Friday, 14 September 2012

Riveted and Frail

 

It's publication day here at Berkley UK (well, technically that was yesterday) and we have two books for you.

Meljean Brook's latest venture into the Iron Seas, Riveted, takes us to Iceland a century after a devastating volcanic eruption forced its inhabitants to flee. Now fisherman tell of giant trolls guarding the land and seductive witches ready to steal men's hearts. But the truth of the matter is something very different and our story follows Annika, who unwittingly endangered Iceland's secrets five years ago and whose sister Kalla took the blame. Now Annika serves on the airship Phaeton flying from port to port looking for her exiled sister. When the airship picks up a new crewman in the form of David Kentewess, Annika finds she must be careful to guard her secrets from his prying attentions. However, when disaster strikes, the pair are forced to work together in order to survive . . .

Frail is the much-anticipated follow-up to Dust by Joan Frances Turner. Dust told of a terrible post-apocalyptic America where the walking population is divided into the living and the undead. And in Frail a devastating plague has swept through both the living and the undead so that now everyone is ex-human or ex-zombie – both craving fresh flesh. Amy is the only purely human left in town - a frail. She is pursued and thinks she is going mad. But when an ex-human called Lisa saves her life, a fragile friendship is formed. This friendship keeps Amy and Lisa alive when they are abducted and forced to live in a community of exes who use humans as their slaves. If the pair are to have any future then they'll need to trust each other further to somehow escape . . .

So, two dark and twisted sequels telling of two pairs of people who must learn to trust one another in order to survive.

Colin

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The future is The Farm



We're so delighted to be telling you about The Farm by Emily McKay and here's a sneak peek of the cover. This won't be available until February next year, but we are all incredibly excited about it here at Berkley UK.

Here's the blurb:

For Lily and her twin sister Mel there is only the Farm . . .

It's a prison, a blood bank, a death camp - where fear and paranoia rule. But it's also home, of sorts. Because beyond the electric fence awaits a fate much, much worse. 

But Lily has a plan. 

She and Mel are going to escape - into the ravaged land outside, a place of freedom and chaos and horrors. Except Lily hasn't reckoned on two things: first, her sister's ability to control the horrors; and, secondly, on those out there who desperately want to find and control Mel. 

Mel's growing power might save the world, or utterly end it. But only Lily can protect Mel from what is to come . . .

The Farm takes you into a terrifying future where civilization has ended, and leaves you there - fearful, gasping and begging to escape.

Claire Pelly
Editor

Friday, 22 June 2012

Friday Links

Earth by night.

Covering Viriconium.

More Mieville on that mole thing.

Niall Harrison being interesting on Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312.

Interesting, surreal art. Revel in the oddness of it.

'Tis the weekend. Enjoy.

Colin

Thursday, 21 June 2012

June Book of the Month



This month’s top pick from the Berkley team is Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook. It’s the second novel in the brilliant steampunk Iron Seas series (the first being The Iron Duke). Featuring different characters, and this time set in Morocco, it’s a definite must read if you love steampunk with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

If you would like to find out more about the Iron Seas world, check out the guide on Meljean’s website, which gives you a world map and an alternate history of the world.

So, a bit about Heart of Steel:

As the mercenary captain of the Lady Corsair, Yasmeen has learned to keep her heart as cold as steel, her only loyalty bound to her ship and her crew. So when a man who once tried to seize her airship returns from the dead, Yasmeen will be damned if she gives him another opportunity to take control.

Treasure-hunter Archimedes Fox isn't interested in the Lady Corsair – he wants her cold-hearted captain and the valuable da Vinci sketch she stole from him. To reclaim it, Archimedes is determined to seduce the stubborn woman who once tossed him to a ravenous pack of zombies, but she's no easy conquest.

When da Vinci's sketch attracts a dangerous amount of attention, Yasmeen and Archimedes journey to Horde-occupied Morocco – and straight into their enemy's hands. But as they fight to save themselves and a city on the brink of rebellion, the greatest peril Yasmeen faces is from the man who seeks to melt her icy heart . . .

Enjoy!

Claire

Friday, 8 June 2012

Friday Links

Nobel-prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reveals that he wears Flash Gordon underpants. (To avoid disappointment - the pants are metaphorical.)

The BBC talks to China Mieville about his new YA fantasy Railsea. Also, taking his lead from the current weather, he rains on the Olympics.

Neil Gaiman's tribute to his friend Ray Bradbury.

The future of the book, according to New Scientist. Worth a look for the image (positively archaeological, if you believe the doom-mongers) alone.

Philip Ball talks patterns in nature at The New York Institute of the Humanities. (Shame the unused microphone insisted on standing in front of Mr Ball.)

And, finally, some Venus action, courtesy of Mr Adam Roberts.

Enjoy.

Colin.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fantasy Fiction: The Alternate Reality of Our Times



A special guest post by author Jason Starr.

At last year’s Comic-Con in San Diego I had the pleasure of meeting George R. R. Martin. I was introduced to him at a publishing party at a downtown bar as he was holding court to a group of admirers while double-fisting pints of lager. Later in the evening—and several pints later—my publicist from Penguin invited George to join us for drinks at the hotel bar. He eagerly accepted the invitation and off we went.

If you haven’t been to Comic-Con—think Mardi Gras with nerds, though at Comic-Con it is a major faux pas to ever, ever utter “the n word.” At night, the streets within a twenty block radius of the convention center are mobbed with revelers and, although the hotel was only about eight blocks away, the walk may have seemed a bit daunting for George—while he is quite energetic, I had the sense that he hadn’t exactly been running in many marathons lately, well at least not in the past few decades—and he announced that he wanted to take a pedicab to the hotel instead. Pedicabs, or bicycle taxis, are a common form of transportation in San Diego during Comic-Con. When we got on board with George the young, maybe twenty-five year-old driver’s eyes lit up.

“I know you,” he said excitedly with his foreign accent—later we learned he was a Turkish immigrant. “Game of Thrones!”

The driver went on raving to George, with an almost manic glee, about how Game of Thrones is his favorite show on television, and how much he loves the book and the other books in the series. George was very humble and seemed quite accustomed to the attention from random strangers, the way a movie star or superstar athlete is used to a constant flow of attention. The driver was so enthused we had to remind him that we wanted to go to the hotel. During the ride, he continued raving about what a huge fan he was and that this was the greatest night of his life. When we got to the hotel, he refused to accept payment and then gave George his business card and promised him free pedicab rides for the rest of his life.

I was amused by the interaction, but it also got me thinking about the recent mania surrounding fantasy fiction and their film adaptations. Joseph Kennedy famously once proclaimed that he knew the stock market mania of the 1920’s was reaching its peak when he received stock tips from a shoe shine boy. While I’m not equating the public’s ravenous appetite for fantasy fiction to the days before the Great Depression, nor am I predicting that the trend will come to a crashing halt anytime soon, witnessing the pedicab driver’s reaction to George R.R. Martin got me thinking about how deeply fantasy fiction has penetrated into our society. It’s certainly not unusual for the author of a book that has been adapted into a smash hit TV show to be lauded by a fan, but I wondered how many young, immigrant pedicab drivers there are who, not only would recognize an author, any author who climbed into the back of their bike, but who have actually read all of the author’s books? Granted, this was at Comic-Con, a giant fish bowl of pop culture lunacy, but perhaps when pedicab drivers start recognizing fantasy novelists it is a sign of a much larger phenomena.

There is no doubt that in recent years fantasy-based stories have been dominating the world of books and films and TV, as well as comics and video games. A slew of blockbuster fantasy films and TV shows have hit the big and little screen, many based on bestselling novels. Of course the likelihood of a successful film adaptation increases significantly if a book is a huge seller, but there are many bestselling novels that are never filmed, and there are also very few accidents in Hollywood. Before studios put up the huge sums to finance productions of big budget films they do their due diligence, including widespread market research campaigns, and they always end up backing the most potentially commercial projects. In other words, the public usually gets what it wants, and the fact that Hollywood has been choosing fantasy-based novels for adaptation is a good indication of the public’s psyche. 

The current trend of fantasy adaptations probably began with the Harry Potter books and the subsequent hit adaptations, and the Lord of the Rings blockbusters. But it seems as if the trend really took off and solidified in 2008 with the huge successes of the Twilight books and movies, as well as the True Blood TV show, based on Charlaine Harris’ bestselling novels. The successes of these franchises spawned many other adaptations with somewhat derivative themes, including the The Vampire Diaries and Teen Wolf TV shows. During the same period, in the book world, fantasy fiction has gained popularity, dominating bestseller lists. Books such as Jim Butcher’s Harry Potter meets Raymond Chandler Dresden series gained legions of fans and romance-based fantasy novels, by writers such as Laurell K. Hamilton and Heather Graham, have been particularly successful. Hamilton also started a successful comics series for Marvel and True Blood has been adapted as hit comic book for IDW. Lately, novels on the darker side of the fantasy genre have garnered a lot of attention, most notably Justin Cronin’s apocalyptic vampire saga The Passage, in development as an epic film to be directed by Ridley Scott.

While it’s no accident that Hollywood has chosen to adapt so many fantasy novels lately, it’s also no accident that authors are choosing to work in the genre. Few writers consciously write to trends, mainly because this rarely works. Most trends are fleeting, and during the time it takes to write a book, the trend is usually over, overtaken by a new trend, making the whole idea of chasing trends inherently counterproductive. In the end, most authors write what they want to write, what captures their imagination, and their themes and choice of subject matter often reflect what is culturally relevant. Thus it’s not surprising that many writers—including myself—have crossed over recently from other genres to write fantasy fiction. After all, authors are also readers, and we are attracted to the same themes and storylines that have fascinated the general population.

The trend in fantasy fiction indeed feels different from other literary trends of the past ten years such as, say chick lit and Marley and Me-esque dog memoirs. There is an enthusiasm for fantasy fiction, an almost unprecedented passion, that is perhaps best exemplified by the rabid mania of Twilight fans and True Blood fanatics who would gladly save all their blood for Bill, that brings up comparisons to Beatlemania and Justin Beiber fanaticism. If you have ever seen one of the Twilight films in a movie theater and heard the screeching wails from the audience when Taylor Lautner heroically takes his shirt off you know exactly what I’m talking about (in fact, Twilight has singlehandedly turned one of the classic cinematic devices—the gratuitous topless shot—inside out; it used to be girls who took their shirts off in movies, but now it’s the guys). While the major fan base for romantic and erotic Vampire-based tales may be largely female, the stories have resonated throughout generations—from older readers to teenagers, and the impact has been so widespread that at times it feels less like a trend and more as a symptom of a larger cultural revolution.

It’s no accident that mania surrounding fantasy stories is happening today, at this point in time. During periods of great economic hardship, people always seek out escapist entertainment. In the midst of the Great Depression romantic comedies were the public’s great cinematic escape. On the fiction shelves during the same period, adventure novels, and crime and detective fiction gained prominence. People were attracted to these stories because they provided a gateway to reprieve from the hardships of everyday life, a way to temporarily get away from the headlines about failing banks and soaring unemployment. Now, during our so-called Great Recession and the aftermath, people also want to escape. Thrillers and adventure stories and comedies will always have their legions of fans, but right now fantasy tales involving vampires, werewolves, zombies, fairies and other otherworldly creatures are our great collective escape, our alternate cultural reality. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Twilight and True Blood became runaway hits in 2008, a year after the stock market collapse. In 2008, trying to decide whether you were on team Jacob or team Edward was a much more pleasant dilemma than having to think about whether you were going to have to foreclose on your house.

While fantasy fiction has existed since the beginning of fiction itself and the desire for the ultimate escapist tales will always exist, all cultural trends, even the far reaching ones, eventually subside. But for the foreseeable future fantasy is the escape that the public wants, that the public needs, and you can experience the proof in movie theaters, on television, and in bookstores all across the world, not only on the streets outside Comic-Con.

 © Jason Starr

Friday, 1 June 2012

Friday Links

Star Wars as you've never heard it before.

The NY Times Opinionator on Philip K Dick's 1974 'episode', which informed so much of his final years output. Get ready to have your mind well and truly screwed.

And some SF soundtracks for Mega City One by by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury and Logan's Sanctuary by members of the short-lived but wonderful Jellyfish.

Larry Nolan at The OF Blog has a nice piece on The New Yorker's SF issue, discussing perceived attitudes within and without the SF community. As ever, his view tends towards the jaundiced.

Big weekend coming up. Have a good one.

Colin

Friday, 25 May 2012

Friday Links

Charlie Stross on the future of science fiction - he finds it wanting.

io9 has a nice piece on a particular large, erm, haunted house.

Adam Roberts enjoys but gently mocks Connie Willis for her Medieval sloppiness (of her writing that is) in this pre-introduction-writing post.

Sorry, a short link list this week. Hopefully the intertubes will be busier next week.

Colin

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Stone the Gargoyle Knitting Pattern


STONE THE GARGOYLE
from the Allie Beckstrom novels
by Devon Monk








MATERIALS:


Yarn:
For the little gargoyle, 1 skein worsted weight wool. (I used Patons Classic Wool Merino, dark gray)
For the big gargoyle, 1 & 1/2 skeins wool. (I used 3.5 oz/100 grms Universal Yarn Inc. Classic Chunky Impressions)
Small amount white yarn (for teeth)
Small amount black yarn (for mouth and eyes)
Two buttons – optional (for eyes)


Needles:
For the little gargoyle: US #4 double pointed needles (3.5 mm)
For the big gargoyle: US #11 double pointed needles (8.0 mm)
Gauge: Doesn’t matter, but you want a tight stitch so stuffing doesn’t show
Yarn needle
Polyfill stuffing
Pipe cleaners or floral wires if you want his arms and legs bendy


PATTERN ABBREVIATIONS:
BO:  bind off
CO: cast on
K: knit
K2tog: knit two together
Kfb: knit into front and back of stitch
M1: make one stitch
P: purl
P2tog: purl two together
Pfb: purl into front and back of stitch
Ssk: slip two stitches as if to knit, then knit those two stitches together
Sl: slip one stitch


DIRECTIONS


BODY and HEAD:

Cast on 10 stitches, join in the round careful not to twist stitches
Round1: [kfb] in each st. 20 sts
Round 2: K all sts
Round 3: [k1, kfb] to end. 30 sts.
Round 4: K all sts.
Round 5: [k2, kfb] to end. 40 sts.
Rounds 6-7: K all sts.
Round 8: [k3, kfb] to end. 50 sts.
Round 9: K all sts.
Round 10: K all sts.
Round 11: [k4, kfb] to end. 60 sts
Round 12-15: K all sts
Round 16: [k4, k2tog] to end
Rounds17-18: K all sts
Round 19:  [k3, k2tog] to end
Rounds 20-21: K to end
Round 22: [k2, k2tog] to end
Round 23-24: K all sts
Round 25: [k1, k2tog] to end
Round 26: [k2tog] to end. 10 sts
Round 27:[kfb] to end. 20 sts
Round 28: k to end
Round 29: [k1, kfb] to end
Round 30: K to end
Round 31: [k2, kfb] to end
Rounds 32-33: k all sts. 40 sts

Shape muzzle and nose. This is a little like turning the heel of a sock, and is worked on two needles:

Row 34: K6, kfb12 st, TURN
sl, p22, TURN
sl, k21, TURN
sl, p20, TURN
sl, k19, TURN
sl, p18, TURN
sl, k17, TURN
sl, p16, TURN
sl, [k2tog] 8 times
k55 to end (1 and a half rounds)

Working in the round again:
Round 35: K44 to end
Round 36: K9, [k2tog] six times, k23
Rounds 37-43: K to end
Round 44: [k1, k2tog] to end (k2tog @ end)
Round 45:[k1, k2tog] to end (k1 @ end)
Round 46: [k2tog]  (k1 @ end) Cut thread leaving long tail.  Thread through stitches, but don’t pull head closed yet.



Stuff body and head firmly, making sure to stuff snout. To make snout and nostrils, thread same color yarn on a needle and pinch nose and stitch it horizontally to make a “snout”.  Then pinch nostrils, (I used my thumb to make a half circle) and stitch along the curve of those until you have his snout looking how you want it too.  You can also skip this step and just have a round-nosed gargoyle.



For mouth, use black yarn in yarn needle. Stitch from “nose” to bottom edge of chin, then from bottom of chin to side of head.  Repeat on the other side. This creates Stone’s wide mouth. For teeth, use white yarn in yarn needle and stitch single stitches from black “mouth” yarn.


EARS: (Knit flat. Make two)
Cast on 10 sts.
Row 1: K all sts.
Row 2: P. all sts.
Row 3: K all sts.
Row 4: P all sts
Row 5: K2tog, k6, k2tog
Row 6: P all sts
Row 7: K2tog, k4, k2tog
Row 8: P all sts
Row 9: K2tog, k2, k2tog
Row 10: P all sts
Row 11: K2tog, k2tog
Row 12: P all sts
Row 13: K2tog, bind off


LEGS: (make two)

Cast on 18. Join careful not to twist, and knit in the round:
Round 1-2: K all sts
Round 3:  K12, ssk, k4
Round 4: K12, k2tog, k3
Round 5: K11, ssk, k3
Round 6: K11, k2tog, k2
Round 7: K10, ssk, k2
Round 8: K10, k2tog, k1
Round 9: K9, ssk, k1
Round 10: K9, k2tog
Round 11: K8, ssk (9 sts remain)
Round 12: K7, kfb, k1 (increase should be at the back of the “knee”)
Round 13: K all sts
Round 14: Kfb, k5, kfb, k3
Rounds 15-20: K all sts
Round 21: Kfb, k7, kfb, k3
Round 22-30: K all sts
Round 31: K3, rearrange stitches onto two needles, 7 on each and work flat.

The next part is like making the heel of a sock. Work heel flap above the increases below the knee.

Row 1: Sl, K6
Row 2: S1, p6, TURN
Row 3: S1, k6, TURN
Row 4: S1, p6, TURN
Turning the heel:
Row 1: Sl, k6, TURN
Row 2: Sl, p6, TURN
Row 3: Sl, k5, TURN
Row 4: Sl, p4, TURN
Row 5: Sl k3, TURN
Row 6: Sl, p2, TURN
Row 7: Sl, k1, sl
Instep decreases: (begin working in the round again)
Round 1: K2 pick up 3 sts from left side of heel flap, k7, pick up 3 sts from right side of heel flap
Round 2: K8, k2tog, k7, ssk, k1
Round 3: K7, k2tog, k7, ssk
Round 4: K6, k2tog, k6, ssk



FEET: 
Rounds 1-8: K all sts
Round 9:  Divide sts evenly between 2 needles, 7 sts on each. Begin working flat.
Row 10: [K1 st from front needle and k1 st from back needle together] three times, K1 from back needle, K1 from front needle, [K1 st from front needle and k1 st from back needle together] three times.
Rows 9-14: K2, p2
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3sts, bind off 5sts] to end
Insert pipe cleaner or floral wire (fold over & twist ends of pipe cleaner so it doesn’t poke out and scratch) stuff feet and legs leaving room at the knee so leg can bend. Weave in thread at “toe” end.



ARMS:


Right Arm:
CO 9 sts, join in the round careful not to twist.
Rounds 1-10: K all sts
Round 11. K6, TURN, sl, p5, TURN, sl, k4, TURN, sl, p3, TURN, sl, k2, TURN, sl, p1, Turn sl, k6
Rounds 12-26: K all sts
Round 27: k2tog, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k2tog.
Move all sts to one needle and begin to knit flat:
Row 28: p5
Row 29: k5
Row 30: p1, ml (I do this as pfb) kfb, p2, kfb
Row 31. [p2, k2] across
Row 32: [p2, k2] across
Row 33. [p2, k2] across
Row 34. [p2, k2] across
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3st, bind off 5sts] to end


Left Arm:
CO 9 sts, join in the round, careful not to twist.
Rounds 1-10: K all sts
Round 11: TURN, sl, p5,TURN, sl, k4, TURN, sl, p3, TURN, sl, K2, TURN, sl, p1, TURN, sl, k5 to end of round.
Rounds 12-26: K all sts
Round 27: k2tog, k2tog, k1, k2tog, k2tog.
Move all sts to one needle and begin to knit flat:
Row 28: p5
Row 29: k5
Row 30: p1, ml (I do this as pfb) kfb, p2, kfb
Row 31: [p2, k2] across
Row 32: [p2, k2] across
Row 33: [p2, k2] across
Row 34: [p2, k2] across
BO using Picot edge bind off:
[Cast on 3st, bind off 5sts] to end

Insert pipe cleaner or floral wire, (fold and twist ends so it doesn’t poke out or scratch) stuff, sew closed wrists, weave in thread at “finger” ends.



WINGS: (worked flat)


Right wing:
CO 35 st
Row 1: K15, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 2: P9, k1, p9, k1, p15
Row 3: K2tog, k13, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 4: P9, k1, p9, k1, p14
Row 5: K2tog, k12, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 6: P9, k1, p9, k1, p13
Row 7: K2tog, k11, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 8: P9, k1, p9, k1, p12
Row 9: K2tog, k10, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 10: P9, k1, p9, k1, p11
Row 11: K2tog, k9, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 12: P9, k1, p9, k1, p10
Row 13: K2tog, k8, p1, k9, p1, k9
Row 14: P9, k1, p9, k1, p9

Cut yarn, leaving 16 inch tail. Thread tail in yarn needle and pull thread through remaining stitches on needle. Pull tight (this puts the curl in the wing) bind off.  You can weave pipe cleaner or wire through the outer edge of his wings if you want them to stand up a little better on their own. 


Left wing: 
CO 35 sts
Row 1: P15, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 2: K9, p1, k9, p1, k15
Row 3: P2tog, p13, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 4: K9, p1, k9, p1, k14
Row 5: P2tog, p12, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 6: K9, p1, k9, p1, k13
Row 7: P2tog, p11, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 8: k9, p1, k9, p1, k12
Row 9: P2tog, p10, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 10: k9, p1, k9, p1, k11
Row 11: P2tog, p9, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 12: K9, p1, k9, p1, k10
Row 13: P2tog, p8, k1, p9, k1, p9
Row 14: K9, p1, k9, p1, k9

Cut yarn, leaving 16 inch tail. Thread tail in yarn needle and pull thread through remaining stitches on needle. Pull tight (this puts the curl in the wing) bind off.  Weave in pipe cleaner if desired. 



ASSEMBLING YOUR GARGOYLE:
Ears–sew on sides of head facing “outward” with knit stitches facing inward. I think crooked is cuter.


Arms–sew at join of neck and body, making sure elbows bend outward and there is room for legs beneath.


Legs–sew on sides toward back of body, making sure “knee” is facing upward (so knee can bend) and feet are facing the front.


Wings–sew flat edge touching on back with knit stitches facing upward. You want the purl stitches to show facing forward (when you’re looking at his face) so that the lines of his “wing bones” (row of knit stitches) shows.


Eyes–with black yarn, knit eyes above snout or sew on buttons.
Weave in all ends.

And there you have it!  Your very own Stone the Gargoyle, your buddy and protector against evil spirits and other spooky things that go bump in the night.

If you find errors in this pattern, please contact me at my website and I will make corrections.

I’d like to thank wingedkamui, whose “More Than a Fish, More Than a Man” pattern gave me the basis for the modified arms and legs for Stone.

This pattern is copyright Devon Monk 2010-2011. It is offered to you for free in the spirit of community. Please enjoy the pattern for personal projects and gift giving, but do not sell the pattern or the items made from the pattern. That would anger the cute little gargoyle, and we all know what happens when a gargoyle gets angry, don’t we?







Thanks to Devon for sharing this with us.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Links

Robots the new underclass? A very old SF staple given some new life.

And more thoughts about genre over at Matt Cheney's blog.

SF is often said to be all about the 'sense of wonder' – but what about science itself? Here's Philip Ball.

What is weird fiction?

Straight white males - that means me – take note. The pipes of the intertubes were scorching after John Scalzi's latest thoughts on privilege.

Have a great weekend.

Colin

Friday, 11 May 2012

Friday Links

Charlie Stross (again) on the death of genre.

Neil Gaiman got the New Yorker to unlock this illustrated interview of Maurice Sendak by Art Spiegelman, drawn by them both. (Children aren't the innocent, sticky-fingered angels they would have you believe.)

The British Fantasy Society has announced this year's fantasy shortlists, to be announced at Fantasycon in Brighton, this September. Let's hope that this year the debacle toggle is set to zero.

Philip Ball provides an overview of Curiosity, his new work of science history/philosophy (and which I'm currently devouring – come on, alchemists, secret societies, egomaniacs out to change the world - what's not to enjoy?).

Abigail Nussbaum has an, as usual, thoughtful piece on the use and misuse of horses and women in the TV shows Luck and Game of Thrones (that is horses in Luck, and women in Game of Thrones, in case there is any confusion).

Nice post about the artist and writer collaboration in The Phantom Tollboth over at Pornokitsch (I like the one-upmanship on display).

Have a good weekend.

Colin

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

May's Books of the Month - a feast of Monk



This post should really be author of the month, as we’ve got not one, not two but THREE novels by Devon Monk out tomorrow – Magic in theShadows, Magic on the Storm and Magic Without Mercy.

And here’s author Devon Monk to tell us all about her inspiration for her brilliant Allie Beckstrom series.


You know that saying: good things come in small packages? When it came to writing my first urban fantasy novel, that proved to be true. Magic to the Bone, the first in the Allie Beckstrom series, started out as a quick short story with this basic idea: what if magic were real and everybody could use it, but when we used magic, we had to pay a price for it? The price? Pain.

I had been writing short stories for years and saw an anthology looking for tales set in the modern day with a combination of magic and business. My magic-for-a-price story seemed a perfect fit for them. So I got to work on it. 

Magic for pain was such an interesting concept to explore. If we could all use magic and I mean today, right here, right now, what would we be willing to pay for it? Would we endure a headache to make ourselves look ten years younger or ten pounds thinner? Would we suffer a fever or flu so we could ace that important test or land that job? Would we endure a lifetime of agony to save a dying child or delay a loved-one’s disease?

I wondered if we might even accept losing pieces of our memories for our magic fix. One thing I knew for sure – someone would find a way around having to pay for the magic they were using. Someone would figure out how to make other people pay for them. 

All of a sudden my small package was much too small to hold the story I really wanted to tell. Nonetheless, I wrote the story of Allie Beckstrom who Hounds for a living and traces back illegal spells to their casters. She has lost a lot of her memories doing her job. But when her rich father who disowned her ends up implicated in a magical crime, Allie’s world goes from dangerous to deadly.

I was pleased with the story even though there were characters with secrets and questions of their own I couldn’t explore. That was okay. I still had a nice tight mystery set in an alternate magical today. I sent the story off to the editor.

You know that other saying: when one door closes, another opens? Well, my short story did not sell to the anthology. I was thrilled about the rejection. Now I could use the length of a novel (or three, or nine) to explore the concept of magic being real and at our fingertips. Now I could unveil the story of the mysterious Zayvion Jones who seems to know more about magic than anyone should. Now I could uncover the shady magic business Allie’s father has been engaged in over the years. A magic business that takes straight aim at Allie’s life. And pulls the trigger.

Devon

Other books in the Allie Beckstrom series:

Friday, 4 May 2012

Friday links

Paul McCauley has a nice montage of SPACE footage. Check out his self-published Quiet War short story collection (which I've just finished and enjoyed) here.

Neil Gaiman's interview with Stephen King (in case you missed it - what were you doing?).

Know your place in the universe.

Jane Rogers won this year's Clarke Award for The Testament of Jessie Lamb (a great evening, wonderfully hosted, as always, by Tom Hunter).

Jared at Pornokitsch takes an axe to most of the David Gemmell Legend Best Novel short list. Blood and brains everywhere.

Colin

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The bookshop with no science fiction section

Photo by Brewbooks c/o Flickr
After attending the Eastercon panel Pushing the Boundaries of Genre, I came away rather unsatisfied. Instead of addressing the panel's title, the panel quickly retreated into the tired argument that often rears its head whenever the word 'genre' is mentioned.

The debate, such as it was, almost immediately became framed around the simplistic notion that the idea of genre is either a good or a bad thing for books – discuss. The various positions can be briefly paraphrased.

Some see genre as a useful tool: for writers it can provide a series of tropes with which they can tell a story or subvert conventions; for publishers, bookshops and readers it can be an easy way to get certain kinds of books in the hands of those who want them. Others see genre as a barrier: for writers it can be a creative straitjacket; for readers it can become a stultifying monoculture; for publishers and bookshops it can mean marginalising any books which do not fit into safe and recognisable categories.

Having followed some of this debate before, largely on the intertubes, I've often felt that little serious attention is given to the various individuals and organisations whose competing desires, needs and fears help create and define the genres themselves.

Writers
Authors, for example, want to reach the audience they have had in mind while writing their book. For some authors, this might mean simply selling as many copies as possible. Perhaps the book is a purely commercial proposition (which doesn't mean it is not good nor entertaining nor even art) as everyone needs to live and for some writing is the means to that end. For another, it might be a labour of love. Years of hard graft,  in which they have distilled the essence of something they feel in their hearts, to produce a piece of art. Selling many copies would be a bonus, but for these authors the book's publication is also a part of honestly getting the their message across if it is to reach its intended audience.

For the commercial author, genre publication will almost certainly limit their maximum sales to the audience for that genre. However, their book may go on to sell heavily in that genre. Ignore genre and perhaps you'll garner new out-of-genre readers, but will they offset or outnumber those seeking out genre who miss the book or who decide, on seeing the cover, that they don't read this kind of thing?

For the author unconcerned with genre but wishing to get their message across widely, genre could be considered a backwater in which their work is ignored or not taken seriously. Or it might be a means of reaching those who are most likely to engage fully with their work. Alternatively, publishing outside genre could lead to engagement with a new audience; or finding almost no audience whatsoever.

Publishers
Publishers generally want to sell as many copies of each book at as good a price and at as low a cost to themselves as is possible. The only question that therefore matters to the publisher is: how do we achieve this? The question of genre is therefore not a philosophical or ontological one, but one purely of accounts. Whether a book will sell better in or out of genre is a guess based on experience, intuition and sticking a wet finger in the air to test the prevailing wind direction.

(None of which is to say that publishers do not take into account an author's feelings, as well as frequently taking risks on books, packaging, ideas, formats, innovation and so forth based on nothing more substantial than their gut instinct and love of a good book well published. Like authors, publishers can be as wayward as any human being.)

Booksellers
Not altogether different to publishers, the bookseller is trying to sell as many books as they can to stay in business. However, in the case of bookshops usually – though not always for larger chains – they have no choice in how the book itself is presented.

If it looks like a genre book putting it in a section outside of that genre is unlikely to be a wise move because potential readers may not find it. If the publisher has chosen not to make a genre book look genre, then readers outside the genre section may pick it up while those who do find it in the genre section might notice it because the book stands out from genre clones (I'm talking to you, mysterious dark-cloaked, sword-bearing figure who has launched a thousand epic fantasies – I exaggerate, a tad).

Of course the bookshop can refuse point blank to play the genre game and ignore utterly the usual bookshop categorisations. The issue of genre or not to genre then disappears. This leaves readers with a potential problem (and quite possibly one of bankruptcy for the bookshop).

Readers
According to former Booker judge John Mullan, science fiction books are found in 'a special room in book shops, bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet each other'. Take note, SF readers, you are special! His point, essentially, was that it is a self-enclosed world, one to which many people have no access. Some readers, like Mullan, find it scary and off-putting (and socially unacceptable, though this, I believe, is changing). Others, less concerned with judging a book by its cover, head straight there.

The reader in the genre section can be reasonably assured that they can find what they are looking for, the path to readerly satisfaction is clear. The reader outside the genre section is on their own, wandering a forest of books with only the signposts of cover and blurb to guide them.

So are you the kind of reader who wants to get lost, or would you prefer to tread a well-worn path? Like many readers, you probably like the pleasant surprise of getting lost sometimes, while at other times you might prefer the comforts of knowing exactly where you are going.

Shades of grey
Naturally, in my dichotomies above – between artist and hack; mercenary or nurturing publisher; readers who like what they know and readers looking for the unknown; pile-'em-high and specialist bookshops – there are many, many shades of grey, not to mention those who embody and revel in both extremes.

My point is that writers, readers, publishers and booksellers, unsurprisingly, are as variable as people and their motives for engaging with books are as various as any we ascribe to people doing anything. And they will have many and divergent views regarding each and every book, let alone whole categories of books.

So a simplistic question like is genre good or bad can never hope to provide a meaningful statement about an entire industry, or even one particular subsection which frequently complains about its apparent neglect.

One of the panellists – Robert V.S. Redick - described his confusion at visiting a bookshop and being unable to find its science fiction section. On asking a staff member where it was, he was told the shop did not have one – all the books were mixed in together, by author, A–Z. He said that it was something he'd wanted to see for years, had occasionally argued for, but when presented with what he'd called for, he realised that he no longer knew where to look to find something to read. He was at a loss.

In answer to the question is genre a good or bad thing, there is only one adequate response – what is best for each, individual book? The conversation starts and ends there.

Colin

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Joe Yule - A Publicists Life


First of all, I just wanted to say thank you to BCC for inviting me to post. I hope this might be of interest to some people.

My name is Joe Yule and I’m the Publicity Assistant for Michael Joseph, Penguin Books. Michael Joseph is the commercial division of Penguin; we publish quality crime, historical and women’s fiction, celebrity non-fiction and have an unrivaled cookery list. We also have a brand new SF/Fantasy imprint called Berkley UK.

First thing to say is...I am the only boy in a team of girls. I initially thought that having such privileged access to a female only environment would be very advantageous but, as it turns out, it has only given me crippling insecurities about my inadequacies as a man. The main part of my role is to support the publicity director and the rest of the publicity team. I’m the first point of call for all enquiries from journalists, authors, book stores etc. I love that my job involves a lot of interaction on a daily basis but I think you have to be quite a confident person to be able to communicate with all these different types of people effectively - sometimes journalists can be rather abrupt on the phone!

So in amongst all the fun, there are some quite demanding administrative aspects and I have to make sure I am super organised in order to stay one step ahead. Even so, I can often be seen sprinting up the corridors of Penguin HQ trying desperately to avert some kind of crisis!

I’m also responsible for planning all of our big author events/book launches. This is definitely the bit of my job I enjoy the most as it means I get to swan around looking at nice venues, tasting canap├ęs whilst pretending that I’m actually ‘working’.

However, as well as supporting my team and ‘working’ on organising book launches, I also look after publicity campaigns for my own titles. For example, I currently look after the PR for Berkley UK – and I suppose it is in this capacity that I’m posting today. As I mentioned at the top, BerkleyUK is Penguin’s brand new SF/Fantasy imprint committed to publishing the highest quality commercial SFF fiction. As a publishing brand, I suppose Penguin is a pretty well known bird but Berkley UK is still very much in its fledgling stage of development. Nevertheless, we have been welcomed with open arms by the community so thank you to BCC and everybody else that has supported us so far! We already have some fabulous US authors on our list and our editor will soon be looking to acquire some UK based authors which we are obviously hugely excited about! If there are any budding authors reading this with ideas for a fantastic new fantasy series – get your pencil sharpened!

For more information on some exciting new Berkley titles to look out for AND an exclusive giveaway then read the full post on the Book Chick City blog here :http://bit.ly/Ks1eto

Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday links

It's Friday again and that means links:

An old post this (in more than one sense), but I rediscovered it on Google Reader and would like to share.

Gollancz are teasing us with news of M. John Harrison's latest weirding.

Strange Horizons has a piece on our favourite method of transport, the airship.

Charles Stross on the interesting news that Tor are to remove DRM from their ebooks.

From io9, 33 science fiction and fantasy films for the summer. You'll be oblong-eyed, as my mother not-quite-used to say.

Colin

Monday, 23 April 2012

Why Steampunk Romance?


Meljean Brook by Doug Crouch
Meljean Brook's second post on Steampunk Romance:

I know that the idea of steampunk romance is a head-scratcher for some readers of both genres – the two genres seem quite different. Steampunk often possesses a gritty, industrial aesthetic and a story that challenges (or at least comments on) a socio-economic and/or political status quo, whereas romance often tells the story of beautiful people, sex, and normalized happily-ever-afters. 

On the surface, it does seem as if an unbridgeable gap exists between the two genres, but I’ve found that two particular aspects of steampunk lend themselves spectacularly to romance. One is the technological component – not necessarily the gadgets (though those are fun), but the effect of changing technology on society. Setting the series in the middle of that cultural shift opens so many avenues of conflict, whether it stems from characters who resist the changes, from alterations in class structure, or from an individual character’s uncertainty about where he fits in this new world (and, of course, the conflict that always arises when a character’s idea of his place clashes with society’s idea of his place). 

The second aspect is simply invention, which we see over and over again in steampunk. Technology can be used to oppress and dehumanize – but its creation can also be rebellion, or a triumph of human ingenuity. And a sense of wonder, adventure, and danger so often accompanies invention; it’s that new idea that may very well blow up and kill whoever tries to explore it...but the potential gain or discovery is well worth the risk. So a steampunk setting – a world crammed full of inventions – doesn’t allow for wimpy heroes and heroines. Whether they’re desperate or driven, they have to venture out into this world, and that exploration may very well kill them.

...and I’ve just used a lot of phrases that describe my ideal love story. A steampunk setting provides plenty of external conflict, and the opportunity for the kind of adventure that I love writing and reading. But more importantly, the romantic conflict echoes everything I enjoy about steampunk. That means I write about characters who might resist the emotional and social changes a burgeoning relationship forces upon them. It’s an examination of where they’ll fit in someone else’s life (and it’s always best if they don’t fit easily.

And as for love ... well, we all know that love can be oppressive, and a powerful tool. But falling in love with someone can also be liberating, and require a great deal of bravery – particularly if the characters know that, if something goes wrong, it can blow up and destroy them...but once again, the potential gain is worth the risk.

Steampunk romance isn’t going to be for everyone. There will be both steampunk and romance fans who will read The Iron Duke with a “What in the world is this? I can’t believe some author thought this would work” caption floating above their heads. But in my opinion, the genres fit together beautifully – and I’m only surprised that there aren’t already dozens of steampunk romances in bookstores.

Hopefully, there soon will be.

Meljean



Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday links

Here are some links to while away your Friday:

A piece about Neal Stephenson's excellent-sounding project Hieroglyph.

Adam Roberts reviews the entire 2012 Clarke Award short list in his usual entertaining manner.

The lovely folks over at Pornokitsch review Jason Starr's The Pack.

Various reports on the goings on at Eastercon.

Catherynne Valente has a post about what would happen if Christopher Priest were a woman.

And, lastly, Marcus at Gollancz on the Fall and Rise of Vampires.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Jason Starr talks The Pack



Watch this short film of Jason Starr giving us the low down on The Pack,  out very, very soon.

Daisy

Friday, 13 April 2012

Friday links

Every Friday we'll gather the best SF&F links. This week:

Christopher Priest's The Islanders won Best Novel at Eastercon's BSFA ceremony.

John Scalzi suggests five films to show aliens to avoid annihilation.

The David Gemmell Legend Award short list was announced at Eastercon.

Via the excellent Forbidden Planet blog, Alan Moore on the BBC's Hard Talk.

And more nominees, with the Hugo short list announced.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

What is Steampunk Romance?

A guest post from author Meljean Brook, whose book The Iron Duke is out today.

Steampunk has been earning quite a bit of buzz recently, but if you aren’t familiar with the term, trust me – it’s not as alien as it sounds. At its most basic, steampunk is historical science fiction. More specifically, it’s historical science fiction where the ‘advanced’ technology is powered by steam engines or clockworks, or utilizes historical scientific theories in some fashion. Simply imagine a movie like Sherlock Holmes combined with steamy romance and airships, or Pirates of the Caribbean with clockwork gadgets and automaton robots.

Steampunk is often set in the Victorian era (the Iron Seas series is set during a pseudo-Victorian period) but it doesn’t have to be. Other time periods are fine – other worlds are fine. Steampunk can be set in Feudal Japan, it can be set before (or during, or after) the European colonization of Africa, or before the conquest of the Americas. Anywhere, anywhen. The important bit is the steam, and writers can set an industrial revolution or technological advancement anywhere in history that they like. It’s science fiction, after all.

It’s also historical romance – a thrilling adventure, featuring bold, sexy characters exploring an exciting new world – with a steampunk twist.

In the Iron Seas world, that twist came from a small change in history that, over the centuries, completely altered the course of historical events: In this alternate history, the Mongol Horde didn’t halt their military advance into Europe in 1241 A.D. (as they did in our history), but came later with war machines and powerful technology. Much of Europe and Africa fled to the New World, but almost everyone in England remained at home, believing the Horde’s lack of a navy meant they would be safe. They were wrong, because the Horde used a weapon that was too small to see coming: nanotechnology that infected the population and enslaved them.

Using this twist in time, I was able to create an England that looked very much like the Victorian England that we know and love in our romances, but with some significant cultural changes. At the opening of The Iron Duke, England has only been out from under the Horde’s two-hundred year occupation for a decade ... and the man who freed them all – pirate captain Rhys Trahaearn – is a national hero. It’s not until he meets Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth that he becomes worthy of being a romance hero, however.

And as much fun as the steampunk worldbuilding is, this story is all about the romance. The conflicts that arise from the setting – the class issues, the changing technology and social roles, the zombies and the giant squid – they are all challenging or just pure fun, but the real reason for all of these conflicts is so that I can create characters who have to struggle to find their happily-ever-after. I want them to fight for each other and fight to be with each other. I want it to matter that these two people fall in love and hold on to their happiness, and I like to think that the Iron Seas world is changed for the better when they do.

In my story, the Iron Duke will do anything to have Mina, even if that means changing the world to be with her. That, to me, is pure romance ... and I hope that everyone enjoys the adventure with me.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Why do we read the books that we do?


The book you're reading right now – why are you reading it? Was it a gift? Is it the latest from a favourite author, or are you re-reading a book you've loved since childhood? Did you like the cover, or did the blurb entice you? Or are you reading The Hunger Games because you want to find out what all the fuss is about?

As readers, we don't often think about why we end up reading our books (publishers do, publishers obsess over why people read books, which may be why it is so damn hard to get it right). But when we do look into the reasons why we're reading a particular title, sometimes an interesting story emerges.

Take Pavane, the book I've just finished. This novel by Keith Roberts is an alternate history of England. Like many alternate histories it is predicated on a single change to the past to force subsequent history down a new path. In Pavane's case that change is the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I, which allows the Catholic Church to reverse the tide of Protestantism sweeping across Europe as well as snuff out the spark of the coming Enlightenment. In consequence, Europe is plunged, if not quite into a new Dark Age, but, we could say, into a Dim Age for the next four hundred years. With the Papacy choking almost all scientific, technological and political progress, England in the Twentieth Century is still a largely medieval country, replete with a guild system as well as a babble of languages which help keep its people divided. The story Pavane tells, through a series of 'measures', is that of a number of individuals who become involved one way or another in the resistance to the stranglehold the church has over England.

Published first in 1966 (the current edition is based on a revised 1968 text), Pavane is part of Gollancz's excellent SF Masterworks series, first seeing print in 2000, I think. I have been aware of it since then and yet why has it taken me until now to read it?

Firstly, I have never really liked the cover. It's not bad. I like the yellow signal tower. But there's something about the landscape and the steam engine trundling up the road that I have never warmed to. There is a not-quite-finished, computer-generated feel to it. Something ersatz that has always put me off. I've bought books with worse covers, but when you're taking a chance on something, when there are other choices, sometimes it is the littlest of things that can decide it for you.*

I agree, this is a poor excuse. But I remember picking this book up and putting it down on more than one occasion. The idea is neat and simple. The book has numerous accolades and champions. On my desk sits a copy of Anthony Burgess's Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 – Pavane is in it. And yet.

So what did nudge me over the edge?

It started, I think, with this review of a new US edition by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post on February 29th this year. Then here I by accident came across another (older) mention - a review that is quite critical by Larry Nolan of the always excellent OF blog. Then not long after that Paul McAuley wrote a lovely post about how he as a kid discovered Pavane (thereby showing considerably more wisdom than I ever had, without even the benefit of the intertubes).

Somebody out there was telling me something.

So I bought it. Read it. I greatly enjoyed it (not the cover though, that still irks me).

While I was reading Pavane, I met a very good friend of mine. His first question to me was – what are you reading? Before I could answer he told me he was reading this great book called Pavane. Had I heard of it?

I was curious. Why had he chosen it? It was simple really. For a few years now he's been working his way through the SF classics. Pavane was just the next book on his list.

I am nothing like as systematic in my reading as he is, but Pavane had also been the next book on my list. Only I did not know it until I got to it.

Why do we choose to read the books that we do?

Sometimes, it seems to me, the books reach out and choose us.

Colin, Copywriter

* I've subsequently done some checking and discovered the cover is by the great Jim Burns. Either it's just me, or everyone has an off-day.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Cheryl Morgan on The Clarke Award


Nice piece by Cheryl Morgan offering a reality check on the 2012 Clarke Award kerfuffle kicked up by Christopher Priest.
Colin

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Book of the Month: Grave Dance


One of our feature pieces of the Berkley UK Blog will be our Book of the Month. Think a SFF Richard and Judy Book Club. (Although sometimes it might feature two - or three - books as they are all so good and we all have a different favourite so to save some serious in-fighting amongst the Berkley team, we might have more than one per month).

And so, to kick off this month is a book we actually published in February, but I love it so much I can’t stop talking about it. It’s Grave Dance by Kalayna Price, which is actually the second novel in the addictive Alex Craft series, which began with Grave Witch. If you love feisty kick-ass heroines with a sexy, unexpected and unconventional love interest, then this is the series for you. And here to tell you a bit more about it is Kalayna Price herself. She kindly did an interview with me about the series so read on to hear all about it…

Claire: For those who haven’t yet discovered the brilliant Alex Craft series - which includes the novels Grave Witch and Grave Dance - can you tell us a little about it?

Kalayna: The series follows Alex Craft, a witch who can question the dead. She uses this skill in her struggling PI firm, Tongues for the Dead, and as a consultant for the police on murder cases. In Grave Witch, when she is called in on a case involving a dark cop, a sexy reaper, and a ghost-silencing killer, she discovers that more than her rent is on the line … she might just lose her soul.

Claire: We love Alex and her powers that allow her to speak to the dead. Can you tell us a little about her day job as a Grave Witch?

Kalayna: Alex raises shades, which are emotionless recordings of a person’s life stored in every cell of their body and given form by magic. It’s cold work, as she has to straddle the chasm between the living and the dead and let the chill of the grave into her own body. Her ability is also slowly degrading her eyesight. When she’s using her magic to help the police question victims, the price is a small thing to pay. It is a little less worthwhile when she’s working for private clients who want to know if great uncle Bernie really did have a secret stash of cash hidden in a Caribbean bank account, but hey, a job is a job, right?

Claire: There’s a wonderfully rich and complete magic system in these novels. What was your inspiration for this and did you have to do a lot of research into myths and mysticism in order to create it?

Kalayna: One of my hobbies is studying folklore and mythology, so a lot of folklore makes its way into the stories. I enjoy taking creatures of legend and putting them in a more modern setting.

Claire: Death features as quite a different character from what we would typically expect, as he’s Alex’s potential love interest in this series. Why did you decide to portray Death with a deliciously romantic side rather than a ghoulish taker of souls?

Kalayna: What later became the opening lines of book one was actually the first inkling of the idea for the story. The lines are “The first time I encountered Death, I hurled my mother’s medical chart at him. As far as impressions went, I blew it, but I was five at the time so he eventually forgave me.” I knew from that point on that Death and Alex would have a complicated relationship. A creepy grim reaper just didn’t fit the bill. One who looked good in jeans and a tight t-shirt was more to my liking.

Claire: Alex’s little faithful companion PC is a hairless Chinese Crested. Why did you decide to pick this breed of dog in particular?

Kalayna: I could copout and just say I like Cresteds, but in truth, I gave a lot of thought as to what kind of dog Alex should have. I settled on a Chinese Crested because they are purebred dogs that many people take one look at and assume the dog is ill (if not just odd and ugly). Nicer comments often run along the line of Cresteds being so pathetic looking that they’re cute. Alex comes from a ‘good’ family, but has been disowned for being different. She’s seen as odd. The parallel appealed to me. Also, I like Chinese Cresteds.

Claire: Alex Craft’s magical talent lies in speaking to the dead. If you could speak to one dead person, who would you pick?

Kalayna: That’s a hard choice. Probably someone shrouded in mystery. There are more than a few literary geniuses of the past I’d like to know more about.

Claire: Can you tell us a little about the next book in the series, Grave Memory, which will be hitting the shelves here in the UK in July (and we can’t wait!)?

Kalayna: Alex has gone through a lot in the first two books. She’d like to settle back and have some time to cope with the changes. Unfortunately, life doesn’t cooperate. When she takes a job involving an apparent suicide, it should be an open and shut case, but the shade can’t remember the events leading up to his body’s death. Which means despite the very public manner of death; this is murder.

Claire: Do you have an idea about what the future holds for Alex yet?

Kalayna: I do! But if I tell you, that would give away spoilers. Let’s just say she has quite a few adventures, discoveries, heartbreaks, and quite a bit of danger to face before she has any chance of reaching her happily ever after.

Claire: We know you love hula hoop dancing with fire. How did you discover this and have you ever got burnt?
Kalayna: I started hoop dancing in 2009 for the health and social aspects of the activity. I quickly learned it was a lot of fun as well. Groups of us gather several times a week to jam. I ‘burned’ (as in used a fire hoop) for the first time that November, and let me tell you, burning is an adrenalin rush. The worst I’ve ever done is singe a little hair, but this is one of those don’t try this at home activities. My group is big on safety. We each get a crash course in fire safety before we burn and we always have people standing by with fire blankets and extinguishers, just in case. That said, when you’re in the centre of roaring flames, the rest of the world fades away.

Claire: How do you relax after a hard day’s writing?

Kalayna: I am a girl with too many hobbies. Hooping, obviously, and reading of course, but I also enjoy playing violin, making jewellery, and video games.

Claire: What book did you last read that you really enjoyed?

Kalayna: I’ve read several great authors recently, including a novella by the writing team Illona Andrews, the latest by the fabulous Faith Hunter, an adventure fantasy by Rachel Aaron, I just started the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh, and I’m currently looking forward to starting the latest by Melissa Marr. Reading is something I enjoy immensely. After all, the magic of a good book is what inspired me to write in the first place.

Thanks, Kalayna.

Claire, Editor

Welcome

Welcome to the new Berkley UK blog.

We launched our brand new SF/F list here in the UK in September 2011 as a sister imprint to Penguin Ace and ROC in the US and already we’re off to a flying start with seven titles already published. We can promise lots more excitement to come this year with news about our latest titles, exclusive competitions and previews and lots of gossip from the world of SF/F.

We have a fantastic list of authors, including Devon Monk, Rob Thurman, Jason Starr, Kalayna Price, Meljean Brook, Karen Chance, Emily McKay and Joan Frances Turner – keep a look out for exclusive posts from them from time to time.

Our blog is here to not only tell you about new Berkley UK releases but also to be a community in itself- we want you to get involved - to leave comments, ask questions and generally just have a chat about what interests you in the world of SF/F.
From dark fantasy to steampunk to dystopian fantasy to science fiction, we hope to cater for all your tastes, so be sure to keep a lookout to see what’s coming up next.

You can also check out all the latest news on our Berkley UK Facebook page.

Claire, Editor