Saladin Ahmed is a poet, as well as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and he maintains a website. While he has a quantity of public short fiction and poetry, Throne of the Crescent Moon is his first novel. Out of his short fiction, he was twice nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer for ”Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela”, which was also nominated for a Nebula Award (and is available online).
Ahmed’s first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, is a sword and sorcery tale set in an Arabic world, featuring a power struggle around the titular throne. While magic is pretty common in the capital city of Dhamsawaat, the townsfolk are more concerned with the corrupt Khalif and rebellious Falcon Prince than any possible threat from ghuls or djenn. As a result, professional ghul hunting has become a largely thankless task, though the elderly, messy, curmudgeonly hunter Adoulla Makhslood still risks life and limb to protect people from the occasional ghul.
This is the second in our Ask an Author Anything interview series and this time we have multiple Hugo nominated author Seanan McGuire (AKA Mira Grant). The way it works, as you may recall from our first post, is that we get questions from our members and visitors who then vote on their own questions. We take the most popular questions asked and send them off to the author.
We arranged this interview through Seanan’s, or perhaps I should say Mira Grant’s, publicist at Orbit who again has sent along some books for us to give away. Check out the details at the end of the interview for your chance to win! In addition to this interview Seanan did a guest blog post with us where she tried mightily to gross us out about parasites the subject of her newest book as Mira Grant, Parasite, coming out from Orbit at the end of October. You don’t want to miss that post… or maybe you do. Now, on to the interview!
WWEnd: Your Newsflesh series have received nominations for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and Shirley Jackson awards. You don’t normally see that combination of awards given for the same book. Which nomination meant the most to you personally?
SMG: The Hugo, definitely. The Philip K. Dick and Shirley Jackson awards are incredible honors, and I squealed when I was notified of the nominations, but I’ve been dreaming of the Hugo since I was a little girl watching Ray Bradbury Presents in my grandmother’s living room. Having a rocket for fiction of my very own would mean the absolute world to me.
WWEnd: It was reported last year that you had optioned film rights for Feed. Are we any closer to seeing your story on the silver screen? If you had the opportunity, would you want to write the screenplay?
SMG: This is a question I get a lot, and it makes me cringe, because people never seem to want to believe the honest answer. Here is the honest answer: If I knew anything that I was allowed to tell you, it would have been announced already. That doesn’t mean I know things I can’t tell you. I may know nothing at all. I may not even know whose shoes these are. But I am very vocal about the things that I’m allowed to say, and I’m incredibly scrupulous about not saying things I’m not supposed to. As to whether I’d write the screenplay, no, I would not. That’s not my art form, and I’m too close to the material to clearly see what needs to be cut in order to make the jump to another medium.
You may or may not know Richard Matheson by name, but it’s likely that you know his work. His 1954 novel, I Am Legend, has been adapted to film three different times, and was the precursor to the earliest zombie films (it was the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead). I Am Legend appears on some of the most prestigious lists that WWEnd covers, including those of the Guardian, NPR and SF Masterworks. Another novel, The Shrinking Man, appears on five such lists, and was also a blockbuster in 1957. His horror novel, Hell House, is one of the top 100 in its field according to Nightmare Magazine, and also made it to the silver screen. Matheson’s psychic thriller, A Stir of Echoes, was adapted to film twice, and his super romantic time-travel novel, Bid Time Return, may be better known to you as that Christopher Reeves/Jane Seymour 1980 classic Somewhere in Time.
Mr. Matheson’s influence was far bigger than just genre fiction. He made his mark on the culture at large, and that is a rare accomplishment.
He died Sunday, at age 87.
Neil Gaiman is about to launch what is billed as his last US signing tour:
I think the OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE tour will be the last actual signing tour I ever do. They’re exhausting, on a level that’s hard to believe. I love meeting people, but the sixth hour of signing, for people who have been standing in a line for seven hours, is no fun for anybody. (The last proper US signing I did, it lasted over 7 hours and I signed for over 1000 people. I’d suspect a lot of the signings on this tour will be like that, or bigger.)
Mira Grant, author of the wildly popular Newsflesh zombie trilogy, has a new plan for creeping you the fuck out. In this guest post she shares some fun facts about parasites that she discovered doing research for her newest creeptastic book called, you guessed it, Parasite. You can practically hear her cackling with glee while she’s trying to make our skin crawl but what else can you expect from the Zombie Queen? Enjoy!
They can modify of the behavior of supposedly more “complex” organisms, turning them into incubators and caretakers at the expense of their own lives (and the lives of their young). They can survive in dramatically different environments over the course of their often metamorphic lives, going from open water to the gut of a bird to the weeping sores on a human’s leg (hint: don’t go wading in any water you don’t know intimately). They infect everything. You, me, the world–this planet belongs to the parasites, and we’re only tolerated because they’ve got to get their take-out somewhere.
In case the preceding wasn’t enough of a hint for you, I’m Mira Grant, and I love parasites. They have shaped the evolution and development of life on this planet to a degree that we’re still trying to accurately map, and there are indications that they may be responsible for a lot of things that we enjoy. Like gendered reproduction. Studies on otherwise identical populations of snails living in isolated lakes have shown that snails who reproduce parthenogenically (basically via self-cloning, a trick that can also be accomplished by some lizards, some fish, and the Komodo dragon, in case you never wanted to sleep again) have a higher instance of fluke parasitism than snails who reproduce in a sexual manner. The blending of genes inherent in sexual reproduction creates children who stand a better chance of resisting cataclysmic parasitic infection. So if you like sex, thank the parasites.
But parasites don’t just give us gender and hence sex and all the fun things you can do with it. They also give us real-world zombies, creatures whose wills have been totally hijacked by their parasitic masters. Parasites may be tiny (for the most part–some tapeworms can grow dauntingly, damagingly large) but they’re capable of some incredibly big things. Our immune systems have evolved in tandem with these parasitic visitors, a continual biological arms race with the end goal being nothing less than ownership of the human body. We think we’re winning. The parasites, if they could think, would probably think that it was just a matter of time.
As you can probably guess, I’m a lot of fun at the dinner table. Especially right now, when I’m full of fun facts about the wonderful world of parasites. Fun facts like “let’s talk about parasitic cysts in your sashimi” and “do you know why you shouldn’t eat undercooked pork?” (My friends have gotten very, very good at distracting me with ice cream.) Researching the book that would eventually become Parasite was some of the most fun I’ve had since I was initially consulting doctors on the best way to raise the dead. I read books. I read technical papers. I read more books in order to understand the technical papers. I attended lectures, visited museums, and watched several necropsies of local animals thought to be suffering from parasitic infection (spoiler alert: most of them were, which is why we don’t eat roadkill). I met the parasitic world in the best possible way: by looking at it, delighting in it, and learning to respect it. These little creatures possess the power to really ruin a person’s day. I like that in a biological organism.
Parasites are wonderful. I hope you can learn to love them like I do, or at least come to really understand why restaurants have all those “do not eat undercooked seafood” warnings.
From New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant, a high-concept near-future thriller.
A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives… and will do anything to get them.
Thanks for the post, Mira… I think. I’m not sure I’ll be able to enjoy my sashimi like I used to but I’m looking forward to the new book. For you other Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire fans out there we’re collecting questions for an author interview this month so don’t miss your chance to Ask Mira Grant Anything.
Last month, we launched an exciting new monthly feature: an series interview with some of the most celebrated authors in the SF/F/H genres, that started with N. K. Jemisin. The questions came from you, the WWEnd reader. We are now ready to announce that our next author will be Seanan McGuire, the urban fantasy writer, who may be better known to some WWEnders as Mira Grant, the merciless author of the Newsflesh trilogy (nominated for both the Shirley Jackson and Philip K. Dick awards, and thrice nominated for Hugos) as well as the nascent Parasitology series.
A key component of the interview series is the Urtak poll, embedded at the top of this post. Just read the questions and tell us whether you want each one to be asked. To vote, click “Yes” if you would like to see her answer the question or “No” if you don’t care (please don’t select “I don’t care,” though. I’m told it messes up our metrics. If you don’t care, then answer “no”). When you have voted on all submitted questions, you will be able to add your own questions. You may also click on the green “Ask” button at the top of the Urtak survey, but please do all of the voting first, in case someone else has already asked your question. It need not be a yes/no question. It’s just that WWEnders will then vote yes/no on whether they like the question.
The most popular questions will be asked first, so don’t split your vote by asking the same question twice!
Originally, I had intended to post the above video to further the ongoing conversation about what constitutes science fiction, as there can be few better authorities on the matter than a panel including Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, and Gene Wolfe. But then, I discovered what had transpired shortly before this interview.
As it happens, Ellison’s view of science fiction was quite passionate. Carolyn Kellog, at the L. A. Times, reports that he had just come from assaulting his publisher for misclassifying “Spider Kiss” as a sci fi:
“I put him in a hold that I had learned from Bruce Lee. I took him to his knees. Then I duck-walked him back to his door,” on his knees all the way, Ellison recounts. The typing pool, all women then, stopped work and watched the show, he says, “with enormous pleasure.”
When they got back to the man’s office, the publisher on his knees, Ellison says he banged the man’s head into the door until he opened it. They went inside — the publisher, Ellison and Ellison’s editor, a woman he remembers fondly, who soon was huddling on a couch.
“I picked up a chair and threw it,” Ellison says. Rather than shattering the windows, “it bounced around the room.” The publisher had scrambled behind his desk and was dialing the phone.
“I jumped onto the desk and ripped the phone out of the wall,” Ellison says. Back in 1982, that’s how phones worked — they had cords, attached to walls. “He tried to crawl through the desk’s kneehole. I grabbed him by the collar and threw him across the room.”
From his comments in the interview, Mr. Ellison seems to share Margaret Atwood‘s view of the genre. Compare his comment to Mr. Turkel that sci fi is “women in brass braziers being molested by green-eyed monsters,” to Ms. Atwoods famous talking squids in outer space characterization.
We all know what was going on, back then. Certain authors didn’t want their books to be shoved in the back of the bookstore in the SF/F section. Writing is their bread and butter, and they wanted to get paid. Perhaps that is what made Harlan react with violence to the horrid insult of being called a science fiction writer.
Well, Harlan Ellison currently has 28 novels listed by WWEnd that we call “science fiction.” Perhaps I should get a bodyguard.
One of the most celebrated science fiction authors in Great Britain, and, indeed, the world, Iain Banks, has written his last story. At 59, his death illustrates, once more, how little anyone can take the future for granted, even one who devoted his life to predicting it. Here are just a few of the reactions his passing received over the last day:
Iain was a wonderful friend, and I shall miss him terribly. Staunch, generous, humane and loyal, with a great love of life, he was, as has been said, two of our best writers.
In his literary fiction and in his science fiction, he explored both the dark and the light, the intimate and the impersonal, and he leaves us with a lot to be grateful for.
This glass of fine old Scotch whisky in memory of Iain Banks, the finest of us.
Neal Gaiman shared with us his final message to Banks:
I think you’re a brilliant and an honest writer, and much more importantly, because I’ve known lots of brilliant writers who were absolute arses, I think you’re a really good bloke, and I’ve loved knowing you.
I know Guy’s cancer is not contagious. You can’t catch it off him. That’s the thing about cancer. It’s all yours — it’s entirely, perfectly personalised.
The cause might have come from outside, like carcinogens in tobacco smoke, but that just triggered the reaction in your cells. In that sense the fatal cancer is an unwilled suicide where, initially at least, one small part of the body has taken a decision which will lead to the death of the rest. Cancer feels like betrayal.
Iain Banks is a two time winner of the British Science Fiction Association Award and has received 13 nominations for major science fiction awards over the years, but we all know that was a fraction of what he might have accomplished had he the chance.
The N. K. Jemisin free books re-tweet contest is now closed. We had, in all, 54 entries. After copying all names into a spreadsheet and assigning each one a number, we used a random number generator to select our first and second place winners. For the record, the numbers we generated were 10 and 16. Congrats to our winners:
This is the first of many book drawings and author interviews, so stay tuned to this blog for future opportunities.
Thanks to Orbit Books for donating the prizes, and between you, me and the lamp post, I think we can expect more such freebies from the folks at Orbit.
This is the first in our Ask an Author Anything interview series and we’re very excited to be kicking things off with N. K. Jemisin, which we are now publishing fresh off of yesterday’s Locus nomination. The way it works, as you may recall from our first post, is that we get questions from our members and visitors who then vote on their own questions. We take the most popular questions asked and send them off to the author. Our goal is to have around a dozen questions but in this case Ms. Jemisin is neck-deep in Deadline Hell working on her next novel so we cut it back to just 6 to ensure we don’t interrupt her work too much.
We arranged this interview through her publicist at Orbit who very graciously has sent along some books for us to give away. Check out the details at the end of the interview for your chance to win. Now for the interview!
WWEnd: First, congratulations on your recent Nebula Award nomination for The Killing Moon. You’ve been getting a lot of those. What is it like for the bulk of your accolades to come from fellow writers? Is it different than, say, the Hugo nomination you received, which was from fans?
NKJ: I don’t really think about it that way. Thus far I’ve had three Hugo nominations and four Nebula nominations, but I had to go look at my own bibliography to remember which was which. The bragging rights — if you want to call them that — don’t come from the number of nominations. They come from the fact of being nominated at all. That first nomination was the point at which my agent/publisher started putting “Hugo nominee” or “Nebula nominee” in my marketing materials (and when I won the Locus and the RT, this became “Award-winning author”), and that’s when I started seeing more sales to libraries and organizations that look for fiction of a certain quality and popular appeal. I don’t think they care how many nominations I’ve gotten, either! Just that nominations exist.
I do have to admit that the Nebula noms give me a little more of a shiny feeling, even though the Hugo award is better-known. I think every professional likes having the respect of her peers; I feel the same way about the World Fantasy nomination. But the Hugo noms mean I’ve achieved a certain level of name recognition with fans, and for someone who’s as early in her career as I am, it’s awesome for that to happen even once, let alone twice.