Monthly Archives: June 2013

War Stories: a new anthology from Andrew Liptak and Jaym Gates

War stories… I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with them. My kind of SF is the polar opposite of all those gung ho militaristic right-wing wet dreams that are pretty much a sub-genre in their own right. I’d hate to write anything that might be seen as glamorising combat.

And yet… I loved war stories as a kid, whether they were the adventures of Biggles or the Combat! TV series and all kinds of war movies. And looking back on my writing career, I can see that a fair proportion of my output has explored various aspects of war, from my angry young man first novel Keepers of the Peace to my post-war fantasy Lord of Stone and my recent Nick Gifford ebook, “The Ragged People”.

Fiction is all about conflict, after all, whether it’s the tensions of a love triangle, a murder thriller or a courtroom drama: it’s the conflict that makes things happen, that creates story; and conflict doesn’t come much more dramatic than warfare.

Just announced is an anthology of war stories, edited by Andrew Liptak and Jaym Gates. Not stories that glamorise or sensationalise, but fiction that explore “the cultural, social, political and psychological repercussions of modern war”. The editors have already had strong interest from some great authors, including  TC McCarthy, Karin Lowachee, F Brett Cox, Laura Anne Gilman, Will McIntosh, Joe Haldeman and yours truly (they’ll be including my story “War 3.01”). They’ll also be running an open submission period later this year. It looks like being a really interesting – and no doubt entertaining – book, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

War Stories will launch on Kickstarter in early September, with a variety of perks for backers, ranging from an ebook / physical copies of the anthology, to prints of the cover and other exciting things to come!

To follow the progress of the anthology’s planning, and to get sneak peeks, excerpts and news from around the military science fiction world, you can visit the project’s website, follow the project on Twitter (@warstoriesantho), or like the anthology on Facebook.

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Work in progress

So I’m back in the thick of it and loving it: working on the final edits for the serial I’ve written for Aethernet, the magazine of serial fiction.

It’s the story of colonists on an incredibly placid planet. Getting on for a century since colonisation, the biggest upheaval encountered in that time was a storm, about forty years ago. Not much of a storm, even, but it was notable because, otherwise, the place has been so welcoming.

So when a wall of storm clouds stretching from horizon to horizon approaches Edge City one morning, people are slow to catch on, and even slower to take it seriously. Even Greta Arbonne, a trained scientist researching possible reasons for the planet’s environmental placidity, can’t really grasp the devastating scale of the approaching storm until it strikes; meanwhile, runaway rebel Shenita gets caught up in the novelty and excitement of raindrops the size of her fist and winds you have to lean into just to stay on your feet. But when the storm intensifies, ripping off roofs and destroying buildings, plucking people up into the air and away… Greta and Shenita are faced with their own journeys through the devastation and the horrors of past and present.

And then there is Luther. A man who regains consciousness in the ruins of a flattened building as the storm wreaks havoc all around. A man who has woken with recollections of distant Earth when no-one on Domus could possibly have such memories. A man who could be the answer to questions neither Greta nor Shenita have yet realised they need to ask.

The stories in this serial are:

Memento 1: From Out of a Blue, Blue Sky
Memento 2: There Came a Storm
Memento 3: To End All Storms
Memento 4: A Cleansing

It’s great to be working on big SF ideas again, lovely to be writing in a form I’ve not tackled before, the serial. My first reader loved it, providing only a fairly brief list of line-edit queries. And ever since I got to work on this set of stories, my head has been buzzing with what comes next, as the story continues and becomes novel-length…


Ebook pricing, again; or “Fifteen quid for an ebook?”

So here’s the situation…

I’m partway through Eric Brown’s crime novel Murder by the Book, and loving it. I’ve been encouraging Eric to write crime for years and now he has and it’s a great read, full of fantastic characters and lovely 1950s London period detail.

And then, yesterday, when I was about to return to it… where in hell was that book? We turned the house upside down, but couldn’t find it. It literally is a mystery. I have every confidence that it will turn up again at some point: accidentally picked up with someone else’s books, knocked under the sofa, whatever.

But I want to know what happens next!

Simple, I thought: I popped over to Amazon to get a copy for my Kindle, happy to spend a few quid just so I could keep reading without break.

Two problems with that, though:

  1. Although the hardback came out in March, the ebook won’t be out until July. What reason is there for this? There can’t be a logistical explanation: the ebook hardly needs physically shipping to distributors, and it’s not exactly labour-intensive to produce; I’m sure the file is just sitting there, gathering virtual dust while it awaits publication. I can’t see any way they would gain sales by the delay; if anything they’d lose them, as people like me go looking for the book, find it’s unavailable, and then move on to other things.
  2. It’s priced at £14.90. Come again? Fifteen quid for an ebook? This is where I’m completely baffled by the publishers’ policy. Who do they think is going to buy an ebook at that price? Is there some kind of logic that says “While it looks good to have an ebook version available, we don’t want people to actually buy this format”…?

I get the reasoning for pricing the hardback at £19.99. Presumably the vast majority of sales at this price are to the library market, and the higher price makes sense given that each copy of the book will get multiple readers. But £15 for an ebook at Amazon? I’d love to know which part of the market publishers Severn House are targeting with this strategy.

The only possible explanation I can think of is that they think potential buyers will be horrified at the price and opt to buy the slightly more expensive hardback instead. But that makes no sense: the profit margin on the hardback is so much lower, because of production and distribution costs. They could price the ebook for a fiver and make just about as much as they make from the hardback, and they’d actually, erm, sell copies.

An Eric Brown crime ebook at £5 would sell. If anyone could explain to me how even a novel as good as this is will sell ebooks at £15 I’d love to be enlightened.


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