Monthly Archives: May 2010

Angry Robot Books

The press release:

Leading Non-Fiction Publisher Acquires Specialist Sci-Fi Fiction & Fantasy Imprint

Following an acclaimed first year of publishing, the revolutionary science fiction imprint Angry Robot Books has parted company with HarperCollins UK. It will now run as an independent publishing imprint, with the full backing of niche publishing experts, Osprey Publishing.

Angry Robot will continue to operate from its Nottingham base and with its existing team under Marc Gascoigne, its founder and publisher. Marc said: “With the support of HarperCollins UK, my team and I have worked very hard on Angry Robot since it was founded. We have a great publishing programme in place and a dedicated bunch of supporters, the Robot Army, as well as some excellent sales of our first titles in the UK and an imminent launch into the USA. We are very pleased to have become part of the burgeoning Osprey empire. They understand our business and the enthusiasts who drive it.”

Chris Michaels, HarperCollins Digital Publisher, Fiction/Non-Fiction, who helped set-up Angry Robot, said: “Having helped build the foundations for a successful future, we are delighted that the Angry Robot team has found a new publishing partner in Osprey. We believe this will help them develop their niche offering, supported by Osprey’s specialist sales and marketing teams. We wish them good luck for the future.”

Marc Gascoigne added, “Our publishing programme for 2010/11 will be basically unaffected by these changes. There will be a short break while the transition is sorted out, but we will be re-launching in September 2010 and then it will be business as usual.”

Osprey’s move is a reflection of the company’s continuing strategic drive into niche communities that share a deep enthusiasm for their interest or hobby, whether it be military history (Osprey Publishing), heritage (Shire Books), or science fiction and fantasy.

Richard Sullivan, Marketing Director at Osprey commented: “We have a great deal of experience of serving specialist niches with a very tight product focus. Angry Robot is a great fit with our existing businesses. We are very excited about the opportunity to enter into a new market and we are looking forward to helping Angry Robot, its authors and its readers go to some exciting places.”

Given that Angry Robot Books doesn’t publish in my region (Canada), I can’t really speculate on the the sale of the imprint to Osprey Publishing, though it does seem odd that HarperCollins would pass on a (supposedly) successful imprint after so short a time, especially when Angry Robot Books was one of the more successful than most small publishing companies at embracing the idea of new media (twitter, social networking, eBooks, etc…). Still, it sounds like, after a brief hiatus, the publishing habits and schedules of Angry Robot Books will stay intact. But, can a niche non-fiction publisher like Osprey provide them with the support and distribution that HarperCollins was able back financially?

Clockwork Phoenix cover -- Includes 'Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela' by Saladin Ahmed

I first caught wind of Saladin Ahmed when he was interviewed by the charming Blake Charlton. I was impressed with the interview, and the things he said of embracing Muslim themes and mythology and integrating them into the sometimes stale Fantasy genre. When I saw that his short story Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela was on the ballot for the Nebula Award, I figured it was time to get my ass in gear and give his fiction a go.

As soon as I arrive in the village of Beit Zujaaj I begin to hear the mutters about Abdel Jameela, a strange old man supposedly unconnected to any of the local families. Two days into my stay the villagers fall over one another to share with me the rumors that Abdel Jameela is in fact distantly related to the esteemed Assad clan. By my third day in Beit Zujaaj, several of the Assads, omniscient as “important” families always are in these piles of cottages, have accosted me to deny the malicious whispers. No doubt they are worried about the bad impression such an association might make on me, favorite physicker of the Caliph’s own son.

The latest denial comes from Hajjar al-Assad himself, the middle-aged head of the clan and the sort of half-literate lout that passes for a Shaykh in these parts. Desperate for the approval of the young courtier whom he no doubt privately condemns as an overschooled sodomite, bristle-bearded Shaykh Hajjar has cornered me in the village’s only café—if the sitting room of a qat-chewing old woman can be called a café by anyone other than bumpkins.

I should not be so hard on Beit Zujaaj and its bumpkins. But when I look at the gray rock-heap houses, the withered gray vegetable-yards, and the stuporous gray lives that fill this village, I want to weep for the lost color of Baghdad.

Instead I sit and listen to the Shaykh.

As a writer, one of my goals is to transport not only myself to another place, another realm, but the readers as well. I could learn a thing or two from Ahmed. In Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela, Ahmed takes Iraq, removes any reference to time period, and paints a haunting, dusty picture of a world as alien as it is similar. The story of Abdel Jameela and his mysterious wife is curious and alarming, magical and unsettling. Ahmed has the ability to touch on all the reader’s senses, the psychedelic synesthesia during the climax (for lack of a better term) of the story being the most obvious and memorable example – he embraces those little details that so many authors ignore. For writing about something I am totally ignorant of (the Middle Eastern setting, the mythology, etc…), Ahmed, in the slim space provided by a short story, set me down in his world and made me forget, if only for a short time, of my own.

It’s nice to see a writer stepping outside of Fantaty’s typical faux-medieval politics or over-sexed vampires and draw fantasy from a mythology that is unusual but rooted deep in our world. Looking at the blockbuster releases and the bestselling authors, it’s easy to complain that the genre is getting stale, but with writers like Ahmed providing alternatives, it seems like a silly comment to make.

In short, Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela is only the first of what I hope to be many trips into the weird, wonderful world of Saladin Ahmed.

You can read Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela on Fantasy Book Critic. Alternatively, you can listen to Hooves and the Hovels of Abdel Jameela on Podcastle. It first appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 2, an anthology edited by Mike Allen.

The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington

As the witch-pyres of the Spanish Inquisition blanket Renaissance Europe in a moral haze, a young African slave finds herself the unwilling apprentice of an ancient necromancer. Unfortunately, quitting his company proves even more hazardous than remaining his pupil when she is afflicted with a terrible curse. Yet salvation may lie in a mysterious tome her tutor has hidden somewhere on the war-torn continent.

She sets out on a seemingly impossible journey to find the book, never suspecting her fate is tied to three strangers: the artist Niklaus Manuel Deutsch, the alchemist Dr. Paracelsus, and a gun-slinging Dutch mercenary. As Manuel paints her macabre story on canvas, plank, and church wall, the apprentice becomes increasingly aware of the great dangers that surround her. She realizes she must revisit the fell necromancy of her childhood – or death will be the least of her concerns.

One of my favourite covers from last year was Jesse Bullington’s The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart from Orbit Books. Bold and iconic, it set itself apart from other novels due to some terrific art by István Orosz.

The Enterprise of Death, Bullington’s follow-up novel, had it rough, having to follow such a strong cover and, frankly, falls a little short, thanks to the lack of such bold artwork. Still the saucy artwork (based on this art by Nicklas Manuel, who appears in the book!) is suitably macabre for Bullington’s work, and I’ve always felt that Panepinto’s work is strongest when she’s working with interesting typography. While it doesn’t have the impact I was hoping for, Bullington’s got another interesting cover on his hands.

If you’re interested, you can read my interview with Jesse Bullington, which includes more information on The Enterprise of Death and an original piece of flash fiction.

Cheer to Orbit Books and Lauren Panepinto for giving me the chance to debut this cover!

Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

Irene Gallo, Art Director at, on the cover:

Julie Bell was on my artist wish-list for this ebook cover project right from the start. There are few artists as comfortable with figure drawing as Julie. The only question was, which book and which scene? Fairly early on, Megan Messinger had described the “Bowl of Winds” as a pivotal point in the book that focus on the strength of character and ability the women in the Wheel of Time possess. Since Julie has a hard-earned gift for painting strong women that are every bit as powerful as they are beautiful, it seemed a natural fit.

Still, some hard decisions had to be made. The scene includes thirteen women working together. If we did a long shot, we could include all thirteen, but then we loose the ability to engage with specific characters. When you add in the thumbnail-size that ebook covers are often first seen at, I thought it best to focus on a few of the key characters: Elayne, Aviendha, and Nynaeve.

The scene fell together pretty quickly after that. I have to say a special thanks to our Leigh Butler who called me in a mild panic after the sketches were approved: it seems that the clothing in the scene was described in the book before this one. Not something I ever would have caught. And further proof that the more people we let into the process, the better it is for the project.

Another winner from, this time with art from Julie Bell. Absolutely lovely use of colour, which nicely highlights the visual elements of Jordan’s magic system. Makes me frown to think the screen on many eReaders are black and white!

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a book signing with Guy Gavriel Kay, author of many novels (including the recently released Under Heaven, which I shall be reviewing soon). He’s one of my absolute writing idols, helping to craft and inspire my own works of fiction.

The reading began like many, Guy Kay was introduced by the always charming Robert Wiersema (reviewer for several well regarded Canadian publications and accomplished writer himself) and proceeded to speak quite candidly about Under Heaven and how he came to find that story amongst China’s history. He speaks with a confident tongue, just like you’d expect, given the tonality and elegance of his work, and, during the reading of Under Heaven, brought his characters to life with a verve that my inner voice is unable to achieve.

The real highlight of my night, though, happened at the end of the long lineup of fans waiting with books in hand. As with most book signings, I waited until the end of the line, not liking to feel pressured for time while getting my chance to meet a favourite author. The last one left, I walked up to the table and Mr. Kay thanked me for my patience. I smiled, then wrote my name down on a little sticky note (no misspellings, right?) and handed it to him. He took it, looked down, read it, paused, then looked back at me.

He said, “Well… I know who you are!”

I probably looked like this guy:

Turns out Mr. Kay knows about and reads A Dribble of Ink. He had some very flattering things to say as he introduced me and my blog to Mr. Wiersema.

Having gathered myself, we had a chance to talk about eBook readers (he took a gander at my new Kobo eReader), the filter writers put over the stories they’re telling and a few other things that were lost to memory thanks to the fanboy seizure I was having through the whole event. Certainly, it was a night to remember and reinforced my opinions of Kay as a person (he’s lovely) and a writer.