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.


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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!

Drip Header

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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Drip Launch!

So today’s the first day of 2018’s first Mercurial Retrograde. Let’s skip the part where you’re an eminently sensible person who doesn’t believe in such nonsense; Mercury’s Retrograde believes in YOU. It believes in your capacity to miss deadlines, travel poorly, succumb to accidents, and drastically miscommunicate with your fellows, and it is here to support you in all these endeavours.

In other words, it’s the perfect day to launch a subscription service!

(There’s even a video I recorded at great cost to my personal well-being because as it turns out I can listen to myself speaking without any problems but watching myself is a sea-bridge too far. I HAVE A FACE? IT MOVES? AUGH.)

$2 CAD a month gets you access to everything I’ll write there, with higher tiers at $5, $7 and $12 giving you voting and nominating powers over what I read/discuss next. The next 15 days are the Foundational period, which gives you additional now-and-future perks: if you subscribe to any tier during this time, you’ll also get a poem I wrote specifically for subscribers and this project, called “Foundations.”

A last note about the $12 tier, because it’s a little special: it gets you a yearly postcard from the Oracle of Buses, a mantle I put on when I’m on a bus and feeling especially liminal, containing an answer to a question you haven’t asked.

But it’s limited, and there are only 4 3 spots left, so check it out soon if you can!

I wrote a public post about the project here, about the need I feel right now to dive into slower, deeper work; I’d welcome your thoughts and feelings on the matter. There’ll be more such posts during the next couple of weeks too.

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Upcoming Appearances: Penguicon, Blue Met Festival, Wakefield Writers Festival, CONvergence

Happy day after the Vernal Equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere), friends! I hope you all felt empowered to Skip Leg Day.

I’ve got a ton of academic work to get through between now and June, so I’m very sad to say that I won’t be at Wiscon or the Nebulas this year (in spite of how wonderful the guests and programming look, gah, you should absolutely go!). But I will venture out of Ottawa for the following events:

April 29: Blue Metropolis Festival, Montreal

I’ll be on a panel with Su Sokol, Melissa Yuan-Innes, and David Demchuk talking about Mary Shelley and SFF!

May 4-6: Penguicon

This will be my first ever Penguicon! It’s been recommended to me for years and years, and I’m delighted to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour along with so many excellent people, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Mark Oshiro, all of whom I’m very excited to get to see and spend time with.

May 24-27: Wakefield Writers Festival

I’m really looking forward to taking part in a localish festival, especially one to which I’ve also never been before — details as they develop!

July 5-8: CONvergence

LIKEWISE so excited to go to CONvergence again! It was my very first GoH experience ever, back in 2016, and I’m deeply touched that they’ve invited me back for their 20th anniversary gueststravaganza. It’s an absolutely amazing con run by brilliant, dedicated, generous people, and I highly recommend it.

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First OTHERWORLDLY column at the NYT Book Review

My first column for the NYTBR is here! The print version will be in this week’s Sunday edition. In it I review Del and Sofia Samatar’s Monster Portraits, Subterranean Press’ Weight of Words anthology, and Jo Walton’s Starlings.

Here’s a taste:

More than any other genres, I think, science fiction and fantasy are in constant conversation with their past, present and future. Entering those worlds as a child meant growing into an awareness of how deeply they depend on a kind of exchange between readers and writers — almost inevitably, new works of science fiction and fantasy inherit a sense of engagement, whether it shows up as homage, critique or collaboration. Three recent books of short fiction, each of them fantastically hybrid, join the conversation and demonstrate just how overt its dynamics can be.

Of the three books, the one I’m most passionate about discussing is Monster Portraits–it took a lot of wrangling to make my feelings about that book into something intelligible. So if you’re in the mood to do me a personal favour, please pick up a copy, read it, and join me in flailing about it in an attempt to interpret my emotions through dance.

This column will appear every 8 weeks, so look for the next one towards the end of April! So many great books coming out between now and then!

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Appearances: Washington DC Fly-by Visit!

Oyez! I’m going to be in DC tomorrow through Friday doing some really neat public events that it’d be great if you could come to!

Canadian Authors: S.K. Ali, Amal El-Mohtar and Canisia Lubrin

Wednesday, Feb 14
4:30 PM – 5:30 PM EST
4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW

“The Canadian Embassy, the Ottawa Writer’s Festival and DC Public Library are proud to present S.K. Ali, Amal El-Mohtar and Canisia Lubrin.These Canadian authors will read excerpts from their work and speak on their experiences as writers. The event will take place in the large conference room and is open to teens and adults.”

Culture Blast: An Evening with Five Canadian Writers

Thursday, Feb 15
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM EST
IA&A at Hillyer

9 Hillyer Court Northwest

“Join us for our February Culture Blast featuring five Canadian writers who will each read an excerpt from their writing, followed by a moderated discussion on the importance of culture and stories to an open and vibrant democracy. Featured authors include Canisia Lubrin, S.K. Ali, Cherie Dimaline, Amal El-Mohtar, and Aviaq Johnston. The conversation will be moderated by Matthew Davis.”




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NPR Reviews: Nnedi Okorafor’s THE NIGHT MASQUERADE and Kim Purcell’s THIS IS NOT A LOVE LETTER

A couple of reviews I wrote went up on NPR these last couple of weeks! Here are samplings of them:

Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

9780765393135_custom-c05e841327d3ad168eb2474a1a7bc93d8d5c71fe-s400-c85The Night Masquerade picks up where Home left off, with Binti learning, through her newly enhanced senses, that her home — and her dear friend Okwu, a jellyfish-like alien from a race called the Meduse — is under attack from the Khoush, Earth’s dominant ethnicity and the Meduse’s ancestral enemies. With the help of her new friend Mwinyi — a member of her father’s people, the Enyi Zinariya — she navigates the desert while plagued with nightmares of violence, knowing she must find a way to broker a peace once and for all. But Binti’s story is nothing quite so straightforward.

This is Not a Love Letter
by Kim Purcell

9781484798348_custom-437cf096e51455d722918e87d0c62cf151bd1d44-s400-c85Every now and then I read an article or essay musing about whether or not young adult literature is “too dark” — whether there’s too much sex, too much violence, too much sadness. The premise of these essays is usually that teenagers exist in some pristine unspoiled state until they pick up a book about drug use or self-harm that makes them unhappy.

This is of course not the case — and I’m glad that Kim Purcell’s This is Not a Love Letter exists for teenagers who have to look after their parents, navigate hostile social environments, and cope with trauma.

That’s that for now — towards the end of this month I’ll be covering Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman, and around the same time my first Otherworldly column for the New York Times should appear. Things! Stuff! So much things, so many stuff!

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LeVar Burton Reads “The Truth About Owls”

I’ve been waiting since October to talk about this.

Back in October, on our last day in Portland, my agent, DongWon Song, took Stu and me out to lunch at a sandwich shop — one of those places where you find yourself eating a sandwich and saying it’s the best sandwich you’ve ever had, because Portland.

Towards the end of the meal, DongWon — smoothly, calmly — leaned over to show me an email on his phone. I started reading it.

I saw “LeVar Burton.”

Then I burst into tears.

This is not hyperbole. Messily, noisily, I found myself weeping in a sandwich shop in Portland because — well, Community already did this in jest so I feel it’s some kind of self-parody for me to say, completely earnestly, everything that got played for laughs there. (YOU CAN’T DISAPPOINT A PICTURE!)

LeVar Burton Community gif

LeVar Burton — of Reading Rainbow, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, two pillars of my childhood emergence into books and science fiction — was asking for permission to read “The Truth About Owls” on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads. It’s episode 14.

He says, of the stories he reads on this podcast, “the only thing these stories have in common is that I love them, and I hope you will too.”


I keep reaching for more words to really spell out the heart of how much this means to me, why it’s undoing me to the degree it is. I think, maybe, it’s that LeVar Burton specifically — his face, his voice — was my first experience of seeing a character also be the person behind the character. I was watching Star Trek and Reading Rainbow at the same time, and I was so young; it seemed to me that Geordi LaForge walked out of a starship and into a diner where he became LeVar Burton. It seemed like a kind of reality-bending power — which is also the power of books, the power of that colourful butterfly touching the world with magic and wonder. That butterfly touched LeVar Burton and he became Geordi LaForge.

And now it’s touched this story, and made it into a story read by LeVar Burton.

I’ve only listened to half the story so far — blown away, already, by the production of it (there’s music! SOUND EFFECTS!) as well as LeVar’s reading — and suspect I’ll have to take it in increments because I’m just feeling so much. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out to Julia Rios and Alisa Krasnostein, the editors of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Storiesthe anthology where this story first appeared. It’s literally a rainbow of good reading.

I’ve said before, and will say again forever, that this story wouldn’t exist without Julia’s kind insistent shepherding of my insecurities out the door until I wrote it for her. It was a very hard story to write. Thanks, too, to Tessa Kum, for introducing me to the Scottish Owl Centre; to the Scottish Owl Centre, for patiently putting up with my repeat visits and being at the heart of two award-winning stories now; to CSE Cooney, for brain-storming this story’s core with me; to Strange Horizons, for reprinting it online and inviting me to talk about its genesis.

All these things are inexorably tied up, for me, with the fact that LeVar Burton is reading my story on his podcast, and I expect to be reeling from this for quite some time.




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