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You know, when the Telegraph called my Avery Cates novels “an action movie in print,” my immediate reaction was, of course, anger and suspicion. What kind of action movie did they mean? Jean-Claude Van Damme? Dolph Lundgren? Surely not . . . Steven Seagal?!?!? Bastards. I would have my revenge, I thought.

Then someone forced me to drink several cups of strong black coffee, put me in a warm bath, stroked my hair for a few minutes, and suggested perhaps they meant to reference good action movies. Something from the Bruce Willis oeuvre, perhaps. Or some classic Steve McQueen. I mean, if you’re trying to say that my books are like Steve McQueen jumping the fence on his motorcycle in The Great Escape, well, okay then. Tantrum regretted.

What’s interesting about living in the modern world is that we’re a bunch of people who have never lived without films, for the most part. You can no longer really write a novel without having movie conventions and styles in your head. I have no idea how people imagined things before movies. Even if you somehow avoid imagining things as movie scenes in your head as you write, your readers will no doubt do that heavy lifting for you, friend. You can’t win. All you can do is try to imagine a really good movie version of your story as you write. As opposed to, say, something by Uwe Boll. I know at least that for every line of the THE FINAL EVOLUTION I wrote, something like this was happening in my head:

The Avery Cates novels are set in an unspecified future Read the rest of this entry »

Discover the Map of All Things . . .

Kevin J. Anderson’s TERRA INCOGNITA fantasy series began in 2010 with the release of THE EDGE OF THE WORLD – “a classic adventure story” (Total Sci-Fi Online) – that introduced the seafaring countries of Tierra and Uraba, whose fragile truce is shattered by a tragic accident, casting the world once more into the fires of war.

THE MAP OF ALL THINGS continues this epic story of  politics, warfare and daring adventure upon storm-wracked, serpent-infested seas. For a map has been discovered that reveals the location of the Key to Creation – a weapon that could change the course of the war . . . and the fate of the world.

With the third book in the series, THE KEY TO CREATION, due for release in trade paperback next month, now is the perfect time to dive in to Kevin J. Anderson’s TERRA INCOGNITA.

Here’s what the critics have had to say about THE MAP OF ALL THINGS:

“For a book full of fantastical events, The Map of All Things is scarily true to life in its depiction of religious fanaticism and the ruthlessness and futility of war. Such attitudes ground the novel, making it all the more effective at absorbing us into a world both brutal and beautiful” – Total Sci-Fi Online (8/10 rating)

“The Map of all Things has everything you want from a fantasy epic – intrigue, land and sea battles, assassinations and assassination attempts, discoveries, magic, strange creatures – as well as sense of wonder that is usually associated more with space opera, but the author managed to transpose that in the “swords and sails” context superbly” – Fantasy Book Critic (A+ rating)

“If you like your fantasy sweeping and epic, with a smattering of giant sea monsters, this is the ideal book for you” – The Bookbag

“The prose is sharp, the descriptiveness ideal and the characters really leap off the page to make them a cast that you just can’t wait to adventure with” – Falcata Times

BLOOD RITES by Jim Butcher: a Dresden Files reread

Mark Yon has been a reviewer and web administrator at SFFWorld, one of the world’s biggest genre forum sites, for nearly ten years. He has also been on the David Gemmell Awards organisation committee for the last two years. In this series of rereads, Mark will guide us below through the whole of Jim Butcher’s fabulous Dresden Files series as we count down to the new hardback Ghost Story at the end of July.
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‘Family. Nothing but an accident of birth. Family is meaningless. It is nothing but the drive of blood to further its own. Random combination of genes. It is utterly insignificant.’
‘Your children don’t think that,’ I said. ‘They think family is important.’
He laughed. ‘Of course they think that. I have trained them to do so. It is a simple and convenient way to control them.
(The enemy confronted by Harry.)

After the events of Death Masks, things in Blood Rites get deeper and more personal. This book is largely about  family and relationships (see the snippet above) and these themes, as you might expect by this point in the series, are developed here and exciting changes occur as a result.

The other main thrust of the book is dealing with vampires, and previous readers will remember Harry’s had his problems with them in the past! Yes, we still know he’s responsible for the on-going Cold War between the wizard White Council and the vampire White, Red and Black Courts. But here Harry has his own private issues with vampires to contend with too …

Read the rest of this entry »

THE HEIR OF NIGHT triumphs at the Vogel awards!

I am absolutely delighted to report that Helen Lowe won New Zealand’s premier genre award for Best Novel over the  weekend, with her wonderful epic fantasy adventure The Heir of Night. The award was actually shared this year, as Lyn McConchie’s  The Questing Road also took the top spot, showing the strength of the shortlist. The Sir Julius Vogel awards were announced at the ConText convention and  Helen talks more about the award on her blog — and we couldn’t be more excited for her.

Robin Hobb called this wonderful epic fantasy adventure ‘a richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery and conflicting loyalties, set in a well realized world’. I can’t recommend it highly enough myself and suggest that you get right out and discover all the dark treachery-ness of it for yourselves! Happy reading.

Cover Launch: Kristen Painter’s HOUSE OF COMARRÉ

I am so excited to finally be launching the first three books of Kristen Painter’s House of Comarré series. You saw Blood Rights back in April, and I gave you a sneak peak of the covers for Flesh and Blood and Bad Blood, but we’ve been fine-tuning them for a while, and here they finally are, in all their gothic glory!

As you may know from old posts, I love tattoos, have quite a few, and have a soft spot for tattoos that are creatively worked into fantasy stories (props to Jacqueline Carey and the Kushiel books, of course), and I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say the gold ornament on our cover heroine is not just a pretty design…Kristen Painter  has really created a very inventive world with the kind of interesting visual details that get a designer like me very happy. I hope that shows in the covers!

Nekro, the illustrator of these gorgeous covers, has really outdone himself here. These covers are amazing and I can’t wait to hear what you guys think…after the jump, you can see them full-size and get some teasers for the House of Comarré series…

Read the rest of this entry »

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Welcome to the Metrozone. To give it its full name, the London Metrozone. Twenty-five million people, set behind a wall of concrete and wire a hundred miles long, reinforced by automatic guns and watchtowers. It has the economy of a prosperous industrialised nation, its citizens come from every corner of the planet and it’s the last city in England.

Things look the same, but different: the Houses of Parliament – disused but safe from flooding behind a massive dam. Marylebone station lies dormant: no more trains to the Midlands, because the Midlands are an irradiated wasteland. Buckingham Palace is still at the end of the Mall, but it’s flagless. Regent’s Park is now home to thousands of refugees in their converted shipping-container houses. England, as a country, has ceased to exist. The only part of it remaining is the Metrozone.

What happened? Armageddon. But the brief, world-changing years of nuclear terrorism are a fading memory. The city remains.

So why pick on London? I mean, what’s it ever done to me? Do I take perverse delight in trashing my capital city, threatening it with flood, fire, war and disease, wrecking the national monuments and destroying millennia of history?

Yes. But that’s not reason enough. Okay, setting a series of novels in a post-apocalyptic London is an obvious choice, simply because it’s the biggest and most well known city on these islands. It has iconic buildings and internationally recognisable landmarks, in a way that Coventry, Aberystwyth or Motherwell don’t. St. Paul’s, the Gherkin, Battersea power station, Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge: all are instantly recognisable from thousands of books and hundreds of films by people who live half a world away and will never see London for real. Read the rest of this entry »

New (Eyebending) Wallpaper for Simon Morden’s Trilogy

I know it’s been a little while since we’ve done a fun wallpaper in the house (It was a great wallpaper too – Leviathan Wakes, if you didn’t download it you totally should!). So, I have written before about how much I love how the covers for the Simon Morden books came out, and have taken the opportunity to do a poster, a video, and now…wallpapers! Just in time for the third book to hit shelves. So make sure you go pick up Equations of Life, Theories of Flight, and Degrees of Freedom

Available for screens of all sizes, now you can carry a mind-warping piece of the Metrozone with you everywhere! I even finally figured out how to make the ipad version work with the vertical/horizontal twist. As usual, if I missed a specific screen size you’d like, leave a comment and I’ll format it for you!

1024 x 768 | 1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1680 x 1050 | 1920 x 1200iPhone | iPadNetbook (1024×600)

DEATH MASKS by Jim Butcher: A Dresden Files reread

Mark Yon has been a reviewer and web administrator at SFFWorld, one of the world’s biggest genre forum sites, for nearly ten years. He has also been on the David Gemmell Awards organisation committee for the last two years. In this series of rereads, Mark will guide us below through the whole of Jim Butcher’s fabulous Dresden Files series as we count down to the new hardback Ghost Story at the end of July.
*************************************************************************************

Book Five of the series and things are still getting darker.

A little more Harry Dresden-focused after the events of Summer Knight, Death Masks is, in some respects, a smaller scale book – there is little reference to the NeverNever, more happenings around Chicago.

The war between the wizard’s White Council and the vampire’s Red Court is continued, but here the attention is clearly on Harry’s role in it all. Harry, in an attempt to settle the war, is challenged to a duel by Paolo Ortega, a reputed member of the vampire Red Court royalty. In the organised fashion that seems to be the way in the world of magic and demons, seconds are called for and the duel is arranged – at Wrigley Stadium in Chicago.

Read the rest of this entry »

Perfect Shadow is out now!

Brent Weeks’ new novella, Perfect Shadow is out now in ebook and digital audio editions! It’s an exciting look back at his New York Times Bestselling Night Angel Trilogy and it focuses on the “birth” of Durzo Blint, the man who taught Kylar everything he knows about being a Night Angel. At about 17,000 words it’s a great entrance into the Night Angel trilogy for new readers — and if you’re a fan? You’ll be blown away the action, the adventure … and the danger.

“I got a bit of prophecy,” the old assassin said. “Not enough to be useful, you know. Just glimpses. My wife dead, things like that to keep me up late at night. I had this vision that I was going to be killed by forty men, all at once. But now that you’re here, I see they’re all you. Durzo Blint.”

Durzo Blint? Gaelan had never even heard the name.

***
Gaelan Starfire is a farmer, happy to be a husband and a father; a careful, quiet, simple man. He’s also an immortal, peerless in the arts of war. Over the centuries, he’s worn many faces to hide his gift, but he is a man ill-fit for obscurity, and all too often he’s become a hero, his very names passing into legend: Acaelus Thorne, Yric the Black, Hrothan Steelbender, Tal Drakkan, Rebus Nimble.

But when Gaelan must take a job hunting down the world’s finest assassins for the beautiful courtesan-and-crimelord Gwinvere Kirena, what he finds may destroy everything he’s ever believed in.

 

Iain Banks & Simon Morden on science fiction

Iain Banks (IB) and Simon Morden (SM) recently discussed Science Fiction’s role in the wider world of literature. Read on below for the whole discussion.

SM: I think you occupy a unique position, certainly in British literature, as a writer who whole-heartedly embraces science fiction – defends it vigorously in public, even – and also writes successfully outside of the genre without the aid of a pseudonym. Just the additional M. There are, of course, other writers who’ve used SF as a vehicle for story telling – Kasuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go) who was up for the Clarke the year I was a judge, PD James (Children of Men), Margaret Atwood – who don’t seem to attract what fantasy author Stephen Hunt has described as “the sneer”.

Do you find that reviewers more used to ‘literary’ novels (for the want of a better word) – when they’re covering books like Steep Approach, or talking about your whole body of work – tend to not talk about the SF stuff, despite it being pretty much half your output?

IB: Yes, the SF does tend to be ignored but that by itself isn’t so terrible; better that people don’t comment on stuff they don’t read and likely have no sympathy with than pass judgements in ignorance or filtered through a kind of prejudiced contempt.  It is, after all, my choice to work in two quite different fields and to insert/delete the ‘M’.

In the end I’m happy to be judged for the SF alone, the literary – for want of a better term – alone, or (c) all of the above, and it would be unfair to expect somebody – critic or book-buying reader – who just isn’t into SF to have to take that side of my work into account when trying to come up with any sort of comprehensive evaluation beyond that based on a single novel.  The problem comes more from the attitude that the mainstream somehow automatically ranks higher than the SF, that it takes precedence over it.

I think a large part of the problem comes from the way our cultural elite are educated, at the tertiary stage particularly; especially in England there seems to be a disconnect between the Humanities and, well, everything else, to the detriment of a fully rounded world view from those generally regarded as being most qualified to comment on matters literary.

Too many very intelligent and otherwise well-educated people seem to have a sort of disdain for technology and – by association – for any literature that deals with it. This may be born of a sort of subtly inculcated fear, or perhaps just intellectually inherited snobbery; hard to be sure. Anyway, I think that attitude is at least unfortunate and arguably – for our whole shared culture – both damaging and dangerous.

SM: The thing is, I can’t imagine our forebears putting up with such a situation. Boasting – boasting – about being essentially ignorant about ‘natural philosophy’ would have been seen as utterly shameful.

I was listening earlier today to a radio programme about the Eighteenth century Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. He’s best known for his work on reason, but he was pretty much all over the entire syllabus. And as far as I can tell, his breadth of knowledge was far from unique, at least up to the beginning of the twentieth century. Engineers, scientists, philosophers, writers, artists: all moved in the same circles and appreciated each others’ knowledge. So how did the humanities become so isolated? And, more importantly, who’s going to listen to us when we suggest there’s a genuinely serious problem here?

IB: I don’t know exactly why the humanities have become so isolated.  I think it is a problem, and arguably a serious one – though the effects will be subtle and spread over generations, so hard to spot – and I think all anybody can do is keep banging on about it to anybody who’ll listen.

Ultimately the societies / states which take heed will be the ones which flourish in the future and so the problem will – in a sense, if one is being bloody-minded about it – sort itself out.  Trouble is, that scenario implies the waste of a lot of human potential, if that’s the only way it sorts itself out.  Better that those in a position to do something about it listen, understand and do something.  However I wouldn’t hold your breath; humanity’s record of civilisational witlessness in such matters does not encourage any great optimism.

SM: A panel at the Eastercon just past debated whether or not SF had won the culture war: the conclusion – that we have, and are just mopping up the last of the resistance – seemed a little optimistic to me. While we have magnificently science-fictional devices akin to Star Trek communicators in our pockets, very few people have the slightest idea how or even why they work. It’s as if Clarke’s Third Law isn’t so much a literary device as a prophecy.

So while it’s true that some of the richest people on the planet got their money from actually designing and making things, the people who purport to rule us seem to have very little knowledge of science, medicine, engineering, or mathematics. I’ve just checked the academic backgrounds of the entire Cabinet of the UK government, and with a couple of notable exceptions, it’s not happy reading. The disparity seen there raises all sorts of questions. Does our artistic elite consciously feed off the sense of worth given to science and technology by our political culture? Would we have a more balanced society if decision-makers had a better understanding of scientific principles? Indeed, what would happen if more politicians read SF?

IB: I suspect our artistic elite does feed off the sense of worth given to science and technology by our political culture, though how conscious this process is I’m not sure.

Would we have a more balanced society if decision-makers had a better understanding of scientific principles?  Probably, though – given the way the rascals behave sometimes – them having a better understanding of moral principles might be even more to the point.  But let’s not be too down on them; I’m always pleasantly surprised how much money our politicians are prepared to sink into giant long-term projects like the LHC and the Hubble and its successors.  Given the currently fashionable fetishising of the bottom line and the short term it’s almost miraculous (though the cynic in me suspects they’ve been spun a line about potential future military spin-off tech by a particularly cunning and manipulative group of scientists).

And obviously I think the world would be a much better place if more politicians read SF.  But I could be wrong.

SM: I was struck by a recent Guardian article* on China Mieville, which borrowed Mieville’s The City and the City imagery of two cities occupying the same geographical space to describe the disconnect in our cultures.

It strikes me that although actual knowledge of science and technology are patchy, genre ideas are widespread and increasingly a part of life: even a B-list author like me has been reviewed in the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Financial Times. So are events like the Man Booker and the BBC’s World Book Day fiasco simply the result of a literary cultural elite talking only to itself, and ‘unseeing’ this huge other edifice of popular culture beside it? We’re pretty much everywhere, and it has to take some concentrated effort to ignore what’s happening.

IB: I don’t think it is ‘unseeing’, I think it’s just plain old-fashioned ‘ignoring’.  There’s no element of self-deception involved (not at this level, anyway) and it’s entirely acknowledged that genre and other ‘lesser’ forms exist, it’s just that they’re dismissed as entertainment while the stuff the elite like is elevated to the rather more hallowed status of Art.  I think art is just entertainment for the elite, for those who have self-consciously more ‘refined’ tastes than the general mass of people:  even the highest art is simply entertainment for intellectuals.  I don’t even mean to be insulting here (not like when I say to opera lovers, Oh, you like musicals?), I just think it’s basically snobbery which makes us separate entertainment and art and denigrate one while worshipping the other.  I also don’t mean to imply that all art/entertainment is of the same worth; it isn’t.  All I want to argue is that what we are faced with when we confront the vast array of creative cultural output that we currently call art and entertainment is not as crudely binary in nature as those two words suggest but rather a spectrum, and an untidy one at that, with junk and gems distributed throughout.

I think all that any of us can do is produce the best stuff we’re capable of producing – preferably without either feeling ashamed of it or (even worse in a way) working on projects our hearts aren’t really in but which pursue anyway because we feel they’ll garner a better class of praise just through their supposedly more serious or refined nature.  And, I repeat, keep banging away at this very subject; don’t take it lying down, don’t accept this is just the way things have to be.  We have to challenge the authorised version of our imposed cultural hierarchy.

* (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/may/10/china-mieville-radical-sf-mainstream)

 

Surface Detail, the latest Culture novel by Iain M. Banks, is out now in paperback. Equations of Life and Theories of Flight, the first two books in the Metrozone series by Simon Morden, are available now, with book 3, Degrees of Freedom, being released next month.

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