The Bloody Deluge Journal of the Plague Year Uprising Under the Skin Among the Missing Satan's Reach
So what exactly happened with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in the past few months? It all starts with the eccentricities of US copyright law, in which a standard international “creator’s life plus seventy years” term sits uneasily alongside a fixed “ninety-five years from publication” term (this is due to what are sometimes known as the “Mickey Mouse Laws,” as they were pushed pretty hard by Disney’s lobbyists). Arthur Conan Doyle died in 1930; in the UK and most of the world, his work entered the public domain in the year 2000. But in the US, with that fixed-term copyright, not all the stories went at the same time. The Holmes stories were published from 1887 to 1927, with the last ten stories appearing as a block in The Last Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, and for the last few years, while dozens of stories and all four novels have been public domain, the Doyle estate has held on to that last collection. It only really applies if you’re selling books in the States, but that’s a pretty big market.

So that just means you can’t publish The Complete Sherlock Holmes in the States without permission, right? Not quite. The Doyle estate has aggressively pursued every publisher, TV company and film-maker trying to use the characters, threatening legal action if they don’t pay a licence. And since the licence fees weren’t onerous, most people have paid rather than fight (this happens in copyright disputes more often than you think). Most people, that is, except Leslie Klinger, whose collection of new Holmes stories, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, is due out this November. Klinger called shenanigans and went to court. The Doyle estate’s argument? That Holmes and Watson are “round” characters, and unlike “flat” characters, who are fully formed when they first appear in writing, the famous detective and his friend didn’t become fully “round” until the last stories were published. Ergo, anyone using the characters is drawing on those last few stories and infringing copyright.

The Doyle estate lost. They went to appeal, in the Seventh Circuit Court (beats me what that actually is) in June, and lost hard. Judge Richard Posner wonderfully called their argument “novel,” suggested their appeal “bordered on the quixotic,” and said that as long as you don’t mention anything from those stories (basically, Holmes’s feelings about dogs, his experience playing rugby, and Watson’s second wife), you’re fine. Then Klinger countersued for legal expenses, and Posner granted them this Monday, putting the boot in a little deeper, accusing the estate of “extortion” and suggesting they’d violated antitrust laws by instructing Amazon to pull sales of disputed titles. There’s still the Supreme Court to go, but basically, Posner’s saying: “You’ve lost, guys. Stay down.”

What does this mean for us? To be honest, we’d made the decision to go ahead with Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streetsbefore this even happened. “Flat” or “round,” the characters in our collection are pastiches, and we’re pretty sure the Doyle estate’s arguments would struggle to apply to our versions of Holmes and Watson. More importantly, though, we’re big believers in the act of creation and – although as publishers we should be all about the IP control – we know that creation has a lot to do with homage, reinvention and revision. Let a creator exploit his work for a fair period, but then allow it to become part of the weave that other creators draw upon. This is a great step forward, and our support goes out to Klinger and his publishers for having the courage to balls it out.

Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets publishes October 2014 from Abaddon Books.
Pre-order it now: UK | US
Check out some of the nice things people have been saying and request a copy to review on netgalley.
There are lots of reasons for creating speech patterns for characters. Sometimes it’s simply to differentiate one from another. It might be to imbue someone with a particular trait, say of annoyance or dizziness or of being an intellectual. Speech patterns maketh the man or woman in some instances.

Inventing a dialect for an entire community or race is something else, but can be key to the reader’s understanding, or can, at the very least help it.

Writers often invent dialects when more than one community appears in a novel, or, in SF or Fantasy, more than one race: dwarves and orcs speak differently from one another, as do humans from elves.

Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent 
Sometimes only one race inhabits a book, but in that instance it is too easy for the reader to automatically read that race as human. Give it a dialect and the problem is solved. Invest that dialect with nuance and describing the race is also a problem solved. They describe themselves in the language they use.

There are any number of ways to do this.

We begin by limiting or expanding vocabulary, by choosing particular words, which might, for example, be arcane and not in common use. We might make up words or use compound words. We might also choose specific forms of words not usually used. for example, we would usually refer to  a ‘speaker’, but for the purposes of a particular dialect we might choose to use ‘sayer’ instead.

We might choose never to abbreviate or use contractions for words like ‘not’ or ‘have’, so ‘wouldn’t’ becomes ‘would not’ and ‘could’ve’ becomes ‘could have’. We might go further still and never use negatives of any sort.

We might decide that a race has no words for things we take for granted so, for example, if something cannot be literally touched there might be no word for it, so ‘air’, ‘sky’, ‘breath’, ‘steam’ etc might be out.

There’s a great deal that can be achieved with tenses. Primitive races might use only two or three tenses. There is a lost language where the speakers referred to the future as being behind them and the past ahead of them. That would be an interesting way to write a race, and, now that I think of it, something that I’m not sure has ever been done in a novel. It’s an interesting philosophy, too, and instantly tells the reader something about that race.

A primitive culture in a novel might use only limited pronouns. They might never specify gender, for example.

It’s all about making choices.

Having made those choices, it’s about being consistent.

That’s the real trick, and that’s the difficulty, particularly when we’re narrowing the vocabulary and the tenses. If we limit ourselves it becomes harder to say all the things we want our characters to say, and it becomes tougher to differentiate between one character and another.

In those instances it’s useful if there’s a rhythm to the direct speech and forms of repetition. It’s important that the reader catch a refrain, becomes familiar with what is likely to come next.

Everything in writing has to be transparent to the reader. Nothing must seem difficult to understand on the page.

That of course, is where a good editor can be a huge help, making sure that the language is consistent, that nothing jars, that where tenses are limited there is no deviation. That there is music in the language of speech, because that’s what it is, after all... It is speech.

People, in the real World don’t speak in sentences. They don’t speak formally. They repeat themselves and hesitate and make a lot of unnecessary sounds that have little to do with words, and that’s not always possible in the written word.

Patterns and rhythm and shared words and phrases arepossible, and those are the things that families and communities share. So, those are the things we try to use when we’re building a dialect.

Then the language that the races in the novel use must sit comfortably within the language of the book itself. While the voices of the characters of the races must be distinct there must be some echo of them in the text, some sense of their rhythm in the rhythm of the prose and in the story as a whole, otherwise the novel ceases to be about those characters.

It can be a bit of a balancing act and there’s a fine line to tread. And sometimes it’s possible to produce a book that is deceptively simple and linear from quite a complex set of experimental rules.

We hope we’ve achieved something a little like that with the Aux in the novel Fiefdom.

Fiefdom is out now in the US in paperback and kindle

Pre-order for the UK in paperbacklimited edition hardback and kindle



Recently the PR minions approached the editorial throne (think Iron Throne if it was made of red-inked manuscripts and crushed dreams) of David Thomas Moore with a small request:

"Oh great editor," we cried "in your divine wisdom please bestow upon us the definitive list of reinvented Sherlock Holmeses."  

And from his great throne he looked on in silent contempt. Scared, we fled back in to the darkness, vowing never to ask Dave for a favour again. But we were foolish. We did not take in to account the power of The Omniscient Beard, and moments before the confirmation that Sherlock Holmes truly does belong to his public broke, the following transmission was delivered by the editorial flying monkeys.

Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you Editor David Thomas Moore's all time favourite Holmeses: 

Heyho kiddywinks,

So, since Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets is all about different takes on Sherlock Holmes, I’ve been asked for my favourite reinvented Holmeses to entertain and slightly mystify you. They are as follows:

5. Robert Downey, Jr. in the 2009 steampunkorama. So, okay, it’s steampunk, it’s stupid, it’s an action movie. Fuck it. Downey’s portrayal perfectly balances Holmes’s disdain and his wildness alike, Jude Law’s Watson captures the good doctor’s long-suffering devotion brilliantly, their chemistry is just right, and the film hits a note – lightly comic, serious when it needs to be – that makes it a ton of fun to watch. More than anything, though, it’s the fight scenes: that wonderful device where Holmes predicts the fight to come and plans out his moves. As a device on its own it’s brilliant, and the way the second movie turns it on its head in the final showdown at Reichenbach is brillianterer.





4. George C. Scott in the delightfully quirky 1971 comedy They Might Be Giants. To be fair, I may be biased by my slight obsession with the nerdrock band of the same name. Scott plays Justin Playfair, a former judge who somehow forms the delusion that he is the great detective, and that Dr. Mildred Watson, the psychiatrist sent to certify him insane, is the Dr. Watson of his adventures. It’s a wonderful little comedy, and I urge you to check it out.



3. Michael Caine in the 1988 comedy Without A Clue. Holmes is a struggling actor hired by John Watson (the true genius) to be the face of his detective business. Caine is wonderful by definition, and the denouement in which he (without Watson’s help) battles his way through the clues and works out how to rescue his genius partner using his acting experience (and gets it right entirely by accident) is lovely. The bit where you’re certain he’s about get skewered and he turns out to be a brilliant fencer (because Victorian actor, obvs) is also very cool.



2. Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC series Sherlock. Because you’ve got to, haven’t you? A near-perfect modernisation of the stories, with one of the best Holmes/Watson pairings in Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, a tirelessly tactless Holmes (borderline autistic rather than “high-functioning sociopathic,” whatever he may claim), just about the creepiest Moriarty you could imagine and cheekbones any man or woman would die for. Mostly, though, it’s the way Moffat uses modern technology, with the text messaging and onscreen text effects that really sells it for me. Clever, slick, sexy and modern.

  

1. This. Because fuck you; I can’t stop watching this fucking thing.




Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets edited by David Thomas Moore releases October 2014. 


Pre-order it now: UK | US
Check out some of the nice things people have been saying and request a copy to review on netgalley

About the Editor:
Born in Australia, David Thomas Moore has lived and worked in the UK for the past twenty years, and has been writing for roleplaying magazines, fiction websites and short story anthologies for eight years. The Ultimate Secret is his first long work. He lives in Reading with his wife Tamsin and daughter Beatrix. You're glad you met him.

You can follow him on @abaddondave
Dan had set quite a precedent when he named the Aux he wrote about in Kingdom. I loved Gene the Hackman.

He had a cast, but, in comics, casts are often small, and Gene was soon alone. 


Out now in print & kindle (US)
Writing a novel is an entirely different prospect, and with not only one Aux tribe, but several and with an ensemble cast, and with no pictures, so many more characters have to be named. It was a much taller order to come up with a convincing cast list.

Needless to say that cast list was my job.

Naming characters can be a lot of fun, and names are important for lots of reasons. I’ve named characters before, my own in my independent fiction and I’ve named characters in tie-in fiction, too. 

Fiefdom is set in a different time and on another continent, so while it was fine for me to name some of the characters after movie stars, I wanted to bring in other cultural reference, and, because Fiefdom is set in Europe I thought it might be nice to look at Art and Literature. It didn’t hurt that those are two areas in which I also have a pretty keen interest.

Of course, the names also had to have some significance of their own, and they all had to show some qualities related to the Aux as a race. Gene the Hackman was, quite literally, a Hack Man, after all.

Oberon and Evelyn War, father and daughter were named after Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, the writers, father and son. War was an obvious choice, the spelling of Oberon was changed to reflect the King of the Fairies and, of course, we wanted a key female character. For what it’s worth, Evelyn also means ‘life’.

On the one hand, naming the leader of the Aux after the poet Ezra Pound was a simple choice, because the name conjures both the act of pounding the enemy to death and a dog pound. On the other hand it was a complex choice because the poet was a controversial literary figure. For those who are interested, a look at the poet’s biography explains it, for the rest the simple knowledge that Pound wrote a poem entitled In a Station of the Metro is probably enough.

All of the Aux characters in the novel were named in this way, for artists, writers, characters in novels, films, tv shows and so on. They all bear some reference. Some will seem obscure. 

Some readers will not have heard of Frank Brangwyn, (BrangWIN, because who wants to lose?) who produced over 80 WWI poster designs, despite never being an official war artist. Austin Spar (SPAR as in practice fighting) was named after Austin Osman Spare, another favourite artist, who was employed as a war artist during WWI and who remained in London throughout WWII after trying to enlist, but being deemed too old. His home was bombed and all his work destroyed as a result, but he continued, regardless, and by the end of the war he was living in a cellar with two chairs for a bed and a number of stray cats.

Of course, names have been altered to fit the purpose, so that brothers Peter and William Blade derive from Peter Blake and William Blake, for example, Damien Hurts from Damien Hirst and Dorothy Barker from Dorothy Parker.

Naming the female characters was tougher than the males. We all look forward to a time when women are the equals of men in the arts, or at least when they are equally represented. It was never clearer that this has never been the case than when I was looking up eighteenth and nineteenth century artists and writers. Some men’s names sounded sufficiently feminine to be borrowed for female characters, hence Singer Sergeant after John Singer Sargent and Somerset Mourn after Somerset Maugham. But I wish there had been more great women to draw upon. 

I did enjoy using Becky Sharp. Long may she reign!

Fiefdom is out now in the US in print and on the kindle.




Coming Winter 2014

Gods & Monsters: Myth Breaker


As a child Louie had conversations with "invisible friends" and could see patterns in the world no one else could see.

In other times he would have been a prophet - someone to make people believe in the gods.

But he grew out of the visions and into a life in the underworld as a drug runner.

Now thirty-five and burnt out, he's had enough. With access to the mob's money he plans to go out in a big way. Only he can't. A broken down car, a missed flight; it's bad enough being hunted by the mob, but now the gods - kicked out of the Heavens - need someone to tell their stories, and they aren't letting go.

Caught between two warring factions of gods and the mob Louie hatches a plan to get out, if it doesn't get him killed first.


Gods & Monsters: Myth Breaker by Stephen Blackmoore 
Out December 2014

Pre-order for the UK and US today.
Available on the Rebellion Store from December 4th 2014.

To celebrate last week's UK release of The Journal of the Plague Year we sat down with Abaddon Editor David Moore to work through the chronology of The Afterblight series so far.*

In the Beginning

1. Orbital Decay by Malcolm Cross. This one’s easy, as it starts as the virus is just getting started.

=2. School’s Out by Scott K. Andrews. Exactly where to place Scott’s opening novel is tricky, as Lee flashes back to the early days of the Cull and the story runs out over the course of a year, but I’m going to pin this one down as at least starting within a few months of the virus breaking out.

=2. Dead Kelly by C. B. Harvey. Colin’s contribution is explicitly placed six months after the Cull hits, which makes it more or less contemporary with the start of School’s out.

One Year on

3. The Bloody Deluge by Adrian Tchaikovsky.Adrian doesn’t pin Katy’s and Emil’s flight across Germany down, but it seems to begin between one and two years after the Cull.

Year Two
Editor-in-Chief Jon Oliver's
favourite Rebellion cover.

4. Death Got No Mercy by Al Ewing. Al’s actually quite specific; Cade’s rampage begins two years after the dyin’ started.

5. ‘The Man Who Would Not Be King’ by Scott Andrews.This short story, included with Paul Kane’s Broken Arrow (and the collected School’s Out Forever), bridges School’s Out and Operation Motherland and is set around two years after the Cull.

Year Three

6. Operation Motherland by Scott K. Andrews.Set a while after the end of School’s Out, as the new school has had a chance to settle in, Motherland takes place around three years after the Cull.

Year Four

7. Arrowhead by Paul Kane. Paul and Scott, I gather, sorted out between themselves that de Falaise’s invasion occurs after the destruction of the base in Salisbury plain, explaining why there was no organised resistance. Around Year Four.

Year Five

=8. The Culled by Simon Spurrier. The nameless soldier of Simon’s book explicitly gives the date as five years after the Cull.

=8. Kill or Cure by Rebecca Levene. Jasmine leaves the secret facility at Lake Erie at the same time as her loverThe Culleds nameless hero – sets out to find her.

=8. Children’s Crusade by Scott K. Andrews.Lee and Matron clash with the Neo-Clergy’s child-snatchers, suggesting that this book is contemporary with The Culled.

9. ‘The Servitor’ by Paul Kane. This short story – published in Death Ray #21, Oct/Nov 2009 (and collected in the ebook edition of Hooded Man) – introduces the sinister new cult that kicks off the action in Broken Arrow. Between Years Five and Six.

Year Six

10. Broken Arrow by Paul Kane. It has been some while since Arrowhead’s RobStokes settled Nottingham and established his Rangers, putting this book around Year Six

11. ‘Perfect Presents’ by Paul Kane. A charming snapshot of life in Afterblight Nottingham, this short story – featured in Abaddon Books’ A Very Abaddon Christmas blog event, 2009 (and collected in the ebook edition of Hooded Man) – is set the Christmas after Broken Arrow.

Year Seven

12. ‘Signs and Portents’ by Paul Kane. This short story – included in Children’s Crusade (and collected in ebook edition of Hooded Man) – sets the scene for Arrowland, and takes place in about Year Seven.

Year Eight to Year Nine

13. Arrowland by Paul Kane. A little while has passed since the rise and fall of the Tsar, putting this book at about eight or nine years after the Cull.

One Decade on

14. Dawn Over Doomsday by Jasper Bark. Some years have passed since the Apostolic Church of the Rediscovered Dawn was crippled by the nameless soldier of The Culled in Year Five, placing it about one decade in.

Twenty Years on


15. Blood Ocean by Weston Ochse. This one’s made fairly easy by dint of sheer scale. It’s not clear when exactly the events occur, but it’s clear that people have been born and grown to adulthood never knowing a world before the Cull. Blood Ocean’s set at least twenty years after the virus.

With each new title and each new author bring a whole new perspective and history to the world of The Afterblight we're already really excited to see what the next wave of books brings. Let us know where or when you'd love to see the next title set, either in the comments below or @abaddonbooks on twitter. Plus, why not take advantage of our current Afterblight sale to explore the series more - titles start from just £3 until July 17th 2014.

Journal of the Plague Year is out now in the UK in print and kindle edition, as well being available worldwide through the rebellion store

Out in the UK now
*For those new to Afterblight a quick explanation: the series is shared world writing experience. Each book or story contributed is a stand alone title in its own right and you can start the series anywhere you like. As more and more authors contribute to the series new points in the history of The Afterblight are uncovered around the world that may affect future stories. Malcolm Cross, author of Orbital Decay, discusses the experience of contributing to Afterblight in more detail here.

‘DRM Free since 2006!’ It falls some way short of being a sexy headline, but how do you compete with other publishers apparently news-worthy headlines about going DRM-free in 2014, when it’s been 8 years since Rebellion took that decision?

Rebellion Publishing may not be one of the instantly recognisable names in the UK book trade, but for fifteen years we've been the home of the British institution 2000 AD, and first published our perennially bestselling graphic novel collection, Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01 back in 2005 (we publish volume 23 this summer). The following year we founded our first fiction imprint Abaddon Books. And in those pre-Kindle, pre-Twitter days, when digital rights management was something most publishers assumed was a music industry issue, Rebellion also started selling digital files for download with no DRM.

How was it that we took the step that most digitally-savvy publishers came to many years later? We had one big advantage, Rebellion is also a tech company, one of the leading computer games developers and publishers in the UK (our latest, Sniper Elite III, is out at the end of June). Our founders and owners Jason and Chris Kingsley understood how important ownership was for a digital consumer, how being able to buy something and keep it was a vital part of the trust relationship between publisher and reader, and gamer. You bought the digital copy? Well that’s yours to keep forever, and not just until you change device or operating system. It can be put  like this: we value the support of legitimate customers more than we hate the activity of people who steal from us.

In the years since 2006 we've acquired the SF imprint Solaris books; begun simultaneous publishing in the UK and North America; launched the children’s and YA literature imprint Ravenstone; started our standalone ebook shop rebellionstore.com to go alongside 2000adonline.com; and have seen our books feature on the best-seller lists time and time again.

So, as a leading publisher of comics and genre fiction in the UK it’s great to have had Tor and others join us in the DRM-free world. The others will be along soon, we're sure.


Hello again friends, and welcome back to final part of our Journal of the Plague Year interview series. I'm sure you all know the drill by now, but just in case you ended up here by taking a wrong turn somewhere between google and facebook (we've all been there, don't worry - you're safe now) please do pull up a chair and catch up with part one and two in series first. We'll give you a moment, there's no rush.

All good? Fantastic, then let me pass you on to the more than capable hands of Abaddon editor David Moore and Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the The Bloody Deluge.

DM: Eastern Europe is an area not well represented in English-language fiction. What does the region have to offer to English readers?

AT: Eastern Europe (or, from the Polish perspective, Central Europe) is a cornucopia of history that simply doesn’t filter much into English sensibilities. There are centuries of struggle and tragedy and heroic incident east of where the Iron Curtain once stood that people in the West simply don’t hear about, unless they’ve read Michener or Zamoyski, say. And some of it is frankly a gift for a writer of speculative fiction. The siege of Jasna Gora during the original Deluge – the Swedish invasion of Poland – is like something out of David Gemmell – the single monastery holding out against the invading army until the people rise up and drive them out – ok, that is a massively simplified summary, but still. And in Russia, of course, you’ve got Alexander Nevsky and his fight against the Teutonic Knights – the battle on the ice, all of that. For a writer, there is an enormous store of material there waiting to be tapped, that is going to be unfamiliar and fresh to most English-language readers. 

DM: Faith versus scepticism is a big theme in your story, represented at the extremes by Rev. Calumn and Dr. Weber and by more moderate voices among the inmates at Jasna Góra. Is this an important subject for you? Where do you stand?

AT: Is it an important subject for me? I guess I would be very happy to live in a world where faith wasn’t a constant source of global friction, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. In Deluge I’ve tried to provide a range of possibilities rather than casting the debate in black and white. Calumn is a TV evangelist, an opportunist fopr whom religion is a way of holding on to power and influence, both before and after the fall, and needless to say he’s not a very nice man. Abbot Leszek is more complex, and I can’t really say too much about him without spoilers, but he’s certainly not an unblemished soul by any means. Emil Weber, though... I mean, to a certain extent, Weber is a Dawkins-style figure. He is an atheist who sees the rational world being overtaken by a new wave of religious extremism in the wake of the plague. He has the good of humanity at heart, but he has no compromise in him, so he is constantly striking sparks from anyone who disagrees with him. And he’s right. Weber is absolutely right in his concerns about the way the future could go, and I think in his position I would have exactly the same fears – of a new dark age of ignorance – I just wouldn’t necessarily have the utter – and sometimes insufferable – courage of my convictions in the way that he does. 

DM: Katy Lewkowitz is an awesome hero, at a time when female characterisation is very much a hot topic in genre. What makes a good female hero? What do you look for?

AT: What makes a good female hero: depth, strengths, weaknesses, moments of testing, doubts, triumphs and failures. And being female. For a male hero, the same, but substitute “male” for that last. I write a lot of female protagonists, which at base I think is probably a reaction to fantasy fiction having a preponderance of male protagonists, because I’m awkward like that. I probably write about heroic insect-characters for the same reason. I have seen various pros and cons advanced for male or female protagonists, and mostly these get mired very quickly in gender stereotyping. I don’t think there’s any barrier to having female characters – heroes, villains or spear-carriers - especially in fantasy where the author controls so many more of the variables. Once you’ve uncoupled yourself from that standard image of the hero as automatically male (white, able, cis, etc.), it allows for much more diverse writing – and I don’t mean diverse in a ‘politically correct’ sort of a way, just diverse. As a writer, there’s never a downside to having more options.

DM: You’re best known as a fantasy author. What was it like, writing in the post-apocalypse genre?

AT: Challenging. I’m very used to playing in a world where I get to call all the shots. Suddenly I’m writing in the real world, even if it’s a real world that’s gone completely to hell. There are all sorts of pre-set constants I’ve got to work with. I had to scrabble around for material on Jasna Gora, for example, to get the physical layout as accurate as I could (and I’m sure that people will find stuff that’s wrong anyway, and then I’ll never hear the end of it) – and that’s harder than you’d think because most of what people write about it focuses on small details – particular relics and treasures – rather than giving you a wargames-ready battle map. I also spent far too long with Google Earth working out roadmaps and routes over the German-Polish border.

DM: And was this your first work in a shared world? What are the pitfalls?

AT: Well, I got a good brief and a chance to ready some of the earlier novels, and I think that gave me a sufficient mental toolkit to approach the series. Also, of course, one of the reasons I took the action to Poland was that nobody else had been there, so I had a freer hand than if I’d wanted to set things in the US or the UK. From the brief, I saw that there was an existing mention of right-wing extremism erupting in Germany, but no hard details, and so I took that and ran with it, hopefully in a direction other than the obvious. 

In Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Bloody Deluge, Katy Lewlowitz and her friend and old tutor Dr. Emil Weber, fleeing the depredations of the so-called New Teutonic Order, take refuge among the strangely anachronistic survivors at the monastery of Jasna Góra in Western Poland. A battle of faith ensues, that could decide the future of humankind...

The Bloody Deluge is the third novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).


Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014

You can keep up to date with all things apocalyptic over at the Abaddon twitter feed, do stop by before it's too late.*



*In the case of an apocalypse Abaddon Books, its authors and staff take no responsibility whatsoever for any injuries, fatalities or general embarrassment suffered from recreating any advice or content found in either our twitter feed or publications, all of which is a work of fiction with the exception of David Moore who is part fiction and part grammar-droid. - LG

Hello and welcome back to the second instalment of our three part interview series with the great minds of the Journal of the Plague Year. Without further ado let's pass on to series editor David Moore and author of Dead Kelly C. B Harvey.

DM: What made you decide to set your novella in Australia?

CH: I guess the main reason was that I lived in Australia for a year and a half in an absolutely amazing place called the City of the Blue Mountains, just up from Sydney (I known, it sounds like something out of Tolkien). My wife got a job in Sydney and we shipped our two kids out there, plus all our stuff because we weren’t sure how long we were going to be there. So one minute we’re in Lewisham, south London, living the urban life, the next we’re gallivanting around this absolutely breath-taking scenery on the edge of an Australian national park. We spent the first month being terrified of the flora and fauna, which is compulsory for all wimpy British people upon arrival.

While I was there I got talking to some friends about Ned Kelly, a figure who’s interested me for a long time. There’s a Wild West and steampunk vibe to Ned Kelly that fascinates me. The Afterblight novels are pretty globe-trotting so I thought why not pitch something to David Moore that’s set in Australia. The novella takes place in Melbourne as I wanted to acknowledge its connection to Ned Kelly’s mythology. But beyond the armour and the similar sounding name the connection to Ned Kelly’s story pretty much stops there.

DM: Is this your first post-apocalyptic story? What was it like working in the genre?

Yes, this is the first time I’ve written anything in a post-apocalyptic setting. The hard part was anticipating which things would fall apart and which things would stay the same, and how quickly that would happen. Dead Kelly is set fairly soon after The Cull has happened, so while some things have decayed others are pretty familiar. In fact, that was the vibe I went for throughout the novella. Having never lived through an apocalypse, I’m guessing that it would be fairly surreal, so I snuck in a few strange juxtapositions to hopefully give that feeling of unease to the story.

CH: Dead Kelly is a classic revenge drama; McGuire really doesn’t have any higher purpose (or redeeming features!). How do you feel modern audiences respond to this style of story?

McGuire is quite clearly psychotic, but he does have a motivation. He’s the ultimate Darwinian. He believes in himself and only himself, and he’ll make sure he survives at any cost whatsoever by killing anyone who might possibly have wronged him. And to him surviving means not just him surviving, but his legacy too. When I was writing it a certain high-profile politician had died and I was interested in the way in which this individual’s legacy was stage-managed in order that certain narratives could dominate, and others could be excluded. 

Personally I really admire stories in which we’re forced to empathise with the villain or anti-hero. I think a lot of us do: I can think of quite a few contemporary examples where that’s the case. There isn’t really a heroic character in this story, but then I’m not sure a post-apocalyptic world would really need (another) hero. At the risk of sounding like Tina Turner in shoulder pads.

DM: The novella’s more than a little reminiscent of the “Ozsploitation” genre of the ’80s. Are you a fan?

Given my previous comment you might have guessed I’m a huge Mad Max fan. My older brother and sister were totally obsessed by the films and that was a massive influence on me growing up (not that I was allowed to watch it at the time, you understand – I would have been far too young and that would have been very wrong). In fact, Jon Oliver name-checks Mad Max 2 at the beginning of the America Afterblight omnibus, so it’s not just me it’s influenced. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done in terms of the new film and game, by the way.

CH: You’re SFX Magazine’s first Pulp Idol alumnus. How’s that affected your life?

Massively. It led to me getting my first licensed commission, a Doctor Who short story for one of Big Finish’s licensed anthologies (thank you Joe Lidster and Ian Farrington) which in turn led to a variety of other commissions. Plus, winning something like that gives you an enormous boost of confidence which, let’s face it, writers can always do with. I also work part-time as a university academic and publish a lot of stuff about pulp fantasy and shared worlds – winning Pulp Idol and the commissions that came subsequently have all fed into that. 

DM: This isn’t your first experience working in a shared world. How does working within the Afterblight world compare with the tie-in fiction you’ve done?

When I got the commission I did momentarily freeze and think lawks, look at whose footsteps I’m following in: Scott Andrews, Simon Spurrier, Rebecca Levene, Jasper Bark, Al Ewing, Paul Kane… I mean, that’s a pretty impressive group of wordsmiths. But once you’ve got over that nerve-juddering feeling of intimidation, you get to see the advantages. One is that the Afterblight world has been very carefully carved by these people, and that a lot of the key details are in place. Sure, they take the world in very different directions, but the building blocks are there. 


At the same time, I had a lot of flexibility with Dead Kelly, more than I’ve had with the various licenses I’ve worked on. While the jumping-off point is the same – The Cull – my story is set in a geographically distant location. So early on in the story’s chronology there are some sly references to the same phenomena that have occurred in some of the other stories, because early on the Internet, the global media would still have been functioning, so I thought there would inevitably be parallels with what was happening elsewhere on the planet. But quite soon we’re on our own merry, murderous path. 

Dead Kelly is the second novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).

Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014

Over the next three days Team Abaddon will be picking the brains of the three authors contributing to Journal of the Plague Year with questions courtesy of Abaddon editor extraordinaire David Moore. 

Taking "one small step" for author-kind and first up in the firing line we have Orbital Decay's Malcolm Cross; over to you David and Malcolm.

DM: So, space: pretty fucking terrifying, judging by Orbital Decay. We’re guessing that must have been a sobering bit of research?

MC: Space is terrifying. It's one of the relatively few environments in which humanity has no business being. We can climb mountains unaided, we can free-dive to incredible depths, with training we can go almost anywhere on our little world with virtually no tools whatsoever, and the penalties for failure start with discomfort, not death.

It doesn't just start in space, either. Some of the earliest deaths in space exploration took place on the ground, fires during equipment testing. There were the shuttle disasters, Challenger and Columbia. Hell, the first attempt to dock with the first space station (Salyut 1) failed, and the second attempt, successful, killed the entire crew of Soyuz 11 through depressurization during their re-entry burn after a problem undocking from Salyut 1. All of these men and women were being supported by superpowers, assisted by hundreds (if not thousands) of engineers. None of them had a chance.

But, thankfully, there are more successes than losses, more close shaves than catastrophes. Some of them hilarious, turds floating around the Apollo 10 capsule, some of them scary, like the fire aboard Mir.
Space exploration is a potentially lethal game, even when everything goes right.

DM: Orbital Decay digs pretty deeply into the epidemiology of the Cull. Is that a particular area of interest for you? Did the series canon present you much difficulty when writing these parts?

MC: Ooof. The series canon is a topic in itself -- I wound up reading the entire series (eleven books, back then) in a little over three weeks, specifically to figure out what was going on. The Afterblight Chronicles, and the Cull, have passed through a lot of hands over the years, and I have to say, there have been some dissenting viewpoints on how it all went down.

I've always enjoyed trying to figure out just how seemingly impossible fictional things might be real. I think my first semi-plausible crack at it was when Street Fighter 2 was brand new, and I wasn't quite ten years old. You know how they throw fireballs around in that game? Yeah, well, when space shuttles come back to Earth they get surrounded by fire just like that because they're moving so fast the friction burns the air and obviously that is how the Street Fighter characters can throw fire around. Obviously. (Footnote: Actually the air ahead of the spacecraft is massively compressed by the shockwave of its motion through the atmosphere, and that causes far more heating than friction does, but I had no idea about that as a kid.)

Thankfully, the real science behind viruses and the seemingly impossible horror of the Cull are far easier to meld together for a plausible explanation. One of the key mysteries behind the Cull -- how it so selectively attacks almost everyone bar those with O-Negative blood -- was one of the most focal.

To grossly oversimplify, if you're AB-Positive, you have no blood-group relevant antibodies, and you have all three antigens -- A, B, and Rhesus -- on the cell-walls of your red blood cells, which act as a kind of flag to tell your immune system that this is one of your cells, not something invading your body. If you're O-Negative, you have none of these antigens, and you have every single one of the antibodies that attack the antigens as if they're an infectious substance. You're protected. (You also can't receive a blood transfusion from anyone else, but you can give blood to just about anyone -- so do consider blood donation if you're so fortunate!)

Now, when you learn that some viruses tear a piece out of its host-cell's walls and wrap themselves up with it, effectively camouflaging it against the body's immune system... well. It doesn't take a microbiologist (and I'm not one) to see the potential mayhem if this trait had to arise in one of the viruses which alter a cell's DNA specifically to change how it divides and what kind of tissue it produces -- some of these are the oncoviruses, responsible for some types of cancer. It could be something very much like a burglar armed with a set of keys to your house, trying each one in turn until something fits!

DM: On which note, what was it like working in a shared world?

MC: I mentioned reading all eleven books in three weeks-ish? No world bible back then.
That part was exhausting. Like wandering into the minotaur's maze, but thankfully I left a thread marking my path for others to follow, in the form of a lot of clippings and some other notes which David Moore's now the custodian for. But it's also a lot of fun, adding your own little branch to what is now a very large (if scabrous and plague-ridden) tree.

It's not your usual series, either. We meet many of the characters once, or over the course of a trilogy, and then move on to some other part of the post-apocalypse. One of the reason the series title -- 'The Afterblight Chronicles' -- is so very apt. It's like working on a collaborative history of the world's end. Almost a communal meditation on what it is to lose everything.

Certainly, it's unique. I spent a lot of time worrying about getting something 'wrong', early on. Some misplaced detail or element of timing that'd ruin it for the fans, doing something that'd tread on another of the authors' toes, something like that. But, in the end, by stepping carefully and becoming a fan of the series myself, it became quite a lot of fun to add a bit on to what's already there.  

 DM: Orbital Decay is arguably unusual among post-apocalypse stories in that it occurs right at the very outset of the apocalypse. Does that change the tone much?

MC: There are a few other stories that do it, some recent zombie books, and Mira Grant's 'Parasite' is certainly set in what seems to be the early phases of a unique little apocalypse, but it is definitely unusual. Most works take the apocalypse for granted, or at the very least skip over it to get to the good parts.

As a result, I think a lot of post-apocalyptic literature counterintuitively focuses on growth. What we gain, how we fill the now empty gaps, how we survive, how we (hopefully) find a new way to thrive. The single seedling sprouting from a cratered landscape. A new equilibrium with the world around us, holistic and all that, yeah?

Orbital Decay is about being stuck in a tiny little can hundreds of miles over the ground while everything you ever knew, friends, family, and nations, die choking on their own blood and all you can do is watch.
It's very heavy metal.

More seriously? I think it's about mourning and redemption. Looking loss in the eye and coming to terms with it on that basis, rather than the long and gradual process of putting it behind you, finding closure, and moving on -- which has been done very skilfully in the two Afterblight trilogies, Scott K. Andrews's School's Out books and Paul Kane's Hooded Man series.


In Malcolm Cross' Orbital Decay, the team in the International Space Station watch helplessly as the world is all but wiped out. Exiled from Earth by his blood-type, astronaut Alvin Burrows must solve the mystery of the "Pandora" experiment, even as someone on the station takes to murdering the crew one by one...

Orbital Decay is the first novella in the coming post-apocalyptic omnibus collection Journal of the Plague Year out 3rd July 2014 (UK) and 12th August 2014 (US).

Pre-order: UK | US or purchase the eBook on The Rebellion Store from 3rd July 2014