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My middle grade fantasy featuring the Brontë children, a talking newspaper stand, twelve wooden soldiers, two sentient suitcases, and Napoleon riding a flaming chicken, is out and in the world today!
You can find a copy at any of the links below. If you want to help my little book go, please RT, share, write reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, and otherwise spread the word!
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this book--it's been a long journey, and I hope you all enjoy the ride!
Happy New Year, all, and welcome to Awards Season! It's that time when every author should share what they've written that's eligible for any of the SFF genre's awards - there are so many great stories being shared every year, and it can be hard to remember them all. These eligibility posts are welcome reminders, and don't let anyone tell you differently. I would love to hear what others have eligible as well!
For those in the SFWA, Nebula Awards nominations are open until February 15th. The Hugo Award nominations should open soon, any you can nominate if you were or are a member of the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Worldcons. The rules for nominating for the World Fantasy Award should be similar, but you might want to check with the World Fantasy Convention.
Here's what I wrote that's eligible this year:
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Feiwel and Friends)
The Future Is Blue (in Drowned Worlds: Tales from the Anthropocene and Beyond)
The Limitless Perspective of Master Peek, or, the Luminescence of Debauchery (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 200)
Badgirl, the Deadman, and the Wheel of Fortune (in The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales)
Thanks for your consideration! Remember: nominate early, vote often, and read always.
So I did.
I have struggled since November 8th with everything I thought I understood about the world, and with what I could possibly do to help anyone. I certainly can’t stop talking. I can never do that. But for once, the Internet trolls had the answer.
I have written a new Fairyland short story. It does what fairy tales do, I hope. Explain the awful to the young. Explain the awful to the old. Explain the awful to myself. After all, once you know you’re in a fairy tale, you know how to get out, how to survive, how to stand tall and even dance at the end of it all.
This story may be read, reprinted, exchanged, and otherwise disseminated for free, forever.
The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still.
When I am writing a story or a book or even a poem, I see the environment I render in words completely, as though on a movie screen. I change what I see internally until it feels right, then describe it on the page. But there is always a Version 1.0, a ground zero, a basic template for various objects and geographies. Often I fight against that entry-level image. Contort it into something better, different, more unusual, more striking. But I find it fascinating what set-pieces are so fully-formed in my mind that I must always consciously jettison them, or else ever house I write would be the same, every road, every forest, every school, every shop.
The example I started writing about on Twitter before deciding that it was absurd to try to say all this in a series of 140 character confetti-cannons is the Kitchen of My Mind.
When I think of a kitchen--and by that I mean any kitchen, simply the idea of "kitchen," if I require a kitchen as a set for any scene--the image that comes instantly into my head, fully-realized, in Technicolor and 3-D sensory surround, is the kitchen of a house my mother briefly rented in Seattle around (by my math) 1985. The tiles are white with small black diamonds between the squares. The walls are white with black window frames. There is a small kitchen table in the corner where my infant brother and I have breakfast on the weekends when I stay with her instead of my dad. The corner has a bench built into one side where I always sit and is dominated by tall windows with cross-hatch sashes on both sides of the seam. Next to the corner on the rear wall is the back door leading into the yard. In this kitchen Ray Lynch's album Deep Breakfast is always playing. My mother loved it and loved playing it at the thematically-appropriate time of the day.
Why the kitchen in this house, quickly rented and quickly moved out of, and not the one on Queen Anne Hill where my father and my stepmother and I lived until I was 7? Or the one in the house in Woodinville where I spent almost every morning of my adolescence? Or the one in Davis, California, where I cooked after-school snacks with my brother every day through junior high and high school? Of course I remember these places, but when I think of the pure, ontologically complete idea of a kitchen, it is always this one I return to.
But it gets stranger than that.
I cannot picture the rest of that house. Or even the rest of that kitchen. I see the table, the windows, the back door, the colors; I hear the music. I am there. But if I turn around to glance into the kitchen or the hall, where an oven and a refrigerator and a mother presumably is, the house I see is absolutely not the one that belongs to the cross-hatch windows and the built-in bench and Deep Breakfast. This kitchen does not go with this house. I know it isn't, because I know that house, and it's not even my house! It's the house of my childhood best friend, Jessamyn, where I used to visit and sleep over all the time when we lived on the same street on Queen Anne Hill. I sit in the corner with the black and white cross-hatched windows and turn my head and I look down another narrow kitchen where a woman is standing at the stove who is not my mother but my best friend's, with her strange German name and so utterly apart from the plain short suburban names of my family, with short slick bobbed hair nothing like my actual mother's long, long black mop, into the living room to the front door with the chestnut tree growing outside, whose spiky nuts we used to collect for spells and fairy money in case we ever got whisked away like the girls in books.
I can walk through Jessamyn's house like a virtual reality environment. I know all the nooks and crannies--because it was a great house, full of nooks and crannies and hiding places and dark, dark old wood that was so different than the bright houses both sets of my parents always lived in--in fact, at the time, the only hardwood floors I'd ever seen, since everyone in the mid-eighties was mad for carpet. That house that always seemed magic to me because it had a cellar and an attic, because Jessamyn's stepfather let us watch tons of horror movies and always asked me a riddle when I first arrived and told me I had to have the answer by the next sleepover, and because Jessamyn's mother was a professional harpist with the Seattle Orchestra who had told me the first time I came over that she kept her non-concert harps in a storage area under the floors. I used to creep around on tiptoe so as not to disturb the harps. I'm sure there were only one or two spares and they were in some kind of special temperature-safe space in the basement, but in my head, they were right under the floorboards, hundreds of them, each one with carved elaborate golden shoulders like the ones in paintings, crowded up an inch under my toes, sleeping, waiting, dreaming.
When I think about places where I spent time as a child, I remember, as clearly as the colors of the wood and the patterns of the wallpaper, the things I imagined, (quietly, to myself, without telling anyone), the things I believed, about those places while I was there. It's a kind of synesthesia, which I have in many ways. For me, numbers and letters and months and days and even smells have colors, but places have ideas.
Belief has an architecture.
Dark hardwood floors have harps underneath them. Thin, tall curtains have ghosts (because I used to keep my button collection pinned to my tall, thin bedroom curtains, and my stepmother would add new ones while I was at school without saying anything, so I logically thought ghosts were giving me buttons. One day one appeared that said DON'T PANIC and I knew they were just trying to tell me not to be afraid). Split level houses have hungry bears hiding on their bottom floors (because my aunt had a split-level and in the downstairs living room she had a bearskin rug with teeth and claws and it scared me so bad I thought it was alive and freezing in place to fool me, and everywhere I went upstairs it was crawling along the downstairs ceiling and sniffling for me, lying in wait.)
These imaginings come instantly to mind, sewn into the simpler memories of furniture and house layouts and all those endless spaces of childhood. For my brain, they are inseparable, the way the smell of a turkey roasting is inseparable from the roasting turkey itself. And when I remember them, it's so strong that, for a moment, the total belief that they were true flares up again before guttering away.
So this is what I see when I imagine a simply, archetypal kitchen: that table, those windows in a house my mother probably doesn't even remember, attached to another house I never lived in, with another girl's mother in it, a house of ancient wood and riddles and a tree full of fairy money hundreds upon hundreds of sentient sleeping harps snuggled up underneath it. Where the music my mother loved is always playing. Where my brother is always a baby sitting in a high chair next to me but my childhood friend is not. My brain has made a house that never existed out of remembered houses I only sometimes stayed in, and that, that is what it uses to represent the notion of any kitchen, anywhere.
This can't be normal.
Do I even remember that kitchen accurately? I have reason to think I do--I have an extraordinarily good memory, and I remember events and places and phrases from my childhood so well it often startles and unsettles people who were adults then. But I can't know. There is a flaw already embedded--the Two Houses Problem. Maybe the kitchen I think of when I think of kitchens never existed. Maybe the diamonds in the tile were blue. Maybe there were three windows, not two. But it's scratched in iron in my head and I imagine that, if I somehow went to that house we rented again, and saw that it was different, that I had it wrong, in a day or two I wouldn't remember the real kitchen anymore. It would go back to this image my brain loves and needs, clearly.
This sort of thing has happened before. I misremember the ending of The Purple Rose of Cairo so profoundly that I recall, and have quoted in company, full scenes of dialogue that do not exist in the film and never did. And every time I watch the real ending, my brain refuses to accept it, re-writes it again, and if you asked me how it ended right now, I could only give you my ending, even though I know it's wrong.
I don't know what the purpose of this surgery of associative memory is. I don't know if anyone else thinks and remembers and imagines this way. I don't even know the purpose of this little mini-memoir. I only sat down to work on a scene that takes place in a kitchen and the same ancient geography unfolded in my head. That kitchen always wants to be real again, even though it was never real in the first place.
Sometimes I think all of those beloved post-modernist tricks and flares and perhaps even all of non-realist fiction simply tells the factual truth of memory: it is unknowable, it is iterative, it is non-linear, it lies, it skips and jumps, it over-writes and re-writes itself, it has gaps and holes and unexplainable gulfs, it insists upon its own reality even when confronted with contradictory evidence, it lines the drawers of adult action with the magical thinking of childhood beliefs, all the beliefs we have, not because children are more innocent or marvelous, but because we simply did not know what was or was not possible yet in this world, it cobbles itself out of whatever it finds lying around in a vain attempt to create a cohesive narrative which can only ever be fully true to the rememberer, and perhaps not even then, and it strives, at all costs and against all odds, to make themes and motifs and sense and order and logic and certainty out of the utter howling void.
In that void, there is a kitchen. It is always the same kitchen. I am always there, and even though it's only a story I told myself and remembering it serves no purpose, confers no meaning, and has nothing at all to do with kitchens in the first damn place, I am always going to be eating eggs at that table and waiting for the harps to wake up.
How strange and bright are the things brains do in their dark nests, with all the chestnuts falling.
Last night I was made aware of two things: that the Sad Puppy 4 Recommendation List has been released and that I am on it, for my novella Speak Easy.
Yes, these are the same Sad Puppies that dominated fandom conversation through most of last year, and whose slates resulted in so much ink spilt, and so many No Awards given out. Yes, I am still the evil SJW Queen Bee Persian Cat Who the Hell Does She Think She Is that I was last year in the eyes of this group. I am absolutely not going to re-hash the arguments on Sad or Rabid Puppies right now. You guys know how to Google. I suggest File770 for excellent coverage.
My first reaction–and perhaps not my best reaction–was anger and confusion. I genuinely do apologize for posting my first reaction to the internet–I should know better by now. This is me, a good sleep later, trying to sort it all out logically.
I was upset because I wasn’t asked whether I was okay with being put on this list. I had thought I remembered SP saying they would ask authors for permission in the future, but it’s since been pointed out to me that my memory, as with all human cognition, is faulty, and the truth is the opposite–they, in fact, pledged not to ask permission or remove names on request.
I was immediately attacked on Twitter for this anger and confusion–aren’t I an ungrateful, horrible person for not being happy and honored that people liked my work? Aren’t I insulting my readers? Aren’t I trying to exclude certain opinions because I don’t agree with them politically? Aren’t the Puppies showing good faith by including such obviously SJW authors as myself, John Scalzi, Alyssa Wong, Nnedi Okorafor, and Ann Leckie? Shouldn’t I just sit down and shut up? Aren’t I actually the worst?
And it occurs to me that I would feel far less anger and confusion if one single person had calmly and without rancor said to me: “Hey, last year was a clusterfuck all around. This year we’re trying to put all that behind us and do a straight recommendation list. That’s all that’s going on.” But instead, it was the same instant name-calling and attacks that went down last time.
So I spent the night trying to get my thoughts in order on this. Because, yes, if you strip away all the context of the Sad Puppies campaigns, it’s just a recommendation list, and I was happy enough to be on the Locus List (which doesn’t ask permission), so I should simply be joyful that people liked Speak Easy enough to recommend others take a look at it. A recommendation list, as we have been saying all along, is not a slate.
But you can’t strip away the context. Context is content. Context is everything.
I promised last year not to allow my name on any slate, for any reason, in perpetuity. Which means that if SP4 is, somehow, a slate, it would be hypocritical of me to shrug and say I’m cool with it just because my name happens to be on it. This is where I get stuck, because I feel there is a moral morass here. Call me old-fashioned: when I give my word, it still means something to me. This puts me in an incredibly difficult position, from which there is no easy extrication.
The problem is, I spent a year listening to how the Puppies are Master Strategists. You can’t blame me for doing a Perception Roll and looking for traps. And that is my fear. That, with apologies to Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap.
I don’t want to be anyone’s shield. I want any nomination to be about my work and my work alone. I don’t want to be used to add legitimacy to a slate, I don’t want to be used to whitewash the history of a movement that, at the very minimum, has behaved poorly and rudely toward a large number of people, including me, my loved ones, and my colleagues. I don’t want to be fodder for a “we all know the first five are the real slate” strategy. I don’t want to be used as a gotcha!, forced to withdraw in order to keep my moral house in order and make room for more works along the lines of “Safe Space as Rape Room” and “Sad Puppies Bite Back” or remain on the list and force a conversation about No Awarding so that the Puppies can watch the people they targeted last year get No Awarded or call us all hypocrites at large for not doing it–victory declared at any result.
I don’t want to be used. Hashtag Not Your Shield. I want my work to be my work, and that’s it. If I get nominated, I want to know it happened fairly. That it was only about people liking my work.
And maybe, just maybe, that’s what’s happening. They seem to have done everything people said they should do to make it a recommendation list and not a slate. It’s democratic, it’s open, there are either more or less than five recs for every slot. The Rabid Puppy list has almost nothing in common with the Sad Puppy list.
But it’s absurd to get angry at someone for thinking there might be something more to it. After all the talk about manipulation and strategy, all the insults flung and accusations levied, this is the result. It is hard to trust. And it is impossible to just pull the tablecloth out from under the Sad Puppies and leave the flowers and the silver still standing. The Puppies are a political group. They specifically did what they did last year to make “SJW heads explode.” Members have engaged in racists, homophobic, and sexist rhetoric. They have stated that the last several years of Hugos, during which I won and was nominated, were a lie and a farce, only existing due to affirmative action.
But many members did not engage in that rhetoric. The relationship between Sad and Rabid was always fluid, strange, and half-obscured. Many people simply wanted more populist work on the ballot, and they had every right to want that. Every right to have their voice heard–just not to the exclusion of all other voices. No group is monolithic.
But the Sad Puppy name is inextricably entwined with that history. Remember why the Puppy was Sad in the first place. You can’t just separate that past and say it’s all fine now. You certainly can’t, as some have in messages to me, say there was never anything wrong with it and everyone else was evil. At least in terms of what I’ve seen on social media in the last 24 hours, Puppies still want to fight, still want to accuse, still don’t want to say anything in the ball park of “Hey, it’s not like that” and explain things in a non-inflammatory way. This worries me. This makes me think about Admiral Akbar.
So what do I do? Honestly, I still don’t know. My stomach hurts. At the moment, it really does look like people just liked my book. Anyone could recommend something, after all. Locus doesn’t need my permission and neither does anyone else, so requiring it from the Puppies alone, as long as it is not a slate, would be strange. I’ve been on some WEIRD rec lists in my time, I tell you what. And I will absolutely not dismiss readers because of the URL where their desires are expressed.
It all comes down to whether this recommendation list is a list or a slate.
Right now, it doesn’t look like a slate. Right now, it looks like a list complied by people with extremely wide-ranging tastes and interests. Right now, I’m inclined to try to mend fences across fandom in whatever little way I can by giving them the benefit of the doubt that this is all in good faith–because I want to be given the benefit of the doubt that I act in good faith. So for right now, that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to believe in the better angels of our–and Puppy–nature. I’m going to choose to believe that they looked at the thousand suggestions of ways to recommend books that would not run afoul of the spirit of the Hugos and adjusted their methods accordingly. I’m going to choose to believe that the political rhetoric of the Puppy movement is a thing of the past, and from here on out, it will be about what each and every one of us said it should be about–good books. Nothing else.
If this changes, if all that ugliness comes roaring back and it becomes about something other than the content of books, I will change my mind and very quickly. But for right now, I have to try to believe that things can get better. This is my Pollyanna moment. I sincerely hope I don’t regret it.
If you take anything away from all of this it should be merely that Hugo nominations close on March 31st. Nominate what you love, don’t think about anything else. Love is all that matters, in the end.
The last book in the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, comes out today.
And I’ll be talking about my book a lot over the next week while I tour the eastern half of the country. Doing the authorial dance, trying to talk people into buying this funny orange thing with a wyvern on the cover. You know the drill by now–if you like the book, tell people about it. Any way you can. That’s really all there is to it.
But I wanted to take a minute out of the publicity waltz to say something with all my heart.
Thank you to everyone who made this book real. Everyone who read Palimpsest and asked where they could find that Fairyland book I mentioned. Everyone who read and linked and donated when Fairyland was just a baby story, posted on this website every Monday. Everyone who fell in love with September and Ell and Saturday and wanted the best for them. Everyone who has ever bought a copy, come to a reading, sent me a note telling me how much the stories meant to them. Everyone who ever brought me coffee or a cross-stitch or a necklace or a hug. My family and my friends and my readers, who are both.
You are my Green Wind and my Leopard of Little Breezes. You took me to Fairyland. Gratitude doesn’t begin to cover it.
Fairyland is the real and true piece of magic in my life. It has made everything else possible. I am beyond lucky to have spent these years with September and with you. Nothing is the same as it was before the Green Wind came to that little girl’s window. I owe my whole life to those who have believed in me and my stories, to you.
I say it’s the last book in the series. But I would be shocked if I never return to this world I love so much. This is September’s story finishing–but never really finishing. Nothing ever does, you know. The curtain closes but the play never even slows down. Fairyland doesn’t stop. She just catnaps.
I hope to continue writing for a long time yet, and hopefully I’ll manage to make something else half as wonderful as a Wyverary. I hope to meet every single one of you, somehow. I’ve got a good fifty or sixty years left. It’s doable.
But in the meantime–thank you. Thank you for reading, for caring, for loving, for dreaming along with me. For being the magic in Fairyland.
It’s that time, friends. We’ve come to September’s last adventure in Fairyland – as of March 1, 2016, you can purchase The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home wherever books are sold!
All the lost Queens and Kings of Fairyland are back, and there’s to be a race to decide who gets the crown (and all attendant duties). All of our friends are back as well – our best wyverary A-Through-L, the dear Marid Saturday, the changelings Hawthorne and Tamburlaine, and, of course, the wombat Blunderbuss and the gramophone Scratch. September’s parents are even invited to this last mad dash through the wonders of Fairyland!
All they’re waiting for is you.
Before reading this last Fairyland novel, be sure to check out the prequel story “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland — For a Little While,” courtesy of Tor.com.
We also have a press kit that you can download – it even includes a bookmark-making activity! Bookstore having an event? Parent with a need for an afternoon diversion? Download the PDF here: Press kit for The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home.
(To download: right-click the download link above and choose “Save link as…” to save the file to your computer.)
Be sure to share all your thoughts and excitement over The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home on social media using the official hashtag: #LastFairyland. We can’t wait to see what you think!
And be sure to follow CMV on tour – her first stop’s in Lexington, KY at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Tuesday, March 1. There will be a Velocipede Migration (bring your bike!), a costume contest, scavenger hunt, and more! You can find the rest of her tour dates on her Appearances page.
Hello, friends of Fairyland! The last volume of September’s adventures in Fairyland will be coming to a bookstore (or device!) near you on March 1st. I know that may seem like too soon to say goodbye to September, Saturday, A-Through-L, Hawthorne, Tamerlaine, or any of the other friends we’ve made over the years… But I also recognize the eager and wicked gleam in your eye, wanting to take just one peek behind the cover before the official release.
Well, you’re in luck! Entertainment Weekly has scored an exclusive excerpt from The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. Click on the link below to read the first chapter: