My schedule at Ad Astra 2016

Ad Astra is this weekend. Here’s my schedule:

Saturday, April 30 – 6:00 PM
Saturday Evening Science Fiction Reading (room: Oakridge)
With: A.M. Dellamonica, Derwin Mak, and Madeline Ashby 

Saturday, April 30 – 8:00 PM
Into the Labyrinth of Guillermo Del Toro (room: Newmarket)

Sunday, May 1 – 10:00 AM
Online Social Networks and Communities Explained (room: Markham A)

Sunday, May 1 – 1:00 PM
Recommended Non-Fiction for the Science Fiction or Fantasy Writer (room: Oakridge)

Sunday, May 1 – 3:00 PM
The Trials and Tribulations of Writing About Time Travel (room: Newmarket)

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2015, the year all my dreams came true


I’m at Boskone for the weekend. I’m not on the programming, but just here to hang out and have fun. I’ll see some delicious friends and mentors.

Though I haven’t updated this blog in a while, I haven’t been idle. I’ve been running hard to finish a time travel novella. It’s going long. Will probably end up around 40K words. Yikes.

Some people can write a story in a weekend but I certainly can’t. This particular story has been a lengthy process even though I’ve had the concept beginning-middle-end from the start. I never write a story without knowing where it’s going, but it’s the bits in between that are difficult. I want it to feel authentic, so I’m being very careful. If I go too fast, I’ll only create problems that will be difficult to fix in revision. I can only hope that in the end it’ll be worth the effort. Whether it’ll be marketable or not, I leave that up to the gods. In this case, the ancient Sumerian gods Enki and Inanna.

Last year was such an amazing year — in 2015 all my dreams came true. My first publication at Clarkesworld in February, closely followed by an anthology, then Asimov’s, then, then another anthology. My work has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, with three stories appearing on the Locus Recommended Reading list and five stories chosen for year’s best anthologies. I’m eager to get more stories out into the world, but that simply can’t be rushed.

I do have one story out to market right now and I’m hoping to hear a yea or nay soon from the editor who has it in hand. I don’t know if it’s exactly the right story to follow up this amazing year for a few reasons — not the least because I’d rather follow up 2015 with a story that knocks people’s hats off. Not sure this little horror story has that quality. I wrote myself into some difficult corners with it (probably because I tried to rush the first draft) and have been working with the editor on revisions. It’s been a good learning process. Now I know that for me, forcing a draft to completion just causes intractable story problems.

So back to the novella for me! Onward, forward, and ahead! All that matters are the words!

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TOC for Gardner Dozois’ Year’s Best Science Fiction, 33rd Annual Collection

Gardner Dozois' Year's Best SF 33

Art by Jim Burns

A few days ago on his Facebook page, Gardner Dozois posted the Table of Contents for his upcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-third Annual Collection. The anthology will be available next July, and is already available for pre-order on Amazon.

The TOC includes a story of mine. I’d be thrilled about this under any circumstances, but it turns out the story he chose is my very first published story, The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill, which appeared in Clarkesworld this past February. Hitting Gardner’s Year’s Best with a first published story feels — well, there are no words. Peter Watts reminded me a few days ago, however, that it’s all downhill from here. I could only laugh and agree with him. Peter is the happiest cynic I know.

Here are the stories appearing in the anthology. The list is in no particular order. I’m definitely the most junior writer in the bunch, though by no means the youngest. And look: Aliette de Bodard has two stories here. Nice!

  • “The Falls: A Luna Story,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight,” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Ruins,” by Eleanor Arnason
  • “Gypsy,” by Carter Scholz
  • “Emergence,” by Gwyneth Jones
  • “Calved,” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Meshed,” by Rich Larson
  • “Bannerless,” by Carrie Vaughn
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homberg, and the Red Red Coat,” by Chaz Brenchley
  • “Another Word for World,” by Ann Leckie
  • “City of Ash,” by Paolo Bacigalupi
  • “The Muses of Shuyedan-18,” by Indrapramit Das
  • “The Audience,” by Sean McMullen
  • “Consolation,” by John Kessel
  • “Botanica Veneris,” by Ian McDonald
  • “Rates of Change,” by James S.A. Corey
  • “The Children of Gal,” by Allen M. Steele
  • “Today I Am Paul,” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “Trapping the Pleistecene,” by James Sarafin
  • “Machine Learning,” by Nancy Kress
  • “Silence Like Diamonds,” by John Barnes
  • “Inhuman Garbage,” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • “Planet of Fear,” by Paul McAuley
  • “It Takes More Than Muscles to Frown,” by Ned Beauman
  • “The Daughters of John Demetrius,” by Joe Pitkin
  • “Hello, Hello,” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Capitalism in the 22nd Century,” by Geoff Ryman
  • “Ice,” by Rich Larson
  • “The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill,” by Kelly Robson
  • “In Panic Town, on the Backward Moon,” by Michael F. Flynn
  • “The First Gate of Logic,” by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • “Billy Tumult,” by Nick Harkaway
  • “No Placeholder for You, My Love,” by Nick Wolven
  • “The Game of Smash and Recovery,” by Kelly Link
  • “A Stopped Clock,” by Madeline Ashby
  • “Citadel of Weeping Pearls,” by Aliette de Bodard

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Historical Geography reading list

This is a list of books I’m likely to mention in today’s Archaeology and Anthropology panel.

Historical Geography is the study of how a place changes over time, with a focus on human economic and cultural interaction.

  • The Fields Beneath, The History of One London Village, by Gillian Tindall
  • The Man Who Drew London, Wenceslaus Hollar in Reality and Imagination, by Gillian Tindall
  • London, The Biography by Peter Ackroyd
  • The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography From The Revolution To First World War, by Graham Robb
  • Landmarks, by Robert MacFarlane (about dialect terms for very specific geography throughout the UK)
  • The Revenge of Geography, What the map tells us about coming conflicts and the battle against fate, by Robert D. Kaplan
  • Jerusalem, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • Palmento: A Sicilian Wine Odyssey, by Robert V. Camuto
  • Barcelona, by Robert Hughes
  • The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans, by Lawrence N. Powell

Scholarly texts:

  • Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World Economy, by Mike Davis
  • The Great Divergence: China, Europe and the Making of the Modern World Economy, Princeton University Press by Kenneth Pomerantz

Archaeology non-fiction:

  • Mesopotamia, The Invention of the City, by Gwendolyn Leick
  • Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization, by Paul Kriwaczek
  • Britain Begins (very dry and factual) Barry Cunliffe

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My schedule at World Fantasy

The World Fantasy Convention starts in a few days. After years of attending cons as Alyx​‘s wifely appendage, this will be my first where I’m actually on the programming.

Here’s my programming run-down:

Reading – Friday, 11:30 AM (Broadway 1)
I’m very much afraid nobody will attend, so I’m bringing chocolate as a bribe. Then if I’m alone I get to eat it myself. Win/win.

Anthropology and Archaeology panel – Saturday, 1:00 AM (City Center 2B)
With Meg Turville-Heitz, Mari Ness, Shauna Roberts, Rosemary Smith
This topic fascinates me like no other. My fellow panelists are charming and knowledgeable. I’ll be the fangirl among them.

Food Fantasy panel – Sunday, 11:00 AM (City Center A)
I’m moderating this gorgeous dream team: Esther Friesner​, Sarah Goslee​, Paul Park, Fran Wilde​

I’m very excited about all of this! We’ll be driving from Toronto on Wednesday, hoping to make it in plenty of time to clean up before attending the Tor kick-off party at Northshire Books.

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Friday was our three-movie day at TIFF. Some hardy festival pros see five a day. We are simply not that hard-core. Our three films were The Apostate, Neon Bull, and Southbound. I hated The Apostate, so I’ll ignore it and spend my attention on the other two films which were simply wonderful in very different ways.

Neon Bull follows a group of cowboys who truck bulls from rodeo to rodeo in the impoverished northeastern part of Brazil. They live on the road and form a loose family unit headed by young mother Galega, who is undeniably in charge of the operation. Our main character is cowboy Iremar, who sews costumes for Galega and has a passionate dream of becoming a professional fashion designer.

The film making is gorgeous and the window on the lives of the characters is unique. The story is delivered with stark but poetic realism which is enhanced by several dream-like sequences, including a spectacular interlude where Iremar communes with a horse, and a long — and I think unique — sex scene at the very end of the movie. The movie never comes to a particular point. I wish it had, but it was so gorgeous that I loved it despite the lack of a satisfying ending.

I also loved the horror anthology Southbound, for very different reasons. After overdosing on low-narrative arty movies it was heavenly to see something that delivered five cohesive stories with actual endings. Give me story, dammit! Southbound over-delivered, knitting the five stories into a seamless whole. All are about travelers on a particular desert highway who brush too close to a malevolent nowhere town. All come to a point of crisis, big or small, where they have to put their trust in strangers, and all come to horrific, splattery ends that had me squirming in my seat.

To say any more would be to give it away. Southbound delivers several visuals that I won’t forget for a long time, including iconic desert vistas with nebulous monsters/entities hanging in the mid-distance. I’ll be watching for them on my next road trip. Shiver.

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TIFF Roundup #5 – Go see SHERPA immediately



There’s one showing of Jennifer Peedom’s documentary Sherpa left at TIFF, Sunday at 9:00 PM at the Bloor Hot Docs cinema. Go. You can buy tickets at the door. Just go. Don’t think any more about it. Trust me, just go.

If you’re going to go, don’t read any more of this. Just go.

For my writer friends not in Toronto, here is why I’m pushing this movie:

Sherpa is the most Science Fictional movie I’ve ever seen.

Jennifer Peedom has been working on Everest documentaries for a long time, always cognizant of the fact that every human movement toward Everest is backed up by the intense physical labour of Sherpa men and women working long hours in incredibly dangerous conditions. In all the movies she’s worked on, Sherpas have ended up on the cutting room floor. Nothing — not one inch of footage– could happen without Sherpas, but they’re in the background. Sherpas are scenery.

So she set out to produce and direct a documentary about Sherpas, not only with a Sherpa subject — Everest veteran Phurba Tashi Sherpa, aspiring to ascend Everest for a world-record-breaking 22th ascent in 2014 — but also with Sherpa cameramen and crew.

Now here’s the Science-Fictional situation:

Since well before Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest in 1953, Sherpas have been essential to every Himalayan expedition. They have been the hard-working, but minor beneficiaries of an increasingly lucrative mountaineering and adventure industry, receiving salaries that are high for their economically depressed region, but extremely low compared to the profits that the Nepalese government rakes in, or compared to the salaries of the white alpine guides or the profits of the expedition business owners.

As Sherpa communities have become more connected to the outside world, more and more Sherpas  have traveled outside the Himal to receive education. They are connected to social media; they have a sophisticated understanding of their socio-political situation, and the fact that they are the key element in delivering an experience that is unmatched around the world. They are also not content to adhere to the expected role of the smiling, happy, compliant, helpful Sherpa. They are self-actualized; they know their worth.

Sherpas are a modern community of people who are deeply attached to their unique culture and religion. Their spiritual beliefs involve a reverence for and a specific way of being in the natural world. This includes deeply-held beliefs about the proper way to behave on and around Chomolungma, Everest, the Mother-God-of-the-World, and how to interpret and respond to her actions.

In 2013, the year before this documentary was shot, these tensions came to a head when three climbers (Swiss, UK, and Russian) ignored, abused, and disparaged Sherpas during an Everest ascent. The Sherpas, who in the past have absorbed such abuse, did not accept it. This led to a physical brawl, which, in such extreme conditions in a small and isolated community, is an extremely dangerous and deeply troubling situation with life-and-death repercussions.

In 2014, this documentary is being shot. And 13 thousand tons of  ice drops on a team of Sherpas ascending the first stage of Everest, the Khumbu Icefall. Sixteen Sherpas are killed.

Why this is Science Fictional:
This movie is utterly about the confrontation with the other, with ways of thinking and being in the world that are foreign.  It’s about another world, where diametrically opposed forces blow up in people’s faces, and there is not one thing anyone can do about it. It’s about meeting someone whose world view cannot accommodate yours, and the dramatic weights that are still at this very moment hanging in the balance.

This is absolutely a must-see movie. Its historical-socio-political analysis is thousands of layers deep. It’s everything that we see movies for. See it now.


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