At a time where a lot of you are in lockdown in circumstances that aren’t exactly great for productivity, I thought I’d point out a few things from me that are available free of charge:
-my story “In the Lands of the Spill” is now available in the Avatars Inc anthology, an anthology about telepresence that includes works by Tade Thompson, Pat Cadigan, Ken Liu, Nino Cipri…
-and I’ve made available a bundle of three of my Xuya stories that aren’t easy to find through my Patreon (this is a public post but do feel free to join my Patreon if you want the exciting paying stuff: this is much much appreciated). Go download them here.
Just a quick note that my Dominion of the Fallen story “Court of Birth, Court of Strength” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
In the ruins of a Gothic Paris, a city devastated in the wake of a magical war, a young and sheltered Fallen angel goes to an older one for help in finding a missing child.
The leader of House Hawthorn’s Court of Birth lived in a part of the House that Samariel had never been to: a wing of dusty, disused corridors where the wainscoting had rotted away and the wallpaper’s elegant asphodels were obscured by elongated smudges of grey fungus. The door was small and crooked. Samariel would have thought it the entrance to a garret, but it opened into a wide, airy space with barely a trace of mould or spells gone awry. A makeshift antechamber held two Louis XV armchairs with plump, curved mahogany legs, and behind it was the shape of a four-poster bed that had seen better days, its silk canopy patched so many times the patterns on it had all but disappeared under the seams of repairs.
There’s a new Xuya story up at Lightspeed Magazine: “Crossing the Midday Gate” was originally published in Athena Andreadis’s wonderful To Shape the Dark. It’s now been reprinted, and you can read it free online.
It’s about intergalactic plagues, vaccines, court intrigues and second chances–and what to do when the entire world changes around you. Also badass older women bacteriologists ftw.
My story “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” has now been published at Uncanny Magazine. You can read it here.
This is set in the Dominion of the Fallen, my Gothic ruined Paris with Fallen angels, dragons, alchemists and magicians (aka my love letter to 19th Century Gothic fiction and manga and anime like Fullmetal Alchemist and Black Butler, which includes novels The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns ). It’s a standalone: an excellent introduction to the universe, and a good return to it if you’re already familiar with it!
What you get: dragons, creepy magic, cooking (!).
In a Paris that never was, a city of magicians, alchemists and Fallen angels struggling to recover from a devastating magical war…
Once each year, the House of Hawthorn tests the Houseless: for those chosen, success means the difference between a safe life and the devastation of the streets. However, for Thuan and his friend Kim Cuc, — dragons in human shapes and envoys from the dying underwater kingdom of the Seine — the stakes are entirely different. Charged with infiltrating a House that keeps encroaching on the Seine, if they are caught, they face a painful death.
Worse, mysterious children of thorns stalk the candidates through Hawthorn’s corridors. Will Thuan and Kim Cuc survive and succeed?
If you’ve already read and enjoyed it, why not try The House of Binding Thorns , in which you get to meet again Thuan (aka, the queer, bookish dragon prince with amazing talent for getting himself into trouble), as well as a host of other characters?
(or you can also pick up the full issue of Uncanny Magazine, which has fiction by Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cassandra Khaw and other fine folk)
The Dominion of the Fallen Reading Order (Novels Only)
With thanks to Stephanie Burgis, Kate Elliott and Fran Wilde
It was a large, magnificent room with intricate patterns of ivy branches on the tiles, and a large mirror above a marble fireplace, the mantlepiece crammed with curios from delicate silver bowls to Chinese blue-and-white porcelain figures: a clear statement of casual power, to leave so many riches where everyone could grab them.
Or rather, it would have been, if the porcelain hadn’t been cut-rate–the same bad quality the Chinese had foisted on the Indochinese court in Annam–the mirror tarnished, with mould growing in one corner, spread down far enough that it blurred features, and the tiling cracked and chipped in numerous places–repaired, but not well enough that Thuan couldn’t feel the imperfections under his feet, each one of them a little spike in the khi currents of magic around the room.
Not that Thuan was likely to be much impressed by the mansions of Fallen angels, no matter how much of Paris they might claim to rule. He snorted disdainfully, an expression cut short when Kim Cuc elbowed him in the ribs. “Behave,” she said.
“You’re not my mother.” She was his ex-lover, as a matter of fact; and older than him, and never let him forget that.
“Next best thing,” Kim Cuc said, cheerfully. “I can always elbow further down, if you insist.”
Thuan bit down the angry retort. The third person in the room–a dusky-skinned, young girl of Maghrebi descent, who’d introduced herself as Leila–was looking at them with fear in her eyes. “We’re serious,” he said, composing his face again. “We’re not going to ruin your chances to enter House Hawthorn, promise.”
They were a team: that was what they’d been told, as the House dependents separated the crowd before the House in small groups; that their performance would be viewed as a whole, and their chance to enter the House weighed accordingly. Though no rules had been given, and nothing more said, either, as dependents led them to this room and locked them in. At least he was still with Kim Cuc, or he’d have been hopelessly lost.
For people like Leila–for the Houseless, the desperate–it was their one chance to escape the streets, to receive food and shelter and the other tangible benefits of a House’s protection.
For Thuan and Kim Cuc, though… the problem was rather different. Their fate, too, would be rather different, if anyone found out who they really were. No House in Paris liked spies, and Hawthorn was not known for its leniency.
If you still need ideas/stuff to read at the last minute I’ve collected my recommendations here.
The short version: please consider Likhain (sample above) for your Best Fan Artist ballot, and Tade Thompson for the Campbell. And because I’ve repeatedly had the question: insofar as I can tell, the Xuya universe series is eligible in the Best Series category (meets the total wordcount and had 3 new volumes released in 2016: take your pick between “A Salvaging of Ghosts” , “A Hundred and Seventy Storms”, and “Pearl” in the excellent anthology The Starlit Wood–you can read the first two free online, or you can check out the Cheat Starter Guide to Xuya)
I usually put this up way sooner but this was a bit of an overwhelming year for me, for several reasons, apologies…
I feel like I should start with the usual call to action/disclaimer: if you’re eligible to vote for any of the awards (Nebulas/Hugos/etc.), then please do so, even if you felt you haven’t read enough. It’s a big field and few people can claim to have read everything that came out last year–and generally the people who recuse themselves from voting tend to be marginalised folks, which skews ballots. So please please vote?
Just a quick note that my Xuya short story “The Shipmaker” is now reprinted at Clarkesworld. This was the first of the mindship sequence (AIs incubated in human wombs and becoming part of human families). Bit of nostalgia for this one: it won me my first major award (British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Short Fiction), and was also the first story I wrote that had actual Vietnamese characters (more accurately, Vietnamese immigrants in a Chinese-dominated society. But still).
Also, my longer Xuya novelette, “Pearl”, a retelling of Da Trang and the Pearl, is available as part of The Starlit Wood, Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe’s anthology of retold fairytales. More info here.
Just a quick heads-up that my short story “The Dragon’s Tears”, originally published in Electric Velocipede, is now up at Lightspeed Magazine. I wrote this as a homage to Chinese/Vietnamese fairytales: you can read more on the genesis on this in the interview I had with Christie Yant, here.
Huan Ho sealed the last window, leaving only a crack in the shutter. Tonight, he thought, his eye on the empty streets, the neighbours’ barred shutters. Tonight he had to pass the door on the hill, or let the sickness take his mother.
She had been watching him from her bed. “They ride tonight,” she said, when he was done.
My Xuya short story “A Hundred and Seventy Storms” has been published online as part of Uncanny Magazine‘s July/August 2016 issue. Aka “wow I hadn’t actually used Kepler’s Laws in a long, long time” (I needed to do some quick and dirty planetary design. Was very proud I remembered most of them °_°).
This is the room where The Snow Like a Dancer dies, year by year and piece by piece.
When they wheel in the cradle where she rests, she always thinks—for a bare, suspended moment—that it will be all right, that it will all end well—and then nausea tightens around her, and the white and stark walls seem to press down on her, unbearably sharp, a faint memory of Third Aunt and Cousin Lua asleep, and the incessant noise of machinery monitoring her, drips and feeds hooked into her broken, disconnected limbs.
You can read it here.
You can also buy the issue it’s part of (which has Cat Valence, Sabrina Vourvoulias and many other fine folk) here.
Many many thanks to Stephanie Burgis who read it in record time, as well as to everyone who suggested life changing events when I asked on Facebook (I needed something against which to set the story)–particularly Kari Sperring who came up with large weather events.
And yeah, this is based on my experience of giving birth to the Librarian, at least the bit where I was lying down, tethered to an IV and in pretty strong pain (epidural came too late so I essentially gave birth on a light dosage of painkillers. There were… a couple of really not fun moments).