Narrative Transport. The official Michael Pryor website.
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  • April11th

    Gap Year in Ghost Town (Allen & Unwin August 2017) has a cover! Authors, naturally, are always nervous about how their precious work is going to look, but the very clever Craig Phillips has come up with an absolute winner. I love its combination of spookiness and street smarts, and it captures the smart, creepy and funny tone of the book beautifully.

    Roll on August!

     

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  • May21st

    Bold statement – writing Historical Fiction and writing Fantasy (of certain sorts) are almost identical undertakings. A Game of Thrones and Wolf Hall? The same thing, really.

    Think about it. Writers of both have to introduce and explain an unfamiliar world. Writers of Historical Fiction and writers of Fantasy can’t assume the shared knowledge that writers of contemporary fiction can.

    Writers of contemporary fiction can take a great deal for granted. They don’t have to explain the social mores, the political structure, the clothing, the standard layout of buildings, methods of transport, forms of communication, common technologies, and thousands of other details of life that affect and intersect with their characters.

    Not so with the writers of Fantasy and Historical Fiction. We have to help the reader come to terms with a world that could be alien in countless ways.

    The first step for both of us, of course, is that we have to be familiar with the world we’re introducing. Here’s where our jobs may diverge a little. The Fantasy writer has to work from scratch, whereas the Historical Fiction writer doesn’t.

    Let’s face it, most Fantasy secondary worlds are derived from history. Fantasy writers are always scouting around the world and going back and forward through time looking for fertile areas as a springboard into world creation. Take a time period and location that’s in turmoil, tweak the events and the names a little, add some magic and there’s the beginnings of a framework for a solid Fantasy trilogy or two, easily.

    Therefore, both Fantasy and Historical Fiction writers spend a great deal of time researching, in order to be utterly cognisant with the world we’re about to introduce.

    After this comes the delicate task of sifting in all this background detail. The challenge is to do this without boring the reader. After all, we’re writing fiction, not textbooks.

    There is a higher challenge, though. The higher challenge is not just to do this without boring the reader, it’s doing it without the reader even noticing and therein lies the art.

    The key term I use here in trying to define what writers in both genres are trying to do is that we’re trying to make our worlds convincing. Even though the world may be unfamiliar to the reader, we have to convince her/him that the setting is a believable one, one with a coherence and an underpinning that resonates with the human experience. The setting could be archaic, primitive, old-fashioned or exotic in unearthly terms, but writers need to give the reader entry into this world by making it a plausible one.

    Done well, this accounts for some of the allure of both genres. They both take readers somewhere different, somewhere outside the ordinary, somewhere fresh and exotic where characters can play out their dramas in ways that extend the range of human actions, interactions and possibilities.

    All in all, sometimes I think the only difference between writing Historical Fiction and writing Fantasy is that one has magic and one doesn’t. I’ll leave you to decide which.

     

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  • May6th

    And here’s the back cover for Leo da Vinci Vs the Ice-cream Domination League, with lots of teasers.leo back cover

    The fabulous Jules Faber does the illustrations, and the book is due out from Random House Australia in August.

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  • April14th

    And here it is, the cover for my next book, a zany fun adventure for younger readers. In a world very much like ours, 10 year old Leo da Vinci is an inventor, artist, dreamer, and dedicated fighter against supervillains …

    And don’t I just love Jules Faber’s illustration? Outrageously good!

    Look for it in August.

    leo front cover

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  • August20th

    Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep isn’t a perfect novel. doctor-sleep-the-long-awaited-sequel-to-the-shiningIt has inconsistencies, a few plot holes, some ‘What the …?’ moments, but they’re forgiven because King does something surpassingly well, something that drags us into the story and keeps us reading right through.

    Character. Stephen King does character like few others can.

    When I run writing workshops, I often bang on about the elements of story. Just as often, I then go on to declare that of all the elements of story, character is the most important. If a writer does character well, the story will work. If all the other story elements are wonderful, but the story’s characters are dull, flat, or unengaging, then the story is likely to fail.

    The key word here is ‘engaging’. If a writer creates engaging characters, readers will keep reading to see what happens to them, it’s as simple as that. King has a knack for creating engaging characters. Strike that, it’s not a knack – it’s something that he works at in a hundred different ways.

    The two main characters in Doctor Sleep are Dan Torrance and Abra Stone. Dan is the main Point of View character. Now, while remembering that King is a Horror Writer and Dr Sleep is a Horror novel, take note of how much time King spends on non-horror stuff. A good half of the novel has nothing to do with horror. We explore Dan’s problems with alcoholism, we see his search for solace, we experience his sense of dislocation, we work through his backstory – family, work history, episodes of violence and self-loathing. To balance this, we learn about Dan through his actions, where he acts selflessly but not without internal struggle. We see him undertake work, physical labour, and he does so with care and dedication. We see his relationships with others – sometimes fraught, sometimes difficult.

    And we come to understand Dan’s tortured feelings about his parents.

    King keeps us riveted in Dan’s personal struggles in a thousand different ways, like turns of phrase that belong to Dan alone, or the careful formality he uses when addressing the older women in the hospice he works at, or his childish enjoyment at driving the model train, or the mannerisms that are sifted in along the way, all contribute to a rounded, breathing character.

    Mannerisms. I’d really like to use an example here, but the most important mannerism in this book is a key plot point, and I don’t’ want to get into spoiler territory. Let it be said that the mannerism is deftly dropped in nice and early then touched on a few times throughout so that when the key moment comes you not only have a fine example of using mannerisms to establish and maintain character, you have a superb example of foreshadowing. King is a craftsman.

    King uses memories, too, and this is particularly important since this book is ‘many years later’ sequel to The Shining. Dan’s flashbacks and musings fill us in on what has happened in the years since the Overlook Hotel burned down, but the time he spends dwelling on these events serves another purpose – they show us that he’s a thoughtful, reflective person.

    All of this works independently from the horror aspects of the book. And, of course, when the horror elements are introduced, they are all the more horrific because they are contrasted with these everyday elements of a realistic life. Thanks to King’s careful characterisation, we keep turning the pages, on the edges of our seats because we care for Dan and Abra, we want to see if they will prevail or if they will succumb to the evil.

    King manages to do all of this subtly, with a lightness of touch that is masterly. We don’t see him at work because we are engrossed in the characters and the narrative. He doesn’t draw attention to his methods – they work away undetected.

    Doctor Sleep is a masterclass in character and characterisation.

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  • February21st

    In the lead-up to the publication robotwireframeof Machine Wars in April, I thought a little pre-reading might be in order. Helped by the intelli-swarm via Facebook and Twitter, here’s a range of books that feature our mechanical friend, the robot.

    For Younger/Middle Readers

    Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot – Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov. Fun Asimov robot stories.

    Ernest Pickle’s Remarkable Robot – Max Dann. A robot for a best friend?

    The Andy Roid series – Felice Arena. Part robot, part boy, these action packed adventures zing along.

    The Robot King – Brian Selznick, author of Hugo Cabret

    The Monster Republic – Ben Horton. Teen cyborgs in a scary world.

    I, Robot – Isaac Asimov. These stories feature Asimov’s famous ‘Three Laws of Robotics’

    The Iron Giant – Ted Hughes. Masterly.

     

    For older readers (some graphic contents, advanced concepts and themes)

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams. Hilarious fun with the memorable secondary character, Marvin the Paranoid Android.

    Infernal Devices trilogy – Cassandra Clare.

    Frozen/Shattered/Torn – Robin Wasserman.

    Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Phillip K Dick. The classic SF novel that spawned Blade Runner.

    Robocalypse – Daniel H Wilson. The end of the world, robot style?

     

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  • February11th

    And we now have a back cover for Machine Wars,final back cover due April. In the spirit of all good back cover blurbs, read and be tantalised.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • December20th

    And here it is: the superb, stylish, sensational cover of Machine Wars, my 33rd book, due in April from Random House Australia.

    Machine Wars

    I love it!

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  • November15th

    I was inspired by Linda Nagata’s thoughtful article to write this one. Hard SF can be a hard sell. Of all the multifarious and diverse aspects of Science Fiction, Hard Science Fiction is the one most likely to get non-readers recoiling in horror. It’s the SF sub-genre most parodied, most vilified and most misunderstood.

    Which is a shame because, as with most things, the best of it is superb. Hard SF discusses, foregrounds and takes seriously an aspect of modern life that is shamefully neglected in literary fiction: science and technology. If these feature in literary fiction today, it’s superficially or with, at best, a jaundiced eye.

    As has been my wont with these recommended reading lists, I’ll foolishly venture a definition: Hard SF is the branch of Science Fiction where accurate representations or extrapolations of science and technology are vital to the story. It has many overlaps with Space Opera and other SF sub-genres, but fuzziness like that is part of the glory of genre definitions.

    Ringworld – Larry Niven (1970)

    One of the great Hard SF adventures, this rattling good yarn takes the notion of the alien artefact and runs with it, imagining an artificially constructed world that rings a sun. The world is nearly two million kilometres wide and has a diameter roughly that of Earth’s orbit around our sun. It’s a jaw-dropping conceit, and it’s just the backdrop for shipwreck story of monumental proportions. Great fun.

    Red Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson (1993)

    The first of a trilogy, this book is a rigorous exploration of exploration, where humanity is opening up Mars for colonisation. The technical, engineering challenges are foregrounded, but the ecological and the political are by no means ignored. Absorbing and ultimately moving.

    Permutation City – Greg Egan (1994)

    Australia’s own Greg Egan . It doesn’t get much harder than this, with quantum ontology, artificial intelligence and simulated reality just part of this onslaught of cutting edge concepts. It’s philosophical, abstract and dense. Tasty stuff.

    Revelation Space – Alastair Reynolds (2000)

    Space, with all of its unlimited possibilities. Lots of nanotechnology, human modification, and heavy spaceship engineering doesn’t overpower the character exploration and interaction, which is sharp and profound in this far future world.

    Up Against It – MJ Locke (2011)

    More nanotech in a society in our asteroid belt. The everyday difficulties of living in such a hostile environment are presented with verve and panache, with a rogue Artificial Intelligence thrown in for good measure. This is extrapolation of the best kind. It’s careful but creative with its prognostications and never forgets the importance of a strong narrative.

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  • February19th

    And here it is, the book trailer for ‘The Subterranean Stratagem’, the second book of ‘The Extraordinaires’ series.

    More magic, more mayhem, more mystery and much, much more Kingsley and Evadne!

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