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8th July 2015
UK Philosopher Kings Cover
As I understand it, : The Just City
is now properly out in the UK (not that it was in Waterstones in Carmarthen) and The Philosopher Kings
is available as an e-book. This will be the eventual cover, when it comes out there in paper, matching the UK The Just City
cover I posted a little while ago. What do you think?
30th June 2015
: There's an Indiegogo Campaign to bail out the Greek economy
I've given them $50 -- every little helps, and it would be awesome if it works. This is such a fascinating and unique funding model. I was thinking about all the things I've helped fund this way in the last few years -- Sundown, and fixing the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and saving people's homes and medical bills, and SF magazines and anthologies, and space missions, and a local history project, and all kinds of cool things. It's sharing what little we have to make stone soup. They call it crowdfunding, but it's also hope funding, funding awesome things that couldn't otherwise happen out of people's hope. It's such a fascinating financial model, so different from anything that has really been before -- a subscription model that is, because of the internet, open to anyone to try. It seems like something that could in itself shape a different kind of future, a force that runs against corporatization and homogeneity and blinkered bureaucracy.
It gives me hope -- it removes that feeling of helplessness I have so often when I can't do anything about some huge overwhelming thing. This is something I can
do, and maybe it will work, if enough other people care too. It's democratizing that in such a great way. I was joking on the train last week about having a Kickstarter to buy Amtrak their own rails -- and it's not impossible. It's a thing someone could really do. The existence of this kind of thing changes the world, the future -- even if it doesn't work, even if we can't raise enough money to bail out Greece (though please do go and give them a little help if you can spare it!) just the possibility that we might is empowering. It's such a great feeling that there are more options.
The Philosopher Kings is out today
Rush out and buy it, and I hope you like it. :
Meanwhile, I am getting on a train and won't have any internet between here and Chicago. That will stop me obsessively looking at sales rankings and new reviews... when I am back, we'll have a spoiler thread where you can all yell at me for the Patrick O'Brian thing I did between books, if you want.
29th June 2015
Stonewall Honor Acceptance Speech
This is the speech I gave this morning. I feel I ought to apologise for this LJ being all awards acceptances all the time right now, but I'm not going to, because it's actually kind of cool. Besides, there won't be another one for... why, it's more than a month until the Tiptree award thingy! :
I'm Jo Walton, I write science fiction and fantasy, I was first published in 2000. My Real Children
is my tenth novel and I've had two more out since then, and all my books feature characters with non-normative sexuality, because that's an aspect in which it's important to me that they be true to life.
Last year in the World Science Fiction Convention in London, there was a panel on Sexuality in Military SF. The very existence of this panel is an example of how things have changed. Joe Haldeman's 1976 novel The Forever War
was mentioned, and one of the panelists said a book like that couldn't be published now by a major press, and that books with protagonists with non-normative sexualities had to come from small presses that were more adventurous, because the major publishers didn't want gay cooties.
I was astounded at this, because it flat out isn't true. There has been a huge revolution in science fiction and fantasy publishing in the last decade, and we now see people of color on book covers and also our books have multiple non-straight characters who aren't just there to suffer. There was a period where you couldn't have this sort of characters, and then there was a period where you could, but the whole book had to be about their (usually tragic) sexuality. It had to be a focus. The ability to have GLBT characters who are just characters is huge. When my alternate history novel Farthing
came out in 2006, reviewers said it had "too many gay characters", which led me to say nobody had told me there was a quota -- I don't think that would happen today.
I stood up and said this, with examples of lots of recent SF with GLBT characters from different major publishers, and other writers in the audience supported me, but without convincing the panel. Later, indignant, and also wanting to confirm my impression of how much things had changed, I mentioned this to my editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor. He not only confirmed my impression, he said that beyond that, these days having GLBT characters and issues was now an actual selling point, it is something they now list on the back of an Advanced Reading Copy as a plus. It's not just that people don't mind it, there's an audience of people who want it. The market recognises that. Big publishers recognise that.
Some people may still be living in their decades old experience -- the asexuality of my first novel's protagonist, and the assorted sexualities of the minor characters, certainly weren't mentioned as selling points back in 2000. But I got away with them. And since then, things have changed hugely, and for the better.
There's still a long way to go, the battle isn't over and won by any means. But it's wonderful to see that things have improved so much. Part of this has been the general social acceptance has been changing -- I wrote this last week. and already I need to update it! I mean, wow, marriage equality. We've had it in Canada for ages, and now you have it too and I am so happy -- but this works both ways. Social acceptance changes what can be written and published and read, but what people are writing and publishing and reading changes social acceptance too.
Books are important, what we read is important, books really do influence the way we think. And libraries are vitally important in getting those books to people, especially young people from families who may not read. And the Stonewall Awards have been a wonderful positive source of this change -- gaining visibility by celebrating excellence in GLBT literature since 1971. 1971! In 1971, homosexuality had only been legal in Britain for two years, and it was still criminalized in parts of the US. I'm so proud that _My Real Children_ has made your honor list, it's a genuine honor, and I'm absolutely delighted. Thank you.
28th June 2015
RUSA Acceptance Speech
This is the talk I gave this morning at the ALA Literary Tastes Breakfast. :
It's awesome and strange for My Real Children
to be listed as Top Pick for Women's Fiction, especially in a year with such a wonderful shortlist.
I'm not a Women's Fiction writer. I write Fantasy and Science Fiction. My Real Children
is science fiction. It's an alternate history novel. My central character, Patricia, is an old woman with Alzheimer's who remembers two different versions of her life. In one life, she accepts a marriage proposal, has four children, and becomes known as Trish. In the other she declines it and later enters into a lesbian relationship, has three children, and is known as Pat. Her worlds diverge too, slowly, with changes proliferating over time, so that neither of her lives takes place in our world. The chapters alternate between the two versions of her life. Towards the end of the book, in 2015, she looks out of the window of the nursing home and sees the moon, and she knows that people are living on the moon, but she doesn't know whether they are in the peaceful scientific base where her son works, or in three hostile bases bristling with nukes aimed at Earth. She remembers both, she knows they can't both be real, and she can't remember where she has put her hearing aids.
Of course, it's Women's Fiction too. It's the close-up story of one woman's two lives.
Personally, I've always read widely in a bunch of genres, and genre is something that has always been interesting to me, genre as a phenomenon. Genre is more than just a way of marketing books. Genre is the set of things that a book is in conversation with. Books are constantly conversing with one another. As librarians you must be very familiar with the "If I like this, what else will I like?" question, and that's one place where genre can be a really useful tool. If I tell you I like Bridget Jones's Diary
(which I do) that doesn't say anything about whether I'm going to like The Gobin Emperor
(which I also do), but it does suggest I might like things Bridget Jones's Diary
is engaged with and things that are engaged with it, whether that's more ChickLit or Pride and Prejudice
or Mary Robinette Kowal's Shades of Milk and Honey
Science fiction & fantasy is an especially interesting genre in this sense, because it's constantly in conversation within genre boundaries, with a wide conversation going on and books being written in response to each other in a fascinating way, but and it's also always reaching out across the boundaries. We see crossovers and mashups all the time. I just mentioned Kowal: there are a bunch of crossovers with Romance. John Kessel and Connie Willis have written SF screwball comedies. There are SF mysteries, and SF noir, and all kinds of things. SF likes to cross-pollinate. I've done cross-overs myself before. Tooth and Claw
is fantasy crossed-over with a sentimental Victorian novel, and Farthing
is alternate history crossed-over with a cosy mystery. As I said, I find genre interesting in itself, and I like playing with it.
In a classic example of SF reaching across boundaries, Robert Heinlein's 1955 Tunnel in the Sky
is not so much talking to Lord of the Flies
as yelling at it. But Golding, while arguably writing science fiction, wasn't part of the genre, wasn't part of the same conversation. Heinlein read Golding, but Golding wasn't reading Heinlein, either before or after. People within SF were looking out and responding to things outside the genre, but it wasn't until relatively recently that we've seen people outside SF responding to the conversation happening inside. You'd have non-genre writers writing things that were ostensibly SF, but which were not interested in being in dialogue with the genre. They tended to ignore the conversation going on inside, and addressed their work only to things in their own genres, while using the most superficial kinds of borrowing, the appearances of Science Fiction. As well as Golding I'm thinking here about Lessing's Shikasta
and also P.D. James's Children of Men
. Recently this has changed, and we have examples of successful in-dialogue cross-overs from outside, like Michael Chabon and Kazuo Ishiguro.
When I was writing My Real Children
I thought of it as a cross-over with women's fiction. I wrote it in a way that was much closer to how women's fiction is written -- the focus is always on Patricia's life and love and work.
Lois McMaster Bujold, a wonderful writer, has described SF as "fantasies of political agency". My Real Children
isn't that at all, Patricia has no political agency, only personal agency. Yet it's her personal decision, her sexual and romantic decision of whether to accept a marriage proposal, that has changed the world. We're all significant. We don't know which things we do are important, which ones will have repercussions. Looking back we can sometimes see it, but at the time we can't possibly tell. We try things, we sow so much seed that falls on stony ground. The occasional seed manages to surprise us. It didn't look any different from the others! How could we tell this would be the one to sow change?
Women's Fiction as a genre, the genre you recognise and reward every year, is focused on the importance of women's lives. It's an inherently feminist enterprise, it's saying that women's lives and concerns matter, are significant, are worth writing about and reading about. Science Fiction has been historically a very male-dominated genre. This has changed, since the seventies, since second wave feminism. There have been lots of women writing SF for decades now, people like C.J. Cherryh, and Ursula Le Guin, and new ones coming along like Ann Leckie and Ada Palmer. Male writers too are aware of the existence of women these days, it's not just a case of the scientist's beautiful daughter any more. We've come a long way.
But what you often get, even now, is the kickass female protagonist, the woman in a traditionally male role, the female president, female spaceship captain, female marine. She's a terrific role model... But when you say anyone can do anything but you only show everyone doing traditionally male things, you're need to rethink the message you're sending.
Consider Bujold's point there, "fantasies of political agency". Science Fiction tells the stories of worlds, the world is a character, and the character that changes is often the world. Science Fiction is the genre of changing worlds, and very often using those changed worlds to comment on the here and now.
We haven't seen much science fiction that's interested in the issues of women's fiction, women's lives in science fictional worlds. They're still relegated to the edges. You can have a female space explorer, but there aren't many stories about anyone, male or female, that are about the kinds of things that women's fiction is about -- marriage, children, parenting, juggling the demands of life and love and career, divorce, families, home, getting older. There could be, but there aren't. Those things aren't going to go away -- or if they are, that's interesting in itself and worth examining. But all too often SF seems to demand an adventure plot. So what we've seen is a lot of lip service to the idea of women's lives being important, while the actual message is that women's lives are only important if they become just like men's lives. There are exceptions -- Bujold herself is a great exception here.
With My Real Children
I was writing about changing worlds, but with my focus always on Patricia herself, her life, her concerns, which are women's fiction kind of concerns. Because the book is set between 1926 and 2015, but mostly between 1950 and 2000, what we have are two different versions of the second half of the twentieth century, so the experience of reading it is more like reading women's fiction. My Real Children
has also recently been named the co-winner, with Monica Byrne's The Girl In the Road
, of the Tiptree Award, which is given every year to a science fiction or fantasy work does interesting things with gender. This wasn't just because of Patricia's bisexuality, but for what I've been talking about here, using the concerns of women's fiction in a science fiction context.
When you write a cross-over, the concern is always that the book won't work in both genres and be part of both conversations. By listing my book as Top Pick, in the Women's Fiction category, in the genre I do not normally write, you told me I did it right. You let me know I wrote a book that was truly in dialogue with both genres. Thank you not just for honouring my book, but for validating it. I really appreciate that.
27th June 2015
In San Francisco
The train was very late because of a tornado. I saw the tornado, it was amazing -- I'd never seen the whole sky lit up like a broken neon tube, but it was like that for hours. Amtrak made the absolute correct decision to stop the train in a dip, because the 80 mph winds were making it rock even stopped. When there was a bolt of lightning, it really was briefly as bright as day, which I've read about but not seen before. I was in the observation car talking to a chance-met fellow traveller, and we just sat there talking about stoicism and the food in the Redwall books and whether aliens could have a completely different mathematics until the tornado went away and the train started to move again. :
So I got to Emeryville very late last night, and discovered that while I was on the train, the US Supreme Court has opted for marriage equality. I stayed last night with rezendi
and S, and we had brunch and a look around the area this morning. San Francisco really is the perfect place to be this weekend. Everyone looks so happy! And I feel that my own excellent marriage is improved by making the option open to everyone. Amazing to think that rysmiel
and I have been married for fourteen years tomorrow!
Off to a librarian dinner now.
What Makes This Book So Great won a Locus Award!
Herewith my acceptance speech, which had to be given by proxy as I am in San Francisco for ALA. :
You know, science fiction really is wonderful. Fantasy is pretty great too.
WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT is a book of me talking about books. It began life as a series of blog posts on Tor.com. Patrick Nielsen Hayden asked me to blog -- he said I was always saying smart things about books nobody else had thought about for ages. That's what this book is, my enthusiastic thoughts on older science fiction and fantasy. So the first people I want to thank are the writers who wrote those books -- all of them, from Anderson to Zelazny. Secondly, if this is me talking about books, I'm talking about them to people who also care. Tor.com gave me an engaged audience -- the commenters there were always an inspiration and kept me enthusiastic. I want to thank all of them, even the ones who were wrong wrong wrong. When I was writing the posts I used the Locus wqebsite and databases all the time, so I want to thank Locus too. Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden came up to Montreal and the three of us spent a weekend with a giant mound of printout of all my posts and went through them assembling the book into its final form. That was editing above and beyond -- and I really appreciate it. Everyone at Tor has been very supportive of this book, and the same goes for everone at my UK publisher Corsair, especially my UK editor Sarah Castleton. Jamie Stafford Hill gave it the wonderful cover, which I'm sure helped it find its friends. I'd like to thank my friends Alison Sinclair, Alter Reiss and Rene Walling, my son Sasha Walton and my husband Emmet O'Brien, for productive discussions about the books I was reading as I was writing the posts. Lots of people helped me out with thoughts on lots of specific books -- best of all Brother Guy Consolmagno let me interview him about the Jesuit attitude to A CASE FOR CONSCIENCE.
I'm thrilled and delighted that WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT has been honoured by the Locus Award. I love Locus, and I love the way the Locus Award is such a genuine popular award. I'm so sorry I can't be here in person to accept this award -- I'm in San Francisco accepting a different award for a different book this same weekend, They asked me first. But how did my life get to be so great?
Finally, I want to thank everyone who read WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT and complained that it had increased their "to be read" list. Good. That was the plan. I love our genre. It's so vibrant and full of promise, with so many people writing so many great things. There are so many wonderful science fiction and fantasy books out there, new and old, and I want everyone to read them so that we can have conversations about them. Thank you giving me this award and showing that you want this too.
22nd June 2015
Sunburst Award Nomination
I'm delighted to tell you that : My Real Children
is nominated for the Sunburst Award
for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. It's a great shortlist too, congratulations to all the other nominees.
Also, I am safely in Chicago having fun, and will be here for a couple of days before heading to San Francisco on Wednesday.
20th June 2015
I am off today on my summer travels, which are long and complicated and will not bring me home again until after Worldcon. I am packed, except for the computer. What have I forgotten?
3rd June 2015
E. Jane Jones, 2nd January 1923 -- 2nd June 2015
The winds are blowing in Rest Bay :
Whispering as they find their way,
That she is home, come back, set free,
Ageless, and skipping to the sea.
The sands, wiped clean with every tide,
Recall the prints she made, each stride,
Across the journey of her life
Grandmother, daughter, niece, aunt, wife.
The breakers rolling, each by each,
Remember as they wash the beach
So many summer days she came
Every one different, each the same.
Lifting her head, she hears the call:
The winds of heaven -- or Porthcawl.
One thing about my Aunt Jane was that she was an indefatigable sea bather, in any weather. Porthcawl, a little resort on the South Wales coast, isn't exactly known for its good weather -- in fact it's known for its bracing winds, but she loved it, and holidayed there from childhood to old age. Well on into her eighties she was driving down there for a dip and outracing the teenagers into the sea. She wasn't really my aunt, she was my grandmother's first cousin, but that generation all grew up together like brothers and sisters because all of them lost one parent or another, and were brought up by Auntie Lyd, the sibling of the generation before who didn't marry. Aunt Jane's mother died when she was born. She was the last survivor of that generation, she saw them all go before her, one by one. These last few years she's been suffering from dementia, and came unstuck in memory and time. In the nursing home it was Auntie Lyd she wanted, and those long ago holidays she often talked about. I can see her now, running and skipping down the beach at Porthcawl, any age, all ages, all my life and long before it, calling back that everyone should come on in, the water -- which is always freezing -- isn't cold at all! And then she'd have towels and chocolate biscuits ready afterwards.
She leaves two daughters, six grandchildren, more cousins than you could shake a stick at, a ginger cat, a bunch of grown ups who were once seven year olds in classes she taught, a church she attended regularly and worked hard for, and an inconsolable beach.
1st June 2015
I found some fragmentary letters of Xenophon's, and one of them, discussing Socrates's belief that true poverty is ignorance, not lack of money, was to Lamprocleia, a woman. This is Xenophon, the well known general and who was also a friend of Socrates, but my point is here, Xenophon, not that well-known feminist Plato. : Xenophon
was writing a letter about philosophy to a woman. In the fourth century BC. Wish I'd found her in time to put her in the book.
More and more I come to believe that women were always part of the conversation, and everyone knew it, but they got left out later, dropped out of the things we think we know.Symposium
Dark watered wine mixed in a figured cup,
Bread dipped in olive oil, friends met to sup,
The play of talk, the thoughts they burn to share...
And distaffs twirling too, women were there.
31st May 2015
The Just City -- UK Cover
I : love
this. Never mind that my robots don't have hands and that flutes are banned. This is a great cover and I love it.
You know what this means? My two favourite of my covers ever are for the same book.
What do you think of it?
Oh, and it's due out in trade paperback in Britain on July 2nd I think.
30th May 2015
How do I save a jpg of a page in Google Books? :
If it makes any difference I am using Chrome in Ubuntu. And if it makes any difference the page is from a scan of Epictetus translated in 1524.
There has got to be a way of doing this.
26th May 2015
Aurora Award Nomination
I'm delighted to announce that : My Real Children
has been nominated for an Aurora Award
. This is an award for Canadian SF and Fantasy. And look at the stellar shortlist for Best Novel in English:Echopraxia
by Peter Watts, Tor BooksThe Future Falls
by Tanya Huff, DAW BooksMy Real Children
by Jo Walton, Tor BooksThe Peripheral
by William Gibson, Penguin CanadaA Play of Shadow
by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
That's a list it's an honour to be included on. I feel so proud to be Canadian!
(Posted from the train... Balticon was great, but never a free moment, you know how it goes when you're having fun.)
21st May 2015
Well, Balticon hasn't started yet, but I am here anyway. I took the train all the way down yesterday -- it's possible in one rather long day, but by the time the train got into Baltimore at 00.38 last night I was frid. Jon Singer was a hero of the revolution and was waiting to bring me out to the hotel. I did this yesterday rather than today so that I could have today to recover -- a night's sleep, tea and breakfast have helped. :
This afternoon I'm going to the aquarium with rivka
and family, and I'm sure that will help even more, and then people are arriving this evening and the con proper starts tomorrow.
I still don't have an absolutely final schedule, but I will be around, and I will be on stuff and doing stuff and around, so if you are here come and say hello!
19th May 2015
My Real Children out in US paperback
Ideal for summer reading and lightweight gifts! :
I haven't seen the paperback myself yet -- though I expect I will this weekend at Balticon -- but it has the same cover as the hardback.
18th May 2015
Necessity Revision: Question
For those of you who have read : both The Just City
and The Philosopher Kings
, what things do you expect to see addressed and resolved in Necessity
I'm sorry, there's no point answering this if you haven't read PK, and I know most people haven't, but it will be out in a little over a month.
Comments will likely have spoilers for PK which you may well not want if you haven't read it yet.
16th May 2015
Thud: Necessity: Done
Words: 2140 :
Total words: 85584
Tea: Elderflower and Lemon
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: well past bed time, and done
Needs a lot of fixing, so not asking for volunteer readers yet, it's not in a fit state.
But done, nevertheless.
WordsL 2711 :
Total words: 83182
Tea: White Orchard, before that Jing Die
Music: No music, still, but there's a very noisy bird outside
Reason for stopping: end of chapter and time to make dinner
So at the beginning of this chapter, I got obsessed with deciding what Jathery was wearing. Jathery is an alien god. I spent ages looking at art and deciding exactly what gla had on, and then I realised that to Marsi it was going to look like "a pale skinned human with fussed up hair draped in green and black layers of cloth" and she wasn't even going to notice it was cross dressing because she totally isn't used to clothing being gendered. And I was a little bit annoyed, because it had seemed important, and then as I was fussing about it I realised that Jathery would still be wearing the same stuff in the next chapter, and Apollo would totally recognise it and be able to snark about it -- "Everyone else was dressed from School of Athens, but Jathery had picked the right painter but the wrong painting, and come with a Renaissance woman's elaborate coiffure and a Renaissance man's outfit in pale green and black, with huge sleeves, on a female-seeming body." And then I realised an interesting plot thing, which my subconcsious, or the muses, had clearly been setting up for me all book, and I had to go back and change maybe two lines and it was all perfectly set up. So that was nice. As I said on Twitter, people who outline know what they're doing more of the time, but I do get to have nice surprises when things come together unexpectedly.
And then I wrote this chapter.
Onwards and upwards, nearly done.
15th May 2015
Words: 3103 :
Total words: 80430
Tea: Elderflower and lemon, before that Hui Ming
Music: No music
Reason for stopping: end of chapter, and bed time
That was a difficult chapter, I've been working on it all day. I think it's there now.
There was one point where I was thinking "Well, only five people in the room this time, and they're all human. Well, except the alien." They're all mortals.
Only two more chapters unless I do that thing, in which case, four more. Maybe I'll get it done before I leave for Balticon. We'll see.
14th May 2015
Words: 2403 :
Total words: 77384
Tea: White tea with apricot and elderflower, before that pu erh
Music: no music
Reason for stopping: end of chapter
Crocus chapter, and therefore easy and fun. Contains a FAQ. This is the last Crocus chapter. Unless I do decide to go back and write the whole book Crocus POV..
This chapter is set in the future of the rest of the book. Most of the Crocus chapters were set in the past, and the last one caught up and was in the present, and this one is in the future.
(I am just remembering the person who allegedly said their book wasn't SF because SF is all written in the future tense. Heh.)
13th May 2015
Words: 2464 :
Total words: 74979
Tea: Elderflower and Lemon, before that Hui Ming
Music: no music
Reason for stopping: end of chapter and bedtime
Been writing this all day -- I lost a couple of days to Boreal and a couple to pain, but it's going again now.
This is a very peculiar book.