Category Archives: My Novels

Posts about my published novels and book-length works in progress.

Aurora nomination brings home The Nature of a Pirate

Posted on August 4, 2017 by

Most of you probably know that The Nature of a Pirate is on the ballot for the Aurora Award this year; voting is open now, and if you’re a member of CSFFA I urge you to get a ballot in, to support your favorite work by Canadian authors, pro and fan (as well as fan organizers, musicians, and visual artists!) working in all our beloved speculative genres.

Winning the Aurora for best novel last year for A Daughter of No Nation, in tandem with Kelly winning Best Short Fiction for her “Waters of Versailles,” was one of the great thrills of a magical year. I am thrilled and blessed to be on the ballot again. And soon we are headed off to Finland, and Worldcon, for even more magic.

As I write these words I am well and truly settled into life in Toronto—it has been four years! But when I embarked on the Hidden Sea Tales trilogy, the question of where my home would be was very much in the air. We were eager to move east, Kelly and I, but couldn’t see a way to do it: there were so many wonderful things and people tying us to Vancouver. I was in the weird lucky position of being somewhere great, yet suspecting that there was someplace even better. When we went it was sudden, and intense—a big leap, not without risk–and I’m so grateful that instinct to jump proved to be the right one.

The old proverb home is where the heart is goes back so far it has been attributed, provisionally, to Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman scholar who really made the best of having Plinius for a middle name. It’s one of those two-edged aphorisms. It can mean home is where any sensible person wants to be, because of their attachment to the comforts and beloved people therein. Or it can mean any old pile of bricks and mortar place will take on the sentimental glow of a home if the ones you love are there.

Both definitions contain within them the idea that a home embodies an ideal of safety, comfort, and affection.

But what if the heart lies in two places?

This may be slightly more of a thing nowadays than it used to be. Our population is more mobile, and it’s not an uncommon phenomenon to have partners and jobs in differing cities. Sometimes people fall in love without having met in person. Sure, people were always being separated by war or work or trade missions—that part’s not new–but communications technology makes staying connected more feasible, so long distance relationships have proliferated in new ways.

I am something of a procedural mystery maniac, and one of my recent obsessions has been a show called Shetland, brought to us by the grace of Netflix and the BBC. It’s set in the Shetland Islands (which Google Maps can confirm is exceeding freaking remote) and while the main hub of the action is the bustling 7500-soul metropolis of Lerwick, there’s an episode that takes place out on Fair Isle, an island with under a hundred people.

For anyone who’s read Child of a Hidden Sea and the rest of the trilogy, it should be no surprise that this hits my sweet spot. Shetland is about a community of interlocked islands and the tiny subculture flourishing there. A big subtextual concern within the show is the idea of home, of place–of living in a locale where your social opportunities and your geography are so very bounded, and where every young person who leaves is an incalculable loss to the community. It’s very nearly a portal fantasy with murder.

One of the things about portal fantasies–a subgenre I absolutely love–is they tend to offer up these neatly bounded sojourns. The heroes of these novels go to the magical enchanted land, as my Sophie Hansa has gone to Stormwrack. They have an adventure, they upset the local balance of power, sometimes they see Aslan die a horrible death… and then they come home. If they have an ongoing relationship with that other world, it is somehow tidy, characterized by intermittent visits. There’s a sort of general assumption that these characters get a taste of magic, achieve character growth, level up… and then get back to the business of living in the real world.

Who could do that?

For Sophie, and to a lesser extent her younger brother Bram, the magical enchanted land is, among other things, a scientific discovery. Stormwrack is a research opportunity, a possible avenue into better understanding the nature of the universe. What’s more, they suspect it may hold answers to questions about our own future in the age of climate change… and since this Narnia’s existence is a secret, nobody but the two of them can truly study it.

The challenge, of course, is is human entanglements. Sophie has, in San Francisco, an up-to-the-minute super modern life whose many technological conveniences are just a backdrop to what really matters: her parents, and when he chooses to be at home, her brother too.

But the longer she stays on Stormwrack, learning about magic and figuring out how to survive an Age of Sail culture and applying her unique skillset to interesting problems for a government that is–very slowly–coming to appreciate them, the more connection she makes there, too. And a lot of those connections come with genetic ties; she gets at least one new family member in every book in the trilogy.

Sophie grew up in San Francisco. She loves San Francisco. She loves telecommunications and streaming video and her parents and driving cars and pop music and cheap electric lights and being able to look up just about any fact known, on the Internet, within the blink of an eye.

But more and more, she also loves her new home, the sailing vessel Nightjar. She loves its crew – its bosun, Sweet, the ship’s doctor, Watts, its first mate, Tonio (whom she sees as brother-in-law material, though Bram hasn’t quite figured that out yet) and most especially she loves its captain, Garland Parrish.

 

Sophie loves the sense of being around the corner from the next incredible discovery, and the feeling of doing something important, and the self-confidence she found when her homeborn context were taken away from her.

Who could give up Wonderland, Oz, or Narnia for San Francisco? How do you make that big a leap?

In The Nature of a Pirate, finding a true sense of home is a big part of Sophie’s journey. The rest involves a captured human smuggler, a conspiracy to sink some of the great ships of the Fleet of Nations, and – did I forget to mention? – a tiny matter of accidentally having to plan a wedding.

What Sophie finds, ultimately, isn’t tidily bounded. It’s messy. Home may indeed be where the heart is, but our hearts will always be boundless.

Rounding out the year with a good review for The Nature of a Pirate

Posted on December 29, 2016 by

I woke this morning to this lovely piece, from The Book Wars:

Sophie fills a niche in the genre as she is a post grad student whose academic nature often gets her in trouble but whose life makes for entertaining reading. The world Dellamonica has created continues to amaze with its increasing level of complexity.

On a completely other note, I (somewhat ineptly, I must admit) made a little Tweet thread yesterday, and then condensed it in Storify. Now am posting it here to see how it looks. Your patience with my learning curve is always appreciated:

 

How to make an author’s day in one simple step…

Posted on December 16, 2016 by

A fan named GJones says, in the comments thread of my essay “Grownups are the Enemy.”

…I’ll mention that I shared one of your short stories, “The Cage”, with my friends as a specific example of doing things right; namely, having characters deal with a violent male antagonist through legal means and the strength of their community, *without* needing a male authority figure to confront him, and with female characters playing an active role. I may be looking at the wrong kind of SF, but stories like that are quite rare in my experience.

This beautiful bit of praise came in a few days ago, but I’m behind on things. (So many things! They’re all little things, but they piled into drifts because I caught a death flu, decided on an ambitious deadline for the new book, accepted an exciting surprise teaching gig whose syllabus is due any minute now, had a fabulous book launch for The Nature of a Pirate at Bakka Phoenix Books, and–to top it all off–clicked on a Very Bad Thing in an e-mail last Thursday, thus effectively hospitalizing my computer for a few days.) Anyway, I’m shoveling my way back to the concrete, scrape by tiny scrape.

One of the things in the drifts was an automated note from Tor saying that someone had added a comment to the essay. No surprise, really–I reposted a link to the article about a week ago. It’s about Stephen King’s doorstopper of a problematic horror novel,  It. When I went to see who’d said what, I found the above comment, and more besides. The review of “The Cage” was heartwarming, and gratifying, and so good to hear.

(I should mention this story’s still available for reading, for free, at Tor.com. “The Cage.”)

Telling authors what they’re doing right, and why, takes time and energy. It’s a thoughtful act, and–on an internet where feminism can draw contention and acrimony–it’s even a brave one. GJones, I appreciate your generous and articulate comments, so much. Thank you. I promise to keep working to make these kinds of stories less rare.

Award-eligible 2016 works

Posted on December 13, 2016 by

In addition to my newest novel, The Nature of a Pirate, officially out as of last Tuesday, I’ve had three works of short fiction see release in 2016.

First, there were two novelettes, both set on Stormwrack–the same world as the aforementioned Pirate and its predecessors in the Hidden Sea Tales trilogy. First came “The Glass Galago” on Tor.com in January; you can read it for free here. More recently, “The Boy who would not be Enchanted,” was in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this fall.

Finally, there was a short story, “Tribes,” which appeared in Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts, edited by Susan K. Forest and Lucas K. Law.

All of the above are first-time publications, suitable for nominating for Hugos, Nebulas, Auroras, World Fantasy Awards, Booker Prizes, Governor General’s Awards, Pulitzers and possibly Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. As works of prose fiction, they probably don’t qualify for Emmys, Grammys, Tonys or Oscars. (Though if you think you can make a good case for it, please! Have a go!)

This is your Origin Story: Giveaway and Interview

Posted on December 6, 2016 by

Today is the The Nature of a Pirate book birthday and you get the presents! Here’s a giveaway of all three Hidden Sea Tales books, along with an interview containing a proposition I’ve been wanting to share:

There’s a story we tell here in the west. We tell it over and over. In it, you are sleeping in your pit in the castle kitchen, your only reward a crust of bread and the faint hope that Chef won’t cuff you hard enough to concuss you again. Then some grizzled old dude turns up with a sword, and says you have to go fight a dragon. If you don’t he’ll eat all your villager friends, starting with the brown ones and the queers.

Book birthdays bring many things, and contests, blog posts and interviews are just a few of them. Not-at-all veiled political rants, on the other hand… well. I wrote this essay a couple weeks ago, when I was sick as hell and, along with many of you, was reeling at current events. It’s cousin to the letter I wrote to Canada’s Prime Minister, and like that letter, I hope it’ll speak to some of you.

I am very grateful to the (perhaps aptly named!) Book Wars blog for giving me the space to talk about fantasy worlds and real ones, about good and evil, about fighting and winning. You all have a week to enter that contest!

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