“Dinosaurs eat man. Woman inherits the earth”
It’s a blazingly hot day, June 1993. I’m nine years old and this memory is the only one I have of that particular summer, although I can certainly fill in the blanks with memories from other years—swimming pools and sprinklers and summer camp enrollment designed to keep TV from melting my brain out through my ears. But those memories are generic. This one’s special.
The whole family’s going to the movies. Me, my mom, my dad, my brother. We pile into the car and drive down to the theater for the first showing at mid-morning, arriving nearly forty minutes early. We’re the only people in the theater for at first. This early-arrival-at-a-morning-show is a scheme of my parents, who frequently go to excessive lengths to avoid “the crowds.” (I won’t see the inside of an amusement park until I’m an adult for this reason.) We settle into the best seats in the theater, Cokes and popcorn at the ready, and wait.
The movie we’re waiting for is Jurassic Park.
There are a handful of movies I remember seeing in the theater, and Jurassic Park is one of the earliest, after The Little Mermaid. At nine years old, I was terrified throughout the entire thing, covering my eyes whenever I thought a dinosaur was about to eat someone, but when I walked out of the theater I was completely enamored. Jurassic Park was now my favorite movie; later, it would be my favorite book as well. I dreamed of becoming a paleontologist and wearing kicky high-waisted shorts like Dr. Sattler, and for the next few years, any trips to the dinosaur exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science were spent ogling up at the big T-Rex skeleton in the entryway, pretending I had a PhD and one of those brushes for dusting dirt away from bones.
Jurassic Park was the first science fiction property to capture attention and earn my love. Like others my age, I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (and putting my headband over my eyes so I could be Geordi), and as a child I caught Star Wars on TBS one dreary Saturday afternoon, although for years afterward I would confuse it with Cocoon. Science fiction novels weren’t really on my radar unless they made their way to the Newbery Medal nominee list. But Jurassic Park changed all that. There is a sense of wonder present in that movie which has stuck with me—remember the scene when Dr. Sattler and Dr. Grant see the dinosaurs for the very first time? I still remember the chill I got when I watched their expressions of shock and delight, and that’s the same feeling I get whenever I experience great science fiction, whether I find it on the page, on the screen, or in my imagination.
I originally intended to write this blog post about Dr. Sattler—how she was given the save-the-day scenes in the movie, and had to face down velociraptors and turn the power back on while Dr. Grant was tasked with the more nurturing role of caring for Hammond’s two grandkids. And that’s worth mentioning, although as a kid I didn’t admire her for being Action Girl and Subverting Gender Expectations. Rather, I admired her because she was smart, and pretty, and a scientist. She was the sort of person I wanted to grow up to be—the sort of woman I wanted to grow up to be.
And no, I never became a scientist. I became a writer instead, a science fiction writer. But I do think in some small way, Jurassic Park—and Dr. Ellie Sattler—helped me find that path. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Continuing our celebration of International Women’s Day, today’s piece comes from one of our newest authors – Ishbelle Bee
In Space Only Men Scream
“That’s the only way. We’ll move in pairs. We’ll go step by step and cut off every bulkhead and every vent until we have it cornered. And then we’ll blow it the fuck out into space! Is that acceptable to you?”
One of the most influential female characters for me is that of Ellen Ripley from the Alien films franchise. Female power and Queenship are explored through Ripley and her demonic counterpart, the Alien Queen. Male power is usurped, weak and in some cases artificial (androids); their role reduced to ‘food’ for the alien. These themes have inspired my own work and Ripley remains to me, one of the most powerful and iconic female roles I have come across.
‘The alien is more than phallus; it is also coded as toothed vagina, the monstrous feminine as cannibalistic mother.’ (Creed, 1986, p. 69 ‘Horror and the monstrous-feminine: an imaginary abjection’ Screen 27)
Giger’s Alien Queen as a divine devourer; where humans are edible offerings, is both beautiful and terrifying. Any thought of a degrading stereotypical female role, which entertains the masculine voyeur is squashed underfoot.
It is a shame, therefore, that we are still subjected to female protagonists who resemble little more than blow up sex dolls: gormless, restricted to minimal dialogue, and liable to puncture easily.
Marianne de Pierres provides us with our second piece to celebrate International Women’s Day. Hope you all enjoy! Remember please comment on these posts, we’d love to get your opinions and discuss your views with you!
Story Straws Gathered and Glued
At 53 I’m not a young writer, but neither do I feel even slightly old! I have reached stage in my life though, where everything that has gone before has suddenly become something I can write about. It’s quite interesting really. For many years, just living and surviving life was my mantra. I was writing and imagining stories along the way, sure, but they were stories born of desperation and immediacy – whatever was on the edge of my brain and at the tip of my fingers. Story straws gathered and glued together in the heat of now. Lots of tales about women surviving oppression, as I indeed felt that, as both a mother and a woman in a still largely patriarchal society.
More recently, the stories are coming from a different place. They’re a spring bubbling up from a deeper reservoir inside me. Take PEACEMAKER, for instance. The story was inspired by reading the full set of Zane Grey novels at the age of sixteen and Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock in my twenties – an unlikely combination. My recent Night Creatures YA series turned into an exorcism of old boarding school demons, and just the other day, I just wrote a short story (still unpublished) based on an incident that happened when I was 13. WTF?
With the change, I’m noticing a maturity in my work. For the first time since I became a writer, I have the opportunity to actually think and reflect and even tentatively speculate rather than just lash out and crack whips. Maybe that really is a sign of age. Whatever the case, writing has taken on a meta-appeal for me, as I wait to see what the inner well will let escape and float to the top next. Who needs therapy when a good book will do?
I’d really love to hear from other writers and bloggers on their own thoughts and experiences.
Here is the first of our posts celebrating International Women’s Day!
Female Protagonists in Traditional Fantasy.
Like many fantasy readers, I have grown up reading “The Lord of the Rings”. I adored these books and found myself deeply submerged into the worlds they opened to my imagination. For the longest time I took it for granted that many classical fantasies did not have any major female characters, definitely not among those who drove the events. True, there is Galadriel, and Arwen, and Eowyn, all of them memorable and powerful. But lead characters? Hardly.
Some of the newer fantasy books started successfully introducing women as lead characters and slowly expanding on their role. Many attributed this change to the emergence of major female authors, such as Marion Zimmer Bradley with her Darkover series and her all-time bestseller “Mists of Avalon”. Others said that, at least in fantasy, this had to do with the growing audience of female readers. I am not certain what the real reasons are. I have seen authors of both genders use males or females as protagonists, and I know for a fact that female readers enjoy both men and women in leading roles. In my view, this change has more to do with common sense, a realization that the world, even in books, is more complex than we used to believe. I tend to compare it to the change in painting technique, when, in 15th century, artists realized how to use perspective to show dimension. This happened in the society, especially in respect to women. It took longer in fantasy, but came as a natural step in the development of the genre.
These days we expect strong female leads in fantasy, and would feel unnatural reading a book prominently devoid of women. It is very interesting to observe how female point of view has enriched traditional fantasy, bringing a whole new angle into the story and enabling character development in a number of different ways. On a very basic level, leading female characters greatly expand the range of possibilities of what the main character should be all about. In the old days we got used to warriors, or dark mysterious strangers, or regular guys who are unexpectedly landed with the necessity of saving the world. All of these parts can easily be played by females. But more than that, female leads provide the previously missing second half, enabling the complexity of the interaction between sexes—romance, domination, or competition—with no rules in place. As an author, I find all these angles irresistible to explore.
The leading character in “Blades of the Old Empire”—an elite Majat warrior, Kara—seems fairly traditional on the outside. She is a fighter only a few can stand up to, and thus can easily fill the shoes of a traditional warrior type. She is also a beautiful woman many desire, and she can handle unwanted attention without a problem. But, unlike a typical attractive warrior in traditional fantasy, she is not competitive or aggressive. Instead, she has an inner strain that has to do with having to live with the combination of beauty and skill. This makes her enigmatic, an angle that emerged on its own and was so fun to build upon.
Initially I worked off a simple reversal of roles. Instead of the traditional pair, helpless but gifted girl protected by a strong male warrior, I have a gifted young man, not helpless but definitely a regular guy when it comes to fighting, protected by a strong female warrior. Building on this reversal, I found several aspects that enabled new levels of depth in the story. First, to enhance the enigma around Kara, I removed her point of view, showing her entirely through the eyes of a young man who is in love with her. Second, I gave her a nearly impossible problem to work with. And then it was literally down to sitting back and watching how everything about this woman I created feeds the major conflicts in the story. And yes, her point of view is coming, in the second book in the series. This reversal, getting into her head after I already learned so much about her, was even more fun.
As an author I feel fortunate to have entered the scene at the time when women characters are established an expected. I will probably never cease to feel amazed how female perspective in fantasy brings in a unique angle, a new dimension that both authors and readers can appreciate.
Hello to all you robots (angry or otherwise!),
And in honour of last night’s book signing event at the Forbidden Planet Megastore in London we’re bringing you some of the more recent reviews to remind everyone what a fantastic book this is!
Hang Wire by Adam Christopher
“Hang Wire is just pure fun. Yes, there are some dark doings here (something huge is awakening underground and gods are running around wearing human facades, and of course, murder), however, Adam Christopher manages to pull off the right amount of creepy (and some great action scenes) without ever getting too dark. Fans of quirky urban fantasy will devour this one. Loved it!” - My Bookish Ways
“Hang Wire is an awesome read (and that’s understating it by far), from the first pages I was hooked. Not only has Adam Christopher written a great story, it is also his writing style that readily pulled me in and never let me go.” - The Book Plank
“Hang Wire is flush with the sort of geek-centric weirdness and galloping, whiz-bang pace that Christopher had previously only begun to master. In spite of so many moving parts, the result is a tightly wound, dynamic piece of genre-bending machinery. If that’s a metaphor for Christopher’s awestruck vision of melting-pot America, all’s the better.” - NPR Books
“Lightning fast, overflowing with imagination and great fun to read, Hang Wire will definitely capture Adam Christopher some new fans.” - The Tattooed Book
“Adam Christopher’s HANG WIRE reads like Erin Morgenstern via Tim Powers, but the dark, creepy heart that beats at its center is entirely its own. It’s good unclean fun, and so addictive.” - Kelly Braffet
“Christopher fulfils our expectations and more: just when we think the story couldn’t get any weirder, he adds a whole new layer of weird, bouncing from one unexpected moment of goofiness to another, keeping us stuck to our chairs until we think it’ll take an industrial-strength solvent to pry us loose. Days after finishing the book, you’ll still have a grin on your face.” - Booklist Starred Review
Lets hope our 200th book is just as popular, if its anything like Hangwire we’re in no doubt it will be!
(If you’d like to read some more reviews of fantastic book you can find them on our Hang Wire page).
A lot of people were very excited for this, so lets see if it lived up to expectations.
Known Devil by Justin Gustainis
“Its quirky, has a great overall arc and when added to a criminal element goes on to show how tricky policing the unusual can be. Its definitely something that I would recommend to others and a series that has done nothing but entertain since its original release.” – Falcata Times
“All in all, Known Devil is a fun book. It is exactly the entertaining, action packed, supernatural beings filled novel I was hoping for.” – Luxury Reading
“I highly recommend this to people who want something a little gritty, a little dark, a bit nostalgic and different from the average Urban Fantasy novel.” – Fangs Wands and Fairy Dust
“With this many different kinds of creatures in play there seems to be no end to the possibilities in this series, and I would very much like to see what Mr. Gustainis might have in store for Stan and Karl in the future.” – That’s What I’m Talking About
“I had a great time with Known Devil and tore through it in a single sitting” – A Fantastical Librarian
Sounds like another fantastic edition to Occult Investigation Series!
Given up the usual sweet treats for Lent? Perhaps you’re going without social media, cigarettes, or that extra shop-bought coffee. Here’s a Lenten idea: read more books! We’re celebrating the ultimate in divine comedy with a Goodreads Giveaway for Last God Standing by Michael Boatman: 40 copies over 40 days & nights. Here’s the entry details:
WIN 100 EBOOKS!
Earlier this month we published Angry Robot’s 100th book (Adam Christopher’s Hang Wire), and we’ve had lots of special offers and competitions with various online and offline partners. Today we’re running our last competition.
This competition is not open to residents of the US and Canada (though residents of Quebec may enter)*, but if you live anywhere else in the world you may enter.
The prize? Each of the first 100 Angry Robot ebooks on a shiny robot USB stick (click here for the full list).
How To Enter
Simply leave your favourite joke in the comments section, below, and once you’ve done it copy and Tweet the following:
Happy 100th Book to Angry Robot. Read my favourite joke at http://tinyurl.com/Angry100 #AR100
You get one entry for leaving your joke, and one extra entry for Tweeting. If you don’t have a Twitter account, don’t worry, you can still enter – you just get one name in the hat, instead of two.
Competition is open until we get into the office around 8.00am GMT on Monday 3rd March. We’ll announce the winner soon after.
*The magnificent folk at the equally magnificent Tor.com ran a similar competition (with the same prize) for residents of the US and Canada (excluding Quebec), so we thought it fair to let everyone else have a turn.
Looks like an interesting Indie film (released in March). Do you recognise any of the characters…?
Last night (10pm-midnight GMT, 5pm-7pm EST) Angry Robot’s North American Sales & Marketing Manager, Mike Underwood, joined forces with Senior Editor Lee Harris to answer questions at r/Fantasy over at Reddit about Angry Robot, publishing in general, and socks*. There were lots of excellent questions, and very few rubbish ones.
Head on over to reddit.com/r/fantasy to read some of the responses…
*That one’s a lie.
Attention all Earthlings (and attentive extra-terrestrials),
We are very excited to share our latest acquisition with you! The deal, for Worldwide Rights, for The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath by Ishbelle Bee was negotiated between our Senior Editor Lee Harris and Bryony Woods of Diamond Kahn Woods. This sumptuous fairytale for adults will be published in November, with a sequel to follow in July 2015.
With a wonderful title – and by the way, the subtitle is The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, ESQ – I think we need to go straight to the blurb:
The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath
The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, ESQ
In the summer of 1887 my grandfather stole a clock.
It was six feet high
and the shape of a coffin.
1888. A little girl called Mirror and her shape-shifting guardian Goliath Honeyflower are washed up on the shores of Victorian England. Something has been wrong with Mirror since the day her grandfather locked her inside a mysterious clock that was painted all over with ladybirds. Mirror does not know what she is, but she knows she is no longer human.
John Loveheart, meanwhile, was not born wicked. But after the sinister death of his parents, he was taken by Mr Fingers, the demon lord of the underworld. Some say he is mad. John would be inclined to agree.
Now Mr Fingers is determined to find the little girl called Mirror, whose flesh he intends to eat, and whose soul is the key to his eternal reign. And John Loveheart has been called by his otherworldly father to help him track Mirror down…
Lee: “Finding Mirror and Goliath in my reading list was a dream come true – it was one of those books that the whole team immediately fell in love with, and I can’t wait to share this one with our readers!”
Bryony: ”I’m thrilled to have found such a perfect home for Mirror and Goliath, and I know that Angry Robot will publish Ishbelle’s wonderful novels with all the passion and enthusiasm that they deserve.”
And now, here’s Ishbelle:
ISHBELLE BEE writes horror and loves fairy-tales, the Victorian period (especially top hats!) and cake tents at village fêtes. (She believes serial killers usually opt for the Victoria Sponge). She currently lives in Edinburgh. She doesn’t own a rescue cat, but if she did his name would be Mr Pickles.
The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath will be published in glorious hardback, and we’re sure will be a hit with everyone who loves fairy stories, old and young alike.
Welcome aboard, Ishbelle!
The Aurealis Awards are the premier Australian awards, recognising the achievements of Australian SF.F and WTF writers. The 2013 finalists have just been announced, and – as ever – the shortlist is chock full of literary fabulosity.
Elsewhere, other Angry Robot authors fight the good fight:
Other AR authors’ nominations
Jo Anderton‘s Mah Song (shortlisted for Best YA Short Fiction)
Jo Anderton’s Fencelines (shortlisted for Best Horror Short Fiction)
Jo Anderton’s The Last Tiger (shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Fiction)
Jo Anderton’s Mah Song (also shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Fiction)
Jo Anderton’s The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories (shortlisted for Best Collection)
Kaaron Warren‘s The Human Moth (shortlisted for Best Horror Short Fiction)
Kaaron Warren’s Air, Water and the Grove (shortlisted for Best Science Fiction Short Fiction)
Good luck to all of the nominees!