Tag: scattered along the river of heaven

Sturgeon Awards


In a “good news never come alone” kind of thing, got news this morning that “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” and “Immersion” were both finalists for the Sturgeon Award. The complete list of finalists can be found here  (and yes, Ken Liu is also in fine form this year 🙂 ).

If you need me, I’ll be busy squeeing…

Misc. self-promotion items


The Locus Recommended Reading List for 2012 is out: many, many familiar names on that list (very happy to see Lavie Tidhar, Vandana Singh, and anthologies like AfroSF, Robots: The Recent AIThe Future is Japanese and Breaking the Bow on the list of recommended materials). I’m also on it for my two Clarkesworld stories “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” and “Immersion”, and for my novella On a Red Station, Drifting (which is mentioned by both Rich Horton and Gardner Dozois).

The February issue of Locus also contains Rich Horton’s review of that selfsame novella:

I recently saw two very strong novellas that might be easy to miss. Aliette de Bodard’s On a Red Station, Drifting, is another in her Xuya alternate history, in which the Chinese and Mexica (i.e. Axtecs) have become great space-based powers. Several recent stories have been set in a colonized galaxy and on space stations, some controlled by the Dai Viet. This one is set on a remote station, Prosper, controlled by an obscure branch of a powerful family, and run by a Mind, who is also one of the family’s ancestors. To this station comes Linh, a cousin, fleeing an uprising against the Emperor. Linh has spoken out against the Emperor for his failure to confront the rebels, and so is potentially a traitor, and is also racked with guilt for leaving her previous post under threat. Quyen is the leader of Prosper, but is not confident in her abilities, and also worried that the station’s Mind seems to be decaying. All this seems to portend disaster, amid small betrayals and slights between everyone involved. The authentically (to my eyes) non-Western background powerfully shapes an original and ambitious tale.

Which is pretty, er, nice with a side of awesome? Speaking of which, if you don’t feel like ordering the hardback of the novella, can I point out that you can get an exclusive ebook copy by donating $100 or more to the World SF Travel Fund?

Either way, we’re 60% funded and could use some help meeting our goals, in order to send awesome writers Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Csilla Kleinheincz to World Fantasy 2013. Go check us out; and spread the word!



Remember when I said selling two different stories to two different Year’s Best was a first for me? I spoke a little too soon…

Sean Wallace just let me know that Rich Horton wants to reprint “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” and “Heaven Under Earth” in his Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2013. That’s four freaking different stories to three different Year’s Best anthologies…


If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll be off to do some massive squeeing….

A few upcoming publications, and a reminder


A few cool news: first, I’ve put together an ebook sampler for my fiction. The idea isn’t to do a short story collection (or even to make money!), but simply to allow people to discover my stuff by browsing through their Kindles and other reading devices. The thing is called Scattered Among Strange Worlds, and regroups my Clarkesworld Chinese/Vietnamese diaspora in space story “Scattered Across the River of Heaven” and my IGMS apocalyptic mermaid tale “Exodus Tides”. Due to exclusivities, etc., it will be available end of July (or possibly a bit later if I have to fight to upload a book on amazon…). Price should be the lowest I’m allowed to set, so 99 cents?

The cover and ebook design is by the ultra amazing Patrick Samphire, who recently launched his own ebook cover and ebook design business over at 50secondsnorth. He blogs about the design and the choices he had to make here, on his blog.

Isn’t it fabulous? Many thanks to Patrick, who’s got a very sharp eye for what works for books covers, and does absolutely freaking gorgeous stuff (and his rates are pretty darn affordable, too). You know you want an ebook this summer 😀

Also, my Chinese-y story “Under Heaven” will be available in Electric Velocipede issue 24, in which I share a TOC with Ken Liu (then again, who doesn’t share a TOC with the ever-prolific Ken? 🙂 ) and Ann Leckie. You can find the full list of stories here, and their publication date should be available soon.

Finally, I’ve sold my short story “Ship’s Brother”, set in the Xuya continuity, to Interzone for their next or after-next issue. Featuring a ship named after a fairytale character (Mị Nương, aka The Fisherman’s Song. If you’re read the fairytale, you’ll know why). Many thanks to Chris Kastensmidt and the ever-awesome Rochita Loenen-Ruiz for reading it and offering very cogent suggestions!


You never liked your sister.

I know you tried your best; that you would stay awake at night thinking on filial piety and family duty; praying to your ancestors and the bodhisattva Quan Am to find strength; but that it would always come back to that core of dark thoughts within you, that fundamental fright you carried with you like a yin shadow in your heart.

I know, of course, where it started. I took you to the ship–because I had no choice, because Khi Phach was away on some merchant trip to the Twenty-Third Planet–because you were a quiet and well-behaved son, and the birth-master would have attendants to take care of you. You had just turned eight–had stayed up all night for Tet, and shaken your head at your uncles’ red envelopes, telling me you were no longer a child and didn’t need money for toys and sweets.

In other news, packing for Romania in a bit of a panic. More later, but a small reminder you can find me in Bucharest Friday 17:00, at the Calderon Cultural Center, 39, Jean-Louis Calderon Street, sector 2, for the Society of Romanian Science Fiction’s ProspectArt meeting. I’ll be interviewed by the tireless Cristian Tamas, and will read from “Immersion”, a full two weeks before it’s published in Clarkesworld!

Heart Attack of the Day


The latest issue of Locus contains Gardner Dozois’s review of “Scattered Along the River of Heaven”, which he very kindly calls the story one of the best of the year so far, and compares it to Ursula Le Guin’s “The Day Before the Revolution”. (in case you’re curious and not a Locus subscriber, Sean Wallace posted the full text of the review here)

Given that Le Guin is basically one of my heroines, who got me into feminism, and got me into SF at a time when most (hard) SF left me cold; and that “The Day Before the Revolution” is one of her stories that still stick with me, years after reading it… you’ll understand why I’m pretty much floored at that point.

(bonus links: Adam Callaway’s take on the Nebula Awards finalists, aka I’m floored again; and just for a contrast, VarietySF’s take, which basically lists “Shipbirth” at the bottom of the list as completely incomprehensible and unreadable)

Linky linky


-More “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” linkage: Two Dudes in an Attic (in an analysis that is not only gushing but starting to rival the story in length, wow), Jonathan Crowe, and Marina
-Warpcore SF reviews Master of the House of Darts
-Jim Hines tries to duplicate female poses on genre covers, and posts pictures. Hilarious. (even though, yeah, women do move a little more easily at the hips than men, it’s true that none of those poses look exactly comfortable for men). genreviews does the same thing comparing male and female poses on covers.
-Related: Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits, or why boob plates are the most impractical idea ever.

Linky linky, the shameless edition


-It’s only been out a week, but there’s been awesome coverage of “Scattered Along the River of Heaven”: Lois Tilton on Locus Online marked it as Recommended, and noted it as a “good story” in her semi-monthly summary (my first time ever Lois Tilton likes something of mine…). Ken Liu posted a few thoughts on it here; John M. Kerr liked it ; starlady38 referred to it as “painfully good” (and reviewed Harbinger of the Storm, too!); the World SF blog showcased it; VarietySF wondered if it was part of a new trend of “helpful” invasive swarms of bots; and various people on twitter (Alex Dally McFarlane, Joyce Chng, Fred Warren, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz…) pointed to it. Wow. Never quite had so much press for one story.
-Fatema Mernissi on “Size six: The Western women’s harem”:

Unlike the Muslim man, who uses space to establish male domination by excluding women from the public arena, the Western man manipulates time and light. He declares that in order to be beautiful, a woman must look 14 years old

(I think what Mernissi means here is “time and slenderness”, because “time and light” makes no sense in the context of the article)
(via ideealisme Don’t agree with everything, but it’s an interesting analysis of current standards of beauty)
-Kate Elliott on “Re-reading and the Experience of Narrative”: interesting thoughts on how the sense of urgency can shape certain modern narratives; and on how re-reading can parallel life:

In life, we come back to the same events or choices, back to similar things, and we can never see them in exactly the way we saw them the first time, or the last but one time, when we encountered a similar moment or that same issue.

-Ari Marmell on “The Shared DNA of Steampunk and Epic Fantasy”. Worth munching on, though I’m not entirely sure I buy the premise in its entirety (the basic nostalgia drive is bang-on, but the parallels that are drawn feel a little too neat. Haven’t had time to think about this properly yet).
-And a random food link: thịt heo kho trứng (caramelised/braised pork with eggs) in steamed buns, from Blue Apocalypse. Yum.

Author’s Notes: Scattered Along the River of Heaven


This one started with poets: to be more specific, Aimé Césaire and Qiu Jin. You might have heard about both or either, but if you haven’t: Aimé Césaire was a Martiniquais, and is famous for a lot of things–but the one that got my attention was his poetry. He wrote in French, having received a classical French education; but his poems concern themselves with cultural identity, and in particular the cultural identity of Black people in French territories (at the time he, Senghor and Damas founded the négritude movement, Africa was still crisscrossed with French colonies).
He was both an activist and a poet; the same can be said of Qiu Jin, aka the Woman Knight of Mirror Lake, a Qing dynasty revolutionary, who fought against the misogynist authorities, and sought to free women from the tyranny of their husbands and fathers (and from the custom of bound feet in particular). Qiu Jin had received a classical education, and wrote impassioned and beautiful poetry about her role in a revolution–and was ultimately executed after a failed uprising.

The whole Qiu Jin angle tied in with some thinking I’ve been having about revolutions and wars of liberation; and about messy transfers of power. Mainly, that revolutions always have a losing side, and that they create exiles–the Russian émigrés to France and Britain in the beginning of the 20th Century, the Iranian diaspora from 1979, who got hounded out of the country for being loyal to the Shah; the loyalists to Chiang Kai-shek, who had to forcibly relocate to Taiwan… And that revolutions might indeed be liberating for a country as a whole, but that beneath you’ll find power struggles, and that one social strata or one region will often come to dominate everyone else. Finally, the fact that social dominance often translates into language power-plays: for instance, the “standard” dialect of Vietnam is now Northern Vietnamese (because the Communist Party rules from the North); the “standard” language of France was imposed over all local dialects aka patois in the 19th Century (see here for an account of how non-French dialects gradually lost the struggle). I’m not saying it’s necessarily and completely a bad thing to have one dialect become dominant: if we had kept all the patois in French, we still wouldn’t be able to understand one another and wouldn’t have a sense of national identity; but there is still a tremendous loss in languages that can happen when a country unifies itself and becomes a whole.

Somehow, all of this merged together into a story of colonial empires and uprisings and poetry. Yup. Go figure.

I wanted one of the strands of the story to be poems: the idea was that Anshi’s life would be seen through her writings; and what better writings for a scholar than poems? Most scholars in Vietnam or China composed poetry; and the ability to do so was widely praised; in a quasi-Asian future, it made sense that poetry would still be very important. Qiu Jin’s poems provided much of the verse that I put in the story: see the first three poems of this post, and you’ll notice many familiarities… Another poem I used for inspiration was Bei Dao’s “The Answer”, which you can read here, probably his most famous one, as it was written during the 1976 Tiananmen demonstrations, and was taken up as an unofficial anthem in the 1989 ones.

For the very last poem, though, I wanted something a little mellower, about separation–it’s an easy theme to find in classical Chinese poetry (much of which was written between friends who had known each other in the capital and been posted to opposite ends of the country), so I turned to the Tang poets. Not remembering my sources quite so well; but I went for an amalgam of poetry about loss and nostalgia, which also–quite naturally–gave me my title. For once, I didn’t have to struggle to find one 🙂

Online fiction: “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” in Clarkesworld


In possibly the fastest turnaround I’ve had from finishing the final draft to publication, you can now read my story “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” in Clarkesworld.

Or, if audio fiction is more to your liking, you can listen to the podcast by the awesome Kate Baker.

This is the pseudo-Asian SF story with bots, a dying colonial empire, and a prison orbiting a black hole–aka the one where I had to improvise four pseudo-Chinese poems before I could actually write any of the story’s scenes. It was, well, not fun to write, but very instructive. And scary. This is a very scary story, because it’s ambitious, and touches on matters I’ve been thinking about for a while, and I feel very much exposed publishing it.

Would love to know what you thought of it (either at Clarkesworld or here)–this is possibly the best thing I’ve written yet, and I’m curious (OK, and scared, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?) to see people’s reaction to it.

I’ll post author notes and thoughts on writing processes tomorrow, so do stay tuned 😀

Sale: Scattered Along the River of Heaven to Clarkesworld


Wow, that was fast… Neil Clarke is taking “Scattered Along the River of Heaven” for the January issue of Clarkesworld. I feel… a little awed? I’ve been trying to break into Clarkesworld ever since it came into being (back when Nick Mamatas was still editor); and now it’s happened.

This is the story with pseudo-Chinese poems, colonialism and language that I was talking about earlier, the one where writing the last scene actually wrung me dry. It’s been knocking around my head for a while, ever since Aimé Césaire died: I wanted to write a story about poetry and language and decolonisation and national identity. It took me four years to find the words, and I ended up throwing a lot of personal stuff in it (much more than really makes me comfortable); but I’m proud of it, though a little fearful that it’s not going to be up to scratch. We shall see…

The revised snippet from the beginning (didn’t do much beyond touching it up)

I grieve to think of the stars
Our ancestors our gods
Scattered like hairpin wounds
Along the River of Heaven
So tell me
Is it fitting that I spend my days here
A guest in those dark, forlorn halls?

This is the first poem Xu Anshi gave to us; the first memory she shared with us for safekeeping. It is the first one that she composed in High Mheng—which had been and remains a debased language, a blend between that of the San-Tay foreigners, and that of the Mheng, Anshi’s own people.

Many thanks to everyone who took a look at it on OWW and helped me hammer it into shape: Oliver Buckram, L.K. Pinaire and David Kernot. And to the H, who liked it in spite of not understanding the ending at all 🙂 (I fixed that part; now it should make sense for everyone).

January also marks the publication of another piece in which I had a part; but I don’t think I’m not allowed yet to reveal where and when. Watch this page for updates.