by Joan AikenLeave a Comment
trade cloth · 256 pages · $24 · 9781618731128 | ebook · 9781618731135 · Edelweiss
New: Read the introduction and title story on Tin House.
Here is the whisper in the night, the creak upstairs, that half-remembered ghost story that won’t let you sleep, the sound that raises gooseflesh, the wish you’d checked the lock on the door before it got really, really dark. Here are tales of suspense and the supernatural that will chill, amuse, and exhilarate.
“The particular joys of a Joan Aiken story have always been her capacity for this kind of brisk invention; her ear for dialect; her characters and their idiosyncrasies. Among the stories collected in this omnibus, are some of the very first Joan Aiken stories that I ever fell in love with, starting with the title story “The People in the Castle,” which is a variation on the classic tales of fairy wives.”
— Kelly Link, from her Introduction
“Renowned fabulist and children’s author Joan Aiken had a long and prolific career, and it’s easy to see why her career endured across decades. Her stories have a timeless feel, whether screwball romantic comedies about ghosts, or tales of confounded faerie royalty. If you’re an Aiken neophyte, this offers an amazing starting point, with stories running the gamut of fantasy, horror, comic fantasy, reimagined fairy tales, and legends. If you’ve experienced Aiken before, this is a selection of her best work. Either way, The People in the Castle is a great example of why her stories still hold up.”
Standout stories: “Sonata for Harp and Bicycle” “Some Music for the Wicked Countess”
— Barnes & Noble: 7 Essential New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Short Story Collections
“[A] haunting and wondrous book.”
— Emily Nordling, Tor.com
“If you’re looking for speculative short fiction of a decided literary bent, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying source than this assembly of fantastical work by the peerless, prolific Joan Aiken (who died in 2004), assembled from across her storied career. The magical and the everyday collide in these short, evocative tales, which, in marvelously efficient, elegant prose, find unsettling strangeness lurking just around the corner from normal (the ghost of a puppy is trapped in an abandoned storage box, fairy queen squat in overgrown forests). A slim, seriously moving collection.”
— Joel Cunningham, B&N SF&F
“A welcome anthology of fantasy stories by a 20th-century master. The author of the beloved classic gothic for children The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Aiken (1924-2004) also wrote hundreds of works of popular fiction that spanned the genres, from fantasy to horror to historical fiction, including several Jane Austen sequels. Naturally the tone of her books and short stories varies with their content, but its main notes include sophisticated, spritely satire and the darker moods of literary fairy tales. Fans of Wolves will recognize the honorable orphans and cruel guardians who populate these tales. Typically the wicked meet with fitting fates and the innocent triumph, though for Aiken, a good death counts as a happy ending. She plays with the contrast between the eldritch and modern culture and technology: ghosts and dead kings out of legend who contact the living by telephone, a doctor who writes prescriptions for fairies, a fairy princess who’s fond of Westerns. Her metaphors and similes surprise and delight: “the August night was as gentle and full as a bucket of new milk”; “He was tall and pale, with a bony righteous face and eyes like faded olives”; across a field, “lambs [followed] their mothers like iron filings drawn to a magnet in regular converging lines.” Sprightly but brooding, with well-defined plots, twists, and punch lines, these stories deserve a place on the shelf with the fantasies of Saki (H.H. Munro), Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Susanna Clarke.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“There’s so much to love about this slender collection… The juxtaposition of mundane and magical…feels effortless and fresh. The language is simply splendid, so evocative, as though the stories were actually very dense poems. And it brilliantly showcases Aiken’s affectionate, humorous, deft portrayals of female characters… Aiken’s prose is extraordinary, impossible to do justice to in this small space. Her skill with the language of folk tales—specifically the oral storytelling native to the British Isles—is unparalleled… These stories both feel very 20th century and somehow timeless.”
— Publishers Weekly, Boxed, signed review by Rose Fox, Senior Reviews Editor
Table of Contents
Introduction by Kelly Link
“The Power of Storytelling: Joan Aiken’s Strange Stories” by Lizza Aiken
The Dark Streets of Kimball’s Green
The Lame King
The Last Specimen
A Leg Full of Rubies
The Man Who Had Seen the Rope Trick
The Mysterious Barricades
The People in the Castle
A Portable Elephant
A Room Full of Leaves
She Was Afraid of Upstairs
Some Music for the Wicked Countess
Sonata for Harp and Bicycle
Joan Aiken (1924–2004) was born in Rye, Sussex, England, into a literary family: her father was the poet and writer Conrad Aiken and her siblings, the novelists Jane Aiken Hodge and John Aiken. After her parents’ divorce her mother married the popular English writer Martin Armstrong.
Aiken began writing at the age of five and her first collection of stories, All You’ve Ever Wanted was published in 1953. After her first husband’s death, Aiken supported her family by copyediting at Argosy and working at an advertising agency before turning to writing fiction full time. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Women’s Own, and many other magazines.
She wrote over a hundred books and was perhaps best known for the dozen novels in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase series. She received the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards for fiction and in 1999 she was awarded an MBE.
Cover art “The Castle in the Air” by Joan Aikman, 1939. © Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis
Praise for Joan Aiken’s stories:
“Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection-like the mermaid in a bottle-is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages.” — Publisher’s Weekly
“Darkly whimsical stories…Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, her elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Each story has a surprise or twist. Many are ironic, go-figure pieces. They are just like real life, only more so. VERDICT: This book will appeal to readers of short stories and literary fiction. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal
“Aiken’s pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances… have a dream-like quality executed with a brevity and wit that is a testament to her skill as a story-teller.” — California Literary Review
“From a bottled mermaid brought home from a sailor’s adventures at sea to a vicar reincarnated as a malevolent cat, fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales.” — For Book’s Sake
Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband’s death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women’s Own, and many others. Visit her online at: www.joanaiken.com | The People in the Castle.
by Geoff RymanLeave a Comment
paper · 320pp · $16 · 9781931520737 | ebook · 9781931520386
Dotty, old and maybe crazy, sees The Wizard of Oz on TV, and recognizes it as her own story.
New: Reader Group Guide included.
“A mythic meditation on the enduring power of fantasy and art and on the loss of innocence, both the innocence of childhood lost to the cruel realities of the grown-up world and the innocence of a nation lost to the cruelties of history. . . . A moving lament for lost childhoods and an eloquent tribute to the enduring power of art.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
Was is a haunting novel which explores the lives of characters intertwined with The Wizard of Oz: the “real” Dorothy Gale; Judy Garland’s unhappy fame; and Jonathan, a dying actor, and his therapist, whose work at an asylum unwittingly intersects with the Yellow Brick Road.
“In an era of bright, simple adaptations, Was is different—melancholy, beautiful, and yes, full of heartaches and nightmares. If we were to put those green glasses back on to block them out, we would leave ourselves knowing so much less about why such Technicolor stories matter to us, even long after childhood.”
“A startling, stimulating book filled with angels and scarecrows, gargoyles and garlands, vaudeville and violence. Pynchon goes Munchkin, you might say.”
—Washington Post Book World
“The Scarecrow of Oz dying of AIDS in Santa Monica? Uncle Henry a child abuser? Dorothy, grown old and crazy, wearing out her last days in a Kansas nursing home? It’s all here, in this magically revisionist fantasy on the themes from The Wizard of Oz.”
“Ryman’s darkly imaginative, almost surreal improvisation on L. Frank Baum’s Oz books combines a stunning portrayal of child abuse, Wizard of Oz film lore and a polyphonic meditation on the psychological burden of the past.”
“A mediation on art, lies and human pain. None of Ryman’s books is quite like any of the others—this is one of his most straightforward and best”
—Roz Kaveneny, Time Out
Geoff Ryman is the author of the novels The King’s Last Song, The Child Garden, Air (a Clarke and Tiptree Award winner), 253, Lust, The Unconquered Country (a World Fantasy Award winner), and a collection, Paradise Tales (a Sunburst Award winner). Canadian by birth, he is a frequent traveler, and now teaches at the University of Manchester.
Was, an excerpt:
PART ONE: THE WINTER KITCHEN
During the spring and summer I sometimes visited the small Norwegian Cemetery on a high hill overlooking a long view of the lower Republican Valley. In late evening a cool breeze always stirs the two pine trees which shade a few plots. Just south of the Cemetery in a little ravine is a small pond surrounded with a few acres of unbroken prairies sod. On the rise beyond the ravine a few large trees grow around a field. They are the only markers of the original site of my Grandfather’s homestead.
My Grandmother once told me that when she stood on the hill and looked southwest all she could see was prairie grass. An aunt told me of walking over the hills to a Post Office on the creek there. I can remember when a house stood just across the field to the west and now I can still see an old tree and a lonely lilac bush on the next hill where a few years ago a house and farm building stood. Of the ten houses I could see from this hill when I was a child, now only two exist – but instead of the waving prairie grass which Grandmother saw in the 1870s, there are rectangles and squares of growing crops and trees along the roads. A few miles distant the dark green of trees, with a water tower, tall elevator and an alfalfa mill rising above them define the area of a small town.
—Elinor Anderson Elliott,
The Metamorphosis of the Family Farm in the Republican Valley of Kansas: 1860-1960,
MA thesis, Kansas State University
The Municipal airport of Manhattan, Kansas, was low and brown and rectangular, and had a doorway that led direct from the runway. The last passenger from St. Louis staggered through it, his cheek bristly, his feet crossing in front of each other as he walked. He blinked at the rows of chairs and Pepsi machines and then made his way to the Hertz desk. He gave his name.
“Jonathan,” he said, in a faraway voice. Jonathan forgot to give his last name. He was enchanted by the man at the Hertz desk, who was long, lean, solemn, wearing wire glasses. He reminded Jonathan of the farmer in the painting American Gothic. Jonathan grinned.
He passed the man an airport napkin with a confirmation number written on it. American Gothic spoke of insurance and had forms ready to sign. Jonathan put check marks in the little boxes and passed over a credit card. He waited, trying not to think about how ill he was. He looked at a map on the wall.
The map showed Manhattan the town and, to the west of it, Fort Riley, the Army base. Fort Riley covered many miles. It had taken over whole towns.
Jonathan did not know there had once been a town in Kansas called Magic. There had even been a Church of Magic, until the congregation had to move when the Army base took over. The ghost towns were marked. Fort Riley DZ. DZ Milford. The letters D were ambiguously rounded.
Quite plainly on the map, there was something that Jonathan read as “OZ Magic.”
It had its own little box, hard by something called the Artillery and Mortar Inpact Area, quite close to a village called Keats.
“There you go,” said American Gothic. He held out car keys.
“What’s this mean?” Jonathan asked, pointing at the words.
“DZ?” the man said. “It means ‘Drop Zone.'”
There were little things on the map called silos. Jonathan thought the silos might be for storing sorghum.
“At the end of the world,” said the man at the Hertz desk, “it will rain fire from the sky.” He still held out the car keys. “Manhattan won’t know jack shit about it. We’ll just go up in a flash of light.”
Not a single thing he had said made any sense to Jonathan. Jonathan just stared at the map.
“Anyway,” said American Gothic, “you got the gray Chevrolet Celebrity outside.”
Jonathan thought of Bob Hope. He swayed where he stood. Sweat trickled into his mouth.
“You all right?” the man asked.
“I’m dying,” said Jonathan, smiling. “But aside from that I’m pretty good, I guess.” It was an innocent statement of fact.
Too innocent. Ooops, thought Jonathan. Now he won’t rent me a car.
But this was Kansas, not Los Angeles. The man went very still for a moment, then said quietly, “You need a hand with your luggage?”
“Don’t have any,” said Jonathan, smiling almost helplessly at the man, as if he regretted turning him down.
“You from around here? Your face looks kinda familiar.”
“I’m an actor,” Jonathan replied. “You may have seen me. I played a priest in ‘Dynasty.'”
“Well, I’ll be,” said American Gothic. “What are you doing here, then?”
It was a long story. “Well,” said Jonathan, already imitating the other man’s manner. “I suppose you could say I’m here to find somebody.”
“Oh. Some kind of detective work.” There was a glint of curiosity, and a glint of hostility.
“Something like detective work,” agreed Jonathan, and smiled. “It’s called history.” He took the keys and walked.
After the Kansas were placed on the greatly reduced reservation near Council Grove, a substantial decline occurred. For example, in 1855—the year their agent described them as “a poor, degraded, superstitious, thievish, indigent” type of people—the Commissioner of Indian Affairs reported their number at 1,375. By 1859 it was down to 1,035 and in 1868 to 825. Finally, while this “improvident class of people” made plans for permanent removal to Indian Territory, an official Indian Bureau count placed their number at “about 600.” Clearly the long-range trend appeared to be one of eventual obliteration.
—William E. Unrau,
The Kansa Indians: A History of the Wind People, 1673-1873
The brakeman danced along the roofs of the train cars, turning brake-wheels. The cars squealed and hissed and bumped their way to a slowly settling halt. he train chuffed once as if in relief.There was a dog barking. The noise came from within the train, as regular as the beating of its steam-driven heart. The dog was hoarse.
The door of a car was flung open, pushed by a boot, and it crashed against the side of the train. A woman all in black with a hat at an awkward angle was dragging a large trunk case. A little girl all in white stood next to her. The white dress sparkled in sunlight, as if it had been sprinkled with mirrors. The dog still barked.
“Where’s my doggy? We’re going to leave my doggy!” said the child.
“Your doggy will be along presently. Now you just help yourself down those steps.” The woman had a thin, intelligent face. Her patience was worn. She took the child’s hand and leaned out of the car. The child dangled, twisting in her grasp. A huge sack was thrown out of the next car and onto the platform like a dead body.
“Aaah!” cried the child, grizzling.
“Little girl, please. Use your feet.”
“I can’t!” wailed the child.
The woman looked around the platform. “Johnson!” she called. “Johnson Langrishe, is that you? Could you come over here please and help this little girl down from the train?”
A plump and very pimply youth – his cheeks were almost solid purple – loped toward the train, hair hanging in his eyes under a Union Pacific cap. The woman passed the child down to him. Johnson took her with a grunt and dropped her just a little too soon onto the platform.
The train whistled. The dog kept barking.
“Dog’s been making music since Topeka. It’s a wonder he’s got any voice left. Trunk next.” The woman pushed the trunk out the door. Johnson was not strong enough to hold it, and it slipped from his grasp to the ground.
“My doggy,” said the little girl.
“Dot rat your doggy,” muttered the woman. “Johnson. Do you know Emma Gulch? Emma Branscomb as was?”
“Well that’s just dandy,” said the woman with an air of finality.
“There’s no one here? There’s no one here?” The little girl began to panic.
“No, little girl, I’m afraid not. I’m going o Junction, otherwise I’d stop off with you. Why? Why let a little girl come all this way and not meet her, I just do not know!” The woman turned and shouted at the next car.
“Hank,” she cried. “Hank, for goodness’ sake! Fetch the little girl her dog, can’t you?”
“He bit me!” shouted the porter.
The woman finally chickled. “Oh, Lord!” She turned and disappeared into the next car.
The train sneezed twice and a white cloud rolled up donut-shaped from the funnel. Great metal arms began to stroke the wheels almost lovingly. And the wheels began to turn. A creak and a slam and a rolling noise and the train began to sidle away. It whistled again, and the shriek of the whistle smothered the cry the little girl made for her dog.
Then out of the mailcar door, the woman appeared, holding out a furious gray bundle. It wrenched itself from her grasp and rolled out onto the platform. It somersaulted into the child and then spun and righted itself, yelping in outrage. It roared hatred at the train and the people on it. The dog consigned the train to Hell. Johnson, the boy, backed away from him.
Sunset orange blazed on the side of the car. The woman still hung out of the doorway.
“Emma Gulch is her aunt! Lives east out in Zeandale!” she shouted. “Try to get word to her. God bless, child!” the woman waved with one hand and held on to her hat with the other. The air above the train shivered with heat. There was a wuffling sound of fire, and a clapping and clanking, and the brakeman did his dance. All of it moved like a show, farther down the track, fading like the light. The light was low and golden.
This was the time of the afternoon the little girl most hated. This was the time she felt most alone.
“What’s your name?” Johnson asked her.
“Dorothy,” said the little girl. She held up her white dress to make it sparkle.
“What’s that stuff on your dress?”
“It’s a theater dress,” said the little girl. Her eyes stared and her mouth was puffy. “The theater people in Kansas City gave it to me.” She had stayed with them last night, and she liked them. “Are you going to stay with me?” she asked Johnson.
“For a little while, maybe.”
“I’m hungry,” she said.
“Well I ate up all my pie, or I surely would have let you have some.”
The place was silent. The station had a porch and a platform and a wooden waiting room. The tracks ran beside a river. Dorothy could see no town. She recognized nothing. She pushed the hair out of her eyes. Nothing was right.
“Where is everybody?” she asked. She was scared, as if there were ghosts in the low orange light.
“Oh, next train won’t be here till past six. Come on, I’ll show you where you can set.”
He walked on ahead of her. He didn’t hold her hand. Mama would have held her hand, or Papa. She followed him.
Her ticket was pinned to her dress, along with a set of instructions. “Will this ticket get me back to St. Lou?” she asked. If there was nobody coming to meet her?
“I don’t know,” said Johnson, and held open the door of the waiting room. It had bare floors of fine walnut, wainscoting, a stove, benches. There were golden squares of light on the floor.
“You must be tired. You just rest here a bit, and I’ll see if I can’t find somebody to go fetch your aunty.”
Don’t go! Dorothy thought. She was afraid and couldn’t speak. Stay!
“You’ll be okay. We’ll get you sorted out.” He smiled and closed the door. Dorothy was alone.
This was the time when Mama would lay the table. Mama would sing to herself, lightly, quietly. Sometimes Dorothy would help her, putting out the knives and forks. Sometimes Dorothy would have a bath, with basins of warm water poured over both her and her little brother, Bobo. Papa would come home and shout, “How’re my little angels?” Dorothy would come running and giggling towards him. Don’t tickle me, she would demand, so he would. And they would all eat together, sunlight swirling in the dust as the shadows lengthened.
No dinner now.
And later people would come around, and they’d all talk and sometimes ask Dorothy to stand up on a chair and sing. The chairs would scrape on the floor as they were pulled back in a hurry, for cards or for a dance. Papa would play the fiddle. They would let Dorothy sit up and drink a little wine. People would hold Bobo up by his arms so that he could dance too, grinning.
So what happened to little girls with nobody to take care of them? How did they eat? Would it all be like that trip on the train? The train trip had seemed to go on forever, but this was even worse.
She was afraid now, deep down scared, and she knew she would stay horribly, crawlingly scared until dark, into the dark when it would get even worse, until she tossed and turned herself asleep.
Toto sighed and shivered, waiting out the terror with her.
The dust moved in the sunlight and the sunlight moved across the wall, and no one came, and no one came. Time and loneliness and fear crept forward at the same slow pace.
Then the front door swung open with a sound of sleighbells on a leather strap, like Christmas. Dorothy looked up. A woman in black stood in the doorway, carrying a basket.
“Are you the little girl who’s waiting for her aunty?” the woman asked. Dorothy nodded. The woman smiled and came toward her. There was something terribly wrong.
The woman’s arms were too long. The bottom of her rib cage seemed to stick out in the wrong place, and she walked by throwing her hips from side to side and letting her tiny legs follow. As she moved, everything was wrenched and jolted. Dorothy backed away from her, along the bench.
“I brought some chicken with me,” said the woman, smiling, eyes bright.Her face was young and pretty. “My name’s Etta, what’s yours?” Toto sat up from the floor, ears forward, but he did not growl.
Dorothy told her in such a low voice that Etta had to ask her again. “And the dog’s name?”
“Same,” said Dorothy. Etta sat down on the bench some distance away, and began to unfold a red-checked cloth from the basket. Some of the fear seemed to go. “He’s got the same last name as mine.”
Etta plucked out apples and cold dumplings and some chicken and passed them on a plate.:
“The same name. How’s that?”
“My mama got the two of us on the same day. So I’m called Dorothy and he’s called Toto. That’s short for Dorothy.” Dorothy had the drumstick.
“Would Toto like some chicken?” Etta asked.
Dorothy nodded yes, with her mouth full. She stared at the woman’s pretty face as she held out a strand of chicken for Toto. Dorothy was confused by the woman’s height and manner. Dorothy was not entirely sure if she was a child or an adult.
“Are you middle-aged,” Dorothy asked. She did not understand the term. She thought it meant people who were between childhood and adulthood.
“Me?” Etta chuckled. “Why no, I’m twenty years old!”
“Why aren’t you bigger?”
“I’m deformed,” Etta answered.
Dorothy mulled the word over. “So am I,” she decided.
“Oh no, you’re not, you’re tall and straight and real pretty.”
“So are you,” Dorothy decided. The long arms and the twisted trunk had resolved themselves into something neutral.
Etta went pink. “Don’t talk nonsense,” she said.
“You’re real pretty. Are you married?”
Etta smiled a secret kind of smile. “I might be someday.”
“Everybody should be married,” said Dorothy. It appealed to her sense of order.
“Why’s that?” Etta asked.
Dorothy shrugged. She didn’t know. She just had a picture of people in houses. “Where do you live if you’re not married?”
“With my Uncle William.”
“Could you marry him?”
Etta chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to. There is someone I could marry, though, if you promise not to tell anyone.”
Dorothy nodded yes.
“Mr. Reynolds,” whispered Etta, and her face went pink again, and she grinned and grinned.
Dorothy grinned as well, and good spirits suddenly overcame her. “Mr. Reynolds,” Dorothy said, and kicked both feet.
“People tell me I shouldn’t marry him. But do you know, I think I might just do it anyway.”
Dorothy was pleased and looked at her white shoes and white stockings. “Now,” said Etta. “What we’re going to do is wait here till your aunty comes. And if she can’t come here today, then we’ll go and spend the night at my house and then go to your aunty’s in the morning. Would you like that?”
Dorothy nodded yes. “Is it nice here?” she asked.
“Nice enough,” said Etta. She told Dorothy about the trees of Manhattan. When the town was planned, every street had a row of trees planted down each side. The avenues had two rows of trees planted on each side, in case the road was ever widened. So, Manhattan was called the City of Trees. Dorothy liked that. It was as if it were a place where everyone lived in trees instead of houses. Nimbly, Etta packed up the remains of their dinner.
Then they went to the window. Dorothy saw Manhattan.
There was a white two-story house on the corner of the road, with a porch and a door that had been left open. Dorothy could hear a child calling inside. There was a smell of baking. It looked like home.
And there were the trees, as tall as the upper floor. Beyond the trees, there was a honey-colored building. The Blood Hotel, Etta called it. There were hills: Blue Mont with smoke coming out of its top like a chimney; College Hill, where Etta lived.
“Are there any Indians?” Dorothy asked.
Not anymore, Etta told her. But near Manhattan, there had been an indian ciry.
“It was called Blue Earth,” said Etta. “They had over a hundred houses. Each house was sixty feet long. They grew pumpkins and swuash and otatoes and fished in the river, and once a year they left to hunt buffalo. They were the Kansa Indians, which is why one river is called the Kansas, and the other is called Big Blue. Because they met right here where the Kansas lived.”
Dorothy saw it, a river as blue as the sea in her picture books at home. The Kansas River was called yellow, and Dorothy saw the two currents, yellow and blue mixing like colors in her paint box.
“Is it green there?” she asked. She meant where the blue and yellow mixed.
“It’s green everywhere here,” Etta answered. They went back to sit on the bench. Etta told Dorothy about Indian names, Wichita and Topeka. Topeka meant “A Good Place to Find Potatoes.” That made Dorothy laugh.
“But any place is what you make it,” said Etta. “You’ve got to make it home. You’ve got to do that for yourself. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Dorothy began to play with the bows on Etta’s dress. Etta put her arms around her and rested her head against Dorothy’s. They were nearly the same height.
“It’s difficult, because everybody wants to be loved. And you think you can’t have a home unless you are loved by somebody, anybody. But it’s not true. Sometimes you can learn to live without being loved. It’s terrible hard, but you can do it.”
Then she kissed Dorothy on the forehead.
“The trick is,” said Etta, pulling Dorothy’s long black hair from her face, “to remember what it’s like to be loved.”
Dorothy fell asleep. She dreamed of knitting and the black piano and her paint box and picture books and all the things that had been left behind.
by Benjamin ParzybokLeave a Comment
paper · $16 · 9781618730862 | ebook · 9781618730879 · Audiobook
Read an excerpt.
Free pdf download: A Reader's Guide and Companion to Sherwood Nation (377).
Spokane (SPR): The Bookshelf
Portland (KBOO): Between the Covers · Author Interview · Old Mole Variety Hour
Seattle (KUOW): If Portland Collapsed, How Would The City Fare? (interview on “The Record”)
As drought-stricken, Portland, Oregon, falls apart, a new city rises from within.
Dried out West Coast cities are crumbling and being abandoned by the East. In Portland, Oregon, water is declared a communal right and rations are down to one gallon per person per day. The Mayor is proposing digging a trench to the Pacific Ocean and hoarding and riots persist.
A water activist nicknamed Maid Marian is caught on film giving out water from a hijacked water truck and becomes a folk hero. She escapes into an ungoverned part of the city and rides her and becomes an icon to a city in need.
Even as Maid Marian and her compatriots build a new community one neighbor at a time, they make powerful enemies in the city government and the National Guard. Their idealistic dream is quickly caught up in a brutal fight for survival.
Sherwood Nation is a quirky, personal post-collapse non-apocalyptic novel of idealists taking charge. It is the rise and fall of a micronation within a city. It is a love story, a war story, a grand social experiment, a treatise on hacking and remaking government, on freedom and necessity, on individualism and community.
“Rich with haunting descriptions of a place once wild and now starved and poignant human dilemmas of basic survival, Sherwood Nation is a manifesto on how communities can work together to improve the greater good that does not shy from, sugarcoat, or exaggerate the corruptions of power and outcomes of rebellion. For a political treatise set in an imaginable apocalypse, Parzybok’s second novel is refreshing in its lack of heavy-handed allegory or pedantic utopian preaching. Maid Marian reaches beyond herself to create peace and solidarity in hopeless times. Threatened, others desire her demise and position. It is a clever, if cautionary tale.”
— Electric Literature
“Set in Portland Oregon after a massive drought has crippled American society west of the Mississippi, Sherwood Nation is a different kind of dystopian novel. No magic. No zombies. No tyrannical overlords ruling with iron fists and tournaments. It brings a fascinating realism to the genre, creating a uniquely human and tangible version of the apocalypse story. Sherwood Nation is about real people grappling with an all too real catastrophe in ways that reveal aspects of our culture today, while exploring the best, worst, and, most importantly, the vague middle between the two ideals, of what we could be.”—Josh Cook, Porter Square Books (interview)
“Parzybok’s achievements are manifold here. First, he tells a gripping story whose lineaments are never predictable. There are great suspenseful set pieces, like the theft of a water truck and a shootout in Sherwood. The entire action is compressed into about two weeks or so, but feels like a whole saga: birth, maturity, and death of a kingdom.”
“A group of idealists, led by a charismatic young woman, struggle to remake society in postapocalyptic Portland, Ore.”
“Sherwood Nation has left me with memorable images that will, no doubt, be triggered over time. There’s something heavy real in its imaginings—something that almost compels me to pray for rain.”
—NW Book Lovers
“The gritty world in Sherwood Nation and the circumstances that changed a former barista into a figure of hope is a story that focuses more on the consequences of disaster rather than the disaster itself.”
— Geeky Library
“I finished Parzybok’s book not really feeling as though I’d read a work of fiction but more like a finely orchestrated prophecy with believable characters and likely scenarios. I certainly haven’t looked at water the same way and probably won’t ever again. Read Parzybok’s novel and prepare for battle. We have been duly notified.”
— New Pages
“With climate change and ever-increasing consumption, running out of water is a danger we don’t readily acknowledge, yet Benjamin Parzybok’s Sherwood Nation makes that danger vividly real. . . . Here we see how people behave in crisis—some better and some worse—and how idealism, self-concerned realism, and the personal hang in a balance; friends, alliances, and enemies are made, and, most effectively, Renee’s boyfriend, Zach, and Renee herself grow (and glow) as things get tough. Ben, who’s Portland-based, is the creator or co-creator of numerous projects, including Gumball Poetry and the Black Magic Insurance Agency, a city-wide, one night alternate reality game, so he knows about building community. He’s done a great job here, but let’s hope the richly detailed “Sherwood Nation” never really has to come to be.”
“Parzybok is riffing on the Robin Hood story, to be sure, but he also layers on some astute social and political commentary, and he’s built a fully functioning and believable future world. Give this one to fans of Adam Sternbergh’s Shovel Ready (2014).”
“Benjamin Parzybok is one of our most imaginative literary inventors. In Sherwood Nation he gives us a vision of Portland’s rebellious indie spirit that goes deeper than the usual caricatures, revealing a city alive with conflict and possibility. This is playful, serious, and profoundly humanizing art.” — Ryan Boudinot (Blueprints of the Afterlife)
“Benjamin Parzybok has reached into the post-collapse era for a story vital to our here and now. Sherwood Nation is part political thriller, part social fable, and part manifesto, its every page brimming with gonzo exuberance.”—Jedediah Berry (The Manual of Detection)
“Parzybok does this thing where you think, ‘this is fun!’ and then you are charmed, saddened, and finally changed by what you have read. It’s like jujitsu storytelling.”—Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse)
“Portland is a rare outpost, with a semi-functional municipality, but the burdens of relentless rationing and an increasingly apparent division between those who go thirsty and those who do not, make for prime tinder. It takes just one minor act of symbolic monkey wrenching to set this tale ablaze.
“Couch has remained in my consciousness because it goes “out there” to find its core (think Douglas Adams, Tom Robbins, Gabriel Garcia Marquez). What makes Sherwood so compelling and, frankly, often terrifying, is how close to home it lives.
“This Portland is totally familiar, invoking the attitudes and spirit of today’s residents and details from the recent political landscape. It feels like the place we know — until a nightly power blackout or parade of National Guard water distribution tankers jars us with a reminder that this is, thankfully, a work of very good fiction.”
— Register Guard
Praise for Benjamin Parzybok’s first novel, Indie Next Pick, Couch
“Beyond the good old-fashioned story, Couch meditates on heroism and history, but above all, it’s an argument for shifting your life around every now and then, for getting off the couch and making something happen.”—The L Magazine
Benjamin Parzybok is the author of the novel Couch and has been the creator/co-creator of many other projects, including Gumball Poetry, The Black Magic Insurance Agency (city-wide, one night alternate reality game), and Project Hamad. He lives in Portland with the artist Laura Moulton and their two kids.
Follow him on twitter: @sparkwatson
by Peter DickinsonLeave a Comment
paper · $16 · 9781618730848 | ebook · 9781618730855
A young man has to choose who to love, who to leave in the 1926 General Strike in Britain.
“Small Beer Press, a small publishing company in Massachusetts, is reprinting … Peter Dickinson’s books, which is a wonderful, wonderful gift to mystery readers who are yearning for that kind of old-fashioned British mystery where it doesn’t move quickly, you get engrossed in the time period.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR
In 1926 the British government was worried about revolution. Two million people are about to go on strike and class warfare is about to erupt. Tom Hankey is caught between his love for Judy, a bright young thing, and Kate, a fireball agitator. Brought home from Oxford by his father, Tom volunteers to drive a train in the General Strike. When the train is ambushed, Tom is thrust into the darkest and most threatening regions of English politics. Gritty yet sparkling and full of unexpected turnarounds, A Summer in the Twenties resonates and captivates.
“In A Summer in the Twenties, Mr. Dickinson, who is best known in the United States for his mystery thrillers and in England for his award-winning children’s books, tells a story of confrontation between the rich rich and the poor worker, set against the background of 1926, the year of the General Strike. The very rich are facing the rise of a force they can barely understand. Politics, here, is everything. . . . A Summer in the Twenties shows the body politic balanced at a precarious moment of tension.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Dickinson shows us the daily lives of both the upper crust, with their carpeted manor houses and petty intrigues, as well as the working poor, who live in noisy, crowded conditions. Intergenerational strife abounds, as children of all classes disappoint their elders by not becoming what they were brought up to be; the exchanges are witty yet full of meaning, illuminating the shift of power away from the old class system toward something new and unproven. Dickinson conveys a lot of excellent historical material in a thoroughly engaging narrative with enough suspense to keep readers entertained on multiple levels.”
— Historical Novel Review
“Imagine if Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse had been called in to doctor a “Downton Abbey” script . . . . There’s sharp dialogue, wonderfully grotesque characters, a love story or three. (Judy or Kate? What shall our hero do?) The wit is droll and British.”—Wilmington StarNews
“A lovely smooth read.”—The Washington Post
“A witty, affectionately nostalgic masterpiece.”—The Columbus Dispatch
“As absorbingly readable, as well-written as anything Peter Dickinson has written.”—The Times Literary Supplement
“Dickinson (author of engagingly offbeat thrillers and children’s books) does splendidly here with atmosphere, with the eccentric supporting characters, with the occasionally bizarre comic touches.”
From the jacket:
Peter Dickinson . . .
“has an unusual kind of mind.” — New York Times Book Review
“is the best thing that has happened to serious, sophisticated, witty crime fiction since Michael Innes.” — Sunday Times
“defies categorisation and summary.” — Morning Star
“is a delight to read.” — Times Literary Supplement
“goes in a bit for the high fantastical.” — Evening Standard
“is the best crime writer we have, always absorbingly original.” — Marghanita Laski
“is now the best writer of crime-stories working in this country.” — Birmingham Post
“What makes reading Dickinson a pleasure is that the characters are well drawn and above all human. They make mistakes, have prejudices on both sides of the question, and manage to change, grow, and rise to the occasion as needed. . . . He is also the brightest of writers, capable of real humor and rare intelligence. . . . As a portrait of a unique time and a picture of good people trying to resolve the differences that divide them, coming together for a common good, and facing the very real class divisions that separate them A Summer in the Twenties is a solid smart read.”—Mystery File
Praise for Peter Dickinson’s mysteries:
“The works of British Mystery Writer Peter Dickinson are like caviar-an acquired taste that can easily lead to addiction. Dickinson . . . does not make much of the process of detection, nor does he specialize in suspense. Instead, he neatly packs his books with such old-fashioned virtues as mood, character, and research.”—Time
“Dickinson (author of engagingly offbeat thrillers and children’s books) does splendidly here with atmosphere, with the eccentric supporting characters, with the occasionally bizarre comic touches.”—Kirkus Reviews
Peter Dickinson has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger. He is the author of more than fifty books, including many books for children and young adults such as Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures, The Dancing Bear, and Emma Tupper’s Diary. His crime novels include Death of a Unicorn, The Poison Oracle, and many more. He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley. Find out more at peterdickinson.com.
by Peter DickinsonLeave a Comment
paper · $12 · 9781618730633 | ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730640
A Big Mouth House book.
A girl helps her Scottish cousins dig up their Victorian-era minisubmarine and they pretend to be a monster in a Scottish loch. There are complications!
Emma is spending the summer with her Scottish cousins—who are wonderful material for her attempt to win the School Prize for most interesting holiday diary. The cousins, lofty Andy, reserved Fiona, and fierce Roddy, and “some sort of looker-after person called Miss Newcombe” are experimenting with their grandfather’s dilapidated old mini-submarine to see if they can find a monster in the family loch.
Emma Tupper’s Diary is a sometimes terrifying, sometimes broadly hilarious (Chapter 3: “I am beginning to understand about the Scots,” wrote Emma. “And why they murdered each other so much.”) adventure novel in the spirit of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I Capture the Castle.
Praise for Emma Tupper’s Diary:
“Emma Tupper of Botswana goes to spend the summer in Scotland with her bizarre and hilarious, cantankerous, feuding cousins and writes about it in her journal. They launch a plan to create a loch ness hoax in order to make some money to keep the family going. This involves an ancient submarine and leads to a fascinating discovery when the feud goes too far. Great adventure, for fans of Swallows and Amazons.”
— Jenny Craig, Seattle Public Library
“Loch Ness’s claims pale beside the super-exciting discovery made by Emma . . Expert mystification, the tender conscience and burning courage of the young, tantalising details, make this a compelling tall story.”
“Narration par excellence … The characters and dialogue are yeasty with fun and Emma is a quiet foil for the sometimes mad exuberance of her cousins.”—Saturday Review
“One of the most enthralling books for older children that I have ever read. Peter Dickinson is master of suspense.”—Evening Standard
“Fish out of water Emma must spend the summer in Scotland with cousins she’s never met. They’re somewhat older and get along fine with minimal adult supervision. Even when they plot to take an old submarine out on the nearby loch for a spin, adding a Nessy-like monster head to the top for fun, there’s no one around to urge caution. It’s the sort of family where everyone is whip-smart, conversations are fast and fascinating, and statements of fact are rarely truthful. All of which makes for one extremely suspenseful and surprisingly thought-provoking adventure.”
—Gwenyth Swain (author of Chig and the Second Spread)
“One of my favorite childhood books. . . . Its themes and plot have come around again, and a smart production company should scoop it up for a film adaptation.”
“An enthralling book, with fascinating characters, told with humor and wit, and with a story that just might, barely, be possible.”
“Comedy of manners? Ecological allegory? Adventure? Farce?”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Peter Dickinson’s children’s books:
“One of the real masters of children’s literature.”—Philip Pullman
“Peter Dickinson is a national treasure.”—The Guardian
“Magnificent. Peter Dickinson is the past-master story-teller of our day.”—The Times Literary Supplement
Peter Dickinson is the author of over fifty books including Eva, Earth and Air, and the Michael L. Printz honor book The Ropemaker. He has twice received the Whitbread Prize as well as the Phoenix and Guardian awards, among other awards. He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.
by Alan DeNiroLeave a Comment
November 2013 | trade paper · 9781618730718 | ebook: 9781618730725 | Audio (Audible)
In these 11 stories—and the weird spaces in between—people of all kinds struggle to free themselves from conventions and constraints both personal and political. Places ranging from the farthest reaches of outer space to the creepy abandoned farmhouse in the middle of nowhere become battlegrounds for change and growth—sometimes at a massive cost.
Tyranny takes many forms, some more subtle than others, and it is up to the reader to travel along with the characters, who improvise and create their own renditions of freedom.
“The pitch-dark yet often comic stories in Tyrannia, the second collection and third book by Twin Cities writer Alan DeNiro, throw the reader headfirst into strange, menacing worlds whose contours only gradually become clear (or, perhaps, more complexly mysterious). We sometimes seem to be in a dystopian, totalitarian future, sometimes in a brutal present, sometimes in eerie borderlands.”
—Dylan Hicks, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Minnesotan DeNiro gives us large hunks of riveting weirdness in these 11 stories.”
—Mary Ann Grossman, St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Most of Tyrannia‘s rambunctious, immensely entertaining stories — seven of them science fiction — blend bizarre speculations with intermittent humor. When there isn’t humor, there’s weirdness — often extreme weirdness, funny in its own right. Fair warning: what I’m about to describe might not always make sense. That’s in the nature of this highly unconventional collection.”
—Will George, Bookslut
“Wildness, fierceness, and anarchic imagination are traits, then, to be prized in this book, above beauty, order, and sense—or, in classical terms, the Dionysian over the Apollonian—and process.”
— Strange Horizons
“There’s no other writer like DeNiro working today. His voice is absolutely his own, and while his work can be spiky and challenging, that’s no bad thing – this is a spiky and challenging world, after all, and he just shows us its distorted reflection.”
— Tim Pratt, Locus
“With just one novel and one story collection under his belt, DeNiro has already garnered a reputation as a genre-bending experimental author with an indescribably quirky but captivating prose style. His latest compilation of offbeat tales and novelettes extends his range even further.”—Carl Hays, Booklist
“DeNiro (Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead) has crafted the rare work whose setting is the realm of pure imagination.”
“Quirky, unconventional and outlandish short fiction, bordering on the surreal—and sometimes crossing the border.”
Alan DeNiro talks about “Cudgel Springs” which just appeared in Blue Penny Quarterly.
Poet and fiction writer Alan DeNiro uses language like no other. His second collection of stories explores our relationship to art, history, and looks at how everyday events, personal and political, never cease to leave us off balance.
Plight of the Sycophant
Dancing in a House
Highly Responsive to Prayers
Walking Stick Fires [excerpt on tor.com | audio version from StarShipSofa]
The Flowering Ape
Moonlight Is Bulletproof
The Wildfires of Antartica [Theodore Sturgeon award finalist]
The Philip Sidney Game
Cover by Kevin Huizenga.
Alan DeNiro was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the College of Wooster with a B.A. in English and the University of Virginia with an M.F.A. in creative writing. He is the author of the story collection Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead (Crawford Award finalist; Frank O’Connor Award longlist) and the novel Total Oblivion: More or Less. His short stories have appeared in One Story, Asimov’s, Santa Monica Review, Interfictions, and elsewhere. He lives outside of St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife Kristin Livdahl and their children.
Praise for Alan DeNiro’s books:
“There aren’t many writers who take weirdness as seriously as DeNiro does, and fewer still who can extract so much grounded emotion, gut-dropping humor, and rousing adventure from it. A dizzying display of often brilliant, always strange, and definitely unique storytelling”
—Booklist (starred review)
“A fast-paced, suspenseful dystopian picaresque, part Huck Finn and part bizarro-world Swiss Family Robinson.”
“Macy’s adventure is engaging and absorbing, but it doesn’t make much sense. For those conditioned to the logic of classic science fiction, “Total Oblivion’s” rule-breaking can be frustrating. But readers who are willing to let go will be swept away.”
—Los Angeles Times
“DeNiro’s novel moves the reader along at a lively and crazy pace, engaging interest in Macy and her fate while making subtle references to the sad past and giving frightening glimpses of a scarier future.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Unsettling and never boring, ‘Total Oblivion’ should interest older teens who are hooked on vampires and other dark fantasies. They’ll cheer for Macy, whose courage increases as she does dangerous things she never dreamed of when she was in her safe high school in St. Paul—before everything collapsed.”
—St. Paul Pioneer Press
“Macy narrates this story in a delightful, lighthearted voice that stiffens only a little as she realizes that she will never have a senior year.”
“Chock-a-block with adventure, suspense, and surprise. Apocalyptic family values, too! Recommended to all.”
—Karen Joy Fowler (The Jane Austen Book Club)
Alan DeNiro’s excellent debut novel . . . is the very rare novel that satisfies on a multiple of levels.”
“Wow! This is a wonderfully weird, fun, touching, heartfelt and memorable novel. Imagine if Huck Finn had been living in post-apocalypse America, and Terry Pratchett had been promoted to God, with George Saunders as his avenging angel. The world of this book is a little like that. In this case, the role of Huck is played by a sixteen-year-old-girl named Macy, whose smart, mordant, utterly convincing voice grounds our journey through this crazy landscape. Macy reminds us that no matter how surreal things get, there is still resilience and hope in the human spirit. Alan DeNiro has created a hilarious and terrifying dream world, but his real genius is that he’s peopled it with characters we come to love.”
—Dan Chaon (Await Your Reply)
“Alan DeNiro lifts the modern family drama and sets it down in the middle of a wildly inventive post apocalyptic landscape. The insulated life of Middle America may be a thing of the past, but DeNiro finds a way to lead readers into a future full of humor, imagination, and hope.”
—Hannah Tinti (The Good Thief)
“Deeply weird, sometimes challenging, but always smart and affecting.”
—Locus (Notable Books)
“Deniro’s greatest gifts are those of a poet, and his prose is filled with stunning images and incantatory rhythms. Debuts often come along with press releases touting them as “assured,” and sure enough, Deniro’s was no different. But with talent as deep as his, it’s no wonder Deniro is confident in touring us around his strange worlds.”
—Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago
“Maybe the future of sf is Alan DeNiro. The title story here, set in twenty-third-century Pennsylvania, is its nameless-till-the-last-sentence narrator’s university-application essay, numbered footnotes and all, which explains why not to expect him on campus anytime soon; he is in love and considering getting gills. Maybe DeNiro is the future of alternate history: in “Our Byzantium,” a college town is invaded by horse-and-chariot-led soldiers who demolish cars, wheelchairs, and other machines; reestablish Greek as the lingua franca; and otherwise conquer. He could be fantasy’s tomorrow, too, if the offhandedness of the impossible transformations in “The Cuttlefish,” “The Centaur,” “The Excavation,” and “If I Leap” catches on. In “The Fourth” and “A Keeper,” DeNiro is one of the most powerful, least partisan prophets of consumerist totalitarianism. “Salting the Map” confounds the distinction between artifice and reality as deftly and daftly as Andrew Crumey’s Pfitz (1997) and Zoran Zivkovic’s Impossible Stories (2006). The long closer, “Home of the,” about Erie, Pennsylvania, now and then, is as laconic and associative as its title is elliptic. Refreshing, imaginative, funny-scary stuff.”
—Ray Olson, Booklist
“A commitment to experimental structure and oddball elements provides this debut collection’s consistency…. The collection argues for DeNiro as a writer to watch.”
“Many of these stories unfold like dreams, startling in their detail but elusive in their meaning. Yet, the prosaic as well as the poetic features in these stories as characters attempt to create a detailed but incomplete record, like a dream book of their own histories. Objects such as a college entrance essay, maps, postcards, outdated computer disks, the provenance of a chess set, all become documents which convey the fragility of histories”
“I’m not ordinarily an editor, so finding stories for the first six issues of Fence magazine was a guilty pleasure, and the subsequent work by formerly unknown Fence writers like Kelly Link and Julia Slavin has made me look like a prognosticator, or maybe an annoying drunk guy on a streak at a casino. Now here’s Alan DeNiro, whose “Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead” was always my favorite. I’m thrilled to see him in bookstores at last.”
—Jonathan Lethem (Fortress of Solitude)
“Reading Alan DeNiro’s new collection, Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead, made me feel like a dog that twists its head a bit to the side on hearing a whistle too high for humans to hear. The dog is perplexed and intrigued by the sound — it knows where it’s coming from but not really. Familiar enough, but maybe not. So too with these strong, out of kilter stories. DeNiro blows his own distinctly different sounding whistle and once you’ve heard it, you can’t help but stop and take real notice.”
—Jonathan Carroll (Glass Soup)
“The wholly original, carefully crafted tales that comprise Alan Deniro’s Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead are like colorful pinatas full of live scorpions — playful, unexpected, and deadly serious.”
—Jeffrey Ford (The Girl in the Glass)
by Peter DickinsonLeave a Comment
September 10, 2013 · trade paper · $16 · 978-1-61873-065-7 | ebook · $9.95 · 978-1-61873-066-4
“I think Peter Dickinson is hands down the best stylist as a writer and the most interesting storyteller in my genre.”
—Sara Paretsky, author of Breakdown
Take a medieval Arab kingdom, add a ruler who wants to update the kingdom’s educational facilities, include a somewhat reserved English research psycholinguist (an Oxford classmate of the ruler) invited to pursue his work on animal communication, and then add a touch of chaos in the person of Dinah: a chimpanzee who has begun to learn to form coherent sentences with plastic symbols.
When a murder is committed in the oil-rich marshes, Dinah is the only witness, and Morris has to go into the marshes to discover the truth. The Poison Oracle is a novel of its time that uses the everyday language people use to expose humanity’s thinking and unthinking cruelties to one another and to the animals with whom we share this earth.
Includes an author interview carried out by Sara Paretsky.
Peter Dickinson: “Flukes and Good Guesses”
Audio rights sold to Audible.
Praise for The Poison Oracle:
“Dickinson’s crime novels are simply like no other; sophisticated, erudite, unexpected, intricate, English and deeply, wonderfully peculiar.”
—Christopher Fowler, author of The Memory of Blood
“I have no idea if any of this talk and action is authentic, and I don’t care. Either way it’s marvellous.”—Rex Stout
“Intelligent, elegantly written . . . a thoroughly enjoyable read.”—Sunday Times
“Dickinson’s faceted intelligence provides thoughtful pauses along with the more traditional thriller accoutrements in this provocative tale of the Sultanate of Q’Kut, a tiny oil rich country where Arabs and primitive Marshmen coexist under an ancient treaty. When greed for the oil under the marshes begins to unravel the bond, a British psycholinguist, his experimental chimpanzee and a nubile young terrorist are caught up in the crosscultural currents. A complex dazzler with an extra gene of anthropological authenticity.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“. . . the story is unique, ingenious, and full of surprises.”—Publishers Weekly
“Were there, as in chess, a brilliancy prize for crime action, this should win it . . . Dickinson’s best book.” —Observer
“Intelligent, elegantly written . . . a thoroughly enjoyable read.”—Sunday Times
The Poison Eaters
WITH AS MUCH passion as his tepid nature was ever likely to generate, Wesley Morris stared at Dinah through the observation window. He thought she looked incredibly beautiful, leaning against the heavy wire mesh on the far side, and watching the main group with that air of surprise which Morris knew to mean that she was apprehensive. She looked healthier than most of the others; her coarse black hair had a real sheen to it, and her eyes were bright with vitality.
The others were in a listless mood, though they ought by now to have got over the shock of their arrival; only Murdoch’s baby showed much life, making little exploratory forays away from his mother. Sparrow was gazing with sullen intensity at the air-conditioner; perhaps its thin whine got on his nerves; he couldn’t know how carefully it had been adjusted to produce a temperature and humidity at which he would thrive. The rest merely lolled and slouched. The darkening caused by the one-way glass in the observation window softened the concrete tree-trunks and metal branches, and gave the whole scene the look of a forest glade. Morris was both pleased and disturbed by this illusion of nature.
“Sparrow looks pretty unintelligent,” murmured the Sultan. “
“I don’t know,” said Morris.
“In fact I think he looks decidedly thick. Thicker even than Rowse.”
“You can’t judge them by Dinah—she’s exceptional.”
“So what? If she chooses one of the thick ones . . .”
“It doesn’t work like that. The odds are she’ll be completely promiscuous—she’s just made that way. When she has kids you’ll never know who the fathers were.”
The Sultan knew this perfectly well, but something in his heredity or culture made it hard for him to imagine a set-up in which the males were dominant but did not have exclusive rights to individual females. (Morris had to keep explaining the point to him.)
“Then we ought to start weeding out the thick ones,” he said. Morris recognised in his tone the dangerous moment when a notion was about to harden into a fiat.
“We don’t know which are the thick ones yet,” he protested. “I’ll try to set up a few tests, if I can think of how to do it without mucking up the whole idea. We’ve got plenty of time—Dinah won’t reach puberty for at least a year, so . . .”
“Can’t we speed it up, my dear fellow? Listen, down in the marshes they know a few things that your puritanical scientists have never caught on to. Some of the local aphrodisiacs . . .”
“Certainly not,” snapped Morris.
. . .
Praise for Peter Dickinson’s mysteries:
“He is the true original, a superb writer who revitalises the traditions of the mystery genre . . . incapable of writing a trite or inelegant sentence . . . a master.”—P. D. James
“He sets new standards in the mystery field that will be hard to live up to.”—Ruth Rendell
“He has an eye and a mind and a voice like no other.”—Donald E. Westlake
“A fresh triumph . . . a simultaneous insight into kids and their minders, and emerging nations, and the concept of freedom—all done with consummate storytelling skill.”—Peter Lovesey
“Brilliantly imaginative first detective story . . .wonderfully convincing.”—The Observer
“Mr Dickinson is the most original crime novelist to appear for a long, long time.”—The Guardian
“Brilliantly original, as always.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Wry, witty, irresistible.”—The Financial Times
“A literary magician controlling an apparently inexhaustible supply of effects . . . Craftsmanship such as this makes for compulsive reading.”—Penelope Lively
Peter Dickinson OBE has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger as well as the Guardian Award and Whitbread Prize. His fifty novels include Death of a Unicorn and A Summer in the Twenties. His latest book is a collection, Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures (Big Mouth House). He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.
by Peter DickinsonLeave a Comment
May 2013 · trade paper · $16 · 9781618730404 | ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730411
“Death of a Unicorn has nothing to do with unicorns or fantasies. … This is a mystery by Peter Dickinson….
“The thing about Peter Dickinson is that his books, one from the other, are totally different. … And this is a novel, a mystery, where the mystery doesn’t really happen. The event that is mysterious, the death — if you will — doesn’t really happen until probably two-thirds of the way through the book. And it’s written from the point of view of a young upper-class … woman in England and her relationship with the [financier] of a magazine very much like the New Yorker. …
“I think that this is one of those books that I hope will … introduce people to Peter Dickinson and then they’ll go and pick up all the rest of his books. … But I have to stress these are not for people who want fast-moving thrillers. These are not mysteries in the style of American private-eye stories. These are really character studies and studies of society at a particular place in a particular time.”
—Nancy Pearl, NPR
For bestselling author Lady Margaret, the past is no longer a pleasant memory. Her first lover’s mysterious death and the seeming inevitability of her inheriting the family’s stately home are cast in new light by secrets unwillingly revisited in Dickinson’s wonderful novel of family and friends, work and duty, and above all, love.
Reading Group Questions included.
“Mr. Dickinson has a nice dry wit and a talent for deft characterization.”
—New York Times
“Everything here is exactly right.”
“Peter Dickinson is my own chosen demigod in the pantheon of crime fiction.”
—Laurie R. King
“The Tolkien of the crime novel.”—H.R.F.Keating
Death of a Unicorn is the first in a series of reprints of Peter Dickinson’s mysteries from Small Beer Press. This classic British mystery will win fans currently engrossed in Downton Abbey.
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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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These podcasts are special little moments that pop up in my life, but even when I’m not “on mic” I’m reading to an audience. Every day for almost a decade, I’ve sat with my children and read. Yes, we have a TV. Yes, we have broadband access. But every day we sit together and read novels: novels for kids. That adds up to quite a lot of books.
We read the first book in Lydia Millet’s Dissenters series, The Fires Beneath the Sea, last year, and its sequel, The Shimmers in the Night, earlier this fall. In between, we’ve read quite a number of other books, some of which are just amazing and some of which only part of my tribe actually enjoyed. Hint: it was not the reader. Parenthood has its trials . . .
The Shimmers in the Night was a blast for both reader and audience. Not only that: months later my younger child still asks if the next “Shimmers” book is “ready yet,” while my older child made me solemnly swear to get this particular podcast online “immediately.”
What makes this podcast extra-special is that Lydia Millet herself is the reader. With the help of a friend, she read and recorded Chapter 1. How fricking cool is that?
I hate to listen to recordings of myself if others are nearby, but I know I’ll be listening to this particular edition with two smaller people by my side.
Episode 15: In which Lydia Millet reads chapter 1 of The Shimmers in the Night.
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by Ursula K. Le Guin5 Comments
Don’t miss Ursula K. Le Guin’s acceptance speech upon receiving the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation.
— Profiles in: Boston Globe · The Guardian · NPR · Los Angeles Times · New Yorker · Salon ·
Read the Paris Review interview.
Oregon Book Award winner.
World Fantasy and Locus award finalist.
“There is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin,”wrote Choire Sicha in November. This two-volume collection of her masterful short stories – one book of science fiction, the other of the mundane – “guns from the grim to the ecstatic, from the State to the Garden of Eden, with just one dragon between.”
—Slate Top 10 Books of the Year
“Ursula K. Le Guin is a gift to the world, to the cosmos even. Her works have inspired generations of readers to imagine the endless possibilities of the universe and our own imaginations. Nowhere is the power of Le Guin’s voice more evident than in the nearly forty stories selected for these stunning collections. The first volume includes terrestrial stories full of magical realism and satirical wit. The second volume covers the celestial and the fantastical, straying to the stars and beyond. Both volumes leave the reader in awe of Le Guin’s range and craftsmanship. A perfect addition to any library.”
—Casey Stryer The Elliott Bay Book Co.
Order both volumes together. Use the limited edition (which it isn’t!) button ——>
“A century from now people will still be reading the fantasy stories of Ursula K Le Guin with joy and wonder. Five centuries from now they might ask if their author ever really existed, or if Le Guin was an identity made from the work of many writers rolled into one. A millennium on and her stories will be so familiar, like myths and fairytales today, that only dedicated scholars will ask who wrote them. Such is the fate of the truly great writers, whose stories far outlive their names.”
For fifty years, National Book Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin’s stories have shaped the way her readers see the world. Her work gives voice to the voiceless, hope to the outsider, and speaks truth to power. Le Guin’s writing is witty, wise, both sly and forthright; she is a master craftswoman.
This two-volume selection of almost forty stories taken from her eleven collections was made by Le Guin herself, as was the organizing principle of splitting the stories into the nominally realistic and fantastic.
Where on Earth focuses on Le Guin’s interest in realism and magic realism and includes eighteen of Le Guin’s satirical, political, and experimental earthbound stories.
Highlights include World Fantasy and Hugo Award winner “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight,” the rarely reprinted satirical short, “The Lost Children,” Jupiter Award winner, “The Diary of the Rose,” and the title story of her Pulitzer Prize finalist collection Unlocking the Air.
Stories in this volume were originally published in venues as varied as Playboy, TriQuarterly, Orbit, Redbook, and The New Yorker.
Companion volume Outer Space Inner Lands includes Le Guin’s best known nonrealistic stories. Both volumes include new introductions by the author.
The Unreal and the Real is a much-anticipated event which will delight, amuse, and provoke.
New: Ursula K. Le Guin interviewed on The Millions.
Listen to Ursula K. Le Guin on BBC’s The World.
Robin Morgan interviews UKL, Women’ Media Center live.
Listen to an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin on the Writer’s Voice.
Read an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin on Wired.
“Ursula K. Le Guin is the rare writer whose fiction is equally at home in the New Yorker or in Asimov’s Science Fiction. . . . Whether her stories are set in worlds beyond this one or in the building down the street, Le Guin is an astonishing creator and chronicler of communities, and an observer of the ways in which we interact, for good and for bad. These books serve as a fine reminder of that.”
—Tobias Carroll, Minneapolis Star Tribune
From Julie Phillips essay in Bookslut:
“In an email interview, [David Mitchell] spoke of how Le Guin could dream up a nonexistent world ‘and make it feel more real than the ‘real’ here and now around me, this Worcestershire I’m growing up in. Sometimes I think my writing life is the theory, practice and emulation of that same trick.'”
“I read her nonstop growing up and read her still. What makes her so extraordinary for me is that her commitment to the consequences of our actions, of our all too human frailties, is unflinching and almost without precedent for a writer of such human optimism. She never turns away from how flinty the heart of the world is. It gives her speculations a resonance, a gravity that few writers, mainstream or generic, can match.”
“A lot of her work is about telling stories, and what it means to tell stories, and what stories look like. She’s been extremely influential on me in that area of what I, as a beginning writer, thought a story must look like, and the much more expansive view I have now of what a story can be and can do.”
—Karen Joy Fowler
“I feel possible with her in the world. Too much else denies who I am or who I could imagine myself to be.”
“Le Guin’s science fiction, including The Lathe of Heaven and the antiwar The Word for World Is Forest, ‘helped shape my way of thinking about men and women, love and war. She was and remains a central figure for me.'”
“What can be said about Le Guin that hasn’t already been said? She is one of the most iconic of all living writers, in or out of genre. This two-volume set provides an amazing look at the sheer depth and breadth of her short fiction—and should further add to her influence and her legacy.”
—Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012
“A career-spanning two-volume sampling of Ursula Le Guin’s short stories, in beautiful hardbacks, as chosen and introduced by the author herself. The stories add up to a masterclass in contemporary fiction, divided according to setting—the ones in Where On Earth all take place on some version of this planet, with Outer Space, Inner Lands visiting locations further afield. Even if, like me, you own all nine of Le Guin’s original collections, these books are too beautiful to resist.”
—New Zealand Herald, Best Books of 2012
“The Unreal and the Real guns from the grim to the ecstatic, from the State to the Garden of Eden, with just one dragon between. (Every collection needs one dragon.) In every good career-spanning collection, you can observe an author growing into her authority. Here, every story, in its own way and from its own universe, told in its own mode, explains that there is no better spirit in all of American letters than that of Ursula Le Guin.”
—Slate, “No Better Spirit”
“Le Guin has a tendency to write in a fascinating style, a hybrid of minimalism and just slightly pretentious pithiness; when the story can support that kind of emotional payload, it’s powerful stuff.”
—Nerds of a Feather
“Only ‘Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight’ and ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ are among the author’s well-known classics. On the other hand, read ‘Hand, Cup, Shell’ or ‘The Matter of Segri.’ Then consider that there may really be no such thing as minor Le Guin, particularly if one is disposed to savor a command of the English language that remains nearly unequaled in the ranks of English-language sf and fantasy. Equally good as an introduction to the author’s short fiction or to fill in gaps that may remain in larger collections.”
“The first of a two-volume collection focuses on stories that are occasionally tinged with magic but remain primarily realistic…. This volume shows that SFWA Grand Master Le Guin can make as great a mark outside genre fiction as she did within it.”
Table of Contents
Volume One: Where on Earth
“Introduction: Choosing and Dividing”
“Brothers and Sisters”
“A Week in the Country”
“Unlocking the Air”
“The Diary of the Rose” [audio; BBC Radio 7, read by Laurel Lefkow]
“The Direction of the Road”
“The White Donkey”
“The Lost Children”
“The Water is Wide”
“Hand, Cup, Shell”
“Half Past Four
Praise for Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story collections:
“An important writer. Period.”—The Washington Post
“Witty, satirical and amusing. Yet it is the author’s more serious work that displays her talents best, as she employs recurring themes and elements—cultural diversity, unlikely heroes and heroines, power’s ability to corrupt, love’s power to guide—and considers characters and types (women, children, the differently sexed and gendered) so often disenfranchised by other, more technologically oriented SF writers. . . . [A] classy and valuable collection.”
“Her characters are complex and haunting, and her writing is remarkable for its sinewy grace.”
“Le Guin’s prose is so luminous and simple, and she always tells the truth, and when I’m with her people, I’m with living people, on worlds as solid and real as my own. Le Guin has a gift, which is to transform words into worlds.”
“There is no writer with an imagination as forceful and delicate as Ursula Le Guin’s.”
“[Le Guin] examines the most public of politics and the most intimate of emotions, constantly challenging her readers to reconsider what it means to be human and humane.”
—Mary Doria Russell
“Le Guin brings reality itself to the proving ground.”—Theodore Sturgeon
“A master of the craft.”—Neil Gaiman
“[E]verything Le Guin does is interesting, believable, and exquisitely detailed.”—Los Angeles Herald Examiner
“Delicious . . . her worlds are haunting psychological visions molded with firm artistry.”—Library Journal
“There is no more elegant or discerning expositor than Le Guin.”—Kirkus Reviews
“‘Beauty’ is the word for what Ursula K. Le Guin has wrought here. She explores ways in which we can be foreign and alien to each other, yet still love. Sometimes I don’t even know why the tears had sprung to my eyes: I just knew that I was deeply moved.”—Nalo Hopkinson
“I don’t know anyone else who can do what Le Guin does. Her work is simple and brilliantly clear, like a Buddha’s laugh: joyfully serious, delighted with the joke that is life. Le Guin writes about love, pure and simple—love and all the ways in which it refuses to be bound—and she does so beautifully.”—Nicola Griffith
“Le Guin’s writing touches on something ancient in all of us—something atavistic, of folktales and sagas, that comes from deep inside.”—Carol Emshwiller
“Le Guin is a writer of enormous intelligence and wit, a master storyteller with the humor and the force of a Twain.”
—The Boston Globe
Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received the Hugo, Nebula, Endeavor, Locus, Tiptree, Sturgeon, PEN-Malamud, and National Book Award and the Pushcart and Janet Heidinger Kafka prizes, among others.
In recent years she has received lifetime achievement awards from World Fantasy Awards, Los Angeles Times, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Willamette Writers, as well as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the Library of Congress Living Legends award. Le Guin was the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret Edwards Award.
Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, The Wild Girls, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and Finding My Elegy, New and Selected Poems. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
by Elizabeth Hand5 Comments
November 2012 · trade paper · 9781618730305 / ebook · 9781618730312
Shirley Jackson Award finalist.
“Near Zennor” is a Shirley Jackson Award winner.
Listen to Liz reading “Hungerford Bridge.”
No one is innocent, no one unexamined in Shirley Jackson award-winning author Elizabeth Hand’s new collection of stories. From the mysterious people next door to the odd guy in the next office over, Hand teases apart the dark strangenesses of everyday life to show us the impossibilities, broken dreams, and improbable dreams that surely can never come true.
“At her best, Hand does just this: We find ourselves wrapped in an evocation without knowing fully how she got us there, shivering with fear at an image of lights or blinking with awe at the modest beauty of a small, rare creature living its life, seen from a distance.”
—Aimee Bender, Washington Post
“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.”
“As I was reading Errantry: Strange Stories, the phone rang. I answered it and whispered ‘Hello?’
“‘Why are you whispering?’ asked my friend.
“‘I’m reading this really bizarre book of short stories,’ I said. That was my short answer. But the long answer is this: I’m whispering because as I was reading Hand’s stories in my quiet house on a cold December day, the threads of my reality frayed a bit along the edges and it would take more than a telephone’s ring for me to pull myself back together. I’m whispering because I’m scared to disturb the intricate and delicate worlds that Hand has created in this collection of stories that alternately draw me in and scare me away.”
—Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
I thought of this tendency a lot when reading Elizabeth Hand’s collection Errantry: Strange Stories. Though I know that Hand’s background is in work that’s less overtly realistic, I know her best through her kinda-mystery Generation Loss, which is as much a meditation on art and the passage of time, and an evocative description of an isolated coastal town in Maine, as it is a book in which someone must solve something. What makes Hand’s collection notable are those moments where the fantastical (or at least the surreal) briefly collides with the mundane, but doesn’t necessarily lead to transcendence. A couple of the stories involve brief encounters with the strange, but it’s less about the existence of the supernatural than it is on the effects of having one’s worldview fundamentally altered. In the two stories that open the collection, “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” and “Near Zennor,” strange things occur, but they’re within the larger contexts of memory and grief, and they’re as difficult for their characters to put together as more earthly mysteries.”
— Tobias Carroll, Vol. 1 Brooklyn
“Hand’s strangeness is redolent of the sort of disturbing, uncanny children’s books that gave you nightmares at the age of nine (for me, Alan Garner): books with malevolent forces lurking under sunny hillsides, where adults aren’t going to save our heroes, and whose endings are staggeringly bleak.”
— Nic Clarke, Strange Horizons
“Hand’s stories here are more expansive, yet have that undercurrent of a formless force closing in, be it weather, or birds gathering in a falling evening sky.”
—Helen McCrory, Pank
“The stories confound yet delight, blurt unanswerable questions yet hold their tongue. Each will leave you scratching your head and asking, “Well, what if . . . ?” Overcoming the constraints of genre, Errantry is strange fiction at its finest.”
“No writer has cornered the market on darkly beautiful, unsettling stories. But it’s a niche that Elizabeth Hand inhabits with uncanny ease.”
—Maine Sunday Telegram
“Talented Hand has won the World Fantasy Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Tiptree Award and the Nebula Award, among many others. The reason for this lies less in her imaginative worlds, as impressive as they can be, and more in her skill at crafting words, each phrase and each sentence carefully shaped and laid in place to create the singular diadem that is a Hand story. The tales here are all recent, and are all evidence of Hand’s prolific, fertile imagination. Hand enthusiasts should, of course, have already pre-ordered this collection; those new to her work should acquire it as soon as possible.”
—Romantic Times Book Review
“Explores the odd and impossible dreams that can motivate and dishearten people in everyday life.”
—Bangor Daily News
Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012
“Just more evidence of the self-assurance and complexity Hand has brought to fiction in the middle part of her career.”
“When novelist and short story author Hand (“Available Dark; Generation Loss”) subtitled this collection “Strange Stories,” she gave readers a hint about what to expect. Lord Byron said “what a strange thing man is…” and it is true, everyone is a little strange, life is a little strange. This original, varied, collection of stories is not strictly fantasy, and certainly not horror, for Hand is more subtle than that. The stories are so different from each other it is hard to find a common theme or thread, but whether reading about ordinary people sharing peculiar experiences, people undergoing fantastic transformations, a young woman with supernatural powers, or a pair of witches, each story leaves the reader curious, thinking about what they read, but disquieted, with a lingering, though not necessarily unpleasant, sense of unease. VERDICT An enjoyable trip to the dark side, certainly worth a try for those who enjoy short stories but not necessarily elements of fantasy, and a must for fans of Hand’s previous work.–Shaunna Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll. Lib., VA
“Ten evocative novellas and stories whisper of hidden mysteries carved on the bruised consciousness of victims and victimizers. Memories and love are as dangerous as the supernatural, and Hand often denies readers neat conclusions, preferring disturbing ambiguity. The Hugo-nominated “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” marries science fiction and magical realism as three men recreate a legendary aircraft’s doomed flight for a dying woman. A grieving widow in “Near Zennor” unearths a secret of spectral kidnapping in an ancient countryside. “Hungerford Bridge,” a lesser piece, shares a secret that can only be enjoyed twice in one’s life. Celtic myth and human frailty entangle in the darkly romantic “The Far Shore.” The vicious nature of romantic love is dissected with expressionistic abandon in the dreamlike “Summerteeth.” Hand’s outsiders haunt themselves, the forces of darkness answering to the calls of their battered souls. Yet strange hope clings to these surreal elegies, insisting on the power of human emotion even in the shadow of despair. Elegant nightmares, sensuously told.”
Table of Contents
The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon
Hungerford Bridge [audio]
The Far Shore
Cruel Up North
The Return of the Fire Witch
Cover image “The Hunt in the Forest” by Paolo Uccello by permission of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.
My podcastery life doesn’t get much better than this. Two of my favorites in one audio track: Benjamin Parzybok and Michael J. DeLuca. Benjamin Parzybok’s story “The Coder” was first published in Lady Churchhill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 21. We bring it to you in audio for the first time. Not only that. Michael J. DeLuca makes another guest appearance on the Small Beer Podcast. Michael is more than a guest reader; he is a passionate advocate of “The Coder.” He spent long hours with his laptop, software and microphone getting the digital track just right. I can’t think of a better homage to this particular Parzybok story.
For those of you who follow such things, Episode No. 4 of our podcast features an excerpt of Ben’s novel, Couch. In other words, we are returning to the scene of the Parzybok crime. Ben is currently finishing his second novel, Sherwood Nation. You can find out about Ben and all his various projects at his site, ideacog.net.
Episode 14: In which Michael J DeLuca read’s Benjamin Parzybok’s “The Coder.”
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by Peter DickinsonLeave a Comment
October 2012 · 208pp · 9781618730589 · trade cloth · $17.95 | 9781618730381 · trade paper · $14.95 | 9781618730398 · ebook · $9.95
Tales of Elemental Creatures
A Junior Library Guild Selection
Wall Street Journal: The Best Fiction of 2012
“Much modern fantasy draws upon myth and folklore, but not many authors can enter wholly into the surprising and novel logic of myth. In this brilliant collection of stories, Peter Dickinson recasts Beowulf and Orpheus, investigates tales of earth-spirits, explains the footwear of Mercury and accounts for the survival of Athena’s owls in Christian Byzantium. These beautiful stories, our reviewer believed, ‘deserve to become classics of the genre.'”
“Enjoyable surprises await those who pick up this latest and last addition to the Tales of Elemental Creatures series. Peter Dickinson, working alone (he co-authored the first two collections, Water and Fire with wife Robin McKinley), once again proves his expertise in fantasy and short story writing…. The pleasure of reading a short story by this author stems from his complete control over the essentials of fiction writing…. A true delight, this engrossing collection will lead many readers back for second and third readings.”
“Mining folklore for ideas is routine in modern fantasy, but not many can add the surprising twists and novel logic that Peter Dickinson does. These are beautiful stories, deft, satisfying, unexpected. They deserve to become classics of the genre.”
—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal
Peter Dickinson has long been one of our favorite authors and we are very proud and happy to announce that we are publishing a new collection of stories by Dickinson—and we will go on from here to reprint many of his novels for both children and adults.
In this collection, you will find stories that range from the mythic to contemporary fantasy to science fiction. You will find a troll, gryphons, a beloved dog, the Land of the Dead, an owl, a minotaur, and a very alien Cat. Earth and Air is the third and final book in a trilogy of shared collections connected by the four classical elements. It follows previous volumes Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, written by both Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley.
Ridiki is Steff’s beloved dog, named after Eurydice, whom the poet Orpheus tried to bring back from the dead. When, like her namesake, Ridiki is bitten by a snake and dies, Steff decides that he too should journey to the Underworld to ask the King of the Land of the Dead for his dog back.
Mari is the seventh child of a family in which troll blood still runs. When her husband goes missing in a Scottish loch, she must draw upon the power of her blood to rescue him. Sophie, a young girl, fashions a witch’s broomstick out of an ash sapling, and gets more than she bargained for. An escaped slave, Varro, must kill a gryphon, in order to survive. A boy named Yanni allies himself with an owl and a goddess in order to fight an ancient evil. A group of mind-bonded space travelers must face an unknown threat and solve the murder of a companion before time runs out.
All of these stories are about, in one way or another, the contrary and magical pull of two elements, Earth and Air. Each story showcases the manifold talents of a master storyteller and craftsman who has twice won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award, as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
A short interview on F&SF about “Troll Blood.”
“I particularly enjoyed “Ridiki”, a version of the Eurydice story substituting a boy’s beloved dog Ridiki for Eurydice, and “Wizand”, which cleverly portrays the unusual lifecycle of the wizand, which confers power on witches, including, in this story, a 20th-century girl named Sophie. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the final story, “The Fifth Element”, which doesn’t as obviously deal with an “elemental creature” as the other stories. Instead, it’s an odd science fiction horror story, that reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s first published story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and Robert Sheckley’s “Specialist”, in telling of the multispecies crew of a sort of tramp starship, and what happens when their “ship’s Cat” dies.”
—Rich Horton, Locus
The prevailing spirit of Earth and Air seems to be Mercury, the sardonic trickster. Read it with your mind open, senses alert… and prepare for a marvelously bumpy ride.
–Faren Miller, Locus
“Dickinson completes the series of “elemental” tales he began with his wife Robin McKinley (Water, rev. 7/02; Fire, rev. 11/09). Though links to the theme can be tenuous, these six new stories are provocative in both variety and ideas. . . .and with Dickinson’s usual command of imaginative imagery and beautifully tooled language, this is a fitting capstone to the series.”
“The prevailing tone of all six is somewhat dark, even saturnine, though not without flashes of hope. In content and style, they are sophisticated and challenging to the extent that the volume might have been published as an adult book. Certainly it has strong crossover appeal. Older teens and Dickinson fans of all ages will find the stories rewarding despite the investment of effort in the reading experience.”
“Noted fantasist Dickinson concludes the cycle of elemental stories he began with Robin McKinley in Fire (BCCB 11/09) and Water (BCCB 7/02) in a solo outing with tales of earth and air spirits. Aside from the sci-fi influenced final story, “The Fifth Element,” the five preceding tales evoke an old-world flavor of magic, incorporating pieces of Greek mythology and European folklore, sometimes placing archetypal beings in the modern world of cars and email. Appropriately, the two tales focusing on earth creatures, “Troll Blood” and “Wizand” (yes, that is the right spelling), are characterized by densely loaded prose and deal with themes of love, lust, and possession. Without McKinley’s more adolescent-focused contributions, the stories lean more toward a new adult audience, though the two animal-centered stories, “Ridiki” and “Scops,” will appeal to pet-friendly readers, particularly dog lovers. These stories are nonetheless thoughtful and provocative, and they will find an audience among Dickinson’s usual fans.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This is ultimately a wonderfully hopeful work, with glimpses at some of the best of human nature: compassion, love, a sense of right and fairness, and a correspondingly humane response from the supernatural powers.”
—School Library Journal
“These unusual, memorable tales from a much-admired writer should appeal both to teens and Dickinson’s adult fans.”
“Strange, sometimes beautiful tales.”
“They are beautifully told and move so effortlessly that I was startled to discover I’d read the book in one sitting.”
Reviews of “Troll Blood”
“Another story which will stay with me is Peter Dickinson’s “Troll Blood.” Mari is a young researcher of Old Norse, with a curious family history. She develops a friendship with her professor, marries the love of her life, and through these relationships she explores her ancestral connections. This is a heart-warming fantasy story of love, trust and honour, held together by lush, sophisticated prose. My one criticism is it jumps about geographically, making is a bit hard to follow at times, but overall this is a beautiful story.”
—Barbara Melville, Tangent
“If some crafty Tilton-hunter were setting a snare, there could be no better bait than a piece like this. Old manuscripts. Old Norse. Beowulf. Even for those readers not so predisposed to love manuscript neep, the story of the troll and the bargain works well, for a story of a troll. I’m not quite so smitten by the biology and the verse, but it’s still another win for this issue.
—Lois Tilton, Locus
Table of Contents
The Fifth Element
Praise for Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits
World Fantasy Award finalist
“There is plenty here to excite, enthrall, and move even the pickiest readers.”—School Library Journal
“… a collection of enchanting tales.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits
“This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome.”—School Library Journal
“Dickinson’s offerings are notable for their sophisticated magical thinking and subtlety of expression.”—The Horn Book
“Dickinson’s stories are told with a storyteller’s cadence.”—Booklist
“This collection … offers something for every fantasy fan.”—Library Media Connection
by Lydia MilletLeave a Comment
September 2012 | 256pp · 978-1-931520-78-2 · trade cloth · $16.95 | 978-1-931520-79-9 · ebook · $9.95
This might be the worst weekend of Cara’s life. Her mother is still missing and her brother Jax is off at “smart kid boot camp” in Boston. When he texts Cara asking to be rescued, she and her two best friends, Hayley and Jaye, go into action. The so-called boot camp is actually a front for Cara’s mother’s organization, which is fighting a force which brooks no dissent against its wish to make the planet over in its own image—to “clean it up,” leaving no space for anything else, animal, insect, or human.
And human doesn’t really mean what everyone thinks it does. . . .
The three girls have to escape a new elemental threat, “Burners,” and learn about the enemy’s horrifying plan to “hollow out” people and use them as weapons.
Tension ratchets up as Cara and her friends learn more about the threat their mother is fighting, about how unusual Cara’s mother really is, about how some of the people they’ve known all their lives might be their enemies, about what it means to be human, and most strange and wonderful of all, about the mysterious band of rebels they have suddenly joined.
The Shimmers in the Night is the second thrilling novel in the Dissenters series following The Fires Beneath the Sea.
“It is the week before Halloween and Cara’s younger brother, Jax, is off to Cambridge for a two-week stint at a “genius-kid” camp. He has special abilities that allow him to read minds (or in other words, “ping” them). Cara is busy herself, leaving to go out of town for a competitive swim meet with her friends. She is there when Jax texts her for help, “SCARED TELL NO 1 PLZ COME!” She finds a way to secretly leave, going unnoticed by her coach and Mrs. M. Cara soon enters a world of men with fire in their mouth; people with angel wings; and a brother that has been hollowed to be used as a weapon. Fortunately, Cara recruits her friends and they all work together in fighting the dark forces. This second book in this new fantasy series will not disappoint. Characters are given enough dimension that the fantasy elements are believable. Readers will identify with Cara’s strong ties to her family and friends, who find out that people they might have known for most of their lives are closer to being their enemies. Readers will want to leave the lights on well after finishing this book as the detail depicted will create similarities in your mind to Clive Barker’s Abarat books. Readers will likely want Cara on their team as they jump, like Alice down the rabbit hole, through the guide book that turns into a window through another world.”
“The seemingly three-tiered conflict that emerged in The Fires Beneath the Sea (2011) coalesces into a single war. . . . Cara and her brothers (though not their oblivious dad) know their mom’s involved in a confrontation that connects murderous mythical creatures with global warming. Cara leaves Cape Cod for a Boston swim meet, but a frightened text from Jax (a classic genius-younger-brother archetype–think Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time) says he’s endangered at his Cambridge genius-kid camp. She sneaks off to fetch him, and a man with flames inside his mouth accosts her on the subway. He’s a Burner, an elemental who belongs to the army of the Cold. The Cold steals people’s consciousnesses (including Jax’s) and uses their bodies as “hollows” to serve his Carbon War, which is acidifying oceans and extinguishing species. . . . Nicely serious eco-fantasy. . . .”
Lydia Millet is the author of many novels, including My Happy Life (PEN-USA Award winner), Oh Pure and Radiant Heart (shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award), and Ghost Lights. Her short story collection Love in Infant Monkeys was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She works at an endangered-species protection group and has just been named a Guggenheim fellow. The Shimmers in the Night is the second book in the Dissenters series. The first book, The Fires Beneath the Sea has just come out in paperback.
Cover by Sharon McGill.
Author photo by Ivory Orchid Photography.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Millet, Lydia, 1968-
The shimmers in the night : a novel / Lydia Millet. — 1st ed.
Summary: “Cara’s mother is still missing. When her brother Jax texts her from “smart kid’s boot camp” in Boston, Cara and her two best friends go to the rescue. But the camp is a front for Cara’s mother’s organization who are fighting against a force who wants to make the planet over in its own image, which will leave no space for anything else, animal, insect, or human”– Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-931520-78-2 (hardback) — ISBN 978-1-931520-79-9 (ebook)
[1. Supernatural–Fiction. 2. Brothers and sisters–Fiction. 3. Psychic ability–Fiction. 4. Missing persons–Fiction. 5. Family life–Massachusetts–Fiction. 6. Cape Cod (Mass.)–Fiction.] I. Title.
by Kij Johnson5 Comments
September 11th, 2012 · Second printing: November 2012 · Third printing: October 2013 · trade paperback: 9781931520805 · ebook: 9781931520812
“These stories are filled with new ideas, new structures, and new ways of looking at the world. Kij Johnson has a singular vision and I’m going to be borrowing (stealing) from her.”
- World Fantasy Award finalist
- Chosen for the One Campus, One Book program at the University of Alaska Southeast
— Watch the video!
- Best of 2012: Publishers Weekly, Guardian, Shelf Awareness, Omivoracious
The wrenching and provocative debut collection from the author of The Fox Woman and Fudoki. Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards and, for the last three years running, the Nebula Award.
Johnson’s stories range from historical Japan (Sturgeon award winner “Fox Magic”) to metafictional explorations of story structure (“Story Kit”). Nebula award winners “Spar” and “Ponies” are perhaps most shocking and captivating, but each of the seventeen stories here is a highlight selected from Johnson’s more than two decades of work.
These stories feature cats, bees, wolves, dogs, and even that most capricious of animals, humans, and have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and The Secret History of Fantasy.
At the Mouth of the River of Bees is one of the most anticipated debut science fiction short story collections in recent years.
Slate: Dan Kois’ 15 Favorite Books of 2012
“Wondrously strange and sinister stories of other worlds, future times, and everyday life gone haywire. Plus: A cat walks 100 miles through Heian-era Japan in the loveliest short story I read all year.”
The Guardian: Adam Roberts, Christmas gifts 2012: the best science fiction
“The best short-story collection I read this year was Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees (Small Beer Press). She is a writer who is always fresh, always dazzling.”
Shelf Awareness: Reviewers Choice 2012 Favorites
“Three Nebula-winning stories anchor Kij Johnson’s collection of stories, where psychological realism and hallucinatory vision combine to masterful effect. Johnson shifts easily from domestic dramas to conflicts on alien worlds, touching on small emotional moments that will linger in your memory as vividly as her fantastic imagery.” —Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com
Omnivoracious: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Collections of 2012
“Ranging from the more traditional to tales that push buttons and boundaries, from fantasy to science fiction and beyond.”
“Ursula Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson’s first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR
“For all the distances traveled and the mysteries solved, those strange, inexplicable things remain. This is Johnson’s fiction: the familiar combined with the inexplicable. The usual fantastic. The unknowable that undergirds the everyday.”
—Sessily Watt, Bookslut
“In her first collection of short fiction, Johnson (The Fox Woman) covers strange, beautiful, and occasionally disturbing territory without ever missing a beat. . . . Johnson’s language is beautiful, her descriptions of setting visceral, and her characters compellingly drawn. These 18 tales, most collected from Johnson’s magazine publications, are sometimes off-putting, sometimes funny, and always thought provoking.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[The] stories are original, engaging, and hard to put down. . . . Johnson has a rare gift for pulling readers directly into the heart of a story and capturing their attention completely. Those who enjoy a touch of the other in their reading will love this collection.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“When she’s at her best, the small emotional moments are as likely to linger in your memory as the fantastic imagery. Johnson would fit quite comfortably on a shelf with Karen Russell, Erin Morgenstern and others who hover in the simultaneous state of being both “literary” and “fantasy” writers.”
“The book overflows with stories that, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, can never be taken for granted; they change in your hands, turn and shift, take on new faces, new shapes. Their breathing grows heavy, soft, then heavy again. You lean in close.”—James Sallis, F&SF
“Kij Johnson has won short fiction Nebula awards in each of the last three years. All three winning stories are in this collection; when you read the book, you may wonder why all the others didn’t win awards as well. “Ponies”, to pick just one, is a shatteringly powerful fantasy about the least lovely aspects of human social behaviour… and also about small girls and their pet horses. Evocative, elegant, and alarmingly perceptive, Johnson reshapes your mental landscape with every story she writes.”
—David Larsen, New Zealand Herald
“The bizarre and persnickety tales, like bottled ships, in Kij Johnson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees include old Asian fables (a fox woman seduces a human) and future planets (though of backward cultures), often testifying to the survival of women in the face of random violence. . . . Apparently, Johnson publishes in fantasy and SF mags because they’re the only ones who’d have her, though New Yorker should be so lucky.”
“Kij Johnson’s writing is sometimes elegant and graceful; sometimes deliberately raw. These stories range from the human to the frightening to the complicated to the self-referential to the moving, and some even manage to be all these things at the same time. At the Mouth of the River of Bees is an excellent reminder of what short fiction at its best can do.”
—Things Mean a Lot
“‘Ponies’ . . . reads like the sort of thing that might have happened if Little Golden Books had inadvertently sent a contract to Chuck Palahniuk. . . . It’s not surprising that [“The Man Who Bridged the Mist”] won the Nebula Award and garnered Hugo, Sturgeon, and Locus nominations, since it’s a stunning example of what Johnson does best – using the materials of SF, fantasy, myth, and even romance not as genres to inhabit, but as tools for building or, you could say, as a kind of story kit. ”
—Gary K. Wolfe, Locus
“A wonderful collection…. I was entranced.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“Speculative fiction at its unnerving best, as well as an illuminating lens on the tradition of folklore and its power.”
—The Ohio State University Journal
“It is in the stories of love and loss that Johnson writes her finest work.”
—Nerds of a Feather
Locus, October 2012
Radio and podcasts:
Kij Johnson on Writer’s Voice: Writer’s Voice Drew Adamek spoke with Johnson about her new collection, the challenges facing women in science fiction and what new writers should do to break into the business.
Kij Johnson and Patrick Hester at SF Signal.
“Award-winning NCSU alum Kij Johnson returns to Triangle with new book”
Early Readers Responses
“The variety is tremendous, exhilarating. “26 Monkeys” is as different from “Chenting” as “Names for Water” is from “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” and each one is differently excellent.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
“This collection is a landmark. I can’t think of any other writer whose stories terrify me the way Johnson’s do. But they’re so intelligent and human and weirdly perfect, I can’t stay away.”
“Kij Johnson’s first collection is a marvelous gift to the reader. Her stories are simultaneously playful and melancholic; expansive, but also finely detailed. They take us many places—to the past, to the future, to imaginary and exotic worlds. In each, Johnson shows us things we never dreamed of, but won’t now forget. A writer of range, originality, precision, and power. Enthusiastically recommended.”
—Karen Joy Fowler
“Nobody writes like Kij Johnson. Nobody. Nobody finds the interstices of a story the way she does. Nobody dives down into the deep pockets of a story, coming up with the change for the ending. Nobody.”
“Not only has Kij Johnson mastered the tools of her craft but she has forged a few that the rest of us haven’t yet got. Read, for instance “Ponies” or “Story Kit” and ask yourself what other writer could have conceived them, much less carried them off. These wise, sometimes sad, always magical stories linger long after you turn the page. At the Mouth of the River of Bees is very possibly the most important collection of the year and Kij Johnson is a writer you need to know.”
—James Patrick Kelly
“Kij Johnson is one of the three or four best short fiction writers of the past quarter century. She is not, however, one of the most prolific, and she’d damned well better do something about that.”
Table of Contents
At the Mouth of the River of Bees
26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss [read listen]
The Horse Raiders
Spar [read or listen]
Names for Water [listen]
My Wife Reincarnated as a Solitaire
Chenting, in the Land of the Dead
The Bitey Cat
Dia Chjerman’s tale [read]
The Empress Jingu Fishes
The Man Who Bridged the Mist [read or listen]
Ponies [read or listen]
The Cat Who Walked a Thousand Miles [read or listen]
The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change
Kij Johnson’s stories have won the Sturgeon and World Fantasy awards. She has taught writing; worked at Tor, Dark Horse, Wizards of the Coast, and Microsoft; worked as a radio announcer; run bookstores; and waitressed in a strip bar.
9/14 DreamHaven Books, 2301 East 38th Street, Minneapolis MN 55406
9/18 7 p.m. The Raven, 6 East 7th St., Lawrence, KS, 66044
9/26 Writers Voice interview air date
9/29 7 p.m. Ad Astra Books & Coffee House, 141 N. Santa Fe, Salina, KS 67401
10/9 Quail Ridge Books, Ridgewood Shopping Center, 3522 Wade Avenue, Raleigh, NC
10/25 7 p.m. The Big Tent at The Raven, 6 East 7th St., Lawrence, KS, 66044
11/24 1 p.m. Uncle Hugo’s Books, 2864 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis MN 55407
Leave a Comment
There are just so many lovely people in the world. That was my conclusion after talking with David Thompson, the co-editor and host of Podcastle. He just showed up one day and offered to read a story for our little podcast. Well, of course, we said yes.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the pairing we’ve come up with: David Thompson reads Benjamin Rosenbaum. “Sense and Sensibility” is a wild mash-up of Jane Austin, the German comic-grotesteque and Gormenghast, a perfect story for the dog days of summer.
But wait, there’s more! Because we know one Rosenbaum story is just never enough, Small Beer is offering Benjamin’s collection, The Ant King and Other Stories, as a free Creative Commons licensed ebook download.
David’s first audiobook, Tim Pratt’s Briarpatch, will be coming out this fall while Benjamin’s latest story, “Elsewhere,” can be found at Strange Horizons. First though, I hope you’ll spend a little time with both David and Benjamin, a truly excellent pairing.
Episode 12: In which David Thompson read’s Benjamin Rosenbaum’s “Sense and Sensibility.”
Subscribe to the Small Beer podcast using iTunes or the service of your choice:
by Lydia Millet
April 2012 · 280 pp · trade paperback · 9781931520478
— Includes a sneak preview of the second book in the Dissenters series, The Shimmers in the Night
July 2011 · 256 pp · hardcover · 9781931520713 | ebook · 9781931520416
Start reading now on Wattpad.
A Junior Library Guild Pick
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011
Selected for the ABC Best Books for Children Catalog
Locus Notable Books
Turkish rights sold to Ithaki.
Cara’s mother has disappeared. Her father isn’t talking about it. Her big brother Max is hiding behind his iPod, and her genius little brother Jackson is busy studying the creatures he collects from the beach. But when a watery specter begins to haunt the family’s Cape Cod home, Cara and her brothers realize that their scientist mother may not be who they thought she was—and that the world has much stranger, much older inhabitants than they had imagined.
With help from Cara’s best friend Hayley, the three embark on a quest that will lead them from the Cape’s hidden, ancient places to a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. They’re soon on the front lines of an ancient battle between good and evil, with the terrifying “pouring man” close on their heels.
Packed with memorable characters and thrilling imagery, Lydia Millet weaves a page-turning adventure even as she brings the seaside world of Cape Cod to magical life. The first in a series of books about the Sykes children, The Fires Beneath the Sea is a rip-cracking middle-grade novel that will make perfect beach reading—for readers of any age!
* “Millet’s prose is lyrically evocative (“the rhythmic scoop and splash of their paddles”). A lush and intelligent opener for a topical eco-fantasy series.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review) Read more
by Delia Sherman11 Comments
Norton Award winner
Prometheus Award winner
Mythopoeic Award winner
ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011
Tiptree Award Honor List
- Rights sold
Audio: Listening Library.
Paperback: Candlewick Press.
French: Editions Helium/Actes Sud.
UK/Commonwealth: Constable & Robinson
- An interview with Delia Sherman on Rambling On.
- Delia Sherman Week @ Fantasy Matters: review, interview, “Judging a Book by Its Cover: The Freedom Maze,” and “The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: The Work of Kathleen Jennings.”
- Delia writes about the Big Idea behind the novel: “Eighteen years ago, I was stuck.”
- Delia’s guest post on Diversity in YA: “When I began writing The Freedom Maze, back in 1987, I didn’t intend to write a book about race.”
- Listen to an interview with Delia Sherman and a reading from The Freedom Maze.
- Download the first chapter. [PDF link]
- Launch party photos.
Set against the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and then just before the outbreak of the Civil War, The Freedom Maze explores both political and personal liberation, and how the two intertwine.
In 1960, thirteen-year-old Sophie isn’t happy about spending summer at her grandmother’s old house in the Bayou. But the house has a maze Sophie can’t resist exploring once she finds it has a secretive and playful inhabitant.
When Sophie, bored and lonely, makes an impulsive wish inspired by her reading, hoping for a fantasy adventure of her own, she slips one hundred years into the past, to the year 1860. On her arrival she makes her way, bedraggled and tanned, to what will one day be her grandmother’s house, where she is at once mistaken for a slave.
“Forced to spend her summer at her grandmother’s Southern house in the 1960’s, Sophie unwittingly finds herself transported to the Civil War era as a slave of her ancestors.”
—ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
“Ensnares the reader with mysteries and conundrums of many varieties: social, historical, and magical. Adroit, sympathetic, both clever and smart, The Freedom Maze will entrap young readers and deliver them, at the story’s end, that little bit older and wiser.”
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz
“The Freedom Maze is, frankly, a stunning book on every level.”
“Ambitious . . . vividly evokes two historical settings, turning a glaring light on the uncomfortable attitudes and practices of earlier eras.”
—Jonathan Hunt, The Horn Book
“Delia Sherman riffs on Edward Eager’s classic The Time Garden in her deeply affecting time travel and coming-of-age novel The Freedom Maze. . . . Realistic, compelling, and not the slightest bit condescending, The Freedom Maze is all about changing your world. Well done, Ms. Sherman.”
—Colleen Mondor, Bookslut
“There are books you just know will stay with you forever. This is one of them. Rating: 10: Perfect.”
— Book Smugglers
“It’s 1960, but on the decayed Fairchild sugar plantation in rural Louisiana, vestiges of a grimmer past remain—the old cottage, overgrown garden maze, relations between white and black races.
“Stuck for the summer in the family ancestral home under the thumb of her cranky, imperious grandmother, Sophie, 13, makes a reckless wish that lands her in 1860, enslaved—by her own ancestors. Sophie’s fair skin and marked resemblance to the Fairchilds earn her “easy” employment in the big house and the resentment of her peers, whose loyalty she’ll need to survive. Plantation life for whites and blacks unfolds in compelling, often excruciating detail. A departure from Sherman’s light fantasy Changeling (2006), this is a powerfully unsettling, intertextual take on historical time-travel fantasy, especially Edward Eager’s Time Garden (1958), in which white children help a grateful enslaved family to freedom. Sophie’s problems aren’t that easily resolved: While acknowledging their shared kinship, her white ancestors refuse to see her as equally human. The framing of Sophie’s adventures within 1960 social realities prompts readers to consider what has changed since 1860, what has not—for Sophie and for readers half a century later—and at what cost.
“Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking, a timely read on the sesquicentennial of America’s Civil War.”
—Kirkus Reviews (*starred review*)
“Halfway through the narrative, I thought a tale like this could be improved if we can see how the transformation has changed the character—more than a glimpse given the amount of time spent developing the opening. This was exactly what Sherman did…. This is a novel worth checking out: a fine exemplar of a well-written children’s book, or of the fantastic for fans of history and especially of the Civil War, reminiscent in ways of Octavia Butler’s Kindred.”
—Trent Walters, SF Site
“While heartache thrums throughout the book–children have been sold away from their parents, bodies are worked like machines and beaten liberally, living conditions are despicable–there is the clear bell of hope, that sound in children’s literature that is too tough to destroy.”
—The Pirate Tree
“Sherman has created a finely honed work of art, a novel that deals eloquently with complex and intersecting issues of race, womanhood, class and age. In transporting the reader so fully into another time, The Freedom Maze becomes timeless. This is true magic.”
—Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Moonshine
“A seamless blending of wondrous American myth with harsh American reality, as befits young Sophie’s coming-of-age. I think younger readers and adults alike will be completely riveted by her magical journey into her own family’s double-edged past.”
—N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
“This is an absolutely fascinating story. The Freedom Maze draws you into a world of danger and mystery, of daring and change, at the dawning of the Civil War. Sophie’s adventures in the history of her family’s Louisiana plantation feel real, and lead her to a real understanding of racial truths she would never have caught a glimpse of without magic. Beautifully imagined and told with satisfyingly matter-of-fact detail: pot liquor and spoon bread, whips and Spanish Moss, corset covers and vévés and bitter, healing herbs. The Freedom Maze is deep, meaningful fun.”
—Nisi Shawl, author of Filter House
“Sherman’s antebellum story exposes a wide sweep through a narrow aperture, where the arbitrary nature of race and ownership, kindred and love, are illuminated in the harsh seeking glare of an adolescent’s coming of age.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“A bold and sensitively-written novel about a supposed-white child, Sophie Fairchild returned magically to a time of her ancestors who were slavemaster and slaves in the old South. This book puts the lie to those today making loose political statements about happy, comfortable slave families of that brutal era while telling a strong story that will not let the young reader stop turning pages to see how things will work out for Sophie and her fellow slaves, especially the cook Africa, and house slaves Antigua and Canada. I was mesmerized.”
—Jane Yolen, author of The Devil’s Arithmetic
“A riveting, fearless, and masterful novel. I loved Sophie completely.”
—Nancy Werlin, author of Extraordinary
“A subtle and haunting book that examines what it means to be who we are.”
—Holly Black, co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles
“The Freedom Maze is destined to become a classic of time-travel fantasy alongside Edward Eager’s Time Garden and Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Sherwood Ring. Yes, it is thatgood. But it’s also something more: a novel that slides skillfully past all the usual stereotypes about plantation life in the ante-bellum South, encouraging young readers to look at race, gender, and American history in a deeper, more nuanced way. It is, quite simply, one of the very best books I’ve read in years. Now I want everyone to read it.”
“Vividly realized and saturated with feeling.”
—Elizabeth Knox, author of DreamHunter
“An entertaining, cracking adventure yarn, The Freedom Maze elegantly unravels many myths of the antebellum South, highlighting the resistance of the enslaved, and showing how even the kind hearted are corrupted by their exploitation of their fellow human beings.”
—Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar
“A story that says what no story has quite said before, and says it perfectly. Stuck on her family’s Louisiana plantation in 1960, adolescent Sophie Fairchild wishes for adventure—and travels magically from the beginning of Civil Rights to the beginning of the Civil War. Enslaved by her own ancestors, Sophie finds kinship among the other people secretly traveling tangled paths toward freedom and home. No matter what age you are, this is a book for the permanent shelf.”
—Sarah Smith, author of the Agatha-winning The Other Side of Dark
“A dramatic yet sensitively-written coming-of-age story that succeeds both as classic fantasy and issue-oriented children’s literature. When Sophie Martineau travels back in time from 1960 to 1860, she discovers the painful complexity of her own heritage as a descendant of both Louisiana planters and the slave women who were forced to bear their children. Sherman offers a non-sugarcoated portrayal of life for black women under slavery, and she never falls into the trap of reducing them to simple stereotypes. Instead, Sophie’s adventure becomes a window into the daily lives of the women who manage the Martineau family’s plantation, work their fields, cook their food, and even raise their children–all while their own reality as thinking, feeling human beings remains strangely invisible to their white owners. Young readers will stay up late to find out if there’s a happy ending for Sophie and Antigua. And by the time they turn the last page, they will have gained a deeper appreciation of the real human cost of slavery–and of the intelligence and resourcefulness with which generations of women struggled to protect their families under a system that denied their most basic rights as human beings.”
“Vivid and compelling, The Freedom Maze will transport you completely to another time.”
—Sarah Beth Durst
Small Beer Press: In your nearly twenty years of working on this book, what was the most surprising thing you found?
Delia Sherman: “The most surprising thing, really, was finding an advertisement for a runaway slave in the library of Loyola University in New Orleans that read more or less as follows: “Wanted, [name], a woman of [however many] years. Blond and blue-eyed, could pass as white.” That was the most dramatic example, but once I’d seen it, I began to notice others, for “fair-skinned” or “red-haired” slaves escaping with darker companions as slave and master or mistress. It really made me think about how race was constructed in the ante-bellum South.”
Delia Sherman was born in Japan and raised in New York City, but spent vacations between her mother’s relatives in Texas and Louisiana and her father’s relatives in South Carolina. With a PhD in Renaissance Studies, she proceeded to teach until she realized she’d rather edit and write instead. But retaining her love of history, she has set novels and short stories for children and adults in many times and places. Her work has appeared most recently in the YA anthologies The Beastly Bride, Steampunk!, and Teeth. Her “New York Between” novels for younger readers are Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. Delia still enjoys teaching writing workshops, most recently at the Hollins University Masters Degree Program in Children’s Literature. After many years in Boston, she once again lives in New York City, but travels at the drop of a hat.
by Geoff RymanLeave a Comment
Trade paper/ebook · 9781931520645/9781931520447 · 320 pp · July 12, 2011
Sunburst Award Winner
Lambda Award Finalist
“Paradise Tales includes one of the most powerful stories I’ve read in the last 10 years.”
—New York Times
Geoff Ryman Locus interview.
Geoff Ryman writes about the other and leaves us dissected in the process. His stories are set in recognizable places—London, Cambodia, tomorrow—and feature men and women caught in recognizable situations (or technologies) and not sure which way to turn. They, we, should obviously choose what’s right. But what if that’s difficult? What will we do? What we should, or . . . ?
“In the best of Ryman’s fiction, the world unfolds in ways that are at once astonishing and thoroughly thought out, both radically disorienting and emotionally powerful.”
—Gary K. Wolfe, Locus
“The stories gathered here from across Ryman’s career narrate paradise and its stories in ways that are far from conventionally utopian. Rather, Ryman’s paradises are not only largely intangible but often built on and out of loss. Reading his quasi-fairytales and other flights of passionate fantasy, we will always be reminded that these paradises, like all paradises, are places that can never be—except in fiction. For Ryman, however, this is an essential exception, as the power of story to heal and repair across time and across cultures becomes a recurrent theme in the collection…. By the end of Paradise Tales, however, the reader will understand that Ryman has already invented such a device: whether it is fantasy, science fiction, or some fiction in-between, the utopian, revelatory tool for Ryman is simply fiction itself.”
“A prophet of the flesh, Geoff Ryman is fascinated by biology, our human capacity (shared with the rest of squishy creation) for bodily transcendence, degeneration and metamorphosis. Whether contemplating the genetics of homosexuality (“Birth Days”), the lives of transgenic sophonts (“Days of Wonder”), or the humiliating transformations attendant upon aging (“VAO”), he brings a kind of saintly compassion and insight to his characters. But not all the entries in Paradise Tales conform to this paradigm. There are cosmopolitan explorations, such as the Cambodian-centric “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” and “Blocked.” And there are densely speculative cyber-forecasts like “The Future of Science Fiction.” But all benefit from Ryman’s economical yet lapidary prose.”
“I recommend this collection to both Ryman’s existing fans and those new to his work. It is a beautiful and challenging treasure of a book.”
—Cascadia Subduction Zone
“Short-form speculative fiction doesn’t get much better than this.”
— J. J. S. Boyce, AESciFi—the CanadianScience Fiction Review
* “Often contemplative and subtly ironic, the 16 stories in this outstanding collection work imaginative riffs on a variety of fantasy and SF themes. “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter,” a Cambodian ghost story, and “The Last Ten Years in the Life of Hero Kai,” a samurai-style narrative, have the delicacy of Asian folktales or lyrical fantasies. By contrast, “V.A.O.,” about a future society destabilized by prohibitively expensive health care, and “The Film-makers of Mars,” which suggests that Edgar Rice Burroughs’s John Carter stories were drawn from life, are set in futures that credibly extrapolate current scientific and cultural trends. Ryman (The King’s Last Song) frequently explores human emotional needs in heartless environments, as in “Warmth,” which poignantly portrays a young boy’s bond with his robot surrogate mother. Readers of all stripes will appreciate these thoughtful tales. ”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Paradise Tales follows the success of Ryman’s most recent novel, The King’s Last Song, and builds on that with three Cambodian stories included here, “The Last Ten Years of the Hero Kai,” “Blocked,” and the exceedingly-popular “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter.” Paradise Tales includes stories selected from the many periods of Ryman’s career including “Birth Days,” “Omnisexual,” the very popular “The Film-makers of Mars,” and a new story, “K is for Kosovo (or, Massimo’s Career).”
Small Beer Press is also reprinting two of Ryman’s novels, The Child Garden and Was (November 2011), and another collection, Unconquered Countries (June 2012), with new introductions or afterwords to continue to build the readership of one of the most fascinating writers exploring the edges of being, gender, science, and fiction.
The Film-makers of Mars
The Last Ten Years in the Life of Hero Kai
The Future of Science Fiction
No Bad Thing
Talk Is Cheap
Days of Wonder
K is for Kosovo (or, Massimo’s Career)
Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter
Praise for Geoff Ryman’s most recent novel:
“[Ryman] has not so much created as revealed a world in which the promise of redemption takes seed even in horror.”
—The Boston Globe
“Inordinately readable . . . extraordinary in its detail, color and brutality.”
—The Independent (UK)
Geoff Ryman is the author of the novels The King’s Last Song, Air (a Clarke and Tiptree Award winner), 253, Lust, and The Unconquered Country (a World Fantasy Award winner). Canadian by birth, he has lived in Brasil, resides in the UK and is a frequent visitor to Cambodia.
Paradise Tales by Geoff Ryman
by Geoff Ryman2 Comments
June 7, 2011 · trade paper/ebook · 9781931520287 · New Introduction by Wendy Pearson.
Winner of the John W. Cambell and Arthur C. Clarke Awards.
Following The King’s Last Song, The Child Garden is the second Geoff Ryman title in our list—and it’s by far the furthest out there!
Are you ready for polar bear families in London—who have their own black sheep: after all, what can a polar bear mining family do with a daughter who wants to write operas? And what is London to do with a woman who, resistant to the viruses, might be able to provided the cure for the cure for cancer? (No, that’s not a typo!)
In a future, tropical London, humans photosynthesize, organics have replaced electronics, viruses educate people, and very few live past forty. Milena is resistant to the viruses and unable to be Read. She has Bad Grammar. She’s alone until she meets Rolfa, a huge, hirsute Genetically Engineered Polar Woman, and Milena realizes she might, just might, be able to find a place for herself after all.
If you’ve been missing reading about polar bears since finishing Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books, this is the novel for you.The Child Garden is one of the original biopunk novels: it’s over the top baroque . . . it’s a masterpiece.
Praise for The Child Garden:
“An exuberant celebration of excess set in a resource-poor but defiantly energetic 21st century.”—The New York Times
“I fell in love with this book when Jeff VanderMeer gave it to me for my birthday when we were both at Clarion in 1992. I’ve thought about it more or less constantly ever since.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“Undoubtedly a classic and one of the best novels ever written within the genre.”
“A richly absorbing tale—with a marvelous premise expertly carried out.”—Kirkus Reviews
“One of the most imaginative accounts of futuristic bioengineering since Greg Bear’s Blood Music.”—Locus
“A heady novel bursting with speculation.”—Library Journal
“Excellent . . . Dark and witty and full of love, closely observed, and sprinkled with astonishing ideas. Science fiction of a very high order.”—Greg Bear
Praise for Geoff Ryman’s books:
“Ryman—best known as a fantasy writer but one who proved his power as an author of nuanced, rich historical fiction in the unsung novel Was—has not so much created as revealed a world in which the promise of redemption takes seed even in horror.”
“The novel conveys not merely a story, but the light and darkness, despair and hope, tradition and Westernization that is Cambodia itself…. While peaceful William, war-consumed Map, and Cambodia-loving Luc could easily be flat, typecast characters, Ryman steers clear of such simplifications. Their interwoven histories are at times noble and at times horrifying, laced with profound emotions and punctuated with atrocities…. The King’s Last Song leaves one questioning preconceptions of good and evil, and conflicted between hope for and discouragement with the human race.”
“An unforgettably vivid portrait of Cambodian culture past and present.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Ryman’s knack for depicting characters; his ability to tell multiple, interrelated stories; and his knowledge of Cambodian history create a rich narrative that looks at Cambodia’s “killing fields” both recent and ancient and Buddhist belief with its desire for transcendence. Recommended for all literary fiction collections.”
“Inordinately readable . . . extraordinary in its detail, color and brutality.”
“Sweeping and beautiful. . . . The complex story tears the veil from a hidden world.”
—The Sunday Times
About the Author
Geoff Ryman is the author of the novels The King’s Last Song, Air (a Clarke and Tiptree Award winner), and The Unconquered Country (a World Fantasy Award winner), and the collection Paradise Tales. Canadian by birth, he has lived in Cambodia and Brazil and now teaches creative writing at the University of Manchester in England.
Geoff Ryman was in Boston in July 2011 as the Guest of Honor for Readercon.
by Joan Aiken1 Comment
April 19, 2011 · hardcover · 224 pp · 9781931520744 · $24 / ebook · 9781618730268
“Hair” was a Shirley Jackson Award finalist and reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.
“It’s always the children’s book writers that you have to watch out for.”
—Jessa Crispin on Aiken—including an interview with Kelly Link—in Kirkus Reviews
“Part of a storytelling tradition that predates MFA programs and quiet epiphanies, and she concerned herself with a snappier brand of narrative entertainment.”
—Review of Contemporary Fiction
“Joan Aiken’s collection of short stories The Monkey’s Wedding may sport a creepy cover illustration by artist and author Shelley Jackson, but the stories inside, which make the commonplace sinister, bear more of a resemblance to the work of another literary Jackson: the queen of the Gothic short story and author of The Lottery, Shirley Jackson. Like Shirley Jackson’s elegantly suspenseful tales, Aiken’s stories use the commonplace to show the darker truths beneath the familiar, but with a twist of humor and magic that makes the collection thought-provoking and fun, and one that begs to be shared and revisited often.”
“Brisk, matter-of-fact accounts of annoying mermaids, hospitable devils, unionizing mice and robot prototypes that make flipping light switches an act of menace. And the women range from self-willed wives to beautiful stunt motorcyclists to knitting spinsters. Sometimes they conform to the stereotypes of the times they were created in, but Aiken is full of surprises: Her plots and characters continually wander off the beaten track, leaving far behind what fantasist Lord Dunsany called ‘the fields we know.'”
—The Seattle Times
“The entire collection is immensely enjoyable. The older stories date from the ’50s to 2002. They are short and sharp—not quite whimsical, though whimsy is a word that occurred to me—but they have a dark edge, simply a shadow sometimes (but rather more oppressive in a story like “Hair”) as well as a sense of unplannedness that somehow elevated the stories in my mind.”
—Rich Horton, Locus
Joan Aiken’s stories captivated readers for fifty years. They’re funny, smart, gentle, and occasionally very, very scary. The stories in The Monkey’s Wedding are collected here for the very first time and include seven never before published, as well as two published under the pseudonym Nicholas Dee. Here you’ll find the story of a village for sale . . . or is the village itself the story? There’s an English vicar who declares on his deathbed that he might have lived an entirely different life. After his death, a large, black, argumentative cat makes an appearance. . . .
This hugely imaginative collection of incongruous, light, and unexpected stories features Shelley Jackson’s spooky and eyecatching cover painting inspired by the story “A Mermaid Too Many” and includes introductions by Joan Aiken as well by her daughter, Lizza Aiken.
* “This imaginative posthumous collection includes among others six never before published short stories and two originally published under a pseudonym…. Wildly inventive, darkly lyrical, and always surprising, this collection—like the mermaid in a bottle—is a literary treasure that should be cherished by fantastical fiction fans of all ages.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Each story has a surprise or twist. Many are ironic, go-figure pieces. They are just like real life, only more so. VERDICT: This book will appeal to readers of short stories and literary fiction. Highly recommended.”
“Aiken writes with surpassing spirit and alertness, never ceasing to find interest or amazement in the traps people set for themselves. Some of the stories are slight, but Aiken’s elegant restraint and dry wit never fail to leave their mark.”
“A writer of great skill and charm.”
“Almost all the stories assembled in The Monkey’s Wedding—except for the devastating title story itself, from 1996, and “The Fluttering Thing” from 2002, which is set on a journey towards Final Solution; it is even more terrifying than The Scream, also 2002—flow with a porcelain lucidity and gaiety that manifests the high energy of Aiken’s early prime.”
—John Clute, Strange Horizons
“William Powell and Myrna Loy needed only ninety minutes to sparkle in The Thin Man, and the good-natured, prevaricating, meet-cute stars of “Spur of the Moment” require just twelve pages to showcase their equally impressive bantering skills.”
—James Crossley, Weird Fiction Review
“From a bottled mermaid brought home from a sailor’s adventures at sea to a vicar reincarnated as a malevolent cat, fantasy is combined with magic, myth and adventure to form weird, wonderful and immersive tales.”
—For Book’s Sake
“In the author’s introduction, Aiken claims that many of her stories are inspired by dreams. I only wish my dreams were half as entertaining as Aiken’s tales.”
“Perhaps one reason Aiken’s stories have weathered the decades so well is that they are concerned with the lives of ordinary people–they just happen to be ordinary people who live in a world where a mermaid or other such mythical or supernatural being might suddenly appear in order to play mischief with one’s well-maintained schedule.”
—Green Man Review
“Aiken’s vivid descriptions move nimbly through pastoral meadows and circus chaos, gothic grotesques and quirky romances. In the end, all of her narratives tease the reader by rejecting our desire for neatness or closure. No didacticism here. As Aiken’s narrator sweetly laments, ‘No moral to this story, you will be saying, and I am afraid it is true.'”
—California Literary Review
Things You Might Like
- Aiken’s brilliant characterization
- The fantastic mix of fantasy and realism
- Incredibly visual writing
- The ease with which the author skips from twee to slightly disturbing
Table of Contents
Introduction by Joan Aiken
Introduction by Lizza Aiken
Girl in a Whirl
Octopi in the Sky
Reading in Bed
Spur of the Moment
The Fluttering Thing
The Magnesia Tree
The Monkey’s Wedding
The Paper Queen
The Sale of Midsummer
Water of Youth
A Mermaid Too Many
Praise for Joan Aiken:
“Aiken writes with the genius of a born storyteller, with mother wit expanded and embellished by civilized learning, and with the brilliance of an avenging angel.”
—The New Yorker
“The wit is irrepressible, the invention wild. . . . Such delicious lightness, paradoxically, is the fiction’s raison d’être.”
—Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
“An extremely active and creative mind, in all ways dedicated to the enjoyment of the reader.”
—The Short Review
“Admirable stories for any age because they are dug from a delightful mind. Many will drop into their readers lives like those enriching stones which break the surfaces of still pools and leave rings long after their splash.”
—Times Literary Supplement
“A consummate story-teller.”
— The Times
“Joan Aiken’s invention seemed inexhaustible, her high spirits a blessing, her sheer storytelling zest a phenomenon. She was a literary treasure, and her books will continue to delight for many years to come.”
“The best kind of writer, strange and spooky and surprising, never sentimental or whimsical.”
—Kelly Link (Magic for Beginners)
“Distinguished and sometimes beautiful writing.”
—Naomi Mitchison, New Statesman
About the Author
Best known for The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken (1924-2004) wrote over a hundred books (including The Serial Garden) and won the Guardian and Edgar Allan Poe awards. After her first husband’s death, she supported her family by copyediting at Argosy magazine and an advertising agency before turning to fiction. She went on to write for Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Argosy, Women’s Own, and many others. Visit her online at: www.joanaiken.com.
by Kelley Eskridge5 Comments
9781931520102 · paperback/ebook · January 2011
Soon to be a motion picture: OtherLife.
A New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices selection, and Nebula, Endeavour, and Spectrum Award finalist.
“A stylistic and psychological tour de force.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Suspenseful and inspiring.”—School Library Journal
Jackal Segura is a Hope: born to responsibility and privilege as a symbol of a fledgling world government. Soon she’ll become part of the global administration, sponsored by the huge corporation that houses, feeds, employs, and protects her and everyone she loves. Then, just as she discovers that everything she knows is a lie, she becomes a pariah, a murderer: a person with no community and no future. Grief-stricken and alone, she is put into an experimental program designed to inflict the experience of years of solitary confinement in a few short months: virtual confinement in a sealed cell within her own mind. Afterward, branded and despised, she returns to a world she no longer knows.
Struggling to make her way, she has a chance to rediscover her life, her love, and her soul—in a strange place of shattered hopes and new beginnings called Solitaire.
“Solitaire brilliantly explores . . . the dubious boundary between ‘virtual reality’ and the act of imagination — all in the ageless story of a bright, risky kid trying to find out who she is and where her freedom lies.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin (A Wizard of Earthsea)
“Kelley Eskridge uses all the best stuff — passion and deception, devotion and betrayal — to deliver a knock-out first novel.”
—Karen Joy Fowler (We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves)
“Solitaire is a novel of our time: a story of dashed expectations and corporate manipulations. Eskridge explores what it means to really see ourselves, and what we are ultimately capable of. Jackal, a slight adolescent, matures into an adult capable of living well, no matter what her circumstances. She is a worthy role model for any reader.”
“Vivid and provocative.”
—The Baltimore Sun
“As with Eskridge’s short fiction, the vividness of the characters is what makes this book so memorable.”
“Psychological insights that would warm the heart of Alice Hoffman.”
—The Seattle Times
“Teen readers who are fond of the genre will embrace Solitaire with ease while fans of YA dystopian titles will find a character who possesses all the cool and quiet power of the best girl hero in a story that is light years beyond the standard fare. Jackal is no wimp or whiner, nor is she a born “chosen one.” In every way that matters she is the product of the corporate culture (both personally and professionally) that embraced her from birth; she is certainly a twenty-first century construct we can all recognize. The struggles she goes through are always tempered with very personal loss, both as a result of the accident that finds her imprisoned and the distance from the love of her life who remains back on Ko. What rocks so much about Solitaire is that Eskridge has put as much time and attention into her character building as the plot and that means that while we marvel at the world she created, we also respond on a fundamental level with Jackal and the girl she loves who never stops loving her back. This book is a treasure; a true jewel for readers longing for big ideas and intimate story.”
—Colleen Mondor, Bookslut
“Takes the reader down to the bone . . . Eskridge’s skillful use of detail, her strong characters and evocative settings, and her ability to take her readers on a spiral path to the innermost depths of an individual mind, and then back out again, make this a fascinating read.”
Kelley’s Big Idea: “I wrote Solitaire to explore the complicated landscape of alone. I found a character named Jackal who defines herself foremost in terms of her community and her connection to others; then I took all that away, and trapped her in the most alone place any of us can go – inside our own heads. Jackal ends up in virtual solitary confinement facing an utterly realistic experience of being locked in a cell for eight years. What happens to her there – her journey through alone – changes everything.”
Solitaire received a lovely thoughtful review on Eve’s Alexandria in response to “a very long discussion thread over at Torque Control — sparked by an interview with Tricia Sullivan — about why so little of the science fiction published in the UK these days is written by women.”
And John Mesjak says: “When I first read the manuscript of this reissue edition, I was just blown away. There are three distinct sections to the book, and each one has its own flavor and energy – all adding up to a dark but wonderfully described future. It was absolutely one of my favorite novels from the Fall 2010 Consortium catalog.”
“In a certain way, Solitaire is ahead of its time. It’s a title that old, conventional marketing will tell you won’t sell: it features a multicultural, non-white, female protagonist who happens to be a lesbian; the author is telling us the details rather than showing us; it’s a science fiction concept within a science fiction concept. Yet it is for these reasons that the book succeeds.”
—Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker
Read Chapter One
So here she was, framed in the open double doors like a photograph: Jackal Segura on the worst day of her life, preparing to join the party. The room splayed wide before her, swollen with voices, music, human heat, and she thought perhaps this was a bad idea after all. But she was conscious of the picture she made, backlit in gold by the autumn afternoon sun, standing square, taking up space. A good entrance, casually dramatic. People were already noticing, smiling; there’s our Jackal being herself. There’s our Hope. It shamed her, now that she knew it was a lie.
Kelley Eskridge is a novelist, essayist, and screenwriter. Her stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the United States, Europe, Australia and Japan, won the Astraea Award and been finalists for the Nebula and James Tiptree awards. Her collection Dangerous Space was published by Aqueduct Press. Her story “Alien Jane” was adapted for television and a film adaptation of Solitaire titled OtherLife is in production by Cherry Road Films. She lives in Seattle with her partner, novelist Nicola Griffith.
Cover photos: iStockphoto.com.
Cover design: Frances Lassor.
Author photo: Jennifer Durham.
by Ted Chiang4 Comments
October 2010 · 9781931520720 · trade paperback/ebook
June 2016: Now available in a new edition from Vintage.
Soon to be a Major Motion Picture starring Amy Adams, directed by Denis Villeneuve, from a script by Eric Heisserer.
Read a current profile of Ted Chiang in the California Sunday Magazine: “The Perfectionist”
A new edition of Ted Chiang’s masterful first collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, which includes his first eight published stories plus the author’s story notes and a cover the author commissioned himself. Combining the precision and scientific curiosity of Kim Stanley Robinson with Lorrie Moore’s cool, clear love of language and narrative intricacy, this award-winning collection offers readers the dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar.
Stories of Your Life and Others presents characters who must confront sudden change—the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens—while striving to maintain some sense of normalcy.
In the amazing and much-lauded title story, “Story of Your Life,” a grieving mother copes with divorce and the death of her daughter by drawing on her knowledge of alien languages and non-linear memory recollection.
“Liking What You See: A Documentary,” which was new for this collection, is a clever pastiche of news reports and interviews which chronicles a college’s initiative to “turn off” the human ability to recognize beauty.
With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty and constant change, and also by beauty and wonder. Stories in this collection received the following awards: the Nebula (3), Hayakawa (3), Seiun (2), Sturgeon, Hugo, Locus, and Sidewise Award.
Praise for Stories of Your Life and Others:
“Shining, haunting, mind-blowing tales . . . this collection is a pure marvel. Chiang is so exhilarating so original so stylish he just leaves you speechless. I always suggest a person read at least 52 books a year for proper mental functioning but if you only have time for one, be at peace: you found it.”
—Junot Díaz (author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao)
“Meticulously pieced together, utterly thought through, Chiang’s stories emerge slowly . . . but with the perfection of slow-growing crystal.”
—Lev Grossman, Best of the Decade: Science Fiction and Fantasy, Techland.com
“Science fiction is a genre that often works well off the page. Spaceships and robots are just as thrilling on screen as in books. But Mr Chiang’s approach is irreplaceable. His stories mirror the process of scientific discovery: complex ideas emerge from the measured, methodical accumulation of information until epiphany strikes. . . . The best science fiction inspires awe for the natural properties of the universe; it renders the fundamentals of science poignant and affecting. Mr Chiang’s writing manages all of this. He deserves to be more widely read.”
—The Economist, Prospero blog
“Throughout all his work, though no more so than in “Story of Your Life,” you can feel his months of removing sentences from his stories. Perhaps that he writes so little does something good for him, or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t write enough.”
—Choire Sicha, The Millions
“In Chiang’s hands, SF really is the ‘literature of ideas’ it is often held to be, and the genre’s traditional “sense of wonder” is paramount. But though one reads Stories of Your Life with a kind of thematic nostalgia for classic philosophical SF such as that of Asimov and Theodore Sturgeon, the collection never feels dated. Partly this is because the “wonder” of these stories is a modern, melancholy transcendence, not the naive ‘50s dreams of the genre’s golden age. More important, the collection is united by a humane intelligence that speaks very directly to the reader, and makes us experience each story with immediacy and Chiang’s calm passion.”
—China Mieville, The Guardian
“Ted is a national treasure . . . each of those stories is a goddamned jewel.”
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing
“Newly reissued by Small Beer Press, the stories range widely in time, subject and style but are united by a patient but ruthless fascination with the limits of knowledge.”
—Ed Park, Los Angeles Times
“Chiang is the real deal. His debut collection, Stories of Your Life and Others is one of the finest collections of short fiction I have read in the last decade. These tales possess the imaginative frisson that is a trademark of the best conceptual fiction, but, also bespeak a confident prose style and a willingness to take chances in tone and narrative structure.”
—Ted Gioia, Conceptual Fiction
“This collection of short stories deserves constant re-introduction. Ted Chiang narrows the broad line between fiction and science fiction by taking a scalpel to “normal,” transforming it in ways that will blow your mind and challenge your beliefs. It’s a breathless ride.”
—Capitola Book Cafe
“Chiang’s work confirms that blending science and fine art at this length can produce touching works, tales as intimate as our own blood cells, with the structural strength of just-discovered industrial alloys.”
—The Seattle Times
“Summarizing these stories does not do justice to Chiang’s talent. Seemingly ordinary ideas are pursued ruthlessly, their tendons flayed, their bones exposed. Chiang derides lazy thinking, weasels it out of its hiding place, and leaves it cowering.”
—The Washington Post
“Essential. You won’t know SF if you don’t read Ted Chiang.”
“Chiang writes seldom, but his almost unfathomably wonderful stories tick away with the precision of a Swiss watch—and explode in your awareness with shocking, devastating force.”
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“The first must-read SF book of the year.”
—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“He puts the science back in science fiction—brilliantly.”
—Booklist (Starred Review)
These stories were originally published as follows:
“Tower of Babylon,” Omni, 1990
“Understand,” Asimov’s, 1991
“Division by Zero,” Full Spectrum 3, 1991
“Story of Your Life,” Starlight 2, 1998
“Seventy-Two Letters,” Vanishing Acts, 2000
“The Evolution of Human Science,” Nature, 2000
“Hell is the Absence of God,” Starlight 3, 2001
“Liking What You See: A Documentary,” Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002
Cover art © Shelley Eshkar.
Stories of Your Life was originally published in 2002 by Tor.
1st printing, October 2010
2nd printing, February 2011
3rd printing, July 2012
4th printing, November 2013
5th printing, January 2015
Ted Chiang was born in Port Jefferson, New York and holds a degree in computer science from Brown University. In 1989 he attended the Clarion Writers Workshop. His fiction has won three Hugos, four Nebulas, three Locus awards, the John W. Campbell, and Sturgeon awards. He lives near Seattle, Washington.