The Geomancer


A Brief History of Lenayin

I've written a post on my blog about the world building that went into the land of Lenayin, from my novel 'Sasha'. Rather than posting the whole thing here, I've put in a link, and an excerpt.

'I can’t think of many fantasy novels where the people live beneath the rule of a king, but are ambivalent toward him and his authority. Because fantasy novels tend to be in love with the power of kings, and in love with the feudal system that sustains it... and sure, there is a lot of romance surrounding a position of such extreme authority. But the reality of such systems, of course, is that much of what we perceive as romance from that period of European history (picture glamorous king in crimson cloak on prancing white steed), was in fact propaganda by those kings who wanted to make themselves look good, and semi-divine, for obvious reasons.

Though power itself can be glamorous, much of the romance surrounding that power was in reality bullshit, and much of the manner in which kings actually ruled was cruel, arbitrary and unenlightened, to put it mildly. A good king could certainly be better than a bad king, but the system itself doesn’t allow much of what we would consider today ‘liberal open mindedness’ -- you’re either loyal, or you’re dead, and that applies to those living beneath good kings and bad kings alike. George RR Martin is one fantasy author who grasps this extremely well in ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. But a lot of fantasy, sadly I think, tends to swallow the propaganda whole, because the propaganda is pretty. Perhaps this just goes to illustrate that there is a statue of limitations on the offense caused by nasty political systems. Fantasy writers glorifying Nazism would get into trouble. Feudalism, not so much.

And yes, I am just stirring.


Tom Lloyd and James Enge Podcasts

Tom Lloyd, author of The Grave Thief,is the latest guest on the Dragon Page Cover to Cover podcast, episode #379A. Tom talks about the politics and religion of his fantasy quintet, as well as what it's like to begin your writing career with such a mammoth undertaking. The pocast is on iTunes and also has a direct link.

Meanwhile, This Crooked Wayauthor James Enge is interviewed on The Sci-Fi Guys Book Review. Enge talks about Morlock's origins in Tolkien and HG Wells, and his dislike of elves. This one isn't on iTunes that I can find, but has a direct link.



From the press release:

Helen Edwards, Rights Director at Transworld UK, has sold US rights in two historical vampire novels by UK novelist Jasper Kent for a good five-figure sum in US dollars.

World rights in the novels, which open with Jasper’s debut TWELVE, published very successfully in the UK by Transworld in January 2009 (it is the second-highest-selling trade paperback debut novel right across UK publishing in 2009), were acquired by Simon Taylor from John Jarrold in 2008. The sequel, THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, will appear in the UK in March 2010.

‘I'm thrilled to be welcoming Jasper Kent into the Pyr fold,’ says editorial director Lou Anders. ‘TWELVE is a magnificent blend of a historical novel and a dark fantasy novel, that could appeal equally to readers both in and out of genre. Jasper is a skilled storyteller, whose compelling prose had me hooked from his opening chapter. The book is "un-put-downable," and I love that he has brought back a real sense of threat and danger to the classic monsters, something that has been lacking with too many vampires lately. I cannot wait to spring this on US readers.’

‘Jasper and I are delighted with this deal, and looking forward to working with Lou and his colleagues,’ said John Jarrold. ‘Pyr is a terrific company, who publish many of my favourite authors, and Lou’s enthusiasm has to be seen to be believed!’

Contact Helen Edwards or John Jarrold for further information:

Helen Edwards: e-mail: phone: 020 8579 3652

John Jarrold: e-mail: phone: 01522 510544.

29th October 2009


Introducing Burton & Swinburne

I'm thrilled to report that I've just acquired a fantastic new steampunk tale, Mark Hodder's Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, the first of a planned new series. It's also the first Victorian-set steampunk I've acquired, (as opposed to Weird West, 1920s era America, or a secondary-world fantasy settings). I have been looking for a Victorian novel that would stand out from the crowd, and I was immediately drawn to the way in which Mark justified the steampunk elements of his uchronia, which all descend from a certain key change in our own history (rather than simply being used as set dressing). The worldbuilding is exceptionally well thought out, and I can't wait to, pardon the pun, spring it on the US in fall 2010 (or thereabouts; it's not scheduled yet). Here's the book description:

It is 1861, and the British Empire is in the grip of conflicting forces. Engineers transform the landscape with bigger, faster, noisier and dirtier technological wonders; Eugenicists develop specialist animals to provide unpaid labour; Libertines oppose restrictive and unjust laws and flood the country with propaganda demanding a society based on beauty and creativity; while The Rakes push the boundaries of human behaviour to the limits with magic, sexuality, drugs and anarchy.

Returning from his failed expedition to find the source of the Nile, explorer, linguist, scholar and swordsman Sir Richard Francis Burton finds himself sucked into the perilous depths of this moral and ethical vacuum when the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, employs him as “King's Spy.” His first mission: to investigate the sexual assaults committed by a weird apparition known as Spring Heeled Jack; to find out why chimney sweeps are being kidnapped by half-man, half-dog creatures; and to discover the whereabouts of his badly injured ex-friend (and new enemy), John Hanning Speke.

Accompanied by the diminutive and pain-loving poet, Algernon Swinburne, Burton's investigations lead him back to one of the defining events of the age: the brutal assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840; and the terrifying possibility that the world he inhabits shouldn't exist at all!

Mark Hodder is the creator and caretaker of the BLAKIANA website (, which he designed to celebrate and revive Sexton Blake, the most written about detective in English publishing history (thought to be the second most written about character in the English language). It was on this website that he cut his teeth as a writer of fiction; producing the first new Sexton Blake tales to be written for forty years. A former BBC writer, editor and web producer, Mark has worked in all the new and traditional medias and was based in London for most of his working life until 2008, when he relocated to Valencia in Spain to de-stress, teach the English language, and write novels. He has a degree in Cultural Studies and loves history, delusions, gadgets, cult TV, Tom Waits, and assorted oddities.


The Quiet Postwar

To those of you enjoying the Pyr edition of Paul McAuley's incomparable The Quiet War, I say this: "ner ner n'ner ner, I've read the sequel". It's called Gardens of the Sun, and I've blogged an instant review too. If The Quiet War deserves to sweep all before it in America (and it does) then Gardens of the Sun deserves to do just as well: it makes a coherent whole with the first book, and together they constitute "a very major work of contemporary science fiction, amongst the great genre achievements of the noughties, a long novel that will still be being read and remembered fifty years from now ... If you have any interest in SF today you’ll need to read both books." Or that, at least, is what I think. [AR]


For Your Viewing Pleasure: The Dervish House

The Dervish House© Ian McDonald
Cover Illustration © Stephan Martiniere
Design by Jacqueline Cooke

In the sleepy Istanbul district of Eskiköy stands the former whirling dervish house of Adem Dede. Over the space of five days of an Istanbul heatwave, six lives weave a story of corporate wheeling and dealing, Islamic mysticism, political and economic intrigue, ancient Ottoman mysteries, a terrifying new terrorist threat, and a nanotechnology with the potential to transform every human on the planet.

Coming July 2010


The Man Behind the Magic

AgeofMisrule and forthcoming The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion)author Mark Chadbourn is the latest guest on Shaun Farrell's magnificent podcast, Adventures in SciFi Publishing. Mark and Shaun discuss spy-fantasy, Mark’s love of history and mythology, and how Mark balances a fulltime television career with novel writing demands.


Morlock comes to the Inner Worlds

Last night, Blood of Ambrose author James Enge participated via phone call with the Inner Worlds Sci-Fi/Fantasy Reading and Discussion Group.

Enge talked via phone to a group of about 11 folks, who meet once a month in Barnes & Noble. While there, he spilled some beans about the direction his novel-in-progress The Wolf Age is taking:

"It's getting a little dark. I thought it would be a lighthearted romp--Morlock, werewolves, ghost-powered zeppelins--how could you lose? And I think it will be. Well, I don't want to go into too many details because I'm still in the thick of it, but there are some very dark passages in that book so far."

This lead to a discussion about authors who can be funny and horrific in the same context (as he can):

"I was thinking of Dorothy L. Sayers just the other day. She does that in the Lord Peter Wimsey books. They are about murder--she takes murder as a moral act very seriously; some of those sections about the murders are really grim--but its awfully laugh out loud funny. It's like PG Wodehouse sometimes, and Raymond Chandler, I think, is the same way in the US though. In the middle of this dark case where everything is evil and everyone is bad and Philip Marlowe just got beat up again, he makes some wisecrack that just makes you laugh out loud. Detective novels are good at that sometimes."

From there they went on to discuss crows as Enge's favorite bird.

"They are the only bird that will talk back to me. I can imitate a crow pretty well, and they'll talk back to me. I don't know what they are saying, of course."

Good time had by all.


Babel Clash: Matthew Sturges and James Enge

Matthew Sturges (Midwinter, The Office of Shadow) and James Enge (Blood of Ambrose, This Crooked Way) are the next guests on Borders' Babel Clash, which kicks off tomorrow.


Something To Look Forward To...

From here to Eternity, or just August 2010...

October 2009:
Joel Shepherd, Sasha: A Trial of Blood & Steel, Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

James Enge, A Crooked Way, Trade Paperback, Swords & Sorcery

James Barclay, Noonshade (Chronicles of the Raven 2) Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

November 2009:
Mark Chadbourn, The Silver Skull (Swords of Albion), Trade Paperback, Historical Fantasy/Secret History

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Diving into the Wreck, Trade Paperback, Space Opera

James Barclay, Nightchild (Chronicles of the Raven 3), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

December 2009:
Mike Resnick, Starship: Flagship (Book 5), Hardcover, Military SF

January 2010:
Kay Kenyon, City Without End (The Entire and the Rose 3), Trade Paperback after Hardcover, Sci-fantasy, Epic SF

Kay Kenyon, Prince of Storms (The Entire and the Rose 4), Hardcover, Sci-fantasy, Epic SF

February 2010:
David Louis Edelman, Geosynchron (Jump 225 Vol III), Trade Paperback, SF

March 2010:
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt 1), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Joel Shepherd, Petrodor: A Trial of Blood & Steel II, Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Paul McAuley, Gardens of the Sun, Trade Paperback, Space Opera

April 2010:
George Mann, Ghosts of Manhattan, Trade Paperback, 1920s Steampunk Superhero

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt 2), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Ian McDonald, Ares Express, Trade Paperback, SF

May 2010:
Mark Chadbourn, The Devil in Green (Dark Age Book 1), Trade Paperback, Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

Adrian Tchaikovsky, Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt 3), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

June 2010:
Mark Chadbourn, The Queen of Sinister (Dark Age Book 2), Trade Paperback, Urban/Contemporary Fantasy

Matthew Sturges, The Office of Shadow, Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Jon Sprunk, Shadow’s Son, Trade Paperback, Swords & Sorcery

July 2010:
Mark Chadbourn, The Hounds of Avalon (Dark Age Book 3), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Ian McDonald, The Dervish House, Hardcover, SF

August 2010:
Kay Kenyon, Prince of Storms (The Entire and the Rose 4) Trade Paperback after Hardcover, Sci-fantasy, Epic SF

Tom Lloyd, The Ragged Man, (The Twilight Reign Book 4), Trade Paperback, Epic Fantasy

Note: The Spring-Summer 2010 season (which begins March 2010) is already up at Amazon, and should be available for preorders at BooksAMillion, Borders, B&N, and your favorite independent bookstore too as soon as the information filters on through.


io9's Book Club Discussion Starts

io9's firs book club meeting is up, discussing Paul McAuley'sThe Quiet War. Editor Annalee Newitz writes, "One of the things I liked the most about this novel was the way McAuley described the geoengineering projects on all the outer planets and their moons. The descriptions were vivid and felt realistic; and I liked watching Macy at work in the lab. What did you guys think about the science in the book? Too much? Too little? Relevant or irrelevant to the plot?"

Join the discussion here.


And there's more . . .

That post on anti-heroes was taken from my October e-newsletter on writing. The newsletter comes out every other month; my take on writing and the writing life. Further description here.

Hateful Heroes

I recently was asked to contribute to an online list of favorite literary villains. It got me to thinking about hating our heroes, too. There is something delicious and compulsively readable about a hero who is a complete ass. Are you looking for a way to reclaim your story idea from the doldrums? How about reconfiguring your protagonist into an infuriating, sometimes repulsive, anti-social genius?

Does someone come to mind immediately? If you mentioned Gregory House of the TV medical show, you're on my wavelength.

I think the show was a bit repetitive this past season, but I kept watching just for the vile doctor. Here is a brilliant hero who is hard to like, but who makes everyone around him seem pathetically common and boring. His healing is solely (so far) for the purpose of testing his diagnostic skills.You've doubtless heard that House is a take-off on Sherlock Holmes . . . another hero--like Scarlet O'Hara, and many others--who doesn't bother winning our empathy.How do the writers get by with this?

My take is that these maddening heroes behave in anti-social ways that we often wish to. Normally we might not want to hurt feelings, but aren't there times--perhaps lots of them--when you just want to let go and say what you mean, no matter how cynical and thoughtless it might be--just to shake up the status quo? Just to tell the truth for once? These hateful heroes do so with the charm (Scarlet) or wit (House) that we would love to have.

Part of the secret to these great characters is their attractive qualities that more than make up for their delicious indulgences. House saves lives with his uncanny deductions. He is also quite funny. (Hmm. Make note to self.) Scarlet is magnetic, attracting every male (and female) in the room. But House is the stronger character. He has a big personal quality that she lacks. He is self-aware. He knows that he despises himself. Ordinary people would whine and deny. Not House. Without realizing it, we admire his self-knowledge.

Another bit of genius: the writers keep giving us moments when House will surely cave in. We hope for his redemption; we think we see moments. . . we desperately want him to believe in something. We are hooked on House. Notice how the writers constantly craft moments when we are led once again to hope. This is the real underlying drama of House--beyond the sick patients and the love lives of his fellow doctors: will House be redeemed?

For another study in dark heroes, read Joe Abercrombie's First Law series (a fantasy.) You may disagree with me that the torturer Glokta is a protagonist (at least in the first book), but do take a look at this masterful rendering of a shockingly cruel character whom we find irresistible.

OK, and for my list of favorite villains in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. From SF Signal.

More Martian Ramblings

Soon after posting a short note on Paul Davies's proposal about getting to Mars cheaply by staging one-way missions, I ran into my friend Oliver Morton, who pointed me towards a post on his Mainly Martian blog that with takes apart Davies's claims in meticulous detail. Oliver is a Mars-head from way back - his book, Mapping Mars, is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of observation and exploration of the red planet - and his demolition job is pretty comprehensive. Cutting out a return vehicle wouldn't lower the cost of the mission by as much as Davies suggests; if the one-way trip isn't a suicide mission, the Mars explorers will have to set up a permanent base camp under extreme and arduous conditions, and will need continuous resupply from Earth for the forseeable future; the 'lifeboat' argument for space colonisation elides the uncomfortable fact that most people will be left behind. And so on.

All in all, it's a bracing dose of realism. If there is a cheap way of going to Mars, a one-way trip isn't the way to do it. (Still, as an irresponsible SF writer, I feel there's plenty of fictional traction in the scenario. I've already dabbled in it, as the background story of one of the secondary characters in The Secret of Life; now I'm wondering what would happen if, say, there was a privately funded one-way mission to Mars that had to rely on viewers' ratings to keep its astronauts resupplied: a Robinson-Crusoe-On-Mars reality show. Or suppose a one-way mission made a go of it with the help of a substantial resupply programme, and fifty years later their descendants were faced with the bill...).

I do take issue, though, with Oliver's last point:
Human Mars exploration is indeed a fine goal, and it is quite possible that fairly early on there will be some who elect to stay. But the only real argument for doing it sooner or rather than later is the selfish one of wanting to see/participate in it personally. I can appreciate that, but I don't think it's a compelling policy point. There are a lot of other big exciting projects to inspire us -- a new energy infrastructure for the world, the millennium development goals, in pure science the development of telescopes for characterising the atmospheres and possible biospheres of exoplanets.
Yes, going to Mars as soon as possible for personal reasons isn't a compelling reason (even if you are a zillionaire who can fund the entire caper). And yes, there are plenty of other ways to spend the money. But I'm not convinced that funding of expensive space missions diverts essential resources from more pressing problems here on Earth. It's a straw man argument that's been around since the Apollo missions, and there's no evidence that cash cut from NASA funds goes to humanitarian aid or other scientific projects instead; either it goes elsewhere in the overloaded federal budget, or it simply isn't spent. And it isn't as if all that money is blasted into orbit, never to return. Most of it stays right here. It's spent on research and development, on construction of infrastructure, and on the salaries of the thousands of men and women who are involved in supporting manned missions in every kind of way. And if manned missions are cut out of the NASA programme, then all that expertise is lost, and so is the momentum.

The International Space Station is due to be decomissioned in a few years; if it is, that will put an end to the need for manned missions to low Earth orbit. And although there's talk about going to the Moon, we've already been there, and the main rationale for returning is that it would be a staging post or training ground for the Big Leap Outwards. Given that funds are limited, why not start planning and working towards that Big Leap now, with missions to Near Earth asteroids, a round trip around Venus, and maybe a mission to Phobos, rather than a diversion to the Moon? The romantic in me would like to think that kind of thing might be possible in my life time, at least . . .