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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.
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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.

SUMMER KNIGHT 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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Summer Knight starts with Harry on a rapidly darkening spiral of defeat and sheer bad luck. Things move quickly from the beginning with an improbable portent of doom – a storm of toads! We also see an assassination attempt on Harry, and all in the first ten pages. After all, it seems so much easier to remove the apparent cause of all the problems, rather than working to solve them.

Harry survives; but is then given a tricky case to crack. Harry must assist the two Faerie Queens, Summer and Winter, in solving a crime. Ronald Reuel, the Summer Queen’s right-hand man and the titular Summer Knight, has been murdered. And the Winter Queen, Mab, has conveniently and perhaps unfairly been blamed for his demise.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Luck of the Warrior . . .

“Something remarkable has begun” declared fantasist Steven Erikson back in 2005, when R. Scott Bakker burst onto the fantasy scene with his enthralling debut THE DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE. Erikson wasn’t wrong – before long Bakker established himself as a major talent in the epic fantasy genre, dazzling readers with his exquisite prose, masterful characterisation and rich worldbuilding.

Six years later, R. Scott Bakker continues to captivate his fans with his latest novel, THE WHITE LUCK WARRIOR, the second book in his Aspect-Emperor series. Containing all the hallmarks he has become known for, it’s a fantasy story on a mesmerising scale, full of shady mysteries, explosive sorcery and mighty battles.

If that’s not enough to convince you that you need some Bakker in your life, here’s what the reviewers have been saying:

“A powerful, engrossing, ferociously intelligent novel that sees Bakker at the very top of his game. It leaves the reader on the edge of their seat for the concluding volume of the trilogy, The Unholy Consult.” THE WERTZONE (5 star review)

“The worldbuilding is once again top notch. Bakker’s narrative is richly detailed, creating an imagery that leaps off the page . . . The White-Luck Warrior is everything Bakker fans could hope for.” PAT’S FANTASY HOTLIST (8.5/10 rating)

“A wonderful sense of pace, some great action sequences and above all else the reader will have a title that really will satisfy the fantasy fan within. A great title all round and one that really has left the final book in the series as one where everything is to play for. Great stuff.” FALCATA TIMES

Iain M. Banks tour

Iain M. Banks will be appearing at several events around the UK during June, to celebrate the publication of his latest Culture novel, Surface Detail, in paperback (on sale 26th May).

* Friday 3rd June: Alt.Fiction, Leicester

Phoenix Square, 7pm – more information

* Sunday 5th June: Hay Festival, Wales

Elmley Foundation Theatre, 7pm – more information

* Monday 6th June: British Library, London

Utopias and Other Worlds, 6.30pm – more information

* Tuesday 7th June:Birmingham SF Group

Birmingham Library Theatre, 7pm – more information

* Saturday 11th June: The Sage Gateshead

Presented with New Writing North, 7pm – more information

Tickets are needed for all events.

Awards news

We are very happy to have not just one, but several pieces of good news on the awards front, in no particular order:

First of all, Helen Lowe’s The Heir of Night has been nominated in two categories for the prestigious Sir Julius Vogel New Zealand genre awards. She’s up for Best Novel for the book itself and Peter Fitzpatrick has been nominated for Best Professional Artwork for his wonderful map. We’ll be crossing our fingers in the lead up to the awards, to be announced at New Zealand’s ConText convention on 3rd – 6th June in just a few weeks.

Congratulations also go to Marianne de Pierres who has won the award for best Science Fiction Novel at the Aurealis Awards for her novel Transformation Space.

Finally, don’t forget to vote for your favourite book for this year’s Gemmell Awards. We’re strongly represented across all three categories, firstly with three titles in the running for the Legend Award for best fantasy novel: The War of the Dwarves by Markus Heitz, Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson, and The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. We also have The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin nominated for the Morningstar award for best fantasy debut. And lastly, this book is nominated yet again in the Gemmell’s Ravenheart category for best fantasy book cover, with Cliff Neilson as illustrator and our Lauren Panepinto as designer.

Good luck to the shortlisted nominees and congratulations again to Marianne de Pierres!

RULE 34 by Charles Stross – the cover!

I’ve been looking forward to unveiling our cover visual for Rule 34, the latest brilliant near-future novel by Charles Stross. This one is set in Edinburgh in a future that’s just round the corner and takes us at a cracking pace though a complex series of bizarre interlinked crimes. We loved it and advance praise has been amazing too. But here’s the cover and some early quotes:

Cracking near-future crime laced with humour that’s exquisitely wrong’ Chris Brookmyre

‘A savvy, funny, viciously inventive science fiction novel that combines police procedure with the dark side of nerd culture to produce a grotesque and gripping page-turner’ Cory Doctorow

‘Charles Stross is a grandmaster of that most difficult science-fictional era, the near future. His novel, Rule 34, is a seamlessly transformation of our near-term everyday world into serious strangeness’
Vernor Vinge

‘Dazzling, chilling and brilliant’ Kirkus

Does size REALLY matter?

We thought we were more opened-minded than this, but lately here at Orbit when we’ve asked ourselves the timeless question– does size really matter? – we’ve found ourselves answering with a shocking ‘yes’.

We didn’t want to be swayed by the spine width of any given book. ‘Why should it matter how wide the spine is?’ we’d say. ‘All books should be treated equally, regardless of spine width’ had always been our mantra.  But we’ve recently found ourselves paying a bit more attention to these chunky titles and omnibuses.  We even went so far as to measure them:


(For those of you keeping score, it’s Pamela Freeman’s The Casting Trilogy for the win!)

Now that we’ve acknowledged our bias we’re hoping we can move past it, though we do wonder if readers are swayed by book width as well.

So what do you think? When it comes to buying books, does size matter?

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