“Aftermaths” and The Violent Century

The US edition of The Violent Century comes out on the 24th (next Tuesday!). It includes a couple of bonus items only available in this edition – an Author Q&A, and a new short story, “Aftermaths”, set in the world of The Violent Century a couple of years later.

I got asked on Facebook why that was, and why, therefore, you can only read “Aftermaths” in the US edition. Which is a pretty good question–

Back when I sold the novel to Hodder, they were quite keen on including something similar to this in the paperback edition. The problem was that by that time, I had spent far too long with the world of TVC – including a screenplay version, a comics version, and about a thousand drafts of the actual novel, not to mention edits, proofs, and so on – and, to be honest, I was sick to death of it. I just couldn’t do it.

I did produce a couple of other things, one of which I really liked – a fictional exchange between my editor and the British censor, regarding the book’s contravention of the Official Secrets Act – but it wasn’t quite right for publication in the end.

By the time the US edition came around, however, sufficient time had passed that I was a lot more relaxed about the whole thing. My editor at Thomas Dunne was keen on having some bonus material for this new edition, and I thought I could give it a try, at least. It also turned out that the character people seemed to like most in the book was Spit, who has a rather small role, and I have to admit I liked her too, so I wanted to see what she got up to after the book ended.

In the end, it fairly wrote itself, and it was surprisingly enjoyable for me to get back into that world, for just a little while. (I kind of think of it as the end title sequence in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and you might just spot a throwaway reference in there).

“Aftermaths” is about, well, what happens when stories end? It’s sort of a coda, I suppose – in a somewhat different way than The Last Osama was my coda for Osama – and I like it. What will happen to it after the US edition, I don’t really know. But it’s got a good home – and I hope people enjoy it.

Cover nomination for A Man Lies Dreaming

This is the sort of thing I’m delighted to shout about, since in a way it had nothing to do with me. I’ve been blessed with pretty great cover artists – David Frankland for the Bookman books (and John Coulthart for the omnibus edition); my long time artist Pedro Marques, who does all my PS Publishing books, including that iconic Osama cover; Melissa Gay, whose did HebrewPunk and Jesus & The Eightfold Path; Marko Manev, whose superhero noir series led us to asking him to do the cover for The Violent Century; and more. Not to mention the artists I worked with on more collaborative work, like Neil Struthers on I Dream of Ants and Paul McCaffrey, who did Going To The Moon with me and is currently hard at work on our comic mini-series, Adler – every page of which looks absolutely amazing.

So it’s nice when the artists are recognised. Pedro’s Osama cover, in particular, won wide acclaim – it was nominated for awards in the UK and France, and was used as the cover for several subsequent editions, including the Spanish and German ones.

So I’m delighted to see that this year’s Kitschies award (for which I was once nominated for best novel, and which I won for my work on the World SF Blog a while back) has chosen the cover of A Man Lies Dreaming for its shortlist of best artwork (out of a very large field indeed!).

I remember Anne, my editor, knew exactly what she wanted for the cover. I wish I had her original sketch, but her brief was that they were prison bars, fragmenting towards the end, representing Shomer’s mind in Auschwitz. Those broken bars offer that promise of escape. I don’t think it was consciously, then, clear that the bars would also become representative – as they do in the final artwork, by Ben Summers – of the uniforms worn by the prisoners of Auschwitz’s. The cover is stark, minimal, black and white, with only the title standing out in a bold, bloodied red, overlaying, yet never escaping, the bars.

The book comes sans dustjacket. Usually, I prefer them, but in this case the overall design works so well that the book feels complete in itself. The physical object of the hardcover is beautiful, austere, and everything from the cover down to the internal layout and typography is carefully thought out and designed.

The best cover art, I think, is the one you don’t expect at all, but that when you see it, you realise it was the right one all along. I think that’s the case with the cover for A Man Lies Dreaming, and whether it wins the award or not next month, I am delighted with it.
A Man Lies Dreaming Kitschies.png

2014 Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus Magazine have published their annual recommended reading list.

  • A Man Lies Dreaming makes the list in Novels – Fantasy
  • Kur-a-len (from Black Gods Kiss) makes the novella list
  • “Vladimir Chong Chooses to Die” (from Analog) makes the list in the short fiction list

ETA:

Some very nice quotes from Locus in this issue, which also reviews Black Gods Kiss:

“One of the most flamboyantly entertaining collections of the year… what [the stories] are is almost the pure essence of pulp – violent, action-packed, paced like a runaway freight train, politically incorrect and socially unredeemable.”

Escape From Baghdad! by Saad Z. Hossain

I got sent this book by the publisher – it’s coming out in March – and I really can’t recommend it enough. Escape From Baghdad! is kind of the mirror image of any American war movie ever made, mixed in with a healthy dose of secret history and gonzo pulp fantasy – an Apocalypse Now with Djinns, maybe, but from the side of the invaded.

It’s heartbreaking in parts – Hossain does a fantastic job of capturing the horror of the invasion and the bloodied aftermath – but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny, and it does a few things I like very much. One is how it begins (much like Will Wiles’ The Way Inn, which I read recently and also loved), as a realist novel only to take an increasingly bizarre turn to the fantastic. The other is that it uses the tools of pulp fiction to tell something that is political and relevant – which is of course the sort of thing I strive for myself, at least on my better mornings.

Some of it made me think of Jerusalem Poker, and some of it reminded me a little of Angelmaker, but with the whimsy underlined by more heft, perhaps – more heart. But it’s very much its own work. Honestly, I loved it – I really hope it gets the attention it deserves. It’s the perfect antidote to Jarhead or American Sniper, though it’s of course the one book Hollywood is unlikely to ever turn into a movie.

When I finished reading The Teleportation Accident last year, I wanted to stand up and applaud it. I haven’t had the same reaction to a book again until I read this one. If you get a chance, get hold of a copy – it’s worth it.

Announcing The Apex Book of World SF 4

I’m delighted to say I’ve agreed with Apex Publications for a fourth volume in The Apex Book of World SF series. This unlikely anthology series has occupied me since 2008, when it seemed like just about the most ridiculous thing anyone could ever think of, and I have to give Jason Sizemore of Apex massive kudos for enthusiastically supporting this quixotic endeavour from the start. Together, I think we created something unique and, I hope, long-lasting.

Back in 2008, it seemed impossible to imagine we could get one volume out, let alone three. Yet, marvelously, here we are.

There were two things that concerned me around this time. One was that I wanted the series to continue. The second was that, after three volumes, I felt should no longer be the one to edit them. It occurs to me that the key for the anthologies from the start was diversity, a sort encompassing, global perspective. One rule in editing them was not to repeat writers, but use the space as a showcase for different people. The danger with remaining on is to allow my own possible biases to eventually get in the way. And after 3 volumes and nearly 300,000 words, surely it was time for someone else have their say!

What I needed was that unlikely someone who was so enthusiastic that they’d actually want to take this on – and there my plans kind of floundered…

…Until Mahvesh Murad came along. She had initially interviewed me for her radio show in Pakistan, and I met up with her later in London in August, when she came for the World Science Fiction Convention. She has been super enthusiastic about the anthologies, in a way I’d not seen anyone do before, and she asked if we were going to continue doing them, and if so, did we need any help editing…

At this point, Jason and I have been cautiously floating the idea of a fourth volume, as something that won’t completely ruin Apex or what remained of my sanity. We kept going back and forth but eventually Jason gave me the green light, I asked Mahvesh, she gave me a resounding yes! – and here we are!

I’m really excited about the next volume. I’m remaining on as Series Editor, which is a sort of oversight and support role combined, but the next book is going to be all Mahvesh, and I can’t wait to see it! It’s been fantastic to get this far, and I’m delighted that we are once more moving forward.

The Apex Book of World SF 4, edited by Mahvesh Murad, is tentatively scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2015, in trade paperback and e-book.