Playing Nicely With Others – Writing in The Shared Worlds of Abaddon Books

Arrowhead by Paul KaneIt was, from the outside, admittedly, an odd proposal: take the model used by publishers of tie-in fiction, and use it to create original worlds without any link to a game, film, TV series etc etc. Abaddon Books was established in 2006 by myself (in the role of Editor-in-Chief) and Jason and Chris Kingsley at Rebellion. Before I joined, Rebellion had been known principally for two things – video games and 2000 AD. However, the Kingsleys were keen to extend the remit of the company and go into publishing genre fiction. Jason and Chris are also very much interested in generating new Intellectual Properties that can then go on to be used in a variety of different media. Abaddon Books, then, was created to be an ideas factory.

The first stage in setting up the imprint was deciding what flavours of fiction we wanted to publish; what worlds we thought genre fans would like to see. The first four series created for Abaddon were Pax Britannia (a steampunk adventure series, principally written by Jonathan Green), Dreams of Inan (a sci-fi/fantasy trilogy), Tomes of The Dead (a long-running collection of zombie novels) and The Afterblight Chronicles (a series set in a post-apocalyptic world). The challenge then was to get in the authors and make sure they all sung from the same hymn-sheet, whichever of our worlds they were working in. To some this may sounds like a logistical nightmare – visions of huge, weighty world bibles come to mind, and painstakingly-checked continuity – but that really wasn’t where the challenges lay. What Abaddon is for, is telling lots of different types of stories, within several different ‘flavours’ of fiction. So, while we have certain story arcs within our series (the St Mark’s trilogy in The Afterblight Chronicles springs to mind, and Ulysses’ Quicksilver’s adventure in Pax Britannia), it’s been much more important to us that our authors stay true to the spirit of a series, rather than feel tied-down by any perceived rules and regulations.

I know that rather than feeling this to be a limiting influence on their writing,  most of our authors find this a liberating experience. Al Ewing, for example, whose first novel I was very lucky to have published, really used the series he wrote in to run wild with his imagination. His novel I, Zombie for the Tomes of the Dead, for example, took a zombie story and within three or so chapters had totally turned it on its head, introducing aliens, the royal family, a Buckingham Palace that turned into a walking battle droid and all sorts of… madness. In Scott Andrew’s St Mark’s trilogy, the author used the themes of apocalypse and a small community to explore some weighty issues and themes.

Of course, Abaddon is a work-for-hire publisher, meaning that our authors assign the copyright in their stories to us, and naturally this isn’t going to be for everybody. However, we have provided a terrific opportunity for new writers, or those authors wanting to try their hand at something different. I’ve been very encouraged to see some of the authors we’ve introduced to the world, go on to wider acclaim. I’ve always been very proud that we published the first mass market paperbacks of such brilliant writers as Gary McMahon, Chuck Wendig and Simon Bestwick.

And what this really comes down to, and hence the title of this article, is sharing the experience of the act of creation with our authors. Both myself and my co-editor David Moore take great delight in working alongside our writers to create new series of fun, brilliantly written and innovative genre fiction. I believe that this collaborative effort has produced some startling works of genre fiction, and I know that our readers will be delighted by some of the surprises we have coming their way in 2013.

JONATHAN OLIVER

Jonathan OliverJonathan Oliver is the Editor-in-Chief of Solaris and Abaddon Books. He is the author of two novels in the Twilight of Kerberos series, The Call of Kerberos and The Wrath of Kerberos, as well as a bunch of short stories that have appeared in a variety of places.

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