Just Published: “The Music of the Spheres”

“The Music of the Spheres” is included in Capricious, issue 7available for purchase here.

CapriciousCover007

Polyphemus is a small, far-flung planet shrouded in darkness. While it is survivable for human life, many do not thrive there. But Wren does. Wren, blind and young and musical, walks across the skin of Polyphemus and feels the planet’s beating heart.

I love this story! It’s about finding a place you belong. It’s about dis/ability. It’s about how sometimes what is alien is actually familiar and vice versa. I am so glad it found a home. Pick up a copy of Capricious issue 7–all the stories in it are truly lovely.

Book Review: A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab


Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity:
It’s subtle, but it’s there. The ruling family of Red London–Kell’s London–are definitely brown folks. And Rhy Maresh, the crown prince of Red London, seems pretty canonically bisexual. Lila is definitely gender non-conforming. I am not venturing that she’s trans or genderqueer, but she is performing, quite consciously, a very butch and very hard kind of femininity.

Now, that does mean that our leads, Kell and Lila, read as straight-ish and White. The major antagonists are also White. So it’s a decidedly White book, but there are at least queer brown people in power, so there’s that.

Review:
V.E. Schwab has two enormous strength going for here in this book: first, she can write; second, she can fascinate. She constructs effortlessly emotional sentences. The book reads fluidly, quickly, and packs a great number of punches. Schwab is a smooth and evocative writer, which is needed when outlining the nuanced differences between the various Londons.

Which brings me to point two: the story’s hook is great. Four parallel Londons, each linked and locked by magic, each with its own history and relationship with magic. And within all of those worlds, there are only two people–Kell and Holland–who can travel between them. Only two people who can see these other worlds and report back and forth.

The opening scene is masterfully done, and tragic, and beautifully sets the stage for everything to follow. This is a tale of obsession and sacrifice, and all of that is spelled out in those opening interactions Kell has.

We start with Kell as he travels and as he flirts with danger, and then the plot ratchets up when his flirtations get the best of him. But by then, Lila Bard, hungry thief and sharp-tongued street rat, has already linked her fate with his. They cut a blood-soaked trail from one London to the next, plagued by an artifact they only half understand, while hunted by the sadistic rulers of White London–a London hungry for power and dominance.

I loved this book. It wasn’t perfect–the plot took too long to fall into place, which meant the pacing was uneven, but the story and the world was fascinating enough that I kept going anyway. Lila is a deeply fascinating character. The counterpoint of her poverty to Kell’s confused by privileged life bore out interesting moments and conversations throughout.

I’m one of the lucky ones who can read the next book in the series right now.

I’m Playing World of Warcraft Again

A few years ago, back before I had a kid, I used to play World of Warcraft. I started playing because a good friend of mine started playing. And she started playing because a friend of hers was playing. We leveled up together, joined his guild. Friend started dating her friend. I mailed a holy priest and got into healing. Did some raiding. Wrath of the Lich King came out. Friend and friend-of-friend broke up. Guild split up. I realized I needed to focus on finishing my dissertation anyway and stopped playing.

And now here I am again. 

Look the world is terrible, and I need something that helps me unplug. WoW’s stream of endless, mind-numbing quests is exactly perfect for that. I actually always really liked leveling. And, perversely, leveling healing characters. So now I’m back again. 

It’s bizarre–it’s like going back to your hometown and noticing all the things that have and haven’t changed. The Cataclysm expansion totally blew apart and stitched back together old world Azeroth zones. They are prettier than they used to be, and the quest lines are darker than I remember them being. Spending and talent trees are so much more streamlined than they used to be. Everything is half-familiar.

I’ve rolled a Draenei Shaman. I’m doing every Alliance quest in every zone (including the starter zones–they give killer rep). I’ll report back on my weird experiences here.

Book Review: EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire


Amazon | Goodreads

Notes on Diversity
I confess I read Every Heart A Doorway on the strength of its asexual protagonist, Nancy, and I was not disappointed. But beyond Nancy, there is also a trans character (Kade), and Sumi, an Asian girl. I think Sumi may have been the only non-White character,* and it’s…not great that she essentially gets fridged.

An additional diversity shoutout to the character of Eleanor, who, in running her school finds the word “crazy” problematic and bans it. I really loved this, considering the context, and I also really loved how some characters defiantly used it and reclaimed it anyway.

Review
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire, is a murder mystery, and a coming of age story, and a portal fantasy all neatly wrapped in the same novella. It’s a minor miracle that the novella never feels overstuffed—in fact, I wanted more from it. I didn’t want it to end.

Every Heart A Doorway follows Nancy, a girl who has been to and returned from the Halls of the Dead, and who must find a way to settle back into the mundanities of the normal, regular world again. Luckily for her, she’s not the only such stolen and returned child. There are enough such children that there is an entire boarding school devoted to their treatment and rehabilitation.** Nancy’s parents pack her off, and so her story begins.

Just as Nancy is finding her footing at her new school, students start turning up dead. And not just dead, but mutilated. Nancy understands that as the most recent addition to the school, and as a girl whose portal world has such a close connection with death, she is an easy and likely suspect. She knows clearing her own name means casting suspicion elsewhere, and that means unraveling the mystery at hand.

McGuire is a deft writer. Since this is a novella, space is limited, and the cast of characters is surprisingly large for a novella. But the characters are quickly and deftly drawn. Most of them have excellent depth. The mystery itself has twists and turns and a decent red herring. The plot clipped along, quick but not rushed. I found myself more interested in the worldbuilding, though, than the mystery. There was something more compelling in the way the characters categorized the portal worlds—Wicked and Virtue, Nonsense and Logic—than the inevitable death of the next student, who I was sure was not going to be Nancy.

I was particularly fond of the ending, which wraps things up so neatly emotionally, but quickly and quietly. It made me think. It made me mull things over. I want to talk about it with people, but I can’t here, because spoilers.

As much as I am glad there was representation of a young ace woman and a young trans man, and as well-realized as a I think Nancy and Kade were, respectively, I wish their ace-ness and trans-ness had not been so…clinically written. I couldn’t help but contrast the way McGuire wrote about asexuality and gender identity with the way she wrote about the harms of patriarchy, and how in this world it so easily led to the capture of girls over boys. That section was nuanced and wry. Or compare to the embodiment of smart/pretty in Jack and Jill and how viciously that has gone awry, which is skillfully written throughout. The sections where Kade discusses his gender or where Nancy discusses her asexuality are blunt to the point of earnestness. Still, I am glad the characters were included.

3 stars*I think this is the case? If I am misremembering, please let me know in the comments, and I will amend the review.

**There are, as one character explains, actually two such schools: one school for kids who want to return to their portal worlds, and one school for kids who under no circumstances ever wish to see their portal worlds again. I found this detail particularly interesting.

Ink & Locket WARRIOR Anthology Fully Funded!

Ink & Locket’s Warrior anthology, which is full of queer representation in speculative fiction, has been fully funded through kickstarter supporters! You should really check out what the folks over at Ink & Locket are doing with the extra money, it’s really wonderful, heartwarming stuff. 

Also, if you’re a writer, I’d encourage you to keep an eye on their calls for submissions page. Their editing process is lovely. Being part of this anthology has been such a wonderful experience!

ARIAH Novella Coming in January for Patreon Subscribers!


Hi friends!

This is a quick note to let you know that an Aerdh novella is still coming, but I’m pushing back the drop date a month. Instead of getting your novella by December 31st, 2016, you shall have it on January 31st 2017.

My apologies for the delay! I’d rather take the extra time and make sure the novella is solid and polished than rush it and get you something unfinished and haphazard. But please know it is in the works. 

To tide you over, let me tell you what I’m working on:

About the novella:

  • The novella is titled In The Company of Strangers.
  • The main characters are Sorcha and Shayat.
  • It takes place after “A Matter of Circumstance” and before the end of Ariah.
  • It is the precursor to a second novel focusing on Sorcha and Shayat’s search for Ariah during Ariah’s time with the Droma nomad.

As always, thank you for your support. And this time, thank you for your patience, as well! The novella will be available to Patreon subscribers at the $5 level and up.

The Wake of 11/8/2016

Our president-elect is Donald Trump, and that is a terrifying thing.

It’s terrifying for a lot of reasons. It’s terrifying because in the same election that voted him into office, we as a country kept the republicans in control of the Senate, thereby empowering him to make a great deal of policy changes. Should Clinton have been elected, she would have been hamstrung–but Trump is set free.

It’s terrifying because for so many of us it confirms what we already knew about the county and the world we live in. That we are hated. That we are wished away. That those in power and those with privilege will hold onto it tightly, viciously, with every scrap of strength they have.

It’s terrifying because as much as Donald Trump was treated as a joke by the left and by commentators this was a very real possibility and actually quite predictable. After eight years of a Black president, what do we as a country do? We repeal the Voting Rights Act. This is what an election looks like when Black voters are once again systemically disenfranchised. In a parallel universe, where the VRA is still in place, I bet Clinton won. We pushed ourselves into the darkest timeline. Dear fellow white people: this is a bed of our own making, even if we did vote for Clinton in one-offs.

The truth is that I voted for Clinton, but I wasn’t happy about it. My choice was between a man who outright villified me because I am queer and trans and disabled or a women who codes those various hates in different kinds of language, who hides them, who smooths off the rough edges. I disliked Clinton, but I was terrified of Trump. Clinton could, at least, stymie the republican controlled Senate, maybe?

Ultimately the election didn’t even come down to actual policy. The only issues on the table were the supposed estrangement of white men from politics (which is just bald-faced racism) and the fact that Hilary is a woman. Really, it came down to the backlash against the fact that our previous president is Black and one of the nominees is a woman. White people in this country revolted–went out of their way to rig an election, to make sure that they were the ones voting, and went out of their way to vote in a man who it seems like will continue to keep white supremacy front and center. Tell me again how we live in a post-racial society.

It is a struggle to know how to live now with all of our skeletons spilling out of the closet. at FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver wrote:

2:10AM:

Something to remember: Whatever your feelings about the state of the country right now, it’s fundamentally not that different a place whether the final call is that Clinton has narrowly won or narrowly lost. Add just 1 percent to Clinton’s vote share and take 1 percent away from Trump’s, and she would have won Florida and Pennsylvania, therefore would probably have been on her way to a narrow Electoral College victory.

And that’s the most horrifying part. I think he is trying to write something comforting here, but it’s actually horrifying. Yes. America is not fundamentally different depending on whichever candidate won. We are a deeply, horribly divided country filled with bile and hate for ourselves.

This is not the fault of those who cannot or would not vote. This is not the fault of those who voted third party. This is the fault of those who voted for Trump–the fault of millions and millions of people if every single state who voted for Trump. Do not place the blame anywhere but squarely at their feet, and the feet of those, like the Supreme Court who repealed the VRA, who helped enable this shit show.

If you, like me, are reeling today, show yourself kindness. Do what you need to survive. Survival is payback. Survival is revolutionary.