So what do I have for you in the first edition of Tor.com’s edifying new feature? Well, fittingly, the British Genre Fiction Focus begins with news of a new genre fiction imprint, a new trilogy, two new covers and a whole new way of doing business.
That’s in addition to discussion of an excellent selection of promising new novels—including a previously self-published sensation, a standalone scientific romance with the DNA of the weird, and the belated beginning of an epic fantasy saga that’s done very well for itself in North America—all of which will be released in the UK this week.
Whether I’m loving a novel or loathing it wholly, finishing a thing is singularly exhilarating.
Perhaps you’re wondering why I would say that. The easy answer is because afterwards, I get to start a new story, but the intervening period is worth its weight, as well. This is a time of awesome possibility. Of truly immeasurable potential. Almost anything could happen in that magical moment, and even if the book I eventually resolve to read is rubbish, that doesn’t detract from the thrill of the decision.
But picking isn’t easy, is it? Sure, some recent releases demand our immediate attention. Mostly, though—for me at least—there are simply so many exciting options that I can spend as long settling on one novel over all the others as it takes me to read it.
Have you ever struggled similarly? Well, this column certainly isn’t going to help any!
In fact, it is my sincerest dream that the British Genre Fiction Focus will make these decisions still more difficult, because of course there are other worlds than those we know. However widely read we may be, there are other authors... other novels... and other issues to consider.
To wit, this column exists to fill a hole we noticed in our coverage of all things weird and wonderful: news and new releases from the British genre fiction industry.
If you’d like to know more British Genre Fiction Focus, the introduction should serve you well.
Britain’s Getting a New Genre Fiction Imprint
Hand on heart, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to begin the inaugural edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus than with news of the launch of a new genre fiction imprint.
You probably know the name well already—Del Rey has been in operation in North America since 1977—but here in the UK, we’re used to waiting. Usually not for forty-odd years, but I’ll take what I can get in this case!
This month, the British wing of the imprint, under the stewardship of Ebury Publishing, makes its long-awaited debut. We’ll talk more about Del Rey’s launch novel, A Red Son Also Rises, in the new releases section of this very column, but looking a little further into the future, I espy a treasure trove of exciting science fiction, steampunk and urban fantasy, including Osiris by E. J. Swift, A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz, and last for the moment—but not least, I hear—God’s War, the first of Kameron Hurley’s popular Bel Dame Apocrypha books.
These may not all be novels from upstanding British authors, but what of it? To a one, I’d like to put them in me immediately.
Join me, please, in wishing Del Rey a warm welcome to the UK!
Gollancz Buys Publishing Rights Through Kickstarter, Thanks to Twitter
Now, from a new source of speculative fiction in Britain to a new way for our industry to do business. Gollancz have been major players in the book trade since 1927, and despite their restructuring nearly a year ago, the esteemed Orion imprint seems as strong as ever. And truly crucial, too, to the future of publishing, whether here in the UK or elsewhere... because guess how Gollancz just bought the rights to produce three tie-ins based on the classic video game Elite?
After discussions on Twitter.
I kid you not! What do you want to bet it all started with a friend request on Facebook?
Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s own blog post about the news:
Leading SF publisher Gollancz, an imprint of Orion Books, is to publish three new original novels to tie-in with the sequel to classic 80s computer game Elite.
Gollancz announced the new novels after pledging over £13,000 to help make Elite: Dangerous, a sequel to the classic space trading game published in 1984 but which still enjoys a cult status. Having reached their £1.25 million goal on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, the game’s producers, Frontier Developments, plan to release the game in March 2014, and the books will be published to tie in to the game’s release.
[Editor] Marcus Gipps says: “When we saw that David Braben was seeking funding on Kickstarter for a new Elite game, both Jon [Wood] and myself were very excited at the potential of this new form of creative ownership. Luckily, one of Braben’s ‘pledge levels’ included the rights to publish an official tie-in book. After some discussion with David, and then within Orion, Gollancz put ourselves down for three of the ‘writer’s packages’. We currently plan to publish all three books around the game’s launch, and although each story will stand alone, there will be elements and characters that link all three works.”
Publishing plans and authors have not yet been finalised, but Jon Wood commented: “We wish we could work with Robert Holdstock on this project, but we’re sure he would be excited to see David creating a new Elite game. Although we aren’t yet in a position to announce details of our plans, we can say that we’re in discussion with some potential authors—some already published by Gollancz, some new to the Orion group—and have been very pleased by the response. Many were deeply touched by the original Elite, and the accompanying novella, and it clearly had a significant impact on the SF genre. Negotiations are ongoing, but we hope to announce the involvement of three major names in due course.”
Here’s hoping the books live up to Elite’s inestimable legacy. But even if they don’t, this has already been a fascinating story to follow.
Who here remembers playing that game, anyway? Don’t be afraid to show your age! I was an Amiga 500 man myself, so I spent longer with Elite’s first sequel, Frontier, than I did with the original.
New Books From Ben Aaronovitch and Alison Littlewood
Stop the presses for some recently released UK covers! And while we’re at it, why not throw in blurbs for the corresponding books too?
Here’s a look at the captivating artwork Stephen Walters has produced for Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch. Broken Homes is part the fourth of the remarkable Rivers of London series, which began in early 2011 with the novel known as Midnight Riot in North America.
Ben Aaronovitch has stormed the bestseller list with his superb London crime series. A unique blend of police procedural, loving detail about the greatest character of all, London, and a dash of the supernatural.
In the new novel DC Peter Grant must head south of the river to the alien environs of Elephant and Castle. There’s a murderer abroad and, as always when Grant’s department are reluctantly called in by CID, there is more than a whiff of the supernatural in the darkness.
Full of warmth, sly humour and a rich cornucopia of things you never knew about London, Aaronovitch’s series has swiftly added Grant’s magical London to Rebus’ Edinburgh and Morse’s Oxford as a destination of choice for those who love their crime with something a little extra.
Coincidentally, none other than Gollancz will be bringing Broken Homes to the UK during the first month of the summer.
Also arriving that month, we have Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood, whose darkly fantastic debut A Cold Season made a lasting impression on me when I read it in early 2012.
And, uh... Richard and Judy liked it too. Everyone in the world knows who Richard and Judy are... right?
I’m not sure what to make of the cover of Littlewood’s new book—it’s a bit too abstract if you ask me—but the early copy sure sounds good.
Some fairytales are born of dreams... and some are born of nightmares. A murderer is on the loose, but the gruesome way in which the bodies are being posed has the police at a loss. Until, on a hunch, Alice Hyland, an expert in fairytales is called in. And it is Alice who finds the connection between the body of Chrissie Farrell and an obscure Italian version of Snow White. Then, when a second body is found, Alice is dragged further into the investigation—until she herself becomes a suspect. Now Alice must fight, not just to prove her innocence, but to protect herself: because it’s looking like she might well be next.
Path of Needles will be available as a paperback from Jo Fletcher Books in June.
Tom Fletcher Signs Three-Book Deal
There’s no relation, as far as I’m aware—except that one publishes the other—but speaking of Jo Fletcher, Tom Fletcher (whose latest, The Ravenglass Eye, I reviewed for Strange Horizons last Friday) has signed a new, three-book deal with the selfsame genre fiction imprint.
Over on his excellent blog, The Endist, Tom told us more about the trilogy I can only hope gains him greater acclaim:
The Factory Trilogy is going to be set within the gargantuan Factory of Gleam—an ancient, hulking edifice of stone, metal and glass ruled over by chaste alchemists and astronomer priests. As millennia have passed, the population of Gleam has decreased, and so now only the central district is fully inhabited and operational; the outskirts have been left for the wilderness to reclaim, and have become the haunt of outlaws, loners and stranger things. This decaying, lawless zone is the Discard; this is the home of Wild Alan, the series’ protagonist. Clever, arrogant, and perpetually angry, Wild Alan is a protest singer who is as loved by some of the Discard’s misfits almost as much as he is loathed by the rest of them. He’s convinced that the Gleam authorities were behind the disaster that killed his parents and the whole mining community of which they were a part; his ambition is to prove it. In his attempts, he’ll uncover a lot more about Gleam than he bargained for.
My intention is for these books to be raucous, exciting, strange and otherworldly—more Gormenghast than A Song of Ice and Fire, more Alice in Wonderland than Lord of the Rings.
JFB also released the first information about the book Tom Fletcher will be bringing out before The Factory Trilogy begins in earnest. Stay tuned for The Dead Fool this September.
But that must be enough about the far-flung future for the moment. September 2013 indeed!
In the second half of this first edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, we’re going to look at a handful of books slated for publication markedly more imminently than those discussed above.
We’re already touched on the debut of Del Rey, more on which in a moment, but I wonder, what else is hitting hereabouts?
Well, this first round-up of the most notable speculative fiction forthcoming in Britain represents a cross-section of new releases, including a couple of genre novels hitting UK bookstore shelves before anywhere else, and several others that come from across the pond with a pre-existing pedigree.
A Red Sun Also Rises, by Mark Hodder (January 17, Del Rey)
My name is Aiden Fleischer. I was forced from my home, moved among the victims of Jack the Ripper, was tortured by a witch doctor, and awoke on another planet. Throughout it all, my assistant, Clarissa Stark, remained at my side.
On Ptallaya, we were welcomed by the Yatsill. The creatures transformed their society into a bizarre version of our own, and we found a new home beneath the world’s twin suns. But there was darkness in my soul, and as the two yellow globes set, I was forced to confront it, for on Ptallaya, a red sun also rises.
And with it comes an evil more horrifying than any on Earth.
Wool (Wool Trilogy #1), by Hugh Howey (January 17, Century)
In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. To live, you must follow the rules.
But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside.
Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.
Adam Robots, by Adam Roberts (January 17, Gollancz)
Gathered together for the first time from a major publisher are the short stories of Adam Roberts. Unique twisted visions from the edges and the centre of the SF genres. Stories that carry Adam Roberts’ trademark elegance of style and restless enquiry of the genre he loves so much. Acclaimed stories, some that have appeared in magazines, some in anthologies, some appearing for the first time. Stories to make you think, to make you laugh, to make you wonder, to make you uneasy. Stories that ask questions, stories that sow mysteries. But always stories that entertain.
The Many-Coloured Land (Saga of the Exiles #1), by Julian May (January 17, Tor)
In the 22nd Century, a group of misfits and mavericks are preparing to leave behind everything they have known. Advanced technology has created a one-way time portal to Earth’s Pliocene Era—six million years ago. Those seeking a better life are drawn to the promise of a simple utopia, far from the civilised Galactic Mileu. But no one could have predicted the dangers on the other side. For the group will enter the battleground of two warring alien races, exiled from a distant planet. And these races not only have potent mind powers, but seek to exploit and enslave humans for their own needs. The travellers are about to discover that their unspoilt paradise is far from Eden.
Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon Kindgoms #1), by Saladin Ahmed (January 17, Gollancz)
The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at boiling point. A power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince is reaching its climax. In the midst of this brewing rebellion, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. Only a handful of reluctant heroes can learn the truth, and stop the killing.
Doctor Adoulla Makhslood just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path. Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God’s justice. Zamia Badawi has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed. When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn the city, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.
The Eye with Which the Universe Beholds Itself (Apollo Quartet #2), by Ian Sales (January 20, Whippleshield Books)
For fifteen years, Earth has had a scientific station on an exoplanet orbiting Gliese 876. It is humanity’s only presence outside the Solar System. But a new and powerful telescope at L5 can detect no evidence of Phaeton Base, even though it should be able to. So the US has sent Brigadier Colonel Bradley Elliott, USAF, to investigate. Twenty years before, Elliott was the first, and to date only, man to land on the Martian surface. What he discovered there gave the US the stars, but it might also be responsible for the disappearance of Phaeton Base....
Loads to look forward to, then!
And why am I not surprised?
That’s almost it for this feature-length first edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, but remember, there’s nothing hard and fast about the column’s format at this early stage, so if there’s anything you’d like to know more about, or even something you’d like to see less of, I’d very much welcome your comments and suggestions.
Even if you like the look of things as they are—and here’s hoping a few of you do!—the whole point of this new feature, as I see it, is to foster conversation.
So. Who wants to start us off?
Niall Alexander is an erstwhile English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for Strange Horizons, The Speculative Scotsman and Tor.com. On rare occasion he’s been seen to tweet about books, too.