“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” by Aliette de Bodard
This novelette is set in Greater Mexica (as is her novel, Servant of the Underworld, which I’ve just started reading and am enjoying very much — although it’s a different continuity). This is a world with Aztec religion and spells — and nanotechnology, maglevs, radios, and other SFnal concepts. In this story, scenes alternate between present and past, and the mix works well to show the intertwined lives of three friends. This is one of the novelettes on the Hugo ballot this year, and deservedly so.
Here’s what she says about her writing:
I write odd things–I’m a latecomer to SF as a genre, and so only recently caught up to enough classics to have a decent genre background. I’m a scientist in my dayjob, which means I have both a grounding in general science, and a healthy scepticism as to what science can and can’t explain, and how difficult it is to provide accurate predictions of what science will be like, even in a few decades (I usually settle for plausible rather than accurate science in my stories). And, finally, I’m an early comer to mythology and history, and you can find those, to some extent, everywhere in my writing: I’m trying, more or less consciously, to deliver as much of a sense of place and of a slightly unfamiliar culture as I can, to immerse the reader into another world as much as my forays into Ancient Egypt and Ancient China immersed me when I was a child. The culture in question can be from our past or from our future–it doesn’t matter, as I find it equally fun to extrapolate ancient customs or to guess the consequences of a new technology in a given society.
“The Jaguar House, in Shadow” is part of an ongoing series of alternate history, the Xuya continuity, in which the Chinese discovered America before Columbus and thus changed the history of the whole continent–causing the great Mesoamerican civilisations to survive intact into the 21st Century and beyond. I’ve written several other stories and a novel in the same universe, and I’m planning several more–it’s a wonderful sandbox of a universe that I can use to explore a variety of concepts and cultures.
If you want to start out with my work, you can try the “Obsidian and Blood” series of books, which are Aztec noir fantasies set in 15th-Century Mexico (kind of Brother Cadfael meets urban fantasy); or, if you’re more SF-oriented, the other Xuya stories like “The Shipmaker”, which features Vietnamese, spaceships and feng shui–not necessarily in that order…
You can find Aliette de Bodard online at www.aliettedebodard.com
Nylon Angel by Marianne de Pierres
A very post-apocalyptic tale, high on cyber-enhancements, mutations, and the seamier side of life, this novel is grittier than I usually care for, but I found myself looking forward to seeing what happened next. The characterization is thorough, and the world-building solid. De Pierres brings to life a small corner of Australia, tainted by radiation and filled with humans, both individual and gangs, jockeying for position. If you enjoy your apocalypse with a dash of cyberpunk, check out this first Parrish novel.
About her writing, she says,
Although I write different kinds of books, there are some common qualities to all my work. I tend to write with pace and I don’t like to over explain. I hate the idea of robbing my reader of the magic that comes from bringing their own imagination to a story. I want them to have some wiggle room to think or imagine or interpret for themselves. This is not comfortable for
everyone, but those that understand and appreciate my way, tend to read all
my books, regardless of genre.
So where to start the MDP experience? Well, check out my websites to get a feel for what’s on offer www.tarasharp.com, www.burnbright.com.au, glitterrose.wordpress.com and www.marianndepierres.com and see what takes your fancy – kick ass action, mind-bending SF, funny crime, eerie fantasy or creepy gothic fantasy.
You can find Marianne de Pierres online at www.mariannedepierres.com/
The Door into Fire by Diane Duane
This is an older book, re-released as an e-book, and reading it brought back memories. I knew Diane Duane’s name from several of her Star Trek novels, but as I read this and recognized the world, I realized my first encounter with her work had come much earlier, for I’ve read one of the books in this series, though it wasn’t the first one. (I have a vivid memory of a character being teased/chided for making love to the Shadow and jilting it.)
This world was my introduction to same-sex relationships, and I remember being startled by the frank acceptance at the time. (I was in middle school? Just starting high school? Young, and in a redneck state.) I loved the world, the different take on religion, and the characters — and all of that was there for me again in this book, though I’ve seen similar approaches to religion in fantasy now.
This book was a delightful read, from the opening, where Herewiss holds a sword that knows it is for killing, to his rescue of his loved, and on through his discovery of his Name at last. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and enjoying that memorable scene with the Shadow once again. Highly recommended.
You can find Diane Duane online at www.dianeduane.com