53 Days In, the 5 Big Stories

Greetings! Today marks my 53rd day in Maryland after venturing eastward to join the excellent content and writing team at ZeniMax Online Studio. I’m happy to report that some of the first material I worked on at ZOS is now seeing the light of day: I wrote up a number of the antiquities that are debuting in the new Greymoor expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. If you’re digging up buried artifacts in Tamriel, you may run across some of my writing. Here’s hoping that the ESO fans out there like what I’ve got to say!

On to additional news and thoughts…

Scornful Stars: Get Your Hardcopy Now!

I recently learned that the mass-market paperback edition of Scornful Stars is indefinitely delayed. It’s a rough time in the book market—bookstores of all sizes are hard-hit by Covid business shutdowns, and printing costs are getting prohibitive—and I think we’re going to see publishers holding off on anything except the biggest and safest releases. Unfortunately, I’m a midlist author at best, so my books aren’t the inventory risk that anybody wants right now. If you’re anxious to add the third of my Sikander North titles to your bookshelf, ORDER THE TRADE PAPERBACK NOW. When those are gone, you might not be able to find Scornful Stars in print.

Likewise, I don’t know of any plans to create an audio book edition of Scornful Stars. If you want that, you’re going to have to find a way to let Tor Books know that you and a number of your friends are anxiously awaiting the next Sikander North adventure.

(If you’re a fan of digital books, don’t panic: Scornful Stars will remain available as an e-book in various formats for the foreseeable future.)

I think a lot of B- and C-list authors are going to be buried by moves like this in the next few months. I’m not the only one who’s getting hurt right now.

TORG Book Two

I’m now 10,000 words into my second TORG novel. I don’t have concrete release information on the first book (Maelstrom Bridge) but I’m hopeful that it sees the light of day this summer; Ulisses N.A. has a different distribution model than conventional Big 5 publishing and it’s not clear to me what effect the pandemic is going to have on their schedule. As soon as I hear something, I’ll share. In the meantime, Book Two is a big, stomping ball of CRAZY, with things that are going to knock TORG fans right out of the seats. You won’t believe what the Ulisses guys are letting me do. It’s amazing.

The Five Biggest Stories of My Lifetime

The unimaginable confusion and disruption of COVID-19 has upended lives around the world. I’m very fortunate; no one in my immediate family or circle of friends has fallen ill, and I managed to hire on with ZeniMax at the exact right time to go to work for a video game company. My circumstances are stable, my wife’s still working a full-time schedule with her jobs, and we’re managing pretty well (other than the fact that I’m in Baltimore and she’s in Seattle). I know that’s not the case for a LOT of people.

Anyway, I found myself thinking the other day about what sort of things I’ve seen in my lifetime that come anywhere close to changing the world in the way this pandemic is doing. I came up with the following as the Stories That Changed the World in My Lifetime:

  • 9/11. Hard to believe it’s almost twenty years ago now. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably old enough to remember—I don’t have to explain it to you.
  • Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. Up until that point, I’d led my life expecting that World War III was just a matter of time. The collapse of the Soviet Empire emancipated hundreds of millions of people. Yes, it’s messy and hard, but the world is a better place. Believe me.
  • Indian Ocean Tsunami, 2004. It’s the worst natural disaster of my lifetime, with a staggering death toll. Before 2004 people only had an inkling of an idea about tsunamis; thriller writers sometimes speculated about what one might look like, but no one *got it* down in their bones. Then the real thing removed all doubt and guesswork about what a big tsunami could do. (There’s a silver lining in this one for my family, strange as it is to say: My brother’s relief work in Sri Lanka led to him meeting his future wife.)
  • COVID-19. Another disaster that we’ve wondered about for decades, now unfolding in slow motion all around us. I never imagined that the world could just stop for 50 days (or 100? or 150?), but here we are. As awful as this is so far, all I can say is that it could have been much worse.
  • (TBD) Assuming I’m around a few decades more, I suspect the fifth big story is still ahead of me. I think we’re due for a good one.


I thought a lot about other major events that might have taken that fifth spot. The riots and assassinations of 1968 are really before my time. Sure, it was within my lifetime, but I was just a baby. My mom makes a good case for the energy crisis of 1973-1974; we were talking about this recently, and she told me that people were afraid to put up Christmas lights that year, and for months you spent hours waiting to fill up your gas tank. Again, though, I don’t really remember that. I think that Desert Storm in 1991 is a serious contender—people forget that everybody “knew” Saddam Hussein’s army was one of the strongest in the world, and the object lesson provided by its destruction checked the bad impulses of dictators and tyrants the world over for ten years. Finally, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 (or the combo of the 2008 market crash and Obama’s election) likewise seemed like a moment that marked a new chapter in history.

I wish there were more good Big Stories than bad Big Stories. Maybe there’s room for one about the internet and smart phones. But darned if I can point to a date and say, “This is the moment everybody knew the world changed.”

Stay safe out there. God willing, the pandemic Big Story winds up being one of perseverance, cooperation, and the triumph of the human spirit by the time it’s all done, and not just something unusually awful that happened.


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