Monthly Archives: December 2012

New: Genetopia by Keith Brooke

Genetopia by Keith Brooke“Let Keith Brooke tell his tale in its cogent fullness. It is beyond any facile summary, a minor masterpiece that should usher Brooke at last into the recognized front ranks of SF writers.” Locus

The village: a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Here, houses can be grown out of the dirt; livestock and the sub-human mutts can be changed into something else, something other; and fleshy, drastically mutated Oracles guide humankind on the delicate path of survival.

The wildlands: the land between human settlements where animals that are not animals live among plants that are not plants, and people who might not be people live in fear of human intervention. Out here organic AIs grow in the wildlands, either worshiped or feared; trees sing to each other; and tempting, dark fruit hang from the branches. Out here nothing can be trusted, nothing is necessarily as it seems, and no sane human would ever want to set foot.

Out here is Flint’s missing sister.

Genetopia is the story of a young man in search of his possibly abducted sister in a far future where nano- and biotechnology have transformed and accelerated the evolution of humans and their strangely altered surroundings. In this world, you can never take anything — or anyone — at face value. Illness and contact with the unknown are always to be feared, as viruses re-engineer genes and germ cells, migrating traits from species to species through plague and fever. Humankind lives in isolated communities, connected by trade routes, and always fighting to keep the unclean at arm’s length.

But if Flint is to find his sister he must brave the fevers, the legendary beasts, the unknown. He must enter strange communities and seek help in the most unlikely places. He must confront both his own dark past and the future of his kind.

He must go into the wildlands.

Flint’s story is the story of the last true humans, and of the struggles between those who want to defend their heritage and those who choose to embrace the new. But Flint doesn’t see it like that: he just wants to find his sister.

print:

ebook:

“I am so here! Genetopia is a meditation on identity – what it means to be human and what it means to be you – and the necessity of change. It’s also one heck of an adventure story. Snatch it up!” Michael Swanwick, Hugo award-winning author of Bones of the Earth

“Keith Brooke’s Genetopia is a biotech fever dream. In mood it recalls Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse, but is a projection of twenty-first century fears and longings into an exotic far future where the meaning of humanity is overwhelmed by change. Masterfully written, this is a parable of difference that demands to be read, and read again.” Stephen Baxter, Philip K Dick award-winning author of Evolution and Transcendent


New: In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman Wexler

In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman WexlerReconciliation, longing, and ambiguity combine in one astounding locale: Springdale. Is it a mundane New England town on a picturesque river, or the nexus of the paradoxical?

Springdale appears to be a quiet village, unblemished by shopping mall or mega-store. The town sits in a fertile valley, surrounded by countryside rich in natural wonder. Summers, tourists attend the area’s many arts and music festivals, and hikers crowd the trails. In the fall, reds and yellows of turning leaves decorate the landscape, and in winter, mountain resorts fill with avid skiers.

But some say Springdale exists only on the contoured highways of our collective imagination. Others point to references dating back to Colonial Boston, to multiple versions of a ballad telling a story of remorse and disgrace.

Here are three facts:
1. Maps cannot be trusted;
2. All History is awash with fraud and hoax;
3. Springdale is an absence of identity.

For two people, a lawyer named Patrick Travis and a television actor named Richard Shelling, Springdale is home and anti-home, a place of comfort and a distortion of everyday life. They are strangers to each other, yet connected. Their lives will intersect with a force that shatters both.

This edition includes a specially written afterword by the author.

In Springdale Town by Robert Freeman Wexler is available in ebook format from:

Springdale is told in a deceptively muted style and cunningly crafted so that the story appears to assemble itself around the reader like a trap he or she has sprung, yet remains innocent-looking until the end, when a spring-loaded hammer smashes down.” —Lucius Shepard, from the introduction to the original print edition

“For some writers, prose is a means with which to construct an analogue of reality. For Robert Freeman Wexler, fiction is a means with which to de-construct reality. Yet his stories have such a strong sense of linguistic integrity, it’s hard to believe that he isn’t reporting his experiences from a parallel universe.” —Rick Kleffel, from an interview at fantasticmetropolis.com.

“…In a list comprising some of the biggest names in contemporary genre fiction the appearance of a novella by a virtually unknown author causes a certain interest. In Springdale Town represents its author’s first book publication (after only a handful of short stories) and yet it fits into the PS Publishing list with such subtle skill that its presence on the shelf feels as if an invisible gap in the collection has been suddenly filled.”—Lavie Tidhar, Dusksite

“…no need for Lovecraftian monsters or rampaging serial killers to transform Springdale into a seriously creepy place. An old ballad suggests that one death haunts this village, but Wexler deviously, almost casually, creates a sense of wrongness that goes well beyond some past saga of jealousy and murder. Don’t read this one right before bedtime–or your next road trip.”—Faren Miller, Locus Magazine, October 2003

“The basic idea is familiar, almost banal, but Wexler’s treatment is witty, his writing is excellent, his characters are really well captured—I was very impressed with the story.”—Rich Horton, Locus Magazine, November 2003

“…Other writers, wiry and wry, as lithe as dragonflies, may seem more vulnerable, but their grace, their maneuverability, becomes its own kind of tensile strength. They can travel farther, faster, and in disguise.”—Jeff VanderMeer, Locus Online

“…lovely Americana set-piece turned on its ear.”—Jay Lake, Tangent Online

“…An emotionally scathing yet tender insight into the frailty, ignorance, and misplaced motivations of that most ridiculous of animals, the human being.”—William P. Simmons, Infinity Plus

“…Robert Freeman Wexler dives into the heart of Americana in his chilling and tender novella.”—Rick Kleffel Agony Column


Snapshots: Nir Yaniv interviewed

The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie TidharYour first English-language story collection, The Love Machine & other contraptions, is just out. Tell us more about its contents and history.

The beginning, as stated in Frank Herbert’s Dune, is a very delicate time. Therefore I can’t say I remember much about the beginning of this book, for I was probably in a questionable state of mind then, an assumption I make mainly because I’m in a questionable state of mind most of the time, now included.

In any case, this book collects short stories written over a period of ten years or so. Most of them were published in Hebrew, and some were published in various publications in English and other languages. The recurring machines theme comes for my great love of everything mechanical, both in the real world and outside it, and from the fact that we are machines too. That’s also why I decided to augment the collection with some contraptions.

Contraptions?

Contraptions, to me, are just like fish: I’ve never eaten one. I mean – Gefilte-Fish doesn’t count, right? (If you don’t know what Gefilte-Fish is – count yourself lucky!)

In any case – after I finished selecting the stories to be included in the book, I sat and wrote twelve short-short ones, each dedicated to another impossible yet somehow very real machine. You’ll find there, among others, a Real Machine, an Id Machine, and even a Non Machine. They were not only great fun to write (and hopefully to read!) – I feel that they also bind the other stories of the collection together. Just like appetisers in a really good meal. You do notice the recurring theme of food in this interview, yes?

I’m ignoring it as best I can. So – you’re creative across a number of media: writing, editing, music and film. What are the connections between these? Do you ever stretch projects across several media? Are there even any boundaries?

One of the stories included in the collection is called My Uncle Gave Me a Time Machine. It is based on a song by the same name which was a part of my science-fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita. That album, in turn, was a part of a radio-play I tried to produce a while back, in which an Israeli rock band is kidnapped by intergalactic mafia and has to pay by performing all over the universe. So projects in one medium influence projects in another. But it also works in other ways: when writing, I listen to the words. They have to have a tune and a tempo. In other words, they have to be a sort of music. In short: my mind is a mess.

Also, I am tempted to say that there are no boundaries, but of course there are: to me, boundaries, or rather – limits – are vital for creating any form of art. When everything is possible and everything is allowed, the result is boring. That’s why I’m a great fan of concept albums and themed projects, and my own works always have strict guidelines.

You’ve collaborated successfully with World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar. How does a collaboration work for something as individual as writing fiction?

Lavie is a good friend and a great writer. I would compare collaborating with him to being in a rock band – I’ve been a bass player and a lead singer in several of those – only the work is serial instead of parallel: in a band everyone plays together at the same time, while a writing collaboration, in our case, goes chapter-by-chapter, one by him, one by me. But the rest is just the same: the alcohol, the drugs, the sexy young fans, the fights, the ruined hotel suites, the lot.

What’s special about Israeli SF? Who else should we look out for? Is it a good thing or bad to be labelled an Israeli SF author, rather than simply an SF author?

The very term “Israeli SF” is somewhat problematic, as even most Israeli fans fail to agree what it means. Is it SF written by Israeli authors? Or SF with Israeli protagonists? Or maybe SF written in Hebrew?

The other problem is that, even if we accept all of the above as genuine Israeli SF, that leaves us with only a few active writers, who don’t share much common ground besides that factor. An excellent Israeli writer I’d recommend is Shimon Adaf, whose work never ceases to amaze me.

As for the word “Israeli” being added or omitted to “SF author”, I’d say that this is mainly a question for the marketing department. I was born and raised in Israel, and Hebrew is my mother tongue, so yeah, I’m an Israeli guy, and my writing is influenced by that. On the other hand, most Israelis are sons or grandsons of immigrants: my grandparents are east-Europeans – mostly Polish – which explains the weird humor, and also the silly food. How “Israeli” is that? In some respects, my writing has more in common with Polish and Russian literature. Other Israeli writers have roots in such places as Spain, Egypt or Yemen, and draw their cultural background from there. And of course we all share the love, even if it’s in the form of nostalgia, for good old American and British SF.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on my second short film, about a young doctoral student who builds a time machine out of the microwave oven in his home, which gets stuck and sends him 6 hours into the future once every 20 seconds, that being only his second-worst problem, the first one being his extremely pissed-off roommate.

I’m also working on a very complex novel dealing with King Solomon, a character which always fascinated me. There are a couple of ancient Jewish legends telling about Solomon making a bad deal with Samedy, the king of the devils. Samedy takes Solomon’s signet ring, throws him to a distant land, takes his form and rules in his place. My idea: Samedy doesn’t take Solomon’s ring, but rather they exchange rings. And Solomon is not thrown in space, but rather – with the help of the ring he got – in time. Now starts the fun.

Describe your typical writing day.

I have a full-time job as a computer programmer, which, if you’re smart enough, is a good way of getting money for nothing-in-particular, meanwhile using an overly powerful computer for making your own stuff. I write in bits and pieces over the day, and in between I take pictures, edit video projects, soundtracks and texts, eat and sleep. I also do a bit of programming, yeah, but don’t tell my bosses at work – I don’t want them to get used to it.

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

The Tel Aviv Dossier, which I co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar. I shamelessly declare that it’s not only the craziest book I wrote, but also the craziest book I’ve read.

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

No excuses. If you find yourself in the need of any excuse whatsoever regarding any part of a story or a book – it isn’t good. Make it so good that you don’t need excuses. Or throw it away.

Also, regular meals are important.

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 am tempted to say that life will get better and that writers will get more money for their work due to the advances of e-books. However, I don’t think it’ll happen. The main factor for succeeding in any form of art was, is and will remain the marketing department. In other words, the concept of big publishers will stay with us, even while the technology changes.

I like paper books quite a lot, and the first thing people notice, when they get into my house, is the terrific amount of books in it. Well, maybe that’s the second thing, right after the terrific amount of bass guitars. Still, I do most of my reading on a Kindle these days, and I think it’s a game changer for the readers. Especially ones who used to carry one kilogram of books per flight, and can now reduce that to whatever it is the Kindle weighs.

Any last words to your audience, then?

No, sir. You haven’t heard the last of me!

More…
The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie Tidhar

Nir Yaniv is a writer, musician, editor and filmmaker based in Tel Aviv. His short stories were published in Israel and outside it, including such publications as Weird TalesApex Magazine and Chizine. And they have been translated into German, Portuguese and Polish. His first story collection, One Hell of a Writer, came out in 2006. Two novels he co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar were published in 2009: The Tel Aviv Dossier and Fictional Murder. His second story collection, The Love Machine & Other Contraptions, came out in 2012.

Nir founded Israel’s first online SF&F magazine, sf-f.org.il, in which he served as chief editor for seven years; went on to edit Dreams in Aspamia, a printed speculative fiction magazine, and created the first Hebrew science fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita.

Nir’s first short film, Conspiracy, was screened in film festivals in Israel and in the UK. He served in various film projects as cameraman, soundman, sound-editor, and even actor.

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Snapshots: Tim Lebbon interviewed

Coldbrook by Tim LebbonYour most recent novel, Coldbrook, is a refreshing take on Zombie Apocalypse: grounded in science, with the apocalypse – while suitably gory – a backdrop for the stories of some compelling, and very human, characters. What drew you to a sub-genre that could easily be seen as played out by now?

Partly because I’d never written a zombie novel, and partly because I wanted to try to write one that was suitably different. Oh, and also because I wanted to destroy the world again. I’ve done that so many times in novellas and short stories, but only once or twice in novels. So I wanted to write my own great big apocalyptic novel, and Coldbrook is it (so far … there will be more). I’d written a couple of short stories featuring zombies, and my novel Berserk is, I’m told, a zombie novel (though the Z word never once crossed my mind when I was writing it). I’ve also become fascinated with multiverse theory (who can’t be fascinated with it?) and wanted to wrap that into a novel at some point. This seemed the ideal one.

What’s the reaction been to Coldbrook?

It’s had excellent reaction from readers and reviewers so far. The novel took a long time coming – it was actually with another publisher for a while, and they publicised it pretty widely – so to actually see it out from Hammer at last was great. I think by then there were quite a few people itching to read it.

Your Toxic City trilogy has just been snapped up by ABC for development as a TV series. Tell us more about what will be happening.

Yes, that’s really exciting. I’m not heavily involved in the writing process (although I’m here as a consultant). ABC Studios optioned the trilogy, and it was immediately sold to ABC Network. What this means is that the pilot script has been commissioned, and writer Jaime Paglia is working on that right now (I’ve seen the proposal and it’s amazing). Early in 2013 we should hear more. It’s a much quicker process than any movie option, some of which I’ve had hanging for literally years.

London Eye by Tim LebbonI’m very positive about Toxic City because of the great team attached. Jaime wrote A Town Called Eureka (SyFy’s longest running series). And the director Alex Proyas is known for The Crow, I, Robot, and Dark City, amongst others. Watch this space!

Will this TV attention change your writing in any way? For instance, are you drawn to writing more televisual and cinematic work, either as scripts or with a view to adaptation?

I am writing scripts occasionally, and I’d love to do more. I’m working on a TV proposal myself right now for the UK, writing the pilot on spec (because I’m not known as a screenwriter), and I’m pretty excited about that. I’m also writing a spooky animated kids’ movie called My Haunted House for a UK producer and director. I’ve written a script with Steve Volk that’s doing the rounds, and Chris Golden and I adapted our first Secret Journeys of Jack London novel for 20th Century Fox. I love screenwriting and hope to do more of it in the future.

But writing novels and novellas, no, I never really think about the screen side of things. If you do that you might as well write a screenplay … and a novel should be what it needs to be. After I’ve written something I think about it, of course, because that’s the business. I think Coldbrook would make an amazing movie or TV series – imagine each episode taking place in a different Earth! – but the budget would be immense.

What are you working on now?

The script I mentioned above, My Haunted House. The pilot script for my TV proposal, tentatively titled Breaking Rocks. A short story with Mike Marshall Smith for an anthology. A YA novel with Mark Morris, The Trials of Toby Stone. A new novella for Spectral Publications. And just yesterday I heard that I’ve sold a new novel from a proposal, called The Silence, so I’ll be amping up to start that after Christmas. Lots of other stuff too … a new script, another novella, another TV proposal in the USA… all at varying stages, of course.

What will we see from you in the near future?

The second and third books in the Toxic City trilogy are due out next year, as well as my Star Wars novel Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void. Coldbrook will have a US release next year, too, which is great news. And at World Fantasy 2013, my new novella from Spectral will be launched.

Describe your typical writing day.

It usually fits around the kids going to school and my wife working. So I’ll start writing around 10am and usually finish around 3 or 4 when the kids come home. I do other stuff early morning and evenings, like emails, interviews, all the business side of things. And I also do a lot of exercising now – cycling, running, swimming – in preparation for an Ironman race next year, so that all fits in between everything else.

But some days, there’s a lot of window staring. Just part of the process.

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

For horror lovers, my novella collection White and Other Tales of Ruin. For fantasy lovers, my first fantasy novel Dusk (although I’d say that Fallen is better). And for something a bit different, my novella The Thief of Broken Toys.

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

I’m a big fan of Paul Meloy, a UK writer who only writes a few stories per year. His collection Islington Crocodiles is fabulous. Also, Adam Nevill is a fantastic writer, and he’s continuing his success writing horror novels. Perhaps my favourite of his up to now is The Ritual. Helen Marshall is a Canadian writer everyone needs to watch out for, her first collection of short fiction, Hair Side, Flesh Side, is out now and it’s staggeringly good.

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

Never give up.

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 wish I knew. Easy question first … I think readers will be reading the same stuff they are now, but with much easier access to different work, I’d hope that horizons expand. We certainly live in interesting times, and publishing is very volatile right now. I’m discovering that myself. I think everyone has to embrace the change rather than being afraid of it, because it can’t be stopped. Some people I know predict the end of publishing houses and agents entirely, but I don’t for a moment think things will go that far. There’s still business to be done, and most writers I’m sure would rather just write. Things will change, and then settle. I have a decent sized backlist that I’m keen to get out there as ebooks … but I’m not rushing things.

More…
Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon

Tim Lebbon is a New York Times-bestselling writer from South Wales. He’s had almost thirty novels published to date, as well as dozens of novellas and hundreds of short stories. Recent releases include Coldbrook, London Eye, Nothing as it Seems and The Heretic Land. Future novels include Into the Void: Dawn of the Jedi (Star Wars). He has won four British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, and a Scribe Award, and has been a finalist for International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Awards.

A TV series of his Toxic City trilogy is in development with ABC Network in the USA. He is working on new screenplays and TV proposals.

Find out more about Tim at his website www.timlebbon.net

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Writers and the black dog

This blog is a bit of an odd hybrid. Back when I set out, I didn’t want to run separate blogs for infinity plus, me the writer and me the everything else, so instead I started this one blog. Looking back, I’m not sure it was the right decision: perhaps I should have kept things separate. But then what’s a blog for if one day you can’t write about publishing, the next about gout and the next interview one of your favourite writers?

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

So… that black dog, as Churchill and many others have described depression.

A few things have prompted this post. One is an interest in how mental illness might relate to creativity. Another is my own experiences with the thing. And what finally made me write something is a series of unrelated posts on Facebook from friends who are discussing their own struggles with the condition.

I’m not sure if we’re genuinely more open about mental illness these days, or if it’s one of the facets of social media that it is suddenly easier for people to talk. In my own experience, a depressive episode (by episode, I mean a period that usually lasts months) goes through a recognisable pattern: a slow build-up, where you deny to yourself that anything is wrong, followed by the crisis when you break down, and then the long process of piecing yourself back together again, sometimes with therapy, sometimes with medication, and always with a lot of support and help from those around you.

It’s not always been that way: the first time I went to my doctor with depression, it was incredibly difficult (and that initial “I’ve got a problem” is never easy, even after you’ve been through it once). Slowly, I told him what I was feeling and that I needed help. And after all that, what did he do? He just said something like “Life can be like that” – and that was it. I don’t know what I’d expected, but it certainly wasn’t that “shit happens” response…

Subsequently I’ve been able to get more help whenever it happens, but it’s still incredibly difficult to acknowledge the problem and talk about it. But Facebook’s different: we have an extended network of friends who we don’t see every day; they’re close enough to talk to and share with, but the fact that it’s social media distances them, too, which makes it easier to talk about difficult topics. So, I wonder if people are opening up about this condition earlier, and more, than they might otherwise do? They certainly get a lot of support when they do so. Perhaps Facebook is actually some kind of therapy for depressives?

I also wonder if writers and creative types are more prone to depression than others. Maybe I get a skewed view because my friends tend to be creative professionals. Or maybe it’s just that writers are more able to get all luvvy about their depression: after all, they have the words to articulate what they’re experiencing. And as one friend commented recently on Facebook, as self-employed freelancers, writers also have greater freedom to talk about their depression. If you’re in conventional employment, the stigma of mental illness is still a big concern, and the risk of damaging your employability by acknowledging your illness is high. I’m lucky: in my day job my employers have been incredibly supportive when I’ve been ill, even though I know it creates tremendous difficulties for them, but a lot of others aren’t so fortunate.

According to health.com, writers and entertainers are among the top ten professions at risk from depression, with 9% reporting suffering from depression in the previous year; among men, it’s the job category most likely to be associated with an episode of major depression.

Of course part of this relates to the nature of the profession: we work alone, we follow erratic and often very long hours, our incomes are unreliable and intermittent, we face rejection, we face public criticism and even ridicule from people who don’t enjoy our work or simply have agendas of their own…

And, perhaps, part relates to the kind of people drawn to creative expression. Maybe an element of madness in our make-up gives us a perspective that helps us create. Maybe we need to be that bit different from the ‘norm’ simply in order to pursue our art to levels beyond the point where most people would give up and try something else. Maybe a drop of madness goes hand in hand with that arrogance that makes us want to create and share our creation with others.

It’s a complex thing, but it does appear to me that writers are talking about depression more openly now, which – while it might be dull for many – must generally be a good thing.

So, that difficult thing. That tipping point.

This year I’ve had some of the happiest times of my life, but also I’ve been struggling with a major bout of depression. I’m on medication for it, but the first lot only worked for a couple of months so I’ve just switched. I’ve suffered a lot of side-effects from the medication, including drastic interference with my ability to write fiction. I’m struggling through from day to day, trying not to let people down and yet knowing that I am. It’s not easy.

But at least I’m talking about it.


Our Friends: The Machines

A very serious documentary piece, by the wonderfully off-beat Nir Yaniv, has just appeared.

There’s only one kind of machine which does not exist!

More information about said contraption can be found here:
http://www.lovemch.com


New: The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv

The Love Machine and other contraptions by Nir Yaniv“Each story is a bright flash of odd brilliance… unmissable.” – Lavie Tidhar, World Fantasy Award winning author of Osama.

What happens when every wish you make is immediately granted by God? If you could use the power of music to travel through time? If your body was the battleground for a strange, alien invasion?

In this, his debut collection in English, Israeli author Nir Yaniv shows his remarkable versatility, collecting stories from over a decade of writing and a wide range of the fantastic. In turns humorous, lyrical, profound – but always entertaining – these are the haunting tales of an author at the height of his power.

“A fantastic, wonderful, weird story … Speaks very powerfully to the human spirit.” – Strange Horizons, on “Undercity”

“Hypnotic, surreal and prophetic, Nir Yaniv’s “The Dream of the Blue Man” is a story you won’t soon forget.” – World Fantasy Award winner Ann VanderMeer

The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv is available from:

…and don’t miss the trailer: Our Friends: The Machines!


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