Interview with TITUS CHALK

ChalkT-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Titus Chalk?

A literary chancer with a new book out! Otherwise, a typical Berlin implant; a Brit taking advantage of the city’s cheap rent to work a bit less and write a bit more. I’ve recently left a decade or so of sports writing behind me to spend time in the library learning to write fiction – that’s currently what I am hoping to with my life, having taken Generation Decks from initial idea to a bookshelf near you soon.

Your new book, Generation Decks, will be published by Solaris. It looks interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s the story of the world-changing fantasy game Magic: The Gathering and a memoir of my time playing it. But more than that, it’s a look at the way business, culture and community changed with the advent of the internet age. It tries to capture that transition in the early 90s where everything was turned on its head as more and more people plugged in their dial-up modems and logged on to this strange thing called the web. Although Generation Decks is ostensibly about a very complex and rich strategy game, it’s absolutely not a specialist book – it’s for non-gamers and gamers alike. And for anyone with an interest in the way pop culture evolved in the digital age. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Living Larger with Animism” by Arianne “Tex” Thompson

ThompsonAT-AuthorPicYou know, one of the coolest things about SFF is how it invites us to mothball our skepticism and explore just about any metaphysical concept. Avatar Aang lives in a world where reincarnation is inarguably real. So does Rand Al-Thor. Just so, Narnia is a world with a concrete moral order, and the Marvel universe is absolutely lousy with gods. Fate, karma, magic, ghosts – you name it; we’ve got a franchise for it.

But here’s one big idea that I’d like to see getting more air-time: animism. It’s one of the oldest belief systems in the world, and put simply, it’s the idea that non-human creatures and things have souls, and therefore should be treated with awareness. In sci-fi and fantasy, animism usually comes to the fore whenever a creator wants to craft a culture that’s all about living in harmony with nature – your wood-elves, blue cat-people, et al. The problem is usually that they are so dang harmonious that they would never be worth writing about if they didn’t get bulldozed by the plot. (Literally, if we’re talking Ferngully and its like.) Continue reading

Interview with JAMES LOVEGROVE

LovegroveJ-AuthorPicWelcome back to CR! Let’s start with an introduction, for new readers: Who is James Lovegrove?

James Lovegrove is, right now, someone struggling to get stuff done during the dog days of the school summer holidays. I’m a writer who likes peace and quiet when working, and my two boys, aged 13 and 10, are very solicitous about that but they’re also just kids and want their dad to play with them whenever possible. It’s tricky, this work/life balance thing. I’m also, incidentally, the author of 50-odd books, a similar number of short stories, and quite a hefty amount of book-related journalism.

Your latest novel, Age of Heroes, will be published by Solaris. How would you introduce the novel and series to a potential reader?

The string of books which has come to be known as the Pantheon series centres around the gods of various ancient religions and their relationship with the mortals who worship them. The novels are largely military SF and each is a standalone tale that can be read independently of the others. The tone differs from one to the next but the core theme is the same: what responsibilities do our deities have towards us, and we towards them, and where do the two dovetail? Age of Heroes continues the trend but this time I’m delving into a slightly lower stratum – demigods. My main characters are the heroes of Ancient Greek myth such as Theseus, Perseus and Heracles. I’ve envisaged them as ageless immortals who continue to walk among us in the twenty-first century, three and a half millennia after their heyday, the proverbial Age of Heroes. Some of them have adapted better to modern life than others, and some are striving to remain heroic in an era that is desperately cynical about such things as self-sacrifice and virtue.  And then they start dying… Continue reading

Interview with GAIE SEBOLD

SeboldG-AuthorPicWelcome back to CR! Let’s start with an introduction, for new readers: Who is Gaie Sebold?

I’m a fantasy writer and (very) occasional poet, with a partner (writer David Gullen) a small cat, and a large garden. I run writing workshops – I’m currently running a series of them for my local women’s centre. I occasionally disconcert the neighbours by plotting aloud to myself while weeding.

Your next novel, Sparrow Falling, will be published by Solaris. It’s the second novel in your latest series: How would you introduce the series to a potential reader?

It follows the adventures of a street child and professional con-artist Eveline Sparrow, in a fantasy Victorian era where the Fey and many other mythical beings exist. Eveline gets caught up in events where the politics of our world overlap dangerously with those of the Fey while discovering the truth about her past and trying to protect herself and those she cares about in the present. Continue reading

Guest Post: “If You Like Servants…” by Paul Kane

KaneP-SherlockHolmes&ServantsOfHellMy new novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, is out now. In it, Holmes and Watson are flung headlong into Clive Barker’s Hellraising universe to confront his most famous villains, the Cenobites. It’s the world’s greatest puzzle-solver up against the world’s greatest puzzle, not least in the form of the Lament Configuration puzzle box. Hopefully, it should appeal to fans of both franchises – but I also wanted the book to be a standalone, something that you could dive right into even if you know nothing about either. But I don’t want to spend the whole of this blog just talking about my work; instead I want to point you in the direction of a few publications you might enjoy if you pick up and like Servants. If you haven’t already read them, of course… Continue reading

Guest Post: “Do Writers Deserve to be Paid for Their Work?” by Tony Ballantyne

BallantyneT-AuthorPicLet’s be honest, not always.

Most writing is unsolicited. Although a fair proportion of my writing nowadays has been commissioned in one way or another, most of the stuff I’ve done has been on spec. The short story market certainly works that way, and only a minority of authors sell a novel through an outline.

Face it, nobody asked us to write, and the fact that we’ve written a story unasked doesn’t mean that someone has to buy it any more than the fact that your local McDonalds has made too many Big Macs means that you have to eat them to stop them being wasted. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Planet Jacked!” by Weston Ochse

OchseW-AuthorPicI’d never really encountered the idea about terraforming until I read David Gerrold’s A Matter for Men, and boy did that scare me more than any horror novel I’d ever read. It’s one thing to have space duels with enemy ships or visitations from aliens seeking to see what we’re up to, but it’s another thing altogether when you begin showing aliens who’ve decided that they want your planet and have begun changing the entire ecosystem right out from under you. I mean, what do you do? What technology do we have to stop them?

In Hollywood, there’d be some last second solution overlooked by mainstream scientists, but discovered by the conspiracy theorist picking his nose in the corner. But that’s never going to happen.

In Hollywood, the aliens would find a way to communicate with the President of the United States, because that’s what all aliens do, to give us some sort of ultimatum.

I drop the bullshit flag on that one. Continue reading

Guest Post: “In Praise of Ordinary Girls” by Lauren Roy

RoyL-AuthorPicI feel like this post needs a disclaimer from the get-go. I like Chosen One stories, and tales where something sets the main character apart from everyone else, makes her special in some way (often, let’s be honest, at the cost of relationships or her entire way of life, not always for the better). I could wander over to my bookshelves right now and pull out the books where the main character has a rare or unheard of or forgotten ability, where someone is secretly the long-lost heir to the throne, or where they’re the most powerful X of their age. If I stacked ‘em all up, they’d at least reach the ceiling, maybe even the peak of the roof. My own urban fantasy series is filled with asskickers who are pretty amazing at what they do – so much so that I probably could have called it Five Badasses and a Bookseller, instead of Night Owls. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Thinking Like A Monkey” by Gareth L. Powell

PowellGarethL-AuthorPicOne of the largest challenges I faced while writing my ‘Macaque’ trilogy (Ack-Ack Macaque, Hive Monkey and Macaque Attack – all published by Solaris Books) was in writing chapters and scenes from the point of view of my main character.

Ack-Ack Macaque really is a monkey. He’s not a guy in a rubber suit. So, I felt duty bound to make him act like one. I had to imagine how a monkey (even a monkey whose intelligence has been boosted to human-like levels by artificial implants) would react in given situations and interact with the other characters in the book.

For instance, early in the first book, he warns somebody he’s just met not to smile at him, as, to a monkey, baring one’s teeth can be a challenge, as can sustained eye contact.

“Don’t take it personally,” he says. “It’s a primate thing.” Continue reading

Guest Post: “It’s the End of the World — Bring Charmin” by Gail Z. Martin

MartinGZ-DaysOfTheDead

In the post-apocalyptic TV show “Revolution,” one of the characters, a former Google executive, says, “80 million dollars in the bank and I would trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin.” Of all the things that society has lost, at that moment, he misses commercially-produced toilet paper. It’s the little things that count.

I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, a post-apocalyptic medieval epic fantasy series, for Orbit Books. In Ice Forged, the first book in the series, my characters have to come to terms with what they’ve lost, both big and small. Oddly enough, sometimes it’s the small things that matter the most.

Epic fantasy usually deals with the sweeping repercussions of events and decisions — the wars, assassinations, dynastic conflicts and economic collapses that change the balance of power. Certainly anything worthy of being called an apocalypse affects the superstructure of society: government, commerce, economics, and technology. Add in plague and natural disaster and a nation, continent or kingdom loses a significant portion of its workforce, its intellectual capital, its history and its physical infrastructure. Those losses are guaranteed to change what daily life is like for the survivors, and to make just getting by much more difficult.

Martin,GZ-IceForgedYet for individuals — whether real people or book characters — sometimes the big losses seem distant and abstract and it’s the small losses that drive home just how much life has changed and what is gone. In Ice Forged, characters mention what they miss, little things like memories of how holidays were celebrated and favourite foods that are now difficult or impossible to get. Perhaps it’s the realization that the landmarks — like a castle or the main street of a city—that seemed immutable are now ruined. It’s the dislocation of war and cataclysm that causes long-time neighbours to go missing, and the people you always met in the course of your daily life to vanish. Or it’s discovering that with crops unplanted or unharvested and distilleries and vineyards ruined, there’s not going to be any new good wine, ale or whiskey any time soon.

When the means of production are destroyed, whether those are craftsmen or factories, the goods in existence are all the goods there will be until manufacturing is restored. For the characters in Ice Forged, that means any goods they can’t grow themselves or create from raw materials. Not only will there be no new brocades or silks (and nowhere to wear them), but no new metals or coal mined, no imported goods until trade is restored, and nothing that someone might have purchased rather than making. Things like sugar and salt, maybe even lumber and clay become difficult to find. Looting the ruins and the trash heaps becomes the new form of shopping. And in a million little ways, life becomes strange and hard.

In Ice Forged, the devastation of the Cataclysm goes beyond physical destruction. Mages on both sides made a doomsday strike using magic, and unintentionally destroyed the bonds that allowed men to tame magic and use it to their purposes. For a culture that depended on the little magics for everyday life, that means no healers, no using magic to keep pests out of the crops or strengthen a sea wall, no way to keep milk from spoiling or food from rotting or all the hundreds of small ways that people had come to rely on a flicker of power here and there. And after four centuries of using magic as part of everyday life, few people remember how to do things the old way.

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams advised readers to “Always know where your towel is.” Perhaps he should have included some Charmin, just in case?

***

Martin,GZ-ReignOfAshCome check out all the free excerpts, book giveaways and other goodies that are part of my Days of the Dead blog tour! Trick-or-Treat you way through more than 30 partner sites where you’ll find brand new interviews, freebies and more.

Ice Forged will be a Kindle Daily Deal with a special one-day price of just $1.99 only on October 31!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.

***

About the author: Gail Z. Martin is the author of Ice Forged in The Ascendant Kingdoms Saga and the upcoming Reign of Ash (Orbit Books, 2014), plus The Chronicles of The Necromancer series (The Summoner, The Blood King, Dark Haven & Dark Lady’s Chosen) from Solaris Books, and The Fallen Kings Cycle (The Sworn and The Dread) from Orbit Books. In 2014, Gail launches a new urban fantasy novel, Deadly Curiosities, from Solaris Books. She is also the author of two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures. Be sure to check out Gail’s website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook for more up-to-date news. Gail can also be found at the Disquieting Visions blog and on the Ghost In The Machine Podcast.