Ritual Crime Unit – E.E. Richardson

ritual crime unitRitual Crime Unit: Under the Skin is the first in a new series of urban fantasy police procedurals marking not only the beginning of a new series for Abaddon Books but also a different way of publishing. Mainly available in e-book format, Under The Skin is available in limited numbers as a physical edition.

A tough, hard-nosed career officer in the male-dominated world of British policing, DCI Claire Pierce of North Yorkshire Police heads Northern England’s underfunded and understaffed Ritual Crime Unit. Ignored by the traditional police, struggling with an out-sized caseload, Pierce is about to tackle her most shocking case so far.

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs – Mike Resnick

TheDoctorAndTheDinosaurs-400

Described as a ‘Weird West Tale’ that mixes an alternate Wild West with magic and steampunk, Mike Resnick has blended history and fantasy into a thoroughly entertaining novel.

The time is April, 1885. Doc Holliday lies in bed in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, expecting never to leave his room again. But the medicine man and great chief Geronimo needs him for one last adventure. Renegade Comanche medicine men object to the newly-signed treaty with Theodore Roosevelt. They are venting their displeasure on two white men who are desecrating tribal territory in Wyoming. Geronimo must protect the men or renege on his agreement with Roosevelt. He offers Doc one year of restored health in exchange for taking on this mission.

Welcome to the birth of American paleontology, spearheaded by two brilliant men, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two men whose genius is only exceeded by their hatred for each other’s guts. 

Now, with the aid of Theodore Roosevelt, Cole Younger, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday must save Cope and Marsh not only from the Comanches, not only from living, breathing dinosaurs, but from each other. And that won’t be easy.

Limit – Frank Schatzing

limitHugely popular in his native Germany, Frank Schatzing’s Limit is a serious, heavyweight tome of a sci-fi novel. Praised for his brilliant characters and expansive, epic storytelling, Schatzing’s work asks questions about the nature of humankind’s future.

In 2025, entrepreneur Julian Orley opens the first-ever hotel on the moon. But Orley Enterprises deals in more than space tourism—it also operates the world’s only space elevator, which in addition to allowing the very wealthy to play tennis on the lunar surface connects Earth with the moon and enables the transportation of helium-3, the fuel of the future, back to the planet. Julian has invited twenty-one of the world’s richest and most powerful individuals to sample his brand-new lunar accommodation, hoping to secure the finances for a second elevator.
 
On Earth, meanwhile, cybercop Owen Jericho is sent to Shanghai to find a young female hacker known as Yoyo, who’s been on the run since acquiring access to information that someone seems quite determined to keep quiet. As Jericho closes in on the girl and the conspiracy swirling around her, he finds mounting evidence that connects her to Julian Orley as well as to the entrepreneur’s many competitors and enemies. Soon, the detective realizes that the lunar junket to Orley’s hotel is in real and immediate danger.

On The Steel Breeze – Alastair Reynolds

On-the-Steel-Breeze

A British Sci-Fi master, Alastair Reynolds has produced another awe-inspiring epic tale. Loosely connected to the author’s earlier Poseidon’s Children, his latest work reads as a stand-alone novel. On The Steel Breeze intertwines two stories, set light years apart and is crafted with consummate skill, resulting in a brilliant hard sci-fi novel.

An epic vision of our journey into deep space.

Hundreds of years from now mankind will finally inherit the stars. A fleet of holoships is heading towards the nearest habitable planet at 15% the speed of light. In massive asteroids turned into ships, tens of millions of people are heading towards a new home. A home that bears signs of an ancient alien civilisation.

No-one knows what they will find when they get there in 90 years. But the main problem is that the ships will have to break the laws of physics to be able to stop. And the research into ways to stop risk the ships themselves. Has mankind squandered the utopia of years past?

Sci-Fi meets Lucha Libra!

On September 16, 2013, Producer/Director C.M. Landrus turned to Lucha Libre and
sci‐fi fans for an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for a new sci‐fi, Lucha Libre film,
Mission, starring the legendary luchador, Mil Mascaras and featuring “American
Horror Story: Asylum” cult sensation, Naomi Grossman, best known for her
portrayal of the AHS fan favorite, Pepper.

Trekking through the jungle in search of a meteorite, Mil Mascaras and the Professor
come across a village ravaged by gruesome attacks. The remaining village
missionaries lead them to what turns out to be an alien spaceship landing site. As
the attacks persist, only Mil Mascaras and uncover the dark truth behind the alien
visit and with the help of his friends, save the human race.

For more information on the project check out:

http://igg.me/at/missionmovie/x/528044

Creating Suspense in Storytelling with Julie Myerson and Jonathan Myerson

DARK IMAGININGS: CREATING SUSPENSE IN STORYTELLING

A Weekend Course on High Tension Narratives:

The Less You Know, The Better The Story

Taught by Julie and Jonathan Myerson

A two-day creative writing workshop held at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, 25th and 26th October 2013

Suspense in literature and film is the key ingredient that keeps readers reading and viewers watching.But how do writers create suspense?  How do they hook their audience and keep them hooked?

We’ve all read novels that made us jump out of our skin and we’ve all felt that creeping sense of dread which means we don’t really want to turn the page….even though we have to! We’ve all sat glued to the cinema screen, not wanting to watch but unable not to watch. The power of words (and all movies start as words on a page too) to invoke the suspenseful and the sinister can be extraordinary, but just how do authors generate these moments?

The Writers’ Academy from Random House, in association with Hammer Books and Films, is holding a creative writing workshop to teach the techniques that will allow writers to find those high-anxiety moments.  Over the course of two days, participants will look at the key structural essentials and tricks of the trade and, through a series of examples and exercises, they will learn how to generate suspense, tension and anxiety for readers or audiences.  Although writing requires planning, it also requires the writer to not know, and to understand how to share that unknowingness with the reader: the less you know, the better the story.

DARK IMAGININGS: CREATING SUSPENSE IN STORYTELLING will be taught by Julie Myerson, bestselling novelist and author of The Quickening and Something Might Happen, and Jonathan Myerson, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Director of Creative Writing at City University London.

The course is aimed at both aspiring novelists and screenwriters, in any genre.  The exercises within the classes will develop into a piece of writing over the course of the two days. Up-to-date market information will also be highlighted, and advice given on the best next steps to progressing a screenplay or publishing a novel.

The course is being held in association with Hammer books and films.  The course will be held at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, a former asylum.

Places on the course are limited to 15 and cost £375 each to include Hotel du Vin Bistro lunch and refreshments over the two days and a rewarding glass of wine!  Preferential rates at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh are offered for the dates of the course alongside the purchase of a place. Full details can be seen at www.thewritersacademy.co.uk

The importance of Writing Groups

Whether you’re starting out as a writer or you are someone with more experience, having a support network to read, critique and advise you on your work can be hugely valuable.

Over at Fantasy Faction, a great website filled with reviews and articles, Adrian Faulkner has taken a look at the subject of writing groups, interviewing the BSFA’s own Terry Jackman about the Orbits group.

Check out the articles here:

http://fantasy-faction.com/2013/writing-groups-part-one

http://fantasy-faction.com/2013/writing-groups-part-two

 

Andromeda One, Birmingham, 21st September

AndromedaThis Saturday sees the first running of Andromeda One, a one-day science fiction, fantasy and horror convention taking place at the Custard Factory in Birmingham.

Budding authors will have the opportunity to get the inside track on writing and publishing through a range of workshops and panels with industry experts, whilst readers and lovers of genre fiction will have the opportunity to meet their favourite authors at a host of launches, readings and kafeeklatsches (more intimate authors chats). The event will also be unique in offering a stream dedicated to workshops on gender parity, multiculturalism and disabilities within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror.

This year’s Guests of Honour are acclaimed novelist, comic book writer and screenwriter Paul Cornell (famed for his many contributions to the Dr Who TV series), science-fiction author Jaine Fenn, creator of the Hidden Empire series and Rog Peyton, local businessman renowned for his expert knowledge in the field and for being proprietor of the well-loved Andromeda bookshop. Among the many other authors and speakers taking part are million-selling fantasy author Stan Nicholls, acclaimed horror author Adam Nevill, plus science fiction stars Ian Whates. Adam Christopher and Janet Edwards.

Andromeda One runs this Saturday, 2st September from 11am-10pm, with the book sales room opening from 9am. To book your ticket, or for more information, visit http://terror-tree.co.uk/andromeda-one/

Interview with ‘In Thunder Forged’ author Ari Marmell

In-Thunder-ForgedAri Marmell, author and game creator, was kind enough to answer some questions about his latest novel, a kickstarter project, and a few other interesting projects.

For those yet to read In Thunder Forged could you explain a little bit about it?

In Thunder Forged is the first print novel that take place in Privateer Press’s Warmachine (miniatures game) and Iron Kingdoms (roleplaying game) setting. It’s a world of both magic and steam-tech, in which nations wage a very World War 1-esque conflict with human soldiers, sorcerous weapons, and great steam-powered machines.

The book is based on the game – how much research was involved in capturing the feel of the game and what was it like to write within that universe?

Quite a bit. There was a lot of material to read up on, a lot of detail to absorb. It’s not just a matter of getting the facts right–though that’s important, too, of course–as there are people in the process who’ll catch that sort of thing. It is, as you said, capturing the feel of things that’s most important. That’s the case for any licensed novel, be it Warmachine, Star Wars, Guild Wars, whatever. You can write the best novel of the last two decades, but if it doesn’t feel like something that could/should happen in the world you’re writing for, it fails as a tie-in novel.

Writing in the Warmachine/Iron Kingdoms setting was an interesting experience, as it’s a slightly different sort of fantasy than I’m accustomed to. As with any shared world, it’s a matter of getting comfortable with the material, figuring out how to focus on the parts that speak to you and minimize (without being unfair to) any parts that don’t. In my case, I love focusing on smaller parts of the war effort–individual units, espionage, etc.–and I particularly enjoy the alchemy and steam-tech aspects of the world, so I tried to play those up in my particular story.

Could you explain how the process works writing in a set universe (or from a game) as opposed to creating your own settings?

Well, part of it, as I said above, is getting comfortable with the different aspects. When I create my own settings, it’s a fair bet that anything I include is there because I wanted to include it. In a shared world, obviously, one doesn’t have nearly that level of control. If someone’s writing a Star Wars novel and he hates wookies (which makes him a bad person, who should feel bad, but that’s beside the point), he can’t just ignore the fact that they exist. He may not to utilize them in that particular story, but they’re part of the setting.

And of course, when one is creating something original, the feel/aesthetic of that project is entirely malleable. Sure, it’s got to be internally consistent, but the initial design options are nigh infinite. It’s a very different sort of thought than goes into working within an existing aesthetic.

I guess, ultimately, that’s the main difference right there. It’s simply a different sort of creativity; not just deciding what to do with the tools you’re given, but to work with entirely different sets of tools.

Writing within a franchise, how much influence do you have on the shape of the story? Are there a lot meetings going back and forth with editors and designers of the game?

It depends on the property and the licensor, to an extent, but yes, there’s a great deal of back and forth. Everything has to go through approval processes, both at the initial outline stage and at the completion of various drafts, to say nothing of a great many questions lobbed back and forth during the writing.

In my case, I’ve been able to shape the basic story of every tie-in I’ve done, but only after a great deal of discussion. In Thunder Forged came together fairly quickly on outline, but a great many tweaks from first to second draft. By contrast, just for example, Darksiders: the Abomination Vault took a great deal of time for us to settle on an outline (and in fact, the book that was finally written was based on a second outline; there was a whole other book ready to go), but really required a fairly minimal amount of rewrites.

So, a great deal of freedom within strictly defined borders, as oxymoronic as that might sound.

Your novel has a number of very strong female leads, putting them at the forefront of the action – what was the thinking behind this?

You know, I’d like to say I was making a deliberate statement, as I do believe very strongly in diversity in genre fiction. The truth is, though, these are simply the characters as they came to me. Dignity and Bracewell appear on the page largely as they very first came to mind. (In fact, the same is true of most of the characters.) It wasn’t a deliberate “I want to put women in these roles,” but simply that the characters who came to mind to fill those roles were women. Laddermore, for her part, just seemed a good fit for the story when I realized I wanted to include a pre-existing character from the setting in a larger role than I had thus far.

Funny thing is, I actually did want to make a statement with one of the characters, but it wasn’t any of those three. It just happened that the opportunity to do so never arose in the novel, given that there’s little in the way of romance or relationships of any sort in this story, and it would’ve been poor writing to force it in. But… Ask me about Atherton’s sexuality at some point in the future, if I haven’t had the chance to discuss it in the narrative.

The steampunk setting is an interesting one – what was your favourite part of writing In Thunder Forged?

I don’t know if I have a single favorite. I can tell you that they include the character interaction/arc between Bracewell and Habbershant; and also playing with the steam-tech and alchemy, and figuring out where the line was on those before I was crossing over into what the setting would consider magic.

And the whole wartime backdrop.

And Atherton’s stunts/magics.

Um, a lot of things, clearly.

You come from a background of game design – what is the transition like to writing novels as opposed to games?

Well, it was less of a transition for me than it might appear, because while I have a very obvious shift from games to novels at the professional level, I’ve been writing long fiction for years before I got good enough for publication. So I’ve actually been doing both for quite some time.

That said, it is a very different experience. Both freeing and overwhelming. And of course, a novelist has to focus on aesthetics, whereas for a game designer, the objective is often absolute precision.

They’re related skills, but far from identical ones, and it’s actually a bad thing if you let one influence the other too much. Telling a story vs. empowering others to tell a story; very different requirements.

Will you be writing more with the Iron Kingdom setting?

I’m not currently contracted to do so–it was never the plan for me to write the entire first trilogy–but anything could happen in the future, and we were all happy with how ITF came out, so… We’ll see.

What else can we look forward from you in the future?

Well, in December, Pyr releases Lost Covenant, the third book in my Widdershins YA series, after Thief’s Covenant and False Covenant. I tried to do something that both followed after, and yet was a tad different from, the prior two. (If you’ve read The Chronicles of Prydain, I consider Lost Covenant to be the Taran Wanderer equivalent of the series.)

Next May, Titan releases Hot Lead, Cold Iron, an urban fantasy set in 1930s gangland Chicago. Fae, organized crime, witchcraft, betrayal… Everything from the underworld to the Otherworld, basically.

Finally, I’ve just launched a Kickstarter in hopes of funding Strange New Words, a collection of my short fiction. It’s to be novel-length, with the word count divided roughly between reprints from various sources/markets, and new, never-before-seen material (which includes a new story set in the world of my novel The Goblin Corps). That’s going on for another few weeks, and I have high hopes for meeting at least a few of the stretch goals. I think people will really like what they see, if we can make this happen.

 

Relevant links:

Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1253132974/explore-strange-new-words

Ari Marmell: http://mouseferatu.com

 

NewCon Press to release ‘Legends’, celebrating the work of David Gemmell

Legends cover imageThis year sees the fifth running of the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, and to mark this special occasion a new anthology, ‘Legends’, will be released from NewCon Press. Newcon is one of the UK’s most acclaimed independent presses, and will be releasing ‘Legends’ at the end of October.

‘Legends’ gathers together a collection of tales from modern fantasy authors paying homage to the work of one of the greatest fantasy writers of all time, David Gemmell. Gemmell passed away in 2006, and was the author of 30 novels, including his highly successful debut Legend and classics such as Waylander and Morningstar. The ‘Legends’ anthology features new stories from a host of the field’s leading talent, including Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay, Storm Constantine, Tanith Lee, Juliet E McKenna, Anne Nicholls, Stan Nicholls, Jan Siegel, Adrian Tchaikovsky and many more.

‘Legends’ will be launched as part of the World Fantasy Convention at Brighton’s Metropole hotel on the 31st. Many of the authors included within the anthology will be on hand to sign the book at the event, as well as cover artist Dominic Harman.

Ian Whates, Publisher and Editor at NewCon Press said: ‘As a long-standing fan of David
Gemmell’s work, I was thrilled when asked to compile and edit an anthology in his honour. The book was a pleasure to work on and the response from authors very gratifying; there are some great stories in here, as there would have to be to justify putting David Gemmell’s name on the cover.’

Stan Nicholls, Chair for the Gemmell Awards said: ‘The really gratifying thing about Legends is that some of the most accomplished writers in the fantasy field have so freely given their time and talent to the project. We’re immensely grateful to them, and genuinely excited by the prospect of publishing what we believe will be an outstanding anthology.’

For more information on ‘Legends’, visit www.newconpress.co.uk or for more on the Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, visit www.gemmellaward.com

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements

Walidah Imarisha & Detroit-based organizer and writer Adrienne Maree Brown have teamed up to edit and create Octavia’s Brood, an anthology of science fiction and fantasy premised on the idea that those working to change the world are already speculative thinkers.

Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in an exercise of speculative fiction. Organizers and activists struggle tirelessly to create and envision another world, or many other worlds, just as science fiction does… so what better venue for organizers to explore their work than through writing original science fiction stories? Octavia’s Brood is a way to uncover the truths buried in the fantastical – and to inject a healthy dose of the fantastical into our search for truth.

Many radical minds believe this field was evolved by late science fiction writer Octavia Butler, for whom this collection will be named. Butler explored the intersections of identity and imagination – exploring the gray areas of race, class, gender, sexuality, militarism, inequality, oppression, resistance and most importantly, hope.

After a successful Indiegogo campaign the anthology will be released in June 2014 (in honour of Octavia Bulter’s birthday). Containing 25 short stories from the a number of authors, including the editors and the likes of Tananarive Due, and award-winning journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal (who writes about Star Wars and imperialism), this collection aims to add to the canon of fiction all about making change.

For more info check out: www.facebook.com/octaviasbrood

David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy – latest shortlist and new appointments

DGLA large imageCurrently in its fifth year, the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy, one of fantasy fiction’s most prestigious prizes, has announced its shortlist for 2013. Featuring some of the best-known and most talented names within the field, The Legend Award for Best Novel includes titles by author of the First Law Trilogy Joe Abercrombie, Australian debut novelist Jay Kristoff, up-and-coming fantasy star Mark Lawrence, the winner of last year’s Morningstar debut award Helen Lowe and leading US fantasy author Brent Weeks.

The Morningstar Award is given for Best Debut, and sees Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer nominated a second time, plus nominations for acclaimed first novels by Saladin Ahmed, Mile Cameron, John Gwynne and Aidan Harte.

The Ravenheart Award for Best Cover Art is a unique award acknowledging and celebrating the superb work done by fantasy artists, and this year features a stellar set of nominees including Didier Graffet and David Senior, Dominic Harman, Clint Langley, Silas Manhood, Colin Thomas and Stephen Youll.

Stan Nicholls, Chair for the Gemmell Awards, said, ‘Once again the award shortlists take in a stunning range of fiction and artwork, which is truly international in nature and features not only household names in fantasy but also some of the most exciting new talent around. Whoever takes home each of the three prizes, they will undoubtedly be worthy winners – in fact, given the wealth of superb releases in 2012, achieving a nomination is quite an accolade in itself.’

FULL SHORTLISTS:

Legend Award (Best novel)

Joe Abercrombie: The Red Country  (Gollancz)

Jay Kristoff: Stormdancer  (Pan Macmillan UK)

Mark Lawrence: King of Thorns  (HarperCollins/Voyager)

Helen Lowe: The Gathering of the Lost  (Orbit)

Brent Weeks: The Blinding Knife  (Orbit)

Morningstar Award (Best debut novel)

Saladin Ahmed: Throne of the Crescent Moon  (Gollancz and DAW)

Miles Cameron: The Red Knight  (Gollancz)

John Gwynne: Malice  (Pan Macmillan UK)

Aidan Harte: Irenicon  (Jo Fletcher Books)

Jay Kristoff: Stormdancer  (Pan Macmillan UK)

Ravenheart Award  (Best cover art)

Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, for The Red Country by Joe Abercrombie  (Gollancz)

Dominic Harman, for Legion of Shadow by Michael J. Ward  (Gollancz)

Clint Langley, for Besieged by Rowenna Cory Daniells  (Solaris)

Silas Manhood, for The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks  (Orbit)

Colin Thomas, for Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff  (Pan Macmillan UK)

Stephen Youll, for The Black Mausoleum by Stephen Deas  (Gollancz)

The David Gemmell Awards ceremony will take place at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton on the 31st October, the location of this year’s World Fantasy Convention. For more information on the awards, simply visit http://gemmellaward.com/

With just three months to go until the awards, event, the Gemmells have welcomed in a new PR and communications officer, Alex Davis. Alex has been working actively in genre fiction for the last ten years, including in running events such as Alt.Fiction, EdgeLit and Futura, and in that time has worked with a host of leading names in the field.

Alex said ‘It’s a pleasure to be involved in one of the leading genre awards worldwide, and a role that excites me greatly. I’m looking forward to further raising the profile of the Gemmells – and in turn fantasy fiction on the whole – over the next few months.’

 

Interview with Apocalypse Now Now author Charlie Human

Apocalypse Now Now

After a fantastic debut novel, South African author Charlie Human was kind enough to answer some questions and give a little insight into his novel.

For those who haven’t read Apocalypse Now Now could you give a brief description your novel?

It’s about Baxter Zecenko, a Machiavellian teenager who is the kingpin of a porn-peddling syndicate at his high-school. Baxter prides himself on not being weighed down by psychological constructs like ‘emotions’ and ‘a conscience’. Well until his girlfriend, Esmé is kidnapped and he’s forced to re-evaluate his life.

He investigates Esmé’s disappearance and finds that the only person that can help him is an alcoholic South African Border War veteran, and supernatural bounty hunter Jackie Ronin.  Together they set off into Cape Town’s supernatural underworld to find Esmé.

Your novel reads at a cracking pace, could you explain your writing process?

I’m not a full-time writer so I write whenever I can. Trains, waiting rooms, coffee shops; whenever and wherever I can carve out a little time. I handwrite a lot of the ideas first and then flesh them out when transferring onto computer. I also don’t write linearly. When you don’t have a lot of time the best thing to do is just grab onto an idea that excites you and write about that for as long as you can before life intervenes.

Apocalypse Now Now is a huge amount of fun to read but goes to some fairly dark places, what was the idea behind it that sparked it all off?

Cape Town’s tabloids were responsible for some of the inciting ideas. They have huge circulations and peddle a mixture of news, soap opera and superstitious urban folklore. They’re pretty dark, obscene and completely bizarre.  Actual headlines I have read while taking the train to work include “Tokloshe stole my baby”, “Priest fights fire demon” and “The Snake Men of the Cape Flats”

I started to think about what it would be like if these headlines were real news stories that we were blissfully ignoring.

You draw on South African myths and superstitions such as the ‘tokoloshe’ introducing the reader to a very different type of supernatural than the normal European/American one; how rich is the vein of horror and myth in SA and do you think it is time for the wider world to be introduced to these ideas?

The tokoloshe is such a South African mythological institution that I had to include him. He’s got various iterations and some are lot darker than the way I’ve presented him in Apocalypse Now Now.

Cape Town is interesting because it’s a place of extremes. It’s really urban and cosmopolitan but then there’s still a place that I used to walk past on my way to work that sells banishing spells for people with tokoloshe problems.

Southern Africa as a whole is such a fusion of myths that have rarely been used in fiction. Apocalypse Now Now has San, Afrikaans, Xhosa and European myths all blended together.  I think more local writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists are drawing on these mythologies as a way of exploring our world.

Following on from that, how do you think your novel fits into the horror/fantasy genre of vampires and zombies?

I like to think Apocalypse Now Now does its part in giving Southern African monsters a place in the international monster menagerie. After all parasitical monsters, or the rising of the dead, are hardly unique to European mythology. Why should European fantastical creatures get all the glory? Equal representation for monsters!

How important was it for you to introduce all the different influences of the South African culture in the various characters in your work?

I always remember something Lauren Beukes told me about when she met Neil Gaiman.  She asked him  about his research methods and he shrugged and said “At a certain point you just make stuff up.” Rather than trying to faithfully depict every aspect of South African culture I’ve riffed off it and tried to create something that people from any part of the world could enjoy.

There also features a lot of pop-culture type references, how meta do you think fiction is becoming and has your work in online media had a direct influence in your approach to writing?

Yes, definitely. When the mind is constantly bathed in the warm glow of memes and the recombinant creativity of the Internet it’s bound to have an influence.  Those kinds of intertextual references have become a sort of cultural shorthand to express situations, thoughts or emotional states. I don’t think it would be possible to create a contemporary urban teenager without having that as part of the way he thinks.

The mix of real and twisted pervades every layer of the novel, from Baxter’s ‘business’ and his school life to the mix of history and myth – was the aim to blur all boundaries and almost push your lead character into becoming an unreliable narrator?

The concept of the unreliable teenage narrator was something I enjoyed playing with.  I wanted the audience to swing between liking Baxter and not liking him and between believing him and not believing him.

Your novel features some unnaturally adult children, what drew you to using a teenage protagonist in this sense?

Personally, I don’t think the teenagers are that adult-like. Baxter is precociously intelligent and likes to believe he’s the smartest person in the room, but he’s certainly not mature. He talks a big game, uses big words and ideas but he’s still just a kid trying to figure stuff out.  I remember teenage life being a bit of a dark, wild rollercoaster ride and I tried to capture some of that energy in the teenagers I depict.

You’re novel has been described as a mix between Quentin Tarantino and Neil Gaiman, who has influenced you in your work?

There have been so many but top of my list would be Lauren Beukes, China Miéville, Nick Harkaway, Margaret Atwood, Richard Morgan, Jeff VanderMeer and Richard Kadrey.

Then there’s Credo Mutwa, a Zulu sangoma or shaman, who has taken Zulu oral folklore and written it down (with, I understand, some heavy editorialising) I really enjoyed reading his folklore while I wrote the book.  He also has some kind of connection to David Icke, which I find very amusing. I can only imagine the kind of insane conversations they must have.

As a self-confessed ‘mild-mannered digital marketer by day, impresario of the obscene by night’ how has the process of seeing your debut novel hit the shelves been and what can we expect from you next?

That’s actually a quote from an interview I did with Nechama Brodie. She was referencing the fact that I have a bit of a split personality with my day-job and my writing career.

Publishing has been a really interesting experience so far. It’s amazing to have people read and connect with the novel, and the fact that it’s been translated into Afrikaans, and is soon to be translated into Italian and Japanese blows my mind.  The sequel to Apocalypse Now Now is in the works and will be out in 2014.

 

Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes

 

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil; an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common or garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

Released today, Ben Aaronovitch’s latest offering, Broken Homes, continues in the same rich vein of his brilliant supernatural crime series. Writing about his native London, Aaronovitch has crafted a novel that renders the city in a very different light.

 

Ragazine’s Speculative Fiction Competition

Ragazine, an on-line magazine of art, information and entertainment, are holding a speculative fiction competition with a first prize of $1000.00.

Edited by Sheree Renee Thomas, entries must be 6,000 words or less, in the genre of science fiction, fantasy or horror.

Check the link for more details and competition info – http://ragazine.cc/2013/06/contest/

 

The Savage Planet at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Savage Planet

Science fiction meets theatre at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe in a brand new production, The Savage Planet.

On the world of Ygam an experiment seemingly gone awry is causing problems for a species of hyper intelligent beings, the Draags. Their primitive pets, known as the Oms, rescued from an insignificant dying planet called Earth have begun to show worrying signs of organisation. and rebellion.

Inspired by the writing of French author Stefan Wul, The Savage Planet invites audiences to enter an amusing, strange and undoubtedly complex new world, exploring the themes of barbarism, knowledge and power.

The Savage Planet

Performed by the Watersports Aficionados as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

VENUE: The Fiddlers Elbow, Venue number 71, 4 Picardy Place, EH1 3HT.

DATES: Saturday 3rd – Sunday 11th August 2013 (limited run)

TIME: 15:15

DUARTION: 1 hour

More info – http://watersports-aficionados.tumblr.com/

Interview with Jack Skillingstead author of Life on the Preservation

Jack Skillingstead has produced a novel that is both thought-provoking and hugely entertaining. He was kind enough to answer a few questions about this fantastic book.

LIFE ON THE PRESERVATION (UK)

For those yet to read the book, could you give a brief outline of what ‘Life on the Preservation’ is about?

The city of Seattle is caught in an endless one-day time loop. A graffiti writer and painter named Ian Palmer periodically wakes up to the new reality but his efforts to sort it out are thwarted by the Curator, an alien presence inhabiting and, apparently, controlling the loop. Meanwhile, outside of Seattle, the world lies in apocalyptic ruin. A teenage girl named Kylie, one of only a handful of survivors, manages to penetrate the dome covering Seattle. When she and Ian find each other they eventually figure out the mystery. The novel is about alien intervention, outsider mindsets, the possibility that we make the worlds we live in, and sex. Honestly, it’s hard for me to reduce the book to a paragraph, but this is the gist of it.

 

You’ve managed to pack a huge amount of ideas into one novel – a post-apocalypse adventure, zombie automatons, an alien invasion as well as questions of an afterlife along with a deeply heartfelt love story – how did all this coalesce in your mind to form the novel?

LOTP began as a short story I wrote for Asimov’s and published back in 2006. This original version was much more straight forward than what the novel eventually became. I first began to think of doing an expanded version when a famous writer verbally critiqued the story for me at the Nebula Awards in Tempe, Arizona. He seemed to think the background was inadequately filled in. I didn’t agree, at least not in terms of the short story, but it started me thinking. In the Asimov’s story all the action takes place on the Seattle Preservation. Now I began asking myself questions about the world outside the dome. It occurred to me I could write a big science fiction adventure novel about alien invasion and the plucky survivors who reclaim their planet. I must have been out of my mind, because that is exactly the kind of book I would have little-to-no interest in writing. Nevertheless, I tried for about two years to make that concept work, gulled by visions of popular success. Finally, I gave up on that angle and surrendered to what the book really wanted to be, simply showing up at the keyboard every day to discover what came next. This approach allowed things to flow. Basically, I stopped trying so much and my unconscious began to deliver interesting stuff like the rejected androids that wander the blasted lands outside the dome — not zombies, but doomed and immortal simulacrums that had started the process of becoming self-aware. As for the love story between Ian and Kylie, that was the through line that was present from the very beginning, especially in the short story.

 

Your book has some similar mechanics as the movie ‘Groundhog Day’ – the notion of one day constantly revisited – which has become a cult classic, especially amongst Buddhists. Whilst very different to the movie, your novel considers the same idea of mistakes and learning to make the perfect day – what was the thinking behind your approach?

 

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that the world isn’t what we think it is, that there is something going on behind the scenes. This is fertile ground for the imagination and mental illness — that perfect intersection where genius meets the guy in the straight jacket. What I liked about Groundhog Day was the dark stretch, where Bill Murray repeatedly tries to kill himself. He was desperate to get out.  In real life, if you want to call it that, I often have the sense of being trapped in a day that repeats with only minor variations. I doubt I’m alone in this feeling, but if I am then please issue me my straight jacket. Is all the world a stage, or are we nothing more than bags of self-deceiving brain chemicals? And can we chose which to believe? Does the truth matter, or just the belief? To reference another movie, think of John Murdock in Dark City.  Murdock discovers he can remake his world with the evolutionary power of “tuning.”  In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray transforms his relationship to the world, and so transforms the world itself.

 

 

The book’s main characters are all quite damaged in their own ways and the work deals with loss, isolation and death in an interesting way by suggesting that love can overcome all – could you explain a little about your intention here?

I don’t know if love can overcome all that stuff, but love is probably our most potent defence against fear. Damaged people tend to isolate themselves. It’s an emotional act of self-defence. There’s a great Stephen King story called, “All You Love Will Be Carried Away.” His character is a travelling salesman in the Midwest, trying to decide whether to kill himself in his crappy Motel 6 room. So, the damaged and isolated person’s response is: Don’t love anything, because if you do it will just be carried away. Isolated people develop crooked interior lives. They may believe they are seeing the truth of the world, but they probably aren’t. In the book, Father Jim’s ugly, guilt-twisted response to his sexual urges and Ian’s desperate isolation are counter pointed by his innocent love, and love-making, with Kylie. Does love overcome all? Probably not, but without love we are something less than human.

 

One of the novel’s characters is coloured by elements such as graffiti, his motorbike and Seattle – is there another type of love affair going on here?

Ian’s love affair with outlaw art is his way of not inhabiting any meaningful human relationships — those problematical relationships that experience has taught him will only be carried away and leave him broken-hearted. But it’s a fallacious idea that art can save you. The motorcycle belonged to Ian’s estranged father. While the father was building the thing in garage it was like a rival. Ian’s relationship to the bike is complicated.  As far as Seattle goes, what’s not to love? I should note that Ian’s neighbourhood landscape differs from the current reality. The building Ian lives in no longer exists, nor does Vivace’s — at least the one that Ian visits in the novel. Both have been supplanted by light rail construction, which is rapidly uglifying Capital Hill.

 

You’ve created an amazing cast of characters but you’ve also dealt with them as forms of consciousness (or spirits), able to cross time, reincarnate themselves and inhabit new life forms as themselves – could you explain your ideas on this a little more?

You could almost call the book “Who Am I And Does It Matter?” It wasn’t a conscious choice to explore this question, yet it’s all through the book. In subsequent, finer-grained drafts, I noticed this question recurring and deliberately worked it. My unconscious provided Ian’s “WHO” tag, but I more consciously decided how that would play out with the know WHO you are stencils, etc. In terms of identity, Charles Noble is the most interesting. As a human being he was a gay man from a small town, harassed and ostracized in all the usual ways until he took control of his life, changed his name, and moved to Seattle. The name he chooses — the identity — is that of a minor character in some novel. After he dies, the Curator begins using Noble’s body. The Curator was human-like in his original presentation. Then the Cloud “evolved” his entire race. The curator’s final physical form was that of a giant jellyfish thing, perfectly adaptable to space. After that, his transphysical evolution completed itself. When he begins using Noble’s body he is like a puppet master manipulating strings. But gradually he becomes more and more a part of the Charles Noble personality matrix. Here we have, let’s see,  seven fairly distinct identities inhabiting the one character.

 

With such a complex and layered novel, could you reveal a bit about your writing process – did you have to plot and plan extensively or was the process more organic in some ways?

I covered this a bit in one of your previous questions, I think. When I first decided to expand the short story to novel length I did try to plan. But my plans came to nothing, which is what usually happens. At the time I was worried about writing a popular novel and having that kind of success. I’d been publishing professionally for a few years and had plenty of writer friends who were more successful than I was, and it had started to bother me. Also, the story seemed to lend itself naturally to a Big Adventure kind of structure.  After two years of hand-banging labour on my so-called adventure novel, I knew that thing was dead-on-arrival. At that point I considered giving up. Instead, I started over from scratch, this time abandoning anything resembling a plan. Every day I simply sat down and wrote what happened next. When I got to the end I went back and rewrote. So it was another two years before I managed to find the novel in my unconscious and then fix it with my conscious editor (and the help of my wife and friends, who read various versions).

 

It’s fascinating how you managed to sketch in some huge concepts without getting caught up in the idea – how did you manage the details whilst keeping the story moving so brilliantly?

Though I am, at least nominally, a science fiction writer, the kind of Big Idea story that is a staple of our field holds only marginal interest for me. This is funny, since LOTP and my previous novel are both full of big ideas.  But those ideas are in the background. The Cloud is like God. You can’t really write about it directly. You can only explore it’s effect on the hearts and minds of your characters. I remember reading an Asimov novel in which there were no human characters. For me it was like dragging my attention through wet cement. Big Ideas are abstract, but human characters can transform the abstract to the personal. For me, smaller is bigger.

 

Finally, what is next for Jack Skillingstead?

Last year I wrote a reincarnation fantasy set in Las Vegas. It’s a YA, and my agent is currently shopping it around. Now I’m onto a new book, a kind of science fiction thriller based on my Sturgeon-nominated short story, “Dead Worlds.” In December I have a gig teaching a writing workshop on a cruise ship to the Bahamas. My wife and I did this last year and it was a blast.

 

Apocalypse Now Now by Charlie Human

Billed as a mash-up between Neil Gaiman and Quinton Tarantino, this debut novel by Charlie Human draws on his South African background and pours on a crazy, twisted narrative that is brilliantly entertaining.

Apocalypse Now Now

I LOVE THE SMELL OF PARALLEL DIMENSIONS IN THE MORNING

Baxter Zevcenko’s life is pretty sweet. As the 16-year-old kingpin of the Spider, his smut-peddling schoolyard syndicate, he’s making a name for himself as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. Profits are on the rise, the other gangs are staying out of his business, and he’s going out with Esme, the girl of his dreams.

But when Esme gets kidnapped, and all the clues point towards strange forces at work, things start to get seriously weird. The only man drunk enough to help is a bearded, booze-soaked, supernatural bounty hunter that goes by the name of Jackson ‘Jackie’ Ronin.

Plunged into the increasingly bizarre landscape of Cape Town’s supernatural underworld, Baxter and Ronin team up to save Esme. On a journey that takes them through the realms of impossibility, they must face every conceivable nightmare to get her back, including the odd brush with the Apocalypse.

Be My Enemy: Everness Book 2 by Ian McDonald

Following on from his brilliant Planesrunner, Ian McDonald has returned to his multiverse series to create a sequel that is full of suspense, action and stunning writing in this YA standout.

McDonald-BeMyEnemyUK_thumb[1]

Everett Singh has escaped from his enemies with the Infundibulum – the key to all the parallel worlds. But his freedom has come at a price: the loss of his father to one of the billions of parallel universes in the Panopoly.

E1 was the first Earth to create the Heisenberg Gate, the means to jump between worlds, but it was quarantined long ago. No one goes in . . . and nothing comes out. But E1 has something that Everett needs: the means to find his father.

It’s lucky that he has the support of Captain Anastsia Sixsmyth, her daughter Sen and the unique crew of the airship Everness, because Everett is about to discover the horrifying secret of E1 and, with it, his deadliest enemy.

The End of Science Fiction: A Conversation with Brian Aldiss

A very interesting event is set to take place on Tuesday, 25th June at the Story Museum in Oxford featuring the prolific author Brian Aldiss. Joining him will be Michael Rosen as they discuss Brian’s latest and apparently last sci-fi novel The Finches of Mars as well as the topic of whether genre and labelling is perhaps a greater hindrance than a help. Please click on the image below to read the poster.

Brian Aldiss posterMore information can be found at www.storymuseum.org.uk