Monthly Archives: March 2012

Snapshots: Adam Roberts interviewed

What are you working on now?

I’ve spent February doing lots of little things that have accumulated, as little things tend to do. That means: I’ve written a couple of short stories that were commissioned by people for collections, an academic-y essay; I’ve pulled together and titivated a collection of SF essays and reviews to be published by Newcon press, things like that. Clearing the decks, really. Soon I will start work on a new novel. Provisionally I’m calling it The Earthly Paradise, and it’s a utopia.

What have you recently finished?
I’m doing a collaboration with the most excellent Mahendra Singh, a Canadian artist and illustrator, whose Snark website should be in everybody’s feed. I recently finished writing my half of the collaboration, a sort-of 21st-century Verneian novel called Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea. Mahendra is illustrating it.

What’s recently or soon out?
My next novel is Jack Glass (Gollancz 2012), due out in the summer. You can see the, rather nifty, cover-art here: http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/02/jack-glass-cover-reveal/

The novel is my attempt as a clever-as-a-sputnik-full-of-monkeys Golden Age whodunnit, set in a space operatic future. The narrator tells you who the murderer is at the beginning of the tale; you read the story and eventually the identity of the murderer is revealed. If I’ve done it right, the revelation of the murderer’s identity should be a surprise. That, at least, was the challenge I set myself. To do that. Three times, one after the other. (Three times because I wanted to write one locked-room mystery, one classic whodunnit and one prison story – though all three tie-together into one overarching novel narrative). At any rate, that’s what I was aiming for. You can tell me, when the book comes out, if it works or not.

Describe your typical writing day.
I drop the kids at school/nursery, go to the local Costa, buy the biggest black coffee they sell, sit at a table, open my laptop, fire up my iPod (I find writing in silence very hard; it’s inviting that little sneery voice in my head that goes “well that wasn’t a very good sentence, was it” to heckle me) and write. I’ll do that until lunch. Writing involves two stages: first you have to get it written, then you have to get it right. Revision, proofing, other bits and pieces happen in the afternoon. But the core of what I do is the brute generation of prose via mystical communion with coffee and seclusion. My laptop is not internet enabled, for the www is a big distraction. And that’s why I find it hard to write at home: too many distractions – ironing to do, tidying, Loose Women to watch on the telly and so on. Better to remove myself entirely from that world.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I think my last three novels have been my best, by quite a long chalk. Although there are many people who don’t agree.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Tricky question, this: lots of very good writers deserve a plug. I’ll tell you what: I’m going to limit myself to mentioning the books I have recently read: Paul McAuley’s In The Mouth of the Whale has a Bach-like complexity and austerity: extremely good. Al Reynolds hardly needs a plug, but his Blue Remembered Earth is splendid. More people should read Kameron Hurley’s God’s War; not flawless but rather brilliant. I’ve just been reading a book in MS, something Nightshade are publishing later this year (I think): E J Swift’s Osiris – the fact that it’s her first novel is belied by how accomplished and well-written it is. I was sent it to blurb, and I’m really enjoying it: somewhere between Gormenghast and DeLillo’s Cosmopolis. And one final thing: I’ve been re-reading Beowulf for a thing I have to do and by gum it’s good. Beowulf deserves a plug, I think. Plugowulf. Beoplug.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
I shall offer three, a bronze, a silver and a golden rule. The bronze is: write every day. The silver is: finish what you start. And the gold is: SHOW, DON’T TELL! Sheesh!

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

That is an easy question! Readers will be reading e-books. Writers will be writing them, and publishers selling them (though, probably, for less than they charge today; which means writers will have to write more, or settle for less remuneration). The market will buck about a bit for three or four years, as the tea-clipper of Traditional Publishing negotiates the maelstrom of technical advance, but then it will settle down. Publishers exist because readers need people (more specifically: they need people who love books) to intermediate their relationship with writing. That’s not going to change.

More…

Adam Roberts is the author of a steadily growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. In addition to all this he is a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, teaching English Literature and Creative Writing.

Adam wrote the chapter ‘Does God need a starship? Science fiction and religion’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).

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Snapshots: Tony Ballantyne interviewed

What’s recently or soon out?
My short story “The War Artist” which originally appeared in Further Conflicts (ed Ian Whates) will soon be out in the Years Best SF 17 (ed Hartwell and Cramer). It’s a loose follow on from “Third Person” that appeared in YBSF 13. I do have an idea for some more shorts set in that world.

Describe your typical writing day.
I don’t really have one. I write whenever I get the opportunity, something that seems to happen less and less nowadays. I’ve long been in the habit of having things planned out in my mind so that I can just get on when I have the opportunity. One big change I’ve made in the past year or so is to switch to emacs for writing. It’s a text editor rather than a word processor, but I find it more useful for planning and keeping my ideas where I can find them.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Blood and Iron, my last book. I think it was the best thing I’ve written.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I’ve been plugging Chris Beckett for years. His latest book, Dark Eden, is excellent.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Practise, practise, practise.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I think writers will be making a living doing other jobs. That’s already the reality today and has been for a long time. As for what form that work will take, well, electronic obviously. There will be self published work, but there will still be publishers. I suspect that in the long run the publishers will be the likes of Apple, Amazon and Facebook – or whoever comes to take their place.

Desert Island Books… Name ten books you’d want to have with you if you were marooned on a desert island.
I hate the thought of having to read the same ten books over and over! I’d probably take some textbooks so I could learn something new. Maybe some music if I was marooned with a piano. I’d try and master the 48 preludes and fugues.

In Strange Divisions and Alien Territories you write about posthumans. In a nutshell, what might come next for our kind?
War, famine, plague… a return to medieval times. That’s what you get when societies rate media studies higher than engineering.

More…

Tony Ballantyne grew up in north-east England and now lives in Oldham with his wife and two children. His short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies worldwide. He has also written romantic fiction and satirical pieces for various non-SF magazines. His first novel, Recursion, was published by Tor UK in 2004 and, most recently, his fifth, Blood and Iron, appeared in 2010.

Tony wrote the chapter ‘Just passing through: journeys to the post-human’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).

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New: infinity plus singles, 16-20

Just out from infinity plus, the latest batch of infinity plus singles:

Pilots of the Purple Twilight by Kit Reed Pilots of the Purple Twilight
by Kit Reed ($0.99/£0.77)
infinity plus singles #16 [Mar 2012]The wives spent every day by the pool – this was where the men had left them, after all. A moving, incisive story that gets right under your skin from an author whose prose style has been described as “pure dry ice” by The New York Times Book Review.

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Memories of the Flying Ball Bike Shop by Garry Kilworth Memories of the Flying Ball Bike Shop
by Garry Kilworth ($0.99/£0.77)
infinity plus singles #17 [Mar 2012]Understand the one you hate. What did the old Chinese man smoke? He smoked his enemy, and when he had smoked the hated man he would know him. “The best short story writer in any genre” (New Scientist).

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All the Little Gods We Are by John Grant All the Little Gods We Are
by John Grant ($0.99/£0.77)
infinity plus singles #18 [Mar 2012]A moving tale by award-winning author John Grant about a man discovering that somehow the story of his past has been written all wrong. A superbly measured fantasy about loss, and sorrow, and the pain of dealing with past passions.

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Closet Dreams by Lisa Tuttle Closet Dreams
by Lisa Tuttle ($0.99/£0.77)
infinity plus singles #19 [Mar 2012]”Something terrible happened to me when I was a little girl…” So begins this extraordinary, International Horror Guild Award-winning  tale of abduction, survival and escape from the author Stephen Jones has called “a major force in macabre fiction.”

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Fear of Widths by David D Levine Fear of Widths
by David D Levine ($0.99/£0.77)
infinity plus singles #20 [Mar 2012]Home for his parents’ funeral … all the familiar, yet unfamiliar, things. And the horizon. How could he have forgotten the horizon? Mind-bending fiction from a Hugo-winning author.

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Snapshots: Paul Di Filippo interviewed

What are you working on now?

Lately, at least half of each month is taken up by my book-reviewing, mainly for The Barnes & Noble Review, my favorite venue.  Consequently my fiction output has fallen off a bit.  I wanted to start a novel in 2011, and it never happened.  I’m determined that 2012 will not be a similar case.  So I’ve been filling in the time with my usual passion for short stories.   Next up:  “Adventures in Cognitive Homogamy:  A Love Story.”  The protagonist is a nomad of the science parks in the near future.

What have you recently finished?

I just completed a “steampunk fairytale” for an upcoming anthology helmed by Stephen Antczak, “The Kings of Mount Golden.”  Steampunk remains a lot of fun for me, but the challenge is to avoid the rapidly fossilizing set of cliches associated with that genre’s popularity.

What’s recently or soon out?

I’m most excited about a book of criticism co-authored with Damien Broderick, Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010.  The chance to pause and take a look backward at the genre helped refresh my sense of the marvels the field had recently achieved, and to inspire future goals of my own.  Luis Ortiz at Non-Stop Press also makes such beautiful books!

Describe your typical writing day.

It’s a monastically rigid ritual, barring random occurences like dentist visits, pals in town, etc.  Up at 7 AM or thereabouts.  Typical human morning duties till 9, including reading two hardcopy newspapers.  Online busywork (answering emails, blogging, reading the BBC feed) till noon.  Writing till 4 PM, then a 2-hour walk around town on errands, to unkink and muse.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

I’d love folks to look at my novel A Mouthful of Tongues.  It’s elegant and filthy both, in the manner of Samuel Delany’s work.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?

Everyone should pick up Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  It’s a sophisticated yet utterly newbie-friendly, hip and genuinely speculative upbeat dystopian adventure.  How often does one of those come along?

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

Know thyself.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

The joys of reading will persist as long as the unaltered human genome persists.  But whether the text-delivery vehicles of the future will afford many of the older, non-narrative pleasures remains in doubt.  Personally, I just can’t get cozy with e-readers, and find them utterly empty of potential nostalgia cues, in the way any hardcopy book is.  As for earning a living, I remain unjustifiably optimistic.  Dreamers have always had to scrabble for coins, but somehow audiences occasionally take pity on us and toss a few our way.

More…

Paul Di Filippo sold his first story in 1977.  Since then, he’s somehow accumulated a dozen or so volumes of same, along with a handful of novels, for a total of nearly thirty books.  He lives in Lovecraft-haunted Providence, Rhode Island, with his mate of 36 years, Deborah Newton, a calico cat dubbed Penny Century, and a choco-hued cocker spaniel called – what else? – Brownie.

Paul wrote the chapter ‘Beyond the Human Baseline: special powers’ in Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: the sub-genres of science fiction (edited by Keith Brooke, published by Palgrave Macmillan, February 2012).

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Strange Divisions and Alien Territories: The Sub-Genres of Science Fiction

Strange Divisions and Alien Territories

Just out from Palgrave Macmillan:

Strange Divisions and Alien Territories explores the sub-genres of science fiction from the perspectives of a dozen top SF authors, combining a critical viewpoint with exploration of the challenges and opportunities facing authors working in SF today.

Explore hard science, deep space and aliens; consider alternate history and time travel; look at utopias, dystopias, superpowers and religion; think about who we are and who we might become in the not-too-distant future, and be guided by authors who, between them, have won Hugos, Nebulas and other major science fiction awards many times over.

Contributors to this volume are Michael Swanwick, Gary Gibson, Alastair Reynolds, Justina Robson, Catherine Asaro and Kate Dolan, John Grant, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James Lovegrove, Adam Roberts, Keith Brooke, James Patrick Kelly, Paul Di Filippo and Tony Ballantyne.

Contents:

  • Foreword – Michael Swanwick
  • From Slide–rules to Techno–mystics: hard sf’s battle for the imagination – Gary Gibson 
  • Space Opera: this galaxy ain’t big enough for the both of us – Alastair Reynolds
  • Aliens: our selves and others – Justina Robson
  • The Literature of Planetary Adventure – Catherine Asaro and Kate Dolan
  • Infinite Pasts, Infinite Futures: the many worlds of time travel – John Grant
  • Alternate History: worlds of what if – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The World of the End of the World: apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic science fiction – James Lovegrove
  • Does God Need a Starship? science fiction and religion – Adam Roberts
  • No Place Like Home: topian science fiction – Keith Brooke
  • Who Owns Cyberpunk? – James Patrick Kelly
  • Beyond the Human Baseline: special powers – Paul Di Filippo
  • Just Passing Through: journeys to the post-human – Tony Ballantyne
  • Postscript – Keith Brooke

Over the coming weeks we’ll be featuring interviews with contributors on this blog.

Ever so convenient purchasing links:


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