With our month of Holiday Horrors almost over we are sinisterly delighted to bring you a glimpse of Tom Fletcher’s wonderful The Thing on the Shore, which make up one third of his Thin Places omnibus.
With our month of Holiday Horrors almost over we are sinisterly delighted to bring you a glimpse of Tom Fletcher’s wonderful The Thing on the Shore, which make up one third of his Thin Places omnibus.
As part of our month of Holiday Horrors we are pleased to give you a taster of Tom Fletcher’s The Leaping, one third of the Thin Places collection.
Enjoy whilst Summer lasts.
1. What would you recommend as your #HolidayHorror read?
Because I’ve been reading her recently, and so she’s prominent in my memory, I’d say Shirley Jackson. The Haunting of Hill House probably. It’s not terrifying, but it’s unnerving and uneasy. So yeah – that. But only if you’re not reading Thin Places, obviously.
2. What scared you as a child?
Open curtains at night, and dreams about a giant crocodile
3. Can you give us a horror story in 50 words?
‘By moonlight we shed our clothes on the pebbly beach. The sparkling black water beckoned us, and we went gladly. We whispered to each other in a language neither of us knew. As the music in our heads grew louder, we kissed and bit. Our wilded blood woke the lake.’
4. What made you call your omnibus Thin Places?
‘Thin place’ is a term used in The Thing on the Shore to describe the call-centre, because of the huge number of connections between it and other places – the idea is that its solidity is weakened, and that it’s easier to break. But then in that book there’s also the idea of certain places being connected to all other places of a similar type – e.g. the middle of the ocean being a place from which you can access all other ocean middles, or a pitch dark cave being somewhere you can access other places of pitch darkness. (That’s the influence of ancient Egyptian mythology, mentioned below). The idea of breakthroughs between worlds is common to all three books – The Leaping, The Thing on the Shore, and The Ravenglass Eye – as is their sense of place and setting in the bleak, beautiful, post-industrial English northwest, so it seemed an apt title for the omnibus.
I’ve just googled ‘thin places’ and found that it’s the Celtic concept of there being certain places where the veil between the visible and invisible worlds is lifted. Which is perfect, especially because Cumbria is part of the ‘Celtic fringe’. It’s too much of a good fit…I must have known it subconsciously.
5. If anyone were to read just one of your books, which one would you tell them to pick up?
Such a cruel question! Probably Gleam. I’m proud of all of them, but I feel like I progress a little more with every book, and Gleam is the most recent. On the other hand, when I read other writers, I like to start at the beginning, so perhaps The Leaping. It lacks polish but its got grit.
Plotting. I find it very difficult to get outside of my own head and view the plot as a reader might. I’m immediately dissatisfied with a plot I start working on, because I can’t see where the interest comes from; of course, the interest comes from revelation, which I – as the writer – cannot experience. Unless I don’t plot, and just write, which provides me with the exciting revelatory experience – not knowing what’s going to happen until it does – but means that it’s easy to write myself into a corner.
7. Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
There’s something liberating about short stories. It’s connected to the above answer. I can write short stories without plotting, without thinking too much; they’re immediate and visceral. Taking the same approach to a novel doesn’t work, for me; what in a short story is enigmatic or mysterious becomes forced and ‘writerly’ over a novel-length work. But then, the larger canvas of a novel is liberating in a different way. And finishing a novel is much more satisfying. To answer clearly – I prefer writing short stories, but I prefer finishing novels.
8. What’s your favourite creature from Horror stories/films/legends?
Probably the werewolf. I don’t think there are any really good werewolf films, and not many good werewolf books, but the legends are great. Terror and pathos entwined – awful crimes committed by people who don’t know what they’re doing. They raise important – if old – questions about the nature of evil, and are genuinely scary.
9. Have any myths or legends have informed your writing?
Yes – lots! Old werewolf folklore for The Leaping, ancient Egyptian mythology for The Thing on the Shore, and the legend of ‘the Evil Eye’ coupled with some early Christian propaganda for The Ravenglass Eye. Gleam is informed by utopian writing, most notably Plato’s Republic, and also legends of lost cities – Atlantis, for example.
10. What’s the scariest horror film you’ve seen?
I don’t have a high tolerance for on-screen scares, and won’t touch ‘extreme’ cinema with a ten-foot barge pole. So, given that caveat – maybe Audition, based on the Ryu Murakami novel. It starts off almost like a rom-com – albeit a deeply problematic one – with a widower holding auditions for a film that he’s never going to make. Really, he’s looking for a new wife. And it gets progressively darker and more horrible. Or Event Horizon, which I haven’t even seen completely because I still keep looking away during the hell videos.
1. Was horror writing always your calling or did you start outside the genre?
My reading habits began with an ‘anything and everything’ approach, and my writing started off the same way. I started out by forcing myself to join a local evening class, on the grounds that I couldn’t harbour a secret dream of writing for much longer without actually trying to do any. After I took some toddler steps, I realised the ideas that got my fingers itching to get to the keyboard tended to be dark fantasy and horror, and so I began to read more and write more and read more . . . it went from there. Having said that, right back in those early classes, some people’s work resulted in everyone giving a nod and a smile, or even a laugh. Mine tended to draw an ‘ooh’ or a little hiss of breath, so maybe it was there from the start!
2. What is the first Horror book you remember reading?
Now you’re asking! I remember borrowing my brother’s Stephen King books when I was younger, so it was probably one of those. Or it might have been James Herbert’s Rats. Going back even further though, I adored fairy tales when I was a kid, and in some ways I think they’re the earliest horror stories – abandoned children, attempts to murder princesses, wicked witches in the wood, wolves . . . yes, it could have been all of those. And I loved Hans Christian Andersen, mainly because his stories made me cry. Even then, I found the loss and loneliness in The Little Mermaid much more terrible than Hansel and Gretel being left to die in the forest.
3. What is your favourite Horror novel?
Another tough question! I always hate having to pick just one, so I’ll probably cheat. I love Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and only realised quite recently that it’s probably because it’s King’s take on a fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. It’s beautifully put together and balanced and has all those terrors of the mysterious and quite possibly magical wood. Some more recent brilliant reads include Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House, Tim Lebbon’s The Silence and The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey. I also love just about anything by Joe Hill and John Ajvide Lindqvist. Trespassing more into dark fantasy, I also enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work.
4. What is your favourite Horror film?
I’m not a great fan of the slasher style horror film, though I do watch them. I prefer things a bit quieter and more psychological. My favourite film, Pan’s Labyrinth, wouldn’t really class as horror at all, though it certainly has horrific moments. I like a film that can genuinely surprise me, so I enjoyed Skeleton Key, which also has a terrific atmosphere and a great sense of place with its southern Louisiana setting. I liked The Cell, too, though again, it’s also cross-genre – weirdery with horrific aspects!
Ha! No. Not since I saw Jaws when I was a little kid, anyway. And scary things in books seem to lodge in my brain and haunt me afterwards rather than make me stop reading – I’m far more likely to read on into the early hours to find out how it turns out. I do get ridiculously creeped out by some films, though. I’m a sucker for the creeping-around-the-house ones, where you just know something’s going to appear in the bathroom mirror. It’s such a cliché, but it gets me anyway. Event Horizon terrified me when I saw it in the cinema; some teenage lads behind me laughed their socks off when I jumped so hard I spilled my popcorn. The Ring was seriously scary, as was The Grudge, though people laugh at me when I admit that too. The thing is, people expect horror writers to be immune to that stuff – like they’re the big bad wolf or something. We’re really more like the little kid hiding under the bed . . .
6. What made you write the follow up to A Cold Season now?
Although A Cold Season had quite an open ending, I never actually intended to write a sequel. I only really began to think about it because people started asking what happened next, and it got me wondering! I suppose that’s why it’s taken a few years – I didn’t have that story ready, and I didn’t want to write the book for the sake of it. I knew I had to have an idea that felt like a whole to me, that justified a new novel, that would hopefully be an exciting read while wrapping things up the way the characters deserved. And then the idea struck and things began accruing around it, until I felt I was ready to write.
7. What were your thoughts and feelings the first time you returned to the world you created in A Cold Season?
It’s always a slightly odd feeling, going back. As a writer you’re always moving on and working on the next thing, which kind of drives out the ones you’ve just left behind. Even when a book is published, you tend to be immersed in the one that’ll be coming out a year after it. So it had that slightly unreal feeling – on the other hand that’s kind of nice, because it gave me the chance to see the characters afresh and rediscover things I’d forgotten writing. I always somehow knew, though, that A Cold Silence would be Ben’s turn to tell his story, so it takes place a good few years afterward. His mother’s actions in A Cold Season are in some ways dictated by her childhood, and so I wanted to explore how events in the first book would affect the way Ben turned out when he was older.
8. What are you reading currently?
I’ve just rattled through Finders Keepers by Stephen King, as I loved its predecessor, Mr Mercedes. Black Static magazine is also on the bedside table – it’s a showcase for new horror short fiction, and the latest issue is terrific. I’m also reading some non-fiction, Houdini and Conan Doyle, by Christopher Sandford. It explores a fascinating relationship – the stage magician and escape artist who went around debunking the idea of magic and indeed spiritualism, and the man who believed in fairies and séances while creating that most rational of detectives, Sherlock Holmes.
9. What is your biggest fear?
Going right back to those early fairy tales, that would still be loss of those I love. I must have been quite wise back when I was five! It probably sounds naff to some people, too, but I’m terrified of the day I have to say goodbye to my dog. I know, I know: but I love him, and as someone once said to me – a random walker, talking of his own lost dog with tears in his eyes – they don’t live long enough. And I’m scared of dementia, of loss of the self; particularly of being aware of the loss of the self, which is surely even worse.
Course, slugs kind of freak me out too . . .
10. Can you recommend one book which is so scary it has to be read in the sun?
The deep, dark forest in Adam Nevill’s The Ritual remained in some corner of my mind long after I’d finished the book – that could certainly do with a few rays of sunshine! It’s about a group of friends getting lost in a Scandinavian wilderness – plenty of primal horror, and incredibly tense. If I can mention another, Song of Kali by Dan Simmons would be a good one. It’s set in the heat of Calcutta, though it picks the reader up and drops them in an incredibly dark place, so a spot of sun and a G n’ T to hand might be a rather good idea.
Last week as part of our month of Holiday Horrors we gave you the chance to win a copy of each of the books which make up Alison Littlewood omnibus collections Season of Mist.
All you had to do to enter was let us know who your favourite horror character was and why. We had a great response with charcters from Oddbod from Carry on Screaming to Dracula and everything in between but there could only be one winner. So picked entirely at random I am glad to announce the winner of the full Seasons of Mist collection is . . .
As part of our Holiday Horrors we are pleased to bring you a sneak peek of Alison Littlewoods terrifyingly delightful Path of Needles.
Best enjoyed in the sun
That’s right guys, on July 2nd from 18:00 to 19:00 our very own Snorri Kristjansson will be with J P Smythe and Rebecca Levene at Forbidden Planet London for the bumper signing of the summer.
Our very own Snorri Kristjansson was born in Iceland and is a writer and a teacher, with a background in acting, music and stand-up comedy. Path of Gods, the final part in his Valhalla Saga, finds Audun and Ulfar with a new sense of purpose – to ensure that the North remains in the hands of those who hold with the Old Gods. To do this, they must defeat the people who seek to destroy all they have ever known with their new White Christ. But they are powerful enemies and, if Audun and Ulfar are to have any chance of victory, they must find equally powerful allies.
J P Smythe is the author of the Wales Book Of The Year Fiction Award winner The Testimony (2012); The Explorer (2013); and The Machine (2013). Way Down Dark is the first in an extraordinary new YA trilogy by the author. There’s one truth on Australia: you fight or you die. Usually both. Seventeen-year-old Chan’s ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one. The only life that Chan’s ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive. Fiercely independent and self-sufficient, she keeps her head down and lives quietly, careful not to draw attention to herself amidst the violence and disorder. Until the day she makes an extraordinary discovery – a way to escape the living hell that is Australia, and to return Earth. But first Chan must head way down into the darkness – a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.
Rebecca Levene is an experienced author of fiction and non-fiction and has written scripts for TV and video games, including one voiced by Mickey Rourke. She began her career writing media tie-ins for properties ranging from Doctor Who to the Final Destination movies. More recently, she’s had published two original supernatural thrillers and a short story which the Guardian said, “…combines thwarted ambition and a gallery of fascinating secondary characters to wonderfully readable effect”. She is currently helping to storyline and script the hit app Zombies, Run!. In the follow up to the 2014 hit Smiler’s Fair, The Hunter’s Kind, Krishanjit, who was born in tragedy and raised in poverty, never aspired to be anything greater than what he was: a humble goatherd, tending his flock on the slopes of his isolated mountain home.
But Krish has learned that he’s the son of the king of Ashanesland – and the moon god reborn. Now, with the aid of his allies, Krish is determined to fight his murderous father and seize control of Ashanesland. But Dae Hyo, Eric and Olufemi, are dangerously unreliable and hiding secrets of their own.
So clear your calendars for July 2nd and come and meet three of the best authors SFF has to offer.
As part of our month of Holiday Horrors we are very happy to be giving away a copy of each of the books which make up Alison Littlewood omnibus collections Season of Mist.
All you have to do for your chance to win is comment below or send us a tweet with #HolidayHorrors letting us know who your favourite horror character is, and why.
You have 1 week to enter – the competition closes at 16:00 BST on the 15 June 2015 and the winner will be announced at 17:00 the same day.
As Part of Holiday Horrors we are very happy to bring you an extract from the Richard and Judy Bestselling A Cold Season.
Last week we ran a competition to win one of five signed copies of Marked by @suetingey. This week we break the rules of our own competition – and announce seven winners! Six people will get a signed copy of Marked – the seventh will get an extra special prize . . . but more about that in a moment.
FIRST, our massive congrats to:
Do make sure to email us your address so we can get those prizes out to you.
SECOND, an extra special prize for the best entry we’ve had for a competition yet. This goes to @liveotherwise, whose son drew us this awesome drakon, Amythus:
Thank you all for entering. I hope you enjoy the book!
As part of our month of Holiday Horrors we are happy (ok, petrified) to bring to you a roundup of horror films which are still to be released this year, along with their trailers. Which ones are you most looking forward to and what have we missed?
Insidious: Chapter 3
After trying to connect with her dead mother, teenager Quinn Brenner, ask physic Elise Rainier to help her, she refuses due to negotiate events in her childhood. Quinn starts noticing paranormal events happen in her house. After a vicious attack from a demon her father goes back and begs Elise Rainier to use her abilities to contact the other side in hope to stop these attacks by this furious demon content for a body.
A family who move into a remote milllhouse in Ireland find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.
We couldn’t find a trailer – sorry!
Twenty years after an accident during a small town high school play results in death, students at the school resurrect the failed stage production in a misguided attempt to honour the anniversary of the tragedy – but ultimately find out that some things are better left alone.
In the aftermath of the shocking events in Sinister, a protective mother and her 9-year-old twin sons find themselves in a rural house marked for death. James Ransone, who portrayed the concerned sheriff’s deputy in Sinister, will be reprising his character in Sinister 2.
The Visit focuses on a brother and sister who are sent to their grandparents’ remote Pennsylvania farm for a week long trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple is involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home are growing smaller every day.
When Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his trusted assistant Igor go too far in their noble attempts to aid humanity, Victor’s obsession turns to madness. He then unleashes his final creation –a monstrous figure that holds unimaginable terror for anyone its path.
We couldn’t find a trailer – sorry!
In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.
A demon seeks out naughty people to punish them at Christmas time.
We couldn’t find a trailer – sorry!
It’s obviously been a good year for heroic fantasy – and I am thrilled to be able to tell you that our very own Sebastien de Castell has been shortlisted for the DAVID GEMMELL Morningstar Award for Best Debut for Traitor’s Blade, the first in the Greatcoats saga.
He’s got some worthy competition for the Morningstar, so hearty congratulations not just to Sebastien, but to Kameron Hurley, Ben Peek, Brian Stavely and Angus Watson too.
And whilst we don’t have a contender in the Legend or Ravenheart stakes we’d like to raise a glass to Mark Lawrence, as well as John Gwynne, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks, up for the Legend Award for Best Novel. And let’s not forget the artists competing for the Ravenheart Award: Jackie Morris’ cover for The Fool’s Assassin, Mike Bryan’s cover for Half a King, Laura Brett’s work on The Slow Regard for Silent Things, Jason Chan’s cover for Prince of Fools and Sam Green’s artwork for Words of Radiance.
More than 17,000 fantasy readers worldwide voted in the shortlist, and now it’s time to pick the winners: so Vote Early! Vote Often!*
Voting for the shortlists opens today, June 1st, and will close at midnight on July 17th. You can find out how to vote here.
The winners will be announced at the Gemmell Awards ceremony, which will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday August 8th as part of the Nine Worlds convention.
* Joko! You really can vote only once – so make it count!
So grab your old wicker picnic basket, cardboard box or plastic bag and fill it with the best picnicky foods you can lay your hands on, then grab a rug, a bottle of vintage champagne, chilled rosé, fresh spring water or lashings of ginger beer, whichever is your taste, and find yourself a spot where you’ll not be interrupted, because we have a real treat for you . . . and I’ve been sitting on it for five months, waiting for the perfect time . . .
Which is now!
Yes, today is the First of June and, granted, there’s a lot to celebrate – and not just the eponymous Glorious First of June in 1794; surely no one needs reminding about Britain’s triumph in the first naval battle between Britain and France during the French Revolutionary Wars? Nor am I talking about 1215, when Genghis Khan ended the Battle of Beijing when his hordes captured the city**. Or even the first written record of Scotch Whisky appearing in Scotland’s Exchequer Rolls in 1495*** . I’m not talking about Anne Boleyn being crowned Queen of England in 1533, or the homing pigeon who completed the 55-day 6,835-mile-trip from Namibia to London in 1845. I could, of course, be thinking of the publication day in 1857 of Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal, or the day General Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Confederate Army in 1862 or the first Zeppelin air raid over England in 1915 . . .
For what better way to while away those lazy summer days than by dipping into dark places with two of our most acclaimed horror writers? Seasons of Mist by Alison Littlewood includes Path of Needles and The Unquiet House as well as the Richard & Judy bestseller A Cold Season – and just in case that wasn’t special enough already, there’s a sneak preview of the long-awaited sequel, A Cold Silence.
And Tom Fletcher’s Thin Places has his loosely linked sequence The Leaping, The Thing on the Shore and The Ravenglass Eye, and a bonus taster for Gleam, the first book in his incredible new Factory Trilogy.
With two such imaginations on offer how could you not already be rushing to buy? But there’s more: for the whole month of the promotion these treats will be on offer for a mere £5.99 each – and you need to watch the blog, because we’ve got stuff happening every single day – and some of it is free stuff – and we know how much you like a competition giveaway!
So pick up a terror tale and start chilling out: the best possible way to welcome summer!
*The British fleet masterminded by Admiral Lord Howe; taking on France’s Vice-Admiral Louis Thomas Villaret de Joyeuse
**Hordes, generally Mongol
***The distiller, one Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife, was a Tironensian monk – the Tironensians were well regarded for their skills as alchemists and horticulturalists, as well as whisky-makers (or is that alchemy too?) So it’s not for nothing that Lindores Abbey is known as the ‘Birthplace of Scotch Whisky’.
‘Even when things are really bad, you still have hope, don’t you? Not on this island, this stinking wasteland, where the punishment satellites watch and wait. Instant death, that’s what they bring, if you try to escape. And we waste away here, us Island Detainees, the old, the sick, the infirm; those no longer able to contribute to a collapsed society – at the mercy of those who rule us. But now it’s like my brain is waking up from a deep sleep, ‘cuz I’ve found something: I’ve found the secret of the tunnels that lie beneath us . . . and the person living there.’
Remember Peter Liney’s chilling, scary and ultimately uplifting thriller The Detainee? Just to remind you, it’s in the process of being turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, and Peter’s sharing his Wessex-to-West LA story with us in a series of blog posts. Here’s the second . . .
I remember submitting my rewritten version of The Detainee to the Dorie Simmons Agency. Off the top of my head, I think I was up to submission number thirty something. No one had been interested, and I had no reason to think she would be any different, but by then I was just doing that old writers’ stand-by of ticking off agents one by one. It was quite a shock to receive a letter telling me how much she loved the book, that her assistant had stayed up all night reading it from cover to cover.
I went to meet her at her office in Putney, for some reason expecting her to be very English, late middle-aged and rather fond of wearing tweed, when, in fact, she turned out to be American and possibly the most glamorous agent I’ve met (note to self: psychic powers still not proven).
I came away feeling unusually buoyed and with renewed optimism. I’d signed a contract, perhaps an ‘exploratory’, contract for Dorie to act as my agent for a short period of time in the selling of The Detainee. Finally everything was on track.
Well no, not really. At the end of that period nothing had happened and I was experiencing the return of a feeling I associate uniquely with writing, which is closest aligned to wading blindfolded through porridge and razor blades. Weeks went by, then months. I began to wonder if euthanasia was available on the National Health, and if not, could I put it on my ravaged credit card, when Dorie called. I had to get back to work; not only had she sold The Detainee, she’d sold it as a trilogy. I had two new books to write.
And so I have to nominate Dorie Simmons as the first on a list of people who, quite simply, changed my life. If she hadn’t seen the potential of The Detainee (if her assistant hadn’t burned the midnight oil), I wonder how different my situation would be now? Yes, someone else might’ve been interested, but I’m not so sure – I was rapidly approaching the end of that list of agents. You need a little luck, your random moment, and it strikes as suddenly and briefly as lightning.
The publisher who’d bought The Detainee was a relatively new imprint, Jo Fletcher Books, and with a mixture of heady excitement and fear that I was about to become the victim of one of those ‘reality’ TV programmes, I boarded the train from Wiltshire to London. But no, there I was taken out to lunch by Jo Fletcher herself (and her lovely assistant Nicola), and was charmed by the second person I obviously owe a huge debt of gratitude to. Jo is a very approachable and generous soul who seems to work 25/8 and lives and breathes books. On that fateful day when she shuffles off, I have no doubt she will have arranged for a fully-stocked bookshelf to have been installed in the coffin with her.
Writing a trilogy is far from easy, but it helps when you’ve invented some strong characters you can identify with and who will take you to places you never thought you’d go. It was a pleasure to spend so much time in the company of Clancy (another person who’s changed my life): yesterday’s man, a reformed heavy, now as honest and open as the skies; and Lena, of course, brave beyond all belief. But there are any number of characters I couldn’t be more fond of if they were real and together we’ve taken quite a journey. But if you’d suggested to me after that lunch that one day that journey might include Hollywood, I think I might have advised you to up your medication.
One of the disadvantages of being a writer that makes it even more of a solitary occupation is that your art isn’t immediate. You can ask a person to take a look at your new painting or sculpture or listen to your latest composition, but ‘would you mind sitting here and reading this 340-page manuscript’ seems a bit of an imposition. What you’ve got to do, of course, is pitch – officially and unofficially. Reduce your story down to a minute or two – yes, all of it: the characters, the back story, the plot, that purple passage you’re so fond of – and even better if you can get it down to one ‘high concept’ sentence. A film script is best served by something like, ‘It’s a kind of Harry Potter meets Fifty Shades of Grey’. It’s ironic, really, that we introspective, private writer-types have to learn how to get in people’s faces, put our names forward, shout out about our astonishing talent. I’m rubbish at it, always have been. I couldn’t sell myself as an organ donor. It’s so ‘unBritish’ to talk about how good you are (and you’re never sure of it anyway). If it had been left to me, my career would’ve probably continued its stop-start-and-stall progress for the next goodness knows how many years. What I needed (did I but know it) to take me up to the next dizzying level, was a champion, someone to go into battle for me, and what’s better than one champion? Why two, of course.
So step forward Daniaile Jarry and Penny Karlin, who – I don’t think for one moment it’s an exaggeration to say – have turned out to be not so much life-changers as life-savers.
Next time: Hooray for you-know-where.
That’s right folks, this is your chance to WIN. This week we have 5 copies of the wonderful Marked by debut author Sue Tingey to give away – and all you have to do is describe your drakon. To qualify:
You can enter by tweeting us @JoFletcherBooks, on Facebook, or using the comment boxes below.*
The competition will run for a week from today!
Good luck to all, be you daemon, human – or something else entirely
* You may also get bonus points for tweeting pics of drakons at us – this is in no way for our own amusement*
* It may be for our own amusement
We are sorry we have been so quiet on the blog recently, there have been a few technical issues and we were unable to post anything for a while. But we are now back and our first task is the announce the winners of second Greatcoat decision competition. We had 10 signed copies of Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow to giveaway and the winners are . . .
Be sure to email us your addresses and we will get the copies sent out for you.
Spring is sizzling like a Tesla Coil, and have I been shooting all over the place! Over the last two months it feels as though I’ve become a veritable global ambassador for diversity in SFF – so much so that the High Dignitaries at JFB Towers have asked me to contribute a guest post accounting for all my activities. So if you like your SFF ravings and reflections spliced with travel postcards, here goes!
My circuit started in March, with an appearance at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Spring Literary Festival in London. As readers of Rook Song know, I’m working with Islamic tropes now, starting with headscarves, and last year I sought feedback on characters Una Dayyani and her assistant Marti from SOAS lecturer Dr Amina Yaqin, who happily responded positively. When she later invited me to speak to the theme of ‘Cultural Confluences’ at the festival I felt excited and a little nervous – to tell the truth I hadn’t realised when I started The Gaia Chronicles just how deeply the series would require me to engage with contemporary cultures not my own. But I’d been grappling with these issues in an essay, ‘Steps on the Silk Road’, forthcoming in the journal Critical Muslim (highly recommended – a great blend of reportage, fiction and poetry), so it was high time I joined the conversation. It was an honour to represent SFF in a room full of writers and readers from Bangladesh to Bloomsbury, and receiving some warm responses to my talk felt – like Sindbad Sci-fi’s adoption of Astra – a real leap forward down my path.
In April came a supercharged visit to Prague, where Cyril Simsa, author of the marvellously esoteric short story collection Lost Cartographies, had invited me to read at the library of the Anglo-American University. It was my first time in Prague, but as I wrote before I left, thanks to a childhood friendship my imagination owes a debt to Czech SF and I was eager to research the history of the genre in the country. My first purchase was a book of tales of the Golem, that lumbering husk of a man created, as the myth has it, by the 16th century Rabbi Loew to serve his household and, when occasion demanded, protect the often scapegoated Jewish community. Though animated from clay in an occult ceremony, the Golem is a proto-SF figure, an influence on the major Czech writer Karel Čapek, whose classic play R.U.R. gave us the word “robot” (suggested by his brother, from the Old Church Slavonic robota, or “forced labour”). Though it’s now accepted that the tale came to Prague in the 18th century, in the U Golema restaurant (how could I not!) I found a laminated article from The Fortean Times arguing that the myth was possibly grafted on to a historical figure, a man with learning disabilities or epilepsy, taken in by the Rabbi, whose violent death was hushed up. Speculative, but interesting to contemplate in relation to the hidden history of disabled people: perhaps someone remembered negatively as frightening and monstrous, yet who was in reality cared for and later became a symbol of the power and vulnerability of his entire community. I also began thinking more deeply about the Sec Gens in relation to the Golem, a figure who shifts from docility to berserk fury. Hmmm . . .
Prague means Kafka of course, and I adored the new multimedia museum exploring his relationship to the city, a long phantasmagorical attic filled with music, shadows, a mirrored cinema and black shiny filing cabinets. ‘Prague won’t let you go: the little mother has claws,’ Kafka wrote and after reading his painful Letter to Father (seventy pages of complaint his father never read),). I thought perhaps for writers cities make better parents than people do. Personally, I fell headlong into Prague’s clutches. While hordes of pleasure seekers brandishing selfie sticks might reduce the most impressive Gothic towers, Art Nouveau buildings and Soviet era blocks to little more than the set of a Eurotrash theme park, for me the influx of Easyjet setters could not ruin Prague’s essential allure; if anything they accented the city’s strong absurdist streak. Anywhere else I would have found helmeted tourists beetling around on Segways vulgar intrusions; in Prague the upright motorists seemed anarchic harbingers of the future metamorphosis of urban transportation. Perhaps, as a professional Tarot card reader, the discovery that the city had historically hosted fortune tellers and alchemists overly tinted my vision, but in the bright spring air even the heaving Old Town seemed a liminal metropolis, a dream city forged by mystics and revolutionaries as much as monarchs, tanks and neoliberal agendas.
I began constructing a tower of my own to transport home, its foundation being Cross Roads, two collections of Karel Čapek’s metaphysical and realist short stories from the enterprising Catbird Press, who have made most of the author’s work available in English. And, elusive, subtle, wry, his fiction deserves to be widely known. Cyril kindly gave me a copy of In the Footsteps of the Abominable Snowman, the inventive but a touch dated SF stories of late Czech psychotherapist Josef Nesvadba, and also some of his own translations of Czech SFF literature, my favourite being an extraordinary story by Jan Weiss, ‘The Apostle’, a haunting cross between Bladerunner and The Gulag Archipelago. I was also grateful to Cyril for a pamphlet of short stories and essays by the feminist critic and former SF author Eva Hauserová, whose thoughts on cultural biodiversity seemed to mesh with her passion for permaculture gardening. And I picked up A Guided Tour Through The Museum of Communism by the Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić, a series of acerbic political fables set in various ex-Soviet bloc countries and narrated by animals, beginning with a Czech mouse. Perhaps I’d only built the steps to the doorway of Eastern European SFF, but it felt like a start.
My own books found a niche in Prague. The AAU audience had so many questions that I wound up being interviewed for their online journal by the Russian cultural studies major Anastasiya Shishkina. Anastasiya said I was the first female writer she had ever met – which did seem to justify the carbon footprint of my flight! Finally, to top off this spring frenzy, I returned home to the publication of my interview on ‘FEM SF’ in Writers’ Forum (click the images below – credit Peter Terren/Tesladownunder.com – to read the interview). I mention Mary Shelley as the first SF writer, though since writing my essay on Silk Road fantasy I think the proto-SF tales of the Arabian Nights deserve special mention. There is no evidence, by the way, that Shelley was influenced by tales of the Golem, but if you uncover any please let me know – Cyril will owe me a drink!
And whilst it may be hard for Nicola to drag herself back to work on Monday, something has just arrived which we think might just put that holiday spring back in her step. You guessed it, her first ever acquisition – Marked by Sue Tingey – arrived at the office today. Not only that but it looks beautiful, don’t you think?
So Nicola don’t be too reluctant to come into work on Monday, we have something here that will make you wish you had never left us.
When I started JFB, in January 2011 – yes, I know: a quarter of the way into my fourth year; doesn’t time fly when we’re all having so much fun? – Quercus was a bit . . . well, independent, let’s call it. And it was such a difference, just to get on and do things without having to go through seventeen different meetings, or getting half a dozen signatures . . . and I loved it.
But here’s the thing: it didn’t take me all that long to realise that actually, I like a bit of structure to things (I know: sad, right?). There was a lot to be said for being able to rock up in MD David North’s office and say, ‘Look, I love this book and I think I should offer X for it,’ or to stop by Art Director Patrick Carpenter’s desk and brief a cover on the fly.
The trouble is, these days I have the memory of a thingy – you know, that thing that hasn’t got any wotsit . . .artichoke? Something like that. Anyway, you know what I mean . . . So when I’m then trying to put my budget together, or needing to brief the next in the series before we’ve actually seen the first cover, I’ve got nothing on paper to remind me what was running through my brain at the time I had the earlier discussions.
So I started to introduce a few simple forms, just for my own benefit really, and only to buy books and brief covers; nothing else needed to be so rigidly documented, as far as I was concerned.
And then the rot set in . . . and before I knew it I was once again up to my ears in administrative forms which went from being useful, helpful – and most importantly, brief – to novelette-sized monstrosities that demand you include everything, from ISBNs for every single edition you might ever want to publish (and God forbid you might change your mind at some point and decide to add in a limited-edition price-promoted hardback because you’ve got an excited bookseller ringing you three times a day to tell you you’d be crazy to miss this opportunity) to an appendix including every individual territory you are allowed to sell into (in the old days, ‘World’ did the job. Not now, oh no, now I need to list them all, Vanuatu, Nauru, Mauritania, the lot . . .)
And then we joined Hachette, and with Hachette came Biblio . . . Of course, I told Nicola, it can’t be anywhere near as bad as Information Mangler, the title database I used to use. Famous last words . . .
And of course, it’s not just Biblio; there’s also DAM and SAP and Global Expense and Vista and Nielsen (and no, I have no idea what most of them are for; that’s why I have Nicola).
So if you’re wondering why I am running JFB entirely by myself this week, it’s because I deemed it prudent to graciously allow my super-efficient Editor to go on holiday . . . Even I have to admit it’s a just reward, as it’s not even been a case of just filling in all the necessary information once. Oh no, the process of inputting not just the frontlist books but also every single one of our backlist titles onto Biblio has turned out – what a surprise! – to have been a job not dissimilar to the cleaning of the Augean Stables (although admitted slightly less smelly). But she’s spent months entering and then re-entering the data after first one glitch and then another wipes out her hard work – and then, just when we think we’re safe, we attended a presentation on eBook sales, which strongly suggested we should rewrite every single one of our new title descriptions, and then we decided we’d better start over again because it was a Thursday . . .) No, all right, one of those might have been a slight exaggeration. But what wasn’t was the enormous amount of form-filling that’s taken place in JFB Towers this year.
So Nicola has put down her quill and I have waved her off with a cheery smile on my face (and despair in my heart—) No, no – for she will be back*! And then Jo Fletcher Books will once again run like clockwork.
And in the meantime, Andy is just a few desks away. I haven’t yet told him his job description is changing for the next ten days
So HAPPY EASTER, Team JFB, Beloved Staff and Authors and Artists and Readers alike, and Happy Hols, Nicola.
*If only because I know where you live . . .
Both Stephanie Saulter’s Binary and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs are out in paperback today. To celebrate we wanted to let you know just why both should be making the way to the top of your TBR piles!
‘I’ve said that Rewriting The Script is about focusing on authors who offer something fresh and new in SF/F, and if Stephanie Saulter doesn’t count as one of those – indeed, perhaps as one of the brightest and best – then I don’t know who does. This is another five-star effort from a writer that you absolutely do not want to allow to fly under the radar – and for a second-book outing, that’s pretty remarkable all by itself.’
Over The Effing Rainbow
‘Great characters and a superb storyline that will make you stop and wonder. If you are looking for a unique concept in science-fiction, get the revolution series. You won’t go wrong.’
The Book Plank
‘Some books are good, some books are even great. This one is important. 4.5 out of 5′
‘A novel that I would recommend to everyone. 8.5 out of 10′
The Founding Fields
‘Binary presents an entertaining and compelling story, with a tight and energetic climax . . . tephanie Saulter is definitely an interesting writer, and one whose work I intend to keep seeking out’
‘In Binary Stephanie Saulter has created an evocative and wonderfully crafted story . . . she has truly captured a future setting with all its mess and madness, it’s order and disorder, it’s differences and similarities and it’s sheer humanity’
The Bookbeard’s Blog
‘Stephanie Saulter has once again triumphed in a terrific, un-put-downable, novel with plenty to keep the reader guessing and desperate to find out the truth behind the mystery. 9/10′
Sleepless Musings Of A Well Groomed Moustached Man
‘one of the most powerful, thought provoking books I’ve ever read’
‘If you loved Gemsigns, you’ll be blown away by Binary. What an absolutely amazing book this is . . . I would recommend this series to anyone who likes an intelligent, exciting, extremely well written science fiction story’
Draumr kopa blog
City of Stairs
Speculating on SpecFic
‘City of Stairs is brilliant’
‘He’s (Bennett) said that he hopes that his readers learn something definite about the world from his books; he’s succeeded in his aim. Verdict: A murder mystery, spy thriller, fantasy adventure and philosophical treatise rolled into one. Highly recommended. 9/10’
‘City of Stairs is a smooth novel of near perfection and the best Epic Fantasy novel I’ve read this year. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough’
‘This book is the overwhelming fantasy favorite for 2014 and all others will have a hard time to eclipse it in my list’
Fantasy Book Critic
‘his (Robert Jackson Bennett’s) clever selection of detail, the honesty and depth with which he describes his characters, and his ability to use so many disparate elements to transcend genre set him apart from the crowd. 9/10’
‘With nods to Neil Gaiman’s slumbering deities, Ursula K. LeGuin’s two-faced political schemers and China Miéville’s labyrinthine worlds, City Of Stairs is a compulsively readable and thought-provoking tale that confirms the author as one of the genre’s most exciting talents. 4/5’
‘Well-written throughout and deeply evocative, City of Stairs is an intriguing and clever fantasy adventure. Beginning as a murder mystery, it expands into a novel with as many layers as can be found within the towers and stairwells of Bukilov’
For winter nights – A bookish blog
‘With City of Stairs, Bennett has probably written the perfect blend of fantasy and crime fiction. Everything works . . . one of the best books of the year. A must read.’
‘City of Stairs is deliciously unsettling’
‘City of Stairs is a remarkable book . . . Fantasy has painted itself into a corner with its retread of the same tired tropes on one hand and its retreat into nihilistic “grimdark” on the other. City of Stairs is the antidote to that conundrum: It is fantasy’s way forward. City of Stairs is highly recommended and not to be missed’
Books Brains and Beer
‘I’m honestly not sure I have anything to criticise, or even nitpick over. From start to finish, this is tightly written, expertly plotted, marvellously paced and just plain fun to read. 5/5’
Over the Effing Rainbow
‘Complex, ever evocative, this is the novel as fireworks. Seductively addictive’
‘City of Stairs is a refreshing fantasy that takes risks that pay off in spades . . . It’s accomplished, bizarre, horrifying and imaginative – I can’t wait for more’
Wilder’s Book Review
‘There’s just so much good things about City of Stairs that it’s hard to ignore, and you’ll be blown away by just how awesome it is. 9.5/10’
The Founding Fields
‘City of Stairs definitely makes my list of favourite fantasy novels . . . Excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. 9.5/10’
Fantasy Book Review
‘Sometimes a book comes along which exceeds already lofty expectations. Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs is such a book . . . Stop whatever you are doing and read this book.’
Seans Blog Now
‘it really is beautifully written . . . an exciting novel’
Sleepless Musings of a Well Groomed Moustached Man
You’ve seen Falcio’s judgment of the Murder in Nerrem.
Perhaps you agree with his judgment, perhaps you don’t. Whatever your choice, you must now render the verdict so that those present at the trial will remember your judgment. The Greatcoats do this by singing the verdict.
The most common form of judicial poetry in Tristia is the Cinquain which uses a five-line pattern in which the first line has 2 syllables, the second has 4, the third has 6, the fourth has 8, and the fifth has 2. Here’s a simple example:
Greyth of Nerrem
Did murder farmer Tain
His crime shared by his Lord’s command
Your job is to compose your own Cinquain (which can use any sub-form you like – such as the reverse cinquain, mirror cinquain, butterfly cinquain, or, heck, make up your own variant) in order to render your verdict.
You’re free to use multiple five-line patterns. The Greatcoats tend to use the first to describe the nature of the crime:
Stealing undreamt future
Caring nothing about others
The second (as in the first example above) is most often used to identify the guilty, and a third can be used to command the jurors to uphold the verdict. However you can do it as a single Cinquain or multiple – it’s up to you!
Be sure to share your first piece of judicial poetry with the world below! 10 winners will received signed copies of Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow.
The time has come once again for us to let you know what we are reading. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let us know below, along with what you are currently reading.
I’m cheating this week as I’m not currently reading The Night Circus, I have read it. I read it in about two days. I read it until 2am when I conceded that I needed to sleep at some point before work. I read it in this way because I was as obsessed with that book as I probably would be with the circus if it were real. I want it to be real. The world Morgenstern creates is extravagant, delicious. It positively buzzes off the page. You will want to read on for its beauty and you’ll get lost in its labyrinth of black-and-white tents.
I don’t want to say much more than that, I might break the rules of the game, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you get involved too.
The version I read was the rather pretty PB version, which you can obtain for around £7 from pretty much every bookstore imaginable . . . yes, it was a massive bestseller, I was late to the party.
Unlike Nicola I don’t cheat, which is why I am talking about the book I started yesterday rather than the one I finished yesterday, just saying Nicola – cheating is bad
I am a big Brandon Sanderson fan but have fallen behind in my reading of his – don’t judge me – and so have only just got around to The Alloy of Law, I book which I somehow manage to own three copies of. I am only 76 pages in but I am loving it so far. I love the references to the Mistborn trilogy. I love that the civilisation of Scadrial has developed their technology and beliefs and evolved as a society. And I love Wax and Wayne, not forgetting Lessie, I loved Lessie. (Too much of a spoiler). If you love Sanderson you will love this book, if you have never read Sanderson you will love this book, and should read his others. Basically it has got me feeling a whole lot of love right now, which is never a bad thing.
Oh and before I go, the maps in Sanderson’s books are always beautiful. That’s right, I love them .
The Alloy of Law is available from Waterstones for £6.74.
This month my own reading is being interspersed with long extracts of Patrick O’Brian, Sam Willis and William James, courtesy of @LitAgentDrury (who’s currently on a naval kick, as you’ve probably worked out). He’s been sharing the entire run of Patrick O’Brian novels (his comfort read) – but I’m not complaining; after all, who doesn’t like to hear about the debauching of Maturin’s sloth, or the good doctor’s own particular talents:
‘The deck and the tops were strangely crowded with men, many of them feigning busyness, for the old Sophies had told their present shipmates of that memorable day in the year two, when in much the same light, Dr Maturin had sawed off the top of the gunner’s head, had roused out his brains, had set them to rights, and clapped a silver dome over all, so that the gunner, on coming back to life, was better than new . . .’
And let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like the rousing out of brains on the quarterdeck to end a trying day . . .
And in between, I’m also being regaled with the real-life reports from The Naval History of Great Britain, by William James, first published in 1837 and including transcripts of British naval actions from around the world, of course including the Battles of Trafalgar, and the First of June – which in turn is the subject of Sam Willis’ wonderfully exciting history of that very battle, The Glorious First of June.
So as there’s obviously not much time left for my own choice, in such cases I turn to short fiction, and thanks to the generosity of award-winning indie publisher Alchemy Press, I have Jan Edwards’ Concerning Events at Leinster Gardens to hand. Always nice to see old chums being published . . .
I’ve never really seen myself as an inspirational figure – I’d be a bit worried if I did – but I guess, for fellow writers, my writing career does have an obvious message.
For the last few weeks I’ve been finding my way around Hollywood – yes, really. All those magical names: Hollywood and Vine, Melrose Place, Mulholland Drive, Sunset Boulevard, and me, a lone English pedestrian (it’s true, nobody walks, God knows why they bother building sidewalks; they might as well make them into traffic lanes), strolling around with an expression of shock and bemusement only disturbed by an occasional broad smile or even a burst of laughter.
How on earth did I end up here?
My writing career is far longer than I care to admit, and, actually, started off quite well. In the late 1980s – yes, it really is that long ago – I had a sitcom on Channel 4, dramas on BBC radio, I sold a few sketches, wrote, produced and performed in a stage play, but then – don’t ask me why – I got this idea that I wanted to write books (become a ‘proper’ writer, maybe?). A bad decision, some might say, because from thereon my writing career went into freefall, year after year after year. I wrote several books I was happy with, and yes, there was a certain amount of interest, but nothing that ever looked like it might lead to publication. Agents came and went, the process of finding a new one becoming progressively more difficult, and one by one my friends and relations stopped asking me, ‘What are you working on at the moment?’ (and in their position, I probably would’ve been reluctant to risk that embarrassment, too). The lone furrow is the longest one to till (did I just make that up?). Like some mad scientist working away in the basement, I beavered on and on, searching for my breakthrough, shouting for Self-doubt to ‘Get out!’ the moment he put his head round the door.
About midway though that period I wrote a book called The Detainee – in 1998, to be exact. I had a few things on my mind: the fact that the UK was one, if not the, most watched society in the world and perhaps even more so, the ever-growing elderly population, not just here, but in many developed countries. What would happen when there weren’t enough people working to support those who weren’t? What if the State actually went bust and couldn’t support those who needed help: the old, the unemployed, the sick, etc? Would drastic measures have to be taken? But this was seventeen years ago and in a world where everyone was seemingly well off and financial institutions went unquestioned, what could possibly go wrong?
The Detainee did arouse a certain amount of interest. I remember Transworld spoke highly of it and several agents were enthusiastic, but in the end, in Tony Blair’s Britain, well, I guess it just wasn’t its time.
Then, of course, came 2008, the financial world wasn’t made of bricks at all, but of paper (and only worth the ‘IOU a bloody good explanation’ written upon it). I was working as a TEFL teacher and hadn’t built up the resources to take enough time off to write a new novel and so I dug out The Detainee and brought it up to date. Maybe it stood a better chance now?
When I finished, I went back to those people who’d expressed interest and jogged their memories: ‘Remember this? How much you said you liked it?’ Well . . . let’s be fair, it was ten years later. I tried just about every agent I could think of, and then did that old stand-by of just going through The Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook, approaching the As, the Bs, and so on. Still no one wanted to know.
About this time – excuse me digressing into my personal life for a moment – and after living in London for twenty years, I came to one of those impasses we all are occasionally faced with: I had to find somewhere new to live, I was fed up with my day job and wondering if I should perhaps move on. At the same time, my ninety-one–year-old mother was finding it hard to cope alone in her Wiltshire home and really needed someone to be there for her.
It wasn’t an easy decision – I’m a single man, with no one to lean on, to help me through. What’s more, one of the reasons I’d lived in London was to be where it’s happening, where I might meet someone who might help my career. Was part of this decision me finally admitting defeat? Was I in effect calling an end to my writing career?
Sometimes irony really is delicious: within a month of making that fateful move, I received a letter . . .
Next time: those people who change your life for ever.
We can now reveal that Falcio choose option 4. From Falcio’s perspective, it must be choice 4 because it was the only way to enforce the laws against murder while simultaneously protecting the peasants.
The lesson of the Peritas Aequitum is that neither justice nor social order can exist without the other, and yet the two will always be in conflict. Thus the test is this: should the law against murder be set aside in order to accommodate the existing social order? Or must the existing social order be set aside to accommodate the law against murder.
When the social order effectively prevents the punishment of murder then it is the social order itself which must give way, not the law. King Paelis knew this the moment he sent Falcio out to judge the case.
We are please to announce that the following people have won copies of Knight’s Shadow.
Email us your address and we will get you your copy as soon as we can and be sure to come back to the blog next week for the next part of the #GreatcoatsDecide competition.
We are **VERY** excited for Avengers: Age of Ultorn here at JFB towers and so just had to share this new trailer with you. Be sure to check out our YouTube channel to stay up to date with our author videos, favourite trailers and more.
It’s true that I am no stranger to the embargo, but this time it’s been especially hard to stay schtum. I’ve had to keep telling myself that it just makes it all the more exciting, to be able finally to reveal that we’re well on the way to having our first movie of a JFB original publication!
Yes: Peter Liney’s thrilling first novel, The Detainee, described by the FT as: ‘An impressively dark, dystopian piece with much to say about capitalism’s tendency to treat human beings as commodities, disposable when no longer useful’ – has been optioned by Hollywood.
It’s been bought not just by any old production company, however; oh no: it’s gone to the man described as ‘Hollywood’s most bankable producer’ by Business Insider, perhaps more familiarly known to film fans as Basil Iwanyk, whose extensive credits include John Wick, The Town and the Clash of the Titans franchise.
Pretty much everything to do with movies ends up being hurry up and wait, and however much common sense tells you they wouldn’t go to all this trouble and then not finalise, until that last signature’s on the dotted line, you’re tied up in knots of anxiety – and I’m only the publisher, so imagine how much worse for the poor author, who’s been waiting patiently for an inordinately long time to tell everyone Big Guy Clancy’s coming to the silver screen. But all that patience has paid off, for today Thunder Road and Film House Germany and its very prestigious development team have announced the option for The Detainee, which they describe as ‘a brilliant dystopian adventure . . . a Hunger Games for adults’. Even better, Grant Myers (The Maze Runner) is already busy adapting the novel, so let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long to see Clancy, Lena, Jimmy and Delilah and the kids in glorious Technicolor.
I’ll leave Peter to tell you about the deal over the next few weeks, but for now, I’ll leave you with the equally exciting news that I’m about to start editing the final book of Peter’s trilogy, In Constant Fear – and it’s just as exciting as the first two. So watch this space . . .
Today the world is mourning the loss of a literary superstar and I and many, many others are mourning the loss of a dear friend. And knowing that it was coming, since he was diagnosed with an early-onset form of Alzheimer’s eight years ago, turns out to be not much comfort at all.
As I started to write this I found myself getting angry, for all sorts of reasons, not least that 66 is way too young for anyone to die, let alone someone who’s brought so much pleasure to so many people. Terry wasn’t just a brilliant writer; he was far more than that: a man of enormous brain and insatiable curiosity, and Britain’s best and most effective satirist. But last night most of the newsreaders were reporting ‘the death of the fantasy writer Sir Terry Pratchett’ and I found myself getting cross at that too: why he wasn’t he just ‘the writer’? Yes, he wrote fantasy and SF, but so have Salman Rushdie and Kazuo Ishiguro and Margaret Atwood and Ursula K. Le Guin and untold numbers of wonderful, literary authors. And then I started getting mad all over again because now he never will win the Booker or any of the major literary awards, which is an appalling lack of recognition of such an astonishing talent. He did at last win the Carnegie Medal, for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and if you haven’t ever read his speech, treat yourselves. You’ll find it here.
Terry says it better than I can.
But whilst most of the Establishment might have been a bit sniffy about a mere fantasy writer – and a funny one at that – Warwick University stepped up to the plate, making him an Honorary Doctor of Letters – or Hon DLitt – in part because of the cunning way he introduced his huge audience to some key modern science concepts, ‘disguising them as entertainment,’ as he said.
And he sold 80 million books around the world, which is no small feat. In fact, he’s the second best-selling author in Britain, beaten only by JK Rowling. However, I should point out that he was (and may still be) the most shop-lifted author in the UK too, so I reckon that makes him the most read writer by a long shot.
At least he left some 70 books, 40-odd (some very odd) of which are Discworld novels. But that’s just not enough.
Everyone’s using a quote from Good Omens, the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, where Death says, DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH. I’m not alone in wishing he’d waited until after the rush.
Mwah, mwah, Terry.
The fifth annual WOW (Women of the World) Festival at London’s Southbank Centre wrapped up on Sunday 8th March, International Women’s Day. Over the weekend author Stephanie Saulter joined Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birkbeck College; Laurel Sills, co-editor of HOLDFAST magazine; David Moore from Abaddon Books; and chairperson Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, to talk about one of the most prevalent and problematic tropes in fiction: the use of rape as a narrative device. Their discussion on Hollywood, Sci-Fi, Computer Games and Rape was an examination of the current trend for plotlines that revolve around cruelty and sexual violence towards women. The panellists talked about the history of the phenomenon, why it happens and what effect it has, and works in which the topic has been handled sensitively (not to mention those where it hasn’t). The crowd was standing-room-only, and joined in near the end for a lively and thoughtful Q&A.
The entire (hour-long) session is linked below. It’s the kind of discussion that WOW does well.
That’s right. Recent research has shown that Mars use to have an ocean which covered 20% of it’s surface. On top of that the research shows that there would have been water on Mars for a lot longer than we had previously believed, far longer in fact than it took for life to develop on our very own chunk of rock hurtling through space. Find out more below.
There is a test every magistrate must take before becoming a Greatcoat – it comes in the form of a puzzle from a very old book called Peritas Aequitum, which literally means Perils of Justice. It’s quite possible that this book was the original text used to train the very first Greatcoats in centuries past.
This puzzle asks the examinee to decide the outcome of a case for which Tristia’s complex laws provide several different—equally valid—legal outcomes. The Greatcoat confronted by this situation is thus forced to render a verdict even though any choice they make is guaranteed to make matters worse.
I’d always secretly believed that King Paelis had forged the entire Peritas Aequitum as a practical joke on his Greatcoats. That is, until the day I found myself in a small border village named Nerrem.
I’d travelled to Nerrem after receiving word that a farmer had been brutally murdered by a Knight, whose reputation for honourable service to his Lord was known far and wide. My investigation into the event convinced me that the Knight was acting under direct orders from his Lord, who was seeking to take over the farmer’s lands for himself. I was ready to render the verdict when one of the Lord’s retainers approached me.
‘Forgive me, magistrate,’ he said, ‘but there are additional facts you should be aware of.’
‘Such as?’ I’d asked.
‘The farmer’s grandfather stole this land from my Lord. Thus the murder was an act of legitimate and legal revenge.’
Despite my disgust at such an argument, the retainer had a valid point; Tristian law allows for vendettas in such situations.
‘Trattari,’ said a deep voice from behind me.
I turned to see the Knight who’d carried out the killing. ‘I’ll deal with you in a moment,’ I told him.
‘You’ll deal with me now,’ he replied. ‘It was by my hand that the farmer died, and by my choice. Under the Laws of Knightly Conduct, I am within my rights to take full responsibility for the actions. Only I can be prosecuted for the crime.’
I despised the Laws of Knightly Conduct, but he, like the retainer, had an argument that was technically valid.
‘I need to think on this,’ I said, wishing I had sent Kest or Brasti to deal with this case instead.
‘Ahem,’ the retainer said.
‘You again?’ I asked.
‘I merely thought you should hear from this young lady.’
He beckoned the woman in question forward, and I recognised her as the daughter of the man who’d been killed.
‘Magistrate,’ she said. ‘I come before you on behalf of my family to beg that you not pursue this matter. The Lord has offered us an . . . equitable settlement that will ensure the prosperity of our family, so long as neither he nor his loyal Knight are detained any further.’
‘Terrific,’ I said. ‘Anybody else?’
At which point an old man leaning heavily on a staff trudged over to me. He pointed West, into the distance. ‘Who’s going to keep the Margrave in the West from invading if the Lord is arrested? The Margrave’s a brutal man. Who will protect us?’
I now had one of four options:
1. Prosecute no one. The Knight was following orders and removing the Lord would only make the lives of the villagers worse than before.
2. Prosecute the Knight alone. Even though he was simply doing as he was commanded, he was still a killer, and placing the blame on him lessened the damage to the other villagers.
3. Prosecute the Knight and his Lord. Murder must be punished, and while it might hurt the villagers in the short term, allowing murder to go unchecked would harm the country itself in the long term.
4. Prosecute the Knight and his Lord and take away his lands. This would create havoc for the King, but at least I could try to find another noble to wield power in this Lord’s stead, and thereby protect the villagers from the nearby Margrave.
The whole point of the Peritas Aequitum is to teach magistrates that there is often no good solution to be found, and to force them to recognize that they will one day be responsible for creating misery in the name of Justice. When I took the test, I’d spent hours trying to find the right solution and ended up picking one at random. Now that I was faced with the situation in real life, I realised that, for me, there was only one choice.
Falcio was forced to choose and now we ask you, our newest Greatcoats, to do the same. Which path would you choose? If your choice is the same as Falcio’s you could win a copy of Knight’s Shadow. Let us know below or with #GreatcoatsDecide on twitter for your chance to win.
Hi guys! We know you’re all ready and raring to nominate titles for the Hugos, so we (lovely people that we are) decided we would produce a list of all of the JFB titles that are currently eligible for the award. This link will tell you how to have your say for the titles you think are worth it. Winners will be announced at the World Science Fiction convention. So please enjoy perusing our list – and get voting for your favourite titles!
All of the below are eligible for Best Novel:
Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald
Astra by Naomi Foyle
Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell
The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood
Spira Mirabilis by Aidan Harte
Binary by Stephanie Saulter
Murder by Sarah Pinborough
Righteous Fury by Markus Heitz
Blood Will Follow by Snorri Kristjansson
The Oath of the Vayuputras by Amish
Into the Fire by Peter Liney
The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack
The Fourth Gwenevere by John James, edited and completed by John and Caitlin Matthews
Our Lady of the Streets by Tom Pollock
Gleam by Tom Fletcher
The Sword of Feimhin by Frank P. Ryan
Unholy War by David Hair
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Your Servants and Your People by David Towsey
The following is eligible for Best Graphic Story:
Cemtery Girl Book 1 by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, Illustrated by Don Kramer
The following are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer:
Stephanie Saulter with Gemsigns
David Towsey with Your Brother’s Blood
Naomi Foyle with Seoul Survivors
Sebastien de Castell with Traitor’s Blade
Peter Liney with The Detainee
Happy voting everyone!! x
The final week of our February give away is here and this week we want to make it up to you that this year there are only 28 days in February. With a whole day less in the year than a leap year we thought we would give you a reason to cheer as February comes to a close. And all you have to do to win is let us know what you would do if this year was a leap year. Follow us on twitter and tweet us your answer with #MyExtraDay by the end of the 28 February for your chance to win all of the following books.
The first is that I have been busy Planning – and thanks to that, you’ve got our lovely ebook omnibuses – I trust you’re all taking advantage of the super sale price to stock up on our Beloved Authors – maybe you’ve read the hundreds of rave reviews for Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne trilogy, or you loved Will Elliott’s The Pilo Family Circus but haven’t yet sampled his Pendulum trilogy? Well, now’s your chance: grab them whilst you can.
We’ve more coming up too, including the lovely Ali Littlewood and Tom Fletcher (no relation); just watch this space.
And of course we’ve been busy getting assimilated into the Hodder stable, and in JFB’s case, one of the things this means is access to lots of luvverly data. They have this wonderful Insight Team, you see, who conduct surveys and interviews in an effort to pinpoint, amongst other things, who our readers are, where they buy their books, what format they prefer, how often they buy new books, and how they find new authors. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that, and it’s proving to be really interesting.
I’ve been learning about the different buying habits of Enthusiasts, Bookworms and Lost Generations amongst others, and how the different sub-genres break down in terms of readership. I’d like to say there were some huge surprises there, but it’s just as useful to have what you think you know consolidated and confirmed by actual studies.
We’ve also had to deal with a lot of physical changes too, starting with the move from TBS to Bookpoint; I am in awe of those who oversaw the movement of hundreds of thousands of books from the Essex countryside to the Oxfordshire countryside; apparently not one lorry-load was lost – how incredible is that?
Next up is our own move, to Hachette’s new UK headquarters at Carmelite House on the Embankment at Blackfriars (that’s going to be weird for me, as I spent some very happy years in and around Fleet Street; it’ll be good to see how much the Harrow – the Evening News pub, as it was back in the day – has changed. Oh, and the rest of the area too, of course!) However, we’ve been told that there will be significantly less storage space, so we’re having to cull all our files . . . and more worryingly, our books. So I’ve been looking at my 1993 edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, that astonishing piece of work by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, with Brian Stableford and John Grant, and its matching volume, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, by Johns Clute and Grant, with Mike Ashley, Roz Kaveney, David Langford, Ron Tiner, David G. Hartwell and Gary Westfahl, and wondering if I really need to take them with me . . . after all, I had to blow the dust off them when I took them down to check on the editors. So why would I want to lug 2,426 pages with me when I use the updated and improved online versions all the time? After all, checking out the brief entry I wrote for Doris Egan, at that time she’d got four novels and at least one short story to her name (two of those novels published by me, not that I was biased!) Now, of course, she’s also a highly respected screenwriter, producer – and the co-executive producer* on Starz’s rollicking pirate drama Black Sails (highly recommended, if it hasn’t yet crossed your bows).
But on the other hand, browsing on the interweb isn’t the same, and once I’d started looking, I kept reading for another thirty minutes I definitely didn’t have (another reason this is late; sorry, Andy!). And I notice neither Amelia B. Edwards (a British writer of ghost stories) nor Claudia (Jane) Edwards (an American writer, author of, amongst other, the Bastard Princess series) made the cut to the on-line edition, although there are plenty of other Edwardeses to choose from.
So I think somehow I’ll be finding the necessary six inches or so on my desk. And if I’m keeping then, then of course I should keep Mike Ashley’s invaluable The History of the Science Fiction Magazine (Parts 1-4). And now I’m off to decide on the dispensation of another dozen such volumes . . .
So much for the paperless office!
All you have to do to enter this week is follow us on Twitter and let us know your favourite couple in SF and Fantasy with #MyFavCoupleInSFF. Tweet your pick to us by 11:30am GMT on Monday 16 February for you chance to win.
Some of you will remember The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and some of you won’t. Either way what do you think of the trailer for Guy Ritchie’s next film?
Earlier this month we announced one of our evil genius plans for world domination, otherwise known as eBook Omnibus Implementation. The idea was that from February, we would be releasing most of our completed series in eBook omnibus form. I am now very excited to confirm that from the 12th of this month, you will be able to buy these for just £11.99!!
So, I just wanted to give you a little breakdown of what’s coming up and show you the wonderful artwork our art department have created for these omnibuses.
Will see the release of The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy by Tom Pollock and The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop in eBook omnibus form for £11.99.
Will see The Wave Trilogy by Aidan Harte and The Tower and Knife Trilogy by Mazarkis Williams released onto the world. And, you guessed it, they will also be £11.99.
Will see The Demi-Monde Quartet by Rod Rees released for £16.99, The Shiva Trilogy by Amish and The Pendulum Trilogy by Will Elliott released for £11.99.
Let us know what you think below! And for those who purchase these magical bundles of words – we hope you enjoy them.
Until next time . . .
Here at JFB towers we have decided to turn February into the month of giveaways in an attempt to help you get over the January Blues. We have big bundles of books to give away every week and this weeks bundles consists of:
All you have to do to enter is follow us on twitter and send us a tweet with #ThingsToBeExcitedForIn2015 letting us know what you are looking forward to for the rest of 2015. You have until 10:00 am GMT on Monday 9 February to enter. Good luck.
So we love Marvel, we love DC and we love Star Wars. And now we can see what it would be like if all of these worlds collided on the big screen thanks to this epic fan made trailer.
It’s time once again for us to let you know what we are reading. Be sure to keep us posted with what you are currently reading and let us know what you think of the books we are currently enjoying.
Not so long ago I attended a talk in Crystal Palace, during which Emily St. John Mandel read a section of her novel, Station Eleven. I was sold from the moment she started reading.
This novel is centred around the Travelling Symphony, years after an incurable disease decimates most of the population. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d hear similar stories before. But what makes this novel unique is a novel use of Shakespeare, whose plays the Travelling Symphony enact as they travel between the scattered townships that survived.
Shakespeare’s writing does not take a back seat in the novel. It is front and centre, rendered lively and engaging through this new setting, and a strong understanding of the old words – and of how they should be acted out. Emily is a thorough writer, making every fact and quote feel solid and unshakeable, yet this does not bog down the writing. The jumps in time are well-placed and every one brings a new revelation that reveals just that little bit more – but not too much, oh no, you, my friend, need to keep reading. I’m half way through, but so far I have not been disappointed. This novel is well worth the read.
Station Eleven is published by Picador, and you can buy it for £5.99 from Waterstones.
I loved Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex and Irène, they were both brilliant books. So I was very excited about this year’s Camille from MacLehose Press.
I was even more excited when I snagged an ARC and I have to say so far it doesn’t disappoint.
Stylstically it is slightly different from the previous two novels but this is no bad thing. It is refreshing and Lemaitre’s brilliant writing grips you from the very first page. So far it is also less ‘gory’ than Alex and Irène, but again this is no bad thing, the author has done this, as well as anyone if you ask me, and so it is nice to see him take a slight step away and try something new.
I would recommend picking up Camille when it is published on March 5th, whether you are a fan of Pierre Lamaitre’s previous work or not.
What I’m actually reading is some of the 73 submissions that have been languishing, awaiting my return from the Vale of Death (no, not Veil, as in one of said 73 submissions) . . . but that’s not what this blog is about, as Mr Turner told me sternly, so instead I’m going to cheat slightly and mention the author who kept me sane during the Time of the Big Cough and then move onto the next book on my Pile.
Everyone has a go-to author in times of stress – for @LitAgentDrury it’s George McDonald Fraser (and let’s face it, who could fail to be transported away from misery and despair by the antics of the irrepressible Flashman?). One of mine is the wonderful Georgette Heyer. If I were not so honest I’d have claimed this line as mine, but though I might not have coined it I absolutely agree that ‘Georgette Heyer is just about the best fun it is possible to have between soft covers: romantic, funny, zippy . . .’ She was legendary for her research, her historical accuracy (which is not always the case with the Regency romance genre), and for her extraordinary characterisation and plots, often writing about, strong, feisty, empowered women long before that became popular (The Grand Sophy and Venetia are among my absolute favourites). And it appears I am not alone; she includes A.S. Byatt and Her Britannic Majesty Queen Elizabeth II amongst her millions of fans. Nice to know I’m in such exalted company.
But now I’m better, the Heyers are back on the shelf for the time being and I am looking forward to The Martian by Andy Weir, not least because Mr Drury said he enjoyed it so much he didn’t even skip the sciency bits – now there’s an encomium for you! The author is apparently a computer scientist, the son of a scientist, and has revealed that he researched the book to be as realistic as possible based on existing technology. After the traditional slew of rejections from literary agents, he self-published to enormous acclaim (and pretty impressive sales), before being picked up and published in print by Crown in the US and Del Rey in the UK. It’s been described as a cross between Apollo 13 and Castaway.
I’ll tell you what I think next time. And if I don’t like it, there are another 32 of Heyer’s Regencies, not to mention six historical, four contemporary and twelve detective novels – and also not to mention my submissions pile (which is now up to 79 manuscripts whilst I’ve been writing this . . .)
As most of you probably know, Jo Fletcher Books, having been bought by Hachette last year, has gone through some changes recently. These changes mean that I have a few more jobs to do . . . and this in turn means (obviously) that I am IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING, MWAHAHAHAHAHAAAA. Foolish mortals.
But seriously, this has meant that we’ve put several things into action that have been in the pipeline for a while, but had stalled somewhat. And who do you think benefits from these new plans? Oh yes, it’s you, the reader. Perhaps you might like to know what we’ve done? Yes? No? Well, if it’s no, you might not want to keep reading . . .
EVIL GENIUS PLAN NO. 1 (Otherwise known as Ebook Omnibus Implementation)
Yes, from February, Jo Fletcher Books will start doing ebook omnibuses. Up until now, various regulations have rendered us unable to do this, but now we are in business. This will benefit you because we will be pricing them at three books for the price of two. Which means you pay just £11.99 for a whole entire series. Want to know the series that will be going into this deal?
So look out for these from February. You’re welcome.
EVIL GENIUS PLAN NO. 2 (Otherwise known as Bonus Content Implementation)
Yes, that’s right, bonus content is coming to Jo Fletcher Books. I have spent the last few months getting a ton of exclusive extra content together from our authors. This bonus content comes in the form of author interviews, book club extras, short stories, maps and bonus chapters from the next novel. So look out for our paperback and ebook (simultaneous with the paperback) releases, most of which will now contain this extra content. Any PBs containing the extra content will be clearly marked on the front cover, but for now, here’s a list of those books with the bonus content:
This free extra content is a little thank you from us to you for reading our novels. We hope you enjoy all of it!
EVIL GENIUS PLAN NO. 3 (Otherwise known as The Mystery Plan)
This is a project that I’m going to keep the details of slightly more under wraps for a bit, but suffice to say this: JFB Short Story Collection . . . oh yes.
That’s it from me this week, folks! But keep watching the blog and the Twitter feed @JoFletcherBooks for more news!
*As this is a four book series it is £16.99, so four for the price of three
What do you want? Whatever your wish, Acheron can grant it . . . for a price. And Ben Cassidy is about to discover just how scary that price can be. Ben’s always had strict instructions from his mother, Cass, to stay away from his childhood home of Darnshaw. Then an old friend from the village dies unexpectedly and Ben has no choice but to break his promise, for Jessica’s death might be linked to the computer game called Acheron – a game he knows all about.
Ben’s beloved sister Gaila has been playing Acheron too, and so have some more of Ben’s old friends from Darnshaw. And as they delve ever deeper into the world of Acheron, good intentions begin to slip, morals begin to look suspect and some of them find themselves falling deeper into corruption. Ben could save them all, but the price for doing so might just be too high . . .
Alison Littlewood said of her new deal: ‘It has been fabulous working with Jo and her team, so I’m delighted to continue to do so for the next three books! A very nice Christmas present indeed.’
Jo Fletcher said: ‘I’m thrilled to be able to continue working with Alison, who was not just one of my earliest acquisitions for JFB, but my first bestseller. I’m even more excited that the first book is A Cold Silence, the long-awaited sequel to her Richard & Judy Book Club pick A Cold Season – what could be better?’
Praise for A Cold Season:
‘This sensual and rather frightening story has a clever ending – it’s all hugely enjoyable’ Richard Madeley
‘This is a very spooky story. You’ll love it if you are into tales of the occult, or a fan of film classic The Wicker Man’ Judy Finnigan, Women’s Own
‘A scary read that will chill you to the bone … Beware if fact and fiction suddenly start to blur’ CrimeSquad.com
Jo Fletcher Books will publish A Cold Silence in September 2015.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, Beloved Reader. I trust you all had a suitably festive Yule and managed to get through the most depressing day of the year – Monday the 5th January – without too many disasters. (Other than the spunnocks and starlings quarrelling so violently over the fatballs that they managed to pull down the whole line on which the feeders are strung, and a rabid mosquito that doesn’t appear to understand it’s actually midwinter, we’ve got away lightly this year. For which grateful thanks to the elder gods all round).
So from now on, it’s all systems go as we launch into our next exciting year of brilliant books!
I won’t pretend last year was a complete barrel of laughs – being sold is no fun for anyone – but all the grim stuff is now out of the way and we can now concentrate on getting our books out and (even more importantly) into your eager little hands.
2015 is going to be a great year: I can feel it in my bones. After all, it’s started with an invitation to be a guest of honour at Fantasycon in October alongside the wonderful John Connolly – as Fantasycon was one of the first conventions I ever attended (and with Stephen Jones I even ran a few, back in the day), I’m thrilled.
And LitAgentDrury and I will be sharpening our— no, not claws! Pencils! – as we’re going to be appearing at both WhitLit, the Whitstable Literary Festival, in my home town, and Winchester Writers’ Festival in Ian’s home town. (Next year we’ll be looking at towns beginning with the letter B . . .)
You’ll be wondering about what’s going on at JFB, I have no doubt: well, if you thought last year’s output couldn’t be bettered, watch this space. You know how hard I find it to select just two or three from my schedule for special mention, so I’m not going to do that; instead, at the start of each month I’ll whet your appetite with a quick preview of what’s coming – starting with right now, and Fortune’s Blight, the long-awaited sequel to Evie Manieri’s much-loved Blood’s Pride.
In this thrilling novel we join Eofar and Rho as they leave the Shadar bound for Norland, to beg for the Shadar’s independence, little realising that northern fastness has changed a great deal, not least because it has an energetic, ambitious new emperor who’s not going to look kindly on bits of his empire going their own sweet way. Meanwhile, back in the desert kingdom, poisoners are making life impossibly hard for the daimon, and entire families are vanishing without a trace. There’ll be no help coming from their Nomas allies either, for they have troubles of their own. As for Mongrel, she may have put aside her violent past, but her sins are about to revisit her a thousand-fold.
Intrigued? Well, the first review’s just in, from Publishers Weekly, no less, who say:
‘Resolution of that mystery is but one of the multiple intricate plot elements in this carefully crafted novel, which will draw in new and returning readers alike. The suspense, character development, and worldbuilding are all superior, and the ominous tone of the opening is sustained throughout, nicely setting the stage for the trilogy’s conclusion’.
Can’t ask for more than that, can we?
And the riches about, because we’ve got another long-awaited treat too, in the form of Karen Lord’s The Galaxy Game, the sequel to her highly lauded SF novel The Best of All Possible Worlds. Life is not so easy for Grace Delarua’s nephew Rafi. When his schoolmasters, unable to get to grips with his extremely strong psionic ability, cap him so they can analyse his brain, his aunt helps him escape. On Punartam, abilities like his are commonplace – and even better (as far as he’s concerned), the planet is the centre of his favourite sport, Wallrunning . . . and thanks to his best friend, the irrepressible Ntenman, Rafi finds himself training with elite Wallrunners. But it’s not long before Rafi realises he’s actually involved in quite a different game, for the galaxy is changing, and he’s right in the middle of the action.
‘Like The Best of All Possible Worlds before it, The Galaxy Game is a restrained space opera committed to splitting the difference between sweeping themes and smaller, sweeter story beats. It achieves this by focusing on unsuspecting characters caught up in machinations more elaborate than they can imagine – a pretty typical trajectory, to be sure, but don’t be fooled, folks: This is the most normal thing about these extraordinary novels, which take the tropes of science fiction as starting points and twist them both conceptually and intellectually . . . it’s every bit the book The Best of All Possible Worlds was: a smart science fictional fable as inventive and involving as it is finally vital.’
What a fantastic start to the year! And wait till you see what else we’ve got coming—
But, no, let’s ease you in slowly.
I will tell you that I’m hoping to add an amazing storyteller to our roster soon, but I’m revealing nothing more as we have to get through the pre-mortems and presentations and publishing meetings first, and as you now know, nothing is fixed until we have those contracts signed (in blood, natch!), sealed and delivered . . .
As for me, I’m off to edit The Pyre, David Hair’s amazing retelling of the Ramayana – I can’t wait!
But before I go, let me share this with you, hot off the press: Sue Tingey, our only debut this year, has just been selected by Amazon as a Rising Star of 2015. See? I told you we were going to have an amazing year!
The first trailer for Marvel’s Ant-Man was released this week and we thought we would share it with you, just in case you missed it. Enjoy, and let us know what you think below.
That’s because we are SO excited that we are giving away a copy of every first edition title we published this year! Yes you read that right, we are giving away all 26 titles which we published for the first time in 2014, a list which includes Traitor’s Blade, Binary, Blood Will Follow, City of Stairs and Gleam.
All you have to do to win is follow us on twitter and send us your favourite cracker joke. You have until 12:00pm GMT on the 5th of January to enter and the winner will be announced by 12:00pm GMT on the 6th of January.
When Andrew Turner at JFB asked me to do a Christmas blog post, I knew I was in trouble. Andrew wears Christmas jumpers all year round and I don’t even own one; I don’t send Christmas cards, I hate carols and the only Christmas movie I can stand is Gremlins (which is a Christmas movie, in case you’d forgotten). I’m one full-body-green-make-up job, or a pair of ghostly business partners,short of a grumbling Christmas cliché. So, how was I going to share something of my Christmases without depressing everyone or, more importantly, myself?
I thought I’d offer up some small anecdotes of my family’s most epic Christmas fails.
Don’t worry; this isn’t going to turn into a post about drunken disputes, family feuds, or a mother weeping into a glass of sherry. I don’t live in Eastenders. It’s also not going to be a list of terrible presents, though it could have been: there’s nothing quite like the look on the face of someone who has just unwrapped an ironing board cover …
No, my family (like most) is capable of some wonderfully bizarre, sneaky, pitiful Christmas moments and I’d like to share them with you all. Because therapy is expensive.
It feels appropriate to kick off with my own epic Christmas fail. I was just six years old. Now, I do not mention this fact because it excuses my behaviour – no – if anything what I’m about to tell you indicates a developing awareness of what I was capable of, and the power I had over those around me; a power I used to ruin Christmas.
My older brother and sister were home from boarding school for the holidays. I didn’t, and never would, attend a boarding school. I’d visit their campus, with its rolling cricket fields, tree-lined drives and stern limestone buildings. And then I’d return to my concrete-monster of a state school. Over the years I’ve dealt with the bitterness of this inequality . . . clearly. But looking back it was very much on my mind as we drove out beyond their school’s iron-wrought gates a week before Christmas.
When we got home, I got the usual taunting and rough-and-tumble beatings that are an older brother’s right to dish out by birth. He seemed to store it up for a semester and then the flood gates would open the minute he saw me. In this particular instance, I was sandwiched between the sofa and its cushion as my brother attempted all kinds of elaborate dives and elbow-drops. Between sniffles, something broke.
‘I know what you’re getting for Christmas,’ I screamed.
The pummelling stopped. The whole room went quiet. From my wedged vantage point I could see my sister across the room, trying to watch TV, but my brother was a presence I felt rather than saw. I vividly remember her face paling.
‘Don’t,’ she said.
My brother landed hard on the cushion.
They have never forgiven me.
The second story follows on nicely: a little sisterly revenge. Fast-forward five years. I’m eleven, my sister is twenty-one. I’m not quite a teenager (when it all went wrong), which means I’m still excited by Christmas and the opportunity of material gain it represents. My Argos catalogue had more wonky red circles in it than a broken slinky.
So, that year I unwrapped my presents in a frenzy, taking just long enough to read the names on each tag. A present from my sister. I said thank you before a single strip of sellotape was harmed. Alarm bells should have been ringing at her sheepish look, but I dove right in. Curiously there was more wrapping paper beneath the first layer. White, red and blue faded stripes. Deep-down I recognised the paper from somewhere. If it weren’t for my mum filling the house with the heady smell of Christmas tree, cinnamon, and orange, I would have figured it out before the crushing disappointment.
I ripped open the paper and out poured an assortment of penny sweets. About twenty pence worth.
Now, I’ve been a student long enough to forgive the monetary aspect of this epic fail. But what still rankles is that I hated penny sweets and still do; some say I was old before my time.
So she ate them.
To prove that not all epic fails are perpetrated by kids, I thought I’d share a fail by my girlfriend’s father. He gets very excited about Christmas, particularly the presents. To his credit it’s not the receiving, but the giving that he likes.
The scene was fairly typical: early(ish) morning, everyone still in pyjamas, sitting around the tree. One person was designated to hand out the presents. This is how it has always been done in my family. I assume it’s universal, but maybe other people have a scrum beneath the tree? That year, my girlfriend’s dad took on the role. He was always surprised by the number of presents under the tree, which probably had something to do with personally buying about two of them – he had one of those sweet deals where he just signed his name on the tags.
That year his excitement got the better of him. He passed a present to my girlfriend and said:
‘Here, open this book!’
We fell about laughing, he looked confused. We’re not the kind of family to disguise presents – no DVDs with scrunched balls of paper to hide the shape. It was fairly obviously a book, but this line has gone down in family history.
And finally, for the most underhand and pitiful Christmas present epic fail, I have to look further afield: my American cousins. The youngest and only boy – five at the time – had an unfortunate habit of losing his favourite toys towards the end of November. His sisters – seven and nine – helped look for the toys as best they could, but when nothing could be found they did their best to console their brother.
When Christmas Day came my cousin rushed downstairs to open his presents. Lo and behold, his sisters had carefully boxed and wrapped replacement toys for those he lost. Exact replacements. With tears of joy in his eyes, he said:
‘Thanks so much! These were my favourite, but I lost them.’
A month is a long time for a five-year-old. But apparently at the ages of seven and nine, it’s just long enough to hatch a plan that falls so outside of the Christmas spirit, that I am in awe of them to this day; to steal your brother’s toys and then give them back to him as a present isn’t a gambit that can be pulled off for long, but they made the most of it. If it wasn’t so devious, I’d say there was some kind of lesson in there somewhere: something about the mindless joy of consumerism. . . or maybe it’s the thought (or planning) that counts.
Merry Christmas all. Feel free to share your family’s epic present fails in the comments!
It’s nigh on the end of the year and Midwinter is drawing on apace . . . and so one’s thoughts turn automatically to the dark si no, no, to joyful caroling and Yule logs, and mulled cider and mistletoe . . . at least, it would, if I were not missing the caroling on account of having bronchitis, and banned from the mulled anything, on account of the antibiotics, and too weak to dress even a very small tree, let alone chop up last year’s to make this year’s Yule log . . . and as for mistletoe: as I am currently engaged in a competition with LitAgentDrury to see who can cough the loudest and longest, I suspect the only use either of us have for mistletoe will be for the spunnocks, who have no compassion and just chatter on all day long . . . muttermuttermutter . . .
But enough of this seasonal misery. Instead of an end-of-year blog telling you about all the wonderful books we’ve published this year*, I’ve agreed that my redoubtable publicist should instead pose me some Festive Questions. I must have been mad . . .
But I did agree, so here goes:
1. What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
Well. What an absolute stinker of a question to start with! I honestly have no idea . . . I could come over all Hallmarky and say ‘my father’ (which would serve you right! My parents had split up and he’d stayed in Canada while we four children came home to England with my mother – and I’ll never forget hearing a voice in the hallway on Christmas Eve which sounded suspiciously Daddy-like, and thinking I must be dreaming . . . cue the hard glissando and the soaring violins . . .) But I don’t think that’s what you mean, is it? All right, I’ll give it a think, and in the meantime, I’ll move on to the next Question.
2. What was the best Christmas present you ever gave?
Oh hells. Another horrible one. (Note to self: next time Andy says, ‘It’ll be easy!’ just run and hide . . .) How would I know? What *I* think is a wonderful gift may well have reduced the unlucky recipient to . . . well, the fact is, a present’s wonderfulness must surely be in the eye of the receiver? (What a dreadful sentence. I’m obviously still delirious . . .) Well, Ian’s Dalek cufflinks were a huge hit. The signed copy of Joe Hill’s Horns sent nephew Josh into paroxysms of delight (for a moment or two he looked suspiciously like the manic bundle of fur which is Holly-dog, my nevvie Oli’s over-excited spaniel – talking of which, finding a carving the spitting image of Holly was another real ‘Yes!’ moment. The gloriously scented violet rose (quixotically named ‘Rhapsody in Blue’) was a huge hit for purple-obsessed Gilly . . . A Hugh B. Cave book – Uncharted Territory – Steve had never even seen . . . Nope, no idea. I’ll come back to that one too.
3. If you could only give one book as a gift this Christmas what would it be?
Great: so I can upset all but one of my Beloved Authors in one fell swoop . . . actually, no, hold on: there’s a way out of this one. You can tell a great book when, months or years later, lines come into your head and make you smile/laugh/cry/scream/weep/giggle all over again. This little clippit describing Martin Windrow (the founder of Osprey Books, a military historian of high renown and about as far removed from ‘sentimental as you can imagine’) meeting his One True Owl for the first time:
Perched on the back of a sunlit chair by the open window was something about 9in tall and shaped rather like a plump toy penguin. It appeared to be wearing a one-piece knitted jumpsuit of pale grey fluff with brown stitching. Two big, shiny black eyes gazed up at me trustfully. ‘Kweep,’ it said quietly. I leaned a little closer. It blinked its furry grey eyelids, then jumped very deliberately on to my right shoulder.
It felt like a big, warm dandelion head against my check, and it smelled like a milky new kitten. ‘Kweep,’ it repeated, very softly.
Who would not have fallen in love with Mumble the Tawny Owl at that minute? So there we are: that’s easy: The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar by Martin Windrow (Bantam Press). Tick. Next Question.
4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
(What part of ‘sick and enfeebled’ did you not get? Don’t I deserve one easy question?) I grew up in the folk tradition, thanks to my parents, whilst my Grandpapa took care of my classical education – so can I at least have two, one from each side? (But how do I then pick just two as my favourite changes from day to day, let alone year to year? Ah, no, I have it. I was browsing Andrew Gant’s wonderfully entertaining Christmas Carols – and wonderful not just because I steered the Organist, Choirmaster and Composer at Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal towards a certain Literary Agent of our acquaintance after attending a choral workshop of his, and not just because he’s quoting Tolkien by the second page, but because he really gets carols:
They have the power to summon up a special kind of midwinter mood, like the aroma of mince pies and mulled wine and the twinkle of lights on a tree. It’s a kind of magic.
Although I’m tempted to go for Jonathan Rathbone’s magical four-part arrangement of ‘Evening Prayer’ from Engelbert Humperdink’s fairy-tale opera Hänsel and Gretel, I know that’s really just because I didn’t get to sing it myself this year after weeks of rehearsal (though I imagine the good folk at Blackhorse Road tube station know it pretty well by now . . . sorry!). So instead, I’m going for ‘Adeste Fidelis’ – or, ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ in the vernacular – which, legend has it, was a clandestine appeal to British Catholics to support Bonnie Prince Charlie (although Andy Gant points out that if it was a coded invitation to rebellion, it was, sadly, too subtle for the stolid Hanoverian brain . . .) Oh, and the traditional descant to Sing, choirs of angels, is truly exultant.
In some ways, the folk side is even harder – all I have to do is conjure up the sound of the denizens of Duke’s Folk singing ‘Sweet Chiming Bells’ (a reworking of ‘While Shepherds Watched’) or ‘Wassail, Wassail, Through All of this Land’, one of the dozens of Wassail songs that used to echo through our apple and pear orchards), and it’s Christmas . . . but in fact I’m going to slip over the ocean for ‘The Huron Carol’, a wonderfully haunting Canadian carol written by a Jesuit missionary and set to a French folk tune.
Phew. Right, what’s next?
5. If someone gives you a present you don’t like do you: a) only use it when you are with them b)Return it c) Re-gift it?
At last! Something I can actually answer, for once . . . Not that it’s a simple answer, but here goes: It depends.
What, more? That is a proper answer! Oh, all right: it depends entirely on (a) who gave it and (b) what it is! If it’s a parent, sibling or close friend – well, frankly, shame on you! You deserve to get back How to Knit-Your-Own-Muesli in your Christmas stocking next year! It also depends on if you can get away with not having the three-foot-tall hand-painted bisque porcelain beagle-humping-lamppost sculpture in full view all the time – if said carefully chosen gift doesn’t ever need to make a reappearance, then that’s an easy one: if it’s something I think someone else would really appreciate, then I’ll regift, and if not, I am a great supporter of charities like The Salvation Army – just because I don’t care for it, doesn’t mean someone might pay handsomely for the eight-foot-wide embroidered and embellished tapestry of sobbing child-labourer muckying up the pretty lady’s watered silk wedding gown (Good luck? Are you mad? That sooty handprint will never come out, no matter how many laundrymaids are punished, you know!) And the next one’s easy too:
6. Christmas puddings – yay or nay?
( I think you mean ‘yea’, don’t you? oops, sorry . . . moving on.) That’s a big, fat ‘YEA!’ because (and I say this in the most humble way you can imagine!) I make the best Christmas pud in the world. It’s round, for a start! And it’s chock-full of fruity, nutty, alcoholic goodness, matured for a year or two (though we rarely manage two years) and then steamed for hours on end before being doused in warm brandy or rum and then brought flaming to the table . . . and it’s got proper silver sixpences in it too – so what could be better?
And so at last we come to Question 7 (and here I was, beginning to fear they would never end . . .)
7. Finally, what are you currently working on?
The end of the year is always a mixture of huge delight and mad panic, because it invariably brings a clutch of deliveries. So I have just this minute finished David Hair’s magnificent ASCENDANT’S RITE, the triumphant finale to his Moontide Quartet and move seamlessly onto what I’m pretty sure will be an equally enthralling end to Stephanie Saulter’s ®Evolution trilogy with REGENERATION, and Peter Liney’s explosive climax to Clancy’s story with IN CONSTANT FEAR – and talking of Clancy, keep watching this space because we have some VERY EXCITING NEWS coming early next year. Fast on their heels is the last book in Dave Towsey’s lyrical, gripping zombie Western series; I have no doubt YOUR RESTING PLACE is going to be every bit as original as its predecessors . . .
And I’ve also had submitted novels by a couple of writers I’ve been stalking keeping an eye on over the past few years . . . so plenty to keep me busy until we burst back into resplendent life in the New Year.
So all I need do now is to wish each and every one of you the most splendiferous of Yuletides!
*On the grounds that I’m sure that not only do you all know all about them, I’m hoping a great many of them are going to be lurking in your Christmas stockings and under your trees . . .
And all you have to win is follow us on twitter and send a tweet which includes #JFBChristmasAdvent. Easy right!?
Day 20 of the Jo Fletcher Books Christmas advent is here and behind today’s door we have a quick Q and A with Karen Lord, author of the upcoming The Galaxy Game.
1.If you could only give one book as a gift this Christmas what would it be?
The best book gifts are matched with the recipient, so I’d have to choose something that would appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. I’d select The Weird: A compendium of strange and dark stories, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, for its high levels of quality and variety.
2. Christmas puddings – yay or nay?
Christmas puddings aren’t really made here. My one and only time having one was in Glasgow.
3. How is Christmas celebrated in Barbados?
The main themes of Christmas in Barbados are food and drink, family and friends, and church/carols. Those who really love Christmas go all out with interior decorations or exterior lights, but I know quite a few people who don’t worry about giving gifts or putting up a tree, who avoid the Christmas commercial rush as much as possible. There’s black cake, not Christmas pudding. There are no Christmas crackers and paper hats. The table at Christmas has a large range of dishes: rice and peas, macaroni pie, sweet potato, fried fish, baked ham, roast pork, roast turkey or chicken with stuffing, jug jug, cole slaw, tossed salad, and steamed vegetables, to name a few. It’s not Christmas unless you can live off the leftovers for at least a week after.
4. Finally, what are you currently working on?
I’m working on a section of a report on national socioeconomic policy. Today I’m looking over journal articles testing the hypothesis that there is a link between an increase in Saharan dust and the incidence of paediatric asthma in Barbados.
I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a few years now, ever since I finished writing Gemsigns. Although the events of the novel lead up to and conclude on Christmas Day – a fact which is hugely significant within the narrative logic of the book – you would never know from the jacket blurb or the majority of the reviews that it has anything to do with Christmas.
That’s fair enough, as the narrative is not constructed to reinforce the traditional religiosity of the season, nor the contemporary commerciality with which we are all familiar. The novel is, however, very interested in the construction, interpretation and evolution of myth. Part of what I was interested in when I wrote it is how the founding mythologies and legends of a future civilisation might develop, and how the cultural standards with which we here in the twenty-first century are familiar might morph and shift and adapt themselves to new ways of thinking and being. I don’t buy the idea that ancient cultural touchstones and archetypes simply disappear under an avalanche of techno-advancement, or that they survive only as a sort of throwback primitivism. I think that in the same way the pagan festivals of the winter solstice and the spring equinox were co-opted and adapted into Christmas and Easter, these cyclical commemorations, these holy-days will adapt and evolve again. One of the many things I was trying to achieve with Gemsigns was an imagining of that sort of deep cultural evolution.
Gemsigns opens with a short introductory passage related by an omniscient narrator who speaks in the riddling, mythopoeic voice of legends, epics, and sacred texts:
When describing a circle one begins anywhere. Each step precedes and succeeds with no greater or less meaning: the tale they tell remains unvaried.
The narrator then tells of a hunted child fleeing unnamed but terrifying pursuers; an escape whose end is indeterminate. Told in the present tense, the subsequent context makes it clear that this incident has occurred in the story’s past, forming an in-the-beginning backdrop to a tale that unfolds in our future: in a London that has survived the apocalypse of a generational pandemic and the dystopia of the resulting slave state. The omniscient voice is gone now, for in the confusion that follows few people are sure of anything, and absolutely no one knows everything.
Day by day over a winter week, the reader witnesses events from the perspective of a range of characters who identify with different political, social, economic and, yes, religious camps. But it is only on the sixth of these days that the reader learns precisely which week they are witness to: for the sixth day, the day of reckoning, is Christmas Eve and the seventh day, the day of resolution, is Christmas.
Within the world of the story these commemorations are no longer the common knowledge of our own era. They are significant to some of the characters, and that significance drives their actions within the narrative, but they no longer matter to society as a whole. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are historical artefacts, observed only by a minority and neither commercially nor socially important.
This is not, then, a Christmas story. Except it kind of is. Among its many characters and influencers are a small child of great significance to the world he inhabits, a powerful bureaucracy (and outlaw theocracy) who are threatened by what he represents, and a band of second-class non-citizens struggling to assert their own humanity and their right to the same freedoms, privileges and responsibilities as everyone else. Their ability to do so is both compromised and symbolised by their commitment to protect and cherish the child, whose existence has the potential to undermine the system under which they are oppressed.
The fact that these conflicts play out to their conclusion over Christmas was not merely for the convenience of the plot. I very consciously wanted to construct a new cultural paradigm within a science-fictional setting. Science fiction rarely, it seems to me, takes the past as seriously as it does the future (one could make the parallel argument that fantasy rarely takes the future as seriously as it does the past, but that is a subject for another essay); it rarely acknowledges how much of its future-world-building must perforce be influenced by the full depth and richness of what has gone before. I thought it would be interesting to use a holy-day of great historical and cultural significance for the unveiling of a new revelation; to take the date that gave us anno domini and from it launch a new era. What happens in Gemsigns at Christmas is what that day, in that possible future, will be remembered for.
This is not, of course, something that religious traditionalists – either within the world of the book or out here in the ‘real’ world – are likely to be pleased about. They generally cannot countenance the notion that the way people live and the things they believe can, must, should be constantly subject to question; subject to change. But I like to think that the legendary rebel whose life informed and whose death founded our own era, if he ever existed and was as good and brave a man as we imagine, would approve.
That’s right, today you get to ask Karen ANYTHING! So be sure to head over there and find out all you want to know.
I’ve discovered this little fact this winter because, in the run up to Christmas, I have been making my entire family various knitted garments. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but I’m poor and it’s thoughtful, dammit, thoughtful. Here are a couple of handy tips for knitting while on trains:
1. Do find the seat on the aisle side – you’re not going to be able to knit if you’re sat between someone else and the wall, there’s no room for your elbows
2. This goes for the middle seat, too
3. Do make sure you have time to complete your row before you get to your station and that you note down the row you’ve finished on – many of my hours have been lost to figuring out which row I’ve just completed
4. Do perfect your ‘Yeah, I’m knitting, so what?’ face to use on all the people who stare at you
5. Don’t contemplate all the ways knitting needles could be used as weapons should you need to defend yourself – it’s distracting and you will inevitably make mistakes
I have so far completed four hats and am half way through a scarf. I’m not sure I’m going to finish all of these presents in time, but for all the knitters out there (I think there are a few in SFF circles judging by the regular presence of classes such as Knit Your Own Dalek at conventions) I thought I would share just some of the websites where I find my wool and patterns etc., and some extra tips.
1. Deramores. This is where I buy all of my wool. They have numerous deals that crop up frequently and a huge selection of knitting kit. It’s also the website that is the most navigable. I can’t stand messy websites; this one is clean and easy to use. And you can pay with Paypal.
2. Etsy. Has some awesome knitting patterns if you’re willing to pay – especially good for beanies
3. Ebay. If you’re looking for vintage patterns, this is a good place to be, but again, you must be willing to pay
4. Ravelry. A great forum for free patterns. My only gripe with this is how difficult the website is to use, but if you’re patient and willing to trawl through thousands of patterns, you will probably find the one you want for free
5. Simple Knitting by Erika Knight. If you’re a knitting beginner, this book is frankly genius. Filled with beautiful illustrations and using simple, instructive language, it is easy to follow and explains everything you will ever need to know
6. YouTube. Have you come up against an instruction you just can’t fathom? YouTube it. There are hundreds of video instructions that will show you what you need.
7. Finally, check out some of the knitting blogs and websites for helpful tips and free patterns. I’ve recently been following this scarf pattern from Cotton & Cloud, which is a simple and easy, but beautiful pattern that grows quickly once you get the hang of the Make Knot (MK) instruction (YouTube it). You can also check out Wool and the Gang, Skein Queen, and Love Knitting.
Good luck with your knitting projects everyone! And If any of you have any tips for me, do leave them below
This is now. This is the present.
This is the time to lay aside our past, and the nostalgia that buffs our happy memories until they gleam. We must keep our eyes from straying towards the future, with its hazy aura of wishful thinking. The present is yet the hot ground under my feet, the hunger in my belly, the insect buzzing in my ear. It is the pause after the question I cannot answer.
I spent most of my life living apart from this city. I could look down on the Shadar from the windows in the temple, but I could not remember what it felt like to walk through the streets with the dirt kicking up in clouds around my feet or the heat pulsing from the whitewashed houses in the flaming noonday sun. I could only imagine what it felt like to have running children knock into my legs and then dart away, laughing, while I pretended to scold them. I used to be able to smell the sea when the wind blew from the east, but I only could imagine standing on the beach with that same wind blowing through my clothes, listening to the thin voices of the men on the fishing boats calling out to each other or singing ancient songs.
It was nearly thirty years ago that the Dead Ones came to the Shadar, with their white hair and skin, their blue blood, their silent language and their gleaming swords, to dig the black ore out of our mountains. They housed their flying beasts in our sacred temple, enslaved our people and made weapons – black blades, mixed with their own blood, that obeyed their minds as well as their hands – which they then used to carve the rest of the world into the mighty Norland Empire.
The temple is gone now, destroyed by the mad ambition of the Norland governor’s elder daughter, and by the grief felt by one little boy – a Shadari child with the ancient power of our people to move the rocks and sands – for his murdered mother. The entrances to the black ore mines are now blocked up with boulders and the Shadar is free from the rule of the Norland Empire. The city is my home now – but it is not as I once imagined it would be.
Now I walk past houses charred by the fires that swept through three months ago on the night when Frea Eotan, the White Wolf, tried to destroy it all. I see children sitting among the rubble, hungry and crying. I no longer need to imagine the beach, but I have to hold my breath as I pass between smoking funeral pyres to make my way down to the sea. The men on the fishing boats don’t sing anymore.
Ours is a victory counted in losses.
We have sent emissaries to the emperor across the sea to bargain for our continued freedom: the Norland governor’s son, Eofar; the child Dramash, whose terrible power to move the sands cannot be controlled, and the soldier, Rho, atoning for his crimes.
Our allies are few. King Jachad and the Nomas have come to our aid again and again, but they must roam: their men to the desert, their women to the sea. The Mongrel has disappeared, taking her secrets along with her. A drink in any tavern will buy you an account of her death, but I know this: if the Mongrel is dead, it is only because someone new has walked away in her boots.
And there is Isa, the Norlander governor’s youngest daughter, sister to the White Wolf, who stood with us in the uprising against her own people. Victory took her sister, her status, her sword, her left arm, and the love of her gods. It took the hopes she had for a future with the man she loves, who loves her more than his own life. Victory did not take Isa’s courage, nor her honour, because nothing ever could.
Our Shadari ancestors decided to protect our future by destroying our past. It was a decision made in fear and exhaustion. Now our history goes no further back than a glance over our shoulder, and yet I can feel that past closing in on us now, edging its way towards a reckoning. Forgetting what went before neither erases it nor absolves its debtors. Just because you don’t remember drinking in the morning doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for the wine.
And I fear the bill for our victory is about to come due.
Firstly apologies. Due to illness in the JFB office we were unable to open Day 16 of the Jo Fletcher Books Christmas Advent. But fear not, today you will get two treats from our lovely advent, starting with a quick Q and A with Sebastien De Castell, author of Traitor’s Blade.
1. What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
My brother John and his lovely wife Terry once gave me this long, wool coat for Christmas. I had no idea what it was (turns out, it was a greatcoat) and couldn’t imagine what I was going to do with it. Over the years I kept finding myself in all kinds of odd situations – working on a night shoot as an actor, travelling somewhere far away, needing to look formal at a meeting while not freezing to death – and every time I found myself turning to that coat. A few years after I got it I started working on a fantasy novel where I wanted my characters to have something different from the usual knight’s armour. You can probably guess how the rest goes.
2. What was the best Christmas present you ever gave?
I found one of those blank books they sell at stationary stores but this one had a strange silvery medallion on the front and all the pages were of a sort of woven blue cloth-like material. I was often on the road as a musician in those days, leaving Christina (now my wife) alone on weekends. I found a bunch of different little presents – weird things like a poetry keychain or a lighter shaped like a knight’s helmet – and placed each one between two of the pages which I sewed together. I then wrote a very short (terrible) poem as a kind of clue for each one so when I was on the road Christina could have a little surprise whenever she wanted.
3. If you could only give one book as a gift this Christmas what would it be?
I think it would have to be The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It’s a terrific story that has something in it for everyone and it also happens to be about a secret cemetery of forgotten books – who wouldn’t want to read about that?
4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
Ugh. I’m not a Christmas carol kind of guy. That said, I once had to sing and play Feliz Navidad for about twenty-five minutes non-stop so I’m going with that one.
5. If someone gives you a present you don’t like do you: a) only use it when you are with them b)Return it c) Re-gift it?
I usually try to tell them honestly that it’s not something I can see myself using but appreciate the thought behind it. I’d rather they get the money back and spend it on something that someone will truly enjoy. That’s why books make such great gifts – they’re easy to store and you never know when it might be just the thing to inspire you!
6. Christmas puddings – yay or nay?
Desserts that aren’t made of chocolate are an abomination and must be eliminated from our culture and our world.
7. Finally, what are you currently working on?
A few things like . . .
1. Final edits on Knight’s Shadow (with the delightful Jo Fletcher herself!)
2. Writing the draft of Tyrant’s Throne (working title of Greatcoats Book 3)
3. Just wrote the first draft of a fun dark YA portal fantasy with three other collaborators that’s kind of a Narnia meets Game of Thrones sort of thing.
4. Waiting to hear back about the future fate of Spellslinger, my other fantasy series.
5. Desperately hoping for time to get back to my strange mystery novel that I’m lovingly referring to as ‘Nancy Drew meets Memento.’
6. Learning some rather odd Top 40 songs for a couple of musical gigs coming up.
7. Planning a move to France in 2015 for a couple of months.
8. Writing this list and realizing I’m going to have to cut back somewhere . . .
. . . for those who’d rather shove pencils through their own eardrums than listen to any more carols.
By David Hair, author of The Moontide Quartet. David will be enjoying Christmas with family at home in the summer heat of the Antipodes, drinking cold beers and cooking up a storm on the barbeque.
1) December will be Magic, by Kate Bush.
Beautiful, whimsical and moving, always makes me wish I was in the northern hemisphere for Christmas. Snow is at its best when viewed on Christmas cards while sipping beer, in the sun, on a sandy Pacific beach, I’ve always thought.
2) Christmas Valley, by The Walkabouts
The world’s most criminally underrated band do festive melancholy as they do everything: perfectly. A lovely Carla Torgerson vocal gently unfolds while the world turns white, and sad people drink to forget the rest of their year. “Sister says in Lewiston, three rivers come to meet; she’ll get us jobs in a restaurant, we can stagger home each night.” Christmas is for family.
3) Joy, by Tracey Thorn
“You loved it as a kid, and now you need it more than you ever did. It’s because of the dark; we see the beauty in the spark”. The words are lovely and reflective, and it’s EBTG’s Tracey singing them! What more could you want?
4) The Fairytale of New York, by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
Yes, it’s been horribly overplayed and scarcely counts as alternative anymore, but it’s also one of the greatest Christmas themed songs EVER. When Kirsty and Shane start trading abuse halfway through, it’s riotous and joyous and makes you want to stand on your table and belt it out while spilling Guinness over your mates.
5) Christmas Reindeer, by The Knife
Hurrah for playful, obtuse and slightly sinister Christmas-themed Scandi-electronica! Play it loud and confuse your relatives!
6) Unwrap Me, by Saint Etienne
Flirty, cheeky and funny, complete with Sarah Cracknell’s trademark breathy vocals and even a talky bit, for that complete pseudo-70s vibe! If songs were wine, this would be Babycham.
7) I want an Alien this Christmas, by Fountains of Wayne
Because who wouldn’t? The song has just the right mix of kitschy fun for the festive season.
8) Christmas was better in the Eighties, by The Futureheads
Yes it was! And this song is bonkers, like four or five different songs thrown into the mixing bowl, laced with brandy and set alight.
Merry Christmas from New Zealand!
Don’t forget to follow the rest of the #JFBChristmasAdvent on Twitter @JoFletcherBooks and here, where there will be plenty more competitions, author posts, short stories and wish lists to work your way through this Christmas season.
Hello, dear readers! As your resident Viking Elder, I get a lot of rune tablets sent to me around this time of year. Most say things like ‘Dear Finbrad. I not rune good but what I gaf gyvv gif’ and then it becomes hard to read on account of the scratching and the tablets being broken, but occasionally the questions are coherent. Here are a couple that might guide you through the stressful time leading up to Winter Solstice.
Dear Finnbard. I am away a-Viking for eight months a year, often more. What should I fetch for my wife for winter solstice? Last time I gave her the hewn-off hands of my enemies she was not impressed.
– Concerned Helmet-holder, Norway.
Dear Helmet. Trusting in raids as your primary source of gifts can be a double-edged sword. Often you need to make decisions on the fly and it can be quite hard to get blood-stains and the smell of smoke out of clothing even though it has been worn sparingly and cut off the previous owner with the utmost care. However, most if not all women like a strong man who can provide for the home, so I can see your dilemma. I am surprised at your wife rejecting your generous gifts. Have you considered writing and singing to her a seven thousand line skaldic poem? I will just about guarantee that that will put a stop to further requests for gifts.
Dear Finnbard. My son just killed his first man in an ice-hockey game. He wants to come a-Viking with me this winter. Should I let him, as a Winter Solstice present?
– Grim Kveldulfsson, Iceland. P.S. he is seven.
Dear Grim. I think there is sound sense in letting the boy have a go at the rest of the world. If he continues killing in Iceland there might not be that many of you left. Just make sure he doesn’t get tangled up too badly in the politics of court and for the love of everything that’s pagan keep him off the mead.
Dear Finnbard. Last time my husband came home from raiding he had a bunch of rancid, cut-off hands with him in a sack. What should I suggest?
– Disgruntled, Norway.
Dear Disgruntled – divorce him. Right now. He clearly doesn’t understand what women want and need in this modern age. In fact, I’d say you would be within your rights to kill him unless he writes you a seven thousand line skaldic poem.
Dear Finnbard. I am thinking of going over to see my father, who has recently started a colony out west. I’ve got most of the presents sorted but I’m looking for something extra. What should I bring him?
– L. Eriksson, Iceland.
Dear L. Eriksson. You have a choice. Bring three extra barrels of mead or a competent navigator. I’d go for the navigator.
That is all for now, readers or listeners to the one person in the village who can read. Wait patiently until the snow melts for my next instalment in Rune Tablets to Finnbard – 10 things to wear a-Viking in spring!
And that’s it from Snorri Kristjansson, and if you liked this post, you might like to check out The Valhalla Saga . Follow the rest of our #JFBChristmasAdvent series on Twitter @jofletcherbooks for more author posts, wish lists, short stories and competitions!
So, today is Friday, and as it is Friday, we thought we’d give you lovely people the chance to win a little book prize. I say little; it’s actually you know, fairly good . . .
To be in with the chance to win the books pictured here - The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, The City’s Son by Tom Pollock, Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough and The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack – simply tweet us @JoFletcherBooks and include the hashtag JFBChristmasAdvent, or retweet today’s shout out for the competition.
There’s nothing better than a good book at Christmas and so asked Lisa Tuttle, author of The Mysteries, what her Christmas reading would be this year. Find out below.
The idea of having something special picked out to read on Christmas Eve goes back to childhood, when I’d be too excited to go to sleep – but also desperate to do so because it would make morning and presents come more quickly. The conflict of Can’t Sleep/ Must Sleep means that the book I read had to be really good, but not so new and surprising (and long) that it would keep me up all night to finish, which meant the best bet was short stories, or a book I’d read and loved before. I’m more blasé about presents and Christmas morning now (alas!), but when so much of the year is spent trying to keep up with new publications, it’s nice to relax and reread and old favourite. That means I tend to return to the same authors again and again at Christmas. Let’s hear it for comfort reading! Everyone will have their own favourites – what makes the best comfort reading is a very personal thing, of course – but here are my top three authors for Christmas:
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
“We’ve got father and mother and each other,” said Beth contentedly, from her corner.
The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly:
“We haven’t got father, and shall not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each silently added it, thinking of father far away, where the fighting was.
One last look behind, to measure the distance he had made since leaving the ruined Templars’ church, showed him a prospect of company on his walk, in the shape of a rather indistinct personage, who seemed to be making great efforts to catch up with him, but made little, if any, progress. I mean that there was an appearance of running about his movements, but that the distance between him and Parkins did not seem materially to lessen. So, at least, Parkins thought, and decided that he almost certainly did not know him, and that it would be absurd to wait until he came up. For all that, company, he began to think, would really be very welcome on that lonely shore, if only you could choose your companion. In his unenlightened days he had read of meetings in such places which even now would hardly bear thinking of.
Once upon a time, in a gloomy castle on a lonely hill, where there were thirteen clocks that wouldn’t go, there lived a cold, aggressive Duke, and his niece, the Princess Saralinda. She was warm in every wind and weather, but he was always cold. His hands were as cold as his smile and almost as cold as his heart. He wore gloves when he was asleep, and he wore gloves when he was awake, which made it difficult for him to pick up pins or coins or the kernels of nuts, or to tear the wings from nightingales. He was six feet four, and forty-six, and even colder than he thought he was. One eye wore a velvet patch; the other glittered through a monocle, which made half his body seem closer to you than the other half. He had lost one eye when he was twelve, for he was fond of peering into nests and lairs in search of birds and animals to maul. One afternoon, a mother shrike had mauled him first. His nights were spent in evil dreams, and his days were given to wicked schemes.
We recently asked Alison Littlewood, author of the fantastic The Unquiet House, what was on her Christmas Wish List and e thought we would share the answers with you.
First of all, every Christmas list needs a book. There’s always a book, isn’t there? This year, I’m hoping for The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition. The editor, Jack Zipes, has produced translations of the original stories, the ones that existed before later versions stripped most of the darkness away. Here, Cinderella’s sisters slice up their feet to fit that slipper; Rapunzel has her ‘merry time’ with the prince; and the evil queen is no stepmother to Snow White, but her own dear parent. I’m also looking forward to reading new gems, like How the Children Played at Slaughtering. Well, the Grimms never did set out to collect their tales for children . . .
Behind door number 9 of the Jo Fletcher Books Christmas Advent there is a wonderful short story by our newest author Sue Tingey to get you in the mood for her Debut novel, Marked.
He glanced around at the other members of the team – no one was paying him any attention. He sank back into his seat. Christmas Eve had arrived, and with it the ten busiest days of his year. It didn’t help that in recent times the one-man department ‘downstairs’ had decided to start throwing out natural disasters on a regular basis: tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, you name it – and Peter was left to contend with the endless queue of frightened and bemused people that resulted from those actions. Perhaps it’s time for me to retire.
‘Ready for the off?’ a gentle voice said from beside him. ‘There’s already a queue.’
‘What have we got so far?’
‘Two naturals and a motorway pile up.’
‘All right, let’s get going,’ he said, and reached for his admissions book and pen.
The two naturals turned out to be an earthquake in Japan and a mudslide in Kenya. Twenty-four souls in total and all but one received admission. The pile up on the M25 was a different matter. The driver and his three mates who had caused the accident were high on crack and had robbed a pensioner an hour earlier, and their lives were a litany of cruelty heaped on innocents. Peter heaved a weary sigh as the last soul from the crash disappeared round the corner. He couldn’t fathom why humans were so self-destructive.
He glanced up from the register and took a moment to watch Teresa patrol the growing queue as it shuffled forward. She was an angel in every sense of the word. She calmed and placated with just a word, a gentle smile or a light touch of the hand. The rest of the team were also hard at work, sorting the huge numbers of souls as they arrived. Some were terrified, some were angry and others were still in shock, but each and every one of them was handled with quiet and calm efficiency.
‘There’s been some kind of mistake,’ a voice said.
Peter started, pulled from his contemplation, then turned his attention to the young woman in front of him. She was clearly agitated, but defiant.
He studied the ledger. ‘Amy Sanders, aged twenty-four from South London?’ he said.
‘That’s me,’ she replied.
Peter regarded her pretty, pale face for a moment then ran his finger along her entry in the book. This was definitely not what he needed so early in the shift: a self kill. And she was either in denial, or had a serious attitude.
‘Amy,’ he said, keeping his tone gentle but firm. ‘It says here that you deliberately ended your life at ten twenty-eight this morning.’
‘Why would I do that?’ she asked, genuinely surprised.
‘I don’t know. You tell me.’
She chewed on her lip in thought for a moment. ‘Okay, I can see how someone might think I wanted to, but I didn’t really. I mean he’s been such a pig and I wanted him to feel sorry for what he’d done and— Oh Hell . . .’ she said as the penny dropped.
Teresa led the woman away, speaking to her softly.
‘Up or down?’ Paul, his assistant asked.
‘It looked genuinely unintentional; a cry for attention gone wrong. The boss wouldn’t let her go downstairs for that.’
The hours passed in a whirlwind of sad and confused faces. Most of the new arrivals still did not comprehend what had happened to them, and Peter became more despondent with each admission. I’m getting too old for this.
‘Hello. My name’s Olivia.’
Peter looked up. A small girl was peering at him from across the other side of the desk, her chin almost resting on the polished wood. Her face was pale and she had dark smudges under eyes so big that Peter wanted to weep. Soft blonde down covered her head where her hair had started to re-grow and when she stepped back he could see that she was wearing a hospital gown.
‘Hello Olivia. How are you today?’
‘I’m very well thank you,’ she said. ‘I feel much better now.’
‘I’m glad to hear it.’ He glanced at his ledger. Olivia Harris, aged seven.
‘Is this Heaven?’ she asked.
It usually took a while for the souls to understand where they were, but this little girl must have been living with death for so long that she had known immediately where she was. He nodded, unable to speak.
‘Can I wait here for David?’ she asked. ‘I think he’ll be coming soon.’
As Peter ran his finger down the lines of names, Olivia joined him behind the desk.
‘There, see.’ She pointed. ‘David Parks, he was in the bed next to me. We promised that whoever was first would wait for the other—’
‘I’m afraid that’s not allowed,’ said Paul from behind them.
Peter glanced back at him, irritated by the interruption. ‘I think we’ll make an exception for Olivia,’ he said, his voice unusually gruff. ‘Her friend won’t be long.’
Paul looked like he was about to argue, but then thought better of it.
Olivia rewarded Peter with a huge smile: payment enough for breaking one rule . . . and perhaps a few more.
Peter stood and turned to Paul, ‘You take over here for a while.’ His assistant looked at him, surprise in his eyes, and Peter well knew why – not once, in all his long years of service, had he ever left his post during a shift.
Peter ignored Paul’s shock and took hold of the girl’s hand, smiling. ‘Let’s go and see if we can find your friend,’ he said.
Her fingers curled around his and she pulled him with surprising force back along the waiting queue, chattering happily as they walked.
Perhaps I ought to retire, he thought looking down at Olivia’s animated expression, but sometimes this job really isn’t so bad after all.
1. What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
A Playmobile pirate ship. I was, I think, four or five. It was the most massive thing ever. My late and much beloved grandmother bought it (possibly on the cheap – there was no stopping that woman when she spotted a bargain) on something like the third stop of a seventeen-stop coach tour of Europe and carried it with great difficulty through seven countries. It was a regular feature in the bath for a good couple of years.
2. What was the best Christmas present you ever gave?
Two years back I spent a bit of my first publishing advance on a sorely-needed laptop for my wife. I am very bad at keeping secrets, but I managed to keep that one. The look on her face was fairly priceless.
3. If you could only give one book as a gift this Christmas what would it be?
Who on earth only gives one book? That seems to me to be an odd thing to do. Even dividing by the massive JFB bias I’d have to say at this point in time it’d be a toss-up between City of Stairs and Your Brother’s Blood. They’re the best books I’ve read in a while.
4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
Fairytale of New York. Has to be. Even though it has been done to death over the past half-decade or so. A close second is Tim Minchin’s ‘White Wine in the Sun’, which as an expat I can’t really listen to without it getting really dusty in the room.
5. If someone gives you a present you don’t like do you: a) only use it when you are with them b)Return it c) Re-gift it?
I have to say that I don’t really have a go-to in this scenario. I don’t really get presents from people who don’t have a clue what I want, like or use.
6. Christmas puddings – yay or nay?
At the risk of being thrown out of the country – nay. In fact, Christmas Puds are on a very short list of things I would rather not eat. I don’t even know what it is about it that I don’t like – it’s just not for me.
7. Finally, what are you currently working on?
A timely question! At the moment my dance card is relatively full. I have just shipped the last book of the Valhalla Saga off to my beta-reader. I am working on a handful of film things that are currently slorping their way through the vast mire of Development. Novel-wise, I’ve got two different things I’m playing with, and I am also waiting for news on a super secret thing that I cannot tell anyone about just yet. I also look forward to working on a half-stone pound Christmas weight gain, followed by the constructing of a solid January guilt trip.
Day 7 of the Jo Fletcher Books Christmas Advent is here and behind the door today is . . . the first chapter of Karen Lord’s upcoming The Galaxy Game. Enjoy.
The only cure for a sleepless night was to lie in bed and watch the constellations projected on his ceiling. He knew them by heart, had known them since his boy-days on Cygnus Beta when he would climb the homestead water tower to stargaze (and escape his father). Then, they were a distant dream, an ancient tale that he could only trust was true. Now they were the dirt on his boots, the dust in his lungs and a constant pang of care and concern that he carried in his heart. He was homesick for everywhere, for scattered friends and family and colleagues, each with a claim on his attention.
He whispered names in soothing ritual. The First Four, crafted worlds found already seeded with life – Ntshune, Sadira, Zhinu and Terra. Then there were the colonies, bioformed planets shaped and settled by emigrants – Punartam, Ain, Tolimán and more. The Terran system was nearest to his Cygnian heritage, but the Punartam system was closest in travel time and galactic rank. Its sole habitable planet, a first-wave colony almost as prominent as the First Four, was reputed to be the first fully bioformed world, a point still debated by the Academes. Was Cygnus Beta a crafted world that had failed and been restored by human or non-human effort, or a bioforming experiment unrecorded in human history? Punartam could prove its origins; Cygnus Beta could not. Punartam was, of course, the Cygnian name (from a Terran language, like so many other Cygnian names). In Terran stellar nomenclature it was β Geminorum, and Galactic Standard offered a collection of syllables that told the full story of the star’s location, age, luminosity and life-bearing potential. The name they used for themselves was in Simplified Ntshune and it meant the same thing as in Galactic Standard – behold! we are here, we have been here long, see how brightly we shine, we are we.
The founders of Punartam traced their origin to the system called the Mother of humanity. Cygnian name: Ntshune (also from a Terran language). Terran name: α Piscis Austrini. True name: a delicate and yearning melodic phrase in Traditional Ntshune. But there was another claim to Eldest – Sadira. Terran name: ε Eridani. Sadiri name: something unpronounceable (the Sadiri language, even in the simplified standard form, was still a challenge for him to speak). Former leader of the galaxy . . . or at least policeman and judge and occasional executioner. Not much liked though rarely hated, and now occasionally pitied. Sadira was dead, or almost dead, its biosphere locked in toxic regeneration for centuries to come. The seat of government had moved to New Sadira, formerly known to Cygnians as Tolimán. Survivors had settled throughout the colonies, mainly Punartam and Cygnus Beta, but not Ain. Certainly not Ain.
Next in rank. Cygnian name: Zhinu. Terran name: α Lyrae. Most Zhinuvians used the Galactic Standard name, but there were variations of that. In spite of several layers of modern tech and some extreme bioforming, the origin planet of the system had begun as a crafted world. Then there was Terra, Earth. Source of most of the settlers on Cygnus Beta (Terran stellar nomenclature: the unmelodious 16 Cygni B). Youngest of the First Four and most in need of protection. Zhinu, an example of long-term, well-intentioned meddling from both Ntshune and Sadira, was now playing the role of delinquent middle child while the two elder siblings tried to shield Terra from outside influences.
With eyes still fixed on the stars, he reached towards a bowl of datacharms on his bedside table and brushed a familiar piece with the tip of a finger. A woman’s voice filled the room and he sank back onto his pillows with a sigh of comfort.
‘In the beginning, God created human beings, which is to say God put the ingredients together, embedded the instructions for building on the template and put it all into four separate eggs marked “Some Assembly Required”.
‘One egg was thrown down to Sadira. There humanity grew to revere and develop the powers of the mind. Another egg was sent to Ntshune, and the humans who arose there became adept at dealing with matters of the heart. A third egg arrived at Zhinu, and there the focus was on the body, both natural and man-made. The last egg came to Terra, and these humans were unmatched in spirit. Strong in belief, they developed minds to speculate and debate, hearts to deplore and adore, and bodies to craft and adapt. Such were their minds, hearts and bodies that they soon began to rival their elder siblings.
‘When the Caretakers saw the Terrans and their many ways of being human, they were both impressed and appalled. Some declared, “See how they combine the four aspects of humanness! Through Terra, all will be transformed – Sadira, Ntshune and Zhinu – into one harmonious whole.” Others predicted, “How can any group survive such fragmentation? They will kill each other,and the rest of humanity will remain forever incomplete.”
‘After some discussion, the Caretakers decided to seal off Terra from the rest of the galaxy until Terran civilisation reached full maturity. They also decided to periodically save them from themselves by placing endangered Terrans on Cygnus Beta, where they could flourish and begin to mix with other humans.’
The voice chuckled and concluded, ‘And that, my dear, is five creation myths for the price of one.’
He smiled. ‘Love you,’ he murmured to the recording. He would see the owner of the voice soon enough. Reaching out once more, he stirred inside the bowl with a finger . . . and frowned. The weight, the chime and the texture of the contents – something was off. He immediately sat up and turned on the lights. Grabbing the bowl, he sifted through the charms with one hand and glared at every trinket and token that rose to the surface. Finally, he turned the bowl upside down, dumping everything into his lap. He scanned the spread of charms on the bed-sheets, counting and cataloguing, although he already knew what was missing.
He looked up, furious. There was only one person who could have taken them, and only one place they could be.
Everyone has a different view on what would be their ‘perfect’ Christmas day, but in my book there are some common ingredients which pop up. I thought I would list them and see what you all thought. So in no particular order:
Presents under the tree are great, but nothing beats the magic of waking up to see that Santa has visited and filled up the stocking at the end of your bed.
It’s a Christmas tradition right? Buck’s Fizz to accompany your cooked breakfast. Start the day as you mean to go on!
I LOVE cooking, and I LOVE cooking on Christmas day. Last year I was cooking from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon and I couldn’t have been happier. Everyone was in the kitchen chatting and laughing, the beer was flowing and food cooking . . . heaven.
Set your Christmas Pudding on Fire
I will admit something to you . . . I don’t like Christmas Pudding. But I love setting one on fire after dinner
After dessert, when you think you can fit no more in, there is always room for cheese.
I don’t care if it is Monopoly, Cluedo, The Logo Game or Articulate. Christmas isn’t Christmas without an evening board game.
For me Christmas is about the whole day, don’t rush things and don’t stress. You are surrounded by the people you love and people who love you. Relax and enjoy every moment.
Oh and I have to add . . . Booze
This is a personal one but there are certain things I have to have on Christmas Day: Buck’s Fizz to start with, as mentioned earlier, beer (for before, during and after the meal), red wine for with the main course and Whiskey for later in the evening.
Combine those ingredients and, for me, you are well on your way to the perfect Christmas day.
Behind day 5 of the JFB Christmas Advent calendar we have a wonderful poem, written and illustrated by the talented and lovely Aidan Harte. Enjoy folks!
Behind the door of the Jo Fletcher Books Advent today are the paperbacks of Murder and The Tower Broken. And not just their pretty covers. No no no. There are 5 shiny copies of each books just laying behind that door for you to win.
And all you have to do is send us a Twitter story which has at least 2 of the following words in: – Tower, Murder and Broken
For example Andrew, genius that he is, came up with: I went to the tower and there had been a murder!
OK, he’s not a genius, but you get the idea.
In the build up to Christmas we sat down with Rachel Pollack, author of The Child Eater, to ask her some festive questions.
1 . What was the best Christmas present you ever received?
A Marlen red and silver fountain pen from Italy.
2. What was the best Christmas present you ever gave?
A luxurious red bathrobe that my friend says she loves wearing.
3. If you could only give one book as a gift this Christmas what would it be?
Boneland, by Alan Garner ( because here in the States no one knows about it)
4. What is your favourite Christmas song?
If they made it, a. If from a store, b.
6. Christmas puddings – yay or nay?
Since I never eat sugar, nay.
7. Finally, what are you currently working on?
A series of shamanic noir novellas, featuring a “Traveler” named Jack Shade.
I’ve been asked by Andy to give you my Christmas wish list for 2014 – and as it doesn’t have anything to do with books, it’s a bit of a weird one! Nevertheless, I’m throwing in my lot with all of our wonderful authors, who are producing loads of lovely extra blog content for advent, and doing my little bit for publicity in the run up to Christmas. So here we go!
So that’s it from me! Happy shopping everyone – and merry Christmas .
All you have to do for your chance to win is follow us on twitter and let people know that the #JFBChristmasAdvent is here by sending a tweet including #JFBChristmasAdvent.
We love booksellers at all times of the year, but spare a special thought for them at Christmas: they are going to spend the next 27 days rushed off their feet trying to find the perfect book for Auntie Mabel to give to Cousin Johnny’s son Knievel or for Granny to wrap for little Susie . . . and it’s not always easy.
But with booksellers like the wonderful Christina Le Galloudec, from Waterstones Oxford, on the case, we know the Christmas presents for the nation are in good hands.
And if you’re wondering why I’ve singled out Christina* this morning, it is just because I awakened to this, from Waterstones’ Blog.
And whilst I know you’ll immediately be clicking on the link, I will just tell you that Christina was one of the Waterstones booksellers asked to pick their most overlooked book of the year, and she’s chosen Traitor’s Blade. I’m obviously not chuffed at the idea that it’s been overlooked (but whilst I think all you Greatcoats out there would disagree I must admit it’s not made the top twenty, so it’s a fair point!) – but I am very happy that she notes ‘a fast, funny, and heartfelt swashbuckling fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Three Musketeers or Scott Lynch. An awesome cast of characters and a richly imagined world rounds out a story full of wit and wisdom.’
So THANK YOU, from Sebastien and me and all at JFB, for that encomium. I’m thrilled you love the book as much as we do.
*And please believe me, Jon, Gina, Dani, Alex, &c, &c, I love each and every one of you just as much!
So the promo piece for the upcoming crossover of Arrow and The Flash is here, and if you weren’t excited before we defy you to not be now!
Like everyone else we here at Jo Fletcher Books love Benedict Cumberbatch, so when we found this video we just had to share it with you.
It is time for us to let you know what we are curtrently reading, and once again Jo is away – this time visitng the states after the World Fantasy Convention. But never fear Nicola and I are still here to keep you up to date with our reading habits. Have you read any of these books? What are you currently reading? Let us know below.
I’ve only just started this book, so forgive me if the first thing I talk about is the cover, because I think this is one of the most beautiful book covers I’ve ever seen (only marginally beaten by The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, another stunningly beautiful David Mitchell novel). It’s unusual, detailed and the more I find myself looking at it, the more I find I want to look at it.
Besides that the story itself (insofar as I’ve managed to read it) is compelling, and provokes a good deal of curiosity in the reader: I am not sure what’s coming, but I am sure that it is going to be good. The main character is an embittered young teenager who is both wise and naïve – annoyingly so – but it is all written in the way any self-absorbed teenager is, it does not go overboard, and as such she is written perfectly. I have been hooked pretty much since page one, and I can’t wait to see where the plot goes from here.
The Bone Clocks is available in Hardback from Foyles for £15.00.
The best Marvel comic, if not the best comic, I have read this year. If you had not read this I recommend that you order it now. The art work is different from anything else I have seen in a Marvel book and it is breath-taking. Every single panel is beautiful, as you would expect once you see the stunning cover.
To match this Matt Fraction’s take on Hawkeye is a delight. He is funny, charming and fully capable in his role as Hawkeye, a member of the Avengers, but he also doesn’t take himself too seriously. This makes for a fun, fast paced read that I would recommend to any fan of comics.
Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Pizza Dog yet. You will love Pizza Dog!
Hawkeye – Volume 1: My Life As A Weapon is available online from Waterstones for £10.69.
Millions of people buy Poppies, and this year have visited the Poppies in the Moat at the Tower of London. Team JFB would love to see how you have supported the Poppy appeal this year and ask you to tweet us a picture of you with your Poppy or visiting the Poppies in the Moat. At the end of the day, 5:00pm GMT, we will select two random entries to win one of two bundles of 10 Jo Fletcher Books titles to say thank you for supporting the British Legion.
Guess what I’ve just finished? Only the edit on my first ever full commission for Jo Fletcher Books – Marked. But it wasn’t just me who worked on it, of course, because the author and I worked in tandem to get this done, whilst Jo oversaw the whole project. In fact, a whole host of people will have gone into this book by the time it’s done – because I’ve also just passed it to our sales, marketing, publicity and rights teams to read. Not forgetting the art team, who created the stunning cover a few months ago.
Pretty soon it will also go off to the typesetter, who will turn it into the print version, and then to the proofreader, and then to the reviewers, who will put it in front of the readers . . .
Making a book is a team effort, but making a book work? That depends on you. On the reading public. Because really, the only thing that makes a book work is word of mouth. So, having seen something going round Facebook recently asking for people to think of the ten books that have influenced them, I thought I’d repost my answers here and invite you to do the same in the comments below – because there’s nothing like a recommendation, but there’s also nothing like a recommendation paired with the words: ‘this book changed my life.’
1. Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton and The Little Red Car (I don’t know the author, but it was about a little red car that helped its owners rescue a sheep from a hedge – if anyone knows the author, comment below!) My nan gave me these when I was little and the pictures and lessons they taught have stayed with me for a long time.
2. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. Who wouldn’t want to climb a magic tree and enter a different world every time they did so? Reading these books gives you that (even if it can’t quite bring you magic medicines and whatever you want for your birthday).
3. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. This one stayed with me because of the image of guinea pigs running around with multicoloured rings tied round their necks in some in-between world. Oh, and I love reading about the emergence of Narnia and the White Witch. Who else was thinking Don’t ring the bell! But also wondering what would happen if they did . . .
4. The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is just such a heartwarming story about kindness and cruelty and love. We should show everyone a little bit of kindness – it could make someone’s day.
5. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. I cried for fully 15 minutes at the end of this trilogy. There really is not a lot like it – and I wanted a daemon so bad!
6. Sabriel by Garth Nix. This was recommended to me by my English teacher, Mrs Forte and I credit it with getting me into fantasy. This is my comfort book, the novel I turn to when I’m feeling sick or scared or anything; I’ve read it so many times it’s silly. It’s excellent writing combined with fantastic characters and a plot that just will not let you go, even after you’re done. No wonder so many people were waiting with baited breath for more books set in this world.
7. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop. I read all three of the Black Jewels books in one sitting, overnight. Nuff said.
8. Blood River by Tim Butcher. An excellent non-fiction novel about a journalists journey overland through the Congo. It highlights – very effectively – some of the worst things going on in the world today, but these are things most remain completely oblivious to. It opens your eyes.
9. Porcelain by Chris Wildgoose and Benjamin Read. A graphic novel that has stayed with me for it’s sheer beauty and unhappy melancholic feel, it’s just a complete delight to look at and read. Recommended for anyone who likes a dark fairy tale story
10. An Ancient History of Britain by Neil Oliver. I love history, especially ancient history, and this novel takes you on a journey from the last ice age to Roman times without ever feeling like a non-fiction novel or hard work. It’s interesting, engaging and perfect if you’re a beginner in this field who doesn’t want to be patronised – like me.
If you want to, join in on Twitter – @jofletcherbooks – or in the comments below. I look forward to reading your top tens whether they be your top ten of the year, your top ten most influential books, your top ten books that must be read – let’s get these recommendations going, shall we?
The results are in and we have our winners. Did you enter our City of Stairs competition? If so find out if you won below and be sure to email us your address so that we can send you your prize. In no particular order the winners are:
As a god of Bulikov: Binding Papyrus where contracts with artists, authors are always honored.
A carving knife that only cuts the amount you need.
A form of transport which takes you where you *need* to go, rather than where you *want* to.
I would like to create a Moral Compass. The owner could consult the device whenever they required ’direction’, looking for guidance to show the right or wrong path for any given dilemma.
A ring that will allow you to understand and speak any language.
All five winners get a copy of City of Stairs and on top of that one winner also won a £100 Red Letter Day experience. And we are pleased to announce that winner is . . .
Drum-roll please . . .
Congratulations Wendy and well done to all of our winners.
Today we awoke with the brilliant news that the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer was here. And boy is it good! Check it out below and let us know what you think of it.
Sebastien de Castell follows up 2014′s best debut, Traitor’s Blade, next March and we are pleased to announce that the book has a brand new title!
Unfortunately we aren’t going to tell you what it is, instead we challenge you to guess the title. We would hate for you to think we were being unfair so we have a clue for you (below) and will offer the first person to guess a signed copy of Traitor’s Blade.
“2 words: Our heroes consider them thugs and take great ombrage at their influence on Tristia.”
Just let us know your guess in the comments section below or on twitter with #Greatcoats2 for your chance to win. Good luck!*
*As no one has got the right answer yet here is your first clue – The word ‘ombrage’ is misspelled. Intentionally.
This may be the biggest Hallowe’en signing ever – a host of talent and a pile of fabulous books to gleefully horrify. Come down and join the gathering!
An English Ghost Story (Titan Books) Kim Newman.
Quatermass and the Pit (Palgrave-Macmillan/BFI Film Classics) Kim Newman.
Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome (Jo Fletcher Books) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Christopher Fowler, Reggie Oliver and Robert Shearman.
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror #25 (Robinson Publishing) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Michael Chislett, Kim Newman, Thana Niveau, Reggie Oliver, Lynda E. Rucker, Robert Shearman, Lavie Tidhar and Stephen Volk.
Best New Horror #1: 25th Anniversary Edition (PS Publishing) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Gallagher, Kim Newman and Laurence Staig.
Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame (Robinson Publishing) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Peter Crowther, Jo Fletcher, Paul Kane, Alison Littlewood, Paul McAuley, Gary McMahon, Lou Morgan, Kim Newman, Thana Niveau, John Llewellyn Probert, Joe Roberts and Conrad Williams.
Zombie Apocalypse! (Robinson Publishing) Stephen Jones, Pat Cadigan, Peter Crowther, Jo Fletcher, Christopher Fowler, Paul McAuley, Kim Newman, Sarah Pinborough, John Llewellyn Probert, Mark Samuels and Joe Roberts.
Zombie Apocalypse! Fightback (Robinson Publishing) Stephen Jones, Pat Cadigan, Peter Crowther, Les Edwards, Jo Fletcher, Amanda Foubister, Christopher Fowler, Paul McAuley, Reggie Oliver, Sarah Pinborough, John Llewellyn Probert, Robert Shearman and Joe Roberts.
Zombie Apocalypse! Washington Deceased (Robinson Publishing) Stephen Jones and Joe Roberts.
Zombie Apocalypse! Horror Hospital (Robinson Publishing) Mark Morris, Stephen Jones, Joe Roberts.
The Wolves of London: Obsidian Heart: Book One (Titan Books) Mark Morris
Brazil (Palgrave-Macmillan/BFI Film Classics) Paul McAuley
Shadows Over Innsmouth (Titan Books) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Adrian Cole, Kim Newman.
Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth (Titan Books) Stephen Jones, Ramsey Campbell, Les Edwards, Paul McAuley, Kim Newman.
There will be in-store give-aways and, for the first 10 people to buy all five Zombie Apocalypse! titles on the day, a prize draw for the latest Sony XperiaTM Z3 phone (worth more than £470!) to tie-in with the publication of Zombie Apocalypse! Endgame.
Other titles by the featured authors will also be available for signing and for those who cannot make it into London, you can pre-order your signed books through the Forbidden Planet website.
Earlier this week I promised Andy I would get him a blog . . . for yesterday. Naturally, I forgot, as I am wont to do when in the middle of an editing project and my brain is largely filled with dwarves and dark elves and battles and above all consistency. But now I am here! Remembering once more to do as I have promised.
The brain is a funny thing. My brain, in particular, loses stuff all the time, leaving thoughts behind me like little trails of breadcrumbs only to be followed when something triggers my memory. It’s why I’m overly fond of lists. And not just any old digital list, oh no, I am old school, I am that pen and paper list person whose scraps of neatly-written-on paper can be found in pockets of drying clothes, in the bottom of my bag, carelessly strewn over desks and, occasionally, on my bookshelf and floor (I live alone, I can make as much mess as I want).
I love lists, because not only do they remind me of things I need to do, but they help to put my head in order; they restore sense to my flighty and fractured universe, these mighty words comfort and hold me, reassuring me that everything I need is safely contained and now unable to be forgotten about.
That is until I lose the list . . . then forget that I made one.
What I do find odd is that, despite my general distracted nature and forgetfulness, I can read a book once and I can remember sentences from it, actions and scenes and where these parts occur in the book and where the consistency fails. When I am editing, I can remember everything with a clarity I barely recognise as my own – I can mentally flip through a book as though it is there in front of me. I know Jo can do this, too, and I also know that Andy is particularly good at spotting consistency errors. So I often find myself wondering, why am I so crap at remembering everything else? At least it’s a useful skill in my career, I suppose. Imagine if I’d chosen to be a teacher – I’d probably forget the kids.
Now it’s back to Devastating Hate and Tark Draan, where the älfar are currently conquering Girdlegard.
Don’t forget to comment below, come see us on Twitter and enter our amazing competition for £100 worth of red letter days vouchers and a copy of the brilliant-beyond-words City of Stairs – open until 30th October.
So a new Extended TV Spot for Interstellar has hit the internet. Not only does the film look AMAZING but the new clip shows Anne Hathaway telling Matthew McConaughey ‘You might have to decide between seeing your children again and the future of the human race’. What would you decide?
To celebrate the launch of City of Stairs we are offering a very special prize.
We have five copies of the book to give away, plus one lucky winner will receive a £100 Red Letter Day experience.*
All you have to do for your chance to win is let us know on our blog, Facebook page or Twitter – with #CityOfStairs – what tangible miraculous object would you create if you were a god of Bulikov? A door which takes you to the past? A knotted cord that brings rain when untied? These are just some of the miracles the gods brought to Bulikov, but what would you add?
Let us know by October 30th for your chance to win.
*Prize will be supplied in a £100 worth of vouchers for Red Letter Days. Full terms and conditions can be found here.
It’s Friday, and we have a little teaser for you . . . More info soon
When I’m slaving away over a hot manuscript, I don’t like the constant interruptions of email, so I have come to an agreement with myself (that I keep to at least forty per cent of the time): when I am editing, I check email once an hour. Even that’s a bit of an imposition (and it’s one of the reasons I get most editing done in the evenings, when everyone else has settled down to watch twenty-seven episodes of the fifty-third series of Get That Foul-Mouthed Shouty Person in the Tacky Designer Gear Out of The Kitchen of the Littlest Sister’s Grandly Designed House Boat Bake-Off II). Anyway, that’s my rule and I stick to it enough that sometimes I can even achieve the 50-page-a-day target I set myself*.
It’s always a little aggravating, then, when I discover I’ve broken my concentration for an email that has as its subject line:
May we drop by during the Frankfurt Book Fair 2014?
You have all shared the pain of my back-to-back Frankfurt schedule before now, and as Nicola stood in so brilliantly for me last year when I was felled by a lupus flare, you know it’s not just me; every editor and rights exec attending the book fair is completely booked up and entirely focused on selling the rights to their wonderful authors/ finding amazing new authors for their burgeoning lists in easy-to-digest half-hour slots.
This year the Frankfurt Book Fair opens on October 8 – which is 16 days away (ARGH! Breathe deeply. Okay, better now . . .) – and my first appointment is about an hour after I arrive in that fair city. At least that one is in a bar! And the first meeting scheduled this year was actually booked on the last day of the London Book Fair. Which was in April.
So 16 days before the biggest book fair in my calendar, someone thinks I’m going to have time for them to ‘drop by’.
I should just have stopped there, but unfortunately, I did actually open the email. Not only does someone want to ‘drop by’, they want to ‘identify opportunities in the e-book market space where we can jointly work together†’.
Now maybe I’m just aggravated because this is the thirty-seventh such email this month offering to ‘optimize my IT operational cost, and achieve my business goals’ and I’m getting bored of typing the words ‘all my production needs – including my digital needs – are handled by Quercus/Hodder and Hachette UK’.
On Friday I was offered:
the kind appointment at Frankfurt book Fair 2014 to take our business forward mutually.
(Do I give Brownie points for use of colour as well as bold and an entertaining font, I wonder? Perhaps not . . .)
On Thursday, after the initial query email got my aforementioned terse but polite and entirely factual response, I got this virtually by return:
As spoken to you, if you could meet us on any day convenient to you.
If you like our proposition (Indian Pricing & Quality), we can move forward.
And on Wednesday my favourite was:
And did I mention these latter three all offer proof-reading services too? Oh joy!
But I get even more aggravated when my politely worked ‘thanks but no thanks’ email immediately elicits a ‘Yes, but you don’t understand what we can offer you’ response. @LitAgentDrury has taught me an invaluable coping mechanism here (but as I am not sure this is a suitable use for such high-powered toys I have instead taken Option B and ticked ‘This is Spam’ and ‘DELETE!DELETE!DELETE!). It’s the adult way.
I know they have a job to do, and probably if I were offering those services I too would be emailing for appointments. But here is what I would do: I would (a) find out who in the company deals with what I’m offering, and (b) contact them six months before the book fair and (c) give them an example of why my service is much better than anyone else’s. Oh, and I would make sure my initial email was literate and properly spelled and punctuated (especially if offering proof-reading and copy-editing). I would not (a) email everyone in the company and hope someone responds, (b) pepper my email with exciting and emotive phrases like take our business forward mutually and work together for a mutually beneficial business future and We service the world’s largest Children’s Book publisher (although I suspect he didn’t mean it in that way) and (c) I would never ever ask someone if they are having a great day!
So having got that off my chest, and secure in the knowledge that Nicola has pretty well filled my Frankfurt diary anyway, I am returning to my scorching hot manuscript: you will be delighted to know that Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoat’s Lament is everything I’d hoped it would be! And I have more treats in store: Naomi Foyle’s Rook’s Song, the next part in Astra’s story, and A Cold Silence, Ali Littlewood’s follow-up to her Richard & Judy hit A Cold Season, have been delivered, and I have the first chunk of the final part of Clancy’s story, Peter Liney’s In Constant Fear, ready to read too.
You’ll forgive me if I ignore you all for the next few days . . .
The Merc With the Mouth is FINALLY getting his own movie.
After the debacle that was his treatment in X-Men Origins: Wolverine a Deadpool movie was shelved by 20th Century Fox. But after some test footage was recently leaked, and loved, there has been a u-turn and the movie will once again happen.
We can’t wait – and to show you just why here is that leaked test footage. We should warn you there are a few profanities and a little violence in it, as you would expect from Deadpool. Oh and yes that is Ryan Reynolds’ voice and yes, he is still attached to the movie, as are the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).
Fight scenes. They’re fast, they’re dirty, they’re bloody . . . and more often than not they are totally unrealistic. Even the fabled Buffy was very much on the unrealistic side, and not only by dint of it being dramatised; if you were caught in a street fight, Tae Kwon Do (Sarah Michelle Gellar’s martial art of choice) would probably be one of the least effective forms of fighting you could use – anything that requires you to punch from the waist would be (as you leave the head almost completely unguarded). And don’t get me started on the fact people in films always wait until their adversary has turned around (just bash them on the head while they’re not looking and be done darn you – it’s not valiant, but if I were actually fighting someone I know which method I’d choose).
Of course, I’m getting off topic. This is film and I’m talking about books. (Which makes me wonder: is there much difference? For me, I guess, rubbish fight scenes in films are slightly more forgivable than in books – maybe it’s because I don’t have to edit them .)
Sebastien De Castell has his fight scenes down. Although, you might expect that as he’s a fight choreographer at the Vancouver Film School. His fight scenes are fast, frenetic, funny and varied and you never get the same fight twice; a difficult balance. In fact, they’re so good they’re almost a bit of a pain to check through because you get so caught up in them. It took me three days to check the proofs because I kept rereading it!
On the slightly less fun side are the fight scenes you get when someone jumps into the air and somehow manages to fly across the room whilst scissoring their leg back and forth Crouching Tiger style. Think about that for a moment, it looks silly when real humans are doing it, doesn’t it?
So if you must include a fight scene in your novel, have a little think about it first, do a little research, indulge in some martial arts or fencing or whatever, yourself – a proper fight scene is a delight to read; one in which your hero has suddenly become both supremely bendy and super strong is not and it throws you out of the novel. Unless, of course, your hero is Spiderman or the equivalent, then you’re forgiven.
So this week’s little ramble is specifically for those of you who noticed my absence in our regular ‘We’re Currently Reading . . .’ blog.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that two weeks in an antique land gave both @litagentdrury and me time to catch up on the gigantic pile of books we’ve been promising ourselves, and as everyone else in the country is settling down to the first essay of the term, here’s mine, because, as you guessed, this is what I did on my holiday. I should assure you it’s not just pure pleasure, thought: apart from anything else, publishers, editors and agents all need to recalibrate once in a while, and that means reading books of all genres that you know to be good – it’s the only way to ensure you’re taking on truly brilliant writers, not just writers who are less bad. If you’ve spent the last month ploughing through the slush pile it’s far too easy to look at something properly formatted, with paragraphs and not line-spaces, which has obviously been properly spell-checked (rather than just leaving it to Word’s somewhat random dictionary), and think: My gosh, but this person can write!
So whilst it’s true I had several manuscripts delivered just before I went, I decided that they should wait while I reminded myself what really makes a good book.
So in no particular order, here’s what we read on our summer holiday!
First off was Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes, translated brilliantly by Jamie Bullock for Maclehose Press. I made a mistake here: I should have ensured we had two copies so Ian and I could have read it together to avoid the almost overwhelming need to share lines that (deeply embarrassingly) had me snorting in laughter in public. At least it wasn’t just me; Ian found himself in exactly the same situation a day later. I have made it clear to the publisher this book should come with a Public Embarrassment warning – but don’t let that stop you indulging yourself. This is one of those rare cases where the tagline – ‘A merciless satire’ – is not just apt but perfect. And the cover is excellent.
A change in pace was needed after that, so it was off to sixteenth-century Paris on the eve of Saint Bartholomew’s Day for one of the bloodiest, most gruesome novels I have read in a very long time (and I publish horror!). What makes The Twelve Children of Paris so compelling is not just the vivid storytelling, the wonderful characterisation or the gripping plot, but the fact that this is based firmly on real events: the massacre of the Huguenots, when tens of thousands of people were murdered – and not just killed, but raped, maimed, brutalised, tortured, desecrated, and generally destroyed by the rampaging citizens of Paris. Tim Willocks is undoubtedly a writer of genius, and I heartily recommend this, as well as its precursor, The Religion, based on the Siege of Malta (and both published by Jonathan Cape): in both books Willocks doesn’t stint on historical or military detail, while never letting the underpinnings overwhelm the story. But be warned: neither of these books are for the faint-hearted.
I’ve been a fan of Robin Hobb’s since her first novels (back when she was Megan and everyone who was anyone was raving about Wizard of the Pigeons) but haven’t had a chance to read much of her recently. So I was delighted to remind myself of what a powerful storyteller she is when I picked up a reissue of one of her early epics, Assassin’s Apprentice. (Hint to chums at Voyager: I cannot leave the story there . . .)
I’ve told you before to go out and get acquainted with Hermes Diaktoros, Anne Zouroudi’s wonderful protagonist in the (slightly mistitled) ‘The Mysteries of the Greek Detective’ series published by Bloomsbury – mistitled, in my view, because Hermes is not a detective but one who answers to a far higher power than the police; as he himself points out, he is one who understands the broader picture and how all the threads of a situation are woven together . . . The Feast of Artemis was my treat for this year, and I savoured every word, almost as much as the descriptions of the food described so lusciously. I love this series . . .
And from Greece to Turkey with Barbara Nadel: I caught up with an old favourite, the Turkish police inspector Çetin Ikmen, in Death by Design (Headline) – whilst I prefer those set in Istanbul, there is no shortage of excitement when Çetin gets sent to London to work undercover as an ignorant non-English-speaking peasant. From there I moved on to her new series, about a team of private investigators, Lee Arold and Mumtaz Hakin. An Act of Kindness (Quercus), is a fascinating multi-racial murder mystery set in the East End of London, and full of secrets both old and new.
And finally, I ended the first week with a vivid story of love, loyalty and blood feuds in the Borderlands: Andrew Greig’s Fair Helen (Quercus) turned out to be a particularly timely choice, set as it is in the 1590s, as Jamie Saxt waits to take the thrones of Scotland and England. Handsome young Adam Fleming has fallen in love with Helen of Annandale, his best friend’s cousin, but Helen is about to be married off to Rob Bell, a charismatic, ambitious and violent man. Greig’s is a masterful telling of the Border Ballad ‘Fair Helen of Kirconnel Lea’, and I happily sobbed my way through much of it.
So for my second week . . . no, you’ll have to wait for that!
So whilst I was off recovering from my Duathlon yesterday the trailer for The Hunger Games; Mockingjay, Part I was released. Now I am back I thought I would share it with you, you know – on the slim chance that you missed it.
So within days of arriving back from our summer sojourn in Parts Foreign, watching the graceful little egrets stalking the lake, listening to little owls hunting across the mountainside and delighting in the swoops (an eclectic mix of crag martins, swifts, house martins and swallows) cruising the skies, chittering with excitement as they demonstrate their aerial dexterity, not to mention the equally acrobatic and considerably faster F-16s (a different of martin entirely!), I have dived straight back into Publishing. Those heady days of bright blue skies and lots of degrees have already faded into grey as the temperature sinks down into the teens . . .
No matter, for the spunnocks are delighted to have us back (if only to refill the seed holder; how is it possible for a flock of small birds to have demolished a kilo of assorted seeds in two weeks, I ask myself?) and there is plenty of excitement on the horizon as this week we are mainly preparing for Frankfurt – as publishers and booksellers have been doing for more than five hundred years . . . Nope, not a misprint: the first Frankfurt Book Fair was organised by local booksellers not that long after Johannes Gutenberg revolutionised printing by inventing a new type of printing press using moveable type in 1439 . . .
These days, rather than paying Lederhosen-clad young boys and dirndl-wearing girls to take messages from one bookseller or publisher to the next, we send out a hundred or so emails, announcing our presence and requesting appointments. These days I have Nicola to do the juggling of diaries and negotiating for slots – and she’s much tougher than I ever was about leaving time for a lunch break! We have even managed to fight off the many, many companies who are apparently desperate to meet me to discuss the possbilities around Digitization and Content Conversion of your Publications (sic). In the past a couple of these enthusiastic entrepreneurs have managed to slide into the schedule somehow – imagine how desperately disappointed they were to discover that when I said ‘Quercus provides all my production needs, so I can see no point in a meeting!’, what I actually meant was: Quercus provides all my production needs so you turning up here is a complete waste of my time as well as yours. Apparently both of the gentlemen who’d blagged appointments expected me to be so wowed by what they were offering I would instantly tell Quercus – and obviously now Hachette – that I’d rather hand all my ‘Digitization and Content Conversion’ needs to Eboksizusinnit, thank you very much. Sadly for them, this time Nicola is being extra-vigilant* (although she did point out that if they do sneak in, it gives me 30 glorious minutes to rest my voice – but no, I need those slots to make sure our Beloved Authors are distributed far and wide.
So the hotel is booked, the Fair Passes have been distributed (even the one that was found hiding in the greenhouse, for reasons I can’t even begin to explain), and the meeting tables have been allocated (at least, we have to assume the tables have been allocated as this year we will be joining the ever-increasing entity that is the Hachette UK Stand – every year it takes up a few more aisles of Hall 8).
We’ve been through the rights guide to update the entries, changing the titles where necessary, adding the new acquisitions – and because we’re apparently not using printed catalogues this year but displaying the information on our tablets, Nicola’s spent the afternoon collating, printing out and stapling quote sheets and preparing blads of first chapters of our new authors, to give editors a little taster, right then and there, of the delights in store for them.
So now all we have to do it get the AIs up to date . . . but I think that’ll have to wait for tomorrow.
*ARGH! No! That’s what happens when I interfere will a well-oiled machine: I have accidentally offered an appointment to just one of these! Retires to corner to write out 50 times: I will let Nicola make my appointments and not get in the way when she has already got it sorted . . .
So, for those of you paying attention the Con schedule this year, FantasyCon – our last major Con of the year – has just been and gone. It marks the end of one hell of a busy time for us here at the publishers, what with Nine Worlds, Loncon, FantasyCon, Fantasy in the Court and publisher parties thrown by, I think, every SF and Fantasy publishing house in London, all having occurred in the space of about a month and a half. I’m pretty sure this busy season was reflected in the number of people who attended the Con – about half of those I usually see – but it was a lovely weekend, nonetheless.
This year FantasyCon moved to York – a brilliant choice of venue as York is one of the most beautiful places in the UK. Andy and I even managed to wonder into the city and visit the Shambles – a wonderfully crooked little street that marks one of the oldest spots in the city. The hotel itself was probably just the right size for a con as big as this one was. Any bigger though, and I suspect they would have struggled (they were seriously slow at the bar and if there’s one group of people you don’t want to keep waiting for their alcohol, it’s publishers).
Of our authors Tom Pollock, Ali Littlewood, Sarah Pinborough, Stephen Jones and newest author Sue Tingey, graced the con this year – with Tom, Ali, Stephen and Sarah up for awards for The Glass Republic, Path of Needles, Fearie Tales and Mayhem, respectively.
On Friday, Andy and I were roped into seeing the My First Con panel by Ewa Scibor-Rylska, of Waterstones. Even though it quite clearly wasn’t our first con, we joined in and attempted to make some of the newer people feel welcome (although you guys know how scary Andy is, so I’m not sure it worked). After that, we headed upstairs to chat with some of our authors and catch up with other publishers, fans, bloggers, you name it, before heading over to take part in Paul Cornell’s version of Pointless. This was a fantastic set up from Paul and his wife, you could tell they’d gone to a lot of effort to make it happen and it showed in the audience reactions and the amount of fun everyone had. One of four pairs, Andy and I even managed not to come last, winning the first round, which was on literature, obviously (we then failed miserably at the Doctor Who round, but hey, can’t win them all!). After that, we went to Tom’s reading, where he read something from the latest thing he’s working on (that’s right Skyscraper Throne fans, something else emerges from Tom’s imagination), and then disappeared off to dinner with Stephen Jones (getting hopelessly lost on the way), where we had a fantastic evening chatting to Pete and Nicky Crowther of P.S. Publishing. We spent another couple of hours after that chatting with people in the bar and meeting the lovely editors of the shiny Holdfast Magazine, Laurel and Lucy.
On Saturday Tom was on a number of panels, so we attended his But Does it Make Sense? panel on economics in fantasy, then his panel on The Chosen One, in which the panel discussed ideas and versions of The One in SFF and beyond. Quickly popping out to dinner, we then came back and chatted with Ewa and Nazia of Waterstones and the organizer of all these wonderful panels: Glen Mehn. Then it was time for the disco where the only song the DJ had out of the 5 Andy requested was the Macarena – which was promptly played and danced to. I collapsed into bed a little earlier than the others though, because on Sunday I had a panel.
Sunday morning and I woke up nervous. I dislike public speaking quite a lot, so it’s hard for me to get up and do these things. Nevertheless, it was my third panel, so I knew what to expect, and I also knew that Simon, Gillian and Dave would be awesome, thereby taking the pressure off me! In the end, I forgot that I was in front of a room full of people and it turned into a chat with friends. Also, I made people laugh and I reckon that’s about all you can ask for.
Then it was time for the banquet and awards ceremony. I’ve already told you our nominees, so I won’t waste your time again here, but what I will tell you is that the cannelloni was delicious (as was the little lemon meringue that came afterwards – yum!). The banquet ran a little over so the awards began just as we were finishing desert. Although we didn’t win anything, it was fantastic that we had been shortlisted for so many! Then the whole thing was over and there was just time for some quick goodbyes before we had to run for the train.
Overall, this was a nice, relaxed weekend and the perfect end to con season. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have in store for us in Nottingham next year.
I honestly don’t know what to say, except that with the death of Graham Joyce this afternoon from cancer, our world has lost a giant: not just because of his writing – for Graham was undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest writers of the fantastical – but personally, for you could not hope to meet a nicer man. There will be many, many of us this evening raising a glass to Graham: let us all remember the good times as we cheer him into Valhalla.
Last week we launched our Discard Vs Pyramid competition, giving 5 people the chance to win a copy of Tom Fletcher’s latest novel, Gleam and we are please to announce the winners who were choosen at random. They are:
Hannah G – Who would live in the Pyramid
Michelle Herbert – Who would live in the Discard
Brian Stabler – Who would live in the Discard
Daphne – Who would live in the Pyramid
Nicole Helfrich – Who would live in the Discard
Congratulations to all of our winners, if you email us your addresses we will get your copies sent to you straight away.
Although Jo is currently away it is once again it’s time for us to let you all know what we are reading this month. Have you read any of these books? What are you currently reading? Let us know below.
Blue Remembered Earth is the story of the Akinya family, a veritable dynasty whose riches began building with the grandmother, Eunice (a shrewd, calculating, incredibly intelligent character that you just have to love), and continue to do so under the reign of her children and grandchildren. Now, the Akinyas practically rule the galaxy through their businesses.
Except Eunice has died, and she has left clues for the family to follow to her final secret. It is left up to Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya – the only two members of the family to have rejected the family business – to trace her journey through the stars to one of Jupiter’s moons, pursued by the cousins and the shady Pan alliance, to uncover what could be her greatest discovery.
I couldn’t possibly describe the scope of this novel in this small section, because this is a mystery that spans the galaxy in stunning detail. The characters are fully-formed individuals whose stories you can’t help but get involved in, the science quite literally blows my mind – even more so because even my limited understanding accepts that most of what Alastair Reynolds is writing about is at least theoretically possible, given that he was an astrophysicist. There is not one moment in this novel where I thought yeah, I’m getting bored now. This book will help you see the galaxy in colour.
And now I’m off to buy all of his other books . . .
Blue Remembered Earth is published by Gollancz and you can get it for £6.99 in Waterstones at the moment.
If you read this blog every month you will know that I only recently got around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora. Well I loved it so much that I HAD to bump Red Seas Under Red Skies up my To Be Read pile.
After escaping from the attentions of the Gray King and his Bondsmage, Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen have fled Camorr and taken a ship to the city state of Tal Verrar. They are soon planning their most spectacular heist yet: the luxurious gaming house, the Sinspire, which no one has ever taken even a single coin from that wasn’t won on the tables or in the other games of chance on offer there. But before long Locke and Jean find themselves involved in an attempt to bring the pirate fleet of the notorious Zamira Drakasha to justice.
I have only just started Red Seas Under Red Skies but already love it, Lynch has maintained the great characters, interesting plot and vivid settings from his first book and I can’t wait to see where this novel takes Locke and Jean.
Red Seas Under Red Skies is published by Gollancz and available from Waterstones for £7.19.
Yesterday our very own Tom Fletcher had a guest blog up at Over The Effing Rainbow where he discussed what it is like to live in the Discard and what inspired him to create the world of Gleam. And now we want to ask you: would you rather be a Discarder or a Pyramidder? 5 copies of the book are up for grabs if you give us your answer, and to help, here are 3 pros and cons of each:
Living in the Pyramid
1. You have a roof over your head and don’t have to worry about food, clothes and other necessities of life
3. You’re not living in the Discard
1. Weekly Bloodletting
2. No control of life’s choices – partners, work even what time you have to be home
3. You do exactly as you’re told or you are sent to the Discard
Living in the Discard
1. There’s limitless space for you to explore and disappear into
2. You have the freedom to do what you want, your life is yours
3. You’re not living in the Pyramid
1. There is no law
2. There is little in the way of medicine and food
3 Everything you need you have to find or steal for yourself
And now it is time for you to decide. Let us know where you what you would rather be – a Discarder or a Pyramidder – and you could win one of 5 copies of Gleam by Tom Fletcher. Simply tell us below or tweet with #DiscardVsPyramid to @jofletcherbooks and 5 winners will be picked at random next Tuesday.
This Friday will mark the start of FantasyCon 2014. For those of you who are unaware of what this is, it is the annual convention run by the British Fantasy Society. This year we’ll be in York along with Guests of Honour Kate Elliott, Charlaine Harris, Toby Whithouse and Larry Rostant, the Master of Ceremonies, Graham Joyce, and hopefully some of you wonderful people also.
I’m pretty excited this year, because it’s the first year in which more than one of our authors has been shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards. We’ve got Tom Pollock’s The Glass Republic up for Best Fantasy Novel, Sarah Pinborough’s Mayhem and Ali Littlewood’s Path of Needles up for Best Horror Novel, and Stephen Jones’ Fearie Tales, illustrated by Alan Lee, up for best anthology. Accordingly, Andy and I will be at the banquet and awards announcement cheering them on.
As well as all of the authors above, Sue Tingey, author of Marked, the newest addition to the JFB list and the only author to have so far been published from our unsolicited submissions, will also be there with us. And if you have a moment, CHECK OUT THE SHINY!! Yes, the cover currently illustrating this blog is the cover of Marked, the cover for the first in Sue’s new series The Soulseer Chronicles. If you would like a bound first chapter of the book, give us a shout @jofletcherbooks or below, we may be able to send one out to you .
To see which panels they are all on, you can check out the panel announcement here.
You may also notice that I will be on a panel, too, discussing an editor’s dreams and nightmares with Dave Moore, Simon Spanton, Gillian Redfearn and Abigail Nathan. So if you want to pop along to that on Sunday at 11am, please do so – any support would be lovely (I’ll be the one hiding under the table).
For the rest of the time, Andy and I plan to be buzzing round the con/propping up the bar/dancing/maybe competing in Paul Cornell’s version of Pointless. So come say hi if you see us. We don’t bite. Unless it’s a full moon. In which case, avoid Andy like the plague.
The concluding part of Tom Pollock’s Skyscraper Throne series, Our Lady of the Streets, hit stores three weeks ago today. As it has been greeted by rave reviews, we thought it was time that we shared some of these with you.
‘I didn’t want Our Lady of the Streets to end, even as I wanted the torment to stop. I’m going to miss Pollock’s London and his nuanced, vivid characters. 5 Owls’
‘Beth and Pen, the Railwraiths, London-Under-Glass, the Pavement Priests and Gutterglass are so real to me that they can’t stop existing, in the corners of our imaginations and in the bricks of London Town. 5 Stars’
‘This trilogy is a remarkable achievement for Tom Pollock . . . He writes like someone who has mastered the craft over many, many years . . . certainly in my personal top 5 favourite YA writers of the moment, and probably of all time’
‘In all three books Pollock shows he has imagination to burn; that he will be the urban fantasy go-to guy for countless readers . . . he is more than just about the weird and wonderful. Heartfelt and real . . .Pollock can handle and reflect on subtle and delicate emotions’
‘The Skyscraper Throne trilogy is a fantastic achievement by a really talented writer. It’s action-packed, passionate, visceral and yet also humane, gentle and perceptive.’
‘The last part of a trilogy is an important step for not only the books, but for the author themselves. There’s a lot of pressure to close the trilogy perfectly and please all of the fans. Tom has done this and he absolutely fucking nailed it’
‘One of the finest rogue’s galleries in all urban fantasy . . . With Our Lady of the Streets, he (Tom) goes three for three. I couldn’t have asked for a more satisfying finale.’
‘The entire Skyscraper Throne Trilogy [is] a series of books which has just about redefined the way how Urban Fantasy should be written and which stands head and shoulders along [with] the other great works such a Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere’
‘Tom Pollock’s portrait of London is extraordinary and I’ll never look at the city – its statues, cemeteries, tubes, cranes or glass towers – in the same way again. That’s quite a gift the author has given us’
‘Our Lady of the Streets is a fantastic conclusion to an extraordinary series’
‘It’s just all amazing . . . Tom Pollock has done himself proud with this finale, and with this trilogy as a whole . . . literally unputdownable, and is going to be a very hard act to follow. 5/5’
‘If you can, read them one after another. The result is an emotionally charged and powerful roller coaster that will both exhaust and delight you in equal measure. Our Lady of the Streets is a fine ending to a very fine series, and we can’t wait to see what Tom Pollock produces next. 9 out of 10′
Where were you born?
In Bradford-on-Avon, under a deep dark cloud.
What’s your comfort food?
It used to be fudge. Since I got diagnosed with diabetes last year; oat cake biscuits.
What’s your favourite tipple?
Used to be cider; now diet coke. It’s a hard world . . .
What superpower would you want / which superhero would you be?
The power to always be right. And; Superman, obviously.
Dog or cat?
Dog. If you fell over and hurt yourself, a dog would get help. A cat would just sit and wait for you to die, so it could eat you.
Who is your favourite hero/heroine?
The Saint; Simon Templer. The original version from the books.
What keeps you sane?
Going a little crazy now and again.
Beaches or adventure?
The right beach can be an adventure!
What’s your holiday read?
Avram Davidson; Limekiller.
What is the best present you’ve ever received?
The orange Dalek annual, in my Christmas stocking, when I was about twelve.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve got older?
There’s nothing you’ve got that the world can’t take away.
What would people be surprised to discover about you?
I really have seen a ghost.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury. Sob, sob . . .
What is your favourite sport?
Watching sport. From a safe distance.
What is your favourite way to travel?
Would you rather read the book or watch the film?
The book. Books last longer.
What are you currently listening to?
Within Temptation; a Dutch band who sound like Abba on crack. And a compilation of 60s spy music, called Come Spy With Us.
So Loncon came and went, and despite my deep and abiding loathing for ExCel (about which I can rant for hours; it’s still a nightmare for anyone with walking difficulties) I am glad to say the organisers and staff of the 2014 World SF Convention did everything they could to make it a stand-out convention – not least the second biggest WorldCon ever. And how wonderful to see so many old chums, from all over the world, all in one place to celebrate the best in science fiction and fantasy writing and art. That’s what conventions are all about.
Even the Hugo Awards went pretty well, and I was thrilled to be there to see Ginjer Buchanan win the Best Editor Award – not before time, for she’s just retired: a legendary publisher with a string of hits to her name.
Best party locale had to go to Voyager, who celebrated George R>R> Martin, Robin Hobb and Jane Johnson (huzzah!) on top of the Gherkin with the most amazing views of London, even through the rain. The Orbit party views weren’t too shabby either. But of course, the highlight had to be JFB’s fourth birthday party – with *balloons* and specially designed *badges*! And a *cake*! And a *magician*! And a *face painter* – who was enjoying it so much she stayed much later than she’d been booked . . .
So a big thank-you, not just to the behind-the-scenes team, but to the JFB team too: Nicola and Andy, you did good!*
**And I’m glad I bought you the badge-making machine . . . Watch this space for the next JFB badges . . .
LonCon3 has whizzed by in the blink of an eye, but oh what a ride it was. It had a great atmosphere, great parties and – most importantly – great people, and I think I can safely say that I speak for all of team JFB when I say this was one hell of a convention!
Everyone we bumped into was as amazing as we knew they would be, so we’d like to send a big thank you to everyone who made our weekend so special: authors, bloggers and friends in the industry.
But particular thanks go to everyone who came to our 4th birthday party on the Friday night, and to our very welcome ‘gatecrashers’ SFX and Tor, who helped make the night what it was. We can confirm the rumours that there was a magician, a cake, a (spectacularly popular) face painter and that both Robin Hobb and George R R Martin made an appearance! It was great so many people could come and celebrate with us – we had a blast! And now for your viewing pleasure: some poor quality photos of the night
Urk! It’s Wednesday, it’s ten to ten and it’s . . . no, not Crackerjack! As if you need me to tell you . . . It’s LonCon! As Nicola said yesterday, the World SF Convention is rolling into London this week and nothing will ever be the same again . . .
All right, so maybe there’s a little bit of exaggeration there, but there is no doubt that more than 8,000 avid fans of science fiction and fantasy – publishers, agents, editors, artists, writers and readers – descending upon our fair city is certainly going to have an impact, especially now that we’re practically mainstream, thanks to the inordinate book-and-film-and-tv success of series like True Blood and Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games and Twilight, amongst others. The week’s already full of exciting events, from Goldsboro Books’ Fantasy in the Court last night to a slew of publishers’ parties ranging from the insanely exclusive to the mad fun of our own birthday celebration, with gatecrashers and all. And yes, it’s true: I bought my team a badge-making machine, and they are now expert in the use of same (and a great many Quercus colleagues have been sidling by, muttering things like, ‘Oh! Could I just—?’ and gazing with lascivious envy at the kit ). Masters of the genre old and new are arriving in London as we speak and you’ll be bumping into the likes of George RR Martin, Robin Hobb, Robert Jackson Bennett and Mark Lawrence, not to mention most of the JFB stable, all over the place.
There’s only one problem with all this, and that’s that four or five days is simply not enough time to fit in everyone who’s coming to the con, and I know that I’m going to be spending the whole weekend repeating, ‘Hello! I had no idea you were coming! We must catch up—’ whilst knowing that the Keeper of my Diary (aka Nicola) has already said, ‘You have no more appointments left.’ So it looks like I’ll have to squish all my mad socialising into a few hours in the bar after the parties and the dinners and the awards ceremonies . . .
Still, I’m not complaining. The World SF Convention comes to Britain every decade or so, and it’s always a tremendous event – and even though my diary is full, I know that I’ll have caught up with lots of old friends, made some new ones, collected a pile of books I’m desperate to read and have added a whole lot of new authors to my ‘Must Publish One Day’ list’ – and that’s what it’s all about. Hope to see you there – and don’t be shy about saying hello!
This week we have been busily preparing for Loncon 3, or, the World SF Convention. This is the first time it has been held in the UK for a number of years and, with something like 8,000 attendees and counting, this will be the biggest convention I have ever been to. I’m pretty excited about it; I’m not going to lie.
And not just because of the size of it (pun not intended), but because JFB are having a party!
That’s right, folks – it’s our fourth birthday and we’ll be celebrating in style! There’ll be a magician, a face painter, a GIGANTIC BIRTHDAY CAKE, party bags (with badges in – Andy and I made all 390 with our own fair hands), authors galore, a bar (because this is a publisher’s fourth birthday party, after all) And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper party without a couple of gatecrashers, so Tor and SFX will also be coming along for the ride and adding their professional might to the evening.
This is going to be one hell of a night. Buckle up and make sure to check back here and our Twitter account @JoFletcherBooks for all the news and pics from Loncon 3!
LonCon3 week is here, and we are sure you are as excited as we are. Following on from sharing Robert Jackson Bennett’s schedule with you last week we are now happy to be able to share Stephanie Saulter’s schedule with you all.
Does the Future Need to Be Plausible?
Thursday 14 August 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCel)
One of the most common complaints about Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is that the world she proposed was, at best, implausible. Collins is not alone is this. But to what extent do we need veracity from our imagined futures, and how much does the measure of ‘plausibility’ differ from reader to reader? Is a science fictional story diminished if it’s too divorced from the physical reality we live in? Is there a difference between a future we can see and a future we can only hypothesize in the abstract?
Howard Davidson (M), Janet C Johnston, Kin-Ming Looi, Ian McDonald, Stephanie Saulter
Kaffeeklatsch – Ken Macleod, Stephanie Saulter
Friday 15 August 10:00 – 11:00, London Suite 5 (ExCel)
Paradox Book Launch
Friday 15 August 16:30 – 17:30, Library, Fan Village (ExCel)
SF: What It Is, What It Could Be
Friday 15 August 19:00 – 20:00, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)
SF as a genre is both loaded and contested, bringing with it decades of controversies, assumptions, prejudices, and possibilities. What do the genre’s various practitioners and consumers think SF is? Are we speaking the same language, or talking past each other? How do perceptions of SF – in terms of who can write it, who can consume it, and what kinds of stories can find a market – create or reinforce realities? Is ‘core’ SF still about space exploration and colonisation, or is there room for other types of stories? If SF is ‘dying’, as we’re frequently told, what does that mean and in whose interests are the preparations for its funeral?
Tobias Buckell, Jeanne Gomoll, Ramez Naam, Alastair Reynolds, Stephanie Saulter (M)
Reading – Stephanie Saulter
Friday 15 August 22:00 – 22:30, Capital Suite 13 (ExCel)
Race and British SF
Saturday 16 August 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 5 (ExCel)
Four years ago, Tricia Sullivan threw a spotlight on the gender balance of SF authors published in the UK, leading to a continuing conversation that is – perhaps – finally having an effect. However, although other aspects of representation have been mentioned in the course of this conversation, they have rarely been the focus, and in particular it can be argued that UK fandom and publishing have not talked enough about race. To use the same barometer as Sullivan, only one writer of colour has ever won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and so far this century only three have been shortlisted. Yet the success of diversity-led events such as Nine Worlds suggests the audience is there. So what else should publishers and fannish institutions in the UK be doing to support writers of colour? Whose work should Loncon attendees rush to buy in the dealer’s room? And whose novels and stories are we eagerly anticipating?
Dev Agarwal, Amal El-Mohtar (M), Tajinder Hayer, Stephanie Saulter, Russell Smith
Autographing 1 – Stephanie Saulter
Saturday 16 August 16:30 – 18:00, Autographing Space (ExCel)
You Don’t Like Me When I’m Angry
Sunday 17 August 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 10 (ExCel)
Commenting on the portrayal of Magneto in X-Men: First Class, Abigail Nussbaum noted that there is an “increasing prevalence of vengeful victim characters, who are condemned not for the choices they make in pursuit of revenge, but simply for feeling anger … There is in stories like this a small-mindedness that prioritizes the almighty psychiatric holy grail of “healing” – letting go of one’s anger for the sake of inner peace – over justified, even necessary moral outrage.” Which other stories – on TV or in books, as well as in films – follow this template, and whose interests do they really serve? Where can we find screen depictions of the power of anger, and/or other models of anger?
Abigail Nussbaum’s full review can be found here (although the discussion is intended to range wider than this single film or franchise, and include stories from any media).
Nin Harris, Martin McGrath, Mary Anne Mohanraj (M), Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Saulter
SF/F Across Borders
Sunday 17 August 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 9 (ExCel)
Genre writers such as Vandana Singh, Geoff Ryman, Tricia Sullivan, and Zen Cho are already travellers to other worlds. Many authors write as resident outsiders, and want to write their new homes as well as their old. How does the experience of moving between countries affect the writing of fiction? How can or should writers respond to the varying power dynamics of race, language and culture involved in such migrations? And how should readers approach the stories that result?
Jesús Cañadas, Glenda Larke, Yen Ooi Ms, Stephanie Saulter (M), Suzanne van Rooyen
Paradox Book Discussion
Monday 18 August 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCel)
A discussion of the science and fiction elements in the stories in the Fermi Paradox anthology from the authors who wrote them.
Pat Cadigan, David L Clements, Paul Cornell, Adam Roberts, Stephanie Saulter, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates (M)
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