I am sorry to have to inform our readers and contributors that, due to extreme pressure on my time for family and work reasons, and because it has proven too difficult for me to dedicate the necessary time to House On The Borderland over the past few months, that I have decided to place this magazine site into ‘cold sleep’ until such time as I can, hopefully, revive it and do it justice once again.
Unfortunately, I can only keep up with so many things at once and, due to my present work situation, that means things that pay. HOTB has been a labour of love, and I’ve not entirely given up the fight, so the site will not be deleted.
I do, of course, apologise to those reading this who may have been waiting for me to publish their work, and I wish them well.
I still have one or two reviews outstanding, and if in the end they cannot be placed here I will endeavour to publish them on my personal blog, which will hopefully be back in action soon. In either case I will make an announcement via these pages as soon as possible.
Prognostications and predictions of West Midlands genre literary events coming up this month.
I think there is sometimes a perception that there is no literary activity outside of London. Well if you live in the Midlands and are interested in SF/Fantasy writing and books then the following is a list of some of the interesting events that are I know are happening in the area this October. Most of them are inexpensive or even free and a great chance to meet and talk to authors, editors and fans of the SF/F/ Horror genre. So what are you waiting for?
Double book launch by local authors, Lucy Onions (SHOUT THE CALL) and James Josiah (C90) with additional readings by other authors, live music, free food and drink. Southcart Books, 20 Lower Hall Lane, Walsall. WS1 1RL. Check the Facebook event page for more details.
NOTTINGHAM WRITERS’ CLUB SPECIAL SCIFI NIGHT, 21st October, Nottingham
Our newest correspondent Carol Goodwin sends in the first of hopefully many contributions to House On The Borderland, a very topical and timely review of the book which inspired the film currently filling cinemas world-wide, starring Matt Damon as the book’s protagonist, Mark Watney.
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir
Publisher: Del Rey
Size: 384 page paperback
This science fiction book has been hugely popular both inside and outside the SF field.
It has already been a Sunday Times bestseller, made the Richard and Judy list and is readily available on supermarket shelves, not the norm for most straight SF books.
With all this attention, I was somewhat worried whether the book could live up to all the hype. Well, I need not have worried – this is a good old-fashioned SF book which is full of adventure, meticulous science research and a gripping page-turner. The film version is now showing in cinemas and I am looking forward to comparing them.
The story is set in the near future. Shortly after landing on Mars, the six-person crew of the third manned mission to Mars (Ares 3) are forced to abort the mission and evacuate due to a massive storm threatening the living base. In the confusion, astronaut Mark Watney is injured, separated and left for dead when his monitors show no life signs. He awakens to find himself marooned on Mars with no way to communicate and the next mission isn’t due for four years. Trapped on a planet where any mistake could kill him, this is a riveting story of his ingenious efforts to survive.
The story alternates between his “first person” log entries and the “third person” viewpoint of the Earth-based scientists and the homebound Ares 3 crew. Mark Watney as a character is well-drawn and immensely likeable. His log entries feel like a real person’s voice and his use of humour to keep himself going works very well. Importantly, he is not perfect and he does make mistakes but his determination and perseverance get you involved and willing him to survive.
While the technical detail might put some people off, it does not feel heavy handed. In fact this is one of the major joys of this book to me. I love the puzzle of “How is he going to get out of this?” and the logical, real solutions he finds. I am not a physics/engineering expert by any stretch of the imagination but the technical accuracy seems right to me. The problems and solutions used feel incredibly well-researched and detailed and the author has clearly spent a lot of time trying to get things correct.
Hard SF adventure
The novel has been described as “Robinson Crusoe in Space” and this is a very good description. It reminds me of some of the early hard SF I read and loved and which first got me into the field, particularly Arthur C Clarke’s A FALL OF MOONDUST or astronomer/writer Hugh Walters’ children’s Chris Godfrey series.
To get a further flavour of The Martian, you can read an extract from the book in pdf format here.
If you like your SF with a good mixture of accurate science and adventure then this book is highly recommended.
Shellie Horst swashbuckles her way into the virtual presence of Sussex, England-based author Julia Knight (sometimes aka Francis Knight) and makes off with a copy of her latest book for our first competition.
Like many publishers, Orbit’s website likes to tantalise us readers; snippets of new releases sit alongside decadent covers. In that sea of promising stories, though, one cover reveal stood out from the masses.
It’s fantasy – I get that from the sharp pointy thing he’s holding, not to mention the equally sharp blade she’s brandishing. Two people on the cover, no hoods either.
That is different, in this world of ‘hooded-man-with-sword’ covers.
I haven’t read it, yet. This isn’t a review. But that cover is certainly doing what it’s supposed to. (Well done Gene Mollica and Wendy Chan) Intriguing.
In this cruel world of the fantasy genre, where an up-to-the-minute reader must wait a year or so for their next fix, publishers Orbit go on to inform us that we can read all three books in Julia’s Duellist trilogy – in the same year. October, November, and December. That’s the winter reads sorted then!
I asked Julia if she would be willing to be interviewed by a complete stranger whom she has only ever crossed words with on the internet and go figure, the lovely lady said yes. Obviously then the first question has to be:
SH: Is this one very thick doorstep of a book, slicedinto three parts or more of a traditional trilogy?
JK:It’s, well a little of both I suppose. Each book has its own story, but there is also an overarching story of Kacha and Vocho (the two rather glorious people on the cover) and Petri, who is something of a divisive element between them. So it’s not one big book a la Tolkien, but while you could read each on their own, you’ll get more from the later books if you’ve read the earlier ones.
SH: There is a definite East European/Russian flavour to the blurb, as an Adventure Fantasy featuring reluctant highwaymen should readers expect a Three Musketeers meets Anastasia feel? No? What then?
JK:Oh that’s a great way to describe it! There was definitely a Musketeers influence – revolutions, ineffectual kings, swashbuckling – but with my own sort of twists. I read a lot of historical non-fiction which that kind of leaks in as we go….so we’ve got a bit of Russian, a hint of revolutionary France, a soupcon of post-Moorish Spain, all wrapped up in some fantasy.
SH: Did you have to lock yourself away in room to write the whole series before the Swords and Scoundrels publication?
JK:Pretty much! Every spare moment was spent writing. Luckily I had some regular train journeys, which helped. However, I had as much time before publication as my previous series – it was just that I had to have the books ready before the publication started, as opposed to writing/editing as we went.
SH: If you could seal off a building or place to have it all to yourself and write without interruption, where or what would it be?
JK:Somewhere really remote – a croft in the Scottish highlands or somewhere out of the way in Norway. If I felt like somewhere warmer, I would happily tap away in the courtyard of a riad in Morocco*. I’ve written in all three places, and the peace and quiet, the view out of the window, never fails to get me going.
*Oh, hark at me, don’t I sound glamorous. This merely means I write even on family holidays.
SH: What is your most favourite aspect of the Duellist’s Trilogy? (Finishing it isn’t allowed as an answer.)
JK:The dynamic between Kacha and Vocho. Brother and sister, they love each other (when they remember to) and rely on each other, but they’re like chalk and cheese and rub each other up the wrong way just as often. There’s a nice bit of sibling rivalry between them, along with some jealousy. It makes their scenes fun to write!
SH: You’ve developed a reputation for creating interesting characters, but the Duellist trilogy offers us two main characters, siblings Kacha and Vocho. Did these two materialise at the same creative moment or is one more vocal than the other?
JK:They turned up together – I think it’s fair to say neither would be as they are if not for the other. Vocho definitely talks more. Mostly about himself! Kacha is more the thinker of the pair. But neither can imagine life without the other by their side so they had to be together when they came.
SH: Do you have a favourite?
JK:Between those two? No. I love Vocho because he might be self absorbed but he’s trying to do his best, and he’s funny. I love Kacha because of her determination, her ambition and the fact she’s not afraid to speak her mind. Mostly to Vocho…
SH: And finally, as I know you’re part of the illustrious T-Party, a London-based writing group providing support to authors, if you had the chance to meet yourself at the start of your writing career, what would you say?
JK:Tempted though I am to say “Never give up, never surrender!” I’d say, read a lot, write a lot, find knowledgeable people to give you honest feedback. Write what you love and keep on subbing!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Julia. Good luck with the new series!
Book one of The Duellist trilogy, Swords and Scoundrels, is out now.
Book two Legends and Liars will be available in November, with a December release scheduled for Warlords and Wastrels. Rather than sitting on your hands, you can pre-order the series now from bookstores and online suppliers.
More details about the Duellists series can be found on the Orbit website.
Shellie Horst is a freelance copywriter who writes various amounts of fantasy and SF, more often than not inspired by Yorkshire’s history. As well as ghost writing, her fictional work has been published by www.AlfieDog.com. 2015 will see the completion of her Creative Writing Degree. She’ll be working on interactive narratives as part of Hull’s Humber Mouth Literature Festival in November. You can follow her progress on her website www.millymollymo.com
COMPETITION WINNER ANNOUNCED
Our SWORDS AND SCOUNDRELS competition has now been won by gilla01 who was chosen at random from all those who submitted entry comments to this page by 31 October 2015! Gilla will be contacted direct by our interviewer Shellie Horst.
Our grateful thanks go to Julia Knight for taking part and providing the prize, as well as to Shellie for an excellent interview.
Not to mention everyone who took the time to comment and spread the word – thank you all!
Indie SFF publisher Unsung Stories, based in London, UK, recently contacted us to submit one of their lates books for review – Deja Vu by Ian Hocking. That’s undergoing our review process right now, but in the meantime they’d like us to let you know about an event they’re organising later this month.
Unsung Live #2
The event is Unsung Live #2 – a short story evening which is taking place on Tuesday, 20th October 2015, from 7pm at The Star of Kings, 126 York Way, London, N1 0AX (map).
“After the resounding success of Unsung Live #1, we are happy to announce our second evening of storytelling for fans of science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the bits in-between.”
The lineup this time includes:
Simon Guerrier – Simon is the author of numerous Doctor Who books, comics and CDs, including The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who. With his brother Thomas, he’s produced documentaries for Radio 3 and a number of acclaimed short films. Twitter: @0tralala
David Hartley – David is a writer of strange stories, his fiction having appeared in numerous places including Structo, Dark Fiction, The Alarmist and two Boo Books anthologies; After the Fall (2014) and We Can Improve You (2015). He has two collections of flash fiction, Threshold (Gumbo Press, 2015) and Merry Gentlemen. Twitter: @DHartleyWriter
Cassandra Khaw – Cassandra Khaw is Ysbryd Games’ business cat and an Ars Technica UK contributor. Her short fiction can be found at Unsung Shorts, Terraform, Shimmer, The Dark, and a variety of other places. She has a novella coming up with Abaddon Books sometime Soon. Twitter: @casskhaw
Justina studied philosophy and linguistics at the University of York before she worked in a variety of jobs – including secretary, technical writer, and fitness instructor – until becoming a full-time writer.
Robson first published in 1994 in the British small press magazine The Third Alternative but is best known as a novelist. Her debut novel Silver Screen was shortlisted for both the Arthur C Clarke Award and the BSFA Award in 2000. Her second novel, Mappa Mundi, was also shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2001. It won the 2000 Amazon.co.uk Writer’s Bursary. In 2004, Natural History, Robson’s third novel, was shortlisted for the BSFA Award, and came second in the John W Campbell Award.
Robson’s novels have been noted for sharply-drawn characters, and an intelligent and deeply thought-out approach to the tropes of the genre. She has been described as “one of the very best of the new British hard SF writers”.
This meeting is on Friday 9th October 2015 at the Briar Rose Hotel on Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham; this venue is just 5 minutes’ walk from New Street Station and handy for all bus routes into the city centre. The meeting opens its doors at 7:30 p.m for 8pm talk start and admission costs £4 (£3 members).
To download a pdf poster for this event, click on the following link:
The Birmingham Science Fiction Group was founded in 1971 to enable local and not so local fans to get together to discuss science fiction and related topics.
The group itself has many members of all ages, and between them the membership has an enormous wealth of knowledge of literary SF, as well as films, television, etc. If you want to know about a particular author or book, the BSFG is unlikely not to be able to help you! Just let them know you are a first timer when you turn up and any member will be happy to introduce to the committee and make you feel as welcome as they can.
If you live anywhere in or around the West Midlands, the BSFG is the group for you! For further information, and a copy of the group’s monthly newsletter, you are invited to:
House On The Borderland presents our first article by Charles Christian, which reflects on one of the trickiest questions in science fiction, “Do humans dream of electric sex?”
Sky News recently conducted a survey which found that of the 1800 polled about the role of robots in the future, nearly fifteen percent said they believed they could have a ‘fulfilling, emotional relationship’ with an android.
This is, of course, a long-established and recurring theme in science fiction literature – the robot or android who is so lifelike that the human falls in love (or lust) with them.
Philip K Dick’s 1968 story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep featuring Pris ‘the basic pleasure model’ (as the movie adaptation, Blade Runner, describes her) started the modern trend for ‘fem’ or ‘sexbots’; followed quite quickly by Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives in 1972; while Freya, in Charles Stross’ Saturn’s Children (2008) provides another spin on the theme.
However, it can be traced back even further, with Lester del Rey taking the credit for the first human/female android love story, Helen O’Loy in 1938 (The title is a terrible pun on Helen of Troy and Helen of Alloy).
While E.T.A. Hoffmann (of Tales of Hoffmann fame) had a female automaton that the hero fell in love with as long ago as 1814, in his story The Sandman.
The Sky News report may only echo a long-established trope; however, it did prompt Dr Kevin Curran, of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to comment:
“Technology is evolving at a pace and scale that we’ve not seen before. It is leaving a void where society is struggling to keep up with the social and moral implications they create.
“The conjecture of humans being intimate with robots is not a new moral issue. In fact, there is already a market for ‘intimate robots’. The holy grail of porn at present is the first person POV (Point of View) Virtual reality approach and a lot of porn companies are working on prototypes using Oculus Rift and other 3D VR glasses.”
Ah! So it’s all about porn.
There’s an interesting historical coincidence here. Although the Internet has its origins (ARPANET and all that) in research and development conducted by the American military, academic institutions and tech companies in the late 1960s, it was the porn industry that first made any serious money out of the commercial exploitation of the Internet.
Today, all the heavy research and development into robotics is currently being conducted by the US military and Silicon Valley companies, but will it also be the porn industry that realises the money from androids?
There again, perhaps androids or sexbots will will turn out to share the views of Marvin the Paranoid Android from Douglas Adams’ HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy series:
“Call that job satisfaction? ‘Cause I don’t.”
Charles Christian is a barrister turned tech journalist, as well as an author of science fiction stories and nonfiction books on folklore and local history. A lover of all things geek, he can be found on Twitter at @ChristianUncut and blogging at www.UrbanFantasist.com
Shellie Horst pens her first author interview for us, talking to Northern Ireland-based author Jo Zebedee on behalf of House On The Borderland.
After her debut novel was published with Blyth-based Tickety Boo Press you’d think Jo Zebedee would be content with her novel sitting pretty in the Irish SF best seller lists, wouldn’t you?
Off the back of that success she pressed ahead with her novel Inish Carraig released this August, which is already proving to be a hit with the reviewers. An alien invasion on Earth with a Belfast touch, Inish Carraig follows John – a teenager living in the aftermath of the invasion – desperately trying to survive in a cruel world.
Partially because we both have love for Gobolino the Witch’s Cat, (but mostly because I know Jo through the forums she haunts), Jo happily agreed to answer a few questions for House On The Borderland.
SH: Jo, are you mad? Why on Earth are you self-publishing Inish Carraig?
JZ:I might be mad… But, no, I thought long and hard about it (although possibly underestimated the work in bringing both out so close together.)
The easy answer is that I was afraid to lose the book, and liked it too much to want that to happen. Also, lots of people told me they loved the premise and urged me to release it.
The harder answer is that it’s a difficult book to market. It has a young adult protagonist, and a shared adult point of view in contrast to it. It’s sci-fi with a bit of thriller. It’s set in Belfast, not exactly a mecca for alien-contact books. When a book doesn’t have a comfy slot on the bookshelf, marketability becomes an issue, whereas the self-published market doesn’t get as excited about what’s on each (virtual) shelf.
SH: The cover of Inish Carraig offers a statement of its own, how did that come about?
JZ:I wanted something that was both iconically Belfast but that would look equally striking to those who don’t know the city, so I decided on the cranes. They’re called Samson and Goliath and they dominate the Belfast skyline. Originally, I wanted a bonfire in the foreground but thought the bleaker image of the devastated land matched the feel of the book better (I don’t write Sparkly Unicorn stories…)
I worked with Gary Compton from Tickety Boo covers on it, who took that brief and produced the cover which exactly captured what I hoped for.
SH: What is your favourite part of Inish Carraig?
JZ:My favourite part was using a setting I found familiar, and changing it so it reflected the aftermath of what has been a tragic, and futile, invasion. The capturing of an inverted sense of place, if you like.
In this scene, Henry, the policeman drawn into John’s story, is travelling to the house John and his siblings have been subsisting in throughout the war. The scene harks back to the earlier Belfast and builds to a pathos when Henry enters the house that brings the war home to him more than anything else could have:
‘Later, as they drove up the rubble-strewn streets of north Belfast, he wasn’t smiling. The city felt as if it was in stasis: the explosion of fear, held in abeyance for months, close and dangerous. The soldiers sat in silence, their faces closed and grim. Peters, leading the squad, had seemed resigned to the request from Carter for support. They passed no other vehicles, saw no one out on the streets. Below them, deceptively calm, was the lough. One of the old passenger ferries from before the attack was moored at its neck. No smoke rose from the sewage farms, but their smell permeated the van, an accusing reminder of the Zelotyr.
They pulled up outside the house. Carter got out of the vehicle, glancing down the small cul-de-sac. There was no one in sight. He could see the Oldpark Road, just visible through a gap beside number ten, its tarmac filled with weeds. A sparrow chirruped nearby, making Carter jump. He looked at the surrounding houses. Their windows – the ones with glass – were dark and empty. Was anyone there? Peters came alongside, his firearm ready, and Carter pulled his pistol from its holster. Both men walked forward, crunching over broken glass in the small front garden. The rest of the soldiers got out of the vehicle, dispersing into the house and round the back. Carter waited, tight against the wall, his heart hammering.’
Well, we’ve had more than 800 new visitors over the past three days, so we must be doing something right! Welcome to all our new readers.
Yes, it’s early days for House On The Borderland, but that just means our readers have got all the more to look forward to!
More news, events info, event reviews, book reviews and even short fiction are already lining up, some of which should appear over the next few days, so we hope you’ll keep on coming back!
And if you’re an author or publisher of science fiction (including steampunk), fantasy or weird pulp fiction, including factual books about these topics, please do consider sending us a copy of your work for review. Check out our Submissions page via the menu above.