Nebula Awards Interview

Last year I was a nominee in the category of Best Novel for the Nebula Awards.  An interview was conducted then, and has just recently been posted on the Nebula Awards site.  Please go over and give it a read.  I can’t even remember what I said now, though!

A photo of me singing karaoke in a Japanese karaoke pub is included.  I couldn’t resist, considering the interview centered around a novel set in Japan, which I wrote while living there (singing karaoke regularly). 🙂

You can read it by clicking here.



Joseph Mallozzi hosts a book of the month club over at his very popular blog.  This month The Love We Share Without Knowing is the selection.  Joe posted a great response to the book and then opened the comments section up for questions from his fellow readers.  Today my responses went up.  We talked about all sorts of things:  genre writing versus literary, Japan, my life there, the making of my book.  If you’re interested you should teleport over to Joe’s original post on the book, and then move onto the Q&A post.

Thanks again, Joe.  It was fun!

Looking up

There is a bird in the tree outside my window, singing the same two notes over and over, and I’m beginning to see green appear in patches as the snow melts.

On Twitter, I can practice Japanese in small bites, which keeps me fresh.  Letter writing, at this point, takes too much out of me.  So, Japanese friends, if you are on Twitter, we can tweet in Japanese.  It’s the perfect way for me to keep my Japanese while I’m too busy with teaching and taking classes and book writing to write long letters.

I wrote a story for a new Young Adult anthology that is being edited by Holly Black of Spiderwick fame, and Ellen Kushner of Swordspoint fame, eventually to be released by Random House.  The anthology is called Welcome to Bordertown, and is based on the 80s and 90s series set in that world that the amazing artist and writer and editor Terri Windling invented.  The story is called “We Do Not Come In Peace” which involves an act of terror/revolution by a group of angry folks and a case of vengeful blackmail.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories from the other contributors.

Life is good.  Back to work and writing.


I’m thinking about this tonight, before a reading I’m doing here at Chatham University in another hour:


In my youth
I was opposed to school.
And now, again,
I’m opposed to work.

Above all it is health
And righteousness that I hate the most.
There’s nothing so cruel to man
As health and honesty.

Of course I’m opposed to the Japanese spirit
And duty and human feeling make me vomit.
I’m against any government anywhere
And show my bum to authors and artists circles.

When I’m asked for what I was born,
Without scruple, I’ll reply, To oppose.
When I’m in the east
I want to go to the west.

I fasten my coat at the left, my shoes right and left.
My hakama I wear back to front and I ride a horse facing its buttocks.
What everyone else hates I like
And my greatest hate of all is people feeling the same.

This I believe: to oppose
Is the only fine thing in life.
To oppose is to live.
To oppose is to get a grip on the very self.

Kaneko Mitsuharu

Translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite

26 to 50

While I was in Pittsburgh, I received news from Japanese translator Yoshio Kobayashi, alerting me to a new website (in both English and Japanese), called 26 to 50. The site will host fiction, reviews, interviews, discussion, news, etc. about the field of fantastic literature.  Right now the site has short interviews with Lucius Shepard, Tim Pratt,Gordon Van Gelder, Alan Deniro, Ben Rosenbaum, myself, and others about a prospective “generation gap or lack there of” in the genre. It looks like the site may be a good place for English language spec fic and Japanese spec fic to change hands, always a nice bridge to cross.  It’s worth checking out, so get to it.

On the other side of the world…

I used to get annoyed by this sound by the end of summer, but right now I sort of miss it.  Maybe because summer has begun.

Of course, here I have a virtual aviary surrounding me, which I would surely miss if I were on the other side of the world again for long.  Such is the price for making homes for yourself in multiple places.  


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.

Dreaming backwards

In another month and a half it will be three years since I returned home from Japan. Some days it feels as if I just got back.  I’m not sure of what that’s an indication, other than my life became the busiest it has ever been for the past couple of years, and perhaps that’s why it sometimes feels as if I just got back.  The passage of time feels as if it slows down when we move through it quickly.  I remember soon after coming home in 2006, perhaps just a month after I came home, I was at Wiscon in Madison, Wisconsin, and my friend Karen Fowler asked if it (my life in Japan) was starting to feel as if it were a dream.  I think I nodded and said yes.  But it was the wrong answer.  It was how I was feeling at the very moment, about being home again.  So her statement made sense to me because of that, but I was out of sorts. I can see now how out of sorts I was when I returned home for the first six months to a year, really, in retrospect.  It wasn’t Japan that felt like a dream, it was America. I felt as if I were stumbling through a very foreign landscape that was still somehow familiar.  My center of “home” had shifted, the foliage of my life and the meaning attached to seasons, flowers, trees, rivers, mountains, had all changed.  I had temples in my mind, not churches.  I visited shrines, not memorials.  There were a plethora of icons from folklore talked about on a more regular basis in Japan, and many gods surrounding you in so many ways.  Coming back to America felt as if I were stepping into a much smaller world, despite it being a much bigger country.  So it was a feeling of being in a dream I was having, not a feeling of my life in Japan as a dream.  I can see now what the difference was.

I can see now what the difference was because enough time has passed, enough time that my life in Japan has passed into feeling as if it were a dream.  Enough time has passed so that when I think of my memories of being there, I see myself almost as if I were watching someone else in my memories, as if I’m reading a story in the third person.  Enough time has passed that I’m sure I’ve forgotten a lot of things. Which was the thing I unconsciously knew when I returned to America that I would someday do, the thing I unconsciously, obsessively fought against.  I brought with me absolutely everything that consisted of my daily self. I refused to buy new clothes on a regular basis.  I still wear articles of clothing that I’ve worn out.  I have shelves devoted to housing souvenirs I picked up in various places while living there. I reread novels I read for the first time then.  I continue to make Japanese meals that I once made on a daily basis.  I learn how to make new recipes for things I never learned how to make while living there, so that I can properly taste and smell something that I haven’t tasted or smelled in years.  It is all a kind of attendance to someone who is passing away, a kind of nourishing, a desire to keep memory alive for as long a possible.  Here, have this soup.  When you drink it, you will remember the first time you had it at Masako’s apartment.  Here, wear this sweater. It will remind you of the store in which you purchased it, and the word of welcome used by the women who worked there.  Listen to this CD.  You heard that music at a festival once.  The sound of drumming, the shine of lantern light on the sweaty faces of men and boys dressed in traditional garb, spinning a wagon full of musicians and dancers through the streets.  

I have a hard time remembering Japan sometimes.  It’s difficult to access memory as you grow more and more distant from the place and the people with whom you made those memories.  But I can will myself back there despite that difficulty, with a concentrated effort.  It’s easier to do at night, when I’m becoming sleepy, and I sit back in bed, close my eyes, and think myself back into my last apartment there, remember the tiny heater that kept me warm in winter, remember ordinary things, like the canister of fuel I kept on the balcony, the smell of kerosene when it was time for refueling, the tiny burner I cooked on in a narrow hallway of a kitchen, or the deep and wide closet that held almost everything I owned at that time.  The smell of cedar in the woods around my first apartment, the feel of tatami mat beneath my bare feet.  And then suddenly there is the old man who bicycled past my place every afternoon as I returned from work, encouraging me with my learning of Japanese, inviting me to play tennis with him.  And the little girl who fell off her bike as she rode past one evening, who I picked up as she was crying, still startled by the fall for minutes despite not having hurt herself, asking in Japanese if she’s okay, hoping that a foreign man who must surely look frighteningly strange to her wouldn’t make her cry harder, and her completely unafraid response, “I’m okay now, thank you.”   The boys I ran with after school each weekday, in the sandy lot behind the school.  The teachers in the teachers office, chatting away throughout the day with one another, holding conversation over the desktops.  The cup of hot green tea that I’d find on my desk each morning on my arrival.  The first conversation I held in Japanese:  with a second grade boy who had asked me how I liked Japan, and if I missed America.  Him nodding knowingly as I told him I liked Japan but sometimes I did miss America.  The realization that he couldn’t speak English, so how had we held our conversation?  Why had I heard him in my head in English, despite him obviously speaking Japanese?  And then when I tell him, again in Japanese, that I think I’m starting to understand his language, he and his friends all raise their tiny fists in the air and cheer for me.  

Now, though, in these moments of dreaming backwards, they’re no longer cheering because I’ve begun to understand them.   They’re cheering because I’ve managed to make my way back to them again, if only for a visit.

Palin san megane

Dear Japanese readers who find my blog using the terms “Palin glasses” (in Japanese, of course):

Those glasses are not cool.  Not cool at all, yo!  Kakko yokunai!

By the way, since changing laptops to a MacBook, I’ve lost my Japanese language tool kit, which allowed me to type in Japanese, and I don’t know where to locate one for a Mac.  Does anyone out there know where I should look online for one?  Any suggestions are much appreciated.

Arigatou, in advance.