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A Matter of Oaths: An interview with Helen S. Wright

Power by Paul Calle (1963)A Matter of Oaths highres When A Matter of Oaths was first published in 1987, featuring an older woman as a space captain and centring on two men of colour in an intense, romantic relationship, it was a hard sell: 'I have a rejection letter from a well-known editor saying that they wouldn’t buy the book because the gay relationship was so integral to the plot, even though they weren’t a homophobe, nor were many in the SF audience (!). Apparently, I wasn’t "breaking new ground" and risked "alienating some readers."'

The book follows Rafe, a young webber with a mysterious past, who joins the crew of Bhattya, a patrol ship under the command of Rallya, an aging, grumpy, and talented woman in denial about the end of her career. As an oath breaker, Rafe is shunned by many, but aboard Bhattya, not only is he given a second chance, he also finds support in his quest for his own identity.

When I read the first few chapters of A Matter of Oaths, I realised instantly that it was right up my street. Discovering that it was tragically out of print, I knew I had to track Helen down and see if there was anyway she’d want to work with us (reader, I signed her). To my complete delight, we are going to be republishing her book, bringing it to a new generation of readers, and I wanted to find out what Helen thinks about the changing landscape of science fiction from then to now, and also pick her brain about her writing.

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From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits

Adam Roberts - The Real-Town Murders

I love puzzle whodunits. On account of my crime-novel-loving mother I grew up in a house full of them, which meant that—when I ran out of SF titles—I would pick a green-liveried penguin off the shelf and read that instead: Margery Allingham; Michael Innes; Ngaio Marsh; Edmund Crispin. And of course Agatha Christie. I read huge numbers of such books growing up. I still read them today.

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Confessions of a lifelong collector

Photo by SA Partridge

As a child, I was an avid collector of My Little Pony and Care Bears, despite the fact that my only regular source of income was the occasional envelope on birthdays and Christmas. Even then I couldn't just have one. I needed them all. It fell to my parents to bankroll this craze. I remember my father driving from one toy store to another to find the elusive Birthday Bear (a mustardy-coloured Care Bear with a cupcake on its chest). It was the only one I didn't have. If the Internet had been around we would have found one instantly, but my father’s dedication to the task was admirable. Father of the Decade, I say.

Advertising played a part.

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Fiction: 'The White Fox and the Red' by E.J. Swift

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The year the world changed forever was the year the foxes changed colour. Well, it didn’t happen as quickly as that, within a single season, but it might as well have. One year they were white, the next they were red. Bigger too, and bolder. Out on the tundra she called home, a long way from any other living soul, the old woman known as Aapia found a red fox carcass, its belly slashed and open to the cold skies. She took the carcass home and made a coat from its fur. In the old days, its russet blaze would have been fatal for hunting, but the snow had gone along with the white foxes.

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Now You’re Thinking With Portals

Portal fantasy (via British Library)

Anne Jefferies was nineteen years when she first encountered a world only she could see. It was customary in 1640s Cornwall for the wealthiest families of the parish to take on the children of the poor, training them for service until the age of twenty-one. It was a lonely life, but nowhere near as bad as penury, and Anne knew it. She was taken from her pauper father to work as a live-in servant with the Pitt family. Moses Pitt, the eldest son, later reported that Anne was a spirited girl, tomboyish, but otherwise unremarkable.

That was until she pierced the veil.

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Small Press Shakedown: Francesca Barbini of Luna Press

British_Fantasy_cover_new

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week our featured publisher is Luna Press.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

Luna Press was born out of my love of reading. I grew up surrounded by books, mainly Fantasy and Science Fiction and owed much of my creativity and interests to other people's stories. Luna exists exactly for this purpose, to be a platform, to allow new voices to be heard and in turn inspire others.

We love a diverse approach to Fantasy and Science Fiction, which is why we give a lot of importance to art and non-fiction. We have organised art shows to go with our illustrated stories, and we encourage research on Fantasy and Science Fiction, especially with our annual call for papers.

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"A Comparative Study of Ghost Stories" (1885)

GhostsWe seem to need a name for a new branch of the science of Man, the Comparative Study of Ghost Stories. Neither sciology, from σκιά, nor idolology, from εἴδωλον, appears a very convenient term, and as the science is yet in its infancy, perhaps it may go unnamed, for the time, like a colt before it has won its maiden race. But, though nameless, the researches which I wish to introduce are by no means lacking in curious interest.

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Small Press Shakedown: David Rix of Eibonvale Press

Allen Ashley  - Planet Suite

The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week our guest is David Rix, from Eibonvale Press.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

Eibonvale Press has always been one of the more far-out presses working in the UK – and very much a cottage industry, with only one person running it and taking care of the design and editing. I am most interested in material that falls between genres, but essentially that covers everything from the fringes of horror through speculative fiction to more literary styles – always with a fantastical and ‘strange’ slant. 

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Small Press Shakedown: George Sandison of Unsung Stories

9781907389412The UK has a fantastic small press scene. To celebrate the people behind the imprints, and help out the writers that are looking to them for publication, we've asked a number of editors to share what they're working on - and what they're looking for. This week, our guest is George Sandison from Unsung Stories.

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Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you're doing?

The elevator pitch is ‘literary and ambitious genre fiction’. We also look for debuts, so for us it’s about giving new authors a home where they don’t have to compromise. There’s a tendency in the industry for emerging writers having to prove themselves before they attempt more outré works – we don’t agree!

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