Disability in fantasy

A post by Peter Newman, author of The Vagrant and The Malice

Although The Vagrant is known for having a silent protagonist I’m going to talk about someone else in the series today, a character known as Tough Call.

Tough Call is the rebel leader of Verdigris, who sets up her group headquarters underneath the city when it is overrun by demons. A child of the old administration, she opts to fight rather than bend the knee. Moreover when she comes into contact with one of the demons, she elects to cut off her own arm rather than succumb to the taint. The taint, in case you’re wondering, is something that surrounds the demons and can alter any human, animal or plant that it comes into prolonged contact with, mutating them into strange half-breed creatures. At the lowest end of the spectrum this could mean the loss or gain of nails and hair. At the highest, it could mean growth spurts, shifts in skeletal structure, loss of emotional control, organ failure, additional strength, additional limbs, or death.

Rather than gamble, Tough Call elects to remove the arm entirely before the taint can spread. In doing so, she becomes a symbol for the resistance.

In Tough Call’s case, her disability is a badge of pride, a tribute to her strength of will rather than something to be pitied or hidden. It’s never the focus in the scenes she’s in and it certainly isn’t the primary thing about her. When we first meet Tough Call she’s in a difficult position, fighting a virtually un-winnable war and making some dubious choices in order to survive and keep her people safe. She also happens to be a middle-aged woman with one arm. That’s it.

When I was writing The Vagrant and The Malice, I didn’t set out to include characters with disabilities, they just appeared as I was writing. There are three prominent characters that suffer from a physical disability which, given the number of people in the books and the kind of world it is, seems like quite a low number.

It got me trying to think about other characters in fantasy with disabilities, and the majority that come to mind are villains. Chances are if a character has a scar, a missing eye, or a hook for a hand they’re against the heroes rather than with them. And if the hero does have a scar, it’s often a ‘sexy’ scar to demonstrate toughness without disfiguring too much, or one that is located on their back or thigh, easily hidden beneath clothing. In film, we often have a shot of the (usually male) hero’s back which is covered in aesthetically placed scars, but most of the time these marks are out of sight and out of mind.

In fact I really struggled to think of any disabled protagonists in the fantasy I’d read recently (with the exception of Bran in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and Xinian in Jen Williams’ Copper Cat books) though this may be more an indictment of my memory or lack of reading than the genre as a whole.

Feel free to set me straight in the comments as I’d hope there are a lot more positive examples out there, though please don’t include characters with magic or technology that renders their disability irrelevant. The classic example being blind characters that have such advanced other senses that they aren’t disadvantaged all.

If you’re a writer reading this and, like me, you’d like to include more characters on the disabled spectrum, there’s a great post by Elsa S. Henry on Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds blog about writing blind characters, and this one by Elspeth Cooper on the Bookworm Blues blog about disability in fantasy is interesting too.

© Peter Newman, May 2016
www.runpetewrite.com

The Malice is available from May 19, 2016. Review coming soon…

Snippet from the front cover of Peter Newman's The Malice

In the south, the Breach stirs.

Gamma’s sword, the Malice, wakes, calling to be taken to battle once more.

But the Vagrant has found a home now, made a life and so he turns his back, ignoring its call.

The sword cries out, frustrated, until another answers.

Her name is Vesper.

Purchase on Amazon

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Alien: Out of the Shadows – dramatised for audio

A brand new audio drama, Alien: Out of the Shadows – starring Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) in his first role for audio, Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter), Corey Johnson (The Bourne Ultimatum) and Kathryn Drysdale (St Trinian’s) – is available to download from April 26, 2016.

Alien: Out of the Shadow audiobook cover

A new chapter in the Alien franchise, the sci-fi audio drama is directed and produced by the renowned radio director Dirk Maggs (radio series of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), based on the original novel by award-winning author Tim Lebbon.

The story follows Chief Engineer Hooper (Corey Johnson), who finds himself in command of a stricken orbital mining vessel after its captain is killed. Hooper finds himself not only responsible for the lives of his fellow crew, but also for the survivor of the only previous alien encounter, Ripley (Laurel Lefkow).

Hooper’s ship, a large mining freighter, is in orbit over a planet whilst servicing a mine on its surface below. Suddenly, two of its drop ships appear unexpectedly from the storm-lashed planet, with on-board cameras revealing alien creatures are loose on the vessels, attacking the mining crew on their return to the freighter. The crew must struggle not only against the ferocious predatory aliens but also against Ash (Rutger Hauer), the Artificial Intelligence on board the freighter that will stop at nothing to secure an alien specimen alive.

Rutger Hauer (voicing Ash) says, “Working on such a famous franchise was a challenge, but an amazing one to have. This was also my first introduction to audio work; it was fascinating to focus on just how powerful the voice can be for such a unique, non-human character like Ash. In the art form I work in, creating compelling audio drama is the ultimate illusion.”

Available from April 26, 2016 and available to download at www.audible.co.uk/scream

Cast List

  • Ash – Rutger Hauer
  • Baxter – Matthew Lewis
  • Hooper – Corey Johnson
  • Ripley – Laurel Lefkow
  • Kasyanov – Andrea Deck
  • Lachance – Mac Macdonald
  • Jordan – Barbara Barnes
  • Powell – Abdul Salis
  • Welford – Nathan Osgood
  • Sneddon – Kathryn Drysdale
  • Garcia – Regina Brandolino
  • Vic Jones / Cornell – Tom Alexander

 

Gollancz to publish Discworld colouring book

Gollancz has acquired World Rights to publish a Discworld colouring book of line drawings by Paul Kidby, Sir Terry Pratchett’s artist of choice.

If Terry Pratchett’s pen gave his characters life, Paul Kidby’s brush allowed them to live it. He provided the illustrations for The Last Hero, which sold over 300,000 copies, and has designed the covers for the Discworld novels since 2002. He is also the author of the definitive portfolio volume The Art Of Discworld.

Containing black-and-white line drawings based on his hugely popular artwork as well as original pieces produced exclusively for this book, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book features iconic Discworld personalities as Granny Weatherwax, Sam Vimes, Rincewind, Tiffany Aching and, of course, DEATH.

Paul Kidby said: ‘It’s been a great pleasure to select some of my favourite artworks and recreate them as line drawings here ready for colouring. Now it’s over to you to embark upon the Discworld colouring-in extravaganza. The future is bright; it’s not orange, it’s Octarine!’

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Colouring Book will be published by Gollancz on the 11th August priced at £9.99.

We featured Paul Kidby in 2011, when he spoke to us about his acclaimed illustration for the front cover of the Discworld novel Night Watch.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry

Sometimes books and narrators are perfectly matched. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and the voices of George Guidall and Frank Muller is one example, Guy Gavriel Kay’s works and Simon Vance another. And we also have Stephen Fry and Harry Potter, which is a match made in heaven.

It’s surprising to find that the first book in J. K. Rowling’s series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, will celebrate its nineteenth anniversary this year so a review of the audiobook in 2016 may seem a little odd. But there is a good reason, and that is that all seven audiobooks are finally available on Audible.co.uk, with whom I have a yearly membership.

One thing I will say before the review itself is that a good narrator can make an average book better and a poor narrator can make a good book seem average. This is why reviewing audiobooks is often so difficult. But this audiobook review is easy as the first Harry Potter book is excellent and Stephen Fry nails it.

There’s not much you can really say about Harry Potter that has not already been said. I’ve always found it a delightful book, wish-fulfillment of the highest order and written with great energy and humour. The children (and the millions of adults like myself) that found themselves spellbound by this book didn’t just want to read about Hogwarts, they wanted to go there. It is the Hobbiton of its generation. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone is a lovely story which draws on the elements I have always enjoyed – we have the young, unsuspecting hero in a horrible situation with horrible people (the unforgettable Dursleys) discovering that he is not quite as ordinary as he believed. And in short order he finds himself at the most wonderful school of magic with friends (for life), a brilliant assortment of teachers and more adventure, thrills and danger than you could shake a wand at.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone audiobook cover

But what makes this audiobook so wonderful is that it is a wonderful story read to you by a simply wonderful story-teller. I’m old enough to have followed Stephen Fry through the decades and have seen pretty much everything he has been involved in. I have seen him on screen with Robbie Coltraine (Hagrid), Emma Thompson (Miss Trelawney), Kenneth Branagh (Gilderoy Lockhart) and I find it charming to think that he is doing impersonations of close friends when he voices these characters. He also produces excellent voices for Harry, Ron and Hermione, who are the most important of all as they feature is what must be every chapter of the book. Harry’s Uncle Vernon, Dumbledore and Miss McGonagall are other great voices that stand out. There is simply no weak link in Fry’s narration and to create such unique and rich voices for what, over seven books, becomes a very large cast indeed, is a remarkable achievement.

Audiobooks simply don’t come much better than this. If Harry Potter is not your thing then fair enough, this won’t change that, but if Harry Potter is your thing and you want someone to read it to you while you drift off to sleep, wash the dishes, go on a run or drive to work (which is where I did my listening), then this reading is simply sublime.

Don’t believe me? Then head over to Audible.co.uk and listen to a 5 minute sample.

Review: The Official A Game Of Thrones Colouring Book

When my Mum informed me that she needed to borrow some of my Derwent colouring pencils, I was a bit surprised. Turns out, however, that adult colouring has taken the world by storm. Bookstores all over the world are now selling colouring books for adults, with themes from intricately drawn flower mandalas to cats.

And A Game of Thrones.

The Official A Game Of Thrones Colouring Book is an marvellous selection of intricate drawings that will keep any adult colouring extraordinaire busy for hours (and the rest of us for days).

Done very much in the style of decades’ worth of fan and professional art inspired by a fantasy book series – including art by the world-famous John Howe, who is renowned for his The Lord of the Rings artwork, and his subsequent heavy-involvement with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie trilogies – the nearly-50 original black and white drawings found inside cover everything from House crests, dragons, wolves, battles, and your favourite characters.

Even if you are just starting out into the world of adult colouring, this book will be an absolute blast – and all the more fun if you are a fan of A Game of Thrones.

Sequel to The War of the Worlds due January 2017

Gollancz have announced the acquisition of World rights to The Massacre of Mankind, a sequel to one of the most famous and influential science fiction books ever – The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. The novel will be written by multi-award-winning author Stephen Baxter.

First published in 1897, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells has been both popular (having never gone out of print) and influential, spawning half a dozen feature films, radio dramas, a record album, various comic book adaptations, and a television series.

In Stephen Baxter’s sequel, set in late 1920s London, the Martians return, and the war begins again. But the aliens do not repeat the mistakes of their last invasion. They know how they lost last time. They target Britain first, since we resisted them last time. The massacre of mankind has begun.

“HG Wells is the daddy of modern SF. He drew on deep traditions, for instance of scientific horror dating back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and fantastic voyages such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). And he had important near-contemporaries such as Jules Verne. But Wells did more than any other writer to shape the form and themes of modern science fiction, and indeed through his wider work exerted a profound influence on the history of the twentieth century. Now it’s an honour for me to celebrate his enduring imaginative legacy, more than a hundred and fifty years after his birth,” said Steve Baxter.

The Massacre of Mankind will be published in hardback, £20, and eBook, £19.99, on the 19th January 2017.

Reviewed: The Wheel of Time Companion

The long awaited The Wheel of Time Companion has finally reached a worldwide audience, and it is everything any true WoT fan could ask for.

The Wheel of Time Companion cover

Coming in at over 800-pages, this encyclopedic work is legitimately “the ultimate resource for the Wheel of Time, and unmissable reading for fans of this worldwide bestselling series.” Detailing the entire Wheel of Time world from A-to-Z, this book includes original material from Robert Jordan himself (who passed away in 2007, before he had a chance to finish the series as a whole), as well as material written subsequently by his widow, Harriet McDougal – who was also the editor of the series – and Robert Jordan’s writing assistants, Maria Simons and Alan Romanzcuk.

Specifically, the book includes:

  • An entry for each named character
  • An inclusive dictionary of the Old Tongue
  • New maps of the Last Battle
  • New portraits of many characters
  • Histories and customs of the nations of the world
  • The strength level of many channelers
  • Descriptions of the flora and fauna unique to the world
  • And a whole lot more!

Here is an excerpt from the book, published by Tor.com back in July, for Serafelle Tansiloe:

“Serafelle Tanisloe”

A Murandian Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah and the loyalist contingent, with a strength level of 23(11). Born in 862 NE, she went to the White Tower in 891 NE. After spending ten years as a novice and four years as Accepted, she was raised to the shawl in 905 NE. She was 5’4″ tall, and pretty in a plump fashion, with brown hair and large hazel eyes. Sometimes, especially when thinking, she had the physical mannerisms of a spoiled noblewoman, which she was. Serafelle was a wilder who slowed at age nineteen. She was married, but lost her husband and three children to a fever; she herself barely escaped death. Of the middle nobility, she was a pampered, self-indulgent woman, but after the deaths, she reassessed her life and decided to become Aes Sedai. At age twenty-nine, she lied about her age, claiming to be eighteen, in order to be allowed into the Tower. Two years passed before sisters discovered the truth, and by that time, she had to be allowed to continue. That lie, though, was possibly the reason she was not allowed to test for Accepted for ten years; she believed that, with some justification. She was a quick study and a fast learner—very observant, very intelligent and quick-witted. She would have be- come Yellow except that she possessed a minimal Talent for Healing. She accompanied Siuan to Fal Dara, and was part of the circle that Healed Mat of his connection to the Shadar Logoth dagger.

http://www.tor.com/2015/07/01/the-wheel-of-time-companion-serafelle-tanisloe/

In the end, this book is an absolute must-have for any type of Wheel of Time reader – be it hardcore enthusiast who just wants some light reading before bed, or those of us who haven’t read in a while, and need a companion to help them make it through the many people, places, and names that populate the series as we try to finish.

Spotlight: CrossBack by Paul Proffet

This month’s book spotlight is on CrossBack by Paul Proffet.

A daemonic child-killer is on the loose, leaving dozens of shattered lives in its wake. After recovering from their mauling during the battle with The Pariah, Doyle and his companions are back in the hunt. Following the trail of supernatural destruction, they soon cross paths with a secretive warrior, lying in wait for her most hated enemy. Can they trust her? Or will her thirst for vengeance see them all dead?

CrossBack cover image
CrossBack cover image

You can find Paul Proffet on these channels

Crossback purchasing options

And you can purchase CrossBack from Amazon by clicking on the buttons below:

Ever wanted to own a house in Innsmouth?

Until now, the only way to visit the ancient town of Innsmouth was through Lovecraft’s fiction, but thanks to an innovative crowd-funding campaign you can now actually purchase property in horror’s most legendary town.

As part of a crowd-funding campaign for the graphic novel Beyond Lovecraft, multiple award winning artist Rob Moran is building a huge scale diorama of Innsmouth, based on extensive research. As one of the campaign’s perks, Rob will build a select group of contributors a scale model of a house at one of Innsmouth’s prime locations. The house will come complete with a fully illustrated sales brochure, a deed of sale and a special letter of thanks from the town’s leading realtor.

The Beyond Lovecraft Indiegogo Campaign starts on 10/5/2015 and can be found here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/beyond-lovecraft/x/9785467#/

Beyond Lovecraft is a portmanteau horror story that draws directly on the work of H. P. Lovecraft. Drawn by Rob Moran, and written by award winning horror writer Jasper Bark, Beyond Lovecraft is set in the apocalyptic aftermath of the return of the great god Cthulhu. A scattered band of survivors scratch a bare living, hiding in the shadows of their lost world. A tiny group of scientist from Miskatonic university find a way to access the fabled Library of the Yith. An alien archive that contains the entire history of the universe, first mentioned in Lovecraft’s novella: The Shadow Out of Time.

The scientists hope to find a way to stop humanity’s extinction and win back their planet from the Elder Gods. Instead they uncover four tales of cosmic terror, and personal loss, that will forever change the way you view the Cthulhu mythos.

Writer Jasper Bark, says: “I think the main thing that makes our campaign stand out, is that it belongs to whoever gets involved. So many readers feel they have a personal stake in the Cthulhu mythos because, from the very beginning, Lovecraft shared his mythology with other authors as well as his readers. We want to continue this in our approach to the campaign. Every perk we’re offering, is designed to put contributors at the heart of this campaign, to give them a sense of ownership. You know when you pick up a comic and think: ‘This was made just for me!’? If you’re a Lovecraft fan, that’s how we want you to feel about ‘Beyond Lovecraft’. We’re putting it together especially for you.”

Rob adds: “Apart from being a cracker of an idea, some wonderful new twists and insights on the classic Lovecraft stories by Jasper and, all modesty aside, probably the best art of my career, I think there is a great thirst for Lovecraft to be done properly. Can you imagine Lovecraft drawn by Bernie Wrightson or Frazetta or Jesus Blasco? That’s the kind of art I want on Lovecraft stories and I think a lot of Lovecraft purists might feel the same way.”

Spotlight: Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening: Book 1)

Winner 2015 CIPA EVVY awards for Fiction/Fantasy
Current finalist 2015 Writer’s Digest Self Published Book Awards for Genre Fiction
#1 Bestseller in Epic, Historical and Coming of Age Fantasy

Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

When a high-ranking officer gallops into the quiet Mistyvales, he brings a warning that shakes the countryfolk to their roots. But for Aedan, a scruffy young adventurer with veins full of fire and a head full of ideas, this officer is not what he seems.

The events that follow propel Aedan on a journey that only the foolhardy or desperate would risk, leading him to the gates of the nation’s royal academy – a whole world of secrets in itself.

But this is only the beginning of his discoveries. Something is stirring in the land, something more ominous than the rising threat of hostile nations. Fearful travellers whisper of an ancient power breathing over Thirna, changing it, waking it. In the very heart of these stirrings, Aedan encounters that which defies belief, leaving him speechless with terror – and wonder.

You can purchase Dawn of Wonder from Amazon:

Jonathan Renshaw is a former high school English teacher and music producer who now writes full time. He is currently working on the epic fantasy series, The Wakening, launched in May 2015.

For more information on Jonathan Renshaw and his work, visit www.jrenshaw.com