24 July 2015

Furthest Tales of the City

You (Yes, you over there! Pay attention!) will be pleased to learn that the fourth anthology of City of the Saved short stories, Furthest Tales of the City, is due for release some time in late 2015.

The blurb goes like this:

Even the secular afterlife created for humanity by the Secret Architects has its limits – and there will always be those Citizens who chafe against those limits.  Environmentally, culturally, biologically, cosmologically, politically, experientially, some will always seek to go further. 

For instance…

A group mind facing the troubling truth of resurrection.  A comatose giant with human inhabitants of its own.  A civilisation re-enacting an impossible apocalypse.  A woman with negligible human ancestry out on the dating scene.  A cult who inhabit the deep infrastructure underlying the City.  A fictional adventurer starved of the risks his narrative craves.

These are their tales.

And here's the lineup of stories:
Salutation – Philip Purser-Hallard
Weighty Questions – Juliet Kemp
Sleeping Giants – Elizabeth Evershed
Driving Home for Atonatiuh – Lawrence Burton
The Smallest Spark – Paul Hiscock
The Places Above, Between and Below – Louise Sellers
We Only Live Twice (But the City Is Not Enough) – Helen Angove
God Encompasses – Philip Purser-Hallard
Juliet, Liz and Helen are all returning contributors to the City of the Saved, having written stories for the first Tales of the City in 2012. (Liz also wrote for Tales of the Great Detectives in 2014, meaning that she's written more City of the Saved fiction than anyone other than me.) Lawrence Burton is new to the City, but will be familiar to regular Obverse readers as the author of the Faction Paradox novel Against Nature and the Señor 105 novella The Grail, or Señor 105 y el Pueblo del Gobernador Demente, as well as being the regular cover artist for the Faction Paradox books. Paul Hiscock was a contributor to The Obverse Book of Detectives, while Louise Sellers's fiction is published here for the first time.

All of their stories are, in their different ways, marvellous -- variously exciting, weird, thought-provoking and hilarious.

Sharp-eyed readers may notice that a short story called 'God Encompasses' has been up on my website for a while now: this is indeed an updated version of that story. 'Salutation' is a new companion piece. Even more insightful readers may realise that both stories are, very approximately, named after pubs.

I'll update this blog, and my website, when further information -- cover, publication date, that sort of thing -- starts to make itself known.

16 February 2015

Meet the Martians

Iris Wildthyme of Mars
In the event, only one reader entered the competition to identify the types of fictional Martian mentioned in my short story "Green Mars Blues", and that was in fact another of the contributors to Iris Wildthyme of Mars.

I said that I thought there were nineteen types of Martian in the story. I have to admit it depends heavily on how you count.

From the beginning...

1. The Green Man (first appearance p227): A Green Martian from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom sequence.
2. Jenah Pharis (p229): A Red Martian from Barsoom.
3. The Tripods (p232): Obviously, the war machines from H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.
4. The Coy Stripper and Her "Snake" (p234): An adult and juvenile of the species described in Philip José Farmer's short story "My Sister's Brother".
5 & 6. The Fake Charlatan and the Incompetent Ghost  (p234): One of the telepathic Martians, and one of the slightly different shapeshifting telepathic Martians, from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.
7. The Locusts (p236): The evil insectile Martians from Quatermass and the Pit, with accompanying aerial psychic projection.
8. The Angels of Pavonis Mons (p238): The Eldila from C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet.
9, 10 & 11. The Spindly Men, the Otters and the Froggy Things (p238): The Sorns, Hrossa and Pfifltriggi from Out of the Silent Planet.
12. The Blue (or Possibly Green) Giants (p240): Either the Argzoon from Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars sequence, or the Ice Warriors from Doctor Who.
13. Great Octopus Things (p240): From Men, Martians and Machines by Eric Frank Russell (though other answers would probably have been acceptable).
14. Merpeople (p240): From Doctor Omega by Arnould Galopin.
15. The Blue Lightning (p240): A Fire Balloon from The Martian Chronicles.
16. The Christmas Visitor (p240): Either Dropo from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, or the Alien Super-Being from Christmas on Mars.
17. The Flashing Eyes in the Dark (p241): The Man from Mars in the Blondie song "Rapture". (The biggest clue's in what he eats.)
18. The Laughers at Potatoes (p241): The robotic Martians from the 1970s Smash adverts. (I wouldn't have thought of including these Martians in the story without the input of Andrew Hickey, to whom thanks.)
19. The Armoured Reptile (p250): Definitely an Ice Warrior.

For bonus points, the title of Marcie's proposed talk "Grokking Vulthoom: The Role of Indigene Legends in Modern Cult Formation" (p242) references Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and "Vulthoom" by Clark Ashton Smith.

To his credit, our entrant Simon Bucher-Jones identified twelve of those (fourteen including the bonuses). He also pointed out several texts that identify Jesus (mentioned on p226) as a Martian, and made a valiant effort to name eighteen works which include Martian tripods (on the basis that Marcie has encountered eighteen variants of the story). Simon wins the signed copy of The Pendragon Protocol by default, but it's certainly deserved.

05 February 2015

Here's the thing

Today I was sent a link to a forum post where someone speaks enthusiastically about how much they've enjoyed some books of mine (among a number of others), and offers to share the ebook versions with other forum users for free.

I don't know how certain people so consistently fail to understand this, but here it is. Books (including ebooks) are as good as they are, and cost the amounts they do, because a lot of people's time -- authors', editors', illustrators', publishers' -- goes into creating them. You're not paying for the paper and ink that make up the book, or the server space the ebook is held on, you're paying for the time -- sometimes months or years -- that people have spent lovingly working on this thing you've enjoyed reading. To then distribute that work for free -- thus ensuring that the publisher's sales and income remain low and that the money they have to compensate their authors, editors and illustrators remains limited -- shows a degree of thoughtlessness and contempt for those people and their work that's simply staggering.

Other people's work is worth your money. If you won't pay, you don't deserve the benefit of the work. It's that simple.

17 January 2015

Competition Time

Right. I have a signed copy of my urban fantasy thriller The Pendragon Protocol to give away, to someone who can demonstrate their close reading abilities and knowledge of obscure science fiction.

To win this you'll need to find a copy of the anthology Iris Wildthyme of Mars. This may sound like a large investment, but a) the ebook version is currently only £5.99 in the Obverse sale, b) The Pendragon Protocol paperback costs £7.99 at Amazon, and c) you'll be getting to buy and keep an anthology I'm very proud of with stories by lots of talented authors that you'll really enjoy. And if you're lucky and win, you'll end up with £13.98 worth of book for £5.99.

The prize will go to anyone who can identify all the types of fictional Martian who are referred to in my story 'Green Mars Blues' in Iris Wildthyme of Mars. There are (I believe) nineteen to identify altogether.
Iris Wildthyme of Mars
  1. Email entries to me at martians@infinitarian.com. Please don't post identifications as comments here
  2. If nobody identifies all nineteen types of Martian, whoever makes the most correct identifications wins. 
  3. Some references are deliberately ambiguous, so I'll accept more than one answer. (Identifying both my intended answers will count as an extra point for the purposes of rule 2.) 
  4. The closing date will be Sunday 15 February.
Feel free to post any queries here or on Twitter.

19 December 2014


A Merry Christmas to all those of you reading this.

Every year I send out a story in my Christmas cards, and every year I put the previous year's online. The past ones are all archived on this blog, but 2013's was a touch experimental, being 720 words of prose supplied on seven cards that could be rearranged in different combinations to create 720 different narratives[1].

That isn't something I can really present via Blogger, but the indispensable Dale Smith has kindly translated it into PHP so I can publish it on my website.

I give you my 2013 Christmas 'story', 'Tableaux'. 

2014's story is more linear, and is a direct tie-in with the Devices trilogy, taking place between The Pendragon Protocol and the second book. I'm not sure quite what's going to happen with that one -- it may appear as an extra in the books at some point. (I'll tell you, though, that it's called "Mummers and Poppers: A Devices Story for Christmas".)

A very pleasing festive season to you all.

[1] Note for the mathematically competent: Yes, I know. One of them always comes first.

17 October 2014


51S94JB1VNLI’m delighted and slightly stunned to discover that, with the publication of The Pendragon Protocol, I now merit my own entry in the science fiction readers’ Bible, John Clute et al’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.  I owned the first edition from the age of twelve or thereabouts; I still have the 21-year-old second edition (see right) and its sister volume, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, on my shelves, and I’ve been avidly consulting the third edition since it went online in 2011. It’s difficult to express quite how proud I feel of finally warranting an appearance of my own in this arcane compendium.

Admittedly I don’t entirely agree with the details of my entry. (I’d argue, for instance, that while The Pendragon Protocol does indeed mention Christian values, it’s hardly uncritical of them, and that — while I’m delighted if the novel works for a Young Adult readership — that wasn’t actually the demographic I was primarily aiming for. Also, the Encyclopedia doesn't seem to be aware of Peculiar Lives, which I would have thought was pretty much up its street.)

This is scarcely the point, though. Among other things, John Clute (John Clute! The SF critic's SF critic!) thinks Of the City of the Saved is "ambitious". I'm unbelievably pleased about this.

* * *

Iris Wildthyme of Mars...Well, anyway. In other, not-at-all anticlimactic news, Iris Wildthyme of Mars now exists in hard copy, and is available to order from Obverse Books:
As well as writing the third Devices book (the second having been submitted to Snowbooks at the end of September), I'm talking to Stuart at Obverse about possible future anthologies. Watch this space.

19 September 2014

Iris and Sherlock (at last, but not together)

Tales of the Great DetectivesIris Wildthyme of MarsIt's rather later than expected, I know, but it's now possible to pre-order the two anthologies I've edited this year, Iris Wildthyme of Mars and Tales of the Great Detectives, from Obverse Books. If you're not of a mind to wait for another couple of weeks, or would rather not pay for the print versions (hardback and paperback respectively), it's also possible to buy and download the ebooks for consumption this very instant.

I'm very proud of both anthologies: a total of seventeen thoroughly talented people have contributed to them, they deal with two of my favourite genre characters (albeit in unfamiliar contexts in both cases), the covers are excellent, and I think they've turned out as really lovely books through and through.
Here are the links to do that ordering you'll be so keen on:

* * *

I've no particular reason to suppose that these will be the last anthologies I'll be editing for Obverse Books, but I thought it might be interesting at this point to look at who I've published so far (since with the publication of these two books the number nearly doubles). Excluding myself, the list goes like this:
    cover imagecover image
  • Helen Angove (Tales of the City)
  • Aditya Bidikar  (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Blair Bidmead (Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars -- also the cover artist for Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Simon Bucher-Jones (More Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Rachel Churcher (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Mark Clapham (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Jay Eales (More Tales of the City)
  • Elizabeth Evershed (Tales of the City and Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Jess Faraday (Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Kelly Hale (More Tales of the City and Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Dave Hoskin (Tales of the City)
  • Juliet Kemp (Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Selina Lock (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Stephen Marley (Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Chantelle Messier (Tales of the Great Detectives)
  • Lance Parkin (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Ian Potter (More Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Dale Smith (Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Daniel Tessier (Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Susannah Tiller (More Tales of the City)
  • Richard Wright (More Tales of the City and Iris Wildthyme of Mars)
  • Andrew Hickey (Tales of the Great Detectives)
  1. That's 22 authors, eight of whom I've commissioned twice, two of whom co-wrote a single story, thus contributing a total of 29 stories (mine excluded). 
  2. Of these authors, if I'm remembering correctly, nine hadn't previously been published by Obverse Books or their online wing Manleigh Books; six were making their debuts as professionally published writers. 
  3. Of those 22 authors, 16 are British (and I believe in fact English), three American, two Australian and one Indian. However, two of the Brits are based in the USA, and one returned to the UK from India between their first and second commission. The book with the highest concentration of non-UK authors is Tales of the Great Detectives, half of whose contributors are American. 
  4. Nine of the authors are women, 13 men; of the stories, 12 are by women and 17 by men. (Those aren't great statistics, admittedly, but they're better than many genre anthologies manage.)  Of the individual anthologies, Tales of the Great Detectives has a majority of female authors, and Tales of the City at least achieves parity (although only if you exclude my contributions).
  5. To the best of my knowledge without having actually met them all (see 6), all but one of these people are white. 
  6. Eight of the authors are people I've met in real life: five of them I'd never interacted with prior to commissioning them. The rest, predictably, I knew online. (Only three of them are people I went out with, went to university with or invited to my wedding.) 
  7. Between us to date (counting co-author credits, and including my own titles this time), the contributors to these anthologies are responsible for 15 Doctor Who novels, four Bernice Summerfield novels, four Faction Paradox novels (with more in the works), four Señor 105 novellas, three Time Hunter novellas and something like 65 short stories for Obverse Books.
Those, then, are the facts. Suggestions as to what any of this might mean, or other ways in which I could (feasibly, and within the bounds of decency and good taste) break that list down, will be received with interest.