Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday, Michael Moorcock

Today is literary legend Michael Moorcock's 75th birthday. Mike is a towering influence on my life. It's been my privilege to edit him three times - once at short story length, once at novella, and once at novel. We've hung out a time or two, and I've even swung his famous black sword Stormbringer, chopping at imaginary demons while he stood watching me in a parking lot of a Mexican restaurant in Bastrop, Texas. I've penned at least three appreciates of Mike over the years. This one, written a few years ago for Heliotrope Magazine, says it best. I'm posting it below, and wishing the man a very happy day.

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Michael Moorcock is threaded throughout the entire fabric of my childhood universe. I remember bookstores devoting entire shelves to the various novels of his multiverse, works I devoured as fast as I could get my hands on them. It was a natural leap from the Barsoom and Africa of Edgar Rice Burroughs to the darker, stranger worlds of Elric of Melniboné and Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei. It was a jump into a never-ending abyss I took eagerly, knowing that the fall would stretch my mind in ways more profound than the Warlord of Mars or the Lord of the Jungle ever could. His reconstruction of the classic fantasy battle of Good vs. Evil into Law vs. Chaos had profound effects on my pre-teenage mind, fundamentally altering how I would forever view everything from politics to religion, let alone adventure. Even as a child, I could see how far reaching his influence ran – spilling out of the pages of swords and sorcery novels into other forms in a manner we would now refer to as “multi-media.” For what is Gary Gygax’s Alignment Chart if not the plotting of Good/Evil, Law/Chaos on an XY axis? And yes, I still have that edition of Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes. And while I hadn’t heard much Hawkwind or the Deep Fix back then, I certainly knew Blue Öyster Cult. Moorcock was everywhere, a multiverse in his own right.

Sticking only to the subgenre he helped establish, that of swords & sorcery, Moorcock is a towering influence. By taking a teen-angst take on Conan the Barbarian, Moorcock created the quintessential +fantasy anti-hero, a non-human albino misfit, heir to the throne of a decadent and cruel society, who can only survive by stealing the life-force of others. After committing genocide against his own kind and massacring his demonic gods, Moorcock’s unlikely hero goes on to accidentally slay every friend and lover he ever has, his black sword Stormbringer hacking out a path straight to the pinnacle of fantasy-adventure stardom. In this regard alone, Moorcock’s influence on fantasy, on rock and roll, on video and roleplaying gaming was nothing short of profound. On gaming? Yes, because in promoting the smaller-stakes, more personal and grittier world of swords & sorcery, Moorcock was profoundly influential on Dungeons & Dragons, and through it, on first the RPG realm and then the entire world of third person computer and console gaming that grew out of it.

And for many a writer, this would be more than enough – more than they could honestly ever hope for indeed– but Moorcock isn’t just any writer. Because there is an entirely different side to the man. In 1988, his masterful Mother London was short-listed for the UK’s most prestigious literary award, the Whitbread Prize, alongside of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and Bruce Chatwyn’s Utz. This is the Moorcock of Behold the Man, that brilliantly controversial take on messiah complexes, religious obsession, and the crucifixion. This is the Guardian Fiction Prize-winning Moorcock of The Condition of Muzak, The Brothel in Rosenstrasse, Gloriana, Byzantium Endures, The Laughter of Carthage, King of the City. This is the Moorcock that The Washington Post called “one of the most serious literary lights of our time.” And again, this on its own is certainly more success than most will ever see in their career.

But it was only as an adult, looking back at the history of our field, and reading Colin Greenland’s The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction (Routledge & Keegan, 1983) and Michael Moorcock: Death is No Obstacle ( Savoy Books, 1992) that I came to understand in full the equally – if not more – profound effect that Moorcock-the-editor had, who, in his capacity as head of New Worlds magazine ( 1964-1973), was the chief architect of what was perhaps speculative fiction’s most important –some would say only true – literary movement. Moorcock pioneered the New Wave revolution that sought to blend the best of mainstream literary and science fiction technique in an atmosphere that encouraged a generation of writers to embrace the enthusiastic air of experimentation so prevalent in the 60s. Along with Brian Aldiss, J G Ballard, Harlan Ellison and others, he shepherded the movement that many see as ushering speculative fiction out of its adolescence into its adulthood. Though I didn’t know it at the time, my earliest introduction to science fiction’s prestigious classics of short fiction – works like Samuel Delaney’s “Aye, and Gomorrah” and Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog” – those canonical masterpieces that are why I work in this genre today – wouldn’t have existed at all if not for Moorcock the editor’s influence. For someone who himself wrote so little actual science fiction, he has had a colossal effect on it. And that too, should be enough for any one lifetime….

Except that we must talk about his very real and pertinent contribution to theoretical physics. The term “multiverse” was created by pioneering American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842–1910), who also gave us the term “stream of consciousness,” though he intended it to describe different psychological states, with no application to the workings of the physical world. It was Michael Moorcock who, independently of James, conceived the term to describe a universe of near-infinite parallel worlds for a story called “The Sundered Worlds” (published in Science Fiction Adventures, December 1962). Moorcock’s use became the prevailing definition of the term, and has entered the popular consciousness to such a degree that it is now on the lip of every quantum physicist. In fact, this notion that our universe may be only one of a transfinite number of such realities, each only a few quantum decisions distance from its neighbor, is rapidly gaining credence as the most likely explanation for the peculiarities of quantum mechanics. As mind-boggling a concept as the multiverse is, Occam’s razor increasingly comes down in its favor. And we have Moorcock to thank for describing it first.

And perhaps, that, finally, is enough for one lifetime. Except that the man is far from done. It’s been my privilege to have worked with Michael several times now, most recently as editor of his collection, The Metatemporal Detective (Pyr, 2007), which maps his multiverse onto the world of Victorian consulting detectives, taking Elric of Melniboné back to his roots and inspirations, combining him with Sexton Blake adversary Monsieur Zenith the Albino. It’s one of my very favorite projects, something I am so proud to have worked on, but hardly the end of his output. With a biography of Mervyn Peake in the works, and a new Jerry Cornelius novel, as well as more Elric stories appearing, Michael Moorcock’s multiverse just grows and grows and grows. And with new editions of the Elric novels coming out, all lavishly illustrated, the bookseller’s shelves are starting to look again like I remember them. Like they always should in any corner of the multiverse worth living in.

“Heroes betray us,” Michael Moorcock writes in his wisdom. “By having them, in real life, we betray ourselves.” Powerful words, and I can only hope their author will forgive me then, if I use them as a springboard to say that he is mine, an author whose pen can only illuminate, never betray. Mike, you’re a towering figure in 20th and 21st century literature, my vote for the single most influential person in speculative fiction, a lynchpin that if removed in some horrendous time-travelling mishap would bring the whole edifice crashing down. It’s been my privilege to have been your editor a time or two, and to call you friend, but first and foremost, you’ll always be my hero.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Frostborn: This Kid Reviews Books

Erik is the twelve year old behind This Kid Reviews Books. There have been a lot of great reviews of my novel Frostborn,but I especially like the ones that come from the kids themselves. This Kid gives me a 5 out of 5 and says:
"As a fan of Norse mythology, I am a huge fan of this book, and its Nordic-like setting and lore. The frost-giants are just plain cool. Literally. I like the fact that there is a tough (7′) female protagonist, along with a short boy who can’t even swing a sword. They were great opposites in characters. The Nordic legends are a wonderful touch, and I can’t help but want more. Mr. Anders has written a fine book. His style is a spot-on epic fantasy for middle-graders, with tons of humor, friendship, and adventure. I can’t wait for the next book, especially after that dang-blasted awesome cliffhanger that makes me both happy and angry! (happy that there will be another book, angry (or maybe sad) that I will have to wait)."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Frostborn in the Read & Review Club of Cavalier House Books

Caitlin G. (14) is a Read & Review Club member for Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, Frostborn, and she writes:
Louisiana. Caitlin has read
"Anders has beautifully written a fun and energetic middle grade book filled with many adventures.... The people that would enjoy this book are the people that have enjoyed books such as Magisterium by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black and The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. Because of the magic and adventures present in this book and the challenges that relate to the common struggles in life, I recommend this book to people that have read similar books. This book was a very good read and I cannot wait to get my hands on the second book in this series, Nightborn."

Frostborn: A Fantasy Adventure for Gamers and Fans of History

A nice Frostbornreview from A Library Mama:
"This is a fantasy adventure great for those who love games and historical fantasy. Karn and Thianna have to use cunning as well as Thianna’s battle skills to defeat their enemies, and both of them must confront their various prejudices – serious themes underlying battles against treachery, zombies, wyverns, and an ancient dragon. I have several young readers I’d be happy to give this one to, and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reflections from the Road: Wilkerson Middle School

Yesterday, I was the guest speaker at Wilkerson Middle School's Dream Big Read! brought about by the Birmingham American Federation of Teachers with books donated from First Book. The morning event was designed to celebrate the joy of reading--a very important thing--but I almost didn't make it. Last Sunday, I came down with a horrible case of the flu, and while I apologetically tried to bow out, the organizers begged me to come anyway--even if only for a quick 15 minute appearance. I didn't want to let people down, so despite reservations and ill-health, I agreed.

And I'm so glad I did.

Birmingham AFT President Richard Franklin introduced the Dream Big Read! event by telling the students that they had been selected for this program because they scored the best in their category, not just in Birmingham, but in the state. As I understand it, Wilkerson has repeatedly been named a Torchbearer school. This is a special honor, as Torchbearer schools must meet a host of demanding state and federal criteria, and, despite coming from a high poverty area of the city and dealing with the related disadvantages, the amazing students of Wilkerson have managed to beat the statistics and perform marvelously on state and national tests. Franklin's speech was on the importance of reading, not only on your own, but also with your family.

Through First Book, the kids--slightly over 300 students--were given book bags that contained a Percy Jackson hardcover, a Spider-Man book, an Avengers book, some others... But my own publisher Random House Children's Books, when they learned last week of my visit, kindly donated 300+ copies of the Frostbornarc, which they rushed to the school so that the students could begin reading ahead of my trip.

The result was that when I walked to the podium, I saw that every one of the students in the audience was holding the Frostborn arc! I had been nervous, because this is the first talk I've given without my Powerpoint presentation and the aid of all the fabulous artwork it contains in support of the Thrones & Bones series, so having an already-receptive audience helped overcome the lack of pictures. But I needn't have worried. The students were great -- really enthusiastic, fun, polite, and as bright as I'd heard. About a third of them had already begun reading the book too! Far from doing just the minimal 15 minutes, I went a good 30-40 minutes and the organizers even had to cut our Q&A off with a lot of hands still in the air when I ran out the clock.

Afterwards, a few kids asked me to sign their arcs, and when others saw I would do this, well, the teachers had to quickly organize a line. I signed most of 300 arcs, which was wonderful because I got another point of connection with Wilkerson's great students. A pleasure to meet them all. I hope they enjoyed the day as much as I did.

I drove out on a rush of adrenaline. Which carried me through about lunchtime. After which, I was stupidly useless for the rest of the day! But I'm very glad I made the trip.

Many thanks to Terri Michal from Birmingham AFT, Birmingham AFT President Richard Franklin, and Wilkerson principal Ms. Trarsha L. Maddox, as well as the staff, students, and teachers of Wilkerson.

Nightborn Book Description

The publishers description of Nightborn,book two in the Thrones & Bones series, has gone live.

 July 14, 2015  8 - 12  3 - 7
From the author of Frostborn comes Book 2 in the acclaimed Thrones and Bones fantasy-adventure trilogy for fans of Lloyd Alexander and Brandon Mull.

Karn Korlundsson is a gamer. Not a riddle solver. But in order to rescue his best friend, Thianna Frostborn, he will need to travel to the faraway city of Castlebriar (by wyvern), learn how to play a new board game called Charioteers (not a problem), decipher the Riddle of the Horn, and tangle with mysterious elves.

Meet Desstra. She’s in training to join the Underhand—the elite agents of the dark elves. When she crosses paths with Karn, she is not all that she appears to be.

Everyone is chasing after the horn of Osius, an ancient artifact with the power to change the world. The lengths to which Karn will go in the name of friendship will be sorely tested. Who knew that solving a riddle could be so deadly?

The novel includes instructions for playing the board game Charioteers. Visit ThronesandBones.com for additional games, maps, character profiles, and more!


Praise for Thrones and Bones: Frostborn:

“Future fans of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin can happily cut their serial-fantasy teeth on this first book of an eventual series.” —Kirkus Reviews 

“A fun, fast-paced, and highly enjoyable tale.” —Garth Nix, bestselling author of the Abhorsen trilogy

“A powerful, fast-paced tale. . . . The setting is rich, the characters well-defined, and the danger ever-paramount.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred

“An excellent choice for readers new to the genre. The themes of staying true to oneself, teamwork, and individuality will resonate with readers.” —School Library Journal

“The most delightful fantasy I have read in ages. . . . Put me on the waiting list for book 2!” —Amy Plum, international bestselling author of the Die For Me series

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Frostborn named a Staff Pick by Mockingbird Books

Frostborn has just been chosen as a Staff Pick by Mockingbird Books, the seventh independent
bookstore or library to do so! Katie of Mockingbird writes:
"If you’re like me and are on the lookout for fast but enjoyable reads to squeeze into a busy schedule, look to Frostborn. Anders is a veteran of the fantasy genre and it shines through the first installment of Thrones and Bones. We’re given two young leads who are forced to confront their duties, fates, and families which intertwine after an ancient spell is broken. There is Karn, a reluctant heir to his family’s farm and avid board game player. There is Thianna, a half-human and half frost-giantess eager to prove herself to both humans and giants alike. The pair is as unlikely friends as they are heroes, but it is their differences that ultimately prove to be their greatest weapons."

Update: Oh and look.... Frostborn is also a Staff Pick at Eagle Harbor Book Co. of Bainbridge Island, Washington - which makes 7 bookstores and one library that have made Frostborn a Staff selection! Alison of Eagle Harbor writes:
"Karn is destined to take over the family farm in Norrongard. His only problem is he’d rather be playing the complex board game Thrones and Bones. Living in the mountains of this Nordic-like land is Thianna, half human, half frost giantess and unable to fit into either group. These two unlikely allies join forces to survive in the wilderness and fight off dragons, undead warriors and an evil uncle."
Update 2: Book Shop Santa Cruz has just named Frostborn a Staff Pick as well. Tera of the Book Shop writes:
"Twelve-year-old Karn is a master gamer when it comes to playing Thrones and Bones. He’s not so good at striking hard bargains for the sake of his father’s tribe. If only there wasn’t so much pressure on him to be the next leader! Likewise, Thianna is a disappointment to her clan of ice giants, standing at only 7 feet tall, half the size of her peers. The two unlikely friends meet when their different tribes converge on an icy mountain for a tense round of trading. When unexpected enemies attack, they find themselves on the run, outracing wyverns and avoiding avalanches. Pulling on little-known Norse mythology, this brilliantly accessible fantasy really is for all those Percy Jackson fans clamoring for a new series."

Monday, December 01, 2014

Nightborn: Thrones & Bones Book 2

The cover for Nightborn (Thrones and Bones 2)has just popped up on Amazon. Once again, the amazing Justin Gerard has outdone himself. I'm thrilled with the art, and so glad to be able to finally share it with the world. And yes, those are manticore pulling the chariots.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reality Bomb: The Doctor Who Season Finale

I am a guest today on the 17th episode of Reality Bomb, a Doctor Who podcast. We discuss the
recent season finale and a host of related topics.
On the seventeenth episode of Reality Bomb we have another supersized episode featuring our final panel review of Series 8 that includes Lori Steuart, Jon Arnold and Children's Fantasy author Lou Anders (Thrones and Bones: Frostborn). We also have a conversation with Cat Smith and Lindsey Mayers about Missy / The Master. And Titan's Doctor Who tenth Doctor comic book writer Nick Abadzis tries (and possibly fails) to get The Twin Dilemma into the Gallery of the Underrated. All this plus Listeners' Letters, poltical attack ads you need to hear... and host Graeme Burk gets an offer he can't refuse!

Birmingham Public Library says "a great pick for kids who enjoy fantasy movies like The Hobbit and even Frozen."

The Birmingham Public Library has posted an absolutely glowing review of Frostborn.

"This novel has much to offer to a variety of readers. It can appeal to both boys and girls, since the point of view switches from Thianna to Karn equally. It’s also a great pick for kids who enjoy fantasy movies like The Hobbit and even Frozen. It is a great middle grade read for upper elementary and middle school students, but it would make an excellent read-aloud for kids who aren’t ready to tackle it on their own yet. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The characters display growth, courage, brains, and resourcefulness that I think kids will identify with and hopefully emulate. Also, the author, Lou Anders, is a Birmingham resident. I love to support local authors, especially when their books are so good!" Mollie McFarland, Springville Road Library