Posts Tagged ‘Abaddon’

IMG_5227.JPG

Nik Abnett, author of the excellent Savant was kind enough to answer some questions about her latest novel.

Savant is a unique book – could you explain a little about how it came to be?

NIK: I’d had in mind for a long time to write a book about unconditional love; the sort of constant you find between parents and their children. I didn’t want to write something righteous or proselytising, though, and that’s part of the reason I thought that the SF medium would best suit the theme. Then, I happened to start reading a novel by a friend of mine. I’d bought the book, and got it signed, but when I came to read it, it simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I realised that a lot of contemporary SF leaves me a little cold; much of it seems to be so busy and action-based, and I wanted to read something quieter. It dawned on me that I wanted to write something quieter, too. SF/F is a brilliant medium for all kinds of ideas, because the scope is so endless. Of course, in the end, and in development, the book became about all kinds of things, but it began with that nugget, and I extrapolated as I went along. The original theme may not be transparent in the finished novel, but it’s the kernel from which everything began. In essence, it came to be, because I wanted to write something that I’d enjoy reading.

The setting struck me as retro-sci-fi (like some of those great 1970’s movies) – what was the thinking behind this kind of worldbuilding?

NIK: I’m a child of the seventies, and some of my favourite SF still comes from that period. As children, we are at our most receptive and least inhibited, and I think the stories we read or watch often have the biggest impact on us during that developmental period. I’m not sure I thought about the world-building in isolation. I begin a novel with only a theme to work with, so plot, action and world-building are all a product of the process of writing the book. Much of the world came as an organic response to the characters and situation. Perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that I was at school during the seventies and early eighties, and this novel is set in a college environment. Perhaps it was inevitable that the world-building might, in some small way, reflect my own experiences of that kind of institutionalisation… I could speculate endlessly.

Using a savant, Tobe, as one of your main characters is an interesting choice – especially considering his relationship to Metoo – how challenging was that to write and what inspired that choice?

NIK: It’s always interesting to try to represent characters that are in some way ‘other’. Every time a male author writes a female character, or a woman writer a male character, the same thing applies. I’m not a soldier, a monster, an alien, a man or a child, either, I’m a writer, but it would soon become very dull to write about writers and writing. We give little thought to how otherness is represented until it falls within the spectrum of people who are otherwise very like us. We take much for granted. Readers are less likely to take human others for granted, because we all have a social interest in their welfare, and, sometimes, a fascination with their conditions.

I guess the choice of writing Tobe and Metoo was about the line between the intellectual and the emotional. These two characters are simply at either ends of this spectrum of human experience. Some are more intellectual than emotional, and some the other way around. Tobe and Metoo both represent extreme personalities in their different ways. Was it challenging to write? I guess no more challenging than any kind of ‘other’, and the relationship between these two characters helped enormously. When I was in any doubt, I gave Metoo an emotional, but measured response, while Tobe tended to the intellectual, but irrational. Once I got the rhythm, these two were great fun to write.

Your novel also considers the notion of a political state (a very controlling one); what was the idea behind ‘Service’?

NIK: Initially, Service was simply a mechanism to give Tobe routines; order was key to his welfare. Of course, during the writing of the book, it became much more than that. Tobe’s disintegration into chaos is at the heart of this novel, and it had to be massively dangerous in order to set-up Metoo as his opposite, and for her to fulfil her role. What is more dangerous to the individual than the interference of the state?

I toyed a lot with the idea of the State as a controlling factor in my characters’ lives. Everything, as they say, is political. All of our lives are determined by the political decisions and machinations of our leaders, elected or otherwise. Service made the State not only visibly controlling, but it also gave the State a number of faces and personalities.

In contrast to that idea of total control (and spiralling paranoia) is a sense of empathy both from Metoo and certain members of ‘service’ which produces an interesting dichotomy – was that your first intention?

NIK: This was always going to be a novel about people, and essentially character driven. For that to be the case, I think characters always have to be empathic, or at the very least sympathetic. It’s possible to put any amount of data into a computer and come up with an answer, but that answer will never take personalities into account. For Service to feel real, and for the State to have any genuine impact on the story, it all had to be represented by fallible, feeling characters.

I was also enamoured with the action in Savant – the work stations and surveillance of ‘service’; compared to something like Fiefdom, how hard was it to create that kind of tension and atmosphere?

NIK: The tension was all there in my head, once I’d worked out what the novel was going to try to do. Getting that tension onto the page takes a certain amount of disciple to ensure a good build-up. There are a few simple tricks to that in the writing. Repetition is important, and rhythm. A good example can be found in Ravel’s Bolero with its repeated phrasing and increasing tempo. I think it’s also useful to be quite declarative on the page, matter-of-fact; obfuscation pulls focus. The other thing is pacing. Often, writers want to go faster, take shortcuts as the tension builds. I think it’s more useful to add detail, to slow things down, from time to time, to keep the reader hanging, so that the denouement is reached naturally and the story isn’t all over in a rush.

There’s a fantastic positivity and humanity at the heart of Savant – what can we expect from next?

NIK: Thanks. I’m glad you think so… I thought so too. I’ve actually begun writing a companion piece to Savant, working title Seekers. It’s set in space on the other side of the shield, so there’s a chance to find out what the threat to the Earth might actually have been. I didn’t tackle space, spacecraft or aliens in Savant, so it’s a chance to do something about that, although, don’t hold your breath for a more convention shooty-death-kill-in-space experience.

You can find Nik at –

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/nicola.vincentabnett
on Twitter: @N_VincentAbnett and @VincentAbnett (with Dan Abnett)
and on my blog: http://www.nicolavincent-abnett.com

IMG_5227.JPG

The Shield is Earth’s only defence. Rendering the planet invisible from space, it keeps humanity safe – and hidden. The exceptional minds of the Actives maintain the shield; without them, the Shield cannot function.

When an Active called Tobe finds himself caught in a probability loop, the Shield is compromised. Soon, Tobe’s malady spreads among the Active. Earth becomes vulnerable for the first time in a generation.

Tobe’s assistant, Metoo, is only interested in his wellbeing. Earth security’s paramount concern is the preservation of the Shield. As Metoo strives to prevent Tobe’s masters from undermining his fragile equilibrium, humanity is left dangerously exposed…

Savant is an extraordinary book, wonderfully written. It’s unique (and quite possibly one of the best novels I’ve read this year). It’s sci-fi at its most human whilst it’s concern is the human condition dealt with in such a sci-fi setting that it’s almost an enigma. It’s thoughtful and thought provoking.

The setting is slowly sketched out in small ways – there’s no major info dump, no big exposition. We are just there, watching and learning about this future Earth and it’s strange new culture. Academies cater to great minds and, in turn, each ‘master’ is served by companions, assistants and students. Some of these intellectuals are so brilliant that their very being helps to power a shield which protects the planet. However, none of the greater questions are ever really answered.

What we have is a very personal drama, played out on scale that, on one hand, affects the global community whilst, on the other, concerns only Tobe and Metoo. The ‘action’ for what it is, is based within an incident room type setting and suffers no less for it. CCTV-esque operators monitor minds and are themselves observed within a system called ‘Service’. Tobe’s digression into the maths of probability sets off a series of chain reactions within Service, forcing beaurocratic decisions and machinations to react in ever greater yet decreasing ways.

It’s thrilling and intriguing to read. These individuals caught in a system, and a system caught up in its own methodology all trying to deal with a problem that is really like a ghost in the machine. It’s a curious and charming world Nik Abnett has created, and the story of the relationship between Metoo and Tobe is delicately woven. The interaction between the global network of Service and the individual produces a brilliant dichotomy on which to base their narrative.

Savant is a hard book to pin down (and put down). It’s like some of the great sci-fi movies of the 1970’s with their weirdly retro-futuristic settings and their considered approach to the genre. At its heart is a simple story but, in itself, it’s a complex journey into the human mind.

Review copy
Published by Solaris Books

IMG_4505.JPG

Author Yoon Ha Lee was kind enough to answer some quick questions about her book Ninefox Gambit, some of the ideas behind her story and what we can expect next.

Could you give a brief introduction to who you are and to your novel Ninefox Gambit?

I’m a Korean-American writer living in Louisiana with my family and a very lazy cat. I got my B.A. in mathematics from Cornell University, although I’m not always sure my math professors would approve of what I’m doing with my degree!

Ninefox Gambit is about a disgraced captain, Kel Cheris, who teams up with an undead general, Shuos Jedao, to retake a fallen star fortress.
The good news: Jedao is a brilliant tactician and he may be the only one who can help her. The bad news: he’s also a mass murderer, and Cheris has to keep him from going rogue–if he doesn’t kill her first.

I found the symbols used in the book to be unique – could you explain a little on the inspiration for the ideas of moths (as space ships) and the signifiers of fox, raven and others?

I came up with the voidmoths because I wanted the spaceships to be biotech. Although the heroine doesn’t realize this, they’re actually enslaved cyborged spacefaring aliens. I went with “moth” because they’re creatures that can fly and it was a nice, succinct, one-syllable word. (Contrast, for instance, having space flamingos. Too many syllables! Also, very pink.)

The idea of a ‘calendrical’ technology was equally intriguing – can you expand on the ideas of math in the story?

The origins of the idea came from a couple places. First, I read a book by Marcia Ascher on ethnomathematics called Mathematics Elsewhere. It talked about different cultures’ calendar systems. For example, the Trobriand Islanders rely on the biological clock of marine annelids to set their calendar. I thought a lot about how the simplest act of scheduling relies on a mutually understood timekeeping system and cultural norms about being on time (or not).

Calendrical warfare came partly from the notion that dates come to hold particular significance in a given culture. I didn’t read Peter Watson’s War on the Mind: The Military Uses and Abuses of Psychology until after I’d written Ninefox Gambit, but it shows that the idea of exploiting other cultures’ special celebration dates in warfare for extra psychological effect is not a new idea.

Finally, I got the idea that different calendars induce different magical systems from vector calculus in college. It’s been a long time, but I was fascinated by gradients and vector fields, so I had this idea that at each point in space-time, you would have an associated set of laws of magic based on what calendar was dominant at that point.

The social landscape within the hexarchate is an interesting mix – what inspired the blend of ‘houses’ and hierarchical autocracy?

The hexarchate was always going to be a horrible police state because I wanted my characters to have something to rebel against. The houses, or factions, were inspired primarily by Alderac Entertainment Group’s Legend of the Five Rings (L5R), a roleplaying game and collectible card game (soon to be relaunched as a Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight Games) that I played for years.

L5R takes place in a fantasy samurai setting with zombies and dragons, and it has clans with different specialties, from the Crane, who dominate the courts with their artisans and duelists, to the Lion, who are honorable warriors with a strong connection to their ancestors. I loved the way that the clans gave people an immediate way to connect to the setting. Admittedly, I’m not sure anyone is going to identify with the hexarchate’s factions, because they’re pretty evil!

There’s a lot of political intrigue within Ninefox Gambit but also suggestions of a much larger universe – will we see more outside of the hexarchate?

Not much, unfortunately. We only really see glimpses of the world outside the hexarchate, mainly because there was so much plot already I ran out of space to do more than hint at anything else.

The ‘servitors’ also seem to be more than they appear – if it’s not a spoiler – will their importance become clearer in the next books?

Yes! They have important roles in the next two books, even if most of the characters don’t realize what’s going on.

Lastly, when is the next book available and where else can we find your work?

According to Rebellion’s website, the next book, Raven Stratagem, is due out in June 2017.

IMG_2712.JPG

I’m oddly fascinated by the idea of shared world fiction and the authors who end up working as “hired guns” for these franchises. Una McCormack, who has written for Star Trek and Doctor Who and is no stranger to these settings, is now about to embark on a visit into Eric Brown’s sci-fi series Weird Space.

Check out the blurb below for McCormack’s debut under the Abaddon banner..

Weird Space: The Baba Yaga
By Eric Brown and Una McCormack

What would you sacrifice for your family?
What would you sacrifice for peace?

Delia Walker has lost her job, her love, and the life she knew. What she’ll find in its place may be the future of us all.

The growing threat of the dimension-invading Weird has driven the Expansion government to outright paranoia. Mandatory telepathic testing is introduced, and the colony Braun’s World – following reports of a new Weird portal opening – is destroyed from orbit, at an unimaginable cost in lives.

Delia Walker, a senior analyst in the Expansion’s intelligence bureau and a holdout of the pragmatic old guard, protests the oppressive new policies and is drummed out. Sure there’s a better way, she charters the decrepit freighter the Baba Yaga and heads into the lawless “Satan’s Reach,” following rumours of a world where humans and the Weird live peacefully side by side.

Hunted by the Bureau, Walker, her pilot Yershov, and Fait – a Vetch child stowaway, fleeing slavery – will uncover secrets about both the Weird and the Expansion; secrets that could prevent a catastrophic war…

IMG_2332.PNG

Last year Abaddon Books and Chuck Wendig released a new set of gods into the world with the start of the shared world Gods & Monsters. Now the series will return with a new standalone sequel from Stephen Blackmoore: Gods & Monsters: Mythbreaker.

Since he was a child Louie “Fitz” Fitzsimmons suffered strange, violent and vivid hallucinations. As an adult he self-medicates in a sea of opiates, half-forgotten hook-ups and a career mismanaging the books of notorious Hollywood gangster Blake Kaplan. He’s not what you would called pious, so it’s as much of a surprise to Fitz as anyone to discover the truth behind his mysterious blackouts:

Fitz is an oracle to the gods.

In fact he’s the last sane oracle – all things relative – left, which might go some way to explaining why he suddenly finds himself pursued by a pissed off angel and a stream of new and old gods…

As Fitz will tell you, “as holy powers go, this one sucks.”

IMG_1923.JPG

Edited by Ian Whates and now in it’s third (and a half) iteration, Solaris Rising 3 once again brings forth a veritable feast of short sci-fi stories from a number of great authors, some more well known than others.

First up, I read Cat Sparks Dark Harvest after Mr Whates described it as military sci-fi with a difference. A slice of brutal life for grunts, stuck on an alien world, fighting things they don’t understand, Sparks captures the overlapping banter of soldiers perfectly. Hints and ideas are wonderfully woven to create a view of the world as the group of mercenaries encounter terrifying super-soldiers and the even weirder ‘nuns’.

The transition in perspective from the human soldiers, eager to escape the planet and just as eager to destroy everything that moves, to the nuns is a sharp, revealing contrast. Sparks has seemingly delivered a brief glimpse into a fully fledged world that visually and conceptually offers up a lot.

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s When We Harvested The Nacre-Rice is a haunting, dream-like story touched by elegant prose and a melodious rhythm. As two worlds engage in a conflict using only cyber attacks against the augmented senses of their respective enemies, turning days into chaotic storms of illogical madness, the protagonist of the story, Pahayal saves a stranger from drowning. In turns, that stranger’s true purpose and nature is revealed. The mental warfare escalates to physical aggression and the true cost of the conflict is uncovered.

Sriduangkaew’s worlds are wonderfully evolved re-imaginings and the strained yet deeply personal relationship between Pahayal and the stranger is intriguing. Sensitively written and superbly creative, this is a great opening story for an anthology championing new voices in science fiction.

IMG_1914.JPG

Christopher Fowler’s next novel, to be released in October, is set against the evocative backdrop of rural Southern Spain. Nyctophobia is a poignantly beautiful ghost story that explores what it truly means to be haunted.

Building upon one of humanity’s most primal fears – fear of the dark – Nyctophobia is a devastating and original tale for fans of horror and literary fiction alike, presented beautifully through Fowler’s iconic cinematic style


Isolated and beautiful, Hyperion House is a house of eerie symmetry; uniquely designed to ensure that one half remains always in the light and one half always in the dark.

When new owner Callie Shaw begins to uncover the house’s strange history she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the shrouded servant’s quarters at the back of the house, increasingly convinced that someone is living a half-life among the darkness there…

Solaris and Abaddon have recently been producing some great anthologies of late and Autumn 2014 will see them print three more collections. Check out the blurbs below.

20140715-134129-49289795.jpg

Following its critically well-received and continuingly popular predecessors Solaris Rising 1, 1.5 and 2, Ian Whates returns to curate this latest collection of cutting edge SF short stories in Solaris Rising 3.

With an exciting line up of authors that continues Solaris Books trademark of mixing bestselling, award winning and emerging authors to break new ground in SF publishing, Solaris Rising 3 is a beautiful executed SF anthology that resonates far beyond the known boundaries of the universe

Solaris Rising 3 pushes the boundaries of current SF publishing and hammers home, story after story, Whates’ mission statement to prove that SF is the most exciting and inspiring of all the fiction genres; offering the poignant reflection of humanity – often funny, often dark and always surprising – that sits at the heart of all great fiction writing, and stretching it across time and space.

With contributions from Ken Liu, Rachel Swirsky, Gareth L. Powell, Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne and many, many more, Solaris Rising 3 is a diverse collection of ground-breaking stories that will be essential reading for SF fans everywhere.

20140715-140746-50866804.jpg

From under the mirror balls of Studio 54 to the heart of a bloody Wizard war, this is Holmes and Watson as you’ve never, ever seen them before. In Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets Abaddon Books editor David Moore has brought together the finest celebrated and new talent in SF and Fantasy writing to create a new generation of Holmes stories that will confound everything you ever thought you knew about Doyle’s most famous characters.

Featuring witch trials, fanfiction and a host of grisly murders Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets is a contemporary look at the world of Sherlock Holmes that will go far beyond just delighting fans of the books, television shows and films, and provide a challenging new world for genre lovers to explore

20140715-140922-50962216.jpg


Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan takes up the mantle once again for the latest edition of Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy – the new generation of the acclaimed fantasy anthology series from Solaris Books.

With the incredibly warm public and critical reception of his SF based anthologies Reach for Infinity and Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 8, alongside two Hugo nominations (including Best Short Form Editor), 2014 really has been the year of Jonathan Strahan, and it looks set to continue with his final Solaris anthology release of the year: Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy.

Continuing the legacy of George Mann’s original Solaris Book of New Fantasy series with finesse, Strahan’s latest Fearsome Magics collection brings together some of the brightest and best names in fantasy writing and allows their imagination to run riot in an out-pouring of awe, wonder and – of course – magic.

From the creeping corridors of ‘Dream London Hospital’ (Ballantyne) to the omniscient tower of ‘The Safe House’ (Parker) and across into the archaic rural of ‘The Changeling’ (Bradley), Fearsome Magics paints a vivid tapestry of the fantastical worlds that sit just outside our reality; one in which mathematics and magic are interchangeable and where the wildest dreams of our imagination are realised.

Fearsome Magics: The New Solaris Book of Fantasy includes new short stories from Tony Ballantyne, Genevieve Valentine, Justina Robson, Robert Shearman, and many more

20140701-174008-63608005.jpg

I was very lucky to get to ask authors Nik Vincent and Dan Abnett a few questions about their latest book, Fiefdom. Scroll down a few posts and you can check out my review or, even better, grab the book and read it!

For those yet to read Fiefdom, could you give a brief explanation of the book?

Dan: A hundred years after Kingdom, the Aux tribes of Berlin survive in the old railway tunnels below the city. They scrap among themselves and tell the legends of their warrior forefathers and of Them. Evelyn War knows something that the others do not. She knows that the legends are real, that the mini-ice age is coming to an end and that Them are about to return.

Fiefdom is based on a comic book, what was it like moving the story from that medium into the novel?

Nik: I was a huge fan of Dan’s comic. It was spare, lyrical and beautifully realised in Richard Elson’s artwork. I also always believed there was a lot of room to reinvent it for long-form fiction. I liked the idea of taking that very limited language base and incorporating it into a long narrative. There were a lot of ideas and themes that could be expanded on. I also thought it would be interesting to leave the comic where it was so that strand of the story could develop organically. I really wanted to begin again in a new time and location with new characters, using the comic as the legend that is the root of this new incarnation.

How satisfying was it to extrapolate Fiefdom from the comic and what were the key moments you wanted to hit with the story of the Zoo Pack?

Dan: It was hugely satisfying to begin again and to take nothing for granted. Everything that the characters know in the comic book about their lives and their enemy, about their purpose is lost to legend at the beginning of Fiefdom. Everything has to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Nik: Balance was always the key. Balance between readers of Kingdom and new readers. Balance between characters imported from the comic book and reintroduced as legends in Fiefdom and the novel’s own protagonists. Balance between the very different landscapes of the comic and the novel. Ultimately, of course, the key moments were the revelations, whether they came in the forms of the legends or in the action. And Them… Always Them.

Could you explain a little what the process is like writing as a part of a team – how it happened and how it works?

Nik: It’s rare for Dan to work with another writer. His collaborative work is generally about other things, and then he completes the writing chores. Both of us write words on the page. Of course, we’ve known each other for over thirty years, and we share a writing room, whether we’re working on the same project or doing our own things.

Dan: We begin by working on ideas together. We assemble them into a plot, and break down chapters. Nik invariably starts the writing, and then we play tag. We work on each other’s words, and add more of our own, or ask each other to rewrite. Seamlessness is the key. We aim for something that works as a whole, so that it becomes hard to see where one of us has broken off and the other taken over.

Nik: I tend to do more research and I always do final edits. Dan tends to write more action sequences. That wasn’t necessarily the case with this novel. We generally buoy each other along. Enthusiasm, whether it is on the part of the reader or the writer makes the work easier. I tend to agonise more than Dan, but when he likes what I’m doing, the confidence boost keeps me going at times when it might seem simpler for Dan to step in and take over.

I’ve described Fiefdom as pulp fiction at its best – what was the motivation for the story?

Nik: Kingdom was one of my favourites of Dan’s comic books from the moment he told me about the idea for it. I’ve loved it from the beginning. There wasn’t much chance I’d ever write the comic, so I’ve been advocating for this novel for some time. When Abaddon Books started to talk about the possibility of writing a Kingdom novel I jumped at the chance. We like to work together when we can, and Dan was onboard very quickly.

The way that the ‘pack’ was slowly revealed to be hybrid warriors was, I
thought, brilliantly executed – how difficult was it coming from the comic
visual style to be so restrained with certain details whilst still conveying
such a rich world?

Dan: It was actually quite an organic process. I feel as if the Aux are old friends, but re-locating them in time and place gave me the opportunity to re-think their existence and give them new motivations. That made it much easier to think of them from the reader’s viewpoint and get to know them alongside the readership.

Nik: I think it helps that I really liked these characters. There’s a genuine innocence about them, and a very real threat to their existence that they don’t fully comprehend, despite having the historic tools for that understanding.

There’s lots of clever (almost tongue in cheek) elements to the story from the
names of the characters to the notion of hearers and ‘his master’s voice’ – what were the inspiration for those ideas?

Nik: Honestly, that was a mixed curse. Dan began it all in Kingdom. The character names were tricky, because there were very many more named characters in the novel than there are ever likely to be in a comic. We also wanted to switch from movie star names to names from Art and Literature, because we were switching hemispheres, moving to Europe. The names also had to resonate. We both have English degrees, but I also studied Fine Art, which came in very useful. There’s considerable weight behind many of those choices. Ezra Pound, for example, doesn’t just give us the meanings of ‘pound’ as in ‘to beat’ or ‘an enclosure where dogs are housed’; Ezra Pound was also a Nazi sympathiser, and this story is set in Berlin, so there’s that connection, too.

Hearers came directly out of Dan using Masters in Kingdom. Did I mention that a lot of this process is organic?

The setting was fantastic – what made you choose Berlin?

Dan: We wanted to send the Aux underground. Originally we were going to use the Channel Tunnel, but it soon became clear that a more complex underground system would better suit our needs. London was too obvious, but we wanted to use Europe. We were riffing on World War II themes at the time, and Paris was too complete. Berlin was bombed extensively, and, of course partitioned after the war. It is a fascinating city with a long and enduring history, and, of course, it has the underground railway that we were looking for.

Nik: The more I researched the city, the more obvious it became that it was the perfect choice.

There’s clearly a great background to Fiefdom, will we get to see more of that history or can we expect to see more of the world post-Gene the Hackman next?

Dan: We’re hoping that there will be more Kingdom and more Fiefdom. We’d certainly love the opportunity to revisit both incarnations of this particular universe.

JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR RGB

 

CB Harvey, a man with a PhD in videogame storytelling, recently took some time out to answer a few questions about his latest novella Dead Kelly.

1. The Journal of the Plague Year is made up of newcomers to Abaddon – could you explain the process by which you came to publish with them and how the editors influenced your story, if at all?

I’ve been a big fan of Abaddon for a long time. Dark and pulpy shared storyworlds are very much my thing. Some time ago Abaddon held (a highly unusual) open submissions round for new storyworlds and I seized my chance to pitch something to them. Although editor David Moore really liked my submission he liked another storyworld someone else had pitched a teensy bit more and had decided to go with that. However, I cheekily enquired as to whether, in that case, I could pitch to one of their existing lines..? Fortunately for me David said yes and the result is Dead Kelly.

David was great at reining me in, particularly when I used seventeen words where one very pithy one would do just as well. But the plot and my menagerie of despicable characters remained untouched.

2. You’ve written in a few shared worlds, how was it entering into the Afterblight realm and what kind of research was necessary for your story to fit?

By now I’ve written for a few different licenses in different media. Licensed media can be quite prescriptive in terms of the stories which are told – understandably enough, because someone’s effectively lending you their characters and storyworld and they want them back in pristine condition. At other times doing licensed work can be surprisingly flexible, depending on the property and the nature of the licensing arrangement.

By contrast, the Afterblight stories aren’t licensed but there’s clearly a need to maintain consistency with what’s gone before. I made sure that there were some references to elements in other Afterblight stories, at least up until the point at which the Cull really took hold. At that point I thought, because of Australia’s distance from everywhere else, and having established points of commonality, I could go on my own merry way. That said, I changed a particular twist because it was starting to seem way too much like a twist in another of the previous Afterblight stories: in the end that was serendipitous because it allowed me to take part of the story in a completely different direction, a development I was very happy with.

3. I’ve described Dead Kelly as ‘Mad Max on steroids meets Ned Kelly on crack’ – it’s an harsh tale of revenge and power: what was the kernel behind its inception?

When Abaddon originally put out their open submissions call I tried working up a ‘Weird Western’ idea set in late nineteenth century Australia. In the end I couldn’t quite get it to work so I instead pitched a completely different idea but Australia was clearly stuck in my head. Given that I’d only just moved back to London from Australia I guess that’s not surprising. I mean it’s the most extraordinary place in loads of ways and the environment seemed perfect for an Afterblight story. Given the globe-trotting nature of the Aferblight storyworld, it seemed a no-brainer to pitch a story set there.

While in Australia I’d talked to some friends about Ned Kelly, a character I’d been interested in for a long time. What really fascinated me was the time period, the mythology around him, but most of all that utterly iconic look. I mean, the helmet and the armour has got that steampunk-style incongruity about it which I find really intriguing. I wanted my protagonist, Kelly McGuire, to steal that look and use it to build his own mythology. In addition, while I was growing up my older sister and eldest brother were both a bit obsessed by the Mad Max films (this is before Tina Turner got in on the act), so they’re part of my cultural DNA. Clashing Mad Max and Ned Kelly together seemed entirely logical, and I needed a high-adrenalin style to make it work (hopefully it has).

4. The setting in Australia was inspired – how did it come about and did it require research?

The biggest influence was that I lived in Australia for eighteen months in an amazing place called Leura, which is just up from the Blue Mountains. My wife had been offered a job at the University of Western Sydney, so we moved ourselves and our kids from our cosy urban existence in South London to live in the mountains. It was a bit like ‘A Year in Provence’, only with snakes and spiders that can kill you.

Dead Kelly still required a lot of research, mainly because although I’d been to Melbourne I hadn’t lived there and I didn’t know it brilliantly well. I spent a lot of time getting the flora and fauna of the area around Melbourne right, as well as the geography of the city. Then I stumbled on the amazing web of storm sewers that runs beneath the city and the people that explore them. I really wanted to include those sewers, but getting it right was a real challenge.

5. There is the idea and use of myth or legend, a cunning notion by your protagonist – could you explain this idea of myth as power in your story?

The concept of a protagonist trying to create his own mythology emerged as the story developed, although looking back it’s clearly implicit in the idea – in the title Dead Kelly in fact. McGuire takes and wears Ned Kelly’s armour because he knows its impact, what it means to the people he’s trying to intimidate. Then he uses it to take revenge on the people he thinks betrayed him, and anyone who might be a threat. His ultimate goal is to build an empire, but also to ensure the survival of that empire and his legacy by any means possible.

While I was writing Dead Kelly a certain high profile politician died. I became fascinated by the way this individual’s flag-bearers sought to control this person’s mythology, and to cancel out any competing narratives. In fact, this idea of control versus chance is really key to Dead Kelly. McGuire is determined to control events; I guess we all know, or have known, people like that (though hopefully they don’t go on murderous post-apocalyptic rampages wearing armour).

6. Your Bio is quite intimidating (a PhD in videogame storytelling) and extensive, from comics to academia – how do all these forms of narrative, as different yet similar as they are, inform each other in your work?

Well, like lots of writers I augment the millions I earn from writing with a paltry academic salary. I teach and research what’s called ‘transmedia’, which is storytelling across media. I’ve always been interested in different kinds of storytelling, whether it’s books, comics, films, videogames, television, you name it, and the relationships between different kinds of stories. But it’s quite hard to find jobs where they’ll pay you to talk about this stuff. Academia affords me a way of doing it which is socially acceptable (or I like to pretend it does, at least. I may be delusional).

That said, the academic stuff doesn’t really cross over much into my fiction. I can’t actually think of anything guaranteed to kill a story quicker than difficult academic theory. And yes, I’m looking at you, The Matrix franchise.

7. How do you think you would fare in the apocalyptic wastelands and what strengths or skills do you possess to help you survive?

In the event of an apocalypse, I am not likely to be of any use to anyone, except possibly as a meal. Or maybe a mascot. I’ve often joked that I should carry a tag reading ‘No User Serviceable Parts’. My wife, she’d be fine. She’d whittle the family a three-bedroom house, no problem. And probably a Blu-Ray player. But she’d have me for breakfast. Literally.

8. What can we expect from you next – any more Cull stories currently being drafted?

The next thing of mine to appear will be a completely different kind of pulp novel for a small American publisher, set in a very familiar storyworld. In the meantime, I have something else I’m working on, which again will be very different.