CrabHello, and welcome to the website of David Barnett, author and journalist.

My current project is CALLING MAJOR TOM, to be published in 2017 by the new Orion books imprint, TRAPEZE. I’m also the author of the Gideon Smith series of steampunk/alternate-history/fantasy novels, published in the US by Tor Books and the UK by Snowbooks.

I’m represented by the John Jarrold Literary Agency.

You can also see my journalism work at my Barnett Media website.

On the site you’ll see links to the latest books, what’s coming up, and personal appearances.

Thanks for stopping by.

Where’s Dave? (pinned post – see below for latest updates)

I have a few personal appearances coming up this Autumn/Fall (delete as appropriate depending on which continent you are), largely to promote Gideon Smith. Come along and say hello! Failing that, there are also some online events which may prove of interest.

In Real Life

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 13, Waterstones, Bradford City Centre – 5.30pm. This is one of Waterstones’ “Cafe Culture” events which will get you a copy of Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, a cup of coffee and a cake for just £10!

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 20, Bradford Library, City Park, Bradford – Free event, 2pm start. more info

FRIDAY OCTOBER 10, Cheltenham Literary Festival – appearing with Joe Abercrombie, Sarah Pinborough, Mitch Benn and Ben Aaronovitch discussing all things SF and fantasy – more info

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 29, Petrie Museum, London, 6pm for 6.30pm start, discussing the Egyptology aspects of Gideon Smith (free event but tickets required) – more info

SAT-SUN NOVEMBER 23-24, Haworth Steampunk Festival – more info


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 16 – Release day online party at Bitten By Books! I’ll be answering questions and chatting to readers. 12 noon Pacific Time (about 8pm GMT) – more info to follow

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Victorian-British-tourist-001Delighted to announce I’ll be appearing at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology on WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 29, at 6pm to talk about the Gideon Smith books and how Egypt held such a fascination for Victorians. Best of all, it’s completely free.

Here’s the blurb from the Petrie’s website:


Date: Wednesday 29 October | Time: 6-8pm. Doors open 6pm & talk starts 6.30pm. | Location: Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology | Price: Free. Book via eventbrite: http://gideonsmith.eventbrite.co.uk | Age group: Over 16. |

Join writer David Barnett in conversation on his Gideon Smith alternate history books. His first book in the series Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl takes the reader on a journey from Victorian Whitby to London down the Nile in Egypt where the reality behind Penny Dreadfuls and heroes of Empire becomes more clear.

020 7679 4138 | events.petrie@ucl.ac.uk


You can also book your (FREE, remember!) tickets via Eventbrite.



An open letter to Batman on his 75th birthday

batmanDear Batman,

I suppose I should start by saying happy birthday! 75 years old today. That’s quite an achievement for a comic book character. I reckon it was probably half your lifetime ago that you became part of my life.

That would have been the mid-to-late 1970s. I don’t quite remember how we met… I started reading at an early age and comics were a big part of that. Marvel Comics characters, rather than you and your pals from your publisher DC, were more prevalent when I was young, probably through the UK black-and-white reprints. But by some sort of osmosis you entered my consciousness and have never really left.

Continue reading

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon – UK cover art

imageHere it is, the cover art for the UK Snowbooks edition of Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, out on September 17th! As you can see, it’s in a very similar style to the first book, and kudos to Snowbooks head honcho for pulling off a beauty once again!


The “SFF community” – what the hell is that, anyway?

This post is likely to be long, unfocused and rambling, so you might want to not bother.

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few days about the “science fiction and fantasy (SFF) community”.

I have no real idea what that is.

I understand what the words mean, of course, but I’ve done some fumbling around in the dark and I’m still not quite sure about the shape or size of this particular elephant. What I think it means is that there’s a loose association of people who read, write, publish and generally like the genre. I suppose, ticking two of those boxes, I must be a part of the SFF community. I’m just not sure I feel as though I am, though.

The community as has been referred to in the last couple of days generally seems to be people who pretty much share my political and social views – liberal, left-leaning, equality for all, you don’t have a pop at anyone based on their gender, skin-colour, religion, waist-size, that sort of thing. You know – common human decency. People with similar views tend to gravitate together, that’s natural. However, that’s not necessarily a “community” – it might be a club, or a cell, or a society or a gang.

A “community”, in the most literal sense, to me, is made up of lots of people who try their best to rub along. They don’t all necessarily sing from the same hymn sheet. For example, the place I live is a “community”, but we don’t all have the same politics or points of view. The more extreme ends of the spectrum tend to avoid each other. Everyone else tries to get along, agrees to disagree, and while they – we – obviously all think that we’re right in what we think, people generally don’t stick their flag in the high ground and shout: “I’m right and the rest of you can go and fuck yourselves”.

Because that’s not a community.

And so, I think, it must be with the SFF community. I haven’t mentioned Jonathan Ross’s name yet, but obviously this has all been kicked off by him presenting the Hugos, then not presenting the Hugos, then Twitter, then the wider internet, then the mainstream press getting filled up with all kinds of bile thrown about from all sides like monkeys flinging shit at each other.

Let’s take another example. Let’s pluck Orson Scott Card out of thin air. He writes science fiction. He’s apparently famously homophobic (I say apparently due to my journalistic sensibilities – I have no direct experience of Orson Scott Card’s homophobia and am not, frankly, inclined to look for it right at this moment, but I understand it to be a fact). There are going to be people with wildly differing standpoints on Orson Scott Card, his books, and his homophobia, from people who probably identify as SFF readers.

There are people who read his books and agree with his views.

There are people who read his books but violently disagree with his views.

There are people who give the thumbs up to homophobia but haven’t read his books.

There are people who hate his homophobia and as a result won’t touch his books with a scabby dog leg.

Are these people all part of the same SFF community? Or are there different SFF communities depending on your politics and your viewpoints?

If it’s the latter, then we should stop talking about “the SFF community” because there obviously isn’t just one, there are many.

If it’s the former… then that’s just like any other community. There are people with wildly differing standpoints. Most of the time, like in the place where I live, they’ll avoid each other if their viewpoints are really extreme to each other. If that’s unavoidable, they’ll maybe talk about something else, find some common-ground that doesn’t involve sticking pins into each other’s sensitive bits.

But it feels to me like there’s a more solid idea of the SFF community than that. One of the things I do like about the world of science fiction and fantasy is that, as a reader, especially in these social networking times, you’re offered unprecedented access to writers. It’s the sort of world where I can go to a convention knowing no-one and have several pints with the likes of Darren Nash and Mike Carey, or bump into Jon Courtenay Grimwood and, um, have several pints with him. Or see George RR Martin walking across a hotel lobby and stop him for a chat.

I didn’t feel part of the SFF community before my first convention. I did, briefly, while I was there. Outside conventions, maybe not so much. I’d like to feel part of it, but somehow don’t. Maybe it’s because I don’t attend all the cons – I’ve done one Worldcon and three Eastercons. I’d like to do more. But you know what? I can’t really afford to, both in terms of money and time.

Ah, you might think, if cons were important to you, you’d find the cash and make the time. Well, yeah. But – and I realise all this is my choice, so don’t start telling me that – I have other things that demand my time and money. I work full time, as does my wife. We have two kids. Day-to-day living is fucking expensive, but you knew that. We hardly get out much together, either my wife and I or as a family, as it is. I feel bad about spending money and weekends away at cons. I feel as though I should be spending it with the family. And… oh yeah. I write books as well. I need to make time to do that. It’s generally weekends or late at night. Yeah, boo-hoo, poor me.

But because I don’t do cons that much, I feel outside the SFF Community. I engage on the internet, and have some great relationships on Twitter especially with people I regard as being in the SFF community. On the other hand, there are a lot of people I admire for their writing and feel a connection to in terms of SFF who I try to engage with on Twitter and… nothing. Hey, I understand people are busy and who the hell am I anyway? That uppity northern bloke who writes steampunk. Be nice to get a response occasionally, though.

I also shoot my mouth off on Twitter sometimes, which I’m trying to rein in. I had opinions on the Jonathan Ross thing. I saw the tweets, read the blog posts, thought about it all. My opinion was that yes, I understand that cons are meant to be “safe places”. I understand that there have been problems at cons, especially for women. I understand that if people think Ross was going to make people feel uncomfortable, then he probably wasn’t the best choice to present the Hugos. I also think that a lot of people shot their mouths off before thinking about it and engaging in the proper way. I should probably admit to having a dog in this fight, a small one at any rate. I’ve never met Jonathan Ross but I’ve always rated him as a TV entertainer, even before I knew about his genre credentials. Last year a friend of mine, who works in PR, was due to meet Ross at an event. She emailed me to say I should get her a copy of Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl and she’d give it to him.

Why? Because she works in PR and I work in journalism and we both understand the potential for getting your book in the hands of a celebrity. It’s probably quite cynical – I didn’t act out of philanthropy because I thought Jonathan Ross might like a free book. Let’s face it, he can probably afford to buy a copy himself. I did it because a) I like Jonathan Ross b) He likes genre and c) He has 3.6 million followers on twitter. Imagine if he read Gideon Smith and liked it! Imagine if he tweeted about it! Imagine if even a fraction of his 3.6 million followers went out to buy it on his recommendation!

I don’t believe in book sales at any cost. I’d not be overjoyed if Nick Griffin from the BNP or even George Osborne was waxing lyrical about Gideon Smith. Mainly because I know they wouldn’t, because it’s written with my sensibilities. But you’ve read it so you know that, right?

Jonathan Ross is not Nick Griffin. He’s not Hitler. He’s a high-profile guy who likes a lot of the same stuff as I do. So my friend presented him with a proof of the book. He looked at it and said: “Wow, he’s published by Tor! I love Tor Books’ stuff.” He said he’d read it when he had the time. I don’t think he has yet, and he might not ever, but, y’know.

So… where was I? Fuck knows. All I know is that I was dismayed how Twitter descended into a bear pit so quickly over the Jonathan Ross stuff. How people were polarised so rapidly and deeply. How it seemed no-one took a deep breath and said, “OK, let’s talk this through.”

No-one covered themselves with glory. Everyone was a little bit right and a little bit – or a lot – wrong. I made my thoughts known – I was annoyed, to be honest, and thought Ross would have been a great host. Some people I respect unfollowed me. I tried not to give a shit, but, you know… it bothered me. I had an opinion and it was evidently the wrong one for the SFF community.

And now I think… well, I’ll probably never be in the SFF Community. Shit, for all I know, my career as a writer might be in jeopardy. I mean, I’m not Orson Scott Card, but I voiced an opinion that wasn’t popular. And that scares me a bit – I’ve been trying to be a writer for more years than I can count. Shit, I need this gig! But I feel I’ve really got to watch what I say now.

In any community there are people with wildly differing views. But mostly we get along, try to educate each other, have disagreements where necessary and – most importantly – talk about stuff rather than bringing down the shutters and sticking two fingers up to each other.

At least, that’s the sort of community I’d hope for, anyway.

If you read this far, have a lollipop.