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 should have done this a long time ago, but I’m travelling and I’m distracted. Here is a schedule of what I’ll be doing over the next two weeks, starting tomorrow.
SCI-FI/FANTASY SHARED WORLDS Reading & Signing
28 Jul, 3 pm
Karen Lord, Robert V. S. Redick, Will Hindmarch, Nathan Ballingrud and Hugo Award winner Ann VanderMeer and World Fantasy Award winner Jeff VanderMeer.
Amazon Writer-in-Residence, 29 Jul-3 Aug
Various locations, North Carolina
3 (Saturday) 7 to 9 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts the annual Bull Spec summer speculative fiction event. This year it is an absolutely fantastic lineup with Karen Lord, Nathan Ballingrud, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Robert V.S. Redick, and Will Hindmarch all coming up from the Shared Worlds Teen Writing Camp at Wofford College, being joined locally by Durham author Mur Lafferty. We had a blast hosting Ann and Jeff back in 2011 and it’s sure to be another great evening. And! From 9 pm to late,The Raleigh Review is hosting an after-reading “meet the authors” reception (also free and open to the public) at their Writers’ Loft. And! See below for more info on additional events with Karen Lord while she is in the Triangle area. More info: http://bullspec.com/2013/03/29/announcement-the-third-annual-bull-spec-summer-speculative-fiction-event/
NEW: 4 (Sunday) 3 pm — The Orange County Library hosts Karen Lord for a meet the author event at its main branch in downtown Hillsborough. More info:
NEW: 5 (Monday) 4 pm — The newly renovated Chapel Hill Library hosts Karen Lord for a “meet the author tea” event. Refreshments served at 3:30 pm ahead of the event. More info: http://chapelhillpubliclibrary.org/txp/?s=News&id=896
NEW: 5 (Monday) 7 pm — Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books hosts Karen Lord for a reading and signing of her deep future anthropological sf novel, The Best of All Possible Worlds. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/karen-lord-caribbean-speculative-fiction-bull-spec
My second panel at the Adelaide Writers’ Week is now available:
Are all stories love stories?
There’s a fairly general agreement in answer to this question among this panel. All stories are pretty much love stories, no matter how dark, vengeful, bitter and thwarted or romantic and deluded.
There’s just a huge variation in the variety and the telling.
This is a sunlit panel featuring Charlotte Wood, Karen Lord and Emily St John Mandel at theAdelaide Writers’ Week. Cath Keneally moderates the session.
Fond memories of that panel. I think I was just starting to shake off the jet lag!
Recently, I caught up with Ron Buckmire, an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages. He’s a day older than me and one of that marvellous group of SF-reading-lending-and-borrowing friends from my secondary school days. He came ‘home’ to the West Indies for his birthday (born in Grenada, educated in Barbados) with his husband Dean Elzinga (more about Dean in a bit).
Frankly I was a little nervous about whether or not Ron would like my books. I played it cool, but really, he’s a maths professor, he knows and loves sci-fi and he’s an old friend, so of course I wanted him to like my books. Fortunately he did, and so did Dean. Now Dean is particularly cool because he is a bass-baritone opera singer. I’m talking professional soloist with glowing reviews, here. Check out his audio clips and reviews at http://www.deanelzinga.com. But he also loves writing and SF and we had a grand time talking about both when we met.
I was really pleased when Dean emailed me about The Best of All Possible Worlds and how much he enjoyed it, but this was the icing on the cake. Ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment and education, Dean Elzinga pronounces ‘Dllenahkh’!
Link to tumblr post with video clip (can’t do vid on my wordpress yet, sorry!)
Dllenahkh’s voice has always sounded bass-baritone in my head, so this is perfection.
Remember I mentioned that our panels at the Adelaide Writers’ Week were being televised? Well here is the first of mine where I discuss Redemption in Indigo with Dr Amy Matthews:
(Correction – Oxford was after teaching physics, not before.)
We also have a mini review of The Best of All Possible Worlds from Eric Brown at the Guardian (UK).
My second panel was scheduled for Monday morning. I got to share the stage with two other authors: Emily St John Mandel and Charlotte Wood. We had not read each other’s works, but our chair Cath Kenneally had, and she wove it all together under the theme ‘All Stories are Love Stories’. We all used the term ‘love story’ broadly, and spent as much time talking about friends and family as we did about romantic relationships. I was the only speculative fiction writer, but Emily’s work sounds like an interesting crossover, literary but with a touch of noir that at times gets her categorised as a genre writer as well.
And speaking of reading other people’s works – so many books, so many cool authors, so little time! I began to feel a bit less smug about my minimalist luggage arrangements. There were books available to buy, authors present to sign them, and I had no space. Eventually, I made arrangements with Sean Williams to ship some books home (thank you Sean!) and happily went on a splurge.
I missed Justine’s second panel, but we both caught Scott’s reading, an excerpt about an alternate WWI which confirmed my desire to acquaint myself with the world of Leviathan. Then a group of us went off to have more good food (Japanese this time) and fun. That was my final day of Adelaide Writers’ Week events.
On Tuesday morning, I had a half-hour live interview with Richard Fidler, the last of the interviews set up by Tracey. I have to say, I was very impressed with the preparations for this interview. The pre-interview for this took place the previous Friday so that there was already a sense of what themes and topics would be interesting and relevant. We also had a brief chat before the actual interview and he put me completely at ease.
And that was Adelaide! I must say how grateful I am to the Writers’ Week staff for their excellent organisation and care. Laura Kroetsch, the Director, and Anna Hughes, the Coordinator, were present and accessible and amazing. Pan Macmillan publicist Tracey Cheetham and the Adelaide Festival National Publicist Prue Bassett were tireless, efficient and charming. There were many others, from staff to volunteers to friends, who were just lovely and made sure I had a great time in Adelaide. I hesitate to list names because I know I will forget someone, but some have been mentioned in previous posts.
My next grand journey will happen in summer, but that deserves a post of its own!
Good music, good food, good company, a black swan and some black ants, and other etceteras.
On Saturday, I again breakfasted with Justine and Scott, and had some laugh-out-loud moments because they’ve both got great comic timing. I was starting to feel better. Jet lag, especially jet lag after three flights, is no joke. It’s a fatigue so deep it feels like the marrow is draining out of your bones. Fortunately, Saturday was a relatively light day with two purely enjoyable items. The first was a coffee meeting with Dr Amy Matthews, who was to moderate my Sunday panel on Redemption in Indigo. She suggested we meet in advance and chat a bit about what to discuss. We ended up sitting on the grass down by the river in marvellous conversation for about three hours. There was a brief encounter with an oddly friendly, yet shy, black swan who approached us but when we merely stared warily and declined to offer it food, it sidled away with its head tucked into its back as if it was napping, or maybe just embarrassed. Swans are sizable birds. I do not mess with swans. Nor geese.
The Writers’ Week reception took place that evening. A group of us gathered in the hotel lobby to walk over to the venue. A cheerful, charming gentleman introduced himself to me as Tom Keneally. I was still insufficiently alert, so it was much later when I clued in to who he was and got him to sign my just-purchased copy of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.
The reception was most enjoyable in a way that can only be managed when a room full of writers and other literary types get together and have conversations. Several of us got hauled aside by the Guardian (UK) for some photos. After the reception, because the night was still young, I followed Tracey (the publicist) and a few others to the Barrio where there was a live band playing some excellent music. Eventually it dawned on me … wait a minute! That’s Soul II Soul! Pure nostalgia, great music – which alas, I could not fully enjoy because before they finished playing their set I realised that there was not much keeping me upright but sheer willpower. I chose to be sensible and went to bed.
There are things I can’t quite recall. For example, there was a stunning fireworks display down by the river which we (Justine, Scott and I) witnessed up close (very close!) from the terrace at the back of the hotel. Was that Friday night or Sunday night? I can’t remember! And I forgot that I did in fact go out to dinner Friday after the opening night performance with Sean Williams and his wife, Scott and Justine, and Isobelle Carmody (one of those delightful people who only have to speak twice to make you want to rush out and buy their books).
One of the reasons it became so hard to keep track of the days was that I was taking (whenever I could) a long nap during the day and having a short sleep at night. There’s a 14.5 hour difference between Barbados and Adelaide, almost a direct day-to-night flip.
On Sunday, I went down to the Writers’ Week venue in the morning well in advance of my afternoon panel so I could do a radio interview on-site. It was Kids’ Day, and there were little ones running about in costume. It was a great family atmosphere, everything outdoors and the weather hot, dry and clear. And ants. I was sitting under the trees listening to a panel when I looked to my right and saw that the gentleman sitting next to me was covered in black ants. They were crawling up the plastic chairs from a broad trail on a nearby tree. I alerted him and helped brush him off; he changed chairs and moved away from the tree. I was twitchily viewing my own chair for ants for a while and just when I managed to calm my paranoia I looked to the row ahead and there was a woman crawling with ants.
The panel before mine featured Justine Larbalestier, and Isobelle Carmody. It was enjoyable and relaxing (no, I did not nod off) and put all thought of black ants out of my mind. Most if not all of the panels were being recorded for television, which meant that later during my panel when I actually was stung by an ant, I had to make it look very casual, as if I was merely brushing my shoulder rather than slapping the life out of the little miscreant.
Sean Williams fortified me with a chocolate freckle before my panel, and rewarded me with a dark chocolate covered macadamia afterwards. Walking around with chocolate treats is apparently his ‘thing’. I’m not complaining.
The panel went really well, thanks in no small part to our preparation the previous day. I got an absolutely brilliant question, weighty with knowledge and perception, from a woman in the audience who, when I queried her, admitted to having been in Barbados just the year before. I’m happy the panel was televised, but especially for that question which gave me a new insight into the approach I chose for Paama’s brand of heroism.
Here I am, looking like I know what I’m talking about:
After the panel, I had a fun time at the signing table, then went back to catch the second half of Sean interviewing Scott about Leviathan. That was fascinating, and I wish I could have heard the entire session, but it was enough to tempt me to buy the book (and Behemoth and Goliath). Well played, Mr Westerfeld.
Before I forget, I should mention that I also found out from Amy that Redemption in Indigo is on the reading list of an undergrad course at the University of Adelaide, so there were students at my panel and in my signing line – yay!
At the end of the day, we went and had dinner at a restaurant with a secret room hidden behind a cunning sliding bookcase. (Oh dear, I’ve said too much. Well, I won’t tell you the name of the restaurant at least.)
That’s what I can remember of the weekend! Strictly speaking, that was Day One and Day Two of the Writers’ Week but Days Two and Three of the Adelaide Festival … but nevermind. I’m numbering these Days according to the time I was spending there, not by their calendar.
Next, Day Four!