died, so I hoped to get some help figuring that out and maybe getting replacement batteries if that was the issue, as well as getting the old ones recycled. But first off, I found it hard to find a parking place near the store, and had to do some extra driving and turning around and stuff to find a place I could legally park, which was a bit of a walk from the store. Then the store clerk told me he basically couldn’t do anything for me where that particular model was concerned except sell me a new one, which was only about 10 bucks more than a replacement battery would’ve cost anyway, so he said. (I checked online, and if you take tax and shipping into account, I’d say he was just about right.) My floor wasn’t getting any cleaner, so I gave in and bought the new one (which, to my disappointment, came with only one battery instead of the two my previous one came with, so I hope there’s still some life left in the old batteries after all). I’m upset that I wasn’t able to recycle the old vacuum, but at least I have some spare pieces in case I need them.
So that wasn’t too satisfying, but at least I have a functional vacuum again (hopefully). And on the way home, I noticed I was approaching a Big Boy restaurant. I’d just been thinking, not long ago, that it had been too long since I’d been to Big Boy and had one of their Buddie Boy ham sandwiches, which I quite liked. So I went in and did that, and it was very good, as were the baked apples I had on the side. Plus I saw they were advertising their pumpkin pie, and I remembered that they had a wonderful pumpkin pie, so I had a piece of that for dessert, and it was wonderful. So that was a lovely bit of serendipity and I feel very satisfied now — though it didn’t help with my efforts to lose some weight and get back into shape.
UPDATE: I just tried the new vacuum’s battery in the old vacuum, and it worked. So I only needed a new battery after all, not a new vacuum. I wonder if it’s worth it to return the vacuum and just order a replacement battery. Or maybe it’s a good idea to keep the new vacuum on hand just in case the old one does break down.
I just discovered that Library Journal has named Only Superhuman its SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month. The money quote from the review by Jackie Cassada:
The sf debut and first original novel by the author of Star Trek: The Original Series: Ex Machina and other TV and comics tie-ins has created a world of believable supermen and women set against a complex world of rival factions not unlike those of Renaissance city-states. VERDICT: Bennett brings believability to the larger-than-life world of superheroes in a story that should appeal to sf and comics fans alike.
That last sentence is just about exactly what I hoped people would say about my book. Really great to hear. I admit, there are a couple of less flattering reviews out there, and I was starting to worry. I’ve long believed that anything with enough substance to evoke strong positive reactions in some people would inevitably evoke strong negative reactions in others, so I’d be okay with a mix of both. (I’ve gotten a similar reaction to the T’Ryssa Chen character I created for my Star Trek: TNG novels, a character who has a lot in common with Emerald Blair; some people strongly dislike her, while others are very fond of her.) But until now, the positive reactions have been a little sparse, and I’ve been getting a little neurotic about it. So this review is very reassuring. (Actually it’s dated 9 days ago, but somehow I’ve missed it until now.)
The comparison to Renaissance city-states is interesting. Insofar as I had a historical model in mind, I was probably thinking more in terms of ancient Greek city-states — and to a large extent of modern ethnic and religious nationalism and the ways it divides us and causes more problems than it solves.
(Edited to add the review link)
Today was the Books by the Banks festival for authors from the Cincinnati region, and I spent six hours at the convention center downtown hawking my wares. In addition to a big pile of Only Superhuman, the bookstore providing merchandise for the event also had a bunch of copies of Forgotten History, a small supply of Watching the Clock, three copies of the Mere Anarchy trade paperback, and one lonely copy of Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder — which wasn’t lonely for long, since it was the first book I sold. By the end of the event, I’d sold out of Mere Anarchy as well and was down to one WtC, and I’d moved seven copies of OS and at least a few of FH. Plus a few people who didn’t buy OS then and there nonetheless indicated they intended to buy it online or as an e-book. All in all, while I could’ve wished for better, it was a pretty decent performance considering that this was a general book festival, not specifically SF-oriented. I seem to recall that at my first BbtB, where they only had Titan: Over a Torrent Sea for sale, I didn’t sell that many copies. So I’m satisfied with how this event turned out. Plus I made a couple of new contacts and set things in motion for a book signing event that will hopefully materialize fairly soon.
Look what the UPS guy brought to my door today:
It’s finally here! It’s been 24 years and 2 months to the day since I first came up with the character of Emerald Blair (I remember the date since it was 8/8/88), nine and a half years since I first outlined Only Superhuman, and now it’s a finished hardcover novel I can hold in my hands. My journey is finally finished.
Although I’m hoping it’s just the beginning of a new journey. Which depends on all you guys buying enough copies that I get to do sequels.
I was asked to write a short piece about Only Superhuman for Tor/Forge’s Blog, and it went live on the first of the month:
The hardest part was figuring out what to say when I only had 7-800 words to say it in. But it seems to have done me some good; my blog had a record number of views that day.
We’re now only two weeks from the official release date! It’ll probably start showing up on shelves before then. And of course it can be preordered right now.
Well, it’s been an eventful day and a half. My first panel on Friday, about superhero novels, was a pretty cozy affair, with the audience barely outnumbering the panelists, and it was kind of a replay of last year’s panel on the same subject. At least it was a gentle way to ease into things. And at least I had my advance reading copy of Only Superhuman and its great cover art to show off. After that things were quiet until Meet the Pros, where I handed out promotional fliers for OS as well as signing Trek books. Usually I’m relatively quiet at these things, not as outgoing as some of my author friends, but this year I was less tentative and more assertive, since it wasn’t the usual case where the people coming up to me were already established fans of the thing I was writing for; I had something new that I really wanted to promote and try to get people interested in. I think I handled myself pretty well, though it was still less busy this year than it was in years past.
Marco Palmieri, the assistant editor on OS, brought a printout of the cover mechanical, i.e. the full artwork and text for the wraparound dust jacket that will enswathe the hardcover. It’s the first time I’ve seen the final treatment and what the spine will look like. The brown-dominated front and back covers are offset by a green spine and flaps, and the spine has a smaller, cutout version of Emerald Blair’s cover pose between the title and my name,which is neat.
I showed the OS cover to Alan Kistler, who writes the “Agents of S.T.Y.L.E.” column critiquing superhero costume designs for Newsarama, and asked him to critique Emerald Blair’s costume. He thought it worked pretty well, that it fit the character (as I described her to him) and was still practical. So that was good to hear.
I only had one panel on Saturday, a morning panel about writing time travel, which let me talk about my DTI novels and discuss the writing of time travel in general with the other authors on the panel and the members of the audience. That was really my only Trek-related panel for the whole con, although this morning I have one about moving from tie-in to original work, so there could be some Trek discussion there. Anyway, despite only being a panelist on one event, I had a very eventful Saturday. After my panel, I stuck around as an audience member for the next two in the same room, a writing workshop with Marco, David Mack, and David R. George III (which never really got to the workshop part since the audience was content to listen to the panelists talk about the writing process for two hours). I’m glad I attended, since their comments on story structure helped me recognize a couple of significant structural flaws in the spec novel I’m getting ready to revise. Hopefully I’ll be able to think of ways to strengthen it up in those areas. That was followed by a panel on editor-author relationships with Marco and Greg Cox, my main editor for OS. Some nice insights there.
I took the next hour off, then attended a panel on Leverage, which is not an SF/fantasy show but no doubt has plenty of overlap in the fanbase (and often makes genre homages, particularly to Doctor Who) — not to mention that one of its current writing staffers, Geoffrey Thorne, is a former Trek novelist who wrote the Titan novel right after my first one. More to the point, a couple of the panelists, including Greg and the prolific Keith R. A. DeCandido, have written Leverage tie-in novels which should be coming out next year. It was a fun conversation. Then I spent an hour signing books at the Constellation Books vendor table — thanks to the folks there for hosting me, letting me hand out more Only Superhuman flyers, and feeding me chocolate. After that I ran into Greg, Marco, and some others in the lobby and got invited to join them for dinner over in the nearby mall. My editors and I shared a table with Bill Leisner (author of the TNG novel Losing the Peace) and we writers mostly listened while the editors talked about the business and traded anecdotes, which was very informative and entertaining and mostly not for public consumption. I had a bowl of chili and a caesar salad, and as usual the restaurant portions were too huge, so I asked for a box to bring back the rest of the salad in, although I have no idea when or if I’m going to eat it (it’s probably wilted some by now). After that I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, but then Marco ordered an apple cobbler with ice cream which turned out to be way too big for one so he asked for four spoons so we could all share, and, well, I guess there’s always room for apple cobbler and ice cream. Then we came back to the hotel and I hung out with folks in the lobby and talked about old movies and Godzilla and the like. After that I came back to my room to decompress after that very full day.
Today, after the author breakfast in half an hour, I’ve got three panels that will all be Only Superhuman-related for me: at 10, the tie-in vs. original panel mentioned earlier, then a Tor Books presentation at 11 with Greg and Marco talking about Tor’s upcoming releases and me talking about OS, and then at 1, a panel about female action heroes in the media. Then I’m pretty much done and will probably be setting out for home not long after. I’d like to get a few hours’ driving in today, but it looks like thunderstorms are likely, so we’ll have to see how that goes.
The official site for Macmillan (the publisher whose imprints include Tor Books) now has information up for its October books, including Only Superhuman. It’s not directly offering it for sale yet — the Tor online store is scheduled to go live at the end of the summer, so I gather — but it has links for ordering it from other sites. The page is here:
We’re less than three months away now!
The folks at Tor sent over some uncorrected advance reading copies of Only Superhuman. These are paperback printings of the second-pass galleys (so despite the “uncorrected,” they incorporate all the edits I asked for, except for a few bits in the appendix which should be fixed in the final book), intended for sending out to reviewers and such for advance publicity. I gather they’re mainly for sending to book reviewers in magazines that have a publishing lead time of several months, so that they can get reviews published in a timely fashion.
Aside from being in paperback (and having a cropped version of the cover painting, presumably because the hardback cover is a bit larger), it’s apparently representative of the look and feel of the finished product. So it’s pretty cool to get to hold it in my hands and page through it. It’s the next best thing to getting the actual book come October.
I put a copy on my science fiction bookshelf, as I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time. It’s sitting between Timescape by Gregory Benford and The Stars, My Destination by Alfred Bester. A pretty cool place to be.
It’s actually a thinner book than I expected, though that could be due to the paper stock or something. And I guess it’s not that long a book; the final draft came out to around 115,000 words, and of course a hardcover or trade paperback can fit more words per page. And no doubt the hardcover’s, uh, hard cover will add more thickness.
I just noticed that the Amazon.com page for Only Superhuman has now been updated with the cover blurb, some review quotes, and an author bio. So far, none of that seems to have done much to boost the novel’s sales rank, but it’s still early.
No sign yet of an update at Barnes & Noble, though my impression is that the info went out to all the major retailers at the same time.
Looks like Only Superhuman is starting to show up online. A book database called Risingshadow.net has posted the cover blurb for the novel (though it may be tweaked a bit before publication):
In the future, genetically engineered superhumans, inspired by classic Earth comic book heroes, fight to keep the peace in the wild and wooly space habitats of the Asteroid Belt
2107 AD: A generation ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.
Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?
Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-sf adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.
And we’re starting to see some pre-order links showing up too!
The Risingshadow site has a page of multiple ordering sites for the novel, most of which don’t have the book yet, but if you’re interested in alternatives to the big vendors, you might want to bookmark that page.
Both the big vendors have the book at a considerable discount, currently marked down to $14.50 from the list price of $24.99, but don’t worry — my royalties are based on the list price, so I still earn the same amount even when you pay less (as long as you buy it new rather than used).
So far only the hardcover edition is available for pre-order, but I’m told there will be an e-book version released the same day as the hardcover.
Well, it looks like Only Superhuman is starting to get a bit of attention beyond what I’ve been able to stir up (or what my editor has been saying about it over on the TrekBBS). A blog called Superhero Novels has mentioned it twice now: back on Christmas Day it included it in a list of superhero-themed novels slated for 2012 (a much longer list than I would’ve expected, though it seems most of them are either small-press books or DC/Marvel tie-ins), and two days ago, in a monthly news update, they linked to my recent post debuting the novel’s cover, and said “it looks great.” So, my thanks to Superhero Novels for helping to spread the word.
Here it is…
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect cover for this book. It marvelously conveys the novel’s sense of high-flying action and adventure in a high-tech setting, and the flamboyance and power of its heroine, Emerald Blair (aka the Green Blaze). It makes the novel look exciting and energetic, and that should help sell copies. (This scene doesn’t appear in the book, but it’s kind of an amalgam of elements of the opening and climactic action sequences.)
And it’s a marvelous portrait of Emerald Blair. First off, I’m stunned and honored by how closely artist Raymond Swanland followed my character design drawings. Allowing for a bit of idealization, and my own limited ability to translate my visual ideas to paper, it’s as authentic a portrait of Emry as I could’ve hoped for. More, it captures her personality and the life she leads very well. She looks like she just hurled herself off the top of a skyscraper without giving any thought to what happens next. She’s totally focused on fighting the bad guys and won’t let little things like plans or gravity distract her. She’s in an incredibly precarious and dangerous situation and she looks completely at home there. Yes, she is presented in a sexual, glamorous way too, but that’s in character for her, and it’s a very athletic, active, powerful kind of sexiness that (at least to my eye) complements the impression of strength and competence in this image rather than undermining it.
Here’s a look at the cover painting without the text:
The composition is fantastic. The lines of the image converge on her face, drawing the viewer’s eye there, and there’s a powerful line of action running from her eyes along the arm to the sidearm, reinforced by the parallel line of her leg, and by all the shrapnel flying past. That outthrust, perfectly straight arm just conveys so much power and skill and confidence, and I’ve never been happier with my decision to give her a sleeveless costume. Even though she seems to be in retreat from something, her body language feels forward-thrusting and aggressive and fearless. (Not to worry, though — that’s a stungun.) Also, the background is muted, mostly in grays and browns, with the only bright colors being on Emry, so she really pops as the dominant part of the image.
Emerald Blair peers over my shoulder and has this to say:
“Vack, I look great. I wish I could get my hair to look that good, especially in action. Normally I just tie it back, or French-braid it if I have the time. And I wish my outfit showed off my curves that well, though just as well it’s not quite so flimsy. Cool Flash Gordony gun, though I’d stab myself in the side if I actually wore the thing. Still, this is how I should look in action.
“But I’m glad he didn’t exaggerate my body. Some things, honey, you just can’t improve on.”
So yeah, it’s a slightly idealized portrait of the Green Blaze, but it conveys her essence very well. It could validly be a portrait someone painted of her in-universe. In any case, it’s an ideal way to introduce Emerald Blair to the world, and I’m very happy with it.
EDIT: Since this post is getting a lot of new attention, here are some ordering links for the book: