A dream from last night ever-so-slightly too long for Twitter:

Queen Elizabeth had died and a young princess was being crowned Queen Anne. She was certainly not a princess that actually exists in real life. Long, lovely black hair that she wore down for the occasion, swept over her shoulder and flowing down the front of her white dress, obscuring all the medals and sash. She had thin silver crown. I was a flutist playing in the orchestra for the coronation.

Anne started crying in the middle of her coronation speech. A crowd of ministers with pelican heads rushed to console her and guide her away from the crowds. We had to stop playing and wait for her to return. But she didn’t.

Ages went by. We finally started playing just to entertain everyone, anything we could think of. Then no one could think of another song and we all got up and started dancing with our instruments and each other on the floor of Westminster Cathedral until the flute section all turned into crows and flew up to roost on the buttresses. Anne was hiding up there, too. Her black hair flowed under her gown to become big black wings.

And then: alarm clock.

Posted in Blog Posts Comment

I’m thrilled to announce the cover and existence of my next collection of short fiction: The Melancholy of Mechagirl, from VIZ media, and my awesome editor nihilistic_kid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a unique collection–while Ventriloquism was a general collection of everything ever, Mechagirl brings together all my Japanese-themed short fiction. That turns out to be rather a lot. Some, or perhaps even most of you, know that I lived in Japan for several years and the experience had a profound effect on my work. I’m very excited to have all of it in one place, and with such an amazing cover and team behind it. I mean seriously, just look at that cover!

It’ll be out in July and is available for pre-order now. There’s also a brand new novelette called Ink, Water, Milk in it, along with some other rare, out of print, or new pieces. It’ll also be simultaneously published in Japanese, which is very exciting for me.

Now, there’s an elephant in the room, and even if you don’t see it, I do, so I’m going to go poke it in the trunk.

Yes, this is a collection of fiction about Japan written by a white woman. Yes, that white woman lived in Japan because of the US Navy and her ex-husband being an officer in said organization and that is not a value-free situation. Culturally, it is quite, quite fraught. And when VIZ first approached me concerning this project, their first from a non-Japanese author, I didn’t know what to think, whether it was the right thing to do. I have always tried (and it’s not even close to my place to say if I’ve succeeded) to write about Japan with respect and quality and sensitivity to the fact that I am obviously and forever an outsider. Nevertheless, it was a period in my life that had a profound and indelible effect on me, and in writing about it I have always been trying to integrate and interrogate my own experience, both from within and without, without being overly kind to myself and my culpability or overly romantic or unforgivably ignorant or bullheaded concerning Japanese culture. That is always an iterative process. You circle the thing itself endlessly and never quite arrive at it. I could not have helped writing about Japan, it was always only a question of how I wrote about it, and I hope, I hope I have done well.

And ultimately, what decided me was that a Japanese publisher thought I did at least well enough to ask for this collection and put their weight behind it. And if I wrote these stories to begin with, I should be willing to stand by them as a body of work. This is a very personal book, full of feels, as the kids say these days. It is not a book that purports to speak for Japanese culture in any way, but one which speaks for its author, for a span of ten years of circling Japan and never reaching it, and a single woman’s relationship with a nation not her own, but one which, very occasionally, sat down to tea with her.

Here’s hoping you enjoy it. (And stay tuned for another collection post shortly! My new general collection, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, is coming out in December!)

Posted in Blog Posts Comment

So remember how like, a million years ago, I post a list of 25 things I wanted to do before death if I believed in making lists like that, which I don’t? And then I updated it because I’d done a bunch of the stuff on it? (That list is seriously gutted now and I am so proud of myself, honestly. Most of the stuff that’s left I don’t even know if I really want anymore.)

Probably not, as it was a million years ago and dinosaurs roamed the Internet, posting angrysaurus comments and learning to open doors.

Well, one of the things I listed on the update was to go Somewhere Else and write a book. I’ve thought about this so often–whenever I’m in a new city for more than a few days. Writing books is the great activity of my life. Some people look at place and imagine the club scene–I imagine what it would be like to write a book there. For me, the process of writing is such an otherspace–out of my own everyday and into the unknown and odd and untethered to such things as like, a normal workday clock or regular meals.

I’ve wanted it for ages. To see how another place would affect the book, would affect me. It’s not even as expensive as you might think, if you are a bargain hunter like me, and if you write as quickly as I do. I had a taste of it in Budapest with Theodora Goss last year and it was amazing. I’ll never not be in love with Budapest. But it wasn’t enough time, in the end.

SO THE POINT IS OMG I’M DOING IT IN LIKE TWO WEEKS.

I’m headed to Melbourne, Australia (not Florida as my weather app keeps insisting I must mean) for six weeks from April 14th-May 29th. I’ll be working on Radiance, my new adult book (yay! So excited to write for adults again!) with Tor, based on the short The Radiant Car Thy Sparrows Drew. It’s my hope and my design to write it entirely in that time, but we’ll see if I am actually boss enough to pull that off. Either way, a massive portion of it will be done in Melbourne.

Why Melbourne? Well, it’s pretty amazingly badass there. I fell in love at Worldcon ’10 and I’ve been back since and it’s just an amazing city–not to mention one obsessed with Art Deco, which happens to be the aesthetic of Radiance, with a skyline that looks like a made for TV SF movie about some glistening offworld colony. Also they make the best coffee ever and public art everywhere and ocean and penguins and when I’m there it will be autumn. Two autumns in one year! I know Aussie autumn is not New England autumn but I can’t help being excited about a double dose of my favorite season. I also have friends there so it’s not just completely new and strange and would take six weeks to figure out how to do my laundry.

Through the magic of Airbnb I have an apartment lined up in St Kilda (with laundry). I’ll be keeping as much of an organized schedule as I can in order to make the book go, but I’m definitely not a complete shut-in and I’ll be around if people feel like grabbing a drink sometime. I’ll blog as much as I can. I know how insanely lucky I am to be able to do this, believe me. It seems impossible, even now. I am so grateful that a combination of good fortunes allowed this to happen for me.

I’m crazy excited, though overwhelmed by the idea of packing for six weeks. I’ll be leaving from NYC the day after my rescheduled reading/conversation with Lev Grossman at Community Bookstore. This does definitely mean I won’t be at Wiscon or the Nebulas (which is a bummer, but the stars aligned and I couldn’t pass up the chance to cross a thing off the list of things) and I may or may not be at BEA depending on Factors.

Mostly, though, I’m just squeeing all over my insides. Wish me monsters!

Posted in Blog Posts 3 Comments

So those events I had at the end of the Fairyland 2 tour that were cancelled by Hurricane Sandy? Rescheduled!

I’ll be reading at Water Street Books in Exeter, New Hampshire at 6pm on April 5th.

And the CRAZY AWESOME “In Conversation” with me and Lev Grossman has been rescheduled for April 11th, 7pm, at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn.

Hope to see folks there!

Posted in Blog Posts Comment

So it is -3 outside, as glittering and hard and unforgiving a morning as we have yet had this winter and the car is in the shop so I am putting off walking through the crystal shards of the cold to get to my office and THUS I will procrastinate by telling you about my new favorite thing of forever.

After the fashion of Feminist Ryan Gosling (which I love, though my heart will always belong to Literary Agent Ryan Gosling), Academic Coach Taylor is a meme complex using images of Coach Taylor of Friday Night Lights and encouraging/motivational/tough love messages concerning the life of a graduate student and/or academic. Some of them are funny, some of them are full of awesome critspeak that makes me giggle, and some of it is OBVIOUSLY SPEAKING DIRECTLY TO ME AND MY WORNOUT BATTERED WRITERHEART.

truepenny once said, and I have quoted her SO MUCH, that it’s amazing how she chose a career that was exactly like being in grad school all the time, only it was always finals. This is a True Fact About Book Life. I dropped out of graduate school like a DANGEROUS LEATHER WEARING PUNK SLACKERBOSS, which makes me at least a non-practicing academic if I am being generous with myself. But also my mother was in her doctoral program for my entire adolescence and teen years so my brother and I were looked after by the denizens of our grad student housing complex who needed the babysitting money, from the entymologist who had pink hair and did not help my lifelong fear of insects IN ANY WAY by keeping larvae and grasshoppers for barbecuing in her freezer to the feminist theorist whose aged mother taught me to make pot stickers while she told me all about the position of women in 17th century China to the mathematician couple who gave me a new puzzle every time I came over.

My heart is an ivory tower. My mind is a student housing building where every apartment is something mad and new and beautiful.

And thus I see the truth of how very much like being a constant student being a full time writer is. You are always cramming. You never know enough. Every book I ever write is a dissertation I never wrote. Long time readers will know I occasionally suffer paroxysms of guilt over never finishing my own advanced degrees, though I’m getting zen with that now, in large part because I do the work–I even teach–I just get to put Wyveraries and sentient cities in it, too.

ANYWHAT.

TONS of Academic Coach Taylor is SUPER RELEVANT to writers of fiction and I’m not going to lie, I cried a little reading through them. (I’m sure that’s wholly unrelated to the fact that the night before I drank about seven cups of coffee because I thought I made decaf but I did not make decaf. So I stayed up the entire night watching Tiny Fey era Saturday Night Live and occasionally take a break to chase my dogs around singing the Andy Griffith theme in a terrifying minor key. I was wrecked.)

Now, I love Friday Night Lights. I never thought I could love a realist football show, but I can and I do. There are so many amazing things about it, from the naturalistic acting to the cinematography to holy cats the music to the writing which even in its faltering (hello murderplot) faltered interestingly, took risks, and had Lessons for the Long Form Fictioneer. And of course, of course, the only healthy marriage I’ve ever seen on television, which is not based on an assumption of the essential antipathy of men and women, which does not present a wasteland nightmare of heterosexuality strewn with skulls and bile and vicious, intractable tank warfare presented as comedy. And the choice made at the end of the show, a difficult, complicated choice, is simply not one I believe has ever been made on American television. (I won’t spoil it.) And like it or not, the choices we see theatricalized are ones we are more likely to make in life, because we have models for how its done.

Oh, show.

Coach Taylor and Tami Taylor are beloved of the internet. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are both trying to break out of the bone-deep goodness of those roles and the utter discomfort caused by seeing Tami on American Horror Story and Eric in his new Sundance film is a fascinating meta-play. But the Taylors are Mom and Dad for a goodly portion of my funny little over-media’d generation, (certainly not everyone, FNL is a show that clung to Not-Being-Cancelled by its fingernails every year of its five year run, but when Mitt tries to steal their slogan, you know even he gets that whatever “family values” means to anyone who doesn’t define them as hating women, gays, the disabled, and non-whites, are summed up in these characters) and I frankly think they are better at it than any Brady or Cleaver.

THUS. I look at Academic Coach Taylor and I wonder if the reason I myself and academics and liberals and feminists and all those filthy, dirty words that mean the Kind of People Who Don’t Like Football And Real Men love Eric and Tami is because they demonstrate two things few of us had.

Because look, my dad was nothing like Coach Taylor. Even dads who think they are Coach Taylor, and I know at least one, aren’t. And actually Coach Taylor isn’t–the very take no shit but love the size of the planet aspect of him is not one he trains on his daughter much. He doesn’t push her or demand excellence the way he does with his players. Even in the world of the show, Eric and Tami are tasked with being Everyone’s Parents, and that makes them ever so slightly less Their Own Kids’ Parents. But the fact is a whole lot of kids my age had very absentee mothers and fathers, or mothers and fathers, as in my case, truly messed up by divorce and the hypocrisy of their own parents and the constant flux of contradicting expectations flooding them. We were the latchkey kids everyone was so goddamned worried about back in the 70s and 80s. By the way–when I go to schools and talk about my books now? The word latchkey kid means absolutely nothing to students or teachers. Everyone is a latchkey kid now.

And the other thing is that we who are not football players and athletes rarely got the kind of motivation applied to high-performing jocks. They get the awe-inspiring pep talks and the tough love but hard-won pride and camaraderie and cheerleaders and very, very clear markers of success–the State Championship Ring has importance second only to the One Ring in the FNL mythos. The intellegentsia has no mechanism for that. Sure, all those slogans and butt-patting and go team go is often very hollow and jingoistic and empty and meant to cover up massive overspending on athletic programs in the real world. But if it didn’t inspire people to perform, they wouldn’t make any more sports movies.

So most of us, even if we had present parents, never had anyone pump us up for the work of the mind. And we wish we had. Because we’re human and we want to be pumped up. Because academics, far from being the anemic, gormless Morlocks of the library, are really fucking passionate about what they do.

But even when you’re passionate, even when what you do with your life is exactly what you always wanted and you have so many more stories to tell and so much inside you you want to let out, even then, sometimes you need someone to drag you up out of your funk and make you do windsprints and be proud of you when you fail to fail.

So I love Academic Coach Taylor even though he is a meme because he is a meme, in the classical sense. He’s the Dad we didn’t have and the Coach we wish existed for people like us. And he wants us to succeed, even when its halftime and it looks impossible.

Clear eyes, full hearts. Can’t lose.

Posted in Blog Posts Comment