Sunday, December 8. 2013
I always feel awkward writing posts like this. Christmas itself can bring embarrassments enough of its own, but the season I'm referring to is actually awards season. Nebulas, BSFA, Goodreads, you know, that lot. I'm particularly embarrassed about doing this in 2013, as it has been a year which has produced some stunning SFF fiction. I'm still working out where to cast my own votes, especially when it comes to novels.
Even so, with virtual shuffling of feet and downcast eyes I'm just going to mention the two published pieces of mine which qualify for many of said awards:
Short story 'Not the Territory' in The Alchemy Book of Urban Mythic and the novel Queen of Nowhere, published by Gollancz.
There, done it. I'll mooch off now.
Friday, November 22. 2013
Back in early October I mentioned a book review which, though I didn't name names at the time, was for Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice - but look, weeks have gone by and it hasn't appeared here yet. Anyway, finally, here's what I thought of one of the most talked-about SF books of the year:
Not every 'hot new debut' lives up to the hype. This one does.
To start with, there's a startling and intriguing premise behind Ancillary Justice: the main character is a starship. Actually, that's not quite true, but any further explanation leads us into spoiler territory. What can be safely said is that she (and I'll come back to that pronoun later) is on a mission.
The book is SF but not quite Space Opera. It draws on existing tropes yet goes to new places. It is also a page-turner from the start, mixing mystery, action and some of the most convincing and original world-building I've read in a long time. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel, given the author's skill in sucking us in then taking us through the story to a satisfying resolution.
If I have one small niggle it's that travel between worlds is too simple, treated rather like a short sea voyage might be in contemporary fiction. When a book is narrated by a being who has lived in space for millennia, one might expect a few more words to be devoted to life off-planet. But then, she's moved on now, and the book focuses on people, not space.
This future is the familiar milieu of a galactic civilization consisting of several distinct humanoid races. One race is imperial and sure of its own superiority – but these are the people we're with, the aggressors who perform acts the reader may consider barbaric, even evil. It is a testament to Leckie's skill that she takes characters we may find morally repellent and makes us care about them.
Finally, I loved is the fact that her master-race, the Radchaai, are all nominally 'she'. Not females, because they don't see gender as relevant most of the time, more gender-neutral. But the pronoun used isn't the one we default to in English, which is male, but the female one.
In short: I trusted this book to deliver, and it did.
Monday, November 18. 2013
Although World Fantasy Con already seems far in the past, one of the highlights for me was the launch of The Alchemy Book of Urban Mythic, in which my story exploring some of the weirdness that may lurk under the streets of London, 'Not the Territory', shares the bill with such marvelous writers as Mike Resnick, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Kate Griffin. Although my first ever story sale (back in 1999) was urban fantasy, I don't write much of this sort of fiction these days, so I enjoyed revisiting some of my old obsessions. As an added bonus, the editors also interviewed me, which was nice.
In other news, there's still a couple of days to go on the not one! but two! giveaways currently out there where you can get your hands on my books for free: both the one by Rinn Reads (to win a copy of Downside Girls) and Upcoming4.Me (for Queen of Nowhere) run until November 20th.
Friday, November 15. 2013
Monday, November 11. 2013
Rinn, of Rinn Reads, has been kind enough to interview me for her blog. And run a giveaway too, in which you can win a copy of Downside Girls.
And in the same week, I'm delighted that journalist Louise MacGregor has included me in her Interesting People Project.
Wednesday, November 6. 2013
The World Fantasy Convention was good, and as I paced myself a little better than normal, was not completely exhausting. It was nice to be back in a (rather windy) Brighton.
Last in my current convention marathon is Novacon, this weekend in Nottingham. I'm on two programme items there:
Saturday 4.30pm: 'SF Characters in Search of an Author' or what happens to your character when the reader gets involved and how you feel about it. This might cover something as simple as readers having a completely different idea about your character than you do, through editors and film-makers wanting to change things, all the way to fanfic and slash.
Saturday 7.30pm: SFF QI. Self-explanatory really. (Unless you're not from the UK, and have never heard of the marvellous, smart and bizarre quiz show that is QI.)
I'm currently reading - and thoroughly enjoying - Novacon Guest of Honour Jo Walton's wonderful Among Others. I may turn into a bit of a fangirl when we meet.
Wednesday, October 30. 2013
Sunday, October 27. 2013
At 2pm on Thursday I'll be at the Alchemy Press reading and …
... at noon on Friday it'll be time to launch the anthology I'll have read from on Thursday, The Alchemy Book of Urban Mythic.
At 5pm on Saturday I'll be moderating a panel in the main programme stream: The Stars Their Destinations: Does Science Fiction Have a Future? “We've come a long way from Jules Verne and H.G Wells. Or even Robert A. Heinlein and John Wyndham, for that matter. The future is now - we are already living in the second decade of Arthur C. Clarke's 21st century, and advances in science and technology regularly surpass what science fiction authors used to predict. So what are the prospects for scientific extrapolation? Will there always be new worlds to conquer, new frontiers to explore, or are audiences' growing hunger for all things fantasy and horror a sign that there is nowhere left for science to boldly go in genre fiction…?” With Brian W. Aldiss, Stephen Baxter, Joe Haldeman, Peter F. Hamilton, Paul McAuley. (In case you were wondering: yes, I am slightly daunted at the company I'll be in.)
Friday, October 18. 2013
As promised, here's my BristolCon schedule:
Midday – my kaffeeklatsch. Sign up at the desk...
6pm – Plausible Critters. “We see a lot of creatures in SF and fantasy that are just horses or dogs in cheap disguises. Conversely, we see interesting alien life forms that are hopelessly implausible. When sticking wings on a rabbit and calling it a snoogle just won’t do, how can you create weird, wonderful and convincing critters? What are some examples of the best and worst critters in fiction?” With Max Edwards, Snorri Kristjansson, Stephanie Saulter, and Gareth L. Powell.
7pm - Are Friends Electric?"Robots and AI have come a long way in recent years, becoming more responsive and life-like (sometimes unnervingly so!) We may be on the verge of building robots that can care for human beings – are we heading in the direction predicted by Asimov? And is it a good thing, or could we be opening a can of shiny metallic worms?" With Robert Harkess, Ian Whates, Nick Walters and Emma Shortt
7:50pm – a short reading, not sure what of yet.
There's also plenty going on to drag me from the bar at the World Fantasy Convention the week after: watch this space for details.
Wednesday, October 9. 2013
Before we get on to my review of Dave Gullen's debut novel Shopocalypse, there's some stuff you need to know.
Firstly, Dave is a friend. Secondly, Monico, who publish Shopocalypse, also published my short story collection Downside Girls. Given these two facts, you might expect a partisan review.
When I write a review or give a critique, I'm honest. If I don't like something I'm critiquing I say why (privately), because that's how an author improves – constructive criticism. In a written review, I note the negatives then move onto a book's positive points. If a book has too few positive points for me to get on with it, I don't review it.
The only other piece of Dave Gullen's writing I'd read was at the Milford SF writer’s workshop and, frankly, I didn't get on with it. As Milford is about delivering critiques, I did my best to say why. This was a few years back but when he asked me to consider reading his upcoming novel with a view to possibly giving a cover quote, I was uneasy. However, friends can be honest with each other, so I said I'd take a look. If the book didn't work for me, no quote would be forthcoming and we'd still be friends.
That wasn't what happened. Instead, I loved Shocolapyse. I cared about the characters – loser and weirdoes though many of them are, not to mention the one that's a car – from the start. I also laughed from the start. And then the satire kicked in. And the really weird shit. But it all hung together. It worked.
If I had to label this book I'd say it's near future SF. Or possibly a techno-thriller; a very funny techno-thriller. Also, absurdist satire. And maybe magical realism, sort of. Also, a road movie. And … yeah. I can't really label it.
I can say it is one of the best books I've read this year. It's one of the most original books I've read in many years. It's mad and bad and you need to read it. Which you can by buying it, ironically enough.
(For the record: Dave has already bought me a drink this year, so I can assure you that no one bribed me to say any of the above.)
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