Our May GSFF book was an instant Sunday Times Bestseller! A fresh new take on Arthurian legend, instead of a classic retelling, Thomas D. Lee brought two Knights of the Round Table - Sir Kay and Sir Lancelot - to the modern age. Enchanted so that they are resurrected every time Britain is in peril, facing climate change and a half flooded polluted country is not what they ever expected. And it's not something they can solve the traditional way with swords and armour. Read more from the author below!
My name’s Tom, and I write fantasy novels. I still can’t quite believe that my madcap Arthurian debut novel PERILOUS TIMES has been picked up and published by Orbit Books here in the UK (and by Ballantine in the US), never mind the fact that Goldsboro Books wanted to showcase it as their Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fellowship book for May 2023! It’s out in the world now, on bookshelves and e-reader tablets and buzzing in people’s ear pods as an audiobook while they go for a run, which is a very surreal and wonderful thought. I’m trying to savour the moment as much as I can!
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and I spent most of my teenage years writing Star Trek fan fiction before graduating into the genre of weird contemporary fantasy. Terry Pratchett was a huge influence on my writing when I was growing up (which will probably be obvious from page one to anyone who gets a Goldsboro edition of Perilous Times through the post) – his books taught me that stories could be funny and charming and kind-hearted whilst still containing a deep anger at the injustice in the world, and that’s exactly what I strove to emulate while writing Perilous Times.
In 2016, when the Brexit vote came through and Donald Trump was elected in the US, I had the thought of “Maybe it’s time for King Arthur to come back and fulfil the prophecy and sort all of this out.” I wasn’t the only person to have that thought – there were jokes and memes all over Twitter and Tumblr. But it instantly seemed like a very funny idea, because I doubted very quickly that the messianic return of a sixth-century warlord would actually make anything better. What would that look like? Would Knights of the Round table actually be able to help with modern perils like climate breakdown or political demagoguery? I knew I had a good idea on my hands, and I made a few false starts at writing it, but it wasn’t until 2019 – when I was studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing – that I wrote the first line, of the first page, of the first chapter, of the first draft that ended up becoming a published novel. “Kay crawls up from under his tree, up through the claggy earth.”
I wanted it to be a funny novel, but I also wanted to explore my own feelings of powerlessness about the encroaching climate crisis. I wanted to ask questions about what we can do to fight climate breakdown, and what heroism looks like in the twenty-first century. Is there a right or wrong way to protest, to make your voice heard, to fight the powerful and stand up for the victims of injustice, in the face of massive ecological collapse? We’re all asking ourselves these questions, as we see the oceans rising, summers getting warmer, droughts becoming more common across the world, and Just Stop Oil protestors disrupting rugby matches.
Books like Perilous Times can’t offer definitive answers to these questions – Jeff VanderMeer, the author of Annihilation, recently wrote a great article about how climate fiction won’t save the planet – but writing it felt like a tiny act of hope and resistance, and I hope it engenders hope in everyone who reads it.
I hope Perilous Times makes you laugh, and I hope you enjoy reading it. It deals with serious themes and goes to some dark places, but it also has a flying ice-cream van and some ridiculous rebels and a talking squirrel who’s quickly becoming a fan favourite. I’m looking forward to spending more time with these characters and writing some more stories that explore their past.
Thanks again to Goldsboro Books for choosing Perilous Times and producing the beautiful GSFFF special edition, which now has pride of place on my bookshelf! I can’t wait to get my Goldsboro Edition of SHANGHAI IMMORTAL next month! And thank you to you, the readers, who make all of this possible. Enjoy the book!