Honorably mentioned

The James Tiptree Jr. Award was recently announced, and The Love We Share Without Knowing was included on the award’s Honor List. ¬†What can I say? ¬†I’m honored! ¬†The Tiptree is a wonderful award. ¬†Here are the two books that won this year (congratulations to both authors, as well as those on the honors list!), some insights from this year’s judges, as well as that aforementioned honor list:

Tiptree Winners Announced!

A gender-exploring science fiction award is presented to Patrick Ness for The Knife of Never Letting Go and Nisi Shawl for Filter House.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and Filter House by Nisi Shawl 

The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council (www.tiptree.org) is pleased to announce that the 2008 Tiptree Award has two winners: Patrick Ness’s young adult novel,¬†The Knife of Never Letting Go¬†(Walker 2008) and Nisi Shawl’s short story collection,¬†Filter House¬†(Aqueduct Press, 2008).

The Tiptree Award will be celebrated on Memorial Day weekend at WisCon in Madison, Wisconsin. Each winner will receive $1000 in prize money, an original artwork created specifically for the winning novel or story, and (as always) chocolate.

A panel of five jurors selects the Tiptree Award winners and compiles an Honor List of other works that they find interesting, relevant to the award, and worthy of note. The 2008 jurors were Gavin J. Grant (chair), K. Tempest Bradford, Leslie Howle, Roz Kaveney, and Catherynne M. Valente.

The Knife of Never Letting Go¬†begins with a boy growing up in village way off the grid. Jury chair Gavin J. Grant explains, “All the villagers can hear one another’s thoughts (their “noise”) and all the villagers are men. The boy has never seen a woman or girl so when he meets one his world is infinitely expanded as he discovers the complications of gender relations. As he travels in this newly bi-gendered world, he also has to work out the definition of becoming and being a man.”

Juror Leslie Howle praises Ness’s skills as a writer: “Ness is a craftsman, plain and simple. The language, pacing, complications, plot this story has all of the elements that raise the writing to something well beyond good. Some critics call it brilliant. It’s a page-turner, and the story continues to resonate well after reading it. It reminds me of the kind of classic SF I loved when I was new to the genre.”

In addition to the Tiptree Award,¬†The Knife of Never Letting Go¬†also won the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize (U.K.), which celebrates contemporary fiction for teenagers, and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
Publishers Weekly, which selected¬†Filter House¬†as one of the best books of 2008, described it as an “exquisitely rendered debut collection” that “ranges into the past and future to explore identity and belief in a dazzling variety of settings.” Tiptree jurors spotlight Shawl’s willingness to challenge the reader with her exploration of gender roles.¬†

Juror K. Tempest Bradford writes, “The stories in¬†Filter Houserefuse to allow the reader the comfort of assuming that the men and women will act according to the assumptions mainstream readers/society/culture puts on them.”

Juror Catherynne M. Valente notes that most of Shawl’s protagonists in this collection are young women coming to terms with womanhood and what that means “in terms of their culture, magic (almost always tribal, nuts and bolts, African-based magical systems, which is fascinating in itself), [and] technology.” In her comments, Valente points out some elements of stories that made this collection particularly appropriate for the Tiptree Award: “‘At the Huts of Ajala’ struck me deeply as a critique of beauty and coming of age rituals. The final story, ‘The Beads of Ku,’ deals with marriage and motherhood and death. ‘Shiomah’s Land’ deals with the sexuality of a godlike race, and a young woman’s liberation from it. ‘Wallamellon’ is a heartbreaking story about the Blue Lady, the folkloric figure invented by Florida orphans, and a young girl pursuing the Blue Lady straight into a kind of urban priestess-hood.”
The Tiptree Award Honor List is a strong part of the award identity and is used by many readers as a recommended reading list for the rest of the year. This year’s Honor List is:

  • Christopher Barzak, The Love We Share Without Knowing (Bantam, 2008)
  • Jenny Davidson, The Explosionist (HarperTeen, 2008)
  • Gregory Frost, Shadowbridge and Lord Tophet: A Shadowbridge Novel (both published by Del Rey, 2008)
  • Alison Goodman, Two Pearls of Wisdom (HarperCollins Australia 2008), published in the United States as Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Viking 2008), also Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye in the United Kingdom
  • John Kessel, Pride or Prometheus (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 2008)
  • Margo Lanagan, Tender Morsels (Knopf, 2008)
  • Ursula K. Le Guin, Lavinia (Harcourt)
  • John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In (Quercus (UK) 2007), original Swedish¬†in (2004), first published in English as Let Me In, St. Martin’s Press (2007), Translated by Ebba Segerberg)
  • Paul Park, A Princess of Roumania (Tor, 2005), The Tourmaline (Tor, 2006), The White Tyger (Tor, 2007), The Hidden World (Tor, 2008)
  • Ekaterina Sedia, The Alchemy of Stone (Prime Books)
  • Ali Smith, Girl Meets Boy (Canongate U.S., 2007)
  • Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) (Harcourt, 2008)

Return of the sun

Very little to say except it is gorgeous outside. ¬†Every day it seems things get a little brighter, a bit greener, and everything is beginning to smell like flowers. ¬†It’s about time. ¬†It wasn’t a terribly snowy winter here this year, but it was cold as usual. ¬†I have a tendency to grow gloomy in the winter after a while, so this year I gave myself a course of vitamins, hoping it would counter the effect that grey prison wall skies have on me, and though I did notice a difference, which was very welcome, there was still a bit of struggle to get through. ¬†I’m going to be spending a lot of time outdoors this summer. ¬†If only you could store light somewhere in your body to use during the dark months. ¬†Scientists, get on it!¬†

I have one more week of classes to teach, then several days of constant evaluation for grading, and then I’ll have a bit more time to myself than usual. ¬†I’ll be doing some coursework of my own this summer, and working on my book, of course, so I certainly won’t be entirely free to wander through the summer months as if they’re endless. ¬†I’ll be staying in Pittsburgh for quite a bit of time, actually, but it’ll be a bit of a break from the usual, and I’m looking forward to exploring that city more than I already have, getting to know it better. ¬†

Other than this, I have a bit of good news to announce soonish, as soon as some paperwork is filed. ¬†But mum’s the word till then.

Happy return of the sun.

Another satisfied reader

A few weeks back I was inspired to have a book giveaway and today another review from that giveaway has appeared.  An excerpt:

Is this a sad novel, given that a few of the stories focus on suicide and many on death?  In some ways, yes.  It’s even deeper than that, though, as it shows us how many people from all different walks of life can feel the exact same thing without realizing it.  That’s where the title comes in; all these people share love without knowing.  I can’t say it made me sad, though.  It made me thoughtful and it astonished me with its power.

I’m crazy happy that the book, despite much of the content being related to loss and absence, did not make this reader feel sad or depressed because of it. ¬†That’s what I was really hoping for.

You can read the whole thing here.

Writing a novel

I am writing a novel. ¬†I’ve written one other novel, and a novel-in-stories. ¬†They both took me a decent amount of time to write, but for some reason in my memory I can’t remember how difficult it was to write them. ¬†I think this must be something akin to what I’ve heard from some of my women friends who have had babies. ¬†After you’ve given birth, slowly but surely, you forget how painful it was, and soon enough you find yourself pregnant again, and it’s only while pregnant that you remember all of the discomfort and then of course the, well, labor. ¬†The work that goes into bringing something into being.

It’s obviously an overused metaphor for the creative act, but I find it apt; and the more books I make, the more it feels resonant, particularly the part about labor and discomfort. ¬†When I’m writing a book, I tend to get spacey. ¬†I’m thinking about the book even when I’m having a conversation with someone. ¬†I forget to eat meals. ¬†I have to leave notes for myself to remind me to go to the gym, to buy groceries, return a library book, pay bills. ¬†My talking-to-myself periods go on the rise. ¬†No, I’m not singing a song in my car when you pull up beside me and see my mouth moving through the window. ¬†I’m probably enacting a bit of dialogue between two or more characters and trying to see if it sounds right when said aloud.

My life, when writing a novel, tends to be lived half here, in this world, and half there, in the world of the story I’m writing. ¬†It may sound interesting or romantic to some, but it’s really a sort of annoyance, to me at least. ¬†Life is lived much easier when one can focus, when there is not a pull for attention between so many varying people, real and imagined. ¬†But beyond all that, I’ve found, in writing this third novel, just how much you really do learn how to write a novel all over again with each new book. ¬†They all have their own rules, their own characters and plots, their own magical essence. ¬†And you can only try to respectfully figure out how to tell them as they must be told. ¬†I know this isn’t how every, or maybe even a lot of, writers think of making a story, but it’s the way it feels, as a process of creation, to me. ¬†

I started the book I’m working on during the summer of 2004, then moved to Japan, where I promptly put it away to begin the book I published this past year. ¬†When I came home two years later, finished with the book I wrote in Japan, I wrote a few short stories, then turned back to look at the beginning of this novel. ¬†It was a strange experience, seeing the beginning of this book with new eyes after a couple of years in Japan (the same way it felt coming back to Ohio, after a couple of years of elsewhere). ¬†But I quickly got interested in it again, and started writing forward in it. ¬†And have been ever since. Granted, there have been periods in the past few years since I took it up again where I worked on other things (revisions of first and second book, pre-publication, for instance, as well as writing the occasional story), but I kept coming back to this new book after any of those projects were brought to completion.

But the going back and forth between projects has definitely stretched out my writing process with this book, as well as provided me with plentiful insights into my writing as I’m doing it in this way that has given me periods of pause to come back to the book and continually see it almost with a bit more distance than I usually have when creating a first draft. ¬†

But it’s also been frustrating, wanting to sink down into the story for days on end, rather than working on it in carefully collected hours and minutes. ¬†And it’s made the feeling of labor sometimes a bit more conscious than I’ve felt at other times. ¬†Probably because it’s taking longer.

In any case, I’m over the 80k mark and well on my way into the last third of the book, which is a good feeling. ¬†And already full of ideas for revision to earlier chapters, so I think the transition from finished first draft to rewrite and revision will go smoothly when that time comes.

It’s been a trickier book for me to figure out, too, as I gave myself some new things to figure out how to do in a book, and they’ve definitely presented me with challenges. ¬†I know that as soon as I finish it, I’ll fondly remember writing it, because it will be over, but right now I want to take the opportunity to leave myself this little message, in which I can perhaps remind a future me that, if he should decide to write yet another book after this one, don’t expect it to be a totally painless experience.

And if I choose to do it again with that in mind, well, bon voyage, future me.

Fail, fail again.

UPDATED at bottom

Apparently since February, Amazon.com has been de-ranking books that are gay-themed in some way, thus basically making them unsearchable as titles on the site, and taking them out of the view of potential readers. ¬†I don’t have the “facts” on this, but it does seem to be true. ¬†There are many titles on their site that have no ranking and they are all oriented to homosexuality in some way. ¬†Some of these books that have been de-ranked are classics and modern classics. ¬†It’s one of the most absurd and “no way” inducing occurrences I’ve witnessed, and it’s causing quite an outrage, at least in the blogosphere, which I hope forces this company to make a statement about this not so easily swept under the rug “glitch,” which I’m sure they will attempt to call it once enough backlash reaches their doors.

Yes, this is America, home of the free.

Not.

This is 1950s censorship rising up in an internet age guise. ¬†Recognize this stuff when you see it, and don’t just shake your head and say, wow, that’s terrible. ¬†It’s a silencing that is occurring right before our eyes, and without enough voices to rail against it, the offenders get away with it. ¬†

Last month it was Race Fail. This is being called Amazon fail, on the Twitter boards. ¬†Why not Gay Fail, like Race Fail? ¬†I don’t know. ¬†But there you have it. ¬†Failure, failure, failure, any way you look at it. ¬†Unless enough people push back to turn a failure into a success.

You can sign an online petition against this by clicking here.

Or simply go to Amazon’s contact page and write them a letter denouncing this sort of behavior.

You can read a better article about it here, which includes a sample list of books that have been deranked, as well as a list of books that haven’t been deranked. ¬†Apparently this deranking is being done under the premise that these books are “adult”. ¬†Well, then. ¬†Why hasn’t Playboy been deranked? ¬†And a lot more hot and bothered hetero-oriented materials?

Let’s hope it’s rectified. ¬†But I don’t think anything they’ll say will really explain this in a satisfying, completely believable manner.

CNET news has a good lowdown on the event here.

All that said, my logical faculties still can’t believe that this would be purposeful. ¬†It just seems so stupid.

Wabi-Sabi

A friend wrote today to say, “I read your new book finally. ¬†It’s very wabi-sabi.” ¬†And more, of course. ¬†But if she’d said nothing else but that it was very wabi-sabi, I would have been elated. ¬†It’s the descriptor that I feel captures The Love We Share Without Knowing, and in a more American way, even One for Sorrow. ¬†I hadn’t come across the term before I moved to Japan in 2004. ¬†When I did encounter this word, though, and learned about its aesthetic system and meaning, it felt like I’d finally found a name for the way I look at the world, I think, which comes through, of course, in my stories.

No clue what Wabi-sabi means? ¬†Go here. ¬†It’s a decent background.