This 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.
Ari 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.
This 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.’
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.
Currently 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.’
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.’
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.
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.