news & reviews

17Sep

Tor UK & Alt.Fiction Present: Other Worlds – Saturday 6th November

I’ve just got the itinerary from event organiser, Alex Davis. Should be a pretty good show, this – Tor UK and Alt.Fiction are teaming up, which is a great idea – proper community stuff from a publisher, panels and workshops and open conversations. It’s much more focussed than a convention, and I think it’s aimed at those who want to write, and perhaps at those who don’t normally make it to longer conventions. I’m doing a workshop, and I promise not to mention vegetable gardening or jam making or the environment.

Other Worlds offers panel discussions, giveaways and signings and is an ideal event for both readers and writers of science-fiction and fantasy. Authors appearing include the UK’s best-selling SF author PETER F HAMILTON, Shadows of the Apt writer ADRIAN TCHAIKOVSKY, rising fantasy star MARK CHARAN NEWTON and author of the Recursion trilogy TONY BALLANTYNE.

Workshop Sessions: Tickets cost £3 each.
11am-12pm Fantasy workshop with Mark Charan Newton
11am-12pm Sci-fi workshop with Tony Ballantyne

These will take place in The Box and the Meeting Room at QUAD.

Other Worlds: Tickets cost £8/£6 concessions
1pm-1:45pm Panel: Other Worlds – The landscape of SF and Fantasy with Peter F Hamilton, Mark Charan Newton, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Tony Ballantyne (Cinema 2)
1:45pm-2pm Break
2pm-2:45pm Science-fiction discussion with Peter F Hamilton and Tony Ballantyne (Cinema 2)
2pm-2:45pm Fantasy discussion with Mark Charan Newton and Adrian Tchaikovsky (The Box)
2:45pm-3pm Break
3pm-4pm Signing with Peter F Hamilton, Mark Charan Newton, Adrian Tchaikovsky and Tony Ballantyne (The Box)

Books available to buy on the day from 12pm.

Derby Quad, Market Place, Derby.
Saturday 6th November. The Workshops (£3) are from 11am-12pm, and the main event (£8/6) is 1pm-4pm
Tickets from QUAD box office on 01332 290606 or at www.derbyquad.co.uk

7Sep

Review Goodness & Title Spillage

Because it’s been a while. First up, SFRevu on Nights of Villjamur:

Reading Nights of Villjamur is like standing too close to a tapestry. At first, all you can see are threads, bits of story that you know are important, but you can’t make sense of in the overall context of the book. The more you read, the farther you step back from the tapestry, so that this thread connects with that one, and you begin to realize just how all of these wildly different characters are linked within the greater story.

Steve’s Fantasy Book Reviews on City of Ruin:

Although the story is brutal, violent and bloody at times it also explores a number of real world issues such as discrimination, sexuality, corruption and politics, and it touches on religion. None of it is overt and forced, and characters do not suddenly break the fourth wall to stop and point out the issues. With the city on the brink of destruction, both from the ice and the invaders, the story is also about how different people react in their final days. For those who want to lose themselves and forget the world exists beyond their pleasure, places exist where they can indulge in as many fantasies as their coin allows. Others find they can’t stand idly by and when faced with oblivion they spit in the eye of fate and brace themselves for a fight. All of the events and characters give the city of Villiren a very unique feel and Newton has done a great job of making it very distinct and different to Villjamur.

And finally, Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews on City of Ruin:

“City of Ruin” proves that Mark Charan Newton is growing fast as a writer, his prose, story and philosophical approach making his work more robust. I am certain that in this cadence Mark Charan Newton’s series can turn to be one of the landmarks of modern fantasy.

How splendid.

Oh, and some canny observer has spotted the title for book three out in the wild. Can’t keep anything a secret these days!

6Sep

A Catch-Up / Other Business

I must admit, it was rather nice to be away from the internet for a week. As you can see in the previous post, the weather and landscape and cottage were splendid. Highlights included rescuing a pipistrel bat, deserted beaches on the Isle of Bute, and the incredible Mount Stuart. And also straying into The Old Bookshelf, a charming little second hand book store, which boasted a tremendous SF and Fantasy section – so much so, that I was forced to strike up a conversation with the owners. It just so happened that this was the store local to Lisa Tuttle and Colin Murray, who would occasionally drop off stock. This solved the mystery of why there was such a good supply of genre books.

I got only a little reading done. Firstly, I confess to abandoning the splendid Downriver, by Iain Sinclair. It was too rich, too treacly a prose for me to cope with at the moment. I’ll maybe come back to it at some point in the future, but I made it halfway through. The prose was sublime, but it was quite literally pages and pages of (occasionally abstract and omniscient) description. Sometimes my mood would suit such a read; being tucked away in a rural cottage did not generate such a mood. Or maybe it was the whisky.

The book I did finish was Six Degrees, something I’d been meaning to read for ages. I enjoyed this, but the content was a little too similar throughout (depressingly so). It was also just a fraction too accessible, too casual a read, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

A few interesting comments came in response to the mass market cover art for City of Ruin.

“But the Harlequin dude must go. It’s not as bad as the infamous Patrick Rothfuss gay cover”

“It looks absolutely dreadful, almost like a Harlequin Romance mated with and Urban Fantasy novel and got spat out in the regular fantasy section…” [In the comments]

Upon seeing an attractive man on the cover of a novel, rather than a hot woman, epic fantasy fans (men, usually) seem get most annoyed. Why is this? I’m not against people simply not liking the design, the quality of the art, the colours, featuring characters in general, whatever. But do men really loathe seeing fit men on covers, only to say bugger all upon seeing attractive women on books? It’s not as though this character in particular was dressed for Men’s Health magazine – he’s kitted out for war, and just happens to be fairly handsome. Brynd is a good-looking guy, and I’m not going to insist the cover features some swamp donkey that not even the tide would take out.

And contrary to a couple of other curious comments – yes, I genuinely do like that cover art. I would let people know if I didn’t.

A final note of congratulations to China Miéville for jointly winning the Hugo for The City & The City (which I sort-of reviewed in March last year). Thoroughly well-deserved.

30Aug

Updates and Holiday

I’m on holiday for a week, in the middle of nowhere, Scotland. In a small cottage, with my girlfriend, a log fire, and some books. This means I am away from the Internets – but you’re all big and strong now, and I know you can cope without me.

Anyway, I’m at the end of the first draft of Book Three, and hope to have something decent for my editor by October. I tend to get as much as I can written in one go before sweeping through the whole book for massive blunders (though I do sweep through at a the quarter- and half-way points). I’m pretty happy with it – it’s not as (new) weird as City of Ruin, and again, I’ve wanted to change direction a little. I’m also writing a trans-woman as a lead character, which, I can tell you, is not easy.

Oh, and here I talk a little about comics.

27Aug

Press Release – German Deal

Hot off the press:

Volker Busch at VGS Egmont has acquired German rights in two fantasy novels by Mark Charan Newton from Jon Mitchell, Rights Manager at Pan Macmillan. Julie Crisp acquired World rights in the books from agent John Jarrold. The books will be published on Egmont’s ‘Lyx’ imprint. Other authors on the Lyx list include Jacqueline Carey, Jennifer Fallon, Tanya Huff, R. A. Salvatore, and Seanan McGuire.

NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR was first published by Macmillan/Tor UK in 2009, and CITY OF RUIN followed this year. VGS will publish the first novel around the end of 2011, with the second following.

‘Mark’s reputation is quickly growing across the world, and we’re both delighted with this deal,’ said John Jarrold. ‘Congratulations to Jon Mitchell and Macmillan!’

Contact John Jarrold or Jon Mitchell for further details.

John Jarrold – e-mail: j.jarrold@btinternet.com phone: 01522 510 544
Jon Mitchell – e-mail: J.Mitchell@macmillan.co.uk phone 020 7014 6151

27th August 2010

Ich bin ein Villjamurer… (What? How many other German city-based puns do you know?)

4Aug

City of Ruin: Punkadiddled

I rather like being Punkadiddled. It’s one of those genre privileges, up there with Thog’s Masterclass. The mighty Adam Roberts has reviewed City of Ruin [warning: contains spoilers], and has gone into some splendid detail. I love his thorough engagement with the text, even if it is not entirely complimentary; it’s reassuringly rigorous.

Now, this novel is better in many ways than the enjoyable though ragbaggy Nights: Newton is more in control of his voice here, more confident in what he’s doing. There’s some efficiently structured storytelling (maybe it takes a little too long getting-going; but once the main plots are in place it moves nicely along), with lots of gnarly, peculiar lifeforms and environments and some thumping set-pieces. I liked the Swiftian floating island especially. Still, the text is not wholly free of Teh Slapdash. I’d still describe Newton as a writer on his way somewhere interesting rather than someone who’s got there yet. Although, by the same token, he has a raw youthful energy that many more mature writers just can’t achieve, and he mixes his soursweet recipe of Fantasy, horror and noir nicely — uniquely, indeed. If you’re enjoying a bit of oral sex, the last thing you want is a vast, malign spider-creature crashing through your window and pouncing upon you. City of Ruin is that last thing you want.

Read the rest.

20Jul

A Fine Review

This one is at A Dribble Of Ink. It’s a fair review, engages with the book splendidly, and tries to put in some context regarding the New Weird. Also, he got a lot of what I was doing, about the prose and the clash of aesthetics, which for any writer is highly rewarding.

There are touches of Epic Fantasy (cross country travelogues, complete with aloof, drunken swordsmen and tangential encounters with ravenous tribes) and Urban Fantasy (with a few battle scenes that would make the film version of Children of Men jealous), dusty old detective novels (with noirish undertones galore), but most interesting are the ties, intentional or not, to Cyberpunk and near-future Science Fiction. Among the new characters introduced is Malum, a gang leader and Vampyre, who reveals the seedy underbelly of Villiren. His story arc, full of gang politics, cigarettes, smuggling and whores, a constant reminder that this is a tale told not in the past, on some fantastical other world, but in a far future of our own. This isn’t your grandma’s Fantasy…

With the release of Nights of Villjamur, Newton’s prose was divisive for its loose, stream-of-conciousness style. People either loved it or hated it. Strikingly, especially to those expecting a Fantasy novel (as it’s generally marketed as), the prose is very contemporary, a seemingly intentional move on Newton’s part to, again, solidify the fact that this tale is being told on a future version of our world, far removed from contemporary times, but with echoes of our language and culture still intact. This anachronistic language fits in the Cyberpunk-esque Villiren much better than it did in the Medieval-esque Villjamur, especially when dealing with the locals; it’s like comparing the expectations when a Scottish farmer opens his mouth to a SoCal teenager. Newton is a better writer in City of Ruin, but it will likely do little to change the minds of those who were put off by the prose in Nights of Villjamur.

It’s clear, also, that Newton has things to say. Like his inspiration China Mieville, Newton fills his novel with political and social commentary, reflecting on the state of our world, our culture and our cities through the destruction of those in his novel. Beyond the parallels between Villiren and Los Angeles (with a bit of London thrown in, I expect), Newton explores racism, sexuality and prejudice, though never hits you over the head with his philosophies. If there’s one are where Newton improved immensely, it’s this. Unlike Nights of Villjamur, much of the commentary and philosophy evolves naturally from the plot, rather than being revealed by blatant internal monolgues by the characters.

So this New Weird thing, then. Despite me saying it’s gone, I’ve found that it has been gaining clarity over the years. Not that I’m any closer to understanding it myself, of course.

9Jul

Latest Reviews

I realise a lot of people come to this site for the discussions rather than the hard sell, but tough: I’ve written some books and they’ve been reviewed. So here’s a round-up of coverage from the interwebs. I promise you it will be quick and easy:

The Agony Column gives a splendid write-up of City of Ruin:

Newton knows that there’s a thin line between the awesome and the horrific, an d he plays this well. His prose is very finely turned, which works to his advantage both in the aforementioned characterization and in his ability to create scenes that are more than pointless grue. Newton knows when and how to suggest the surreal and the monstrous in a manner that is both disturbing and entrancing.

The real news here is not just that Newton has a great new novel coming out. It’s that ‘City of Ruin’ confirms not just Newton himself, but the potential power that is possible as fearless writers break down the barriers between genres. Blurring the boundaries of horror and fantasy opens up both to opportunities for redemption and terror. Newton knows that he has to earn his victories, and he’s canny enough to serve up enough uncertainty to keep readers falling forward into the next abyss.

BSC Reviews tackles Nights of Villjamur, and I’m particularly pleased with how the reviewer totally got what I was doing with Brynd:

What I found most astonishing while reading the book is that it’s Newton’s first major novel. The creative risks he takes in the story, as well as the complexity and depth of the world he’s created, are reminicsent of an experienced author with many a novel to his or her credit… I’m referring to Brynd, leader of the Night Guard – the Emperor’s personal bodyguards. He hides his homosexuality behind the mask of his albinism in order to survive in a world that forbids his sexual proclivity. Most tellingly he also struggles with the paradox of being in so manly a calling in a world that would consider him anything but, were they to know. What a creative, fascinating way of exploring so contemporary a theme and in such a compelling character!

Elitist Book Reviews gives a great and honest review of the same book:

If you have paid any bit of attention to the release of this novel, you know that a main character, Byrnd, is gay. You want our opinion? This is how you should handle a character of this persuasion. Newton does it right. Byrnd’s sexuality feels like it is part of his character rather than just thrown in for eye-popping shock value… or because absolutely nothing is happening and you want there to be some façade of character diversity… Mr. Newton, you did awesome. Long-distance high-five.

Is NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR worth your time? Heck yes! The mystery element could have been disguised better, and Newton needs to really let loose, but VILLAJMUR is still a great novel. Its tone is dark, its characters real, and its ideas fantastic. Again, if Newton will stop being so conservative with the weird, he could very well turn into a top-shelf author.

What’s that? More weird you say? Oh, all right then. And finally, Don D’ammassa’s Critical Mass also says some nice things:

I’m fond of fantasy or science fiction novels which also include a good murder mystery, and that’s the situation here with this first novel, also first in a series. Villjamur is the capital of a fantastic empire people by humans and other peoples, all of whom face the possibility of a new and imminent ice age. With that backdrop, we have a murder mystery that involves many layers of court intrigue, the interactions among the various types of being in the city, and a crisis involving a horde of refugees. This reminded me at times of China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station or Mary Gentle’s Rats and Gargoyles, and it bodes well for the author to be placed in that company. Like most of the best fantasy, the novel is about the characters and how they react in various stressful situations, but there are also some clever plot tricks to keep us from becoming too complacent. Looking forward to volume two.

That’s your lot.

17Jun

Signing Reminder & Ask Me Questions

A quick reminder that I’ll be in London at Goldsboro Books, signing limited edition numbered copies of City of Ruin, from 2pm this Saturday (19th June). The store details are: 7 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ. Tel/Fax: 020 7497 9230. Swing by and say hello – it promises to be much more relaxed than the Forbidden Planet event.

And, I will answer your questions:

How do you get your questions answered by Mark? Its quite simple. I will be passing on the questions that you choose to post in the comments section on to Mr. Newton for him answer at a later time. Then, I will be posting the questions back up attached with their respective answers for all to see.

How long do you have? You have from now until Friday of next week, the 25th of June, to get your questions in.

What should you/can you ask him? To put it as he did: “an ‘Ask me any question’ free-for-all? Count me in!” Yes, once again, you read that right: he is letting you ask him absolutely anything you want. For all intents and purposes, this really is a free-for-all.

Go on, you know you want to. Make it interesting for me.

13Jun

Alt.Fiction

A very quick report on Alt.Fiction. A couple of hundred people gathered in Derby’s QUAD for one day of genre action, and this was not a leisurely convention by any means – the authors were worked very hard.

The good: this was the best Alt.Fiction to date. The bad: well, still essentially a good thing – for the first time, I was constantly being pulled in all directions to chat to various people. As a consequence, I didn’t get to speak to as many friends from the con circuit as I’d have liked. At a Worldcon or Eastercon you can arrange to chat at a more leisurely pace, but this was just one day. Despite that, I did manage to natter to the bloggers and reviewers who turned up, and also Cheryl Morgan, Lee Harris, Paul Cornell, Mark Chadbourn, Sarah Pinborough, John Berlyne, Conrad Williams, M. D. Lachlan, John Weir, Damien G. Walter, James from Speculative Horizons, and Mark Yon from SFF World. And I did meet new people (and fans – something I’m still not used to!) which is always lovely.

I did some panels and stuff, which went very well. A good crowd managed to turn up at the 8pm one, despite it being during the football. I signed some books (many more outside of the actual signing time). I talked – a lot. Kudos to Adele who sat assiduously throughout the podcast sessions all day, and which should be online soon, so if you weren’t there, you can at least listen to what went on.

Julie Crisp (a most definite non-mother figure (big frowns), but certainly happy to be a queen figure) of Tor UK popped along for moral support and a good schmooze. The highlight of the event was actually watching her approach Joseph Abercrombie, expecting him to be the real Joe Abercrombie and not, in fact, his Polish doppelgänger. Joseph merely looked up with a confused expression on his face, thinking Who is this crazy woman? whilst I chuckled in the background. I have never seen my editor so embarrassed – apart from, perhaps, when she reads this realising it’s now captured online.

Some folk mentioned the day had the vibe of a much smaller World Fantasy con, which for those of you who haven’t attended that event, means that there were a lot of industry professionals – editors, authors, reviewers etc – all in one place, and much more of a networking atmosphere was present. If forced to recommend three annual conventions worth going to in the UK, then Alt.Fiction, Eastercon and the SFX Weekender would be on the list – for thoroughly entertaining, smooth events, with lost of fresh faces and a great atmosphere.