The Martian Simulacra

The Martian Simulacra is out now from NewCon Press.

When the Martian Ambassador beats a path to 221B Baker Street, seeking the great detective’s help in solving a grisly murder, how can Sherlock Holmes refuse?

The case will involve a trip to the Red Planet, which few humans have been privileged enough to visit. Ever since the second wave of Martians arrived on Earth, inoculated against the germs that halted them the first time around, and humanity accepted the aliens as their overlords, Sherlock Holmes has been curious… Soon he and Watson are boarding one the the great Martian spaceships, where they discover that their old friend Professor Challenger is also en route to Mars. What awaits them at their destination is a plot more dastardly than any of them could have imagined.

The Martian Simulacra is a glorious mash-up of Sherlock Holmes and The War of the Worlds, seasoned with a dash of Conan Doyle’s The Lost World for good measure.

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The Spacetime Pit Plus Two…

The Spacetime Pit Plus Two by Stephen Baxter and Eric Brown, Infinity Plus Books, 2018

The Spacetime Pit Plus Two collects three collaborative stories by Stephen Baxter and myself, never before published in one volume.

In “The Spacetime Pit” spacer Katerina Wake crash-lands on primitive alien world and faces certain death unless she can harness her ingenuity, and technical know-how, to bend the destiny of an entire race to her will…

“Green-Eyed Monster” follows Richard as he wakes up after a night on the tiles to find himself inhabiting the body of a toad – and that’s just the start of his troubles…

In “Sunfly”, Onara and her people live on a world very different from our own – a vast ribbon encircling a sun. But a change is coming to the land, a mysterious narrowing that threatens not only the stability of her world, but the very order of everything she has taken for granted.

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And here’s my introduction…

Collaboration between writers is a curious process.

I’ve tried writing with a number of authors, and it often doesn’t work; there’s no initial spark, or our writing styles, and methods, are too dissimilar to forge an effective working relationship. It doesn’t matter how much I like the other person, or how similar our ideas about life, art and politics might be – if there isn’t that elusive, almost alchemical spark at some point in the process, collaboration is doomed to a series of false starts and aborted stories.

My most prolific writing partner is Keith Brooke: together we’ve written more than a dozen stories, two novellas and a novel. With Keith, the process is wonderfully easy. What isn’t so easy is finding the time to write something together: we live at opposite ends of the country, and for much of the time are often engaged on solo projects. On the rare occasions that our busy schedules afford us a window of opportunity, we swap ideas until something sparks, and not long after that we have a fully-fledged story-line, which one of us begins and then the other takes up, and so on, until the tale is finished.

The second writer I’ve collaborated with is the late Michael Coney, author of such classic SF novels as Brontomek!, Hello Summer, Goodbye, and The Girl With A Symphony In Her Fingers, as well as a host of excellent short stories. Although we lived half a world apart at the time, Mike in British Columbia and I in England, we corresponded by email and over the period of six months wrote a long short story, the biological murder-mystery set on an alien world, “The Trees of Terpsichore Three”, which was published in the Scottish SF magazine Spectrum 8.

I’ve also collaborated with my friend and fellow curry aficionado Tony Ballantyne, author the Hard SF novels Recursion and Twisted Metal, and one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time, Dream London. A while back I wrote a series of stories about a race of aliens who come to Earth and bestow the gift of voluntary immortality on the human race. Tony liked these tales, and had an idea for one. He started the story, I took it up and finished it, and then we each rewrote the other’s sections. “Matthew’s Passion”, collected in my fix-up novel Kéthani, is the result: Tony imbued the tale with spirituality and his knowledge of music, attributes I signally lack.

Which brings me to the collaborations which form the content of the current volume, The Spacetime Pit Plus Two, and my collaborator, Stephen Baxter, the author of such ground-breaking novels as The Time-Ships, Evolution, The Light of Other Days with Arthur C. Clarke, and the Xeelee story sequence.

I first met Steve at a science fiction convention, the Nottingham MexiCon of 1989. We’d both just started selling short stories to markets such as Interzone and David S. Garnett’s Zenith anthologies, and were in the process of writing our first novels. Not only did we have our writing in common, and our love of the genre, but a passion for football: Steve follows Liverpool, while I, for my sins, suffer the travails of Leeds United. We got on well, and it wasn’t long before one of us suggested collaborating on a story or two.

This was over twenty years ago, and sad to say I have no recollection of how we went about the process of collaboration, though Steve reminds me that we worked on “Spacetime…” when I visited him in Prestwood in the summer of ’95. I do recall that I had the initial idea for “The Spacetime Pit”, which Steve, with his scientific and technological nous, proceeded to pull apart at the seams and stitch back together in a way that would work. It’s a grim tale that spans billions of years, but has the dilemma of a human being at its very core. “Spacetime…” won the 1995 Interzone readers’ poll for best story.

The second story in the volume is “Green-Eyed Monster”. By contrast, it’s a light-hearted tale about bodily transmogrification, love and jealousy. It’s nice to be able to write a tale from the viewpoint of a toad from time to time. I rarely write humorous stories, but on rereading this one I found myself chuckling: Steve must have written those passages.

The final story, “Sunfly”, is a strange tale set on a very alien world – a strip of land girdling a sun – and follows the exploits of student Onara as she comes to understand not only her world but her destiny within its complex history.

Enough. Herein, collected for the first time in one volume for your entertainment, is The Spacetime Pit Plus Two

Eric Brown

Cockburnspath

January 2018.

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The Spacetime Pit Plus Two is available at these outlets:

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Baxter-Brown Collection

Forthcoming in January, 2018, The Spacetime Pit Plus Two – the award winning short story plus two more of my collaborations with Stephen Baxter.

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Short Stories and Novellas

My short-short tale, “Dear LZ-75-53b”, is now up at Daily SF. It’s an epistolary, dystopian tale about a consumer who refuses to consume… Click here to read the story.

On the short story front, I’ve recently sold two collections to PS Publishing: The Disciples of Apollo and other stories: the best of Eric Brown (which shows I’m getting old), and The Ice Garden and other stories. The first volume will be a hefty tome coming in at over one hundred thousand words; the second will be around half that length. They’re due out next October.

Novellas: with Keith Brooke I’m working on a series of novellas for PS Publishing entitled The Kon-tiki Quartet. The first, Dislocations, will be out next winter, followed by Parasites six months later. They chart humankind’s first extra-solar colony mission to a planet orbiting the star 19 Draconis – a series of high-tech stories featuring FTL travel, the consequences of time dilation, cloning, alien encounters, telepathy and much more.

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Starship Seasons Audio

Starship Seasons is now available to pre-order as an audio book from Circle of Spears

On the backwater colony world of Chalcedony, Delta Pavonis, all is not what it seems… All David Conway wants after the death of his daughter and the break-up of his marriage is a quiet life away from Earth — and when he comes to Chalcedony he thinks he’s found that. What he does find is a group of people whose friendship will change his life forever, as well as a haunted starship, extraterrestrials with an uncanny ability to read future events, and a conflict between alien races that has lasted for millennia. . . and is about to begin all over again.

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Approaching Omega

My novella Approaching Omega is now available as a POD title from Telos Books.

Approaching Omega is set aboard a vast starship carrying five thousand colonists in cold sleep and a maintenance crew of five. The crew is awoken every thousand years or so to carry out checks and repairs and to oversee the well-being of the sleepers. However, early on in the mission they are awoken to find that the ship has been damaged and many of the colonists lost. This is only the start of the horror…

The novella can be bought at Telos Books, Amazon UK, and Amazon US.

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Michael G. Coney’s Short Stories 6

(I missed out reviewing this story, earlier, as I didn’t have the issue of Galaxy in which it appeared. Thanks to Bob Wardzinski at the Talking Dead, that has been rectified. Bob supplied me with six magazines missing from my Coney collection – thanks, Bob.)

“Discover a Latent Moses” (Galaxy, April, 1970.)

Six desperate survivors live in the bell tower of an old church in a village buried beneath the snow. An ice age has descended on Britain, and the six face not only the privations of extreme cold and ravaging polar bears, but flesh hunters – bands of cannibals who roam the ice in search of prey. Coney paints a convincing picture of life on the edge of extinction, and excels at portraying the psychological dynamic of the group, the enmities and loyalties, loves and jealousies. Jacko, the alpha male, feels loyalty to the senile Old Man, much to the chagrin of Cockade, a bitter and cynical woman; Shrug, is an ineffectual alcoholic; Paladin a dreamy adolescent dotard. Switch, Cockade’s partner, is loyal to Jacko and exhibits moral strength in refusing Cockade suggestion to steal Jacko’s snow boat and leave the bell tower. The group scavenge food from a supermarket and shops in the ice tunnels beneath the tower, eat occasional polar bear meat, and squabble amongst themselves about the future – while the Old Man reminisces of a time of green fields and trees, sixty years earlier.

Events reach a climax when the flesh hunters locate the bell tower and wait until nightfall to make their move… Salvation comes from an unexpected source, and life continues. It’s quite unlike anything Coney has written before, in terms of setting, characters, and story, and once again demonstrates his versatility.

Discover a Latent Moses” and a later story also published in Galaxy, “The Snow Princess”, became chapters in Coney’s fifth novel, Winter’s Children, 1974.

Rating: 6/10

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