Just a quick note that although the official release date for The Tea Master and the Detective (my “Sherlock Holmes if Holmes were an eccentric scholar and Watson a grumpy discharged war mindship” book) is March 31st, they’re in the Subterranean warehouse: if you order it from them directly they will ship them! (I have an author copy and it’s a gorgeous gorgeous book)
The North American ebook edition is also up at their website (a quick reminder that for ebooks outside of North America, we’re looking at options–stay tuned. You can subscribe to the newsletter if you want to be notified).
Meanwhile, reviews have been coming in and they’re… something °_°
What people are saying:
The Tea Master and the Detective is the Sherlock Holmes retelling I always wanted and now I have it. And I want so much more of it.
A terrific piece of writing, taking the sentient community of ships from Ian Bank’s Culture series, the glittering belt of space habitats from Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, and adding in a compelling pair as the title characters.
De Bodard constructs a convincingly gritty setting and a pair of unique characters with provocative histories and compelling motivations. The story works as well as both science fiction and murder mystery, exploring a future where pride, guilt, and mercy are not solely the province of humans.
Ingenious… As a classical blend of far-future SF and traditional murder mystery, The Tea Master and the Detective should satisfy readers unfamiliar with the Xuya universe, but at the same time it’s an intriguing introduction to that universe, much of which seems to lie just outside the borders of this entertaining tale.
It becomes clear early on that The Tea Master and the Detective is strongly influenced by, if not directly based upon, the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson stories of Arthur Conan Doyle. It’s measured, almost stately, up until the conclusion, where the tension explodes into high gear. It preserves the empathy and the intensity of the original Sherlockian stories, while being told in de Bodard’s cut-glass prose and inimitable modern style. This is a really satisfying story, deeply invested in choosing to do the right thing – and in the importance of kindness. I strongly recommend it.
It’s burrito month! In the latest episode of Cooking the Books, co-host Fran Wilde and I interview John Scalzi — and talk with him about writing during tough times, the importance of lawn care equipment, and burritos, bacon, and pie.
And we also have a giveaway of a SFWA cookbook and a copy of Robots vs Fairy, in which he has an story: enter below!
(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer, who helps out with the kitchen cleaning–this time it was lots of sugar sticking to everything!)
Podcast #035: Schadenfreude Burrito – Cooking the Books with John Scalzi /strong>
John has obligingly shared with us his recipe for Schadenfreude Pie, discussed during the podcast!
“Let’s face it, schadenfreude is a dark emotion. It deserves a dark pie. Here are your ingredients.”
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
3 large eggs (I used brown eggs in keeping with the spirit of things, but white eggs are fine)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 splash Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 graham cracker pie crust (9 or 10 inches). Choose regular or chocolate graham cracker crust according to taste.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit). Melt butter in largish mixing bowl; add in corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix well. Melt chocolate; fold into existing mixture. Add eggs and Kahlua; mix vigorously until mix has an even consistency. Pour into pie crust (depending on size of crust you may have a little filling mix left over).
Shove into oven, center of middle rack, and bake for about 45 minutes. At 45 minutes, poke pie with butter knife. If butter knife comes out clean, your pie is done; otherwise give it about another five minutes.
Once you take the pie out of the oven, let it set at least 20 minutes before you dig in. It’s really good when still warm, however.
Serving recommendations: small slices (this is an awesomely rich pie) and an ice cold glass of milk to go with it.
John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller “Redshirts,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it. You can find him on twitter @scalzi, and elsewhere.
(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer, who helps out with the kitchen cleaning–this time it was lots of cocktail testing!)
Podcast #034: Of Mangoes and Radium – Cooking the Books with Brooke Bolander
And here’s Bo’s recipe:
COCKTAIL RECIPE: TOPSY’S ADIEU
1 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Green Chartreuse
3/4 oz Saler’s Apertif
1 oz lime juice
1 teaspoon ginger-lime curd (recipe below)
1 egg white
1 teaspoon simple syrup/rich syrup
Mix all the ingredients in a shaker and dry shake (without ice) vigorously until combined. Add ice and shake some more until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and enjoy!
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup ginger juice
4 tablespoons of butter, unsalted
Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a saucepan until combined. Add the lime juice and ginger juice and stir until they’re combined as well.
Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly (if you don’t, the eggs in the mixture will cook and you’ll have some super-funky dessert scramble) until the mixture thickens to a custardy consistency.
Trust me, it is way, way simpler than it sounds. Custard is the easiest thing in the world to make, so long as you don’t stop whisking.
Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
Pass through a fine mesh strainer; you’re probably gonna have a bit of cooked egg white in there no matter what you do and this will take care of that.
Transfer to a jar and let cool before using in the cocktail or just eating by the spoonful; this is a no-judgment zone.
Even if you’re not a drinker, you’re probably gonna enjoy this stuff if you in any way dig tart sugary things.
Brooke Bolander writes weird things of indeterminate genre, most of them leaning rather heavily towards fantasy or general all-around weirdness. She attended the University of Leicester 2004-2007 studying History and Archaeology and is an alum of the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD. Her stories have been featured in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Uncanny, Tor.com, and various other fine purveyors of the fantastic. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards, much to her unending bafflement. She can be reached at her website (brookebolander.com) or on Twitter @BBolander.
Belatedly posting this because it’s been a busy year, but here goes…
For your consideration
In 2017 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.
ETA: oops, this is from 2016!
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.
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.
ETA: apparently this is a 2016 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. (ETA: it’s 42k, which might make it fall under the Hugo Awards 10% rule)
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.
ADDED: KJ Charles Spectred Isle is queer historical fantasy and so much fun–set just after WWI and featuring an arrogant occultist and a jaded archeologist, it deals with London, ghosts, fen-monsters and growing and inevitable attraction!
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).
Thrilled to announce I’ve sold “A Burning Sword for her Cradle” to Ellen Datlow for Echoes: the Saga Book of Ghost Stories, out Fall 2018.
It’s, er. A story about war, immigration, hauntings passed down the blood, and the cost of the future. Basically “Aliette does horror”, which means food, strong-willed aunties and families. Also creepy ghosts because obviously!
Bao Ngoc has set her appointment with the witch at dawn–because it would make her leave the house in the dark, at a time when neither her sister nor her brother-in-law would be awake.
Things, however, never work the way they’re supposed to.
She’s made her morning worship at her ancestral altar, leaving oranges and apples for her parents’ spirits, mouthing the familiar litany beseeching them for good fortune, gritting her teeth against the agony in her chest. Now she’s rummaging in the kitchen for coconut water, opening the cupboard in the darkness. In the background, the familiar buzz of the fridge, a warbling Bao Ngoc keeps–with effort, with pain–from turning into the angry remonstrances of ghosts.
I’ve been sitting on this forever but am super happy to report that my novella The Tea Master and the Detective will be coming out from Subterranean Press in March 2018, with lovely art by Maurizio Manzieri.
This is my “Xuya meets Sherlock Holmes” book: in a galactic empire infused by Vietnamese culture, a detective and a mindship must team up to solve a mystery. Very loosely inspired by A Study in Scarlet, if Holmes were an eccentric scholar, and Watson a grumpy decommissioned war mindship. I had lots of fun writing this: it’s full of digs and references to classic Sherlock Holmes, plus all the detective stories ever. It turns out that grumpy mindship is best mindship when it comes to writing! Also, gender swapping everyone made for rather fun situations (the ending had me tearing out my hair but I’m so happy it all worked out).
Many thanks to Fran Wilde, Genevieve Cogman, Tade Thompson, Liz Bourke, Lynn O’Connacht, Ava Jarvis, Stephanie Burgis, Seth Gorden, Samantha Henderson, Fran Wilde, Likhain, and Kate Elliott. As well as to John Berlyne, Yanni Kuznia, Geralyn Lance, and everyone involved with the book (I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!).
And special thanks to Vida Cruz, Victor Fernando R Ocampo and Tade Thompson for helping me with cover copy!
Here’s the summary:
A new novella set in the award-winning, critically-acclaimed Xuya universe…
Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood.
A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her.
As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars…
Available for pre-order now as a lovely signed hardbound edition, coming out March 2018: it’s a limited print run so I don’t know how long it’ll last (my last limited edition chapbook sold out rather fast!). You can hop on to the Subterranean website to check it out and get your very own copy!
There’s a new Xuya story up at Lightspeed Magazine: “Crossing the Midday Gate” was originally published in Athena Andreadis’s wonderful To Shape the Dark. It’s now been reprinted, and you can read it free online.
It’s about intergalactic plagues, vaccines, court intrigues and second chances–and what to do when the entire world changes around you. Also badass older women bacteriologists ftw.