Damaged Intelligence – out now!

Play the music! Light the lights!

Damaged Intelligence, the sixth – sixth! – installment of the very Traveler RPG-inflected and extremely pulpy space opera Empire Dance series, has gone live and is out there in the world!

In case you had forgotten, the cover looks very much like this:

Print

And what’s in it, I hear you asking? Oh, the usual – artificial intelligences, Kiiren, religious fundamentalists, guns, starships, clones, explosions… all in one tasty, crunchy, 55000-word chunk. And the set-up for ED7, provisionally titled Towers In Sand, will be an absolute banger.

And where can you get it? That’s the important part, right?

Easy. It’s right here, behind the click. But be warned, you’ll need the other five in your library too…. 🙂

ED6: Damaged Intelligence – COVER REVEAL!

Cover reveal time! The sixth installment of the Empire Dance series is sat on the launch pads, nose pointed at the stars, ready to go – and yes, there will be pre-order links soon!

But first…

Print

That’s CAS Special Agent Kit Nagoya there, diving through clouds of shattered glass as ne pursues nir target, the fugitive Captain Kelly. A lovely, punchy cover, wrangled by An Amazing Egg. Just like the other books in the series, Damaged Intelligence will be available immediately on launch through Kindle Unlimited.

When? Oh, I was thinking perhaps the beginning of May…

Legends Anthology – Pelicos the Brave Swings into Action!

That last post concerning the winding up of the David Gemmell Legend Awards was something of a downer. But earlier this week NewCon Press announced the table of contents for the third – and now final – Legends Anthology, packed full of stories in tribute to the late great master of modern fantasy fiction, David Gemmell.

I’m over the moon about this, because – look! That’s me, on the cover, alongside a whole host of extra-talented and awesome folks! There’s an RJ! And an Anna! And a Danie! KT Davies is in there too! Seriously, I’m excited to read the other stories in this, not least because what I’ve seen so far is absolutely top notch. Plus, it’s NewCon Press, y’all – Ian Whates makes his books with love and attention.

Cover artist: Dominic Harman

1. Introduction by Stan Nicholls
2. Blood Debt – Gail Z. Martin
3. A God’s Mercy – Richard Webb
4. Berserker Captain – Neal Asher
5. The Price of Passage – Keris McDonald
6. Summoner – Danie Ware
7. Pelicos the Brave and the Princess of Kalakhadze – Steven Poore
8. The Timekeeper’s Tarot – Den Patrick
9. Her Grail – Ben North
10. Piercing the Mist – Shona Kinsella
11. Chosen of the Slain – K.T. Davies
12. The Dying Land – Nick Watkinson
13. A Hero of Her People – Anna Smith Spark
14. All Deaths Well Intention’d – RJ Barker
15. By Any Other Name – Justina Robson

So – what’s my story?

Heir To The North and The High King’s Vengeance were both at heart stories about stories. One of the heroes of these shaggydog tales within the narrative, often merely mentioned in passing, was Pelicos the [Insert Noun]. A swashbuckler with a heart of fool’s gold, Pelicos undertook every daft quest you could think of, and more besides. In Pelicos the Brave and the Princess of Kalakhadze, our titular jack-of-all-trades scales the heights of a fabled island city to rescue the Dunundaya Heir from her tower cell so that she and her beau can elope together! Except, of course, that’s not what really happened…

Keen readers will observe a cameo appearance by a certain warlock. And, in keeping with my liking of buried histories, the Princess of Kalakhadze feeds gently into the setting of the upcoming Age of Talons trilogy. But sssshhh…. go, preorder, and enjoy!

On the Gemmell Awards

Everything ends.

Over the last decade, the David Gemmell Awards For Fantasy have honoured the best in fantasy fiction and artwork as chosen by the readers. With a roll of honour taking in current genre luminaries such as John Gwynne, Robin Hobb, Mark Lawrence, Peter Newman, Brandon Sanderson, Andrezj Sapkowski, Brent Weeks and many more, with all of these winners chosen by a public vote, the awards have brought focus to some of the most exciting books, authors and artists in recent times.

Unfortunately, after ten years, the Gemmell Awards will draw to a close with immediate effect. With a lack of suitable volunteers to take on current committee roles, and insufficient manpower to deliver the wide range of tasks involved, the present team has been left with no choice but to wind up the awards.

The remaining members of the team would like to thank everyone who has supported the awards, including the publishers that have worked with us, our past committee members and volunteers, all the authors and artists who have offered their support, the events and venues who have hosted our ceremonies, everyone who has ever voted on the awards over the last decade and all the fans who have helped share and spread the word on the awards.

Departing Gemmell Awards Chair Stan Nicholls said: ‘This is a decision that has not been taken lightly, and indeed is one that myself and my committee members make with a heavy heart. It was always important to us to do things to a high standard, and in the current situation I don’t think that we could deliver something befitting the reputation the Gemmell Awards has. I hope that the awards will be remembered for the good work they have done in supporting and championing the cause of fantasy fiction over the last ten years, and that we’ve left a legacy behind that people can look at fondly in years to come.’

From a personal point of view, I would like to celebrate the work Stan, Anne Nicholls, Alex Davis, and the rest of the DGLA team have undertaken to bring so much brilliant fantasy to the attention of so many people across the world. As a tribute to David Gemmell’s legacy, the Awards can stand as proud as Dros Delnoch itself. And, like Druss the Legend, the character whose axe Snaga inspired the shape of the original award, the DGLA will surely inspire others to follow in their footsteps.

Everything ends… but not while we remember it.

Books Wot I Have Read: 2018

Everybody else is doing it, so I figured I ought to jump in too. Why not? A touch of positivity is always welcome at this time of year.

Image result for sheffield university arts tower
My TBR, yesterday

Alas, my TBR pile resembles the Arts Tower of Sheffield University right now, and it’s absolutely impossible to catch up with everything that was released this year while I’ve still got so many other worlds to visit. So this round-up of the best books I’ve read over the last twelve months also includes a number that weren’t actually published this year, and I refuse to apologise for that.

In no particular order:

Under The Pendulum Sun, by Jeannette Ng (Angry Robot, 2017)

34643773Holy heck. This is Angry Robot at its best, putting the WTF into fantasy once more, combining the detailed, refined and steady narrative of a gothic Victorian romance with the sudden sharp turns and queasy horrors of modern fiction. Jeannette Ng has created a disturbing world that resonates all the more true for the passions and obsessions its characters confront. Catherine’s arc – from Yorkshire to Gethsemane, from fragile English traveller to changeling, and beyond – is told with a sort of spellbinding quality – you want to shout and scream, and wrench her and Laon away before it is too late, and yet even when that line has been crossed you can’t help but read on and cheer their courage.

Quite probably the best treatment of the Fae since Some Kind of Fairy Tale (Graham Joyce), and that’s saying something.

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2016)

Holy heck (again), this was good. A broken earth, with fractured characters, and a history that is more geology and archaeology than anything else, plus giant floating obelisks, institutionalized slavery, and a narrative device that sinks the reader deep into the heart and soul of one of the most damaged characters of all. Make no bones, this is not a comfort read. The characters herein are not heroes, they are all survivors. You might call this grimdark if that label didn’t have so many negative connotations.

22468727The City of Silk and Steel, by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, & Louise Carey (Gollancz, 2012)

A wonderful, multi-layered tale of storytellers, their stories, and a full harem of concubines who escape death during a revolution by a cult of fanatics and return to the city of Bessa to depose the cultists in turn. Told in the voices of the characters themselves, with recipes, tall tales, legends and fourth-wall-breaking meta-narratives, The City of Silk and Steel is full of action, dry wit, diplomacy, and subtle magics. I can’t believe it isn’t better known than it is.

Do yourselves a favour and search this one out, trust me, you will not regret it.

38213770The Tower of Living and Dying, by Anna Smith Spark (Harper Voyager, 2018)

If you’ve made it this far into the glorious and murderous chaos of Anna Smith Spark’s world, then you know just how fantastically she uses language, repetition, broad strokes, and needle-sharp observations to tell a story. You won’t be disappointed this time either.

In my review of the first book in the trilogy I likened Marith to one of rock’n’roll’s early pioneers, despoiling his way across a continent. Now, with Thalia at his side, he’s an analogue of Elvis in his pomp, if Elvis had ever led an army of devoted berserkers to war.

Next? Can’t wait.

Wrath, by John Gwynne (Pan, 2016)

Fair to say we’ve crowned the next generation’s David Gemmell? I reckon so: there will be a lot of future fantasists using The Faithful And The Fallen as a foundation of their own explorations into the genre.

These are all personal choices, of course. My alternate self over at SFSF is bound to be a touch more relevant…

Chopper on Tour, 2019 Edition

[AKA: I’m Still Alive!]

This year has just flown by, hasn’t it? Almost like it knows it needs to bugger off with the bad news and right-wing tosspots it brought in. Bad enough we’ve had to flea-bomb the whole house this week, without 2018 dragging more shit in through the back door. Yeah, go on, fuck off, and take the gammon, book pirates,  and Brexidiots with you.

But, anyway. Just because this year has been infested with sociopolitical lice, it doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy. Like the fabled metaphor of the serene duck, there’s a boatload of paddling under the water.

Work continues on both ED6 and the new Age of Talons/The Golden Rule trilogy (I can’t make my mind up on the series title, but I’m leaning more to TGR at the moment). ED6 is heading slowly towards completion, while the first draft of the second part of the trilogy has reached chapter six and is settling down nicely. And yes, that does mean that the first book is complete and undergoing some scrutiny…

Meanwhile, I’m also working, as co-editor alongside Pete Sutton, on one of a series of anthologies for Grimbold Books. Forgotten Sidekicks will focus on the heroes that never were, the folks left in the shadows, the Fatty Bolgers of fantasy, and wouldn’t you know it – submissions are open to all right now!

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And in my spare time – don’t laugh, there is such a thing, or so I’m told – I’ve been part of a jury for the British Fantasy Awards, the winners of which will be announced at Fantasycon in Chester at the end of this month. And that brings us nicely to the Chopper on Tour element of this post:

This year Fantasycon and Bristolcon take place on consecutive weekends. Somewhat rashly, I have booked to attend both. This means you will be able to find me at the following panels and events –

Fantasycon

  • Saturday 20th October, 10am: Reading, alongside Shona Kinsella & Ben P Holden
  • Saturday 20th October, 11.30am: Organising Events and Awards panel, with Leila Abu el Hawa, Jan Edwards, Peter Sutton. I’m moderating this panel!
  • Sunday 21st October, 9.30am: Starting Out Writing Genre Fiction panel, with Rachel McLean, G. V. Anderson, Peter Haynes, Tasha Suri. Wait, I’m moderating this one too!

Bristolcon

  • Saturday 27th October, 1pm: It Were All Fields Round Here panel, with Dave Hutchinson, Jessica Rydill, GR Matthews, Anna Smith Spark. Guess what? I’m the moderator!
  • Saturday 27th October, 6pm: Desert Island Fantasy panel, with John Allen, Anna Smith Spark, Terry Jackman, Steven Poore, Jasper Fforde (M). I am not the moderator!

For the full program schedules for both events, see their respective sites:
Bristolcon: https://www.bristolcon.org/
Fantasycon: https://www.hwsevents.co.uk/activities-an-overview

See you there!

Promise of a Battered Moon – the Jack Teng Interview!

Jack Teng? Who he?

Long story short, he’s the author of a new and rather spiffy SF novel from Grimbold Books. You can find him on the twitters at @MyBossIsADroid, and over here at his own site, or on the wild streets of Vancouver chasing down replicants and answering only to the name K. Possibly.

Test 6That book, of course, is this one: The Promise of a Battered Moon. It’s out now at all sorts of Amazons.

A planet-killer asteroid is hurtling to Earth and everyone is freaking out. But not Manon Fontaine. She knows what the asteroid really is and it’s hers. Once she controls it, she’ll revive the world’s post-war economy and also her mother’s mining company. But first, she needs to navigate family betrayals and kidnapping attempts before she can finally determine her own fate.

Meanwhile, Ann Wilson, an augmented Union super-soldier, has been having problems (beyond the mental strains of indiscriminate killing): her last targets were blown up with fractional deuterium devices, and made things very messy. Ann hates messes. What she hates more is a commanding officer who jerks her around and then sends her, of all places, to Luna City. Little does she know she’s conducting illegal missions to gain control of the asteroid.

In the middle of it all, is Eric Lin, a Union-born-Chinese thruster mechanic. Because of the war with the PPA, he’s been ostracized and forced off-planet to Luna City and the orbital colonies. All he wants is to be accepted and left in peace. This apparently is too much to ask, as both the Union and the PPA send soldiers to drag him away for the-hell-knows what. The reason is in fact that he holds the key to controlling the asteroid.

Amidst traitorous double-agents and assassinations, Manon, Ann and Eric’s paths collide, leaving a wake of destroyed orbital stations and rampaging mobs, ultimately leading them into a confrontation on the moon.

If that doesn’t sound like Gareth L Powell-sized fun, then you plainly need to read it again. Or, go forth and hear from the man himself, below!

So, this story you’ve written. What’s it about? Why should I interrupt my nap-time to read it?

It’s about my horrible ex-partner and a huge asteroid coming to destroy the planet!

Actually, both are true, but the book is about three characters related to an asteroid that suddenly appeared and is threatening to destroy the planet. One of them is a super-assassin named Ann, who’s slowly going insane. The other is Manon, a French-Canadian trying to rebuild her family’s business. And the last is Eric, who doesn’t understand why two superpowers are trying to kill him and are willing to kill his friends and destroy his former satellite home to do it. Their fates are intertwined as they all are brought against their wills to the Luna City. (Also, Eric’s ex-girlfriend may or may not have been inspired by my ex! Ah, the sweetness of spite!)

Where do you get inspiration? Where did the ideas for your latest novel come from?

Good question! My inspiration often comes from a mix of the news and my life. For example, I grew up in Quebec and many of my friends are French-Canadian, so I thought it would be fun to weave them in. I already mentioned my ex-partner though.

The biggest inspiration comes from my addiction to reading the news every day. It’s a very small spoiler to say this, but one of the key reasons why the asteroid is of interest to people in the book is because it contains a large hoard of rare earths. In the book, the planet’s rare earth supply has been almost depleted, which has caused the world economy to tank. So whoever manages to control the asteroid and the rare earths it contains will be able to restart the economy and be very very rich. In our times, we’re starting to see some battles over certain minerals like cobalt and lithium, which are essential for batteries. I just took that idea and put it in an asteroid!

Jack TengWhat are your plans to conquer the world?

I will make fill the world with delicious ferments! Mooohahahahaha! Seriously though, my partner and I really enjoy making fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass, bread, natto, miso… hell, you name it we probably fermented it. One day everyone will love deliciousness of the partially rotten food!

What research rabbit-holes have you been down while writing? What was the most interesting, or the most tedious?

One of the more complicated topics I was looking into was how to terraform the moon. I was very saddened when I learned that the moon’s gravity just couldn’t support an atmosphere. But then I thought about whether it could be an atmosphere with different gases, and then… I had to abandon the project because it was getting ridiculous.

How often do you provide a cat sleeping spot- I mean, write? Do you have a comfy chair and a routine, or do you freelance cat-nap style?

I’m usually pretty regimented when I write. I often try to squeeze in 500 words in the morning and then 500 words in the evening. This way I can target about 7-8000 words a week.

When you’re not writing, what do you spend your time doing? Besides looking at cat pictures on the internet, obviously.

Usually cooking and experimenting with food! For my birthday this year, I’m most excited about what I’ll be cooking up. It’s an interesting, roundish body part and there are two of them, but they’re not eyeballs or kidneys. Can you guess what it is? I’ll be cooking it in pork lard flavoured with sumac, and I’ll be eating them with smashed potatoes cooked with hops-butter! YES!

Is there anything you’ve read/seen recently that would be worthy of my attention?

I really enjoyed Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male. Brilliant!

Because my bosses Grim and Bold brought me this interview – along with half a vole and what I sincerely hope is only a hairball – they’ve got a few questions of their own…

Cats. Fabulous, or completely fabulous?

Utterly fabulous!

What’s your second-favourite food? Because obviously you are a human of taste and discretion, and therefore your favourite is tuna.

Tomato sauce

Bold’s bow tie: excellently stylish, or rather dashing?

Dashing!

14212167_10154346725991826_5900355182089162614_nOn a scale of ‘excellent’ to ‘needs more practise’, how good are you at giving ear scratches?

Peerless