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.

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.

 

  • 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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