I was at Boskone all weekend, which was crazy and wonderful by turns. It’s been about eight months since I’ve been to a con and it was amazing to not be burned out on cons while at one. I really needed the rest, and I was so happy to see my friends.


I heard the news right before Boskone and couldn’t tell anyone while I was there! Even at the Clarkesworld reading where I read form Silently and Very Fast! Which is what was nominated! In the novella category! EEEEEEEE!

Seriously, this is insane. I wrote Silently for WSFA because I was the GOH at Capclave. Normal people give them short story reprints or a trunk novel. But I got it into my head that I should write an original AI story because then I could commit SF without anyone being all PLZ STAPLE YOUR DEGREE IN COMPUTER SCIENCE TO ALL SUBMISSIONS. From scratch, digging up an idea I’d been nesting on since I first moved to Ohio a million years ago but didn’t know enough about AI to write, a long, long story that was not long enough to be a novel but too long to be a short story. And then of course the deadline came as I was so exhausted from touring I was nearly catatonic.

It is what you call an unlikely contender. This is, in fact, my first Nebula nomination. The Andre Norton Award is Not a Nebula, as stated by large and bolded print in the rules. If I manage to get nominated for a Stoker some year, I’ll have the royal flush of nominations (Hugo, Nebula, WFA, and Stoker). No wins, but I’ve been nominated. I’ve been invited to the game. It’s a big deal to me, personally, and especially because SAVF is my first major work of SF as opposed to fantasy. It’s a work that I’d been planning for five years, learning and researching so I could get smart enough to write it. It means maybe there’s room for me in the science fiction club, after all.

Speaking of, my other big news is that a lovely gentleman waited in my signing line (I had a signing line! It was long! Wow!) so that he could ask me in person to be the Principal Speaker/GOH at Philcon 2012 this fall. Philcon is the oldest SF convention in the country, and I am floored to be asked. So I will see you all in Jersey just north of Thanksgiving, right?

It has been a long weekend of silent, repressed squeeing. Now I squee from the rooftops.

Yawp, too.

It is for times like this I made this icon.

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So! A couple of things and then one more.

One, the Locus Poll is up. I, er, showed rather well. I have something in all the fiction categories, and sometimes more than one thing which is BANANAS because I’m usually over the moon to get one mention. It’s probably to do with having published a thousand things last year but I’m super thrilled. Silently and Very Fast is on there, Deathless, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, White Lines on a Green Field, The Folded World, and Fairyland. Welcome to Bordertown is up for best anthology, too! You can also write-in titles you think should have made it.

The Poll is connected to the Award–so you can go over there and vote for your favorites, no fee, just click. There’s a lot of amazing stuff, not just mine, and the more people vote the more vitality the Award has and Locus is kind of the Variety for our field. So vote! Clicking is fun.

I’m going to point this out only because I’ve been waving my hands saying don’t waste your votes on Fairyland for other awards–I don’t want to put my foot in the current debate about whether it’s ok to even make a post saying you’re eligible for an award. (I think it’s fine, obviously.) But Fairyland IS eligible for the Locus Award, despite its online publication. So this is probably your only chance to vote for Fairyland for anything in 2012, if you were itching to, as I don’t think it’s eligible for anything else.

Thing Two!

The Nebula nominations close tomorrow. So if you are a SFWA member and you haven’t voted, it is time to vote! All of the things I mentioned up there EXCEPT Fairyland are eligible, but the point is voting full stop, no matter who you vote for–be active, use those fees you paid to have a say in the slant of the genre.

I have thus discharged by vote-announcing duty.

Finally, the Deathless paperback is out today! So you can give your loved one a dark as night D/s Soviet fairy tale for Valentine’s Day for not very much money. I mean, it IS a love story. Romantic Times said so.(I am the WORST for Valentine’s Day this year. I’ve been sick so long that I haven’t planned anything. Ugh.)

This is the first time I’ve gone to paperback from hardback–I am happy. (Fairyland paperback, along with all the online fiction, bestiary, and The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland, is out May 8.)

Back to hacking my guts out, reading student stories, and blogging over at the Stross house. Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys in Boskone over the weekend! If any of you want to volunteer for SFWA and help me set up the business meeting, it’s at 12 on Saturday. Ping me in any of the various ways to sign up.

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For your reading pleasure, a selection of Things I have posted at Charles Stross’s blog during my tenure there (still going for two more weeks) and absence here:

You Are What You Love: A Numerical List of Loosely-Connected Thoughts on Writing (Part 1)
How Do We Get There? Thoughts on Post-Scarcity Fiction
Hello My Name Is: The Problem of Memory

Also! I will be at Boskone next weekend! It is my first time! Here’s my schedule, I hope to see a bunch of you there:

How To Build A Genius (Panel), Fri 17:00 – 18:00, Harbor I (Westin)
Fuzzies Must Die! (Panel), Fri 18:00 – 19:00, Burroughs (Westin)
Fairyland Road Show! S. J. Tucker & Catherynne Valente (Dialog), Fri 20:00 –
21:00, Harbor I (Westin)
The Women of Doctor Who (Panel), Sat 11:00 – 12:00, Harbor I (Westin)
SFWA Eastern Regional Meeting (Other), Sat 12:00 – 13:00, Carlton (Westin)
Reading: Catherynne Valente (Reading), Sat 15:30 – 16:00, Lewis (Westin)
Reading: Clarkesworld (Reading), Sat 17:00 – 18:00, Lewis (Westin)
Autographing: Benjamin Tate, Catherynne M. Valente (Autographing), Sun
13:00 – 14:00, Galleria-Autographing (Westin)

Note this is only the second Fairyland show s00j and I have done–it has been really tough to put our schedules together. So don’t miss this one! (Also, she is giving a house concert at mine on 2/25, all are welcome! But that’s SJ and Betsy, I won’t be reading.)

And in my capacity as a SFWA director, allow me to GUILT TRIP ALL OF YOU WHO ARE MEMBERS into coming to the business meeting. It’s my first time running one, so it’s sure to be hilarious.

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All great ideas come in the shower. It is axiomatic.

At least I think this is a great idea. I want to run it by you guys before I commit to it–maybe it is not a great idea! i trust you to tell me to save my ink if not.

So, most of you are probably peripherally aware that I studied Greek in college, and this is what my degree is in. Classics remains one of my abiding passions in life, which is actually understating it a bit. When I was studying, I naturally had to read Antigone at some point, which is a play by Sophocles about Oedipus’s kids and how great they did not turn out.

I fell in love with it. So hard. I was genuinely surprised at how different the play seemed to me in Greek–I’d even played Antigone before, because she is a young girl and therefore one of the few terrifyingly awesome Greek leads a youngster can play. And all the translations I’d ever seen were super excited about the Damn the Man aspect of the whole thing, the radio for the people attitude of Antigone toward monarchical power (which she tells to stuff it at great length, hooray democracy).

But reading it for myself, aside from the sheer astonishing beauty of the Greek text, I was struck by how not at all about that the play seemed in my eyes. Yes, Antigone tells Creon to take a long walk of a short pier, yes, she buries her brother and puts family above government, yes there is some Ra Ra Athens subtext about how kings are bad and should be defied–though all of this is enormously played up in French and American translations where we have a vested interest in shitting on kings.

But to me, what the play was clearly about was this strange, fucked up girl. What it was about was sex and death. The political stuff is like an intermission before we get back to this necrophiliac incestuous instinct playing itself out horribly but gorgeously. It’s not a mistake that the famous choral ode in Antigone is not about sticking it to the man, but about the power of the sexual drive.

Anyway, as you can tell, I was and am super into this idea of Antigone. It was the first time I thought: I could translate this ancient thing and actually say something new (ish. There’s no such things as new-new in Classics, but I could make it Different. I could make it wild and strange). And at 21 I resolved to translate it.

I’m 32, and it hasn’t happened. I got really busy with publishing fiction and I didn’t finish my graduate program and Life Happened. And now I’m at a point where I still want to do it, I would be quite upset if I died without doing it, but writing work piles up month upon month and I can’t really squeeze in a major project that has no external impetus to complete, where no one would care if I never did it but me. And it’s tough sell to my bank account to write what amounts to a new book without some kind of bill-paying ability attached to it.

And the thing is, no academic press would be interested in a translation by me. I have an undergrad degree, I am an SFF writer which is like not being a writer at all in academia, and Antigone has been translated a whole lot. Plays are brutally hard to get published and academic press contracts are some of the worst I’ve ever seen. So even if I did it, it would probably sit on my hard drive and cry bitter Grecian tears.

And in the shower today I was thinking about how I am useless for not having done this thing yet and I thought: huh. But, you know, hoo-rah democracy. I don’t need an academic press.

But I do need a way to keep myself on the rails if I ever hope to even write it.

Which brings me to Kickstarter.

So what if I did a Kickstarter project to fund a new translation of Antigone?

It is easily as much work as a full novel, as I’ll have to brush up on my Greek and do a tremendous amount of research, some of which only comes in expensive books. I’d have no intention of doing a Super Accurate Translation, as that’s been done and handily by many folks. I’d be translating the feeling, using all my fun postmodern language tools to make the plethora of words for screwing and dying Greek has into something rich and new in English. I could make my gothsexrage Antigone come alive. If we hit a certain amount I could hire an artist to illustrate it, a certain amount above that and I could include a collection of original poems on classical subjects. I’d put it out on the Kindle (plus BN and epub, Smashwords, etc) and Lulu, (or maybe even serialize the process online) and it could be something really extraordinary, something that doesn’t interfere with my novel options, without getting lost in the labyrinth of the academic presses in which I have little clew these days.

This is my thought. It excites me. I look at my Great Scott (mother of all Greek dictionaries) on the shelf and give it the come-hither look. I remember that I have my old 21-year-old translations of the first several scenes on an old hard drive. I wonder if it a thing that wants to exist, if it was a thing people would support.

What do you think?

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One of my best friends is pixelcandy, who lives in Portland and is a programmer and a gamer and also does these things with three children under the age of 6 and therefore in my eyes some kind of magician.

Her oldest child is Serenity, who’s so tall and articulate I often forget that she just turned five and can’t quite read yet and is not, in fact, eight. Until I have my own, the three of them are the kids I have the most contact with, and Seren particularly, as she’s the oldest and the most outgoing and also loves Fairyland and listens to the audiobook in her room which is adorable.

So I crashed at their house the other night and the kids woke me up at 6:45 am, so I went out to sit with them and watch Shaun the Sheep and bat kid-duty for a bit since I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was sitting on the couch with Seren and she reached up and touched my necklace, saying she liked it. And the following dialogue occurred, which I reproduce for you because a bigger facepalm I can hardly imagine for myself, and those should always be shared with the internet.

Me: I got that in England, you know. Do you know what England is?

Serenity: Nope.

Me: It’s a country on the other side of the ocean you can see when you’re on the island with us. If you went all the way across that ocean, you’d find England. The people who settled this part of America came from England and another country called France.

Serenity: *not interested, watches Shaun the Sheep*

Me: *thinks of awesome thing to interest child in England* And also that’s where King Arthur lived! *does mental TA DA*

Serenity: Who’s King Arthur?

And three things happen. I make the shock-grin-gasp thing that I do whenever someone hasn’t heard of a thing I love. Almost simultaneously I remember that she’s five, and it’s not really surprising she doesn’t know who King Arthur is. And then my brain goes OMG I GOT THIS and gets all excited that I am literally the BEST PERSON EVER to explain King Arthur to a little girl for the first time. I wrote a book about it! I AM ON THIS.

But then…it happens. My entire knowledge of Arthuriana lurches forward into the talky part of my brain, every little thing I know about it from childhood obsession to grad school fights to come out first, and I start talking before the kid can get bored again but King Arthur is a huge story and SURPRISINGLY HARD to soundbite for a kindergartner. So this is what comes out:

Me: Well, a long time ago there lived a good king named Arthur who gathered all the greatest knights in the land and made them swear a vow to protect England. They were called the Knights of the Round Table. And they fought giants and dragons and monsters and went on a long quest for a cup that would make you live forever, but then King Arthur’s wife Queen Guenevere….er. Ran off? With the best knight who was named Lancelot and there was a terrible war and eventually the King died. But some people think King Arthur is just sleeping under the mountains, and he’ll come back if England needs him.

Serenity: Why did she run off with Lancelot? (Earlier in the morning, upon finding out that Dmitri and I had both been married to other people before each other, she responded with “Ew, why?” Quite so, kid. But still, not quite up to explaining the Most Famous Adulteress.)

Me: Um, she liked him a whole lot.

Serenity: *still not in any way interested, grabs a video game and tells me to play Alice so she can watch*

Me: *flails* But wait! But King Arthur had a wizard who was named Merlin and he was the greatest wizard who ever lived! And he lived backwards! *In my head, the tiny medievalists roar: THAT WAS T. H. WHITE IT IS NOT CANON DON’T SAY THAT TO THE CHILD!

Serenity: *dubiously* The greatest?

Me: Yes! Like Dumbledore and Gandalf combined!

Serenity: *is five, probably doesn’t know who Gandalf is*

And now I am desperate to communicate how awesome King Arthur is, and the kid doesn’t care, and I have had like three hours of sleep, and like, my brain is full of screaming tiny medievalists going YOU ARE RUINING IT.

Me: Ok, so one time one of the knights named Gawain fought a giant knight made all out of leaves and trees and branches!

Serenity: Like a pile of leaves?

Me: No, like a guy but his body is made of magical green branches and leaves and glowing berry-eyes. Oh, oh! And the knight was enchanted by Morgan le Fay, who was the most powerful witch ever, and when I was your brother’s age (Said brother is almost four, I was four when I first got obsessed with Arthur) she was my very favorite *considers explaining “clerk of necromancy” to the CHILD and the tiny medievalists in my head are like OH MY GOD SHE DOES NOT CARE THE WORLD IS LOST*

By the way, when I was four or five and learning about Arthur, the phrase “clerk of necromancy” was SUPER CONFUSING. First, I thought: whoa, she works at a magical grocery store bagging spells! AMAZING. Then, when I was a little older, and I understood that clerk was short for cleric, and because I grew up in Mad Men and both my father and grandfather had secretaries to do clerical work for them I was all HOLY CATS SHE IS A MAGICAL SECRETARY AND MAYBE SHE TYPES MONSTERS ALIVE OR SAYS HER SPELLS INTO THE PHONE BEST PERSON OF ALL TIME.

Anyway. I have completely bungled this. This kid had a fantasy author on her couch and yet got an utterly unsatisfactory Arthurian introduction. I forgot the WIZARD and the WITCH until she wandered off! I didn’t even say the word Camelot. What the crap. I used to tell kids stories for a living! (Not like I do now, meaning: I was a camp counselor for a summer camp and then a guide for American military kids going to museums in Tokyo and I used to tell them Greek myths and things like that. I once kept an entire school bus full of 6th graders entranced and off their teachers’ back by telling them the story of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and some of the Euripides post-facto stuff over the course of the three hour drive. I used to be able to do this on the fly, just to let some teachers I barely knew get a little peace.)


I have bought her a book and The Sword in the Stone to make up for the total failure she doesn’t even know I committed. And I take this as a lesson for the possible future child of ours, that I should probably take a minute to get things straight in my head before tackling a five minute version of a massive mythology. And also that I will probably get more than one chance to tell a kid a story and not to panic. Perhaps I can think of a way to retell King Arthur via claymation sheep…

All was not completely lost. As she was getting ready for school, Serenity looked up from her snowboots and said:

Cat, were the knights like policemen? Are policemen knights?

And I smiled and said: I guess you could say that, sweetie. But only the really good policemen are knights.

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