- - February 26th, 2013
It’s finally here! Today is the release date for FADE TO BLACK (UK | US | ANZ) by Francis Knight, one of the most hotly anticipated fantasy releases of the year.
The illustrator for the covers of this series, Tim Byrne, did an awesome job representing the vertigo-inducing city of Mahala, the setting for FADE TO BLACK and all the Rojan Dizon novels. We asked Tim to go step-by-step through the process of creating such a cool image:
I started off by doing a very quick sketch of the cover to get an idea of how the perspective might work. I wanted to convey the extreme height of the city of Mahala and how it might be if you were at the bottom looking up. I nearly always start a cover by positioning the type – as once I know where and how that is sitting, I know how much space I have left for the rest of the image.
Next I started blocking in the faces of the buildings/vertical streets using an image of a mud face that I had – which I repeated, scaled and distorted in order to get the perspective to work. This gave me a base on which to start adding bits of buildings and windows.
Read the rest of this entry »
Yes, it was supposed to be five but . . .
I love an anti-hero. I think they appeal to my non-conformist nature – they tend to do what they want, as far as possible, even if it gets them into trouble. Plus there’s that whole bad-boy vibe and, very often, a darkly cynical sense of humour, which I am a sucker for.
So, that said, here’s a few of my favourites.
© AVCO Embassy Pictures
6. Snake Plissken (from Escape from New York). I mean, what’s not to like? Under a totalitarian government, he thumbs his nose at them and does what he wants for the most part, at least until he’s forced to do what “they” want. Weirdly – and perhaps essentially – he appears sometimes to have more morals than the “good” guys. It does not hurt that Kurt Russell looks good in leather.
5. Conan the Barbarian. Your classic anti-hero. He’s out for himself, always. He’s dark, he’s brooding, he’s itching for a fight. But if you’ve got a bad guy you want rid of, he’s your guy. Just don’t expect him not to ravish your girlfriend while he’s saving you.
4. Sandman Slim. You don’t get much downer and dirtier than the Sandman. His saving grace is, apart from his black humour, no matter how bad he gets, pretty much everyone else is worse. He’s on your side for the right price, but if he hates the guys you want dead, maybe you’ll get a freebie. Plus he has a nice little redeeming feature of falling hopelessly in love. Even men from hell just want a bit of lovin’.
© Walt Disney Pictures
3. Jack Sparrow. He lies and cheats and steals, but he doesn’t hide it, he flaunts it. But of course he’s a pirate, and who hasn’t wanted to throw off the yoke and just sail about doing whatever you felt like, especially if it involves a bit of swashbuckling and derring do? Again, crucially, he has morals. They just aren’t quite the same as everyone else’s. Read the rest of this entry »
While world-building a city is an exercise in imagination, it’s always preferable, I think, to make sure you’re grounded in at least the basics of reality.
It’s possible to make buildings that can support many, many levels, so why not a city that can do the same? It takes a little extra forethought and planning perhaps. In the case of Mahala, it didn’t start off meaning to grow up, that’s just the way it happened. They ran out of room sideways, so they began building up. While this is fine to start with, just building as and when, at some point things are going to start to collapse under their own weight. Not to mention other considerations, such as “what do you do with all the waste?”.
So at some point in the past, well before the story of Fade to Black starts, a bright mage-king decided it was time to sort it all out. A superstructure was grafted on to what already existed and gave a backbone for more and bigger buildings. As Mahalians are well known for their inventiveness and ingenuity, it wasn’t just any old superstructure – the steel was strengthened to withstand almost anything. Archive details are hazy, but it seems likely that magic was involved in this – in those days magic was involved in everything. The only thing the superstructure couldn’t withstand, so it turned out, was mages. But never mind, the resulting Slump made a handy dumping ground for bodies, especially when space for crypts was at a premium.
A second problem was light – once you go up far enough, light is at a premium at the bottom. That same thoughtful mage-king made sure that even the poor sods far below his sun drenched palace got at least a minute of daylight a day by the cunning installation of lightwells and mirrors to bounce all that light around, and I’m sure everyone was jolly well grateful.
Read the rest of this entry »
- - February 11th, 2013
Rojan Dizon doesn’t mind staying in the shadows, because he’s got things to hide. Things like being a pain-mage, with the forbidden power to draw magic from pain. But he can’t hide for ever.
Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic. And unlucky for Rojan – this is going to hurt.
Only two more weeks until FADE TO BLACK (US | UK | AUS) releases online and in stores. Here’s an interview with Francis Knight. Find out how the city of Mahla came to be and more about the magic system employed by Knight’s pain mages.
Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer?
No, I can’t say that I have, probably because it never occurred to me to write down all the stories in my head. I’ve always read, and always made up little stories but it was only when I was struck down with ME that I started to write—I was housebound, and it was almost a defence against day- time TV. So I wrote one of my little stories and found I was addicted to writing.
Did the idea for the Rojan Dizon books come to you fully realised or did you have one particular starting point from which it grew?
As with most of my ideas, it came a piece at a time, each piece from a different direction. The idea really takes hold when they gang up on me. The theme came from one direction, Jake from another, whereas Rojan came as I was writing. He was kind of an experiment—I’d never writ- ten in first before, and he is polar opposite to me in many areas (though we do share a trait or two), so he was almost a challenge I set myself, to see if I could do it. I splurged out fifty thousand words in a month—at this stage it was a future dystopia world, but then my writers’ group pointed out, quite fairly, that I am horrible at making up future tech. One member suggested, “Why not make it a dark fantasy?” which kind of fed into a separate idea I’d had for a world where magic lived with technology. I dabbled a bit then left it on my hard drive for a few years, tinkering with it every now and again in between other projects. It was only when I decided to actually knuckle down and do something with it, when I started with the idea of pain magic in fact, that it really came to life. It was waiting for me to have the right idea to make it work, I think.
Read the full interview here.
- - January 28th, 2013
Next month is the release of Francis Knight’s thrilling debut fantasy FADE TO BLACK (US | UK | ANZ). Like the city of Mahala, a city built upwards, not across – where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings, FADE TO BLACK will surely rise as a favorite among fantasy readers this year. Check out some of the great praise this book has already received including a review by Felicia Day.
“The world building is crazy interesting, the characters are very noir, and the plot was enough to keep me on my toes..I’m very excited to read the second in the series for sure!” – Felicia Day
“This is a great fantasy debut, introducing us to an intriguing new character, and the beginning of something really quite brilliant….Knight has a real flare for description, and imbues Rojan’s observations with a wry wit and keen eye.” - Civilian Reader
“A very strong debut from a novelist of vision who has built an intriguing sandbox to play in, with plenty of twists, turns and surprising moments.” – Fantasy Faction
The first chapter can be read here while My Bookish Ways and Bookworm Blues will have the next exciting chapters for you all later this week. So get ready for the Rojan Dizon series, and watch your step! Darkness and corruption are everywhere in Mahala, and if you are not careful, you’ll find yourself falling into the depths of the Pit.
I forced the door, nice and quiet, with my ever-so-slightly-illegal pulse pistol at the ready. Magic wasn’t usually on the agenda for runaways, but this little madam was exceptional: booby traps a speciality – I’d almost gone up in flames this morning. Twice. If it wasn’t for the obscene amount of money her parents had offered me to find her, I’d have given it up as a bad job.
The room beyond the door was even more dingy and rubbish-strewn than the corridor, and that was saying something. Rainwater had driven through a broken window and the faint stench of synth drifted up from where it pooled. I sidestepped around it. You could catch a fatal dose and never know until it was too late. Residents hurried away behind me with a mutter of footfalls. One sight of me, a burly man in a subtly armoured, close-fitting all over with a flapping black coat, and the scavenge-rat teens that called this place home took to their heels. I dare say it looked too much like a Ministry Special’s uniform with an added coat. Living this far down, a nose for trouble was essential.
I checked around carefully, trying to listen past the far rumble and thump of factories above us. A flash of movement off to my left, a hint of bright blue shirt. Lise, the girl I was after. With nothing to alarm me – yet – I made my careful way in. There it was again: a flicker of blue, floating in the gloom. I slid my fingers round the pistol’s trigger and pointed it.
- - January 10th, 2013
I’m delighted to unveil the cover for BEFORE THE FALL, the second novel in the Rojan Dizon series by the debut British fantasy author Francis Knight.
This superb new fantasy series kicks off at the end of this February with book 1, FADE TO BLACK (UK | US |ANZ). BEFORE THE FALL will follow in June 2013, and the final book in the trilogy, LAST TO RISE, will be out in November 2013.
I’m just loving the design for these books, created by the very talented illustrator Tim Byrne. The crazy, dizzying perspective on the covers really sums up just how mind-warping and unusual the city feels in the books.
The series is set in the vertigo-inducing fantasy world of Mahala, where the streets are built upwards from the shadow of a steep valley. While the dregs of society lurk in the city’s shadowy depths, the sinister Ministry rules over everyone from the privileged sunlit summit.
The novels feature the reluctant hero Rojan Dizon, a mage whose power relies on drawing magic from pain – both his own and other people’s. His powers are officially forbidden, but it turns out that he’ll have to use them if this city’s going to survive. And only one thing’s sure: it’s going to hurt.
We’ve all been raving about this series here in Orbit, as we really think it’s one of the top fantasy debuts to look out for this year. If you enjoy fast-paced adventure fantasy, such as Scott Lynch‘s Lies of Locke Lamora, Douglas Hulick‘s Among Thieves or even Ben Aaranovitch‘s Rivers of London, then this will be up your street.
Check out both covers in full below, and look out for the books later this year! Read the rest of this entry »
- - December 13th, 2012
The long-awaited day is almost here! In a few short hours, The Hobbit will be hitting the silver screen. To mark the occasion, we decided to ask several of our Orbit authors with recent and upcoming books what Tolkien’s The Hobbit has meant to them. We hope you’ll also share your own story in the comments below, and if any of you are going to the movie in costume, we’d love to see pictures!
I was introduced to The Hobbit and to Lord of the Rings in high school by the same friend who got me into Dungeons and Dragons (gee, think there was a connection?). While I had been a Star Trek and Star Wars fan for a while, and had read a few sci-fi novels, I had never read anything with the scope of The Hobbit and LOTR. I was totally hooked, and I credit it with giving me another nudge toward growing up to write epic fantasy.
Gail Z. Martin, author of ICE FORGED (US | UK | AUS)
I have to admit a shameful secret — I was a late bloomer as far as Tolkien is concerned. While I knew of his work, I’d never read any of it until I was 25. I was introduced to the incredible world of Middle Earth by my then-boyfriend (whom I later had the good sense to marry), Steve. My older sister is a fantasy and science-fiction fan. Without her I don’t think I would have developed a love for either genre. She has in her possession, an illustrated, hard cover, gorgeous edition of The Hobbit that I … liberated from her library for a brief time. Steve couldn’t believe I’d never read it, so it then became a ‘thing’. Every night one of us would read The Hobbit to the other. Mostly he read to me, because he would comment on things characters did, make up voices, and basically make the entire experience wonderful because of his love for the story.
Now, 25 wasn’t yesterday, but there are things about The Hobbit that linger for me. As a small-town (I’m talking mud puddle small) girl, I instantly related to Bilbo. In fact, I’m pretty certain my maternal grandmother was a hobbit. Poor Bilbo was so outside his comfort zone, but he found so much courage inside himself. Who wouldn’t love such a character? Of course finding ‘the’ ring was a big moment in literary history, but I remember the trolls more than the ring. I remember loving the character Beorn, even though I can never remember his name. And despite having a deep-seated crush on Richard Armitage, I think I’d love Thorin no matter who played him, because his character was just so… great. Of course, who can forget meeting Gollum for the first time? In the end, The Hobbit is — literally and figuratively — all about the little guy taking on seemingly insurmountable problems to triumph at the end. But there’s a cost. There’s always a cost. I think what I took away from The Hobbit are two lessons I try to remember in my own writing — 1: It’s the journey, not the destination, and 2: Bittersweet endings are sometimes better than happy ones. Oh, and I guess there was a third as well, though it doesn’t apply to writing – second breakfast is the most important meal of the day. :-) Thank you, Mr. Tolkien.
Kate Locke, author of THE QUEEN IS DEAD (US | UK | AUS)
I can’t recall how or why I first picked up the Hobbit – I suspect one of my brothers left it lying around. I can recall how it inspired my son into reading voraciously, something he still does even now he’s a teen. It was the first proper book he’d ever read on his own, and it was that and the new and unexplored vistas that utterly captivated him.
For years afterwards, every book report that he could get away with was on the Hobbit. Every book he read was compared to it, and most often found wanting. He reads, I sometimes think, to try to rediscover that sudden realisation that the world is a different place, that things and people are strange. He reads because he wants to fall for a world, a story, the same way he did with Middle Earth. It was his first literary love.
As legacies go, I think that’s the best one to hope for – Bilbo and his friends inspired my son to read.
Francis Knight, author of FADE TO BLACK (US | UK | AUS)
The Hobbit is, more or less, the distillation of the purest, deepest of wish of the child (or of any adult who still has a spark of curiosity smoldering away in them, for that matter): the wish that one day, while you’re bumbling through your silly little routine, adventure will walk right up your front path, knock upon your door, and refuse to be turned away.
When I first read the Hobbit, I yearned so much for the leafy, cool shadows of Middle Earth that one summer, in an attempt to recreate that world, I carried a hefty bag of wax myrtle seeds to my grandmother’s house – for she had a much bigger yard than ours – and planted them all over her property, as well as the piney properties of the people on either side of her. Wax myrtles, as it turns out, can be wildly invasive, so within several years the damn things were popping up everywhere; but by then, unfortunately, I was a bit too old to enjoy them properly. I still hope that some child may come along, rest in their shade, and feel, for an instant, a bit more hobbity than before.
Robert Jackson Bennett, author of AMERICAN ELSEWHERE (US | UK | AUS)
In a word, what The Hobbit means to me is Fantasy, with a capital F, for the same reason that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy means Science Fiction in Bullingtonese—my parents had book-on-tape versions of those two novels when I was a kid, and long before I even understood most of what was going on in the stories, I adored the broad strokes and general cadence of the narratives. The Hobbit was actually a radio play version produced by the Mind’s Eye in the late seventies, and to this day I can’t talk about the book without imitating some of the silly voices that imprinted the text on my young brain.
When I was older and read the book on my own I was delighted to discover all the content which had been abridged from the radio play, but my progression to The Lord of the Rings was not met with the same enthusiasm—I found it a colder, less-engaging read. Although with age I’ve grown to appreciate a lot about the trilogy, its epic, fate-of-the-world action and dully black-and-white ethics can’t hold a light of Earendil to The Hobbit’s comparatively small-scale adventures and petty moral dilemmas, at least for this particular Sackville scribe. Like many of my peers, I owe a great debt to Tolkien; he still has a lot to teach, both by his strengths and his failings, and The Hobbit is the text of his that keeps pulling me back, even after all this time, and always with a smile on my face.
Jesse Bullington, author of THE FOLLY OF THE WORLD (US | UK | AUS), available now
- - August 24th, 2012
Today we can unveil the cover for one of the most exciting debut fantasy novels you’re going to see next year.
Presenting: FADE TO BLACK by the estimable Francis Knight, to be released worldwide by Orbit in February 2013.
We’d like to welcome you all to the fantasy world of Mahala. It’s a towering city that rises up from the deep, dark depths of a valley.
Mahala is built up in layers, not across – with streets piled upon streets, and buildings balancing precariously upon buildings. It’s a city that the Ministry rules from its lofty perch at the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the shadowy depths of the Pit.
This compelling tale follows the story of Rojan Dizon – a bounty hunter who’s grown up in the shadows of Mahala. Everyone knows he’s a rogue, a womaniser, a shirker of all responsibility. But what they don’t know is that he’s also a pain-mage: someone able to draw magic from his own and other people’s pain. Rojan’s not keen on using his abilities, but when his niece is abducted and taken to the dark depths of the Pit, he’ll be forced to unleash his powers to find her.
We jumped at the chance to publish Fade to Black – because the world that Francis has created just blew us away. It’s both awe-inspiring and vertigo-inducing, and Rojan’s tale makes the story just un-damn-put-downable. Think of the murky atmosphere of Sin City, filled with the action and pace of Brent Weeks or Scott Lynch.
I could go on about it for days, but all you have to know is this: FADE TO BLACK is the fantasy debut to look out for next spring. So remember one and all: That season, black is most definitely back!
- - April 5th, 2012
I’m delighted to say we’ve acquired World Rights in a fabulous new fantasy series from British author Francis Knight (@Knight_Francis). Orbit will be publishing the 3-book series internationally, with book 1, Fade To Black, being released in February 2013.
This highly original fantasy novel really captured our imagination. It’s set in the ‘vertical’ fantasy city of Mahala – a city built up in layers, not across, where streets are built upon streets and buildings balance precariously upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from its lofty perch at the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the shadowy depths of the Pit.
Thrown into the middle of this entrancingly dark and atmospheric setting is the bounty hunter Rojan. Everyone knows he’s a rogue, a womaniser, a shirker of all responsibility. But what they don’t know is that he’s also a pain-mage: someone able to draw magic from his own and other people’s pain. Rojan’s not keen on using this magic (not least because it’s outlawed), but when his niece is abducted, Rojan may be forced to unleash his powers . . .
Look out for more info on this exciting new series soon – and if you’re attending Eastercon this weekend, keep an eye out for Francis! She’ll be appearing on the following panels on Sunday 8th April:
You got your robot elf sex in my SF – 3pm, Commonwealth
The Future of Ebooks – 5pm, Royal A + C