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This is part two of an email correspondence between Robert Jackson Bennett and Philip Palmer. Part one is here.

Hi Philip,

Thanks for the kind words about Mr. Shivers! I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said, though, especially in regards to only SFF writers doing worldbuilding, and I find I don’t entirely agree.

There’s a common distinction there between novels about real things – or at the very least plausible things – that can happen in this world that we’re vaguely familiar with, and then there’s the other kind of novel, where it’s about totally impossible things that could never ever happen. These might include spaceships, or unicorns, or time travel, or even triple-breasted whores with erogenous zones several miles in diameter. I find I don’t entirely like that distinction. It feels a bit pat. Read the rest of this entry »

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Palmer to Bennett on Worldbuilding

Editor’s note: Here is Philip Palmer, in an email dialogue with Robert Jackson Bennett. (Publisher’s note: Don’t these guys ever do any work?)

Hi Robert

I finished Mr. Shivers a couple of days ago, and I’ve been mulling about it since.

Why does it make me think of the story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil?  That’s not the story of your actual novel, but it has that feel about it.  Very haunting. And I loved the sequence in which [THIS SENTENCE IS A SPOILER AND HAS BEEN DELETED – The Guy from Orbit].

What made you pick that world?  And how did you research it?

One of the things I’ve been aware of in the last few years as a science fiction novelist is how ‘world building’ is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because creating a world from scratch –  naming planets, creating civilisations, inventing styles of clothing, and sometimes even making up  jargon – is a joy.  And it’s a curse because, well, you can get lost doing that stuff.

My secret fear is that one day I’ll enter the realm of Debatable Space, sit down in a bar with a bunch of spooky aliens and scary space pirates, and never return. Read the rest of this entry »

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Back Story: Deprecated

Back when I was a wee lad and just starting to write, I used to create huge, sprawling backstories for my works: Complete histories going back thousands of years, maps and other archival documents, diaries for characters—none of which was ever meant for the book itself. It was just for my sense of realism and to convey a sense of history to the work through the casual dispensation of details that were vetted against each other and thus quietly consistent.

Obviously, I could also have begun this essay with the sentence, Back when I was a wee lad and just starting to write, I had few friends other people could see, but let’s not go down that road. Read the rest of this entry »

The Digital Plague in One Minute(ish)

It’s time for the next instalment in Jeff Somers’ ingeniously speedy recap of the Avery Cates series so far. Presenting: ‘The Digital Plague in One Minute’. OK, so as pointed out on the previous video, maybe it’s just a little longer than a minute, but I guess Jeff figured that ‘The Digital Plague in One Minute and Forty-Two Seconds’ isn’t nearly as catchy . . .



Disclaimer: As Jeff’s publisher we cannot *quite* back up the veracity of his final statement…

Gorgeous new Celia Friedman cover

We’ve just had in the most gorgeous visual for Celia Friedman’s Wings of Wrath, in mass market paperback, out in August in the UK. This is the second book in Friedman’s masterful Magister trilogy, and I am just loving the bold design and glowing colours of these covers. Book One, Feast of Souls (UK I ANZ) is already out in mass market and you can still get Wings of Wrath (UK I ANZ) in its trade paperback size too (the same, but bigger, with less glow-y colours).

The author also had some really nice things to say, always appreciated: ‘I think the British books are GORGEOUS, especially the WoW. Your artist got the flavor of the Souleaters  beautifully — I was thrilled! — and the color and composition of the design are  breathtaking … a real delight for me.  Can’t wait to get the last one to you and see what you do with it!’

And take a look at these reasons why you should read, with this praise for the Magister trilogy:

  • ‘It’s potent stuff … Friedman is an excellent writer, so that you feel involved in the plot’s urgency’
  • ‘Set in a casually grim world where cloak-and-dagger political intrigue is necessary for survival … Beautifully written’ 
    Publishers Weekly
  • ‘Friedman keeps the tension at a high level throughout … emotionally charged’
  • ‘Typically superb writing style, dark content and well-drawn characters … Wings of Wrath is highly recommended and a must for fans of C.S. Friedman’
  • ‘One of the very best fantasy novels of the year … Wings of Wrath is C. S. Friedman writing at the top of her form. This series is head and shoulders above most of the competition on the market today’
    Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist
  • ‘An excellent new fantasy trilogy … highly recommended’

When last they met, my own character, Jane True, and Gail Carriger’s, Alexia Tarabotti, had a little difficulty communicating. Personally, I think they’ll become fast friends once they learn to decipher each other’s language. Until then, the shenanigans continue…

Alexia: Well, my dear Miss True, how are you?

Jane: Hey lady! Yay! So happy to see you! After the “chafing” incident from last time, you looked a bit horrified, and I wasn’t sure if I’d hear from you again. . . Anyway, I’m great! And, um, I’ve brought you something.

*holds out a gift bag*

Alexia: What’s this? Tea? In little baggies? Remarkable, I have never seen the like. Ingenuous concept. Read the rest of this entry »

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How to Read a Book

When I was a young teenager I read T.H. White’s wonderful fantasy novel The Once and Future King, which was later remade as the Disney cartoon The Sword in the Stone (the film is not a patch on the book.)  And I vividly remember the sequence in which the young Arthur is taught by Merlin how to swim as a fish, and then to fly as a owl. Read the rest of this entry »

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Let’s Fight

After my mother read RED-HEADED STEPCHILD, she called to tell me how much she enjoyed it. Then she hesitated and asked, “But, honey, where on earth did you learn to write fight scenes?”  The subtext of this question was, “Where did I go wrong?”

It was actually a fair question. Despite the proliferation of violence in my fiction, I am, in the real world, a wimp. In fact, the only fight I’ve ever been in was a schoolyard slap fight with Christy Cates (no relation to Avery Cates) in the fourth grade. Instead of instilling a healthy blood lust in my young self, the experience resulted in a healthy dose of tears and mild psychological trauma. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Trailers: Love ’em? Hate ’em?

Author Marc Laidlaw has been giving thought to trailers for books lately. And he has some problems with the way they’ve been done. And, he has some ideas for how they could be done differently.

Accordingly, he tries his skills on Jesse Bullington’s THE SAD TALE OF THE BROTHERS GROSSBART. See what you think.

What would you want to see, in a book trailer? (Besides a refreshing absence of spoilers….)

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“You want to know WHAT?”

When I ask friends and acquaintances about their specialties  so I can get the details in books right, usually it’s simple stuff.   Ask the naval historian who commanded the Adriatic Squadron in the early days of WWI, and out pops “Ernest Troubridge.”  Ask the martial arts enthusiast to show me how to disarm the fellow with the blaster, and I’m soon flat on the ground.     Read the rest of this entry »

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