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

 

Weapons Free!

I often get asked when the next installment of The Empire Dance will come out. (When I say often, I mean at least two people have expressed interest in it. That’s good enough for me.) More on that to come, but it did make me wonder if I ought to give the first four volumes of the series a bit of a clean-up – Echoes of War first came out in 2010, and I’ve learned a fair bit since then. Plus, the cover art was  rather… yeah. Not good.

So I’ve disabled all the old paperback versions, and decided to retire the series from Smashwords – no offence to Mark Coker, but I don’t think anybody goes to Smashwords for decent genre fiction these days. I certainly can’t remember the last time I bought anything from there.

Volume by volume, I’ve worked my way through the series and quietly reissued them through the Kindle Unlimited programme (much as I may dislike Amazon’s chokehold on digital fiction). Echoes of War was the first to benefit, of course, with a couple of additional scenes and a bit of tightening up, as well as some funky new cover art. I’ve taken the opportunity to tweak the hyperlinks inside too, because by ‘eck it needed it. All of the first four titles – Echoes, Midwinter Fury, The Kiiren Boy, and The Packard Defence – are out with spiffing new artwork, and if you’re not a big fan of the Unlimited package then you can still grab them all for less than the price of two cups of coffee. Good value, what?

You want to see those covers? Eh? Go on then….

You can find out more about each book by using this site’s menu – see the Empire Dance there? Go on…. dare ya.

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

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.

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. 🙂