Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Listening, and Viewing in 2017: pt. 5: Andrea Hairston




585.6 Million Miles
by Andrea Hairston


What a year, hurtling 585.6 million miles around the Sun! And the Sun was racing around too, with the whole solar system, billions of miles, and yet it is such a struggle to feel like we’re getting somewhere. Here in the US of A, still fighting the Civil War. Cannons smoking, bullets raining down, monuments falling—flesh and blood, brick and stone, crumbling. It’s hard to see or feel or reach each other. War mongers are thriving in the lethal divide. So I am reading thick books or sitting in a theatre waiting for the curtain to rise, or going to the movies—for my life, for our humanity.
In 1990 (billions of miles ago), Pearl Cleage writes in a self-published volume, Mad At Miles, A Blackwoman’s Guide to Truth:
Can we make love to the rhythms of “a little early Miles” when he may have spent the morning of the day he recorded the music slapping one of our sisters in the mouth? Can we continue to celebrate the genius in the face of the monster?

After women at École Polytechnique in Canada were shot for being feminist (or wanting to be engineers or for just being women…), Pearl Cleage declares she is writing, writing, writing for her life. I had the good fortune to read Pearl’s essays again this year. Her words call me to clarity in this war on truth.
Returning from sabbatical to Smith College in September 2017, I am greeted with a crisis over words. An all-college gathering is convened once again to discuss the words we use/have used to crush spirits, erase history, and steal agency. And there I am again, sitting on a panel explaining the special power of the spoken word, of performance. I mean, if you stand up and say the words, you can get our skin to crawl or our spirits to soar or our hearts to ache or, well, you know what I’m talking about. I have been sitting on this same panel for almost forty years. Performers, writers, artists, teachers, politicians, anybody and everybody can tap the magical powers, the actual super powers of words and stories and art. Speak the spell and we transcend our skin and feel the world, the whole universe. This is a sacred power. Any person wielding that power ought to take the time to understand what they’re doing.
So for the 585.6 million miles of 2017, reading (and writing) has been a refuge, an inspiration, an act of defiance, an act of solidarity. Reading (and writing) has been certain joy. I taught a course this fall: Rehearsing the Impossible: Black Women Playwrights Interrupting the Master Narrative. I got to spend time with writers who’ve been holding on and turning back murderous lies, who’ve been celebrating joy and requiring truth—good medicine in these times. At the last class, students confessed that they don’t usually read everything on a syllabus, but they read these plays and even reread what at first seemed impossible to understand: Funnyhouse of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy. This anti-realist one-act lets us experience the distorting mirrors of the American house of horrors. Students were haunted by Kennedy’s play, kept coming back to it, kept feeling Kennedy’s insights creeping up on them. Funnyhouse of a Negro changed us all.
The class went together to Lenelle Moise’s performance, “Black Feminist Queer Immigrant Love Poems” and got a taste of K-I-S-S-I-N-G, a play about the possibility of love and romance in the worst of times, when hate seems poised to obliterate possibility. (http://www.lenellemoise.com/KISSING.html). Lenelle also got the Haitian revolution in her poetry and surprised and delighted her audience with what they didn’t know but were longing to hear. Revelations in the theatre. Look for Haiti Glass, K-I-S-S-I-N-G or Lenelle’s solo performance coming to a theatre near you!
My students were also thrilled to read Flyin’ West by Pearl Cleage and discover the black pioneer women who got fed up with lynching and Jim Crow and, heeding Ida B. Wells’ call, headed West in the late 1890’s. Flyin’ West is an afro-futurist delight, a recovery of lost history and a speculation on what might have been as black women struggle to make a new world, as they work to create a utopia for themselves and their families. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/flyin-west-and-other-plays-pearl-cleage/1122982978?ean=9781559361682
I have had the pleasure of reading emerging writers at Clarion San Diego in the summer and this fall in creative writing classes at Smith. Students write about imaginary friends that won’t die; the violence that haunts women’s loves but doesn’t define who they are; and what men have been getting away with, but no more. Frustrated mothers wrestle with daughters over unrequited dreams, and being possessed by a demon leads to romance. They also write about coming of age and facing the dragon in the mirror; women zooming off to one of Jupiter’s moons to seek out new life; and the spirit quests of Jewish women mystics over a hundred years ago.
Hope for the future.
In On Tyranny: twenty lessons from the twentieth century, Timothy Snyder offers us insight and action so that we can recognize tyranny and resist it, defeat it. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/on-tyranny-timothy-snyder/1125454355#/

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Robert Lanza and Bob Berman is good brain food.
Back in February, I was invited to Princeton to contemplate the possibility of life on Europa (or somewhere beyond Earth) with scientists, theologians, historians, and folks from NASA. For this gathering, I reread The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/159094/the-sparrow-by-mary-doria-russell/9780449912553/  She takes us on a wild ride. Jesuits fly off to a new world near Alpha Centauri and make first contact with sentient extraterrestrial life. Of course, to discover an “alien” new world/society, we must transform our minds so as not to experience the new world as simply an extension of the world we come from.  The real journey of the book is to a new mind. That’s what I’m working on.




Andrea Hairston is author of Will Do Magic For Small Change, finalist for the Mythopoeic Award, Lambda Award, Tiptree Award, and a New York Times Editor’s pick. Other novels include: Redwood and Wildfire, a Tiptree and Carl Brandon Award winner, and Mindscape, winner of Carl Brandon Award. All her novels were published by Aqueduct Press. She has also published essays, plays, and short fiction and received grants from the NEA, Rockefeller Foundation, and Ford Foundation. Andrea is a Professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at Smith College.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017: pt.4: Sofia Samatar


The Pleasures of 2017
by Sofia Samatar


I devoured This Young Monster by Charlie Fox—a dazzling collection of personal essays on monsters, the monstrous, art, and culture. It’s the perfect companion to the horror show of today’s America, and also to Stranger Things, which I watched with the avid passion of a teenage Winona Ryder fan, since that’s what I actually am. 

In poetry, I loved the questing spirit of Anna Moschovakis’s They and We Will Get into Trouble for This, the way black-body radiation meets the radiant black body in Samiya Bashir’s Field Theories, and Bhanu Kapil’s urgent, delirious, vagabond writing in Ban en Banlieue and its companion chapbook, entre-Ban.





Further pleasures: 

Kate Zambreno’s Book of Mutter, a philosophical investigation of grief, time, and the practice of art. 

Danielle Dutton’s magical biography, Margaret the First

Lynne Tillman’s mischievous, erudite, and delightfully weird The Complete Madame Realism

M. John Harrison’s Viriconium, which I’d never read before—a hallucinatory series, like King Arthur but with space travel and spleen. 


Kathryn Davis’s Labrador, which I’ve probably read 15 times—it’s still one of the best fantasies ever written.  

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo, translated by J.R.R. Tolkien (he was a really good translator!). 

And finally, The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, an absolute treasure. I love it when the hyena tears her face off. 





 

Sofia Samatar is the author of the novel A Stranger in Olondria, winner of the William L. Crawford Award, the British Fantasy Award, and the World Fantasy Award. She is also a Hugo and Nebula Award finalist and the recipient of the 2014 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her latest novel, The Winged Histories, was published by Small Beer Press in 2016.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017: part 3: Nancy Jane Moore

Pleasures for 2017
by Nancy Jane Moore

I just read – on the same afternoon I bought it – Mary Beard’s Women and Power: a Manifesto, two essays on women’s public voice and power. This short but powerful book demonstrates how classical ideas underlie our current cultural ideas about the place of women. Beard begins with the scene in the Odyssey where Telemachus tells his mother Penelope to shut up because women don’t speak in public. She goes on to bring other classical icons – Medusa, Athena – into a discussion of women and power and how such things are perceived.

Right after I read it, I found Julie Phillips’s delightful take on the book in Four Columns. Her review adds depth to the experience, so I recommend reading it together with the book. Here’s a teaser: “The willingness to expose that clumsy, artificial join—to be a public intellectual without glossing over the awkwardness of being female—is what distinguishes the outspoken British academic Mary Beard.”

Given that I am working on both fiction and nonfiction that deal with women and power, these thoughts are of vital importance to me right now. Given that women speaking out about abusive men is the hot topic in the U.S. right now, the subject of how women speak and how they take power are crucial to our society as well. This book provides important insights that will expand the discussion in fruitful ways.

Hidden Figures was a major highlight for me this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and the book is a stunning tour de force. Yes, of course it was a Hollywood feel-good movie, but in the first place, it made me feel really good. And in the second place, how many Hollywood feel-good movies have you ever seen about mathematicians, much less women mathematicians, much less African American women mathematicians? It was fun to cheer.


Margot Lee Shetterly’s book on the subject is much better than the movie (which, of course, altered the facts to fit into Hollywood ideas of storytelling). It was researched in detail – she was able to interview some of the women who worked in the space program – and beautifully written. This was history I didn’t know, even though I grew up with the space program (literally – the Johnson Space Center is about five miles from my childhood home). I’m sorry I didn’t know it as a kid, but I’m thrilled to know it now.

Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law is a more sobering look at the racist history of the United States. This detailed book explains the laws – not just the practices – that segregated our cities after the Civil War. Federal law and policy required separate public housing and prohibited use of federally insured home loans in segregated neighborhoods. I knew a lot about housing policy and discrimination, but this book uncovered stuff even I was not aware of. Everyone needs to read this book and understand just how racist – legally racist – our history has been. Until we make this right, we will not solve this country’s racial divide.

One of my responses to the electoral debacle in the U.S. was to read some work on political activism. I highly recommend This Is An Uprising, by Paul and Mark Engler. This history of successful resistance actions worldwide – all of them non-violent – provides us with an understanding of what will be effective.

Among other sources, the Englers’ book draws on the research of Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, whose heavily researched Why Civil Resistance Works provides the data to back up the value of nonviolent civil resistance. Nonviolent activism in the 20th and 21st centuries has been significantly more successful than violent action and, in general, has had very positive outcomes when at least five percent of the population gets involved in some way. Understanding the value of this has given me something to fall back on when I look at the daily disasters out of Washington, D.C.

Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawken, is a very valuable book on how to deal with climate change. This book lists one hundred things, in order of effectiveness, we can do right now to reduce the carbon in the atmosphere. One of my favorite parts of the book is that the number six and seven items taken together would be number one. Those two items are educate girls and provide family planning to women.

Much of the fiction that has most moved me this year came in the form of novellas. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series, as the first two books – Binti and Binti: Home – were imaginative science fiction building on cultural histories new to me. Ellen Klages’s Passing Strange was also delightful, a creative fantasy built on some real San Francisco history.


Among the novels I read, Jessica Reisman’s Substrate Phantoms was particularly satisfying because of its imaginative aspects. I love science fiction that incorporates highly creative speculation into the mix.

But the universe, or rather the Solar System’s little corner of it, provided my best experience of the year: The Eclipse of the Sun. We took back roads to eastern Oregon so we could see the full eclipse, and it was worth the effort. Even when you know that the sun will be right back, there is something wonderfully disconcerting about seeing it disappear.

We watched it on a hillside in Brogan, Oregon, where the local community organization had set things up at the volunteer fire department. There were maybe fifty people there, including several with telescopes. Just about the right size for us.

I recommend getting out in nature when you can in these troubled times. We also went to Pinnacles National Park and Point Reyes National Seashore this year. Cell service is nonexistent at Pinnacles and scant at Point Reyes, so we came back from both trips to the shock of how many horrible things can happen in a few days, but for those days we were blissfully out of touch.





Nancy Jane Moore’s science fiction novel The Weave came out from Aqueduct in 2015. Her most recent story is “Chatauqua” in the Book View Café anthology, Nevertheless, She Persisted. At present she is working on a book on self defense from a feminist perspective and a novel inspired by her desire to have the adventures when reading The Three Musketeers

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017: pt.2: Tansy Rayner Roberts




Awesome Books of Joy & Love
by Tansy Rayner Roberts


I’m not going to even pretend to be unbiased here. I am glad these books exist, and you should be too. It’s been a trashfire of a year and some books make the world better. These are some of them.



Luminescent Threads, edited by Alex Pierce & Mimi Mondal, is a joyous tribute to Octavia E. Butler featuring letters and essays about race and identity, by some of today’s most exciting writers including K. Tempest Bradford, Joyce Chng & Steven Barnes.

https://www.amazon.com/Luminescent-Threads-Connections-Octavia-Butler/dp/1922101443




The wonderful, smart, and cynical Liz Bourke has a book out! Sleeping with Monsters is a collection of Liz’s critical work on SF books and culture from her fantastic Tor.com regular column.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Monsters-Readings-Reactions-Science/dp/1619761238/






If romance is your escapism drug of choice, but even enjoying something fluffy and fun in the current political climate feels a bit wrong, check out Rogue Desire and Rogue Affair. These romance anthologies are a direct response to 2017 and the Trump administration by presenting a variety of love stories in a time of protest and Presidential anxiety. Read about grass roots politics, hackers, whistleblowers, policy wonks and whether or not it’s possible to flirt while debating if punching Nazis is OK.




I backed Some Girls by Nelly Thomas and Sarah Dunk on Facebook. This brilliant picture book features vivid art and the important message that girls don’t have to buy into other people’s expectations of their gender.

https://www.blackincbooks.com.au/books/some-girls







Tansy Rayner Roberts is a SFF author and the co-host of popular feminist podcasts Galactic Suburbia and Verity! Check out her recently-published short story “How To Survive an Epic Journey” at Uncanny Magazine, and her superhero novella Girl Reporter, which will be released on 19 December.

tansyrr.com/
https://uncannymagazine.com/article/survive-epic-journey/
https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Reporter-Tansy-Rayner-Roberts-ebook/dp/B077D1MJVL/

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017: pt.1: Sarah Tolmie


Pleasures 2017
by Sarah Tolmie

2017 was, for me, The Year of Harry Potter. Not so much because of the 20th anniversary hoopla but rather because I taught the series for the first time. Like every English department in the world, seemingly, battling declining enrollments, my institution just rolled out a first-year Harry Potter course. I taught it this fall. It was the only course I have ever taught in which all the students had actually read all the books before term even began, and which stayed at capacity, with all the students sticking it out to the bitter end. I assure you that this does not happen in my Middle English classes. Anyway, Harry Potter made for a great class: discussions were lively, and I taught a surprising amount of theology and some Latin and semiotics. It was cool. So thank you J.K Rowling, and I will even forgive you for The Cursed Child.

On a related-but-diametrically-opposed note, I read Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, volume 1. It was characteristically atmospheric and pacey, though it felt thin to me: I think the whole three-volume idea is a cop out. If we must have a prequel, can’t it just be one big fat book? The one element that felt a bit forced to me was the monstrous League of St Alexander, in which his British libertarian flag was flying a bit high. Child informers! Political correctness in schools! I appreciate that Authority takes many forms, but it came off as waspish and inauthentic. This is a shame, as I admire his whole project and it remains a pleasure to read this kind of imaginative fiction written by an atheist.

I read a great book of poems by Pam Mordecai called Subversive Sonnets. Absolutely fabulous and a great bang for your buck, as each numbered sonnet is actually a suite of a couple of them, so you get tons of them and some great storytelling. Living proof that the form is as gripping as ever; what she does with them is as powerful as Seamus Heaney. A super book. Read it if you read poetry.

I have to do a plug for Year’s Best Weird Fiction vol 4, edited by Helen Marshall and published by Undertow. I have a story in it, so I got a free copy, and read everything in it. Very, very interesting. And all exquisitely written. As a poet, I really appreciate this. Lyrical writing seems to be a thread connecting weird writers. I still don’t feel like I have a complete grip on the weird genre, but this collection is that strange thing: diverse and consistent. I recommend all of them, but perhaps Katie Knoll’s “Red” especially.


In between bouts of editing, as usual, I watched a lot of trash on Netflix. Little stood out except Marvel’s The Punisher, which I thought was by far the strongest of their recent outings. A slightly different set of clichés than usual (for me, anyway, as I don't watch much military stuff) and the lead guy is reassuringly ugly. The Dutch movie Admiraal was great historical fiction about a really important man (De Ruyter) and a critical period in Europe (the Anglo-Dutch wars). Best naval sequences ever. I watched Besson’s Valerian movie and thought it was ghastly, but it was nonetheless amusing that he had the whole cast of Avatar tucked in a box at the centre of his film, which was a very French thing to do. Gotham continues to look excellent and broody and be utterly silly. I continue to admire Robin Taylor as Penguin; he’s doing a great job in a very traditional sissy role.


That’s it from me for this year. Keep reading and writing, Aqueductians! Best wishes for 2018!



Aqueduct Press has published three of Sarah Tolmie's marvelous books: The Stone Boatmen in 2014, NoFood in 2014, and most recently Two Travelers in 2016. One story from it, “The Dancer On The Stairs,” appears in Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2016. Sarah is also a poet; McGill-Queen’s UP published her sonnet collection Trio in 2015, and a new volume called The Art of Dying will be out in spring 2018. Her agent is Martha Millard of Sterling Lord Literistic, and her author site is sarahtolmie.ca.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2017



Our annual series of posts on reading, viewing, and listening is about to begin. Once again I've solicited pieces from a bevy of writers and critics to tell us what they particularly enjoyed reading, viewing, and listening to in the last year. This year's edition will include posts by Andrea Hairston, Eleanor Arnason, Sofia Samatar, Cheryl Morgan, Nisi Shawl, Sarah Tolmie, Tansy Rayner Roberts, and others. I'll be adding links below as I upload each new contribution, to provide a list for convenient reference. I hope you'll enjoy reading these as much as I do, and perhaps even find them helpful for slow-thinking our way through these difficult, painful times.

Part 1: Sarah Tolmie
Part 2: Tansy Rayner Roberts
Part 3: Nancy Jane Moore
Part 4: Sofia Samatar
Part 5: Andrea Hairston

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 7, 3




The new issue of the Cascadia Subduction Zone is out. This issue features an essay by L. Timmel Duchamp on living amid the many unevenly experienced apocalypses of the early 21st century, poetry by Rose Lemberg and Sonya Taaffe,  a Grandmother Magma column on Mildred Clingerman by Nancy Kress, a half-dozen book reviews, and art work by Karen McElroy. You can purchase an electronic edition for $3, or a print issue for $5, or subscribe, at  http://thecsz.com/index.html.








Volume 7, 3
Essay
Until the Next Time
  by   L. Timmel Duchamp

Poems
The Repository
   by Rose Lemberg

Dis Genite et Geniture Deos
Cosmopolitan Bias
   by Sonya Taaffe

Grandmother Magma
Mildred Clingerman: Imperfect Subversive
in a Peter Pan Collar
   by Nancy Kress

Book Reviews
Bodies of Summer, by Martin Felipe Castagnet, translated by Frances Riddle
   reviewed by Maria Velazquez

The River Bank, by Kij Johnson
  reviewed by Lynette James

Re-visioning Medusa: From Monster to
Divine Wisdom
, edited by Glenys Livingstone, Trista Hendren, and Pat Daly
  reviewed by Phoebe Salzman-Cohen

Time’s Oldest Daughter, by Susan W. Lyons
   reviewed by LaShawn M. Wanak

Mormama, by Kit Reed
   reviewed by Arley Sorg

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
   reviewed by Tansy Rayner Robert
s

Featured Artist
Karen McElroy

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Rosanne Rabinowitz's Helen's Story


I'm pleased to announce the release of Helen's Story, a novella by Rosanne Rabinowitz, as Volume 58 in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series.

Contrary to rumors of her death, Helen Vaughan is alive and well and living in Shoreditch, East London, stirring up the art world with a series of erotically-charged landscapes depicting the strange events of her youth. Brought up by a man who regarded her as loathsome, shuffled between boarding schools and foster homes, young Helen only found pleasure in visits from a secret companion. She made one other close friend, a girl called Rachel who disappeared in full daylight. After that, Helen was left with her companion.

As she remembers her friend, Helen lays on each stroke of paint as if it can bring Rachel back or take her to where Rachel went. She paints to summon her companion once again, and show everyone what really lurks beyond the vanishing point.

Some readers might have met Helen in Arthur Machen's classic novella The Great God Pan. Now Helen gets to tell her side of the story. Originally published in the UK by PS Publishing and nominated for the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for outstanding achievement in literature of the "dark fantastic," Helen's Story gives a voice to one of the genre's most enigmatic antagonists.

Helen's Story is available in both print and e-book editions. You can read a sample from the novella here, and purchase it from Aqueduct Press (www.aqueductpress.com). 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kristi Carter's Cosmovore



I'm pleased to announce the release of Cosmovore, a narrative collection of poetry by Kristi Carter. Cosmovore is the fifty-seventh volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series.

Nothing escapes, not even light.
Mother, monstrosity, woman. Cosmovore.

In this narrative collection of poems, the voice of the void reels and keens over meditations on consumption, the body, and the world. From the edges of the Milky Way to the confines of an eggshell, nowhere is safe from her hunger. In the tinny echoes of a much-hated musical triangle, explore the questions she faces about womanhood, motherhood, society, and a goat as she tries to reconcile those around her with her own identity.

Read a sample from the work here. Purchase the work in print ($12) or e-book editions ($5.95) from Aqueduct, or elsewhere

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 7, 2




The new issue of the CSZ is out. It includes an essay by Victoria Garcia on Maggie Nelson's The Art of Cruelty, a report by Arrate Hidalgo on the Space is the Place conference held in Tel Aviv in April, and a memorial for Ama Patterson; poetry by Gwynne Garfinkle and Bruce Lader, a Grandmother Magma by John Kessel on Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia, and reviews of several recent titles. This issue's featured artist is Milan Djurasovic.

The issue is available in pdf format for $3, and in print for $5; a print subscription is $16, an electronic subscription $10, here: http://thecsz.com/.




Essays
In Memoriam: Ama Patterson (1960-2017)

The “Space is the Place” Conference: A Report
  by  Arrate Hidalgo

A Lovely Stroll Through the Violence Museum: Maggie Nelson’s The Art of Cruelty
  by  Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

Poems
50 Foot
   by Gwynne Garfinkle

Nike Apteros
Where are the Angels of Exiles
   by Bruce Lader

Grandmother Magma
Lavinia, by by Ursula K. Le Guin
   by John Kessel

Book Reviews
Sleeping with Monsters, by Liz Bourke
   reviewed by Erin Roberts

Feral, by by James DeMonaco and B.K. Evenson
  reviewed by Arley Sorg

Wicked Wonders, by Ellen Klages
  reviewed by Joanne Rixon

When the Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore
   reviewed by Lynette James

About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in Twenty-First Century America, by Carol Sanger
   reviewed by Nancy Jane Moore

Featured Artist
Milan Djurasovic

Monday, June 26, 2017

Liz Bourke's Sleeping with Monsters


I'm pleased to announce the release of Sleeping with Monsters: Readings and Reactions in Science Fiction and Fantasy by Liz Bourke, in both print and e-book editions, from Aqueduct Press. It's available now from Aqueduct Press.

Anyone familiar with Liz Bourke's work knows she isn't shy about sharing her opinion. In columns and reviews for science fiction and fantasy website Tor.com and elsewhere, she's taken a critical eye to fantasy and SF, from books to movies, television to videogames, old to new. This volume presents a selection of the best of her articles. Bourke's subjects range from the nature of epic fantasy— is it a naturally conservative sort of literature?—to the effect of Mass Effect's decision to allow players to play as a female hero, and from discussions of little-known writers to some of the most popular works in the field. A provocative, immensely readable collection of essays about the science fiction and fantasy field, from the perspective of a feminist and a historian, Sleeping With Monsters is an entertaining addition to any reader's shelves.

"A majority of the pieces in this collection come from Sleeps With Monsters, and ultimately, its purpose is more similar to Sleeps With Monsters than not: to be a little loud and angry. To celebrate the work of women in the science fiction and fantasy (SFF) field. To offer a snapshot, a limited glimpse, of what I think is best, most fun, most interesting."—from the author's Foreword

"[Bourke] consistently raises questions about the sort of content in books that for a long time was invisible to many reviewers or considered not worth examining. Uncovering the complex morass of sexism, racism, classism, ableism, religious bigotry, and homo- and transphobia that often underlies many of our received assumptions about narrative is right in her wheelhouse. ...[She] talks to us as if we're in conversation. What a pleasure it is to read pithy reviews of often-overlooked work I already admire, as well as to discover books I need to read."—from the Introduction by Kate Elliott

This strong collection is culled from Bourke's similarly titled Tor.com blog as well as other online sources, and features eight original selections. Bourke's critiques of fantasy and science fiction—most running fewer than 1,000 words—demonstrate both her critical acumen and her appreciation of the genre. Nearly all of the works she discusses are by present-day female writers, and though she purports to bring "an explicitly feminist perspective" to her reviews, she mostly applies the classic critical yardsticks of plot, character development, and authorial voice. Bourke has read widely, especially among multi-book sagas, and her familiarity with so many modern writers' oeuvres gives gravity to her appraisals of the limitations of a literary canon for science fiction and fantasy. She observes that depictions of queer womanhood in contemporary fantasy and science fiction are often disappointingly "titillating or tragic." Her critical standards are high—she doesn't flinch at pointing out weaknesses in favorite books by popular writers—but not inflexible, as is implicit in her observation that "an interesting failure can prove far more entertaining than a novel that's technically successful but has no heart." This collection is sure to provoke debate among genre fans, and also to drive them to the books under Bourke's scrutiny.  —Publishers Weekly, June 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Karen Heuler's In Search of Lost Time


I'm pleased to announce the release of In Search of Lost Time, a novella by Karen Heuler published as a volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series in both small trade paperback and e-book editions. (You may recall that Karen's story "The Apartments," published in an earlier volume of the Conversation Pieces series, Other Places, is a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Awards.) You can purchase both of these volumes from Aqueduct Press now.



After beginning chemo for a rare cancer, Hildy discovers an extraordinary talent—the ability to see and take other people’s time. She also discovers there’s an underground market for quality time. After all, who has enough time? The dying, especially, want to get more of it, but giving it to them means taking it from someone else. How moral is she? How will she juggle the black marketers’ strong-arm tactics and her own quandaries about stealing something so precious and vital that it can never be replaced?

Nisi Shawl writes, in her review for The Seattle Review of Books, "Author Karen Heuler's heroine Hildy discovers that chemo infusions targeting malignant lesions on her "tempora"— an imaginary area of the brain — allow her to see, manipulate, and ultimately steal other people's time. Her superpowers neither free nor cure Hildy, though. Instead, she struggles to integrate them into a humane and principled philosophy while fending off the self-interested alliances of warring would-be time-mongers. She girds herself for battle in red-heeled boots, silk head scarves, and penciled-on eyebrows, but kindness and self-reflection prove to be her most kickass weapons."   (Read the whole review)

In Rich Horton's review for Locus, he writes: "It's a curious story, leaving the reader with more questions than answers about what’s really going on, to say nothing of the morality of the process (not that it isn’t questioned). Hildy herself is an interesting character, recovering not just from cancer but from the death of her married lover, and the people she encounters are likewise a bit off-center. I was intrigued throughout..."

 A Conversation with Karen Heuler about In Search of Lost Time


Q: Why is there never enough time?

It’s a little bit like riding a good car on bad tires. You think everything’s fine until you start skidding out of control going down an icy hill. Time, in this case, is the tires. There’s nothing to grip, so there’s no way of negotiating how fast it goes. When I think about time at this point in life, I can only think in small leguments. When I was young, the road was longer. And I’m spending all my time steering. This is called an extended metaphor, and the problem with extended metaphors is that I never know when to stop. Or how. Like that car.
 
Q. What would life be like if we could sample other people’s memories?

I’d love to do that. There are a lot of people in the world that I find unfathomable. If I could see the bits and pieces that formed them, I could see what makes them tick. That might explain why they chose to do evil while I chose to do good.

 
Q. Really? How good are you?

 I give to many charities. Small amounts, yes, but I’m not rich. I live-trap mice and release them. I used to release them too close to home, and they’d actually beat me back to the kitchen. There was one night when I caught the same mouse four times. Then I was told that it was best to take them at least two miles away. I do that now. And I give them a little packed lunch to take with them.
 
Q. Is this book a comedy or a tragedy?

That really depends on the reviews. I will cheerfully acknowledge whatever they want me to acknowledge.

Q. Will this be made into an action-adventure movie?

There are a lot of women in it. There are no explosions. There would be limited opportunity for CGI. So, no.