Signal-boosting: House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

From the Beloved Country

Today was the cover reveal day for the US edition of Aliette de Bodard’s upcoming novel, House of Shattered Wings. I remember Aliette talking about this novel before it was the novel and I remember thinking–that is the novel you have to write. It’s wonderfully written, evocative and deep and the concept is mindblowing and original. As Aliette writes on her blog: A book about devastated Paris, fallen angels and the ruins of a once great House.

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From Aliette’s Blog:

“In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain…

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A Process Conversation with Kai Ashante Wilson

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I remember reading Kai Ashante Wilson’s work for the very first time and feeling like I’d been struck by lightning. There is a breadth and a depth to his work, an underlying passion which is enhanced by mastery of narrative, language and form.

The Devil in America, which was published on Tor.com in April of this year, is a masterpiece of writing. I will admit to putting forward this story for a Nebula and I certainly hope that it will get well-deserved recognition.

Kai’s previous works, Legendaire (published in Bloodchildren, an anthology of stories by Octavia Butler scholars) and Super Bass, reveal a writer who does not shirk from complex themes.

Publishing this interview and bringing attention to the work of this important writer is a joy and a privilege. I hope you enjoy this process interview with Kai Ashante Wilson.

Kai Ashante Wilson

 

I’d like to start by asking you about The Devil in America which was published on Tor.com on the 4th of April. Would you like to talk about what it was that inspired you to write this story? 

Ten thousands things have to spark all at the same time, and cohere into a good hot flame, before a story results for me. I can still count the stories I’ve begun and finished on one hand. But I suppose I might date the precipitating spark of “The Devil in America” to an interview I caught with Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother. The love of parent for child has been an immense preoccupation of mine for a long time, and in the most receptive state of mind imaginable, I sat listening to that television interview: My son was walking back from the convenience store… Continue reading

Some places you might want to have a look at

This book blog which started out as a fun project is slowly evolving into something else. I thought it might be an idea to post links to publications and publishers who are doing good work but who don’t often get mentioned in conversations on diversity. This is yet again another self-interest move. Because I do want to keep up with publications outside of the central eye and this is like a reminder to myself to keep checking out these houses. 

One of my memorable reads was Breaking the Bow edited by Anil Menon and Vandana Singh. There’s an interview with the editors on this blog and you can read it here.

I remember talking about the Kuzhali Manickavel story on twitter and getting an answer back from the house that publishes her work. Blaft Publications is based in Chennai, India and they publish quite a variety of work. There’s an exciting vibe about this publishing house that reminds me of how much fun genre is. It’s a site worth checking out and don’t those books just look intriguing?  

Joyce Chng pointed me to Buku Fixi which is a publishing house in Malaysia. The site itself is in Malaysian but this is the house that published two collections I want to read this year. Zen Cho’s Spirits Abroad and Ee Leen Lee’s 13 Moons.

Google pointed me to this interview with Buku Fixi’s founder, Amir Muhammad. It gives the reader some insight into Buku Fixi as well as the work of translation.

It would be remiss of me not to mention Visprint. Visprint is a publishing house in the Philippines which has been steadily growing a list of Filipino writers. When I was back home, most of the titles they published were in the local language, but they’ve branched out and have been producing collections, anthologies and comic books. 

Visprint has published and distributed the work of writers like Paolo Chikiamco, Eliza Victoria and Dean Alfar (to name a few) and the work they publish is definitely worth checking out. 

I’ll be writing more about other places worth checking out and definitely am up for recommendations. Let me know which houses you think are doing work that we don’t often hear about. I’d be happy to add them to the list of links that I am collating. 

Interview with Barbara Jane Reyes

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I remember reading Barbara Jane Reyes’s Poeta en San Francisco years ago and being struck by how under the skin real her use of language was. Poeta en San Francisco won the James Laughlin award of the Academy of American Poets.

Born in Manila, Philippines and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area Reyes’s work is suffused with a consciousness of the worlds and cultures that she lives in.  Diwata, which is her third poetry book, is a hybrid work. It’s a very interstitial work and in my opinion this book transcends genre as it plays in the worlds of myth, magic and the real. As in Poeta, Reyes’s use of language evokes a body response. That keen and critical eye, a strong social consciousness and the wisdom of knowing are also present here.

At present, Barbara Jane Reyes is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program where she teaches Filipino/a Literature in Diaspora, and Filipina Lives and Voices in Literature. She has also taught Filipino American Literature at San Francisco State University, and graduate poetry workshop at Mills College, and currently serves on the board of Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA).

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Considering your work as a poet, as a writer, as an academic what have been some of the major challenges/obstacles that you’ve encountered and how have you dealt with/overcome them?

I don’t consider myself an “academic,” though I am an educator. I am an adjunct professor between three different institutions, and I have a full time job outside of education, literature, and the arts. So that would be the first and major challenge – finding the balance, and the ability to multi-task. Keeping the house clean is a challenge, given my long work days. But I persevere, and my husband is my greatest supporter.

As a poet and writer, major challenges for me have come from various sectors of the Filipino American community. I have been told that the content of my poetry is painful and upsetting; I have also been told that it is also angry, aggressive, and abundant in ugliness and profanity. People want to distance themselves from what is painful and upsetting, and what is considered socially problematic. Continue reading

A Process Conversation with Anil Menon and Vandana Singh

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When I was at Clarion West, I listened in on a conversation about a Clarion West graduate, Anil Menon, who was conducting a writer’s workshop in India together with the writer, Vandana Singh. Late 2012, I received an email from Nisi Shawl asking if I’d be willing to review a book for Cascadia Subduction Zone. The book is an anthology of short stories edited by Anil Menon and Vandana Singh. It was titled Breaking the Bow. A fair number of stories in this anthology come from writers of Indian ancestry. It also includes a story written by a Kanpur workshop graduate–“The Chance” by Pervin Saket.

While not without its flaws, I found myself to be quite enchanted by this collection of stories that centered on the Ramayana. Late 2013, I asked Anil and Vandana if they would be willing to do a process conversation with me about the work involved in putting together Breaking the Bow, the workshop in India, and their experience as writers in a field that’s continues to be very much Western-centric.

What was the inspiration behind Breaking the Bow and what process did you go through in picking the stories for this collection? And what were the things that you took into consideration when picking the stories?

vsinghVandana: Well, I grew up with the great Indian epics – the Ramayana in particular has always been part of the air I breathe. Anil and I, and Suchitra Mathur, an academic in India, conducted an SF writing workshop during which one of the participants, Pervin Saket, came up with a science fiction story about Sita, the consort of Ram in the Ramayana. That suggested exciting possibilities to both Anil and me. In particular, there are many historical versions of the Ramayana, and it seemed to me that coming up with an anthology of Ramayana-inspired stories could be both a part of the tradition of multiple Ramayanas and an extension of it into new territory.

Anil selected the first crop from the initial submissions so he is best able to answer specifics about selection criteria, but we both had a similar vision, I think. We didn’t have any kind of thematic constraints as long as there was some relation to the Ramayana, but we wanted stories that engaged the original framework imaginatively, with boldness, vision, and/or playfulness — so for instance many of the stories examine issues gender, or race, or class. We divided the final stories between us and went through each in detail, with suggested edits as needed. We also commissioned a few stories from well-known authors.

Anil: It was an iterative process. We got about a hundred submissions for our open call and after setting aside the easy rejects, we spent a few months going back and forth on the rest. We’d also sent out invites to established writers; their stories were treated separately. The overall plan was to represent as many interesting new voices as we could. We also wanted an international collection of stories. I think we succeeded on both those counts. Continue reading

linkage and such

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A few weeks ago, we published an Interview with Kaaron Warren. Since then, we’ve received news that the audio book for Walking the Tree has come out. It’s available through this link. If you like listening to your books, you’ll be happy to know that Slights and Mystification as available as audio books as well.

Two of the new writers we’ve interviewed on this blog have been shortlisted for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Congratulations to Benjanun Sriduangkaew (interview here) and to Wesley Chu (interview here). It would be great if we can interview more, but we’ll see what time and energy allow for.

Aliette de Bodard (interview here) has won a Nebula for her novelette The Waiting Stars which appears in The Other Half of the Sky (edited by Athena Andreadis and Kay T. Holt). We’re so thrilled and excited for Aliette.

I’m slowly reading through Long Hidden (edited by Rose Fox and Daniel Jose Older). It’s an interesting anthology and worth taking a look at. If you haven’t read/purchased a copy yet, there are links to where you can get a copy from here.

Interested in reading more fiction from Finland? Perhaps you’d be interested in taking a look at Finnish Weird. It’s available online as a pdf and epub download. (found via the excellent Karin Tidbeck).

Interview with Wesley Chu

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When out-of-shape IT technician Roen Tan woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans.  – excerpted blurb from Angry Robot website –

Wesley Chu’s The Lives of Tao (available through Angry Robot, as well as other outlets) was one of the 2013 reads that I enjoyed a lot. Chu’s writing is energetic and the storytelling is very well-paced. There’s something to be said too about how Chu keeps the tone of the novel lively and fresh. It never drags and one can’t help rooting for both Tao and Roen. I bought my copy of The Lives of Tao because I was intrigued by the premise and I came away quite happily surprised. It’s a very well-written first novel and it comes as no surprise to see Wesley Chu shortlisted for the 2014 John W. Campbell Award for best new writer.

With apologies for the delayed publication, I present this interview with Wesley Chu.

Wesley Chu headshot

I found the premise behind Lives of Tao to be quite intriguing (which is why I bought the book). Would you like to share a little bit of the inspiration behind it? What was the seed for this novel and what process did it take for that seed to grow into the book it is today? 

I originally started writing The Lives of Tao to explore explaining history from the viewpoint of the man behind the curtains. What if the events that unfolded in our past happened for reasons other than what we thought they were? There are so many events that happened that didn’t make a lot of sense and I wanted to use these events to tell a new story. Continue reading

An Interview with Kaaron Warren

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One of last year’s memorable reads was Kaaron Warren’s Walking the Tree. Perhaps because it is a much different book from Slights, but it seems to me that there wasn’t as much buzz around this book. What I like most about Kaaron’s work is how versatile it is. Kaaron’s short fiction collection, Through Splintered Walls gives us a taste of how visceral and discomforting (in a good way) her work is, but her full-on collection entitled Dead Sea Fruit (Ticonderoga Publications) gives the reader a broader view of the range and the reach of Kaaron’s voice. If you’re a lover of short dark fiction, I would definitely recommend either of these collections.

But back to Walking the Tree–which is, I admit, a strong contender for my favorite among Kaaron Warren’s works. Before the blog went on it’s hiatus, I contacted Kaaron and asked her for an interview where we talked about Walking the Tree, the process she went through in writing it and things in the works. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

 

Walking the Tree is a much different novel from Slights. I really liked this difference and I loved the world of the Tree as well as your beautifully drawn characters. Would you like to share a bit about the inspiration for the world of the Tree?

The original idea came from a number of different sources. Most directly, I was watching a documentary about ancient objects and was struck with the thought that these things sit there, well beyond human understanding, interpretation and memory. That they exist long after their original meaning is lost. In the end, there is a disconnect between the object and its origin.
I thought that stories are this way as well; they are told and re-told, changed, adapted, edited and censored.
The image of the island came to me fully formed, with the giant, ancient Tree at its centre and people clustered in groups around it. I saw a woman walking the tree, although at that stage I didn’t know why. Continue reading

Stories on my mind

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Starting a new habit of reading stories and blogging quick thoughts on the stuff I’ve read.

I went and reread Karin Tidbeck’s A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain–taking the time to carefully consider it as the first time I read it, I didn’t really have much time to relish Karin’s prose. I remember reading Jagganath the first time and being utterly captivated by how this writer managed to write something that was at once serious and playful at the same time. Karin Tidbeck doesn’t rely on crutches to tell her story. Her prose is clean and crisp and her stories are intelligent stories. Weird, strange, but also very human. Do check her out. Her website is here.

Fellow Butler scholar, Kai Ashante Wilson has got a new novelette up at tor.com. According to the intro, The Devil in America is based on true events. There are writers and there are writers and Kai is one of those whose work just grabs you by the collar and makes you pay attention. If you have time, do drop by and read.

I don’t have much time to sit down and read, but I’m glad I got to read Gareth L. Powell’s This is How You Die in the new Interzone issue. I’ve read quite a bit of Gareth’s work and I think This is How You Die is one of the best things I’ve read from this writer.

The only other story I got to read from Interzone 251 was Tracie Welser’s A Doll is Not a Dumpling in which a pair of AI try to convert a robot (I’m bad at summaries and I don’t have the issue in front of me). The characters are likeable and Welser is good at evoking atmosphere. I did wish for a different end, but that’s me. I do like Interzone a lot. It’s the one print mag that I subscribe to.

When I have more time, I’ll sit down and read through the new issue of Clarkesworld. There’s a new Sriduangkaew story in it and the cover looks amazing.