Monday, 31 October 2011

Mild Panic & Pandemonium

"Pandemonium contains no dead wood; no filler, obligatory inclusions, or unnecessary stories. Every work in the collection, as well as being individually superb, sings for its supper; serves a particular purpose within the thematic framework of the anthology.... This is a rare thing to say about an anthology, but there were no stories I disliked; nothing which I thought to be weak, or badly written; nothing which I found myself trawling through, wishing only to get to the next story."

You can read the rest of this review here.

Which is what I did whilst systematically chewing all my fingernails off in mild panic. Then I breathed a sigh or relief and had a cup of tea. I wrote my story before Anne and Jared mentioned Jon Courtenay Grimwood and Lauren Beukes had committed to the project.

It’s not unlike saying you’ll take your pub band that plays Foo Fighter covers to play at a festival. Then discovering Tool and Soundgarden are headlining (feel free to insert your own analogy here if this one is too ‘rock’ for you).

I’ve been a fan of Jon’s since I read 9Tail Fox, I routinely suggest Pashazade to anyone who even pretends to read. And you’d have to live on Mars (so to speak) to not realise Lauren is flat out stratospheric right now.

So if one person thought I kept up and didn’t drop the ball, well alrighty then.

I should say that this was my first gig actually putting my work in the hands of another, namely Anne, who edited all of Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse. I can’t speak highly enough of what she did both in terms for me as a writer, but also for the story. Anne is a smart cookie and this is her first commercial anthology but you’d think she’d been doing this for years.

The launch party for this unholy beast of an ebook is this Friday at the Tate Britain. A limited edition print run will follow, available from the Tate Britain later in the month.

I’ve not read all the stories, but look out for my friend Tom Pollock’s tale. Also noteworthy is Archie Black's offering that stayed in my imagination long after I'd finished reading it. The sheer horror of the story is matched only by the beauty of the prose.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Thoughts on The City & the City

 Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad finds himself mired in politics and old conspiracies following the discovery of a murdered woman in the decaying city of Beszel. However, the answers he needs are elsewhere, beyond a border intangible, in a city unlike his own, and yet with so many similarities…

China Miéville is no stranger to bringing metropolises to the page. The author’s novels, including his acclaimed ‘anti-trilogy’ of urban fantasy (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council), are set in wonderful cities teeming with citizens and ideas. However, gone are the shockingly imaginative denizens of New Crobuzon, Armada or Un Lun dun – this is strictly a contemporary affair, set in the present day, in a crumbling city on the edge of Europe. Or is it?
This is far and away Mieville’s most subtle work, and while the prose is muscular, the mystery and relationship of Beszel and its close neighbour, Ul Qoma, are revealed in small insinuations and teases. If the pace is a little slow then it is only because this is a storyteller luring in the outsider in small increments, for we are all outsiders in Beszel.
Existing fans expecting monsters and villains will need to approach the text with an open mind – this is a crime novel. And while Mieville pays homage to and observes the tropes of the genre, it would be disingenuous to expect him not to put his own unique spin on things.
The ending is by turns satisfying and unexpected and the setting fascinating. Perhaps the only criticism is that the protagonist feels translucent and shadowy – but then maybe this is the point. The City And The City is a story of shades of grey and paranoia, where citizens must remain covert and guarded at all times.

A satisfying crime procedural novel loaded with parallels to pre-unification Berlin and Orwellian dread. An interesting gambit from the author, challenging his existing readership to try something new.
This interview originally appeared at TotalSciFi.Com

Monday, 17 October 2011

Thoughts on Altered Carbon

Takeshi Kovacs awakes to find that his personality has been broadcast some 180 light years to Earth. He’s in a body with a history all of its own, railroaded into working for a man some two hundred and fifty years old and given a mystery to solve that is nigh on impossible. Fortunately Takeshi is an ex-Envoy…

Fusing together Cyberpunk and hardboiled detective noir, Richard Morgan mines a rich seam of great ideas: the most fundamental being that humans have their personalities stored digitally and can be ‘decanted’ into new bodies.

Based on this premise and the many options and variables surrounding it, Morgan weaves a sordid tale of a fantastically violent future. Much of the book feels more like a film and fans of Blade Runner or Aliens will feel both at home and exhilarated by the dystopia Morgan has created. At times the author cheekily alludes to things beyond the scope of the book that will have you dying to know more.

The pace of this novel is frankly breathtaking up until the last quarter, when you’ll need to pay attention as the twists and consequences come thick and fast. The story starts out small and personal but quickly becomes more global and political, all underpinned with Morgan’s dark humour. The supporting characters are never flimsy; they’re frequently flawed, broken and just trying to make the best of an uncaring future world.

Told from the first person and with an undeniable swagger, Kovacs is a perfect anti-hero who, despite his occasional gold hearted moment, is not someone you want to get on the wrong side of in any star system. 

An adrenaline-soaked, darkly sexy, super-violent, super-intelligent book that will grip (or strangle) you to the very last page. Buy it now.

This interview originally appeared at TotalSciFi.Com

Monday, 10 October 2011

Pandemonium – Stories of the Apocalypse

I’m pleased to announce that one of my stories will be appearing in an anthology due out this month on the Kindle. Pandemonium – Stories of the Apocalypse is timed to coincide with Tate Britain’s exhibition of paintings by John Martin.

In addition to my (burnt) offering, you can expect stories from Lauren Beukes, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Sophia McDougal, Tom Pollock, Scott K Andrews, Magnus Anderson, Chrysanthy Balis, David Bryher, Kim Laikin-Smith, Andy Remic and Jonathan Oliver to name just a few.
The collection will also feature a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke award Director Tom Hunter and is edited by Jared Shurin and Anne Perry. This is huge honour for me and I’m very grateful I was asked to contribute.

You can find out more about Pandemonium HERE

Anne and Jared run the blog Pornokitsch and, as if that weren’t enough work, also run the Kitschies science fiction award, sponsored by Kraken Rum.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The First Draft

I’m pleased to announce the birth of a brand new baby novel. The bundle of joy was born on 2nd October 2011 and weighed eighty-two thousand words. It was an immaculate conception and I’m the daddy, so to speak. It’s currently called Porcelain, but who knows what it will end up being called, possibly Jimmy. Or Baz.

More seriously. I started this back in March with an idea for a title, a desire to have a very big castle central to the plot, and no magic in the novel. Being unemployed for six months was key to the rate of productivity. I’m still in awe of writers like Mark Charan Newton, who have a day job, write after work, and still find time to grow vegetables.

I’m trying to stay realistic. This is only the second novel I’ve completed and it may well be atrocious. It might be unmarketable (a massive concern for publishers in these cash-strapped times) and not fit any of the pre-conceived sub categories that we genre fans love to pigeon hole novels in. I keep tentatively saying the words ‘Gothic Weird’ but then the glass shatters on my Pretension-ometer and I fall off my chair laughing at myself.

So what happens now? I hear you ask. Well, nothing. At this stage a writer is encouraged to put the manuscript to one side for as long as they can bear and come back to it when they’re not so close to the text. Porcelain will likely not be touched until next year. The best thing I can do now is crack on with something else, preferably unrelated.

The main thing is (and this is important for any newbie/wannabe writer) that I had a ton of fun. Inventing characters, describing locales, planning fight scenes, trying to make jokes ‘funny’ all present unique challenges and I look forward to seeing how well I did (or how badly) when I read through.
You can read the first two chapters of Porcelain HERE