Archive for AR Authors

Oct
23

Alyc Helms: Achievement Unlocked

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Yesterday we announced the exciting news that we have signed Alyc Helms as an Angry Robot author, with her debut novel – The Dragons of Heaven – due for publication in Spring of 2015. Alyc has written an insightful piece on her blog about her journey to publication which we have extracted here. For the full piece, click through to this page. Over to Alyc…

The exciting news that I’ve been sitting on since early January is that Angry Robot offered for my novel The Dragons of Heaven and an as-yet unnamed sequel, to be published in April 2015 and 2016. The initial muppet-flailing has quieted to a Fluttershy ‘yay,’ but my enthusiasm is not lessened for all of that. I’ve been riding this high for months, and I don’t think it’s going away.

However, I look at all the hard work and revision and rejection and depression and revision and rejection and depression and revision and and and… And I have to admit to myself: I got lucky.

Here’s what luck looks like to a writer:

I’ve always loved books, and I scribbled stories and poems starting when I was a kid and continuing well into my twenties: band-fic and blood-soaked vampire odes, re-hashed fairy tales and snarky swordswomen. I finished three stories, sent them out to Realms of Fantasy, got rejected, and moved on to other things. Becoming an author seemed impossible, something that had been done long ago by people I admired but not something I could ever do. I returned to school in my late twenties with the plan to become a research anthropologist, childhood dreams of being a fantasy novelist packed away alongside the Prima Ballerina thing.

I met Marie Brennan at a field school in Wales. In the evenings, when I wasn’t running a cobbled-together Changeling game for her and a few other women, Marie was writing the first draft of the book that would eventually become her first novel sale. I had met authors before, but this was the first time I met a peer who was serious about writing. Even then, and over the years as we solidified our friendship, I had no question that Marie would someday succeed as an author. It was inevitable.

Seeing her determination changed me. I had a reference point. A template. My academic work was in representation and identity, so I recognized why that was so important. If you see someone like you achieving something you thought was impossible, it renders that thing possible for you.

Becoming friends with Marie was my first lucky break. I started noodling around with fiction again. At this point, I was in grad school for anthropology and folklore. I’d spent several years thinking about the structure of stories, about representation, about cultures and cultural relativism and worldbuilding, about the intersections between gender, race, economics, and politics. I had THINGS TO SAY. I was crap at saying them, but I had some solid material to start from.

Some friends and I formed a writing group. Scat Hardcore included Marie, Mike Underwood, Darja Malcolm-Clarke,Siobhan Carroll, Emily Dare, and Ryan Markle, all of us still figuring out who the hell we were as writers and what the hell we were doing. We helped each other learn about writing, but also about the business of writing: networking, submission, rejection, markets, publication, conferences, workshops, etc. We learned how to take the craft and our dedication to it seriously. Scat Hardcore was my second lucky break. I can’t emphasize enough the value of a solid and serious writing community filled with people who are just slightly more talented, more dedicated, or more professionally focused than you.

At that time, I was still concentrating on my academic work and only writing short stories. I wrote a couple stories–I had learned from my academic writing about this thing called revision, and it turns out it can make your writing better!–but I didn’t really grok short stories. I still don’t think I’ve quite cracked how to write a good short story, even though I’ve managed to sell a few. Novels are my thing. Novels I grok. Novels are where my heart is.

Novels are a hell of a lot longer than short stories.

In 2006 I was playing in a supers tabletop game run by my friend Jason Pisano. I wanted to make a shift in the character I was playing–a legacy pulp hero with a lot of heart and no heroing experience–so I asked Jason if she could go to China to train with the ancient dragon who’d trained her grandfather. He said sure. I asked him to fill in the details for me. He looked at his stable of ten other players waiting for him to adjudicate things and told me to write it up myself and submit it for XP.

That was my next bit of luck. Along around the time my ‘little side-adventure write-up’ hit 40k words, I realized I had the longest thing I’d ever written, the seed of a novel, and I still wasn’t bored. Of course, it was a character fic. It wasn’t novel-shaped at all. Missy was unfocused as a character, and the story was based in a world owned by a large corporate gaming company. But at this point, I’d seen Marie take a seed from a gaming experience and turn it into a series of amazing novels–her Onyx Court books. I knew I could reshape The Dragons of Heaven. Read More→

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We, here at Angry Robot HQ, are simply delighted to announce Alyc Helms has joined the ranks as an Angry Robot author. In a two-book, World English, deal, Alyc was signed from Lindsay Ribar and Stefanie Diaz (Greenburger Assocs) and Anna Carmichael (Abner Stein). The first title, The Dragons of Heaven, will be published in April 2015.

alychelms-authorphoto1Alyc Helms: “I feel so lucky to join the Angry Robot family–The covers! The inside-the-covers! The authors! The staff!–I’m completely chuffed. I get to say chuffed now. It’s one of the perks.”

Marc Gascoigne: I do like it when the team bring in a novel proposal and we all devour it at a single sitting. Such was the case with the delicious The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms, which we all love and cannot wait to present to you, our devoted readers. It’s another in a long line of wonderful Angry Robot books that defies categorisation without resorting to a hell of a lot of hyphens. Alright, if you insist: it’s a sort of superhero-pulp-kung fu-magician-fantasy-mystery-adventure. See what I mean?”

The Dragons of Heaven

Drawing on the legacy of Indiana Jones, Jack Burton, and The Shadow, Missy Masters is an adventure heroine for the 21st century.

“A tough, witty young woman who inherited her superhero grandfather’s powers barrels through a rollicking ‘Big Trouble in Little China’-esque tale filled with magic, monsters and wisecracks. I loved it.”
Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver, on The Dragons of Heaven 

Street magician Missy Masters inherited more than the usual genetic cocktail from her estranged grandfather; she also got his preternatural control of shadow and his legacy as the vigilante hero, Mr. Mystic. Problem is, being a pulp hero takes more than a good fedora and a knack for witty banter, and Missy lacks the one thing Mr. Mystic had: experience. Determined to live up to her birthright, Missy journeys to China to seek the aid of Lung Huang, the ancient master who once guided her grandfather.

Lung Huang isn’t quite as ancient as Missy expected, and she finds herself embroiled in the politics of Lung Huang and his siblings, the nine dragon-guardians of creation. When Lung Di, Lung Huang’s brother and mortal enemy, raises a magical barrier that cuts off China from the rest of the world, it falls to the new Mr. Mystic to prove herself by taking down the barrier. But is it too great a task for a lone adventure hero?

Would you deal with the devil to save the world?

About Alyc Helms: Alyc Helms fled her PhD program in anthropology and folklore when she realized she preferred fiction to academic writing. She lives above a dive bar in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a project manager for Macmillan, a freelance editor, and a volunteer copyeditor for Nightmare Magazine. In addition to writing, she dabbles in corsetry and costuming, dances Scottish Highland and Irish Ceili at Renaissance and Dickens fairs, rants about social justice issues, and games in all forms of media. She sometimes refers to her work as “critical theory fanfic,” which is just a fancy way to say that she is obsessed with liminality, gender identity, and foxes. She’s a graduate of Clarion West 2012, and her short fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and Crossed Genres and will be appearing in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

 Join us in welcoming Alyc to our motley crew: @alychelms and check out her website: http://www.alychelms.com

 

Categories : AR Authors, Books, News
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Oct
19

So, Farewell Miriam

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FarewellIf you’ve not seen the announcement elsewhere yet, the lovely Chuck Wendig has sold three new Miriam Black books to the gang over at Saga (Simon & Schuster), and the first three volumes will be joining them over there too.

This happens pretty frequently in publishing, where books change publisher, and new books in the series are released in different packaging along with the backlist, but we’ll be especially sad to see Miriam go. Back in the spring, Chuck suggested the new books for Angry Robot… just as our then-owners, Osprey Group, hit some difficulties that eventually led to the company being broken up and sold. We wanted to offer on them, oh how we pined for them, but we had strict orders from above: no new proposals could be bought at that time. Worse, the owners had also put a block on reprints of physical books, so paperback copies of Blackbirds ran out. With massive regret, and if we’re being honest deeply frustrated by the whole situation, we had to let Miriam leave the Angry Robot label that first brought her to you all.

The Miriam books remain in our catalogue until the end of the year, so obviously we’d love you to snap up copies if you haven’t yet, and do look out for those incredible new adventures from Saga – we’ve only read the synopses but they already rule. And we have to add: although we didn’t move to our fabulously supportive new owners in time to keep Miriam on our label, the dark times are now receding in our rear-view mirror. We are pressing the Big Reprint Button for those few AR books that have slipped out of stock. Just as excitingly, we are preparing offers for a delicious clutch of new books from several of our favourite Angry Robot authors, and are about to introduce you to several new writers as well… Can’t wait to tell you all about them soon.

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Sep
02

Angry Robot at FantasyCon

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TheBulletCatchersDaughter-72dpiThis weekend’s FantasyCon takes place in the beautiful city (or so I’ve heard, never actually visited) of York. Events take place in the Royal York Hotel, and here’s a handy list of where you’ll find some Angry Robot folk, starting with the launch of Rod Duncan‘s The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter and definitely finished by the legendary disco on Saturday night:

THE BULLET-CATCHER’S DAUGHTER LAUNCH!

SATURDAY 6.00pm – Angry Robot The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter – Rod Duncan

FRIDAY 5th

7.00pm – Larry Rostant in Conversation Marc Gascoigne interviews our Artist Guest of Honour.

7.00pm – Podcasting for beginners What makes a really good podcast? Which are the ones you should be listening to? How can you make your own? Peter Newman (m), Alasdair Stuart, Emma Newman, Stephen Aryan

SATURDAY 6th

10.00am – But Does It Make Sense?
Economics of fantasy systems. If Smaug holds all the gold and it gets liberated, what does that do to the economy?
Leila Abu el Hawa (m), Kari Sperring, Kate Elliott, Tom Pollock, Anne Lyle

11.00am – It’s the End of the World as we Know It – And I Feel Unsurprised
Does the popularity of dystopia in YA reflect a generation’s expectation of living in a nightmarish future?
Guy Adams (m), Janet Edwards, Leila Abu el Hawa, Jonathan Oliver, Laura Lam

12.00 Noon – Dead Parents, Burned Homesteads and Wicked Stepmothers
Is it essential to write out the parents before youthful characters can head out on adventures? Are adult figures always unhelpful or malign? Should writers search for ways to keep parents around — or do fantasies of a world without parents fulfil a real need?
Marc Gascoigne (m), Edward Cox, Emma Newman, Sophia McDougall, Glenda Larke, Laura Lam

6.00pm – We’ve Got It Covered
What are the elements of great cover design? From artwork and design, through to cover copy and author blurbs.
Larry Rostant, Jim Pitts, Marc Gascoigne, Helen Marshall, Adele Wearing (m)

6.30pm – Mass Signing
Your favourite authors are here, ready to sign your books!

7.00pm – Tea and Jeopardy with Toby Whithouse
Join the Hugo-shortlisted podcast team of Emma Newman and her butler Latimer, as they grill Guest of Honour, Toby Whithouse. Warning: Contains mild peril!
Emma Newman, Peter Newman, Toby Whithouse

9.00pm – Super Relaxed Fantasy Club
Super Relaxed Fantasy Club is a gathering of like-minded SFF fans, getting together for an extremely informal chat about our favourite things. With an emphasis on parity and inclusivity, we have readings and Q&A sessions with writers from a wide range of genres, punctuated by a lot of catching up and gossip. It’s as simple and as relaxed as that. Readings by Laura Lam, Edward Cox, Emma Newman and Niel Bushnell. We’re also thrilled to announce we have a short interview with Simon Spanton from Gollancz, with James Barclay.

FOR THE FULL SCHEDULE, CLICK HERE but here’s one Saturday event you shouldn’t miss…

8.30 – The FantasyCon Disco, sponsored by Gollancz. Dedicated to Hajnalka Bata Strut your funky stuff, oh no. (We’re probably serious about the “oh no”.) With your verrrry special guest DJs… Guy “Funky World House” Adams and your very own Robot overlord, Marc Gascoigne.

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Aug
19

Backlist Boost

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ATTENTION: Bloggers, Podcasters, Interviewers:

Is there a burning question that you wish you’d asked an author when their book first came out?

Did you read an interview or blog post – after your post – which brought more questions or ideas to you?

Or did you simply not have time to chat with a certain author and would now like to?

Too often those wonderful books which precede new title releases are relegated to ‘backlist’ and get less attention than they deserve. So today I want to bring your attention to our many fantastic authors that we’ve published, PRE-2014!

I want to know which of our authors you would like to interview, or have a blog post from, but they must have published pre-2014. This doesn’t exclude authors, that have published with us pre-2014 and throughout this year, but have a think and let me know who you’d like to get in touch with.

Our full list of authors can be found at this link and I’m looking forward to hearing from you with your author selections! Feel free to pick more than one, and I’m sure I can arrange some special giveaways for this Backlist Boost.

Simply get in touch with me, caroline.lambe@angryrobotbooks.com, and I’ll set up any interviews etc. Please note that not all authors will be available but do let me know your ideal author to talk to, and I’ll do my best!

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Aug
18

Robots love Hugos

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The Hugo AwardsSoooo, we can’t imagine that if you have any interest in the wider world of science fiction that you missed the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards, presented as the climax of the massive, and massively enjoyable, Worldcon here in England’s London, aka Loncon 3. But just in case, here’s a completely biased summary:

Kameron Hurley won TWO. As we said there in the hall, hell yeah! In fact, we screamed and whooped and screamed some more.

And that’s not all. We’re so, so proud of our writer friends and colleagues who placed well in the rankings, with nominations for:

Emma Newman, for her sensational Tea & Jeopardy podcast
Both Wesley Chu and Ramez Naam, up for the John W Campbell Award for best new writer (yeah yeah, OK, not strictly a Hugo yadda yadda)
Aliette de Bodard, nominated for her lovely novelette, The Waiting Stars.
Our man Mike Underwood, up as part of the team behind the Skiffy & Fanty Podcast.
And our now-departed but still beloved Lee Harris, nominated for Best Editor (Long Form), a fitting end to his AR years as he heads off to pastures new.

Loads of other great people were justly celebrated too, of course, and you can read up on them, even see all of the breakdowns in how people voted if you like. It’s all been rather lovely. Roll on 2015.

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Congratulations to everyone who was voted onto the recent Best Of lists from Locus, but a special celebration belongs to our very own Emma Newman as Between Two Thorns was included in the Best Fantasy Novel category! The first book in the Split WorldsBetween Two Thorns, has received widespread attention – including a shout-out from The Guardian as “JK Rowling meets Georgette Heyer” – and it certainly belongs in the Top 25 of Best Fantasy Novels. If you have yet to read Between Two Thorns, get yourself to this book page for all the info and read an excerpt.

Well done, Emma!

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman, March 2013

Categories : AR Authors, Awards
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Jul
14

Nexus Wins the Prometheus Award!

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We are delighted to announce that Ramez Naam‘s Nexus has won the 2014 Prometheus Award from the Libertarian Futurist Society, tying with Cory Doctorow‘s brilliant Homeland!

Ramez was short-listed for both Nexus and its sequel Crux with Nexus described thusly in the awards announcement:

Nexus offers a gripping exploration of politics and new extremes of both freedom and tyranny in a near future where emerging technology opens up unprecedented possibilities for mind control or personal liberation and interpersonal connection.

Ramez Naam: “I’m absolutely honored and thrilled to be receiving the Prometheus Award for Best Novel, and even moreso to be sharing it with Cory Doctorow, a writer who exemplifies what it means to use the written word to fight to expand human freedoms. I wrote Nexus and Crux to explore the potential of neuroscience to link together and improve upon human minds. But I also wrote them to explore the roles of censorship, surveillance, prohibition, and extra-legal state use of force in a future not far from our own. Science and technology can be used to lift people up or to trod them underfoot. Making those abstract future possibilities real in the present is a core goal in my novels. I’m glad the selection committee saw that, and I’m very grateful to them for this award!”

Lee Harris:With his three Nexus books (NexusCrux, and the forthcoming Apex), Ramez Naam has proved to be not only a master storyteller, but also a free thinker, whose writing encourages us – his readers – to think more critically about the world around us. I can’t think of a more fitting award for one of the finest new writers of our generation.”

Ramez will be at Worldcon in London next month to happily receive his award, and if you’d like to see him before this, come along to our Angry Robot Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet on Wednesday 13 August!

Join us in congratulating Ramez on Twitter!

Nexus by Ramez Naam

Nexus

About the awards

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf. Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners.

For more than three decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that stress the importance of liberty as the foundation for civilization, peace, prosperity, progress and justice.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org. Membership in the Libertarian Futurist Society is open to any science fiction fan interested in how fiction can promote an appreciation of the value of liberty.

More information is available at http://lfs.org.

Author headshot Ramez NaamWe’re already set for a bumper evening with Anne LyleMike ShevdonAdam ChristopherWesley Chu and Madeline Ashby at Forbidden Planet on Wednesday 13 August at 6pm, but we’re delighted to announce that Ramez Naam will also be joining us!

Join us for an evening of readings, signing, and robotic dance moves. Enjoy an informal evening of meeting some of your favourite authors and listening to some fantastic fiction!

RSVP

Forbidden Planet have an event page on their Facebook page on which you can RSVP, and I do encourage you to do so. Surprise, surprise, here’s a handy link to said Facebook page! You can also tweet us, @angryrobotbooks, or @forbiddenplanet. Please feel free to share with your friends, colleagues, enemies – hey, we don’t discriminate, and we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, 13 August!

Categories : AR Authors
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Angry Robot’s Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet

Looking forward to this year’s World SciFi Convention (LonCon)? Or, can’t make LonCon and wish you could have an evening with some of your favourite authors before the con starts?

Well, we want to kick-start your LonCon experience with an Angry Robot Summer Invasion of Forbidden Planet, on Wednesday, 13 August at 6pm.

Meet the Authors

Not only will the lovely Anne LyleMike Shevdon and Adam Christopher be present, but come along for your chance to meet Wesley Chu and Madeline Ashby!

Join us for an evening of readings, signing, and robotic dance moves. Enjoy an informal evening of meeting some of your favourite authors and listening to some fantastic fiction!

RSVP

Forbidden Planet have an event page on their Facebook page on which you can RSVP, and I do encourage you to do so. Surprise, surprise, here’s a handy link to said Facebook page! You can also tweet us, @angryrobotbooks, or @forbiddenplanet. Please feel free to share with your friends, colleagues, enemies – hey, we don’t discriminate, and we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, 13 August!

Jun
26

Angry Robot Live! #3 Recap

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Greetings, Robot Army!

Yesterday I assembled four amazing authors to the Angry Robot orbital platform for a discussion of long-term world domination planning.

*receives memo*

Oh, how silly of me. That was the other meeting. What I meant to say is that we were talking about Series Writing  – how to do it, why so many writers work in series, and how to make each work in a series stand on its own and/or build a larger story.

The panelists were Adam Christopher, Anne Lyle, Carrie Patel, and Chuck Wendig.

 

You can watch (or re-watch) the video here:

 

Thanks so much to everyone who tuned in! Please keep an eye on the blog here for news of Angry Robot Live! #4, coming soon to an internet near you.

We’d love to carry on the conversation here int he comments: what are some of your favorite series (Angry Robot and otherwise). What do you love about series? What kinds of series do you prefer – serial, episodic, somewhere in the middle?

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It’s publication day at Angry Robot HQ and we have not one but two fantastic new titles for you: Craig Cormick‘s The Shadow Master and James A. Moore‘s The Blasted Lands, the sequel to Seven Forges.


The Shadow Master by Craig CormickThe Shadow Master 
is a witty, swashbuckling tale of families at war and features some of history’s most famous figures. It is brought to you by Australia’s award-winning Craig Cormick, who was wooed by Marc at Canberra’s Conflux in 2012. With assassination; ancient, impossible machines; and torture and infamy, The Shadow Master is a tale not-to-be missed! To celebrate the North American and ebook publication of The Shadow Master, Craig is today on The Qwillery answering questions on his star-crossed lovers theme and Renaissance Italy. For the “story behind” Craig’s story, be sure to visit Upcoming4.me at this link.

If you’d like a taster, click here for an exclusive excerpt from The Shadow Master, and here for an excerpt from The Blasted Lands.

 

 

The Blasted Lands by James A. MooreJoining Craig in the publication celebrations is James A. Moore with his second title with Angry Robot BooksSeven Forges appeared last September and this epic fantasy was an instant hit. This second instalment has been eagerly awaited, and is avoiding the dreaded second-book curse, as Bookwraiths nicely sums up. This is something Lynn agrees with, adding that it is “a fast paced novel and the world building and time spent with each character definitely adds extra value.” For full buying info on Seven Forges, click here and for The Blasted Lands, click through here.

If you’re in the UK/ROW and can’t wait to pick up your copies of these fantastic books, don’t forget you can pre-order and all of the various links are on the book pages. When you pick up your copy, remember you can leave reviews on the retailer’s site and also on Goodreads…and look what I happen to have here, Goodreads links for The Shadow Master and for both Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands!

All hail Craig and James!

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Hello, all! Mike here, with news of our third Angry Robot Live! panel.

On Wednesday, at 11:30AM PDT/2:30PM EDT/7:30PM BST, we’re going to be talking about series writing (how to do it, why to do it, how not to do it), with four fantastic Angry Robot authors:

Adam Christopher, Sir Julius Vogel-award-winner and author of Empire State, The Age Atomic, Seven Wonders, Hang Wire, and others.
Anne Lyle, Syndey J. Bounds-nominated author of The Alchemist of Souls, The Merchant of Dreams, and The Prince of Lies.
Carrie Patel, author of the forthcoming The Buried Life and Cities & Thrones.
Chuck Wendig, John W. Campbell-nominated author of Blackbirds, Mockingbird, The Cormorant, The Blue Blazes, and many more.

 

Adam Christopher author photoAnne Lyle author photoCarrie PatelChuck Wendig author photo

 

 

RSVP for the event here. As before, there will be some prizes for people who ask questions of our illustrious panel. If you won’t be able to join us for the hangout, you can leave questions here in the comments or on Twitter the day of with the #AngryRobotLive.

Hope to see you on Wednesday for the event!

 

Jun
02

Adam Christopher Live!

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AdamChristopher ©DCSterneA typo while writing the subject of this blog post had me writing Adam Christopher Lives! which is the cry that emanated from the mad scientist who created Adam all those years ago, and possibly the subject of a different article.

This one, however, is to tell you of the next British Fantasy Society Open Night, in which Adam is the Guest Author. He will be interviewed by Gillian Redfearn, the Publishing Director of Gollancz. Don’t think we’re not keeping an eye on you, Gillian… :-)

You can meet Adam at the Phoenix Artists Club at 1 Phoenix Street, London WC2H 8BU (just underneath the Phoenix Theatre – map here). The event is this coming Friday (6th June) and it starts at 7.00pm, but do feel free to get there earlier.

Also featured: DieGo Comics Publishing introduces Italy’s treasure chest of fantasy, science-fiction and steampunk graphic novels and literature to an international audience, translating and adapting new and existing Italian stories into English for the first time. DieGo was founded by Giuseppe and Marcella Pennestri.

Plus, the launch of the first Midnight Street anthology, Journeys Into Darkness, dedicated to the late Joel Lane. Contributors include Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Stephen Gallagher, Rosanne Rabinowitz, Gary Couzens, Simon Clark plus other excellent writers.

BFS Open Nights are informal social evenings with a literary element, open to all, including non-members and anyone with an interest in genre fiction. As well as our guest author interview there will be a prize draw and a stock clearance sale by Gollancz – great SF/F books going cheap, so bring cash and a strong carry-bag!

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The wonderful James A. Moore has written an exclusive short story for all you fans of the Fellein Empire. Did you love Seven Forges and can’t wait until The Blasted Lands is released? Immerse yourself in the mountainous world, and count the days down until The Blasted Lands is published, which is currently 38 days, 8 hours, 23 minutes, and 32, 31, 30, 29, 28…. seconds.

When Korwa Fell

By James A. Moore

Captain Merros Dulver glanced over at the rider closest to him as they headed for Fellein from the Seven Forges. The journey was a long one and he was tired of staring at the barren landscape. It was time for a distraction. The Sa’ba Taalor were mysteries, even after a few weeks of riding together, they spoke and they answered questions, but as often as not they asked questions and then rode away to contemplate what they had learned.

       The one closest was a brute named Tusk. Under their armor and furs most of the people from the valley of the Seven Forges seemed large, but Tusk dwarfed the majority. He sported a great helmet like the skull of a beast and the mouth of that skull was decorated with teeth of all kinds. Real teeth, actually. A variety that boggled the mind. He didn’t much want to know what had happened to the donors of those decorations.

       “Tusk?”

       The man cast eyes his way, his face hidden behind both his helmet and the veil covering the lower half. The veils were there for protection from the weather and also because, according to Drask Silver Hand—the first of the people Merros and his fellow explorers had run across—neither Merros nor any of his people were ready to see the faces of the Sa’ba Taalor. That last was according to their gods. The Sa’ba Taalor seemed to have a very open relationship with their deities. Merros had never followed any of the gods very closely and to the best of his knowledge none of them had ever paid him the least bit of attention. He failed to see any sort of problem with that.

       Tusk’s eyes gave of a faint silvery glow in the perpetual twilight of the Blasted Lands. “Yes, Merros Dulver?”

       “Just call me Merros, if you prefer. I wanted to ask what your people believe happened here, in the Blasted Lands, to make them this way.”

       Tusk looked at him for a moment and the monstrous mount he rode let out a sound that was suspiciously like a chuckle. The only reason that Merros could understand the strangers riding with him was because he had been “gifted” with the ability to understand them.  He might have preferred that someone ask him if he wanted the gift before it was given, but that was hardly the issue. What puzzled him was the near-certainty that the predatory monster Tusk was riding on seemed to understand his words. Even the animals of the Sa’ba Taalor seemed to know more than they wanted to admit.

       Sure enough, the eyes of the animal were looking directly at him and glowing under the masking helmet that hid half of its face. He suppressed the desire to shudder.

       Tusk scratched at the map of scars across his hand and shrugged his massive shoulders.

       “We are told that there was a war between two great countries. The war ended with the creation of these lands.”

       Merros looked the man up and down. “That’s all?”

       “I can tell you the full story if you’d like.” Tusk sounded rather amused by the notion as if he might be preparing to tell a bedtime story to a child.

       Merros replied, “Well, I know what my people say happened. I want to hear what your people have to say.” He paused a moment as the warrior considered his words and because he feared he might not get the answer he wanted he added, “Or we can stare at the wastes around us and listen to the sound of the wind. I thought an exchange of stories might be more interesting.”

       Tusk nodded. “I agree.” He called out in his language—Merros understood the words sometimes, and just then did not; he suspected they were speaking different languages, only some of which understood. He was not mistaken—and three other riders came closer, moving to nearly surround Merros. They did not come with harmful intent. They merely came because they had been commanded.

       “Our friend Merros would like to hear how the Blasted Lands came to be. Which of you will tell him?” He looked to Merros and shrugged. “I do not tell stories well. I am not patient enough to tell them properly.”

       Drask Silver Hands was riding on the other side of Merros and he roared laughter at that. “Do you hear? Great Tusk even bores himself!” They all laughed, even Tusk. That was a good thing in Merros’s eyes as he was currently stuck between the two men and had no desire to become the battlefield upon which they settled their differences. Tusk was a giant and Drask not much smaller. Worse, he had seen Drask fight and kill with terrifying efficiency.

       “Swech!” Drask called to the rider at the front of them, a female with a thick mane of gray hair pulled into a tight knot at the top of her head. The resulting tail swayed with every move her mount made. She looked over her shoulder. Her eyes, like the eyes of all of Sa’ba Taalor, glowed. Still, Merros found the shape of her eyes enchanting. Too long without companionship, perhaps, but he liked the woman.

       She gripped the saddle of her mount and spun herself around so that she faced Merros and the other riders. Most of the soldiers he knew would have promptly fallen flat on their asses had they tried that from the back of a horse, but she managed it with seemingly no effort, despite her armor and furs.

       “Yes?” Her voice was higher than he expected.

       “You have a way with stories,” Drask answered. “You should tell Merros how the Blasted Lands came to be.”

       She nodded her head and leaned toward him across the back of her saddle. For that moment in time her eyes seemed only to see him.

       “It was a long time ago,” she started….

***

It was a long time ago, before the Seven Forges rose from the ground and before your Fellein Empire existed. It was because of the Cataclysm that your empire exists at all.

Everything changed when the Blasted Lands were shaped. That is always the way with great events. When they happen the world is never quite the same.

Back then all that you see around you was alive. There were great plains of green grass and there were farms and herds of animals, but more than that, there was the sea and there was Korwa. Korwa was a mighty city. According to some of the gods it was the greatest city that ever was.

What? No, not all of the gods say that. The Daxar Taalor do not agree on all things at all times. If they did there would only be one god, yes? Why would there be seven gods if they all thought alike? But some of them say Korwa was the greatest city there ever was.

All the gods agree upon is this: Korwa was magnificent. Towers of steel and stone and crystal rose high into the sky, as high as the tops of the Seven Forges themselves. The city rested on a sea of blue waters and vast bridges ran across the waters to let visitors in.

Korwa was the heart of the first empire, you see. The home of most peoples.

But sometimes the best of things become the most treasured. And what is treasured most is often coveted. Who can say what makes a people jealous? A man or a woman might desire the love of one who is already spoken for. Or perhaps a piece of land, or a trinket is all that is required. In the case of a people there must surely be better reasons but those are lost now, as lost as great Korwa. Whatever the reasons, the people from outside the empire became jealous of the power and beauty that Korwa offered and so they decided to take it.

We do not know all of the details. We only know what we have been told. But I will tell you what I can. The soldiers of Korwa were very skilled, but they were outnumbered, for the people who sought to take the city came from many directions. It might be that there was more than one group, or that the group was very large. We know that the leaders were called the Overlords and they were very hungry.  They came from the north and the east, and sailed across the sea in mighty ships. When they arrived, the ships let out thousands of soldiers and the weapons the Overlords created to either take Korwa as their own or to destroy the city.

Yes, that is correct. They planned to own Korwa or make sure that no one else would ever own it. No it does not make sense. On this we agree.

There were more threats. Korwa was home to the empire, yes, the seat of power, but the empire itself was vast and from within it came another threat. A country that was small and wanted to be bigger began conquering neighboring lands and then grew greedy. The people of that country were hungry, you see. They wanted all that they could have and they would not stop until even great Korwa was theirs.

The king of that land was related to the Empress of Korwa. That much is known. Beyond that, the gods do not agree. The country was called Felleis. Yes, much like your own empire, which rose from the ashes of Korwa. I suspect you already know this. But this is the story you wanted to hear. Now stop asking so many questions.

The old empire and the new empire. Together they might have stopped the Overlords. They did not fight together. They fought as enemies on the battlefield. It was while they were already engaged that the Overlords came to attack. Korwa looked to the south and did not cast their gaze far enough to the north to notice until it was too late.

The siege of Korwa was violent and very sudden. While the two armies fought the Overlords brought in their soldiers and attacker with great siege engines designed to knock down walls and warriors alike. They did not make demands. They merely attacked. Perhaps their plan was to injure and then demand surrender. Perhaps they merely wished to cause death. No one can know any longer.

The rulers of Korwa fought back. Though they were already in a war, they prepared for more battles. They had supplies and they had ships of their own. The great fleet of Korwa rode into the sea and fleets met and fought, and burned and died. “The sea was red with blood and fire,” that is what the god Wheklam said. Sailors died and no one had a chance to find their bodies. The war was too violent and the creatures of the sea feasted well.

I see the look on your face. Ask your question, Merros Dulver. Of course I know what ships are. Of course I know of navies and combat on the sea. Wheklam is the god of the sea. We have to travel to find the waters, but we know of them. Did you cross an ocean to get here? Yet you know of ships? And is this because you travel on them constantly? No? Good. Now let me go back to my story.

The war raged for almost a full year. The armies of the empires fought along the bridges leading to Korwa as the new forced the old back to the city. And even as they retreated to the city, the same empire had to fight against the attackers from the north. They tried their military methods and they were failing.

And as is often the case, the Empress turned to sorcery for her salvation. She called upon the greatest wizards of her empire to come to her and assist and they came, because the Empress was well loved by her people and because they wanted to live. They all wanted to live.

The spellcasters did what it is that they do. We do not have sorcerers in Taalor. We have gods. They react differently to these things, I suppose. Whatever the case, the mages gathered their powers and fought against the enemies of the Empress. The warships of the Overlords were pushed aside by waves that sank them and then swallowed the crews whole.  The sea grew redder and the creatures of the sea grew fatter.

And while the wizards cast their spells they turned to the new empire and sought to destroy the armies of the usurpers. When soldiers fell they did not stay fallen. The dead rose from the pits where they were buried and they attacked the living, and for each that fell before them another soldier was born, lifted from death and forced to fight for the sorcerers of Korwa.

Once a weapon has been used, it cannot be unused. That is what Truska-Pren says. And he is a god, he should know. The Overlords were powerful magicians as well, and they set aside their navies and their soldiers and they began casting mighty sorceries of their own. They brought forth storms to shatter the ground. Fingers of air raked the earth bare, and lightning dazzled the eyes of all who lived within Korwa, until the sun seemed but a faint glimmer in comparison. The war machines of the Overlords were frightening things, but their wizardry was far greater.

Through it all, Korwa stood, the walls damaged but not destroyed, the people wounded but not driven down. The Empress waited in her tower and spoke to the wizards and made demands of them and they in turn obeyed her, for they loved her and wished to serve her until the very end.

It is not certain what happened next. Three gods have spoken of this and I will tell you what each has said, because each is a part of the greater truth. Even gods cannot see everything, or if they can, they cannot see with the same eyes.

Paedle, who only ever whispers, tells us that the Empress was driven mad. All that she had worked for was taken from her. Her husband and consorts killed, her children burned and broken by the lightning. Paedle says that the Empress demanded the greatest vengeance ever, a fire so vast that it would destroy all of the empire’s enemies. Perhaps that is so. Perhaps the wizards managed their feat.

Durhallem the Wounder says that the Overlords carried out their promise. If they could not have the jewel of Korwa, then no one could. And so they summoned the elements to shatter the island where Korwa rested and watched as the city that everyone wanted was felled like a tree. It is his claim that the new empire was so angry at the Overlords that they then sought to destroy them and in time they succeeded.

All I can say for certain is that the Overlords are no more.

Wrommish, who many say watches best of all the Daxar Taalor, said that both stories have some truth, but are merely singular sides to a jewel of many facets. There were enchantments on all sides and they came together as wind and fire can merge to become something greater and more destructive.

Here is what we know.  Great Korwa fell and the oceans burned away. Vast armies were joined in combat across the land where we now walk and they were destroyed in one day. From time to time we still find pieces of the Old Empire and I have heard from your own people that some have come here in the past seeking treasures lost in the Cataclysm.

Where once there were fields and pastures of green there is now dust. The animals raised here are ashes and the orchards are ice. The people of Korwa are gone and when the winds are soft enough you can look down into the ground beneath us, through the glass that once was dirt and buildings, and you can see their bodies, broken and forgotten.

The war machines are lost. They are buried with Korwa, though from time to time you can hear the sounds of the great engines. That is what Wrommish says. Those vast devices and the remains of Korwa are locked together now, and they have become something we cannot know, we must not know. They have become the Mounds.

From life we have been given death. From peace we have been given war. From water we have been given ashes and disease. That is the legacy of Great Korwa and the peoples who coveted her beauty.

***

       Merros took a deep breath and shook his head. At the end he had lost himself in Swech’s words and the meter of her voice. She was a gifted storyteller.

       He looked to the west and saw the vast shapes of the Mounds and heard from deep within them the sounds of things that should not be.

       “Have your people ever been to the Mounds?”

       Swech shook her head. “That is forbidden by the gods.”

       “Can you tell me about the Overlords?”

       It was Tusk who answered, his voice gruff and his tone commanding. “No.” Merros turned to look at the man and found him staring back with narrowed eyes. Perhaps it was the wind that caused the sullen look. Perhaps it was something else. Either way Tusk made sure that everyone knew his position. “That is enough stories for one day. Later perhaps we will tell more. Tales and fables should be rationed, like all supplies.”

       When he looked around Drask and Tusk were both moving away, calling out to each other in a tongue he could not understand.

       Swech stayed where she was a moment longer before once more turning herself in the saddle of her mount and then riding away. 

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