The Geomancer


Unicorns: Have they been mylittleponied into blunt four-color rainbows?

Every time James Enge pontificates about fantasy fiction, I am fascinated. Here, on the new Black Gate Group Blog, he pontificates about unicorns:
...unicorns have been used and imagined and reimagined so much that their emotional halo has been mylittleponied into blunt four-color rainbows. They’re overfamiliar. ...In a way, this is inevitable. Any symbol, if it penetrates deeply into a culture, attracts parody and appropriation—it’s one way you can start to actually see the thing again, as opposed to scanning past it and saying, “Yeah, I know what that is.” ...But it seems as if the poppification of the unicorn has gone beyond this, banalizing the image so that it is almost impossible to use it in a semi-serious context, even in fantasy where, one would think, an occasional unicorn might find an unspoiled field to roam in. Can the unicorn be saved? Or is the image just used up and does it need to lie fallow for a century or two before it’s usable again?
Now, "mylittleponied into blunt four-color rainbows" is just priceless.


BMW's New Shape-Shifting Concept Car

Thanks to Pablo Defendini for calling my attention to this in a post I did on my personal blog about Batmobiles. Presenting the Gina, BMW's shape-shifting, fabric-bodied concept car, and the most futuristic car I've ever seen:

And you've got to see this thing wink and arch its eyebrow:

What do you make of that?


Blood of Ambrose: Check It Out, Yo!

That’s James Enge’s forthcoming Blood of Ambrose,cover art by Dominic Harman, layout by Jaqueline Cooke, and although you can't see it here, featuring interior illustrations by Chuck Lukacs and a stunning interior layout by Bruce Carle.


Kirill Uncovered

Check this out. It's the first installment of online sci-fi drama, Kirill Uncovered. 5 episodes out to date, though I've only watched part one. But this sort of thing is exciting. What do you all think?


Should We Be Sending Pyr Books to the Oval Office?

The Telegraph recently released Barack Obama: The 50 Facts You May Not Know. Among them, the facts that he collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comic books and that he has read all seven Harry Potter books. And we've all seen the MSNBC clip (on YouTube and below) where he admits to being born on Krypton.

When you remember that JFK's remark that From Russian, With Love was one of his Top Ten favorite books was what launched Ian Fleming's James Bond to widespread popularity, having a president that is genre-friendly is fantastic.

New Pyr author Mark Chadbourn agrees about what having a Geek-in-Chief could mean for genre fiction:
A new president always sets the wider cultural tone for a country (and in America's case, the world). Look how Bush spawned all those testosterone thrillers, in novels, and on TV, like 24. Obama is already likely to have a much wider cultural impact than Bush, purely because his election was so much more iconic. Knowing that he loves genre stuff is bound to leech into the mainstream and give it a certain kind of cachet, at the very least.


Brasyl up for First-Ever Warwick Prize

As reported in the Guardian: Ian McDonald's Brasylis one of twenty finalists for the brand-new, £50,000 biannual Warwick Prize, whose theme this time out is "complexity" and whose judging panel is chaired by China MiĆ©ville.

A shortlist of six titles will be announced for the Warwick prize on January 23 next year, with a winner announced in February at the University of Warwick.

Congratulations to Ian and best of luck!


Podcast: Yours Truly at SciFi Dimensions

John C. Snider interviews me for the SciFiDimensions Podcast. You can hear in streaming from his website, or you can search iTunes for "SciFiDimensions." I've not listened to it yet, so no idea how I come off, but it felt like a very thorough interview at the time. We talk about Fast Forward 2,Pyr, the art of John Picacio, and many more topics besides. He's a good interviewer, (and hit me with a curve ball out of the gate. Not that I'm saying that's a criteria for a good interview!) He also interviews Tim Lasuita, licensing director for Jack Lake Productions, a Canadian company involved in reprinting Classics Illustrated. Cool!

John also reviews Fast Forward 2 on his blog.
There’s no theme to the Fast Forward series, other than excellence in storytelling. The stories in FF2 cover the spectrum of sub-genres, from near-future parables to far-future space opera, from post-cyberpunk to hard SF; from cautionary tales a la The Twilight Zone to uplifting vignettes that affirm the best in human nature. With such a wide selection of styles and themes, it should come as no surprise that not every entry will appeal to every reader. At the very least, FF2 is like a Whitman Sampler; a little something for everyone, and if you find a story you like, it’ll be from a writer with plenty of other work you can chase down later.


The Politics of Fantasy and Books You Read Twice

Author James Enge, whose Blood of Ambrosecomes out from Pyr this coming Spring, guest-blogs at Deep Genre.

Here's a sample:
Fantasy is most effective when it acts through symbols that rest pretty deep in the awareness (or beneath the awareness, if you buy into the whole subconscious thing). At the center of every adult’s emotional life is a struggle for autonomy that occurs in adolescence. One may be struggling against well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) caregivers who are reluctant to surrender their authority. One may be raised in perfect environment that encourages autonomy and self-responsibility, but one still has to go out and face the world, make one’s place in it. Somehow, this is part of everyone’s story.

Why do so many fantasies involve young sons of widows who grow up to kill the monster, defeat the king, marry the princess and rule the kingdom happily ever after? Some point out that these stories are very old; this is true, but it’s just begging the question. A story appeals to audiences because it speaks to them emotionally. Why does this story appeal to modern audiences or ancient ones?

It appeals to them because it’s a symbolic representation of the struggle for autonomy that everybody engages in. The kingdom isn’t necessarily a kingdom; it’s just a life where you get to decide what happens. The princess isn’t a princess; she’s the hot checkout lady at the grocery store or maybe the likeable mechanic at the gas station, depending on how you roll. In fact, the hero may be a daughter, more like Atalanta or Camilla, nowadays: the dynamic of the story is essentially unchanged. The story has a wide appeal because its symbols are wired into emotional hot-buttons that are part of everybody’s life.

Meanwhile, Yours Truly is one of several authors to partake of SFSignal's latest Mind Meld. This one asks, "Which speculative fiction books are worth reading twice? Why?" Answers are from Louise Marley, Cheryl Morgan, James E. Gunn, Gardner Dozois, Sarah Langan, Abigail Nussbaum, Anna Genoese, Scott Edelman, Jo Graham, and Dominic Green. Not surprisingly Dune, Lord of the Rings, and Mists of Avalon appear several times across everyone's lists. And Cheryl Morgan sums up the problems of rereading nicely:
I have too many books. Probably more books that I will be able to read in the rest of my allotted span as a living human (though I entertain hopes of being uploaded in some way or another). In order to read a book for a second time, therefore, I have to make a conscious decision not to read a book that I haven't yet read. That's a hard thing to do.


Spring/Summer 2009: A Look at the Future

Want another reason to feel good about the future?
Here's a peak at our Spring/Summer 2009 Season:

Tom Lloyd, The Twilight Herald (Book Two of the Twilight Reign)
Less than a year after being plucked from obscurity and poverty the charismatic new Lord of the Farlan finds himself unprepared to deal with the attempt on his life that now spells war, and the possibility of rebellion waiting for him at home.

Matthew Sturges, Midwinter
Mauritaine once heroic Captain in the Seelie Army, now accused of treason and sentenced to life without parole, is offered one last chance to redeem himself, an opportunity to regain his freedom and his honor in the secrete service of Queen Titania.

Ian McDonald, Brasyl(coming in trade paperback!)
Be seduced, amazed, and shocked by one of the world’s greatest and strangest nations. Past, present, and future Brazil, with all its color, passion, and shifting realities, come together in a novel that is part SF, part history, part mystery, and entirely enthralling.

James Enge, Blood of Ambrose
Behind the King's life stands the menacing Protector, and beyond him lies the Protector's Shadow... Against this evil, Morlock Ambrosius--stateless person, master of all magical makers, deadly swordsman, and hopeless drunk.

Joel Shepherd, Crossover(coming in mass market!)
The first novel in a series that follows the adventures of Cassandra Kresnov, an android created by the League, one side of an interstellar war against the more powerful, conservative Federation. The product of an experimental design and dangerously intelligent, Cassandra raises probing questions and experiences moral awakening. Soon she has deserted the League in search of a new life in the territory of the Federation.

Sean Williams, The Hanging Mountains(Books of the Cataclsym: Three) (coming in trade paperback!)
In this third installment of Williams's Books of the Cataclysm, Sal and his companions seek the source of the flood in the legendary Hanging Mountains, hoping to head off a crisis that was put in motion a thousand years ago. They uncover uncomfortable truths about the world and how it relates to the one that came before — our world.

Mark Chadbourn, World's End(Age of Misrule 1)
A dragon firebombs a freeway. Shapeshifters stalk the commercial district. The deadly Wild Hunt wreaks havoc on the highway. The Age of Misrule has dawned. In times of trouble, heroes arise!

Joel Shepherd, Breakaway(coming in mass market!)
Cassandra Kresnov is a highly advanced hunter-killer android. She has escaped the League and fled to Callay, a member of the Federation. Breakaway is a great story with a cracking plot and strong characters. At its heart is the enigma of Cassandra: Is she more human than human, or is she totally untrustworthy?

Mark Chadbourn, Darkest Hour(Age of Misrule 2)
The Eternal Conflict between the Light and Dark once again blackens the skies and blights the land. And in the middle are the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, determined to use the strange power that binds them to the land in a last, desperate attempt to save the human race.

Joel Shepherd, Killswitch(coming in mass market!)
Two years after the unhatching of Callayan President Neiland’s plot to make the capital city of Tanusha the center of the Federation, Callay is under siege. So begins the third installment of this gripping trilogy from an exciting new sci-fi author. When Cassandra’s lover, Special Agent Ari Ruben, discovers a plot to kill her using a killswitch, which her old masters in the League built into her brainstem, Sandy is forced to go underground to stay alive.

Ian McDonald, Desolation Road
It all began 30 years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality…

Mark Chadbourn, Always Forever (Age of Misrule 3)
Mankind’s days appear numbered. Our only hope – the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons – are scattered and broken after a terrible defeat. Their last chance may lie in the great court of the old gods, reached by an otherworldly ship filled with fantastical and frightening creatures.

Mike Resnick, Stalking the Dragon(A Fable of Tonight)
It’s Valentine's Day and private detective John Justin Mallory must undertake a nocturnal hunt for the miniature dragon that takes him to some of the stranger sections of his magical Manhattan.

Justina Robson’s Chasing the Dragon(Quantum Gravity Book Four)
Returning to the life of a guns-blazing secret agent, cyborg Lila Black finds herself having inherited all of her former boss's old offices and whatever mysteries they contain… But there are more immediate concerns. Like resurrecting her lover, Zal. And her husband, the demon Teazle, is embroiled in a fatal plot in Demonia, and her magic sword is making itself happy as a pen whose writing has the power to affect other worlds. The world is off its rocker and most everyone is terrified of faeries.

I'll say more about these individual titles as we get closer to 2009, debuting more cover art as it comes in, and profiling some of the new authors and introducing them to you. Meanwhile, you can download a PDF of the whole Spring/Summer 2009 catalog here. But for now, what do you think?


Prometheus Books Enters the Mass Market Paperback Format With Series on Pyr Imprint

CONTACT: Jill Maxick

November 10, 2008

Prometheus Books Enters the Mass Market Paperback Format With Series on Pyr Imprint

Three-book Science Fiction Series Planned in “Premium” Mass Market Size

Amherst, New York—In May 2009, Pyr, a science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, will publish Crossover: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel in the premium mass market paperback format, with dimensions of 4-1/8 inches x 7-3/8 inches and priced at $9.98. Premium mass market paperbacks are taller than the traditional premium mass market size, allowing for improved readability and cover image area. Crossover, by Australian author Joel Shepherd, was previously published in trade paperback in August 2006.

The Cassandra Kresnov novels Breakaway and Killswitch will follow at the same price and format, to be published in June and July 2009 respectively.

“We’ve had significant interest from the major booksellers in seeing Pyr enter the mass market format, and a great deal of interest in this trilogy in particular,” says Pyr Editorial Director Lou Anders. “Joel’s series is smart, sexy, action-packed, and features a very well-rounded and admirable female lead. We’ve been very happy with their performance thus far in trade paperback, and feel they are especially suited to lead our charge into mass market, a perfect example of the type of smart, action-packed and engaging read that Pyr is becoming known for. I’m thrilled that Cassandra Kresnov is poised to entertain even more readers with her mass market debut.”

Cassandra Kresnov is a highly advanced hunter-killer android who defected from her League Dark Star special ops assignment, seeking the quiet life of a civilian, but then becomes unwillingly embroiled in dangerous interplanetary intrigue. Shepherd is known for his strong female protagonists, his gripping action sequences, and his rich depiction of Byzantine political machinations. Tobias S. Buckell, author of Halo: The Cole Protocol, called the series, “A blast to read,” while Publishers Weekly described it as “Robert Ludlum meets Elizabeth Moon.”

Plans for making some Pyr titles available in e-book format are also in the works.

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Lou is Omnivoracious

Over on Amazon's Omnivoracious blog, an interview with Yours Truly conducted by the great Jeff Vandermeer and regarding Fast Forward 2. Here's a taste: When you edit an original anthology series where you solicit stories only, how do you protect against mediocre material creeping in?

Lou Anders: The very wise Jacob Weisman, editor and publisher of Tachyon Publications, once said that when selecting illustrators for book covers, you shouldn’t pick based on the best work in an artists portfolio, but based on their worst. Because, he said, you had to be willing to live with the worst piece in the portfolio if that is what they hand in. That’s one of the most helpful pieces of publishing advice I’ve ever encountered, and it rules all of my own cover art decisions at Pyr. But it also has applications to editing invite-only anthologies. As much as I’d like to, I can't do open-reads anthologies and still fulfill my job as Editorial Director of the Pyr science fiction and fantasy line. There just aren’t enough hours in the year. But I love the short form and I want to always work in it, and so I must do invite-only. Therefore, I believe very strongly that the moment of editorial discernment falls at the point of the invitation. The best piece of general business advice anyone can give you is this hire people smarter than you are and listen to them. I believe, firmly, that I am working with some of the best writers in the business, and I trust them to deliver. I avoid mediocre material by avoiding mediocre writers!


Gonzo Alternate History in Fast Forward 2

The November 2008 issue of Locus has a review of Fast Forward 2by Rich Horton. He calls it "a fine anthology - one of several in what's shaping up to be a remarkable year for original anthologies." But I'm even more excited by his reaction to one story in particular, as the story in question has really set me on fire. So I'm thrilled when Rich writes:
"Another politically charged piece may be the best story here - the opener, Paul Cornell's 'Catherine Drewe'. This is an alternate history, a bit gonzo, about an English spy charged with taking out the title woman, an Irishwoman who seems to be helping the Russians as they try to dominate Mars. I've failed to convey the interest in the steampunkish tech displayed, as well as the bitter political realism at the center of the story."
And, as you may recall, "Catherine Drewe" is available in its entirety on our new Sample Chapters page. Just go there and click on the link to Fast Forward 2 in the right hand margin.
Meanwhile, I expect we'll hear a lot more about Paul Cornell in the near future.


Today: a Shifting Balance of Power on a Global Level

No, I'm not talking about the election (though I'm off to vote just as soon as I blog this). What I am on about - over on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, there's a great interview with Tom Lloyd, author of the just-released-and-kickin'-butt The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reignseries.

Tom says:
"Stormcaller is, at its heart, a story about a shifting balance of power on a global level. For various reasons, the object intended to engineer this change is a young man called Isak, who is thrown into events and expected to sink or swim. All the plans that have been building over the past years and centuries are about to bear fruit and Isak is going to find all of this being played out around him. In plot terms, each of the Seven Tribes of Man are ruled by white-eyes, divinely blessed warriors with bulging muscles and a nasty temper. Isak is raised from poverty to the post of heir-elect of one of the most powerful tribes and soon realises that this isn’t even the most dramatic or terrifying of the changes planned for his life."
And while we're on the subject of (ahem) changes, you can see the US version of the cover of book two, The Twilight Herald, (ahem) changed from the UK, on Amazon now. Both US covers are from the amazing Todd Lockwood, whose company I just enjoyed in Calgary this past weekend, where he was Artist Guest of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention. As nice a fellow as he is good a painter.