Genevieve Valentine was born in 1981 into a military family, with her childhood spent in California, Texas, Illinois, and (mostly) Virginia. She attended George Mason University, earning a degree in English, and has worked in an occupational center for police officers and firefighters, behind the counter in a restaurant, with a wedding planner, and as an executive assistant.
Her first story was ‘‘29 Union Leaders Can’t Be Wrong” (2007), and her short fiction has appeared frequently in small-press publications, online magazines, and anthologies, including numerous Year’s Best appearances. Her story ‘‘Light on the Water’’ (2009) was a World Fantasy Award finalist.
Valentine’s debut novel, steampunk fantasy Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti (2011), won the Crawford Award for best first fantasy, and was a Nebula Award finalist.
In addition to her fiction writing, Valentine writes extensively about film (her other major passion), and is a prolific reviewer and essayist on various pop-cultural subjects. She lives in New York, where when not writing she still works as an executive assistant.
Website: Genevieve Valentine
Excerpts from the interview:
‘‘Fiction was my first passion. One of the reasons I fell into it is because you can take fiction with you wherever you go. I learned how to read from my mom reading Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn to me until I had it memorized, and then I figured out what the words were. I started writing when I was six years old: as soon as I was old enough I was using my dad’s DOS commands, using ProWrite, and feeling like a hacker.
‘‘My dad was slightly nerdy, so my first Barsoom book, my first Dune book, were pulled from dad’s bookshelves. My mom was also an avid reader, and I got non-fiction and historical novels from her. I didn’t necessarily grow up reading a lot of SF, but I grew up with the idea that you should read everything. Everything is equally great, as long as it is executed well. So now I enjoy all aspects of storytelling, in all different genres.”
‘‘My first novel sale was a little unorthodox. Ekaterina Sedia and Sean Wallace had read my work and Sean asked me if I had a dark fantasy novel. I said, ‘I actually have 10,000 words of a mechanical circus book that I think is too weird for anyone to ever publish.’ That was Mechanique. He told me, ‘Finish that one and I’ll take it.’ The book came out from Prime, and I’m always grateful that Sean sought me out and asked for the weirdest thing I had.”
‘‘I started looking up everything I possibly could about the circus and its history. I think that was the moment I knew that someday I wanted to write about a circus like this. Circuses with animals never interested me – they creep me out and are the bleakest. I started to wonder, ‘What kind of circus could make people feel the way I did the first time I saw those acrobats, if it wasn’t framed by a beautiful song or a beautiful ballet? What if that circus was the only beautiful thing that you were ever going to see?’
‘‘I think I wrote about this circus the way that I did because I wanted to write about both the performance aspect (where you do something over and over that literally breaks you, because you love it so much) and what goes on behind the scenes: the dynamics of power. Is Elena the head of the aerialists because she’s the most ruthless, or because she’s the most talented? In her case, it’s both, but it’s a question the book asks repeatedly of everyone.”
‘‘Steampunk is on the verge of being really great, as soon as we get big enough that a deconstruction, an acidic look at the genre conventions, can sell. We will hit the point where people will actually be hungry for work that really confronts the issues. I can’t wait for that day.’’