Lady Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama—better known as “Rue” to her friends and quite deservingly so—is causing havoc all over London society. It doesn’t help matters that she’s related to the three most powerful supernaturals in the British Empire: daughter of the werewolf dewan Lord Conall Maccon and preternatural Lady Alexia Maccon, and adopted daughter of vampire potentate Lord Akeldama. On top of that, Rue possesses her own unique abilities; she is a metanatural (or “skin-stealer”), who can temporarily take the powers of any supernatural she touches.
Lady Alexia thinks its high time for Rue to put a stopper on her wild behavior, and Lord Akeldama wants to send her on a mission to acquire a new variety of tea leaf. Thus begins plans to send Rue off to India in a dirigible of her own naming—The Spotted Custard—along with a slapdash crew of the best and brightest (though some members are also the most irksome to Rue). What awaits in India, however, is a revelation that could possibly change the geopolitical balance of the entire Empire.
[For love of Queen, country, and a good cuppa. Mild spoilers. Read on Tor.com]
Many thanks to Jim for letting me participate in his “Representation in SF/F series”. All posts in this series will be collected as part of Invisible 2, and all proceeds from the sale of this collection will go toward Con or Bust and other diversity initiatives in fandom.
Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill, Andalite Prince from the Animorphs series, and one of my childhood book buddies. Taken from the ceiling of my childhood bedroom wall.
Junot Diaz—rightly so—gets quoted often in the representation convo. One of his truth bombs stuck with me:
“You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all.”
But here’s another truth valid in my life: when I didn’t see myself in a mirror, I smashed it and saw myself in the pieces.
Read the rest of the piece here.
Janisha Chatterjee is a woman tangled up in layered identities. She lives during the heyday of British imperial rule, which is powered by mysterious technology known as Annapurnite. The privileged daughter of an Indian government official, Jani is an accomplished citizen of Empire—modern, secular, and studying medicine at Cambridge. She feels increasingly at odds, however, with the world around her: not fully fitting in as a mixed-race woman on the streets of London or in the market squares of Delhi. She also has growing reservations about the Raj, despite her father’s accomplishments as Minister of Security.
When her father falls gravely ill, she takes the first dirigible back east. The Rudyard Kipling’s journey, unfortunately, is cut short by a Russian attack that kills nearly everyone on board. One of the few survivors amongst the wreckage, Jani discovers that the airship had been transporting a most unusual prisoner. This stranger bestows a dangerous gift to Jani that reveals the British Empire’s source of military might…. and a dire warning about a threat which endangers the entire world.
Read the review on Tor.com
“We need to talk about diversity,” has been the conversation starter in SF/F as of late. But the best fiction, as the saying goes, shows, not tells. The anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older, reveals representation as more than a tally-count concerning diversity, and highlights how the act of reading across difference can be an intensely immersive experience.
Reading Long Hidden very much felt like sitting in on late-night conversations in a room full of strangers, darting from one conversation to the next. I might not immediately recognize the context of one tale or another, nor did I feel pressure or ridicule for not knowing something beforehand. What was important was recognizing the generosity and trust in which these stories were being told, and letting the conversation flow.
I’ve had the pleasure of conducting such a conversation with Rose and Daniel after my read. We discuss their challenges and joys during the editing process, the logistics of outreach and crowd-funding, and the impact of marginalized voices in the future of speculative fiction.
[Read our interview here.]
The most fantastical aspect of A Country of Ghosts is how it’s an earnest tale about an alternative society when dystopias fill today’s bookshelves. Full disclosure here:the author has written for Tor.com, and I did hold interest in reading his book once he described it to me as an “anarchist utopia.”
With that seed in mind, I couldn’t help but view A Country of Ghosts as the latest in a long tradition of utopian novels, starting with Thomas More’s as the most well-known early example (and a fantastic open source annotated edition can be read here).
Of course, utopias and speculative fiction go hand in hand. In the 19thcentury, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland envisioned a society of women. Alexander Bogdanov wrote about communist utopia on Mars in his 1908 book Red Star. Later utopian novels include Ursula K. Le Guin’s take on anarchism in The Dispossessed, Arthur C. Clark’s peaceful alien invasion inChildhood’s End, Aldous Huxley’s utopian counterpart to Brave New World in Island, and the fulfillment of the radical movements of the 1960s in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, along with many others.
In A Country of Ghosts a regional collective known as Hron (they’re only kinda, sorta a country) fights against a colonial empire, and Killjoy’s mix of politics and storytelling is at times intellectually engaging and at times winsome, though it’s also a curiosity to behold in the field today.
Read the rest of the review here: [“The rules don’t really matter. It’s the spirit that matters, I think.”]
Image Courtesy of the Back-up Ribbon Project
“So I heard that you won Tumblr,” a coworker joked with me the other day.
He was referring to the maelstrom of activity that was triggered when I posted about my con harassment experience at New York Comic Con by the film crew of the YouTube web series Man Banter, hosted by Mike Babchik. I won’t reiterate everything that happened, but kept pretty good documentation. Other industry professionals and geek news sources had done the same, too. There is a petition out, created by the activist group 18 Million Rising in order to hold Babchik’s employer, Sirius XM Radio, accountable for his actions since Babchik had gotten into the convention using his job credentials. Since the incident happened, New York Comic Con had assured that they will tighten their safety policies, and I even had a nice wrap-up interview about making convention spaces safer with NYCC show manager Lance Fensterman.
Okay, that ugly event got all wrapped up with a nice li’l bow of resolution; we can leave this in the fandom corner until the next big misogynistic thing that happens to women at conventions hits the fan (but oh wait, it just did as I typed this). At this moment, I feel like I can voice something that I’ve been holding in this whole time: I am lucky. And it shouldn’t have to be that way.
In the hubbub of the past week, I completely forgot to mention my participation in Journal of Victorian Culture Online‘s Neo-Victorian Studies & Digital Humanities Week 2013. Check out an excerpt below, and follow the jump to read this academic article online.
Thanks to Prof. Lisa Hager and the editorial board of the JVCO for giving me this opportunity.
Steampunk studies is an outlier in Victorian scholarship. In fact, steampunk subculture can arguably be called “neo-Victorian” or even “non-Victorian” in the way that it defies strict adherence to a certain periodization or topic relevance. Steampunk is an aesthetic movement inspired by nineteenth-century science fiction and fantasy. Over the years, however, that umbrella phrase has expanded to include speculation outside of an established time-frame (such as post-apocalyptic or futuristic), outside of the established geography of the Western world, and even outside of history (as with alternate history and secondary fantasy worlds). How can we, then, describe the relationship between steampunk academic work and Victorian studies?
[Read “Steampunk, Technological Time & Beyond Victoriana: Advocacy and the Archive” on the Journal of Victorian Culture Online]
A well-placed ampersand can imply many things: a fighting duo, a complimentary pair, or polarizing opposites. In the case of Boxers & Saints, the members of the Boxer Rebellion and their opponents, Westerners and Chinese Christians, retain all three elements in their interactions.
What is engrossing about this graphic novel diptych—the newest work from Gene Luen Yang of American-Born Chinese fame—is how intertwined the stories are, literally and thematically. This dynamic is presented in its bold and eye-catching box design. On one side, the aggressively commanding ghost of Ch’in Shin-Huang, the first emperor of China. On the other, the grim glowing figure of martyr Joan of Arc. Split between them are two young, wide-eyed faces of Little Bao and Vibiana. They stare out at the reader, serious and uncertain. Their expressions symbolize the heart of Boxers & Saints: a story that unpacks the anxieties of an unstable nation, and unflinchingly portrays the people who become swept up by the winds of history.
[Read the review on Tor.com]
2013 is the year to get ready for some pseudo-time-travelling, what-if wanderings, and speculative festivities of the dapper variety. I have a list of 39 steampunk and steam-friendly conventions and one-day events from around the world, gathered with help from Kevin Steil, the Airship Ambassador.
Since new steampunk cons spring out of the gearwork every so often, if I had missed yours, please drop a comment (and email me about featuring it for my monthly steampunk events roundup).
All descriptions taken from the convention website or Facebook page.
[Read on Tor.com]