Author Archives: Matt Karlov

New short story

You know how ever since the middle of last year I’ve been talking vaguely about a soon-to-be-released short story? Well, it’s taken longer than I hoped, but the story is finally ready to go. It’s called For The Glory Set Before Them, and it will be out towards the end of May.

What’s it about, I hear you ask? Here’s the blurb…

For The Glory Set Before ThemI am Barais neb-Ohel, combat sorcerer under Captain Shansherai. We are summoned to fight and die in service to the All-God and to all Kefira, home of our fathers.

It will, I am told, be glorious.

Widower, diarist, and mediocre sorcerer, Barais neb-Ohel makes an unlikely soldier. When his squad receives orders to reclaim a much-contested fortress from the hated Gisleans, Barais is thrust into the forefront of a long-running war. But the squad’s numbers are few, his own abilities are desperately limited, and as their journey progresses he finds himself questioning the rightness of their cause.

For The Glory Set Before Them is a meditative military fantasy which will draw you deeper into the fascinating world of Kal Arna.

So there you have it! Publication day is May 27. Keep an eye on the Books page for links to various stores.

In other news, I’m continuing to make good progress on The Lordless City. As expected, I’m moving faster as I get into the final third of the book. Word count has passed 120,000, and I’m on track to complete the draft by the end of the year. That’s the first draft, of course — there’ll be plenty of work to follow, but I’m very much looking forward to finishing this draft and getting stuck into revisions and editing.

Things I Like: The Lost Thing

Even if you’re not familiar with Shaun Tan’s beautifully strange artwork, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of The Lost Thing, the film adaptation of his book of the same name which won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Animated Short. It’s a wistful, offbeat story about a boy who discovers a odd creature at the beach and sets about trying to find its home.

The Lost Thing is one of those works of art which feels like it sprung into existence as a complete, perfectly formed whole. Everything about it is just right, from the slowly unfolding story to the lovely animation of Shaun Tan’s art. Tim Minchin’s narration is wonderful for both its pathos and its timing, and the characterisation of the out-of-place creature itself is a joy to behold.

And there’s plenty to reward repeat viewing — signs, billboards and other background details add layers to the story, highlighting the particular obsessions of the world that the boy and the creature must navigate in their search for the creature’s home.

At only fifteen minutes long, The Lost Thing doesn’t ask for much of your time. No doubt there are many more important things we could all be paying attention to. But that’s precisely what The Lost Thing is about: the value of setting those important things aside and opening ourselves to the strange, half-hidden things all around us which are so easy to ignore.

End of year update

I’m a couple of weeks late with this post — but better late than never, right? Here’s where things stand as we farewell 2015 and gear up for a new year.

Next novel

A few days ago I passed the halfway point of the first draft of The Unbound Man’s sequel, still tentatively titled The Lordless City. The word count of the first half is just shy of 85,000, which is pretty similar to the first half of The Unbound Man. So far there have been no major divergences from the outline. Some smaller surprises, yes, and the emergence of several unexpected character threads which contribute some pleasing depth and ambiguity to the whole, but nothing so significant as to pull the story off-track. All of which is to say: so far, so good.

Those of you who remember my last update may recall that in late August I was about a third of the way through the first draft; now, four or so months later, I’ve made it to halfway. If one projects that rate of progress forward into 2016, one might reasonably assume that I could finish this draft by the end of the year. To which I can only say: yes, I noticed that too. I’ve been frustrated for most of 2015 at not being able to write more quickly (primarily due to time constraints), but the truth is that I’ve been progressing significantly faster than anything I managed while writing The Unbound Man. I very much hope that I will complete this draft before the year is out. We shall see.

Short stories

I’ve been making vague comments for a while about maybe putting out a short story sometime soon. I don’t have anything new to report on this just yet, so for the moment those vague comments still stand. As soon as I can say anything more specific, I will.

Other activities

In the wake of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, I participated in a two-part round table with a number of other SPFBO participants over at Fantasy Book Critic. This was followed up by a guest post on the subject of building a world, in which I talked about my various sources of inspiration for the setting of The Unbound Man and how I went about constructing it.

Then in December, I teamed up with Mitchell Hogan and DK Mok to run a Christmas giveaway. Congratulations to the winners, Ilir G and Karla: your books are on their way!

Thank you

Finally, my thanks to everyone who read The Unbound Man in 2015. There’s no shortage of books to read out there, and without the platform or marketing support of some of the bigger names it can be tough to get noticed. Thank you to everyone who gave The Unbound Man a shot. I hope to have more stories for you soon.

Christmas giveaway

2015 Christmas Giveaway

Do you like epic fantasy? Do you like winning things? How about books that have been signed by their author? If you answered ‘yes’ to all three questions, the Awesome Emerging Australian Authors Christmas Giveaway is for you.

Win a bundle of the following books:

  • A Crucible of Souls by Mitchell Hogan (2013 Aurealis Award winner!)
  • Hunt for Valamon by DK Mok
  • The Unbound Man by me, Matt Karlov

One bundle will be won by somebody in the US, CA, or UK. Another will be won by somebody in Australia.

US / CA / UK residents can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Australian residents can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway closes on December 24. Don’t miss out!

Things I Like: The Malazan Book of the Fallen

It’s hard to know what to say about Steven Erikson’s superb ten-volume Malazan Book of the Fallen that hasn’t already been said. Phenomenal? Epic? Absolutely. Complex, funny, tragic, deep? Without a doubt. The greatest work of fantasy yet written? In my opinion, yes.

Malazan Complete SeriesPerhaps I can put it best by saying that the Malazan series is the most complete work of fiction I have ever encountered. Somehow, Erikson has managed to combine an astonishing breadth of scope with a no less astonishing depth of insight and theme. His plotting is brilliant. His exploration of character is second to none, for both variety and depth. His setting is as epic as you’re ever likely to see. His prose is masterful. Erikson never pulls his punches, but neither are the books unremittingly grim. Over the course of the series, just about every facet of human existence is explored, questioned, and put into new perspective. Yet the emotional payoff at the end of each volume is always compelling and frequently devastating.

This is a series which changes its readers. Is there any higher compliment for a work of fiction than that?

And for people like me who are scratching out their own stories, the Malazan series shows just how much you can do with words. Erikson himself has deconstructed this aspect of his work in a series of essays which I’d recommend to anyone with an interest in the craft of writing.

No work of fiction stands alone, of course. Without Tolkien, without others along the way, the Malazan series would never have come into being. All the same, if I was asked to name the single greatest achievement in the field of fantasy, I wouldn’t have to think about it for even a moment. The Malazan Book of the Fallen stands head and shoulders above every other work of fantasy I’ve ever read.

Things I Like: Braid

My inaugural Things I Like post was about an ancient Akkadian piece of philosophical / satirical literature, so for this follow-up post I’ve decided to skip ahead several thousand years and talk about an indie computer game, Braid.

Braid is a two-dimensional platform game. On the surface, it looks much the same as any other platform game: you jump from here to there, avoiding creatures and collecting items, in this case puzzle pieces. But there’s one key difference between this and other games: the flow of time works differently on each level. Right at the start you find that you have the ability to rewind time, and as the game progresses you discover objects and creatures that interact with time differently, items which slow the passage of time around them, even worlds where your direction of movement determines the direction of time.

And the notion of time’s malleability is not confined to game mechanics. The game’s protagonist, Tim, is trying to atone for some unfortunate mistake involving a princess and a monster. His reflections accompany the player’s progress throughout the game, forming an intriguing, multi-layered narrative exploring the experience of life within time.

Braid is only a short game — you’ll probably finish it in less then 10 hours — but it has more depth than a lot of games many times its length. Its creator, Jonathan Blow, has some fascinating ideas about games and what they can be. His next game will be The Witness, which is due for release some time in 2016. If Braid is anything to go by, it will be well worth checking out.

Things I Like: The Dialogue of Pessimism

In an effort to liven up the blog a little, I’m starting what I hope will become a semi-regular series about things which I think deserve a wider audience. “Things” is a deliberately vague term — many of my recommendations will no doubt come from the world of literature and entertainment, but there’s no telling what else might crop up here on occasion. Posts will probably err on the side of brevity, as this won’t be sustainable if it takes too much time away from my novel writing, but we’ll see how we go.

And so, without further ado, here’s the first Thing I Like: the Dialogue of Pessimism.


Image in public domain

The Dialogue of Pessimism is an ancient text from Babylon and Assyria consisting of a series of short exchanges between a master and a slave. In each exchange, the master proposes some course of action, to which the slave enthusiastically agrees; then the master changes his mind, and the slave finds reasons to agree just as enthusiastically with the new proposal.

There are so many levels on which to enjoy the Dialogue. Is it a critique of the capriciousness of those who possess power? A satire of the obsequiousness of human reason, ever ready to rationalise whatever decision one has already made? A commentary on the absurdity of life, a mere 3,000 years before the advent of Kierkegaard and existentialism? More than likely, it’s all of the above — and with the kind of references to then-contemporary culture (such as the Epic of Gilgamesh) that would make an Akkadian Joss Whedon proud.

Wikipedia’s page for the Dialogue suggests that it may have been intended for public performance as much as private reading. Performing the Dialogue would have created an opportunity to add yet more layers, contextualising it for a particular city or ruler or circumstance. It’s fascinating to think of an ancient audience taking in the Dialogue on a dusty Babylonian street corner, or to picture some cuneiform-scribe tapping out the words on clay tablets, perhaps at the request of his own master.

Sadly, some fragments of the Dialogue have been lost to time. But there’s still plenty to enjoy. Come for the satire, stay for the Mesopotamian wisdom — and don’t miss the slave’s cheeky closing remark to his master.

Mid-year update

I’ve been neglecting this blog lately, but I thought I’d dust it off to give an update on the state of the next book and some other bits and pieces.

Next novel

I’m hard at work on the sequel to The Unbound Man, tentatively titled The Lordless City. Right now I’m about a third of the way through the first draft. What, only a third? Well, yes. Progress has been slower than I’d hoped, largely due to life stuff unrelated to writing. (Such a pesky thing, life — always getting in the way of what you really want to do.)

The good news is that beginnings are always the hardest part of a story for me. I hope and expect to pick up speed from this point on. In fact, it’s already started to happen. I’m pretty happy with the chapters I have so far, and I’m excited about where the book is headed. If you enjoyed The Unbound Man, I think you’ll like this one, too.

Short stories

I have several of these at various stages of completion & submission, but no news to report just yet. It’s possible that one of them might make its way onto Amazon in the not too distant future. Stay tuned.

The Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off

I entered The Unbound Man in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO for short). It received a lovely review on Bookworm Blues (about halfway down the page) and was named winner of its sub-group, but unfortunately just missed out on the overall group win. Well, I say ‘just’, but in all honesty I have no idea where it might have been positioned among the other sub-group winners. Still, it’s nice to look at that review and imagine that The Unbound Man was this close to becoming a finalist, isn’t it? (Yes, it is.)

The SPFBO has really highlighted how much great self-published fantasy is out there these days. I’ve come across a number of books which I now want to read (and not just finalists, either). If you want to know more, D. Moonfire has put together a handy reference page with details of every book in the contest. Some of the data is still being added, but the page is well worth a look.