“There’s always an awkward moment in reviews of Bennett’s work when the reviewer tries to sum up his genre affiliations in a couple of words. Niall Ferguson called The Company Man “a love letter to airships and acid noir — by way of steampunk, sci-fi and murder mystery.” FantasyLiterature.com calls his latest book “classical mythology, Lovecraftian gothic, quantum science and what’s-in-the-woods horror.” Bennett himself once described his debut novel Mr. Shivers as “magical realist/fantastical/horror/whatever-the-reviewer-wants-to-call-it-that-day.”
Art first glance Wink, New Mexico is a seemingly normal town except that you won’t’ find it on any map. You see Wink should not exist, but that is not the strangest thing you’ll find there when you crack open AMERICAN ELSEWHERE (US | UK | AUS) – the latest novel from Edgar Award winning author Robert JacksonBennett.
Check out Publishers Weekly starred review and read the first chapter of this riveting novel.
“Bennett (The Troupe) gives the idealized image of the American dream a pan-dimensional twist with this alien invasion tale, part Bradbury and part L’Engle with a dash of Edward Scissorhands…Through sharp empathetic detail, the horrific becomes both achingly poignant and comic; a wholesome diner where no one can ever order just one piece of pie shares space with a harsh alien landscape where a quivering blue imp cowers in terror while pleading for his life. Readers will be captivated from start to finish.” - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Even though it is a fairly cool night, Norris is sweating abundantly. The sweat leaks out of his temples and the top of his skull and runs down his cheeks to pool around his collarbones. He feels little trickles weaving down his arms to soak into the elbows and wrists of his shirt. The entire car now has a saline reek, like a locker room.
Norris is sitting in the driver’s seat with the car running, and for the past twenty minutes he’s been debating whether leaving the car running was a good idea or not. He’s made several mental charts of pros and cons and probabilities, and overall he thinks it was a good idea: the odds that someone will notice the sound of a car idling on this neighborhood lane, and check it out and sense something suspicious, feel fairly low; whereas the odds of him fumbling with the ignition or the clutch if he needs to start the car quickly seem very, very high right now. He is so convinced of his own impending clumsiness that he hasn’t even dared to take his hands off the steering wheel. He is gripping it so hard and his palms are so sweaty that he doesn’t know if he could remove them if he tried. Suction, he thinks. I’m stuck here forever, no matter who notices what.
He’s not sure why he’s so worried about being noticed. No one lives in the neighboring houses. Though it is not posted anywhere—in any visual manner, that is—this part of town is not open to the public. There is only one resident on this street.
Norris leans forward in his seat to reexamine the house. He is parked right before its front walk. Behind the car is a small, neat gravel driveway that breaks off from the paved road and curves down the slope to a massive garage. The house itself is very, very big, but its size is mostly hidden behind the Englemann spruces; one can make out only hints of pristine white wooden siding, sprawling lantana, perfectly draped windows, and clean red-brick walls. And there, at the end of the front walk, is a modest, inviting front door with a coat of bright red paint and a cheery bronze handle.
It is a flawless house, really, a dream house. It is a dream house not only in the sense that anyone would dream of living there; rather, it is so perfect that a house like this could exist only in a dream.
Rob’s Blog o’Stuff
THE TROUPE by Robert Jackson Bennet
THE KING’S BLOOD by Daniel Abraham
RED COUNTRY by Joe Abercrombie
EXISTENCE by David Brin
BLACKOUT by Mira Grant
CALIBAN’S WAR by James S.A. Corey
SEEDS OF EARTH by Michael Cobley The Eli Monpress series by Rachel Aaron
So we’re still in development on a lot of new covers for the Fall 2012/Winter 2013 Season, but many covers are done (or very very close to final) so we wanted to share those with you. There are some amazing titles here, which I can vouch for, since you know I read as much as I can while I’m working. As usual, we’ll be launching these one by one with some fabulous behind-the-scenes videos, covers in development, etc. So stay tuned! And keep checking in for the covers that are so deep in development that we can’t even show you yet…
I’ll be releasing the full credits in the individual cover launches, but I know some of you are going to be reposting, so here are the quick credits: Spirit’s End illustration by Sam Weber, design by Lauren Panepinto. American Elsewhere design by Kirk Benshoff, Folly of the World design by Lauren Panepinto, The Queen is Dead photo by House of Indulgence, Illustration by Don Sipley, design by Lauren Panepinto. The Red Knight illustration by Epica Prima, design by Lauren Panepinto. Seven Kings illustration by Richard Anderson, design by Lauren Panepinto. Out for Blood illustration by Nekro, design by Lauren Panepinto. Wolfhound Century design by Lauren Panepinto. 3 x Michael Cobley illustrations by Steve Stone, design by Kirk Benshoff. Godspeaker photo by Shirley Green, design by Kirk Benshoff. Jill Kismet photo by Michael Frost, Illustration by Gene Mollica, design by Lauren Panepinto. The Soddit illustration by Douglas Carrel, design by Lauren Panepinto. Emperor Mollusk illustration/design by Will Staehle. Cold Fire illustration by Larry Rostant, design by Peter Cotton. Sapkowski x 3 illustrations by CD Projekt Red & Massive Black, design by Lauren Panepinto. Rebellion design by Lauren Panepinto.
Releasing today is Robert J. Bennett’s third novel, THE TROUPE (US | UK | ANZ), set during the Vaudeville era - a surreal and defining period in the history of American entertainment.
Sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.
Already THE TROUPE has received wonderful support from reviewers and bloggers.
“Narrated perfectly by a baffled young man whose zealous pursuit of a father’s love is often outpaced by his alternately endearing and dangerous vanity, Bennett’s finely crafted novel rises on a wave of suspense to a place of beauty and hope.” - Publishers Weekly
“The Troupe is a fairytale for grown-ups about love and betrayal and redemption…” (starred) – Booklist
“Haunting, terrifying, and achingly beautiful, The Troupe is a book to be savored, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Very highly recommended.” - My Bookish Ways
“A beautiful novel that resonates as a mystery, historical look-in, thriller, and family drama. … Like a sepia photograph manipulated in photoshop, Bennett adds his dashes of color, bringing things to the foreground for brilliant moments all the more intense for the contrasted palette behind it.” - Staffers Musings
It’s a little amusing to hear some people who read my new novel The Troupe say that they’ve never heard of vaudeville.
Of course they’ve heard of vaudeville. Everyone’s heard of vaudeville. They probably just don’t know it yet.
Part of the problem is the term itself: “vaudeville” is a vague word for a vague era. It refers to a period in American history – before radio, and definitely before the advent of film – where the only entertainment you could really ever see was on the stage. Since this valuable commodity was limited to such an exclusive place, some enterprising people capitalized on it, and set up circuits of theaters across the country where acts could tour, living out of suitcases and hotels and performing in New York one night, Boston the next, and so on, all overseen by one centralized booking office.
That’s the structure of vaudeville. But it’s not what vaudeville is, no more than I am calcium or carbon or simply a moderately well-organized system of nerves.
It’s vague because it pulls its origins from English music halls and burlesque halls and beer halls: things that are an awful lot like vaudeville, but simply aren’t perpetrated on the same scale. And though everyone agrees that vaudeville died with the development of film, what most people forget is that it didn’t really die: it just got refracted.
Some vaudeville stars became silent movie stars, some of which went on to star in “talkies,” when sound became more manageable. And vaudeville theaters did not suddenly collapse with the release of film: rather, many were slowly converted into the first movie theaters.
Vaudeville was not replaced by film: it was the space or stage that film came to occupy. The audiences who liked vaudeville were the people the film industry wanted to speak to. In a very direct way, vaudeville defined the early days of film, which of course defined every day after that.
There is, of course, the matter of a live art – one performed in person, in the flesh – being replaced by a dead one. But I don’t think this is apt, either. Because part of what gives vaudeville its allure is the profound giddiness of such bizarre acts being performed in front of a live audience.
And do you think that giddiness isn’t inherent in this scene, performed by veterans of vaudeville and English movie halls?
Watching this scene makes you realize that people came to movies to get the same things they got out of vaudeville: musical performances mixed with comedy and acting. They didn’t want just one thing or the other. But there was a certain type of musical performance people wanted to see: they wanted something unusual, and striking, which the group The Avalon Boys readily provide.
But the scene also communicates the sheer joy of seeing live music. Laurel and Hardy spent what would today be an unconscionable amount of time simply watching the music, and reacting to it. The audience watches an audience, for seconds and frames on end. Yet the passiveness of the scene is overcome by Laurel and Hardy’s evident delight at what is happening.
They love this. Seeing this music is doing something to them.
In fact, it’s not just enough to watch the dance. People want to dance with them.
Yes, you are seeing Tilda Swinton – abstract, elite, aloof, intellectual Tilda Swinton – dance the Laurel and Hardy dance in Edinburgh alongside hundreds of people. Here’s another angle, shot from a crowd member at the flash mob:
Vaudeville has never really died. It set the mold for nearly every touring band today: every band or act has a booking agent, whose career wouldn’t exist today if vaudeville hadn’t necessitated its creation. But it goes beyond structure: look at W00tstock, which describes itself quite aptly as “nerd vaudeville.” Look at Human Giant, at Funny or Die, or Stella. Look at the Upright Citizens Brigade. These are all productions that want to relay to you not only humor, but the sheer delight of seeing such humor in real life.
Vaudeville is just one facet of the joy of the strange and unusual. This joy hasn’t ever died, nor will it. It just gets, like light, refracted, bent into other wavelengths and shot into different places, all of them rays of light, shooting into the dark.
That, of course, is not only the nature of vaudeville and performance, but the nature of The Troupe. At the heart of The Troupe is a song, and the song that must be sung on and on – for if the song is not sung, then the world will fail.
The song has been sung in a variety of ways: it’s been sung in medieval courts, in Bunraku shows, in fields and in streets and mountains, until finally it’s found its way to vaudeville, where it tours the dives and slummy theaters, a splinter of the eternal gradually revealed in a world of drifting shadows.
The plot of the book is fiction, of course. But as for the conceit… sometimes I wonder. Possibly not.
If you’re in the US or the UK, here are some of the places you can see Orbit authors in February, from bookstore signings to conventions.
February 2-4th: SFX Weekender
This convention in Prestatyn Sands, North Wales, will play host to several Orbit authors. Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Benedict Jacka, Michael Cobley, and Ken MacLeod will all be on panels and signing books (full schedule) — and we will have exclusive early copies of MacLeod’s Intrusion and Jacka’s Fated available. Plus, our own Anne Clarke will appear on the “How to Get Published” panel on Friday evening.
Saturday, February 4th
Gail Z. Martin at B&N Carolina Place Mall, Pineville, NC, 1 PM.
Mira Grant (with Stephen Blackmoore) at Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA, 3 PM.
Friday, February 10th
Gail Z. Martin at B&N Morrison Place, Charlotte, NC.
Saturday, February 11th Gail Z. Martin at Books-a-Million Concord Mills, Concord, NC.
Wednesday, February 15th
N.K. Jemisin (with Livia Llewellyn) at KGB Fantastic Fiction, New York, NY, 7 PM.
February 17-19: SheVaCon
Gail Z. Martin will be at this science fiction convention in Roanoke, VA.
Thursday, February 23rd
Kate Griffin & Benedict Jacka signing advance copies of their new books (both being published in March) at Forbidden Planet, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, 6pm
February 24-26th: MystiCon Gail Z. Martin will be at this SFF and horror convention in Roanoke, VA — including a launch party for The Dread in the con suite at 7 PM on Friday.
Saturday, February 25th
Gail Carriger as keynote speaker at the inaugural Passion & Prose Conference, Long Beach, CA.
Walter Jon Williams at Page One Bookstore, Albuquerque, NM, 7 PM.
Sunday, February 26th Gail Carriger at SF in SF, San Francisco, CA, 1 PM.
Gail Carriger at Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA, 6 PM.
Monday, February 27th
Robert Jackson Bennett at Book People, Austin, TX, 7 PM.
Wednesday, February 29th Yes, it’s a leap year! Gail Carriger will be kicking off her tour for Timeless at Powell’s Books at Cedar Hill Crossing, Beaverton, OR, 7 PM.