RT Book Reviews is giving readers a chance to win all twelve of their Seal of Excellence books for 2013. The Best of All Possible Worlds is February’s Seal of Excellence winner, and so when they asked me to say a few words about my favourite book of 2013, I decided to be different. I talked about my favourite album instead – that marvellous blend of sci-fi, romance and afrofuturism that is The Electric Lady by Janelle Monáe. Go read about it and enter for the book giveaway.
Del Rey has submitted The Best of All Possible Worlds to the literary subcommittee of the NAACP Image Awards for consideration in their literary awards category. Now this is not quite a situation like the Oscars where I can hope for a full-page FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION ad in the major newspapers, but it feels very exciting and awe-inspiring and important to me. In fact, it’s so important that I have a request.
I understand that many reviewers like the fact that The Best of All Possible Worlds sites people of colour firmly in the future, in space, on colonies, in a way that is unfortunately unusual for much of the SF we encounter in books and movies. It’s okay for people to be happy about that, but I come from a region whose people and educational system have always had a firm grasp of global demographics, so for me it doesn’t feel like a particular virtue to have written the future the way it’s most likely to be.
What I am wondering is whether certain parts of my book are being overlooked by readers and reviewers who are not well-versed in postcolonial and Caribbean literature. I’m referring to two chapters: ‘Bacchanal’ and ‘The Master’s House’.
I’d be so grateful if an academic or reviewer in Caribbean and postcolonial literature could examine, assess and critique the book in general and those two chapters in particular from a position of expert knowledge. My job is to write the stuff, not explain it, and my policy is to rarely react to reviews, so I can’t guarantee any kind of ‘you’ve got it’ endorsement. I simply want to see a discussion started in an area that I feel is significant but has been barely mentioned as yet.
I’ve been working hard on some projects and thus only updated where I could be brief – twitter, Facebook and a couple of times even tumblr. But now I have a little time, so I’d like to recap some of the old good news.
I didn’t make a final post for my Carolinas trip, but there was not much more to tell. I had a fantastic time at Orange County Library and Chapel Hill Library with audiences that were far more mainstream/literary than SF, but very attentive and appreciative of my work. I also did a reading at Flyleaf Books. Very enjoyable – smaller audience, but the questions were still of a high calibre.
People who follow me on twitter would have seen that I came home and quickly went into AnimeKon Expo, our Bajan SF convention. Tobias Buckell was back, Robert Edison Sandiford had a new book out, and we had a bit of a Three Musketeers thing going where we had a panel together, kept our book tables side by side, and even managed a field trip for some story research. This was so soon after the Carolinas trip that it was hard for me to be at 100 per cent. I wish I’d had more energy and preparation time to get full benefit from the event, but I’m fairly happy with what I was able to do, and it’s always hugely inspiring to hang out with Tobias and Robert and talk Caribbean SF.
I’ve been invited to be Guest of Honour for the 2014 Åcon SF convention in Finland (SO EXCITED YOU HAVE NO IDEA). Details to follow in due course!
I celebrated the release of Jeff VanderMeer’s amazing writing guide Wonderbook on twitter, tumblr and Facebook. I’m extremely proud to be one of the contributors; you can find my essay on page 27 (here’s a teaser). There’s so much beauty and inspiration in that book that you’ll never get bored.
I was surprised and very pleased to find that The Best of All Possible Worlds made it to the semifinal round of the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Sci-fi category as a write-in-vote with reader support. Thank you so much to all those who voted!
Finally, I was absolutely thrilled that RT Reviews nominated The Best of All Possible Worlds for both Best Science Fiction and Book of the Year. The awards ceremony takes place at their annual convention, which is being held in New Orleans next year! Tempting! Very tempting!
I’m a little late posting this, but here is the wrap-up of Season II of SF Crossing the Gulf on SF Signal:
Karen and I summarise the books and stories we reviewed during Season II and briefly discuss our plans for Season III.
Episode 17 is up on SF Signal. Go forth and click!
Karen and I are actually in the same room for this podcast! If I sound a bit stilted, it’s because I was suffering from jaw inflammation and pain (wisdom tooth issues) and had to be very careful opening my mouth. Let my caution not be seen as a lack of enthusiasm for these works. I was especially blown away by Distances, so thank you so much Karen for introducing me to that book.
Pardon the large gap between posts. I was occupied with AnimeKon Expo last weekend and spent a fair bit of time away from the computer. Tobias Buckell was with us again, and I had a great time hanging out with him and Robert Sandiford. I’ll cover that in another post which will appear after the summer-vacation series.
This post is about Spartanburg, the central point of my summer travels. I was Amazon Writer-in-Residence for the second week of the Shared Worlds teen writing camp at Wofford College. I can’t even begin to express how packed, intense, thrilling and completely worthwhile that week was. I am quite sure that a few years from now I will see some familiar names as new-minted authors on professional publications. I enjoyed my time with the students, discussing the different ways to tell and experience story, and finding their strengths in longer form or poetic expression, filmic approach or literary subtlety. If there’s one thing I took away from the range of work I saw, and one thing that I hope I conveyed to the students, it’s that SF is a very very large tent indeed, with all kinds of room for a variety of topics and styles.
Outside of the classroom, I set my switch to ‘extrovert’ and immersed myself in the excellent company of writers and thinkers. ‘I’ll sleep later,’ I kept saying as I mainlined conversation after conversation about the industry and the craft.
A couple of highlights. Ann VanderMeer asked me to help her demonstrate what it can feel like when an editor comments on your work.
(Note how I am braced and unbroken!)
Early in the week, we read at Hub City, an independent bookstore in Spartanburg. Will Hindmarch enchanted me with his haiku. Kathe Koja devastated me with her short story. Jeff has a photo album of the event on his Facebook.
On Saturday, we said farewell to the students, and a group of us went to Raleigh NC for our last event together, a reading at Quail Ridge Books .
I spent a week in Asheville, and it was far too short a time. The next time I go there, I’m going with a car, hiking gear, and a friend who likes a bit of adventure, especially when it comes to the outdoors.
I still managed to pack in a lot. I met up with Jeff VanderMeer and Nathan Ballingrud for tapas and wine (mmm, so good), and then visited Asheville’s champagne bookstore. It is as it says, a bookstore that serves champagne and provides comfortable seating in cosy niches so that both champagne and literature can be properly appreciated.
I caught up on sleep and reading at a B&B which provided glorious three-course breakfasts. I met cool people and had interesting conversations and learned proper cartwheel technique from a pre-teen who had taken gymnastics (she, her sister and her mother are avid readers and we had a great time bonding).
I visited the River Arts District with Ann and Jeff VanderMeer near the end of my stay. It was like Albuquerque all over again, with all kinds of temptations from painters, potters and pastry cooks.
On the final day, we walked through downtown streets filled with people for the Bele Chere festival, and joined Nathan, Jeremy Jones, Robert Redick and Will Hindmarch at Malaprops for a multi-author event. Jeremy (director of Shared Worlds) did the intros and everyone else did a reading.
Special mention must go to Nathan, who read from his recently-published collection North American Lake Monsters, and that small excerpt from ‘The Good Husband’ left us speechless, chilled, and utterly in awe. Robert and I, who were scheduled to read after him, looked at each other in horror. How the hell do you follow that? Robert rose to the occasion with some brief and sincere words of appreciation for Nathan’s reading, and then held his own with a fascinating pair of excerpts from The Chathrand Voyage Quartet. Needless to say, I ended up buying both Nathan’s book and the first book of Robert’s quartet.
After the reading, we left for Spartanburg, and that, of course, is another post!
This post will not be long. It’s hardly even a summary … more of a précis … but I’m not going to give you every detail of my trip, because I am selfish and secretive with my sweetest memories.
My main reason for visiting Albuquerque was the chance to meet Dvorah Simon face to face after years of virtual interaction. If you’ve read my second book, you know Dvorah. She wrote the poem that the Faerie Queen recites to Dllenahkh and Delarua, and she’s also on the dedication page. In addition to being a poet, she’s a full-time psychologist and part-time muse, an excellent hostess and a great friend. She has exquisite taste in art, music and food, and as she took me to her favourite haunts I was amazed to discover that Albuquerque is very much a city of artists and artisans. Such artistry does indeed include food, and food includes chocolate! I was confronted with massive amounts of really really good chocolate!
Albuquerque felt like blessed earth, and I hope to return there very soon.
Houston was fabulous. Karen Burnham is pretty much one of my favourite people ever, and her family (husband, toddler-son and dog) is lovely. She took me to her workplace. She works at NASA. NASA! I tried to play it cool, but by the end when I’d finished the tour and seen the films and touched the moon rock and all, I was moved beyond all possibility of playing it cool. There may have been tears.
I also had a highly enjoyable meetup with Gretchen (who is also on the dedication page of The Best of All Possible Worlds), visited Galveston, found even more chocolate, and met John DeNardo of SF Signal (the site that hosts SF Crossing the Gulf and does other amazing things, like win Hugos). John is cool! He’s down-to-earth and funny and makes you feel like you’ve known him for a long time.
None of this is in precise order. Don’t expect pictures. I did snap a few with my phone, but in general I find that the pressure to document and verify gets in the way of enjoyment. I don’t want the writer brain on when I’m having fun. I don’t want a camera between my eyes and the view.
I left Houston happy and tired and ready to crash, and fortunately I had scheduled a break in Asheville, NC for that very purpose. More on that in my next post!
Rather a lot, as it turns out!
I joined Samuel Montgomery-Blinn for a radio interview with the folks at WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio.
About a week later, I had another interview/discussion with Sam and the hosts of Carolina Book Beat.
I posted in advance about the readings at various libraries and bookstores and my week as Amazon Writer-in-Residence at Shared Worlds, but I have yet to post about how they went. Short version – brilliantly! Long version … that will take time and separate posts. I’m still winding down from all the travel, and I have to ransack my overstuffed memory to come up with a coherent and chronological account.
And it was a vacation, at least partly. I got to hang out with old friends and newer friends, and I also made new friends, some of them in unexpected places. I encountered children who love to read (and I owe two of them a list of recommendations!) and discovered new books and new authors in a wide range of age levels. I saw four states and several cities/towns and a whole lotta interstate. I ate a lot of good food, and drank good wine, beer and smoothies (yes, smoothies. Karen Burnham makes the best breakfast smoothies). I encountered a ridiculous amount of chocolate but kept in control (sharing is key). I packed, unpacked and lifted so much luggage that my right arm is now noticeably more muscular than my left. I learned to do a proper cartwheel. I listened to authors – they made me laugh, they made me cry, they gave me chills.
In time, in time. There is much to do here, but I will post again soon.
The second half of Episode 16 is now up on SF Signal:
In it we discuss two more stories – ‘Alpha Ralpha Boulevard’ (1961) and ‘On the Gem Planet’ (1963), finding ever-greater depth and complexity in the historical arc of Smith’s universe.