Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Nik Vincent on naming the Aux

Dan had set quite a precedent when he named the Aux he wrote about in Kingdom. I loved Gene the Hackman.

He had a cast, but, in comics, casts are often small, and Gene was soon alone. 


Out now in print & kindle (US)
Writing a novel is an entirely different prospect, and with not only one Aux tribe, but several and with an ensemble cast, and with no pictures, so many more characters have to be named. It was a much taller order to come up with a convincing cast list.

Needless to say that cast list was my job.

Naming characters can be a lot of fun, and names are important for lots of reasons. I’ve named characters before, my own in my independent fiction and I’ve named characters in tie-in fiction, too. 

Fiefdom is set in a different time and on another continent, so while it was fine for me to name some of the characters after movie stars, I wanted to bring in other cultural reference, and, because Fiefdom is set in Europe I thought it might be nice to look at Art and Literature. It didn’t hurt that those are two areas in which I also have a pretty keen interest.

Of course, the names also had to have some significance of their own, and they all had to show some qualities related to the Aux as a race. Gene the Hackman was, quite literally, a Hack Man, after all.

Oberon and Evelyn War, father and daughter were named after Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, the writers, father and son. War was an obvious choice, the spelling of Oberon was changed to reflect the King of the Fairies and, of course, we wanted a key female character. For what it’s worth, Evelyn also means ‘life’.

On the one hand, naming the leader of the Aux after the poet Ezra Pound was a simple choice, because the name conjures both the act of pounding the enemy to death and a dog pound. On the other hand it was a complex choice because the poet was a controversial literary figure. For those who are interested, a look at the poet’s biography explains it, for the rest the simple knowledge that Pound wrote a poem entitled In a Station of the Metro is probably enough.

All of the Aux characters in the novel were named in this way, for artists, writers, characters in novels, films, tv shows and so on. They all bear some reference. Some will seem obscure. 

Some readers will not have heard of Frank Brangwyn, (BrangWIN, because who wants to lose?) who produced over 80 WWI poster designs, despite never being an official war artist. Austin Spar (SPAR as in practice fighting) was named after Austin Osman Spare, another favourite artist, who was employed as a war artist during WWI and who remained in London throughout WWII after trying to enlist, but being deemed too old. His home was bombed and all his work destroyed as a result, but he continued, regardless, and by the end of the war he was living in a cellar with two chairs for a bed and a number of stray cats.

Of course, names have been altered to fit the purpose, so that brothers Peter and William Blade derive from Peter Blake and William Blake, for example, Damien Hurts from Damien Hirst and Dorothy Barker from Dorothy Parker.

Naming the female characters was tougher than the males. We all look forward to a time when women are the equals of men in the arts, or at least when they are equally represented. It was never clearer that this has never been the case than when I was looking up eighteenth and nineteenth century artists and writers. Some men’s names sounded sufficiently feminine to be borrowed for female characters, hence Singer Sergeant after John Singer Sargent and Somerset Mourn after Somerset Maugham. But I wish there had been more great women to draw upon. 

I did enjoy using Becky Sharp. Long may she reign!

Fiefdom is out now in the US in print and on the kindle.



Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Gods & Monsters Cover Reveal


Coming Winter 2014

Gods & Monsters: Myth Breaker


As a child Louie had conversations with "invisible friends" and could see patterns in the world no one else could see.

In other times he would have been a prophet - someone to make people believe in the gods.

But he grew out of the visions and into a life in the underworld as a drug runner.

Now thirty-five and burnt out, he's had enough. With access to the mob's money he plans to go out in a big way. Only he can't. A broken down car, a missed flight; it's bad enough being hunted by the mob, but now the gods - kicked out of the Heavens - need someone to tell their stories, and they aren't letting go.

Caught between two warring factions of gods and the mob Louie hatches a plan to get out, if it doesn't get him killed first.


Gods & Monsters: Myth Breaker by Stephen Blackmoore 
Out December 2014

Pre-order for the UK and US today.
Available on the Rebellion Store from December 4th 2014.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Afterblight Chronology


To celebrate last week's UK release of The Journal of the Plague Year we sat down with Abaddon Editor David Moore to work through the chronology of The Afterblight series so far.*

In the Beginning

1. Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross. This one’s easy, as it starts as the virus is just getting started.

=2. School’s Out by Scott K. Andrews. Exactly where to place Scott’s opening novel is tricky, as Lee flashes back to the early days of the Cull and the story runs out over the course of a year, but I’m going to pin this one down as at least starting within a few months of the virus breaking out.

=2. Dead Kelly by C. B. Harvey. Colin’s contribution is explicitly placed six months after the Cull hits, which makes it more or less contemporary with the start of School’s out.

One Year on

3. The Bloody Deluge by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Adrian doesn’t pin Katy’s and Emil’s flight across Germany down, but it seems to begin between one and two years after the Cull.

Year Two
Editor-in-Chief Jon Oliver's
favourite Rebellion cover.

4. Death Got No Mercy by Al Ewing. Al’s actually quite specific; Cade’s rampage begins two years after the dyin’ started.

5. ‘The Man Who Would Not Be King’ by Scott Andrews. This short story, included with Paul Kane’s Broken Arrow (and the collected School’s Out Forever), bridges School’s Out and Operation Motherland and is set around two years after the Cull.

Year Three

6. Operation Motherland by Scott K. Andrews. Set a while after the end of School’s Out, as the new school has had a chance to settle in, Motherland takes place around three years after the Cull.

Year Four

7. Arrowhead by Paul Kane. Paul and Scott, I gather, sorted out between themselves that de Falaise’s invasion occurs after the destruction of the base in Salisbury plain, explaining why there was no organised resistance. Around Year Four.

Year Five

=8. The Culled by Simon Spurrier. The nameless soldier of Simon’s book explicitly gives the date as five years after the Cull.

=8. Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene. Jasmine leaves the secret facility at Lake Erie at the same time as her loverThe Culleds nameless hero – sets out to find her.

=8. Children’s Crusade by Scott K. Andrews. Lee and Matron clash with the Neo-Clergy’s child-snatchers, suggesting that this book is contemporary with The Culled.

9. ‘The Servitor’ by Paul Kane. This short story – published in Death Ray #21, Oct/Nov 2009 (and collected in the ebook edition of Hooded Man) – introduces the sinister new cult that kicks off the action in Broken Arrow. Between Years Five and Six.

Year Six

10. Broken Arrow by Paul Kane. It has been some while since Arrowhead’s Rob Stokes settled Nottingham and established his Rangers, putting this book around Year Six

11. ‘Perfect Presents’ by Paul Kane. A charming snapshot of life in Afterblight Nottingham, this short story – featured in Abaddon Books’ A Very Abaddon Christmas blog event, 2009 (and collected in the ebook edition of Hooded Man) – is set the Christmas after Broken Arrow.

Year Seven

12. ‘Signs and Portents’ by Paul Kane. This short story – included in Children’s Crusade (and collected in ebook edition of Hooded Man) – sets the scene for Arrowland, and takes place in about Year Seven.

Year Eight to Year Nine

13. Arrowland by Paul Kane. A little while has passed since the rise and fall of the Tsar, putting this book at about eight or nine years after the Cull.

One Decade on

14. Dawn Over Doomsday by Jasper Bark. Some years have passed since the Apostolic Church of the Rediscovered Dawn was crippled by the nameless soldier of The Culled in Year Five, placing it about one decade in.

Twenty Years on


15. Blood Ocean by Weston Ochse. This one’s made fairly easy by dint of sheer scale. It’s not clear when exactly the events occur, but it’s clear that people have been born and grown to adulthood never knowing a world before the Cull. Blood Ocean’s set at least twenty years after the virus.

With each new title and each new author bring a whole new perspective and history to the world of The Afterblight we're already really excited to see what the next wave of books brings. Let us know where or when you'd love to see the next title set, either in the comments below or @abaddonbooks on twitter. Plus, why not take advantage of our current Afterblight sale to explore the series more - titles start from just £3 until July 17th 2014.

Journal of the Plague Year is out now in the UK in print and kindle edition, as well being available worldwide through the rebellion store

Out in the UK now
*For those new to Afterblight a quick explanation: the series is shared world writing experience. Each book or story contributed is a stand alone title in its own right and you can start the series anywhere you like. As more and more authors contribute to the series new points in the history of The Afterblight are uncovered around the world that may affect future stories. Malcolm Cross, author of Orbital Decay, discusses the experience of contributing to Afterblight in more detail here.

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 rebellionstore.com to go alongside 2000adonline.com; 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.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Happy US publication day!

Releasing today for the US market we have the sublime Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell.

England bleeds. Magic is forbidden, Richard III’s corrupt dynasty must fall.

Mathias Eynon’s dreams were small. A dabbler in magic, he expected to live in obscurity in his home in the Welsh hills. But fate has other plans for him. It is the Year of Our Lord Fifteen Eighty-Nine, and a revolution is quietly brewing. Richard the Fifth has overstayed his rule, some say; the line of Demon Kings must be burned out. When the Inquisitor Charles Weaver comes to Mathias’ village, he is thrust into events beyond his understanding.

Sarah has been relentlessly taking over the internet this month, and now you can read her eagerly awaited new title in paperback (amazon)*, on the kindle or in eBook format directly from the Rebellion store.

*You can also purchase Uprising from your local book emporium – give them a call today and check they have it in stock.

Monday, 14 April 2014

'What if' we didn't write speculative histories? Sarah Cawkwell responds to the critics




So, 'What If?'…

I have just surfaced from reading Richard J. Evans’s opinion on ‘what-if’ speculations in history, published in The Guardian on 13th March 2014. His thoughts are very heavily based in fact, rather than fiction, but there is a certain relevance to the theme of my upcoming novel, Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising. Thus, it seemed appropriate to spark off something of a debate on the subject of  historical ‘what-if’.
“Perhaps it's because we're living in a postmodern age where the idea of progress has largely disappeared, to be replaced by uncertainty and doubt, and where linear notions of time have become blurred; or because truth and fiction no longer seem such polar opposites as they once did; or because historians now have more licence to be subjective than they used to. But it's time to be sceptical about this trend. We need, in this year especially, to start to try to understand why the first world war happened, not to wish that it hadn't, or argue about whether it was "right" or "wrong". In the effort to understand, counterfactuals aren't any real use at all.”
- Richard J. Evans
Let’s see. To me, this reads in a manner which suggests Evans is clearly not a man who has any interest in speculation. None whatsoever. He deals in the currency of cold, hard fact, not the airy-fairy world of daydreaming and imagination. I have a lot of respect for that and what happened in history is what happened in history. Short of owning a TARDIS (or, for preference, a De Lorean) there’s not a lot we can do about that. What has happened has happened. We, as a species exist for the now and for tomorrow. We can’t change what has been and why should we?

This is why. Because we are also a species of dreamers and we have been gifted with something extraordinary. Something unique. Something that those embedded in the world of fact can sometimes lose sight of. We are storytellers. From the Viking skalds through to the parent sat reading a nursery rhyme to their infant child, we tell one another stories. We invoke fear, excitement, pleasure, laughter, tears with the written fictional word and to be able to read and write stories is a remarkable gift. I wonder if Mr. Evans reads fiction? I do hope that he does, although from the terse nature of his article (interesting and relevant as it is), I would think that if he does, he avoids the ‘historical fiction’ shelf in his bookshop. For my money, that’s his loss.


To spend hours or even a lifetime debating in earnest fashion the ‘what if’ scenarios outline by Evans in his article seems to me to be bordering on the wistful and in that, I see eye to eye with the author. But yet I disagree that ‘counterfactuals’ aren’t any real use at all. They encourage a deeper understanding of the historical events that surround an outcome. If you can take someone with only a passing interest in an event that changed the world – let’s say the first world war – and ask them what the world might have been like if xx had or had not happened, there’s a good chance they might go away and learn more about the actual facts. In that, you educate people. They learn. They gain interest. And that is a wonderful, extraordinary thing.

But at the same time, it’s human nature to have regret. It’s in our psychological make-up to wonder how things might have been different if we had only taken the other route to work the morning of that car crash, for example.

History is a living thing. We create history every day. It may not be earth-changing or world-shattering, but every action has a consequence. If you were to stop and consider all the actual possibilities of an action, you’d never do anything for fear of heading down the wrong pathway. 

There are so many theories on this, the most well documented being that for every decision we make, the alternative decisions are played out in parallel dimensions. That somewhere, there exists another you who decided to actually sit down and revise for that exam actually then went on to university, then became the world’s expert on your chosen subject. Owns a beach house in the Caribbean. Drives a Lotus Elise.

Man. I hate that version of me.

Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising is speculative, what-if historical fiction with a twist. It has fantasy elements thrown in. There is magic. There are demons. There are most definitely consequences for actions. It is not in any way meant to be an academic study of ‘what would have happened if Richard III had won at Bosworth’ but it sure as hell makes me wonder.

Is that so very wrong? I don’t think it is.



Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising will be published in paperback and ebook in North America on May 27th and in the UK and Ireland on 5th June.


Thursday, 3 April 2014

It's all going a little 'Dicky the Third' down at Abaddon Towers...

Author Sarah Cawkwell recently wrote a piece for the Abaddon blog about her forthcoming new novel, Heirs of the Demon King, which is set in an England where Richard III didn't die at Bosworth Field and instead founded dark and despotic dynasty that rules the nation with terror and magic...

Someone else connected with Abaddon also spent the weekend proving that you can't keep a good king (bad king, shurely? - Ed.) down - Rebellion CEO Jason Kingsley!

Those who've heard of Jason before will know that he enjoys donning armour, getting onto a horse, and galloping at a similarly attired gent with a long stick in his hand - but it turns out he also does a mean impression of the last King of the Plantagenets:


Here's some video of him charging around like a madman and no doubt we'll see the fruits of his battle-hardened labour soon.

You can keep up (if you dare) with Jason on his Twitter feed, plus Heirs of the Demon King is out in June and can be pre-ordered through Amazon in the UK and North America.

Monday, 24 March 2014

What Happens When Kings Don’t Die: Sarah Cawkwell on an England where Richard III won

We know now that long after the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III, fatally came second at the Battle of Bosworth Field his body found itself unceremoniously lying beneath a car-park in Leicester.

But what would England look like if Shakespeare's favourite bad guy had won instead?

In June, Abaddon is launching a brand new historical fantasy series from an up and coming author: Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising is a thrilling alternative history by Sarah Cawkwell set in a world filled with magic and where, instead of the famous Tudor monarchs, there is an unconquered line of kings stemming from a victorious Richard III.

Sarah, who has previously written Warhammer novels, now brings her sense of history and visceral action to this fantastical re-imagining of the 16th Century. And we asked her to put together a few words to explain the series and what it's like resurrecting one of the most controversial Royal dynasties in English history...



What Happens When
Kings Don’t Die

When I was asked to consider an ‘alternative history-coupled with fantasy’ story, it took me about eleven seconds to decide whereabouts in history I would start.

A million years ago, when I was infinitely younger and certainly more impressionable, I went on a week’s holiday with my then-boyfriend to a remote little cottage somewhere in Scotland. Beautiful place it was: lovely walks, great fishing (for him), nice local pub (for me), no television and a shelf full of books that I could read whilst curled up beside a crackling log fire.

Amongst these books was the novelisation of a television series called The Devil’s Crown. I picked it up with vague disinterest and started reading it. By the end, I was in love with the Plantagenet family and this depiction of them. I can honestly say that returning that wonderful book to the shelf was the most heartbreaking separation from a book I can remember. I then started reading more and more about the Plantagenet family and find their legacy to be fascinating reading.

King Henry the Second was a true warrior king, a man who, whenever he saw something he wanted, would smack his hand down on a table, shout, ‘I WANT THIS THING!’, then go out and take it. I would put money down that he never once said ‘could you please pass the salt’.

This sense of self-entitlement also guaranteed him his wife, the remarkable Eleanor of Aquitaine, possibly amongst the most interesting and powerful women ever to feature in England’s history - and the mother of some of the most remarkable monarchs this country has ever seen.

Henry certainly did not suffer fools gladly and he was allegedly massively unpopular as a king. Yet in that novel, he became a sympathetic anti-hero. I’m a sucker for those.

Historical fiction is a delightful area of genre: accounts can be written that paint images of people who often exist only in dry, dusty history books, or as caricatures of their time. For example, the Bard immortalised Richard the Third as a tyrannical, hunch-backed monstrosity: others have argued that this is a great disservice to the long-dead king. History, so they say, is written by the winners and the losers are confined to pages where they are lampooned and ridiculed.

The Battle of Bosworth Field has been prominent in the news over the last couple of years due to the remains of King Richard the Third having been formally identified. Of all places for the last descendant of a great warrior king to be found, beneath layers of car park Tarmac in Leicestershire is probably one of the least dignified.

Richard the Third has perpetually been labelled as a nominal ‘bad guy’. That seemed like an interesting place to start.

What if, I hypothesised, Richard the Third beat Henry Tudor into a pulp on that August day in Leicestershire? What would have happened to England if he had reigned for more than the twenty-six months he did?

But even that was not the true point of divergence for this story. It would have been easy enough to re-write human history based on a Plantagenet victory that day and indeed, this is where Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising opens. But the story goes back further than that. What is it that gave Richard the strength to overcome on the battlefield?

For the answer to that, we look further back in history. We visit King Richard, the Lionheart, a man who is variously portrayed as either Sean Connery, or a shining beacon of English leadership (although many historians claim he didn't speak a word of English and preferred to live in Aquitaine rather than the country over which he ruled). The Devil’s Crown portrayed Richard in a very unsympathetic light which I feel was remarkably brave.

I went with the middle ground. King Richard the First returns from the Holy Land and the Crusades with a gift for the people of his country. He brings with him the gift of true magic: a mastery of the elements and weaving of spells and incantations that bring power and prosperity to his small island. The people of England embrace this gift and the country flourishes. The spread of magic across the known world brings an era of harmony.

You know it can’t possibly last. Let any power fall into the wrong hands and it will inevitably become a warped and twisted terrible thing. So once the ‘wrong’ people start using the gift, magic slowly pollutes the country and becomes something to be feared and banished, no longer to be embraced.

By the time King Richard the Third, the last of the Plantagenets takes to the battlefield at Bosworth, the monarchy is broken and England is a place torn apart by tyranny and war. Bosworth is the last hope for Richard and in order to perpetuate his line, he must  call upon the powers with whom his distant ancestor bargained and make a deal of his own.

For every bargain made, there is a price to be paid. Richard’s greed and lust for victory condemns his ancestors to a nightmare.


But eventually the time comes when someone has to make a stand and Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising brings together a number of unlikely individuals whose stories and journeys race towards a final, fateful showdown at dawn on the day of the Winter Solstice…


Heirs of the Demon King is out in June and can be pre-ordered through Amazon in the UK and North America.

About the author

Sarah Cawkwell is an English author based in the North East. Old enough to know better, she’s still young enough not to care. Married, with a son and two intellectually challenged cats, she’s been a writer for many years, contributing to the Warhammer universe. When not slaving away over a hot keyboard, Sarah’s hobbies include reading everything and anything, and running around in fields with swords screaming incomprehensibly. Her minimum bribe level is one chocolate orange.