Predator Cities re-published in the U.S.A

For various reasons Mortal Engines and its three sequels (or The Predator Cities Quartet, as they are now collectively called) have been unavailable for the past couple of years in the U.S.A.  During that time I've had lots of e-mails and facebook queries from American readers wondering how they can get their hands on them.

Now, at long last, I can give them an answer which doesn't involve second hand copies or expensive imports, because in June 2012 Scholastic will be releasing these snazzily-jacketed new paperbacks:

There's an interesting disjuncture between the first two and the last two covers (though maybe that's a reflection of the books themselves). The first two echo the heavily decorative, steampunk-y covers of the US editions of Fever Crumb and A Web of Air, which is fine (the U.S Fever Crumb (right) is one of my favourite covers ever) but I think Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain are a great new approach, full of atmosphere and detail,  and hinting at the landscapes and action within.  And I love the way that the symbols which David Wyatt designed for the Lost Boys and the Green Storm have found their way onto the Limpet's nose and the controls of that flying machine...  

I guess that, as books which are nearly ten years old, the Predator Cities Quartet may not be piled high on booksellers' front tables, or widely advertised, but they should be available from bookstores and all the usual online sellers as of next week.  Please spread the word! 

Mortal Engines: New Look, New Series Title.

There are some changes coming to the world of Mortal Engines. As of next month the original quartet will be re-launched in the UK with new covers, and a new series title: PREDATOR CITIES.  Here are what the new versions will look like:

The covers are certainly an improvement on the previous ones, which had no illustrations at all. Personally I far prefer the original covers or the David Wyatt ones, but I'm heaven knows how old and I guess these are aimed at, y'know, the kids...  The Bookzone For Boys blog has a very generous assessment of them, and some interesting responses from young readers, here.

The Predator Cities series title is a good move, I think, and this is a good time to make the change as the series will be re-published in the USA next month, too (with yet more new covers, which I'll post here shortly).  If I'd set out to write more than one book when I started Mortal Engines I expect I would have come up with a series title back then, and perhaps it has been a handicap to the books that they didn't have one. Also, it was always my intention that the Fever Crumb books would be a separate series with a slightly different feel, so it makes sense to split them off from Predator Cities.  Perhaps the Fever books will end up with a series title of their own one day.

(Of course, the chances of me actually remembering to call them Predator Cities after thinking of them as The Mortal Engines Quartet for ten years, are minimal.)

Lunch with all the Agents (and OUP's superhuman crew).

To Oxford last week, where those nice people at Oxford University Press treated me and that Sarah McIntyre to a slap-up lunch to celebrate the signing of the contracts for our forthcoming book Seawigs.  It turned into a bit of a Works Outing, since our agents were also invited and we all travelled up from London together on the 10.50 from Paddington.  This is me with my agent Philippa Milnes-Smith...

...and here's Sarah with hers, Jodie Marsh.

Once we reached OUP's impressive HQ we had no sooner clocked in...

...than we were whisked off out again for lunch and contract signing.  Here we are putting our names on the dotted line, in the august presence of our editor Liz Cross, who is wearing AN ACTUAL SEAWIG.  

Look! The dangly glass orbs hanging from Liz's wig contain a tiny Fimo McIntyre & Reeve...

It's great to be working with Liz at last, because way back when I was still a jobbing illustrator it was she who encouraged me to keep submitting re-writes of Mortal Engines to Scholastic, where she was then working. She'd left before the book was formally accepted for publication, but I still think of her as my first editor. (She didn't wear the wig in those days, mind...)  We'll also be working with another OUP editor, Clare Whitston, and Head of Design Jo Cameron.

And huzzah, Elaine McQuade, another familiar face from Scholastic, is now Head of Marketing and Publicity at OUP.  On Scholastic's super-efficient publicity itineraries Elaine was always referred to as EMQ, so we like to think of her as 'Er Majesty the Queen.

I can't wait to see Sarah's illustrations start to take shape, and we're both looking forward to getting to work with the OUP team on the book, which will be published next year.

Oh look, here's Sarah's account of the same day, with even more photos and much more detail.


As a change from the Mortal Engines pictures I've been posting recently, here's a fine drawing of Skarper, the goblin hero of Goblins, drawn by William Widdas from Leeds...

...and here's a link to a recent review of the book by Simon Mason in the Guardian newspaper.

Worldbuilding at Teignmouth

Last week I went to Teignmouth, as a guest of Teignmouth Community School. Some of the pupils there are doing a project on biography, and wanted to interview a local celebrity, but they had to make do with me.  English teacher Jane Rose had arranged a very well-organised session in which the pupils asked me questions, mostly focusing on Mortal Engines; how it came to be written, and what it felt like when it was eventually published.  Then, after lunch, I did a Worldbuilding workshop with some of the pupils in the school's beautiful and well-used library.  This is only the second time I've run a workshop (the first being at Exeter School last autumn) and, to be honest, I'm still not sure I've got the introductory spiel right, but luckily the pupils were all bright sparks, and once I left them to their own devices they came up with a plethora of strange and fascinating imaginary worlds.  Then we tried bunging bits of all the different worlds together to make one big one, and ended up with a whole fantasy solar system where all sorts of intriguing stories were starting to develop.  Here's the synopsis I typed up at the end of the day, though this is really just a taster of the weird and wonderful ideas the session threw up.

World-Building at Teignbridge Community School
The Earth has been ripped apart by mining; all that remains is a huge cloud of rubble, loosely held together by a gravity machine at its centre.  But the machine is failing, and the people who are trying to repair it are endangered by the radiation the machine gives off, and by mutant lizards with half-metre-long claws who infest the rubble-cloud.

Everyone else has relocated to a number of other nearby (man made?) planets, which are linked together by a series of vast bridges.  You can travel across these bridges in air-filled balls propelled by hamsters, although you have to be able to pay the hamsters with something that they need - otherwise they will eat you.  The most useful form of hamster-currency is baby hamsters, since the hamsters are too busy rolling balls around to have babies of their own.

The planets include:

Aquatica: a water-world, where mermaids and dolphins rule over a population of sea creatures; there is a middle class of whales and sharks, and an underclass of fish.  Sand dollars are used as money.
Rookaly: a robot world.  Originally populated by nerds, who built the robots to defend themselves. However, the robots took over (although, unbeknown to them, the robot king is actually a nerd in a robot suit!).
‘Sweet World’ A divided planet, populated by intelligent sweets, who are locked in constant warfare with equally intelligent cheeses.  The cheeses are getting the upper hand, but they are themselves threatened by the mysterious being called  ‘Pizza Boy’ who putters from planet to planet on his space scooter delivering pizzas, and has been known to grate the cheeses up to use as toppings.
Slinka: a small planet with snake-shaped continents, populated by mythical beings.
All the planets are endangered by the flocks of zombie chickens which infest the surrounding space.
Our hero, living among the machine-repair crews in the rubble of earth, sets off to explore the other worlds.  On Rookaly he meets Lukenza, who has always felt out of place among the robot people there because she is only half robot - her mother was a Medusa-like being from Slinka...

And after all that, I drew Horrible Histories pictures for everyone, and we went home.  Big thank-yous to Jane Rose and her colleagues for inviting me to Teignmouth, and to all the young imagineers for coming up with such good ideas.

Radio Litopia Interview

Here's a link to the interview I did on Radio Litopia a couple of weeks ago.  It focuses mostly on the Mortal Engines books and steampunkery.  Thanks very much to Dave, Peter and Ali for inviting me on the show, and for everyone who visited the chat room while we were on air to ask questions.

Shrike Cake Shock

Crumbs! Following on from last year's impressive Traction London cake from the Oxford University SF society, here's a scary Shrike cake by Candid Cantrix.  This was made as a thankyou-for-proofreading-my-dissertation gift for Jeremy Levett, aka Brosencrantz (who also helped to proofread Goblins - and did he get a cake for his troubles that time? Er... no).  It looks suitably Stalkerlicious...

Ms Cantrix also runs Cakestuck, which specialises in cakes based on something called Homestuck which I'm too old to understand. More cakes here!

More Mortal Engines Art

Sorry for the recent break in transmission. There were some problems with the blog and the website last week, caused by those pesky Goblins - the news of a proposed Goblins movie brought so many extra visitors to both sites that the servers couldn't cope and they crashed. Huge thanks to Ian Forster at Graphic Alchemy and Andrew Southon at Lamp Web Design for sorting it all out; as far as I can tell from this end, things are now running normally again.

So, as promised, here's a second helping of recent Mortal Engines art.  These silhouette images are by Tim Denby, and he leaves it up to you to decide which cities they represent - I imagine the Guild of Navigators would have city recognition charts like these pinned up in their watch-towers and spotter airships to help identify London's prey.  I particularly like the bottom one with its twin stacks of tiers linked by a suspension bridge.

  You can find more of Tim's work here on his DeviantArt page.

And it case you missed it, scroll down or click here for Justin Hill's Mortal Engines images.