Monthly Archives: December 2011

infinity plus singles at Amazon’s listmania

A new experiment: I’ve just set up an Amazon listmania list of the first 15 infinity plus singles. (Note: it was a bit faffy to set up, so I only did it at Amazon UK to start with.)

It’ll be interesting to see if it helps people find the books. Of course, it’s already easy to find them just by searching for “infinity plus singles”:

…but I’m intrigued to see if lists like this make it any easier for people to find us.

One striking thing that was reinforced for me when I was doing this is the quality of the stories we’ve been able to pull together for this list, many of them award-winners. What better way to spend all those Amazon vouchers?

Thirteen months of infinity plus: a whirlwind guide to ebooks for your Kindle

That thing the Reduced Shakespeare company do? You know: the entire works of the Bard in less than an hour. Well this post is kind of like that, only not Shakespeare, and it’ll take far less than an hour.

Let’s start with Eric Brown. We’ve been lucky enough to bring out the first ebook editions of several of his books, including the first edition in any format of his latest short story collection The Angels of Life and Death. His work is typified by his landmark novel Penumbra, a large-canvas story of space exploration and aliens, and a human race that is cosmopolitan and miles away from any stereotypical WASP future. For something a bit different, we also have his ghostly story of love, loss and writing, A Writer’s Life.

John Grant has won numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the Hugo. We have fantasy, SF and horror from him in the collection Take No Prisoners and the short novel Qinmeartha and the Girl-child LoChi (published with a bonus novella in our edition). For something a bit different, we have his non-fiction collection Warm Words and Otherwise – some of the most insightful, perceptive and downright funny book reviews you will find anywhere.

Anna Tambour is a quirky satirist of the fantastic loved by many and sadly overlooked by many more who have yet to discover her work. Luckily, the infinity plus editions of her novel Spotted Lily and collection Monterra’s Deliciosa & Other Tales & have brought her to new audiences, hitting Amazon top tens in recent weeks.

Kaitlin Queen is a successful children’s author now finding success as an adult crime-writer. She has a new story due from PS Publishing in 2012, and her novel One More Unfortunate has been a big success for infinity plus, another top ten title in more than one category at Amazon.

The infinity plus book imprint got off the ground with collections of my own short fiction, and more recently brought out electronic editions of my big fantasy novel about the death of religion and magic Lord of Stone, and my SF thriller The Accord, described by SF Site, The Guardian and SFF Signal as one of the best books on virtual reality and transhumanism yet written, and by SciFi Wire as “a literary science fiction tour de force”.

We’re approaching 20,000 downloads of Iain Rowan’s work at infinity plus. His gritty, moving and very clever collection of crime fiction Nowhere To Go has topped Amazon’s short fiction charts and received some fantastic reviews.

Neil Williamson’s The Ephemera is a powerful collection of short SF and fantasy from an emerging author short-listed for this year’s BSFA short fiction award, while Garry Kilworth’s new collection The Phoenix Man, exclusive to infinity plus, is another showcase for an author described by New Scientist as “the best short story writer in any genre”.

Robert Freeman Wexler’s The Circus of the Grand Design is a circus novel unlike any other: imagine Ray Bradbury’s carnival fiction mashed up with Angela Carter and quite a lot of sex and you’d still only be scratching its wonderfully freakish and fascinating surface. And new to the infinity plus list, Stephen Palmer’s Hallucinating and Muezzinland offer helter-skelter, incendiary visions of how the nearish future might be.

Finally, there’s the small matter of the fifteen titles in our infinity plus singles list: short, cheap ebooks, each consisting of a single story. This list includes Eric Brown’s Interzone poll-winning The Time-lapsed Man, Lisa Tuttle’s Nebula-winning The Bone Flute (including a new essay on the controversy arising when she tried to turn down the award), Garry Kilworth’s Interzone poll-winning The Sculptor, and many more.

Phew… and breathe… There: a whirlwind tour of where we’ve reached after our first 13 months as an ebook imprint. Compressing it like this really does the list no justice, but if nothing else, it’s been a useful exercise for me, a chance to step back, catch my breath and think, “Wow! We really published all these fantastic books…” It’s been quite a year!

Guest blog: Stephen Palmer on the writing of Hallucinating

Hallucinating by Stephen PalmerI had enormous fun writing Hallucinating.

The novel began as a free festival inspired short story that I wrote in the mid 1990s, taking all my musical loves—Shpongle, Ozric Tentacles, Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind and so many more—and weaving them into an idiosyncratic tale… a very idiosyncratic tale of musical invasion and psychedelic mystery. Although I loved, and still love, the festival/alternative/underground scene, there was an element of the scene that I felt an irresistible urge to satirise, notably the occasionally obsessive belief in UFOs et al that so many alternative folk succumb to. And so a tale of real/unreal alien invasion was born, with real/unreal situations and characters who inhabited this underground world…

The story was “published” only on my website. After a while I began to wonder what happened next, following the alien invasion and the remixing of the western world’s economy. I was living in the Westcountry at the time, and, inspired by the beautiful local scenery and by artists such as Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer who lived on Dartmoor, I wrote the next part of the tale, that in the novel became Part 2, Return Of A Tune. By this time, the turn of the millennium, Sean Wallace of Cosmos Books and Prime Books had asked me when I was going to complete the tale, which he loved and was interested in publishing. My initial response was that I wouldn’t complete it—I felt the tale was too idiosyncratic. It was not aimed at my SF readers, rather at all my underground and free festival friends. But eventually the lure of the story got to me, I planned and prepared the rest of the tale and soon began writing it.

Hallucinating plays with ideas of reality and illusion. One of the ways I wanted to do this was to include cameo appearances by real underground musicians, and so I contacted as many as I could, asking them if they would allow me to use them in the novel. All but one answered: all positive replies. I was delighted. And so Ed Wynne, Simon Posford, Steven Wilson and all the rest appeared in the book. Some of these musicians took it really seriously! Phil Thornton for instance told me what synths he’d be using for his imaginary gig, while Simon Posford insisted on having purple hair. And there were many in-jokes about Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind, Ozric Tentacles and all my other favourites. Yes, I had enormous fun writing the novel.

The ultimate game was to have myself appear, and so I did, though that decision was condemned by one reviewer, who thought it too self-indulgent: “The narrative voice is quite obviously pitched at festival folk, and the cameos from (now octogenerian) members of bands like Ozric Tentacles and Shpongle are intended to please quite a specific crowd. This I don’t have a problem with, but I did feel that the cameos were a bit indulgent — too much so when one electronic artiste by the name of Steve Palmer puts in an appearance … Shame, sir, shame.” But for a novel that was written about the musical world that I love and am part of, and which deliberately mixed fantasy and reality, I felt my appearance was appropriate.

I was particularly pleased that so many of the in-jokes were appreciated by my readers. As one reviewer pointed out, Hallucinating is the novel in which my rather silly, surreal sense of humour is most obvious. Other reviewers found the tale baffling: “Nulight is the colorful character. But the idealism vs. pragmatism makes Kappa a more complex and in some ways more interesting character” (Aural Innovations). Others liked it: “It is important to remember the title of this book. As none of the characters spend much time actually hallucinating (apart from a few mushrooms), it calls into question the reality of what is being told. What, if anything, is real, and if it isn’t real, then who’s hallucination is it?” (Vector).

I did have plans to write a sequel, bringing in the American hippy scene, but never found the motivation to begin it. Hallucinating stands on its own I think, with its suitably ambiguous ending…

New: Penumbra by Eric Brown

Penumbra by Eric BrownWhen a young tug pilot’s career is ruined by a collision in Earth orbit he has no choice but to accept a commission to fly an eccentric ship builder to planet far from the trade routes. When they discover alien ruins on the planet and the hulk of a missing generation ship they are thrown into the centre of a conspiracy that reaches back centuries.

Meanwhile on Earth a young Indian police officer is trying to track down a serial killer little suspecting that the killer is linked to what is happening on a planet light years away and that her own past holds the key to everything that is happening.

Eric Brown has written a novel that brings together an extraordinary imagination, rare sensitivity to character and a love of Eastern philosphy.

A key novel from one of the UK’s favourite SF writers.

Buy now: (Kindle format, $2.99) (Kindle format, £1.99)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

“This is a very skilfully plotted novel about which it is best not to give too much away… This is the book for readers who really don’t want to know where a writer might be taking them… The more meditative aspects of Penumbra bring to mind the calm of Arthur C Clarke’s work, while those who appreciate the involved mystery will find much to enjoy in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge.”
— Gary S Dalkin

“British writing with a deft, understated touch: wonderful”
— New Scientist

“SF infused with a cosmopolitan and literary sensibility”
— Paul McAuley

“One of the very best of the new generation of British SF writers”
— Vector

“Eric Brown has an enviable talent for writing stories which are the essence of modern science fiction and yet show a passionate concern for the human predicament and human values”
— Bob Shaw

Cover by Dominic Harman.

Guest Blog: Thank You For the Days – David Mathew

O My Days by David MathewHello there. Welcome. Pull up a cyberpew.

I’m going to squat in Keith’s house for a while… I promise not to make too much mess.

Over the course of a euphemistic ‘few’ drinks recently – a euphemism used rather too frequently on these shores – Keith invited me to write a Guest Blog. As we were both at that moment a full five or six millimetres away from authentic liver collapse, and as I had written a Guest Blog a matter of weeks earlier, I was happy to agree to do so. Why not? Now that I had published my first Guest Blog, I felt like something of an old-timer in the field. I was a veteran. Of course I could do another one!


What do bloggers write about again?

You see, I have never blogged – I have never really fancied it. This does not mean that I have ever been against the idea – not at all – but that it has never really seemed right for me. More than anything, I have never really felt that I had much worth blogging about. With the exception of chapter notes and memoranda to myself, everything I write already has a destination (or a prospective home to squat in, if you will). Who would be interested in reading what I squeezed out?

The fact that you are reading these words suggests that you disagree with my initial thoughts about blogging (you’re reading the words, after all), but surely no blogger would be foolish enough to assume that any old rubbish will do. No: it has been a pleasure to learn that bloggers take their role seriously, and treat their audiences with respect. While some blogging remains synonymous with ‘what-I-did-at-the-weekend’-type mini-essays, I no longer roll my eyes so much, or question what it is about this that I so dislike. Each to their own, right? If some people would rather write their diaries online, who am I to say that this will be something they’ll eventually regret?

Almost in spite of myself, I’ve come to like the fact that bloggers are abroad, keeping their ears and eyes to the ground. It doesn’t mean that I have to read them (perhaps the sheer weight of work that this would entail was what had left me so cool towards their existence in the first place); but it’s good to know that if I need an opinion – as opposed to a certified fact – on a subject, there is someone to offer me that opinion, and he or she is no further away than a couple of clicks.

Paranoid Landscapes by David MathewOr to put it another way…

One of my interests is psychoanalysis, and it was via a blog (her own, oddly enough) that I learned recently that Elizabeth Young-Bruehl had died. Now, this might not be a name that you know, but I use the example as a way of illustrating my newfound respect for blogs and blogging.

But where does this leave me now?

Well, if I’m honest, I hope to draw a few readers’ attention to my novel, O My Days. Keith Brooke himself has honoured me with a fine review, for which I’ll be grateful. But while I’m crashing in his house, I hope he won’t mind my mentioning it once more… or describing a bit about how it came to be. To do this I’ll whisk you back in time, to 2006.

2006 was one of the strangest years of my life. It took me quite a while to understand that I was suffering from a delayed depression following the unexpected death of my father in 2005. I had taken on a job in the Education Department of a maximum security prison for young offenders (aged 18-21) in the south-east of England.

Well, right from the start I became aware of a peculiar prison language that some of these offenders had adopted: not jargon, not slang – an actual new language, with roots in English (obviously), but almost as distinct from it as Spanish is from Portugese. As might be expected, this language was used to exclude people from the group (myself included); but if the offenders did not know that I was recording words, phrases, and learning meanings by either sly or not-so-subtle means, then what harm was there in my game and in my research?

The idea of a book written wholly in this language did not take long to germinate. And although it was not an easy book to read, I have worked on more difficult projects! Every day I had a fresh stream (some might say fetid sewer) of neologisms, phrases – examples of language wrung out and distorted, made mangled and beautiful and new by strict rules of its language’s boundaries.

The plot is of course my own. While discretion and tact might not be bywords of a young offender’s lifestyle, very few of their gleefully-shared gobbets made it close to my final draft. (The one about the chicken theft, however, is reasonably close to what I was told.) Had I wanted to, I could have simply written up my diary every day… but that would not have made a novel. That would have made a blog: and it would have been bad practice to do this anyway, even if all of the names and dates and places had been changed. The conscience would have balked.

A novel is a work of fiction, a different beast; and I offer it to you, with something of a pun and piece of good music to end my time here – now – in Keith’s bathroom. (You wouldn’t believe the place.) If anyone is interested, a few links follow – or get in touch, by all means.

So if you’d be so good to jump up from your cyberpew and shift a little of the cyberfurniture around. Grab a partner, and dance, sway or sing along (or all three) to the following.

Are you ready with your air instruments?

I hope the Kinks fans and Elvis Costello fans will forgive me, but I have always preferred this version by Kirsty MacColl. So… thank you for the days.

David Mathew

Up-to-date information here.
New novel, O My Days, out now from Triskaideka Books. Click here for information.
Hardcover, paperback or e-book versions available.
Great review here!
New interview here! And a newer interview here!
Paranoid Landscapes orders here or here or the e-book is here. Review here.
Interview with me here, and another interview.
Selected interviews I’ve done at Infinity Plus (scroll down a bit).
Selected bibliography here.

Guest review by John Grant: The Dreamthief’s Daughter by Michael Moorcock

(Earthlight, 342 pages, hardback, 2001 )

In pre-WWII Germany, with the Nazis on the ascendant, Count Ulric von Bek is one of the many who look upon developments with dismay — but a largely passive dismay, for fear of the bully-boys. He is not allowed to continue thus, however, for the Nazis, in the person of his cousin Prince Gaynor von Minct, seek the ancestral sword of the von Bek family, Ravenbrand, as well as the Holy Grail, also entrusted to the family but reputedly lost by von Bek’s mad father. Von Bek contacts the Resistance, and, with the enigmatic Herr El and the lovely wildling Oona, who is like himself an albino, makes plans to retain the status quo. Another albino appears frequently to von Bek in dreams and visions — a berserk-seeming figure who has a savage cast to him.

Before much can come of any Resistance schemes, Gaynor has von Bek thrown into a concentration camp where, despite physical torture, he declines to reveal the location of Ravenbrand. At length, as he nears death, the albino of his dreams appears magically with Oona and an enigmatic British agent, Oswald Bastable, to free him. They flee to Hameln where, … la Pied Piper, von Bek splits open a rock using the regained Ravenbrand and they enter a subterranean realm, Mu-Ooria, populated by the mentally superhuman Off-Moo. Here they are pursued by Gaynor and his Nazi demon sidekick Klosterheim.

And here, too, the mysterious dream albino — who is of course Elric of Melnibon‚ — gains a greater reality, in due course managing to combine himself with von Bek so that the two become one. The dual entity returns to Tanelorn, where as Elric it discovers that Gaynor has ambitions far beyond the mundane ones of the Nazis: through forming a duplicitous alliance with the Goddess of Law, Miggea, Gaynor hopes to overthrow Chaos and gain the rule of all the multiverse. Elric, as an arch-prince of Chaos, must resist him.

The remainder of this tale twines its way absorbingly through various aspects of the multiverse — Moorcock’s great conceptual creation, the myriad related worlds in which stories are eternally played and replayed, with archetypes as the puppets of unknown puppeteers. In the end, of course, the balance between Chaos and Law is restored, at least for now.

The novel (although divided into three) has essentially four parts: von Bek’s time in pre-War Germany; his and Oona’s adventures in Mu-Ooria; the adventures of Elric and of the dual Elric/von Bek entity in and around Tanelorn; and the long, complex final section in which Elric, von Bek and the ever- resourceful Oona — who is Elric’s daughter by the dreamthief Oone, and with whom von Bek, despite an uneasy sensation of incest (for he and Elric are alter egos), falls in love — journey between the worlds and bring a resolution to the main conflict while also, in the conflict of this world, bringing a resolution of sorts by turning the tide of the Battle of Britain back against the Luftwaffe.

The four sections succeed to greater and lesser (mostly greater) extents. The Mu-Ooria sequences, with their Edgar Rice Burroughsian ambience, in the telling hark back even further, to the sort of 19th- or even 18th-century otherworld fantasy in which the otherworld itself is deemed to be of such marvel that the reader is intended to be entertained by somewhat painstaking, plodding accounts of the geography and populace rather than any plot advancement. There are longueurs here and also a sense of alienation on the writer’s part, as if Moorcock recognized while writing them that the sequences were failing to lift off the ground but could not abandon them because this section of the book is integral to the rest.

That rest, by contrast, in general sings. Von Bek’s experiences in Nazi Germany, and his growing knowledge that he is part of a greater mystery, are as gripping as any World War II adventure story. The sequences where Elric and later the dual entity must quest, with Moonglum, through the bleak and alien world into which the goddess Miggea has transplanted Tanelorn, like an orchid into a desert, are superbly conceived High Fantasy and eerily evoke the dream-sense; while the long concluding section — with the small exception of the clumsily handled, contrived-seeming sequence in which a dragon-mounted Elric and von Bek attack the advancing waves of the Luftwaffe, thereby giving rise to the legend of the Dragons of Wessex — demonstrates why Moorcock possesses the towering status he does in any consideration of the history of fantasy. In this final section he is creating new structures of fantasy, rather than recrudescing the old — a rare achievement, alas, in the modern genre.

Of great interest throughout is the question of identity and the workings, through the nature of the multiverse, of not just the multiplicity of a single identity but the coalescing into a single identity of a multiplicity; one has the sensation, reading this book, of this going on all the time in a kind of endless flow, as reality itself shifts and twists — rather like an analogy of the impermanent alliances the villain Gaynor forges with the different gods. Von Bek is at one and the same time both Elric and not-Elric, and that duality persists even once their two identities have fused. (The same obviously is true of Elric, who is both von Bek and not-von Bek.) Elric’s sword Stormbringer and the von Bek family’s sword Ravenbrand have a single identity, even though they are physically twain and remain so, even when in proximity. Oona is both a daughter and a lover to the double identity that is Elric- von Bek. Gaynor is at one and the same time a human being and an eternal Evil Principle. There are other examples.

That this is in fact a true nature of reality is plausible in a post-Heisenberg frame of reference (whose analogue might be Chaos, by contrast with Newtonian-style Law), which sees identity as a transient property, dependent upon, among other factors, the act of perception. It is pleasing to see such notions worked out in a novel of, ostensibly, High Fantasy — not a subgenre noted for its deployment of scientific thinking, and indeed generally marked by antiscientism.

This is also an intensely political novel. Time and again Moorcock explores the motivations behind the parasitic quest of tyrants for power and their obsessional need to stamp order (Law) on that which should not be ordered — to wit, humanity. The relevance of this is obvious when Nazism is the despotism under consideration; but there are not so subtly encoded references to other, more recent, “democratic despots” of the Right. The name of the Goddess of Law, Miggea, seems a clear anagrammatic reference to Maggie/Margaret Thatcher, a political figure who while in power earned the public hatred (or fear) of many surprisingly disparate creators. Here, for example, is Moorcock’s description of the world Miggea and her rule of Law have created:

Miggea’s was no ordinary desert. It was all that remained of a world destroyed by Law. Barren. No hawks soared in the pale blue sky. Not an insect. Not a reptile. No water. No lichen. No plants of any kind. Just tall spikes of crystallized ash and limestone, crumbling and turned into crazy shapes by the wind, like so many grotesque gravestones.

Later Herr El (aka Prince Lobkowitz), in talking of the rise of the Nazis but also of any regime of obdurate Law, however convivial its veneer — any regime that pretends the solutions to complex problems are simple, and then imposes through the use of power or force those simple, but (or hence) profoundly wrong solutions on the world — is the mouthpiece for a sideswipe at Thatcher’s American counterpart:

They are the worst kind of self-deceiving cowards and everything they build is a ramshackle sham. They have the taste of the worst Hollywood producers and the egos of the worst Hollywood actors. We have come to an ironic moment in history, I think, when actors and entertainers determine the fate of the real world.

Moorcock’s contempt for the politicians of Law is of course allowed to be seen more naked when the subjects under consideration are safely distant in history, like the Nazis and (in brief references) the Stalinist despots of Soviet Russia. Late in the book there is a long and hilariously — though darkly, bitterly — satirical scene in which a disguised von Bek, inadvertently thrust into a car with Rudolf Hess, must listen to an interminable outflow of arrant, antiscientific, credulously ignorant nonsense from the Deputy Fuehrer. Hess and by implication his colleagues in the Nazi hierarchy are portrayed as what Brian Stableford has termed “lifestyle fantasists”, the attempted reification of their particular brand of insane and simplifying fantasies involving, of course, untold human suffering. Hence Elric’s — and one presumes Moorcock’s — detestation of Law and adherence to Chaos.

As mentioned, there are some doldrums in this book, but they are in a relatively early part of it and easily ploughed through. Overall, The Dreamthief’s Daughter is mightily impressive not just as a demonstration of the fantasticating imagination in full flight but because of all the different aspects of meaning which it embodies — analogues, in a way, of the myriad diversely aspected worlds of the multiverse. It is one of those rare fantasies that merits repeated reading with, each time, a different facet of its full meaning to be derived.

Warm Words and Otherwise

This review, first published by infinity plus, is excerpted from John Grant’s Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews, published on September 19 by infinity plus ebooks:

A bumper collection – over 150,000 words! – of book reviews, many of full essay length, by the two-time Hugo winning and World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor ofThe Encyclopedia of Fantasy and author, among much fiction, of such recent nonfiction works as Corrupted Science and (forthcoming) Denying Science.

Scholarly, iconoclastic, witty, passionate, opinionated, hilarious, scathing and downright irritating by turn, these critical pieces are sure to appeal to anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mystery fiction, crime fiction and many points in between … and who also enjoys a rousing argument.

Warm Words & Otherwise is available from: (Kindle format, $1.99) (Kindle format, £1.44)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $1.99)

Keith Brooke on the background to new ebook release The Accord

The Accord by Keith Brooke“One of the finest novels of virtual reality yet written… a dazzling work of the imagination.” SF Site

The Accord, a virtual utopia where the soul lives on after death and your perceptions are bound only by your imagination. This is the setting for a tale of love, murder and revenge that crosses the boundaries between the real world and this virtual reality. When Noah and Priscilla escape into the Accord to flee Priscilla’s murderous husband, he plots to destroy the whole Accord and them with it. How can they hope to escape their stalker when he can become anything or anyone he desires and where does the pursuit of revenge stop for immortals in an eternal world?

This one came from three pieces of short fiction. After I’d written the first story I knew there was far more to do with that background; the second and third stories, set earlier, were deliberate explorations of the idea of a virtual heaven, with the intention always being that they would become part of a novel.

And that’s what I did. The first story was published in one of the Solaris SF anthologies and was then reprinted in the 2008 Gardner DozoisYear’s Best. The other two stories appeared in Postscripts (summer 2008) and Pete Crowther’s AI anthology, We Think, Therefore We Are (January 2009), both shortly before the print edition of the novel came out in March 2009.

To me, the best SF sets huge ideas against the intimate and personal, and this was what I quite explicitly tried to do with The Accord. Sure, it’s about building a complete virtual universe – ideas don’t come much bigger than that – but equally, it’s a love triangle; but when the triangle involves multiple personalities and different instances of the people taking part, the geometry gets a whole lot more complicated than that…

I have a lot of fond memories of working on this novel; it’s one I’m very close to, and it was gratifying to see so many excellent reviews – people got it. There’s one scene, however, that really sticks: one of those moments writers cherish where as you write a scene takes a new turn, or suddenly becomes fuller, more rich, as you pursue its internal logic to a natural conclusion. Earl on in this book, in the migrants’ camp; I won’t say any more than that, but it shocked me as I wrote it, and it still does.

I do love it when your own writing can have that effect!

Samples and purchasing: (Kindle format, $3.99) (Kindle format, £2.99)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $3.99)

“The emotion-driven love triangle neatly complements the tech- and philosophy-heavy nature of the Accord, making this rumination on posthumous, posthuman love a rare treat.” Publishers Weekly 5* review

“One of the finest novels of virtual reality yet written… a novel that combines elements of love story, thriller, and work of ideas, yet gains its impact from being more than the sum of these. And it all works. It works brilliantly. In The Accord, Keith Brooke has created a dazzling work of the imagination.” SF Site

The Accord is a literary science fiction tour de force that is sure to be one of the best novels of 2009.” SciFi Wire

“First and foremost a superbly written novel, featuring beautiful prose that instantly hooked me from the powerful opening page and kept the pages turning… a rare combination of thought-provoking ideas including hard sf… a lyrical novel of love, loss, revenge, exploration and adventure… The Accord is highly, highly recommended.” Fantasy Book Critic

“A truly major sf work that should be considered for all eligible awards.” SFF World

“Keith Brooke’s take on posthumanism is one of the best approaches of the subject I’ve ever seen.” SF Signal

“As well as being a masterful story, The Accord is a feat of daring and accomplished composition… Romantic, edgy, moving, tight and fast, The Accord is Keith Brooke on incandescent form and in an angry, sweary mood. The Accord offers a sense of obscene wonder the likes of which this reviewer might not have felt since Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden. This is Keith Brooke at his absolute best.” Interzone

New: Hallucinating by Stephen Palmer

Hallucinating by Stephen PalmerEurope, 2049.

Nulight, a Tibetan refugee and notorious underground record company owner, emerges from an obscure Berlin night club realising that an alien invasion is imminent. Or is he hallucinating? Contacting his ex-lover Kappa and the invisible man Master Sengel, he begins an investigation.

Then he is abducted. Released.

And soon the aliens invade.

To save humanity, Nulight and his motley friends must decide if the aliens are real or not – and if they are, what to do about them. For Britain has become a land of pagan communities and wilderness, where the strength and resolve for the forthcoming struggle may not exist.

Can music save Britain?

Can it save the world?

Hallucinating is a unique vision of future invasion and future music, featuring cameo appearances from Ed Wynne of Ozric Tentacles, Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree, Toby Marks of Banco De Gaia and many more. Michael Dog has written a foreword. This new edition contains an afterword written by the author and a never before published “syntactic remix” of the original story, also by the author.

Samples and purchasing: (Kindle format, $2.99) (Kindle format, £1.99)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $2.99)

“… [the] element of questionable reality raises this book above simply being a fairly entertaining read. This is an intriguing book with a novel take on the alien invasion theme that raises a number of questions about what we actually mean by alien.”
— Vector, BSFA

“Certainly the rock’n’roll science fiction vibe of the story and all the humorous bits adds to the fun of the book… conjures up some crazy imagery.”
— Aural Innovations

“…a tour de force in imagining possibilities that lie beyond our information age… If you enjoy the full immersion experience of neo-magic, you’ll [like] Muezzinland.”
— Gwyneth JonesNew York Review Of SF, on Stephen Palmer’s Muezzinland

Guest review by John Grant: Collecting Candace by Susan M Brooks

(Small Dogs Press, 200 pages, paperback, 2005)

The nameless protagonist of this neo-noir piece first encounters Candace in a Florida bar, and is instantly captivated by her. Long legs, skimpy clothing, cute face, suggestive tattoo, beaucoup de bosomry — what sensitive, reconstructed male ascetic could resist her? He picks her up — or is it the other way round? — but not for sex: not only is she seemingly oblivious to the notion that sex might be anticipated, but his desire for her is entirely psychological, you understand, rather than physical, so that an act of sex with her would destroy the iconic Candace he has so swiftly created for himself. He wants to discover her mentally rather than carnally . . . with the carnal option perhaps left open for later.

What he discovers about her is that all the previous males in her life — notably her three husbands — done her wrong in one way or another, perhaps most particularly through their quite inexplicable eventual dumping of her. It soon becomes plain to the reader why all this inexplicable dumping went on: Candace is a vapid moron of the most tedious imaginable kind. The protagonist, however, effectively conceals this patent fact from himself, finding her a constant maze of fascination and desirability. He casts himself into the role of her Knight in Shining Armor, and sets off, with her in tow, to exact revenge upon those males in her past who have so grievously ill treated her. In merry road-movie-psycho fashion, the pair of them cheerfully and gruesomely slaughter Candace’s exes, the inspiration for their crimes being almost as much the searingly hot Florida summer as the protagonist’s obsessed quixotry.

This is a novel with a great deal going for it, and its central premise has a sort of brutal effectiveness. However, the fact that the central femme fatale is seemingly such a complete bimbo, complete with a love for the Bible coupled with a total inability to understand the first word of the New Testament’s message, means that soon the reader is filled with the same urgent compulsion to escape her company as her exes undoubtedly experienced. The protagonist is little better: the novel’s conceit, initially intriguing, that he can be capable of such profound self-deception over Candace, eventually plummets to become exasperation and even incredulity that he could be such a halfwit. If she were banging his brains out one could at least understand his addiction to her: is there a male who cannot look back on protracted periods of gonads-driven idiocy? But that’s not the case, and can’t be: he’s made her into a figure of chastity.

Collecting Candace could get around these problems if it were exquisitely written. Unfortunately, the writing is rather clumsy. Were the two central characters possessed of one single scintilla of appeal, this roughness could add to the novel’s overall noir ambience. As it is, the roughness soon begins instead to grate.

Oddly enough, Collecting Candace is worth reading despite all these adverse comments . . . if you can stomach the unremitting bleakness of its vision of the most Neanderthal aspects of, and indeed members of, modern American society. It is from such ground that there springs the culture-of-ignorance whose current dominance has done so much to topple our country so swiftly from the position of world leader to world laughing stock. Brooks is to be heartily and very sincerely congratulated on having managed, in such a brief work, to do so much to explain this phenomenon.

Warm Words and OtherwiseThis review, first published by Crescent Blues, is excerpted from John Grant’s Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews, published on September 19 by infinity plus ebooks:

A bumper collection – over 150,000 words! – of book reviews, many of full essay length, by the two-time Hugo winning and World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor ofThe Encyclopedia of Fantasy and author, among much fiction, of such recent nonfiction works as Corrupted Science and (forthcoming) Denying Science.

Scholarly, iconoclastic, witty, passionate, opinionated, hilarious, scathing and downright irritating by turn, these critical pieces are sure to appeal to anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mystery fiction, crime fiction and many points in between … and who also enjoys a rousing argument.

Warm Words & Otherwise is available from: (Kindle format, $1.99) (Kindle format, £1.44)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $1.99)

Guest review by John Grant: Shockingly Close to the Truth: Confessions of a Grave- Robbing Ufologist by James W Moseley and Karl T Pflock

(Prometheus, 371 pages, hardback, 2002)

Once upon a time — a glorious time — publishers used to release autobiographies by people who weren’t just movie celebs or ex-politicians or pop stars, but simply people who had led interesting lives and who could write about them interestingly. The autobiography — or at least a certain subgenre of it — was thus almost like a variant form of the novel, and readers tended to approach it in much the same way. You might never have heard of Fred Gluggitt, but he’d climbed Everest blindfold, slept with an Olympic belly-dancing team and subsisted for a year in the Australian Outback eating nothing but woodworms, and he could write in a way that had you bursting out in laughter every few pages. That was what you looked for in an autobiography: entertainment, a measure of education (perhaps), a window into someone else’s world, and, at the most profound level, a certain level of identification with and communication with all of one’s fellow human beings, not just with the individual who happened to be telling her or his tale.

Books like that are hardly ever published any more. Instead the tables in the remainder bookshops are piled high with the heavingly fat, probably ghosted, certainly carefully spin- doctored autobiographies of famous people whom you would run a mile rather than have in your living room, or even be stuck in a bar with.

Well, here’s an exception — an old-fashioned autobiography that captures the spirit right down to the deliciously hokey cover illustration.

Jim Moseley (one assumes Karl Pflock is a sort of fully credited ghostwriter) has been a ufologist for decades. Correction: not so much a ufologist as what he calls a “ufoologist”, observing and commenting on the field of ufology to a much greater extent than researching UFOs themselves. He certainly has done some UFO investigation — coming to the conclusion that, while every UFO case he has personally examined is almost certainly unmysterious, nevertheless UFOs taken en masse probably do represent a mystery — but essentially he has been, as dubbed a while back, ufology’s Court Jester. He has published the long-running muckraker-sheet-cum-investigative- journal Saucer News (now called Saucer Smear) — a sort of ufological Private Eye — and he has met and/or interviewed virtually all of the principal protagonists in a certain segment of ufology: what one could call the mainstream of US ufology in the second half of the 20th century.

Oh, yes, and as a sideline he’s occasionally gone on treasure hunts to Peru, conducting a legally questionable trade in ancient artefacts.

His reminiscences of all this are constantly entertaining, and on occasion very funny. What’s especially interesting about them is that Moseley can, as it were, reach the parts that professional UFO debunkers like Phil Klass cannot. This comment applies both to his encounters with other ufologists and to his studies of particular UFO cases.

To take the latter first: Moseley is open-minded about the existence, physically or psychologically, of UFOs, and it is with this attitude that he has approached any examination of a case. This is in contrast with either the debunker or the devotee, each of whom will go into the case expecting to have preconceptions confirmed: the debunker will find plenty to ridicule, the devotee plenty to believe. Moseley, on the other hand, has a good chance of finding what is actually there. That he, as someone who’s a part of the scene, has found enough to convince him that many famous cases are tosh is much more convincing than if, say, the late Carl Sagan had found the same: Sagan (who was interested in the subject in a minor way) or any other serious scientist would have investigated only as far as the first few obvious contradictions, whereas Moseley actually went on to probe such cases in some considerable depth.

In other words, by dint of the extent of his research he’s an expert in a way that few outright debunkers can ever hope to be. And this applies also to his observations of ufology. I can’t actually name any names here, because some of these figures are astonishingly writ-happy, but various of the barmiest of the ufology superstars have opened up to Moseley — despite his known editorship of Saucer Smear (which must go to show how barmy they actually are) — in a way they’d never think to talk to someone who wasn’t One Of Us. And Moseley, gleefully, lets them show themselves as they are.

His demolitions are all the more effective for this. Here, for example — there’s a plethora of choice — is his conclusion concerning Roswell, with a conclusion also about CUFOS (one of the major organizations devoted to supposedly scientific UFO study):

Whatever the original motivation, CUFOS has long since dropped any pretense of objectivity about the case and is the one UFO group that unwaveringly stands behind it without qualification.

That single sentence tells us a lot about ufology and also a lot about the representation of ufology in the media: anyone here who hadn’t gained the impression that most UFO buffs thought Roswell was likely to be pretty kosher, please raise your hands.

As the social history of ufology the publishers claim it to be in their cover blurb, even an informal one, this book is far from adequate. As noted above, it covers only a small segment of the field; plenty of really quite important ufological figures and their ideas, sane or crackpot, get no mention at all. The index lists only people, so there is no entry for, for example, Roswell, even though there’s quite a lot about the Roswell fallacy in the book; bad indexes seem to be a Prometheus speciality. I noticed that Hugo Gernsback is called “Gernsbach”, so for all I know there may be countless other individuals — or places, or organizations, etc. — whose names are incorrectly spelled. One could go on chipping away at the text on such grounds for quite a long time.

But that’s not really what it’s about. What this constantly entertaining book is about is a very haphazard (delightfully haphazard) ramble through the life of someone who’s been in the ufology game primarily for the fun of it. He has teased; he has hoaxed (often in tandem with his friend the late Gray Barker, although Barker almost made a profession of it); he has exposed (the whole of the 1957 issue of Saucer News exposing Adamski is reproduced in the appendix); he has annoyed (too many to name, but they’re the sort of people you feel good that someone’s annoyed); he has been ufology’s gadfly. At the end of the day, he was delighted when “a certain Harry Lime” wrote from Vienna, Austria (not Greeneland?), to tell him he should be proud of, not dismayed by, the sobriquet he’d recently been given in MUFON UFO Journal: “The Reigning Court Jester of Ufology.”

Revealing and entertaining by turns, Shockingly Close to the Truth is a book you’ll love or — assuming you’re especially po-faced — hate. This reviewer devoured it, and with a grin on his face the whole time.

Warm Words and OtherwiseThis review, first published by infinity plus, is excerpted from John Grant’s Warm Words & Otherwise: A Blizzard of Book Reviews, published on September 19 by infinity plus ebooks:

A bumper collection – over 150,000 words! – of book reviews, many of full essay length, by the two-time Hugo winning and World Fantasy Award-winning co-editor ofThe Encyclopedia of Fantasy and author, among much fiction, of such recent nonfiction works as Corrupted Science and (forthcoming) Denying Science.

Scholarly, iconoclastic, witty, passionate, opinionated, hilarious, scathing and downright irritating by turn, these critical pieces are sure to appeal to anyone who loves fantasy, science fiction, mystery fiction, crime fiction and many points in between … and who also enjoys a rousing argument.

Warm Words & Otherwise is available from: (Kindle format, $1.99) (Kindle format, £1.44)
Smashwords (various formats, including epub, mobi, Sony and PDF, $1.99)

%d bloggers like this: