This week’s episode of SF Crossing the Gulf focuses on one of my favourite books: TIll We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I discovered it late, less than a decade ago, and it is often overlooked when readers talk about his books. I strongly believe it should not be overlooked. If you have any leanings towards reworked myth, many-layered stories and strong, complex female protagonists, this is a book you should read. And when you have read it, check out my discussion with Karen Burnham.
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!
A new episode of SF Crossing the Gulf is up! We talked about Jagannath by Karin Tidbeck and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Welcome to Episode 9 of SF Crossing the Gulf, a podcast where I discuss selected SF novels and short fiction with Karen Burnham. Thanks to SF Signal for hosting the podcast and doing up our spiffy new icon!
We briefly tell you what to expect for this season, then we dive into Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.
The last episode of my podcast series with Karen Burnham went up on SF Signal last Thursday. I was at first slightly peeved that there was another cool thing to blog about that would have to wait until I got back from Toronto, but the delay ended up being profitable. Thanks to Cheryl Morgan and Karen Burnham, we now have a cleaner, better audio for Episode 6 (The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell).
All the podcasts can be accessed via the link http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/category/columns/sf-crossing-the-gulf/ but they show up in reverse chronological order, as tagged posts are wont to do. This gives me an excuse to list them here separately with relevant comments and links.
Click here for my post on this blog introducing the podcast in general and this episode in particular. I included library links for My Bones and My Flute and The Rainmaker’s Mistake.
My deepest regret for this podcast was the challenge to readers trying to find a 1950’s, out-of-print book. But Mittelholzer is a key West Indian author and I could not imagine starting a discussion on Caribbean SF without him. You can read about the lengths I went to in order to secure a copy.
Running out of time for Ted Chiang during Episode 1 proved an advantage as we spent Episode 3 comparing and contrasting his work with Greg Egan’s.
Click here for a reading and interview with Erna Brodber, and links to other interviews, reviews and resources.
I was afraid this would be too challenging, but Karen took to it like a duck to water and shared with me some important insights into this literary work from the point of view of a non-West Indian and a genre reader.
I had to urge Karen not to be modest about the fact that she has spent over three years researching Egan’s fiction. With her knowledge of Egan’s entire fictional universe(s), she stopped me from making assumptions based on the snapshot of a single short story. We acknowledge that we’ve missed out some of Egan’s best work because we chose stories available for free on the internet. We hope to make up for this in the future.
Oh, you have no idea the pangs this episode gave us. We loved the book, we were in awe of the author, and we spoke with fluid eloquence (relative to previous podcasts!) about our love and awe. But Karen was moving house and the change in the usual setup resulted in some distressingly poor audio. We actually decided, very sadly, to re-record the podcast, but bad weather (I cannot podcast during heavy rain and/or thunder!) and continuing tech issues made that impossible. Karen did her best to manually improve what we had. However, I am very happy to report that Cheryl Morgan recently performed some added cleanup and with their combined efforts we now have a fresh upload of a podcast that should be much easier to listen to.
I thought Karen would find this easier and more enjoyable than The Rainmaker’s Mistake and I was wrong (though thankfully not badly wrong). I think there is more in there for the reader who knows West Indian history, culture and literature and gets the little hits of nostalgia and recognition at the right moments. Nevertheless, Karen was very appreciative of the author’s talent and put it into the slipstream category with The Rainmaker’s Mistake. Overall verdict on Caribbean SF? Readable, enjoyable, layered, literary and well worth the effort.
We made it to the end, and we finally found a graphic for the podcast! You may already know that Karen Burnham’s internet moniker is Spiral Galaxy. The photo shows the Whirlpool Galaxy interacting with its companion NGC 5195. We decided this interaction was a symbol of clear boundaries vs fuzzy boundaries, the linear vs the elliptical … which is a good way of differentiating between hard SF and Caribbean SF as well as different reader/critic approaches to understanding them. I won’t be changing my moniker to Elliptical Galaxy just yet, but it pleases me to think that there might be a curve and a swerve and a cycle to how I tell and read stories as well as a certain lack of defined boundaries that might be a challenge or a delight.
First of all, congratulations to all the Hugo award winners, and special congratulations to the winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, E. Lily Yu!
(For the record, these are not belated congratulations, these are extended congratulations. I have been congratulating by tweet and email since Sunday.)
Secondly, it’s Wednesday-fortnight again and that means podcast! I’m delighted to be discussing The Rainmaker’s Mistake by Jamaican writer and sociologist Erna Brodber. I thought Karen Burnham would find it challenging – hah, she didn’t! And she loved it and we hope you do too. You can listen to the podcast here at SF Signal, but before you do, it’s worth visiting The Spaces Between the Words for an interview with Erna Brodber that will enhance your podcast experience.
I thought I would blog daily while at Bocas 2012, but once I got there I didn’t want to dutifully blog and I didn’t want to take pictures of everything. I wanted to enjoy myself and I did, only tweeting and taking snapshots when I felt like it. Now I want to look back, remember, and tell you all about the amazing people and works I have encountered.
Day one of the festival started with a welcome ceremony. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Independence, there were four readings of classic works from around fifty years ago: the prose of V.S. Naipaul, poetry by Derek Walcott (both of them Nobel Laureates, as I’m sure you already know), a speech by Eric Williams, and satire by ‘Macaw’, the pseudonymous Trinidad Guardian columnist. The excerpt from Derek Walcott’s ‘The Star-Apple Kingdom’ concluded on a powerful image:
… a black woman, shawled like a buzzard,
climbed up the stairs and knocked at the door
of his dream, whispering in the ear of the keyhole:
‘Let me in, I’m finished with praying, I’m the Revolution.
I am the darker, the older America.’
It was beautiful … gorgeous readings expertly read … an excellent beginning. Our appetites were whetted. Here’s the one tweet I managed.
Off I went to my first selected event (there were usually three events on at a time, so we were forced to choose). Jamaican novelists Sharon Leach and Kei Miller (who is also a poet) read from their novels. Sharon’s segment was enthralling and cleverly ended on a cliffhanger – a fender-bender, a carjacking, and a gun to someone’s head. Kei read from a work in progress which fascinated me. I recognised the same voice as in Redemption in Indigo: the personified omniscient narrator. He told of tragic events with a comic twist. We laughed at a man proud to be stricken with an STD in his old age, laughed at his instinctive horror when he was told he could expect to live another twenty years or more, laughed as he died of heart failure shortly afterwards in his sleep, in a wet dream. You had to be there. I’m sorry I’ll have to wait a while for this to be completed and published.
My own reading took place in the afternoon. I was sharing a timeslot with Erna Brodber. Erna Brodber. She is an elder for almost all aspects of my career, as a writer, a sociologist, folklorist and pattern-maker. She has received awards and honours for her fiction, her research and her community work. I felt awed. She read from her most recently published novel The Rainmaker’s Mistake and captivated all who listened.
If you want to know more about Bocas than what I was able to take in, check out the hashtag #bocas2012 and the official blog.
I’ve turned off comments on this blog due to unrelenting spam, but if you were at Bocas and have a tweet, article or site that would add to the Day One overview, do message me on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll edit it into this post.
Tomorrow I’ll give you a glimpse of my second day at the Bocas Lit Fest!
This is the second promised podcast! I chatted with Nalo Hopkinson and Karen Burnham while in San Diego, and it was fantastic. I caught myself listening to it all over again in the wee hours of the night. Do go check it out. Nalo’s brilliant, in case you didn’t know.
I’ve been terrible at updating here over the past week, for which I beg you to accept my sincerest apologies. There are two new things to mention:
1) an amazingly fun podcast I did with Karen Burnham for Locus which, I warn you, is basically two physics geeks chattering on about speculative fiction and occasionally going ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Cool!’; and
2) some online excerpts from my interview ‘Dual Reality’ which is in the August issue of Locus Magazine.
I really enjoyed the podcast and encourage you to go listen to it. The interview excerpts may seem a little disjointed, but that’s because they’re only there to encourage you to buy the magazine for the whole thing