The Geomancer


FF1 on AICN - Most Cool

Ain't It Cool News has recently launched a book review section, where reviewer Adam Balm plans to "take fandom back to its root" by acting as a pointer to good SF. In his second review, he tackles Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge, which I'm most happy to say he likes. Adam proclaims that "Pyr's going to be an interesting bird to watch, coming out of nowhere in the last year to fast becoming one of the big names in the industry, no small feat in a field made up of big publishers getting even bigger, as the market is getting smaller," and goes on to say of FF1 that "probably half the stories here would be fitting entries in a 'Year's Best' anthology." He calls out stories by Paolo Bacigalupi, Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod, Justina Robson, John Meaney, with a special place for Paul Di Filippo's "Wikiworld" (online here), of which he says, "Without a doubt, THE stand-out story (as has been mentioned at Boing Boing and other reviews) is Paul Di Filippo's 'Wikiworld.... Honestly I haven't had this kind of vertigo after reading a short since Charle's Stross's 'Lobsters' in 2001, the first entry of what would become his Accelerando magnum opus. I really want to see Di Filippo explore this world he's created some more. This is too good for just one short."

In addition to FF1, Adam reviews The Antagonist by Gordon R. Dickson and David W. Wixon, and presents an introductory essay on his reasons for taking up the reviewer's role along with his opinions on the current state of science fiction. (He sees SF as being at a bit of a crossroads, a fractured field competing with fantasy and slipstream.) Furthermore, Adam finds parallels between my introduction and one John W. Campbell's wrote for his own 1952 Astounding Science Fiction Anthology which I now need to hunt up.

All in all, I was impressed with the review and hope that AICN keeps Adam Balm long employed, as shortening the gap between media SF and literary SF is a personal crusade of mine. Meanwhile, I love that he describes FF1 as "a kind of time capsule of where hard science fiction is, in the first decade of the second millennium," though the line that really made me laugh was his description of Justina Robson as "she reminds me of a hard SF Neil Gaiman if Neil Gaiman was even more of a woman. " Add this to Cheryl Morgan's comment some time ago that Robson was "William Gibson with chocolate" and you can see just how special Robson is. Finally, on the question of SF's relevance in 2007, I agree with Adam that "while the world might change, that tool for making sense of that change does not change."


SciFi To Die For

Rick Kleffel offers his enthusiastic preview/review of Ian McDonald's forthcoming Brasylover on his site, The Agony Column. As he says:

"McDonald is clearly one of our premiere science fiction writers and he's pretty much staking out the multi-cultural SF niche as his. And even if Brasyl is a bit shorter and more easily grokable than River of Gods, have no fear that it delivers the same sort of combination knockout punch, stunning the reader with the ferocity of the writing and the strangeness of both the culture and the future, and in this case, the past, that McDonald imagines. Line up for it, and plan on seeing it on some genre fiction ballots. You'll be asked to vote for it, so you might as well experience it sooner rather than later. Come to think of it, the same is true of the future."


Sci-Fantasy Hits the Spot.

Fantasy Book Spot has posted a review of Justina Robson's upcoming sci-fantasy, Keeping It Real (Quantum Gravity, Book 1) which they describe as being "ultra-edgy, explosively musicpunk," adding "Robson crafts an adventure that is filled with legend, lore, love, and laughs with a steady hand. It both makes light of itself and takes things very seriously. To call the work anything but a ball of sheer originality would be an insult to pointy-eared elves everywhere."

Their "quick take": "An entertaining novel that junkets the reader on an adventure brimming with magical races, dangerous entities, and page-turning experiences, Keeping It Real is a blast."

Meanwhile, SF Signal chimes in with a review of Kay Kenyon's epic, Bright of the Sky: Book1 of The Entire and the Rose, giving it four stars and proclaiming the book is "a standout novel" and praising it's "unique setting both physically and societally." As they say:


BOTTOM LINE: Bright Of The Sky effortlessly blends science fiction concepts and world-building with fantasy story telling to create a unique and intriguing whole.

Publishers Weekly Makes the Break

Publishers Weekly has just weighed in on Breakaway, Joel Shepherd's follow up to Crossover, which introduced us to the synthetic soldier Cassandra Kresnov. After summarizing everything I love about the plot, PW says:

"Beneath the glitz of snazzy weaponry, unstoppable heroes and byzantine political machinations is a very real struggle about the nature of humanity and trust."

I might add that this review underscores why I think Joel Shepherd's Cassandra Kresnov series are perfect Pyr books - "snazzy weaponry" and "unstoppable heroes" but also "political machinations" and "very real struggle" and "nature of humanity."

Who's to say that books about hot artificial soldiers leaping guns blazing out of flying cars can't have depth and substance and character? See, as I've been saying all along, you can have your cake and blow it up too.


Adam Roberts Up on a Wire

Adam Roberts talks to John Joseph Adams of Sci Fi Wire about his Arthur C. Clarke Award nominated novel, Gradisil, described by The Times as being "reminiscent of the best of Robert Heinlein." As Adam says:

"When I set down to write Gradisil, I wanted to write something hard SF, something near-ish future, something Robert Heinlein or Stephen Baxter-like. As with all my novels, I think it's fair to say that something weird and dislocating happens to these great authors when I force them into the woodchipper of my own imagination, but there's something tech-SF-y and war-story about this particular novel."

Gradisil is out in March, but you can read the first four chapters online now. I certainly recommend that you do, especially if you've never read Adam before, because, as SFX said recently, "Roberts belongs in the front rank of hard SF writers."


Green Goodness

Cat Eldridge has a few thoughts about Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge over on The Green Man Review:

"So what's good here? A story by Kage Baker ('Plotters and Shooters') is set in her Company universe but which is not a Company story, but a space opera in the form of a look at war in space above and beyond. Or how about a witty look at the future of wikis? 'Wikiworld' by Paul Di Filippo takes the ideas of Cory Doctorow one step further by showing what would happen in a society run on gifts, wikis, fast and lose consensus, and running code. The Something-Dreaming Game' by Elizabeth Bear is a gem of a great story as is Gene Wolfe's 'The Hour of the Sheep'. Most everything is superb here... Overall I think Anders has done an exemplary job of putting together first rate anthology."

Nor is her comment that Pyr is "certainly one of the hottest new genre publishers we've seen over the past few decades" unappreciated.


Infinite Goodness

Fantastic Reviews has just posted their thoughts on John Meaney's To Hold Infinity, beginning with some nice words for the Pyr imprint itself. Aaron Hughes calls the novel, "an example of everything Pyr Books is getting right. In only two years, Pyr has become one of the most reliable publishers of high-quality science fiction in the market. Editor Lou Anders consistently produces well-packaged books of real literary merit that are also very entertaining. While it has published plenty of excellent original work, a key to Pyr's success has been obtaining reprint rights to outstanding British and Australian authors who have been neglected in the U.S."

They give a little background on the novel - which is a completely stand-alone tale set in the same universe as Meaney's Nulapeiron Sequence but earlier in the history of that universe, and which was a 1998 British Science Fiction Association Award nominee for Best Novel. Aaron nails the future era of To Hold Infinity as being "not quite post-singularity science fiction, but at least near-singularity," before concluding that the novel is "an absorbing story peopled with well-developed characters and loaded with interesting speculation about the future. Fans of the Nulapeiron books should not miss it, and I strongly recommend it to new readers as a great introduction to John Meaney."

Glimpses of Future Fiction

Rick Klaw has written a very complimentary review of Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge in print and online at the Austin Chronicle. Rick praises the "dazzling John Picacio cover" and calls Ken MacLeod's "Jesus Christ, Reanimator" "possibly the best short-story title of the decade." He concludes:

"In his introduction, Anders states that his goal is to emulate previous groundbreaking science-fiction-anthology series, most notably Fredrick Pohl's Star SF (six volumes from 1953 to 1959) and Damon Knight's Orbit (21 volumes, 1966-1980). If successive volumes equal the quality of this excellent debut, Fast Foward will go a long way in achieving Anders' hope and might even inspire a new generation."

Meanwhile, Locus Online has posted Gary K. Wolfe's review of Ian McDonald's forthcoming Brasyl online. I've quoted from this review before, so I'll sample my favorite bit here:

"A few years ago, in an academic book titled Brazilian Science Fiction, M. Elizabeth Ginway employed a term invented by the Brazilian critic Roberto de Sousa Causo to describe an emerging tradition of high-tech postcolonial SF then emerging in Brazil. 'Tupinipunk,' an amalgam of cyberpunk and the name of an indigenous tribe, was characterized by 'iconoclasm, sensuality, mysticism, politicization, humanism, and a Third World perspective'. With his very enjoyable Brasyl, McDonald may have given us the first tupinipunk novel to appear from outside the borders of Brazil itself."


Fast Review of Fast Forward

The February 11th issue of the The San Deigo Union-Tribune has a brief but enthusiastic mention of Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge at the tail end of a review roundup called "Thomas Becket would be right at home.":

“More than a score of stories by favorite writers like Justina Robson, Kage Baker and Gene Wolfe. Oh, and don’t start on the lovely Rudy-Ruckerian “WkiWorld” by Paul Di Filippo unless you want to have your head spin several times to giggles and joy.’

Infinite Liberty

Infinity Plus has posted an extract from Martin Sketchley's The Liberty Gun,along with pictures of all the covers from the Structure Trilogy, the UK and US alongside each other. In light of our cover discussions, it's cool to see them all in a block like this.

Meanwhile, while attending the recent Boskone, I was able to see all three of Dave Seeley's original paintings for the US covers lined up side by side. Quite a sight to see.

A Bevy of Reviews

Just back from Boskone to find a flurry of Pyr reviews in the in-box.

The Eternal Night is quite taken with the galactic yarn-spinning of Mike Resnick's Starship: Pirate:

"Resnick does have a very definite style...If you like your sf to be space opera, if you like your sf gadgets to just work without needing an explanation of how, and if you don't need to worry about the vast interstellar distances getting in the way of telling the tale - then Resnick is an author you should read."

Then Ryun Patterson of Bookgasm finds John Meaney's To Hold Infinity to be a "snapshot of a stunningly well-realized future that grabs hold and doesn’t let go...Meaney’s prose is tight and descriptive, and he avoids many of the pitfalls involved in getting ideas out of his head and into readers’. I’m no scientist, but the technology involved – though far-flung from today’s tech – never becomes so inexplicable that it might as well be magic, with a basis in networking and computer science. ...a rather stunning book of ideas and imagination." Despite liking the inside, Ryun is less than pleased with our cover and (to my amusement) offers this alternative.

The Cultural Gutter isn't quite sure what to make of Chris Roberson's
Paragaea: A Planetary Romance, which may stray too close to its pulp roots for their taste, though they note, "I give the book high marks for not compromising on its convictions. Chris Roberson clearly set out to tell an adventure story - a planetary romance, as the subtitle of the book would have it - and he always delivers." Thanks also for the love they give to this blog!

And finally, I can't tell you how happy I am to report that Publishers Weekly has given Kay Kenyon's forthcoming Bright of the Sky a starred review! And here it is, complete with star:

" At the start of this riveting launch of a new far-future SF series from Kenyon (Tropic of Creation), a disastrous mishap during interstellar space travel catapults pilot Titus Quinn with his wife, Johanna Arlis, and nine-year-old daughter, Sydney, into a parallel universe called the Entire. Titus makes it back to this dimension, his hair turned white, his memory gone, his family presumed dead and his reputation ruined with the corporation that employed him. The corporation (in search of radical space travel methods) sends Titus (in search of Johanna and Sydney) back through the space-time warp. There, he gradually, painfully regains knowledge of its rulers, the cruel, alien Tarig; its subordinate, Chinese-inspired humanoid population, the Chalin; and his daughter's enslavement. Titus's transformative odyssey to reclaim Sydney reveals a Tarig plan whose ramifications will be felt far beyond his immediate family. Kenyon's deft prose, high-stakes suspense and skilled, thorough world building will have readers anxious for the next installment."


Bright of the Sky: From Illustration to Finished Book Jacket

We've just completed the dust jacket for Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky, the first book in an exciting new epic science fiction series coming from Pyr in April. Everyone is really happy with the cover, the illustration for which was already generating buzz as early as this past summer's World Science Fiction convention. So I thought I'd use it to do something I've wanted to do for a while, which is to talk through the design process of putting a cover together.

For starters, Bright of the Sky is science fiction, but it's got a fantasy feel. Or at least a "fantastical" feel - in that it's set largely in a pocket universe peopled with multiple strange creatures. It's really exquisite world-building on Kay's part, and I wanted a cover illustration that could sell the size, scope, scale of her imagination and the world that has sprung out of it. Kay and I talked over several possible illustrators before decided on Stephan Martiniere. Now, Stephan is no stranger to Pyr, and anyone who reads my blogs knows he's one of my favorite illustrators working today, but in SF he's known mostly - at least up to this point although it's shifting - for his wonderful architectural visions, such as his work on Ian McDonald's River of Gods. But in the case of Bright of the Sky, it was Stephan's work outside publishing - particularly the wonderful outdoor landscapes and creature designs he did for the Myst computer games - that caught Kay's attention and made her think he could communicate some of what she saw for her world. And did he ever come through, as the picture on the top-right attests.

Next enter Jackie Cooke, from Pyr (and parent company Prometheus Books') art department. At this stage, it's about trying all sorts of options. We say we'd rather experiment and then pull back then not try to begin with. So we went through a ton of font choices, placements, and colors. Unfortunately, that was many moons ago, and I don't have those files anymore. But suffice to say we went through a wide range - including a vaguely Asian-brush stroke type front that seemed in concept appropriate to the Chinese-like culture of one of the races in Bright, but which was too heavy handed in execution to use. Also, I don't mind admitting that, although the end result looks nothing like it, we looked to the cover of Dan Simmon's Ilium as one source for inspiration, particularly in the way the bronzed, embossed font of Dan's name communicated the epic feel of the work. Finally, we settled on the design you see to the left. The font, I think, communicates both a sense of grand culture and the imposing dignity you want for an epic, "masterful" work.

So that's the image you see in our catalog, on Amazon, on the website etc... But one of the central landscape elements of Kay's "Universe Entire" is a mysterious river called the nigh. The nigh isn't made of water, but a strange quicksilver substance, about which I won't say anymore because you, well, have to read the book for yourself. But that's the nigh you see pictured on the cover. But the colors on this cover are muted, and so Jackie and I wanted a way to both grab more eyeballs and to communicate some of that quicksilver imagery from the book. She settled on the use of a silver mirror holograhic foil, a special effect offered by our jacket printer, Phoenix Color. Ah, but when you do special effect like embossing, special dyes and inks, foil, etc... you pay per square inch. And it ain't cheap. So, for instance, a book with the title and author name both at the top in close proximity to each other would be cheaper than a book where the effects are placed at top and bottom, like, unfortunately, we have. (If you follow the link, you'll notice that Ilium has embossed Dan's name at the top, but not the title at the bottom. This is why.) So, word came back that the bosses were willing to spring for the holofoil on the title, but not the title and author's name. (Which is still mighty generous, as the effect ain't cheap and they could just as easily have said to do without). That meant we had to find another solution for "Kay Kenyon" at the bottom. So here we have some of the colors we tried. The rainbow effect on the title is Jackie's attempt to approximate the holographic foil, since we can't show it in a jpg, and she wanted me to be able to see how it might pick up on and reflect various colors from Kay's name. Here, I admit that I liked the white, but was wisely outvoted by both Jackie and Kay (we tend to involve the authors in the process - no, this isn't the norm.) The mauve was never a consideration, though a grey that echoed the look of the catalog version was. Eventually, however, we settled on a sand color that was also used in the subtitle as the best match. I'll wait and show it when we talk about the rest of the jacket.

Which is now. Jackie nailed the back cover in one. I love the purple on black, as well as aligning the quotes top left bottom right. I think the whole effect is very dignified and goes a long way towards our intention of presenting what an "important" epic this work is. But, as I'm sure you've noticed, the spine isn't there. Sometimes, grabbing a cross section of the cover illustration can really work well. Othertimes, not so much. It just didn't look - you know it - "epic" to me.So I suggest Jackie try a simple black spine. And maybe grab an image of that horse creature (called an Inyx) or those wonderful flying fish. I pictured placing this image at the top of the spine, but Jackie surprised me by putting it center and surrounding it in that stylish border motif she'd already devised for the subtitle:The flaps are added at this point to. Disregard the white spaces - they won't be there on the final. So now we're almost there, but we still need to add Kay's picture, and Jackie felt the left flap - the grey one - was a little plain, so she decided to added a faded image from the cover to give it some texture. The result is our final dust jacket below, though, of course, you don't see the effect of the holographic foil on the title. Right click it to see larger, as with all these, of course. And since this was a long post to put together, feel free to ooo and ahhhh.
Now tell me, does Bright of the Sky: Entire and the Rose: Book 1 look like a damn fine book or what?


A Love-Hate Letter to American SF?

The February 12th issue of Publishers Weekly on Adam Robert's Gradisil, coming in March in trade paperback from Pyr:

"Written like a love-hate letter to American SF, Roberts's latest is a multigenerational saga of space colonization and betrayal. Centered on the life of Gradisil Gyeroffy, it covers the early years of plucky (and/or wealthy) Uplanders, individuals who take up residence in low Earth orbit, through their transforming war with America and Gradi's sacrifices to weld them into a nation. The forward-looking, freedom-oriented space colonists stand in contrast to their tradition-bound, systems-wedded opponents. Roberts (The Snow) suggests that popular access to space is just a technological improvement away, though the government as represented by the USUF (aka the U.S. Upland Force), rather than rugged individuals, would (and should) lead the way.... Rewarding the patient reader are some witty asides of social changes (like going from one to three to 14 popes) and an unsparing portrait of a social revolution and its costs to the revolutionaries."


Dann the Man

Kilian Melloy reviews Jack Dann's The Man Who Melted for the Edge, Boston. Speaking about the novel, Kilian says: "Dann has packed so many surprises into his novel that by the end, the reader feels whole new colors on the spectrum of motive and emotion have been revealed.... This complex, mutli-layered novel engages you twice: first, searingly, as you read it and then, later and more profoundly, as you replay its subtle warnings and prognostications. ...Dann’s novel requires that you look, then look again, to appreciate everything he’s put into its creation."

Meanwhile, be sure to check out this interview with Jack Dann which Kilian conducted as well. In Jack Dann's words, " In The Man Who Melted, I was investigating in depth the very nature of amnesia. I must admit that this was a delving into self, as I’ve had my own experience with amnesia, with its effects, and so this novel was my way of working out some of my deepest feelings and fears."