Category Archives: Books

Books by others; whatever I’m reading.

My current earworm is the Skyfall theme…

Posted on November 16, 2015 by

photoToday I have finished up a guest blog entry on ecofantasy for Charlie Stross, which you can read here.

I have also prepared for tomorrow’s thoroughly fabulous launch of License Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, by making sure my reading of my Moneypenny story, “Through Your Eyes Only,” comes in under the five minute limit. I’ve booked a Send My Hair to the Sixties appointment at a place called Blo, and now I’ve also reminded you all that if you happen to be in Toronto, you really would be very very welcome to this shindig. (I tell you this even though, according to math, it increases my chances of winning the bespoke suit ChiZine Publications is giving away as a prize if you don’t come.) It’s at the Pravda Vodka House on 44 Wellington Avenue East. If you don’t want a bespoke suit, you can put my name on the raffle ticket.

(Are contributors even entitled to enter the raffle? Do I know? Don’t burst my bubble, okay?)

Earlier today, Iposted critiques for the last round of the Writing the Fantastic workshop at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Next up: revision exercises! (I do still have a few slots open in the winter session of Creating Universes, Building Worlds, by the way).  I have worked on a novel called The After People, fetched food from two separate groceries, and written out some questions for the SFContario panel on economics in genre fiction that I’ll be moderating next Saturday.

I made a salad, drank coffee, ate a persimmon before it had a chance to liquefy and contemplated my upcoming review of Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe of XKCD fame. Contemplated in this context is indeed a fancy term for “But she didn’t write a single word yet.”

Emails have been answered. Dishes have been washed.

And, since all this virtue and productivity means I am ignoring my young, I have refilled the bird feeder, which is the modern equivalent of slapping the kids down in front of Sesame Street with some Ritz Crackers.


Today instead of Heroine I give you Bondage

Posted on November 11, 2015 by

CZP-LicenceExpired-INVITEThe Heroine Question is on hiatus for a week, maybe two, as I reboot from World Fantasy Convention, gear up for SF Contario/Canvention 35, and figure out all the things I want to accomplish before A Daughter of No Nation is out on December 1st.

One of the very exciting things on that list is attending the launch of Licence Expired, The Unauthorized James Bond. As you see from this cunning invitational postcard, it will be at the swanky Pravda Vodka Bar. The publishers, World Fantasy Award winning ChiZine Publications, also offer this important info:  Costumes and Bond-themed dress is highly encouraged, and there will be prizes for the best costumes.

Drinks! Costumes! Prizes! Incredibly warped fiction with a License to Kill! My story is about Moneypenny, and is called “Through Your Eyes Only.” Kelly’s is an alternate ending for From Russia with Love, and it is sick beyond all measure. How can you pass this up?

More reps, more weight

Posted on October 29, 2015 by

keep readingAnother thing the recent comb through my old teen Alyx diaries has revealed is how much reading I did in the Eighties. Books upon books: histories, mysteries, Star Trek tie-in novels, Gore Vidal, Frank Herbert, whatever was lying around the house or the public library, you name it.

Nowadays I read a certain amount of fiction that is just okay. Short stories by writers I’m trying out, for example–pieces that are good enough to finish, but far from dazzling. I occasionally read fun things by competent authors because I’m following a series, or I’m curious to see how a particular concept comes off, or it’s in my fictional sweet spot. Or I’m tired and need something that goes down easy, like a cold beer on a hot day.

If you want to be a really good writer, though, I believe that you have to push yourself as a reader. Not every day, not with every book… but if you restrict your reading to the just okay and the pretty good, you’re deciding to be no more than pretty good yourself.

If you want to be super-fantastically excellent–and why get into this racket if you aren’t at least a bit ambitious?–you also have to read people who are better than you. Who are hard, who sometimes write things you don’t understand and can barely parse, who dazzle, challenge, baffle, delight, and infuriate.

Who are these authors for you? I’m tempted to mention one of my marvellous, talented friends, but to keep things less partial, I’ll open the bidding with Vernor Vinge.

Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be romantic poets

Posted on September 6, 2015 by

keep readingThe current read-aloud project here at Chez Dua is Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives, by Daisy Hay. Kelly was making tobacco panna cotta yesterday (the recipe is in Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes) and was therefore stirring milk. For hours. I read while she cooked, and this let us plow through to the point where Percy Shelley drowned.

Reading this book has been a long process of (re)discovery of the various specific ways in which a woman’s life could suck in the 1800s. This seems to apply universally to everyone associated not only with Shelley but with Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, who feature prominently in the book. As far as I can tell, Keats was the only one of the bunch who didn’t eventually drive a woman to throw herself off a bridge. But, to be fair, he died young.

Hay hasn’t really delved into Mary’s character all that much so far. She’s talked about her reactions to a lot of things, notably all the moving around she did with Shelley, her troubled relationship with her half-sister Claire, and all of the children she lost. It’s a disappointing lack. But I’m hoping now that Mary’s a widow, the analysis of her will get deeper.

If not, we’ll be in the market for an excellent Mary Shelley bio. Heck, we may be anyway. Recs, anyone?

Who’s your Buddy? S.M. Stirling picks…Hild!

Posted on September 3, 2015 by


S.M. Stirling was born in France in 1953, to Canadian parents — although his mother was born in England and grew up in Peru. After that he lived in Europe, Canada, Africa, and the US and visited several other continents. He graduated from law school in Canada but had his dorsal fin surgically removed, and published his first novel (Snowbrother) in 1984, going full-time as a writer in 1988, the year of his marriage to Janet Moore of Milford, Massachusetts, who he met, wooed and proposed to at successive World Fantasy Conventions.

In 1995 he suddenly realized that he could live anywhere and they decamped from Toronto, that large, cold, gray city on Lake Ontario, and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. He became an American citizen in 2004. His latest books are The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth (June, 2015) and The Desert and the Blade (Sept. 2015); next is PRINCE JOHN (Sept. 2016), all from Roc/Penguin.

(I wrote about  The Desert and the Blade a couple days ago, if you’re curious.

I asked him: Within the realm of literary SF, who is the character you would most like to meet?

 Let’s see… Sophie from A Daughter of No Nation… no, just kidding, though that’s one who’s actually in the line; I don’t see why she’d want to hang out with me, though.  That does raise a point; virtually by definition, a character like that is going to be interesting.  I notice that writers are most interesting to other writers — it’s a bit like being a cop, that way — and to people who are deeply concerned with writing.
So, assuming that we’re not going to be creepy-stalkerish towards the character, who?  It’s a toughie.  A lot of the others are the sort of person who, like a tiger, are best admired from a distance.  Can you see actually having a beer with Conan?  One of Lovecraft’s, assuming they wouldn’t mistake me for an eldritch horror? Right now, my choices would probably be between Hild, from Nicola Griffith’s book of the same name (one of the most fascinating character studies I’ve read) and Maia from Jo Walton’s The Just City and its sequel, a Victorian bluestocking recruited by Greek Gods to help form the just city from Plato’s REPUBLIC.  That was one of the best examples of culture-clash I’ve seen in fiction.
If the two of you had a day together, what would you do with it? Money and logistics are no object. If you want to fly fighter jets, no problem.
A stroll through some places; Paris, I think, and maybe London (emphasis on libraries and galleries and museums), while talking, dinner and a lot of talking, and coffee or other potable of choice, and a lot more talking.  What can I say, words are my thing!  Both those characters are intellectuals, too, so they’d probably like to discuss history. 

Would the two of you bring along any of your fictional creations, if you could?

Any of my fictional creations?  Hmmm.  Maybe Juniper Mackenzie from Dies the Fire; I think she’d get along with both of them.  And Father Ignatius from the same series.  The rest are possibly too much of the headbanger type.

If, afterward, you brought the gang home with you, how do you think that would that go? Would they mesh well with your social circle? Lay waste to your family and neighborhood? Is this one of those friendships that must, by its nature, be compartmentalized?

Well, I don’t think Hild would fit in longterm; it’s too alien, and too much time would have to be spent learning the basics.  I think Maia would find the 21st century congenial; she had severe problems with her Victorian home milieu.  On the other hand, she had more commitments in Walton’s universe.

More on S.M. Stirling: His hobbies mostly involve reading — history, anthropology, archaeology, and travel, besides fiction — but he also cooks and bakes for fun and food. For twenty years he also pursued the martial arts, until hyperextension injuries convinced him he was in danger of becoming the most deadly cripple in human history. Currently he lives with Janet and the compulsory authorial cats.

More on Buddy Buddy: This is the inaugural post in this interview series, which simply invites authors to imagine befriending some of their favorite characters from a lifetime of reading. S.M. Stirling graciously agreed to be the guinea pig for me; I hope you’ve enjoyed imagining him, Maia and Hild parked in front of the Mona Lisa, talking up the Crusades.