“Seasons of Glass & Iron” Nominated for a Nebula Award

Today the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America announced the finalists for the 2017 Nebula Awards. “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” my short story from The Starlit Wood (reprinted at link by Uncanny magazine), is among them.

What follows is a 100% accurate representation of how I received that news.

SU Connie Blink

faintingmerlin

That was on Thursday, before I had any idea of who else was on the list, and seeing it now — oof, my heart. I’m so absurdly grateful that words start to blur at their meanings’ edges — I’ve sat here, trying to write something worthy of all the feelings, for an embarrassingly long time. Simply, then:

A million thanks to everyone who nominated the story, who told me they were touched by it, who recommended it to their friends. More thanks than I can say are due to Navah Wolfe and Dominik Parisien, for holding their beautiful anthology’s fairy door open for me and shaping and polishing this story until the light could shine straight through; to Julia Rios, Lynne and Michael Thomas, and Michi Trota for reprinting it in Uncanny, promoting it and allowing it to reach a broader audience; Max Gladstone, for enormously helpful fastest-ever-turnaround edits that fixed it when it was broken; and Lara West, who asked me to tell her a story that day after we visited the owls.

I keep being dazzled by this ballot. Four out of five of the novels nominated are written by women. Three of them are by people of colour. And across the rest of the ballot, as well as the Andre Norton and Ray Bradbury ballots, there are so many kinds of stories, as Leah Bobet has observed:

I can’t wait to discover all the things here I haven’t yet read, especially in the shorter fiction, which I fell behind with last year. Here is a list with links to read or purchase all the books and stories on the ballot.

Congratulations to all the nominees, and happy reading!

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Template: Call & Write to Your MPs About Bill C-23

I read this article yesterday about Bill C-23 and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

U.S. border guards would get new powers to question, search and even detain Canadian citizens on Canadian soil under a bill proposed by the Liberal government.

Legal experts say Bill C-23, introduced by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, and likely to pass in the current sitting of Parliament, could also erode the standing of Canadian permanent residents by threatening their automatic right to enter Canada.

I expressed my concerns about it on Twitter in a thread beginning here:

Charles Tan very helpfully storified the rest, for those of you who don’t use the service.

Here, courtesy of Adam Shaftoe (and slightly modified by me in 1st paragraph to add links for the benefit of staffers), is a template for anyone who wants to write to their MP about this issue. I urge you to do so. According to my MP’s office the bill isn’t on the schedule to be discussed this week, so there’s still time to confront its many problems.

I’d also encourage you to write to Ralph Goodale’s office and the Prime Minister’s; from what I recall of working in ministerial correspondence the greatest weight/urgency is given to letters originating from an MP, but in a case like this I think volume matters as much as anything.


[Your MP here]

I’m writing to express my deep concerns about Bill C-23, an act respecting the pre-clearance of persons and goods in Canada and the United States, introduced by Mr. Ralph Goodale (https://openparliament.ca/bills/42-1/C-23/), and discussed in some depth in this CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/pre-clearance-border-canada-us-1.3976123

As your constituent and a Canadian citizen, I take particular exception to section 31 of the bill; therein, the bill proposes empowering American Customs and Border Patrol agents, acting as pre-clearance officers, to detain and question Canadian citizens on Canadian soil.

While the spirit of the law pertaining to 31(2) might exist within the realm of reasonable questioning and information gathering, the language is suitably nebulous such that a preclearance officer might interpret section 31(2b), “questioning the traveller for the purposes of indemnifying them or determining their reason for withdrawal,” as a licence to excessive interrogation and detention. It is my opinion that the limitation on section 31 outlined in 31(3), specifically the language surrounding “unreasonable delay” is vague and fails to explicitly protect Canadian citizens from an unconstitutional challenge to their liberty at the hands of foreign nationals.

While I understand that it is a privilege to enter the United States of America, the Charter rights guaranteed to Canadian citizens on Canadian soil do not end in a pre-clearance area. To that end, I would ask you to review this bill, and propose an amendment to its language that would not leave Canadian citizens in Canada beholden to foreign authority and potential abuses of power.

Sincerely yours,

[Your name]

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Gita Hashemi at CUAG

Today I took my poetry workshop students on a field trip of sorts.

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Gita Hashemi is a calligrapher and the current Artist in Residence at the Carleton University Art Gallery’s Open Space Lab, where she makes floor to ceiling illuminations in Farsi of her friend Zahra’s memoirs. You can see much better photos than mine at CUAG’s website, or watch a livestream of her working. Here’s a description of the project:

In this work, Hashemi writes life stories shared with her by an Iranian woman named Zahra, in Farsi. The narrative has been emerging through conversations between Hashemi and Zahra about how being women has affected their lives in obvious and not-so-obvious ways, and how their lives are marked by gender. What is shared is Zahra’s writing. She is the writer. Hashemi is the scribe.

Visitors are advised that Gita Hashemi’s artwork contains written descriptions (in Farsi) of sexually explicit content and sexual violence.

It was a beautiful visit. Fiona Wright animated the space and offered us sage tea; Anna Khimasia talked to us about her contributions as curator. I loved hearing about what a tremendous collaboration between women is this project. My students asked great questions and made insightful comments (I loved hearing who was awed and who was made uncomfortable by the fact of watching an artist at work, with each camp citing intimacy as their reason), and I was so happy to get to take them out of the classroom and into so powerfully moving a space. Many of them stayed well beyond class time (and those who left only did so because they had other classes to get to).

If you’re in Ottawa, I highly recommend visiting if you can. Gita’s at work in the space from 11:00-2:00 for the next two days, and takes a break at 12:00 if you’d like to chat. It’s a breathtaking experience.

 

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Uncanny 14B Podcast: “To Budapest, With Love” by Theodora Goss

janfeb17_issue14_coverlarge-340x510The second half of Uncanny issue 14 is up now, and includes Theodora Goss’ “To Budapest, With Love” in among all the other fine, brave offerings.

I single this one out because I read it for the podcast, and it was very hard to do for new-to-me reasons. There was the usual technical side of it — I couldn’t have read it without Bogi Takács‘ generous help with Hungarian pronunciation — but also the emotional side of reading a story about being hyphenated, alienated, that was not my own story but kissing-close to it, reversed, aslant. It was difficult to read such a personal, vulnerable, intimate account without the usual patina of fiction between it and me — it was very hard not to feel like I was usurping Dora’s voice as I read some of myself into it.

I hope you’ll read it, or listen to it, or both. Any errors in pronouncing the Hungarian (and there are definitely at least 2 obvious ones I couldn’t fix) are of course my own.

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NPR Reviews: IRAQ + 100, THE BEAR & THE NIGHTINGALE, BINTI: HOME

I’ve fallen behind on sharing these, so here’s a round-up of my last few reviews for NPR Books.

iraq-100_custom-ddd5f3feec30bac4c8978e2b6d329ead7a1c9642-s600-c85Iraq + 100edited by Hasan Blasim

In a just world, every single person who was in favor of invading Iraq would have to read this book. It would be tattooed on the eyes of the invasion’s architects, force them to see everything through these writers’ words. Tony Blair would see himself in the invading aliens of Hassan Abdulrazzak’s “Kuszib;” George W. Bush’s thoughts would be invaded in turn by Zhraa Alhaboby’s mutilated Scheherazade.

 

9781101885932_custom-b54c56a8e5b827f839e9dbc59bd95334489504b2-s600-c85The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

There was a great deal to love in this book. Arden’s weaving of folklore and fairy tale with a very solid evocation of feudal Russia is beautiful and deft. As Nicola Griffith does in Hild, Arden fills in the gaps of the historical record by drawing on a very tactile experience of the present-day landscape — we may not know everything about the day to day life of a medieval Russian farmer, but we do know the bite of cold in the fingertips, or the way snow settles on pine. Arden’s prose, especially in the first third of the book, has the breathtaking insight of poetry: “The years slipped by like leaves,” she writes, and “the clouds lay like wet wool above the trees.”


9780765393111_custom-63885f50d7099193e965b837beea3ba59aa0d5ee-s600-c85Binti: Home
by Nnedi Okorafor

A year after her cataclysmic arrival at Oomza University, Binti finds herself struggling to make friends or focus on her studies. Her attempts at understanding her edan, the ancient artifact that saved her life and allowed her to communicate with the jellyfish-like aliens called the Meduse, are often stymied by violent mood swings she can’t control or understand. She feels powerfully the need to return home and undergo the pilgrimage customary for young women of her tribe, and Okwu, her agender Meduse captor-turned-friend, offers to accompany her as ambassador to humanity — the first Meduse to set tentacle on Earth.

#SFWApro

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2016 in Creative Work

Merry Imbolc, Candlemas, Groundhog Day. This is a season of signs, of waiting watchfulness, of trusting that the light and heat of candles will bloom into spring and summer, that the year will turn out of the dark. Last year at this time I was saying “January was a sack of hammers to the face” — this year I find myself turning from metaphor. But I haven’t written here since December, and when one’s an author one ought to strive to keep communications regular, perhaps especially when the world’s terrible and terrifying. One reaches for one’s people, wherever they are.

Last year, then.

Last year I taught a short fiction workshop for the second year in a row. Last year my sister made me an aunt. Last year I made a landed immigrant of my husband and reunited with him after a separation of 18 months. Last year I went to ConFusion, ICFA, Fourth Street, and CONvergence for the first time, was Guest of Honour at a convention for the first time, taught at Alpha for the first time, and went on a very productive writing retreat for the first time. Last year I moved back into Ottawa for the first time in ten years. Towards the end of last year I signed with an agent I feel every day more privileged to work with, and took part in a performance of mythic imaginary organised by the magnificent C.S.E. Cooney.

But what did I write?

I wrote stories that were very long or very short and nothing in between. I wrote a novelette-length guest episode called “Fire and Ice” for Serial Box’ Bookburners, helmed by Max Gladstone, and saw it appear; I wrote half of a novella with this same Max, which, dear gods, I am so excited to share with everyone but what is this THING where the longer a work is the longer you have to wait for the world to see it? Surely that’s a design flaw.

On the short side, I wrote a story called “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds” for Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin’s forthcoming The Djinn Falls in Love anthology. I’ve thus far managed to read it out loud all of once without choking up, but that says more about me and the state of the world than it does about the story, I think. (There are Hamilton references in it, but only one that’s egregious.)

In terms of stories that got published last year, there are only three, a novelette and two short stories respectively: “Fire and Ice” for Bookburners, “Weialalaleia” in The Bestiaryand “Seasons of Glass and Iron” in The Starlit Wood. I’m proudest of the latter, and was honoured to see, yesterday, that it made the Locus Recommended Reading List in fine company. But that’s this year’s news.

Non-fiction-wise I wrote 12 full-length reviews for NPR and 9 bite-sized ones, 4 review columns for Lightspeed (of which one is a long review of Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound), an essay on Sofia Samatar’s work, and … gosh. That’s it? I think? I guess I was successful in last year’s resolution to say “No” to more stuff. I did, however, start a thing on Twitter called the Oracle of Buses, where, whenever I get on a bus and the mood settles on me, I whimsically answer questions for the duration of the journey.

Honours earned: I was delighted that “Madeleine” was a finalist for both the Nebula and Locus awards, while “Pockets” was a finalist for the World Fantasy award (my first nomination there!), both sharing ballots with so many other works that I genuinely loved and admired.

Last year, I ended a similar post to this by saying

I hope that in 2016…I take on less and do it better, allow myself more room to breathe, build a household with my husband on the same side of the ocean, become a better friend and a good aunt, and finish three short stories, one novelette, one novella, and one novel.

I want to continue in the same vein this year. My husband, cats and I are reunited; I’m aunt to a beautiful child turning one whole year old later this month, and who dazzles me every day; the better friend thing is always a work in progress, never a work I want to set down and think concluded. In the midst of that I managed 1 short story, 1 novelette, and 1 novella.

This year I want to pour into a novel; that’s the only writing demand I’ll make of myself. Well — that, and keeping on top of my academic work. So by the end of 2017 I hope to be a novelist, ABD, and in good health; if I can manage that I’ll be very proud of myself.

green-book-open

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Live from NYC

Friends! Hello!

A more organised person less accustomed to doing things by the seat of her pants and more skilled at keeping her friends apprised of her plans and movements would have written this post weeks ago. That person, however, would not have been me, so probably you would not be reading that post in this space, unless there were a Body Swap scenario in play, and I hate those with the hate of hell, but I love your beauty passing well, O the Earl was fair to see, etc, etc, I ramble, this is how you know it is me and not my alien double, it is a CODE.

AS IT IS, I write from Hamilton Heights in NYC! Here I am! With Stu! This evening I am going to set up shop at Cafe Select for a few hours so that anyone so inclined can come visit with us! Here is more info. Please do come! It would be great to see you! I will never be able to see all the people I love in NYC in the same trip, so am trying to at least see the people I haven’t seen the last two trips, and go on from there.

“But Amal,” you’d be within your rights to ask, “what brings you to NYC this winter?”

“Well, friend,” I would reply, “A bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by Providence–”

“Amal can you please stop quoting Hamilton long enough to answer a simple question”

But that is the answer, friend.

I am in town to see Hamilton.

On my birthday.

Which is tomorrow.

It’s a dream and it’s a bit of a dance.

But we’re here, and I just can’t wait.

 

I need to run around the neighbourhood now but more on this miracle later!

And I do hope you can make it to Cafe Select!

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People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy!

It’s December. This is my birthday month, and many things beside: end of term, with all the work that entails; earnestly gearing up for the holidays, with all the travel that entails; letting myself get mesmerised by slow-falling snow to the detriment of all.

But meantime, there is new fiction!

fantasy_issue_60_december_2016I was reprints editor for Lightspeed‘s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy issue, and am so excited to share the stories I picked; each of them plays with narrative in fantastic, destabilizing ways that I think are important. I’m especially excited to bring Leanne Betasamosake Simpson‘s “gezhizhwazh,” from her gorgeous collection Islands of Decolonial Love, to a genre readership; I was introduced to her work in the context of a CanLit course focused on settler-colonialism, and it cracked me open and let the light in. And while you’re discovering her work, check out this stop-motion video by Amanda Strong illustrating Simpson’s “How to Steal a Canoe” from her new album of story-songs called f(l)ight.

Today, the editorial round-table I took part in with Daniel José Older and Tobias Buckell went live online. “I wanted to start with the idea of the origin story,” says Daniel, and we all go on to talk about our origins as readers and writers of colour. I loved talking with them, having this opportunity to articulate things I’ve long felt but not put into the words. I hope you’ll read it, and enjoy the issue.

 

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When I Think of Winter

It’s been unseasonably warm this autumn; on Saturday I was still wearing light jackets over summer dresses in the balmy 14 degree days, surreal when there’s so little daylight left to go around.

This is not, typically, what November looks like.


But winter arrived Sunday morning, and the dogs stood sentinel to greet it.


I love the first proper snow of the season, the one that sticks, that muffles the shape of the world.



Look closely and you can almost see writing in the understory, a letter the season’s scripting even as it covers the world in the quiet of a blank page.

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“Seasons of Glass and Iron” reprinted in UNCANNY Issue 13

issue13coverv2_large-340x510I’m back from the World Fantasy Convention, and have loads I want to say about it, but first — it’s a new month, so there’s new Uncanny!

Issue 13 is wholly available in ebook form, and the first half of it is live online today, including “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” my story in The Starlit Wood anthology. It’s a fairy tale mash-up written at the request of my niece (to whom the story is dedicated): she asked for a fairy tale, and I wanted to give her one that didn’t sour my tongue where girls and women were concerned. Obviously there are tons of those — but on a long stretch of country road between The Scottish Owl Centre and Glasgow, this is (mostly) what came out. So thanks are due to Lara and her keen, questioning eyes that made it impossible for me to countenance telling her a story where women don’t rescue each other.

Here’s a taste of it:

Tabitha walks, and thinks of shoes.

She has been thinking about shoes for a very long time: the length of three and a half pairs, to be precise, though it’s hard to reckon in iron. Easier to reckon how many pairs are left: of the seven she set out with, three remain, strapped securely against the outside of the pack she carries, weighing it down. The seasons won’t keep still, slip past her with the landscape, so she can’t say for certain whether a year of walking wears out a sole, but it seems about right. She always means to count the steps, starting with the next pair, but it’s easy to get distracted.

She thinks about shoes because she cannot move forward otherwise: each iron strap cuts, rubs, bruises, blisters, and her pain fuels their ability to cross rivers, mountains, airy breaches between cliffs. She must move forward, or the shoes will never be worn down. The shoes must be worn down.

It’s always hard to strap on a new pair.

The Starlit Wood coverRead the rest here — and if you enjoy it, consider picking up the anthology! I’m halfway through reading it myself, and it’s amazing, with stories that run the gamut from funny and whimsical to harrowing and fulfilling. I’m so honoured to be in it, and so happy that Uncanny has chosen to reprint it in this issue that is — so far as I have read — full of fierce love between women.

#SFWApro

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