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Sale: “Lullaby for a Lost World” to Tor.com

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Sale: “Lullaby for a Lost World” to Tor.com

Er. So I’ve sold the story I wrote last week to Carl Engle-Laird at Tor.com. Wow. I’m over the moon. I love what Tor.com is doing (and I love their art too, which is always striking), and I’m really glad I shall be appearing with all the cool kids.

This is a bit of a change from my usual stuff: it’s, er, dark post-apocalyptic fantasy [1]. With a twist.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, D Franklin, Gareth M Skarka and Mur Lafferty for the seed of this; and to Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, D Franklin and Rachel A Marks for the read!

They bury you at the bottom of the gardens–what’s left of you, pathetic and small and twisted so out of shape it hardly seems human anymore. The river, dark and oily, licks at the ruin of your flesh–at your broken bones–and sings you to sleep, in a soft, gentle language like a mother’s lullabies; whispering of rest and forgiveness; of a place where it is forever light, forever safe.

You do not rest. You cannot forgive. You are not safe– you never were.

[1] OK OK. I do write creepy, even in SF ^^

Books books books

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Now that my life is no longer about edits, a few books:

-Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown (ARC obtained from publisher). Zacharias Whyte is the newest sorcerer to the Crown, and he’s got his work cut out for him: he’s black in a society that has no liking for people of colour, suspected of murdering his predecessor and guardian; and to top it all, the magic that England was relying on is steadily draining away. As he travels to Fairyland to determine the cause of the magical penury, Zacharias picks up Prudence, an impoverished gentlewoman who is determined to make her own way in the world–and who has a decidedly peculiar inheritance. Magic, mayhem (and interfering aunties) in a Regency setting: it’s a hilarious book, but also one that pokes sly fun at the social conventions of the time and the place of women and POCs. Sort of a cross between Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and PG Wodehouse, with a postcolonial slant. Also, it’s got Malaysian vampires, and they’re awesome.

-Pat Cadigan, Tea from an Empty Cup (book bought). I first read this ten years ago, and it hasn’t lost its power. It’s short and punchy–a double tale of a murder investigation in an immersive artificial reality and a woman looking for her friend and getting caught in some shady dealings involving stolen virtual artefacts, and access to a special level in said artificial reality). I loved the world building (in a dystopic future where Japan has disappeared and the survivors struggle to find a sense of national identity, something that really resonated to me as a second-gen whose maternal country was lost to war for a while); and the artificial reality is amazing–I’m sceptical of SF’s ability to predict the future, but Pat Cadigan was square on, on both the saturation of the AR by ads, and the gaming culture that develops around it, with its accompanied mysticism, its prizing of avatars and things found online and its search for hacks, new levels and new sensations (which reminded me of MMORPGs and Second Life).

(a few minor quibbles: I wasn’t quite sold on the idea of racial memory, or on the idea you could tell someone’s racial mark-up just by looking at them–as a diasporan, the elevated mysticism and mythology that develops around the lost land of Japan feels very accurate, though sometimes a little too forced and forceful for my personal taste. And sometimes the world building rang a little hollow–I wasn’t sure what Yuki did for a living or how she was able to drop everything to follow Joy Flower. But that’s very much a function of this being a short and to-the-point novel).

-Nghia M Vo, Legends of Vietnam: An Analysis and Retelling of 88 Tales (book bought): I’m really conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it’s a reasonably good book of fairytales and Vietnamese folklore, with legends from the North, the South and some (all too few) from ethnic minorities. It provides context, both cultural and historical (and it’s got all the proper diacritics, which is awesome for following up on stuff), and there are lots of tales and tidbits that I’ve heard but not seen elsewhere, so I think it’s fair to call it the most complete compilation I’ve seen yet. On the other hand… the commentary sometimes grates. There’s the odd swipe at passive Vietnamese, incapable of banding together or of understanding progress, unlike Western nations (which is just wtf); and a lot of sallies against the Northerners  (and I know there was a war; I know unforgivable things were done and I’m not minimising the pain people went through; heck, I live in its shadow. But I really don’t think a book of fairy tales is the place for this kind of stuff). Of note, there’s a bunch of tales in the post-war years, but I can’t comment on these because I found them triggering, and had to skip this section.

-Kari Sperring, The Grass King’s Concubine (book bought)  This is a book with several narrative strands: one in the present, where Aude, born to wealth, runs away and seeks to understand where her family’s fortune came from; and one in the past, where a man called Marcellan enters the Rice Palace, domain of the Grass King, the mythical being who embodies the earth and the harvest. In the present, Aude gets kidnapped by the Grass King’s bannermen, and taken to a deserted, devastated Rice Palace, where she is told she must fix what her ancestors broke…

This is slow, intimate and quite wonderful. I love the contrast between the Brass and Silver Cities and their endless hunger for wealth (and one of Kari’s strengths, I think–in addition to lush prose–is that she nails social class, social oppression and the way the progress of the Industrial Revolution was built on the misery of the many), and the Rice Palace and its fairytale logic; and the driving mystery of what exactly happened in the past is very well done (and going to an unexpected conclusion). It seems at first that the two halves (the Industrial Revolution cities and the Rice Palace) belong to two wildly different books, but on finishing the book you realise that the unifying theme is the devastation of greed and hunger for power–and that, in that respect, the present is not so different from the past–it’s a very clever and subtle juxtaposition, and it works all the better for never being outright said.

I have a couple quibbles, the first is that you should avoid reading the cover copy before you start the book, because it has the worst spoilers I’ve seen in quite a while; the second is that the ending feels a teensy bit rushed–and by far the most major one is that this begs for a sequel, and there is none yet! (I have a plan which involves pestering Kari until she gives in ^^).

Next up: Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings!

March/April Events

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March/April Events

Just a quick heads-up that I’m doing a bunch of writerly stuff in March/April:

  • Tuesday, March 25th, 17h30-19h30: North London Lit Festival (Middlesex University, Hendon Campus): Speculative Fiction authors Stephanie Saulter and Aliette de Bodard, chaired by Farah Mendlesohn
  • Saturday, March 28th & Sunday, March 29th: Luxcon 2015, (Tétange, Luxembourg). I’ll be Guest of Honour, and there’s a bunch of things I’m going to be doing (reading, signing & panel).
  • Friday April 3rd-Sunday April 5th early morning: Dysprosium, Eastercon 2015 (Park Inn Hotel, London Heathrow). Hanging around, meeting friends, the usual…

I’ll hopefully have print copies of On a Red Station, Drifting handy, grab me if you want one! (and/or if you have something else you want me to sign and/or if you want to chat. I’m at these things to meet people, and if it doesn’t look like I’m making a beeline for some prior engagement, or to my room in order to collapse, I’m always happy to stop and chat)

Snippet

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Oh dear. I blame Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, D Franklin, Gareth M Skarka and Mur Lafferty for this snippet. I just. I don’t know where this story is going or even if it’s worth writing. Only that it has unicorns.

They bury you at the bottom of the gardens–what’s left of you, pathetic and small and twisted so out of shape it hardly seems human anymore. The river, dark and oily, licks at the ruin of your flesh–at your broken bones–and sings you to sleep, in a soft, gentle language like a mother’s lullabies; whispering of rest and forgiveness; of a place where it is forever light, forever safe.

You do not rest. You cannot forgive. You are not safe– you never were.

ETA: and I have a first draft at 2600 words. And no idea what to do with a dark unicorn story 0_0

Breath of War up for a Nebula

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Breath of War up for a Nebula

Aka, OMG OMG OMG I have been sitting on this for a week and it’s been killing me.
I’m very please to announce that my short story “The Breath of War” is up for a Nebula Award.

I am… humbled and overjoyed to be on the ballot, which looks truly fantastic (and very happy that some of my suggestions/suggested authors are on there, too–congrats to Alyssa Wong, Liu Cixin, Ken Liu, Tom Crosshill among many others–and I’m happy, though in a bittersweet fashion, to share the ballot with Eugie Foster, who left us far too soon). My deepest thanks to everyone who read the story and everyone who nominated it; and a special thanks to Scott H Andrews who had the good taste to publish it ^^ It’s a very special one for me, aka “the one with the snakelet in it”, and I’m very very glad it’s up there.

I don’t know yet if I’ll be able to attend the Nebula Awards Weekend–I would love to, but negotiations are in progress with the father of the snakelet on the subject…

Full list below:

Novel
The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Tor)
Trial by Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu (Tor)
Coming Home, Jack McDevitt (Ace)
Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer (FSG Originals; Fourth Estate; HarperCollins Canada)

Novella
We Are All Completely Fine, Daryl Gregory (Tachyon)
Yesterday’s Kin, Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
“The Regular,” Ken Liu (Upgraded)
“The Mothers of Voorhisville,” Mary Rickert (Tor.com 4/30/14)
Calendrical Regression, Lawrence Schoen (NobleFusion)
“Grand Jeté (The Great Leap),” Rachel Swirsky (Subterranean Summer ’14)

Novelette
“Sleep Walking Now and Then,” Richard Bowes (Tor.com 7/9/14)
“The Magician and Laplace’s Demon,” Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
“A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i,” Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)
“The Husband Stitch,” Carmen Maria Machado (Granta #129)
“We Are the Cloud,” Sam J. Miller (Lightspeed 9/14)
“The Devil in America,” Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com 4/2/14)

Short Story
“The Breath of War,” Aliette de Bodard (Beneath Ceaseless Skies 3/6/14)
“When It Ends, He Catches Her,” Eugie Foster (Daily Science Fiction 9/26/14)
“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” Matthew Kressel (Clarkesworld 5/14)
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family,” Usman T. Malik (Qualia Nous)
“A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide,” Sarah Pinsker (F&SF 3-4/14)
“Jackalope Wives,” Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/7/14)
“The Fisher Queen,” Alyssa Wong (F&SF 5/14)

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Edge of Tomorrow, Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Guardians of the Galaxy, Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Interstellar, Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures)
The Lego Movie, Screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Unmade, Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House)
Salvage, Alexandra Duncan (Greenwillow)
Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, A.S. King (Little, Brown)
Dirty Wings, Sarah McCarry (St. Martin’s Griffin)
Greenglass House, Kate Milford (Clarion)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton (Candlewick)

New recipe: teacakes!

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Just a note that I’ve blogged the teacakes baking process over here, if you’re interested. They’re heartily snakelet-approved (they’re 25cm across, and he ate about 0.75 of one on the plane?).

Meanwhile, the blog is slightly dark because I’m on a skiing holiday–return to hemi-semi-regularly content next week, I promise! I’ll try to do a post on my revisions process.

Reminder: Nebula Awards deadline

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Just a brief reminder that the Nebula Awards deadline is tomorrow, if you’re a SFWA member and want to suggest stuff (and make your voice heard, because the awards are about the voters and what they love), now is the time to go vote.

If you’re still looking for stuff to read, my awards consideration post has a lot of stories you can read online for free (and great, diverse stuff). It’s here.