Welcome once again to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.
Regular, he writes, mindful of the fact that the column was AWOL last week, over the Independence Day break in the States. Apologies if your Wednesday just wasn’t the same without it!
In this edition, we get right back on track with news of a bunch of forthcoming British books, including a slush pile success story; a thoroughly revised version of Mark Charan Newton’s debut; a short follow-up of sorts to A Town Called Pandemonium; plus an uprising of Angry Robots.
Back at the ranch, it’s buy one get one free week in the return of Cover Art Corner, which considers new novels by Simon Ings and Gwenda Bond.
Back to Pandemonium
Hot on the heels of revealing The Book of the Dead in a special edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, Jurassic London have announced another pair of projects. The first we’ll see is Pandemonium: Ash, which apparently marks “an explosive return to the world of Pandemonium.”
A Town Called Pandemonium introduced readers to a mysterious town in the American West. 1853 shared glimpses of the rest of the world, in that same fateful year.
Ash, coming in November, continues exploring the world of Pandemonium, thirty years later. In 1883, the great volcano Krakatoa exploded and shook the Earth. The stories in this chapbook wonder what happened in the days that followed—days of darkness, shadow and, of course... ash.
Pandemonium: Ash includes six original stories:
- “Delft” by Richard de Nooy
- “I Dreamt I Held Her Hand” by Nerine Dorman
- “Wilderness of Duidain” by Dan Green
- “The Raft” by Charlie Human
- “Under the Sign of the Cockatrice” by Timothy J. Jarvis
- “Waves” by Lavie Tidhar
A fair few unfamiliar names there, eh? I’m ashamed to say I only recognise Lavie Tidhar and Charlie Human, whose debut I’ll be reviewing for Tor.com shortly. But if I had to place my trust in any small press to introduce me to an assortment of awesome new authors, I’d plump for Jurassic London.
I’m excited, in any event, to get back to the weird and wonderful world the not-for-profit publisher explored over the course of its first few projects.
Pandemonium: Ash will be published this November as a digital chapbook. Then, next Summer, we can look forward to a luxury limited edition of Mark Charan Newton’s exceedingly rare debut.
A Return to The Reef
First published in 2008 by Pendragon Press, The Reef is a tale of Weird pulp adventure, packed with mad science, swashbuckling heroes and monsters on an epic scale. Clever, exciting and ambitious, The Reef is the oft-overlooked debut novel of one of fantasy fiction’s most intriguing contemporary writers.
Fans of Mr. Newton’s Legends of the Red Sun or his new Drakenfeld series will recognise his ability both to blur genre boundaries and to infuse a story with a social and environmental conscience.
To give the book the unique feel that it deserves, the art for the new edition will be provided by Philippa Rice (St Colin and the Dragon, Recylost, My Cardboard Life). Her work has been praised by Cory Doctorow, Paul Gravett and many others.
“I’m very excited about what is a marvellously bonkers project,” says Mr. Newton. “The artwork is going to be weird and delightful in a truly different way. And this is also a great opportunity for me to revisit and rework the text as a much more experienced writer.”
As Newton asserts in the announcement, he’s essentially rewritten The Reef from top to bottom in order to “iron out problems and bring the prose up-to-date with the learnings of a more established novelist.” Having read The Reef, I’d agree that it isn’t in its original form representative of the author’s especial strengths, so I’m looking forward to seeing what changes Mark has made.
I’ll have to secure my copy as soon as possible, because there aren’t going to be many to go around. Not in print, that is: Jurassic London will only publish 75 signed and number hardcover copies, with all the proceeds to be donated to Marine Conservation UK. If you’re interested, in other words, be ready to buy it the moment pre-orders are released.
In other Mark Charan Newton news, the author has just handed in the final draft of the second novel in his new series. I’ve been reading Drakenfeld the first recently, and though it’s too soon to talk shop properly—it’s not out till mid-October, folks—I’ll say this at this early stage: you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be reading the sequel.
The Fire Sermon
The slush pile: where unsolicited manuscripts go to gather dust.
I certainly don’t envy the poor devils who have to sort through these stacks in search of something potentially worth publishing, yet every now and again, a gem emerges from the muck, and one such discovery has made waves in recent weeks.
HarperVoyager have acquired The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig—an erstwhile lecturer at the University of Chester—for a “significant” six-figure sum, hot on the heels of the news that DreamWorks have nabbed the rights to make the book into a movie.
The Fire Sermon isn’t expected to be released until spring 2015, but a blurb is already circulating:
In a world without technology, 400 years [...] after a nuclear apocalypse, all humans have a twin, with one, the Alpha, being physically perfect, and the other, the Omega, having a mutation. A state of division exists between the two, with rebellious Omegas forced to live on blighted land... but although they live apart, when one dies, the other dies too. The Fire Sermon follows Cass, an Omega with an invisible defect—the ability to see the future—who is cast out by her twin Zach when her power is discovered.
Deputy Publish Director Emma Coode made the following comment on the novel:
“I was completely hooked by the concept and [Haig’s] narrative skill was evident from the first few pages. The Fire Sermon is a wonderful adventure layered with high drama and provocative world building, with a strong, appealing heroine at its heart.”
By the by, The Fire Sermon is the first part of a proposed trilogy.
Cover Art Corner: Wolves and Woken Gods
Coming off a relationship with Corvus/Atlantic which resulted in Dead Water and The Weight of Numbers—two terrific books, to be sure, if only remotely related to the genre—Simon Ings has signed with Gollancz for an undisclosed number of novels. The first, tellingly titled Wolves, will be published in January 2014.
Five of the books from his backlist will also be brought back into print in the subsequent months.
But let’s stay with Wolves for the time being, because by gum, look at that cover! It’s by Jeffrey Alan Love, and it might be the most striking image I’ve seen this year. Puts me in mind of a more malevolent Dave McKean.
The book sounds pretty bloomin’ good too:
Imagining the end...
At school, Connie and Micky cooked up all the ways the world could end.
Years later, Michel imagines apocalypses for a living, and lives inside fantasies of the Fall. Conrad works in advertising, spinning aspirational dreams out of imaginary light.
Will their reunion reveal who killed Conrad’s mother?
Will it make them a lot of money? Or, just maybe, bring about the collapse of Western civilization?
Wolves is a surreal whodunnit about what happens when unhappy men get their hands on powerful media. Part crime novel, part coming-of-age story, this is an informed, atmospheric, cutting-edge tale of the near future.
Another of the book covers revealed in recent weeks was Amazing15’s eye-catching assemblage of the Egyptian elements involved in The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond.
Five years ago, the gods of ancient mythology awoke around the world.
This morning, Kyra Locke is late for school.
Seventeen-year-old Kyra lives in a transformed Washington, D.C., home to the embassies of divine pantheons and the mysterious Society of the Sun. But when rebellious Kyra encounters two trickster gods on her way back from school, one offering a threat and the other a warning, it turns out her life isn’t what it seems. She escapes with the aid of Osborne “Oz” Spencer, an intriguing Society field operative, only to discover that her scholar father has disappeared with a dangerous relic. The Society needs it, and they don’t care that she knows nothing about her father’s secrets.
Now Kyra must depend on her wits and the suspect help of scary gods, her estranged oracle mother, and, of course, Oz–whose first allegiance is to the Society. She has no choice if she’s going to recover the missing relic and save her father. And if she doesn’t? Well, that may just mean the end of the world as she knows it.
I’m afraid I wasn’t one of the folks who adored Bond’s first novel, Blackwood. Its fans were many, however. Plus it was one of the books that launched Strange Chemistry into the YA stratosphere, and I was very pleased indeed to see the imprint succeed. At the very least, then, it sounds like The Woken Gods will be worth a read when it’s released in early September.
Angry Robots Rising
Let’s close this week’s column with a look at a few of the exciting new novels the fine folks at Angry Robot have announced in recent weeks.
They’ve bought, to begin with, a third book by Ramez Naam—namely another novel set in the same near-future milieu as Nexus and its nearly-released sequel, Crux—to be published some time in 2014.
Mez had this to say: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with Angry Robot again for the third Nexus book. I couldn’t ask for better partners in bringing this story to life and getting it out to fans. Especially after I injected Nexus nanoparticles into their brains and used those to control the team’s every thought.”
Lee Harris said, “Absolute poppycock, of course. We bought the series because it is one of the smartest near-future technothrillers we’ve seen in ages, and not because Ramez (who, incidentally, is superhumanly handsome, gifted and generous, and an amazing dancer) is controlling our thoughts and actions.”
Looking even further ahead—to 2015, indeed—Angry Robot have signed Chuck Wendig up for two new novels, including Bloody Brides, the sequel to The Blue Blazes, and another “top sekrit” project. This was what Chuck had to say about the books when his mechanical masters let a little light into the cell they’ve been keeping him in:
PLEASE CALL THE POLICE THEY WON’T LET ME LEAVE THEY JUST KEEP MAKING ME WRITE THESE BOOKS AND I HAVEN’T SEEN THE LIGHT OF DAY IN TWO YEARS—oh! I’m sorry, what I mean to say is, Angry Robot is full of awesome people bringing awesome books into the world and I’m happy that they’re continuing to afford me the opportunity to reduce the overall quality of their stable of authors. I am, as always, excited to continue my relationship with these charming robot curators of genre fiction.
Best press releases in industry, yes?
But wait, there’s another one! About a brand new addition to the Angry Robot army, at that:
You’ll know Michael Boatman from his work on TV shows such as Spin City, Anger Management, The Good Wife and Gossip Girl. After a lifetime of excelling on-screen, Michael has at last reached the zenith of his professional achievements, and become...
[note to self: insert fanfare image and sound effect here before the blog post goes live - don’t leave it too late like you did last time]
...an Angry Robot author!
Michael has been signed for two books: Last God Standing and Who Wants to be the Prince of Darkness? In Last God Standing, all hell breaks loose when the God of Abraham decides to join the human race and see what all the fuss is about...
You can check out the blurbs of both books through those links, incidentally. They appear to be part of the same series: a funny (as in funny ha-ha) fantasy revolving around the devil himself!
And with that, the time has come to call this edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus. As ever, consider continuing the conversation in the comments, and watch this space next Wednesday for another round-up of book news from bloomin’ Blighty. Till then... tatty bye!
Niall Alexander is an erstwhile English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, where he contributes a weekly column concerned with news and new releases in the UK called the British Genre Fiction Focus, and co-curates the Short Fiction Spotlight. On occasion he’s been seen to tweet, twoo.