Night Shade Books Announces . . .

New book announcement: Polity-universe classics from Neal Asher!

Exciting news, sci-fi fans! After a long time trying to make it happen, we’ve just acquired the rights to several Neal Asher backlist titles: Gridlinked, Brass Man, and The Skinner.

Now, that’s pretty great for lots of reasons—after all, Asher’s books are always incredible—but there’s one thing in particular we want to point out: with these acquisitions, we are now in the very unique position of being the first US publisher ever to hold the publishing rights to every title in both the Agent Cormac and Spatterjay series, which were in many ways responsible for launching Asher into his current state as a successful, high-profile author of science fiction.

If you’re an Asher fan already, as you all should of course be, you’ll know that his publishing history here in the states has been frustratingly spotty, with different books within the same series coming out from different publishers, which has made it hard to keep up with them. But, that said, now that these books will finally all be available in the US from the same publisher (us!) for the first time, we’ll have an opportunity to try and do things the right way, and we plan to take full advantage of it.

That starts with our new mass-market paperback editions, which will come with brand-new, and seriously cool, covers (with art by Neil Lang). Tor UK put these together for their own upcoming reissues of Asher’s books, and we just liked them so much, we knew we had to do the same. Check them out—as well as the accelerated-release schedule we’ve put them on (because who likes waiting?)—below:     

(TENTATIVE) RELEASE SCHEDULE:

September 2018: Gridlinked

October 2018: The Line of Polity

November 2018: Brass Man

January 2019: Polity Agent

February 2019: Line War

March 2019: The Skinner

April 2019: Voyage of the Sable Keech

May 2019: Orbus

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We also want to remind you all that this isn’t our only project in the works with Neal—his newest book, The Soldier, is out in hardcover this May! Check it out here for all the info.

Follow us on Twitter @NightShadeNews for more updates, and keep checking back here for more posts, announcements, and cover reveals—we’re always putting up new content!

Altered Carbon ReSleeved

So, I sat and watched Altered Carbon on Netflix. A few episodes in I lost track of what the hell was going on. This was due to actors mumbling, changes in language introduced for no purpose and, frankly, a viewer with tinnitus. Turning on the subtitles solved the problem.
It’s been sixteen years since I read Richard Morgan’s excellent book so in essence I was coming to this like a newby. I remembered that there was a particularly violent and cool character called Takeshi Kovacs, that people had cortical stacks and that they could be resleeved, and that they could also be tortured in virtual reality . . . and that is about it. This series gave me precisely those things and I enjoyed it very much. My criticism would be that it did not have the breathless excitement of the book because I remember putting that aside feeling like I’d been put through a rolling mill. In fact in this, towards the end, I started to feel that the action was too stylized and dragging. However, it is smart enjoyable science fiction and streets ahead of most of what is out there. I wouldn’t put it on a par with The Expanse but I would put it far above the Trek dreck and all that Marvel superhero nonsense.
I then noted that quite a lot of people were criticizing this because it’s ‘not like the book’ and ‘unnecessary changes have been made’, so I skim read a bit of the book. These critics are right. I note that religion has been dropped in there in an ‘understanding’ way, while in the book (just from the bit I read) it got a similar treatment to what I gave it in my The Line of Polity. I believe it got the ‘oh you idiots’ atheist treatment. Roles and story lines were swapped and consolidated like Quellcrist Falconer, like Kovac’s past and no doubt others things I would only be aware of if I read the book again. And I don’t have much of a problem with these.
I understand how you need to take a lighter more understanding view of religion if you are not to alienate a large portion of your audience (I reckon this was why Tor US, while publishing my books, made size excuses about The Line of Polity and didn’t publish it). Many of the other changes were maybe unnecessary but they were the vision of those who were translating it to the screen. So what? We got some damned good SF, taken seriously, on our screens and, FFS, the book has not gone away! It also means that other works are more likely to appear! Some changes I would say were necessary and they were improvements. Science fiction has moved on in sixteen years and, for example, I much prefer the version here of Bancroft’s house to the one described in the first chapter of the book.
Other criticisms have been that it was a pastiche. Well, I would argue that all science fiction is that – it is built upon what went before. Yeah, I saw the spinning ceiling fans, the noodle bars on the streets and the overall street scenes and thought, ‘Blade Runner’. I also note that Kovacs floating in the tank and the ‘fallen angel’ woman were very much like the signal image from The Expanse. But it all worked. It is up to you whether you denigrate these as pastiche or smile at the hat-tips.
In all I enjoyed this. It wasn’t entirely the book we read but, well, even the books we read aren’t that when we return to them. Hence the title above: this was Altered Carbon ReSleeved.
Congratulations Richard Morgan!

Falcon Heavy

Watching Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy launch into space, seeing two of its boosters land with the kind of precision that looked like CGI and seeing, FFS, a Tesla car swinging round Earth with a manikin in the driver’s seat, had me the most excited about space travel and exploration I’ve been for an age. Why is this important? The rockets are reusable, the cost is coming down at an astounding rate but, most importantly, Musk is showing that space exploration and travel can be carried out by private sector enterprise. In fact it can be carried out better. We no longer have to wait for moribund, government-controlled bureaucratic behemoths like NASA to get us into space.
This launch also had another effect on me illustrated by a tweet I saw last night. I paraphrase: ‘There’s a Tesla car heading to Mars and you’re still on about Trump?’ In one evening I completely lost interest in politics and still feel that way this morning (but it will inevitably return).
There was one negative in this and that was the third booster failure. One of its engines failed to ignite (some fuel problem?) and it missed the drone ship to plummet into the sea at hundreds of miles an hour. But even this is a relatively minor mishap in something of this scale. Firstly, other rockets aren’t even reusable and, consequently, are a damned sight more expensive (“The nearest peer competitor is the Delta 4 Heavy at roughly half the thrust and from four to as much as ten times the cost.”). Secondly, it turns out that these rockets won’t be used again anyway since Spacex has the next iteration ready (I think).
There have been naysayers. Some feel that Musk should have sent some scientific instrument rather than a car, and that this was a crass publicity stunt. They have obviously failed to understand the financial aspect of the publicity generated by this stunt. Doubtless their inclination is for science under the aegis of big government, and they find private enterprise distasteful. Another, apparently on TV this morning (I didn’t see this since I don’t have a TV licence and therefore don’t watch live TV) was bemoaning the ‘pollution’ of space and of Mars by sending a car up. Beside the fact that the car will not actually end up on Mars, this is quite ridiculous politically correct ‘environmentally conscious’ virtue signaling. It also shows a complete failure to understand the barren hostile immensity beyond Earth. Seriously, fuck off.
Elon Musk is a man with a dream and he is not buggering about in achieving it. He wants us up in space, constantly, on Mars, on the moon and elsewhere. I love too that he is obviously also a lover of science fiction. Culture ship names and that ‘Don’t Panic’ on the dash screen of the Tesla demonstrate this. And his dream, in the end, has revitalized the dream of space exploration for us all.

Who Reads my Books: Joanne Simpson

My name is Joanne. I live in Western Australia. Well, large parts of my life are there. Lately, I make it home about one week in three. I travel a lot so I read a lot.
I have been a die-hard SF&F fan since I learnt the word “genre”.  My tastes were established early – the staff at the local library gave up when I was about nine and gave me early access to the adult shelves. So as a child and teenager I immersed myself in the greats of the 1950s – 70s  – Brunner, Delaney, Spinrad, Ellison, Dick, Anderson, Niven, Blish, Zelazny, Silverberg, Norton, LeGuin, Lee, Butler et al. Of course I never stopped reading, but they were formative.
I impressively failed 1st year science (an application problem, not an interest problem). After a hiatus working as a lab tech I read English and Philosophy. My Honours dissertation was on the treatment of death and need in “Naked Lunch” (by the genre-breaking and under-appreciated William S. Burroughs). This was a topic my wonderful, brilliant modernist painter and much missed supervisor Tom Gibbons described as “brave”. But it went fine.
Needless to say work was hard to find on graduation. I spent four years as a 2ndhand bookdealer and scrimped my way through a masters in business before finally landing a job that paid the average wage.
I worked for a big mining company more or less from graduation until laid off a bit over two years ago. Now I am a freelance project management consultant. I help companies navigate their way through building frighteningly large things for terrifying amounts of money. Such fun.
I’m a tragic road warrior. I take lots of pictures on the road, many of which make it to Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/josim1100/. Because I spend so much time in anonymous serviced apartments, I have become a connoisseur of disappointing public art https://www.tumblr.com/blog/badabstracts. But for a quite competent photographer of things not me, I’m rubbish at selfies. Hence a typical self-portrait – tired, bored and cranky in Canberra airport after a long week, waiting to go home.
My main hobbies apart from photography are ineptly playing annoying stringed instruments (ukulele and banjo), and strategic crochet. And, of course, reading. Though I can’t really describe a thing as essential as breathing as a hobby. I must read at least an hour a day (double on weekends).
I love your books (especially the Spatterjay series) because they seem to fit into my happy place of complex characterisation, tech-savvy humour, darkness and weirdness. I have though immensely enjoyed the Weaver’s development from loveably incomprehensible buffoon to ancient, wise and utterly arbitrary  super-being. And equally how adeptly you have made the Prador well, not likeable, but at least comprehensible and credible as an alien species.
I recently enjoyed the slightly surreal experience of being part-way through the latest book (Infinity Engine) while having an active conversation with you on Facebook about an almost entirely unrelated topic. Worlds colliding…
We definitely hold divergent views on many things (especially climate change). But I am not a reader who needs to accept a writer’s worldview to also appreciate their writing (thank my Eng Lit training for that). I enjoy your books for themselves, and your posts as both an insight into your writing and an opportunity to gently poke fun ;-). Wouldn’t life be dull if everybody agreed about everything… And I love the weird science and insect posts! It’s fun to see where you find your ideas.
Very much looking forward to the Rise of the Jain.
But I have to close with one annoying nerd question. On the very first page of Infinity Engine, you reference Buzzard magnetic fields. Did you mean Bussard, and did your editor waylay you? [Feel free to delete this last paragraph if unbearably annoying…]
Joanne

Laser-Driven Fusion

I haven’t been putting much science up on here but felt the need to do so with this. If true, it’s damned important.

“Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and, therefore, no radioactivity in its primary reaction. And unlike most other sources of power production – like coal, gas and nuclear, which rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines – the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity. But the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities – almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun.”

LINK

Bella Pagan Introduces New Covers!

Editorial Director Bella Pagan introduces a new look for Neal Asher’s books, the first of which are coming in 2018. 

Science fiction is full of time travel paradoxes. And I don’t just mean the oops-you-travelled-back-in-time-and-now-you’ve-accidentally-become-your-own-grandmother kind. Or the you-glimpsed-the-future-and-then-you-changed-how-it-unfolded-so-how-could-you-possibly-have-seen-it-in-the-first-place kind. I mean the kind where you design a fictional future, and then one day, as you travel inexorably through time second-by-second, the future arrives. And it doesn’t look anything like how you designed it.

The most obvious examples are the stories with dates in the title – think 1984, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. But there are many more. The year 2015 did not give us the flying cars envisioned in 1989’s Back to the Future. The early 90s did not, thankfully, see the onset of the Eugenics Wars, as envisioned by Star Trek (though I’m still holding out for first contact with the Vulcans on 5th April 2063). And sometimes the opposite happens: the technological wonder that is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sounds positively antique in the age of the smartphone: ‘a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press-buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice.’ Hundreds of buttons?! No touch screen?! How can something so visionary go out of date so quickly?

Which brings us back to the paradox of designing the future. It’s a challenge faced not just by writers and filmmakers, but by our own book cover designers. Every literary genre is affected by changing fashions, of course – but few things evolve as fast as SFF covers. Which is why we like to polish them up every few years! Last year we redesigned Douglas Adams’ Trilogy of Five, the year before we jazzed up the ebook covers for Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 10-book Shadows of the Apt series. And now: it’s Neal Asher’s turn.

Over the next couple of years, science fiction giant Neal Asher’s complete backlist will be republished with fantastic new jackets, to reflect the way the future is depicted now – as opposed to how it was depicted when they were first published in the early 2000s, or how it was depicted when they were last re-jacketed eight years ago.

LINK TO FULL ARTICLE HERE

Who Reads my Books: Sean Price

I was enjoying reading the bios posted here and was not intending to write one myself, but it seemed the vast majority were from the UK and I didn’t want Neal to think he didn’t have readers from across the pond also.

So, I was born in New York (State, not the city, as the two are separate entities), but we moved a lot when I was young, due to my father being in the military. I was a classic introvert and because I was always the new kid, books became my escapism. I remember being 9 years old, walking home from school (latchkey kid) and I stopped at the library. I walked out with “Red Planet”, by Robert Heinlein. That was the start. I haven’t stopped yet. I’ve still got a fond spot for Heinlein’s YA series. I got turned off from his writing later in life but his books were a huge influence on me when I was young.

I read a vast amount and when I was younger (and broke), I pretty much read out my local libraries. It was good in a way as I was exposed to a lot of different literature that I would not have read had I could buy books. I read Zelazny’s “Lord of Light” when I was ten. I didn’t understand half of it at the time, but I sure enjoyed it. I read from Asimov to Zelazny and everyone in between. The good thing about moving around was there was always more to read at the next library.

We eventually ended in New Jersey when I was a pre-teen and stayed there through the rest of my formative years. I graduated High School at the age of 18 and did the blue-collar thing for a while, working as a carpenter. It only took a short while of working outside before I decided snow was a bad invention and endeavored to move as far west as I possibly could and still stay within the U.S. I spent the next quarter century living in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. Hawaii is a great place to be if you like outdoorsy stuff. Hiking, running, swimming, surfing, diving, anything and all can be done any time of the year. It’s also a good place to be in the construction trade as the weather never changes, but I got tired of the physicality of the work so during one of the downturns in the economy, I transitioned from carpentry to computer science—which sounds slightly weird I suppose, but there you go—and have been working as a software engineer ever since.

The first book I read of Neal’s was “The Skinner” and it was one of the last books I bought in physical format. After years of buying books, putting them on shelves and then eventually donating them to libraries (must give back somehow) I own nothing but eBooks. I occasionally miss holding a physical book but the convenience of having an entire library in my hand is hard to beat. Amusingly, “The Skinner” was also the first—and last—book I listened to in audio format. I run a lot and like to do endurance events and I usually just load up the iPod with some playlists to pass the time when the going gets tough. Several years ago, I was running an ultramarathon and I thought it would be a good time to try an audio book. So, fast forward to 20 hours into the race, 3AM in a dark Hawaiian rainforest, sleep deprived and not cognitively at my sharpest, with my headlamp casting eerie shadows, listening to a description of the Skinner coming out of the woods—and a wild boar runs across the trail in front of me—tusks and all. Thus ended my brief foray into audio books. I now confine my reading to the comfort and safety of my home.

About two years ago, for reasons that I still have a hard time explaining to myself, let alone anyone else, my wife and I moved from Hawaii to the Southeastern US, a place where churches are seemingly only outnumbered by Waffle Houses and I sometimes feel I’m the only person in the entire state who did not vote for our current president. I had a lot of preconceived notions about the South. Some turned out to be true. Some not. It’s an interesting place. But it’s close to my wife’s family and it’s amazingly cheaper to live. You can also get in a car and drive for hours, which is something I’ve discovered I really didn’t miss at all, but things are just a lot farther away now so you do what you must.

I still read a lot and I enjoy finding new authors with work that resonates with me. I love Neal’s work–and that fact that he shares details about his life and work through his blog–and I buy his books when they come out without bothering with the reviews as he rarely disappoints. We have plans to visit the UK again so maybe I’ll get a chance to buy Neal a beer in thanks for all the enjoyment he has given me with his hard work. Keep writing books, Neal. I’ll keep reading them.

New Publisher for Gridlinked, Brass Man and The Skinner

Good news for US readers:

“I’m pleased to confirm that Skyhorse and Start Media would love to publish Gridlinked, The Skinner, and Brass Man – Skyhorse to release in paperback and audio, and Start in Ebook. Skyhorse will aim to release in paperback next summer but the good news is that Start can make the ebooks available pretty much as soon as we’ve taken care of the paperwork. That shouldn’t take long so hopefully the ebooks will be available in the new year.”

Release dates to be confirmed.

Body and Mind Update

Here’s a bit of an update on ‘body and mind’. I’m running through this to set the scene because shortly I really must talk about nootropics.

When I started at the gym in the Summer of last year I was still walking silly distances most days, and I had just come back from Crete where I had been swimming and kayaking a lot, so I thought I was pretty fit. My two-hour induction soon disabused me of this notion … well, I was fit, but not in the right places. What ensued then brought me down to Earth with a bump. I thought I could go for a huge walk in the morning and follow that with a session at the gym in the evening, and I did do this for a while. There was a problem, however: I ended up having to take long snoozes during the day because I was absolutely knackered. This was all very well but, y’know, I really needed to do some writing.

I switched to alternate days of walking and gym. This went on for a few weeks but even then I was finding myself getting knackered and effectively losing productive days of work. Next I dropped the walking altogether but, because I never do things by half measures, my time, weights and reps at the gym steadily increased. Since then I’ve been in and out of attempting to combine gym and walking and work and trying not to snooze away my life. Power napping works – if you remember to set the alarm.

I have enjoyed what all those gym sessions have done for me – I now weight over 13 stone but have much less fat than when I was lighter – but I need to find an exercise/work balance. Currently I’m doing three gym sessions a week of an hour and a quarter on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but only after I’ve written my 2,000 words, then some nice long walks at the weekend. I seem to be getting there with this, in fact, my energy levels seem to be increasing. But now I wonder if what has been going on with me physically is rooted more in what has been going on mentally than I would suppose.

Three and a half years ago after what I will dub ‘the shitty life event’ I chose the option of exercise. The other options, apparently, are crawling inside a bottle, pills or excessive work. I think I chose the right one because at the time I simply wasn’t capable or interested in the work. I walked thousands of miles, kayaked and swam – all to stay on top of depression. This was then followed by the bonus of panic attacks and anxiety. I think that during the latter time I was basically driven by the adrenalin and cortisol of the buggered ‘fight or flight’ response. As I then started to come out of that last year I started to pay the cost. I was so knackered all the time because I was still recovering from the effects of having my body overclocked (as a computer) for so long. Is ‘burn out’ the correct term? Probably.

But now? I’m enjoying life again. I’m reading and writing. And now the exercise seems to be getting easier. Still, occasionally, the snooze monster creeps up behind me with a brick in a sock, but hell, I’m 56 and mustn’t expect miracles! But there’s something else I must factor in too, and that’s those mentioned nootropics…

Who Reads my Books: Eric Jones

People ask me where I grew up, and I tell them Mayberry. It’s not far from truth.

I was born in 1972 on the Gulf coast of Mississippi, in a town with very few red lights and a population of less than 6000. People familiar with the area now know it as a hotbed for casino gambling; when I grew up it was a depressed area whose main industries were building ships for the military or fishing the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

We had a TV – which got ABC, CBS, and PBS. One channel had ghost people that lived in the static. Most of my time growing up during the day (except Saturday mornings) was spent outside in the woods playing army or cowboys and injuns, riding bikes, or rowing skiffs in the bayou to look at gators or find places to build forts.

At night, we watched the news and then one TV show. It was usually my dad or my mom’s choice, but once we watched an episode of this show called Battlestar Galactica. I loved it, and talked my parents into letting me watch it when it came on. A few months later, on a Sunday, my parents told me that they wanted me to watch a show on PBS with them. I really didn’t like PBS because all my dad ever watched on it was the MacNeil/Lehrer report and it was boring, but they said it was like Battlestar Galactica and I would like it. It was a show called Cosmos, hosted by a man named Carl Sagan. I didn’t know that astronomy was so amazing, and I wanted to know everything about it.

A few years later, in a 5th grade literature class, I was exposed to written science fiction. Everyone in class got a massive book filled with all sorts of novellas and short stories and each week we had to read an assigned story and answer discussion questions on its meaning. It was a Ray Bradbury story that did it – “All Summer in a Day” – and I was done for. I actually read every science fiction story in that book that weekend, of which there were just not enough.

My mom saw this and was thrilled. She spent her Fridays scanning the classified ads looking for yard sales to pillage during the weekend as a hobby, and one Saturday after coming home with her loot she tossed a book at me and said, “I picked this up at a garage sale for you, it’s sci fi – you like that, don’t you?” That book was called “Ringworld,” by Larry Niven. Yeah, I was really done for.

I got a library card, and was aimed at the adventure and science fiction section of the library by the librarian. Over the years I gradually worked my way from left to right, top to bottom. I explored the bottoms of the oceans and survived the bends with Tom Swift, and I battled against the Vom with Philip Lynx and his minidrag Pip. I was proud Mobile Infantry with Rico, barely avoided being mind-controlled by a Thrint, and lived in fear of having my almost-overloaded Langston Field collapse while in combat.

I was Dorsai!

As an adult I still read science fiction voraciously. I think that’s one of the reasons why Neal’s books appeal to me the way that they do. When I read his books, especially his polity ones, I’m able to rekindle a sense of wonder that’s akin to how I felt when I was a kid because of how many entertaining and new ideas live inside of them. Except now, instead of living on the Ringworld with Louis Wu and trying to desperately not get killed by the luck of Teela Brown, I’m trying to sneak a gecko mine onto the back of a Prador in the middle of running like hell from Jain-inspired megadeath.

My love for science fiction and astronomy bloomed into a love for physics. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics, and I chased the doctorate dragon in large scale cosmological structure and solar physics.  These days, I live in Florida with my wife and my newborn daughter, and I teach physics and astronomy classes at a state college. My free time is spent doing martial arts, surfing, or working on my classic van.

My daughter doesn’t have a triangle on the back of her neck, I checked.