Short Story Sale! “The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu M?” to Nowa Fantastyka

The contract is signed and delivered, and I have a firm release date, so I’m pleased to say that my Patchwork Priest novelette, “The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu M?,” will be appearing in the May, 2018 issue of Nowa Fantastyka. This is the first time any of my stories have been translated into another language, so I’m quite chuffed. Nowa Fantastyka is one of the premier Polish SF magazines, and recent issues have printed stories by Ken Liu and Catherynne M. Valente, which is humbling company to keep.

Here’s the blurb:

To save his friend, Farid Sulayk, the Patchwork Priest, needs to get to O’oa Tsetse before the next full moon. But between here and a range of sky-scraping mountains riddled with danger. Ethereal Tóu M? offers Farid passage, but at a cost: defeat the warlock that holds Tóu M?’s village in her blood-soaked fist. As secrets are revealed and blood is spilled, will Farid’s battle-hardened mechanical arm and djinn magic be enough to see them through alive?

“The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu M?” first appeared in Grim Oak Press’s Unfettered II—which is amazing and you should buy it. The Audible audiobook is only $2! That’s nuts.

You can also buy “The Red-rimmed Eyes of Tóu M?” as a standalone eBook on Kindle for a buck. It’s a great introduction to Farid Sulayk, the eponymous Patchwork Priest, and the Steam & Sorcery world of the Sinking Moon Islands.

First Impressions: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

It’s been near impossible to ignore Catherynne M. Valente’s meteor-sized Space Opera on its collision course with Earth. Since it’s announcement, excitement for Space Opera has reached fever pitch, and early impressions and reviews from readers and critics have been glowing. Unlike the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, though, Valente’s book is like a glitterball of good feelings that, on impact, will cover the Earth not in ash and darkness, but a dance party so vivid, so wild, so loud, so bright, so deathly important that nuclear fission will pale in comparison.

It’s dark days right now, scary thoughts and anxiety about the future are hard to ignore. From its opening pages, it’s clear that Space Opera is a specific antidote to these fears. It’s impossible to read without also smiling, laughing, and, literally, dancing your ass off. In a modern speculative fiction genre that often rewards nihilism, blood, guts, grittiness, and grim dark visions of the future, Space Opera is a much-needed reminder that science fiction can be positive, uplifting, and forward-thinking.

And, man, wait until you read Valente’s hilarious-yet-savage takedown of 21st century human society in the second or third chapter. You’ll never be so entertained, impressed, and horrified all at once again.

As enjoyable as Valente’s writing and storytelling is, it’s elevated to another level by a boisterous, delightful, and varied narration by Heath Miller. He brings life to all the characters, and does a wonderful job giving unique, living voices to each of them in turn.

Valente’s books are always rich and layered, her prose gorgeous, her characters balancing on the razor’s edge between too-human to be fantastical, and too-fantastical to be human. Space Operais hilarious, biting, generous, and impossible to put down. 

Things I Love: The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

Since finishing Sam J. Miller’s incredible debut novel, The Art of Starving, a few weeks ago, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve often found that the best way to let go of things, or, rather, to move on, is to talk about them out loud.

The Art of Starving is the story of Matt, a gay teenager who mistakes his anorexia for super powers. As we follow Matt along a path that threatens to tear him apart, the  relationships between him, his family, and fellow students become ever more complex, layered, and interesting.

I’ve long been a fan of Sam J. Miller’s short fiction. All authors write about other people, but Miller is one of the rare breeds of writer, the best of the best, who pours himself into every word he writes. Not just because some of the elements and story beats from The Art of Starving match experiences from his own adolescence, but because each word, each phrase, every theme seems to reveal a piece him. There’s so much passion, energy, and emotion packed into his stories. The Art of Starving is no different. It’s not always an easy book to read—in fact, most of it is heartbreaking, gut-punching—but you feel so keenly attached to Matt that it’s impossible to put down. 

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Things I Love: The Sedins

I don’t really talk a lot about it on my public social media accounts, because I like to focus on SFF, which I think is what most people follow me for, but I’m a huge hockey fan. Like, a fanatic. Over the years, I’ve had the alternating privilege and curse of being a Vancouver Canucks fan. I won’t go into details about this roller coaster ride, but I do want to briefly discuss an element of being a Canucks fan that’s been a tremendous pleasure: watching 18 years of Daniel and Henrik Sedin play hockey.

I was 15 when they were drafted, so their playing career started almost exactly when my more active fandom began. (I’ve been a hockey fan since childhood—despite not coming from a family that plays or even watches much hockey—but most of that period was spent following Wayne Gretzky from team-to-team. I became more engaged with the sport in high school, when I switched allegiance to the Canucks.) They were a curiousity when they were drafted, but promised to be interesting, if nothing else. Looking back, they were not only interesting—approaching the game like no other players before them or since—but intensely skilled and dedicated to the sport. Throughout the early years of their career, they were consistently called the “Sisters,” even on national broadcasts by journalists and other “professionals,” and yet they came out to every game (Henrik holds the sixth-longest Ironman Streak in NHL history), put up points, outsmarted and outscored their opponents. Night in, night out. They led the team to the Stanley Cup final in 2011. They were beautiful to watch on the ice.

On Saturday, they will play their last game in the NHL before a well-deserved retirement. If I had it my way, their jersey’s would be raised to the rafters before that game.

By all accounts, as good as they were at ice hockey, the Sedins were even better people off the ice. They contributed a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to the hockey community and to the British Columbia. In 2010, shortly after signing a big contract, they donated $1.5 million to BC Children’s Hospital. They are an inspiration.

During the heyday, I’m not sure if we Canucks fans knew how lucky we were two watch them play. It was an embarrassment of riches. Now, looking back, with the bittersweetness of their retirement ahead, it’s clear that we had the privilege for 18 years to watch the two greatest Canucks of all time play hockey.

Onwards and upwards, Daniel and Henrik.

Thank you.

First Impressions: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Despite his suspect opinions about art and entertainment, I’m a huge fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and his brand of science-made-easy. Watching Cosmos with my infant daughter sleeping on me has become one of my core memories (if you’ll allow me to steal an Inside Out reference.) I’ve always been interested in science, especially cosmology (not to be confused with cosmetology, an area I have very little experience in beyond plucking stray eyebrow hairs), but don’t always have the time/brain space/IQ to deeply interact with it.

Lately I’ve been reading more science books. Stuff like Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, or, most recently, Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon. The commonality that exists between these books is that they bite of a chunk of science and open it up to readers who didn’t pursue the field past high school. Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry fits right in.

It’s a slim volume, but jammed full of information, all of which is delivered in Tyson’s trademark approachable style. Whether It’s learning about the origins of the big bang, dissecting the geeky roots of element names, or understanding how the CMB allows us to understand where we’ve come from and where we’re going, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry makes you feel smart even when you’re not.

First Impressions: Fire Dance by Ilana C. Myer

I adored Ilana C. Myer’s debut novel, Last Song Before Night. It took a familiar concept—hodgepodge group of youngsters sets out to change the world—but, by channelling her best Guy Gavriel Kay impression, and adding many of her own twists, including *gorgeous* prose, Last Song Before Night ended up being a unique and welcome take on epic fantasy. To say I was excited for its standalone sequel, Fire Dance, was a major understatement.

At this point, though, I’m sitting here with mixed feelings.

All of the elements that made Last Song Before Night are still there: a familiar world that feels like our own, but not; labyrinthine politicking; layered relationships between the characters; Myer’s beautiful prose. But, for whatever reason, one that could totally be my own, it’s not quite coming together for me the way the first book it.

Myer is careful and considered in her prose, to the point that it’s lyrical and rich, but also sometimes tips over into meandering. This works for me sometimes, when I’m looking to curl up and get lost in a book, but it comes at the expense of the plot unfolding at an almost glacial pace. Half way through the book, I’m only just getting an idea of its overall shape, and its conflicts seem secondary to exposition about the world, and inner monologuing by the characters. This was the case in Last Song Before Night as well, but there the central mysteries (specifically the world’s missing magic) and the various plot lines were more outwardly compelling, making the window dressings more palatable.

Fire Dance is being promoted as a standalone novel, and it *is* for the most part, with only a few characters crossing over from Last Song Before Night, but sometimes while reading, I feel like I’m supposed to already be familiar with the characters and the world—there’s a *lot* of politicking that goes over my head, and I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not reading as closely as necessary, or because Myer chooses to drop readers into her world without preamble or set up, and challenges them to keep up. This will work better for some readers than others.

On the flip side, I really hope we start seeing more standalone novels and sequels. I love the idea of dropping back into a fantasy world and exploring new corners and conflicts.

I’ll have a full review on Tor.com when the book releases next week.

Thoughts on the 2018 Hugo Award Finalists

The Hugo Awards were announced on the weekend! (This was a problem for a lot of reasons, but, well, here we are, on Monday, so, let’s move on and hope WorldCon corrects in future years.)

I’m sure by this point, you’re familiar with the ballot—but, if not, check it out on Tor.com. I’m not going to reprint it here, because, let’s just get to the point. I *always* have thoughts on the Hugos. So, let’s go.

In general: Holy shit. Yes. Yes. Yeppity. Yep. Yep. Yep. Please sir, can I have some more?

This ballot rocks. From top-to-bottom, it’s filled with incredible authors, artists, editors, publications, books, films, etc. Nearly every category is going to be difficult to narrow down when it comes time to vote—but that’s the way we want it. I don’t know how many readers realized it, but we’re in a new golden age of SFF, and this ballot is further proof of that. The works honoured here are powerful, transformative, precedent-setting, and brilliant. *This* is what the future of SFF looks like, and it’s beautiful.

But…

(Actually, I’ll get to the “but” later.)

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First Impressions: You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I’ve been a big fan of Felicia Day since Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and admire Geek & Sundry for the effort and energy they put into creating geek culture content, but, I’ll admit, I’ve stopped keeping track of both of them over the past couple of years. Day’s autobiography/memoir, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), came out a couple of years ago, and I recently snagged it during an Audible sale. It’s Delightful. With a capital-D (see, not a typo in the previous sentence).

Narrated by Day, it follows her from her small-town, homeschooled roots in Alabama to her place atop geekdom. Admittedly, Alabama is not the first place I think of producing a geek culture icon, but it makes a lot of sense once Day’s story begins to unfold. She does a wonderful job of showing how isolating communities/situations impact children and the way we all use speculative fiction to escape to somewhere more exciting. It’s sort of hard to believe now that she’s an Internet sensation and accomplished businesswoman, but every step of the way was a challenge for Day. Midway through her journey, I’m impressed by her strength, perseverance, and tenacity. And, of course, her, humour. But, I already knew she’s funny!

Memoirs like this, especially ones that aim to entertain, are a fun, relaxing way to realize how little we really know about the celebrities we admire.

For the first time in a long time, I’ve been making excuses to listen to my audiobook (which I almost exclusively do during once-a-week work commutes), and I’m at the point where I’m addicted to the book, but also dreading it being over.

First Impressions: The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

After I finished reading Bo Bolander’s terrifying, terrific, and heartbreaking novella, The Only Harmless Great Thing (seriously, go read it, now), I collected myself, wrung a tear-soaked beach towel into my bathtub, took a lozenge to sooth a throat that was raw with grief, and took to Twitter to rave about it. That led me to finding out about the Radium Girls, which, well… holy shitThat led to the always awesome Wendy Wagner recommending that I check out Sam Kean’s science book, The Disappearing Spoon, which covers the tragedy of the Radium Girls, among many other things.

So, I did!

I don’t read a lot of science books. Or non-fiction these matters. It’s mostly a matter of not having a lot of room to slot in “fun” books between review obligations. But, I digress. I’m very happy Wendy twisted my arm. The Disappearing Spoon is a great entry-level introduction to chemistry, specifically the Table of Elements and the behaviour of atoms. My knowledge of chemistry and quantum physics caps out at “didn’t pay attention in high school science,” but even so I’m finding the book approachable and gentle in the way it introduces readers to its ideas. Kean has an engaging, easy-to-read prose, and he wraps all the science lesson-type stuff around great human-interest stories. (Seriously, it’s amazing how many scientists know for one achievement are also responsible for many other’s that have improved our daily life.) My only complaint: the book needs more diagrams? Kean talks us through the atomic structure of elements, and does a good job describing the behaviour of protons, neutrons, electrons, et al., but it would be even easier to wrap my head around the whole thing if there were a few illustrations and diagrams.

In any case, I’m creeping up to the creation of the hydrogen bomb now, so I’m sure the book is about to take a candy-coated  turn toward peace, love, and harmony. Right?

Right…?

Things I Love: Pathfinder’s world of Golarion

Listen, I don’t play Pathfinder. Haven’t played a game. Sure, I’ve read the manuals, but I don’t have a playgroup with the consistency necessary to get a game up-and-running, let alone a campaign that would allow us to really get into what makes tabletop gaming great.

Yet, I’ve scoured the Inner Sea World Guide from cover-to-cover, and I’ve read a huge stack of the tie-in fiction line, Pathfinder Tales. These days, I feel as comfortable in its world, Golarion, as I do in the Four Lands from Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, or Middle-earth.

Why do I love it so much?

  • So. Much. Variety—From the dozens of cultures, countries, social groups, religions, races, ethnicities, etc. to the *humongous* world that would swallow most other secondary worlds without even noticing, to the emphasis on diversity and endless possibility, Pathfinder’s world of Golarion excites my imagination so much that it’s directly informed my own worldbuilding for the Patchwork Priest series.
  • Adventure around every corner—Golarion is wide as an ocean, and deep as the Marianas Trench. It’s created in a way that its every corner invites creativity and adventure. Court intrigue, temple pillaging, barbarian raids, fallen spacecraft (yep, you read that right), and murderous death cults. Sure it’s tropey, but that’s never bothered me before, and there’s just so much of it. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Golarion’s got you covered.
  • Inclusivity—Paizo, the creator of Pathfinder, is at the forefront of creators developing inclusive gaming spaces and worlds. Pathfinder goes out of its way to allow players to be whoever the want or need to be to get the best experience possible. A good example of this is the change in Pathfinder 2.0 that’s removing “race” and replacing it with “ancestry.” Small changes can have huge impacts.

So, am I excited for Pathfinder 2.0 despite never having played a game? Damned straight. The greatest roleplaying universe is about to get so much better.

Now, I can go back to praying that Paizo will revitalize the Pathfinder Tales line to coincide with the launch of Pathfinder 2.0 (and let me write one of the dozen stories I’ve outlined starring Toma and Illindrial.)

Want to know more about Golarion, and dip your toes into the fiction? Check out my post on B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy: Welcome to Golarion—Enter the World of the Pathfinder Tales.