‘Throw Caution’ selected for Best of British Science Fiction 2018

I’m very happy to say that my Mars story ‘Throw Caution’ has been selected for the next volume of BEST OF BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION from NewCon Press, edited by Donna Scott. The story was originally published in Interzone #276.

It’s a terrific lineup, too! Here’s the full table of contents:

Providence – Alastair Reynolds
Talking to Ghosts at the Edge of the World – Lavie Tidhar
The Miracle Lambs of Minane – Finbarr O’Reilly
Territory Blank – Aliya Whiteley
Throw Caution – Tim Major
Golgotha – Dave Hutchinson
Salvation – Dave Bradley
Waterbirds – G.V. Anderson
Buddy System – Mike Morgan
Do No Harm – Anna Ibbotson
A Change of Heart – Hannah Tougher
Birnam Platoon – Natalia Theodoridou
Good – Sunyi Dean
Hard Times in Nuovo Genova – Chris Barnham
The Escape Hatch – Matthew de Abaitua
P.Q. – James Warner
The Purpose of the Dodo is to be Extinct – Malcolm Devlin
Cat and Mouse – David Tallerman
Before They Left – Colin Greenland
Harry’s Shiver – Esme Carpenter
The Whisperer – J.K. Fulton
Death of the Grapevine – Teika Marija Smits
Rainsticks – Matt Thompson
The Veilonaut’s Dream – Henry Szabranski
Doomed Youth – Fiona Moore
F Sharp 4 – Tim Pieraccini

Head over to the NewCon Press website for more information and preorder links. The book will be launched at WorldCon in August.

Why I *almost* don’t want my novel to be published next week

In exactly one week, my novel SNAKESKINS will be published. That’s a good thing! And yet I’m feeling… I don’t know. Mixed. Mixed is how I’m feeling.

Here’s the thing. I’ve really enjoyed the long lead-up to publication of this novel. I sold it to Titan Books (…checks calendar…) eleven months ago. I wrote a bunch of additional material in September, signed off on the copyedit in October, received final proofs in January. Since that point the book has been complete, simply waiting to become a real object. I held an ARC copy in my hands in February, then a copy of the real actual book earlier in mid-April.

But even now, with hundreds of actual, tangible copies of the novel having been printed in two continents, the book remains unreal. In one week, on 7th May, the novel will be available to purchase in the UK and the USA. And I’m not ready for it.

This whole long period has been characterised by positivity. SNAKESKINS secured me a two-book deal and an agent. The ARCs were sent to authors I admire a huge amount, who not only read the book, they provided the most incredible blurbs. At various events, friends and friends-of-friends have wholeheartedly wished SNAKESKINS all the success in the world. The goodwill I’ve been receiving has been overwhelming.

I’m not saying that this goodwill is an illusion, or that it’ll evaporate in a week’s time. But I appreciate that all this goodwill is just that – a pleasant wish. In many ways, I’d prefer to stay in this period of daydreams and potential rather than face the hard reality of reviews and sales figures.

I can’t help myself from trying to read the tea leaves about how this is all going to pan out. There’s not a huge amount to go on, and I’m only slightly ashamed to confess that recently I’ve been googling the phrase ‘Tim Major Snakeskins review’ at the beginning and end of every day. But each of these tea leaves* gives me a Good Feeling:

Tea leaf 1: Titan Books are in a fantastic place right now. Within just the last couple of months they’ve published M.T. Hill’s deliriously inventive ZERO BOMB and Helen Marshall’s THE MIGRATION, which is as close to perfect as you could reasonably expect. I’m just about to dive into David Quantick’s ALL MY COLORS, which from the blurb sounds so much my thing that I’m cross that I haven’t written it myself. James Brogden’s THE PLAGUE STONES is out in a couple of weeks and Aliya Whiteley’s SKEIN ISLAND will follow soon. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be in the company of such writers.

Tea leaf 2: The guys at Titan, and my agent, are friendly and not really scary at all. Seriously, they’re lovely. Considering they’re THE GATEKEEPERS to this industry, they’re doing kind of a crappy job of being fierce and forbidding. I had lunch with Cat and George from Titan a couple of weeks ago and we talked about books and films and Art Garfunkel and it was as if they were just interesting normal people, which obviously is madness.

Snakeskins on Instagram Tea leaf 3: The Titan marketing team are clearly incredible at their jobs. There’s going to be a book blog tour, beginning the day before publication! And over the last few days SNAKESKINS has been popping up in the feeds of Instagram book bloggers. Each sighting of Julia Lloyd’s incredible cover gives my heart a little sharp prod.

SnakeskinsTea leaf 4: THAT COVER. When I visited the Titan office I met Julia Lloyd, the seriously talented cover designer, and I swear I thanked her seven times. It was only back when I was shown the cover that I first allowed myself to believe that a bookshop customer might actually pick up my book and buy it, and they totally should because even the spine is awesome and it’ll look really good on their shelf. Also: a great use of spot varnish.

Tea leaf 5: THOSE BLURBS. I’ve bumped into a couple of the authors since they provided blurbs, and I looked deep into their eyes, Larry David-style, and still they swore that they liked the novel.

Tea leaf 6: There have been a couple of early reviews, and they’re good! Booklist called it a ‘taut and fast-paced sf thriller’ and Publishers Weekly used phrases like ‘delightfully tense’ and ‘uncanny tale’ and ‘strong voice’. There are currently three Goodreads reviews (book bloggers, I presume), with one of them giving it 5 stars. I’m prepared for the bad reviews, really I am, and in the past I’ve rarely disagreed with criticisms and not felt too badly stung. But good reviews are good.

Anyway. This time next week the book will be out in the world, and either it’ll be liked or it won’t, and either it’ll sell well or it won’t. I’ve already delivered my second novel to Titan (it’s unconnected to SNAKESKINS), I’ve more or less completed a novella and I’m planning a bigger, weirder novel. My only ambition thus far has been to be allowed to keep writing, and to spend more time writing, by making it a legitimate part of a cobbled-together career. I’m writing more than I ever have before, so I’m winning on that score.

It’s only right to acknowledge that I do have a fair amount at stake. SNAKESKINS isn’t my first novel but I feel wholehearted about it. If it crashes and burns, it’ll hurt.

So all of this is why I’m trying to pay full attention to this moment, when there’s only potential, when I feel able to introduce myself to people as a writer and feel halfway convinced that that might actually be my valid identity, when I’m swimming in goodwill, when at times I’m able to imagine that this whole thing might actually turn out well.

It seemed important to write this blog post to capture a snapshot of a particular moment. I promise to provide an update from the other side. Wish me luck?

* Clearly, I have no idea how tea leaves are supposed to be read.

Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles

C.M. Muller’s doppelgänger anthology, Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles was released last month. It’s a beautiful book and I’m very proud to have a story included in it.

Indefatigable book-reviewer Des Lewis has been working his way through the collection, and had the following to say about my story, ‘The Bath House’:

42, as we know, is a significant age, and on this birthday, Mark (with seemingly plain backstory of marriage and two daughters back home) is given, by a friend, the gift of being hitchhiked as it were by a new self, via a ritual – which is compellingly imparted to us – within the genius loci of the eponymous replacement of an old church, a new baptism as it were where the water is hauled by Mark himself from a well, heavy by counterweight of his perhaps not-so-plain backstory’s ill-threaded pulley from the past, and the last line of this work is a particularly frightening one in the context of not only this work but also of the whole book so far. You will not forget that last line, I suggest.

Thanks Des – I’m happy with that summary! I found it pretty creepy to write, too.

You can get hold of Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles here.

In conversation with Claire North at CYMERA SFF festival

Over the weekend the full programme for the new SFF literary festival, CYMERA, was announced. The festival will take place on 7–9 June 2019 in Edinburgh, and features some amazing guests, including Marian Womack, Tade Thompson, Gareth L. Powell, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Charles Stross, Christopher Priest… and many more – it’s a heck of a list. And Claire North! And me!

I’d been told a while back that I’d be on a panel with Cat Webb (otherwise known as Claire North), but I’d assumed there’d be a bunch of us onstage. Instead, the event is the two of us in conversation – and while this is SO cool, I’m also feeling SUCH anxiety. I love Cat’s/Claire’s books.

We’ll be chatting about unequal societies in fiction, related to my upcoming novel SNAKESKINS (in which a small group of Britons have the power to shed their skins every seven years, rejuvenating in the process) and the Claire North novel 84K (in which anyone can get away with any crime, if they have the money to pay for it). 84K is a superb novel and if you haven’t already read it, you must.

The event will be on Sunday 9th June at The Pleasance in Edinburgh. There are more details on the CYMERA website.

SNAKESKINS author quotes

Good grief. Here are the quotes that have been provided for SNAKESKINS by some of my favourite writers. Honestly, I feel a little faint. I’m very, very grateful for this support.

“Startling imagery, deft storytelling, and assured and engaging writing make Snakeskins simply unmissable.”
Tim Lebbon

“John Wyndham meets Black Mirror in Tim Major’s scintillating novel, a parallel world thriller, which takes as its themes duplicity, paranoia and what it truly means to be human. Snakeskins wrapped its coils around me and wouldn’t let go.”
Mark Morris

“A premise worthy of Wyndham becomes a twisty political SF thriller in the hands of Major. Snakeskins is full of action and surprise, keeping me reading, but the real hook lies in the rich seam of humanity within.”
Aliya Whiteley

“Another great page-turner from Tim Major! We follow Caitlin, a teenage girl, whose ability to produce ‘snakeskin’ clones causes emotional ripples that spread more widely than she’d ever anticipated. It’s a gripping and thought-provoking tale, with Major exploring the wider implications of cloning and extended life-spans in the growth of a corrupt new government which has consequences for all.”
Alison Littlewood

“The world-building is subtle and convincing, a plausible alternate UK where isolationist foreign policy has retarded the country’s technological and economic progress. A cautionary tale for our times.”
James Brogden

“Whether as page-turning thriller, coming of age story, or timely satire on a broken Britain, Snakeskins is a delight.”
Robert Shearman

“Tim Major has a talent for combining big ideas to create something exciting. With Snakeskins he gives us a SF thriller brimming with questions about identity.”
Priya Sharma

Here’s a page with more information about SNAKESKINS, and preorder links. It’ll be out on 7th May – not long now!

Best of 2018 roundup

Though I haven’t written any fiction yet in 2019, the year has got off to a good start in terms of votes of confidence in my earlier work…

I was pleased and surprised to find that my story ‘Throw Caution’ has been longlisted for the BSFA Awards. It was first published in Interzone #276 edited by Andy Cox. It’s a terrific list of nominees, with lots of writers who I now consider friends – I’m very proud to be listed alongside them.

Dev Agarwal at BSFA Vector included my books in his Best of 2018 article: “Tim Major, (who along with Shona Kinsella co-edits the British Fantasy Association’s Horizons magazine) published a young adult SF novel called Machineries of Mercy (ChiZine) and a non-fiction book that appeals to genre consumers, about the seminal 1915 silent film, Les Vampires (Electric Dreamhouse Press). In both works, and in his co-editing of Horizons, Major brings a clear and vivid sense of location and character to bear that makes his narratives — fictional and biographic — come vividly alive to the reader.”

On his Scattershot Writing blog, James Everington included ‘The House Lights Dim’ (from Dark Lane Anthology #2, Dark Lane Books) in his list of his favourite short stories read in 2018.

Finally, and now looking forward to 2019, I recently learned that my story ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ has been picked up by editor C.M. Muller for Synth: An Anthology of Dark SF. There’s a list of my upcoming short story publications here, which includes a story in one of Muller’s other projects, Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles, due out in February.

SF Showcase interview

SF Showcase recently interviewed me about my YA novel, Machineries of Mercy, as well as the upcoming Snakeskins and even a glimpse of the novel after that. The conversation covers the influence of John Wyndham, the original Westworld film and one of my favourite Doctor Who stories, ‘The Deadly Assassin’. Click here to read the interview.

Tim Major – writer & editor

%d bloggers like this: