The World SF Blog

Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Chimeras interviews Aliette de Bodard

Chimeras interviews Aliette de Bodard. Here’s an excerpt:

EEG: In general, do you think that the two worlds — writing and engineering — are two completely different compartments in your life or do you feel you couldn’t do one without the other?

ADB: I definitely couldn’t do one without the other: for one, I have this hankering for science, which I don’t think writing would satisfy; and for another, I’m a moderately social person, and I think I’d go insane if I didn’t have a day job where I’m regularly asked to interact with other people. Writing is tremendous fun, and something I could let go of as easily as, say, breathing, but it does need something in the way of a complement for me, and that’s what engineering provides.

The two worlds do interact with each other, except it’s not in terms of ideas crossing the boundaries (OK, I lie. Sometimes I’ll write scientists in a lab, and it’s good to know how scientists really function by virtue of having been there. Also, it helps to have a grounding in basic and not-so-basic science when writing science fiction, if only because it speeds up the research by several orders of magnitude: a lot of time when I’m looking up stuff in an encyclopaedia, I just skim to get the gist, because most of them refer to stuff I either know or have touched upon). Mostly, what I get from the engineering is a sense of method: I will build my stories fairly methodically, on something closely approaching a V-cycle of development. I.e., try to do as many substantial modifications to the story outline, rather than to the first draft, because the more developed the story is, the harder it is to fix. I think a lot of the analytical mind I picked up from science is something I use in my writing, and especially when I’m taking stories apart to see why they don’t work.

I do have a set of different compartments for both activities, though, because I strongly need them to be separate. My day job is my day job, and I’m not going to start brainstorming my novel in the middle of a meeting; similarly, the work stuff is all well and good, but barring leftovers or emergencies, I need my mind to be clear of it when I write. I also have a need for this because of the language problems: so much of what I do in my everyday life is in French; but, in order to write, I have to think exclusively in English. I need to be in what I call “the bubble” in order to call up the English language faster, and the bubble thing won’t work if I start crossing wires with my French-speaking day job. So, by necessity, I have to keep them both separate, and anything I can do to reinforce separation actually helps my writing. It sounds a bit counter intuitive, but that’s just the way my mind works…

And, of course, it always helps to have writing skills when you have to write an engineering proposal with convincing arguments.

August 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off

World SF Travel Fund Extra Rewards – Last Two Days!

The authors of the Book View Cafe have generously joined us to offer a last-two-days-of-the-fund-raise bonus – donate anything from $10 and choose a free title from the list below!

Visit our Peerbackers Project to donate!

 

While we have reached our goal of $6000, we are still short of the total due to paypal and peerbackers costs, and furthermore, any additional donations would go towards a third year of operations for the fund.

And the next four people to donate will also receive a free paper book fromTwelfth Planet Press! (for which just e-mail us with your name atworldsftravelfund@gmail.com, so we don’t forget).

Here’s a list of titles from Book View Cafe for you to choose from:

BVC Anthologies (various authors)
Rocket Boy & the Geek Girls (Science Fiction short stories)
Dragon Lords & Warrior Women (Fantasy short stories)
The Shadow Conspiracy I (Shared world steampunk)
The Shadow Conspiracy II (Shared world steampunk)
Brewing Fine Fiction (Advice for writers)
Ways to Trash Your Writing Career (humorous)
Author efiction donations
Chris Dolley
       What Ho, Automaton!
       An Unsafe Pair of Hands
       Resonance
       International Kittens of Mystery
Nancy Jane Moore
       Changeling
       Flashes of Illumination
Vonda N. McIntyre
       The Adventure of the Field Theorems, a Sherlock Holmes Scientific Romance
       The Exile Waiting
       Little Faces, Nebula-nominated novelet
       The Moon and the Sun
       Dreamsnake
       Superluminal
       The Starfarers Quartet Omnibus
       Starfarers (Starfarers, Book 1)
       Transition (Starfarers, Book 2)
       Metaphase (Starfarers, Book 3)
       Nautilus (Starfarers, Book 4)
Jennifer Stevenson
       Fool’s Paradise
       King of Hearts
Deborah J. Ross
       Jaydium
       Northlight
       Casket of Brass (short story)
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
       Taco Del & the Fabled Tree of Destiny
       Lladasa
       Princess of Passyunk
Madeleine E. Robins
       Althea
       My Dear Jenny
Pati Nagle 

GLORIETA PASS
THE GUNS OF VALVERDE
GALVESTON
PET NOIR

SANTA FE FANDANGO (written as Elinor Groves)
Greg Frost
LYREC

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off

Monday Original Content: Chesya Burke interviews Karen Lord

Interview and Discussion with author Karen Lord

By Chesya Burke

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of being asked to interview the fabulous author of Redemption of Indigo, Karen Lord.  I spoke with her over the course of several weeks and got to know her as a writer.  Karen’s a fascinating person and it was wonderful spending so much time picking her brain.

Chesya Burke: Instead of doing the standard introductions and wasting time, let’s get to what brought people here. Karen, can you tell us little about yourself and your inspirations?  How did you come into writing?

Karen Lord: By reading non-stop! I’ve been reading constantly since as far back as I can remember, and my mother made sure I was well-supplied with books. (I dedicated Redemption in Indigo to her memory.) Writing is only a way to get control of the business of storytelling so I can have more stories that I like, or that interest me.

As for those who inspired me – that’s a long list. C. S. Lewis, for the richness of his stories and the way he got better as he grew older and wiser. I think Till We Have Faces is his best novel (he thought so too!) and it’s my favourite book. It has one of the best female protagonists written by a male author that I’ve read. Then there’s Ray Bradbury, whose stories are first and foremost about the human condition. ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’ is the one I like best. In it he uses magic, or the idea of magic, very subtly to tell us about people finding the power to become who they are.

A late discovery for me, but still notable, is Dorothy L. Sayers. I usually dislike novels that are secretly (or obviously) all about the author, but when I read Gaudy Night I found it had unexpected depths. It was much more than mere narcissism or wish-fulfillment. And finally, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark is another novel I look to when I’m pondering storycraft. Its structure is non-linear and so brilliantly done that you feel you’re working out a very satisfying puzzle.

As you can see, I love stories about different worlds: fantasy, future and past.

Chesya:  Very impressive list of writers and stories, I agree.  You said, “‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’… uses magic, or the idea of magic, very subtly to tell us about people finding the power to become who they are.”  I agree and find that Bradbury subtly uses his characters to tell very powerful stories. This is an impressive trait in a writer.  That said, after reading Redemption in Indigo, I believe that you use this approach, as well as having your main character, Paama, using power to discover herself. Would you agree? Why is this so important to you?

Karen: I would agree, but only to a certain extent. Paama had power before she was given the Chaos Stick. If anything, using the Stick helped to show her that our choices are important whether we have limited power or allegedly unlimited power, and in either case we bear the consequences of both our choices and the choices of others. So I agree with you that she discovers herself through the use of power, but not merely the power bound up in a magical object.

It’s important to me because I don’t often see stories examining the use of power in a way that I can appreciate. I do tai chi and a bit of bagua, and if there’s one thing you learn from that kind of training it’s that power is as much about knowing when to yield as when to press forward. Perhaps I’m using the wrong word; perhaps it’s not so much power as efficiency – the judicious use of power to maximum effect. It may not look dramatic, but it will give you the results you want.

I don’t like stories that only focus on protagonists with a superpower, or a destiny, or beauty or wealth or fame. I love seeing that subverted, like Bradbury did in ‘The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit’.

Chesya:  In your opinion, what makes a good story?

Karen: I don’t think there’s any way to quantify that. For myself, I need characters who strive, grow and find some degree of triumph, even if it’s bittersweet. I like a certain level of resolution in plots, but I don’t mind a rambling, random tale because life can be like that. I enjoy humour, a balance of virtue and vice, and well-drawn minor characters. But these are simply ingredients, and things can still go wrong when assembling the dish. The real way for me to know a good story is: did it make me forget where I was while I was reading it? Did it go with me when I closed the book? Will I remember it ten years from now? Did it show me the world in a new way, or give me a new world entirely?

I’ve been surprised more than once by a story that looks like it should be a mess when you list its constituent parts, but when the whole is considered, it’s a remarkably good tale. That’s why I say there’s no way to quantify it. It’s a sweet mystery.

Chesya: I can’t express enough how much I agree with you. Especially this statement: “The real way for me to know a good story is: did it make me forget where I was while I was reading it? Did it go with me when I closed the book? Will I remember it ten years from now? Did it show me the world in a new way, or give me a new world entirely?”  I notice lately, however, that more and more writers talk about simply wanting to tell a “good” story, which of course is hard enough, but the implication seems to be that these two things are mutually exclusive. As if somehow telling a good story is not also making reader think or “making them see the world in a new way.”  Have you ever gotten this impression?  What’s your opinion?

Karen:  I’ve been that person, once upsetting a writer leading a workshop by declaring loudly and foolishly that I ‘just wanted to tell stories, not write literature’. So it would be hypocritical of me to complain when other people do it. I think my problem at the time was that I didn’t have a good understanding of what makes a story ‘literature’. Nor do I now –

Chesya: I’d love to hear your ideas, though.

Karen: I’m still working on it. But here goes.

Literature should tell more than one story . . . even use one story to tell another. There must be layers of meaning and interpretation. Although it is possible to tell a ‘good story’ using only one or two dimensions, the richness of literature comes from the myriad of stories it contains. Those are the books you must go back to because you’ll discover something new with every visit.

Having said that, this is where I can only return to ‘it’s a mystery’. You may think you know which elements in what configuration will produce that alchemy of ‘a good and multidimensional story’, but (and I speak only for myself) it’s a capricious muse at the best of times.  I have read complex, well-crafted literature that was dull, navel-gazing and pretentious. I have read rollicking good adventure stories that were ultimately shallow and forgettable. There’s a sweet spot between those two that I love to read and want to write.

Chesya: Interesting. I found the more and more I began to write and read, the more the books I wanted to read and the books I liked to read began to blend together. As most writers, I read broadly and in every genre imaginable. Still, I found that scifi, fantasy, horror, mystery, ect. tended to explore that part of ourselves and cultures that is undefined.  It allows for many broad possibilities. Do you find that these genres satisfy something in the human psyche that mainstream doesn’t?  Vice versa?

Karen: That depends. Speculative fiction encompasses so many variations that I would hesitate to say it performs that role all the time and for everyone. I know some people who hate science fiction and fantasy. Sometimes when they say that they mean that they find the burden of made-up tech and made-up languages too heavy to bear, and I won’t argue with that. It’s not to everyone’s taste. What I think people do respond to (and what I believe you might be referring to) is a touch of myth – a certain kind of story that is constantly retold and becomes part of the cultural communication. That’s one of the reasons some people find it hard to appreciate speculative fiction from other countries. They simply haven’t been educated in the common myths that are part of that culture’s daily conversation.  Mainstream novels can certainly have that quality of myth without having any speculative content, and thereby fulfil that same purpose (i.e. of satisfying something in the human psyche), but I do agree that speculative fiction gives us more ways (and more creative ways) to spin old tales.

But there’s so much overlap, so much fuzziness in genre-vs-mainstream questions. There are also different cultural expectations of what constitutes a fantasy or horror element. When is a ghost story horror and when is it mainstream? I’m less and less satisfied with the genre definitions I’ve been given. I find myself returning instead to myth, symbolism and layered communication of concepts, and how well any novel of any genre handles these things.

Chesya: Genre-vs-mainstream is a fuzzy subject, but what would an interview be without asking it?

Karen: Very true!

Chesya: I’m intrigued by your mention of cultural expectations and why some people find it hard to appreciate speculative fiction from other countries. It seems that many people don’t have an issue with some cultures such as Euro-centric inspired ones (Greek, Celtic and Norse Myth Cycles come to mind). However, other cultures, such as African and Middle Eastern seems to be ignored. And when it comes to Asia on the whole, it seems like many people think that those cultures begin and end with China and Japan.  Do you find this to be the case? If so, want to discuss why?

Karen:  I think stories from cultures that are already prominent in the global media and entertainment industry are seen as more accessible, even when their audience has only experienced that culture secondhand or via a highly stylized depiction (like Austen’s England or High School America). As a result, some people find so many stories set within the bounds of their acceptance and understanding that they won’t make the effort to sample anything different. Note that I say some people. I believe the problem lies more with risk-averse producers and marketers than it does with ineducable consumers. You can’t acquire a taste for something if you’re never exposed to it.

Chesya: I know artists don’t like to toot their own horns, so you can fully blame me for this next question.  Having been published for a relatively short time you’ve won some impressive awards and garnered much deserved attention.  Can you tell us a little about the awards and accolades you’ve received?

Karen: Thanks for the opportunity. :D

I’m very grateful that Redemption in Indigo has received awards, particularly these ones! It gained its first award in early 2009. The Frank Collymore Literary Award is a Barbadian prize for unpublished work, and the committee includes academics, award-winning authors and poets, and cultural professionals. You may have first prize shared between two entries in one year or no first prize at all in another year. It’s purely about the quality of the work, and not about choosing an annual best. Kamau Brathwaite has won that award. I was in shock when my manuscript won. It made me think seriously about moving my writing from hobby to career.

After the book was published, it won the 2011 Crawford Award for best fantasy novel by a new writer. This award is judged by  a committee of editors, reviewers, publishers, academics and writers and is connected to the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. The list of past winners and nominees is impressive, filled with authors who went on to develop long and illustrious careers (no pressure!). I was particularly grateful for that award because it proved to me that the book was accessible to readers beyond the Caribbean, and could be considered genre as well as literary.

I want to mention an award I did not win: the 2011 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, a new regional award for published work. Redemption in Indigo made the longlist with three other books of fiction, three non-fiction, and three poetry. It was very affirming to get recognition at the regional level, especially when I looked at the calibre of the other fiction nominees chosen by the committee. However, what really got my attention in poetry and non-fiction was the presence of two Nobel Prize winners – Derek Walcott and V. S. Naipaul – plus Kamau Brathwaite and Edwidge Danticat! Being on the same list as those names was a prize all by itself!

Most recently, Redemption in Indigo was awarded the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. I’m very happy about this award! It’s the first award I’ve won where my work was in competition with books by long-established, award-winning novelists. It’s based on the spirit of the Inklings, a group which includes two of my favourite authors. Finally, it’s a juried award connected to the Mythopoeic Society, a group of academics with an interest in mythmaking – a subject which has been peripheral to my own academic studies as well as a personal fascination.

I had the additional pleasure of seeing Redemption in Indigo make the 2010 Locus Recommended Reading list (First Novels) and the 2010 Amazon’s Top Ten SF/F (Editor’s Picks). It also got starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly.

Now it’s just been nominated for a World Fantasy Award, which is absolutely amazing!

Chesya:  Nice list of awards!  Can you tell us about this move from writing for a hobby to it being a career?

Karen: I suppose I can thank the recession for that! I had just completed my PhD and it was a bad time for getting research work. I had time on my hands, and I felt a curious sense of obligation after winning the Colly – that I should prove I wasn’t a one-shot wonder. In addition to learning more about the writing process, I set myself to research as much as I could about the publishing industry. I’d done a little research previously, mostly on British publishers and agents, but I took it further: contracts, typical author career paths, frequency of novel output and whether to add short stories to that, key names and networks in the field . . . and so on.

Chesya: So with all you’ve learned and researched, do you have any advice for new writers?

Karen: Research aside, I’m pretty new at it myself, so I can’t offer anything that they haven’t heard already. In fact, with so much advice available, I’d tell them to research and ask and check for themselves, because although people mean well, some advice simply isn’t relevant to your particular situation and skills.

There are a few timeless staples, however. Write without fear, edit without mercy and don’t quit your day job yet.

Chesya: Great advice. Thanks so much for talking with me, Karen. It was a wonderful discussion.

Karen: My pleasure! I really enjoyed this.

Chesya Burke was called “a formidable new master of the macabre” by no less a person than Samuel Delany. She is the author of short story collection Let’s Play White.

August 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s new minority authors in SF/F syllabus

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s is teaching a new university class on minority authors in SF/F. Her outstanding syllabus (we may be biased here!) includes The Apex Book of World SF, with several stories represented, alongside works from So Long Been Dreaming, Dark Matter and others. The full syllable is below – don’t you wish you could take that course?

Week 1, 8/23 & 8/25: Introduction; Our Frightening Future

Samuel R. Delany, “Racism and Science Fiction,” Dark Matter
Charles Saunders, “Why Blacks Should Read (and Write) Science Fiction,” Dark Matter
Walter Mosley, “Black to the Future,” Dark Matter
Miguel de Unamuno, “Mechanopolis,” Cosmos Latinos
Juan José Arreola, “Baby H.P.,” Cosmos Latinos
Pablo Capanna, “Acronia,” Cosmos Latinos
Alberto Vanasco, “Post-Boomboom,” Cosmos Latinos
Recommended: “Introduction: Science Fiction in Latin America and Spain,” Cosmos Latinos

Week 2, 8/30 & 9/1: The Shape of Our World
Nalo Hopkinson, “Introduction,” So Long Been Dreaming
Tobias Buckell, “Toy Planes,” (handout, from Nature online)
Los Bros. Hernandez, Mechanix (handout)
Han Song, “The Wheel of Samsara,” The Apex Book of World SF
Yang Ping, “Wizard World,” The Apex Book of World SF
Anil Menon, “Into the Night,” The Apex Book of World SF
Tamai Kobayashi, “Panopte’s Eye,” So Long Been Dreaming
Recommended: Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others

Week 3, 9/6 & 9/8: The Hero and the Quest
Dean Francis Alfar, “L’Aquilone du Estrellas (“The Kite of Stars”),” The Apex Book of World SF
Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, “When Scarabs Multiply,” So Long Been Dreaming
Mary Anne Mohanraj, “Talking to Elephants,” Abyss & Apex (handout)
Charles Saunders, “Gimmile’s Songs,” Dark Matter
Charles Saunders, Imaro (excerpt, handout)

Week 4, 9/13 & 9/15: The Hero and the Quest, continued.
Samuel R. Delany, Tales of Neveryon

Week 5, 9/20 & 9/22: Identity Issues / The Divided Self
Magdalena Mouján Otaño, “Gu Ta Gutarrak (We and Our Own),” Cosmos Latinos
Richard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero, “The Day We Went through the Transition,” Cosmos Latinos
S.P. Somtow, “The Bird Catcher,” The Apex Book of World SF
Tananarive Due, “Like Daughter,” Dark Matter
Kristin Mandigma, “Excerpt From a Letter by a Social-Realist Aswang,” The Apex Book of World SF
Mary Anne Mohanraj, “Esthely Blue,” Wicked Words 3

Week 6, 9/27 & 9/29: The Alien / Other
Octavia E. Butler, “The Monophobic Response,” Dark Matter
Ángel Arango, “The Cosmonaut,” Cosmos Latinos
Braulio Tavares, “Stuntmind,” Cosmos Latinos
Jewelle Gomez, “Chicago 1927,” Dark Matter
Larissa Lai, “Rachel,” So Long Been Dreaming
Octavia E. Butler, “Bloodchild,” Bloodchild and Other Stories

Week 7, 10/4 & 10/6: The Alien / Other, continued.
Octavia E. Butler, Dawn

Week 8, 10/11 & 10/13: Race / Ethnicity
W.E.B. du Bois, “The Comet,” Dark Matter
Evie Shockley, “Separation Anxiety,” Dark Matter
Steven Barnes, “The Woman in the Wall,” Dark Matter
Derrick Bell, “The Space Traders,” Dark Matter
Eden Robinson, “Terminal Avenue,” So Long Been Dreaming
Recommended: Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain

Week 9, 10/18: State and Class
Eduardo Goligorsky, “The Last Refuge,” Cosmos Latinos
Guillermo Lavín, “Reaching the Shore,” Cosmos Latinos
Elia Barceló, “First Time,” Cosmos Latinos
Mauricio José Schwarz, “Glimmerings on Blue Glass,” Cosmos Latinos
Vandana Singh, “Delhi,” So Long Been Dreaming
Uppinder Mehan, “Final Thoughts,” So Long Been Dreaming

Week 10, 10/25 & 10/27: The Uses of Language
Elgin, excerpts from The Language Imperative
Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Week 11, 11/1 & 11/3: The Uses of Language, continued.
Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber

Week 12, 11/8 & 11/10: Sexualities
Samuel R. Delany, “Aye, and Gomorrah,” Dark Matter
Angélica Gorodischer, “The Violet’s Embryos,” Cosmos Latinos
Suzette Mayr, “Toot Sweet Matricia,” So Long Been Dreaming
Mary Anne Mohanraj, “Jump Space,” Thoughtcrime Experiments
Leone Ross, “Tasting Songs,” Dark Matter

Week 13, 11/15 & 11/17: Religion / Spirituality
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “Sister Lilith,” Dark Matter
Jamil Nasir, “The Allah Stairs,” The Apex Book of World SF
Mary Anne Mohanraj, “At the Gates of the City,” Silence and the Word
Tunku Halim, “Biggest Baddest Bomoh,” The Apex Book of World SF

Week 14, 11/22: Dreams and Nightmares
Hiromi Goto, Half-World

11/29: Hiromi Goto, Half-World; Thesis & Outline Due

12/1: Final Paper Draft Due

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off

An interview with Cheryl Morgan on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards

So, we know the inspiration for these awards has been covered elsewhere, for example on New Zealand author Helen Lowe’s blog, but I am curious how the board and the first year’s jurors came together.  Also, it sounds from the FAQ on the website like you are going to have different jurors every year?

It was a process of recommendation, I guess. Gary Wolfe and I were on board from the start, and Gary recommended the folks at UC Riverside as he knew they had an interest in translations. I recommended Kevin Standlee as someone who could help us navigate the processes of setting up a non-profit organization, filing taxes and so on. And then the various Board members recommended people who they thought would make good jurors. Continue reading

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Esli

First published in Russkaya Fantastika, 18.01.2009.
Translation by René Walling, editing by Val Grimm.

Esli Magazine (, “If”) is probably the oldest Russian sf magazine. Continue reading

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Comments Off

Weird Tales sold off; Staff fired

The news came in yesterday that venerable American magazine Weird Tales, most recently edited by Ann VanderMeer, under whose editorship it had won a Hugo Award and been nominated for three, is to be sold off. Publisher John Betancourt of Wildside Press is said to be selling the magazine to Marvin Kaye, a 73 year old writer, who wishes to edit it himself. The current Weird Tales staff – including VanderMeer, Stephen H. Segal, Mary Robinette Kowal and Paula Guran – will not be retained.

The news broke unexpectedly as the new owner apparently attempted to solicit writers on their public Facebook walls, perhaps not realising their public nature, thereby revealing the news. VanderMeer has since published a farewall letter. As Nick Mamatas reports, the Weird Tales brand is apparently owned by Viacom, not Wildside, which adds to the confusion.

Under Ann VanderMeer’s editorship, Weird Tales has published an international issue in 2009, including stories from Zoran Živković , Nir Yaniv, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Juraj Cervenak and Chiles Samaniego. It had also enabled electronic submissions for the first time.

Plans for the new incarnations are uncertain, though Kaye is apparently planning an HP Lovecraft-themed issue for his debut.

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Women writers, international writers, marginalized writers

German writer Cora Buhlert has a post on Women writers, international writers, marginalized writers well-worth reading:

There are the subtle and not so subtle assumptions that your grasp of the English language will be flawed, because you are not a native speaker (Read what Juliette Wade has to say about that here). This must be even more painful if English actually is your first language, because you come from one of the many countries around the world where English is an official language due to the legacy of British imperialism. The assumption that you are a bad writer because you don’t adhere to random (American) taboos regarding the use of adjective, the passive voice, complicated syntax or anything else that is considered “bad writing” by the edict of Messrs Strunk and White. The assumption that your characters and setting will be either too exotic for Anglo-American audiences or conversely not exotic enough. The assumption that you are only supposed to write a certain kind of story, because that’s the sort of story expected from someone of your ethnic and national background (I would probably have no problems selling an urban fantasy about evil Nazi werewolves in Berlin – provided I would actually want to write one). The feeling that all the discussions about diversity within the SFF genre, while valuable and important, are still largely US-centric and don’t address your situation at all.

When I first started submitting, I was always very open about my nationality. In those days of postal submissions, I figured editors could tell where I was from anyway just by looking at the colourful stamps on the envelope. And besides, I naively thought “As long as the story is good, what does it matter where the writer is from?” In those days, a few of my stories were set in Germany (I never wrote very many German set stories, because Germany isn’t all that interesting to me). Others were set in Belgium or the Netherlands (I wrote urban fantasy set in Antwerp before I even knew the term “urban fantasy”). I wrote SF featuring Germans, Poles, Dutchmen, Finns, Danes, Greeks, Turks, etc… in space. And none of them sold.

Of course, it’s likely that those stories didn’t sell because they simply weren’t very good. In fact, it’s very likely. However, over time I also began to suspect that my nationality and the unconventional settings were an additional strike against me. Because why would anybody want to buy an urban fantasy set in the secret underground world of Antwerp or a fantasy about river spirits in the Ardennes, when some ninety percent of the readership wouldn’t even be able to locate those places on a map. Of course, as an international reader was always expected to be interested in urban fantasies set in Milwaukee or Cleveland – cities I can locate on a map but don’t know anything about otherwise. But the reverse obviously wasn’t true. – continue reading!

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 7 Comments

Mark Charan Newton on Minority in Genre Fiction

Mark Charan Newton writes on Science Fiction, Fantasy and Minorities:

Like so many parts of our culture, the genre was – decades ago – dominated by straight white males. Audiences are now comfortable with characters such as Captain Jack Harkness, in Torchwood, who I think it’s safe to say doesn’t fit into the straight male category. Likewise, black characters and women now feature equally on film posters; we have balance. We’ve come a long way in representing certain communities, and this may be as much the influence of culture on science fiction as it is the other way around.

Now, online communities are becoming acutely sensitive to writers who populate their novels solely with straight white males, or novels where women exist simply as plot devices to further the aims of said straight white males (usually to give them someone to rescue). There was a recent controversy when a SF fan poll only included a small percentage of women writers. Related to this,SF novelist and critic John Scalzi points out that many films still fail the Bechdel test on whether or not films do right by their female characters. The quick-fire culture of science fiction and fantasy fandom has seen that such debates will be aired, and that blindness to equality will not go unpunished. Even publishers do not escape the issues: for example when they’re caughtwhitewashing novel covers.These discussions force those who create art and entertainment to think actively about what they’re doing, and that can only be a good thing for everyone. – read the full post.

August 22, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Comments Off

Lavie Tidhar’s Jesus and the Eightfold Path

Lavie Tidhar’s Jesus & The Eightfold Path is now available for pre-orders from Immersion Press.

THREE WISE MEN CAME FROM THE EAST for the infant Jesus in The New Testament. Three brave companions accompany the Buddha in the Chinese classic A Journey to the West. Could they have been the same three? Guided by a star, three strange companions arrive in the barbarous land of Judea to seek a newborn child–a possible messiah to some, and the reincarnation of the Budda to others.

When the child’s life is threatened, his family and new guardians escape to Egypt, returning years later, to a Jewish land on the cusp of annihilation by the Roman Empire.

Once a general in the Judean army, now a Roman agent, Josephus Flavius is sent by Caesar back to his home land to observe and report on the actions of the troubling young man now preaching sedition in the Galilee–a boy with the unsettling powers of kung-fu…

Their lives would collide in a cataclysmic confrontation between Romans and Jews, between empire and rebels–and change the world forever…

August 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

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