Category Archives: Science Fiction

Military SF writer PP Corcoran docks at Tickety Boo Press

Paul P Corcoran
Paul P Corcoran

Northumberland-based publishers Tickety Boo Press have announced the signing of military science fiction-writer and British Army veteran Paul P Corcoran, author of the Amazon best-selling ‘Saiph’ novels.

space-dock

Paul is coming aboard as Editor of Tickety Boo’s Space Dock imprint, which is dedicated to finding and publishing new and established authors writing Space Opera, Military SF, Post-Apocalyptic, Time Travel and ‘Alien Worlds’ tales. Paul is, say the publishers, “…perfectly situated to bring exciting, hard-hitting, character-driven novels to a constantly growing market.”

The Scotsman joined the British Army in 1985 and went on to join their elite parachute force, 5 Airborne Brigade, spending four years there until moving on to various intelligence and signals units for the remainder of his twenty-two year’s service. After serving in many areas of operations including: Africa, the Balkans, Central America, Northern Ireland, the Middle East and South East Asia, Paul returned to  civvy street but continues to work in the security field in a private capacity.

Tickety Boo Press (TBP) said “Paul Corcoran is ideally suited to running Space Dock­ – not only has he served in the military in various roles, including security and intelligence, but his knowledge of the military and his love of Science Fiction have already combined into becoming a full-time career as a writer of action-packed SF.”

Dave de Burgh, Acquiring Editor for Tickety Boo Press, went on, “Paul brings a wealth of expertise and experience to Tickety Boo Press, and I’m looking forward to revealing all the wonderful authors he’ll discover.”

Gary Compton, Managing Director of TBP, said, “I think when you are a fan of someone as a writer and a person, to then work with them is amazing. With Paul’s contacts and fans, I have no doubt he will be a great asset to Tickety Boo Press Ltd.”

Paul had the following to say regarding his appointment to Editor for the Space Dock Imprint:

“I’m really excited about the prospect of finding new up and coming talent and, with the help of the team at Tickety Boo Press, introducing their work to a worldwide audience.”

The Space Dock Imprint is currently open to submissions, see here.

For more information about Tickety Boo Press, check out their website: http://ticketyboopress.co.uk

For more about Paul Corcoran, see: http://www.ppcorcoran.com

BOOK REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

Review by Carol Goodwin
The Martian by Andy Weir (Del Rey)
The Martian by Andy Weir (Del Rey)
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
  • RRP: £7.99
  • ISBN 978-0091956141

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.

Story

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.

Rocket science

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.

Extract

To get a further flavour of The Martian, you can read an extract from the book in pdf format here.

Conclusion

If you like your SF with a good mixture of accurate science and adventure then this book is highly recommended.

Carol Goodwin

(Review copy kindly donated by Del Rey)

About the reviewer

Carol Goodwin is Newsletter Editor for the Birmingham Science Fiction Group and can be found on Twitter as @JupitersGhost

Further information

More info about the book, which is available through bookstores and online, may be found on the Del Rey website.

For more on the author, Andy Weir, check out his website, Facebook page and Twitter.

Unsung Live #2 short story evening in London

Unsung Stories logo

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).

Unsung Stories say:

“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 StructoDark FictionThe 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
  • Robert Sharp – Robert Sharp is Head of Campaigns & Communications at English PEN, and author of the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated novella The Good Shabti.  Twitter:  @robertsharp59
RSVP via Meetup

The event is FREE and all are welcome, but space is limited so make sure you RSVP.  You can do so via the event’s Meetup page:

http://www.meetup.com/unsung/events/224926265/

And, say Unsung Stories, if you just can’t wait until then to scratch that short story itch, sign up for Unsung Shorts and get an original short story delivered to your inbox once a fortnight:

www.unsungstories.co.uk/shorts

Unsung Stories “…publish intelligent genre fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk, and importantly those works that blur the boundaries between these genres.”

Birmingham SF Group October Meeting

Justina Robson
Justina Robson

This week the Birmingham Science Fiction Group is proud to host a talk by science fiction author Justina Robson, at their October meeting.

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:

Justina Robson at BSFG Poster

About Birmingham Science Fiction Group

Brum Group Logo

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:

Email: bhamsfgroup@yahoo.co.uk

And visit the group website: www.birminghamsfgroup.org.uk

Is that an Android in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

by Charles Christian
'Maria', from Friz Lang's 'Metropolis', 1928
‘Maria’, from Friz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, 1928
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.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

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.

Helen O'Loy
Helen O’Loy

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.

The Love Slave and the Scientists (Frank Belknap Long, 1935)
The Love Slave and the Scientists (Frank Belknap Long, 1935)

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

 

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

Author Interview: Jo Zebedee

by Shellie Horst
Jo Zebedee
Jo Zebedee
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?

No.

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.

Inish Caraig by Jo Zebedee

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.’

Continue reading Author Interview: Jo Zebedee

September Events UK

Cityscape

Conventions, Meetings & Exhibitions

The following events will soon be upon us – check out the links for further information!

Saturday 5th September 2015

International Comics Expo -The Studio, Cannon Street, Birmingham.

Sunday 6th September 2015

Comics Uncovered – The Studio, Cannon Street, Birmingham.  Linked with International Comics Expo, same venue.

Saturday – Sunday 5th-6th September 2015

Middle Earth Festival  – formerly The Tolkien Weekend, at and around Sarehole Mill, Hall Green, Birmingham.

Thursday – Sunday 10th-13th September 2015 

Oxonmoot  – the annual conference of The Tolkien Society, Oxford.

Friday 11th September 2015

Birmingham SF Group Meeting – talk by Prof. E. James, chair of the Science Fiction Foundation. Briar Rose Hotel, Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham. Click this link Edward James poster for details in pdf format.

Saturday 19th September 2015

British Science Fiction Association/British Fantasy Society 4th York Pubmeet – The Ackhorne pub, St Martin’s Lane, York.

Wednesday 23rd September 2015

British Science Fiction Association Open Meeting  – Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8ND.

Saturday 26th September 2015

BristolCon Science Fiction & Fantasy Convention – Doubletree Hotel, Bristol.

TitanCon – Science fiction and fantasy literature, media and gaming convention, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Sunday 27th  September 2015

The Second Crossness Steampunk Convivial – At Crossness Engines, Belvedere Road, Abbey Wood, London.

Post updated 3rd September 2015