Came back from Brittany, slowly digging my way out of emails and various stuff.
The novel is now at 68K words; I’m taking a brief break to research a city my main character has to visit, and hopefully I’ll swing back into the spirit of things.
(I think I’ve figured out why Brittany works out so well for me: nothing to do but write, since there’s no Internet. New Year’s resolution for 2010: cut down on the WWW addiction…)
Came back from Brittany, slowly digging my way out of emails and various stuff.
So, Christmas is starting to loom large, and I have very nearly finished my gift-shopping (well, except for the cards, and the tree which are still MIA. At least we got the nativity scene). Going to be very dark here, as I’m leaving for Brittany on the morning of the 24th, and not coming back until the 30th. There will be internet in a very limited fashion. Hopefully, writing will happen, in a less limited fashion.
Meanwhile, I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas, and a very happy New Year’s Eve.
(yup, it’s a Chinese Catholic icon. I thought it looked awesome)
-My novelette “The Wind-Blown Man” (aka the Daoists in space story) is now available in the current issue of Asimov’s (along with “The Stone Wall Truth” by fellow Codexian and writer extraordinaire Caroline Yoachim, which has a tantalising snippet up on the website). And, er, I would appear to be on the cover, right there with the famous people…
Here’s a snippet:
On a clear day, you could almost see all the way into Heaven.
That was what Shinxie loved about White Horse Monastery: not the high, lacquered buildings scattered across the mountain’s face like the fingerprints of some huge Celestial; not the wide courtyards where students sat like statues, the metal of their second-skins gleaming in the sun; but the clear, crisp air of the heights, and the breathless quiet just before dawn, when she could see a flash of light overhead and imagine it to be the reflection of Penlai Station.
In those moments, she could almost imagine herself to be free.
Quite curious to see the reaction to this one, as it was a bit of a challenge: it’s got a completely different scientific history of the world, a weird melding of science and religion, and it’s entirely told from the point of view of insiders to the culture (unlike “The Lost Xuyan Bride”, where having a European as the viewpoint character made a number of things easier to deal with exposition-wise).
-Apex is organising a Story of the Year Award. Up for consideration is my Chinese post-apocalyptic story “After the Fire”, but there is a lot of fine stuff on display. My personal favourites were Peter M. Ball’s “To Dream of Stars: An Astronomer’s Lament” and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “59 Beads”. Both horrific in quite different ways. But go ahead, read and vote :=)
Arg. Getting to work today: 2h30 minutes in a packed bus (vs. 45 minutes usually).
Yes, it snowed. Loads and loads of snow, to be precise, and it’s not a good idea to have hills between you and your destination in that sort of case, especially when the cities are taken by surprise and don’t put salt on their roads to remove said snow.
Also, the suburban trains were on strike, just for the heck of it.
(getting back from work: 1h00, thanks to a colleague’s car and half an hour crammed into a train that was literally packed to the rafters. The mood has been better.)
My SF dystopia “Father’s Flesh, Mother’s Blood” will be appearing in Jason Sizemore’s anthology Dark Futures. Many thanks to Jason for the invite and eventual acceptance, to Marshall Payne for helping me settle on a title, and to everyone who took a look at it on OWW: Colum Paget, Ilan Lerman, Mark Hunken, and Alter Reiss (special thanks to Alter for helping me see my original ending was rubbish). EDIT: and to Justin Pilon for the awesome crit, as usual.
It’s Chinese alt-history once again (I’m in this phase), the dark counterpart to my gender-change story Heaven Under Earth (which I love but haven’t managed to sell yet), featuring possibly one of my more unpleasant, bigoted set of characters. Also, changes of identity and invasive surgery. The usual unsettling stuff
You can check out the table of contents here, which includes Codexians Alethea Kontis and Geoffrey Girard as well as Paul Jessup and Ekaterina Sedia.
Realms of Fantasy launches their new website–and their electronic edition. To celebrate, you can download the February 2010 issue for free (and read my short story “Mélanie” as well as Ann Leckie‘s awesome “The Unknown God”, a cool tribal-ish fantasy about gods and their powers, which reminded me of Greg Keye’s The Waterborn and Blackgod).
Angry Robot has gorgeous covers for Kaaron Warren‘s Walking the Tree, Colin Harvey‘s Damage Time and Andy Remic‘s Soul Stealers. I especially love the cover for Kaaron’s novel.
They’re also holding the 12 days of Christmas over at the website, with authors contributing a different blog post every day. So far we’ve had Chris Roberson and Colin Harvey–stay tuned for more goodies.
And Stephanie Burgis is holding an ARC giveaway contest for her novel A Most Improper Magick, a Regency YA novel about a girl dressing up as a boy to save her family from impending ruin. Oh, and it’s got highwaymen, too.
So… Took Friday off, and dragged the BF to London, in order to see the Aztec exhibition at the British Museum.
Friday was the obligatory trip down memory lane, specifically of South Kensington and our old house–which felt very weird, especially when walking in front of the French lycée. It was followed by a wonderful Indian dinner with Seb Cevey and Jane in Brick Lane. Tried a random Bengalese dish with mango, which turned out to be wonderfully sweet (and not really spicy).
Saturday morning was Forbidden Planet, aka the bookshop of doom. I had almost succeeded in emerging with only one book (an omnibus edition of Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books), when the BF suggested innocently, “Are you sure this is all you want?” Whereupon I stupidly turned around to stare at the “New Releases” rack, nabbed a signed copy of Elizabeth Bear‘s By the Mountain Bound, caught a glimpse of Daryl Gregory‘s new The Devil’s Alphabet, which made me decide to buy his Pandemonium…
At least I only got three books. *whimper* (I also got the chance to see some of Angry Robot‘s most recent releases on the shelves, eye-catchingly placed).
In the afternoon, we went to meet up with VDer Stephen Gaskell and Elle for a look at the new “We Are Astronomers” show at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. The show itself didn’t feature ground-breaking science, but the presentation was awesome, with very cool illustrations and pseudo-3D effects that look pretty good when spread over the dome of a planetarium. Much, much fun. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have dinner with Steve, but it was a great afternoon all the same.
And finally, Sunday, aka the day for which we’d booked the exhibition tickets.
All I can say is “wow”. They had really gathered a lot of cool pieces. A particularly geeky moment included my bending over a glass case peering at a codex and going, “This can’t possibly be the real Codex Mendoza“. (it was). They had the Codex Duran too, the Codex Borbonicus, the Great Temple dedication stone (yes, I realise I’m gushing and that you probably don’t know what they are. It’s like having most of the major artefacts in a very small room. With only a handful of people so you can stare all you like). And I actually got to see a sculpture of an ahuizotl (a creepy water-creature that plays a big part in both my novels) as well as artefacts linked with Tizoc, an Aztec emperor who also features in the novels.
The items themselves were pretty nicely presented with plenty of context, even if, on multi-object displays, it wasn’t always obvious to see which tag corresponded to what. And while I loved the scaled model of the Tenochtitlan sacred precinct (which had me pointing, “Oh, look, Acatl’s temple is here, and this major location in the book is here”…), I could have done without the dramatic trails of blood on the temple staircases, especially since most of the temples didn’t actually have the sacrifice stone. It felt pretty cheap. But overall, it was an awesome exhibition, and I’m glad we got tickets and saw it before it finishes.
And then we hit the exit and the souvenir shop, and it was Forbidden Planet all over again.
In addition to lots of Aztec-themed souvenirs (the mug with the “Five Movement” glyph really had me hesitating), it also had books. Whole bookshelves of them. The BF was very understanding and let me browse for half an hour, writing down the names of authors and books that looked interesting. In the end, I stuck to three books again: the catalogue of the exhibition, which like all British Museum catalogues is amazingly detailed with lovely pictures and plenty of extra information (and a handy index), Karl Taube’s and Mary Miller’s The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya, the closest to a dictionary of symbols I could find (with illustrations), and Michael E. Smith’s The Aztecs, which has interesting considerations on crafts and agriculture as well as daily life.
On the minus side, I got to drag the aforementioned souvenirs through the rest of the afternoon–which meant a Chinese noodle restaurant and part of the rest of the British Museum (the Enlightenment gallery, which chronicles the history of science in the 18th and 19th century, and an exhibition on Japanese culture throughout history). But it was well worth it.
And since I never got to see the Chinese ceramics, I’ve made a mental note to come back to the British Museum next year :=)
(I have some genre-related stuff to catch up to as well, but that will have to wait until I have defeated the Giant Pile of Laundry To Be Ironed)
Stuff I’ve enjoyed recently: Apex has an awesomely creepy story by fellow VDer Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, “59 Beads”:
Air limousines floated by like ghosts in a night filled with a jangle of sounds. A mad juxtaposition of chords, wailing voices and crooned-out tunes mangled by the sound of honking horns, curses and the cries of the desperate filled the dark streets. Cordoba’s End, home to migrants and refugees.
After their parents succumbed to the rot, Pyn and Sienna wandered the streets of Cordoba. Together, they trekked the back side of the posh quarter. Ecstasy street, Ilona’s Oord, Sonatina’s Point, the words tasted as exotic and beautiful as the places themselves.
“You think we’ll ever be rich enough to live on High End?” Sienna asked.
“I don’t know,” Pyn said.
Rochita is also blogging over at Jeff Vandermeer’s blog on Writing from the Context of my Culture.
I’ve also been reading the anthology Federations by John Joseph Adams, which, while it contains many good stories, isn’t really my cup of tea–there are far too many stories focusing on the military or pseudo-military of the Federations to appeal to me. But I’ve found two gems so far, Yoon Ha Lee “Swanwatch”, about a poet exiled to a space station overlooking a black hole where people commit suicide, and tasked with turning their deaths into art. Very intriguing concept, and a sparse execution that works up to a punchy ending. In a, er, much different vein, “The One with the Interstellar Group Consciousness” by James Alan Gardner, is what would happen if Intergalactic civilisations developped a consciousness, and started looking for their soulmates using 21st-century dating techniques. Hilarious. Still have the Cat Valente story to read, which I’m looking forward to.
In the latest issue of Interzone, I enjoyed Colin Harvey’s “The Killing Streets”, which showcases his ability to depict believable scarce-resource futures with flawed yet sympathetic characters. Mordantly dark, well worth a look (and it almost made me miss my station, which is a sign of how engrossed I was). I also loved Lavie Tidhar’s “Funny Pages”, easily the best story in the issue, a fast and wry tale of Israeli super-heroes and super-villains (bonus points for relooking a particularly famous superhero as the Sabra–I didn’t catch the reference until fairly late in the story, but it was pretty funny when it came up).
The December 2009 and February 2010 issue of Realms of Fantasy both turned up nearly simultaneously in my mailbox. The reason for the delay, insofar as I can ascertain, is that the January issue had been mauled in transit, resulting in a missing lower-right-hand corner that looked like it had been nibbled by rats (I’m pretty sure that’s not the explanation, but it did look very much like it). On the plus side, the February issue arrived in a neat USPS protected envelope, contained a folded check (which I almost lost when opening the issue, as I’m still not used to checks being folded half-inside the magazines), and, of course, my story “Melanie”, complete with illustration by Frank Wu.
Here’s the obligatory teaser:
March in Paris: the trees in the school’s courtyard have bloomed in the mild weather, tumbles of white and pink flowers hanging just out of reach.
The boarders sit in small clutches under the arcades of building B, their notebooks open on their knees–making their last, frantic revisions before the competitive exams.
“Three weeks left,” Richard says, tapping his pen against a mathematical formula.
“Yeah,” Erwan says. He’s staring at the other students–all shining, all gorged with light: the light of numbers and curves, the endless dance of the formulas that rule the world. And, as it always does, his gaze fastens on Mélanie.
Meanwhile, I’ll be off to write some more Harbinger (regained the 2500 words I’d cut, plus some, bringing me to almost 46k. Also, the character with the longest-ever name has walked on-stage, and looks to be taking over the scene if not the plot).
This is the bit where I’d go for a liedown were it not early morning here…
I’ve sold “The Jaguar House, in Shadow” to Asimov’s. It’s a novelette set in the Xuya universe (where China discovered America before Colombus, the same as “The Lost Xuyan Bride”, “Butterfly Falling at Dawn” and “Fleeing Tezcatlipoca”, not to mention novel Foreign Ghosts, currently with my agent). It focuses on the Aztecs in Greater Mexica, and the Jaguar Knights, elite spies and manipulators caught in the bloody aftermath of the civil war. Complete with blood sacrifices, crazy priests and hallucinogenic drugs.
The mind wanders, when one takes teonanácatl.
If she allowed herself to think, she’d smell bleach, mingling with the faint, rank smell of blood; she’d see the grooves of the cell, smeared with what might be blood or faeces.
She’d remember–the pain insinuating itself into the marrow of her bones, until it, too, becomes a dull thing, a matter of habit–she’d remember dragging herself upwards when dawn filters through the slit-windows: too tired and wan to offer her blood to Tonatiuh the sun, whispering a prayer that ends up sounding more and more like an apology.
Wrote the first draft of this in Brittany last summer (somewhat amusingly, the previous sale I made to Asimov’s, “The Wind-Blown Man”, was also written in Brittany, so there’s clearly something in the air here). I workshopped this on OWW, where it got very helpful crits from Christine Lucas (silverwerecat), Rachel Gold and Swapna Kishore.
If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the flat, jumping up and down and making incoherent noises.