A Touch of Tours

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, Claire North, AKA Kate Griffin, AKA Catherine Webb, talked about her next novel, Touch. Several exciting signings made headlines, not least Joe Abercrombie’s timely tour of the UK, and in Cover Art Corner, Mythago Wood gets a lovely new look.

Later on, in a particularly long Odds and Sods, news of note relating to the likes of Paul Cornell, Karen Lord, Jeff VanderMeer, Ben Okri, Nathan Hawke, Melinda Snodgrass, Ian Sales, and an array of other awesomesauce authors.


Tentatively Touch

Claire North Further to our earlier investigations into the identity of the author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Claire North went on the record recently regarding the challenges of being three people:

This whole pseudonym thing comes with a caveat. Now that I’m Claire North, writing books in a certain genre, it would be a bit wacky to diverge too massively from that genre after only one novel. Claire North, it turns out, is a very different writer from Kate Griffin. One of the joys about writing the Matthew Swift series was that a whole universe was created which I could play with at will—alas, Claire North doesn’t have that luxury. Thus, when my publisher bought Harry August, a big question mark immediately popped up about what I should write next. Something that was within the style of Claire North, but was still interesting and different.

This question mark hovered over conversations for nearly eight months.

A slightly worrying eight months.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Claire North

Her story has a happy ending, however, as a wander down New North Road solved all of the author’s problems:

The question which occurred was this: were there many books about possession? Answer: sure, yes, there are plenty. But I couldn’t off the top of my head think of any where the story was told, not from the point of view of people trying to exorcise a possessing power, or solve the mystery of who is possessed by what, but rather where the story is told from the point of view of the mind that is doing the possessing. What would that be like? Roaming from body to body, ignorant of who it is you’re inhabiting except by their credit cards and passport, not knowing their stories or what friends or families they might possess. Does this body have a criminal record, is it married, does it have asthma, is it allergic to prawns? You wouldn’t know. A ghost, almost, drifting by touch from one host to the next, trying to live its life through the lives of other people—trying to live any sort of life whatsoever, really—any sort of life that might mean anything at all. What would such a creature do with its time? It would have no identity save for the identity of the bodies it stole. It would own nothing of its own—at least, nothing which it wouldn’t lose when it eventually moved on from the body—nor have any family which it didn’t steal. Having no access to the memories of the body it wore, most of its time would be spent desperately trying to find out the history of the skin it wears, or failing that, simply running, picking up a body and dumping it somewhere on the other side of the earth, where it would only be a vessel, to be worn until it became old, ill or uncomfortable.

A fascinating notion, no?

North goes on to note that Touch will be a hard book to blurb, and she’s not wrong, but Orbit has already given it a shot:

Your violent death usually triggers the first switch.

Just before your life ebbs away, your skin happens to touch another human being—and in an instant, your consciousness transfers completely to the person you touched.

From that moment on, you can leap from body to body with a touch of the skin. You can remain for a minute, an hour, a lifetime, and after you leave, the host has no memory of the time you were there.

My name is Kepler. I could be you.

For me, the carefree life of jumping between bodies has become a terrifying nightmare. I am being hunted. I don’t know who. I don’t know why. If you’ve read this far, our lives have already touched. Now you are part of the conspiracy too.

Get ready to run.

Touch is provisionally pencilled in for publication next February. If it’s as half as extraordinary a novel as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was, it’ll be brilliant.


Events, Etc.

  • Patrick Ness will be out and about in Great Britain and beyond in the coming weeks, with events scheduled in Glasgow, Norwich, and Dublin. Head over here for more details on where and when you can meet the man behind More Than This.
  • Joe Abercrombie is touring too, in support of the launch of his new novel, Half a King. The fun begins at Blackwells in Edinburgh on June 29 and comes to a close three weeks later at the Edge Lit festival in Derby. Between times he’ll be visiting many English cities.
  • For one night only—a week on Friday, in fact—Adam Christopher will be the guest of the British Fantasy Society at their open night at the Phoenix Artists’ Club in London. Expect an interview with the author, the launch of a new anthology, and the drinking of drinks. Sláinte, sir!
  • Remember the Women in Genre debate I blogged about in Odds and Sods a few weeks ago? Wonderfully, someone thought to record it. The first part of the panel—featuring Karen Lord, Stephanie Saulter, Naomi Foyle, Jaine Fenn and Janet Edwards, as well as moderator Edward James—can be seen here; here’s the second instalment also; and I understand the remainder will be released subsequently.
  • Finally, in the Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue, some signings, headlined by Snorri Krisjansson, Jon Wallace, Dan Abnett and Robert Rankin.


Cover Art Corner: Masterworking Mythago

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock is so essential. Suffice to say that it, more than most of the novels Gollancz has republished under the Fantasy Masterworks banner, deserves the titular descriptor—and this November it’s getting a new edition, to tie in with the thirtieth anniversary of its original release.

In addition to an effusive new introduction by the great Gaiman—Neil, I mean—the forthcoming Fantasy Masterworks paperback is said to sport a fittingly exquisite new cover illustration by Grzegorz Domaradzki:

I already own several different editions of this exemplar of the best in British genre fiction, but all of a sudden one more for the road seems right… right?


Odds & Sods

  • Head of Zeus has acquired a dreamlike new novel by Ben Okri. Expect The Age of Magic to be released this September, alongside digital editions of several of the Booker Prize-winner’s earlier efforts.
  • Gollancz has announced plans to publish an omnibus edition of the Gallow saga so far. Due in December, The Fateguard Trilogy will pave the way for three new novellas by Nathan Hawke, all of which will be released in 2015.
  • As reported in the British Genre Fiction Focus before, Ian Sales, author of The Apollo Quartet and erstwhile editor of Rocket Science, has been soliciting submissions for Aphrodite Terra, the first in “a series of mini-anthologies, each focused on a different planetary body in the Solar System.” Unfortunately, the response to the call has been small. “It’s looking increasingly like now is not the right time for [Aphrodite Terra]” says Sales. A shame. I for one was keen to read it.
  • Orion’s online key accounts director Mark Stay is to write the novelisation of Robot Overlords—a fitting decision considering he co-created and co-wrote the script for the forthcoming film.
  • Hodder Children’s Books has bought the rights to release a fantasy trilogy for young adults from first-time author Taran Matharu. “The first book in the series, Summoner, has already had three million reads on Wattpad since its publication on the site five months ago.” Three million reads, readers!
  • Random House’s Children’s Division also has eyes on the prize: it just bought what it’s calling “a teenage Game of Thrones set in the Ottoman empire,” namely Daughter of the Dragon by Kiersten White.
  • Per The Bookseller: “The BBC will beef up its books coverage this autumn with the launch of a new books portal: Books at the BBC.” About time, too!
  • Titan Books has acquired Melinda Snodgrass’ science fiction series, Imperials. Said to be “set against a vast backdrop of interstellar war and adventure that will appeal to fans of Star Wars [and] Star Trek,” the five-part saga starts in 2015 with The High Ground.
  • The UK government recently reaffirmed its unwillingnessto address the disparity between the 20% Value Added Tax applied to ebooks and the free pass print editions have historically gotten. Oh well.
  • The rights to Rawblooda chilling ghost story by debut author Catriona Ward—have been bought by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It’s set for release in September 2015.
  • Last but not least, to ring in the rerelease of three of Jeff VanderMeer’s early efforts, complete with stunning new covers, Tor UK have interviewed the author of the Southern Reach series.

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. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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