Gifford, Goto, Griswold-Ford

Just back from the 69th World Science Fiction Convention — it was held in Reno, so there was no way I was going to miss it. I thought I might be a bit late getting today’s post up, but at least air travel affords lots of opportunity for reading, which means here’s the post, right on time. Today’s line-up includes Lazette Gifford, Hiromi Goto, and Valerie Griswold-Ford. As always, if anything mentioned sounds good to you, please check it out, as well as other work by the author!
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Elliott, Emshwiller, Eskridge

Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Elliott is another author who is amazing in her world-building. She makes it real, from her description of the giant eagles (about as intelligent as a pig — in other words, smart enough to respond to commands, but still animals) to the importance of various stages of life (such as Youth’s Crown and Chatelaine’s Belt) to the growing unrest in the Hundred.

That growing unrest is the core of the novel and of the trilogy. The Guardians have disappeared, no longer present to enforce their laws, and many are saying they never existed at all. A pair of reeves visits a high place of the Guardians (a place they are forbidden to set foot) and learn without a doubt that the Guardians did exist, and something has happened to them. Meanwhile, fanatics work to undermine the structure of society, despoiling temples, despising laws, and teaching that reeves are nothing special.

I will be finishing the Crossroads Trilogy, of which Spirit Gate is the first book, as well as reading everything else I can get my hands on, and I recommend all of you do the same. (I peeked at the excerpt from the second book, Shadow Gate, and I have to admit I wasn’t expecting that for an opening. Definitely worth continuing — though most of these TBR books will have to wait until I finish the A to Z series.)

About her writing, she says,

I’ve loved reading fantasy novels since I was a girl. When I was young, though, fantasy novels were mostly stories about boys or men having adventures, with few female characters involved and, if they were involved, all too often they were forced into narrow roles like the girlfriend or the aunt making cookies or the tavern wench or the girl who waits at home for the men to come back. So I promised myself when I was 16 that if I ever was able to publish novels, I would write stories that included the people who were usually excluded from these stories having the adventures, too.

For people who haven’t read my work, be aware I work in series, so it’s best to start with the first book in any given series.

However, you have four series to choose from:
JARAN (first novel in the Novels of the Jaran; I call this one Genghis Khan meets Jane Austen in a science fiction setting);
KING’S DRAGON (#1 of Crown of Stars, epic fantasy about how the consequences of an ancient cataclysmic war come home to roost 2000 years later, following the stories of a 16 year old girl whose magical heart has been hidden from her by her father and a 16 year old boy trying to find out who he really is);
SPIRIT GATE (mentioned here);
and COLD MAGIC (#1 of Spiritwalker Trilogy), my Afro-Celtic post-Roman icepunk Regency adventure fantasy with bonus airship, Phoenician spies, and the intelligent descendents of troodons.
The series are all different in tone and approach and setting.

COLD MAGIC is just out in mass market paperback. Its sequel, COLD FIRE, comes out next month (Sept 2011).

You can find Kate Elliott on-line at

No Time Like the Present by Carol Emshwiller

Emshwiller is currently concentrating on short fiction (although she’s not completely ruling out the possibility of another novel), and judging from this sample, she’s good at it. It’s not a light-hearted tale; it hints at a coming apocalypse, a time when things go downhill so badly, people will go almost anywhere to escape. The story isn’t terribly rich in description — aside from knowing that the narrator has bunk beds in her room, her house is pretty vague. However, the young voice of the characters, just wanting to be friends, to reach beyond who and what is expected, really appealed to me.

Carol Emshwiller has a home page on the SFWA site, but it does not appear to have been updated since 2008.

Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

Although set against a backdrop of a corporation attempting to become an independent state (corporate states being a well-known trope of SF), Solitaire isn’t about politics or business or the shape of the world to come. Instead, this novel weaves together questions of identity, relationship, and self-discovery in a touching exploration of Jackal/Ren. What do you do when you find out you’re not who you think you are? What if people try to make you someone else you’re not? How do you find out who you are and where you truly belong?

Eskridge’s world is well sculpted, with webs of people interacting, with details down to the drinks (Brandy and orange juice? I’m undecided whether to try it for myself.), with wonderful prose (“It was a day like a painting: a hundred shades of green in the leaves and grasses and lily pads of the pond, in the vegetable tops waving from the brown grit of the soil; the sky that looked as if one of the blue colorsticks in her classroom had melted across it; the pinks and lavenders and sun-yellows of the flowers whose names she didn’t know, that nodded wild and rangy on their thin stalks because her father liked them that way. The pain, when it came, was sharp and orange.”), but it’s the people, the humanity, that really brings this story to life.

Here’s what Eskridge has to say about her writing:

Everything starts with character for me. I’m fascinated by what it means to be human, and I love the power of story to take us into the hearts and minds of characters as they make their choices and become themselves. I write about identity and relationship; about small choices with big consequences, and the big feelings they bring us: love, fear, hope, grief, joy. My work is exploratory rather than predictive: I’m not nearly as interested in the global impact of new technology as I am in the effect it might have on individual people.

SOLITAIRE is a deep consideration of choice and change, and what happens when everything a person believes herself to be is called into question. My short fiction, collected in DANGEROUS SPACE, runs the spectrum from fantasy to horror to science fiction. Both books are available in all the usual places, including DRM free ebooks at Weightless Books:

Interested readers can find free stories on my website:


“And Salome Danced”

“Dangerous Space”

You can find Kelley Eskridge on-line at

de Bodard, de Pierres, Duane

“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

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,, and 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

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

Casil, Cherryh, Clough

“Perfect Stranger” by Amy Sterling Casil (in Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls)

We all have hopes, dreams, and expectations when it comes to our children. Some people will go farther than others to fulfill them. In this story, Casil looks at the effects of medical intervention and what is necessary versus what’s desirable. It’s a touching story about how our choices affect our relationships, and I highly recommend it. The relationship between Danny and his father haunts me.

Yes, I’m going to be looking for more of her work, and I suggest others do as well.

About her writing, Casil says,

I am known mostly as a short fiction writer in science fiction and fantasy, but I’ve published over 20 nonfiction books on numerous different topics. My first novel IMAGO, which expands on short stories I published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, is still available, as is my first collection of short fiction and poetry, WITHOUT ABSOLUTION. I am a working writer and have written for new media publications since 2003.

“Perfect Stranger” was first published in F & SF in 2006, and readers chose it as favorite story of the month at the time. I think it’s a better story than “To Kiss the Star,” which is a story I’d recommend for any new readers coming to my work. You can find the typical comments about that story online as it was nominated for a Nebula Award, but readers should know that I am currently novelizing what happened next to the main character in “To Kiss the Star,” the disabled girl Mel, who gets the chance to pilot a living space ship and explore the stars. I began writing “Perfect Stranger” while I was pregnant with my baby Anthony, who had Down Syndrome and died in 2005. I wasn’t ready to write the story at that time, and my thoughts were not mature on the issue of what it might mean to genetically change your child and “improve him” until about a year after Anthony passed. I have been thinking about doing a collection of my stories about fathers and sons and mothers and daughters. This story deals with something that is a bedrock theme for me as a writer – what does it mean to be a parent, what is a family, and where do we really stand with technology and how it affects our lives?

You can find Amy Sterling Casil at her blog,, incipita vita nova.

Hammerfall by C. J. Cherryh

Hammerfall is a meaty standalone science-fiction novel that deals with prejudice, madness, visions, and a man who has the inner strength to follow his visions and lead his people — all of his people, not just the tribe he was born to — despite his father’s attempts to kill him. It’s not necessarily a light or quick read — it took me some work to get into the opening of the novel, which was replete with terms such as Lakht, First Descended, Qarain, beshti, Oburan, the Ila, Tarsa, and Kais Tain — but it was worth the effort to immerse myself into it.

I’m late coming to Cherryh’s work, and I’ll definitely take suggestions on what else I should read by her. For those who have not read this book yet, I do recommend it.

You can find C. J. Cherryh on her Website,, the Worlds of C. J. Cherryh.

“Gray to Black” by Brenda W. Clough (in Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls)

This story is delightfully creepy, showing an inadvertent alien encounter and how it changes the main character, to the point she can’t even understand her sister’s worries. When I first read the story, I thought the ending felt unresolved. However, the story stayed with me, and I don’t think any other ending would have worked.

Clough has a second story in this book as well, “A Mighty Fortress.” I enjoyed this as well, and I will be seeking out some of her novel-length work.

What she says about her writing:

I am like the Elves in Tolkien: I put all that I love into everything I make. “Gray to Black” was inspired by the thrilling research they are doing these days into parasites and their relationship to their hosts. So creepy! It just cries out to be put into fiction. If you want to read more of my work, e-readers would enjoy REVISE THE WORLD, which is available at Book View Cafe and everywhere where fine e-fiction is sold. Or if you want a hardback novel, my Tor novel HOW LIKE A GOD is still around.

You can find Brenda Clough at

Note: I originally received Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls in a giveaway from SF Signal.

Bear, Bernobich, Bradford, Butler

Carnival by Elizabeth Bear

You’re going to think I have a soft spot for espionage, double agents, and excellent science fiction. . . . You’d be right.

Michelangelo and Vincent (have to love the names!) are working for the Coalition. Maybe. Kidnapping, escape, branes, double-crosses, and unexpected allies make for a wonderful tale. As for the end — I agree with what Bear said about some people’s disappointment: if everyone expected it to go the other way, then she did choose the better ending.

I write the kinds of books I do because they’re the stories I have to tell–and also because they’re the kinds of stories I want to read. It’s hard for me to say just what is the best starting point, since I write such a wide variety of things–it will vary by reader. My most recent publications are Grail from Spectra and The Sea Thy Mistress from Tor. Those are each the final book in a series, however, so I’d recommend going back to the first book in each.

(Note from Erin: The first books would be Dust and All the Windwracked Stars, respectively.)

You can find Elizabeth Bear on her Website,, and on her LiveJournal account, Matociquala.

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

I’ve met Bernobich at Boskone a couple of times. I fell in love with her writing when I read “River of Souls” on, so I’ve been really eager to read this book.

Her world-building shines from the opening scene, which shows a word game between two friends, Therez and Klara, girls of the merchant class. She shows us their relationship as well as a wealth about the book in only a few pages, and it grows from there, as Bernobich includes details of religion, dress, parties, caravans, and more. As the book progresses, Therez runs away, leans magic, changes her name to Ilse, and works to find her place in the world.

One thing I found jarring in this world was that they worshipped a goddess (maiden, mother, and crone) but it was a heavily patriarchal society. In a book where the world-building was otherwise so well thought out (loved the life dreams and past lives), this felt to me like it didn’t fit. However, I still highly recommend this book.

I write all kinds of stories, but my favorite kind of story is where the character win through difficult situations to strength and independence. That strength isn’t confined to physical strength, but also emotional and intellectual, and the victory might be epic in scale or personal. Or both together. Because to me, while I love grand events, it’s the people involved in those events who matter the most to me.
A good starting place for my work in general would be my collection, A Handful of Pearls & Other Stories (available as an e-book from all the usual sources). For someone who wants a taste of the Erythandra Series, I’d suggest my story “River of Souls” (

You can find Beth Bernobich on her site, Through the Looking Glass (

“Until Forgiveness Comes” by K. Tempest Bradford

This story is a look at the aftermath of a bombing and the emotions and discord that arise in the remembrance of what happened. It is written as a feature piece by a reporter, one that offers glimpses of different people but not the deep involvement common to much fiction. It is, however, an effective technique — we have all read or heard such reports (without the magic), and we know how to relate to the people described.

Her choice of using a world where Egyptian religion is mainstream and Gaelic people are the religious extremists and not the majority flips the world we know on its head. Is what we know and believe about what’s right still true if we change places?

Definitely a strong story, and I will keep an eye out for other fiction by Bradford.

Until Forgiveness Comes” is available on Strange Horizons’ Website. You can find K. Tempest Bradford on her Website,

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

I haven’t read any of Butler’s novels, which is ironic, as the preface to this book begins, “The truth is, I hate short story writing.” For not enjoying it, she created some very powerful tales. This book includes five, as well as a couple of essays: Bloodchild, The Evening and the Morning and the Night, Near of Kin, Speech Sounds, and Crossover. I first read this book years ago, but both “Bloodchild” and “Speech Sounds” stayed with me.

I love good fiction that plays with biology.

Rereading it for this post, I remembered how much I enjoyed “The Evening and the Morning and the Night” as well — also well written biology-dependent science fiction. What else do these stories have in common? They deal with family and our beliefs about ourselves (and how others’ beliefs might be different). Three of the stories are first person; two are in third. Each one explores how people adapt to limitations. The essays are also definitely worth reading; in one, she speaks of being the only Black woman (her capitalization) writing science fiction. Although there are others writing now, diversity in the field still has quite a way to go.

I mentioned that I haven’t read any of her novels. That’s a lack I really need to correct, although, honestly, if her novels are as powerful as her short stories, I might have to read them very, very slowly.

Octavia Butler died February 2006, but you can find some information about her on her SFWA member page.

Anderson, Arnason, Asaro, Ash

Today begins the A to Z series that I’ll be posting on Wednesdays for the rest of this year. Each post will discuss 3 to 4 women authors of science fiction and fantasy; there are many whom I’m leaving out because of constraints on time and space (okay, space isn’t really constrained here, but I’m sure there’s a limit to how much you want to read in one go). If you have a favorite, please feel free to leave a recommendation in the comments, and if anyone I’ve mentioned catches your attention, let me — and her! — know.

Today’s authors: C. L. Anderson, Eleanor Arnason, Catherine Asaro, and Sarah Ash
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