Cover Reboot, and Ruaridh Pringle and Hal Duncan tell you why you should buy their books.

While I’m pretty pleased overall with the look of Scienceville and Other Lost Worlds, I did get to thinking it could look a little…jazzier, let’s say. So with that in mind I hired a graphic designer to have a go at redesigning the layout. The results are pretty spiffing, as you can see.

If you’ve already bought the ebook with the previous look, you can see this new cover on your device by deleting the book and then downloading it again. Or at least, that’s how it worked for me on my Amazon Kindle.

An Experiment, You Say?

As I said last time, I wanted to experiment with promoting more UK writers by allowing them to tell you about their books. I’m trying essentially to do a British version of John Scalzi’s The Big Idea or Chuck Wendig’s Five Things About. There doesn’t seem to be anything equivalent in the UK for up and coming releases, so I figured I might as well find out if it’s a gap worth plugging. I’ll try it for a short while and see how well it goes.

About the same time I was thinking about all this, my agent John Jarrold asked me if I’d like to read and possibly provide a blurb to a book coming out from one of his other clients, a writer by name of Ruaridh Pringle. He’s been previously published in Interzone and has a couple of far-future novels available as well.

I not only read Ruaridh’s new book, OCTOBER SONG, I thought it was pretty magnificent. And so do Neil Williamson and Ken MacLeod, both of whom have provided their own separate recommendations as well.

I then found out that Hal Duncan, author of Ink and Vellum, two extraordinarily complex - and extraordinarily successful - fantasy novels had a new book coming out about the same time. So I figured I’d make this a double-header and feature both of them talking about their new releases.

First is Ruaridh Pringle telling you why you should buy OCTOBER SONG. It’s a rip-roaring chase thriller set in a mid-21st Century Scotland plagued by climate change, the aftermath of invasion, and a world with too few resources for too many people. It reminded me of Iain Banks at his fiery best.


A bit of background first. October Song didn't begin its life as a book, but as a screenplay. I had an actress I know in mind for the leading role, but as the story evolved I began thinking, 'hold on, there's a novel in here.'

Much to her disgust as I still haven't finished the screenplay.

The story's set a few years in the future, but I hope it's real and immediate enough to appeal to readers who like their thrillers 'straight up' by writers like Lee Child as much as devotees of SF.

It follows events after a terrorist bombing outside the council offices of the recently annexed territory of “North Britain” (read: Scotland), focusing on several characters whose lives become intimately bound up in the bombing, in ways of which they themselves are often unaware.

Among them is a woman wanted for the crime, who is forced to flee a combined police and Mi5 manhunt up the territory's wild west coast in a kayak, and the officers chasing her down, as forces unknown seem to be doing their best to prevent the two sides meeting.

There are quite a few facets to the book. On one level, it's a direct extrapolation of a tumultuous time both for the United Kingdom and the world as a whole. Geopolitics, particularly the history and the present status of Scotland's place in the UK, is a big part of the backdrop and the setup to the story.

That said, for me the location isn't fundamentally what the story's about. Similar tales could be set in any number of nations around the world faced with the 'perfect storm' of climate change, overpopulation, resource collapse and the consequent migration of billions of people happening (largely off-page) in October Song.

Disparate love affairs (not always between people) lie close to its heart, and it's also a kind of travelogue. The etherial, and deeply altered, landscape of the west coast of the Scottish Highlands is a looming presence throughout the book: something I was able to write having spent a good chunk of my life exploring the area. It's also the story of a woman with some deep, deep scars finding that she is more of a survivor than she, or anyone else, ever thought.

So, if you like your thrillers thoughtful with strong female lead characters and lashings of darkness, grime and political intrigue, this is for you.


Introduction: Hal Duncan and A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERAL

Hal Duncan first came to light with critical darlings Vellum and its sequel Ink, two vast fantasy epics with a strongly experimental bent about what might be a war in heaven, or might be something altogether far stranger. Since then he’s had songs recorded by well-known Glasgow bands, starred in films for other bands, written a musical and had it put on in the States and produced any number of wildly inventive works that Jeffrey Ford described as “mad genius”.

Most recently. Hal has been writing books about the Scruffians - children who, like Peter Pan, never grow old thanks to a magical device called the Stamp.

The stories are set in various times, including Victorian London and latter-day squats, and sometimes take the form of twisted variations on well-known fairy tales. To be honest, like much of Hal’s work, they’re hard to categorise - but I especially like his own description of “punk fiction for yer inner feral child”.

The latest release in the Scruffians series is A SCRUFFIAN FUNFERALpublished on 21 October 2018. There’s also A SCRUFFIANS PRIMER to get you up to speed on the series, available for just 99p. 


What are the Scruffians?

Well, think of the musical Oliver! by way of Clive Barker. Or something Neil Gaiman might come up with if he was a bolshie queer.

Or think of J.M. Barrie's Lost Boys crossed with Michael de Larrabeiti's snot-nosed squat-dwelling Borribles. Or imperishable street punks who didn’t so much choose to never grow up, like Peter Pan, but were instead “Fixed" that way by a magical doodad called the Stamp.

Why? Because, hey, waifs that can’t be damaged...they're perfect for child labour, eh?

Only these Scruffians are made to be serfs and skivvies, so they're gonna be resilient.

And they're gonna be fuckin rebellious.

There are now four chapbooks of Scruffians stories. The latest, A Scruffian Funferal, is just out — and all of them are designed to work for new readers, so you can dive right in anywhere and just explore from there.

You've got stories set at the height of the Trade, with vengeful imperishable urchins taking on a Waiftaker General and the Institute that Fixed and sold them.

You've got stories going back to the Children's Crusade, fables of the earliest Scruffians as told by one Gobfabbler Halyard-Dunkling, Esquire, who's sort of equal parts Artful Dodger, Mother Goose and Begbie from Trainspotting.

And you've got stories set in the present day with the Trade long since gone, swept under the rug so's most folk don't even know Scruffians exist, but with threats still out there in this era of Trump and Brexit, fascism on the rise and billionaires needing eaten.

It's dark AF satire here, shameless Dickensian sentimentalism there, and sorta Grand Guignol revenge comedy everywhere--if that's a thing. Like if the Bash Street Kids went...a wee bit Sweeney Todd.

I dunno why anyone wouldn't want that in 2018, to be honest, a bit of comic relief from the ongoing shitstorm, but with deadly serious intent.

Depth doesn't have to mean solemn miserabilism, because escapism can be about getting the fuck out of a Dire Situation so you can return, backed by your queer punk cribmates, armed with a fuckin straight razor and a molotov cocktail to slit throats and burn the whole fucking system down.

As Gob says in one of the stories in A Scruffian Funferal, Sometimes yer needs spoons to make shivs, and that's kind of the entire ethos here. Punk fiction for yer inner feral child, to make ye laugh and cry and fire ye the fuck up for the fight.

Nuff said.



October 2018 update

By way of an experiment, I’ve been trying to get in the habit of writing an occasional, actual newsletter, as opposed to just some once or twice a year blast of I HAVE BOOK OUT BUY IT NOW sent to the poor, unfortunate souls who subscribe to my mailing list. By way of a further experiment, I thought I'd tweak it a little and also post it up on my official writerly-type Facebook page, and now here it is, at last, on my actual blog. This got emailed out a good few weeks ago, so if you want to hear from me sooner, sign up to my mailing list.

Before I get to the news part, the ebook of SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS is now available on most non-Amazon ebook sites, including iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble etc (I'm still working on a few others, such as Google Play). So if you prefer getting your ebooks from places other than Amazon, click the following link and choose your preferred store: books2read.com/u/bP58lj

In the next couple of days, I'll be workshopping DOOMSDAY GAME, a sequel to EXTINCTION GAME and SURVIVAL GAME with some fellow writers here in Taipei. If you bought my short fiction collection SCIENCEVILLE AND OTHER LOST WORLDS, one of the stories, THE LONG FALL, is in fact drawn from it.

I've actually been serialising DOOMSDAY GAME on my Patreon for a while now: about two thirds of the book has been posted so far. There’s other stuff in there, like deleted chapters from SURVIVAL GAME and other bits and pieces. I post new chapters from DOOMSDAY GAME roughly every two weeks.

I don’t yet have a set publication date for DOOMSDAY GAME. When it comes out depends on a lot of things being sorted out first. When I have some idea, I’ll let you know. But right now, the only way to read it is to join my Patreon which, for your information, would cost you a quid a month. That's all.

Otherwise, I have a novella doing the rounds of publishers. One has expressed interest, but traditional publishing being very, very slow, I don't yet know if that's going to lead to something.

Right now, I'm working on a novelette called WARSUIT. It will surely gladden the heart of many of you that it’s a return to the kind of far-future hard sf I’m best known for.

Why novellas and short stories and not full novels? Mainly because while I was writing novels, I had ideas for other stories that didn’t necessarily need a full novel to tell, and now I have the opportunity to write them.

Curiously, many books now sold as novellas aren't much different in length from what would have been considered a full-length ‘novel’ up to, I think, the late 70s. It's a great way to tell a story at exactly the length it needs to be, which has the advantage of letting you tell more stories with the same amount of effort.

I’ve otherwise been planning out a separate series of linked novellas, starting, hopefully, with MOON MAN, set in the 19th Century. It's about gunmen, P.T. Barnum, and something otherworldly. A second will be in the 1980s and a third in the 2050s. NEW WRITERS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I just finished reading OCTOBER SONG by a new writer from Scotland, RU Pringle, at the suggestion of our mutual agent JOHN JARROLD. The novel is a gripping, almost Banksian thriller set in a near-future Scotland. It's currently on pre-order, and I should be telling you more about that very shortly.

Probably the reading surprise of the year for me so far has been Martha Wells' novella ALL SYSTEMS RED. It’s a far-future story of a security android who is both more and less than human. If you’re looking for a quick read that’ll stay with you, I can’t think of anything better.

Of all the things I didn’t expect to come across, a Taiwanese version of Black Mirror would be pretty high on the list (if you weren’t aware, I live in Taipei, in the Far East). It’s on Netflix, so if you’re subscribed to that service there’s a pretty good chance you have it too, wherever you are. I’ve only started watching it, but it does seem to me to nail some aspects of Taiwanese culture pretty firmly. Worth checking out.

Elementary. How can this be so good? I’m already a third of the way through the fourth season.