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Descent by Ken MacLeod

DESCENT Ken MacLeod

Author of 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award-nominated Intrusion tells a science fiction story for the twenty-first century – what happens when conspiracy theorists meet Big Brother?
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THE LASCAR’S DAGGERGlenda Larke

The start of a brand new epic fantasy trilogy from the author of the Stormlord series – full of scheming, spying, action and adventure.
Read a sample

Category: Orbit Australia

James S. A. Corey on the Expanse TV Deal

The Expanse is coming to TV.

In thrilling news, the SyFy channel have commissioned a 10-episode television series. The script will be written by Academy Award-winning writing duo Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, who count Iron Man and Children of Men among their credits.

Here’s author James S. A. Corey with the scoop on how it all came about:

So here’s what happened.

A few years back the Expanse books were out and doing pretty well, which was cool.  Through our agent, we had a television agent in Hollywood – a fella named Brian Lipson – who was there to address any inquiries about the film and TV rights.  That was a really pleasant place to be.  We had a good publisher, a series that was getting good reviews, and a plan for what the next few books could look like. The rest of that – the TV guy, the rights, that stuff – it was the same level of CYA as flossing your teeth and doing your taxes.  It’s what you do because it’s what you do, not because we expected anything to come from it.

And then there was this party in Los Angeles and Jason Brown and Ben Cook had a conversation.  Jason had been looking for something in the science fiction line, and Ben passed on a recommendation of this book he’d read and liked called Leviathan Wakes.  And in an unexpected twist Jason talked to people Ty knew from Game of Thrones about wanting to adapt Leviathan Wakes and those people emailed Ty and said do you know this guy named Jason wants to buy your book.  So that was weird.

So then our TV guy – Brian – called us and told us that the books were getting some interest, and that he’d been looking specifically for folks who had screenwriters already lined up as part of the deal.  We had some phone conversations with a few sets of folks, and one of them was Jason Brown.  He worked with the producer Sean Daniel, who could bring the writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby to the table, the guys who wrote the first Iron Man movie and Children of Men.  They weren’t the only good writers in the mix, but they were the only ones who wrote Iron Man and Children of Men.  We managed to mostly keep our cool, nod sagely and say, yeah, they seem good.  Let’s go with them. And then after we got off the phone we could talk about how cool it was that guys like that would be fans of our books. Read the rest of this entry »

SFF Interview Swap: Elizabeth Moon Interviews Rachel Bach

What happens when two writers from different genres come together to talk about science fiction, fantasy, and story crafting? You’re about to find out!

Rachel Bach grew up wanting to be an author and a super villain. Unfortunately, super villainy proved surprisingly difficult to break into, so she stuck to writing and everything worked out great. Her current project, the Paradox series, is a high-octane SF adventure across many fascinating alien worlds.  Look for the third novel, HEAVEN’S QUEEN (US | UK | AUS), online and in stores on April 22nd or start at the beginning with FORTUNE’S PAWN.

Elizabeth Moon has degrees in history and biology, and served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. CROWN OF RENEWAL (UK | AUS) is the final installment of her Paladin’s Legacy series. This gripping epic should be on every fantasy reader’s To Read List. Expect it to be hitting bookshelves on May 27th.

HEAVEN'S QUEEN   CROWN OF RENEWAL

Elizabeth: You’re well known as someone who can write very fast without loss of quality, and your recommendations for increasing speed–both in your blog and in your book–make good sense. (In fact, I’d been using only two legs of your “triangle” for years and after adding the third had such good days with a new story that it slowed me down in getting these questions ready.) I’ve had 10K word days in the past, but I’ve also experienced increasing physical difficulty–arthritis in my hands, neck, and back that limited how much I could write in a day. Have you considered expanding your advice to include the ergonomic issues arising from very fast writing? How to generalize the skills to using alternate input methods, such as using a speech input? (I’m waiting for the direct brain-to-page technology. Visualize the scene: boom, it’s in the file or on the page, ready for editing. Hear the conversation between characters: there it is, with all the uh, um, er…but nothing vital missed.

Rachel: I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to hear my writing triangle helped you have a good writing day! Best thing ever.

I’m not at all surprised to hear you’d already figured parts of the triangle out. I’ve heard the same thing from several experienced authors, and I’m starting to think that all I did here was put words to what’s actually a universal writing concept. Can’t stop the signal, Mal!

You’re also not the first person to mention the physical difficulty of writing ten thousand words a day. The most extreme example of this was when I did my an annual open Q&A on the NaNoWriMo forums. One of the writers I talked to had stared out as a professional musician, but she had to stop when she injured her hands through repeated stress caused by playing. This injury effected her writing as well. She wasn’t even able to type two thousand words a day before her hands gave out, much less ten. It’s an admittedly extreme example, but it highlights the fact that writing is much more of a physical activity than most people give it credit for, especially if you have a pre-existing injury or ailment, like arthritis.

So, yes, I think this is a very valid point and I will be updating my book and blog to include it. Even with my healthy hands, it is physically exhausting to type that much, and it would be very easy to seriously injure yourself if you’re not careful. That said, though, I don’t actually know what to recommend as a solution. Right now my best advice is to listen to your body and stop if something hurts. Likewise, you should pay attention to your writing position and invest in a keyboard that’s comfortable for your hands over long periords. Speech to text programs have also come a long way in recent history (prolific author Lynn Viehl swears by Dragon Speaking Naturally), but I’ve never personally used them as anything other than a novelty.

Anyway, long story short, you make a very good point and I will be definitely be amending my process to include this issue. After all, my hands might be good now, but I intend to be in this writing business for as long as I can, and at ten thousand words a day, I’ve got a lot of typing in my future.

When can we expect that brain to page interface, science?

Elizabeth: You decided on a writing career early, but then found an English degree not particularly helpful. Writing our kind of fiction demands skills–for worldbuilding, for inventing new technology, for creating invented cultures that “work” in story terms–not taught in English classes. Have you ever wished you majored in something else, and what do you think would be the perfect degree plan for a spec fic writer? What research sources do you like to use when creating the surrounding cultural environment and technology for your invented worlds? What’s been your favorite thing to research in each of your genres? What was hardest to find or understand? Have you had life experiences that you feel were particularly important in expanding your writing scope? Do you schedule specific time for research and general reading, or is it “grab it when you need it?” (Yes, I know, I packed too many questions into one. Pick one or a few…)

Rachel: Actually, I think all of these questions interrelate beautifully! Like a lot of writers, I already knew what I wanted to be when I went to college, and English Major seemed like the most logical choice. How better to learn about writing books than by studying how the best are put together?

The reality of my experience was very different. This is not to disparage the University of Georgia’s English program, which is actually very good, it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be. College English programs are excellent at teaching you how to be a good non-fiction writer: how to properly use sources and make solid arguments and write thoughtful essays. But fiction writing is a different beast all together, and even though I took several creative writing classes, they were all focused on literary short story writing, which is about as far from genre novels as it’s possible to get and still be called fiction. Even worse, I was in an environment that actively looked down on the sort of commercial books I enjoyed and wanted to write. So yeah, not a good choice for me in hind sight.

If I had it to do over again, I would have majored in something much broader, like history or sociology, or even Comparative Lit, which focuses on international fiction instead of the Western Euro-centric literary cannon. I would also have taken a lot more electives, because the most useful thing I’ve found as a novelist is having as wide and diverse a base of knowledge and interests as possible. The more you learn about the boarder human experience, the deeper the well of ideas you can draw from becomes.

As to the more specific of your questions about what research or experiences I’ve found most important or difficult, I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you. I’m not dodging the question, I just can’t remember the individual acts, because for me writing has always been a process of running the entire sum of my knowledge and experience through the grinder. The Paradox novels, for example, pull ideas from everything: books I’ve read, jobs I’ve worked, that essay on binary gender I wrote for my one sociology class, a picture I saw on Deviant Art, video games, a role playing game my husband ran in middle school ten years before I even met him. All of these seemingly unrelated experiences and influences get mashed together as I write, and I couldn’t separate them out again if you paid me.

People have actually asked me what degree or life experience they should get in order to become a genre writer before, and my answer to them has always been that writing genre stories makes you a genre writer, nothing else required. But if I had to recommend something, I’d say you’re best off studying whatever you find most interesting. Go wherever your passion leads, whether it’s in formal schooling, a challenging job, or just something you do for fun. Whatever you do, though, make sure you’re paying attention, because it’s these memorable, seemingly random notes of experience that you’re going be drawing from later as a writer. They’re the fuel that will keep your idea furnace blazing bright. All the other stuff—story structure, pacing, characterization, and so forth—is just a matter of practice.

Or, at least, that’s how it’s been for me. Every writer works differently, so your mileage may vary.

Elizabeth: You also commented in an interview that you feel your fantasy is informed by an SF sensibility. After reading Dr. James Gunn on writing science fiction, and the difference he sees between how SF and fantasy are approached differently, I realized that although the two genres feel different to me, I use much the same process in writing both. I want the deep logic in both to be similar–everything links together into one coherent system. What do you mean by having that SF sensibility in your fantasy? That leads to the impossible question of “Where do you see the difference between SF and fantasy?” and the closely related “Is there a line between worldbuilding everything but the “people” part of the story and worldbuilding the cultures the characters come from?” And if there is such a line, is that where the divide between science fiction and fantasy lives?

Rachel: I don’t think anyone has ever drawn a line between Science Fiction and Fantasy that we can all agree on. Take Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. Are they Fantasy or SF? On the one hand, you have dragons with mystical psychic bonds to their riders who can blink through space and time, on the other, humans are only on Pern because of space colonization and the Thread they ride dragons to burn is itself a space born spore.

The easy way out of this is to just say “what does it matter? Pern is awesome!” but it does matter to readers. The F and SF parts of SFF attract different audiences with different expectations and tastes. That said, I absolutely agree with you that, from the perspective of a writer looking at her own books, the creation process for each is pretty much the same.

In my own case, I’m a systems oriented, logical sort of person, so when I sat down to write a fantasy series, I took a logical approach to it. I built an internally consistent magic system and a world to contain it, and then I worked out from that framework to determine out how everything else in the story would function. When the time came to write Paradox, I built its universe the same way, only on a much grander scale. Both times, however, I figured out the why of reality first, and then used that to derive the how, who, and what.

This is what I meant when I said I approached my Fantasy with a Science Fiction sensibility, because, as Dr. Gunn says, one of the fundamental elements of Science Fiction is the scientific idea that everything is ultimately knowable and explainable, even if we don’t understand it at the moment. For me, though, this is as true in a fantasy world with an active goddess figure who makes things happen on her whims as with a galaxy that formed by the accidents of nature. Everything is knowable, everything is explainable, everything happens for interlocking reasons, and discovering those reasons is often the whole point of the story.

So at the worldbuilding, story crafting level, I don’t actually think there is a line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, at least not for me. Even when you start talking about characters, both Fantasy and Science Fiction favor larger than life heroes who change the world through significant personal action and sacrifice, be it exploring a new planet and ending up the unlikely champion of the indigenous population against your own corrupt galactic government or journeying to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom. Even the window dressings are somewhat interchangeable, because I’ve read Fantasy with complex machines and written Science Fiction with magic. There are short, lightning paced Fantasies and glacially slow SF epics with thousands of characters. Even the relative perception of time is no guarantee when the most famous Science Fiction story of all time took place long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Personally, I’m inclined to believe the only real, measurable line between Science Fiction and Fantasy is one of flavor and emphasis. Fantasy novels tend to emphasizes the fantastical elements—magic, monsters, fully developed secondary worlds, the sense of being in another place, etc.—while Science Fiction generally places its accent on the products of scientific achievement—gadgets, fast travel, galactic expansion, exploration in the vastness of space, and so forth. Otherwise, the two are so similar as to be almost interchangeable, as evidenced by how easily and often they get lumped together. Both genres tend to be deeply humanist, both reflect and comment on issues present in our own world, both provide a stage for the invention and exploration of alternate cultures, both are given to power fantasies, you get the idea. They’re both wonderful, delicious ice cream, and the only actual question here is which flavor do you prefer in your sundae.

Elizabeth: Thinking ahead, do you imagine yourself delving into each of the various subgenres of our big playground, or do you think you’ll settle into some favorite pair (or quartet) of niches? So far you’ve done witty, rollicking fantasy and hard-edged action-packed SF…what other areas intrigue you and set the writer-vibes going? SF mysteries? Epic fantasy?

Rachel: I freely admit that I’m an agent’s worst nightmare, because I write everything! In addition to my current roster of Fantasy and SF, I’ve finished the first in a near future Urban Fantasy series about dragons that I’ll be using as an experiment in self publishing this July. I also have an alt history mystery novel about magic in the Industrial Revolution set in Manchester complete with necromantic workhouses and a spell breaker detective that’s currently with my agent. And as if that weren’t enough, I’m also planning a darker military fantasy young adult book, another Paradox novel focusing on the secrets of the Sainted King, an epistolary series of shorts chronicling the tragically comedic and unavoidable fall of a Dark Lord called “Speeches to Orcs,” and about a thousand other things that I may or may not actually finish in 2014.

So yeah, you could say I’m running all over our genre playground like that one weird kid who always eats waaaaay too much sugar. But then, what’s the point of writing fast if you don’t also write far and wide?

Elizabeth: Thanks for being part of this–it’s been a lot of fun learning more about you and your work, and thinking about the questions you proposed.

Rachel: Thank you for taking the time and for talking with me! Again, I can’t stress enough what an honor and a delight it’s been to get the chance to talk with you. (When I told my mother I was doing this, her response was “You’re interviewing Elizabeth Moon? Can I touch you?!”) Thank you again, and I can’t wait to get my hands on The Crown of Renewal later this year!!

Rachel and Elizabeth will be back again soon, and next time the tables will be reversed! In the meantime, check out their novels and get ready for their upcoming releases!

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The extraordinary novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (UK | US | ANZ) launches today, published by Orbit in the UK and Redhook in the US.

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes . . . Until now.

Here the author Claire North tells us what advice she would give to her past self, in case she got the chance to live her life all over again . . .

***

Your teachers and elders are not always right.  Age does not necessarily bring wisdom, and if you feel uncertain about yourself, someone else’s certainty does not make them right.  If anything, the more certain the other person is, the more you should question it. Have faith in your own mind, judgment and intelligence, and use it to question everything, even people who seem to be ‘above’ you in whatever place or time you happen to be in now.

Your friends are the best of you.  When you are down, remember that if a person can be judged by the company you keep, then you are frankly, amazing.  Because your friends are amazing and then some.  By which extension – when you meet them for the first time, trust the geeks.  They have found a thing they love and they have the guts to stand up for it, and through it, themselves.  When you’re trying to work out who you are, they can help.

Physicality is in your power.  The questions you ask about how you look, and more importantly how other people perceive your looks, is based on a false premise.  Charisma and confidence is a thing created in the mind, in how you see yourself and how you feel about yourself.  The rest is fluff.

Regret is not the same as wisdom.

When the monkey in the hoodie says ‘yes’ to ‘fixed’ and ‘off’ he is, in fact, wrong.

Concision is a rarer grace than wit.

Above all: do not be afraid.  Running away from something stupid or dangerous isn’t fear, it’s just good sense.  The rest however, the fear that will hold you back, is self-inflicted and can be beaten.  Do not be afraid.

Find a unique hand-written note in every HARRY AUGUST hardback

Recently we’ve been asking people the following question: If you could go back, with what you know now, and give your past self a message, what would it be?

It’s a question inspired by the ingenious novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (UK | US | ANZ) by Claire North, and we’ve had an amazing response already.

So many people are engaging with this novel in wonderful different ways because it’s such a unique book. So unique, in fact, that here in the UK we wanted to make each and every hardback of the book different in some way to reflect this . . .

So if you pick up a UK hardback copy of Harry August from your local store or online retailer, look out for one of the hand-written postcards inside. Every single one is different! Written on these postcards are individual pieces of advice – messages left from lives lived before, such as:

“Be on alert for a message when the clock strikes midnight”

“Your destiny awaits you in the honeysuckle hedge in the garden”

and “Remember to trust your gut instinct”

But amongst all the hardbacks out there, there are fifteen messages which are particularly special. This is because they’re signed by Harry August himself. If you’re lucky enough to find one of these cards, you can email orbit@littlebrown.co.uk to claim a prize: a treasure from one of Harry’s fifteen lives. Look at Harry’s study below to see what you could win!

A picture of Harry August's stufy, and all the prizes within it you could win - a competition to celebrate the release of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

And don’t forget to read our full terms and conditions here.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is out next Tuesday 8th April from Orbit in the UK and ANZ, and from Redhook in the US.

Become part of the story by leaving a message to your past self at www.harryaugust.net

Pre-order THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN and receive a signed bookplate!

“McClellan’s debut packs some serious heat.” — Kirkus Reviews on PROMISE OF BLOOD

It’s already been a year since the publication of Brian McClellan’s debut, PROMISE OF BLOOD (US | UK | AUS). Now we are one month away from the sequel, THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN (US | UK | AUS), and I’m sure you’re all as eager as we are.

Field Marshal Tamas, Taniel Two-shot, Ka-Poel and the others have some tough battles ahead of them. I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice to say, when you combine magic and black powder in an action-packed story, the result will be epic… and explosive! If you haven’t started the trilogy yet, now is the time to catch up. On April 8th, the paperback of PROMISE OF BLOOD will hitting shelves in the US and is already available in the UK and Australia.

Pre-order THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN and you could be eligible to receive a free, signed bookplate. To enter: complete this form providing proof of purchase.

OFFER GOOD UNTIL 5/6/2014. ALLOW EIGHT TO TEN WEEKS FOR DELIVERY. To receive a THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN signed bookplate, complete the entry form on http://www.orbitbooks.net/crimson-campaign/ including your name, mailing address, and proof of pre-order. Offer limited to residents of the fifty (50) United States and D.C. and the United Kingdom, aged 18 or older. Limit one (1) per person and per household. Duplicate requests will constitute fraud. You must have a valid home street address. Theft, diversion, reproduction, transfer, sale or purchase of this offer is prohibited and constitutes fraud. Offer good in the fifty (50) United States and DC and the United Kingdom only. Void where prohibited, taxed, or restricted by law. Requests from clubs or organizations will not be honored. Not redeemable in any manner other than provided herein. Not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, postage due, or misdirected requests. Requests not complying with all offer requirements will not be honored. Any fraudulent submission will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Sponsored by: Orbit Books, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. Privacy Policy: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/privacy-policy/

author post

Nature abhors a vacuum—nowhere more so than in politics. Remove a dictator, and a hundred evil wanna-be despots arise in his stead. Depose a king, and the nobles squabble among themselves. Take down a tyrant, and the underlings kill each other off until only one remains.

In my first Ascendant Kingdoms novel, ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS), the war between Donderath and neighboring Meroven got out of hand after years of ground assaults, leading to devastating strikes and counter-strikes by the mages on both sides. The strikes were intended to kill the king and the families of the nobility, which they did. But the strikes also severed the bond that enabled mortals to control magic, making it a wild force of nature. The civilizations of Donderath and Meroven, which had depended upon magic, collapse.  Leaderless, with the magic gone and the infrastructure in ruins, Donderath and Meroven descend into chaos.

Unfortunately, anarchy has its advocates.

One of the aspects that intrigues me with the Ascendant Kingdoms books is the tension between order and chaos.  On the plus side, chaos can permit natural talent to rise, unencumbered by inherited position, social convention or historical precedent. More often, this means that might makes right, the strong oppress the weak and justice fails.

Among those who see opportunity in chaos and anarchy are men who have styled themselves as warlords, mustering Donderath’s defeated returning soldiers to their ranks and gathering the displaced farmers and tradesmen who have nowhere else to go. Bandit gangs and highwaymen prowl the byways and the city streets now that the king’s guards are no longer to be feared. The talishte—vampires—are split between those who see an opportunity to take the power for themselves as the strongest predators and subjugate mortals, and those who prefer the rule of law. Mages also split between those who desire to use their power to rule over the non-mages by magical force, and those who prefer to work in service to governing powers.

Between the warring factions are the farmers, tradespeople, soldiers and townsfolk whose entire existence was upended by the war and the Cataclysm that resulted from the mage strikes. Unlike the court mages and the battle wizards who worked magic on a grand scale, the common people relied on small magic to make their lives easier in hundreds of ways. Before the Great Fire, magic kept milk from souring and healed sick children and lamed horses. Magic shored up wobbly walls and kept fences together and kept the river from flooding its banks. The Great Fire burned their towns and destroyed their leadership. They lost their livelihoods and crops to fire and flood, along with losing their livestock to illness and their sons to the war. Some try to make the best of it and get on with their lives. Others choose sides, pledging themselves to the service of one of the new warlords.

Blaine McFadden was willing to be stripped of his lands and title to save his sister from dishonor, and the murder he committed resulted in his exile. When he discovers that he is the only living Lord of the Blood and returns to restore the magic, he finds that creating some degree of order is necessary to enable the lands to rebuild. The title he never coveted is now his, along with the responsibilities. And it is increasingly clear that he’s going to have to win a new title—that of ‘warlord’—in order to live long enough to accomplish his goal and protect everything he holds dear.

REIGN OF ASH (US | UK | AUS), book two of the Ascendant Kingdom Saga, releases today! Read an excerpt now or start from the beginning with ICE FORGED.

What message would you give to your past self?

In just two weeks, the ingenious novel THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST will be hitting shelves internationally, published in the UK by Orbit and in the US by our good friends at Redhook. This extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character has already captured the hearts and minds of many early readers.

No matter what Harry August does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, he always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before.

Inspired by Harry and his astonishing tale, we’ve been asking people what they would do differently the next time around if they could live their life all over again. What advice would you give to your younger self?

We’ve had so many fantastic responses, from the heartfelt – to the very practical – to the downright cryptic. Now it’s your turn.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice from a life already lived, what would it be?

Leave your past self a message at www.harryaugust.net, and read the advice others have already given.

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Glenda Larke’s exciting new epic fantasy novel, THE LASCAR’S DAGGER, came out just last week. It is a tale of spying, of action and adventure in an unfamiliar land.

I was 21 years old when I discovered what it was like to be an alien.

I had just landed in a strange country at night, then was driven along dark country roads with rubber trees meeting overhead. Near our village destination, a coconut tree had fallen across the power lines, so when I met my husband’s parents for the first time, along with his brother and five sisters, it was by the flickering light of tiny coconut-oil lamps.

I soon discovered that my meagre knowledge of formal, grammatical Malay was about as much use in his village as a meagre knowledge of Oxford English would be to someone hearing Geordie dialect for the first time. The matriarchal society that was my husband’s by birth still used the Sumatran dialect they’d brought with them from Indonesia centuries earlier. I barely understood a word. At that point, I was overwhelmed by the feeling of not belonging, of being way out of my comfort zone.

As lovely as my in-laws were, I learned then, and in the years that followed, how challenging it is to be the stranger, the outsider. And as if that first total immersion by lamplight wasn’t enough, I did it again, repeatedly — living for years not only in west Malaysia, but also in Austria, in Tunisia, in Borneo. I had to learn the same tough lesson over and over, which was this: those around me weren’t weird. I was. It’s always the stranger who’s the alien.

It might have been a challenge for me to adapt, but it was also wonderful — a fascinating learning curve that never ended. No wonder, then, that I am intrigued by protagonists who are flung into unfamiliar worlds they don’t quite understand . . .

Like the lascar, for example, one of the protagonists in my new epic fantasy novel, THE LASCAR’S DAGGER, Book One of The Forsaken Lands. He is friendless and alone, half a world away from the place of his birth, learning to survive in a country where people dismiss his half of the globe as “forsaken”, that is, forsaken even by God. Or like Saker, the priest, reluctantly thrust into life at a royal court when he’d much rather lead a life of action. Or Lady Mathilda, a royal who must marry a man she doesn’t know and move to a foreign land for reasons of State. Or Sorrel Redwing, on the run from the law, learning to live in disguise as a servant. All are characters way out of their comfort zone.

Of all of them, the lascar has the hardest task because he’s the furthest away from all that is familiar. But then, he also has a very special dagger, or kris . . .

My husband wore a Malay kris the day we were married, tucked into the waist of his national costume like the warriors of a bygone era. The traditional form of the kris, usually with a wavy blade, is crafted from iron and meteorite nickel. Part of its mythos is the belief in a presence of a spirit (whether for good or evil) within the blade. Just as the kris in legend often possesses supernatural power or ability, so it is with the lascar’s dagger of my novel. Just what it’s up to is quite another matter, and for that, you’ll have to read the book.

ANCILLARY JUSTICE makes the Clarke Awards Shortlist!

Our congratulations go today to Ann Leckie, who has been shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award for her debut novel, the fantastic space opera ANCILLARY JUSTICE!

This means that ANCILLARY JUSTICE has so far had an unbroken chain of shortlistings for every science fiction award of the year: that’s the Kitschies (where it already won the Golden Tentacle), the Philip K. Dick Awards, the BSFA Awards, the Tiptree, the Goodread Reader’s Choice Awards and the Nebula Awards. What a record!

The shortlist this year has been characterised by several debut novels – Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley and Ramez Naam are, impressively, all first time novelists. Alison Flood at the Guardian wrote about the debuts here: ‘SF newcomers invade Arthur C Clarke award shortlist’.

Big Orbit congratulations to Ann, and to all the shortlistees! The full shortlist is here:

ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie
GOD’S WAR by Kameron Hurley
THE MACHINE by James Smythe
THE DISESTABLISHMENT OF PARADISE by Phillip Mann
NEXUS by Ramez Naam
THE ADJACENT by Christopher Priest

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With her brand new epic fantasy adventure THE LASCAR’S DAGGER out today, we asked Glenda to tell us a bit about the book and the story behind that title.

“What’s your book about?” It’s a question dreaded by every fantasy author.

After all, what if Tolkien had said, “A company of little guys with hairy feet who go on a long journey to throw a ring into some molten rock under a mountain…”  Would you have bought the Lord of the Rings trilogy?

With my latest book – THE LASCAR’S DAGGER – I discovered a new problem.

“What’s your book about?”

“A lascar, and the spice trade and –”

“Alaska? Really?” (At which point I am on the receiving end of a peculiar look.) “I didn’t know they had a spice trade! And have you even been to Alaska?”

Er, no.

So I usually end up telling people about lascars instead.

The word ‘lascar’ rather carelessly bundles together men of many different nationalities. The only thing they had in common was that they were south Asians who worked for Europeans. They could come from any country from Yemen to Indonesia. They were mostly sailors, although sometimes the term was applied to the servants of British army officers. Generally, they were worked hard and were poorly paid.

Possibly the very first lascar was an Indian who sailed with Vasco da Gama in 1498. By 1660, they were so common on board British ships that the British Government enacted a law to limit their employment to no more than 25% of the crew. By the First World War, there were over fifty thousand lascars actually resident in Britain; lascars were in fact the first wave of Asian migrants.

But THE LASCAR’S DAGGER is not just about a man and his knife. It’s about a western civilization on the cusp of change as it comes into conflict with cultures on the other side of the globe. It’s about ambition and greed and the spice trade. It’s a fantasy, set in a world that never existed, but which evokes a time when Asia and Europe were on a collision course. In our world, Asia lost, and most countries ended up under colonial rule. In my world … there may be a different ending.

The cast of my trilogy is large and varied: clerics and royalty, merchants and servants, assassins and beggars, a lawyer, a prince, a privateer and a woman wanted for murder … and more importantly, there’s the lascar — and his blade.

The lascar’s dagger is, in fact, a character too, one that can manipulate events. After all, I write fantasy and there’s got to be magic, right? Better still, with magic, perhaps one can change the course of history.

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