“Murder in the Cathedral” coming to Asimov’s

I forgot to mention this the other day, but my Bookman Histories novelette, “Murder in the Cathedral” will be published in a future issue of Asimov’s magazine.

It tells the never-before-told story of what really happened when Orphan went to France half-way through The Bookman. And begins with Orphan, coming across the Channel by ship, making a new friend…

‘Your name?’ the officer said. Herb was next.

‘Herbert George Wells,’ Herb said.

‘And your profession, monsieur?’

‘I am a writer.’

‘Oh,’ the French officer said, and raised his eyebrows. ‘What do you write, monsieur?’

Herb Blushed. ‘Scientific romance, that sort of thing,’ he mumbled, and Orphan, watching him, almost laughed despite his nervousness. But the French officer’s face lit up at the words. ‘ Roman scientifique?’ he said. ‘But that is marvellous! C’est bon! You are going to la convention du monde?’

‘Yes,’ Herb said, pleased and surprised. ‘You know of it?’

‘Of course!’ The officer reached under his desk and returned with a rather used-looking book. ‘See?’

Orphan craned his neck. It was a copy of Victor Hugo’s classic (for even Orphan had read it as a child), La Créature de la Lagune Noire. ‘Here in France, we honour such writings,’ the officer said, and he rose, and shook Herb’s hand. ‘Welcome, Mr. Wells. Welcome to France!’

Announcing Adler!

I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but it was finally announced at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday…

I will be writing a five-part comic serial for Titan Comics for release next year.

Adler has been described by Titan as “ladies of literature action-adventure” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen”, and focuses on Irene Adler as the titular character, with a host of other female figures from classic Victorian literature.

I felt disgruntled enough with recent depictions of Irene Adler (in films/tv) as a sort of Sherlock/Moriarty plaything, to actually do something about it – and in some miraculous way, it worked!

This is predominantly a fun (I hope!) self-contained serial (it will be collected into a trade graphic novel at the end of the run), kind of steampunky, with a vibe a little similar to the Bookman novels.

I am working again with artist Paul McCaffrey – our previous collaboration is still one of my favourite books, Going To The Moon.

There’s still a long way to go, of course, but needless to say Paul and I are excited about it!

The following is a mock-up of a cover, though expect the art to change in the final product.

Adler

Titanic!

My latest short story, “Titanic!” is now live at Apex Magazine.

It’s something of a mash-up – the ultimate mash-up! And a little steampunk, and, well, stuff.

When I come on board the ship I pay little heed to her splendour; nor to the gaily–strewn lines of coloured electric lights, nor to the polished brass of the crew’s jacket uniforms, nor to the crowds at the dock in Southampton, waving handkerchiefs and pushing and shoving for a better look; nor to my fellow passengers. I keep my eyes open only for signs of pursuit; specifically, for signs of the Law.

The ship is named the Titanic. I purchased a second–class ticket in London the day before and travelled down to Southampton by train. I had packed hurriedly. I do not know how far behind me the officers are. I know only that they will come. He made sure of that, in his last excursion. The corpses he left were a mockery, body parts ripped, exposed ribcages and lungs stretched like Indian rubber, he had turned murder into a sculpture, a form of grotesque art. The Japanese would call such a thing as he a yōkai, a monster, otherworldly and weird. Or perhaps a kaiju. I admire the Japanese for their mastery of the science of monstrosity, of what in our Latin would be called the lusus naturae. I have corresponded with a Dr Yamane, of Tokyo, for some time, but had of course destroyed all correspondence when I escaped from London. – continue reading.

Steampunk Birthday Cake!

 

I just got back from Budapest, where we did an event for Osama. My publishers made me a surprise steampunk birthday cake! I snapped this with my mobile very quickly. L to R are Peter and Csilla from Ad Astra.

It was a fantastic visit – I’ll blog more when I can but after Canada and Budapest I just want to sleep for a week!

James P. Blaylock e-books now available!

I didn’t realise until recently that James Blaylock‘s considerable back catalogue of (wonderful) novels is now available in e-book editions, and I thought I’d mention this to anyone who had not yet read this great, sometimes under-valued writer.

A California writer, Blaylock was a part of the group of friends formed around Philip K. Dick in the last ten years of his life and, with Tim Powers and K.W. Jeter, was responsible for the birth of steampunk. His classic steampunk novels are being reissued by Titan Books – they include Homunculus, which introduces Blaylock’s hero Langdon St. Ives and the memorable villain Ignacio Narbondo, Lord Kelvin’s Machine, and a forthcoming new novel, The Aylesford Skull.

They also include – tangentially – one of my favourite novels by Blaylock, the wonderful The Digging Leviathan, a love song to childhood and fantasy set in California. It also features Blaylock and Powers’ recurring character, the poet William Ashbless.

Eagle-eyed readers might spot references in the Bookman books to both Ashbless and Narbondo. The importance of Blaylock and Powers to steampunk cannot be underestimated, they are its creators and spiritual godparents, and I would assume anyone calling themselves a steampunk aficionado would have already read these books!

But Blaylock is much more than a steampunk writer. Where Tim Powers writes intensely-researched secret histories with a sense of absolute reality about them, Blaylock is more of a fabulist, a teller of tales: in his books reality often feels like a dream. His Grail Trilogy includes the novels The Last Coin, The Paper Grail and All The Bells On Earth, and there are many more wonderful and strange novels – I’m particularly looking forward to his new YA novel, Zeuglodon, due to be published by Subterranean Press in the US.

Thankfully, many of these novels are now available in e-book format for the very first time! In the UK, several of Blaylock’s novels are now available from Gollancz’s Gateway Project, while in the US they are available in American editions on Amazon.

There is now no excuse to miss out on these novels! Highly recommended.

  

Wunderwaffe

No sooner did I talk about Nazi steampunk than Ian Sales sent me his story “Wunderwaffe”, which seems to have come out directly from the pages of A Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich.

Actually, I lie. Ian sent me the story earlier, as it is a precursor (of sorts) to his novella, Adrift on the Sea of Rains, which I recently reviewed. The story was published in an e-book anthology called Vivisepulture, which is apparently Latin for ‘burying alive’. A fate, it must be said, that befalls many more stories than just “Wunderwaffe”.

Anyhow, when I pointed out to Ian that, like the vast majority of people in the world, I don’t have an e-reader, Ian, with remarkable adroity and aplomb, turned “Wunderwaffe” into Wunderwaffe – that is, he created a limited edition chapbook version of the story. I had assumed mine would be one of a kind but I am, in that, sorely disappointed: this is a limited edition of 12 signed and numbered copies, and I believe Ian may be planning to sell the other 11 (for all you collectors out there!).

Wunderwaffe, like Adrift on the Sea of Rains, features the mysterious Bell, a product of occult Nazi science based on a supposedly-real Nazi artefact of unknown purpose discovered at the end of the war.

In Adrift, the Bell acts as a device for moving between alternate realities. In Wunderwaffe, however, it turns out to be a time-travelling device. Gunter Erlichmann, a physicist and devout Nazi, is summoned to Adolf Hitler’s presence. In this world, we find out, the land of Ultima Thule was discovered by Nazi explorer Ernst Schafer, in the North Pole. The Thulans have advanced technology and assist the Nazis in the war.  “Months?” Hitler says, winning over this reader forever. “I need my flying saucers now!”

Hitler sends Erlichmann to check up on secret experiments carried out by a scientist called Rotwang. Erlichmann arrives to discover Rotwang working on the Bell. He sends through a slave, Maria, a woman from the concentration camps, having turned her first into a sort of metal monster. She disappears. Erlichmann follows her through – and finds himself in a futuristic city (not unlike Metropolis), which may have inadvertently been the source of Ultima Thule…

This has the same sense of ironic – and inevitable – denouement as Adrift on the Sea of Rains, and Sales is having a lot of fun with his alternate world Nazis. If you read A Lexicon of Steam Literature of the Third Reich you’ll find many of those elements present – the Black Sun and Ultima Thule being just two of them – but at the same time, like “Lexicon…”, Wunderwaffe is a comment on both pulp and the fetish elements of pulp, rather than a fetishized pulp story in itself. It is ironic, playful, and knowing.

At the same time, Wunderwaffe is less carefully written than Adrift. Where in the novella each sentence is carefully, delicately crafted, and its ending feels both inevitable and rather poignant, Wunderwaffe does feel at times like the self-same pulp stories it parodies. It feels hasty, less weighty than its successor.

At the moment, I am looking forward to the author’s second Apollo Quartet novella. I’d highly recommend getting the first one, and if you get a chance to pick up the limited edition chapbook of Wunderwaffe, I think it makes for a lovely little collector’s item.

Currently reading: Chris Wooding’s The Iron Jackal.

Books received: Samit Basu’s Turbulence; E.J. Swift’s Osiris; Lou Morgan’s Blood and Feathers.