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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.
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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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Glenda Larke

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The Lascar’s Dagger: What is a Lascar?

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.

An interview with Glenda Larke

Saker appears to be a simple priest, but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. Wounded in the line of duty by a Lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility it brings, Saker can only follow its lead.  The Lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

THE LASCAR’S DAGGER (US | UK | AUS) is the first book of an brand new trilogy by Glenda Larke. Get to know Glenda and find out what her new series is all about in the interview below. 

1.) When did you first start writing?

I was still in elementary school when I discovered I could write stories and – better still – I could persuade other kids to listen to them. When a teacher asked us what we would like to be when we grew up, my reply was ‘an authoress’!

2.) What made you want to write fantasy?

My first novel (unpublished!) was actually not fantasy at all. It was a thriller with a strong dash of romance, set in Malaysia, where I was living at the time. I showed it to someone, and to my alarm discovered that she equated the main character’s views with mine simply because the main character was, like me, an Australian living in Malaysia. I figured that the book – if ever it was published – would get me into trouble with the community I was living in at the time, so I shelved it and turned instead to writing fantasy. After all, no one was going to equate me with a woman born in the Keeper Isles and living in a place called Gorthan Spit, were they? (It was no hardship switching genres, of course. I loved reading fantasy and it makes sense to write what you love.)

3.) Who are some of your major influences in the genre?

It’s hard to single out any particular book or writer. I suspect it was Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’ that started me reading fantasy in the first place. The authors I read in the 1980s as I was developing my skills as a writer of fantasy were people like Barbara Hambly, Janny Wurts, Guy Gavriel Kay, Raymond Feist and Ann McCaffrey.

4.) Where did the idea for The Lascar’s Dagger come from?

There’s never a single idea! If I had to sum up the sources for my inspiration, I’d say: the great port cities of the Netherlands and the U.K. in the time of sailing ships, my mother-in-law’s kitchen, the Malay dagger, my ancestor sailing around the world on Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavor’, the spice trade, my husband’s background, privateers, birds of paradise…

The Malay/Indonesian dagger, with its distinct wavy blade, is part of my husband’s culture. Called a kris, it is a traditional weapon of his people, and historically it was thought to contain a spirit or presence (which can be good or evil). Folk tales often tell stories of a kris with magical powers. What fantasy writer can resist the idea of that?

Most of the trilogy, though, is set in my version of Europe about to embark on colonial expansion and trade dominance of the East. There’s a bit of a twist on our history, though: in my books, the East has a novel way of fighting back…

Read more. 

The Red Knight returns in THE FELL SWORD!

“Do well. Act with honor and dignity. Not because there is some promised reward, but because it is the only way to live.”

Today we are excited to release the long-awaited THE FELL SWORD, Miles Cameron’s epic sequel to THE RED KNIGHT. THE FELL SWORD is the second book in the Traitor Son Cycle, published by Orbit in the US and Gollancz in the UK. This second volume has all the action and intrigue that delighted fans and critics alike in THE RED KNIGHT, only now the stakes are higher than ever as the pursuit of honor falters against a backdrop of vicious battles and betrayals. Here’s what THE FELL SWORD has in store:

Loyalty costs money.

Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.

When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand — and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan.

The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time — especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?

“A medieval-fantasy at its finest … If you’re a fan of characters that are incredibly realistic and battles that put you right in the sweaty, gritty action, this is a book for you.” – Fantasy Faction on The Red Knight

Read an excerpt from THE FELL SWORD or start from the beginning with THE RED KNIGHT! And for a bit of extra fun, watch what happens when an epic fantasy novel and an armored knight go up head-to-head.

Shiny new Patricia Briggs, now in hardback!

Urban fantasy fans rejoice! Today we release NIGHT BROKEN, the brand new Mercy Thompson novel. And for the very first time in the UK, we’re releasing it as a shiny new hardback. Feast your eyes on this beauty.

The Mercy Thompson books make up one of the most compelling and addictive urban fantasy series out there – and it’s shown by the fact that Patricia Briggs just keeps gaining more and more fans.

And now there’s a real treat in store for all those readers. All I can say is, this book starts out in a very tense emotional way for the pack, Mercy and Adam – and the tension just keeps ramping up further and further. There’s danger, supernatural threats, crazy ex-lovers – and lots of those characters you might have been missing will reappear . . .

Be one of the first to get your hands on the hardback now!

Seeing is not Believing: Weirdest Alien Encounters

Ryan, the star of Ken MacLeod’s latest SF thriller, DESCENT, had a childhood encounter with an unidentified flying object in the hills above his home town. He’s done his research – he knows of all the hoaxes, justifications and explanations for UFO sightings, but can’t even begin to explain what happened to him. And in a future Scotland where nothing seems secret, where everything is recorded on CCTV or reported online, why can he find no evidence that the UFO ever existed?

DESCENT (UK|ANZ) is a science fiction story for the 21st Century – a story of what happens when conspiracy theorists take on Big Brother. To celebrate its release today, here’s our rundown of some of the weirdest reported alien encounters…

Space Brothers

Aliens aren’t just little green men – sometimes they look like ABBA.

‘Space Brothers’, ‘Nordic aliens’ or even ‘Pleiadians’ are the blond, beautiful human-looking aliens who many UFO believers have reported communicating with since the 1950s.

The first person to report contact with this type of alien was George Adamski, who reported seeing UFOs twice with friends before deciding on the third time that the craft must be looking for him! Separating from his friends, he saw the craft land and a blond man emerge, who claimed to be an alien named Orthon, who warned Adamski of the dangers of nuclear war and took him on a trip around the Solar System. That wasn’t the end of it, either – in the sixties Adamski claimed to have attended an interplanetary conference on the planet Saturn.

Once upon a time people would tell stories about how they were kidnapped by fair, beautiful elves in the woods – now it’s beautiful aliens. Why the obsession with blondes, though? It’s all a bit disturbing. (Some theorists have claimed ‘Orthon’ was a lost Nazi soldier testing a new aircraft.) Read the rest of this entry »

Press Release: Orbit UK to publish Welcome to Night Vale novel

Night Vale logo by Rob WilsonOrbit UK has acquired a novel based on WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, to be written by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink. The WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE podcast is described by the TELEGRAPH as ‘a cultural phenomenon’, the GUARDIAN calls it ‘extremely addictive’ and it has topped over twenty-three million worldwide downloads since its first episode aired in 2012. The Night Vale book will feature both new characters and beloved favourites from the show.

Commissioning editor Jenni Hill bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Angharad Kowal at Writers House UK, on behalf of Jodi Reamer at Writers House US, in a heated auction last month. Publication is expected for autumn 2015.

 WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a free, fictional podcast set in a creepy desert town. It takes the form of a radio show full of news reports from Cecil Palmer, the town’s affable radio host who doesn’t quite understand that hooded figures in the dog park and hypnotising glow clouds in the sky are not facts of life anywhere outside Night Vale. As hilarious as it is disturbing, the show can be described as a cross between THE TWILIGHT ZONE and TWIN PEAKS, or your local news report written by Stephen King.

Angharad Kowal said: “Orbit is the perfect home for the WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE novel – their enthusiasm for the project is hard to surpass. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Jenni Hill said: “I first listened to WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE last summer, and I fell in love instantly with Jeffrey and Joseph’s smart writing, fascinating characters and comic but wonderfully creepy storylines. I’m overjoyed that Orbit will be publishing this in the UK and I know that the novel is going to absolutely delight both Night Vale’s loyal fans and plenty of new readers.”

And now, the weather.

About WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE: The brainchild of writers Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE podcast is narrated by Cecil Baldwin, with music by Disparition. More information, and links to the podcast, can be found at www.commonplacebooks.com/welcome-to-night-vale.

 

mur-rounded-corners

Last year, out-of-work travel writer Zöe Norris found herself in the Big Apple — looking for work and finding more than she bargained for.  Mur Lafferty’s THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY (US | UK | AUS)  is a hip and fun take on urban fantasy, which Cory Doctorow called “an unbeatable mixture of humor, heart, imagination and characterization.”

We’re thrilled to bring you the exciting sequel, GHOST TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS (US | UK | AUS), which is available now!  Zoe and crew head south for an assignment in the Big Easy.

Since today is also Mardi Gras, it seemed appropriate to ask for Mur’s excellent travel advice on enjoying the celebration….if you’re a vampire that is.

Plan ahead

The most difficult thing in New Orleans for vampires is accommodation. New Orleans is 8 feet under sea level, and graves and coffins and any sort of tunnel system are nonexistent. You must plan early to book a crypt, or find room in some of the hotels that feature sunlight-tight rooms. These hotels and the rentable crypts are often booked by November, so plan early.

Know the local laws

Every city has laws specific to itself, for example, no earth demons welcome in Boston, and zombies must visit only downtown hospital morgues for brain retrieval. New Orleans is no different. Hunting can only be done in the cemeteries, all parties must be invite-only to limit the number of humans that try to attend, and the legally drunk limit is drinking one pint of blood that has a .10 blood alcohol content. So watch how many parting humans you partake of.

Do not dress in costume

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is the one time and place  where you can be yourself. You can dress in clothes that you find comfortable, even if they are from the 1300s, and you can avoid putting on makeup to disguise the paleness of your skin. Out and proud, that’s the chant of local vampires, as they proudly display all that they are this one time during the year.

Catch Mardi Gras throws

If you attend the correct parades, you may have a chance to catch throws such as frozen blood cubes, candied brain bits, or hedgehogs. These parades are often late at night on side streets to not attract too much human attention. WATCH OUT: some hunters will throw rosaries and crucifixes at eager vampires looking to catch throws, so make sure you know what you’re asking for when you get your loot.

Ask before you participate

Many parades will allow you to join them, if you ask before the parade begins. Parades are a wonderful opportunity for all supernatural creatures to walk in the open with no disguises. Even larger creatures such as dragons and wyrms can pass themselves as floats in a parade. But do not join a parade as it’s moving along; the vampires in the parade may see that as a threat.

Watch your children

Since so many supernatural creatures fit in seamlessly with the chaos that is Mardi Gras, many sire vampires will use it as a “coming out” party or “Debutante ball” for their newest progeny. The baby vampires will likely still be hesitant to use their new powers, but most likely they will be excited for the opportunities to hunt and party and get drunk like they did in life. This means they will be more liable to step out of line, attract the attention of the authorities, accidentally kill a party attendee, or worse. It’s a fun, family-friendly event, but that doesn’t mean your children don’t need watching.

Watch for thieves

Thieves are wonderful, and Mardi Gras is full of them. They’re very good at what they do: lifting wallets and cell phones and the like. Thieves also make for very tasty pickings, as their blood is usually spiked with adrenaline, so after one attempts to rob you, capture him and take him somewhere safe (like the nearest graveyard) and feast away. The best part is, authorities will often look the other way if you can produce proof that you were only protecting the other humans. (Usually handing over the thief’s stolen goods will get you in the clear here.)

Be careful

Remember what we said about accommodations? We have more vampires killed simply by being out all night and suddenly unable to find a safe place to hide when the sun comes up. And we’re talking old vampires, people who really should know better. But there is no better place to feed freely on drunks than Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and even the most cautious vampire can get in trouble if she has had a few too many tourists. You do not want to realize it’s 5am and your only sanctuary is a porta potty, which isn’t very light tight to begin with.

No dangerous behavior elsewhere

You can actively hunt in the graveyard, and even show many of your true colors to drunk humans who think you’re just kissing them roughly on the neck. Anything goes at Mardi Gras, which makes it an ideal vacation spot for vampires and other supernatural creatures. But when you step into the working part of the city, where there are fewer parties and more people just trying to enjoy an evening, you will stand out, and the authorities will notice you. Stay in the French Quarter, stay within the invite-only parties, and stay within the cemeteries.

Read an excerpt from GHOST TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS or start from the beginning with THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY!

 

March Events

March 5: Gail Carriger at WORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY, 7 PM

March 6: Mur Lafferty at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC, 7 PM

March 6: Ken MacLeod Launches his latest novel DESCENT (UK|ANZ) at Blackwell’s Books, Edinburgh UK , 6.30 PM

March 7-9: Mira Grant (as Seanan McGuire) will be Guest of Honor at FOGcon, Walnut Creek, CA

March 12 and on: Gail Carriger will be participating in the Twitter Fiction Festival

March 15 Ken MacLeod will be appearing at A Celebration of the Life & Works of Iain Banks at The Huddesfield Literary Festival UK, 2PM

March 21-23: Gail Carriger will be Guest of Honor at ConDor, San Diego, CA

March 28-30: Mira Grant will be at Emerald City Comicon, Seattle, CA

First Look: Fall 2014 to Winter 2015 US Covers

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 5.09.41 PM

Are you sitting down? If not, then you should be because these covers are going to knock you off your feet. The Orbit Art Department has again delivered some positively breathtaking jackets. Enjoy this preview of our Fall and Winter line-up with more to follow over the next few months.

Click on the images below to see a larger version and appreciate each cover in its full glory.  Let us know which books are headed to your wish list!

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