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J. Kathleen Cheney thinks heroines are witches

Posted on November 25, 2015 by

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

Dreaming Death by J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist.  Her novella “Iron Shoes” was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist.  Her novel, The Golden City was a Finalist for the 2014 Locus Awards (Best First Novel). The final book in that series, The Shores of Spain came out in July, and a new series will debut in February 2016 with Dreaming Death.

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 still have two books from second grade, and one of them is The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare. I don’t know how heroic one would consider Kit Tyler, the main character of the book. She doesn’t fight a battle, kill demons, or win the rich gentleman’s heart (actually, she does that last one but hands it back.) I admired her anyway.

I loved that book too! What was it Kit did–what qualities did she have that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

What Kit Tyler does is defy expectations. That’s what I admired about her. She didn’t do things simply because she’d been told to do so. Since I seem to be wired that way myself, I could relate to most of her decisions.

Some of them came from simple ignorance on her part. For example, her inability to make decent corn pudding because she’s too impatient–I understand that all too well. To this day, I lack patience in cooking.

Kit makes mistakes, and most of the time she learns from them. But a lot of her defiance is borne of a willingness to look past other peoples’ prejudices and let her conscience drive her instead. And because of that she teaches a young girl to read and makes friends with the title witch. When she’s falsely accused or witchcraft herself, she faces down her accusers in court (with the help of her friends)….even though she was given a chance to escape her jail earlier and run away. She did what she thought was right, though, while knowing it might have a terrible outcome.

Of course, because it’s a novel, things come out all right in the end.

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?

I would like to think that most of my heroines do the right thing, even if it’s not what they’re told to do, not the socially accepted thing, or not the most financially sound decision. In a lot of ways, they do go back to that second grade reading experience. They make mistakes. I want them to learn from them, like Kit Tyler did (although I will eschew the corn pudding experience.)

And I want them to make the hard choice, the choice that they could have worked around.

Hard choices are what make a heroine, even if she’s not killing demons.

Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for 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?

In most ways, hero and heroine are the same, the protagonist of the story. But heroine carries one added factor: the heroine usually has to defy societal norms. In most cultures, men are expected to step up while women are expected to wait. And that’s where a heroine’s actions can be much more subtle, yet still be heroic. In some places, heroism might be something as small as wearing trousers or going to school or talking to someone your family doesn’t approve of. And while men can face similar challenges, in most places, the bar is harder for women to cross. So I feel like the word heroine has that additional baggage attached.

About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with 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 Linda Nagata, Kay Kenyon, and Louise Marley. If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

Sale! “Losing Heart Among the Tall” to

Posted on November 18, 2015 by

"The Glass Galago"

“The Glass Galago”

I am pleased to announce that Christopher Morgan at has bought the fourth of The Gales, a story called “Losing Heart Among the Tall,” which tells the story of how Gale Feliachild and Garland Parrish convinced Gale’s sister, Beatrice, to hide a certain powerful object that plays a big role in the conspiracy at the heart of Child of a Hidden Sea.

This fantastic news comes hard on the heels of receiving my beautiful Richard Anderson cover art for the third of The Gales, “The Glass Galago,” which will be out early next year.

I thought I’d celebrate by running down the list of every last one of the fictional things I have on the Tor site, available to anyone who’s interested for absolutely free.

So! A Daughter of No Nation will be out in 13 daysand you can read an early chapter of the book here! This novel is the sequel to Child of a Hidden Sea, and here’s the excerpt for that.

The Gales, meanwhile, are prequels to the above two novels. First in order is “Among the Silvering Herd,” and the second is called “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.”

Moving on to a completely different series, you can check out my sexy novelette, “Wild Things,” which is a tie-in to the world of my award winning first novel Indigo Springs and its sequel, Blue Magic.

Last but by no means least, I have two stand-alone works: a time travel horror story called “The Color of Paradox” and my ever-popular ‘baby werewolf has two mommies’ story, “The Cage,” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010.

Guest blogging for the AntiPope

Posted on November 13, 2015 by

For the next little while I’ll be putting up the occasional guest post at Charlie Stross‘s blog, which is a marvelous place filled with many wonders. My opener is a “Hi, I’m Alyx” type post, for those of his readers who haven’t heard of me, but it does contain medium-known facts you may not have heard before.

Google’s automatic egosurfing software brought me a listing, on myself, from Order of Books today. This is the sort of thing that happens now and then, and generally I’m grateful if the biographical info pillaged from my site is arranged in a somewhat comprehensible fashion. This particular site would also like you to know that I’m in good company, storywise:


Bujold! McGuire! Lackey! I’ll take it.

SFContario, the enScheduling

Posted on November 12, 2015 by

A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson

A. M. Dellamonica, 2014, photo by Kelly Robson

Here is every single tiny thing I will be doing at SFContario next weekend…

Friday, November 20 – Mass Signing
All authors, all signing, all the time… well, from 8 to 9 PM. Bakka-Phoenix will be on hand to sell books.

Saturday 11-11:30 AM, Room 207 – Reading
Some of you have heard me read my favorite chunk of A Daughter of No Nation, so this menu item is officially still called Alyx Surprise!

Economics in SF – Saturday 12 PM, Gardenview
Economics is frequently overlooked in SF. Do the adventurers simply live on nuts and berries and what they can kill? What do they pay with when they visit an inn or buy a drink? What’s the economic base of different regions? How is trade carried out, particularly between species? Is there still a struggle for resources or has science advanced to the point where anything can be fabricated?
Alyx Dellamonica(M), Michael Martineck, David Stephenson, Hayden Trenholm, Jo Walton;

First Contact in Real Life – Saturday 2 PM, Gardenview
It looks so easy in Star Trek but how could we really establish a common conceptual base to communicate with another species? Sure, we have numbers and the hydrogen atom in common, but how far would that get us with a world of beings who share none of our sensory apparatus
Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Alyx Dellamonica, Neil Jamieson-Williams(M), Peter Watts;

Author Guest of Honour Interview – Saturday 5 PM. Courtyard
That’s right… I will be grilling Saladin Ahmed about all the things.

QUILTBAG in the media – Saturday 6 PM, Courtyard
Our media may be starting to feature more characters and situations from the queer/questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender/transsexual, bisexual, allied/asexual, gay/genderqueer (QUILTBAG) perspective, but there’s still a long way to go. How do we move from tokenism to full inclusion? We’ll discuss favorite characters, new challenges, and available resources for writers and readers.
Alyx Dellamonica, JF Garrard, Bob Milne, and…. Kelly Robson! That’s right. My beloved and I shall be quilting our bags together.

And on Sunday I shall be attending the Aurora Awards.

“The Glass Galago” cover reveal and exploring the monstrous

Posted on November 6, 2015 by

"The Glass Galago"

“The Glass Galago”

On Wednesday in Saratoga Springs I got to see three variations of this spectacular cover for “The Glass Galago,” which is the third* of The Gales and which will be out in a couple months. Irene Gallo showed me this lush and beautiful Richard Anderson image, and I squealed like a little child newly in possession of all the ice cream.

*The first two Gales are Among the Silvering Herd and The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.

I am sitting in the hotel room in Saratoga Springs as I write this, checking my UCLA classrooms and talking with my students about what makes a person or non-human character monstrous. They’re asking: is the monstrous always just about making someone Other? Some might say any ordinary person with a defective moral compass–your classic heartless killer or other all-too-human predator– can be a monster. And in non-fiction, that scans for me. If a journalist wants to call Charles Manson a monster, I’m not going to quibble.

In fiction, my taste runs to the more than human monsters. I like for them to have a whiff of the transcendent. In the above series of stories, Gale Feliachild occasionally regards Captain Garland Parrish as monstrous, even though he’s not even remotely evil. He’s overly blessed by nature, you see: impossibly handsome, exceedingly graceful, and good at almost everything he turns his mind to. It’s just about too much. He’s good, but he can easily be jealousy-inducing. We all know people like this: coveting their good fortune makes us feel small, and it’s hard not to blame them.

The current TV version of Hannibal Lecter has an intense aestheticism and is so robustly athletic that he’s as hard to kill as The Terminator.  Some of his qualities are appealing–his love is so pure!–and that makes his compulsion to kill and eat the rude all the more awful. And the fact that we can empathize with the idea of quelling the rude, neglectful and genuinely awful people we run across from time to time actually increases the effect… it invites us to consider whether we might not condone more than we should.

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