25 November 2013

Telly Squee!

Have recently been catching up with the mountains of programmes lurking on the Sky planner thingy, so here’s the most squeeful of the bunch:
(Warning! There will be spoilers!)

Orphan Black



Seriously though, what is not to love about Orphan Black? It’s smart, fast paced and has some fantastic characters.  Most of whom are played by Tatiana Maslany, because, clones!  Look, there is no way you can’t mention the clones, as they’re a thing from the first episode when Sarah Manning sees someone who looks just like her jump in front of a train. And then she discovers there’s more women who look just like her.  Shenanigans inevitably ensue.

And each clone has very distinct personalities (science-girl clone is definitely my favourite!) with the added fun of the odd clone having to pretend to be another of the clones as and when plot-reasons rear their heads.  And, of course, there’s conspiracies, and shocking plot twists all over the place and with exception of a couple of draggy bits involving Paul the boring boyfriend, the storytelling is fantastic with never a dull moment.  Also any scene with foster brother Felix in is a delight.

But even better than all of that, it’s a female led sci-fi thing! A bloody brilliant female led sci-fi thing.

Elementary



In my ever so humble one, Elementary has blown Sherlock away and left it lounging bitter and twisted in the dust.  Joan Watson, people! Joan Watson is so many kinds of awesome. And this version of Holmes is definitely a fun one. And their working partnership is fabulous. Oh, and the Moriarty reveal!  While it would have been nice to have Irene Adler as a seperate entity, maybe even being team villain with a Mrs Moriarty, Moriarty being Irene Adler was a rather neat twist.  And I’m loving the brotherly rivalry between Sherlock and Mycroft.  And the relationships Holmes has with the local cops is pretty good too. 

But mainly: Joan Watson, people!

Dracula



I freely admit to being sceptical about this one.  I’d seen a trailer with Meyers doing the terrible southern accent and immediately thought the worst.  Except, it turns out there’s a plot related reason for the dodgy accent and he switches it off given the company.  Oh, and Mina is now studying to be a doctor. And Renfield! Best version of Renfield ever! (Jonathan Harker remains a boring sod, which is a thing that is constant in every adaption I’ve ever seen.)

Am currently only 4 episodes into the series but so far it’s both deliciously bizarre (epic battle for coolant and the overthrowing of the evil fossil fuel magnates, who also hunt vampires!) and gorgeously presented. 

Then, or course, there must be squeeing about Doctor Who, but what with the Night of the Doctor, Day of the Doctor and Five Doctors(ish) Rebooted, that’s going to have to be another post!

Pics:
Cosima/Orphan Black from http://www.bbcamerica.com
Elementary from www.digitalspy.com
Dracula from www.radiotimes.com

12 November 2013

The Post WFC 2013 Post!

View from my window - the only bit of Brighton I saw!

 

Well, except for this bit of Brighton, also seen from my window! If you squint you can see the pier in the distance!

 Phew. World Fantasy Con then. That was a thing. An exhausting thing, for the most part, given the whole working rather than con-ing, but the work was extremely enjoyable.  I'd probably have to say that's the most fun I've had yet working a con.  Most of which is down to the awesome Team Red Coat and the con-com who remained relentlessly cheerful and friendly and efficient throughout.  Lou Morgan especially deserves a whole swimming pool of gin. ;-) 


And the mass of people we saw through the doors added heaps to the buzz of the thing.  (Is it weird I actually liked being swamped on the Reg Desk.  Over 1400 people we checked in! 1400!!! Egads! And most of them on Weds & Thurs! I seriously could not even stand up, let alone walk both those nights.)  We'll pass quickly over that thing where I checked in one of the GoHs and completely missed the fact that they were one of the GoHs.  Or the famous SF author of very long standing who I totally didn't recognise at all and who was very amused when I asked him his name and couldn't quite believe I was seriously needing to be told. Or the well known ghost story anthologist who I got chatting to about anthologies without realising who he actually was.  Um, yes. Brain went splat many times.

And one of the perks of Reg Desk duty is getting to say hi to the many-many folks I follow on twitter and facebook and various blogs, though in the rush of the check in, mostly all I could manage by way of conversation was something like 'oh, you're X, brilliant/awesome/excellent!' which possibly saved multiple bouts of fangirling and 'OMG! I loved your story/book/blog post!' followed by the inevitable utter panic that goes with total brain-freeze as I then forget everything I ever knew about why they're awesome.

And I did, amazingly, manage to get out to a couple of actual con-events too.  The Urban Mythic Launch, of course, was the essential go-to event.  And we sold books, many books, and many more than we sold of Ancient Wonders last year, which is very cool. (There may be an Urban Mythic #2 next year, we're in talks...)

I also did the Fearie Tales launch party and brought an actual hardback book (shock! horror! Didn't-wait-for-the-ebook-scandal!) and got it signed by all the peeps that were there.  Which is not a thing I usually do.  (It's a fab anthology, btw, only a couple of stories I wasn't keen on but all the rest rocked!)

And doing the FT party introduced me to the merits of chairs! Which there weren't any of. Which there really needed to be as there was no way I was going to be getting up again if I sat on the floor like many other people did.  Luckily there was this little stage thing that was perfect for perching on... But yes, con organisers of the future -  more chairs please! Many more chairs. Whole rooms of them. Chair-con! That's what we need!

Um. Yes. Right. Anyway. Else?  There were a million free books on offer, which I somehow managed to not get around to getting any of. Got hugs off all my favourite people as well as some shiny new ones! Had to rush off Sunday morning so I missed the awards and wind down parties and sudden appearance of a wibbly-wobbly portal that let loose strange beasties from another dimension that no-one is talking about (conspiracy!) but totally happened, honest... 

And if you want to take a gander at what else went on, the inexhaustable Stephen Theaker has compiled a list of pre and post WFC reports on the BFS forum here.

Am now looking forward to not working any cons next year so I can doss around and gossip with allllll the people at Fcon and Nine Worlds, and possible Edge Lit and Bristol Con too...  ;-)


07 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Kate Griffin

And today!  Here's Urban Mythic author Kate Griffin to entertain you!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm Kate Griffin - well, no, I'm actually Catherine Webb, but I write urban fantasy as Kate Griffin.  I usually write a series set in London, in which I do my very best to update the stuff of 'traditional' magic to a more modern vibe.  Thus, vampires are registered with the NHS blood banks, curses are sent by text and the most powerful spells around are written on the back of travelcards.  I love London and always had this nagging suspicion that 'magic' should harken to its older sense of 'wonder' rather than 'speaking old words in a dead language', and I guess the city has always given me that sense of delight.

What was the idea behind "An Inspector Calls"?

Have you ever had to deal with your local council?  The hours I've wasted dealing with bureaucracy - the hours listening to the same hold music on the same loop, of banging your head against an officious wall as you try to explain, to implore someone to understand that what you're asking won't bring down the government, and may actually improve the quality of life for yourself if not others, but no!  Because there's just... one... more... form!

And I guess that I've always felt that it'd be interesting to extend this idea into the realms of wizardry.  I'd love to see how Merlin reacted to negotiations with the department of work and pensions.  It'd be genuinely fascinated to see how long it takes an angry necromancer to summon an undead hoard after spending an hour queuing at the post office.  I guess I thought it'd be fun to combine magic with the least magical experience of modern life.

Also, the weekend the brief came through, I had a friend round, who sat still and not only listened, but also got excited by the whole idea, and let's face it, both those make a world of difference.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

Um.  I'm not sure I know the answer to the first part of that.  I know that I think 'urban' fantasy shouldn't necessarily involve reciting spells in Latin or summoning a unicorn (unless it's petrol-powered) as that to me just seems like traditional fantasy in a city, rather than urban fantasy using modern things.  But other than that... I'm not sure I can really give a truly sagely reply...

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman kinda go without saying.  I love everything Roger Zelazny ever wrote ever.  It's not fantasy, but Raymond Chandler's also always on my must-read list.  I wish I'd got my shelves built at the time of answering this question, as then I'd be able to actually browse my books and give a better reply, instead of crawl through the piles on my floor....

Has your involvement with background stage-craft influenced how you write scenes?

Um.  Consciously: no.  When I work as a lighting designer, it's an entirely different discipline, full of numbers, angles, three dimensional shapes and colours.  The rhythms of stories are still the same on page and on stage, and as an LD it's useful to be able to get a handle of the shape of a play and the direction it takes, but that's more of writing influencing lighting rather than visa versa.

Unconsciously: probably.  Tom Lehrer said that a good mathematician plagiarised everything but called it 'research'.  In the world of scribbling I think it's probably fair to say that very few indeed set out to consciously plagiarise anything, but that no one can go through life without being influenced by what they see, hear, feel and do.  I'm not consciously aware that, as a technician, I'm changing how I'm write.  I'm fairly sure I am, in much the same way that if I were a lawyer or shark tamer I'd probably be influenced by my work.

What are you up to next?

Let's think... well, I have a Top Secret Book being published early 2014 about which I am barred from saying anything at all for reasons which I'll explain in two years time when I'm permitted to say something.  I'm writing another book at the moment which is also a Top Secret Something, and have a final book on submission about which... you guessed it... I'm still forbad from saying a word.  I've got a play on at Riverside Studios in spring 2014 which I was asked to write for after a director ran some devising workshops, but that's under yet another name - Kate McCormick, although isn't top secret.  In the other job I've got a few more shows to light before the year is out, as well as a couple of gigs.  I'm also working towards yet another exam in a martial art called escrima which is one of the most relaxing outlets I've ever encountered.  So.  In a cryptic, very unhelpful way... lots happening.

[Kate Griffin is the name under which Catherine Webb writes fantasy books for adults.
First published when a teenager, she’s been writing for just long enough to have started to forget her early plots and characters.  She likes big cities, urban magic, Thai food and graffiti-spotting.  To keep herself occupied between chapters, she works as a theatre lighting designer, in the happy expectation that two artsy careers create a perfectly balanced life. Find her at www.kategriffin.net]

06 November 2013

Urban Mythic: James Brogden

Last seen in our very own Ancient Wonders, give it up for Urban Mythic author James Brogden!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm afraid that I am a disappointingly normal human being; middle-aged, middle-incomed, living in middle-England in a happy marriage with two kids, a cat, and a decent lego collection. To pay the bills I teach English, and in the meantime I'm trying to cut it as an author - so, living the cliche there. My theme tune, if I had one, would be Huey Lewis' "Hip to be Square". As a result, I write stories about When Ordinary Things Go Weird, which means it tends towards the horrific - monsters in garden ponds, MOT inspections which lead to satanic sacrifices, teddy bears that breathe with the souls of dead children. The kind of things which would terrify me in my safe suburban bubble. I'm trying as hard as I possibly can to avoid standard horror tropes, which also means that what I write veers into the darkly fantastical as often as not. I did fall off the wagon and write a story with a zombie in it recently, but she was reanimated out of hatred for her husband's obsession with DIY, so I can live with that.

What was it that inspired "The Smith of Hockley"?

The image of the Midas Scorpion has been kicking around in my head for years, looking for a story to appear in, and Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter was the perfect setting, but I couldn't square that with any mythology which wasn't uniquely English so I did a bit of hunting around and re-discovered the legend of Wayland Smith, which, in turn, tied in nicely with the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard. I find that there's hardly ever a single inspiration for a story - images and ideas constellate together and reinforce each other organically, for the most part.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

Urban fantasy is what I like to write because it stems from my own anxieties and hang-ups, and I find it easier to find emotional hooks for my characters in the world that I know. It also allows me to be a bit lighter and more whimsical in what I write, as I basically can't take anything very seriously for long and I don't think I could sustain the seriousness of an out-and-out horror novel. In terms of what I read I'm a lot more wide-ranging. I like a bit of high fantasy, and I'm also quite loving Stephen Baxter's Northland trilogy at the moment because it incorporates a lot of my interests in archaeology and alternate history - plus it's a cracking story, which helps.

I've also been reading Edgelands by Michael Symmons Roberts and Paul Farley, which isn't fiction at all, but more travelogue-cum-poetry about the marginal areas of Britain's urban areas. I understand why London looms large in the urban fantasy genre, and I have no problem with that, but for myself I want to explore the fantastical potential of where I live, which is the Midlands. Writers I keep coming back to for inspiration are Robert Holdstock, Neil Gaiman, Graham Joyce, Christopher Fowler, and Clive Barker. My new discoveries are Sarah Pinborough and Robert Shearman, both of whose work I'm currently devouring.

What is Den of Eek!2 and how are you involved?

Den of Eek 2 is the sequel to - wait for it - Den of Eek, which was a story-telling event last year hosted by the pop-culture website Den of Geek in order to raise money for cancer research. I became involved when they had a competition for new writers, and I was one of three winners. I went down to London just like it says in the fairy tale and had the most awesome evening in a pub reading my story to an audience alongside established novelists and screenwriters, and feeling massively out of my league. Still, it must have gone down okay because they invited me to write another story for this year's event. I demand that everybody reading this go and buy a copy of the Den of Eek anthology from Amazon immediately - every penny goes to charity. After they've bought Urban Mythic, of course.

What will you be up to next?

By the time Urban Mythic is launched I will have released my second novel, Tourmaline. It's urban fantasy again, with elements of steampunk in an alternative world intersecting with our own. I'll also have a short story about a road-kill restaurant in an anthology called The Last Diner by Knightwatch Press. Con-wise I have two big dates coming up: London Film and Comic Con in October, where I'll be signing copies of Tourmaline, and I'll be appearing on a panel at Andromeda One in Birmingham on September 21st, which is very exciting as it's my first. Other than that, the new school year begins soon, so I'm going to have to start thinking about the real world soon. Which brings us nicely full circle. I like the symmetry of that.

[James Brogden is a part-time Australian who lives with his wife and two daughters in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, where he teaches English. His stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies such as the Big Issue, the British Fantasy Society’s Dark Horizons, Urban Occult, and the Alchemy Press Book of Ancient Wonders, and he was a winner of Den Of Geek’s new talent showcase with his story The Phantom Limb. His new urban fantasy novel Tourmaline is published by Snowbooks in September of 2013. Blogging occurs at jamesbrogden.blogspot.co.uk, and tweeting at @skippybe.]

05 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Zen Cho

Today my darlings, we at Urban Mythic towers bring you the fabulous Zen Cho!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm a lawyer and writer living in London. The two main things I write are Malaysian fantasy (i.e. speculative fiction featuring Malaysian characters or settings or both), and a made-up subgenre I like to call "fluff for postcolonial booknerds".

What was the idea behind "Fish Bowl"?

I had a maths tuition teacher once who had a fish pool inside her house in which she reared koi -- quite an extraordinary thing to find in your standard suburban house. The idea for the story grew out of that. It also ended up being about the pressure on kids, especially girls, in a certain kind of middle-class, high-achieving household to be perfect. (That's obviously a stereotype associated with Asian families, but I think it has as much, if not more, to do with socio-economic background as culture.) When I wrote the story I was thinking about how it is possible to be very, very sheltered as a teenager, but very, very unhappy.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I’m more into suburban fantasy than urban fantasy -- I’m quite interested in what happens inside people’s houses, and like speculative fiction with a fairly intimate, domestic scope. Edith Nesbit and Diana Wynne Jones spring to mind.

You’ve curated a list of Malaysian SFF writers on your website – do you have any particular favourite stories or authors?

I’m a bit hesitant to play favourites – there’s a lot of interesting stuff on my list and everybody should go check it out for themselves! So I’m going to cheat and name someone I haven’t even mentioned in the list yet, Zedeck Siew. As far as I know Zedeck hasn’t had any speculative fiction published, but he’s active in the Malaysian arts scene and has put out a lot of work of various kinds over the years. Currently he’s working on a compilation of short speculative stories which I’m really looking forward to. In the meantime you can check out his Tumblr (http://zedecksiew.tumblr.com/) for examples of his "small fictions".

What are you up to next?

Besides "Fish Bowl", I’ve got short stories in three other publications coming out this year: LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction from Singaporean publisher Math Paper Press, The End of the Road from UK press Solaris Books, and Love in Penang from Malaysian indie press Fixi Novo.

I'm also working on revisions to what might be my first novel (if my agent can persuade someone to publish it!). It's a Regency-set fantasy of manners about England’s first black Sorcerer Royal. It's basically a mishmash of everything I like from Georgette Heyer and P. G. Wodehouse, plus magic, written with a postcolonial sensibility.

[Zen Cho is a Malaysian writer living in London and a 2013 finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her short fiction has appeared most recently in Esquire Malaysia, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and Prime Books anthology Bloody Fabulous. Find out more about her work at http://zencho.org ]

03 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Mike Resnick

Urban Mythic author Mike Resnick is not at WFC, alas, but he is right here instead!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I'm been a full-time freelancer since 1969, with 74 novels, 25 collections, 275 stories and 3 screenplays to my credit. I've also edited 41 anthologies, and am currently the editor of Galaxy's Edge magazine and the Stellar Guild line of books. I am the winner of 5 Hugos from a record 36 nominations, and according to Locus I'm the all-time leading award winner for short science fiction. I love writing science fiction, and I've recently sold some well-received mystery novels as well.

What was the idea behind “The Wizard of West 34th Street”?

I like urban fantasy, and I've always liked the notion that being at the top of one's field isn't quite the cakewalk that it may appear from the outside.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

"Good" is far more important to me than "urban" or "fantasy".

As both a writer of short and long fiction, and editor of many publications, do you find yourself drawn to one of those things more than the others, and are there any fiction forms you want to try your hand at but haven't yet?

I prefer writing short fiction. My creditors, who have expensive tastes, prefer that I write novels. So I split my time between them. At one time or another, I've done just about every fiction form. If I had to chose one I've never tried, it's be as a lyricist for a musical play.

What are you up to next?

The Trojan Colt (a mystery novel) just came out;. The Worlds Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, an original anthology I co-edited with Bob Garcia, and The Doctor And The Dinosaurs, a science fiction novel, are due out in October and December of 2013. Next year will see the publication of Cat On A Cold Tin Roof, a mystery novel; The Fortress In Orion, a science fiction novel; and about a dozen stories that I have in press. Eric Flint and I have signed to write The Gods Of Saggitarius, a collaborative novel, and I'll be doing two Stellar Guild team-up books, one with Tina Gower, one with Lezli Robyn. And of course I'll keep editing the magazine and the book line.

[Mike Resnick is, according to Locus, the all-time leading award winner, living or dead, for short fiction. He is the winner of 5 Hugos, a Nebula, plus other major awards in the USA, France, Spain, Poland, Croatia, Catalonia and Japan.  Mike is the author of 71 novels, over 250 short stories, and 3 screenplays, and is the editor of 41 anthologies.  He is currently editing the Stellar Guild line of books and Galaxy's Edge magazine, and was the Guest of Honor at the 2012 Worldcon. Find him at mikeresnick.com]

02 November 2013

Urban Mythic: Alison Littlewood

For those of you at WFC, you can find Urban Mythic author Alison Littlewood in multiple places such as:  Noon-1:00 pm - Panel - When the Fairies Come Out to Play (Cambridge); 3:00-4:00 pm - Launch - Constable & Robinson (Hall 8/Signing Alley) and 11:00 pm-12:30 am - (mysterious unknown funky thing) (Chartwell)  We don't know exactly what the midnight mysterious funky thing is but we're sure it'll be a bit spooky and well worth popping into!  For those of you not at WFC, here's a wee interview with Alison instead!


Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I’ve been around in the indie presses for some time writing horror and dark fantasy, with publications in magazines like Black Static, Dark Horizons and Shadows and Tall Trees. I had my first novel, A Cold Season, published with Jo Fletcher Books back in January 2012, and that got picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club, which was a terrific experience. Path of Needles, a twisted fairy tale meets crime novel, came out in June.

What was the idea behind "The Song of the City"?

I researched various mythical figures when I was thinking about the theme for the anthology. Once I’d come across banshees I had an immediate image in my mind of an eerie cry drifting across a Brutalist city-scape, and I knew that was what I wanted to write about. Once that connected with another image, of a woman alone walking through a deserted multi-storey car park, I had the makings of the story.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I like fantasy and horror with a strong sense of place, whether it be in a rural or urban environment. Having said that, one of my favourite books is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, which is set in a fantastical world under London. Another excellent read is Un Lun Dun by China MiƩville, which again takes the capital and turns it upside down. I really enjoy books by Dan Simmons, and he uses settings as diverse as Calcutta and the Arctic. My must-read authors would also include Stephen King and Joe Hill.

You've written stories in the crime and horror genres so far, are there any other genres you want to explore?

I think exploring the ones I’m fascinated with already will probably keep my hands full! I do have ideas for the next novels and they tend to be in my usual territory of dark fantasy and horror. I think I’ll always return to those areas – I like stories that have a little bit of magic hidden away in them somewhere, whether light or dark.   

What are you up to next? 

A Cold Season has its launch in the US this month, so that’s really exciting. I’m also busy working on book three, which is a ghost story looking at the fates of different generations of a family living in a rather dour house in the Yorkshire countryside. I’ll be taking a break for the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton around Halloween, so really looking forward to that. No doubt there’ll be the odd walk on the beach and trip to the Haunted Hotel on the pier in between the panels and readings!

[Alison Littlewood’s latest novel, Path of Needles, is published by Jo Fletcher Books. Her first novel, A Cold Season, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was described as “perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.” Alison’s short stories have been picked for the Best Horror of the Year and Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy 2013 and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10. Her work has also featured in genre magazines Black Static, Crimewave and Dark Horizons. Visit her at www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk ]

01 November 2013

Urban Mythic Launch Day!

Woohoo! Brighton, we have launch!



If you're at WFC, drop by to the Signing Alley (between the reading rooms and the art show) because we will be there today at Noon! Noon, people!   With Jaine Fenn, Christopher Golden, Alison Littlewood, Anne Nicholls, Gaie Sebold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jonathan Oliver, Ben Baldwin & Ian Whates (in spirit, as he's off on a panel at the same time, but drop by the Dealer Room later and he'll sign anything for you. Annnnnything!)

There will also be authors from Alchemy Press' Pulp Heroes 2 & Astrologica: Tales of the Zodiac.  And Publisher Pete.  And yer 'umble editors of course!

Come see us, do!

x

31 October 2013

Urban Mythic: Christopher Golden

Happy Halloween!  For those of you at WFC today, hello! And if you're not there, here's Urban Mythic author Christopher Golden for you!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I've been a full time writer for twenty years.  I had the best job in the world, working at Billboard magazine in New York, but when I sold my first novel back in 1992--at the age of twenty-five--I jumped ship and never looked back.  I write horror, fantasy, mystery and thrillers for adults and teens, as well as comics and graphic novels.  I've also edited more than half a dozen anthologies.  My latest novel, Snowblind, will be out in January.

What was the idea behind "Under Cover of Night"?

I have an abiding love of folklore.  When the story was originally written, my task was to write three unrelated pieces all of which revolved around folklore in some way.  I've also always been…fascinated is the wrong word…let's say concerned by the way the United States conducts its relationship with Mexico.  The situation at our southern border is not healthy for either nation's people.  Finally, I just loved the idea of El Chupacabra preying on those who prey on those desperate enough to cross illegally into the U.S.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

There are two definitions of urban fantasy to me.  One is the more common modern definition, and of that class I love Charlaine Harris, Stacia Kane, Kelley Armstrong, and many others.  But the older version of urban fantasy is where I find myself going when I think about writing anything fantasy-related.  Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Tim Powers…that's a whole different corner of urban fantasy.  De Lint has been a huge influence for me and is one of my favorite writers.

You’ve collaborated with Amber Benson, Tim Lebbon and Mike Mignola among others – what’s the appeal of joint authored projects and is there anybody you’d like to work with (living, dead or totally fictional!)

I always say writing is a solitary business and I'm not a solitary person.  I find myself chatting with friends and a lot of those friends are writers.  Invariably, some crazy-ass idea will come up and one of us will say, y'know, we should write that!  If it's an idea we like enough, then we do.  As for anyone else I'd like to write with, living or dead?  Larry McMurtry.  It'll never happen, but boy, I could learn a lot from that guy.

What are you up to next?

This January, my latest novel, Snowblind, will be out in the US and UK, as will Cemetery Girl, the first in a trilogy of graphic novels I'm writing with Charlaine Harris.  My anthology Dark Duets also hits that month.  It's weird when everything you've worked on for 18 months all comes out at the same time.  This November I'll be at World Fantasy in Brighton, UK, and I can't wait!

[Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of such novels as Of Saints and Shadows, The Myth Hunters, The Boys Are Back in Town, and Strangewood.  He has co-written three illustrated novels with Mike Mignola, the first of which, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, was the launching pad for the Eisner Award-nominated comic book series, Baltimore.  As an editor, he has worked on the short story anthologies The New Dead, The Monster’s Corner, and 21st Century Dead, among others, and has also written and co-written comic books, video games, and screenplays.  His novel Snowblind will be published in January, 2014.  Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he still lives with his family.  His original novels have been published in more than fourteen languages in countries around the world.  Please visit him at www.christophergolden.com ]

30 October 2013

Urban Mythic: Jaine Fenn

Good morning groovers!  And what delights do we have for you today?  Why, it's Urban Mythic author Jaine Fenn in da house! :-)

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I mainly write Science Fiction, of the far future character-driven kind. My Hidden Empire novels are published by Gollancz, and for the last few years I've been focusing on them, but I also love writing short stories, and with these I range across the genre, having fun with everything from alt. history to, well, urban fantasy.

What was the idea behind "Not the Territory"?


It's a story I've been meaning to write for years. I've never lived in London, but I have commuted into both the City and the West End on a regular basis and to me, London has always been a fascinating other world, crowded with history, full of possibility. And if the bits you can see are intriguing, what about the stuff you don't get to see? Or at least, don't usually get to see ... I also love maps, possibly to an unhealthy extent; personally I'm not a fan of maps that don't tell you what you're getting into, but Phil and Astral (two characters I've written about before) are just the blokes to follow a map and see where it leads them. I also wanted to use the basement of the Guildhall as a setting; not many civic buildings have a Roman amphitheatre under them. That's the essence of this story: all those compacted layers of history and possibility, and how they interact.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I have to confess that these days I don't read much urban fantasy. This isn't because I don't like it, just because I have limited reading time and so have to be extra picky about what books to add to my teetering 'to read' pile (OK, piles). I've enjoyed reading Charles de Lint and Neil Gaiman and more recently Paul Cornell's London Falling, a book I highly recommend.

How important is music when you're writing and did "Not the Territory" have a particular backing track?

I always write to music, though I find anything with a clear vocal distracting. By default I use ambient and dub for the quiet sections and trance and rock for action sequences. Not every story has a particular backing track but this one does: the album Dead Cities by Future Sound of London.

What are you up to next?

The most recent Hidden Empire book, Queen of Nowhere, came out this autumn, and I've just started work on the next one. I've also got a YA space mystery which I describe as 'Lord of the Flies meets Silent Running meets the Midwich Cuckoos' but I don't have a publication date for that yet. Convention-wise, after World Fantasy I'll be at Novacon, then – having been to loads of cons this autumn – I'll have a bit of a rest. But I'm looking forward to Worldcon next year, in London.

[ Jaine Fenn is the author of the Hidden Empire series, far future SF published by Gollancz, which began with Principles of Angels. She also writes short stories in other genres, a number of which have been published professionally. Back when she had a proper day-job she spent too much time travelling on the Tube and London remains one of her favourite alien worlds. Her website can be found at www.jainefenn.com ]

29 October 2013

Urban Mythic: Adrian Tchaikovsky

And today's Urban Mythic author dragged kicking and screaming into the light... The one, the only, Adrian Tchaikovsky!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I’m mostly an author of epic fantasy, as far as long form fiction goes. So far that’s manifested in the story of the Insect-kinden, the Shadows of the Apt series, the 9th and penultimate book of which has just come out as War Master’s Gate. The world of the kinden is some way from a traditional fantasy setting – the kinden themselves are humans who take their powers and natures from various types of insect, and the series charts their rise into a sort of 20th century of technology and realpolitik. I put a lot of work into my worlds, the variety and the originality, and it seems to be something that my readers really respond to.

What was it that inspired “Family Business”?

Um, well. This is one of those questions writers get all the time – “where do your ideas come from?” – and normally it’s essentially impossible to point at any given thing and say “This! This was what made the story happen.” Except in this case, when it was absolutely the Scissor Sisters’ Return to Oz. I’m quite serious. I heard the song the first time while coming back from a wedding, I think it was, and was absolutely inspired by the weird imagery and emotional tone of it. And from that came “Family Business,” I kid you not. Of course that song is actually telling another completely different story, but when I hear songs full of odd metaphor and meaning I tend to translate them literally first, and get some very bizarre images.


How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

My favourite fantasy is secondary-world fantasy, and as most urban fantasy is real-world set, I’m fairly selective with what I pick up. I love Paul Cornell’s London Falling, though, and Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and its sequels. And I’ve just discovered Emma Newman’s Split World series, which is excellent. And, lord, there’s Gaiman, who kind of invented the whole business about ten years too early with Neverwhere, and then retook it with American Gods. Beyond that, there is a whole neighbourhood of what was also called urban fantasy at one time, because it is generally city-based, but also usually in a secondary world. This is stuff like The Lies of Locke Lamora (one of the best fantasy books every written, IMHO) and there’s Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, Hulick’s Among Thieves and Hardinge’s Mosca books like Twilight Robbery.

Has your enthusiasm for larping and other gaming influenced what you write?

I suppose it’s given me an expanded toolkit. Pen and paper RPGs are very good for the creative side – making worlds and making characters, both. You often need to work at a level of detail a book might not demand, which then lends you a comfortable familiarity with the world that hopefully comes over on the page. Larp itself is a source of new experience, especially massed battles. And fun, of course.

What are you up to next? 

My convention calendar is very full this year and next. I’ve been to Nine Worlds, which is a new convention of astonishing scope and variety that I enjoyed immensely, and then I had Andromeda One in Birmingham, then the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton. And of course there’s Worldcon coming to London next year … and as Nine Worlds 2014 is the weekend before I think there will be a whole “week of geek” in the London area strung between the two.

As for writing, I’m about to get the last Shadows of the Apt book back for edits, while tinkering with my standalone novel Guns of the Dawn which comes next, and I’m also finishing off the first book of a new series as well. It’s all go, basically.

[Adrian Tchaikovsky was born in Lincolnshire, studied and trained in Reading and now lives in Leeds. He is known for the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series starting with Empire in Black and Gold, and currently up to book nine, The War Master's Gate. His hobbies include stage-fighting, and tabletop, live and online role-playing.] 

28 October 2013

Catching up - October Edition

O!M!G!  It's not a post about Urban Mythic!  I know, it's been a while, right?

So, what' s been going on? Well now, I'm glad you asked.

Big main thing is the university year has started right back up and with only two modules left to do for my degree it's all very serious and researchy.  On the plus side, this year's module is Myth in the Greek and Roman world which is all kinds of awesome. seriously, why did no one tell me classics was so much fun. (Actually I did kind of suspect it, but it's been a bugger to find an actual course that wasn't medieval to modern history.) So, yes, I do classics now. Classics are cool. ;)

So too is accountancy. Though that one is more of a business necessity since some crazy person or persons to go unnamed decided to make the family business a limited company with employee on payroll and proper grown up serious stuff. Oy gevalt. This has made the book keeping a bit more complicated. Well, I say a bit, in the way that the Pacific is a bit wet... Still, I like a challenge, and anything that involves juggling numbers on spreadsheets and I'm definitely your girl. So I'm also working my way towards a professional bookkeeping/accountancy certification thingy. Cos why do things by halves, right? Right!  (Egads, there will be exams. Exams! Gah!)

Ooh, and the fabulous Shapeshifters anthology from Fox Spirit should be out soon, in which discerning readers will find a story by yours truly. Also many other funky peeps.

WFC is of course the hot topic of the season. I will, of course, be on registration duty again so expect plenty of completely forgetting the names of people I've known for years while trying to give sensible answers to random questions.

Ooh and I've booked up for next year's Nine Worlds Geekfest, cos how cool did this year's one sound.  Yes, going to an actual convention that I'm not working at! Stop fainting at the back there.  Might even attempt to do Edge-Lit next year as well.

But that's enough excitement for one day! ;-)





Urban Mythic: Graham Edwards

And today my lovelies, we have Urban Mythic author Graham Edwards...

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I have a day job as a graphic designer and try to fit the writing in when and where I can. At the moment that means early morning stints before work, plus as many other sessions as I can squeeze in. I guess my comfort zone is novels, but every time I force myself to write short fiction I’m always surprised by how much I love it. I’m generally labelled as a fantasy author (although I’ve written crime novels too) but I’ve never had much truck with labels. I just write what I write, you know?

What was the idea behind “A Night to Forget”? 

The story’s about Old Father Time. Most people see him as this old geezer with a scythe who bumbles around at the end of the year looking lost. I just got to wondering who he really is. At the same time, I was thinking about how sometimes people put their lives on hold – maybe following a traumatic event, maybe just because they’re waiting for some change to come. Sometimes we just want to stop the clock. Those two things came together in my head, and this story was the result.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors? 

I don’t necessarily think of my taste as ‘urban’, but I do prefer my fantasy to be grounded in reality. I like to have one foot in the real world and the other in, well, another. The books on my shelves that look the scruffiest – and which are therefore the most loved – are those written by Robert Holdstock, John Crowley and Stephen King.

You’ve worked as a multimedia producer for theme parks and visitor centres – what was involved in that and have your experiences there contributed to your fiction?

Some theme park rides use video content as an integral part of the ride experience. I’ve written storylines and scripts for such rides, and sometimes directed and created the content too, mostly using CG animation. The same with sit-down shows for heritage attractions, or simulators in science centres. Most recently, I wrote the script for the horror ride Nemesis Sub-Terra at the UK’s Alton Towers. My love of speculative fiction has certainly fed into that work, but I’m not sure the reverse is true. Yet.

What are you up to next? 

My new novel Talus and the Frozen King will be published by Solaris Books in March 2014. It’s a Neolithic murder mystery and I suppose it’s my attempt to push the boundaries of historic crime fiction as far back into the past as they’ll go. Right now I’m hard at work on a sequel. Also, as a card-carrying VFX gee, I’m thrilled to be writing a long article for visual effects journal Cinefex, taking a behind-the scenes look at Ron Howard’s new film Rush.

[Graham Edwards is the author of two fantasy trilogies – Dragoncharm and Stone & Sky – as well as a number of novels published under various pseudonyms. His short fiction has appeared in Realms of Fantasy, while The String City Mysteries, a series of fantasy detective novelettes, is available as a range of ebooks. Graham’s new novel, Talus and the Frozen King, will be published by Solaris Books in 2014. Graham blogs regularly about his writing. Also on his blog, he’s published an acclaimed series of articles reviewing the first forty issues of visual effects journal Cinefex.  Visit him at graham-edwards.com ]

27 October 2013

Urban Mythic: Anne Nicholls

This morning may we present Urban Mythic author Anne Nicholls!

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I like writing uplifting, adventurous, exciting, humorous stories - all sorts of things that have a feel-good factor.  It's the creativity, I think.  Writers always get the best out of stories they write, even more than stories they read.  I guess writing is the 3-D version!

What was it that inspired "The Seeds of a Pomegranate"?

Two things: I like the idea of the exotic along with the cosmopolitan and the ordinary down-home all working together in our multi-racial society.  We're not the only folks who have a tradition of magic and fantasy so how great that there's this new enrichment coming into Britain!  Also the possibilities of creative magic, and the friendship aspects.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

I like all kinds of fantasy (and many other streams of fiction).  For urban fanasy I enjoy Benedict Jacka and I'm just getting into the Iron Druid books by Kevin Hearne.  Mercedes Lackey's Bedlam's Bard series are fun, as are her Serrated Edge books.

Tell us about your involvement with the David Gemmell Awards?


Dave Gemmell was a very dear friend who was our best man when Stan and I got married.  We miss him greatly.  We admired his spirit of "stand up and be counted" so that's what we wanted to do with the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy: make it the readers' choice so it's as democratic as possible.  Anyone anywhere can vote for books in English so it's truly egalitarian and international.  The awards ceremony is a real pleasure in itself.  We get to meet people we might otherwise not have the chance to, for example, Olof Erla Einarsdottir who won the Ravenheart Award.  She flew over from Iceland just to be with us, which was fabulous!  Plus we wanted to raise the profile of fantasy fiction generally, and support artists and authors.  It's amazing how time-consuming the committee work is but good fun and rewarding too.

With your other hat on you’re a qualified counsellor and writer of self-help books – do you find this perspective impacts on your fiction?

It does and it doesn't.  That's to say, obviously it offers deep insight into people and their motivations, and it means I want to make ever piece of writing I do as emotionally rewarding for the reader as I can.  On the other hand I have to make sure counselling language doesn't intrude because it's more analytical than dramatic.

What are you up to next?

Right now I have all sorts of things to look forward to: the launch of three anthologies in which I have stories (Urban Mythic, Pulp Heroes II and Legends) at the World Fantasy Convention; the Gemmell Awards which are also at WFC this year; another story and a novel that I'm writing; doing more paintings; and just generally having fun with friends and family.  I also enjoy my counselling work as I love to see people making positive changes so they're happier and can achieve their goals.



[Anne Nicholls's published works include the acclaimed novels Mindsail and The Brooch of Azure Midnight.  Her short story Roman Games was reprinted in the Year's Best Fantasy.  She is now principally known for self-help writing  and for her paintings, which are also gaining a following.]

26 October 2013

Urban Mythic at WFC!

I may have mentioned a few times that Urban Mythic is launching at WFC in Brighton next weekend.   Because, dudes! We're launching at WFC!  Friday 1st November!  Noon!  In Signing Alley!   (Along with Alchemy's other titles - Pulp Heroes 2 & Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac.)

But anyway, Urban Mythic, innit!  Lovely author people who will be floating around are: Jaine Fenn, Christopher Golden, Alison Littlewood, Anne Nicholls, Gaie Sebold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Jonathan Oliver, Ian Whates & Ben Baldwin.

But my lovely people-folks, that's not all.  Oh no!  Selected members of Team Urban Mythic will be doing a reading event on the Thursday!  From 2:00 - 2:30pm in Hall 8B.

And! Also! Our faaaabulous authors will be out and about doing other things at the WFC beast.  Here, for your author spotter notebook, is where else you can find them...

Artist:
Ben Baldwin          
SAT 11:00 am-Noon - Launch - Newcon Press & Snowbooks (Hall 8/Signing Alley)
SAT 5:00-7:00 pm (Art Show)

Authors:
Jaine Fenn:
SAT 5:00-6:00 pm - Panel - Does SF Have a Future? (Cambridge)

Christopher Golden:     
THURS 4:00-5:00 pm - Panel - Strip Search (Oxford)
FRI 3:00-4:00 pm - Panel - Writing for the Franchise Market (Hall 4)
FRI 4:00-6:00 pm - Party - PS Publishing Bumper Book Launch (Regency)
SAT 3:00-3:30 pm - Reading - (Hall 8A)

Alison Littlewood:     
THURS 4:00-5:00 pm - Panel - Landscape of the Fantastic (Cambridge)
SAT Noon-1:00 pm - Panel - When the Fairies Come Out to Play (Cambridge)
SAT 3:00-4:00 pm - Launch - Constable & Robinson (Hall 8/Signing Alley)
SAT 11:00 pm-12:30 am - (mysterious unknown funky thing) (Chartwell)
SUN Noon-1:00 pm - Panel - How to Write that Second Book (Hall 4)

Anne Nicholls:
THURS 8:00 pm - Presentation - David Gemmell Awards (Oxford)
THURS 9:30 pm - Party/Launch - David Gemmell Awards Reception/Legends Signing (Regency)

Jonathan Oliver:  
SAT 4:00-5:00 pm - Panel - You Can't Write, Edit an Anthology (Hall 4)
SUN 11:00 am-Noon - Launch - Solaris/Rebellion (Hall 8/Signing Alley)
And you'll probably also find Jonathan at the Solaris table in the Dealer Room too!

Gaie Sebold:      
THURS 9:30 pm - Party/Launch - David Gemmell Awards Reception/Legends Signing (Regency)
FRI 4:00-5:00 pm - Panel - Broads with Swords (Cambridge)

Adrian Tchaikovsky:
THURS 9:30 pm - Party/Launch - David Gemmell Awards Reception/Legends Signing (Regency)
SAT 10:00-11:00 am - Panel - Best of All Possible Worlds (Cambridge)
SAT 5:00-5:30 pm - Reading (Hall 8A)
SUN 10:00-11:00 am - Launch - Fox Spirit Books (Hall 8/Signing Alley)

Ian Whates:     
THURS 9:30 pm - Party/Launch - David Gemmell Awards Reception/Legends Signing  (Regency)
FRI Noon-1:00 pm - Panel - Surviving as an Independent Press (Cambridge)
FRI 5:00-6:00 pm - Interview - Life Achievement Award: Tanith Lee (Oxford)
SUN 11:00 am-Noon - Launch - Solaris/Rebellion (Hall 8/Signing Alley)
And don't forget to find Ian at the Newcon Press table in the Dealer Room!  And also in the Dealer Room, on the Solaris table signing stuff on SAT 3:30 - 4:30pm

And also!
Look for Alchemy Publisher Peter Coleborn in the Art Show SAT 5:00-7:00 pm
And Editor Jan Edwards wandering around having fun!
And Editor Jenny Barber (hello!) lurking behind the registration desk Weds - Sat.

04 October 2013

Urban Mythic: Ian Whates

And today Urban Mythic author Ian Whates answers a few questions....

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I find it difficult to pinpoint my first exposure to science fiction and fantasy. I recall watching early episodes of Lost in Space and Doctor Who (back in the William Hartnell days), and I was always borrowing volumes of Greek and Norse mythology from the library. The writing of Andre Norton was key, I know, as was a serialised reading of John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids on BBC radio, but which of these came first..? Suffice to say I grew up fascinated and inspired by all of these things and started writing my own stories from a young age. That has stayed with me throughout my life. I love to write in the same genres I read: science fiction, fantasy, a dash of horror … and if I can blend ingredients from all of those strands, so much the better.

What was it that inspired “Default Reactions”?

Good question. My partner, Helen, has a far higher tolerance for shopping than I do. One day a few years back (2006?) I sought sanctuary in a pub (now there’s a surprise) close to Covent Garden while she continued to satisfy her retail itch. As I waited, I jotted down the outline of a story that drew on our experiences and the people we’d encountered that day. Centring on the concept that there are many versions of London existing in close proximity which most of us are completely oblivious to, the story features a succubus and a character called ‘Chris’ who can sense and interact with the different Londons. I’ve grown fond of Chris, who, in the interim, has featured in a few further tales involving alternative Londons. The announcement of the Urban Mythic anthology coincided with a developing interest in the trans-cultural enigma that is the Green Man, and it occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to write another Chris story. The narrative came together from there.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

To be honest, it doesn’t have to be urban at all – I enjoy well-written ‘epic’ fantasy as well – but I’m never averse to a good bit of urbanisation! The whole post-Buffy vampire side of things has completely passed me by, though. To me, ‘urban fantasy’ still means the likes of China MiĆ©ville’s Perdido Street Station and Alan Campbell’s Scar Night (both excellent, incidentally). This is why I created my own ‘fantastical-city-with-a-personality’ in Thaiburley, the setting for my City of 100 Rows trilogy of novels. Thaiburley is very much its own creature and I didn’t set out to emulate anywhere else when creating it, but the city almost certainly owes a debt to Fritz Leiber’s classic Lankhmar – I still cherish every one of those tales. My single favourite (and sadly often-overlooked) urban fantasy is probably Megan Lindholm’s (aka Robin Hobb) Wizard of the Pigeons, set in contemporary Seattle, while if you’re looking for something a little more classical, I can’t fail to recommend Hope Mirrlees’ wonderful Lud-in-the-Mist.

As both a writer of short and long fiction, and editor of many publications, do you find yourself drawn to one of those things more than the others, and are there any fiction forms you want to try your hand at but haven’t yet?

I’m very much a writer first and foremost. The editing and publishing are things I stumbled into without really planning to. Having said that, I take a great deal of satisfaction from all aspects of what I do – otherwise I wouldn’t still be doing them. I cut my teeth writing shorts, but, equally, I enjoy writing novels as well. Hopefully, I’ll never lose the appetite for both forms. Yes, there are still plenty of areas of genre fiction I’d like to explore and write in. I’ve written space opera, military SF, urban fantasy, heroic fantasy, grimdark, slipstream, comic SF… I’ve written a ghost story and a vampire story, a time-travel story, a cyberpunk tale, a psychological horror and many others. But I’ve never written an alternative history piece, not really, I’ve only dabbled with steampunk, and I’d love to write a full-blown crime/thriller at some point. So, many sub-genres visited to date but just as many still to explore.

What will you be up to next?

Convention-wise, I’ll be at Andromeda One in Birmingham this September, Bristolcon in October, and World Fantasycon in Brighton over the Halloween weekend. At both the latter two events I’m holding launch parties for new titles, among other things. On the publishing and editing front, there are several NewCon Press titles on the way during the remainder of this year, including an Adrian Tcahikovsky collection, Feast and Famine, a Steve Rasnic Tem collection, Twember, one from Stan Nicholls, Shake Me to Wake Me, and a further collection from Tanith Lee: Colder Greyer Stones. In addition, I’ve just finished editing an anthology produced in honour of David Gemmell: Legends, featuring the likes of Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay, Tanith Lee, Storm Constantine, and all sorts of others – this is intended in part as a fund-raiser for the Gemmell Awards – and another anthology, Looking Landwards, of original SF stories examining the future of farming, agricultural engineering and food production; this latter volume produced to mark the 75th anniversary of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers. I’m also progressing ten different titles for next year (editing, commissioning and agreeing cover art, etc, etc), including novels, collections, and anthologies, as well as working on a third volume of Solaris Rising for Solaris.

Writing-wise, my latest novel, Pelquin’s Comet, is currently being considered by publishers. This is intended to be the first in a new space opera trilogy, so, all being well, I’ll have two further volumes to write. A 22,500-word novella featuring ‘Chris’ has recently been serialised over four issues of Aethernet magazine, and I’m considering expanding this into a novel. I have stories forthcoming in PS Publishing’s PostScripts and a couple of other anthologies, notably Solaris’ End of the Road, and I’ve just been commissioned to write a ghost story for a brand new publisher. Oh, and I’m one of the judges for next year’s Arthur C Clarke Award, which requires me to read around 80 novels over the next seven or eight months. So, I should be able to keep myself occupied for the foreseeable without too much trouble. I genuinely enjoy everything that I do, which is just as well, since I tend to do quite a lot of it.

[Ian Whates has two published novel series, the Noise books (space opera) from Solaris, and the City of 100 Rows trilogy (urban fantasy with steampunk overtones) via Angry Robot. Around 50 of his short stories have appeared in various venues; two were shortlisted for BSFA awards. His work has received honourable mentions in Gardner Dozois’ Years Best anthologies and featured in Tor’s ‘Best of’ Futures from Nature. His second collection, Growing Pains, appeared via PS Publishing in March 2013. Ian chaired the BSFA for five years and has served as a director of SFWA. He has edited titles in The Mammoth Book of… series and the on-going Solaris Rising series. In his spare time, he runs multiple award-wining publisher NewCon Press, founded by accident in 2006.  Visit his website at: www.ianwhates.co.uk ]

30 September 2013

Urban Mythic: Joyce Chng

Next Urban Mythic author under the spotlight is the fabulous Joyce Chng! 

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I am Singaporean, married with two girls. I like to read, cook and garden. And I like to write. I tend to write science fiction and fantasy, a bit on the social aspect – as in looking at the relationships and nuances in society. I also write YA and urban fantasy.

What was it that inspired “Dragon-Form Witch”?

Teenagers. Kids who are different growing up in Singapore. The Chinese dragons in the story are part of the Myriad, a name for all the non-human groups. Also, familial relationships and obligations, things we sometimes find it hard to run away from.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

As urban as it can be. I live in a highly urbanized environment, but I like to weave fantasy in to it, that magic can co-exist beside the mundanity of the business district or suburbia. Must-read author: Charles de Lint.

You’ve written about Chinese werewolves and dragons among many others – how deeply does myth and folklore influence your work?

Deeply, I think. I grew up with Chinese myths and legends. I mean, there is a lady who flew to the moon. There is also the Journey to the West. There are fox ladies and spider demons. Likewise, where I am, we have other things like the Garuda, the Naga, the orang bunian and the were-tigers.

What are you up to next?

My YA science fiction novel Rider will be published by this year (2013). Another urban fantasy novel is slated for next – I need to get to the edits! And a couple of shorts in anthologies, including We See a Different Frontier.

[Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction (SFF) and YA fiction. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in The Apex Book of World SF II, The Ayam Curtain and Crossed Genres. She can be found at A Wolf’s Tale ]

31 August 2013

Urban Mythic Launch

Breaking news from Urban Mythic launch central!  We will now be launching the very fabulous Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic at 12pm on Friday 1st November (as opposed to the previously advertised time of 3pm!) at the World Fantasy Convention.  So get yourself down to that there Brighton and party with us!

More news soon!

15 August 2013

Urban Mythic: Jonathan Oliver

And lo! There was an Urban Mythic author interview! I give you, Jonathan Oliver...

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.
 
By day I’m the editor-in-chief of three imprints, by night I tinker with my own words. Well, that isn’t technically true. I’m not vastly prolific so I sort of fit writing in, in bits and pieces when I can. Mainly in lunch-breaks. I like to write whatever takes me, to be honest. I tend towards the darker end of the spectrum, but of late my stories have often been slightly more hopeful.

What was it that inspired “White Horse”?

The White Horse at Uffington is quite close to us, so it seemed like the perfect setting to talk about myth and magic. As nobody really knows who created it or for what reason, I decided to come up with a legend of my own. At its heart, the story is about parenthood (especially fatherhood) and how we overcome mistakes made and the parts of ourselves we’re often not that comfortable with. Man, that sounds way too deep! The literary inspirations certainly came from writers such as Alan Garner and Robert Holdstock, who explore our relationship to myth and landscape.

How urban do you like your fantasy and who are your must-read authors?

Hmmm, I like my fantasy pretty varied. It doesn’t necessarily have to be urban, but my favourites in that field are probably China Mieville (especially Perdido Street Station), Christopher Fowler, Mervyn Peake (Gormenghast is really one vast city), Gaie Sebold to pick just a few.

As an editor at Rebellion you’ve been involved with publishing tie-in fiction and co-creating shared worlds – what’s the appeal in those for you?

Yeah, that’s for the Abaddon side of things. It’s great fun creating a whole new world in collaboration with someone. We never published tie-in fiction as such; instead we decided on the types of fiction we wanted to publish and then set up worlds for the authors to play in. The joy really came with seeing writers go mad with what you had set up and put their own spin on things.

What are you up to next?

I’ve just finished a pretty dark story called “Turn”, so that’s gone out for consideration. Currently working on something set in the world of silent movies (which features my sweariest character yet!) and am sort of prodding the novel in my mind. It will happen at some point. Having written two already, I’m just massively aware of what hard work they are. But yes, the novel will happen. Even if it breaks me. Which it probably will.

[Jonathan Oliver is Editor-in-Chief of Solaris, Abaddon Books and YA imprint, Ravenstone. Sometimes he finds the time to write and has had two novels published and several short stories in such anthologies as A Town Called Pandemonium, Terror Tales of London and Horror Express. He lives in Abingdon with his wife, Ali, their daughter, Maia, and their cat, Fudge. Catch him at: jonoliverwriter.blogspot.com ]

01 August 2013

Urban Mythic



There is magic out there on the street and the Mythic are alive and well and creating chaos in a city near you.

Fourteen fabulous authors bring you tales of wonder and horror, with ancient curses and modern charms, strange things in the Underground, murder and redemption, corporate cults and stalwart guardians, lost travellers and wandering gods, fortune tellers and urban wizards, dragons, fae and unspeakable beasts.

Table of Contents:
Introduction – Jan Edwards & Jenny Barber 
Ian Whates – Default Reactions 
Gaie Sebold – Underground 
James Brogden - The Smith of Hockley 
Graham Edwards - A Night to Forget 
Joyce Chng - Dragon-Form Witch 
Mike Resnick – The Wizard of West 34th Street 
Anne Nicholls -The Seeds of a Pomegranate 
Adrian Tchaikovsky – Family Business 
Jaine Fenn - Not the Territory 
Christopher Golden - Under Cover of Night 
Zen Cho - Fish Bowl 
Kate Griffin - An Inspector Calls 
Jonathan Oliver - White Horse 
Alison Littlewood - The Song of the City

16 July 2013

Talking About Harassment

So here's the thing - there's been a lot of chatter lately about genre sexism and convention harassment and such like.  Good well reasoned points have been made, useful information has been given, emotions have gotten extremely high on all sides, anti-harassment procedures are becoming more obvious and appearing at more conventions, all of this is a good thing.

But there have been a few comments here and there that keep sticking in my brain and won't stop bugging.

"But it happens in other areas of life..."
Well, yes. That's not the point.  Conventions are our turf. They're supposed to be a safe place where we can hang out with other like minded people, talk about geeky stuff and not worry about extra garbage like getting flack for choosing to wear something fun.  (Corsets are not an excuse to get handsy. Mini skirts are not an excuse to get handsy.  Funky punk gear and tattoos is not an excuse to be rude about a person. Cleavage, no matter the size or coverage, is not an excuse to turn into Benny Hill.)

Other areas of life are not the issue here.  It's our people, those people who should be better than all those other not-our-people, being assholes in our favoured places of socialisation that is hitting the buttons. And unlike many other areas of life, conventions are spaces where we can actually exert some control over our environment and the framework of interactions within it, and expect a reasonable response when the problems crop up.

And, personally, I expect my genre peeps to be evolved civilised respectful human beings as standard.  And most of them are. Even when they've been drinking for six hours straight.  Actually, especially when they've been drinking for six hours straight - it's seems to be one of those convention attendee superpowers.  (Convention bar staff used to always tell us how surprised they were at how nice and quiet most SF convention drunks were. Apparently the corporate conference drunks get really lary... but, I digress...)
 
"It seems to be more prevalent in US conventions/you don't get that kind of thing in the UK..."
Bollocks. I know women who have experienced problems with gropers and creepers and the like at conventions going back twenty or thirty years when they first got into the fandom thing, and endured it throughout their many years of conventioning afterwards. I know women and men, straight and quiltbag, who experienced dodgy things in the last couple of years.  For some of them it was their first convention, for some of them, it was old news. Some people stop going to certain UK conventions because of it. UK fandom is not a precious paragon of virtue in this stuff.

"I've been going to conventions for XX years and I've never had it happen to me/seen it happen..."
I'm happy for you. Really. Doesn't mean it hasn't happened or that people haven't been affected by these total assholes who keep thinking civilised behaviour doesn't apply to them.  And honestly, in saying this kind of thing, while it may be accurate for the person who got lucky with their con experiences, it still carries an implication that it couldn't possibly be happening to anyone else and kinda dismisses the experiences of those that have had something creepy happen to them and they get enough doubts about that as it is.  (You misinterpreted it. You're overreacting. It's just their/your sense of humour. They're lovely really. You're being oversensitive. They only do it when they're really drunk. You smiled too much. They were just flirting. You should have told them to go away. You should have smacked them one. You should have told someone else and they'd have done something.)

These things are difficult to talk about at the best of times.  Hell, they're difficult to think about at the best of times and a standard coping mechanism is to block it out and move on, and make a note of who to avoid and where and when.  And even the slightest hint of dismissive language from someone else can be crushing and stir things up all over again and make you never want to mention it as a thing that actually happened.

"But we shouldn't forget the good men..."
Well yes.  But also no. See, the thing of it is, the decent men and women at conventions and in other genre related things aren't the problem here. They're the majority. They're the ones who'll help out when some creep's trying it on and rescue you.  (And, by the way, why do people need rescuing in the first place? People shouldn't need rescuing from anyone at a convention! How is that a thing we still accept as normal?) The problem is, the other ones. The people no-one talks about in public but, if you're lucky to know someone who knows someone, will be the people you're warned about.  (If you don't know anyone to get the warnings from, then you're left thinking it's just you when they try it on. And wouldn't it be easier to not go to another convention or volunteer in an organisation if this is the thing you're going to get from the people you meet...)

And, look, I get why people are wanting to big up the nice folks, I could share plenty of stories about the men and women in the genre who stepped in to be awesome, that's not the point. We shouldn't need to give cookies to people for not being creeps. Not being a creep should be the standard expectation for a person.  And people aren't talking about the creeps to publicise how generally awful genre people are and bewaaaaare the terrible cesspit environment of the SF convention and that's all you can expect from everyone ever if you dare go to one.

Talking about the bad ones is more a case of saying, look, there's these serial assholes who plenty of people quietly know about but for a variety of reasons, no-one has done anything about them or their dodgy behaviour and that's not right. It has never been right. And now there's enough people talking about what the moronic assholes are doing for people to realise they weren't the only ones being targeted and that, actually, some of the perps behaviour was just a bit shitty so lets make it stop.

And the not being alone in this thing is a strong component in all the talking about it over bloggage and social media. Because that guy that you thought was a bit pervy but didn't make a thing of it, because, obviously, it was a minor thing, or your fault, or whatever... that guy? Turns out he did it to other people too.  And they weren't alright with it either. And they had their doubts, same as you. And it doesn't matter that other people don't see that side of him, or dismiss it for one of the many reasons these things get dismissed for, because there are people who have seen that side of creepy guy and aren't willing to let it slide anymore.

"But men get creeped on too."
Yes, they do. That sucks. No one should have to deal with being harassed by anyone. Transgender people also get harassed at conventions. So do people of colour. And it's not just men who do the shitty things. Women do it too.  And it's not only the women who are targeted. Men are targeted too.  (Yes, I know, binary gender descriptives. Forgive me that one. All-folks get targeted. All-folks do the targeting.)

That being said, there is a higher level of men creeping on women. And there's underlying societal currents related to the concept of men being afraid of women laughing at them and women being afraid of men killing them, and someone did a really good post on this recently which explains it properly, but I can't actually find it now. Argh!  ::headdesk:: But man following woman around has a whole bunch of different connotations to woman following man around. 

"But geeks score high on the Autistic/Aspergers spectrum/are naturally socially inept...so you can't really blame them.."
Stop it right now.  The Autism/Aspergers thing was debunked somewhere, but I can't find the link at the mo... (Argh! Total linkfail today!) Read this thing here about the socially inept excuse though.

Also that socially inept thing? Works the other way too. The people that the creeps are targeting are also often socially inept, and thus unable to actually react to the creeps in a way that would stop the harassment, or have them say anything useful about it later to anyone else.  In these cases, the victim's own perception of their shyness/generally being socially rubbish creates a feeling of self-blame as, obviously, their own personality 'defects' were a factor in not stopping things they didn't like when anyone with a bit of nous would have laughed/said something witty and/or rude and generally cut creeper-dude off at the pass.

"It's just good natured flirting."
Subjective. If you know the person you're doing sexy banter with then you'll know how far you can go, and when to stop. Otherwise what's good natured flirting to one person, is awkward and embarassing and oh-god-please-shut-up-and-go-away to another. And even for those of us with a low tolerance for it, flirty conversation can still be fun, just don't be an asshole about it. And please don't be dismissive of the people that don't have the kind of personality/sense of humour to put up with/say anything about a constant unwanted barrage of the X-rated stuff.

So, yeah, talking about con harassment is good, but please just be aware that some of the well meaning comments can be a bit triggery to the people who've experienced these things.

02 July 2013

A Pirate's Life for Me!

Hurrah! Piracy has been ebookified and is available via Wizard’s Tower Books, your regional Amazon and at some point in the next month or so at Spacewitch. And at £2 it’s a steal, so get ye-self over there and get one!

There are a whole bunch of excellent stories in it, by a whole bunch of excellent people, but today I want to talk about mine! Or more specifically, why mermaid-pirates.

See, according to the stories, there are two types of career options for mermaids. The quiet mermaids are the ladies of leisure, lounging around random rocks combing their hair and gossiping with their bestest gal-pals. Occasionally one may be inspired by stories of humans to get involved with the strange land creatures, and by assorted means pursue their target until they’re dutifully wed or consigned to death due to an enchantment gone bad. The bolshier ones are having none of that foolishness, and prefer to seduce their human prey into the water where they can drag them down into the depths for fun and drowning. Every sailor knows this.

Mermaids call shenanigans on boring career options

What every mermaid knows, however, is a different matter. Their stories tell of all those times their selkie cousins lost their skin to human treachery; all those times their sisters got captured for amusement and profit and were ill paid for what assistance they gave drowning humans in storm churned waters; all those times they were hunted by humans who thought they could get an advantage in fishing or just grab themselves a mermaid wife. No sensible mermaid is going to let that carry on unremarked. Not for long.

And while there are plenty of activities where mermaids excel – smuggling, treasure hunting and salvage, music, art, marine sciences (of course), underwater archaeology, combat (especially of the shock troop variety), legitimate trade, hunting, exploration and storytelling; by far the most popular choice is piracy.

And really, why wouldn’t it be? Mermaids have the tactical advantage in the water - they can sneak up on their targets and scuttle a ship hull without even once showing their head above the surface. Or if they want a little more sport, they can sing their prey into the water and hold them there until the air is gone from the humans’ lungs. So taking down a boat and picking the plunder out of the wreckage later is a common way to make a quick profit – after all, the mermaids have tithes to pay to sea-witches and the ruling mer-clans, so they might as well let the humans stump up the booty.

But like a lot of pirates, half the fun is in the fight. When their blood gets going they like the challenge of facing the humans in open combat, matching tooth and claw and stolen blade against whatever the humans can wield. Wagering they’re fast enough out of the water to take down their foes before the biting air and solid ground turns the advantage back to the humans.

And so my story "Past Lives" - where human-pirates hunt mermaids and mermaid-pirates hunt humans and the spectre of an ex-mermaid pirate captain hangs over it all.



Picture Credits:
1 – Mermaids of the Caribbean http://pirates.wikia.com
2 –When Mermaids Attack by David Hahn http://davidhahnart.com/2010/02/28/when-mermaids-attack/
3 – A Pirate’s Life for Me by Selina Fenech http://selinafenech.com/archives/?nggpage=2

19 June 2013

Guest Blogging: Foxy Temples

And today I've got a guest blog up on the Fox Spirit Books site to celebrate the launch of the very fabulous Piracy. (Yarrrrgh!)

It's subtly entitled - When Temples Attack! and lets me gloriously indulge in my love of pseudo-archaeology and archaeology-adventure tropes in films and other media.  (Though this has nothing whatsoever to do with m'story in Piracy, but our Feral Leader did say we could do any subject we wanted!)

18 June 2013

More funky kickstarters!

If you're in the kickstarter mood, look no further than the following two cool projects -

What Fates Impose: Tales of Divination - an anthology of original fiction about the complications of predicting the future.

The Pitch:
"Edited by Nayad A. Monroe, this anthology brings together stories from a diverse group of speculative fiction writers who show the possibilities of what can go right or very wrong when people get predictions of their future. The book also includes cover artwork by Steven C. Gilberts, and an introduction by Alasdair Stuart."

At present, the contributors are:Introduction by Alasdair Stuart: "Singing from the Book of Holy Jagger"
David Boop: "Dipping into the Pocket of Destiny"
Maurice Broaddus: "Read Me Up"
Jennifer Brozek: "A Card Given"
Amanda C. Davis: "The Scry Mirror"
Damien Walters Grintalis: "When the Lady Speaks"
Sarah Hans: "Charms"
Erika Holt: "Murder of Crows"
Keffy R.M. Kehrli: "Gazing into the Carnauba Wax Eyes of the Future"
Jamie Lackey: "Another Will Open"
Rochita Loenen-Ruiz: "Body of Truth"
Remy Nakamura: "Pick a Card"
Cat Rambo: "To Read the Sea"
Andrew Penn Romine: "Ain't Much Different'n Rabbits"
Ken Scholes: "All Our Tangled Dreams in Disarray"
Lucy A. Snyder: "Abandonment Option"
Ferrett Steinmetz: "Black Swan Oracle"
Eric James Stone: "A Crash Course in Fate" (new) and "A Great Destiny" (reprint)
Tim Waggoner: "The Goggen"
Wendy N. Wagner: "Power Steering"
LaShawn M. Wanak: "There Are No Wrong Answers"
Beth Wodzinski: "One Tiny Misstep (In Bed)"

Why It's Cool: 
Dude, look at the contributors!  That's why it's cool.

The Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stevensaus/what-fates-impose-tales-of-divination

Also check out...

Upgraded: A Cyborg Anthology - an original science fiction anthology for the cyborg age. Stronger... better... faster... We will rebuild you.

The Pitch:
"Hi. My name is Neil Clarke and I'm the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine and a current Hugo Nominee for Best Editor Short Form. Last July, I suffered a "widow-maker" heart attack that nearly killed me. The damage to my heart was very significant and that led to my doctors installing a defibrillator in my chest. That day, I became a cyborg.I've been working on Clarkesworld for almost seven years, but I've never edited an anthology that wasn't Clarkesworld-related. I just didn't come across anything that inspired me. Trust almost dying to provide you with inspiration.

"As I began looking into the possibility of a cyborg anthology, I quickly noticed that the cyborgs most people think of are villains (Cybermen, Darth Vader, the Borg, etc.). My people make excellent villains, but that only represents the tip of the iceberg. The more I thought about it, the more certain I became that this was the anthology project I had been looking for...  a cyborg-edited cyborg anthology. I don't think that's been done before. Besides, cyborgs are cool.

"It seems only appropriate that this campaign will end on the first anniversary of my heart attack."

The following authors have already agreed to have a story in Upgraded:
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Tobias S. Buckell
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Ken Liu
  • Genevieve Valentine
  • E. Lily Yu
And Julie Dillon has agreed to create an original piece for the cover of this anthology.
Plus there will be an open submissions period for some of the content.

Why It's Cool:
Again I say, dude! Look at them authors! Also Julie Dillon is a fantastic artist. 

The Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clarkesworld/upgraded-a-cyborg-anthology-edited-by-neil-clarke