I recently finished the first draft of a long-overdue fantasy novel called The Broken Heavens, last in a trilogy. Instead of celebrating, however, I found myself filled with post-post weariness. Endings are bittersweet, and this one was especially so. While I began writing this series in earnest about ten years ago, the kernel of its idea – a world where the invaders were alternate versions of the protagonists – ...Read MoreRead more
Episode 24a: In conversation with Nathan Ballingrud: “The Good Husband”
In a follow up to our previous podcast, we had the very great pleasure of chatting with the lovely Nathan Ballingrud, author of “The Good Husband”, about the themes and inspiration for his story about a marriage gone awry, and his new works (both film and text) in 2019. Best to read “The Good Husband” first or, if you must ...Read MoreRead more
Episode 24: Transformative Horror: “The Fruit of My Woman” by Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith) and “The Good Husband” by Nathan Ballingrud
Ballingrud’s work is frightening, Kang’s is surreal, and both are disturbingly beautiful in their portrayal of how a person’s radical transformation can destabilize their marriage… or are they about how marriage can precipitate a radical transformation? Tune in to hear us tease out the nuances of these ...Read MoreRead more
As a child, I was first exposed to life in the West through Chinese translations of American science fiction. While I couldn’t see E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (because back then Hollywood films weren’t shown in China), I did get to read the Chinese translation of Kotzwinkle’s novelization. To this day, I have fond memories of the nigh-incomprehensible footnote explaining Dungeons & Dragons to the reader—just try imagining accomplishing this feat in ...Read MoreRead more
I owe a lot to Doctor Who, but not my enduring affection for the time travel story. In my formative years, the Time Lords had grounded the Doctor, the Tardis confined to a corner of the laboratory while an endless parade of monsters kept trying to invade or blow up nineteen-seventies Earth.
What did it for me—what opened my mind to the imaginative possibilities of time travel—was HG Wells. ...Read MoreRead more
“Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree.” — Terry ...Read MoreRead more
As usual, I mostly read short horror fiction, but among the novels I read I found several good ones to recommend: Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman (Del Rey) is a weird, deeply dark western about the eponymous woman, who has suffered from a condition since childhood – she periodically falls into a deep coma-like state during which she appears dead. Only a few people know, and one – her husband ...Read MoreRead more
As ever, the exercise of trying to infer grand themes from a year’s books (or, more exactly, a year’s reading) is a bit of a lottery. If nothing else, writing and publishing lead-times mean that very few books were a direct verdict on the year in which they were published. But I’d note two themes that struck me. Firstly, it felt like a year when there were more than the ...Read MoreRead more
Calendar year 2018 was dominated by the overwhelming success of the movie Black Panther, which drew a whole new audience to cinemas in cities like Nairobi and Lagos. It inspired a sugar-rush of love, a hastily retitled Nollywood rip off, and a small mini-backlash from those who rewrote Wakanda’s history to make it more credibly African. Elsewhere in film, the Nigerian short Hello Rain, adapted by CJ Obasi ...Read MoreRead more
Howdy, listeners! It’s been another year when audiobooks seem ever more robust as a medium, plus another year of the interminable online argument about whether listening to the audiobook has equal weight with reading the book (hint: yes, yes it does).
But, as is my wont at this time of year, I’m using this space to discuss the listening time I spent being unfaithful to audiobooks, and talk about the ...Read MoreRead more
At the beginning of 2018 I had no idea that I would end up reading so much short fiction from so many different venues that I would need a spreadsheet to keep track of it. Since I started reviewing online short fiction for Locus in the August issue (after the sad passing of Gardner Dozois – I very much wish I could read his 2018 year-end column this year) I’ve ...Read MoreRead more
These days I don’t read much horror other than short fiction. It’s not what I turn to for pleasure-reading fiction. So my “year-in-review” article does not specifically discuss the dark side. Maybe not surprisingly, though, many of my favorite reads have more than a thin stream of the tenebrous trickling through them. Outside of personal inclination, this may be an indication of what seems to be becoming more of a ...Read MoreRead more
In 1660, John Locke published his Two Treatises of Government, where he set out to resolve the seeming conflict between individual property rights (which he valorized) and the Bible (ditto), which set out the principle that God had created the Earth and its bounty for all of humanity. How could a Christian claim to own something personally when God had intended for everyone to share in His creation?
Locke’s ...Read MoreRead more
There wasn’t much that really blew me away in 2018, but some entertaining titles turned up. At the top of my SF reading this year are Martha Wells’s Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy, the last three novellas in the Murderbot Diaries quartet featuring the deadly yet oddly endearing android Murderbot, a corporate-owned security guard that apparently once went berserk and killed humans (hence its chosen ...Read MoreRead more
Sadly, what sticks most with me about 2018 is how many greats we lost. Two SFWA Grand Masters, and two more who very plausibly could have been named Grand Masters.
On January 22, the incomparable Ursula K. Le Guin died. She was perhaps the best writer in our field, and was plausibly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. On March 8, we lost Kate Wilhelm, who ...Read MoreRead more
Nothing in 2018 can possibly compare to the breadth of imagination, range of tone, and unconventional spelling present in Donald Trump’s tweets. His early morning tantrums proved to be the most riveting, most extraordinary, most majestic fiction I read this year. It says something about authors around the world that when faced with Trump’s prodigious talent they never dropped their heads; they continued to write and publish the most astonishing ...Read MoreRead more
It’s been a hard year. The rule of ignorance and selfishness in Trump’s America; the wilful destruction of economic probity at the behest of perceived (and probably illusory) political necessity in Brexit Britain; the continued rise of the far right in Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, and elsewhere. All of this is, at some point, going to feed through into a wave of fictions built around the ongoing sense of fear ...Read MoreRead more
By the time the clock hits 11:59 on December 31, my list of books read for 2018 will tally about 150. Because I review a wide variety of books, a small minority of those books will have been SF/F (only about a dozen, in fact). I like reading and reviewing genre books, and I especially like doing so for Locus, but it’s just a sliver of what I do as ...Read MoreRead more
It’s the most summarizing time of the year, and I’ve been at it long enough that I’m tempted to just summarize my old summaries, looking for meta-trends or shapes in the clouds (very like a camel, indeed) that impose order on the squirming facts of a field that is neither singular nor unified but (to plagiarize myself from a quarter-century ago) “a set of fields with readerships that only occasionally ...Read MoreRead more
2018 has been a good year for the offbeat in speculative fiction. In fact, one of my top books of the year was released as a mainstream literary novel, even though the speculative element is central and necessary: Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation has to contain imaginary pharmacology in order for the protagonist to black out for the lengths of time she considers desirable, without having real-life ...Read MoreRead more
My reading was weird and scattered this year even by my usual weird-and-scattered standards, and the Goodreads shelf I’ve labeled “comfort re-reads” has a lot more entries than usual, as I retreated from the various unpleasant aspects of this year’s reality into old, beloved fictional worlds. I wasn’t sure I’d read enough new SF, fantasy, and horror to even justify a year-end round-up this time, but going over my list ...Read MoreRead more
Looking back on 2018, the year feels rather longer than mere chronological time can account for. I don’t imagine I can remember all the books I’ve read this year – a year in which I became engaged, hunted for a house, moved house, and most recently, acquired a pair of very boisterous bouncy kittens: the mere quotidian logistics of living have absorbed rather more of my energy and memory than ...Read MoreRead more
I’ve often struggled over giving my books a genre label, partly because I’m not sure that labels are a great idea, nor, to be honest, is genre—which I’ve often decried as “the measles of the book world”. Sure, genre is useful to publicity and marketing, but it’s of no real use, I contend, to readers, and may in fact narrow reader choices rather than broadening them. I’ve often heard readers ...Read MoreRead more
The way we read fiction is changing. We’ve been told this repeatedly. Where once we had a single medium – ink on paper – to deliver new stories to us and only a few ways – face-to-face discussion, mail, reviews etc. – to discuss them, now we have many. Print is not dead; digital is not king. Instead, we read the way we like and when we like: in printed ...Read MoreRead more
These end-of-the-year lists always make me uncomfortable, if only because I know I haven’t read even a plurality of titles published in any given 365 days. Not only that, I haven’t yet read a bunch that have been highly praised, like Blackfish City, Revenant Gun, and Unholy Land. Having said that, what I do feel comfortable with is flagging a few titles that I’m mildly infatuated with, ...Read MoreRead more
I’m not sure this is progress: 2018 began with The Handmaid’s Tale, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Fahrenheit 451 back on the bestseller lists, and a fair number of folks remarking on how prescient Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower suddenly seemed.
Toward the end of the year, just before Thanksgiving, Vintage decided to re-release, for the first time in decades, Fletcher Knebel’s Night of Camp David, the 1965 ...Read MoreRead more
As was recently announced, Phoenix Pick will be publishing a new Robert A. Heinlein novel later this year, likely in November.
The Heinlein Prize Trust and Phoenix Pick have collaborated to piece together a complete novel based on fragments of a typewritten manuscript and notes by Heinlein.
The completed novel is about 187,000 words long. It shares the first one-third of its text with the published The Number of the ...Read MoreRead more
I write messy, incoherent first drafts. It sucks. But most of the time I’m okay with it. It’s my process, and it’s why revision exists.
Drafts aren’t what readers see. After getting that first blush of the book on paper, I spend each subsequent iteration fleshing out worldbuilding details and refining dialogue and fixing structure. Few people want to read about a bunch of characters expositing about the plot over ...Read MoreRead more