The Coode Street Podcast – discussion and digression on science fiction and fantasy

Episode 484: Ten Minutes with Cheryl Morgan

Ten minutes with… is a special series presented by Coode Street with Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan that sees readers and booklovers from around the world talk about what they’re reading right now and what’s getting them through these difficult times.

Legendary fan, publisher, and critic Cheryl Morgan talks with Gary about some favourite new and forthcoming books; the comfort in watching classic TV and movies; watching Doom Patrol and Black Panther; Sam Jordison and Galley Beggar Press; her own fanzine Salon Futura and Wizard’s Tower Press, and being a sensitivity reader for trans characters and issues.

Books mentioned include:
• The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison
• The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
• Mordew by Alex Pheby
• The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Foe by Juliet E McKenna
• The Tales of Einarinn series by Juliet E. McKenna
• The Aldabreshin Compass series by Juliet E. McKenna
• untitled forthcoming collection by Aleksandar Žiljak

Full details of the latest ZNB anthology projects!

This year’s Kickstarter will fund three science fiction and fantasy anthologies, titled THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, DERELICT, and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories each from established SF&F authors and new voices found through an open call. Backers will essentially be generating the funds to produce these anthologies—payment for the contributing authors, for the cover artist, production costs etc. So the reward levels have been set to more closely resemble the cost of the final product when it goes on sale to the general public. In essence, backers are preordering the anthologies.

Click here to check out all the details and progress of the Kickstarter

If you think you might have story idea, read on…

THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY

This is the anthology I hope to be writing for. In a follow-up to THE MODERN FAE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY, we switch our attention to the deities of old. Is Narcissus an Instagram influencer? Is Coyote playing the stock market? Does Ra own a solar panel company? Was Dr. Ruth really Venus? These authors will explore how the immortals have changed with the times.

  • Alma Alexander (Freyja: Nordic),
  • David Farland (Woden/Odin: German),
  • Tanya Huff (Hera: Greek),
  • Juliet E. McKenna (Nemesis/Themis: Greek),
  • Phyllis Irene Radford (Anshar/Tiamet: Babylonian),
  • Laura Resnick (assorted),
  • Kari Sperring (Cigfa, Goewin, Gwydion: Welsh),
  • Jean Marie Ward (Dionysus: Greek), and
  • Edward Willett (Ninkasi: Sumerian)

DERELICT

No one can resist the mystery of the abandoned ship, whether it’s the ghost ship afloat in the Bermuda Triangle or the spaceship drifting in the depths of space. What happened to the crew? What horror forced them to abandon their vessel and flee…or are they still on board, trapped or even dead? These authors will explore the possibilities.

  • Jacey Bedford,
  • Alex Bledsoe,
  • Gerald Brandt,
  • Julie E. Czerneda,
  • Kate Elliott,
  • John G. Hemry/Jack Campbell,
  • D.B. Jackson,
  • Gini Koch,
  • Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, and
  • Kristine Smith

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE:

Throughout history, different cultures have collided, whether it be the peaceful contact between Rome and Han China in the second century that established the Silk Road, or the more violent interactions between Europe and the Americas thirteen hundred years later. Such first contact stories have long been a staple of speculative fiction, and these authors will explore the myriad ways in which two cultures—alien or fae, machine or human—can clash. Will the colliding societies manage to peacefully coexist after they finally meet? Or will they embark instead on a path of mutual self-destruction?

  • S.C. Butler,
  • Esther Friesner,
  • Auston Habershaw,
  • Steven Harper,
  • Nancy Holzner,
  • Howard Andrew Jones,
  • Stephen Leigh,
  • Violette Malan, and
  • Alan Smale

In Other Writing News – Three New SF&F Anthologies about Deities, Derelicts, and Clashing Cultures!

Regular readers won’t be surprised to learn that I’ll be part of the @ZNBLLC Kickstarter for three new anthologies this year. I’ve had stories in four of these collections so far, as well as two earlier projects from this team. Sometimes that’s been as an invited author, sometimes I’ve gone through submission because I had an idea that was too much fun not to write. That’s the thing about these projects – they’re always full of intriguing possibilities.

That makes for great collections of stories and excellent value for readers at the entry levels. For those of you looking for something extra, there are a whole range of bonus reward levels. I’m offering assorted books and a couple of Tuckerisations (your name for a character in my story). There will be more detail on each theme soon, but for now, readers aware of my alter ego’s mystery novels set in Ancient Greece will not be surprised to lean that I’ll be writing a story for the ‘Deities’ anthology – as long as the Kickstarter funds.

Alongside the designated authors anchoring each book, there is always an an open call for submissions offering first rate editorial advice as well as professional rates of pay for the stories that make the cut. ZNB are also very keen to offer debut publication opportunities. Any SFF writers starting out should definitely go and take a look.

The project goes live later today. Meantime, you can click on the ‘Notify me on launch’ button here.

and here’s a taste of the cover art…

The Green Man’s Silence will be published on 2nd September 2020 and the ebook can be pre-ordered!

The Green Man’s Silence will be published on 2nd September 2020 by Wizard’s Tower Press.

UK readers can preorder the ebook from Amazon here.
US readers can preorder the ebook from Amazon here.
Here’s the link for preorders from Barnes & Noble
Here’s the link for preorders from Kobo

Other formats will be available, and in other territories. We’ll update everyone with news and links in due course.

So what’s this new story about? Here’s what the cover will tell you…

“Daniel Mackmain has always been a loner. As a dryad’s son, he can see the supernatural alongside everyday reality, and that’s not something he can easily share. Perhaps visiting East Anglia to stay with Finele Wicken and her family will be different. They have their own ties to the uncanny.

But something is amiss in the depths of the Fens. Creatures Dan has never encountered outside folk tales are growing uneasy, even hostile. He soon learns they have good reason. Can he help them before they retaliate and disaster strikes the unsuspecting locals? Can the Green Man help Dan in a landscape dominated by water for centuries, where the oaks were cut down aeons ago?”

In related news, The Green Man’s Foe is now available for 99p in ebook, as part of Kindle’s August promotion. But what if you haven’t read The Green Mans’s Heir just yet? Well, that’s why we have reduced the first ebook in this series to £1.77 for the duration of this promotion.

If you haven’t read these books yet, this is the ideal time. If you have, what better opportunity will you have to recommend them to friends?

Cover art and design by Ben Baldwin

The Green Man’s Silence – coming soon, with this fabulous cover

Artwork and cover design by Ben Baldwin

And to give you just a hint…

“Helen put a couple of tea bags into a pot and then spooned coffee into a cafetière. ‘You like to fix things. You like to help.’
Those weren’t questions, but I answered her anyway. ‘If I can.’
She waited for the kettle to boil, looking thoughtful, not looking at me. She made the coffee and the tea and brought them both over to the table. I took a seat as she fetched milk from the fridge and mugs from the dishwasher. She sat in the chair across the table and filled a mug for us both.
‘Do you have hobs where you live?’
I didn’t think she was talking about kitchen appliances, but I wasn’t sure of much beyond that. ‘By which you mean…?’
‘Brownies, pixies, they have a lot of different names. Earth spirits inclined to take a fancy to human hearths and homes.’ She took a sip of coffee. ‘Around here they call themselves hobs.’
‘I know what you mean,’ I said cautiously, ‘but I’ve never met one.’

The book is now in production and we plan to publish in early September. As soon as the date is fixed, we’ll spread the word. Pre-orders will be possible soon, and there’ll be more details coming to whet your appetites…

So, fellow writers of contemporary fantasy, what are we doing about Covid-19 in our fiction?

As I get The Green Man’s Silence ready for publication, this is very much on my mind. One of the central elements of these books is showing recognisable, everyday normality alongside the supernatural that’s so close even if most folk can’t see it. That’s a key part of their appeal. I’ve been careful not to date these stories so far too precisely, but they have essentially reflected the years when they’ve been written. I researched and wrote this forthcoming book through the winter of 2019-2020 and that’s what you’ll see on the page.

What do I do now? If I show Dan’s life as it would be without the current pandemic, then the next book becomes a fantasy that’s far more distinct from the new abnormality that we now realise will be with us for an ongoing and indeterminate time. Will readers want that added escape, or will the disconnect with their current lives be too jarring amid the ongoing everything?

But is the alternative even worse? Not going to lie, I have been thinking about the ways that the UK lockdown, and the dire economic consequences we’re now looking at, will affect Dan and Blithehurst where he works, as well as the people he knows – and yes, how the dryads and others will react. I have quite a fun short story idea…

Except none of this is remotely fun. My family are so far unscathed, but the total of people I know personally and professionally, who’ve suffered a family death due to Covid-19, is now into double figures. This is serious for us all, and heart-breaking for tens, if not hundreds of thousands, in the UK alone. Won’t putting that grim reality on the page alongside myth-based puzzles and perils simply wreck reader suspension of disbelief?

I am reminded of the rewrites to the end of Western Shore, the novel I had finished writing just before the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. A tidal wave formed a large part of the backdrop to the conclusion. My editor and I agreed that had to be changed, no question about it. Readers seeing awful news footage in their mind’s eye as they read would ruin the book for them. Add to that, as happened to at least one writer whose book with an incidental tidal wave was just about to hit the shops, there was the risk of being accused of callously cashing in.

So I am pondering these questions, and thus far, not finding any answers. Your perspectives and observations are welcome.

Free reading for the cooped-up, from me and other writers

There’s been a flurry of SF&F authors having a look in the back cupboards of their hard drives this week, to see what stories they could make available for free. We know a lot of readers have time on their hands just at the moment, but we are also well aware that they may be finding themselves uncertain as to prospects for their bank balance and bills for the next however-long.

With the always invaluable assistance of Cheryl at Wizard’s Tower Press, and artist Ben Baldwin, I’m offering up The Wizard’s Coming, a short story that stands alone, and as such, should give a good introduction to my style and my approach to epic fantasy. In the overall chronology of my successive epic fantasy series, it sits between The Lescari Revolution trilogy and The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy, so there’s added interest if you’ve read those books.

You can download the ebook in your preferred format from Wizard’s Tower Press here – worldwide.

You should also check out the BSFA page where a whole lot of interesting things are on offer.

Looking forward, Cheryl and I are also working on making some Aldabreshin Compass short fiction available as ebook singles. Details to follow in due course.

Meantime, happy reading, and hoping you and yours are well.

News of another writing project

It’s time to share some news about a writing project I started around five years ago, to broaden the scope of my writing in these challenging times for authors. As a lifelong crime fiction fan and an erstwhile classicist, I reckoned historical mysteries set in Ancient Greece between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, had potential. There are plenty of good books set in Rome after all, so how about a change of scene?

I started my research, and thirty years after my undergraduate days, it was fascinating to see where thinking had changed, and what discoveries had been made. I plotted out a story, wrote a draft, sought no-holds-barred feedback from selected academic friends, and revised that draft. Then I started sending the project out on submission, working my way through a list of selected literary agencies.

A year of so later, I found an agent as keen on the project as I was. With the benefit of his fresh viewpoint, I reworked some aspects of the book, and he started pitching it to publishers. Six months later, we had a two book deal, with a view to launching an ongoing series. The plan was I’d write these books alongside my SF & fantasy, using the pseudonym J M Alvey to keep these books separate from my other work.

Things have not gone to plan. Not for any reason to do with my writing. Circumstances arise in publishing that authors can do nothing about, despite the seriously adverse impact on their careers. There’s no point in me going into the details. That would be unprofessional as well as unproductive.

I would simply like readers who might be interested to know these books are there to be enjoyed. Advance readers and reviewers have certainly taken to Philocles, a writer for hire in 5th century Athens who dreams of making his name writing comic plays for the great festivals. Check out the quotes on Amazon.

In Shadows of Athens, Philocles discovers a murdered man outside his front door, a few days before his new play is to be performed in the Dionysia drama competition. Is it just a robbery gone wrong? If so, why didn’t the thieves take the dead man’s valuables? Philocles wants answers, even though he has no idea where his investigations will lead. But who else is going to see justice done? Ancient Athens is a city with no police force, still less any detectives.

In Scorpions in Corinth, Philocles and his actors have travelled to the Isthmus, gateway to the Peloponnese. They are relying on a local fixer to help them stage a play there, to promote ties between the two cities. But Eumelos is killed soon after the Athenians arrive, and it’s clear that someone is out to wreck their performance. Philocles must find out who, but how? He knows his way around Athens but making enquiries in Corinth is a very different story.

Please feel free to share this and boost the signal.

My Dublin 2019 Worldcon Schedule

I’m just back from a week away, and I’m currently dealing with the post-holiday admin pile up. While I do that, here’s what I’ll be doing in Dublin and when. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Fantastical travel guide

15 Aug 2019, Thursday 15:00 – 15:50, Liffey Hall-2 (CCD)

Do you fancy a trip to a fantasy realm? Want to avoid stumbling into Moria or falling off the edge of the Discworld? Our panel of authors are here to help you by roleplaying as one of their characters and trying to persuade you to travel to their fantasy worlds.

Autographs: Friday at 11:00

16 Aug 2019, Friday 11:00 – 11:50, Level 4 Foyer (CCD)

Is epic fantasy conservative?

16 Aug 2019, Friday 13:00 – 13:50, Wicklow Hall-1 (CCD)

Back in 2013, Gollancz’s Twitter account made the claim that: ‘Epic Fantasy is, by and large, crushingly conservative in its delivery, its politics and its morality’. The question sparked a discussion that is still relevant and ongoing. Is epic fantasy politically conservative and, if so, what does this tell us about the genre?

The lack of technological progress in fantasy

18 Aug 2019, Sunday 11:00 – 11:50, ECOCEM Room (CCD)

From the cotton gin to the printing press, technology doesn’t seem to advance in many fantasy worlds – despite hundreds of years of history in which an industrial revolution could happen. Why doesn’t it? Does magic replace the need for technology? What about the growth of magic-powered technology within a fantasy world? What does it take to get a little scientific progress?

These islands: exploring Irish and British fandom

19 Aug 2019, Monday 11:00 – 11:50, Liffey Room-1 (CCD)

For decades fans from Britain and Ireland have participated in and even run each other’s cons. Has this created a shared British and Irish con culture, or does each country have its unique traditions? And have modern social media and travel options diminished or enhanced our close ties?

Reading: Juliet E. McKenna

19 Aug 2019, Monday 13:00 – 13:20, Wicklow Room-5 (Workshops) (CCD)

And yes, in case you were wondering, I will be reading from The Green Man’s Foe.

Speaking of which, one of my admin tasks this morning was picking up a box of books. Don’t these look good together?

cover art by Ben Baldwin

The Green Man’s Foe – publication date 15th August 2019

Wizard’s Tower Press and I can now confirm that the ebook of The Green Man’s Foe will be published on the 15th August 2019. If you’re interested in an eARC, contact @WTPress on Twitter or email.

That’s the first day of the Dublin Worldcon, so I look forward to celebrating there with friends old and new.

Paperback, hardback and audio editions will also be available. Firm dates on those will be announced as soon as possible.

It’s Wednesday and that means #BookQW on Twitter and Facebook, so here’s this week’s taster to whet your appetite.