NPR Review: EVERFAIR by Nisi Shawl

everfair-shawl-ngaiMy review of Nisi Shawl’s much-anticipated steampunk alt-history novel Everfair is now up at NPR Books! Behold its stunning cover by Victo Ngai! Rejoice if you, like me, have been excited about this book’s creation for at least the last six years!

Here’s a bit of the review:

The scope and ambition of this book is immense. Shawl has marshalled a wealth of research in imagining, not only an alternate history for the Congo, but a cascading sequence of consequences for global politics in its wake. The cast of characters is beautifully diverse in terms of faith, ability, ethnicities, sexual orientation and nationalities, making the web of relationships intricate and fraught; Shawl is brilliant at showing where the various ideals, motivations and desires for Everfair as a utopian experiment bump up against each other. From wealthy white families whose free attitudes towards sexuality and plural marriage compromise their return to England, to light-skinned characters deciding not to pass, to queer characters struggling to understand each other across racial lines, to indigenous characters coming to terms with their new prosthetics, the depth and breadth of experience represented in a richly imagined setting is a huge achievement.

It’s thrilling to take stock of how many fantasies are really digging into what makes nations and empires work or fail, earning the term epic through more than Arms & the Man, as it were. My next review is of Ken Liu’s Wall of Storms, and between it, Everfair, N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence and Seth Dickinson’s Traitor Baru Cormorant, I’m just dazzled by the scope of stories I get to read.

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Uncanny Magazine Podcast Wins a Parsec Award!

What it says on the tin! Last night at DragonCon it was announced that Uncanny‘s podcast — where I read stories and poems! — won a Parsec Award. I’m thrilled to have contributed to this, and super excited to have one of these trophies! THEY’RE SHAPED LIKE STARS.


Among the things I’m grateful to Uncanny for is introducing me to Erika Ensign and Steven Schapansky, the podcast’s producers, who are basically wizards. I’m always amazed by how cool they make me sound, how kind and patient they are with my absurd schedule, and just how great they are to work with generally. And as a podcast listener (and a one-time interviewee, for “Pockets“!) I’m always delighted to hear Deborah Stanish’s fantastic conversations with the magazine’s contributors; she’s such an insightful interviewer, and her voice is so soothing and smooth!

Big shout-outs, too, to CSE Cooney, Heath Miller, and Max Gladstone, who’ve all contributed their reading voices to the podcast over the past year and a half. And many thanks, of course, to Lynne, Michael, Michi and Julia, whose editorial work ensures that I always have gorgeous things to read!

In other news, tomorrow’s ostensibly the day I return from social media hiatus. I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks! But I’m not yet finished the work I intended to have finished! So … I may delay slightly longer. I’m so close to done! So close. Advancing by halves as only Zeno intended. And this weekend is Can-Con here in Ottawa, and I would quite like to have restored tweeting privileges to myself before then.

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Open unto the fields, and to the sky

Happy 214th birthday to “Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802,” one of a handful of Wordsworth poems that don’t make me roll my eyes into the nearest ditch.

Yesterday I put on a big woolly jumper to go for a walk; this morning I woke to find it 7 degrees outside. The season’s turning, the days are shortening, and I’m drinking honey-lemon tea in hope of staving off the crud I know will fell me as soon as I turn in this batch of work, only slightly delayed by having been in a car accident a few days ago (I’m fine, but the car isn’t, insurance and whiplash drain time and resources, Mercury’s in retrograde, etc). I’m still not fully moved in to my apartment, but it now contains more furniture than a bean bag! Some in need of assembly (bed, dining room hutch), but mostly I’m thrilled with it; the second-hand market’s been superbly kind. There’s a lot of labour planned for, ha, Labour Day; I won’t feel moved in until my books are on shelves, but I hope to at least be sleeping there by mid-week.


Stu and the cats will be arriving in precisely one month, Icelandic volcanoes willing. Until then I’ve got plenty to keep me busy.


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Glories of the morning

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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.


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Yesterday, in Flowers

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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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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.


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Verified! A Play in One Acct.

I can hardly even believe this happened!


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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