Summer Vacation: Spartanburg and Shared Worlds

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.

WriterEditor

(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 .

Summer Vacation: Asheville

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!

Readings, Shared Worlds and more readings

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.

Malaprops Bookstore, Asheville, North Carolina

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.

Shared Worlds, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina

Amazon Writer-in-Residence, 29 Jul-3 Aug

Various locations, North Carolina

AUGUST 2013

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:
http://engagedpatrons.org/EventsExtended.cfm?SiteID=6923&EventID=177489

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

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World Fantasy Convention 2012

I haven’t the time to tell you everything, so here are the highlights:

The Truly Marvellous VanderMeers

Heartiest congratulations to Ann and Jeff for winning the Best Anthology World Fantasy Award with The Weird. I cannot recommend this book too highly. It is a gift to both genre and mainstream readers. A lot of hard work and love went into this anthology, and it shows.

It was my great pleasure to meet Karin Tidbeck and attend the book release party for her excellent short story collection Jagannath. I remember watching in delight as Jeff VanderMeer tossed a stuffed toy bunny (a stand-in for giveaways that were too fragile to be airborne) into the squealing crowd rather like a bride throwing a bouquet to desperate bridesmaids. Also launching were Ann VanderMeer’s anthology Steampunk Revolution (contributors enthralled the room with one-sentence readings from their stories) and At the Edge of Waking by Holly Phillips. The cakes were gorgeous … iced with the covers of the books. I had some of the Jagannath. Delicious.

Why Is the Rum Gone?

It went to a better place. Two better places in fact. I brought with me two bottles of Mount Gay Extra Old. One went to the gentlemen of the Coode Street Podcast, Gary K. Wolfe and Jonathan Strahan. The other was handed over to the Cooke Agency, specifically my brilliant and hardworking agents Sally Harding and Ron Eckel. I have reason to believe that the rum was thoroughly enjoyed by those who were invited to partake. They shared generously; I saw a lot of bright eyes and dreamy smiles as people approached me later to thank me for rumrunning!

The Toastmaster’s Hashtag

Gary K. Wolfe delivered a top-quality speech at the awards, full of humour and edge and insight into the genre. When discussing the issue of spoilers in reviews, he demonstrated the skill of the ‘three syllable synopsis’. The Whale Wins. The Ring Melts. George Shoots Jay. Such sweet brevity should easily find a place on twitter under #3syllablesynopsis. Make it trend!

The Cool Kids

I know I’m inviting trouble by naming some names and not others, but I have to say that I was especially revved up and inspired by the conversations I had with E. Lily Yu, Ellen Klages, Daryl Gregory and Ted Chiang. Ted thinks I’m a little insane because I remarked that the WFC bookbag was so heavy I could drown someone with it. Ellen and Daryl know I’m insane and pretty much encourage me to ever greater heights of functional literary insanity. Lily is, I think, relieved to learn just how insane I am because together we can plot to take over the world. (I’m Pinky, she’s The Brain. Narf to you too.)

Talking to Derryl Murphy made me rush out and buy Napier’s Bones and bring it back the next day for signing. Hearing Amal El-Mohtar read from The Honey Month had the same effect, but when I ambushed Amal in the hotel corridor in hopes of getting a copy and a signature I learned that I was too late; they were all gone. Never mind. It goes to the top of my acquisitions list. Nene Ormes (compatriot and friend of Karin Tidbeck) was another person I wanted to read after only a few minutes of conversation, but I will have to wait on a translation or learn Swedish for that.

In conclusion, let me say congratulations again to all the nominees and winners. My sympathies to those who were unable to get to Toronto because of storm-related difficulties. Thank you to all who told me how much they enjoyed Redemption in Indigo or mentioned listening to SF Crossing the Gulf.

This post could be three pages long, but I can’t permit it. There are other things afoot, as those who follow my twitter will know. Stay tuned (by the end of this week perhaps, but definitely before the end of the next) for a post about me and the Adelaide Writers’ Week 2013, and a wrap-up and commentary on the first complete series of SF Crossing the Gulf.

Catching up

I’m seizing this moment, a brief lull between projects, to pull together various bits of news that I’ve been mentioning quickly on facebook and twitter. First of all, I don’t think I posted about the lovely cover for the UK edition of Redemption in Indigo:

Cover for UK edition of Redemption in Indigo

Publication date is 1 March, which is two weeks from now!

Next, I wanted to talk about the extremely weird and wonderful Shared Worlds 2012 critter map. Hover, click, explore. It’s filled with little descriptions and entries on various fantastical beasties written by the likes of Tobias Buckell, Neil Gaiman, N.K. Jemisin, Lavie Tidhar, the incomparable Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and many more . I greedily snagged two entries, but if you read them you’ll see why. If you like what you read, take the time to donate to the Shared Worlds SF/F teen writing camp.

Finally, I’m attending a number of conventions this year. I’m confirmed to be at the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in Orlando USA from 21-15 March, the Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad from 26-29 April, the Bim Lit Fest in Barbados from 16 -20 May, and the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto Canada from 1-4 November.

That’s it for now. I’ll update soonish as more happens!

Shared Worlds, interviews and other cool things

Life is busy, but there are two things I must record here (I’ve already tweeted the news; a 140-character update is always faster!).

First of all, I’ve been invited to the Shared Worlds teen SF/F writing camp for 2013! I’m really looking forward to it (though it seems so far away!) Next year, Tobias Buckell will be there to carry the Caribbean flag. Do check out the full post at Jeff VanderMeer’s blog. In fact, check out the entire blog. There’s some interesting stuff there, including information on the upcoming, definitive anthology of The Weird (co-edited with his wife Ann VanderMeer) which is now at the top of my ‘must buy’ list.

I’ve done an interview with Chesya Burke over at the World SF Blog. Chesya was marvellous to talk to, and she has a book out this year, a collection of short stories titled Let’s Play White.

A quick update

I feel inspired to write a mini-conference report on the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, but that will have to happen a little later when I’ve caught up on a few real-life things. For now, let me catch up on the virtual as well and point your attention to this post from Jeff VanderMeer which goes into greater detail on the upcoming book on writing, Shared Worlds/Single Vision:

First off, the book will be designed by John Coulthart, who I think is a genius …. It will also feature over 100 full-color illustrations, paintings, and other images, about 70 percent of it provided by John and the rest by a variety of creators.

Finally, the book will also feature sidebar essays by the following, or exclusive interviews (as noted):

—Iconic fantasist Neil Gaiman
—National Book Award finalist Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl
—NYT Bestseller George RR Martin(HBO series Game of Thrones; interview)
—NYT Bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler
—Diana Gill, editor-in-chief of HarperVoyager
—Karin Lowachee, author of the critically acclaimed The Gaslight Dogs and Warchild
—NYT Bestseller Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians: A Novel
—Crawford Award winner Karen Lord, author of Redemption in Indigo: a novel
Michael Moorcock, among England’s greatest living novelists
—Liza Trombi, editor-in-chief of Locus Magazine
—Nick Mamatas, author of the cult classic Move Under Ground
—Anthologist and Hugo Award-winning editor of Weird Tales, Ann VanderMeer
—National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” award recipient Charles Yu, author of the critically acclaimed How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel

I have lazily and selfishly quoted the bit that has my name in it, but the whole post is essential reading, because this is going to be an incredible book, a book like no other in the field.