Ian McDonald's River of Gods comes in at # 4.
Joel Shepherd's Crossover is # 7.
And Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter is # 9.
Pyr is also given the "Best Thing Since Sliced Bread Award", with the comment that we are "a breath of fresh air in both the fantasy and science fiction genres."
David Louis Edelman's Infoquakeand Joel Shepherd's Crossovertie for fifth place. And, in a list that includes Tobias S. Buckell, Kim Stanley Robinson, and John Scalzi, the number one spot is given to Ian McDonald's River of Gods.
Of Infoquake and Crossover, Ryun Patterson writes:
"This pair of books is a great example of what Pyr is doing right. Infoquake is a tech-heavy exercise in scientific speculation that combines economics, high technology and business mechanics into an all-too-human story of greed, loss and redemption. Crossover isn’t satisfied with being just another hot-chick-android-assassin book and goes for some heavy-duty characterization (not unlike what’s been going on in TV’s Battlestar Galactica) that makes the kicking ass that much more tremendous."
"It’s at once cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk, awash in the verbiage of globalization and emerging-markets uncertainty. As the story’s huge cast of characters tumbles toward their individual destinies in tomorrow’s India, it’s hard to believe that McDonald doesn’t have a time machine stored somewhere in his backyard..."
And they open the list with this comment about the Pyr imprint:
"The biggest story of the year, in my opinion, is Pyr’s rise to prominence as a high-quality sci-fi imprint. Pyr has managed to round up a stable of authors and titles that represents the cutting edge of sci-fi and backs it up with promotion and marketing that pretty much outdoes the other imprints out there. Bravo, Pyr. Here’s hoping for an even greater 2007."
Congratulations to all six authors. On this end, we'll certainly do our best to make 2007 even better than 2006.
Thus, in the spirit of PKD, who, I believe, would have appreciated Infoquake, I present these wonderful excerpts from the Babel Fish translation:
"We speak instead of Infoquake, novel of debut of trentacinquenne the American David Louis Edelman, programmatore, web designer, journalist and now also ski fi writer (operates its, between the others, the situated one web of the U.S. Army), which it seems to have inaugurated a new fantascientifico kind that same it defines one via of means between Dunes and the Wall ßstreet Journal. Interviewed from Ski Fi Wire, Edelman has delineated the weft of the book centralized on the figure of Natch, a businessman pitiless and lacking in scrupoli whose scope consists in launch on the market one new technology of which it ignores the real essence, potentially dangerous."
And, my favorite, this piece contrasting Infoquake and it's forthcoming sequel:
"While in Infoquake the action regards mainly the part, so to speak, mercantilistica of the matter, with taken care of descriptions of the tactics of sale and all the dirty ones makes up that they put in field the speculators without scrupoli, in Multi-Real the vicissitude takes a fold more political, even if the pure action does not lack in both cases, guarantees Edelman. Insomma, after the fantapolitica, the fantathriller, the fantaeconomia, the fantastoria etc etc, is the turn of the fantabusiness. "
Who couldn't be for that! Thank you Babel Fish and thank you, most importantly, Fantascienza, for helping spread the word.
Update: While we're on the subject, Paul Cornell - he of Doctor Who novel, audiobook & television fame - has just selected Infoquake as his favorite SF novel of the year. As he describes on his blog, the House of Awkwardness:
"My favourite SF novel of the year. A future of business and competition that we can all identify with, which neatly avoids apocalyptic cliché, and thus the adoration of the British SF critics. I’ve blogged about it before, otherwise I’d say more. And hey, catchphrases you can use online: towards perfection!"
From the page:
Other than writing, what other jobs or professions have you undertaken or considered?
The most interesting thing I've actually done would be covering the women's basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 for an American internet magazine. Absolutely hectic, the only time I've ever worked 18-hour days. Considered? As a kid, I wanted to be a fighter pilot or airline pilot. Then, a movie director. Otherwise, I think I might have made a good Intel agent for CIA, ASIO - not a spy, just someone who analyses behind the scenes.
First, Neth Space remarks on David Louis Edelman's Infoquake:
"New ideas in the world of science fiction are hard to come by, and to be honest, I’m sure just how new Infoquake really is, but it feels new. David Edelman’s debut is about cutthroat economics, technologic innovation, and government control that are played out in corporate boardrooms, work stations, and product release presentations. Most importantly, Infoquake remains engaging throughout."
Then Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, along with some good things to say about Pyr, praise a book "that could elevate fantasy to new heights" when they say of Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter:
"...a superior tale, one that should satisfy even jaded readers. Surreal, imaginative, captivating, unique -- there's a lot to love about this one. Add this novel to your 'books to read' list."
"The book is simultaneously a chase novel and a romance, with various people trying to rescue family members and maintaining or starting relationships along the way. Love strikes us in the oddest places sometimes, and at the most awkward times. Its perversity is what makes it so addictive, I think. If it always came when and how we wanted to, where would be the fun in that? I'm getting married next year, to a wonderful woman who, like me, thought she would never tie the knot. That we're both willing and eager to do this thing that we've resisted for so long, with other people, is testimony to the amazing transformations that love can wreak, for good or ill, on the unsuspecting. To a certain extent, The Blood Debt is also about that."
I'm very excited by this book. First, it's one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time, and second, when it debuts in the US next fall, it will mark our first serious foray into epic fantasy. Yes, we've done some (I think) excellent fantasy already - more of it than people realize - with books like The Prodigal Troll and The Crooked Letter that I am very, VERY proud of. But those are fantasy plus, in this case fantasy plus wonderfully-realized Tarzan of the Apes pastiche and fantasy plus brilliant metaphysical quantum physics inspired afterworlds. They are tremendous books and you should read them right now if you haven't already (Go ahead; I'll wait) - just not what people think of when they speak of the post-Tolkien epic fantasy genre, the sure enough, dyed-in-the-wool fantasy of knights and wizards on a quest in an invented, secondary world. Which I've held off on publishing at Pyr until now, because, well, The Blade Itself is the first such work that came across my desk and knocked both my socks off at once. (I've had one or the other sock knocked off at a time before, but not both! Not both I tell you!) Because The Blade Itself is brilliant and subversive and imaginative and hysterical and dark, with great, great characters, none of which are entirely good or entirely bad, moments that make you ache and moments that are laugh out loud they are so funny without the book actually being a comedy. And I can't wait for you to see what I mean. (Of course, if you live in the US, I do urge you to wait. If you live in the UK, go right out and get the Gollancz edition right now, then come tell me what you thought.)
Meanwhile, check out Joe's interview, where he pontificates on such important concerns as:
"Characters, dialogue, humour, action. And the unfolding of the whole series will hopefully demonstrate that I can put a plot together in a tight spot as well (fingers crossed). The area for which I’ve garnered the most praise, however, is the nice feeling paper in which my books are bound. If you like nice feeling books, you can't go wrong with The Blade Itself."
""There are programs to help you stay awake, and ... the beginning chapters revolve around a program called 'NightFocus 48,' which enables you, during the nighttime, to see better... "There's [also] a program ... called 'PokerFace 83. 4b.' If you want to project zero emotion, to prevent somebody from getting a read on what you're thinking, you fire up this program real quick, and your face just goes to this poker face, essentially. There are lots of programs like that, and I tried to give the impression these people are operating these programs all day long. It's almost like when you're sitting at a computer, there's the antivirus program going on in the background, there's a defragmenting program going on, Windows Update is updating, or a Linux package is updating. So these people are running thousands of programs all day long, [with] 90 percent of them just going on in the background; they're probably not even aware of them."
Meanwhile, good words from the December 15th Library Journal regarding Mike Resnick's Starship: Pirate:
"After his crew rescued him from trumped-up court martial charges, Capt. Wilson Cole, formerly a member of the galactic Republic and now an outlaw, decides to turn to piracy to survive. His version of what pirates do, however, differs from the standard pillage-and-plunder mode; other pirates are his chosen quarry. This sequel to Starship: Mutiny, set in Resnick's Birthright Universe (A Hunger in the Soul; "The Widowmaker" series) shows the author's genuine flair for spinning a good yarn. Snappy dialog, intriguing human and alien characters, and a keen sense of dramatic focus make this a strong addition to most sf collections, with particular appeal to the sf action-adventure readership."
This is our first time working with artist Nick Stathopoulos, but not his first time illustrating a work by Jack Dann. If you look closely there is an easter egg buried in the cover, a reference to the cover of an Australian edition of the book which Nick also painted. Trouble spotting it? Here's a hint.
Cover design is once again by the wonderful Jacqueline Cooke. Right click to enlarge, of course. All very pretty, no?
"Macrolife is a novel with ideas at the fore. ... There's a welcome complexity to the issues examined. For instance, technology is not characterized as something wholly good or bad; but, more accurately, as a potential source of both problems and solutions, depending on how it is used... Zebrowski does not shy away from looking at the downside to macrolife; and there is much debate on the rights and wrongs of interfering with planetary civilizations, with no easy answers... The Library Journal quote on the cover says that Macrolife is 'one of the 100 best science fiction novels of all-time.' Whilst I'm not knowledgeable enough to be the judge of that, I am sure that the book is no less relevant now than it was in 1979. Whether macrolife as depicted here will be part of humanity's future, it is good that we should think about it -- and it is good that we have such an eloquent and spirited expression of the idea as Zebrowski's novel."
And a review on Lesley on the Eternal Night for Alan Dean Foster's Sagramanda compares the fictional city of the title with the reviewer's actual experience of India:
"Having been fortunate enough to visit a number of cities across India I did wonder how the city and population of Sagramanda would compare to the real people and places I have experienced. I was pleasantly surprised. As I read I could almost smell the air of Delhi or Kohlapur and feel the heat of the sun. What did impress me was the way the author introduced subtle touches of technology into the India of tomorrow; just enough to let you know you are in the near future without destroying the overall sensation of being in the Indian subcontinent."
Finally, Cheryl Morgan can't resist reading Justina Robson's Keeping it Real in time for the lamentably-final issue of the great site Emerald City:
"Black leather, motorbikes, elf rock stars who actually know what an electric guitar is for, a small nuclear reactor, and some big guns. And, because this is Justina Robson we are talking about, a heroine with a great deal of self-doubt who is just as likely to let go with the tears as with an Uzi... Yes, Keeping It Real is a thrill-a-minute adventure yarn full of sex and elves and motorbikes. But it is also a book in which dragons are well versed in quantum mechanics."
Keep in mind that there's no one set way of marketing anything, or we'd all be swilling down New Coke. This is especially true with the book publishing business, which certainly must rank as one of the most bizarre businesses in existence. So your mileage with my suggestions may vary.
Lastly, let's remember that I have exactly one (1) to my name (obligatory Amazon link here), which has been on the shelves for a grand total of five (5) months. So if Orson Scott Card says one thing and I say another, you might want to, y'know, strongly consider following his advice instead. (Unless he's talking about politics, religion, or homosexuality. I dug Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead like everyone else, but the fellow is a wee bit unhinged.)
And now, once again, we present Dave on Marketing:
Market for the long term. Some people will tell you not to bother with a particular marketing effort because it's not going to sell any books. But sales or marketing are completely different animals. Marketing is for building reputations, for generating buzz, for spreading the word, and for creating positive impressions, among other things. The ad agencies who spend millions of dollars on Pepsi commercials don't expect you to run out the door that instant to buy a six-pack; neither should you expect that everyone who reads your blog is going to click straight over to Amazon. The ultimate goal is to boost your writing career, not just the immediate fortunes of one particular book.
Take your book seriously. This was one of the hardest things for me to do after I'd signed my contract with Pyr. Not that I wasn't utterly serious about the content of the book. But in order for other people to take your book seriously, you have to be serious about the way you market it. You need to be able to stand tall, hold up your book, look a skeptical customer in the eye and say, "I wrote this. It frickin' rocks. It's worth your time and money."
...But don't take it too seriously. You are marketing a piece of literature, after all, and not a miracle pill to cure leukemia. Many people buy books simply for diversion or entertainment, and they'll resent an author who believes their book should be read for moral edification and uplift. Hyperbolic statements about the quality of your book ("best thing since sliced bread," "better than Jesus," "Foundation is amateurish in comparison") should be left to your blurbers and reviewers.
Network like a mad fiend. It's the prime irony of the field: many of us are writers because we're not comfortable communicating face-to-face. I would much rather sit hunched in the garret scribbling by candlelight than walk around a meeting shaking hands. But the Cranky Lonesome Writer in the Attic routine doesn't work nearly as well as getting out there and pressing the flesh. And if you're in science fiction, remember this: no matter how socially awkward you feel, there's always someone within a stone's throw who's ten times worse.
Keep a file of stock promotional materials handy. If you carry around a briefcase or laptop bag, it's a good idea to keep business cards, review sheets, catalogs, and (of course) a copy of your book with you at all times. You never know when they'll come in handy. When you're at home, make sure you have a short bio and synopsis of the novel primed on your computer for quick access. You're going to be cutting and pasting this stuff a hundred times.
Spread your e-mail address far and wide; answer all of your e-mail. If you've got something interesting to say, people will want to contact you. Make sure your e-mail address is easy for them to find. Personally, I don't bother with the spam protection measures that most people use — the Google and Outlook spam filters work pretty well in concert, and I'd rather wade through a dozen extra pieces of spam than risk losing a single message.
Work with your publisher, not against them. As I mentioned in my last piece, the success or failure of your book in the marketplace largely rests on your publisher's efforts, not yours. You can certainly add some shine of your own, but as far as marketing and promotion of your book goes, you're clearly the supporting player. Find out what they have in mind to promote your book. Learn to know where you can offer your assistance, and where it's better for you to just stay out of the way.
Come up with a nice tagline for your book and keep it handy. You have no idea how often friends, acquaintances, strangers, colleagues, co-workers, etc. will ask you "so what's your book about?" They don't want to hear a five-minute exposition about the Three Goblin Warlords in the Kingdom of Vogelvix and the missing Crown of Wobblesparkutron, and how it's up to a plucky heroine with a band of quirky adventurers to blah blah blah. When someone asks me what Infoquake is about, I simply say, "Dune meets The Wall Street Journal." It's short, it's punchy, and it's on the book jacket. Sometimes I also use one of the lines from the Barnes & Noble Explorations review of the book that called Infoquake "the love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge."
In the end, it's the writing that counts, not the promotion. I've read a lot of blogs about book promotion that complain that writers aren't supposed to be good at promotion, that it's the job of publishers and publicists to do this crap. And while I don't entirely agree, I will say this: your primary job is to write. If the books suck, chances are they won't sell no matter what you do. (And please, no Dan Brown or Terry Goodkind wisecracks here.)
When I started to make a list of all the promotional efforts I've made in the past year, I started to feel — well, a little embarrassed. To an outsider, it must look like I do nothing all day but come up with ways to move copies of Infoquake. The "Infoquakes Cereal" pic here is meant to be a joke, but honestly, sometimes it feels like I've tried everything but a sugary cereal for kids.
(Quick aside: Have you ever noticed that when companies say their cereal is "part of this nutritious breakfast," the cereal box is always sitting next to... a complete nutritious breakfast?)
Here, then, are the promotional efforts I did that I think were well worth doing:
- Designed and programmed a website for the book and bought several related domain names (infoquake.net, jump225.com, multireal.net, geosynchron.net)
- Wrote several original background articles on the world of Infoquake exclusively for the website
- Started a blog about eight months before the release of the book and began consciously trying to write about topics that I hoped would garner me an audience
- Joined the group blogs DeepGenre (thanks to Kate Elliott and Katharine Kerr) and SFNovelists (thanks to Tobias Buckell)
- Attended and got on the programming at a number of science fiction conventions (ReaderCon, WorldCon, Capclave, PhilCon, and upcoming Balticon and Penguicon)
- Hosted a five-book gimmicky giveaway contest on my blog that received a fair bit of attention
- Posted all nine drafts of the first chapter of Infoquake on my website
- Encouraged friends and family members to send e-mails to their contact lists recommending that they check out Infoquake
- Doggedly hunted down every interview opportunity I could find, and ended up getting about seven or eight interviews on sites like Barnes & Noble Explorations, John Scalzi's By the Way blog, the Agony Column, SFFWorld, and Suite101.com
- Created a MySpace profile and spent a couple weeks aggressively seeking friends with an interest in science fiction (1,698 friends to date!)
- Created a mailing list for the book and added just about everyone I knew to it, then sent out once- or twice-a-month mailings on book news and events
- Made a conscious effort to make friends in the science fiction industry, mostly just because it's nice to have more friends (although the Machiavellian in me notes that several of these friends have had some very nice things to say about Infoquake on their blogs and such)
I also did a number of promotional efforts that may have had some positive impact, but it's hard to tell:
- Designed and printed 1,000 four-color Infoquake business cards through VistaPrint.com and passed them out liberally to anyone and everyone
- Recorded the first handful of chapters on audio using my laptop, an old microphone, and free Audacity software, then posted these as a podcast on my website
- Created and gave away approximately 350 promotional Infoquake CDs at cons and readings, including all of the sample chapters and audio files
- Started an Amazon blog that basically just cross-posts the Infoquake-related blog entries from my main WordPress blog, and spent some time tracking down Amazon Friends
- Gave away two signed copies of Infoquake to the Save Apex Digest raffle organized by the radiant Mary Robinette Kowal
- Convinced a friend (Josef K. Foley) to do some original artwork for the Infoquake website
- Did a handful of readings and signings at chain bookstores, which had rather disappointing turnouts, despite considerable publicity (listing in the Washington Post literary calendar, front-of-the-store displays, emails and invites sent to everyone in creation)
- Held two book parties for immediate family and friends on what turned out to be two very inconvenient dates for book parties
- Took a nice, official-looking author photo, only to decide I didn't like it nearly as much as the spur-of-the-moment photo my wife took outside a club in Boston in 2002
- Read and made comments on two drafts of an Infoquake screenplay, which has been in front of a few big Hollywood players (though I'm not holding my breath)
- Made a conscious effort to participate in the blogosphere by commenting on other people's blogs
- Managed to get in touch with about a dozen authors and important people to ask for advance praise ("blurbs"), including an Obvious Legendary Hard SF Novelist, two Bestselling High-Tech Journalists, and a Business Legend With a Name So Big That Yes, Your Mother Has Probably Heard of Him — and only got a response from one person, the terrific Kate Elliott, who provided the gracious blurb you see on the praise page
Of course, there were also a number of things I tried to promote my book that have had seemingly no impact or fell flat altogether:
- Started a bulletin board-like Yahoo Group to try to encourage author/reader (or reader/reader) dialogue about the book
- Started a reading group program to encourage people to buy Infoquake in bulk and discuss it in their book clubs
- Tried my hand at writing short stories to get my name out there in the SF magazines, only to discover that finishing a short story is even more difficult for me than finishing a novel
- Created a LiveJournal that just mirrors the copy from my WordPress blog
- Contacted a dozen well-known legal/political bloggers known to be partial to science fiction and tried to get them to review the book; all said they'd take a look at the book, but none of them ever responded to my follow-up emails
- Sent a couple of free press releases out through PRWeb to try and spur some news coverage
- Tried unsuccessfully to persuade my publisher to sell advertising in the book (about which see my blog post Should Novelists Sell Advertisements?)
- Spent waaaay too much time trolling Google, Technorati, Amazon, Yahoo, Icerocket, and other websites to see who's talking about the book, what they're saying, how they're reviewing it, etc.
So now that you've gone through these lists of all the sh** I've done to promote Infoquake and shaken your head in amazement/befuddlement at my persistence/foolishness, what lessons have I learned? What wisdom do I have to impart to other authors about how to promote their books?
1. You don't necessarily need to spend a lot of money. Almost everything on the "useful effort" list above is a cheap or free enterprise. Conventions, of course, can be expensive — but surely you can do what I did, which is to attend cons where you can stay with relatives or friends and use frequent fliers/hotel points. Designing and programming a website can also be expensive if you don't know what you're doing — but it's perfectly acceptable to use free WordPress software and a free WordPress template instead of hiring a designer/programmer like me.
2. Play to your strengths. My strengths (luckily) are web consulting and online marketing. As I've discovered, I'm a mediocre public speaker and not exactly a champion debater. I don't have the world's biggest Rolodex. But I've managed to find some areas that fit my comfort zone where I could excel.
3. Recognize that the most important aspects of book promotion are the ones you have little or no control over. Sure, spending time doing an interview with a science fiction fan site might get your name out there and sell 10 or 20 or 100 or 300 books. But the buyer at Borders or Barnes & Noble can give you thousands and thousands of book sales if he/she has enough confidence in the book to place a big order. The reverse, unfortunately, is also true.
4. Nobody knows when you fail... I did some research on discussion groups and ended up settling on Yahoo! Groups for an author forum. I created the forum, publicized it in half a dozen places, and nobody cared. So? I took down the link, I shrugged my shoulders, I moved on. People in the publishing biz might be able to track down your BookScan numbers and see how and where (and if) your book is selling, but nobody else is going to bother.
5. ...But let everybody know when you succeed. Emphasize the positive. Spread the good word. Tell your friends. Brag about it on your blog.
6. You, the author, are the only one who really gets to decide if you succeeded or not. Today I got a note on MySpace from a reader saying this: "Don't think I'm blowing smoke up your hindparts when I say that Infoquake is easily one of the best books I've ever read.... The depth and detail of this new world rank right up there with Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age." It's comments like that that make me sit back and think, y'know, I don't care if I sell another copy of the book. I've done what I set out to do.
Okay, not really. Buy more. Please.
--David Louis Edelman
"...allows enjoyment for both the thinking and the escapist reader, while providing the excitement and twists of a typical thriller. After its slow start, the pace increases to evoke the cliché reaction: I couldn’t put it down. On my 10-point rating scale, Mappa Mundi scores a 7 and a solid recommendation in spite of a few hang-ups. I’m looking forward to reading other offerings from Robson."
But what catches my eye is his concluding remarks that "the detached threads unite into a nail-biting, Tarantino-like finale."
There is definitely a Pulp Fiction / Jackie Brown vibe to this techno-thriller. Talking about the amorality of the characters in Sagramanda, DeNardo says, "even though most of the characters were not quite likable, their stories were consistently and thoroughly entertaining." Yes, exactly. And it occurs to me: could it be that mystery readers and the audiences for mystery/thriller/crime films are sometimes more comfortable with morally-ambiguous protagonists than science fiction and fantasy readers? The crime genre is full of bad people fighting worse people, and Sagramanda certainly shares attributes with the many Elmore Leonard novels and their ilk, where we root for the losers going for their one big score.
"The author of King of Morning, Queen of Day and Kirinya delivers a panoramic tale of India on the brink of civil war as its 2047 centenary approaches. Set during a drought that threatens to tear the country apart, the intricate story is told from at least nine distinct viewpoints. The principals include a street thug who traffics in stolen ovaries, a stand-up comic who suddenly finds himself running an energy corporation on the brink of a world-altering breakthrough, a fugitive American expert on artificial intelligence, a cop who battles renegade software and a politician with an explosive obsession. As these characters interact with victims, rivals, lovers and family members, they also play their roles in a drama with cosmological consequences, facing off against deities -- or the next best thing."
Meanwhile, a slightly more ambitious list, blogger William Lexner lists his Best Books of the Millenium (so far). Happy to see two Pyr titles make the list:
"45. Infoquake by David Louis Edelman: Perhaps the best recent take on the dangers of widespread capitalism. A wonderous and scathing debut novel.
"5. River of Gods by Ian McDonald: The veritable proof I was searching for that science fiction is not dead."
On the differences in writing science fiction vs. fantasy, Sean says:
"I do find that writing SF and fantasy can be very different on both a nuts-and-bolts level and in terms of other fundamental perspectives. Fantasy is more overtly about character and landscape, while good SF self-consciously uses science and the scientific method to take us places on wings made of metal, not feathers. There are crossovers, of course: the Star Wars novels felt like fantasy half the time, and I was more strict with The Crooked Letter's worldbuilding than I am with some of my SF. I like both approaches to speculative fiction. It keeps me fresh. "
On blowing up the world:
"I wanted to show how the world we live in, which we tend to take for granted and assume will be around forever, is just one part of a long history of change and cataclysm. In this view of the world, many other people have made the same assumptions we make only to have the rug violently pulled out from under them. There are no guarantees, except for there being no guarantees, so the Books of the Change and the Books of the Cataclysm are stories about the philosophy underpinning the world, as well as what goes on inside it. I think that sets them apart from a lot of other fantasy novels, which are often about maintaining or returning a proper order, and while I'd never say that this makes my books better for that reason, I do think I'm tapping into a readership that sometimes prefers stories a little different from normal."
Elsewhere on SFFWorld, Rob reviews the second Book of the Cataclysm, the Blood Debt:
" I don’t know that subverting is exactly the right word for what Williams does, but the way he plays with the clichés, his creativity and his storytelling ability make The Blood Debt a uniquely satisfying work. In a sense, this a more straightforward novel than was The Crooked Letter, but this makes The Blood Debt all the more entertaining and fun to play along as Williams throws predictability to the wind. Throughout the characters’ travels across the landscape and their encounters with creatures such as the man-kin, who resemble zombies; the Stone Mages and Sky Wardens, who both feel like the archetypical mages/councilors; and the Homunculus itself, the created man, Williams provides readers with seemingly familiar elements, that come across as both fresh and natural aspects of his inspired imagination. Not only do these, and all the elements of the story, feel natural, but there is also a sense of interconnectivity between everything in this world. Nothing is without reason.... Between the characters, the strange creatures, and the landscape, Sean Williams gives readers something fresh and mildly familiar in Epic Fantasy with his Books of the Cataclysm."
"Shepherd’s book is a high action, gritty techno thriller that reads like a cross between Ghost in the Shell and Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon, introducing the artificial human Cassandra Kresnov in her fight for the right to survive. Chris Roberson’s Paragaea is a wonderful homage to the planetary romances of authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and features a Russian cosmonaut who crashes on an alternate world and ends up adventuring with a Napoleonic era British naval officer and a humanoid Jaguar man. Retro in every sense of the word, this is a wonderful story, beautifully realised and hugely entertaining."
It's Been a Good Life, Isaac Asimov, edited by Janet Jeppson Asimov with Macrolife: A Mobile Utopia, George Zebrowski
Nanofuture, J. Storrs Hall with The Resurrected Man, Sean Williams
The Da Vinci Fraud, Robert M. Price with The Crown Rose, Fiona Avery
Just a Theory, Moti Ben-Ari with Galileo's Children, edited by Gardner Dozois
Glowing Genes, Mark Zimmer PhD with Genetopia, Keith Brooke
Corporate Crooks: How Rogue Americans Ripped Off Americans..., Greg Farrell and Infoquake, David Louis Edelman
The Cult of Alien Gods: HP Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture, Jason Colavito and Tides, Scott Mackay
But as I say, those are only suggestions. For information on the books above, go to the Special Offers page.
Update: Overseas Orders can be placed by calling 1-716-691-0133.
First, it's just a great looking book, thanks to illustrator John Picacio for the cover, and to our interior layout genius Bruce Carle, both of whose work consistently blows me away. Both of them continue the great art & design of the first book, and isn't the purple just a gorgeous color choice here?
However, in each of the Starship books, we include a meaty appendixes of ancillary information - Mike calls them "DVD extras" - and this one in particular incorporates several things I've wanted to do for some time. In addition to the background article on Mike's Birthright universe and his timeline (which will be included, and updated, for each book in the series), this time out we've run a number of unique extras.
First, there are two fully playable games. In Starship: Pirate, Mike references a popular pastime in his future history called "bilsang," said to be "a game that makes chess and toprench look like kid's games." He sketches out a few loose rules, though not enough to actually play. So, last February we held a contest in which we invited fans to create the rest of the game according to Mike's criteria. Alex Wilson won, though Mike Nelson's runner up was so good that we included it as well, as the other fictional game Mike mentions, the "toprench" referred to above. So, rules for both games are included in the appendixes. Seen on the left, a page from the bilsang appendix, as conceived by Mike Resnick & Alex Wilson and crafted by the wonderful Bruce Carle.
Then, working from Mike's descriptions and photographs of the physical model John Picacio constructed for his cover illustrations, actual aerospace engineer Deborah Oakes has created six pages of detailed technical schematics of the interior of the starship Theodore Roosevelt. One of Deborah's pages is seen on the right. Seen with the other five pages, the ship really comes to life as a physical entity. (Can an RPG be far behind?)
Starship: Pirate is out in December, right in time for a Pirate Christmas, but I see that it's already available for shipping from Amazon right now. When you get a copy - because, how could you resist it, really? - drop in and let me know what you think. Running starship schematics in the book fulfills an ambition I've had for years - ever since (I confess) I read the Starfleet Technical Manuals as a kid, really - so I'm really proud of everyone's efforts. John, Bruce, Alex, Mike, Mike & Deb - you've all done amazing! Now, Mike, what the heck are we going to do for an encore?
Ernest says a lot of good things about Alan Dean Foster's Sagramanda, which you can check out for yourself, though what struck me the most is his concluding remarks:
"Alan Dean Foster is a master of creating alien worlds for his protagonists to deal with, but his near future India is more complex and alien than anything he's attempted yet. That's the good news. The bad news is that it doesn't feel like India as much as it feels like one of his created worlds, though I admit I've never been there, and Foster, an accomplished world traveler, had undoubtedly done thorough research on the ground. In the end, Sagramanda's strength is the author's willingness to engage in cross cultural conversation with people who may well emerge as the technological leaders of this century, but it's only the beginning of a dialog which will hopefully lead to understanding on both sides. To achieve this, Foster needs to keep the story going for another few books, though Sagramanda has a stand alone feel to it."
The city of Sagramanda is definitely a character in its own right. I don't know that the other (human) characters from the book need to continue, though if New York has a million stories, a city of 100 million - even a fictional one - surely has a few more to tell, right? And Ian McDonald, who wrote the other big Indian novel out now, keeps spinning off new kyberpunk tales. Why not?
Meanwhile, Ernest puts Joel Shepherd's Crossover on his highly recommended list and includes a sidebar that notes the books similarity to Masamune Shirow's landmark work Ghost in the Shell. Again, I encourage you to go read the review for yourself, while I mull over something from his concluding remarks:
" I liked Crossover both for the hot cyber combat action and the chunks of exposition that the author drops from time to time. Call it perverse, but I think the discussion of technology and philosophy is one of the things that makes SF more interesting than mainstream fiction. As a result I'm all for spending a few paragraphs or even a page or two musing about the humanity of machines, or the cultural subtext of warfare, or why androids need breasts. A more aggressive editor might have trimmed this book back a bit, but I'm glad it didn't happen."
I don't know what I would have done if the manuscript had come in on loose leaf, as opposed to my taking on board a book that was published some years ago in another territory. For N. American debuts of existing work, unless the author expresses a strong desire to revise something specific into an "author's preferred edition," and not counting the correction of any typos that have come to light, I prefer our edition to match the original published edition for the sake of history. I know that if I bought a US book, then read that 50 pages were cut from the Australian or UK edition, I'd be rushing out to see what those 50 pages were. In fact, I held off buying the US edition of the aforementioned Masamune Shirow's latest work of manga, when I heard the US edition was missing 12 pages deemed too "mature" for an American audience.
But in Joel's case, I would like to think I would have resisted the urge to trim the fat here if I'd come to the work cold. For one thing, as Ernest points out, once you get through the first chapter, "the action comes fast and hot by the end and never lets up thereafter." For all the above talk of philosophy and grand ideas, this is one hell of an action story, with machine pistols blazing and bionic women leaping out of flying cars from hundreds of feet in the air. Joel really knows his combat, too, and manages to translate the kinetic feel of anime into prose better than I've ever seen done before. But what I always loved about the Shirow is the way that amid all the violence and hardware fetishization, suddenly the comic book will go into a discourse on geopolitical theory or some social/ethical concern and that's vital for the tone of the work as well.
Plus, I've cited Joel's book several times now, on blogs and on convention panels, as a perfect example of entertainment plus depth, in my ongoing insistence that these are not mutually exclusive concepts. Joel's work is rife with politics and philosophy, as well as sex and combat. Just like its clear inspiration, it manages to marry both rousing adventure and rousing speculation - and while not perhaps a perfect book by all assessments, I hope I would have recognized these asides as central to the work he was creating.
Now, with all these Ghost comparisons, it should be said that Shirow usually seems to insert these dialogues into the mouths of naked anime girls in a shower or massage scene. Joel, for his part, leaves out that slightly uncomfortable/puerile aspect, trading the somewhat exploitive scenes for a more mature, balanced portrayal of his many strong female characters. Oh, the sex is still there and then some, but it feels sexy not sexist; it's a sexuality that owes more to the well-drawn characterization and tension of something like the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle than it does to Shirow's work. Several female readers asked me recently, in fact, how Joel was able to write women so convincingly, and we not surprised to learn that he also writes about women's basketball as well. So, I guess what I'm saying is - remove the doll-like anime women from Ghost in the Shell, insert Lucy Lawless, equals great book.
Meanwhile, here's how the SFBC describes the book:
Captain Cassandra Kresnov, Dark Star special ops. A GI for the League—that's who she was in her old life. As if she could ever forget…
Cassandra is an artificial human being, one of the League's most sophisticated experimental creations. Designed to replicate human biology so closely that it's difficult to tell the difference, she is the perfect killing machine: stronger, more intelligent, more creative, and far more dangerous than any model that preceded her.
But with Cassandra's intellect come questions, and a moral awakening. As the war between the technologically advanced League and the conservative Federation winds down, she deserts the League for Federation space to forge an ordinary life on the planet Callay. She feels she can be happy in the glorious megatropolis of Tanusha, even though the Callayans take a dim view of artificial sentience. But that's before Federal Intelligence catches up with her….
It's definitely not RoG2: that was one thing I wanted above all to avoid, but I think you'll find it as rich, deep, dazzling and strange. India is in yer face. The culture slaps you the moment you step out of the airport (in fact, as the plane was touching down). Brazil creeps up on you, shakes its ass, gets you to buy it a drink and the next morning you wake up with your passport gone, your wallet lifted and one kidney replaces with a row of sutures. Peter Robb's magisterial 'A Death in Brazil' carries the line 'Brazil is one of the world's greatest and strangest countries', and it's only a year after being there that the full understanding of that arrives. It is like nowhere else --certainly not in South America, in the same way that India is like nowhere else. And it's history is more or less completely unknown in the rest of the West.
On his favorite novel from the Pyr catalog:
David Louis Edelman's Infoquake. So fresh and good I shamelessly stole an idea from it: the whole premise of a future corporate thriller. I remember Lou Anders pitching this one at the Pyr panel at Worldcon in Glasgow and thinking, of course! It's so bloody obvious! That's a genius idea. It sent me back to an old novel by James Clavell called 'Noble House' about corporate intrigue in an old Anglo-Chinese trading company (it got made into a pretty dire TV miniseries), so that's in the mix at the back of my head. Buy Infoquake, read it (I think The Steg already has). Give him the Philip K Dick award.
On growing the readership for SF:
I'm with Gollancz editor Simon Spanton when he talks about the 'lapsed Catholic' audience on this, those who once read SF but dropped away, because it wasn't doing it for the, because they want more than juvenile lots and characters, because they want worlds and people and situations they can believe in, because media SF has so successfully colonised the low and fertile floodplain that it's all people think of when they hear the words Science Fiction. This was a brief blog-bubble between myself, Paul McAuley, Lou Anders, Charlie Stross and Paul Cornell as a counterblast to the 'back-to-basics' movement advocating a return to Golden Age style space adventure. My position on this is well known: of course there's always going to be a need for space-fic --what the general public think of and call 'sci-fi', and it may draw readers in at the bottom end, but it sure won't hold them. 'Mediaesque' sci-fi may, in that sense, 'save' science-fiction, but it sure will lobotomise it. And there are a lot of general readers out there who will buy and enjoy science-fiction if they can convince themselves it's not that geeky stuff...
"Justina Robson is one of the more interesting SF writers to have emerged from the UK in recent years. In a relatively short time, she’s produced some of the more thought-provoking, critically acclaimed novels in the genre, with nominations for awards such as the Philip K. Dick award and the British Science Fiction Association award. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, published in the UK in 2000, now appears on US shelves through Pyr, is no exception. The novel is part medical thriller, part spy/geopolitical thriller, and Big Idea SF novel... While the technology of mapping the human mind may not be readily available, one gets the sense that it might be something the government is working behind closed doors. The political climate and global settings also resonated with those of today’s world. It isn’t always easy for an SF writer to blur this line, and Robson did so very effectively. ...with Mappa Mundi, Robson proves she is a smart and thought-provoking writer with her hand on of the pulse and thoughts of today’s world."
"One of the characters in this sequel to Starship: Mutiny (2005) asks, 'Whatever happened to heroes who didn't think everything through, but just walked in with weapons blazing?' The answer is 'They're buried in graveyards all across the galaxy.' This sums up nicely Hugo-winner Resnick's approach to military SF, which isn't so much about fighting and hardware as it is about strategy and leadership.... Readers craving intelligent, character-driven SF need look no further."
"With this novel, Shepherd ... joins the ranks of writers like Karen Traviss, Marienne de Pierres, and Elizabeth Bear.... The other balancing act Shepherd dances throughout the entire novel is between the thoughtful dialogue (both external and inner) and the slam-bang action sequences, the assassination attempt or the various skirmishes throughout the book. In many ways Crossover is a very visceral book, evoking strong and powerful thoughts and emotions, both of which Kresnov inspires in those who surround her.... What makes Crossover stand out is how plausibly and realistically Shepherd draws his characters. The dialogue between Kresnov and her new colleagues propel the narrative and plot very well. Their thought processes and reactions occur very logically and are on equal standing with the plot/action elements of the story. Crossover is a satisfying, engaging, and thought-provoking read from another great new voice from Pyr. The good thing is that Crossover is the first of three books. "
I'm very happy to be working with Judson. His first novel, Fitzpatrick's War (DAW, 2004), was declared one of the best books of 2004 by Publishers Weekly, who also compared it to "other greats" like Heinlein and Asimov. (I've recently discovered that Fitzpatrick's War has a way cool wikipedia page, complete with a map of his world of 2415 which is well worth checking out.)
Although The Martian General's Daughter takes place in a separate continuity from Judson's other work, there are certain similarities of theme and concerns. Judson says, "As happens in the other science fiction novels I have written, the story takes place in the distant future and yet it is a retelling of an ancient tale. Specifically, the reader may recognize the history of the last of the Roman Antonine Caesars, as told in the Augustine Histories. I re-write history like this not because I believe history repeats itself, but that humans inevitably repeat the triumphs and mistakes of those who have gone before them. "
"I have a fascination with religion that goes right back to Sunday school, when I persistently queried theological points that didn't make sense to me. When I was in High School, my father had just started studying for the priesthood, so I was exposed to nuts and bolts of theology from a practitioner's perspective, as well as a parishioner. Later, I realized that any faith I had once had in Christianity had evaporated, and I became an atheist, where I've been comfortable ever since--but my fascination with religion has never gone away. There's an awful amount of energy invested in world-building and story-telling behind every religion. It's not so different from science fiction, in that sense, if you look at it long enough. So wanting to devise a natural system that might be the big picture lurking behind all human religions was a perfectly natural step. The world behind the Books of the Cataclysm was the result, in which there is a form of reincarnation as well as an afterlife (in fact there are two afterlives, which reflect the belief of some cultures that we have two souls), and there is an almost-supremely powerful deity ruling over a lesser pantheon. Magic used to work, but does no longer. The world has undergone several apocalyptic changes, and might yet go through another one. As theological world-building goes, this one has everything."
Meanwhile, Rick Kleffel sounds off about monsters in his thoughts on the second book in Williams's Books of the Cataclysm, The Blood Debt:
"Williams is one of those writers that I suspect readers will someday twig to en masse and wonder why the hell they weren't rabidly buying his books long, long ago. That said, these Books of the Cataclysm are particularly appealing to me, combining as they do big chunks of monsterific horror with a surreal science fictional / fantasy setting and characters from the here-and-now who give us regular folks something to grab on to. Book One, The Crooked Letter set Seth and Hadrian Castillo loose in a wildly-conceived universe chock-a-block with monsters and underpinned by a couple of master's theses worth of religious imagery...Dirigibles. Monsters. Boatloads of research. What more can you ask for?"
Geoff Willmetts reviews David Louis Edelman's Infoquake:
"Infoquake is practically a cyberpunk novel although unlike the works of William Gibson, author David Louis Edelman actually knows his subject and isn't prone to making errors with understanding programmers aren't drug addicts, cyberspace and nanotechnology... Edelman has done an excellent job of bringing characters to life for a new writer. He even made business deals interesting. This is also very high grade Science Fiction, using the trappings and then adding more. "
Tomas L. Martin reviews Joel Shepherd's Crossover:
"Crossover is a very intriguing first novel. The politics of the world feel real, complicated and full of power struggle. Shepherd has obviously gone out of his way to not make this a typical android/human story and Cassandra acts like a real person would, instead of pages of existential talk. This definitely helps the character feel fresh despite the number of times a similar effort has been tried....The climax of 'Crossover' is fantastic and the fact that Cassandra enjoys being stronger and more powerful rather than wanting to be simply human is of great credit to the book. She sees herself as an improved human and that seemed far more real to me than an artificial human wishing they were truly 'alive'.For a first novel, this is a very good one and with more books to follow Shepherd is definitely one to watch."
Eamon Murphy reviews Robert Silverberg's Star of Gypsies:
"Star Of Gypsies was first published in 1986, but it has not dated in any way. Silverberg is a master of his craft and doesn't put a foot wrong. Yakoub is a great character, full of vigour, humanity and passion. This is a wonderful space opera and I highly recommend it."
Plus a review by Paul Skevington of the UK edition of Justina Robson's Keeping it Real, (USS edition forthcoming from Pyr in March 2007):
"...more fun than a barrel of angry, viagra-spiked monkeys. ...In a way reminiscent of the RPG 'Shadowrun', Keeping It Real is an example of the type of fiction that takes all of the good bits of cyberpunk and fantasy and throws them into a microwaveable bag. Luckily, with Robson at the helm, the end result is a tasty treat that has none of those nasty solidified green peas in it... This is not the SF of ground-shaking ideas or head-spinning logic. It's a book that revels in pop culture, action, romance and the nuts and bolts of cyber-fantastical fun. For those familiar with the style, it's an enjoyable, engaging read but it would also function as an admirable entry-point to those who might think of SF as being a little sterile and off-putting. Book two is out next year, and I look forward to the scene where little roller-skates come out of Lila's feet during a chase sequence."
Earlier, he calls Joel Shepherd's Crossover "a remarkable scifi debut," adding that "the novel is a fast-paced thriller with enough action sequences to satisfy anyone. And yet, there is also enough political intrigue to give this book a convoluted and well-executed plot. In addition, Shepherd manages to imbue the darker moments with the right amount of humor to make your lips curl up into a smile on more than one occasion."
"The prominent theme of Crossover is what makes a human, well, human, and what better way to explore this than through the mind of a lifelike android. It's been explored countless times in myriad mediums. What makes Shepherd's take different? His characters, especially Cassandra, they are what's worth reading for. Check out Crossover; it's a fun sci-fi thriller that is brimming with ideas and questions."
Paul also notes the similarities to Masamune Shirow's excellent graphic novel, Ghost in the Shell. What always impressed me about Ghost, both manga and anime, was the seemless integration of digital telepathy into - not just one or two protagonist's heads - but to every citizen of the entire world of the future. Shirow gave us a world where every conversation happened on multiple levels - digital images and text annotations popping up via wireless cyberbrain-to-cyberbrain communication in every dialogue. He managed to demonstrate what a paradigm shift even everyday communication becomes when we are all chipped. While much of the look and feel of Ghost in the Shell found its way into cinema in its appropriation by The Matrix, I'd not seen literary or cinematic SF deal with this singularity in verbal & nonverbal communication before. Without being derivative, Shepherd's Crossover impressed me in being the first SF (to my knowledge) to really take this onboard. That the book is loaded with sex and action sequences certainly doesn't hurt, and it's got wonderful characters and great world-building, but this was the aspect that first impressed me.
"...gripping thriller set in India’s not too distant future. Foster’s adroit touch weaves tradition and technology together as he develops a fascinating range of antagonists negotiating Sagramanda’s back streets and fashionable neighborhoods. India’s diverse culture adds a nice layer of depth to this enjoyable, fast moving techno drama."
"The hyperbole surrounding this novel seems justified – drawing on cyberpunk and singularitarian themes, it boldly places a banner for what is arguably a new sub-genre of science fiction. It may not be to everyone’s taste – fans of epic space opera or futuristic military thrillers might well find themselves uninspired by the lack of ‘sense of wonder’ and involved combat and battle scenes, and the nuts and bolts of the technologies at work (of which there are plenty) are rarely mentioned more than briefly and in passing. But in the light of recent debate over the comparative merits of ‘serious’ science fiction and the sort written with pure entertainment in mind, Infoquake sits squarely in the shifting and disputed borderland between these two poles of purpose. As an engaging fictional mirror of the modern world, written from an angle rarely used, this novel definitely marks Edelman as a writer to keep an eye on."
Earlier, the wonderful Paul Cornell, author of British Summertime as well as many other works - including new episodes of the television shows Doctor Who and Robin Hood - weighed in with his thoughts on Edelman's book:
"It stayed with me, kept on impressing me way after I’d finished it... Infoquake is a book about future boardroom battles, company tussles. Only three shots are fired in total, but at exactly the right time, because this is a thriller like Graham Greene wrote thrillers. Its setting is something I haven’t seen for a long time, a quite distant future that is nevertheless utterly plausible, and remains connected (unlike say, Dune), through history, to our own. The businesspeople in question write and sell software for the human body. The book answers Geoff Ryman’s manifesto about ‘Mundane SF’, that is, it presents a future where no unfeasible technology or situations (faster than light drives, alien contact, telepathy) exist. People are still people, history is still history. There has been no mythological upheaval (such as ‘the singularity’) of the kind that British SF culture seems to regard as certain, a near future event, the Revolution, the Rapture. Icky reality has not gone away. There are true believers, therefore, that will assert that the novel is simply mistaken. There is still money. Someone empties the bins. The world that is built is a society of humans, based on human needs, sociability, civilisation. It is not wildly far flung. It can read on first sight as being familiar, even parochial. That is because it is flung exactly as far as it should be. The thrill of the book is a thrill familiar to those of us who do business on the net and in fandom, the thrill of being a commercial (and this is the origin of the word) adventurer, someone who ventures capital. It’s about commerce and glamour, the edges and barriers created in social situations through nothing but personality. It’s conceptually exciting, the current expressed as the future and the future as a refreshing crash through the ranks of those who say there is none. The world depicted is not an ideal: it’s a complicated mess in which characters can only do their best. Exactly like it always has been and always will be. My one caveat is that when you read the first section of the book, you’ll wonder why I made all this fuss about it. It’s not the greatest start in literature. It prepares you for a book nowhere near as good as this one. And perhaps I could have done with a bigger conceptual wallop of elevating the stakes to a new level at the end. But this is the first of a trilogy, and I await book two missing the characters, referencing things in their terms (‘a memecorp like the BBC’) expecting such an elevation, certain of it. I have faith in this Mundane masterpiece."
Update: Steve at the Eternal Night website agrees:
"This book grabbed me from the start... This book though should appeal to a wide readership, and no one who likes futuristic Philip K. Dick-ish science fiction should not be put off reading this book just because it revolves around programmers... This book however is anything but boring - it grips you from the start and leaves you at the end of the book wishing you had book two to hand."
Moorcock says, “The world of the stories is mostly set against a
After praising the book for its "ass-whooping" (obligatory in books about hot androids, natch), Patterson says, "It turns out that Shepherd has a few interesting ideas about what it means to be human, and as character after believable character is introduced and becomes a part of the quilt of Crossover’s central message, the impossible happens, and the combat is made that much more powerful because you start caring about everyone."
Which is further proof that butt-kicking and head-scratching need not be mutually exclusive.