Book Four of Devi Jones’ Locker is out now. Join Devi Jones on the last leg of her journey… maybe.
More information, a free sample, and buy links here.
Book Four of Devi Jones’ Locker is out now. Join Devi Jones on the last leg of her journey… maybe.
More information, a free sample, and buy links here.
My friend Beth Cato has dropped by again with another amazing recipe. And another amazing steampunk book to tell you about.
I’m steampunk fantasy author Beth Cato. My new series starts off with Breath of Earth, out on August 23rd. Unlike my Clockwork Dagger books, this novel is set on Earth—1906 San Francisco, to be exact. Yes, my book involves earthquakes. My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, is a geomancer, and a profoundly gifted one at that… but women aren’t supposed to be endowed with such powerful magic. Nor is a woman of color supposed to be, well, anything of note. But Ingrid is not content with being a demure secretary, pouring coffee and tea for stuffy white men engaged in never-ending meetings. She wants recognition, meaning, in her complex world.
In tribute to Ingrid, let’s make our own darn tea and shortbread. In this case, I’m being literal: I’m sharing a recipe for Earl Grey Tea Shortbread! These are buttery, soft cookies with a small kick of heat from the tea.
More about Breath of Earth:
After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.
When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .
Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.
Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.
I got a chance to chat with Erica L. Satifka (my editor for the Devi Jones’ Locker series) about her debut novel, Stay Crazy, to be released August 16. I am really looking forward to reading this book!
After a breakdown in college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’s crazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chicken nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well… pretty sure.
An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. When her coworkers start dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her through the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone Stay Crazy.
Can you describe your writing for someone who is unfamiliar with it?
Dark science fiction: Imagine all the good things that might be possible with a futuristic concept or technology, then completely invert them, add a pinch of paranoia, a slacker hero, and serve at room temperature.
Would you want to live in the world of your book? Why or why not?
I did live in the world of the book! Or at least, certain aspects of the book are heavily based on where I grew up and a job I used to have. Stay Crazy has a contemporary setting in small-town Western Pennsylvania, which is where I’m from. Her job is at a big-box store, the kind of place that’s quickly becoming the “company store” for many small communities where the manufacturing jobs that had supported families for decades no longer exist.
However, the other “world” of the novel is Em’s mind. I worked very hard to ensure that Em’s feelings were authentic for a person living with schizophrenia, reading multiple first person accounts as well as clinical research. I hope that anyone reading Stay Crazy who also shares Em’s worldview will find it realistic. It would be easy to say, “I can’t imagine dealing with Em’s illness” but that would be disrespectful to the countless people who do so every day.
But to answer the question directly: The first chance I got, I moved to the “big city” of Pittsburgh. Draw your own conclusions from that!
Why did you write this story? What is compelling about it for you?
The story was developed over several months of daydreaming while working as a stocker in the frozen food aisle of a real-world big-box store. (Spoiler: Guess what part of Savertown USA Em works in?) I’d also just discovered Philip K. Dick, so had parallel universes and reality testing on the brain. So naturally, a person who already has reason to question their understanding of the world made a perfect protagonist. The problem is that too many times, the portrayal of a person with atypical neurology comes down to a stereotype. I’ve mentioned in a different interview how people with schizophrenia tend to either be cast as “mystics” or the homeless person down the street, designed to scare readers. I didn’t want that for Em. I wanted her to be as real as I could make her, drawing on memoirs from people who have gone through similar experiences. It’s important to me to write an engaging story, but I didn’t want Stay Crazy to be the fifteenth “young woman tries to save the world” story out in the month of August.
The compelling thing about Em’s story is that she’s not your usual protagonist. Beyond her neuro-diversity, she’s also not the neglected figure who is “discovered” to save the day, or a generic figure shown to have great abilities. Em would be a background character/sidekick in most novels, allowed to do one or two cool things, make a few sarcastic quips, and stand aside for the hero/heroine to save the day. In my world, and I did this by design, Em is the primary figure. I don’t think we get enough rough-edged, imperfect, somewhat unlikeable protagonists. Especially girl protagonists like that.
How will reading it make people feel?
I don’t believe that an author should tell a reader how to feel about a book, and I’ve already learned that most people don’t find my writing nearly as funny as I do. Can’t predict reader reaction! However, as with all of my fiction, I also want to make the reader think about the key concepts behind the story as well as just enjoying the plot. For instance, I’d like them to really think about how the idea of capitalism and being “a productive member of society” really impacts on someone like Em who can’t fulfill that role with ease. I’m sure readers will come up with their own key concepts, too, and I look forward to hearing from them about what they’ve taken away from the book. (Save an author, write a review!)
Was there anything you did deliberately while crafting this novel (pacing, language, symbolism…)? Why?
I don’t use (deliberate) symbolism, and I don’t really try to create pretty prose on purpose. But I’m pretty proud of the hallucination scenes, as they’re written in a fluid, florid style that helps to differentiate them from the more straightforward prose of the reality-based sections of the novel. That was deliberate, kinda, but not so much calculated so much as it’s what I imagine a text rendering of psychosis would actually be like.
However, the main thing I like about Stay Crazy‘s “craft” is the dialogue. I’m sort of a jerk, and so is Em, and I had a lot of fun making the characters banter and writing out Em’s little snarky thoughts about her coworkers, her sister’s religion, her therapist, and everything else under the sun. I really tried hard to capture a sort of Daria Morgendorffer/Aubrey Plaza vibe in Em’s dialogue and interactions, while also not making her so sarcastic that you want to strangle her. It was a delicate balancing act for sure. And I have to admit, it was a little cathartic to be able to write out the kind of stuff that I could never say in person. Take that, polite society!
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Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her debut novel Stay Crazy will be released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.
Spoilers: it’s US cultural dominance.
We all know that there is a long history in literature in general, and speculative literature in particular, of amplifying dominant voices to the exclusion of other stories. But we are getting better.
Campaigns like We Need Diverse Books, the #ownvoices conversation, and leading magazines devoting special issues to writing by women, members of the queer communities, people of colour and more are shining spotlights on works by authors and/or featuring characters who better represent the world in which we really live.
Indeed, this year’s Nebula Awards have been lauded as a showcase for diversity. As Andrew Liptak said about the nominees, writing for io9, “What jumps out right away is that this is a strong, diverse list of works and authors.” And when the voting was done, and the winners of the prose awards were all women, two of whom are women of colour, Liptak wrote:
“The science fiction world has had its share of drama with the Hugo Awards as various slates have worked aggressively to push against the growing numbers of women and people of color appearing on award ballots. The Nebula Awards have demonstrated, for two years in a row, that science fiction and fantasy literature remains a strong, inclusive body of literature.”
But, inclusive of what, exactly? What about geographical diversity? I took a look at some numbers, and saw an unsurprising but troublesome situation.
In this year’s Nebula Awards shortlist, at least 79% of the works were written by authors living in the United States. Only 7 out of 34 works were by authors who are resident outside the US, or whose country of residence I couldn’t find in publicly available material1. See below2 for notes on methodology.
It’s not just the Nebulas either. I didn’t look at this year’s Hugo shortlist, but last year Lynn E. O’Connacht posted a comprehensive breakdown of Hugo nominees by nationality. The whole post is worth a read, but here are the numbers3:
US: 82.2% (106 authors)
UK: 12.4% (16 authors)
Canada: 3.1% (4 authors)
China: 0.8% (1 author)
France: 0.8% (1 author)
Jamaica: 0.8% (1 author)
The short fiction categories:
US: 74.5% (205 authors)
UK: 10.2% (28 authors)
Canada: 3.3% (9 authors)
Australia: 1.1% (3 authors)
France: 0.4% (1 author)
Netherlands: 0.4% (1 author)
Unknown: 10.2% (28 authors)
I also looked at a few other awards for comparison and I was shocked to discover that a significant percentage of the 2016 Arthur C. Clarke Award (for SFF published in Britain) and British Fantasy Awards shortlists were for works by US-based authors.
Out of six works on the Clarke award shortlist, two are by US-based authors and over 20% of the British Fantasy Award shortlist are US-based authors, including at least one US-based author’s work in each category.4
So what can be done about it? I’m not the only one talking about this; Australian author T.R. Napper wrote on this topic recently with respect to the Hugos, with his own proposal. Instead, I think following the model of other diversity initiatives is the way to go.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I hope that we can open a conversation5 about how to become more inclusive of voices all over the planet. After all, we are the literature of other worlds — surely we can accommodate more of the world we already inhabit.
Eagle photo credit: Jordan Confino
Notes [ + ]
|1.||￪||I used the authors’ public bios, wikipedia, and in some cases interviews to determine country of residence. When residence information was not publicly obtainable, I’ve marked those authors as Unknown, even when their nationalities were listed. Therefore, some authors’ bios may list them as American authors, but if I could not determine their residence, they are listed here as Unknown.|
|2.||￪||I have no interest in identity policing here, so chose to use current residence as the benchmark. I recognize that living in a country does not necessarily mean a person has an identification with that nationality. However, I’d argue that simply residing in the US confers a privilege with respect to SFF publishing, so that’s the metric I chose.|
|3.||￪||Lynn chose a different methodology than I did, but the trend is pretty clear.|
|4.||￪||A complete breakdown of the shortlists and references I used is in this pdf, including a breakdown of the shortlist for the new Eugie Award where 3/5 nominees are US-based.|
|5.||￪||If anyone has corrections to make, please feel free to comment here or email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that I will continue to list authors’ residences as Unknown if that information is not part of a public bio. I have no interest in asking anyone to reveal information about their residence, and believe strongly in every individual’s right to privacy.
Good news, everyone!
My mainstream novel, The Home for Wayward Parrots, will be published by the venerable Canadian literary publisher NeWest Press.
Here’s the blurb from their announcement:
The Home For Wayward Parrots, by Darusha Wehm:
Now grown up, Brian “Gumbo” Guillemot searches for his birth parents after a happy adopted childhood. Along the way, he regales readers with often-complicated encounters with women, men and more.
I describe the book like this:
A late-bloomer’s coming of age story set on Vancouver Island, The Home For Wayward Parrots explores friendship, romance, modern families and geek pop culture with wit, compassion and extremely foul-mouthed birds.
Look for Parrots in Spring 2018.
Photo credit: Martin Pettitt