Tag Archives: Dominic Harman

Jani

I’ve been itching to write a steampunk novel for years. I like the idea, the ethos, behind the sub-genre. I like the idea of writing SF unconstrained by the shackles of science and technology – it can be as way-out and whacky as you can make it – and I like the idea of writing action-adventure.

Last year I pitched a couple of steampunk ideas to my editor Jonathan Oliver at Solaris, which came to nothing. Then Jon asked, “How about something set in India…?” which set me thinking. Over the next couple of weeks, Jani Chatterjee was born. She would be half-Indian, half-English, torn by loyalties to both camps, grieving the loss of her recently deceased father, and pitched into an adventure in which the future of the world is at stake… It would be set in India and Nepal in 1925, when the British Empire rules the world thanks to something they discovered, fifty years earlier, in the foothills of the Himalayas; it would feature evil baddies, aliens from other worlds, strange devices – as well as obligatory airships – much derring-do, seat-of-the-pants adventure, and would be an unashamed romp, while at the same time taking a little time out to address issues like the idea of Empire, racism, and the role of women in society… but above all it would be a thrilling chase through an exotic India. Jani’s assumptions would be challenged along the way: in each book, reality as she assumed it to be would be subverted by things she learns – and the expectations of the reader would, likewise, be subverted by what is revealed.

Jon and the team at Solaris liked the idea, commissioned the novel on the outline, and then I sat down to write it.

892-1First, though, Dominic Harman supplied a fantastic cover – which has struck the aesthetic cords of various people, along the lines of, “Mechanical elephants and steampunk… what’s not to like?” I gave Dominic the brief for the cover before I’d actually written a word. Oddly, the idea that a mechanical elephant might make an arresting image came to me before I realised that an artificial elephant would feature in the story. But, once the idea popped into my head, I had to make room for it.

Then I began Jani, and it whistled out in little over a month. It was one of those happy novels which wrote itself. Jani became a larger than life character, dictated where the novel should go, and I merely followed her. Alfie Littlebody, a secondary character, (A bumbling but well meaning officer in Field Security, opposed to the excesses of the Raj) also took off in ways I’d hardly envisaged when thinking about him before I started the book.

I had more problems with the ‘alien’, and his depiction. In the novel he befriends Jani – or perhaps uses her to his own ends – and persuades her to embark on a death-defying quest across northern India and into Nepal. The alien, Jelch, had to be obviously unhuman, but sufficiently human to pass visually amongst the folk of India. He also had to be of another world, yet understandable to the reader in his motivations and mind-set – always a hard trick to pull off when depicting aliens. Whether he works is down to the reader to decide, but so far the reviews haven’t singled him out as a weak point.

A couple of critics have said that the baddies are too one-dimensional, too evil – and here I hold my hands up. They were meant to be. This is melodrama, where we hiss at the baddies and cheers the goodies. The Russians are irredeemably bad, and Jani good, for the sake of telling a headlong action-adventure-chase tale.

At the end of book one, Jani, Littlebody, and Jani’s Indian friend Anand, are fleeing India bound for London aboard a vast airship – and bound for further adventures that will test their mettle to the limits. They’re being pursued by Russians, Chinese (little do they know it), evil aliens and even the British. The trio hold the future of the world in their hands, and it seems that the whole world is determined to halt their progress.

Their adventures will continue in the second volume of the Multiplicity series, Jani and the Great Pursuit.

All I have to do now is write it.

Here’s a sneak preview of Dominic Harman’s excellent cover.

jani-2 two~

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On the short story front I have a few tales appearing in the following venues:

“Bartholomew Burns and the Brain Invaders” in Aethernet.

“Diamond Doubles” in Daily SF.

“The Ice Garden” in Improbable Botany.

“Emotion Mobiles and Sally” in Starship Seasons.

“Iris and the Caliphate” in Fifteen.

salvage-ebook-cover_600wInfinity Plus Books will be bringing out my episodic novel Salvage, which will feature the following original stories: “The Manexan Exodus”, “To All Appearances”, “Salvaging Pride”, and “End Game”, featuring Salvageman Ed, Ella and Karrie.

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Friend and fellow SF writer Chris Beckett has won the 2013 Clarke Award for his fabulous novel Dark Eden. I’m sorry I won’t be at the Pickerel in Cambridge to celebrate, Chris, but I’ll be raising a pint in spirit. Well done! The sequel to Dark Eden, Gela’s Ring, is being serialised in Aethernet, and will be published by Corvus.

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The 2013 Philip K Dick Award was won by Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery (Tor Books), and a special citation was given to Lovestar by Andri Snær Magnason (Seven Stories Press). Congratulations to both writers. My Helix Wars and Keith Brooke’s alt.human were short-listed.

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The new online serial SF magazine, Aethernet, edited by Tony and Barbara Ballantyne, was recently launched at Eastercon in Bradford. It’s full of excellent work by the likes of Chris Beckett, Ian Whates, Philip Palmer and others. A long tale by me will be running in later issues. For more information: www.aethernetmag.com

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Welcome to my revamped website – and a big thanks to Keith Brooke for setting it up and being patient with my IT ineptitude.

Speaking of Keith Brooke… While the website was down, I heard the happy news that my novel Helix Wars and Keith’s alt.human (Harmony in the US) have been short-listed for the Philip K. Dick award. So I have two shots at winning… or that’s how it feels, at any rate. Keith is a great friend, and I feel privileged to have been among the first readers of alt.human. The winner will be announced in Seattle on the 29th March.

It’s been a busy few months on the writing front, and the next few months will see a few books hot off the presses. Later this month my first foray into crime is due out. Murder by the Book (Severn House) breaks new territory: it’s a crime thriller set in London in 1955 and features thriller writer Donald Langham and his literary agent Marie Dupré, and their involvement in a series of murders in the London crime writing scene. It was fun to write – I could use simile and metaphor with much greater freedom than I have when writing SF, and it was nice to write in a ‘real’ world known to the reader. I’ll be writing the second book in the series later this year.

Also later this month comes the sumptuous Drugstore Indian Press edition of the collected Starship novellas, Starship Seasons, with a great… laid back, let’s say… cover from Tomislav Tikulin. Later this year will appear the hardback edition containing an original long short story, wrapping up events at Magenta Bay…

In May is the big one, The Serene Invasion, from Solaris, about aliens who invade, peaceably, and change things on Earth for ever. It’s about non-violence and hope, and was the hardest thing I’ve had to write for years. It’ll be graced by a wonderfully atmospheric cover by Dominic Harman.

And later this year the second book in the Weird Space series, Satan’s Reach, is released from Abaddon Books. This one was great fun to write and whistled out, and tells the story of telepath Den Harper and the bounty hunter he’s running from across the expanse of the Satan’s Reach.

Later this year Infinity Plus Books will bring out the collected Salvageman Ed stories, fixed up to read as a novel. I’ve yet to settle on a suitable title for this; so it’s simply Salvaging at the moment.

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And this has just come in from my agent, John Jarrold…

PRESS RELEASE – SOLARIS COMMISSION ERIC BROWN STEAMPUNK NOVEL

Jonathan Oliver, commissioning editor of Solaris Books, has commissioned JANI AND THE GREATER GAME, the first in a new steampunk series by Eric Brown, set in India with a teenage female protagonist.  The novel will be delivered in spring 2014, for an autumn publication. The agent was John Jarrold, and the deal was for UK/US rights.

Eric Brown said: “I’m delighted and excited to be doing a ideatively different novel set at the end of the nineteenth century. It’ll be my first novel-length venture into the exotic territory of steampunk, and I’m already pulling on my plus-fours and brass-studded thinking cap. I love writing about India, and in Janisha Chaterjee I have a strong female lead who subverts all the norms – this will be steampunk done with spice!”

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Introduction to Ghostwriting, a collection of horror stories:

I write very few short stories that can be termed horror, ghost, supernatural, occult, or fantasy. In fact, in a career spanning twenty-five years I’ve written just eight (nine, if you include the novella A Writer’s Life) out of a total of around a hundred and twenty published stories. Most of those have been science fiction, a genre with which I feel more comfortable. The ideas I have just happen to be about the future, concerning the staple tropes of the genre: other worlds, space-flight, aliens, fantastical technologies, time-travel… I rarely get ideas that fit neatly into the horror genre or related sub-genres.

Now, why is this?

Perhaps it’s because my preferred reading, along with mainstream novels, is SF. I’ve been reading it since I was about fifteen and I know it inside out. I do occasionally read horror (or ghost or supernatural), and enjoy the likes of Robert Aickman, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, M.R.James, and more modern practitioners like Joe Hill, T.E.D. Klein, Adam Nevill. And while I can appreciate the literary merits of the genre, I always have to work hard at suspending my disbelief. Fundamentally, I don’t believe in the occult, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, etc… Therefore when I come to write about them, I find it that much more difficult to do so.

Now I can hear you crying, “Why! That’s ridiculous! What makes ghosts, ghouls, vampires etc any less credible than little blue aliens, FTL travel and all the other fantastical trappings of SF?” And I admit that there is, perhaps, nothing more credible about the furniture of SF… other than a sneaking suspicion I have that the things I write about in SF might, just might, possibly, in some way, at some point in the future, come to pass. At any rate, the characters I write about in my science fiction tales believe implicitly in the scientific process and believe that the fantastical things in their world have a credible, rational, scientific basis.

When I do get ideas for horror tales, I find that they’re about the exploration of character. They’re gentle horror tales, often metaphorical, with little or no blood and guts, precious few ghosts, ghouls, and certainly no werewolves or vampires. I prefer to call them psychological horror stories.

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Helix Wars

At the moment I’m working on a follow up to my 2007 novel HelixHelix Wars will be set two hundred years after the events described in Helix – the arrival of the human colonists on the vast, helical construct made up of ten thousand worlds. In the new novel, the human race have the job of keeping the peace among the six thousand inhabited worlds of the Helix. However, when the humanoid Sporelli invade the neighbouring world of Phandra, the humans are drawn into a conflict that will have far-reaching consequences for all those involved.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

The Helix: a vast spiral of ten thousand worlds turning around its sun.

Aeons ago, the enigmatic Builders constructed the Helix as a refuge for alien races on the verge of extinction. Two hundred years ago, humankind came to the Helix aboard a great colony ship, and the Builders conferred on them the mantle of peacekeepers. For that long, peace has reigned on the Helix. But when shuttle pilot Jeff Ellis crash-lands on the world of Phandra, he interrupts a barbarous invasion from the neighbouring Sporelli – who scheme to track down and exterminate Ellis before  he can return to New Earth and inform the peacekeepers.

Helix Wars, sequel to the best-selling Helix, is a fast-paced adventure
novel about the ultimate threat to the Helix itself.

I’m sixty thousand words into the story, and it’s going well. I should have a first draft in the bag by the end of January – with a break for Christmas and the move north to Dunbar, East Lothian. Delivery date is mid-May, and publication is slated for October 2012.

How I work on longer, multi-viewpoint novels – and Helix Wars will probably have four POV characters – is to write each individual’s story in one linear block, taking him or her through the story until near the end. I then slice up the sections and interleave, rewriting to create cliff-hangers, tension etc. Then I write the finale. It’s not how every author goes about writing multi-viewpoint novels, but, as they say, it works for me.

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E-Books

Several of my titles are now available as e-books.

My first novel Meridian Days, the novellas A Writer’s LifeApproaching Omega, the short stories “The Time-Lapsed Man” and “The Death of Cassandra Quebec”, along with my new collection The Angels of Life and Death, are all at Keith Brooke’s infinity plus imprint. Due out soon is my novel Penumbra.

www.infinityplus.co.uk/books

The first volume of the Virex trilogy, New York Nights, is now at Anarchy Books run by Andy Remic:

www.anarchy-books.com

My PS Publishing titles should be available soon from PS Publishing E-Books.

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On the short story front, I have tales due out from Postscripts, Albedo One, The Hub, Andy Remic’s E-anthology Vivesepulture, and Daily SF.

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My next book out, from Abaddon, will be The Devil’s Nebula, summer next year…

Starship Captain Ed Carew and his crew of two – ex-marine Lania Takiomar and ex-convict Gord Neffard – lead a carefree life of smuggling, gun-running and other illicit pursuits in a far future ruled by the fascistic Expansion Authority. But when an Expansion judiciary ship captures Carew and his crew leaving the planet of Hesperides, an out-of-bounds world governed now by the fearsome Vetch extraterrestrials, Carew, Takiomar and Neffard are sentenced to death…

Unless the agree to travel through Vetch territory in pursuit of an human colony vessel which set off for the Devil’s Nebula one hundred years ago.

But why are the Expansion authorities so eager to track down the ship, will Carew and co. survive the journey through Vetch territory – and what might they find when they arrive at the Devil’s Nebula?

The Devil’s Nebula is the first book in a thrilling space opera series, The Weird.

An evil race is threatening not only the human Expansion, but the Vetch Empire, too – an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding.

And only if humans and Vetch cooperate to fight of the fearsome Weird do they stand a chance of ensuring their survival…

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My story “The House” was published in the anthology House of Fear, edited by Jonathan Oliver. It a rare (for me) excursion into horror territory, though the story is more psychological horror than out and out gore. Anyway, I think it’s the best tale I’ve written for some time.

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The infinity plus and friends sampler/anthology, infinities, is now
available – free –  from:
www.infinityplus.co.uk/infinities

containing work by Linda Nagata, Scott Nicholson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Steven Savile and others.

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The Kings of Eternity:

1999, on the threshold of a new millennium, the novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek island, hiding away from humanity and the events of the past. All that changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him?

1935. Writers Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there – no less than a strange creature from another world – will change their lives forever. What they become, and their link to the novelist of the future, is the subject of my most ambitious novel to date. Almost ten years in the writing, The Kings of Eternity is full of the staple tropes of the genre and yet imbued with humanity and characters I hope you’ll come to love.

It’s already garnered a lot of great reviews, among which:

http://scotspec.blogspot.com/2011/03/book-review-kings-of-eternity-by-eric.html

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