7/15/2019

Eric Brown and Keith Brooke's Kon-Tiki Quartet

From the “better later rather than never”
 department: as you may or may not know, I've been posting occasional details of books coming out by other writers in order to help make people aware of them, and out of a general sense that the more we can do to promote and talk about science fiction, the better things are for all of us, whether as readers and writers.

This was actually meant to go up at the beginning of June, but my surprise eye operation put the kibosh on that. And I probably really should apologise to Eric and Keith for not managing to get this up before now. I'm still doing a lot of catch up, both in my own writing and in my editing work.
This time around, Eric Brown and Keith Brooke are here to tell you about their epic Dislocations saga.

I’ve known both Eric and Keith, on and off, for a couple of decades, usually encountering them at conventions. My primary contact, however, was through the pages of Interzone magazine. When I found out about their latest collaboration, I had no doubt I wanted to give them a spot here. Here they are in their own words:

Keith Brooke and Eric Brown first met almost thirty years ago, two bright(ish) young(ish) writers getting their first breaks with short stories in the magazines and anthologies of the time. Pretty soon they’d sold their first books – a collection of short stories by Eric, a novel from Keith – and also they’d become good friends and, more importantly for the purposes of this piece, first readers of each other’s work, casting beady and very critical eyes over each other’s writing before it went out to the wider world. 

Inevitably talk turned to collaboration, an obvious next step from critiquing, but always the conclusion was never, not on your nelly, no, not ever.

More than a hundred solo books between them later, the two have a collection of collaborative stories to their credit (Parallax View) and are halfway through a series of four collaborative novellas, The Kon-Tiki Quartet.


Collaboration? No, it would never work.

In The Kon-Tiki Quartet, Brooke and Brown chart the future of humankind amongst the stars, featuring such well-loved genre tropes as cloning, telepathy, alien beings, and colonisation – as well as some innovations like the science of somatic printing and identity downloading. At the core of the series, however, is the very human story of psychiatrists Kat Manning, Daniel DeVries, and the biologist Travis Denholme, and their complex, often explosive personal relationships.

In the first novella, Dislocations, a colonisation ship is being prepared to flee an Earth ravaged by environmental catastrophe, global warming and political inertia, and settle on a planet orbiting Sigma Draconis 19. The novella is set in and around the East Anglian spaceport of Lakenheath and concentrates on three main characters in the countdown to the launch, the political and personal in-fighting, and a gang of eco-terrorists' violent opposition to the colonisation program.

Book Two, Parasites, is set on the world of Newhaven, where humankind has established a fledgling colony. Parasites is a murder-mystery featuring the science and technology of cloning, telepathy, and alien biology. Through his study of native life-forms, biologist Travis Denholme has discovered means of developing elective telepathy, with all the advantages and pitfalls that this entails – including the unravelling of a years-old tragedy back on Earth.

The third novella, Insights, brings together the stories set up in the first two volumes: the consequences of a humankind blessed – or cursed – by the availability of telepathy and the political creed which violently opposes the idea. At the core of the story, three very different characters – often intimately and violently linked – must work out what is best for themselves and for society at large… while on the run from forces that want them, and their research, eradicated.

Book Four, as yet untitled, will bring the story full circle with a return to a far-future Earth, as printed ‘iterations’ of the three main protagonists explore an Earth they left behind many centuries earlier.

All four novellas in the Quartet are published by PS Publishing.

Other bits:

Book one, March 2018: Dislocations

Book two, June 2018: Parasites

Book three, date tbc: Insights

Book four: date and title tbc

7/09/2019

The return of horror.

As I noted the last time I wrote here, one of the things that kept me busy while in hospital was listening to audiobooks.

A significant number of these, rather than the usual science fiction, were closer to horror. In fact, there seems to be a distinct upsurge in good horror writing at the moment: I listened to books by Grady Hendrix (We Sold our Souls), Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman (better known for Bird Box, now on Netflix),  Dead Moon by Peter Clines, and Carter and Lovecraft By Jonathan L Howard, amongst others.

And if you want more objective proof that horror is enjoying something of an uptick,  you might be interested to know that Tor books are launching a new horror Imprint.

Looking back over the past couple of years, I can see the influence of horror in my own writing: Ghost Frequencies is, unsurprisingly, a ghost story, My next book, Devil's Road, is all about monsters. And it's not exactly hard to see the influence of zombie movies in at least parts of  my Extinction Game series.

This doesn't surprise me. When I was young, I was reading Pan paperback horror anthologies about the same time I was discovering Robert Heinlein and Arthur C Clarke. Not to mention I was entirely obsessed at the time by Halloween--the event, not the film.

Not to mention several movies that are as influential as they are canonical in science-fiction can also easily be classified as horror: Alien and  The Thing.

These kinds of stories are much more about unnerving you than they are about grossing you out--a cinematic and storytelling trend that's never had any attraction for me. It's less about the scares than it is the mystery, which is one of the reasons Scooby Doo was so popular and even, if we're prepared to admit it, influential: the gang spent each episode uncovering the mystery of what was going on, and it was the thrill of detection as much as the supposed scares that kept young kids like me locked to the screen. 

7/02/2019

Eye Operation (updated for legibility)

EDIT: sorry if some of you tried to read this and found it all grayed-out to hell. I typed it up in another program and then pasted it into my blogger.com template, and it transferred across something about the text that changed the usual colour. The way my computer is set up, it looked exactly the same as ever to me, but it wasn't until I got screengrabs sent to me by a couple of people I realised something was up. 

I hope, or at least assume, it's readable now.

So I spent most of June away from social media not through choice but because I had a surgical procedure on my left eye at the start of the month.

Several days before, late May, I visited an eye doctor who informed me I had a detached retina. This came as a bit of a surprise because several months before, I had visited another doctor who didn't appear to pick up on this. Two days after my more recent visit in May, I saw a specialist at one of the main hospitals here in Taipei and two days after that I had surgery on my left eye - a vitrectomy, to be precise.

After that I had to spend most of a week lying face down as much of the time as possible, and several more weeks after that taking it easy and avoiding using computers or watching any television. 

Fortunately, I’d got quite heavily into audiobooks over the past couple of months, so I didn't have any trouble keeping myself entertained, although for all that it’s not much fun spending most of a month sitting around and otherwise doing nothing. 

I wasn't entirely helpless; Emma was a great deal of help, keeping an eye on me in hospital and taking care of the countless things at home I normally took care of.

The good news is my eyesight is much improved, and I’m finally back at work, although I do still have to restrict my time online and take regular lengthy breaks away from the screen. And gradually catching up with stuff that's been left hanging since the end of May. 

Doomsday Game wound up somewhat orphaned throughout June, since I wasn't able to nurture it through its still early days of publication. It's still selling, but I know now from past experience some careful attention would have improved its situation nonetheless. 

And of course I wasn't able to do any editing work. So if you're feeling charitable, and especially if you've read Extinction Game and Survival Game, you could always pick up a copy of Doomsday Game, the third in the series, since most of the money from each sale goes straight to my pocket.