Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Hal Y. Zhang's Goddess Bandit of the Thousand Arms


I'm pleased to announce the release of Goddess Bandit of the Thousand Arms, in both print and e-book editions, as the seventy-seventh volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series.You can read a sample of the book or purchase a copy (or both!) now at www.aqueductpress.com.

Women with knives and loves travel through time and space in Goddess Bandit of the Thousand Arms, the first full-length collection of Hal Y. Zhang. In personal, lingering poems and a short story, Goddess Bandit details the ways—fantasy, escape, insurrection, deification, transcendence—women and often unheard voices can overcome oppression and become bright lights against the darkness.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Sarah Tolmie's Disease


I'm please to announce the release of Disease, a fiction by Sarah Tolmie, as the seventy-sixth volume in our Conversation Pieces series, in both print and e-book editions. 

Bodily life is an uneasy business. The terror of disease is a ubiquitous one. New diseases are being discovered all the time. This book collects twenty contemporary diseases — privacy, for example, or innovation, or involuntary compassion — and presents their primary symptoms and etiologies. It presents sufferers’ anecdotes: Owen wakes up one day made of glass. Deirdre is allergic to tourists. A middle-aged diabetic is haunted by the feet of a Kurdish refugee child. Apples develop a persistent tremor, and peanuts plot underground. Human resilience is tested in dramatic new ways in Disease

You can purchase it now from Aqueduct at  http://www.aqueductpress.com.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The WIsCon Chronicles, Vol. 12

I'm pleased to announce the release, in conjunction with WisCONline, of the twelfth volume of the WisCon Chronicles, Boundaries and Bridges, edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota. It's available now in both print and e-book editions at www.aqueductpress.com.

 Read a sample from the book.

The twelfth volume of The WisCon Chronicles explores our understanding of boundaries and bridges, and what they mean for us as individuals and for our communities. This collection includes essays from first-time WisCon attendees and former Guests of Honor, fans and Tiptree/Otherwise Award-winning authors and editors, cis het and LGBTQ+ attendees, affluent and less well-off, abled and disabled, white and POC, young and old, parents and child-free, English speakers and Spanish speakers, and hopefully more than just these categories can capture.

Structural changes in the convention that break down barriers to attendance and participation are important, and some of the essays recount the process and struggles of creating space and programming for POC attendees, access for disabled attendees, and affordability for all attendees. The words we use matter, as essays that talk about feminist terms, gendered language, and even the name of the Tiptree/Otherwise award (which is almost inextricably identified with WisCon) demonstrate. The definition of “community” is also examined, both within WisCon and beyond, as it spills out into the wider world — including online spaces.


Jess Adams • Charlie Jane Anders • Nancy Bird
Kristy Anne Cox • Katherine Alejandra Cross
Alexandra Erin • Nivair H. Gabriel • Sarah Gulde
Lauren Jankowski • Inda Lauryn • Elise Matthesen
Gabriela Damián Miravete • Chimedum Ohaegbu
Otherwise Board • Julia Rios • John Scalzi • Nisi Shawl
Monica Valentinelli • G. Willow Wilson

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Cassandra Rose Clarke's Sacred Summer

I'm pleased to announce the release of Sacred Summer, a novella in verse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, in both print and e-book editions. Sacred Summer is the seventy-fifth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series. You can purchase it now at www.aqueductpress.com.

In the empty halls of a house on the edge of the woods, a dancer faces the aftermath of a career-ending injury and subsequent divorce. Twenty years earlier, on the land where her house would be built, two boys died violently and mysteriously while recording a music video for their band, leaving one survivor. Something sleeps in the woods beyond the house, and when the dancer finds the last musician, it will start to wake…

 Read a sample from the book.

 Read "Ballet, Suburbia, and Death Metal: An Interview with Cassandra Rose Clarke" by T.D. Walker here.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Lesley Wheeler's Unbecoming

I'm pleased to announce the release of Lesley Wheeler's debut novel, Unbecoming, from Aqueduct Press in both print and e-book editions. Readers may remember the author's Conversation Pieces volume The Receptionist and Other Tales (2012), which appeared on the Tiptree Award Honor List. The book is now available through Aqueduct's website: www.aqueductpress.com.

 Read a sample from the book.

What if women gained uncanny power at middle age? In Unbecoming, Cyn’s family is shattering, and she is at war with her own body. Then, when her best friend flies off on a mysterious faculty exchange program, a glamorous stranger takes her place—Fee Ellis, a Welsh poet who make it all look easy. But it may be costly to welcome this charismatic outsider to their little college town. Cyn’s best friend, meanwhile, communicates only in ominous fragments.

Advance Praise

“Lesley Wheeler’s Unbecoming is a delightful, beautifully written 21st-century gothic novel set at a Virginia university and also in the borderlands between the literal and the metaphorical, between the realistic and the fantastic. Like all universities, this one is a school for wizards and conjurers. Professors offer portals to undiscovered countries and enchanted lands. Portals lead to demons and horror and death too. Cynthia has recently become English Department Chair. She’s perimenopausal and coming into her blood-magic, witch woman power. The English Department is a tiny realm, fighting other more powerful realms at the University that would swallow any beleaguered humanities discipline. How do we survive each other, resist the demons or easy escape to a deadly realm that could destroy us? How do we conjure a path to the world we want? Lesley Wheeler says, ask the poets and the painters!”
 —Andrea Hairston, author of Will do Magic For Small Change and The Master of Poisons

“The story of a woman leading an ordinary life who discovers within herself extraordinary powers, Unbecoming is sage, funny, and warm, like a long conversation with your best friend about all the strange and wonderful things that have been happening to her lately. Lesley Wheeler’s writing is so deft and magical that I’m convinced that she must have learned it from the fairies. This smart, beguiling debut fantasy casts a spell that readers won’t want to break.”
 —Emily Croy Barker, author of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic and How to Talk to a Goddess



A middle-aged college professor taps into her magical ability in the midst of personal and professional chaos in this excellent feminist fantasy from Wheeler (The Receptionist and Other Tales). Cynthia’s world is falling apart. She’s suffering through hot flashes, her husband’s off in North Carolina, her teenage children are testing their wings, and her best friend, Alisa, has left on a mysterious faculty exchange program with a remote college in Wales. Stepping into Alisa’s professorial role at Cynthia’s small liberal arts college in Virginia is the oddly charismatic Sophia “Fee” Ellis, whose strange behaviors (sleeping outside, causing dogs to bark, looking right at anyone whispering about her even when she couldn’t have overheard) quickly become the talk of the English Department. As the bizarre happenings around Fee grow more extreme and Alisa proves impossible to reach, Cyn realizes that everything she wishes for, intentionally or no, seems to be coming true. Cyn will need help to understand what’s happening to her, but can she trust the secretive Fee for guidance? Wheeler’s prose is gorgeous and her characters are marvelously detailed. Cyn is by turns sarcastic and serious but always empathetic, and the mysterious Fee is surprisingly down-to-earth for all her arcane knowledge. Readers will be taken with this powerful and deeply satisfying tale. (Starred Review)    —Publishers Weekly, April 2020

Lesley Wheeler is an accomplished poet and a named professor at Washington and Lee, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that her first novel is peppered with striking language (‘‘She was already a ghost of linen and warm air’’; kids ‘‘flock and wheel’’) and shrewd portraits of some familiar denizens of academia. Wheeler’s major previous venture into fantasy, the narrative poem ‘‘The Receptionist’’ (in The Receptionist and Other Tales, also from Aqueduct Press) cleverly and at times hilariously borrowed the language of high fantasy to describe academic politics and misbehavior, and it not only ended up on the Tiptree honor list, but drew praise from the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin and Gwyneth Jones. Her first novel, Unbecoming, is also framed largely as a satirical academic tale, but one leavened with more than a bit of witchery and magic, principally the notion, which begins to haunt the narrator, that certain women entering middle age somehow develop magical powers. We’re told early on that Cynthia (or Cyn) Rennard, the chair of English at a respected Virginia university, is perimenopausal (a condition which she describes as ‘‘more taboo than serial killings, less plausible than vampire tales’’), and not long afterward she seems to psychokinetically prevent a car from striking her teenage son. Of course, she begins to wonder if there might be a connection

But there are broader hints of mythical pow-ers afoot. Cyn’s closest friend Alisa is off to Wales on an exchange professorship, and the Welsh professor who arrives in her place is a rather mysterious and glamorous figure named Sophia Ellis, who settles in a bit too quickly and enthralls fellow faculty, to the point where one eventually proposes to her. Not too subtly, she calls herself Fee (and later we’re reminded that Cynthia’s last name, Rennard, also carries some folkloristic weight, underlined when she decides to dress as a fox to attend a costume party being thrown by Fee). Meanwhile, Alisa’s increasingly sparse communications from Wales begin to take on a vaguely ominous tone, while some odd little watercolors in Alisa’s house – now occupied by Fee – seem to assume some magical, portal-like qualities. And Cyn’s own possible ‘‘blood magic’’ (as Fee calls it) apparently begins to have darker results. Is Fee in fact a ‘‘changeling professor,’’ as her local nickname has it? Is Cyn’s blood magic real, along with the hints of shape-shifting and portals to other realms? --Gary K. Wolfe, Locus, May 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

Award annoucements

This weekend two awards we're particularly fond of were announced.

Congratulations to Sarah Pinsker, whose Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was awarded the Philip K. Dick Award, and to Sarah Tolmie, whose The Little Animals was awarded a special citation. Here's the official press release:

April 10, 2020
For Immediate Release

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Winner Announced

It was announced on Friday, April 10, 2020 at Norwescon 43, in (virtual) SeaTac, Washington,
that the winner for the distinguished original science fiction paperback published for the first
time during 2019 in the U.S.A. is:

Pinsker (Small Beer Press)

Special citation was given to:

THE LITTLE ANIMALS by Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct Press)

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for
distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. The
award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the award ceremony is
sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society. The 2019 award was given to THEORY
OF BASTARDS by Audrey Schulman (Europa Editions) with a special citation to 84K by Claire
North (Orbit).

The judges for the 2020 award were Thomas A. Easton, Karen Heuler, Mur Lafferty, Patricia
MacEwen (chair), and James Sallis. This year’s judges are F. Brett Cox, Brendan DuBois, Cynthia Felice, Tim Pratt, and Jessica Reisman.

The virtual award ceremony can be found online at:

For more information, contact the award administration: Gordon Van Gelder (201) 876-2551,
John Silbersack (347) 787-7445, and Pat LoBrutto (301) 460-3164

For more information about the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society, http://www.psfs.org/:

The second award announced was the Otherwise (previously known as the James Tiptree Jr.) Award. And for this award, congratulations go to to Akwaeke Emezi.
Here is Pat Murphy's email announcing the award:

Right now, we seem to be living in a dystopian science fiction future. Despite that, the Otherwise Award (originally the Tiptree Award) is still here —  still searching the world for speculative works that challenge us to think in new ways about gender. We are still celebrating those creators who are inventing new and better futures (which the world certainly needs right now). 

I am pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Otherwise Award: Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi

“Akwaeke Emezi's Freshwater is beautiful, complicated, magical, challenging, and sometimes vividly cruel,” writes juror Edmond Y. Chang. “Told from multiple, overlapping, and often conflicted perspectives, the novel tells the story of Ada, who is caught between worlds, trying to navigate family, education, migration and immigration, Catholicism and Igbo spirituality, and what it means to be a self, a person.  The novel does not shy away from explorations of gender nonconformity (particularly for people of color), sexuality, toxic masculinity, race, mental illness, and trauma.  There are no easy paths or answers for Ada (or the reader), and therefore the novel imagines alternative, even radical forms of identity and most importantly survival.”

The 2019 Honor List celebrates nine exceptional and thought-provoking works:  

For the jury's comments on all these works, please visit the Otherwise Award website. The Award winner and Honor List often become my reading list for the next year. If you need a break from the daily news barrage, from tending to the needs of family, from worrying about the state of the world we live in, from sewing face masks (my current preoccupation), consider allowing yourself some time to read and explore other worlds. 

As always, if you spot a work of fiction that you want to call to the attention of the 2020 judges, please post it on the recommendation page of the Award website. We count on the community to let us know what's out there. On the website, you can also read more about past winners and donate to help fund the award. (We count on the community for that too.)

I'd like to commend the 2019 jury (Debbie Notkin, Mariana Calderon, Edmond Y. Chang, Trish Salah, Bogi Takács.) for completing their task during such difficult times. The Award only exists because of  the support of our community. Thank you all. 


Pat Murphy
For the Otherwise Award Motherboard

PS We are working on plans for a  (possibly virtual) celebration of the winner and the Honor List. The winner will receive $1000 in prize money, a specially commissioned piece of original artwork, and (of course) chocolate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, 10, 1

The new issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out. This issue includes short fiction by Gwynne Garfinkle, poetry by Colleen Anderson, A.L. Blacklyn, and T.D. Walker, a Grandmother Magma column by Pat Murphy, Karen Burnham's Dust Lanes column, and reviews of books by Arley Sorg, Misha Stone, and others. This issue's featured artist is Ruby Rae Jones. You can purchase single issues ($3 for a pdf or $5 for a print issue) and 4-issue subscriptions ($10 for an electronic subscription or $16 for both print and electronic subscription) at http://thecsz.com/.

Vol. 10, No. 1 (2020)Vol. 10 No. 1 — 2020

Flash Fiction
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
by Gwynne Garfinkle
Poems by
Colleen Anderson
A.L. Blacklyn
T.D. Walker

Grandmother Magma
Eleanor Arnason’s
Daughter of the Bear King

   reviewed by Pat Murphy

Dust Lanes
Short fiction reviews
   by Karen Burnham

Book Reviews
The Rampant
by Julie Day
   reviewed by Arley Sorg
Meet Me in the Future
by Kameron Hurley
   reviewed by Laura A. Gilliam
The Future of Another Timeline
by Annalee Newitz
  reviewed by Misha Stone

Sisters of the Vast Black
by Lina Rather
  reviewed by Joanne Rixon

Featured Artist
Ruby Rae Jones

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Lambda Award Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Finalists

Congratulations to Marlon James, Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes, Jac Jemc, Samantha Shannon, Julie C. Day, Craig Laurance Gidney, Matthew Bright, and Nina McLaughlin, this year's finalists for the Science Fiction/Fanasy/Horror category of the Lambda Award! We are, of course, honored that a volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, The Rampant, by Julie C. Day made this very fine list.

Here's the list:

Finalists will be celebrated and winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang the evening of Monday, June 8, 2020 in New York City.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Jean LeBlanc's Ancient Songs of Us

I'm pleased to announce the release of Jean LeBlanc's Ancient Songs of Us, a new collection of poetry, as the seventy-third volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series. It's available now in both print and e-book editions through Aqueduct's website (http://www.aqueductpress.com).

Read a sample from the book.

The poems in Ancient Songs of Us suggest that no song is “ancient,” that every story crosses time and transcends place to remind us what it means to be human. Love, hatred, fury, longing, ennui, sadness—these states of heart and mind in all their nuance hues overflow from these poems.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Cynthia Ward's The Adventure of the Naked Guide

I'm please to announce the release of The Adventure of the Naked Guide by Cynthia Ward as the seventy-fourth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series.It is available in both print and e-book editions on Aqueduct's website (www.aqueductpress.comhttp://www.aqueductpress.com/books/978-1-61976-179-7.php)..

The Adventure of the Naked Guide is the third novella in the author's Blood Thirsty Agent series.
The earth is hollow—a trackless primordial wilderness. It's also the new front in the Great War. Here, the British spy Lucy Harker—Dracula's daughter—must locate Britain's missing vampire slayer—her own mother. Then she's separated from her lover, the vampire spy Carmilla and captured by Germany's most brilliant scientist, the sinister Dr Krüger. Now, Agent Harker may discover her most dangerous opponents are on her own side.

Cynthia Ward’s Lucy Harker novellas give the modern reader an updated frolic through avant-garde genre fiction, a frolic frosted with a myriad of clever fandom-esque references sure to delight adventurous readers.  (Read the whole review)
  —Tangent Online, Michelle Ristuccia,  February 14, 2020

Friday, January 31, 2020

Anya Johanna DeNiro's City of a Thousand Feelings

I'm pleased to announce the release of City of a Thousand Feelings by Anya Johanna DeNiro, the seventy-second volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, in both print and e-book editions. The book can be purchased now at www.aqueductpress.com.

The City of a Thousand Feelings doesn't let certain people inside its walls. It's a place where emotions can become visible, but it flees the approach of a makeshift army who want to enter. Two of the trans women in this army forge a deep, complicated, and at times contentious friendship spanning thirty years. They must come to terms with not only the City's literal and figurative gatekeeping, but also other, even more sinister forces that use necromancy against them. As the narrator and her friend's lives are sundered apart, they must come to terms with what it means to not have a home, and what it means to be queer and aching for such a home. A sword and sorcery tale with emotional resonance, City of a Thousand Feelings brims with both the visceral and the allegorical, allowing the two trans women at the center of the story to claim their own space.

Advance Praise

“Anya DeNiro’s City of a Thousand Feelings is a huge fantasy epic with a deeply intimate relationship story at its heart. I love these heroic trans characters and their struggle to find, or build, a better world. This story left me with a renewed faith in our collective ability to make it through the wilderness and the assaults of undead angels, and to create better families as we do so.
 —Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky



Surreal and lyrical, if opaque, this profound fantasy from DeNiro (Tyrannia) explores the struggle for acceptance. An unnamed trans woman narrator meets the fellow trans woman to whom the book is addressed, whose name changes over the course of the novel from Melody to Mystery to Mercy, when they both join a ragtag army of exiled women intent on storming the city that excluded them. The army falls and 15 years of loneliness pass before the two women reunite. Together they decide to sneak back into the city to steal the city’s blueprints and use them to build a new, inclusive home of their own. While the setting is successfully atmospheric, readers learn little about the characters. DeNiro’s imagistic style leads to moments of beauty in lines such as “My heart is a flock of swallows blown out of a barn by a gale,” but can also make it difficult to parse whether fantastical elements are meant to be read metaphorically. While some readers will struggle for a foothold in this strange, cerebral story, others will be gratified by the poetic writing and powerful themes of belonging.
  —Publishers Weekly, November 2019

DeNiro packs an entire epic fantasy into this very short book from Aqueduct Press, and it is a testament to what a skilled writer can do with a hybrid form.
  —Buzzfeed, Wendy J. Fox,  January 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

2020 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

Congratulations to Aqueduct's Sarah Tolmie, as well as to Ada Hoffman, Megan E. O'Keefe, Susan Palwick, Sarah Pinsker, and Tade Thompson, for their nominations to the 2020 Philip K. Dick Award. The books on the final ballot are:
THE OUTSIDE by Ada Hoffmann (Angry Robot)
VELOCITY WEAPON by Megan E. O'Keefe (Orbit)
ALL WORLDS ARE REAL: SHORT FICTIONS by Susan Palwick (Fairwood Press)
THE LITTLE ANIMALS by Sarah Tolmie (Aqueduct Press)
First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, April 10, 2020 at Norwescon 43 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Seattle Airport, SeaTac, Washington.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Plesures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2019, pt. 28: Arrate Hildago

2019 Pleasures
by Arrate Hidalgo

2019 has been, just as 2018, full of the chaos that comes with organizing a feminist SF festival in one’s hometown with not much organizing experience to speak of. This means that I have kept buying books but have finished far fewer of them than usual. Still, maybe that is why I have really enjoyed just sitting and reading a book this year, whenever I could. Below are some of the few books I have been able do that with in 2019.

My Tiptree (now Otherwise) award juror reading bled into the summer, when I had the chance to stop and really enjoy some of the books Gretchen sent me (thank you, Gretchen and publishers). One of those books is Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn, a queer ghost story which is much more than that and which really spoke to me in many ways, possibly due to my Catholic upbringing, among other reasons. The book bursts with sparkling language and yet manages to convey exactly what it is like to live with a lifetime of things unsaid.

I have been obsessed with CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner cycle since my friend and colleague Lawrence Schimel gave me the first book in the series. He has ever since kept providing me with volumes, and last summer I finished the first trilogy with Inheritor. One of the things I love the most about these books, apart from everything else, is the fact that as an overworked translator with anxiety I could not hope for a more relatable protagonist. I keep looking at the next three books on my shelf with longing. Maybe in February.

To be honest, if I were to highlight anything about my reading life in 2019, that would be the fact that I have kept delving deeper into contemporary women’s lit in Basque, and it has been a ride. Two of the titles that have had a greater impact in my head have been Kontrako eztarritik [“Down the wrong pipe”] collected by Uxue Alberdi, and Amek ez dute [“Mothers do not”] by Katixa Agirre.

Kontrako eztarritik is a collection of directed interviews conducted by bertsolari and author Uxue Alberdi with other women bertsolaris, which were then de-kernelled into classified topics relevant to feminism. Bertsolaritza or “bertso practice/making” is a Basque oral poetic tradition, performed in public, in which bertsolaris are given a subject and sometimes a metre and they must come up with an improvised, sung-on-the-spot string of verses that both rhyme and have a punchline at the end. Bertsolaris can be put in competition or cooperation with one another, depending on the moment, and they are important public figures in Basque folk and political culture. The same goes for contemporary feminist circles. Uxue Alberdi’s book is a pioneering attempt at X-raying the circumstances of women in the field by looking at concepts such as body, humor, Basqueness, and money and the way in which they all interrelate. (If you’re curious about this Basque thing, here is a thread by me on queer and trans representation in contemporary bertsolaritza, via legend Maialen Lujanbio’s outstanding work.)

On the other hand, Katixa Agirre’s Amek ez dute is a visceral look into the act of creation, both from the mother’s and the writer’s perspective, by merging both identities in the novel’s protagonist. After hearing the news that a woman near her hometown has drowned her infant twins, and finding out that the woman is actually someone she once met when she lived in England as an exchange student, the writer and rookie mum protagonist sets out to obsessively research the case and turn it into her next novel. To say it was a gripping read would be an understatement, and I was very surprised to be so sucked into a story with a plot summary that I would have definitely passed on, had my friends not recommended it to me. The author has translated herself into Spanish (Las madres no), if anybody out there is interested. It is very intense and, strangely, very enjoyable.

Among other things,  Arrate Hidalgo is Associate Editor at Aqueduct Press. She is also an English to Spanish translator, an founder and organizer of a feminist sf con, and an amateur singer. Visit her website at arratehidalgo.com.

Friday, January 3, 2020

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2019, pt. 27: Eileen Gunn

The Pleasures of Reading, 2019
by Eileen Gunn

I have a confession to make, though it may not surprise anyone. I am a person who does not readily finish books. All over my house, stacked on chairs, lying half-open on tables, tucked temporarily into bookshelves in an order that makes no sense, are all the books I’m in the process of reading. So when Timmi asks me to join her year-end roundup of the books we’ve all been reading, I rush frantically to finish a few of my books-in-progress. This year I have failed to finish any of the books I am currently most enjoying, so I have have decided to dispense with all pretense and finish the books at the leisurely pace they deserve. So here are the books I am in the middle of reading that I am enjoying most, plus three books I actually did finish this year, though I’m not going to tell you directly which those are.

Stray Bats, words by Margo Lanagan, Illustrations by Kathleen Jennings. A demonically wonderful book. Fifty tiny intense tales, little windows into the minds and lives of fearsome, magically inclined women and a few hapless men. Ms. Lanagan is a master of endings that do more than twist: they writhe in your mind, transforming the story you think you just read. Ms. Jennings’s evocative pencil illustrations, as warm and fully fleshed as the mama witch on the cover, are sweetly reassuring. There is an intriguing inventory of poems by Australian women at the back of the book, an adventure I’ve just begun. And, yes, there are bats.

Agency, by William Gibson. A problem for writers of science fiction right now is how to write about the near future without depicting it as a time of bleak misery, a time in which the bulk of humanity will be powerless, at the mercy of criminals and oligarchs, unable to act in their own interests—in other words, how to break with the present. In this book, Mr. Gibson returns to us our agency, at least for as long as we are reading. I admit that I was pathetically happy to be, however briefly, living in a sane, modestly prosperous future. I won’t tell you how he did that.

River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, by Rebecca Solnit. This is the book about which men explained things to Ms. Solnit--the really important book that was reviewed in really important places, at the same time her own book on Muybridge came out…. Actually, as you and I know, that’s her book. And it’s a remarkable book, exploring the interconnectedness between place and technology and complex personalities--everything history is made of, really. It takes us places we would not have thought to go, and pays attention to the people who often get short shrift from history: the people at the edges. Muybridge seems at times like an excuse for the book, rather than its subject, as the readers’ attention is frequently directed at seemingly peripheral topics, such as the lives of individual Native American fighters in the Modoc War--whom Muybridge photographed--or the state of free-love feminism in the late 1870s—with which Muybridge, having murdered his wife’s lover, clearly disagreed. It is concerned, as is much of Ms. Solnit’s journalism, with what things mean and how they are connected.

Talk Like a Man, by Nisi Shawl. This is a Nisi Shawl sampler, with three stories, a novella, an essay, a detailed Shawl bibliography, and an interview of Shawl by Terry Bisson, cultural icon and editor of this series of chapbooks from PM Press. One of Mx. Shawl’s magnificent gifts is an ear for dialogue, both spoken and internal; another is an ability to anchor stories in time and space, in a specific moment. Even if you have their earlier collection, Filter House, you will find new people and places here. Isn’t it time for another major Nisi Shawl short-story roundup? Let’s get those dogies movin’!

Rule of Capture, by Christopher N. Brown. This is a grimly realistic, exceptionally well-observed novel that desperately cares about our near future of drought, misery, oligarchs, and criminals, and wants its characters to be able to fight back. Fighting back is a tough job, and Mr. Brown does not underestimate the forces being brought, in real life, to keep the powerful in control, nor is he mistaken about the nature of the struggle: a not-actually-fictional moment in the book, an encounter with a coyote in a post-industrial wilderness, suggests that humanity may not survive in the long run. The story continues in Failed State, which is due out in January, fast on the heels of Rule of Capture.

The Tales of Uncle Remus, as told by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinckney. I do love Julius Lester, have for over fifty years. I trust his voice: he said what he meant, he said it directly, he did not mess around. And here, in this four-book series, is his voice in the service of African-American folklore, telling stories that were collected a century ago, taking them out of 19th-century dialect, retelling them in what he says is contemporary southern black English, meaning in a voice that reflects his own speech and sense of humor. These are stories such as one might tell while putting the kids to bed, if one was the kind of witty, funny, slightly prankish storyteller that Julius Lester was. And, omigod, they’re illustrated by Jerry Pinckney, one of the greatest American illustrators of the past 70 years. These are not cartoons, thank you very much. These are gorgeous gouache illos of realistically imagined, beautifully drawn talking animals wearing human clothes. Do not settle for less!

"The Curve of the World," by Vonda N. McIntyre. A most enjoyable book, a rich portrait of Minoan Crete, with details drawn from existing artifacts, rigorous extrapolation, and an informed love of art, technology, textiles, and food. It introduces readers to the mostly peaceable trading peoples of the ancient eastern Mediterranean, and then whips them through the Pillars of Hercules for a brisk sail across the Atlantic and adventures in the new world. Part of the fun is trying to figure out when it’s set and where it’s going. Publication details are still being resolved. I am reading a typescript on my iPhone and trying to make it last and last.

There are lots more open books taking up space on my dining room table and in my brain. One of them may be yours. I’ll finish it soon—maybe for next year.

Eileen Gunn is the author of two story collections: Stable Strategies and Others (Tachyon Publications, 2004 and Hayakawa, 2007) and Questionable Practices (Small Beer Press, 2014). Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the US and the Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and World Fantasy awards and short-listed for the James Tiptree, Jr. award. Her most recent story, “Trudy on the Lam,” appeared in Asimovs, April 2019. Her non-fiction has appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Locus, Paradoxa, Science Fiction Eye, the New York Review of Science Fiction, and other magazines covering science fiction, technology, and culture. She is the author of The Difference Dictionary, a guide to and analysis of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s novel The Difference Engine. Gunn serves on the board of directors of the Locus Foundation, which publishes the genre newsmagazine Locus, and served for 22 years on the board of directors of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. After leaving the board, Gunn was an instructor at Clarion West in 2015, and will return as one in 2020. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2019, pt. 26: Kristin King

The Pleasures of 2019: A Short List 
by Kristin King 

If I could just pick out four works this year to recommend, they would be:

In the Quiet Spaces by C. E. Young. This book is pocket-sized and goes with me 'most everywhere, and it always tells me something I need to hear. I’d explain it, but God is not in the explanations.

Talk Like a Man by Nisi Shawl. The story “Women of the Doll” takes an unforgettable superhero through her paces, and the essay “Ifa: Reverence, Science, and Social Technology” has given me hefty food for thought about how people make community.

The Expanse (novel series) by James S.A. Corey went through our family like the flu, one by one succumbing and losing hours, maybe days, at a time. I’ll never feel the same way about gravity again.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang gave me solace when I needed it most. Chiang had me at the story “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which mixes the fairy-tale setting of the Arabian Nights together with time travel to create philosophical breakthroughs. One way or another, all his stories are that way.

Kristin King (http://kristinking.wordpress.com) is a writer, parent, and activist who lives in Seattle. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Calyx, The Pushcart Prize XXII (1998), and other places. Two of her stories appeared in an Aqueduct Press anthology, Missing Links and Secret Histories: A Selection of Wikipedia Entries Lost, Suppressed, or Misplaced in Time. A selection of her short fiction has been collected in Misfits from the Beehive State.