Category: fiction

The Fox Spirit Book of European Monsters

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The Fox Spirit Book of European Monsters

Just a quick heads-up that you can now buy The Fox Spirit Book of European Monsters, which includes my story “Melanie” as well as other enticing offerings. It’s a coffee-table book with beautiful illustrations–the first time I’ve been in a book of that format–exciting!

(also, if you happen to want a review copy, there are PDFs available. Feel free to email me).

First draft!

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First draft!

(well, second, really. The rewrite pushed it from a slight 6k to a solid 7k words. With thanks to fabulous betas Victor Fernando Campo and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who didn’t blink at the quick turnaround time and provided very valuable insight on what wasn’t working so well with it)

I settled on “Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight” as the title; and here’s a snippet:

Green tea: green tea is made from steamed or lightly dried tea leaves. The brew is light, with a pleasant, grassy taste. Do not over-steep it, lest it become bitter.

#

After the funeral, Quang Tu walked back to his compartment, and sat down alone, staring sightlessly at the slow ballet of bots cleaning the small room–the metal walls pristine already, with every trace of Mother’s presence or of her numerous mourners scrubbed away. He’d shut down the communal network–couldn’t bear to see the potted summaries of Mother’s life, the endlessly looping vids of the funeral procession, the hundred thousand bystanders gathered at the grave site to say goodbye, vultures feasting on the flesh of the grieving–they hadn’t known her, they hadn’t cared–and all their offerings of flowers were worth as much as the insurances of the Embroidered Guard.

Yes, it has tea!

(picture: Tea leaves steeping in a zhong čaj by Wikimol, used under a CC-BY-SA2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

Can haz first draft!

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10.5k words. Like pulling teeth all the way, I swear… Set in the world of the novel, around 60 years before actual novel, and temp title is “The Death of Aiguillon” (which I do not like, but will think of something better afterwards).

Snippet:

In the end, as she had known, Huyen crept back to the House of Aiguillon.

Dawn was barely breaking over Paris–a sick, vague pink tinge to the maelstrom of spells that filled the entire sky like roiling clouds. No sun, no stars; merely the acrid taste of spent magic that settled in the lungs like the beginnings of a cough; and a haze over the cobblestones that could hide anything from explosives to chimeras.

The great gates hung open. Through the haze, Huyen caught a glimpse of bodies, lying like discarded puppets in the gardens; and of what had once been the corridors, now open to the winds with the familiar peony wallpaper singed and torn–Huyen remembered running with one hand following the flowers, drawing a line through the corridor as a way to find her way back to the kitchens–another time, another age. The House had succumbed, and nothing would ever be the same.

Off to bed now, and then to catch up on all the other stuff that was running late…

House of Shattered Wings and one sequel sell to Gollancz

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House of Shattered Wings and one sequel sell to Gollancz

So…

Once upon a time, in a far, far away galaxy, I began working on this odd little project. It had started as a urban fantasy set in 21st century Paris, where families of magicians held the reins of power in every domain from banking to building. Then I couldn’t make it work, because the worldbuilding wasn’t clicking with me. I wrote perhaps three chapters of it before it became painfully clear that my heart wasn’t in it.

So I nuked Paris.

Well, sort of. I made up a Great Magicians’ War, comparable in scale to WWI: a war that devastated Paris, making Notre-Dame an empty shell, the Seine black with ashes and dust; and the gardens and beautiful parks into fields of rubble. I set the action back several decades, to have a technology level equivalent to the Belle Époque with magic; and I added Fallen angels, whose breath and bones and flesh are the living source of magic; and whose power forms the backbone for a network of quasi-feudal Houses who rule over the wreck of Paris. And, hum, because it’s me, I added an extant colonial empire, a press-ganged, angry Vietnamese boy who’s more than he seems; Lucifer Morningstar (because you can’t have a story about Fallen angels without Morningstar); and entirely too many dead bodies.

In short, I mashed so many things together that it started looking a bit like the Frankenstein monster right before the lightning hit; but my fabulous agency (John Berlyne and his partner John Wordsworth) didn’t blink (at least, not too much!), and duly sent out my little novel, called The House of Shattered Wings. And lo and behold, the awesome Gillian Redfearn of Gollancz picked it up, along with a sequel. To say that I’m thrilled is an understatement: Gollancz is a superb publisher, and their list includes many friends of mine—I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Official synopsis:

In HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS, Paris’s streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. De Bodard’s rich storytelling brings three different voices together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a young man wielding spells from the Far East.

Here is more official info at the Bookseller, here at Zeno Towers; and here at Gollancz.

Release is slated for August 2015. You can pre-order here at amazon or Waterstones if you want a shiny hardcover (I’ll work out other vendors later, promise. I don’t need to tell you how crucial pre-orders are to a book’s success–so get in early, get in strong, and make this a big big success). If you don’t feel like pre-ordering right now, no worries. There’ll be plenty of opportunities :p

ETA: and here‘s a fresh new page devoted to the book, with more detailed copy.

More on the book when I have normal (ha! Who am I kidding) non-zero energy levels.

(picture credits: Kirkstall Abbey by Rick Harrison. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License).

Print edition of On a Red Station Drifting

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Print edition of On a Red Station Drifting

In related news: there will be a print edition of On a Red Station, Drifting, published through Createspace. I haven’t publicised it because I’ve been sorting out admin stuff, but here’s the cover, courtesy of Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein (and many many thanks to Colin F Barnes, who in addition to giving me tons of advice on self-publishing, covers and print publishing, also did my interior design).

Hopefully by MIRCon I can sign copies of it ^^

ETA: it’s live! Go buy it from amazon [US|UK|Fr].

On a Red Station, Drifting, in Spanish

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On a Red Station, Drifting, in Spanish

Pretty pretty cover (link here if you’re reading the LJ/DW mirrors).

Upcoming from Fata Libelli, end of the year. The artist, Omar Moreno, is also working on a cover for the Xuya collection, “El Ciclo de Xuya”.

PS: I’m not *quite* back online full time. The household has caught the crud, and we have a few RL problems (scheduling issues with the snakelet, our childminder and the H. Nothing serious!) which means this blog will get toned down even more than usual while we sort them out. Posts this week thanks to WordPress automatic scheduler ^^

“The Moon Over Red Trees” up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

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My colonial Indochina story “The Moon over Red Trees” is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies: you can read it here. This is something of a departure for me: I haven’t done historical fantasy in a while, especially not in that time period. Would be very happy to hear what you think.

I’ve updated the story page of “The Moon Over Red Trees” with copious author notes: go here, though they’re spoiler-filled and better read after the story.

WIP snippet, because I feel like it

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There was a sound, on the edge of sleep: Suu Nuoc wasn’t sure if it was a bell and a drum calling for enlightenment; or the tactics-master sounding the call to arms; in that breathless instant–hanging like a bead of blood from a sword’s blade–that marked the boundary between the stylised life of the court and the confused, lawless fury of the battlefield.

Aka, “Aliette writes a really ambitious novella that might unexpectedly turn into a novel” (I really hope not. Over 40k but below 70k is really a bad length for fiction). It’s a loose sort of sequel to On a Red Station, Drifting, with some of the same characters making guest appearances (basically set in the Imperial Court eighty years after the ending of the novella).

Since we’re travelling light (hahaha), I’ve left my research books at home, but I thought I’d recommend:

-Vietnam History: Stories retold for a new generation, Hien Vo, Chat Dang. Ok, here’s the deal. You emphatically will not get a history from this book–the authors aren’t historians, and it’s not a scholarly dissection of various motives and sources. However, what you will get is the kind of stories my grandma tells me, the “folklore”, or history as it’s perceived by the people who aren’t formally trained. It’s biased, of course; I wouldn’t necessarily agree with everything (particularly in the colonial era); but it’s a nice springboard for learning more about the major figures of folklore. As a bonus, it has a freak amount of the Vietnamese equivalents to Chinese deities and Chinese historical figures, which saves me the trouble of going through Wikipedia armed with a meagre command of the language…
-1587, a year of no particular significance: the Ming Dynasty in Decline, Ray Huang: I really like this book for its portrayal of court life in the tail end of the Ming dynasty. Really handy for those court intrigue bits ^^
-Monarchy and Colonialism in Vietnam: 1875-1925, The Anh Nguyen: I’m still halfway through it. It’s really hard to stomach, for obvious reasons (the sheer arrogance of the colonialists and the total lack of comprehension of the Nguyễn court of what they’re really up against, for starters; also, the slow encroachment of loss of sovereignty even as the colonial empire starts tightening up is heartbreaking). It turns out to not really pertain to the novella, so I’ll be going through it at a more restrained pace…

Strange Horizons reprint: “Chambered Nautilus” by Elisabeth Vonarburg

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Strange Horizons very kindly asked me to curate a reprint for their June issue. I picked Elisabeth Vonarburg’s “Chambered Nautilus” (translated from the French by Jane Brierley). I really like Vonarburg’s introspective, dreamy science fiction, and I think it’s a shame that so little of it got translated into English (you can pick up The Maerlande Chronicles from amazon–I prefer her Tyranaël series, but I think this stopped being translated after two volumes?). More info here at her English website.
Being an editor, even if it’s for a brief, one-story stint, means I read a lot of stories and didn’t have nearly enough space for all the stuff that I loved. Can I recommend you check out the following anthologies for great fiction? The Apex Book of World SF (volume 1, volume 2; and volume 3 which has recently been released), Afrofuturism, Mothership, AfroSF, and, if you have a copy lying around, Bloodchildren, which was a limited-time anthology by the Octavia Butler scholars and is sadly no longer available)? Also, anything by Yukimi Ogawa (she’s got a great story in this issue of Strange Horizons,  “Rib”, a mordant tale of a skeleton woman and the child who befriends her), Zen Cho (her collection, Spirits Abroad, just got released, and that link explains how to get a copy from her), Benjanun Sriduangkaew (who is up for the Campbell Award this year, and whose story “Autodidact” ought to be on awards list next year if there’s any justice), and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (check out “Of Alternate Adventure and Memory” up at Clarkesworld, as well as her newest “Movements” column in this issue of Strange Horizons, which focuses on languages, hegemonies and translations).

That’s all from me for the moment–please do leave feedback on Strange Horizon’s website on the story if you’re so inclined.