"Karen Memory is a delight, a tour-de-force of historical reimagining and character creation, and a ripping yarn full of surprises..."
I'll take it!
In any case, today I did a bunch of award reading, and I made scones. And Karen Memory is a Romantic Times top pick!
Today's teacup is a Royal Doulton iris motif that looks like it comes from the 20s, but is actually about twenty years newer than that.
Today's tea is not enough of it.
Also, today I got the cover flats for the long-delayed trade paperback of Shattered Pillars, which comes out next month!
A starred review from Library Journal.
* Bear Elizabeth, Karen Memory. Tor. Feb. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780765375247. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466846340. SF
The Gold Rush town of Rapid City is just about what you would expect in a frontier community catering to the mining trade: rough, violent, and full of prostitutes. Karen is a “soiled dove” working at Madame Damnable’s establishment, where she and her sisters in trade serve a more respectable crowd than the poor girls who work the cribs at the waterfront. When one of those young women escapes and runs to Madame’s for help, she brings the wrath of the crib owner, Peter Bantle, on the house. Bantle, in addition to bring a vicious bully, seems to have a device that can control people’s minds.
Verdict Bear (Steles of the Sky; Blood and Iron) pumps fresh energy in the steampunk genre with a light touch on the gadgetry and a vivid sense of place. Karen has a voice that is folksy but true, and the entire cast of heroic women doing the best they can in an age that was not kind to their gender is a delight. Ably assisted by a U.S. Marshal and his Comanche posseman, Karen and the ladies kick ass.
In other news, the tea today was Upton's cherry bancha, which I do not like much but this was the last of it. and the teacup today was a traditional English-style pottery mug from SRS-Grunden Pottery, based in Oak Bluffs Massachusetts. She does lovely, lovely work.
I'm still working on proofing the Whiskey and Water ebook. Also, I went climbing tonight. And there was snow.
Is this what it's like to have a healthy relationship with Kirkus?
I like it. I really like it.
The Kirkus review for Karen Memory is in, and they loved it enough to make my name a terrible pun.
Steampunk: Something of a new venture for Bear, whose previous output (Steles of the Sky, 2014, etc.) has ranged from heroic fantasy to science fiction, often with an embedded murder mystery.
By the late 19th century, airships ply the trade and passenger routes, optimistic miners head in droves for the Alaskan gold fields, and steam-powered robots invented by licensed Mad Scientists do much of the heavy (and sometimes delicate) work. In Rapid City on the U.S. northwest coast, Madame Damnable operates the Hôtel Mon Cherie, a high-class bordello, paying a hefty “sewing machine tax” for the privilege. Here, orphaned horse-breaker and narrator Karen Memery (Bear doesn’t tell us why the book’s title is spelled differently) works among similarly lively, engaging and resourceful girls. One night, Priya, a malnourished but tough young woman, arrives at the door carrying the badly wounded Merry Lee, who escaped from one of the grim brothels operated by brutal gangster Peter Bantle and has since made a career of rescuing other indentured girls from Bantle’s clutches. Madame Damnable’s steam-powered mechanical surgeon saves Merry’s life—but not before Bantle himself shows up, wearing, Karen notes, a peculiar glove that somehow can compel others to obey his commands. Worse, the following night the girls discover the body of a murdered prostitute nearby. U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves arrives with his Comanche sidekick, Tomoatooah; they’re tracking a serial killer who seems to have made his way to Rapid City. The story swiftly knots itself into steampunk-ishly surreal complications, with dauntless (and, by this point, love-stricken) Karen in the thick of the action.
Supplies all the Bear necessities: strong female characters, existential threats, intriguing developments and a touch of the light fantastic.
I'm just gonna put that Cynthia Sheppard cover on everything from now on. I love it so very, very much.
Now I have to update my website with reviews and art, and then go write 2000 words.
Yeah, I have a problem. I'm working on a short story, but I have the Post-Novel Ennui, and my head has that empty dustbunnies-rolling-over-the-floor feeling I get when I have used up all my brain. So I have emailed the editor, and let him know that I am Out Of Clever, and the story may be a little late.
Fortunately, the editor in question is a good egg, and seems to understand.
This is happening more often, lately. I'm not sure if it's due to increasing demands, or due to me getting old. In any case, I'm trying hard to say "no" to more projects, even though that's stupidly hard.
But I need to make myself space to be creative.
Anyway, I took today off. I took the dog for a walk, and I'm catching up on recipe blogs. And I made myself a Delicious Cocktail. It's a Clover Club. I even made my own grenadine. And I walked over to the co-op to get pomegranate juice. (Our local co-op is a wonderland. It's the size of a large broom closet and has one of everything. It's also the only grocery store in town. I came home with pomegranate juice, habanero jelly, dark chocolate, and sticky brown rice. Seriously. Rural town of 3000 people.)
Here's a photo of my pretty pink drink:
The home-made grenadine gives a lighter color than the commercial stuff, but the commercial stuff is 70% HFCS and 30% red dye #5 with a dash of citric acid. I'll go with home made.
Earlier, I reported that Steles of the Sky had scored the coveted starred review from Kirkus. Well, it got one from Publishers Weekly, too. And much less spoilery! (There are spoilers for previous volumes in both reviews!)
I do indulge myself to quote:
Bear’s stellar conclusion to her Mongolian-flavored fantasy trilogy (after Range of Ghosts and Shattered Pillars) is a satisfying mix of traditional epic fantasy elements, flavored with original magic and grounded with mundane details that make the fantastic seem entirely possible. As the skies shift, reflecting the mortals in power and their associated gods, forces align to support or challenge wizard al-Sepehr as he wages war in the name of the Scholar-God. Warrior Re Temur and his allies travel to Dragon Lake to rally the opposition with Temur’s declaration of his assumption of the position of Khagan, heir to his grandfather’s empire. Battles are fought on both a personal level and a grand scale, with artifacts of obscure ancient civilizations, spirit animals, magical creatures, and poetry and politics. The conclusion is both untelegraphed and completely appropriate. Bear’s trilogy makes a rich contribution to epic fantasy’s expanding borders of emotion and invention.
And we didn't quite get the starred review trifecta, alas... but Booklist really, really liked it:
Steles of the Sky
Bear, Elizabeth (Author)
Apr 2014. 384 p. Tor, hardcover, $26.99. (9780765327567). Tor, e-book, (9781429947688).
Bear concludes the epic begun in Range of Ghosts with her usual subversive flair. Temur and his companions begin this volume in the city of Reason, exploring ancient places and magics; they must make their way to Dragon Lake to declare Temur Khagan and gather an army against the terrible forces of Al-Sepehr. Edene, having effected her own rescue, contends with the terrible sun of Erem and the voice of the Green Ring. Al-Sepehr plans to use Saadet’s son, Quori Buqa’s son, to contest Temur’s claim on the Eternal Sky. There are, of course, other threads to be woven together: those who would fight at Temur’s side, and those who have taken the side of Al-Sepehr. Everything leads to a great and terrible battle at Dragon Lake, at which the very fate of the world may well be decided. The world of the Eternal Sky is a gorgeously fleshed-out one, and the characters without exception fascinating, sometimes maddening, and complex. This is a pleasing conclusion to an epic; it ties up the major threads but leaves many open questions about how the world will move forward. — Regina Schroeder
First off, Kirkus starred review of Steles of the Sky!!
Spoilers for the whole freaking series, so be cautious of your clickthrough. But the takeaway makes it all worthwhile:
the overused term masterpiece justifiably applies.
The other cool thing is that two audio anthologies I was part of are nominated for Audie Awards!
One is Rip Off!, edited by Gardner Dozois, featuring a suite of stories that borrow their first line from a classic work. (Mine is from Christopher Marlowe's Edward II. ;) )The other is METAtropolis III: Green Space, edited by Jay Lake and Ken Scholes--third in a series of shared-world anthologies about a possible adaptive, non-apocalyptic future for Earth and the human race.
They are both nominated for the Best Anthology Award. So I'm competing against myself, and the best bit is that Mary Robinette Kowal is also in both. Maybe she can win one and I can win... crap, that won't work. :(
Oh, and the best bit is, That Boy I Like is nominated for the best audiobook in the Fantasy category for The Republic of Thieves, along with reader Michael Page!
Now I am drinking Vietnamese coffee and sitting on the sofa, like somebody who has used up all her virtupitude for the day.
My stepcat was just in the corner suspiciously sniffing an old signing poster of Scott's that's been there for a month. Only now does it become a potentially threatening object. Cats. Or maybe he's just now figured out what Dad does for a living?
In other Scott-related news, this.
In writer-related news, non-Scott-related, the UK/Australian publication of John Joseph Adams' Wastelands anthology has occurred!
And Publishers Weekly has given Book of Iron an absolutely bang-up review. (linky) (text follows)
Book of Iron
Elizabeth Bear. Subterranean (www.subterraneanpress.com), $20 (128p) ISBN 978-1-59606-474-4
Friends are the family we choose, a maxim that lies at the heart of this short but sharp novella, which ties in to Bear’s Eternal Sky novel series. Bijou the Artificer (first met in 2010’s Bone and Jewel Creatures, here young and eager for adventure) joins the immortal Maledysaunte on a quest to the abandoned city of Ancient Erem to stop Dr. Liebelos, a precisian (wizard of orderliness), from summoning the Iron Book. With them go a crew of allies with mixed motives, including Kaulas the Necromancer, who is Bijou’s lover and rival, and the wizard Salamander, Maledysaunte’s companion and daughter to Dr. Liebelos. Under skies whose moons and suns vary in number, they must confront the threats of legendary beasts and betrayal. Bear injects the fizz of the Roaring ’20s (including travel by roadster, automatic pistols , aeroplanes, and silent movies) into a thoughtful exploration of dealing with loss. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Dana Watson of From My Wandering Mind made me a beautiful, jeweled set of temari, a Japanese form of embroidery ball that I had never previously heard of, and she's blogged about the experience of creating them here:
Temari: Jeweled Labyrinth Set
You can see them in their final resting place (nearly) there on the left. They really normally live on the corner of that dark brown rolltop desk, out of danger from the dog's vast, sweeping tail... but the light was better on the end table. And the cobalt suncatcher in the window picked up the color of the bowl nicely. So I staged the shot.
I confess! Like Marines on Iwo Jima. We're going to do this until we get this right.
I may have a thing for vividly colored glass. Ahem.
Anyway. if you somehow missed it, yesterday was publication day for Range of Ghosts, the first book in my big, splashy Central Asian epic fantasy called, collectively, "The Eternal Sky." As those of you who read seanan_mcguire's fabulous livejournal doubtless know, that means that we're in the midst of the all-important First Week, where the book's fate is largely decided.
Now, since you are reading my blog, I have to guess that you like my work (or maybe you're hate-reading, or maybe you got here because you Googled "bear temari." I believe we refer to this kind of internet misdirecton as "Google Goggles." Ahem.) So, you know. If the spirit moves you, I have this book out, and you could buy it. So far, people seem to like it.
In addition to the previous links, I bring you a few new ones:
Range of Ghosts at The Big Idea on John Scalzi's Whatever.
My dear agent arcaedia rounds up some reviews here.
And That Boy I Like has some nice things to say about Range of Ghosts here.
I have a very talented boyfriend, especially when it comes to his role as speaker-for-marmots. And speaking of him, he's interviewed on Sword & Laser today.
I have so many things to say! For one thing, Kelly & Kessel have announced the ToC for a new anthology, Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology, a sort of omnibus of the singularity back to Stapledon, Asimov, and Pohl and forward to Doctorow, Robson, Stross, and Rajaniemi... and my story "The Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe," originally written for the Scalzi-edited "Sci-fi Cliches" issue of Subterranean, is... er... holding down the anchor slot.
Here's the whole insane list!
The End of the Human Era
- “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov
- “The Flesh” by J. D. Bernal (Excerpted from The World, The Flesh and the Devil: An Inquiry into the Future of the Three Enemies of the Rational Soul)
- “Day Million” by Frederik Pohl
- “Thought and Action” by Olaf Stapledon (Chapter Six from Odd John)
- “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era” by Vernor Vinge
- “Hive Mind Man” by Eileen Gunn & Rudy Rucker
- “Sunken Gardens” by Bruce Sterling
Across the Event Horizon
- “The Six Epochs” by Ray Kurzweil (Chapter One from The Singularity Is Near)
- “Crystal Nights” by Greg Egan
- “Firewall” by David Levine
- “The Cookie Monster” by Vernor Vinge
- “Cracklegrackle” by Justina Robson
- “Nightfall” by Charles Stross
- “Coelacanths” by Robert Reed
- “The Great Awakening” by Rudy Rucker
- “True Names” by Cory Doctorow & Ben Rosenbaum
- “The Server and the Dragon” by Hannu Rajaniemi
- “Inevitable Heat Death of the Universe” by Elizabeth Bear
...dude. How can you not want that?
In review news, and speaking of Subterranean, they have a couple of early reviews of ad eternum on the web page, and word is that the book is going to the printer as soon as the undoubtedly to-be-gorgeous Patrick Arrasmith cover is in house.
"Ad eternum is, indeed, an argument in favor of writers producing more novellas."
--The New York Journal of Books
And in more review news, Kirkus has listed Range of Ghosts as a must-read book for March! (Along with Stina Leicht, Jonathan Strahan, and six brilliant others.)
"If there's one author who can't be pinned down, it's Bear, and her versatility as a writer only seems to make her stronger."
Totally unrelated, but that boy I like wrote something awesome, and you could read it, if you have somehow managed to miss it so far:
"Against Big Bird, The Gods Themselves Contend In Vain."
And but also! My friend Leah Bobet has her first novel out more or less today (at least, in Canada. The drop date is later in March, but we all know how those are observed, and Bakka Phoenix Books (home of at least two of my launch parties!) has copies. Out in April in the U.S.).
It's called Above, and I have read it in several versions, and it's as awesome as its cover art. There is Toronto, and people who live in the dark underneath it, and girls with wings, and true love, and mortal peril, and loyalty to your friends, and all like that.
...So a pretty good day, all in all. And now it's time for a snowpocalypse and some mulled wine, dammit.
Library Journal review of Range of Ghosts. I think they liked it!
After the death of Mongke Khagan, the heirs to the Khaganate of the steppes went to war. Defeated by his cousin, the rightful heir Temur flees, joining a caravan of refugees headed toward mountains known as the Range of Ghosts. Adopted into the Tsareg tribe, Temur plans revenge while avoiding sorcerous attempts on his own life. When his path crosses that of the wizard Samarkar, a former princess who seeks her independence, Temur realizes that they can help each other-and perhaps save the world from dark forces that could tear it apart. Bear, winner of the 2005 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, a 2006 Locus Award for Hammered, and two Hugo Awards for short fiction, creates a vivid, multicultural world reminiscent of Eurasia during the 12th and 13th centuries, after the death of Genghis Khan dissolved an empire that included the Mongols, Tatars, and Chinese. Her characters possess depth of feeling as well as political acumen, bringing a personal element to a broad-scale epic fantasy.
VERDICT Fans of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series should welcome this gracefully told tale of war, political intrigue, and personal drama. Highly recommended.
Range of Ghosts Elizabeth Bear. Tor, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2754-3
Reviewed on: 01/23/2012
(They also gave a starred review to stillsostrange's third Necromancer Chronicle, The Kingdoms of Dust. Which is awesome and you will like it.)
Also, my friends Hanne Blank, Jodi Meadows, and Myke Cole all have books out today.
In other news, I made a tumblr. Yes, I mentioned that already.
In other other news, the ToC for Chicks Dig Comic Books is out, and it's a doozy. I got paid to write about Warren Ellis!
I'm not actually done with the draft, but I've hit the point where warblogging it is too exhausting and after 72 hours of straight work, I've hit the end of my undivided concentration, so expect occasional progress bars and eventually a --30--.
I have one big setpiece anticlimax to write, and then I have the climax and denouement and inevitable destruction that attends the end of book two in a trilogy--which is, after all, the nadir or crisis point of a three-act structure narrative.
Today, I wrote a short scene I had been looking forward to for about a thousand pages. That was kind of awesome.
Still hoping to be done by the end of the week, giving me a week to polish and fuss before I have to hand it in.
From the PW review of Range of Ghosts (Elizabeth Bear. Tor, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2754-3)
"Bear launches a trilogy in a fantastic new world with this compelling tale.... Bear creates a vivid world where wizards must sacrifice their ability to procreate in order to control magic and the sky changes to reflect the gods of the land's rulers. The strong setting and engaging characters will have readers eager for the second installment."
In other news: ConFusion was awesome, the mighty Myke Cole blogs about the all-star fantasy author AD&D1E game he and Saladin Ahmed ran (and that Peter Brett organized), and I am home on the couch with a dog and a deadline, having seen not nearly all of my North Coast nearest and dearest--and not gotten to spend nearly enough time with the ones I did see.
And yep, I already miss that boy I like. (Isn't he dashing?)
Now, I need to brush that dog. Tomorrow, it's back on the wagon with regard to diet and running. (Conventions and long road trips are murder on that stuff. Sigh. At least I did okay with regard to exercise....)
This lean, sinewy, visceral narrative, set forth in extraordinarily vivid prose full of telling detail, conveys a remarkable sense of time and place, where the characters belong to the landscape and whose personalities derive naturally from it. Though the book is not self-contained, Bear provides this opener with enough of a resolution to satisfy while whetting the appetite for more.
Gripping, perfectly balanced and highly recommended.
...I guess I did okay, then.
Available March 27th from Tor!
Elizabeth Bear, Spectra, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-0-553-59109-5
This deftly told story completes the Jacob's Ladder trilogy begun in Dust and Chill. The Conns and the other inhabitants of an ancient wandering spaceship face their last and greatest challenge. They've finally found a habitable planet, but others beat them to it: "right-minded" humans, surgically altered to achieve emotional balance, and more alien to the Jacobites than extraterrestrials would be. Leaders on both ship and planet are willing to fight and kill to keep the two cultures from interacting, while old enemies aboard the Jacob's Ladder re-emerge to wreak destruction. The story is poised on a knife's edge, with the Jacobites facing both possible annihilation and inner demons just as they're closing in on their goal. Bear's talent for portraying cultural divergence and conflict is especially apparent in this intense wrapup. (Mar.)
Also, view from C concourse of McCarran still gorgeous at sunset. (Sorry, Vegas Peeps, only here long enough to have my plane delayed.)
Also, man that's a long flight. I don't miss it.
What's refreshing about this wampyr tale is Bear's gimlet eye for true details rather than the romantic ones. Like this description, written as Jack leans in for a kiss from Irina: "In a poem, her lips would have been Chinese red as well, vermillion as the sunset sprawled across her canvases, but they were pale sienna like eggshells." In those moments that invert what you expect a vampire story to be, of which there are many in the book, including a moment that features a wampyr knitting, Bear makes this world feel solid and inhabited.
From Publishers Weekly:
... this is no mere costumed crime story: the czarist police employ forensic sorcerers, and vampires and their elegant "courts" of human hangers-on are accepted members of society. The pace is brisk, the characters are well realized, and the resultant delvings into darkness are certain to keep genre readers entertained to the end.
What I particularly like about Bear’s stories is that she does not stray from crafting tight mysteries to get sucked into the imagined seamier side of vamp life. There are relationships here, and she doesn’t shy away from them, but the main crux of the story is that someone was killed, someone was convicted of murder and executed for it, and now, years later, Sebastien learns that the truth has long been hidden.
Guess I'm doing okay so far.
"But even with all the slow revelation and sight-seeing, there is still a rising-action-and-climax structure, and it comes on with an unexpected bang and a rush of revelation in an aptly-titled final chapter. The pleasures of the trilogy include those of the epic narrative married to those of the travelogue and the fictive history. Bear is exploiting all of these quite thoroughly."