Posts Tagged ‘space opera’
- - July 23rd, 2014
Charlie Stross is a genius. If you ever get the chance to talk to him, you’ll find the ideas flying so thick and fast that you have to shift your brain into a higher gear just to keep up. You’ll also come away from the conversation with several new ideas about how you’re going to change the world and an armful of science fiction reading recommendations (for other writers’ work, not his own, because he’s just that kind of guy).
You know those moving walkways you get in airports? Where you’re walking down them, but the ground is also moving underneath your feet so that when you jump off at the end just walking at normal speed is like hitting a wall, smack, bang, and everything is moving at normal speed again, too slow?
Talking to Charlie, or reading his books, is like running down that walkway.
Now his books might not be for everyone – I understand some people (not us) prefer life in the slow lane, that some readers just can’t handle this much raw plot, character and awesome things happening, that they want something a bit more sedate. I imagine these are also the kind of people who prefer to cook without spices, who like bland TV and even blander books, because anything else might be a bit too much excitement.
But that’s why I’m so pleased by Charlie’s continued success at the Hugo awards. You love Charlie’s work, you’ve supported him at these awards again and again. This is an author who has broken records for the number of consecutive times one can be shortlisted for the Hugo Best Novel. His sixth shortlisting broke the record. NEPTUNE’S BROOD, in the 2014 awards, is his seventh.
NEPTUNE’S BROOD has mermaids, communist squid, roving gangs of accountant-privateers, zombies, spacefaring clergymembers, superhuman assassins, murder, backstabbing, family feuds and an incredibly intricate and utterly unprecedented financial con that could only occur in a universe with no faster-than-light travel.
If you’d told me before I edited NEPTUNE’S BROOD that something including all those elements would become one of my favourite novels, I might have laughed. How could one book fit so much in it? Now, I would tell you that ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that every interstellar colony in search of good fortune must be in need of a banker.’
On top of the squid and the mermaids and the banking, NEPTUNE’S BROOD is also a genuinely moving story about a woman searching for her lost sister. The fact that that sister is actually a copy of her grown in a vat, and both characters are metahumans – the race artificially grown to replace humans when we proved too fragile for the trials of space travel – is by the by.
NEPTUNE’S BROOD is, according to io9, ‘the perfect book for our times’.
SFX call it ‘a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi mind-expander from one of the genre’s most reliable imaginations’, and SF legend Alastair Reynolds says ‘NEPTUNE’S BROOD is fast-paced and imaginative, with fascinating ideas about the economics of an interstellar society constrained by real physics. Above all else, though, it’s just terrific fun’.
But don’t listen to them. Read it yourself, and find out how a space opera with no faster-than-light travel can be the fastest, wildest ride of your life.
NEPTUNE’S BROOD, along with our other Hugo nominees, is currently available at a celebratory price of just £1.99 in the UK. Go, read, enjoy.
- - July 16th, 2014
When I first read Ancillary Justice I was overcome with two sensations, one was of familiarity. It triggered a warm nostalgia that set off a parade of novels in my mind that I first encountered when I was young and that blew my fledgling mind: Dune, Tiger! Tiger!, Cat’s Cradle, Ubik, The Left Hand of Darkness, Brave New World, The Forever War, A Canticle for Leibowitz and Rendezvous with Rama (among many, many others). And like all of those novels, the second impression I had was that I had never read anything quite like this.
It drew from past works, but it was undoubtedly its own, the product of a singular mind that had been ignited by the same ambitious, imaginative fire of those masterworks. Like these classics it seemed to come from a extraordinary voice whispering in your ear. A voice that eased you into a world and story that was intelligent, original, and multifarious.
It’s a novel you finish and immediately have to share with those like-minded people who search out books that can open little doors inside our heads. So if you’re one of those readers, I won’t delay you any longer: READ IT.
ANCILLARY JUSTICE is currently available for $1.99 in the US and £1.99 in the UK in ebook for a limited time. Read an excerpt here.
- - June 17th, 2014
CIBOLA BURN (US | UK | AUS) is on sale today in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. James Holden and crew are back in the fourth book of James S.A. Corey’s sensational Expanse series. They’ll face a host of new challenges on the wild frontier of uncharted space now that mankind has freed itself from the confines of its solar system.
Starting this week, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (the writing duo behind the James S.A. Corey pseudonym) will be on tour. Visit the James S.A. Corey Facebook page to see if they’re coming to a town near you.
What’s more, we have some incredible news to announce today that will be sure to please all of you. Check out our press release below. Read the rest of this entry »
- - June 10th, 2014
Today we release EARTH AWAKENS (UK | ANZ) the third novel in the stunning First Formic Wars series. Co-written by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, it tells what happened in the run up to the events in the bestselling classic novel ENDER’S GAME.
I love this series – it’s just so readable. And not just for all those people who are already big fans of the Ender books. It also works as a fast-paced science fiction adventure in itself. The story just whizzes by and the action doesn’t let up at any point. It’s fascinating to see how humanity’s strategies develop in our first hostile encounter with an alien race.
This latest book has already been receiving some very high praise, with Publishers Weekly claiming:
‘This breakneck thriller is a dark and lively addition to the Enderverse’
Check out the copy below, and look out for EARTH AWAKENS in stores now.
TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR HUMANITY
It is one hundred years before the events of Ender’s Game. Tens of millions are dead in China as the invading Formics scour the landscape and gas cities with a lethal alien chemical. Young Mazer Rackham and the Mobile Operations Police scramble to find a counteragent, while asteroid miner Victor Delgado infiltrates the alien ship in near-Earth orbit.
Victor needs to find a way to seize the ship and end the war, but he’ll need a small strike force of highly skilled soldiers to pull it off. In this last-ditch effort to save what’s left of humanity, Mazer Rackham and his team may be just the men for the job . . .
- - May 2nd, 2014
We heard the fantastic news last night that Ann Leckie is the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award! This is a simply astounding achievement for any author, but especially for a debut novelist.
The award is given to the best science fiction novel of the year by a panel of judges invited from the British Science Fiction Association, the Science Fiction Foundation and the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival.
ANCILLARY JUSTICE was announced as winner in a ceremony last night at London’s Royal Society. The Orbit team was attending and we all had a wonderful time.
The judges read over 120 different science fiction novels submitted by 42 different publishing houses and imprints, narrowing the shortlist down to just six spectacular novels before picking ANCILLARY JUSTICE as the winner.
Our biggest congratulations go to Ann, who adds the Clarke Award to her BSFA Award for Best Novel and her Kitschie Award for Best Debut Novel, all three awards for ANCILLARY JUSTICE. Hope she’s got room on the mantelpiece!
You can read the award coverage in The Guardian today.
When I first sat down to write Devi Morris, I only knew two things about her: 1) she wore powered armor, and 2) she was a total badass. Naturally, the first factor contributed greatly to the second. I dare you to put anything in in a sleek suit of powered armor and not have it become instantly more badass! But equipment alone doesn’t a badass make. If Devi was truly going to be who I wanted her to be, she would have to be just as awesome outside of her armor as she was in it. Her badassery needed to be inherent, a natural element of her being, and before I could write that, I needed to figure out just what a badass was.
What makes someone a badass is one of those things that is instantly recognizable, but hard to actually pin down in objective description. Heroes can be badasses, but not all badasses are heroes (in fact, the badass role is often saved for the villain, whose badassery is used as a threat). And while the classic image of a badass is an aggressive dude, badass is not an inherently masculine or macho descriptor as proven by the enormous number of female badasses in film, comics, television, and literature. It’s also not limited to violence. People who survive impossible situations are also proclaimed badasses even if their feat of badassitude was to simply continue living when most wouldn’t.
With all these differences, the most basic anatomy of a badass can be stripped down to three primary factors: a refusal to give up when the odds are stacked against them, a confident attitude, often aggressive attitude, and some kind of extreme proficiency in a skill. Why these? Well, the attitude part is obvious, but the rest is more interesting. See, humans love to watch people do things very well. Even the simplest, most mundane acts like stacking plastic cups can seem like magic when performed at a world class skill level. We respect talent, even if we can’t actually say how the talent is useful. Likewise, we admire people who stand on their beliefs. One of my favorite lines from Highlander is that uncompromising men are easy to admire. Even when we don’t actually agree, we admire and respect people who stand up for their ambitions/causes/beliefs/dreams and refuse to back down despite overwhelming odds.
Put all these factors together and you can make a badass out of anything. Take the competition cooking show Iron Chef, for example. In the show, chefs from all over the world challenge the reigning Iron Chef to a one hour extreme cooking showdown with a mystery ingredient. Naturally, since this is television, the challenge is designed to seem impossible. How many of us could cook a 5-7 course meal on the fly when every course must incorporate an ingredient we don’t even know until the challenge begins? But the chefs on this show are all kitchen badasses, and they use their years, sometimes decades of experience, creativity, and natural skill to overcome the odds and prove that their cuisine reigns supreme!
So we see that the anatomy of badass can be simple, even formulaic, and when used without thought, this can be a big problem. Think of any mediocre, forgettable action movie and you’ll see a badass that failed not because they didn’t follow the formula, but because they followed it too well. There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, but just as great art can never be achieved painting by numbers, a truly memorable, worthy badass must be far more than the sum of her parts.
Being good at something, an in your face attitude, and refusing to back down are all a good starting point, but a badass who is also a good character has to have style. She can’t just say “I’m the best,” she has to prove it over and over again against increasingly crazy odds. She can’t just take a stand, she has to put it all on the line every single time for a worthy cause she and the reader both believe in. She has to be larger than life and human at the same time, which means her problems have to be writ just as large as everything else. She has to be admirable but still rateable, else she risks being a caricature instead of a character.
This was what I learned from reading and watching my favorite badasses in action, and this was the approach I took with Devi. Now that the series is ending, and I’m looking back at everything I tried to do with it, I think creating a badass to be remembered was the one place where I truly succeeded as well as I’d hoped to. Authors aren’t supposed to have favorite characters, but I can’t help but admit that Devi is and probably will always be right up there at the top. She’s the female hero I always wanted to see in the movies, the badass lady I would have pretended to be when I was a kid, and I already miss her more than I should miss someone who is ultimately a figment of my imagination.
So for everyone who’s been waiting to see how the story ends, I really hope you enjoy HEAVEN’S QUEEN (US | UK | AUS). I put a lot of thought into creating a suitably badass ending, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And for those of you who haven’t met Devi Morris yet (and who’ve been sufficiently entertains by this post long enough to get all the way down here to the end), I invite you to read a little more and check out the first chapter of FORTUNE’S PAWN (US | UK | AUS), the beginning of the Paradox series. Thank you everyone for reading and for making this series a success! I look forward to writing more Paradox novels. I can’t promise more Devi, but really, do you think I can keep her down?
Not a chance.
- - March 19th, 2014
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
In the interview section at the back of FORTUNE’S PAWN, I explained that the reason I originally decided to write the Paradox books was because I wanted to read an action packed SF romance and couldn’t find one, so I created my own. This is a true story, but it’s also true that my sudden reading urge wasn’t the only reason I decided to write about a female soldier turned mercenary who fights aliens, has a romantic subplot, and gets herself involved in a conspiracy that might doom all sentient life in the galaxy. You see, before all that, before Paradox and the xith’cal, even before Devi sauntered into my brain and informed me that I was writing her novel right that minute, I was already on the hunt for somewhere to put the Lady Grey.
I’ve been in love with powered armor since I watched my first mecha anime as a pre-teen renting anime tapes from Blockbuster in the dark days of the mid-90s. The idea of wrapping a person with all our fragile, soft flesh and emotional instability inside a machine that granted super human powers, but only under limits and often at huge costs, was like catnip for my young story-obsessed brain. I actually liked the price even better than the power it bought. Power alone is boring. It’s what power does to people—why they want it, how it changes them, and what they’re willing to do to keep it—that’s where the novel is.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a well told superhero story, you already know that the most compelling part of a any hero is their humanity. We don’t love Batman because of his toys, we love him for what he does with them, and why. We are, in short, far more interested in the man than the bat. Similarly, superheroes who have no weaknesses are boring. Even Superman, the most wish-fulfillment of all wish-fulfillment characters, needed kryptonite to be compelling in the long term.
Powered armor takes this idea a step further. Devi’s suit gives her what are essentially superpowers. She’s super fast, super tough, and super strong. She has eyes in the back of her head, the ability to look up almost any information with a thought, and a literal photographic memory. But none of this power is really hers. She’s just the driver, the breakable, fragile human at the heart of everything, and the knowledge that her power can be damaged, taken away, or even simply run out of energy, is what makes her plights that much more interesting and tense.
Powered armor certainly wasn’t the only way I could have done this. There are a million ways in Science Fiction to make someone super powered. I could have given Devi implants, or made her a genetically modified super soldier. But all of these things would have been hers, and I didn’t want that. I wanted Devi’s powers to be something she something she had to pay for and could only use at great personal risk, because the person who has the guts to willingly put their neck on the line for the power to achieve their goals is also the person who can function without it. Take Superman’s powers away and he becomes a whiny embarrassment sulking in his Fortress of Solitude. Take Batman’s money and gadgets away and he’s still freaking Batman.
This vulnerability is why I think powered armor is such a staple in our collective imagination. It’s the ultimate unstable power—a supreme weapon that’s stealable, breakable, hackable, and only ever one technological glitch away from being a metal mausoleum—and the character who chooses to use it even in the face of all those flaws is practically guaranteed to be the sort of hardcore badass you want to read about. I put Devi in the Lady Gray precisely because I wanted her to be the sort of heroine who, when I blasted her suit full of holes, would use the sharp edges to go for her enemy’s throat. The Lady Gray made Devi every bit as much as she made the Lady Gray, and I wouldn’t want either of them any other way.
Rachel Bach is the author of Paradox, a three part, heavy ordinance blast of Science Fiction that starts with FORTUNE’S PAWN (US | UK | AUS) and continues with HONOUR’S KNIGHT (US | UK | AUS), out now! Want to find out more about the Paradox series? Read the interview, which appeared in the back of FORTUNE’S PAWN.
- - February 13th, 2014
We are delighted to announce that Ann Leckie won the Golden Tentacle at the Kitschie Awards last night, in a ceremony at London’s Seven Dials Club. The judges were charged to find the most progressive, intelligent and entertaining genre novel written by a debut author in 2013, and picked ANCILLARY JUSTICE, Ann’s incredible space opera tale, released by Orbit last October.
Other winners on the night were Will Staehle, who won the Inky Tentacle for best cover art for his work on THE AGE ATOMIC; Ruth Ozeki, whose TALE FOR THE TIME BEING won the Red Tentacle for Best Novel, and Malorie Blackman, who won the Black Tentacle for a special contribution to genre literature.
Previous Kitschie winners include Patrick Ness, Lauren Beukes, China Miéville and Nick Harkaway. Winners receive £2,000 in prize money, as well as one of the prize’s iconic handmade Tentacles and (of course) a bottle of Kraken rum.
Here’s what others have been saying about ANCILLARY JUSTICE:
‘Our #1 pick for the year’s best science fiction or fantasy book . . . this Iain M. Banks-esque tale was the book that made us most excited about the future of science fiction in 2013’ io9.com
‘It’s not every day a debut novel by an author you’d never heard of before derails your entire afternoon with its brilliance’ Liz Bourke, Tor.com
‘Unexpected, compelling and very cool – Ann Leckie nails it. I’ve never met a heroine like Breq before. I consider this a very good thing indeed’ John Scalzi
‘Thrilling, moving and awe-inspiring’ Guardian
‘Signals the arrival of a hard science fiction author who just might fill the gap left by Iain M. Banks. ANCILLARY JUSTICE is a highly original novel. Highly recommended’ Independent on Sunday
‘Total gamechanger. Get it, read it, wish to hell you’d written it. Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE may well be the most important book Orbit have published in ages’ Paul Graham Raven
‘Establishes Leckie as an heir to Banks and Cherryh’ Elizabeth Bear
You can read a sample from ANCILLARY JUSTICE here. To find out more about the author, check out her website or follow her on twitter at @ann_leckie.
If you look at the early reviews of my new novel, FORTUNE’S PAWN (out now, by the way! [US | UK | AUS]), you’ll find one word repeated over and over again: fun. This word also appeared in reviews of my fantasy series, THE LEGEND OF ELI MONPRESS (written as Rachel Aaron [US | UK | ANZ]), so much so that I was actually joking to my husband that I should call myself “Rachel Aaron, the fun author!”
And you know, I’m okay with that.
Fun is a seriously underrated novel component. There are plenty of serious books that make you cry or think in a different way or show you something beautiful and deep. I strive for all that in my works as well, but never at the cost of a good time. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a cathartic cry as much as the next person, but the books I come back to over and over again are the ones that left me smiling and exhilarated and hungry to read more.
Too often, we say “escapist reading” like it’s something lesser. Like we should be ashamed that we’re enjoying something just because it’s fun. I think that’s absurd. It’s like saying ice cream is lesser because all it does is taste delicious. We need delicious, because life is hard. Bad things happen even to the luckiest of us, and the world can too often be a stressful, dark, unfriendly, unkind place. A good, fun book is like an escape hatch from all that grim reality. It’s a safe space where we can run away and have a good, dramatic, thrilling time, and sometimes, when you really need to a respite, that can feel like a miracle.
Hearing someone had a blast reading my books is the greatest complement I can receive as a writer. I’m proud to be a trusted provider of quality life escape hatches. And while I can’t guarantee my story will change your world forever, I can promise that it’ll be one hell of a ride. So come have fun in my imagination. Let me entertain you. At the very least, you’ll never be bored.
FORTUNE’S PAWN is available now! Check out the first chapter here, and get ready for even more fun this Thursday. Rachel Bach will be joining authors Daniel Abraham (1/2 of the James S. A. Corey writing duo) and Ann Leckie tomorrow for an evening of science fiction, technology, and space opera. RSVP to the Google event today.