Annotated Excerpt: DRUNK ON ALL YOUR STRANGE NEW WORDS by Eddie Robson (Tor.com)

RobsonE-AuthorPicToday we have an annotated excerpt from Eddie Robson‘s latest novel, Drunk On All Your Strange New Words, which is described as “a locked room mystery in a near future world of politics and alien diplomacy.” I’ve been really looking forward to this one, ever since I learned about it from a publisher’s catalogue. Check out the synopsis:

Lydia works as translator for the Logi cultural attaché to Earth. They work well together, even if the act of translating his thoughts into English makes her somewhat wobbly on her feet. She’s not the agency’s best translator, but what else is she going to do? She has no qualifications, and no discernible talent in any other field.

So when tragedy strikes, and Lydia finds herself at the center of an intergalactic incident, her future employment prospects look dire — that is, if she can keep herself out of jail!

But Lydia soon discovers that help can appear from the most unexpected source…

Now, over to Eddie…

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Annotated Excerpt: TO CATCH A MOON by Rym Kechacha (Unsung Stories)

KechachaR-ToCatchAMoonUKToday, we have an annotated excerpt from Rym Kechacha‘s latest novel, To Catch A Moon. Due to be published by Unsung Stories this week, here’s the synopsis:

Mexico City, 1955. The painter Remedios Varo sits in her kitchen with her friend, the artist Leonora Carrington. Together they let their imaginations soar beyond their canvases to create new worlds.

In the surreal landscape of her imagination, Varo’s creations take on a life and power of their own. A wheeled spirit of the earth kidnaps a baby star; a woman who is half owl draws herself a daughter; a juggler entrances a crowd of grey-cloaked men, a lion and a goat. The rules that govern this world bend and creak, old alliances break, and an impending apocalypse forges the most unlikely of friendships.

Rym Kechacha (Dark River, British Fantasy Awards finalist 2021) spins a wild fantasy from Varo’s dreamlike imaginings, a world in which the moon’s daughter holds the key to mankind’s fate. Populated by witches, sentient animals, and a lion made of leaves, To Catch a Moon is a bold and fearless ode to the power of Remedios Varo’s timeless paintings.

Now, over to the author…!

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Annotated Excerpt: GLITTERATI by Oliver K. Langmead (Titan)

LangmeadOK-AuthorPic2021Hello – yes! I have been asked by the fabulous owner of Civillian Reader to share an annotated excerpt from my forthcoming novel Glitterati, which is a dystopian satire about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.

Simone is a fashionista – one of the fashionable elites, who live in a sumptuous, opulent utopia, with their every whim catered for. Early in the novel, it is only Simone’s strange anxieties holding him back from being one of the most fabulous people around.

Let me introduce you now to Simone, and one of the most acute sources of anxiety in his life…

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Annotated Excerpt: THE COLLARBOUND by Rebecca Zahabi (Gollancz)

ZahabiR-CollarboundUKHCIn The Collarbound, we get to discover a complex world, with khers and mages, fleshbinding and mindlink, lightborns and long-lost giants. I’ve picked this excerpt because it’s a good example of how worldbuilding can be woven into the plot without slowing it down.

This piece is from Tatters’ POV. For the moment, we know little about Tatters except that he is a mage, and that he has a voice called Lal speaking inside his head. We’ve met the head of guards, a kher, and we’ve learnt what khers look like: they’re humanoids with reddish skin, often tattooed, who have long horns that grow out of their foreheads and curve around their skulls, like a ram’s horns.

That’s where we’re at when Tatters and the head of guards meet. She brings him to the watchtower to check he’s on the Nest’s records (he’s trying to sneak into the castle that is the Nest without being invited), and she starts laboriously looking through the entries in chronological order.

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Annotated Excerpt: WHIRLWIND ROMANCE by Sam Thompson (Unsung Stories)

ThompsonS-WhirlwindRomanceThanks for asking me to annotate a passage from Whirlwind Romance. The book is a collection of stories about the moments when our reality falls apart. The stories vary in subject, setting and genre, but most of them hover somewhere between the real and the fantastical — and all are interested in the many ways that the world we have been living in, imagining it was solid under our feet, can turn out to be fragile. Travelling to an unfamiliar country could reveal uncomfortable truths about home, or reconnecting with a long-lost sibling could show your childhood in a new light, or becoming a parent could teach you that you are not who you thought you were. Falling in love could make you realize that the most precious person in your world lives in a different reality from your own; getting lost in a book or a video game could take you further from normality than you intended; living through a global disaster could strip you of the illusions you once believed were sane.

All these scenarios play out in Whirlwind Romance, but for this commentary I’ve chosen the opening passage of ‘The Red Song’. This is the second-longest story in the book: when I started working on it I thought it was going to be a novel, and put in a lot of world-building and plot-planning accordingly, but I found that it kept folding down into a tighter, more allusive kind of text. It tells the story of an English academic, Flora Hardy, who accepts a research fellowship and travels to the remote nation of Hesper a short time after it has gone through a revolution and deposed its long-reigning dictator. Flora is an expert on the literature of the place, but she discovers that she knows little about its present. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THE BLADED FAITH by David Dalglish (Orbit)

BladedFaith_TP-LP1.inddToday, we have an annotated excerpt taken from David Dalglish’s upcoming new novel, The Bladed Faith. The first in a new series, the Vagrant Gods, here’s the synopsis:

A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantel of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods…

Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents — the king and queen — beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader’s court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary “Vagrant” — an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill. 

But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance.

The excerpt is taken from the second chapter of the novel. Now, over to David…

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Annotated Excerpt: THE CITY OF DUSK by Tara Sim (Orbit/Hodder)

SimR-CityOfDuskWriting books is so weird.

Ever since I was fifteen I knew for sure that I wanted to be an author. Back then, writing books was so much fun. I got to let my imagination loose, play around with (aka torture) characters, and make up entirely new worlds. There were no deadlines, no pressures, no expectations — just the joy of creation.

Although writing is still fun, I find that it gets harder and harder. So naturally, I like to challenge myself with each new book.

The City of Dusk was certainly challenging. It’s my most ambitious book/series to date: four separate realms, four magic systems, seven POVs. Somehow, it all came together in the end, but the journey was arduous and spirit-shattering. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: UNEXPECTED PLACES TO FALL FROM, UNEXPECTED PLACES TO LAND by Malcolm Devlin (Unsung)

DevlinM-UnexpectedPlacesToFallFromUnexpectedPlacesToLandUnexpected Places To Fall From, Unexpected Places To Land, my second collection, is published by Unsung Stories. It includes twelve stories dealing with journeys taken and the paths we choose. Some of the characters might crop up as slightly different people in different places, there’s a little bit of horror, a little bit of science fiction and a weird story in which I try and prove that all accredited London taxi drivers are actually descended from the rat coachmen in Cinderella.

In the exact same moment, all possible versions of Prentis O’Rourke will cease to exist. By accident, by malice, by conflict, by illness – Prentis will not simply die. He will go extinct. These are the stories of the journeys we take and the journeys we wish we’d taken.

Malcolm Devlin’s second short story collection ranges from science fiction to folk horror as Prentis O’Rourke’s demise echoes across the dimensions. Scientists, artists, ex-nuns, taxi drivers, time travellers and aliens – the same people living varied lives in subtly different worlds. Something unprecedented will happen, and it will colour them all.

Crossing multiple realities, countless versions of ourselves, and shifting backwards and forwards through time, these are stories of forking paths and unexpected destinations – of flying and falling and getting up to try again.

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Annotated Excerpt: THE ANNUAL MIGRATION OF BIRDS by Premee Mohamed (ECW Press)

MohamedP-AnnualMigrationOfCloudsCAI wrote The Annual Migration of Clouds all in a rush in 2019 after seeing a single tweet from an entomologist I followed (I didn’t even read the paper right away!) containing the phrase ‘heritable symbiont.’ My imagination yanked the reins from my hands and went galloping across a blank document I think literally hours later; dimly I suspected the paper was probably about Wolbachia, a bacterial genus that inhabits some insects and affects their reproduction and behaviour, but I was too excited about the possibilities for a human disease. And ofcourse there are human diseases and syndromes caused by infections that affect our behaviour, as well as examples in various other species (Cordyceps is the obvious one, but there’s also Toxoplasmosis, many infections that cross the blood-brain barrier, certain parasitic infections of the gut, etc).

As I created this heritable symbiont, I began asking myself: How can I craft a story out of this though? What we have here is a premise. The premise is: What if there was a disease with a long latency period, invisibility to testing, and uncertain transmission, that affected your behaviour and maybe even your thoughts, and you were never sure of your own free will? It wasn’t a plot. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: GIGANTIC by Ashley Stokes (Unsung Stories)

StokesA-GiganticHi. Many thanks for asking me to annotate a section of Gigantic. It’s certainly been intriguing and stimulating to revisit what has been probably the most torturous editorial experience I’ve had with any story, long or short. I chose a passage to edit based on how fun and funny I hoped it is, but just by spending some time with it, I realise how much the story, text, structure, tone and voice had changed from the first draft and how honing this story had been like fighting Proteus or the Hydra. The main character, Kevin Stubbs, has had many heads and forms.

Gigantic has taken ten years since conception to find a publisher. It started life in 2011 as an idle notebook jotting: what if there were a bigfoot mythology akin to that you find in backswood America in my hometown of Sutton, Surrey?  I rejected this as daft but went back to it when The Sun reported a bigfoot sighting in Tunbridge Wells. Originally titled The North Surrey Gigantopithecus, it was a short story told largely in footnotes like my A Short Story about a Short Film and forthcoming Fade to Black. Subsequently, it became a more conventionally-structured novella, then a novel, a longer novel and a shorter novel as stuffing was ripped out. This was a process of sifting and hacking, abandoning and resurrecting well beyond the usual three-step Discovery-Meditation-Polishing process of writing a novel. Continue reading