Reading Group Guide: Meeks

Thu 24 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: intern

Told from four different perspectives, Julia Holmes’ Meeks is an engaging read that presents a satirical view of marriage and society. While short, it is full of thought-provoking ideas. Here are some discussion questions by Kimberly Pavlovich to get you started. And, of course, there are no right answers:

  1. The theme of grief is first introduced when Ben discovers his mother is dead. He is fitted for a black suit, during which the tailor asks, “What is grief but a sudden inability to sustain belief in the story that preceded it?” (13). Do you agree? How would you define grief? How does grief play a role in the novel?
  2. Marriage is highly valued in Meeks; there are consequences for those who remain unmarried. How do you think Holmes views marriage, based on the ideas in the book? Do you think the way marriage is presented in the novel reflects some of our own society’s ideas? What are your own thoughts on marriage?
  3. How are each of the characters’ perspectives (Ben, Meeks, the Brother, and the Father) connected? As you read Meeks, did you find yourself wanting to hear an additional character’s story? How would the story change if characters’ viewpoints were added or omitted?
  4. When Ben discovers his room at the Bachelor House is connected to another bachelor’s room, he immediately wants to switch – until he meets him. How would you describe Ben’s and Finton’s friendship? Meeks and Bedge also have an interesting bond. How would you describe their friendship?
  5. What is your take on the Brothers of Mercy’s role in society?
  6. What holds Ben back from becoming a “typical” bachelor? Is it his black suit, or is it something else?
  7. Ben longs for a pale suit, while Meeks longs for a gun. Eventually, they steal these items from the same prone bachelor. What compels each of them? Would you have done the same?
  8. In the course of the novel, Ben wears a black suit, a pale suit, and finally a gray smock; each act as a symbol to other people. How does Ben’s behavior change with his attire, as well as the behavior of the people he interacts with? Why do you think clothing has the ability to temporarily change the wearer and how the wearer is treated – not only in Ben’s society, but in our own? Have you ever felt “changed” by your clothing?
  9. What is the significance of the heavens watcher’s story about “the man marooned on an island”?
  10. Who is “the man in the black jacket”? Do you think Meeks made the right decision when he refused to switch costumes with him? How would the story change if he had?
  11. What is your interpretation of Ben’s last line: “Let everyone see him, let them finally get it: when something is lost, it’s lost forever” (185)?
  12. Were you satisfied with the ending? Did it surprise you?


Coffee? Sure. La Morenita or La Virginia?

Thu 17 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Pinot Noir beginning veraisonReforma gives Trafalgar a very strong recommendation (“Highly recommended for Public and Academic Libraries”), which I translate as: a book for everyone!

I suppose a good quote from the review would be “The narrative of this compilation draws the reader into the story of an ordinary man traveling to alternative worlds. Gorodischer creates an atmosphere where fascinating stories take on the ordinariness of everyday life.”

Not mentioned: Trafalgar drinks a lot of coffee. We should have partnered with an Argentinean coffee firm because this book is going to cause a lot of people to get up and put the coffee on. La Morenita! La Virginia! Coffee shops! Baristas! Call us!

How much coffee? Seven cups. Begins like this:

I was with Trafalgar Medrano yesterday. It’s not easy to find him. He’s always going here and there with that import-export business of his. But now and then he goes from there to here and he likes to sit down and drink coffee and chat with a friend. I was in the Burgundy and when I saw him come in, I almost didn’t recognize him: he had shaved off his mustache. . . .

Marcos brought him his double coffee and a glass of cold water on a little silver plate. That’s what I like about the Burgundy. . . .

Marcos brought him another double coffee before he could order it. That Marcos is a marvel: if you drink nothing but dry sherry, well chilled, like me; or orange juice—not strained—with gin, like Salustiano, the youngest of the Carreras; or seven double coffees in a row like Trafalgar Medrano, you can be sure that Marcos will be there to remember it even if it’s been ten years since you went to the Burgundy.

Marcos arrived with the third double coffee. . . .

Marcos had put down the paper—he had collected at one of the other tables—and now he was coming with the fourth double coffee. . . . 

All right, coffee, anyone?

But, wait, if you prefer it with wine, the third edition of Wine and Word Tasting at Winter’s Hill Vineyard will take place on Saturday, February 16, 11:00-5:00 in Lafayette, Oregon. Yum.

My fave-orite flow chart EVER

Wed 16 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

(Yes, that is really a link, because you gots to go there.)

Small Beer Podcast 16: Kij Johnson’s “The Empress Jingu Fishes”

Tue 15 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Kij Johnson, Not a Journal., , , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Julie

At the Mouth of the River of Bees cover - click to view full size

Hallelujah! Another podcast is neigh. And to everyone’s delight here at the Small Beer Studios, it’s another piece of fiction.

Kij Johnson’s debut collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees, came out in mid-2012. And people were excited. Kij can rock climb. She can teach. She knows both Old Norse and Latin. But most of all she knows how to tell horrific and wondrous stories in the most beautiful of language.

As well as all that, Kij is a research demon. Science and ancient Japan and near-future teen culture all collide between the pages of this collection.

Kij has won the World Fantasy Award, the Sturgeon Award and the Nebula award (multiple times). Reading “The Empress Jingu Fishes” was a truly lovely experience. Kij Johnson does more than just tell a compelling story. She knows how to put her words together.

Episode 16: In which Julie Day reads Kij Johnson’s “The Empress Jingu Fishes” from At the Mouth of the River of Bees.

Subscribe to the Small Beer podcast using iTunes or the service of your choice:

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Around Small Beer

Mon 14 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Just because the government tells you something doesn’t mean you have to believe it.

Tomorrow: Julie Day reads Kij Johnson’s “The Empress Jingu Fishes” on the Small Beer podcast on the tavern with beer and food.

And check out’s Geek Mom interview with Kij. Kij is off to Oxford to give the JRR Tolkien lecture on fantastic fiction and to teach a workshop: lovely!

Ayize Jama-Everett’s The Liminal People was on the Identity Theory Holiday Reading List. Add it to all your comix-and-sf-reading lists!

I just interviewed Karen Lord, whose lovely new novel The Best of All Possible Worlds comes out from Del Rey next month, for BookPage. That should go up at the start of February.

In April it’s last chance to see Under the Poppy in Detroit. Do it!

The Village Voice gives Errantry a stormer of a review:
“With grand feeling and inventiveness, Hand writes of modern life edging just into the impossible. Her ragged modern characters, often lost or stoned or just unfixed in their lives, set out over moors or into hidden parks in search of realities less dispiriting than our own.”

Kelly’s “The Faery Handbag” is this week’s story on the Bookslinger app.

The first review has come in for the new ish of LCRWHere’s Sam Tomaino at SF Revu on LCRW 28:
Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is the kind of magazine that you want to read slowly. Read a story. Put the magazine down. Absorb what you have just read. Then, after a while, read another story. Repeat. After more than a year’s absence here is issue #28 with more of their very different stories.”

Scottish Television loves Alasdair Gray almost as much as we do. He’s doing another piece of public art in Glasgow—can’t wait to go over next summer and see it all—this time at the Western Baths Club. (Ok, so I may not be able to go see this one). Here’s the video of the unveiling of his previous mural in the Glasgow subway. It’s based on the art from Old Men in Love.

That’s it, out of time.

Fountain of Age a PKD Award finalist

Thu 10 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Fountain of Age cover - click to view full sizeLovely news from the Philip K. Dick Award peeps, Nancy Kress’s latest collection Fountain of Age is a finalist for this year’s award. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Here’s the full list of nominees and various links and so on:

The judges of the 2012 Philip K. Dick Award and the Philadelphia SF Society, along with the Philip K. Dick Trust, are pleased to announce seven nominated works that comprise the final ballot for the award:

BLUEPRINTS OF THE AFTERLIFE by Ryan Boudinot (Black Cat)

HARMONY by Keith Brooke (Solaris)

HELIX WARS by Eric Brown (Solaris)

THE NOT YET by Moira Crone (UNO Press)

FOUNTAINS OF AGE by Nancy Kress (Small Beer Press)

LOVESTAR by Andri Snær Magnason (Seven Stories Press)

LOST EVERYTHING by Brian Francis Slattery (Tor Books)

First prize and any special citations will be announced on Friday, March 29, 2013 at Norwescon 36 at the Doubletree Seattle Airport Hotel, SeaTac, Washington.

The Philip K. Dick Award is presented annually with the support of the Philip K. Dick Trust for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States.  The award is sponsored by the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust and the award ceremony is sponsored by the NorthWest Science Fiction Society.  Last year’s winner was THE SAMUIL PETROVICH TRILOGY by Simon Morden (Orbit) with a special citation to THE COMPANY MAN by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit). The 2012 judges are Bruce Bethke, Sydney Duncan, Daryl Gregory, Bridget McKenna, and Paul Witcover (chair).

Locus Poll: All-Time Short Fiction Results, 2012

Thu 10 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

I missed this (as with so many things) while mostly offline over the new year. Neither did I vote as I always forget things I wish I had included. But maybe if I had Maureen F. McHugh, Alice Sola Kim, and some others would appear. Also there are two Karen Joy Fowler stories and I think seven Ursula K. Le Guin’s. And we published one of the top ranked stories and reprinted two in Ted’s mighty and fabulous Story of Your Life and Others. Yay, indeed!

20th Century Novella:

Rank Author : Title (Year)
1 Chiang, Ted : Story of Your Life (1998)

21st Century Novella:

Rank Author : Title (Year)
1 Link, Kelly : Magic for Beginners (2005)

21st Century Novelette:

Rank Author : Title (Year)
1 Chiang, Ted : Hell Is the Absence of God (2001)

Clarion & Clarion West

Wed 9 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Where will Kelly be at for 2 weeks next summer? Teaching the final two weeks of the six week Clarion Writers’ Workshop in San Diego with Karen Joy Fowler.  The 2013 writers in residence are:

Andy Duncan, Nalo Hopkinson, Cory Doctorow, Robert Crais, Karen Joy Fowler & Kelly Link

Applications are accepted until March 1st:

Applications are also due March 1st for Clarion West in Seattle where this year’s instructors are Elizabeth Hand, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Justina Robson, Ellen Datlow, and Samuel R. Delany.

The Faery Handbag on Bookslinger

Tue 8 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

This Friday Kelly’s story “The Faery Handbag” will be featured on the Bookslinger app. And! Some of our other fave short stories can be found there including one of the best science fiction stories of the last ten years or so, “Start the Clock” by Benjamin Rosenbaum, and Maureen F. McHugh’s amazing “Ancestor Money.”

You can download the app in the iTunes store.

And watch a video on it here:

You can also order Pretty Monsters here now. Why didn’t we add this before? Don’t know.

New LCRW goes out, with little surprises

Mon 7 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

We just finished mailing out LCRW 28 (takes us a while, doesn’t it?) and we had fun with this one. As a subscriber bonus (for US/Canada readers only . . .  sorry Lovely Rest of World Readers, the post office wanted to charge us $16.95 a shot!) we threw in a random free book for everyone. Enjoy!

(Want a free book? Subscribe!)

Small Beer Press Bestsellers 2012

Mon 7 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: intern

According to Neilsen BookScan, our top five Small Beer Press bestsellers (excluding ebooks) for 2012 were:

  1. Maureen F. McHugh, After the Apocalypse
  2. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin
    Ursula K. Le Guin, The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin
  3. Kij Johnson, At the Mouth of the River of Bees
  4. Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life and Others
  5. Eduardo Jiménez Mayo & Chris N. Brown, eds., Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Stories of the Fantastic

All short story collections or anthologies! Our publication dates all crept into the latter half of the year, really the last couple of months, so books such as Errantry and Earth and Air didn’t get much time out there in the world to see how they’d do. Also #6? Stranger Things Happen, #7? The Serial Garden. Short stories!

Ursula K. Le Guin @ Powell’s, Sunday, Jan. 6

Fri 4 Jan 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Ursula K. Le Guin will be at Powell’s City of Books this Sunday evening at 7:30 PM. Would that we could be there!  But this is your chance to order your signed copy:

 Upcoming Event

Sunday, January 06, 2013 07:30 PM
In The Unreal and the Real (Small Beer), a two-volume selection of Ursula K. Le Guin‘s best short stories, readers will be delighted, provoked, amused, and faced with the sharp, satirical voice of one of the best short-story writers of the present day. Volume One, Where on Earth, explores Le Guin’s satirical, risky, political, and experimental earthbound stories, while the companion volume, Outer Space, Inner Lands, includes her best-known fantastical stories.