12/07/2018

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. 

12/04/2018

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

12/02/2018

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.

THE SEQUEL TO EXTINCTION GAME AND SURVIVAL GAME

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.