Fun! We just found out that Kim Harrison's DEAD WITCH WALKING is part of a Harvard extension course on the vampire in print and film, along with Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, et al.
This is a reading list we can definitely get behind!
by Helen Lowe
On 20 July I blogged about my mission to read all the fiction finalists for this year’s Hugo Awards and get back to you before the 31st—the final date for voting—to let you know how it’s going.
Well, firstly, my eyeballs are falling out. Did I mention that it was a big list? I can now confirm that the organisers were not wrong when they advised aspiring voters to get reading “ . . . because there’s a lot of reading material in that Packet.” Personally, six novels, six novellas, six novelettes and five short stories later, I think whoever wrote that line should get a special award for being the Maestro of Understatement!
Have I enjoyed the journey? As you can imagine, when you’ve 23 stories to read, from short tales to novels, there’s going to be stories you like more than others. Interestingly, I also found that there were categories I preferred, in my case novel and novelette, whereas the novellas and short stories did not grab me by the scruff of the neck and drag me along for the ride to the same extent. Although there were, of course, exceptions in both cases . . .
‘Like’ and ‘not like’ can be totally subjective, so just because I generally enjoyed my novelette and novel reading experience and was more mixed about the short story and novella finalists doesn’t mean that you will feel the same way. But I thought you might be interested to know about some of the trends that struck me, and I can come back to evaluation after the voting closes tomorrow. (Because after all, it would be wrong to try and influence you in anyway.)
For me, other than getting to read a whole bunch of new fiction, themes and trends may be the most intriguing aspect of reading so many stories together. I have been particularly fascinated looking at where our SciFi-Fantasy reading is currently centered. Overlaps are fun, too: for example, that we can get two finalists working with the idea of a palimpsest (a manuscript written over) in such different contexts as Catherynne M Valente’s novel and Charles Stross’s novella. The idea of libraries and lists figure in both Palimpsest stories, as well, and also occur in Laurence M Shoen’s The Moment.
In terms of theme, the “punks” clearly rule, with Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, Nancy Kress’s Act One and Ian McDonald’s Vishnu at the Cat Circus carrying the banner for biopunk. I’d put Robert J Sawyer’s Wake as the sole contender for cyberpunk, while steampunk is clearly enjoying consistent popularity. Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker, Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s and Paul Connell’s One of Our Bastards is Missing may carry the banner, but there’s overtones in The Windup Girl (clippers and dirigibles) and Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock (22nd America has reverted to 19th mechanical technology).
A friend who is doing Hugos reading, too, maintains that China Mieville is, “of course”, in a category all his own—that, she avers, of China Mieville. But I have to disagree when it comes to theme, because for me, “city” is one of the big themes of the fiction finalists. Two of the novels, Mieville’s The City & The City and Valente’s Palimpsest, deal with the idea of overlapping cities. But there is also Bacigalupi’s Bangkok and Priest’s Seattle, the strange city of Eugie Foster’s Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast—and N.K. Jemisin’s Non-Zero Probabilities is also decidedly urban. I also say “urban” in the sense that so many of the stories are set in a form of “real” human society, despite fantastic / weird overtones. With the exception of Stross’s Palimpsest and Shoen’s The Moment, this is true of every story mentioned so far—and certainly includes Nicola Griffiths’ It Takes Two or James Morrell’s Shambling Towards Hiroshima.
The other major thread running through the 23 finalists, from short stories to novels, is that of dystopia, whether it is the alternate history dystopia of Boneshaker; or the near feature dystopias of Julian Comstock, The Windup Girl and Vishnu at the Cat Circus.
So what isn’t there? Well, there are zombies—decidedly in Boneshaker and with a nod thereto in Charles Stross’s Overture—but no vampires, werewolves or angels, that I can recollect. There are gods in John Scalzi’s The God Engines, but definitely not in the Paranormal sense. Despite the popularity of Twilight et al among teens, romance is thin on the ground amongst the Hugos finalists. I must nod to Adam and Calyxa in Julian Comstock, Griffiths’ It Takes Two, and The Bride of Frankenstein, although I’m not sure that it’s romance as the legions of Twilight fans know it … But there’s definitely sex, with Valente’s Palimpsest and Kij Johnson’s Spar to the fore.
The big thing that struck me though, trends-wise, was how far this list is from the science fiction I read as a kid / young adult. Back then I started with Herbert (Dune), Asimov and Heinlein, and moved into Cherryh, Le Guin and Brin—and science fiction meant space, and ships, and alien cultures, even if it might not always be hard sci-fi. Of the finalists that I would clearly put in these categories, two of the novellas (John Scalzi’s The God Engines and Charles Stross’s Palimpsest), one of the novelettes (Peter Watts’ The Island) and two short stories (Spar and The Moment) are clear fits. Overall, just on 20% of the 23 finalists, but none of the novels—which I found interesting, observationally speaking, and which may be a conversation for another day, i.e. why space doesn’t wow us anymore …
For now, though I’ve got some serious evaluating and ranking to do. I’ll let you know how that’s gone once the voting’s done, because as previously mentioned, I wouldn’t like try and influence you in any way.
Helen Lowe is a New Zealand based speculative fiction writer. Her first novel Thornspell (Knopf, 2008) won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Novel: Young Adult” 2009, and Helen won the Award for “Best New Talent” in the same year. Helen’s second novel, The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night, Book One) is being published by Eos on 1 October. She also blogs on the first of every month on the Supernatural Underground and every day on her own Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog.
Note: I’ll also be blogging on the Supernatural Underground on 1 August, with 2 copies of the ARE of The Heir of Night and Thornspell up for grabs.
Along the way they’ll play a part in the war’s great events, from
Yesterday we posted an interview with Jeaniene Frost interviewing Jocelynn Drake (Jocelynn also interviewed Jeaniene for theAvon Romance blog), but we also wanted to note that both authors are on Babel Clash for two weeks, talking about writing, werewolves, ghouls, vampires, their influences, reading in the genre, and more.
Jeaniene Frost and Jocelynn Drake both have new titles on sale today: ETERNAL KISS OF DARKNESS and WAIT FOR DUSK. To mark the occasion they sat down to interview each other. For Jocelynn's questions to Jeaniene head over to the Avon Romance Blog.
Now, we'll turn it over to Jeaniene's questions to Jocelynn:
Today I’m on the other side of the interview coin as I get the chance to chat with bestselling author Jocelynn Drake. Jocelynn’s Dark Days series has garnered raves from critics as well as fellow urban fantasy peers Kim Harrison and Vicki Pettersson, among others *cough, me too, cough*. Jocelynn, welcome! Just sit down and relax. This won’t hurt…much ;-).
1. As many of you may know, the Dark Days series centers around Mira, a vampire who’s unique among her kind for her fire-starting abilities. Tell us a little more about her, please.
Mira has long been one of my favorite characters as she reminds me a lot of myself, but with more violence. She is sarcastic, dedicated to her family, and compassionate to those who have earned it. At the same time, she can be extremely stubborn and somewhat impulsive when it comes to jumping into a dangerous situation. Mira has been a lot of fun to write as she not only has the ability to create and manipulate fire, but she is also growing in other abilities as each book passes.
2. You’ve had two books release in the past thirty days (side note: I envy your productivity! J). Can you please give new readers a little background as to what they’re about?
Pray for Dawn was released at the end of June and is a bit of a switch as it is told from the point of view of my vampire hunter, Danaus. He must help Mira investigate the murder of a Senator’s daughter while at the same time dealing with a dark part of his past. Meanwhile, it appears that Mira may be losing her mind and Danaus must discover the root to this growing madness.
Wait for Dusk will be released today, Tuesday, July 27 and returns to Mira’s point of view. In this book, Mira and Danaus travel to
3. You did something very bold with PRAY FOR DAWN, where you shifted the narrative point of view from your heroine Mira to the story’s other main protagonist, Danaus. I haven’t seen this done very often in series before, and I really liked the switch. What led you to make that decision? Did you learn anything surprising about Mira / the Dark Days world once you were seeing both through another character’s perspective?
I always viewed Danaus as one of the main characters and have felt the need to tell the story from his point of view because his voice was just as important as Mira’s. Also, in many ways, first person point of view can be very limiting. By switching points of view, I allowed not only a different perspective on Mira, but also a deeper look into Danaus’s personal thoughts. I enjoyed it because it allowed me to delve deeper into Danaus’s past and hopefully better explain some of his own tightly held personal beliefs.
4. Mira’s a vampire, but vamps aren’t the only creatures that inhabit your world. What are some of the other supernatural species occupying the pages of your books?
The Dark Days world includes both werewolves and magic users, such as warlocks and witches. However, the true odd supernatural creatures are the naturi and the bori. The naturi are a nature-based race that are determined to destroy mankind in an effort to protect the earth. On the other hand, the bori are a soul-based race that derive their powers and strength from the souls of humans. As a result, the bori and the naturi are natural enemies and frequently use the vampires and werewolves as soldiers against each other in battle.
5. I’ve heard a few “it’s too graphic!” comments regarding some fight sequences in my series, and I know your world can be equally perilous. Have you ever written a scene where you thought, “Uh oh. This may need to be toned down for public viewing.” If so, did you end up changing anything? Or did you decide that the darkness had to be shown in its entirety to relay the authenticity of the event?
I have had my fight scenes described as very graphic and detailed. However, I have never felt compelled to tone down my fight scenes. My characters are very violent and highly trained creatures that are fighting for their survival. It also doesn’t help that they enjoy the thrill of the hunt and the blood-pounding excitement of the fight. I feel like toning down the violence would be robbing them of who they are.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Jocelynn! It was a pleasure speaking with you, and I look forward to seeing you at the RWA convention in
by Helen Lowe
When I first began reading SciFi-Fantasy and started looking beyond the The Lord of the Rings and Dune (ok, so there wasn’t a lot else in genre in my high school library), I soon decided that winning a Hugo Award meant something—simply because so many of the books I was really enjoying came with the tag “winner of the Hugo Award” on the cover. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, CJ Cherryh’s Downbelow Station, the wonderful The Snow Queen by Joan Vingt that somehow managed to bridge the gap between Science Fiction and Fantasy—to me they were all more than worthy winners of any award. And were quickly followed as “top reads” by David Brin’s Startide Rising and William Gibson’s Neuromancer. (Just to correct what I realize might have looked like a gender imbalance in terms of reading preference!)
But I didn’t really know what a Hugo Award was, or how the awards were given. I didn’t think much about awards at all in those days; I just wanted more good stories and it seemed that the tag “Hugo” meant I had a fair chance of getting one. As you have probably picked up already, my focus was very much on “novels” and stayed that way until a few years back. By that time, I had read a LOT of books and pretty much knew the “what and how” of the Hugo Awards: loosely speaking, that they are nominated and decided on annually by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and are amongst—and some might argue—the most prestigious award given for speculative fiction. Yet although I had been writing for a number of years myself by then, and remained an avid SFF reader (of novels, anyway), the thought never occurred that I might participate in the Hugo nomination and voting process. The Hugos were still something that happened “out there”, in a world far removed from me in space-time.
2005 and a novella called “Sergeant Chip” by Bradley Denton (F&SF, 2004) changed all that. I was—and am—a great website lurker, and F&SF was a site I dropped by from time to time. “Sergeant Chip” had already been nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novella at that stage and was available to read in electronic format on the website. And I loved that story, so much so that I drove every other SFF reader I knew to distraction telling them that they absolutely had to go to the F&SF site and read it (many of them did and also loved it). For the first time ever, I also forgot about the novels. By hook or by crook, I wanted to vote for “Sergeant Chip” to win the Hugo Award for Best Novella.
An urban fantasy author finds a tombstone in her backyard...
This sounds like the set up for a joke (or a scary urban legend), but it's the truth.
Check out Kim Harrison's blog--a few days ago while working in her garden, she uncovered a marble tombstone.
For more truth-is-stranger-than-fiction, bestselling vampire/paranormal romance author Lynsay Sands was actually attacked by a bat in her attic.
Any other urban fantasy or paranormal authors have weird things happen to them?
San Diego ComicCon is almost here--yippee! Here's the Morrow/Avon/Eos schedule.
Guillermo del Toro, Director/Author: The Strain, The Fall Friday AA3 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Drawing for Line Tickets expected to begin at 9:15 am Friday in the Autograph Area
Guillermo del Toro, Director/Author: The Strain, The Fall
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
PANEL: 3:00-4:00 Bite Me: Evolving Urban Fantasy Beyond the Vampire Phenomenon— Some of the top names in urban fantasy gather to discuss how to evolve the urban fantasy genre beyond the vampire phenom, spurred by the mass commercial appeal of The Twilight Saga and True Blood. Authors include Tanya Huff (the Victoria Nelson novels), Mario Acevedo (the Felix Gomez detective-vampire series), Merrie Destefano (Afterlife: The Resurrection Chronicles), Jocelynn Drake (Pray for Dawn), Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim), Lauren Kate (Fallen series), and Marjorie M. Liu (In the Dark of Dreams). Moderator: Diana Gill, executive editor at HarperCollins Publishers. Room 8
Update: BROM will be signing THE CHILD THIEF and his other works at the Spectrum section of the Donato Arts island (Booth #4503) from 2PM - 5PM on Friday July 23rd.
Saturday ticketed autographing:
Ray Guns, Robots and Rockets: The Influence of Ray Bradburyon the Future
Ray Bradbury and Sam Weller
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Saturday, 7/24, 6:30-7:30pm:
What's Hot @ Harper: A Special Sneak Preview of Upcoming SF, Fantasy, Urban Noir, Horror & More— Want to hear about The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan? Get a sneak preview of the next Kim Harrison? Meet some of the Eos and Avon authors and hear about their upcoming books? Plus get free stuff (including a chance to win a new e-Reader, so you can enjoy all of Harper's 'e' offerings)? Then don't miss this panel on HarperCollins's upcoming sci-fi/fantasy/horror titles and more! Moderated by Diana Gill, executive editor, HarperCollins Publishers, with authors . Room 26AB
YEP--We're giving stuff away at this panel! Every attendee will receive the Eos 2010 sampler, which has excerpts from 25 current and upcoming books ranging from science fiction all the way to paranormal romance. PLUS we'll be giving away galleys of upcoming books, some special editions,and your chance to win an E-reader! So before you head out to dinner, come to the Hot at Harper panel!
Sunday, 7/25 10:30-11:30 Spotlight on Ann and Jeff VanderMeer: Dr. Lambshead, Steampunk, Weird Tales, Imaginary Animals, and You— Weird Tales editor and Hugo Award winner Ann VanderMeer and her World Fantasy Award–winning husband, writer/editor Jeff VanderMeer, take you on a whirlwind exclusive inside look at a cornucopia of exciting new projects, inc. The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, featuring work by Mike Mignola and Greg Broadmore. Room 8
N.B. Eos will publish the Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities in Summer 2011.
Plus HarperCollins/Eos/Avon will be at Booth # 1318, so if you miss the panels, stop on by and say hi.
This Saturday, Jocelynn will be signing copies of her latest, PRAY FOR DAWN, as well as forthcoming WAIT FOR DUSK. (It's not on-sale until 7/27, but early copies will be available for purchase!)
TURN THE PAGE
18 North Main Street, Boonsboro, MD 21713
Saturday, July 10th at 12:00pm EST.
TURN THE PAGE specializes in books by Nora Roberts, Civil War books, mysteries, science fiction, and romance. To celebrate their 15th anniversary, this Saturday's signing will not only feature Jocelynn Drake, but Nora Roberts, Loretta Chase, Diane Whiteside, Donna Kauffman, Mary Blayney and local authors Katrina Shelley and Austin Gisriel as well. Don't miss it!
Republishing Walter M. Miller's classic novel with a cover that fits its classic status (the stunning art is by John Picacio) and an introduction by noted novelist Mary Doria Russell was one of my favorite Eos jobs of the last few years. This classic, award-winning novel has never been out of print since it was initially published in 1960, and still rings true today.
If you haven't read A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, do check it out. You'll never look at a grocery list in quite the same way again.