Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Looking over the first half of 2009

Half a year has passed. Well, almost since this is the last day of that half of year. I’ll be honest and say that in its majority it was a good year so far. It was a little busy at work, but that is not a bad thing considering the general situation. The family is well, with some little health problems, but nothing worrisome. FC Barcelona won the Champions League and that was a wonderful thing. I’ve met new wonderful people and kept in touch with the others I met through my blog. I’ve got the chance to talk to very interesting artists and authors and to make a debut with my interviews and reviews on the Romanian e-zine, Nautilus (and which brought me great joy). For my readings, although I set a first goal of 100 books, my schedule didn’t change much so I managed to read so far only 23 books. Therefore I don’t think I’ll be able to fulfill it after all. So, I’ll go for the second goal, to read more than 50 books this year (the usual rhythm). Here is a provisional top 5 of my readings in 2009, one that can still suffer changes until the end of the year, depending on my further readings and on my further considerations of the titles you see on this top:

1. “Gunpowder” by Joe Hill

2. “Twelve” by Jasper Kent

3. “Yellow Blue Tibia” by Adam Roberts

4. “Hater” by David Moody

5. “The Crown Conspiracy” by Michael J. Sullivan

How about you? How was your year so far?

Monday, June 29, 2009

2009 Locus Awards

This week-end at the Science Fiction Awards Weekend held in Seattle, Washington, the winners of the 2009 Locus Awards were announced:

Science Fiction Novel: "Anathem" by Neal Stephenson

Fantasy Novel: "Lavinia" by Ursula K. Le Guin

First Novel: "Singularity's Ring" by Paul Meko

Young-Adult Book: "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

Novella: "Pretty Monsters" by Kelly Link

Novelette: "Pump Six" by Paolo Bacigalupi

Short Story: "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang

Anthology: "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection" edited by Gardner Dozois

Collection: "Pump Six and Other Stories" by Paolo Bacigalupi

Non Fiction/Art Book: "Coraline: The Graphic Novel" by Neil Gaiman, adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell

Editor: Ellen Datlow

Artist: Michael Whelan

Magazine: F&SF

Publisher: Tor

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

In the mailbox

Once again here are my latest arrivals in my mailbox, including one of the ordered titles, but which I was eagerly waiting:

- "God of Clocks" by Alan Campbell (through the courtesy of TOR UK);

War, rebellion, betrayal — but the worst is still to come. For in the cataclysm of the battle of the gods, a portal to Hell has been opened, releasing unnatural creatures that were never meant to be and threatening to turn the world into a killing field. And in the middle, caught between warring gods and fallen angels, humanity finds itself pushed to the brink of extinction. Its only hope is the most unlikely of heroes.
Former assassin Rachel Hael has rejoined the blood-magician Mina Greene and her devious little dog Basilis on one last desperate mission to save the world from the grip of Hell. Carried in the jaw of a debased angel, they rush to the final defensive stronghold of the god of clocks - pursued all the while by the twelve arconites, the great iron-and-bone automatons controlled by King Menoa, the Lord of the Maze. Meanwhile, in the other direction, the giant John Anchor, still harnessed to his master's skyship, drags that vessel into Hell itself to meet Menoa on his own ground.
But neither Heaven nor Hell is anything they could ever expect. Now old enemies and new allies join a battle whose outcome could be the end of them all. Rachel's ally, the god Hasp, finds himself in the grip of a parasite and struggles against conflicting orders to destroy his own friends; and a dangerous infant deity comprised of countless broken souls threatens to overcome them all. As Rachel travels to the final confrontation she has both sought and feared, she begins to realise that time itself is unravelling. And so she must prepare herself for a sacrifice that may claim her heart, her life, and her soul — and even then it may not be enough.

- "Orbus" by Neal Asher (through the courtesy of TOR UK);

In charge of an old cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that the past is rapidly catching up with him.
His old enemy the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, murdering its crew, and is now seeking to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed.
Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. But this is the home of the Golgoloth, monster to a race of monsters, the place where a centuries-long cold war is being fought.
Meanwhile, the terrifying Prador King is coming, prepared to do anything to ensure Vrell’s death and keep certain deadly secrets buried . . . and somewhere out there something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years.
The cold war is heating up, fast.

- "The Island" by Tim Lebbon (through the courtesy of Allison & Busby);

Kel Boon thinks he has managed to escape his past as an agent in the secret organization the Core, protecting the blissfully unaware Noreelans from the threat of the lizard-like Strangers - creatures from beyond the known world capable of untold destruction. In the sleepy fishing village of Pavmouth Breaks, Kel has become the woodcarver, leaving fighting behind and forming a tentative relationship with trainee witch Namior.
But a storm is brewing and at its center the witches sense something dark, and deadly. What follows in the wake of the storm threatens the Noreelans' very way of life, forcing them to face the fact that life exists beyond the shores of Noreela, and not all of it is friendly. With the people and land he loves in terrible danger, Kel quickly realizes that he cannot escape his past, or his destiny.

- "Pulse" by Jeremy Robinson (through the courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books);

Imagine a world where soldiers regenerate and continue fighting without pause, where suicide bombers live to strike again and again. This is the dream of Richard Ridley, founder of Manifold Genetics, and he has just discovered the key to eternal life: an ancient artifact buried beneath a Greek-inscribed stone in the Peruvian desert.
When Manifold steals the artifact and abducts archeologist Dr. George Pierce, United States Special Forces Delta operator Jack Sigler, call sign King, and his “Chess Team” —Queen, Knight, Rook, Bishop, and their handler, Deep Blue—give chase. Formed under special order from President Duncan, they are the best of America’s Special Forces, tasked with antiterrorism missions that take them around the world against any threat, ancient, modern, and at times, inhuman. With cutting-edge weapons, tough-as-nails tactics, and keen intellects, they stand alone on the brink, facing the world’s most dangerous threats.
Ridley’s plan to create unstoppable soldiers has just made him threat number one. Tension soars along with the body count as the team faces high-tech security forces, hordes of “regens,” the horrific results of Manifold’s experiments, and a resurrected mythological predator complete with regenerative abilities, seven heads, and a savage appetite. The Chess Team races to save Pierce and stop Manifold before they change the face of genetics—and human history—forever.

- "The Angel's Game" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (it was delivered yesterday so I'll start reading it real soon).

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man - David Martin - makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house are letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Then David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home. Set in the turbulent 1920s, The Angel's Game takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere and Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.

Thank you all very much!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Hater" by David Moody

Format: Hardcover, 288 pages

REMAIN CALM DO NOT PANIC TAKE SHELTER WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS THE SITUATION IS UNDER CONTROL Society is rocked by a sudden increase in the number of violent assaults on individuals. Christened 'Haters' by the media, the attackers strike without warning, killing all who cross their path. The assaults are brutal, remorseless and extreme: within seconds, normally rational, self-controlled people become frenzied, vicious killers. There are no apparent links as a hundred random attacks become a thousand, then hundreds of thousands. Everyone, irrespective of gender, age, race or any other difference, has the potential to become a victim - or a Hater. People are afraid to go to work, afraid to leave their homes and, increasingly, afraid that at any moment their friends, even their closest family, could turn on them with ultra violent intent. Waking up each morning, no matter how well defended, everyone must now consider the fact that by the end of the day, they might be dead. Or perhaps worse, become a killer themselves. As the status quo shifts, ATTACK FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER becomes the order of the day... only, the answers might be much different than what you expect....

Two premises made me want to pick up David Moody’s “Hater” and start reading it. First, the novel presentation promises yet another apocalyptic scenario and with all the everyday news that seems to point us toward the upcoming of such an event I am always curious to read such novels. Second, the David Moody’s novel will be adapted into a movie being produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and since two movies that really impressed me lately were “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Orphanage” my curiosity reached new heights.

I’ll start by saying that almost all I’ve imagined and expected from “Hater” were surpassed through a shocking and disturbing story. David Moody writes a horror novel but as I said on other occasions it is not the blood or violence that attracts me the most to such a novel, but the mental fear and the psychological terror. And David Moody manages to create those with masterful talent. The setting of his novel is our every day society and the characters are average members of that society. All the society put in motion in “Hater” is worrisome realistic and the atmosphere of the story is kept almost persistently on claustrophobic and paranoid levels.

Page after page my relationship with the main character, Danny McCoyne, grew tighter and tighter. This is one of the best and realistic characters I met through my readings lately and David Moody excels in building his character. The story is told in day to day chapters and that made me follow Danny’s day to day schedule, almost like following his journal. Every little aspect of the characters’ life breaths realism, every one of his interactions and relationship with the other characters sounds true and is known by every one of us in a smaller and greater degree (well, except the situation in which the story puts him) and I could feel every single Danny’s emotion in the proper way. I also liked a lot the fact that I was as clueless about the whole situation and the outcome of the story as the main character was. The other characters are good as well, but their presence in the novel is not as strong as of the main character.

From the first page the tension builds to its boiling point and the general situation constricted me in a powerful grip. The novel bursts into action in its final part and the respective portion I’ve swallowed in one bite. However, I believe that the novel takes a bit too long until reaching the action point. Although it is not a major problem after reading the final part I would have liked to see more action from an earlier part. Also, I would have liked to know how these events come to happen, the reason that catalyzes these events and why not everybody is affected.

“Hater” offered me from the first setting an exhilarating and thrilling reading. David Moody creates such a realistic scenario and a believable story that I believe that his novel can give reasons for nightmares.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fantasy Art - Bente Schlick

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Bente Schilck is an illustrator and a concept artist born in the Northern Germany on September 1986. She is currently living in Hamburg and also studying Illustration and Design at an art school in Hamburg. Bente’s main theme of work is fantasy, but she also produced non-fictional works such as storyboards for films, comics, children’s book illustrations and nature illustrations. Recently Bente Schilck’s artwork was featured on the cover of the annual artbook published by Ballistic Publishing, Exposé 7.

Interview - Bente Schlick

Dark Wolf: Bente thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
For the beginning can you, please, tell me what attracted you towards art and when did you discover your talent?
Bente Schlick: Well, I guess this will sound rather overused, but I consider myself one of those who were born with a pencil in their hands. I soon figured out that painting was something that I was enthusiastic about. People told me "how great" they considered my painting; luckily, I knew that I didn't quite agree, because otherwise I would still be painting stickman (people will know what I mean). I never thought about doing something related to art after finishing school until I was in senior grades. That also was when I became more interested in old masters’ painting techniques and bought art history books, which I regarded as being boring and dusted some years ago. But yeah, art history was something that really interested me and I probably would have studied that if I had been rejected at art school.

Dark Wolf: Which are your favorite artists and which one of them influenced your works?
Bente Schlick: There are a lot of artists and pieces that influence me, most of them rather unknown to myself. It happens that someone tells me "Oh you know, this reminds me a lot of artist xy" and I have never heard of this artist or a certain piece of art. It's a nice challenge to copy another artist or his work, though. Sometimes because you can learn a lot of course (especially from the old masters), but I think you should still try to find your own style somehow.
Some artists I like and which inspire me the most are: Brian Froud, Alan Lee, John Howe, Howard D.Johnson, William Bouguereau, Hans Zaztka and John William Waterhouse.

Dark Wolf: You study “Illustration and Design” at an art school in Hamburg. How did your studies help you improve your technique? Did the studies help you learn new things about art?
Bente Schlick: Since it is an illustration school, I really come to get to know a lot of different techniques and most of them aren't done digitally at all. For example, I discovered my enthusiasm for serigraph in third term. It certainly made me more sensitive towards design, composition, layout, typography and such. So yeah, while I’m an autodidact in terms of digital art, I learnt a lot of other things in art school. It's also a good contrast between traditional work in school and digital work at home as my hobby. I also got in touch with all fields of illustration (some of which I liked, some of which I won't miss at all :P).

DW: Today there are many artists that are using digital tools. Which one do you prefer to use? Do you feel more comfortable using the digital tools or the traditional ones?
BS: I like both media. I always refused to do most of my work digitally first since I didn't like this new medium. However, I think it is a future technology and while pencil and brush hopefully will always remain major art tools, digital tools will surely make their way to become one of the most important techniques in some years. I just think it's good to keep your eyes open to what happens on the market, because everything changes constantly. As an illustrator, it's important not to miss out on it.
Every artist knows that it feels best to actually hold a brush in your hand or smell the drying paint, but on the other hand, I have also come to love digital art in its own way. I feel very comfortable with it now, but I also still love to do sketches in my sketchbook with a real pencil or just switch from my PC to my canvas and my easel, which stand right next to it.

DW: On your website you say that your main scope of work is fantasy themes. What attracts you toward the fantasy theme?
BS: I don't really know. I have always been a very imaginative person, sometimes a bit dreamy. Maybe, it's the possibility of leaving all the daily worries behind and escaping into a fantastic world full of wonders and fairytales. I always like to quote C.S Lewis as it seems quite fitting to how I feel: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

DW: Going outside the fantasy art, who are your favorite authors? Which are the books you liked the most?
BS: I like J.R.R Tolkien, Neil Gaiman, Christoph Marzi, Cornelia Funke, Philip Pullman, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Rainer Maria Rilke and Joseph von Eichendorff. My favourite books are "His Dark Materials", "Inkheart", "Nimmemehr", "Stardust" and "The Lord of the Rings". I'm also much into the fairytales of Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm brothers.

DW: How does a fantasy work influence your art pieces? While reading a novel do you feel the need to draw a particular scene or character from that novel?
BS: Mhm...a few years ago, I was a massive Harry Potter fan and drew a lot of Harry Potter fan art, also some Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials fan art. Nowadays, I don't really feel the urge to paint something from stories - more so characters that are described in poems or lyrics, because if you read a book, the characters are mostly described very detailed and there's little liberty for me to paint them like I want them to look. It's a bit different with lyrics and particularly with poems: most of the times you get only a brief glimpse or a metaphor of a character. That's what I like. Otherwise, I like painting book covers, but if I could choose, I would always paint the characters from my own imaginary world.

DW: I’ve read that among the inspirations you have poems and music can be found. At the poems obviously the inspiration is found in the lyrics, but at a song the inspiration comes from the lyrics or from the music as well?
BS: It's both. I love to listen to classical music as much as I love to listen to modern music. It gives me so much inspiration. Sometimes, it also happens that I listen only to one song over and over again while painting an image. Then, when I look at the picture, I immediately have the earworm ;). Or the other way around, which means I listen to a song on the radio and I suddenly remember the process of the painting I did whilst listening to it. It's funny when this happens years after you painted that particular image and you start out grinning weirdly and no one around you knows why. It's also a bit well... poetic, I guess.

DW: Your portfolio seems focused almost exclusively on portraits. Do you enjoy more painting portraits? And why only female portraits?
BS: Yeah, I think I'm fascinated by human beauty. I love to create different types of characters and such. When I started to get into portrait painting, I was 10 years old. I really really wanted to be able to paint a perfect face from my imagination. I'm more drawn to paint female faces, because... well... I guess in that case I am a typical girl. I love fairies and heroines and for me it's much more interesting to paint a beautiful dress than painting an armoured knight. I'm not really into painting brave warriors with huge weapons - or monsters. I could, of course, paint a beautiful elf, but, well, the muse isn't very cooperative in that case at the moment.

DW: Do you consider that your technique needs to be improved when it comes to landscapes or scenes?
BS: Honestly, I'm painting a lot of landscapes or scenes (mostly matte paintings/concept art) for clients, but it's not my main scope of work (not at the moment, anyway). There's always a thing that could be done better and I would never say that I was perfect in a special field. I'm trying to do a little bit of everything, but obviously you simply can't be good at everything, because the moment you concentrate on one thing, you immediately disregard another. Talent is like a muscle that needs to be trained or it'll become stunted. It often happens that, when I see an artist whose art I like, I think "Oh, I wish I could paint like her/him", although it's simply not my field of work. Maybe, in some years I'll have enough of all the fairies and beautiful faces and will try something different, but for the moment I'd like to stick with them (though lately I tried to consider the surrounding of my characters a little bit more). So, to answer your question: I guess it does.

DW: Recently your works were featured in the new Exposé catalogue. How does it feel to be a part of this project? How about the fact that one of your works is featured on the cover of the catalogue?
BS: It's not the first time my work is featured in the Exposé series, but I think I was certainly still more excited this time, because my work is featured on the cover. I was clearly hit by surprise when I got the news that "Touch of Gold" was their first choice - maybe because I never considered it as one of my strongest pieces. It still feels a little "unreal" that my name is mentioned on the website of Ballistic Publishing and everything. A year ago, I'd have never wasted a thought about ever getting on the cover. But I think that's just typical, if you desperately wait for something, it will never happen and when you're suspecting it the least, the surprise knocks on your door. Exposé 7 has a place of honour on my bookshelf.

DW: Speaking of a catalogue would you like someday in the future to gather your works in personal art book?
BS: That depends. Would you buy it? ;) Just kidding. But I'd loved to publish such a book. I already have a vague idea of how it could look like, but I still think it will be far far away in the future. There's so much going on around me, my art and everything else that a book is the last thing I'm thinking of at the moment.

DW: So far among others you worked on storyboards for films, comics, children’s book illustrations. Which one do you consider to be the most challenging and which one the most rewarding?
BS: That's a difficult question. I think it always depends, every field has its challenging parts and sometimes I feel more comfortable doing children's books illustration and then the next day I completely hate it. But I guess most rewarding would definitively be children's books illustration, at least if you get in contact with children and they love your work, because children are the most honest and best critics.

DW: At what are you working at the moment and what future projects do you have?
BS: I'm doing a lot of cover artwork at the moment next to my studies and some other private commissions. At the moment, I'm also looking for an agency to enter the field of art licensing and such.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.

For more information about Bente Schlick and her works and for more of her artworks please visit Bente's website, Creative Soul.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cover art - Glen Cook

I do not make a secret that one of my favorite artists is Raymond Swanland. I really like his style and his artworks and since I had the pleasure to interview Raymond I followed his work even more closely. I also have a weak spot for cover artwork and that passion is fully satisfied when I see Raymond Swanland’s cover illustrations for Glen Cook’s books (but not only for those). Here are three of this covers, one of them is already known for a while, for “An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat” published by Night Shade Books, and two of them for two future releases, “The Swordbearer” a re-release by the same Night Shade Books of the novel published first in 1982 and “The Return of the Black Company” an omnibus published in September by TOR and which comprises the novels “Bleak Seasons” and “She is the Darkness”.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Interview - Adam Roberts

Adam Roberts is an English science fiction writer. He is also a Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature in the English Department at Royal Holloway, University of London. Adam published until the present numerous novels, short stories and essays and also a number of academic works on SF. Adam Roberts published under pseudonym a series of parodies and pastiches. He was nominated twice for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, for the novels “Salt” and “Gradisil”, and once for Philip K. Dick Award, for the same “Gradisil”. This year one of his latest novels, “Swiftly”, was shortlisted for the 2009 Sidewise Award. Adam Roberts’ latest novel is “Yellow Blue Tibia”, published by Gollancz in January and which I enjoyed a lot (my full review here).

Dark Wolf: Adam, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
What was the initial spark that ignited the desire of Adam Roberts to write? What inclined the balance toward the Science Fiction genre?
Adam Roberts: I’ve always read SF and Fantasy, from my earliest reading days: Asimov, Clarke, Tolkien, Christopher Priest, Phil Dick. I can honestly say it never occurred to me that anything other than SFF was worth writing. I still feel that way.

Dark Wolf: You published two non-fiction books about the history of Science Fiction, “Science Fiction: The New Critical Idiom” and the second improved edition, “The History of Science Fiction”. Did the documentation and writing of these two books help you avoid certain clichés of Science Fiction genre in your novels? Did it help you bring in your fiction new subjects or themes not touched before?
Adam Roberts: Researching and writing the second, certainly, fed directly into writing some of my novels: for example, Polystom began with reading Poe’s ‘Hans Pfaal’, and Swiftly with re-reading, surprise-surprise, Swift. Avoiding cliché is a particularly acute dilemma for any writer of SFF—the backlist is so extensive, and so rich. There’s no short cut past it where originality is concerned; you just have to work through. Writing the critical stuff certainly helps me do that.

Dark Wolf: How much of your experience and documentation in the nineteenth-century literature is reflected on your written work? Did you use elements of the nineteenth-century literature in your novels?
Adam Roberts: It’s not a boast, but rather only a description of the professional requirements of the job, to say that as Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature at the University of London I know a lot about the 19th century. I can’t say this directly informed what I was doing (although of course it indirectly informed it in lots of ways) until I wrote Swiftly, a novel set in the 1840s. Compared with the research I had to do when writing about the Soviet world of the 1980s for Yellow Blue Tibia—a lot—writing Swiftly was a doddle. But Robert Browning certainly taught me a lot, in terms of the heart of expression being the ironies and obstacles to communication rather than anything else.

DW: Your works include numerous novels, novellas, parodies and short stories. What is more comfortable for you, writing short fiction or longer one? How different is the satisfaction of finishing a novel than a short story?
AR: Perhaps oddly, I find the novel a more comfortable length than the short story. I think (it seems to me) in novel-sized chunks, and it takes that much space to work my ideas and aesthetic through for any given idea. I do write short fiction, of course, but my short stories often go on longer than a short story should—10,000 words, 12,000 words—and don’t always achieve the snappiness and concision a good short story needs.

DW: One of your projects is writing a short story for every sub-genre and premise of Science Fiction. How is your project going? Would you gather your stories in a collection of short stories or this project will remain open?
AR: It’s still ongoing. For example, I wrote Swiftly because I hadn’t previously tried something in the steampunk mode; and with YBT I was both essaying the action-adventure idiom and trying to write a proper alien invasion story. Although it turned into, what shall we say?—an improper alien invasion story. My next novel is called New Model Army, and is a modern updating of a late C19th subgenre of Military Extrapolation that was, in its day, very popular indeed: set off by Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Dorking).

DW: The Guardian named you “The King of High Concept”. Did this statement change your career in any way? Did this statement change your personal standard for your works?
AR: It reinforced my democratic republicanism.

DW: How about the nominations for different awards, did they change your career? Did it become a goal to win a specific award?
AR: Well, I’ve never won an award, which in itself seems to me almost an achievement, given the large number of awards available in the SFF world, the generosity, generally speaking, of SFF fans and award committees, and the sorts of things I write. But none of my stuff has been up to snuff. I have occasionally been nominated for things, but really only very occasionally: my first novel Salt was up for the Clarke (and was very well beaten by China Miéville’s brilliant Perdido Street Station); and Gradisil was shortlisted for the same award a few years ago. Swiftly has somehow slipped onto the Sideways award shortlist this year, too (for alternate history: it just about qualifies, and whilst I’m really chuffed I don’t expect it to win). That’s about it: and given the number of critical works (none of which have come within yelling distance of an award shortlist), short stories (ditto), long stories and novels I have written, this is evidently more than a statistical freak—it suggests that the collective wisdom of awards committees finds what I do insufficient to merit an award. Maybe I’m too far ahead of my time, and posterity will rate me. Not terribly likely, but there you go. I’m tempted to say that SFF as a whole doesn’t really ‘get’ my writing, but it may very well be that they get it perfectly well and just don’t like it overmuch.

DW: Two of your novels, “Splinter” and “Swiftly”, are inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Jonathan Swift and are also a homage to these authors. Why Jules Verne and Jonathan Swift? Are there elements from other authors’ works that you would like to transform in your works?
AR: The Jules Verne thing began life as a specific commission—Mike Ashley and Eric Brown edited a collection called The Mammoth Book of New Jules Verne Adventures [http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mammoth-Book-Jules-Verne-Stories/dp/1845291220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245272208&sr=8-1], and asked me (and many others) to contribute. The gig was: pick a Verne title and write a modern riff or revisioning of it. I chose Hector Servadac, because I’ve always loved it: despite Verne’s reputation as a core SF writer only two out of all his many books take the reader off planet earth—and this is one of them. I wrote the story for Mike and Eric’s collection, but it wouldn’t let my imagination alone, so I carried on with it until I had the novel. Swiftly also started life as a short story, although its gestation was much longer; and it was re-reading Gulliver’s Travels to write my history of SF that put the idea of extrapolating the world Swift describes in that novel—or more precisely, of exploring the core metaphor of that novel, the shifts in size and scale—in a new piece of fiction. What other writers would I like to transform? My Chesney Battle-of-Dorking book is actually written as-by-Nabokov, not in imitation Chesney (hmm: that would be a very thin stylistic gruel) and I guess you could say that everything I do is an attempt to inch a little closer to Nabokov. More practically I have pondered a sequel to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (to be called, obviously: Twenty Eighty-Four) set in a world in which all dissent has been crushed, there are no individuals, only the four collective entities, the whole thing to be written in newspeak. Not sure that would be a very, er, commercial proposition. I’d also like to try an enormous series, in the Perry Rhodan style, although more literary: a huge future-narrative issued in monthly 110- or 120-page novel sections, and running at least to one hundred novels. That would be fun.

DW: Are the parodies you wrote under pseudonyms a different homage brought to the works parodied? Did the tone of your parodies made his presence in the other works you wrote?
AR: Parody is a more focused, comic form of intertextuality, and intertextuality is the currency of all writing; so my answer to your question would be ‘yes’. There are few authors I love as profoundly as Tolkien, and my parodies of him were undertaken in as close to reverence as is possible when you’re completely pastiche-ing somebody. But, see, I don’t see pastiche as incompatible with love—or with originality, either. Some of The Rutles’ songs are the best Beatles songs ever recorded; Rabelais, Don Quixote, Alice in Wonderland—all parodies that surpass the texts they parodies. As for my regular writing, I’m surprised more readers don’t see how parodic it is. But maybe that’s because my sense of humour is a bit involuted, and oblique.

DW: Would you like in the future to experiment with other genres of literature as well?
AR: Wait … there are other genres of literature, besides SF and F? Why did nobody tell me this before?

DW: I know that this is an awkward question, but is one of your works closer to your heart? What’s the reason for this preference?
AR: My most autobiographical novels (close to my heart in that sense) are my first two: and the ‘best’, in terms of hitting most of the targets I set myself and doing something original and new, is probably Swiftly. But I’ve a soft spot for Yellow Blue Tibia, because it’s the one of my novels most thoroughly about SF, and I love SF. Plus it’s the funniest. And I like funny.

DW: From all the scenarios you imagined in your works which one do you think is more plausible to happen someday in the future? If possible would you like to visit some of your created worlds?
AR: I remain convinced that an enterprising scientist will develop a practical, functioning version of the method outlined in Gradisil for getting into space, and so revolutionize interplanetary travel. Someday soon. Soon, yes.

DW: Playing a bit, in an alternative history of our days, what would have been Adam Roberts, if not a writer and a professor of literature?
AR: A maker of animated cartoons.

DW: At what are you working at the present and what other future plans do you have?
AR: I’ve just finished another sort-of parody, commissioned by my publishers for the Christmas market: I Am Scrooge!, which is essentially A Christmas Carol And Zombies. And in a month or so I’ll deliver my next novel the aforementioned New Model Army: a mash-up of Chesney’s Battle for Dorking, Clockwork Orange (without the invented future argot, though) Fight Club and Heart of Darkness. Then I need to do some professor-of-Victorian-literature stuff for a while. After that I’ll start thinking about my next novel after that.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been an honor and a pleasure.
The pleasure is all mine.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

In the mailbox

Here are the latest arrivals in my mailbox:

- "Day of the Damned" by David Gunn (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg is in disgrace. His victory on Hekati, and the emperor’s favour, have turned his patron against him: General Indigo Jaxx wants Sven dead. Exiled to Wildeside, Sven waits for Jaxx’s assassin. He hunts, he fieldstrips his weapons, he tries not to mind. At the age of 28, he’s lived longer than he expected anyway. But then Sven finds himself offering to save the life of Jaxx's son. This meansreturning to Farlight, where he finds that the emperor is missing, his empire is collapsing, there are murderous riots in the capital and General Jaxx stands on the edge of ruin. All Sven has to do isnothing. But when has he ever done anything that sensible...
The devil-may-care, not quite 100% human, mercenary soldier/killing machine known as Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg and his like-minded team, the Aux, are back in a third explosive, non-stop action-filled adventure.

- "Return of the Crimson Guard" by Ian C. Esslemont (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

The return of the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for an empire exhausted by warfare and weakened by betrayals and rivalries.
Into the seething cauldron of Quon Tali – the Malazan Empire’s heartland – they march, and with their return comes the memory of their vow: undying opposition to the Empire. But elements within the Guard’s élite, the Avowed, have set their sights on far greater power, while other, more ancient entities are rising up, intent on furthering their own arcane ends. And what of the swordsman called Traveller who, with his companion Ereko, seeks a confrontation from which none have ever returned?
As the Guard prepare to wage war, the Empress Laseen’s generals and mages grow impatient at what they perceive as her mismanagement of the Empire. Is she losing her grip on power or has she outwitted them all? Could she be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate the last irksome survivors from the days of Kellanved, her illustrious predecessor?

- "Succubus Heat" by Richelle Mead (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

Georgina Kincaid has been a bad, bad succubus…which should be a good thing. But she's in a foul mood after breaking up with her boyfriend Seth and has been so wicked that über-demon Jerome decides to 'outsource' Georgina to a rival - and have her spy for him in the process.
Then Jerome is kidnapped, and all immortals under his control mysteriously lose their powers. With her life-sucking ability gone, Georgina finds herself caught up in a sinister plot.
Is she the only one who can stop all Hell breaking loose?

- "The Resurrectionist" by Jack O'Connell (through the courtesy of No Exit Press).

Your only child is lost between this world and the next, and more than anything you want him back. A controversial doctor and a mysterious stranger claim they have the answer. Who do you trust? Are you willing to risk everything? Are you prepared to enter Limbo?
Part classic noir thriller, part mind-bending fantasy, The Resurrectionist is a wild ride into a territory where nothing is as it appears. It is the story of Sweeney, a druggist by trade, and his son, Danny, the victim of an accident that has left him in a persistent coma. Hoping for a miracle, they have come to the forbidding, fortress-like Peck Clinic, whose doctors claim to have 'resurrected' other patients who were lost in the void. What Sweeney comes to realize, however, is that the real cure for his son's condition may lie in Limbo, a fantasy comic book world into which his son had been drawn at the time of his accident. Plunged into the intrigue that envelops the clinic, Sweeney's search for answers leads to sinister back alleys, brutal dead ends, and terrifying corners of darkness and mystery.

Thank you very much!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cover art - "Le Palais Adamantin" (The Adamantine Palace) by Stephen Deas

I am beginning to fall helplessly in love with the French cover artwork. And it is hard to resist when they produce cover illustrations like this one. This is the cover art for the Stephen Deas’ debut novel, “The Adamantine Palace”, published by Gollancz in March this year and which was released on the French market by Pygmalion on 17th of June. The cover illustrator is Alain Brion, as it is stated on the book page on the Pygmalion Fantasy website. And although the dragon on the cover is not exactly as Stephen Deas would have seen it I still believe that it’s a wonderful and powerful illustration.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

2009 Chesley Awards Nominations

Last month the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists published a list of suggestions for the 2009 Chesley Awards in each of its categories. Now, the ASFA announced the list of nominees for this year Chesley Awards, which will recognize the achievements in the SF and Fantasy art during the 2008. Here are the nominees of each category:

- Dan Dos Santos - "Cry Wolf" by Patricia Briggs (Ace)
- Michael Komarck - "Dragonforge" by James Maxey (Solaris)
- Todd Lockwood - "The Stormcaller" by Tom Lloyd (Pyr)
- John Picacio - "Fast Forward 2" edited by Lou Anders (Pyr)
- J.P.Targete - "The Turtle Moves! Discworld's Story Unauthorized" by Lawrence Watt Evans (Benbella Books)
- Paul Youll - "Hell and Earth" by Elizabeth Bear (ROC)

- Dan Dos Santos - "Stalking the Vampire: A Fable of Tonight" by Mike Resnick (Pyr)
- Scott Fischer - "An Evil Guest" by Gene Wolfe (Tor)
- Donato Giancola - "A Book of Wizards" edited by Marvin Kaye (SFBC)
- Stephen Hickman - "Ghost Quartet" edited by Marvin Kaye (Tor)
- Todd Lockwood - "Quofum" by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey)
- Stephan Martiniere - "The Dragons of Babel" by Michael Swanwick (Tor)
- John Picacio - "Viewpoints Critical: Selected Stories" by L.E. Modesitt Jr (Tor)

- Bob Eggleton - Asimov's (August 2008)
- David A. Hardy - Fantasy & Science Fiction (June 2008)
- Maurizio Manzieri - Fantasy & Science Fiction (April 2008)
- Matts Minnhagen - Clarkesworld (April 2008)
- John Picacio - Asimov's (September 2008)

- Brian Chan - Wall-E
- Akihito Ikeda - Heart of Art
- Laura Reynolds - The Mushroom Gatherer
- Forest Rogers - Dark Harpy
- Vincent Villafranca - Otherworldly Procession

- Donato Giancola - "The Wraith" by J. Robert Lennon (Playboy)
- Alan Lee - "Tales from the Perilous Realm" by J.R.R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- John Picacio - "Elric: The Stealer of Souls" by Michael Moorcock (Del Rey)
- Adam Rex - "Frankenstein Takes the Cake" by Adam Rex (Harcourt)
- Shaun Tan - "Tales from Outer Suburbia" by Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin)

- Julie Bell - The Wave in Her Heart
- Simon Dominic - The Gift
- Donato Giancola - Progeny
- Omar Rayyan - Gizmo
- Raoul Vitale - Lorca's Cave
- Michael Whelan - The Seawall

- A.L. Ashbaugh - Counterfeit
- Simon Dominic - Kraken
- Rebecca Guay - Gwenevere
- James Jean - Hare
- Kate Lebherz-Gelinas - Chiroptera

- Volkan Baga - "The Name of the Rose" box art & promotional art for the game (Ravensburger Spieleverlag)
- James Christensen - "False Magic" LE Canvas Print (Greenwich Workshop)
- Dan Dos Santos - promotional art for the film "Hellboy 2" (Dark Horse & Universal Pictures)
- Patrick Jones - "Cyber Angel" poster (IlluXCon)
- Justin Sweet - concept art for the film "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" (Walt Disney Studios)

- Volkan Baga - "Stoic Angel", Magic Card: Shards of Alara (WotC)
- Tom Fleming - "Firestorm", VS System (Upper Deck)
- Michael Komarck - "Angelic Benediction", Magic Card: Shards of Alara (WotC)
- David Palumbo - "Cancel", Magic Card: Shards of Alara (WotC)
- Matt Stewart - "Invincible Hymn", Magic Card: Shards of Alara (WotC)

- Matt Adelsperger - Wizards of the Coast
- Scott Allie - Dark Horse Comics
- Lou Anders - Pyr Books
- Irene Gallo - Tor
- Jeremy Jarvis - Wizards of the Coast
- William Schafer - Subterranean Press
- David Stevenson - Del Rey

- Julie Bell
- Roger Dean
- Dan Dos Santos
- James Jean
- Stephan Martiniere
- Shaun Tan

Congratulations and good luck to all the nominees!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"How to Make Monsters" by Gary McMahon

"How to Make Monsters"
Format: Paperback, 172 pages
Publisher: Morrigan Books

I discovered Gary McMahon through “Constance Craving”, one of his short stories, published in the horror collection “Voices”. Later I discovered that Gary McMahon is a prolific writer of horror short fiction and that he was nominated for the British Fantasy Awards. So, I was very pleased when I found one of his collections of short stories, “How to Make Monsters”. The anthology gathers fourteen of his stories, some of them already published and the others seeing the print for the first time in “How to Make Monsters”.

“Chill” – Joel discovers that the world around him seems to slow down to an almost freezing point. I will be honest and say that I personally wouldn’t have started the collection with this story. It is not a bad story, with a familiar background for every reader, our modern society. However, I found the story not to be as powerful as the other ones in the collection and the point of it can be easily missed.

“Through the Cracks” – Emma visits her sister, but while she travels there she receives a phone call from her former boyfriend, with whom she lost contact for the last three years. Her reencounter with him might change her destiny forever. This is one of my favorite stories from this collection, focused on the connections between people, although these might be strange sometimes, and on the power of obsession. The end, although expected, is well executed and made me fully satisfied with the story.

“The Unseen” – A writer whose destiny changed for the worst makes a strange discovery. Another story focused on the present society, with the changes it imprints in humans and humanity. It is a disturbing story which left me on thoughts long after finishing the book.

“Pumpkin Night” – Baxter is spending for the first time the Halloween without his wife. But his loneliness might not last long. Another favorite of mine, if not my favorite from the entire collection. I was almost feeling the Halloween atmosphere and Gary McMahon makes the pumpkins coming to life. The twist of the story took me by surprise and it was followed by an end that was more than satisfactory for me.

“Owed” – Lana, a lone mother with a disordered child, must come with a solution to pay her debts. The story offers many terrifying moments in a tangle of horrors offered by humans and monsters in an equally measure. Or maybe the boundary between the two of them is non-existent.

“Why Ghosts Wail: A Brief Memoir” – A man comes back from the dead after over a year since his accident and his ghost goes to visit the family’s house. I believe that everyone has asked himself what the future might reserve for them and for their loved ones. This story doesn’t offer any answer in this sense, but it is a nice interpretation of the questions we ask ourselves about our future and life.

“Accidental Damage” – Chester suffered an accident and after he recovered it seemed that his friends and lover left him. But maybe Chester is a changed man after his accident. The story raises questions about how a small detail can change one man’s life. Gary McMahon adds a supernatural element to his story, one that will amplify the terrific image of the story.

“Nowhere People” – Karl, a taxi driver, makes a course that will show him a different world. This is another story that plays heavily with realities of our society and with horrors that kick in the character’s life and the reader’s mind from the start of the story until its end.

“Family Fishing” – The story’s character recollects the last visit he made at to his grandfather. The story deals with the family traditions, traditions that pass over long lines of generations but are not necessarily good.

“Something in the Way” – Martin Pierce comes to a difficult point in his life, but he also discovers and investigates a new pattern in his existence. I really liked how Gary McMahon executed this story, giving me a claustrophobic feeling and a hangover sensation, like those lived by the protagonist of the story. The end is not exactly as I have seen it, but it is a good one and made me even more sympathetic to the character situation.

“A Stillness in the Air” – Grant was mistaken for a serial killer. This story brought him wealth, but also brought him something new in his life. What I really liked at this story is that the author brought forth an outcome that I never seen before. I found the turn of the story original and bringing the case of mistaken identity a step further into the imagination.

“Once a Month, Every Month” – Max Jessop has to clear all the family bills and debts at the first of each month. Well, I’ll admit that this story was the one least on my liking from the entire collection. It seemed to me a bit too hasted toward its outcome. Also the reasons behind some of the characters’ behavior and situation are little explained and seem a bit unreasonable.

“Save Us All” – A man finds two religious adepts at his door who he turns around only to discover later that they are in his entire neighborhood. Although the character of this story fears the possible outcome that unfolds before him, he finds out that he fears more that outcome isn’t coming true. A story that deals with the habits we develop through life and with the loneliness we might face someday.

“A Bit of the Dark” – Frank Link is a successful writer and has a wonderful family. Now, he comes one more time to the orphanage where he spent three nightmare years and which is about to be demolished. This is the longest story of the collection and one of the strongest. It is told from the point of view of three characters, so I could see the story develop from three perspectives. The pace becomes faster and faster and catches quickly the reader into its rhythm. The story also offers some disturbing images and an unnerving atmosphere.

“How to Make Monsters” is a collection of stories I really enjoyed, in each story Gary McMahon creating monsters through his writing, not all definitely outlined, but present all the time and involving many supernatural and paranormal aspects. But what makes his stories even more terrifying is the fact that each story is played in a familiar setting and the characters of each one of them can easily be the person next to you, or even worse, the reader himself. I discovered in “How to Make Monsters” a new powerful and scary voice of horror stories and I am hoping that in the future I will read more and longer fiction written by Gary McMahon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Interview - Mark Charan Newton

Mark Charan Newton made his debut in 2008 with the fantasy novel "The Reef", published by Pendragon Press. This year, on 5th of June, TOR UK published his second novel, "Nights of Villjamur", the first one in his fantasy series, "Legends of the Red Sun". I recently read and review "Nights of Villjamur", a novel that I enjoyed a lot, and now I had the chance to make an interview with Mark Charan Newton.

Dark Wolf: Mark, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Every child has a dream about his adult life field of work. Did you dream of becoming a writer? How did your love affair with the speculative fiction start?
Mark Charan Newton: Actually I had no idea I wanted to write until a few years ago, and I came reasonably late to the genre compared to many. I read the odd fantasy novel in my teens, but at the time was more interested in mainstream fiction. I really buried myself in SFF after I began working in a bookstore, and then I devoured book after book…

Dark Wolf: You have a great passion for music too. Does your passion for music and books influence each other? Does the music play a role on your writing?
Mark Charan Newton: Not so much an influence – when I read, I can’t listen to anything in the background. But when I write, I definitely get some energy from whatever I’m listening to at the time. I like to listen to other things during the re-writes though, to make sure that the mood from a scene wasn’t only in my head because of the music. Essentially, they’re different passions, but both major ones.

Dark Wolf: You have a degree in Environmental Science, but you work as an assistant editor for Solaris Books. How did this come to happen? What involves the work in a publishing house such as Solaris Books?
Mark Charan Newton: I haven’t worked as editor for Solaris for some time – I work for the Black Library, behind the scenes there, which is huge fun. I ended up in publishing via the now redundant Black Flame imprint (media tie-ins), but again before that, as I mentioned earlier, I worked in bookselling. I was actually scheduled to start a Masters Degree, and had dreams of becoming an ethnobotanist, believe it or not, but ended up loving the book industry so much, I never left.

DW: Did your experience in the publishing industry help you on your writings? How about the other way around?
MCN: I don’t think it could ever help my writing in terms of technique, but I certainly realised the realities of publishing pretty quickly, the things that do and don’t matter in the wider picture. You’d be surprised how much cover art can make a book successful.
If anything, I was reading so much at work, it made reading and writing at home more difficult. There were too many words in a day!

DW: Your novels were published by different publishing houses. If they were published by Solaris Books would it have been a conflict of interests? Did you try to send one of your manuscripts to Solaris Books?
MCN: Never. That’s vanity-publishing, for which I have no respect. It was never a consideration – and beside, my agent has full control over where the manuscript was sent. I’m aware that nepotism exists within any industry, but earned my rejection slips like every other writer, went through the frustrations, and did things the honourable way. I would not have felt it an achievement in any other way.
And it’s not so much a case of choosing a publishing house; they choose you, and I’m now very much bound to Pan Macmillan for all my novels.

DW: You made your debut with the fantasy stand-alone novel “The Reef” published by an independent publisher, Pendragon Press. For those unfamiliar with this novel can you tell them something about it?
MCN: I’m not all that keen on discussing this book simply because it’s unavailable now – few people can ever read it! It was a very low print run book, just a few hundred printed. But essentially it was a tropical island fantasy, inspired by writers such as Hemingway. It’s not connected to “Nights of Villjamur”, although it shares one of the races.

DW: How was your debut novel received? Would you try in the future to bring it to a wider audience?
MCN: There was understandably a much quieter reaction to the hubbub now. But no, I’m not so sure, I wrote it a few years ago, and I’m focused totally on the new series.

DW: For those familiar with the on-line fantasy community you are a known presence. Your second novel “Nights of Villjamur” produced a hype around the same community. Did your constant presence in the fantasy blogging community help you get the word out about your novel more easily? How important is this community for a new author or a new novel release?
MCN: I wasn’t aware I had much of a presence! I chip in online because I’m a fan, and still do, but there’s no way anyone can really engineer a reaction. I’ve been in contact with bloggers before, but reviewers can contact me just as easily through my website – I suppose one thing is that I’ve made myself available. Generally people have approached me about it; this was a conscious decision, because forcing your work on anyone is just not cool.
In terms of getting the word out – you know, there’s really very little an author can do. It’s a fairly democratic network online and I’ve been very, very lucky. I read the reaction, but don’t want to get involved – that way lies madness, so I’ll watch from a safe distance!
The vast community that has sprung up online over the last couple of years is hugely important to the genre: bloggers and new reviewers expressing their opinion takes away influence from the few sites and magazines who once could control the debate. Now readers have more control over things. It’s more democratic, so that can only be a good thing, right?

DW: What was the initial idea that sparked the process of writing “Nights of Villjamur”?
MCN: A few things – I was already in the middle of a project which could be described as New Weird – but came to a realization that writing consciously in such a movement would never succeed, since none of the major editors wanted anything to do with consciously New Weird fiction. So I looked to change the aesthetics to something the majors would be interested in, without compromising what I write.
And also, the initial gem of the ice age sparked from a little known British SF book called “Hello Summer, Goodbye” by Michael Coney. I won’t ruin it for those who might yet discover it though – but seriously, track down some of Coney’s novels from second-hand bookshops, since they’re great reads.
So those were really the main starting points, but I constantly revise ideas throughout, so that I’m never really conscious the process at the beginning.

DW: Both “The Reef” and “Nights of Villjamur” are based on island or archipelago settings. Does the fact that your country is an island played a role in the creation of these settings? What other real aspects of your life find their way into your fiction?
MCN: That’s a good point. I don’t think it was ever a conscious link for either. In the first instance, I thought that islands were great for forcing together a group of disparate people in a small space, and letting their conflicts rise up out of it.
As for real aspects: I think there’s a lot that goes into all characters to an extent, and the world is drawn from the hundreds of observations – conscious and subconscious – of the real world. There are very few examples of specific real situations I’ve put in the book – none I want to mention! :)

DW: Also both of your novels are inhabited by many fantastical creatures. Two of these creatures from the “Nights of Villjamur” lead me to think of previous works of fiction, garuda at the China Miéville’s “New Crobuzon” novels and Jurro the Dawnir at the Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time”. Are these presences a tribute brought to these authors and their works? Did you bring other tributes to the works you love in your novels?
MCN: Although the garudas are indeed in the New Crobuzon novels, I actually took them from Borges’ famous “Book of Imaginary Beings” – I think one or two people have cunningly spotted this connection; I’ve always had it to hand when I need inspiration for a race.
Bestiaries are great – because there are so many more creatures out there than elves and dwarves (not that there’s anything wrong with them). Others deserve the spotlight too.
So the creatures not so much a tribute explicitly, although I’ve certainly paid homage to other authors in other ways – for example, there are several references to dying earth genre books throughout the novel, though few people have spotted them yet!
And I must confess, although I read the first few “Wheel of Time” books, they’re not especially an influence in terms of races… Sorry!

DW: Speaking of China Miéville, many people compared you with him. How does this comparison makes you feel?
MCN: That’s ridiculous, I have much more hair than China.
China’s books have been an inspiration to me, and it’s an honour if people do see some vague connections. People like to make comparisions with all sorts and that’s fine – that’s part of the dissection of SFF works, the business of genre taxonomy. I’m equally inspired by a number of writers, and I’m consciously a mish-mash of other styles and worlds in my head.
But I hope I’m carving a distinctive niche for myself.

DW: “Nights of Villjamur” is the first novel in the “Legends of the Red Sun”. How many novels will have your first fantasy series? Do you already have a precise ending in mind for your series or these part remains to be settled?
MCN: I see an initial four novels to tell the main story arc, though I’ve a history into which I can dig for more should I need to. I do have a rough ending, and know where the series is going, though I don’t like to pin myself down too much.

DW: Is the second novel of the series ready or are you still working on it? Can you reveal something about the second novel of the “Legends of the Red Sun” series?
MCN: I’ve finished the draft of the second novel, and while I don’t like to comment on it too much – because so much can change during the editing process – I like to think the series has gone darker, more grungy, and certainly weirder. Don’t expect a clone of the first novel – now I’ve got the publishing deal I feel I can be less conservative in my ambitions! (Evil laughter…)

DW: It seems lately that many fantasy authors confront themselves with a problem (let’s name it this way). After starting their series they confront themselves with eagerly awaiting fans for the sequels and sometimes these fans become angry in their wait. Are you concerned that this might happen to you as well? Do you consider there is too much debate around these issues?
MCN: Hey, if I’ve a lot of fans waiting for another book, that’s not a bad situation to be in. But of course there’s going to be debate – that’s part of fandom and we should expect it. It’s not for me to say whether or not there is too much debate though – the internet decides the level of discission for itself. But I do agree with Neil Gaiman’s response to the George RR Martin fan. Even though the internet brings readers and authors together, some fail to see authors as people – with real lives that get in the way of things.
As for me, the second book is ready to be mailed to my editor, so I’m on track at the moment!

DW: What other future plans does Mark Charan Newton have?
MCN: At some point there’s a US release from Del Rey – I’m not certain as to the dates of that yet. I’m simply going to crack on with the writing for now – there’s a third book that needs to be written.

Thank you very much for your answers and amiability. It has been a pleasure.
And thank you for asking me!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The 2009 Bram Stoker Awards

This week-end at Burbank, California the 2009 Bram Stoker Awards winners have been announced. These awards recognize the superior achievement in horror writing published in 2008:

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT, FIRST NOVEL: "The Gentling Box" by Lisa Manetti




SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT, ANTHOLOGY: "Unspeakable Horror" edited by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT, NONFICTION: "A Halloween Anthology" by Lisa Morton

SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT, POETRY COLLECTION: "The Nightmare Collection" by Bruce Boston

SPECIALTY PRESS: Bloodletting Press (Larry and Debra Roberts)

THE SILVER HAMMER AWARD: Sephera Giron (for service to organization)


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: F. Paul Wilson and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Congratulations to all the winners!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fantasy Art - Nicole Cardiff

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Nicole Cardiff is an American artist currently living in Los Angeles, California. She graduated the Savannah College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Nicole has been honored by the ImagineFX Magazine as a Rising Star or featured artist under 25. She works as a freelance artist and her works have mainly fantasy themes. Throughout her career she made concept works for FunCom, RedMist Castle and Isotx, cover and interior illustrations for Dragonmoon Press, Wizards of the Coast, Eden Co/Hachette and White Wolf among others and textbook and promotional illustrations for National Geographic/Harcourt, GenCon UK and Fantasybookspot.

Interview - Nicole Cardiff

Dark Wolf: Nicole, thank you for the opportunity of this interview.
How did you become interested in art? What made you pick up the pencil and draw for the first time?
Nicole Cardiff: I distantly remember doodling stuff as a little kid because I wanted to draw the stuff in the fantasy stories I read (mostly unicorns and horses.) I dropped it until about middle school, when I started practicing a little more seriously and drew a lot of superheroes, since I discovered comics around the same time, so I transitioned into figure drawing from there.

Dark Wolf: Who are your favorite artists? Who do you consider to be the most influential figure on your career so far?
Nicole Cardiff: That's a long list. I really love the Orientalists, Gerome in particular, for their balance of detail with tightly controlled value; they can have areas of very detailed pattern or texture in their pieces, but because the values are so well planned, they never feel busy. N.C. Wyeth and Dean Cornwell are also big influences for me, as I love their sense of drama and their compositions – they were both masters of using light and shadow to their advantage. As for living artists, I'm a huge fan of Donato, Greg Manchess, and Jaime Jones.
If I had to pick one, though, it'd be Wyeth – studying his work over the years has taught me a lot of things about how to compose and use color.

Dark Wolf: In sport it is said that to achieve great results it is needed 20% of talent and 80% of work. Do you consider that such a statement is true in art as well?
Nicole Cardiff: Hmm. For art, I'd argue it's 60% pure stubbornness (just plugging away, having a good work ethic, and continuing to paint and draw no matter what), 20% training, 15% networking, 5% talent. Art's not really like sports – it'd be pretty difficult for someone to inherit anatomy knowledge, as opposed to good genetics for muscle growth. A good work ethic will take you the farthest, and training under good teachers will definitely speed along your artistic growth – you need a good portfolio to get anywhere in the first place. However, in the competitive professional world, you definitely need to do some amount of networking or you'll starve for work unless you're a knockout talent. The people I've known who aggressively promoted themselves actually did better than those who did little to no self-promotion but were more skilled.

DW: Is there one aspect of your art you are mostly satisfied with? What would you like to further improve on your style?
NC: I'm mostly satisfied with my color sense, but I'm still working on virtually everything else! I'm currently trying to push my compositional and anatomy skills.

DW: I read that last year you painted over 90 works. What is your rhythm of work? Do you like to work in certain conditions?
NC: I usually thumbnail out pieces until I'm happy with the rough, do a sketch, shoot reference if time and budget make it feasible, clean up the sketch some more, send the sketch to the client, make any required changes, block in colors, and then add detail. I usually try to have two pieces going at a given time so that I can switch while I'm waiting to hear back from clients, possibly a third piece of personal work depending on how heavy my schedule is.

DW: I’ve seen that your favorite method is starting a sketch and after scanning it you paint it digitally. Do you work exclusively using this method or do you use other methods as well?
NC: Yup, I pretty much exclusively do that. Drawing's still easier for me with a pencil, but everything else is easier on a computer.

DW: The predominant theme of your works is fantasy. Is fantasy your favorite genre, in art and outside art domain? Is it easier to work on a favorite theme than in other which is not exactly on your liking?
NC: I definitely prefer reading fantasy and doing fantasy briefs, but I'm not hugely attached to it; how interesting the brief sounds tends to trump subject matter. I tend to prefer briefs where something's happening to the characters just posing in a field somewhere.

DW: Do you have a favorite work of fantasy? Do you like a fantasy author in particular?
NC: I like George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and Guy Gavriel Kay – I usually prefer grittier, low-magic worlds in general.

DW: I’ve also seen that another preferred theme is history. What period of history is your favorite? Do you like your historical pieces to be as accurate as possible or do you like to improvise on them as well?
NC: I tend to go for a middle ground – I do tend to research the clothing/armor of the period, but if it's a choice between accuracy and a good painting, I'll serve the painting first unless there's a good reason not to do so. (A good recent example was when I did some Japanese warriors; if I were being accurate, all of their stirrups should have been visibly non-Western, but I knew most people would think I had just painted them wrong.)

DW: Seeing that you made many book covers, what would be one novel you would like to make the cover for, if it were possible?
NC: I really loved S. M. Stirling's In the Courts of the Crimson Kings recently; it'd probably be a tossup between that and the Arabian Nights, at the moment. I really love action-adventure stories.

DW: Looking over your portfolio I’ve noticed that in many of your works blue is the favored color, in its different nuances. Is blue your favorite color? Do you tend to consciously use the different shades of blue or does it happen sometimes to choose the color unconsciously too?
NC: Blue is indeed my favorite color. I really love the way deep shades of ultramarine look, particularly with orange, so I tend to use that combination when I can swing it. It's one of my few holdovers from painting traditionally in art college, since when I painted in gouache, you could get these unbelievably lovely, saturated deep blues. I also tend to default to blue as it contrasts skin tones nicely.

DW: I also noticed that your portfolio tends to concentrate on portraits or characters. Do you think that your talent is better put to value by the work on portraits and characters? Do you consider that your work on landscapes or scenes needs to be improved?
NC: I'm definitely a lot more interested in painting people than in painting architecture or landscapes. I'm sure my perspective and inorganic form painting could absolutely stand to improve, and I probably will end up working on my architecture at a later date, but as it is, I very rarely get professional calls that involve that stuff.

DW: From your commissioned works, which one was the most enjoyable to make? Do you have one that needed an increased effort to make and gave you a difficult time while making it?
NC: Hmmm. The pieces that I did for Warlord were generally a lot of fun – most of them had fairly loose briefs and were definitely action shots. Unfortunately most of my answers to this from the past couple of months I can't actually show or discuss the specific pieces (they're still under non-disclosure agreements.) The work I do for Wizards almost invariably requires a lot more thumbnail planning than most, since they tend to want a lot of specific details in their illustrations. One I can actually show that I struggled with was the Warlord Soul Hunter piece I did a while back – it was tough getting the water to look like water droplets, as it looked like weird goop for most of the time I was fighting with it.

DW: ImagineFX Magazine in one of their issues named you a Rising Star. Did this fact change your career? Did their statement put a pressure on you?
NC: Not really. I think I might've gotten some more job opportunities in the UK than if I hadn't been lucky enough to get that, but I think most publicity just adds a few more snowflakes to a (very) slowly snowballing career.

DW: What would be a difficult job opportunity to refuse? Would you like to work in a certain art domain in the future?
NC: Someday, I'd really like to do something like the work Wyeth did with Treasure Island, where the artist is commissioned to do ten or twelve color illustrations for a novel. I think it would be interesting to have a long-term job like that, but I'm not sure how much of a market exists for that kind of thing anymore. More realistically, I'd love to break into the larger publisher genre book cover market, though lately I've also been contemplating attempting to transition into either video game or film concept work (the money's pretty tempting.)

DW: At what are you working at the moment? What other future projects do you have?
NC: I'm mostly working on private commissions at the moment, and I'm an artist-as-needed for Kramaley Games, which has been a really wonderful client relationship for me. I'm sure I'll keep working for Sony for the foreseeable future, as well.

Thank you very much for your time and answers.

For more information about Nicole Cardiff and for a comprehensive portfolio please visit her website, The Art of Nicole Cardiff.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.