Monday, 23 June 2014

Rebellion Publishing: DRM Free Since 2006

‘DRM Free since 2006!’ It falls some way short of being a sexy headline, but how do you compete with other publishers apparently news-worthy headlines about going DRM-free in 2014, when it’s been 8 years since Rebellion took that decision?

Rebellion Publishing may not be one of the instantly recognisable names in the UK book trade, but for fifteen years we've been the home of the British institution 2000 AD, and first published our perennially bestselling graphic novel collection, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 back in 2005 (we publish volume 23 this summer). The following year we founded our first fiction imprint Abaddon Books. And in those pre-Kindle, pre-Twitter days, when digital rights management was something most publishers assumed was a music industry issue, Rebellion also started selling digital files for download with no DRM.

How was it that we took the step that most digitally-savvy publishers came to many years later? We had one big advantage, Rebellion is also a tech company, one of the leading computer games developers and publishers in the UK (our latest, Sniper Elite III, is out at the end of June). Our founders and owners Jason and Chris Kingsley understood how important ownership was for a digital consumer, how being able to buy something and keep it was a vital part of the trust relationship between publisher and reader, and gamer. You bought the digital copy? Well that’s yours to keep forever, and not just until you change device or operating system. It can be put  like this: we value the support of legitimate customers more than we hate the activity of people who steal from us.

In the years since 2006 we've acquired the SF imprint Solaris books; begun simultaneous publishing in the UK and North America; launched the children’s and YA literature imprint Ravenstone; started our standalone ebook shop to go alongside; and have seen our books feature on the best-seller lists time and time again.

So, as a leading publisher of comics and genre fiction in the UK it’s great to have had Tor and others join us in the DRM-free world. The others will be along soon, we're sure.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Journal of the Plague Year: Adrian Tchaikovsky interview

Hello again friends, and welcome back to final part of our Journal of the Plague Year interview series. I'm sure you all know the drill by now, but just in case you ended up here by taking a wrong turn somewhere between google and facebook (we've all been there, don't worry - you're safe now) please do pull up a chair and catch up with part one and two in series first. We'll give you a moment, there's no rush.

All good? Fantastic, then let me pass you on to the more than capable hands of Abaddon editor David Moore and Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the The Bloody Deluge.

DM: Eastern Europe is an area not well represented in English-language fiction. What does the region have to offer to English readers?

AT: Eastern Europe (or, from the Polish perspective, Central Europe) is a cornucopia of history that simply doesn’t filter much into English sensibilities. There are centuries of struggle and tragedy and heroic incident east of where the Iron Curtain once stood that people in the West simply don’t hear about, unless they’ve read Michener or Zamoyski, say. And some of it is frankly a gift for a writer of speculative fiction. The siege of Jasna Gora during the original Deluge – the Swedish invasion of Poland – is like something out of David Gemmell – the single monastery holding out against the invading army until the people rise up and drive them out – ok, that is a massively simplified summary, but still. And in Russia, of course, you’ve got Alexander Nevsky and his fight against the Teutonic Knights – the battle on the ice, all of that. For a writer, there is an enormous store of material there waiting to be tapped, that is going to be unfamiliar and fresh to most English-language readers. 

DM: Faith versus scepticism is a big theme in your story, represented at the extremes by Rev. Calumn and Dr. Weber and by more moderate voices among the inmates at Jasna Góra. Is this an important subject for you? Where do you stand?

AT: Is it an important subject for me? I guess I would be very happy to live in a world where faith wasn’t a constant source of global friction, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. In Deluge I’ve tried to provide a range of possibilities rather than casting the debate in black and white. Calumn is a TV evangelist, an opportunist fopr whom religion is a way of holding on to power and influence, both before and after the fall, and needless to say he’s not a very nice man. Abbot Leszek is more complex, and I can’t really say too much about him without spoilers, but he’s certainly not an unblemished soul by any means. Emil Weber, though... I mean, to a certain extent, Weber is a Dawkins-style figure. He is an atheist who sees the rational world being overtaken by a new wave of religious extremism in the wake of the plague. He has the good of humanity at heart, but he has no compromise in him, so he is constantly striking sparks from anyone who disagrees with him. And he’s right. Weber is absolutely right in his concerns about the way the future could go, and I think in his position I would have exactly the same fears – of a new dark age of ignorance – I just wouldn’t necessarily have the utter – and sometimes insufferable – courage of my convictions in the way that he does. 

DM: Katy Lewkowitz is an awesome hero, at a time when female characterisation is very much a hot topic in genre. What makes a good female hero? What do you look for?

AT: What makes a good female hero: depth, strengths, weaknesses, moments of testing, doubts, triumphs and failures. And being female. For a male hero, the same, but substitute “male” for that last. I write a lot of female protagonists, which at base I think is probably a reaction to fantasy fiction having a preponderance of male protagonists, because I’m awkward like that. I probably write about heroic insect-characters for the same reason. I have seen various pros and cons advanced for male or female protagonists, and mostly these get mired very quickly in gender stereotyping. I don’t think there’s any barrier to having female characters – heroes, villains or spear-carriers - especially in fantasy where the author controls so many more of the variables. Once you’ve uncoupled yourself from that standard image of the hero as automatically male (white, able, cis, etc.), it allows for much more diverse writing – and I don’t mean diverse in a ‘politically correct’ sort of a way, just diverse. As a writer, there’s never a downside to having more options.

DM: You’re best known as a fantasy author. What was it like, writing in the post-apocalypse genre?

AT: Challenging. I’m very used to playing in a world where I get to call all the shots. Suddenly I’m writing in the real world, even if it’s a real world that’s gone completely to hell. There are all sorts of pre-set constants I’ve got to work with. I had to scrabble around for material on Jasna Gora, for example, to get the physical layout as accurate as I could (and I’m sure that people will find stuff that’s wrong anyway, and then I’ll never hear the end of it) – and that’s harder than you’d think because most of what people write about it focuses on small details – particular relics and treasures – rather than giving you a wargames-ready battle map. I also spent far too long with Google Earth working out roadmaps and routes over the German-Polish border.

DM: And was this your first work in a shared world? What are the pitfalls?

AT: Well, I got a good brief and a chance to ready some of the earlier novels, and I think that gave me a sufficient mental toolkit to approach the series. Also, of course, one of the reasons I took the action to Poland was that nobody else had been there, so I had a freer hand than if I’d wanted to set things in the US or the UK. From the brief, I saw that there was an existing mention of right-wing extremism erupting in Germany, but no hard details, and so I took that and ran with it, hopefully in a direction other than the obvious. 

In Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Bloody Deluge, Katy Lewlowitz and her friend and old tutor Dr. Emil Weber, fleeing the depredations of the so-called New Teutonic Order, take refuge among the strangely anachronistic survivors at the monastery of Jasna Góra in Western Poland. A battle of faith ensues, that could decide the future of humankind...

The Bloody Deluge is the third novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).

Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014

You can keep up to date with all things apocalyptic over at the Abaddon twitter feed, do stop by before it's too late.*

*In the case of an apocalypse Abaddon Books, its authors and staff take no responsibility whatsoever for any injuries, fatalities or general embarrassment suffered from recreating any advice or content found in either our twitter feed or publications, all of which is a work of fiction with the exception of David Moore who is part fiction and part grammar-droid. - LG

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Journal of the Plague Year: C. B. Harvey interview

Hello and welcome back to the second instalment of our three part interview series with the great minds of the Journal of the Plague Year. Without further ado let's pass on to series editor David Moore and author of Dead Kelly C. B Harvey.

DM: What made you decide to set your novella in Australia?

CH: I guess the main reason was that I lived in Australia for a year and a half in an absolutely amazing place called the City of the Blue Mountains, just up from Sydney (I known, it sounds like something out of Tolkien). My wife got a job in Sydney and we shipped our two kids out there, plus all our stuff because we weren’t sure how long we were going to be there. So one minute we’re in Lewisham, south London, living the urban life, the next we’re gallivanting around this absolutely breath-taking scenery on the edge of an Australian national park. We spent the first month being terrified of the flora and fauna, which is compulsory for all wimpy British people upon arrival.

While I was there I got talking to some friends about Ned Kelly, a figure who’s interested me for a long time. There’s a Wild West and steampunk vibe to Ned Kelly that fascinates me. The Afterblight novels are pretty globe-trotting so I thought why not pitch something to David Moore that’s set in Australia. The novella takes place in Melbourne as I wanted to acknowledge its connection to Ned Kelly’s mythology. But beyond the armour and the similar sounding name the connection to Ned Kelly’s story pretty much stops there.

DM: Is this your first post-apocalyptic story? What was it like working in the genre?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve written anything in a post-apocalyptic setting. The hard part was anticipating which things would fall apart and which things would stay the same, and how quickly that would happen. Dead Kelly is set fairly soon after The Cull has happened, so while some things have decayed others are pretty familiar. In fact, that was the vibe I went for throughout the novella. Having never lived through an apocalypse, I’m guessing that it would be fairly surreal, so I snuck in a few strange juxtapositions to hopefully give that feeling of unease to the story.

CH: Dead Kelly is a classic revenge drama; McGuire really doesn’t have any higher purpose (or redeeming features!). How do you feel modern audiences respond to this style of story?

McGuire is quite clearly psychotic, but he does have a motivation. He’s the ultimate Darwinian. He believes in himself and only himself, and he’ll make sure he survives at any cost whatsoever by killing anyone who might possibly have wronged him. And to him surviving means not just him surviving, but his legacy too. When I was writing it a certain high-profile politician had died and I was interested in the way in which this individual’s legacy was stage-managed in order that certain narratives could dominate, and others could be excluded. 

Personally I really admire stories in which we’re forced to empathise with the villain or anti-hero. I think a lot of us do: I can think of quite a few contemporary examples where that’s the case. There isn’t really a heroic character in this story, but then I’m not sure a post-apocalyptic world would really need (another) hero. At the risk of sounding like Tina Turner in shoulder pads.

DM: The novella’s more than a little reminiscent of the “Ozsploitation” genre of the ’80s. Are you a fan?

Given my previous comment you might have guessed I’m a huge Mad Max fan. My older brother and sister were totally obsessed by the films and that was a massive influence on me growing up (not that I was allowed to watch it at the time, you understand – I would have been far too young and that would have been very wrong). In fact, Jon Oliver name-checks Mad Max 2 at the beginning of the America Afterblight omnibus, so it’s not just me it’s influenced. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done in terms of the new film and game, by the way.

CH: You’re SFX Magazine’s first Pulp Idol alumnus. How’s that affected your life?

Massively. It led to me getting my first licensed commission, a Doctor Who short story for one of Big Finish’s licensed anthologies (thank you Joe Lidster and Ian Farrington) which in turn led to a variety of other commissions. Plus, winning something like that gives you an enormous boost of confidence which, let’s face it, writers can always do with. I also work part-time as a university academic and publish a lot of stuff about pulp fantasy and shared worlds – winning Pulp Idol and the commissions that came subsequently have all fed into that. 

DM: This isn’t your first experience working in a shared world. How does working within the Afterblight world compare with the tie-in fiction you’ve done?

When I got the commission I did momentarily freeze and think lawks, look at whose footsteps I’m following in: Scott Andrews, Simon Spurrier, Rebecca Levene, Jasper Bark, Al Ewing, Paul Kane… I mean, that’s a pretty impressive group of wordsmiths. But once you’ve got over that nerve-juddering feeling of intimidation, you get to see the advantages. One is that the Afterblight world has been very carefully carved by these people, and that a lot of the key details are in place. Sure, they take the world in very different directions, but the building blocks are there. 

At the same time, I had a lot of flexibility with Dead Kelly, more than I’ve had with the various licenses I’ve worked on. While the jumping-off point is the same – The Cull – my story is set in a geographically distant location. So early on in the story’s chronology there are some sly references to the same phenomena that have occurred in some of the other stories, because early on the Internet, the global media would still have been functioning, so I thought there would inevitably be parallels with what was happening elsewhere on the planet. But quite soon we’re on our own merry, murderous path. 

Dead Kelly is the second novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).

Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Journal of the Plague Year: Malcolm Cross interview

Over the next three days Team Abaddon will be picking the brains of the three authors contributing to Journal of the Plague Year with questions courtesy of Abaddon editor extraordinaire David Moore. 

Taking "one small step" for author-kind and first up in the firing line we have Orbital Decay's Malcolm Cross; over to you David and Malcolm.

DM: So, space: pretty fucking terrifying, judging by Orbital Decay. We’re guessing that must have been a sobering bit of research?

MC: Space is terrifying. It's one of the relatively few environments in which humanity has no business being. We can climb mountains unaided, we can free-dive to incredible depths, with training we can go almost anywhere on our little world with virtually no tools whatsoever, and the penalties for failure start with discomfort, not death.

It doesn't just start in space, either. Some of the earliest deaths in space exploration took place on the ground, fires during equipment testing. There were the shuttle disasters, Challenger and Columbia. Hell, the first attempt to dock with the first space station (Salyut 1) failed, and the second attempt, successful, killed the entire crew of Soyuz 11 through depressurization during their re-entry burn after a problem undocking from Salyut 1. All of these men and women were being supported by superpowers, assisted by hundreds (if not thousands) of engineers. None of them had a chance.

But, thankfully, there are more successes than losses, more close shaves than catastrophes. Some of them hilarious, turds floating around the Apollo 10 capsule, some of them scary, like the fire aboard Mir.
Space exploration is a potentially lethal game, even when everything goes right.

DM: Orbital Decay digs pretty deeply into the epidemiology of the Cull. Is that a particular area of interest for you? Did the series canon present you much difficulty when writing these parts?

MC: Ooof. The series canon is a topic in itself -- I wound up reading the entire series (eleven books, back then) in a little over three weeks, specifically to figure out what was going on. The Afterblight Chronicles, and the Cull, have passed through a lot of hands over the years, and I have to say, there have been some dissenting viewpoints on how it all went down.

I've always enjoyed trying to figure out just how seemingly impossible fictional things might be real. I think my first semi-plausible crack at it was when Street Fighter 2 was brand new, and I wasn't quite ten years old. You know how they throw fireballs around in that game? Yeah, well, when space shuttles come back to Earth they get surrounded by fire just like that because they're moving so fast the friction burns the air and obviously that is how the Street Fighter characters can throw fire around. Obviously. (Footnote: Actually the air ahead of the spacecraft is massively compressed by the shockwave of its motion through the atmosphere, and that causes far more heating than friction does, but I had no idea about that as a kid.)

Thankfully, the real science behind viruses and the seemingly impossible horror of the Cull are far easier to meld together for a plausible explanation. One of the key mysteries behind the Cull -- how it so selectively attacks almost everyone bar those with O-Negative blood -- was one of the most focal.

To grossly oversimplify, if you're AB-Positive, you have no blood-group relevant antibodies, and you have all three antigens -- A, B, and Rhesus -- on the cell-walls of your red blood cells, which act as a kind of flag to tell your immune system that this is one of your cells, not something invading your body. If you're O-Negative, you have none of these antigens, and you have every single one of the antibodies that attack the antigens as if they're an infectious substance. You're protected. (You also can't receive a blood transfusion from anyone else, but you can give blood to just about anyone -- so do consider blood donation if you're so fortunate!)

Now, when you learn that some viruses tear a piece out of its host-cell's walls and wrap themselves up with it, effectively camouflaging it against the body's immune system... well. It doesn't take a microbiologist (and I'm not one) to see the potential mayhem if this trait had to arise in one of the viruses which alter a cell's DNA specifically to change how it divides and what kind of tissue it produces -- some of these are the oncoviruses, responsible for some types of cancer. It could be something very much like a burglar armed with a set of keys to your house, trying each one in turn until something fits!

DM: On which note, what was it like working in a shared world?

MC: I mentioned reading all eleven books in three weeks-ish? No world bible back then.
That part was exhausting. Like wandering into the minotaur's maze, but thankfully I left a thread marking my path for others to follow, in the form of a lot of clippings and some other notes which David Moore's now the custodian for. But it's also a lot of fun, adding your own little branch to what is now a very large (if scabrous and plague-ridden) tree.

It's not your usual series, either. We meet many of the characters once, or over the course of a trilogy, and then move on to some other part of the post-apocalypse. One of the reason the series title -- 'The Afterblight Chronicles' -- is so very apt. It's like working on a collaborative history of the world's end. Almost a communal meditation on what it is to lose everything.

Certainly, it's unique. I spent a lot of time worrying about getting something 'wrong', early on. Some misplaced detail or element of timing that'd ruin it for the fans, doing something that'd tread on another of the authors' toes, something like that. But, in the end, by stepping carefully and becoming a fan of the series myself, it became quite a lot of fun to add a bit on to what's already there.  

 DM: Orbital Decay is arguably unusual among post-apocalypse stories in that it occurs right at the very outset of the apocalypse. Does that change the tone much?

MC: There are a few other stories that do it, some recent zombie books, and Mira Grant's 'Parasite' is certainly set in what seems to be the early phases of a unique little apocalypse, but it is definitely unusual. Most works take the apocalypse for granted, or at the very least skip over it to get to the good parts.

As a result, I think a lot of post-apocalyptic literature counterintuitively focuses on growth. What we gain, how we fill the now empty gaps, how we survive, how we (hopefully) find a new way to thrive. The single seedling sprouting from a cratered landscape. A new equilibrium with the world around us, holistic and all that, yeah?

Orbital Decay is about being stuck in a tiny little can hundreds of miles over the ground while everything you ever knew, friends, family, and nations, die choking on their own blood and all you can do is watch.
It's very heavy metal.

More seriously? I think it's about mourning and redemption. Looking loss in the eye and coming to terms with it on that basis, rather than the long and gradual process of putting it behind you, finding closure, and moving on -- which has been done very skilfully in the two Afterblight trilogies, Scott K. Andrews's School's Out books and Paul Kane's Hooded Man series.

In Malcolm Cross' Orbital Decay, the team in the International Space Station watch helplessly as the world is all but wiped out. Exiled from Earth by his blood-type, astronaut Alvin Burrows must solve the mystery of the "Pandora" experiment, even as someone on the station takes to murdering the crew one by one...

Orbital Decay is the first novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).

Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Final author for Journal of the Plague Year revealed

We are DELIGHTED to reveal that the incredibly talented Adrian Tchaikovsky will be the final author contributing to Journal of the Plague Year, the latest omnibus in the Afterblight Chronicles series. He joins fantastic new talent Malcolm Cross and C. B. Harvey.

The Cull swept the world in the early years of the twenty-first century, killing billions and ending civilisation as we know it. Only those fortunate to be blessed with the right blood were spared. In the latest instalment to the shared world of Afterblight Chronicles three fantastic authors lead us further into the apocalypse: 

In Cross’ Orbital Decay astronaut Alvin Burrows watches helplessly as the world collapses, and the crew on board the Space Station are murdered one by one.

In Harvey’s Dead Kelly fugitive Kelly McGuire returns to the lawless city of Melbourne seeking revenge on his old gang mates.

In Tchaikovsky’s The Bloody Deluge (previously unpublished) biochemist Katy Lewkowitz and her friend Dr Emil Weber seek refuge from the deadly cult of the New Teutonic Order.

Journal of the Plague Year is an omnibus collection of three unique novellas; it will thrill, enthral and horrify you in equal measures.

Publishing Summer 2014. 

Pre-order it today: UK | US 
 Available from the Rebellion Store from July 3rd. 

Check back soon for more information, news and reviews.