Upcoming: TIME WAS by Ian McDonald (Tor.com)

McDonald-TimeWasYesterday, Tor.com unveiled the cover for Ian McDonald‘s upcoming novella, Time Was. I think it sounds really interesting. Here’s the synopsis:

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

Time Was is due to be published by Tor.com in April 2018, in North America and in the UK. McDonald’s latest series is the Luna series: New Moon and Wolf Moon (published by Tor Books in the US, and Gollancz in the UK).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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Interview with LAURIE PENNY

PennyL-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Laurie Penny?

Back-of-a-napkin CV? I’m a writer and a political journalist, I live in London, and I come from the internet, just like you. I’m 29 years old, a pinko queer feminist social justice warrior, and a huge nerd.

Your new novella, Everything Belongs to the Future, will be published by Tor.com in October. I enjoyed it quite a bit. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s a near-future quasi-dystopian anarchist fable about biotechnology, surveillance, state violence, love and time. It’s got a cool weapon in it, and also some dirty bits.

What inspired you to write the novella? 

I’ve been interested in the politics and practical applications of biotechnology for a long time, and a scientist friend challenged me to write a story about anti-ageing treatments. Then it was a question of following the characters where they led.  Continue reading

Review: ARMADA by Ernest Cline (Century)

ClineE-ArmadaUKThe highly-anticipated second novel from the author of Ready Player One

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada — in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills — as well as those of millions of gamers across the world — are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little… familiar?

Ready Player One, as I’ve said many times on here, completely blew me away. I was sent an ARC, and started it pretty much immediately. I devoured it in two gleeful, gloriously entertaining sittings, breaking only to get a few hours sleep. I’ve been waiting for Armada ever since. It was a very pleasant surprise, therefore, when an ARC arrived in the mail a few weeks back. With high expectations, and confidence that it would be another tale filled with geek references, nostalgia and gripping storytelling, I dove right in. What I found, however, thoroughly disappointed. Continue reading

Video: “He For She in Science Fiction”

The video above was put together by Open Road Media, and I thought it was interesting.

The past year has been a crucial one for female writers of science fiction. Discussions in the world of science fiction authors, editors, and fans about women writing in the genre, winning awards, and being recognized in fandom often carried a certain defiant tone, followed by a frustration that women in science fiction still have to prove themselves at all.

In light of the He for She movement, a UN project aimed at encouraging men to speak up for women in a bid of solidarity and support, Open Road Media asked male science fiction authors to discuss how women have been portrayed in science fiction, and their own favorite female science fiction authors.

The video features a great selection of authors (published in eBook by Open Road). Here’s the description from the YouTube page:

“The purpose of a woman” in ’50s science fiction “was to make the man look good,” laments Todd McCaffrey, son, co-author, and biographer to his mother, revered science fiction and fantasy author Anne McCaffrey. He goes on: “And scream when the bug-eyed monsters came in. My mother hated that trope; and she said, you know, ‘If a bug-eyed monster was invading my home, I’d find the nearest frying pan and beat the crap out of him!’”

Along with McCaffrey, Science Fiction Grand Master Samuel R. Delany, Joe Haldeman, Simon R. Green, Ian R. MacLeod, and Ian McDonald discuss how women have been portrayed in science fiction, in light of the He for She movement. These men also share their thoughts about their female role models in the genre; groundbreaking female science fiction authors like Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler, and Andre Norton.

“The most important political problem in the modern world is the position of women…” says Samuel R. Delany. “Something has got to be done about it.”

Review: MITOSIS by Brandon Sanderson (Gollancz)

Sanderson-R-MitosisUSA good short story stop-gap between Steelheart and Firefight

Epics still plague Newcago, but David and the Reckoners have vowed to fight back.

Sanderson self-published this short story, set in the same world as his first super-hero novel, Steelheart. I rather enjoyed the novel (which was the first of the author’s that I’ve read), and when I stumbled across this I was very happy to be able to dive back into the world he’s created. I’m not going to include an official synopsis, as that will give away the ending of Steelheart.

Nevertheless, what you need to know (for both the novel and Mitosis) is that in this reality, super-heroes exist – something happened that bestowed upon a small percentage of the global population special powers. Unlike in the super-hero comic books of Marvel, DC, et al, the power has very much gone to most of these powered individuals’ heads, and they started using them for their own ends. In Chicago, Steelheart reigned supreme with a coterie of other powereds. Steelheart the novel was the story of a fight against this tyranny, spear-headed by an insurgent group known as the Reckoners and their new ‘recruit’, who is a bit of a geek, and has been cataloguing the powered dictators and criminals as a means to learn of their weaknesses.

Mitosis deals with a single powered individual: Mitosis. The story moves quickly, and there is a rather nifty homage (perhaps) to Agent Smith from second and third The Matrix movies. That is all I shall say on the specific plot of this story.

If you are familiar with Sanderson’s writing – be it The Way of Kings or his Mistborn series – then you are sure to know what to expect: brisk, engaging and professional storytelling. The man can certainly write, and I intend to get more of his novels read by the end of this year. [Famous last words, perhaps, but I managed to read three of the four authors I promised to last year…]

Short, but well-worth reading to hold you over until the release of Firefight.

***

UPDATE: When I first wrote this, Gollancz had yet to announce the UK cover art, which I have now included below. The UK hardcover edition also includes an excerpt from Firefight and also some character sketches. It’s a really great little book. Perfect for any fan of Sanderson’s writing.

Sanderson-R2-FirefightUK

An Interview with PAT CADIGAN

CadiganP-Chalk

A few days ago, I got an email from an editor at This Is Horror, a UK indie publisher. I haven’t been the biggest of horror readers, but the email was about Pat Cadigan’s latest chapbook, Chalk. I was intrigued, and will hopefully have it read and reviewed in the near future. I’ve been aware of the multi-award-winning Cadigan for years, though, and so I took this opportunity to interview the author. So, here we chat about her work, the chapbook, writing, and more…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Pat Cadigan?

CadiganP-SynnersI’m a recovering American and the mother of a grown son. I’ve lived in North London for almost eighteen years. Most people would know me as a science-fiction writer. All my novels are hard science-fiction (meaning they’re based on things that are possible now). I’ve won the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice, once in 1992 for Synners and again in 1995 for Fools. I’ve won the Locus Award three times: once for my short story, “Angel,” once for my collection Patterns, and most recently for my novelette, “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi,” which also received the Hugo Award in 2013. In between, I had cancer but it’s gone now. I keep busy.

I thought we’d start with your fiction: Your latest novellette (or chapbook, if you will), Chalk, was recently published by This Is Horror. How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s not part of a formal series, but it is one of several pieces of short fiction set in the neighbourhood where I grew up in Massachusetts. They’re generally set in the early 1960s and while they contain autobiographical elements, they are not the story of my life. I just borrowed a few things to riff on. Or riff off.

What inspired you to write this particular story? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

Michael Wilson asked me if I’d be interested in doing a chapbook and I said yes. I’d never done a chapbook before and I’m always up for a new experience. I read the previous ones from This Is Horror and found them all satisfyingly variegated (and quite good). So I prayed to the Story Fairy (Dept. of Horror) and this is what I got.

CadiganP-Chalk

I know how that must sound. My creative process is a black-box operation and I’ve been at this long enough (34 years professionally) to know what works best for me: tell brain to think, consider the elements involved – genre, length, my personal taste; allow the associations to marinate overnight in REM sleep; return to task the next day, try writing a paragraph, see what happens. The first paragraph written isn’t always the first paragraph of the story and it usually undergoes editing if not outright retro-fitting, depending on what I discover in the course of writing the story.

Paragraphs that don’t work end up in my fragment box for recycling.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

We met in the dark. We’d already been making out for some time before I said, “Say honey, what’s your name?”

I had a library card for longer than I can remember. My mother would take me to the library with her and find books to read to me. Eventually, I learned to read myself and discovered that all the cool stuff was in the science fiction section. In those days – when dinosaurs roamed the net, before the discovery of flame – the genre wasn’t as stratified as it is now. Everything was science fiction – Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, Tolkien, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books, Richard Matheson, Jack Finney – anything with a fantastic element was science fiction. Judith Merrill used to edit a best-of-the-year anthology that was the same way – pure-quill hard SF by Mack Reynolds and Walter M. Miller, Jr., sat cheek-by-jowl with oddities from Bernard Malamud, John Cheever, and Tuli Kupferberg. My ambition was to be good enough to get into one of those anthologies. I still want to be that good.

PatCadigan-IntroToGenre

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

I love being a writer and I wouldn’t do anything else. For most of my life, I’ve had additional responsibilities – school, an outside job, motherhood, looking after my aged parent – so I learned to write as and when: late at night, early in the morning, lunch hour, weekends, sometimes reaching around the baby napping in my front-carrier to the keyboard, in hospital waiting rooms, on the train. If you really want to do something, you figure it out.

When did you realise you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. As soon as I knew books and stories were written by people, I knew I was one of those people. My mother gave me her old Underwood typewriter – it was a monster. It must have weighed about five hundred pounds. You had to really bang on the keys and all the capital letters were half a line up from the rest of the word. I started out at 3 or 4, always typing “Chapter One” first. Finally my mother suggested that I should maybe try writing a short story first to get the hang of storytelling. But I preferred trying to write novels. Eventually, I hand-wrote several novels that were my cracked version of a mystery series. It was a kind of a cross between Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, with occasional supernatural flourishes. I was very disciplined. Every chapter had to run both sides of the page, no less, no more.

UnderwoodTypewriter

This is an Underwood. It looks heavy as all get-out…

Later I had a sort of Doc Savage in space thing going for a while – by then, my Aunt Loretta had given me her portable typewriter, which was a lot easier on the fingers than the Underwood. Then sometimes, when my mother worked weekends, I’d go with her. She worked in the admitting office of a hospital and I wasn’t supposed to be there but as long as I sat in the back office and kept quiet, nobody minded. There I met my first IBM Selectric; I couldn’t imagine a machine more advanced, more futuristic. Selectrics were so expensive back then, only businesses had them.

IBMSelectricII

Somewhere in there, I read the Isaac Asimov issue of F&SF in which he talked about his early attempts at writing, including something he called The Greenville Chums At College. I was delighted; I could relate. I’d just left the Greenville Chums stage of my own development and I knew I would persevere.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

PatCadiganI love genre and I read for pleasure as much as I can. But I don’t think of my work as “fitting into it.” I write genre fiction because I love genre fiction. I don’t write critical essays and I don’t do reviews, so you’ll have to forgive me for not answering that question.

People love genre fiction, in every medium – print (including e-print), TV shows, movies, and of course games (when was the last time you heard about a game that was all real, all the time?). If you want to see writers treated like rock stars, go to the American Library Association convention and watch how they react to children’s and YA authors. YA authors who work in genre get the most attention and adulation, because they keep kids reading.

Fine art is fine art and I have drawn inspiration from it in many forms. But to be brutally honest, the things people internalise most come from popular culture, particularly the genre portion. Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten was soon followed by Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned From Star Trek. Some people might scoff but people tend to take their cues from things they enjoy, that give them pleasure, more often than from things they’ve been told are good for them.

So if people turn to entertainment, I try to provide good entertainment.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

Right now I’ve just crawled out of Deadline Hell into Deadline Purgatory. I said yes to a lot of short fiction requests and they all came due around the same time. I have to plan better in the future so I can go back to work on the novel based on “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out For Sushi.”

KingS-DoctorSleepUKWhat are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

I’m reading a lot of science and books about the solar system. I had to take a few days away from everything so I could read Doctor Sleep, and I’ll probably re-read some other Stephen King books. When it comes to writing about the human condition, nobody does it better. Even if the books themselves aren’t completely successful – which doesn’t often happen – they still contain brilliant passages of superb writing and characters that are as real as anything.

And like everyone else, I’m waiting for the next Game of Thrones book from George R.R. Martin. At last, epic fantasy with a dirty face, dirtier clothes, permanent scars, and body odour. And occasional dragons.

LindaLovelaceForPresidentI read a lot of crime fiction and thrillers, too. I like Nicci French and Minette Walters, among others.

What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I was an uncredited (and fully-clothed) extra in Linda Lovelace For President.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

The London Worldcon. That’s going to be great!

***

Be sure to follow Pat Cadigan on Twitter and Live Journal; and also This Is Horror on Twitter on Facebook. Chalk is available to buy in print and eBook formats.

Congratulations to CHRIS BECKETT, Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award!

Yesterday I attended the Clarke Award ceremony at the Royal Society in London. The event opened with a panel discussion on science in five years (in 2,001 days… Geddit?) – I was pleased to learn that there are people currently working on World Ships. That was cool.

Anyway, the reason most of us were there was to learn who won the prize (and, ahem, the drinks afterwards…). And so, big congratulations to…

Beckett-DarkEden

CHRIS BECKETT, for his novel DARK EDEN (Corvus)

The runners-up, all equally interesting and high-quality science-fiction novels, were…

2013ClarkeAwards-RunnersUp

Adrian Barnes, Nod (Bluemoose)

Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker (William Heinemann)

Peter Heller, The Dog Stars (Headline)

Ken MacLeod, Intrusion (Orbit)

Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312 (Orbit)

After the event, I had the pleasure of meeting a great number of people who I have long respected and/or only known on the other end of an email conversation or through Twitter. It was wonderful to meet so many of you and chat about all things genre and much other things besides. A great evening.