It is. Er. Rather a strong shortlist: in novel you’ll find Ian McDonald, Dave Hutchinson, Christ Beckett and Justina Robson (and I am super super glad Glorious Angels is on this list, because it’s an awesome book that in my opinion didn’t get the press it deserved). And short fiction pits me against Gareth L Powell, Paul Cornell, Nnedi Okorafor, and Jeff Noon. *gulp*
(also, Forbidden Planet in London now has a stack of signed The House of Shattered Wings copies, following my Saturday visit. Just saying, if you wanted to see what the fuss was all about )
And on a totally different subject: Chúc Mừng Năm Mới, happy new year of the fire monkey to everyone who celebrates! Here’s some hoa mai flowers, because it’s not really Tết without them.
Just a quick note that I’ll be dropping by Forbidden Planet in London (179 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JR) to sign some stuff Saturday 6th February at 15:30.
So, a. there will be signed stock from Saturday afternoon onwards, and b. I’ll be hanging out a bit afterwards to check out new releases, so if you have spare Bodard stuff lying around and happen to be in London I’ll be quite happy to sign your books ^-^
I’ll be in Forbidden Planet signing some stock around 15:30 on Saturday February 6th (and hanging around afterwards to check out the shiny new releases). So a. if you’re also around I can sign stuff for you, and b. there should be some signed stock of House of Shattered Wings after I’m done
And here’s some quotes from the Locus summation of 2015:
“[a novel] which featured some of the most striking and memorable fantasy settings of the year, Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings, with its ruined Paris haunted by fallen angels” Gary K Wolfe
“Aliette de Bodard delivered her best novel to date, with The House of Shattered Wings. I’m not usually one for tales of fallen angels, but this story of Europe in ruins, where Lucifer and his cohort have taken up residence in Paris was a page-turner and deserves to stand among the fantasies of the year.” Jonathan Strahan
“I (…) had fun spotting Parisian landmarks and learning about Vietnamese dragon lore in Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings.” Cheryl Morgan
“Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings (Roc) reimagined Paris after a devastating war, as seen from several different vantage points in society. It’s not de Bodard’s first novel, but it is surely the one that will propel her to the recognition she deserves.” Graham Sleight
“The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard is a novel I’d like to call epic, though its particular subgenre is impossible to pin down. Set in a Paris that never was – decayed from the aftermath of a great and terrible war, possessed of a baroque, fin-de-siècle air – ruled by fallen angels and magicians, it’s a novel of secrets and murder, outsiders and alchemists, power and change. Difficult to describe, but fantastic to read. Although a sequel is alleged to be forthcoming, it stands alone – which always makes for a pleasant change.” Liz Bourke
The Locus Poll and Survey for 2015 is also open–come and check it out and vote for your favourite fiction of the year (I’m going to be on auto-repeat, but don’t hesitate to vote in that kind of poll even if you don’t think you’ve read enough in the field this year: everybody’s votes count, and “I’m not voting because I’m not well-read enough” is a very common way people, especially those from non-dominant cultures, exclude themselves)
So, this was the year of cooking courses: I got a pack of two for my birthday plus Christmas, and I picked two things which I’ve always wanted to get some hands-on instruction on. The first was pizza making, and the second was dim sum.
The H was the one who pointed out the pizza making course to me: it’s a group thing organised by l’Atelier des Sens, which has a range of cooking courses that go from making your own bread to detailed, week-long courses for people who want to become chefs or simply terrific home cooks. The course itself was near Les Halles, which is handily located in the centre of Paris, in a large, kitchen with a huge work counter (fortunately, because 12 of us mixing pizza dough at the same time got a bit chaotic). We covered pizza dough (flour, yeast, kneading), and pizza toppings, and made different combinations that we ended up eating afterwards. Yum.
It’s, of course, hopeless to hope to cover the full range of dim sum making in a single 3-hour course, so I went with Margot Zhang’s course on making bao (buns which came down to Vietnam in a slightly different, fluffier version, bánh bao). She does group courses (4 people at a time), but alas, I couldn’t make it to one and ended up on a one-on-one course. Margot is awesome and very knowledgeable, and covered everything from making the dough to folding the pleats neatly. My first attempts were disasters. The picture you see above is my second batch, by which point she’d showed me an alternative way to fold the dough (on the counter as opposed to freeform in the air, and with a slight change of guiding hands).
The resulting dough is… interesting: bánh bao is made, insofar as I can tell, from a different flour (Hong Kong flour, which is very white) and possibly includes a bit of rice flour and some milk, so I was expecting something a little more fluffy than I actually got. But they tasted divine (the H confirms ^-^).
The cooking classes are both, as you can guess, very different beasts. I liked the Ateliers des Sens one a lot–very clearly pro and a smoothly oiled machine, my only comment is that there were 12 of us in the room which was a little too many I think? In a “really big group” thing like this I feel like you don’t really get a chance to handle everything. But the chef’s great and always really helpful, and it’s really geared towards making do with what you have in your kitchen without building a stone oven (which, let’s face it, not many of us will do).
The Margot Zhang course is a one-on-one, and as such it’s a very different beast: I got to do everything, and to see where I was failing–my pleating technique, for instance, improved markedly when I had to pleat 15 baos in a row! You naturally get more instructor time in a situation like this. And it ended up aimed specifically at me: namely, some cooking experience, some experience handling bread/wheat dough, and a reasonable familiarity with the ingredients we were using (sesame oil and rice wine). The price range, of course, isn’t the same, though due to Margot’s prices being more than reasonable, both this and the pizza making class ended up in the same hourly rate ballpark (it was 75 euros for 3 hours, and I ended up bringing 10 big buns of pork-filled goodness home in addition to the recipe).
Margot has just started doing cooking classes full time instead of her work teaching Chinese, and if you’re looking for that extra oomph to your cooking I would highly recommend you give her a look . She also does beginners classes, but I was obviously a little bit less interested in that :p
(cover design and art: Melanie Ujimori/Jonathon Dalton. Art direction: Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein)
Just a quick extra word: on Kobo (and on a bunch of other retailers), the Obsidian and Blood omnibus and the other Angry Robot editions (with the old covers) still show up for sale. I’d be all in favour if there hadn’t been a snafu: these editions are officially out of print. We’re still sorting that out, but in the meantime I’d be really grateful if you would take a look at the new editions? Thanks!
Been remiss in posting these, but very happy to reveal the new look for Obsidian and Blood. The ebooks will be sold through JABberwocky: they’re currently trickling their way through the system (I spotted them at Amazon and Kobo, but other retailers don’t yet have them). Will update when I have more info!
Aren’t these gorgeous? The design is by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein (art direction), Melanie Ujimori & Jonathon Dalton (art and cover design). Also, creepy owls FTW!
He, what would you know, it’s January again (aka, wow, where did all the time go, and arggggggg I am so late on things!). The main thing I published in 2015 was my novel (I know, kind of hard to miss :p), The House of Shattered Wings, aka magical intrigues, deadly creatures and elusive wonders in a decadent turn-of-the-century Paris ravaged by a magical war, which got starred reviews from Publishers’ Weekly and Library Journal. It’s eligible for the Hugos and Nebulas (and on the BSFA Award longlist).
I can’t provide a copy of the complete text, but I have put together a short sampler of the first three chapters: bits and pieces of this have appeared online, but this is the first time that you can actually read all of it (I think? The kindle sampler is shorter than this, ending mid-chapter two). You can download it here in EPUB, MOBI, or PDF (if you need DOC or RTF, drop me a line via the contact form, and I’ll be quite happy to provide a copy. I just am not a big fan of putting Word formats online–too easy to modify them by mistake…). ETA: if you’re a SFWA member, Roc will kindly provide you with print or digital reading copies, see here in the forums.
If you came here wanting whole stories (which I can understand!), I do have a Xuya short story online, “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight”, which is at Clarkesworld (and is getting reprinted in Dozois’s Year’s Best). You can also downloadEPUB or MOBI.
And if anyone is interested and a Hugo or Nebula voter, contact me and I’d be quite happy to email you a copy of my novella “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls”, which appeared in Asimov’s Oct/Nov and is now a tad hard to find.
And now for the bulk of this, aka, the stuff that I read from 2015 and want to recommend. (this list is a slightly modified and expanded version of one I wrote for the Book Smugglers. I would urge you to go read it: these recs for 2015 are more up to date, but the Book Smugglers post also has my 2016 TBR pile, and it really looks awesome. I made a slight headstart on said TBR pile thanks to friends, and so far I haven’t been disappointed!).
Short stories “Variations on an Apple”, Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, October). It’s no secret that I love Yoon Ha Lee’s stuff, and this clever retelling of the Trojan war is no exception. Tackles mathematics, desire, and the consequences of decisions that aren’t always wisely made. Also, Illium and Helen are both awesome in different ways.
“Milagroso”, Isabel Yap (Tor.com, August). In a future where food is grown in labs and always perfect, there is still room for the miracles of saints… By turns exuberant and heartbreaking, this is a story of what we take for granted, how we seek to protect our children, and the price we pay.
“The Star Maiden”, Rokshani Chokshi. Tala’s grandmother used to be a star maiden, annd tells her granddaughter stories of longing for the sky. But Tala grows up and starts questioning the veracity of the story–and becomes ashamed of her grandmother’s oddness. There’s nothing really surprising in this one, but it’s very very well done (as in I broke down and cried at the end), and encapsulates the heartache of growing up.
“The Monkey House”, Tade Thompson (Omenana, March). The narrator returns to work after a breakdown–and finds that everything is *almost* normal. I love the sense of creeping unease of this one, the feeling that everything looks almost quite right (and that 1% “not right” that is downright unsettling). I’m not usually much of a reader for horror or dark, but this is perfect.
“If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler”, by Xia Jia (Clarkesworld, Nov). I love Xia Jia’s stuff, and this short story about a poet and her legacy–and how people handle it in the age of the internet and social media–is lovely and sharp.