Michael R. Underwood might best be known to those of us in the SFF blogosphere as one of the main sales and marketing managers at Angry Robot Books. However, the really exciting thing about Underwood isn’t his role at the publisher, but his work on the other side of the table, as author of Geekomancy, Celebromancy, and upcoming releases like Attack of the Geek and Shield and Crocus, his first foray into epic fantasy.
And, my does it sound epic. I caught up with Underwood to chat about Shield and Crocus, the recently revealed cover art, and what it’s like working with 47North.
“This book has meant the world to me for so long, and it’s a dream come true to get to share it with readers,” he told me when I asked him about Shield and Crocus. “I can’t wait to invite people into Audec-Hal to meet the Shields and hear their story.”
Underwood might best be known for his urban fantasy, but “Shield and Crocus is a project that’s been with me for the better part of ten years,” he told me. Read More »
Tobias Buckell announced yesterday that Tor Books is planning a full relaunch of his lauded Xenowealth series, beginning with Crystal Rain. This initiative includes a new branding approach for the series, and a major departure from the original adventurous covers.
We wanted to make sure the books say that they are space adventure. Space opera.
And ain’t it just gorgeous?
Buckell commented on the stylistic change for the new covers, which come about at the expense of some wonderful artwork from one of the industry’s leading artists, Todd Lockwood. “The original Todd Lockwood covers for the books are awesome,” he said. “But when we talked about relaunching the series in trade, one of the things I raised was the fact that booksellers had been telling me that Todd, amazing that he is, is usually associated with Fantasy.”
The first volume in the series, Crystal Rain shares a lot of thematic and structural similarities with fantasy adventure, the sequels, Ragamuffin and Sly Mongoose are more firmly planted in recognizable science fiction, something Buckell and Tor recognized was a potential branding issue, despite the Lockwood’s lovely art.
“With this visual rebranding,” Buckell explained, “we wanted to make sure the books say that they are space adventure. Space opera.
I’m an enormous fan of Buckell’s work, and I was always disappointed by Tor’s initial poor handling of a series with, I believed, the potential to appeal to a large audience of science fiction and general fans. With the recent resurgence in science fiction popularity (at least among the most engaged fans), thanks to authors like Ann Leckie and James S.A. Corey, it feels like the time is ripe for Buckell’s series to be reintroduced to a hungry audience.
Buckell also confirmed more news about the Xenowealth series is coming in the pipeline. There are “lots of pieces of the puzzle are coming together,” he said. The new edition of Crystal Rain will in December, 2014, with Ragamuffing and Sly Mongoogse coming shortly afterwards in 2015.
Oh, I get it. It’s like a snowflake, and also a sword. I can’t imagine that would be a very efficient or easy-to-wield weapon. Perhaps an accident on the training yard leads to the king losing his other half? In any case, the cover’s fine (non-offensive, if bland) and fits the mould for YA fantasy, though holds nothing on Abercrombie’s previous covers (the dude’s damned with comparisons to The First Law‘s covers for the rest of his career, they were so good.)
io9‘s Charlie Jane Anders calls Half a King “a classic ‘coming of age’ story about Yarvi, the youngest son of a warrior king.” Fans of Abercrombie should feel familiar with the concept, and io9′s full description sounds like it is sure to please. “Because Yarvi is born with one disabled hand,” Anders explains. “He’s regarded as ‘half a man,’ and he can’t ever live up to his father’s expectations of what a real man ought to be. He’s expected to go into the ministry instead of becoming a soldier or an heir to the throne — but after his father and brother are killed, he’s thrust onto the throne (the Black Chair) where he has to find a way to rule. But of course his journey doesn’t turn out to be that easy.”
Along with the cover and synopsis, Abercrombie released the first chapter of Half a King. An excerpt of the full excerpt:
There was a harsh gale blowing on the night Yarvi learned he was a king. Or half a king, at least.
A seeking wind, the Gettlanders called it, for it found out every chink and keyhole, moaning Mother Sea’s dead chill into every dwelling, no matter how high the fires were banked or how close the folk were huddled.
It tore at the shutters in the narrow windows of Mother Gundring’s chambers and rattled even the iron-bound door in its frame. It taunted the flames in the firepit and they spat and crackled in their anger, casting clawing shadows from the dried herbs hanging, throwing flickering light upon the root that Mother Gundring held up in her knobbled fingers.
It looked like nothing so much as a clod of dirt, but Yarvi had learned better. ‘Black-tongue root.’
‘And why might a minister reach for it, my prince?’
‘A minister hopes they won’t have to. Boiled in water it can’t be seen or tasted, but is a most deadly poison.’
Mother Gundring tossed the root aside. ‘Ministers must sometimes reach for dark things.’
I can just picture mothers and fathers reading this to their children as they lay curled within the warm cocoon of their blankets and jammies, Abercrombian nightmares biding their time until the light is flicked off.
Every once in a while, an artist nails the artwork from the book they are covering. Marc Simonetti does it on an alarmingly regular basis.
This artwork, created by Simonetti for the Brazilian edition of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire, is gorgeous, and the most accurate to imagery that I had in my mind’s eye when reading Sanderson’s trilogy. That Mistcloak! Those Inquisitors! Kelsier’s grin!
Known among fantasy fans for his work on foreign-language versions of many of fantasy’s biggest series, like Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicles or Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s about time that Simonetti makes the leap to working with some of the big North American and British publisher on the first run major fantasy releases from those authors. The guy’s good enough that his art should be on bookstore shelves everywhere.
Peter Watts is the Hugo-winning Canadian author of Blindsight, described by The Globe and Mail as, “a hard science fiction writer through and through and one of the very best alive,” which is a reputation he has lived up to among fans of hard science fiction. Through their Spring/Summer catalog, Tor has revealed details about Echopraxia, his first novel since 2006.
Prepare for a different kind of singularity in this follow-up to the Hugo-nominated novel Blindsight.
It’s the eve of the twenty-second century: a world where the dearly departed send postcards back from Heaven and evangelicals make scientific breakthroughs by speaking in tongues; where genetically engineered vampires solve problems intractable to baseline humans and soldiers come with zombie switches that shut off self-awareness during combat. And it’s all under surveillance by an alien presence that refuses to show itself.
Daniel Bruks is a living fossil: a field biologist in a world where biology has turned computational, a cat’s-paw used by terrorists to kill thousands. Taking refuge in the Oregon desert, he’s turned his back on a humanity that shatters into strange new subspecies with every heartbeat. But he awakens one night to find himself at the center of a storm that will turn all of history inside-out.
Now he’s trapped on a ship bound for the center of the solar system. To his left is a grief-stricken soldier, obsessed by whispered messages from a dead son. To his right is a pilot who hasn’t yet found the man she’s sworn to kill on sight. A vampire and its entourage of zombie bodyguards lurk in the shadows behind. And dead ahead, a handful of rapture-stricken monks takes them all to a meeting with something they will only call “The Angels of the Asteroids.”
Their pilgrimage brings Dan Bruks, the fossil man, face-to-face with the biggest evolutionary breakpoint since the origin of thought itself.
Before becoming a writer, Watts acquired a PhD in Zoology and Resource Ecology from the University of British Columbia, which makes me even more curious to see that Echopraxia appears to deal with the merging of biology and technology. Watts is known as one of the best authors at weaving intelligent scientific exploration and debate into the narratives of his story, and everything about the synopsis for Echopraxia tugs at my interests. Peter Watts can be trusted with big ideas, and Echopraxia appears to be full of them.
Watts’ most famous novel, Blindsight had, erm… less than inspiring cover art, so it’s nice to see Tor giving him the attention that a writer of his calibre deserves. There’s an obvious similarity to covers for James S.A. Corey’s enormously popular Expanse trilogy, but the clean typography separates the two and also brings to mind Tor’s equally impressive work on the John Harris covers for John C. Wright’s Count to the Eschaton Sequence. I’m not sure how anyone could pass this book in a bookstore and not pick it up.