Sunday, May 12. 2013
I love music. I'm a consumer not a creator, with eclectic tastes (as I write this I'm listening to an internet radio station devoted to electro-swing), but music matters to me, in every aspect of my life – including my fiction. So, I was pleased to be asked to play a small part in the initial issue of the new periodic chapbook Adventure Rocketship! which aims to close the gap between SFF and the music that has inspired, and been inspired by, the genre.
The book mixes fact and fiction with essays on, amongst other things, Canadian rockers Rush, the much derided soundtrack to LadyHawke, and electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire along with new stories from both established names and up-and-coming writers.
I have to confess confess that some of the essays went over my head, as my love of music is emotional and not intellectual; I am not a true muso. But others, like the interview with the crazy geniuses behind The Orb, had me nodding in agreement, or in the case of the aforementioned bio of Delia Derbyshire, smiling in delight. And Christopher Kirkley's vivid account of Africa's biggest MP3 marketplace was a disconcerting reality-check for someone who read far too much cyberpunk at an impressionable age.
The fiction riffs (sorry) off music, and our responses to it. Some of it, like Liz Williams' 'Starmen' is only tangentially SF, but somehow feels spot on; Lavie Tidhar's 'Between the Notes' takes a classic idea and gives it a new, musical, twist while Tim Maughan brings us bang up to date in 'Flight Path Estate', a savvy story of fame, rebellion and flash parties.
My own small part was to contribute a few hundred words on two albums I love which have an SFF connection. Anyone care to guess what they are? Or at least the bands in question? If I had copies of the book to give away I'd offer them as prizes, but as I only have the one – which I intend to hang onto – you'll have to be content with a traditional Marvel-patented 'no prize', and maybe go buy your own copy of Adventure Rocketship!
Thursday, April 25. 2013
Mindjammer is a book which shows its origins. The author is a gaming professional and, as someone who's dabbled in in Science Fiction RPGs myself, this comes through both in the book's structure and in the approach taken to telling the story. Rather than focusing on a single character, we're with a group, and whilst the group dynamic can be interesting, the frequent switches of viewpoint make it hard to engage emotionally with any one character, and hence with the book. Structurally, the author presents a series of scenarios, and it can be hard to keep track of where, why and what the overall aim is.
Despite these negatives, there's good stuff in here. Newton paints a rich, deep and complex future, especially in the use of the Mindscape, a mental space shared by all humanity. The Mindscape changes the way the world works – as it should – although personally I'd like to have seen more made of how it changed people's relationships and day-to-day worldview.
What the book does do well is to use science fiction to explore big questions: about consciousness, and what it is to be human, and where developments like the Mindscape might ultimately lead.
In a rather odd counterpoint to its philosophical foundations, the style is consciously 'pulpy', which makes for excitement, although I never really felt the characters were in danger. I also found the pacing a bit irregular, possibly another result of its game origins.
So: as a novel it has its flaws, but that doesn't stop Mindjammer being worth a read, especially for anyone familiar with SF gaming. It's a sophisticated extrapolation of current tech, with a thoughtful background and plenty of rollicking adventure.
Thursday, April 11. 2013
A piece of bad news to start: the residential writing course on the second weekend in May, at which I was going to give a workshop, has unfortunately been cancelled.
Something more positive: Readwave is a new site covering several genres. They don't pay up front for your stories, but you retain all rights, and if your story makes it into one of their anthologies they do pay royalties. They even have a widget to allow you to embed stories on your own site.
Thursday, March 21. 2013
I now have my schedule for Eight Squared:
- Friday 5pm (Hawthorn (presumably a room, not a tree)) - Reading, a slot I'm sharing with Cory Doctorow. I'll let him decide who goes first, and probably read one of the stories from Downside Girls.
- Saturday 7pm (in the Conservatory ... with the lead piping - sorry) - Genre Get-Together: Science Fiction. Will sign (most) stuff for beer.
- Sunday 1pm (Main) – “Cityscapes: The great cities of fiction: Trantor, Cities in Flight, Ankh-Morpork. Who lives in them, how do they work, how do you write them?” With CE Murphy, Ian Whates and Walter Jon Williams.
- Sunday 5pm (Rowan) – “Patrick Moore: People who knew or were inspired by Patrick Moore discuss his life and works.” With Dev Agarwal, Stephen Baxter, Vince Docherty and including a talk by space artist Dave Hardy.
- Sunday 6pm (Main) – “Near Earth Asteroids Say Bang: Last month saw a large asteroid pass closer to the Earth than the Moon, and a smaller one hit the ground in Russia. How long before we have a serious space accident? Is there anything we can do to stop it, or is it not politically important?” With Jen Delaney John Coxon and Sharon Reamer.
- Sunday 9pm (Main) – “The SF in Games: How does science fiction work in a gaming environment (video, board or RPG)? Does the science and setting have to take second place to the rules? Are there games with SF good enough that it should be seen elsewhere too?” With John Dallman Dr Bob, Gareth Kavanaugh and Kin-Ming Looi.
At other times I may be found hanging around the Dealer's Room with Hugo-award winning artist and quality reprobate Sue Mason, or more likely, in the bar.
Thursday, March 14. 2013
Following on from my piece for the SFX Book Club on Mary Gentle's Golden Witchbreed recently, the UK's favorite genre 'zine asked me to pick another book, and I chose CJ Cherryh's Downbelow Station. This time I've even remembered to let people know in time to read the book and comment on the SFX website. A selection of comments will appear in the magazine itself, so if you read and comment, you may see your name in print. But you'll need to hurry, as the deadline is the 29th of March.
Meanwhile, the estimable Mr Langford was kind enough to mention Queen of Nowhere in
Thursday, March 7. 2013
Marianne de Pierres is an underrated writer, especially outside her native Australia. Given I’m currently reading a lot of Young Adult SF (that being what I’ve been writing), when I got the chance to read an advance copy of her new YA novel, Burn Bright, I jumped at it.
The book did not disappoint. It has all the classic elements to engage the younger reader (and older ones for that matter). The hero, Retra, was brought up in a religious and repressive culture. She flees this seeking her brother, whose own decision to run away has made her life even more difficult. She follows him to Ixion, a perpetual party island where young people treat having fun as not just a way of life but as a religious devotion.
Here she meets a variety of interesting and sometimes startling characters, all deftly drawn, all with their own aims and agendas. Of course, things are not what they seem, and, despite her resolution, Retra is eventually sucked into this crazy and compelling world.
As with the author's other work, it's the world itself that makes this novel stand out. Familiar enough to believe in, alien enough to shock you, Ixion is mysterious, rich and compelling. And it's just part of a bigger picture. As the novel progresses and Retra's own narrow views widen, we see, through other characters, glimpses of other lifestyles, other places, on what promises to be a fascinating world. My only complaint? It stops just when things are getting really interesting.
Fortunately there is more, as this is the first in the Night Creatures series. I'll be looking out for Angel Arias, the next in the series.
Tuesday, February 26. 2013
Another date for my diary (and possibly for yours) is the residential writing weekend being organised by Alex Davis up in the scenic Dove Valley in Derbyshire on the 10th to 12th of May. Lovely location and excellent value. I'll be giving a short workshop and doing a Q&A session on the Saturday.
Thursday, February 7. 2013
I've just confirmed that I will be appearing at Nine Worlds Geekfest on the 10th and 11th of August. This looks like a great event, run by and for SFF fans and with something for everyone. And they're currently running a kickstarter project which lets early supporters get cheap tickets.
In other and unrelated news, Tor are re-releasing the marvellous Saga of the Exiles, and they have asked several SF authors (myself included) why we loved these books. You can read all about that here.
Sunday, February 3. 2013
It's the time of year when, in this household at least, diaries, virtual and paper, are pored over and arrangements finalised. One result of this is that I can confirm my attendance at the following two events:
Picocon, 16th and 17th February, Imperial College, London. On Saturday the 16th at 2.30pm I'll be appearing on the Guest of Honour panel (despite not being a guest of honour his year), along with Peter Hamilton, Steph Swainson, Richard Morgan and Kate Griffin.
Eastercon, 29th March to 1st April, Bradford. Not sure what I'll be appearing on there (other than a barstool), so watch this space for details.
Saturday, January 19. 2013
I've finished the first draft of the novel of Dark Suns, the YA space mystery which I've been describing as 'Lord of the Flies meets Silent Running meets The Midwich Cuckoos'. Right now, I don't believe it lives up to those comparisons; in fact, I hate it. This is quite normal, and I've said it before about previous books at the end-of-first-draft stage, although I never thought, when I set out to write a YA novel, that it would be quite so hard. And it certainly lives up to the 'dark' part of the title.
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Consorts of Heaven
"A potential star in the making" SF Crowsnest