2018 convention schedule as I know it

I posted this on Twitter, but Twitter is a less durable medium. Here is what I know of my 2018 convention plans.

January: Detroit: ConFusion. I have already gotten my flights for this. I am going in on Thursday afternoon and leaving Monday late morning, to maximize shenanigan potential. If other people are not around for shenanigans at a particular time, I will cocoon in my hotel room and write. Win/win.

June: Minneapolis: Fourth Street Fantasy

July: Boston: Readercon

October: Montreal: Scintillation. So let’s talk about this one a minute. It’s why I’m making this post right now instead of a different time. I’ve talked about Farthing Party; this is the new and improved Farthing II: Farthing Harder, more or less. Why is it a Kickstarter right now? Because there is not a large organization bearing the burden of cost. It is being run by Jo Walton personally, and in years past Jo had to ask herself, gosh, will we have enough people to make it financially viable, will I lose my own personal money that I use for eating in doing this, etc. And it was not–what’s the word–oh yes: fun. It was not fun to wonder that. So! There is now a Kickstarter model for people to say, yes, actually I would like to commit in advance so that you do not have to have that nonfun in the process of making this fun thing, please and thank you.

So! Montreal in October, lovely time for chocolat chaud. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you have to be inner circle to Jo to make it to this con! (Or me, or Fran or Ruthanna or Sherwood or Ada or Greer or Alison or Alter. Or anyone else who is coming but has not officially committed to coming in a public sort of way.) It is for persons of goodwill who want to go to a small, intimate conventiony thing in Montreal in October. So you can think about that. Sometimes you can even think with your Kickstarter support.

Ars Historica, by Marie Brennan

Review copy provided by the author, who is also a personal friend.

This is another collection of Brennan’s short fiction. All of this one is historical fiction, skewing in the historical fantasy direction. If you’ve enjoyed her Onyx Court series (the one that starts with Midnight Never Come), there are several stories here that are either explicitly in that continuity or clearly came from the same set of research. The settings of these stories range from the ancient world to the nineteenth century, but there’s a strong focus here in Brennan’s wheelhouse, early modern England.

Fans of Beneath Ceaseless Skies may recognize that some of these stories appeared there originally–but some time ago, so more recent fans of BCS should use that more as a cue for what kind of adventure-historical aesthetic to expect. It’s not all fairies–it’s not all fitting magic around highly specific historical events–it’s not all dueling–it’s not all any one thing, so if you don’t like one story, another will come along very soon. And yet there is a much clearer unifying feel to this collection than to the previous one, and I’m hard pressed to think of any of Brennan’s books that aren’t a good fit in the “if you liked x, you’ll also like Ars Historica” equation. No dragons, but some very well-considered humans.

Please consider using out link to buy Ars Historica on Amazon.

I Won at NaSuHeMo!

I have a new story up at Daily Science Fiction today: I Won at NaSuHeMo! So if you’re doing NaNoWriMo and want a quick break from it–or if you just like short superhero stories–go on over and give it a read.

Seriously, whatever goals you’re pursuing this month, all the best to you and please be kind to yourself in the pursuit.

And go read my story.

Tremontaine Season 2, Season 3 episodes 1-4

Review access provided by Serial Box. Written by Joel Derfner, Tessa Gratton, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ellen Kushner, Karen Lord, Racheline Maltese, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Paul Witcover.

A sharp eye will notice that this is a substantially overlapping but not identical writing staff to Tremontaine Season 1. An even sharper eye will start to discern the difference in episode writers in very much the same way as a long-term viewer of a TV show can–especially if they’ve read some of the above authors before. Alaya Dawn Johnson remains my favorite, but if you’ve read Mary Anne Mohanraj before, a blind taste test will show you which episodes are hers, no problem. And–this is not a criticism. This is a serial. It’s not supposed to be a seamlessly edited novel where there is no extraneous reminder of what has gone before. It’s supposed to be a serial. Divers hands recruited specifically.

A friend of mine commented on my review of season 1, that a lot of it felt like retcons to her. And I’ve been thinking about why it didn’t feel that way to me, because season 2 and the beginning of season 3 go even deeper into making this a world that has borders beyond Riverside, beyond the City, beyond its country. I think the reason this is working particularly well for me as an expansion is that the original protagonists of Swordspoint are focused to the point of being self-centered, and while some of the protagonists of this serial are also focused/self-centered (heh, oh my yes), their focus is not all in the same place. So: would the originals have known where chocolate came from in any detail? Not if it bit them rather than them biting it. Is Ixkaab similarly self-centered, but with a different focus? Definitely. And therefore her knowledge of the world is quite different, while retaining many of the features of the original.

There is so much scheming here. So much scheming. I think that while season one had scheming, the thing that makes seasons two and three work better for me is that they have follow-through. They have consequences to the scheming. Does anyone learn their lesson? They learn many lessons, but their lesson, ahaha no. So–many relationships are reconfigured, this is not a series that has set pieces that are repeating over and over again, but things ramify. I do love ramifications.

And the mathematician gets to do math that is not just navigation calculations, which I like, because navigation is mostly interesting to non-mathematicians. Some people will be in this for the sex, of which there is a considerable and varied amount. Okay. For me, the mathematician gets to do more geometric stuff, hurrah. One of the benefits of a varied ensemble cast that keeps getting more varied is that it increases the odds that you will find a favorite somewhere: the duchess, the forger, the ambassador, the merchant? The mathematician. Who also knows a lot about cows and turnips and does not like yelling.

We have gotten to a place, by the end of the fourth episode of season three, where plot has reached social proportions. Where it is not just one person’s schemes or another but the movement of people, sieges and…well, one might call it barricades. One just might. I was interested in what happened to the mathematician, but I am captivated by what happens with the aftermath of the social unrest. And there are new installments coming along weekly. Yay.

Books read, late October

Patty Bryant, Joel Derfner, Tessa Gratton, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Paul Whitcover. Tremontaine, a serial: all of season 1 and season 2 through episode 8. Season 1 is discussed elsewhere and I will review seasons 2 and 3 entire rather than piecemeal here.

A.S. Byatt, The Matisse Stories. Reread. I have been collecting the works of Byatt used when I am trading in books I don’t want, and I don’t always have a clear memory of which stories are in which volumes. Therefore I could be blindsided by the last work in this volume, in which an older woman is considering a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a younger woman against an older man. And…oh Antonia. Oh my dear Antonia no. She replicates…oh, it’s awful. She replicates all the ways that young women get dismissed when they’ve been assaulted, and she does dismiss her, she’s mentally ill, she doesn’t really get art, her clothes are unattractive, the man she’s accusing must have been very attractive in his younger days, oh God, it’s nauseating, it’s everything we hear every day and I kept looking for some shred of evidence that it was meant to be scathing irony, that she had done it on purpose. But no, the protagonist and the accused kept having their damned lunch. Antonia. Dammit. I should mark it with a PostIt, because I don’t want to pretend it doesn’t exist, I don’t need to pretend she’s perfect just because I love her, but I will forget what’s in which volume, I always do. There, I’ve done that. But hell, what a week, what a year, what a lifetime to stumble on that story again.

Charles de Lint, Moonlight and Vines. Reread. This is a Newford collection that is not where my heart is any more, but also is fairly readable, a parade of characters each doing their thing, only occasionally visiting Jilly and Geordie, not yet full-on formula ensemble cast. I hadn’t read it since 1999. I think I loved it in 1999, and yet…I never reread it. It was not my formative Newford collection. I’m glad contemporary fantasy has moved on from here, and I winced at some of de Lint’s attempts to be inclusive, but I also am glad that he made the attempts, glad that we kept going from there.

Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods. This was a very fast-paced, exciting read. I’ve seen lots of people describing it as fun, and I did have fun with it, but I want to flag that while there is a lot of cool futuristic and magical South African content in this book that is like nothing else I have ever read before so lots of you are already buying it or adding it to your library list…it also has some fairly upsetting sexually violent content. And I am trying to be cautious about flagging that. It is…I don’t know, science fantasy always feels like it means something specific and not-this. It is futuristic fantasy. It is a weird ride. You shouldn’t get too hung up on genre boundaries when describing this book. But…maybe not if you’re feeling fragile about sexual violence, please. Time it carefully, take care of yourselves.

Todd Fahnestock, The Wishing World. Discussed elsewhere.

William N. Fenton, The Great Law and the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy. This was a gigantic tome with lots of consultations with modern Iroquoian peoples even though its focus was pre-Columbian and the first few centuries after contact. It went into a great deal of ritual detail. It also discussed lots of fascinating aspects of how different family structures shaped relationships and communications with other ethnic groups. I’m very glad I read this book, but even more glad that I am done reading it because oh my goodness it is very very large.

Thor Hanson, The Triumph of Seeds: How Grains, Nuts, Kernels, and Pips Conquered the Plant Kingdom and Shaped Human History. I found this very soothing, a discussion of all sorts of different ways plants have evolved shapes and sizes and types of seeds. Yay seeds. When the world is complicated and upsetting, botany is VERY NICE. This may explain much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. MY SYMPATHIES, THOSE CENTURIES.

Carrie Jones, Enhanced. Discussed elsewhere.

John Julius Norwich, ed., Cities That Shaped the Ancient World. I was expecting Norwich’s own work–library thumbnails are sometimes misleading–and this was essays by divers hands, with lots of lavish pictures: ancient cities, photos, layouts, ideas about what was cool about them. It was, as I expected of Norwich, heavily focused on the Mediterranean region, but there were sections on southern Africa, east Asia, the Americas. It was not deep. It was a reasonably fun thing to get from the library and look at the pictures.

blushing

There is an astonishingly lovely and complimentary post about some of my stories over at Lady Business. I feel odd even linking to it because it feels perilously close to linking to reviews–which is not something that is wrong, but it’s not something I do. But it’s more general than that, and just leaving it unnoticed also seems like not the thing. So: gosh, what a nice thing, there it is.

Tremontaine Season 1

Review access provided by Serial box. Written by Patty Bryant, Joel Derfner, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ellen Kushner, Malinda Lo, Racheline Maltese, and Paul Witcover.

When Serial Box contacted me asking if I wanted to review season 3 of their Tremontaine serial, I said I did not unless I could also read the first two seasons. I felt like jumping into season three without knowing who was who and what was what would probably do the story an injustice. They said sure, and here we are! My initial intention was to read the entire thing and review the entire series up to the current episode, but one of the things you should know about Serial Box serials if you don’t already is that there is a lot of word count for your subscription dollar in these things. You are definitely not getting shorted in terms of amount of fiction to read here. So I thought, well, I will talk about this project in pieces rather than all at one go.

This is a prequel to Ellen Kushner’s famous fantasy novel Swordspoint, set in her beloved Riverside and surrounding environs. I am fondest of the novel that she co-wrote with her wife, Delia Sherman, The Fall of the Kings, so the idea of other people co-creating Riverside tales did not bother me a bit. As the season unfolded in episodes, I found that the voice of each writer remained to flavor the text while giving a consistent storyline. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s episodes were my favorite, but there was no one who made me groan when I saw their name on a file.

There is more here than in the original, more perspective characters, more room for class diversity, ethnic diversity, diversity of gender and its expression. There is also less here: less focus, less tightness, less drive. It is a different category of thing. It is not trying to be the same. This is trying to be frothy, the chocolate cup that is so often discussed in its pages. And as so often comes up–it’s not as sweet a cup of chocolate as one might expect. Many, most of the characters may have sex in various configurations, but few of them seem to much like each other. This does not appear to be accidental–this is a serial about scheming. Occasionally there are pangs of conscience, furies of betrayal, confusion at a friend’s major or minor abandonment–but for the most part, plotting and planning come up a lot more than human warmth.

So…I will read the rest of this. I’m even looking forward to it on its own terms. But I also think it’s probably better suited to its originally planned style of reading, the serial, than the way I read it, because taking breaks for other styles of thing seems like it might be a very good idea amidst the individual episodes–not trying to live on hot chocolate but maybe having a sandwich from time to time.

Electoral faery fantasy

I have a new story out today in Beneath Ceaseless Skies: The Influence of the Iron Range. For those of you who went to Readercon, it’s the story I read half of at my solo reading there–so this is your chance to find out how it all ends after the stunning cliffhanger I left you on! Even if you didn’t–go, read, enjoy!

My editor, Scott, thought it was particularly satisfying to run this story just before elections in the US. I agree. In my district we “only” have school board elections–but after listening to the candidates’ forum, I have very strong opinions on those school board candidates. If you’re eligible to vote and able to get there, please remember to do so! November 7 if Election Day for most US districts–please check to see if there are local issues on your ballot even if you haven’t heard of anything larger scale. Local issues matter! Your vote makes a huge difference at the local level! Okay, back to your regularly scheduled storytime.

The Wishing World, by Todd Fahnestock

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

There are some children’s books that are really all-ages books, classified as children’s books because they do nothing to exclude children. This is not one of them. This is a children’s book because if you have read very many books, it will no longer be very satisfying. It checks off the boxes, it does the things: portal fantasy, missing family quest, eeeeevil child therapist, “quirky” animal sidekicks with verbal tic but no real personalities, set catchphrase for young protagonist (“double ____ with _____ on top!”).

I was ready for something charming and not too demanding, after the…um…world I’d been having. And this was not too demanding. The kids found that the power was within them all along, they were really special for reasons, their family loved them and could be saved, there were various whimsical and nonthreatening creatures on their side, the threatening creatures didn’t threaten excessively. It was fast. I don’t think this would offend very many people except the ones who are offended by the existence of fantasy. I think it’s also sadly unlikely to be deeply charming to very many. This was a thing I read, and I read this thing. If it hits one of your buttons (griffins? portal fantasy? reunification of families?), here it is, fine enough.

Please consider using our link to buy The Wishing World from Amazon.

Enhanced, by Carrie Jones

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

This is the sequel to last year’s charming Flying. It’s not a bad book, but it highlights the perils of sequels rather clearly. Flying has a clear emotional arc and core: Mana is figuring out what the heck is going on with aliens and enhanced humans and her place in the world, but her relationship with her mother and her friends is rock solid. In Enhanced, the central mystery is far smaller in scale. The basic facts of the world are known and we’re down to figuring out the details. Mana’s mother is out of commission, and her relationship with her friends is shaky for most of it.

Possibly worse, her combination of cheerleader and superpowered (enhanced, as in the title) individual really doesn’t get a chance to shine for a full three-quarters of the book. Mana is scared, uncertain, and on the defensive–which is fine, but it’s less fun to read about than Mana discovering, exploring, and kicking butt.

There are some new aliens, some new government agencies, some new developments in the world. But in general this feels like a little more of the same but less so. A de-escalation in some senses, a holding pattern. I still believe that Jones has somewhere to take Mana and her pals Seppie and Lyle, and this book is a fast read to get to the next step, but…we’re not at the next step yet, and I don’t really feel closer.

Please consider using our link to buy Enhanced from Amazon. Or Flying.