Archive for the ‘Catherynne M. Valente’ Category
Remember my book haul from the other day? shortly after I posted that, I picked up this beauty:
Why yes, that is Charles Vess artwork on a Subterranean Press limited edition of a new novella by one of my favorite authors! It’s so pretty I almost don’t want to touch it. almost.
And yes, yes there is more:
I want to trace that signature over and over again, learn the shapes and patterns my hands and fingers make, and memorize the order, turn the movements into a mantra.
and then the logical part of my brain starts ticking. . .
number 56? Maybe she got to this one before her hand got tired. Do authors sign all the books all in one day of wrist wrenching carpal tunnel risking signature scrawling? Or do they do a dozen at a time? Do the pop in the extended edition of Star Wars to stave off the boredom? what if the author messes up or the pen runs out?
It’s that wonderful time of the year again! When we bake cookies and get cards in the mail and forget that we need extra time to warm up our cars in these cold, cold mornings.
It’s also time to talk about the best books we’ve read this year. I confess, I cheated a little on my list, I didn’t limit myself to books that came out in 2012, I’ve even got a reread on the list. Mostly space opera, a little fantasy and time travel, even a YA book made the list! In no particular order, here are my top books that I read this year, with review excerpts and links to the review should you feel so inclined to learn more about the titles that rocked my world this past year.
Redhead’s Best of 2012
Faith, by John Love (2012) – I read this all the way back in February, I knew right then it would make my best of the year list. An amazing debut from author John Love, Faith is a dark and tense stand alone science fiction novel. The pages drip with a danger and fear that doesn’t quickly dissipate after you’ve put the book down. This isn’t a book for everyone (that’s a polite way of saying it has lots of violence, amorality and swear words), but for those of us that like this sort of thing, Faith is quite the hidden gem.
Silently and Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente (2012) – has anyone been putting out short stories, novellas and full length novels as fast as Valente? she’s the hardest working writer I know, and this year she got to walk away with Hugo for Best FanCast to show for it. it’s no secret that Valente is one of my favorite authors, and the Hugo nominated Silently and Very Fast is certainly her most science fictional piece. With her signature flair for poetic metaphor and lyrical storytelling, this novella follows the life of Elefsis, a house AI who was told fairytales by the human children in the house. To Elefsis, life is a fairytale, and it should have a happy ending.
(full review here)
Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (2012) – I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, but when I do it’s a treat for it to be a beautifully written as this series (the 2nd book And Blue Skies from Pain came out later in 2012). Northern Ireland, the 1970s, Liam Kelly would prefer to live a normal life. He’s not interested in getting arrested or learning secrets about his heritage. But all of those things are very interested in him, and in destroying everything in his life that he cares about. Leicht spoiled me for urban fantasy. I am eagerly awaiting future novels in this series.
(full review here)
I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for work lately, so MP3 player and free short story downloads to the rescue! Here are a few that proved very enjoyable, maybe you will like them too. These are all less than an hour, so perfect for your commutes, holiday travels, or if you are stuck waiting somewhere, or would just like to listen to something nice.
These are from Lightspeed Magazine and Podcastle. do you listen to them? which other short story podcasts do you listen to?
The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species, by Ken Liu, from the August issue Lightspeed magazine (click here to download)
read by Stefan Rudnicki
I don’t know what I was expecting with this story, but I never thought so much imagination could be put into something that on the surface, sounds so very simple. This story is about what the title implies: book making habits. Of aliens. All creatures record events and thoughts, perhaps the desire to make recordings is a sign of civilization. With softly sure descriptions, Liu talks about a handful of alien civilizations, both organic and inorganic, creatures who record entire streams of consciencness, creatures whose records are slowing destroyed through use, and all sorts of other amazing, imaginative methods in which beings who are completely different from humans, but delight in the same things we do – storytelling.
This story had a surprisingly large impact on me. We communicate more than we can possibly know through storytelling, and the methods of that storytelling is a communication unto itself. I couldn’t get this story out of my head. As a lover of books, stories, and the methods we use to record our stories for future generations (and the speed at which those methods are changing), this story struck me in a very personal way.
A Hole to China, by Catherynne Valente, from the May Issue of Lightspeed Magazine (click here to download)
read by Stefan Rudnicki
published in October 2012
where I got it: borrowed ARC from a friend
A year has passed, it’s time to visit Fairyland again. It’s got to be better than Nebraska, where the other girls at school aren’t interested in being September’s friend, and food is purchased with ration coupons. The sooner she gets back, the sooner she can be with the best friends a girl could ever ask for: a book loving wyverary and a shyly beautiful marid.
After a rough and lonely landing in a glass forest, September notices drastic changes in her surroundings. None of her friends come to greet her, magic is being rationed, and the few magical creatures she meets are terrified of her. Maybe she’s just landed in a provincial area of Fairyland? But no, Fairyland has changed, and not for the better. Humans don’t belong in Fairyland, and when they leave, they aren’t supposed to leave things behind. When September last visited, she left her shadow behind, and it’s been up to all sorts of trouble.
For the last year, while September was doing sums and spelling, her shadow was living the high life in Fairyland-below. Known as Halloween, the Hollow Queen, her shadow rules Fairyland-below, where there are no rules, no bedtimes, no lost friends, and and un-attached to their other selves, the shadows are suddenly free to live their own lives, and do everything they’ve never been able to do before.
Ell the Wyverary and Saturday the Marid didn’t greet her when she landed in the glass forest, but their shadows were waiting for her when she landed in Fairyland-below. Are these the same Ell and Saturday that September had so many adventures with? Shadow-Ell and Shadow-Saturday are elated to be freed of the shackles of their other selves, this is the first time they’ve ever had any control over their own lives.
As Halloween hosts her revels, and her invisible assistant pulls down more shadows from Fairyland-above, Septembers feels more and more that something is wrong. Why can’t she just reunite with her shadow? Why won’t anyone listen to her? why doesn’t anyone seem to care about the damage that’s being done to Fairyland-above? If Halloween is such a reckless, horrible person, does that mean that deep down, September is too?
- In: awards | Best of the Year | Catherynne M. Valente | Charles Stross | Charles Vess | China Mieville | Erin Morgenstern | Ernest Cline | for the love of reading | George R R Martin | Jeff Vandermeer | Jo Walton | Jonathan Strahan | Kameron Hurley | Mary Robinette Kowal | Patrick Rothfuss | Robert Reed | Robert Silverberg | Tim Powers
- 5 Comments
The recently announced Locus Awards are awarded every year by a readers poll done by Locus Magazine. These have been going since 1971, and are often an influencial precursor to the Hugo awards, which will be awarded later this summer.
It’s only these last couple years that I’ve been blogging that I’ve paid much attention to awards. Honestly, for the most part, a list of award nominees more often than not elicits a mostly “eh” response from me. Maybe I’ve heard of the authors, maybe I haven’t, and there’s a decent chance I haven’t even read any of the books or short stories that are up for an award.
Good thing I have a scifi/fantasy blog, and have pretty much been reading nothing but scifi and fantasy for the last little while! For the first time, ever, I’ve actually read a small chunk of these. Ok, maybe not a respectable amount, but way more than in previous years. For the first time, ever, my mind is responding with a “sweet! I’ve read that!” or at least a “I’ve heard of that, and I really want to read it!” instead of “meh”.
Here are this years Locus Award winners (bolded) and nominees. If I reviewed the piece, I’ve linked to it. A few questions for you to contemplate as you peruse the list: how many of these author, works, editors, authors and publishers have you heard of? How many of them have you read, or are interested in reading?
The 2012 Locus Awards, as announced in Seattle Washington, June 15-17th 2012:
Science Fiction Novel
Embassytown, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
11/22/63, Stephen King (Scribner; Hodder & Stoughton as 11.22.63)
Rule 34, Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge (Tor)
A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin (Bantam; Harper Voyager UK)
Snuff, Terry Pratchett (Harper; Doubleday UK)
The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW; Gollancz)
Deathless, Catherynne M. Valente (Tor)
Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)
Ready Player One, Ernest Cline (Crown; Century)
God’s War, Kameron Hurley (Night Shade)
Soft Apocalypse, Will McIntosh (Night Shade)
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine (Prime)
She Nailed A Stake through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, edited by Tim Lieder
published in 2010
where I got it: Interlibrary loan
It being Passover/Easter week, what could be more appropriate reading than something biblical? I recently came across Tim Lieder’s blog, and he struck me as a swearing scholar (my favorite kind. of both). There was mention of an anthology that included old testament allegories and demons, and as I was already in a Haggadah frame of mind, so off to the library I went.
with a title like She Nailed a Stake Through his Head: Tales of Biblical Terror, it’s easy to think this is a one dimensional collection, that’s nothing but bible story retellings. You’d be wrong. While there were bible story retellings (which I admit, were my favorites) that don’t quite parallel what I’ve taught at Sunday school, but there were also vampires and Cthulhu monsters, and a Gilgamesh prequel and a parallel future where King David is a druggie rock star, and a few more vampires, and people, this is horrifically wonderful bizarro non-traditional stuff.
Mostly very short stories, this anthology was nice and easy to swallow, the whole thing is barely 150 pages long. I read the entire thing in two sittings. And you don’t need a biblical education of any kind to enjoy these. There are no inside jokes for you to figure out, no parables to puzzle over. Just deliciously creepy and sometimes heavily sexualized fiction. That word “Terror” in the title? yeah, there for a reason. And if you have any kind of Judeo-Christian education, you’ll be even more creeped out, which for me, made it all the better.
Here are some of my thoughts on a few of the entries:
Whither thou Goest, by Gerri Leen – With the death of their husbands, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth head back to Naomi’s homeland. In this version, it isn’t that Ruth doesn’t want to follow, it’s that she’s bound to follow. Not bound by anything Naomi has done, but bound, beautifully and powerfully, by her own words “Wherever you will go, I will go”. This Ruth survivies and lives off Naomi’s lifeforce. Naomi is trapped forever, for Ruth will never let her escape. And when they reach Naomi’s hometown, Ruth sets her sights on a new patron, someone new from whom she can steal lifeforce and energy.
Swallowed! by Stephen M. Wilson – told in reverse order, at first it’s easy to be disgusted by the man’s actions. He follows the voice in his head and does the horrible things it commands. He kills a few people, violently, needlessly, and viciously. But then we get an inkling of who he might be. that he was on a ship, fleeing something, and was thrown overboard by Cthulhu worshipping sailors, and was swallowed into warm darkness, where he didn’t die. The absolute creepiest retelling of the Jonah story I have ever had the pleasure of reading, this Jonah is deformed and mangled, possessed by something hungrier and more murderous than even himself.
Babylon’s Burning, by Daniel Kayson – taking place right here, right now, nerdy Daniel gets dragged to a corporate company party by his brother. Daniel is disgusted by the kind of money this company throws around, their parties populated by high end call girls, their filthy government contracts that land them headlines about civilian deaths. And then he arrives at the party, and oh, the girls, the beautiful girls! A translator by training, Daniel witnesses something at the party that changes his life forever. He knows what those words mean, and he knows they will eventually point right at him. When you are the prophet, the translator, the high priest, there is no escape.
Psalm of the Second Body, by Catherynne Valente – Ya’ll know I love me some Valente. Although this anthology was published in 2010, this short story was originally published in 2005, it was Valente’s first. An almost prequel to the epic of Gilgamesh, it had me running to Wikipedia for a refresher course. I haven’t read Gilgamesh since high school. This is the story of Shamhat, the harlot who was instructed to seduce Enkidu, and took seven days to complete her mission. The story is from Shamhat’s point of view, and she is very good at what she does. I get the impression she’s offended to forever be known as the harlot, the prostitute, that the pains she took to help Enkidu become just slightly more human would never be acknowledged as important. I do love me some Valente, so it kills me that this story did nothing for me. The whole thing felt overwrought and overly ornamented just for the purpose of being overdone. Is she perhaps telling me that a harlot covered in the gaudiest golden jewelry will still always be seen by history as nothing but a woman who spreads her legs for money? The only story in the collection that I read twice, and the only one that didn’t do it for me.
Limited edition from Subterranean Press, also printed in Robots: the New AI anthology from Prime Books.
Published in 2012
where I got it: purchased new
It’s not the questions in Cat Valente’s latest novella that are unique, it is the way she goes about answering them. Can a machine love? can a machine feel fear or pain or curiosity? What if it has been programmed to respond to love, to shy away from large things, to seek out new data? Is that emotion or programming? When all that matters the result, why would a different path matter?
Designed first as the prime computer of a large family home, and only later as a personal interface, Elefsis had always been programmed to observe and learn how to best serve her operators. But how to learn? By asking. Her operators have recently been sheltered teenagers, and they have taught her what they can about their innocent corners of the world, including the fairy tales old earth was raised on. Elefsis mistakenly believes that all stories have happy endings.
something old and something new,
something borrowed and something, umm, not blue.
Here are some recent goodies purchased, borrowed, and otherwise acquired:
oh wait, look! There is something blue!
All blurbs are yanked from Amazon. We’ve got:
The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman – a not quite sequel to Kushner’s Swordspoint (which I adored), The Fall of the Kings takes place in the same world but follows different characters. It promises sword fights, intrigue, strumpets, witty repartee, and probably some damn good drama.:
This stunning follow-up to Ellen Kushner’s cult-classic novel, Swordspoint, is set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. Against a rich tapestry of artists and aristocrats, students, strumpets, and spies, a gentleman and a scholar will find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society’s smug view of itself–and reveal that sometimes the best price of uncovering history is being forced to repeat it….
Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown – It’s super shiny cuz it’s a library book. I’m about half way through, and so far the plot feels like a traditional fantasy, but with some added complications of racism, religious propaganda and secret societies. There’s some neat magic here, so I’m curious to see how the author wraps it all up:
Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal days from man and beast, know the secrets of this power.
Now a being of awesome power, whose Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle, feeding on their souls, has arisen in secret. And her monstrous, murderous pawn, a soul-bound creature created of wood and grass and rock roams the land. A massive and mis-directed hunt for soul-eaters is launched and Talen finds himself a target. Trapped in a web of lies and secrets, Talen must identify his true enemy before the new Mother takes back what is rightfully hers.
Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara – After meeting Ms. Sagara at ConFusion in January, I knew I needed to start her Elantra series, so when I saw this copy at the used bookstore, I grabbed it! Like, I didn’t want to let go of it long enough for the lady at the counter to ring it up! It looks to be some nice and edgy urban fantasy thriller/mystery:
Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowingthat something was after her. Children were being murdered — and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin.…
Since then, she’s learned to read, she’s learned to fight and she’s become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she’s made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.
But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can’t trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers — powers that no other human has. Her task is simple — find the killer, stop the murders…and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!
The rules for my “best of” post were simple: I had to have read and reviewed the book in 2011, and it couldn’t be a reread (otherwise this list would taken over by Lynch, Powers, Brust, and others).
In no particular order (saving me the impossible task of choosing my utmost favorites), here are my top reads of the last 12 months. I’m surprised so many of them are new-ish books, as that wasn’t really part of the plan. Enjoy the little teaser then click on the title for the full review.
Grey by Jon Armstrong (2007) frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick. This is dystopia like you’ve never read before. This is body modification and mortification, life imitating art to the nth degree, and performance art like you’ve never imagined. This is fashion punk.
The Third Section by Jasper Kent (2011) The third in Kent’s Danilov Quintet, one of the most brilliantly frightening books I have ever read, and brimming with betrayals and violence, seductions and patience, this is the series you’ve been waiting for if you prefer your vampire fiction to be more Bram Stoker than sparkly.