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!

Post-Conference Post: ICFA’s delights

I LOVE the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts. Love it. I hate travelling to and from it, which is why I come to this blog post a little worn at the edges, possibly lacking in eloquence, but doggedly determined to let the world know that ICFA rocks.

I got there on a Tuesday evening in advance of the opening. I had a plan to pace myself: scheduled naps, cod liver oil capsules, B-Vitamin supplements and careful selection and timing of meals. I even slotted in two sessions of Zumba (thanks Karen Hellekson!) to compensate for the ridiculous amount of sitting I would be doing. It worked pretty well, I think, except that no-one is a match for the nonsense that is trying to make a connecting flight in Miami Airport. I arrived with a bruised knee; my departure resulted in sacroiliac pain.

Highlights of the conference included meals and conversations with … oh no, I can’t bring myself to list all the names. I’m going to forget someone, which isn’t fair and certainly will have more to do with the fried state of my brain at present than the importance of those conversations to me personally. But let me try …

Karen Burnham, Liza Groen Trombi and Francesca Myman of Locus Magazine. Karen gets a first-mention not only due to her name (ICFA was well-supplied with Karens, let me tell you), but because in addition to running the Locus Roundtable, she is my science and technology advisor for the sequel to The Best of All Possible Worlds, my sci-fi novel due in March 2013. Since Karen is an engineer at NASA as well as a book reviewer extraordinaire, I’m in good hands. Her husband Curtis Potterveld and their adorable baby Gavin are also excellent company! Also of Locus, and known for the Coode Street Podcast, is Gary K Wolfe. I had the pleasure of recording a podcast with him and co-caster Jonathan Strahan along with Nalo Hopkinson (always an honour!) and Ellen Klages. So much fun!

I met the VanderMeers at last! Jeff, I thought you’d be taller ;) We had a great lunch and chat and they put me completely at ease. I still feel very much the newbie, and they have been so supportive and kind. Another kindness I shall never forget is Guest of Honour Kelly Link’s conversation with me at the opening reception. This ICFA was my first time meeting Kelly and her little daughter Ursula (not so little! That child is going to grow tall!). I’d already met Gavin Grant at the 2010 Brooklyn Book Festival. Together they are the amazing Small Beer Press, the first publishers of Redemption in Indigo and my portal into this magic world of spec fic community. Without being too luvvie about it, I must say I’m huge fans of Gavin and Kelly and all the work they do. But hey, it’s hard not to gush a little at ICFA; you feel this immense fondness for all those people who understand and love and work hard at the same things you do.

A Tiptree gathering meant that I got to meet Karen Joy Fowler (another of the Karens). It thrills me that as a Small Beer Press author I get to be listed with people like her and Delia Sherman and Ted Chiang and Nancy Kress. Oh, Nancy I am so sorry about the one-legged squat, honest! I know it wasn’t the best etiquette, but they dared me!

I enjoyed a long conversation with Andrea Hairston, this year’s Tiptree winner and last year’s winner of the Distinguished Scholarship Award at ICFA. We discovered much to our amazement that a friend and former student of hers is one of my former students from when I taught secondary school physics in Barbados! The serendipity did not end there. While in conversation with Farah Mendlesohn, we discovered that the friend who I’d promised to visit on my next trip to the UK is chaplain at Anglia Ruskin, where Farah will be taking on head of department duties very soon!

So many good conversations and pleasant encounters: Charles Vess, Rachel Swirsky, my Crawford cousins Daryl Gregory and the newly-minted Genevieve Valentine, Siobhan Carroll, Theodora Goss (shared a reading slot with her; her story, and her delivery of it, was amazing), Andy and Sydney Duncan, Stacie Hanes, Mari Ness, Peter Straub, China Mièville, the brilliant Brit Mandelo, Dennis Danvers, Nancy Hightower … and all those whose names I have forgotten, whose name-tags I failed to read properly, especially those who gave me rich conversations on literature and folklore and pure, beautiful, creative silliness.

 

The Crawford Award

Wow.

So, I’ve been sitting on a secret for almost a week now, and today it was officially announced:

Karen Lord has been named the winner of the 2011 William L. Crawford Award for her first novel Redemption in Indigo (Small Beer Press). The award, presented annually at The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, is for a new fantasy writer whose first book appeared in the previous year. This year’s conference will be held March 16-20, 2010 in Orlando FL.

The award committee shortlisted Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City (Angry Robot), N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Orbit), and Anna Kendall’s Crossing Over (Gollancz/Viking Juvenile), and wanted to commend two other authors: Robert Jackson Bennett for Mr. Shivers(Orbit) and Amelia Beamer The Loving Dead (Night Shade), which was viewed by some nominators as centrally a science fiction work. Science fiction is excluded under the terms established by the award’s founding sponsor, Andre Norton.

Those participating, in varying degrees, in this year’s nomination and selection process included Niall Harrison, Cheryl Morgan, Graham Sleight, Paul Witcover, John Clute, Jonathan Strahan, Liza Trombi, Farah Mendlesohn, Ellen Klages, and Kelly Link (who, as publisher of Small Beer Press, recused herself from final voting).

(Locusmag)

I was speechless then and I’m not much more eloquent now, so bear with me.

First of all, thank you so much to the award committee. The qualifications and experience of the judges, the calibre of the other authors they shortlisted and recommended, and the absolutely stunning list of previous award winners … all of that makes me awed and very very grateful.

And I can’t help but thank my publishers Small Beer Press (not for the first time, and definitely not for the last time).  I think they might have one of the highest awards:titles ratio out of all publishers of speculative fiction – a small press that punches in the heavyweight division.

So … I’m going to Orlando!

Reviews and news

I’ve had some computer issues (not yet resolved, but the situation is workable for now), so I haven’t been posting for the last two weeks or so.  In all the computer drama I almost lost the audio file of an interview I did with Thomas Armstrong, but now I can settle down to work on it and produce some posts on the great conversation we had on his novel in particular, Caribbean literature in general, and more!

It’s been nice to see more positive mentions of Redemption in Indigo on the internet.  This review by Laura Miller at Salon was a particularly good Christmas present!

We’re into the second print run, and there’s an audiobook from Recorded Books on the horizon.  Many online bookstores seem to be temporarily out of stock, but don’t worry because Small Beer Press has stock from the second print run as well as some signed copies of the first edition.  The only other place you can get signed first edition copies is at Days Bookstore in Barbados, so if you happen to be in the area, go to Speedbird House in Bridgetown next to the new General Public Library and pick up a copy.

I had a great Christmas, mostly involving food, family and friends, which is precisely how I like it.  I hope yours was as excellent, and may 2011 be marvellous beyond all expectation!