The hardback of Doomsday Game is now out...

...but only from one retailer for at least the next several weeks.

It's worth reminding you at this point-and possibly some of you still aren't aware of this-I'm publishing this book myself, and that places some limitations on what I can do which don't apply to big publishers. Plus, I'm still figuring some things out about how the indie publishing business works.

The hardback of Doomsday Game will become available through channels such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble etc, but not for another six to eight weeks - nearly two months after the paperback and ebook will become available. I don't have any say in that, unfortunately-I suspect it's part and parcel of the snail-like pace with which much of the print industry still moves.

However, it is already available directly from the company that prints it - and also to some extent distributes it - that being Lulu.com. So if you want to get hold of the hardback, click on that link in the left sidebar or click here.

The bad news is, not being able to manufacture massive numbers of copies for distribution like a full-scale publisher, the price is consequently higher. The good news is it's still significantly cheaper to buy from Lulu.com than it will be from Amazon.com or anywhere else. If you'd prefer to or are used to buying from Amazon.com or elsewhere, I'll post here once it clears the main distribution channels.

If you happen to work in a bookshop and like my stuff, this of course means you should be able (far as I know, anyway) to order it from the distributor's catalogues.

The paperback will be £8.99, and will be made available a few days before the release of the ebook. It'll have a price match, meaning if you buy the paperback you'll also be able to buy the ebook for half-price or less.

It, too, will receive expanded distribution, but will, so far as online sales go, be available directly and only from Amazon. Why? Because Amazon. Because capitalism.

Feel free to drop me a line either in the comments or the contact box if you've got more questions (also: as you can see from the pictures, I received my own proof copy of the hardback this morning. And let me tell you, it looks fabulous).


New Book Coming: DOOMSDAY GAME

I've tweeted, Facebooked and emailed the mailing list, and now, at last, the blog: I have a new book coming out. It's called DOOMSDAY GAME and it's the third - and final - volume of the series that began in 2014 or thereabouts with EXTINCTION GAME and continued with SURVIVAL GAME.

I think it makes for a pretty neat conclusion for the saga, and it took me most of 2018 to write and edit. The cover art, by the way, is from Ben Baldwin, who also did the artwork for last year's GHOST FREQUENCIES - and for which he's up for a BSFA award. Here's the blurb:

It's the end of the world...again.
Over the years, the Pathfinders - each the sole survivor of a humanity-destroying apocalypse, but on different alternate Earths - have become a tight-knit team as they search for an alternate they, along with the Authority, might one day call home.
Now, at last, one has been found: an Edenic alternate Earth on which humanity never evolved.
But just when their work seems over, new threats emerge. One comes from within the Authority itself, but the other is so completely unexpected that the Pathfinders are quickly overwhelmed.
The race is on to deal with the final - and greatest - threat this rag-tag band of survivors have yet encountered as they journey through alternate Earths rendered lifeless by rogue singularities or littered with ancient and perilous ruins. Faced with their own extinction, can they pull together one last time…as well as save the Authority from itself? 

I think that sums it up nicely. It's released on May 1st, and is currently available as a Kindle pre-order - it'll soon also be on sale through Kobo, iTunes, and other online stores, and will also be available as a paperback and a simultaneously released hardback. More details as they come!


Stephen Palmer's new novel The Autist

As part of my continuing and admittedly slightly sporadic quest to present you with new and old British and UK-resident authors with whom you may or may not be aware, I'd like this time around to present you with the new novel by Stephen Palmer.

Since his first novel, Memory Seed, came out from Orbit in 1996, Stephen has produced a dozen novels of what might be loosely termed 'post-cyberpunk', insofar as they are most often concerned with collapsing ecologies, the evolution of AI and also of humanity in response to its own technological innovations.

His new novel The Autist moves between the England of the late 21st Century, Nigeria, and Thailand, and shows his work remains as thoughtful and engaging as ever.

Here's the synopsis:

Data detective Mary Vine is visiting relatives when she uncovers a Chinese programme of AI development active within her own family.

Ulu Okere has only one goal: to help her profoundly disabled brother, whose unique feats of memory inspire her yet perturb the community they live in.

And in a transumted Thailand, Somchai Chokdee is fleeing his Buddhist temple as an AI-inspired political revolution makes living there too dangerous.

In 2100 life is dominated by vast, unknowable AIs that run most of the world and transform every society they touch. When suspicions of a Chinese conspiracy seem substantiated, Mary, Ulu and Somchai decide they must oppose it. Yet in doing so they find themselves facing something the world has never seen before...

This is what Stephen has to say about the origins of the story:

The Autist was inspired by algorithms and AI…

I’d written a couple of near-future AI novels before – Beautiful Intelligence and No Grave For A Fox – which dealt with the theme of the possibility of conscious machines. Much of my own reading is non-fiction, with technology a particular interest if it deals with the more human side of things – for instance Mary Aiken’s fantastic The Cyber Effect.

It seemed to me that I should write a novel in which AI development does not end up so well, and with my background in consciousness and the evolution of the mind I was able to bring together a few relevant themes: Savant Syndrome, the impossibility of a single conscious machine appearing, and algorithms and their effects on society – effects which I think will be profound, and mostly negative.

My influences were all non-fiction too, especially the author and researcher Nicholas Humphrey, who has done more for the field of consciousness studies than most. I’ve long been a fan of his work. He was the originator of the social intelligence theory of consciousness, and has written four masterpieces, of which one, A History Of The Mind, mentions his work on blindsight, which I used in this new novel.

Hopefully people will enjoy the story and be intrigued by the theme.

You can get the novel here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Autist-Stephen-Palmer-ebook/dp/B07PBX8R3B/


New books forthcoming from me in 2019

2018 was a busy year and 2019 is looking to be even busier. I have two books coming out this year: the first is DOOMSDAY GAME, the final volume in the series that began with EXTINCTION GAME and continued in SURVIVAL GAME. The book is written and undergoing its final edits and I hope to have a cover to show you in the next couple of weeks or months. I think it ties the series up just about perfectly. More details about the plot and a blurb to come.

The other forthcoming book is DEVIL'S ROAD, a short novel in the same vein as Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley, although in terms of content and plot it comes across more like a mashup of Death Race 2000 and Pacific Rim.

Either one or both will be up for preorder in the coming weeks and I'll be sure to let you know when that is. 


My experience in self-publishing in 2018

Back in March 2018, I put out a collection of five short stories as an ebook on Amazon for just £1.99. It wasn't the first time I'd used the Kindle self-publishing market, but it was the first time the ebook I published was my own.

Back in 2011, I'd experimented with publishing languishing works by fellow pro's and semi-pro's. It did a lot to raise my profile, a ridiculous amount, in fact: but one thing it didn't do was sell any ebooks. A few, by Fergus Bannon and Hal Duncan, did okay, but just okay. I decided to put self-publishing to the side for a while and concentrate on writing books such as Final Days and Extinction Game.

Cut to seven years later, and everything's changed. The ebook market has continued to take the world of publishing by storm.

The biggest difference is that there's now a lot more information out there about how to successfully self-publish. It's not enough to just fling it out there and hope for the best, which is what I essentially did in 2011. You need to learn about and implement meta-data, ads, and make use of good-quality cover art. A lot of people who experimented far more deeply with KDP in its earliest incarnation than I ever did wrote books about their experiences and how they succeeded or failed, and so I read many of their books.

Ten months after publishing Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, how well has it done?

Put it this way: two of the five stories in that book were previously published in paying markets, while a third story originally appeared in a non-paying market. One of them sold twice (after appearing in Interzone, I re-sold the audio rights for Scienceville to the Starship Sofa podcast. You can listen to or download it here.)

To date, the income from this one self-published collection containing just five short stories equals more than eight times the money made from the two stories that sold to pro markets. Further, the ebook has made me at least five times more than I've made from short story sales, ever.

In fairness, I've only ever sold a literal handful of short stories: I'm not a fast producer. But still.

To put it a little further into perspective, according to my agent, John Jarrold, short story collections typically make only about 15% of what an author can expect to earn from a novel. I'm cautious about extrapolating too readily from the available data to estimate what I might make from a full-length novel, but even so, the future is looking increasingly bright.

So what did I do differently that I didn't do before? I read books on how to manipulate data on Amazon using tools that Amazon themselves provide for that purpose. I carefully crafted adverts with an aim of keeping the costs low and the income high. I paid money for halfway-decent cover art. I certainly benefited hugely from having had a number of novels in print, and the ready-made readership that came with them.

What I learned from all this is that it's possible to make good money in self-publishing, but only if you actually act like a publisher and treat your self-publishing like an actual business with costs as well as profits.

One thing I know for sure: self-publishing isn't for everybody. A lot of people still go into it and face-plant from the word go because they've used a home-made cover, or a cover that isn't at least passably professional-looking (I look back at my early ebook covers and cringe) or, worse, a cover that isn't appropriate. I know many writers whom I strongly suspect would struggle with the process, or hate it, or both.

But if all this talk of self-publishing doesn't make you want to wrap yourself up in a blanket and turn the lights out, then, yes, it is worth considering - especially if you've made professional sales in the past and developed a readership.

I'm still chasing traditional publishing: it's just that it isn't the only game in town any more, and I'm finally, finally free to write any damn thing I please with the knowledge that with sufficient effort, I have a decent chance of finding an audience for it.  


Is it too late for a favourite books of 2018 post?

Don't be silly! Of course it isn't. I read 58 books in 2018 and these were my favourites. Note that this doesn't mean they were necessarily published in 2018.

1: Strange Weather by Joe Hill. Honestly, I was knocked out by this. Four short novels (novellas if you insist) that demonstrate just why thirty to forty thousand words is the optimum length for most stories. Get it. You won't regret it.

2: The Last Weekend by Nick Mamatas. As the author himself notes, possibly the last zombie novel that ever needs written. This was an absolute blast: zombies are essentially somewhere off to the side while the lead character goes about making as much of a mess of his life post-zombie apocalypse as it was before. He still drinks to excess, still screws up his relationships, and still can't get more than one story published. Loved it.

3: October Song by RU Pringle. Me and RU share an agent in John Jarrold, who asked me if I'd like to read this book with a mind to blurb it. It turned out to be terrific: a brutal near-future thriller with more than a touch of Children of Men to it. It's set in a mid-21st Century Scotland that's become independent, lost its independence and been essentially colonised by an English state unable to cope with accelerating climate change and the sudden enforced transformation of the global political and economic landscape. The story follows a former policewoman hunted by essentially everyone for the murder of the prime minister as she flees up the coast trying to reach safety on the European mainland.

4: Kindred by Octavia Butler. Somehow I managed to get through my life without having read any Octavia Butler, an unfortunate error I've now corrected. A deserved classic.

5: All Systems Red, Martha Wells. Well, this book has been the hit of the year for a lot of people and I can see why. Read it if you haven't yet.

6: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. I should probably apologise for not having got around to reading this one yet...

Honourable mentions: Mohsin Ahmed, Exit West
Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist


Forthcoming in 2019: books, books and more books

In 2018, I had two books out: Ghost Frequencies, and Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds. In 2019, if certain cards fall the way I hope they will, I'll have another two books coming out - and possibly even three if things work out the way I'm hoping.

One of these three works is caught up in negotiations at the moment, so let's just leave that to the side for now and talk about the other two regarding which I'm much more certain. This is going to take a little explaining:

I recently completed a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, to be called Doomsday Game. It completes the story of Jerry Beche, Rozalia Ludke, Katya Orlova and the rest of the Pathfinders as they face up against their greatest challenge yet. If you've bought Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, you already know at least one part of that story as The Long Fall, a novelette included in that collection.

However, I don't intend just yet to publish it, at least not in the conventional sense. The simple reason for this is that I'm hoping to eventually win back the rights to the previous two volumes from my former publisher, and it doesn't make sense to publish the third book until I once again have the rights to all three books in the series begun by Extinction Game. It would benefit Tor UK far more than it would benefit me.

Really,  I should have thought of this before I embarked on writing it, but you live and learn. So I've decided that I will make Doomsday Game available...after a fashion. For the moment at least, I'm planning on making it available only to people who subscribe to my Patreon.

I haven't quite figured out the details, but it's like this: Patreon is a subscription site where you pay to get updates from me on a regular basis. The subscription payments help me to afford the time I need to work on my writing. Over the past year, I've posted the chapters of Doomsday Game to my Patreon feed as and when they're completed. Soon, the book will become available to my Patreon subscribers as a formatted ebook.

So if you're looking for a copy of that third book, you'll be able to get it - so long as you join my Patreon. It won't be much - a couple of pounds a month, perhaps, with no requirement to keep up that payment any longer than you want to. But figuring out the specific terms of how it will work is something for the beginning of next year.

But wait, there's more! Along with Doomsday Book, once I've finished formatting and designing it, you'll also get a free ebook of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds. You'll also be able to follow along as I write the third book I'm hoping to publish sometime next year, called Ely Strong. It's a kind of steampunk/dieselpunk/hard sf mashup I've been working on and planning for a long, long time. I've already posted up the first three chapters and hope to keep posting them on a regular basis and through subsequent drafts and redrafts.

Once Ely Strong is finished, it will go on sale as an ebook at Amazon and at other digital online stores and as a paperback. That's some months away, however: at least six months, and possibly as many as nine.

I appreciate this all sounds a little complicated, but once I've ironed out the details it'll all seem perfectly simple. 


Sixteen years

 I just realised I've been maintaining this blog for sixteen years come this December. SIXTEEN YEARS. Sure as hell didn't think it'd stick around that long when I started it, mainly to embarrass myself into actually getting some serious writing done.

That means this blog is older than Facebook and Twitter, for Christ's sake. That's practically prehistoric in internet years. Okay, sure, so nobody's really blogging any more. Well, much.

Sixteen years. It's old enough to get married. 


Michael Cobley and Splintered Suns

Following up from my first promo for Ruaridh Pringle and Hal Duncan a few weeks back is the following piece by Mike Cobley, whose new space opera, Splintered Suns, is released today, the 4th of December.

An introduction:

Mike's past several books are very much in the same vein as a number of my own, what you might call "widescreen space opera". It helps quite a bit that his new book, Splintered Suns, has a frankly awesome title and an even more awesome cover courtesy of Steve Stone, who also did the artwork for all my own books.

Mike Cobley has been on the scene even longer than I have: he produced a mimeographed sf news sheet back in the 80s and 90s called Shark Tactics, then began selling short fiction to magazines like Interzone and anthologies like Other Edens. 

His first novel, Shadowkings, published in the early 00’s, was in the small-but-lively fantasy subcategory of “what if Sauron won?”, and had two sequels before he shifted gears to space opera and published Seeds of Earth through Orbit.

That also had two sequels, followed by a fourth book, Ancestral Machines and, now, Splintered Suns. Here’s a brief outline of the plot to whet your appetite:

For Pyke and his crew it should have been just another heist. Travel to a backwater desert planet, break into a museum, steal a tracking device then use it to find a ship buried in the planet's vast and trackless sandy wastes. 
Except that the museum vault is a bio-engineered chamber, and the tracking device is sought-after by another gang of treasure hunters led by an old adversary of Pyke's, the devious Raven Kaligara. Also, the ship is quarter of a million years old and about two kilometres long and somewhere aboard it is the Essavyr Key, a relic to unlock all the treasures and technologies of a lost civilisation...

Hi, Mike Cobley here. 

First off, a tip of the hat to Gary for inviting me to ramble on about my new printed creation, due out from Orbit in early December. What's it about? - it's about 150K words long, ba-dum-tish! (there, now I will never be tempted to make that joke again, ever!)

Why you should buy Splintered Suns: 
Just the thing for a spot of festive reading when the mince pies have had their evil way with your digestion! 

You don't have to take my word for it - here’s Ken MacLeod's kindly provided blurb: ”Splintered Suns splices new and old space opera, cyberpunk, quest fantasy and heist caper -- the maddest thing I've read since Van Vogt!

The story’s origins: 

When I initially sat down to conceptualise Captain Pyke and his merry band of ne'er-do-wells, first in Ancestral Machines and now in Splintered Suns, I'd wanted to do a kind of homage to the long-gone, much-missed Firefly TV series, and set it in the same universe as my Humanity's Fire trilogy. 

All the components were there, smuggler captain, handy ship, crew of misfits, etc, but as these elements were projected through the kaleidoscope of my mind it took on some rather different overtones. 

I mean, Brannan Pyke is not Malcolm Reynolds - Pyke is a gobby spacer of Irish extraction convinced of his undoubted genius and ability to overcome ungodly gougers by sheer force of wit and will. And his crew...well, they just don't want to disappoint him so they go along with his mad schemes and by chance and crazy-mad juggling they manage to scrape a win out of the impossible doom into which he originally pitched them.

The previous volume in the Humanity’s Fire series, Ancestral Machines, really was my shot at doing a Megastructures In Space kinda book, my answer to Ringworld, Riverworld, Rama, and Dyson Spheres. The setting, three hundred planets orbiting an artificial sun, acted as a backdrop to a sprawling melodrama of war games and bio-mechanical evil.

Splintered Suns, on the other hand, starts off as a heist which goes off at a bizarre tangent - the going gets tough, and the tough get weird and before you know it you've been possessed by a warped AI from a previous aeon hellbent on unleashing all manner of hellish destruction, harbingers of dissolution, and soulless horror!

Buy Splintered Suns


New books, and stuff coming up

I'm continuing with my policy of trying to feature new books published in the UK, and the next up, in just a couple of days, will be Michael Cobley talking about his new book Splintered Suns. That will also go out to the mailing list. Following that, in January, will be Keith Brooke and Eric Brown talking about their latest collaboration.

If you've got a book coming out from a trad publisher in the UK, let me know and I might be able to feature you here. It's a case of first come, first served, and while I can't guarantee I'll feature you - I'm thinking here in terms of what I think the people who like my stuff would also like - I'll certainly take a look.

And just to reiterate - that's traditionally published books I'm prepared to feature, at least for the moment. I may make exceptions, but again that's down to my decision.

Okay: new books, and stuff coming up.

The current state of play is that a novella is in the midst of discussions with a publisher, but I don't know yet whether that's going ahead or not. I also recently finished a new short story, 'Warsuit', that may or may not be the basis for a book or books set in a space opera-like universe.

I've been holding off on writing much in the vein of, say, Stealing Light or Thousand Emperors for reasons perhaps too complex to get into. Part of the reason, perhaps, is that the self-publishing revolution has led to an absolute glut of quickly-written space opera books filled with space marines. To my mind, this sets science fiction back about seventy years, and if I'm going to write anything remotely in that area again, it's got to have a solid underlying theme that runs absolutely contrary to the 'shoot anything that looks like an alien' mode that seems to have overtaken the field.

This is actually not an easy decision, because I could write 'shoot anything that looks like an alien' style fiction pretty much on automatic and blow the competition out of the fucking water, but I don't because I have actual principles.

'Warsuit', needless to say, does not hew to this aesthetic. I'll be submitting it to magazines as soon as I've revised it - I workshopped it this weekend - and see if they agree with me or not.


I've been making enquiries about getting back the rights to my past books. That could, frankly, take a very long time. When I started writing a sequel to Extinction Game and Survival Game, I figured i could just toss it out there. However, that no longer seems like a sensible strategy if I don't first have control over the previous books in the series.

That leaves the question what to actually do with the third book in the series, which is now complete and awaiting some final, if relatively minor, revisions.

So I've decided, at least for the moment, that the only place it's going to be available until the day comes when I have control over the rest of the series is on my Patreon page. If you sign up right now, you can read the book in a series of posts made over the last year.

Sometime soon, I'm going to format it as an ebook which will also be exclusive to Patreon supporters. That all has to be sorted out, however.

And because I'm not one to rest on my laurels, I've started work on a brand new book quite unlike anything I've done before. The title of that book, for now at least, is ELY STRONG. And that is also going to be published, chapter by chapter, as it's written on my Patreon. The first chapter is already up.

See you in a couple of days when I post Mike's piece. 


Cover Reboot, and Ruaridh Pringle and Hal Duncan tell you why you should buy their books.

While I’m pretty pleased overall with the look of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, I did get to thinking it could look a little…jazzier, let’s say. So with that in mind I hired a graphic designer to have a go at redesigning the layout. The results are pretty spiffing, as you can see.

If you’ve already bought the ebook with the previous look, you can see this new cover on your device by deleting the book and then downloading it again. Or at least, that’s how it worked for me on my Amazon Kindle.

An Experiment, You Say?

As I said last time, I wanted to experiment with promoting more UK writers by allowing them to tell you about their books. I’m trying essentially to do a British version of John Scalzi’s The Big Idea or Chuck Wendig’s Five Things About. There doesn’t seem to be anything equivalent in the UK for up and coming releases, so I figured I might as well find out if it’s a gap worth plugging. I’ll try it for a short while and see how well it goes.

About the same time I was thinking about all this, my agent John Jarrold asked me if I’d like to read and possibly provide a blurb to a book coming out from one of his other clients, a writer by name of Ruaridh Pringle. He’s been previously published in Interzone and has a couple of far-future novels available as well.

I not only read Ruaridh’s new book, OCTOBER SONG, I thought it was pretty magnificent. And so do Neil Williamson and Ken MacLeod, both of whom have provided their own separate recommendations as well.

I then found out that Hal Duncan, author of Ink and Vellum, two extraordinarily complex - and extraordinarily successful - fantasy novels had a new book coming out about the same time. So I figured I’d make this a double-header and feature both of them talking about their new releases.

First is Ruaridh Pringle telling you why you should buy OCTOBER SONG. It’s a rip-roaring chase thriller set in a mid-21st Century Scotland plagued by climate change, the aftermath of invasion, and a world with too few resources for too many people. It reminded me of Iain Banks at his fiery best.


A bit of background first. October Song didn't begin its life as a book, but as a screenplay. I had an actress I know in mind for the leading role, but as the story evolved I began thinking, 'hold on, there's a novel in here.'

Much to her disgust as I still haven't finished the screenplay.

The story's set a few years in the future, but I hope it's real and immediate enough to appeal to readers who like their thrillers 'straight up' by writers like Lee Child as much as devotees of SF.

It follows events after a terrorist bombing outside the council offices of the recently annexed territory of “North Britain” (read: Scotland), focusing on several characters whose lives become intimately bound up in the bombing, in ways of which they themselves are often unaware.

Among them is a woman wanted for the crime, who is forced to flee a combined police and Mi5 manhunt up the territory's wild west coast in a kayak, and the officers chasing her down, as forces unknown seem to be doing their best to prevent the two sides meeting.

There are quite a few facets to the book. On one level, it's a direct extrapolation of a tumultuous time both for the United Kingdom and the world as a whole. Geopolitics, particularly the history and the present status of Scotland's place in the UK, is a big part of the backdrop and the setup to the story.

That said, for me the location isn't fundamentally what the story's about. Similar tales could be set in any number of nations around the world faced with the 'perfect storm' of climate change, overpopulation, resource collapse and the consequent migration of billions of people happening (largely off-page) in October Song.

Disparate love affairs (not always between people) lie close to its heart, and it's also a kind of travelogue. The etherial, and deeply altered, landscape of the west coast of the Scottish Highlands is a looming presence throughout the book: something I was able to write having spent a good chunk of my life exploring the area. It's also the story of a woman with some deep, deep scars finding that she is more of a survivor than she, or anyone else, ever thought.

So, if you like your thrillers thoughtful with strong female lead characters and lashings of darkness, grime and political intrigue, this is for you.


Introduction: Hal Duncan and A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERAL

Hal Duncan first came to light with critical darlings Vellum and its sequel Ink, two vast fantasy epics with a strongly experimental bent about what might be a war in heaven, or might be something altogether far stranger. Since then he’s had songs recorded by well-known Glasgow bands, starred in films for other bands, written a musical and had it put on in the States and produced any number of wildly inventive works that Jeffrey Ford described as “mad genius”.

Most recently. Hal has been writing books about the Scruffians - children who, like Peter Pan, never grow old thanks to a magical device called the Stamp.

The stories are set in various times, including Victorian London and latter-day squats, and sometimes take the form of twisted variations on well-known fairy tales. To be honest, like much of Hal’s work, they’re hard to categorise - but I especially like his own description of “punk fiction for yer inner feral child”.

The latest release in the Scruffians series is A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERALpublished on 21 October 2018. There’s also A SCRUFFIANS PRIMER to get you up to speed on the series, available for just 99p. 


What are the Scruffians?

Well, think of the musical Oliver! by way of Clive Barker. Or something Neil Gaiman might come up with if he was a bolshie queer.

Or think of J.M. Barrie's Lost Boys crossed with Michael de Larrabeiti's snot-nosed squat-dwelling Borribles. Or imperishable street punks who didn’t so much choose to never grow up, like Peter Pan, but were instead “Fixed" that way by a magical doodad called the Stamp.

Why? Because, hey, waifs that can’t be damaged...they're perfect for child labour, eh?

Only these Scruffians are made to be serfs and skivvies, so they're gonna be resilient.

And they're gonna be fuckin rebellious.

There are now four chapbooks of Scruffians stories. The latest, A Scruffian Funferal, is just out — and all of them are designed to work for new readers, so you can dive right in anywhere and just explore from there.

You've got stories set at the height of the Trade, with vengeful imperishable urchins taking on a Waiftaker General and the Institute that Fixed and sold them.

You've got stories going back to the Children's Crusade, fables of the earliest Scruffians as told by one Gobfabbler Halyard-Dunkling, Esquire, who's sort of equal parts Artful Dodger, Mother Goose and Begbie from Trainspotting.

And you've got stories set in the present day with the Trade long since gone, swept under the rug so's most folk don't even know Scruffians exist, but with threats still out there in this era of Trump and Brexit, fascism on the rise and billionaires needing eaten.

It's dark AF satire here, shameless Dickensian sentimentalism there, and sorta Grand Guignol revenge comedy everywhere--if that's a thing. Like if the Bash Street Kids went...a wee bit Sweeney Todd.

I dunno why anyone wouldn't want that in 2018, to be honest, a bit of comic relief from the ongoing shitstorm, but with deadly serious intent.

Depth doesn't have to mean solemn miserabilism, because escapism can be about getting the fuck out of a Dire Situation so you can return, backed by your queer punk cribmates, armed with a fuckin straight razor and a molotov cocktail to slit throats and burn the whole fucking system down.

As Gob says in one of the stories in A Scruffian Funferal, Sometimes yer needs spoons to make shivs, and that's kind of the entire ethos here. Punk fiction for yer inner feral child, to make ye laugh and cry and fire ye the fuck up for the fight.

Nuff said.



October 2018 update

By way of an experiment, I’ve been trying to get in the habit of writing an occasional, actual newsletter, as opposed to just some once or twice a year blast of I HAVE BOOK OUT BUY IT NOW sent to the poor, unfortunate souls who subscribe to my mailing list. By way of a further experiment, I thought I'd tweak it a little and also post it up on my official writerly-type Facebook page, and now here it is, at last, on my actual blog. This got emailed out a good few weeks ago, so if you want to hear from me sooner, sign up to my mailing list.

Before I get to the news part, the ebook of SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS is now available on most non-Amazon ebook sites, including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc (I'm still working on a few others, such as Google Play). So if you prefer getting your ebooks from places other than Amazon, click the following link and choose your preferred store: books2read.com/u/bP58lj

In the next couple of days, I'll be workshopping DOOMSDAY GAME, a sequel to EXTINCTION GAME and SURVIVAL GAME with some fellow writers here in Taipei. If you bought my short fiction collection SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS, one of the stories, THE LONG FALL, is in fact drawn from it.

I've actually been serialising DOOMSDAY GAME on my Patreon for a while now: about two thirds of the book has been posted so far. There’s other stuff in there, like deleted chapters from SURVIVAL GAME and other bits and pieces. I post new chapters from DOOMSDAY GAME roughly every two weeks.

I don’t yet have a set publication date for DOOMSDAY GAME. When it comes out depends on a lot of things being sorted out first. When I have some idea, I’ll let you know. But right now, the only way to read it is to join my Patreon which, for your information, would cost you a quid a month. That's all.

Otherwise, I have a novella doing the rounds of publishers. One has expressed interest, but traditional publishing being very, very slow, I don't yet know if that's going to lead to something.

Right now, I'm working on a novelette called WARSUIT. It will surely gladden the heart of many of you that it’s a return to the kind of far-future hard sf I’m best known for.

Why novellas and short stories and not full novels? Mainly because while I was writing novels, I had ideas for other stories that didn’t necessarily need a full novel to tell, and now I have the opportunity to write them.

Curiously, many books now sold as novellas aren't much different in length from what would have been considered a full-length ‘novel’ up to, I think, the late 70s. It's a great way to tell a story at exactly the length it needs to be, which has the advantage of letting you tell more stories with the same amount of effort.

I’ve otherwise been planning out a separate series of linked novellas, starting, hopefully, with MOON MAN, set in the 19th Century. It's about gunmen, P.T. Barnum, and something otherworldly. A second will be in the 1980s and a third in the 2050s. NEW WRITERS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I just finished reading OCTOBER SONG by a new writer from Scotland, RU Pringle, at the suggestion of our mutual agent JOHN JARROLD. The novel is a gripping, almost Banksian thriller set in a near-future Scotland. It's currently on pre-order, and I should be telling you more about that very shortly.

Probably the reading surprise of the year for me so far has been Martha Wells' novella ALL SYSTEMS RED. It’s a far-future story of a security android who is both more and less than human. If you’re looking for a quick read that’ll stay with you, I can’t think of anything better.

Of all the things I didn’t expect to come across, a Taiwanese version of Black Mirror would be pretty high on the list (if you weren’t aware, I live in Taipei, in the Far East). It’s on Netflix, so if you’re subscribed to that service there’s a pretty good chance you have it too, wherever you are. I’ve only started watching it, but it does seem to me to nail some aspects of Taiwanese culture pretty firmly. Worth checking out.

Elementary. How can this be so good? I’m already a third of the way through the fourth season.