Archive for 12 Days
It’s been a busy year for Angry Robot, with the team growing in size over the last couple of months. The latest member of the editorial team is Amanda Rutter, who joined this month, and is building the list for our YA imprint, Strange Chemistry, which launches in September 2012. Here are some of Amanda’s highlights of the year.
Best of 2011
by Amanda Rutter
So, it has been a very odd but amazing end to the year for me. I quit my ten year career in accounting to move hundreds of miles away and take up a new career in publishing. A consequence of this means that my beloved blog, Floor to Ceiling Books, has come to an end – and my chance to give out some end of year awards has also gone. Then Lee asked me to produce a piece for the Angry Robot 12 Days of Christmas and I thought ‘Here’s my chance!’
Without any further waffle, here are my categories and award winners (and do feel free to disagree and provide your own responses in the comments section!). Read More→
A couple of days ago, we ran this picture, expertly drawn by our very own Anne Lyle, and asked you to come up with a caption – the winner gets an ARC of Anne’s debut novel, The Alchemist of Souls, a full 3 months before the book’s on-sale date!
And the winner is Psychomacologist with:
Too late, Christmas Tree realised her fairy lights were blinking “I want you inside me” in binary…
With honourable mentions to:
Alex with Angry Robot was confused by Traffic Light Tree’s mixed signals.
Ben Love with Red, yellow, green. You’re giving me mixed signals, baby.
Erin with You’re much fancier looking than the usual dead-tree editions.
A copy of the ARC will be winging its way to Psychomacologist (if that is your real name). Alex, Ben and Erin all win a consolatory grin.
A list of all the entries can be found in the comments, here.
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.
David’s highly-anticipated debut novel – Giant Thief - is published in February, and believe us when we say there’s a lot of interest in this book (quite rightly – it’s an enormously enjoyable read). Here, in a charming tale of seasonal celebration, we meet the Santa Thing…
A Study in Red and White
by David Tallerman
Illustrated by Duncan Kay – visit him at duncankay.blogspot.com.
Poised on snow-slicked roof tiles, the Santa Thing scents the wind.
The air reeks of snow. It licks across raw, red muscle and sinew, testing cavities and meaty crevices. The cold reminds the Santa Thing of home – and for a moment, it recalls older winters, deeper frosts, the uncluttered, frozen eons before shape and form and roiling, sickly life. An age when it seemed nothing would ever claw its way from the utter chill to crawl and mewl. An age when there was no need for subterfuge.
No time, no time for memory. Not tonight, most special and rich.
Here there’s a simple way down – a jut of hollow masonry beckoning. Once, they burned fires in those depths. That recollection brings no comfort. But this is a different age, and the blackness welcomes. Too narrow, though, for this current shape. No space for the Santa Thing’s ebon hooves, no room for the curlicues of bone that splinter its face and cluster round its head. Change is needed, as it has changed so many times before.
It’s a matter of a thought – for the Santa Thing is thought as much as matter, idea more than either. Flesh softens to jelly, to dripping wax. Muscle expands, contracts. A hundred bones click free. As they relocate, their note is faintly like the ring of bells.
Quick as light, quick as sorrow, the Santa Thing spills into darkness. It flows through gloom, where ancient ash still clings – slops into multicoloured light. A tree, strung and adorned. One of their Signs. Once the decorations were mistletoe sprigs, once the lights were candles and a ward. But humans don’t remember as the Santa Thing remembers. Now those flames are pretty and pointless. Though they sting the running jelly of its eyes, they can’t keep the Santa Thing from entering.
Shuddering like an oil-slicked bird, the Santa Thing takes back its form. Already its helpers chitter from the shadows at its presence. Their half-life goes hard on them. They exist only for this moment. Now that it’s come once more, they scud and shudder round the walls – flicker across cheap furniture, hung stockings, clumsily wrapped parcels.
The Santa Thing lets the moment drag, let’s them drive themselves to the brink of frenzy with anticipation. Only when they seem about to tear themselves apart does it speak, its voice rich and foul with the pressure of ages.
“Gud ur Bad?” asks the Santa Thing. “Gud ur Bad?”
In unison, they shriek their answer.
The Santa Thing shakes its flayed head in mock censure. How they struggle, these humans – these bags of unshifting meat and forgetting. How they neglect the old rules, the forms laid down millennia before they skulked into the world.
Bad? Bad it is.
Its helpers quieten now, stilled by awe and all they understand of fear. So much waiting, just for this moment. Their dust-mote eyes stare from every patch and stripe of murk. The Santa Thing gathers itself, reaches deep into the roiling galaxies within its form. Time stands on edge. Bladders swell, organs secrete, and arteries aslant from space drip piceous fluids.
Upon the brink of two realities, the Santa Thing releases.
To its own eyes, impulse and sensation spew and spray across the walls: A word of anger here, a casual blow there, an urge to hate drying in a filthy birthmark. To its eyes, a map in space and time charts pain across the patterned wallpaper. Its colours are rich, delightful. Yet, for those who’ll live out this portrait, nothing they’ll ever see. If only they could register its beauty, perhaps they could resist its lure.
A sound. A stutter of shock. The Santa Thing has let itself be distracted. Something has sneaked up on it, noiseless until the very last moment. Even as it spins, the Santa Thing twists, reforms, tries to become what they have made of it.
Still, the small creature framed in the empty doorway looks afraid. It shouldn’t be here, it knows. Fear strikes it dumb. Its lips tremble … a name hangs there. Not the Santa Thing’s, but familiar. The name is a prayer. The prayer remains unspoken.
The Santa Thing hears nonetheless.
Forgive me, Father Christmas.
But the Santa Thing is father to nothing. Knowing what awaits this small creature, knowing what the new year will bring, it smiles its mouth round moist, shivering words.
“HaPee KrisMus. HaPree KrisMus, Litul One.”
The Santa Thing doesn’t wait for a response. Even for a thing that lives between the cracks of time, there’s much to be done this sacred night. It melts instead back into the darkness, a memory already fading and mixing with illusion in an infant mind that will never be quite sane again. Embracing the chill night wind, the Santa Thing flees for a star-slick sky, smears its long silhouette across a bulbous moon.
And in its wake, fluid with echo, a sound that might be laughter.
Anne Lyle is going to take the world by storm with her debut novel The Alchemist of Souls in April 2012. For her 12 Days piece, Anne created a piece of festive robo-fun.
A prize to the writer of the best caption (as determined by whoever happens to be in the office at the time). Post your captions in the comments section. The competition ends tomorrow, and a winner will be chosen on Thursday (just in time to miss the Christmas post, but it’ll be something to look forward to).
The winner will receive an Advance Reading Copy of Anne’s book – 3 months before the book goes on sale!
Lee’s Dead of Winter (Winter, 2012) has been described as True Grit meets True Blood. It’s a bit early to show you a sample chapter, so how about a short story of Lee’s, to be getting on with? A Christmas ghost story written in a classic 19th century style. Honestly – we spoil you!
The Shadow in the Hall
by Lee Collins
Before beginning this record of events, I feel it necessary to impart that I, being the daughter of a physician, am not a stranger to the disciplines of science and logic. Whereas many of my sex might succumb to their passions in similar circumstances to the ones I will describe hence, becoming altogether hysterical and perhaps incontinent, I remained steadfast in my adherence to the rational nature inherited from my father. It may be somewhat presumptuous on my part, but I find myself occasionally entertaining the belief that, had he been alive to witness the events, my father might have felt some measure of pride in my composure and handling of the extraordinary events.
Somewhat ironically, it was the occasion of his death, premature and unexpected, that thrust my mother and myself into the extraordinary circumstances. My father’s will designated my mother as the primary beneficiary of his estate and accounts. However, my mother’s financial sensibilities were overshadowed, perhaps to a fault, by her timid disposition toward uncertainty. This condition was unquestionably worsened by my father’s unexpected death. Thus, where we might have remained in a life of reduced but not unsubstantial comfort, she felt it best to set up for sale our luxurious estate in a neighbourhood well-reputed for its learned and industrious residents and take up our abode within the bowels of the city. My mother was a woman of some notable skill with a needle and thread (a skill she had endeavored most stubbornly to impart to me) and thus found work with a tailor. The tailor’s shop was in the lower level of a three-storey building which fronted a tributary street, a modest place he had purchased some ten years prior. His apartments were directly above the shop. I never entered his residence, so I’m afraid I cannot give a description of its layout or furnishings. I will comment, however, that whatever mysteries it contained did not appear to play any substantial role in the events which occurred in our living quarters. Read More→
Joey Hi-Fi has already delivered what will surely prove to be one of the best covers of 2012 (see right, and click to make it bigger, if you haven’t already seen it). The words on the inside of the book are easily as good. So, here, a full four months and change before publication, is the opening to Blackbirds. Enjoy…
Chapter One: The Death of Del Amico
from Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
Car lights strobe through busted motel blinds.
When the lights come in, Miriam regards herself in the dirty mirror.
I look like something blown in off a dusty highway, she thinks. Dirty, torn jeans. Tight white tee. Bleach blonde hair, the roots coming up, those dark, earthen roots.
She puts her hands on her hips and cocks them this way, then that. With the back of her hand, she wipes away a smear of lipstick from where Del kissed her.
“The lights need to be on,” she says to nobody, foretelling the future.
She clicks the lamp by the bed. Piss-yellow light illumines the ratty room.
A roach sits paralyzed in the middle of the floor.
“Shoo,” she says. “Fuck off. You’re free to go.”
The roach does as it’s told. Itboogies under the pull-down bed, relieved.
Back to the mirror, then.
“They always said you were an old soul,” she mutters. Tonight she’s really feeling it.
In the bathroom, the shower hisses. It’s almost time now. She sits down on the side of the bed and rubs her eyes, yawns.
She hears the squeaking of the shower knobs. The pipes in the walls groan and stutter like a train is passing. Miriam balls up her monkeys toes and flexes them tight. The toe-knuckles pop.
In the bathroom, Del is humming. Some Podunk fuckwit country tune. She hates country. That music is the dull, throbbing pulse-beat of the Heartland. Wait. This is North Carolina, right? Is North Carolina the Heartland? Whatever. The Heartland. The Confederacy. The Wide Open Nowhere. Did it matter?
The bathroom door opens, and Del Amico steps out, wreathed in ghosts of steam. Read More→
Lee’s The Corpse-Rat King is set to be one of the most popular debuts of 2012. Here, Lee talks about the way he celebrates… ummm.. about the festivities in his… ummm… he talks about December 25th.
ON THE 23rd DAY OF CHRISTMAS,
MY TRUE LOVE FINALLY TWIGGED…
Goddamn, but the idea of writing a blog about Christmas makes me sound like a fucking Grinch. It’s been a long time since I was anything but ambivalent about it, you see. I mean, I have little kids, and they love it, and so I gear up and slap a smile on for their sake, but really: I’m an atheist, so there’s the religious bollocks thrown out the window for a kick off; I’m married to a Jehovah’s Witness, and they don’t do Christmas on the perfectly reasonable grounds that they’d rather spend the entire year being nice to each other and getting together for social occasions and buying each other gifts when they’re needed rather than waiting anywhere up to 11 months when the defibrillator you asked for in January may not be quite so useful anymore; my oldest kid is 19, with a job, and if he wants something he just goes out and buys the damn thing; and as to getting together with family, well—my Mum’s dead, my father has little to no interest in my kids and knows how to show it, my brother’s in gaol and we stopped speaking long ago, the best grandparents my kids have are the parents of my deceased first wife, and the only other family we have is my estranged brother’s ex-wife and her kids, assuming you don’t count my wife’s best friend and her daughter who have been better to us than a whole lot of family but don’t actually share any sort of blood tie whatsoever. Still, most of the people we do call family don’t share any sort of blood tie whatsoever.
The village is what you make of it.
Which in our case means, not so much an extended family, really, as a collection of whomever managed to swim to the lifeboat when the Titanic went down.
So what do we do? I don’t want to just ignore the whole event—much as I might want to, dammit. I love giving presents and getting them in return, and being that this is Australia and not the la-la-sing-along-snowy-subzero-one-horse-open-sleigh wonderland most of you reading this inhabit, I love sitting on my patio in 40 degree heat watching my kids run around under a sprinkler while I down another mango beer and help myself to a second plate of barbecued dead beast and potato salad. (Yes, it’s a cliché, and yes, we all do it round here). But I also love my wife, and respect her more than all of you. Call me unmutual if you will, but I’d happily watch the rest of you go up in flames as long as she’s happy.
So: we compromise. We do the presents thing. We get together with those family members with whom we’d like to do the present thing. We don’t do decorations. We don’t do Christmas music, although, to be honest, that’s because we’ve got some actual musical fucking taste as anything. Jam your Bing Crosby and give me the Vandals or Mental as Anything any day. It ain’t really Christmas if Noddy Holder isn’t screaming it through the speakers. We don’t do cards, sorry to the hordes of kids who pass them round at school, although we happily let our littlies draw and distribute their own. We treat it like one big day off from the world.
So maybe I do sound smug and cynical in equal measure, but row your own boat: if you get off on the fake snow and jingly ballad stuff then really get off on it and fuck anybody who doesn’t get the joke. I’m getting old, and weird parts of me crunch when I walk, and it gives me the shits to have to barge my way through a crowd of crabby strangers to get my hands on some 20% off Lego at the best of times. BUT (and here’s the thing): if you must nominate a single day for the dispersal of good will to all and sundry (and have a listen to Tom Lehrer’s brilliant “National Brotherhood Week” while you do), then make the most of the one you choose.
And a Merry Every Day to all.
Cassandra’s first novel – The Assassin’s Curse (a fantastic adventure, starring a kick-ass lady pirate) comes out in September 2012, followed by The Mad Scientist’s Daughter in the spring of 2013. These are her first novels. Buy them, and tell your grandchildren you were there at the start…
An Illuminating Tale
I’m pretty sure most long-running sitcoms eventually have an episode in which one of the characters becomes involved in a Christmas light competition. Hilarity, electrocution, fires, et cetera ensue.
This happened to me in real life.
Well, not the electrocution and the fires. No one was injured. But one Christmas when I was around ten or so, my dad entered into a gentleman’s agreement with our neighbor-across-the-street (both of them spurned on by their children, i.e., me and my brother and our friends) to see who could set up the best Christmas light arrangement, with “best” in this context meaning “most similar to Clark Griswald’s house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I, having shown some marginal artistic ability at this point, was recruited to help.
My dad pulled out every single strand of Christmas lights that we had buried away in our shed. It was an impressive array. There were the usual miniature light strands that you can buy at the dollar store, both white and multi-colored, and the “icicle” lights that people in Texas are so fond of since real icicles are a sign of upcoming apocalypse. We also had a couple of strands of old-fashioned C9 lights — you know, the ones where you have to actually screw the bulb into the wire yourself. I was not allowed to touch these. They were older than me and, if my parents were to be believed, liable to explode at the slightest provocation.
However, my dad wasn’t one to throw lights up willy-nilly. He designed. The C9 lights would go around the trim, along with the icicles; lights would also outline our roof and front-facing windows. But this wasn’t enough — in order to win the competition by a landslide, as was the goal, we were going to have to involve ornamentation. Plastic light-up Santas and electric candles in the windows and the like. My dad also decided that we should have a hand-lettered, hand-painted sign that read Merry Christmas.
He acquired the sign through the a deal with the art teacher at the local junior high. It appeared in our garage, a five foot by six foot piece of plywood, without warning one weekday afternoon. Handwritten. Unpainted. My dad handed me a couple of cans of paint and told me to get to it.
I spent days laboring over that sign, under strict orders not to let a single drop of letter-paint outside its lines. After all, some potential light-viewer might get out of his car, walk across the yard, and inspect our Merry Christmas sign up close, looking for flaws.
There was another problem with the sign, too, which was that those potential light-viewers, the ones who might be so offended by the notion that someone colored outside the lines, wouldn’t actually be able to read the thing after dark. So my dad drilled a chain of evenly-spaced holes in the letters, and we spent an afternoon poking lights through said holes in order to create a sort of Christmas Broadway sign. Better still, we used one of those light strands with the adjustable blinking patterns, so we could change it depending on our mood. Slow fade lights for quiet contemplation, running lights for excited anticipation, and so on.
In the end, our house was like a city block at night.
And our neighbor-across-the-street’s house? The one we were competing against?
A strand of blinking lights around the trim.
We built a freaking sign! We risked lightbulb explosion! I was forced to paint inside the lines! We spent weeks prepping our light display, and this dude spent an afternoon with a staple-gun and a ladder and called it a day.
I’m sure there’s a Christmas lesson in there somewhere — I mean, there has to be, right? Nothing happens around Christmas time without a reason. That’s what twenty-eight years of holiday movies has taught me, anyway. But I’ll be damned if I know what it is.
Chris is just a great author – his novel Dead Harvest (March 2012) will blow you away! But if you can’t wait that long, here’s a seasonal short story…
THE FINAL BOUGH
HASTILY PENNED BY CHRIS F. HOLM
IN A CRASS ATTEMPT TO EXPLOIT THE SPIRIT OF THE HOLIDAYS
I woke to the sound of slay bells.
Not that I recognized them as such at first. It’d been some time since I last heard them. During the Cabbage Patch Riots of ’83, that was. Management worked my fellow elves to the bone that year, trying to keep up with demand, and when the union finally struck, they sent a cadre of their Rock ’Em Sock ’Em ruffians to bust up the picket line. Me and the rest of the North Pole PD did our best to keep the violence from bubbling over, but our best wasn’t good enough. Ever since that day, I’ve walked with the help of a candy cane – and believe me, I was one of the lucky ones. Lots of pointy-toed shoes aimed skyward once the snow settled that day, and the bells chimed clear through to midnight, honoring the fallen.
Don’t let the red suit fool you – El Hefe’s no friend to the working elf.
Anyways, when I woke, I just assumed the godawful ringing was in my head – I’d hit the nog pretty hard the night before. Which explains how I wound up coming to Iin someone else’s bed.
She was a short drink of water, with a pair of getaway sticks that went most of the way to the floor. She sat beside me in the bed, wearing a saucy flannel nightgown and matching sleeping cap, her pointy ears jutting fetchingly out to either side. Not bad, I thought to myself. Now if only I could remember her name.
“I thought you said you were a cop,” she said, plucking a lollipop from a silver case and placing it between her luscious lips. “Some kind of big-wig detective, to hear you tell it.”
“I did?” I asked, rubbing sleep out of my eyes and trying in vain to remember anything of the night before. “I mean, I am!”
“Then shouldn’t you be going? Sounds like you’ve got a case.”
Damn. The dame was right. The slay bells meant one of our kind had been killed.
“Yeah,” I said, grabbing my pants, and my pointy blue police cap, its copper bell jingling. “Uh, listen – I had a great time last night…”
“Sure you did,” she said, flashing me a dazzling set of teeth – a rarity among elves. Our diet’s nothing but candy and Christmas cookies all year ’round – and it ain’t like working for Big Red comes with dental. My own teeth were pitted and scarred and too long past their last brushing, and felt fuzzy from sleep and candy both. “Of course, you passed out before anything happened. Drunk as you were, I’d be surprised if you even remember my name.”
Shit. She had me. Best to bluff. “Of course I do, sugarplum,” I said, pulling on my shoes and making for the door, beside which rested my trusty cane, “but if I told you what it was now, you’d just feel bad for trying to guilt me. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
I pushed open the door of her modest hut, and stepped out into the bitter cold. My bum hip and nogged brain throbbed in time. As the door swung closed behind me, she called to me, “It’s Holly.” Read More→