Sunday, 27 March 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Voyager: are very excited about the upcoming HBE adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones with Sean Bean in the lead. They’ve released a TV-tie in cover. I’m mainly showcasing this because I put a full stop in there on my work experience. I feel that, overall, it has made the reading experience better. OK so it was in the prelims, but seriously, you'll thank me for it.

Tor UK: have provided an extract from China MiĆ©ville’s upcoming science fictioner Embassytown (due to be released in May). Read and enjoy! Here’s a bit of blurb for you too (you’re welcome):

Embassytown, a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe. Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts - who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes. Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

And that is impossible.

SF Signal: this is just an amazingly comprehensive site for all things SFF. Compared to SF Signal, my blog doesn’t even register on the radar, it’s just a bit of fluff on the screen that someone could eradicate with a little puff (that’s a quick blow, not a tiny, slightly offensive stereotype, obviously). An unbelievable amount of time and effort must go into this web of knowledge. Sad to say I’ve only just cottoned on to its weekly roundup of free science fiction and fantasy available on the internet. They do the research and I get to say ‘Look, free things!’ Grab a coffee and enjoy.

SFX magazine: speaking of great blogs, SFX have just launched the voting for their first ever Blog Awards. They’re celebrating ‘the best that SF and fantasy fan-driven and insider-developed internet activity has to offer.’ The shortlist is already there. You can pick from six categories: Best SFF Podcast, Best Fan Community, Best SF News Blog, Best Literary Blog (which SF Signal is in), Best Franchise Specific Site and Best Celebrity Blog. I was, of course, a very near shoe-in for that last one, just missing out to the likes of Neil Gaiman and Orbit author Kate Griffin, who is part writer, part lighting technician. She also prone to lengthy, enjoyable posts about anything.

Orbit: last week announced a new short story venture. Curiously, they’re using a robot logo and Angry Robot too have ‘nanos’, short stories available for download only from their authors, something that’s obviously catching on. That’s my passive aggressive way of implying that the robot could be replaced with something less robot-y. Like a tiger. Or they could stick with what works. Orbit’s short stories will also only be available as eBooks from a variety of eBook retailers. No prices yet, but some authors have already been listed, including Mira Grant and Jennifer Rardin. I do love short stories and these do seem perfect for reading on an eReader or an iPhone so it does seem like they might be the gateway drug to full-blow eAddiction. But I just can’t bring myself to part with the physical copy just yet. I still love the way I have to carry an extra bag to work, and how it squishes my sandwiches and banana to a pulp by the time I arrive (banan-dwiches).

Sunday, 13 March 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Tor: Amanda Rutter (Floor to ceiling books) did a blog post called ‘We are the main stream’ that received some contention on Twitter, particularly from Tor Editorial Director, Julie Crisp. To sum, Amanda’s post stated that as SFF already has a surfeit of awards, the Man Booker Prize don’t need to recognise the genre for it to be considered mainstream, that it already has seen enough success – The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight – for it to be the mainstream now. Julie Crisp’s point against this was that literary fiction awards like the Man Booker are exclusive when it comes to SFF and it would be advantageous to be recognised by them: ‘Because like it or not, prizes sell books, raise brand recognition, get great PR and attract mainstream readers’. This is why I’m writing my dissertation on the topic of SFF, stigma, and the genres gaining mainstream recognition. Why is there a divide between literary fiction and Science Fiction and Fantasy? Do we quit moaning about it and accept that SFF can no more be awarded a Man Booker than literary fiction could win a Hugo? Or do we look at Attwood’s The Blind Assassin and, as part of it is a Science Fiction novel, claim it as our own?

Voyager: Science Fiction author and blogger Cory Doctorow (Little Brother, For the Win), was interviewed by the BBC this week in the business section for his ‘How free translates to business survival’ philosophy when it comes to DRM. In order to survive in this digital age, he advises that content should be given away free, to benefit both the customer and the author. DRM prevents purchasers from sharing and easily moving content between platforms and individuals are going to pirate anyway, so why not get in there first and generate some positive publicity from it? Doctorow practises what he preaches: his eBooks are available free of charge. Because, ‘By making my books available for free pass-along, I make it easy for people who love them to help other people love them.’ But what about the publisher? Doctorow states the hope is that giving his content away free will encourage people to buy the paperback version because at least they now know he exists. This is an interesting concept, however, although the paperback sales might increase, his titles won’t feature in the eBook market, or, tragically, Amazon’s Kindle recommends or on iTunes’ bestseller list.

Orbit: feel the Jim Butcher love. Orbit had a competition a while back (that I missed) for fans to wax lyrical about their love for Jim and they’ve posted a selection of their favourite responses. Not that I have beef with this (what does that saying mean?), but their, albeit randomly selected winner, had this to say: ‘I devoured them over the space of three weeks! I cannot get enough of them.’ Like I said, no beef here. I just thought I’d share that particular winning gem. Still, it’s got to be better than the embarrasingly excitable: ‘One of the few series I’ve stayed loyal to.’ OK, I admit it. There is a smidgeon of beef. More interesting to you, they’re offering chapter one of upcoming Ghost Story free to read. I always refuse to do this as I want every single word to be new when I’ve waited so long for it (it has also not escaped my notice that Ghost Story is now due out in August. Cry.)

Bookshelf porn: seriously, this is hot stuff. Just check out these utterly beautiful (although perhaps not errotically so) book shelves and collections. I want the one with the bike on it. If this is porn, my book collection, currently occupying most of the wardrobe, drawers, under-the-bed space and floor, is the equivalent of the slightly sticky bargain bin that even the perverts avoid.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

World Book Night oversight? Stephen Hunt thinks so

Like many people, I’ve been avidly watching the Jamie Byng-organised World Book Night saga through to its inevitably successful conclusion (despite what the critics might have said). But you might have noticed that that old umbrella term, Speculative Fiction, wasn’t well represented in the giveaways. OK so Philip ‘mechanism of fantasy’ Pullman featured with Northern Lights, and David Mitchell with Cloud Atlas, which are both fantasy, but they are that type of book that straddle the tenuous literary fiction divide. Usually because they’ve reached a mystical level of success.

HarperVoyager author Stephen Hunt, Steampunk connoisseur of Court of the Air, is – and it’s a term I don’t get to use nearly often enough – outraged at BBC coverage of World Book Night because of the lack of Science Fiction and Fantasy on show. To quote:

I can forgive the committee of World Book Night itself, whose selection of twenty five titles to give one millions free copies away was made by a board which clearly apes the views of the Booker panel – which is that fantasy, horror and sci-fi, much like hardcore porn, has no place in any respectable fiction list, but the BBC?

I do wonder if it would have seemed like the BBC were making a point (heaven forbid) if they had broadcast an entire discussion in the middle of their WBN coverage about books that categorically were not on the list, but I support anyone standing up for speculative fiction who is eloquent about it (and useful to my dissertation).

I particularly enjoyed the image he created to accompany his post. I’ll have that. If you find yourself similarly outraged after reading his rant, you can ‘like’ the Facebook page he’s created to make his stand: ‘A community to educate the BBC and World Book Day that Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror is not a corrupting foreign influence.’ I like it. You should too.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

bite me: the week in bite-sized chunks

Tor: What is it about cake and books? Atom did it (I’ve just looked at my blog post about that and realised that sometimes I am a total nerd. And not one of those cool nerds, either), and now Tor UK have had an event to celebrate the reissuing of China MiĆ©ville’s backlist covers by putting them onto cakes. And they’re right to – designed by Crushed, these new covers are gorgeous, and delicious. They remind me of Neil Gaiman’s now not-so-new covers, with the black background and delicate illustrations embossed with coloured foil. Well, sort of.

Voyager: contain yourselves, epic fantasy fans; George RR Martin’s A Dance with Dragons is going to be published by Voyager on 12 July 2011. Believe that date, it’s actually real this time. It’s book five in A Song of Ice and Fire, a series so excellently executed and horrifically detailed that if, like me, you have a memory that quails at the thought of recalling more than one thing at once, you have four months to re-read the previous books. Or watch the upcoming HBO series Game of Thrones for a reminder sesh; it does have Sean Bean in it. I hear his contracts now state that, should there be a death scene, it must be at least 15 minutes in length. True story. Except for the lies.

Orbit/A Dribble of Ink: Aiden Moher over at A Dribble of Ink interviewed Orbit author Daniel Abraham (The Dragon’s Path, The Long Price Quartet) and the interview treaded close to my dissertation topic. Namely, the accessibility of the genre to people who aren’t necessarily SFF fans (differentiating this, but not altogether separating it, from the commercialisation of the genre). It also brought out Abraham’s irritation for people who want to look sophisticated through their bookshelf, whether they’re reading what’s on it or not (a personal pet hate). Abraham encourages the kind of SFF people might prefer to read via the anonymity of their eReader: ‘There is something at the base of genre – and it’s commercial and accessible and low-class and embarrassing – that brings people to what we do, and I think writers turn away from that at our peril.’ Abraham dubs this – and he’s not alone in this definition – as ‘guilty pleasures’ reading. He encourages writers to write ‘what people are ashamed to love’. Perhaps this is the value of eBooks to SFF. And its more adventurous readers. Perhaps Erotic Fantasy will get its (discrete) moment.

Gollancz: Orion publicity assistant Louise Court has given an interview on her role with Orion and Gollancz on the Book Chick City blog. This is just a lovely insight into her role and her first love, the written word. She also gets in a few plugs for their Urban Fantasy list – well, she is a publicity assistant, after all.

Arther C Clarke Award: the shortlist was announced on March 4 and is as follows:
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes (Angry Robot)
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Walker)
The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Gollancz)
Generosity by Richard Powers (Atlantic)
Declare by Tim Powers (Corvus)
Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan (Orbit)

I believe I have some reading to do…