Our first encounter with Al Ewing came when he wrote couple of novels set in the Pax Britannia universe created by Jonathan Green. Even though he was working within the limits provided by another author, Ewing quickly made the setting his own, creating three installments which were just as good as the original series. So when The Fictional Man was announced, we quickly got excited because if this was what he can do in someone else's setting, what will happen when he creates his own? Luckily, The Fictional Man doesn't disappoint. In fact, it is even better and more original than we had any right to expect.
Set in the future version or LA, around the cloning scene, The Fictional Man deals with the story of self-centered and vain Niles Golan, author tasked with writing a remake of classic spy movie. In the said future, the boundaries between fiction and reality are blurred and it is perfectly normal when fictional characters end up being inside cloned human body. The actors are actually grown to perform a certain role. In this strangeness, it is becoming increasingly hard to decide who is real and who isn't, and at the end of the day, the real question is, does it really matter anymore?
Even though it is a bit chaotic at times, this insane premise works amazing well and is a pleasure to read as the story develops. The Fictionals are fantastic creation. Due to sheer madness of it all, I was at times reminded of another great metaphysical book series, Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde, but The Fictional Man is full of charm on it's own. Astonishing and original page-turner with a twist.
Eight years ago, Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, causing floods, death, and chaos that would last for months. As usual, the rest of the country sat in complete bafflement, wishing we could help, not knowing what to do. Too far away, don't have any skills that would help and just would likely get in the way, gave blood last month (or too scared of needles), etc.
My buddy David Wendt decided to harness some of his friends to use our skills to help - and that was writing. At the time I was active in the RPG writing community and we decided to write a gaming book focused on New Orleans, and put the proceeds toward the Red Cross.
I'd had much more experience with the flavor/adventure kind of RPG writing than the "crunchy" rules writing - if you ever want to know where you use algebra in the real world, it's in RPG design - so I figured I'd just write a little about the area. But I couldn't just babble about the area as if the gamer was a visiting tourist, people could pick up a usual travel guide, or go on a tour, for that.
Unless the tourists weren't human.
And then it hit me- when we put monsters into urban fantasy, we give them their own politics and societal rules, and we give them just enough human characteristics to relate to, but we don't have them travel. We don't have them just act like tourists, wanting to see the sites, needing to know where to stay and where to get a bite to eat. So if we did have monster tourists, what kind of tour guide would they need? So I wrote a short, 4000 word piece called "The Shambling Guide to New Orleans" where a zombie who was a tour guide in her previous life decided to keep her job and just show monsters around the city, instead of humans.
It was fun, it was a good thing to do for charity, but the idea didn't let me go. I began to think about the "entry point" into the world - the everyman/woman whose eyes we look through as we discover it at the same time they do- think Harry Potter giving us an introduction to the wizarding world, himself as innocent as the readers. So I invented a woman who worked with travel books, and a publishing company who desperately needed someone with experience, and put them together. And for some reason, I felt "done" with New Orleans, so the next obvious city was my favorite city, New York.
Thus, The Shambling Guide to New York City, an urban fantasy where a human learns about the monster world, sees the city from a new point of view, and, of course, gets caught up in the middle of some serious chaos.
It took several years to write, mainly because it kept getting interrupted by other projects. When I finished it, I'd had some bad publishing experience and was set on self-pubbing, but my husband insisted I knew enough people in publishing that I should send it out. I was lucky enough to meet with an Orbit editor at WorldCon in Reno that year, and he asked to see the book. He passed it to another editor, and in December, 2011, the book was sold.
Obviously one of my inspirations is Douglas Adams, and I suppose it's a good thing that only after I'd finished the book did I see the obvious parallels between my book and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, otherwise I would have cried and quit. Now I realize the book is a cross between the influences of Adams' light travel guide in space story, and Neil Gaiman's London underworld of Neverwhere. Both of them favorites of mine, and apparently so deeply ingrained in my subconscious I didn't think about either of them till I was done.
For the second book I decided to go back to New Orleans, taking my characters on the first ghost bullet train from NYC to New Orleans - titled The Ghost Train to New Orleans. It bears little resemblance to the first Shambling Guide to New Orleans, but it's clearly an evolution of the idea. Both of these books have been very fun to write and I can only hope that they turn out to be fun for the readers as well.
We are very happy to reveal cover art and synopsis for the upcoming Stephen Lawhead book, The Shadow Lamp. The book is scheduled to come out on 20th September, 2013 in UK and 3rd September in US.
The quest for answers—and ultimate survival—hinges on finding the cosmic link between the Skin Map, the Shadow Lamp, and the Spirit Well. The search for the map of blue symbols began in a rainy alley in London, but has since expanded through space, time, and to include more searchers. Kit, Mina, Gianni, Cass, Haven, and Giles have gathered in Mina's 16th-century coffee house and are united in their determination to find a path back to the Spirit Well. Yet, with their shadow lamps destroyed and key pieces of the map still missing, the journey will be far more difficult than they imagine. And when one of their own disappears with the Sir Henry's cryptic Green Book, they no longer know who to trust. At the same time, the Zetetic Society has uncovered a terrifying secret which, if proven, will rock the very foundations of Creation. The quest for answers is no longer limited to recovering an unknown treasure. The fate of the universe depends on unraveling the riddle of the Skin Map.
You are probably aware that original forms of just about every fairy tale have significantly changed throughout the centuries. Fairy tales have, just like organisms, evolved, branching in many different directions and flavours. The latest additions in this process are three short novels (or should I call them novellas) by Sarah Pinborough, first of which is Poison.
As you can probably guess, Poison is Pinborough's retelling of Snow White but Snow White in question is miles away from sanitized Disney version that we have been served for the last couple of decades. Poison harks back to old days and is filled with violence, sex and a whole plethora of very calculated characters - each with it's own agenda. Sarah has used familiar setting, elements and characters to successfully build a three dimensional living and breathing kingdom which revolves around Queen who is, with each passing day, becoming more angry and ruthless. Even dwarves are brought to life in a completely new way as part of the overarching Dwarf community. I particularly liked the tiny tidbits of background information that story throws our way, like psychotic Aladdin who spends his few days of freedom indulging in torturing and killing innocents. It will be interesting to see whether he plays a significant part in future installments of Pinborough fairy tales. But the biggest surprise came at the very end, when Pinborough all of the sudden pulled something so unpredictable and unexpected that I was simply left stunned. Without further spoilers, I'll just say that I will be eagerly awaiting next two part of the trilogy.
And here lies the biggest surprise of them all - Pinborough has somehow managed to do implausible and make overfamiliar tale fresh and exciting again and if that is not an achievement of a great writer, I don't know what is! Well done!
As this is one of the books that we are really anticipating, we are very happy to reveal cover art and synopsis for the upcoming Chris Wooding book, The Ace of Skulls. The book is scheduled to come out on 19th September, 2013 and the published is Gollancz.
All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew.
They've been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They've stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they've gone and started a civil war. This time, they're really in trouble. As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his crew out of it. He's got his mind on other things, not least the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later they're going to have to pick a side. It's a choice they'll be staking their lives on. Cities fall and daemons rise. Old secrets are uncovered and new threats revealed. When the smoke clears, who will be left standing?
Here’s something you may not know about my newest book, Tarnished: it started as ideas for two books, rather than one. My editor pointed out that I’d plotted a filler book and I needed to skip it to get to the meat of my characters’ experiences, so I figured out what part of that original book wasn't filler and should be saved and dumped the rest. That learning experience stood me in good stead for all my later novel-plotting. Since then, all my single book ideas have worked out as single books.
At the end of my first book, Silver, my two main characters, werewolves Andrew Dare and Silver, realized that the Roanoke pack alpha was dangerously incompetent, and they needed to challenge him. The reason I plotted the next book that turned out to be filler was not because I was afraid of showing that confrontation—I had it all planned out in my head already—but because I've always disliked it in fiction when characters decide they must lead…and they’re instantly perfect at it. Who is ever perfect at anything the first time they do it? And even if they have some natural ability, why would anyone trust them until they've proved themselves? Why would they be confident in themselves, even? If they've never led before, they don’t know if they can do it!
The original outline for the book had Andrew and Silver proving their leadership skills to themselves and others, but the trouble was that then the book ended. What I hadn't realized was that while it was important to show them learning those skills and confidence, they then had to apply those things to the task I set out for them at the end of Book 1. Otherwise my poor readers would have seen the characters getting ready for a battle…that didn't happen until the next book. That’s pretty unsatisfying!
With that realization in mind, when I looked at the original outline once more, I suddenly saw all kinds of slow, flabby sections that I’d put in unconsciously to make up for the fact that my idea was too short for a whole novel. My characters traveled to another city, waited for a while, and then came back after nothing of importance had happened. Mostly, they discussed things, which can seem like something is happening if you’re not careful.
Brief discussions do have a place in your novel, of course! The heroes have to make a plan before they do battle, and they also often have to emotionally process events before they can truly change. What suckered me in this particular case, though, was using discussion to do worldbuildng. Worldbuilding is huge in my series, since part of the way I aim to be different from other werewolf books is using my archaeology background to give my werewolves culture. They’re a separate species, not humans who have been cursed or turned, so they’re born to a whole suite of myths, religious rituals, children’s games, etiquette, and all kinds of things passed down to them by their ancestors.
In the first book, I made a considered decision not to have a human or outsider protagonist, because I wanted readers to find out about the werewolf world from the inside. I should have remembered that for my original outline of Book 2! That outline had—and Tarnished still has—a human point of view character. That meant the werewolves could explain things to her—and in the original outline, explain things they did. Explained, discussed, and basically sat around for pages at a time. Once I started writing Tarnished in its current form, and there were a lot more things happening, I realized that rather than having characters tell each other the details of the world, I could show the details subtly as the action happened. That was something I knew already, but when there’s too much empty space in a novel, the lure of cramming in one more religious myth that has nothing to do with anything is pretty strong! Especially since I've heard from readers that they really enjoyed the worldbuilding in Silver.
So after the experience of creating the original outline and then tossing much of it out and writing Tarnished instead, I’m much more careful about several things when plotting novels. I make sure that if my characters learn something throughout the course of the book, they put it to use accomplishing something important at the end; and I make sure that I slip in worldbuilding in the course of the action, instead of having the characters sit and talk and talk.
Here's latest edition of new science fiction and fantasy releases, this time covering period from 20.5.2013 until 26.5.2013 (fourth week of May/2013). As always, our list also includes reprints published this week. We are especially happy to see The Fall of Arthur by JRR Tolkien and kindle re-releases of Ray Bradbury collections. Enjoy!
The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur, king of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of Old English alliterative meter, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.
You might as well ask why I fell in love with my wife of forty-one years as why I came to write the stories of Love Among the Particles. Not only is the instigation for both imaginative feats (and leaps of faith) hidden in an increasingly remote past of my lengthening personal history, but the causes of an impulse as complex as love or art must be elusive, subtle, and altered in time by self-examination, the catechism we give ourselves when we hope to sound the unfathomable. But to have something to answer the question concerning the spur to the writing of these sixteen tales, let’s say (acknowledging that my response may be correct only insofar as I believe it to be) that I wanted to write at length, in reaction to the brief texts of Grim Tales and Pieces for Small Orchestra & Other Fictions, which I was writing at the same time as the new book of stories – together with the novel Shadowplay, the stage play The Book of Stains, and a number of radio dramas. (A ten-year period of uncertainty and growing anxiety.) I am often a self-referential writer, whose work not only regards my present state of awareness and literary practice (as well as those of my exemplars), but questions my motives for writing.
I can say with a high degree of probability that I write to escape. I believe this is true of every writer and artist, regardless of his or her pretension to realism and truth. I pretend to neither – or, let’s say, to be saying something, that my literary fictions are real and faithful to the truth of the world to the extent that I myself am in the world and the products of my mind, therefore, cannot help partaking of its reality, as well as its deceptions. Fantasy, like fables, reflects the world, even if the reflection is distorted. (And I do consider myself a literary fantasist and fabulist.) Doubtless, many will find this attitude toward art unsettling and even shameful. I sympathize with them, finding myself often in the unsettling position of feeling ashamed of myself. I am the product of a liberal, working-class family that taught its sons compassion for the least among us, including animals, and the writers that drew me in the 1960s were more likely to be Steinbeck and Dos Passos than Gertrude Stein and Guy Davenport. (The latter term in the realism-fantasy opposition have naturally replaced the former and have been joined in time by Barth, Barthelme, Calvino, Kafka, Hildesheimer, Bioy Casares, Borges, Mrozek, Vian, Auster, Lish, and the like.) This disquiet and this conflict are apparent in nearly all the stories in Love Among the Particles and also in Shadowplay, Pieces for Small Orchestra, Land of the Snow Men, Joseph Cornell’s Operas, and A History of the Imagination and in my plays The House of Correction, Mounting Panic, and The Book of Stains. The texts are acts of escape, often taking, as their theme and content, the very notion of escape from the hostile reality of an unlovely present, which troubles the conscience of the narrator, who is many times myself. (In the stories, you can find my name among the dramatis personae.)
Such an evasion must look like misanthropy, and I fear that – together with anxiety and anger produced by the mistreatment of people, animals, and the environment – a paradoxical mistrust of humans in general increases in me. (Perhaps there is nothing paradoxical about it, as it is always humankind that abuses members of its own and other species.) And with estrangement comes, inevitably, that other pervasive theme of my fiction, drama, and poetry: loneliness, the fate and punishment of so many of the characters in Love Among the Particles.
Let me end by saying that I wanted, at one time during the production of the stories that came to be included in Love Among the Particles, to write what I thought of as literary paraphrases. You can see the wish expressed in “The Monster in Winter,” “The Mummy’s Bitter and Melancholy Exile,” “Ravished by Death,” and “To Each According to His Sentence,” each tale referring to – and working against – a recognizable story. Previously, I seemed to rely a good deal on motifs and plots conceived by past writers or filmmakers. In the end, however, the postmodern strategy of borrowing and adapting the work of past masters was overwhelmed by my own anarchic impulse and need to make my own highly figured and personal worlds.
Although I promised already to put an end to this confession (for so it seems to me), I ought to mention that my serious themes and formalist concerns – narrative structures and strategies, modulations in tone and an obsessive precision of language – are, many times, undermined by comedy. If I have succeeded in producing a work attractive to readers, the reason may lie there.