Aliens! Out Now!

It’s Wednesday, the sun is shining, and I have toast and tea. All is good. And, even better, you can now buy the new anthology ALIENS: THE TRUTH IS COMING from Tickety Boo Press, featuring my story Rent alongside stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tim James, Alex Davis, Juliana Spink Mills, and more.

Here’s the cover, with handy Amazon links as well. Go then – there are other worlds than this…

Aliens – Amazon.co.uk
Aliens – Amazon.com

Every Forum Ever

Hi all, I just finished my latest read, and I wonder if you could recommend¹ –

MARK LAWRENCE

– a book –

BRANDON SANDERSON

– to move onto –

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– with some humour –

R SCOTT BAKKER

– and well written characters –

BRENT WEEKS

ROTHFUSS

GWYNNE

– standalones welcome –

WHEEL OF TIME

MALAZAN MALAZAN MALAZAN

– doesn’t have to be grimdark –

LORD GRIMDARK

BUY MY BOOK³

– and I’m looking to read more female authors.

HAVE YOU TRIED READING MARK LAWRENCE?²

giphy

¹This post is in no way made to insult or otherwise disparage the authors listed. I own and enjoy books by many of them. I’m merely using their names to illustrate a point.

²And there’s the point. Seriously. That conversation really happened.

³Guilty.

Meanwhile, over on another book blog, someone has listed the ten fantasy books they’re hotly anticipating next year. No VE Schwab, no Jen Williams, no Robin Hobb, no Anna Smith Spark, no women at all. Guys, it’s not difficult. You’re not invalidating the existence of us male authors by reading a little more widely.

GTFO

Okay, here it is. This is my genre, the genre I work in, the genre I read in. It’s open-minded. It’s imaginative. It’s speculative. It flies on great, draconic wings over mountains and plains, it slides between worlds with engines made from captive wormholes. It holds the line against vast legions of orcs, it bespeaks artificial intelligences that sit at the heart of Dyson spheres. Timelords, Eternal Champions, unicorns, Frankenstein’s Monster, Laputa, the Grey Mouser, Lyra, the fellowship, White Walkers, the Ringworld…

We can imagine all of that, and more. More than you can possibly ever list. We deconstruct the past, we create the futures. The possibilities are endless.

Unless.

Unless you want to include women, gay characters, trans characters, disabled characters, characters with mental health issues who aren’t automatically serial killers, real social issues, characters from other races than the generically white/Western automatic character creation mould – and do so well and positively

Because fuck, no, we don’t want real life infecting our genre. Shit, that would ruin everything, wouldn’t it? What if, as well as imagining dragons and aliens and starships and robots and orcs and castles and all that, and crafting them to within an inch of perfection, you had to do women, and non-white people too? And you had to give them rounded personalities and motivations, and had to treat them as… human? My god, that would be far too much like real life, wouldn’t it? And don’t we work in this genre precisely so that we can do unto imagined others what we cannot do in real life?

Well, no, we don’t. Not unless we’re total fucking tools. (John C Wright, I’m looking at you here. Do unto yourself what you willed upon the creators of Korra, please.)²

But apparently we can’t talk about diversity in fantasy and science fiction without bringing the genre into disrepute, without tarnishing it and ruining it for the “genuine” fans who don’t want politics in their fiction. Diversity should be invisible, ignored, unspoken. There are far more important issues to address in fantasy and science fiction – like orcs, elves, sweaty grunting males swinging axes at each other, deep and meaningful Christian allegories, the inevitable defeat of evil social justice at the hands of valiant capitalist starship captains³. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t try to be represented. Don’t take valuable air from those it rightfully belongs to.

And now, with America Tango’d by a squinty-faced peanut and a VP who wants to “re-educate” gay children in “camps” (presumably guarded, and walled with barbed wire), with intolerance and violence rife on both sides of the pond, fiction is only one of the frontlines for visibility and oxygen in the face of celebrity fascists and anti-intellectuals.

What can we do? Simple: Keep those voices alive. Keep those books in the public eye. Make diversity count. Make people uncomfortable in their privilege.

Who am I to say this? A white, middle-aged, bearded bloke with a mortgage and a cat? Yeah. And I’m not the most diverse writer in the world. But doesn’t that mean that I’m one of the people who really ought to be saying this?

I’ll go further. If you think politics and social issues should be kept out of fantasy and science fiction, and that by extension they should be made invisible in real life too, it’s you who is living in fantasyland. If you voted Trump, or for the appalling cackwitted shift to the far right over here in Britain, then you’re legitimising hatred and fear and encouraging the silencing of diverse voices. If you feel threatened by the presence in this genre of people who are not like you, then you don’t belong.

Get the fuck out of my genre.

 

¹I’m very aware of the irony here, by the way. Scroll back through the last few posts to see criticism of Heir to the North for its lack of female characters aside from Cassia. The TL;DR is that I’m aware of my own shortcomings and working to overcome them.

²He’s not the only one, obviously. But I’d rather write a good book than list a whole bunch of fucksticks who don’t deserve any more publicity than they already have.

³Yes, sarcasm.

Westward Ho! – Bristolcon 2016

Image result for bristolconLast weekend saw another epic trek down England’s bleak motorway network to participate in the excellent shenanigans that make up Bristolcon. Over the last eight years, Bristolcon has become one of the highlights of the convention season, and it’s easy to see why. A top-drawer (if slightly expensive) venue, an ace range of guests and panelists, and a fantastically well thought out programme, all combine alongside a relaxed atmosphere to make Bristolcon a very smooth ride for everybody who attends. It’s a not-for-profit affair too – as a charitable foundation, Bristolcon uses any money it makes to fund local writing projects, and that feeling of putting something back into the community undoubtedly helps explain why everybody is more than happy to pitch in and fund it by buying tickets. You’d have to be a bit of a curmudgeon to demand free entry here…

Anyway, I love driving, and I couldn’t wait to meet up again with the rest of Team Grimbold, so me & Elsie hit the road on Friday morning aiming to hit the traditional pre-con open mic event being held that evening. I had a couple of passengers too, since a pending clearout had led to them being evicted from Rachel’s workroom. I was pretty certain I could find them new homes with the baby Grimmies…

After checking in and offloading the stock for the dealers’ room, I found Frances Kay (a fellow British Fantasy Awards-shortlisted Grimmie) and Anna Smith Spark (whose Court of Broken Knives comes out via Harper Voyager next June). We prepared for the open mic session by attending Gaie Sebold and David Gullen’s workshop on public readings. Incidentally, Frances has a great background in both theatre and TV work, so if you were there, it’s well worth taking note of what she had to say on the subject of public readings.

And if you weren’t there, then you missed an action-packed reading of (most of) Full Compliance, from The Evil Genius Guide (Fox Spirit Books), the first story to feature South Yorkshire’s last superhero, Johnny Silver, aka The Forgemaster. The audience certainly seemed to enjoy it, which means you’ll definitely be seeing some longer-length Johnny Silver stories further on down the line.

It’s a good thing that the Holiday Inn Express breakfast is a buffet affair – I had three plates on the go. The old convention adage is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s not wrong. Especially when you get to 7pm and realise that you skipped lunch completely. The only downside to a single-day con is that time flies far too quickly – you will never get to talk to everybody you want to talk to, and friends and online acquaintances rush past in a blur.

The first item on the agenda was securing a copy of Juliet E McKenna’s new collection, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) and getting that signed. Then the morning was a whirl of hellos and hugs, especially for the massed Fantasy Faction crew, some of whom had buzzed over from Germany and the Netherlands for the weekend. (Hello Julia, Marielle, Leona, JP, GR, RB, TO!)

Somehow I managed to find a spare 20 minutes to make notes for the midday panel. I had been bricking myself about this, given that Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough was also on the panel, but as usual I wound up worrying about nothing – the Beyond Evil panel was a blast, well directed by Dev Agarwal. Juliet McKenna did raise the very valid point that we had almost exclusively been talking about male incarnations/depictions of evil. I indicated in a post back upstream that thinking diversely hasn’t come naturally to me (but I try…) – it’s taken me this long to think of Annie Wilkes as one of the greatest villains ever put onscreen, and I’m still struggling to think of others who haven’t leapt from the page in the same way (Mrs Coulter & Narnia’s White Witch both got mentioned by Sophie E Tallis during the panel). Feel free to leave your own examples in the comments.

bcon1-2A recent addition to Team Grimbold is Diana Croft, the narrator of the Heir to the North audiobook. As she’s based in the south-west, we managed to meet up at Bristolcon for the first time and it was a proper pleasure to be able to sit down and talk to her about plots, characters, and High King’s Vengeance. If you haven’t heard what Diana’s done with the voices for HTTN – AND WHY NOT? – seriously, go check out the samples at Audible.

3pm saw me pulling people away from the bar to go see Anna Smith Spark, presently the undisputed Queen of Grimdark, on her panel about women in Grimdark fantasy. Well, come on, there weren’t nowt going off in the bar, and this was much more interesting. It could have been more interesting yet if they’d managed to keep to the topic, but herding authors is very much like herding cats on VERY GOOD DRUGS. In a good way, of course.

Oh, and there was a reading from High King’s Vengeance too, near the end of the programming. Most people had been sitting behind the tables in Panel Room One for their readings – nah, not me. Stand and declaim, even if you are feeling exhausted after a few pints of Butcombe IPA.

A good meal at the SevernShed, along with Allan Bott, Joel Cornah, and Tim Wreford-Bush, rounded off the day. And an excellent lunch at the Shakespeare the following day, after helping cart some of the tech gear out of the hotel, made sure I was fortified for the road ahead. It’s a long old weekend, Bristolcon, but it’s a damned good one.

See you next year! And because it’s traditional, here’s the obligatory swag pic…

Last Call For Brizzle!

Alrighty, folks, are you at Bristolcon this weekend? If so, you’ll be in very good company. I’ll be there from Friday night, at the pre-con shenanigans and generally trying to prevent my friend Tim from getting into more good-natured misunderstandings with Paul Cornell.

Then on Saturday, I’m on a panel at midday along with Guest of Honour Sarah Pinborough, Ben Jeapes, Sophie E Tallis, and moderator Dev Agarwal – we’re discussing villains, motivations, and going Beyond Evil.

Blink and you’ll miss my reading at 5.50 – what am I reading from? Come and find out….

Plus, I have badges for anyone in a Fantasy Faction t-shirt! And there are more offers on the Grimbold Books table than you can shake a Groot-like stick at! (You may have already noticed…)

And the brilliant Diana Croft, narrator of the audiobook version of Heir to the North, will be at the con for at least part of the day – you may not be able to get signed audiobooks, but I have stock of the HTTN bookmarks and a sharpie…😉

Oh, and book launches – Rob Harkess’s Amunet and Juliet E McKenna’s River Kingdom (Wizard’s Tower Press) are both available from this weekend, and my TBR singularity is groaning already…

Are you looking forward to it? I am…🙂

Kind Words – and Critical

Because the first review of High King’s Vengeance came in over the Fantasycon weekend, it kind of slipped under the blogging radar somewhat, so I’m going to take the opportunity to point you to it now.

Paul at The Eloquent Page was kind enough to read Heir to the North last year, and also to say nice things about it. I wondered what he would have to say about the sequel – would it live up to his expectations?

Viewed on its own, The High King’s Vengeance is a well-executed epic fantasy that is bound to please many a genre fan. As the second part of a much larger story, it is something far better. Seeds that were sown way back at the beginning of the first book suddenly become relevant, and there are a host of splendidly brain-melting revelations.

I get the distinct impression that though Cassia’s story has drawn to a close, there are other tales of Caenthell, Hellea and Galliarca still to be told. I do hope so, I’d be more than happy to read them.

I think that’s a “yes”.🙂

You can read the full review over here, and I respectfully submit that The Eloquent Page is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, this review came in for Heir to the North:

I do wish, however, that this novel didn’t join the apparently infinite ranks of “Gender-as-Obstacle,” in which the female lead is oppressed/undervalued/underestimated chiefly or entirely because she’s female. That Cassia is very much a Smurfette, with never a single meaningful interaction with another woman, only makes this worse, as it gives me a depressing impression of the world she inhabits.

OK, with hindsight, guilty as charged. It wasn’t something I even thought about when I wrote HTTN, and I suspect that’s rather the point. Other people have made the same point in passing, though not as bluntly as this reviewer. (And that bluntness isn’t a bad thing either. Nor am I quoting the review here so that others can pile on the reviewer. Don’t ever do that. Seriously.)

I’d like to think that I’m a slightly wiser person now than I was when I wrote Heir to the North. I’m certainly more aware of what I have written and how I wrote it. You may not find too much of a progression in High King’s Vengeance (it was written before HTTN was even signed by Kristell Ink), but you will in future projects.

And so I respectfully submit that Kelley Ceccato is very worthy of your time if you’re looking for opinions on something new to read.

Aliens!

aliensThe truth is out there – almost. Tickety Boo Press release their next anthology, Aliens: The Truth is Coming, at the end of the month, and the full list of stories goes as follows:

In Plain Sight by Juliana Spink Mills

Geometry by Alex Davis

Gods of the Ice Planet by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Island Visit by Nathan Hystad

Even the Klin Are Only Human by Bryn Fortey

A New Dawn by Liz Gruder

Rent by Steven Poore

Salvage by MJ Kobernus

The Devil’s Rock by William Anderson

The Man Who Wasn’t Dead by Terry Grimwood

We Three Remain by Stewart Hotston

Welcome to Cosmic Journey by Michael Chandos

The Zoo of Dark Creatures by Leslie J Anderson

Here by Tim James

If that’s not a line-up to whet your whistle, I’ll eat your hat. Rent is a rare excursion into SF short fiction for me, as most of my recent short stuff has been set firmly in the modern era. Rent harks back to This Place Sucks in tone and style, so if you enjoyed that little shaggy-dog tale, I hope you’ll enjoy this one too.

I don’t have buy/reserve links for the anthology yet, but I’ll add them to this post (and the forthcoming short fiction links page) as soon as they appear. Meanwhile, you can find out more over at the Tickety Boo Press Facebook page. And, as ever, we stand and fall on our ratings and reviews – add Aliens to your Goodreads TBR and leave honest reviews, and make a bunch of authors happy.🙂