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.
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.
Wow, it’s that time of year again (seriously, where did 2013 go?). I didn’t publish a whole lot in 2013: my favourite piece is “The Waiting Stars”, which originally appeared in Athena Andreadis’s and Kay Holt’s The Other Half of the Sky (published in April 2013). It was picked for Gardner Dozois in his Year’s Best, recommended by Ken Liu and Ada Hoffman (and singled out for praise by Rich Horton in his Locus review). It’s my Xuya space opera story, which has killer drones, signal processing and a lot of mindships 🙂
You can find it online here, and also in EPUB, MOBI (Kindle) and PDF format (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…). It’s eligible for the Hugos and Nebulas (in the novelette category), and for the BSFA Awards as well.
Now for the less selfish part of this post: the stuff I really liked from last year (a fair warning that a lot of the people involved are acquaintances or friends–that said, I wouldn’t recommend their stories if I didn’t genuinely like them and think them award worthy).
–“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Clarkesworld December 2013. A woman comes back from the dead to deal with her former spouse. Awesome world building, crunchy thoughts on history and the manipulation of public and private record, and tantalising hints of a larger gender fluid society. I’m jealous.
-“Of Alternate Adventures and Memory” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Clarkesworld December 2013. The son of a former metal woman returns to the city of her birth, and must decide what to do with his inheritance. I was surprised this was a short story, because reading it I thought this was much longer: there’s so much packed into–thoughts on difference, on memory, on what is worth preserving. And as always, gorgeous prose.
–“The Knight of Chains, The Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee. OK, so it’s always hard to pick a favourite Yoon Ha Lee story, but this was the one that most blew me away this year. I had the privilege of writing the introduction to the short story collection Conservation of Shadows, and regret that this wasn’t included in it. In a tower that holds all the games in the world, a woman who was once admiral in an unwinnable war comes to defy the Guardian for the ultimate game… Gorgeous prose, sharp observations and great ideas.
EDIT: -“Balik Kampung” by Zen Cho (in Solaris’s The End of the Road, available from Zen if you request it) is a beautiful tale of ghosts in modern-day Malaysia, New Year’s Eve and returning home.
–“The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” by Ken Liu, Lightspeed Magazine, August 2013. Pretty sure Ken will be on the ballot without my signal boosting, but I really liked this story of an Ancient Chinese litigation master, his relation with the legendary Monkey King, and the suppression and preservation of historical record.
–Boat in Shadows, Crossing by Tori Truslow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, January 2013. You know that feeling you get when you read a fantasy book? That crunchy feeling that it’s a real place that happens to look nothing like our world? Truslow nails it from the get go. That it’s a story about gender and gender fluidity–and festivals, and gods–only makes it more appealing.
EDIT: -“Yseul’s Lexicon” by Yoon Ha Lee (published in her collectionConservation of Shadows): magic, language and the cost of erasure. Awesome.
–“Burning Girls” by Veronica Schanoes. Found out about this one too late for the Nebulas, so it’s fortunate it got on the final ballot without me. A great tale of immigration, family and dangerous pacts with demons, all steeped in vivid period detail.
–The Bone Flower Throne, by T.L. Morganfield, Panverse Publishing. T.L. Morganfield brilliantly brings to life Ancient Mexico in Toltec times, in a brilliant retelling of the myth of Quetzalcoatl that focuses on his sister. This reads like Mists of Avalon in Ancient Mexico: I love the focus on women and on what they have to do to survive, and the characters are very strongly drawn (TW for incest though–hardly avoidable as it’s in the original myth…).
Best Fan Artist:
-Ninni Aalto, who did the art for much of the Helsinki bid. See an example of her work here. And her blog is here.
Best Editor (Short Form)
-Jon Oliver, for his work as editor of the Solaris anthologies. For once that Worldcon is in the UK, I think it’d be awesome if more UK editors were recognised. Solaris puts out great books, and Jon is very good at putting together cutting-edge and diverse anthologies like The End of the Road.
Benjanun Sriduangkaew. She’s burst all over the SFF scene this year, with stories in BCS, Clarkesworld and various anthologies, and I really think she deserves a Campbell nomination. Her universes are intricate looks at gender fluidity and gender roles; her prose makes me ultra jealous; and I’m so looking forward to the day when she releases a longer work (I understand there’s a space opera novella in the works, so maybe I don’t have to wait quite so long!). Stories of hers worth reading: I already mentioned “Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade”, but if fantasy is more your thing, her “The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate” was absolutely awesome. And her “The Bees Her Heart, the Hives Her Belly” (not available online at the moment, you’ll have to buy Clorkwork Phoenix 4) was a reviewer favourite this year.
-The awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her sister interview Benjanun Sriduankaew:
I think of short stories as presenting a question, even if it’s something as simple as ‘how will the characters get what they want?’ It’s my hope that readers will be engaged by that question even if the story isn’t presenting a direct answer – so that’s what I hope they take away: a question. But I also hope to excite a sense of wonder and a sympathetic interest, when possible.
Read more here (and fully concur with the reminder that Benjanun’s eligible for a well-deserved Campbell Award for Best New Writer next year at Loncon3!)
Ok, so I’m biased because I wrote the preface for this, but you can now buy the e-edition of Djibril al-Ayad and Fabio Fernandes’s We See a Different Frontier here on amazon.
(I admit I’m not a big fan of the cover, but that’s my personal opinion, and the fiction collected in the antho itself is well worth a closer look)
The anthology collects SFF from the point of view of people outside the usual SFF hegemony, with countries such as Brazil, Singapore, the Philippines, etc.; and writers such as Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Joyce Chng and Benjanun Sriduangkaew. Stories focus on imperialism, the difficulties of navigating a postcolonial history and of being the silenced voices on the world scene–it’s a very chewy, fertile terrain in which to plant fiction, and by and large this is a stunning anthology. The stories I loved most were Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “What Really Happened in Ficandula”, an angry tale of retribution and revenge that stretches across generations, Dinesh Rao’s “Bridge of Words”, an elegiac story about diaspora and losing one’s language, and Benjanun Sriduankaew’s splendid “Vector”, about the rewriting of history and the fight of the oppressed to impose their own voices over those of their oppressors.
Do give it a try. It’s a great read, and it’s stuff that needs to be tackled in SFF.
The World SF Travel Fund (whose Board I’m a member of) is seeking funds to send BSFA Award Nominee Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Hungarian-Vietnamese writer Csilla Kleinheincz to World Fantasy 2013 in Brighton. I’m going to keep this brief, but if you read this blog you’re surely aware of how much imbalance there is in the field between Western Anglophone writers and the rest of the world. The World SF Travel Fund aims to bridge some of that gap by enabling more non-Anglo writers to come to major Anglo cons. The first recipient was Charles Tan from the Philippines, who travelled to the US for World Fantasy Con, and in 2012 the Fund helped Swedish authors Nene Ormes and Karin Tidbeck travel to Toronto for the same convention. If you’d like to contribute to this effort, please go donate here.
(if you could signal-boost this as well, this would be much appreciated)
So… that time of the year again when people make eligibility posts 🙂 I had a busy year in 2012, but out of all the pieces I published I think “Immersion” (Clarkesworld, June 2012) is the one that had the most visibility: you can read it online here, listen to the podcast by the awesome Kate Baker here, and I’ve made EPUB, MOBI, RTF and PDF versions available (the downloadable versions include the lemongrass chicken recipe that is so central to the narration). If you’re a SFWA member, you can find those in the SFWA forums, here.
It’s eligible for the Hugos, Nebulas, and BSFA Awards, etc. if the fancy takes you.
On a less selfish note, here’s some stuff that was awesome, and that I intend to nominate this year:
-Short stories: Nghi Vo’s “Tiger Stripes” (Strange Horizons, May 2012) is a great story of a magical Vietnam where tigers take human shape, and where a widowed mother can develop a poignant relationship with the creature that ate her son.
I’m biased, but Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “Song of the Body Cartographer” (Philippine Genre Stories, June 2012) is also well worth a look–great imagery, awesome worldbuilding, and the relationship between two very strong women, each with their own specialness.
-Novelettes: the single best thing I read this year is “Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon” (Giganotosaurus Nov. 2012) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, a wonderful lesbian retelling of Houyi and Chang’e, with crunchy language, bittersweet choices, and always excellent worldbuilding. If SF is more your thing, can I recommend “In the Country of Machine-Gods” (The Future Fire, issue 2012.24), a far-future story about the heroine of a war and her special relationship with her machines and her squad-mates?
-Novellas/Novels: Ken Liu’s novella “All the Flavours” is a great tale of Chinese immigrants in the West; it sometimes lacks a little subtlety, but is a welcome antidote to the clichéd Western depictions of inexorable marches of progress which elude racism.
I don’t have much in this category; and would quite welcome recommendations this year. Bonus points for POCs and/or people beyond the usual Western Anglophone World.
(I mistakenly thought Benjanun Sriduangkaew was eligible for the Campbell, but it turns out she’ll only be eligible once her Beneath Ceaseless Skies sale goes live, so quite probably in time for next year. Saving my ammo on this one :p )
-Best Fanzine: The World SF Blog has been making a tremendous effort to showcase writers beyond the Anglophone World, and I think that also deserves recognition.
(Picture credits: bgrimmni on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Generic License)
-Issue number 1 of International Science Fiction is now available for download (will you look at that gorgeous cover!). With fiction by Joyce Chng, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Marian Truţă
-Received my issue of Interzone, which had “The Flower of Shazui”, a Chen Qiufan story translated by Ken Liu. Very gritty story set in the Shenzhen special economic zone–I really liked the interplay between the characters and the ending, which was sad but fitting.
-Also, please go congratulate the awesome Patrick Samphire on the sale of his Mars Regency middle-grade book, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb to Christy Ottaviano Books
-Benjamun Sriduangkaew’s “Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon” is a retelling of the myth of the love between the archer god Houyi and the moon goddess Chang’e–except that it makes Houyi a woman and uses the opportunity to poke some pretty sharp points into traditional Chinese family structure. It’s a novella, but it honestly doesn’t feel like it–the two main characters are strongly depicted, and the language is so beautiful and crunchy it just leaves you longing for more. Seriously one of the best stories I’ve read this year.
It is the aftermath of the world’s end, and nine birds–nine suns–lie dead while Houyi cradles the curve of her bow, her fingers locking around the taut hardness of its string. The tenth sun, the last, has fled. Chastise them, Dijun said, a father’s plea. But there is the land and the horror and the dryness, desiccated corpses in empty dust trenches that were rivers not long ago. There are dead dragons, too, and snake women with bright eyes–and is it not right to bring down the suns, is it not what Houyi is meant to do? She is a god who protects; she is a god given a duty.
-Karin Tidbeck’s “Brita’s Holiday Village”: a gentle, dream-like account of a writer’s holiday in an isolated Swedish village and of the people she meets there. Lovely atmosphere and sharp observations.
The cab ride from Åre station to Aunt Brita’s holiday village took about half an hour. I’m renting the cottage on the edge of the village that’s reserved for relatives. The rest are closed for summer. Mum helped me make the reservation—Brita’s her aunt, really, not mine, and they’re pretty close. Yes, I’m thirty-two years old. Yes, I’m terrible at calling people I don’t know.
-Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s first column for Strange Horizons is up, on Identity and the Indigenous Spirit. Everything she says is worth reading and mulling over.
From Tita King, I learned to wade through the dead weight of imposed culture and the acquired prejudice against my own culture. Her passion for our indigenous culture helped me to find freedom in the indigenous self. Looking back, I know I was very lucky.
Haven’t done this for a while, but here’s a rundown of the awesome stuff I’ve been reading lately:
-Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “Song of the Body Cartographer” is up at Philippine Genre Stories. Like all of Rochita’s stories, this combines lovely language with awesome characters–and a universe that just begs to be explored (the good news is that Rochita is writing longer stuff set in the same universe!). Fascinating handling of indigenous cultures vs. outsiders and the clashes that follow. Also, I get to be immortalised as a city of wise women–which doesn’t happen every day!
–“The House of Aunts” by Zen Cho. Malaysian vampires in high school, but nothing like Twilight! The vampires in question are the pontianak, women who died in children and feed on human flesh; and the youngest among them, Ah Lee, goes to school in human shape–and comes back in the evening, to eat her aunts’ cooking (of fried liver, innards, etc.–this is possibly the story that has the highest body count ever without showing a single murder…) All goes well, until Ah Lee meets a boy… I loved the relationship between her and Ridzual, and the way it was handled–sweet and heartbreaking without being cloying. And the big reveal at the end works so well. I was cheering by the end. That this got left off awards ballot is… a little saddening.
–The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho: OK, I’ll freely admit that romance isn’t my stuff, but this is so sweet and so sharp at the same time that it’s well worth a read. In the London of the Roaring Twenties, writer Jade Yeo struggles to make a living–until her path intersects that of noted writer Sebastian Hardie, with unexpected consequences. I loved seeing a well worn historical period from a non-English point of view (and having the subtle indictment of colonialism as well). Zen has a very sharp eye for detail, which makes the pages of this just fly by (loved that Jade snarkily comments on the quality of Chinese vases in London townhouses, and just loved her relationship with Ravi). Zen is posting one chapter a day on her website, or you can buy the book from amazon or smashwords if you want to support her (well recommended!)
–Night, Again, by Linh Dinh: all right, I’ll confess. One of my pet peeves about fiction set in Vietnam is the freaking high number of said fiction that’s set during the Vietnam War (and 90% of the time from an American or White POV). It’s as if the entire country was nothing more than a theatre for shooting Viet Congs and explore PTSD (but not from the Vietnamese point of view, or at least not from a convincing Vietnamese point of view ); and also as if the country itself didn’t exist before the war, and wasn’t worthy of mention after the war, which is… freaking annoying I guess? Therefore, it was a relief to find a book that was a. written by Vietnamese, and b. overwhelmingly not about the war.
The stories run a gamut of tones, though most are dark (satire, or just plain horrible). Among my favourites were Nguyen Huy Thiep’s “Without a King”, a mordant portrait of an extended family’s daily life (the title is a reference to the saying “money is king”, and money and lust form a large part of the family’s concerns); Tran Ngoc Tuan’s “The River’s Curse”, which has a strong fantastical element, and a truly horrible ending not because of any gore, but rather because of its realistic portrayal of cowardice mingled with the (ineffective) desire to do well; Pham Thi Hoai’s savage “Nine Down Makes Ten”, a woman’s portrayal of her successive lovers and their failures, and the concluding story, “A Ferry Stop in the Country” by Nguyen Minh Chau, an elegiac portrayal of an invalid watching his son cross the river he’s lived by all his life. The only caveat is that the book is a bit old (the inside cover says 1963, though it’s been re-edited), and that a bunch of the stories feel a bit old. But still, I’d definitely recommend it as a read. Meanwhile, I’m off to read my Tran-Nhut Mandarin Tân mysteries (which sadly, haven’t been translated into English yet).
 Here’s a handy guide about how NOT to write about the Vietnamese/American war. Please please don’t make the only Vietnamese characters women who have relationships with American soldiers, who exist to be raped/impregnated/killed… (hello, Watchmen, I’m looking at you…). Also, please please look up the history of Vietnam BEFORE 1968?