Alyx Dellamonica

Annual Books Read 2017 (for an increasingly shaky definition of book)

Posted on January 5, 2018 by

This year the amount of student work I read–both as an instructor at UCLA and UTSC and as an MFA student at UBC–was copious. We’re talking around two hundred stories and novel fragments, all of which I critiqued, too. This is what I fit in the cracks:

New Fiction – Novels, Novellas & Collections

Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz

Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory

The Best American Mystery Stories 2016, edited by Elizabeth George

River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey

Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey

The Red Threads of Fortune, by JY Yang (I am reading the companion novella now!)

Non-Fiction

The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan F. P. Rose

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (Kelly is reading this to me so we aren’t quite done)

Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box by Alex Epstein

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, by Hallie Ephron

The Best American Travel Writing 2017, edited by Lauren Collins

Women & Power: A Manifesto, by Mary Beard

Fieldwork Fail: The Messy Side of Scence, by Jim Jourdane and 25 scientists

I read lots and lots and lots and fucking lots of non-fiction articles, and I didn’t track them. You can’t track everything. But notable among them is: “City of Villains: Why I Don’t Trust Batman,” by Sarah Gailey

New Short Fiction

This is an incredibly incomplete list… I’m still struggling to capture all my short fic reading, especially the DailySF offerings.

Excerpts from a Film (1942-1987)” by A.C. Wise

And then there Were (N-One)” by Sara Pinsker

We Who Live in the Heart,” by Kelly Robson

Letters Found on the Backs of Pepper Labels next to a Skeleton in an 800-year-old Hibernation Capsule Ruptured by What Looks Like Sword Damage,” by Luc Reid

We Need to talk about the Unicorn in your Backyard,” by Mari Ness

Making the Magic Lightning Strike Me,” by John Chu,

The Famine King,” by Darcie Little Badger

Later, Let’s Tear up the Inner Sanctum,” by Merc Rustad,

Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar

It Happened to Me: I was Brought Back to Avenge my Death, but chose Justice Instead,” by Nino Cipri.

A Hero, I am,” by Kat Otis

​“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by @KMSzpara in @UncannyMagazine

​”Rivers Run Free,” by Charles Payseur –

The Witch in the Tower,” by Mari Ness

Rereads

The Blue Place, by Nicola Griffith

Stay, by Nicola Griffith

Always, by Nicola Griffith

In the Woods, Tana French

Ghost Story, Peter Straub

The Trespasser, Tana French

Love, death and time travel: “Three Times over the Falls,” at @CuriousFictions

Posted on January 3, 2018 by

Happy New Year, everyone!

In the earlier part of this century (I love saying that!) rock star SF editor Ellen Datlow bought a time travel novelette from me. for the now-toasted SciFiction site. It’s called “Three Times over the Falls” and has recently acquired a new lease on life, courtesy  the fine people at Curious Fictions.

“Three Times Over the Falls” is about Jayne Sho, the lead singer and chief songwriter for a girl band, Imaginary Cherry, whose latest tour stop in Niagara Falls is about to plunge into disaster. The band is on the verge of breaking up, and they’ve only just achieved their first real commercial success. Jayne’s petulant ex-boyfriend is stalking her, and there’s a handsome, badly-wounded time traveler in the mix, doing… what exactly?  Nobody’s sure, but it’s making everyone in town sick, angry, and dangerous as hell.

Here’s a snippet:

Across the alley is the bar where her band is playing. The place–The Wedding Knight, it’s called–is okay, Jayne thinks. It has hardwood fixtures and a high ceiling, which make for great acoustics, and a massive window pointed straight at the Falls, just in case you forget where you are. The decor is pubby: dark furniture and dim lighting, banners and stained glass with scenes of knights rescuing damsels. No swords on the walls, though, and only one suit of armor: by Niagara standards, the Knight is pretty restrained. Kim bitches about the size of the stage, but it’s fine, really. They’ve played bandstands the size of sanitary napkins.

The door creaks as Jayne pitches inside. Smoky air mauls her, but then she sees the beer she needs, sparkling on the bar like an engagement ring.

I discovered Curious Fictions as a side effect of the recent uproar over Patreon’s attempt to change its funding model. I never had a Patreon myself, for various reasons, but I was dismayed to see so many of my friends losing financial support they had worked so hard to build. The threatened Patreon change–and their sudden reversal, too–make it obvious that donor-funded artists will benefit from a healthy ecosystem of funding opportunities. Basically, monopolies are bad. Options are good. If Curious Fictions and other competitors make a go of it, artists will have more choices.

What I like about Curious Fictions is that they’re a reprint specialist. More importantly, you don’t have to pay to play–you can read “Three Times,” and all the other stories I’ll be posting, for free. However, if you want to support my work you can subscribe and thereby be first to find out when I post additional stories–I’ll be doing that monthly–or throw a tip at any piece you particularly enjoy.

Many of you have already supported my work, naturally, by buying my stories and novels, online and in bookstores, and for this I thank you!

As the snow flies and the year gutters, I give you The Gales, in chronological order.

Posted on December 30, 2017 by

A marvelous thing happened this morning: a fan from Newfoundland reached out to tell me that they’d started Child of A Hidden Sea, were enjoying it immensely, and were also thrilled to see fish and brewis make an appearance in the story.

They had also discovered “Losing Heart Among the Tall” and wanted to know about other Stormwrack stories: whether there were any, what they were called, how to find them.

The Gales–the six stories about Gale Feliachild, back when she’s sailing around adventuring with a very young and pretty Garland Parrish, are among those things I often post in bits and pieces, on social media. But it has been awhile since I listed them all in order, as a piece. So, for anyone else who’s curious:

1. “Among the Silvering Herd“, their first adventure, where Garland learns about the curse and Gale accepts that some new blood may be needed aboard the sailing vessel Nightjar.
2. “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” An old lover, labor unrest, and a conspiracy to release a magically contained volcano.
3. “The Glass Galago,” Gale learns about Garland’s past as the powerful spellwriting lobby seeks to disenfranchise one of the smaller, weaker nations.
4. “Losing Heart Among the Tall,” Discovering a slain mermaid spy sends the Nightjar crew headlong into a conspiracy by the pirate nations to destroy the Fleet of Nations flagship, Temperance.
5. The Boy who Would Not Be Enchanted (available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies). The Allmother of Verdanni wants to control or change the prophesy that Gail Feliachild will one day be murdered.
Like all Tor.com originals, these can be found on the Tor site, free for the reading, or on my pages in the iBooks and Google Play stores.

Ada Hoffman fires the Heroine Question into Space!

Posted on December 6, 2017 by

Ada Hoffmann is the author of Monsters in My Mind. She has published over 60 speculative short stories and poems in magazines such as Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and Uncanny. She is a winner of the Friends of the Merrill Collection Short Story Contest and a two-time Rhysling award nominee.

Ada was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 13. Her Autistic Book Party review series is devoted to in-depth discussions of autism representation in speculative fiction. You can find her online at http://ada-hoffmann.com/ or on Twitter at @xasymptote

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

My parents were careful to keep me supplied with brave, plucky, intelligent female role models as a child – The Paper Bag Princess, Princess Leia Organa, Princess Eilonwy, Lucy Pevensie, Ariel, Nala, Hermione Granger. It was the 90s, and even the Disney princesses were plucky. The woman who comes to mind most, though, was a real woman – the astronaut Julie Payette.
Julie Payette is an engineer, a pilot, a robotics specialist, and was the second Canadian woman in space. This year, she was appointed Canada’s Governor General. It’s a good year for Canadian women who want to go to space.
It’s hard to explain what space meant to me as a small child. There are forms of romanticism that don’t survive adolescence unaltered. There is something wonderful about the idea of blasting off into the unknown, going where no human has gone before. But it was simpler and deeper than that. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, a literature of infinite possibilies. I knew that Narnia and Tatooine and Middle-Earth weren’t real – but space was. And without space the way I imagined it as a child, without its infinite array of strange new worlds, the Earth simply felt too small.

Can you remember what it was these characters did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

When I was five or six years old, I told a boy at school that I wanted to be an astronaut. He said, “You can’t do that, you’re a girl.” My parents rebutted that argument by showering me with books about women astronauts – people like Sally Ride and Roberta Bondar. (I don’t remember having a book about Valentina Tereshkova, but I certainly knew of her as well.) They took me to public talks at the local university, one by Bondar, another by Payette.
Both women caught my attention, but Payette was the one who captured my imagination. Bondar had already retired and become an environmentalist. I liked environmentalism just fine, but I knew she was never going back into space. Julie Payette’s space adventures were, at the time, still in front of her.
I must have stuck out, an eight-year-old child in a sea of college students, but I don’t remember feeling self-conscious. I do remember the signed picture of Julie Payette that my dad got for me, with my name on it. “Ad Astra!” it said. That picture stayed on my bedroom wall right up until I moved out.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

My female characters are really not much like Julie Payette, and it’s because of what happened after I was a child.
In junior high school, I stopped wanting to go to space. I was old enough to understand that modern space travel – cramped, crowded, physically and mentally grueling, and stuck in Earth orbit – was not what I’d thought. I was also old enough to know I could never be an astronaut. I had a bad autistic burnout in junior high school. I could barely attend class or make friends; my parents despaired that I’d ever be able to live independently, let alone train for space travel. I lost that dream, not because I was a woman, but because of my disability. It was one of many things I lost.
Most of the female characters in Monsters in My Mind, even the child characters, have more to do with my adolescent self than my childhood. They’re lonely; they’re struggling. They’re in danger in ways they can sense but cannot fully understand. They make bad choices. They hurt other people. They experience shame. They are, in some cases, literally monsters.
In many stories, though, they get what they want. In some, they’re happy.
And in one story, “Moon Laws, Dream Laws,” an autistic woman goes to space – although the result is not what she or her wife anticipated.
My story doesn’t have a sad ending, after all, and it’s because of my writing that it doesn’t. I had been writing little stories my whole life, but it took years to really work out what that meant. To understand that there were other worlds to go to, after all; worlds that had been there all along. Worlds of the unknown, worlds of infinite possibility. Worlds inside me.

How do you feel about the word heroine? When I started talking to people about writing these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

It’s a useful word. I grew up believing that women could do anything; I barely remembered the boy who told me otherwise. But I was able to do that because I had access to so many women role models. Their practical example was more important than any words. The word “heroine” calls attention to women heroes, and by doing so, it benefits the people – like me – who need them.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (usually) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Faith Mudge, Stephanie Burgis, and S.B. Divya . If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

Kari Maaren sneaks extra (moral!) fiber into the Heroine Question

Posted on November 29, 2017 by

Kari Maaren is  is a writer, cartoonist, musician, and university English instructor who lives in Toronto, Canada. She has just published her first novel,  Weave a Circle Round, an old-fashioned kids’ fantasy adventure. If you challenge her to a duel, she will choose a ukulele as her weapon, or possibly an accordion if she really has it out for you.

Her website is here and she is on Twitter as @angrykem.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I want to say Meg Murry, but I know she’s been covered pretty thoroughly by other people. I’m still going to sneak Meg into my answers because I just can’t help it. However, for my main answer, I’ll go for Elizabeth from Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess. I was obsessed with Elizabeth when I was little. I can still quote sections of the book.

Can you remember what it was these characters did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

Elizabeth is the complete opposite of me. She’s girly enough to moon openly over a boy, but as soon as her One True Love is kidnapped by a dragon, she just hops into that paper bag and sets out to rescue him. I stopped being brave enough to tell boys I liked them after one of my friends made it clear to me, when we were both about nine, that I wasn’t pretty enough to do that. If a dragon burned down everything I owned and kidnapped my (secret) One True Love, I would probably go to pieces. Elizabeth was a girl who could get things done. As well, my middle name is Elizabeth, so when I was younger, I sort of saw Munsch’s Elizabeth as my secret identity. Maybe Kari would never have been able to do those things, but Elizabeth could. I also identified strongly with the end of the story, when Ronald rejected Elizabeth because she was dirty and dressed in a paper bag, and she called him a bum and waltzed off into the sunset alone. A lot of the other stories I heard at that age told me the girl was supposed to marry the boy and live happily ever after. Elizabeth could live happily ever after without marrying the boy. I wanted to be her so badly.

Sneaky Meg note: Meg is much more flawed than Elizabeth, which is why I love her. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Meg saves the day not with her strengths but with her faults.

Sneaky Alyx Response: I loved that about her too!

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

Weave a Circle Round’s protagonist, Freddy, starts off as more of a Meg than an Elizabeth. She’s singularly immature at the beginning of the novel, and while her faults aren’t the same as Meg’s, they’re just as pronounced. She’s very unlike Elizabeth in that she has to grow into her own competence. Elizabeth has an arc, but because the book is so short, her development happens very quickly. She goes from a princessy princess in love with Ronald to a paper-bag-wearing badass capable of tricking a dragon in the blink of an eye. Freddy starts as a social coward in denial about just about everything, and when she finds herself in a bad situation, she doesn’t snap immediately into Bravery Mode; she has to work at it. I still love Elizabeth, but she’s a wish-fulfilment fantasy. That isn’t a criticism—we need our wish-fulfilment fantasies—but I find that my characters tend to muddle through their adventures instead of facing them head on.

Sneaky Meg note: Meg’s faults will, I suspect, reverberate through everything I’ll ever write. Freddy doesn’t use her faults to save the universe, but they’re also firmly part of her, not superficial elements that are cast aside when she grows up a bit. As I tell my students a lot, there’s a difference between a “strong character” and a “strong person.” Strong characters can be weak people. In fact, many of the best stories are about weak people struggling against their own weaknesses.

How do you feel about the word heroine? When I started talking to people about writing these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

I like the word “heroine.” Yes, it’s rooted in the word “hero” and can be seen as redundant, but the problem is that when we collapse the terms, we still treat the male hero as the norm and the female hero as a deviation from the norm. The term “male hero” seems redundant; the term “female hero” doesn’t. Therefore, when we speak of “female heroes,” we often mean women who fit the male heroic standard, not women who fit some gender-neutral heroic standard. The word “heroine” acknowledges that women can be heroic—in the literary or the broader sense—without necessarily conforming to a model regarded as inherently male.

I study and teach fairy tales. My course has a unit on heroes and a unit on heroines. The students tend to go into the course assuming that the heroes will be handsome princes and the heroines passive princesses awaiting rescue. What they learn is that while there are certainly plenty of passive princesses, they tend to have been made that way by writers such as Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. There are many “Cinderella”-like stories in which Cinderella doesn’t just sit around and moan because she can’t go to the ball. Fairy-tale girls go out into the world to seek their fortunes just as often as fairy-tale boys, and both boys’ stories and girls’ stories frequently culminate in marriage (not love but the economic transaction of marriage, via which both boys and girls can rise in the world). At the same time, the handsome princes the students are expecting tend to appear only as simple reward figures in female-centred stories, while the “heroes” unit is full of tricksters. “Hero” and “heroine” are both words with rich histories, and they’re more complex than a lot of people know. Getting rid of “heroine” because everyone assumes it’s a lesser, demeaning category does a disservice to the spinning women who used to sit around weaving tales about clever girls using magical women’s implements—spindles, carding combs, spinning wheels, needles, even laundry—to complete their quests. The sword is not the only weapon out there.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (usually) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Faith Mudge, Stephanie Burgis, and S.B. Divya . If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.