BINARY lands in America

Binary is now out in North America, which officially makes it available throughout the English-speaking world. Accordingly it and I are popping up all over the place, like some kind of brightly-jacketed internet mushroom. I’m really proud of this book; it’s the first thing I wrote after I’d got a publishing deal, when I knew I was a proper writer and also knew that meant I had something to prove. I poured my heart and soul into Binary, and I believe it shows.

US Edition


UK edition


But! This is not where I tell you what I think of my own work, because I want you all to go read it and have your own thoughts. I will, however, share some other things I’ve written recently to mark the US hardback and the UK paperback releases. They are all in one way or another about the opportunities and the responsibilities of being a storyteller: tackling an unplanned sequel, creating fictional worlds that nevertheless reflect reality, the kinds of stories we choose to keep telling, the challenge of conveying character and of finding your own voice as a writer.

Asking the Next Question

What happens now? Given what has already been done, and cannot be undone; knowing what we now know, and can no longer pretend ignorance of; how do people move forward? What kind of society do they wish to live in?

Who will they choose, now, to be?

Plausible Fictions and Strange Realities

Thanks to medicine, it is a certainty that no one anywhere in the world will get smallpox ever again. That is a real-life, honest-to-god miracle, accomplished during my lifetime; but there is no glamour attached to it. The fairy dust of fictional extrapolation has somehow passed it by.

Violent Impulses, or How We Think About Conflict

As someone who writes fiction which draws on the social sciences as well as on genetics and information technology, I’m keenly aware of those patterns of belief and presumption – and given that fiction almost invariably relies on some kind of conflict to provide a sense of significance and urgency, it strikes me that how we resolve fictional conflicts is relevant to how we think about real ones.

Finding Voices: Defining the Characters in Binary

If creating this plethora of voices and characters and languages and subtext sounds terribly difficult and complicated, well it is – but no more so than the complex human interactions we engage in and expertly negotiate every day.

(And, because I think you might enjoy it, here’s a little story from my own life before I became a writer.)

New reviews keep coming in, all linked under the tab above. (I do mean all; as long as a review is online and I know about it, it’ll be linked from this site. The only exceptions will be ones that are abusive or excessively spoilery – which hasn’t happened yet – or groups of reader reviews at sites like Goodreads or Amazon.)


BINARY: US Edition Cover Reveal!

I did say there was going to be a Big Reveal today … and here it is! Many thanks to Bookworm Blues, The Qwillery, Sci-Fi Fan LetterCivilian ReaderA Fantastical Librarian and The Bibliosanctum for splashing this about, along with reviews and extracts:

US Edition

US Edition

The UK vs. US cover conversation is already underway on Twitter (for the record I like them both, and I’m proud of the fact that the book lends itself to such different interpretations). The jacket copy is the same in both territories:

When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career: chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black-market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech program inches toward a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past … and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

The US hardback is in stores on May 5th, and I shall be popping up in various places online in celebration. Thanks to mine hosts!

BINARY extract: Upbringing

She grows up in a city.

They live high above the sweat and dirt and horror that haunts most of it, in the heart of the old, proud seat of empire. She is accustomed to looking out of tall windows at soaring spires and swirling domes, their fairground gaiety at odds with the blocky, bland pragmatism of the modern buildings below. She gazes at the bright temples and palaces for hours sometimes, intensely, as if she could couple her concentration to their sleeping grandeur and bring a lost world to life; and in her mind’s eye she does see the pennants and pageants that they once hosted, the great romances and golden ages and armies marching home in triumph. All her life she will love architecture that curves and sweeps and does more than merely contain.

Her father rarely looks out of the windows. His enchantment is reserved only for her, and she sometimes wishes she could interest him elsewhere, become less the laser-sharp focus of all his days. But she is his light and his life, he tells her, his greatest achievement and the only one which will matter in the end. Outside is only grief and despair and the slow degradation of all else he has treasured. He seems not to share her ability to unhear the moans of the afflicted and wails of the bereaved, to unsee the smoke that rises from a thousand thousand cremations. He worries endlessly about the emptiness of the world in which she will one day have to make her way, about how she will cope and whether she can be happy. To be the only precious child of a rich and powerful man guarantees little in this latter, desolate age.

She knows that he is among those battling against the plague, and that though they may have the answer now to the disease’s vicious question, victory is still far from certain. They have lost so much ground. So few remain to fight. He is one of the rare ones able to protect his own, and he has bequeathed the armour of immunity to her.

It is not his only gift.

Binary (UK trade paperback), pp35-36

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Binary involves not only the multiple points-of-view structure that I used in Gemsigns, but is punctuated by a series of flashbacks. They take the reader into several of the characters’ pasts, creating a parallel narrative with the events which occur in the story’s present.

This is one of those flashbacks.

BINARY extract: Mikal, Eli, and what to make of Zavcka

The midsummer sun was still high enough above the horizon to cast a golden glow over the gathering crowds on the riverwalk an hour later. Eli let himself be carried along in the flow of people heading towards the park, until he could step aside into a little nook where two ancient chestnut trees sheltered an empty bench. He sank down onto it and tried to think.

Zavcka had wrapped her speech up quickly. The grandee who had introduced her bounced back onstage, grinning widely, and invited questions. Eli wondered if Aryel would stay and challenge or slip away as unobtrusively as she had arrived, but she did neither. Instead she had waited until the lights came up, waited until they touched the wall where she stood and Zavcka Klist’s eyes had focused on her and widened, before she sidestepped quickly to the door and out. By then people were on their feet all over the room and salvos were being fired at the stage.

They ranged predictably from anxious enquiries about safety, to what sorts of products she thought might emerge, to quantifying the economic impact. She had gone straight to Mikal’s raised hand, though, despite knowing that he must be about to ask her to explain precisely what she meant by integrating human gemtech.

Work had already begun, she said, in the pre-Syndrome era, on direct interfaces. But they did not understand enough then about how the brain was structured and how it worked; progress was slow, patchy, and ultimately abandoned.

‘We have the answers to those questions now,’ she said. ‘And while we can regret the manner in which much of that knowledge was gained, I don’t think it honours anybody to simply not use it. On the contrary, it seems to me that we have an obligation to turn it into something worthwhile. Much of the original research focused on disability, for example, and working in difficult environments like space. Or underwater. If we can use what we already know to link this,’ she pointed to her own head, ‘directly to this,’ and she took a tablet out of the Festival director’s hand and held it up with the same restrained theatricality, ‘then there are so many problems we can solve.’

She handed the tablet back, her attention still on Mikal. ‘We’re not talking about new gemtech. But I understand the concerns behind your question, Councillor, and I respect them. It’s a question that should be asked.’

A few seconds of silence then, the audience bemusedly contemplating the unexpected courtesy she was showing to Mikal. Eli could imagine the split-lidded blink with which he filled it, something he thought his friend sometimes did on purpose when he wished to be disconcerting.

‘There are many questions that should be asked,’ Mikal had replied evenly. ‘And answered. I look forward to it.’

Eli knew her well enough to recognise the flash of anger in Zavcka Klist’s eyes as she registered the rebuke. A few people seemed to realise that they had missed something, but it sailed too far over the heads of most. Mikal sat back, giving up the floor and watching her weather the torrent.

Now Eli kept an eye on the passing crowd until the giant loomed into view. He raised a hand. Mikal waved back and changed course, navigating to the edge of the flow of people so that Eli could fall into step beside him.

‘Well,’ he said, channelling well-worn irony, ‘that was interesting.’

Mikal laughed, a gusty tone with an edge of bitterness to it. ‘Which part? The rebirth of infotech, the recycling of gemtech, or Zavcka Klist being my new best mate?’

‘That last one is the killer. Did she speak to you again? I slipped out when it looked like there was going to be mingling. No love lost between us, as you know.’

‘I think she would have been nice even to you. She came straight up to me, handshake, congratulations, the whole thing. Said she didn’t think it would have been helpful to get into a technical discussion about neurochemistry from the stage but she didn’t want me to think she was being evasive, they intend to be completely open, blah blah blah.’

‘Subject to commercial constraints, of course.’

‘Of course. Though she did make a point of saying they want to set up a protocol with the regulators to ensure that the protection of intellectual property doesn’t undermine transparency. Quite how you manage that I don’t know, but she’d be very happy for me to help work it out.’

‘Blimey. Do you believe her?’

‘Do I believe that she wants me on her private stream, or popping by the office? That she mortifies herself nightly over what Bel’Natur did? Over what she allowed to happen to Gabriel, and Callan, and goodness knows how many others? No, no and no. She doesn’t look nearly shredded enough.’

The big man sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It was medium length and a nondescript lightish brown. The modifications he bore were more than sufficient gemsign; his designers had correctly judged that topping them off with a jewel-coloured, phosphorescent mane would have been redundant. His double thumbs left twin furrows on either side of his head.

‘But is she now genuinely trying to chart a new course? She might be, Eli. She knows they can’t go back to the old days. Innovate or die, as they used to say at Recombin. Infotech has been stagnant for a long time. We are all Syndrome-safe now, gems and norms, even the Remnants. Bel’Natur might be up to exactly what she says they’re up to.’

‘You sound like a politician, Mik.’

‘Go wash your mouth out. With soap.’

Binary (UK trade paperback), ch3, pp31-34

I thought I’d put up an extract today that sort-of follows on from yesterday’s. I quite like this as a kind of contra-Bechdel: two men talking at length about a woman for whom they have a great deal of respect, if absolutely no affection.

This extract business is interesting. I’m discovering what a challenge it is to find passages that hint at what else is to come in Binary, and what’s already transpired in Gemsigns, while not spoilering either! Tomorrow I may put up one of the flashback scenes …


New review! While I was writing this, an email came in with an advance look at the review that’s going to appear in the Birmingham SF Group’s newsletter. It’s by Carol Goodwin and it’s brilliant. I’ll post a link to the newsletter as soon as it’s available.

BINARY extract: The Beginning

We are a split and splintered species. Every pivot-point of need and creed proves the ease with which we fracture; every heartfelt reunion warns against its own necessity. The lines of our division are as many and varied as the sins of our ancestors and the accidents of history; as varied as the lines on the palm of Mikal Varsi’s hand, double-thumbed and huge at the end of a three-foot-long arm, as he raises it and takes the oath.

His eyes, split-lidded like a lizard’s, blink slowly as he listens to the solemn proclamation of the clerk, stumbling over her words a little as she gazes up and up to his face, wondering as she does so if her tiny part in this moment will be remembered; and wondering also, fleetingly and with guilt, whether posterity will smile upon the memory, or revile her for it. Then he opens his mouth, an ordinary mouth, a mouth she has already learned is no less quick with smiles than with wit, and in a gentle, nasal voice repeats after her just as he should, and she thinks, Well that wasn’t so bad.

She turns to set aside the edicts he has sworn to uphold, and he turns aside to the woman who stands behind him, a woman whose height and hands and eyes are steadfastly normal and who would, moreover, tell you that her heart is too; though there are still many who think this unlikely, for she has given both it and her name to a gem, a man designed for service and built for labour. He bends now and the long arm wraps around her body, and the thumbs on either side of that well-lined palm squeeze her shoulder as she tips her head back to smile up at him and receive his kiss. There is applause from his fellow councillors and hearty laughter all round the chamber, but the clerk thinks she sees a hint of her own secret worry flit across more than a few faces.

And then he steps off the platform, eight towering feet of genetically modified humanity moving to take its place for the first time among the elect of the city; and they part for him like a sea, and like the sea close behind him once again.

Binary (UK trade paperback), ch1, pp3-4

It’s Binary’s birthday! My second novel and the sequel to Gemsigns is now out in the UK. Lisa McCurrach calls it ‘another five-star effort,’ and in her interview with me for SF Signal, Andrea Johnson asked me to describe a favourite scene. This is the first of the two that I mentioned, and is the opening passage of the book. I hope you like it.

Books and parties and conventions and prizes and … Calabash!

If you’ve been keeping up with me on Twitter you’ll know that I’ve mostly been having a good week. The only real fly in my ointment at the moment has been the discovery that the Scriptopus website is down, and that the company that’s been hosting it is one of the most unprofessional organisations I’ve had the displeasure of encountering in quite some time. It’s frustrating of course, and I’m a bit surprised to find myself not more angry and upset. But while some of the content may be lost, the source code is safely backed up; and if the host can’t restore it I will relaunch it somewhere safer and saner; and I have got so many happier things to think about  

On Tuesday I received my author copies of the Binary trade (TPB) and the Gemsigns mass-market paperback (MMP) editions, both out in the UK on 3rd April. Does ripping open a cardboard box to find bound books with beautiful covers full of the words that you wrote ever get old?

2 weeks to publication!

2 weeks to publication!


I doubt it. There are no posted reviews of Binary yet – at least none that I know of – but it’s in the hands of reviewers,  a couple of whom have tweeted their early reactions. I am cautiously optimistic.

Tuesday evening was the Clarke Award shortlist announcement party, which was great fun; many congratulations to the shortlisted authors (and many thanks to the kind folks who tipped me to be one of them – even though I wasn’t, the fact that you thought I might have been meant a great deal).

Still on the subject of prizes: on Thursday Jo Fletcher Books posted a list of their Hugo-award-eligible publications and Campbell-award-eligible authors. To be honest I’d given very little thought to either of these; I tend to think that if your book isn’t out in America (and mine isn’t until May), you don’t have much of a shout. But Gemsigns and I are there for your consideration, along with many other wonderful books and first-time authors, and a reminder that the nomination deadline is 31st March.

I’ve also been communicating with the Satellite4 organisers about panels and readings; there’s going to be some very good stuff at this year’s Eastercon in Glasgow, and I hope to see many of you there. 

But with the Binary TPB and Gemsigns MMP publication date only a couple of weeks away, I’ve been mostly preoccupied with getting ready. That’s meant a long overdue update to this website (cover shots and purchase links in the sidebar! actual descriptions of the novels under the Novels tab!), and to bios and avatars around the web more generally. I’ve been busiest of all with guest posts and interviews: over the next few weeks I’ll be popping up in a variety of places, including Civilian Reader, Upcoming4.Me, SF Signal, Little Red Reviewer, and

And I’ve been waiting on an announcement. Not an award or shortlist this time, but the official launch of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica in May. It’s been in my Upcoming Events for ages, but I couldn’t pre-empt the organisers by saying more – despite knowing enough to be very excited. So the first of my series of guest posts to go live is the last one I wrote –  SF in’a Calabash, composed this morning on the back of last night’s launch. If you never follow another link from this blog please, follow that one. It’s something I am very very proud to be part of.  

A list of lists

I’ve been kept warm and cozy by all the lovely mentions of my books on people’s best-of and most-looking-forward-to lists over the past few weeks. It’s been a wonderful end to a remarkable year, and I am more honoured and grateful than I can say. One of the things I use this blog for is to keep track of memorable moments in my writing life; so here is my list of lists. THANK YOU ALL.

Favourite 2013 Debuts | A Fantastical Librarian

Best Books of 2013 | Reviewers Choice | Liz Bourke

Best Debuts of 2013 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing & Listening in 2013 | Ambling Along the Aqueduct | Cheryl Morgan

The Best of 2013 | Over the Effing Rainbow

Best Covers of 2013 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

The Year That Was | Sleepless Musings

Anticipated Science Fiction & Horror (Winter-Spring) 2014 | A Fantastical Librarian

Most Anticipated Books of 2014 | Shadowhawk’s Shade

And of course, the first two lists that kicked off my personal season of joy:

Best Science Fiction of 2013 | The Guardian

BSFA Awards 2013: Nominations so far | BSFA

UPDATE 3 Jan 2014:

Anticipated Books 2014 | The Book Plank

UPDATE 7 Jan 2014:

Books to Look Out For | Sleeps With Monsters |

UPDATE 8 Jan 2014:

MIND MELD: Our Favorite SF/F/H Consumed in 2013 | SF Signal

BINARY cover reveal!


Ta daah! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Apologies for the length of time this has taken, folks – I am fortunate enough to have a publisher who listens to author input on covers (and accommodates almost all of them), but the tweaks I asked for meant the final version was a bit delayed. Some of you noticed the work-in-progress versions of the cover up on the Jo Fletcher Books website and 2014 catalogue – because sales deadlines wait for no one. Sorry for any confusion that may have caused.

However! I think it was worth the wait. What do you think?

When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career … chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech programme inches towards a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past … and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

Binary cover copy!

I’ve had a slightly frenetic, but altogether fruitful and fabulous day today, working on the promotional copy for Binary with my editor and publisher, Jo Fletcher. As happened a year ago when we went through the same process for Gemsigns, there were head-desking decisions to be made about what storylines and characters to mention, what hints to drop, and what to leave unheralded for the reader to discover. It’s not a simple thing when you persist (as I seem to do) in creating complicated interweaving plots populated by a large and stroppy cast.  Binary is no less complex in terms of story and characters, but this time the process was easier; I’d like to think I’m better at it now, but the truth is that Jo did most of the work. Here’s the result.

When confiscated genestock is stolen out of secure government quarantine, DI Sharon Varsi finds herself on the biggest case of her career … chasing down a clever thief, a mysterious hacker, and the threat of new, black market gemtech.

Zavcka Klist, ruthless industrial enforcer, has reinvented herself. Now the head of Bel’Natur, she wants gem celebrity Aryel Morningstar’s blessing for the company’s revival of infotech – the science that spawned the Syndrome, nearly destroyed mankind, and led to the creation of the gems. With illness in her own family that only a gemtech can cure, Aryel’s in no position to refuse.

As the infotech programme inches towards a breakthrough, Sharon’s investigations lead ever closer to the dark heart of Bel’Natur, the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s past … and what Zavcka Klist is really after.

Riding the come-down

After a year of angst and anguish, painfully slow progress, wrong turns and backtracks and the startling discovery that yes, the second book really IS harder to write than the first, I’ve finally done it. Binary is complete.

Back on 9th May I said I thought it would take another couple of weeks; as so often with this book I was both right and wrong. I got to the end and typed ‘The End’ last Wednesday, neatly inside my estimate, but it took another 4 days of morning-to-midnight work to fill in missing bits of text and fix errors, incoherences and inconsistencies. The obvious ones, anyway. I’ve no doubt that editor and assistant editor, agent and alpha readers will catch lots of things I missed. And thank goodness for that, because at this point I know I’m far too close to it to be able to see it clearly. It’s only been done for a day and a half, and I am swinging like a pendulum between sunny confidence that it’s a flawless book full of fabulous characters and a fantastic plot — and a dreary conviction that my reach has far exceeded my grasp, that the mysteries I’ve constructed are so intricate they will make sense to no one but me.

Here’s a prediction you can lay money on: I’m going to be wrong on both counts. With any luck I’ll be very wrong on the second, and only a little wrong on the first.

I can say that because when I finished Gemsigns a year and a half ago and sent it off to the loose group of friends, family and acquaintances that I dubbed the ®Evolution Readers, I felt pretty much exactly like this. I was mentally exhausted, emotionally drained, and I honestly didn’t know whether I’d written a good book or 100,000+ words of gibberish.

Turned out it was, fundamentally, a good book. And after about a month of not looking at it, I was able to read through with a clear head and see that; and with the comments of those alpha readers to hand, fix the inevitable outcrops of error and poor prose. So I am comforted by that memory, and confident that the experience will be repeated.

In the meantime Gemsigns is making its way in the world — to as wonderful a reception as any debut author could hope or dream of (see the Reviews link above) — and will be formally launched in the USA next May as part of the Jo Fletcher plan for world domination. I have a sorely neglected house and garden to attend to, and next week I’m off to Jamaica, to visit family and friends I haven’t seen for eighteen months, sun myself and swim and hopefully decompress a bit. There’ll be promotional events there too, including a local launch, reading and discussion at Bookophilia, Kingston’s premiere bookstore. And I have the third book of the ®Evolution to think about, to plan and to write.

But not just yet. The pendulum needs to stop swinging first.

  • I love stories.
    My new novel, Sacred, is all about them. Publication info will be posted as soon as I have it.

    In the meantime check out Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, available wherever good books are sold.

  • Upcoming Events

    No upcoming events

  • Latest tweets

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,079 other subscribers
  • UK edition


    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK edition


    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • UK Edition


    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 3rd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 2nd Book of the ®Evolution

  • US Edition


    The 1st Book of the ®Evolution

  • Meta

%d bloggers like this: