Falling Sky

9/27/08

The Stargate: Atlantis Book Club

Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughtermade its second appearance on Stargate: Atlantis last night, in the episode "First Contact." This one is a much better cover-shot than in the previous episode. Thanks to John-Mark for the screenshot, who has several more posted on his blog. Thanks also to Joe Mallozzi and the rest of the Stargate team for arranging this.

9/26/08

Where's my jetpack?

Oh. It appears this guy has it.


A Swiss man has become the first person to fly solo across the English Channel using a single jet-propelled wing.

Yves Rossy landed safely after the 22-mile (35.4 km) flight from Calais to Dover, which had been twice postponed this week because of bad weather.

The former military pilot took less than 10 minutes to complete the crossing and parachute to the ground.

The 49-year-old flew on a plane to more than 8,200ft (2,500m), ignited jets on a wing on his back, and jumped out.
Hello, future. So glad you could join us.

9/25/08

Todd Lockwood's The Stormcaller, From Sketch to Finish

Over on Tor.com, art director Irene Gallo has just posted "Todd Lockwood's Stormcaller, from Sketch to Finish" a very in-depth breakdown of the evolution of the cover for our forthcoming title, The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reign,by Tom Lloyd. With quotes from Yours Truly and a LOT of commentary from Lockwood himself, and 20 different sketches, roughs and detailed close-ups, the post is well worth checking out.

9/24/08

Justina Robson on Keeping It Real

As I reported earlier, writer/co-executive producer of Stargate: Atlantis Joseph Mallozzi featured Justina Robson's Keeping It Realon his blog's book club discussion. I'm a few days late on gettting the link up, but Justina has now answered, indepthly, all his readers questions. The full interview is up here. And here's one of my favorite bits:
The demons and devils were really refreshing to work on for me. I’ve been a Christian fundamentalist of a kind in my youth, and an occult student, and a devotee of all things theological and then I discarded formal approaches and religions altogether for a kind of atheism and went on a more personal kind of spiritual quest, which I am still on. But I used to have very fixed ideas and literal notions of all kinds of things and being able to finally sift through all that and find my version of what the truth is was just tremendously exciting and liberating. Of course it’s just my version and although I’m passionate about writing this stuff and feeling it’s true I know it’s only a way of seeing things. Hence the book’s title.
And, of course, the third book in the Quantum Gravity series, Going Under,was just recently released. You can read a substantial excerpt on our new sample pages site here.

9/22/08

Shatner on the "Machine Where You Suck in the Air with the Molecules"

Via SFSignal. On the one hand, I'm disturbed (though not surprised) that Shatner doesn't seem to know what the teleporter is called. On the other hand, he makes a good point. The fact is, Star Trek has to ignore half the implications of its teleporter/replicator technology for the sake of drama, because the truth is that it would eliminate death entirely in just the way he understands.

The Stormcaller - Free Online Reading

Check out this enormous excerpt from the soon-to-be-released fantasy epic, The Stormcaller: Book One of the Twilight Reignby Tom Lloyd.

I am really excited about this book. I'm not the only one:

"Magical creatures and high speed action scenes... packed with detail without being too heavy. The Stormcaller shows how high the bar has been raised with its sheer vision and inventiveness." —SFX

9/17/08

David Louis Edelman Reading Tonight

The Barnes & Noble in the Spectrum Center in Reston, Virginia will be hosting David Louis Edelman tonight, Wednesday, September 17 at 7:00 pm. He’ll be reading from and signing copies of MultiReal.Come on by if you are in the area! The store is at 1851 Fountain Drive, Reston, VA 20190, phone number 703-437-9490.


Check out the recent praise for MultiReal:
  • io9: “I’m in it for the long haul, because it feels like Edelman is writing about real people and real issues, in a thrilling, engaging way. And that’s rarer than it should be.”
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist: “This is one sequel that delivers! No middle book syndrome for David Louis Edelman… The Jump 225 trilogy remains one of the very best ongoing science fiction series on the market.”
  • Bookgasm: “Infoquake’s strengths have carried over to its sequel… With Infoquake and MultiReal, [Edelman]’s got new archetypes aplenty, and he doesn’t need old tropes to slow him down.”
  • Chicago Center for Literature and Photography: “(Rating: 8.8 out of 10) This is a series that genre fans will definitely want to check out, and an individual chapter here that could very well garner a Hugo nomination next year.”
  • Through a Glass, Darkly: “Even for a reader who loves laser battles and big explosions, MultiReal still comes across as extremely satisfying and fun.”
  • Death Ray Magazine (not online): “A mix of cyberpunk and The Wall Street Journal… Where Edelman does excel, and the true focus of the book, is exploring the economics and political powers behind new technologies, their development and routes to market and the social and moral implications of such advancements.”

9/16/08

Joe Mallozzi is Keeping It Real

Stargate: Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi is Keeping It Real. Or rather, he's open for questions for this month's selection in his book discussion group, Justina Robson's Keeping It Real.Justina herself will be stopping by later to answer his readers questions. Meanwhile, he describes the book as:

"It’s a fun read that pokes fun at fantasy tropes and certain genre-specific narrative conventions while also offering up a cast of colorful, nicely-developed characters... Our protagonist Lila Black is particularly well-drawn and sympathetic, a woman struggling to reconcile herself to a tough post-traumatic existence. Her inevitable encounter with the elf who nearly killed her, and the ensuing sacrifice that neatly parallels her past ordeal, is surprisingly poignant. Inventive in its world-building, engaging in its humorous, fast-paced narrative, Keeping It Real is a promising start to the Quantum Gravity series."

9/13/08

Sean Williams' Advice to New Writers

I always knew Sean Williams could write. I didn't know he could speak. Sean recently gave an address to the winners of the Writers of the Future contest, and Shaun Farrell, of Adventures in SciFi Publishing, was there to record his speech and interview Sean afterwards.

Sean's talk is full of tremendous advice for those just starting out, and his interview covers a range of topics, including his new Star Wars novel, The Force Unleashed. The podcast is available via iTunes but can be accessed directly from the link above. Thanks to WotF for letting it be recorded and Shaun Farrell for doing so!

9/12/08

Joe Abercrombie Speaks (again)!

Joe Abercrombie is interviewed by Andrew Brooks on SFRevu,
wherein he says many things about the just-released Last Argument of Kings, and the trilogy it completes, including:
I read a lot of history, and my observation has been that failures, mistakes, and idiocy are frequently much more important in the course of events than successes. I hadn't seen that much failure and stupidity in fantasy so I was keen to redress the balance. I wanted my characters grimy, flawed, and difficult, as I have observed real people generally to be, so it made sense that my mismatched group of champions should mostly despise each other throughout. A couple learn grudging respect for one member of the team or another, but in the main they hate each other just as much at the end as they did to begin with.
John Berlyne also reviews the book for the site, and says, "The First Law is, I strongly believe, a seminal work of modern fantasy. It is a benchmark sequence that should be regarded as an example of all that is truly great in today's genre fiction. It stands way above the vast majority of the marketplace, tainted as so many fantasy works are with the lofty and portentous myth cycles bequeathed to us by Tolkien. Instead, Abercombie's work reflects today's harsher world within its pages. This is fantasy come of age, a tale for a modern generation, a story for the selfish -- for a harder, more self-aware audience, for people who live in today's litigious, cynical, unforgiving society. You know who you are! Very highly recommended."

9/10/08

Two out of Two Anders Agree: MultiReal is Brilliant

In an earlier post, Mark Chadbourn asks "Should Scientists Forget Space?", citing an article on the UK's former Chief Scientist, Sir David King, who says that we are in need of a "re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society's inner attitudes towards science and technology." Sir King wants us to forgo experiments in space and in CERN in favor of addressing more immediate concerns at him. I've already given my opinion in the comments of Mark's post, but it's interesting to me to contrast it here with Charlie Jane Anders' io9.com review of David Louis Edelman's Infoquakeand MultiReal(books one and two of his Jump 225 trilogy).

Charlie Jane beings the review, which is titled "MultiReal is your antidote to science-bashing scifi," by saying, "With so much mass-media science fiction featuring anti-science heroes who battle to stop science from "going too far," it's great to read a really smart novel about a hero who's fighting to save scientific progress from being suppressed." She characterizes the books as being "about the nature of technological progress" and says, "Where MultiReal really shines, however, is in the debates over the ethics of this reality-twisting software. There really is no right answer to the question of how society should deal with software that 'liberates you from cause and effect,' and the sequence where Natch's mentor debates the government's attorneys is easily my favorite part of both books. It's a complex issue, and Edelman draws it out enough that you can see how it applies to today's real-life challenges: should we try to suppress new technologies, should we regulate them heavily? Is it possible to suppress new knowledge after all? Does information really want to be free? It's a lot more nuanced than the 'science iz scary OMG' idea that seems to be popular in media SF right now.

Now, with the understanding that I am generalizing horribly, I think that traditionally a majority of filmic sci-fi is concerned with maintaining the status quo and getting the genies back in the bottles. Something is developed, approaching, on the loose - and its up to the protagonists to stop it. An asteroid is going to hit the earth, aliens are invading, a man has turned himself invisible and is running amok - how do we divert it, repel them, contain him... In other words, there is a threat to consensus reality and by the end of the film or television show, it's been dealt with and nicely put away. Go on with your lives. Nothing to worry about here.

By contrast, literary science fiction is often set after such an event has already happened, sometimes a good deal after, and throws us in medias res into a world in which part of the fun of the narrative is working out how the world in the tale differs from the world we know and part of the theme lies in examining how these changes act as a lens to illuminate some aspect of humanity that we take for granted. So, an asteroid hit the earth and killed everyone over 18, how do the survivors cope? Aliens invaded and are now our overlords - would you let one date your sister? 1/3 of the population is invisible, what new class of people do they form? The intrusion isn't repelled, it's part and parcel of the way things are now going forward. I find this the more honest approach, and underscores on of science fiction's strengths as the genre that embraces the reality and inevitability of change.

There are, of course, examples of both approaches in both mediums. In fact, one of the (many) failures of The Matrix trilogy is that it began from what I'm calling a more literary position of science fiction and transitioned to the filmic. At the end of the first movie, Neo promises to hang up the phone and, "then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world ... without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible." The goal of the protagonists isn't to preserve consensual reality, but to destroy it, by ushering in a world where anyone can do the things he can. But instead of this, the subsequent films shift the emphasis radically away from the Matrix (which is never anything more than a set for agents and rebels to play in henceforth) to saving Zion and restoring the status quo of balance between machine and rebel. We never actually deal with another person who still believes in/is imprisoned by the Matrix's view of reality - and the battle that is fought is all about getting things back to the way they were in the first film. I don't know why this is, though the best explanation I've heard is that 9/11 occurred between the first and second films, forcing Warner to rethink the wisdom of making two more movies staring a group of admitted terrorists out to destroy 1999. (In some ways, V for Vendetta - which was released as public opinion was beginning to change re: the current war and Bush's approval ratings were dipping, and questioning him was no longer being seen as being unpatriotic - is the film the Wachowski's should have made out of Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions and didn't/couldn't at the time). But I digress...

To bring this back to the Jump 225 trilogy: What I personally love about Edelman is that he sets his story not before (and up to the point) of the radical transformation, nor after (and at a comfortable distance from) the transformation, but that he is actually charting the course through the societal singularity, showing how all the institutions of government, business, and society rearrange, realign, and topple. To an extent, Charlie Stross did this with his brilliant and essential Accelerando (though he moves his action off-world for a good deal of it - which is no criticism, it's a different animal), but I've never personally encountered a work that did such a thorough job and concentrated so much of its focus in taking us through the shift point between paradigms. I think that's why so many readers say that the future Edelman presents is a "believable" one, and why I think, though he mixes and matches tropes we've seen before, his approach is so unique.

9/9/08

Darkness is Overrated

Paul Cornell is interviewed at io9.com today. He talks about writing for Doctor Who (in the book, webisode and television mediums), Marvel comics (Wisdom, Captain Britain and MI-13, Fantastic Four: True Story), and radio (he's adapting Iain Banks' "The State of the Art" for BBC Radio 4).

And he even gets a nice plug in for a few SF anthologies:

So what are you working on now that you're most excited by?

At the moment, I'm most excited by the fact that I've got a story in all three continuing original SF short story anthologies (non-themed, that is). It's a complicated boast, but I like it. Two of the stories are in a series, the "Jonathan Hamilton" stories, which are in the style of Ian Fleming (the books, not the movies) and are vicious espionage tales set in a world where... well, I know what the difference to history is, but I haven't told the audience entirely yet. At any rate, the 'great game' of political balance in Europe continues, and the great European nations have colonised the solar system, while continuing a delicate cold war against each other.

Those two stories, 'Catherine Drewe' and 'One of our Bastards is Missing' are in Fast Forward 2from Pyr and the Solaris Book of New SF 3, respectively. The other story, 'Michael Laurits is: DROWNING' is in the second Eclipse collection, which is I think is going to be launched at Calgary this year. I love SF short stories, and I'm hoping to get into doing more.

And yeah, "Catherine Drewe" is going to blow you away.

9/8/08

Prometheus Books New Website

The parent company has a brand new website. The long overdue overhaul of Prometheus Books' online home debuts today. What do you think?

I should point out that the submission guidelines are for their books only, not Pyr. We have separate submission guidelines here.

Should scientists forget Space?

The UK's former Chief Scientist will today call on the world's leading scientists to turn away from space exploration and particle physics, and look instead to the big challenges facing the globe - like climate change, population growth and poverty in Africa.

At the BA Science Festival, Sir David King will suggest what he describes as a "re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society's inner attitudes towards science and technology."

That would mean less funding for projects like the Hadronn Collider at Cern, moon or Mars landings, and a re-direction of scientific thinking towards problems that threaten civilization.

It's a powerful debate that needs to take place. There's no doubt that the world is moving into a period of crisis that will take both brainpower and fantastic amounts of cash to solve. King suggests an "all hands to the pump" approach, which may be exactly what it takes to save us.

On the other hand, the kind of projects King suggests should be sidelined have shown real benefits to society in many areas not directly related to the project at hand. When radical new thinking takes place, spin-offs can come out of left-field.

On a more mundane note, if science pulls back to global concerns, does that make SF more valuable as the keeper of the flame for science's 'higher purpose' of interaction with the universe and the endless possibilities that may provide?

Mark Chadbourn

9/6/08

Stargate: Atlantis "Whispers" & Pyr

For those who watched Stargate: Atlantis' episode "Whispers," about mid-way through the episode, you may have noticed the character of Dusty reading The Martian General's Daughter.The cover wasn't 100 % visible in the frame, but you'll be seeing a full, clear cover shot in a forthcoming episode. Theodore Judson's book is reportedly part of the Atlantis book club!


A big thanks to John-Mark for the freeze frame image above.

9/5/08

Jetse de Vries Steps Down

Citing what amounts to "creative differences," co-editor Jetse de Vries resigns from Interzone. Jetse is an amazing guy, one who has worked very hard in the cause of good short fiction, and I'm sorry to see him step down. I hope that he emerges somewhere else SOON, because I would hate for our field to have lost his valuable input.

9/4/08

Midwinter, wordled

I just pasted the entire text of my upcoming novel Midwinter into wordle, and this is what it spat out. Pretty fair representation of the book. (Why do I use the word "back" so much?)


[click to embiggen]

Try it.

Roberson's Book Report

Every so often on my blog, I do book reports. Not really reviews, as such, but more capsule commentary on whatever I've been reading lately. So what have I been reading lately?

Well, ever since turning in Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II, I've found myself in the unique position of not having to do a lot of research. I've been working on the scripts for Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love, but most of the reading I've been doing for that has been short-ish, bits and pieces here and there. And so the time that I've got set aside to read for part of every day (while I walk for 30 minutes in the morning, primarily) has been completely free and open. I could read anything I wanted...

And so I did.


George Mann's The Affinity Bridge

I've been looking forward to this book for ages. In addition to being the head of Solaris Books and Black Library (and one of my favorite drinking buddies), George Mann is a terrific writer, a fact that not many people know... yet. A lot more people are going to be discovering that fact very quickly, I imagine. His first full length novel, The Affinity Bridge, comes out from the UK press Snow Books about any minute now, it's not out already, and will be coming out from one of the larger US houses sometime thereafter (I'm not sure if it's been announced yet who the US publisher is, so you won't be hearing it from me). I read parts of the manuscript early on, but this was the first chance I'd had to sit down and read the whole novel from start to finish.

The Affinity Bridge is the first "Newbury & Hobbes Investigation", and hopefully the first of many. Sir Maurice Newbury, scholar with the British Museum, expert on the unexplained and the occult, and occasional agent of Queen Victoria, is aided by his new assistant Veronica Hobbes, who may be more than she appears. Veronica is not a stranger to the unexplained and the occult herself, as the older sister of a girl who is haunted by visions of the future. The London that Newbury and Hobbes inhabit is almost the one that history records, with a few tweaks here and there. Airships sail across the smoky skies, piloted by brass automata, undead "revenants" prowl the fog-wrapped streets hungry for the taste of human flesh, and the ghosts of dead policemen bring a bloody justice to criminal who have escaped the law's grasp. Queen Victoria continues to rule, her life artificially extended by steam-driven cybernetics.

The Affinity Bridge is a nicely constructed "fair play" mystery, a Steampunk adventure, and an alternate history with intriguing worldbuilding, all rolled into one. To share even a few of my favorite moments from the plot would threaten to spoil some of the surprises, but suffice it to say that this is a book that features a dude in fist fights not only with zombies and brass robots, and that those aren't even the best bits.

Mann's first novel is absolutely an enormous pile of awesome, and is highly recommended to anyone who thinks that fist fights with zombies and steampunk robots might be their cup of tea.



Greg Bear's The City at the End of Time

I read a capsule review of Greg Bear's latest novel, The City at the End of Time, and had to check it out. People shifting their consciousnesses across alternate dimensions? Teenage runaways in modern America dreaming of a doomed city at the end of time? Vast libraries, containing every possible book? It sounded like it was right up my alley.

And it is. I think this may be the first of Bear's novels that I've read, but I've already added a few more to my To Read pile. This is a hugely ambitious book, and one that plugs into many of my personal obsessions. The first moment that one of the characters started talking about the "fictional encyclopedia" commissioned in the 1920s by an Argentinian named Borges, I knew that this was a story for me. (Though, interestingly, the story seems to take place in an alternate history in which Borges never wrote fiction.) The mentions later on about the "Last Redoubt" only sealed the deal.

The action in City at the End of Time alternates between modern day Seattle and the Kalpa, the titular city at the end of time. In Seattle we follow a teenage runaway and a busker, both of whom visit the end of time in their dreams, and both of whom are able to affect causality in the near term, and a vagrant who is possessed by a consciousness capable of shifting from one parallel worldline to another. In the Kalpa, we follow two young "ancient breeds" (genetically engineered humanoids who are approximations for what primordial humanity--i.e. us--might have been like), who play host to the two dreamers in modern day Seattle, and a "Keeper" involved in a last-ditch effort to stem the tide of unreal Chaos that threatens to engulf the last remnants of the universe.

The far future sections of the novel are really far future, and it's here that the novel really starts to sing. The following are two paragraphs from just one of the many potted histories that are threaded through the book, hinting at the vast gulfs of time connecting now to then.
"As for the late Trillennium, in the shadow of the Chaos: broad legends describe the age of the Mass Wars. Bosonic Ashurs had returned from their mastery of the dark light-years, seeking ascendance over all... and were subdued by the mesonic Kanjurs, who in turn were defeated by the Devas--patterned from integral quarks. Devas were then forces to give way to the nootics. Nootic mater was hardly matter at all--more like a binding compact between space, fate, and two out of seven aspects of time.

The nootics--calling themselves Eidolons--gathered survivors from the last artificial galaxies and forced nearly all to convert. The last remnants of old matter were preserved and transported to a number of reliquaries with the longest continuous histories--including Earth."

This is a terrifically smart book, but in many places a very funny one as well. While not overlong, it is considerable dense in places, and having finished the book I tend to think that the journey might have been more enjoyable than the destination. But it's a wide-ranging, mind-expanding trip of a book, and something that science fiction needs more of. Recommended.



Daryl Gregory's Pandemonium

A few weeks ago, I'd never heard of Daryl Gregory. Then I bumped into Gary K. Wolfe in Denver as he was reading Gregory's first novel, Pandemonium, and the brief description of it that Gary shared was more than a little intriguing. Then I met Daryl himself the next day at the bar, and we struck up a conversation. He seemed like a sharp guy, so when I got back to Austin I dug up a recent "year's best" collection and read Gregory's "Unpossible." Then I read "Damascus." Then I read "Second Person, Present Tense," and "Dead Horse Point," and "The Continuing Adventures of Rocket Boy." And so on, and so on. In the course of a couple of days I read a half-dozen or so of Gregory's stories, and quickly came to a conclusion: Daryl Gregory can write like a son-of-a-bitch.

Pandemonium is Daryl Gregory's first book-length work to be published, and to my thinking it's the single best debut novel I've read in years. The back cover blurb doesn't even begin to do this book justice. This is the story of Del Pierce, a guy who dreamed of being an artist and whose dreams haven't worked out quite as he planned. Del lives in America, but it isn't quite our America. This is a world in which, for at least sixty years and possibly quite a bit longer, various individuals have, for varying lengths of time, been "possessed." By demons? Possibly. By telepathic mutant "slan" who control them at a distance? Unlikely, but not impossible. By free-roaming personalities dredged from Carl Jung's "collective unconsciousness"? Just maybe. But what does it mean that these demons/personalities/etc. so often appear in the forms of heroes from comic books and pulp novels? The Captain, shield-wielding super-soldier; the Truth, a grim avenger in fedora and trench coat, with twin .45s and a menacing laugh; the Boy Marvel, a hero in red tights and a white cape with a boyish smile. Or that another of the "demons" is called Valis and possesses an elderly science fiction writer named Philip K. Dick?

Gregory's short fiction displays certain central obsessions--a keen understanding of cognitive sciences; an interest in families and questions of relationships and maturity; and an obsession with popular culture, in the form of science fiction, superhero comics, pulp novels, etc. All of these factor into Pandemonium, to great effect. To give much more than a broad summary of the plot threatens to spoil too many of the surprises, so I won't bother. (Should I admit that the ending was so affecting that I actually teared up in Starbucks while reading it? No, perhaps not...) I can say, though, that the writing is accomplished and polished, employing a first-person voice that is deceptively conversational and familiar, but which is capable of spinning out devastatingly clever turns of phrase when needed, laugh-out-loud funny in places and knuckle-whitening-terrify in others.

Pandemonium is simply a stunning debut, and I for one can't wait to see what Gregory does next. Highly, highly recommended.

9/3/08

Robyn Hitchcock & Mervyn Peake

From an interview in the Village Voice with musician Robyn Hitchcock:

Tell me the name of a book you've read at least twice.

I've read The Gormenghast Trilogy. Have you read those? Mervyn Peake's The Gormenghast Trilogy. I recommend that to anyone who likes my stuff.

I was also struck by his closing thoughts:
You know, every artist wants to shake hands with the future. It's not just a question of the old ego in the present. It's a desperate attempt by your ego to feel that it will escape time.
Hitchcock, of course, contributed two poems to Fast Forward 1.A long time fan of his music, I highly recommend all his recent work on Yep Roc Records, particularly Spooked and the new retrospective Luminous Groove.

9/2/08

Podcast: Lou ex Machina

I'm a guest today on Fantasy author Gail Z. Martin's Ghost in the Machine podcast. We talk about the two anthologies I have out this year, Sideways In Crimeand Fast Forward 2. We also talk about the difference in writing for short form vs novel length, Stephen King's It and The Gunslinger, and much more. Here's the direct link.

Update - And here's the actual podcast: