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Aliette de Bodard

I’ve posted the recipe for an almond, orange blossom and lemon cake that’s just lovely–we made this weekend, and it’s both tart and sweet, rich with the smell of almonds.

You can find it here.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
26 May 2015 @ 05:00 pm

Because it’s been a while since I did one of these, and because this blog has kind of fallen by the wayside while I worked on other things (mostly keeping up with the snakelet): have a snippet from my latest short story!

Thanh arrived late at the First Presentation party; deliberately, because it would enable her to mingle more easily into the crowd; and because she couldn’t deal with the thought of making small and inane talk with Anh Ngoc and her new husband for what would seem like hours, while they waited for the other guests.


It had been years, and she wasn’t sure, altogether, if she would even know anyone; if she would even have the proper authorisations to see anyone. But, once she cleared the entry hall and entered the compartment proper–­­and the overlay of a vast courtyard replaced the narrow compartment, she saw people clustered by a buffet instead of a beautiful, empty landscape; and let out a breath she hadn’t even been aware of holding.

Set onboard a very particular space station that has a very particular way of dealing with things. I actually started this one as an entirely different beast–basically a thriller about circles of power, and the coming back of someone who had been displaced from a ruling position aboard a space station. I had the rough outline, and I got about a scene into it before I realised this just wasn’t the story I wanted to tell; that I needed something more intimate and more concerned with daily life in all its glorious strangeness and eccentricities. Space soap opera ftw :)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

Very very pleased to reveal “my precious”, aka the UK cover for House of Shattered Wings (picture me curled up around my computer, making Gollum noises). Who said “dark and creepy and beautiful”?

It’s a very different beast to the US cover–classier and more refined, but I really like the details (the window and its reflection in the water, broken up by debris; the jewel-like wings, which are very appropriate for my Fallen, whose magic is beautiful, addictive and highly prized. And the arches. This is totally the inside of Notre-Dame before I nuked it :) )

Just as a reminder, House of Shattered Wings comes out August 20th from Gollancz in the UK and Commonwealth/August 18th from Roc in the US. The UK cover copy is below.

A superb murder mystery, on an epic scale, set against the fall out – literally – of a war in Heaven.

Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…

Here’s some of the things people have been saying about it (for those who’ve been following, yup, there’s two new quotes by Justina Robson and Michelle Sagara. I’m a fan of both of them and feel immensely lucky there ^^):

THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS is a Gothic masterpiece of supernatural intrigues, loves and betrayals in a ruined and decadent future Paris — wildly imaginative and completely convincing, this novel will haunt you long after you’ve put it down.

Tim Powers, author of THE ANUBIS GATES

 

Darkly entertaining. de Bodard makes Fallen Angels entirely her own in this post-apocalyptic Paris near the turn of the century. The personal politics of necessity blend and clash with the politics of the powerful as people—mortal and immortal—attempt to survive.

Michelle Sagara, author of THE CHRONICLES OF ELANTRA and THE HOUSE WAR series

 

THE HOUSE OF SHATTERED WINGS exists in a rich, evocative Paris that is thick with magical history. Pathos and beauty intertwine in a novel filled with longing.

 Mary Robinette Kowal, Multiple-Hugo award winning author of THE GLAMOURIST HISTORIES

 

Original and intriguing, this novel is a strange delight and a foretaste of great things to come.

Justina Robson, author of THE GLORIOUS ANGELS

 

An intense, beautiful, brutal journey written with an eye for the stunning, vivid detail and the cruel demands of duty, loyalty, and leadership. Its portrait of a ruined Paris ruled by fallen angels is one I won’t soon forget.

 Kate Elliott, author of the SPIRITWALKER trilogy

Why don’t you pre order a copy? :)

Pre-order now

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
14 May 2015 @ 05:00 pm

In which I catch up to a lot of books. You’ve been warned (yeah. The snakelet got mobile and my spare time got a lot… busier).
The Very Best of Kate Elliott: an extensive collection of Elliott’s short fiction as well as four illuminating essays, this is utterly wonderful. They’re all very strong stories, focusing on people (mostly women) dealing with war, magic and various other conflicts. The clear highlight for me was “Leaf and Branch and Grass and Vine”, which has the best woman protagonist *ever*, and manage to make a number of pointed remarks about the invisibility of older women and working-class people, but they’re all worth a read.
Glorious Angels, Justina Robson: “glorious” is about the right word for this. Set on a planet colonised by humans a long time ago, and where an intriguing mix of science and magic dominates, this focuses on the Empire, a loose confederation of cities ruled by Empresses who control their subjects through pheromones. But the Empire is enmeshed in a deadly war; and trouble might soon come from within… There’s so much in this–tremendously inventive world building done matter-of-factly, a kickass family (Tralane and her two daughters are just awesome), and mysterious and deadly beings in the shape of the Karoo, creatures who absorb each other to gain knowledge. And an ending that is both satisfying and immensely frustrating (aka I want to know what happens next!).
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson (ARC from publisher): if you’re not in the mood for brutal and depressing, this is probably not the book for you. It’s been a long while since I read something that was pure tragedy–you know exactly what this book is building up to, and yet you still turn the pages and hope against all hope that there will be a happy ending. (also, the focus on economics and war is really interesting, even though I wasn’t 100% sold on some of the politics). I did find myself wanting to argue with it, at length, after I’d finished it; but I suspect you’re meant to do so.
Shattered Pillars, Steles of the Sky, Elizabeth Bear: I’d read Range of Ghosts, the first volume of the Eternal Sky a while back, when it first came out, but I hadn’t had a chance to check it out until now. Set in a fantasy version of the Silk Road (featuring analogues of Persia, Mongolia and China among others–more as loose inspirations than the actual historical setting), this is a breathtaking epic fantasy with very strong set pieces (and horses! OMG Bansh and her foal), political intrigue and realistic characters (while I love Temur, my favourite is Samarkar, the wizard who was once a princess, and her relationship with Edene, Temur’s fiancée). The ending is heartbreaking and wonderful.
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (ARC from publisher): epic fantasy using Ancient China as its foundation. A cross between the Iliad, Three Kingdoms and Lord of the Rings. But it’s also very adult and very modern in its handling of power–who gets it, who is worthy to handle it and how you cling to it. And very very cynical and dark in some ways (the violence is always drily factual, but I’d argue that makes it even more horrific)
It does some amazing things with narration–and one of these is showing how everyone has a story–this might be the tale of Kuni Garu and Mata Zyndu, but everyone in the cast ends up feeling very, very human and yet larger than life. It’s a neat trick. Again, I love the cultural foundations of this–scholars and filial duty! Confucius (well, Kong Fiji)! Kites and fireworks as weapons.
I do have one reservation, though, and it’s the same issue I have with Three Kingdoms. Because this is a universe where men do the fighting (and women, with notable exceptions, don’t), and because this is a story of war, women end up being relegated somewhat to the back burner. The story is very aware of it, and aware of how women try to gain power (and there’s subversion going on, more or less subtle), but I still ended up… a bit frustrated? There’s awesome women fighters, and some court intrigues in the last third. (and it looks like book 2 is going to be more about the building of peace and rivalries at court, therefore will remedy this)

NB: the fact that this last one has a longer review doesn’t mean I loved it more than the others! Just that I typed this one when I had a little more time than now, when the snakelet wasn’t mobile yet…

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

Delighted that “The Dust Queen” (published in Jonathan Strahan’s Reach for Infinity), and “Memorials” (published in Asimov’s Science Fiction) are both Locus Awards finalists, respectively in Best Short Story and Best Novelette.

Complete list of finalists here; there’s some very very cool people on there and it’s going to be tough competition :)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

Quite pleased to announce I’ve sold my novella “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” to Asimov’s for their Oct/Nov 2015 issue, aka “Xuya meets time-travel”. More info (including rough cover copy) here.

It’s about the same length as On a Red Station, Drifting, so more of a short novel, really (34k words); with four POV characters and a fairly complex plot that includes an entire imperial court, thirty-two dead emperors emulated on complex hardware, and a science laboratory in a derelict tea-house; and a lot of familial relations and moral quandaries. Basically, if you liked On a Red Station, Drifting, you’ll probably love this one (and it has a cameo from Linh, too!). And if you didn’t like it–it’s a way more ambitious piece with a bigger scope, so maybe more to your taste *g*

This blog will now lapse back into darkness while I sort out my childcare and my copy edits simultaneously (hint: neither of them are particularly efficient…)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
11 April 2015 @ 01:56 pm

I’m ten, and voraciously reading–bespectacled, and a head shorter than everyone in class, good at maths and utterly oblivious to the fact that I’m different from everyone else (only later will I work out that the string of people asking me “where do you come from” are comparing me to a class that’s 99.99% white and Catholic, and where the next most diverse person is the lone Ashkenazi Jewish kid, who probably isn’t having a great time either). I take to Science Fiction and Fantasy [1] like a fish to water: people fleeing this world for another; the wonders of space and faraway history where magic is real–where a farmboy can rise to become king; where ordinary people can stop evil in its track; and where science is a force for good, and the future has everyone equal without questions of creed and race.

There are a few… wrong notes, though. I cannot help but notice that Tolkien’s heroes are basically Europeans; and that the Easterlings–yellow-skinned or swarthy–seem to be mostly fighting on the side of evil. I cannot help but notice that most of the cool things in the future seem to be happening to men; and that, for all the talk about appearances not mattering, most women seem to need to be blonde, and young, and beautiful; the dark-haired, yellow-skinned ones mostly seem to be left by the wayside or to be antagonists.

In the midst of this, Andre Norton’s Year of the Unicorn is a breath of fresh air. Gillan is dark-haired and more clever than pretty; and she waltzes through the book on (it seems to me) nothing more than sheer strength of will, and a stubborn refusal to be left behind, or to take anything at face value. When she does get left behind, she fights tooth and claw to find her husband; and make a place for herself in a world that doesn’t want her.

I love Gillan; and I reread the book over and over. It’s not, after all, so hard to see why.

There’s a lot of books in my reading that feature China, or some representation of the Far East–I read them all like I read invented worlds, because the China they depict is so out of touch with my family stories (I won’t say my family stories are all positive! Vietnam has… a complicated relationship with China)–surely they have to be about some kind of fictional China/Far East that doesn’t exist. They speak of martial arts and inscrutable, passive people awaiting to be saved; of some fount of mystical wisdom that awaits the traveller. I think fake!China must be some kind of faraway land invented by writers, because it cannot possibly be the real thing.

I’m in my twenties, and I still love maths, and work to make a living out of it. I discover the American Library in Paris, and discover Le Guin; and it’s like a revelation: SF doesn’t have to be about equations and maths. The SF that speaks to me is about people in the future, about their interactions with technology and with each other; but I’m less interested in whether the technology is feasible. I design feasible technology for a living; and books that strongly focus on this as an element remind me too much of my day job.

As I’m checking out all the Le Guin books ever written from the library, I read The Word for World is Forest. Many, many years later, someone tells me that it’s an allegory of the Vietnam War. I blink, because I know all about the Vietnam War; because it’s shaped my entire childhood; and this isn’t the image that I have. My Vietnam War involves pain and heartache and displacement, and massive family upheavals–not this odd (though good) story about colonists savagely exploiting an alien species, and the natives rising up against them. I realise, then, that there are always several sides to a story; and that not all stories are given the same precedence.

I start writing. I have a master’s degree in science, and general knowledge of physics and electronics; and yet I still do not feel confident that I can write science fiction. I have this image–propagated through books and discussions on forums–that true science fiction is rigorous scientific extrapolation (whether that science is mathematics or anthropology), and I feel I don’t have the credentials for any of this. It will take me many, many years to understand that this set of expectations is stifling and silencing me; and that I’m my own worst enemy, telling myself not to write because I’m not good enough. That I’m far from being the only one in this position or with this experience–that definitions of “proper SF” can end up being a cage for writers and readers alike, an excuse to dismiss everything that doesn’t seem to conform.

I still read books. Most have silent women, or women who use their looks as a weapon. There are no female friendships. There are no mothers, no families. People drink coffee and speak English, and most of them are blond and pale-skinned. When someone who does look or sound familiar appears; when someone seems like they’re going to respect their ancestors and value their families–they’re the aliens. They’re the funny guys with odd customs colonists meet, the ones they try to commerce with or understand or (in the worst cases) subjugate. They’re the invaders that have to be fought back for the sake of civilisation.

And I think “what civilisation?” I wonder how people like me fare, in the future. Or in the re-imagined past of fantasy. Probably not well.

I publish my first stories. I go to cons. I meet other people, offline and online, and start having my first long discussions about genre. I start thinking about what SFF really is. I meet other POCs, other women; learn about feminism; read a lot of essays. I learn that I am not alone; that others have had those same experiences; that others struggled or are struggling, trying to reconcile their love of SFF with that feeling that those universes have passed them by.

And then it hits me: if I want to have a place in those futures, in those reimagined pasts, I’m going to have to be like Gillan. I’m going to have to forge ahead, in the footsteps of those that came before. I will write my own stuff. My universes do not have to be white, or scientific, or sterile and lonely. And, if I don’t write my own experiences, my own cultures–then who is going to write them for me?

I wish I could say it goes without a hitch from there on. That I don’t have the odd conversation (“you write wonderful aliens!” in reference to my future diaspora Vietnamese people); the shouts from various corners telling me I don’t write proper SFF. The nagging doubt that perhaps–just perhaps–they’re right, that there’s no place for me at this table. It’s nonsense, of course. It should be. But thirty years of conditioning are hard to break through; and pushing through boundaries sometimes feel like pushing through tar.

That’s me and SFF, I guess? I feel kind of embarrassed sharing this, but I think it needs to be said–I’m not writing because of politics, or because I want to preach (well, sometimes I do want to write about specific themes that speak to me. But who doesn’t?). At heart, I’m writing my stories: the stories I wanted to read as a child, the adventures in space where I don’t have to feel excluded; the fantasies where you can be small and dark-haired and Asian and still be a hero. At heart, I’m sharing my side of the story, and the things that matter to me–war and exile and devastation, relationships between mother and child and extended families and how these evolve and change in the future. I love SFF. I want to see it thrive and grow and change; and include more and more people from all walks of life. And some of those changes will be uncomfortable. And some of those new stories by new writers won’t be for me or won’t speak to me, and that’s quite fine, because they will speak to someone else.

I hope that things will continue to change. I hope that the taste for this kind of stories grows; that there will be a wider appetite for them as people discover them. I want a future where it’s ok to write the kind of stories I wanted as a child; and where people read them and enjoy them and it becomes a new, significant chunk of the field (and it’s already happening, to some extent, for which I am very grateful). I want the field to reach outwards, step after step after step; until the table is large enough to include all of us on the margins, and we all learn to appreciate and love each other’s experiences and conceptions of the future–for, if SFF isn’t about openness of mind and change, then what is?

[1]It will be many years before I am aware of science fiction as a genre and consciously seek it out; but even before that it makes up the bulk of my reading.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
31 March 2015 @ 05:00 pm

Just a quick reminder I’ll be at Eastercon this year, but just Friday and Saturday (have a snakelet to take care of after that :p).

My schedule is here (with many thanks to Tim and Judi for working out miracles). Note that my reading has moved compared to the original time: it’s now Saturday at 12:30 (and I’ll be reading from House of Shattered Wings, so if you’re curious about the novel, this is the place!).

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
24 March 2015 @ 07:42 am

Just a reminder I’ll be a guest at North London Lit Fest tonight, 17:30-19:30–where I’ll be taking part in a panel with Stephanie Saulter and Farah Mendlesohn. More info here; it takes place at Middlesex University, Hendon Campus.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

So… September is just around the corner, and I’m quite happy to reveal the US cover for House of Shattered Wings, aka “OMG OMG so pretty” (also, creepy. Yes, this is a dark fantasy book, why do you ask? :p). The art is by Nekro, who also did this lovely piece I pinned on Pinterest a while back.

A book about a devastated Paris, fallen angels and the ruins of a once great House? Sounds about right!

(more seriously, I really like this. It’s got oodles of atmosphere, it says creepy in all the right places, and the burning feathers are just a lovely touch from the opening scene of the novel. This is meant to be Morningstar’s throne in Notre-Dame, in its current state, and I love the ruined city in the background! I’m sure that makes you want to pick up the book, right? *big grin*)

And here’s the cover copy:

In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.

More info here, and you can pre-order the book here: Amazon.com|Barnes and Noble|Book Depository|Amazon UK (obviously the last amazon link is the UK edition, which won’t have this cover). Out tail end of August (August 20th for the UK edition, beginning of September for the US edition).

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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