AUDIOVISIONARY will be published in PARADOX this summer!

Back in February I talked about having been invited to submit a short story for a themed anthology which will be released later this year. That anthology has now been announced: it’s PARADOX, to be published by NewCon Press and launched at Loncon in August, and I’m delighted that my story Audiovisionary will be part of it. Click the link to check out the great cover and the full table of contents; there are no less than fifteen original pieces of fiction, and a starry list of authors including Pat Cadigan, Adam Roberts, Paul Cornell, Dr Rachel Armstrong, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Tricia Sullivan.

As for what it’s about: The theme of PARADOX is Fermi’s Paradox, a scientific conundrum which essentially boils down to the following: Given the age and scale of the universe, and the relative youth within it of our own solar system, we know there must exist many more planets similar to our own – that is to say, capable of supporting life – and that they will mostly be a lot older than we are. So the probability is high that intelligent life will have evolved elsewhere, and will have had more time to solve problems like interstellar travel and communications. That being the case, why haven’t we heard from them? 

(Or, rather more succinctly: Where is everybody?)

The only requirement set by editor Ian Whates was to write a piece of short fiction that would reflect on, respond to, or in some way be inspired by this. Space science is not my normal stomping ground, nor is short fiction my natural format; but the Fermi problem resonated with an idea I’d already been playing around with, plus I was struggling to get a handle on my next novel and I thought it might be helpful to get my head into something completely different for a while and then come back to it. So I decided to give it a go, and Audiovisionary came out. It’s a real departure for me; I’m looking forward to hearing what readers think, and to the rest of PARADOX.

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Nose, meet grindstone.

After all the excitement and online attention of the last couple of weeks, and the turmoil of the past half-year or so, it’s time to get back to something approaching normal. I actually can’t remember the last time I spent a day, much less a week or a month, simply writing fiction. But I’ve just checked back through my list of other-things-to-do and to my relief, they’ve all been done. Guest posts and articles have been written, interviews have been given, and all are now online. Reviews for Gemsigns and Binary continue to come in at a steady rate, and I will continue to link them here. But increasingly those reviewers and interviewers (not to mention regular readers) are also asking how the third book of the ®Evolution, Gillung, is coming along, and the answer is that it mostly hasn’t been; I’ve been hugely distracted for many months now. The manuscript isn’t just a little bit late, it’s very late. But the story is there in my head, scrabbling to get out, growling at me for some undivided attention.

So that’s what it’s about to get. It’ll be another complicated, layered story with a large cast of characters, and if I’m to give it the kind of focus that demands I can’t allow my mind to wander. I’m going to try out one of those apps that’s supposed to help eliminate the distractions of the web (I’m looking at you here, Twitter). I won’t be completely absent, but I will be less immediately responsive. I’m not going to be saying ‘no’ to all new requests, but I may no longer be saying ‘yes’ to everything in the way that I have done. As it is I’ve still got loads of appearances, real and virtual, coming up: in a week I’ll be recording a Skiffy and Fanty roundtable discussion with other Caribbean SF writers for podcast shortly thereafter. A couple of days after that I head to Jamaica, where I’ll be reading at the Calabash Literary Festival on 31st May. When I get back I’ll be the BSFA’s interviewee on 25th June, and I’ve made myself available for Independent Booksellers Week which starts on the 28th, and then in August there’s Nine Worlds and the World Science Fiction Convention. I doubt I’ll be finished by then, but with any luck the end will at least be in sight.

American ®Evolution: news from the front

Gemsigns drops in America today! That is to say, today’s the day it can be found on the shelves of bookshops or dispatched to you from your preferred online retailer (and if you pre-ordered the ebook it’s probably already sitting on your reader as I write this). I am very excited, and slightly nervous; I went to university in the States and spent well over a decade there afterwards, moving between Massachusetts, California and Florida. There’s no doubt that those years have hugely informed who I am, how I think and what I write; and although the ®Evolution novels are set in my current home city of London, it was in America that I first began to grapple with the issues they address. So in a strange way it feels as though I am sending some of those lessons and questions back home; and hoping they will find as welcome a reception as I did, when it was my home.

If the last few weeks are anything to go by I shouldn’t worry; the reviews so far have been excellent. I’ve also been invited to contribute articles on various topics to a number of blogs and webzines. Here are the most recent.

More Kids, Please | Bookworm Blues | 5 May 2014

Think about your own narrative. Whether or not you have kids, you’ll certainly remember being one. Didn’t you have constant interactions with the adults around you? Didn’t you think thoughts and have complex feelings and cause things to happen? Weren’t you a person then too?

Changing Stories: Social Media in Speculative Fiction | io9 | 5 May 2014

How can an immersive media environment inform literature – both in terms of the stories we tell, and the ways in which those stories are told? … I’d read little if anything that I thought really tried to engage the potential of social and mass media, as both plot and narrative devices, within a traditional literary form.

We Need Fiction To Tell The Truth | Special Needs in Strange Worlds | SF Signal | 6 May 2014

… a lot of the standard tropes around disability that we see in fiction – that it befalls someone who has done wrong, and can therefore be understood as a punishment; or that with the loss of a sense such as sight a new ability such as clairvoyance is gained, suggesting some kind of fair exchange; or that the witch/wizard/wise scientist has a miracle cure up their sleeve; or that the disabled person is so patient and saintly they don’t actually mind either the disability or the slings and arrows they suffer because of it; or, worst of all, that said disability is the only thing of significance about them – are the coping mechanisms employed by those of able body and sound mind. They are a way of reducing people to symbols in order to codify our own fear; a way of reframing a complex reality into a simple narrative.

(I’ll be updating this post as more pieces go live later today and over the next few days; there’s a comprehensive list under Press + Posts above.)

8 May 2014 – UPDATE:

Trusting the Future? Ethics of Human Genetic Modification | LiveScience Op-Ed | 6 May 2014

Evolution relies on the emergence of exceptions — no less when it comes to social change than to genetic mutation. The exceptions that become the rule over time are those that best respond to the environment in which they have arisen. And yet we are rarely more anxious than when we feel those boundaries start to shift, or more strident in demanding an uncomplicated moral framework within which to determine the way forward.

10 May 2014 – FURTHER UPDATE (or, it’s been a hell of a week and a new blog post is beyond me right now):

The Big Idea: Stephanie Saulter | Whatever | 9 May 2014

[The] metrics of humanity can prove tricky. What if that unconscious mental ideal happens to be constructed as a white person? Or a male person? Or a fit and healthy person whose physical capabilities fall within a statistically standard range? What does that imply for the perceived humanity of brown people, or female people, or people with different physiques and capabilities?

Interviews: 

My Bookish Ways | Interview | 8 May 2014
Podcast: Interview | The Skiffy and Fanty Show | 7 May 2014
The Qwillery | Interview & Gemsigns giveaway | 7 May 2014

 

GEMSIGNS: US Edition Cover Reveal!

I was going to do another Gemsigns extract today, but that has been superseded by the news that – ta da! – the US cover is finally available for public viewing! (In fairness it’s been up on the Quercus US site for a while, but hadn’t been cleared for wider distribution.) Many thanks to the lovely folks over at SF Signal who splashed it up yesterday. So now I can do the same here, along with the full jacket copy:

US Edition

US Edition

For years a deadly syndrome that targeted adolescents threatened to decimate the human race, but a cure was ultimately developed by altering the human genome. The corporations that invented the cure then began to use the process to genetically engineer an entirely new class of workers. Known as Gems, these modified humans were physically and mentally adapted for jobs that could not be undertaken by normal human beings, and branded with a gemsign: glowing, neon-coloured hair or some other visible difference, engineered into their anatomy, forever setting them apart from the Norms they were bred to serve.

Now, decades later, the Gems are fighting for their rights, and for freedom from the companies that created them. As violence begins to threaten the severely stratified society, an international conference is scheduled to decide this critical civil rights issue once and for all. In advance of the conference, Dr. Eli Walker has been commissioned to gather detailed findings on the Gems. As an apolitical, nonpartisan figure in the debate, Walker’s analysis promises to be pivotal in deciding the fate of the Gems.

But with vast corporate profits at stake, and with the bloodthirsty religious zealots of the Godgangs determined to rid the earth of these “unholy” creations, the Gems are in a fight for their very lives against violent and powerful adversaries who will stop at nothing to keep them enslaved forever.

In terms of imagery and emphasis it’s a different approach to the one taken for the UK edition. I was part of the conversation in both cases, and I’ll be interested to see how it plays out in different markets and with different audiences. For the record, I don’t have a favourite – I really do love both sets of cover + copy. But I’d like to know if you prefer one over the other, and why!

By the way, clicking on the US edition in the sidebar will take you to the Amazon US purchase page – which, confusingly, is currently showing the  UK cover instead of the US one. I have no idea why, but I do know that the Quercus US team are in the process of sorting it out. (And of course, the UK editions link to the Amazon UK pages.)

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P.S. More guest postage! While I’ve been writing this the ‘Story Behind the Story’ piece that I wrote for Upcoming4.Me has gone up. If you want to know what started the ®Evolution, check it out here. (Moral of the story behind the story: Keep your staff interested in the job at hand. Unless you want them to run off and become writers.)

Gearing up, counting down, and supporting your local bookshop

There’s only a week to go before Binary is published, and the Gemsigns paperback edition comes out, and as threatened promised I am popping up all over the internet. In addition to the Civilian Reader and Jo Fletcher Books guest posts, and great reviews of both books from Lisa McCurrach and Sarah Chorn (all linked from here), there’s been an interview with Andrea Johnson and another guest post, about dystopia versus democracy, both on SF Signal. Plus I’ve had more superb reactions to Binary via Twitter from other respected reviewers, and there are more posts and interviews lined up.

If previous experience is anything to go by, the next stage will be people asking, Where can I buy your books? (In fact you needn’t wait; pre-orders are an author’s friend.)

So let me make it easy for you …

If you’re inclined to online purchasing, you’ve got a lot of options. The cover images to the right will take you directly to the Amazon UK pages for Gemsigns and Binary, and if you’re a Kindle user you’ll know they are the only source for your ereader as well as being a place to buy print. You can also purchase directly from the publisher, Jo Fletcher Books, who will have the epub as well as print copies available; and of course if you’re an Apple user you’ll know your way around iBooks. The Book Depository doesn’t do ebooks (as far as I can tell), but they offer good prices on print and – best of all – free worldwide delivery. And there are many other sites through which both print and ebooks can be ordered; if you’ve got a favourite that I haven’t mentioned, feel free to link it in the comments.

Unsurprisingly, there are fewer choices and less certainty when it comes to old-fashioned, pavement pounding, bricks & mortar book shopping. In the UK we’ve got a number of tiny-to-small independents; if you’re lucky enough to have one of them in your neighbourhood I urge you to support it (and again, give it a shout-out in the comments). At the medium-to-large end I can only think of Blackwell’s, Foyles, Forbidden Planet, Waterstones, and WH Smith* … and only two of those are in every town, on every high street … and most of them won’t get in more than a few copies, if any. (You can of course shop from them online as well, and many also carry ebook formats via their websites.)

But here’s the thing about bookshops large and small that I think customers often don’t realise: you can always order what you want from them right there at the till. The store will have it delivered, and you can collect it at your leisure. I’ve had too many people say to me, frustratingly, that they looked around their local bookshop, couldn’t find my book, and left without further inquiry. If you’ve been following the very fraught issue of the (under)representation of female science fiction and fantasy authors (as well as authors of colour, books in translation, non-heteronormative perspectives and anything else that’s not white, Anglo-American, male and straight), you’ll know we already have a mountain to climb when it comes to getting shelf space in bookshops; not to mention front-of-house table space.

Progress is being made on this last point, as reported by Emma Newman and indicated by Foyles’ assurances to Sophia McDougall, and I am delighted by that. But when a book isn’t in the store to begin with, interacting with the staff and placing an order through them is another small, simple, non-confrontational action that anyone can take and that quietly helps to redress the imbalance; purely as a side effect of getting you the book that you want while giving them the sales that they need. That’s because it does two things.

First, it makes the booksellers – the people who actually interact with and make recommendations to the public – aware of a book they might not otherwise have even known existed. Verbalising information makes it sticky; they’ll remember that they took a customer’s order for such-and-such a book. Second, it creates data that pings back to head office (assuming you’re dealing with a shop large enough to have one), and tells them what said public is walking into their stores and asking for. It creates a contradiction to the narrative that keeps the book from being on the shelf in the first place: the trope that it’s not worth carrying in-store because it won’t sell. This is usually difficult to refute in sales terms, because standard practice makes it circular and self-fulfilling; and bookshops are under such tremendous pressure in today’s market that simply haranguing them to take what they perceive as a commercial risk is likewise a difficult ask. It’ll only become less difficult as it’s perceived as less risky.

So if you’re inclined to shop in-store instead of (or in addition to) online, and you don’t see what you’re looking for, do me and your other missing author(s) a favour. Don’t assume that the shop has just sold out (that would be lovely), or that they’ll have more copies in next week (not likely). Make the inquiry. Order the book. That will let them know there is a demand, and nudge at that damaging narrative.

My book birthday is in a week. It’s the best present I could get.

 §

*Who I don’t think will have Binary in print for a while, as they only carry mass-market paperbacks and the Binary MMP won’t be out for a year.

 

Monday madness! Or is that magic?

What a grand day I’ve had. A few weeks ago I received a request from Civilian Reader to write a piece for the Influences & Inspirations series; and as often happens, having to write about it made me think about it, and see connections that were always there but that I hadn’t been consciously aware of. The post turned out to be all about stories, and went up early this morning:

Influences & Inspirations | Civilian Reader

Then the first review of Binary was posted – and it’s a corker:

Rewriting the Script: A Review of BINARY by Stephanie Saulter | Over the Effing Rainbow

And … corker redux! A new review of Gemsigns:

GEMSIGNS by Stephanie Saulter | Bookworm Blues

Will I ever turn into one of those writers who ‘never reads the reviews’? Not as long as they’re like this.

(I’m even feeling chuffed enough to put up another link to this post. Because Friday was pretty marvellous too.)

 

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 Tor.com.

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.  

Coming soon: Transatlantic Pre-Publication Promotional Frenzy. Also: new home!

Success is its own reward, or perhaps its own punishment. Since I last mused about story-writing, I’ve done anything but. I barely put fingers to keyboard for the past week, while I moved out of the friend’s flat I’ve been sharing for the past few months and into one of my own. I can remember when this wouldn’t have required more than a half-day or so of unpacking and sorting, but in the years since then I have accumulated a truly astonishing amount of Stuff. And if you think fitting the contents of a rambling three-storey barn conversion into the compactness that is a London flat sounds like a challenge, well, you’d be right.

But it’s done and I’m in; pictures are up on the walls and books, most importantly, are back on the shelves. And not a moment too soon: I’ve got lots of lovely people asking me to do lots of writerly stuff, all due to the fact that I have two books coming out in the next two months. One of which is already out. Confused? Bear with me.

Binary drops in the UK and Commonwealth on 3rd April*, and Gemsigns gets its North American release in May. And because the Americans need things Americanised, that meant I had the American copy edit, and then typeset, to review in February; not to mention different cover art to comment on and cover copy to check. Welcome to the wonderful world of global publishing.

(Lest that sound like a whinge, let me stress that the Quercus US team are a delight to work with, and the approach they’ve taken for the US cover and copy is fantastic; much as I love the UK cover of Gemsigns, I have to confess that the US version is at least as good. Maybe better. I’ll be doing a reveal as soon as they let me, and then you, People of the Interwebs, can decide.)

As you might suspect, all of this means there’s going to be just a wee bit of a promotional jamboree happening over the next month or three. I’ll be cropping up in various places online, on both sides of the pond (and in May I cross the pond for real, to read at the Calabash Literary Festival). I’ll post links here to stuff happening elsewhere, and there’ll be some bespoke writing for this site as well; but the growing list of interview and guest post requests makes me think that much of what I planned to talk about on my own blog will turn into conversations in other locations. I’ll put up the signposts, and I hope you’ll join in.

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*Note to reviewers: Binary is available on NetGalley for another week.

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 | Tor.com 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 | Tor.com

UPDATE 8 Jan 2014:

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

‘Tis the season of lists …

I was rather lazily reading Adam Roberts‘ Guardian roundup of the best science fiction books of 2013 after dinner last night, and damn near choked on the dregs of my wine … did a double-take … triple-take … no, nothing funny in the glass (I checked) nor wrong with my eyes (no more than usual, anyway). There was Gemsigns, sharing column inches with the likes of Margaret Atwood and Stephen King, Lauren Beukes and Lavie Tidhar, mega-seller Hugh Howey and Booker winner Eleanor Catton. Among others too numerous and luminous to mention. I am amazed and grateful to be in such company. And I’m particularly thrilled, because it was clear when Adam read the book a few months ago – and as he also indicates in the article – that it didn’t work for him right away; but, as he says, ‘it has proved a grower.’ I love that. I love that a book which is so much about perception and persuasion, the ways in which people’s ideas about what is wrong and right and good and bad can shift and shift again, has had in the real world the effect it describes in an imaginary one. The synergy of that delights me. So thank you, Adam, for letting my book grow on you; and for including it on your list.

The other pleasant list-related surprise of the evening was this BSFA blog post with the best-of-2013 nominations so far: best non-fiction, best artwork, best short fiction, best novel. Once again there was Gemsigns, keeping company with some truly wonderful books. I’ve no idea who nominated it, or even if it was more than one – but whoever you are, thank you. Nominations remain open until mid-January and it’s already up against some very big hitters, so I have no expectations beyond the nomination itself – but then I wasn’t expecting that. I am in ‘you never know’ territory at the moment. It’s great.

  • 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.

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