Tag Archives: science fiction

Jani and Steampunk

It has been said that all my SF works are typified by the exploration of humanity’s reaction to change in society, clad in an SF jacket. I wouldn’t disagree with this, but would point out that this applies to almost all SF written these days. To set out to write about the future, and about some scientific and/or technological advance in the future – allied to the explication of character (after all, that’s what all writing is about) – is by necessity to explore humanity’s reaction to these changes. I’m not a Hard SF writer – I’m not that interested in the nuts and bolts of technological invention, or the theory behind the science. What interests me is how science and technology changes people, society and culture. To me, the prime example of a writer who did this well, and, what’s more important, entertainingly, is Michael Coney. On the surface his stories are about human interaction and the emotions wrought by simple human conflict; beneath the surface, he’s writing about a society, and individuals, changed by some scientific or technological advance – or, in the case of Hello Summer, Goodbye and its sequel I Remember Pallahaxi, about change brought about by alien biology.

Now, can it be said that my latest novel, the steampunk romp Jani and the Greater Game, is typified by the of humanity’s reaction to change in society? Well, ‘typified’ is a loaded word, but I can safely say that the novel is very much about the changes wrought to society – in Britain, India, and indeed the world – by one very important difference to reality as we know it. This difference is that in the world of Jani, set in an alternative 1925, the British Raj has discovered an almost magical power source in the foothills of the Himalayas. Throughout the novel this power source is alluded to, but never explained – until the denouement. It’s known simply as Annapurnite, and the reader, reading between the lines, will guess that it’s not much different to nuclear power. With it, the British Empire has secured its place at the forefront of the superpowers vying for world domination, the other contenders being Russia and China. Britain rules the waves (and waives the rules, as Jani Chatterjee points out at one point) and history has been changed by the discovery of Annapurnite… or whatever it is. There was no first World War, Europe has been at peace for decades, and America is ruled from London. However, there is Nationalist unrest in India, and Jani finds herself conflicted as to where her loyalties lie. Her mother was English, her father an Indian with pro-British leanings, and while Jani was brought up in India until the age of eight, she was educated in Blighty until she was eighteen. She can see the many benefits brought about by British rule, and the Raj’s utilisation of the mysterious Annapurnite, but she is also aware of the drawbacks; the racism, the elitism, the very iniquity of one race lording it over another.

And what she learns during the course of the novel subverts everything she ever thought true not only about the British in India, about Annapurnite, but about the very reality of which she is a small, but very significant, part.

So there we are: Jani and the Greater Game fits neatly into he corpus of the rest of my work: it is about change, and humanity’s reaction to it… (And it’s also about Imperialism, and racism, and loyalty, both personal and societal – as well as being, I like to think, a rip-roaring, page-turning adventure story with a heroine at its centre who you’ll come to love).

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under News

First Novels

This piece first appeared on the infinity plus website.

First novels are curious creatures because they are rarely, of course, first novels.

It’s very rare for a writer to sit down, write a first novel, and a little way down the line have it published. More often than not, a ‘first’ novel is the result of years of laborious apprenticeship, writing numerous novels in order to learn the craft, and abandoning them to the bottom drawer or, more drastically, to the flaming hearth.

There are exceptions, of course. J.K. Rowling’s first effort found a publisher – after numerous rejections – and I seem to recall it did rather well. And the host of this website, Keith Brooke, sold the very first novel he wrote, Keepers of the Peace, damn him.

But for the rest of us, the hill is steeper.

Looking back on my career, the hill seems to have been a mountain of my own making.

You see, I was labouring under a misapprehension from the very start.

In my late teens I read somewhere, in an interview with the SF great Alfred Bester, that all writers must write a million words of rubbish before they finally become published. Now, had I read that the prescribed total should be a hundred thousand words, I might have been published a lot earlier… But that magical million words lodged in my brain and wouldn’t be shifted – affecting me, I’m sure, subconsciously, and ensuring that Meridian Days came out when it did.

Meridian Days, my first published novel, was in fact around my twentieth written novel.

The very first novel I wrote, I recall, was a terrible pastiche of two of my favourite writers at the time, Leslie Thomas and Tom Sharpe. It was horribly written, cliché-ridden, badly plotted, and unfunny… which for a comedy novel was the ultimate crime. But at least I finished it, eighty thousand words written longhand over a period of eighteen months. I even typed up the first two chapters, before realising how bad it was and abandoning the thing.

Then came a slew of very short science fiction novels using the usual tropes: time-travel, alien invasions, future dystopias. These were short because while living in Australia for four years until the age of eighteen I’d come across the Ace Double range of SF novels (they also published westerns, romances and thrillers in the same format); each one was between around 25k and 55k – giving me the false impression that this was the length of SF novels. So I churned out loads of the things, and even submitted one or two of them to paperback houses in the UK, Hamlyn and Sphere, and in the States, Major Books. (That ms was returned with the note on the package that the company was no longer in business). I have a vague recollection of receiving a rejection letter from my now agent John Jarrold, when he was a commissioning editor at some London house.

All the while I was writing short stories in various genres: SF, crime, mainstream, and getting nowhere.

In ’84 I spent a year in India, and that seemed to spark something – that, and the fact that I’d written a million words of rubbish, and a few years after I got back I began writing the short stories which would be published in Interzone, beginning in ’87.

A year later, on the strength of these tales, I was approached by an agent: did I have a novel I would like him to look at? Well, I had twenty of the things under my bed, but none of which I thought up to scratch. I bundled together a collection of short stories instead, and miracle of miracles Pan Books bought them. The volume appeared as The Time-Lapsed Man and other stories in 1990.

Of course, Pan then wanted to see a novel, so over a period of nine months I wrote Meridian Days, a short novel of doomed love, extraterrestrial colonies, matter transmission, and much more, which was published by Pan in 1992.
* * *
Issues #3 and #4 of Peter Young’s excellent fanzine Big Sky, exclusively about the first and second series of the Gollancz SF Masterworks list, are now available for free download as PDFs from http://efanzines.com/bigsky/index.htm. Both fanzines are big: #3 is 240 pages (9Mb) and #4 is 191 pages (6Mb), and are ideally read on a e-reader such as an iPad. Included in issue three is my review of The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. The whole project contains around 250 reviews and commentaries on every title in the series, in order of appearance in the Masterworks series.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Latest news

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

* * *

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.

* * *

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!”

12 Comments

Filed under News

Latest news

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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…

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Latest news

Just out from infinity plus ebooks is The Angels of Life and Death. The collection brings together ten of my tales dating from 1992 through to 2009. Some of the tales appeared in obscure, short-lived venues, while others came out in magazines without a wide distribution in either the UK or the US. They’re collected here for the first time – and this is my first ‘ebook only’ venture. Read more on the Collections page.

http://www.keithbrooke.co.uk/ebooks/angels.htm

Other authors lined up for infinity plus ebooks include John Grant, Gary Kilworth, Molly Brown and Anna Tambour.

* * *

Just out fromn Solaris is my post-Gobal Warming novel Guardians of the Phoenix – read more about this title in the Novels section of the site.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Latest news

Out now from Solaris is the reissue of my 1994 novel Engineman. I went through it earlier this year, gasped at the errors I’d made, and rewrote it, cutting and cutting and then adding a chapter. In the same volume as the novel will be eight short stories set in the same universe as Engineman. There was another story, “Pithecanthropus Blues”, but I decided it was too light in tone to fit comfortably in the volume. (The book features a stunning new cover by Dominic Harman.)

In January and February I was busy writing the first draft of my post-global warming novel Guardians the Phoenix. The novel came about shortly after I’d finished a long short story of the same title for Mike Ashley’s anthology Apocalyptic SF. I realised that there was more to the story than what was in the thirteen thousand words I’d written so far. So last year I outlined the rest, expanding the plot, adding characters, and sent the chapters and outline via my agent John Jarrold to Jon Oliver at Solaris.

Glad to report, Jon liked it.

Guardians of the Phoenix is due out this December.

Next April Solaris will be bringing out The Big One. Well, that’s how I think of it.

I wrote The Kings of Eternity around ten years ago, based loosely on the short story of the same title first published in Scott Edelman’s magazine SF Age. Since then I’ve been playing around with it in odd moments, at one point completely re-writing the novel and adding forty thousand words, then cutting another, unrelated twenty thousand words. I also excerpted from the ms a thirty thousand word stand-alone novella (The Blue Portal) which David Pringle published in two issues of Interzone back in 2002.

The Kings of Eternity is the best thing I’ve written. Period. I feel for the novel as I’ve felt for nothing else I’ve done. It’s also quite unlike anything else I’ve written. It’s SF, but hard-to-categorise SF. It has two timelines, one set on a Greek island in 2000, the other set in London and Hampshire in 1935. It’s about immortality, love, loyalty, friendship, evil aliens, good aliens, strange other-worldly devices and much, much more.

* * *

On the short story front I’ve been busy writing more Salvageman Ed tales, about Ed and his engineer Karrie, and their AI co-pilot, Ella.

The latest, “Laying the Ghost”, is now online at Clarkesworld:

http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/brown_10_10/

Also out now is “The Human Element”, (not SF, but crime) in Postscripts 22/23.

Another Ed and Ella story, “The Soul of the Machine”, will be published in the forthcoming NewCon Press anthology, Further Conflicts, edited by Ian Whates.

Due out in Postscripts next year will be my very light-hearted alien invasion-cum-publishing industry satire, “The Scribe of Betelgeuse V”.

Pete Crowther at PS Publishing recently bought volumes three and four of my Starship novella series, Starship Winter and Starship Spring. They should be out some time next year. Later, PS plan to bring out the four novellas in one volume, entitled Starship Seasons.

And now it’s back to working on the plot of the next one.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Latest news

My novel Cosmopath, the culmination of the Bengal Station trilogy, is out now from Solaris. PS Publishing recently brought out my novella Gilbert and Edgar on Mars. To read more about these books, check out the novels and novellas section above.

Xenopath

The second book in the Bengal Station trilogy is out now from Solaris. Vaughan is a telepath working on Bengal Station, a vast city-spaceport in the Bay of Bengal. The trilogy charts his progression from a disillusioned nihilist to something approaching a happy man. Find out more about the book in the novel section on this site.

Starship Fall

Just out from NewCon Press is Starship Fall, the second in the series of Starship novellas set on the backwater colony planet of Chalcedony, Delta Pavonis

Find out more about Starship Fall at: http://www.newconpress.co.uk

Xenopath, the second book in the Bengal trilogy, is due out from Solaris later this month.

Gilbert and Edgar on Mars will be out this summer from PS Publishing. The novella features G.K. Chesterton and Edgar Rice Burroughs and their adventures on the red planet.

Guilty?, a book for reluctant readers, is out now from Barrington Stoke. To find out for about this book, go to the Children’s section of this website.

“The Rest is Speculation”, a story set in the far future, features in Mike Ashley’s new anthology The Mammoth Book of Mindblowing SF, published by Constable Robinson. “Cold Testing”, a short story featuring Captain Ed and the crew of his salvage ship, is in the June edition of Asimov’s. Another story in the series, “Dissimulation Procedure”, will appear in the NewCon Press anthology Conflicts edited by Ian Whates later this year.

Leave a comment

Filed under News