Our Tragic Universe(ity?), Karin Tidbeck, Decadent Lit, Last Drink, Goodbye Again

(The extremely talented Karin Tidbeck, late of Clarion San Diego, safely re-ensconced in Sweden, signing her first collection, just debuted! She signed a copy for Peter F. Hamilton, among others. Me want book even though me no can read!)

I reviewed Scarlet Thomas’s Our Tragic Universe (not “University” as in the headline) for the Washington Post. I like digressions and meandering in my novels, but even for me, this book was self-indulgent, baggy, unbelievable, lectury, annoying, AND DID NOT PROPERLY DEPLOY THE MONSTER!, well-written, witty, at times, yes, even charming…but ultimately a big ole pile of almost-cool. Rarely have I, page by page, found myself hoping so much for some kind of recovery, because on a line-by-line level there’s much to like. I really now want to seek out her other work, and even though I also agree with this NYT book review, seek out Adam Roberts’ Strange Horizons’ review for a more positive opinion (even though I think he’s temporarily gone bonkers). I have a feeling the author will want to flense me alive after reading the review, but I really really do hope others like this book more than I did.

Where has the decadent novel gone? What the bleeping bleep-bleep?!?! Yeah, well, the respectable Decadents got reclassified as Symbolists–or that’s how the joke goes. But this was not perceived as particularly upstanding stuff at the time, so why’s he going lookin’ for it in the hoity-toity places? How about giving K.J. Bishop a bit of your time? Or some of M. John Harrison? Rikki Ducornet? Some of my stuff (although, you know, I can’t even take the Decadents seriously, because there’s something wrong in mah head–I am an absurdist.) A ton of others, but you might find them in, ahem, New Weird (if that term makes you allergic, consider calling it Motile Weird). In fact, if you’d looked a little closer, you might’ve found The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich, just published.

Amazon has given Shared Worlds a substantial grant–more next week!

Also, I had the date for Capclave and the Last Drink Bird Head awards wrong–it’s October 23, not October 16, now corrected here.

Borne borne borne.


Weird Tales One-Minute Video: Rochita Loenen-Ruiz’s “Catching an Angel”

I really like Rochita Loenen-Ruiz‘s fiction, and Weird Tales has just posted a new one-minute video micro-fiction of hers (video by Gregory Bossert). So I’m heading off to no-internet land this afternoon but thought I should post this one before I go.

The new Weird Tales issue will be out soon, Ann tells me, and you can find a lot more cool stuff on their website.

Ecstatic Days, Gone For a Week: What’s Your Most Surprising Read?

(Two of the texts we read in acquiring stories for our The Weird antho–now coming out in 2011. Yes, that’s right–Jazz and Palm Wine is an antho of fiction from African nation writers, mostly non-genre, that has a spaceship on the cover! The Japanese antho is an awesome collection from the University of Hawaii Press–their books are highly recommended.)

I need a week off of the internet. Writing fiction is deeply immersive, and the computer and smart phone are fragmenting me too much. So, I’m out of reach of modern tech for a week (if you need urgently to reach me, do so through Ann or the contact form on this site).

Some great stuff is happening that I’ll talk about more when I get back, like Shared Worlds getting an Amazon grant. I’m also really happy about things like the second Apex Book of World SF and discovering this Muslim Steampunk site. Growing up on tales of the exploits of Saladin against the crusaders—which naturally dovetailed while living in Fiji with a disdain for the missionary impulse and our family’s own rebellion against fundamentalist forebears—I got a sudden surge of excitement at the idea of writers using such a rich heritage as a way to come at Steampunk from a radically different direction. It also brought back great memories of reading John Julius Norwich’s books on Byzantium, which do a great job of placing the crusades in the context of Saladin, the effect on the Byzantines, etc.

Mixed in with all of this, too, has been a feeling of being blessed to be writing at a time when there are so many new writers, international/multicultural, engaging with and working in non-realistic modes of fiction. This is all very welcome new energy and new emphasis—-and it, along with what seems like a nascent resurgence of interest in non-traditional narratives from a variety of sources, is a source of rejuvenation for me after a very tough 18 months of deadlines and hard slogs on various projects.

So, now I’m gone for a week…In the meantime, I’d like to know about your most surprising read. Which is to say, in a good way. What book just amazed you and you just weren’t expecting it. As with my prior post, somebody’ll have a box of books shipped to them. (And that person from the last one is: Laura Clemmons.)

The Apex Book of World SF–Volume 2 TOC!

As reposted on SF Signal, here’s the TOC for the second Apex Book of World SF! I’m really psyched to read this one. I’ve read only about 10 of the writers listed.

You’ll also note that “A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” by Jacques Barcia (Brazil) is a story that was slated for Steampunk Reloaded, but the final translation didn’t make the deadline. So it’ll be featured on the Steampunk Reloaded page (Tachyon website) in November, and we’ll be sure to use its appearance there to give some love to the Apex anthology.

•”Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life” by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines)
•”Mr. Goop” by Ivor W. Hartmann (Zimbabwe)
•”Trees of Bone” by Daliso Chaponda (Malawi)
•”The First Peruvian in Space” by Daniel Salvo (Peru)
•”Eyes in the Vastness of Forever” by Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina)
•”The Tomb” by Chen Qiufan (China)
•”The Sound of Breaking Glass” by Joyce Chng (Singapore)
•”A Single Year” by Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary)
•”The Secret Origin of Spin-man” by Andrew Drilon (Philippines)
•”Borrowed Time (trans. Daniel W. Koon)” by Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro (Cuba)
•”Branded” by Lauren Beukes (South Africa)
•”December 8″ by Raúl Flores Iriarte (Cuba)
•”Hungry Man” by Will Elliott (Australia)
•”Nira and I” by Shweta Narayan (India)
•”Nothing Happened in 1999″ by Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)
•”Shadow” by Tade Thompson (Nigeria)
•”Shibuya no Love” by Hannu Rajaniemi (Finland)
•”Maquech” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico)
•”The Glory of the World” by Sergey Gerasimov (Ukraine)
•”The New Neighbours” by Tim Jones (New Zealand)
•”From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7″ by Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/US)
•”The Slows” by Gail Har’even (Israel)
•”Zombie Lenin” by Ekaterina Sedia (Russia)
•”Electric Sonalika” by Samit Basu (India)
•”The Malady (trans. Wiesiek Powaga)” by Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)
•”A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades” by Jacques Barcia (Brazil)

Booklife UK!


That’s right–Booklife, the UK edition, has arrived at Club VanderMeer. It’s a sharp-looking version, although I do love me that original Coulthart design. I do believe the green thing with one eye is Grod (those in the know, know).

Anyway, I’d be curious about any sightings in the wild from those of you who live in the UK. I’ve heard that as a special promotion the first printing was fitted with electro-wheels and are in constant motion where they were set free in the wildest areas of Scotland…which did seem, I must admit, an odd way to build a readership…

There also hints of foreign language editions, with a new introduction to emphasize the strategies that will be serve writers living far from those crumbling centers of power in the UK and US…

Angry Robot Conquers North America, Then Gives Out Hugs and Chocolate

Check out my feature on Angry Robot finally conquering North America. Angry Robot’s angry—angry because some people walk around without books. Make Angry Robot less angry.

Also, check out the amazing K.W. Jeter reprint covers for Angry Robot’s forthcoming editions of Morlock Night and Infernal Devices, created by John Coulthart. Click on the covers in the feature for a large version. This is an exclusive first look at these covers.

What Is Steampunk? WhatIsSteampunk? Whatissteampunk? Whassupsteampunk?

If you want a larf, check out the Google search for “What Is Steampunk?” in that you’ll find blog after blog after website addressing the subject, mostly to zee point of repetition or confusion. What is steampunk may eventually become WIS or WIST? as a twitterization. (I dunno, mebbe Google it. Just a thought.)

In other news, I’m reading at the Warehouse here in Tallahassee tonight at 8pm. I’ve decided to tell an anecdote about Finch and read from “The Situation” (in Third Bear) to mix it up a bit. All about the autobiographical impulse in non-realistic fiction. Oh, yeah, and about professional cockroaches.

Cheers. Whatissteampunk? Whatissteampunk? Whatsteampunk?Whatpunk? Whapunk? Whpunk? Wpunk? Wunk?

Last Drink Bird Head Award Finalists (2009-2010)

We’re pleased to announce the finalists for the second annual Last Drink Bird Head Awards, as chosen by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. The purpose of the awards is to celebrate those in the genre community who enrich us with their time, energy, and words, for causes greater than themselves. Finalists for this year’s award were chosen for efforts in 2009 and/or 2010. Thanks for recommendations from last year’s winners.

The winner of the Neil Clark Special Achievement Award, as announced below, is L. Timmel Duchamp. Please join us in congratulating her for her efforts.

The winners will be announced at Capclave in Washington D.C. on the evening of Saturday, October 23, in conjunction with the WSFA Small Press Award ceremony. Winners will receive a bird head figurine, a certificate, and chocolate.

The awards are named after the anthology Last Drink Bird Head from Ministry of Whimsy Press (an imprint of Wyrm Publishing). The proceeds from the anthology benefit the ProLiteracy charity. Contributors include Peter Straub, Ellen Kushner, Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, and over 60 others. To buy the Kindle edition, click here. To buy the limited hardcover and support literacy, visit the order page.


Gentle Advocacy
In recognition of individuals willing to enter into blunt discourse about controversial issues…

– Ay-leen the Peacemaker (for Beyond Victoriana)
– Hal Duncan (for blogging and Notes from New Sodom)
N.K. Jemisin (for blogging and commentary)
Jason Sanford (for blogging)

Tireless Energy
In recognition of individuals who selflessly give of themselves for worthy causes, websites, or organizations…

– Rick Kleffel (for The Agony Column)
– Leslie Howle (for Clarion West and Hugo House activities)
– Debbie Notkin (for Tiptree Awards work, Wiscon work, and other activities)
– Victor Raymond (for past Carl Brandon Society and Interstitial Arts Foundation work, as well as other behind-the-scenes activities)

Promotion of Reading
In recognition of individuals whose efforts contribute to the promotion of reading or an increase in reading proficiency…

– Colleen Cahill (for Library of Congress work as a genre fiction advocate and as the library’s representative to the ALA)
– James Gunn (for his work with AboutSF)
– Julia Starkey (for building the Harvard Library’s SF/F section)
– Lynne Marie Thomas (for archiving the works and papers of SF/F authors)

Expanding Our Vocabulary
In recognition of writers whose nonfiction, through reviews, blogging, and/or essays, exposes readers to new words and, often, new ideas…

Matthew Cheney
Anil Menon
Abigail Nussbaum
Adam Roberts

International Activism
In recognition of those who work to bring writers from other literary traditions and countries to the attention of readers in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia…

– Larry Nolen (for coverage of international fiction, primarily on The Of Blog)
– Charles Tan (for Bibliophile Stalker and The World SF Blog)
– Lavie Tidhar (for The World SF Blog)
– Yan Wu, Guangyi Li, and Nathaniel Isaacson (for Chinese Sci Fi )

The Neil Clarke Special Achievement Award

Winner: L. Timmel Duchamp

The Special Achievement Award is geared toward recognizing individuals who are proactive behind the scenes but whose efforts often don’t receive the measure of public recognition they deserve. The winner will receive an elegant Hieronymous Bosch bird-with-letter figurine, a certificate, and chocolate. The award is named after the first year’s winner, publisher and editor Neil Clarke.

As founder of and editor for Aqueduct Press, L. Timmel Duchamp has demonstrated great creativity, care, and love as the guiding force in creating a strong line of feminist science fiction and fantasy. Although Aqueduct Press is a for-profit publisher, it serves a greater purpose in providing a valuable space for women’s fiction, often publishing otherwise marginalized authors. Further, Duchamp has often set aside her own career and fiction over the past five years to run Aqueduct Press. For these efforts, she is the 2010 recipient of the Neil Clarke Special Achievement Award.


The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar: Perfect Gift Book

I’ve just posted a short review of Amal El-Mohtar’s lovely The Honey Month on Omnivoracious. It’s just a beautiful little book, and the kind of thing you should not only sample yourself but also keep in mind as gifts for friends, and during the holiday season. The book’s flying a little under the radar, and I think it’s the kind of thing that’ll be a great surprise for the readers in your life.

You can see a composite of some of the art here.

Omnivoracious Week: Mark T. Mustian, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Unsinkable Pirate Post

(Krista Brennan made me a Steampunk pirate for the author image in the back of the forthcoming Steampunk Bible; she also did one for my coauthor, S.J. Chambers. This is just a detail from the full portrait.)

It’s been a busy week on Omnivoracious for me, with a short interview on Mary Robinette Kowal’s novel (asking the essential question: “If your novel were an animal…?”), a photo shoot for Brandon Sanderson’s latest, and, today, my post on Talk Like a Pirate Day–which looks at a new novel from Dzanc Books, among others.

Also this week, Omnivoracious ran my interview and guest features with Mark T. Mustian about his novel The Gendarme:


Deep and eclectic reading

The role of research and experience in writing historical novels

The stigma of being a part-time writer?

Oh yeah, and someone’s done a video game inspired by City of Saints & Madmen (free to downloadable or it’d be a little weird), although it’s just really a little ship going through a cavern of fungi. Another video here and download instructions here.