Monday, December 11, 2017

Bella Pagan Introduces New Covers!

Editorial Director Bella Pagan introduces a new look for Neal Asher's books, the first of which are coming in 2018. 

Science fiction is full of time travel paradoxes. And I don’t just mean the oops-you-travelled-back-in-time-and-now-you’ve-accidentally-become-your-own-grandmother kind. Or the you-glimpsed-the-future-and-then-you-changed-how-it-unfolded-so-how-could-you-possibly-have-seen-it-in-the-first-place kind. I mean the kind where you design a fictional future, and then one day, as you travel inexorably through time second-by-second, the future arrives. And it doesn’t look anything like how you designed it.
The most obvious examples are the stories with dates in the title – think 1984, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. But there are many more. The year 2015 did not give us the flying cars envisioned in 1989’s Back to the Future. The early 90s did not, thankfully, see the onset of the Eugenics Wars, as envisioned by Star Trek (though I’m still holding out for first contact with the Vulcans on 5th April 2063). And sometimes the opposite happens: the technological wonder that is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sounds positively antique in the age of the smartphone: ‘a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press-buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice.’ Hundreds of buttons?! No touch screen?! How can something so visionary go out of date so quickly?
Which brings us back to the paradox of designing the future. It’s a challenge faced not just by writers and filmmakers, but by our own book cover designers. Every literary genre is affected by changing fashions, of course – but few things evolve as fast as SFF covers. Which is why we like to polish them up every few years! Last year we redesigned Douglas Adams’ Trilogy of Five, the year before we jazzed up the ebook covers for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 10-book Shadows of the Apt series. And now: it’s Neal Asher’s turn.
Over the next couple of years, science fiction giant Neal Asher’s complete backlist will be republished with fantastic new jackets, to reflect the way the future is depicted now – as opposed to how it was depicted when they were first published in the early 2000s, or how it was depicted when they were last re-jacketed eight years ago.
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Who Reads my Books: Sean Price

I was enjoying reading the bios posted here and was not intending to write one myself, but it seemed the vast majority were from the UK and I didn’t want Neal to think he didn’t have readers from across the pond also.
So, I was born in New York (State, not the city, as the two are separate entities), but we moved a lot when I was young, due to my father being in the military. I was a classic introvert and because I was always the new kid, books became my escapism. I remember being 9 years old, walking home from school (latchkey kid) and I stopped at the library. I walked out with “Red Planet”, by Robert Heinlein. That was the start. I haven’t stopped yet. I’ve still got a fond spot for Heinlein’s YA series. I got turned off from his writing later in life but his books were a huge influence on me when I was young. I read a vast amount and when I was younger (and broke), I pretty much read out my local libraries. It was good in a way as I was exposed to a lot of different literature that I would not have read had I could buy books. I read Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” when I was ten. I didn’t understand half of it at the time, but I sure enjoyed it. I read from Asimov to Zelazny and everyone in between. The good thing about moving around was there was always more to read at the next library.

We eventually ended in New Jersey when I was a pre-teen and stayed there through the rest of my formative years. I graduated High School at the age of 18 and did the blue-collar thing for a while, working as a carpenter. It only took a short while of working outside before I decided snow was a bad invention and endeavored to move as far west as I possibly could and still stay within the U.S. I spent the next quarter century living in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Hawaii is a great place to be if you like outdoorsy stuff. Hiking, running, swimming, surfing, diving, anything and all can be done any time of the year.  It’s also a good place to be in the construction trade as the weather never changes, but I got tired of the physicality of the work so during one of the downturns in the economy, I transitioned from carpentry to computer science — which sounds slightly weird I suppose, but there you go — and have been working as a software engineer ever since. 
The first book I read of Neal’s was “The Skinner” and it was one of the last books I bought in physical format. After years of buying books, putting them on shelves and then eventually donating them to libraries (must give back somehow) I own nothing but eBooks. I occasionally miss holding a physical book but the convenience of having an entire library in my hand is hard to beat. Amusingly, “The Skinner” was also the first — and last — book I listened to in audio format. I run a lot and like to do endurance events and I usually just load up the iPod with some playlists to pass the time when the going gets tough. Several years ago, I was running an ultramarathon and I thought it would be a good time to try an audio book. So, fast forward to 20 hours into the race, 3AM in a dark Hawaiian rainforest, sleep deprived and not cognitively at my sharpest, with my headlamp casting eerie shadows, listening to a description of the Skinner coming out of the woods — and a wild boar runs across the trail in front of me — tusks and all. Thus ended my brief foray into audio books. I now confine my reading to the comfort and safety of my home.
About two years ago, for reasons that I still have a hard time explaining to myself, let alone anyone else, my wife and I moved from Hawaii to the Southeastern US, a place where churches are seemingly only outnumbered by Waffle Houses and I sometimes feel I’m the only person in the entire state who did not vote for our current president. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the South. Some turned out to be true. Some not. It’s an interesting place. But it’s close to my wife’s family and it’s amazingly cheaper to live. You can also get in a car and drive for hours, which is something I’ve discovered I really didn’t miss at all, but things are just a lot farther away now so you do what you must. 
I still read a lot and I enjoy finding new authors with work that resonates with me. I love Neal’s work--and that fact that he shares details about his life and work through his blog--and I buy his books when they come out without bothering with the reviews as he rarely disappoints. We have plans to visit the UK again so maybe I’ll get a chance to buy Neal a beer in thanks for all the enjoyment he has given me with his hard work. Keep writing books, Neal. I’ll keep reading them.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Publisher for Gridlinked, Brass Man and The Skinner


Good news for US readers:
"I'm pleased to confirm that Skyhorse and Start Media would love to publish Gridlinked, The Skinner, and Brass Man - Skyhorse to release in paperback and audio, and Start in Ebook. Skyhorse will aim to release in paperback next summer but the good news is that Start can make the ebooks available pretty much as soon as we've taken care of the paperwork. That shouldn't take long so hopefully the ebooks will be available in the new year."
Release dates to be confirmed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Body and Mind Update

Here’s a bit of an update on ‘body and mind’. I’m running through this to set the scene because shortly I really must talk about nootropics.

When I started at the gym in the Summer of last year I was still walking silly distances most days, and I had just come back from Crete where I had been swimming and kayaking a lot, so I thought I was pretty fit. My two-hour induction soon disabused me of this notion … well, I was fit, but not in the right places. What ensued then brought me down to Earth with a bump. I thought I could go for a huge walk in the morning and follow that with a session at the gym in the evening, and I did do this for a while. There was a problem, however: I ended up having to take long snoozes during the day because I was absolutely knackered. This was all very well but, y’know, I really needed to do some writing.

I switched to alternate days of walking and gym. This went on for a few weeks but even then I was finding myself getting knackered and effectively losing productive days of work. Next I dropped the walking altogether but, because I never do things by half measures, my time, weights and reps at the gym steadily increased. Since then I’ve been in and out of attempting to combine gym and walking and work and trying not to snooze away my life. Power napping works – if you remember to set the alarm.

I have enjoyed what all those gym sessions have done for me – I now weight over 13 stone but have much less fat than when I was lighter – but I need to find an exercise/work balance. Currently I’m doing three gym sessions a week of an hour and a quarter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but only after I’ve written my 2,000 words, then some nice long walks at the weekend. I seem to be getting there with this, in fact, my energy levels seem to be increasing. But now I wonder if what has been going on with me physically is rooted more in what has been going on mentally than I would suppose.

Three and a half years ago after what I will dub ‘the shitty life event’ I chose the option of exercise. The other options, apparently, are crawling inside a bottle, pills or excessive work. I think I chose the right one because at the time I simply wasn’t capable or interested in the work. I walked thousands of miles, kayaked and swam – all to stay on top of depression. This was then followed by the bonus of panic attacks and anxiety. I think that during the latter time I was basically driven by the adrenalin and cortisol of the buggered ‘fight or flight’ response. As I then started to come out of that last year I started to pay the cost. I was so knackered all the time because I was still recovering from the effects of having my body overclocked (as a computer) for so long. Is ‘burn out’ the correct term? Probably.

But now? I’m enjoying life again. I’m reading and writing. And now the exercise seems to be getting easier. Still, occasionally, the snooze monster creeps up behind me with a brick in a sock, but hell, I’m 56 and mustn’t expect miracles! But there’s something else I must factor in too, and that’s those mentioned nootropics…

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Who Reads my Books: Eric Jones

People ask me where I grew up, and I tell them Mayberry. It’s not far from truth.


I was born in 1972 on the Gulf coast of Mississippi, in a town with very few red lights and a population of less than 6000. People familiar with the area now know it as a hotbed for casino gambling; when I grew up it was a depressed area whose main industries were building ships for the military or fishing the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

We had a TV - which got ABC, CBS, and PBS. One channel had ghost people that lived in the static. Most of my time growing up during the day (except Saturday mornings) was spent outside in the woods playing army or cowboys and injuns, riding bikes, or rowing skiffs in the bayou to look at gators or find places to build forts.


At night, we watched the news and then one TV show. It was usually my dad or my mom’s choice, but once we watched an episode of this show called Battlestar Galactica. I loved it, and talked my parents into letting me watch it when it came on. A few months later, on a Sunday, my parents told me that they wanted me to watch a show on PBS with them. I really didn’t like PBS because all my dad ever watched on it was the MacNeil/Lehrer report and it was boring, but they said it was like Battlestar Galactica and I would like it. It was a show called Cosmos, hosted by a man named Carl Sagan. I didn’t know that astronomy was so amazing, and I wanted to know everything about it.

A few years later, in a 5th grade literature class, I was exposed to written science fiction. Everyone in class got a massive book filled with all sorts of novellas and short stories and each week we had to read an assigned story and answer discussion questions on its meaning. It was a Ray Bradbury story that did it - “All Summer in a Day” – and I was done for. I actually read every science fiction story in that book that weekend, of which there were just not enough.

My mom saw this and was thrilled. She spent her Fridays scanning the classified ads looking for yard sales to pillage during the weekend as a hobby, and one Saturday after coming home with her loot she tossed a book at me and said, “I picked this up at a garage sale for you, it’s sci fi – you like that, don’t you?” That book was called “Ringworld,” by Larry Niven. Yeah, I was really done for.

I got a library card, and was aimed at the adventure and science fiction section of the library by the librarian. Over the years I gradually worked my way from left to right, top to bottom. I explored the bottoms of the oceans and survived the bends with Tom Swift, and I battled against the Vom with Philip Lynx and his minidrag Pip. I was proud Mobile Infantry with Rico, barely avoided being mind-controlled by a Thrint, and lived in fear of having my almost-overloaded Langston Field collapse while in combat.

I was Dorsai!


As an adult I still read science fiction voraciously. I think that’s one of the reasons why Neal’s books appeal to me the way that they do. When I read his books, especially his polity ones, I’m able to rekindle a sense of wonder that’s akin to how I felt when I was a kid because of how many entertaining and new ideas live inside of them. Except now, instead of living on the Ringworld with Louis Wu and trying to desperately not get killed by the luck of Teela Brown, I’m trying to sneak a gecko mine onto the back of a Prador in the middle of running like hell from Jain-inspired megadeath.


My love for science fiction and astronomy bloomed into a love for physics. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and I chased the doctorate dragon in large scale cosmological structure and solar physics.  These days, I live in Florida with my wife and my newborn daughter, and I teach physics and astronomy classes at a state college. My free time is spent doing martial arts, surfing, or working on my classic van.

My daughter doesn’t have a triangle on the back of her neck, I checked.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Writing Update

Ah that’s better. From my previous malaise of mind I have been steadily getting back on track. Most of this has occurred over the last year marked by the return to me of my pleasure in reading. But, y’know, I have a job, and that’s writing books. My standard, before Caroline died, was to write 2,000 words a day for 5 days a week. It was keeping to this that enabled me to get the whole transformation trilogy written to first draft before I had to deliver even the first book. Over the three years after that it was those books that kept me on track with a book every year. It was almost as if I had prepared for it.


In this last year I’ve been getting back to those kind of word counts but never quite there. I don’t think I’ve had one week where I have managed to do the full 10,000. A lot of this was due to me sorting out the mess that was The Soldier – the first book of Rise of the Jain. This was something I’d taken tilts at over a number of years and was very patchy and a bit all over the place. After that I managed to quickly write the next book to first draft but still no full weeks of 10,000 words. Now, nearly 50,000 words into the third book, I’ve just done such a week. I’m pretty happy about that.

I was chatting recently with someone about this tendency of mine to want to have books in the bank, so to speak. I am happy to be writing at the above rate but I would love to have a whole trilogy or some such done before the ink is dry on a contract. However I realize, that upon reaching that stage, it won’t be enough. I’ll want more books in the bank. Then there’s the other stuff I want to do. I would like to stick some more short story collections on Kindle. I would like to write some more short stories and send them to magazines like Asimov’s. I’d like to (maybe) go through the fantasy trilogy I have on file and then put that out on Kindle. Then there’s a book whose title I already have: Walking to Voyla. I’d like to do that.

*sigh*

Uploading to AI crystal and generating a few subminds cannot come quickly enough for me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

Here's what I wrote the day after seeing this film:

"Okay, I watched Blade Runner 2049 last night. Well, you know when you go to a nightclub, and it's a bit crap, so they crank the volume up to try and make it exciting. That. The original Blade Runner was understated - the sounds meant something - here they were akin to the bangs and crashes in a cheap horror movie to make you jump out of your seat. Scenes dragged on for too long to try and impart atmosphere and meaning that wasn't there. I didn't care about anyone. Loose threads dangled. It was boring and it dragged. About an hour and a half in I felt I'd fallen into an episode of the Twilight Zone where I would be forced to watch a naff movie forever."



It is interesting to read reviews from others who feel that this is the best thing they have ever seen, or it is a great effort, or it is a suitable sequel. This is a salutary reminder that people's experience of art is mostly subjective. I then begin to wonder if my experience would have been different if the sound hadn't been so high that the crash bangs and music hurt my ears, but no, then I wouldn't have been able to hear what they were saying. Perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind? No - good films always grab me and in fact I use them to escape any bad state of mind. Perhaps I just didn't 'get' it? No. The last time I didn't 'get' an sfnal entertainment was when I was learning to walk.

In retrospect: The sound needed to be lower and unnecessary loud shit needed to go. Scenes needed to be much shorter because, hey, I get it now so move on. The attempts at arty mystery, seemingly tossed in at random, were a distraction. I mean, what were those bees about and who cares? What was the point of the 'unresolved' bad guy with the blank eyes? The next film? Why did I care nothing for any of the characters except, just a little bit, for Deckard? 

No, my opinion still hasn't changed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Who Reads my Books: Andrew ten Broek

At a young tender age, living in the south of the Netherlands in Tilburg, my dad installed my love for stories. Even if he himself was more of a music kind of person. I vividly remember mostly watching Jim Henson productions with him, like The Storyteller and the film The Dark Crystal. Even though the Skeksis scared me as a child, I was fascinated by the tale. Reading stories however, I pretty much stopped doing for years because in high school here they tend to force students to read a brand of stories that didn´t gel well with me. Because of this I for years considered myself to be more of a visual kind of person, in that I'd rather watch TV shows and films than read novels.


Things changed when I decided to start listening to some novels in audio format and from then on I was able to pick up novels and actually read them. I became a very avid reader and mostly enjoy the science fiction genre, with a particular love for space opera. I started out with the more easily accessible novels such as Ender´s Game by Orson Scott Card and Ringworld by Larry Niven, then later on started to take in the very thorough world-building and storytelling of Peter F. Hamilton, Neal Asher and Alastair Reynolds. I started reading Neal Asher with Prador Moon and enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue with the Agent Cormac prequel Shadow of the Scorpion. After that I started the original series with Gridlinked and Neal Asher became one of my favourite writers. The main reasons being that I enjoy the relationship that is there in the novels between man and technology, the xenobiology that is part of the world-building and the artificial intelligences that are present within basically all universes that Neal has created.

In my daily life I also run into the interaction between man and technology, although it is more on the financial side because of the pragmatism I was taught at home when choosing my profession. I graduated from Fontys University in Eindhoven in 2006 in Business Informatics. I´m currently an application engineer for bookkeeping and logistics software, working for a construction company that is part of VolkerWessels. Although they mostly build locally in the Netherlands, they have some projects in the UK and Canada as well. The work varies from implementing invoice recognition systems called OCR, to asphalt tracking systems and regular financial management reporting tools.


I´ve an Indonesian mother and, because of that, I love traveling a lot as well and have been in my mother´s birth country a couple of times. This picture was taken when I was a bit younger and riding a foal in Malang, a village near the mountain Bromo on Java. Because of the conservative upbringing I´ve had, I´ve also been to odd places such as Jerusalem, the city of the three monotheistic religions. My interest in mostly British writers and Doctor Who has also lead me to visit different places in the UK from London to Cardiff, and from Nottingham to most recently Edinburgh. I was able to get some hard covers signed in person by Peter F. Hamilton, Alastair Reynold, Stephen Baxter and Ken MacLeod so far. Hopefully I get that chance to do so for some of Neal´s novels some time.

Which brings me to the specific hobby I have in collecting hard covers, which I´m often on the hunt for. I collect both of classic science fiction writers as well as modern ones. My favourite classic writer is Robert Heinlein, who doesn´t seem to have lost its poignancy to me. And as mentioned before Neal Asher is among my most favorite ones of the modern writers. Whether he writes from the viewpoint of a human, crab-like species such as the Pradors, an ambigious entity such as Dragon or androids such as the Golems (especially in Brass Man) he has the power to find the core essence of the beings he´s writing about.


So I want to join the other readers into thanking Neal for the great stories he´s been able to put on paper so far, as well as hoping there are many, many years ahead of us in which he´ll add many more books to our shelves!

Andrew