Law & Justice

I love books that have as a central conflict the disjunction of law and justice. Unsurprisingly, you'll find that as a theme in many of my novels, along with the question "who gets to count as people?" and that's certainly true of my contributions to the Pride Storybundle. Of course, both Point of Hopes and Death By Silver are fantasies structured as mysteries, which automatically foregrounds the question — most mysteries use the tension between law and justice to raise the stakes of their plots.

Collapse )

Victoriana, or, why I like queer Victorian fiction

There is a lot of queer SF/F set in what is at least nominally the Victorian/Edwardian period (three very different novels in the current LGBT Storybundle alone), and of course that raises the question of what makes this period so appealing. For me, at least, the period from the mid-19th century through the start of the First World War is attractive because it’s both familiar and deeply alien, and the ways in which it is different from the modern world offer some excellent opportunities for comment on our contemporary lives.

Collapse )

New Storybundle for Pride!

Yep, it's an LGBT+ Storybundle - 5 books in the basic bundle, yours for $5, or if you throw in another $10, you'll get 7 more titles, for an eclectic grouping of some of the best queer writing out there today.

When Steve Berman of Lethe Press asked me to co-edit Lethe’s year’s best lesbian SF/F anthology, Heiresses of Russ, for 2014, I was (of course) honored to be asked. I read a lot of stories, discovered some new writers, was reminded of some old favorites, but, most of all, I was blown away by the number and quality of the stories that were submitted. It reminded me yet again how much the SF/F world has changed — when my first novel was published, back in 1984, I was told that queer characters and themes were highly unlikely to sell, and if they did, at best they would get you branded as just and only a queer writer, trapped forever in a ghetto within a ghetto. Over the last thirty years, that has all changed dramatically. LGBT+ characters are definitely part of the field, and if they’re aren’t as many of them out there as there were in the late 1980s/early 1990s, we’ve never returned to the assumption that writing queer is the death of one’s career. In fact, the number of writers for whom intelligent, nuanced, sensitive — and queer — writing about queer things is simply a normal part of their range has grown so large so quickly that it’s all but impossible to keep up. And that, of course, meant that winnowing the field to a dozen books for an LGBT Storybundle was going to be equally difficult.

I’ve made a couple of arbitrary choices to start with. First, no novels in which being queer means you’re evil (that should go without saying), nor are there any in which it’s a doomed and tragic fate. There are places for the latter, but in this group I want to celebrate queerness. I also decided to focus on small press offerings, on the theory that it’s easier to overlook them than books from the mainstream houses — and none of this really narrowed the field very much. In the end, I went with books that showed me new facets of the LGBT+ experience, books that expanded my vision of both queer and of SF/F. It’s a highly eclectic group, a mix of new and established writers, novels and short story collections; it includes historical fantasy, contemporary werewolves, superhero adventures, Victorian magic, a YA ghost story, secondary world fantasies, and a noir-inflected war between Heaven and Hell, but all of them are by authors who are at the top of their game. There are six Spectrum and Lambda Literary Award finalists and winners in the group, and Riley Parra has been turned into a web series by Tello Films, to debut in August. You’ll also find a diverse group of characters, worlds where the rules of sex and gender are profoundly different form our own, and stories that will hold you entranced to the very end.

I don’t claim that this is the (or even “a”) definitive LGBT+ collection. The field is far too large for anyone to claim that. What I can promise is that these books celebrate queerness — gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and just plain queer — and show off some of the best writers working today.

On a more serious note… Storybundle has always allowed its patrons to donate part of their payment to a related charity, and the appalling situation in Chechnya seemed to be one where donations could make a real and immediate difference. If you choose, you can donate part of the bundle’s price to the Rainbow Railroad, a group helping LGBT people escape persecution and violence worldwide. At the moment, they are concentrating on helping the victims of the attacks on gay men in Chechnya; your donation will be a potentially life-saving gift.

Chicago's Last Stargate Con

This post is terribly overdue, thanks to a bout of con crud that had a colleague sticking her head into my office as I hacked and coughed to say with great sympathy, “Hairball?” But enough cool things happened that it seemed that ‘better late than never’ definitely applied.

Susannah Sinard and I were at the Fandemonium table for the weekend, signing books and talking to fans — and if you haven’t picked up her SG-1 novel, The Hall of the Two Truths, I highly recommend it. The wonderful dealers at Wrinkle in Time brought a ton of books for sale, so we were kept busy — though Susannah and I both managed to sneak off to hear a few talks.

And then there was… this.

Collapse )

A Further Thought on Last Calls

When I lived in New Hampshire, there was a restaurant up the coast in Ogunquit called the Hurricane. It was open only in the summer, on the waterfront, in the little harbor area, with a section that might once have been a deck jutting out over the tide line, but had long ago been enclosed. The food was marvelous — local, simple, impeccably prepared — and their dessert menu was limited but choice. However, I preferred to end my meal with their take on Irish coffee: the Last Call. It was coffee with shots of B&B, Grand Marnier, and Kahlua, topped, of course, with whipped cream, and if that wasn’t enough, the Hurricane’s bartender made amazingly good coffee and whipped the cream himself. I don’t particularly like whipped cream, but I’d actually say yes when he asked, “a little extra?” Sipping that at the end of a superb meal, with the tide coming in and the moon rising over the Atlantic… I’ve still never had a better coffee drink.

I’d like to think, as we hit our own last call for the Historical Fantasy Storybundle, that we have a few things in common with the Hurricane’s Last Call, at least metaphorically. Not only do we have a fine mix of periods and stories — the liqueurs — but we have good solid writing — the fine coffee — and expert scholarship worn lightly to top it off as neatly as whipped cream.

And the basic bundle still costs less than the drink.

Last Call for Storybundle!

The Historical Fantasy Storybundle is coming to an end! Our last day will be August 10, so if you’re on the fence about this one — maybe you already have my books, and don’t know if you’d like the others — let me offer some comparisons.

If you like the way I wrote Elizabethan England in The Armor of Light, you’ll like Judith Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands and Pillar of Fire, and Jo Graham’s The Emperor’s Agent. All three books are deeply grounded in their periods — the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the rule of Akhenaten, and Napoleon’s France — and all three use magic as it was believed to exist in its time to add depth to their stories. These are wonderful novels that let you immerse yourself in an entirely other yet believable world.

If you like the way I used the history of early modern Europe to create the city of Astreiant, you’ll like Martha Wells’ The Death of the Necromancer and the short story collection Between Worlds, and Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery. They both use somewhat later periods than the Points, but both create entirely imaginary worlds — countries and cities — that owe an obvious debt to the history of our own world. Ile-Rien exists in its own space, while Alpennia lives in the same dimension as Ruritania, but they are fabulous creations populated by fascinating people.

If you like the fast-paced adventure and secret history of the Order of the Air, you’ll like Geonn Cannon’s Trafalgar and Boone and Stag and Hound, and David Niall Wilson’s The Offyreus Wheel. Trafalgar and Boone is grand adventure in an Edwardian world not quite our own — I’ve seen it described as “Indiana Jones, only with extra bonus lesbians,” which is  pretty accurate. I also love the rivalry between the title characters, which never quite resolves the way one expects. Stag and Hound places werewolves in the French Resistance, and the tension never lets up until the very end. The Offyreus Wheel switches between past and present — one of my favorite tropes — as the protagonists unravel the secrets of the eponymous device.

You can get the first 5 books in the bundle for a minimum payment of $5, and for $15, you get 6 more novels; through your purchase, Storybundle will make a donation to Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers, two groups offering classes, mentoring, and support to young writers in underserved communities.

Last Week for Storybundle!!

The Historical Fantasy Storybundle has entered its last week, so I thought I’d take the chance to share a couple of comments from two of our authors.  When I put the bundle together, I asked people what had motivated them to write these novels — why historical fantasy, what they loved about the stories, what got them started, and I’m delighted to share answers from Heather Rose Jones and Martha Wells.

Heather first:

Daughter of Mystery is my debut novel—not the first novel I wrote, as often happens, but the first one I shared with the world. I never would have predicted that my first published book would be set in the early 19th century; I’ve always been much more of a medievalist and earlier. I have a trunk novel set in 1st century Britain (that I will one day overhaul), and starts and stabs in the 10th, 13th, and 15th centuries. The ancient timeless heroic age of the Welsh Mabinogi is another setting I’ve used (check out my story “Hoywverch” at Podcastle). But for some reason, when I was looking for a fiction project to jump-start me again after I finished my PhD, a scene flashed into my mind that stepped straight out of a Georgette Heyer novel…or out of Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo…or, well some odd blend of that era. It’s a period I’ve loved reading about, but it had never been a focus of research before. I think that helped free my imagination up to let the story flow. I knew enough to set up the stage and characters, but not so much that I felt I was drowning in details. (The research all came later.) I wrote without having any idea of where those characters would take me and shared the adventure as they experienced it. Now, of course, the history of Alpennia and the fate of my characters is a bit more firmly established in my imagination. But that was exactly what I needed at the time: the freedom to start every page asking, “What comes next?”

And Martha:

I wrote The Death of the Necromancer because it was what I wanted to read.  It's a fantasy mystery, set in a secondary world based on La Belle Epoque Paris, with magic and ghosts.  The main characters are Nicholas Valiarde, a Moriarty-like figure and leader of a criminal organization, Madeliene Denare, a popular actress who uses her skills in Nicholas' organization, and Reynard Morane, a disgraced army officer.  They are all out for revenge, but solving the mystery of a sorcerer who may be a serial killer and saving lives becomes more important.  That combination of dark fantasy, a gaslight secondary world, ghosts, and a clever criminal organization like a Victorian version of Ocean's 11 was just not something I had found anywhere else.  It was fun to write, even though it was a ton of research and work.  And I was thrilled when it made the Nebula ballot after it was first published by Avon Eos in 1998.  If you get our bundle, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Storybundle - In Case You Missed It

If you’re looking for background on the books in the Historical Fantasy Storybundle, our authors have been posting! Here’s a quick round-up of what they’ve said so far…

Jo Graham on the real woman behind The Emperor’s Agent.

Heather Rose Jones on queerness and history, in our bundle and out.

Me on the origins of the air race in Steel Blues.

Geonn Cannon on Trafalgar and Boone.

Martha Wells on nearly losing one of my favorite characters in The Death of the Necromancer.

Me again, this time on the magic in The Armor of Light.

Magic in The Armor of Light

The Armor of Light is part of the current HIstorical Fantasy Storybundle, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the history involved, and particularly the history of the magic. Years ago, Delia Sherman gave Lisa and me what is still my favorite blurb ever, for The Armor of Light. I’ve quoted it in full in the Storybundle page, but the relevant portions are “They played around with the history, saving Sidney from his Dutch wound and Marlowe from his tavern in Deptford, and punched up the magic a lot… Cecil would probably have had them silenced.”
Collapse )