Saturday, July 13, 2013

Links 13/07/13

The first exoplanet observed in colour is blue. Because of rains of molten glass.

New Horizons spacecraft spots Pluto and Charon.

Colorized History presents a terrific portrait of Charles Darwin.

Perspective view of the flanks of Olympus Mons, Mars.

All the pie and coffee in Twin Peaks:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Möbius Ship

Gajananvihari Pilot, the hero of Evening's Empires was born on a spaceship and spends most of his life aboard it; he escapes when it is hijacked, and his efforts to get it back form the spine of the novel's narrative. Because it's at the centre of the story, I wanted to make his ship distinctive, so gave it a (literal) twist.
It was a ring ship, Pabuji’s Gift, a broad ribbon caught in a circle five hundred metres across, with a twist that turned it into the single continuous surface of a Möbius strip. The ship’s motor hung from a web of tethers and spars at the centre of the ring; its hull was studded with the cubes and domes that contained workshops, utility bays, power units...
I drew inspiration (novelist's jargon for 'pretty much lifted the idea') from Californian artist Tim Hawkinson's extraordinary Möbius Ship, which I stumbled across in the wilds of the internet while I was planning the novel:
'...a painstakingly detailed model ship that twists in upon itself, presenting the viewer with a thought-provoking visual conundrum. The title is a witty play on Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, which famously relates the tale of a ship captain’s all-consuming obsession with an elusive white whale.'

At least, I though that was the entirety of my inspiration. But a couple of weeks ago, while I was looking for spaceship art on the covers of paperbacks on my double-stacked bookshelves, I found an image of a twisted town by artist John Berkey which may very well be an ancestor of Gajananvihari Pilot's ring ship:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Quiet War Offer

To celebrate next week's publication of Evening's Empires, the fourth novel set in the Quiet War universe, my publishers have temporarily slashed the price of the ebook of the first, The Quiet War. It's available on Kindle, iTunes, and hopefully elsewhere.

EDIT: My fault for not making this clear - this is an offer by Gollancz, associated with the publication of Evening's Empires in the UK next week. Unfortunately, the Gollancz ebook doesn't appear to be available in the US, where The Quiet War has a different publisher. Sorry about that. But if you follow me on Twitter there will be a competition next week, and anyone can enter.

The Master

The head doctor pointed Hari towards an ascetic hermit, reputedly the holiest man in the city.  He lived in a tree, one of the big coral trees that shaded the broad boulevard that circled the edge of the highest and largest of Ophir’s terraces.  He had not touched the ground for more than forty years.  He chewed the tree’s alkaloid-rich seeds and leaves and spoke with gods and monsters.  People made donations of food and water which he drew up in the same bucket he used to dispose of his wastes.

Hari and Rav stepped through circles of offerings and prayers spread around the tree. Hundreds of dip candles flickered in the green shade.  Aromatic smoke curled from incense sticks jammed into the rough bark of its branches and trunk.

‘You could leave the book here,’ Rav said.

‘I have to explain how I came by it,’ Hari said. ‘I have to explain my debt.’

He joined a small queue of penitents and paid a fee to a steward, who told him that he could have exactly ten minutes in the holy presence, inclusive of the time it took to climb up to him.

‘Those of true faith fly up the tree,’ the steward said. ‘Those who are merely curious find the way harder.  So balance and harmony are achieved.’

‘Do you also count the time it takes to climb back down?’ Rav said.

‘Of course not. But do not overstay your allotted time,’ the steward said. ‘Many want to see the master, and I control drones that will persuade you to leave more quickly than you thought possible.’

Another steward tried to sell to Hari a medal that would absorb the blessing of the hermit’s holy presence.  Rav was delighted by this, and told Hari to buy as many as possible. ‘Think of the armour they’ll make.’

Although there were ladders and ropeways strung up the tree’s broad trunk, it was a hard scramble in Ophir’s deepened gravity.  Hari was slick with sweat and his heart was jackhammering in his chest when he at last reached the crux between two high branches where the hermit sat cross-legged. A slender man dressed in a multicoloured patchwork coat, black hair hanging in ringlets around his thin, calm face.  His eyes were closed and he was chewing leaves, plucking them one after the other from a broken branch he held in one hand, milling them between strong yellow teeth and spitting out the pulp.  He did not open his eyes or in any way acknowledge Hari’s presence while Hari explained how the dead hermit Kinson Ib Kana had saved his life, a debt he hoped to pay by passing Kinson Ib Kana’s book to one of his fellow ascetics.

After Hari had finished speaking, he became aware of the small sounds around him. Wind moving through the drifts of leaves and bright red flowers. The buzz of an erratic traffic of live drones his bios identified as bees, the mingled noise of the city beyond. The hermit spat a dribble of green pulp and plucked another leaf and pushed it into his mouth. At last, a bell rang far below, signalling that Hari’s time was up, and he set the book in a hollow near the hermit’s feet, and climbed down to the deck, the ground.

‘Did you learn anything?’ Rav said.

‘Only that I am a fool,’ Hari said.  ‘But it’s done.’

‘We should have bought medals,’ Rav said. ‘I know I’ll regret it later.’

From Evening's Empires

Monday, July 08, 2013

Life After Wartime

So because I have a new novel, Evening's Empires, in the Quiet War sequence/universe/future history coming out real-soon-now, I've compiled a new collection of Quiet War stories.  From the introduction:
Two of the stories in this collection, ‘Sea Change, With Monsters’ and ‘Dead Men Walking’ are set in the period of Gardens of the Sun; ‘Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione, Ring Running, Fiddler’s Green, the Potter’s Garden’ is set a couple of decades afterwards, at the beginning of a long, slow, peaceful colonisation of the solar system. Most of the fourteen fragments or micro-fictions collected here are set in that golden age: snapshots of ordinary life in a hopeful future. Just one, ‘The Paladin’ hints at the end of that golden age, and a new cycle of turbulence and violence. The last two novels in the Quiet War sequence, In the Mouth of the Whale and Evening’s Empires, are set in the aftermath of the rise and fall of the True Empire, some 1500 years after the Quiet War. These stories are the deep background of their history.
Also includes the first chapter of Evening's Empires. Available on Kindle for the special price of just 77 British new pence, or 1.15 US dollars.

Also available: Stories From The Quiet War.

And by the way, Macy Minnot's Last Christmas on Dione...' was first published in Jonathan Strahan's award-winning anthology Edge of Infinity, packed with great stories about the new solar system. Highly recommended to anyone who likes the Quiet War books.
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