The Mysteries of Udolpho

3a43b15e045baf65d2a3967cf809b931What even is this book.

10 pages in: wandering the Pyrenees.

60 pages in: still wandering the Pyrenees.

100 pages in: DEATHS! still in the Pyrenees.

200 pages in: there are many orange trees in Italy and also cypresses. Also sunsets purpling the mountains and waters. FOREVER.

I’m in the middle of Volume 2 and the eponymous castle di Udolpho has been mentioned twice?

226: THEY ARRIVE AT UDOLPHO

There are 667 pages in this book.

I have so many thoughts about pace and genre and this book, but they are not thoughts for just now, because there are other thoughts about the Gothic and the Sublime and Sensibility and Nation that need to be indulged and developed for the benefit of comprehensive exams first but my goodness.

I will say that the irony of turning to Gothic novels to settle my nerves is a bit delicious. I wonder what Radcliffe would think of a time so thrumming with frantic energy that her imperilled heroine fainting in the clutches of a tyrannical Italian would make for soothing bedtime reads.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

To Write My Way Out

If there’s one thing I’ve found difficult to explain, these last six years, it’s how much the news stops me.

I read about the attack in London and reach for my loved ones and see the Arabic name that will stand for violence for the next several news cycles, obliterating all the other names that have perpetrated violence in order to make violence and Islam synonymous. I read about the arrest of the Israeli Jewish man who called in dozens of bomb threats to synagogues in Canada and the US and wait for news cycles about Jewish Conspiracies, obliterating the terror those thousands of people were subjected to, the trauma they’ve lived and relived. I read the news and watch people react to the news and wait for more news wrought by reading the news, and I want to throw up, and I want a voice like thunder and a tongue to drown the throat of war, and my work stops.

My work is to read and to write. My work is to read, not only novels of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but these poisonous narratives that arise when no one does the work of reading. When no one asks questions of narratives, of themselves, of their reactions and premises. My work is, through writing, to read the world back to people who write it with their fear and their fury and hatred, to say, sometimes gently, is this what you meant, and to say, often less gently, this is what you’re saying, and what you’re saying is evil. 

I’m off social media not because I want to ignore the world, but because I need to keep it at arm’s length so that I can engage with it at all. Because the alternative is to be stopped, always. To be paralysed by what rushes through me, electricity forcing me into remaining a closed circuit.

I’m not sure where to take that metaphor. But I am getting back to work.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 2 Comments

Reviews & Reviewed: Praise for Sequels and also Djinn

Two quick items of news today!

First, my March column for Lightspeed is now available online, talking about how and why so many sequels last year were wonderful, with special focus on Mishell Baker’s Phantom Pains and N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate. 

the-djinn-falls-in-loveSecond, The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories was reviewed in The New York Times! My name is there! Coupled with “poetic prose”! In the NYT! This is the first time* I’m aware of that happening.

* If it happened before and you didn’t tell me — how could you!**
** Unless it was bad! I’m glad you didn’t tell me if it was bad. Thank you. You’re the best.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Equinox

img_2572Walking to my office today, the day tending to warm, the earth thawing into mud, I kept thinking, this is my first spring in Canada in a long time. I felt this very deeply, even as I asked myself how that could be true; I’ve been back to living in Canada since January 2015. Surely it’s my third spring here in a row?

But last year at this time I was in Orlando; the year before that I spent most of April in Scotland, in agonies over how long it would take to bring my fiancé to Canada; in both cases I was drowning in work, commutes, transnational and transatlantic travel.

This year… I step outside, and the feeling of bare sidewalk under my shoes spells spring. I keep taking photos of glistening mud, soggy grasses, pebbles escaping the ice.

I have to ask myself in part if it’s having stepped outside of social media’s frenzy — having made space in my mind for noticing slow, deep change. I’m still far too busy — huge academic deadlines on April 1 and May 1 on top of teaching two courses, an important grant application deadline on April 19, to name a few — but I’ve felt myself present, I’ve felt myself in possession of agency enough to do my work. The curse of social media for me in this climate is a feeling of being reduced to passive, helpless horror minute on minute, unable to see my own life as something I can affect. But I can, and I do, and I will.

This weekend, with the help of my mighty brother-in-law, Stu and I reconfigured two rooms in our apartment in a way I had been longing for and dreading in equal measure for months. We hired a truck, picked up a new bed, moved the old bed into the office, assembled the new bed in spite of lacking instructions and and a few screws. There’s a lot of work yet to make the office into a welcoming space for guests, but the bones are there.

I look at that list of things we did and marvel at the change they’ve wrought in me — as if moving furniture dislodged something stuck in my head and chest, made it easier to breathe. It seems so simple. It was hard work — we sweated and grunted and got very hungry. But we did it, and it’s done, and now there’s work I look forward to, like hanging art on walls and deep-cleaning every room and buying new bedclothes.

This, too, feels of a piece with spring: obstacles dissolving, snowmelt carving furrows through ice and cold earth, breaking new paths, finding new ways to move. This space between freezing and budding, when the light stays long enough to see you home, when the air tastes good enough to drink — it’s more precious to me than I can say.

Happy Vernal Equinox, everyone. I hope it brings you good, joyful, nourishing things.

But don’t skip leg day.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Last Two Days for Hugo Nominations

If you’re trying to raise your STEALTH stat, you could do worse than study award nomination deadlines, as they successfully sneak attack me multiple times a year.

The Hugos! From the ballot guidelines:

The deadline for nominations is 17 March 2017 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 0659 Greenwich Mean Time, 0859 in Finland, all on 18 March)

Here, in a haphazard, slipshod way, are some suggestions for things I think deserve to be on the ballot, with a focus on people and stuff that I don’t see talked about a lot (though of course I’ve been off social media for a couple of weeks and maybe everyone’s talking about this stuff, who knows!)

Whether or not you consider any of these for your ballot, I hope you’ll explore the works and people behind them, as they’re all super great and this post took me way longer to write than I expected it to. It’s WILDLY incomplete, but I can’t spare the time to be rigorous, so I’ve tried to focus on the categories I feel don’t get a ton of attention or diversity year on year.

Best Fancast:

Storyological, by Chris Kammerud and E. G. Cosh. Two smart, utterly charming writers talk to each other for 20 minutes about two short stories. I love this podcast completely — if I haven’t read the stories, I want to seek them out, and if I have, I feel like I’m part of a great conversation. Always positive, often quirky, the hosts are fabulous readers, zooming in on their favourite bits and discussing why they love them with sharp, tender insight. Also they laugh together a lot, which makes me happy.

Midnight in Karachi, by Mahvesh Murad. Mahvesh interviews writers and is great at it! I love listening to these conversations.

Unjustly Maligned, by Antony Johnston. Antony invites people to come on his show and defend a thing they love that most people don’t love. I was recently on this (defending the V for Vendetta movie) and in order to prepare for it I listened to some episodes, and it’s just brilliant — a great concept led by a wonderful host that always results in great chat.

House to Astonish, by Al Kennedy and Paul O’Brien. The best comics podcast. You can quote me on that.

Best Fan/Pro Artist:

Can we please give Likhain a Hugo already? Her work undoes me and remakes me and I just want to live in her use of colour. I’m nominating her in both categories because rules are confusing and I think she’s eligible in both but also come on. LOOK AT THIS.

aswangnight01

Rose Lemberg has a more thorough post about Likhain, which I encourage you to check out.

I’ve also super loved everything I’ve seen Glinda Chen do! I became aware of her work via her animation of parts of Max Gladstone’s books, but she’s done so much more. Do consider her!

Best Pro Artist:

This is a category that sees a lot of the same names year on year, and with good reason — Galen Dara and Julie Dillon keep putting out breathtaking work on the covers of books and pro magazines and they’re brilliant. But I’d really love to see Jeffrey Alan Love considered this year: his book Notes from the Shadowed City is stunning (and is also a Best Graphic Story pick for me), his cover for Cassandra Khaw’s Hammers on Bone likewise, and that’s just off the top of my head. His stuff just leaps out at me, and his technique for creating the textures in his work is so elegantly simple, watching it happen is like seeing someone perform a magic trick while explaining to you how it’s done without diminishing any of the wonder.

Best Graphic Story:

Please please please put The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks on there, it’s so utterly wonderful. Likewise Notes from the Shadowed City by Jeffrey Alan Love.

I wonder if I can come up with more to continue the Graphic City theme. Hmm.

Best Short Form Editor:

I exist in perpetual awe of and gratitude for editors. The teams at Strange Horizons, Uncanny, Clarkesworld and Lightspeed all deserve your consideration, but I’d like to highlight some others whose work I think deserves serious praise.

Rose Lemberg‘s been a force for good in genre for years, always keen to showcase and support marginalised voices, especially queer people of colour. Rose is equal parts generous and fierce, and I admire them tremendously; I partly modeled Warda from “Pockets” on them. Their relentless advocacy humbles and inspires me. Last year saw the publication of An Alphabet of Embers, a small feast of unclassifiable jewels, which makes them eligible.

Mike Allen, likewise, is one of the hardest working editors I know, and certainly one I think deserves more recognition. He labours tirelessly on behalf of his authors, takes mentorship very seriously, and has been in the business of editing without being recognised for it since … At least 2005, when I think we started talking? But he’s only gotten better year on year. The Clockwork Phoenix anthologies are magnificent accomplishments, Mythic Delirium was one of the first genre zines I read regularly, and he’s basically superb.

With the publication of The Starlit Wood, Dominik Parisien‘s count of Stuff He Has Edited is officially 4, the minimum number required for consideration. He would never ever put himself forward and is one of my favourite people in the world entire, so I am here to shill for him. I don’t think I know anyone who loves editing the way Dominik does, for whom it’s both sacred calling and geekery: he’s staggeringly good at editing stories and at curating them. His sense of editorial narrative in a collection is superb, and I always look forward to anything he’s had a hand in. While The Starlit Wood, co-edited with Navah Wolfe, got the most press last year, his work on Clockwork Canada was wonderful and important, and definitely worth acknowledging.

Best Long Form Editor:

This is another category that sees a lot of the same names year on year — I think partly because so much of what a long form editor does is invisible to a reading public. With magazines, you’ll usually have some kind of editorial note about content and curation; with novels, not so much.

I’d like to put Navah Wolfe on your radar.

As far as I’m concerned, Navah Wolfe is the Leslie Knope of publishing. I’ve only worked with her on short form stuff, but I’ve developed a keen appreciation for her editorial vision across multiple Saga Press novels, and I’ve had the privilege of glimpsing her process and how hard she works for her authors. She is literally half an imprint. Every novel she’s edited that I’ve read, I’ve loved. One of those novels, Borderline by Mishell Baker, is currently up for a Nebula Award, and its sequel Phantom Pains is even better.

Navah and I often share hotel rooms at cons but I’m not sure whether or not she actually sleeps? She’s fierce on her authors’ behalf and brilliant and funny and generous and kind and utterly devoted to her work. I would love to see that work recognized.

My Own Stuff:

The only fiction of mine from last year that I’d like considered is “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” from The Starlit Wood anthology edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe. I think it’s the best thing I wrote last year. Other than that, I’m on two podcasts which are eligible for Fancast: Down and Safe, a podcast about Blake’s 7 with L M Myles, Scott Lynch, and Michael D Thomas, and Walkthrough, in which Julia Rios, Layla Al-Bedawi and I discuss every episode of the game The Walk.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Max Gladstone’s CRAFT SEQUENCE Omnibus!

AAHHH! All five Craft Sequence books are available as an e-omnibus for $12!!!

41zljsicral

If you don’t know my feelings about Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence you probably haven’t known me very long. But you’re in luck! I reviewed the series (up to the third book) as a whole for NPR Books a couple of years ago, and it’s only gotten better since then. Five books for $12 would be a pretty sweet deal under most circumstances, but these books are brilliant and witty and sharp and smart and push me to parataxis, so, you know, go get them!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

In Lieu of Tweets, This Post

I miss the Toast. Where else can I pitch an article about Beyoncé and writing fantasy and trust it will find its truest audience?

*

Today I’m wearing a key on a necklace. It turns no locks. It hangs between either side of the lanyard on which I wear the keys to my offices on two campuses. I can’t look at my chest without thinking about ornament and utility and the significance of choosing or not choosing between them.

*

This photo is overexposed and blurry but I love it and keep pulling it up to look at it.img_2560

*

A Marceline funko-pop sits on my desk, behind a red button-pin exhorting the world to Drop Student Debt. I can’t look at her without smiling, but lately I find myself substituting “Marceline” for “Jacqueline” in the Franz Ferdinand song and writing Adventure Time fanfic through the lyrics in my head while I should be finishing Caleb Williams.

img_2561

*

Back to work.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Max and Amal Go to the Movies

Photo by Navah Wolfe

(We didn’t take the swords to the movies.)

One of the stretch goals for Uncanny‘s Year 2 Kickstarter campaign was a movie column by Max Gladstone and me, in which we chat about a film we’ve seen recently, kicking it podcast-style (or discussed-in-gchat-style, which is more or less the same thing). Said goal was reached, and you can read our first column here!

In it we discuss Rogue One, at length with several rambly asides, detouring into The Great Escape, Walter Benjamin, and Rudolph Otto’s conception of the holy. As you do!

Enjoy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE Available Today!

the-djinn-falls-in-loveToday sees the release of The Djinn Falls in Love & Other Stories worldwide in ebook and in paperback in the UK; it’ll be released in paperback in North America on March 14.

I just read this review of the anthology by Liz Bourke on Tor.com, and it’s made me even more excited to read the whole, to see how my (genuinely very small) contribution fits in with Jared Shurin and Mahvesh Murad’s project. What delights me most is how global this anthology is — how I can look forward to something that will definitely not be tired rehashings of ideas about djinn, something that will introduce me to new writers, new imaginative dialects.

My story, “A Tale of Ash in Seven Birds,” was written last summer, in a bubbling over of fury and misery over the state of a world which has, in large part, only gotten worse since then. It’s a fable about migration, and borders, and nations, with a core of magicians’ battle that I first encountered when I was little and reading The Arabian Nights. It’s definitely written from the same emotional place as “Anabasis,” that appeared on Tor.com yesterday in the context of the Nevertheless, She Persisted project.

It’s funny to me that being as allergic to body-swap narratives as I am, shape-shifting is at the heart of the last several stories I’ve written, and is a major concern in the novel I’m writing. I think I’m circling the difference, though: I hate stories where we’re aware of the lie, where shape-shifting or cloning or body doubling is a means of stealing identity, lying to loved ones, violating trust — maybe partly because I feel like shape-shifting, code-switching, flexibility and malleability are survival tools that deserve better than to be reduced to facades. To change and be changed is something viscerally intimate to me.

Something to think about, anyway. Meanwhile, here are handy links to where you can obtain The Djinn Falls in Love, which I hope you’ll do!

 Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Google|Kobo|Rebellion Store

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anabasis” Live on Tor.com

nevertheless_thunderhouse

My contribution to Tor.com’s Nevertheless, She Persisted collection is called “Anabasis,” and it’s live.

In addition to the prompt, it draws on this news story.

I’ve been reading everyone else’s contributions with awe, marvelling at what different things we all did, and just bubbling up with love for everyone in this bar.

Usually short stories leave me feeling sated, needing to sit with them for a while, before I can read the next one. Anthologies take me ages to finish. But each of these stories leaves me hungry — for the next one, for a new voice, a new take, a different way of speaking to each other. I love them. I hope you’ll read all of them.

#SFWApro

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment