Welcome to the world of Benjamin Gorman. It is a world of traffic, roads, buildings and sky. Where people watch television, have affairs, eat bad food and argue among themselves. But the world of ‘The Sum of Our Gods’ is not ours, it only looks like it on the surface. Gorman’s world is akin to being inside a permanent spiritual Pepper’s Ghost; where the gods rub shoulders with the mortals, occupying the same space but doing so with stealth. Usually.
This is a world where Jesus likes sour cheese Pringles and has let himself go a bit across the millennia. He lives in a basement and does not go out much. He barely speaks with his father these days and wants a divorce from his adulterous wife, Inanna; who conspires and schemes behind the scenes in one of the story’s plot lines. It is a world where ancient gods frequent strip clubs, drinking flagons of mead while watching strippers they once helped 'save.' We find the great Norse god, Thor, now residing in a retirement home but keeping his hammer close to hand, still ready to wield it with considerable force. I particularly enjoyed one little detail that gives the afterlife never ending daytime television; offering comfort and companionship for those trapped within the utter boredom of the eternal. Who wants to be immortal if that is the outcome? But then, even time itself is subject to the wavering attention of Chronos, who suffers from IBS and often looses track of his ward.
Yes, in other words, Ben Gorman builds a strange universe, but an oddly appealing one. Although mortals play their part in the tale, it is to the gods the story turns, following their moods and frustrations. It reads like a who-who of international and historic deities, many of whom were new to me. The lesser known gods are sprinkled around the celebrity ones, who include the likes of Horus and Apollo, Isis and the almighty God himself; the big I-am, who exudes a delicious boredom throughout His words and actions. He’s like a company CEO with a board of bickering supporters and enemies. Some plot, some whisper, while He just wants a quiet life.
The story of the gods weaves around the stories of the mortals; including a hideous plot to unleash a biological agent across the human world. There is also a man cursed with having tea with God each week - an event nowhere near as magical or profound as one might suspect, for it takes place in a small backstreet café; the sort of place where you might find chipped crockery and lumpy stained sugar in the bowl.
Gorman paints his world in dark wet colours, rich with the scent of a city we all know, and places with which we feel a visceral connection. The gods themselves are strangely human in their ways, even when oddly shaped. And then, every so often, a different view opens, with the gods ascending to the sky and approaching their own domain. Only at those moments do they switch from being like us to being more of what me might expect of ‘them.’ It is subtle and I like its underplayed nature. Gorman could have filled his pages with movie magic and choir-backed spectacle. But there are no fluffy white clouds, pearly gates and tinkling harps in Gorman's world. His world of gods comes with sticky carpets, threadbare sofas and bad smells.
Bleak and funny, and not to mention heartwarming in its darkly sculpted form, the story also carries a definite latent menace. These 'beings' are powerful. They have strengths. They might flip and go to war, and when they do it is usually the soft-skinned mortals who pay the highest price.
It must be said that not everyone will like this book. The will be those with less open minds who will read the words and see blasphemy. So be it. They're missing the point. Sum of Our Gods is not insulting to any one god, nor indeed any. Neither does it cast judgement on believers. It merely tells a story where the key cast and supporting roles just so happen to be deities and mortals, who share a common universe where each has influence over the other in their own manner. Read it that way and you will enjoy it.
It is brave, imaginative, original, humorous, irreverent, well written and well paced. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My only regret is that I did not, beforehand, buy the I-Spy Big Book of Gods. Had I done so, I could have then ticked them off, one by one. God spotting has never been such fun.
The Sum of Our Gods is published on November 22, 2013
5 September 2013
First box of books arrived today - The Call of the Siren in paperback form. Nice...
2 September 2013
Print order now made for the first run of The Call of the Siren and the printed version of FIRE. Fingers crossed that the proofs are good...
18 August 2013
I have managed to upload FIRE Fascination, Firework and Festival to Amazon Kindle, in all its glorious detail and colour. Although the resolution is not quite as high as the native PDF version, it show it is possible to have fully illustrated eBooks on Amazon. I managed this feat using the Kindle Comic Creator program, which is available free from Amazon. Although designed specifically for comics and graphic stories, it also lends itself to any illustrated book, where it is of paramount importance to have the images remain where they are supposed to be.
I plan to detail the stages of doing this soon, as guide to others.
I am currently preparing The Call of the Siren for publication at the start of October.
The release date for The Call of the Siren is set for October 1st, 2013
Review copies will be avail be soon.
11 July 2013
Some follow-on thoughts to my first post on this subject. Following a discussion on this subject, I thought to illustrate the issue from another angle. Imagine, for a moment, that we speak not of writing but of art. By this I mean mainstream art. The kind of art that finds exhibition space in the top galleries.
No celebrity can wake one morning and think, 'Hmm, I know, I'll slab some paint on a few canvases and then have myself a major exhibition in a top London or New York gallery. I need not worry about the quality of the work because my fans will hardly care and most will barely notice. They will come to see and buy because they like my cookery program, or my gardening tips, or they way I introduce the next article on my afternoon television show.'
Further to this, and unlike the publishing houses, no major gallery would make an approach to a prospective exhibitor based solely on the person's relative fame. 'Hey, you're a very well known person, would you like an exhibition? So you can't paint or sculpt? That's okay... we have people here who can do that for you. We just want your name because we can sell more tickets than we would a lesser known person.'
That does not, and hopefully will never, happen. Except in literature, when it happens all the time.
I love writing. I love literature. I love its history and its unlimited promise. I love all it offers to my child, both now and in his future. I do not want it sink into the abyss of the celebrity magazine culture. By all means feature your favoured Z-lister in Hello, but please don't give them the best position in the bookshop, or give them the entire pot of publicity money. They would find no such patronage in an art gallery, or for that matter the music charts.
I say give writing back to the authors; those sculptors of the imagination who work alone for months and possibly years. The people who write without advisors and do not rely on ghostwriters, and do not have a team of editors to craft their words into something approaching acceptable. I am talking about those writers who only ask that a reader be allowed to discover their work.
Most people have their favourite authors, but I bet very few of those will fall into the celebrity-first author category. Just think of the hole in your life left had you never discovered the work of your favourite writer - all because they failed to reach a certain level of fame prior to writing their first word.
It seems today, that all you need to land a juicy publishing deal is a minor claim to fame, or even, bizarrely, just a relationship to someone else with a claim to fame.
Television presenters, sports people, musicians and the children of the famous, once they decide to become writers, publishers just fall at their feet. The quality of the writing is very much an afterthought. That’s what ghostwriters and editors are for.
Yes, publishers do still take on unknown authors. But the publishers rarely reward their new signings with the best publishing deals. Decent, liveable advances are rare nowadays, which puts a great strain on the writing process, for those not lucky enough to have the money in the bank to help buy the time for writing. Additionally, publishers are dumping more and more of their publicity funding on a smaller and smaller number of celebrity names, which leaves the rest of the publisher’s stable languishing in their wake. Money buys interviews on radio stations and the breakfast television sofa; it pays for newspaper and magazine advertising and it secures a prominent seat at a literary festival, or a comfortable round of bookshop signings. For the other authors, those left with the crumbs, they find themselves assigned barely any publicity or support, which of course reflects negatively on book sales. The true and dedicated authors will see the titles of their celebrity brethren in the selective book section of the supermarket. They will find the famous name books given prominence in the front of a bookshop, while their own works languish within the anonymity of the general fiction shelves.
All this is having the negative effect of pushing new writers into self-publishing their work in e-book format. This can and sometimes does work, and some e-book authors have gone on to great success. But on the whole, however, without a sizeable input of money to raise awareness, it merely results in their books becoming lost within the tidal surge of too many others.
To paraphrase Syndrome from the movie The Incredibles: when everyone is an author, no one is.
The unrestricted ability to publish anything, without any quality control or discipline, is the greatest downside of iBooks and Kindle publishing. You may release a wonderful novel, but on the same day a hundred other people will also release their work; some good, some bad, some unedited and almost pitiful.
Think about that when next you consider your Amazon rating.
There are probably wonderful, life-changing and momentous books out there that we will never hear about, or read. For all we know, the next great writer has already given up and returned to their day job and we will never even hear of them.
And bear in mind this sobering truth: had fame and celebrity been the prime requirement for securing a publishing deal throughout literary history (and for simplicity I will limit this to British literary history) then we would have no Jane, Austin or the Bronte sisters, or for that matter J.K.Rowling. In fact, we would have an eviscerated list of novelists from the past two hundred years, until the cult of the celebrity author began to emerge in the 1990s. This is when TV gardeners, actors and presenters began to use their fame to secure lucrative publishing deals. The legal battle between Joan Collins and Random House offers a telling insight into what was soon to become the norm. Her name fought battle with the perceived quality of the writing. She argued the publishers asked only for a completed manuscript, not an acceptable one, and that just about sums up the problem. Ability is secondary to the name, and it is the name that sells, not the content.
The sole requirement for successful writing should be quality. The quality to grip and enthral and immerse. The fame of the author should come only from the popularity of their writing; it should not be the prior requirement before giving their words to the world.
You, as a writer, could be sitting on the best work of fiction of the past fifty years. It could be a novel that would sell in the hundreds of thousands and give birth to a billion dollar movie franchise. It could be a novel that literary students will study for decades to come, or one that becomes a set part of the school curriculum. But ask yourself this: who stands the greater chance of publication, you, or an ex-premiership footballer, or better still, his wife?
12 June 2013
I'm spending far too much time dragging my sorry butt into the modern world. What I mean by this is joining, mastering and understanding Social Media!
Facebook is driving me mad! I'm getting there but it is a pain. I like Pinterest and Tumblr though.
Check out my contacts page to see my other pages.
I have added quite a few interesting links to the Link page. If you think you have a site that would suit a link, please let me know.
31 May 2013
All set for the official release of the e-book version of FIRE. All the feedback so far has been very positive, with everyone thinking the look and detail of the book excellent. Please, if you read it, let me know. Also... if you spot any errors, or have any suggestions, then please let me know. I am still on the hunt for images, some of which I will included in the extended physical edition.
On a different note, I ma (slowly) beginning to come up to speed on the social media side of things. I have Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and twitter accounts you may like to follow.
I am in the early days of a new writing project titled The Ribbon and the Hawk. 10k words in to an estimated 100K. Better get cracking...
24 May 2013
All is now ready for the release of FIRE, on June 1st, 2013. Early reviews are very positive, with everyone thinking the result a very beautiful and crafted book.
Other projects are proceeding well, too. The Call of the Siren is complete, and I will be printing a number of review copies for distribution soon. I have begun a new title, called The Ribbon and the Hawk, which is in its research and structuring phase. I hope to begin writing it within the next few weeks.
09 May 2013
FIRE is due for release at the end of this month. I am sending out links to download evaluation copies, and for contributors to have, this week. It will be interesting to have people' s feedback.
22 April 2013
Fire is now complete, with all the images and design in place. I'll set it aside for a week or so, and then take a look with fresh eyes to try and spy out errors and design faults. In the meantime, it's on with completing The Call of the Siren. Lots of re-reading ahead me-thinks.
30 March 2013
The assembly of ‘Fire – Fascination, Firework and Festival’ is now complete (phew). I have some further photography to take care of, and am awaiting some other images to use, but now it is down to the fine-tuning of the pages.
I have spent far too many hours on the photo-editing side of things. Old, tatty and often burnt firework labels take a hell of a lot of work to make them presentable but the work is worth it. They look lovely. Some have not looked this good since the day they were first printed, back in the fifties or sixties. Hopefully they will fire some further memories.
Most of the labels and posters in the new book have not featured in the previous one, although a few old favourites have made it in again.
On an unrelated project, I have redesigned the front cover to The Call of the Siren. I have added a thumb of it to the books page, and will have a dedicated info page up for the book before too long. The girl in the picture is called Maude Fealy. She was an American stage and screen actress from the early 20th century. I believe the photo dates from around 1905.
13 March 2013
The first draft of Fire, is now complete and I am now assembling the images to illustrate the book. With luck, the book should be ready within the next two months, although I still have some photography outstanding.
All this means I am deep into the morass of the technical side of publishing. In many ways, the easy bit is done, for the words come naturally to me. The designing and setting is another matter, for although I have no problem with the ideas and vision, I do have the problem of having to deal with a whole lot of temperamental and downright moody programs. Programs that take hissy-fits and run off crying when you ask too much of them, or sulk when you store something in a program with which they don't see eye-to-eye.
I assemble the books using Quark Express, before exporting into Adobe Acrobat Pro to prepare the printable files. I write the words in MS Word, or on Apple Pages. If I use Pages (on the move, on an iPad,) I have to exported the text to Word but must first go through MS Notes text editor to iron out the strangeness of the text when brought from Pages. There are weird alignment issues, whereby text written in Pages does not line up, on the same line, as text written on Word. Only though exporting to a pure text editor and then re-exporting to Word does this issue go away. Very annoying.
The images throw up a whole new area of headaches and frustration. I am forced to use two image editing programs because each carries its own strengths and idiosyncratic weaknesses. Although I use Adobe Photoshop CS2 mostly, I still find there are a few tricks on a far, far cheaper program called JASC Paintshop Pro that lend well to repairing old tatty images. Each image (and there are a lot) is opened first in CS2 to scale, crop, clean and colour correct, before it is over to Paintshop Pro to use the frankly better touch-up and replace tools. CS2 has the same tools but they are frustratingly irritating to use. In Pro it is click-click-done. In CS2 it is click-click-open new tool-click-click-perhaps done. And control--+ is such an irritating way to zoom the image. The scroll wheel on the mouse zooms on Paintshop, and smart-zooms too, as it will zoom in on the cursor. You can pull back to see the entire image, place the cursor where you want to go and zoom straight in. Very handy. Try all this on a hundred or more images and you will see what I mean.
In short, to make the books I use up to six or seven different programs. And then there is Dreamweaver for the website. And Stylewriter or Editor for proofing text in the early stages.
I am not sure whether to think of myself as a writer or a software technician. Or perhaps a councillor to moody teenage software programs that never asked to be installed...
28 February 2013
I have started a new non-fiction book titled ‘FIRE - Fascination, Fireworks and Festival.’ I felt like a change from fiction.
About the book
The human fascination with fire is ancient and instinctive. It has shaped our society and influenced our beliefs for countless generations. Across the world and throughout history, fire has played a vital and vivid roll in folklores, myths and yearly rituals. The book will take a look at our fears and fascination for fire, and explores why the human reaction to flame and fireworks is so visceral from an early age.
The book will explore the autumn fire festivals and the lasting popularity of fireworks. Fire shed a little light on these most fascinating consumer items and their remarkable history.
And a little by way of a background in the subject…
I have loved fireworks since first watching them from a bedroom window at the age of five. Their beauty has fascinated me ever since and I decided at an early age, I would like to be involved, somehow, in the business of fireworks. Originally, this was the desire to be a ‘firework-man,’ that elusive yearly lighter of the big public display in the local park. This I achieved during the 1990s, as a member of the Pains Fireworks display team, helping fire large public displays across the southeast, including displays at Alexandra Palace and Battersea Park. I also became involved with film and television pyrotechnics, working on numerous projects including London’s Burning, Cold Lazarus and Bugs. The film pyrotechnics were a spin-off from my main work at the time, in film visual effects, which saw my participation in major feature films such as Batman, Prince of Thieves, Judge Dredd, and many, many others.
In short, I have worked with light and often flame, one way or another, for most of my life, and can trace this back to those exciting evenings spent watching the fireworks from a bedroom window.
February 12, 2013
Here we go... a new site (still a work in progress) and my first attempt at some form of blog.
First off, a brief mention of my writing background...
I first wrote for publication at the age of 15, when I produced a series of monthly astronomy articles, syndicated across various local newspapers in the North West of England. On the subject of fireworks I have written numerous articles and these have been published in various magazines and newspapers.
I have become a full-time writer since the beginning of 2012, and have concentrated on building a small portfolio of completed books with the view to publishing all within a short period of time (a ready-made back catalogue!) They range from seaborne thrillers and contemporary fantasy, to romantic tales of time-slips and mystery.