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.

 

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Off to the Nebs

Off to the Nebula Awards weekend in Cocoa Beach, Florida tomorrow morning. This is the second time I’ve been nominated for a Nebula. The first time was in 2007 for my novelette, The Language of Moths, which you can read by clicking here if you missed it when it came out (I really need to publish a short story collection. Okay, I don’t *need* to, but I would *like* to). It’s always exciting to be nominated for such a wonderful award as the Nebula. I plan to enjoy the weekend no matter what.

Until I’m back, here’s an awesome pre-Nebula Weekend review of the nominated novels from Real Change News. My book is one of their favorites.  An excerpt:

The 2009 Nebula Awards, awarded to science fiction and fantasy writers by their colleagues, will be announced the weekend of May 13 – 16. Interestingly, there’s no space travel in the six nominees for best novel. Two are set in the present, one in the past and only two on other worlds.

My favorite candidates share a theme — how culture shapes our perception of reality. “The Love We Share without Knowing” by Christopher Barzak is a sweet meditation on human connection. Marketed as a fantasy, it could be magical realism. Its finely crafted language evokes the meaning in everyday events.

Barzak explores relationships among Japanese citizens and American expatriates after the events of 9/11. None of the characters knows everyone in the book, but all are affected by each other. The themes of cultural shock and alienation explore how we are alone in our connection and connected in our loneliness. Barzak sums it up in his final lines: “The fireflies glow off and on in the mist-covered fields, calling out, Here I am, waiting for another light to appear in the darkness. Here I am, one calls to another. Come find me.”

See you all in a few.

Q&A

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!

Dear Reader

There are so many reasons for writing.  For me, I take pleasure in design for the sake of design.  The perfect melding–or even if not perfect, the interesting melding–of various materials into a shape that catches the eye of the mind as the words flare during the process of interpretation and become fireworks, emotional surges, and flashes of insight, in a reader’s imagination as well as my own.

But there are other reasons beyond design itself.  Many reasons.  I was reminded of one last night, after coming home from the latest event I put on for the Ytown Reading Series with my students.  This message was waiting for me in my inbox:

After hearing about the Nebula nomination, I went out and bought your book for my Kindle.

I’m about 60% through it and wanted to tell you I’m really enjoying it. It wasn’t what I expected (the SF ghetto tends to follow certain rules), but I have been very pleasantly surprised.  After I’m done reading it, I’ll probably read it to my wife.  I hope that isn’t a problem.

Normally my wife would get the Audible edition, but it doesn’t look like there’s a audible version for me to buy for her.  So she’ll get me, instead.

I’m always touched to hear from readers who have enjoyed, appreciated, or found something they were looking for, sometimes desperately, in one of my stories or books.  And each time I hear from them, I’m reminded of what else writing is inherently about:  other people.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of writing for one’s self.  I do that when I’m fascinated in the process of writing as a reader myself.  Writing as a reader is something I do.  I’m often telling myself stories as I write, experiencing the act of writing as a reader, existing in dual levels of the process at the same time, making and interpreting as I create.  But it’s other people, not just myself, that will hopefully, eventually, read what I’ve made.  And hopefully will find something they’ve wanted or craved or needed, even without knowing it, when they do read what I’ve written.  Those are the kinds of books I love most, to be surprised that I wanted something without realizing what it is I’ve thirsted for.

I try not to be materialistic:  to not seek after the fame and the riches, to not be jealous or envious of those who are rewarded richly in publicity and recognition and money for their writing.  But reading over this reader’s message today, after being reminded of the importance of connecting with others through my work, I also realized that it’s hard to connect without my writing being somehow recognized, as the Nebula nomination lead him to seek out my work, a book he would never have heard of if not for the award.  I’ve recently found bloggers and Twitterers talking about my book’s nomination as well.  Some had already read it, and exclaimed giddily how happy they were that the book had been nominated for the award.  Others confess to the book having eluded their awareness, and after reading it were surprised that it had been so overlooked or unnoticed.

I don’t want to desire recognition or to be known, mainly because I don’t want to be beholden to desire.  But I do understand now more than ever that recognitions like the Nebula nomination are how those other people, readers who may be waiting for my words and don’t know that my books even exist, discover my stories and books.

I’m looking forward to discovering more of my readers in the future as well, the people I don’t know exist, who don’t know that I exist yet either. I hope someday that we can be brought together in that space where words fire and flare.

Attention Seattle (once more)

For those readers out and about in Seattle, I recently mentioned I’ll be reading at University Bookstore on March 12th at 7PM and hosting a one-day workshop at Richard Hugo House on March 14th from 10-5. If you click the link below, you can find a pdf flyer for the events. Please feel free to distribute it to anyone you think may be interested in attending the reading or the workshop. I’d love to meet Seattle, so please come out!

Reading and Workshop Information

Thank you

Still glowing with excitement to have had my book nominated for the Nebula Award this year, I’ve been thinking back to when I first started to be serious about writing.  I guess the nomination has put me into a bit of a mood to think about where I started as well as where I am in my writing life.  I can still remember exchanging letters with the writer Mary Rosenblum, who actually wrote me back when I sent her a fan letter, and encouraged me with my writing.  And going to a week long writing workshop in Cleveland one summer, when I was nineteen, as a decision to put myself into a situation that I didn’t feel like I could get so easily back home in Youngstown:  into the company of other people who are all in love with doing this thing, making stories up and telling them to other people, and trying to make them as well as they can.  I met Karen Joy Fowler there, and James Patrick Kelly, who asked me how a farm boy from Ohio decided he wanted to be a writer, and I said even I didn’t really know how it happened, it was just with me since I can remember, an urgent desire to tell stories, to live in my imagination for a part of every day of my life, and a love of language and the way it can be shaped into so many different forms and voices.   He told me he thought I could do this, and I’m pretty sure I looked at him like he must have something wrong with him.  Who would think that about me? I wondered.  Sometimes I still do.

It was Jim and Karen and then Jonathan Lethem, who I met the following summer at the same workshop, who encouraged me to apply to a six week long writing workshop for speculative fiction writers called Clarion.  I can remember trying to make excuses not to apply, because Clarion had such an amazing reputation, and I didn’t think I could possibly be the sort of writer who they would find to be worthy of being there.  Jim continued to politely remind me over the course of the next year, in e-mails, to apply.  Eventually, at the last minute, I did.  And was accepted.   And when I spent those six weeks in the company of writers doing nothing but writing and critiquing each others work, and talking about our favorite authors and their work, I really just knew it was where I wanted to be ever after.  If I could.

I started publishing short stories afterward, first in the little but mighty zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, which Gavin Grant and Kelly Link were just then starting up and it was already building a following of excited readers.  Soon after that, my first professionally published story was in the online magazine, Strange Horizons.  Terri Windling selected it to be included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and then Scott Westerfeld selected a story of mine for the Nerve issue of speculative fiction.  It was a very exciting time in my life, and in many ways this nomination for the Nebula Award has made me feel that same kind of excitement I had when I was first introduced and accepted into a community of writers and began to publish.  It’s reminded me once again how fortunate I am to be a part of the speculative fiction community, which has nurtured and helped me not only to grow as a writer over the years but as a person.  It’s become a part of my life, even if, as one of my early spec fic writing mentors told me, “You don’t really do this in a way that most people will be expecting, but that’s also a good thing.”  He was referring to the kinds of stories I write and the way that I tell them, but I was welcomed to the party all the same.  That kind of generosity is one of the most amazing features of this particular writing community.

So it’s been a wild ride, and I hope for it to be able to continue for as long as possible, and I’m pleased as can be that my little novel-in-stories is on that list with some of those Big Idea heavy hitters that have garnered well-earned praise in the past year since they’ve appeared.  It feels, in a way, like a milestone, and I’m honored to be among them, and all of the writers of SFWA, who have made the second part of my life a writing life, and one that has taken me places I might not have gone had I not met and been befriended by such awesome folks as these.

2009 Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards Nominees for this year have been announced, and to my excitement and surprise, my novel-in-stories, The Love We Share Without Knowing, has been nominated in the novel category!  I’m very honored to be named among these other authors and titles.  Now I will go squee in private.

SFWA is proud to announce the nominees for the 2009 Nebula Awards.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of  SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet the evening of May 15 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center in Fla. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.

Short story
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
“I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov08)
“Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
“Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
“Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jun09)
“Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan09)

Novelette
“The Gambler,” Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct08)
“Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jul08)
“I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said,” Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec09)
“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Eugie Foster (Apex Online, Nov09)
“Divining Light,” Ted Kosmatka (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Aug08)
“A Memory of Wind,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com, Nov09)

Novella
The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
“Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
“Act One,” Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar09)
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
“Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford (Jason Sanford, Nov09)
The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean Press, Dec09)

Novel
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

Bradbury Award
Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount, May09)
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug09)
Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec 09)
Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, Jun09)
Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May09)
Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus Feb09)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
Ash, by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown & Company, Sep09)
Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

For more information, visit www.nebulaawards.com or www.sfwa.org

Opposition

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

Opposition

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
1895-1975

Translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite

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)