Tag Archives: novel

New: Expatria – the boxed set, by Keith Brooke

Available for the first time in a single volume: the Expatria duology.

Expatria: the boxed setBook one:
The descendants of Expatria’s first colonists from Earth have rejected technology. When Mathias Hanrahan, heir to the primacy of Newest Delhi, wants to reintroduce the old ways he is framed for his father’s murder and forced to flee.

Recruited by a research team which is trying to relearn the ancient technologies, he goes to work for them, and against a background of impending war, Mathias discovers that strange messages are coming from space.

Book two:
For Katya Tatin, a passionate believer in and employee of the Holy Corporation of GenGen, the opportunity to join the mission to the recently rediscovered colony of Expatria is much more than a chance to spread the gospel. For her, it represents a break with the past on Earth, with the Consumer Wars and the subversives who seek to undermine the standing of the Holy Corporation itself. It offers a chance to reconfirm her faith.

On Expatria itself, and on the ancient arkships that orbit it, the news of the impending arrival of a mission from Earth further complicates an already murderously complex web of religious and political intrigue. For some, it looks like salvation from a backward-looking, superstition-ridden society; for others, it looks suspiciously like an invasion.

Amazon US – Amazon UK

Keith Brooke at infinity plus

On Expatria:

“Its carefully measured, consciously understated prose eschews any of the customary cheap stunts used by genre authors in an attempt to keep the reader whizzing through the pages … To describe it as gripping would be accurate but would at the same time mislead: it grips because of the reader’s absorption in the characters and the significance of the events rather than through any nonstop pulse-racing action. It introduces you to a world which, without your perhaps consciously realizing it, comes to permeate your mind, so that you have to shake your head to return yourself to 21st-century Earth … Brooke’s tale-telling is superb … a completely absorbing novel.” Hugo and World Fantasy Award winner John Grant

“Book of the Month … The mix of semi-pastoral life and scientific research is convincingly handled … The underlying conflict between religion and science is finely wrought … an absorbing piece of fiction. Highly recommended.”Gamesmaster International

“Books like this are proving that the British can write SF as good as any American… This is a marvellous book that, despite the sequel … is a complete novel in itself. Treat yourself: buy both, and read them over and over.” Nexus

“Brooke lies somewhere between Peter Dickinson and Barrington J Bayley in his novels: he tells one story, concentrating on one set of characters, while great events go on around them that are almost peripheral to their lives, but he does it with intense concentration and understanding … Brooke is an author well worth reading … I hope some publisher over here makes him available to American audiences.” Locus

“…brought beautifully to life … I enjoyed this book a great deal and will definitely buy the sequel.” Critical Wave

On Expatria Incorporated:

“For Katya, a devout apparatchik of the Holy Corporation of GenGen, her voyage to newly colonised Expatria is a chance to confirm a faith that has been undermined by her rebellious brother. That subversion, though, has only just begun in a story that brilliantly shows a world in which religious belief is used to secular advantage—where creeds are implanted along with genes.” The Times

“I have to admit to being truly astonished that this book, which is a direct sequel to Expatria, is neither simply the second half of one long story nor is it a lazy reworking of the first in a slightly different form. What we have here is a first-class novel of character that just happens to be set on the same world and use some of the same characters as the first novel. Keith Brooke has achieved something quite rare, in that the characters who we first met and saw grow and change in the first novel we now encounter and, knowing where they are coming from, can watch and enjoy and see them grow and change anew when their society changes due to new and different pressures. The first novel was of pressures from within, this one is of pressure from without, and both explore the effects superbly.” Nexus


Reviews and the fragile ego

Some of my writing friends tell me they ignore reviews. I even believe some of them.

But how can you not be interested in what readers have to say? Even if it’s a probably unrepresentative sample of readers, the ones who either choose to write down their response or are paid to do so.

Nowadays it’s hard to avoid your reviews even if you do want to. If you use Facebook, Twitter, etc, you’ll find that you’re tagged in posts mentioning reviews, and you can’t help but dip into them.

Now, I’ve been knocking around for a while now, and I’ve been reviewed just about everywhere. Also, I write reviews (most recently for the Guardian and Arc), so I’m aware of the constraints, challenges, complications, etc, that go with the territory.

My own take on reviews of my work is this: yes, I’m interested, but I’ll certainly consider a review’s context, whether it’s a good or a bad review. A good review in a national newspaper is great because it’s a review from a fellow pro who hasn’t necessarily chosen to read your book (although beware the complex relationships in publishing that could sway things one way or another); a good review on a sixteen year-old’s blog is great, too, for entirely different reasons.

Reviewers at all levels get it wrong: I’ve had lots of reviews that get the facts of a book wrong, which is very different to misunderstanding what I was trying to do in a book; those reviews are devalued because of this. And sometimes a reviewer really gets what you’re doing, or even sees depths or angles you weren’t aware of yourself. That’s pretty damned cool.

It’s impossible to separate all this from the usually fragile state of an author’s ego. I’ve written on here before about this, and how sometimes it feels like you’re writing into a vacuum. Why put your work out into the wild if you’re not hoping that people will respond? And how disappointing if there’s just silence? Reviews are one way of gauging this response, albeit an imperfect one.

There’s a context for the response to a review, too. Anyone who’s followed my tweets and bloggery will be aware that I’ve had lots of pretty pissy things affect me, and those I love, over the past few months. I’ve been on meds for depression for much of the last year; my wife’s been seriously ill, culminating in a big operation in January (from which she’s now making a fantastic recovery); one of my daughters has had two long spells of several weeks in hospital. And there have been lots of other, lesser, woes.

This is my context, and after a couple of recent bad experiences in the publishing world I couldn’t help but start to wonder if it was all worth it. When I passed 25 years as a writing pro last year (with two more books out that year), I wrote about this. Quite simply, I was tired and depressed, and writing was taking too much out of me.

This year? Well, a few things have slotted into place. I’m in a better frame of mind (maybe it’s the drugs, but hey); my wife is doing well; my daughter is back out of hospital again today; I’m doing things I like, and starting to get the urge to commit science fiction once again. And on that front, the writing one, it was fantastic to hear a few weeks ago that my novel Harmony (published in the UK as alt.human) had been shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award.

And, returning to the subject of this post, reviews… I’ve had some lovely ones in the last few weeks, and that really makes a difference: someone has given you a chance, someone has got what you were doing.

Just to pick out a few examples…

Upcoming4.me picked out the new edition of my novel Lord of Stone (always one of my personal favourites), describing it as “gritty, clever and thought provoking. Well recommended!”

And then, just yesterday a couple of tweets caught my eye.

Andreas Wittwer said:
“alt.human (aka Harmony) by Keith Brooke, one of titles that have been taken off the to-read stack in the past weeks: http://t.co/QnftBvtVPy
– a link which led to a lovely review that said, among other things, “Like with The Accord, I feel that I again have to make a note about the prose. It’s more than just pacing and skillful use of narrative modes, but also that Brooke has something less tangible, a certain command of tone, that few novelists can manage.”

And in another tweet Michael Bround said:
“Wrote a thing about @keithbrooke‘s oddly untalked about (in my circles) #Harmony and #TheAccordhttp://bit.ly/Y5AgSn
– leading to a review of both The Accord and Harmony, in which he said, “Keith Brooke is a Science Fiction author I never hear anything about. Which is profoundly weird because he is really, really good… If I were going to create a list of ten Sci-fi novels everyone should have to read, The Accord would be among them. I do not understand how this novel isn’t a bigger deal.” And, “Harmony is just another masterful Sci-fi novel that should also be a bigger deal than it apparently is.”

When a writer is looking for a response, when a writer’s fragile ego needs a bit of nurturing… well, it doesn’t get much more rewarding than responses like these.


Up for a Dick

Harmony by Keith BrookeLovely to wake up this morning to the news that alt.human/Harmony has been shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award for best original paperback.

For an author who’s spent the last twenty-five years chugging along in the background it’s quite a shock, to say the least.

Result to be announced on Friday, March 29, 2013 at Norwescon 36 in Seattle.


Snapshots: Robert Freeman Wexler interviewed

In Springdale TownWhat kind of writer are you?
Geologic. Words, thoughts, ideas materialize slowly and find their way to the page.

What are you working on now?
A novel, tentatively called Recollections of a Malleable Future, but I also call it New Springdale Novel, because it’s set in Springdale.  I’m around a third of the way through it, but I’ve put it on hold to work on a novella.  The novella is a historical/Western-ish thing set around the Gulf Coast of Texas in 1888.  It’s a crime/detective story with strangeness.  I’m about halfway through and still trying to think of a title.

What’s recently or soon out?
This is the longest period I’ve had without new things out.  I’m looking for a publisher for a short story collection.  The Western novella is supposed to come out from PS at World Fantasy in Brighton…assuming I finish in time.

In Springdale Town is one of those stories that plays with the boundaries between the weird and the very real. Tell us about the story’s origins and why it became something you had to write.
It really started when I went to a movie theater and no one was there (I describe that situation in the Afterword; that doesn’t mean it really happened—I fabricate many things—but in this case it’s true). I had been thinking about writing a Jonathan Carroll-type of story in which the people from a television drama are actually real. After writing a bit about a man who can’t find other people, I realized that I had found the television program story. And had hooked myself, so I had to finish it.

Describe your typical writing day.
I write for twenty to thirty minutes Monday through Thursday during lunch breaks at work, then longer on Fridays. Rarely on the weekends. I wish I had more time, but I’ve learned to be efficient with the time I have.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Besides In Springdale Town, newly released in ebook from Infinity Plus…? I’m still (after all these years) looking for a U.S. publisher for The Painting and the City. It came out in 2009 from PS, in French translation from now-defunct Zanzibar Editions, audiobook from iambik audiobooks…but no U.S. publisher.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
I recently posted on my blog about a fine contemporary noir novel called Robbers, by Christopher Cook. Older writers, Robert Aickman and Arthur Machen, newer writers, Michael Cisco, Brendan Connell, Kaaron Warren, Sébastien Doubinsky, other writers available from Infinity Plus, Iain Rowan, Neil Williamson, Anna Tambour.

Who are the people who’ve made a real difference to your writing career?
Teachers from Clarion West: Lucius Shepard, Michael Bishop, Nicola Griffith, people who’ve published me, mainly Peter Crowther of PS—without him the world would be a sadder place of fewer books.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Don’t write what you think will sell. Write what comes from yourself, in a way that only you can write it. Otherwise you’ll sound like everyone else. There’s a market for people who sound like everyone else, so you’ll sell a lot more books than me, but that’s my advice.

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 can’t tell you. I figured it out, but it’s a secret. No one else has figured it out. Just me. All will be revealed at the proper moment. No sooner.

Any other questions you’d like to have been asked? Feel free to add and answer them, and I’ll pretend to have asked them.

I’d like to say thanks for putting this new Springdale ebook together. It’s great to give new life to the story, send it out to find new readers.

More…
In Springdale Town

Robert Freeman Wexler’s latest novel is The Painting And The City, PS Publishing 2009. His new infinity plus novella, In Springdale Town, originally came out in 2003 from PS Publishing and was reprinted in Best Short Novels 2004, SFBC, and in Modern Greats of Science Fiction, iBooks; his other work includes a novel, Circus Of The Grand Design (Prime Books 2004 and infinity plus ebooks, 2011), and a chapbook of short fiction, Psychological Methods To Sell Should Be Destroyed (Spilt Milk Press/Electric Velocipede 2008). His stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including PolyphonyThe Third AlternativeElectric Velocipede, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He lives at Sanity Creek, Ohio with his wife, the writer Rebecca Kuder, and daughter Merida Kuder-Wexler.

Buy stuff:

 


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


Twenty-five years

So… almost to the day, I’ve been twenty-five years a professional writer (the editing, publishing, book-designing, etc, were added a bit later).

The tally so far:

  • 73 short stories, the first published two years after I started writing professionally (I count August 1987 as the start of my pro career because that’s when I started to write full-time, albeit with no income to start with, and the first story I wrote that month was ‘Adrenotropic Man’, my first sale to Interzone) and several featured in recommended lists and Year’s Bests
  • 8 novels under my own name
  • 4 young adult novels as Nick Gifford
  • a collection of short stories written with Eric Brown (is this one book or two? The first edition in 2000 included a couple of solo stories; the 2008 edition dropped those two and added a new collaborative novella, and so is quite substantially different)
  • 6 collections of my own short fiction
  • getting on for 200 book reviews for a range of publications, including the Guardian, Interzone, Foundation and many more
  • 2 or perhaps 3 anthologies co-edited with Nick Gevers (see why I have trouble counting up how many books I’m responsible for? There’s the difficulty with how to count my collaborative collection written with Eric Brown, and here there’s the question of how to add up two separate anthologies which were later published by a different publisher in a single, fat volume – two books, or three?); we also co-edited an issue of Interzone
  • editor of a non-fiction, kind of academic book about SF
  • 10 years of editing the online genre fiction showcase infinity plus, featuring over 2 million words of fiction, more than 1,000 book reviews, more than 100 interviews and much more
  • a fair number of non-fiction essays, interviews and journalistic pieces
  • and a few things under various other pen-names

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve kept myself busy for the last twenty-five years.

So where does this leave me?

Quite frustrated, as it happens. All this work, all those fantastic reviews, and yet still I seem to be the kind of writer very much admired by a smallish number but unknown to most; I’ve published regularly, but have rarely had a regular publisher for more than a few years; I’ve had at least one pretty big bestseller, but that was nearly ten years ago now; I think I have a reputation as someone who works away and achieves a lot; and I think my last four novels are among the best things I’ve written.

Is that enough?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m craving awards and media attention (although it’d be nice not to feel that each book is published into a vacuum), but I really do wonder if all the personal sacrifice is worth it.

Twenty-five years in the business and yet again I’m faced with slogging away at a book that I’ll care passionately about but may never be published.

Twenty-five years, and this year I’ve had two books published by fantastic publishers (Solaris and Palgrave Macmillan) and am I really thinking that now might be the time to go into semi-retirement? By this I mean that I love to write, and want to continue, but I’m just bone-tired of slogging away writing on spec when my editing and pseudonymous writing bring more regular and guaranteed response and reward, even when what I regard as ‘my own’ writing is what I really love to do.

If anyone likes my work enough to ask me to write a story for their publication then I’d love to hear, but right now, well… right now, other than for those invitations, I think it’s time to dig out those slippers and take a break from working on spec.

Note: tomorrow I might feel entirely different. We’ll see.


US edition of Harmony out today!

Harmony by Keith BrookeOut today in the US:

Harmony, a Fermi paradox alternate history about an Earth that has always been occupied by aliens.

“A startlingly new take on the theme of an Earth under alien occupation. The  far-future Earth revealed to us is both familiar and weird, and Keith Brooke’s vivid, high-definition prose makes us see it all with magnificent clarity, as if we were there, sharing the ruins and rubble with his strange but all too human characters.” – Alastair Reynolds
The UK edition (called alt.human) is out in early June.

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