British Fiction Focus

Completing the Dark Circus Cycle

Pan Macmillan was thrilled Thursday morning to announce that it had acquired the rights to release the Dark Circus series:

These enthralling books are set within a circus in a world somewhat like our own—but where wonders and magic really exist. A young runaway seeks escape from a life of injustice and secrets, and the circus promises freedom. There, Micah will become who she was meant to be, yet the future also holds conflict and dangerous mysteries.

Both book the first, Pantomime (which won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction in 2014 at an event organised by the Bi Writers Association) as well as Shadowplay (the sole sequel so far) were brought to market by Strange Chemistry under the auspices of Angry Robot Books before its recent reboot. Sadly, when editor (not to mention Malazan Rereader) Amanda Rutter’s auspicious imprint was abruptly shuttered, Laura Lam’s unfinished trilogy was counted among the calendar of casualties.

Lam herself was heartbroken, but in a display of great British grit, she roundly refused to give up the ghost of the Dark Circus cycle.

I wasn’t sure initially what the next step for Micah was going to be. I knew I wanted to finish the story with the third volume, Masquerade. I set it aside for a bit and I wrote and sold False Hearts to Tor, which made my dreams come true. Self-publishing seemed the most likely option for the 3rd Micah book, so I researched it and even made a whole draft of a Kickstarter. I self-published the Vestigial Tales last summer to learn about the process. I knew I’d be able to do it, but the idea of publishing on my own was also anxiety-inducing.

Then I discovered self-publishing wasn’t my only option. When I received the rights back for the first two books, my agent pitched my existing publisher. To my absolute delight, Tor UK has bought all three books of the Micah Grey series!

When my agent told me the news, I cried really ugly tears. I sobbed, I hiccoughed. I was a total, happy mess. Masquerade (and Micah’s) fate has been up in the air since April 2013. It’s a long time not to be sure of things, and I love this series so much. I’m so glad I’m able to share it with you and that my books starring an intersex protagonist will have the support of a mainstream publisher.

As it stands, Pan Macmillan’s plan is to re-release Pantomime and Shadowplay as ebooks this autumn, with physical editions to follow sometime next summer, culminating in the long-awaited publication of Masquerade, the conclusion of the Dark Circus series.

Let me close on a confession: I haven’t actually read either Pantomime or Shadowplay. I have, however, heard some brilliant things about the books, quite aside from which I’m pleased as punch to hear that Lam’s fans can look forward to one last moment with Micah, because there’s nothing worse than a story stuck in the publishing industry’s equivalent of development hell. Here’s looking at you, Bantam Spectra, for flatly refusing to release the rights to Paul Kearney’s Sea-Beggars series!

But I digress. For today, for devotees of the Dark Circus cycle, I say hooray!

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and He’s been known to tweet, twoo.


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