British Fiction Focus

An Assortment of Anthologies, Featuring Secret SF Fan Stieg Larsson

Welcome back to the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com’s regular round-up of book news from the United Kingdom’s thriving speculative fiction industry.

This week, we begin with the shortlist for the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Awards for Fantasy, which was revealed at Nine Worlds Geekfest in London on Sunday. Being honours decided via public polls, the Legends tend to split the community down the middle, and it’ll be interesting to see what comes of the list released this weekend.

Also in this edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, news about an assortment of anthologies: a crowd-sourced collection coming from the folks at Angry Robot and Pornokitsch, in conjunction with the Bristol Festival of Literature; and an international effort which promises to showcase A Darker Shade of Sweden, complete with a lost genre short by the late, great Stieg Larsson.

All that, and Al Robertson introduces us to his fist.

Legends Awards Shortlist

In London on Sunday, at the fan-funded Nine Worlds Geekfest—which by all accounts went off perfectly well—the shortlist for the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Awards for Fantasy was revealed.

As ever, the honours will be spread across three categories: the Ravenstar Award will be go to the fantasy novel with the best cover art published for the first time in English in 2012; the Morningstar to the best fantasy debut released in the same period; and finally, to the year’s finest fantasy fiction, the Legend itself.

Without any further fuss, the long and short of the shortlist:

Legend Award

  • Joe Abercrombie: Red Country (Gollancz)
  • Jay Kristoff: Stormdancer (Pan Macmillan UK)
  • Mark Lawrence: King of Thorns (HarperCollins/Voyager)
  • Helen Lowe: The Gathering of the Lost (Orbit)
  • Brent Weeks: The Blinding Knife (Orbit)

Morningstar Award

  • Saladin Ahmed: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Gollancz and DAW)
  • Miles Cameron: The Red Knight (Gollancz)
  • John Gwynne: Malice (Pan Macmillan UK)
  • Aidan Harte: Irenicon (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • Jay Kristoff: Stormdancer (Pan Macmillan UK)

Ravenheart Award

  • Didier Graffet and Dave Senior, for Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz)
  • Dominic Harman, for Legion of Shadow by Michael J. Ward (Gollancz)
  • Clint Langley, for Besieged by Rowenna Cory Daniells (Solaris)
  • Silas Manhood, for The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
  • Colin Thomas, for Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff (Pan Macmillan UK)
  • Stephen Youll, for The Black Mausoleum by Stephen Deas (Gollancz)

I’m not going to waste your time or mine talking about the novels I think should have been shortlisted, or the lone female fantasist featured; it’s been many years since the Legend and I saw eye to eye, I cannot lie. That said, there are a couple of objectively awesome authors up for the honours this year.

I’ve personally refrained from participating in the cover art category, because honestly, but I have cast my vote for Saladin Ahmed to take home the Morningstar, and Joe Abercrombie undoubtedly deserves the Legend Award proper.

Are you with me? Or do you disagree? One way or the other, click through to the Legend Award voting portal before the end of September and have your say. You don’t get to complain about the results otherwise!

The winners of the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Awards for Fantasy will be announced at a ceremony at World Fantasy Con in Brighton this October.

Speculative Stieg Larsson

Jules Verne Magasinet

Did you know Stieg Larsson was a huge science fiction fan? I didn’t.

Evidently, however, he had a lifelong interest in the genre. Indeed, as a teenager, he submitted two short stories to Jules Verne Magasinet, a now defunct Swedish science fiction journal. At the time, both were roundly rejected by the editor, but now, one of Larsson’s lost works is poised to be published.

“Brain Power” will finally see the light alongside short stories by the crème de la crème of crossover Swedish authors—including Henning Mankell, Maj Sjöwall and the debut of Larsson’s former partner Eva Gabrielsson—in an upcoming anthology called A Darker Shade of Sweden, due out in the US from Mysterious Press next February.

This is big book news whichever way you look at it, but admittedly, there’s precious little that’s British about it… so let’s speculate about who’ll be bringing the anthology to the UK! My money would be on either Larsson’s local publisher Quercus, or Atlantic Books, whose Grove Press has close ties to the aforementioned North American imprint. One way or the other, I’m sure we’ll see it released here in 2014, if not before.

One wonders what Larsson would have thought about the publication of “Brain Power,” an early work by all accounts. Well, according to John-Henri Holmberg, the author’s friend and the editor of the upcoming crime anthology:

Larsson would have been amused at seeing one of his early stories back in print, and at the enormous attention paid to his crime novels. Larsson, he says, was in fact a quiet, unassuming and almost shy man; he would not have enjoyed being famous or hounded by journalists. Still, “he would have loved being read and [having] his work appreciated.”

This might be the first posthumous publication of the author of The Millennium Trilogy’s other efforts, but let’s face it: it’s not likely to be the last, either. In addition to the all the inevitable Lisbeth Salander stuff, Larsson abandoned at least one “vast science-fiction novel,” which I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see completed and released in the fullness of time.

Before we move on, an interesting wrinkle worth watching for in any further commentary you read regarding A Darker Shade of Sweden: some outlets seem at pains to downplay the speculative elements of Larsson’s story, calling it, amongst other things, “a suspense story set in the near future.” Keep an eye open, why don’t you, and find out what the resources you read really think about genre fiction.

The Chilling Face of Hugo Fist

 

Last week, we heard that Gollancz had pre-empted a major auction by signing British author Al Robertson for not one but two novels.

A bit of background: in recent years, Robertson has been nominated for the British Fantasy Award and shortlisted by the British Science Fiction Association for his short fiction, which has been published in Postscripts, Black Static and Interzone, among other magazines.

Associate Publisher Simon Spanton, who bought the books on behalf of Gollancz, had this to say about the author and his evidently impressive debut:

“From the very first lines of Crashing Heaven I was caught in the tangles of the amazing relationship between Jack and Hugo Fist. It was clear that Al Robertson was a writer completely in command of his material and totally at home in his chosen genre. To find all this, fully formed, in the work of a debut writer is special indeed. Why was I determined to publish this book? It’s a long time since I’ve read a book that takes the familiar and fashions it into something that feels so fresh. And it will be a long time before I can forget the terrifying manic energy, the barely contained rage, the chilling face of Hugo Fist.”

I have an early blurb for you to drool over, too:

With Earth abandoned, humanity resides on Station, an industrialised asteroid run by the sentient corporations of the Pantheon. Under their leadership a war has been raging against the Totality – ex-Pantheon AIs gone rogue.

With the war over, Jack Forster and his sidekick Hugo Fist, a bizarre virtual puppet tied to Jack’s mind, have returned home.

Labelled a traitor for surrendering to the Totality, all Jack wants is to clear his name but when he discovers two old friends have died under suspicious circumstances he also wants answers. Soon he and Fist are embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens not only their future but all of humanity’s. But with Fist’s software licence about to expire, taking Jack’s life with it, can they bring down the real traitors before their time runs out?

Crashing Heaven is about a unique friendship and ultimately asks what it means to be human in our technologically advancing world. Crackling with energy and wit, it will appeal to fans of everything from detective noir to genre classics like Neuromancer.

Crashing Heaven isn’t likely to see the light of day till early 2015, but on his blog—namely allumination—Robertson writes that he’s currently putting the finishing touches to his second novel, “which is about how a space auditor and his sidekick, a virtual ventriloquist’s dummy, take on the sentient corporations of tomorrow.” Either he’s talking about a sequel to Crashing Heaven already, which the two book deal certainly suggests, or describing said as his debut isn’t entirely true.

One way or another, you can count me in, I think.

The Kraken Rises!

In conjunction with the fine folks at Pornokitsch, who seem to have been especially busy bees recently, and the organisers of the Bristol Festival of Literature, Angry Robot are about to break with tradition and publish—for the first time, unbelievably—an anthology of short stories.

The Kraken Rises will launch in late October.

Why The Kraken Rises? Well, according to the folks behind the festival:

Every time there is a great comet in the sky Bristol suffers a bout of extra weirdness. These events are called “Kraken events.” The SS Great Britain ramming a giant squid in the Bristol channel? A Kraken event. Giant tentacles emerging from the city sewers? A Kraken event.

Handily, the Kraken is also a particularly delicious spiced rum—the very same one which sponsors Pornokitsch’s especially progressive speculative fiction awards. Perfect partners, then!

So who’ll be writing the stories?

Matter of fact, that’s an interesting question. Short answer: probably not anyone you’ve heard of. You see, on October 19th, an assortment of talent from within and outwith the Angry Robot fold—including Jonathan L. Howard, Gaie Sebold, Dave Gullen, Emma Newman, Gareth Powell and Tim Maughan—will offer “assistance and advice” to aspiring writers.

At the end of the festival’s first day, entrants will submit their stories to be judged by a panel of experts within the week. The ten best stories will then be published in The Kraken Rises, which will be launched the following Saturday.

The anthology’s cover art looks to be crowd-sourced too—and if you’re a budding artist and/or graphic designer, you can get to work forthwith. Here are the details.

As ever with the anthologies Pornokitsch play a part in creating, the profits aren’t simply to be pocketed. “100% of the proceeds [will go] to the Bristol Festival of Literature so they can put the funds towards future years’ festivals.”

Probably best that we don’t expect award-calibre shorts from the would-be authors who’ll be published in The Kraken Rises. That said, I applaud this project, and I’ll certainly be interested to see the quality of work that can be produced by con-comers in the space of a single day.

I for one wonder if the organisers aren’t missing a trick by not applying to the Guiness World Records, because—correct me if I’m wrong here—The Kraken Rises could be the fastest-assembled anthology in the history of the publishing industry.

And with that, the time has come for me to say good day. I’ll be back on Sunday with an assortment of late August’s most notable new releases in the next edition of the Hitlist, and as ever, next Wednesday will bring another round-up of book news from the UK. In the meantime, conversate away in the comments!


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. On occasion he’s been seen to tweet, twoo.

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