Sunday, September 18, 2016

Karen Heuler's Other Places

I'm pleased to announce the release of Other Places by Karen Heuler, a collection of short fiction, as the fifty-first volume in Aqueduct Press's Conversation Pieces series. In Other Places' tales, life unfolds in strange ways. You may encounter people from your past living in your former apartments, or realize you have a penis as you engage in war-dreams, or find a planet filled with ghosts that look exactly like the ghosts back home. Is it possible they are the same as the ghosts back home? Wherever you travel, you'll have to make tough decisions about the aliens you may have harmed and the aliens who may harm you. Other Places, Karen Heuler's latest story collection, follows travelers as the familiar becomes strange, and the strange becomes life.

Publishers Weekly has reviewed Other Places: "Prolific fantasy and horror writer Heuler continues defying convention and categorization in her latest collection of stories. The first tale, “The Rising Up,” wherein a young woman unexpectedly realizes she has a penis while engaging in dream combat, sets the stage for the weirdness to come. There is fairy tale opulence in “Twelve Sisters, Twelve Sisters, Ten,” in which a dozen sisters spend their evenings dancing in an underwater house. “The Apartments,” in which a woman visits her old haunts and discovers some unsettling personal information, is as much a stroll down memory lane as it is a meditation on narrative. Each story is as inventive as the last. Heuler’s prose illuminates the strangeness of both her characters and her settings. Establishing elaborate themes and morals is no easy feat in such short narrative arcs, but Heuler does it admirably, quickly laying the groundwork for her myriad of worlds, cultures, and travelers. There is no doubt as to Heuler’s creativity, but some of the stories have less pull than others, though the collection as a whole does not feel unbalanced. Exploring difficult questions with imaginative prose, Heuler leaves readers with much food for thought."

 Other Places is available in both print and e-boook editions. You can purchase it now through Aqueduct's website.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nisi Shawl Reads & Signs Her First Novel

Yesterday, Tor released Nisi Shawl's debut novel, Everfair, and last night at University Bookstore in Seattle, a crowd of sixty hung on Nisi's every word spoken and note sung. No one who's been to a recent reading by Nisi will be surprised to hear that she opened her reading with a song important to the characters in her just-released Everfair; but not only did she sing a capella, she also directed the audience to join in the chorus (which we all did). Flashing us a mischievous smile, she promised to read us a sex scene--which she did--but I had to laugh when someone later, standing in the long queue of people waiting to get their copy of the book signed, grumbled with amusement that it was actually a scene of sex interrupted. At any rate, I came away with my own copy in a mood of exultation.

Nisi commented to another writer before the reading that it had taken her sixty years to achieve this book. This resonated powerfully with me when University Bookstore host Duane Wilkins reminded us of Nisi's long view by beginning his introduction with an anecdote of how Nisi had many years back asked him if she could read her first novel at the bookstore and that when he'd said sure and asked her when it was due to be released she replied that she hadn't yet written it. Obviously, she was thinking ahead.  

Nisi's going to be reading in a variety of locations across the US this fall. has posted her schedule for September (and presumably will be updating that with more appearances that I know she has planned). I know this blog's regular readers will want to read Everfair. I haven't yet read it myself, but the blurb on the front cover, by Karen Joy Fowler, reads: "A book with gorgeous sweep, spanning years and continents, loves and hates, histories and fantasies...Everfair is sometimes sad, often luminous, and always original. A wonderful achievement." Enough said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WisCon Chronicles Vol. 11: Call for materials

I'm pleased to announce that the editor of the next volume of the WisCon Chronicles is Jaymee Goh, and she's eager to receive submissions. Here's her call for materials:

Call for Submissions
The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 11: Trials by Whiteness

WisCon40 followed a seismic shift in the demographics of the convention. Following the success of the POC Safer Space, there is now a Genderqueer/Trans Lounge, and a Disability Lounge. Programming actively seeks a diversity of panelists. How have these changes come about, and what have their ramifications been?

The theme, "Trials by Whiteness," examines how what bell hooks calls the white-supremacist capitalist (cishetero)patriarchy has affected the feminism of WisCon and created difficult confrontations and conversations on the clashing perceptions of attendees. "Whiteness" refers to the position from which white supremacy operates. It has constantly moving goalposts by which everyone is measured. Whiteness does not refer only to white people; non-white peoples can also identify with this position and perspective. "Trials by whiteness," therefore, refers to all the problems people have to go through as a result of white supremacy, on various scales from microaggressions to abuse, whether institutionally or through individual behaviours.

I welcome essays and contemplations on the following:

·         the changing faces of WisCon;
·         the challenges in transmitting and sharing knowledge across generations;
·         clashes of ideology, theories, and/or practices as feminism grows; 
·         panel reports;
·         nice listicles, for example suggestions for how to ally with (and not over!) the various folks that come to WisCon!

I encourage personal essays, poems, or roundtable discussions that deal with any of the following, especially in the context of WisCon and within the SFF industry:

·         dialogs and difficult conversations about the rising discomfort of white SFF fans; 
·         intra-community conflicts within marginalized groups, which we fear to discuss because we fear whiteness turning these conflicts against us;
·         spillover of hegemonic whiteness onto other forms of oppression, such as disability, class, and gender expression;
·         productive outcomes of difficult conversations, e.g. Nalo Hopkinson's Lemonade Award;
·         what DID happen over the summer before WC39? for good or for ill, how did that affect WisCon40?

Further afield, I am a big fan of Academic Lite articles and welcome experimental and non-academic forms discussing the following topics:

·         how POC and conditionally white people are treated by people comfortably entrenched in whiteness;
·         the internalization of white/Eurocentric standards and difficulties of unlearning them in order to recognize oneself, whether as part of the system, or apart from it;
·         the challenges of being a white person confronting whiteness and demonstrating solidarity and good allyship, earning trust;
·         uncovering whiteness, the ramifications of naming it and dealing with the cognitive dissonance that it demands.

While this anthology does center the POC gaze, I am also interested in white essayists interrogating these difficult subjects from the intersections of their identities as well.

Don’t reject yourself—that’s my job!

I am particularly interested in articles that are conversations, especially between newer and older attendees, between attendees who identify differently, or in response to WisCon events. For example, attendees of color and white attendees who attended the Hamilton Sing-Along. Pitch me!

Send pitches and submissions to with "WCC11: [title]" in the subject line. DOC / DOCX / RTF. Submissions open Aug 15, and close Oct 31. All pitched articles should be in by November 15.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Poets House Showcase

This year two of Aqueduct's recent poetry titles, Jean LeBlanc's A Field Guide to the Spirits and Rose Lemberg's Marginalia to Stone Bird are appearing in Poet House's annual Showcase. Here's the description from the Poets House website:

The only event of its kind, the annual Poets House Showcase is a free exhibit featuring the new poetry books and poetry-related texts published in the United States in a single year from over 700 commercial, university and independent presses. Displaying volumes by individual authors, anthologies, chapbooks, biographies, critical studies, essay collections, CDs, DVDs, and more, the Poets House Showcase is a diverse and inclusive exhibition in which books from micro-presses receive the same care and attention as major publishers.

Opening on Thursday, July 14th, the 2016 Showcase is on view through Saturday, August 20, 2015. More than 3,000 items are in the 2016 exhibition.

If you live in NYC and are a poetry lover, this may well be for you.

(Photos furnished by Jean Le Blanc.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol.6, 3

The new issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! This issue  opens with an essay by Karen Lord, "Unbought and Unbossed: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Amaryllis Collymore." The issue also includes poetry by Tonya Liburd and T.D. Walker, a Grandmother Magma column by Jewelle Gomez, and reviews of six new books; the issue's featured artist is Susan diRende (who is also the author of Unpronounceable, a novella in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series). If you're not already a subscriber, you can subscribe or purchase the issue here.

Vol. 6, 3 (July 2017)

Unbought and Unbossed: Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea, and Amaryllis Collymore
  by  Karen Lord
   by Tonya Liburd

Canals of Mars
In Which Miss Emily Bethel Wakes a Hundred Years Later in Every Possible Future
New Moon: Naming, Rites
   by T.D. Walker

Grandmother Magma
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
   by Jewelle Gomez

The People in the Castle, by Joan Aiken
   reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

To Shape the Dark, edited by Athena Andreadis
   reviewed by Lauren Banka

The Devourers, by Indra Das
   reviewed by Anil Menon

The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley
  reviewed by Karama Horne

Arabella of Mars: The Adventures of Arabella Ashby, by David D. Levine
  reviewed by Cynthia Ward

Fae Visions of the Mediterranean: An Anthology of Horrors and Wonders of the Sea, edited by Valeria Vitale and Djibril al-Ayad
  reviewed by Joanne Rixona

Featured Artist
From a Distance
   by Susan diRende

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sheree Renée Thomas's Sleeping Under the Tree of Life

I'm pleased to announce the release of Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, a collection of poetry and stories by Sheree Renée Thomas, as the fiftieth volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series. Sleeping Under the Tree of Life evokes the realm of ancestral knowledge with a deep respect for the natural world, a love of language, and an invitation—for survival, and asks: Who survives without being transformed? Beneath luminous layers of imagery and mythology, science and nature, fantasy and the recounting of history, is the grace and tenderness of a poet's heart, the unwavering gaze of an oracle's vision, and the dreamlike whimsy of a storyteller's mind. Hope, love, and hard truths spring from these pages of a writer whose imagination conjures an unforgettable journey. Readers enter these poems and stories the way some souls enter church, a quiet garden, or a stand of trees—for rest, for the blessing of silence and reverie, for beauty if not redemption.

Last week Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review: "The lyrical gifts of Thomas, editor of the celebrated Dark Matter anthologies, are on full display in this collection of poetry and short fiction. Her poems are imbued with rich, sensual imagery and range over subjects mundane, fantastical, and somewhere in between: the memory of a mother braiding her daughter’s hair in “Rootwork”; an oracle in the form of a homeless woman whose “mismatch clothes/ cover robes that got wings” in “Visitation of the Oracle at McKain Street”; and the mythological Arachne, “Star weaver of tears,” in “Arachne Star” and “Arachne on the Rebound.” She invokes the rhythms of African-American ring shouts and the dense, humid atmosphere of the American South. Her stories include reinventions of mythology, such as Medusa and Arachne ambushing the goddess Athena in revenge in “Arachne & Medusa Jump Athena,” and haunting modern folktales about women with their roots in rivers (in “River, Clap Your Hands”) and swamp trees (in “Tree of the Forest Seven Bells”), with references to recent natural disasters and human-created pollution. Thomas’s skill with poetry and prose is remarkable, and even the shortest poems in this volume contain ideas and images that will linger in the reader’s mind."

The collection has also received a good deal of advance praise:

 "Sleeping Under the Tree of Life is a feat of literary conjuration. Poetry, prose combine in a mythic discourse that combines African, Indigenous, and European tropes to explore the power and plaints of woman hood; the thin line between life and death; the power of the Fates; the volatility of nature; a desire for and the achievement of transformation.... The texts here offer a profound understanding of the Black American South—where trees are sources of shade and succor or memorials to humanity's murderous traits. And it is a sly portrait of Memphis, Tennessee, Thomas' hometown. This is a bold book full of taller than tall tales and delicate lyrics-where birth, death, sex, magic and discovery walk the same path and haunt the writer's dreams. Join her on this journey and find out what it is like to sleep under that tree." —Patricia Spears Jones, author of A Lucent Fire: New and Selected, Painkiller, Femme du Monde, and The Weather That Kills

"These are wise women poems, country lush, bound by myth and science. Thomas's exquisite language inhabits constellations, delta crossroads and the deepest forest to explore our collective troubles. Thomas is also a master storyteller weaving a devilish braid of ancestral reclamation; of sirens, goddesses and elders wrapped in new world grit and a modern hoodoo evocative of the pastoralism of Jean Toomer. This powerful collection is a call to 'save us from ruin.'" —Jacqueline Johnson, author of A Woman's Season

"'Out of the mouth of this holler,' Sheree Renée Thomas' Sleeping Under the Tree of Life springs to life—to give us life. Continuing the work she set out with her Dark Matter anthologies and her first collection, Shotgun Lullabies, Thomas, in this pristine, poised narrative of our beginnings, extends and expands the dialogic paradigm of an art form and genre the world is finally catching up to, to go beyond what Michael McDonald and James Ingram sing— 'Yah Mo Be There!'—to take us back to the future of an Africa that said/that says, as the Bantu— 'Nommo Be There!' In Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Sheree Renée Thomas collages together a narrative of necessity where her full literary powers and prowess are on full display like a Dogon cup from an ancient river where we drink in the magic of winged words necessitating change, each poem and prose piece not lulling us to sleep—but giving us life, and making sure we stay WOKE!" —Tony Medina, author of Broke Baroque and An Onion of Wars

"Sheree R. Thomas is a hoodoo conjure women. Sleeping Under the Tree of Life is a book of story and poem incantations. Thomas calls on the ancestors, the spirits, and our natural Mississippi mud/ blood history to talk to the future. She tasks, thrills, and twists our minds. Her word magic feels so good in my mouth, I have to jump up and speak her blues, jazz, and warrior woman sass out loud! Sleeping Under the Tree of Life is a book to read again and again and again!" —Andrea Hairston, author of Redwood and Wildfire and Will Do Magic for Small Change

"Sheree Renée Thomas gives us a whirlpool of poem and story, a 'wild and strangeful breed' of cosmology that maps each star from Machu Pichu to Congo Square, from Legba to Medusa. Here in these pages is a ringshout around a tree of brown woman hands and riverbent fantasy, all quilted up in 'indigo/and black silt/ twisting the thick strands/ as if starting a slow fire.' The baptism awaits, the water is living, and we all rise with the tide of these epistles from such a wondrous, ancient, future-bound poet." —Tyehimba Jess, author of Olio and Leadbelly

"Sleeping Under the Tree of Life is a collection of tales and poetry reflecting the mythical origins of life inside the dream of 'trees, rivers, stars, blood.' Through Thomas' words every day birth, desire, death becomes a beautiful, dream-like dance full of magic, light and dark. We are shown that things are more than they seem and under the most common skin lies infinite power." —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of "How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend"

"This collection of vivid, intense and artful speculative poetry and short fiction is a journey through beautiful, treacherous landscapes simultaneously ancient, futuristic and of-the-moment, inhabited by deities, demiurges, and drylongso conjurefolk. These guides, guardians and shape-shifting survivors illuminate Thomas' meditations on the joys and ravages of history and the resilience of love. Sleep beneath this Tree, dream these dreams, and arise changed."—Ama Patterson

'In Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, Sheree Renée Thomas finds the mythic grandeur in human frailty and apocalyptic storms. This is a book of goddesses and magic, of songs mournful and joyful, of restless trees and falling skies, told in a voice like a river's hypnotic rush. You'll welcome the webs these poems and stories weave." —Mike Allen, three-time Rhysling Award winner, Nebula and Shirley Jackson Award finalist, and editor of Clockwork Phoenix

"Sleeping Under The Tree of Life is a powerful invocation by a literary rootwoman working with both hands, a fusion of prose and poetry that brings to mind Toomer's Cane or Jones' Corregidora, works graced with lyrical riffs like little blue bottles glistening in the sun. With this work, Sheree Thomas has attained a new level of artistic maturity, her unique voice, a Wanganegressian fusion of contemporary and the traditional, singing out in a mastery of craft and vision that adorns every page. Her poetry claims the reader long before prose narratives are introduced in a seamless weave working that boundary/fusion of genres where new aesthetics are born. It is everything a work of art should be, a challenging engagement with the human condition that will try your soul with moments of astounding grace. Sleeping Under the Tree of Life represents a new level of craft, vision and achievement for a consummate artist and cultural icon. With this one, Sherée Thomas' place is assured. When great soul meets great work, what you get is a thing of wonder." —Arthur Flowers, author of I See the Promised Land, Mojo Rising, and Another Good Loving Blues

"In Sleeping Under the tree of Life, Sheree Renée Thomas has created a gorgeously mind-altering collection of poetry and story. She riffs off history like a Jazz master, while invoking a poly-rhythmic present shot through with prophesy. With pulsating word alchemy, she spins luminous imagery, astounding characters, and deep-sea insights. I say, this book will put a spell on you—change you, and rearrange you. Read it right now, twice." —Pan Morigan, composer, Wild Blue and Castles of Gold

Sleeping Under the Tree of Life is available now in print and e-book editions through Aqueduct's site, and will soon be available elsewhere.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Aqueduct Press readings at WisCon 40

Three groups of Aqueduct Press authors read this year at WisCon. We all read in Conference 2--and for the first time in that room were furnished with a mic, which we dutifully used. I reaped a lot of compliments for the readings (as, I hope, did the individual authors) and often heard people marveling at the sheer variety in voices and stories. Given that that's a part of the point of Aqueduct's existence, such comments gratified me immensely.

The first group read, on Saturday afternoon, under the title "We Sing the Body." This is an expression that is usually taken metaphorically, but in this case it applied literally as well as metaphorically. Nisi Shawl, who read from Everfair (forthcoming from Tor in September), began, as is her wont, with a song sung a capella, and taught the audience (and her fellow authors) to sign the refrain along with her. Pan Morigan followed by reading from unpublished work and, accompanying herself on banjo sang a song from her forthcoming album, Storm Hand. Andrea Hairston read the opening pages of her novel, Will Do Magic for Small Change. And I talked about and read Chapter Zero in The Waterdancer's World (a novel forthcoming from Aqueduct in October).

The second group read on Sunday afternoon under the title "Definitely Not Damsels," immediately following the first group, in the same room.  Jackie Hatton read from Flesh & Wires (which Aqueduct published last fall). Mary Anne Mohanraj read from "Webs," a story forthcoming in the July issue of Asimov's. Eleanor Arnason read a short tale from Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens. And Lesley Hall read from her delicious, on-going regency pastiche, The Comfortable Courtesan (available here).

The third Aqueduct Press group read on Sunday, under the title "Elsewhere." Susan diRende read from "Unpronounceable," which Aqueduct released in April; Brit Mandelo read from "The Pigeon Summer," recently published online at (available online here); Nancy Jane Moore read from The Weave (which Aqueduct published last summer); and Sarah Tolmie read from Two Travelers (which Aqueduct has just released). Prompted by a question from the audience, the reading finished with a discussion of... editing (!).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

About the wonderful time Arrate had at WisCon

WisCon 40! What can I say.

This was my third year attending a gathering I dreamed of long before I could see it for myself. And WisCon 40 has been particularly special for a number of reasons. For starters, the Guests of Honor -- Sofia Samatar, Justine Larbalestier, and returning GoH Nalo Hopkinson, whom I had been really excited about since they were announced last year. I’m also happier and more open to the world than I’ve been in a while. I engaged with all sorts of people around me, and it was beautiful. I made friends! All of whom live on a different continent to mine, but that is secondary.

Timmi, Andrea, Pan, and Nisi after a full-room Aqueduct reading
Some of the panels and readings I attended were the best time I’ve had in a while, too. The panel on code switching, with Nisi Shawl and Andrea Hairston, among others, was good fun and packed with ideas to keep developing for months to come. The incredible panel remembering Octavia Butler, moderated by Sofia Samatar, had us all laughing and tearing up and nodding a lot. Being able to gather together and cherish the many meanings of Octavia Butler’s legacy for both the audience (whom Samatar invited to participate by suggesting topics for discussion) and a panel of authors I love was a real privilege (and it made my anarcha-feminist science fiction book club in Brighton really jealous). I attended two of the three Aqueduct readings, which always have an intimate feel to them, and the Science Fiction Destroys the Gender Binary! reading at Michelangelo’s, which was a varied, consistently good showcase of short fiction by non-binary writers.
The now legendary Octavia Butler panel: Sofia Samatar, Nalo Hopkinson, Lisa Bolekaja, Nisi Shawl, and Walidah Imarisha

Something particularly special about this year for me is that I was a panelist for the first time ever anywhere. Jaymee Goh moderated with great skill and unbelievable energy for a Sunday both of the panels I took part in, one on SFF in translation and one on SFF by women writers around the world. For the first panel I joined S. Qiouyi Lu, author and Chinese-to-English translator, in discussing some of the challenges and joys of our work. Rachel S. Cordasco made a summary of the panel for the Speculative Fiction in Translation website.

How could I miss it
The second panel featured Justine Larbalestier, Jackie Hatton, Emily Jiang, and me, and it involved our taking turns at telling everybody in the room about our favorite SFF from Australia, Japan, China, Finland, Spain, Argentina, and elsewhere. Isabel Schechter live-tweeted both panels (thank you!) and is planning to write up summaries of them, so do visit her twitter account on @MsUppityness.

Sketch of our translation panel by Mat Defiler
I feel really pleased (and relieved) about the warm reception both panels had, the fact that I can pick up a mic and not panic, and the possibility that both translation and international SFF may thrive at WisCon in following editions. Building bridges between English- and Spanish-language SFF is pretty much my goal in life, and seeing so clearly that I’m not alone planting those seeds in such an extraordinary community fills me with wonder about the future. As I type, Jaymee Goh is suggesting that #InternationalSFF be an regular twitter conversation. It feels great to see things moving.

And then there were also the non-panel fun times. I danced and glowed at the Floomp, got my first pair of earrings in exchange for a haiku, hung out with rad authors and booksellers, ate dessert and shed a few tears (no surprises there) during the GoH speeches and Tiptree award ceremony, and celebrated my birthday with a bunch of good people who made me feel so special despite hardly knowing me. I even got a book (Sofia Samatar’s new novel The Winged Histories), the most amazing cosmic hoodie from the clothes swap, and a paper bag full of ridiculously nice improvised gifts (Beer and chocolate? How did they know!). Kath got me a cool snake earring on behalf of Aqueduct, because they're the best.

Jaymee Goh, moderator extraordinaire, et moi.
In some aspects I still feel a bit like an outsider at WisCon, perhaps for purely geographical reasons, perhaps because I’m not very knowledgeable of the many changes that long-term attendees are perceiving, and which some active members of the community are currently commenting on. But I feel deeply grateful for the space WisCon provides, for the room for improvement and discussion, for all the volunteers that make it happen year after year. Personally, WisCon 41 can't come soon enough.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 10: Social Justice (Redux)

I'm pleased to announce the release from Aqueduct Press of the tenth volume of the WisCon Chronicles, Social Justice (Redux), edited by Margaret McBride, in both print and e-book editions. WisCon 39's Guest of Honor speeches by Alaya Dawn Johnson and Kim Stanley Robinson inspired the theme of this volume. In her speech, Johnson delivered a cri de coeur: "We need diverse stories, we need a million mirrors of different shapes and sizes. Not just so we can see ourselves. So that they can see us through our own eyes." Robinson exhorted: "We now need to institute global justice and equality for all, for two reasons that bond together into a single reason: It's the right thing to do morally, and it's the survival thing to do."

In her introduction, McBride quotes Grace Paley: "Although writers may not want to be in charge of justice or anything like that, to some extent they are if they really are illuminating what isn't seen."

The volume includes the texts of Johnson and Robinson's speeches, as well as the keynote speech Julie Phillips delivered at the Tiptree Symposium in December 2015, and essays by Cheryl Morgan, Takayuki Tatsumi, Nisi Shawl, Johanna Sinisalo, Kathryn Allan, Ian Hagemann, Sandra J. Lindow, Ajani Brown, and others.

You can purchase this volume from Aqueduct now, at

WisCon 40 panel report-- "Our Stories Matter"

One of my favorite panels at WisCon 40 was "YES, Our Stories Matter: Encouragement and Support for Creators with Marginalized Identities." It was held on Friday afternoon at 4, in a small room (University C), moderated by Jaymee Goh, featuring panelists Susan Simensky Bietila, Alex Jennings, Mark Oshiro, and Riley. More people attended than WisCon's programming mavens anticipated (I imagine that most of the time, estimating attendance for a particular panel is a crap-shoot), resulting in attendees standing against the back wall and sitting on the floor in the aisle.

The panel's topic was one that many of us have been thinking about for a long time now; certainly it's one that writers and other creators attending WisCon are likely to be grappling with or have in the past grappled with. What strikes me as new about the subject, though, is an accumulating understanding of and greater consciousness all around that people with marginalized identities are likely to meet with an additional set of obstacles when attempting to sell and otherwise disseminate their work. For most of my life I found it difficult to articulate this problem without finding myself thrust into a scripted defensiveness. Founding Aqueduct Press allowed me, for the first time, to escape that script. I'm more pleased than I can say that many, many people are now getting it. And I was delighted to find that the discussion afforded by this panel was both practical and sophisticated. Here's the official description, taken from the Pocket Program Book:
Marginalization affects our success as creators, oppression impacts our ability to create and can grind us down. At the same time, encouragement can come in many ways, from reader comments to supporting each other as marginalized creators. Let's discuss issues like: Why do you keep creating? When do you know you've touched someone with your art? How do you recharge after a setback? How can we support each other within and between different marginalized groups? When it feels like the whole world is telling you that your story doesn't matter, where do you find the strength to pick up the pen?
The notes I took are, I'm sorry to say, sketchy, perhaps because so much of the discussion was rooted in very particular experiences I felt I couldn't abstract generalizations from lest the lack of context introduce distortion.

First: I found the composition of the panel a great advantage. Sue Bitelia drew on her experience of her long struggle to get around the barriers confronting her in the 1960s when she began her career as an artist, an experience that at many points resonated with the experiences of the three younger members of the panel--offering, I think, some hope, since Sue has, after decades, achieved gratifying recognition. Alex, Riley, and Mark, working in twenty-first century media as they are, face different circumstances but are, in the main, grappling with some of the same issues Sue had to take on to pursue a career in art. The one generalization I can safely make is that for all of them, engaging in some degree of Do It Yourself has been essential. This makes great sense to me, of course, not only because of my having founded Aqueduct Press (a prime example of DIY, if I do say so myself), but also because when I was 19and still composing music I understood that organizing performances without official sanction was the best chance I had of getting my music performed and heard. (This only stopped working for me when I lost all confidence in myself as a composer; many of this blog's readers will be familiar with the story of how I lost confidence, which I described in my WisCon 32 GoH speech.)

Perhaps the most striking moments of the panel came when the panelists discussed networking. For decades now, "networking" has been offered up as the most important thing young creators (or even academics) can do. But as one panelist noted, networking with people who have said horribly racist things on panels is horrifying. Conventions--including science fiction conventions-- often (usually?) serve up boundaries and obstacles creators with marginalized identities can't escape. "The whole weekend at most conventions are a nightmare for me of one bad experience after another," one panelist said.

I should also point out that Sue, Alex, Mark, and Riley all noted the importance to them of feedback from individuals who appreciate their work. Creators who are out of the mainstream for one reason or another don't receive the public notice mainstream creators do; that makes extra-institutional (and here I'm using "institutional" so broadly as to include reviews in periodicals) feedback of greater import than it might be. (Which is a hint, by the way, for all of us to make the extra effort to offer that kind of support when we can.) 

 Finally, I'll end by confessing that my notes come to an abrupt halt with the intriguing phrase "leveraging with language." I have some memory of what this refers to but not enough confidence in that memory to try to expand on it. If anyone who attended that panel is reading this and can expand on it, please do so in a comment. The more illumination we have on this subject, the better.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The day after WisCon 40

Wow. I slept in this morning, then packed, checked out of my room, & left my luggage in the bellman's closet & ambled over to Michelangelo's for coffee & a bagel. I'm there now, & as happy & relaxed as could be. Why? Because I had a wonderful WisCon, one of the best ever. As most people who've been to WisCon know, one of the most common small-talk questions at the con is, "How's your WisCon?" Unless you have a serious problem that needs articulating, the de rigueur answer is a positive one. My answer in past years has ranged between whole- and half-hearted. No half about it this year, though.

I read from my forthcoming novel, "The Waterdancer's World," but otherwise did not participate in programming. This was the first year of all the WisCons I've attended, in which I didn't appear on a panel. I wasn't sure how I would feel about it, but it feels, in retrospect, like a brilliant decision to have made. I'm going to listen, reflect, & ask questions this year, I told myself. I in fact still did a lot of talking this year (especially on Friday, for some reason, as a few people who might be reading this might readily attest to), but looking back over the weekend, I think I did spend more time than I usually do listening with my full attention to what other people had to say. I half-think this had to do with my decision not to sit on any panels (thus unconsciously shifting my orientation), & also suspect it might have to do with the fact that last year I was depressed, which meant that my energy level was way down & my interest in the rest of the world sadly reduced. This year I was hungry for news of what others had been thinking & doing. I was also pretty lucky in my choice of programming to attend. (I made one wrong choice, which is actually not so bad.) & I sadly had to miss the panel on Octavia Butler's work (which I've heard was dynamite), because it coincided with one of the three Aqueduct Press authors' readings. I missed another panel I wanted to attend because I was in the middle of a conversation when it started and had gotten caught up in another when it was about two-thirds through. It can be a tough call, choosing between conversation & a panel one wants to attend, but the fact is, for me, those conversations are part of what makes WisCon so vital for me.  They're the reason I always go home from WisCon changed. At 65, I've never been more aware of how important it is to me to feel myself still learning & changing. I may not have the energy & stamina I once had, but my capacity for engagement is, I hope, as strong as it's ever been.

Speaking of those Aqueduct author readings, I have photos for each, which I'll be posting once I'm home (& rested). The photos above are from readings. The other one, below is of our tables in the Dealers Room that I took as we were finishing setting them up. This was the first year we didn't bring at least one copy of all our books. We have too many titles now to bring them all, even with three tables. Can you believe that? But then our next volume in the Conversation Pieces series, Sleeping Under the Tree of Life by Sheree Renee Thomas, will be the fiftieth. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens by Eleanor Arnason

I'm please to announce the release of Eleanor Arnason's collection, Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens, which Aqueduct Press has published in both trade paperback and electronic editions. (You can purchase it now from Aqueduct Press.) Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens collects a dozen Hwarhath tales with commentary by their translator. As the translator notes, "Humanity has encountered only one other species able to travel among the stars. This species, who call themselves the hwarhath, or 'people,' are also the only intelligent species so far encountered. Of course, we interest and puzzle and disturb each other... The stories in this collection were written after the hwarhath learned enough about humanity to realize how similar (and different) we are. Our existence has called into question many ideas about life and morality that most hwarhath would have called certain a century ago..."

Advance Praise

"One of the strongest collections of science fiction stories you’re ever likely to find. It’s hard to think of anybody other than Ursula K. Le Guin who was written better anthropological science fiction than Eleanor Arnason, and this very strong collection gather some of the best stories published by anybody during the last two decades."
  —Gardner Dozois, author of When Great Days Come, editor of Year's Best Science Fiction series


"These are magnificent stories, wise, witty, science-fictionally fascinating, moving. This may well end up being the story collection of the year."   —Locus, Rich Horton,  April 2016

"Arnason's aliens are almost uniformly bisexual, and forbidden from engaging in heterosexual love beyond what’s needed for procreation. This behavior allows Arnason to adapt timeless folkloric tropes to her own modern, progressive, and wholly original reality, which comes alive in her precise, classically beautiful prose."
  —Publishers Weekly, February 29, 2016

"This is anthropological science fiction at its best, with only Ursula K. Le Guin rivaling Arnason in cultural insight and in the sophistication, complexity, and evocativeness of her worldbuilding. The hwarhath serve as a distorted mirror in which we can clearly see our own follies, foibles, peculiarities, and the inequalities of our society; the hwarhath, meanwhile, see humans as a distorted mirror in which they can see the peculiarities and inequalities of their own society. Arnason does her best work here at novella length, and I consider "The Potter of Bones" and "Dapple" to be among the very best novellas of their respective years, and as having an honorable place amongst the best SF novellas ever written. "The Hound of Merlin", "The Actors", "The Lovers", "The Garden", and "Holmes Sherlock" are also very strong; in fact, there's really nothing here that isn't worth reading. Coming as it does from a small press, you may not see Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens included on many lists of the best collections of 2016 as the year comes to an end, but believe me, it's one of them. It may even turn out to be the best collection of the year. "
  —Locus, Gardner Dozois,  May 2016

"Since the publication of Ring of Swords in 1993, Eleanor Arnason has been producing stories not so much about her furry, logical, matriarchal, alien hwarhath as by them. Hwarhath Stories: Transgressive Tales by Aliens gathers a dozen such published between 1993 and 2012 and adds an introduction and comments (about which more below). As the crucial preposition in the subtitle suggests, these are tales the hwarhath tell themselves as they begin to question some of their previously unquestioned assumptions about their nature and culture—questions generated by encounters with the puzzling, disturbing, dangerous, gender-strange creatures called humans."    —Locus, Russel Letson,  May 2016

"The alien species Hwarhath is an intelligent population whose inhabitants share many similarities to, and differences from, humans. This collection by the James Tiptree Jr. Award–winning author Arnason (A Woman of the Iron People) details Hwarhath society from the perspective of a cultural anthropologist and translator. The first story, "Historical Romances," details the differences in Hwarhath literature and popular fiction, showcasing the latter in "The Actors," "Dapple," and "The Potter of Bones." Sexuality, its fluidity, and its defined gender roles in this extraterrestrial community are highlighted in the myth-based tale, "The Gauze Banner." Delivered in a clear voice with scholarly touches, Arnason's book brings a fantastic species to life. Verdict These stories mostly date back to the 1990s, but the intelligent tone and anthropological view is as impressive nearly two decades years later. Readers who favor robust cultural development in related speculative works will find this collection a joy to ­absorb."  —Library Journal, April 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Strange Horizon's annual SF Count for 2015

Strange Horizons has posted Niall Harrison's annual SF Count. I quote here from their press release:

Strange Horizons' sixth annual "SF Count" - an in-depth exploration of gender and racial representation in SF reviewing - is published today, and finds that although there is some evidence of improvement in some of the 18 magazines and journals surveyed, overall 9 out of 10 books reviewed are by white writers, and 6 out of 10 books reviewed are written by men. A similar disparity is seen in the demographics of reviewers.

This year, Strange Horizons worked with data designer E. G. Cosh to develop visualisations of the SF Count findings. The full results are available on the Strange Horizons website and as an embeddable Tableau dataset (links below). Gifs describing the methodology and the topline results are attached with this press release.

Some notable points from the survey:

* The venues most likely to review books by women or non-binary writers were The Cascadia Subduction Zone (80% of reviews), Romantic Times (57%) and Lightspeed (57%). The least likely were Asimov's (23%), Science Fiction Studies (21%), and Analog (17%)

 * The venues most likely to review books by writers of colour were Lightspeed (50%), The Cascadia Subduction Zone (35%) and Strange Horizons (22%). The least likely were Science Fiction Studies (4%), Analog (4%), Foundation (3%), and (1%).

* The venues with the most women and non-binary reviewers were Romantic Times (91%), The Cascadia Subduction Zone (88%), and (63%).

 * The venues with the most reviewers of colour were Lightspeed (67%), The Cascadia Subduction Zone (41%), and (22%).

 * The most active venues in the field were Locus (324 reviews), SFX (165 reviews), and Romantic Times (141 reviews); the least active were The Los Angeles Review of Books (35 reviews), Lightspeed (28 reviews), and The Cascadia Subduction Zone (23 reviews).

* The venues with the largest reviewing staffs were Strange Horizons (80 reviewers), Science Fiction Studies (38 reviewers), and SFX (30 reviewers); at the other end of the scale, Asimov's and Lightspeed had 3 reviewers each, has 2, and Analog has 1.


This year's SF Count will mean different things to different people. My own personal takeaway is that although The Cascadia Subduction Zone's circulation figures remain disappointing, our work is not yet done.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sarah Tolmie's Two Travelers

I'm pleased to announce the publication of Two Travelers, a pair of portal fictions by Sarah Tolmie, in both print and e-book editions. In "Dancer on the Stairs," a woman wakes up on a stone staircase in a baroque palace, not speaking the language of the place and lacking the chemical signature that allows people to identify each other within a complex social hierarchy. Unable to communicate in words, she resorts to dance. In "The Burning Furrow," a man who runs a diner in present-day America is also a freedom-fighter in the northern, courtly realm of Dinesen. His people are abused foreigners at home, the servants of strangers, bound not by their overlords, but by their world itself, through a ritual known as the burning of the furrows. Only he and his family are free—for a time. Now that time is ending.

Advance Praise

"Two Travelers is a magical evocation of the outsider experience, a book that transports its characters to strange new worlds, where they must make their way despite language barriers and culture shock. Sarah Tolmie's lyrical prose guides readers through vividly imagined cultures where the fate of a kingdom hangs on the outcome of a dance, or where, as your family's size changes, so too must your name."
  —A.M. Dellamonia, author of A Daughter of No Nation and The Nature of a Pirate
"Sarah Tolmie is one of the best new writers I've discovered in a long time. Her writing is a joy to read."
  —Amy Thomson, author of Storyteller and The Color of Distance


Author and professor Tolmie (The Stone Boatmen) delivers an exquisite duo of short stories in this slim volume.... Rich with detail, both stories are imbued with baroque sensibilities, a refreshing deviation from the typical medieval setting. Rather than relying on pure exposition, Tolmie uses the characters' interactions and personalities to bring color to the unique magic of each setting. Tolmie's investigations of identity, place, and personal meaning are a delight to read and a great contribution to the genre.
  —Publishers Weekly, April 2016

Two Travelers is available now through Aqueduct's website:

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Andrea Hairston's Will Do Magic for Small Change

I'm pleased to announce the release of Will Do Magic for Small Change, a new novel by Andrea Hairston, in both trade paperback and e-book editions.You can purchase it now at It will be available elsewhere soon.

Cinnamon Jones dreams of stepping on stage and acting her heart out like her famous grandparents, Redwood and Wildfire. But at 5'10'' and 180 pounds, she's theatrically challenged. Her family life is a tangle of mystery and deadly secrets, and nobody is telling Cinnamon the whole truth. Before her older brother died, he gave Cinnamon The Chronicles of the Great Wanderer, a tale of a Dahomean warrior woman and an alien from another dimension who perform in Paris and at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. The Chronicles may be magic or alien science, but the story is definitely connected to Cinnamon's family secrets. When an act of violence wounds her family, Cinnamon and her theatre squad determine to solve the mysteries and bring her worlds together.

Advance Praise

"Will Do Magic for Small Change sings from the page. This is a novel only Afrofuturism pioneer Andrea Hairston could write, full of myth, history, magic and intrigue, from 1980s Pittsburgh to 19th Century Dahomey, West Africa. Hairston puts readers under a spell."   —Tananarive Due, American Book Award winner, author of Ghost Summer: Stories
"Andrea Hairston's vision is breathtaking. She weaves sweeping historical narratives and mythology with the wisdom of the elders, and shines light on the pressing issues of the day. In her hands language is a blessing, and the familiar and the fantastic become magic, one and the same."   —Sheree Renée Thomas, editor of the award-winning Dark Matter anthology series, author of Shotgun Lullabies
"This is one of those books you start and realize you've been waiting to read for a long, long time without knowing. Will Do Magic for Small Change is a deep breath, a good friend, a hearbreaking, game-changing, life-affirming, truthtelling powerhouse. I love this book."  —Daniel José Older, author of Half-Resurrection Blues and Salsa Nocturna
"It is hard to pull away from this world of aliens meeting orishas, ghosts appearing and conversing, fiery aje, and sea monsters rising, ahosi, king's wives and warrior women, defending, gender fluidity resounding, blackbirds chronicling and ravens painting, lightning scorching and time travel transcending, wanderers flickering across dimensions and stillpoints grounding, storm fists and storm stories raining, ALL flourishing with incandescent poetic prose and shimmering song lyrics. Welcome to synapses pulsing, the flooding of ancient memories, and praise-song reframing when engaging in this neural decolonizing novel, an 1890s Dahomey, Paris, Atlantic ocean passages, New York and Chicago entangled with a 1980s Pittsburgh, emerging and becoming vibrantly alive!"   —Grace L. Dillon (Anishinaabe), Editor of Walking the Clouds
"When I read Andrea Hairston's work, there is always the danger that the plot will draw me so quickly into the complex lives of beings so different from the humans to whom I've grown accustomed that I won't remember to slow down long enough to enjoy the richness of the writing itself. That would be a shame because the beauty of Hairston's passionate language is more than equal to the telling of her insanely imaginative tales of time travel and truth telling; memory and magic. Drawing freely and fiercely from Native American, West African and African American cultural and spiritual traditions, she creates new worlds as richly complicated and blindingly colorful as any you are likely to encounter in the work of the world's best science fiction authors. But even as I write those words, I realize that while calling her writing science fiction assigns it to a specific and honorable literary neighborhood indeed, that label may also mean that some who do not consider themselves fans of the genre may not discover her at all, depriving themselves of the sweep of her creative vision simply because of arbitrary boundaries between what is real and what is fantasy; what is now and what was then; what is past and what is prologue. But Hairston's work is not about boundaries and labels. It is about freedom, to live, to love, to fight and to win. I have been a fan of Hairston's work since Redwood and Wildfire. With the appearance of Will Do Magic for Small Change, she continues her quest to make us see more deeply, feel more authentically and allow ourselves to consider the possibility that there are worlds still to discover. How lucky we are that we're ready to go exploring, we can count of Andrea Hairston to be our guide."   —Pearl Cleage, author of What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day


The entire work is filled with magic, celebrating West Africans, Native Americans, art, and love that transcends simple binary genders. Hairston's novel is a completely original and stunning work.
  —Publishers Weekly, April 2016 (starred review)

At the core of Andrea Hairston's complex tale, WILL DO MAGIC FOR SMALL CHANGE, framed by Cinnamon's need to posthumously connect with her gay, dreamy, black-sheep brother, is the theme of journeying to the self. Cinnamon, as the child of a family scarred by race and class struggles, fights to carve an identity for herself out of the seemingly disparate elements of her life: femininity, art, blackness, geekdom, sexuality, spirituality. Paralleling this struggle is Kehinde, who was kidnapped from another people by the Fon and forced into the role of ahosi; she desperately seeks ways to prove that the Fon never truly enslaved her....The only flaw in this beautifully multifaceted story is that Kehinde's tale outshines Cinnamon's, though this improves over time. Both stories are worth that time, however, with deep, layered, powerful characters. Highly recommended.    —The New York Times, N.K. Jemisin,  April 24, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Ravenna Third Place Books on Tuesday

Just a reminder: Susan diRende, author of the comic novella Unpronounceable, the latest volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series, will be reading and signing at Ravenna Third Place Books on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.  (Details are here:  Tom & Kath & I will all be attending. We hope to see a lot of Aqueduct Irregulars there!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Cascadia Subduction Zone, Vol. 6, 2

The April issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone is out! The issue opens with Julie Phillips' keynote talk at the Tiptree Symposium (held last December at the University of Oregon) discussing the correspondence between Ursula K. Le Guin and James Tiptree Jr and Joanna Russ and James Tiptree Jr. The issue also includes poetry by Gwynne Garfinkle, Neile Graham, and Sonya Taaffe, a Grandmother Magma column by Daniel Abraham, and reviews of five new books; the issue's featured artist is Betsy James (who is also the author of Roadsouls, a novel Aqueduct has just published, and stories recently published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction). If you're not already a subscriber, you can subscribe or purchase the issue here.

Vol. 6 No. 2 — April  2016
“I Begin to Meet You at Last”:
On the Tiptree-Russ-Le Guin Correspondence
  by Julie Phillips
Clear-Cut Spirit Song
The Goddess of the Unseen
The Gods of Tales
   by Neile Graham

Men Who Aren’t Crazy
   by Sonya Taaffe

Poetess Strikes Again
   by Gwynne Garfinkle

Grandmother Magma
Toward a Feminist Masculinity
The Will to Change, bell hooks
   by Daniel Abraham

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
   reviewed by S. Qiouyi Lu

The Merril Theory of Lit'ry Criticism, by Judith Merril, edited by Ritch Calvin
   reviewed by Michael Levy

The Winged Histories, by Sofia Samatar
   reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Lost Trails: Forgotten Tales of the Weird West, edited by Cynthia Ward
  reviewed by Kristin King

Damnificados, by JJ Amaworoso Wilson
  reviewed by Victoria Elisabeth Garcia

Featured Artist
Image to Word: The Morning Series
   by Betsy James

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Violette Leduc

Rafia Zakaria's piece in today's Guardian reminds me that it's the birthday of Violette Leduc-- her 109th. Which in turn makes me realize that I missed, entirely, her centenary year, making me think that probably not many people in the US noticed it at the time. And in fact Zakaria's piece notes how neglected Leduc's work has been:
 It is a mysterious marginalisation: Simone de Beauvoir, who took on Leduc as a protege, remains a feminist icon. Leduc’s contemporary Jean Genet, also wrote sexually explicit, homosexual texts and is widely read and venerated as a pioneer in French avant-garde writing. Not so Leduc. Her first book, the autobiographical novel L’Asphyxie, has still not been translated into English. Her novel Thérèse and Isabelle, written in 1955, was not published uncensored in France until 2000 and was only translated and published in English by the Feminist Press last year.
This marginalization doesn't seem all that mysterious to me. Leduc writes not only from a woman's point of view, not only from a lesbian's (or bisexual's) point of view, but also from a scathingly honest working-class point of view. I still remember how, when I read her powerful La Batarde, I felt shocked by its micropolitical revelations of social relations-- not because they were new or scandalous, but because they spoke, without flinching, of feelings and responses that I never saw represented anywhere else. In short, it was written outside and without reference to the canons of middle-class values (including literature's middle-class notions of good taste and fine aesthetics, which did, actually, make the work scandalous). I think I knew even then how difficult, technically, it must have been for her to do that--not through any inhibitions she might have felt, but because forging new stories and new forms of expression for describing what is usually left unexplored is damned hard. (This is something I talked about a little in my WisCon GoH speech.)

Interestingly, Zakaria zooms in, briefly, on her relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, whom she met in 1945 and who was instrumental in getting Leduc's work published:

The juxtaposition of De Beauvoir and Leduc is revelatory in terms of who defines feminism and who actually lives it. Here is Leduc, a woman made feminist by experience: a fatherless, poverty-stricken childhood, a youth spent grovelling for affection and sustenance, her wartime hustle smuggling legs of lamb to rich Parisians. Her autobiography painfully and pointedly underscores her constant alienation, her surfeit of emotion. Ever the outsider, she steals, she smuggles; when she reads and learns, it is in bits and pieces. Days spent writing are imbued with worries about eating, surviving. Uninterested in branding and constructing her own myth, she bluntly tells De Beauvoir that she is not an intellectual. This annoys her mentor, to whom Leduc recalls retorting: “You are an intellectual because you write.”

 De Beauvoir spent her time earning the title “intellectual”. Her story is one of early erudition, acing exams, stunning philosophical acuity and a romantic (if also conveniently strategic) alliance with Sartre. In Leduc, she sees the authenticity that she theorises, and in playing midwife to her self-exposition she seeks the vindication of her philosophy. In existentialism, we are all free to choose, exercise our radical free will; the constraints of past experience can be shaken off, truth told and freedom achieved. Leduc’s life, told in her writing, has to be evidence of the truth of this. De Beauvoir’s feminism, unleavened by any literal struggles with the whims of men, needs Leduc’s literary liberation to prove its practical application.
Yet it is only De Beauvoir’s prescient and crisply analysed feminism that we remember and celebrate. The lived feminism of Leduc – raw, passionate, and devastatingly honest – is what we choose to forget. There are contemporary iterations to this divide: like Leduc, the women fighting the battles on the factory floors of China, or in the classrooms of Egypt or the streets of Karachi do not have the luxury of writing their lives and finding liberation. The lived feminisms of the women who clean French hotel rooms, who eke out lives in banlieues, who are expelled from schools for wearing headscarves, are absent from the country’s feminist and literary narrative.

It is still De Beauvoir’s compelling feminist recipe that one wants to believe. It is, however, Leduc’s truth that presses closer: speaking of De Beauvoir’s prescription, she says: “To write is to be liberate oneself. Untrue. To write is to change nothing.”

Can we really, after considering Leduc's differences, call Leduc's marginalization "mysterious"? Many of us women writing today need to believe that writing, which requires a constant exertion of will and agency, is liberating. Is this a pipe dream (of the crack, rather than opium, sort)? I don't know, since I'm one of those who feel that my life and who I am has changed through my writing, regardless of its significance or not to others. Would I still feel that way if my current life were even a little less privileged? I must acknowledge the honesty and even despair of Leduc's flat statement that "to write is to change nothing," especially since Leduc's work, however extraordinary, is so little read and has won so little notice, even though for me, reading what other people have written made my childhood bearable and my feminism and political consciousness, in early adulthood, possible. I wonder what she would have made of the new movement (as I'd like to believe it is) of trying to bring marginalized writing to wider attention? Or, more generally, of the resurgent effort to break the hold of the white male perspective on literature?

Happy birthday, Violette Leduc. And now I must go find the newly published Feminist Press edition of  Thérèse and Isabelle

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Susan diRende's Unpronounceable

I'm pleased to announce a new volume in Aqueduct's Conversation Pieces series: Unpronounceable, a novella by Susan diRende. We're releasing it in both e-book and print editions. (You can purchase these at now.) Though feminist comedy is a definite thing, it's not all that visible (or should I say audible? since it tends, actually, to be voice-driven) in the sf/f field. Works by Leslie What, Esther Friesner, and Eileen Gunn come easily to mind, of course. And a lot of humor bubbles through many other writers' work, including some of the work we've published by Eleanor Arnason. And there's certainly a lot of sharp feminist wit to be found (beginning, number one, with Joanna Russ, of course.) Unpronounceable is what I'd call broad comedy. Its author, Susan diRende, is so into this kind of comedy that she founded the Broad Humor Film Festival, Los Angeles, to support women’s comedic vision on film. You can probably tell that from the description of this novella:
Earth has discovered it is not alone in the universe. The aliens — pink, shapeless, and peaceful — are very nice, but after a string of failed diplomatic missions, they ask Earth to stop with the crazies and send someone normal. In frustration, the UN devises a lottery to pick the next ambassador. Enter Rose Delancy, a Jersey waitress.

Rose settles in and starts teaching the natives all about humans with the help of Hollywood movies, junk food, and sex. They show her a few things of their own involving the transformation of matter, but Rose is only interested in how it applies to sex. That is until she learns that she’s been suckered to play the patsy for an interstellar takeover by Earth. To avoid the horrors of planetary annihilation, not to mention having to go back to Jersey, Rose and the Blobs have to stop the invasion and save the planet.
Susan will be reading from Unpronounceable at three venues in the Seattle area-- during the Broad Humor Festival at Olympic College in Bremerton, Wednesday, April 13, 10:30 am, at the Olympic College Bookstore, BSC, 1600 Chester Avenue; Friday, April 15, 1 pm, at the Bremerton Public Library, 612 Fifth Street; and in Seattle, Tuesday, April 19, 7 pm, at Third Place Books, Ravenna, 6504 20th Ave NE.

Susan has also started a blog by Rose Delancy, the narrator of Unpronoucenable, which can be found at

Monday, April 4, 2016

Roadsouls by Betsy James

I'm pleased to announce Aqueduct Press's release, in both print and e-book editions, of Roadsouls, a novel by Betsy James. Roadsouls explores the power of art and creativity for transforming not only one’s own life but also the world one lives in. Timid Duuni has spent her life as abused and guarded property. Blind, arrogant Raím is determined to be again what he once was: hunter, lover, young lord of the earth. Desperate to escape their lives, the two lift up their hands to the passing Roadsoul caravan, and are—literally—flung together naked. Each of them soon learns that saying “yes” to the Roadsouls is more than just accepting an invitation to a new life—it’s a commitment that can’t be reversed. For Duuni and Raím, nothing is as it was. Lost to their old lives, hating each other, they are swept out of their cruel old certainties into an unknown, unknowable, ever-changing world of journey and carnival, artists and wrestlers and thieves. Behind them, inexorable, pads a lion. Inexorable, too, is Duuni and Raím’s inevitable encounter with it, an encounter that will change everything.

“If you long for a fantasy world that your senses could live in, and that isn’t full of scheming nobility, cynical warriors, mass hatreds, and magic as a weapon, read this book. Its backbone is the wandering life of a sort of gypsy-hippie-circus group traveling a pre-industrial landscape and offering a way out to the misfits and throw-aways of the local villages. Raím, a young man blinded in a fall, and Duuni, the unhappily rebellious daughter of religious patriarchy, find their ways outward from home and towards their own strengths, and each other, with (and sometimes dangerously strayed far from) the Roadsouls' caravan….”
  “The writing is vivid and earthy, celebrating a rural world with its sights and smells and wildlife, and the customs and pithy, colorful speech of its people.…”   —Suzy McKee Charnas, author of The Vampire Tapestry and Dorothea Dreams

“Betsy James’ dual creative lives as artist and writer enable her to create an elegant variation on the classic hero’s journey. The roads upon which Duuni and Raím travel are those of dirt and rocks, of various cultures lovingly detailed, and of the complex interior landscape of the self. The Roadsouls who are their guides partake more of the trickster than the wise guardian, but as the journey goes on it becomes clear that only the wild and whimsical will free these tormented beings from the shackles that bind their innermost selves.”
 —Jane Lindskold, author of the Firekeeper Saga
In this subtle fantasy, James (Listening at the Gate) follows two wounded young people as they move toward (and sometimes away from) each other.... The blossoming of Duuni’s artistic talents and the gradual process of Raím working through his anger are sensitively depicted, and the book has the rhythms of the road—meetings, partings, and new landscapes every day—at its heart.
  —Publishers Weekly, Jan 2016

 "An innovative and engaging fantasy about ordinary people in a rather low key fantasy realm. Unhappy with their lives, two people abandon their previous circumstances to join a kind of combination caravan and freelance entertainment troupe on its journey across their world. They have adventures of a sort, but they are generally unmelodramatic and they learn more about themselves than about their companions."--Don D'Ammassa, Critical Mass

The Roadsouls, and the novel as a whole, to wonder: genuine transformations that just happen, without rituals or spells. ... Betsy James deliberately avoids the tropes and narratives typical of long fiction (mainstream, heroic fantasy, or romance).
  —Locus, Faren Miller,  April 2016

 Roadsouls can be purchased from Aqueduct Press here.