If you’ll be in Austin on the fourth of April, consider coming to A Speculative Evening at Malvern Books to hear me, Janalyn Guo, and Jessica Reisman read our fiction. Malvern is a lovely little bookstore that specializes in small press books, both fiction and poetry. I’ll be reading from “The New Mother,” and have copies of Asimov’s for sale. Reading starts at 7:00pm. Hope to see you there.
I’ve often been asked lately whether I miss teaching. My standard answer is to say that I miss teaching very much, but I don’t miss all the things around teaching: the low pay, the lack of benefits, the constant feeling that I’m complicit in the adulteration of a once-great intellectual tradition. Which is all to say, I miss teaching, but not adjuncting. The work itself gave me profound satisfaction, but the working conditions were an affront to my pride. It was nothing like the vision of academia I received as an undergraduate; I went to a small liberal arts university which I’m not sure even had any adjunct professors. I certainly never had one. So while I now know the adjuncting experience from the faculty side, I have only my evaluations to suggest what it’s like for a student.
Carmen, though, has lived at both ends of the adjunct’s college classroom. She wrote about it for the New Yorker with exquisite clarity. Read about the pathology of placing students’ formative experiences in the hands of those with “great responsibility, precariously held.”
The fine people at Asimov’s have just posted a long, free excerpt of my novella on their site. And when I say long, I mean 8,500 words long. Long enough to meet pensive Tess Mendoza and her confident partner Judy. Long enough to learn about the strange new infectious condition moving through the population. Long enough to hear from scientists and administrators and religious fanatics. Plenty long enough to know if you like the story. So if you’re the clever sort who wants to try before you buy, I encourage you to click through and check out my work. If you enjoy it, be sure to note the “e-Asimov’s” link at the bottom for all the download options a person could want.
It’s finally here! The April/May double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction with my cover story “The New Mother” is now available to be read and enjoyed. Subscribers to the magazine probably have it already. Non-subscribers, it’s easy to get the individual issue. You can likely find print copies in the periodicals section of your local bookstore. If they don’t have any in stock, you can probably ask them to order one for you. But if that sounds too inconvenient, good news! You can buy an ebook edition for only about three bucks!
Kindle – Here’s the Amazon listing, which will let you read this issue on any Kindle e-reader, or in the Kindle app on your phone or tablet.
iPhone or iPad – Here’s the iTunes store listing for the issue. In iOS, you’ll get it via the Newsstand app. You can buy the individual issue, or subscribe to the magazine. (You’ll be asked to sign up for a Magzter account. It’s fast and free.)
Android – Here’s the Google Play Store listing, which should work on most phones or tablets running Android.
Nook – The Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader listing. Coincidentally, Barnes and Noble is also an excellent place to get a paper copy of the magazine.
Kobo – Have a Kobo e-reader? Let me know if this link works. You are supposed to be able to buy individual issues here, but some of the info is contradictory. (I don’t have a Kobo, so I can’t test it myself.)
Magzter – If you have a (free!) Magzter account, or else just want to read the issue in your browser rather than on a dedicated device, you can buy a copy here.
All of these links should work for at least the next two months, the period when this issue of the magazine is on sale. They might work for longer, too, but they’ll definitely work through April and May of 2015. If you have any problems, tell me, and I’ll try to help you fix it or pass your information along to the folks in charge. And if you read the story and like it, do please let other people know.
The trouble with mimetic fiction isn’t that you can tell what’s going to happen (I defy anyone to guess what’s going to happen in Middlemarch, even from half way through) but that you can tell what’s not going to happen. There isn’t going to be an evil wizard. The world isn’t going to be destroyed in Cultural Fugue and leave the protagonist as the only survivor. There aren’t going to be any people who happen to have one mind shared between five bodies. There are unlikely to be shape-changers. In science fiction you can have any kind of story—a romance or a mystery or a reflection of human nature, or anything at all. But as well as that, you have infinite possibility. You can tell different stories about human nature when you can compare it to android nature, or alien nature. You can examine it in different ways when you can write about people living for two hundred years, or being relativistically separated, or under a curse. You have more colours for your palette, more lights to illuminate your scene.
Now the problem with genre fiction is often that writers take those extra lights and colours and splash them around as if the fact that the result is shiny is sufficient, which it unfortunately isn’t. So the most common failing of genre fiction is that you get shallow stories with feeble characters redeemed only by the machinations of evil wizards or the fascinating spaceship economy or whatever. What I want is stories as well written and characterised as Middlemarch, but with more options for what can happen. That’s what I always hope for, and that’s what I get from the best of SF.
–Jo Walton, “What a pity she couldn’t have single-handedly invented science fiction! George Eliot’s Middlemarch,” republished in What Makes This Book So Great
I had a lunch date with a friend Saturday at a popular diner, a place that’s always packed on the weekends. I got there ten minutes early to get our names on the list, then sat reading in the crowded vestibule. But my friend still hadn’t arrived by the time my name crackled out of the speakers in the ceiling. I let the hostess know I was still waiting on the rest of my party, and she said to just come up and tell her when my friend arrived.
A few minutes later, another host looked over the sign-in sheets, and then his voice boomed over the PA system: “E. J.! Are you still incomplete, E. J.?”
I wanted to deny it, but the answer, unavoidably, was yes.
As I’ve spent most of my reading time this year in books, I’ve gotten way behind on the things my brilliant friends have published digitally. So here’s a slice of 2015 writing worth catching up on, with more to come.
- “Descent” by Carmen Maria Machado – Newly Nebula-nominated author and all-around force of nature Carmen Machado, with a horror story about women haunted by death.
- “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar – A story about the quiet magic of reaching your hand in your pocket and pulling out something you never put in, that’s also an extended metaphor for the act of making a piece of art and sending it out into the world. (Disclosure: I gave the author some advice that informed the scientific testing scenes in this story.)
- “And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead” by Brooke Bolander – A pulpy, profane, bloodslicked story of cyborg assassins and data thieves who don’t give a damn about anything but each other. Like Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell got addled on bourbon, had a stumbling fuck in an alley, and couldn’t look one another in the eye the next day.
- “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity” by Carmen Maria Machado – Because she’s as adept with a personal essay as she is with a short story, here’s Carmen again, revealing that she was once an earnest, purity ring-wearing 13-year-old, and how she became the queer, sex-positive feminist she is now.
- “Kidhood (Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall)” by Rebekah Frumkin – The latest installment in Rebekah’s continuing column for McSweeney’s about psychoactive pharmaceuticals, and the insider’s view of the cognition that makes doctors hand them out.
- “In Manila, Two Seasons, No Regrets” by Laurel Fantauzzo – A Modern Love article about falling into a relationship while traveling, the kind of relationship that’s everything it can be, but not everything you want it to be.
- “Reflections on a Dirty Dog” by Lisa Wells – A kaleidoscopic, hypnotic essay of suffering for the sake of experience, or for no reason whatsoever, on cross-country Greyhound bus trips.
- “Thigh High” by Knar Gavin
Contributor copies are landing in mailboxes and posters are going up for bookstores, so seems about time to show off the next Asimov’s cover. Behold its gorgeousness! This is the work of Gary Freeman (Flash site), who’s done many covers for the magazine over the years. I think this one is perfect; striking, creepy, and clearly informed by the text. I’m finding it unspeakably thrilling to have tossed words on paper out into the world and seen stunning art ripple back. (Is this is how my comics-writing friends feel all the time? I bet it is.) Five women, all different ages but with the same face. I’d go in to all the details that make this a wonderful illustration of my novella, but I don’t think I could do so without spoiling the story. So for now let it serve here the same beguiling purpose it will on shelves and newsstands. The issue goes on sale March 17.
UPDATE: It’s out now! Get it here!
Though the amount of interesting stuff online hasn’t diminished, and the rate of wonderful things being published by my friends has, if anything, sped up, I still have yet to put together and Tabclosing or My Friends Write Things posts in 2015. This is because my resolution to finish 100 books has most of my reading time happening offline. Usually, for those posts, I would go back and reread all that had recently caught my attention and pick the ones that seemed of greatest interest. Now that attention has been consumed by the Reading2015 process. I feel bad about no longer highlighting the work of my peers, though. I might try to start putting together more frequent, minimal link posts so the backlog doesn’t end up feeling as punishing to my book goals.