The Geomancer


The Dervish House: Adam Roberts' Best SF Novels of 2010

The Dervish HouseLocus Online has posted  Adam Roberts’ 10 Best SF Novels of 2010 and it's no surpise that Ian McDonald's The Dervish House makes the list. Adam has this to say:
"A rich, accomplished portrait of near-future Istanbul that may be is the best thing McDonald has written—and that’s saying something. It is the product of a writer at the top of his game: beautifully styled, complexly characterised and plotted without ever feeling heavy or dull. We move through interlinked worlds of Turkish commerce, industry, politics and the streetlife: half a dozen storylines are coiled together as neatly as DNA, each of them compelling and readable. McDonald manages to avoid the traps of condescension, or Orientalism, that lie in wait for the white Westerner writing about places that are neither of those things. A dervishly good book."

Pyr Dominates Elistist Book Reviews Best of 2010 list

Geosynchron (Book Three of the Jump 225 Trilogy)Elitist Book Reviews have just published their Best of 2010 list, and we're thrilled to see books by David Louis Edelman, James Barclay, Tom Lloyd, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Sam Sykes, and Jasper Kent on the list. That's six out of thirteen authors, or ten out of seventeen books!

The full list:

TwelveGEOSYNCHRON by David Louis Edelman
James Barclay's novels -- ELFSORROW and SHADOWHEART
SWORDS & DARK MAGIC edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders
MR. MONSTER by Dan Wells
TWELVE by Jasper Kent
SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY by Mary Robinette Kowal
BLACKOUT and ALL CLEAR by Connie Willis
NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR by Mark Charan Newton

For a round up of all the Best of 2010 lists Pyr has appeared on today, see this post.


More Cassandra Kresnov

Yes, I've decided to write a new series. Or actually, they kind of decided to write themselves, they've been brewing in my mind for quite a while now. Sandy has a lot of unfinished business with the people who made her, and I've had lots of time to think about how that might play out. How many books? No idea, we'll have to see how the series goes.


Finding Fantasy in The Past - The World

When I decided I was going to write an historical fantasy, the attractions of the Elizabethan era were many. It was, for one, a time very much like our own, when society was going through massive changes – a rapid increase in new technology changing the way people lived their lives, foreign wars over resources and in pursuit of power, religious intolerance and religiously-motivated acts against the state funded by foreign powers, heightened surveillance at home, a fear of foreigners among the common man, rising wealth for a few but near-poverty for many, and massive leaps forward in art, literature and music. Not only would we understand the Elizabethan man and woman, there were stark resonances with our own age that would add a nice layer of complexity to any story.

Spain was the sixteenth century equivalent of the US, a global superpower influencing geo-politics at many levels. Under King Philip, the country ruthlessly pursued power and wealth, invading Portugal and putting pressure on France and the Low Countries while exploiting the New World’s resources of gold and silver. Though a devout man, Philip was not averse to using religion as a cover for some of Spain’s more aggressive actions and thereby keeping his subjects firmly behind him.

Beside Spain, England was a small nation with ambition and pluck, but little real power and no great wealth. Thanks to Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic church, the nation lived in a near-constant state of fear of either retribution from the Catholic powers of Europe or insurrection within from Catholic agitators. Young priests were being trained in foreign seminaries and sent to England to foment revolution and to spy. The Government feared Philip’s expansionist policy and rumours of an invasion of England began long before the Armada set sail.

This was a dark time of terror and sweat and deceit. Yet in a sequence of stories that were essentially about duality, I could also look to the other, more positive face of the time. This, too, was the English Renaissance, with Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon and other writers blazing a trail, alongside composers like Tallis and Taverner, and architects like Inigo Jones. There was a great deal of enlightenment after long centuries of moral repression. Brothels were tolerated, including one composed entirely of young men. London was growing at an astonishing rate – faster than it could truly cope – and had become one of the great cities of Europe. So it was an exciting, vibrant time too.

The stories were to be about the point where fantasy collided with reality, but the more I researched, the more comparable and contextual collisions I found – socially, culturally, religious, political. Any fantasy – any story – needs a rich world and plenty of innate conflict. It was all here.

And while England was increasingly embracing what would come to be science, it still had the supernatural fears of past centuries at its back. The Elizabethan era was really the point where the country was caught between reason and unreason, hope and fear, past and future.

With the idea of a country trying to move forward while held back by the hooks of a superstitious past came the opening for my antagonists, the otherworldly Unseelie Court. Their existence was encoded in every myth and legend and folktale; the English had always lived in fear of the Fair Folk. But under Queen Elizabeth, England wanted to break free of their shackles and move into a new, brighter age.

Next time I’ll look at some of the historical characters who populate The Silver Skull and The Scar-Crow Men and why I chose them.

Hour of the Wolf

FYI, I'll be appearing LIVE on the Hour of the Wolf radio show, hosted by Jim Freund, this week on Thursday, 1:30-3:00 AM. Yes, that is AM, folks. Which either makes it very late Wednesday, or very early Thursday.

Their website:



The cottage in which I grew up was the third in a row of four, with a large shared back garden that ran down to the ruins of a canal lock. A little way beyond was a station on a single-track branch railway line affectionately known as the Dudbridge Donkey.  Before the Beeching Act killed it off, small steam and diesel locomotives hauled goods trains back and forth; my route to primary school crossed the line and on my way back home I'd often see a locomotive rootling about with a few wagons in the truncated goods yard.  I've retained an abiding affection for railways ever since.

Before Lord of the Rings, there was the Chronicles of Narnia, written by Tolkein's fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis.  I read them over again when I was a child.  My favourite was the origin story, The Magician's Nephew.  It featured a wood between worlds where you could, by stepping into one or another of its many shallow pools, access alternate universes.

In the late 1960s, I loved to watch The Time Tunnel, a briefly-lived series created by Irwin Allen in which, as the opening narration of each episode put it:
"Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments on America's greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time."
Murray Leinster, widely credited with the invention of parallel universe stories, wrote the tie-in novel.

Where do science-fiction writers get their crazy ideas?


James Enge: On Writing the Philorohorrmorbmance

The Wolf AgeThe blog Civilian Reader has a great interview with James Enge up today. James talks about the origins of the character of Morlock Ambrosius in Tolkien and Arthurian romance, and how the character grew beyond those origins. They discuss his influences, his passion for classical mythology, and how Blood of Ambrose, This Crooked Way, and The Wolf Age is NOT a trilogy ("'All you guys say that!' one of my brothers shouted at me over the phone recently, but in this case it’s really true.") The whole interview is great. But here's a bit for a taste:
After Tolkien, I guess the biggest influence on me would be American writers of sword-and-sorcery (and the allied genre of sword-and-planet): Fritz Leiber, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance and Leigh Brackett. They are explicitly and unapologetically writing adventure fiction in fantastic worlds, but the adventures and the risks in their fiction are not merely material, and each one is a brilliant stylist (among other things). I like Zelazny’s description of his masterwork, the original Amber series: “a philosophical romance shot through with elements of horror and morbidity.” That’s what I try to write: philorohorrmorbmance.


Finding Fantasy In The Past

The Scar-Crow Men (Swords of the Albion Book 2)The Scar-Crow Men, the second of my Elizabethan fantasy novels, is out soon from Pyr. It’s fantasy noir, renaissance punk, historical fantasy, sword and sorcery, historical urban fantasy or one of half a dozen other labels, depending on who’s speaking. Like some of my other work, the story exists at the point where the fantastic smashes up hard against reality, only in this sequence that reality is in the past, five hundred years gone, among well-documented, pivotal events.

Writing historical fantasy – to adopt the broadest label – has its own peculiar demands. We’re talking about an alien world here, with its own customs, clothes, politics, transport, weapons, social classes, art, music and economy and every aspect needs to be fully realized for the reader to settle into it.

To say this entails a massive amount of research, doesn’t begin to do the job justice. The writer needs to understand everything, both as its own thing and in context within the time period. This involves more than the invention of a secondary world fantasy, more than looking out of the window or Googling or location research for a contemporary fantasy (both of which I’ve written in the past).

Out knowledge of history degrades the further back we go. Characters walk on stage and then disappear. Our understanding of events is based on often-biased accounts. And sometimes there are vast parts of life that are simply missing in contemporary accounts.

The Elizabethan Age is reasonably well-documented, particularly with regard to affairs of state. The lives of the common men and women are there too, but the information is scattered widely. While writing this sequence, I sometimes had to embark on three different strands of research for a single sentence.

The Scar-Crow Men unfolds in the shadow of the murder of the playwright Christopher Marlowe, a killing that has all the mystery and intrigue of the JFK assassination. The previous volume, The Silver Skull, is set at the time of the Armada and the Spanish invasion of England.

Over a few posts here I’m going to be writing about what goes into creating these historical fantasies, looking at the places, the people, the milieu, not only setting the context but also underlining the basic premise that the more reality you get, the more effective the fantasy.


SciFi Now Awards: The Dervish House & The Horns of Ruin

SciFi Now has announced its SciFi Now Awards for 2010:
The Dervish House
Ian McDonald wins Best Novel for The Dervish House. SciFi Now writes, "Set in a near-future Turkey, the book explores a range of themes and ideas common to his novels - technology, social variance, politics and others - and manage to frame a tightly plotted narrative around it. After River of Gods, we weren't sure if McDonald would reach such heady heights again, but he's proven that he's more than capable of it here in this excellent release."

Tim Akers, Tim Akers, author of The Horns of Ruin, wins the Rising Star Award. SciFi Now writes "we expect big things from him over the next few years."

2010 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack (Burton & Swinburne in)
Mark Hodder's The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack has just been nominated for the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award, and we are hugely excited. From the press release:
The judges of the 2010 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, are pleased to announce seven nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:
YARN by Jon Armstrong (Night Shade Books)
CHILL by Elizabeth Bear (Ballantine Books/Spectra)
THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS by Alden Bell (Henry Holt & Co.)
SONG OF SCARABAEUS by Sara Creasy (Eos)
HARMONY by Project Itoh, translated by Alexander O. Smith (Haikasoru)
STATE OF DECAY by James Knapp (Roc)
First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 22, 2010 at Norwescon 34 at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. Last year’s winner was BITTER ANGELS by C. L. Anderson (Ballantine Books/Spectra) with a special citation to CYBERABAD DAYS by Ian McDonald (Pyr). The 2010 judges are William Barton, Andy Duncan (chair), Bruce McAllister, Melinda Snodgrass, and David Walton.
Congratulations to Mark, and to all the nominees!


Cover for Shadow's Lure

Here is the cover art for my next book, Shadow's Lure. I want to thank artist-supreme Michael Komarck for another outstanding cover. I've been told this is still a work in progress, which blows my mind because it's so terrific already.


Cowboy Angels: Sample Up at io9

Cowboy Angelsio9 is very kindly hosting a three chapter excerpt from Paul McAuley's Cowboy Angels. Check it out!

The first Turing gate, a mere hundred nanometers across, is forced open in 1963, at the high-energy physics laboratory in Brookhaven; three years later, the first man to travel to an alternate history takes his momentous step, and an empire is born.
For fifteen years, the version of America that calls itself the Real has used its Turing gate technology to infiltrate a wide variety of alternate Americas, rebuilding those wrecked by nuclear war, fomenting revolutions and waging war to free others from communist or fascist rule, and establishing a Pan-American Alliance. Then a nation exhausted by endless strife elects Jimmy Carter on a reconstruction and reconciliation ticket, the CIA's covert operations are wound down, and the Real begins to wage peace rather than war.
But some people believe that it is the Real's manifest destiny to impose its idea of truth, justice, and the American way in every known alternate history, and they're prepared to do anything to reverse Carter's peacenik doctrine. When Adam Stone, a former CIA field officer, one of the Cowboy Angels who worked covertly in other histories, volunteers for reactivation after an old friend begins a killing spree across alternate histories, his mission uncovers a startling secret about the operation of the Turing gates and leads him into the heart of an audicious conspiracy to change the history of every America in the multiverse-including our own.
Cowboy Angels is a vivid, helter-skelter thriller in which one version of America discovers the true cost of empire building, and one man discovers that an individual really can make a difference.

Rick Riordan on James Enge's Blood of Ambrose

Blood of Ambrose"This is a straightforward fantasy novel for a grownup audience. It’s set in a well-imagined fictional world where young Lathmar, the nominal king of the Ontil Empire, is facing a coup d’etat from his own Lord Protector, who is in league with some truly creepy dark forces. To the rescue comes Morlock Ambrosius, Lathmar’s great uncle, who is a centuries-old knight and magician from the Wardlands, accompanied by his faithful apprentice Wyrth the dwarf. Morlock is a wonderful character – powerful and noble, tragic and comic -- with more than a small nod to Don Quixote. The plot weaves from gruesome episode to gruesome episode, but balances the somber and sometimes downright horrifying action with some fine black humor. The novel is worth reading just to meet Velox, the flying, flaming, screaming horse. ‘Nuff said."#1 New York Times bestselling author Rick Riordan on James Enge's Blood of Ambrose

The Best of 2010 Steampunk Facebook Awards

Not a picture of Lou.
The steampunk page on Facebook has just announced "The Best of 2010 Steampunk Facebook Awards." They write, "The largest steampunk fan page on Facebook now has a set of yearly awards to acknowledge the best of the best, those people in the arts and other creative fields whose work has shone through above the rest or who hold the most worldwide popularity among the steampunk community for their work this year. As this is the first year of these awards, we will be taking into account the work that individuals have done over the course of the past decade when determining who to select."

I suppose I'll be needing a pair of brass goggles now as I've been named "Best Editor." But before I start affixing gears to all my gadgets, what this announcement really means is that someone appreciates all the wonderful steampunk books that Pyr has released in the last few months, books like The Ghosts of Manhattan, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, The Greyfriar, The Horns of Ruin, and The Buntline Special. For my part, I certainly appreciate their authors.


The Dervish House: RUSU 2011 Recommended Reading List

The Dervish HouseAccording to Locus Online, Ian McDonald's The Dervish House has been selected as the science fiction recommendation in the 2011 Reading List from the Reference and User Services Association, as announced January 10, 2011 at the American Library Association.