Ten years in the business

Interzone 2022016 marks the tenth anniversary of my first professional short story publication.

‘The Last Reef’ appeared in  issue #202 of Interzone in February 2006.

This was a huge deal for me at the time, and looking back, I can see that short story as pretty much the place where it all started for me. Since then, I’ve published a short story collection and five novels – not to mention another five stories in the magazine. So, thanks Interzone. And thanks to everybody else who’s played a part over the past decade.

Ten years in the business. That seems like a milestone worth celebrating!

Subscribe to my newsletter

As part of my mission to really get my act together in 2016, I’ve decided to start a monthly newsletter to keep you lot up-to-date with book news, writing progress, new short fiction publications, and anything else I think might be of interest. I’m sure there will also be exclusive content, early notification of upcoming events, and maybe even a competition or two. If you would like to sign up, simply enter your email address in the form in the sidebar to the right of this post, or click on this link: https://tinyletter.com/GLPowell

Top Ten Essential Space Operas

When I wrote my own space opera, The Recollection (2011) it was a labour of love. In many ways, The Recollection was the book I’d always wanted to write, and I poured into it a lifetime of science fiction influences and daydreams. It was a homage to those iconic space pilots of yesteryear, and an attempt to write an updated, contemporary space opera.

Now, having finished a trilogy of books set in the near-future, I am once again returning to the space lanes with a novel that I hope will be the first in a new series of fast-paced space adventures. While I’m working on it, I’ve also been looking back at some of the best the sub-genre has to offer.

Below, ranked in no particular order, are my ten most essential space operas:

1) Nova by Samuel R. Delany – A swaggering, heady smash-up of gritty space opera and serious literary ambition, Nova takes the tropes of traditional space opera and bolts them to a self-consciously mythical framework.

2) The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison – Harrison’s revisionist attempt to destroy the space opera genre spawned instead a renewed interest in grimy spaceports and down-and-out antiheroes, providing a key influence for the ‘New Space Opera’ of the 1980s and 1990s.

3) Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks – A rollicking adventure featuring space pirates, shape changers, sentient ships and interstellar war, which somehow also manages to simultaneously provide a deep and acutely painful meditation on the moral and emotional futility of conflict.

4) A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge – Famous for the author’s vision of a galaxy segregated by ‘zones of thought’ – areas in which certain technologies, such as FTL and AI, simply won’t work – A Fire Upon The Deep also presents us with a vision of a galaxy-wide Internet ‘chat room’, and the terrifying incursion of an artificial super-intelligence into human society: perhaps the definitive use of the Singularity in space opera.

5) Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds – In a dark universe filled with the ruins of older, vanished civilisations, gothic spacers schlep between worlds in vast, decaying ‘lighthuggers’, their lifetimes stretched by relativistic time dilation, their goals to shape the comparatively ephemeral planetary civilisations they encounter, and to gain a competitive edge over the other lighthugger crews plying their wares along the same lonely space lanes.

6) Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – The all-conquering, multi award-winning story of a murdered starship’s quest for vengeance, and the human body in which it now finds its consciousness trapped.

7) The Reality Dysfunction By Peter F. Hamilton – When roguish space captain, Joshua Calvert, comes up against a seemingly supernatural force, humanity faces its gravest and seemingly most-inescapable threat yet. Seamlessly blending gritty space adventure with outright horror, this thick volume forms the first instalment of the massive Night’s Dawn trilogy.

8) Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey – In the colonised solar system of a not-too-distant future, political tensions between Mars, Earth and the Belt threaten the stability and future of humanity. When the crew of an ice mining vessel are attacked by a stealth ship, the incident starts a seemingly-inevitable countdown to war.

9) Space by Stephen Baxter – Robotic aliens arrive in the solar system but seem to have no interest in talking to the people of Earth. Former NASA astronaut Reid Malenfant launches himself towards the system’s outer reaches in a bid to make contact, and to discover the truth about the many waves of alien settlement that have already passed over our worlds.

10) The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. A space opera that has all the classic ingredients: a beaten up ship; a crew of misfits; and a galaxy filled with danger and adventure. Like Ann Leckie’s book above, this is also a debut, and one that, like Ancillary Justice, promises great things ahead.

These ten books are my personal selection of the ten most essential space operas on my book shelves. If you’re a fan of the genre, I’m sure you have your own list tucked away somewhere at the back of your mind. Does it agree with this one? Feel free to leave your personal selections and suggestions in the comments below…

2016 Appearances

This year, you will be able to find me at the following events:

22 Feb: BristolCon Fringe. Shakespeare Tavern, Princes St, Bristol. 7:00pm. Live reading, free entry.

24 Feb: BSFA Interview. The Reliance, 336 Old Street, EC1V 9DR. Peter F Hamilton will be questioning me in front of a live audience in London.

25-28 March: Mancunicon, Hilton Deansgate, Manchester. The annual British Science Fiction Association Easter Convention (or Eastercon).

23-25 Sept: FantasyCon, Grand Hotel, Scarborough. FantasyCon by the sea.

29 Oct: BristolCon. The South-West’s friendliest convention.

Writers in their natural habitat

From Twitter:

L-R: Martyn Waites, Paul Cornell, Peter Newman, Pete Sutton, Gareth L. Powell, Joanne Hall, Cavan Scott.

Top 100 Fantasy Books

AckAckMacaque_300I’ve just discovered that the Fantasy Book Reviews website lists Ack-Ack Macaque at number #40 in its Top 100 Fantasy Books.

That’s higher than books by Jo Hill, Lauren Beukes, Philip Pullman, and China Mieville.

Crikey.

Click here for link.

There’s A Ghost In My House

12484682_10153821948823428_5454233247302972423_oSix copies of Gunmetal Ghost – the Japanese translation of Ack-Ack Macaque – arrived in the post this afternoon from the publisher. Aren’t they pretty?

BSFA Awards: Second Round

The second round of voting for the BSFA Awards is now open. If you’re a member of the British Science Fiction Association, you can make your selections from a long list of works on the Association’s website.

I have two pieces included, if you feel like voting for them:

You’ll find a link to the ballot here.

Voting remains open until 31st January.

Best of 2015

MacaqueAttack_300Macaque Attack features in Den Of Geek‘s list of top books of 2015.

They write:

I remember seeing the first book – Ack Ack Macaque – in bookstores and being tempted by that irresistible title, but I worried that a story about a one-eyed cigar-chomping monkey WWII pilot who fights Nazis might be a little too… well… silly? Eventually I gave in and found myself blazing through the entire trilogy in a few days. It’s that addictive.

Powell has created a vast, thoroughly original world that is so imaginative, emotionally engaging and frighteningly real that you don’t want to leave it. His characters – human, simian and, uh, other! – are beautifully crafted and written with a depth and sincerity that gives them life. This grounding keeps the story tight even when Powell plays fast and very loose with reality. Although Macaque Attack! focuses more on shock twists and action sequences than its predecessors, the setup has been handled so carefully that you’ll be primed for this gloriously entertaining pay-off. These books have brightened my year.

Read more:  http://www.denofgeek.com/books-comics/terry-pratchett/38332/den-of-geek-s-top-books-of-2015#ixzz3v3S1eBk7

The Force Awakens

MV5BOTAzODEzNDAzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDU1MTgzNzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I took my family to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last night, and absolutely loved it.

You see, I’ve grown up with these characters. Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie and the droids. We used to pretend to be them in the playground; I followed their adventures in comics and novels; I recreated their escapades with action figures and thinly disguised fan fiction; and I desperately wanted to be Han Solo.

To see them back on the screen after all these years was an emotional experience, and I’m not ashamed to say I had tears running down my face at certain points during the film.

Just seeing the Millennium Falcon in flight brought a lump to my throat.

But this wasn’t just an exercise in nostalgia. The new generation of characters more than held their own. And, speaking as the father of two pre-teenage girls, it was refreshing to have a resourceful, self-reliant female lead who wasn’t defined by her romantic entanglements. Rey is the sort of role model I’m more than happy for my girls to look up to. In fact, she’s now one of my favourite Star Wars characters. In addition, Finn was a relatable hero with an interestingly complex back story, and Kylo Renn the conflicted, tragic anti-hero Anakin Skywalker should have been. I’m excited to see where their journeys are going to take them next.

I would say I loved this film the way I haven’t loved a film since The Empire Strikes Back. The prequels didn’t do it for me, and while Return Of The Jedi is a great movie, it also feels very final. It feels like the end of the road. Whereas the thing I dig most about Empire and Awakens is that they both raise a million questions, and thereby fire the imagination. The possibilities feel wide open and the universe feels alive once again.

I’ve already written about What Star Wars Meant To A Small Town Kid From England. Having seen The Force Awakens, I feel like that kid again, with a whole sprawling cosmos of wonder ahead of him.