Posts Tagged ‘Abaddon’

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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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After Malcolm Cross’ fantastic Orbital Decay, I couldn’t help but read the second novella in Journal of the Plague Year. But, where Cross’ story was full of claustrophobic darkness and creeping isolation in space, the next instalment was as different as could be. Harvey’s take on the Afterblight is all sun bleached-parched Earth and brutal, full throttle action. It’s a story that doesn’t let go as it powers forward into ever increasing violence.

Set in Australia, mere months after the outbreak of the disease that has destroyed the planet’s population, the action focuses on Kelly McGuire. A former gang boss and violent criminal who went on the run just before the ‘Cull’ struck. Whilst he made good his escape from the police in the outback, the apocalypse took Australia and left it in ruins and a chance encounter, that ends badly for the poor souls who run into McGuire, sets him on a path back toward his old haunts and a chance at vengeance.

McGuire, we soon discover, is a fully functioning psychopath who was on the run because somebody grassed him up during his last robbery. He begins to encounter old members of his gang and quickly begins to take his revenge just as quickly as they try to eliminate the obvious threat he poses to them and their new found status. Clearly, in the apocalypse, men and women with few morals and the skills to survive have found their niche. These guys are old school crims where it’s all business even as someone tries to set you on fire to send a message…

The story follows McGuire as he goes from encounter to violent encounter, his history slowly revealed and his total amoral attitude and desire for control pushed to the fore. But, that’s not to say this protagonist is stupid. Far from it. He quickly appraises the situation and realises what he has to do to be the top dog once again. Using an old Australian legend that is Ned Kelly’s armour, found in a museum, coupled with his own legendary status as Dead Kelly, the criminal, McGuire uses violence and mythic symbols as motivating reasons for his position of power.

This is the essence of Harvey’s text, it’s about control and power whether that is found by using mythic symbols, such as religion or legend, or through violence, condoned or otherwise. But, it is also about legend (and violence) as legacy – not just what those symbols stood for in the past; instead what will they mean for the future. This is McGuire’s real journey.

CB Harvey’s story has some great twists and turns at the end, things that both explain and conclude the novella brilliantly. On its way there, though, it is an adrenaline fuelled, barn-burner of a read. Populated by tough, brutal characters and the madness of hope and crushing reality in the face of absolute desolation, Harvey’s tale reads like a mix between Mad Max on steroids and the historical legend of Ned Kelly on crack. It’s energetic, exciting and extreme in its take on the apocalypse because, in the end, violence and rage win out. If you’re looking for a rush, Dead Kelly will deliver.

Review copy
Published by Abaddon