O Grey River, Your Waters Ramble Wild

Two years ago, the area in which I live saw a lot of flooding. My family’s home is behind the 100-year flood line, and we were very, very lucky — with a lot of help from family and friends, a lot of sandbagging, the house withstood the river’s rising, and the water receded quickly once it peaked.

Now it’s happening again, worse. More communities are affected; the water’s expected to rise higher, faster, and to stay at that height for weeks, not days.

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We’ve done more this year in preparation. There’s Tyvek-covered plywood against the windows in case the river rises up to them and brings debris down on them. There are… about 500 sandbags? My fingertips are still numb from the tying and lifting and hauling of them, and the less said of the rest of my body’s soreness the better.

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My sister and I arrived around 4:00 PM yesterday, got started with a crew around 5:00, and then didn’t stop (except for frequent breaks in 5-10 minute increments) until about 1:00 AM. And all the while the river pursued its own relentless work: the height of the waves, the speed of them, the rush and roar of them, water spreading in tongues and fingers towards us like hunger, like anger.

We’ve done all we could, and there’s comfort in that. My body couldn’t do more. The rest is the river, which I wish would, in fact, rest. I want to sing to it all the songs of drowning I know, all the songs of flooding and loss in a kind of kinship, a reverse alchemy; I want to tell it, with all the sincerity of my numb and bruising heart, calm your waves and slow the churn / And you may have my precious bones on my return.

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The wind is a wilderness in the tree branches; the house feels like an anchored ship, with squirrels on the mast instead of seabirds. (Squirrels can swim, it turns out! And thank goodness–my heart was in my mouth as I watched one jump into the water before clambering up a trunk.)

My nephew, all of three years old, has been watching all this with equanimity. He kept our morale up well into the night through sheer obliviousness, playing with his grand-mother and watching the waves dashing against the sandbags with a “one … two … splash!”, delighting in what might very well destroy the house we’re in. But so are we all, to some extent; the absolute helplessness of this, watching and listening to the water, and loving it in spite of all. One lives near the water because one loves it; one can’t love it less as it surrounds and breaks and flexes its strength. One can only love it from different places, with more awe and trembling, more surrender, more pain.

There’s so much more to say — about politics, about climate change, about the despicable intersection of those things — but I haven’t the energy for it. The river washes everything out. To everyone in Constance Bay, in Pontiac, in Gatineau, in every affected community — all my heartfelt best wishes and solidarity. To everyone not affected — if you have the time and wherewithal to volunteer somewhere and fill sandbags, you can’t begin to know how appreciated that is. Constance Bay has, I hear, the army and the Red Cross; in Pontiac, this morning, there was a single person at city hall working to fill bags.

Effort and energy ebb and flow like the waves we’re trying to keep at bay. But time is short, weather’s chancy, and every little bit helps — not only in practical terms, but in feeling, in support. We’re all shoring up our hearts as well as our foundations.

 

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In Memoriam: Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe passed away on Sunday night, and my dear friend CSE Cooney wrote about him, his mentorship and their friendship.

I met her because of him, and met him because of her, and I’ll let her say all the rest. I’m so grateful to have met him. He was very kind to a posse of fey girls trouping around him with poetry chapbooks over a decade ago, and that’s how I’ll remember him: kind, and merry, and thoughtful, and deeply tender towards my friend.

My deepest condolences to all who knew and loved him.

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Cover Reveal for THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR + Pre-Orders!

Well, it’s been a while! Poor dusty old blog — let me get a damp rag and just — there.

I’ve been on the road so much this year, and busy with many things in between bouts of travel, but one of those things has recently reached a milestone, so behold — Barnes & Noble revealed the cover to This Is How You Lose the Time War, my epistolary time-travel spy vs. spy novella collaboration with Max Gladstone!

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We’re both delighted with it. Greg Stadnyk took a complicated roller-coaster ride across multiple intersecting realities and zeroed in on the heart of the matter: Red and Blue, equals and opposites, fighting and dancing and rippling things around them.

I wrote a bit about the genesis of it here, when B&N first announced the project, and it’s wild to take stock of how far we’ve come and how long there’s still to go — six whole months! — but in the meantime, you can pre-order it!

Barnes & Noble
Indiebound
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca
Books-A-Million
Chapters Indigo

If you’re in Ottawa, I would heartily encourage you to pre-order through Perfect Books, my favourite local independent, a place that I treasure (and where I worked for five years).

I really can’t wait for you to meet Red and Blue. I love them so much, and I hope you will too.

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I’m in a Music Video!

This is such a delightful thing. Ottawa’s own Moonfruits launched a new music video yesterday, and I’m one of many extras in it!

The song, “Le Maire” (The Mayor), is from the Moonfruits’ folk concept album called Ste. Quequepart (Saint Someplace), about villagers disgruntled with their mayor, who’s been asleep for three years. It’s fantastic, and I’ll have more to say about it on Drip eventually, because I want to talk about it and a 1971 Lebanese play called Sah Annom (something between Congratulations on Having Woken Up and Good Morning) where the town’s mayor is only awake three days every month.

In the meantime, do listen to “Le Maire”! Even if you don’t understand French, it’s tremendously addictive. And if you do understand French, the lyrics are AMAZING.

Enjoy!

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Crosspost: Infinity Interrupted

Over on Drip, I wrote up a non-spoilery account of my experience of watching Avengers: Infinity War last night. It’s a public post, so you don’t need to be subscribed to see it.

Here’s a taste:

I had no expectations of this film. I’d loved Spider Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther beyond all reckoning, and didn’t think any of the things I loved about those movies would feature in this one. I’d also read Emily Asher-Perrin’s Tor.com post titled “Why I Don’t Care if Anyone Dies in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR” and nodded along. I was looking forward to seeing the cosmic crew again, enjoying some quipping, blinking at a lot of pretty lights, and appreciating at least one shot of a thoroughly muscled man trying to hold on to two things pulling in separate directions.

As it turned out, I was unprepared for how much I would, in fact, care, and be affected and impressed.

I was even less prepared for the interruption of a climactic battle by someone in the theatre’s back row screaming about having seen a knife.

We’re OK, but it was a really weird night. 

In other news, a quick reminder that I’ll be in Montreal for a panel on Sunday, under the auspices of the Blue Metropolis festival. Come hear Su Sokol, David Demchuk, Melissa Yuan-Innes and I discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and its relevance to modern SFF! 4:00 PM at Hotel 10’s Salle Jardin, just up the street from the train station.

 

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Flash Fiction: “Time, Like Water” and “As Above”

img_5770Last year, the Rubin Museum invited me to write a very short story for publication in their magazine, Spiral, on the theme of “The Future as an Ever-Renewing Now”. I said I was interested in writing something about water, climate change, and cycles, compressed into their required wordcount. As I wrote, the assignment evolved — and I ended up writing two pieces, one of which is a more straightforward translation of the other, both of which Spiral wanted to publish.

Time, Like Water” came first; “As Above” came second.

In the first one’s case, I’m especially grateful to Annalee Flower Horne and Caitlyn Paxson for their input; in the second, two hours spent in the quiet company of Derek Künsken, Nicole Lavigne and Brandon Crilly produced the fastest rewrite ever.

I hope you enjoy them!

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NYT Otherworldly Column: Princesses, Priestesses and Time Travel

merlin_136612458_88ef9673-6cee-45e7-a2ff-5a2010ec83cf-master315My second column for the NYT Book Review is up! I look at Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s The Merry Spinster, Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective, Kelly Robson’s Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, and Tessa Gratton’s The Queens of Innis Lear.

I could’ve happily talked about most of these for paragraphs more — especially Ortberg’s — but I quite heroically kept to prescribed wordcount.

Enjoy!

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Social Media Hiatus: April 15 – June 15

I’m pulling back from social media for the next two months to focus on academic work. I’ll check email and approve blog comments, but that’s it. If you’re reading this on Twitter or Facebook, it’s a crosspost; I won’t see your replies on those sites until I’m back.

I’ve never taken a break this long — the longest I’ve done in the past was one month — but it’s necessary, and I hope to keep to it. In the past I’ve broken hiatus to promote things, but always kind of regret it, so I expect to just crosspost from here as necessary.

In the meantime you can sign up to my newsletter to keep up with where I’ll be or sign up to my Drip to get new essays, poems and reviews as soon as they happen.

Take care, friends — especially those of you struggling with ice storms in southern Ontario right now. May this discontented winter be made glorious spring, and the dreadful wind and rain pass without harm.

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Drip: Last 20 Hours of Founding Period + Giveaway!

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There are only 21 hours left to become a Founding Member of my Drip account! Here’s what you get by so doing:

  • An exclusive poem for you, called “Foundations”
  • First crack at switching into limited edition tiers when spots open up
  • A review of Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands

And, as of this moment

  • You’ll be entered into a giveaway for a signed chapbook of “The Truth About Owls”!

Drip Chapbook

These chapbooks were printed as promotional material for Great Jones Street, a short fiction app which recently closed up shop. I was given 15 of these chapbooks, but I don’t know whether any others were ever printed, so as far as I can tell this is an extremely limited piece of ephemera.

The last line of the story is in Arabic, but was misprinted — so in addition to my signature you’ll get to see what my hand-writing looks like in Arabic as I correct it. (It’s … Not calligraphic, let’s leave it at that.)

IN ADDITION to that —

  • If we hit 150 subscribers before this Founding Period ends (we’re at 137 right now), I’ll give away 2 chapbooks.
  • For every founding member above 150, I’ll give away a signed broadsheet of a bilingual poem printed on an antique letter press.

Drip Broadsheet

This too is ephemera — it has a complicated backstory, but in brief, it was written in French for Con or Bust, I translated it into English for my Livejournal followers back in the day, and both versions of the poem were going to be in a letterpress project that had to be backburnered — but the publisher, Saira Ali, gave me a bunch of these sheets that had already been printed along with their blessing to use them for promotions and stuff. The only other way to obtain one of these is to bid on it in Con or Bust’s upcoming auction.

So! If any of the above appeals, I hope you’ll subscribe! And many, many thanks to all of you who’ve already done so, or boosted the signal in any way — I’m deeply grateful.

 

 

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AMA on Twitter with Drip! April 4 at Noon EST

What it says on the tin!

So last week I launched a Drip account, a subscription service affiliated with Kickstarter. Now Drip’s invited me to do an AMA with them on Twitter next week! (If you’ve never taken part in such a thing, it stands for Ask Me Anything.)

Given how quickly things on Twitter tend to zip by, you can get your questions in early by submitting them through this form. The fine folks at Drip will then administer them, so I’ll always be responding to a question they’re asking, which should help keep everything readable, manageable, and moving along! I look forward to hearing from you!

In related news — I’m so grateful to everyone who’s subscribed! I’m still a little stunned by how quickly the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker tier filled up, but all the others are unlimited, and involve varying degrees of participation in choosing what I read/write about next.

And of course, if you sign up before April 6, during my Foundational period, you’ll also get a villanelle called “Foundations” written specially for subscribers, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

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