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.”
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!
So next month we’ll try and take it back to where it all began: the zine, in print!
I’ll post the table of contents soonish. The cover is by none other than Kathleen Jennings. There are excellent stories. There will not be blood. There will be poetry. There will not be political posturing. Wait, there may be. We may misspell the acronym: LCWR, CLWR, MEHH, WHUT, LWRW, WWLCD? (She’d marry another younger man, start a fannncy lit mag, join a hospital ship, get a tattoo, have some fun.)
Being the internet age, I’ve learned as much about Mary Rickert from her Facebook feed as I have from the biography on her website.
These are the facts I am confident are true: Mary Rickert dislikes the Distraction Culture of smartphones and loves flowers, she is open to new adventures and has spent many hours hiking the Sequoia National Park, she is generous and gracious and deeply appreciative of her friends.
As this is also the Fragmentary Age, I also “know” some facts that are likely some percentage of wrong: she is a serious practitioner of yoga, she spent years working and reworking her critically-acclaimed first novel, she has a dog.
Finally, there are the facts I gleaned from her writing itself. No external proof is required; her stories are the proof. Mary Rickert sees the darkness inside all of us and still cares. She loves children, real children, the kind who are selfish and volatile and loving and oh-so vulnerable. She understands that people often fail to be their best selves. Mary Rickert doesn’t flinch. That’s what makes her fiction so powerful. But beneath the disquiet and darkness, or intertwined with it, her stories contain an intense belief in the redemptive power of human caring. Her stories are immersive and beautiful and full small human kindnesses.
The story I chose for this podcast, “Cold Fires,” is about pirates, and strawberries, and enchantments, including the enchantment of love. It is also about what happens when people love too much and what happens when they fail to love enough.
Mary Rickert earned a MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art. Her novel, The Memory Garden, won the Locus award for best first novel and won rave reviews from such places as io9, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. Her stories have won or been nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula, the Crawford Award, and the International Horror Guild Award.
Episode 21: In which Julie C. Day reads Mary Rickert’s “Cold Fires” from her collection You Have Never Been Here.
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Take a minute to admire that cover design. Notice how, through the magic of perspective, this woman seems to fly right at you with a pair of hands serving as wings. (The photo by Emma Powell is called ‘Angel.’) It’s the kind of off-putting, and yet beautiful, reaction one can get from reading Rickert’s fiction, short stories designed to scrape the skin from within.
It is weirdly warm in Western Massachusetts, many degrees above the norm, no snow on the ground — no real snow yet at all in fact, just as few of the lightest flurries one day and then nothing since — and people have been walking around without jackets. It is very strange, I hope it’s not the new norm. It seems odd to wish for cold weather but here in the northern hemisphere in mid December it’s what we’ve known for many years and unseasonal changes are getting more common.
So here’s a story from You Have Never Been Here about cold to remind me (weather-wise, at least!) what is to come.
“Cold Fires” by Mary Rickert:
It was so cold that daggered ice hung from the eaves with dangerous points that broke off and speared the snow in the afternoon sun, only to be formed again the next morning. Snowmobile shops and ski rental stores, filled with brightly polished snowmobiles and helmets and skis and poles and wool knitted caps and mittens with stars stitched on them and down jackets and bright-colored boots, stood frozen at the point of expectation when that first great snow fell on Christmas night and everyone thought that all that was needed for a good winter season was a good winter snow, until the cold reality set in and the employees munched popcorn or played cards in the back room because it was so cold that no one even wanted to go shopping, much less ride a snowmobile. Cars didn’t start but heaved and ticked and remained solidly immobile, stalagmites of ice holding them firm. Motorists called Triple A and Triple A’s phone lines became so congested that calls were routed to a trucking company in Pennsylvania, where a woman with a very stressed voice answered the calls with the curt suggestion that the caller hang up and dial again.
It was so cold dogs barked to go outside, and immediately barked to come back in, and then barked to go back out again; frustrated dog owners leashed their pets and stood shivering in the snow as shivering dogs lifted icy paws, walking in a kind of Irish dance, spinning in that dog circle thing, trying to find the perfect spot to relieve themselves while dancing high paws to keep from freezing to the ground.
It was so cold birds fell from the sky like tossed rocks, frozen except for their tiny eyes, which focused on the sun as if trying to understand its betrayal. read on
The question above comes from the pen of Mary Rickert, who unquestionably is keeping the world alive with her words. We’re publishing a new collection of stories by Mary today You Have Never Been Here and in writing this post I am frustrated that I have to put words in front of you at all as all of Mary’s are better and more worth your time.
“Gothic literature, diluted, over time, into its architecture of moors and castles, is actually an exploration of the human experience as cohesion of the beast and the divine.”
“I try to remember that in every culture, in every age, there were things believed as universally true that later were proven false. We are all victims of the illusion of our time. I try to look beyond the veil, and I’m sure I fail. I try to remember the veil exists.”
— from “Process as Photosynthesis” An Interview with Mary Rickert by Annie Bilancini on SmokeLong Quarterly.
You can also read Mary’s letter to a young writer on the Story Prize blog:
Dear Young Writer,
I know many people have told you to make the language invisible, but what if they are wrong? Consider the possibility that words are not mere instruments of description but tools of alchemy.
This is Mary’s fourth book after publishing two collections and an amazing novel last year, The Memory Garden. Of herself she writes:
“Mary Rickert grew up in Wisconsin but moved to California as soon as she was eighteen. She still has fond memories of selling balloons at Disneyland and learning to boogie board in the ocean. Sometimes she would go to the beach early in the morning, before any one else was there, sit in the lifeguard’s tower and write poetry. After many years (and through the sort of “odd series of events” that describe much of her fiction) she got a job as a kindergarten teacher in a small private school for gifted children. She worked there for almost a decade before leaving to pursue her life as a writer. Her first novel, The Memory Garden was published in 2015. There are, of course, mysterious gaps in this account of her life and that is where the truly interesting stuff happened.”
I have no idea what went on in those mysterious gaps. I know she sold her first painting before her first story. I know that her stories have won awards. I know that when Mary writes a story I have no idea where it will go. I have no idea what the spaces will be. What the rhythms, the rhymes will be. I know I’ll have to get off this treadmill. Push aside the idea that I’ll get stuff done. Push aside the world as I know it. Step into the world as Mary sees it.
Tor.com want to give you a fab book and all you have to do is go post a comment to enter!
What’s the book about?
Why, here’s a handy review in Booklist!
“Rickert’s latest collection contains haunting tales of death, love, and loss. In stories that are imbued with mythology, beasts, and fantastical transformations, Rickert captures the fanciful quality of regret and longing. . . . Rickert’s blend of dark and whimsy is reminiscent of Angela Carter. Perfect for readers looking for something unique, melancholy, and fantastical.”
But I am meanwhiling here first about Sofia Samatar who has two stories in the inaugural edition of HMH’s latest addition to their Best American series: Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015. Also: are there more SBP authors in this book? Yes! See Nathan Ballingrud, Kelly Link, and two stories (Holly Black’s and Paolo Bacigalupi) from Monstrous Affections received honorable mentions.
It’s interesting to look at the list of stories passed on to Joe Hill by series editor John Joseph Adams to see where they were first published.
You can read Joe Hill’s introduction to the book on Entertainment Weekly where he calls Sofia ” a rising star in the genre” and “a young she-can-do-anything star” and describes her two stories as “incredibly different and equally breathtaking stories.” Absolutely!
Meanwhile over in bookland, Mary Rickert’s You Have Never Been Here: New and Selected Stories received two lovely trade reviews from PW and Kirkus. We’re sending out our last few galleys now and fingers crossed we will have the book on hand at World Fantasy Con in Saratoga Springs in a month or so! Mary will be there and we will not be running out of books the way we did with Archivist Wasp at Readercon. Dammit! (Sorry again, Nicole!) See below for links to the reviews. Suffice to say if you’ve enjoyed collections we’ve published by Elizabeth Hand, Nathan Ballingrud, Kelly Link, etc., etc., this one is for you.
And we are working on another collection, this one for July of next year by none other than Jeffrey Ford. But, hey, enough for today. More on that manana!
“Beautiful, descriptive prose enriches tales of ghosts, loss, and regret in this leisurely collection. . . . Fans of Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link will appreciate Rickert’s explorations of myth and memory.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Short stories about people haunted by loss and transformed by grief. Ghosts walk through this collection. Witches are rumored. People collect bones, sprout wings, watch their feet turn into hooves. Above all, people tell stories—stories that cast spells, stories that change the world. In “Journey into the Kingdom,” a tale about ghosts who walk out of the sea has a powerful effect on a young widower. In “Anyway,” a mother asks herself what she would sacrifice to save her son’s life. In the collection’s longest story, “The Mothers of Voorhisville,” a group of women are drawn together when they realize their newborn babies have something very strange in common. Not every piece sings, but those that do have a powerful, haunting effect. As the mother of a dead girl puts it in “The Chambered Fruit,” the best of these stories show how “from death, and sorrow, and compromise, you create,” how “this is what it means…to be alive.” Rickert’s (Holiday, 2010, etc.) writing is crystal-clear, moody, occasionally blood-chilling. Her characters maneuver through a world where strange, troubling transformations are possible, but they live and breathe on the page, fully human. The worlds Rickert creates are fantastical, but her work should appeal not just to fantasy fans, but to anyone who appreciates a well-told tale.”
— Kirkus Reviews