the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Sarah Zettel’ Category

Dust Girl (American Fairy Trilogy, book 1), by Sarah Zettel

published June 2012

Where I got it: purchased new










In a small town in Kansas, in the dustbowl of the 1930’s, young Callie lives with her mother in the hotel her family owns. As the dust storms intensify, more and more families move out of the town, and Callie’s dust pneumonia gets worse.  Callie’s mother refuses to leave town, insisting that Callie’s father will return to save them. But it’s someone, or rather, some thing, else that comes to town with the next storm, and soon Callie is all by herself. She needs to find her mother, and the father she’s never known.

This is the American Fairy Trilogy, so it’s no spoiler to say that Callie discovers she is half fairy. Her mother had told anyone who would listen that Callie’s father was a traveling salesman. But the truth is that he was a black jazz musician. And even more of that truth was that he is a Fairy Prince. Callie may be royalty in the fae world, but in the plains of the 1930s, she’s now just one more biracial orphan, dependent on keeping her skin as light as possible so as to pass as caucasian for as long as possible.

With her new friend Jack, Callie begins a journey across the country to find her parents, and to find her destiny.  And when she does meet her fairy relatives, will they be happy to see her? That’s the thing with fairies. Their goals are not human goals. Their promises are not human promises.  They have something very different in mind for naive Callie.

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She writes space opera, she writes fantasy, she writes young adult and even paranormal mystery. Even better, she’s a fellow mid-westerner. In the last year or so, Sarah Zettel has quickly become one of my favorite science fiction writers. Her space opera is phenomenal, with characters that leap off the page and show you they are real people with real challenges. I don’t envy any of her characters, but I feel like I can relate to them. I’ve recently enjoyed Zettel’s Fool’s War and Bitter Angels (written as C.L. Anderson), and her new paranormal Vampire Chef series is getting rave reviews as well. I was beyond thrilled when Sarah agreed to do an interview on my blog.

So let’s get to the fun stuff, the interview!

L.R.R.: Your debut novel, Reclamation, won a Locus award for best first novel in 1996, and more recently Bitter Angels (2010) won the Philip K Dick award for best paperback original novel. Between 1996 and now, how have you seen the writing industry change? As a writer have you felt pressured to change with it?

S.Z.: The big change, of course, has been e-books. There’s now, unquestionably an audience for e-books, and a whole infrastructure to bring readers what they want. That’s opened up a lot of new avenues for writers and publishers to get their work to those readers. Is there pressure to change and adapt? Always. But that can be a good thing. I’m been part of a professional writer’s co-operative (Book View Cafe) where we as authors got together to help each other get our backlists out in e-book form. It’s been a lot of work, but a tremendous experience.

L.R.R.: There’s been a lot of attention, recently, on strong female lead characters in Speculative fiction, something you’ve been doing for years. Can you speak to any barriers you’ve experienced (or broken!), being a woman who writes speculative fiction with strong female characters?

S.Z.: When my 2nd novel Fool’s War came out, I had so many women come up to me and say “Thank you!” for writing protagonist who is a married woman. I think traditional literary science fiction is perceived as a male-oriented genre, and men are perceived as not being interested in reading about women or “women’s issues” read: relationships. There has always, always been SF by strong women, about strong women. Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, Julie Cznerda, Octavia Butler, are just a few of the authors. But that’s not the perception of the genre, and so they don’t get talked about a whole lot. However, what has happened and what’s been interested is how speculative fiction that features strong women and relationships moved beyond the SF genre. It’s on the romance shelves, on the mainstream shelves, on the manga shelves, and, hurray, hurray, on the Young Adult shelves.


L.R.R.: One of the many things I loved about Fool’s War is that one of the two main characters is a devout Muslim woman. I don’t claim to be well read, but come on, how often do you run into science fiction that stars a Muslim woman? When you were working on that novel, how did her character come to be, and what type of research did you do get all those cultural details just right?

S.Z.: Fool’s War came from a short story I wrote for Analog Science Fiction & Fact called “Fool’s Errand.” I wrote that story during the first Gulf War. At that time, some, well, idiots, beat up a Sikh man because they couldn’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh. And this wasn’t a lone incident. I was angry, but what could I do to help combat the prejudice? It occured to me I could show competent, strong Islamic characters in the future, and so I made the ship’s engineer a Muslim woman. When I started out on Fool’s War, I realized it made sense for the person who maintained the ship to also be the person who owned the ship, so Al Shei became one of the major protagonists.

L.R.R.: You write in multiple genres – science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, and more urban fantasy (American Fairy trilogy) and paranormal mystery (Vampire Chef series). Does it ever get confusing to be working on different projects in different genres at the same time? Are different genres more fun to write in than others?

S.Z.: Actually, I find writing in mulitple genres not only helps keep me fresh, it keeps me learning. Each genre has a different focus and a different set of expectations, and each focus teaches you something new about the craft of writing. All genres are fun. I will say that of them all, science fiction is probably the most work, because of the nature and the level of the world building you have to do to create a solid, complete SF story.

L.R.R.: Speaking of The American Fairy Trilogy, can you tell us a little about the first book in the series, Dust Girl, which is scheduled to hit bookstore shelves this summer?

S.Z.: June 26, to be exact (VBG). Sure. It’s my first Young Adult series, and I’m very excited about it. It’s about a girl named Callie who lives in the heart of Kansas during the Dust Bowl. Callie’s father disappeared before she was born, and she always suspected he was African American. He was. It turns out he’s also a fairy prince. Callie’s inherited his magic, and a world of trouble as a result, especially when the fairies come calling to her dust bowl home.

L.R.R.: Do you have any plans to be at any upcoming conventions (WorldCon perhaps?) or bookstore signings? Where and how can your fans connect with you?

S.Z.: I am going to be at McLean & Eakin in Petosky Michigan on July 13. I’ll also be at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor July 25. I’m not going to make WorldCon this year, but I will be at BoucherCon in Cinncinati, OH.

L.R.R.:  Hear that midwesterners?  I don’t know about you, but I’m planning a field trip to Ann Arbor!  Thank you so much Sarah, for spending some time on this blog.  I’ve enjoyed everything of yours that I’ve read, and I can’t wait to read more!

Fool’s War, by Sarah Zettel

published in 1997

where I got it: borrowed from a friend (thanks E! I’ll get it back to you right soon!)










With so many new books that feature female protags who kick ass, sometimes it’s hard to believe books like that have been around for a while.  Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War is one such book,  and in classic Zettel fashion, this is a space opera that will get you thinking about things you weren’t expecting, and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  If you are a fan of Kameron Hurley or Elizabeth Bear, or just looking for some damn good space opera, this will be right up your alley.

In this far future, we have colonized a number of star systems, and we have FTL ships and Artificial intelligences. Due to a large enough number of AIs that have gone rogue and slaughtered entire colonies, many ship owners are leery of allowing any kind of untethered AI access to their systems.

Katmer Al Shei is a partner in a timeshare transport ship. Basically, she has the ship for 8 months, and then her brother-in-law has the ship for 8 months. The beginning of the book and the set up for our main plot line has her taking possession of the ship, collecting her small crew, recruiting a new pilot, and accepting the gift of a contracted Ship’s Fool.  Fools – part  entertainer, part psychoanalyst, part ship’s counselor, these are the only people who are guaranteed to keep your tightly wound crew members from going crazy in their tight quarters.  Katmer’s new Fool, Evelyn Dobbs, promises that she’s one of the Guild’s best.

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I have returned from EpicConfusion!

And it was incredible.  I was in geek heaven. Everyone’s first con experience should be like this.  There were authors hanging around, authors doing organized and well planned panels, authors autographing stuff (not just books!), and plenty of cosplay, humorous music (Rocky Horror Muppet Show!) and every flavor of crazy and fun.  I met so many wonderful folks, authors, artists, other.  Rothfuss was incredibly friendly, Lynch was gracious, Elizabeth Bear said I had pretty hair, Abercrombie may not be aware how irresistible that “British rogue” thing is to American women, Ahmed wins for nicest guy and best hair, Kameron Hurley is insanely interesting, Myke Cole gave me a hug anyways, and Peter Brett let me interrupt his dinner to talk about a panel he’d just done (btw, don’t interrupt peeps who are trying to eat. It was a total asshole thing I did), and Jim Hines is even more hilarious and friendly than I expected, even when he was completely exhausted and I was bugging him. When people found out it was my first con, they told me I picked a good one. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, and I was not disappointed.

I’ve so much to tell. . . .  and so many blurry photos to post (wait, what? my camera has a low-light setting? Why didn’t someone tell me that before!).   To keep you from having to slog through stuff you might not be interested in, there will be a post on fun/funny author interaction (that’s gonna be this one, by the way), panels, cosplay and of course, Scott Lynch gets a post all to himself.

I was that girl who faux pas’ed my way through my first con by hijacking conversations and bothering people and talking to anyone and everyone who looked interesting (including the goth cross dresser) and now I’m gonna be that girl who gives WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION. read at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you!

There will be a giveaway for peeps who survive all of these ridiculous posts.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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