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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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Posts Tagged ‘X-Men’

Will X-Men-style superhumans become a reality in our lifetime?

The poster for the new Xmen film The Wolverine 3D coming in 2013 - in an article about genetic technology, superhuman powers and Ian Tregillis's Milkweed novels starting with Bitter Seeds

Poster for The Wolverine 3d film – coming in July 2013

I was interested (and I’ll admit it – a little excited) to read this recent article, stating that advances in gene technology could lead to a race of genetically superior human beings by the year 2045. These were apparently the findings of a Ministry of Defence think tank during a two-day summit last summer.

Alright – so sources such as The Sun and The Daily Mail might have sensationalised the think tank’s statements a touch by claiming that in a few years time, people will have Wolverine-style adamantium claws busting out all over the shop, and will be spontaneously whipping up tornadoes left, right and centre à la Storm.

But although a real-life X-men army might not exactly be right round the corner – the underlying gist of the claim could be entirely reasonable: that we’ll likely soon be using genetic technology to enhance the strength of the human body, to eliminate imperfections and to increase stamina.

But as time goes on, who knows what the limitations will be? Who knows if by genetically developing certain parts of the brain, we’ll discover unknown abilities – telekinesis, psychic powers, control over natural elements? One needs to have an open mind, and it might not happen in 30 years time – but it’s not entirely beyond belief.

Neither are the apparent risks and dangers that certain individuals developing those powers would present.

The MoD think tank also claimed that “it is possible that advances in biology, unequally shared across society, could generate genetic inequality”.

Bitter Seeds, book one in the Milkweed Triptych by Ian Tregillis - in an article discussing the possibility of X-men style superhumans becoming a realityBut it might not just be within one particular society that inequality is a risk. What happens, in fact, if one nation develops superhumans before another? Will it lead to an “arms race” of human augmentation, the winner of which will become the next superpower?

This is the terrifying and thrilling concept behind the Milkweed trilogy by Ian Tregillis. It starts with BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) and THE COLDEST WAR (UK | ANZ), and concludes with NECESSARY EVIL (UK | ANZ – releasing this coming Tuesday). Read the rest of this entry »

author post

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

© 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

© 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 »

Top Ten ‘Working Class Heroes’ in Science Fiction and Fantasy

With the entire Sten Chronicles soon to be available in our Orbit omnibus editions – that’s BATTLECRY (UK|ANZ) containing books 1-3, JUGGERNAUT (UK|ANZ) containing books 4-6 and DEATH MATCH (UK|ANZ) containing books 7-8 – we got thinking about Sten’s humble beginnings and his rise to power.

The entire Sten Chronicles by Chris Bunch and Allan Cole

In his previous guestpost Allan Cole described Sten as a ‘working class hero’ (like the John Lennon song!) and we wondered who else might qualify. We can’t all be heirs to large fortunes like Batman, Harry Potter or Lara Croft, (some of us can barely even make like a Lannister and pay our debts), so here are our top ten good guys who didn’t start off in life with many advantages at all . . .

Commander Vimes (Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ series)

Commander Vimes grew up in the Shades of Ankh Morpork, describing his family as lucky to live on a street so poor that there just wasn’t very much for the infamous criminal gangs of the Shades to steal.

Since his aristocratic marriage and his successes in running the City Watch, Vimes has been bestowed with many noble titles (including but not limited to “His Grace,” “His Excellency” and “his blackboard-monitorship”). Never has a man resented being part of ‘the gentry’ so much. One would almost think the Patrician was annoying him on purpose.

The Eye of the WorldRand al’Thor (Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ series)

Rand al’Thor originally lived a simple life as a farmer’s son in the sleepy village of Emond’s Field, where his biggest concern was trying to talk to girls without making a fool of himself. His life changed forever one night when the forces of darkness showed up and showed a keen interest in running him through with a blade.

Turns out that Rand is the Dragon Reborn, the saviour who is prophesied to save the world from the Dark One . . . but destroy it in the process. No pressure there, then.

Han Solo (Star Wars)

He might have married a princess and helped save the galaxy, but Han Solo had a rough start as an orphaned street urchin in a Corellian spaceport. Things were looking up when he became a pilot for the Imperial Navy, but he lost his commission when he defied orders and refused to skin a Wookiee named Chewbacca.

The two won the Millennium Falcon from the smuggler Lando Calrissian in a card game and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Weasley family (Harry Potter)

Draco Malfoy said that ‘all the Weasleys have red hair, freckles, and more children than they can afford.’ They also have a whole lot of courage, room in their hearts to take in the orphaned Harry Potter and the courage to stand up to bullies like the Malfoys and other, richer ‘pureblooded’ wizards during both of Voldemort’s uprisings.

We couldn’t pick a favourite Weasley (who can?), so we decided we’d include the whole lot.

Davos Seaworth, (George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’)

Born in the Flea Bottom slums of King’s Landing, as a young man Davos captained a notorious smuggling ship. During Robert’s Rebellion he saved many lives by smuggling in food during the siege of Storm’s End castle.

Stannis Baratheon knighted him for this, which got him the nickname ‘the Onion Knight’, but demanded a grisly punishment for Davos’s earlier crimes, the ends of his fingers on one hand! Davos considered this fair, as long as Stannis carried out the punishment himself, and his continued loyalty is shown when he supports Stannis’s claim to the throne.

Rose Tyler (Doctor Who)

badwolfRose grew up on a South London estate, living with her mother Jackie and working at Henrik’s Department Store. When the shop was attacked by aliens disguised as shop mannequins, she was saved by the Doctor and joined him in his travels in the TARDIS – saving his life in return when she worked out the meaning behind the strange words that had been following the duo through time – ‘Bad Wolf’.

Rose has met aliens, travelled backwards and forwards in time as well as visiting other dimensions, but she’s never forgotten her roots – she was the first of the Doctor’s companions to have her mobile phone modified so she could keep in touch with her mum. Read the rest of this entry »

BITTER SEEDS: Blood magic, sociopaths and “good people doing bad things”

The World War II alternate history fantasy novel Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis, where the Nazis have superhumans and the British use dark magicsIan Tregillis’s debut fantasy novel BITTER SEEDS (UK | ANZ) is a sinister reimagining of World War II events. In this supernatural alternate history, British forces use dark magics to hold back an invading army of Nazi superhumans. Orbit’s James Long put some questions to Ian on where he got his ideas from . . .

The premise of Bitter Seeds – Nazi super soldiers versus occult powers conjured up by British Warlocks – is unusual, to say the least! What was the original inspiration behind the story?

A number of years ago, around 2002 or 2003, I read a magazine article about a little-known Allied secret project during the Second World War called Project Habakkuk. Habakkuk was conceived during the height of the Battle of the Atlantic, when German wolf packs were destroying Allied shipping convoys. The idea – and this is one of those wonderful places where truth is so much stranger than fiction – was to build ships out of ice. It sounds mad but it’s actually a rather clever idea! Alas, for various reasons the project never made it past the prototype stage (Maybe because it is just a little bit mad.)

But I couldn’t get that image out of my head, of vast bergships plying the North Atlantic and changing the course of the war. So I began to wonder how the Axis might have responded if Habakkuk had been a success. A few days later, as I was driving to work, the answer hit me out of the blue: obviously, Ian, the Germans would have sent a pyrokinetic spy to sabotage the shipyards . . .

The ice ship never made it into Bitter Seeds, but the pyrokinetic SS agent did. Read the rest of this entry »

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