Madeline Ashby‘s sublime science fiction novel vN is, even as you read this, powering in vast container lorries to every corner of the globe, ready for its publication at the start of August. Madeline herself has been out and about talking about the genesis and writing and themes of her book, so we thought it would also be interesting to catch up with the guy who did that amazing cover, Martin Bland.
We’d seen his work on Gavin Smith’s military SF novels for Gollancz, and marvelled at some stunning darkly futuristic work displayed on his website. He was surely the go-to guy for this job, and that turned out to be exactly the right decision. He kindly clambered up from his underground bunker to answer a few probey-probey questions…
What do you call yourself – graphic artist, illustrator, designer, part-time spacecadet, etc?
Just “Artist”. I have a hard time cornering myself into the usual suspects, and ‘visual storyteller’ doesn’t look great on a business card. Part concept artist, part illustrator, part fine artist; it’s easier to cut out the niches than to try and find one.
How did you get into “all this”?
Natural progression, I was always creative, loved my pencil work when I was younger, fell into the social chasm for ten years, then was offered the chance to find something I loved doing by my wife, worked my way through design, photo manipulation, web design and eventually found my stride in painting. It felt right straight away. Taught myself the basics, and continue to teach myself every day since.
What’s your balance of artwork – covers, graphics, editorial, personal stuff, etc?
I have worked in just about every area at some point, collaborated with some great people in most fields of art, magazine ad campaigns, album design, game concepts, portraiture etc. I do favour cover jobs though, CD and book, as I love to tell a story in a single image rather than a progression or sequence, and like a healthy balance between work and personal (personal turns into work with print sales).
What’s your typical approach to a piece, if you have one? Computer or sketches?
90% of any image I do is mental, I think a lot about how I am going to construct, and often see a completed image in my head long before pen touches surface, then it’s usually digital, blocking in large areas and refining details as I go, using form and values; I don’t tend to start with a sketch (in the traditional sense of the word, line art), a more organic approach works better for me.
Do you typically like a brief stuffed with detail, or the freedom to do whatever you want?
A bit of both really, it’s important to be able to visualise someone else’s idea, so the more information you get, the easier it is to nail it first time, I like a lot of visual stimulus, style guides. Setting the mood is more important than the details of subject matter. A good amount of freedom is always nice to have but I like to get the sketch stage down, and agreed upon, before I get to play around myself. That way, the changes are taken care of before the refining; it streamlines the process, I have enough of a library behind me for the client to know they will be getting my usual standard or better.
And how did you work on vN particularly?
It was a dream brief. I was given choice, style sheets, and a detailed description, and also a lot of freedom and trust in the later stages, Madeline had built a very believable world, rich with detail, so the excerpts I received were easy to absorb, and Marc’s art direction was great. Madeline had written somewhere that when she saw the cover, she saw Amy (the protagonist) – there’s no better feeling than that.
What’s a typical day, if you have one?
I’m a full time Dad, so my typical day is rather boring, full of homework and school runs, I fit my work around my son, and work from home, so it’s definitely not as “rockstar” as I’d like to imagine it is, I also procrastinate far too much… ooh, a biscuit.
Are you much of an SF fan yourself?
I’d like to say no, but all evidence points to yes :-). I like gritty, dark worlds that you can relate to and instantly believe, so I love the Blade Runner, Event Horizon, Dark City side of sci-fi, the Asimov side. I’m not the hugest fan of anything in particular, but I think that in itself adds a more unique twist to my own work in the genre, as I try my best to approach subjects with a fresh perspective – there are a million paths to tread but only one is mine.
What would you kill to illustrate?
My own IP. I have a project that hasn’t been put down to paper properly yet, a novel/screenplay/movie that has garnered interest from a couple of major movie studios, and almost optioned, just on the strength of the few images and brief idea/backstory pitched. I would love to bring it to fruition one day; illustrating/producing a movie based on my own art would pretty much be the pinnacle of my existence, and would make my kid proud.
Anything you really hate/struggle with drawing?
Not as far as subject matter goes, I can handle pretty much anything. If I can imagine it, then I can paint it, in my own style. I’ve painted everything from angels, to death metal covers, from an English country garden to a huge Yeti. I have been asked to take on work in other styles, and have struggled with it before, like colouring line art, or very technical perspectives and constraints. (I was once asked to paint, from imagination, a 20mm aperture lens view; couldn’t fathom that one, as I am not a camera.)
For vN you went absolutely bananas building robot fragments in the computer; is this sort of thing conducive to your mental health?
Well, they say the devil is in the details, so I’m probably 80% evil :-). I love getting stuck into it, if I’m honest. The best way to get someone to spend more time looking at an image is to pack it with detail, more to discover, and it gets quite cathartic after a while, you lose yourself, I haven’t noticed any problems yet. *twitch*
Tell us about five (or more) cool things – music, movies, comics, books, toys, whatever…
I do have quite a cool collection of tiny things, as I’m a sucker for detail – like a penny, with a bone-handled knife carved out of the middle and sat perfectly back into its hole, and a 2mm high, full colour printed book. I’ve got a couple of 6mm Bibles too, a bag of 1.5mm glass marbles. I’ve amassed quite a good gathering of very unusual miniatures. I’m also very good at collecting dust, and empty Pepsi bottles.
Which other artists do you rate?
I tend to rate the art, rather than artists, as the best can have an off-day, and the worst can produce a masterpiece. I see hundreds of images each day, and collecting the best of them has turned into a bit of a hobby. I have folders packed with inspiring imagery from every level of artist.
Do you have any other skills? What would you do if you didn’t do this?
I would always have to have a creative outlet of some sort, I do a bit of everything: sculpture, photography, traditional, so I think I would always gravitate towards making things look good. I was a manager/lithographic printer for 10 years too, so at the very worst, I could fall back into that, but it would have to get quite bad, haha.
And what are you working on next (don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone)?
I’ve just acquired a small stock of giclée poster prints so I’m currently approaching galleries and organising shipping and framing options, starting to turn what I do into more of a legitimate business, expanding that side – but also working on more covers, and also trying to pump out a few personal images as I feel like I’ve been neglecting that side of things this year.
Click on any image for a larger version – and see a hell of a lot more great artwork at Martin’s website, spyroteknik.com
We don’t always blow our own trumpet, so having spent a few, slightly tedious hours on a very hot day assembling the latest batch of samplers of some upcoming Angry Robot titles, we thought it worth reminding all you deeply lovely AR readers that we do, as standard, offer a free excerpt from every single one of our books.
There’s a lot of talk about eBook piracy at the moment. And there are all sorts of reasons. Some of them – “I like having stuff for free, so I’m going to take it; I’ll never get caught” – are a little hard to help with, short of some ghastly state surveillance program which nobody much wants. Others, though, we understand and we’re keen to help with if we can.
Ebooks are expensive - well, ours are always priced below their comparative physical fellows. We still have to pay for editing and proofreading, design and all that, but we’ve knocked off the cost of printing for you. (And don’t forget that at the moment, in the UK eBooks are subject to 20% VAT where print books aren’t.)
I can’t get them in my country - actually, you can buy our eBooks, DRM-free, from any country in the world. We also release our editions through all major eBook outlets, in as many countries as we can but notably across North America and Europe, in the same week.
I only wanted to read a sample, see if I liked it enough to buy it… – And here we are. That’s why we’re very happy to sit here on a sweltering day preparing more natty little 50-page selections from our upcoming releases for you.
Below the jump (or further down the screen if you’re not on our homepage at the moment) you’ll find a selection of our recent excerpts, each one inside a cute little app thing. Take them, host them on your own site if you like (it’s very easy, and makes your blog look grrrreat), send them to your mates, share them wherever. Then check out the individual book pages here on the site for samples of our entire range.
And if you like the free samples we give you, you might even want to buy our lovely books, which you can do over at The Robot Trading Company (our very own webstore) or your regular eBook or pBook retailer of choice.
[Image Credit: Rather fabulous pirate kindle blatantly nicked from bookish.livejournal.com – no accreditation given there, so if it’s yours, please let us know and we’ll either add in a credit link or take it down…]
Please N.B. – We first posted this job advert back in March, but weren’t quite able to find the perfect person to hire, so we’re re-advertising now…
Angry Robot are expanding again, and as a result we are announcing a new and exciting vacancy. As part of our ongoing growth in the US and Canada, and the imminent arrival of our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our Crime imprint Exhibit A, we are looking for a North American Sales & Marketing Manager.
This person will be a brand champion, liaising with the passionate souls that are the Angry Robot editors to ensure that the expert sales team at our distributors, the mighty Random House, have all they need to sell our books. Based in the US, they will use their experience of book sales and marketing channels to ensure that the delights of AR’s range are promoted to our distributors, wholesalers, stores and readers. They will in turn feed back on-the-spot information about the local market and as a key member of the Angry Robot gang help decide which books go into our ranges, with the express intention of making our books and their sales better than ever.
The role will be based on the East Coast – probably in the offices of our parent company, the Osprey Group, in Long Island City – but we may be able to be flexible for the right candidate.
If you are interested, please apply with your CV/resumé and salary expectations to Marc Gascoigne, care of incoming [at] angryrobotbooks.com or via our Contact page. No snailmail applications, please. Don’t delay – the closing date is noon GMT on 28th May 2012.
Some days a new piece of fantasy art comes in that is so lush, so lovely, so chock full of detail that we just have to look, and look, and look. We get a wistful, faraway look in our eyes, and occasionally a small gobbet of happy drool will emerge from our admiring mouths.
Such is the case here, a wonderful illustration by Angelo Rinaldi for David Tallerman‘s upcoming Easie Damasco novel, Crown Thief (October 2012). Look upon its manifold wonders and marvel. Also, click to get a better look at that insane detail. Then click again for even more.
Now if you’ll excuse, we need to go and make ourselves presentable again.
Your very own Angry Robot is pleased to announce its newest venture – a sister imprint, Exhibit A, which will publish crime genre fiction.
The imprint will launch in late Spring 2013, with two titles appearing in each of the first two months, before settling down to one book each month. Exhibit A will follow AR’s strategy of co-publishing its books simultaneously in both the UK and US, in both paperback and eBook formats, backed up by strong online marketing and community activity.
Exhibit A’s ambition is to become an addictive new home for addictive crime fiction. It will be looking for authors with original, gripping voices. Exhibit A books – whether they’re procedurals, mysteries, thrillers, or something entirely new – will aim to divert readers from their everyday lives into an exhilarating world of drama, fear and suspense.
Joining our merry band to run the imprint is Emlyn Rees. He published his first crime novel aged twenty-five, his second a year later, and then co-wrote seven comedies with Josie Lloyd, including the Sunday Times bestseller Come Together. In his time, Emlyn has also worked for the Curtis Brown literary agency and has run a manuscript editing service. He’s great.
Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot’s MD and publisher, said: “Passion, a flair for innovation and a keen sense of what readers want – that’s what has driven Angry Robot’s success so far, and it’s what Emlyn Rees will bring to our new imprint too. We’re overjoyed to have him on board. With our YA imprint Strange Chemistry launching this September, and now Exhibit A due next spring, our growth plans are shaping up very nicely indeed.”
Emlyn added (and we didn’t even need to use the Scary Hot Things), “Angry Robot is an exciting and innovative new publisher, with a terrific track record for breaking out fresh talent and bringing great authors and readers closer together. I’m delighted to be joining the team and can’t wait to set about building a list of talented crime writers we can be proud of and passionate about. I want Exhibit A to become an eye-catching new focal point for compelling crime fiction and the crime fiction community.”
The launch of Exhibit A is just the latest in a wave of expansion by parent company, Osprey Group, following investment by Alcuin Capital Partners in 2011. Osprey recently won the IPG Award for Specialist Consumer Publisher of the Year 2012.
Hey gang – You know by now, I am sure, that we at Robot HQ love the superb cover art of our man Joey HiFi, and we certainly adore writer Maurice Broaddus… So when the chance came to package up the latter’s superlative urban fantasies into one vast, all-conquering omnibus edition, it seemed only right to combine the gritty, street magic of the novels with some, well, equally gritty street magic artwork.
The Knights of Breton Court series has long borne the tagline “The Wire meets King Arthur”, or variants thereof, so it seemed sensible to echo the packaging of that landmark TV show. But Joey has taken this to another level, with perfect typography and his trademark detail-within-detail artwork. In short, we love this motherfucking cover.
The Knights of Breton Court by Maurice Broaddus will be in stores this October.
Somedays, well, somedays this cover design lark takes a little time to untangle. Take this novel as a case in point. How, how, how, we had to ask, does one create a cover for a novel about a battlefield looter who accidentally kills the king dead, gets killed dead himself, becomes mistaken for the king of the dead by the hordes of the dead, and then sent on his semi-dead way to find the real king, or be actually properly dead?
Answer, loads and loads and loads of dead things. Obviously.
So thank you, Nick Castle off of Castle Design, for taking my concept and going way beyond where I hoped it would end up. And thanks, of course, to the mighty Lee Battersby, whose wonderfully dark and devilishly funny fantasy novel The Corpse-Rat King will appear from Angry Robot in early September this year.
So yes, we love Joey HiFi. His artwork for Moxyland, the UK Zoo City and Blackbirds has blown us away, and just today we have taken receipt of his latest piece, the cover for Chuck Wendig’s second AR novel Mockingbird. And lo, here it is (click for awesome massiveness):
Is it the weekend already? Phew! So here’s the plan: tomorrow, bright and early, get yourself to a bookstore. Find that great section at the back or up the right side where those extra-lovely books are… and buy some books. Could be ours, could be other peoples’ – but you know you want them, you know you need them. Make them yours, bring them home, job done.
So anyway, you may just have noticed that the damn righteous Dead Harvest is due out any moment. Meet the man behind it as Angry Robot’s Chuck Wendig talks to Angry Robot’s Chris F Holm at Terribleminds.com (we really do get everywhere). Meanwhile, Chris also talked to Elizabeth A. White about how he found his inspiration for the book’s protagonist in Hell and offered some sage advice for would-be Thriller writers over at the ITW’s The Thrill Begins blog.
On SFFWorld.com, Mark Yon took a good, long look at Dead Harvest and declared it highly recommendable: “In a crowded world of Urban Fantasy, it’s difficult to make an impression amongst the many, many tales out there. However, as far as urban fantasy goes, this is one of the most assured debuts I’ve read since first reading Jim Butcher’s first Dresden.”
Dead Harvest was also reviewed over at sheneverslept.com, where it scored a perfect five out of five tentacles: “Dead Harvest grabbed and held me from beginning to end. Chris F. Holm has crafted a nicely dark urban fantasy with a truly unique protagonist”. Likewise, blogger Elizabeth A. White was suitably impressed, saying: “Holm takes a pinch of fantasy, a little supernatural, a dash of hardboiled crime fiction, and blends them into a pitch-perfect adventure in a way that is nothing short of authorial alchemy.”
Plus, Dead Harvest was profiled by Eric Beetner for CriminalElement.com‘s Fresh Meat files and reviewed by blogger Stephen West. And the frankly rather awesome cover art triumphed in the February Cover Wars over at The Qwillery (and we know that Chris wanted that one, badly).
The very friendly David Tallerman was interviewed by Sci-Fi Fan Letter and also talked to SFSignal.com about the not-so-secret ingredient in Giant Thief. And you can have a go at winning a copy of Giant Thief, courtesy of Fantasy Book Review.
Upcoming Titanic/30 Days of Night mash-up sensation Carpathia by the superb Matt Forbeck was reviewed by lovevampires.com, Starburst magazine and Adventures Fantastic. And just as this round-up was going to press… um, screen, the chaps on Lightsaber Ratting were so taken with it they suggested “there is no way that this book doesn’t become a movie”, and the venerable Starburst said “Fans of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula will find a lot to love here, as will anyone who prefers their horror with a hint of claustrophobia.”
And even fuuuurther out, Mister Mike Shevdon gave his first interview for a while to SFF World, looking at the Courts of the Feyre series so far and previewing this June’s upcoming Strangeness & Charm – together with a review of book one in the series, Sixty-One Nails.
Gav Thorpe talked to The Shell Case about his work in the Warhammer universe, as well as the forthcoming conclusion to his Crown of the Blood saga: The Crown of the Usurperand his plans for the future. He also did valuable service on his own blog, crunching the numbers on classic fantasy tropes: http://mechanicalhamster.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/elf-preservation-part-one/
And finally, over at fellow imprint Strange Chemistry, chatterbox and editor Amanda Rutter revealed some of the science and much of the art of reading submissions. She also talked all things Strange and Chemical over at the Intergalactic Academy.
So much going on! You might as well give away your TV and your Xbox, you know. Books are the past, the present and definitely the future!
You may well have seen the art of The Hammer and the Blade, Paul S Kemp‘s wondrous fantasy of swords, magic and outragous tomb-robbery. Here it is in new Added Lettering-o-vision, with the art by Richard Jones as delightful as ever it was.
Check out, while you are down this way, Paul Young’s art for the third book in the Crown of the Blood series from the redoubtable Gav Thorpe. Looks like Ullsaard has finally flipped out under the evil control of the demonic crown and is about to unload an entire can of whuppass on his priestly minions.
And finally, if you are one of our French-based meat-pals you may have seen the art we’ve adopted for the collected omnibus of all three novels in Aliette de Bodard‘s superb Obsidian & Blood saga, because Larry Rostant’s piece graced the local edition of the first book, Servant of the Underworld. And frankly, it is too good not to reuse for the collected Acatl, Priest of the Dead novels.
Hey, gang. We promised you some more cover goodness imminently, and cover goodness is what you shall have! Click each thumbnail to see heartstopping levels of detail.
The cover to vN by Madeline Ashby is by the remarkable Martin Bland, aka Spyroteknik. You really should click to get a better look at this, because the poor fellow almost sent himself blind working all of the detail in those robotic components that are surrounding poor Amy.
Night’s Engines is the second of Trent Jamieson‘s explorations into the apocalyptically storm-damaged Nightbound Land, and as with Roil the cover is by Angelo Rinaldi. Less in your face than Margaret, the first book’s kick-ass heroine, David as seen here is a feckless wastrel forced into action by destiny. I know, happens to us all. He’s scrubbed up rather well for the climax to this two-volume adventure.
Jo Anderton‘s disgraced pion-controller Tanyana is fully Suited on the cover of Debris‘ sequel. The first book in the defiantly science fantasy Veiled Worlds series has been getting rave reviews everywhere, along with plenty of “Is it SF, is it fantasy?” deliberation from the worthies of the SF/F blogosphere. All we know is that she looks damn mean in that suit. You’ll have someone’s eye out with that!
And ultimately, Steve Stone‘s none-more-noir cover to the collected Matt Richter tales by the redoubtable Tim Waggoner. The Nekropolis Archives has all three wonderfully entertaining novels featuring the undead detective and his half-vampire sweetheart Devona, along with a swathe of short stories. All in a paperback so chunky it really should come with health & safety warnings.
In July we’re publishing the first in Paul S Kemp’s exciting new fantasy series, The Hammer & the Blade. It tells of renowned treasure hunters and adventurers Egil (he’s the burly bastard priest with an uncanny way of getting believers to fall in line) and Nix (no lock unpicked, no treasure unsnaffled, no serving wench unfondled) and lo, here they are.
This stunning art is by the ever-lovely Richard Jones of Artist Partners. We were going to wait until it had some lettering on but frankly, we couldn’t contain ourselves.
You can read a great interview/live chat with Paul about the novel, plus an insight into his many bestselling Star Wars novels (skweeee!) over at Reddit.com.
PS, Lots more upcoming art to wonder over shortly.
Angry Robot Books has a new and potentially very exciting vacancy. We are looking for a COMMISSIONING EDITOR for a new imprint that will publish crime fiction, including suspense, mysteries and thrillers.
We will be hiring someone with experience of the crime fiction field –although not necessarily someone with a specifically publishing background. Duties will be to source new titles for the imprint, buy them, get them edited and ultimately published in digital and book format, using AR’s existing resources and systems.
The imprint will be a standalone line, with its own name and presence, but will employ the same fresh and distinctly modern approach that AR has in the SF/F world. The editor will play a key role in building the personality of the imprint, and telling the world about its brilliant books, especially online. Read More→
Just in case you hadn’t noticed – and to be fair because Angry Robot readers are brighter than the average droid you probably did – there’s a crafting revolution going on. From Etsy to your local knitting shop, people all over the recession-hit western world are rediscovering the pleasures of doing it oneself. This Christmas, always one for an internet trend, we’d like to suggest a “make” for you of our own – with these deeply festive Angry Robot Christmas Snowflakes.
Making one isn’t so very hard, we reckon, our reasoning being that if we can make them without severing any major arteries, so can you. You’ll need a printer and appropriately sized paper (you can resize to suit), a pair of scissors or sharp craft knife… and Your AR Snowflake template (PDF) – don’t forget to right-click or alt-click, as is your wont.
So here’s all you have to do:
1. Download the PDF.
2. Open it up and print it. It’s set to just go onto some UK A4 (letter) but you may want to resize it to fit the paper size your printer can handle. Big is nice, weeny means you’ll probably lose a thumb trying to trim it, but feel free to experiment.
3. Fold it up (NB, you don’t need to cut the circle out first, unless you really want to). You might just cock the folding up first time but don’t worry about it. First, fold in half horizontally, then along one edge of the grey-tined segment. Then fold again so the grey-toned segment is on top. Fold the segment beneath it back the other way so it’s a “Z” in profile not a flattened spiral.
4. Using your preferred hacking implement, trim off all the grey parts, leaving the white. You’re going through 12 layers, so watch it!
5. Unfold. Wow, it’s like Christmas day already. Do a few, using different coloured papers, stick them up somewhere, and marvel at your crafting skills every 20 minutes until Twelfth Night. Then throw them in the recycling bin.