One of the other books I reviewed this year was the newest by Connie Willis, Crosstalk, a light screwball comedy about the dangers of too much human contact, whether it comes in the form of pushy family, social media, or telepathy.
Kelly introduced me to Connie’s writing when we were first married, so this isn’t the first time I’ve written about her work. Another Tor essay of mine tells new-to-Willis readers how to get started. And here’s a snip of the current review:
In screwball comedies, miscommunication abounds, and many of the minor characters are pathologically single-minded as they pursue a host of weird goals. Crosstalk fits this mold. For example, Briddey’s sister is obsessed with what her daughter might be seeing on the internet… and she doesn’t much care whether it is zombie movies, Disney princesses, or actual terrorists. It’s a normal enough concern, perhaps, something any parent might relate to… until you consider the spy software she has installed on her daughter’s computer, or the fact that she absolutely expects Briddey to happily interrogate her own niece.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d lie and avoid these people, too.
Here’s the cover:
Fran Wilde is the author of the Andre Norton and Compton Crook Award-winning and Nebula-nominated novel Updraft (Tor 2015), its sequel, Cloudbound, newly out from Tor in September 2016, and the novella The Jewel and Her Lapidary (Tor.com Publishing). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com. You can find her on twitter @fran_wilde, Facebook @franwildewrites and at franwilde.net. Here’s what she says about this lovely piece of ink.
My tattoo is still new enough that I’m not yet thinking about what I’ll get next (everyone tells me that’s coming). I have zero regrets.
Getting a tattoo was something that scared me, because I’d been told all my life that I was pain-sensitive and there’s a lot of discussion about pain thresholds when it comes to tattoos. But this summer, I realized that my fear was much less important than my desire to do something for my body and for me, after a long stretch of having things done to it.
The tattoo is, in part, a tiny bit of crypto, a bit of lotus, and almost all compass rose. Traditionally, the compass rose has a “safe passage over troubled waters” meaning. I wanted it on my spine because that’s the spot that needed celebrating most, and maybe a little bit of protection too.
Trouble was, everyone said that a back/spine tattoo would hurt more than other places. Was I willing to risk it? I didn’t tell many people what I was getting, and I didn’t tell nearly anyone where. Just in case I chickened out.
Turns out, I didn’t chicken out. Nor – to my surprise – did it hurt. I pretty much fell asleep on the table while the tattoo was being done. The inking process (by Clifton W. Carter Jr.
) produced some sort of pain white noise that was more relaxing for me than standing up, or sitting down, due to the pain I’m usually in. I cannot tell you how much this matters.
My tattoo didn’t necessarily change the world’s view of me (or if it did, I haven’t heard / don’t care all that much) as much as it changed my view of me. I know now that I’m not pain-sensitive, for one, and all the people (family, doctors, that one school nurse) who convinced me I was can go jump in a lake.
I know better now that when people tell me I am something — whatever it is –, to examine the whys of their statements, and to decide for myself who I am.
I know also that no matter what, the ink was something I wanted to do and I did it, even though it scared me.
At the beginning of this year, I declared a map year for me, my writing, everything
. At the time, I meant that I’d be exploring new ways of being in the world, and new ways of seeing. I didn’t realize then that I would become my own compass for that journey, and that the trip will continue for as long as I’m standing, or writing.
That’s what the ink is telling me, though, and I’m very excited to head out for new directions.
You can find Fran Wilde at her website, blog, on Twitter, or order her books at Amazon (US), Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and Powell’s.
About this post: Inksplanations (and variations thereon) is the name for a series of short interviews with a number of genre writers about their tattoos. Why they got them, what they mean, how getting ink did or didn’t change them–any and all of these topics are fair game. What drives a literary artist to literally become canvas for an image or epigram? Did they get what they were seeking? I wanted to know, especially after I got my 2016 poppies from Toronto artist Lorena Lorenzo at Blackline Studio, and so I did what any curious writer would do. I asked.
Happy Halloween, everyone!!
This week in my Creating Universes, Building Worlds class at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, one of my students said, in passing, that they thought James Cameron’s Xenomorph Queen, from Aliens, was a great villain, and that they thought Cameron was generally particularly good at creating villains. So I asked if they thought the Queen was a true villain, or–to split a semantic hair–an antagonist? She’s acting, after all, to avenge her offspring, and to survive.
What I was wondering, in that moment, was this: does villainy require premeditation, evil intent, or cleverness?
We batted that around a bit, talking about whether a baddie with simple motivations, like the Queen or the original Terminator (who does presumably know that what he’s doing is illegal within the time period he’s visiting, and who does a few pretty clever things to find Sarah Connor) is truly villainous. Here’s a snip from one of my posts in that discussion:
One definition of villainy is “wicked or criminal behavior.” If we were to contrast the Xenomorph Queen and the first Terminator, there’s an interesting question of intention. The former certainly isn’t setting out to be criminal. She’s essentially a big space-wasp. Wasps are parasites and what they do to their prey species is thoroughly horrible. And, to add in another wrinkle, she is smarter and more thoughtful than her soldier-spawn, who are orders of magnitude smarter than the face huggers. It is common in action movies to work your way up from dumb thugs to smart villains.
The Terminator is after one kill and causes a lot of collateral damage as he pursues it… in some ways, what he does is less horrible than space wasp parasitism. And, as you note, it behaves in ways that are consciously criminal and much more premeditated.
Anyone else have some thoughts? Is villain a value judgment? A level, like boss monster?
Child of a Hidden Sea
The Nature of a Pirate will be out on December 6th, just over a month from now, and Goodreads is running a giveaway for all of October. This means you have one more spooktacular day to sign up and potentially win one of the five advance copies on offer.
But wait–there’s more! What if you haven’t read the first two books in this series? I’m pleased to say Goodreads is also running a giveaway for ten copies of book #1, Child of a Hidden Sea. You’ve got a little longer to get in on that offer–it runs to November 9th.
To recap and make it easy.
These two books are the first and last in the Hidden Sea Tales trilogy. The middle book, A Daughter of No Nation, won the Prix Aurora for best novel this past year. They feature, collectively and in no particular order, a scuba-diving biologist from San Francisco, tall ships, a magical world that might be a future earth devastated by climate change, handsome sea captains, pirates, spies, murderers, diplomats, swordfights, mermaids in the navy, forensic science, and an international incident caused by a fight over turtle migration.
The books are the story of Sophie Hansa, who went looking for her birth family and found them on the world of Stormwrack, and who finds in Stormwrack her professional calling: a world that offers endless mysteries to tempt her boundless curiosity, and whose profligate use of magic is a challenge to her rigorous training as a scientist. They are books where a woman who believes that scientific puzzles are there for the solving delves into the question of magic, and how it can exist at all, on a world whose people mistrust the curious, seeing them as defective at best, spies and troublemakers at worst.
To make matters even more complicated, Stormwrack has a perfectly good supply of real spies and troublemakers, people who would like to get Sophie and all of her questions out of the way, so they can get back to the business of trying to rekindle a massive international war.
With Halloween coming up any minute now, I thought I should reshare my Tor.com review of one of the scariest books I’ve read in recent years, Christopher Buehlman’s The Lesser Dead, a story of vampires fighting an exceedingly bloody sort of turf war in 1970s Manhattan. I read the book right around the time Kelly and I were in New York for NYC ComicCon, which added weird levels to the creepfest: I was literally walking through the places where the carnage had taken place.
Here’s a snippet from the review:
The story winds to and fro like a river on the plains, rounding past Joey’s short past as a living human being, drifting through the events which brought him into conflict with Margaret, sharing the tale of his death and rebirth. We get nifty little glimpses of life in the underworld, a sense of the pack’s power dynamics, and as a bonus we get to relive the age of disco. In the process, it’s all too easy to become fond of the pack, even more so when the vampires track down the feral children and begin the difficult process of teaching them table manners. The only thing better would be if Joey brought home a box of puppies.
And the cover!
Have a safe and spooky weekend, everyone!