Tag Archives: big names

A Dream Come True

Some kids dreamed of growing up to be dancers or doctors. I dreamed of being an anthology editor. (Not even kidding. I practically had an altar to Terry Carr and Judith Merril.) Now that dream might come true.

The anthology in question is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. As we all know, history is written by the victors, and that includes historical fiction. The goal of this project is to focus on and amplify the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins. What was it like to be a Mayan laborer when the conquistadors showed up? to be a newly freed slave trying to start a business after the U.S. Civil War? to be transgender in Elizabethan England? Stories like these will be told in Long Hidden, each with a speculative twist. We have an incredible group of authors lined up to send us stories, including Beverly Jenkins, Victor LaValle, Tananarive Due, Ken Liu, and Amal El-Mohtar. We’ll also be open to submissions, so if you’re a writer, start thinking about sending us a story!

The publisher is Crossed Genres, a fabulous small press that’s known for taking chances on unclassifiable and niche books that would otherwise never see the light of day. They do this by raising money through Kickstarter; advance fundraising means we can pay the authors well and be confident that there’s a market for the book. Here’s the Kickstarter page for Long Hidden. We’re over two-thirds funded already, which is tremendous for our first weekend and has me really hoping we make a few of our stretch goals, like interior illustrations or an audiobook edition. I’m obsessively refreshing the page like an author checking their Amazon ranking on launch day (which I’m sure I’ll do too when the book is actually published next year).

When I was a kid, people who knew my parents (both novelists) would ask me when–not whether–I was going to write a novel. Many of the PW staff have written books, and a year or two back, someone asked when–not whether–I would do one. But really, I will probably never write a novel. I’m not a writer; I’m an editor. So I’m pleased as punch to find my own editorial way to get my name on a book jacket, especially in service to such a great cause and in the company of such a great people. I really, really, really hope we can make this happen as splendidly as the subject matter deserves.

2012 Nebula Award Finalists

Congratulations to this year’s Nebula Award finalists! Summary of my impressions:

I think this is a very strong ballot overall. I’ve only read a small fraction of the nominated works, but I really liked all the ones I’ve read. I definitely don’t have any immediate “What is THAT doing on an award shortlist?” reactions, which is always nice.

There’s an impressive diversity of sex, race, and sexuality on all the ballots, especially compared to, say, ten years ago. (Warning on that link for a very bright yellow-and-red color scheme.)

Having one’s short fiction available online for free unsurprisingly appears to broaden one’s audience, and the folks at Clarkesworld and Tor.com clearly have their fingers on the pulse of the Nebula-nominating short-fiction-reading crowd. There is not a single story from Analog, ouch. I note that GigaNotoSaurus is the only webzine with a story on the novella ballot; are webzines not publishing novellas, or are they not publishing the sorts of novellas that get award nods, or do readers enjoy or appreciate novellas more in print than online?

Self-published works and small-press novels are nowhere to be found. I’d love to see a small-press, digital-first, and self-publishing revolution on the novel ballot comparable to the recent ascent of webzines on the short fiction ballots. I would be heartened by the appearance of a few stories from small-press anthologies and collections if there were such a thing as a large-press anthology or collection, but there basically isn’t, so I will settle for being heartened that anyone still publishes or reads anthologies and collections.

And now, the list. Linked short fiction titles are shamelessly stolen from John DeNardo’s post at SF Signal (thanks, John!). Book titles link to the PW reviews, where available. Statistics in my notes are to the best of my knowledge, and please do correct me if I’ve gotten anything wrong.

NOVEL

Rose’s notes: Four women. One queer person. One trans person. Two people of color. Four books that got starred PW reviews. Zero self-published books. Zero small-press books. Zero digital-only books.

NOVELLA

Rose’s notes: Two women. Two people of color. Two stand-alone titles, both from small presses. One webzine story. One story from a small-press anthology, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

NOVELETTE

Rose’s notes: Five women. One person of color. Three queer people. Four webzine stories. Two stories from small-press compilations (if you count the “Mammoth” books as small press, which I think I do), one reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

SHORT STORY

Rose’s notes: Five women. Two people of color. Five webzine stories. One story from a small-press collection, reprinted online. Zero self-published stories.

Unpleasant Allegations, and a Response

A post by a woman alleging that she was emotionally abused by an SF/F author pseudonymized as “C” is making the rounds. Be warned: it’s long and pretty emotionally wrenching. (I have removed the link and the author’s identifying information out of concern for the post’s author.) The post was first made a couple of years ago and recently updated.

The information in the post suggests very strongly that “C” is China Miéville. (A few people have told me that the original post named him and included a link to his website, though I haven’t been able to personally verify that.) I asked him if he had any comment on the post. He replied:

When I met the writer several years ago, I liked and respected her greatly, and we were very briefly involved. I was in an open relationship with my partner, of which I made the writer fully aware. I quickly came to understand that I’d made wrong assumptions and errors of emotional responsibility. I regretted and apologized for these at the time, and subsequently. Much of what’s said in the piece, however, is simply untrue, and my interpretation of the events is very different.

I wrote to the post’s author asking if she wanted to make any further comment but have yet to get a response on the record. If I do, I’ll share it here.

My friend Liz W. provided some interesting context for Americans like me who aren’t familiar with the current UK political situation:

The SWP (Miéville’s party) is in the middle of tearing itself apart over its handling of rape allegations. Miéville has been one of the people pushing for them to get their act together and deal with them properly. A lot of rival groups would love to see the SWP break up – it’s a bit notorious in UK politics for its entryist tactics, opportunism and other antics, and of course the left is pretty prone to factionalism anyway – and some of them are now using the post as ammunition against him and the SWP in general (lots of identically-worded comments on various blog posts).

I can’t make any comment on the politics or people involved, nor do I have any way of knowing the truth of the allegations, but this context might be useful to those seeing the link and wondering what’s up with that.

Disclosure: I know China somewhat (he’s referred to us as “friends”, I’d say “friendly acquaintances”, but that’s one of those blurry lines), and don’t know the post’s author at all.

Link Roundup

PW Names the Best Books of 2012

We still have no work email. Our office is still dark. But a weekly magazine is a weekly magazine, and my tremendously dedicated colleagues have found a way to get our Best Books issue live on time. I am so proud to be part of this team.

I will let the selections speak for themselves:

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall my agony as I tried to whittle the SF/F/H list down to five. It couldn’t be done, so I petitioned for an extra two titles. I really could not have left any of those books off, not in good conscience. This genre is big! We need the big-six novels and the small-press collections, the SF thrillers and the ethereal fantastic. I’m pleased as punch to be able to give these books their due.

As soon as I get back to the office I’ll post my personal, unofficial “honorable mentions”. In the meantime, I’m off to start reading 2013 starred books in hopes of getting a head start on next year’s list!

Links for October 16

Josh and I spent the last two weeks in London and Paris, having a splendid time and getting to hang out with an astonishing and wonderful variety of people. Now we’re back, trying desperately to get caught up. While I clean 400 emails out of my inbox (not an exaggeration), I found a handful of interesting links that had accumulated:

  • Avon just launched a Facebook app, Avon Social Reader, that will let readers preview and discuss Avon titles and buy some of them DRM-free from AllRomanceEbooks.
  • I recently signed up for Daily Science Fiction, lured in by Nicole Cipri’s wonderful “A Silly Love Story”, and have been enjoying it; it’s easy to make time to read one short story a day, and the quality’s pretty good. Newcomer SnackReads looks to be aimed at the same market, but instead of a free plain-text email to read in a few minutes, you get a $1.99 epub file to read over a lunch break or commute. They’re launching with Suzy McKee Charnas’s long-OOP story “Scorched Supper on New Niger”.
  • Want even more short fiction? Cemetery Dance is putting out a bunch of short horror e-books to lead up to Halloween.
  • A 12-year-old interviews China Miéville about Railsea.
  • I interview Jo Walton (on video) about Among Others, just before or just after it won a Nebula Award. I haven’t watched this and have no idea whether it came out well, so if you get a chance to watch it, let me know what you think!

Worldcon Breaking News

Josh and I are hard at work on turning Worldcon news and interviews into articles for the SF/F focus issue of PW (September 10! Mark your calendars!) but here’s some breaking news for you in the meantime.

Worldcon-related:

  • The Hugo Awards results, of course.
  • During Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form (for his Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”), he let it slip that he’s on the third draft of another Doctor Who script. Cue much squeeing.
  • …except from those people who couldn’t see his speech because Ustream cut off the awards ceremony webcast, citing copyright violation. That would presumably be because the broadcast included clips of the Best Dramatic Presentation nominees; the clips had been provided by the studios and were used and streamed legally, but that didn’t stop some DRM-hound program from blocking the transmission. Cue much outrage.
  • The London in 2014 team won its unopposed bid to host the 2014 Worldcon, which will be called Loncon 3 and already has a sterling line-up of honored guests. Josh and I promptly upgraded from “friend of the bid” to full membership. I have so far dodged all attempts to get me to volunteer, though I did offer to make myself available as a consultant on programming matters. That’s totally different from volunteering, right? Anyway, I expect it will be an excellent convention and I’m really looking forward to it.
  • The 2015 bid is hotly contested by Orlando, Spokane, and Helsinki, plus a Phoenix AZ bid for the 2015 NASFiC if Helsinki gets the Worldcon the 2014 NASFiC. (Apologies for the error.)
  • LoneStarCon 3, the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio TX, has announced that it will have a Spanish-language programming track–presumably not just about Spanish-language work but actually conducted in Spanish. That would be very exciting.

Publishing news:

  • Harper Voyager is “actively seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines” to submit manuscripts for consideration for a new digital-first line. Submissions will be open for two weeks only, October 1–14, at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com (link not live because the site isn’t up yet). Distribution for accepted, published titles will be worldwide (world English rights). Executive Editor Diana Gill says they’re looking for “novels, novellas, short stories, interstitials.” Get those manuscripts polished up!
  • Patty Garcia of Tor Books tells me that Harry Harrison turned in the manuscript of his memoirs just two weeks before his death in August. “We had originally scheduled it for spring but we are trying to move it into late fall,” she says.
  • A source I cannot name informs me that Jim Butcher is supposedly about to turn in the manuscript for Cold Days, the 14th Dresden Files novel, currently slated for a November 27 release. The series pub dates have been creeping later for a while, from a year-long gap between volumes to nearly a year and a half since Ghost Story came out last July. Fans will be very relieved to see this one hit the shelves.

Speaking of the Dresden Files, I’ve been quite enjoying getting to walk around Chicago, but it is a little disappointing to encounter neither mobsters nor monsters. Any suggestions for Dresden-related landmarks to visit before we head home?

The 2012 Hugo Awards Liveblog

Refresh this page for LIVE updates as the Hugo Awards and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer are given out at Worldcon! We’ll get started at 8 p.m. Central Time. In the meantime, refresh your memory of the nominees, or download some of them to read and enjoy for free.

20:11: We are LIVE.

20:13: Nice spotlight on the assembled Hugo Awards as ceremony director Susan de Guardiola welcomes everyone.

20:15: John Scalzi’s opening remarks. “We’re diverse and we’re all in this together,” he says (while leaving the B out of GLBT, oops). He then jumps up and down and hollers “HELLO DRAGONCON”. Maybe you had to be there.

“Seanan McGuire nominated an incredible seventeen thousand times! Under several names, including Seanan McGuire, Mira Grant, Neil Gaiman, and George R.R. Martin.”

20:22: David Kyle, who was at the first Worldcon, presents the Big Heart Award (which he received himself nearly 40 years ago). “Certain fans deserve recognition because they give time and talent beyond the norm.” The award goes to Juanita Coulson; Merav Hoffman accepts on her behalf.

20:31: Chicon 7 chair Dave McCarty presents the special committee award to Robert Weinberg. Jane Frank accepts on his behalf.

20:35: Memorial montage. Big applause for Neil Armstrong, Ray Bradbury, Kathryn Dougherty, Rusty Hevelin, Steve Jobs (an interesting inclusion), Joe Kubert, Anne McCaffrey, Sally Ride, Maurice Sendak, Josepha Sherman. Slightly awkward lesser applause for those less well known.

Photo of L.A. Banks makes me cry. Glad I brought a hanky.

20:43: Scalzi smoothly transitions from celebrating the past to looking forward. Next up: the Campbell, presented by Stanley Schmidt (who gets a huge round of applause after Scalzi praises his tenure at Analog).

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

Award for the best new professional science fiction or fantasy writer of 2010 or 2011, sponsored by Dell Magazines (not a Hugo Award, * = 2nd year of eligibility).

Lily looks totally stunned. “That’s a lot of people!” she says as she looks out from the stage.

Jay Lake presents Lily with the Campbell Tiara. “It’s a diadem!” Ellen Datlow hollers from the audience. “It is a diadem,” Jay agrees, “but we call it a tiara because we’re writers.”

20:50: Deb Kosiba comes out to talk about this year’s base design.

20:53: Scalzi explains the “stages of Hugo”: elation, intimidation, bargaining, depression, and nervousness. “What if I win? What if I don’t win? What if they switch to a Hunger Games format?” He assures the nominees that there is life after Hugos. “There is still the work, and your friends, and the celebration of the genre…. No matter what, this is a good life we’ve got going here.”

Best Fan Artist

Chris Garcia grabs Maurine in a big bear hug. “I gotta thank Chris,” she says when she gets onstage. “It’s all his fault.”

Best Fan Writer

Scalzi poses to honor Jim’s work making fun of ludicrous cover art. Jim does the same. “You do that quite well. We should collaborate.”

Jim calls for a celebration of diverse voices in fandom, and to that end, will be recusing himself from the category from now on.

Best Fancast

They take turns at the podium (in alphabetical order because Lynne is a librarian). Bear: “This is for everyone who makes awesome stuff for us to squee about.” Paul: “Ta.” Seanan, beside herself: “Y’all gave me a Hugo for never shutting up!” Lynne: “Talk about a Twitter conversation getting out of hand!” She graciously says the voters were “really spoiled for choice” and calls for applause for the other nominees. Cat: “I am stunned. I think we need a new word for when your heart is turning cartwheels and throwing up. I suggest Hugasm.” And a chorus of squee!

Best Fanzine

John DeNardo: “I can’t think of the words to express how this feels. ‘WOOHOO!’ comes close…” He thanks JP Franz for suggesting he start a blog: “Good call.” (On Twitter, Niall Harrison notes that SF Signal is the first blog to win this award.)

Best Semiprozine

There’s a reason this category is called “Best Locus“. Liza still manages to look surprised and pleased. She notes it’s the first Hugo for Locus since Charles M. Brown died.

Best Professional Artist

HUGE applause for John, whose award is long overdue. “You have to lose a lot to every once in a while win something…. I’m here and I’m just blown away.” He gives big props to Tor art director Irene Gallo, and to never-nominated artists Richard Powers and John Burkey.

Best Professional Editor — Long Form

Lots of cheers for Betsy, who looks absolutely thrilled. “I’ve been a long-form editor for 37 years and this was my first nomination. I don’t blog, I don’t tweet, I’m shy about going to parties. I’m standing here for one reason and one reason only: because my authors put me here.” She concludes, “And Dad, FINALLY there’s a Hugo with the name Wollheim on it!”

Best Professional Editor — Short Form

Sheila thanks many people including Stanley Schmidt, “my best friend down the hall… he’s just been the greatest guy in the world.”

 Best Dramatic Presentation — Short Form

  • “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (BBC Wales), winner!
  • The Drink Tank’s Hugo Acceptance Speech,” Christopher J Garcia and James Bacon (Renovation)
  • “The Girl Who Waited” (Doctor Who), written by Tom MacRae; directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Wales)
  • “A Good Man Goes to War” (Doctor Who), written by Steven Moffat; directed by Peter Hoar (BBC Wales)
  • “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Community), written by Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna; directed by Jeff Melman (NBC)

Neil explains that he superstitiously avoids writing speeches, but he extemporizes beautifully. He says Doctor Who teaches us “what it is to be bigger on the inside”. He calls Community “a spin-off of the Doctor Who-inspired show Inspector Spacetime” and claims that the Drink Tank speech recreated 1965′s “Award Ceremony of the Daleks”.

Halfway through Neil’s speech, the UStream livestream of the ceremony goes down. Twitter fills with outrage. Genreville immediately gets 100+ new followers. Hi everyone!

Best Dramatic Presentation — Long Form

  • Captain America: The First Avenger, screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephan McFeely, directed by Joe Johnston (Marvel)
  • Game of Thrones season 1, created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor (HBO), winner!
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, screenplay by Steve Kloves; directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
  • Hugo, screenplay by John Logan; directed by Martin Scorsese (Paramount)
  • Source Code, screenplay by Ben Ripley; directed by Duncan Jones (Vendome Pictures)

Ron Donachie (who plays Ser Rodrik Cassel) accepts on behalf of HBO. He’s a lifelong fan, aww! GRRM bluntly says, “The show is a faithful adaptation of my books. I love it.” Take that, haters.

Best Graphic Story

  • Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press), winner!
  • Fables vol. 15: Rose Red by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
  • Locke & Key vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
  • Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
  • The Unwritten vol. 4: Leviathan created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

Ursula asks John to read the plaque and make sure it’s really hers. She didn’t know Digger was eligible for a Hugo and thought the nomination notification email was a phishing scam! She says Sofawolf “exemplifies everything great about small press” and praises her boyfriend for keeping the end a secret for two and a half years.

Best Related Work

  • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight (Gollancz), winner!
  • Jar Jar Binks Must Die… and Other Observations about Science Fiction Movies by Daniel M. Kimmel (Fantastic Books)
  • The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets and Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and S. J. Chambers (Abrams Image)
  • Wicked Girls by Seanan McGuire
  • Writing Excuses season 6 by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Jordan Sanderson

Graham Sleight, accepting on behalf of the team: “This is the point where I usually wake up from the dream.” John: *slaps him* Graham: “That’s quality toastmastering!” He thanks the team and adds, “We built this, and we set out to build this, for the whole of the SF community: fans, academics, writers, publishers, everyone.”

Best Short Story

Ken: “On the way up to the stage, I thought of three words: fans, editor, wife. So that’s the speech.”

Best Novelette
  • The Copenhagen Interpretation” by Paul Cornell (Asimov’s July 2011)
  • Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse Four)
  • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog December 2011)
  • Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com), winner!
  • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction March/April 2011)

Charlie Jane: “It feels like half my life I’ve been writing these weird little stories and hoping they speak to somebody.” She adds, “When Tor decided to put fiction on their website, they did not have to have unsolicited submissions…. The fact that they chose to have a slush pile, and the fact that they pulled me out of it, is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” She also thanks Annalee Newitz, “my space captain and my hero”, and her mentor Kelly Goldberg.

I believe–though am not 100% sure–that Charlie Jane is the first openly trans* Hugo winner in a fiction category.

Best Novella

Kij: “I’d like to thank Ted Chiang for not having a story out this year” (and also for helping her with her story). She encourages a round of applause for James Gunn, her mentor.

Best Novel
  • Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor), winner!
  • A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
  • Deadline by Mira Grant (Orbit)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
  • Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey (Orbit)

“George, I am so sorry!” Jo exclaims as soon as she gets to the microphone. She thanks her aunt for encouraging her to write a book about her family. “My entire life has been vindicated. I need to get new dreams now.” And she quotes her friend Ian: “Lots of people have said this is a love letter to fandom. Didn’t you expect to get a reply?”

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees!

22:25: And that’s a wrap! Now we’re off to stand outside the Losers’ Party in our snazzy suits, since press apparently aren’t allowed in.

EDIT: Nicholas Whyte has his usual excellent analysis of the votes.

Link Roundup

  • Tim “T.A.” Pratt reveals that T. Aaron Payton is his newest pseudonym, under which he wrote The Constantine Affliction.
  • The Clockwork Phoenix 4 Kickstarter broke the $10,000 barrier just before the deadline, which means that in addition to paying 4 cents a word for stories in CP4, Mike Allen will be launching a fiction and poetry webzine of at least 12 issues, starting in spring 2013.
  • A number of genre authors have contributed to Hazard Yet Forward, an e-only collection (currently only available on Kindle, other formats “coming soon”) by people associated with the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program. All proceeds from this project will benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program, who is currently battling breast cancer. According to an email from Genreville fan* Ron Edison, “Notable contributors include: World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker Award winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur Award winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias and West Virginia Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller…. Kudos for the project go to Natalie Wolfe Duvall, Matt Duvall and Deanna Lepsch, all former classmates of Donna.”
  • Speaking of popular fiction, PW reviewer Richard M. Rogers sends along this passionate defense of domestic fiction–in the Wall Street Journal of all places!
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have announced that all 15 Liaden Universe books will be available in audio format on Audible.com as of September 4, concurrent with the hardcover release of the newest book in the series, Dragon Ship, from Baen Books. More info here.

* You don’t have to be a Genreville fan to get a project mentioned here, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

PW Talks with Benedict Jacka, Cont.

I didn’t get a chance to post about this before going out of town, but here it is now: the overflow Qs and As from Joe Sanders’s interview with Benedict Jacka in the July 9 issue of PW.

If you’re into urban fantasy of the wizarding kind, Jacka’s books are very much worth checking out. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more people talking about them, since they seem tailor-made to appeal to fans of authors like Jim Butcher and Harry Connolly. The series stars Alex Verus, a London-based diviner who has a sort of magical ADD that lets him see all possible futures at once. Alex’s interactions with the “Light” and “Dark” mages in the area (which groupings are more like D&D “lawful” and “chaotic” than “good” and “evil”) have an interesting dynamic: knowledge is power, but power is also power, so he flips between acquiring and selling knowledge and trying not to get fried or squashed by people who have more direct forms of magic. It’s good stuff. For more info, see our reviews of Fated, Cursed, and Taken–and, of course, the Q&A.

JS: Besides interacting with a growing crowd of vivid individuals, Alex keeps running into Light characters whose actions are at least as vile as those committed by anyone from the Dark side. Is that the only way to tell the real difference between nice and not-nice, by how a person treats other people?

BJ: Well, it’s definitely a better guide than what they call themselves! A lot of readers comment on the fact that the worst of the Light mages are just as vicious as the Dark ones, but if you think about it, it’s really what you’d expect to happen. Just because you say you’re a servant of light and virtue, that doesn’t mean you are one!

JS: Are you pleased with how the Alex Verus books do keep readers off-balance but thoughtful?

BJ: I hope so. When you’re writing a book, it’s very hard to predict whether a book will put a reader off-balance or not. I’ve had some readers praise how unpredictable Fated was, while I’ve had others claim that they saw everything coming. I do get more reviews of the first type than the second, though.

JS: What does give you the most satisfaction—or pleasure or fun, if you prefer—about writing in general and the Alex Verus books in particular?

BJ: It’s hard to predict. Sometimes a section I’ll be working on will go smooth as silk, and at other times I’ll find myself struggling to write a single line (which is the exact opposite of satisfying). In the end, I think the bit I enjoy the most is just knowing that people out there are reading my books and liking them.

JS: How did you create Alex’s smart-ass but sympathetic persona?

BJ: I’m honestly not sure—he just sort of grew that way! I often find that happens with my characters, especially the ones that work out well. To begin with I design them, but the longer they stick around the more they develop their own voice and the direction they go in isn’t something I can predict.

JS: You’ve got a large cast of characters by now, and some prominent early characters have left. Why did air elemental Starbreeze go on leave? And will we be seeing more of the dragon?

BJ: In Starbreeze’s case, I was finding that Alex was relying on her a bit too much: to keep on growing, he needed to face threats on his own without being able to use her as a get-out-of-jail free card. The dragon, on the other hand… it’s possible, but I’ll be using that particular character very, very sparingly. It would lose its impact otherwise.

JS: The first three Alex Verus novels have appeared very close together to establish a presence. Are additional novels ready for publication?

BJ: I’d love to be able to say yes, but unfortunately I can’t write quite that fast! I’m in the middle of Alex Verus #4 at the moment, and it’s about 30% done. With luck and a few late nights I should finish at about the same time that book #3, Taken, is released.

JS: Now that you’ve established Alex as a presence with readers, do you think the series is ready to make a transition to hardcover?

BJ: It’s kind of embarrassing given my profession, but I still really don’t know much about the economic arguments for paperback vs. hardcover. At this stage I’m mostly concerned with overall spread & name recognition, so I’ll go for whichever approach I think gets the most people introduced to the stories.

JS: Any major difference between British and American publishers?

BJ: Americans are faster! There’s the odd exception, but generally the turnaround time for decisions, edits, galleys, etc. seems to be smaller on that side of the Atlantic. Though my British publishers aren’t slow, either, so it usually works out fine in both cases in the end.

Check out the rest of the Q&A for more on Alex Verus’s origins, plus the worst and best writing advice that Jacka ever received.

Farewell, Donald J. Sobol

Some kids want to be firefighters or ballet dancers or teachers or astronauts. When I was six years old, I wanted to be a detective. Mysteries were my first genre fiction addiction*; I didn’t turn to SF/F until I’d read through the school library’s Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cam Jansen, and Agatha Christie collections, followed by my mother’s treasure trove of books by Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, Dick Francis, and Mickey Spillane. Donald J. Sobol and Encyclopedia Brown started it all. To this day, I think of those books when I remember not to file my nails after taking a bath, or turn off a light so I can see out the window at night, or pause and pretend to think before giving someone an answer I know off the top of my head, or know which parts of a goose are dark meat. (That last one is in The Encyclopedia Brown Cookbook, which is even more awesome than you are imagining right now.) Some of Sobol’s work felt dated even when I was a kid, but the facts that earned Encyclopedia his quarters are timeless.

* Followed quickly by thrillers. I recall Elmore Leonard being rather startled that the nine-year-old had dragged her mother to his signing rather than the other way around, and I treasure my copy of Freaky Deaky inscribed “To my youngest fan”.

I think the world needs an Encyclopedia Brown movie, as long as it’s understood that Sally is a lesbian and Encyclopedia is African-American. Seriously, when’s the last time you met a white kid named Leroy Brown?

Wow, What a Week

Wow, this week! When I was describing it on Twitter, Ruth Sternglantz said it sounded like “a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie” and that about sums it up.

The June romance issue of PW came out on Monday, with great articles by Julie Naughton: a big feature on contemporary romance, and two smaller pieces on YA romance and (my favorite) men who write romance novels. I’ve been wanting to write about the men of the romance world for ages, and they gave us some really fascinating insights into what it’s like being a guy in an overwhelmingly female industry, and why romance writing calls to them.

BEA was terrific, if super busy. I had almost no time to socialize, but I did get to meet Masumi Washington of Haikasoru and Christopher Payne of Journalstone, both of whom are lovely, and hang out a bit with Charlie Stross and Walter Mosley. The radio show went very well, I think. (My mom liked it, which of course is the audience that matters most!) We talked a lot about Ray Bradbury and got in a wonderful interview with Nelson DeMille. There’s a great picture of me and Mark with our headsets on in the day 3 Show Daily. Also in that issue is my recap of the SF/mainstream panel with Walter Mosley, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and John Scalzi. You don’t need to be a PW subscriber to read the Show Daily; it’s all up on Scribd free of charge. To cap it off, I went to the NYPL reading with N.K. Jemisin, Catherynne Valente, Kristin Cashore, and Naomi Novik, introduced by Lev Grossman and backed by Brian Slattery’s band; given that line-up, I have no idea why there were only about 30 people in the audience, but the 30 of us enjoyed a really great show.

I got back to the office and edited Q&As with Jim C. Hines and Kij Johnson for our last two June issues; keep an eye out for those. Now I’m hip-deep in the fall announcements issue, when I get to prognosticate about trends in romance and SF/F/H. As of right now, I have no idea what those trends are! But this is one reason why I still love paper ARCs: I can look over the shelves at my desk and pick out hints of zeitgeist. Hopefully I will acquire two essays’ worth of hints by Tuesday.

Nebula Awards Liveblog

Watch this space! The action starts around 8:15 p.m. Eastern Time… in theory. In past years it’s run a little late. I’ll also be livetweeting on @Genreville. Alas, I can’t set the page to auto-refresh, so keep your mouse poised over that refresh button.

19:14: The doors open on time for dinner! Amazing.

19:27: Walter Jon Williams, our toastmaster, takes the stage. ON TIME. Is this allowed? He patiently teaches the nominees how to politely applaud and say “It’s an honor just to be nominated”, which they dutifully recite in unison.

19:40: I finish uploading “red carpet” photos and get down to the serious business of eating.

20:00: I circulate around the room chatting with people and pretending I’m not just looking for an excuse to say hello to Neil Gaiman.

20:07: I casually say hello to Neil Gaiman. He hugs me. Have I mentioned I love my job?

20:28: The lights dim and Walter comes back. Now running 15 minutes late. The universe is back in order.

20:31: Walter decides the safest way to entertain without offending is to poke fun at himself. He’s not wrong.

20:35: Astronaut Mike Fincke comes to the stage and declares himself “a true fan”. What a sweet guy.

“At NASA, we actually believe everything that you write.” Laughter and huge applause. “And we fall for it every time.”

Now he’s showing hilarious videos from the space station. Those astronauts are total cut-ups!

Oohs and aahs for videos of Earth from the ISS. I suspect many people are getting teary-eyed.

Now predictions. ISS flying until 2020, maybe 2026. Commercial space flight, freeing NASA from focus on low earth orbit. Launching new vehicles in 2014, with people in 2016 or 2017. Six or seven people, new launch system, going to the moon and Mars. (Lots of applause for that.)

“Please keep it coming…. You bring out the best in humans so we can go off and do what humans do well.” A well-deserved standing ovation.

20:50: Silence for a tribute to the recently departed.

20:56: Walter Jon Williams introduces Michael Capobianco to present the Service to SFWA Award. Capo suggests Walter should run for president; more applause than laughter. An interesting idea…

The award goes to Bud Webster, for his work tracking down the heirs and estates of deceased SF/F authors and making sure that rights-holders are findable and can get paid for reprints. Bud accepts with a very nice speech. “Do you have any idea how proud I am to stand up in front of you guys and get this award for something I would do anyway?”

21:03: Walter returns and says, “As for being SFWA president, I would like to remind you all that I do not preside–I reign!”

He introduces Eileen Gunn to present the Solstice Award for the late Octavia E. Butler. Eileen gives a brief tribute speech, fighting tears, and shows a montage of photos of Butler and her book covers. Cynthia Felice accepts the award on Butler’s behalf and talks about their nearly 30 years of friendship. “She would have been so proud and so pleased.”

Walter then introduces Lee Martindale to present the Solstice Award for John Clute. Joe Haldeman accepts on John’s behalf and reads John’s tribute to Octavia Butler, “a writer of strength and fervor.”

21:15: Walter introduces James Patrick Kelly, who brings up Johnny Atomic, Ken Chapman, and Phil Elmore of League Entertainment, the creators of a piece of tribute art for Connie Willis, the newest SFWA Grand Master. “Many of her works are very good and someday she should get an award of some kind.” They created “a burnt piece of newspaper” from an alternate World War II–it’s spectacular!

Jim Kelly gives a sweet and funny tribute to Connie and her husband and daughter. “I don’t know whether the SFWA brain trust has ever laid out exactly what one has to do to be a Grand Master, but whatever the qualifications are, Connie has them… Comedy is but one of Connie’s many modes. She has written some of the saddest and angriest stories I’ve ever read.” Big standing ovation, of course.

Connie Willis accepts her Grand Master award with a smile and a charming, funny speech. “I watch the Oscars for the acceptance speeches. All this research came in handy over the last couple of weeks.” She thanks a great many people, especially her friends who are fellow Grand Masters: “Is that cool or what? Like Robert Silverberg. Ooh, he’s gonna be so mad.”

She concludes, “As Sally Field should have said it: I love you. I really really love you. Thank you.” Not a dry eye in the house.

21:35: And now on to the awards! I have brought extra handkerchiefs in my purse in case I sit next to either a tearfully delighted winner or a tearfully disappointed finalist.

Myke Cole takes the stage to give the Bradbury. The Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation nominees:

  • Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director) (Optimum Releasing; Screen Gems)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director) (Paramount)
  • Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director) (BBC Wales)
  • Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director) (Paramount)
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director) (Sony)
  • Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director) (Summit)
  • The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director) (Universal)

And the award goes to… Neil Gaiman and Richard Clark for “The Doctor’s Wife”! No surprise there; it’s a favorite for the Hugo too. None of the Bradbury nominees appeared at the reception last night, but Neil made a surprise appearance today, and now we all get to watch him be bashful onstage. He does a very good bashful. He also says very sweet things about Doctor Who and its effects on tiny little Neil hiding behind the sofa.

The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book nominees:

  • Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor (Viking Juvenile)
  • Chime, Franny Billingsley (Dial Books; Bloomsbury)
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • The Boy at the End of the World, Greg van Eekhout (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)
  • The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (Big Mouth House)
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books)
  • Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson (Orchard Books; Carolrhoda Books)

This is a really outstanding slate and I expect the voting was very close.

And the award goes to… Delia Sherman for The Freedom Maze! Delia told me yesterday that she didn’t expect to win, so I’m greatly enjoying the look on her face. “I cannot tell you how much this means to me.”

I’m shamelessly copying the short fiction finalist lists from SF Signal’s post, since they went to the trouble of finding links to all the works available online. Do follow those links when you have some time for reading.

The short story Nebula nominees:

And the award goes to… Ken Liu for “The Paper Menagerie”! Jamie Todd Rubin accepts on his behalf. “I’m glad this story struck a chord with so many.”

The novelette Nebula nominees:

  • Fields of Gold” by Rachel Swirsky (Eclipse 4, Night Shade Books)
  • “Ray of Light” by Brad R. Torgersen (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 2011)
  • Sauerkraut Station” by Ferrett Steinmetz (Giganotosaurus, November 2011)
  • Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor.com, June 2011)
  • The Migratory Pattern of Dancers” by Katherine Sparrow (Giganotosaurus, July 2011)
  • The Old Equations” by Jake Kerr (Lightspeed Magazine, July 2011)
  • “What We Found” by Geoff Ryman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October 2011)

And the award goes to… Geoff Ryman for “What We Found”! Geoff came over from England for this and I’m sure he’s very glad he did. “I vowed I would never write another story set in someone else’s country, but it seemed like such a little low-key kind of story that I didn’t think anyone would notice.” He and Rachel Swirsky do a cute little generic acceptance speech: “I’d like to thank my agent, my editor, my stereo, my refrigerator…”

The novella Nebula nominees:

  • Kiss Me Twice” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2011)
  • Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente (WFSA Press; Clarkesworld Magazine, October 2011)
  • “The Ice Owl” by Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November/December 2011)
  • The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s Science Fiction, October/November 2011)
  • The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary” by Ken Liu (Panverse Three, Panverse Publishing)
  • “With Unclean Hands” by Adam-Troy Castro (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November 2011)

And the award goes to… Kij Johnson for “The Man Who Bridged the Mist”! Something of a surprise there; I’ve heard much more buzz about “Silently and Very Fast”. Alas for Adam-Troy Castro, with two nominations but no wins.

John Kessel accepts on Kij’s behalf. “Gosh, I’m so pleased! And I’m guessing Kij will be too.” He reads her note: “I started this story so long ago I can’t remember all the people who helped me with it.”

Michael Swanwick gets up to give the novel award. He claims to have hours of material for roasting Connie Willis, and is very sad she’s not up for Best Novel.

The novel Nebula nominees:

  • Among Others by Jo Walton (Tor)
  • Embassytown by China Miéville (Macmillan UK; Del Rey; Subterranean Press)
  • Firebird by Jack McDevitt (Ace Books)
  • God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)
  • Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine (Prime Books)
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

And the award goes to… Jo Walton for Among Others! No shock given its unabashed sentimentality for an era that’s dear to many of the voters. Standing ovation, and much hollering.

Jo, astonished: “I would like to quote Neil Gaiman: ‘Fuck!’” She thanks her mother for being “such an evil person” as it gave her valuable experience in writing about evil people.

22:05: And that’s it! Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. Here endeth my liveblog; thanks for following along.

Nebula Awards Weekend, Day 1

After a morning conference call, I packed up and took a cab back to the convention hotel. There were no further hotel shenanigans, for which I am very glad; showed up, checked in, got reimbursed for my cab fare, all good. I got my badge, nabbed lunch at the hotel buffet (surprisingly tolerable), and headed up to the press room. Jaym Gates, SFWA’s press officer, is terrific. Even though she was dealing with hotel shenanigans, she still managed to get me set up with free wi-fi and line up a couple of interviews with Nebula nominees Mary Robinette Kowal and Rachel Swirsky. The audio of those will be exclusive to SFWA’s member site, but I’m hoping to at least post excerpts here.

After that I went down to the bar and ended up talking with a gaggle of folks (I’m trying not to turn this into namedropper central) about Readercon, Philcon, Lunacon, and other events of days gone by. Gardner Dozois told a hilarious story of the time he and George R.R. Martin, both young and broke, went around a convention trying to find an editor who would buy them dinner, and finally one took pity on them and got them each a hot dog from the cart outside the hotel. Be kind, editors! You never know who that pesky young writer will be someday.

I ran into James Patrick Kelly, who somehow talked me into being on a 10 a.m. panel tomorrow about e-books and self-publishing; this is what I get for snubbing the convention program. I did actually go to a panel, too: Jim Kelly, Connie Willis, John Scalzi, and James Morrow talking about how to write humor. They were all very responsible about staying on topic rather than zinging off snappy one-liners, but Scalzi managed to do both by describing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as “an extinction-level event for comedic science fiction.”

After that was the mass signing, which I endured for about an hour before fleeing to my room for a blissful hour of peace and quiet. I went back downstairs at about 7:15 to find several people discussing an email that had just been sent out by Jason Williams of Night Shade Books. (He also sent me a copy with permission to quote from it.) Night Shade’s had a couple of hard years; Williams cited the collapse of Borders and difficulties with a distributor, and also admitted that when SFWA put Night Shade on probation, they “needed the kick to get our affairs in order” and have continued to struggle to make payments on time (which may be why Cat Valente recently announced she would no longer be working with them). None of that is really news, though. The newsworthy bits are three:

  1. Night Shade has signed a distribution deal with PGW, including domestic and international e-book distribution through Constellation. “Ebook sales since we went live with Constellation in December have literally doubled.”
  2. They’ve also signed “a huge audiobook deal, that will not only include 20-30 backlist titles, but also a guaranteed audio rights deal for every non-reprint novel we have going forward.”
  3. “A wave of checks will go out at the end of this month, and another will go out in early July. After that, we’ll be paying bills in the beginning of every month…. We are making more than we are spending, and that means that we are operating with cash left over to pay off that back debt. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m going to be doing my best to make sure that everyone that is owed is getting money on a regular basis.”

Most of the reactions I heard were variations on the theme of “We’ll see”. I think it’s great that Night Shade is continuing to look to the future, but I suspect they’ll have image problems long after those debts are paid off (assuming they do get paid off).

I pulled myself away from the conversation for a wonderful dinner with Geoff Ryman and James Morrow at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant (thanks to Eileen Gunn for the kind recommendation), and came back fashionably late for the nominees’ reception. In a bit of accidental comedy, Scalzi left E. Lily Yu off the list of short story nominees (an error he quickly corrected) and then sent them through the wrong door for their group photograph. I caught up with Lily a bit later and she said happily, “That was actually the best thing that could have happened. I was so nervous before, but after walking into a supply closet with Adam-Troy Castro and Sheila Williams, now I’m not nervous at all!” So if you have pre-award jitters, supply closets are apparently the way to go.

I circulated and chatted for a while, and eventually the party shut down; most people decamped to the bar, but I wanted to spare my voice for the panel (seriously, why did I agree to do that), so Danielle and I got tea from the consuite and then headed for our room. I ironed all my shirts, hung up my suit, realized with some vexation that I had left my captoes at home and would be stuck wearing less formal shoes, and sat down to write this post. Now, to sleep. Tomorrow, the awards!

Crowdsourcing Recommended Reading

One of my mentees is thinking of majoring in Asian-American literature studies and asked if I knew of any Asian-American SF/F authors. “Definitely!” I said, and with the help of my Twitter friends–especially the intrepid Nisi Shawl and Charles A. Tan–I compiled a list. As I wrote to her, I’m not sure all of these writers are Asian-American (or describe themselves that way), but they are of Asian descent and writing in English, and I’d rather err on the side of giving too many names than risk leaving someone off.

The list so far:

  • Alec Austin
  • Kendare Blake
  • Ted Chiang
  • Charles Q. Choi
  • Brenda Clough
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Susan Ee
  • S. Evans
  • Eugie Foster
  • Isamu Fukui
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Lily Hoang
  • Erin Hoffman
  • Julie Kagawa
  • Minsoo Kang
  • Kazu Kibuishi
  • Yoji Kondo
  • Stephanie Lai
  • Yoon Ha Lee
  • Shelly Li
  • Claire Light
  • Ken Liu
  • Marjorie M. Liu
  • Malinda Lo
  • Marie Lu
  • Anil Menon
  • Mary Anne Mohanraj
  • E.C. Myers
  • Shweta Narayan
  • Cindy Pon
  • Vandana Singh
  • Trinity Tam
  • Cecilia Tan
  • Evonne Tsang
  • Greg van Eekhout
  • Marianne Villanueva
  • William F. Wu
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • Laurence Yep
  • Charles Yu
  • E. Lily Yu

Authors of Asian descent who are, according to my memory or comments received from others, probably not American or American-identified:

  • Joyce Chng
  • Eric Choi
  • Amitav Ghosh
  • Hiromi Goto
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Hari Kunzru
  • Larissa Lai
  • Karin Lowachee
  • Derwin Mak
  • Haruki Murakami
  • Tony Pi
  • Salman Rushdie
  • Michelle Sagara [West]
  • S.P. Somtow aka Somtow Sucharitkul
  • most of the authors published by Haikasoru

Who else should I add to either list, or move from one list to the other? And am I erroneously including anyone? A tip of the hat to Ellen Datlow for correcting my initial inclusion of Dean Ing, who I had always pictured as Chinese but is apparently white (serves me right for making assumptions based on a name!).

Link Roundup

I spent the last week on vacation and came back to a pile of links in my inbox! The least I can do is share them with all of you.

What else happened while I was out?

PW Talks with James Treadwell, Cont.

Eugene Reynolds did a spectacular Q&A with James Treadwell, author of Advent, for this week’s PW. Treadwell gave us far more material than we could fit into the magazine, all of it excellent, so here’s the overflow.

Eugene Reynolds: The book is set in Cornwall, and one character (Hester) swears an oath to remain there “so long as I live.” What drew you to that corner of the isle of Britain? Have you sworn a similar oath?

James Treadwell: If I had, I’d be an oathbreaker many times over. I live in London, and love it, and don’t want to live anywhere else. However, my maternal grandparents moved to Cornwall when I was five, and I went there on holiday at least twice a year throughout my childhood. It must have got in the blood. I kept going back even when I grew out of family holidays, and nowadays I go there with my own wife and children, two or three times a year, though my grandparents have long since left. Cornish people tend not to be very happy about holidaying Londoners coming down to their patch and romanticizing it. I tried to leave at least a bit of the unglamorous toughness and dirt and damp in my version of Cornwall. And I’m sneakily rather proud of the fact that my totally non-Cornish surname happens to begin with “Tre” (for those who don’t know, you can’t go more than a couple of miles in Cornwall without finding yourself in Tresillian or Treburyett or Tremeer or Trevarno or Trethewey or Tregenna or…)

ER: The non-human characters (such as the puka, dryad, and orca spirit) seem more humane than some of the humans. How did you approach making them both accessible to the reader yet at the same time keeping them alien and mysterious?

JT: Somehow, the problem doesn’t present itself in this way when you’re actually writing. When a character’s there in your imagination, and you can hear them squawking or singing away, you don’t suddenly lift the pen from the page and ask yourself, “Hang on a sec, am I making this accessible to The Reader?” I suppose I feel that if they’re accessible to me, that’s probably accessible enough. If I feel like I myself have grasped the way those particular characters are both vivid and mysterious, then I just have to hope that I’ve written them down in such a way that the vividness and mystery will be equally available to my readers.

I suspect any writer would tell you that their characters surprise them all the time. We don’t sit at our desks thinking about how we need to arrange them. (Or at least I don’t.) We just watch them and listen to them as carefully and thoroughly as we can, and then write down what they say and do. If it doesn’t look/sound right, we cross it out, close our eyes, and listen harder.

With the puka and the dryad, I found that the clearest impression I had of both characters was their voices—the grammar and vocabulary as well as the tone. That was my way into them. Then I realized that they can’t lie. Perhaps that’s what makes them seem a bit more sympathetic than some of the human characters. When people—especially English people—are talking to each other, there are huge realms of unspoken assumptions and implications and codes underpinning the few things we say aloud. Most of the work of communication goes on below or around the actual spoken words. My non-human characters don’t use language that way. Their words express their natures much more immediately. So perhaps that comes as a relief after all the tight-lipped strangulated Britishness.

ER: Magic is depicted as a more intense experience of the unity of Nature. Why is it limited to only certain people, places, and events?

JT: I think magic is very resistant to the question “why?” Our whole understanding of our (non-magical, rational, materialist) world is built on causes and effects. It’s hard for us to deal with a field in which the question “why?” no longer applies. No wonder my poor protagonist has such a rough ride.

I’m also rather reluctant to associate magic too strongly with “Nature.” That’s one of the reasons I knew it was all right for Holly to sing Christmas carols: she’s not just “nature,” she’s culture as well. If the spirits can talk, they’re not just “nature:” nature doesn’t have language. Perhaps this is just the old academic in me. People who study literature tend to be very touchy about the idea of “nature.” See, even now I can’t type the word without putting scare quotes around it.

ER: Several characters have religious affiliations, and worship is entwined with magic. What are the roles of religion and magic in a secular age? Do you see them as being aligned or opposed?

JT: Religion’s a mode of magical thinking, probably the most widespread and respectable one in the world after superstition/luck. Perhaps that’s why it made sense to me that many of my characters would revert to a religious language when faced with the advent of magic. The book doesn’t have anything to say about actual religious experience, of course. Some of the characters instinctively use that framework; others don’t. That’s up to them. As for my own views on religion versus (or not versus) magic: I’m pretty sure they’re not relevant to the book. Generally speaking, I’m more sympathetic to magical thinking in all its forms (religion, sentimentality, superstition, romance) than most people seem to be, but perhaps that’s not surprising for a writer of fantasies.

ER: Your antagonist, Johannes Faust, is a figure with a rich literary history, which you subvert neatly. What led you to Faust? How does it feel to be sharing him with Christopher Marlowe and Goethe?

JT: Embarrassed, in a word. I didn’t actually know that my magician character was Faust until I was a fair way into the first version of the book. It came as something of a surprise, but it made sense of lots of aspects of his story. Needless to say, the last thing I want to do is invite comparisons with Marlowe or Goethe…

ER: The Faust sections are written with a reversed chronology. What impression did you hope to make on the reader? Are we being made to feel how it is to know the future but not be able to change it?

JT: That’s an interesting suggestion. I didn’t have any specific effect in mind, except for the idea that the magus’s story, like the other parts of the book, needed to unfold from mystery towards revelation, and that it was therefore important not to know who he was, what he was doing, and why he was doing it when he first appears.

In fact, though, the reverse narrative probably owes itself more than anything else to the fact that I knew where I wanted the book to start: the man leaving the sleet-swept city in the winter night, hurrying aboard ship, fleeing some kind of obligation, taking something with him which he knew he shouldn’t be taking. After that, the only direction his story could go was backwards: what thing? What obligation? Who’s he fleeing?

And if I’m honest I also had in mind a nod to one of the most perfectly structured of all novels, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, whose story proceeds simultaneously backwards and forwards. Not that I’d dare to suggest actual comparisons with Le Guin, any more than I would with Goethe.

ER: Advent is the first part of a trilogy. Did the story naturally suggest a three-part structure when you started writing, or did it grow in the telling?

JT: The idea always was that Advent would be a complete story, and in many ways I think it is indeed finished: it relates a kind of homecoming, and it ends by bringing the protagonist where he belongs. In the course of that journey, though, it became increasingly clear that while his journey may be in some sense concluded, for more or less everyone else the adventure is just beginning. He gets the answers to a lot of questions, but everyone else is left facing those questions for the very first time. So I realized I wanted to write about that as well. I’m beginning to suspect that there is a single story underpinning all three books, which is, roughly, the story of magic in the world. Our world, that is—the one we think of as being empty of magic. Broadly speaking, if Advent is about the, er, advent of magic, then the second book is about what happens as it arrives, and the third book will be set a bit further along in the aftermath. I think they’ll all be fairly different from each other.

ER: You have published academic non-fiction. Was writing fantasy similar?

JT: I think the mechanics of producing a book are the same no matter what kind of book it is, and by “mechanics” I mean the basic fact that you start with a blank sheet and end with X number of words. In that sense, and in that sense only, having two published volumes under my belt before I started Advent was an advantage. There are days, or weeks if you’re unlucky, when it’s not going well, and fortunately for me I already knew what that was like so I didn’t panic. In one sense, writing is just labor. Whatever the subject, you have to keep plugging away. But then there are all the ways in which writing isn’t labor at all, and in those senses writing a novel is nothing at all like writing non-fiction. The most surprising thing for me was the rigor that fiction demands. If you’d have asked me before, I’d have guessed it was the other way round: I’d have assumed that it was scholarly work which required the greater precision and discipline. But it turned out that I felt a much stronger need to try and get every sentence exactly right in Advent than I did in either of my non-fiction books. And, needless to say, I know all too well that I failed to do so.

With academic writing, you’re always, always aware of exactly who you’re writing for, partly because there just aren’t very many of them. You feel them over your shoulder all the time. But when you’re trying to tell a story that you have in your head, your only duty is to the story itself. You’d think that would be more relaxing, liberating even, but alas, it’s not so.

ER: The book has appeal to a wide range of ages. Did you have an “ideal reader” in mind when writing?

JT: Anecdotal evidence suggests that quite a few people have noticed what you’ve noticed, which is that the book has a Young Adult plot but doesn’t really conduct itself in a YA manner. From the point of view of the publishing market that’s a quirk, I suppose. All I can do is be grateful that my publishers have been willing to look at the book for what it is, rather than trying to shoehorn it into marketing categories.

I didn’t write Advent “for” anyone; not for teenagers, not for adults, not for fantasy readers. I didn’t write it “against” anyone either, of course. I’d love to think that kids of my protagonist’s age (he’s 15) would enjoy the book. I’d also like to think that people my age (43) would enjoy it too. But at no stage during the writing of it did I think to myself, “Is this paragraph right for a fifteen year-old? Will forty-three year-olds get this bit? What happens if no one understands the allusions to the Trojan War?” You write what you feel you have to write, and in the end you hope that something of what excites you about the story will communicate itself to your readers, whoever they may be.

Read the rest of the Q&A in this week’s issue of PW.

PW Talks with Alastair Reynolds, Cont.

In this week’s PW, Lenny Picker chats with Alastair Reynolds about Blue Remembered Earth. Here are the Qs and As that didn’t make it into the magazine.

Lenny Picker: Many of your novels have been called dark and dystopian-do you agree?

Alastair Reynolds: Not really. “Dark” is such a cliché. And I don’t see my work as being particularly dystopian. Most of my futures are democracies. They might be stressed by external effects but that doesn’t make them dystopian.

LP: Do you embrace the space opera label?

AR: Occasionally, but more and more often I’m getting weary of it. It imposes a set of expectations which are as often as not are not going to be met. Just because a book has space travel and other worlds in it doesn’t make it space opera, but you’d be forgiven for thinking the opposite judging from some of the reviews and commentary in the field.

LP: With a limited number of science fiction plots, how do you avoid repeating yourself?

AR: I don’t think sci-fi’s toolkit of plots is in any way more limited than any other sphere of literature. Really, it’s what you do with the plot that matters. Readers will forgive any old hackneyed plot if the story is told with a freshness of vision. I don’t worry about it. I’m not the same writer I was 10 years ago so even if I attempted to re-tell one of my existing books, it would come out differently.

LP: How have religion and politics evolved in the future of Blue Remembered Earth?

AR: I don’t say much about religion. It’s probably there in the mix somewhere. I’m not religious myself but I don’t see religion

disappearing as a force in society any time soon. I suppose I’d like to see a bit more of a shift in the direct of enlightenment thinking generally, but—as they say—some of my best friends are religious and they seem as tolerant and open-minded as anyone else. Political systems in the book are, I think, broadly similar to today: there’s mention of a scandal in the Pan African parliament, for instance, so we still have parliamentary democracy, a version of the UN etc. I didn’t want to make it like Star Trek where all these contemporary institutions have been swept away.

LP: How much of an effect does readership requests have on continuing a series or writing sequels?

AR: Not much. I’ve steadfastly resisted requests for a sequel to Century Rain (lots of people didn’t like it, but a pretty good number did, judging by the emails). On the other hand, I’ve always said I’d like to return to the universes of Pushing Ice and House of Suns and I hope to do so one day.

LP: Will you return to the Revelation Space universe?

AR: Yes, one day.

LP: You’ve praised a book I’m unfamiliar with, Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix—can you talk a bit about it and how it impressed you?

AR: I’m in danger of saying too much about it. It’s a wonderfully dense and imaginative slice of space-based SF, dealing in the grandest of themes. It was the first cyberpunk space opera, with an imaginative boldness almost unseen in the field beforehand. A reviewer at the time described the book as feeling as if Sterling had been to the future and come back to report on what he’d seen. That captures very well the feeling of off-hand weirdness and stone-cold plausibility running through the thing. It’s dated in only very minor ways since 1985: the characters record things onto tape, there’s no real sense of virtual or augmented reality. But in every other respect, it’s still ahead of the game.

Read the rest of the Q&A in this week’s issue of PW.

A Public Service

Samuel R. Delany will be reading from his new novel and signing copies at St. Mark’s Books on Monday night. I sent the info to a friend, who wrote back that he’d gone to Amazon to buy the Kindle edition of the book and seen a review saying it was missing a chapter and contained a number of other small errors. Fortunately a devoted fan, Kevin Donaker-Ring, bought both the Kindle and the print editions and not only noticed the discrepancies but–with Delany’s permission–put a PDF of the missing chapter and a list of corrections on his website (which hosts a number of other errata pages for Delany’s works). Hopefully the publisher will get a corrected edition up on Amazon soon.

A Palate Cleanser

On a lighter note, some great links have been coming my way:

  • Stone Telling‘s long-awaited QUILTBAG speculative poetry issue is live!
  • Tales of the Emerald Serpent, a mosaic anthology with some great authors lined up, is almost halfway to its Kickstarter goal.
  • Laura Anne Gilman is Kickstarting a pair of novellas that tie in to her popular Cosa Nostradamus/PSI series.
  • Helen Keller describes the view from the top of the Empire State Building. Do not miss this. Just gorgeous!
  • There’s going to be a steampunk festival in Waltham, MA in May, with a bunch of free events. I happen to know most of the people in the banner on the top of the page, and I can vouch that they know how to have a good time. Also, the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation sounds like approximately the best museum ever and I can’t believe I’ve never even heard of it before. Must go the next time I’m in Boston.
  • Jennifer Pelland defends unhappy endings.
  • After reading the Scientology/Writers of the Future piece in the Village Voice, WotF winner Carl Frederick has backed out of association with the contest.
  • Brian Keene starts an interesting discussion by talking about why there weren’t any women on his list of his 25 favorite authors, and how such lists can be strongly influenced by what’s available to read when one is growing up. There’s some gender essentialism in the post that had me rolling my eyes a bit, but the conclusion is strong, and the ensuing conversation is pretty good.
  • I just found out about this and I’m sorry I couldn’t link to it sooner! In honor of Women’s History Month, Cambridge University Press is offering free access for the month of March to Orlando, their electronic database that relates to British women’s writing from the earliest times to the present. It is searchable and is a valuable resource for scholars, writers and anyone interested in literary and cultural history. To access it, go to http://orlando.cambridge.org/ . In the upper right click Login. For username, enter womenshistory; for password, orlando.
  • The 2012 Million Writers Award nominations are now open.
  • Finalists have been announced for the RITA (romance) and Clarke (U.K. SF) awards.