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News Spotlight -- Genre Books and Media
by Sandy Auden

This month: Karen Marie Moning's free podcast of Darkfever; Simon Clark on Stone Cold Calling; Doctor Who audio stories; debut novel from Thomas Nevins; and French Fantasy is translated into English with The Cardinal's Blades.

Did you miss something? Have a look at last month's news page or that which lists all of our news pages.

Material for possible inclusion here should be sent to Sandy Auden at SFSiteNews@live.co.uk.

September 2008
Free Karen Marie Moning Audio Book

Bantam Dell have launched the audiobook podcast of bestselling author Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever.

The first in a series of Irish urban fantasies, Darkfever follows MacKayla Lane, a perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks… until something extraordinary happens. When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death -- a cryptic message on Mac's cell phone -- Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister's killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed -- a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

Karen Marie Moning's Darkfever Podcast

This the very first joint effort between Bantam Dell and one of its authors to release the full version of a book for free as a podcast. The book will be presented in its entirety, with four episodes per week available for download.

For more information…

Simon Clark on new novel Stone Cold Calling Stone Cold Calling

Simon Clark's Stone Cold Calling will be released by Tasmaniac Publications on September 25th 2008 in limited edition hard and softback formats.

The synopsis given with the book is intriguing:

It beats but has no heart
Calls without voice
Desires yet is void of emotion
And waits to destroy anyone unlucky enough to grant it freedom

Stone Cold Calling
It may well be the end of us all
With an elusive description like that, we asked Simon Clark for more information about the story and the people in it…

"The main characters are driven by either need or greed," he said. "For one reason or another they all want to make money quickly. They happen to meet a mysterious guy by the name of Stoner. By chance he's found the fall-site of a meteorite that will be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. He can't recover it himself so he enlists the help of four young people.

"Gloria and Warren desperately need money to fund a lavish wedding. Ben is struggling to pay off his student loan, while Mylene needs money to pay for her college education. They're so keen to get their hands on fast cash that they're prepared to take risks. One of which is that the valley where the meteor fell is privately owned."

Not wanting to make it too easy for his characters, Clark has thrown a few obstacles in their way making a tense story. "There are many different ways to build that tension," the author said. "Whether it be the pace and rhythm of the prose or using a count-down technique where the characters have to achieve their goal before a deadline.

"In Stone Cold Calling I thought: what if the meteor has fallen into abandoned farm land? The downside is that a dam has been built and the valley is filling with water. The characters search for the fall-site but hour by hour the water is creeping higher and higher, engulfing houses, drowning fields. If they don't find the meteor within 72 hours it will be submerged under water and forever unreachable."

And searching for meteors is a special, rather personal, subject for Clark: "A big inspiration for the story was being fascinated by meteors from an early age. I've always had a huge buzz when I see a shooting-star. It's a reminder that there's a whole universe out there ... and sometimes part of it crashes into the Earth in a blaze of glory.

"From time to time I even dream that meteors fall in the park across the road from my house and I run across eager to see the rock smoking and glowing there in its crater. It only had to be a matter of time before I wrote a story about one of these cosmic chunks of debris."

To make this story even more special, the letter edition will be leather-bound, slip-cased and will come with their own piece of meteorite (along with a letter of authenticity).

US: For more information…
UK: For more information…
AUS: For more information…

Classic Doctor Who Stories from Big Finish Doctor Who: the Eighth Doctor Collection

Saturday August 30th 2008 saw a special re-issue by Big Finish of four classic Doctor Who adventures featuring the Eighth Doctor and his companion Charley.

Doctor Who -- the Eighth Doctor Collection comes on nine CD's with a twelve page booklet and stars Paul McGann with Mark Gatiss, Jessica Hynes, Simon Pegg, Gareth Thomas and India Fisher.

The stories are as follows:

Storm Warning by Alan Barnes
The Eighth Doctor finds himself aboard the ill-fated R101 airship and meets Edwardian adventuress, Charley Pollard.

Sword of Orion by Nicholas Briggs
The Eighth Doctor and Charley get caught in the cross-fire of the Orion war. Things only get worse when the Cybermen are revived from hibernation.

The Stones of Venice by Paul Magrs
The Eighth Doctor and Charley arrive in Venice in the far future and become entangled in a web of love, lies, death and an ancient curse.

Invaders from Mars by Mark Gatiss
Manhattan 1938. The Doctor and Charley discover that Orson Welles's broadcast of War of the Worlds might not have been fiction after all.

The collection also includes a Bonus Documentary which takes a look at the making of the four adventures; and actors, writers, producers and directors -- including Paul McGann, Gary Russell and Nicholas Briggs -- reveal behind-the-scenes secrets, discuss production problems and recount all the fun and frolics.

For more information…

Futuristic debut novel from Thomas Nevins The Age of the Conglomerates

Ballantine books have got an interesting debut out now from Thomas Nevins called The Age of the Conglomerates.

According to the publisher, the plot goes something like this:
"Now that they are in power, there are no more checks and balances. The Conglomerates, and their mysterious party chairman, have taken over everything and everyone. There is no one left to stop them.

"Forty years in the future, in a world where Big Brother runs amok, a powerful political party known as the Conglomerates has emerged, vowing to enforce economic martial law at any cost. Dr. Christine Salter, director of genetic development at a New York medical center, is in charge of "genetic contouring," the much-in-demand science of producing the ideal child. But Christine is increasingly troubled by odd events, including the strange disappearance of Gabriel Cruz, a co-worker for whom she has a developing affection, and the fact that her latest assignment-making the Conglomerate chairman more youthful through genetic engineering-is an especially dangerous task.

"As mandated by the Family Relief Act, Christine's grandparents are relocated to a government-designed community in the American Southwest, along with other Coots (the official term given to the elderly), who are considered an economic and social burden to family and society. But even in this cold, cruel age, the Conglomerates can only control so much."

For more information…

French Fantasy to be published in UK market Les Lames du Cardinal

French fantasy publishers Bragelonne and the UK's Gollancz imprint have announced one of the first adult French fantasy novels to be translated into English: Pierre Pevel's fantasy The Cardinal's Blades (Les Lames du Cardinal).

The new novel is a swashbuckling story set in a vividly realised seventeenth century Paris where intrigue, duels, spies and adventure are rife and Cardinal Richelieu's men may be prevailed upon to risk life and limb in the name of France at a moments notice. And the defence of France has never been more pressing. A threat is growing in the south -- a threat which will see a huge dragon-shaped shadow cast over France, quite unlike the little pet dragonets which roam the cities like stray cats, or the tame wyverns men can ride like horses high above the Parisian rooftops. These dragons and their descendents are ancient, powerful, terrible . . . and their influence is spreading. It's up to Captain La Fargue and his elite group of men, the Cardinal's Blades, to stop them -- or to die in the attempt.

For such a landmark moment in French and UK fantasy publishing, we had to talk to everyone involved…

First up, Gillian Redfearn, editor at Gollancz publishers:

How did you come to read the book?
It happened almost by accident -- last year Gollancz made a decision to repackage The Lies of Locke Lamora [by Scott Lynch] using the cover Stéphane Marsan (at Bragelonne) had commissioned from a fantastic French artist called Benjamin Carré -- a cover for which Carré then won the prestigious Prix Wojtek Siudmak du graphisme. The website gave details of previous winners of the award, along with the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire winners. Pierre Pevel received the award in 2002, and the website also mentioned that his new novel was forthcoming: a fantasy novel that was essentially Dumas with dragons. With a pitch like that I had to read it, so I requested a reading copy and now here we are.

What attracted you to the book?
The pitch was fantastic. I love the musketeer stories and their cloak and dagger adventures and skulduggery, and I love the style and bravado of the age. To combine that with dragons in what amounts to an alternate history is, for me and for a lot of fantasy readers, almost a dream come true. But better still, Les Lames du Cardinal brings the elements together very effectively -- Pierre Pevel's Paris is an authentic one, the details are accurate from the muddy streets to the political intricacies of the period, the dialogue, language and tone all bring seventeenth century Paris to life, and the fantasy elements are woven through this world in a way that's both intriguing and inconspicuous. Dragons and their attendant creatures and impact on the world are a mundane and realistically portrayed feature of Les Lames du Cardinal, and I find that integrated approach to fantasy very appealing.

What process will this book go through compared to one submitted in English?
The first process it had to go through was getting enough of the book translated that other editors in Orion could consider it and we could discuss publishing it -- and that's a huge obstacle Les Lames du Cardinal had to overcome. In the end I translated the first part myself in order to get a second opinion on the text from others at Gollancz. It's an important part of the acquisitions process to get support from other Editors who've read the text, and that's necessarily more difficult when the book is written in another language. So translating enough to let everyone read a sample of the book was a vital additional process for acquisition and of course the next big process is to have it fully translated from French into English.

That (expensive and time-consuming process) done, we line edit as we would in English to smooth out the language, exactly as we would with a 'normal' book, and from then on the processes are the same.

Over in France, Stéphane Marsan, Editorial Director at Bragelonne publishers was also happy to talk about the new book:

What cultural/story differences are there between English/American fantasy and French fantasy?
Until quite recently almost all fantasy published in France was translated from English language. It began to change when I started publishing French fantasy writers in the 90s, but as you can imagine everyone here, including the writers themselves, were convinced that fantasy was somehow an exclusively Anglo-Saxon genre; every single genre novel we could read was English or American.

But when you talk to authors like Raymond Feist, Terry Brooks or George R. R. Martin -- or more recently Patrick Rothfuss -- about their main influences, they name French historical novels! It seems that the French don't spontaneously produce, and accept, a combination of imagination and fun, and we had forgotten a part of our own culture and history which these US and UK writers were happy to recognise and follow.

As a result, most of this 1990's wave of French fantasy writers remained inside the Tolkienesque influence as far as their storylines and characters were concerned, although there's clearly a different angle taken on the genre: it's darker, there's a more intimate atmosphere and approach to characterisation, more original magic, and historical and literary references. Look at movies by Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Guillermo del Toro and you'll get an idea of how French, and more generally European, fantasy has added to the genre. Only the very best of these young writers have managed to weave these distinctive traits into fast-paced, easy to read and efficient stories. Pierre Pevel is one of them.

What attracted you to the book?
I knew that Pierre could successfully combine authentic history with fantasy elements but I should confess that I'm rarely convinced by this sort of project. I'm always concerned that, as they often do, they simply lack the fun of fantasy. But Pierre came to me with the most well-known and exciting French historical setting (the seventeenth century musketeers) and a very lively approach to the story -- he described it as if it were a script for a tv- series, with unexpected twists and turns in each episode, and dragons on top! It sounded perfect, and the results have proved even better. Pierre is undoubtedly the most superb stylist in French fantasy. His writing is absolutely gorgeous, light-handed, elegant, witty and written with panache -- exactly as if Dumas was writing nowadays. I must have read The Cardinal's Blades ten times now and I still get swept up into it every time I open it again.

And so to the author. Pierre Pevel is one of the foremost writers of French fantasy today. The author of seven novels, he was awarded the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire in 2002 and the Prix Imaginales in 2005, both for best novel.

How much influence did The Three Musketeers have on The Cardinal's Blades?
A lot. Alexandre Dumas is my favourite writer, and The Three Musketeers is my favourite novel. I'm a huge fan. I've reread this book once every two years or so. And more generally speaking I love all kinds of swashbuckling stories -- movies, novels, plays and comics. In fact, I honestly believe Fantasy novels are closer to historical adventure literature than any other genre, and I'm sure that if Alexandre Dumas were alive today he would be writing fantasy. If you simply add a bit of magic to Dumas or Walter Scott, then what you get is a fantasy novel. So it seemed natural to me, when I first came up with the idea for my novels, that I thought more of Dumas, Scott or Arthur Conan Doyle than I did of J.R.R. Tolkien or Terry Brooks. As a reader I love the fantasy genre, but as an author it's not my main inspiration.

Why did you choose dragons as your main fantasy creature?
In fact, it feels as though they chose me. Dragons are fun -- they're beautiful, exciting, powerful and frightening. To my mind, they ARE the main fantasy creatures. There simply couldn't be a better adversary for my heroes. There's also more to my dragons than meets the eye. These are civilised and intelligent creatures which have learned how to change shape and how to live amongst men. They've also learned the ways of men -- in their human forms they're clever, subtle and sly, almost political, enemies who work in the dark, from the shadows, using their influence and working through their proxies as much as they take action themselves. They are strategists and schemers. But they are also capable of reclaiming their true forms and all the raw power and might that entails -- including the ability to breathe fire and smash towers with a blow of their tail if they choose.

Are there any other fantasy creatures in the story?
Yes and no. In The Cardinal's Blades, all the fantasy creatures are dragon-like or dragon-related. There are Wyvernes, used as winged mounts by men; Dragonets, which are small pet dragons smart enough to learn tricks; Dracs, dangerous, brutal and aggressive part-human hybrids with a flair for violence and unbelievable stamina -- they're the ultimate thugs of this world -- and, something to watch out for in the sequel, hydra. So in the world of The Cardinal's Blades dragons and their extended family are the only imaginary creatures. I didn't want to add so many fantasy elements that they would disrupt the real historical context which the book draws on and uses, including real people and events from the period. Thanks to years of research I'm able to describe Paris almost exactly as it was at the time, and this historical Paris wouldn't be believable if the magical creatures were too numerous, or if everyone could use magic. So instead of taking the risk that I would break the fragile balance between historical reality and fantasy, I chose to incorporate dragons and all their cousins, and explore their impact and influence on this world, but to include no other fantastical creatures. In addition to the impact of a number of fantastical creatures on my world, this key decision also reflects a significant aspect of my novel: men and dragons are fighting for supremacy over the Earth. That's a big, complicated, and powerful enough story to make it a challenge to incorporate another set of creatures into the world and give them enough time and space to be developed properly.

Les Lames du Cardinal will be published October 2007 in France by Bragelonne. The Cardinal's Blades will be published May 2009 in the UK by Gollancz.

FR: For more information…
UK: For more information…

Copyright © 2008 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.


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