ConFusion Schedule!

Weather and borders willing, I should be at ConFusion in Novi, Michigan in — ten days! TEN DAYS! Here’s my programming schedule:

Steven Universe Sing-Along
Friday 9PM in Marquette
Amal El-Mohtar, Maggi Rhode
(Come sing with us! The songs are all super short and fun!)

Immigration and Refuge in Science Fiction
Saturday 10 in Manitou
Travel stories are classics in any genre, but in science fiction, stories of travelling to a new home are often about colonization, or about intrepid explorers amongst the (primitive) aliens. Let’s talk about the science fiction stories that better reflect the experiences of immigrants and refugees in the real world.
Alexandra Manglis, Amal El-Mohtar, David Anthony Durham, John Chu

Reading: Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar
Saturday 3PM in Keweenaw
WE’RE GONNA READ FROM OUR FORTHCOMING NOVELLA COME HEAR US READ FROM OUR FORTHCOMING NOVELLA

Autograph Session
Saturday 4PM in St Claire
Bring stuff and I’ll sign it! I may even have fountain pens with pretty inks to do so!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a Case Study in Storytelling
Saturday 5PM in Isle Royal
Our panel of writers discusses the structure, pacing, characters, themes, and world-building in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Also the swords, floaty rocks, and tiny fluffbeasts.
Amal El-Mohtar, Annalee Flower Horne, Annalee Newitz, Delilah S. Dawson, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl

Poetry In Novels
Sunday 10AM in Isle Royale
Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass include lengthy poems, placing them in a long tradition of long-form fiction that incorporates poetry into the work. How does writing poems for prose fiction differ from writing poems that stand alone? What distinct techniques does it require? Where do poems within stories exist in the landscape of genre poetry today?
Amal El-Mohtar, Clif Flynt, Jeff Pryor, Josef Matulich, John Winkelman, Mari Ness

A Novel Look at the Short Story
Sunday 2PM in Charlevoix
Short stories require a different approach to pacing, character, world-building, exposition, and plot than longer works. Let’s explore the tools we use to convey important information to the reader when we have a lot fewer words to do it with.
Lucy A. Snyder, Jessi Cole Jackson, A. T. Greenblatt, Benjamin C. Kinney, Scott H. Andrews, Amal El-Mohtar

 

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2017 in Creative Work

Happy New Year!

Term doesn’t start up again until next week — when I’ll be teaching Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa while continuing my doctoral dissertation at Carleton — so this week’s been a combination of gearing up for what’s ahead while looking at 2017 in the rearview mirror.

2017 was a year of enormous honours, of being bowled over again and again by gratitude and disbelief, of being supported through bad times and sharing deeply in the good. Most spectacularly, “Seasons of Glass and Iron” was nominated for seven awards and won three: the Nebula, the Locus, and the Hugo. But I also passed my comprehensive exams with distinction, taught two creative writing courses in one term and several workshops for children and adults, attended ConFusion, the Nebula Awards weekend, Wiscon (as Guest of Honour?!), went to Sweden and Finland for the first time to attend a conference (RECEPTION HISTORIES OF THE FUTURE, organized by the brilliant Arkady Martine) and the Hugos respectively, attended Can*Con in Ottawa right before the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, was a guest host for a year’s worth of Writing Excuses (the episodes of which start appearing this month!), gave several readings and performances, and holed up in a Catskills mansion with 11 other women to talk, write, and drink cocktails.

But what did I write?

Non-fiction:

  • Two speeches, one at Wiscon and one at SiWC, delivered before hundreds of people in spectacular company to standing ovations; the experiences were so enormous that I’ve shied away from publishing the texts, because I feel they could only be a shadow of what was shared between us in those ballrooms. (Still, I should.)
  • 17 full-length reviews and 12 bite-sized reviews for NPR
  • 4 review columns for Lightspeed
  • 1 full-length review for the New York Times (?!!?)

Academe: 

  • I taught a short fiction course at the University of Ottawa and a poetry course at Carleton (in the same term, while doing the rest!)
  • wrote a digital humanities essay about the intersection of data visualisation and anthology-building
  • a Comprehensive Exam
  • a revision (not yet final) of my Doctoral Research Project
  • a (sadly unsuccessful) SSHRC application.

It may not sound like much (I tell myself) but that’s about 24000 words of material and a lot of time, so, it ain’t nothing.

Fiction:

  • A very short story, “Anabasis,” about which more below
  • A very short story, “As Above” (haha I am making jokes) for the Rubin Museum’s Spiral magazine, which should appear this year
  • A video game tie-in short story for Living Dark.
  • Notes for novels

2017 Publications: 

I had only two original pieces published in 2017, and both are small, dense, furious and heart-broken:

  • “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds,” a fable about borders, refugees & generations of immigration in The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories.
  • Anabasis,” my first fiction on Tor.com, under the auspices of its flash series Nevertheless, She Persisted. It shares themes with “A Tale of Ash”; I wrote “Anabasis” partly in response to this news story, and it has the distinction of being the only work of mine to be written entirely while crying, which is not really a metric I’ve ever thought to reckon, but here we are.

I had a few reprints appear too:

  • Wing,” originally published in Strange Horizons, was included in Jacob Weisman and Peter Beagle’s New Voices of Fantasy
  • Weialalaleia,” originally published in Ann VanderMeer’s Bestiary, was reprinted in Lightspeed.
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron,” originally published in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales (and reprinted in Uncanny in 2016), was reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 11.

Miscellaneous Other Stuff:

Most excitingly, 2017 saw the sale of This Is How You Lose the Time War, Max Gladstone and my co-written spy vs. spy epistolary time-travel novella, to Navah Wolfe at Saga Press. It’s due to come out in the Fall of 2019! Mark your calendars! I love it more than I can easily say, and can’t wait to share it with you.

Audio-wise, in addition to the Writing Excuses stuff, I narrated a lot of gorgeous work at Uncanny between January and October, before concluding that position in fierce pursuit of Moar Time; I appeared on Antony Johnston’s Unjustly Maligned, defending the V for Vendetta film; I was interviewed, brilliantly, at both Storyological and Eating the Fantastic, by Chris Cuvols and Scott Edelman respectively.

Uncategorizably: 2017 was my first full year being an Oracle of Buses. I declared my intention on October 12, 2016, and since then have inhabited the role whenever the mantle settled upon me while on a bus.

The Oracle is ephemeral: she answers by quote-tweeting the questions she receives (unless they’re from protected accounts), so it’s difficult to find her replies. I’ve been encouraged from some quarters to establish a hashtag, keep the replies organized in one place, but I’d like to sound out the community that’s formed around the activity first. There’s a magic peculiar to the intangible, and it suits me to have that liminal bus-riding space be one in which magic happens without being preserved — but I don’t know. Maybe folk want to look stuff over, return to their replies. For now, I just want to look back in gratitude and joy at this small beauty we share between us on Twitter sometimes.

So! To conclude.

Last year, around this time, I wrote the following:

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.

Well, I’m ABD and in good health, but I am not yet a novelist; looking back on how busy the year was, I don’t even feel bad about it. I learned a ton, enjoyed brilliant conversations that taught me further, travelled widely, and while I’ve taken on a couple of short story commissions this year, I’ll not take on more. There’s a chunk of summer that looks free and clear; I’ll be sharing it between dissertation revision and novel-writing. So, again, by the end of 2018, I hope to have submitted my dissertation to my supervisor and a novel to my agent. That’s a ton of work — but it’s a gift to feel, right now, up to it.

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2017 Winter Solstice: Hermitage & Candles

The last of the shortest day’s light is dimming. Across from me is Rima Staines’ “The Storyteller” Advent Calendar, with 21 days’ worth of folk and fairy tales opened up so far. Outside my window is a lot of snow, a seasonable amount of cold, and a confusion of brown oak leaves still clinging to the trees; it didn’t freeze enough for them to fall before the snow did.

It’s been a deep few weeks. December — my birthday month — has been a bit of a rollercoaster. I got detained while travelling for the second time this year, which led to a Twitter thread going viral, which led to some 2000 new followers over the course of a weekend, which led to some media attention, which led, in turn, to hermiting; if I’ve not answered your kind wishes and anger on my behalf, I’m so sorry. I’ve been overwhelmed, and trying to keep on top of work obligations while heading into a holiday season of trying to give my loved ones as much attention as possible, and it’s all been much of a muchness.

Part of that hermiting has had to do with separating my email and social media accounts from my messed-with phone; I haven’t had a chance to get it examined or do a hard reset, so some of the ways in which I use the internet have changed. Without Twitter on my phone I can’t be an Oracle of Buses, or easily share photos of the world tilting into winter. It’s been fascinating, feeling out the faultlines in the ways I communicate — how much I’ve come to rely on combinations of text and image to convey feeling, to reach out. It’s one thing to take a deliberate hiatus; it’s rather another to feel this strange sort of interrupted.

But I’ve been working. I’ve finished marking, some fiction, some work for hire, some revisions, I’m reading books for January reviews, I’m applying for grants and thinking about next year’s teaching. I cleaned and decorated my flat for Christmas — a first, for me, as we usually converge all our Christmas cheer on my parents’ place — and threw a tiny party to give away a bunch of ARCs. I’m trying, too, in the deepening dark of this longest night, to take stock of this past year: the good, the bad, the ugly, the unbelievably beautiful.

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I saw The Last Jedi a couple of days ago. I loved it. It makes much of sparks scattering, sparks being kept alive to light brighter fires, which strikes me as a very Solstice-y perspective. My birthday is on St. Lucia’s Day, which, before calendars changed, once overlapped with the Winter Solstice; in places of deep, dark winters, young girls wear crowns of candles to celebrate. I’ve loved seeing candles, oil lamps, electric lights burning everywhere this month: candlelight vigils in parks, Christmas lights jewelling trees, photos of friends’ menorahs and hearths. I imagine each light touching a new wick, blazing brightly, as we follow each other out of the dark.

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Merry Solstice, everyone.

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EATING THE FANTASTIC: Revisiting Helsinki with Scott Edelman

It’s November 17 and I haven’t yet written about the summer. “Blog the summer” has migrated through three bullet-journaled months. It will happen, if only because I need to get those photos off my phone — but in the meantime, I was delighted to revisit the Helsinki portion of summer magics through this delicious conversation with Scott Edelman.

Says Scott:

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

Please join us for lunch!

Talking about how much I love talking has kind of been a thing this year; Scott has said that this is the longest iteration of his podcast to date, clocking in at just over 2 hours.

I enjoyed the delicious food and the delightful company very much, and I loved listening back to the ambient restaurant noise behind us, recollecting Helsinki. But more than that, I was really moved by how relaxed I sound. I’m used to experiencing interviews and podcast appearances as performances, with the slightly nervous energy that entails; but here, to me, I sound relaxed, like I was in fact just there for a meal with Scott that he happened to be recording.

I hope you enjoy it! Here, as a teaser, are the very dimly lit photos I took of the most marvellous, fairy-like dessert: frozen cranberries with hot caramel sauce.

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NPR Review: THIS MORTAL COIL by Emily Suvada

Nothing quite signals the approaching end of the year like the number of reviews I have left to write. This is probably the last one I’ll do (though won’t be the last one to appear), and it’s fitting that it should be a review of a book that goes out with such a… Bang.

Here’s a (oh dear) taste:

9781481496339_custom-aea9f637232cd0c9070f196e1514909c620e5a98-s400-c85The Hydra virus literally makes people explode.

The resulting fine pink mist gets airborne and infects anyone within a mile radius — unless they’ve first immunized themselves by eating the flesh of the infected. In a neat reversal of the usual zombie-virus trope, the healthy have to eat the sick in order to stay alive — and keep eating them, because the immunity wears off after a few weeks.

 

I also really enjoyed reading this essay by Suvada in Nightmare magazine, about the anxieties of eating or not eating flesh. The last line absolutely thrilled and chilled me.

In other news, I’m reading Max Gladstone’s Ruin of Angels in stolen moments between deadlines and it’s so smart and so good and all the speaking characters are women and it’s breaking my heart a lot and I love it. Thinking a lot about the role art plays in the worldbuilding, and that I’d like to write something linking it to revelations we get in N. K. Jemisin’s The Stone Sky, because there is Cool Stuff Happening There.

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This Is How You Lose the Time War

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Navah Wolfe took the above photo at World Fantasy in Saratoga Springs, 2015, in the aftermath of Max and I duelling for honour & justice show in the parking lot. We joked, in its wake, that we should totally collaborate on something so that we could use it as a joint author photo.

In the summer of 2016, Max and I were at a writing retreat together to do just that. We had decided we wanted to write a novella together; we had decided on the form of letters exchanged between warring parties. We wrote three of five acts over the two weeks of that retreat, one act while stealing time away from World Fantasy in Columbus last year, and the finale in late December while sitting across from each other in True Grounds in Somerville.

We revised it together over the course of the spring, read from it for the first time in Ottawa this past April (back when we had the working title These Violent Delights), revised it again over the course of the summer in between a million other respective projects and travels, and sent it out into the world…

Where it landed with Navah Wolfe at Saga Press, who’s been there with it from the beginning, and whose photo of us crossing swords will, I hope, in fact actually end up inside the fully realized physical book that you’ll hold in your hands in the Fall of 2019.

I can hardly wait. Meanwhile, you can read the full announcement on Barnes & Noble’s blog — and keep an eye out! This is the longest thing I’ve had a hand in writing to date, and the whole process of announcement, cover reveals, pre-orders, all that good stuff is totally new to me! I expect to keep talking about this in increments for a while.

Duelling Max

 

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October: A Summary

I feel like if I don’t start writing about all the beautiful things I’ve experienced this year, they’ll just vanish and maybe have never been. I’ve had “Blog the Summer” on my to-do list since the first week of September, and now it’s the last day of October; I exist in a perpetual state of Catching Up on Email, and it’s all I can do to stay on top of important deadlines.

But today’s Samhain, the year’s hinge, and I have a space of time to sit and write before flipping the calendar page, so at the very least I want to talk about what an incredible month it’s been.

It began with a lovely visit: Stu’s parents came and stayed with us for the first ten days, celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving, during which we had unseasonably perfect weather, though this unfortunately meant the trees weren’t as spectacularly colourful as usual. Still, it wasn’t exactly shabby.

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In spite of the fact that I was writing reviews, wrangling grant applications and revising research projects, we managed to do some neat stuff together: we visited Carleton’s annual butterfly show…

…and went on a boat trip through the Thousand Islands.

On top of that I was teaching weekly workshops at Glashan Public School under the auspices of the Ottawa International Writers’ Festival, having an absolutely wonderful time with Sharon Kuiper’s 8-8 class. I taught four different workshops — on character, fairy tales, poetry, and writing spontaneously from a taste of honey — and was always blown away by what the kids managed to come up with. I’m really looking forward to them sharing their favourite pieces at the showcase in November.

Glashan Honey Workshop

No sooner did my in-laws leave than it was time for Can*Con! Dominik Parisien and Kelsi Morris came over from the shadowy place Toronto for it and stayed with us while attending. I had such a blast with them — when I wasn’t on panels having great conversations, I was at their table in the dealers’ room, watching the stack of The Starlit Wood copies steadily diminishing over the course of the con.

 

That last photo is of the final three copies, an appropriately fairy tale number with which to close out the con.

Immediately after THAT… I had a very special duty to perform.

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I had to keep Nadine (left) distracted at a very nice dinner (which went WAY too long) while Jenn (right) prepared to propose to her via private flash mob dance in the place they first met. It all worked out, in spite of my anxiety-fuelled nightmares of making everything go wrong NEARLY coming true! But they didn’t! And now Jenn and Nadine are affianced and everything is amazing and best!

I was up at 6:00 the next morning for a flight to Chicago!

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The fine folks at Writing Excuses invited Maurice Broaddus and me to be next year’s guest hosts, and we recorded a year’s worth of episodes over two days. This was intense and amazing: distilled, beautiful, challenging conversations about craft, where I felt myself learning as much as I was performing and thinking. After the first session, we repaired to Mary Robinette Kowal’s beautiful home, where she made us Boulevardiers and taught us to appreciate three different Vermouths.

It may have been how perfectly balanced were the cocktails, but whenever I tried to say how satisfying I found this work even when difficult, how much it felt like flexing muscles into new strength, how grateful I was for it, I mostly just teared up. I’d be thinking about it for the rest of the trip, though, as I went from host to host, conversation to conversation. I’m so excited for these episodes to air — partly because I’m looking forward to listening to them and reliving those two beautiful days over again.

(The following morning I would, in an attempt at helpfully doing the dishes, break one of those beautiful cocktail glasses. Mary forgave me. This will be Important Later.)

Also, dear gods but the Cards Against Humanity building is amazing. They have Global knives in the extensive kitchen! They have a shipping crate turned meditation space! This is the wallpaper in the BATHROOM.

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And this is what’s on the outside!

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After a lovely last evening with Mary spent in conversation I didn’t want to end, we got ready to part ways and reconvene at the Surrey International Writers’ Festival.

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That was the view from my hotel window, which I periodically lost time to, sitting on the couch beneath it and just watching curtains of distant rain parting over the mountains.

Surrey really deserves its own post, because I want to go into more detail about how magical everything was, how wonderful the workshops and keynote speeches, how kind the attendees, organisers, and volunteers. For now, suffice it to say that I delivered two workshops, a Blue Pencil session (where writers come up to you with three pages of manuscript and you go over them in fifteen minutes) and a keynote, had an amazing time — and then, on the last morning, a ridiculous thing happened to Stu!

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Not only did he find the only other ginger-bearded Scot in attendance at a literary conference in Surrey, British Columbia — he turned out to be his friend from highschool! Àdhamh Ó Broin is a Gaelic language consultant on Outlander, and had come from Glasgow to give workshops too. This is literally the second time this happens to Stu while we travel — Glaswegians clearly get around.

Then the conference was over, and after a weekend of solid rain, Surrey bid us a lovely farewell.

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And we were off to Portland!

DongWon Song — AKA SFF Ron Swanson or, more colloquially, World’s Best Agent — had driven up to the conference, and offered Stu and me a lift down to Portland. Neither of us had ever been in the Pacific Northwest, and the drive was breathtaking; we stopped in Seattle for soup dumplings and chat with a newly local friend, and kept on our way.

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Ostensibly I was going to give a talk to his students — who were all super smart, asked fantastic questions, and were generally a delight — but after that it was basically a holiday. Oregon is absurdly beautiful, and DongWon and Kristin gave us a fantastic foody tour of it, from food trucks to fancy restaurants to tastings of tea and honey and salt.

But better than any of that was the Bo Ssam he cooked for us on our last night there, with all the trimmings.

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On top of everything else, he drove us to the coast, so that Stu could greet the Pacific.

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The views were impossible.

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The signs were … Adorable?

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I basically felt like this the whole time.

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Many, many sealfies were taken. I’ll spare you most of them.

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While we flailed and sputtered at the ocean, DongWon was literally working.

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An agent’s work is never done. I call this one “Negotiating the Horizon”:

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To my abiding delight, we got to have a lovely breakfast with Kelly Sue DeConnick, followed by my first trip to Powell’s! Featured: Lidia Yuknavitch’s The Misfit’s Manifesto, which looks super cool.

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I signed every copy of The Starlit Wood in Powell’s, heartened by how many there were and in how many sections, and definitely hope to go back sometime.

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All too soon it was time to go — to take the train back up to Canada and visit with my cousin Rima and family!

We were pretty exhausted by this point, but Stu’s parents had insisted that we absolutely had to visit Stanley Park while in the vicinity, so we managed a glancing acquaintance with it.

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Rima took me to a very local honey bee centre, where I tasted even more honey, and got to see the workings of a hive up close through slightly smudgy glass.

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I held my hand against the glass and feeling how warm it was with the bees’ bodies.

And then it was time to go, again — but home this time, looking back over the expanse of a very thorough month. I couldn’t stop watching the colours change out the window, light draping over mountains and water like cloth under the moon.

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We’d be arriving back in Ottawa around 1:00 AM, and I only had a day or so to recover before being back at work. The jet lag’s easing now, I’m beginning to surface up out of email — and look at that. That’s most of a month blogged. The highlights, anyway. The highlights I can talk about, anyway! So many good things happened during this whirlwind trip, and I’m excited to share them in the coming weeks.

But by then it’ll be November, and that’s a whole different month.

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NYT Review: THE POWER by Naomi Alderman

If you blinked at the title, well, I’ve been doing that for about a week. I wrote a review for the New York Times. It’s my first time doing so. Many thanks to Bo Bolander for securing me a print copy in actual New York!

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My name is in the New York Times. I reviewed an interesting book by talking about Ottawa and bilingualism. It hardly seems real, but it is, as they say, right there in black and white.

Here’s an excerpt:

THERE IS A MONUMENT in Ottawa’s Minto Park dedicated to the memory of women killed by men. As with most monuments in Canada’s capital, its inscription is bilingual, and meaning exists in a tense tangle between translations. In French, it says à la mémoire de toutes les femmes qui ont subi jusqu’à la mort la violence des hommes. In English, it reads to honor and to grieve all women abused and murdered by men. It’s difficult to say, at a glance, whether one is a translation of the other, or whether they are simply two statements, separate but related, written in stone, shedding different lights on the women they commemorate.

This has everything to do with Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel, “The Power.”

I could have written a lot more, had not word-count been an issue. There’s so much to talk about here. I’ve been asked about whether it addresses trans issues at all; it doesn’t. I kept wondering if it would, but so far as I recall the only things to trouble a cis discourse (ciscourse?) are an acknowledgement of chromosomal variation and a statement that not all people with XX chromosomes have the power while a very small percentage of people with XY chromosomes do. Abigail Nussbaum has a longer review of the book on Strange Horizons, in which she adds the following, with which I agree:

It is, at this point, worth pointing out that one of the ways in which The Power fails to fully explore this premise is in its near-total silence on the subject of race. It’s never suggested, for example, that the new gender dynamics of the post-Power world are informed by preexisting racial tensions, though we would surely expect them to be. Neither do Tunde, a black African, or Allie, a biracial American, have very much to say about the role of race in their lives either pre- or post-Power. By the same token, though the book imagines that the lines along which the Power is distributed are not clear-cut—there are small numbers of women who don’t manifest the Power, and men who do—the existence of transgender and intersex people is completely ignored, as is homosexuality. These are all axes of power and oppression that play into Alderman’s central topic, and it’s unfortunate that they weren’t discussed.

Her whole review is well worth reading.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful that my first assignment for the NYT was reviewing such a chewy and thought-provoking book. Many thanks to everyone who’s read and shared the review; you make it harder and harder to forget that this is a real thing that happened.

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Upcoming October Appearances: Can*Con, Surrey International Writers’ Conference

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It’s all gone a bit autumn at last, and part of me breathes easier for it, even as deadlines and imminent travel loom on the horizon. Here’s a sketch of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing for the latter half of October.

Can*Con, October 13-15

I’m a Special Guest at Ottawa’s own convention! Here’s my schedule.

Saturday

11:00-11:50 – Collaborative Creating
Amal El-Mohtar, Jack Briglio, Ursula Pflug, Robin Riopelle, Hayden Trenholm, Leah Bobet (M)

Writing can often feel like an isolated activity, but once you start connecting with other creators, collaborating on a project can be an eye-opening and liberating experience. From pairing with another writer to produce a poem or short story, to the potential chaos of a TV writers’ room, what are the benefits and pitfalls to working with other writers? How can you make sure the process works for you and your collaborators?

14:00-14:50 – They’re More Like Guidelines: Rules of Magic
Amal El-Mohtar, James Alan Gardner, Kari Sperring, Gregory A. Wilson, Violette Malan (M)

One of the most obvious ways fantasy worlds differ from reality is the inclusion of magic. Must magic obey rules? Does the creation of an effective and convincing fantastic world require a firmly-conceived magic system? What rules of magic work best for an audience and for the creation of a compelling plot? Our masters of the arcane lore will tackle these questions.

18:00-18:50 – Queer Comics
Amal El-Mohtar, Bob D’Errico, Caro Frechette, Sean Moreland, Derek Newman-Stille (M)

Queer comics have had a complex history, beginning with Fredric Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” and the subsequent Comics Code Authority trying to reduce the “threat” to young people’s heterosexuality. Since that time, queer comics have survived and thrived in a variety of forms, leading to current comics that explore sexuality and gender identity, like The Wicked and the DivineBitch PlanetRat Queens and others. The titles keep going and going, and it’s time for some out-of-the-panel thinking.

Sunday

11:00-11:50 – You Should’ve Read This in 2017
Amal El-Mohtar, Jonathan Crowe, Su J. Sokol, Peter Halasz (M)

Our expert readers discuss the cutting-edge novels and short fiction in science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance that you absolutely should have read. Bring your Goodreads app or a REALLY big notebook.


Surrey International Writers’ Conference, October 19-22

I’m super excited about this — it’ll be my first time at SiWC and my first visit to British Columbia in 15 years. I’m also looking forward to visiting Portland and Seattle a bit afterwards too.

Here’s my schedule:

Friday

10:00 – 11:15 – Writing from Sensory Input

Amal’s first collection of fiction and poetry was written to the taste, scent and sight of twenty-eight different kinds of honey. While this workshop unfortunately can’t reproduce that situation, we’ll explore how spontaneous writing from the senses can interact fruitfully with other elements of the fiction-writing toolkit, with exercises drawn from touching, smelling, and tasting interesting things.

*Attendees with allergies: please note that there will be honey and pine branches in the room.*

2:15 – 3:30 PM – Worldbuilding

Amal El-MohtarMary C. MooreDongWon SongGreg Van EekhoutMary Robinette Kowal (M)

How do you bring an imaginary world to life? How do you layer the strange and fantastic on the real world in a believable way? Join our panel for a look at building cohesive, immersive worlds for characters to inhabit.

Saturday

3:45 – 5:00 PM  – Poetry as a Tool for Writing Fiction

Poetry and prose are often understood as opposites, to the point where poetry turning up in fiction is seen as intrusive, while narrative poetry is often dismissed as incapable of seriousness. In this workshop we’ll approach poetry and prose as related modes with different emphases, and explore how drawing on poetry can help unlock or overcome problems in our fiction writing.

7:15 PM – Keynote speech


After that, I expect to be in Portland, OR from October 23-24 or thereabouts, and in Seattle for a day or two afterwards, before heading back up to Vancouver and flying back to Ottawa. I’ve never been to either Portland or Seattle, so if you’re local to those places and have recommendations, I’d love to hear them!

And that’s me away.

 

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NPR Reviews: AN UNKINDNESS OF GHOSTS by Rivers Solomon and THE RULES OF MAGIC by Alice Hoffman

So many amazing books have come out these last two months, and it’s been my privilege to read and discuss them. Here are another two.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

When I finished An Unkindness of Ghosts and put it down, I almost immediately picked it up again to re-read from the beginning, to admire how early certain seeds were sown, how thoroughly integrated were its plantation roots into space-faring soil. This book is not an allegory for life on plantations: it’s a transposition, and through it an interrogation, an investigation, of the falsehoods and broken memories of a nightmare past. It drags up pervasive stereotypes of happy mammies and consenting love between slaver and enslaved and vivisects them, the dextrous voices of characters like Aint Melusine and Giselle deployed like scalpels to part the inflamed skin of bad history.

 

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

The Owens women have always had grey eyes, a spark of magic, and bad luck in love. Legend has it that their ancestor, Maria Owens, abandoned by her lover and accused of witchcraft during the Salem trials, cursed her bloodline to prevent her daughters suffering as she did. But Maria’s journal also urges her descendants to “fall in love whenever you can,” and the contradiction between curse and command is at the heart of Francis, Jet, and Vincent’s lives. Coming of age on the Upper East Side with fashionable parents suspicious of the extraordinary, they explore and develop their powers together in secret — all the while resisting, and failing to resist, falling in love, with catastrophic consequences.

Other than those, I read Naomi Alderman’s The Power, Brooke Bolander’s forthcoming novella The Only Harmless Great Thing, and am halfway through Fran Wilde’s Horizon, the conclusion to her Bone Universe trilogy. I hope to fit Karin Tidbeck’s Amatka and Max Gladstone’s Ruin of Angels in by the weekend, Can*Con and two weeks of upcoming travel notwithstanding! More on which later.

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