Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 'Geisters: June, 2013

Here, Yard Apes, be the cover for my upcoming novel, The 'Geisters. It's due out June 15, 2013. The book is very nearly ready to be edited, and already, ChiZine Publications' resident cover artist Erik Mohr has come up with this fantastic cover. This will be my fourth book with CZP, and my fourth cover by Erik.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My SFContario schedule this weekend

The time is coming for SFContario. Toronto's fall sf convention. This weekend, to be precise. And I'll be there, at panels and a reading and a kaffeeklatsch. Here are the details:

But I don't know any vampires Our English teachers taught us to "write what you know" But very few of us have been on a long space journey, met a vampire detective, or fought a fire-breathing dragon. Our panelists discuss how a little research and common sense can give you just enough background to really write about what you don't know. (Helen Marshall, Michael McPherson, David Nickle, Douglas Smith, Caitlin Sweet,) Saturday 11:00 AM, Ballroom A
Book Trailers Book trailers are one of the newer shinier ways to promote a book? Do they help? Can, and should, you make your own, and if so, what are the things to avoid? (Beverly Bambury (M), Helen Marshall, David Nickle, Adam Shaftoe) Saturday 1:00 PM, Courtyard
I Know That Place! How do you as a writer approach the challenge of using real places in fiction and how do you futurize a location while still leaving clues that allow the reader to recognize it? (Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Susan Forest, David Nickle, Jo Walton) Saturday 2:00 PM Ballroom A
Reading – Sunday 10:00 AM Gardenview
Exploring Gender Roles in SF and Horror How do science fiction, fantasy, and horror explore beyond our existing gender roles? How often do we see authors fall back on traditional gender roles or just flipping gender roles? Or how often do we do it ourselves? Who has created unique roles separate from gender or dealing with gender beyond binaries? What would we like to see? (Chandler Davis, Susan Forest, Violet Malan, David Nickle) Sunday 11:00 PM, Ballroom A
Kaffeeklatsch – Sunday 1:00 PM Room 207

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's a funny old world...

You never want to make too much of co-incidence. Even when everything seems to line up in a perfect line that could only have been designed by a higher intelligence, chances are some other, less magical mechanism is at work.

And yet... It is a puzzler. When the new novel Rasputin's Bastards came out in June, there was a nice raft of generally disparate reviews that carried it through early August. And then the blogosphere got pretty quiet. Maybe one or two notices showed up, but in general, it seemed that the reviewing community had moved on to other things. Even the voracious bibliphiles at Goodreads kept their powder dry.

Until this past week. As I write this, four more reviews showed up within a space of days. It's not like they were written by the same writer--there was a fair diversity of opinion. Indeed, the only thing that they all agreed upon was that Rasputin's Bastards is quite long, hellaciously complex, and as such might prove a bit difficult for casual readers.

But they are good, smart reviews. Here is D.F. McCourt's take, at AEscifi. Adam Shaftoe at The Page of Reviews had this to say about Rasputin's Bastards, putting it in the newly-created Classic Russian Film category of novels. Martin Rose at Shroud Magazine recommended readers of spy fiction check out the book, right here.

And today,  the blogger who writes Mountaineer ina Flat Land offered up this review, here.

Like the subject line says: it's a funny old world.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rasputin and Lord Simcoe...

It's been a bit over a month since the blog tour for Rasputin's Bastards, and for awhile it seemed like the reviews, mentions, and possibly sales, were going to dry up. But here on Simcoe Day (a uniquely Toronto August long weekend holiday, named after Lord Simcoe (who? This guy)), I can report a few very nice reviews to haul the Fat Bastard's fat from the fire.

First up, came Paul Goat Allen's shout-out over at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. He writes in part,

"Rasputin's Bastards is an utterly unique novel; I’ve never read anything quite like it before. It’s a mind-blowing blend of science fiction, political thriller, and understated horror."

My hometown paper, The Toronto Star, chimed in with this review by Alex Good, in the Sunday paper. It's a short review (he also reviews John Scalzi's Redshirts, and the VanderMeers' Weird anthology) and he writes this about Rasputin's Bastards:

"Rasputin's Bastards is Toronto author David Nickle's most complex and ambitious work yet, and it's a challenge to keep up with the sprawling plot and large cast of characters. At least one reader will confess to getting lost a couple of times along the way. But it's hard not to warm to an SF thriller that has the fate of the world ultimately hinging on what happens in a remote fishing village in Labrador."

 And on Sunday night, a google alert interrupted a particularly intense episode of Breaking Bad on Netflix to show me this in-depth review in The Winnipeg Review, by Winnipeg author and bookseller Chadwich Ginther.

Ginther concludes (spoiler alert):

"While recognizably “genre,” whatever that may mean to the reader (and their prejudices about the same), Rasputin’s Bastards is not of a genre. Instead it’s an ambitious melange of them all. Nickle’s horror is the theft of body and will; the revelation that one’s father is “A cold, soul-dead killer.” His science fiction feels like 50’s pulps, his fantasy a dark-lensed fairy tale with literary heft. Rasputin’s Bastards is a testament to the fact Nickle can write anything."

So yes -- happy Simcoe Day! The only thing missing is a run (which I should probably go do now)...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What do Bastards listen to?

I've been doing the blog tour thing for Rasputin's Bastards for the past month or so. In the course of it, I've been asked a lot of smart questions and invited to post my own thoughts on a lot of smart blogs. We've covered a lot of topics: what's with the Cold War, what's with free will, what's with the insane number of branching and intersecting plots and all those characters whose name start with K. One thing that hasn't come up so far, is a deep discussion of the novel's musical elements. What was on the playlist Friday nights at City 512?

Well, if you were to visit the place these days, you'd probably hear a lot of Gogol Bordello

and maybe a smattering of t t.A.T.u.
But Rasputin's Bastards is a 20th century novel. And the characters who were born, raised and ultimately fled City 512 had one thing in common, musically. This guy:
Ivan Rebroff. In the 1970s, he was kind of a musical ambassador for pre-revolutionary Russian folk music. My relatives at the time couldn't get enough of him. The dude had a range like a piano, and sang songs about Cossacks and girls called Natascha and the green, green fields of home. He was nostalgia embodied--kind of a slavic Liberace for my grandmother and her peers. I am not ashamed to admit: at the time, I could see the appeal. He could sell Russia like nobody's business.  Including, arguably, his own. Rebroff wasn't Russian at all--or at least, no more Russian than I am. He was born in 1931 in Berlin, under the name Hans-Rolf Rippert, of a Russian mother and German father. He made his name in musical theatre, playing in a 1968 Danish production of Fiddler on the Roof. He toured all over the place, singing Russian folk songs and musical theatre standards, including If I Were A Rich Man from Fiddler, in French,
and a colour-blind rendition of Ol' Man River from Showboat that must be heard to be believed:
I gotta say, I love Ivan Rebroff. He is boldly, courageously uncool--and probably always has been. But he's the sort of guy that you listen to over and over again, if you've taken flight from Mother Russia at a certain time and for certain reasons, and in a cold Canadian winter that doesn't hold a candle to the winters they used to have in St. Petersberg, he's the sort of guy you need.

And you can take my word for it: that goes double for psychic spies and their thralls.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Quite a week for Optimistic Bastards...

This has been quite a week indeed, yard-apes, for a lot of yard-related matters. Hard to know where to begin. There's been a lot of stuff going on around Rasputin's Bastards U.S. launch date, but as I think of it that was, for the most part, all according to schedule. So it's probably best to start with the happy surprise, that had to do with the other book, Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism.

On Monday night, I learned to my delight that the Sunburst Award jury had short-listed Eutopia, along with two other books by dear friends of mine, Caitlin Sweet (The Pattern Scars) and Michael Rowe (Enter Night) published by my dear friends at ChiZine Publications. The Sunbursts are a juried award handed out to novels of the fantastic, and young adult novels of the fantastic. It is announced in the fall, and there is a cash prize, which is no small thing. But it is an honor to be nominated, and to be nominated alongside my friends. Here's the link to the Sunburst site.

The launch of the new book in the U.S. happened this Tuesday, when it showed up in bookstores across the nation. So now it should be available in most Barnes and Noble stores in the U.S., and McNally-Robinson and Chapters-Indigo stores in Canada. And hopefully some independent booksellers too.

There have been some lovely reviews to have come out since last I blogged, from January Magazine's David Middleton, here, and Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, right here.

And I've been on what is known as a blog tour, guest-posting and answering interview questions, all over. The most recent is at the blog known as Jesse Resides Here, right here. There are also posts and interviews at the McNally Robinson blog, Cabin Goddess, My Bookish Ways, Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews, Civilian Reader, Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, and I Read A Book Once. A few more are on their way.

Oh, and the launch at Rasputin's Vodka Bar was spectacular. The food was fantastic, the company enthusiastic, and the hour was late when we all left.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Bastards are here...

This is a photo from the front of The World's Biggest Bookstore, just as you come in, in the New and Hot Fiction display. Rasputin's Bastards is right there, next to The Hypnotist.  I think it's fair to say we're off.

There have been a couple more reviews appear since last we spoke. The Crow's Caw's K.E. Bergdoll wrote a very kindly review here, writing, in part:

"A journey from the depths of the sea, the heart of Mother Russia, to the darkest corners of the soul, this book appeals to the reader’s intellectual curiosity, and engages the heart with surprising moments of emotionality."
 Library Journal's review of Rasputin's Bastards came out on Friday. It's a good review, but I can't link to it--they keep those things behind a paywall. Fortunately, Barnes and Noble has a deal to run LJ reviews on their website, so here's the bottom line of their review:

"Bram Stoker Award winner Nickle's (Eutopia) latest novel tells a complex story of supernatural horror and psychological suspense crafted with the somber foreboding of a Russian novel and the genre-breaking freedom of magical realism. VERDICT This novel is supernatural eeriness at its best, with intriguing characters, no clear heroes, and a dark passion at its heart. Horror aficionados and fans of Stephen King's larger novels should appreciate this macabre look at the aftermath of the Cold War. "
It's all a very good start. On Thursday June 21, those in Toronto should consider themselves invited to the official book launch. It's taking place at the Rasputin Vodka Lounge (seemed appropriate) at  780 Queen Street East. It all starts at 7 p.m. There will be books, and of course vodka, and some caviar on the menu. Spread the word far and wide.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Bastards are coming...

In fact, they may already be here.

Rasputin's Bastards' official release date in Canada is coming up on Friday; in the U.S., it's a little later on the 27th. It looks as though the book's already on shelves (or at least in stores) in a number of Chapters-Indigo stores. And it's available for pre-order, obviously, at all the usual places.

There haven't been a ton of reviews out just yet, but Corey Redekop, author of Shelf Monkey and the soon-to-be-out Husk, has written a really jaw-droppingly kind assessment of Rasputin's Bastards and Eutopia, right here. And I am on what the cost-conscious kids these days are calling a blog tour. That means over the next little while, there will be interviews and guest posts at blogs all over the planet. Here are the first couple, at Wag The Fox, and at Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. 

There will be more as the days progress. I'm told that Library Journal will have something to say on June 15. The Crow's Caw is putting something up soon. And that is just the beginning.

So watch the skies. And in the meantime,  because I haven't done this for awhile, here is another fiblet from Rasputin's Bastards, right at the very beginning.
* * *

The steam carried the smell of Babushka’s death like a soaked sponge. It leaked between the wooden slats of the bath house’s door, and whipped and whirled from there in thin, hot tendrils to mingle with the ice fog that had enshrouded the village of New Pokrovskoye since the early days of March.
March was an important month. It was the month that Babushka had first set down a schedule for her own death; the month the giant squid came to the harbour and presaged it all, by dying there itself.

The squid arrived sometime in the night. It thrashed and twisted underneath the translucent grey ice for hours before it died, its tentacles braiding and spreading—a woman’s long dark hair in a suicide bath.
Suicide seemed the best explanation. The squid could have dived—gone back south, and deep, into the cool dark ocean where its brethren dwelled in unguessable numbers. But something stopped it; or it knew, somehow, that its time was up. Whatever the reason, it stayed there beneath the harbour ice of New Pokrovskoye, thrashing and twisting until finally it slowed—its giant form stretching under the grey-green sheet for fifteen metres, like a great, dark stroke of watercolour.
Babushka wheeled herself out onto the ice in the predawn, breath making a contrail behind her as she huffed along to the squid’s remains. The ice creaked as she leaned forward in her wheelchair, propped on her walking stick, and glared down at the creature.
The walking stick was old. It was said that it had been carried to St. Petersburg by a holy man a hundred years ago, and was cut many years before that—and it was hard as iron. She leaned over, hacking at the ice, eventually tumbling out of her chair and falling to her knees with the effort. By this time, someone had called the Koldun—the fishing village’s lodge wizard and healer, second only to Babushka herself in esteem and influence.
He went out and joined her for a time. A growing crowd of villagers watched at the bank as he wheedled and cajoled and finally took hold of her arm. But she shook off his attempt angrily, and that was all it took. The Koldun had known Babushka for many years. But neither he nor anyone else dared confront her when she became like this.
She glared down into the squid’s eye for a full minute—then finally, drew back, barked a harsh laugh, and spat in it.
She turned to the Koldun and the rest, and that was when she said it, loud enough to carry through the whole, ice-bound village:
When this kraken is gone—I go too.”
The Koldun and the others laughed, uncomfortably at first—and then, as she joined them, with more assurance.
And because of that, the people of New Pokrovskoye concluded:
Everything is fine. It’s just another of Babushka’s jokes.

But it was no joke.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

What Is City 512?

It's a good question--such a good question that you won't likely find an answer here. Better to go visit WhatIsCity512 ( the website launched today to offer some tidbits and morsels concerning my upcoming novel Rasputin's Bastards.

You've seen the cover on this blog before. The new website, which you can go straight to by clicking here--offers up video and documents and news clippings with an eye to if not answering then raising a lot of questions about the mysterious Russian city nestled somewhere in the Urals, where so far as anyone knows, nothing ever happened.

Yeah, of course stuff happened there. Bad stuff. But you won't find out about any of that by hanging around here. Go check out the site, which was put together by Laura Marshall, one of the many geniuses over at ChiZine Publications.

The book itself comes out at the end of June. Here's what it'll say on the back cover:

From a hidden city deep in the Ural mountains, they walked the world as the coldest of Cold Warriors, under the command of the Kremlin and under the power of their own expansive minds. They slipped into the minds of Russia’s enemies with diabolical ease, and drove their human puppets to murder, and worse. They moved as Gods. And as Gods, they might have remade the world. But like the mad holy man Rasputin, who destroyed Russia through his own powerful influence . . . in the end, the psychic spies for the Motherland were only in it for themselves.

It is the 1990s. The Cold War is long finished. In a remote Labrador fishing village, an old woman known only as Babushka foresees her ending through the harbour ice, in the giant eye of a dying kraken–and vows to have none of it. Beaten insensible and cast adrift in a life raft, ex-KGB agent Alexei Kilodovich is dragged to the deck of a ship full of criminals, and with them he will embark on a journey that will change everything he knows about himself. And from a suite in an unseen hotel in the heart of Manhattan, an old warrior named Kolyokov sets out with an open heart, to gather together the youngest members of his immense, and immensely talented, family. They are more beautiful, and more terrible, than any who came before them. They are Rasputin’s bastards. And they will remake the world.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The 2012 Aurora Awards

Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, is up for an Aurora Award.

I've been waiting a couple of weeks to write that sentence. The organizers of the Prix Aurora Awards let me in on the fact that the novel was up for an award at the beginning of the month, then swore me to secrecy. And I was mostly good... just sitting still and working up a spit to crow a little and thank folks for nominating me and commending readers of this blog to the book.

Well now the nominations are out, and looking at the whole list, it's a lot bigger than my bloody-minded little book about eugenics and monsters. First, there is the matter of ChiZine Publications, my publisher for that book and two others. ChiZine has really owned the nominations this time out. In a field of six nominees for best English-language novel, four are from ChiZine: Michael Rowe's Enter, Night, Derryl Murphy's Napier's Bones and Caitlin Sweet's The Pattern Scars.

Moving down the list of other categories, ChiZine products and people are well-represented. In the poetry category, Sandra Kasturi is nominated for "Ode to the Mongolian Death Worm," and Carolyn Clink is up for "Zombie Bees of Winnipeg," both of which appeared in the online magazine ChiZine's Supergod Mega-Issue (that's what they call it). ChiZine's cover artist Erik Mohr is once again up for the award he won last year, Best Artist--competing against Martin Springett for his interior artwork on The Pattern Scars.

It goes on. Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi are up there in the Best Fan Organizational category for chairing the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. And marine biologist, cat fancier, repeat-horrific-crisis-survivor and Hugo award winning science fiction author Peter Watts is up for an award in the Best Fan Other catogory, for his lecture "Reality: The Ultimate Mythology," delivered last year at the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium. Both of these events are organized by the CZP crowd, so they count.

That's a lot of loving for one middle-sized press that's run out of a modest house in west-end Toronto. But it's also an indication of the scope and talent of the extended family of artists, authors and good people that have gathered in orbit around Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi. I am really happy and gratified to have work nominated among them. I'm happier still just to be among them.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rasputin's Bastards is available for pre-order...

It's the collectable hardcover, so it's expensive, but my Cold War novel Rasputin's Bastards is available for pre-order for those that like to collect. This edition will cost you - it's going for $50 - but it promises to be very beautiful.

You can find the details by clicking right here. And you can see if it's the kind of thing you'd like to buy right here at the Devil's Exercise Yard. Behold, the first fiblet from Rasputin's Bastards, not far from the beginning, wherein we are introduced to a primary tool of psychic spycraft, only somewhat re-purposed:

Fyodor Kolyokov hadn't needed the isolation tank for a long time: not since the early days when all needs Physick were safely defined by the razor-wire fences of City 512. But need and desire often mingle to the same effect, and so as soon as he found a way, Kolyokov moved the tank from Russia to America. Hang the risk, he told himself. The tank was as much a part of his life as his eyes and his lungs and his heart. 
The tank was an early prototype, baffled against sound with a set of casings pressed inside one another like nested Russian dolls -- dolls made of iron and steel, concrete and horse-hair, ceramic and lead. Sealed inside the tiniest doll, it wasn't hard to imagine weathering a nearby nuclear detonation.

The Cyrillic notations stamped on the outermost doll indicated expectations falling just short of that. Kolyokov had at various times tried to fill those letters with different types of cement -- but the cold steel of the tank sucked moisture from the air like a thirsty whore, and Kolyokov's attempts at camouflage crumbled within days of their application. There was no making it into anything beyond what it was: an old KGB isolation tank made for sensory depravation, that to anyone but Kolyokov would stink like an open sewer.

To Kolyokov, who had first swum in its briny middle three decades ago, it merely smelled... comfortable.
For the last of those decades, the isolation tank had gathered dust in a large storage locker in New Jersey. During that time, Kolyokov never visited -- not in person. But he kept a watch on it all the same, in the manner of his training, and once a year, he would send a sleeper to see to matters of cleaning and maintenance in person. There would come a day, he was sure, when such things as this tank did not matter to the intelligence community and its existence would no longer need be secret.

In 1997, with the Soviet Union a half-decade in the grave, Russia in turmoil, and the old arsenal all but on the auction block, Kolyokov deemed that day to have arrived.

So now, the tank occupied most of the ensuite bath to Kolyokov's rooms on the Emissary's 19th floor. The bath had at one time contained an immense Jacuzzi tub set in pink marble. But that luxury, along with the bidet and the vanity, had been sacrificed to make room, so the tank had only to share the space with a low-flow toilet and a shower-stall. 
The floor was a thick slab of concrete underneath the tile, but Kolyokov had wished to take no chances and so had constructed a second floor, just inches above the original. It was more of a platform, really, suspended by steel cable and specially-designed braces so as to distribute the tank's immense weight beyond its own dimensions. 
The platform creaked as he placed a bare foot upon it now. Kolyokov was still groggy from shattered REM-sleep, but he had to piss something fierce. The pissing, he thought, was why the dream had gone so badly. The reason that it had turned nightmare on him, and driven him awake.

Kolyokov used to be able to piss in the tank without disturbing his dreaming. The tank had been fitted with an assembly from the old Soyuz spacecraft -- but the pump had failed years ago. 
So Kolyokov hopped on one foot and the other, bladder twisting and wringing as he moved. He splashed body-temperature salt water all over the bathroom's two floors, as he made his way around the tank to the toilet. A thick stream of urine made a roar in the bowl that was deafening to Kolyokov's silence-calmed ear.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A New Year happened...

... and I seem to have missed it. Seemed to, being the operative word. While all the other writers with blogs were busily tallying up their year-that-was post, I was in fact not absent at all - just quietly sitting back, playing Skyrim to wall-eyed distraction and breaking it up with a little ego surfing.

After which, I can report that Skyrim is slightly less addictive than cigarettes, slot machines and internet smut combined. And that the clock shifted from 2011 to 2012 with some very fine bits of news.

A number of people said some very kind things in year-end sum-ups, concerning the novel. Paul Goat Allen over at Barnes and Noble was kind enough to tag it as his number one horror read for 2011, right here. Nick Cato at Antibacterial Pope said pretty much the same thing, right here. And Alex Good, who reviewed the book for The National Post, listed it high up in his top four reads of the year, putting me in the company of Julian Barnes, Clark Blaise and David Hickey.

Feeding My Book Addiction liked the book not quite that much - it was sixth out of six year-end favourites. And The Hopeful Librarian dug it also, and said so right here. 

Earlier in the season, the audiobook version of Eutopia went live over at I have listened to a bunch of Oliver Wyman's sublime reading, and can report that he improves the thing considerably. For a little while, it was the Number Two best-seller in horror on the site.  It has slipped since then, but it's still nestled in among the Stephen King adaptations and Robert McCammon readings. I have yet to find a listener who likes it (the clientel have discerning ears) but there is time.

And finally -  today, I am able to make it known that Ellen Datlow, who once bought a story from me for The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, came a-knocking to buy my story "Looker" for The Best Horror of The Year Number Four.  It is there a couple stories away from an excellent story by my pal Leah Bobet, and other fine writers of grim tidings. Here's the table of contents.