British Fiction Focus

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

Assuming you made it through April Fools’ Day okay, consider this here the all clear. At the very least you can breathe a sigh of relief, because the funny business is finally done.

Amongst the serious matters we’ll be touching on today, a belated update on Chung Kuo by David Wingrove—I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you, folks—as well as the announcement of a sequel to Tony Ballantyne’s dreamy look at London, and in Odds and Sods, press regulation, literacy in prisons, the opening of a bookshop for the 21st century…. plus plenty more where that came from.

More Chung Kuo Woes

Last December, in Oh No! A Brief History of Chung Kuo, I talked about the latest twist in the troubled tale of David Wingrove’s epic speculative saga. As the author asserted then, “Corvus are seriously considering winding down Chung Kuo after book eight.” That’s book eight of a projected twenty, by the by. The author allowed that this would be within their rights, “according to the contract, and their view on it is that [the series] isn’t performing well enough for them to support it any longer, but then whose fault is that?”

Well, since last Chung Kuo came up, book eight was released… directly into the ether, it seems. I have a copy of The White Mountain here, but I get the sense I may be in the minority, because the novel’s launch has done nothing to change the publisher’s position.

In point of fact, in a wide-ranging post on Of Gifts and Stones last week, Wingrove referred to Corvus as his publisher in the past tense. He also explained the state of the series as it stands, and discussed what else he’s been working on while everything else went to hell in a handbasket:

My schedule for the next year is pretty straightforward. […] I’ll be finishing The Master of Time, and then—after a brief break for holidays—I’ll be getting back to Chung Kuo, writing the last four books one after another (there’s a fair amount of it that exists already), with the aim of getting it all done by the end of 2015, or maybe Spring 2016. Books 9-14 are already reworked and polished, so—once we’ve decided how we’re going to do this—we’ll have six books to re-launch. Books 15 and 16 need refurbishment, otherwise they’re ready too. But, knowing how disappointed you guys get at the delays, I am not going to release anything until I can be absolutely certain that I can produce the books one after another, hopefully with a volume every two months, available on eBooks, but also—we hope—as Print on Demand trade paperbacks to try and match the first eight.

Which means Chung Kuo will be going into hibernation as a project for at least a year-to-eighteen months. Fortunately, during that period, I’ll have the Roads books coming out, so don’t despair.

I also have two finished and polished science fiction novels which I aim to get eBooks out of in the next year or so, Imagine a Man and The Beast with Two Backs. Beast, the stronger of the two works, I might try with publishers, especially as I’ve got a sequel to it plotted and planned and in its very own filing box. It’s about two twins—brother and sister—who are both telepathic and psychopathic. A wonderfully weird combination…

As I said earlier, the first Roads to Moscow novel—The Empire of Time—will be out in the shops and available a mere seven days from now, on April 3rd. After what happened with Corvus, it’s particularly nice to have the promise of it being in the bookstores over here—something that simply wasn’t happening with the Chung Kuo books, and I’ve every confidence that my wonderful editor, Michael Rowley, will get the trilogy the attention it deserves. Yes, and foreign sales, too.

So. Nothing for now, and then the rest, all in a rush. In the interim, some relief for Wingrove’s readers, taking the shape a whole other trilogy—indeed, I’ll be reading The Empire of Time this evening—and two finished fictions that the author will self-publish digitally to begin with.


A Dream of Paris

Tony Ballantyne Dream London

So I gather a fair few of you read Dream London by Tony Ballantyne?

I was sceptical, I admit, when the news about the book broke. “I’m increasingly concerned,” I wrote in the Focus, “that the notion of another London, as powerful a premise as such was once, is in danger of imminent overexposure.”

Of course the cover was a stunner, and when a copy of the novel made its way to me, I realised the book was pretty darned good too. I rather championed it in the review that ran on in October:

As the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Chris Beckett contends in the quote on the captivating cover that demanded I take note of this text, Tony Ballantyne’s masterfully imagined new novel is “unlike anything I’ve ever read before.” Smart, stylish, and as alarming as it is indubitably alluring, Dream London deftly demonstrates that the weird still has a thing or two to prove.

And another thing, as it happens. Last week, you see, Solaris announced a sequel:

Dream Paris continues Ballantyne’s journey into the weird by taking us to the metropolis dubbed the most romantic city on Earth—but its connection to the lost souls of London is anything but idyllic.

“Tony’s Dream London was this poetical, phantasmagorical, satirical and fantastical mash-up of a book, a real joy to read and a world I didn’t want to leave in a hurry,” said Solaris editor-in-chief Jonathan Oliver. “I’m delighted then that we’re exploring more of Tony’s extraordinary dreamscape with the release of Dream Paris.”

I am too, to be sure.

And would you believe we’ve got a blurb to boot? Well, dear readers, we do:

Anna is doing her best: there are lots of other seventeen-year-olds who are living alone in the partially rebuilt ruins of London. She hopes that by keeping things clean and tidy and by studying hard she can keep the dreams away.

But then a tall, dark stranger with eyes like a fly enters her life. He claims to know where the missing people of London have ended up. He might even know the location of Anna’s missing parents. Anna can help, but to do that she will have to let go of what little normality she has managed to gather around herself and begin the journey to Dream Paris…

Dream Paris is slated for publication in the UK next September. I shouldn’t speak too soon, but I simply can’t resist: I just can’t wait to see what Joey Hi-Fi does with the cover!


Odds and Sods

The Brick Moon

  • Jurassic London has announced that it’ll be bringing out a new edition of a seminal science fiction serialThe Brick Moon by Edward Everett Hale—complete with a short sequel by Adam Roberts, cleverly called Another Brick in the Moon. It’s coming soon, too… which is to say later in April.
  • The Ministry of Justice has introduced new rules which ban people from sending books to prisoners. These came under fire immediately from, among others, the UK’s chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, who called the move “a mistake.” You don’t say…
  • Quercus has bought a middle-grade debut from Mike Revell. “A modern classic in the making,” says editorial director Sarah Lambert, Stonebird is about a boy and a gargoyle, and it’s been described as reminiscent of Skellig. Next spring’s the thing.
  • The world premiere of Current Theatrics’ stage adaptation of Tim Powers’ novel The Anubis Gates will take place at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in London’s Docklands this August.
  • To celebrate Robert Aickman’s centenary year, Faber & Faber will be bringing a bunch of the cult English horror author’s novels back into print complete with original covers, introductions and afterwords. The fun begins with four booksin June—Dark Entries, Cold Hand in Mine, The Late Breakfasters and The Model—with two more to follow in subsequent months.
  • Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Peter Carey’s next novel, namely Amnesia, is “a thrilling and witty journey to the place where the cyber underworld of radicals and hackers collides with international power politics.” It’s coming this November.
  • Still on the literary fiction tip, expect a new Ian McEwan novella this autumn: The Children’s Act is set to explore the influence of religion on medical decisions by way of a case involving conjoined twins fought in the family courts.
  • J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, and Kazuo Ishiguro are amongst the hundreds of authors, actors and academics who have put their names to a proposal supporting the regulation of the press. If that seems Orwellian to you, you haven’t seen The Daily Mail lately.
  • In early September, Bloomsbury will be publishing new editions of all seven Harry Potter novels complete with “bonus material originating from [the] digital platform Pottermore” and new covers by Jonny Duddle. This is in addition to Jim Kay’s fully illustrated editions, the first of which we’ll see next year.
  • Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman is amongst the authors set to attend the Grand Opening Festival of Foyles’ flagship “bookshop for the 21st century,” which the owners hope will be “a hub for culture.” You’ll forgive me if I’m not quite convinced that live jazz and the like is the answer to the difficult questions facing booksellers today…

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 He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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