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: 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: A DESERT TORN ASUNDER by Bradley P. Beaulieu

BeaulieuBP-SotSS6-ADesertTornAsunderUKToday, we have an annotated excerpt from Bradley P. Beaulieu‘s A Desert Torn Asunder — the final book in the author’s Song of the Shattered Sands series. Before we get to that, though, here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

The final book in The Song of the Shattered Sands series closes the epic fantasy saga in a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action.

The plans of the desert gods are coming to fruition. Meryam, the deposed queen of Qaimir, hopes to raise the buried elder god, Ashael, an event that would bring ruin to the desert.

Çeda and Emre sail for their ancestral home to bring the traitor, Hamid, to justice. To their horror, they discover that the desert tribes have united under Hamid’s banner. Their plan? A holy crusade to annihilate Sharakhai, a thing long sought by many in the tribes. In Sharakhai, meanwhile, the blood mage, Davud, examines the strange gateway between worlds, hoping to find a way to close it. And King Ihsan hunts for Meryam, but always finds himself two steps behind.

When Meryam raises Ashael, all know the end is near. Ashael means to journey to the land that was denied to him an age ago, no matter the cost to the desert. It now falls to Çeda and her unlikely assortment of allies to find a way to unite not only the desert tribes and the people of Sharakhai, but the city’s invaders as well. Even if they do, stopping Ashael will cost them dearly, perhaps more than all are willing to pay.

The series is published by Gollancz in the UK and DAW in North America. The other novels are Twelve Kings of Sharakai, With Blood Upon the Sand, A Veil of Spears, Beneath the Twisted Trees, and When Jackals Storm the Walls. (Beaulieu has also written a number of short stories that fit within the chronology of the series. You can find more details of those here.)

And now, on with the excerpt!

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Annotated Excerpt: TEN LOW by Stark Holborn (Titan Books)

HolbornS-TenLowA large chunk of this book was written as a NaNoWriMo project a few years ago. I’d never done NaNo before (I did write most of Nunslinger’s 180k words in about eight hazy months, so I wasn’t too worried about word count), but I’d come out of a crappy year in terms of publishing, and wanted to write something just for me. An idea that had zero ties to the publishing world, didn’t have the market in mind and was just a mash up of influences that had been percolating, which ranged from Mad Max: Fury Road to Hard to be a God.

I think I write best in intense, consuming bursts – I like writing that way, at least. Most of Ten Low was written with headphones on, ambient desert wind roaring, getting words down without worrying too much about where things were going. I ended up with 50k words that way. Of course, when it came to fleshing those words out into a full novel, I completely ran out of gas; spent weeks agonising over the fact I didn’t know what the plot was or why; resorted to augury in the form of flipping through a dictionary, stabbing at random words, which – horrifyingly – worked.

So, writing an annotated excerpt has been an interesting experience, because so much of what I wrote at first was subconscious, especially this first chapter. I knew where I wanted to set the book. I knew who the main character was, roughly who else she would meet and… that was it. This chapter hasn’t changed all that much since I first scrawled out those first 1000 words for NaNoWriMo. I hope it does the job and welcomes you to the dusty, teeming moon of Factus, where an ex-convict medic sits alone by a fire, one dark night…

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