I’m a movie nerd from small times—my parents had an impressive betamax collection growing up, and a dearth of actual cable led to my worshipping the sacred VCR. In college (okay, and for a few years beyond) I managed an independent video store called Video 21—it was and is a great little rental joint that caters to both FSU’s film school elite and the more salacious tastes of Tallahassee’s underbelly. The stories I could tell of some of our regulars…but that would be akin to breaking the physician-patient privilege, and so mum’s the word. You can learn a lot about people from their taste in movies, is all I’m saying, but then who am I to judge if an otherwise upstanding member of society gets their kicks watching 2 Fast, 2 Furious on a bi-weekly basis?
Right, so I’ve digressed. The point is, while I could make a blog post about the process of writing The Folly of the World, the ins-and-outs of negotiating a blurry historical record with creative license, the unique struggles one faces when working primarily in shades of grey, or even just cataloguing my literary inspirations for the novel, I’d much rather talk about movies. Sure, I could tie all the films I want to talk about into a cohesive essay touching on the salient points of each and the greater cinematic quilt they contribute to, but because certain things are hallowed by usage and consecrated by time (points for whoever gets that reference), I’ll just lay them out in a top ten list instead. The Top Ten what? The top ten films that might vaguely relate to my new novel in ways both obvious and obscure, of course, laid out in an order of my own inscrutable devising. So poke through the list below and see what inspiration you might find for your next movie night, and in the event you’ve already seen them all, well, have I got the book for you.
A flimflam man and a young girl who may or may not be his daughter travel around the dustbowl during the Great Depression, fleecing suckers and exchanging banter. A tough-beyond-her-years youngster and an embittered grifter forging an unlikely bond and possibly finding redemption even as they continue to use one another and anyone else who gets in their way? Uh, no comment.
Kurosawa’s fast and loose play on the Prisoner of Zenda set-up is pretty goddamn great—not the director’s best three hour long samurai epic, but a close second. As war and social upheaval throw a land into turmoil, a lower-class crook takes on the role of an important man and loses himself in the process, to results both tragic and wry. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully executed.
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
Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Assassini trilogy – described by the Sunday Times as “Gritty, grimy, decadent and compelling” – is a dark vision of a Venice in peril, and the rise of a young man cursed with amnesia and a taste for human blood. This epic tale began with THE FALLEN BLADE [UK | US | ANZ] and continued in THE OUTCAST BLADE [UK | US | ANZ].
The third and final instalment, THE EXILED BLADE, will be published in April 2013. For now, here’s the finished cover – courtesy of our talented designer Emma Graves – in all its grandeur.
If you’ve not yet delved into the depths of Grimwood’s dark, dangerous Venice, you can read a sample chapter from THE FALLEN BLADE here.
I’m delighted to be able to unveil the cover for a very exciting new title to be released in October this year: ARALORN (UK | ANZ).
It’s an omnibus edition of two fantasy titles that are yet to be released in the UK: Masques and Wolfsbane, from the fan favourite (and New York Times bestselling) Patricia Briggs.
Masques was in fact the first full-length novel that Patricia wrote, but since then it’s been revised and updated. It features the wonderfully unconventional heroine Aralorn, a girl who flees her noble birthright and the expectations piled upon her to become a mercenary and shapeshifting spy.
Patricia Briggs recently revisited the series with Wolfsbane, and so we decided to collect these two novels in ARALORN. With these stories, the author expertly turns her hand to a setting which is a little more historical/high fantasy than urban fantasy – but fans of the Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega novels will undoubtedly also love this book.
ARALORN shows off Patricia at her best – with characters that are so intriguing that you’ll never want to say goodbye to them. The relationship between Aralorn and her mysterious companion Wolf, for example, is so deliciously intense that you’ll definitely want to see it through to the end.
In case you’ve missed it, the fantasy legends Terry Brooks and Patrick Rothfuss have been interviewing each other on their websites throughout July, and it makes for some very compelling reading . . .
My personal highlights include Terry describing himself as being like the OCD-ridden TV detective Monk, and where Pat talks about skipping his writing teacher’s class to go on a date with that same teacher’s daughter. Very sneaky indeed.
Check out part one here on Terry’s site. Also, check out this awesome cartoon of the two of them.
Don’t forget also that Terry’s conclusion to the Legends of Shannara duology, The Measure of the Magic(UK | ANZ), is released tomorrow in paperback! Read an extract here. And here’s what fans have been saying on online retailer sites about the book:
”Terry Brooks is one of the best fantasy novelists of our time . . . He does not disappoint his many fans with this latest book’ Dee
‘Terry Brooks continues to be my longest standing favourite author’ S. Wilson
‘This is a really great series of books that have haunting and fleeting references to present worldwide problems. Long may he keep on writing these great books’ Colin L. Williams
There’s also not long to wait now until Terry’s brand new series begins with The Dark Legacy of Shannara:Wards of Faerie(UK | ANZ) – released 23rd August.
If you like what you hear above, this will a great place for any new readers to jump in and experience the Terry phenomenon!
Published this week, SHARPS (UK | US | ANZ) is the superb new fantasy from K. J. Parker in which a single fencing tournament could decide the fate of two warring kingdoms.
One of Parker’s most passionate fans is Jared Shurin, half of the team behind Pornokitschand a judge/administrator for the Kitschies awards. Jared has given SHARPS a stellar review – “Sharps may be the book that fantasy fans are waiting for” – and has just conducted an in-depth interview with the enigmatic Parker.
When we asked Jared what it is about the books of K. J. Parker that he loves so much, and why you should be reading them, he was only too happy to tell us . . .
Jared: As a shamelessly vocal, frothing-at-the-mouth K. J. Parker fan, I may be exactly the wrong person to write a piece on “Reading K. J. Parker”. For me, it is a no-brainer. For fifteen years, Parker has been consistently writing some of the best books in fantasy. Clever, thoughtful, funny, dark, political – stories with empires and sieges and swords and gods and magic – everything I love about the genre.
However, taking a step back, I realise that not everyone’s been obsessively stalking Parker’s creative output. Sharps, as a stand-alone novel – and one of Parker’s best to date – is the perfect starting point for a new reader. But in aid of those who need a little more convincing, I’ve tried to break down the reasons I read Parker. On a long list, here are the top five:
1. Plain-spoken. Parker writes in a straight-forward, direct way. The prose is easy, which lets the reader concentrate on the story and not fuss about deciphering the text itself. There’s no mythic vocabulary, no chanting in italics, no poetry (whew) and not a whiff of Ancient Elvish. Parker proves that you can write about complex, big ideas in plain language. The books are deceptively simple and wonderfully quick to read.
2. Educational. This sounds like a joke, but Parker’s books will open your eyes to the fascinating world of button-making. Also: currency regulation, fletching arrows and, dare I say it, charcoal-burning. Each book has one or more central metaphor: a self-reflective device that’s used to structure the story. As the symbol that ties everything together, that charcoal becomes really important – and, thanks to Parker’s skill as a writer, surprisingly enjoyable.
Still, it isn’t all briquettes and buttons. If you’re nervous that lumber mills and drop hammers aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of excitement. Blue and Gold is about alchemy. Pattern brings in volcanoes (nothing boring there). The Escapement focuses on siege warfare. And Sharps? Sharps is about swords. Another reason that this book makes the ideal first Parker: what fantasy reader can resist a book about sword-fighting?
3. Proper badasses. I don’t want to give you the impression that Parker’s books are all bone-grinding and economic theory, because they aren’t. Some of fantasy’s hardest warriors lurk within these pages – Bardas Loredon, Suidas Deutzel and Poldarn among them. Deadly fighters from all walks of life: highly trained and extremely motivated. Parker’s books also contain some of the most compellingly vicious fight scenes. The sword-monks and raiders of the Scavenger trilogy, the mechanised warfare (and epic sieges) of the Engineer trilogy, the underground battles in The Proof House, and, of course, the swordplay of Sharps. From classic fencing to brawls, pitched battles to lethal duels, Sharps has a glut of action. As always, everything is exhaustively researched as well. (What else would you expect from an author that makes their own swords?) Read the rest of this entry »
In the UK you can buy the ebook for one month only at a special price, meaning that should you fancy getting a bit closer to royalty after the Jubilee festivities, you can get both THE HEDGEWITCH QUEEN and THE BANDIT KING at a great price.
Tristan d’Arcenne killed his King. Now he is faced with betrayal, war, and the mistrust of his Queen. She should mistrust him, for there is nothing d’Arcenne will not do.
The Bandit King approaches . . .
You can find a sample chapter of THE BANDIT KING here.
This week saw Orbit UK’s publication of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s second Assassini book, THE OUTCAST BLADE [UK | US | ANZ], sequel to THE FALLEN BLADE [UK | US | ANZ] which was released last year. The critics loved Book 1:
‘Brings 15th Century Venice to luminous life . . . the writing is elegant, the dialogue razor sharp’ – SciFiNow
‘A novel you can gorge yourself on . . . substance as well as style’ – Salon Futura
‘A twisted, Machiavellian, complicated and ornate book about survival and the terrible lengths people will go to for power. It may dress itself in the trappings of an angel-faced vampire assassin, but readers expecting Brent Weeks will be stunned to find Tim Powers instead. And even that is unfair – political, compelling, dark and urbane, this is a unique and stylish book that belongs wholly to Mr Grimwood.’ – Pornokitsch
Why do readers and reviewers love this series so much? And what makes vampires so appealing – even though the word ‘vampire’ is never mentioned in the Assassini books? What made Jon set his historical trilogy in Venice? For an insight into the workings of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s intricate mind, we thought we’d share with you the interview which appears in the paperback edition of THE FALLEN BLADE, which we think addresses those questions better than we ever could! Read on for the full interview. Read the rest of this entry »
Did you know that Henry VIII, famously infamous Tudor king of England, was the first English monarch to build a public toilet block? Well, he was. And if you’re wondering why he built it, that’s because he couldn’t stop his male courtiers from pissing inside his palace.
Hard to believe, isn’t it? Henry was the most magnificent, the most awe-inspiring, the most kingly king England had seen in a very long time. He was charismatic, athletic, intellectual . . . and ruthless. Everyone remembers him for the six wives and the two beheadings. What a lot of people don’t know is that he also had executed – or judicially murdered – more people than any monarch before him, or after. Over two hundred people killed: men, women, young, old, guilty – or simply inconvenient. They died because Henry wanted them dead.
And yet . . . despite his indisputable, terrifying power . . . he couldn’t stop his male courtiers from pissing inside his palace. On the floor, up the walls, in the corners – they were incorrigible, those male courtiers. And Henry couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t stop the massive thieving by his servants, either. His household budget was always ridiculously in the red because he couldn’t stop his underlings from pinching things, double-dipping, fudging accounts, eating more than their fair share, selling food out of the kitchens.
More power than any man or woman in his kingdom . . . and still, Henry was powerless. An extraordinary paradox, isn’t it? Surprising. Intriguing. Read the rest of this entry »
Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a familiar name to SF fans; the author of ten previous novels, he’s been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award twice and the British Science Fiction Association award no less than seven times, winning twice.
For his eleventh novel, Jon decided to strike out in a fresh direction and write a historical fantasy novel. And where better to set the story than in the endlessly fascinating city of Venice?
As Jon himself explains: ‘It’s a cliché to say Venice is the city of sex and death but it is. Venice is dying and has been dying for over a thousand years. It’s layered with history, one era on top of another. And it’s made with pillars and windows and statues stolen from other cities the Venetians looted. To write Venice I just had to open my eyes and carry a notebook.’
The result of Jon’s three trips to Venice, hours spent pouring over dusty old maps and many months of writing, is THE FALLEN BLADE (UK | US | ANZ): a dark, gritty tale of passion and politics in 15th-century Venice – a powerful city with powerful enemies.
Duke Marco has the throne, but his ruthless aunt and uncle rule in his stead, scheming against their enemies and each other. The pawn at the heart of their struggle is the duke’s young cousin, Lady Giulietta. When she is abducted by Mamluk pirates, it is an outrage that will trigger war.
As the German emperor and Mamluk sultan gather their forces against the city, Venice is heading for a battle it will surely lose. Its only hope lies in a mysterious boy possessed of inhuman strength and speed – and a past wrapped in mystery.
Praise for THE FALLEN BLADE:
Gritty, grimy, decadent and compelling” – SUNDAY TIMES
“His Venice is a dangerous place of dank, cut-throat malevolence, peopled by leap-off-the-page characters . . . a page-turning read” – GUARDIAN
“Dark and majestic” – FINANCIAL TIMES
“Grimwood creates a fascinating world and involving characters – most importantly, he makes us want to read the next two volumes of the trilogy” – INDEPENDENT
“The writing is elegant, the dialogue is sharp, the characters economically but well drawn, the action unrelenting” – SCI-FI NOW
THE FALLEN BLADE is out now in mass market paperback in the UK and ANZ, and in trade format in the US. The second novel in the Assassini trilogy, THE OUTCAST BLADE, will be published in May.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood can be found online at his website, as well as on Twitter.