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Aliette de Bodard
06 October 2015 @ 01:06 pm

Two lovely covers today:
-Above, Athena Andreadis’s To Shape the Dark, an anthology focused on women scientists (and a follow-up to The Other Half of the Sky, which included my Nebula Award winning story “The Waiting Stars”). Contains my Xuya story “Crossing the Midday Gate” (epidemics! Cranky old women scientists! Ethical dilemmas and disastrous choices!), and work by Vandana Singh, Gwyneth Jones, and countless other luminaries. Check out the TOC here!
-And Yanni Kuznia’s A Fantasy Medley 3, which includes my Dominion of the Fallen novelette”The Death of Aiguillon” (the illustration includes my main character, Huyen, and… hum, let’s just say that if you liked the Dragon Kingdom in The House of Shattered Wings, there’s some related coolness in this story). Pre-order info here.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
02 October 2015 @ 12:00 pm

I originally made In Morningstar’s Shadow available as a reward for people who had preordered The House of Shattered Wings (and shifted quite a few copies, thanks to everyone who took advantage of that!).

Since the book has been out for a while (a month which feels like a lifetime, wow), I figured I would make it available for free, as a sampler of what you can get if you buy the novel.

You can either download files below, or go to most online retailers and get it for free. Please note that I’ve done my best to encourage Amazon to price-match, but I can’t promise that all the countries followed suit: it’s free for sure in the US and UK, or you can download the MOBI file directly below if you can’t find it for free in your part of the world.

Download Now: EPUB | MOBI.
Download from retailers:

Download now.

Or read online here.

(and if you’ve read the novel and want more short fiction set in the same universe, why not check out Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, the adventure/courtship story featuring Emmanuelle and Selene?)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
29 September 2015 @ 08:11 pm

Brief update on stuff set in the universe of The House of Shattered Wings:

  • I’m over at the Gollancz blog on Writing Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, the adventure/courtship prequel
  • Still over at the blog on Challenges, Baking and The House of Shattered Wings, or how learning to bake saved my novel…
  • And finally, if you’re in the mood for more Dominion of the Fallen short fiction, I have a short story, “Against the Encroaching Darkness”, which is set during the Great Houses War and focuses on House Lazarus. It’s now out in issue 5 of Grimdark Magazine, which you can get here. And here’s a snippet and more info about the story, here.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

So this is only half a rant, because to properly do this I would need to document (a lot), and to reread stuff (a lot, too). But I’ve been simultaneously reading some genre books, and researching the French colonization of Vietnam in the 19th Century (and the history of SE Asia in that time period; aka researching book 2, the sequel to The House of Shattered Wings), and the contrast is… stark.

Let me put it bluntly. A lot of depictions out there miss the mark by a rather large margin. The things I see a lot: our hero(es) fighting and overthrowing the colonial system. Our hero(es), whether colonist or colonised, being almost exempt of colonial prejudice. Clean, simple fights for independence where the people rise against their oppressors and become democratic and free.

Right. Where to start.

See, the thing with colonialism; the thing that made it so scary and so heartbreaking and so anger-inducing… is that it was pervasive. I’m not saying people didn’t fight against it, but that those that did were a minuscule proportion of the population (and you’ll find that even the people fighting against colonialism had some pretty hair-raising prejudices, too).

The truth is, the vast majority of people in the colonizer nations saw it as natural. As the proper, God-given order of things. France (a democracy at the time, let me just remind you of this) massively voted *in favor* of intervention in Annam, because it would make ordinary citizens’ lives better; because it would enrich the country, and it’s very clear from reading period texts that no one saw any problem with that, across all social classes. In fact, lower social classes saw the colonies as a place you could go to in order to make your fortune; where even a poor person could live in luxury with native workers at their beck and call. And the people who were “progressive”?  They saw the colonised as children–as immature people who needed to be educated and taught “civilization”; protected from themselves against their will (as opposed to people who just wanted to dominate and plunder).

The scarier thing? People in the colonized countries thought it was the natural order of things, too–that they had to modernize in order to compete, to become more Western because the West was so clearly intrisincally superior. They massively sent their children to Western schools–to London, Paris–to be educated as a mark of privilege. Some countries, like Japan or Thailand, managed to modernise and retain national independence and some measure of culture. Others… had less success.

Yes, there was military superiority. But the reason it went on for so long? Is because there was a complete and utter certainty that the colonizers were right. That the colonies were owed to them; that the riches of other countries were theirs for the taking. And other people at the colonizer nation took in those riches and benefitted from them and thought it was due to them too (and yeah, there was terrible oppression going on in colonizer nations, too. Intersectionality=> things are complicated, but again, it was an attitude of all social classes. There was no solidarity of, say, the French working class with the Indochinese. They thought the Indochinese were scary foreigners who stole their jobs and spoke a funny language [1]).

Read period pieces. Read Agatha Christie. Read Maurice Leblanc. Or any other writers. The Empire is the *background*. Racial prejudice is casual, omnipresent.

Also, another reason why colonialism worked? It’s not only military superiority. And it’s not trade (“the French in Vietnam” version of this didn’t focus much on trade, at least at first). It’s “divide to reign” tactics where existing cracks (or new ones) between social and ethnic groups were exploited to make a new society. A society that’s busy tearing itself apart has no time for organized resistance. It means that not everyone is oppressed equally (this is why I have little time for utterly oppressive evil empires. If everyone is miserable and oppressed and with no hopes whatsoever for the future, the government isn’t going to last for long). It means people are treated very differently depending on where they come from and where they live: colonies aren’t nations, but a hodgepodge of different political systems on a “whatever works” and “let’s keep them weak” set of principles (just see the rather stark differences between Tonkin, Annam and Cochinchina in the 19th/early 20th Century). It also means that there are side benefits for everyone, too (which in no way compensate for the other, horrendous costs, of course): social advances and health advances and science advances, all brought to, say, the population of Annam as a way to demonstrate that the imperial government didn’t have their best interests at heart, but that the colonizers did.

And when push comes to shove… when all of this complex equilibrium finally disintegrates–well, it’s going to be messy. There will be blood. There will be violence. There will be massacres and purges. I’m not saying it shouldn’t happen, or that revolutions shouldn’t ever take place, but there is always a price to pay. There is always a fight for which faction will rule the country, or what the country will even look like–where the capital will be, who will be in government, what languages will be spoken, whose culture will come to shape everything from administration to the history that is taught. And this isn’t just wars of independence: the repercussions linger on for decades after that. The Nigerian Civil War, the Rwandan genocide, the Vietnamese/American war… I can go on, and on. It’s almost textbook.

You’re going to say it doesn’t matter–that Science Fiction and Fantasy needs to focus on the heroes, the extraordinary, the clean and easy revolution that we can get behind with no moral qualms. But see, the thing is…. by focusing on this, we perpetuate a great illusion, a great silence. We forget that empires like this only exist because of the consent of the majority. We forget that inequal systems only work because people are convinced everyone is in their proper place, and are convinced it’s their moral right to oppress others, or that being oppressed is inevitable; or, worse, that the oppressors are morally superior or more meritorious. Because we only talk about heroes, we like to think that, back then, we would be among them. And the truth is–most of us wouldn’t. Actually, most of us aren’t, today (to take just one example, we buy cheap clothes, cheap electronics made with labour in horrific conditions).

You know the scary truth about Evil Empires? We make them while being utterly convinced we’re in the right. We uphold them by acquiescing every day to decisions that make our lives better and richer, and forgetting how we impact other people’s lives. And we seldom–so so seldom–have the sheer, admirable, almost impossible courage to overthrow them; and to deal with the high, bloody and messy cost of doing so.

[1] Yeah, some things don’t change. *sigh*

ETA: and in case you’re wondering: yup, of course I deal with some of that in my novel The House of Shattered Wings. My alternate, devastated France has had a colonial empire for a while, and it shows. Characters are affected by the colonial mindset, whether it’s those doing the colonising/benefitting from it (Selene, Madeleine), or those getting colonised (Philippe, Ngoc Bich). And yes, it makes for some thoughts in their heads that can be unpleasant and uncomfortable–but also, I think, to things that need to be shown.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
15 September 2015 @ 05:00 pm

So… you can now buy “Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship”, my story set in the universe of The House of Shattered Wings. It charts the first meeting between Selene and Emmanuelle–and the unexpected adventure they find themselves thrown into!

It is standalone, and you can read it without having read the book–in fact, if you’re not sure whether you’d like the book, you can get a peek at the universe that way (though fair warning: it’s more… light-hearted than the novel).

It’s available as an ebook from all major retailers (see below), at 0.99 or thereabouts–fluffy and cheap, what are you waiting for? *g*

What you get: a caper/adventure, a glimpse at the inside of House Harrier (near Grenelle in the 15e Arrondissement, for the curious)–and more Emmanuelle, Selene and Morningstar, of course. Magic, infiltration, and explosions! (well, a teensy little explosion).

Buy Now

Here’s the blurb:

In a Paris that never was, a city of magical factions where Fallen angels mingle with magicians, alchemists and witches…

Emmanuelle is the Fallen archivist of House Silverspires, and only wants a quiet life with her books. But when Selene, the latest student of Lucifer Morningstar, walks into the library, Emmanuelle finds herself drawn in an adventure to steal from another House. It’s a thrilling and dangerous task, but the most dangerous thing about it might just be Selene herself–aloof and resourceful, and unexpectedly attractive…

Set in the universe of the critically acclaimed The House of Shattered Wings.

And some early (not at all biased!) reviews:

D. Franklin (of Intellectus Speculativus):

Stephanie Burgis, author of the upcoming Masks and Shadows:

And have an excerpt:

The Fallen came into the library of House Silverspires every morning, and every morning she would go into the stacks and come back with a pile of dusty books smelling of old, cracked leather, and sit down at the furthest table, staring at the books as if she could make them cooperate with a mere glance. By the looks of it–she was still sitting at the table hours afterwards, perhaps a third of the way into the first or second book–it was not going well.

Emmanuelle knew who she was, of course. Everyone did: Selene, Morningstar’s latest student–his latest pride, before he grew bored of her and cast her aside; as he had cast aside all his other students. She walked tall and straight; wearing men’s clothes, a set of black trousers and a swallowtail jacket, both impeccably pressed and arranged with a meticulousness that was more frightening than alluring.

The smart, sensible thing to do–and Emmanuelle was nothing if not practical—would have been to stay away. To smile, and show Selene the way into the stacks, and see her out every morning. To go back to her cataloguing and repairs of old books, and sorting the odd fight between archivists. But… but Selene smelled of patchouli and freshly-cut grass, and walked with the grace of a queen, her face oddly expressionless–what would it look like, if it creased into a smile? And, day after day, Emmanuelle found her gaze drawn towards the depths of the library, and the silent struggle at the table–until one day she found herself smearing glue across the first page of a beautifully illuminated manuscript, instead of efficiently dabbing it on the top of the spine.

Right. Enough was enough.

Want one?

Buy Now

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
14 September 2015 @ 05:00 pm

So… a lot of what I write today is to deadlines–and I know I’m not necessarily in the majority here, but I like deadlines. I’m one of the world’s natural procrastinators, and without the focus sheer existential dread of a deadline, I would be writing a lot less.

Thing is… it’s very tempting to think that, with all the time in the world, I could write a novel/short story that I would be happy with, rather than having to rush to meet a tight delivery date. I’m also aware, because I’m one of the world’s natural pessismists, that the correlation between the time I have to write something and the quality of the thing is actually weaker than I’d think.

For starters, “happy with” is a complicated thing. I’ve read a quote somewhere that writers don’t finish stuff, that we merely abandon it, and that’s certainly very true with me. There’s always something I could do to a piece, always some revisions I could do that I feel would make it better. I’m not convinced that they *would* make it better, in the sense that I’ve also edited pieces to death. The late Jay Lake used to say that voice is the easiest thing to edit out of a manuscript, and he’s right. Prose shouldn’t be unformed, but equally being too polished is a sure sign that life has been taken out of it–I’m a big believer in the rawness and energy of it. Which is to say: I do edit my prose, but I’m careful not to go overboard. I also tend to think my stuff sucks whatever the stage it’s at (except possibly those very early stages when it’s still fresh and new and exciting)–yeah, impostor syndrome–and part of the reason I love the H is that he will just prod me into delivering the freaking thing already even if I feel terrible about it.

Of course, if the delivery date is ridiculously tight and I’m under high pressure to meet it, there’s going to be a strong temptation to do a hack job–to deliver for the sake of delivering what really is inferior work (and not what I consider to be inferior work, which isn’t necessarily representative, see above). “Inferior” means “not finished” to me, and my biggest “not finished” issue is complexity and layers.

My writing process is all about layers. I build my stories and my novels that way, on the slow accretion of completely unrelated elements–I just throw everything in, and at some point the magical alchemy happens and they all come together for a story (I’m serious about alchemy. My subconscious is in charge at that point, and it really does feel like it miraculously coalesces from a mess of unrelated things into an actual story). For that to happen, I need space, and some research reading, and some cogitating, before I can have the piece click for me–before it can unfold in all its glorious (and sometimes) messy complexity.

For a short story, I generally need two completely unrelated ideas: for instance, the latest one I wrote started with the image of a Vietnamese dragon flying out from the sun, and over it I layered the idea of a messy and protracted war between two nascent space federations. For a novel, I need more: I need a good idea of the setting, a bunch of characters I feel comfortable with, and a plot that has enough content and twists to keep me happy. The House of Shattered Wings‘s setting started as the confluence of Fallen angels whose flesh was being used to make magical drugs, and of a big, WWI-style magical war in turn-of-the-century Paris. But it didn’t actually gel together until I got all my characters lined up (most significantly, Philippe, the unexpected Vietnamese ex-Immortal and general wrench in the works), and my plot sketched in (I’m not going to give spoilers, but one major plot point involving the death of a visiting dignitary in Silverspires turned out to be the lynchpin on which I could hang part 1–and part 2 was, in turn, hung on a vivid image of Notre-Dame ruined in a very particular fashion). Accordingly, if I haven’t had time to get those layers/unrelated things, or to integrate them properly… Yeah, then it would be a problem.

But. But I’ve written stuff that was brilliant in a couple of days, and stuff that sucked over a period of nine months; so, again, it’s not like more time necessarily results in more brilliant stuff? I think past a certain incompressible time period I need to get the story together, more time just either gives me: a. more time to procrastinate (and lose some of the original passion and drive for the project as the excitement dies down), and b. more time to make the story into a Frankenstein mashup of intractable complexity. At some point I just need to put words down I guess? They might need to be heavily edited (or deleted), but they’re here. They’re not some abstract notion of what the story should be, which I can never do justice to in any case, because the story I write is *never* going to be as perfect as the vision in my head (it never is). They’re real, and they’re on paper (or on the screen), and I can work with that.

(yeah, my other motto is “you can’t fix what’s not written down”)

So, yeah. Mostly I work with deadlines and I love them (honest!). From time to time, of course, I need a break: I need some space for a personal project that I don’t feel I owe to anyone. Works like The Citadel of Weeping Pearls, the Xuya novella with the twined four POVs, or Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship, the courtship/caper between two characters of The House of Shattered Wings–I just write them for fun, and for a while it feels liberating not to have a deadline or the perpetual feeling I’m late. But only for a while, and because it’s a change–I need my deadlines, and if they didn’t exist I suspect I’d make them up!

What about you? How do you handle deadlines? Do you like them/hate them with a passion? Does it not make a whit of difference to you whether you have one or not?

(image credits: Shepherd gate clock at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, UK, retouched by CarolSpears, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
10 September 2015 @ 08:25 pm

This is all the fault of D Franklin and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, who challenged me to write a fluffy romantic story set in the universe of The House of Shattered Wings. And what would be better suited for that than the courtship of Selene and Emmanuelle, two of the main characters in the book?

And, hum. I wrote it, and I figured I would put it up on amazon and other retailers as a standalone ebook, for those who are interested? It’s percolating through the system of various retailers at the moment: the official release date is Sept 15th.

There’s an adventure/caper, there’s courting, there’s kissing–and there is magic and mayhem and other things, too!

Official blurb:

In a Paris that never was, a city of magical factions where Fallen angels mingle with magicians, alchemists and witches…

Emmanuelle is the Fallen archivist of House Silverspires, and only wants a quiet life with her books. But when Selene, the latest student of Lucifer Morningstar, walks into the library, Emmanuelle finds herself drawn in an adventure to steal from another House. It’s a thrilling and dangerous task, but the most dangerous thing about it might just be Selene herself–aloof and resourceful, and unexpectedly attractive…

Set in the universe of the critically acclaimed The House of Shattered Wings.

And, hum, this is my first experience with deeper involvement in the cover process, aka the confluence of several factors: a. be somewhat congruent with the cover for The House of Shattered Wings, while indicating it’s a more upbeat story; b. not invest overmuch time or money, as this is a short story and it’s a well-known thing these don’t really sell much.

I have no idea how well I succeeded at a. (I am emphatically not a graphics person), and I spent far too much time on b. (it ended being a bit of a time sink, a thing that will surprise exactly no one), but for now I’ll declare myself happy with it, and reassess a bit later if/when necessary :)

I put the image together with Serif’s Affinity Photo, which was recommended to me on twitter as an affordable alternative to Photoshop–and I have to say that for the limited use I made of it, it’s been very handy (and I prefer it to Photoshop Elements, which I’d tried before and didn’t really care for).

Many many thanks to everyone on Codex and Twitter who held my hand while I was working out the cover concept (in particular: Ruth Nestvold, Julie Andrews, Holly Heisey, Traci Morganfield, John Brown, Martin McGrath, you are all awesome. Thank you so much for the detailed feedback). And as usual, thanks to Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein, who very kindly made my initial stab at lettering look like an actual cover (as opposed to a Frankenstein botch of fonts)… And hugs and thanks to Stephanie Burgis, too, for convincing me I should do something… splashier with this than burying it in a drawer.

More info on the book here. Oh, and the goodreads page is here.

Buy Now

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard

And here is the cover for the Oct/Nov double issue of Asimov’s, which contains my Xuya novella “The Citadel of Weeping Pearls” (mindships! Weapons of mass destruction! Messy family affairs!). And, hum, as you might have guessed, my story is the inspiration for the cover…. Isn’t pretty pretty? I love the dragon!

Synopsis below:

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls was a great wonder; a perfect meld between cutting edge technology and esoteric sciences—its inhabitants capable of teleporting themselves anywhere, its weapons small and undetectable, and deadly.

Thirty years ago, threatened by an invading fleet from the Dai Viet Empire, the Citadel disappeared, and was never seen again.

But now the Dai Viet Empire itself is under siege, on the verge of a war against an enemy that turns their own mindships against them; and the Empress, who once gave the order to raze the Citadel, is in desperate needs of its weapons. Meanwhile, on a small isolated space station, an engineer obsessed with the past works on a machine that will send her thirty years back, at the height of the Citadel’s power.

But the Citadel’s disappearance still extends chains of grief and regrets all the way into the fraught atmosphere of the Imperial Court; and this casual summoning of the past might have world-shattering consequences…

From the award-winning author of the critically acclaimed On a Red Station, Drifting comes a new novella set in the Xuya universe; a tale of relatives and the ties that bind them; of time travel and the weight of the past; and of the price to pay for war and peace….

The novella page is here.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
31 August 2015 @ 05:00 pm


The above is my lovely wok with its developing patina–I’ve been using it for a month or so and it’s fascinating to watch it slowly browning. I hope it gets all brown, but I understand that it can take years before that happens! Been cooking a bunch of greasy foods in it to help season (crab fritters, lardons), and using Grace Young’s method of dumping the rice water in it and soaking for 20 minutes to clean it (mostly because it does save a bit of water :) ). Really nice to have browned chicken and steaks again, I have to say. Maillard reactions in a non stick pan just don’t really happen…

Also have been trying to update my knife-wielding skills on Craftsy. I think I’ve got the low cut (for small veggies) worked out, but the high cut is still a problem (my arm and shoulder ache, which mean I’ve probably screwed up somewhere). Ah well. Onwards and upwards!

And not a cooking thing, but check out this: Those who Run with Wolves. I’ve set up a project focused on books that get elided one way or another–my hope is that you can read this and discover a book you missed out on, find an old favorite, or stumble across a new, exciting release. I’ve got wonderful people on board, and we hope to cover a mix of new releases and old classics.

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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Aliette de Bodard
30 August 2015 @ 07:43 pm

Right, I thought I was done with the whole Hugo thing, but one last thought (with reference to this post by Elizabeth Bear). I’ve already posted it on twitter, but for the record, here goes…

My position on slates is pretty much the same as Bear’s:

I will never willingly participate in a slate. If I learn that I have been included on a slate, I will ask to be removed.
If you see my name on a slate, please assume that it’s being done by ruiners to punish me, and that whoever put it there has ignored my requests to remove it.

(Bear included some stuff about use of force: I’ve left it off because I will make reasonable attempts to get off a slate, but quite honestly I have close to zero energy currently and it’s likely to continue next year–*cough* motherhood *cough*–so I’m not going to hound people. If they fail to take me off after the first contact, I’d likely be side-eyeing them anyway).

Note that a slate isn’t a recommendations list. Those are fine, I’m very flattered and grateful to be on them (and obviously even more flattered to be on people’s ballots!). In fact, this year I’ve already started taking notes one eligible stuff I read, so that I can make sure to post my usual awards recommendation post at the beginning of the year. But slates are not fine (in case you’re wondering: by slate I mean “a list where the organiser/organisers start urging people to vote for it as a bloc”).

Cross-posted from Aliette de Bodard

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