Just a quick note that the UK paperback edition of The House of Shattered Wings is now out, and can be found in all good bookshops. This is the “gold foil” edition which also includes an exclusive short story, “The House in Winter”, set twenty years before the story and which, though standalone, sets up characters and situations for the standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (it’s in the manner of easter eggs: not compulsory to have read before reading book 2, but very nice to have!).
I’d obviously be really very grateful if you felt like checking it out/signal boosting/reviewing on amazon or goodreads, book sales having the importance they have, especially in the first few weeks after release… (I would normally have set up more promo stuff, but I have had literally zero energy for the past three months, for, er, obvious reasons *cough* newborn *cough* said newborn is doing fine but sleep remains an elusive thing, alas).
So we’re having a good holiday, albeit one that turns out to have no internet connection (I’m typing this on someone else’s very limited 3G allowance)… But you know, there’s sea, sand, sun (not a lot), wind (lots), and entirely too many buckwheat pancakes. And edits (which are nearing their end) on The House of Binding Thorns, the sequel to The House of Shattered Wings.
And, also, the UK cover for The House of Binding Thorns! (involves more foil :p)
The House of Binding Thorns continues the epic story of the fallout of the war in heaven that saw the angelic Great Houses of Paris assaulted and torn apart by mistrust and betrayal in The House of Shattered Wings. Among the ruins of Paris the Great Houses, shaken to their foundations, now struggle to put themselves back together, as powerful forces, gods and angels, men and demons, begin to circle the once unassailable Houses.
So… backstabbing, diplomacy and ancestral magic in a decayed and dangerous Paris — you know you want this!
If you’ve read The House of Shattered Wings: yes, this will be focused on the House of Hawthorn, and will have a bunch of returning characters, notably angel essence addict Madeleine — and a bunch new ones too, a Houseless Annamite with a link to powerful, unusual angel magic and a kick-ass dragon prince with a talent for getting into major trouble.
The House of Binding Thorns will be out in April 2017 (we’re on track for finishing revisions soon, when I can finally be convinced to pry my hands from this manuscript and declare it done!): stay turned for more info (I don’t have the UK buy links yet, at least not firmly enough for me to feel confident to send you to them!)
Praise for the previous volume in the series, the award-winning The House of Shattered Wings:
A fantastical spy thriller that reads like a hybrid of le Carré and Milton, all tinged with the melancholy of golden ages lost.
THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is a Gothic masterpiece of supernatural intrigues, loves and betrayals in a ruined and decadent future Paris — wildly imaginative and completely convincing, this novel will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.
An intense, beautiful, brutal journey written with an eye for the stunning, vivid detail and the cruel demands of duty, loyalty, and leadership. Its portrait of a ruined Paris ruled by fallen angels is one I won’t soon forget.
This is the UK paperback edition of The House of Shattered Wings, which includes “The House, in Winter”, an exclusive short story set twenty years before the book, during Asmodeus’s coup in House Hawthorn (yes, that’s the first paragraphs of said short story in the last picture). And will you look at all this shiny foil 🙂
To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 (signed) copies: all you have to do is enter below. Open worldwide, I’ll pick a winner in a week’s time. If you win I would obviously love it if you left a review on amazon/goodreads (which do help a lot), but that’s not an obligation, I know this is a large time investment!
Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Safe delivery of Librarian into the world: check. All went well and we’re now back home while I try to keep my eyes open °_°
And, a bit before Librarian was actually delivered: safe delivery of manuscript of The House of Binding Thorns, the sequel to The House of Shattered Wings, to both my editors at Roc/Gollancz. Good thing I did that first…
Also, was rather chuffed to see that The House of Shattered Wings is on the longlist for a Legend Award, and the cover is on the longlist for a Ravenheart Award. Voting is open to anyone, and there’s a lot of other cool books and art on that list (Black Wolves!)–if you’re so minded to drop by, it’s here.
(I’m really pleased at that, because part of the reason I’m writing epic fantasy is because I found David Gemmell’s books as a teenager: The King Beyond the Gate and Tenaka Khan made a profound impression on me, and I subsequently devoured all the other Gemmell books I could find in libraries. I was really sorry I came into the UK SFF scene too late to meet him and tell him how much his books meant, and still mean, to me).
I’m told by Farah Mendlesohn that this is the first time anyone has walked away with the two fiction awards in the same year (previously Keith Roberts won both art and short fiction in 1986). The Guardian has a lovely piece here, courtesy of David Barnett (and yeah this is me going “OMG I’m in the Guardian” in case you had any doubts).
My thanks to everyone who read and voted in the awards and to everyone involved from the BSFA. I was also honoured to be part of two very strong shortlists and highly suggest you check out the other finalists.
Me with Gillian Redfearn and John Berlyne in the bar shortly afterwards.
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)
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.
It won a British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel, as well as being on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2015. It also got starred reviews from Publishers’ Weekly and Library Journal. It’s eligible for the Hugos.
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…).
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 won a British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Short Fiction, and 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.
“City of Salt”, Arkady Martine, (Strange Horizons, March). This one has stuck around in my head since I read it: the story of a man who comes back to a deserted city, to face the woman he once knew and what she has become… Poetic and elegiac in all the best ways.
So… I’ve been sitting on this for a while and was told there was actually no problem in announcing it! Pleased to announce that The House of Shattered Wings will be published in French by Fleuve Editions, with a translation by Emmanuel Chastellière.
More info when I have it.
(and I’ll go back to feeling unaccountably nervous about it. There’s something very different to selling a book in your home country, eep)
Image: Marne battlefield. Annamites playing in a camp 1914 -18. Photo credit: Manhai on Flickr, reused under a Creative Commons Attribution Generic License.
GoH speech at Stranimondi in Milan, October 10th, 2015
(standard disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I’ll be talking here not about the academic discipline, but about history in the sense of the past and the narrative of the past)
Thank you all for having me here in Milan (and wow, for turning out so numerous 🙂 ). Today I want to talk about history, and the importance of history in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
The first part might seem a little counter intuitive: SF is traditionally a genre that looks towards the future, and history, by definition, looks backwards several decades. But actually, history is a really important thing in genre.
First, history is a source of inspiration. A lot of SFF is retellings of historical events: the obvious one is Guy Gavriel Kay (The Sarantium Tapestry is a retelling of the Nika riots in Justinian I’s reign, to the point where you can guess what will happen if you know the underlying history). Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine draws its inspiration from the brutality of the Industrial Revolution, contrasted with a legendary kingdom that is more unmoored in time, but hearkens to older myths and legends. But it’s not only fantasy: some of Yoon Ha Lee’s short stories are based on Korean history; Ann Leckie’s Raadsch Empire (and many intergalactic empires) draws from the Roman Empire (see patron-client relationship, for instance). For the writer, it’s a source of details, events, etc.: most scenarios we can think of have already been played somewhere, somewhen.
But history is also a powerful force in plots: see Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory, and the shaping of mankind’s history (ultimately doomed to failure, for it is the failure modes of science that interest Asimov: the Mule is the one unpredictable factor that deals a serious blow to Hari Seldon’s work). More obviously, history drives a lot of fantasy, in which the key to the plot is often an understanding of history/myth (Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, for instance: the historical excerpts turn out to be key in defeating the Lord Ruler at the end of book 1). History becomes a search for truth, to part layers of obfuscation (sometimes merely lost to time, sometimes to active malice: the origin of the eponymous Game of Fives in Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives, crucial to navigating the underground of the city, has been deliberately obscured by the rulers of the country). Myth and history take on a literal, pressing meaning–it can kill you if you don’t work it out in time.
Knowledge of the past is also a source of power, particularly in post-apocalyptic narratives (Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s Canticle for Leibowitz, Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman, Zelazny’s Lord of Light). In Science Fiction it’s often (obviously) the history of science (because science is primordial), and the recovery of what has been lost, which enable the rise of a new, technology-based society.
I’ve just used truth and power, which are tricky concepts. Both truth and power raise the question of how much you can trust history–how much of it is one truth, and how much of it is written by power. Many cultures have a saying about history being written by the winners, and it sadly holds true. Losers of wars, people dominated by hegemony, don’t get to write their own histories (I’m currently researching the history of colonial Vietnam, and some of the history books written by the French, even today, are… breathtakingly out of touch in presenting a benevolent empire, the loss of which we should mourn for. Yeah. Right).
History is what is passed down, what is told. It is an act of storytelling: the story of how we got there, who our ancestors were, how our relationships with other people, other nations, have been shaped. And, on a smaller scale, we all have family history, family myths. And one thing about stories: they are choices, about which events to present and how to link them into a narrative. Like all stories, history is about erasure. About whose stories don’t get told, about who falls by the wayside.
It’s visible in so many places, but one of the ones that’s struck me recently is the history of genre. As I was writing the first part of this speech, the books I kept coming up with as examples were all written by men. And I’ve seen it happen, again and again online: when asked which books they remember, people cite men (often white men). Ask someone to make a list, and most likely it’ll have 90% men on it (and a token woman, generally Ursula K. Le Guin). Read the history of the genre: most of the people they quote as influential and seminal are men (I read a very depressing history of fantasy yesterday that quoted 90% men, and grouped all the women under “women in genre”). Women and people of colour aren’t remembered, don’t make it into the canon–and yet we’ve always been there!
Obvioysly, in my work, all of these aspects are important. First off, history is a personal inspiration: Obsidian and Blood (Aztec/Mexica history/what if magic was real), Xuya (an alternate history in which the Vietnamese empire is still extant, which draws on multiple sources of Vietnamese myth and history), The House of Shattered Wings (19th Century history of Paris, where magic is powered by Fallen angels and there’s a healthy traffic in angel body parts. Yeah, a little gruesome never hurt anybody).
Also, I am fascinated by history as myth-making, and the truths/lies we tell ourselves: The Weight of a Blessing/Memorials both have different stories of a war, and different people/different generations have different understandings of what the war means. It’s a war with 2.5 sides: the two that actually fought each other, and the 0.5 that supported them with troops–and everyone has a different idea of what the war meant, of whether they won it or not, and what it cost them. The people who weren’t invested see it as a tragedy because waste of life. The people who lost it see it as tragedy, but it’s a different flavours: because emigration and massive uprooting and losses (and I didn’t have space for the third side!).
But lately, I have been most concerned about erasure.
My novel The House of Shattered Wings is set in a post-apocalyptic Paris; it’s my love letter to the city, to the 19th Century novels I loved reading as a child. It merges the backstabbing politics of the beau monde in Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo (the thin veneer of civilisation hiding something as cuththroat and as primal as the bandits they so decry); the heartbreaking poverty and the preoccupation with redemption found in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.
It has a lot of references to the history of Paris: it’s set mostly on Ile de la Cité, the historical heart of Paris, and there are gardens and rivers and good food–and people struggling to survive amidst the remnants of a magical war that tore the city apart. Notre-Dame is a major location. The society is a distorted version of the Belle Epoque, with its dresses and swallowtails and elaborate balls, dinners and receptions in salons; its obsession with appearances and having access to the latest fashions (in this case, spells, food, and safety, because this is a post apocalyptic society!) I read 19th Century novels; history books; etiquette books (one particular scene, which involved working out the particulars of putting on and taking off one’s gloves, took me an entire afternoon to research. The etiquette of gloves is hideously complicated!)
But the book is also about the stories that don’t get told.
I was raised in a multicultural household–hearing different languages from French to English to Vietnamese, and as a child of two cultures. As I grew up, I gradually became aware that I was Other (just as, incidentally, Dumas was Other). Exotic. Not conventionally pretty–too small, too slight, too weird (though to be fair, being a nerd probably didn’t help 🙂 ). People like me–like my maternal family–never seem to feature much in those stories beyond the stereotypes of the time period (the Exotic Princess/Slave Haydée in Monte Cristo, the Slave Ali, …)
When I was researching the book, I read up on the indentured colonial workers during the World Wars, and particularly Vietnamese ones. During WW1, they were shipped to the front to fight the Germans, and then shipped back again, because of course colonial workers couldn’t be allowed to remain in France. Everyone had their place–and theirs was to be civilised, far far away in a different land. During WWII, thousands of Vietnamese were “recruited” (press-ganged, in reality) to join the war effort, and put together ammunition. After the war ended–because the country was in ruin, because no one really cared about a bunch of Vietnamese–they remained in their camps, their services sold off as indentured workers. They built bridges and cars, picked up harvests, started rice planting in the marshes. It was seven years after the end of WWII when the last of them was sent home: they had been in the country for 13 years–a lifetime.
And I wondered what it would be like, to be one of those men. To have this burning anger–this growing despair of ever getting home–of wondering if your country will even be there when you do come home, because the war has cut off all communications and no one really knows for sure what’s happening in Asia. To feel, keenly, that you are an outsider–both to your own culture, because of what you went through, but because you’re not French, and the fact that you’re not French is written on your forehead.
Those are the people we don’t talk about. Those are the people who survived in the cracks and the hidden places, away from the centres of power. Some of these men returned home (straight into another war of independence and the messy, messy road of Vietnam becoming a nation). Some of these married, and remained in France–in spite of the fact they weren’t made welcome.
I wanted to write their story. Or, at any rate, part of their story (it being always difficult to do justice to such a complex and long subject in just one book!)
This is why, in The House of Shattered Wings, one of the main characters is Vietnamese–and not only that, but a Vietnamese ex-immortal, a mythical being torn away from his land and struggling to survive in his growing loneliness. It’s why, halfway through the book, you discover that there are other mythical beings, from places that aren’t the Christian, French mythology–and that they have always been there. That they have built their own places, their own imperfect refuges, in the spaces that no one wants.
And, similarly, as I mentioned before, there are lots of Galactic Empires based on the Roman Empire, but few on a Confucian Chinese/Vietnamese model (and those that do often reinforce negative portrayals of an ossified, exotically cruel empire, an image that has nothing to do with the stories I read as a child). It is, in other words, “Othered” China/Vietnam.
(true story: when I was young and read a lot of books, some of them were set in China or Vietnam. They all had this veneer of not very well done outsider narrative, oddly fascinated with things like exotic beauties, cruel and barbaric punishments for the slightest crimes–and magical martial arts/mystical wisdom. I thought they had to be set in Fake China, because the things that they depicted were so completely out of kilter with the ones I was used to that they had to be a fictional land. Now, looking back, I’m not sure whether I ought to laugh or cry).
So I wrote Xuya. It’s my attempt to create a far-future galactic Empire on a different basis, where Confucian cultures are dominant as a matter-of-fact. Where literature is important, scholars are valued, and family always has your back. And where AIs and ships are part of the family, rather than being among themselves, or the property of the military/private traders.
People have commented that it’s not a place where they would choose to live, because the atmosphere feels stiflying to them. To me, it doesn’t, particularly–filial duty and family are important, and they can supersede any individual’s wishes–but of course that’s not the dominant narrative of SF. SF is based on the colonial ethos of America and the Conquest of the West: rugged pioneers striking out for themselves, democracies, capitalism (because that is the only possible society of the future). SF is where families are strictures rather than comfort–gaining independence is the only possible way forward, the narrative we are meant to applaud and praise.
I disagree. I’m not saying it’s a worthless narrative. But it is not the only one. It is not the one I grew up with. Those are not the things that are important to me. There are not the things I want to write about. And, also, history has shown that there are plenty of societies, from the ones that only respect strength and warriors, to the ones where learning and scholarship and important, and warrior is a second fiddle. And I think it’s important to acknowledge this diversity.
It’s important that history is about the multiplicity of people and stories and cultures, and that SFF should be, too.