Captain America and Easter Snow Oh My

It is April 16th and there’s like 2 inches of new snow out there and I am NOT OVER IT OK.

However, I am still alive, contrary to the outrageous claims made by the date on my last blog post. I’m even nominated for a Nebula for Six-Gun Snow White and going to be Guest of Honor at Minicon in Minneapolis this weekend. Which means no Easter Egg dying for me this year, but panels for everyone!

Also I saw Captain America 2 last night and am mildly obsessed with reading the VERY FEW negative reviews because if it’s Marvel critics are now required to like it or face a personal visit from a hungover Iron Man, so that I can dissect how entirely I felt it went wrong when I loved the first one–really the only superhero movie of the current coolkids vibe that I liked on its own merits. I’m endlessly fascinated by stories that seem to almost work but blow the dismount in some way.

All the set pieces were there, albeit run through the guts of the same desaturation engine that video games seem to be churning merrily through at the moment. (Seriously, 4 color panels are starting to look downright lurid in comparison) But they were just set pieces, and not even superhero set pieces so much as Jason Bourne set pieces glitter-glued onto a We Stand With Snowden plot, which actually doesn’t play that well with a superhero universe where all solutions must be phraseable as personal mottos and tie into a movie that won’t be out til next year and also magic. Plus, don’t ever ever mention where all the money to build these evil systems comes from or any kind of class issues while trying to say something about contemporary politics, because the whole genre sort of winces at 1% issues and goes “Oooh! Look over there! Tony Stark is so cool!”, or show anyone but the 20 people allowed to live in a single-hero film/province of MarvelWorld so that there can be a PG 13 rating and we can ignore the massive civilian casualties which are actually inevitable during the pitched machine gun broad daylight super secret “spy” battles. Instead, Twitter stands in for the rest of planet Earth. Which leaves one with a feeling that you can always spot evil because it’s blowing things up, when the truth is the worst things happen without a sound, behind closed doors, with a handshake and a smile. And the Greatest Generation that Captain America provides such a nice clean altar for us to worship, far from being a bastion of wholesome morals, shook a lot of those hands before most of us were born.

The first film actually wanted to dissect some (SOME) of this stuff. The strange obsession with superheroes and simultaneous terror of dictators when it really just takes one bad day to flip one to the other, propaganda, the military using up bright and beautiful young men until they turn into monsters. But somehow Winter Soldier just really wants to be a mainstream spy thriller, and seems wholly uncomfortable with its speculative trimmings, and has in fact trimmed them down to little more than your average James Bond jaunt. Captain America is in the actual military doing straightforward pirate boarding missions. There was a sinister story to be told there about how militaristic and frightening superheroes actually are, but they didn’t want to tell it, along with about five other more interesting stories hiding between the lines. What they did want, as many interviews have attested, was to make “an old school 70s spy thriller.” Oooook.

I feel like there’s something going on there, that filmmakers want the geek money that comes with any superhero franchise at the moment, the longing to see these characters onscreen, but is still deeply ambivalent about the subject matter. Either because there is a desire among those for whom these films are passion projects to make what was once mocked as being childish Extra Serious and Adult, or because those for whom they are not want the money without having to dip their fingers into anything so unsavory and suspect as, like, color, or fun, or magic/tech/mutation that doesn’t stand in for the civil rights movement. Either way, every “geeky” intellectual property seems to be getting the artistic equivalent of Captain America’s transformation: something weaker and smaller and weirder with a good heart being pumped up with industrial chemicals until it looks like some higher-up’s idea of a real man.

And, you know, be sure to never let Black Widow have a story of her own outside of bending over center screen, booting up a Mac, and worrying about the real hero’s relationship status because, well, girl, am I right?

In other news, April 16. Snow. What.

The Girl Without Hands: Writing, Carpal Tunnel, and Silence

When I was ten years old, I ran through a plate glass door. I thought it was open; it was, rather emphatically, shut. My legs were cut to pieces, including an extremely severe gouge to my right thigh. I ended up with a couple of hundred stitches and a chunk of missing muscle in that thigh. It kind of looks like a giant was playing golf using me as a tee and took a divot out of my leg on his upswing. My doctor took a kind of Swedish Chef approach to sewing me back up again and left messy, ropy, uneven scars which, a number of plastic surgeons have told me, represent some of the shoddiest patchwork going in the 1980s.

It took all summer to get to the point where I could walk and run again. I remember the fantastic luxury of getting to spend my days in my mother’s huge king size bed playing Nintendo and reading–and nobody could tell me to go outside and play and get my nose out of books or quit rotting my brain with video games.

Until this Christmas, that was my only experience with compromised mobility, with an injury that brought my life to a screeching halt. This is what’s called able-bodied privilege, and bow howdy, is it a thing.

Carpal tunnel is, if your work involves keyboards, more a question of when and how bad rather than if. Of course I’ve had aching wrists before at the end of marathon writing sessions, banging toward a deadline with my usual barrel-girl over Niagara Falls habits. And yes, my hands had been going numb during those last weeks of the book. I woke up in the night completely fuzzed out from the forearms down. But I didn’t think much about it, because I don’t think about much else when I’m pushing my body to finish a project. And then, some combination of finishing Radiance and immediately sitting down at my spinning wheel for hours on end to make Christmas presents pushed me over a line I didn’t know was there. I woke up, not numb, but in agony, with a burning ache in my wrists and forearms and hands. I was trying to cut up fennel for dinner and couldn’t keep a grip on the knife; I dropped it, my hands shaking.

And that’s how I became the Armless Maiden, the Girl Without Hands.

[rest]

It’s been this way for two months now. At first, I couldn’t do anything. I had to keep my wrists immobilized completely or the pain was overwhelming. Even laughing too hard or nodding too vigorously jostled my hands and caused pain. I got arm braces, thinking it would help, but they made it worse. After wearing them for three days, the muscles in my forearms weren’t even up to the minimal activity they’d been able to manage before. My world shrunk down until it was just barely the size of my body inside my house. I couldn’t manipulate anything. I couldn’t use my touchscreens–that thumb-scroll motion was too much. I couldn’t type, which meant I couldn’t work. I obviously couldn’t knit or spin or cook or walk my dog. The cold made it worse, so going outside became a needs-only proposition.

I decided I would use the time to read–I’d had so little time and space to read and love books the way I wanted to. It would be good for me. And when I tried to lift a book to read, my hands crumpled. I didn’t even have the strength to hoist a paperback. I burst into tears. You use your hands for everything, everything.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. And embarrassed. Humiliated by the failure of my body to keep being a body, to keep being useful, to keep being good. I felt inhuman–our opposable thumbs, our ability to manipulate objects, use tools, affect the materiel of our environment, is a defining characteristic–what we get to play with in the animal kingdom instead of claws or razor teeth or spots or tails or exoskeletons. And I couldn’t even feed myself.

And I couldn’t work. All the stories I’d been working on froze in place, schedules rearranged around not knowing when I’d be functional again. But my mind wasn’t numb. My mind kept churning along, making things and planning things, but it had no fingers to make them happen, to make them real. I can say I felt impotent, but it doesn’t begin to cover it. So much of my pride, my emotional life, my sense of self, rests squarely in my work, my feeling that I am worth the air I displace, that my life has motion and a shape. And it was gone. I couldn’t even talk to most of my friends, who are so far flung that the tap tap of the keyboard is our speech and hugs and warm smiles. The world shrunk and shrunk and I couldn’t do anything about it. And the intense boredom of being forced to be passive ate me up inside. I could read or watch. I could not write or act.

I’ve been lucky, I’ve been cared for by those I love. No one is at their best when they’re helpless and in pain, and they deserve all the cake and cocoa for putting up with sick-Cat, which is the worst-Cat.

[rest]

By the fact that I’m writing this, it’s probably clear that I’m better. Better, but not the same. I suspect never the same again, or at least not for a long time. The last few weeks have been a slow improvement. I can do more, though it hurts afterward. It’s better than doing nothing. I use creams and anti-inflammatories and ice packs. I’ve read like Cookie Monster, if he ate books–and I feel so full of those books and grateful for them. I soaked up unlimited reading time the same way I did during the Plate Glass Summer and it has been intensely good for me.

I got a SafeType keyboard, which looks like something out of Star Trek and has a learning curve like a sheer cliff. I tried, I really tried, but it made me feel like a stupid child, plunking away at keys at the fabulous speed of 4 words a minute. And as there’s no place to rest your arms, you end up needing some real endurance to hold your arms up for hours at a time. After two weeks of practice and pain, I got up to 24 before realizing that the cost in hopelessness wasn’t worth the benefits. To every day feel like this act which has come to define your world is impossible is an all-access pass to the pits of despair. I found it easier to learn the accordion. I’m writing this on my old keyboard, my wrists resting on a towel. I’ve ordered a different brand of won’t-break-you keyboard, hopefully it will be better. (And hey, if anyone’s in the market for a SafeType…)

[rest]

But things have changed. I thought they would change back quickly, a couple of days of rest, no problem. Or maybe a couple of weeks. But it hasn’t yet. My world is ruled by a simple question, asked every morning the moment I wake up:

How bad is the pain today?

Not am I in pain? That answer is always yes. Every day. It’s only a matter of how bad. What can I do today? What will I suffer for tomorrow? I’ve never had to ask that question–and that’s privilege in a nutshell. Your privilege is comprised of the questions you’ve never had to ask. Which questions, how many, how often. Having gone through my life without chronic pain, the utter tyranny of this question presses damnably hard on my heart and my spirits. To all of my friends who’ve lived with pain for much longer (and with much worse) than I–I only understood intellectually. I get it now. I get how hard it is every day to do simple things. And I’ll tell you something–it’s nice to not get it. It’s nice to feel sympathy without a concrete idea of what is happening in the bodies of those you love because yours is fine.

This is the first day I have felt I could work, and I am trying. I have given myself two hours to write what I can, resting when I need to. I’ve noted when I had to stop writing this post because my thumbs had gone numb or the ache got to be too much. It is hard. To have a blog post be a physically punishing task. I have blogged for all of my adult life. And now I ration my strength for it. I have been saying for years that I need to slow down and figure out more sustainable work habits–well, my body has decided it’s tired of waiting for me to figure it out and holler as loud as it can.

So I am trying to think of my daily work not in terms of wordcount but in terms of time. Two hour segments. Not pushing so hard I feel like my eyes are bleeding. Tortoising it up–slow and steady. Anyone who’s met me knows how much that galls. But pain is a wonderful enforcer. You change or you suffer.

But this is the first day of me being, tentatively, back in the land of the living. Reviving this blog, which went rather dark last year for a whole host of other reasons. Getting through the backlog of emails. (Please be patient!) I’m at the outer limits of my ability to not speak–online, in my books, with the keys that are the core of my life. The Girl Without Hands got new ones, eventually. I hope, with all my jangled, pinched-off nerves and frenetic brain, that I will too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an icepack with my name on it.

[rest]

Traditional Awards Eligibility Post

Welcome to the yearly accounting of my published works, in handy list form for those who are inclined to nominate works for awards. (Also for those who don’t nominate, but would like links to things I’ve written!) Hugo nominations opened last week, and Nebula awards nominations are open until February (as are nominations for the Rhysling Award). If you’re a member of the World Fantasy convention, you can nominate works for the World Fantasy awards through May.

Novels

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (Feiwel and Friends)

Collections

The Melancholy of Mechagirl (VIZ Media LLC)
The Bread We Eat in Dreams (Subterranean Press)

(Most of the stories in these collections were published elsewhere prior to 2013, but the collections themselves are still eligible for the World Fantasty award.)

Novellas

Six-Gun Snow White (Subterranean Press)

Short Stories

We Without Us Were Shadows (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy)
The Shoot-Out at Burnt Corn Ranch Over the Bride of the World (Subterranean Press Magazine)
Ink, Water, Milk (The Melancholoy of Mechagirl)
Aeromaus (The Bread We Eat in Dreams)

Poetry

A Great Clerk of Necromancy (Apex Magazine)

Thanks for your consideration! And if you’re not into nominating, I hope you enjoy these things I’ve made!

Let Wrist Articulation Be Forgot…

So!

I had every intention of starting the year by revitalizing this blog, with many exciting posts about things both significant and insignificant. But instead, my body decided it wanted to celebrate the new year with a vicious flare-up of carpal tunnel. I am dictating this blog post, which is extra fun since I am historically unable to dictate so much as a post-it note with any felicity of language. SO FUN.

I haven’t been able to use my hands for anything more strenuous than feeding myself for the better part of a fortnight. On the bright side, I have cool robotic arm-bracers that make Terminator-like clicky noises when I adjust them. So I have that going for me, which is nice. Actually though it is not nice. I’m improving somewhat but it sucks and it is slow and it is frustrating. Also — it’s one thing when I slack of from work to play videogames, its quite another when I can’t work at all and I hate it. LISTEN UP WRISTS, I GOT FAIRIES TO MAKE OKAY?

So the upshot is, I have been invisible and absent but I have a really good reason. I don’t know when I’ll be able to be a full-time primate with the use of my opposable thumbs and tools again but I hope it is soon. In the meantime, I had a new short story collection come out over the holidays: The Bread We Eat in Dreams which includes my last two years of published fiction along with several new stories. The New York Times liked it and stuff. Though the trade edition sold out in a day there are a few (less than fifty) copies of the fancy leather-bound limited edition left here, along with my notes on each story. There are however infinite copies of the ebook, for just five tiny dollars. You can still listen to the Audio Christmas Cracker edition of one of the stories, Twenty Five Facts About Santa Claus, read fabulously by Heath Miller anytime you like. It will stay up throughout the year.

See you all when I am fully functional again. (clicky clicky)

An Audio Christmas Cracker

Good morning everyone! Whether today is a Holiday Eve for you or not, I hope it is a lovely day full of goodness.

As a small gift sent out into the world, I present this audio Christmas Cracker (for my American brothers and sisters, a Christmas Cracker is like a little foil happybomb that goes BANG and then there’s a little present and a paper crown and a joke inside). It is a short story from my collection The Bread We Eat in Dreams, called Twenty Five Facts About Santa Claus, read wonderfully by Heath Miller, and given free to all this rollicking cold December. (Or rollicking hot, depending on where you are.)

Twenty Five Facts About Santa Claus

Please enjoy this little tale, and the carnival of lights and sleighbells and occasional warmth that goes up this time of year. From the islands of Maine to all of you–may the new year best the old and bring your wishes to your hands.

Upcoming AMA on Reddit

CMV will be doing an AMA on Reddit this Wednesday, October 30, from 3-5 PM EST!

If you’re not familiar with Reddit’s AMAs, here are the facts: AMA means “Ask Me Anything.” On October 30, from 3-5 PM, you can find a thread posted on Reddit on which you can ask any burning questions you may have for CMV. She will read your questions and respond! We will post a link to the thread on the day in question, and the best place to get last-minute reminders are CMV’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Ready your questions, people! And kids, get your parents to help you with participating on Reddit. CMV can’t wait to talk with you!

FAIRYLAND TOUR COMES TO AN END

The last stop on the Fairyland tour is tonight, at Longfellow Books in Portland, ME! Any Maine or Maine-adjacent people should make their way to Longfellow Books by 7:00 PM for a reading from The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two! CMV will also being doing a Q&A and signing any books you like. Girls, boys, sprites and goblins, all welcome!

CMV even recently appeared on local Portland channel WCSH to talk all about the Fairyland series:

If you missed out on the Fairyland tour, you can find CMV at Mile Hi Con 45 this weekend in Denver, CO, where she’s appearing as Guest of Honor along with Seanan McGuire. (If you’ve never seen these two together before, and you’ll be at the con – you’re in for a real treat!)

Here’s a last treat for everyone, regardless of whether you manage to catch CMV on tour:

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two press kit.

The press kit for The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two is now available for download as a PDF. Right click the link above to save the file. It includes succinct info about CMV and the Fairyland series, as any good press kit must. But it also includes DIY Fairyland bookmarks!

If you happen to craft either of the bookmarks, feel free to post pictures on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, or Facebook and tag them with #Fairyland3. We’d love to see them in the wild, and happily serving their purpose.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two Released

September’s third adventure in Fairyland hits shelves and hands and hearts today! And what’s our intemperate little aviator up to with her friends?

Cover art for The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two


September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

 

 

You can find The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two essentially wherever books are sold, including the following online retailers:

IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & NoblePowell’s Books

You can also find CMV in several exciting places if you care to look! She’s on tour for The Girl Who Soared even as we converse, visiting schools in Brooklyn today before appearing at a fabulous launch party at Word Books in NYC tonight. Check the Appearances page for details regarding her upcoming events, and be sure to go and see her if she’s anywhere near you.

Cover art for S.J. Tucker's WondersDid we mention tonight’s marvelous launch party will feature the fairy-like mischievousness of one S. J. Tucker? Today is also the release of Tucker’s new album WONDERS, an entire album inspired by the Fairyland books and all those denizens of Fairyland we love and root for and sometimes fear. It includes A-Through-L’s “Ask Me Anything”; the “Song of the Witches” Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks; a terrifying “Glashtyn Shanty; and so much more.

You can listen to the entire album for free at S.J. Tucker’s site and purchase a copy there as well. You can also see Tucker live at Word Books tonight – she’s joining CMV for A Trip to Fairyland as they celebrate The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two’s book release through readings and songs.

Grab your copy of both book and album, and sally forth into Fairyland today!

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two Launches Today!

Cover art for The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in TwoAs usual, Valente enlightens readers with pearly gleams of wisdom about honesty, identity, free will, and growing up. September often worries who she should be and what path she should follow, but the lovely truth, tenderly told, is that it’s all up to her…

Booklist, starred review

October is here! And with it the third Fairyland sibling soars for the moon and hits her mark — which is to say, Happy Book Birthday to The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two!

I’m in New York today with people I love, visiting schools to talk about this amazing series that grew from your generosity and enthusiasm. September is partially grown up, yet still fleet with joy and wonder, and these are the chief qualities I take with me on this Fairyland tour. I hope you and your children will come meet me during this month of harvest and magic, and that we can all launch on another adventure with September together through readings and songs.

Hey, if you’re in New York City, you should come see me at Word Books tonight at 7 PM! We’re doing a reading and a Q&A and OMG S.J. TUCKER IS GOING TO BE THERE DEBUTING SONGS FROM HER NEW ALBUM WONDERS!

What is Wonders? Get this, it’s only a s00j album full of songs inspired by the Fairyland books! Guys, there’s a rollicking song by our favorite Wyverary, a terrifying Glashtyn shanty, and so many other gorgeous and disturbing songs that effortlessly evoke Fairyland in all its strange glory. You can actually listen for free here, but you should totally purchase a copy if you like it. s00j is amazement, scientific fact.

Thank you to everyone — every single one of you who has been there, who supported the original project, who bought the first books and told me how they made them feel, who talked about it online. Thank you to my tribe. To parents and librarians and teachers who shared September’s adventures with their children. And to my publishers who have been a dream of support and love. There are not enough thanks in the world. I will never stop offering what thanks I can.

Which mostly means being overcome with delight, and giving you more September adventures – hey, this is a five book series!

Here’s everything you need to know about The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two!

September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two is another rich, beautifully told, wisely humorous, and passionately layered book from New York Times — bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente.

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local independent bookseller, and basically anywhere you care to look for books. You should be able to get it on the ground at all the big booksellers, too. It’s available on the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, and most other electronic formats.

If you want your copy signed, mail it to me with the cost of return postage and I will sign it for you. Email me for my address if you don’t already know it. Or find me on the tour at any one of the readings and conventions I’ll be doing in 2013-14. Check my Appearances page for details.

How You Can Help (if, you know, you’re inclined to do things like helping out authors. And if you like the book.)

Buy the book. Obviously, this is the best way to support the book — and ensure that there will be many more in the series. Buying a copy during the first week and even doing so today is a huge slice of awesome — it’s the most important week in a book’s life. It’s when the strange math of the NYT list can inexplicably blow your way, as it did with the first book. If you want to do me a solid, buy it this week. I really appreciate it.

Amazon (Kindle, audiobook forthcoming)
Barnes and Noble
iBooks
Powell’s

Come to my readings in the next month. Come to the show, be part of the tribe. Besides reading from The Girl Who Soared, I’m also doing Q&As and sometimes even having tea. There’s also the promise of singing at some events, and I’m turning up at New York City Comic Con! Get all the details on my Appearances page.

Review it. On your blog, or elsewhere if you work for a review site or a magazine. I can send a PDF if you haven’t gotten the book from other sources. Physical ARCs are also available. I’d like to hold review copies for people who review for venues, however.

Put up a review on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Totally easy and a nice way to say what you thought even if you don’t review professionally. Don’t be shy!

Ask your local booksellers to carry it, if they don’t already. This is important, as it is still the place where a whole lot of people buy books, and the brick and mortar ordering system determines a lot of a book’s success.

Check it out from your local library. If they don’t have it, request it. This can result in both you reading the book for free, and increased library orders, which are awesome. Also, libraries: we need them, yo, more than ever.

Link to the book in your journals/Twitter/Facebook/websites — Spread the word! And if you know kids who might like it — tell them. Please do get the word out, if you can. All books need help to get in front of readers’ eyeballs. If you want me to cross-link to any of your work in exchange, let me know.

Use the hashtag #Fairyland3 when talking about it on Twitter – also, if you’d like to win a copy of the book, make a tweet (or write a post and spread it via Twitter) with the hashtag #tothemoon BY NOON ON OCTOBER 2ND, 2013, and I’ll choose 3 winners as soon as my tour schedule allows. (That’s tomorrow, people.)

I’ll be signing stock at Borderlands Books in San Francisco tomorrow – one cool thing out of many about Borderland Books is that they let you order signed copies over the phone! You can call toll-free (much better deal than you get from the Glashtyn) at 888.893.4008 to reserve a copy and make arrangements to get your hands on it.

That’s it. I am full of joy today, that we stand here at the start of another trip to Fairyland. Wash your courage, put on your favorite wind-lent coat, and let’s begin.

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