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Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marina J. Lostetter – Alternate Yous

Clones have long held a fascination for storytellers.  Before cloning was a scientific reality, there were many myths and fables about evil twins, doppelgängers, and the creation of humans “from scratch.” Copies, supernatural reflections, and Frankenstein’s monster all come from the same long-standing questions and fears: what makes us ‘us’?  And can that be taken away? A clone is a genetic twin of the source.  But what does that mean? Twins do not have exactly the same experiences, and thus do not share the same memories.  They are unquestionably individuals, with their own wants and needs and desires.  We’ve all encountered stories of clones created through replicators, where a person is copied right down to their current memories and the clothes on their back–but this type of clone is very different from both the ones I’ve created in Noumenon, and those created by modern science.  Dolly the sheep was not a carbon copy of its parent.  Using an adult’s DNA to create a baby does not mean you end up with a person who thinks and acts exactly like their original once they’ve grown. In Noumenon, I explore the concept of clones as a ‘fix.’  Early in the novel, clones are thought to be the best way to ensure an interstellar convoy’s success.  The mission planners believe if they take genetic information from well-vetted sources that it will give them more control over the many variables that could shift in the mission over the centuries. But does it offer more control?  Would populating generation ships with genetically identical crews over and over actually create stability? Our experiences are part of who we are, and an Earth-based mission-control cannot regulate every incident aboard such a convoy. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture argument: do our genes make us who we are, or do our experiences? This is a fundamentally silly question, of course.  There’s nothing ‘versus’ about nature and nurture.  The two things are both undeniably components of our personage.  So, then the question becomes, which one is more influential?  Which one is more ‘us’? But, why do we care so much?  Why have stories focused on this concept for so many centuries?  What, exactly, are we getting at when we delve into the influence of genetics and environment?  Why are we so fixated on which is ‘more important’? There’s the simple scientific curiosity of it all, of course.  Humans like to know how things work, if only for the sake of knowing.  An interest in the origins of behavior drives a good chunk of the questions. And some people explore the topic as introspection, a way to be more self-aware; If I know how I work, then I might better understand why I work, in a sense. But what’s most interesting–and simultaneously frightening–is where these questions put us socially speaking. Nature vs. nurture as a question is stuffed full of biases, especially when value judgments about certain behaviors and genetic traits come into play. We can most starkly see the dangers and limits of the question when confronted by people who look to nature vs. nurture to advance their world-view, as with those who push genocidal concepts like eugenics and racial supremacy. As much as those individuals would like to argue one aspect scientifically has more bearing than the...

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Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Peter V Brett – The Core Tour

Please click on the links below to buy tickets:   All Waterstones events   Forbidden Planet, London   Blackwell’s, Edinburgh  ...

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Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

Posted by on Jul 4, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Creating a World by Anna Smith Spark

When I came to write The Court of Broken Knives, it was the world that came first, not the story. The story, in fact, is pretty simple, in the way that myths and folk tales often are. The first scene I wrote was a description of men in a desert, and violence, and they were travelling towards a great city, and that city was every fantasy city I have ever loved. Why they were travelling, what the purpose of this journey was and what would happen to them when they got there, was at first unimportant. But the joy of writing the desert … Of writing the city … Of writing a world …   In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man    Down to a sunless sea. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Kubla Khan   The wonder of it. Marvels. Magic. Beauty. The dream of things so far beyond mundane reach. To enter a world that is not our own. Of course I enjoy the plot twists, the characters, the action. But it’s the evocation of other worlds that love most about fantasy as a genre. I want to wallow in another world, immerse myself in it, drown in it. I read fantasy like I read travel writing – to be there, to see it, to be removed from my own tedious time and place.   The unpurged images of day recede; The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed; Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song After great cathedral gong; A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains All that man is, All mere complexities, The fury and the mire of human veins. William Butler Yates, Byzantium   It was important to me in creating Irlast that the reader had a strong sense of this, that there was a far wider world outside the place that the characters happen to inhabit. I wanted to give a strong sense of history and of place. Two of the fantasy writers I most admire are R. Scott Bakker and Steven Erikson, simply because their worlds are so immense, so immersive, so detailed. The different languages, cultural mores, cultural myths of their world are so fascinatingly evoked by both these authors. There’s such a strong, vivid sense of being in a real place.   What shall we tell you? Tales, marvellous tales Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest, Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales, And winds and shadows fall towards the West:   And there the world’s first huge white-bearded kings In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep, And closer round their breasts the ivy clings, Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep. James Elroy Flecker, The Golden Journey to Samarkand   But I also wanted to create a sense of wonder, of romantic splendour. I wanted my world and my places to be unreal. These are not real places. They cannot possibly be real places. They are absurd beyond imagining. Fantasies on fantasies. Absurd. I have a great love of mythology and folk lore, and it’s the very impossibility of many of the stories that appeals to me. The god Thor wrestling with his own old age, and then draining so great a draft from a mead horn...

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Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

Posted by on Jun 21, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hero Risen: Guest blog from Andy Livingstone

  The safety valve for our darker selves Cricket with my parents and brother on baking-hot days in a park on holiday in Blackpool. Tennis, with my dad pretending I was as good as him and, in later years, with my brother proving I was not. Rugby at school, hockey after leaving it. Karate, Muay Thai, Table-tennis, snooker, swimming – anything at all, I threw myself into it throughout my childhood and into adult life. Usually with a consistently average ability, but always with an excess of enthusiasm. And football, football, football. Always football. Standing at Fir Park to watch Willie Pettigrew and Joe Wark play for Motherwell and switching on the TV to see Joe Jordan and Billy Bremner play for Scotland and Johan Cruyff and George Best just, well, play as only they could. Then imagining I was them: battering a ball in the garden with my brother, sneaking onto the college playing fields with my friends in the holidays, running about the wing for the Boys’ Brigade football team while pretending I knew what I was doing. Even now, I drag myself out onto the five-a-sides pitch with the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old and the fitness of a 49-year-old. Always football, always sport, always loving it. But I had asthma. So there was reading, too, and that became the other love as I grew up. I would run about until my lack of breath told me it was a bad idea, and then lose myself in someone else’s world. It became what I did. It became me. So there is no surprise that sport has an influence in my books, too. Not in the sense that my characters indulge in a spot of table tennis or shoot some hoops from time to time – although I did invent a sport all of my own for the start of Hero Born – but it’s more that experiences that have affected or formed me as a person have at times affected or informed scenes and characters’ actions or decisions in my books. The collective, unifying, oppressive atmosphere when an entire crowd shares the same feelings – the hum of excited, almost disbelieving, expectancy at Motherwell’s first-ever Champions League home match or the relentless fear and nauseating nerves leading to the outpouring of ecstasy and relief at a last-minute relegation-averting free kick – became the start-point for the backdrop in a gladiatorial arena. Coaches’ training exercises for teams and those devised by my young self to try to overcome my own deficiencies led to thoughts of training suitable for combat and the difficulties of teaching technique without stifling talent. Basic competitive martial arts methods and principles from twenty years ago helped with imagining anything from a street fight or a duel to a battle or an ambush. And, more than anything, the spirit and heart and in-the-moment invention and adapting inherent in sport became infused in any win-or-lose situation in the books, especially in Hero Risen where Brann has to draw perhaps more determination, drive and inner strength than ever before. And It is this that made me think more than anything that the link with sport is not so far-fetched. In our parts of the world, we are lucky to have spent generations living in societies where we...

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An exclusive message from Robin Hobb

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I dedicated Assassin’s Fate to Fitz and the Fool. They’ve been my closest friends for over twenty years. That’s not to denigrate my marriage of forty-six years, or the friendships that reach back to my high school. The characters we write live inside our minds, creating an internal friendship that is difficult to explain to non-writers. I’ve never heard my characters speak aloud, never seen the Fool juggle or watched Fitz impassively shed the blood that demanded to flow. Yet over the past twenty years, I’ve spent more hours in their company than in anyone else’s. When I first began writing Fitz and the Fool, my writing desk was in the laundry room, in an old house with plank floors. When the washer went into a spin, I’d dive for the computer and hold it steady lest the hard drive malfunction. I often wrote late at night, in darkness save for my old desk lamp and the green letters glowing on my black screen. All was quiet, the kids in bed, only frogs creaking outside. But both Fitz and the Fool were there, the Fool sitting cross-legged on the dryer, mocking and contradicting us.  Fitz leaned against the doorframe, talking in his soft, deep voice, always trying to explain his life to himself, puzzled as he looked back at his decisions, shaking his head over who he had been. Yet all of us knew that who he had been had already determined his future. Every new set of events built on what had gone before. From the start, we all knew what was to come. Just as the Fool looked forward, seeing a myriad of possible futures, and choosing a path, so I wrote forward, reaching toward events that had already happened to Fitz, even as I wrote them down for the first time. There are sentences in this book that are strange echoes of words I wrote twenty years ago. There are sentences I’ve waited twenty years to write. I’ve approached them with both trepidation and anticipation. To write them down and say to both of them, ‘There. Now it has happened,’ was a very peculiar sensation. To be done is not to be finished. Ave atque vale. Hail and farewell.   Robin Hobb February 2017...

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A Letter from Mark Lawrence

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

  Red Sister contains a very different story to that in my debut, Prince of Thorns, or my next trilogy starting with Prince of Fools.   When I brought Jorg Ancrath’s story to a close I made it clear that I didn’t want to be wedded to one character for the whole of my writing career, and if moving away from him gambled that career then so be it. Jalan Kendeth was about as different from Jorg as it is possible to be in terms of character. But he was still a young prince in the Broken Empire.   Just as I wasn’t prepared to be tied indefinitely to the same character it turns out that after six books in the same world I wanted a change from that too.   Nona Grey, the lead in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, lives in a very different world to that in which the Broken Empire sits. The people are different, the land is different, the magic is different, even the sun isn’t the same colour.   The writing style has also changed. My previous books were told to the reader by the protagonist, seen through their eyes, and offered an armchair seat in the mind of the prince in question. They were written in the first person. Nona’s tale is told in the third person form used in the majority of fiction. It offers a less claustrophobic feel to the story.   Nona’s adventure sprung from my question – what sort of cover would Prince of Thorns have been given if it were titled Princess of Thorns, and instead of a Mark I was credited as a Mary? My editor sent me a piece of artwork of a dangerous looking young woman with a sword, and some time later I started writing a story about her.   Although Red Sister has a good measure of violence in it, the story also focuses on the nature of friendship, on making friends, on losing them, and on loyalty. I did worry at some points about the size of the step I was taking into this story of novices in a convent. Would my publishers think it a Malory Towers with knives, or Chalet School for ninjas? Would my readers come with me, would I find new ones wherever it was I might have taken myself?   Well, with April still on the horizon those worries will linger a while yet, but from the early reviews so far one common refrain has been “his best book yet”. Which, funnily enough, is what my US and UK editors said when they read it. I guess they must know their stuff!   So, whilst it isn’t true that in writing it’s change or die, it certainly is true for me that I have to change things up every now and then or die at least a little on the inside. I’m very happy to have written The Book of the Ancestor trilogy and feel that Nona has earned her place in my affections alongside Jal and Jorg. I’m proud of the story and I hope the readers who try it will have as much fun as I did.   Note from the editor, Jane Johnson:   I loved Jorg fiercely, despite (maybe because of?)...

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Red Sister is coming! Out tomorrow!

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

  “If you wish to know what someone is made of you must squeeze them until it shows.”   In the Convent of Sweet Mercy Abbess Glass and her sisters apply pressure to the girls placed in their care. They find out what their novices are made of and train each according to their nature.   The world beyond the convent is wider, but not by so very much. Abeth circles a red and dying star. Its original inhabitants left millennia ago when the ice began to cover the globe. The people who replaced them are now hemmed within a corridor that encircles the world but that in no place leaves more than fifty miles clear between the northern ice cliffs and the southern.   Humanity’s ancestors left them a gift. An artificial moon that focuses the sun’s light and every night battles the advance of the ice. But that war is being lost. The many nations of the Corridor are being squeezed. Each year sees more people and less land. And those people are showing what they’re made of.   In such a harsh world children are often sold by families that cannot feed them. The more discerning purchasers look for signs of the old bloods. Four tribes beached their ships on Abeth and when their blood shows true it brings rare talents. Such children can grow impossibly huge or fast, or find strange magics at their fingertips. Such children are valuable. Nona Grey is purchased for just these reasons from a mother eager to sell.   That nations will go to war under such circumstances in inevitable, but the pressure is not just upon empires but on each institution and each person within those institutions. As Nona grows she finds conflict on every side and at every level. She finds the dangers that she is being trained to confront are already at her doorstep. But Nona Grey was born for war, she understands it. What truly puzzles her are people and as she tries to unlock that puzzle, and is trained in the faith of the Ancestor, she discovers that no bond is more holy to her than that of friendship.   Nona is a strange child and cautious of naming anyone her friend, for once that word is spoken caution ends and there is no limit to what she might do to save someone precious to her.   Where Nona looks on humanity and sees confusion Abbess Glass sees through to the heart of each person with rare clarity. The abbess is neither young nor deadly, she wields no magics and yet when it comes to the long game she has yet to meet her equal. She has seen something in Nona Grey, seen her part in what must come, and staked her faith upon it. In time Nona will come to respect the abbess, to understand quite how ruthless she can be and quite how far she too will go to achieve her aims. In time she may even come to fear her.   In a convent where extraordinary children are trained in the darkest and most bloody arts, Nona and her friends struggle to survive, to learn, and to stay true to themselves....

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A Ripple in the Glass by A. F. E. Smith

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Every book holds up a mirror to the world, and to humanity. Sometimes the reflection shows us as we are. Sometimes it shows us as we might be. Fantasy is particularly good at this, I think, because it puts a ripple in the glass. That ripple changes the reflection, makes it show a world that’s different from the one we know; yet at the same time, it can make certain aspects of what it means to be human stand out more prominently. If you want to know what courage means, or friendship, or love (or, if you tend towards a pessimistic view of human nature, hate and cruelty and destruction) then fantasy is as good a place to look as anywhere. And always – consciously or unconsciously – what’s shown in the mirror of any book reflects the biases and beliefs, the hopes and fears, of the author who created it. Windsinger is the most personal book I’ve ever written. That’s partly because when I wrote it, I was in a dark and difficult place. I’d sunk gradually into depression. Mild depression, to be sure – high-functioning depression, in that I could still go to work and be a parent and put on a mask that said I was fine – but depression nonetheless. If you have any experience with such conditions, you’ll know that they’re far easier to fall into than to claw your way back out from. You’ll also know that depression and creativity do not sit well together. I thought I was useless. I thought everything I did was useless. I would sit and stare at the screen, wondering what on earth was the point of trying to complete this book when I was so obviously a second-rate writer with nothing worthwhile to offer. Sometimes I would cry. Most of the time I would hate myself. Depression – even mild depression, even high-functioning depression – is a monster. It creates what it feeds off. It sends you deeper and deeper into a spiral, and it hopes you will never find your way back. At the same time, the world seemed to be imploding around me. No doubt some people would say my bubble burst. Here in the UK, we held a vote on a thing called Brexit; in the USA, the first shots were fired in a bitter, divisive and propaganda-fuelled presidential campaign; across the globe, political parties whose entire campaigns were built on demonizing a certain religion or nationality began to gain prominence. It felt like we were slipping backwards, into the mindset of us versus them; into the mindset of labelling anyone not like us as a lesser kind of human. I’ve never quite been able to work out where to draw that line, the not like me line. I’ve always thought that either everyone is like me or no-one is. The categories in between seem very arbitrary. But we, as humans, are good at that kind of tribal thinking. And when you’re writing a book, the changes you see and hear and feel around you tend to seep into it whether you mean them to or not. I’d intended the mirror that Windsinger held up to the world to say something about loyalty and treachery. That’s neat, right? It goes tidily with the...

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How to be a good supporting cast member – A guest post from Peter Newman about The Vagrant and the City

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

How to be a good supporting cast member – A guest post from Peter Newman about The Vagrant and the City

It was an interesting challenge writing this story. It had to: • Be a complete narrative on its own while fitting into the overall arc of the trilogy. • Reveal something interesting about the characters but nothing so important that readers would need it to understand the main books. • Be fun to read! At its worst, a secondary story (or DLC in a story based game) can feel empty and pointless, where you meet a bunch of watered down secondary characters and follow stories that are so removed from the main plot as to seem irrelevant. The trick seems to be to deepen the experience for the reader, allowing them to enjoy the other books in a richer way, without damaging the main stories for those who haven’t read the shorter works. I feel like the comics do this sort of thing on a near daily basis, with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series being a standout example, where a number of smaller human stories (each complete narratives) feed into the greater mythos of Dream and the Endless. Often, Dream is a pivotal but secondary character in these stories. Another example that comes to mind is the Mass Effect series. There are three games (that function like a trilogy), and each has DLC that provides extra content and adventures. One of my favourite bits of DLC was the Lair of the Shadow Broker mission. Not only did it include some dramatic locales, but there were was a reveal about one of the secondary characters that changed my relationship with the third game. I also feel like I’d be a bad human not to mention The Split Worlds short stories by *cough* Emma Newman. There are over 50 shorts that focus mostly on the minor characters so that when they appear in the main books, the readers get a sudden rush in recognising who that delivery boy is, or knowing the real reason why a particular uncle is always so grumpy. Again, you can read the main books without them, but for readers who like to go deeper, they’re a perfect addition. So what about The Vagrant and the City? Well… The Vagrant and the City is set about five years after The Malice. Most of the major characters appear in it, with the story showing how they are responding to the changes at the end of book 2. It also sets up things for The Seven. We follow the Vagrant as he is set to work by the Empire of the Winged Eye, and gain further insight into the people of the Shining City, and some of the interplay between them and the colonies. Goats may also make an appearance at some point. I’ll leave it up to you to judge whether it works or...

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