At least, it’s going well from here — thank you! It’s busy as all get out but we are up to date to Thursday’s orders and by the end of today will have caught up again — unless there are too many orders to ship, woohoo, bring it! The post office says that US Priority Mail orders will still arrive by Christmas if ordered by 12/21, go for it!
Want some last minute present ideas? (OK, these are all going to be Small Beer books, I think.) Nothing here will stop the howling void of despair and depression taking over all from the electoral shenanigans but they will distract for various amounts of time:
It was a pleasure to encounter renowned SF and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin’s book of essays, Words Are My Matter, and to hear her wise, informed, elegant, and occasionally testy voice discussing such joys as the early H.G. Wells classics such as The Time Machine and China Miéville’s Embassytown—which surely owes a debt to Le Guin’s own The Left Hand of Darkness, now out in a sumptuous new Penguin Galaxy edition.
Sit back (or go jog, or shovel some snow) and listen to David Naimon and Sofia Samatar chat about The Winged Histories on the Between the Covers podcast. The Winged Histories was chosen as one of the best books of the year by NPR — yay!
The Valley Advocate ran a 3-page spread on John Crowley’s The Chemical Wedding which included interviews with Crowley, illustrator Theo Fadel, and designer Jacob McMurrary. The paper edition had many illustrations. Meanwhile the book was reviewed on Tor.com.
See the Elephant had previously run a review of Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell which much to my enjoyment began “Hellishly Good Stories.” Jim Sallis revelled in Ford’s collection in F&SF (“Formally Ford’s stories are object lessons in how to stage a narrative.”) Alvaro Zinos-Amaro reviewed it on IGMS and DF Lewis wrote reaction posts while reading the stories. Hazel and Wren also liked the book. What can I say? It struck a chord.
And Mary Rickert’s collection, You Have Never Been Here, came out so late in 2015 that a lot of people read it this year, i.e. Sallis (“Reading a Mary Rickert story quite often is like sinking through layers of such worlds. We begin in one place, blink, and open our eyes to somewhere—something—else.”) in F&SF and William Grabowski in See the Elephant: “Rickert’s work, its superbly subtle handling of deepest human yearning for something to heal the howling void behind our increasingly demythologized world, shows the ineffable power—and value—of fantastical storytelling.”
Jeffrey Ford’s story “A Natural History of Autumn” was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It was nominated for both World Fantasy and Shirley Jackson awards and went on to win the Shirley Jackson Award — which gives some idea of the shape of the story. Yes, it is spooky. “Mythic and creepy” even, as Josh Johnson at Hazel and Wren calls it. If, even though it is obviously fiction, it has some nugget of truth about the season of autumn in it, it does makes me wonder if even in the height of summer I should ever be looking forward to the (Northern hemisphere) cooler days of autumn. Of course if I turn my mind to the election instead of the natural world, it is a terrifying time.
Jeff was interviewed about inspirations for the story and the research he did before writing it on the F&SF blog and for fun included “a list of my top ten favorite works of fiction (at this moment) from Japan.”
Update: today Late Night Library posted a new interview with Jeff:
AUSTIN WILSON: Animals feature in several of the collection’s stories, sometimes as no more than pets or wild creatures, but also anthropomorphic monstrosities. What do you think we fear more: the familiar turning on us, or the attack of the unknown?
JEFFREY FORD: I think “the familiar turning on us” is actually an aspect of “the attack of the unknown.” For most scary stories the mood and scene are more important than the menace. As for animals in the stories, it makes sense. I live in a house with 3 dogs and 6 cats. There are cows and goats and horses just across the road. Out back, there are deer eating from our garden and apple trees, and in the winter, I suppose, coyotes eating deer in the snow covered, stubble fields. At night, in spring, the fox comes, stands behind the garage and cries out with a sound like Satan choking on a wishbone. The animals are everywhere.
Perhaps you and your family and/or friends exchange horrible gifts and favors on Halloween? Perhaps you’ve been wondering what to give your demonic friends who seem to have all the slavering zombie tchotchkes in the world? Publishers Weekly says Jeffrey Ford’s A Natural History of Hell is:
This is the perfect reader-who-has-everything gift for fantasy fans with a literary bent or vice versa. Ford brilliantly cross-pollinates the grim suburban settings of literary fiction with fantastical elements, adding dashes of humor and empathy to provide some light in dark days.
Also on the sf&f part of the Holiday Gift Guide are the new one-volume hardcover edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Unreal and the Real as well as the huge new book of collected novellas, The Found and the Lost, Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.
Anyone who received all five books would be a lucky reader indeed!
You have one week to enter to win a free copy of Jeffrey Ford’s mind melting A Natural History of Hell:
“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 Brief 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.”
— Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom
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
“Eileen Gunn’s terrific new story collection, Questionable Practices, is a unique amalgam of big ideas and versatile styles packed into short pieces devoid of loose threads and excess baggage. Gunn manages to perfectly balance themes of thought paradox, gender politics, corporate culture, time travel, steampunk, with a storyteller’s ability to immediately draw the reader in through character and drama. Real science fiction, great humor, and some cool collaboration with Michael Swanwick make this a good choice for SF short fiction fans.”