Jamie Marks is Dead released!

Last night I had the pleasure of watching Jamie Marks is Dead, the movie based on my first novel, One for Sorrow, in Cleveland, Ohio, with a bunch of friends and family. It was so good to finally have others who I’m close to, people from my community, see it as well. Before it had felt a little bit like Big Bird’s relationship with Mr. Snuffleupagus. No, really, there is a movie out there adapted from my novel! It’s not just imaginary!

Here is me and the director/screenwriter, Carter Smith, who made a surprise guest appearance to do Q&A with me after the screening.

Me and Carter

The film debuted as one of sixteen competitors in the dramatic category at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. From there it went on to screen this past summer at Newfest in NYC and Outfest in LA. Now it’s in a limited theatrical release in major cities, as well as also available on video on demand platforms.

Here are the cities where it’s playing:


And here are the video on demand platforms where you can purchase it or rent it to watch in your own home:

I hope as many of you out there as possible can watch it too. It’s really a dream of a film. I mean that. It feels like a dream, or a nightmare, that you wake up from more than a conventional film. When the Washington Post reviewed my novel when it first came out, they said, “Traveling through this story with Adam is like a nightmare, but the kind that fascinates you so deeply that when you wake up, you grab the first person you see and tell him about it.” The film feels that way to me too. So I hope you enjoy the pleasures of dream logic. 

The New York Times recently reviewed the film incredibly favorably. I hope you find it as fascinating as others are finding it. 

Wonders of the Invisible World goes to Knopf!

I have good news (following on the heels of a rough past two months). Today it was announced that my next novel, Wonders of the Invisible World has been acquired by Knopf Books for Young Readers!

Here’s the announcement in Publishers Weekly:

Melanie Cecka at Knopf has acquired a debut YA novel from adult novelist Christopher Barzak, called Wonders of the Invisible World. In it, a teenager must unravel a generations-old family curse before it destroys those he loves. Publication is set for fall 2015; Barry Goldblatt of Barry Goldblatt Literary brokered the deal for North American rights.

To say the least: yeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssss!!!!!!

Andre Norton Award Jury Duty

While I already announced this on Facebook and Twitter , I thought I should mention it here on my blog, too, in case someone out there doesn’t keep up with my doings in the socializing networkings of the internet.

I’ll be serving as a juror for the 2012 Andre Norton Award, which honors outstanding science fiction and fantasy Young Adult and Middle Grade books.  Feel free to contact me by email if you have recommendations!

Official announcement from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America follows:

The 2012 Andre Norton Award committee has been chosen, and will begin accepting books for consideration. Any young adult/middle grade prose or graphic novel first published in English in 2012 is eligible.

The judges are:

Victoria McManus (chair)
Christopher Barzak
Merrie Haskell
Eugene Myers
Carrie Vaughn

The committee will consider all submitted young adult and middle grade books until January 31st, 2013. The award will be presented at the 48th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend in San Jose, California, on May 18.

For submission information, please contact Victoria McManus at: victoriamcmanus@yahoo.com

The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, named to honor prolific science fiction and fantasy author AndreNorton (1912–2005), is a yearly award presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) to the author of an outstanding young adult or middle grade science fiction or fantasy book published in the previous year. The award was established in 2005 by then SFWA president Catherine Asaro and the first SFWA Young Adult Fiction committee and announced on February 20, 2005. The first Norton Award (for the year 2006) was bestowed during the Nebula Awards ceremonies on May 11–13, 2007.

Taking Stock: 2011

Well, it’s that time again.  End of the year and all.  Every year I try to write down the various things I’ve done–written, published, won, been nominated for, sold for the future, etc–and lay it out like I might in a proper journal.  It’s been a while since I’ve kept a proper journal, but most likely those who read this can tell I pop up regularly when university is not in session, and when it is in session…well, I’m usually up to my ears with work to sit down and gather my thoughts about myself and what I’m working on (or wishing I could be working on) as easily.

Still…I am on break (even though I need to write a loooooong document narrating just why exactly I should be tenured next year–still pretending I don’t have to do that for another day or two) and will take the time instead to write this, for myself.

This past year I published four short stories, each of which presented their own challenges, some due to the genre necessary to work within, some because I did that thing where I followed a voice–one line alone that set me going–and chased it until the end.  Which is a difficult and challenging sort of story to write, because you have to trust your instincts instead of toying with your knowledge of a particular genre and its conventions–that has its own challenges, but uncertainty is generally not one of them, because you have those conventions of a particular genre there, acting as sort of guideposts to the territory those genres have conquered and the rules they’ve established for the conduct of their citizens.

The first story to be in 2011 arrived in the April/May issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction.  “Smoke City” was one of those stories I chased after, by voice alone.  Here is its first paragraph:

One night, I woke to the sound of my mother’s voice, as I did when I was a child.  The words were familiar to my ear, they matched the voice that formed them, but it was not until I had opened my eyes to the dark of my room and my husband’s snoring that I remembered the words were calling me away from my warm bed and the steady breathing of my children, both asleep in their own rooms across the hall.  “Because I could not stop for death,” my mother used to tell me, “he kindly stopped for me.”  They were Dickinson’s words, of course, not my mother’s, but she said them as if they were hers, and because of that, they were hers, and because of that, they are now mine, passed down with every other object my mother gave me before I left for what I hoped would be a better world.  “Here, take this candy dish.”  Her hands pushing the red knobbed glass into my hands.  “Here, take this sweater.”  Her hands folding it, a made thing, pulled together by her hands, so that I could lift it and lay it on the seat as my car pulled me away.  Her hand lifted into the air above her cloud of white hair behind me.  The smoke of that other city enveloping her, putting it behind me, trying to put it behind me, until I had the words in my mouth again, like a bit, and then the way opened up beneath me, a fissure through which I slipped, down through the bed sheets, no matter how I grasped at them, down through the mattress, down through the floorboards, down, down, down, through the mud and earth and gravel, leaving my snoring husband and my steadily breathing children above, in that better place, until I was floating, once more, along the swiftly flowing current of the Fourth River. 

“Smoke City” was written after I’d read a bottom-up history of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called The Point of Pittsburgh, by Charles McCollester, which began at its geological foundations and moved forward to the present.  I read all 500 pages in a couple of nights, and because I took it in so quickly, I began to dream about the history of the place, but in that typically surrealist fashion that dreams take on.  I was mostly caught up with the Guilded Age, when the steel industry had both made the place wealthy and ruined at the same time.  The depiction of the city was mostly in line with what many imagine Hell to look like.  And while I was reading it, I kept thinking, this is the same time period that Steampunk often settles in, but most steampunk stories and books I’ve read seem to revolve around the lives of movers and shakers, people in power or who have access to power, rather than those on the bottom, toiling for others.  “Smoke City” came out of meditating on our connections to that period of time.  The writer Paul Cornell (of Dr. Who fame!) called it “a furious critique of Steampunk.”  Thank you, Mr. Cornell!

The second story was “Gap Year” in the Ellen Datlow/Terri Windling edited anthology, Teeth.  This was also a voice oriented piece for me, but because the anthology was dictated by the genre of vampire stories, and vampire stories specifically in the category of YA fiction, I had a lot of those guideposts I mentioned earlier to work with.  Working within particular genres and within particular age categories does create a certain amount of things to push off from, or interact with.  You know the type of story you’re telling, and even if it’s as diverse as vampire fiction is, it’s all still there to work with:  you’re not creating out of a void, you’re not following a voice and hoping it leads you to gold instead of nowhere.  Here’s the first paragraph of “Gap Year”:

When the vampires came to town, there was an assembly in the high school gymnasium.  Retta and Lottie sat next to each other on the bleachers, like they did every day in study hall, their hands folded between their pressed-together knees.  The three vampires who stood on the stage had something to tell them.  “We’re people, too,” said the head vampire, if that’s what you call a vampire who speaks for other vampires.  He couldn’t have been more than eighteen.  A splash of freckles on his face.  Mousy brown fauxhawk.  A tight, too-short Pixies concert t-shirt showing off a strip of skin above the waistband of his boxers.  He wore jeans with a snakeskin belt hanging loose in the loops.  If you saw him in the hallway, you wouldn’t suspect him of being a vampire.  Retta and Lottie weren’t sure if they suspected him of being a vampire now, even though he said he was.

You can probably tell that the voice of this piece is just a tad bit ironic.  I think I went for the ironic voice because so much YA vampire fiction takes itself sooooo seriously, to the degree that it sometimes hurts to read it.  And also because a lot of vampires in vampire fiction have seemed to have lost their sense of danger, and can come out in the daytime nowadays, I thought they’d lost a bit of their allure (for me).  So I began writing a story where vampires are out, and fairly boring to the rest of society.  Until Retta, the heroine of the story, discovers what being a vampire can mean for herself.

That’s the fun part of working within established genre conventions:  finding ways to twist what’s already there, to write against the grain instead of with it, looking for something new.

The third story of the year appeared in Holly Black’s and Ellen Kushner’s anthology Welcome to Bordertown.  The anthology is a reintroduction to the Bordertown world created by Terri Windling in the 80s and 90s for the new generation.  I was thrilled to be invited to write in this world, as it was one I entered into with great excitement as a teen reader.  The writing process for this story is somewhat related to how I went about writing “Gap Year”.  Instead of working with a particular genre and its conventions, however, working in Bordertown provided me with the conventions of a particular world to write within.  And with any world, there are rules and regulations.  They can be broken, or twisted, of course, but you have to know them in order to break and twist them.  When it came to writing this story, I wanted to approach some of the aspects of the race and class strife that was always part of the ambient energy in Bordertown–creatures of the fae world living side by side with humans, and those born of the relationship between the fae and humans–in a fairly direct way.  So I created the character of Marius, a late teen from the human world who came to Bordertown several years before the “Way” between Bordertown and the World closed off.  So any potential for him to return to the life he fled–rejection from his family after coming out to them–was closed off as well.  When the Way reopens, all sorts of newcomers from the World arrive, and one of them is Aleksander (or “Mouse” as he comes to be called), a young man who is ready to take on Bordertown and its various social ills almost like an Occupy Wallstreeter.   Here’s the first paragraph:

I saw him again tonight, while out walking the streets of Soho: Alek or Aleksander, whatever it is he’s called now.  He’s had plenty of names since I first knew him when he arrived almost a year ago, fresh and green from the World.  One of the newcomers after the Way reopened.  Mouse.  Alek.  Aleksander.  Voice of the Nameless, voice for those who drink from the river whose waters curse them to return to it daily to forget their troubles, those who came and didn’t find what they’d been told would be a glorious place free of the World’s restrictions, where they could be themselves more than anywhere and wouldn’t have to fight for it.


Clearly, Marius is a bit jaded and cynical.  But he has a happier ending than the one he expects.

Finally, the last story of the year appeared in Apex Magazine.  “The 24 Hour Brother” is, as reviewer Lois Tilton described it, “A strange and sad fantasy of children whose lives are like mayflies.”  It’s the story of Lewis, fifteen years old, whose mother gives birth to his little brother, Joe, who grows up and goes through the various phases of life all within 24 hours.  Here’s the opening:

My little brother Joe grew up too fast for his own good.  My mom was the first to see what we were in for.  Soon after Joe’s birth, when the nurse put him in her arms, the first thing he did, still pink and slimy, was smile the gummy, wry smile of a little old man.

     “Joseph, Joe, my baby boy,” said my mother, “we’ll try our best if you will.”  She kissed his cheek and handed him back to the nurse, trying to keep herself from falling in love with someone who she realized, at their very first meeting, would only break her heart.  The first sign was in that first smile:  the old man Joe would soon become, the old man Joe would become too soon.

This is a story more in line with “Smoke City”.  A story in which I create my own world, follow the voice of the narrator, and found my way through based on the rules I was making for myself.

That’s it for publications this year.  My story “Map of Seventeen” was nominated last spring for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, which means I’ve been nominated for a Nebula three times now.  I can no longer say “Third time’s a charm!” unless I adopt a sarcastic tone of voice. 😉

Right now, I’m looking forward to putting 2011 behind me, and working into the future.  2012 and beyond.

Happy holidays, and happy New Year.


The road not taken

Today is the day.  Welcome to Bordertown is officially out.  And today is also the day to announce the winner of the Bordertown Lives pendant Mia Nutick has so graciously offered for my contest.  And the winner is: Kathy Barreca.

If you haven’t taken a little dip into the contest entrant’s pool in my previous post, please do.  ALL of them were great, but Kathy’s hooked me because of the magical device she used as her way to get to Bordertown:  Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken.  It was simple yet totally evocative, and I think poems are magical routes to other places.  Sometimes into another person’s psychic landscape, and sometimes into more easily visited places.

But you should go read all of the entrants’ posts because they’re all good in so many different ways.  One writer even has television writing credits in her background and didn’t enter to win, just to participate in a round of storytelling fun, which is totally a Bordertown thing to do. 🙂

Congratulations, Kathy.  I’ll be getting you in touch with Mia shortly, and congratulations to all those readers who have been eagerly awaiting the new anthology, and congratulations to the editors and writers who all had the opportunity to work on bringing the place back for a spell.

How to get to Bordertown

After thirteen years of absence in the world, Bordertown–that awesome shared world of punk rock and elves that surfaced in the 80s and 90s–is coming back.  It’s coming back on May 24th, to be exact, and those of us writer types who were invited to play in the new anthology have been holding contests leading up to the big event.  And it is a big event.  The book is big, and it’s beautiful, chock full of poems and stories and even a graphic story to boot.  You won’t want to miss it.

For my contest, I’m asking readers of my blog to watch this book trailer for Welcome to Bordertown, and to maybe do a little research (for those who are unfamiliar with the Borderlands) to get acquainted with the place.  Then, come back here and answer this one question in the comments of my blog:

How would you get to Bordertown?

It’s an important question, because Bordertown is a magical place, and all magical places have to be gotten to by particular paths.  Wendy and Peter go to Neverland by flying on a celestial road called the High Way.  Dorothy goes to the Emerald Kingdom by following the Yellow Brick Road.  Alice tumbles down the Rabbit Hole to Wonderland.  In Bordertown lore, it’s said that anyone wishing hard enough to be there will find a way.  So what’s your way, if you wanted it bad enough?  How would you get to Bordertown?

I’ll be picking one of the answers on May 24th, and will announce the winner here on my blog.  The prize?  This really cool Bordertown pendant fashioned by artist Mia Nutick:

So who’s first?  By hook or by crook, I expect to see some fancy travel plans.

(Don’t forget to leave your name and email address in the info for comments.)

A free read of Map of Seventeen

I’ve posted my Nebula nominated story “Map of Seventeen” on my website for interested readers.  You can find it on the page tabs overhead.  I’ll take it down soon after the Nebulas, around the end of May, but here it is for a limited time for free.  If you like it, please drop me a note.  And get the anthology it was originally published in, The Beastly Bride (a theme the story centers around).  It’s a great collection of stories altogether.

Pre-viewing, pre-ordering, pre-mourning

There have been lots of pre-reviews of this anthology popping up in the past month or two, all of them positive. I’m happy to be included in this review as one of the reviewer’s “favorites”. If you go to Amazon.com right now, you can pre-order the book at an extremely reduced price.

Incidentally, this story is also a story thread of the YA novel I’m working on at the moment.  It’s been great fun to write so far, and I’m two-thirds of the way into it.  I’m actually pre-mourning the day it’s done.

Next year: a reprise

Following on the heels of the Beastly Bride anthology mentioned in my last post, fabulous editor Ellen Datlow announced on her blog today that one of her and Terri Windling’s new anthologies has been completed and turned in to their editor at HarperCollins:


Table of Contents

Introduction by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow

Things to Know About Being Dead by Genevieve Valentine

All Smiles by Steve Berman

Gap Year by Christopher Barzak

Bloody Sunrise by Neil Gaiman

Flying by Delia Sherman

Vampire Weather by Garth Nix

Late Bloomer by Suzy McKee Charnas

The List of Definite Endings by Kaaron Warren

Best Friends Forever by Cecil Castellucci

Sit the Dead by Jeffrey Ford

Sunbleached by Nathan Ballingrud

Baby by Kathe Koja

In the Future When All’s Well by Catherynne M. Valente

Transition by Melissa Marr

History by Ellen Kushner

The Perfect Dinner Party by Cassandra Clare & Holly Black

Slice of Life by Lucius Shepard

My Generation by Emma Bull

Why Light? by Tanith Lee

She’s guessing it’ll be out in 2011.  I can’t wait to read all of the stories.  It was a blast to write mine for this anthology.  I didn’t think I had a vampire tale in me.  It’s definitely not a typical vampire story, but it’s turned out to be one of my favorites to write because of that.

Beastly indeed

I mentioned last year that the newest volume of the mythic fiction series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling would be released this coming spring, and here we are, a couple of days after its release date.  The Beastly Bride.  This is a great anthology of fiction for young adults and adults alike.  Here’s a description from editor Terri Windling:

The fourth volume in the Mythic Fiction series contains beastly brides, animal bridegrooms, shape-shifters, were-creatures, and other stories of animal-human transformation from world mythology. The authors who have contributed to the book are Christopher Barzak, Peter Beagle, Steve Berman, Richard Bowes, Carol Emshwiller, Jeffrey Ford, Gregory Frost, Nan Fry, Jeanine Hall Gailey, Terra Gearheart, Hiromi Goto, Ellen Kushner, Tanith Lee, Steward Moore, Shweta Narayan, Johanna Sinisalo, Lucius Shepard, Delia Sherman, Midori Snyder, E. Catherine Tobler, Jane Yolen, and Marly Youmans.

My own story certainly has a shape changer of sorts, but it also investigates the other half of the anthology’s title, bride, by addressing that most recently still (unfortunately) touchy subject of a marriage between a same sex couple.  Beastly indeed.

If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy the stories.