Tag Archives: Cherie Priest

Nebula Season, and the Return of the Informed Voter Project

It’s Nebula Time, and I have a vote to be informed about! That’s right, from now until February 15th, SFWA members get to cast their votes in support of their favorite SciFi and Fantasy works of 2010. Are you an SFWA member? Then get off your duff and start thinking about your ballot.

For those who don’t know, there are two rounds to the process. This first round, everybody nominates their favorites, and the six in each category (Short Story, Novella, Novelette, Novel, Screenplay, and Young Adult Novel) with the highest number of votes make it to the final ballot. Votes can be entered and even changed right up until the February 15th deadline. Then the second phase begins, where SFWA members read the finalists and cast a second round of votes.

Admittedly, I started this project way too late last time around, when my goal was simply to read all the finalists and blog about what I read (I did manage to get the reading done, but I didn’t manage to get my comments up on every category before the voting deadline). This year I am actually getting to cast a vote to help determine those finalists, and while I certainly can’t possibly read the entire field, I am going to use it as an excuse to get serious about catching up on my TBR pile, and maybe to occasionally remind anybody who cares that my book came out this year and is eligible for the Norton Award for YA lit. I would bat my eyelashes at you, but I have no makeup on and am just finishing my first cup of coffee and it wouldn’t have the effect I was looking for. I will, therefore, settle for tossing out the reminder and also pointing out that SFWA members can read the text free, along with the work of lots of other hopefuls, via the SFWA message boards. There. Self-indulgent message completed.

Books I’m really excited about reading? A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz. Sarah Beth Durst’s Enchanted Ivy. Paolo Bacigalupi’s National Book-nominated Shipbreaker, of course–although I suspect he won’t need my vote to make it to the finals, much like Megan Whelan Turner’s Conspiracy of Kings, which it’s about time I read, too. Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought. The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu, which I have to double-check the rules about (it hit the US market in 2010, which I think makes it eligible). China Mieville’s Kraken. The Dark Deeps by Arthur Slade. Ian McDonald’s Ares Express. That’s just off the top of my head. How many is that?

Books I’ve read this year that I loved? Jean-Christophe Valtat’s Aurorarama. Mistwood by Leah Cypess and Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready. Mockingjay, the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy, which I also probably won’t vote for because, again, it’s not going to need my vote to place (which may be a crap way of doing things, but hey, it’s my vote, so deal with it). Monsters of Men, the final installment of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, which anybody who liked The Hunger Games should start reading immediately if not sooner. Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman. Matt Kirby’s The Clockwork Three. I’m resisting the urge to get up and check my bookshelves. I read so much good stuff this year.

And then there’s the short fiction. I am so bad at actually reading short fiction. I love it when I make the effort, but I will be the first one to admit I’m bad at making the effort. So it’s time to start making the effort. I would love to hear your suggestions about short stories, novellas, and novelettes to start my reading off with.

So welcome to Nebula Season, and the Informed Voter Project! I’ll be posting comments on my reading in the coming months, and would welcome your comments and suggestions. Happy holidays, and happy reading!

This Wednesday at Pandemonium; BEA; and Some Very Important Questions

Updates! I gots ’em!

This Wednesday, I’ll be signing at Pandemonium Books in Cambridge, Mass with Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

I just finished Mistwood yesterday, by the way, and it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll do a Subway Literature post on it after the signing, but in the meantime, let me just say I read it in what would’ve been one sitting if I hadn’t had to work this weekend. It follows Isabel, herself a creature of legend in the world of the book: she is the Shifter, a preternaturally powerful bodyguard/assassin/adviser to the King of Samorna. The Shifter sometimes leaves the court, but always returns when her King requires her protection. Isabel is called from the Mistwood, her home and place of strength, by Rokan, a king with reason to fear for his throne. There’s fast-moving intrigue and several really excellent twists, and Isabel is a stellar character. I’m going to stop myself from saying more until after the signing, but I definitely recommend it. So come by if you can, this Wednesday, 6/2, at 7pm.

Pandemonium Books & Games
4 Pleasant Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

Last week, Book Expo America came to NYC.

I wasn’t able to attend the first day (bummer and a half, because there were some panels I would have loved to have had the chance to attend), but on Tuesday night I stopped by the Steam Salon at Madame X in Soho to hear readings from Felix Gilman, George Mann, Catherynne M. Valente (recent winner of the Andre Norton award for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I loved desperately), and Cherie Priest. No, I did not wear the very cool veil I made in order to turn my dress into an appropriate costume–I took it with me but then I kind of wussed out (I’m not very good at costumes)–but I did get to meet Cherie, who was completely awesome, and who didn’t seem to think it was weird that after a couple scotches I felt it was really important to give her a giant thank-you hug (or maybe two) for being so cool about the title fiasco.

On Wednesday I made it to BEA for a video interview with a very nice woman from Amazon and the “Speed Dating” event with children’s librarians and booksellers, which was a bit of a blur but a lot of fun. Wednesday night Nathan and I stopped by Books of Wonder, where several tween and teen authors were reading. I will admit we went mainly to see Cory Doctorow. We’re both huge fans, but I particularly wanted to meet Cory to say thank you for his beautiful review of The Boneshaker on BoingBoing.net. We also picked up his new YA, For The Win, which I read in two days (although this required some ignoring of Nathan, which he has still not forgiven me for). Then on Thursday I had a chance to really wander around the main floor after lunch with Jeri Smith-Ready (whose awesome new paranormal YA Shade launched at the beginning of May) and Sarah Beth Durst (a finalist for the Andre Norton award for her gorgeous fairytale retelling, Ice). Jeri and Sarah had attended the entire conference, and considering I felt pretty brain-dead after my one event, I have no idea how they were capable of holding conversations by that point.

BEA is seriously overwhelming, and I don’t get the impression this is just my perception as a first-time attendee. Next year I will have a bit more of a plan in place. For one thing, that trade floor is absolutely made for a scavenger hunt. Filing that thought away.

Oh, another cool thing happened, during but unrelated to BEA. I got a message from a former co-worker that she’d spotted this in AM New York, a free daily newspaper, on Wednesday:

See it? There on the right hand side? Here it is, a little closer:

And now, as promised, Some Very Important Questions, in honor of the Pandemonium Event, from my oldest little brother, Buddy Chell.

Buddy Chell: If you were leveling a Blood Elf Mage for PvE play, would you spec him/her as a Frost Mage, Fire Mage, or Arcane Fire Mage?

Kate Milford: Good question, Buddy! While being a Frost Mage sounds wicked cool, I think I would feel obligated to spec him/her as an Arcane Fire Mage because the town in my book is called Arcane. On the other hand, being a Frost Mage would probably give me greater personal satisfaction, because Nathan hates the cold and I think I would feel very powerful if I could cast some awesome Frost Mage badassery at him to annoy him whenever I wanted.

(Nathan Milford, from across the room: Good luck. I would cast Ice Barrier at level eight and absorb only 3% of the damage, assuming Kate could really roll against my armor class and hit THAC0. She’d need a d30. *laughs maniacally*)

BC: What level Jewelcrafter are you? Can you transmute epic gems?

KM: I am a level two Jewelcrafter, master of crafting from antique shrimp forks and camera parts. No, I can’t transmute epic gems, but I can beat up any of those lame Jewelcrafters who make stuff out of yarn and elbow macaroni. Take that, kindergarteners.

BC: How many heroic dailies do you run?

KM: Okay, what the hell does that even mean?

(NM: I always live by my old dungeonmaster’s motto: We are armed to the teeth for your protection.

KM: How is that relevant?

NM: It’s relevant because it’s awesome.)

BC: Do you prefer to tank or be dps as a feral druid?

KM: Tank is a verb? Other than in the sense of, man, I tanked my history final? I prefer not to tank history finals. I prefer not to be involved in history finals. What’s my other option? Feral druid? I pick that one.

BC: How often do you hang out in Goldshire pwning n00bs?

KM: As often as possible. Nothing else gives me satisfaction like pwning n00bs, especially in Goldshire. It’s my favorite place to pwn them.

(NM: Psh. I pwn n0obs in Ravenloft. In the mists of Ravenloft. In the mists.)

BC: Whats your guild’s name?

KM: The Yankee Clock Peddlers. Because trust me, nothing is more intimidating or sinister than a Yankee Clock Peddler. Seriously. Look it up, n00b.

And there you have it! I will be available to answer further questions this Wednesday. In the meantime, I leave you with this, which I couldn’t help but be reminded of. Happy Memorial Day!

The Informed Voter Project Concludes: The Nebula Novel Finalists

Two days remain until this year’s Nebula Awards Banquet, and it’s time for the final installment of the Informed Voter Project covering the finalists in the novel category. I had read four of the six books before I decided to start this project; in fact, my enthusiasm for them is what made me decide this would be a fun series of posts to write, and the ones I hadn’t read yet turned out to be just as much fun as the ones I had. But I might be biased; places invariably turn out to be my favorite characters, and while I suppose you can’t write fantasy or science fiction without doing some worldbuilding, not all fantasy or sci-fi is rooted in place the way these books are. It makes for my favorite kind of reading.

Here we go.

The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sep09)

Sometime in a not-too-distant future of bio-engineering and bio-terrorism, Thailand is one of the last outposts of the world not entirely controlled by calorie companies. The calorie companies’ agents are there, though: men like Anderson Lake who pose as less-threatening things like factory owners while they look for ways to exploit the relative bounty still to be found in Thailand. There are also a few “New People” like Emiko, a creche-grown woman abandoned in Thailand by her Japanese owner and now employed as a sex worker. Like the gene-hacked cats known as Cheshires, New People are just another example of the rampant bio-engineering that also causes the constant blights that threaten the world’s food supply, and as such, they are reviled in Thailand. But Bacigalupi’s Thailand is on the cusp of change, like it or not. The premises that form the foundation of this novel–the calorie monopolies and their machinations, and the results of so much bio-engineering, both for basic foodstuff and for humanity, are absolutely terrifying. The uncertainty of Emiko, who knows she was created but cannot bring herself to accept what she was created for, cannot stop hoping that she will find a way to function as a real person, is both frustrating and heartbreaking. The way that this world warps honor and dignity are both sad and horrifying. And yet, there is hope, and maybe even rescue, in the strangest of places.

The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)

Set in present-day Japan and peopled with locals and expatriates, citydwellers and country folk, Barzak’s novel is structured like a collection of vignettes on the subject of love and unexpected connections. Each is told from the perspective of a different character or group of characters, but each is linked to the rest as, for instance, a briefly-mentioned character from one story becomes the narrator of the next, or the girl wearing the fox costume on the subway in one vignette turns out to be the childhood friend whose memory has never stopped haunting character we follow through another tale. A subtle magic realism infuses this imagining of Japan, folklore and myth blending with modern elements like love hotels, suicide clubs, and karaoke. It’s a difficult book to summarize without resorting to a list of critical scenes–the final moments of a suicide club, for instance; or last the desperate act of a girl who believes she is trapped in the shape of a human–but it tells a beautiful and heartbreaking tale of the selfishness, sacrifice, loneliness and strange moments of connection that make up what we think of as love.

Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)

The magic of this world is inspired by vinification, the making of wine. In the mythology of the Lands Vin, in times gone by the power to craft spellwines belonged to the prince-mages until the rampant abuses of power caused the man known as the Sin-Washer to break the vine from which spellwines were crafted, resulting in different vines and different grapes that, centuries later, can only be crafted into wines of power by Vinearts (who are forbidden to hold positions of power themselves). For long years the balance of power between the Vinearts and the princes has held, but now things are changing–just in time for the apprentice Vineart Jerzy to find himself an unwitting part of intrigues he barely understands. It’s a tremendously well-drawn world, and the idea of magic being crafted this way just works on so many levels–and I think that would be true even if I didn’t really love reading about wine. Jerzy is a strange and fascinating protagonist whose true character is still developing and (not to belabor the metaphor) but gaining complexity even at the end of the book, much like the conspiracies being set into motion in the world around him. The second installment of the series, Weight of Stone, comes out in October.

The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)

Two very different cities occupy the same space somewhere at the edge of Europe: Ul Qoma, shining and modern; and Beszel, dark and decaying. The story opens on a seemingly-routine murder case being investigated by detective Tyador Borlu that quickly turns out not to be routine at all. Revolutionaries, counter-revolutionaries, unificationists, and scholars piecing together evidence of a vast conspiracy complicate the matter at every turn, to say nothing of the fact that it’s no simple matter to cross from one city to the other when it starts to look like the evidence points from Beszel, where the murder appears to have taken place, to Ul Qoma.  The mystery of the murder is interesting, but it’s the fractured city that’s the whole point of this book, and the most fascinating thing about it: Beszel, Ul Qoma, and what’s known to exist between them–and maybe something else that’s existed there, too, more or less unknown and unremarked, all along.

Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)

Seattle, 1879. The Civil War is stretching on, and most of the city has been enclosed in a wall to hold in the disastrous effects of a blight gas loosed by the Boneshaker of the title. (Sixteen years ago, Leviticus Blue built and tested the Boneshaker, which was intended to expedite mining in the Klondike. Instead, it tore through the underpinnings of the city, releasing the Blight, which turns those who breathe it into flesh-eating undead “rotters.”) Ezekiel Wilkes, son of Leviticus Blue, is desperate to redeem the memory of his father, and finds a way into the enclosed city to search for something to prove Levi wasn’t the monster history has made of him. His mother, Briar, goes in after him when she discovers him missing. What follows are spectacular and deadly hijinks in a nightmarish landscape peopled not only with zombies but those who have, for one reason or another, chosen to make the deadly heart of Seattle their home. It’s a tremendous adventure, and although both Briar and Ezekiel are wonderful, it’s the scrappy survivor that is blighted Seattle that the author brings most vividly to life: a place that is at once hellish and awesome.

Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

The third installment of VanderMeer’s chronicles of the city of Ambergris (following City of Saints and Madmen and Shriek) opens on a city ravaged by war. The creatures known as gray caps control Ambergris now, with the questionable assistance of “partials,” former humans who have chosen an existence midway between man and fungus. Detective John Finch is a human and former revolutionary keeping his past carefully hidden. When he’s called upon by his gray cap boss to investigate a double murder, Finch finds himself at the center of the city’s final descent into anarchy. It’s noir, horror, and spy thriller all wrapped up into one–and, while the book can be read and enjoyed on its own (according to my husband, who wasn’t particularly into the first two Ambergris books), speaking as someone who was into those first two, I think Finch makes a terribly satisfying third chapter–although also a terribly sad one, if you happen to be a fan of the city you will watch being brought to its knees.

I feel like I should write some kind of serious wrap-up here, but it’s after 2 a.m. and I gotta go to work in the morning, so without further ceremony, I declare the Informed Voter Project complete! This Saturday, 5/15, the winners will be announced beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, and this year the awards ceremony will be streamed live (you can watch it here). Thanks for reading, and massive amounts of congratulations to all the finalists. Good luck! I’ll be rooting for you.

The Informed Voter Project, Part the Third: The Nebula Award Novella Finalists

Well, here we are in the third installment of the Informed Voter Project. Today I’ll be looking at the Novella finalists!

In the first post on short stories I wrote that for me, each one was a tale about identity. The novelettes, I felt, sustained my little thesis. The novellas didn’t play along quite as nicely, though. This week, the Identity Thesis suffers a bit of a setback—but who cares, when the reading’s so good?

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker

The women in question constitute an elite group of information gatherers for the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society—they are whores only incidentally. When four European power brokers are invited to the house of Lord Basmond, a noble offering a levitating technology at auction, Lady Beatrice and three of her cohorts are dispatched as the entertainment for the house party. Then Lord Basmond is murdered the night before the bidding begins, and the girls suddenly have not just a world-altering technology to secure for the Society, but a murder to solve.

If there’s an identity piece here, it’s Lady Beatrice’s discovery that, once ruined and abandoned by her family, she can still be of use; this time, in service to her country—but that’s a bit of a stretch. This story is an adventure with very, very cool detailing: the chain of events that brings Lady Beatrice to Nell Gwynne’s, for instance, and Mr. Felmouth, the Society’s “Q,” who invents marvelous gadgets. And there’s a pretty seriously cool twist at the end—this story turns out to be not exactly the story you think it is. I love when that happens.

“Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman

On the water-covered planet of Ben, the great work of creating a livable environment relies on people like Osaji, crewmembers on spherical arks that make rounds of the underwater world. It’s an ongoing project, the work of generations, and it depends on the selflessness of the Bennite people and their willingness to sacrifice their personal comfort. It’s a society stifled by politeness and vaguely passive-aggressive manipulation. This is how Osaji wound up traveling with her grandmother, Mota—she’s never been able to say no. When her new ark is cut loose in an underground eruption, Osaji and Mota wind up alone in the vessel with a loudmouthed outworlder named Jack.

Now we’re back in—not to be cute—more comfortable waters as far as the Identity Thesis is concerned. Osaji’s life is defined by her willingness and ability to sacrifice her personal wishes to someone or something else. The Bennites’ language alone is worth the price of admission. When Osaji goes to inquire about leaving Ben, the Immigration agent shuts her down without a single impolite question. Osaji’s own brother-in-law can’t address her directly, because it’s impolite. While inquiring about joining a new ark, Osaji can’t even claim she’s good at her particular specialty because it would sound like boasting. And when she asks Mota if she’d prefer to go on another round, Mota will not—cannot—make a choice. In order to transform the world, the Bennites have transformed themselves, trading away all their individuality for the sake of the Great Work.

“Act One,” Nancy Kress

In Hollywood of the near future, Jane Snow is doing research for her next film. Barry, her agent, accompanies her to an interview with a Group that specializes in gene modification; specifically, they engineer children with Arlen’s Syndrome. Arlen’s children are sensitive, able to read verbal and nonverbal cues so well they almost seem to read minds. What ensues, of course, is a wonderful meditation on morality and what it means to be normal in a world that’s capable of significant genetic modification.

There are a lot of great things about this story. Barry, a dwarf, was unable to imagine having an “average” child, so he convinced his wife to agree to modify the fetus to ensure that it would be born a dwarf, too—by the time the story opens, his family has been torn apart and his son, Ethan, is a complete stranger to him. The Group, it turns out, isn’t just turning out Arlen’s kids; it’s also turning out a very easily transmitted compound that changes behavior. And the entire story takes place under the scrutiny of the media as the script for Jane’s film is being finished, a film that will make a major statement about Arlen’s kids by bringing them to the screen for the first time.  And the ending–oh, it’s just phenomenal.

Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow

In the Hollywood of the past, an actor famous for portraying movie monsters is drafted by the U.S. military to play the role of a lifetime. The U.S. is still rushing to get the Bomb, but they’ve beaten Hitler and the Japanese in the race to get the Lizard. Certain parties in the military want to unleash firebreathing behemoths on the Japanese, but cooler heads want to stage a smaller-scale demonstration first in the hopes that if the Japanese delegation sees a model of Shirazuka being leveled by a giant lizard, they’ll convince their leaders to surrender. The problem: the dwarf behemoths are annoyingly docile. The solution: horror legend Syms J. Thorley and a Personal Reptile Rig. Operation Fortune Cookie: nothing can possibly go wrong.

So much great stuff here. The story’s narrated by Thorley, holed up in a Baltimore hotel room (after a horror conference in which he’s been awarded a Raydo lifetime achievement award) as he drinks Amontillado, writes his memoir on yellow notepads, and debates whether, when he’s finished, he’ll take a shuttle to the airport or jump out the window to his death. His tale is studded with stars real and imagined, from James Whale who has been drafted to direct Thorley in his PRR in What Rough Beast (the script written for Operation Fortune Cookie) to Sigfried K. Dagover, Thorley’s nemesis both onscreen and off. Clever repartee abounds, along with Hollywood twists and betrayals, unimaginably high stakes and ample doses of nostalgia. I loved it.

“Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford

On the frozen planet of Eur, a small core of humans struggles to eke out a living underground. Their mission is to survive in the unforgiving planet while trying to make contact with the Aurals–alien beings like balls of colored light so powerful they were able to shift Eur out of its orbit to pick up the humans who now live there: the moms, who occupy the highest level of the social hierarchy; the middle kids and the low kids, and two A.I.s who had to subject themselves to life as humans in order to lead the group–the Big Moms. Chicka and his twin brother Omare, like all kids of the moms, are taken onto the frozen surface to see if any of them catch the attention of the Aurals. Omare is chosen, which is when things begin to fall apart.

I think I read this one the same day I read “Arkfall,” and the two novellas had a lot in common: small communities working to make livable an unforgiving, unfriendly environment; citizens bound by a society that evolved in order to keep the great work going. In “Sublimation Angels,” though, there are ominous forces at work, and at odds with each other: Big Mom, the AI-made-human who, along with her enforcers, keeps the hierarchy of the people of Eur in place; and the Aurals, whose motives for allowing humans onto their homeworld, especially with such rudimentary technology, are completely unknown. The puzzles of why are almost as fascinating as the details of the world and its society, and I think I would feel that way even if they didn’t play so neatly into the Thesis.

The God Engines, John Scalzi

Captive gods bound by iron circles power the ships of the Faithful: the gods debased by the one who in some ancient time was victorious over the rest. What isn’t powered by the God Engines is powered by faith–up to and including, possibly, the iron that binds them and keeps them from escaping to wreak bloody vengeance on the ships they’re forced to move across the galaxy. Captain Ean Tephe of the Righteous has been sent to convert a planet that may hold the last known people who have not yet been converted. Faith, like iron, has levels of power, and these unconverted carry the most potent faith of all. The Lord needs them in order to combat a new and powerful threat that must be subdued—a new god calling some of the weakened and defiled ones to it, and attacking the Lord’s dominion.

Here are some things I loved about this story, in no particular order. The significance of iron: capability (and, arguably, identity) are handed down from the Lord in the form of iron Talents worn by the faithful, and there are three types of iron used to control defiled gods: third made iron binds, second made iron wounds, single made iron kills. The Age of Sail conventions that survive on the god-powered starships. The questions it raises about faith, belief, duty, and calling. The absolutely deliciously dreadful ending.

So this wasn’t as much of an identity-themed week, although certainly these novellas didn’t precisely kill the Thesis. The way in which faith powers the universe of The God Engines, for instance, the social conditioning of Eur and Ben, debates on the subjects of morality and normalcy of “Act One,” and even the way in which Syms J. Thorley tries to save humanity by becoming Gorgantis the fire-breathing lizard and the ruined Lady Beatrice turns whoring into the ultimate act of patriotism. This was, however, the week of the Flippin’ Sweet Endings. Ambiguous endings, devastating endings, unforeseeable endings, horrifying endings. Just great endings.

And now, it’s 7:30 pm on March 28th (although we’re having internet problems tonight, so I’ll probably post this tomorrow morning). I have two subway rides, one lunch break, and one day off before I have to be finished my reading, and here’s what I have left (pausing to count): five full-length novels and Avatar.

Full disclosure: I’m probably not going to make it to see Avatar, because I feel really strongly about finishing my reading. I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I’m not going to post on the novels until afterward. So this is where I leave you for now. But the Informed Nebula Voter Project will return! Here’s what you have to look forward to:

Nominees for the Nebula award in the Novel Category:

  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade Books, Sep09)
  • The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
  • Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
  • The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
  • Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

Nominees for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy:

  • Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
  • Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
  • Ash, Malinda Lo (Little, Brown and Company, Sep09)
  • Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
  • Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
  • When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
  • Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

Thanks for reading!

Adventures in the SFWA: My Efforts to be an Informed Nebula Voter

It’s Awards Season! Yes, I’ll be watching the Oscars this weekend, but I’m not really talking about that. March is voting month for members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). In May, the organization will present Nebula Awards to one exceptional short story, novelette, novella, and novel; the Bradbury Award to one film, and the Andre Norton Award to a young adult novel.

Last November, on the suggestion of a couple very nice gentlemen I met after a reading by Jeff VanderMeer, Geoff Manaugh, and Jeffrey Ford at Columbus Circle, I joined the SFWA and attended its  NYC reception.  There, I had the good fortune to spend a couple hours of my time there chatting with Sarah Beth Durst, so when the Nebula Finalists were announced last week, I was ecstatic to see Sarah’s Ice among those vying for the Andre Norton Award. Then I did another happy jig when I saw Malinda Lo’s Ash (Malinda’s a fellow poster on the Enchanted Inkpot), Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan (which I adored) and John Scalzi’s Zoe’s Tale (which has one of the best teen voices ever). Rounding out the list are the recent Newbery winner When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Kage Baker’s Hotel Under the Sand, Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, which I think was only published online. I haven’t read any of those. Yet.

There were actually a lot of books among those up for awards that I had read last year and enjoyed, some of which I truly loved: Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch, China Mieville’s The City and The City, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, and of course, Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. I’ve seen all the Bradbury nominees, save two. I’d read none of the short works on the ballot, though, and it occurred to me yesterday that, unlike, oh, any other literary awards being given this year that I’m aware of, I actually get to cast votes for the Nebula Awards. And I believe in being an informed voter. So here goes.

I’m going to get moving and read all the works on the ballot. I’m going to make sure I’ve seen all the movies, which means I’m finally going to see Moon, which I’ve wanted to see and somehow never got around to (Hooray! Of course it also means I’m going to see Avatar, which–don’t kill me–I haven’t felt any great desire to see). Because I’m going to be an Informed Voter. And I’m going to share the journey with you lot, if you’ll come along. I’m particularly looking forward to telling you about the shorter works, because if you’re anything like me, you just might not have them on your radar. I love short stories, but I’ll be the first to admit I don’t read them as often or as widely as I’d like, given the breadth and quality of what’s out there. And I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a novella and a novelette (but don’t worry, I’ll find out, and then we can all rest easy). I may not manage to post about every category before the end of March, but I’m going to do my best.

Before I sign off, though, I want to add (and I can’t say this loudly enough, so I will–pardon me–format the hell out of it) IF YOU ARE ELIGIBLE TO JOIN THE SFWA, YOU SHOULD. If I started into why, this would turn into an even longer post than it’s shaping up to be, so I encourage you to read more here. In brief, it’s an organization that works for you, the writer, through advocacy, communication, information, mentoring, even legal assistance and benevolent funds. To find out if you’re eligible, read here.

So, the Informed Voter Project starts today! Coming up next: the Nominees for a Nebula Award in the Short Story Category:

  • “Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” by Saladin Ahmed
  • “I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein
  • “Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin
  • “Spar,” Kij Johnson
  • “Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly
  • “Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh

Stay tuned!

Subway Literature: Cherie Priest’s BONESHAKER

Not long ago I was in Orlando at a company conference when I got a phone call from a very nice gentleman at McNally Jackson, one of my favorite bookstores. My copy of Boneshaker had arrived and was waiting for me when I got back to NYC. Hooray!

No, not my forthcoming first novel, in which a young girl battles the demonic forces of a traveling medicine show with the help of, among other things, an antique bicycle. I’m talking about Cherie Priest’s novel of the same name, which broke my heart when I first heard about it, despite the fact that the second I read the description I was immediately dying to read it. (Here’s Cory Doctorow’s review on BoingBoing: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/09/29/boneshaker-cherie-pr.html.) Well, last weekend, I finished reading it. This much I’ve already said on Twitter and Facebook: if I gotta share a title, this is the book I want to share with.

I’m a newbie novelist. Of course I hated the idea that my baby, my firstborn, after a long and painful title change process, had to share. I first learned about Ms. Priest’s book when I wrote a post about the agony of finding the perfect title (it’s here, for anybody who’s interested: http://community.livejournal.com/enchantedinkpot/21833.html). The first comment was a concerned poster wanting to be sure I was aware that the new, perfect title I’d changed mine to was a duplicate. I was, needless to say, not aware. But it turned out my publisher was, and Clarion had decided that, for a number of reasons, the duplication was a non-issue. My book’s for ages 10 and up; Ms. Priest’s is for adults. Her boneshaker’s a drill, mine’s a bicycle. Mine’s coming out six months later, and in a different format. No biggie, basically. Which makes me happy, because, as I said, I just finished reading BONESHAKER, and it’s so very good. If you like zombies, airships, Seattle, or maniacal inventors, you should really go pick this book up right now. Love steampunk? Love horror? This book is for you.

In Cherie Priest’s imagined Seattle, it’s 1879 and the Civil War is stretching on, and most of the city has been enclosed in a wall to hold in the disastrous effects of a blight gas loosed by the Boneshaker of the title. (Sixteen years ago, Leviticus Blue built and tested the Boneshaker, which was intended to expedite mining in the Klondike. Instead, it tore through the underpinnings of the city, releasing the Blight, which turns those who breathe it into flesh-eating undead “rotters.”) Ezekiel Wilkes, son of Leviticus Blue, is desperate to redeem the memory of his father, and finds a way into the enclosed city to search for something to prove Levi wasn’t the monster history has made of him. His mother, Briar, goes in after him when she discovers him missing. What follows are spectacular and deadly hijinks in a nightmarish landscape peopled not only with zombies but those who have, for one reason or another, chosen to make the deadly heart of Seattle their home. It’s a tremendous adventure (it’s going to make an insane film for somebody—I’m looking at you, Terry Gilliam; get cracking) but what I love best about it is the city Ms. Priest has built on the historically mutated bones of her hometown. Cities are and always will be my favorite characters, and although both Briar and Ezekiel are wonderful, it’s the scrappy survivor that is blighted Seattle that the author brings most vividly to life: a place that is at once hellish and awesome. This city is the perfect embodiment of Freud’s uncanny: homely and unknowable all at the same time.

So anyway, I recommend it. Highly. Go get it, why don’t you? And since you might have to order it, why not go ahead and order both Boneshakers? Just make sure you have Amazon or whoever send them separately. My book you’ve got to wait until May for, but Cherie Priest’s zombie phantasmagoria is out now. It’ll at least get you through October. Then you’ll only have four months to wait for mine.