The Barrow

11/27/06

How I Promoted My Book by David Louis Edelman

It's now been about five months since Pyr published my first novel Infoquake. It seems as good a time as any to sit back and take stock of my promotional efforts. What worked, what didn't work, what should I have done more of, what should I have done less of?

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

11/22/06

India comes to San Antonio

“Ian McDonald's newest novel is one of the best blends of literary and science fiction writing I've read. River of Gods is full of the descriptive writing that permeates literary novels. For instance, it opens and closes with garlands of sun-colored marigolds swirling among the debris and corpses that fill India's holiest river. And yet the book is also a vision of India madly in love with computers. Not surprisingly, McDonald, a previous Philip K. Dick Award winner, snagged the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel when River of Gods debuted overseas and was nominated for the Hugo and the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2005…McDonald unveils the plot in flashes of evocative phrasing, such as 'the couple of generals gorgeous as parakeets in their full dress.' He can be succinctly biting, as with 'the guilt and thrill of a really good class system.' But the novel's true richness comes from offering an immersion in Hindu and Muslim mythology and social norms…McDonald offers a glossary to ease reading…River of Gods is so dense that I suspect a second reading will offer lots more meaning than first perceived. And it's worth the challenge to dip into a realistic vision of a future driven by technology.” -San Antonio Express-News, Nov. 12, 2006

11/20/06

Mappa Mundi Enters Neth Space

Ken at Neth Space posts his review of Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi:

"...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."

Thrill Kill Cult, Hindu Style

John DeNardo has posted a review of Alan Dean Fosters' Sagramanda over on SFSignal. He gives the book four out of five stars, and praises it for its characters and action, though feels that it has too many plot threads running in parallel for too long. Overall, though, DeNardo seems to have liked it, as he proclaims Sagramanda a "wonderful depiction of Indian culture; fast-paced; entertaining characters and back stories; excellent finish."

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.

Best of the Season, Best of A Thousand Years

Michael Berry of the San Francisco Chronicle offers his list of the Best Books of the Season, a suggested shopping list for SF&F fans. We're delighted to see Ian McDonald's masterwork, River of Gods, among the ten books listed:

"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."

Sean Williams: On Wings of Metal and Feathers

Rob H. Bedford has interviewed Sean Williams over on SFFWorld. The interview covers Sean's two related fantasy series, the Books of the Cataclysm and the Books of the Change, as well as his Star Wars novels, and his space opera - the books written with Shane Dix and his upcoming solo effort Saturn Returns. In other words, it's quite a broad interview.

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."

11/16/06

Waterstone's Top Ten SF Titles of 2006

Michael, the Science Fiction and Imports Buyer for the UK's Waterstone's books, has just posted his Top Ten SF Titles of 2006. I'm very gratified to see two Pyr titles making the list, Chris Roberson's Paragaea and Joel Shepherd's Crossover. Michael writes:

"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."

11/15/06

Special Offer

My parent company, Prometheus Books, leading publisher of books on popular science, critical thinking and philosophy, actually publishes quite a few books of SFnal interest, including books by several SF writers. Over on their site, they've put together a special offer to take advantage of some synergistical opportunities, offering any combination of one Prometheus title and one Pyr title for a 35% discount. Although the discount applies to any combination you care to pair, the have a list of suggested titles of related interest:

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.

11/13/06

Just in Time for Christmas: A Holiday Made Better with Pirates

Got my own copies of Mike Resnick's Starship: Pirate this weekend, the second book in his five volume military SF series that began with Starship: Mutiny, and as hot as this book looks, I'm going to brag on a number of very talented people - beyond Mike himself, of course - who have all come together to help make this into something really special.

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?

11/12/06

Give Me Liberty!

Martin Sketchley's The Liberty Gun is out this month, third in his Structure series of literate, violent military SF. Earlier I reported that Publishers Weekly said, "Sketchley excels at depicting the futility of endless cultural conflicts, but readers should be prepared for some stomach-churning alien love and birthing scenes. " I'd add to this that Sketchley excels in aliens in general, and that the Structure books are collectively the most action-packed books that Pyr has yet published. (Close second/possible tie: the Cassandra Kresnov series from Joel Shepherd.) Of the three Structure books, this third one is my personal favorite for one particular reason: The Affinity Trap and The Destiny Mask were already delivered to Simon & Schuster in the UK - and the first book published - when we came on the scene, so our editions follow the UK ones. But Martin handed the manuscript for The Liberty Gun into me, and I rolled my sleeves up and dove in to the elbows. Also, as often happens in publishing, the illustrator, Dave Seeley, was painting the cover while Martin was still working on the book. Dave is the type of illustrator who reads the whole manuscript when he can, and he had a lot of good and relevant thoughts on the first draft of this one, so Martin, Dave and I entered into a three way dialogue that I think greatly benefited the revisions and positively affected the shape of the final manuscript. I hope you all like the result!

11/10/06

The Importance of Being Ernest

Ernest Lilly reviews two Pyr books over on SFRevu. I'm glad that he seems to like both, while being upfront about what he sees as weaknesses in the works too. But I read these two reviews late last night, rather hurriedly/tiredly and didn't - I confess - glance at the byline. When I was done, I was struck by how remarkably well written they both were. As a former full-time, now occasional, journalist, I appreciate the well turned phrase, whether its being turned in the service of one of our authors or not. So when I read both reviews back to back, I wasn't surprised to discover both stemmed from the same source. Ernest is the Sr. Editor of SFRevu's as well, though by no means the only reviewer. But I wanted to pause to give a shout out to some good writing before continuing with your regularly scheduled Pyr plug. Now...

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.

11/8/06

Crossover Crossing Over to the Science Fiction Book Club

Joel Shepherd's Crossover is one of the featured alternative selections in this month's Science Fiction Book Club offerings. This is the first Pyr title to appear from the SFBC, so I'm very excited about it. For book club members, the link to their page is here.

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….

11/7/06

Sitting Down with Ian McDonald: The Christian Bale of SF

Ian McDonald is interviewed on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, in a long, indepth piece that's one of the best interviews I've read in some weeks. Ian talks about both River of Gods and the forthcoming Brasyl, as well as a host of other subjects. I highly recommend reading the whole interview, but here are some highlights for me:

On Brasyl:

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...

The Map of the World @ SFFWorld

Rob H. Bedford, of SFFWorld, on Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi:

"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."




The Pirate in PW

Just got back from the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas - about which more soon on my personal blog - to find this wonderful bit of news in my in-box. Publishers Weekly has just given Mike Resnick's upcoming Starship: Pirate (out in time for Christmas) this glowing review in their November 6th issue:

"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."

11/1/06

Crossover @ SFFWorld

More love for Joel Shepherd's Crossover, this one from Rob H Bedford over at SFFWorld:

"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. "