Did you read Laura Lippman’s review in the The New York Times Book Review of Lydia Millet’s new novel Sweet Lamb of Heaven?
It is Anna’s voice — cool, intelligent, passionate, contradictory — that makes this novel so affecting. I resisted it initially because I was overwhelmed by my sense of dislocation, my uncertainty about where we were headed. But how I missed it when it was gone, how I yearned for it to speak to me again.
Every one of Lydia’s books fascinates in a different way. I can’t wait to read this one. A sense of dislocation? Are you a human living on this planet? Check. (I realize that not everyone here will check that box.)
All of which to say we’ve been working with Lydia on The Bodies of the Ancients, the third and final novel of her Dissenters series (following The Fires Beneath the Sea and The Shimmers in The Night), and I’m happy to tell you it is about ready to go. We have the (matching!) cover in from Sharon McGill and it is off to the proofreader soon.
Have you ever wondered how sometimes it comes down to some kids against the big baddie? The Sykes kids — Cara and her two brothers, Max, older and only half present at best, and Jax, younger and maybe many kinds of genius — think about that all the time. But their Mom, who ahs many surprises of her own, is back home and she’s going to lay out what’s happening and why. If she has time before it all goes wrong.
Here’s the start:
It was June again on Cape Cod and the summer crowds were trickling back in. The beaches wouldn’t be mobbed till July, but families from Boston were already starting to flock to the roadside seafood restaurants. From behind the smudged and scratched-up pane of the school-bus window, Jax gazed at them. They were willing to waiting long periods of time for a table; some of the grownups looked at their phones and a few ran around after their kids, but most of them did nothing much other than stare out into space, baking in sun and breathing exhaust fumes. All for the sake of eating a fried fish sandwich.
Jax shook his head.
Maybe they were hollows, he said to himself. Maybe they were mindless zombies waiting to be consumed by flame.
It is going to be great to have the whole series out. Summer days on Cape Cod . . . but with more neanderthals and maybe even aliens!
I’ve probably posted this before but who does not need 18 minute epics about Grendel?
In my early teen years in the West Coast of Scotland this song was just a myth that we kids in physics had read about but never heard. We loved 2 minutes 45 seconds as much as anyone. We loved challenge, we loved louder, faster, more complicated. Three minutes? Seven? Take us away for longer, please. Please.
As Grendel leaves his mossy home beneath the stagnant mere
Along the forest path he roams to Hrothgar’s hall so clear
He knows that victory is secured, his charm will testify
His claws will drip with mortal blood as moonbeams haunt the sky
Then you try to place the killer’s blade in my hand
You call for justice and distort the truth
Well I’ve had enough of all your pretty pretty speeches
Receive your punishment
Expose your throats to my righteous claws
And let the blood flow, and [let the blood flow], flow, flow, flow.
Surprise. Oops. More later on other things.
Will be interesting!
It has been eight years since we published our first Joan Aiken title, The Serial Garden, and five (where does the time go?!) since the second, The Monkey’s Wedding, was released. Today is the publication day for our third Joan Aiken collection, The People in the Castle: Selected Strange Stories.
The book came about because Kelly and I had been talking to Joan’s daughter, Lizza Aiken, for a while about what fun it would be to make a selection of favorite stories from across the many, many collections Joan published — there are twenty-eight collections listed in the front matter of The People in the Castle, and that does not include some of her kid’s collections. (See all Joan’s books here.)
So Kelly and I went back and read as many of the collections as we could, which was obviously the most enjoyable part of the project and something I recommend replicating — you can usually find loads of her books at the library. Kelly has a better memory than me, so she would say something like How about story “x” from this book? or I love story “y” from that book and I’d go back and read it yet again and soon Kelly and I and Lizza came up with dream lists of stories we’d like to include. Of course the lists were too long and there was some horse trading (how about we drop these two stories but add this one? etc.) and in the end we had a list that satisfied everyone of twenty dark, funny, oddball, sometimes heart-wrenching stories. And now: they are a book!
We received finished copies of the book from the printer just in time to take with us to the AWP Conference in LA and we had the great pleasure of selling out of it very quickly — that cover has the magic pick-me-up quality that all publishers and authors everywhere are always searching for.
Kelly wrote an introduction to the collection:
“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.”
The whole introduction — as well as the title story — is available for your reading pleasure on the Tin House blog and Kelly’s introduction segues beautifully into Lizza’s introduction, “The Power of Storytelling: Joan Aiken’s Strange Stories”:
“Joan Aiken once described a moment during a talk she was giving at a conference, when to illustrate a point she began to tell a story. At that moment, she said, the quality of attention in the room subtly changed. The audience, as if hypnotised, seemed to fall under her control.
‘Everyone was listening, to hear what was going to happen next.’
From her own experience, whether as an addictive reader from early childhood or as a storyteller herself, learning to amuse a younger brother growing up in a remote village, by the time she was writing for a living to support her family, she had learned a great respect for the power of stories.”
Publishers Weekly gave the book a boxed, signed 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.”
If you’d like a taste, try “The Cold Flame” which is available on Tor.com. This story makes me shiver and laugh every time.
- The People in the Castle (hc) + The Monkey’s Wedding (hc): $38
- The People in the Castle (hc) + The Monkey’s Wedding (hc) + The Serial Garden (pb): $50
Tor.com just posted a Joan Aiken story from The People in the Castle. It is creepy, funny, fantastic, and as Tor says, “darkly lyrical.” It is for poets, would-be poets, for writers, I suppose, of all sort, and writers’ families . . .
“Patrick was a poet, perhaps I should explain. Had been a poet. Or said he was. No one had ever seen his poetry because he steadfastly refused to let anyone read his work, though he insisted, with a quiet self-confidence not otherwise habitual to him, that the poems were very good indeed. In no other respect was he remarkable, but most people quite liked Patrick; he was a lanky, amusing creature with guileless blue eyes and a passion for singing sad, randy songs when he had had a drink or two. For some time I had been a little in love with Patrick. I was sorry to hear he was dead.”
— Tor.com (@tordotcom) April 7, 2016
How’s your Monday? Ours is pretty great, thanks to Victor LaValle — whom you may have heard on NPR recently discussing his latest book, The Ballad of Black Tom — who just read Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell and sent us this:
“Jeffrey Ford can pull off any kind of story he damn well pleases. I was sure of that before I even reached the end of this excellent collection. By the end he’d accomplished more than I would’ve imagined possible. A Natural History of Hell offers genuinely disturbing moments but it also veers into high comedy. There’s bits of myth and history, heartbreak and profound insights. I’ve been a fan of Ford’s for years. Every new book he publishes is a reason to celebrate.”
Jeffrey Alan Love, whose art graces the cover had some good news, too:
— Jeffrey Alan Love (@jeffreyalanlove) March 22, 2016
being a Small Press in 2016 so we have decided to decamp to the future. See you tomorrow.
“Like an alchemist, Sofia Samatar spins golden landscapes and dazzling sentences. . . . The Winged Histories is a fantasy novel for those who take their sentences with the same slow, unfolding beauty as a cup of jasmine tea, and for adventurers like Tav, who are willing to charge ahead into the unknown.”
Sofia also has a new story today in The Revelator:
Besides our groovy (sorry) reading on Wed. March 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Last Bookstore [with Kelly Link (Get in Trouble), Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse), Ayize Jama-Everett (The Entropy of Bones), and Sofia Samatar (The Winged Histories)] we have a few other things we’d like to share:
First: we have a table, #1331, in the huge bookfair. Come search us out!
Second: panels and stuff!
Thursday, March 31
11:00 am to 11:30 am
Table 1331, Ayize Jama-Everett (The Entropy of Bones) signing
3:00 pm to 4:15 pm
Room 515 A, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
R265. Smooth Criminals: What’s at Stake When We Break the Rules? (Juan Martinez, Susan Hubbard, Robin Rozanski, Julie Iromuanya) What writing rule do you hate? Love? We all break a few: We switch POV halfway through a story, we use too many exclamation marks, we don’t write what we know, or we use the wrong form, the wrong genre. The panelists balance the costs and benefits of these misdemeanors. They explore how rules hinge on cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds. They provide rule-breaking exercises that have helped generate exciting material and talk about how rule-breaking has helped them publish and teach.
Friday, April 1
10:30 am to 11:45 am
Room 513, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
F161. Small Beer Press: 15th Anniversary Reading. (Sofia Samatar, Ayize Jama-Everett, Maureen F. McHugh, Juan Martinez) Fifteen years after Small Beer Press was founded to publish works that cross genre definitions, traditional bookstore shelving options, and academic course descriptions, four authors from different parts of the USA who now all live in California read from their books and then discuss the spaces their books were published into with Small Beer Press publisher and cofounder Gavin J. Grant.
2:00 pm to 2:30 pm
Table 1331, Sofia Samatar (The Winged Histories) signing
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Concourse Hall, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One
F271. Kelly Link, Emily St. John Mandel, and Ruth Ozeki: A Reading and Conversation, Sponsored by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. (Emily St. John Mandel, Ruth Ozeki, Kelly Link) This event brings together three brilliant contemporary female writers—Kelly Link, Emily St. John Mandel, and Ruth Ozeki—to read and discuss their craft and experiences as genre-bending authors. Kelly Link is the recipient of an NEA grant and is the author of Get in Trouble. Emily St. John Mandel is the author of Station Eleven, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award. Ruth Ozeki is the author of A Tale for the Time Being, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Saturday, April 2
10:00am to 10:30am
Table 1331, Kelly Link (Get in Trouble) signing
11:00am to 11:30am
Table 1331, Maureen F. McHugh (After the Apocalypse)
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm
AWP Bookfair Stage, LA Convention Center, Exhibit Hall Level One
S171. In the Realms of the Real and the Unreal. (Katharine Beutner, Sofia Samatar, Carmen Machado, Alice Sola Kim, Kelly Link) This panel explores genres of fiction that juxtapose the real and the unreal in experimental ways: historical fiction, literary fantasy/science fiction, weird fiction, and satire. Where do we draw the line between a secondary world and a distorted reflection of our own world’s beauty, violence, and diversity? Can we discern a poetics of the unreal in contemporary fiction? How have the continual debates over generic boundaries—and/or their irrelevance—affected the ways contemporary writers work?
If you’re in LA — or going there for the AWP conference — I hope you’ll join us on Wednesday, March 30, at 7:30 pm at the Last Bookstore for a reading/party with beer, snackity snacks, and most importantly, excellent short readings from four fabulous authors!
Ayize Jama-Everett, The Entropy of Bones
“. . . consistently resists easy categorization. . . . by setting the book in a weird, if recognizable, Bay Area, Jama-Everett captures something about the way it feels to live so close to so much money and yet so far; he traces the differences between postindustrial East Bay towns, the gray melancholy of an older city, the particular feeling of struggling while surrounded by otherworldly wealth. If the book veers among different approaches . . . there’s nevertheless a vitality to the voice and a weirdness that, while not always controlled or intentional, is highly appealing for just that reason.”— Charles Yu, New York Times Book Review
Kelly Link, Get in Trouble: Stories
Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction of 2015 · NPR 2015 Great Reads · Slate Laura Miller’s 10 Favorite Books of 2015 · Buzzfeed Books We Loved in 2015 · Book Riot Best of 2015 · io9: Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2015 · Flavorwire: Best Fiction of 2015 · San Francisco Chronicle Best of 2015 · Electric Lit Best Story Collections of 2015 · Washington Post Notable Books of the Year · Kirkus Best Books of the Year · Toronto Star Top 5 Fiction of 2015 · New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice · Los Angeles Times bestseller · Locus Recommended Reading
Maureen F. McHugh, After the Apocalypse: Stories
Shirley Jackson Award winner · Publishers Weekly Top 10 Books of the Year · NPR Best Books of the Year · io9 Best SF&F Books of the Year · Tiptree Award Honor List · Philip K. Dick Award finalist · Story Prize Notable Book
Sofia Samatar, The Winged Histories
“A highly recommended indulgence.” — N. K. Jemisin, New York Times Book Review · “An imaginative, poetic, and dark meditation on how history gets made.” — Hello Beautiful · “Samatar has created characters that you will carry around with you for weeks (months?). If you love strong voices, world-building, and books that tell hard truths with beautiful language, these are for you.” — Jenn Northington, Book Riot · “Samatar’s use of poetic yet unpretentious language makes her one of the best writers of today. Reading her books is like sipping very rich mulled wine. The worldbuilding and characterization is exquisite. This suspenseful and elegiac book discusses the lives of fictional women in a fantasy setting who fear their histories will be lost in a way that is only too resonant with the hidden histories of women in our own age.” — Romantic Times Book Reviews (4.5/5 stars, Top Pick)
Yay! No matter what you may have heard on the radio, read on the internets, or seen scratched on the sidewalk outside your favorite bookshop, today is the official publication day for Sofia Samatar‘s second novel The Winged Histories and here at last it is.
And here for your enjoyment, a review of the book by Marion Deeds on Fantastic Literature who enjoys writing down who the book might be fore and says “If you love stories but distrust them, if you love language and can also see how it is used as a tool or a weapon in the maintenance of status quo, then read The Winged Histories” and then Mahvesh Murad interviews Sofia about “writing short stories, teaching, translations and making life a giant book club” for episode 47 of the Midnight in Karachi podcast.
All in all, it is a great day for all of us here, the day we publish The Winged Histories.
On Sunday, July 13, 2014, Greer Gilman received the Shirley Jackson Award for her chapbook Cry Murder! in a Small Voice at Readercon in Boston.
In celebration of the occasion of sending Cry Murder! back to the printer for a third run we are pleased to reprint Greer’s acceptance speech:
Guess I’m scary. Who knew ?
I was monster angry when I wrote this. That — film Anonymous had just come out, and the media was full of its promoters, saying that the glover’s son Shakespeare wasn’t privileged enough to be a writer. Here:
“Whoever Shakespeare was, he wasn’t a little ordinary yeoman . . . I’m quite certain that he was a quite exceptional aristocrat who had to keep totally quiet and needed Shakespeare as cover.”
“A little ordinary yeoman.” My little Haitian dressmaker. My houseboy.
And that? was Vanessa Redgrave of the Workers Revolutionary Party. As my friend Cathy Butler said, “Scratch a socialist, find an extra from Downton Abbey.”
Shirley Jackson would have laughed.
Look around this room, Vanessa. We’re all extraordinary.
All of us write.
The Anonymian cult also believes that writers only write about their own quite exceptional lives. One must be a prince to write Hamlet, a vampire to write Dracula —
Let’s stake that conceit, shall we?
I myself have been a ghost, now and then, a whole pantheon of vengeful goddesses, a murder of crows—and I love that I get to be Ben Jonson, in all his fury, his fatness, and his honesty. I love playing in his world of players, writing poetry and taking names.
We start posting pages for our books coming out at the end of the year. Woo!
is what I’ve been doing recently. And the first one to go to the printer is Greer Gilman’s first Ben Jonson (“Detective!“) chapbook Cry Murder! in a Small Voice. Despite or because of that amazing Elizabethan voice, this is the little book that could. We are out of stock for a couple of days, but, hey, the ebook is always available!
Jacob MacMurray is locking up the design of John Crowley’s The Chemical Wedding one piece at a time. The Kickstarter approacheth!
They call up. They email. They line up and they tell us about Jeff Ford’s forthcoming collection. And, oh, we are in agreement. We are happy. If Jeff Ford is going to write it, we are going to this particular hell in a silver shiny handbasket.
“Jeffrey Ford is a beautifully disorienting writer, a poet in an unclassifiable genre—his own.”
—Joyce Carol Oates
“Jeffrey Ford is a true heir to his teacher, John Gardner—not only in his ability to inhabit an astonishing range of styles and different worlds with jaw-dropping verisimilitude, but also in the great-hearted compassion and depth that he brings to his characters. I have long admired and learned from his work, and I’m grateful to have these beautiful stories to contemplate.”
“Combining legend and suspense, terror and darkly comic social commentary, Jeffrey Ford brings our greatest fears to life in this terrific collection. A Natural History of Hell is jammed with stories I wish I had written.”
“Delightful, terrifying, thoughtful and incredibly well written. Jeffrey Ford’s style is eloquent and accessible, literary and engaging. His stories have an engrossing, almost mythological feel to them, strengthened by well-placed descriptions, impeccable pacing and Ford’s rare talent for delivering a satisfying ending.” — Catherine Grant, Huffington Post
ETA! A starred review from Publishers Weekly! — “seamlessly blends subtle psychological horror with a mix of literary history, folklore, and SF in this collection of 13 short stories, all focused on the struggles, sorrows, and terrors of daily life.”
Cover illustration by Jeffrey Alan Love.
Just got wind of two, wait, three, highly relevant and interesting staff picks at by one great bookseller at Ravenna Third Place Books in Seattle. Two out of three books here may not surprise you, the third one may?
It’s pretty great as a publisher on (near!) the east coast to see our books as staff picks on the west coast. Which reminds me that The Winged Histories is also a staff pick at BookPeople in Austin, yay!
The Winged Histories by Sofia Samatar
“You can always trust Small Beer Press to bring you the beautiful and the strange. In The Winged Histories, four women (a solider, a scholar, a poet, and a socialite) relate their experiences of a shattering rebellion and its aftermath. Far from linear, each woman’s narrative plumbs the depths of their individual and cultural memories; and surprisingly the ending — where Samatar ties off a wonderful multitude of threads — was so brilliant, such a dark surprise, it was nearly my favorite part. One of the best things about The Winged Histories (and its stunning prequel, A Stranger in Olondria) is its fierce lyricism and the depths of Samatar’s worldbuilding. Every character is a believable expression not only of individual traits but of the invented historical texts, whole schools of literature, arguments between translators, oral traditions, and the fragments of bestiaries of the literature-sodden world of Olondria. Every page is worth your time.”
The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett
“Ayize Jama-Everett’s Entropy of Bones is a very exciting book! Chabi is unlike most young women — but that’s as far as Jama-Everett takes this trope before thankfully inverting it on its head. Chabi is black-Mongolian, and comes from part of the Bay Area solidly ignored if not harmed by that area’s rapid gentrification. She’s ready to start putting her martial arts training to use by earning money as a bodyguard, providing for herself and her estranged alcoholic mother. But then her mentor disappears, and she realizes that without her knowledge (and certainly her consent) he has transformed her into an unwilling champion in an ages-old supernatural battle. There are taut action sequences and moral conflicts, but Chabi’s tough, wise, and funny character holds every strange, fascinating bit together. Her story is rooted solidly in our own world, from aspiring young DJs to pot-growing cottage industrialists, but the behind-the-curtain world of elemental good and evil Jama-Everett creates feels tantalizingly real.”
And then the third pick is a book on my TBR pile, useful!
Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns
“This beautiful book, the story of an impoverished, naive young artist in 1930s London, totally took me by surprise. At first the mishaps of newly-married Sophia and her husband Charles are funny and awkward — everything Sophia cooks tastes like soap; they paint all of their furniture sea-green; they live in terror of Charles’ forbidding relatives; and they’re always hard up for money. But through a masterful technique of Comyns, Sophia’s wondering attitude slowly reveals as much about her (and her unconscious attempts to deflect the emotional impact of constant disappointments) as it does those around her, who benefit from exploiting her optimism and self-doubt. Some moments of the book approach psychological horror, and the happy ones (they exist!) come as a great relief.”
Just in case there’s the tiniest chance you missed it, we at Big Mouth House — our imprint for readers of all ages — are once again celebrating Nicole Kornher-Stace’s debut YA novel Archivist Wasp which this weekend was announced as one of a very strong list of finalists for the Norton Award. Archivist hit a few Best of the Year lists, including YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, Kirkus Reviews, Book Riot, Buzzfeed, and the Locus Recommended Reading list and is well into its second printing. It’s looking like a third printing will be called for soon — woohoo!
If you’re curious, you can start reading here.
We’re very happy that not this Wednesday but the one after that (which would be March 2nd), Mary Rickert will be reading at the excellent Boswell Book Co. in Milwaukee, MN.
This is also a great opportunity to order signed or personalized copies of her new collection You Have Never Been Here — you can see they have 24 copies in stock and with luck by March 3rd, there will be none left!
Congratulations to all the writers whose work was selected for the 2015 Locus Recommended Reading List. It is always an interesting list; fascinating to see what makes the list, what does not. In 2015, not counting reprints and two issues of LCRW, we apparently published:
— two novels by Ayize Jama-Everett, The Liminal War and The Entropy of Bones
— one translation: Angélica Gorodischer’s Prodigies (translated by Sue Burke)
— one young adult novel: Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp
— one short story collection, Mary Rickert’s You Have Never Been Here
— two paperback reprints: Geoff Ryman’s Was and Greer Gilman’s Cloud & Ashes
— which constitutes a recommended reading list all of our own!
Of those five new titles, we are very happy to say four were selected for the Recommended Reading List:
You Have Never Been Here, Mary Rickert
No matter which books you liked or didn’t, I hope you’ll go and vote at the next election and keep democracy alive! And no matter if you do that or no, remember that the Locus poll is open, everyone can vote in it, and you can write in your own choices: Michael J. DeLuca for Editor!
2015 titles in order of publication:
Love this Puffin Passport (“Perused and pronounced a proper Puffin author”!) from Lizza Aiken’s rich Joan Aiken site. (Click to see it at a decent size there.)
Good news/bad news! I don’t know if you read Locus or Publishers Marketplace but if not I’m happy to pass on the news that Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others plus his as-yet-untitled next book have been picked up by Random House. This might have something to do with the film of the title story which has wrapped filming and is scheduled to come out this summer. The Knopf edition can be preordered at all your fave indie bookstores and here.
I have a little bit of mixed feelings about this as it was pretty fabulous to have Ted’s book as part of our list but mostly I am very happy that Ted’s stories will have this great chance at a very wide readership.