The Momentum Blog

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Buy Dad this Father’s Day!

Posted September 4, 2015 by Emily Stamm

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You can buy this card (and some other awesome geeky cards!) from linchpinseo.com.

 

This weekend is Father’s Day, and you might be wondering what to buy your dad. A tie? A new hammer? Why don’t you get your dad the best gift of all and share your passion for science fiction and fantasy?

 

If your dad loves VINTAGE CARS….

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Buy him Christine by Stephen King. It’s an oldie but a goodie about a possessed car that kills a bunch of people. What’s not to love? Bonus! There’s even a movie you can watch together after he reads the book!

 

If you dad loves INTERNATIONAL POLITICS…

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Buy him World War Z by Max Brooks. This is an amazing book set up as an “oral history of the zombie war.” Brooks takes us to surviving groups of humans all over the world, and we see the social and political complications the zombies caused.

 

There’s a movie for this one too, but if you like your dad you probably want to skip it.

 

If your dad loves  SURVIVALISM…

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Buy him The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks. (Maybe your dad is into politics AND survivalism and you can get him two books! What a good offspring you would be!) The Zombie Survival Guide is an amazing parody of a more traditional survival guide. It has tips, advice, and history lessons about how to deal with the dead rising.

 

If your dad loves THE OUTDOORS….

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Buy him The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. In this great science fiction series people learn how to visit infinite parallel Earths. Most metals can’t pass between the worlds, so people who settle on alternate Earths start out from scratch like old fashioned pioneers. Bonus: If he likes it, there are three more you can buy him!

 

If your dad loves SPORTS…

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Buy him Future Sports edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. This is a great sci-fi short story collection all about, you guessed it, sports. It features stories by Arthur C. Clarke, Andrew Weiner, and Kim Stanley Robinson (among others.)

 

If your dad loves CHESS…

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Buy him The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. While the most obvious choice might be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, this is a more recent book where chess becomes a major plot point. It’s wonderful and your dad will love it.

 

If your dad loves MUSIC…

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Buy him Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. The main character is a space-ship who collects songs from all across the galaxy. Snippets of the fictional songs are weaved throughout the book and feel like an important, natural part of the world Leckie has created.

 

If your dad loves IRISH HISTORY….

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Buy him The Last Quarrel by Duncan Lay. Lay pulls from Irish history and folklore in his engrossing episodic fantasy series, now available in print! Check out more about the links to history here: Gaelland – The World of the Last Quarrel. 

 

And if your Dad already a geek? AWESOME! See if you can find a signed copy of his favorite book at your local bookshop, ebay, or www.signedpage.com/.

 

Are you getting anything really awesome for your father this year? Tell us in the comments below!

 

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On writing the Janna Chronicles: with Felicity Pulman

Posted May 15, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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I feel as though I’ve been running a marathon, with a Janna Chronicle being published every month since January this year. It’s been exhausting and challenging, but immensely satisfying to watch Janna’s quest unfolding as she goes in search of her unknown father hoping that, with his help, she’ll be able to avenge a death and bring a murderer to justice.

Being a ‘pantser’ not a plotter, I began the series with that concept in mind, but I had little idea of how I was going to get there. The one thing I did know was that I’d have to go to England to walk in the footsteps of my character, hoping that the story would come to me as I tried to visualise how life might have been back in the 1140s when the series is set, and what the landscape and buildings would have looked like.

Becoming lost in Grovely Wood (once the ancient forest of Gravelinges) inspired part of the story as did my stay on a manor farm which became part of Book 2, Stolen Child.

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On the run and forced to flee once more, Janna takes refuge at Wilton Abbey (Unholy Murder.) Researching an abbey was far more difficult, thanks to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, but being able to walk among the ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey with an audio guide was immensely helpful, and finding Aethelgifu’s Anglo-Saxon herb garden at the back of the site was an unexpected bonus.

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I had no intention of using Stonehenge as part of my story but a visit to the site of Amesbury Abbey (after Janna finds out that her mother was once the infirmarian there) brought me close to that ancient megalith and so I decided to play the tourist – and had a vision: a bleeding body stretched out across one of the fallen monoliths. I’ve learned to pay attention to the visions (and the voices) that sometimes come to me, and Stonehenge plays a crucial role in Janna’s story as she travels to Amesbury in company with a group of pilgrims (including the charismatic Ralph) and thereafter to Winchester with Ralph, Ulf the relic seller, and a troupe of jongleurs in #4 Pilgrim of Death.

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Book 5, Devil’s Brew (out this week) finds Janna in Winchester, destitute after her purse has been stolen and now working as a drudge in a tavern as she waits in hope of finally meeting her father. Once again Godric and Hugh have come into her life (and into her heart) but that’s only one of the choices she has to make as she’s caught between love and duty – and survival as an assassin comes close and Winchester burns in the deadly battle between the king and the empress.

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Book 6, Day of Judgment, out in June, follows Janna’s pursuit of justice and leads to a final reckoning, both within Janna’s new family but also taking her back to where she started, when the man she loves is accused of murder and she risks losing everything.

Visit Flick’s website and blog for more information about the Janna Chronicles and also I, Morgana: www.felicitypulman.com.au. There are more photographs from her research trips on pinterest.

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Cover reveal – Aurora: Eden

Posted April 29, 2015 by Momentum

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The future starts now …

In the wake of the tragic events in Centralis, Captain Saul Harris stands with the weight of the world on his shoulders. With the truth of UNFASP revealed, he realizes that he must embrace his ancestry if he is to survive the coming onslaught. But how far will Harris go to protect the future? Will he sacrifice life as he knows it and become a Jumbo? Or can he face the future as a common man?

Meanwhile Sergeant Carrie Welles has been left devastated by what has happened. Uncertain of the future ahead, and with her nemesis, Sharley, on the brink of control, she struggles to pick herself up. But she is left surprised when help comes from the unlikeliest of places.

As her life veers off in a direction she never expected, Carrie soon understands that she is running a course with a destiny that lies far beyond her control. A destiny that is strangely aligned with her Captain’s.

Aurora: Eden goes on sale September 2015, or is available for preorder now!

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11 Best Science Fiction Space Covers

Posted March 5, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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There are few things more appealing that a glorious image of the firmament. Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA is always a wondrous delight. A book cover with a space image is, to me, wildly enticing. Here are some of the best.

Master of speculative fiction, Ian M. Banks, sends his protagonist in search of a star which mysterious disappeared thousands of years ago. 1. Master of speculative fiction, Ian M. Banks sends his protagonist in search of a star which mysteriously disappeared thousands of years ago. Blue is basically the signature colour of science fiction.

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2. I love Amanda Bridgeman’s cover, not just because she’s a Momentum author and I’m contractually obliged to. Earth is shown in a whole new light.

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3. The vintage look of Steve Turnbull’s Journey Into Space 1874 is very cool. Steampunk space adventure is my new favourite genre.

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4. Arthur C. Clarke’s Odyssey series have stunning covers. The silhouette of Jupiter with a giant baby head inside it is inspired: initially beautiful, but terrifying if you stop to think about it.

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5. I very much want this Dune special edition, which has a weird ancient illumination feel to it – denoting its status as a classic. See also this H. P. Lovecraft collection.

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6. Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker describes the history of the universe, and the cover is equally epic. The positioning of the small dark figure against a bright universe is compelling.

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7. Titans by Edward W. Robertson is an absolute classic of the space cover genre – foreground ship, planet with glowing edge – it’s all there. What makes this cover particularly enticing is the amount of movement in the image.

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8. Redemption Protocol is a brilliant space opera, and comes with a stunning cover. No complexity – just allowing the beauty of space to stand alone.

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9. Each of the 200 stories in this collection has just 200 characters (that is in the letters, punctuation marks and spaces meaning of the word, not people/players in it). The cover is stunningly sci-fi with the ephemeral symbolic butterfly.

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10. This award-winning novel imagines an astronaut stranded on Mars. I think the cover is perfection. Trafalgar

11. It may be minimalist, but Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer’s cover is definitively space themed and unarguably stylish. 

What’s your favourite space-themed cover?

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2014 Aurealis Award Finalists

Posted March 2, 2015 by Michelle Cameron

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The finalists for the 2014 Aurealis awards have been announced – and we are super excitedto count FOUR Momentum authors amongst them! So before the winners are revealed – we thought we’d tell you a little more about the great reads that are in the running.

BEST HORROR NOVEL:

Greig Beck – Book of the Dead

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When a massive sinkhole opens up and swallows a retired couple from Iowa it seems like a freak occurrence. But it’s not the only one. Similar sinkholes are opening all over the world, even on the sea floor. And they’re getting bigger.

People living near the pits are reporting strange phenomena vibrations, sulfurous odors, and odd sounds in the stygian depths. Then the pets begin to go missing.

When people start disappearing as well, the government is forced to act. Professor Matt Kearns and a team of experts are sent in by the military to explore one of the sinkholes, and they discover far more than they bargained for.

From the war zones of the Syrian Desert to the fabled Library of Alexandria, and then to Hades itself, join Professor Matt Kearns as he attempts to unravel an age-old prophecy. The answers Matt seeks are hidden in the fabled Al Azif known as the Book of the Dead and he must find it, even if it kills him. Because time is running out … not just for Matt Kearns, but for all life on Earth.

 

BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL:

Amanda Bridgeman – Aurora: Meridian

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Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

Nina D’Aleo – The White List

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Chapter 11 is watching you.

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes.

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome.

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11′s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts as they are known to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them.

After Silver’s partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head.

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late.

Graham Storrs  – Foresight: Book 3 in the Timesplash series

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Jay and Sandra are back fighting to save a world on the edge of destruction.

In the middle of a bizarre global catastrophe that looks suspiciously like the mother of all timesplashes, Sandra Malone discovers that the corporation she works for is spying on her. To find out why, she sets off to track down the culprits. What she discovers catapults Sandra, her daughter, and everyone around her into a deadly struggle to prevent a disaster.

Now working in European Military Intelligence in Berlin, Jay Kennedy begins to suspect that the shock that hit the world was something more sinister and dangerous than even a timesplash. In the midst of the chaos that has engulfed the world, Jay learns that Sandra is in danger and that their daughter has gone after her. This turn of events threatens to distract him from solving a puzzle on which the fate of the whole world might hang.

With time running out, Jay is torn between the possibility of losing Sandra, and the desperate need to stop a new kind of time-travel technology that could destroy the planet.

 

Read the full list of finalists HERE. Winners will be announced on the 11th of April.

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The Official Aurora: Centralis Blog tour!

Posted February 27, 2015 by Momentum

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We’re so excited about the launch of AURORA: CENTRALIS, the fourth instalment in Amanda Bridgeman’s bestselling AURORA series, that we’ve declared March as an entire month of Official Centralis Blog Tour madness! We’ve got so much amazing stuff lined up – articles, interviews, reviews, discounted prices, giveaways – keep an eye out.

OFFICIAL CENTRALIS BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE:

Monday 2nd March – Just A Guy That Likes 2 Read

Tuesday 3rd March – Momentum blog ‘Your World, Writ Large’ by Achala Upendran

Tuesday 3rd March – Chris Allen’s blog

Wednesday 4th March – Duncan Lay’s Website

Monday 9th March – Just A Guy That Likes 2 Read

Wednesday 11th March – Feathers of the Firebird, Sophie Masson’s blog

Thursday 12th March – Dark Matter Zine

Monday 16th March – A Norse View

Monday 16th March – Just a Guy That Likes 2 Read

Wednesday 18th March – Booktastik Author Feature 

Wednesday 18th March – Aurora Darwin, Pegasus and Meridian 99c promotion!

Wednesday 18th March – Aurora Centralis preorder deal!

Friday 20th March – Book Roulette

Monday 23rd March – Just a Guy That Likes 2 Read 

Wednesday 25th March – SFFWorld

Thursday 26th March – LAUNCH DAY OF AURORA CENTRALIS

Thursday 26th – David McDonald’s blog

Friday 27th March – Gillian Pollack’s blog

Sunday 29th March – Liza O’Connor’s blog

Monday 30th March – The Oaken Bookcase

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Life on Mars: As Imagined by Asimov, C. S. Lewis and More

Posted February 20, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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When I read that people had been chosen to populate Mars, and that the whole thing would be chronicled on reality TV, I thought it sounded like sci-fi. But no, we’re living in the future. People have long been fascinated with the red planet and imagining what it would be like to live on Mars.

mars1C. S. Lewis wrote Out of the Silent Planet as part of his theological sci-fi Space Trilogy. Apparently, Lewis wrote it after a conversation with Tolkien wherein they discussed (as disparaged) the state of contemporary fiction (this was published in 1938) and decided to have a stab at some sci-fi. He uses ‘Malacandra’ as a pseudonym for Mars and sends his character Ransom there against his will. Here’s his vision of space:

“He had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now-now that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam… He had thought it barren: he now saw that it was the womb of worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes-and here, with how many more! No: Space was the wrong name.”

mars4Asimov set an early short story, Heredity, partially on Mars. Twins have been separated at birth, one raised on Ganymede and one on Earth, and then brought together as adults to run the family farm on Mars. They have to come together to survive a major dust storm. Cooperation is key to life on Mars.

In the 1893 utopian novel Unveiling a Parallel, “Two Women of the West” (the sobriquet of Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant) used a Mars not unlike Earth to satirise patriarchal society. On Mars, the male protagonist finds a society wherein gender equality has made everyone ‘kind, loving, and generous.’ Perhaps something our colonists can aim for.

mars5The Outward Urge by John Wyndham features a landing on Mars in 2094. So NASA is ahead of schedule. Mars is a desert planet, with no Martians. The book chronicles space exploration in fifty year intervals: landing on Venus follows in 2144. The outward urge is what drives people to travel further out and explore the unexplored.

All of these were written before, in the 1960s, the Mariner and Viking space probes revealed that the Martian environment would be unlikely to support life. Most novels since incorporate ideas of terraforming to make Mars habitable and focus on human colonists, rather than Martians and ancient alien civilisations. So how does sci-fi think humans are going to do? Alastair Reynolds wrote about humans based on Mars forging interplanetary wars. Landis envisions it as a prison planet in Falling Onto Mars. Andy Weir describes an astronaut stranded on Mars and trying to survive in The Martian.
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Perhaps none of these visions come close to real life on Mars. Perhaps they do. There’s only one way to find out.

Pictures of Mars from here and picture of prospective Mars settlement from here.

What stories of Mars and Martians would you add to the list? Comments please!

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Cover Reveal: Aurora Centralis by Amanda Bridgeman

Posted January 28, 2015 by Momentum

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The beginning, and end, of everything …

After the dramatic events of the past few missions, Captain Saul Harris and Corporal Carrie Welles have found themselves on a path they never expected to be on. Carrie, more vulnerable than she’s ever been, is placed under immense pressure as she becomes the most valuable asset to the UNF. Meanwhile, Harris works with the Aurora crew to keep the UNF at bay and shield her from their nemesis, Sharley, who wants her now more than anything. As events unfold, Carrie comes face to face with the truth of her father’s past, while Harris is forced to confront the truth of his ancestor’s. The revelations leave them reeling in shock, but not as much as when the explosive truth behind UNFASP is finally revealed.

Harris and Carrie struggle with the difficult decisions they have to make, while the Aurora team endures their toughest challenge yet. Once again they come face to face with their enemies in a showdown that will rock them to their very core and change them all forever.

For the Aurora team, Centralis, is the beginning, and end, of everything …

AURORA CENTRALIS goes on sale March 26th 2015, and is available for preorder.

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Checking Wardrobes for Narnia: Why Fantasy Should be Ordinary

Posted January 23, 2015 by Eve Merrier

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This week I read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s very special. One of its best qualities is the blend of ordinariness with the fantastical. This is epitomised by the eponymous ocean, which looks like a duck pond. It struck me that all the best means of travel through space, time, and various other dimensions, are ordinary. Or at least they look it. That’s the joy of it: bringing the magic into the real world, making it feel like you just have to find the right wardrobe…the_ocean_at_the_end_of_the_lane

Narnia is a good place to start. The wardrobe is, of course, the most iconic means of reaching Aslan’s realm, but you can also get there via train platforms, with magical rings given to you by a sinister uncle, or through a picture in your aunt and uncle’s spare bedroom.wardrobe

Fireplaces work well too. Not to take you to a different world, but to travel around Harry Potter’s version of our own. The traveller also needs to be in possession of Floo powder and to speak the name of the place they want to go to. Apparently, it’s also important to keep your elbows in. I think I might start telling children that Santa Claus is Dumbledore’s brother, travelling by Floo.harry

The TARDIS may be iconic these days, but the UK used to be covered in police boxes, so it was a subtle way to travel. The interiors of the boxes used to be used as mini police stations, so you could, quite easily, plop it down anywhere and step out without anyone batting an eyelid.police_box_inline1

Powered by the fire, the innocuous wooden door of Howl’s Moving Castle has a dial to turn, depending on where you’d like to step out. This works no matter where the castle is. The flower meadow, which Howl is showing Sophie for the first time below, is my happy place.meadow

In Yonderland, the funniest TV series in existence, the pantry functions as a portal. Debbie is a suburban English mum, and a bit bored, until and elf appears from her cupboard, insisting that she is The Chosen One and must save Yonderland. Though they’ve lost the scroll that says how she’s supposed to do it. Each episode, they venture through her pantry to a magical realm, ensuring she’s home in time to pick up the kids. Watch a clip.

Fiction is also full of swirling wormholes, rips in time and high tech teleporters. They’re cool too. But I think there’s something truly excellent in using the ordinary as the basis for the extraordinary. The more closely it resembles our world, the easier it is to believe in magic.

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A Clockwork Everything: Has Steampunk Gone Mainstream?

Posted November 18, 2014 by Eve Merrier

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Indulge me for a moment, my dear fellows, for of late I have been editing steampunk fiction. This is an undeniable pleasure as I revel in Dickensian English expression, and I have a penchant for flying machines and sky pirates.

Steampunk came to be in the glorious decade of the 1980s with an esoteric community of Victoriana-inspired science and fantasy fanaticists. It is oft characterised by a blending of Victorian styles and methods of invention with modern or fantastical science: steam-powered or clockwork everything. Steampunk has grown from a small cosplaying subculture into a popular literary genre and its imagery is pervading mainstream media.

Take Doctor Who: The new title sequence is filled with cogs and Victorian London is regularly visited, including encounters with automatons. The Orient Express episode certainly puts it high on steam credentials, but some purists argue it’s all steam and not enough punk.

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Also on the telly, there was an episode of Castle wherein Nathan Fillion (who should be in all things always) wore the Dr. Grimmelore Superior Replacement Arm – and looked fabulous, as he would in anything.

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Most people would agree that the film Wild, Wild West is steampunk. Most people would also agree it’s terrible, but that’s beside the point. It’s set in the correct time period and features mad scientists, extraordinary adventures and rather impressive clockwork nemeses.

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Let’s talk about Howl’s Moving Castle (is how I’d like to be able to start every conversation). I think there’s something of the steampunk about it: steam-powered omnibuses and dirigibles drive through Sophie’s town. The contentious point is the castle itself. Is that smoke coming out the chimney or steam? It is certainly powered by the fire (Calcifer) but is it steam or magic that moves the castle? These are the questions that keep me awake at night. That, and watching too many Miyazaki films in the early hours.

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Hellboy is credited with adding Steampunk to the dictionary. A lexicographer for the Webster said, ‘”Steampunk” was overdue for entry, I’ll grant you, but if you look at the historical evidence for it, the bulk of the sustained general use starts in 2004. You can analyze the data…and find that “steampunk” has single-digit hits until 2003, and then really goes bonkers in 2004 as folks use it in movie reviews for “Hellboy”.’

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There’s some retro-futurism in Hugo, particularly his mission to fix the automaton, and the fact that he lives inside a clock. Other offerings are on the “debateable” list, including 9, Hansel and Gretel, the RDJ Sherlock Holmes, and Van Helsing.

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Purists aren’t necessarily delighted with the Hollywood adoption of steampunk as an aesthetic, saying that they’re missing the point. Steampunk is not just sci-fi in top hats or sticking cogs to your flying goggles; it’s an attitude: a reverence of history, industry, technology, and manners.

I think there will always be good and bad appropriations of sub-culture; let’s enjoy the good and hope the bad leads to people searching for something better. What do you think?

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In conversation – with Amanda Bridgeman and Nina D’Aleo

Posted November 12, 2014 by Michelle Cameron

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Two of our authors, Amanda Bridgeman and Nina D’Aleo sat down to have a chat about their books and their approaches to writing.

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A: Hi Nina! It’s great to be chatting with you today. I’m a big fan of your work and am looking forward to picking your brain. So tell me, you’ve written three SFF books now. Is the process getting any easier for you?

N: In short. No. 🙂 It’s still the same chronic rewriting and second guessing for me, but I guess in ways that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it makes for a thorough knowledge of the story, from every conceivable angle.

Number 3 for you too! (Congratulations!!) Is it getting any easier for you?

A: I’ve released 3 books, but I had them all written before I got the first one published. So, for those ones, I can only really comment on the editing process – which I do think is getting easier. I’m definitely more attuned to what I need to look for, thanks to what has been picked up in the past (which hopefully makes my editor’s life easier!). I’ve only just recently written a brand new novel, so that was my first experience at writing again – and as it is a completely stand-alone novel not linked to the Aurora series in any way, it was a good test for me. There were days that it was slow going, and others where I seemed to race along, but I think that’s par for the course. I do think my writing has improved though. I’m certainly editing out the mistakes of the past before they’re committed to the page!

So what sparks your inspiration? After you have that first idea, how do you go about turning that into a fully fleshed story?

N: Good question and I think there’s been a whole heap of inspirations for all my books – people, stories, movies, art, poetry, music, animals, places  – pretty much everything I come into contact with! I think it’s probably the same for a lot of writers and artists as well. Once the idea for a story pops up then I’ll go into planning mode, so world, characters, storyline – everything goes down in whatever order I’m feeling like.

But tell me more about your Aurora Series – there are 3 books out now and more on the way – did you do an overall plot and planning at the very beginning or have the stories evolved as you wrote?

A: The story evolved as I wrote. It was only supposed to be one story, but as I wrote I seemed to undercover more and more story lying underneath. The good news for readers, though, is that I have now plotted the whole series and it will come to a definite end around book 7/8. I recently received a comment from someone suggesting that I was writing more books (and stretching out the story) for the commercial aspect of it, but this is completely untrue. The story itself dictated how long it would be. I have this (rather major) over-arching plot and several subplots that need to be tied up, and they can’t be tied up in one single book. At least, not if I want it to be realistic! Anyway…

Tell me, what do you find the hardest thing about this writing business?

N: Time, I think…. Just getting the time to sit down and write – it’s been an insanely busy year, but I’m hoping next year will be a bit different.  And also I think what you touched on above, it can be difficult to put stories out there and pause for judgement. On the flipside, it’s also a massive privilege and mostly awesome (everything is awesome!) to have people reading our books. That’s living the dream! And speaking of dreams – I think it’s that time. I think we need to talk characters…

Can you tell me a little bit about the leading men in your Aurora series – just a teaser for readers who haven’t started the Aurora series yet?

A: The leading men in the Aurora series are far from perfect, but they each contain elements of the perfect ‘man’. Saul Harris has the maturity, experience and the leadership skills to captain the Aurora team. He’s firm but fair, and because of this he has the team’s respect and trust . . . Daniel ‘Doc’ Walker, is intelligent and caring – two traits required of the medic and ship’s 2IC. He’s easy going, but when required he becomes the soldier he needs to be. Throughout the series his easy-going character is tested, and the ‘perfect’ guy proves that he makes mistakes too . . . James McKinley is hard man, and a courageous one at that – a key trait for Harris’ right-hand man in the field. He pushes people to prove themselves, but he also pushes himself to be the best. As the series unfolds, his hardened external layers are slowly removed, and the man hidden inside comes to light…

Now, I am a big fan of the leading men in your books (Copernicus and Darius to name a couple). So for readers who haven’t started your books as yet, tell us a little bit about them?

N: I’m going to say for Copernicus, tall, dark and dangerous and Darius – he has a hard exterior but there’s love there – somewhere on the inside – (and I have to say McKinley is my fav Aurora boy, but they’re all great). But I’m thinking we shouldn’t forget about the girls either – your leading lady, Corporal Carrie Welles, sharp shooter and elite soldier. She’s just starting out but she’s already been to hell and back.

When you write female characters do you find yourself naturally writing tougher ladies, is it something you wanted to do purposely. And if so, why do you think that is? (for either)

A: I like to write tough women, but I also like them to have their weak moments. That is what makes them human and I think what makes them appeal to readers. I come from a  line of strong women – my mother and my grandmothers – whom I dedicated Aurora: Darwin (and the whole Aurora series) to, so I suppose it’s bred into me in a way. They are women who have just picked themselves up and carried on when faced with hardships. Sometimes strong women make the mistake of being too strong and not allowing themselves to be weak or ask for help, and it is at this point that they seem to fall apart, because they can’t cope with not being perfect. This I think, is a big driver for Carrie Welles in my Aurora series. She is a woman who has to look deep inside herself to pull the courage out that she needs to survive, and she is also a woman who has to lower her defensive shield to admit when she is wrong or needs help, and to allow love to enter her life…

You also write strong women, and they seem a little damaged in a way due to the secrets they keep, but because of this they’re fighters – and survivors. What drives that in your writing?

N: Good question… I think I’ve always been attracted to the idea of the survivor – the person who can take every hit, psychologically and physically, and still keep going. For me that really defines a hero – not because they’re incredibly brave, or gifted, or perfect people, but because they never stop, despite the scars and damage.

Now I understand you’re working on a book that is outside of the Aurora Series, can you tell me a little bit about it and what it’s been like venturing out of your universe?

A: Yes, the new book is called The Time of The Stripes and it’s another sci-fi, but set on Earth, current day. It’s told from multiple perspectives and follows the immediate events surrounding a worldwide phenomenon. It’s a pretty tense drama, so readers of the Aurora series will hopefully enjoy it. It’s been a very interesting process to write! In some ways it’s been difficult in that I’m having to build characters up from scratch again – especially after spending so long with my Aurora characters, who I know like the back of my hand. It had also been a while since I’d written anything new so that harsh reminder of just how long it takes to write a novel was a wake up call! On the plus side, it’s been great to try my hand at building another world, in part to prove I could, but also just for having an opportunity to try something new and take that breath of fresh air was wonderful. But now I’m ready to crack on with more of the Aurora series!

So how did you find the experience of going from the The Last City/The Forgotten City to The White List?

N: It was pretty cool – I’ve always got a few writing projects going at once so it wasn’t too much of a leap, but there’s always those readjustments, where you have to find the right voice for the character, but overall it was great.

So thank you very much for chatting with me AB – any final advice for aspiring writers looking to get their work out there?

A: Study the market as best you can, be prepared to work hard, and learn patience! Writing and getting published is a marathon, not a sprint.

And what advice would give them?

N: I completely agree with you and I’ll just add in – don’t give up!

A: Yes! Good point. Well thanks for chatting with me today, Nina! It’s been great getting an insight into your wonderful books!

N: Thanks AB! It’s been great chatting with you too!

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Naming Your Characters – That’s what I’m Tolkien about

Posted November 5, 2014 by Eve Merrier

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Fantasy authors, you are the creative geniuses and clearly you should call your characters whatever you please: sometimes a fellow just feels like a Trevor. That said, a lot of people creating magical, incredible worlds want to create original names to go with them. Here are a few things to think about in the context of novel nomenclature.

Bilbo

 

Take a leaf out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s book (well, not literally, libraries hate it when you do that). Most of his made up, never-before-heard names are easy to read, and have only one sensible pronunciation. ‘Bilbo Baggins’: We’re all saying that the same in our heads. It works because if follows standard phonetic rules. The same is true for Katniss Everdeen. Give your creations to a few friends – if they all say it the same way, you have a winner! And also an exceedingly dull night down the pub.

Hunger Games

 

Readers often struggle through a hard-to-pronounce name every time it appears, (Dear Sci-Fi, I’d like to introduce you to vowels…) but choosing something they can confidently read means they’ll be able to whiz through and enjoy more of your exemplary plot choices. If they can easily pronounce your character names without verbal stumbling or uncertainty a reader is eleven times more likely to spontaneously read extracts aloud in public places. Fact.

R2D2

 

What can be a real relief is when each character name starts with a different letter of the alphabet. A lot of readers don’t read the whole word every time, so an ‘Alice’ and an ‘Alex’ can easily be confused and the intelligent twists of your plot will be lost. I am of the opinion that Tolstoy’s work would be much easier to follow if he hadn’t named every third character ‘Alexei’.

 

Alexei

It’s an old-school device, but there’s nothing wrong with using names to give the reader some indication of their characterisation, as long as it’s in moderation. You could go the full Dickens and use very literal names: ‘Grimwig’, ‘Sharp’, ‘Krook’, and ‘Heep’ are not chaps you’d like to meet down a dark alley. Artemis Fowl is a great modern example. There’s a way to do it more subtly too: in Game of Thrones Jon Snow’s single syllables sound strong and dependable, but hint at depth.

Jon Snow

To sum up, names should be easy to pronounce, not similar to another character’s, and a little indicative of their personality. I’ve been Eve Merrier (make of that what you will), thanks for reading!

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In Conversation: Amanda Bridgeman and Steve P. Vincent

Posted October 21, 2014 by Momentum

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Momentum stable mates Amanda Bridgeman (the Aurora Series) and Steve P Vincent (The Foundation) just finished enjoying each other’s books. They decided to have a chat about their books and their writing. They could have done it in private, but where’s the fun in that?

Steve P Vincent: Hi Amanda. We’re Twitter buddies, but this is the first chance I’ve had to talk to you in more than 140 characters. Tell me three things I don’t know about you.

Amanda Bridgeman: Hmmm. Three things… Well:

(1)   I was raised a Catholic (but am one no longer – read my books if you don’t believe me).

(2)   I lived in London for over 1.5 years and was there during the London bombings (I got off the tube about 8 minutes before it all happened).

(3)   Once in a blue moon I dabble with singing. I do vocals on a track written and recorded by my brothers that you can hear/buy on iTunes (Bridge Music – ‘Made It Home’).

So what about you? Tell me three things I don’t know about you?

Steve: Ha! I don’t think I have a list that varied. Or that interesting. We should do karaoke some time. Here goes:

(1)   I’ve got a solid basis for writing about political intrigue. I studied it at university and have worked for government. I’m less solid on the shooting and violence and the explosions, though I do have a good imagination, and once did a commando roll down a hill.

(2)   I’m a big American football fan, much to the chagrin of most of my friends. It’s a love I share only with my brother in law, who’s from Denver.

(3)   My wife and I are both historians, and I proposed to her sitting next to the Roman baths in Bath, England. I thought that would get me out of the Jane Austen walking tour… It didn’t.

Okay. I’ve read book one in the Aurora series and I’m looking forward to the others. But for those not familiar with the series, give me your ‘elevator pitch’ – what’s it about and why might readers enjoy it?

Amanda: The Aurora series is about two very different people with one common goal, survival. It’s about a captain and a corporal who’ve been thrown together on a mission they discover is not as straight forward as it seems. Each book adds a new twist to what they know, as it builds up to a massive revelation. It’s for sci-fi fans who like character-driven stories with a nice blend of action, thrills, drama and even a bit of romance.

 

meridian-gif

 

So what about you? Tell me your elevator pitch for The Foundation?

Steve: Globe-trotting journalist Jack Emery has to fight a cancer in the heart of Washington – The Foundation for a New America. The Foundation is a think tank with a dark side and darker plans. They’re fighting for American rebirth. To achieve it, they arrange for Shanghai to be blown up, spark a war between the US and China, try to take over the largest media company on the planet and are involved in a whole lot of other nasty. Their boss is Michelle Dominique. Jack has to stop her.

 

foundemailbanner

 

One thing that struck me was the detail you put into writing medical scenes, particularly when Doc (the Aurora’s medic) is stitching up people who’ve been shot, crushed, assaulted or blown up. I find this sort of thing really tricky to write convincingly, so tell me how you do it? Any secrets?

Amanda: For the most part I literally just used my imagination, but there were a few things I double checked with a friend of mine who is a nurse. Anything she couldn’t answer, she then asked the doctors at the hospital she works. So the medical side of things, I hope, is pretty realistic.

Now, tell me about your knowledge of international politics (particularly US politics) and journalism? Did you glean all your knowledge from the degree you did at university? Or is this an ongoing interest of yours?

Steve: A degree, a career in government, an obsessive interest in politics and current affairs and a wife who teaches this stuff too. It’s sick. Really. As for the journalism, less knowledge of that, even though the old man was a journo. I nearly studied it once I finished high school, but decided there was no money to be made in a dying industry. Then I decided to write books. Ha.

What’s one writing tip that will totally change my life?

Amanda: Listen to everyone’s advice, but don’t take it to heart. What works for one person, may not work for the next. Sometimes people think it’s wrong to do things a certain way, but if it works for you, well, then screw everyone else basically! When I first started I listened to all the ‘experts’ advice, and some of it was good, but some of it just didn’t apply/work for me. I soon realised that I had to forge my own path, taking bits and pieces of advice with me, and ditching the rest.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard so far?

Steve: Sketch out a loose plot outline then write like a crazy man. My biggest problem prior to writing The Foundation was trying to perfect a scene before moving on. It made for a few nice scenes, but not much of a story. Having finished a book, I realise the amount of fine-tuning that takes place. It’s far better to get the whole thing down and work from a full draft than trying to perfect as you go. It’s only when it’s all down that you see the giant gaping wounds in your plot that need fixing.

To close this out, what are you working on?

Amanda: I have more of the Aurora series lined up and ready to go, but I’ve also been working on a brand new, stand alone, sci-fi novel, which I hope to start pitching to agents by the end of the year (or thereabouts).  In some ways it’s very different from the Aurora series – it’s short and sharp, and set in the present-day on Earth. Told from multiple perspectives, it follows the immediate events of a world-wide phenomenon. The book is called The Time of The Stripes, and as per my writing tendencies, readers can expect the same level of tension, drama, and exploration of the human condition that I like to deliver.

What about you? What are you working on?

Steve: Momentum has begged and pleaded with me for two more Jack Emery books, so who am I to disappoint? State of Emergency is in the works, and going well. It’s a much darker book than The Foundation, dealing with the overreach of government in the United States and what might happen if that is taken to its fullest extent. There’s also a Jack prequel novella and a third full novel in the works. Beyond that, I’m casting my mind beyond the series and figured out a working title for my next project. In all I’ve got too much to do and no time to do it, just how I like it.

 

And that’s probably all we have the space for, given we’re now above the average length of one of my scenes. Just want to say it was great to chat with you, Amanda. I enjoyed the first Aurora book together, am looking forward to the next few, and congratulations of your announcement on Friday about being signed for three more!

Amanda: Thanks Steve! It’s been great chatting with you too. And congrats also on your debut rocketing up the charts – I look forward to reading about what Jack Emery gets up to next!

Steve P Vincent’s first book, The Foundation, was published by Momentum in September 2014. Connect with him on:

Web: http://stevepvincent.com
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/stevepvincentwriter
Twitter:
http://www.twitter.com/stevepvincent
Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8423932.Steve_P_Vincent

Amanda Bridgeman’s Aurora series (Aurora: Darwin, Aurora: Pegasus, Aurora: Meridian, and soon to be released Aurora: Centralis) are published by Momentum. Keep in touch with her via:

Web – http://amandabridgeman.com.au/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaBridgemanAuthor?ref=hl

Twitter – @Bridgeman_Books

Google+ and Goodreads.

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Time Travel and the Problem of Paradoxes

Posted by Momentum

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Graham Storrs joins us on the blog to discuss all things TIME TRAVEL.

“Paradox is the poisonous flower of quietism, the iridescent surface of the rotting mind, the greatest depravity of all.”  – Thomas Mann

What, you’re not a quietist? Never mind, we’ll come back to that.

As a writer of time travel novels, I spend a lot of time with paradox. It has become a friend. A shabby, disagreeable friend, I have to say, but one for whom I have an inordinate fondness. There are two ways of looking at paradox. Either it is a hideous monster of purest logic that prevents all possibility of time travel, or it is a sly creature of silken charm that whispers in the writer’s ear, urging creative trickery to make that story possible.

To be clear where I stand on the physics, let me just say that time doesn’t really work the way story-writers want it to. We don’t really travel in time. We travel in spacetime. Yes, you can describe space as a dimension something like the spatial dimensions to get a geometrical description of spacetime and, yes, it does seem as if you can move (in one direction) along that dimension at different rates. But consider this, if time is slowed in the vicinity of massive objects (which it is – ask Einstein), why does the Earth (a much smaller mass) not race ahead of the Sun in time, eventually leaving it far behind?

Time, as it affects us, is something like the ticking of a clock that can be different in each “inertial frame” (you’ll have to Google that one). If a spaceship moves past you at near the speed of light, the ticking of its clock seems slower than your own. If a suitably cooled and shielded man stands on the surface of the Sun, his clock also ticks relatively slower than yours. There’s a sense in which time is merely the rate at which events can unfold in your local spacetime. You can manipulate that rate by moving at different speeds or moving between different strength gravitational fields but, as far as we know, you can’t reverse it or even stop it, just slow it by applying unimaginable amounts of energy. You can maybe cut corners by moving through wormholes from one spacetime location to another by a route that is shorter than would be available in normal space, and that’s sort of like time travel, but not really.

There is a sense in which time travel, as we conceive it in science fiction, where we physically leave the present and reappear in the past or the future, would require jumping outside of time itself, jumping outside the Universe we know. If that is possible, no-one has ever worked out how. To a physicist, it probably just sounds silly. Yet that is the premise behind every single time travel story ever written (except for the Rip van Winkle and time dilation types).

As if this wasn’t argument enough against time travel, it’s very easy to conclude it is impossible just by looking at paradoxes. If I were able to travel back in time and shoot myself yesterday, I wouldn’t be alive today to travel back in time and shoot myself. Paradox! Most physicists conclude that this kind of paradox (known as the grandfather paradox) is sufficient reason to believe that we cannot travel back in time. The “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics is a get-out-of-jail-free card for the grandfather paradox, since it allows a whole new Universe to be created whenever you go back and shoot yourself. So your own timeline is preserved and the one with you dead instead of alive is simply unfolding in parallel. The paradox is avoided but it’s an unsatisfactory kind of time travel if you ask me.

Paradoxes really are the spanner in the works for time travel. They don’t only happen for backwards travel, they also work if you travel into the future. Imagine you go forwards twenty years, meet your own sixteen-year-old child and immediately shoot yourself. You never went back and conceived the child. It’s a paradox!

You might have noticed that what all these paradoxes actually rule out is backwards time travel, not forwards time travel (in the previous example, the paradox arises because you can’t go back). And that makes sense, of course, because we are all, at this very moment, travelling forwards in time. If we went on a near-light-speed trip, or stood near the event horizon of a black hole, or had ourselves cooled to a fraction above absolute zero, we could slow down the rate at which time passes for us (our own local clock would run slower) and we would effectively zoom off into the future relative to everyone else. So going faster into the future is also possible. But note that you never leave the “present” for all the observers around you. They can still track your spaceship with radar, or monitor you on that event horizon, or watch you in your cryogenic chamber.

The time traveller who disappears from the present, goes to the future or the past, and then comes back, does seem to be a complete fiction. The physics of the real world, plus the logic of paradoxes seem to rule out such a thing. And yet time travel story writers from H G Wells onwards have imagined it just like that.

I’ve done it myself – knowing all that I know about the physics – because time travel stories are just so incredibly fascinating. However, in my own work, I have striven to remove the paradoxes and allowed myself the luxury of inventing new physics. The logic of paradoxes is a much more rigid barrier to creativity than the physics of reality. We can always imagine a future world in which what we think we now know about relativity or quantum theory is augmented or supplanted by a new understanding. But the logic of paradoxes does not depend on the science. It is eternal and unbending. You just cannot get around it.

So I used a version of time travel in one novel where you can jump around in time but there is only one, immutable timeline and your jumping around is already part of it. This is known as the Novikov self-consistency principle. Thus, if you go back and try to shoot yourself yesterday, you’ll miss, or the gun will backfire, or whatever. Something will always happen to prevent it. Why? Because that’s what must have happened in order for you to be alive the next day to go back in time!

In the Timesplash novels I used a different trick. My time travellers can go backwards in time and they can cause anomalies to their hearts’ content but the Universe can only be bent out of shape temporarily. It quickly springs back into it’s original form and spits out the time travellers like the irritants they are. So the past goes back to how it always was. No paradoxes, guaranteed. However – and this is what gives the books their dramatic interest – the disturbance caused, if it’s big enough, flows through to the present and causes massive acausal weirdness. It’s like a major acid trip but played out in the real world, not just someone’s mind, and it can be enough to topple buildings and kill people. But if you like chaos and the trippy effects of seeing causality completely messed up, jumping back in time is a great way to get people off and fuel the best underground parties ever.

Oh yes, and the quietists? They’re group of philosophers who think that by describing problems in a way that makes the misguided reasoning they’re based on apparent, they will put an end to all confusion, and set us on the path to intellectual quietude. And they really don’t like paradoxes. But then, who does? Maybe they should spend a bit more effort on clarifying the problem of time travel.

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Party Time – a short story in the ‘Timesplash’ world

Posted October 17, 2014 by Momentum

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Foresight: Timesplash #3 is out, but what even is a timesplash? This short story set in the world could help explain.

Party Time

by

Graham Storrs

You wouldn’t expect the world to change right there, in a house off Beverley Road. Beverley Road is the kind of place commuters pass through on the way to somewhere smarter. The grimy brick buildings that front the main road give way to side streets that should have been demolished long ago, to sagging terraces in which every other two-up-two-down has its windows boarded. Children and dogs roam those quiet streets in packs, bored and dirty.

But that’s where it happens.

“It’s a fucking brick, Grace.” Rylan Dickson giggles as if there is something funny about it, but he’s so stoned everything seems funny. His long, scrawny body is clothed in old jeans and an even older jumper. He looks like a gangly teenager, but he is actually twenty-three.

The brick sits inside a metal cage on the kitchen table. Around it there are coils of wire, heavy banks of capacitors, computer screens, black cables writhing away to a distribution board hacked into the electric main. A bright red dot shines from the side of the brick where it is illuminated by a low-powered laser. Beyond the brick, a photocell waits.

“Yeah, it’s the metaphor, right?” Grayson Faber explains. He is excited and a little wired. Shorter and stouter than his friend, he is dressed in the same kind of jumble-sale clothes. “Time is a stream, right? We lob the brick back into the stream and it makes a splash. Yeah?”

Rylan shakes his head. “You don’t have to convince me, man. I was the one who did the maths.”

Grayson gives a nervous laugh. “Yeah. It’s just… It’s like this is a really big deal Ry. We should have the press here. Television.”

“Bourgeois bullshit, Grace. That world is dead and gone, man. This is what’s real.” He waves a hand at the room. His gesture is exaggerated and sloppy. It takes in the dirty sink and the mouldy wallpaper as well as the piles of makeshift electronics.

There are footsteps in the hallway and the kitchen door opens just as Grayson is saying, “Right. Bourgeois bullshit.”

The newcomer gives a clenched fist salute and says, “Right on, man!”

Rylan giggles again and also gives the salute.

“So what’s up with you two geniuses today?” the newcomer wants to know. He is a well-fed, well-built youth of about seventeen, bare chested under an army greatcoat. He goes by the tag Major Tom and no-one knows his real name. Rylan picks up a bong from beside his chair and hands it over. Major Tom takes it and sets it down without using it. “Hey, you got the time machine going.”

He steps closer and peers into the mechanism. “Is that a brick in there?”

“It’s a metaphor,” Rylan says.

Tom grins at him. “Fucking geniuses. You’re all nuts.”

“We’re going to, you know, test it,” Grayson says, even more tense since Tom joined them. “It’s the first ever trial run.”

“Is it going to, like, blow up or something?” Tom asks, stepping back. “Cos I’m organising a real big party tonight, out at Orchard Park, and I need all my arms and legs.” The old Orchard Park Estate had been bulldozed by the city council, partly because it was a festering slum, partly because the police wanted to clear out all the drug factories and street gangs. Now it was a wasteland of rubble and ghosts, perfect for the loud, stimulant-fuelled, dance parties Major Tom was famous for.

“We’re going to lob that brick back in time, Tom,” Grayson says. “That’s a bit more important than your stupid party.”

Rylan is grinning but Tom doesn’t think it is funny. “It’s 2032, man. Biggest damn recession the world has ever seen. The oil’s run out, half the world’s at war, and the other half’s having a revolution. There’s nothing as important as a party right now!”

At which Grayson starts frowning. “Yeah, and they shut down the fucking university right in the middle of our PhDs.” He looks like he is going to become maudlin again, to start harping on his favourite subject.

“But we did it, right?” Rylan, says, trying to encourage him out of the mood. “We’ve got the proof of concept right here.”

But Grayson isn’t going to be cheered up easily. “Building lighting rigs and sound systems for this jerkoff!” he grumbles. “The two finest minds of our generation, sunk without a trace because the whole world’s turned to shit!”

“Who are you calling a jerkoff, Doctor Fucking Who?”

“OK,” Grayson raises his voice. “I’m going to throw the switch. You ready? Five, four, three…”

“Just throw the damned switch, Grace!”

“…two, one.”

The brick disappears. A buzzer sounds as the light from the laser is freed to cross the gap to the photocell. A timer starts displaying the passing seconds. They all gape in astonishment at the empty cage.

Then the buzzer drops in pitch. Major Tom shouts, “Whoa!” and Grayson looks round at him. Tom seems to be miles away, as if the room is as big as a football stadium. Then he snaps back. Rylan says something but he is speaking in a high-pitched squeak, his lips a blur. Ripples of distortion pass along the kitchen worktop and the oven door falls open, bounces closed, falls open again. The strangeness continues for a few more seconds, then stops.

The buzzer is still buzzing. The timer is still ticking. The three young men stare at the empty cage and at each other.

When the brick hits the bars of the cage and falls onto the metal plate beneath it, they all jump.

“Holy shit!” says Tom.

“It worked,” says Grayson.

“Wow, that was so far out,” says Rylan.

“I want that,” says Tom, looking from Grayson to Rylan and back. “Can you do that bigger? Like, maybe over an acre or two?”

“What?”

“That weird, trippy thing that just happened. Can you imagine that at one of my parties? Man! It was like acid, only it’s the world that’s tripping, not you! Just think about it. A hundred people – No. Five hundred people seeing that and feeling that all at the same time! No drugs. No hassle with the pigs. And the music! We could revive the Eighties, or the Nineties, or whenever all that house shit went down. This could be fucking enormous. We could all be living like kings!”

The silence is deep and incredulous. Rylan starts laughing and Grayson bursts into explanation. “We just sent a brick back in time, Tom. It wasn’t just some kind of show. That brick…” He opens the cage and pulls it out. It feels cold and is beaded with condensation. “If our calculations are right – and they must be, right? – that brick went back about five years.”

Major Tom looks at Grayson as if the young scientist just doesn’t get it. “All that shit – your calculations and all that – doesn’t matter. No, listen, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care where your bloody brick went. What matters is that weird thing that went on right here. That’s what’s going to make my parties – our parties – the only ones in the whole country that anyone will want to go to.”

Rylan is still laughing. Grayson turns sharply and shouts, “Shut up Ry. It’s getting on my nerves.”

“No, he’s right, Grace,” Rylan says. “It’s the lambda residual that matters. We chased it around the whiteboards and worried about the causal implications for all those hours, and what do you know? It’s all that really matters.”

“The residual? You mean what we just felt was an acausal backwash from the timesplash? You said it would be negligible. You said it would pass right through the present into the future.”

“Yeah, well, I was wrong. Obviously the future isn’t made yet, the Universe is self-assembling like Cahill and Klinger said. We always knew that was possible. When the residual travels downstream, the ‘backwash’ as you call it hits the present and has nowhere else to go, so it screws with causality.”

“What’s all this claptrap got to do with the price of fish?” Major Tom wants to know.

“It means we can make it bigger,” Rylan says, grinning maliciously. “We just need to lob bigger bricks farther back. The backwash is related to the size of the lob.” He looks at Grayson meaningfully and adds, “And the size of the splash.”

“No, no, no!” Grayson is alarmed now, and angry. He stands in front of Rylan, shaking his head. “We talked about this. We agreed. No paradoxes. Right? No-one gets hurt. We just run the trials. We write up the results and we take them down to Emory at Oxford like we agreed, right?”

“What’s he on about?”

Rylan gets to his feet. He is just an arm’s length away from Grayson. “Don’t worry, Tom. Grace is just being a bit slow to adapt to the changing circumstances.”

“What changing circumstances?”

“Wake up, Grace. Did you ever think there was really a chance Emory would let us in? Don’t you remember what he wrote to us when the uni was closing and we all but begged him to take the project?”

“He… He just asked for more evidence.”

“He talked bollocks, that’s what he did. He spouted Einstein at us, and quantum bloody gravity. It was obvious he didn’t understand the maths and, worse still, he didn’t understand the physics either!”

Grayson struggles to say something. He doesn’t want to let himself admit he has known all along this was a pipe dream.

“Who then?” he says at last, his thoughts surfacing. “If only the American’s weren’t in such a mess. A whole bunch of the physics department guys moved to CERN when Princeton went bust. We could try there.”

“You’re thinking of Sternberg, aren’t you? Just because he was the only one who was half-way polite to us. For God’s sake, Grace! The only heavyweight physicist who ever took this stuff seriously was dear old Prof. Baker, and no-one had taken him seriously for ten years or more. No wonder the poor old sod hanged himself when they shut us down. He knew there was nowhere else to go.”

“But it works!” Grayson holds up the brick, as if it is proof.

“Tell it to the Randi Foundation!”

For a moment, Grayson clenches the brick tight. For a moment, he is red-faced with rage. Major Tom looks from one to the other, wondering if Rylan will get hurt, and, if he does, how he can turn that to his own ends.

But Grayson suddenly sags. His arm drops and the brick falls to the floor with a thud. He turns away and walks back to the equipment on the kitchen table.

“The biggest fucking discovery since Special Relativity,” he says, and a long silence follows.

“So you can make it bigger, then?” Tom asks.

Grayson turns and glowers at Rylan, but he speaks to Tom. “Yes, we can make it bigger. Do you want to know how?”

“No man, I just -”

“Well we could send something massive back a long, long way. But the energy requirements would be enormous. The most cost effective way would be to send a person back, maybe a couple of decades – we’d need someone young – to shoot their own mother before they were born, create a paradox. Right?”

“You could send a person?”

“Oh yeah.” Grayson keeps looking at Rylan and it’s not clear now if he’s still talking to Tom. “Someone who wouldn’t mind walking up to their own mother and killing her in cold blood just to make a dance party go well.”

“But if you killed your own mother before you were born…”

“Yeah. Paradox. Like I said.” He waves a dismissive hand. He and Rylan had worked it all out. However big the splash, the time stream always heals itself, the paradox is smoothed over, fixed up. The present is unchanged by it. The past snaps back like elastic. But the backwash… The bigger the splash, the bigger the backwash. And that meant more ‘trippy’ experiences here in the present, more acausal weirdness for the kids to get off on.

“Would you do it?” he was definitely talking to his friend now, wanting to hear him say no.

“Fucking hell, yes!” Tom says. “I’d carve up the old bitch like a chicken. I’ve often thought about it. I’ll be your brick.”

Rylan grins and raises his hands in a gesture that says, “See? What can you do?”

Grayson looks away, unable to bear that grin. He feels tired. He pulls out a wooden chair and sits down.

The biggest discovery since Special Relativity, he is thinking, over and over. A guaranteed Nobel prize. If the world hadn’t gone to shit. If his partner wasn’t an arsehole. If he wasn’t so very sick of being hungry, and wearing cast-offs, and worrying about if he ever got ill or needed the dentist.

He looks up at Major Tom and his eyes are dull and heavy. “We’re going to need a bigger cage,” he says.

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Inside Clarion West: The most fun you can have locked in a room with writers

Posted September 29, 2014 by Momentum

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 Marlee Jane Ward managed to snap up one of the high desirable and competitive residences at Clarion West Writers Workshop. She was also kind enough to write us a blog post about what the hell it was like.

I’m not sure what you did over the dreary months of the Australian winter this year, but me? I got to skip it. Instead, I went half-way around the world to summertime Seattle, to learn from some of the finest names that SF/F has to offer, and live in a giant house with some of the genres most talented up-and-comers. Oh yeah, and a chef cooked our meals – out of everything, people seem to get the most excited about this. Sounds like some kind of really nerdy reality TV show, right? It’s not. It’s Clarion West.

Editor's idea of Clarion West

Editor’s idea of Clarion West

The Clarion West Writers Workshop is a pressure-cooker of a course that has run every year since 1984 and seen some of the best names in SF/F through it’s doors. It’s based in Seattle and runs over six weeks in the US summer months. The organisation takes over a sorority house (thankfully free of sorority girls, though their ghosts are ever-present) and jams eighteen emerging writers in together to live, write, and support each other through the madness. Students write a short story each week and workshop seventeen others, as well as attend six of the finest parties the Seattle SF/F scene has to offer. Each week workshops are led by a different author from the field.

Coming up with airfare, course fees and spending money, wrangling six weeks off work, getting my shit together and totally mixing my life around in preparation in only three months is a tale full of wacky adventures better told another day. Suffice to say, I showed up at the airport in late June with a bag and absolutely no idea what to expect. My advice? Arrive early, delirious with lack of sleep from a far-flung country and timezone, just to enhance the madcap experience. I got to enjoy a few days of getting to know my classmates before the real madness began.

James Patrick Kelly zoomed in on the first day with wit and warmth. He opened us up, made us revelatory and raw with exercises designed to pull out our emotions and quick-and-drity flash pieces to get us in the mood for words.  In week two, Kij Johnson led us through our first round of full-length stories with utterly precise deliberation, urging us to avoid drabness and to use the emotional vulnerability that we’d unlocked in the first week (she also kicked all of our asses at various wrasslin’ games – don’t get on the wrong side of Kij!) Ian Mcdonald told us to say ‘yes’ to things: ideas, new forms of sorytelling, getting up stupid early in the morning to play improv games in the loungeroom after breakfast. In week four Hiromi Goto shared her perspective on narrative through a focus on race, gender and sexuality and told us a bedtime story that I, for one, will never forget.  Charlie Jane Anders showed a singular devotion to reading all of our stuff, from submission pieces to our most recent stories and came into our one-on-one meetings armed with a knowledge of where we were heading, as writers. She also brought a fantastic insight into the trends and the market gleaned from years as the managing editor of io9.com. Our final instructor, John Crowley was a gruff master of words who shared his perspectives on Speculative fiction gleaned from a long career in the genre.

My instructors taught me a great deal, but I was surprised at how much I learned from my classmates. Seventeen of the most wonderful folk who’ve ever put pen to paper or touched fingertip to keyboard, I feel just indescribably lucky that I got the chance to meet them, and then live with them for forty-two mad, exhausting, wondrous days. From all corners of the US, all over Canada, from Portugal, Nigeria and little old Antipodean me…

We were an eclectic mix of people and I can honestly say I adored every last one of them for their own special reasons. Clarion West, for me, wasn’t just about the writing, it was about the people, too.  Some of my best memories are late-night card games, Kraken rum and spilling all my secrets, epic beer-pong tournaments, early-morning-first-awake deep confessions, raiding the fridges for leftovers at 2am, cuddle parties on the couches before the sun came up, half-price sushi on the Ave, late nights on the balcony, our quick-n-dirty roadtrip to Mt Rainier, the fake-moustache party on our last day.  Everything I gained in regards to my fiction, I took away in equal measure, personally.

Put simply, I learned a lot and I had a lot of fucking fun.

Before Clarion I was busting out a short story every couple of months and idly tapping out a few terrible novels here and there (okay, a few terrible beginnings of novels), so naturally, I worried I wouldn’t be up on the creative level, you know? And I’d be expected to slam a short story every week? I brought with me a few scribbled ideas, most consisted of a sentence or two; one was three words. Not to fret: being in such a ripe environment revealed in me a creative well I wasn’t aware existed. I was inspired by my instructors to extend myself further than I ever had before.

Even more of a push was reading stories from my classmates daily that made me want to be a better writer, a better person, just fucking better. I didn’t know I had it in me, and I marvelled to learn I did, that I could accomplish so much more than I thought I was capable of. I have never been surrounded by so much buzzing creativity, been engulfed in such a well of motivation. I’ll never forget what that felt like and I’ll carry it with me forever.

Clarion West was a singular experience. I’m well aware that I’ll never be in a situation like it again. I was spoiled, we were all spoiled. I’m so grateful and honoured I got to be a part of it, so thankful to the board and the organisers, the instructors and my fellow students for giving me that opportunity. And you know what? Clarion runs yearly, so you could have it too. Applications open soon, and there’s a stellar lineup next year. Polish up your best shorts, babes, and get ready to apply.

Read more from Marlee at her website. Follower her on Twitter @marleejaneward

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Space Opera and why YOU are reading it!

Posted September 18, 2014 by Stephen Jones

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Here’s something you weren’t expecting to read today – I Love Space Opera! I have ever since I was grown from a crystal in the orbital laboratory of Dr Klien Purnicious.

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To make your own!

Jokes, was NOT grown in lab in space (because I’m a human) BUT I do love me some space opera. Let me inform you, dear reader, of why space opera should be in your eyeballs more than it already is. If it’s already in your eyeballs 100% of the time – Congratulations!

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You, nerd, may rest for this article.

Romance and Drama

So of course you like the minute of human drama and romance because, who doesn’t? Seriously, give me their names. Sure maybe you don’t appreciate The Bold and The Beautiful but you like characters and plot points and twists and…like…Story 101. We’re not even going to argue about this.

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Hush that sweet brain of yours.

So imagine the minutiae of human drama and romance spread on a galactic scale! It’s an exciting idea that’s been explored in space opera ever since a person looked to the stars and said “Let’s put people in that”. We’re talking the basis of religion here. The Greeks, Romans, everyone knew that that’s where the magic was. That’s where Gods descended from, that’s where they returned and that, my friends, is space opera.

 

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Ok, I may be flinging the metaphorical bone a little high here but it’s not an entirely stupid point.

Modern space opera continues the tradition but instead of magic bringing them down here, we’ve got the technology to take us to them. Them in this case is stars and planets – not Gods.

It’s not like we have stories about missions to the God of War.

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Ahem…

Or to the King of the Gods.

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Nailed this one pretty hard, amirite?

But free from the Earth the romance and drama of human existence can expand to fill the cosmos itself! It’s pretty cool, you can admit it.

Still not cool enough for you? How about I put it in terms you can relate to…

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That’s right, space operas are often so good because they are a gritty reboot of earth operas! Not literally operas per say…

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…although…

 

You put a crew of people in a submarine then suddenly – Emergency! Oh noes! How do they escape? Who was responsible? Is it Red October or U-571 rules?

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Das Boot? Damn it!

Now, you put them on a spaceship headed to a new colony, or they’re testing a new dimension-jump-warp-accelerator and suddenly BAAM! – Emergency!

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EEEmergencYYYYYYY!!!

In the first instance the worst thing that happens is drowning, maybe some light radiation poisoning followed by drowning.

But in space? Where no-one can hear you scream? You can break the speed of light, go through a black hole where you and the crew a spegettified and then come out the other side as a mix of everyone that was on board. No one died, but there’s something…new on board. After defeating the…being…you turn the ship around but don’t have enough plasma-cooling-dilithumm-crystals to go back through the black hole and when you investigate the nearest source it turns out to be an exact duplicate of YOUR ship!

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Really? Das Boot rules again?!?

You can see where this is going. Submarine? Drowning. Spaceship? Exploration of the human condition, our place in the universe, our fears, monsters and daemons AND drowning!

Really?!? I thought for sure the drowning would get you hooked. Let’s try…

Genre Mashing

Ahh, the great Mash of ’09, such a great summer. We were young and foolish back them. Why I remember when we combined pop rocks and chocolate in our McFlurry. Those were the days – the terrible, cramp filled days.

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It both created, then sealed, stomach ulcers.

But not all mashing is a bad idea. Potatoes do well with a bit of mashing, as does…

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She only wants you for your brains, man.

Fiction!

What if you combine space and the wild west?

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Space opera!

What if you combine space and romance!?

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Space opera!

Or even space and war?!?!

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Space opera!

Long story short, put something in space and it’s just better. As well as being space opera.

And that, sweet summer child, is why you should read Space opera.

 Love space opera? Try the bestselling Aurora series by Amanda Bridgeman! Aurora: Darwin is 99c for a limited time only!

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New Releases: The Foundation, Aurora: Meridian and Shatterwing!

Posted September 11, 2014 by Momentum

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We’ve got three fantastic new releases out today, and we’re so excited about them. First up:

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High pace political thriller: Read a sample here.

 

He who holds the pen holds the power.

“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”

—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.

When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.

Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.

Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.

As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.

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The third in our fantastic Aurora series, read an excerpt here.

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

 Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

 As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

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Epic contemporary fantasy: read a sample here.

Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

 The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

 There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

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AURORA: MERIDIAN – Cover Reveal

Posted June 20, 2014 by Mark

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Check it out! The cover for the highly-anticipated new sci-fi thriller Aurora Meridian by Amanda Bridgeman, third in the bestselling Aurora series!

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within …

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley’s cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.

Aurora: Meridian will be available 11 September 2014 where all good ebooks are sold

In the meantime, check out Aurora: Darwin and Aurora: Pegasus, the two previous novels in this epic series.

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Ten reasons to be excited for the new Godzilla movie

Posted May 8, 2014 by Mark

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There’s a new Godzilla movie on the way, and I think everyone should be excited. It looks good, there are some very talented people involved, and we got so excited about Pacific Rim last year that we just have to talk about this movie.

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1. It’s directed by Gareth Edwards, whose giant monster game is strong. He directed the excellent independent sci-fi film Monsters in 2o10.

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2. Bryan Cranston is in it and he looks mad. Hoping he goes the full Heisenberg at some point.

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3. Godzilla looks like Godzilla and not some random lizard (I’m looking at you, 1997 Godzilla).

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4. There is at least one giant monster fight. Well, in the trailer there’s a moment where Ken Watanabe says, ‘Let them fight’. I assume he’s talking about giant monsters and not Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche.

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5. This shot of Godzilla roaring in the rain.

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6. The trailer uses the choral theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey so it gets automatic nerd bonus points.

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7. There hasn’t been any silly effort to keep the look of the monster secret, so we can all focus more on the epic level of destruction.

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8. It looks more like a disaster movie than an action movie with giants.

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9. The biggest Godzilla ever. Literally.

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10. Godzilla’s roar. Just listen to it!

Looking back on this list it’s apparent that most of my reasons for seeing this film are variations on ‘Godzilla roars’ but you must admit that it’s a compelling roar. In fact, this film could just be 90 minutes of Godzilla roaring in different environments and I’d probably still be satisfied.

 

If you’re in the mood for an awesome monster story, you should preorder Gorgon by Greig Beck. Available June 10 where all good ebooks are sold. An ancient evil has awoken….

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Excerpt: The White List by Nina D’Aleo

Posted May 2, 2014 by Mark

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Chapter 11 is watching you. 

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist—beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes. 

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome. 

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11’s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts—as they are known—to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them. 

After Silver’s partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head. 

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list—the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped—but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late. 

Chapter 3

In this club, La Nox, the term exotic dancer didn’t quite cut it. Seriously I had to admire the athleticism of those girls. They were managing to maintain sexy while performing major feats of strength and acrobatics. They were flipping, jumping and kicking, dancing and sliding up and down poles that extended the full two stories of the club—all this while virtually nude. I had a mental flash of myself up on stage, out of breath and sweaty, mascara running and flab flying as I failed at cartwheels and fell into the crowd. Not a pretty sight. Maybe the imagery was overly self-critical. I did maintain a certain level of fitness—it was necessary for the job—but even so, the usual extent of my nude escapades involved dashing from the bedroom to the shower and back and I couldn’t imagine that changing any time soon.

Not surprisingly Dark knew exactly where he was going, so I trailed him through the club, which was crowded with patrons both male and female. I spotted the bachelor party, now one of many, settling into a corner booth. Dark and I took a position by the bar where we could keep them in sight and wait for our chance. A topless waitress came to take our drink order. She recognized Dark and spoke to him by name. They exchanged niceties and, to my partner’s credit, he looked her in the face the entire time—which was surprisingly more difficult than it sounds. In most human cultures, staring directly into someone’s eyes while talking, other than in intimate situations, comes across as threatening or strange. Our eyes naturally wander, especially to anything unusual—like a gigantic pair of double-Gs covered only in body glitter. She tried to strike up a chat with me as well, but I gave closed answers and kept my arms by my sides—my Italian parentage tended to make me talk with my hands, and the last thing I needed tonight was to accidentally grope some unsuspecting exotic waitress mid-conversation about the sunny weather we were having. She left and Dark glanced at me and snorted.

“What?” I asked.

“Could you be any more uptight?” he asked.

“We’re not on vacation here,” I told him defensively. “We are actually working.”

He shook his head and muttered, “Another arrest by the fun police.”

I gritted my teeth. I hated when he called me the fun police. It made me feel like he was some young springbuck cavorting through the fields of fun while I was the grumpy frumpy killjoy chasing him down with an oversized net, trying to foil all his good times. In reality, whatever Dark did with his time off was his business. Whether he felt as if we were married or not the fact remained we weren’t. I didn’t keep tabs on him and I didn’t try to curtail his fun. I could be fun and spontaneous too … At least I kept telling myself that and hoping it was true.

It was something I questioned, though: how did people see me? How did I want to be seen? How did I even see myself? Who was I? I’d heard that whoever we really are emerges when we’re all alone, unobserved. Well, when I was alone … I was usually asleep. It was the only chance I got. I wasn’t sure what that said about me, but now wasn’t really the time for self-reflection. Now we were working.

A group of lap dancers had surrounded our bachelor party. One girl stood gyrating in front of the walt. He was rocking, but not in time with the music or with the hypnotic circles of her hips. He was moved by an even more savage, primordial drive, one that was about to rip through his reasoning and send him green. The dancer would be the first one hit. I imagined pieces of sequined thong, silicone and lower intestine splattered across the walls and this time the imagery was not exaggerated.

“Bos, we’ve got to move now.” I said.

“No shit,” he muttered back. “I’ll try to get him to the bathroom,” I said.

“I don’t think there’s time,” Dark replied.

The walt staggered to his feet, knocking the dancer out of the way. Dark reached into his jacket and drew his primary weapon. If the walt lost it before we could get him, there would be no other choice but to put him down—not a concept that sat well with me. As a partnership, we’d never had a fatality before and that wasn’t pure luck. I put myself on the line every time to stop a shoot. The put-downs were murder—no matter how you dressed it up. Not that I had ever mentioned this conviction even to my partner, let alone any of our colleagues.

I moved past Dark, weaving a quick path through the crowd. I reached the walt and, with a glance to make sure none of his friends were looking, took hold of his wrist and directed him away from the dancers. He resisted, pulling back sharply. His otherwise handsome features twisted with anger and confusion. I tried to give him a reassuring smile and spoke close to his ear, “It’s okay, buddy. I know you’re not feeling great. Come with me, I’ll get you some help.”

I touched his hand lightly, slipping a sedation patch onto his skin. I noticed the spot from the laser sight of Dark’s weapon vibrating on the side of his head. I tried again to lead him away. This time, the sedative working fast in his system, he followed with minimal struggle. I took him down a crowded hall toward the women’s bathroom.

In most clubs on a busy night, the line to the ladies’ room would be a mile long, but here, with women guests the minority, it was inhabited by only two other girls. They were dressed in super short dresses and heavily inebriated. They were hugging each other and singing loudly into the mirror, using their tiny shiny purses as microphones. Their ankle-breaking high heels slipped around on the tiles. They cheered as we entered and both tried to high-five me on their way out, missing completely. One slapped my shoulder and the other lost her feet and fell over—legs in the air, flashing her underwear to the world. She lay where she’d fallen, paralyzed by hysterical fits of laughter. Her friend joined her on the floor and the two of them rolled around wetting themselves with the hilarity of it. The scene didn’t look quite so riotous from where I was standing, but I’d had my fair share of drunk and disorderly nights in my younger days so I really couldn’t judge.

I managed to shuffle the blitzed duo gently out of the bathroom and close the door on them. I moved the walt into a cubicle and sat him down on the toilet. I turned and locked the door, but as I turned back, it happened. He gasped. His pupils went from pinpoint to fully dilated in one second. All his muscles tightened. The veins in his neck bulged. I only had time to duck as he lunged at me, taking a swing that ripped the cubicle door off its hinges and sent it flying into the bathroom. It hit the mirror with so much force the glass exploded. I twisted and lunged backward, trying to get out of his way, but the walt caught me with an upper cut to the stomach. My ballistic vest absorbed the impact, but it still knocked the air out of me. I landed sprawled on the tiles and the walt rushed me. Completely disoriented by his condition, he misjudged the distance between us and smashed into the wall instead with a brutal whack that rattled my teeth and broke a row of tiles.

He reeled around, blood streaming down his face. He tried to charge again and toppled sideways, taking out a sink. It shattered to the floor and water gushed from the fractured pipes. I took the chance and leaped at him. I caught him around the middle and crash tackled him to the ground. I tried to pin him, but I may as well have been wrestling a rhinoceros. He flipped up with so much force we hit the ceiling and crashed back down to the tiles. His body mostly broke my fall, but then he was on me, his fingers clenched into claws, reaching for my neck. I went for my TRANQ gun.

The bathroom door flew open. Dark charged in with his weapon drawn and took aim at the walt. The young guy broke for the window, smashing through the glass and a good part of the wall. Dark and I both cursed and rushed for the damage. We looked out and saw the walt crashing down the fire escape. He found his balance and jumped from the structure down to the alleyway—a good twenty-five feet below. He landed on his feet running. We scrambled out onto the metal steps and flew down after him. We reached the alley and sprinted toward his fleeing shadow.

“No good,” Dark yelled out to me. “He’s heading for the road.”

We couldn’t allow the walt to cause a crash. Dark pulled up and dropped to one knee. He took aim at our walt’s back. I kept running, drawing my TRANQ and firing before he could get a round off. The dart struck dead on, into the back of the guy’s neck. He ran at least another two yards with enough sedative in him to drop an elephant, and then the effects hit him and he stopped. He didn’t fall, which would have been normal: he just froze. We ran the distance and as soon as we got to him, Dark threw the stocks around the walt’s arms and locked him down. We were literally five steps from the end of the alley, where pavement met a busy inner-city road. A constant stream of headlights passed before us. Our walt was shaking.

Tears shimmered on his cheeks. He looked young and scared, confused. He was struggling to whisper, his lips reluctant to move, “I’m sorry. I want to go home. Where’s Mom? Where’s Dad?” Then he bucked back and shouted. “Fuck off!”

Dark fought to hold him. I ripped a syringe off my duty belt and pumped another dose of paralytic into the guy’s neck. His eyes rolled back and his head hit his chest.

Dark and I exchanged a glance. This one was a real fighter. He stumbled to one side and we struggled to right him. His wallet tumbled out onto the ground. I crouched to pick it up, while Dark started walking the walt back down the alley. A honking horn drew my attention and I glanced up. Across the street, I saw the silhouette of a man in black standing, watching. I couldn’t see if his eyes were on me or not, but somehow I felt they were. A bus crossed in front of my line of sight and when it passed the person was gone. I dismissed him as a random passer-by.

“Sil,” Dark called for me from halfway down the alley. I shoved the walt’s wallet into my pocket and rushed to catch up. Dark was already on his cell phone calling in the catch and ordering a clean-up crew for the bathroom and a tech to check for CCTV footage. For sure Chapter 11 surveillance would have recorded the catch—including my use of the TRANQ, which was, as I well knew, against Chapter policy. Since every person is different we couldn’t be sure of the exact amount of drug needed to bring down any one individual, so we couldn’t be sure that one hit would be enough and that wasn’t good enough as far as the Chapter were concerned: regulations were to go straight to lethal force. Even so I’d always preferred to answer to my superiors than to my conscience.

“I’ll lay the cover for the friends,” I told Dark as reached the parking lot.

“No, you take him. I know who to ask,” he said. He handed over the shackled man and flipped me his keys. I headed for the car while he jogged back up to the entrance of the club. We needed to get someone to tell the friends the cover story—that our walt had decided to call it a day and had caught a cab home to sleep it off. I assumed Dark would ask one of the girls he knew in there to pass on the message. I looked around for witnesses to refute the story, but there were only a few knots of people up near the entrance of the club and no one was looking. The clean-up crew would double-check that.

I reached Dark’s car and directed the walt into the caged-off back seat.

“Watch your head, buddy,” I said, helping him to lower in. I locked the door and went around to the passenger side. The adrenalin was draining fast from my body, leaving my limbs weak and heavy. It hadn’t exactly been a flawless catch, but the job was done. Zero fatalities.

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 The White List by Nina D’Aleo is available from May 13 where all good ebooks are sold and is available for preorder now

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Who will be good and who will be bad in the Star Wars: Episode VII cast

Posted April 30, 2014 by Mark

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The cast has been announced for Star Wars: Episode VII and, whether you’re looking forward to it or not, it’s something worth looking at. Most people assumed that the announcement would be held off until May 4th (international Star Wars day) but the news was already leaking like crazy.

There are only a couple of surprises in the announcement, with rumours about Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and the original cast proving to be true.

Many commentators have already pointed out that there’s a disappointing lack of female characters (only one new addition aside from Carrie Fisher), and the lack of racial diversity (only one person of colour). There’s also a disturbing lack of Lando Calrissian. But these are the major characters, so it’s conceivable that there are more actors in the supporting cast that haven’t been revealed yet.

Given the recent announcement that the new Star Wars films would not be beholden to the Expanded Universe in any way, who the cast are playing is completely unknown. A fairly safe bet is that at least some of the younger cast members will be playing the children of the older characters, since the characters in the first two trilogies were different generations of the same family.

It’s also possible that they’re going for the ‘2 guys and a girl’ dynamic that was established with the protagonists from the previous trilogies (Anakin/Obi-Wan/Padme and Luke/Han/Leia). If so, then who will be the new protagonists? Adam Driver has long been linked to this project and has been mentioned as a villain more often than not, so let’s count him out. I think it’s safe to assume that Daisy Ridley will be part of the dynamic, which leaves John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson as contenders for the two male leads.

John Boyega is an actor who is on the rise, with acclaimed performances in several films already. A leading role in the new Star Wars would be perfectly timed career-wise, and it would also be nice to see a person of colour as a lead in Episode VII. So that leaves Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson. Isaac recently was the lead in the Coen brothers’ latest film, and was a villain in Ridley Scott’s awful Robin Hood movie, while Domhnall Gleeson was the lead in the romantic comedy About Time, and popped up as a Weasley brother in the final Harry Potter movies. It’s hard to tell at this stage, but maybe Domhnall Gleeson makes more sense in light of J.J. Abrams’ expressed desire to take relative unknowns and make them stars.

But how does the original cast factor in? There have been reports that the original screenplay for Episode VII had them playing supporting roles only, but that the script was rewritten to make them central for at least Episode VII. How that plays out, and how it impacts the establishment of new character dynamics could prove to be the weak point of this film.

Surprise additions are Max von Sydow and Andy Serkis, who hadn’t been linked to the project before. Serkis will no doubt be playing some kind of creature via motion capture (this is a $200 million sci-fi movie so there HAS to be a mo-cap character). And I’m going to assume von Sydow is a bad guy.

Here are my assumptions, let’s all watch how wrong I wind up being!

Good guys

Original cast, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Domhnall Gleeson

Bad guys

Max von Sydow, Adam Driver

Unknown

Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis

 

 

 

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Five tips for aspiring science fiction writers

Posted April 28, 2014 by Charlotte McConaghy

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1. World Building: What if this continues?

Whether you do this as your first job or your last, building your world carefully and meticulously is one of the most important aspects of all spec-fiction. This doesn’t just apply to fantasy writers who can literally make up new worlds and therefore have both more freedoms and more difficulties in the task, but to science-fiction writers, horror writers—all spec-fic writers. Making changes to our existing world can feel a bit like a trap, but as long as you think as honestly and as logically as possible, you shouldn’t have too many people yelling ‘that doesn’t make sense!’ (Who are we kidding—there will always be some.)

Science-fiction exists to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten. If something frightens you about the world, then chances are it will frighten others. Ask yourself What if this continues? What if these actions, or this train of thought, or this behavior continues? What will it mean for the world? (For example what if we really do become capable of singularity—that one really freaks me out.) And then let your imagination run wild. And you aren’t only tapping into fear, but wonder, awe, beauty. Take us up and forward and give us new realities that are based on what we know, what we desire, what we fear. Peel back the layers of comfort and show us what hides in the shadows of the world—and in the dark interiors of ourselves.

Human hubris is an important theme in science-fiction, for what frightens and excites us most as humans is our obsession with progress—an aspect of humanity that will never fade or die. We didn’t learn from Icaris who flew too high and died for it. We know this. We fear this. And that’s why we write about it: to teach, engage, inspire, warn, excite and frighten.

So use yourself as the test—whatever it is that engages you as a person will be what you use to shape your world. Really challenge yourself to think deeply, allow yourself to be confronted and inspired, because there’s no use in building a world that won’t provoke your readers.

 

2. Multiple POV and Time Periods

I personally love multiple points of view—I would never be able to write an entire novel from the one perspective, but that’s just a personal preference. If you’re trying to work out whether or not to use multiple POV, perhaps understanding the benefits will help you decide.

The main one, for me, is being able to see a character—particularly a protagonist inside whose head we’ve just inhabited—from another character’s perspective. Give the reader an intimate insight into what a character is thinking, and then let us see how another perceives them. There’s a great gap inherent in that—how are they really coming across? How do their actions make other people feel? It paints a more thorough picture, one with more complexity—because we are never quite what we seem to others. You also learn an awful lot about the second character, their perceptions and what they are managing to interpret in the protagonist.

It all boils down to the fact that as readers, we want to know the characters of the world, without having them all blurt out every little thing they’re thinking—there’s nothing worse than too much expositional dialogue. Having multiple POV allows for more subtext between characters and conflicting perspectives, which will help you to argue your premise.

Multiple time periods is another interesting tool that can be put to use. It sounds like it’s going to be confusing and it is, but there’s a simple trick to it. There are two rules to using multiple time periods: first, only use two different periods and work out the chronological events of both timelines separately. Second, move between the two time periods by only cutting away from one at a cliffhanger or twist. That way no matter how great one time period is, readers will be itching to know what’s going on in the other—and that’s the main point of having two running simultaneously: you get to create more tension, more intrigue. Which brings us to the number one reason people keep reading: to know what’s going to happen next.

 

3. Research

Science-fiction tends to fit within a scale of soft to hard science. Hard meaning real science that exists in the world today; soft meaning made up science that can often lean more towards fantasy. There is no right or wrong—both are just as valid as the other. But regardless of whether or not you’re writing hard or soft fantasy, I can’t stress the importance of researching enough. You don’t have to lay it on too thick in the book—we’re not reading a research paper—but it’s really great for you as the author to know what’s going on behind the scenes in the engine of the book. This will come through in drips and drabs and make the world feel more authentic.

 

4. Character

Character is key. It is everything. The most imaginative and clever worlds will fail to engage readers if you don’t also have fantastic characters to live within these worlds. When I wrote Fury, my protagonist Josephine existed long before I had the idea of a society with negative emotions being erased. She existed outside this world, helped to shape her surrounds, and gave birth to every tiny aspect of the science-fiction within the book.

Your character must be flawed. They must have desires and fears and contradictions, but you also have to think about how these elements of the character reflect and counterpoint the flaws of the world. The struggle your protagonist goes through on their journey should hold within it the premise of the world, the argument you are posing. If you can embody the theme of your story within your character, you have done the hardest and most important job of all.

Don’t forget, also, little things like having romantic characters who challenge the character to live in their essence—who they really are—instead of in the false identity they create and must eventually shed. The romantic character, as well as the antagonist, will force your protagonist to learn something, and you want readers to learn with them.

Take as much care with your side characters as you do with your main characters. Make them distinct and complex. Allow their qualities to be varying. Give them opinions and beliefs and fears that flesh them out as characters and they will in turn flesh out your world.

And lastly, make sure your protagonist is active. Give them something to do, a goal or desire that is properly motivated and compelling, and then make it really, really difficult for the character to achieve that end. It’s only by throwing problems at them that we can learn who they really are—the choices a character makes are the embodiments of their personality. The harder you make these choices, the more pressure you put on them, the more interesting things get.

 

5. Be Bold: Premise

What are you really trying to say? What do you want readers to think about? What do you want them to feel? What concerns you, conflicts you, makes your heart swell?

You don’t have to have all the answers—you just have to ask the questions.

And do this by being bold. Don’t concern yourself with offending anyone. Just ask the big, hard questions and demand a lot from your readers. Write ambitiously, write with passion and write with courage. Who cares what other people think? Follow your heart; it beats with as much validity as anyone else’s.

 

 

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Charlotte McConaghy is the author of Fury: Book One of The Cure, available now where all good ebooks are sold

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Cover reveal: The White List by Nina D’Aleo

Posted April 14, 2014 by Mark

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We are thrilled to reveal the cover for Nina D’Aleo’s new novel, The White List.

 

Chapter 11 is watching you. 

Silver is an intelligence operative working for an agency that doesn’t officially exist—beyond any government and above the law. Chapter 11 is the kind of place a person can join but never leave. And it keeps a third of the world’s population under constant surveillance. At work. On the street. In their homes.

Why? Because of Shaman syndrome.

One in three people are born with Shaman syndrome, which endows them with abilities they cannot control and do not even know they have. It is Chapter 11’s responsibility to cap and surveil these walts—as they are known—to ensure their talents don’t turn ugly for the ordinary people around them.

After Silver partner, Dark, is seriously injured by a walt, Silver is driven to investigate. What starts as a routine investigation isn’t as clear-cut as it seems, especially when she discovers there’s a price on her head.

Chapter 11 might be watching the world, but it can’t see the division in its own ranks. Someone wants the white list—the list of every known walt that Chapter 11 has capped—but for what purpose? Silver needs to find out the secret behind Shaman syndrome, before it’s too late.

The White List will be available from 13 May 2014 where all good ebooks are sold for $5.99

Nina D’Aleo’s previous novels, The Last City and The Forgotten City, are available now.

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