As some of you may recall, back on May 10, 2010 I clambered onto the ‘crawl to announce the signing of a contract for the sidequel to Blindsight. As of Nov 2 2011, I announced that I’d handed in the manuscript. In between (and occasionally afterward), I dropped what occasional fiblets I could without giving away significant plottage.
What I didn’t announce was an official release date, because I didn’t have one — and before you get your hopes up, I still don’t (or rather, I do, but it’s more of a guideline than an actual rule). And as weeks have turned into months with no news on that front, it’s only natural that every couple of days I get an e-mail from someone wondering what’s up with State of Grace or Echopraxia or whatever we’re calling it this week. I’ve told these people what I knew, behind the scenes as the scenes evolved, because they asked — but I didn’t want to say anything in public while so many things were up in the air.
Twenty-eight days ago months turned into a year, and at least one of those up-in-the-air things came crashing back to Earth somewhere out on the west coast. This has caused the probability wave to collapse (which is ironic, because the Editor Who Fell To Earth doesn’t actually appear to have been observed by anyone for quite some time now) — enough, at least, to justify bringing you all up to speed.
The first thing you need to know about this editor — other than that he is, by all accounts, a very nice guy — is that he actually quit working at Tor shortly after acquiring my book. He abandoned publishing for video games (a smart move, given the relative health of those two industries). But we weren’t too worried, because he took his outstanding projects with him to work through on evenings and weekends. I myself was in no hurry; my time was already fully occupied with video-game tie-ins, this weird long-term pair-bonding thing that usually only works out for meadow voles, and nearly dying from flesh-eating disease. Having worked all of those things out more-or-less satisfactorily, I handed in my manuscript on Nov 1 and settled back to enjoy the holidays.
Editor dude was good as his word. By the end of January he’d got back to me, and man, was he stoked:
The book is bloody brilliant. I am doing my second read through this week. I am looking to get my notes and edits to you before this week closes out. No later than the upcoming Saturday. My question for you is how do you prefer to receive them? Inline in the word document via track changes? In the body of letter? Written in the margins and mailed off to you?
In fact, he appeared to be way happier with the book than I was. Unwilling to let this imbalance stand, I replied:
…the truth is, I don’t think it is bloody brilliant. I gave it a break over the holidays, came back fresh, and stalled about ten pages into the trip to Icarus; the parts I hated before I hate even more now, and I can no longer excuse my reaction by telling myself You’re just too close to it — it’ll look better after you’ve put it away for a while. Since the start of the year I’ve actually been spending a little time each day trying to work out a complete rewrite of the downhill journey. I’ve been holding off on my misgivings because I didn’t want to contaminate your own reaction, but now I can lift the embargo…
There followed an extensive numbered list of the specific elements that sucked, and a cross-referenced bullet list of the ways they sucked, followed by a flowchart written in Latin detailing my suggestions as to how the sucky parts might be edited to allow them to blow instead. “I’ve given you some new stuff to think about,” I said, “so if you’re not done by Saturday, that’s cool by me.”
Perhaps that was my problem right there: I didn’t specify which Saturday. Because the next time I heard from the man it was July, asking again if I wanted his notes on the novel. I wrote back encouraging him to send them on, although I this point I was starting to wonder (I mean, isn’t providing editorial feedback what editors do?). And he said Great, I’ll send them along in a few days and by the way, could you blurb this other author for me in the meantime?
Me: Uh, hello? Anyone there?
Him: October 1rst. Promise.
Him: I am going to need the weekend to finish up. … I must say, though, with every read it gets better. Besides the few things you already hold as in need of some retooling, it is phenomenal. I haven’t been this excited about like this in a long time.
Me: Uh, sure. Okay. Won’t be able to get started now under November anyway so…
Me: Uh, hello…?
The Empty Desolate Reaches of Ultima Thule: Hello hello hello hello hello…
That was the last I heard from the man. I did hear indirectly that he’d finally, officially, thrown in the towel — how it broke his heart to leave his authors in the lurch like this, how shattering it was for him to drop the ball — but the new job’s taking all his time and you can’t serve both Tor and Mammon.
A couple weeks back I tossed a final e-mail into the void, commiserating on his plight and asking if he might just shove whatever he had handy — ”margin comments, voice memos, thoughts jotted down in purple crayon on the back of a napkin” — into an envelope and send it my way. So far, though, he hasn’t answered. From what I hear he’s been radio-silent for months, even to his colleagues back at Tor.
The good news, of course, is that now that he’s quit I’ve got a new editor and a new schedule. Before the crash’n'burn Echopraxia had been slotted for release in the cold dead depths of February 2014. Given that I won’t have time to get back to the rewrite until the new year, though, that doesn’t leave much time for my new editor to do her thing. So I’m dedicating the month of January to the rewrite (still without editorial input, but fuck it; I’m not going to inflict a worse ms. on a new editor when I know I can produce a better one), and at this point we’re shooting for an April North American release.
Springtime. Let’s call it an omen.