9/03/2020

Newsletter: story in Interzone, and a couple of books on sale

Thought I'd try and do something different this time and post a slightly altered version of my monthly newsletter to my blog as well as to my mailing list. 


Important things first: the digital edition of Interzone magazine (number 288) featuring my story Warsuit is out. You can buy the physical copy directly from TTA Press, or get the Kindle edition, or alternatively buy it through Weightless Books in a variety of digital formats

In conjunction, I've decided to put a couple of my recent books on sale, because why not?

So if you haven't tried either Devil's Road or my collection of short fiction Scienceville And Other Lost Worlds, you can pick them up for the next couple of days for just 99p/99 cents/euros/whatever on Amazon Kindle in the US and UK markets.

Note: there's an Audible version of Devil's Road, so if you buy the ebook and you're an audio fan, you should be able to get the audiobook cheap on Amazon (and which doesn't require you to have an Audible account).

And I do hope you think about picking up that issue of Interzone — not just because I'm in it (not that that's not a valid reason) but because it really is one of the finest and indeed one of the very best-looking science fiction magazines out there.

FRIENDS IN UNEXPECTED QUARTERS

So here's an oddity for you: Donald Trump's niece Mary Trump, who recently wrote a tell-all book about her uncle, is a stone-cold science fiction fan. This small revelation, according to the fansite File 770, was uncovered by science fiction writer Michael Blumstein, and the proof is in her book Too Much and Never Enough. Here, she recounts an incident when she was just thirteen years old.

“Is that yours?”

At first I thought she [Ivana] was talking about the gift basket, but she was referring to the copy of Omni magazine that was sitting on top of the stacks of gifts I’d already opened. Omni, a magazine of science and science fiction that had launched in October of that year, was my new obsession. I had just picked up the December issue and brought it with me to the House in the hope that between shrimp cocktail and dinner I’d have a chance to finish reading it.

“Oh, yeah.”

“Bob, the publisher, is a friend of mine.”

“No way! I love this magazine.”

“I’ll introduce you. You’ll come into the city and meet him.”

It wasn’t quite as seismic as being told I was going to meet Isaac Asimov, but it was pretty close. “Wow. Thanks.”

If you're not familiar with Omni, it was a very glossy and very colourful science and science fiction magazine published from the late seventies by Bob Guccione, who was also the owner of the magazine Penthouse, of all things.

Omni is significant because it published some of the best science fiction around before its eventual demise in the nineties, and it's where I first encountered the short fiction of William Gibson amongst many others.

Notable names involved in editing the magazine included Ben Bova and Ellen Datlow, and there are few science fiction writers of note whose work didn't appear in the magazine. It also carried numerous science articles which were like catnip to a kid like me. I also know it was an equal influence on a number of other writers, including Richard Morgan.

WRITING

At the moment, I'm fifteen thousand words into the book I'm calling The Europa Door. So far, it's going fine. I've been posting occasional rough first draft chapters (very rough) to my Patreon page. I've also got a couple of flash fiction pieces out on submission to some magazines.

The Europa Door contains many elements readers will be familiar with from my work — gritty, hard SF elements abound and the story is based around a mission sent to the outer solar system to find out what happened to a previous exploratory mission that went missing.

That said, I'm the kind of writer who gets bored very easily writing the same kind of thing over and over, and rather than doing that, I prefer to try and do something at least slightly different.

If you want to have some sense to what direction I'm taking the story in, I refer you to the classic British science fiction/horror TV series and film Quatermass and the Pit (better known in the United States as Five Million Years to Earth) made in the late 1960s.

I think one of thing that distinguishes British science fiction from its colonial brethren is that it tends to be much darker, and it's that darker quality that appeals to me as a writer.

SEQUELS

I'm also trying a new approach to work, by working in more than one thing at once. I never used to do this because I used to have to work under deadlines, and didn't have the time for anything but the book I was being paid to write.

But because I no longer have to labour under such restrictions, I can work on other projects simultaneously with Europa Door. At the moment I'm putting together ideas for a sequel to Ghost Frequencies which will be called Phantom Circuits.

Ultimately, I hope to have three stories featuring the scientist and protagonist Susan MacDonald that might eventually be bundled together. That, however, is still some time away.

REVIEWS

Okay, time to have a look at what I've been reading but I recommend to you.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
This one feels broadly comparable to Stephen King's famously huge book The Stand, in size if nothing else: I can't tell you how many pages it has because I listened to the audiobook, but since the audiobook run to more than thirty hours I'm guessing this thing is huge in physical format.

And, like The Stand, it shows a world dealing with a deadly pandemic.

That right there is probably going to put a bunch of you off, and under the current circumstances, that's fair enough. But if it doesn't, while it's at best broadly comparable to King's book, I'd say it's a great deal better. Further, unlike King's book, it lacks the mystical element, having a much more hard science underpinning to its events.

Even better, there are some points in the story that really took me by surprise, genuinely jaw-dropping moments that make this one of the most enjoyable things I've read in the past many months. So, definitely recommended if you like your books huge and long and epic.

Burning Chrome by William Gibson
I've been meaning to reread this one for a very long time - New Rose Hotel was always a personal favourite of William Gibson's stories, and I was very, very into the cyberpunk fiction coming out from the early Eighties through to the mid-Nineties. So I chose to listen to the audiobook and experience the stories in a different way.

What's funny is realising how much the stories are showing their age now - the Soviets appear in several stories, and even though dates are rarely specified in Gibson's stories, one might reasonably assume they are set in about the present period, writing from the perspective of the mid-80s. And there are other small elements that age the stories here and there - such as a reference to a cowboy hacker wearing a white terry headband, which is about as 80s as you can get. Still, all in all, it's the incredible style of the writing that carries you through, and while perhaps some of the details have aged, the writing itself hasn't. 

The Fisherman by John Langan
I haven't finished this one yet — Wanderers' huge size/length took me as long to listen to as any three other average-sized books – but so far it's pretty good. This may not be your speed if you're not into Lovecraftian fiction, but if you are, chances are you will find this right up your street.

And that's it!! Next time I'll try and post some pictures from my complimentary copy of Interzone when it finally arrives here in Taipei.

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