Friday, February 27, 2009

Final Nebula Award Ballot

I'm just about to leave for the airport, but I want to post this news first: the final Nebula Award ballot is out, and it's of great interest this year to Aqueduct. Here's the ballot:


Little Brother - Doctorow, Cory (Tor, Apr08)
Powers - Le Guin, Ursula K. (Harcourt, Sep07)
Cauldron - McDevitt, Jack (Ace, Nov07)
Brasyl - McDonald, Ian (Pyr, May07)
Making Money - Pratchett, Terry (Harper, Sep07)
Superpowers - Schwartz, David J. (Three Rivers Press, Jun08)


“The Spacetime Pool” - Asaro, Catherine (Analog, Mar08)
“Dark Heaven” - Benford, Gregory (Alien Crimes, ed. Mike Resnick, SFBC, Jan07)
“Dangerous Space” - Eskridge, Kelley (Dangerous Space, Aqueduct Press, Jun07)
“The Political Prisoner” - Finlay, Charles Coleman (F&SF, Aug08)
“The Duke in His Castle” - Nazarian, Vera (Norilana Books, Jun08)


“If Angels Fight” - Bowes, Richard (F&SF, Feb08)
"The Ray Gun: A Love Story" - James Alan Garner (Asimov's, Feb08)
“Dark Rooms” - Goldstein, Lisa (Asimov’s, Oct/Nov 07)
“Pride and Prometheus” - Kessel, John (F&SF, Jan08)
“Night Wind” - Rosenblum, Mary (Lace and Blade, ed. Deborah J. Ross, Norilana Books, Feb08)
“Baby Doll” - Sinisalo, Johanna (The SFWA European Hall of Fame, ed. James Morrow & Kathryn Morrow, Tor, Jun07 )
“Kaleidoscope” - Wentworth, K.D. (F&SF, May07)

Short Stories

“The Button Bin” - Allen, Mike (Helix: A Speculative Fiction Quarterly, Oct07)
“The Dreaming Wind” - Ford, Jeffrey (The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, Viking, Jul07)
“Trophy Wives” - Hoffman, Nina Kiriki (Fellowship Fantastic, ed. Greenberg and Hughes, DAW Books, Jan08)
“26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”- Johnson, Kij (Asimov’s, Jul08)
“The Tomb Wife”- Jones, Gwyneth (F&SF, Aug07)
“Don’t Stop” - Kelly, James Patrick (Asimov’s, Jun07)
"Mars" A Traveler's Guide" - Nestvold, Ruth (F&SF, Jan 08)


The Dark Knight - Nolan, Jonathan; Nolan, Christopher, Goyer, David S. (Warner Bros., Jul08)
"WALL-E” Screenplay - Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter (Walt Disney June 2008)
The Shrine - Wright, Brad (Stargate Atlantis, Aug08)


Graceling - Cashore, Kristin (Harcourt, Oct08)
Lamplighter - Cornish, D.M. (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 2, Putnam Juvenile,
Savvy - Law, Ingrid (Dial, May08)
The Adoration of Jenna Fox - Pearson, Mary E. (Henry Holt and Company, Apr08)
Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) - Wilce, Ysabeau S. (Harcourt, Sep08)

This is Aqueduct's first appearance on a Nebula ballot. Congratulations, Kelley! We're bursting with pride that "Dangerous Space" is a finalist. And congratulations to two other Aqueductistas on the ballot-- to Ursula Le Guin, and to Gwyneth Jones (whose "Tomb Wife" will be one of the stories in The Buonarotti Quartet, which will be published in April as Conversation Pieces volume 25).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Potlatch 18

This weekend, I'll be attending Potlatch 18 in Sunnyvale, California. (This is a con that moves up and down the West coast.) Aqueduct won't be in the dealer's room this year, but I will be an instructor for the con's Taste-of-Clarion writing workshop and the "ringleader" for a panel titled, "How Many Roads? (Reading Multiple Viewpoints." Just to give you an idea of what it's about, here's the description:

When a story has multiple narrators, can the reader trust any of them? Does a narrative with multiple viewpoints give a more complete picture of the story or the world than a story with a single narrator, or does it make things murkier? What are the strategies we use to read stories with multiple narrators? What do we make of the same set of events seen from multiple points of view, or the same society seen from different positions within it? What if it's not even clear how many narrators a book has? And has anything changed since Roshomon?

These are just the kind of questions I love. Not that I intend to do much of the talking. I've got a great crew to do that: Ursula Le Guin, Howard Hendrix, Jeanne Gomoll, Naamen Tilahun, and Vylar Kaftan. Not to mention the audience (which at this con tends to be high-powered).

If you live in the Bay area, do consider attending. (There will be registration at the door, for latecomers.) Potlatch is small and offers a single track of intense programming. The Dealer's Room is always heaven (even when Aqueduct isn't in it). Please do introduce yourself and say hello to me if you do attend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Warwick Prize

A new prize, the biannual L.50,000 Warwick Prize for Writing, funded and administered by the University of Warwick, has been awarded to Canadian leftist Naomi Klein for The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. China Miéville, the chair of the award's jury, characterizes the book as "a brilliant, provocative, outstandingly written investigation into some of the great outrages of our time. It has started many debates, and will start many more..."

The prize is "an international, cross-disciplinary award open to any genre of form of writing."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sign Up Now for WisCon 33 Programming

WisCon 33's Programming Co-chairs, Joanna Lowenstein and Cat Hanna, write:

WisCon's programming signup is now available at! We need panelists. We need moderators. If you've never been a participant before, don't be shy. We welcome you! Jump right in. You'll also be able to sign up for readings, and to host a party.

Note that the signup process has changed dramatically from last year. As part of the database project, it's all brand-spanking new. We hope that the new process will make it even easier for you to participate. There are three basic steps involved in signing up to participate in programming: Setting up your account, defining your personal information, and signing up for programs/telling us about your availability.

A tutorial page will be available soon on the new signup page; you can also contact for technical support (though since we're all volunteers, it might take a day to get back to you). Look for the "My Account" link in the left sidebar to see your options.

Participant signup will close on March 13, 2009. That's Friday the 13th.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sentence of the Day

When sociobiologists start shitting in their backyards with dinner guests in the vicinity, maybe their arguments about innateness over culture will start seeming more persuasive.-- Laura Kipnis

Kill the Messenger!

Speaking of denial, Frank Rich talks about the US's "culture of denial" and its looming consequences in his column in today's New York Times:

One of the most persistent cultural tics of the early 21st century is Americans' reluctance to absorb, let alone prepare for, bad news. We are plugged into more information sources than anyone could have imagined even 15 years ago. The cruel ambush of 9/11 supposedly "changed everything," slapping us back to reality. Yet we are constantly shocked, shocked by the foreseeable. Obama's toughest political problem may not be coping with the increasingly marginalized G.O.P. but with an America-in-denial that must hear warning signs repeatedly, for months and sometimes years, before believing the wolf is actually at the door.

This phenomenon could be seen in two TV exposés of the mortgage crisis broadcast on the eve of the stimulus signing. On Sunday, "60 Minutes" focused on the tawdry lending practices of Golden West Financial, built by Herb and Marion Sandler. On Monday, the CNBC documentary "House of Cards" served up another tranche of the subprime culture, typified by the now defunct company Quick Loan Funding and its huckster-in-chief, Daniel Sadek. Both reports were superbly done, but both could have been reruns.

The Sandlers and Sadek have been recurrently whipped at length in print and on television, as far back as 2007 in Sadek's case (by Bloomberg); the Sandlers were even vilified in a "Saturday Night Live" sketch last October. But still the larger message may not be entirely sinking in. "House of Cards" was littered with come-on commercials, including one hawking "risk-free" foreign-currency trading - yet another variation on Quick Loan Funding, promising credulous Americans something for nothing.

This cultural pattern of denial is hardly limited to the economic crisis.

Rich goes on to list a number of serious issues that the US's political classes have been refusing to take in. (Curiously, he fails to mention global warming.) His concern in "What We Don't Know Will Hurt Us" is chiefly the Obama Administration's resistance to nationalizing the US's largest banks (which even Alan Greenspan now considers necessary):

Americans are right to wonder why there has been scant punishment for the management and boards of bailed-out banks that recklessly sliced and diced all this debt into worthless gambling chips. They are also right to wonder why there is still little transparency in how TARP funds have been spent by these teetering institutions. If a CNBC commentator can stir up a populist dust storm by ranting that Obama's new mortgage program (priced at $75 billion to $275 billion) is "promoting bad behavior," imagine the tornado that would greet an even bigger bank bailout on top of the $700 billion already down the TARP drain.

Nationalization would likely mean wiping out the big banks' managements and shareholders. It's because that reckoning has mostly been avoided so far that those bankers may be the Americans in the greatest denial of all. Wall Street's last barons still seem to believe that they can hang on to their old culture by scuttling corporate jets, rejecting bonuses or sounding contrite in public. Ask the former Citigroup wise man Robert Rubin how that strategy worked out.

We are now waiting to learn if Obama's economic team, much of it drawn from the Wonderful World of Citi and Goldman Sachs, will have the will to make its own former cohort face the truth. But at a certain point, as in every other turn of our culture of denial, outside events will force the recognition of harsh realities. Nationalization, unmentionable only yesterday, has entered common usage not least because an even scarier word - depression - is next on America's list to avoid.

You can read the whole column here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

In Denial

A recent Gallup poll found that two-thirds of the US public want investigations into the crimes of the Bush Administration. Could that be the reason that Richard Perle, one of that Administration's inner circle and one of the chief architects of the war on Iraq, is now publicly denying not only that he had anything to do with Bush's policies, but even that he is a neoconservative? One of the Washington Post's regular political columnists, Dana Milbank, writes in a column titled "Prince of Darkness Denies Own Existence":

Listening to neoconservative mastermind Richard Perle at the Nixon Center yesterday, there was a sense of falling down the rabbit hole.

In real life, Perle was the ideological architect of the Iraq war and of the Bush doctrine of preemptive attack. But at yesterday's forum of foreign policy intellectuals, he created a fantastic world in which:

1. Perle is not a neoconservative.

2. Neoconservatives do not exist.

3. Even if neoconservatives did exist, they certainly couldn't be blamed for the disasters of the past eight years.

"There is no such thing as a neoconservative foreign policy," Perle informed the gathering, hosted by National Interest magazine. "It is a left critique of what is believed by the commentator to be a right-wing policy."

So what about the 1996 report he co-authored that is widely seen as the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy? "My name was on it because I signed up for the study group," Perle explained. "I didn't approve it. I didn't read it."

Mm-hmm. And the two letters to the president, signed by Perle, giving a "moral" basis to Middle East policy and demanding military means to remove Saddam Hussein? "I don't have the letters in front of me," Perle replied.

Right. And the Bush administration National Security Strategy, enshrining the neoconservative themes of preemptive war and using American power to spread freedom? "I don't know whether President Bush ever read any of those statements," Perle maintained. "My guess is he didn't."

Perle, according to Milbank, even went so far yesterday as to imply that neoconservativism is a mythology invented by journalists:

At times, the Prince of Darkness turned on his questioners. Fielding a question from the Financial Times, he said that the newspaper "propagated this myth of neoconservative influence." He informed Stefan Halper of Cambridge University that "you have contributed significantly to this mythology."

"There are some 5,000 footnotes," Halper replied. "Documents that you've signed."

But documents did not deter denials. "I've never advocated attacking Iran," he said, to a few chuckles.

You can read Milbank's column (which includes a video clip) here.

His audience apparently thought the whole exercise of denial and disavowal a joke. I myself don't find his performance in the least entertaining. Sure, it'd make a great skit on Saturday Night Live. But for me, the real-life effects of the policies he shares responsibility for, weighed in the balance, makes such clownish behavior disgusting rather than amusing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Does this happen to you?

As often happens, a heavy package from a bookstore, sent by media mail, was delivered to my address by mistake this afternoon. (I've learned, of course, always to check the mailing label before opening packages.) It has just occurred to me that the reason the mail carrier keeps delivering packages of books not addressed to me is because he's somehow gotten it into his head that if any package looks as though it has books in it, they must de facto be addressed to me--and so he doesn't even bother to look at the address when he's delivering book mailers. Granted, I get a lot of books in the mail; today, for instance, I received not only the misdelivered package, but one that was actually addressed to me. But I'm sure there are people who actually get a lot more than I do.

My mail carrier, I suppose, must assume that only highly eccentric people are likely to be receiving books in the mail. Either that, or I'm some sort of metaphysical book magnet, radiating waves of covetousness for several blocks in all directions, preventing the mail carrier from delivering books to anyone but me...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An Update on Book View Cafe

By Nancy Jane Moore

Book View Cafe is moving right along. We've been putting up new fiction every day since we opened, so there's plenty available to read and more being added all the time.

I'm posting a "flash" fiction (short-short story, sudden fiction, etc.) every week on Thursdays. This week's offering is "Thirty-One Rules for Fulfilling Your Destiny," a story that was originally published in my collection, Conscientious Inconsistencies. For those of you who haven't bought a copy of the collection, here's an opportunity to read one of the stories for free and see if you want to buy the book.

Though the story isn't typical of the other stories in the book, since it's an epic tale (fantasy or science fiction, depending on how you read it) told in 31 aphorisms. Some writers have told me they find it inspirational, a number of people have giggled enough for me to figure out that it's funny, and I personally would like to think it's profound, though that's probably just the aphorisms talking.

Of course, if you're an Aqueduct reader, you'll want to get the whole book for the wonderful introduction by Timmi Duchamp!

The Book View Cafe blog is also drawing a lot of readers, most recently to read Vonda N. McIntyre's thoughts on writing Star Trek novels. Twenty plus writers can generate a lot of wildly diverse blog posts, so there's something on the blog for everyone.

Don't neglect your Aqueduct blog reading -- I'm currently awed by Lucy Sussex's essay on the Australian Fires, "Dresden, With Eucalypts" and still thinking about what Cat Rambo had to say in "YACAP."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dresden, with Eucalypts

by Lucy Sussex

In the 1980s I drove with my parents to visit an old family friend living in Australian farmland. Her name was Connie Cox, and she had been secretary to my grandfather. Connie was a lively nonagenarian, but paring down her possessions in the way some old people do, as they prepare for death. One thing she retained was a child’s china tea set, crusted with square crystals of glass. When she was a child, bushfires had threatened her parents’ country property. They had fled, Connie riding on her father’s shoulders, returning to find their house burnt out. Her tea set had survived.

I sat there and quietly coveted it. I hope it is now in a museum somewhere.

What we did later that day did not seem at the time suicidal, though it was, given the lesson of the tea set. We drove home, to a log cabin, on Skyline Road, Yarra Glen, a high ridge surrounded on all sides by two of the most combustible species of trees—the pinus radiata and the eucalypt.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know the place was dangerous. Skyline had been burnt out in the 1960s, something that provided the earliest memory for the writer Beth Spencer, then one, and living in the valley below. It gave her a lifelong aversion to the colour orange. The fire was also written in the singed bark of the oldest trees around our house, and the tendency for the native animals, the wallabies and the wombats, to be the same dark ashy-brown colour.

Fire has been a factor in the Australian bush for millenia. Some species of plants only germinate after a fire; and the indigenous people used fire for land management, to create rolling parkland productive of nice, fat, numerous wallabies and other food animals. It is only the Europeans who have spectacularly failed to adapt to this arid environment.

Why were we living there? Because of the beauty, although my mother later observed that Skyline was a very intense place. She did a lot of art there, and I wrote stories and my first book. That way we dispelled some intensity, but not all. Disputes over land management got very quickly emotional, with tensions between the Green, and those who wanted to live in haut suburban style in the middle of bush. To conserve, or consume? And every year the CFA (Country Fire Authority) trucks trundled out, to backburn or warn against the threat to the treechangers, the hobby farmers, the horsy and the vignerons.

Black days dot the Australian calendar, commemorating bush conflagrations. Ash Wednesday, Black Tuesday, and after last week, Black Saturday, perhaps the worst, with projections of 300 dead, thousands of hectares burnt to ash. It either portended climate change, or merely was a freak event, with nothing similar recorded in 200 years of white settlement.

Here were the conditions, ticking towards conflagration. 12 years of drought, not unusual in the cyclic Australian climate. A month without a drop of rain. Then, a spell of 40C [104F] degree days, lasting nearly a week, and unprecedented. Even the leaves at the top of gum trees shrivelled and fell, forming highly combustible litter on the forest floor. Koalas, usually strictly arboreal, were forced down onto the ground, invading human habitation in search of water. A flurry of cute photos, koalas drinking from bottles, spoons, watering cans, hit the Net. Behind the cuteness was the stark fact that they must have been dehydrated to desperation.

Then came an appalling day, Melbourne’s hottest: 46 degrees Celsius[114.8F], 100 k winds. All it would have taken was a powerline sparking, a dropped cigarette. What resulted was a firestorm, a word not to be used lightly. People had often only seconds to escape, such was the force of the wind propelling the fire. It roared like jet engines, blew trees, powerpoles and even people bodily over. The sky turned black from smoke, the only light from storey-high flames, and the burning embers which landed on sere grass, blew into cracks and under doors. Those defending their houses with sprinkler systems had the hoses melt, the water turn into steam. In a severe bushfire the power lines go, taking the electricity, and the power for pumps. The only option then is to hide from the killer radiant heat of the front, emerging after it has passed to fight the spot fires. But by then it may be too late, with window glass exploding, the roof aflame...

I am told only two houses survived on Skyline Road, defended by those who had no choice but stay and fight, with the fire coming from three fronts at once, cutting off their exits. I have not been up there since—who wants to gawk at the traumatised?—but I know a little log cabin would have been reduced to ashes.

My parents moved out twenty years ago, and did not live to see it burn. I am currently preparing for my mother’s retrospective exhibition, and as I look at her images of Skyline, I see the intensity, an ominous quality. Skyline as was, and will be again, for the bush is endlessly regenerative, the blackened trees sprout again.

[Gethsemane by Marian Sussex, with the distinctive silhouette of gum trees]

But houses do not, nor do people.

Sheree Renée Thomas on Strange Horizons

Check this out: Jenn Brisset interviews Sheree Renée Thomas for Strange Horizons. Sheree talks about black science fiction and her creation and development of the Dark Matter anthology series.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Aqueduct Gazette, Issue 4

The latest issue of The Aqueduct Gazette is now available for download at Aqueduct's site, here. The issue focuses on Vandana Singh, and the contents of the issue include:

--Women Writing in India: Vandana Singh interviews the editors of Zubaan Books
--"The Decolonization of the Mind," Vandana Singh's guest Hanging out along the Aqueduct column
--Nisi Shawl's Filter House is on Publishers Weekly Year's Best list
--Details about Vandana Singh's new novella, Distances
--Details about forthcoming books from Aqueduct
--Details about new volumes in the Conversation Pieces series

The issue has a lot of images, so the download will be slow for anyone using a dial-up connection. But we're expecting the paper edition of it to be back from the printer's soon, so if you'd like us to send you a copy, do drop Tom a note at and we'll mail it to you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CFP: Postnational Fantasy: Nationalism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction

I've just seen this.

Call for Papers: The Postnational Fantasy: Nationalism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction

We seek chapter proposals for our forthcoming anthology to be published in Spring 2010. The Postnational Fantasy: Nationalism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction places itself at the nexus of current debates about nationalism, postnational capitalism, the reassertion of third world nationalism and its cosmopolitical counterparts, and the role of contemporary Science Fiction (SF) and fantasy in challenging, normalizing, or contesting these major conceptual currents of our times. This new collection of essays, thus, brings together, in one volume, the interplay of critical and theoretical insights both from Postcolonial and Science Fiction studies.

In a way SF and Postcolonial Literature both have traditionally dealt with the question of the other. Thus, while SF has been traditionally concerned with the issues of the alien and the ontological other, the leading postcolonial works have usually focused on giving voice to the silenced colonized others. Just as the SF writer must 'train' the reader in his or her imagined setting, so does the postcolonial author feel the need to inform the reader while attempting to represent the postcolonial subjects. This combination of representation and didactics, crucial to SF and postcolonial writing, can therefore be an interesting starting point for bringing the two overlapping fields of artistic endeavor together, as both have a lot to offer in theorizing and debating the national, the postcolonial, and the cosmopolitan in the era of high capital. As of now, not many critical texts attempt to rewrite postcoloniality through a textual and theoretical reading of contemporary SF nor has there been a worthwhile attempt in postcolonial studies to incorporate the contemporary SF in the cultural and political debates. It is, therefore, one of the goals of this volume to enrich both Postcolonial Studies and SF studies with a nuanced borrowing and intermixing of their primary texts and modes of interpretation, which would, we hope, enrich both fields of study by sharing their common and particular modes of reading and responding to the texts. Important also in our study would be the nature of representation itself, but especially the affective value of the texts in generating and foregrounding the questions of feelings invoked by the SF and the postcolonial text, and the impact of this emotive state on the issues of national, postnational, and cosmopolitan identity formation.

We invite essays of 5,000-6,000 words in length exploring the following themes, or any other themes that might fall within the purview of our stipulated vision of the anthology:

• Issues of nationalism and national identity in SF and fantasy.
• The idea of the other in the context of geopolitical identities.
• The setting/background of the fantastical in the context of
contemporary debates of the cosmopolitical.
• The postcolonial imagination of SF and fantasy from the Third World.
• The affective value of SF and its connotation in the context of
global politics.
• SF as an additive of resistance or postnational alternative.
• The questioning of gender and heteronormativity in SF in an age of

We strongly encourage young scholars and advanced graduate students to contribute to the anthology. Please send your proposals, not more than 200 words, along with a brief bio by April 30, 2009. Send your proposals to the editors at Include your proposal and bio in the body of your email and also as a Microsoft Word attachment. Essays selected for inclusion in the final volume will be peer-reviewed by specialists in the field.

About the Editors:

Dr. Masood Raja, Assistant Professor of Postcolonial Literature and Theory
Department of English, Kent State University

Swaralipi Nandi, PhD Scholar
Department of English, Kent State University

Jason W. Ellis, PhD Scholar
Department of English, Kent State University

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Saucepan Revolution

How many people reading this blog are aware that the world now has its first out-lesbian head of state? Not many, I bet. As Rebecca Solnit reports, while Obama was being inaugurated here in the US,

Icelanders were besieging their parliament. Youtube video of the scene -- drummers pounding out a tribal beat, the flare and boom of teargas canisters, scores of helmeted police behind transparent plastic shields, a bonfire in front of the stone building that resembles a country house more than a seat of government -- was dramatic, particularly the figures silhouetted against a blaze whose hot light flickered on the gray walls during much of the eighteen-hour-long midwinter night. People beat pots and pans in what was dubbed the Saucepan Revolution. Five days later, the government, dominated by the neoliberal Independent Party, collapsed, as many Icelanders had hoped and demanded it would since the country's economy suddenly melted down in October.

The interim government, built from a coalition of the Left-Green Party and the Social Democrats, is at least as different from the old one as the Obama administration is from the Bush administration. The latest prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, broke new ground in the midst of the crisis: she is now the world's first out lesbian head of state. In power only until elections on April 25th, this caretaker government takes on the formidable task of stabilizing and steering a country that has the dubious honor of being the first to drop in the current global meltdown. Last week, Sigurdardóttir said that the new government would try to change the constitution to "enshrine national ownership of the country's natural resources" and to "open a new chapter in public participation in shaping the structure of government," a 180-degree turn from the neoliberal policies of Iceland's fallen masters.

Unlike Iceland's parliament faced with citizens beating pots and pans, it looks as though the US Senate did not get the message that US voters sent their politicians across the country in November. In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman has dire words to say about the Senate's evisceration of the bill that was supposed to prevent the US economy from utter catastrophe:

to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts.

According to the CBO’s estimates, we’re facing an output shortfall of almost 14% of GDP over the next two years, or around $2 trillion. Others, such as Goldman Sachs, are even more pessimistic. So the original $800 billion plan was too small, especially because a substantial share consisted of tax cuts that probably would have added little to demand. The plan should have been at least 50% larger.

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

His conclusion?

The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it’s clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.

Check out Solnit's piece. Maybe we ought to be massing outside the Capitol with saucepans and drums. The folks inside don't seem to understand the ballot-- or else think that "change" means taking the same old policies even further.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fun and Games

I'm not up on toy fashion in the US, and so I had no idea that a Playmobil called "Security Check Point" (retailing for a whopping $62) even existed. But it must, since sells it. For a sample of the kind of humor and sorties of the imagination that seem to inevitably spin off from authoritarian institutions, check out the customer reviews of the item. (Link thanks to Abby Zimet at You'll find some laugh-out-loud "Surreal Adventures in Capitalism Department" (as Zimet puts it).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

YACAP (Yet Another Cultural Appropriation Post) aka Get over It

The cultural appropriation debate recently raging on LJ and elsewhere is actually two debates: one about cultural appropriation and the other about racism. Racism is pretty big and pretty psychologically and individually fraught for people, and it informs the first debate, shades and distorts it. Without clearing away the racism debate -- if that is ever possible -- it is difficult to have an undistorted version of the first debate -- again, if that is ever possible.

We will be seeing this debate over and over through the next few years. Obama's presence in the White House keeps bringing it up, a grain of sand in the American psyche that itches many towards contemplating the fact that the experience of the world may be different for someone else due to their race or gender or economic class or sexual orientation or physical abilities or a thousand other categories.

For many of us, we no longer outnumber the Other in quite the same way psychologically. Our relationship to it has changed. For others, we have always been conscious of being an Other: through race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth.

Many of us who have spent time thinking about this have seen extended discussions of race, the Other, oppression, and cultural appropriation come up in various arenas (often those academic disciplines so often stifled or decried -- women's studies, queer studies, black studies) and be dismissed out of hand in a variety of ways. We may have ventured opinions and seen them cried down with arguments that are echoes of the approaches currently being used in the spec-fic community.

For example:
  • "This debate is just too big/scary/energy-draining for me! I'll be over here hiding from it!"
  • "This is just more PC craziness. Ignore it and it'll go away."
  • "You're stifling my writing ability by attacking me/making me think about my writing/saying I can't write about certain things/distracting me/etc."

Kynn talks about a lot more of them eloquently and well here: I think this is a tremendous post to look at as well:

Is anyone saying that works that do not confront race (or class or sex or gender or Otherness) are categorically wrong or dishonest or Bad? No.

But many people, including myself, are saying that works that factor in such things are a valid way of writing, and perhaps should be the norm rather than the exception.

And many of us, including myself, are suggesting that the benefits to factoring them in far outweigh the many straw men erected around the idea of ignoring them. If you deliberately choose to avoid race and other categories in your fiction, I think that's fine as long as you're doing it from a position where you know what your options are, rather than just falling into the normal stereotypes. The latter is lazy writing.

I personally believe that if you're not thinking about race and class and gender as factors that affect your personal existence on a daily basis, that if you see things as invariably binary, always black/white, up/down, Good/Evil, you are deliberately blinding yourself, depriving yourself of another way of perceiving the world. Such perceptions end up changing things, moving you out of painful binaries to a more joyful, creative, mindful existence. And I think as a writer, such modes of antiquated thinking turn your back on many of the possibilities of your craft.

Where do I stand in this debate? Am I saying I'm not racist, either as an individual or writer? Goddess, no. Like every other being on this planet, and probably this universe, I have a difficult relationship with the other. We are all primates at heart, and when a different looking creature walks into our camp, we want to throw feces and bare our fangs at them first. But the lovely thing is that we are all self-aware, and we can look at that reaction and (often) move past it in a way rewarding to both sides.

For (hopefully) a few of you, this is something you have never thought about or that you've dismissed out of hand. I'm sorry to say, but I think this is no longer a debate you can ignore.

Some reactions to the debate seem to originate first and foremost in defensiveness. I know it is painful to have your worldview challenged -- believe me, I feel for you.

At the same time, I think it's necessary surgery and that once folks start adjusting to the idea that it's no longer black and white but rather a rainbow of possibilities, we can put aside some of the energy-wasting bullshit and move ahead together to a better world. Yes, I'm well aware that I sound like an idealistic idiot, because I also believe that we make things possible through idealistic idiots such as the Abolitionists, the Suffragists, and a thousand other varieties of philosopher and activist being willing to express and live their beliefs.

I firmly believe that we can become better people by contemplating our actions, by seeing where they are shaped by outside circumstances, and trying to make an informed decision based on what we learn from that contemplation. Race -- as well as other factors -- are an odd combination of our outside circumstances as well as our internal state. To know a character's circumstances is to have more profound knowledge of the character. As a writer, I believe this sort of examination results in finer, deeper, truer writing.

If you are feeling hurt or attacked or shamed or embarrassed by this debate, that is sad and too bad, but honestly -- get over yourself. No one is interested in making you feel bad. What people would like to do is move along down to where the debate is productive, where it begins to change outmoded/racist/sexist/ablist/
agist/elistist/whateverist ways of doing things and moves us towards a more enlightened era. I would think that science fiction writers would be intently eager to find out what could result from changing ways of thinking on this scale, that fantasy writers would explore the worlds such changes might produce. It startles me when this is not the case.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Interview Conducted Via Seance

Interview Conducted Via Seance
by Lucy Sussex

Scene: night, inside a haunted house in Edinburgh, winter 1854. I manifest in a room, unfurnished and empty except for the ring of people holding hands around me, their eyes closed, their faces intent. They include a young girl, the medium, several well-dressed gentlemen of science, and my quarry, the “authoress” Catherine Crowe. No visual image of her survives, but she proves to be a fashionable elder lady. And she is the only one in the ring not in trance.

She lifts her head with its nodding ostrich-feathered bonnet, eyes me quizzically.

“A spirit? In trowsers! You are a Pict, perhaps?”

“No, I’m from the future.”

“A mere girl,” she murmurs. “Well-spoken, unaccompanied by chaperone, and in trowsers. Where else would that happen but in the future?”

“Things have improved since 1847, when you sneaked four blistering pages on women’s lack of rights into the middle of a popular novel.”

“Oh, you mean my Lilly Dawson; or the Smugglers of the Mill.” She dimples. “She did quite well, among my literary children.”

“You had quite a family of books. You adapted Uncle Tom’s Cabin for children.”

“The least I could do for the Negro cause, and my friend of that unhappy race, Dr Lewis, the famous stage mesmerist.”

“Then there was your biggest seller: The Night Side of Nature of 1848, which applied scientific principles to Spiritualism.”

“And why not, pray? The spirit world will inevitably come within the bounds of science, as I wrote in my introduction.”

She is so certain that for a moment, from my twenty-first century perspective, I begin to think it might.

“Ahem. Men and Women; or Manorial Rights, from 1843, is a novel about a murder, motivated by droit de seigneur.”

“Hush, spirit.” With a quick glance around at the circle. “Even in trance people can hear. Must you give the ending away?”

“My apologies. But even before that came Susan Hopley; or Circumstantial Evidence, a murder mystery novel with three female detectives.”

“I had a verse drama first. Aristodemus. Then Susan, in 1841.”

“Which preceded by months “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe. Who probably read you…”

“Many did, future-spirit. Including you, else you would not be here. But who is this Mr Poe? If he comes to Edinburgh, should I invite him to dinner?”

“An American writer.”

“Like dear Mr Emerson, who writes me such admiring letters?

“Er, not exactly. And Poe’s dead now.”

“Perhaps he might grace a séance, then.”

My mind momentarily boggles, but I press on.

“You knew practically everyone. Like Hans Christian Andersen…”

“I had dinner with him, at Dr James Simpson’s house. Discoverer of chloroform, you know.”

“And great experimenter on himself and his friends. You drank ether at his table that night. Andersen was shocked.”

Again that dimple. “Poor prim homely man.”

From that I conclude she liked shocking people, and getting away with it. Thought so…

“And you also wrote ghost stories, fictions. Including a werewolf story, even if you spelt it ‘Weir-Wolf’. In which a woman shoots a wolf and drags it into the town square to stop an execution.”

“I’d have done the same as Manon.”

“I’m sure you would. It takes an unusually brave woman of your time to run away from her husband, and become a successful writer. Did he really try to kill you?”

“You refer to Major Crowe?” A touch of frost here.

“You wrote that you ‘fled for your life’ from him.”

“Fie, spirit, you grow impertinent!”

“Sorry, but I only came to warn you. Because, if you stay in this haunted house, you will see for the first time something ghostly: bright lights, which your medium will tell you come from murder victims. It will cause you to have a nervous breakdown, and you’ll go walking in the street stark naked—in Edinburgh, in cold February—holding a handkerchief and a visiting card to make yourself invisible. It won’t work!”

But she is not listening. At the mention of her husband, the old wound, she has worked herself up into a rage and is shouting at me. In her agitation, she lets go of the medium’s hand. The spirit circle is broken, and I tumble backwards through time, ending up with a bump on my study floor.

Well, I tried. On my computer screen is a digitized letter written by Charles Dickens, who had invited Crowe to dinner with the Carlyles and Elizabeth Gaskell. It is nasty stuff: he was shocked by her streaking, the ultimate unconventional act for a middle-aged authoress, in an age where the feminine ideal was chaste and submissive. A conventional woman would have never shown her face in society again, after such a publicized humiliation, which even got into the papers. Crowe braved it out, within the year so recovered to her normal social self she went to evenings at the house of Wilkie Collins and his mother. That takes guts. As does sneaking four pages of radical feminism, Ibsen’s Doll’s House before the fact, into a popular novel, published the year before the first convention on women's rights, at Seneca Falls in the US, 1848. Its effect? Well, my great-grandfather Alexander Fife owned a copy of Lilly Dawson, and all his seven daughters would grow up strong-minded women, with a high regard for education.

Now if only the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe would show up at a Catherine Crowe séance…

Now there’s an idea for a story.

Extract from Catherine Crowe's novel, Lily Dawson

From Chapter 30 of Catherine Crowe’s Lilly Dawson (1847) (transcription by Lucy Sussex)

In a true woman—and by a true woman we mean one in whom the nature of her sex is the most completely developed—candour will be the distinctive attribute; inasmuch as it is the distinctive attribute of the intuitive life which in her must prevail: but it is remarkable that these women, the true archetypes of their sex, are exactly those who have the least influence over men in general; for, to understand and appreciate such a woman, a man must be as noble and candid as herself. He must have insight—which few men have, for intellect does not give it; and in the present stage of civilization, it is certain that men are much more governed by the vices and artifices of women than by their virtues. There is plenty of power to be had by bad means—by what are frequently called “the legitimate arms of the sex”. Fie! We never see the manège and the dexterities by which so many women retain their influence over their husbands, without feeling infinitely more contempt for her successful cunning, than we do for the poor spiritless unresisting victim of a brute, who may be living next door.

The fact is, that few men know anything of woman’s true nature—how should they? For what is more rare than a thoroughly genuine woman? And how are women answerable for this, when it has been for ages the business of society not only to repress and extinguish that nature wherever it appeared, but to educate its daughters out of it from their cradles; so that at this moment there can scarcely exist in any civilized country a woman in whom the germ has had so much vitality as to have resisted the external influences exerted to repress and pervert it, who does not feel herself in an ungenial atmosphere.

The usual light in which a woman is considered is as of a being with a different physical organization to man; but in all other respects as of similar, but inferior endowments—the essential distinctions, when observed, being set down to the account of eccentricity and aberration: and the education bestowed upon her has been in conformity with this view; that is, it has been, as compared with that bestowed upon the other sex, an inferior sample of the same article—bad enough in the best—with a clumsy attempt to compensate for its inferiority by a few meretricious accomplishments. We humbly confess to a shrinking antipathy from what is commonly known as an “accomplished woman”. Let women draw, and sing, and play the harp—these things are good in their way—so are artificial flowers and French jewellery—but if these are their stock in trade—the armour with which they have been prepared to fight their battle and make their way through this life to another—we should think their outfit no more suitable, than we should their wardrobe, if its staple commodities consisted of the above-mentioned pretty appurtenances.

Man having settled to his own entire satisfaction the question of the weakness and inferiority of woman, and everything being done that training could do, to produce such results as confirmed his conclusion, it necessarily followed that she was unfit to cope with the world or resist the manifold dangers and temptations that surrounded her; and it was accordingly found necessary to hem her in by decorums and circumscribe her by conventionalities, which altogether precluded her from that self-education by experience which the more active life of man afforded him. Frightened at his own vices and the weakness of the creature to whose keeping he must needs confide his honour and peace, he saw nothing left for it but to turn the world into one large harem; perpetuating woman’s slavery by perpetuating her ignorance; and teaching her, whilst he assumed a divine right to despotic sway, that it was the worst of treasons to herself—that is, that it was unfeminine to dispute his claims.

In short he only discerned two functions for which woman could have been designed; namely, to be the slave of his passions, and the nurse of his babies in swaddling-clothes; and for these purposes, he sought to adapt her—he fitted her “to suckle fools”; and verily he has his reward, for she has done it!

Thus, that the weakness and inferiority which they allege against us really does exist, we fear there is no mistaking. Let any woman to whom circumstances have been more favourable, or who, by the energy of her own will, has found a function for herself; and forced herself out of “the circumscription and confines”, that custom has drawn about her, speak honestly the result of her experience and observation, in this respect. How many women could she reckon of her acquaintance, who have ever dared to think for themselves; or even, if they dared to think, would dare to speak? How many free souls could she count amongst them?

It is true, there is little real culture amongst men; there are few strong thinkers, and fewer honest ones; but they have still some advantages. If their education has been bad, it has at least been a trifle better than ours. Six hours a-day at Latin and Greek are better than six hours a-day at worsted-work and embroidery; and time is better spent in acquiring a smattering of mathematics, than in strumming Hook’s lessons on a bad pianoforte. Then men have the benefit of rubbing against the world in their progress through it; they have mostly some definite pursuit or profession, within the domain of which they at least know something—and it is much to know something, though, like Walter Scott’s companion in the stage coach, it be only about Bend-leather;—and altogether, stunted though they be, they have been enabled to grow into more vigour, from not being so utterly repressed and stifled by the artificial restrictions and false delicacies they have entwined round the other sex.

It would have been a consolation if, amidst these disadvantages that have been heaped upon them, women could have preserved their candour, their simplicity, their singleness of mind; but they are so artificial, so conventional, so unreal, so afraid of being themselves! No wonder! For they have in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred been so frowned out of their individualities when they were young, that they have actually forgotten after what fashion God Almighty made them. Their minds have been compressed by tight stays, like their bodies; they have so entirely lost sight of Nature that they are positively shocked when she meets their view; and as soon as they get children of their own, they set about deforming her; squeezing, pinching, and paring, till, like the Flatheads or Chinese, they have reduced their offspring to the true standard of taste and gentility. Woe to any unfortunate little being, who should be found amongst the brood, in whom a strong nature prevailing over art will insist on asserting itself! Its mother will be as much astonished and dismayed as a hen that has hatched a duck’s egg. The gods themselves know what an inane and insipid thing this eternal modelling, forming, and finishing, makes of society.

In what we have said here, we are very far from desiring to imply, that we think the intellectual faculty of woman, either in quality or calibre, equal to that of man. On the contrary, we are of the opinion that the most intellectual woman that ever lived, be she who she may, has been far inferior in that region to the most intellectual man. This opinion we are aware will be very distasteful to some of the female champions of the cause we are advocating; but it is founded, not only on the records of the intellectual heroes and heroines of antiquity, but on observations and comparisons, made betwixt some of the most remarkable men and women of the present day. No female intellect that we have ever yet heard or read of exhibits anything like the breadth, depth, and power of a noble, masculine (honest) mind—for the degree in which the want of honesty cripples men’s minds is past all calculation.

But what we wish to advance is, that, if allowed free scope and fair play, women would be able to put forth, and make available, equivalent, though different endowments; which now not only lie fallow, but are actually in the process of extinction, from want of exercise, whilst, to most of those in whom the germ yet lives, it is, from the constitution of society and the restrictions placed on the sex, more a curse than a blessing. Nothing can equal the wretchedness of a woman, in whose bosom this lamp is pent, consuming herself, because not permitted to shed its ray upon the world. The utter hopelessness, the entire inanity of life, the sense of degradation, the wondering wherefore she was made, to bear all this and suffer to no end! Life all holiday with nothing to do but play! And yet to break through this deadening charm that is flung about her, what “a downright violence and storm of fortune” is most times needed! And how many, from the want of being guided to the true outlet and freer air, rush into perdition to escape? Not because women of this temperament are vicious; but exactly the contrary; they are the least sensual of their sex; but because the living flame within must have something to pasture on. Denied to live their own life, and weave out their own destiny, they become absorbed in that of another; flinging themselves and their affections at the feet, not of a man, but of their own ideal—too often embodied in the form of some worthless idol, no more worthy of their faith, than the ill-carved stone that the poor Indians worship.

If, as we believe, under no system of training, the intellect of woman would be found as strong as that of man, she is compensated by her intuitions being stronger—if her reason be less majestic, her insight is clearer—where man reasons, she sees. Nature, in short, gave her all that was needful to enable her to fill a noble part in the world’s history, if man would but let her play it out; and not treat her like a full-grown-baby, to be flattered and spoiled on the one hand, and coerced and restricted on the other, vibrating betwixt royal rule and slavish serfdom. In her childhood, woman is perverted by the ignorance of well-intentioned mothers and governesses, who view her, not as an independent soul, capable of the richest culture, and sent into this world for the purpose of qualifying herself to fulfil high duties here and higher hereafter, but as the appendage of some man, whose fancy she must first charm by her accomplishments, and to whose humours, for the rest of her life, she must afterwards conform; and it is lamentable to think that the great portion of books now written on women’s duties, and put into the hands of young people, for their instruction, regard her in no other light. From first to last, she is governed by the pap-spoon and the rod; and whilst, for his own selfish ends, man kneels at her feet and flatters her with mock devotion, he makes laws and enforces customs, that rob her of her free franchise, and of all the rights that God and Nature gave her. *

We have frequently of late heard the question asked, “Can woman regenerate society?” Really, we cannot see how that can be, till man regenerates himself. Till he elevates his own standard, it appears next to impossible for women effectually to elevate hers: for prescription is on his side, might will be right, and he has so much the best of the game, that until by a nobler culture and the awakening of larger sympathies, his eyes are opened to his own injustice and his own loss, any material improvement in the condition of women seems hopeless.

With all the independence, the freedom, the culture, the equal laws, the introduction into active life and employments, which we crave for women, we still admit that man, through her heart and her affections, will be her lord; and should be, if he would raise himself to the standard that would entitle him to the fief. There is nothing so elevating to a woman as the love of a truly great and noble man. The worship she pays him, whether it be that of friendship or of love, exalts her mind, and fills her soul with a holy joy; there is nothing so degrading, so crushing to the spirit, as to be the slave of a churl.

When the men are better and wiser, they will be more just. When they are noble themselves they will demand noble women to their wives; and for women to be noble they will see that she must first be free. That so many amongst them do not desire to be so, is one of the worst symptoms of their condition.
* It gives us great satisfaction to learn that the women of Berne in Switzerland are at this time petitioning for equal rights; and that one of the American States is about to pass a law, giving females power over their own property.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Name That Story

Reading Margaret Atwood's Empson Lectures (Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing) I came across a passage in which Atwood describes a story in detail she recalls without being able to place.

I've lost the author's name, but I'm searching-- and it goes like this: A man living in a rooming-house spies on another roomer-- a dowdy young woman-- and learns that she is an alien, and that every evening when she comes home from work she takes off all her clothes, lies down on the floor, and attaches the top of her head to the head of a thin, flat, person-shaped skin. Then she empties herself into the skin, which fills up with her substance like a water balloon. The former empty skin is now the woman, and the newly emptied skin is rolled up and stored away. And so it goes, turn and turn about, until the voyeur can't refrain from meddling. While the woman is out he takes away the skin, and watches to see what will happen. The woman comes back and sees that the skin is missing. She can then do nothing but wait, in quiet despair. Shortly she bursts into flames and is burned to a crisp...

I recognized the story at once. Probably most people can guess who the author is from the description. But I'm wondering if this story is as well known as I think it is. (Needless to say, my interpretation of the story is quite a bit different from Atwood's.)

Immersed in Hot Blood

A few days ago, in an email to me Aqueductista Lucy Sussex remarked of her local weather that "it's like wandering around, immersed in hot blood." Temperatures, she said, had been above 40C for several days. She lives in the Melbourne area in Australia. Since that email, it's only gotten worse. In an article in today's Independent, Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In, Geoffrey Lean and Kathy Marks report that temperatures have soared to 43C (that's 109.4F!) for three days running and that in Adelaide the temperature reached "a staggering 45.6C."

Ministers are blaming the heat - which follows a record drought - on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.

At times last week it seemed as if that was happening already. Chaos ruled in Melbourne on Friday after an electricity substation exploded, shutting down the city's entire train service, trapping people in lifts, and blocking roads as traffic lights failed. Half a million homes and businesses were blacked out, and patients were turned away from hospitals.

More than 20 people have died from the heat, mainly in Adelaide. Trees in Melbourne's parks are dropping leaves to survive, and residents at one of the city's nursing homes have started putting their clothes in the freezer.

"All of this is consistent with climate change, and with what scientists told us would happen," said climate change minister Penny Wong.

Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth, is regarded as highly vulnerable. A study by the country's blue-chip Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation identified its ecosystems as "potentially the most fragile" on earth in the face of the threat.

It sounds like hell, doesn't it?

And here is one more bit of news today (this one reported in The Telegraph) about the Southern Hemisphere:

When Charles Darwin set foot on the Galapagos Islands, he was so astonished by the unique diversity of plants and animals there that his visit led to him developing one of the most influential scientific theories of all time. But as scientists around the world prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the great biologist's birth, the rich ecosystems he found 174 years ago on these islands off the coast of South America are now under threat of collapsing.

Conservation groups warn that invasive animals and insects introduced by visitors along with the rising number of tourists and permanent human inhabitants on the islands are destroying the rare endemic species that are found no where else in the world.

There are 106 species on the islands and in the surrounding waters, out of around 450, that are now considered endangered or critically endangered, while another 90 have been officially declared as vulnerable.

Of the 168 unique plants found no where else in the world, 60 per cent are close to extinction and in the past 10 years alone, at least three species, including a mouse that bore Darwin's name, have died out.

We're in Forty Signs of Rain territory here, no?

The Carl Brandon Society's List of Recommended Books for Black History Month 2009

I received this today. (The "I" in the annotations is not me!)

THE CARL BRANDON SOCIETY recommends these books of speculative fiction by writers of African descent for Black History Month 2009, with descriptions from our members:

DARK MATTER: A CENTURY OF SPECULATIVE FICTION FROM THE AFRICAN DIASPORA (Sheree R. Thomas, ed.): It's an important book because it shows that people of color were indeed represented in the speculative literature world back in the day, something I frankly didn't realize until I read the book. I'm sure the book will do the same for many others

SLY MONGOOSE Tobias S. Buckell: Fourteen-year-old Timas lives in a domed city that floats above the acidic clouds of the Venus-like planet Chilo. To make a living Timas is lowered to the surface in an armored suit to scavenge what he can in the unbearable pressure of Chilo's dangerous surface, where he'll learn a secret that may offer hope to a planet about to be invaded.

FLEDGLING Octavia E. Butler: A different take on the vampire novel.

THE GOOD HOUSE Tananarive Due: The story of a house, magic, and pure terror. I loved every scary moment of reading this book

MIDNIGHT ROBBER Nalo Hopkinson: Caribbean folk in space, coming of age, magnificent aliens, how “reality” becomes folk tales. Magnificent.

THE SHADOW SPEAKER Nnedi Okorafor: When fifteen-year old Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, her world shatters. In an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, Ejii embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father's killer. With a newfound friend by her side, Ejii comes face to face with an earth turned inside out -- and with her own magical powers.

THE ICARUS GIRL Helen Oyeyemi: The first book by a talented new author. Set in England and Nigeria, this is the tale of magic gone wrong and twisted around an unsuspecting child.

WIND FOLLOWER Carole McDonnell: Loic, the son of the wealthy headman of the Doreni clan, falls in love at first sight with Satha, the impoverished but proud daughter of his father's old Theseni friend. Loic requests an immediate marriage, but for Satha, passion takes longer to ignite, and Loic's father's jealous third wife plots to destroy their happiness. The two must reaffirm their faith in each other and the Creator God to find their way through their troubles.

SONG OF SOLOMON Toni Morrison: A novel of southern-fried magical realism that rivals anything our the Southern Hemisphere has produced.

FILTER HOUSE Nisi Shawl: A long-awaited collection of short stories by a Carl Brandon Society founder. Shawl's roots in African American community of the Great Lakes area and her commitment to using speculative fiction to decode power relationships and uncover magic come through loud and clear in this wonderful book.