Monday, July 9, 2018

L. Timmel Duchamp's Chercher La Femme

I'm pleased to announce the publication of Chercher La Femme, a new novel by L. Timmel Duchamp (i.e., me!), which is scheduled for official release on August 1, 2018. It is available for purchase in print and e-book formats through Aqueduct's website now.

Novels, of course, always have origin stories..Sometimes a word or phrase, sometimes a dream, sometimes even an image that however fleeting lingers long after it has been glimpsed. In this case, reading Stanislaus Lem's Solaris and watching Andrei Tarkovsky's exceedingly long film based on that novel planted the seed of this novel in my mind. Over the course of two years I drafted the original version in the early 1990s.  I then set it aside. Some fifteen years later, Helen Merrick offered me a perceptive critique. Since I lacked the time to do anything with it then, I saved it for future consideration;.it proved tremendously helpful when I decided to read the manuscript during one of my Port Townsend writing retreats.

On a more personal note, because the novel is written from a non-dystopian perspective, a part of me worried loudly that it might seem out of step with 2018's horrendous fake reality, but in fact its perspective has proven to be helpful for my thinking, rather than evasive. In a sense, it's more fully grounded in 2018's reality than it was in 1993's, without being swallowed up by the social psychological pervasiveness that many of us are struggling to escape. Dare I say aloud that that in our hearts, many of us feel certain that the triumph of neoliberalism can only be a dead end for our species? 

You can  read a sample from the book.Or purchase it here:

Here's a brief description:

"Everything about the humanoids inhabiting the planet La Femme is beautiful and desirable. Even their names are a pleasure to the tongue, a pleasure that can be experienced only in meat space."  —Paul 22423
They named the planet "La Femme" and called it a paradise and refused to leave it. Now Julia 9561 is heading up the mission to retrieve the errant crew and establish meaningful Contact with the inhabitants. Are the inhabitants really all female, as the first crew claimed? Why don't the men want to return to Earth? What happened to the women on the crew? And why did Paul 22423 warn the First Council to send only male crew members?

"Speculative fiction at its purest."
 —-Vonda N. McIntyre, author of Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun

"Chercher La Femme, which unfolds in a strange, complex, alien future, effectively explores several themes: of personal identity and how it holds itself together but is also porous to experience; of communication with alien life forms and how amorphous and challenging that might be; and of the visceral power of alien forms of beauty and art, giving the story compelling depths. The tense stretch between the Pax and the "Outsiders" offers an interesting representation of the real-world tension we now live with, between low-tech societies and those racing to colonize outer (and inner, personal) space in all sorts of ways.

"There's some interesting tidal stirring going on at the more cerebral levels of modern SF, which I think began with books like A Voyage to Arcturus and Solaris. It's now manifesting itself in, for example, Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach books and in this book, Chercher La Femme, as well as in films like Arrival, They Remain, and of course Annihilation. Human bafflement and consternation characterize these stories, in the face of the most alien kind of alien-ness we can imagine at this point, and a necessary softening and yielding of our age-old infatuation with a propulsive, often violent drive to control (or kill) whatever is ineffable and strange to us.
 —Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Vampire Tapestry and the Holdfast Chronicles

And here's Publishers Weekly's review:

Aqueduct editor Duchamp's concentrated and demanding examination of what's accepted as "self" is cleverly and convincingly presented as a simple piece of science fiction. Diplomat Julia, a member of a socialistic human society known as the Pax, is the head of a mission to a far-off world, La Femme. The mission's primary purpose is recovery of the first ship sent to make contact with La Femme's inhabitants, though further diplomatic advancement is planned as well. Julia is distracted from the mission objectives by her deep analysis of her life thus far and the utopian ideal she lives by, particularly when she deals with her splintered crew. What she and her crew find upon arrival is enough to shake them all. Duchamp (Stretto) makes abundant challenges to gender norms and raises questions of what constitutes alienness, and the novel's humanistic approach and unwavering commitment to Julia's frank introspection go beautifully with a precisely detailed world. This thoughtful tale bears rereading and contemplation.
  —Publishers Weekly, June 2018

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