S&L November Book Club: 'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' Kick-Off and Your Feedback!

Uploaded by geekandsundry on 02.11.2012


TOM MERRITT: Coming up angels who drink,
date, and fight crime.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes and a real-life life Sword and Laser
Book Club member horror story.
And also, I spent 15 minutes trying to get my bangs
perfectly even.
You don't want to miss this.
It's the Sword and Laser Book Club.

VERONICA BELMONT: Welcome to the Sword and
Laser Book Club .
I'm Veronica Belmont.
TOM MERRITT: I'm Tom Merritt.
Watching this show may lead to an awesome list of amazing
sci-fi and fantasy to read.
If your reading list exceeds the amount in your bank
account, consult your local librarian.
TOM MERRITT: That's good advice.
Each month we focus on one book that
most of us read together.
We'll be kicking that off in a bit, but let's start by
checking our calendar of book releases.
VERONICA BELMONT: Lots of great books coming out on
November 13, starting with the "Inexplicables" by Cherie
Priest a recent guest on our Author Guide show.
The "Inexplicables" follows Wreck-em Sherman in the
wasteland around Seattle years after the blight of 1863.
"Errantry: Strange Stories" by Elizabeth Hand is a collection
of dark strangeness from the summer isles to the
cubicle next door.
"Outer Space, Inner Lands" by Ursula K. Le Guin selects some
of Le Guin's best non-realistic stories.
Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory return to the world of
"The Obsidian and Enduring Flame" trilogies in "Crown of
Dragon Prophecy." And the annotated "Sword of Shannara,"
the 35th anniversary edition by Terry Brooks, is out
November 13 as well.
TOM MERRITT: On November 20, "Red Country" by Joe
Abercrombie should actually come out.
Say this about Logan Nine-Fingers, he's probably
not in this book as much as Nicomo Cosca, if at all.
But "Red Country" will be out on this day anyway.
And then on November 27, find out why no one will ever die
again and everyone will want to, in the "Fractal Prince" by
Hannu Rajanieme.
Also the return Harry Dresden and the Dresden files in "Cold
Days" by Jim Butcher, future Authors Guide guest.
The number of druids on earth doubles in "Trapped," book
five of the "Iron Druid Chronicals" by Kevin Hearne.
The Dragon Lords soar again in "Bard's
Oath" by Joanne Burton.
And finally, on November 27, "Steel's Edge" by Ilona
Andrews explores the edge between Walmart and
changelings, and more.
VERONICA BELMONT: That might seem like it is all the books,
but it's not.
Let's start talking about this month's book pick, "The Dirty
Streets of Heaven" by Tad Williams.
I'm excited about this one.
TOM MERRITT: I am too.
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm a very big Tad
Williams fan, as you know.
TOM MERRITT: You've been saying this for years.
So Tad Williams and Robin Hobb are the two authors that
you're always pushing as your favorites.
And this is my chance to read Tad Williams.
We read Robin Hobb earlier.
VERONICA BELMONT: Have you not read any Tad Williams before?
TOM MERRITT: I had not.
I had not.
And I have to say, I'm loving it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Oh so you're skipping
ahead and reading already?
TOM MERRITT: Well, you know November 1 was--
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm almost done too.
TOM MERRITT: And this is a new book so you
hadn't read this before?
VERONICA BELMONT: No, I haven't read this before.
So first of all, this is supposed to be a trilogy.
It's supposed to end up as a trilogy.
TOM MERRITT: This is the first book of the trilogy.
VERONICA BELMONT: So it's the first book in "Bobby Dollar
Chronicals." I think.
No it's the Bobby Dollar book.
So it's just the "Bobby Dollar Books" trilogy.
TOM MERRITT: The legend of of Bobby Dollar.
What I love about this so far is that it's got a real
detective, noir, gum-shoe kind of vibe to it.
TOM MERRITT: Oh it's a total Raymond Chandler-ish, Dashiell
Hammett feel to it.
And I am a big fan of that genre.
So I'm in right from the beginning.
VERONICA BELMONT: So for those of you don't know, it's the
story of Bobby Dollar and he's an angel.
He's actually an advocate, which is the kind of angel
whose job it is to defend souls after they cross over
out of the world of the living.
It's kind of like a trial.
There's an angel and then there's a representative from
hell who is a demon prosecutor.
And they battle it out in front of a
judge, and then whoever--
TOM MERRITT: Who is a principality, I believe.
If I get my angel lore right.
VERONICA BELMONT: Apparently they're
supposed to be neutral.
Yeah, I don't see how that's fair because they really seem
to be more on the angel side of things, but whatever.
And so they battle it out over your soul and
whoever wins gets it.
TOM MERRITT: It's like a legal case.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's exactly like a legal case.
TOM MERRITT: And if the advocate doesn't argue well on
your behalf the case might swing the wrong way.
TOM MERRITT: But there's mitigating circumstances.
They include purgatory in this book.
So if you don't win the case, you could still get off with
time in purgatory.
You don't go straight to hell every time.
VERONICA BELMONT: Now Tad Williams said in a couple of
interviews that it's not really supposed to be too
It's definitely religious in a sense, but it doesn't have any
specific tie to any certain religion.
TOM MERRITT: Well, that's what I think is fascinating is that
he's taking the structure straight out
of traditional religion.
So there's heaven.
There's principalities.
There's certain levels of angels, all that sort of a
kind of thing-- kind of Milton-esque.
But it's not tied to Christianity
as you might expect.
It sort of backs off on that issue and says, no, we're not
saying which religion this really is.
We're just kind of pulling a lot of the angel and demon
mythology, and leaving it up to you to figure out.
VERONICA BELMONT: And something --I hope this
doesn't give too much away.
I don't think it does.
But Bobby Dollar, at one point says that maybe depending on
who has passed, maybe your experience is different.
Maybe it's kind of more like the way you thought it would
be in your own religion as you were growing up.
And so maybe it's all just perspective based on your
TOM MERRITT: Kind of the way when you're reading a book,
you picture people differently because you bring your own
experience into a book.
I thought that was an interesting way of doing it.
VERONICA BELMONT: The angels don't have all the answers.
TOM MERRITT: Especially the ones on earth, right?
VERONICA BELMONT: They know actually very little about
what's going on.
Yeah, there's earthbound angels and that is what
Bobby Dollar is.
And he definitely has a lot of questions
that he has out there.
TOM MERRITT: And if you're wondering how can it be film
noir with angels, the advocate angels are not the angels
you've met before.
These angels are almost like fedora-wearing,
They're the dirty streets of heaven.
The streets of heaven actually aren't that dirty.
VERONICA BELMONT: They're actually not that
dirty in the book.
TOM MERRITT: But it implies the right thing.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, of course this is the kick-off
episode, so we don't want to give too much away.
But the main crux of the story is that one day, the soul just
doesn't show up for trial.
And hell doesn't know what happened, and heaven doesn't
know what happened, and everyone's like,
where did it go?
TOM MERRITT: And then it gets worse from there.
VERONICA BELMONT: And then mayhem ensues.
TOM MERRITT: Investigations.
Like wait a minute, the whole system is falling apart.
What's going on?
VERONICA BELMONT: This is how it has been since the dawn of
time, and suddenly the soul doesn't show up.
TOM MERRITT: Now the other thing that's weird --and maybe
this is weirder for us because we're in the San
Francisco Bay Area--
but it takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area with one
major difference.
So there's Oakland and San Francisco, but instead of the
South Bay with the Silicon Valley and San Jose, it's sort
of this kind of mirror image in the North Bay with this
imaginary city called San Judas, which is the third city
in the Bay Area that doesn't actually exist.
If you're not familiar with the Bay Area.
It actually--
VERONICA BELMONT: Do you know how many times I read this and
I was like--
TOM MERRITT: You're like, Stanford isn't up there.
VERONICA BELMONT: Stanford isn't there.
TOM MERRITT: Palo Alto isn't in the North Bay.
VERONICA BELMONT: That doesn't make any sense.
I'm confused.
TOM MERRITT: Most people are going to read this and they're
just not even going to raise an eyebrow.
But for folks in this area, it was like but how's that,
that's in the--?
But it's already kind of a brilliant reflection because
what are areas of the South Bay in the San Jose area
actually become neighborhoods in this
fictional city of San Judas.
And it allows him a lot of freedom to create areas that
fit the story perfectly without
reflecting on real areas.
VERONICA BELMONT: It's super funny too, because he actually
mentions street names like Whipple Avenue and Sandhill
Road and places that exist near us.
TOM MERRITT: They're just not in the right place.
VERONICA BELMONT: They're just not in the right place.
There was actually a "Wired" interview that Tad Williams
did recently where they talk about the name San Judas.
The "Wired" question was why did you choose that name?
And Tad goes on to say, "Well partially because everything
around here, certainly most of the cities, were named by
Spanish missionaries, Junipero Serra's people
and those after them.
So most of the big cities in California, San Diego, Santa
Barbara, San Jose, San Francisco
are named after saints.
But of course the nature of this particular kind of
strange city, this slightly odd, off-kilter, Thomas
Pynchonian-land of a place was such that I wanted to name it
So San Judas is actually Saint Jude the Obscure, patron Saint
of Lost Causes.
But people constantly mistake that Judas-- you know the one
who could see the missionaries naming this place after St.
Judas, Thaddeus St. Jude.
But that everyone would assume it was named after Judas
Iscariot, the guy who betrayed Jesus.
So it seemed like a perfect fit.
TOM MERRITT: Lost causes and betrayer kind of mixes and
muddles the metaphor.
And actually that's one of the things that I think people are
going to love about this book is Tad Williams' ability to
tell what is a very straightforward, easily
consumable story.
It's not a story where you're sitting there like, whoa, this
is so intricate and Pynchonian.
But it has these elements that have a deeper level to them if
you want to think about it.
It's sort of like, hey this story is easy to follow if
you're tired.
But if you really want to dig in, there's something
underneath for you to inform the story and
make it a lot richer.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, Bobby Dollar is a very interesting
character too.
I'm having a hard time pinning down exactly how old he's
supposed to be, if he's in his 30s, if he's
a little bit older.
I'm seeing him as more of a grizzled kind of guy.
But I think--
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, and you're talking about his appearance
too, not his actual angel age.
Because he doesn't even know.
Another thing about angels is they don't know anything about
their life before they got to heaven.
They don't know who were.
They don't know what they did.
All they know is that this is their existence now.
TOM MERRITT: And one of the things I think a lot of people
will have fun with is it's going to follow--
if you're familiar with the detective trope-- it's going
to follow that same thing of the guy goes out, tries to
solve the crime, breaks the law, runs afoul of the
authorities, the authorities try to keep him in line, he
bucks the system.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, everyone's mad at him.
Everyone's mad at Bobby Dollar all the time.
TOM MERRITT: It's all of that stuff straight out of Humphrey
Bogart movies that you might be familiar with.
But it fits into this angelic system which just makes it
cool and weird, and is a lovely spin on that kind of
detective story.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, heaven apparently is a pretty big
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, a lot of paperwork.
VERONICA BELMONT: A lot of bureacratic
stuff going on there.
It's a really fun book.
I think you guys will really enjoy it.
It's not religious.
Some people may be bothered by that.
If that's something that bothers you, I don't really
know how to help with that.
TOM MERRITT: I think most people, whether you're
religious or not, can read this and enjoy it.
In fact Father Robert Ballester, who's a regular
host of an Enterprise Tech show on TWiT, when I
recommended this to him, --he's a Jesuit priest-- was
like, oh I'm buying that right away.
He was way into it.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yeah, Tad Williams
was actually surprised.
He said some religious folks love it.
Some hate it.
Some get really mad at me.
Some say how glad they are that I wrote it.
So it can go either way.
Build your own opinion about it.
Check it out.
It's a fun pick.
TOM MERRITT: That is our book for the month.
So if you're going to read it, read it along with us.
And we'll check back at the end of this month to find out
what you thought of Bobby Dollar and friends.
But before we go we have a few things from our feedback,
email, and on Goodreads to check in on.
VERONICA BELMONT: Yes, and a horror story
with a happy ending.
Rachel writes, dear Tom and Veronica, it scares me how
close I came to never finding Sword and Laser.
It started one night late as I was watching TV, which I
hardly ever do any more, and left the BBC on after "Doctor
Who." Actually, I watch "Doctor Who" quite often.
And an episode of "The Nerdist" came on which I'd
only ever seen once before, which happened to have
Felicia Day on it.
Not too surprising who talked about her YouTube channel,
Geek & Sundry of course.
TOM MERRITT: Hey, that's the channel we're on right now.
And Wil Wheaton's show, "TableTop--"
TOM MERRITT: I love that show.
VERONICA BELMONT: --which I immediately looked up and
started watching.
"TableTop," I mean.
When I ran out of "TableTop" episodes, I started exploring
the other shows on this wonderful channel
called Geek & Sundry.
TOM MERRITT: Oh, shucks.
VERONICA BELMONT: And then I found you.
VERONICA BELMONT: I have found lots of good books through
word-of-mouth but there never seemed to be enough friend
recommendations to satiate my book appetite.
I now have so many books on my to-read list that I worry I
won't get to them all.
I also found other people who like to seriously, and maybe
sometimes not so seriously, discuss genre books.
Now I feel so much more connected to people who love
the kind of books I do.
Can't believe Sword and Laser has been there all along and I
never knew.
Thank you guys so much for what you do, for sharing your
love of sci-fi and fantasy with us--
TOM MERRITT: It's a horror story with a happy ending.
VERONICA BELMONT: --for promoting the reading of genre
fiction and inspiring more book discussion.
I love your show.
And that is awesome.
Thank you so much.
TOM MERRITT: That is a heart-warming story for us
because that's what we do it for.
We do it so that people can find more things to read.
We selfishly do it for ourselves for that reason.
I wouldn't be reading Tad Williams right now if we
weren't doing the show.
I have to guess.
And I'm so happy I am.
I'm thrilled.
That kind of email and letter just makes your week, makes
your month.
So thank you very much.
I'm super happy you're enjoying the show.
And check out the audio podcast too.
TOM MERRITT: Thanks, very good.
VERONICA BELMONT: Even more discussion.
Oh and huge thanks to Rael, who made a 3D version of our
set with us on it.
And it is giant.
It is like 3840 by 2160 pixels.
It looks tiny there though.
On our little screens it looks tiny but it's
actually quite large.
TOM MERRITT: It's going to look large to the people who
are watching this on YouTube.
That's awesome.
Can one judge a book by its cover?
I worked at a bookstore so I say yes.
But Trike started a post in our Goodreads forum and says,
is it just me?
I got an Amazon email this morning and had this feeling
of deja vu all over again.
Look at all those cover similarities.
Lots of folks pointed out that this has become common
practice in the book industry.
Is the cover still important?
It's hard to tell.
Look at this.
Look at these "Shadow Blizzard," "Way of the
Shadows." They're all the same hooded guy, "Awakened Mage,"
"The Broken Isles." Even the Terry Brooks' "Shannara" which
is a great book but they picked a cover that's like,
hey we're trying to make it look like "Assassin's Creed."
VERONICA BELMONT: There was even some classics like "Romeo
and Juliet" that had very "Twilight"-esque covers that
they put them out with now to kind of
grab people's attention.
You know what?
For that kind of cause, I'm happy to have it.
If people are going to pick up a classic piece of literature
because they think the cover looks like "Twilight" and
actually enjoy reading that classic piece of literature, I
don't care how they found it.
It doesn't matter to me.
Yeah, maybe it's a little bit misleading, but at the same
time more power to them for getting people
to read good stuff.
TOM MERRITT: What it points out to me is in this age of
ebooks the cover is still important.
Because when we're searching through an Amazon, or an
Audible, or barnesandnoble.com you still look
at those book covers.
TOM MERRITT: It still informs your choice a little bit.
Which I think we all assume that once it's digital, book
covers forget it.
It doesn't matter anymore but that picture on the internet
still matters.
VERONICA BELMONT: I kind of like it actually when I've
been reading a book in ebook format, and then I actually
see the cover for the first time and I get to say, oh, I
didn't think that person looked like that at all or
that's an interesting cover.
TOM MERRITT: I see them in the list when I
first download them.
VERONICA BELMONT: Well now I do because I have a
TOM MERRITT: And if I switch devices.
VERONICA BELMONT: I didn't use that before.
It used to just be the title on the old Kindle.
TOM MERRITT: See I read it on a tablet, so I see color.
I see the color pictures all the time.
And Matt is asking, anyone else participating in
NaNoWriMo this year?
I thought maybe a thread started here would be a good
idea to share progress and ideas with other Sword and
Laser listeners.
I've never taken part in NaNoWriMo before.
I became interested too late in the month last year, and
I've been waiting since then to take part.
I managed to write Monday through Friday
every day of November.
Let's see how that pans out for me.
Yes, I am doing NaNoWriMo.
You are doing NaNoWriMo?
TOM MERRITT: I am going to be doing it for the
fourth year in a row.
I have won it three times.
VERONICA BELMONT: This is my second year and I won it the
first year.
TOM MERRITT: I've tried it every time.
Actually it's more than four in a row, I think.
But I have won it the past two times.
So this is my third year in a row.
I'm going for three wins in a row.
Wins meaning you write 50,000 words.
There's not a prize.
There's not a prize.
So this show is already in November.
We're time traveling right now.
TOM MERRITT: It's the second day of November.
VERONICA BELMONT: The second day of November.
So hopefully--
TOM MERRITT: So I started yesterday--
VERONICA BELMONT: You started yesterday and
things are going well?
TOM MERRITT: Going great.
How about you?
VERONICA BELMONT: I'm already halfway done.
It's amazing.
I just had a real sprint.
No, that's not true probably at all.
TOM MERRITT: That's great for you.
VERONICA BELMONT: But I try to get at least the minimum
amount of text done.
I use Scrivener as my writing app, which is a fantastic app
by the way too.
You put in the amount of words you need to write and the days
that you want to write them in, and it
breaks it down for you.
It does the math.
And then you can keep your word count up and it shows you
how many days it will take it at that rate of writing.
So it's really helpful to stay on top of everything.
TOM MERRITT: And the idea behind National Novel Writing
Month is not that you actually come out with a perfect
finished novel.
It's to get rid of the excuses that you have
for not getting started.
So if you don't want to write a book then it's not for you.
But if you're the kind of person who's like oh, I'd love
to write but, and you have all these excuses, National Novel
Writing month is saying, hey for one month every day write.
Just write every day.
Don't worry about editing.
Don't worry about plot.
Don't worry about anything.
Just put words onto paper.
And this is really true.
By the end of the month you'll have something worth shaping
it into something else later on.
But we get this all the time from authors which is the
biggest impediment to writing is taking the time to write.
So this is a way to get you into that habit of writing.
VERONICA BELMONT: Actually, and I won't spoil it for
people who are going to watch it, but Robin Hobb gives some
great advice in our Author Guide episode coming up.
So check that out.
TOM MERRITT: Yeah, so if you are doing NaNoWriMo and you I
need a pep talk, November 9, Robin Hobb episode.
VERONICA BELMONT: Alright well that about does it for us.
And make sure, like I said that you check out the Author
Guide episode to Robin Hobb.
But if you have questions for interviews going forward make
sure you submit them to us either on Goodreads or send us
an email at feedback@swordandlaser.com
TOM MERRITT: You don't want to miss that do you?
So don't fail yourself or us.
Do it right now.
It's our YouTube channel.
Green button, up there the corner,
Because you not only get us, you get "TableTop" and you get
"The Guild," and you get "Written By A Kid." There's
great stuff up there.
Go subscribe!
And then let us know. feedback@swordandlaser.com is
our email address.
And join in all the fun in the discussion at our Goodreads
forum, goodreads.com.
See you guys next time.
Get to writing.
I'm going to do that right now.