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November 21, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , | Comments Off

Tuesday Fiction: “Planetfall” by Athena Andreadis

Today’s Tuesday Fiction is by Athena Andreadis. Athena was born in Greece and lured to the US at age 18 by a full scholarship to Harvard, then MIT. She does basic research in molecular neurobiology, focusing on mechanisms of mental retardation and dementia. She is an avid reader in four languages across genres, the author of To Seek Out New Life: The Biology of Star Trek and writes speculative fiction and non-fiction on a wide swath of topics. Her work can be found in Harvard Review, Belles Lettres, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, Stone Telling, Cabinet des Fées, Bull Spec, Science in My Fiction, SF Signal, The Apex Blog, World SF, SFF Portal, H+ Magazine, io9, The Huffington Post, and her own site, Starship Reckless.

Planetfall

Athena Andreadis

I. In the Depths of the Sea

Nine generations past planetfall

Through the haze of her dark blue mane, the mershadow gazed sternly at her youngest. She had often warned her not to go near the shore. Afterwards, ever would she long for the hostile land, where her skin would crack and she would wither.

The youngster, eyes as smoky as her mother’s, felt unrepentant. She already knew starfire – they spent many nights on the foam. She knew of the landers, too. They had not been here long, said the Elders. They could not understand the People’s singing—yet they trod as lightly as the whisper of a calm sea. Many came to rest in her people’s domain, bearing the gifts of their kin. She longed to catch more glimpses of them. She wanted to encompass the whole world, sea and land, for her lays.

It eased the elder’s mind that, for a while, her child would have to stay near. Her turn had come to watch the Sea Rose.

The Sea Rose… the great burden and joy of the mershadows. It bloomed unpredictably once every thirteen cycles of the wanderer that cast light on the night. Between dusk and dawn, a single blossom came alive. It granted to its watcher one wish, so the Elders sang. In exchange, for each cycle of the Wanderer, a vigilant mershadow guarded it and nourished it with her salty, greenish blood.

And so, as soon as the Wanderer started waxing, the youngster dutifully nested near the mound where the Sea Rose slumbered. It stood on a leafless stem, bluish-black like its guardian’s hair, at the bottom of a deep crevasse filled with slate-green pebbles.

As the last night of her watch started to lighten into dawn, she sighed with regret and relief. The Sea Rose would not bloom in her turn. She was looking forward to recovering her strength and seeing the dry gardens once again, filled with all those blossoms that had no names in her tongue.

And just then, the water turned transparent, so transparent that she could see the pale sliver of the wanderer. She could distinctly hear the dream birds’ trills, the mist cats’ hunting calls, all the way from the distant hills of the dry lands. On the barren seafloor, the Sea Rose slowly unfurled. Its angular petals glimmered blue-green, like the precious nodules that her people occasionally found on the ocean floor. The water around it broke into jeweled prisms.

The youngster knew what she wanted to ask of the Sea Rose—she would ask for songs that might help the landers understand her people. But just as she prepared to sing her plea, an intricate object slowly twirled from the waters above and came to rest gently upon the blossom.

Hesitantly, she touched it—and a storm of yearning broke in her mind. Endless striving, anxious love, fear, longing… Meanwhile, alerted to the unfolding of the Rose, the mershadows began to congregate around the mound and its guardian.

“My child, what did you ask?” said her mother.

“I did not think to wish,” whispered the youngster. “The landers’ amulet—it spoke to me…”

And at that moment, they realized that the Sea Rose had not folded. For the first time, the only time, the sunrays touched it. It burned in colors of the fires that fuelled the star cores. Then it closed.

She became her people’s greatest bard. And her lineage kept the amulet until they returned it to the landers, on the night that the two Peoples sang together—and understood each other’s words.

II. The Sea of Stars

Four generations past planetfall

Four generations after planetfall, strife arose on Glorious Maiden. The planet, beautiful but stark, almost entirely ocean, sorely tested mettle and resources. Some hearths wanted to start ocean farming, despite the decision made even before planetfall to leave no footprint on the planet. The argument got bitter enough that several tanegíri withdrew from the council and armed their hearths.

So Sefanír, tanegír of the Sóran-Kerís hearth, first among equals, fitted herself into her kite, snapped the struts taut and flew to the storm-guarded southern archipelago, seeking to end the conflict.

“Why should we trust people who would separate us into powerful and powerless? Who no longer enter the Dreaming?” asked dark-voiced Sháita, tanegír Dhaíri. The Dreaming… as dangerous as following the songs of the dwellers of the deep. People were known to never emerge from it. They wandered inside it, eyes half-open, till they died.

“I will Dream,” replied Sefanír, drawing herself up to her considerable height. “But if I emerge from it,” she added, her blue eyes flashing, “will you agree to a truce and return to the council?”

Sháita chuckled, her long silver braids floating like cirrus clouds on her black tunic. “If you emerge,” she said, “you won’t need my agreement. The southern hearths will follow you without question or demur.”

Next dawn, Sháita led her to a tiny room facing the small inner courtyard. It was bare and windowless but for an opening high up that showed a patch of sky. She lowered the marís bowl on the stone floor, then put her hand on Sefanír’s shoulder.

“I would rather that our people were not divided and that we stayed true to our original resolution. But if we’re to unite them, I cannot be seen to let you bypass this test,” she said quietly. “Remember this, if you have forgotten it. If a man enters your vision whose hair is as pale as winter seagrass, come out of the vision in any way you can. Or you won’t come out at all.”

She waited until Sefanír had emptied the bowl, then left. Sefanír hummed a song to keep herself calm. Show no fear, no hesitation… the people’s future depends on it… on me. She felt little effect from the marís beyond its smoky aftertaste. Time went by. Consort in unclouded glory briefly appeared in her skylight, then passed. A bright dot of shimmering light hurried past—the Reckless, still in orbit, though now lost to her people. Finally, when the color leached from the patch of sky, she rose from the floor, determined to ask for another try on the morrow. She had given her word to her hearth that she would not return till she succeeded in healing the rift—or died in the attempt.

As she emerged into the larger outer courtyard, she saw a man seated by the murmuring fountain. He was muffled at dusk against the evening chill in garments the color of the evening sky.

“I am looking for Tanegír Sháita,” she said.

“I will take you to her,” he replied in a voice as soft as a mist cat’s pad. They make beautiful men, the Dhaíri, and they are said to bless their consorts with daughters, as well, thought Sefanír, her gaze sliding over his fluid body lines. If only we could get more living girl children… Madness to split into factions, when our need to keep all the lines is dire.

Through narrow corridors they wended. Strange, mused Sefanír, the dwelling seemed smaller from the outside. He led her to a room lit by a small torch.

“We’ll await my kinswoman here,” he said and gracefully lowered himself on the thick carpet. Sefanír imitated him. After a brief interval, he reached over and idly trailed a fingertip along her collarbone. A feather would have been heavier than his touch. Waves of heat, then cold coursed through Sefanír.

“It may take her a long time to come,” he whispered. “I have pleased many. I could please you, too.”

If he is offering, he is not handfasted, thought Sefanír. And it may help the truce take hold.

As she leaned toward his scented warmth, he pressed her against him. She caught the spicy whiff of newly budded leaves. Sefanír’s hands slid over the wild silk of his clothes. Then, under the thin fabric she felt scars embroidering his back. Disconcerted, she gripped his shoulder; and there she felt the raised edges of a handfasting brand.

Instantly sobered, she pulled at his sleeve and the fabric ripped with a long-drawn sigh. On his shoulder glared the divided circle of the Night. He laughed, and the room filled with the wingbeat of wheeling dream birds. Sefanír’s abrupt movement had dislodged his headscarf. Now he discarded it, revealing hair as pale as the midwinter sun. His eyes became star-filled pools.

“You are strong-willed,” he murmured. “Even my Tanegír gives in when I caress her. Why do you insult me? Shall I tell her you think her judgment in consorts is wanting? She is the only one allowed to criticize me.”

“You tried to trick me,” retorted Sefanír. “If I had given in, it would be an even worse trespass on her prerogatives. And all tales of the Night tell how easily she is aroused to anger.”

“In that they are right,” he conceded. “Those scars you felt are signs of her temper. But I suffer the fire gladly in exchange for the sweet moments. Besides, I lost fairly. Had I prevailed…” and he laughed again, the Morning Star, the First Consort of the Night. “We hunted the Two Sisters, I and all my brothers. The Elder sister had borne a child that one of us had fathered. We wanted it. Long they evaded us, but at last we overtook them, burdened as they were with the child.

“Yet the Younger would not surrender, nor leave her sister. When I saw her falter with fatigue, I grew careless and ventured close. She was prepared: her firewhip wrapped around my throat. So I bargained—in exchange for my life, I and all my brothers became her consorts. To prevent us from taking her sister’s child, she sequestered herself and us in the darkside. Now the Two only touch palms at dusk and dawn. Let me please you, Tanegir. Then I can let you go without losing honor.”

Sháita’s warning rang in Sefanír’s mind. Now she knew why so few survived the Dreaming. He, of course, guessed her thoughts.

“Perhaps my Tanegír will not notice. Perhaps I will not tell her. Who knows?”

“If each choice brings death,” decided Sefanír, “I can at least take bliss as my last memory.” She laughed and opened her arms. “Please me, then, First Consort. Should you not, I myself will complain to your Tanegír when she weaves me as another fireflitter in her dark braids.”

“Bravery like yours deserves a gift,” he said. “You will see something few have seen and none has lived to tell.” Very gently, he eased Sefanír back into the pillows. And when he embraced her, his long hair gleaming in the torchlight, he unfurled over both of them a multihued pair of wings. Joined, they soared, their outlines bathed in his brothers’ dim radiance.

Sefanír returned north with the catamarans of the Southerners behind her like a flock of seabirds. But all across her body she also bore tracks of lightning, and for a long time her dreams were consumed by fire. For the Night valued courage but she was also exacting about her Consorts’ fidelity.

III. The Dagger Sheath

Nine generations past planetfall

My evening star, my sweetest spring,
How has your beauty set!
- From the lay of Rodhánis the Storm

“Impaired, I say!” teased Kíghan. “Admit it, sister, your thinking grows less sharp if he’s involved.”

Rodhánis shook her head, exasperated. “I stand by my decision. He is the best navigator on this planet! Is it his fault that he is also beautiful?”

“Those golden eyes of his, who would not want a mist cat padding in their wake!” replied her brother, chuckling. “And you’re right, he seems to be as good among the stars as he is on the seas. But you cannot give him your brand and name him consort. You are tanegír Yehán – a son from every hearth is vying for…”

“Are you that eager to be pushed out of the hearth?” she interrupted him.

“I will remain as long as you need me but the Yeháni must have an heir, Storm, and I’m only a man.” He took her in his arms. “I know about the two miscarriages you tried to hide from the hearth members, my heart. The desolation on his face was clue enough, he is not schooled in deception. But at least it means you can conceive. They are circling you, if you don’t choose soon there will be slaughter. Seeing a wanderer in your bed is not improving their mood. And no matter how carefully you choose, they will still kill each other below your windows.”

“All these men, left to roam…” mused Rodhánis. “How did it come to this? It was not so when Captain Semira Soranakis and her Keegan arrived on the Reckless.”

“It has been so ever since planetfall,” he said quietly, “ever since Glorious Maiden chose to selectively harvest our women. We can barely keep our numbers steady, and neither the miscarriages nor the duels are helping. Perhaps you will know soon how family matters ran on the Reckless. Are you sure about the risks of this expedition? I should never have agreed…”

“And let Eridhén Kálan or one of his allies be the first to board the arcship?” burst out Rodhánis. “Not while I stand upright.”

“I cannot believe I’m recommending this, but take his eldest as your consort,” he said reluctantly. “Anáris is handsome, more even-tempered than his father—and he wants you. It may stop Eridhén from constantly raising the winds of discord.”

“Eridhén wants power too much to be deflected by kinship, and Anáris will heed him even as Yehán,” answered Rodhánis. “And with his tanegír ailing and no daughters yet, Eridhén will do anything short of declaring himself tanegír Kálan.”

“We would kill him if he did,” growled Kíghan. “At planetfall, the crew of the Reckless agreed that the hearths on Glorious Maiden would be headed by women. Their reasons were sound then, and even more so now. But Eridhén is too canny to make a mistake. He always hugs the shore, never ventures into blue water.”

* * *

The derelict arcship shone with reflected sunlight like Wanderer at his fullest. Images flashed across the console of the Seastorm. Rodhánis stopped the engines and went into freefall, using the thrusters to match the larger ship’s motion.

“The bubble must be the command center… that has to be the engine compartment, there on the tether…” She turned to her companion. “All frequencies open?”

He nodded, his golden eyes reflecting the vessel in the viewport. “Only background hiss. Amazing that the orbit-boosting mechanism still works. After all this time planetbound, to lift free of the atmosphere once again and board the ship that brought us here! Perhaps reclaim it…”

“Yes,” she said yearningly, putting her hand on his shoulder, “finally take to the stars, even find the first home in time…”

He turned, kissed her fingers. “Will I be your astrogator, my soul?”

She let her palm linger on his face. “When I bid for your contract, little did I know what seas we would cross, you and I. But I must choose a consort when we return, I promised my hearth.”

He half-smiled. “You promised Kíghan, who counts more than everyone else combined. Yet it seems to me that if you choose none of the mighty, it will be less likely to cause strife.”

“If I had a sister, I would let her have both the power and the burden. I would go back to exploring the wilds with you.” She exhaled as he left the seat and wrapped around her like a twining vine. “Or we could stay here, bring the Reckless back to life… Keep your mind on your task, cub!” she scolded him fondly as he began to plant kisses under her jawline.

“Just awaiting my tanegír’s orders…” he defended himself, hiding a smile against her neck. He glided back into the navigator’s seat, keeping a hand on her thigh. Deftly, he maneuvered the Seastorm next to the larger ship. Its hull was pitted and blistered, the plates unevenly hued, reflecting several rounds of replacements. “The blaze…” he pointed.

“The Sóran-Kerís starburst,” she marveled.

“Yes,” he whispered, averting his eyes. And suddenly in her mind’s eye she saw a spare woman with hazel eyes holding a boy with tousled auburn hair. A wanderer’s child and a son at that… How can I acknowledge you as Captain Semira’s descendant, call you Sóran-Kerís? It might start another round of vendettas, the men have become so jealous of the lineages…

“There’s a hatch,” he observed, his voice even once again, “let’s try to dock.” As gently as floating a toy catamaran on a glass-calm pond, he turned the Seastorm. He tucked it against the arcship’s hatch, forming a soft seal.

“Negligible radiation, no leakage from the engine,” she noted, looking at the gauges.

“Keep the comm open,” he said, attaching magnets to his boots. She began to object, but he silenced her with a gesture. “You are the foremost explorer of Glorious Maiden, but you are also tanegír Yehán. On this I agree with your brother, you put too much at risk.” He grinned. “If it hurts the vanity of the hearths, the records can show that you were the first to board.”

He pressed her hands against his lips, lingered a moment. Then he turned on the deep-sea breather they had hurriedly adapted. He went through the hatch and Rodhánis sealed it behind him. She leaned against the hull, the cold seeping into her. We’re re-opening the gate to the stars after the long wait… and all I can think of is the danger of losing him. She waited forever, or so it seemed, fingering the corroded pendant of Keegan Jehan, first science officer of the Reckless at planetfall, passed down the line to each tanegír Yehán.

“Can you hear me?” finally came his soft rasp through the comm.

“Yes!” she replied, letting out the breath she wasn’t aware she was holding. She felt the arcship starting to rotate, taking the Seastorm with it.

“The air is breathable, though there is an ozone smell… I managed to activate the gravity generators. I found the heat coils, too, but it will take a while for the temperature to rise.”

Dank chilly darkness awaited her on the other side of the hatch, but at least the gravity was nominal. She made her way carefully to where he was outlined against the blue runner lights that barely lit the corridors. He enfolded her hand in his own warm one, the one solid object in this domain of ghosts.

“Shall I light one of the flares?” he suggested.

“Keep them in reserve,” she decided, “let’s use them only if we must.”

After a few wrong turns they reached the bridge, a cavernous vault with a wraparound viewport, filled with navigation, engineering and communication banks. By trial and error, they found the controls for the starcharts and comms. They agreed not to disturb the other consoles. “This,” he said, touching a seat decorated with the starburst motif, “must be where Captain Semira Soranakis sat…”

“Want to try sending a signal?” she asked.

“We should be in range,” he replied, adjusting dials. She was surprised to find herself shivering, and not just from the chill. Only now did the enormity of it all fully register. Sensing her trembling, he embraced her. She tried to pull away, but he tightened his hold and she relaxed in his arms. “Nothing to be ashamed of, my light,” he murmured into her hair. “Not every day do we enter the starship that brought us here.” Still nestled within his arms, she turned towards the comm bank.

“Oránis, do you read?” she said into the primitive contraption. There was a burst of static, then a young man’s voice sprang from the receiver.

“Oránis port.”

“This is Rodhánis Yehán from…” and she took a deep breath, met his eyes. He gave his lopsided grin and nodded. “… from the Reckless… we boarded it successfully, I am calling from the bridge… Captain Semira’s bridge.”

A long silence followed her words. Then the receiver crackled again. “I will transmit your message to the entire network. This is a moment to remember, Tanegír!”

Then Kíghan’s voice emerged from the comm. “How long is it safe to stay there? Don’t get carried away, Storm!”

“We will be quick,” she replied. She heard him inhale anxiously. “We will return within the safety window!” she reassured him.

Her companion’s long-lashed eyes glinted with amusement. He laughed, filling the age-chilled bridge with the sound of swirling leaves. “I would give much to see the faces of your rivals… Shall we explore a bit? We can start here,” he said at her eager nod, steering them to a door on the side of the bridge.

They pressed a few buttons but the door remained stubbornly shut. Finally, he attached his magnets to it and winched it open. They gained entry into a narrow room containing a cot with a console next to it. The rest of the room was taken up by a large table buried under datapads. The viewport occupied an entire wall, now filled with blue Glorious Maiden and ivory Wanderer in jewel-like splendor, bathed in Consort’s golden-reddish light.

“The Captains’ ready-room,” said Rodhánis. “They dreamed the path from here…” He pressed a button on the console. A set of blue lights came on along the floorboards and next to the ceiling, turning the room into an underwater cavern. He pressed another button—and a husky, clipped voice rose amid crackles and hisses.

“Is étos ek fyghís pénte t’ekatón exínta tríton, égho Semíra, kyvernís astéron plíou…”

“Captain Semira,” breathed Rodhánis. “This must be the last log before the planetfall.”

“She sounds young,” he murmured. “I wonder what the words mean. Was she happy? Eager? Frightened?” Suddenly his eyes emptied out. She grasped his shoulder.

“What do you see?”

“I see… I see fire consuming this room…” He stopped, trembling. “What future did we bring with us through that hatch?”

“Surely you are not afraid, beautiful man?” she asked him softly, cradling him in her turn. “We faced near death in the Southern seas, our catamaran got smashed on the Fangs, we almost suffocated when we first launched the Seastorm…”

“That was different,” he said, sheltering against her. “That was just us. This, this may affect all the people…”

She started kissing him, counting on the distraction to calm him. Rock-steady in danger, but often undone by his visions, my evening star! And then, as he filled her senses, her caresses went from consoling to ravenous.

“Here?” he asked hesitantly, his hands embarking on their own exploration.

“Yes, here!” she replied, parting his clothes. “Where better than the Captain’s eyrie to dispel the ghosts, reclaim the Reckless for the living?”

“When you bestow your brand…” he said, his eyes darkening.

“I bestow to whom I choose!” she declared defiantly.

“Yes, as long as he is not a wanderer,” he corrected her gently. “Or a man who is unable to give you…” and he looked away, biting his lip.

“Look at me!” she said softly. “Here, now, no one can reach us, nothing can touch us.”

He subsided into the cot, taking her with him. Growing rough with the need, he clamped his mouth on her breast, his teeth grazing her nipple.

“Drift, wanderer!” she commanded. “Wander over me…”

“My sandy cove!” he sighed. And as he arched into her, a wisp of flame licked her mind. Give the brand to whom you will—I am yours, yours as long as I draw breath…

* * *

“This is the man who risked his life to board the Reckless!” said Rodhánis, her voice rising.

“I understand that you were the first to board the arcship, Yehán,” replied Eridhén Kálan, smiling lazily. “Even if what you say is true, it matters naught. I am within my rights to issue challenge on behalf of my hearth, my son is among those asking for the privilege of your brand.”

A low murmur of agreement accompanied his words. Rodhánis looked around. His allies were there in force, he knew when to strike. Teráni Sóran-Kerís was absent, the rest were neutral at best. And she was aware that her reluctance to choose a consort had rankled as much as her making history on the Reckless.

“Need we hew so closely to the customs?” she began again in a conciliatory tone. “I promised to decide upon my return. Does the opening of the star gates mean nothing, hearths?”

“Precisely because we can now take to the stars, we must not forget who we are,” said Eridhén.

“I will choose a consort now, if you leave him alone,” she countered.

“No,” answered Eridhén, his teeth glinting. “He has been clouding your mind, impeding your decisions. I stand by my challenge, he is a danger even if you refuse to see it. I am doing you a favor, Tanegír. Continue on your present destructive course, and I will call your brother and all the Yehán men to account.”

“No need to go that far, Kálan,” interposed Fáhri Haissé. She turned to Rodhánis. “Because of your gifts and your contributions, we gave you extraordinary leeway, Yehán, while the rest of us abided by the customs. Withdraw your protection from the wanderer and there will be no vendetta against your hearth. Shield him and we cannot prevent the issuing of challenges. Is one man, and a wanderer at that, worth so much?”

Rodhánis went through the permutations. If she complied, they would all duel him in turn, and her hearth would owe the winner a debt. If she refused their terms, the men of her hearth, Kíghan… no, not Kíghan. She was tanegír Yehán. She stood up.

“I will duel the wanderer, tanegíri.”

“No!” sprang from both Kíghan and Eridhén, but she cut them off with a glance.

“This takes precedence over all other challenges. He was contracted to my hearth.”

“What have you done?” asked Kíghan after the gathering. She rounded on him.

“The only thing I could do to protect the Yeháni.”

“At such reckless risk to yourself? Without you—ashes in the wind, the Yeháni!”

“After all that he did,” she whispered. “The best navigator in…”

“You don’t understand,” interrupted her brother heavily. “The more he accomplishes, the worse for him. The same goes for you, but the hearth name and being a woman stands between you and any harm. He, on the other hand…”

“He can go away until the storm subsides,” she said. “In time, they will forget.” She grasped her brother’s shoulder. “Send him a message. If anyone knows where to hide on this world, it’s him.”

That night, that short night, she paced the courtyard looking up at Wanderer’s pale disc, at the bright fast-moving star that was the Reckless. That they should be reduced to blood pride, when the stars were beckoning!

“My heart,” came a whisper from under the arch.

“Didn’t you get Kíghan’s message?” she hissed.

“Yes, Tanegír,” he replied and she could hear the smile in his voice. “But not to hold you in my arms? No navigator leaves his captain in such straits!” And he pressed her against him.

“Take the Seastorm and go!” she urged him, shaking with anxiety and need.

He did not reply, busy undoing the fastenings on her clothes. She sank into him, nails and teeth, not caring if she drew blood. When the first light pierced the darkness, she saw her marks on him. As she started touching them, aghast, he imprisoned her hand and kissed the knuckles.

“Calmer now, Storm?” he asked. “Ready to face the hearths?”

“Promise me you will be far away when I do!” she implored.

Before he could answer, Kíghan entered the courtyard carrying her weapons. “It’s time,” he said. His eyes burned on the other man. Then he lowered his eyes and bowed.

All the tanegíri of Oránis and their consorts stood watchfully silent around the stone beach by the shore. All but Teráni Sóran-Kerís. And then, Rodhánis’ heart became a stone in her breast. Appearing over the rise, he approached the throng in the meager finery that she had torn in her frenzy, defiantly flashing his lopsided grin. Her face draining of color, she went up to him.

“I told you to go!” she groaned in anguish under her breath.

“You will have multiple vendettas against your hearth,” he replied in a low voice. “They won’t let it rest, now that they have taken notice. And if I go into the wilds, they’ll hunt me down. Better like this.” Strands of his hair floated in front of his face. Reaching over, she tucked them behind his ear.

“You didn’t braid it,” she said. He smiled.

“Only you can do that properly, my life…”

Neither bothered with the preliminary feints. They had practiced together so often in the past that it had become a dance. He knew she was overquick with the dagger, just as she knew that he relied too much on his reflexes. They circled closer and closer. The pounding of her heart was deafening. Because of the wind, the firewhips would occasionally go astray, but rarely missed. Soon the ground was decorated with an intricate design of blood drops that marked their weaving.

The cold and wind started taking their toll. He slowed down; her wrists started aching. Her anger and self-disgust vanished—now she was filled only with the desire to be done, to sit down out of the bite of the wind. On one of the seemingly endless rounds, he passed very close. She stabbed at him, expecting his guard to come up, when she realized that he was no longer holding his dagger. Hers went into his side up to the hilt. He stumbled, then in slow motion went to his knees.

All the observers rushed towards them, but she slashed a circle around the two of them with her whip. “Away!” she snarled. They stopped in their tracks. She cradled him against her but before she could stop him, he extracted the dagger. His eyelids flickered as he tried to focus on her.

“You are so bright, my sun,” he whispered. Blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. She held him tightly.

“Let a healer see to it,” she pleaded, “it does not look mortal!”

“You must end it,” he murmured. “They will never cease tormenting you otherwise.”

“No!” she uttered through gritted teeth, her fingers clenching around the dagger. He buried his face against her breast, gave a small sigh, as he always did before sailing into sleep. Then he wrapped his hand around her wrist and moved her hand, pressing the edge of the dagger against his throat.

“I’ll scout the twilight for you.” He opened his eyes, fastened them on hers. “Look at me…” Without warning his fingers suddenly tightened on her wrist, making her hand jerk. His grip slackened. A gush of blood poured over her hand and he grew inert in her embrace.

Wordlessly, everyone slowly left. For the entire length of the Consort’s crossing Rodhánis huddled, rocking her burden. At dusk, she began to scream. She wailed through the night, the seawaves her echo. Fine cracks started to vein windows in Oránis. The wind took her voice into the Yehán hearth where Kíghan wept, drawing fine lines across his arm with his own dagger. Into the Kálan hearth where Eridhén sat still, his nails digging into his palms. Into the other hearths of Oránis where everyone kept vigil, wondering what price the Storm would exact for her loss.

Wanderer had set and the sky was getting light when Rodhánis finally lost her voice. Kíghan went to the cove sheltering the Yehán fleet and chose a small, finely wrought catamaran, the vessel that the hearth children used to learn their deep sea skills. He sailed it to where Rodhánis was crouching, and beached it soundlessly. He approached her, gingerly enfolded her.

“Let us give him to the sea, sister…” She nodded numbly, her face raw from the rivers of salt water that had scraped and scored it.

It took a while to line the catamaran, there was not much driftwood on the shore. They placed him on top of the dry wood, laid his dagger next to him. Then Rodhánis removed Keegan Jehan’s pendant from her neck and lowered it across the red line on his throat. She pressed her cheek against his, now ice cold.

“From one star traveler to another,” she murmured hoarsely. “You wanderer, you drifted away from me, despite all your avowals. Who will be my astrogator now?”

As the tide turned, the undertow strengthened. The catamaran swayed, slowly started moving away from the shore. Kíghan lit a torch and flung it into the vessel. Eager flames sprang up in the freshening dawn breeze.

“Go,” cried Rodhánis, her voice cracking, “kiss the two tiny shades for me!”

When the vessel had become a dwindling star in the distance, Kíghan lifted her in his arms and started homeward. Three turns later, the Yeháni asked for a gathering. When Rodhánis entered the council room, silence spread like an early snowfall. The men of her hearth followed, armed and braided for battle.

“There is no need for more fighting, Yehán,” said Vónis Táren. “Everyone is satisfied.”

“Everyone?” asked Rodhánis, her voice a hoarse whisper. “I am not satisfied.”

“Even had he borne your brand,” countered Eridhén Kálan, sounding much less assured than his wont, “he would not be recognized by the hearths as your consort. He was a wanderer, he had no standing.” A small sound escaped Teráni Sóran-Kerís, but she said nothing.

“That may be,” replied Rodhánis evenly, “but since I killed him at your behest, I can now make a claim on you, hearth Kálan. A favor as large as the one you received from me.” Eridhén went white.

“You wouldn’t…” he started.

“Am I within my rights?” asked Rodhánis quietly and winds swept the room. Teráni Sóran-Kerís raised her head.

“Yes,” she said clearly and steadily, her hazel eyes boring into Eridhén.

“You were eager to give me one of your sons, Eridhén,” said Rodhánis. “Which one will you give me now?” He started trembling. “You will not choose? Then I will take them both.”

He fell to his knees before her. “Have mercy, Storm!”

“Mercy?” she repeated, smiling bleakly. “Did you have mercy when you issued the challenge? He was worth more than both your sons.”

“Take me,” he pleaded abjectly, “take me, spare them! I beg you, spare my younger at least, this will kill their mother…!”

“I will take them both,” resumed Rodhánis, “into my hearth, into my bed, teach them not to thirst for power. And perhaps one night I will stop calling them by the name of the one whose face constantly rises before me.” Her voice filled the room. “We want to regain the sky, tanegíri. Will we take this senseless killing with us to the stars? These customs that condemn our men to loneliness, because there are not enough women? We cannot leave so many of them without caresses, angry and bereft. Don’t you wish to stop fearing for your brothers? For your sons? Use your power, unite behind me!” She paused, then resumed, her voice wavering. “If our men ask for the brand, let it be only for love.”

She sat still for a very long time. Then she raised her eyes. “The Night took all the Stars as her consorts, so the lays tell. Nothing in the customs forbids it. Aye or nay, hearths?”

Vónis Táren hung her head. “I offer you my Edánir, if you will have him,” she said.

“And I, my Keméni,” added Fáhri Haissé.

Teráni Sóran-Kerís remained silent. But as people were leaving, she came up to Rodhánis.

“I was a coward and a fool,” she said in a low, ragged voice. Her fingers dug into the younger woman’s arm. “I should have acknowledged that brightness. Captain Semira would deem me unworthy, and rightly so. I won’t ask you to forgive me, I only entreat you not to let this sunder our hearths.” She took her hand abruptly away. “I will make no claims. I forfeited that right.”

* * *

Within three generations, duels and vendettas ceased and wanderers became rare jewels, to be prized and cosseted. Eridhén’s tanegír died in her next childbirth, taking the child and the Kálan hearth with her. They found his cold body next to hers, his hair spread across her chest.

Kíghan never left the Yehán hearth, remaining at his sister’s side. Soon after Rodhánis handfasted her four husbands, she had a golden-eyed daughter, Semíra. After taking her daughter to the sea for her naming ceremony, Rodhánis went to the Sóran-Kerís dwelling and put her in Teráni’s arms. They say that Teráni wept when she held the child. Rodhánis did not quicken again, though her husbands did their utmost to make her smile. She organized all subsequent expeditions to the Reckless, but never returned there herself.

Rodhánis sang the story to her daughter even when the child was too young to understand the words. Nor have the people forgotten. They still sing it under Wanderer’s light, on the ships crossing the starry lanes. And the lay names him Consort of Rodhánis, the lost astrogator, her beautiful man.

IV. Falling Star

Planetfall

Traveler from afar who sailed to our shores—ask the Sea Rose for a gift…

In the year five hundred and sixty-three after the Launch, I, Semíra Ouranákis, captain of the starship Reckless, hereby enter the last log before planetfall.

It now fills our viewports, the world that pulled us by a thin thread of dreaming. When the Reckless lifted, all they knew was that the planet was earth-like, had oxygen in its atmosphere and orbited a G-type primary. The world they left had been beautiful once, but was at the brink of destruction—drained resources, genocides driven by hot hatred or cold greed. Had they waited, the window would have closed forever. Flames fanned by ignorance and fear were already consuming starship launch pads and the people who built them. Still, they took a terrible chance, leapt into the dark trusting that a place waited to welcome them at the other end. They loved and raised children in this ship, lived and died without ever sleeping under open skies… though their views of the stars were glorious.

The planet’s system is embedded in a nebula studded with young blue giants that swept away much of the gas and dust when they ignited, but its own yellow sun is stable. In the last four generations, as the Reckless got closer, they launched automated probes, then scoutships with exploration teams. Amazingly, the planet resembles the home we left, which I know only from wavering images: a world of seas and island chains, with a large moon, breathable air and a biochemistry compatible with ours.

The planet is bursting with life. In particular, there is an aquatic species that shows every sign of sentience, including communication through sound tones as well as rudimentary technology. I remember the long, heated discussions they held when I was a child, about what we should do upon arrival. In the end, they decided not to use the frozen stocks of plant and animal embryos in our cryoholds. Some were initially dubious about the wisdom of this, but eventually all agreed that we should not repay the bounty of a new home by destroying it, as we did to our birth planet.

Despite the planet’s beauty, survival on it will be difficult, even with our technology. Its weather is violent and its oxygen content is at the low range for our lung function. But living in enclosed domes would make us prisoners, not explorers. So my parents’ generation made an irreversible commitment. They studied the genetic material of the planet’s sea dwellers, determined what sequences facilitated the processes unique to the planet. Then they spliced these into the chromosomes of children at the beginning of gestation, after testing them first on cells, then on smaller mammals in our laboratories.

As captain before me, my mother set the example. I was the first to receive tiny pieces of the new world. Her command crew followed suit with their children. And I, in my turn, had it done to the little sphere of cells that became my daughter Ethiran, even as my heart pounded fearfully in my chest.

Wonder of wonders, the material took hold, yet did not harm us. On the contrary, it has given rise to abilities that were considered the stuff of fantasy in the world that we left—telepathy, precognition, even glimpses of clairvoyance and psychokinesis. Those who have been altered show increased mental and physical prowess, are unusually lovesome and uncannily beautiful. The next generation is all modified, the boy growing in me among them. I wonder if we will ever be able to thank the native inhabitants for the gift they gave us, that has bound us to them as blood relatives.

I long to see the new home with my own eyes, but the captain should never leave her ship until it reaches harbor. I have steeled myself to wait until we settle the Reckless into circumpolar orbit. I will take the voice-activated command crystal with me when we go downplanet. It is gene-keyed to me and Keegan Jehan, to make sure the starship is never inadvertently activated.

There are moments when I think of all the danger and labor ahead… and my head swims. Then only Keegan’s arms feel safe—Keegan, who laughs at obstacles and burns my fears away with his kisses, Keegan who perfected the chimeric chromosomes and the augmented mitochondria that will allow us to breathe unaided on the planet’s surface.

I did not name the new world, though it was my prerogative as commander of this mission. Because of the breathtaking nebula around the system, my girl began calling it Kore Dhoxas—Glorious Maiden—and the moniker stuck. She also named its sun and moon, Maiden’s Consort and Wanderer. A crack linguist already, she speaks all the mother languages of our crew.

And what of her brother? Will he come intact through the pregnancy? Will he survive on this new world with all its unknowns? Ariven I will name him, from the old scroll. Perhaps he will sing lays as haunting as those of the long-lost sweet-blooded Celt boy, who gave his life for a single night with one of my ancestors.

Ethiran and others in her generation have persistent visions, and I cannot tell if they are dreams or premonitions. They hear songs in a language that whispers and caresses, they see women as radiant and merciless as the dawn, and bewitching men with shimmering lights in their streaming hair…

Will they bless or curse us? Will they even remember us, who came as reckless and as jaunty as the hope that launched us? And what will they become, now that we started them on this path? All I can do is take Ethiran and Keegan’s hands, step outside, and make a wish—that this place becomes a haven and a starship for our children… that they root and blossom here.

We will stride in the sky, or die trying. We have no need of small lives.

V. Nightsongs

Nineteen generations past planetfall

The darklit voice of my wanderer falls silent when he finishes translating Captain Semíra’s words, and I lay back into the bower of my consort’s arms. As Adhísa puts down the crystal that holds our past and our future, the scent of juniper from his braids fills the night air. A mershadow’s long moan wafts in, like mist from the bay, letting us know they’re starting their migration south on the morrow. “They wished well, they who sailed on the Reckless across the ocean of stars,” he murmurs.

“They did more than wish. They wrought tirelessly to make it come true,” whispers Arivén and his embrace tightens, “as you did, my soul…”

I pick up the command crystal, feeling the mild sting of its protective field. My two bright stars close their hands over mine, homage and blessing.

“The gift of Semíra, of Rodhánis, of the mershadows that gave us back the Reckless and all its glories,” I say. “The records, the logs, the activation command sequences… Had I wished upon the Sea Rose, I could not have asked for more. ”

And now… what is your wish now… heavenly fire…? My breath catches in my throat as they nestle closer, start to caress me like warm breezes with lips and fingertips.

Beloved…

They flow over me as gently and irresistibly as the rising tide. I float into their minds, into their hearts, the yearning, dazzling men of Captain Semira’s line with their scarred breasts, their roughened hands. Changelings, shapeshifters—falling stars, ships with fragments of sky as their sails, that have come home from long journeys to rest in me at last.

THE END

Author’s note: The story of Arwen (Planetfall) and the provenance of the lay of Rodhánis (Dagger Sheath) are told in Dry Rivers. Readers of Dry Rivers and Planetfall will notice how names drift linguistically: Aethra/Ethiran/Yethirán (Clear Sky), Arwen/Ariven/Arivén (Evening Star), Keegan/Kighan (Lion), Rodhanthi/Rodhánis (Seasand Rose), Ouranakis/Soranakis/Sóran-Kerís (Skystrider).

Planetfall first appeared in Crossed Genres, issue 13, December 2009

November 20, 2012 Posted by | November 2012, Uncategorized | , , , , | 5 Comments

Marian Womack Interviewed by Charles Tan

Hi Marian! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you first become acquainted with speculative fiction?

 

Well, of course, on some level all fiction is speculative fiction, and one of the great developments that has taken place over the course of my life is that some of the themes and ideas that have been traditionally considered as “belonging” uniquely to what was called “science fiction” have expanded beyond their genre boundaries (of course, genres don´t have boundaries, but that is another question…). So, a lot of what I read when I was a child or a young woman was speculative fiction “without knowing it”, as it were. For example, some of Lovecraft’s purer horror stories are very much based on a speculative fiction premise: what if we could re-animate the dead? What if we could come into contact with creatures from other dimensions?

 

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

 

It’s always been there in the background: I’ve always liked words, and putting words together, but there are a handful of key experiences that really led me to want to devote my life to it: reading Crime and Punishment for the first time at the age of thirteen or so, discovering Borges… In a way the idea that it is what I’d do has always been there, even amongst my family and friends. It was sort of understood I would work with books… And in fact I have been a librarian, I’ve done academic research, I translate, publish and write. Short of having my own bookshop, I think I have always been surrendered to books and have lived not only through them, but also from them… Or at least that’s what I try to do!

 

Who are some of your favorite writers or what are some of your favorite works?

 

I believe in a healthy reading diet, and my list of “favourites” is perhaps unmanageable… I am also very indecisive… A great many things: from Alice in Wonderland to An Awkward Age by Anna Starobinets.

 

Where can we find some of your fiction?

 

I have contributed to a number of anthologies and have published a novel, which I describe as “with a ghost included” rather than being a straight horror story, which is not. The anthologies I have contributed to tend to focus on speculative, fantasy or horror topics, and amongst them I am extremely proud to be one of the only three female authors featured in a seminal horror anthology recently published called Akelarre: Antología del cuento de terror español actual, full of incredibly amazing writers. I cannot tell you how many times I have complained to my publisher that he should have searched for more Spanish female horror writers! All these anthologies fall within the very Spanish trend now for “high-literary” genre writing… This need to specify-redefine can be sometimes a bit silly, in my view… Genre writing doesn’t need to be “saved” by straight literature. There is some amazing writing out there… But perhaps more in the Anglo-American scene than here, I guess.

 

How would you describe your writing?

 

I think I’ve got quite a dark mind, and that is reflected in what I write: I am fascinated by the obscure, the half-hidden, what you might in general call “the gothic”. A lot of my friends say that I write in quite an “English” way: perhaps what this means is that I am not as keen on baroque circumlocution as some Spanish prose writers.

 

How did you get involved with translation?

 

I was broke. I submitted a speculative translation (of a whole book) to a publisher. It was Lady into fox, by David Garnett, a book I have always been fascinated with… He didn’t take it, but things started coming my way.

What are the challenges in translating into Spanish, especially since you translate both English and Russian works?

 

More than other European languages, Spanish gets beautiful results on a fairly limited spectrum of emotional tone and nuances of vocabulary. I often feel when I am translating from English that I am trying to fit the Ocean into a bathtub. On the other hand, when something works in Spanish it works in a way that it is impossible to fake. Bad Spanish prose calls attention to its own inadequacies much more than bad English or bad Russian does. I should qualify here that when I translate from Russian it is as half of a translation team, of which I am the “native” Spanish speaker.

 

Who are some of the speculative fiction authors from Russia that we should be reading? From Spain?

 

Our Russian list is characterised by publishing gothic or science-fiction alongside more “traditional” Russian writers. One of the last books we have published is a collection of short stories by Anna Starobinets, published in English as An Awkward Age, which are speculative fiction-horror stories that really repay the Russian press’s description of her as “the Russian Stephen King”. Andrei Rubanov is also name to conjure with. In Spain I would highlight a recent anthology called Prospectivas: antología del cuento de ciencia ficción española actual. It’s got lots of major names in it, and it is a very well put together book.

 

What made you decide to pursue publishing?

 

We weren’t enjoying academia as much as we thought. We wanted a change of scene and decided to move to Madrid, a place neither of us knew, and to start a publishing house. We began with a list of about one hundred and fifty authors we liked and who weren’t published in Spanish, and went from there…

 

Could you tell us more about your press?

 

We started out publishing Russian fiction. We then decided to expand and open up an English Gothic line, so now we essentially have two distinct collections. We are hoping to open up even more to other literatures in the future. We have been going now for over three years, and have published about ten books a year. I don’t know how much longer we’ll keep this rhythm going, but at the moment we’re happy.

 

Could you tell us more about the anthology Steampunk: Antología retrofuturista?

 

This anthology has been in preparation for more than four years now: it is the first compilation of its kind in Spain. It was put together by Félix J. Palma, the writer of the bestselling The Map of Time and its sequels, and it aims to do two things: to familiarise Spanish readers with the genre, and also to provide them with an idea of what Steampunk could do in a Spanish environment.

 

What’s the speculative fiction scene in Spain like? The publishing scene?

 

I lived in England until recently, and so in some ways I feel like I am a newcomer to all of this, but my impression is that the speculative fiction scene in Spain is healthy: there is a good number of conventions and discussion groups online. The only thing I would suggest is that there is no obvious key figure around whom other authors congregate: not that this is a bad thing, just that the Speculative fiction community seems a little decentred sometimes, or over-focussed on Anglo-American developments. As far as publishing is concerned, the main development over the last few years has been the rise of small unaffiliated publishing houses, a group among which we are proud to count ourselves, which are willing to break down the previously rigid barriers between ‘popular’ and ‘literary’ fiction: the idea that a company such as ours might publish a Soviet novel about a journey to Mars in the same collection as the memoirs of Dostoevsky’s roommate is thinkable now in a way it wouldn’t have been five or ten years ago.

 

What are the challenges in juggling writing, translating, and publishing?

 

Everything is tidal: the publishing season in Spain runs from January to June and from September to November; the translation work I get tends to be required within the same period; my writing is something I can only do when the conditions are right (I don’t think I’m a diva, but I have found that unless I can get a good run at a piece of work, unless I know I have a solid week to do nothing apart from write, then I don’t get much done)… So we go from periods of inactivity to periods of immense and complex work, and all the time-management in the world isn’t enough to make everything go smoothly all of the time.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

 

We are currently launching the first Spanish translation of Gladys Mitchell, a jewel in the crown of Golden Age English detective fiction. I am working on a series of young adult steampunky novels with the Spanish fantasy writer Sofia Rhei, am preparing a compilation of my anthologised stories, and am starting to take the first steps in writing what promises to be an extremely large-scale literary project, but I don’t want to mention more than that, as it might be years before anything appears. Before that I hope that an anthology I am preparing now, sort of “Spanish-writers-Lovecraft-homage”, will be published. You wouldn’t imagine the number of writers here who are a bit obsessed with him, who worship his work. We are quite a substantial community!

 

Anything else you want to plug?

 

For everyone who reads Spanish, Steampunk is an indispensible anthology. We are also about to publish El vivo, a novel by Anna Starobinets, which is amazing. Please visit our website: www.nevsky.es, and thank you for the interview.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , | Comments Off

Guest-Post: Landscapes by Karin Tidbeck (Author Week #5)

Last night I dreamed of a landscape by the sea. I had traveled there to investigate a ruin that once was a sorcerer’s tower. I had lost most of my tools in the transition to this place; I’d managed to create a makeshift wind shelter out of an old sheet, and was sitting on the flagstones counting my coins, which at that moment was important. The sky overhead was purple with swollen clouds, the air heavy and still, waiting for the storm.

A man came walking along the beach and up the stairs to the tower. He was dressed in clothes from the Italian renaissance: two-coloured hose, doublet, a little cape, no hat, but an unfriendly sneer.

“We entered from there”, he said, and gestured down the waterfront. “This is our territory.”

“Who are ‘we’?” I asked.

“The rest of us. We’ve made camp in the forest. Come.” He started down the steps.

Down in the surf, the waves rose up in the shape of a lion’s head, glowing in red.

“Mind the beasts”, said the man.

Thinking about it, this is the first time I’ve met another traveller.

The stories in Jagannath were written over the course of ten years, and have very diverse origins. Coinciding with the release of the collection is the publication of my first novel in Swedish, Amatka, the result of a process that has run parallel to the creation of the stories in Jagannath. Since I’ve mostly talked about the collection to the English-speaking audience, I’d like to mention some things about Amatka. It’s about mapping an old continent.

        

I spent about three years recording my dreams. I wasn’t interested in analysis or symbolism, but instead if my dream realm could be mapped as if it were an external place. What were these reoccurring places? Where were they in relation to each other? Who were the people and creatures populating them?  Over the months, patterns emerged, although in ways difficult to map: it was a country or continent, with cities, villages, flora and fauna, all shifting depending on what time it was in the dream, what time it was in the waking world, in what order they appeared, how they related to each other.

There’s a great plain, and a village where the houses have eaten their inhabitants and extend lanterns above their doorways to lure passers-by in; other parts of that plain are covered in enormous skeletons of long-dead migrant insects. An ocean to the west is dried out, all its water held in clouds above, and bright lights weave in and out of them. Further to the west there’s a forest of enormous trees from whose branches dangle sperical bathyscaphes. To the east, the celestial bodies crowd the sky and the giant orrery that holds them up becomes visible (and audible).

After some experimenting, I found that the best way to describe this world was boiling the images down into poetry: a process both uncontrolled and very much so. The resulting collection was partly published in Lyrikvännen, a Swedish poetry journal. I then laid it to rest on the compost heap and collected what seeped out a few years later:

Amatka is the story of colonizing a world where physical reality is mutable, and language both a tool and a threat. Vanja, a researcher who has failed to fulfill most of the duties expected of a good citizen, travels the distant colony Amatka to map hygiene habits. What she finds during her research leads to something quite different, unraveling the truth about the colonies and their history.

The idea for the novel partly originates in the dream project, with a series of dreams I had over the course of a couple of weeks. In the first one, I found a row of trucks on a dirt road, the drivers standing outside smoking. They were delivering goods to a town that lay far north and that no-one ever visited. The drivers refused to tell anyone what went on up there. In the second dream, I woke up in a town built entirely out of concrete, and knew in the fashion one knows things in dreams that this was that northern town the drivers visited. In the third dream, a copse of cast-iron pipes stood on a plain. Some of them were bent at the top like periscopes, others torn, like something had exploded out of them.

Amatka isn’t set in the dream world, but has borrowed some of the geography: the placement of the colonies that correspond to existing cities; topography, occurrences, elements, but above all, the fact that the fabric of reality, its base matter, is entirely controlled by language. The story itself is the result of plonking a socialist commune down in that universe and taking the consequences of the clash between them and the world they encounter. How would living in a mutable world change their way of thinking about reality and themselves? What would happen to social structure, philosophy, language? How much would they allow the world to change them?

By the time I’d finished the novel, I realized that the world I had mapped no longer resembled the landscape I now visit at night. The project is over. All that remains is to translate the story into English, so that I can show you what I mean instead of just talking about it. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy Jagannath.

November 16, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Jagannath: Stories by Karin Tidbeck, reviewed by Sofia Samatar (Author Week #5)

Illegal Mingling: Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath: Stories

Reviewed by Sofia Samatar

In a long twilight, the sound of tiny bells hangs in the air: a young woman’s mother is coming for her from the forest. Elsewhere, by the side of a lake, a family reunion is in progress, merry aunts and cousins hatching from cocoons. And in a tin can provided by charity, a tiny creature made of spit, salt, menstrual blood and a carrot kicks its legs, while the first October snow begins to fall. These are some of the strange, seductive images you’ll find in Karin Tidbeck’s stories.

Jagannath: Stories (Cheeky Frawg, 2012) is Tidbeck’s English-language book debut. It brings together works previously published in English, the author’s translations of her own stories—most of them from her Swedish collection, Vem är Arvid Pekon?—and original material. On the strength of Vem är Arvid Pekon?, Tidbeck won a grant from the Swedish Authors’ Fund; her first novel, Amatka, is forthcoming this fall from Sweden’s largest publisher. Jagannath gives English-language readers the chance to enter the shifting territory of Tidbeck’s marvelous multiple worlds.

The stories in Jagannath are fascinating, frightening, and above all, tender. There’s an intimacy to them that’s immediately enchanting: several take the form of diaries or letters, or words exchanged with a close friend. “Some Letters for Ove Lindström” is written to the narrator’s dead father. I first read this story in Shimmer Magazine earlier this year: that’s when the name “Karin Tidbeck” stuck in my mind, along with the haunting melancholy of this story of a broken family, lost hope, and magic. “Some Letters” concerns a young woman, Viveka, who returns to the place she grew up, an old schoolhouse where her parents lived with the other members of a commune: the loss of Viveka’s nuclear family (her mother disappeared when she was three; she lost her father to alcoholism and then death) is mingled with the loss of the commune, which was both an extended family and a vision of a utopian future. Loss fills every line of the story, like Viveka’s last memory of her mother: a red dress and the sound of tiny bells. Who was Viveka’s mother? That question both deepens the sadness of the story, and expands it outward toward mystery, toward the forest.

The red dress returns in “Reindeer Mountain,” where it becomes the sign of the vittra: tall, handsome, magical people who live inside the mountain, and like to wear red. Two sisters struggle with fear of madness and envy of each other in this story of a family with mixed human-vittra blood. The theme of human contact with other species, subtle in “Some Letters from Ove Lindström” and explicit in “Reindeer Mountain,” runs through the collection. “Pyret,” a sly gem in the form of an encyclopedia entry, details the habits of vittra cattle. A footnote informs us that the most common crime among those accused of witchcraft in medieval times was “illegal mingling”: humans consorting with non-human beings.

Many of the stories in Jagannath play with this theme: in “Beatrice,” a woman’s love affair with a steam engine produces a whistle-voiced, coal-chewing child; in both “Miss Nyberg and I” and “Cloudberry Jam,” children are grown like plants. The narrator of “Brita’s Holiday Village” discovers two families at once: while her memories of her relatives begin to emerge in her writing, she dreams the life of a second, insect-like family. And in the collection’s title story, the mother of a family carries her brood inside her.

Other themes include transformation, the nature of time, and the judgments of God. The stories “Augusta Prima” and “Aunts” take place in the same world, a fairyland of the actual fairytale type, where games are bloody and casual torture is the order of the day. The stories show two different perspectives on what happens when time enters this timeless realm. These stories—like “Rebecka,” in which torture leads to salvation—explore different types of illegal mingling, mixing transgression with law and cannibalism with comfort. The intimate tone of so many of Tidbeck’s tales invites the reader to blend in as well, to imagine a personal shift into something slightly different. The words of “Some Letters for Ove Lindström” are ostensibly written to a dead man, but when you read them, you’ll know better. Like all of the stories in Jagannath, these letters are for us.

November 15, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Karin Tidbeck Interviewed by Charles Tan (Author Week #5)

First off, what made you decide to pursue writing?

I’ve always made up stories, and I couldn’t imagine not writing. I did make a decision to work towards getting published when I was about 20, although actually getting published felt very distant at the time. I made another decision to start a new life with less money and more time when I was 29, and left my hometown to spend two years at one of the best creative writing workshops in the country. But I don’t think I ever made a decision to pursue writing. There just was no question about where I was going – it was a matter of how hard I was going to work for it.


For me, your fiction could easily fall under several categories. How would you describe your writing, or what term are you comfortable with?

I don’t consider genre when writing. Jagannath, like you say, is very diverse that way. I just published a novel in Swedish that’s been classified as a dystopia, which isn’t really true but was a solution for marketing purposes: fans of fantastic fiction will understand it has a fantastic or science fictional element, while readers who are put off by an sf label will accept a dystopia because it’s classified as literary. But any genre term will inevitably create expectations that will colour the reader’s experience – if they haven’t dismissed the book because it’s in the ”wrong” genre. So I’m not really comfortable with any terms. The ones I’m the least uncomfortable with are weird or fantastic fiction. But, you know, someone will always complain that X is the wrong term and that my stories are easily classified as Y.


In several of your short stories, there’s usually something that’s dark, unsettling, or tragic. Is this a conscious decision on your part and what is it about that aspect that fascinates you?

I wrote about the melancholy tradition in the afterword for Jagannath. It’s a kind of wistfulness that pervades much of our culture, and that became a natural element when I wrote the stories set in the fictional Swedish North. The themes or atmospheres aren’t a conscious choice, though, just like I don’t choose genre. Ideas show up and I write the stories in the way they need to be written. I don’t find what I write unsettling, most of the time not particularly dark or tragic either. But maybe my weird-o-meter is off? Because even when I think I’m writing beautiful, happy, utopian froo-froo someone will come up and say it gave them nightmares.

I will say that I have a lifelong fascination with madness, and the idea that reality – on the inside and on the outside – is a very frail thing. And that I like trying on mindsets or ethics that are alien to me, to see what it looks like from the inside.

 

How did Cheeky Frawg Books end up publishing Jagannath?

Ann Vandermeer had bought two pieces from me – Jagannath and Augusta Prima – and she and Jeff knew I’d published a short story collection in Swedish. They asked to see the rest of it, so I translated it and sent it over, and they thought it’d work with some additional material. We collected the other stories I’d published in U.S. magazines and anthologies that year.

What is it about the short story format that appeals to you? How different was the experience writing short stories vs. Novels?

I’m usually interested in exploring an idea or a concept, and am not too keen on drawing it out or surrounding it with fluff. I like the sport of boiling a story down to its bare bones, and then seeing how much flesh it needs to walk around but still have that concentrated taste. And I just have too many ideas, I want to work with all of them.

The long form is a different beast altogether. Writing Amatka was grueling. An editor I’d sold two short stories to asked if I had a novel. I didn’t. I did have an old, old project: a bunch of short texts and a poetry collection set in the same world, and which I’d begun trying to turn into a novel at some point. So like any sane person would, I told the editor ”Certainly! Let me just do some edits”, and finished the first draft in a blind panic. I’m very happy with the result, but I’m not sure I’ll revisit the traditional novel format anytime soon. The idea of nested stories is appealing, though, or short stories with an overarcing narrative.


How did your experience at Clarion 2010 influenced the way you write, or the way you view the industry?

Clarion changed a lot of things. I knew little about the industry outside Sweden – only what I’d gleaned from working in a bookshop and reading the occasional issue of Locus – so that was a whole new world. I got the tools for breaking into the industry. As for writing, I started writing longer pieces, and it was a magnificent exercise in pushing mental boundaries: there’s too little time for self-censorship, too little time to question what the hell you’re on about. I wrote Jagannath (the short story) during the last week. People living inside a biomechanical centipede, sure. Who was I to argue? I’m a huge fan of Keith Johnstone, especially what he talks about the dangers of censoring your first impulse because you’re afraid it’s ”obscene, psychotic or not original”. This became a demonstration of the wonderful things that happen when you gag the censor. People wrote some incredible things during those final weeks.


At the end of your collection, you talk about translation and some of the nuances between English vs. Swedish. What was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of translation?

The main challenge is to bring nuances and atmosphere over to the other side. It became very clear over the course of translating from Swedish to English that there were more layers to my language than I’d been aware of. It’s not just finding the right words, it’s also about cultural shorthand and wordplay that doesn’t even appear as such on the surface. Peeling those layers back was a huge learning experience. The same goes for English to Swedish, really. There are tones and built-in references in the English language that only carries over to Swedish with difficulty. I admire professional translators who can do this with other writers’ works. At least I have myself right here for reference.

How different is your process when writing in Swedish? In English?

Writing in Swedish is very intuitive. I can sit back and just record what I see in my head. With English, there’s always an extra language filter, so the process is slower – unless I’ve been speaking and writing in English for more than a few hours and my brain has had time to shift gears. (I’ve been wondering if my English and Swedish would score differently on a readability index, but I haven’t found a calculator that can take both languages.) Other than that, I don’t think the processes differ much.

What’s the Swedish genre scene like?

It’s perked up dramatically over the last few years. Not long ago it was near-impossible to publish fantastic fiction – there were two or three fanzines that published sf or fantasy short stories, and maybe a handful of indie publishers. Larger publishers were uninterested in fantastic fiction unless it could be marketed to children or sold as literary. But things are definitely looking up, both in that fantastic fiction has seeped into the mainstream market and is now much more visible in mainstream media, but also in that blogs, magazines and publishers are popping up everywhere. There are a bunch of very exciting new authors that I hope will get the international attention they deserve, like Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren with their brilliant Engelsfors trilogy (the first installment, The Circle, was recently published in English); Nene Ormes and her unique urban fantasy novels set in Malmö (the second installment, Särskild (”particular” or ”special”, came out just a couple of months ago); Jenny Milewski’s meta-novel Skalpelldansen (The Scalpel Dance) is one of the most exciting books to happen in the horror field lately. Add to this a HUGE surge in graphic novels and comics – I haven’t seen anything like it since the late ’80s. Artists like Lina Neidestam, Fabian Göransson, Kim W Andersson and Karl Johnsson will hopefully become internationally known before too long.

 

Who are some of your favorite writers?

I have many, but to mention just a few: China Miéville, Ursula K Le Guin, Elizabeth Hand, Tove Jansson, Caitlín Kiernan, Chip Delany and P C Jersild. On the graphic novel side, Neil Gaiman and Roman Dirge.


Anything else you want to plug?

Nothing other than that I’d ask everyone interested in Sweden to check out the names above. There’s so much cool stuff happening on the Swedish scene right now, it deserves more attention.  

November 14, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Tuesday Fiction: “Brita’s Holiday Village” by Karin Tidbeck (Author Week #5)

This week on the World SF Blog we’re delighted to feature a story from Karin Tidbeck’s latest collection, Jagannath: Stories.

Brita’s Holiday Village

by Karin Tidbeck

29/5

The cab ride from Åre station to Aunt Brita’s holiday village took about half an hour. I’m renting the cottage on the edge of the village that’s reserved for relatives. The rest are closed for summer. Mum helped me make the reservation—Brita’s her aunt, really, not mine, and they’re pretty close. Yes, I’m thirty-two years old. Yes, I’m terrible at calling people I don’t know.

I didn’t bring a lot of stuff. Clothes and writing things, mostly. The cottage is a comforting old-fashioned red thing with white window frames, the interior more or less unchanged since the 1970s: lacquered pine, green felt wallpaper, woven tapestries decorated with little blobs of green glass. It smells stale in a cosy way. There’s a desk by one of the windows in the living room, overlooking Kall Lake. No phone reception, no Internet. Brita wondered if I wanted a landline, but I said no. I said yes to the bicycle. The first thing I did was bike down to the ica store I saw on the way here. I stocked up on pasta and tomatoes and beans. I found old-fashioned soft whey-cheese, the kind that tastes like toffee. I’m eating it out of the box with a spoon.

“Holiday village” is a misleading expression; the village is really just twelve bungalows arranged in two concentric circles with a larger house—the assembly hall—in the middle. The dark panelling, angled roofs and panoramic windows must have looked fresh and modern in the sixties, or whenever they were built. The wood is blackened now, and the windows somehow swallow the incoming light, creating caverns under the eaves. I’m a little relieved to be staying in the cottage.

Brita said that before she bought the holiday village, back when they were building it, the old man who owned the cottage refused to leave. When he finally died, the cottage was left standing for private use. It’s much more cosy, anyway. I’d feel naked behind those panoramic windows.

 

30/5

I got up late and unpacked and sorted music. I’ve got a playlist with old punk and goth for the teenage project, an ambient playlist for the space project, and a list of cosy music, everything in order to feel at home and get into the mood and avoid writing. Did some cooking. Rode the bike around until I was tired. Found an old quarry. Tried to go for a swim in Kall Lake and cut my feet on the rocks. Bought goat whey curd. Finally, I couldn’t avoid it anymore: writing.

So I have two stories I want to do something about. First there’s the science fiction story about child workers in the engine room of a spaceship. It’s a short story really, but I’d like to expand it into a novel. I know you’re not supposed to worry about form or length—it’s a guaranteed way to jinx the whole thing—but I’d really like to. I like the characters and their intense relationships, like Lord of the Flies in space.

The other story is a pseudo-biographical thing about a teenager growing up in the Stockholm suburbia of the 1980s, during the heyday of Ultra, the tiny house turned punk headquarters. I suppose it’s a cooler and bolder version of myself. Also, older. I was too young to ever hang out at Ultra. It had already burned down by the time I discovered punk. I used to go to Ultra’s next iteration—Hunddagis, the club housed in an old day care centre for dogs. I still remember the punk aroma: beer, cigarettes, cheap hair spray, and day-old sweat.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing: writing down a bunch of teenage memories and transposing them onto a little older and bolder version of myself and it’s just slow and boring work. I had a go at the science fiction story instead, but it wouldn’t happen. I ended up shutting everything down, realized it’s now one o’clock in the morning (actually it’s 1:30 now), and I’m going to bed.

 

31/5

I took a walk through the village this morning. Things that look like white, plum-sized pupas hang clustered under the eaves. They’re warm to the touch. I should tell Brita—it’s some kind of pest. Wasp nests?

Biked to the quarry after coffee, gathered some nice rocks—very pretty black granite. Went home, made pasta with chickpeas, tried to write. Writing about punks at Hunddagis doesn’t feel the least bit fun or interesting. Mostly because I’ve realized what a lame teenager I was. I was always home at the stroke of midnight; I didn’t like drinking mash; I didn’t have sex. I read books and had an inferiority complex because I was afraid to do all that other stuff. I don’t know anything about being a badass punk rocker.

It’s the same thing with the story about the engine room kids— what do I know about child labour? What do I know about how kids relate to each other under circumstances like that? Not to mention, what do I know about spaceships? I’m talking out of my ass.

So there I am. I can’t write about what I know, and I can’t write about what I don’t know. Better yet, I’ve told everyone that I’m staying in Åre until I’ve finished the novel. I somehow thought that saying it would make it happen.

Hang in there for another couple of weeks. And do what? Try some more. Go on biking trips and eat whey-cheese.

 

2/6

I’m taking a break. I’ve scrapped everything I was working on. I rented a car and drove west over the border into Norway, where I bought ice cream in a lonely little kiosk. When I was a kid, I thought the sign in Norwegian that said åpen, open, meant apan, the monkey. It was the most hilarious thing ever.

I had my ice cream, and looked at the Sylarna Mountains and the cotton-grass swaying on the bog. There was a thick herbal smell of mountain summer. Little pools and puddles were everywhere, absolutely clear, miniature John Bauer landscapes. I considered going on to Levanger, but it felt too far. I went for a swim in Gev Lake on the way home. It was just like when I was little: warm and shallow enough that if you walk out into the middle, the water only reaches your waist. Tiny minnows nibbled at my feet.

 

3/6

I’m having coffee in the little cabin on Åreskutan’s Summit. It’s a clear day, and I can see the mountain range undulating in the west, worn blunt by the ice ages. Mum once said that when she was a kid, there was a leathery old man who every morning hiked all the way up the mountain with a satchel full of coffee thermoses and cinnamon rolls that he would sell in the cabin. This was before the cableway, somewhere in the 1950s. The old man had done that since time immemorial, even when my grandmother and her sister were kids and dragged baking troughs up the mountain to ride them down like sleds.

 

4/6

I went for a walk in the holiday village. I became a little obsessed with the thought of stuff you can do when nobody’s looking. Build a pillow fort outside cottage number six. Streak howling through the street. I was thinking specifically of howling when I spotted the pupas. They’re the size of my fist now. That was fast. I forgot to tell Brita. Of course, I had to touch one of them again. It felt warmer than my hand.

Went shopping in Kall, had a cup of coffee, bought the newspaper, went past Brita’s house. I told her about the pupas. Her reaction was pretty strange. She said something about the pupas sitting there in summer, and that I should leave them alone. That’s why she’d put me in the cottage outside the village, so that the pupas would be left in peace. Yes, yes, I said. I won’t do anything. Do promise you won’t do anything, said Brita, and suddenly she was pleading. They have nowhere else to go, she said; you’re family, I can trust you can’t I? Yes, yes, I said, I promise. I have no idea what she’s on about.

 

5/6

I dreamed that there was a scraping noise by the door. Someone was looking in through the little side window. It was human-shaped, but it sort of had no detail. It was waving at me with a fingerless paw. The door handle was jerking up and down. The creature on the other side said nothing. It just smiled and waved. The door handle bobbed up and down, up and down.

It’s five past ten. I’ve slept for almost ten hours.

I went into the village to check if the pupas had grown, but all that remains are some empty skins hanging under the eaves. So that’s that.

 

6/6

There’s a knock on the door and someone’s waving at me through the side window. It’s a middle-aged man. When I open the door, he presents himself as Sigvard and shakes my hand. He’s one of the groups of tourists who live here during the summer. They’ve rented all the cabins, and now they’re throwing a party, and they’ve seen me sitting alone in my cottage. Would I like to join them? There’s plenty of food for everyone. I’m very welcome.

The party takes place in the little assembly hall. People are strolling over there from the other cabins. They’re dressed up for a summer night’s party: the women in party dresses and lusekofte sweaters tied over their shoulders, the men in slacks and bright windbreakers. Inside, the assembly hall is decked with yellow lanterns, and a long buffet table lines one of the walls. The guests are of all ages and resemble each other. I ask Sigvard if they’re family, and Sigvard says yes, they are! It’s a big family meet-up, the Nilssons, and they stay here a few weeks every summer. And now it’s time to eat.

The buffet table is covered in dishes from every holiday of the year: steak, roast ham, tjälknul, hot cloudberries, new potatoes, patés, pickled herring, gravlax, lutfisk, seven kinds of cookies, cake. I’m starving. I go for second and third helpings. The food has no taste, but the texture is wonderful, especially the ice cream mingled with hot cloudberries. Everyone seems very interested in me. They want to know about my family. When I tell them that Brita is my great-aunt, they cheer and say that we’re related then; I belong to the Anders branch of the family. Dear Brita! They love her! I’ll always be welcome here. Everyone else here belongs to the Anna branch: Anna, Anders’ sister and the eldest daughter of the patriarch Mats Nilsson.

When we’re done eating, it’s time to dance. The raspy stereo plays dansband music: singers croon about smiling golden-brown eyes, accompanied by an innocent and sickly-sweet tune. Everyone takes to the dance floor. Sigvard asks me to dance. This is like a cliché of Swedish culture, I say without thinking. Yes, isn’t it, says Sigvard and smiles. He holds me close. Then I wake up.

 

8/6

I started writing again. Throwing the old stuff out worked. Something else has surfaced—it’s fairly incoherent, but it’s a story, and I’m not about to ruin it by looking too closely at it. It has nothing to do with teenage trouble at Hunddagis, or Lord of the Flies with kids in spaceships. It’s about my own family in Åre, a sort of pseudo-documentary. Some mixed memories of my grandmother’s and mother’s stories of life up here, woven together with my own fantasies to form a third story. Above all else, I’m having fun. I refuse to think about editing. I write and stare out over Kall Lake.

The dreams are a sign that things are happening—I keep dreaming about the same things, and it’s very clear, very detailed. It’s the same scenario as before, that is, Sigvard knocking on the door and taking me to the assembly hall. We eat enormous amounts of food and dance to dansband classics. I talk to all my relatives. They tell stories about Mats Nilsson’s eldest daughter and how she started the new branch of the family when she married and moved north from Åre. I don’t remember those stories when I wake up.

 

13/6

I started with Mother’s stories, continued with Gran’s generation, and am working my way back in time to form a sort of backwards history. I wrote about the war and how Great-gran smuggled shoes and lard to occupied Norway. Then I wrote about how Gran met Grandpa and moved down to Stockholm. Right now Gran is a teenager, it’s the twenties, and she’s making her first bra out of two stocking heels because she can’t afford to buy a real one. She and her sister are getting ready to go to a dance in Järpen. It’s an hour’s bike ride. I’m looking forward to writing the story about my great-great-grandfather who built a church organ out of a kitchen sofa. Some things you can’t make up.

The dreams change a little each night. I’ve discovered that I have a fair amount of control of my actions. I wander around in the cabins and talk to the inhabitants. In true dream fashion, they all come from little villages with names that don’t exist like Höstvåla, Bräggne, Ovart; all located somewhere north of Åre, by the lakes that pool between the mountains.

Sigvard’s wife is called Ingrid. They have three teenage children.

 

15/6

I’m a little disgusted by the direction this is all taking. I don’t know how to interpret what’s going on. The front doors are always unlocked, I go where I wish. Last night and the night before last, it happened several times that I walked into a house and people were having sex. On all surfaces, like kitchen tables or sofas. They greet me politely when I open the door and then go back to, not making love, but fucking. Nobody seems particularly into it. They might as well be chopping onions or cleaning the floors. In and out and the flat smack of flesh on flesh. And it’s everyone on everyone: man and wife, father and daughter, mother and son, sister and brother. But always in heterosexual configurations. I asked Sigvard what they were doing. We’re multiplying, he said. That’s what people do.

 

20/6

It’s Midsummer. I’ve managed just over eighty pages. I’ve gotten as far back as great-great-great-grandfather Anders, son of Mats Nilsson, and if I want to get even further back I’ll have to do some research on Anders’ five siblings or just ramble out into fairy tale country. Not that making stuff up seems to be a problem. There’s no end to it. I’ve gone back to the start to fill in holes, like Mother and Gran’s siblings. No editing just yet, just more material. Brita asked me if I wanted to come with her to celebrate Midsummer. I declined. All I want to do is write. Besides, it’s freezing outside, and the gnats are out in full force. It’d be a good idea, research-wise, to see Brita, but I don’t feel like being around people.

 

21/6

Sigvard came knocking on my door. He was wearing a wreath of flowers and held a schnapps glass in one hand. We danced to dansband music, the legendary Sven-Ingvars; we competed in sack racing and three-legged racing. Most of the women and girls had large, rounded bellies and moved awkwardly. When the dancing and playing was over, we ate new potatoes and pickled herring, little meatballs and sausages, fresh strawberries with cream, toasting each other with schnapps spiced with cumin and wormwood. It’ll get darker now, said Sigvard. He burst into tears. Yes, I replied. But why is that so terrible? It makes me think of death, he said.

 

1/7

150 pages! That’s an average of five pages a day. Very well done. The last ten days have been about putting more meat on the bones I finished building around Midsummer. In other words, embroidering what facts I had with more ideas of my own. Editing is going to take a lot longer, but I have a solid structure from beginning to end—no bothersome gaps or holes.

I decided to stop at Anders. I need to check the other siblings now, especially Anna. I’ve tried to talk to Brita, but she’s always busy whenever I come over. I’m done with this place, though. I’m homesick. I’ve booked a ticket to Stockholm for the sixth. I can go back home with a good conscience.

 

4/7

They’re weeping and wailing. They’re all dressed in black. They won’t say why. I’ve told them I’ll be leaving soon, but I don’t think that’s why they’re sad.

 

5/7

I finally caught Brita for a cup of coffee. She apologized for being so busy. I asked her about Mats Nilsson’s children, but she doesn’t know much outside our own branch. Still, I asked her if she knew anything about Anna, the eldest daughter. Not much, she said. But then there wasn’t much to know about her. She disappeared without a trace when she was twenty years old. The consensus was that she probably drowned herself in Kall Lake, or in one of the sinkholes in the quarry. In any case, she was never seen again.

 

6/7

I’m leaving on the night train. I cleaned out the cottage; all that’s left is to hand over the keys to Brita.

Sigvard knocked on the door in my dream. The whole village was crowding behind him. They looked aged and crumpled somehow, and they were weeping loudly. Some of them didn’t seem to be able to walk on their own—they were crawling around. Sigvard came in first; he dropped to his knees and flung his arms around my legs. I sat down on the floor. He put his head in my lap. My dear, he said. It was the best summer ever. We’re so grateful. Then he sighed, and lay still. The others came, one by one. They lay down around me and curled up. They sighed and lay still. I patted their heads. There, there, I said. Go to sleep now, go to sleep. Their bodies were like light shells. They collapsed in on themselves.

I was woken up just after seven by an ice-cold draft. The front door was open. I went for a last walk in the village. Clusters of tiny spheres hang under the eaves.

November 13, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Author Week #5: Karin Tidbeck

We have another Author Week here at the World SF Blog after our hiatus. This time, it’s Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck, and to mark the release of her latest collection, Jagannath: Stories, published by Cheeky Frawg, we’re giving away three (3) copies of the book. For a chance to win, simply comment down below, and make sure to fill in your e-mail address so we know to contact you if you won. Competition closes on Friday, and we’ll announce the winners on Monday.

Also, watch this space as we publish a short story, an interview, a review, and a guest post from Tibeck.

Karin Tidbeck has published short stories and poetry in Swedish since 2002, and in English since 2010. Her 2010 book debut, the short story collection Vem är Arvid Pekon?, awarded her the coveted one-year working grant from the Swedish Authors’ Fund. Her English publication history includesWeird TalesShimmer MagazineUnstuck Annual and the anthology Odd?.  She also recently sold her first novel to Sweden’s largest publisher.

Ursula K. Le Guin wrote: “I have never read anything like Jagannath. Karin Tidbeck’s imagination is recognizably Nordic, but otherwise unclassifiable–quietly, intelligently, unutterably strange. And various. And ominous. And funny. And mysteriously tender. These are wonderful stories.”

Update: From Jeff VanderMeer in the comments: Just to make it interesting, Cheeky Frawg will also throw in ebooks by Amal El-Mohtar, Amos Tutuola, and Leena Krohn for those winners who want them (the Tutuola and Krohn will be available by the end of the month). In addition, we will stick in a couple extra treats with the Jagannaths that are sent out….

Update 2: The winners are Kyle, Francene Lewis, and kummakissa. Congratulations!

November 12, 2012 Posted by | November 2012 | , , , | 42 Comments

   

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