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April 2013

Announcing... The Lowest Heaven


We are delighted to announce The Lowest Heaven, a new anthology of contemporary science fiction published in partnership with the Royal Observatory Greenwich to coincide with Visions of the Universe, their major new exhibition of space imagery. 

Royal Observatory Greenwich

Each story in The Lowest Heaven is themed around a body in the Solar System, from the Sun to Halley’s Comet. The stories are illustrated with photographs and artwork selected from the archives of the Royal Observatory, while the book’s cover and overall design are the work of award-winning illustrator Joey Hi-Fi.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction by Dr. Marek Kukula (Royal Observatory Greenwich)
  • "Golden Apple" by Sophia McDougall (The Sun)
  • "A Map of Mercury" by Alastair Reynolds (Mercury)
  • "The Happiest Place on [Expletive Deleted] Venus" by Archie Black (Venus)
  • "The Krakatoan" by Maria Dahvana Headley (Earth)
  • "An account of a voyage from World to World again, by way of the Moon, 1726" by Adam Roberts (The Moon)
  • "WWBD" by Simon Morden (Mars)
  • "Saga's Children" by E.J. Swift (Ceres)
  • "The Jupiter Files" by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Jupiter)
  • "Magnus Lucretius" by Mark Charan Newton (Europa)
  • "Air, Water and the Grove" by Kaaron Warren (Saturn)
  • "Only Human" by Lavie Tidhar (Titan)
  • "Uranus" by Esther Saxey (Uranus)
  • "From This Day Forward" by David Bryher (Neptune)
  • "We'll Always Be Here" by S.L. Grey (Pluto & Charon)
  • "Enyo-Enyo" by Kameron Hurley (Eris)
  • "The Comet's Tale" by Matt Jones (Halley's Comet)
  • "The Grand Tour" by James Smythe (Voyager I)

Items from the Royal Observatory’s collection of astronomical photography will also be on display as part of Visions of the Universe, alongside images from world-class telescopes and recent space missions. The exhibition opens in June at the National Maritime Museum.

We're happy... no... elated. Amazing writers, astounding partner, incredible photography, Joey Hi-Fi and simply some of the best science fiction we've ever read. This collection is definitely more literary than operatic, although there are some cheeky nods to the classics of the genre, these are contemporary, character-focused stories, with more than bit of edge to them. Science fiction's oldest inspirations, our closest celestial neighbours - just as relevant today as they ever were. 

(Also, robots, rockets and space monsters. Because.)

The Lowest Heaven is out on 13 June 2013 as a trade paperback and an eBook available on all the usual platforms. A signed limited edition will be available exclusively from the Royal Observatory Greenwich and direct from our website.

New Releases: Web of the City by Harlan Ellison

This is the latest installment in our scheme to review each and every Hard Case Crime publication, one every week. You can follow along here. This week, we skip ahead to the publisher's newest release - coming April 2013. 

Web of the City HCCIt is hard to believe that I've gone this long without one review of a book by Harlan Ellison. He's easily one of my favourite authors. According to our long-suffering database, he's our fourth-most collected author [MacDonald, McBain, Sayers, Ellison] - it feels like I spent years on autopilot, heading towards the E's of any used bookstore.

On the other hand, Ellison is so significant to me, the lack of reviews actually makes sense.

I grew up devouring science fiction - and by that, I mean all that I could find. I picked up the doorstop tomes of Ye Olde Hugo Winners at library sales and bought crates of magazines at flea markets. I practically swam through the stuff.

Science Fiction was a genre of problems solved through logic and hard work. Puzzles and games, plots, not people. Rational thought! Strong ideals! Clever solutions derived from first principles! The application of logic-driven labour, leading to conclusions that were both rationally and morally correct! Everything in Science Fiction made sense, something that appealed to me as a child - as well as the overall message that Be Smart + Be Right = Guaranteed Win. 

By the time I hit 14, I knew this to be wrong. And I knew this with the depth and conviction that only a teenager can have - the confused, but determined nihilism that comes part and parcel with the swarming chaos of adolescence. From what I could see, no matter how correct or smart I was (and I was convinced that I was both), I wasn't winning. Nothing made sense. I could work statistics and run numbers and draw things and research and derive solutions from first principles, but, somehow, it wasn't working out in my favour. People were starving and homeless, politicians lied, the authorities were hopelessly corrupt, I had a C- in French, and I didn't have a date. The gross unfairness of it all - it rankled. It burned.

Continue reading "New Releases: Web of the City by Harlan Ellison" »

Voting and Volunteering

Four ways to have your say in genre things. Please read carefully, if you've gone or are going to a convention, you may be qualified without even knowing it!

This Machine Culls FascistsVoting for the BSFA Awards is here. It is open to any member of the organisation or anyone going to EasterCon. All online votes must be received by the 25th. If you're at EasterCon, you can vote until noon on the 31st, but wouldn't you rather get it done ahead of time?

BFS voting is open as well. For this, you need to either be a member of the BFS or have attended FantasyCon last year. (2012. It was in Brighton. If you don't remember it, you probably weren't there.) You can vote online here; the ballot closes on 31 March.

Want to be on a panel at next year's WorldCon? The first step is to say so. This form is the "Hey! I'm over here and I know everything there is to know about [My Little Pony/Doctor Who/Proper Use of the Subjunctive/African CyberPunk]". WorldCon won't call you unless it knows your number. WorldCon is shy. 

If you're going to World Fantasy in Brighton this October, you can vote in the World Fantasy Awards. The ballot for this is here. Voting closes 31 May 2013, so prepare yourself for a flood of "I'm eligible!" tweets later this spring.

This was a public service announcement. 

Review Round-Up: Five Novels of Note

Five books I've read recently that I just flat-out liked: Henrietta Rose-Innes' Nineveh, Mary Gentle's Black Opera, Carlos Fuentes' Vlad, Andrew Motion's Silver and Harry Karlinsky's The Evolution of Inanimate Objects

These all deserve longer reviews.

Nineveh (2011) by Henrietta Rose-Innes

NinevehMy big ol’ grab bag of South African fiction has yet to disappoint me, but Nineveh is my favourite so far. Katya Grubbs is an exterminator - more a relocator, actually, as she’s a fundamental believer in vermin’s right to life. A swarm of mysterious beetles infests an idyllic suburb and Katya is hired to do her thing. Her investigation brings her in contact with pests of all shapes and sizes - including the suburb’s sleazy developer and her own wayward father.

Part Gothic, part mystery, all amazing. Despite the lack of any SF/F elements, Nineveh is a contemporary urban fantasy classic, along the lines of Zoo City and King Rat; a tale about a hidden world and the people (and critters) beneath our notice. This is all topped off by a genuinely surprising ending that, although it shocked me, couldn't have been more perfect.

I don't know if Nineveh is available outside of South Africa, but, if you're in any way tempted (and I hope you are) it is worth sending an email to the Book Lounge.

Below the jump... vampires, pirates, opera and forks.

Continue reading "Review Round-Up: Five Novels of Note" »

New Release: Solace by Andrew Brown

SolaceAndrew Brown's Solace (2012, Zebra Press) begins with the murder of Muslim boy - the body found in one of Cape Town's synagogues. The city's religious tensions are already running at an all-time high, with the Muslim, Jewish and evangelical Christian communities at one another's throats. In the background, the Social Values Act is being debated at the highest levels of government. The Act, which would bring an unprecedented level of government interference into the religious practices of South Africans, is incredibly divisive, with both proponents and opponents that will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

Into this mess walks Inspector Eberard Februarie, an excellent policeman, but, to put it politely, a distracted one. His marriage is ruined, his career is at a dead-end, he's loathed by his superior officers and regarded with polite scorn by his peers. He's floating through each day on alcohol and making it through the nights with the aid of a teenage prostitute. Compared to Februarie, Harry Bosch is Postman Pat.

Februarie's investigation into the murder - and the synagogue's congregation - brings him face to face with matters of faith. He's a policeman and a rationalist, but, on this case, Februarie's asked to take the proverbial leap, and believe in something bigger than himself. Mr. Brown takes Februarie on a tour of many of South Africa's denominations - although the investigation begins within the Jewish community, the Inspector encounters members of a half-dozen religious beliefs, and has ample time to think about them all. Februarie realises that faith doesn't need to be about God - or even religion. But he does have to put himself out there: ask for help, seek answers outside of himself and trust in someone (or someones) to be there for him.

Continue reading "New Release: Solace by Andrew Brown" »

The Kitschies: Storytelling Without Limits

via Warren EllisThree of the biggest names in mind-bending fiction team up to talk about storytelling. Join Lauren Beukes, Warren Ellis and Benjamin Percy at the Brixton Ritzy on 30 April for an evening of discussion, debate and a bit of tentacular fun.

All three authors are storytellers that span genres and formats alike - from novels to comics to films to documentaries to short stories to journalism to Twitter to children's cartoon series, these are writers that work without boundaries.

How does the platform change the story? How do you move a story from one media to another? What are the challenges and strengths that come with each? Also, what are you working on, what's your inspiration and do you sign body parts?

Storytelling Without Limits features a unique show-and-tell, as well as a discussion between the three writers. A Q&A and signing opportunities to follow.

Tickets: £6 (you can buy them online or at the Ritzy)

Tuesday, 30 April
Doors open at 7, fun kicks off at 7.30


Lauren Beukes (South Africa) is a novelist, TV scriptwriter, documentary maker, comics writer and occasional journalist. She won the Kitschies' Red Tentacle and the 2011 Arthur C Clarke Award for her novel Zoo City. She helped create South Africa's first half-hour animated TV show, URBO: The Adventures of Pax Afrika, and has written kids animated shows for Disney UK and Millimages in France. Her new novel, The Shining Girls, is out in April from HarperCollins.

Warren Ellis (UK) is an award-winning creator of graphic novels whose work includes Fell, Ministry of Space, Planetary, Transmetropolitan and Red, and the author of the novels Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine. He has also written for many of Marvel Comics' top series including the Avengers, Iron Man and the X-Men

Benjamin Percy (USA) has won a Whiting Writers Award, a Plimpton Prize and two Pushcart Prizes. He is the author of the novel The Wilding and two short story collections, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Paris Review and Best American Short Stories. His new novel, Red Moon, is his first UK release - coming this May from Hodder & Stoughton.


Photo from Warren Ellis (

1853 and A Town Called Pandemonium - Out now!

Our latest two books are now shipping and/or available online.

We've spoken a lot about A Town Called Pandemonium already. The new, "Café de Paris" edition is shipping now. It is a fat ol' hardcover, our biggest book yet. Lots of (exclusive) new content and a very pretty thing indeed.

This is a stamped, numbered edition of 75 and all the copies are signed by at least some of the authors. At £19.99, these went rapidly and we're almost totally sold out. We've taken it off the webiste - if you want a copy, you need to email us for it.

We're now sold out of the paperback as well, and won't be doing another print run. However, you can still get the ebook of the Silver Dollar edition on Kobo and Amazon.

1853 is our latest digital chapbook, containing three (spooky) short stories selected from last summer's round of open submissions. The brief was to write slightly alternate histories, all set in the year 1853 - the same year as A Town Called Pandemonium. 

In "Son of", by Marc Aplin, a nameless gunslinger is recruited for an impossible task: to kill the brother of Jesus Christ. Jonathan Green's "Bat Out of Hell" features a man on the run in Mexico City, and the ancient entity that he accidentally awakens. Laura Graham's "Islands to Auld Reekie" is a heartbreaking letter from an innocent child to her absent family. 19th century Edinburgh is a city shrouded in darkness, and not all it comes from the factory chimneys.

1853 has a new cover from Adam Hill and an introduction from the editors. If you're a fan of continuity, it is set in the same world as A Town Called Pandemonium ('cause), but it is a stand-alone.

Like our other chapbooks, 1853 is free on Kobo.

Alternatively, you can pick up a copy of 1853 for a mere 77p (99 cents) through Amazon.

Underground Reading: 361 by Donald Westlake

This is the latest installment in our scheme to review each and every Hard Case Crime mystery in order, one every week. You can follow along here.

361Donald Westlake's 361 was originally published in 1962 and reprinted as a Hard Case crime in 2005. Unlike, say, Memory (or even The Comedy is Finished), 361 feels more a product of its time. It is a solid thriller, and a few exceptional moments, but, overall, it is rather let down by the politics and sensibilities of the era. Still, as noted in the past, even ordinary Westlake is still very good indeed.

Ray Kelly is back from the Air Force. He's young, footloose and fancy-free, but saddled with a rather pessimistic view of the latter. Rather than seeing a world of possibility, he's a little worried about what he's going to do with his life. He's got no friends, no job, no nothing - only his family to keep him grounded.

But his family is definitely there for him. Ray's dad, a lawyer, is there to greet him in New York, and despite being three years since their last meeting, the two hit it off right away. Although his dad is weirdly nervous about it, Ray even convinces him to take in the town - the pair fuss about in the city and leer at the sights for a day or two. The whole time, Ray's father behaves oddly. But it isn't until they're on their way out of the city that disaster strikes.

Two gunmen mow down Ray and his father. Ray's dad is killed on the spot and Ray himself loses an eye and a month of his life, recovering in the hospital. His brother, Bill, isn't there when he wakes up - his wife's been killed as well.

When the two brothers reunite, they immediately agree to seek out justice. The hard way.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: 361 by Donald Westlake" »

Amazon and Achieving the Moral Middle Ground

a thingSo here's a thing - not sure if it is blog-worthy or not, but if it isn't written, it won't happen. 

I had a really nice chat in a bookshop the other day. I was leering at Moleskines (Hobbit Moleskines, in fact, because that's how I roll), as was another guy. We chatted a bit about the notebooks - how we use them (or don't), how silly they are (but we get them anyway), how many we have (way too many), etc. Dude had 28 notebooks. Which sounds extreme, but then he explained that he has one for each project - whenever he's got a new scheme, he gets a new notebook. Awesome idea, and were I 1/8000th as organised, I'd follow suit. (My notebooks? I try to keep them magical and inviolate, but inevitably tear out pages, jot down to-do lists, etc. Ruined.)

Anyway, it was a silly conversation and I've had a thousand just like them in bookstores all over the world. Sometimes they happen with the staff. Sometimes with other customers. Sometimes at events. Hell, sometimes I even manage to have meaningful conversations with other readers at events that I've organised (for those of you that have seen me in full fret at one of our events, you know how rare that is...)

I've worked in bookstores on and off my entire life. As a kid, my mom would drop me off at the local used bookshop while she ran errands, and, three hours later, return to find me alphabetising things. My first paid part-time job was at a Barnes & Noble - they hired me because I was spending all my time there anyway; easier than training someone from scratch.

When I first moved to London, I earned my all-important pints-and-clubbing cash by working part time in a tiny campus bookstore. I pioneered a sales technique that involved blasting house music through the shop's tiny, tiny speakers and then flogging Rough Guides and Irvine Welsh to the wide-eyed students it attracted.

All of that is irrelevant, except to say that I've had thousands and thousands of conversations in bookstores with total strangers. Sometimes about books, sometimes about notebooks, sometimes about music or Arsenal or shoes or travel or post-structuralist interpretations of Houllebecq (ok, that last one is a lie). But, when it comes down to it, bookshops offer more than the serendipity of finding a good book - they also offer the chance to find a good conversation and, well, god alone knows where that could lead. 

(And no, I don't mean that, although I will grant that many glossy magazines all suggest that if you want to meet a quality romantic partner, go to a bookshop. It makes much more sense than the traditional 'grocery store' chat-up, which hasn't made sense since 1952.)

The only reason I'm even thinking this - much less writing it - and, eventually, maybe doing something - is because I chatted with a lovely guy about Moleskines for four minutes in a Blackwell's. (Incidentally, they're 2 for 3 right now, which makes them, in Moleskine terms, affordable.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that I'm going to stop shopping on Amazon. I know there are better reasons to stop using the site: neo-Nazi taskmasters, troublesome working conditions, tax avoidance, hoarding data like it is going out of style... those are all strong, moral reasons.

But this is the selfish one I choose: I want to go to bookshops more. Not because I like books (which I do), but because I like people. If I go to more bookshops, I meet more people. And, scarily, if our bookshops go away, we not only lose lovely places filled with fascinating objects, we lose all the conversations we ever could've had within them. 

(Sadly, this won't stem to selling - more Pandemonium books sell on Amazon in a week than sell on all other platforms combined in a quarter. This isn't my money, we're a non-profit: I'm not going to hose our authors and our charity partner's proceeds.)