British Fiction Focus

A Festival of Ice and Fire

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

Last Wednesday, the programme for the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2014 was published. Taking place “just weeks before Scotland’s independence referendum on 18 September,” the hundreds of events it heralds include a fair few which will be of interest to genre fiction fans—including a signing by the author of a certain fantasy saga who threatens to overshadow everyone else in attendance—so while I can still safely consider myself British, I wanted to bring the best of the rest to your attention.

Also featured in the Focus this week: some compromising cover art by way of new books by Ben Aaronovitch and Tad Williams.


The Edinburgh International Book Festival

Well well. It’s nearly time for the biggest, bestest Book Festival again.

Pardon me if I seem slightly biased. Being based in the boondocks of Scotland, the Edinburgh International Book Festival tends to be the best chance I have to meet and greet the authors whose novels I spend the rest of the year reading, so it’s one of the highlights of my annual calendar—and “with more than 900 participants from 47 different countries,” the 2014 festival looks particularly brilliant.

George R.R. Martin

And have you heard who’s headlining it? None other than George R. R. Martin.

“I think the queues for Martin’s book signing will be stretching halfway across Edinburgh,” said festival director Nick Barley of the bestselling American fantasy writer. “The stars have come into alignment for this year’s event—we’ve got the big names, and the emerging writers who will be the stars of the future.”

Martin might the biggest name in genre fiction to take part in the forthcoming festival, however he’s far from the only author you’ll want to catch if you can. On the very first day, in fact, Lauren Beukes and C. A. Davids have an event scheduled: South African Literature Goes Global at the Bailie Gifford Corner Theatre on August 9th. Then, on the 11th, YA sensation Darren Shan plans to pimp his Zom-B series at the Main Theatre of the same location.

Mike Carey and Ken MacLeod will be Breathing Life into Zombies during a discussion of their dystopias on the 13th. A day later, Carey will be joined by Isabel Greenberg to talk graphic novels as part of the so-called Stripped series, which also welcomes Robbie Morrison, Bryan Lee O’Malley, two Talbots and The Walking Dead’s Charlie Adlard to the fringes of the festival.

Patrick Ness More Than This

But back to the books. Patrick Ness has a pair of events on the 16th. He’ll be talking, in the morning, about his latest novel, More Than This, and in the early evening he has the honour of delivering the inaugural Siobhan Dowd Trust Memorial Lecture. Both events will be held at the ScottishPower Foundation Studio.

On the 17th, Lauren Oliver will be joined by two other authors—namely Erin Lange and Tanya Byrne—to meet and greet at the Bailie Gifford Corner Theatre, then, later that same day, Sarah J. Maas and Justin Somper will be talking Fantastic Fantasy at the Royal Bank of Scotland Garden Theatre. In the same place, two days later, Charlie Fletcher and Jeff VanderMeer join forces for Fantasy That’s Terrifying Believable.

Diana Gabaldon also has an event, entitled Heughligans Descend on Charlotte Square, which will be held in the Main Theatre of the Bailie Gifford the next day. Then, on the 20th, in Shockingly Good Fiction, Nick Harkaway and Luke Brown will be talking about their new novels at the Royal Bank of Scotland Garden Theatre.

Matt Haig and Marcus Sedgwick will be appearing together on the 21st to talk about the crossover between all-ages and adult fiction. Additionally, Sedgwick will be chairing a reading workshop on Gormenghast on the same day at the Writer’s Retreat.

Murakami Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

At the Guardian Spiegeltent on the 22nd, Ned Beauman and Clemens J. Setz are Literature’s Brilliant Experimenters, and on the 23rd, Haruki Murakami will be going to town on The Wind-up Bird Chronicle as part of the Guardian Book Club. Then, on the 24th, Japan’s Greatest Living Author hosts the worldwide English-language launch of his new novel, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Hell of a line-up, huh?

Tickets to all of the aforementioned events are due to go on sale on Tuesday, folks. You’ll need to be quick off the mark if you want to attend any of them, notwithstanding the George R. R. Martin signing, which I expect to sell out in seconds.

But there’s more to this year’s festival than fiction, as its director describes:

“The book festival provides a crucial forum for dialogue, where we can listen to and learn from one another, particularly in this year of momentous events in Scotland. […] Our thought-provoking conversations with both authors and audiences will permeate through Charlotte Square Gardens as we welcome world-renowned writers and thinkers from many countries and cultures to Edinburgh, some for the first time in their careers.”

The Edinburgh International Book Festival “will run from 9-25 August in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square Gardens,” and I’ll be there. Who else is hoping to attend?


Cover Art Corner: A Sleepy Summer

Ben Aaronovitch Foxglove Summer

Ben Aaronivitch’s bestselling Peter Grant series has been rooted, since the start, in the city—in London, largely. That’s set to change this September, with the fifth urban fantasy of The Folly:

In the fifth of his bestselling series Ben Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and [deposits him in] a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London, you can’t take the London out of the copper.

Travelling west with Beverley Brook, Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods. And what’s more… all the shops are closed by 4pm!

Truly an awful prospect. That said, the book itself sounds like a bunch of fun, and the cover, revealed this week, does a damn fine job of splitting the difference between the packed city maps that have illustrated the series so far and the forsaken landscape Aaronovitch’s protagonist finds himself in in Foxglove Summer.

Tad Williams Sleeping Late on Judgement Day

The cover art of Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, another promising novel slated for publication this very September, walks the line likewise—this time between the subdued blues of the first book in Tad Williams’ terrific trilogy, and the fiery oranges of Happy Hour in Hell.

Bobby Dollar thinks he’s seen it all—after all, he’s been to Hell and back again. Literally.

But he has another thing coming. Sleeping Late on Judgement Day finds Bobby back in his adopted hometown of San Judas, California, trying to stay out of trouble… and failing. His love life is still a mess, there are one too many people who have it out for him, and drowning his sorrows in a nice glass of whisky won’t keep the demons at bay forever.

Bobby’s going to have to pull himself together and make a few tough decisions before time runs out. The problem is, time could run out at any moment. In the final Bobby Dollar novel in Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy trilogy, fallen angel Bobby Dollar will finally be force to confront the one problem he can’t talk his way out of: his own.

Bring it on, Hodder.

And that’s it for this week, readers. Talk to you all again next time.

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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