Belatedly posting this because it’s been a busy year, but here goes…
For your consideration
In 2018 I published a bunch of things, but here’s one I was particularly happy with: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” is basically my homage to the Great Bake Off. With dragons in human form, a Gothic devastated Paris, and creepier magic than my main characters had originally bargained for 🙂
You can read it online at Uncanny Magazine (it’s listed as a reprint in the July 2017 issue, but the original publication date was April 2017, which makes it eligible for awards! The original publication was as a pre-order reward for my novel The House of Binding Thorns: it’s a standalone set in the universe, though you’ll get some Easter eggs if you’ve read the books.).
And now for the stories & things from other people I absolutely loved this year:
Elaine Cuyegkeng’s “House that Creaks” is the sort of horror story that just sticks in the mind long after reading it–about a haunted house and how it became that way, and political dissidents, and the force of memory and sorrow and anger.
Nghi Vo’s “Twelve Pictures from a Second World War” manages to use its very brief amount of words to picture something haunting with sense of loss–and to show us a side of WWII in non-Western countries that often gets set aside in SFF.
Rose Lemberg’s amazing novella, “A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) is a masterpiece of worldbuilding that brings together two very different characters with vastly different histories, and tracks the consequences of their meeting–effortlessly rich and romantic, laden with worldbuilding that both feels familiar and strange, this definitely stuck with me long after I’d read it.
Tade Thompon’s The Murders of Molly Southbourne takes a wild premise (every time Molly bleeds, her blood creates a double who turns murderous on her, and whom she then has to kill), amps it up to eleven, and turns it into a detailed, twisty thriller that follows Molly from childhood to adult, asking questions about free will, identity and the price of survival on the way. A gruesome and neat little horror book.
Stephanie Burgis’s Snowspelled is the perfect book to curl up with if you need a pick-me-up. It’s fun and fluffy but also quite effortlessly deep. Set in an alternate England in a fragile peace with the neighbouring elves, the novella follows Cassandra, once a star magician but now a broken woman who lost her powers. Expecting nothing but obscurity, Cassandra finds herself stuck in a mansion in the middle of the snowstorm—with a rogue magician to track, a powerful and haughty elf to placate, and worst of all, a persistent ex-fiancé who refuses to take no for an answer. It’s sweet and beautiful and just left me ready for the sequel.
Martha Wells’s All Systems Red is a fast paced SF romp with an unforgettable protagonist, the misanthropic Murderbot, whose only dream is to watch TV series—except that those pesky humans keep getting into trouble…
I don’t always do poetry, but Brandon O’Brien’s “Birth, Place” is amazing–beautifully evocative, with an ending that lingered in my mind. I want to frame entire pieces of it on my wall, as a reminder for hard times.
Best Fan Artist
And Likhain’s art continues to be amazing: she was up for a Hugo this year for Best Fan Artist. Below are two of the pieces she did as promo art for The House of Binding Thorns–she’s still eligible this year in Best Fan Artist, if you’re so minded to nominate her.
Ken Liu’s Wall of Stormstook everything I loved about The Grace of Kings and made it better. If I had one criticism of Grace of Kings, it was that the book was scarce on women until the very end. Wall of Storms has them in abundance, and shifts from a war to control a kingdom to my favourite trope: court intrigue and manoeuvring of different factions who all try to pretend it’s for the good of the country. It deals with loss and legacy, and it also has the best engineering in fantasy sequence I’ve read in a long long time.
Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem is also a sequel (to his great Ninefox Gambit, which I recommended last year to everyone who would listen to me). It expands the fascinating universe of Hexarchate by showing us characters from outside the assault section trying to take over a fortres: the hexarchs themselves (Mikodez ftw)), the civilians, the soldiers on space stations, and more factions beyond the ones we saw in Ninefox Gambit. And the ending left me hungering for more (book 3 is out next year!!).
Elizabeth Bear’s The Stone in the Skullreminded of me of why I love big fat epic fantasies: it’s got everything from creepy threats, lush worldbuilding and a great big cast of characters, but without the casual misogyny, gender essentialism and racism that throws me out of texts. The cast is diverse (yay toddlers in SFF!), and I felt like I’d barely read enough when the book ended.
Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun is a creepy Gothic fairytale that takes as a premise the sending of two Victorian missionaries to Fairyland. I hadn’t thought the finer points of theology could be this gripping, but the claustrophobic meditation on the nature of faith and stories that follows is a treat. And I’ll never forget the banquet at the midpoint of the book: Jeannette has a gift for the genuinely unsettling images and twists.
Foz Meadows’s A Tyranny of Queensis superlative portal fantasy: an epic cast of characters, wonderfully drawn societies and a thoughtful, nuanced treatment of abuse and PTSD. Only drawback is you’ll have to read the first book, An Accident of Stars, but trust me, it’s totally worth it.
Best YA novel
Cindy Pon’s Want is a fast-paced look at a dystopian Taiwan where the gulf between haves and have-nots is counted in years of good health.
Kate Elliott’s Buried Heart brought her Court of Fives trilogy to an awesome end, and tackled colonialism, revolutions, history and the way people have to make hard and impossible choices. I loved that Jess continued to have a relationship with her entire family, and all the different roles for characters from domestic to military.
Victor Fernando R Ocampo’s The Infinite Library and Other Stories is a breathtaking short story collection of loosely linked stories that run the gamut from whimsical to dark, but always infused with a sharp perception of what makes people. It’s a mite hard to find in the West as the publisher is based in Singapore but it’s well worth a read if you can track it down.
Also check out: JY Yang’s Red Threads of Fortune and Black Threads of Heaven (novellas), Corey White’s Killing Gravity (novella), Malka Older’s Null States (novel), Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka (novel), Fonda Lee’s Jade City (novel).
I usually put this up way sooner but this was a bit of an overwhelming year for me, for several reasons, apologies…
I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?
Courtesy of Christopher Kastensmidt (whose Elephant and Macaw banner stories you should be reading if you’re not already! Swords and muskets in colonial Brazil!), I’m reposting the entire list of Brazilian SF in English that he posted to Facebook, cleaned up and linked.
All text is Chris’s, not mine 😀 (the original post is here).
Writer & friend Rochita Loenen-Ruiz is currently going through a tough patch–I can’t go into specifics because it’s not my story to tell, but right now she and her family could really use some financial help.
And, hum, I know people have been asking about hard-to-obtain Xuya stories? If you donate to this, you’ll have access to an exclusive ebook which features three Xuya stories which aren’t online: namely, “Fleeing Tezcatlipoca”, “Two Sisters in Exile”, and “Memorials”.
(Apologies for the generic cover, I put that together in ~1h yesterday evening. I can guarantee you that the text content is prettier!)
And also to printable colouring sheets by Likhain. And you’ll be entered into a draw for more prizes including signed books, ebooks, and magazine subscriptions.
The RT review of The House of Shattered Wings is online here. I’m just going to excerpt the relevant bits: the book is a Top Pick for August, and the review contains, among many awesome things, this, “It’s a whirlwind, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s one of the best fantasy novels of 2015.”
Also, it’s subscriber-only, but I’m reliably told that Publisher’s Weekly lists The House of Shattered Wings as one of the top ten books for Fall (alongside Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road, a book that sounds fantastic, Fran Wilde’s Updraft which I have on my ereader and am looking forward to, and Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which is a delight).
Here’s what they say: “This intense novel depicts warring factions in a magical alternate version of 20th-century Paris, where decadence mingles with fear.”
Intense. With Decadence and fear. Yeah, sounds about right 🙂
(yeah, it’s the season, sorry…)
If you feel like helping Likhain and her partner Cy, who are going through a very rough time (financial hardship combined with depression), please do so? Details here, and there’s a gofundme here.
I’m going to sound like a broken record on this, but it’s for a good cause 🙂 A quick reminder that Joyce Chng is undergoing medical treatment for breast disease, and that this obviously doesn’t come cheap. She’s hoping to fund some of it via Patreon: if you support her, you can access chapters of “Dragon Physician”, a YA with racing dragons.
The link is here. Please help and/or signal boost?
Couple of plugs:
-Fundraiser for Accessing the Future, an anthology of disability-themed SF. Co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing. Djibril already brought the wonderful (and under appreciated) We See a Different Frontier into being, this looks also awesome.
-In a rather different vein, a wonderful short story by Alter S. Reiss, over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies: racial tensions, immigration and murder in the kitchen of a large restaurant: “By Appointment to the Throne”
Gardner Dozois’s annual Years Best Science Fiction has now been released: it contains my Hugo and Locus finalist and Nebula Award winner “The Waiting Stars”, as well as stories by the likes of Nancy Kress, Alastair Reynolds, Lavie Tidhar, Elizabeth Bear, Ian McDonald and Ken Liu… I always find those collections worth reading, especially since I no longer keep up with short fiction markets quite as much, and Dozois’s summation of the state of the field always makes for fascinating reading.
I’m not going to do an ultra long post, because if you’re a reader of this blog you already know how I feel about the imbalance between Anglophone authors, who get massively translated into other languages, and non-Anglophone authors, who have a much harder time making it into English print…
However, Benjamin Rosenbaum rightfully reminded me that I could do my part to redress this imbalance , and I would like to make the same offer he does (except in different languages). Cribbing from his blog post:
Do you like my stuff? Have you read (or written) a short story in your own (or another) language which you think is a) totally awesome and b) very much of my sensibility? Does it have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting translated into English, and you don’t quite have the chops to get it right yourself? Is it under 7000 words, and previously published in a paying, prestigious, or otherwise gate-kept market in the source market (i.e., not slush)?
How about we collaborate?
If the source language is French, you can pretty much turn it over to me. If it’s Spanish, I can probably read it, but I’m going to need a bunch of help with understanding nuance. (if it’s Vietnamese, I’ll recognise some words but that’s about it 🙂 ) I’m willing to tackle other languages, too; but really, for anything other than French and possibly Spanish, you’ll need to prepare a basic, literal, raw translation into English. It doesn’t have to sing, it can be full of question marks and notes; or it can be almost done — really, your version — and all you need is a hand with English nuance and euphony.
I have to like the story, which means you might send me it and I might say “sorry, I can’t get into this one.”
You handle the rights on your end — contacting the author and making sure they’re cool with the idea. I’ll try and sell the translation in an English market. The original author gets half and we split the other half — or whatever else seems reasonable. Or if you already know a publisher, that’s cool too. (I would waive my cut only for a noncommercial project) Or we blog it, go indie, whatever you like.
Edited to Add: One interesting thing about trying to fight an injustice in a complex oppressive society is that complex oppressive societies are good at pitting groups against one another, so that by allying yourself with one you always have to be careful not to squash another (hello intersectionality!)
Another group that the 3% thing sucks for are professional translators into English, and it’s been pointed out in the comments that it’s not the right symbolic gesture to imply that translation should be done for free. So Ben revised his offer to remove that; I’m doing the same.
I’m not a professional translator; even in French, I’m no more than a dilettante translator, and in any other language, I’m not even that! I’m willing to translate on spec, for a portion of the profits of any eventual sale, because I see this as an opportunity to collaborate rather than a service for which I’m charging a fee. But in solidarity with professional translators, I will expect us to divide up any profits in a way that makes sense given the labor done (my general assumption would be that my cut would be 25% of sales of the translation, maybe 33% for French/Spanish).
I’m not an editor, and this is not a market: I cannot promise a sale. This is an offer of collaboration.
I’m committing to do one of these, in the next 12 months. And I’ll probably continue after that.
A FAIR WARNING HOWEVER: I’m completely underwater for the coming year, so while I’m quite willing to translate for you, I can’t guarantee a fair turn of speed–you’ll have to put up with a bit of… slow answers from me, I’m afraid (novel plus snakelet plus work plus other commitments add up to a busy busy bee on this end).
Helping translate one story a year is obviously a tiny, symbolic gesture. But I expect it to be fun, and possibly to be useful. Maybe it can help someone break into the Anglophone market.
I’d like to see more authors do this. I’d like to see us in the English speaking world make translation a regular part of our literary practice, the way it is for authors most other places. It’s interesting, it’s invigorating, and it’s only right. You don’t have to be a specialized translator. You could just do one a year. Why not?
Other authors writing in English (especially but not limited to those who speak other languages): are you interested in this issue too? Want to join me? Comment below!
If you are an author or potential collaborator from the non-Anglophone world:
Find a story you think we should translate.
The story must be under 7000 words and previously published in a significant market.
You should specifically think that it is a fit for me because of what I write, rather than just “hey I heard there’s a guy who will translate stuff on spec”.
If you didn’t write it yourself, secure the rights: contact the author, see if they agree to us translating it on spec, on whatever terms.
Contact me in comments here, on facebook/twitter/email etc., and tell me:
about the story in brief
where it was previously published
why you think I’m specifically the right person to help translate it
why you’re the right person to help (if you wrote the story, that’s why)
what rights deal you’ve decided on
how to contact you.
If the story is in French or Spanish, you can just send it to me as is (if it’s in Spanish I will need quite a bit of help from you for nuance, and I might possibly get back to you and ask for a rough translation). Otherwise I will need a rough literal translation into English for starters, and we will be working together closely.
If you’re Anglophone and would like to join in:
Say what languages you can read in, and what lengths, terms, etc., you’d be willing to handle, and how to contact you.
Enjoy the richness of the world beyond the narrow confines of English.
Gentlepersons, start your literary engines.
Any signal boosting much appreciated, thanks in advance!
ETA: corrected the payment terms as I don’t want to suggest translation is invisible work that’s hardly worth the money 🙁 Translators do a vital (and often unrecognised and under-appreciated) job; while I’m quite happy to donate some of my time here, I don’t want people to get the idea no payment is a standard thing (see Edward Gauvin’s comments below, at my original blog post).