Jul 18 2016

Winding down, gearing up.


Well, Readercon is over, and my annual hang-out-with-pals-after-Readercon is also over…

Cool things from Readercon:

A reading by Ellen Kushner, from the next season of the serialized multi-author novel, Tremontaine.

Here’s a nifty trailer for the series:

The reading was followed by Ellen’s  Kaffeeklatsch — which included as a treat, a guest appearence by Ada Palmer, singing her famous (in fandom) song, “Somebody Will,” which always makes me cry.

But in a good way.  (Here’s a link to a duet version of the song, with Ada singing with Lauren Schiller.)

Also, I attended a reading by Delia Sherman, from her upcoming YA novel, The Evil Wizard Smallbone.  I’ve heard bits of the book before, and it’s always a delight.  Delia has such a graceful hand with tales of magic.

Comes out in September, but you could pre-order it now. Yes, you could.

Also: a reading by Jo Walton, from her work in progress, Poor Relations, which I enjoyed immensely.  By laughing a lot.  It was that kind of book, and she read it with vim!   (You can’t buy it yet — but the final volume of her Thessaly series, Necessity, is just out this week. )

And finally, a reading by one of Readercon’s guests of honor, Catherynne Valente,  whose writing you know I love.  I can’t recall the title — it was a work in progress, I think –  but it was dark and rich and grim and lovely.  (There’s an excerpt from it in the Readercon program, which I have at home where I am not, and not in my office, where I am.)

Hm.  I seem only to have attended readings by women this time!  Not by intention: Daryl Gregory was listed on the original program, but left off of the updated one.  Apparently he could not attend after all.  Alas.  I do love hearing him read.

The panels…


I didn’t go to many, but it seemed to me that each one I attended (and the one I was on),  rather quickly turned away from books, and toward TV shows and movies as examples of whatever subject was on hand for discussion.

And I found this disappointing.  The thing about Readercon, the blessed thing about it, is that it has traditionally been focused on books.  There’s no film track, no gaming, the dealer’s room sells nothing but books.  In theory it’s supposed to stand in opposition other conventions, which more and more deal with movies, TV, gaming, and the fandom that surrounds them.  Not that those aren’t wonderful things, and sources of real art — But Readercon has always been the exception to  the trend.   That was its charm, and its attraction.

But this time, not so much.  I don’t know what to make of that.

As well as official convention events, there was plenty of meeting and re-meeting of friends, always a glad thing.  (I’d detail more but… this is running rather long, and getting late.  Perhaps I’ll expand on events in a later post?)

And after Readercon, as is traditional, I spent a few days with fellow authors Ann Tonsor Zeddies (aka Toni Anzetti, but not any more), and Geary Gravel.   A splendid time was had by all, including much deep talk far into the night on the front porch, one reading of a work in progress, the inevitable champagne, many delicious meals, and walks around interesting places.

A denizen of the forest.

A denizen of the forest.


The Bridge of Flowers, in Shelburne Falls, MA.

The Bridge of Flowers, in Shelburne Falls, MA.




So.  All that is over, I’m back home and unpacked, and my laundry is done, and I’m tucked into my office.

Next on the agenda: Ack! Worldcon in August.  Preceded by a week in Chicago… Yikes, only two and a half weeks before all that.

Better get back to wrestling with the Muse.  Who is a slippery gal, but I do believe I have a weight advantage, there.



Dec 22 2014

Strange and beautiful: Catherynne M. Valente



valente fairyland


I first encountered Catherynne Valente at a Readercon, when we sat side-by-side at the autographing table one afternoon. I had never read anything by her, and during a lull I took a look the books she had with her for sale. I picked out Palimpsest more or less at random.

It was absolutely unlike anything I ever read before. Valente’s prose is wildly poetic, her imagery weird and lush, and heated.

Also: plenty of sex in Palimpsest. In the tale, persons who discover fragmentary maps appearing as tattoos on their body gain admission to a fantastical city — but only after intercourse with someone else with a map-tattoo. (Want to see more city? Have more sex. ) But within that city, four people discover that they share a deep connection, and they move heaven and earth to find each other in the real world.

Well, that was my intro to her work.  I sought out her blog (which is rather quiet lately), which I loved, and through that I learned of her other works.  I went looking for the rest of it — and it was all so wide and wild, a full of delicious language.

You might recall the discussion that I held here on my blog of Habitation of the Blessed: Dirge for Prester John. Another book of monstrous beauty. (You can reread what we had  to say, which was a lot.)

But what I’d like to suggest this time: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Yes, this is a fairy tale, and can be read to young children, read by older children, and read by you for yourself. Valente has created a wonderful, original world, rich enough for all ages.

I first read it as one of the freebies on her website, and there was a tip jar. I plunked down a bunch of bucks, I loved it so much. Then it came out on Kindle, and I bought it; and then the hardcover, with the quirky illustrations by Ana Juan — and I had to have that. So, that’s three times I paid for the same book, and it was worth every shiny penny.

Catherynne M. Valente’s books on Amazon

Catherynne M. Valente’s website and blog, which is worth reading for its own sake.

Jan 18 2011



On my Kindle, I had, waiting in the wings, Catherynne M. Valente’s This Is My Letter To The World: The Omikuji Project, Cycle One. I’ve had it for a while now.

But I had not started reading it, because I knew that if I did, I would use all my non-DayJob, non-gym time reading it. And I’m supposed to be using that time writing.

Yes, I was STRONG!

But then…

This morning, my Kindle automatically downloaded my pre-purchased copy of Jo Walton’s Among Others. Pre-purchased because it had not yet been released, but I knew I wanted it. But today it was officially released, so …

Zing! It shows up on my Kindle.

Oh, look, say I. Maybe I’ll just take a peek…

And you can guess the rest.

Seriously, this is such a lovely book.

I ought to read it really fast, so that I can get back to writing…

But I now feel I owe it to The Omikuji Project to read that next, because it’s been waiting so long.


Okay, I’ll finish Jo’s book, then spend some time fictionless (except for my own), and hit Valente’s book sometime next week.

Actually, I want to do everything simultaneously. Alas, not possible.

Nov 2 2010

Valente’s Habitation of the Blessed — officially out now


Catherynne M. Valente’s Habitation of the Blessed, which we started discussing with Thursday’s Post, and continuing into the comments, is now out in the actual official hard-copy version, so you can buy it today!.

But I must say, it was fun to be able to read it early in the Kindle Version. (Nyah, as they say, Nyah!)

My thanks to Sabine for posting during the discussion, and being all enthusiastic. You’re the best.

It’s not too late to have your say! Post a comment here, or in the original discussion post comments

Plus, Ms. Valente herself is doing a contest/giveaway at her blog. Do check it out — you want these items!

Oct 28 2010

The Habitation of the Blessed: Dirge for Prester John, Vol. 1, by Catherynne M. Valente; and further discussion


kinde version of a cover!

The art of literature, vocal or written, is to adjust the language so that it embodies what it indicates. — A. N. Whitehead

I had originally hoped to have finished reading Catherynne M. Valente’s Habitation of the Blessed: a Dirge for Prester John, Volume 1 by today, so that I could write a review that addressed the whole of it, coming to some grand, deep conclusion — so that I could write, in fact, both intelligently and beautifully about this intelligent and beautiful book.

However, I find that Thursday has arrived, and I have not yet reached the end of the book — and that is, I believe, a very good thing in this case.

I could have rushed it, of course I could have — like most readers who love reading, I can read very quickly indeed.

But earlier, over in the comments, Sabine made this point :  It’s one of those books, like Gormenghast, that forces me to read slowly and savor the prose. But I also have to stop reading after a chapter or so, just to cool down my brain.

If you try to read Habitation of the Blessed quickly, you’re making a big mistake.

A couple of times over the past few days, I did start to hurry, hoping to finish by today.    But each time some wiser part of myself stepped forward, grabbed me by the elbows, and shook me hard.   Stop, it said.  Go back.  Read it again.  Look what you missed! I soon stopped trying to rush.

Because if you read a story very quickly,  what you get from the story is this: the events.

That’s it.  The stuff that happened.  That’s all.

For some writers, that’s all they have; and for some stories, that’s enough.   So in reading them fast, you lose nothing — and even gain, perhaps, in the giddy glee of sheer speed.

But Valente has more for you.    She’ll give you what happened, but also the scent of it; and the cracking of blue light above; and the sorrow and joy of layered centuries; and delight, and the taste of especially good coffee; and the pain of remembered betrayal by someone who you didn’t know yet.

Life is not just events; it’s resonances and echoes, and knife-edged immediacy.

It takes more than plain prose to give these things to the reader.

I am a very bad historian, the monk Hiob says.  But I am a very good miserable old man.  I sit at the end of the world, close enough to see my shriveled old legs hang over the bony ridge of it.  I came so far for gold and light and a story the size of the sky.

I am a Pentexoran, Hagia the Blemmyae says.  I am a loyal and darling child of luck.  I submit to it, like a dog.  But it terrifies me, sometimes, how near we come, every moment, to living some other life beyond imagining.

I ate the sail one night and dreamed of honey, the starving traveler John says. The stars overhead hissed at me like cats.

I am not like you, Imtithal the Panoti says. I was made of other things than street-dust and spices, other things than cities can forge in their endless and wending hearts.

These are the four characters Valente gives us, to usher us into and through the Habitation of the Blessed: two men of the world we know; two women of the world of wild wonder.    They’ve led me halfway through the book thus far.

I’m rested now; my brain has cooled down a bit.  I’m ready for more.

Let’s go on.

Oct 27 2010

Catherynne M. Valente and Amal El-Mohtar reading “Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero”


No, don’t just jump ahead and click on the video! Read this first:

As I mentioned in the comments the other day, the first time I’d encountered Catherynne M. Valente’s work was at a poetry reading at Readercon, 2009.

I try to catch at least part of the poetry “slan” (as Readercon calls it) every time I go to Readercon. I always hear something I enjoy. But this time I was totally blown away, and brought to tears, by “Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero.”

Later, in the dealer’s room, I bought a copy of the 2008 Rhysling Anthology 2009 Rhysling Anthology, which had the poem in it, hoping I could get the poem autographed…

Later still, I discovered myself seated right beside Valente at our joint autographing session!

I did get her autograph, but El-Mohtar, alas, had left the convention. But I also bought from Valente a copy of Palimpsest.

Then other day, while looking up the exact spelling of Amal El-Mohtar’s name on the internet, I came across a YouTube video of that very reading.

I watched it, but I noticed something: the video failed to recapture my experience.

I fear that the problem is that the person who made the recording had not as good a seat as I had, and the words are not always clearly audible. It makes a difference.

Solution: Keep the text beside you as you watch the video!

So, I found the text online here: Lone Star Stories: Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero by Amal El-Mohtar and Catherynne M. Valente. I suggest that you open in it a separate window, make that window half your screen, and put the video on the other half; then you can watch and read along… (Alternatively, print out the text.)

Last point: as I recall from the introduction they gave the reading, Valente and El-Mohtar had each independently written poems about Damascus (by intent or accident, I can’t recall which), and when they compared them, found that they paralleled each other, and fit together beautifully; and so they wove them into one poem for two voices.


Okay… now run the video.

The poem:

Lone Star Stories: Damascus Divides the Lovers by Zero by Amal El-Mohtar and Catherynne M. Valente.

Oct 26 2010

You should also read the comments…


Because — hello! Stuff gets said there.

Like this, in response to the fact that Catherynne Valente’s latest book is out in Kindle before it was out in hardcopy:

As for Habitation of the Blessed, I’d like to suggest that we read it this week, and beginning on Thursday, discuss it right here. By “we” I mean anyone interested, and by “right here” I mean that I’ll create a post on that date called “Habitation of the Blessed and further discussion” and start it off with my take on the book; then in the comments anyone and everyone can post, and we can do as much back-and-forth as any of us can stand.

It’s not necessary to have completed reading the book in order to say something — just your current impression. And you can say as little or as much as you choose. But ideally, we need to do it all before the official hardcopy release of the book on November 1st.

You can get the Kindle version here: Habitation of the Blessed: a Dirge for Prester John – Kindle version.

And the hardcopy version is actually available from Amazon now here:Habitation of the Blessed – paperback.

I’d like to try to get a sense of how interested people are in doing this… or even how interested people are in just seeing this done by me and whoever else.

So, post a comment here. Just a “Yes!” would suffice. You could use the “Like” on Facebook, but I don’t know how accurate a count I’ll get from that. A comment here is more certain to be seen.

What say?

So? What say, then?

Oct 24 2010

Comment turned to post. Plus: other news


my favorite seashell

In reply to my “Kindle Greed” post, David said:

Glad to see someone else is experiencing the Robert Charles Wilson love! It was Spin that put me onto him too. And, like you, I then had to tear through his catalog.

To which I replied:

I’ve been trying to turn on all my pals to Robert Charles Wilson — I hope I actually have time to read Bios and Axis. Just the other day I finished the audiobook version of Julian Comstock, which I thoroughly loved.

Usually stories in which the protagonist is a writer turn out shaky at best. But Wilson has such a graceful hand with the point-of-view, letting Adam Hazzard use his very best 19th century styled prose to describe the events both carefully and eloquently — and at the same time allowing the reader to see straight through to everything that Adam is missing! This careful observativeness combined with obliviousness, still including all the information that we need to see what’s really going on — what a tour de force!

Plus: got all misty-eyed at more than a few passages.

Also: laughed right out loud sometimes.

Geez, what more can you ask of a story?

Well, yeah, sense of wonder… but in this book poignant longing for lost glory stood in its stead.   Worked for me.

(Oh, and I must say — the audiobook narrator, Scott Brick, did a stunning job. Adam Hazzard’s voice in my mind is now the voice of Scott Brick. Hazzard’s sometimes over-eloquent prose was delivered with such gentle sincerity that I could not help but love him and his innocent striving for what he viewed as excellence as a writer.)

In other news: I started reading The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One and I’ve already fallen in love with Catherynne M. Valente’s amazing prose — again. I’ll say more when I’m done, but so far, prospects are good!

Oct 20 2010

Kindle greed


Ooh, yeah. Books for less then 10 bucks each? What’s not to like?

Recent purchases:

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson — okay, that one was more than 10 bucks…

Bios and Axis both by Robert Charles Wilson, whose work I have been loving recently. After I read his Spin I went on a rampage reading everything I could find of his. But I’d missed these two, and now I’ve got ’em!

This is My Letter to the World: The Omikuji Project and The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One both by Catherynne M. Valente. What I’ve read so far by Ms. Valente (Palimpsest and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, two books which are very different from each other), makes me want to read much more — plus, as you know, I’m a follower of her blog.

And as it turns out, due to a publishing glitch, the Kindle version of Prester John is out weeks before the print version. Ms.Valente points out that someone could read and review it before the physical book is even available… Can I possibly manage it?

Jul 19 2010

Asleep at the wheel again


Hey, look what I missed.


I missed applying to attend Launchpad last year from finding out about it too late, when I’d used up all my vacation days.

I missed it this year from completely forgetting that it existed at all, and making other plans that used up most of my vacation days. Admittedly, I used those days to work on Book 5, which is a good thing. But had I freakin’ REMEMBERED about Launchpad, I could have taken those days earlier or later, and shifted some things around and tried to sign up.

Because — hello — it’s NASA.

Plus: FREE!

On the other hand, I’m certain there are writers whose need was far greater than mine… But I could have used some uplift and inspiration.

Okay. Next. Year.

Chad Orzel just now suggested that someone do something similar to Launchpad, but for quantum physics. A great idea…

Catherynne Valente has referred to the Internet as a “terrifying wish engine” — this after she voiced a desire for an accordion and a teacher, and both appeared.

So, let’s give it a try:

Ahem. ‘Scuse me? People on the internet — hello? Yes, you, the hive-mind.

We could really use a workshop on quantum physics for science fiction writers.

Because, you know, it would be good if we didn’t look like idiots when we write about it. As we so often do.

Plus: If we wrote about it compellingly, young persons would be inspired to study it, and advance the field even further, to the betterment of all mankind. No, really.

Also: after I finish the current series, I have a couple of projects in mind, and one actually involves quantum physics. If I had a workshop about quantum physics, I’d gravitate toward that project instead of the other one.

I’m just sayin’.

Thank you for your time.

nothing to do with quantum physics, just a cool picture