Saturday, April 23, 2016

Andrea Hairston's Will Do Magic for Small Change

I'm pleased to announce the release of Will Do Magic for Small Change, a new novel by Andrea Hairston, in both trade paperback and e-book editions.You can purchase it now at It will be available elsewhere soon.

Cinnamon Jones dreams of stepping on stage and acting her heart out like her famous grandparents, Redwood and Wildfire. But at 5'10'' and 180 pounds, she's theatrically challenged. Her family life is a tangle of mystery and deadly secrets, and nobody is telling Cinnamon the whole truth. Before her older brother died, he gave Cinnamon The Chronicles of the Great Wanderer, a tale of a Dahomean warrior woman and an alien from another dimension who perform in Paris and at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The Chronicles may be magic or alien science, but the story is definitely connected to Cinnamon's family secrets. When an act of violence wounds her family, Cinnamon and her theatre squad determine to solve the mysteries and bring her worlds together.

Advance Praise

"Will Do Magic for Small Change sings from the page. This is a novel only Afrofuturism pioneer Andrea Hairston could write, full of myth, history, magic and intrigue, from 1980s Pittsburgh to 19th Century Dahomey, West Africa. Hairston puts readers under a spell."   —Tananarive Due, American Book Award winner, author of Ghost Summer: Stories
"Andrea Hairston's vision is breathtaking. She weaves sweeping historical narratives and mythology with the wisdom of the elders, and shines light on the pressing issues of the day. In her hands language is a blessing, and the familiar and the fantastic become magic, one and the same."   —Sheree Renée Thomas, editor of the award-winning Dark Matter anthology series, author of Shotgun Lullabies
"This is one of those books you start and realize you've been waiting to read for a long, long time without knowing. Will Do Magic for Small Change is a deep breath, a good friend, a hearbreaking, game-changing, life-affirming, truthtelling powerhouse. I love this book."  —Daniel José Older, author of Half-Resurrection Blues and Salsa Nocturna
"It is hard to pull away from this world of aliens meeting orishas, ghosts appearing and conversing, fiery aje, and sea monsters rising, ahosi, king's wives and warrior women, defending, gender fluidity resounding, blackbirds chronicling and ravens painting, lightning scorching and time travel transcending, wanderers flickering across dimensions and stillpoints grounding, storm fists and storm stories raining, ALL flourishing with incandescent poetic prose and shimmering song lyrics. Welcome to synapses pulsing, the flooding of ancient memories, and praise-song reframing when engaging in this neural decolonizing novel, an 1890s Dahomey, Paris, Atlantic ocean passages, New York and Chicago entangled with a 1980s Pittsburgh, emerging and becoming vibrantly alive!"   —Grace L. Dillon (Anishinaabe), Editor of Walking the Clouds
"When I read Andrea Hairston's work, there is always the danger that the plot will draw me so quickly into the complex lives of beings so different from the humans to whom I've grown accustomed that I won't remember to slow down long enough to enjoy the richness of the writing itself. That would be a shame because the beauty of Hairston's passionate language is more than equal to the telling of her insanely imaginative tales of time travel and truth telling; memory and magic. Drawing freely and fiercely from Native American, West African and African American cultural and spiritual traditions, she creates new worlds as richly complicated and blindingly colorful as any you are likely to encounter in the work of the world's best science fiction authors. But even as I write those words, I realize that while calling her writing science fiction assigns it to a specific and honorable literary neighborhood indeed, that label may also mean that some who do not consider themselves fans of the genre may not discover her at all, depriving themselves of the sweep of her creative vision simply because of arbitrary boundaries between what is real and what is fantasy; what is now and what was then; what is past and what is prologue. But Hairston's work is not about boundaries and labels. It is about freedom, to live, to love, to fight and to win. I have been a fan of Hairston's work since Redwood and Wildfire. With the appearance of Will Do Magic for Small Change, she continues her quest to make us see more deeply, feel more authentically and allow ourselves to consider the possibility that there are worlds still to discover. How lucky we are that we're ready to go exploring, we can count of Andrea Hairston to be our guide."   —Pearl Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day


The entire work is filled with magic, celebrating West Africans, Native Americans, art, and love that transcends simple binary genders. Hairston's novel is a completely original and stunning work.
  —Publishers Weekly, April 2016 (starred review)

At the core of Andrea Hairston's complex tale, WILL DO MAGIC FOR SMALL CHANGE, framed by Cinnamon's need to posthumously connect with her gay, dreamy, black-sheep brother, is the theme of journeying to the self. Cinnamon, as the child of a family scarred by race and class struggles, fights to carve an identity for herself out of the seemingly disparate elements of her life: femininity, art, blackness, geekdom, sexuality, spirituality. Paralleling this struggle is Kehinde, who was kidnapped from another people by the Fon and forced into the role of ahosi; she desperately seeks ways to prove that the Fon never truly enslaved her....The only flaw in this beautifully multifaceted story is that Kehinde's tale outshines Cinnamon's, though this improves over time. Both stories are worth that time, however, with deep, layered, powerful characters. Highly recommended.    —The New York Times, N.K. Jemisin,  April 24, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Ravenna Third Place Books on Tuesday

Just a reminder: Susan diRende, author of the comic novella Unpronounceable, the latest volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, will be reading and signing at Ravenna Third Place Books on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.  (Details are here:  Tom & Kath & I will all be attending. We hope to see a lot of Aqueduct Irregulars there!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 6, 2

The April issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! The issue opens with Julie Phillips' keynote talk at the Tiptree Symposium (held last December at the University of Oregon) discussing the correspondence between Ursula K. Le Guin and James Tiptree Jr and Joanna Russ and James Tiptree Jr. The issue also includes poetry by Gwynne Garfinkle, Neile Graham, and Sonya Taaffe, a Grandmother Magma column by Daniel Abraham, and reviews of five new books; the issue's featured artist is Betsy James (who is also the author of Roadsouls, a novel Aqueduct has just published, and stories recently published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). If you're not already a subscriber, you can subscribe or purchase the issue here.

Vol. 6 No. 2 — April  2016
“I Begin to Meet You at Last”:
On the Tiptree-Russ-Le Guin Correspondence
  by Julie Phillips
Clear-Cut Spirit Song
The Goddess of the Unseen
The Gods of Tales
   by Neile Graham

Men Who Aren’t Crazy
   by Sonya Taaffe

Poetess Strikes Again
   by Gwynne Garfinkle

Grandmother Magma
Toward a Feminist Masculinity
The Will to Change, bell hooks
   by Daniel Abraham

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
   reviewed by S. Qiouyi Lu

The Merril Theory of Lit'ry Criticism, by Judith Merril, edited by Ritch Calvin
   reviewed by Michael Levy

The Winged Histories, by Sofia Samatar
   reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West, edited by Cynthia Ward
  reviewed by Kristin King

Damnificados, by JJ Amaworoso Wilson
  reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

Featured Artist
Image to Word: The Morning Series
   by Betsy James

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Violette Leduc

Rafia Zakaria's piece in today's Guardian reminds me that it's the birthday of Violette Leduc-- her 109th. Which in turn makes me realize that I missed, entirely, her centenary year, making me think that probably not many people in the US noticed it at the time. And in fact Zakaria's piece notes how neglected Leduc's work has been:
 It is a mysterious marginalisation: Simone de Beauvoir, who took on Leduc as a protege, remains a feminist icon. Leduc’s contemporary Jean Genet, also wrote sexually explicit, homosexual texts and is widely read and venerated as a pioneer in French avant-garde writing. Not so Leduc. Her first book, the autobiographical novel L’Asphyxie, has still not been translated into English. Her novel Thérèse and Isabelle, written in 1955, was not published uncensored in France until 2000 and was only translated and published in English by the Feminist Press last year.
This marginalization doesn't seem all that mysterious to me. Leduc writes not only from a woman's point of view, not only from a lesbian's (or bisexual's) point of view, but also from a scathingly honest working-class point of view. I still remember how, when I read her powerful La Batarde, I felt shocked by its micropolitical revelations of social relations-- not because they were new or scandalous, but because they spoke, without flinching, of feelings and responses that I never saw represented anywhere else. In short, it was written outside and without reference to the canons of middle-class values (including literature's middle-class notions of good taste and fine aesthetics, which did, actually, make the work scandalous). I think I knew even then how difficult, technically, it must have been for her to do that--not through any inhibitions she might have felt, but because forging new stories and new forms of expression for describing what is usually left unexplored is damned hard. (This is something I talked about a little in my WisCon GoH speech.)

Interestingly, Zakaria zooms in, briefly, on her relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, whom she met in 1945 and who was instrumental in getting Leduc's work published:

The juxtaposition of De Beauvoir and Leduc is revelatory in terms of who defines feminism and who actually lives it. Here is Leduc, a woman made feminist by experience: a fatherless, poverty-stricken childhood, a youth spent grovelling for affection and sustenance, her wartime hustle smuggling legs of lamb to rich Parisians. Her autobiography painfully and pointedly underscores her constant alienation, her surfeit of emotion. Ever the outsider, she steals, she smuggles; when she reads and learns, it is in bits and pieces. Days spent writing are imbued with worries about eating, surviving. Uninterested in branding and constructing her own myth, she bluntly tells De Beauvoir that she is not an intellectual. This annoys her mentor, to whom Leduc recalls retorting: “You are an intellectual because you write.”

 De Beauvoir spent her time earning the title “intellectual”. Her story is one of early erudition, acing exams, stunning philosophical acuity and a romantic (if also conveniently strategic) alliance with Sartre. In Leduc, she sees the authenticity that she theorises, and in playing midwife to her self-exposition she seeks the vindication of her philosophy. In existentialism, we are all free to choose, exercise our radical free will; the constraints of past experience can be shaken off, truth told and freedom achieved. Leduc’s life, told in her writing, has to be evidence of the truth of this. De Beauvoir’s feminism, unleavened by any literal struggles with the whims of men, needs Leduc’s literary liberation to prove its practical application.
Yet it is only De Beauvoir’s prescient and crisply analysed feminism that we remember and celebrate. The lived feminism of Leduc – raw, passionate, and devastatingly honest – is what we choose to forget. There are contemporary iterations to this divide: like Leduc, the women fighting the battles on the factory floors of China, or in the classrooms of Egypt or the streets of Karachi do not have the luxury of writing their lives and finding liberation. The lived feminisms of the women who clean French hotel rooms, who eke out lives in banlieues, who are expelled from schools for wearing headscarves, are absent from the country’s feminist and literary narrative.

It is still De Beauvoir’s compelling feminist recipe that one wants to believe. It is, however, Leduc’s truth that presses closer: speaking of De Beauvoir’s prescription, she says: “To write is to be liberate oneself. Untrue. To write is to change nothing.”

Can we really, after considering Leduc's differences, call Leduc's marginalization "mysterious"? Many of us women writing today need to believe that writing, which requires a constant exertion of will and agency, is liberating. Is this a pipe dream (of the crack, rather than opium, sort)? I don't know, since I'm one of those who feel that my life and who I am has changed through my writing, regardless of its significance or not to others. Would I still feel that way if my current life were even a little less privileged? I must acknowledge the honesty and even despair of Leduc's flat statement that "to write is to change nothing," especially since Leduc's work, however extraordinary, is so little read and has won so little notice, even though for me, reading what other people have written made my childhood bearable and my feminism and political consciousness, in early adulthood, possible. I wonder what she would have made of the new movement (as I'd like to believe it is) of trying to bring marginalized writing to wider attention? Or, more generally, of the resurgent effort to break the hold of the white male perspective on literature?

Happy birthday, Violette Leduc. And now I must go find the newly published Feminist Press edition of  Thérèse and Isabelle

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Susan diRende's Unpronounceable

I'm pleased to announce a new volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series: Unpronounceable, a novella by Susan diRende. We're releasing it in both e-book and print editions. (You can purchase these at now.) Though feminist comedy is a definite thing, it's not all that visible (or should I say audible? since it tends, actually, to be voice-driven) in the sf/f field. Works by Leslie What, Esther Friesner, and Eileen Gunn come easily to mind, of course. And a lot of humor bubbles through many other writers' work, including some of the work we've published by Eleanor Arnason. And there's certainly a lot of sharp feminist wit to be found (beginning, number one, with Joanna Russ, of course.) Unpronounceable is what I'd call broad comedy. Its author, Susan diRende, is so into this kind of comedy that she founded the Broad Humor Film Festival, Los Angeles, to support women’s comedic vision on film. You can probably tell that from the description of this novella:
Earth has discovered it is not alone in the universe. The aliens — pink, shapeless, and peaceful — are very nice, but after a string of failed diplomatic missions, they ask Earth to stop with the crazies and send someone normal. In frustration, the UN devises a lottery to pick the next ambassador. Enter Rose Delancy, a Jersey waitress.

Rose settles in and starts teaching the natives all about humans with the help of Hollywood movies, junk food, and sex. They show her a few things of their own involving the transformation of matter, but Rose is only interested in how it applies to sex. That is until she learns that she’s been suckered to play the patsy for an interstellar takeover by Earth. To avoid the horrors of planetary annihilation, not to mention having to go back to Jersey, Rose and the Blobs have to stop the invasion and save the planet.
Susan will be reading from Unpronounceable at three venues in the Seattle area-- during the Broad Humor Festival at Olympic College in Bremerton, Wednesday, April 13, 10:30 am, at the Olympic College Bookstore, BSC, 1600 Chester Avenue; Friday, April 15, 1 pm, at the Bremerton Public Library, 612 Fifth Street; and in Seattle, Tuesday, April 19, 7 pm, at Third Place Books, Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave NE.

Susan has also started a blog by Rose Delancy, the narrator of Unpronoucenable, which can be found at

Monday, April 4, 2016

Roadsouls by Betsy James

I'm pleased to announce Aqueduct Press's release, in both print and e-book editions, of Roadsouls, a novel by Betsy James. Roadsouls explores the power of art and creativity for transforming not only one’s own life but also the world one lives in. Timid Duuni has spent her life as abused and guarded property. Blind, arrogant Raím is determined to be again what he once was: hunter, lover, young lord of the earth. Desperate to escape their lives, the two lift up their hands to the passing Roadsoul caravan, and are—literally—flung together naked. Each of them soon learns that saying “yes” to the Roadsouls is more than just accepting an invitation to a new life—it’s a commitment that can’t be reversed. For Duuni and Raím, nothing is as it was. Lost to their old lives, hating each other, they are swept out of their cruel old certainties into an unknown, unknowable, ever-changing world of journey and carnival, artists and wrestlers and thieves. Behind them, inexorable, pads a lion. Inexorable, too, is Duuni and Raím’s inevitable encounter with it, an encounter that will change everything.

“If you long for a fantasy world that your senses could live in, and that isn’t full of scheming nobility, cynical warriors, mass hatreds, and magic as a weapon, read this book. Its backbone is the wandering life of a sort of gypsy-hippie-circus group traveling a pre-industrial landscape and offering a way out to the misfits and throw-aways of the local villages. Raím, a young man blinded in a fall, and Duuni, the unhappily rebellious daughter of religious patriarchy, find their ways outward from home and towards their own strengths, and each other, with (and sometimes dangerously strayed far from) the Roadsouls' caravan….”
  “The writing is vivid and earthy, celebrating a rural world with its sights and smells and wildlife, and the customs and pithy, colorful speech of its people.…”   —Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Vampire Tapestry and Dorothea Dreams

“Betsy James’ dual creative lives as artist and writer enable her to create an elegant variation on the classic hero’s journey. The roads upon which Duuni and Raím travel are those of dirt and rocks, of various cultures lovingly detailed, and of the complex interior landscape of the self. The Roadsouls who are their guides partake more of the trickster than the wise guardian, but as the journey goes on it becomes clear that only the wild and whimsical will free these tormented beings from the shackles that bind their innermost selves.”
 —Jane Lindskold, author of the Firekeeper Saga
In this subtle fantasy, James (Listening at the Gate) follows two wounded young people as they move toward (and sometimes away from) each other.... The blossoming of Duuni’s artistic talents and the gradual process of Raím working through his anger are sensitively depicted, and the book has the rhythms of the road—meetings, partings, and new landscapes every day—at its heart.
  —Publishers Weekly, Jan 2016

 "An innovative and engaging fantasy about ordinary people in a rather low key fantasy realm. Unhappy with their lives, two people abandon their previous circumstances to join a kind of combination caravan and freelance entertainment troupe on its journey across their world. They have adventures of a sort, but they are generally unmelodramatic and they learn more about themselves than about their companions."--Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass

The Roadsouls, and the novel as a whole, to wonder: genuine transformations that just happen, without rituals or spells. ... Betsy James deliberately avoids the tropes and narratives typical of long fiction (mainstream, heroic fantasy, or romance).
  —Locus, Faren Miller,  April 2016

 Roadsouls can be purchased from Aqueduct Press here.