Ian McDonald: WorldCon Guest of Honour (Part 2)

This month, Ian McDonald is going to be a Guest of Honour at WorldCon in Dublin. Last week, we highlighted some of Ian’s series, and today we want to take a look at his stand-alone novels. You’ll notice a theme in the short intros, below, in that most of Ian’s novels have won and been nominated for a great many awards.

Let’s start with THE DERVISH HOUSE (most recent covers at the top), first published in 2009. This novel racked up an impressive number of awards and nominations — including winning the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, BSFA Best Novel Award, and coming in 3rd for the Locus Award for Best SF Novel. Published in the UK by Gollancz, and in North America via the JABberwocky eBook Program, here’s the synopsis…

Welcome to the world of The Dervish House — the great, ancient, paradoxical city of Istanbul, divided like a human brain, in the great, ancient, equally paradoxical nation of Turkey. With a population pushing one hundred million, and Istanbul alone swollen to fifteen million, Turkey is the largest, most populous, and most diverse nation in the new Europe, but also one of the poorest and most socially divided.

The Dervish House is seven days, six characters, and three interconnected story strands all woven around the common core of the old dervish house of Aden Dede. A terror attack, a vision of djinn, a commodities scam, a hunt for half a miniature Koran that holds the key to new technology, and a quest for a creature from Arabic legend — that may not be so legendary after all.

Here are just a few of the great reviews THE DERVISH HOUSE has received…

‘A lush, complex and hugely entertaining novel.’ — Guardian

‘[A] writer with an unerring instinct for finding resonance between theme and location… a rich and assured novel that, like much of Ken MacLeod’s recent work, revels in the shiny precision of the airport tech-thriller, yet insists on putting forward disquieting ideas rather than offering all-too-neat reassurances that you can somehow put escaped djinns back in bottles. This is as good as contemporary literary SF gets.’ — SFX (5* Review)

‘I know what to expect from Ian McDonald: broad vistas, intricately imagined futures, poetic language that transports and delights, a blend of mysticism and science that thrills and moves. But no matter how much foreknowledge I bring to a new Ian McDonald, I am always, always startled and thrilled by the exciting, moving epic story I find inside… To read McDonald is to fall in love with a place and to become drunk with it… I you’ve never read him, you’re in for a treat. If you’re a fan like me, you’ll be delighted anew. What a wonderful, wonderful book.’ — BoingBoing

‘McDonald has written some of the best SF of the last fifteen years… a mosaic of a story that can be admired for its finely-wrought pieces but not fully appreciated until the book is finished and looked at again from some distance. The biggest part of the thrill is wondering how the characters will inevitably intersect… McDonald, who is a native of Scotland, has an uncanny ability to write about other cultures authentically. He is a painstaking researcher and while he cannot always write with absolute authority, his dedication to making settings and characters feel alive is incredibly impressive… Ian McDonald has crafted a gorgeously lush novel, oozing with exciting, relevant ideas, a love letter to the Queen of Cities, to all cities, really.’ — Tor.com

BRASYL, which also won the BSFA Award for Best Novel, was first published in 2007, did for Brazil what Ian’s acclaimed RIVERS OF GODS and CYBERABAD DAYS did for India in British science fiction. Published in the UK by Gollancz, and in North America via JABberwocky, here’s the synopsis…

Be seduced, amazed, and shocked by one of the world’s greatest and strangest nations. Past, present, and future Brazil, with all its color, passion, and shifting realities, come together in a novel that is part SF, part history, part mystery, and entirely enthralling.

Sao Paulo 2031. Rio 2006. The Amazon 1732.

Three characters, three stories, three Brazils, linked across time, space, and reality in a hugely ambitious story that will challenge the way you think about everything.

Here’s some of what critics have written about BRASYL since it was published…

BRASYL is classic McDonald: a deep thinking, high-paced adventure story, exploring the quantum universe, combining sassy, believable characters with a captivating delight in language and storytelling. McDonald inhabits the Brazil – or rather, the Brazils – of this world and sweeps you along as no other writer in the field could manage.’ Guardian

‘A beautiful story, one that cries out to be read again and again. McDonald’s light is still shining brightly, and considering the consistent quality of his titles, we say long may it burn.’ SciFi Now

‘British author McDonald’s outstanding SF novel channels the vitality of South America’s largest country into an edgy, post-cyberpunk free-for-all… RIVER OF GODS (2004), set in near-future India, established McDonald as a leading writer of intelligent, multicultural SF, and here he captures Latin America’s mingled despair and hope. Chaotic, heartbreaking and joyous, this must-read teeters on the edge of melodrama, but somehow keeps its precarious balance.’ Publishers Weekly

‘Ian McDonald’s BRASYL, with its three storylines, is as close to perfect as any novel in recent memory. It works because of great characterization, but also because McDonald envisions Brazil as a dynamic, living place that is part postmodern trash pile, part trashy reality-TV-driven ethical abyss… and yet also somehow spiritual… McDonald’s novel is always in motion. This movement extends through time and alternate realities in ways both wonderful and wise, as the three storylines interlock for a satisfying and often stunning conclusion. McDonald has found new myths for old places; in doing so, he has cemented his reputation as an amazing storyteller.’ Washington Post

NECROVILLE, which was published in the US as TERMINAL CAFE, was first released in 1994. Currently published by Gollancz in the UK, here’s the synopsis…

In the Los Angeles ghetto of Necroville, the yearly celebration of the Night of the Dead – where the dead are resurrected through the miracle of nanotechnology and live their second lives as non-citizens – becomes a journey of discovery and revelation for five individuals on the run from their pasts.

With his customary flair for making the bizarre both credible and fascinating, McDonald tosses aside the line of demarcation between living and dead in a story that confronts the central quandary of human existence: the essence of non-being.

‘McDonald’s lush prose paints a vivid and credible Armageddon. World-building SF that’s punk, funky, and frightening: a fantastic acid trip to the end of the world.’ — Kirkus

‘McDonald, who won the Philip K. Dick Award for KING OF THE MORNING QUEEN OF THE DAY, reveals the workings of his bizarre society through the exploits of five friends as they search for the meaning of life in the Necroville at Los Angeles on the Night of the Dead. Sorting through five points of view requires some patience, but it is well rewarded. In the best science fiction tradition, McDonald provokes reexamination of current societal standards through the prism of another time and place.’ — Publishers Weekly

‘McDonald revels in the creation of brilliantly described near-futures and lushly exotic settings, and has more ideas in a book than most writers dream up in a lifetime… free-wheeling, mind-spinning novel… In NECROVILLE, decay sits next to fabulous invention, terrible privation next to limitless possibility… offers a graphic dystopian vision.’ Guardian

The next four novels we’ll take a look at are all published via the JABberwocky eBook Program. Here are their details…


Hundreds of years from now, the world is perfect. The Compassionate Society guarantees happiness, peace and total personal fulfillment to its citizens, and those less than satisfied are guilty of Paincrime.

Among them, count cartoonist Courtney Hall, who runs afoul of the Ministry of Pain when one of her cartoons hits a little too close to home. Pursued by the relentless Love Police, she drops down a rabbit hole into a counter-world of rebels, artists and enhanced raccoons.

Out on Blue Six is a fast, funny, bizarre story of an almost-Utopia–and almost-Utopias make the best dystopias.


In Ireland, three generations of young women fight to control the powers coursing through their blood: the power to bring the mystical Otherworld into our world, and change it.

Emily, Jessica and Enye must each face their dark side of human mythoconsciousness – and their own personal histories. But the forces of faerie are ever treacherous…

Filled with vivid, passionate characters you will never forget, King of Morning, Queen of Day is a spellbinding fantasy of the real Ireland.


Grandfather was a tree, Father grew trux, in fifteen colours. Mother could sing the double-helix song, sing it right into the hearts of living things and change them…

The Land is a living, breathing, sentient world, where careful skills and talent can manipulate its very substance into a myriad different shapes and forms.

This is the world in which Mathembe Fileli grows up, until the conflicts tearing her country apart shatter her village, her home and her family and scatter them to the four winds. Can Mathembe reunite her family in a world full of angels, talking trees, squalor and glory?


They’re ancient, power, enigmatic, and here.

Eight million alien Shian have come to Earth. Not as conquerors, or invaders, but as settlers. In exchange for their technology, they’re given places to live.

One of those places in Northern Ireland, where eighty thousand Shian settlers disrupt the old, poisonous duality of Northern Irish life. The Shian remain aloof from the legacy of violence — until a Shian family is murdered down to the last child.

Humans and aliens seem on a collision course, unless Andy Gillespie, ex-con, now Shian translator, can hunt down the killer before they strike again. But that’s not so easy in Northern Ireland…

In addition to these stand-alone novels, Ian is also the author of two collections, which are also available via the JABberwocky eBook Program:

EMPIRE DREAMS, published in 1988…

Published simultaneously with Desolation Road, the Empire Dreams collection coincided with the author’s nomination for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1985.

It collects seven stories in one anthology which is sure to delight fans of Ian McDonald’s full length work.

First published in 1994, here’s the synopsis for SCISSORS CUT PAPER WRAP STONE

Words can control you, words can make you act against your own will… and words can kill.

Ethan Ring discovers computer graphics with profound effects on human minds — fracters. Dark political forces want his power, and Ethan must face the consequences of his creation, and his actions.

In search of redemption, he embarks on an ancient thousand-mile pilgrimage, but can he ever escape the forces that once controlled him, and can he resist the power of the deadly images tattooed onto his hands?


You can read an excerpt from EMPIRE DREAMS here.

Ian’s most recent stand-alone book is the BSFA Award-winning (Shorter Fiction) novella, TIME WAS, which was published recently by Tor.com

A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.

‘[E]ntrances readers with this multigenerational novella of two time-crossed lovers who can only meet for brief moments separated by several years… beautiful writing… Fans of science fiction who enjoy a dash of history and legend will savor this tender story.’ — Publishers Weekly

‘This slender, poignant queer romance incorporates time travel and hints of hard science into a story as devastatingly sad—which isn’t to say bleak—as anything you’ll read this year.’ — B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog (Best SFF Books of the Year So Far, 2018, Honourable Mention)

Ian McDonald Nominated for Campbell & Sturgeon Awards!


Ian McDonald‘s latest novel, the critically-acclaimed LUNA: NEW MOON has been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award! The novel, which is published by Gollancz in the UK and Tor Books in the US, is the first in the Luna series. Here’s the synopsis…

The Moon wants to kill you. Whether it’s being unable to pay your per diem for your allotted food, water, and air, or you just get caught up in a fight between the Moon’s ruling corporations, the Five Dragons. You must fight for every inch you want to gain in the Moon’s near feudal society. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon’s newest “dragon,” Adriana has wrested control of the Moon’s Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family’s new status. Now, at the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation, Corta Helio, surrounded by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana’s five children must defend their mother’s empire from her many enemies… and each other.

In addition, McDonald’s short story BOTANICA VENERIS: THIRTEEN PAPERCUTS BY IDA COUNTESS RATHANGAN has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The story was included in OLD VENUS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

The winner of both awards will be announced during the Campbell Conference Awards Banquet, part of the 74th WorldCon, on August 18th. The conference will be held between August 17th to 21st, in Kansas City, Missouri. More details can be found here.

Ian’s next novel is the sequel, LUNA: WOLF MOON, which is also due to be published by Gollancz in the UK and Tor in the US (covers below). The first novel is also due to be published widely in translation.

‘McDonald… begins his superb near-future series… scintillating, violent, and decadent world. McDonald creates a complex and fascinating civilization featuring believable technology, and the characters are fully developed, with individually gripping stories. Watch for this brilliantly constructed family saga on next year’s award ballots.’ — Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

No one writes like Ian McDonald, and no one’s Moon is nearly so beautiful and terrible… Ian McDonald’s never written a bad novel, but this is a great Ian McDonald novel… McDonald has ten details for every detail proffered by other sf writers. Not gratuitous details, either: gracious ones. The fashion sense of William Gibson, the design sense of Bruce Sterling, the eye for family drama of Connie Willis, the poesie of Bradbury, and the dirty sex of Kathe Koja and Samuel Delany… I’m all a-quiver for the next one.— BoingBoing

‘Fans of cerebral, high-concept science fiction will love this exploration of society on the moon many decades after it has been colonized… an addictive page-turner… a mesmerizing political thriller.’ — RT Book Reviews

LUNA: NEW MOON is the best moon novel I’ve seen in many years… Possibly the most chilling lines in the book for an SF reader come from Adriana herself, in her own narrative: ‘‘There was no law, no justice,’’ she writes, ‘‘only management. The moon was the frontier, but it was the frontier to nothing. There was nowhere to run.’’ … McDon­ald’s novel has some formidable SF stingers not far beneath its densely textured surface.’ — Locus


JB’s Worldcon Schedule…

lone1I try to get to Worldcon wherever it is. It’s always a fascinating and rewarding experience. Aside from still being very much a fan boy at heart, it’s a chance to meet and mix with clients, colleagues, industry professionals, business contacts, new writers and folks who generally like the same geeky stuff that I like.

This year’s Worldcon – LoneStarCon 3 – is in San Antonio, Texas – my first time so far south! I’ll be doing some program items and so if you’re attending, so please come along and say hi. Here’s my schedule…

Thursday Aug 29th.
2.00pm. HOW TO OBTAIN AN AGENT. With Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky.

You’ve written something. You’re pleased with it. You’re finally ready to shop it out. You think it might get published. How do you search for an agent? How do you recognize a real agent? What pitfalls do you need to avoid?

Friday Aug 30th.
2.00pm. THE ROLE OF AN AGENT. Again, with Joshua and also Eleanor Wood of Spectrum.

What does an agent do? Do you need an agent to get published?

Friday Aug 30th.

Do you have a will? No one likes to think about making a will. But one of the components of an estate is intellectual property. Literary and artistic works fall under that rubric. Digital rights also need to be considered. The panelists will have a general discussion of these issues.

Saturday Aug 31st.11.00am. KAFFEKLATCH – a chance to sit down in a small group, drink coffee and “Ask me Anything”.

Monday 2nd Sept.
11.00am. THE FRONTIER OF IMAGINATION: THE FUTURE OF SF. A discussion of where the genre is going with experts in the field. With Tom Doherty (Tor), Ginjer Buchanan (Penguin). Toni Weisskopf (Baen) and multi award winning artist John Picacio.

Hope to see you there!

Tidhar on the 2nd Word SF Fund…

Zeno client Lavie Tidhar has long been actively involved with promotion for the World SF Travel Fund, a program set up to help industry folks from far-flung places to attend major genre events – WorldCon, World Fantasy Convention, etc.

This year the fund will be helping authors Csilla Kleinheincz from Hungary and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz from the Philippines to attend the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in the UK.

Lavie has given an interview to SF Signal, conducted by the first recipient of the prize, Charles Tan. In the interview, Tidhar explains the mission and history of the World SF Travel Fund, as well as how and why he’s involved:

helping to foster a global conversation on SF/F is important for both sides, and we’re trying, in our small way, to help foster that. For many people, travel to the US or those big conventions is vastly expensive, and I think there is a danger of SF becoming insular if it does not open itself up to new voices, outsider voices.’

Lavie Tidhar is the author of the award-winning OSAMA (PS Publishing) and fan-favourite THE BOOKMAN HISTORIES (Angry Robot).  His web site is at lavietidhar.wordpress.com and he is known to tweet occasionally from @lavietidhar.

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Following last year’s experiment, we are once again opening submissions specifically for folks who will be attending Renovation, this year’s Worldcon being held in Reno, Nevada from the 17th to the 21st August, 2011.

John Berlyne will be attending and will also be appearing on a number of panels. Here are the relevant and *very specific criteria* for submitting. If you can’t tick ALL  these boxes, unfortunately we will not be able to to consider your work…

  • This submissions window is open *ONLY* for people who are attending Renovation. Please include your membership number in your covering email. If we don’t find you on the membership list, we won’t be able to consider your work. Telling us that you are ‘intending to attend’ won’t cut it – sorry!
  • Please follow our submission guidelines. If you are unable to follow the guidelines, we will be unable to consider your work.
  • We’re looking for all shades of  commercial genre fiction – be it SF, Fantasy or Horror or any such permutations thereof (there are many). That said,  the most important factors for us are the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.
  • You should submit ONLY if you have a finished novel-length manuscript to send, should we wish to see it. We’re not interested in reviewing your work-in-progress or the novel you’ve written a bit of.
  • Note that we reserve the right not to ask to see your work should your pitch email not appeal.

Good luck! See you in Reno!

And We’re Back In The Room…

I’m over the worst of the jet-lag now and am only falling asleep in the middle of poor submissions… no change there then!

Worldcon was eventful and certainly useful and occasionally a lot of fun too! It was great to meet all that Aussie talent (there’s a lot of it), spend some time with clients I rarely get to see, if ever! and also to get ‘face time’ with a number of  professional contacts too. I did some panels (some of which have been blogged about – see here and here (check out the photo here!) and managed to catch a cold. Why did nobody tell me it would be so cold and wet in Melbourne!

The next Zeno convention appearance will be at this year’s World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

For now… back to the grind.

JB’s Worldcon Schedule…

I’ll be doing six (six???, yes six!!!) panels at the Melbourne Worldcon. Do come along if you’re at the con, but please, only ask questions that I know the answers to!

Saturday, September 4th…

The Steampunk Playground – Saturday 1000 Room 213

If Tolkien defined epic fantasy, and Howard defined heroic fantasy, who defined steampunk? What are the seminal steampunk texts, if any, and how have they influenced the genre? How does a genre change without landmark texts to guide it?
Richard Harland, John Berlyne, Jay Lake

Pitching The Novel – Saturday 1200 Room 203
How does an aspiring writer go about pitching their first novel? Who do you approach, and how? Do you need an agent? How much should you submit? Do you need to write the whole book before approaching a publisher, or just the first few chapters – or nothing at all? A handy road-map to getting your novel in front of the right person, at the right time, and (most importantly)
the right way.
John Berlyne, Simon Spanton, Rowena Cory Daniells, Ginjer Buchanan

The Writer and the Audience: Online Interaction and Public Personae – Saturday 1500 Room 204
The Internet has brought with it a vast array of tools and opportunities for authors to promote their own work, and to interact directly with their readers. The question is: should they? Should ever author have a website, Twitter feed, Facebook account or Myspace? Should authors create and employ a brand? How should an author interact with his or her fans online? A look at the benefits, as well as where things can go horribly wrong.
Cory Doctorow, John Berlyne, Peter V. Brett, Mur Lafferty

Sunday, September 5th…

How to Review – Sunday 1300 Room 219
Reviewing a book seems easy enough from the outside – but what’s actually involved?  What responsibility does the reviewer have to his or her readers, the author of the book and its publisher? What should a reviewer aim to cover in a review, and how should one approach  a book if it’s particularly bad – or particularly good?
John Clute, John Berlyne, Crisetta MacLeod, Dirk Flinthart

The Secret Life of Literary Agents – Sunday 1500 Room 203
Every aspiring author is told he or she needs to find an agent – but how exactly do you do that? How do you approach an agent: what do you need to provide, should you telephone or e-mail? How do you know which agent is the right one for you? What is the benefit of having an agent? What should you expect from one? What will the agent expect from you in return? Is it possible to sustain a professional career without one? There are a lot of questions – we hope to provide some answers.
John Berlyne, Garth Nix, Ian Irvine

Taking it on the Chin: Authors and Reviews – Sunday 1700 Room 204
Sooner or later, every author is going to receive a bad review. Bad reviews hurt, and it’s often hard not to take them personally. How should authors react to negative reviews? How can  you tell the difference between a review that’s negative one that’s actually unfair – and what  can or should you do about it if it is?
John Berlyne, Jean Johnson, Karen Miller, John Scalzi

Submissions For Worldcon Folks Now Closed

Thanks to all the Worldcon attendees who sent their stuff in during the recent submissions window. There was an interesting mix of fantasy, SF and horror, along with a smattering of YA material thrown in for good measure and it was really great to get acquainted with all the current trends in the Aussie genre scene.

I’m really grateful to everyone who contacted us and will be happy to chat through my comments if you come and say “Hi” in Melbourne. Do note though, that we received lots of submissions and so don’t be insulted if I ask you to remind me which one was yours!

I don’t yet have a confirmed schedule of my programme commitments, but all being well they’ll be posted on here before I leave for Australia, so you’ll know where to find me at the con.

Submissions Open for Authors Attending This Year’s Worldcon…

Are you going to be at the Melbourne Worldcon in September? Are you an unagented author based in either Australia or New Zealand who will be attending? Are you an unagented author from somewhere else, but somehow independently wealthy enough to be going to the con? In either case, are you any good??

It’s looking increasingly likely that I’ll be attending Aussiecon 4 later in the year – volcanic ash permitting! My intention, having schlepped all that way, is to return with the pick of genre talent in my agently pocket, thus we’ve decided to open for submissions, but only for authors who will be attending the con. (Don’t try and hoodwink me – as I’ll be checking the membership roster to see if you’re on it! If you’re not going to be at Worldcon, your submission will not be considered in this window.)

What am I looking for? Well, all areas of genre fiction basically. That means SF, Fantasy and Horror and the various combinations/permutations thereof. As always, the salient factor is that of the excellence of the writing and the commercial hook, rather than how many rockets or wizards or ghosts appear in the story, so look to our Submission Guidelines and the About Zeno page to gauge our tastes.

Come on Australia and NZ – let’s see what you’ve got!