NPR Review: THE DREAM-QUEST OF VELLITT BOE by Kij Johnson

My review of Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is up at NPR Books today! Reading it was — appropriately — a trip.

Here’s a bit of the review:9780765391414_custom-d55bbf024d3cccdc74bbaca8019b58de3ae9320a-s600-c85

This book held me spellbound from start to finish. It put me in mind of Terry Gilliam’s more colourful films in its wonder-quest aesthetic, reminded me in other ways of Keith Miller’s The Book of Flying. I treasure how it made me feel both peaceful and thrilled, enchanted and awe-struck; it made me feel like I was inside a very particular kind of dream, the deep endless kind that grants a whole life’s worth of adventure within its bounds, from which you can always only wake in the middle, intuiting the rest.

You can read an excerpt of the book here.

#SFWApro

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Yesterday, in Flowers

This gallery contains 7 photos.

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Down and Safe: Episode 20 – Latex Gorilla Ducks

I’ve been terribly remiss in posting about new Down and Safe episodes — a new one went up last week, in which we discussed “Hostage.” You could listen to the podcast — or, you could read the episode’s quality in my face.

Podcast Hostage

Our Down and Safe updates have been infrequent over the summer because of travel and other wackyness, but we’re all pretty confident that come September we’ll be back to a more regular schedule. Many thanks for your patience meantime!

 

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Praise for THE STARLIT WOOD

Via Dominik Parisien, here’s some lovely advance praise by Terri Windling, Jeff VanderMeer and Jonathan Carroll for The Starlit Wood, an anthology of original fairy tales in which my story “Seasons of Glass and Iron” will appear.

The Starlit Wood cover

The modern revival of fairy tale fiction for adults began in the 20th century (with the stories of Angela Carter and Tanith Lee), and The Startlit Wood is proof that the revival is still going strong. Editors Parisien and Wolfe have brought a wide range of writers together to blaze new trails through the dark of the woods. Whether you’re passionate about fairy tales, like I am, or haven’t read them since childhood, I recommend this excellent anthology. I simply loved it.

– Terri Windling, World Fantasy Award-winning editor of the Snow White, Blood Red series

“A classy, smart, and entertaining volume of stories put together with consummate care—and featuring the best and most exciting fantasy writers working in the field today.”

– Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times-bestselling author of the Southern Reach trilogy

Lots of strange and wonderful goings-on in THE STARLIT WOOD. Fairy tales you thought you’d left behind in childhood are back in some very poignant, sly and original versions that will touch the “Wow!” in most readers.

– Jonathan Carroll, World Fantasy-Award winning author

You may have heard part of “Seasons of Glass and Iron” if you were at ICFA (where I read part of it) or CONvergence (where I read all of it). I’m really excited for it to get into people’s hands, not to mention getting to read everyone else’s stories in it — looking over the Table of Contents is a delight!

The anthology comes out October 18, and is available for pre-order right now.

#SFWApro

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Verified! A Play in One Acct.

I can hardly even believe this happened!

VERIFIED

For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter, that little blue checkmark next to my name is the coveted VERIFIED badge, confirming that “an account of public interest is authentic.”

My account is of public interest! And I’m authentic! What a day to be alive!

I’m especially amused that this happened while I’m on hiatus from social media — I had to learn about this from official Twitter email. But it didn’t just happen out of the blue; I applied for it a few weeks ago after learning that Verified accounts get an option for “quality” filters that allow them to filter out notifications from, for instance, harassing jerk-buckets. It’s the sort of thing that I hope will be rolled out more generally, since clearly we have the technology, etc, but in the meantime I’m chuffed to know I have more than Mute and Block at my disposal when the festering pus-pots of the internet start burbling.

I look forward to exploring the change once I’m back from hiatus (in two weeks!). Until then, here’s a smattering of news that’s fit to print:

  • August 22nd was the one-year anniversary of my wedding. I’ve been married for a year! Stu and I celebrated by watching an episode of Frasier about divorce! As one does. Many thanks to everyone who congratulated me when I could barely see straight for busy-ness.
  • I finished reading Ken Liu’s Wall of Storms today. I’m reviewing it for NPR so will hold off on getting into it here too much, but allow me to state for the record that it’s both a) entirely satisfying and accessible as a stand-alone novel, which astounded me, and b) an order of magnitude more gripping, delightful and heart-breaking than Grace of Kings, which is saying something.
  • I put the very first item of furniture into my new apartment yesterday! There may not be bed, kitchen table or couch yet, but there is now… A beanbag. And an office chair! Praise me as is my due. (Hopefully the moving of the bigger items will happen this weekend.)
  • Yesterday I walked from the ByWard Market a ways into Hull, and it was beautiful. I stopped on the Alexandra bridge, looked out at my city, and thought about how lovely it would be to walk around it like this regularly. img_8643(It would be the saddest of ironies if, in walking for an hour and a half in sandals with a backpack on, I managed to give myself a stress fracture right before moving into the city, so here’s hoping that’s not what the pain in my left foot is.)

And finally — the season’s turning. A few days ago I could smell, not autumn, but the end of summer, which is its own distinct smell; the geese have been steadily returning to the river, flying low enough overhead that I can hear the almost mechanical creak of their beating wings; and today, I looked out the window just in time to see this burst of colour falling from the green of a tree.

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I don’t think you’re ready

…for this jelly.


And not counting the pile by the sink, there are still two full buckets of apples to get through! Everything is apples! Beautiful fragrant delicious apples!

Meanwhile the day is rainy and cool.


Today is for tea and family and quiet work while the weather shushes everything outside. I love this kind of day: a cool grey blanket to gather around one’s shoulders and thoughts.

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The Hugo Awards!

THE LIST OF WINNERS!

I watched the livestreamed ceremony! I saw Lynne, Michael and Michi accept Hugos for Uncanny (AAAHHHH!!!!!!!!!) while looking extraordinarily fabulous! I saw Jessica Jones win a Hugo! I saw ASTRONAUTS accept a Campbell and a Hugo on behalf of Andy Weir and The Martian film respectively! I saw Naomi Kritzer be an absolute paragon of grace and generosity in accepting her extremely well-deserved win! I saw — and this was probably the highlight for me — Alyssa Wong deliver N. K. Jemisin’s acceptance speech for The Fifth Season, which has made me so happy I am just going to lie down and look up in perfect silence at the stars.

Congratulations to all the winners, and many thanks to everyone who made the ceremony (and the livestream!) possible — I’m still amazed I got to watch it smoothly on my rural internet connection.

I was also really delighted to see that both “Madeleine” and “Pockets” made it on to the long list in really superb company. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who loved my stories enough to nominate them — I’m so grateful for your reading.

Here’s to next year in Helsinki! And if you’re at Worldcon tonight, I hope you enjoy partying well into the wee hours of the morning.

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My Apple Tree, My Brightness

I woke at 6:30 and worked until evening, alternating between academic stuff and being absorbed into Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, except for a blissful interlude with my sister and nephew. As the evening dipped into pink and gold, my mother exhorted me to Take a break — sung in the appropriate key — and she, my father and I went out to pick windfall apples from a tree round the bend.

This tree has been so laden I can hardly speak of it: more fruit than bough, almost as much red as green.

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My mother and I have been watching it ripen for weeks, stunned by how bursting it is, how red the apples, how early. It’s been a very hot, dry summer. Then, the last few days, we’ve had downpours and strong, high winds, scattering the apples around so thoroughly that I could smell them long before I could see them.

Today was the day to pick them.

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There were so many on the ground, and an astonishing number of them were pristine — too many for hungry insects and animals to consume, we supposed.

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The light coming through the leaves undid me.

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As we gathered apples, Odin and Mika stood guard.

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And such a bumper crop they guarded! Buckets and buckets — all windfall, all destined for jams and jellies (with recipes and suggestions very welcome!).

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This is an accurate portrait of how I felt — how I still feel, a bit, even having come back into the house, watched the sky darken, heard the crickets come out. Having picked these apples with my family, in this light and warmth, at a time that feels too early for apples, having carried home bushels of them for making into gifts, for preserving pieces of summer to share one jar at a time.

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NPR Review: THE OBELISK GATE by N. K. Jemisin

9780316229265_custom-6860c06167337b5728fcae0990e09430cc1de865-s600-c85My review of N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate — the second novel in her Broken Earth series — is up at NPR Books! A taste:

Beyond the meticulous pacing, the thorough character work, and the staggering ambition and revelations of the narration, Jemisin is telling a story of our present, our failures, our actions in the face of repeated trauma, our responses to the heat and pressure of our times.

I wish this had occurred to me to say in the review, but it’s only in disagreeing with Niall Alexander’s on Tor.com that I could articulate it to myself this way: where The Fifth Season was shifting tectonic plates, a dynamic novel of moving parts and undercurrents, The Obelisk Gate plunges deep and reaches up. In this it reminds me of the action that broke the continent in The Fifth Season, that simultaneous grasping of above and below in order to rip a landmass apart; there’s enormous tension involved in holding that pose, and while that tension’s pay-off will be in the third book, I still felt thoroughly wrung out by the experience of reading it. To fault The Obelisk Gate for not being The Fifth Season makes no sense to me.

It’s possible that this reading was influenced by the fact that I read the books back to back; I can imagine that having had to wait a year for the book might engender a different reaction, a different desire for different pay-offs. But I can’t stop marvelling at it, and where I see it going after this.

#SFWApro

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UNCANNY Year 3 Kickstarter Complete!

It’s done! You did it! Another year of Uncanny magazine with all stretch goals met! A total of 999 backers pledged $34410 to make this happen, and I’m thrilled. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed, whether by pledging or signal-boosting the campaign. You’re wonderful, and have done a great thing.

Last night I joined Lynne and Michael Thomas, Michi Trota, Tanya DePass and Isabel Yap for a livestreamed countdown of the campaign’s last hour. It was superbly fun: we did a Q&A, I got to show off my frightening amounts of tea, perform part of “Right-Hand Man,” and gush about The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, which I was in the middle of but have now finished and filed (yay social media fast!). That’ll probably go up on NPR Books in the next few days.

In other book news, N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate is out in the world, and my review of that goes live on NPR tomorrow. I’m very keen to get it out there because thus far the only review I’ve read of the book is this one by Niall Alexander, with which I couldn’t disagree more, and which I think is a bit hilarious because it starts in almost precisely the way mine does but goes to an opposite place. Yes, it’s a less dynamic book than The Fifth Season, but by design! Guh! How even to begin to dispute! Look.

lying in wait

Sing it Leslie.

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