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.
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!
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.
We discussed the short fiction of Cordwainer Smith in our latest episode of SF Crossing the Gulf, and there was so much to say that we had to break it into two parts. So here is part a:
We cover two short stories, ‘Scanners Live in Vain’ and ‘The Lady Who Sailed the Soul’. It was a very enjoyable discussion. Smith’s short fiction has lots of complexity and really lends itself to both literary and genre analysis. This is another example of an author whose work has aged well.
A new episode of SF Crossing the Gulf is now available at SF Signal:
Not only is Flatland one of my favourite books, but it is the oldest book we have discussed on this podcast (publication year 1884). When we compare and contrast it to the social sci-fi and math-fi of Yoon Ha Lee, a brilliant contemporary writer, you will see that it has aged extremely well and deserves to be called a classic of the genre and of literature in general.
These works discuss perception, worldview, paradigms and scientific discovery – in effect how scientists and their work are influenced by culture and personal bias. Fascinating stuff. I highly recommend this podcast if you have an interest in the history and philosophy of science.