WEARING THE CAPE

What does it mean to wear the cape?

Here’s a truth: I struggle to call myself a feminist. I support feminism, I believe in equality, I find it astounding and ridiculous that so many people still have to fight for basic rights as human beings. But there it is, all the same. I pause, I falter, whenever I try to call myself a feminist. And this is because I can’t shake a notion from my head that the term ‘feminist’ carries a fundamental experience that I’ve never had. I do not know how it feels to be persecuted because of my gender.

I don’t want to experience gender prejudice, but I’ve often wondered if my problem stems from struggling to find a way to truly empathise with the challenges faced by women. I agree with feminism intellectually, I understand why sexism is wrong, and celebrate the fact that we are all individuals in the human race. I have a five-year-old daughter. It’s my job to prepare her for the future. She deserves to have no doubt in her father’s convictions when he says, ‘I am a feminist’. But still . . . to feel why feminist issues affect me seems as important as knowing why.

Recently, I had a shakeup. Bells were set ringing, and I was led down what I hope might be the path of epiphany, when, inspired by thoughts on arguably the most famous of comics, Gollancz Publishing Director Gillian Redfearn posted these three tweets:

This morning I’m thinking about Superman. Because there’s a guy who’s genuinely struggling with his work (superman) life (CK) balance and…

…at the same time is in love with a powerful woman who is oblivious to his charms unless he’s made a real point of dressing up and…

…showing off his charms. So my question is: is ‘Superman’ a superhero, or a gender-flipped showcase of women’s challenges?

So here’s Clark Kent, struggling to fit into the world, often dismissed by those around him. He hides behind his alter ego, the most alpha of all males – Superman. As Clarke Kent, he watches as Superman takes credit for his achievements, all his hard work; Kent is forgotten on the periphery, denied accolade and respect. Because why? He has to fit in? Because Superman is more socially acceptable? That makes other names come to mind, names like Alma Reville and Leigh Eddings.

Clark Kent has experienced the frustrations of only fitting in when he puts on a façade. He has made himself unhappy while singing and dancing to gain the respect of people who’ve never really taken an interest in who he is without the cape. Except Lois Lane. But where Kent might hope Lane is interested in discovering the person beneath the clothes, she’s arguably objectifying a body that is a little more super than the average physique. When Gillian writes that Clark Kent has to make the effort to dress up and show off his charms to gain the attention of this powerful woman who he loves, I recall times when I bowed to the pressure of conformity in the hope that I might be accepted.

There is a coward in me, who is confused about many issues in the world. I shy away from voicing opinions for fear of sounding dumb, being wrong, or gaining the kind of vitriolic reprisals that occur so often on the internet. To my shame, I have said and done questionable things in the past, kept my mouth shut when I knew I should have spoken out. All for the sake of being accepted. When other people have taken credit for my work, I’ve swallowed my outrage and worked even harder to gain their approval. As Clark Kent has, I’ve allowed others to treat me as less than I am so it is easier for them to let me fit in. I convince myself that my quiet belief in tolerance and acceptance is enough, while knowing deep down there is a bigger voice inside me that I allow fear to keep small.

What if Superman is a gender-flipped showcase of women’s challenges? Through the eyes of Clark Kent do we catch a glimpse of the problems women have faced throughout history, and still do, across the world, today? From my own limited experiences, can I reason that I don’t lack the empathy but the courage to embrace the feminist issues that affect every single one of us, and always have? Has Gillian, by sharing her thoughts, hit the nail on the head? Because I have to wonder how many of us can see ourselves in Clark Kent. How many of us have had to wear the cape?

The coward in me is balanced by the naive child who wants to shout ‘Let’s all be cool!’ at the world, while the adult knows this can no more solve feminist issues than 42 can answer the question to life, the universe and everything. I don’t know how we defeat inequality, or how long it will take to eradicate entrenched, bigoted attitudes once and for all.

But one thing I do now know, for sure, is that I am a feminist, and finding expression for my voice is, and always has been, my responsibility.

PROMISE OF THE CHILD

The promise of the child

I READ THE PROMISE OF THE CHILD by TOM TONER and…

I used to be a reviewer and as such I occasionally had a love/hate relationship with books like The Promise of the Child. I love it because it is unlike anything I’ve read for years, and there is something rather brilliant about it. I hate it because I’m not entirely sure I’m articulate enough to explain why. That’s not Tom or the book’s fault, but still…shut up :)

Two names that get mentioned alongside this book are Gene Wolfe and Michael Moorcock, and I can understand why as it has a fabulous Science Fantasy feel to it. The human race has made it far into the future, and they have evolved – or devolved – into strange and magical creatures spreading out across realms of genuine wonder and imagination. The plot is intriguing, clever, drawing together characters and threads to weave a fascinating tale. As the last of Gollancz’s Class of 2015 to be published, The Promise of the Child caps off the year with style.

Ambitious, beautifully written, Tom Toner has created something memorable and unique. You should read it, even if I’m too dim to properly explain why. I’m still thinking about it, to be honest :)

Books I Have Read

Lucy Hounsom

I READ Starborn BY Lucy Hounsom AND…

Traditional fantasy for the modern reader. Hounsom knows how to weave a tale and build a world, as she sweeps us along with Kyndra on a mythical journey. Full of intrigue, mysterious characters, magic and mayhem, Starborn is never short of entertaining. Definitely one to add to your reading list.

Alex Lamb I READ ROBOTEER by Alex Lamb, and…

It has been a few years since I last read a Space Opera, and judging by ROBOTEER Space Opera is in very fine shape.

Alex Lamb invents some high concepts and intriguing technologies, and then shows off a real gift for explaining them in a simple and fascinating way. A riveting story of the human race, the far future, and first contact, this has the coolest spaceships around, some original and engaging methods of fighting in space, and, of course,  Will Kuno-Monet, the Roboteer, who has to prove that humans have the right to exist in the universe.

Aliette De BodardI read THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS by ALIETTE DE BODARD and…

Set amidst the ruins of post-apocalyptic Paris, The House of Shattered Wingsdumps the reader into the aftermath of war in a torn city filled with Houses and factions, rivalries and political intrigues and curses, magicians and fallen angels. And then there’s Philippe. Philippe is something … else.

Aliette de Bodard has a pretty smooth understanding of language. She blends mythology and culture into a believable world, where all tales of grander designs seem real. And broken. There is mystery and wonder in this story, as we follow a magical cast of characters, and wonder with them at the fate of Morningstar, the original fallen angel, the missing Lord of House Silverspires. Grim, beautiful, entertaining, The House of Shattered Wings really needs to go on your reading pile.

ROBOTEER is published by Gollancz July 2015. The ebook is available for preorder at just £1.99, that’s an actual bargain for such a glorious story! :)

Relic Guild New Front Cover

You might not know this, but last year my editor Marcus Gipps and I discussed the idea of me writing a tie-in story for THE RELIC GUILD. The result was HEMLOCK. Consider it a companion story, or a scene deleted from The Relic Guild, like a DVD extra. But the train ride didn’t stop at merely writing a short story, oh no! Marcus, conspiring with mighty Paul Stark and fabulous Gollancz, paid for Hemlock to be recorded as an audio story by the amazing Imogen Church, who also narrated the full audio book. And then … and then! Gollancz gave it away for free! Such madness!

But they did, and they did it for you! For free! How terribly, thoroughly, undisputedly posh. And here it is …

HEMLOCK is free to download from Audible right … HERE!

If Soundcloud is your preference, then right … HERE!

And lastly, the script version of HEMLOCK can be read for the first time EVER over on the Gollancz blog right…HERE!

The Gemmell Awards

Gemmel Awards

Voting for The Gemmell Awards is open – Hoorah! – and I would encourage you all to go check it out. This award was set up in honour of David Gemmell, a writer who championed new authors and artists, and whose stories inspired so many of us. It feels important that this award is supported, not least of all for the spirit of encouragement and acceptance that it is preserving.

 I heartily recommend that you lend your support by casting your votes. There are three categories: Legend (best novel), Morningstar (best debut), and Ravenheart (best cover art). Please read the lists of nominees, find the fantasy books that you loved, and the cover art that inflamed your imagination, and then apply your endorsement with a magical internet thumbs up. It really is no more complicated than that.

And, of course, my personal interest in this year’s GEMMELLS is more vested than it has been in previous years…

I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely comfortable with cheering for my own work – and you should totally vote for the thing you love best – but if you happened to enjoy THE RELIC GUILD, you will find that it has been longlisted for the Legend and Morningstar awards. And that makes me happy.

The Relic Guild New Cover

As a final thought on my longlist inclusion, I have to admit to feeling proud at seeing my name alongside so many great writers. Some of them are people I’m lucky enough to know personally, people like John Hornor Jacobs and Den Patrick, who were my fellow debuts in the Gollancz Class of 2014; people like Joanne Harris and Adrian Tchaikovsky, who always take the time to make a newbie writer feel welcome. It is a longlist full of wonderful people with wonderful stories.

Lastly, just in case you have missed all my links, you can vote right…HERE!

Good luck!

 

Crashing Heaven

MARCH 2015

I JUST READ CRASHING HEAVEN BY AL ROBERTSON and…

Crashing Heaven

With shades of New Wave Sci-Fi, Crashing Heaven carries the torch of cyberpunk into new territory. Dr Who gave me a fear of ventriloquist dummies, and with the character Hugo Fist, Al Robertson has started the nightmares afresh. A smart and inventive tale, confidently told. This book is a fine example of the healthy state modern Sci-Fi is in.

 

 

Son of the Morning

FEB 2015

I JUST READ SON OF THE MORNING BY MARK ALDER and…

Son of the morningHistorical fantasy, but never once felt like I was in the middle of stuffy history lesson. A detailed and fascinating look into an alternate past, where demons and angels inhabit the world, and the tales of the Bible aren’t quite the same as those I heard at school. Sharp and brutal, sometimes funny, always intriguing, filled with monsters and magic, and a great cast of characters. Son of the Morning is a fine piece of entertainment.

THREE BOOKS & A PROMISE: December 2014

Dear Mini-Ed,

Baby MarneyHaving a daughter means something. It’s kind of like I’ve made a promise. To you and to me. A promise to stand strong against anything that threatens you, or to bite the bullet and stand back when you need to learn the hard way. I did my best to remain calm when you ripped the pages out of my books; tried to be impressed when you proudly showed me your artwork on the lounge wall. I tried my hardest not to stop breathing when you cracked your head against the corner of the dresser. I’ve finally forgiven myself for that time you broke your arm, and accepted that it’s amazing what a five-year-old can do with twenty seconds of unsupervised time. Hey, I even managed to keep a straight face when you demonstrated how loudly and clearly you could pronounce ‘Shit!’

Most of the parenting advice I’ve ever been given has been utter rubbish. We’ve had to learn how to do this in our own way – me, you, and mummy – and we need to carry on learning. However, I was once told that today’s tears are tomorrow’s laughs, and I try to hold to the hope that gives me. Because there has been so much more laughter. The good has always outweighed the bad as we learn together, and I want that to continue. I want to give you the freedom to grow into an individual, but also the guidance that helps you to remain a good person. Someone who knows they can be whatever they want to be, as long as they put in the work. Someone who is tolerant, accepting, who is strong enough to stand against the prejudices you might face simply because you are a girl.

Yes, that’s a problem in the world, I’m afraid. But not one you’ll ever face from me. And you should know that there are lots of other girls, out there right now, fighting for equality, for the kind of rights that they shouldn’t have to fight for. I have to admit that I wish I was as strong as some of these people, but I support them, and I believe in equality. It is my hope that the tomorrow the endeavours of today brings will be a better world for you to fly free in. I doubt that world will be fully fixed, and it will still need improving. I promise to prepare you for that.

And speaking of my promise, I have a confession: I need to do better. I’m not very good at looking after myself, you see. I struggle with a lack of self-worth, my confidence is shaky at best, especially when expressing opinions; I’ve been clumsy overcoming hardships, made some terrible mistakes along the way, and I have to admit there have been times when I really wasn’t a good person. There are reasons for this, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever tell you about them. But watching you grow so quickly, I’ve come to realise that you help me take responsibility for who I Ed and Marneyam, the good and the bad, and my perspective on life is altering for the better because of it.

I’m a writer. Not long ago, I got a very good agent who got me a very good book deal with a very good publisher. One day, you’ll understand just how much this means to me. You’ll understand how much I love writing stories, and you’ll hopefully get to meet some of the great people I have around me right now. When you’re older, I’ll give you three books, and should you wish to, you can read all about the adventures of your namesake. And while you’re reading, I want you to remember that I wrote those books with you as an inspiration. They are my legacy to you. You give me hope, you give me perspective, you give me the drive to be better.

12 Festive Relic Guild Reasons…

12 Festive RG Reasons
LOVELY FOLKS! Here are 12 festive reasons why the tale of THE RELIC GUILD would make a fine and splendid Christmas present…it’s exactly like the Twelve Days of Christmas but not, see?

1. Thought you knew where modern fantasy was at? The Relic Guild will change your assumption - The British Fantasy Society (FULL REVIEW)

2. This is a fantastic debut, and one that worked for me on pretty much every level– Civilian Reader (FULL REVIEW)

3. A formidable debut from an author with huge potential - Fantasy Faction (FULL REVIEW)

4. An intriguing, original and enjoyable book, a daring mix of genres -Starburst Magazine (FULL REVIEW)

5. Smart, energetic fantasy that grips you from page one and delivers a genuinely memorable experience - The Eloquent Page (FULL REVIEW)

6. I soon found myself engaged in the richness of Labrys Town and its varied residents - Fantasy Book Review (FULL REVIEW)

7. This is far from your ordinary fantasy story - The Book Plank (FULL REVIEW)

8. A true feat of imagination - UpComing4Me (FULL REVIEW)

9. Sometimes a book comes along that reminds you of the pleasure of being a reader - SFBook Reviews (FULL REVIEW)

10. A do not miss fantasy title for 2014 - Parmenion Books (FULL REVIEW)

11. Took me somewhere I didnt recognise and hauled me in as easily as a goldfish in a tea strainer - The Book Bag (FULL REVIEW)

12. The Relic Guild is like a twisting, looping, and flipping ride of a cosmic roller-wonder coaster and who knows where the author is going to take us in future books– Sleepless Musings (FULL REVIEW)

   
And for a bumper Christmas extra, here’s a photo sent to me by my marvellous editor Marcus Gipps of the glorious review we received in Interzone magazine – Hoorah! :)
Interzone

 

 

 

 

Book Picks of 2014

Lots of lovely folks are making lists of their favourite books of the year. So I thought I’d do mine. HOORAH! Here, for your reading pleasure, are my fellow debuts from the GOLLANCZ CLASS of 2014

IncorruptiblesTHE INCORRUPTIBLES by John Horner Jacobs:
I’
m not entirely sure how to explain this one. Myke Coles cover blurb says, If you want original, youve picked up the right book  yep, cant disagree at all. Im tempted to call THE INCORRUPTIBLES a fantasy-western, but its more than that. Theres an alternate history involving the Roman Empire, and a sort of dysfunctional blending of magic and technology. Demonology, too. There are fantasy creatures that we know and love, but you aint ever seen them like this before. The two main protagonists – Fisk and Shoe  drive what is a ridiculously entertaining story, set on a river that weaves through a sprawling wasteland. And Im very much looking forward to finding out what happens next.

BarricadeBARRICADE by Jon Wallace:
Personally, I don
t think anyone in the world creates a grittier, harsher vision of a post-apocalyptic future than we Brits. Im proud of that. The tag for Jon Wallaces BARRICADE says, A road trip through the hell we made, and thats exactly what we get. Humans are no longer highest on the food chain. War has ripped the world apart. The dominant species is now the artificial life forms that we created. One of them, Kenstibec, is a special brand of taxi driver, and hes on a trip from the north to the south of Britain, delivering some interesting cargo. BARRICADE is wonderfully bleak, intriguing, and there might be one or two tears before bedtime.

Porcelain BladeTHE BOY WITH THE PORCELAIN BLADE by Den Patrick:
The first Gollancz Class of 2014 to be released. Following the exploits of the outsider Lucien de Fontein, THE BOY WITH THE PORCELAIN BLADE is a story of mystery and intrigue set in the intricately layered world of Landfall. At times this one is a swashbuckling riot and wickedly humorous, at others it becomes a much more dangerous and scary creature, but it is always a vastly fun story to read. Having spoken with Den Patrick a few times, Ive gained a little insight into whats coming up in this series. Shhh, I wont tell, but I will be reading, and you should too.

Miss HatfieldTHE SEVENTH MISS HATFIELD by Anna Caltabiano: 
A lot is being made of the fact that Anna was 17 when she wrote this book; and although, for me, that does carry the OMG! Shes this good already!? factor, it shouldnt distract from the truth that it is a solid and enjoyable story. THE SEVENTH MISS HATFIELD is a tale of people, set against the back drop of time travel, immortality, and a mysterious old painting. It has genuine charm, and its an entertaining way to wind down at the end of the day.

UoB Event

Relic Guild FlyerThe University of Bedfordshire will always be a special place for me. I gained my BA and MA in creative writing at Bedfordshire, and I lectured there in the same subject. And it was while I was lecturing at UoB that I landed myself an agent, who then got my book, The Relic Guild, signed by the mighty Gollancz. With a touch of sadness, I left the university to focus on writing; but on Wednesday 19th November, with a full and happy heart, I returned to my old haunt, my shiny new book in hand.

 

Ed and KeithEd1There was a great turnout for the event. Around forty students and old uni chums came to listen to me waffle on and read from The Relic Guild. But before I was unleashed upon the UoB crowd, I received a very nice introduction from my old mentor Keith Jebb, who taught me a lot about myself and the writing process.

bookmarks

Pile of booksOf course, one does not simply turn up to such events without a free gift for one’s audience. My wife, the wonderful Mrs Ed, designed a bookmark as a giveaway for the occasion, and she did a fine job riffing on Christopher Gibbs’s amazing cover art. And with the help of my Charlie’s Angels (Helen, Neta and Shaz) we set up a competition: whoever could create the best name for a character in a fantasy novel would win a rare uncorrected proof copy of The Relic Guild.

Ed2Ed3I usually get nervous before speaking in public, but, after a glass (or two) of wine, I found myself facing a kind and receptive audience, who instantly allayed any fears. I called the event Perspective, and spoke about my time at UoB as a student and a teacher, about working in the underground presses, and how the original version of The Relic Guild was written for my Master’s degree. I told the tale of how I got an agent, and how that agent got me a book deal. I spoke about how amazing it is to be with a major publisher like Gollancz, and how the new world I now find myself inhabiting can be a little daunting at times. I told them how writing for the love of writing keeps me grounded, gives me my perspective. And in between, I read the first two chapters of The Relic Guild, the fantasy story that had begun life at the University of Bedfordshire.

keith audiencecomp winnerAfterwards, we had a good laugh with some questions and (maybe not entirely honest) answers. The winner of the competition was decided by the loudest cheer, and the proof copy of the The Relic Guild went to Simon with his awesome fantasy character Triax Bladesinger!

presenting bookEd SigningThere was free wine and beer to be had (Hoorah!) and books to be bought. I had a great time catching up with old friends, making new ones, and signing my novel. It really was a proud moment for me to return to the university that gave me so much, and celebrate the release of The Relic Guild. Big hugs and much love to everyone who came and made the night so special.

                                        Audience Tabby Ed Heather students

Extra special thank yous to Karen, Danielle and Sophie for organising the event; the Media Junction crew for running the evening so splendidly; to Jimmy and his filming talents (sorry you didn’t win the book) and Greta for her amazing photography. And to Keith, Helen and Lesley, Neta and Shaz, Sarah and Tim, for looking after me and making sure I was where I was supposed to be, my love and friendship forever!