Category Archives: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers

Using Google Alerts to Track Iain Banks’ Surface Detail

I set up a Google Alert (now an obsolete Google tech, but still working) to track any web news about Iain Banks’ new book Surface Detail. Very few uses of the phrase “surface detail” relate to his book though.

I am either getting stuff about astronomy/photography like:

Photo Tips for Shooting the Moon

Or stuff about about military modelling!

Weird!

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Edinburgh Festival Profile of Iain Banks

A good summary of Iain Bank’s career at this site about the Edinburgh Festival.

Unfortunately not many snippets about Surface Detail though. All we get is:

His next book is Surface Detail, a Culture novel(released 7 October 2010). The utopian Culture, he tells us was created to reclaim the moral high ground of space opera where so much of the genre was right wing. It was also a reaction against the raft of Orwellian works. The new book “begins with a murder…and will not end until the culture has gone to war with death itself”. Banks describes it as “internal turf wars”.

But there are some good insights about Iain Banks the writer in the commentary on his interview at the Festival:

Questions from the audience return us to the process of creating his novels. Viewing authors basically as entertainers he is aware of the need to make his novels work for the booklover and also to provide subsequent gratifying readings. He describes his method of planning, including colour coded characters to ensure pacing. He admits to some concern that age would lessen his number of unique ideas, which he sees as vital to his science fiction works in particular – mainstream works just need to be well done but not necessarily original. Happily any diminution has been balanced by being better equipped to utilise concepts. While we are not likely to spot many influences in his work they include the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, the Goons, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Jane Austin, Graham Greene, Alan Warner and specifically the novels Catch 22, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Alasdair Gray’s Lanark.

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Cheltenham Literary Festival: British Science Fiction: Moorcock, Banks and Mieville

Sounds pretty top drawer to me – and I thought all Cheltenham was famous for was horse racing!

Here’s details of the event:

Iain M Banks, Gwyneth Jones, Michael Moorcock and China Miéville: British Science Fiction

Sunday 17 October 2010 at 4:00 pm (60mins)
Event 317 at The Inkpot
Price: £6 (reserved seating)
(member price: £4.80) more

From H G Wells to John Wyndham, Britain has been home to some of the most groundbreaking and successful classic science fiction writers. Explore past classics and the best of the current crop as authors Iain M BanksGwyneth JonesMichael Moorcock and Guest Director China Miéville discuss this very British tradition.
Programmed by China Miéville.

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Reissue of the Illustrated Eric by Terry Pratchett out in November

The Illustrated EricThe Illustrated Eric has been out of print, but is now getting an anniversary reissue this autumn, with illustrations from Josh Kirby.

The title is available for pre-order at Amazon, and here’s some more information about the book:

Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, the Disc’s most incompetent wizard, and Rincewind’s Luggage (the world’s most dangerous travel accessory) into the bargain. Terry Pratchett’s hilarious take on the Faust legend stars many of the Discworld’s most popular characters in an outrageous adventure that will leave Eric wishing once more – this time, quite fervently – that he’d never been born.

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Dangerous Ways by Jack Vance – another Subterranean Press volume

Subterranean Press have announced yet another Jack Vance publication. It looks like they’re planning to publish his complete works at this rate!

Here’s the blurb from their site:

Dangeous Ways, a hefty (560 pages) omnibus gathering three of his best mystery novels: the Edgar Award-winning The Man in the Cage, the unforgettable hider-in-the-house thriller, Bad Ronald, and the exotic South Seas murderfest, The Deadly Isles.

Whether featuring exotic locales such as Morocco and the Marquesas, forgotten corners of his beloved California, or even more modest, mundane settings like downtown San Francisco and Oakland, these beguiling, often hard-hitting tales explore the same depths of greed, obsession and depravity as mark his highly praised Demon Princes novels, feature the same resourceful, often cool, sometimes fraught protagonists as travel Tschai, Halma or Cadwal, show the same canny insights into the workings of human nature, the familiar trademark wit, the same fabulous gift for language and creating a living, breathing sense of place.

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Iain M Banks Surface Detail Promo Tour scheduled for October and November

Surface Detail ImageThe full story is at the Little Brown Book Group blog.

Confirmed events so far include:

  • Wed 06.10.10 – The Roundhouse, London
  • Thu 07.10.10 – Forbidden Planet, London
  • Fri 15.10.10 – Morley Literature Festival, Leeds
  • Sat 16.10.10 & Sun 17.10.10 – Cheltenham Literary Festival
  • Tue 19.10.10 – The Paragon, Bath (with Toppings Books) REARRANGED – SEE BELOW
  • Wed 20.10.10 – Chepstow Library (with Chepstow Bookshop)
  • Thu 21.10.10 – De La Warr Pavillion, Bexhill (with The Bexhill Bookshop)
  • Mon 01.11.10 – The Paragon, Bath (with Toppings Books)
  • Tue 02.11.10 – Toppings Books, Ely
  • Wed 03.11.20 – Assembly House, Norwich (with Waterstone’s Norwich)
  • Fri 12.11.10 – Sun 14.11.10 – Guest of Honour at Novacon 40, Nottingham
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Michael Moorcock’s Short Non-Fiction: Into the Media Web

Into the Media Web by Michael Moorcock
Into the Media Web by Michael Moorcock

I have only just come across this courtesy of Ansible 277, Into the Media Web is a mighty collection of 720 pages, 300,000 words and 2 kg in weight, published by Savoy Books. And it’s due to published today, 2nd August!

Sub-titled Selected Short Non-Fiction, 1956-2006, the book features a fifty-year cross-section of Mike’s journalism, articles, editorials, fore- and afterwords, introductions and prefaces, obituaries, reviews and more.

There is more information available at Moorcock’s Miscellany.

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A Clash of Kings: Whose Story is it?

A Clash of Kings
Image via Wikipedia

I have noticed while reading A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin, that there are lot of viewpoint characters in this book. This owes something to the complexity of the plot and the diaspora of the Stark family perhaps, but I think it’s also a conscious technique by Martin to keep the reader in touch with as much of the action as possible wherever it is happening. However, as a reader I do feel a bit dazed at times trying to keep up with all the different characters. In many books with multiple viewpoint characters, you might perhaps see the story form the perspective of 3 or maybe 4 characters. The books of Iain Banks or Leo Tolstoy are good examples of this. But I don’t think I have ever read a book with so many as Marting’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.

I did some counting to work out whose story it was and here’s a graph showing the numbers of chapters told from the viewpoint of each character.

Clash of Kings POV Character Chapters
Number of Chapters per POV Character in A Clash of Kings

Tyrion Lannister, whose on the other side from the Starks, but not a villain as such gets the most, followed by Arya. The other members of the Stark family, including the bastard son of Eddard, Jon Snow, then get quite a few chapters each as well. It’s quite interesting to do this sort of analysis actually. In particular you can see how the pace of the book picks up with shorter chapter lengths and toing and froing between certain key characters. My plan is to take another look at the stats once I have finished to see how they reflect the whole story.

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Latest and Greatest Hits: Top Grossing Posts from Praeter Naturam

How amazingly self-indulgent of me, but I thought Sunday would be a good day for reflecting on some of the blog posts created over the last month that have also drawn the most hits over the last month, so here they are the top five!

  1. Review of Iain Banks iPhone App – way out in front this one, I think it did particularly well on the search engines and also got picked up by some Iain Banks forums.
  2. New Info on Surface Detail by Iain Banks from his iPhone App – a post so heavily related to this month’s number 1 they could almost be twins!
  3. Feedbook distribution seems to be bringing in the readers – and this post certainly brought in a bit of traffic too!
  4. Blurred Lines Between Vanity Publishing and Self Publishing – self-publishing is always a popular topic I guess.
  5. Hard-Luck Diggings: The Early Jack Vance – I’m pleased that this book has got some publicity from my blog, it sounds like a great title.

Which post did you enjoy most?

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Favourite Fantasy Fiction Characters: Logen Ninefingers (aka the Bloody Nine)

This is the start of a regular series of posts about favourite characters from fiction. First up one of the vividly realised characters at the centre of Joe Abercrombie‘s First Law Trilogy.

Logen Ninefingers (aka the Bloody Nine) is a mercenary and ex Northmen military leader. He’s a berserker with a brain, and as his name suggests is missing one of pinkies. Abercrombie seems to have a thing for physical impairment (see the next instalment in this series – answers on a postcard if you can guess who it might be!). Perhaps it’s a symbol of his characters being damaged goods psychologically as well as physically. Logen starts the trilogy as an outcast from the North and also from the mercenary band that he used to lead, but he ends up a hero and reunited with his old comrades that he used to lead. For me there are three classic Logen moments – one at the beginning of The Blade Itself, where he looks like he’s a gonner – disappearing down a muddy slope if memory serves me right, the second is a Helms Deep style affair where he and his old comrades and a small makeshift army defend a wall at the end of a mountain valley against superior numbers – very Gemmell this I think? Then lastly he fights the demonic champion of the new king of the north, and goes into a berserk killing frenzy as he does so.

I like him because he’s a classic hero – brave and strong and good at what he does. But he’s not cheesy and predictable – he is hated by his former comrades and he is very much an unwilling hero as well at the beginning of the trilogy.

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