Posts Tagged ‘Campbell nominee’

WorldCon Wrapup

I arrived home from WorldCon last night, absolutely beat.  The convention was a great deal of fun, but the highlight for me is summed up in this photo.

Presenting David Anthony Durham with the Campbell TiaraThat’s me, at the Hugo Ceremony, presenting David Anthony Durham with the Campbell Tiara.  He wore it the rest of the evening and looks darn good in it.  I’m very happy for him.

The only downside to the whole thing is that there aren’t five tiaras. The field was very strong this year, and if you haven’t already, check out the other Campbell nominees.

The rest of the ceremony was pretty darn cool, too.  I was particularly happy to see Weird Tales when the Semi-prozine category because I think the work that Stephen H. Segal has done to reimagine the magazine has been incredible. It’s not simply the design, but the entire way he’s approaching packaging the magazine. Very smart and clearly it paid off.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I did not walk away with the short story Hugo for “Evil Robot Monkey.” Since I totally expected Ted Chiang to take it, this is not a surprise. What was surprising is that ERM had the most nominations.  That surprised the heck out of me.

I also need to give a shout-out to Kate Baker, who not only rescued me from the hotel of doom, but also turns out to be a fantastic roommate.  We hung all weekend and had more fun than I can tell you about.

Lordy, I’m sure there’s more, because it didn’t seem like I ever stopped moving.

The Campbell Tiara

Campbell TiaraI’m in Montreal where I will hand over the Campbell Tiara to the newest winner of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  I’m seriously looking forward to it.  This year had a really strong field with David Anthony Durham, Aliette de Bodard, Tony Pi, Felix Gilman, and Gord Sellar.

Any of them would look good in the tiara.

When Jay Lake and Elizabeth Bear came up with the idea for the tiara, it was to raise public awareness of the award.  This only works if people recognize the tiara and what it means.

Which means wearing it.

Not that this is particularly onerous, since it’s pretty.  I joke about how I wore it to all “State Occasions” but the truth is, I’ve worn it at every con I’ve been to this year.  I’ll have it on at WorldCon. I’m a little bit uncomfortable with that, because the spotlight should be on the nominees and this feels like I’m begging people to pay attention to me.  But here’s the thing… you know the Hugo Rocket pin?  You see that and if you’re at WorldCon, you immediately what it means because it’s entered the public consciousness.  The same should be true of the Campbell Tiara.  Which means wearing it.

So that when I pass it to the new winner, even if you don’t attend the Hugo Ceremony, you’ll know that the person in the tiara is this year’s recipient of the Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  That’s the whole point of having it. Plus it’s pretty.

Campbell Nominee Interview: Felix Gilman

This is the last interview of the 2009 nominees for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I encourage you to find fiction by all of these authors and read them.

Felix GilmanFelix Gilman was born in London in 1974. He holds two degrees in history from Oxford, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a doctorate in Ludology from the Waldzell School of the Order of Castalia, and certain advanced but curiously non-specific qualifications in modern American poetry from the National University of Zembla.

Also he went to Hogwarts. Why not?

He now lives with his wife Sarah in New York, where he works as a writer and lawyer.

Please don’t ask him for legal advice. He’s not that sort of lawyer, and it doesn’t really work that way.

So what did you do when you were notified about the nomination?
I was on the phone when the email appeared. I wasn’t expecting to be nominated at all, and I hadn’t been paying particularly close attention to the process, so I was completely caught off-guard. I had to hang up and spend some time online trying to work out what being nominated meant in this context. Did it mean shortlisted or just voted for by one or more people? It took me about an hour to cautiously decide this was probably good news, and not in any apparent way a trap.

How long have you been writing?
The current sustained push has lasted since about late 2006.

Where did you get the idea for the great city of Ararat?
I don’t know exactly. I knew I wanted a city, and I knew I wanted it to be very big, and to feel (a) very strange and resistant to explanation and (b) suggestive of hidden depths, and so everything else followed from the premises. Details were stolen from every city I’ve ever been in or read about or seen on TV, and inserted as necessary as I went along.

In 2007, you did an interview with Jeff VanderMeer in which he asked you why you wrote. Among other things, you said, “Ask me again in a year.” Two years later…why do you write?
Bloody-mindedness.

Two years, God. Really?

Is there a definable point when you realized that writing had
changed from a hobby to an avocation?

“Hobby” will do just fine.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m due to get back edits from my editor at Tor on a third book, A History of The Half-Made World, any day now. Clearing the decks for that. It’s not related to the first two books.

What are you currently reading?
Norman Mailer’s Miami and the Siege of Chicago, about the 1968 Democratic and Republican conventions. I don’t know much about most of the figures involved, and 1968’s party politics are so remote and in so many ways inverted from today’s that I really don’t know what he’s talking about half the time, but I enjoy it on the level of a series of portraits of nightmarish grotesques. You could imagine Mervyn Peake illustrating it.

What is it about speculative fiction, in general, that most appeals to you?
The strange, the grotesque, the absurd; the capacity of really strange fantastic fiction to reflect back how odd the actual world is. Also, monsters.

Campbell nominee interview: Tony Pi

Tony PiCanadian writer Tony Pi holds a doctorate in linguistics and works in administration at the Cinema Studies Institute, University of Toronto. His short stories have appeared or will appear in diverse venues such as Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Ages of Wonder (DAW), The Best of Abyss & Apex, Volume 1 (Hadley Rille), and On Spec. He was a winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, and his novelette “Metamorphoses in Amber” was a 2008 Prix Aurora Award finalist in the category of “Best Short-Form Work in English”.

So what did you do when you were notified about the nomination?
I received the news on Pi Day, which my partner and I were celebrating anyway (just because). We had gone out for dim sum and a walk that morning, and when we came home I checked my email. I almost missed the email because the subject line started with “Congratulations…”, which I generally assume to be spam. But after I read the rest of it, there was a lot of jumping up and down, and explaining to my partner why. We rounded out the day with pizza and apple pie, and the Canadian premiere of the latest Doctor Who Christmas special. All in all, my best Pi Day ever.

How long have you been writing?
About thirteen years ago, when I was working towards my PhD in Linguistics in Montreal, a friend invited me to write stories set in a shared-world superhero milieu for a Usenet newsgroup. Back then, I hadn’t thought seriously about writing professionally, since I wrestling with my thesis in semantics. But being a huge fan of the Wild Cards series, I couldn’t turn down the offer. So,  in my spare time, I started writing purely for the love of the superhero trope. I wrote a title called Conclave of Super-Villains, with 40 issues and collaborations over the years where I experimented with different voices and forms, and had a blast doing it.

Later, when I was sharing an apartment with an aspiring writer, he read my online fiction and pushed me to try paying markets and different tropes. I have them to thank for nudging me in the right direction.

Is there a definable point when you realized that writing had changed from a hobby to an avocation?
I think the turning point was when I first met authors working in F&SF. In 2001, I took a writing workshop with Robert J. Sawyer, and was also introduced to Elizabeth Bear outside of a writing context. I took to heart their candid accounts of breaking into the field and staying the course, and resolved to follow their example. I started getting acceptances at semi-pro magazines like On Spec and Abyss & Apex, before winning Second Place in the Writers of the Future Contest.

In what ways does your background in Linguistics influence your fiction?
Linguistics has figured prominently in a couple of stories, like phonetics in “The Stone Cipher” (Writers of the Future, Vol. 23) and forensic linguistics in “Come-From-Aways” (appearing soon in On Spec #76). Having studied linguistics for so long, I’m always happy when I have an idea where language is central. Part of the fun is showcasing the versatility of the discipline.

Do you ever think about writing screenplays?
Only briefly. Although I work as an administrator at the Cinema Studies Institute (which we affectionately call CSI), I don’t think screenplays are my forte. I have experimented with different forms of creative writing, reading voraciously about writing fiction, screenplays, plays, comics and different genres. I decided in the end that I prefer writing prose fantasy, science fiction, and mystery. However, I have several stories where the cinema plays a large role.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m revising a novel manuscript about the shapeshifters who first appeared in “Metamorphoses in Amber.” I’d also like to continue a series of short stories set during the silent film era of an alternate, magical Earth. Beyond those, a couple of anthology invites and a growing list of ideas are waiting their turn for research, characters or plot.

What are you currently reading?
I have a few books currently on the go. My monthly book club will be reading The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin for April, and I’ve just started The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which I’m enjoying a lot. I was also testing the eReader on my iPod Touch and got totally absorbed in Tarzan of the Apes, so I’ve been reading that over lunch. Finally, I’m tearing through Home from the Vinyl Cafe, a collection of hilarious short
stories by Stuart McLean which he originally read on his CBC radio program. There’s a natural conversational flow to his stories that I admire.

What is it about speculative fiction, in general, that most appeals to you?
Speculative fiction can take you to surprising places and times, introduce you to people who never lived, and teach you the impossible things they can do. As a reader, I love it when I come across an author who’s done solid and clever worldbuilding, or a speculative idea that casts a philosophical issue or ethical dilemma in a new, intriguing way. When I write F&SF, I enjoy coming up with unique settings or wild situations that couldn’t happen in the real world.

Campbell nominee interview: Gord Sellar

Gord SellarGord Sellar was born in Malawi, raised in Canada, and now is living in South Korea, where he works as a professor and is researching the status and development of Korean SF. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Interzone, and Apex Magazine, among other places, and his story “Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues” will be appearing in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois. He is a graduate of Clarion West 2006.

So what did you do when you were notified about the nomination?
Well, I was on my way to class, and I read the first paragraph of the email on my iPod just before I walked into the classroom. I let out a yelp and my students asked me what was up, so I said, “I got nominated for an award for my writing!” Then, as they regrouped and prepared for that afternoon’s discussion, I quickly read the rest of the email and realized it was a good thing I hadn’t mentioned which award I’d been nominated for. Not that any of those students are SF fans, as far as I know, but I did swear them to secrecy all the same.

Then I went crazy trying to keep it to myself until the official announcement!

How long have you been writing?
Since I was in elementary school, at least as far back as the third or fourth grade. I used to write these fantasy adventure stories based on RPG campaigns, set in worlds vaguely modeled on maps from D&D and my dad’s maps of colonial Africa. (I think I started writing fantasy because of all the weird, spooky stories my father told me from his days growing up in Malawi, and the myths and legends he remembered hearing when he lived there. He was a hell of a storyteller.) I also wrote some fanfic about Ghostbusters and Forgotten Realms characters. In elementary school, I was encouraged regarding some poems I’d written, and my father took me to a writing club at the local library. I was back into horror and fantasy stories (as well as poetry) by late middle school, and in university I discovered SF, via H.P. Lovecraft and the recommendations of a chemist/writer friend. I ended up doing a Creative Writing program in grad school in Montreal, and attending Clarion West in 2006; the former failed to drive me out of writing, and the latter helped me to really get a sense of my abilities and potential.

But along the way, writing has sometimes been set aside for music. When I was learning the saxophone, and studying music composition in undergrad, my writing was confined to occasional poems, and while I played in a rock band during my first few years in Korea, my fiction output really slowed down. But I’ve never quite stopped writing, and much as I love music, it’s more of a hobby for me now. And since attending Clarion West, it seems writing has won the tug-of-war for good, though I do have my mind set on getting a new tenor sax at some point.

Have your stints teaching and playing saxophone had any influence on your fiction?
Absolutely. I sometimes laughingly point at an interview Richard Morgan did where he credited the ultraviolence in his writing to his work in TESL — Teaching English as a Second Language — but to be honest, my work in the classroom, and my experience as an expat (since most of the teaching I’ve done has been in Korea, or in multicultural classrooms) have absolutely affected my writing in a positive way.

Living as an outsider in a society sometimes helps lay bare a lot of things: you notice stuff that might not be so apparent to you in your own society. Anyone who’s read my blog knows I take a dim view of the Korean political establishment, but it’s a view nuanced by the people I encounter on a daily basis who are living inside that same system, and see it from within. I think also that teaching language in a non-Anglophone country really affects how much attention you pay to how you use language yourself, how you tell stories and what you choose to include or leave out. (As does learning a foreign language, however poorly, that you need to use in everyday life.) Living abroad has ruined my ability to write poetry, but I think it’s made me a much more conscious and deliberate prose writer.

Music is a little harder to explain, except to say that playing jazz involves a lot of theme and variation, a lot of returning to themes and a sense of structure and rhythms. Jazz songs — even the wildest of atonal flights — have beginnings, middles, and ends, and in a way they tell a story too. They develop, they surprise, but they also have to have that familiar range of movement and a sense of arriving somewhere at the end. Also, playing sax gets you really familiar with breath, line, that sort of thing. It tunes up your ear. I think all of that comes in handy when you’re writing prose: one can learn it in other ways, but music is a really good way to get sensitized to those things — structures and details alike.

Is there a definable point when you realized that writing had changed from a hobby to an avocation?
Yeah, it was at Clarion West. I think it was when I was in the basement of the place we were staying, pounding out a draft of “Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons’ Blues” and suddenly feeling all my extraneous concerns drift away for a while. The anxiety about the fact that Vernor Vinge would be reading soon? The worry that my classmates would say, “What’s with all this jazz crap?” That the character’s voice might be taken the wrong way? All that sort of drifted away. It was just me and the story and it was going to get written, and shine, damn it!

What projects are you working on now?
Well, I just attained tenure track at the university where I work, just outside Seoul, so I’m really busy with classes, other work, and research for the paper I need to publish this year in order to hand onto my job. (I’m researching the role of fans, translators’ reputations, and publishers in the building of an SF canon in Korean translation, as part of a more long-range project looking at how Korean writers, translators, and fans are creating a native Korean form of SF, different from the foreign sources they’ve drawn upon up till recently.) Luckily, I was invited to be a founding member of a new Academic-focused SF group in Seoul, with some other people who are interested in the translation of Korean SF to English, and its academic study. That should help me somewhat in my research.

As for creative projects, I’m hammering away at a few short stories and novellas for different anthologies and other things I’ve been asked to contribute to,  including one that will be appearing in Korean translation later this year, and I have a whole stack of short stories in various stages of completion that I’d like to finish and send out. In a more long-range sense, I’m hoping to begin researching a novel about Russian circus jugglers and African-American communists, set in the same world as “Lester Young…” but that might take some time, and I have a couple of other novel ideas floating around too, one an alternate history involving the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion, topics that fascinate me to no end. There’s this huge novella (or maybe it’s a short novel?) I’ve got half-written, dealing with a technological revolution in Burma, and it keeps beckoning to me, too. Finish me, it says. Hang on, I reply wistfully.

What are you currently reading?
I’m always reading a bunch of different things at once: Peter Watts’s Starfish, Minsoo Kang’s collection of short stories, The Starry Rift edited by Jonathan Strahan — what stories in there! — and The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger by Cecil Brown. Then there’s some academic work on media in Korea and on SF in general, John Steele Gordon’s book A Thread Across the Ocean about the first underwater transatlantic telegraph cable, and short stories in a number of different places online (Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex, Tor, Fantasy, Strange Horizons — I’m behind on all of them!) and in magazines I’m still subscribed to, but have fallen behind on. Oh, and Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, in the hope of getting my physics chops back up to a pathetic level, instead of their current utterly pitiable level. And I’m trying to get through the collection of short Korean SF in English translation over at Crossroads, and a few more as well as a few other books of English translations of SF from non-Anglophone countries.

Oh, and since starting in on a pretty intensive exercise routine, I’ve also begun listening daily to a number of podcasts, especially Starship Sofa and Escape Pod, among others that I link at my site.

What is it about speculative fiction, in general, that most appeals to you?
It’s the freedom to talk about stuff that matters — like ideas, like the future, like change, like power, and all sorts of things that don’t yet exist — in a way that is cognizant of how turbulent and unstable the present is, and that is also interesting and entertaining. And I think it’s the fact that SF seems, to me, to impose a duty on the reader to think, to imagine harder, to open up their heads for all kinds of unanticipated, sometimes befuddling surprises.

While I don’t think all SF has an obligation to be political, or serious, I think the fact that it’s really possible to do these things in a sensible and engaging way is what gives SF its special and unique power. Let’s be honest: people who read SF were not thrown for so much of a loop when Dolly the Sheep was cloned. Lots of non-SF people were shocked, horrified, or panicked, but most SF people I knew just shrugged, and said, “What took ’em so long?” They’d encountered the idea of cloning long before it ever happened, so whatever their feelings or attitudes, they were not really overrun by panic or shock. That reminds me how, long ago, I described literary SF as a kind of inoculation against future shock, and I think it really does work that way, to whatever degree such inoculation is possible. SF may not reveal the future, but it does build up an expectation of future weirdness and surprises, which many people who don’t read SF don’t really seem to develop.

As wonderfully as many mainstream-genre writers put words together, I often get this sense the fundamental basis of so-called “literary” novels is a sort of navel-gazing, an obsession with the minutae of a character’s experiences and emotions and choices. There’s nothing wrong with writing about experiences and emotions and choices, of course — we do that in good SF, too — but what about the context? I really get the sense that a lot of mainstream fiction has forgotten that there’s a world that its characters inhabit, which, if it’s anything like our world, is a place that is changing, and in which very important questions and decisions made by individuals and societies determine how that that change will unfold. Narratives of love and divorce and broken families (and so on) may help us to become more imaginative in how we look at the people around us — or so advocates of Great Literature claim — but they certainly don’t offer us much food for thought as we watch our climate spin out of control, watch the amphibians die out, watch our governments encroach more and more on our privacy and freedoms, watch companies snap up everything as their property, and watch our economies and societies get transformed time again by new technologies.

It’s not that I necessarily think SF should be tasked with exploring all this in a stuffy, serious way; what I like about SF is that there is room to talk about these things, whether in passing or as a major theme, and to shock, to entertain, to spin off adventures, or, if a writer wants, to delve deeply into these and other problems and their potential solutions. I love how SF invites readers to engage with these issues critically when authors write about them, something I noticed long ago when I was hanging out on SF mailing lists: people really do debate whether this or that approach to a problem, or technical feat, is actually plausible. I adore that, even if it means we writers need to think hard and research a lot when proposing speculative discoveries or technologies or phenomena.

To whatever degree authors who are marketed as mainstream are drawing on SF these days — whether they have the guts to admit it or not — I think it’s because the genre is unique in how its imaginings really do direct our attention to the world we’re about to tumble into, and how decisions we’re making are, at least partly, creating that world.

Also, I love to have my mind blown, and no fiction does that like good SF.

All quiet in France – Writing in a foreign language, or why I find it hard to discuss SF in French

Campbell nominee Aliette de Bodard has a fascinating extended blog post on what it’s like to write in a foreign language

I could go on for a bit about the reasons I write in English (the main one being that SF and fantasy remain very much anglo-centred), but that’s not really the point of this post. What I wanted to talk about was what the experience of writing in a foreign language was like, and how it differed from writing in your native language.

It’s an seriously interesting look into the creative process. I highly recommend checking it out.

Campbell nominee interview: Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard lives in Paris, France, where she holds a job as a Computer Engineer and writes fiction in her spare time. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in venues such as Interzone, Realms of Fantasy and Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction. She was a Writers of the Future Winner in 2007. In addition to writing, she also reviews fiction for The Fix Online.

So what did you do when you were notified about the nomination?
I was waking up and preparing for a very intensive meeting at six in the morning, and decided to check my emails on a whim. What happened next was, in order: I stifled a scream not to wake up the neighbours, stood uncertainly for a split second before going to wake up my boyfriend and screaming into his ear (which was really a mean thing to do to him this early in the morning for which I’ll have to make up), and reread the mail to be sure I hadn’t dream the whole thing. Then I forgot about it for the whole day, because I couldn’t afford to be distracted by this.


How long have you been writing?

That rather depends on the definition of “writing”, I suspect… I started writing in earnest about ten years ago, when I completed several embarrassingly bad novels, but I wasn’t really serious about it until four years ago, which is when I started submitting in addition to finishing drafts.

How difficult is to write in a second language?

It’s actually not so difficult, because most of my reading also takes place in the same language, so the terms and ideas I refer to when I’m writing are already “pre-registered” in English in my brain. It did take me a few years to get to that point, though, so I suspect there is a fair amount of groundwork involved that I just don’t see anymore. The one advantage in writing in a second language is that it’s very much liberating. In French, I carry a lifetime of teachers smacking my fingers until I got the language down properly, until it’s pretty hard to actually deviate from the correct grammar and the correct phrasing: there’s a strong mental block that I’m aware of but have trouble overcoming. I feel more free in English to twist the words until they bleed, and that’s a great thing for crafting fiction. If the price to pay is the occasional gallicism, I’d say that’s more than fair.


Do you ever write fiction in French?

Weirdly enough, no, it’s not really something that works for me. As said above, I actually have very little idea of what the vocabulary of speculative fiction would be in French; and most of my writing habits and style are actually in English. It’s amazing how little of that translates into my mother tongue. Again, I suspect I could overcome this with practise, but one language is already more than  enough to keep me busy.

Is there a definable point when you realized that writing had changed from a hobby to an avocation?

I think that, if anything, it would be when I started taking it seriously: about four years ago, I made the decision that I would write and publish short stories so that I would have enough credits to get my novel published. That was when I started writing regularly and submitting to short fiction markets; and shortly afterwards, I made my first paying sales (to a since-defunct fantasy ezine called Deep Magic, and then to Shimmer). Of course, it later turned out that the novel that had started all of this was not publishable unless I butchered it, but by then I was in a position to write a much better novel anyway.

What projects are you working on now?

I’ve actually managed to whittle down the to-do pile to something manageable: I have one short story project I’m chipping at, and I’m wrapping up the first draft of an alternate-history thriller, Foreign Ghosts, which is set in a universe where China discovered America a century before Europe (it’s based on two stories published in Interzone, “The Lost Xuyan Bride” and “Butterfly, Falling at Dawn”).

What are you currently reading?

I recently read Daniel Abraham’s awesome A Betrayal in Winter (and am looking forward to both sequels). Now the top of my reading pile is one non-fiction book about Chinese culture, and Powers by Ursula Le Guin, which I’m also very much looking forward to. I enjoyed the deceptive simplicity of both Gifts and Voices, the previous books in the trilogy, and I’m told this is the strongest of the three.

What is it about speculative fiction, in general, that most appeals to you?

What I like most about speculative fiction is that it allows you either to create and sustain entirely new worlds with their own rules, or worlds that differ from ours in some important way: it could be several important scientific discoveries, or the fact that magic works, or a divergence from recorded history. As a reader, I love being immersed in such worlds for the sheer strangeness and wonder of walking the streets of a totally different city, or of seeing the landscape of a vastly changed world unroll before me, with all its idiosyncrasies. As a writer… working out and conveying the fundamental differences in mindset between the people of such a world and our own 21st-century world has to be, hands-down, the part that I prefer in writing speculative fiction.

Campbell nominee interview: David Anthony Durham

Of the awards given at WorldCon this year, the one I’m watching with the most interest (aside from short stories) is the Campbell. Since, by lucky chance, I’ve met all but one of this year’s crop of Campbell nominees, I decided to introduce them to you via a series of interviews.  I’ll post one each Monday for the next five weeks.

To start you off, meet David Anthony Durham, whose birthday it is today.

david-in-unst-capDavid Anthony Durham is the author of the fantasy novel Acacia: The War With The Mein (2007, Doubleday/Anchor), as well as the historical novels Pride of Carthage (2005. Doubleday/Anchor), Walk Through Darkness (2002, Doubleday/Anchor) and Gabriel’s Story (2001, Doubleday/Anchor). His novels have been published in the UK and in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish versions. Three of his novels are currently under option for development as feature films. The Other Lands, the sequel to Acacia, comes out in September 2009. David is a two time John W Campbell Award Finalist for Best New Writer.

So what did you do when you were notified about the nomination?
I skipped through the house and informed my kids, who were having a story read to them by their mother. They all take such things rather calmly. They just sort of looked at me, smiling politely and making noises. I wanted more. So I pointed out the fact that we’re all going to Montreal for Anticipation, which is even more… um, filled with anticipation now. They nodded and seemed a little more engaged. Then I mentioned that Neil Gaiman would be there. That sealed it. We all did happy dances, which was rather nice.

How long have you been writing?
I have  journal from eight grade that I filled with stories of warrior turtles with battle axes. I say in that journal that I’m going to be a writer. I did forget that for a while, and flailed around with other art forms and aspirations, but I’d gotten serious by college. By the time I was a sophomore I’d focused on writing again, and never stopped.

Can you point to any ways in which your time living abroad has influenced your writing?
I met the woman that became my wife and the mother of my children. That’s influenced everything.

How in the world do you balance your job teaching, time with your family and writing novels?
Very poorly. I always knew I wanted to be a full time writer, but I’d trained a lot for teaching as well. When a series of good offers jobs came my way, I accepted. I had to give it a serious try, be a grown-up and all that. The last few years it’s felt a bit like I’ve been working three and a half jobs: novelist, Associate Professor in Cal State Fresno’s MFA program and as a part time faculty member of the Stonecoast MFA program. I didn’t “balance” these things. I just sort of swayed drunkenly between them. And time with the family has suffered too. I’m often at home, but just being in the space physically doesn’t mean I’m there for them in the way I want to be.  So…

Things are changing. I’ll be leaving my job at Cal State at the end of this semester. Next July we’ll arrive back at our house in the woods in Western Massachusetts (we’ve been renting it), and there I’ll primarily write, while also continuing to teach for Stonecoast. That’s become a special thing for me, as they have a Popular Fiction emphasis to their MFA. I can work with aspiring writers, but can do so with fantasy and sci-fi and crime and historical works as the focus. It’s great fun. It’s my hope that this move will get the balance back in our home life. And I plan on producing more fiction than ever before!

Is there a definable point when you realized that writing had changed from a hobby to an avocation?
It never felt like a hobby. From college on everything I wrote was in the service of becoming a publishing novelist. Took a bit longer than I expected – two unpublished novels, for example – but I was always serious about it.

What projects are you working on now?
I’ve finished the sequel to Acacia, called The Other Lands, which will come out in September. I’ll be doing some copy editing and doing various pre-publication stuff for it. My next book will be the third and final book in this trilogy. It picks up right where the second volume leaves off. So I’m kinda in between the two volumes just now. I’m also about to read the screenplay Andrew Grant has written for Acacia. It’s not exactly work – since I’m not actively participating in the writing – but it’ll be interesting to dabble in movie stuff.

What are you currently reading?
I spent much of February reading applications to both Cal State’s MFA Program and the Stonecoast MFA also. I’ve read LOTS of applications, all on a very short schedule. Yikes. Glad that’s behind me. I found some very promising student writers in there, but still…
In terms of fiction I have four books open at the moment. I’m reading Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky and the first Wild Cards book. And I have Ekaterina’s The House of Discarded Dreams under my bed at the moment. I’ve been enjoying it for some time, but it’s gotten into that cycle where I never manage to finish it because things keep interrupting. Those are my pleasure/professional choices at the moment. I’m also reading The Bourne Identity as part of a Popular Fiction course I’m teaching at Cal State.

What is it about speculative fiction, in general, that most appeals to you?
Fantasy taught me to read, to dream, to travel in my mind. CS Lewis and Tolkien and Ursula LeGuin were hugely important to me. But then I spent a lot years in college and grad school focused on literary fiction. I don’t regret that, and literary fiction will always be important to me too, but… A few years ago I realized that I hadn’t been ENJOYING reading as much as I wanted to. And I “realized” this because despite the literary setting I was living in I kept seeking out speculative authors: Octavia Butler, Frank Herbert, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman… I was choosing titles from different places than my literary colleagues, and I was really digging those places. I fell in love with reading again. Why exactly I can’t say, except that by nature I like to read novels that mix ideas and characters with imaginative journeys. I crave both, and speculative fiction provides both in great measure.

Thanks, David, and Happy Birthday!

Interview with David Louis Edelman

Jon Armstrong continues his series of interviews with Campbell nominees on If You’re Just Joining Us

David Louis Edelman is a science fiction novelist, blogger, and web programmer. His first book, Infoquake, was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best Novel and named Barnes & Noble’s Top SF Novel of 2006. His latest novel, MultiReal, was released by Pyr in Summer 2008. He is a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Writer for 2008. He spoke about super heroes, his dad, and foreign toilets, among other things.

If You’re Just Joining Us — Interview by Jon Armstrong

It’s raining audio!

My fellow Campbell nominee, Jon Armstrong, interviewed me for his podcastIf You’re Just Joining Us.

if you’re just joining us is a podcast about books, culture, media, ideas, and cheese. You know, the important things.

Jon is a charming host, and I had a great time talking with him. ((If only my microphone wasn’t buzzing and I didn’t say “um” quite so often)) We mostly talked about puppets, with brief forays into writing. This is the first of a series he’s doing, interviewing the other nominees.

You should check out his book, Grey, which is a science-fiction novel filled with fashion intrigue, including competitive ironing. Squee!

Who Are Tomorrow’s Big Genre Stars?

SF Signal’s MIND MELD asks, “Who Are Tomorrow’s Big Genre Stars?”

Gardner Dozois namechecks me in his list, along with some truly fantastic writers.

At any rate, new or newISH writers to keep an eye on would include: Ted Kosmatka, Vandana Singh, Justin Stanchfield, Jason Stoddard, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, Andrea Kail, Daniel Abraham, Ysabeau S. Wilce, Jamie Barras, Una McCormack, Aliette de Boddard, Beth Bernobich, Jeste de Vries, James L. Cambias, Laird Barron, Sarah K. Castle, C.W. Johnson, Daryl Gregory, Peter Friend, Theodora Goss, Sarah Monette, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Sparks, Brendon DuBois, and a LITTLE further down the road, David Moles, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Elizabeth Bear, David D. Levine, Alex Irvine, Greg Van Eekhout, Ruth Nestvold, Jay Lake, Charles Coleman Finlay, Paolo Bacigalupi, Chris Roberson, Paul Melko, and Tim Pratt.

All of the lists include people that make me think, “Huh? Really? [x] isn’t firmly established?” and other people that I’ve never heard of. I’ll definitely be looking for more fiction from all of these folks.

I can haz Wikipedia entry.

I’ll know that I’ve arrived if the Wikipedia entry on me doesn’t get deleted for not being notable enough. I long to go in and add birthdate (February 8, 1969) and birthplace (Raleigh, N.C.) but the etiquette of wikiland say that I can’t add information about myself. Still, I’m not going to complain much or loudly since I have an entry. Yes, that’s how much of a geek that I am — a wikipedia entry pleases me.

I’m a Campbell nominee!

!!! I think that deserves more than a single exclamation point, don’t you?

I got the email a little over a week ago and couldn’t even hint that I’d been told. That’s probably where the fever came from, all the pent-up excitement. Today though, they announced the full nomination list for the Hugos.

The Cambell nominees are:

Joe Abercrombie (2nd year of eligibility)
Jon Armstrong (1st year of eligibility)
David Anthony Durham (1st year of eligibility)
David Louis Edelman (2nd year of eligibility)
Mary Robinette Kowal (2nd year of eligibility)
Scott Lynch (2nd year of eligibility)

As far as I can tell, I’m the only short story writer on the list, the rest are all novelists. I’m pleased as all get out to see David Louis Edelman on there with me. Besides being one of my favorite people, I think his nomination is well-deserved. I’ll admit that besides David, Scott Lynch is the only one of my fellow nominees that I’ve read, but then I’ll bet the other guys are wondering about who I am too… heh. Funny. I only just now realized that I’m the sole woman on the list.

Anyway, I was going to say that I plan on picking up copies of each of the other fellow’s novels and encourage you to do the same. One of the best things a nomination like this can do is to raise the visibility of the author, so darn it, get out there and read these guys. A puppeteer friend of mine said, “The only competition is a bad puppet show.” I firmly believe that’s true in science-fiction, too. I won’t be at all upset if one of the other nominees wins it, because a new good writer will just draw more people into the field and that’s good for me.

All of that said– There is one very simple reason you should vote for me which can be summed up in two words. Campbell Tiara.

I am the only girl on the list and I come with my own ballgown.

The Campbell Award

I have decided not to be embarrassed about admitting, straight out, that I want to be nominated for the Campbell Award. I mean, really, who wouldn’t? Do I think I stand any chance of winning? Ah ha! It is to laugh.

I think it is far more likely that it will go to Scott Lynch or David Louis Edelman and I am grateful that there are five nomination slots so I don’t have to pick between them yet.

But this is my second and final year of eligibility and a nomination would be nice, you know? So, to make it easy to consider me, I’ve got links to my bibliography and online fiction over in the sidebar, but since the Hugos are coming up and I’m feeling shameless at the moment, I will list only my eligible 2007 publications here.

  • For Solo Cello Op. 12 – Cosmos Magazine
  • Horizontal Rain – Apex Online
  • This Little Pig – Cicada, January 2007
  • Locked In – Apex Digest #9
  • Death Comes But Twice – Talebones #35

And, in my last bit of shameless plugging… Shimmer for the Hugo semiprozine. Add Talebones, Sybil’s Garage or Apex Digest to the mix too, if you don’t mind.

And fan artist? Since Frank Wu doesn’t want to be in the running, consider Chrissy Ellsworth, Stephen Stanley, or Sandro Castelli.

Thank you for indulging my urge to just be blunt.