Sunday 27 January 2008

Alternate History Reading List

Once again, this list is not comprehensive, but should give you more reading ideas.

Found in the History Section:
Robert Cowley - What if?, What if? 2
Mike Resnick - History Revisited
Gavriel Rosenfeld - The World Hitler Never Made

Found in the Fiction Section:
Harry Turtledove - pretty much everything including he’s written including several anthologies like, Alternate Generals and Worlds That Weren’t
Eric Flint - 1632, 1633, 1634: The Galileo Affair, 1634: The Ram Rebellion, 1634: The Bavarian Crisis, 1635: The Canon Law, 1812: Rivers of War, 1812: Arkansas War, etc.
Kurt Giambastiani - From the Heart of the Storm
Robert Harris - Fatherland
S. M. Stirling - Conquistador, Protector’s War, Dies the Fire, Meeting at Corvallis
Robert Silverberg - Roma Eterna
Robert Wilson - Darwinia
William Gibson - Difference Engine
Harry Harrison - Stars & Stripes Triumphant, Stars & Stripes in Peril, Stars & Stripes in Triumph
Debra Doyle - Land of Mist and Snow
Naomi Novik - His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory
John Birmingham - Weapons of Choice, Designated Targets, Final Impact
Jonathan Green - Unnatural History
Robert Conroy - 1945, 1901
Jo Walton - Farthing, Ha’Penny
Sophia McDougall - Romanitas, Rome Burning
Jaspre Bark - Sniper Elite: Spear of Destiny
Jonathan Green - Pax Britannia: Unnatural History
Al Ewing - Pax Britannica: El Sombra
Stephen Baxter - Emperor, Navigator

Sunday 20 January 2008

Author Interview - Paul Chafe

Novels: Destiny's Forge: A Man-Kzin Wars Novel

What are your favourite three books (not by you, either in the field or out of it)?

>Only three? They change all the time. Right now - Shakespeare's Macbeth, because it's really the greatest tragedy, HG Wells' War of the Worlds, which I think is the best science fiction ever written and fantastically prescient in so many wars, and Gone with the Wind, which is simply classic.

In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?

>That's like asking my to choose between children!

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

>Most of my characters have had a pretty rough time by the time the story is over. Some of them I'd like to know - I don't think any of them I'd like to actually be.

What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it to write it?

>My first novel was Mission Critical, put out by Prima Publishing when they were trying to establish their Proteus line. I wrote most of it in six weeks flat because it had to be co-ordinated with the release of the game of the same name. There's nothing like a deadline to accellerate the pace of development!

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

>Very much the opening scene of Genesis. It's intense and there's nothing pretty about it. I very much wanted to soften it, but it needed to be the way it is so the rest of the book, and the rest of the trilogy, will make sense. It's saving grace is that it ends with hope, which is a theme throughout the narrative, but the reader certainly earns it - and I did too.

If you still have one, what's your day job?

>I'm an infantry officer in the army reserve - not exactly a day job, but one I love.

Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

>I don't think one is necessarily harder than the other. In both cases you have to create a world, and know the rules of that world and follow them. They are certainly different stylistically. I like hard science fiction because I'm very familiar with the rules of math and physics, but the most important elements of a story are always plot and character, and that's true regardless of the genre.

When and where do you write?

>I lead a very active life and have written anywhere and everywhere - I biked across France with my laptop and wrote in all the little cafes across the country, I've written during downtime on military exercises, on trains and planes and ships, public libraries with open access computers, the homes of friends and relatives. Wherever you happen to find me, you'll find me writing.

What's the best/worst thing about writing?

>The best thing about writing is certainly connecting with fans, people who really enjoy what you've done. The worst part is certainly staring at that blank screen, trying to turn the beautiful images in my mind into words that do them some kind of justice.

What is something you didn't know about the publishing industry before you had your fist book published?

>I didn't realize how very slow the process is, even when everything goes right. It can be maddening. It takes ten years to become an overnight success.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

>Believe in yourself, believe in what you have to say, and write every single day.

Any tips against writers block?

>The only way to be a writer is to sit down every day and write. If you don't know where your story is going, write something else. Write something you're sure you're going to junk, but write something. It keeps the gears going around, it keeps the story in the front of your mind, where it needs to be. Those glorious days where the pages flow effortlessly are founded on all those days of hard and seemingly fruitless work.

How many rejection letters did you get for your fist novel or story?

>I was tremendously fortunate and sold my very first story to Larry Niven on the very first submission.

Monday 14 January 2008

Author Signing

Joshua Palmatier, Jennifer Dunne, Jim Hines, Violette Malan, S.C. Butler, Patricia Bray

Our latest book signing turned into a forum discussion, well received by customers. The six authors (or should I say panelists?) answered questions and talked about everything from cover art (and their lack of say), how to find an agent, where character ideas come from and more.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Author Interview - Carol Berg


Song of the Beast

Son of Avonar
Guardians of the Keep

Soul Weaver

Daughter of Ancients
Flesh and Spirit

Breath and Bone

Unmasking, published in the book Elemental Magic


Pitch your latest novel

>The two volumes of the Lighthouse Duet, Flesh and Spirit (NAL/Roc Books, May 2007) and Breath and Bone (NAL/Roc, January 2008) are truly one story. Flesh and Spirit introduces Valen, the rebellious son of a long line of magical cartographers and seers. The restrictions these family connections impose on his life drove him half crazy as a kid, so he’s spent most of his life trying to escape them, even forgoing the use of sorcery so his family can’t track him. Though the world is tough, he’s not greedy and manages to have some good times along the way.

But everything changes when a comrade abandons Valen in a rainy wilderness half-dead, addicted to an enchantment that converts pain to pleasure, and possessing only a stolen book of maps. Offered sanctuary in a nearby monastery, Valen thinks he’s found a cozy place to hole up for the winter, out of the weather and the dangers of civil war. But his book of maps — rumored to lead men into the realm of angels — gains him entry into a world of secret societies, doomsayers, monks, princes, and madmen, all seeking to unlock the mystery of a coming dark age.

Before you know it, everyone in Navronne is after Valen. There is Prince Osriel, a claimant to the throne who steals dead men’s eyes and maybe their souls. There’s the priestess Sila Diaglou and her fanatical Harrowers who want to return the earth to a primitive state to appease the gods. And the Pureblood Registry, determined to catch their most annoying renegade sorcerer. Valen even glimpses beings out of myth—the human-hating, beautiful Danae guardians, whose dancing nurtures the earth. Though lying and thievery have kept Valen free and fed most of his life, his own peculiar sense of honor gets him in worse trouble. Bound by oaths he refuses to abandon, he has to risk body and soul to rescue a young monk, seek justice for a murdered child, and bring the ailing land its righteous king. Harrowing adventures for a guy who just wants a warm bed, good company, and a meal or two a day.

What are your favourite three books (not by you, either in the field or out of it)?

>The Heaven Tree by Edith Pargeter, a grand adventure set in 12th century Wales with one of the best villains I’ve ever read;
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen;
Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner, a lyrical, passionate retelling of the fairy tale;

What was the hardest scene for you to write?

>Content-wise, some of the most difficult scenes were those in Guardians of the Keep, where the villains of the D’Arnath series subtly and systematically corrupt a child, making him believe he is evil, a natural born killer destined to destroy his father’s people. As a mom that was rough (but necessary!) Technically, the most difficult was probably the climax of Restoration. I had told the entire story, two and nine-tenths novels, from a single character’s point of view, and all of a sudden I needed him to take a step that would radically alter his personality, essentially recasting him as the villain of his own story. To shift to a new point of view character so late in an epic work would be as harmonious as putting a Mozart violin concerto on a Jay-Z album, so I had to stay with his perspective, yet take the reader through the scene understanding what “the real Seyonne” had chosen and why, as well as his new perceptions. Tricky, but ultimately rewarding. After bringing that off, I gained a great confidence that I could tackle tough writing problems!

What character is most like you?

>I relate to certain aspects of all my characters. But one of the delights of writing fiction is to write people more heroic, more passionate, more careless, more foolish, more daring than oneself, to challenge them with interesting adventures, and see how their lives play out. I would make an extremely boring fantasy character!

As for which one I feel closest to… Well, of course, Seri (Bridge of D’Arnath series) is a mom, but my kids never got into quite the pickle Gerick did, and Seri was so extroverted and determined from early on that I would find her quite intimidating. Seyonne (Books of the Rai-kirah) dealt with the conflicts of beliefs and ideals, and the disillusionments that we all go through, while retaining his faith in the intrinsic goodness and generosity of those around him – but thank goodness I’ve never had to face the things he did while he was gaining that bit of wisdom. And he was a warrior, which gave him a whole level of experiences that I, thankfully, have not had. Now I’m thinking of it, maybe Jen, from Daughter of Ancients is the one I’d get on with the best. She loved her family, was good at math and her “day job,” and not so good at the extraordinary things. She got riled up about politics, but felt pretty helpless to do anything about it, and had those few awkward physical things she couldn’t get over (hers was heights, mine is crossing rushing rivers on log bridges). But she accomplished more than she expected and came up with some talents that surprised even herself. Yep, I think it might be Jen.

>What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you've attended and why?

I always enjoy writers’ conferences such as Surrey or Pikes Peak, and I look forward to any sf convention where I get a chance to hang out with my readers and professional friends. But my most exciting writing event of recent months had to be my stint as the Guest of Honor at the ICon Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Role-playing Festival in Tel Aviv, Israel.
My hosts—my Israeli publisher, my translator, and the convention foreign guest coordinator—treated me royally, taking me to tour the country for four days before the convention, as well as introducing me to much of the Israeli fantasy/sf professional community. Outside my part of the convention programming (thank goodness the guest-of-honor events are held in English, which everyone speaks exceedingly well), I was able time to sit and talk about the books, about writing, and about American politics and life in general with many of the young, energetic, and passionate fantasy readers. I had felt a bit anxious following in the footsteps of Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and Neil Gaiman as the ICon GOH, but I felt welcomed every step of the way.

What is your university degree in?

>I have degrees in mathematics and computer science.
And so follows the inevitable question about why I write fantasy instead of hard science fiction. The answer: I write fantasy because I’ve found it to be a delightful way to incorporate many of the other genres I especially love – mystery, adventure, times and places that are not the here and now, spies thrillers, mythology, fairy tales, romantic suspense, and so on. Science fiction can incorporate these as well, but I think science fiction readers have certain expectations with regard to detailed, believable technology playing a large part of the solution of the story’s problems. And when it comes down to it, I’d rather research desert anthropology than Martian geology and medieval beermaking in preference to nanotechnology. I DO use my engineering background every day as I write. Writing any kind of speculative fiction requires starting from a set of premises and developing a story and a world using logic (“if, then, else”) problem-solving, language, and semantics. Which sounds a lot like what I did in my software engineering career.

Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

> 1. Write because you love it, not because you think it will make a profitable/prestigious/convenient career. Write because you can’t not write.
2. Learn about the publishing business and develop patience.
3. Learn the craft, which means
- Read, read, read. Read outside your chosen genre. Read classics. Read good literature. Read good writing.
- Learn grammar. Learn fiction writing—things like point of view and maid-and-butler dialogue and said-bookisms. Ask yourself what is it about this or that writer's characters that makes them seem real.
- Write. Rewrite. Write more. Put your first work away, write something else while continuing to learn the craft, and then take another look. I’ll bet you dollar to doughnuts you’ll say, “Ewwwww…” Learn to accept critique. Exchange work with critiquers who are readers of many books and writers of your own or above your level.

Do you think it is easier to write fantasy or science fiction?

>Neither is easier than the other. Fiction writers of any genre must address and consciously balance all elements of story – character, plot, setting, dialog, voice, dramatic suspense, and so on – with clarity, while avoiding cliché, infodumps, and all the other pitfalls of writing and storytelling in the particular genre. Both fantasy and science fiction require research in order to create vivid, believable worlds to host the events of the story. Nothing can bump a fantasy reader out of a novel quicker than horses that run like motorcycles, wars that make no historical/anthropological sense, invisible economies, or magic that solves everything. In the same way, nothing can bump a dedicated sf reader out of a story quicker than a planet that behaves just like our earth, despite having three moons, or another use of “reconfiguring the stream of tachyon particles”!

If you could live in your fantasy/sf world, would you? Would you live in somebody else's?

>Heavens no! My worlds are all in deep trouble one way or another. Well, of course, ours is too, but I really like 21st century medicine, transportation, water, education, books, etc. One world I might like to visit is Roger Zelazny’s Amber – but only if I had the power of Corwin’s family to travel between the shadows of Amber. How cool would it be to shift the colors of the sky with your mind and take yourself to a wholly different place?

In the books you've written, who is you favourite character and why?

>You have to understand that this is akin to asking which of my three children is my favorite! The answer can vary depending on the day. Right now Valen (of Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone) is the apple of my eye. Handsome, fun-loving, self-deprecating, he can always find humor in the direst situations. Despite his faults – and he will be the first to confess them - he holds to a firm core of principles that he will uphold even to the risk of his own life. And I so much enjoyed confronting him with the deepest mysteries of his world and seeing his reaction as he realized what they meant for him. This job is SO much fun

Share an interesting fan story.

>I loved hearing from a Navy guy just returned from deployment on a nuclear sub. He reported that during their long months under the Med, he and his shipmates had all read Transformation, Revelation, and Restoration, discussing the stories in between their drills. He said he had to hide his copy of Revelation under his bunk so people wouldn't steal it before he was through. He said that the stories had made their deployment tolerable. That was very cool to hear!

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

>No way. I put them through too much.

What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

>My first novel is blessedly unpublished and will remain that way. It took me (and a friend) a year and a half to write.

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Sci-Fi Fan Letter Issue 17

World's Biggest Bookstore's Science Fiction and Fantasy Newsletter, January 2008

Fantasy Author Signing

Always wanted to say, “I knew that author before he/she was really famous”? Here’s your chance to meet 6 upcoming fantasy authors:
Patricia Bray (Devlin’s Luck, Devlin’s Honor, Devlin’s Justice, First Betrayal, Sea Change)
S. C. Butler (Reiffen’s Choice, Queen Ferris)
Jennifer Dunne (Luck of the Irish)
Jim C. Hines (Goblin Quest, Goblin Hero)
Violette Malan (Mirror Prince, Sleeping God)
Joshua Palmatier (Skewed Throne, Cracked Throne, Vacant Throne)
Ask them questions and get your books signed in store, Sunday January 13th at 1pm.

Skewed Throne
By: Joshua Palmatier

The Skewed Throne tells the story of Varis, a teenager who grows up on the Dredge, the marketplace between the slums and the city of Amenkor. There she learns to survive through skulking and theft, and hones her use of the ’River’, a form of magic that shows her the true nature of people.
There she meets Erick, a seeker (aka assassin) in the Mistress of Amenkor’s guard. Erick uses her skills to track those marked by the Mistress for death due to their crimes. In return he teaches her how to kill effectively. A skill that irrevocably changes who she is, putting her on a path she neither wants nor can refuse.

- Jessica Strider

Heroes Volume One
By: Various

Ever wondered “How Do You Stop an Exploding Man?”
I never used to. Until I started to watch Heroes.
Fortunately, I got the answer to that question when I watched the first season of the show. However, there were many other questions I had that the show never answered. Like: What were the events that led up to D.L. escaping from jail? Why were the first batch of bodies buried in the desert? How did the first generation of “heroes” meet? Luckily, the comic book takes things a step further than the show. It answers the basic questions the show does not, gives more background detail, and explores the roles of characters who didn’t get much air time, but, upon seeing them in the comic, were actually quite cool. Heroes the comic consists of great artwork and amazing storylines and is a definite must read for any Heroes fans.

- Mel

The Time Machine
By: H.G.Wells

One of the first stories that took on the idea of time travelling, H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine is a chilling prospect of humanity’s future. Many centuries from now, the human race breaks off into the Eloi, a peace-loving, yet weak and unintelligent race, and the Morlocks, a hard-working yet equally unintelligent race that preys on the Eloi. With the disappearance of his time machine, the Time Traveller must find his machine or wind up living in this horrible future for the rest of his life.
A frightening and fascinating look at the possible future of our society, The Time Machine is a classic to the science-fiction genre that should be read by all. Though very technical in the first three chapters, the rest of the book is so enjoyable and vivid that it feels as if you were travelling with the Time Traveller as he goes on his journey.

- DG-88

Coming in February: Hardcover:
Tracing the Shadow - Sarah Ash
Seekers of the Chalice - Brian Cullen
Magic of Twilight - S.L. Farrell
Outlaw Demon Wails - Kim Harrison
V: The Second Generation - Kenneth Johnson
In a Time of Treason - David Keck
Singularity’s Ring - Paul Melko
Victory Conditions - Elizabeth Moon
Manxome Foe - John Ringo & Travis Taylor
Transhuman - Mark Van Name & T.K.F. Weisskopf, Ed.

Trade Paperback:
Miles in Love - Lois McMaster Bujold
Jumper Griffin’s Story - Steven Gould
Midnight Reign - Chris Marie Green
Bright of the Sky - Kay Kenyon
Book of Atrix Wolfe- Patricia McKillip
Un Lun Dun - China Mieville
Elric the Stealer of Souls - Michael Moorcock
Biting the Bullet - Jennifer Rardin
Star Trek: Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women- John Rodriguez
Sword masters - Selina Rosen
Jemma 7729 - Phoebe Wray

Mass Market Paperback:
No Humans Involved - Kelly Armstrong
White Night - Jim Butcher
Emissaries From the Dead - Adam-Troy Castro
War Hammer: Hammer of Daemons - Ben Counter
Some Golden Harbor - David Drake
Strange Relations - Philip Jose Farmer
Into a Dark Realm - Raymond Feist
Boundary - Eric Flint & Ryk Spoor
Feast of Souls - C.S. Friedman
Borderland- Christopher Golden
Death’s Head- David Gunn
Mechwarrior: To Ride the Chimera- Kevin Killiany
War Hammer: Oath breaker - Nick Kyme
Mystery Date - Denise Little, Ed.
Blood King - Gail Martin
Maelstrom - Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
War Hammer: Scourge the Heretic - Sandy Mitchell
Whitechapel Gods - S.M. Peters
The Dragon’s Nine Sons - Chris Roberson
Star Trek: Epiphany - Joseph Sherman Susan Shwartz
Star Wars: Revelation - Karen Traviss
Marseguro - Edward Willett