Tag Archives: PW

Endings and Beginnings

When a man comes to the end of any road let him remember that the end is not yet and a new way shall open for him.
—Andre Norton

After 655 posts, Genreville’s time as an independent entity is coming to an end. As of today, along with PW‘s audiobook blog, Listen Up, it has been folded into PWxyz, the main PW blog.

This is definitely not the end of Genreville as a concept. I’ll still be tweeting interesting news and links at @genreville; SF/F-related posts on PWxyz will be in the “Genreville” category. I’ll post regularly there (my first post is up already), and we’ll have some great guest bloggers. So please do add PWxyz to your RSS readers and you’ll get all the excellent posts from our other contributors as well–or if you really truly only want Genreville posts, just subscribe to the category feed.

Thanks so much for all your support and thoughtful comments over the years. Josh and I have had a ton of fun making Genreville a place you want to visit. See you on the flip side!

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!

PW Is Hiring!

Publishers Weekly, my esteemed employer, is hiring a copy editor. Details here.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I am really, really, really happy at this company. The workplace atmosphere is laid-back and great. I’m comfortably out as queer and polyamorous (nothing says “queer-friendly workplace” like the president and CEO having previously run Out magazine and been profiled in a New York Times piece about same-sex weddings), and I don’t think I’m even the most outspoken feminist on the staff. We’re a pretty diverse crowd by magazine publishing standards. The business is stable and ethical, the pay is good, the benefits are generous, and the colleagues are collegial. I unhesitatingly recommend PW as a place to work, and if you’re a copy editor with magazine experience and a substantial interest in books and publishing, I strongly encourage you to apply.

(I have nothing to do with interviewing or hiring for this or any other position. I’m just the messenger.)

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.

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.

In a World Where…

Congratulations to the fine folks at the Golden Bough, who were (as far as I know) the only ones to spot my little April Fool’s Day joke in PW‘s April 2 issue: all nine SF/F/H reviews began with the phrase “In a world where…”. This is, of course, an homage to the late, great Don LaFontaine, whose voice graced countless SF/F movie trailers. PW reviews, like trailers, have to very quickly set the scene, summarizing an often complicated background and setting in just a few words. LaFontaine had a real genius for this. The “In a world where…” construction has become a cliché, but it really is very efficient and effective, and it respects how important worldbuilding and scene-setting are in SF/F. I was delighted to have this opportunity to honor LaFontaine and his work while giving PW‘s readers a little extra fun.

An Anniversary

Ten years ago today, some fresh kid who thought she knew anything about books stopped by the PW offices on 17th Street to pick up a couple of ARCs from Peter Cannon, then the SF/F/H reviews editor, who had very kindly offered to give her a trial run as a reviewer.

Ten years later–nearly a third of my lifetime!–here I am, sitting almost literally in Peter’s old chair. (He has the desk next to mine. I gave him a card today, because I am sentimental sometimes.)

It’s been ten very busy and often very strange years in the book world, the magazine world, and my own little world. I still remember my delight the first time I saw a review of mine quoted on a book jacket, and the months of unemployment when I reviewed three books a week to keep myself fed, and how absolutely floored I was the day that Peter told me that a part-time position had opened up on the editorial staff and he felt I should apply for it, and the trip to Japan I spent anxiously checking my email to see whether the magazine had been sold or closed. I can’t count how many times my schedule has changed (the joys of being a part-timer with a sleep disorder). I moved from San Francisco to Manhattan to Brooklyn, changed careers three times, dropped out of college twice, got married once; PW moved from 17th Street to Park Avenue to 23rd Street, and from Cahners to Reed to PWxyz. The very definition of “book” has changed. But my link to PW has endured. The magazine has quite literally sustained me–financially, intellectually, and emotionally–and I like to think I’ve given a few things back.

Now that I’m an editor, I don’t write reviews very often, but I’ll be writing one today; the ARC came in too late to assign to a freelancer, it’s a book I’d have wanted to read anyway, and I like to keep my critical skills sharp. I read the book yesterday and started writing the review in my head on my morning commute today, just like I used to do when I was in a mind-numbing secretarial job and reviewing books was the only thing that made me feel smart and useful. The cover of the ARC is even almost the same color as the cover of the first ARC I reviewed (yes, I remember that sort of thing). I can’t think of a better way to celebrate ten years in two of the best jobs in the world. Here’s to many more.

PW Talks with Olena Bormashenko, Cont.

You’ve probably never heard of Olena Bormashenko; she’s a mathematics professor, not a science fiction author. Thanks to an incredible series of coincidences, she’s also the translator for the fantastic new English-language edition of Boris and Arkady Strugatsky’s 1972 SF classic Roadside Picnic. In this week’s PW, Joe Sanders uncovers a great story and gets some tips for translators along the way. Here are the Qs and As that didn’t make it into the magazine:

JS: How did you decide to translate one of the Strugatskys’ works, and why Roadside Picnic?

OB: The Strugatskys’ work was famous in the former USSR, and fairly standard reading, very popular. I’ve always really liked it, so at some point I wanted to buy a copy of one of their books for an English-speaking friend of mine. I settled on Roadside Picnic because it seemed fairly approachable. I bought a copy, and of course I flipped through it at some point, and I remember I felt pretty disappointed: I didn’t think the translation lived up to the original. So I started translating it more or less as a “I could do better than this, and these books deserve a better translation” project.

Frankly, when I started doing it I couldn’t do better than the original translation at all! I had no idea what I was doing, and when I read over my first drafts from way back when they are really kind of awful.

JS: Who translated the afterword?

OB: I translated the afterword as well. It was quite a challenge. It made lots of references to things that would have been familiar to the Russian reader, but not to the English reader, so we had to insert a lot of explanations. And there was the quandary about the word “stalker”—the Strugatskys did, indeed, introduce the word into Russian from English, but they introduced a weird, mispronounced version, and now translating the whole thing back and explaining what happened didn’t make nearly as much sense as it did in Russian. Actually, I think the whole “stalker” thing is unfortunate—in Russian, it was meant to conjure up something foreign, and in English it’s obviously not doing that. So if no one had ever heard of this book, I’d have been tempted to translate it to some totally different, strange word, but that was obviously impossible.

JS: Have you had any contact with Boris Strugatsky?

OB: I did get in touch with Boris Strugatsky. He’s known for being extremely good at replying to e-mails from random people, so I just e-mailed him, and he wrote back. And then he put me in touch with his agent, Joachim Rottensteiner. I was mostly writing to get permission to shop it around (although I never did have to)—since I never inquired at the beginning, I didn’t know what the copyright issues might be, or whether a translation different from the first one could be published at all. Anyway, Boris was very encouraging, since he’d heard that the English translations weren’t exactly up to par.

JS: Was this a one-time thing, or would you do it again?

OB: I’d definitely be interested in doing it again! I was told not to translate any more books without a contract, however: from what I understand, I got almost supernaturally lucky—everything just fell into my lap. It’s entirely possible to translate something and then discover that some publisher has already bought the copyright and had it translated in-house, and then you wouldn’t be able to do a thing until that copyright expires, which takes decades. Anyway, Chicago Review Press said they wanted to see how Roadside Picnic does, and if it does well, they might get me to translate another one of the Strugatskys’ works. The one I was considering doing next was Hard to be a God—again, there does exist a translation (and just like with Roadside Picnic, it’s not very hard to find online), but it’s not great. And it’s another work of theirs that’s fairly accessible and not particularly dated.

I might also translate works by other authors, of course. It’s just a lot of fun to translate books that I remember fondly from childhood, and that I still enjoy. Of course, if I ever wanted to make real money doing this, old novels wouldn’t be the way to go.

Another reason I haven’t been trying to start a new project is that I’ve been quite busy—I just started teaching at Austin this year, which means a whole lot of prep work, and it’s been hard enough to stay on top of that.

To learn how “witch jelly” became “hell slime” and more, read the rest of the Q&A in this week’s issue.

PW Talks with Caitlín R. Kiernan, Cont.

Charlene Brusso did a terrific Q&A with Caitlín R. Kiernan for this week’s PW. Here are the Qs and As we couldn’t fit into the magazine:

CB: Your writing has been compared to work by H.P. Lovecraft, as well as Shirley Jackson.  Are you comfortable with those comparisons?

CRK: Every author, whether he or she will admit it or not, their ability to write is the sum total of their life experiences and everything they’ve ever read. Everything. It all goes into the pot, consciously or unconsciously. And so I have this long list of authors who made me the author I am, some more than others. This is just reviewers engaging in literary archeology, finding my roots. In the case of Shirley Jackson, I find it especially flattering, as I can think of no writer in whose footsteps I’d rather follow.

CB: George Saltonstall is fictional, but the details of his life, his paintings, and the dark stories behind them, all feel terribly real. Is Saltonstall based on any historic figure (or figures)?

CRK:  Phillip George Saltonstall is an amalgamation of a lot of painters, and a little bit of Poe thrown in, as well. Mostly, I needed him to feel real. There’s a wonderful painter, Michael Zulli, who helped me do this. He actually painted “The Drowning Girl,” and became Saltonstall. He dressed as Saltonstall would have, and we did photos of him in period dress that were then Photoshopped, and all this made Saltonstall so real to me. There was no stranger sensation than holding the painting I’d imagined in my hands, seeing it as a genuine artifact.

CB: What about Eva Canning, the mysterious femme fatale at the center of Imp’s story?

CRK: Eva Canning is likely far too complex to explain here. She’s part of Imp’s haunting. She’s a deadly meme, and she’s also simply another broken person, one who is manipulative, and lost, and… I won’t say too much for fear of giving this or that away. I will say that, in many ways, she’s a nod to Peter Straub’s Ghost Story (with his blessings) and its multi-faced antagonist. It’s like the Kelly Link epigraph at the beginning of the book: “Stories shift their shape.” In fact, that sentence sort of sums up the novel. Stories shift their shape.

If you’re a PW subscriber, check out the rest of the interview here.

PW Talks with Julianna Baggott, Cont.

In today’s PW we have a great interview that Adam Lipkin conducted with Julianna Baggott about her forthcoming postapocalyptic novel, Pure. Here are the Qs and As that didn’t make it into the magazine:

AL: Pressia, the girl fused to the doll’s head, is a wonderfully complex character, competent and cynical, yet also often naive about her own world. Can you tell us about her genesis?

JB: Without that image of Pressia hiding in the ashen cabinet, there is no novel. She led me into the world and it was through her eyes that I came to see it. Of course, I also needed Partridge, who lives in the rigid order of the Dome. Both of them were essential to tell the full story, and the collision of their lives is the engine driving the narrative. Pressia allowed me to see the beauty in the wreckage; she insisted on it. And, despite everything, she still has hope.

AL: How do you feel about the publicity Pure has received, and about the hype for dystopian literature in general these days?

JB: I’m overwhelmed that Pure, the lives of its characters, and its otherworldly world have captured people’s imaginations. Pressia with her doll-head fist; El Capitan, who’s fused to his brother, forced to carry him for the rest of his life; Bradwell with birds embedded in his back—I had no idea how these characters would affect people. Pressia’s grandfather is missing a leg; his stump is clotted with wires. I grew up near my own grandfather, a double amputee from WWII, and so I lived with that constant reminder of war. What I mean is that, in so many ways, Pure still feels like it’s my own, and as the incredible blurbs have rolled in and the early reader reviews, I’m just beginning to understand the impact Pure is having on readers. Beyond that, I don’t think about genre hype except that I think the rise in interest in dystopian literature is a natural one. People are struggling. They want to read about characters who struggle and who are resilient.

AL: Do you have any other projects in the works?

JB: I’ve handed in Fuse, the second novel in the trilogy, and I’m excited about the wild twists and turns that novel takes, the deeper look at the characters, and the new details of the worlds inside of and outside of the Dome. I’m anxious to dive into the final book in the trilogy, Burn. I imagine that this world will always tempt me. It’s a matter of whether my characters need me, as a storyteller, or not. If they called out to me, I would jump back in—in a heartbeat.

As for other projects, my mind loves ideas—all of that potential. But I’m hesitant to talk about what’s whirling in my head. I like to let it whirl for as long as possible, on its own axis.

For more about Baggott’s work and a glimpse inside her head, see the rest of the interview in today’s issue.

PW Talks with N.K. Jemisin, Cont.

James Davis Nicoll did a really terrific interview with N.K. Jemisin for us. Three of the Qs and As are in the magazine this week; for your reading pleasure, here’s what didn’t fit on the page.

JDN: Your debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, was nominated for the Nebula, the Hugo and the World Fantasy Award. Any novel being nominated for all three is rare. Having a debut novel achieve this is even almost unheard of; the only other examples I can think of are Tea with a Black Dragon and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. What was your reaction when you discovered you had this nearly unheard of hat-trick in nominations?

NKJ: Lots of screaming and jumping up and down, mostly.  There was individual screaming and jumping up and down with each nomination, and then exponentially greater screaming and jumping up and down once trifecta was achieved.

JDN: What are you going to do with your Hugo nominee pin?

NKJ: I have two so far, since I got nominated last year too for my short story “Non-Zero Probabilities”.  Thinking about making earrings.

JDN: How did you come to be published by Orbit Books?

NKJ: I started the way all the “how to break in” books say you’re supposed to start.  I wrote for a long time—terrible stuff at first, but it got better.  I did a search-by-mail for an agent, using Locus as a research tool, and that netted me representation by Lucienne Diver.  Because of that, when The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was ready to send out to publishers, it was remarkably easy from my end:  I sent her the manuscript and waited. Magical things happened.  (Specifically, she sent it to several publishers, there was an auction, I screamed and jumped up and down some more, then I accepted Orbit’s offer.)  Then suddenly (two years later) I was published.

JDN: What works influenced the Inheritance Trilogy?

NKJ: Too many to count, honestly.  But off the top of my head:  Louise Cooper’s The Time Master trilogy; C. S. Friedman’s Coldfire trilogy; Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth stories; Stephen King’s Dark Tower; half a dozen shoujo manga series; bits of Tolkien, James Joyce, and Storm Constantine; life in New York City from the 80s to today;  several obscure video games; a couple of drum n’ bass bands; and a lot of nonfiction about the development of large and complex social systems.

JDN: One of the defining elements in the Inheritance Trilogy was obsessive and often destructive love. Another was a political structure notable for its brutality and authoritarian aspects. The two elements are linked in that one of the most obsessive romantics also was responsible for the political situation in the first; were you trying to make a more general point by featuring both so prominently and so inextricably intertwined?

NKJ: I’m guessing you’re leaving the identity of the obsessive romantic unmentioned because there are so many of them in the story!  But honestly, I wasn’t trying to make a point about that.  I don’t think that oppressive, authoritarian political systems have anything to do with love.  Control is not a part of love.

With respect to the political structure, I wasn’t trying to make a point about that, either, or at least not consciously.  I was trying to hold up a mirror to our own society, I suppose.  After all, in the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms every child born grows up with a good education, good nutrition, a very slim chance of dying in war or poverty, and a very good chance of living to a venerable age.  In real life we make the same rationalizations that the Arameri do, for far less benefit.  So which world is truly brutal?

JDN: Why, Oree Shoth aside, was your focus in the Inheritance Trilogy on the travails of Gods, godlings and aristocrats rather than those of persons of more humble origin?

NKJ: In the Inheritance Trilogy I’m trying to emulate the epics of old: all those stories in which the gods get bored and start playing with mortals’ lives for kicks, or in which mortals get caught in the crossfire when one god does a drive-by on another, or in which the odd lucky mortal gets a chance to count coup on a god and lives to tell the tale.  The characters in those tales—gods aside—are kings, tailors, princesses, priests, mighty warriors, goose girls, housewives, and random wanderers. They come from all walks of life.  The only constant in the tales are the gods themselves—who are often as human and fallible as mortals, for all their power.

JDN: Your blog’s About Page says you are “a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger”;  elsewhere on the same blog you mention that you are somewhere to the left of the Democratic Party. Speculative fiction is a genre not noted for its embrace of progressive politics, feminism or, as shown in 2009′s epic RaceFail flamewar, diversity; in light of that, what attracted you to this particular genre?

NKJ: Actually, before I got into the creative side of speculative fiction, I thought of it as the most progressive genre.  Friends and family members who knew of my interest helped to steer me towards writers like Anne McCaffrey, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein.  I saw science fiction and fantasy writers imagining amazing futures that ordinary people seemed to think were unattainable, or not worth striving for.  The first speculative novels I read were full of badass “liberated” women, kids from poor families who changed the world, black guys who witnessed the dawn of a new humanity, Muslims in space.  I grew up on shows like Star Trek, watching people of color go into space and even flirt with Spock.  But back then I lived with so much inequity and exclusion in the real world that the tiny, grudging steps toward progress that I saw in speculative fiction seemed like the strides of a giant.

As I grew older, I began to realize just how small those early steps I’d seen were, mostly because I started reading speculative fiction that took much bigger steps.  I read works like Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, which taught me there are no utopias—and that the people who don’t see the ugliness in the world are making a choice to ignore it, on however subconscious a level.  I began to learn more about how the real world works, and it finally hit me that speculative fiction reflects all the same limitations and prejudices as reality—they’re just hidden better.  There’s a reason it’s easier to find blue people in this genre than black people.  There’s a reason we’re still so surprised to see people like me—for whatever value of “like me” you choose to focus on—reading and writing and thriving in these futures and myths that we create.

So I started writing speculative fiction because at first I didn’t know any better.  I kept writing it because I got pissed off that it wasn’t what I thought it should be.  Anger’s a great motivator, but it’s fun, too, so I guess I’ll keep writing this stuff for awhile longer.

Bring on the Digital Galleys

If you’re not subscribed to the PW Daily email (and why aren’t you? It’s free and you can sign up right here), you may have missed this announcement:

Beginning September 15, Publishers Weekly‘s romance and science fiction/fantasy/horror reviews sections will accept digital galleys for review consideration. This includes galleys for digital-first publications in those genres.

We especially encourage small and independent presses to make use of the new system, which we hope will make it easier to send us galleys three to four months ahead of publication. Uploading digital galleys is also an eco-friendly alternative to packaging and shipping physical galleys.

All of PW’s current submission guidelines apply to digital galleys. We accept .epub, .mobi, .rtf, and .pdf formats. Please only submit each book once; there is no need to submit both physical and digital galleys of the same title.

Publishers may access the upload system at http://www.publishersweekly.com/egalleys. Please send error reports, questions, and feedback to service@publishersweekly.com.

I am pleased as punch to be spearheading this effort, and grateful to my reviewers who are willing to make the digital plunge. Please spread the word to all the SF/fantasy/horror and romance publishers and publicists you know.

PW Talks with Vernor Vinge, Cont.

This week’s PW contains Adam Lipkin’s Q&A with Hugo winner Vernor Vinge, discussing Vinge’s forthcoming The Children of the Sky. Space in the magazine is limited, but space on Genreville is not! So here are all the Qs and As that didn’t make it into the magazine version.

AL: A Fire Upon the Deep was about big issues, like the rise of the Blight, a malevolent machine intelligence. The Children of the Sky focuses on humans interacting with the alien Tines. How did that shift affect your approach to writing the second book?

VV: I put more emphasis on the Tines. There are consequences of their nature that may not have been evident in A Fire Upon the Deep. On the human side, I had fun with the “uplift” theme. Technological development gets a boost if you know that something can be done, and it should get an even bigger boost if you have a library of science and engineering books. Ravna’s ship’s library contains the results of thousands of years of study about how to develop technology and capital industry—and she has computer programs to customize the development path for particular environments. This gives her hope that she can uplift the Tines and the Children before the Blighter Threat descends from the heavens.

AL: How did you address the power of information in a world largely devoid of what we would think of as information technology?

VV: Ravna has few long-range radios, but her trump card is the crippled starship, Oobii. This ship can’t fly anymore, but it has the library, as well as a computer and some very powerful transmitters and receivers. Her game plan is to start with minimalist tech—like crystal radio sets and 1880s telephones—and send everything through Oobii, where routing and other automatic services can be provided by the ship. This works well, at least near the ship, but now success depends on the reliability of a single machine (a useful source of conflict and plot complications).

AL: Were there any points at which the development of the plot or characters took you by surprise?

VV: Some authors write “to find out what will happen next,” and so are often surprised at what their characters end up doing. How I wish it was like that for me! Even though I try to plan ahead, there are points in the story where I realize that the cool things I’ve been doing have painted me into a corner whence there is no plausible exit! It is a very ugly feeling, since the only obvious cure is to throw out thousands of words of often effective writing and start over—or else throw out my concept for the rest of the novel. The most spectacular such incident in The Children of the Sky was when Ravna and Jefri are imprisoned at the House of Tycoon. I could not imagine a plausible way of getting back on track for my overall plot. I stewed over this for weeks. In the end, I wedged a number of small changes into a consistent whole. I think the resulting scene was plausible, surprising, and a lot of fun to read.

AL: I don’t think it’s legal to conduct an interview with you without asking about the singularity. What recent technological developments have given you hope for humanity achieving it by 2030?

VV: Moore’s Law is still bouncing merrily along, on schedule. I see progress across a broad range of indicators, including the second DARPA autonomous automobile contest, IBM on the Jeopardy TV show, and continued improvement in internet and social intelligence.

AL: Have there been any technological or political setbacks?

VV: There could be. A general nuclear war could stop this progress, perhaps forever. Some environmental scenarios could be very bad, but especially if they lead to war.

AL: And what else needs to happen to bring the singularity about?

VV: In our billions, the human race has thousands of different types of genius. If that vastness can collaborate, it trumps all the talent and expertise in governments and corporations. Thus Internet technology, especially peer-to-peer and bottom-up solutions, is very important in navigating through the coming times.

I think the best analogy to the Singularity is the Cambrian Explosion of half a billion years ago, when complex life forms arose in just a few million years. By that analogy, we are now compressing the equivalent of millions of years of biological evolution into just a few decades of machine development. In the run-up to the Singularity, the physical nature of reality will likely become as volatile as electronic financial markets are now. This leads to two suggestions. From the biological analogy: We need heterogenous solutions, from the physical layer (chips), through software, all the way up to applications and social structures. Variety gives us some chance at firewalling unpleasant surprises. From the financial markets perspective: Global centralized solutions to risks are really just a guarantee of global profound disasters. We need solutions that can still function (perhaps with reduced capability) even if central services are down.

AL: You’ve just returned from watching the final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. What are your thoughts on the future of space flight and exploration?

VV: If the Singularity happens, huge space flight projects will probably be easy, but we ordinary humans won’t be at the forefront. If the Singularity doesn’t happen and we are spared great wars, then I think this century will see human civilization spreading across the inner solar system. There are several space propulsion methods that look feasible—once the spacecraft is away from Earth. The real bottleneck is hoisting payloads from the surface of the Earth to orbit. Cheap access to orbit should be pre-requisite to major manned space initiatives. Since the how is not precisely known, it is not a good project for major government projects or upfront funding. Instead, there should be real economic prizes in the form of promises (from governments and/or the largest corporations): “Give us a price to orbit of $X/kg, and we’ll give you Y tons of business per year for Z years.”

AL: Finally, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now? The ending of The Children of the Sky certainly implies that we’ll see another book in the Zones of Thought universe, but is that your next project?

VV: I’m now trying to decide if my next novel should be near future or far future (and desperately trying to figure out how to write something shorter so I can get it out sooner).

The PW Fall Announcements Issue is Out

My SF/F/H write-up is here. An excerpt:

The SF/fantasy/horror category, already a chimera, is budding new subcategories right and left. Many authors and publishers have given up on categorization altogether. Words like “amalgamation” and “blending” and “cross-genre” appear in our reviews with increasing frequency, and readers are eagerly gobbling up these unclassifiable books.

It’s not quite a truism that experimental writers are good writers—as in science, some experiments go boom or simply fizzle out—but many of our top picks for the fall and winter are decidedly idiosyncratic.

Some of you may also be interested in the romance and mystery/thriller assessments and listings, and there’s a surprising amount of skiffy content in the literary fiction listings as well.

Interviewing James S.A. Corey

In today’s issue of PW, you’ll find a 500-word Q&A with Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham, who collaborate under the name James S.A. Corey. Their first book together, Leviathan Wakes, got a rave review from PW last month. When we interviewed them, Ty and Daniel gave us a lot more than 500 words of interesting information about their work together, so here’s the rest for your enjoyment.

How did you tackle the creation of such an enormous project?

DA: Ty did about a decade of background work. That helped. The first thing we did together was build an outline of the whole book. It didn’t look much like the book we ended up with, but it was a good road map. Then on Wednesdays, I’d go over to Ty’s house, he’d write one chapter, I’d write another. We’d switch, edit and polish what the other guy did, and stick it on the back of the master document. That winds up being six or seven thousand words a week.

How much of the whole tale is already mapped out? Are you hoping to expand the Expanse into more than three volumes?

TF: We know where this is all going, and what the next two books are about in the broad strokes. The details will get filled in as we write them. But our mandate is to make an enjoyable reading experience no matter how many books we wind up writing, or how many the reader winds up reading. We hope Leviathan Wakes is satisfying as a standalone, but also satisfying as part of the trilogy. And if we wind up writing more than three, that each book will stand up as a solo novel, and also as part of the larger story we want to tell. And the story we ultimately want to tell is very large.

DA: We named it the Expanse partly because we wanted to signal that it’s a big, big story. And the variety of stories that are available to tell in this setting, even with what we’re planning to do with it, leaves me pretty excited about the possibilities.

This is one of the most genre-busting series openers in a long time: there are elements of mystery, political thriller, hard and soft SF, horror, espionage. Are we going to see more of the same mix in future volumes? And will we be following the same characters?

TF: Yes and yes. We plan to keep throwing the kitchen sink into this series. And the crew of the Rocinante have a lot more adventures ahead of them.

DA: There are other characters coming up too. One of the things that’s been really enjoyable for me is planning out how the things that happen in the first book shape and create all the setup for the third book. And we definitely meant to have the book—and the series—be that kind of stew of genres.

What was the biggest surprise for each of you?

DA: Every week, we’d come up with some moment or a line or an image that we hadn’t been particularly aiming for. Those are all through the book. And for me, at least, watching the two protagonists come together and make each other’s stories make sense was fascinating. Outside of the project itself, though, it’s been interesting to see how the book discusses things happening in the world now that hadn’t happened when we wrote it. If there is a philosophical conversation in the book, it’s about whether information should be openly shared or controlled and what it does to a government or social order when you strip away the bodyguard of lies. And then along came Wikileaks, and Ty and I were sitting there going, “Well, yeah, just like that.  And on the other hand, like that over there too.”

TF: Yeah, social relevance wasn’t something I expected from my space opera. And honestly, I went into this as a writing exercise, leveraging my friendship with Daniel to get some lessons on how to write a novel, so I was actually surprised by how much I liked the book and was proud of it when we were done.

In Memoriam: Melissa Mia Hall, 1954-2011

When I came in to work yesterday, my colleague Peter Cannon shared some sad news: author, editor, and PW reviewer Melissa Mia Hall died of a heart attack on January 28th. Melissa had been reviewing for PW as long as I have, almost nine years now, and was a quick reader and prolific writer who contributed extensively to our fiction sections and was always happy to read in any genre and meet a tight deadline. Readers who keep an eye on our contributor lists will notice that Melissa’s name appeared in nearly every issue. We’re all quite stunned and saddened that she’s gone.

The memorial service will take place on Saturday Feb. 12, 11am at St John’s Episcopal in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Peter wrote a moving eulogy for Melissa, and has graciously given me permission to post it on Genreville.

I never met Melissa Mia Hall, and I spoke to her only once or twice on the phone, but I feel as if I knew her as well as any friend. She began reviewing for PW in 2002, referred to me by a mutual New York friend, horror writer Ted Klein, who published her first story when he was the editor of Twilight Zone magazine. Melissa contributed hundreds of reviews to PW, in all different genres, as well as dozens of Q&As. In recent years, ever reliable and diligent, she was reviewing three books a week for me, mostly light, cozy mysteries.

Melissa started the new year on a hopeful note. Early in January, she e-mailed that she had a funeral to attend, but a wedding soon after. Her birthday was coming up. The mild Texas weather cheered her. She needed to go over one of her novels before shipping it to a U.K. editor for a read. She still had no word from the agent who had her funny mystery, but she was already plotting a sequel just in case. She had another agent waiting if the first one wasn’t interested. She was excited about a new blog she’d launched devoted to author interviews.

The last week of January, Melissa reported that she’d thrown out her back trying to lift her dog, Daisy. Poor Daisy could not get onto her bed at night unassisted, so Melissa had to make a bed for the animal on the floor. Daisy was upset, but the cat of course was gloating because she had no problems jumping up on the bed.

At various times over the years Melissa mentioned how she would like to visit Ted and me in New York, but money was always tight and that trip never happened. I envy those who knew her in person. Still, it was my privilege to have been one of her editors. I will miss her. —Peter Cannon

Q&A with Patrick Rothfuss in This Week’s PW

Patrick Rothfuss answers Paul Goat Allen’s questions about folklore, the curiosity of heroes, and the power of stories in this week’s fiction Q&A. Here’s a teaser:

I owe it to the reader to give Kvothe’s discoveries substance. If he travels to the edge of the map, the cultures he encounters should be fully fleshed and interesting. If he talks to someone clever, that person better have some genuinely clever things to say. If I don’t do that, I feel I’m not holding up my end of the bargain as an author.

If you find the references a bit mystifying, our starred reviews of The Name of the Wind (2007) and The Wise Man’s Fear (April 2011) may help clear things up.

Lots of Stars in This Week’s Web Exclusives

It occurs to me that some of our readers might not know that PW puts up online-only reviews every Monday in addition to the ones that appear in the magazine. Don’t think it’s a dumping ground, either: This week’s SF/F/H web exclusives include starred reviews for Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City, Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall’s Night of the Living Trekkies, Diane Duane’s Omnitopia Dawn, and Bob Fingerman’s Pariah. You can read them all here.