Publication Day for A Stranger in Olondria

Tue 30 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Yay! Which makes it extra nice that the cover artist, Kathleen Jennings, posted her cover process sketches for A Stranger in Olondria. And did you see the cake one of Sofia’s friends made for her for the launch reading party at A Room of One’s Own? Nice! There will also be a party of some sort at WisCon next month. Wish we were going!

You can of course read an excerpt on or download a pdf of the first 70 pages; read Sofia’s The Big Idea, and an Interview on the Qwillery. More reviews—yours?— will be coming soon. It’s a big beautiful book and we’re very happy to see it out there in the world being read. Raul M. Chapa of BookPeople in Austin, TX, gave us a great early boost when he sent us this note from reading a galley, thanks Raul!

If you’re curious for some of the inspirations for this huge book and the deep love of reading that thrums all through it, check out Sofia’s What Were They Reading post.



Tue 30 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

I do miss Goodreads.

A Stranger in Olondria

Tue 30 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Books | 7 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

April 2013 · 300 pp · hardcover · 9781618730626 / trade paperback · 9781931520768 / ebook · 9781931520775
December 2014: second printing
June 2017: third printing
Also by Sofia Samatar: The Winged Histories, Tender: Stories

World Fantasy Award winner · British Fantasy Award winner · Crawford Award winner

Nebula Award finalist · Locus Award finalist · Locus Recommended Reading
Sofia Samatar received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer
Rights sold: Audio (Audible); French (nominated for the Prix Imaginales, Les Editions de l’Instant); Polish (MAG); Romanian (Editura Art).

News and upcoming events.

Sofia Samatar: To the Best of Our Knowledge. The Big IdeaInterview on the QwilleryCoode Street Podcast with Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home—but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. Just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of freeing himself by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that most seductive of necromancies, reading.

A Stranger in Olondria was written while the author taught in South Sudan. It is a rich and heady brew which pulls the reader in deeper and still deeper with twists and turns that hearken back to the Gormenghast novels while being as immersive as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Read an excerpt on

More? Download a pdf of the first 70 pages.

“It’s the rare first novel with no unnecessary parts – and, in terms of its elegant language, its sharp insights into believable characters, and its almost revelatory focus on the value and meaning of language and story, it’s the most impressive and intelligent first novel I expect to see this year, or perhaps for a while longer.”

“The excerpt from Sofia Samatar’s compelling novel A Stranger in Olondria should be enough to make you run out and buy the book. Just don’t overlook her short “Selkie Stories Are for Losers,” the best story about loss and love and selkies I’ve read in years.”
— K. Tempest Bradford, NPR

“Sofia Samatar’s debut fantasy A Stranger in Olondria is gloriously vivid and rich.”
— Adam Roberts, The Guardian, Best Science Fiction Books of 2013

“Books can limit our experiences and reinforce the structures of empire. They can also transport us outside existing structures. The same book may do both in different ways or for different people. Samatar has written a novel that captures the ecstasy and pain of encountering the world through books, showing us bits and pieces of our contemporary world while also transporting us into a new one.”

“The novel is full of subtle ideas and questions that never quite get answered. It is those dichotomies that lie at the heart of this novel, such as what is superstition and what is magic? How much do class and other prejudices affect how we view someone’s religion? Jevick often believes himself above such things, as does the current religious regime of Olondria, but in a way both are haunted until they believe. . . . Samatar gives us no easy answers and there are no villains in the book — simply ordinary people doing what they believe is right.

“As you might expect (or hope) from a novel that is in part about the painting of worlds with words, the prose in Stranger is glorious. Whether through imaginative individual word choices—my favourite here being the merchants rendered “delirious” by their own spices . . . Samatar is adept at evoking place, mood, and the impact of what is seen on the one describing it for us.”
­— Strange Horizons

“Vivid, gripping, and shot through with a love of books.”—Graham Sleight, Locus

“A richly rewarding experience for those who love prose poetry and non-traditional narratives. Sofia Samatar’s debut novel is a fine exemplar of bibliomancy.”
Craig Laurence Gidney (Sea Swallow Me)

“With characteristic wit, poise, and eloquence, Samatar delivers a story about our vulnerability to language and literature, and the simultaneous experience of power and surrender inherent in the acts of writing and reading.”—Amal El-Mohtar,

“If you want to lose yourself in the language of a book, this is the one you should read first. Samatar’s prose is evocative and immediate, sweeping you into the complex plot and the world of Jevick, a pepper merchant’s son.”

“A journey that is as familiar and foreign as a land in a dream. It’s a study of two traditions, written and oral, and how they intersect. Samatar uses exquisite language and precise details to craft a believable world filled with sight, sound and scent.”
Fantasy Literature

Advance Praise

“Samatar’s sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable.”
Library Journal (*starred review*)

“Sofia Samatar has an expansive imagination, a poetic and elegant style, and she writes stories so rich, with characters so full of life, they haunt you long after the story ends. A real pleasure.”
—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames

“A book about the love of books. Her sentences are intoxicating and one can easily be lost in their intricacy…. Samatar’s beautifully written book is one that will be treasured by book lovers everywhere.”
—Raul M. Chapa, BookPeople, Austin, TX

“Thoroughly engaging and thoroughly original. A story of ghosts and books, treachery and mystery, ingeniously conceived and beautifully written. One of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in recent years.”—Jeffrey Ford, author of A Natural History of Hell

“Mesmerizing—a sustained and dreamy enchantment. A Stranger in Olondria reminds both Samatar’s characters and her readers of the way stories make us long for far-away, even imaginary, places and how they also bring us home again.”
—Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“Gorgeous writing, beautiful and sensual and so precise—a Proustian ghost story.”—Paul Witcover, author of Tumbling After

“Let the world take note of this dazzling and accomplished fantasy. Sofia Samatar’s debut novel is both exhilarating epic adventure and loving invocation of what it means to live through story, poetry, language. She writes like the heir of Ursula K. Le Guin and Gene Wolfe.”
—Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

“Imagine an inlaid cabinet, its drawers within drawers filled with spices, roses, amulets, bright cities, bones, and shadows.  Sofia Samatar is a merchant of wonders, and her A Stranger in Olondria is a bookshop of dreams.”
—Greer Gilman, author of Cloud & Ashes

Listen to Sofia read a couple of her poems on Stone Telling: “Girl Hours” · “The Sand Diviner

Campbell Award winner Sofia Samatar is a writer, poet, editor, critic, and PhD in African Languages and Literature. She wrote A Stranger in Olondria in Yambio, South Sudan, where she worked as an English teacher. Her poetry has appeared in Stone Telling, Goblin Fruit, Bull Spec, and the anthology The Moment of Change. She reviews for Strange Horizons and Islam and Science Fiction, blogs, and is working on a second novel, The Winged Histories.

On Carol Emshwiller (from 2007, and belatedly celebrating her 92nd birthday!)

Wed 24 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Darn! I meant to post this to in celebrate Carol’s 92nd birthday earlier on April 12th. Ach! Well hell, here’s for celebrating Carol any time or any where.

Written for the 2007 World Fantasy Convention:

Working with Carol Emshwiller is one of the most unexpected and wonderful benefits of the foolishness that is our dance through the world of independent publishing.

Carol is everything that I could hope author to be: brilliant, hard working, gracious, polite, deeply knowledgeable and informed within and without her field, determined, willing to compromise, absolutely single-minded, intelligent, a teacher, and always open to learning. She is an inspiration—not only for her writing, in which she takes on the most trenchant problems of the day in politics, gender (and genre) relationships, and the ambiguities of everyday life—but also in her uncompromising dedication to others. For many years she has taught and taken part in workshops where she has shown her generosity and ability to see other writers’ visions of their stories. All the while, her own enthusiasm and commitment to writing burn ever brighter. Her latest novel, The Secret City, is a beautiful play on many of her favorite themes: innocence, how to live—alone or with others, and the simple and complex difficulties of communication.

These are salad days for fans of Carol’s work. In the last five years she has published three novels, The Mount (2002), Mister Boots (2005), and The Secret City (2007), as well as two collections, Report to the Men’s Club and Other Stories (2002) and I Live with You (2005). And in that time she has been awarded the Philip K. Dick Award for The Mount, two Nebula Awards for short stories, “Creature” and “I Live with You” (both F&SF, 2002 and 2006), and a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award.

In other words: if you like science fiction and fantasy and you haven’t read her, perhaps now is the time?

Carol hasn’t been resting on her laurels. Her most recent publication (that I know of, she’s hard to keep track of) is “At Sixes and Sevens” in the October/November Asimov’s. She says she is too impatient to send stories out to magazine with long reading times, so I feel we are very lucky to have one of her stories, “Sanctuary,” for LCRW.

This covers only Carol’s recent years. I first remember reading her work when I read a Women’s Press edition of Carmen Dog in the UK and by the time I met her in the 1990s in New York, she was already in her seventies. (And she is still more energetic than most people I know.)

Other writers and friends will need to fill in her earlier years. I am very happy to have spent some time with Carol (although as yet I have not gone hill climbing with her!) and I hope that everyone who attends this convention will be able to spend at least a couple of minutes with her.

Another book!

Mon 22 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 2 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

9781931520485-96And, arriving now at all good indie bookstores near you . . . what is that I see? The paperback edition of Karen Joy Fowler’s fabulous third collection of stories, What I Didn’t See and Other Stories.

The cover art is by one of our fave artists, Kathleen Jennings, and it looks crazy great on paper. Here online, it’s, yes, blacker than black, Spinal Tap “none more black”-level black. It’s all in the lamination, embossing, and something else along those lines, peeps. I’ll post some more photos that show the cover off properly soon.

And, next month Karen’s new novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes out. Remember: read the book, not the jacket or reviews. Not because the book depends on a twist, but it is a different read if you don’t know something that you’re told on the jacket.

Check out Karen’s “beast, bug, and bird blog” and go hear her read—she is one of the smartest, funniest readers (and writers!) out there.

ETA: Ta da: a photo of the new book showing the shiny shininess of it all.

What I Didn't See pb

New Alan DeNiro story in debut issue of Spolia

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

SpoliaVery excited by this. Just got my copy (pdf, for those who like to know: it’s also available as an epub or mobi, but I like seeing what the pages look like) of the debut issue of Jessa Crispin’s new magazine, Spoila. Alan’s story, “A Rendition” will be part of his new collection, Tyrannia and Other Renditions, coming out in October.

The Natalya Goncharova Portfolio is fabulous and I’m also looking forward to checking out the rest, including, bonus points!, two translations. Subscription is coming, here’s the manifesto, and please go get your copy here.

Table of Contents

Daphne Gottlieb, “Bess”

Peter Vermeersch, “Gone” (translated by Florian Duijsens)

Phil Sorenson, “December, December, Night, Night”

Jessa Crispin, Jane Pritchard interview

Leah Triplett, “Filling In the Archive: The Afterlife of Natalia Goncharova”

Natalya Goncharova Portfolio

Greer Mansfield, “A Natalia Goncharova Catalog”

Lightsey Darst, “Living with Art”

Olivia Cronk, “Four untitled poems”

Alan DeNiro, “A Rendition”

Mikhail Shishkin, “Of Saucepans and Star-Showers” (translated from the Russian by Leo Shtutin)

Hoa Nguyen, “Mekong I, Cause the Shine, For Love Red, Hid”

Sofia Samatar’s debut novel arrives

Fri 12 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Posted by: Gavin

This week the hardcover and paperback editions of Sofia Samatar‘s debut novel A Stranger in Olondria started going out into the world. Thank you, everyone who pre-ordered, always appreciated! The hardcover is going to be out of stock pretty soon although we may have copies here when the distro runs out. The ebook is out, too. Publication date is Tuesday, April 30.

I’ve been looking forward to this day for a while. I can’t wait to hear from readers. You can get a taste of the book on or download the first 70 pages. It’s a huge, immersive, rich fantasy that circles around and away from and back to the transportation of reading.

People who’ve met Sofia or who have read advance copies of Olondria keep telling me that she’s a star in the making. I know! Since she sold this book, Sofia has had stories in Strange HorizonsApexand Clarkesworldas well as poetry and reviews in Strange Horizons and is now the nonfiction and poetry editor for the new online journal Interfictions: A Journal of Interstitial Arts. How does she do it? I don’t know, but I am very happy that she’s also working on another novel.

If you live in or near Madison, WI, hie ye to the launch party on April 26th at 6 PM at A Room Of One’s Own Bookstore (315 W. Gorham St. Madison WI 53703). In May Sofia will be at WisCon, too—we will have a table there courtesy of our good friend David Schwartz.

You can read more about the book here and here’s one reviewer who really got it:

“Samatar’s richly woven debut fantasy takes us far from home. Growing up in the primitive isolation of the Tea Islands, Jevick has longed to travel to the spice markets in Bain, where the family’s pepper harvest is sold. He impatiently devours descriptions and stories when his imperious father returns every season, and the arrival of an Olondrian tutor only adds to the allure of the unknown land. When Jevick finally begins his own voyage, he discovers he is traveling down a perilous path of mystery, passion, and danger that no counsel could have foreseen. A chance meeting of a young woman traveling on a pilgrimage will change the course of Jevick’s life forever. VERDICT Jevick’s journey is an enchanting tale of wonder and superstition, revealing the power of books and the secret traditions of ancient voices. Samatar’s sensual descriptions create a rich, strange landscape, allowing a lavish adventure to unfold that is haunting and unforgettable.”
Library Journal (*starred review*)

You don’t . . .

Thu 11 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | 2 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

“You don’t pack books like other people, do you?

“Weeeeeellllll. It depends. We’ve been re-using old packaging this way, since, uh, a long time?”

“Pretty classy.”

“That’s us!”

A book!

Tue 9 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

We has a new book arrived at the office: yay! Photos TK! Preorders will ship today, review copies, too. Which book is it? Wait, wait!

It is always time for Hipsway

Wed 3 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Kelly reading April 9, 7 pm, @ Pen Parentis, NYC

Tue 2 Apr 2013 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Kelly will be in NYC reading with Leigh Newman and Sarah Gerkensmeyer next Tuesday night as part of the Pen Parentis reading series. Here’s all the info:

DATE:  Tuesday, April 9, 2012

TIME: 7-9, with 3 readers (5-8 minute readings) and a Q & A session focused on writing and parenting to follow. Please plan on arriving at least 10 minutes before the event.

PLACE:  The Andaz, Wall Street 75 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005   212-590-1234

DIRECTIONS: 2,3,4,5,J,Z to 75 Wall Street. Corner of Wall & Water

Kelly Link is the author of three collections, Pretty MonstersMagic for Beginners and Stranger Things Happen. She was born in Miami, Florida, and once won a free trip around the world by answering the question “Why do you want to go around the world?” (“Because you can’t go through it.”) Link lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she and her husband, Gavin J. Grant, run Small Beer Press. They have a three-year-old daughter, Ursula.

Leigh Newman returns to the Pen Parentis Salon as deputy editor, where she writes about books and life and editor-at-large for the indie press Black Balloon Publishing. Premiered while still in manuscript format at one of the earliest Pen Parentis events, her hilarious memoir about her Alaskan childhood, Still Points North, is forthcoming from Dial in 2013. Her essays and short stories have appeared a variety of magazines and newspapers, including One Story, Tin House, Fiction, the New York Times, Modern Love. She believes in making her own popcorn, embarrassing her kids by writing I LOVE YOU in red frosting on their lunch sandwiches, and owning dogs that are just way too big to fit in the bed. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two boys and many, many light sabers. Her work can be found at    Read more of her work.

Sarah Gerkensmeyer‘s short story collection, What You Are Now Enjoying, was selected by Stewart O’Nan as winner of the 2012 Autumn House Press Fiction Prize. A Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction and the Italo Calvino Prize for Fabulist Fiction, Sarah has received scholarships to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Ragdale, Grub Street, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her stories have appeared in Guernica, The New Guard Literary Review, The Massachusetts Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Cream City Review, among others. Sarah, a mother of two little ones, is the 2012-13 Pen Parentis Fellow. She received her MFA in fiction from Cornell University and now teaches creative writing at State University of New York at Fredonia.