It has been a year since Tanith Lee passed away. She died on May 24. I just read a stunning tribute to her by a fan on Tumblr.
Take a moment to read A Year Without Tanith Lee
Tanith used to correspond to me every now and then. I will share a brief note she sent me along with a copy of her then new release TURQUOISELLE. She sent both because I was recuperating from a minor surgery. She was kind as she was talented.
My pals at Sibling Rivalry Press are running an Indiegogo funding campaign to raise the profile of the press. This small, indie LGBTQ publisher has a proven track record,releasing books that have won awards; the debut collections of emerging poets Saeed Jones and Ocean Vuong are among SRP’s notable publications. They are doing important and exciting work.
Sibling Rivalry Press founder Bryan Borland says:
With our mission and vision in place, it’s time to look to the future, and the future starts now. Thanks to the wonderful people at McSweeney’s and Heyday Books, two successful publishing ventures who’ve walked a similar path, we’ve mapped out a plan to shift the publishing operations of SRP, the for-profit company, to the nonprofit Sibling Rivalry Press Foundation. The road starts today as we partner with Fractured Atlas and Indiegogo to begin accepting tax-deductible donations to support the books we publish, and we’ve secured a matching donation of 25K if we can raise the same amount over the summer.
If you are able, please contribute. You can learn more directly from SRP!
There’s a good summary of the panel I was on last month (about bigotry in Speculative Fiction, the puppy factions, etc.) over at the GeeksOut blog. The piece highlights the points made by my co-panelists, Andre Carrington and Jennifer Marie Brissett.
From the article:
Keeping the topic of literary awards going, Craig Laurance Gidney took the first deep dive into the 2015 Hugo Controversy. He opened his remarks by reading an excerpt from Sad Puppies leader Brad R. Torgersen, in which Torgersen admonishes today’s Science Fiction for containing too much subtext. He glamorizes the days when books with spaceships on the cover were just books about space adventure, and not allegories for slavery or other things he’d rather not think about. Gidney then tore into this short-sighted logic for its fundamental flaw: there has always been subtext in Speculative Fiction.
Be sure to check out the rest of the article here.
The Rabid Puppy brigade have gamed the Hugos again. At least this time, there was some humor involved—see the Chuck Tingle entry. But for the most part, it’s underwhelming and sigh-inducing, rather than shocking and hateful. I’m reminded of a quote that Toni Morrison made about racism (see below), though you could substitute just about any bigotry/ism in for racism.
I’m just going to focus on creating my weird, diversity filled fictional worlds, and reading and supporting the same. The Puppies’ antics are just a distraction. So much good fiction—some of it written by Straight White Men, no less– is coming out now. We are in a Golden Age, with tons of stories and many unique voices being heard, both in the large and indie presses.
Let’s keep our focus there, and away from immature provocateurs.
My interview with Matthew Kressel, author of King of Shards, the first in a series of fantasy novels inspired by Jewish mythology, is now up at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Matthew has always been a cheerleader of my own work, so I was pleased to do the interview and give his book exposure.
There’s a lot of talk about diversity in publishing. Local-to-me publisher (in nearby Greenbelt, MD) Rosarium is actually doing it. In addition to publishing the critically acclaimed Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism & Beyond and Stories for Chip, (a Samuel R Delany tribute) anthologies they also publish comics and art books from a world-wide myriad of voices.
During my last appearance, at the CUNY Graduate Center, where I spoke about racism and homophobia in the speculative fiction community, I didn’t have a chance to highlight the various presses that are bringing diverse voices to publishing and speculative storytelling. Rosarium exemplifies that ideal.
In a few short years, Rosarium Publishing has produced some awesome and provocative material. They are currently running an Indiegogo campaign, which closes in 8 days, to raise the profile of the company and fund various exciting projects.
You can learn about it here.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A tale of two novels
A Little Life starts out as a bildungsroman. Its milleu, of 4 highly educated, multiracial people more or less on the gay side of the Kinsey scale is witty and rings true. It’s a mélange of workplace struggles, fabulous soirees, bad apartments and sexual experimentation. Then, about 200 pages in, it turns into a Lemony Snicket-styled book for adults, full of abuse and suffering. The two modes of storytelling, however, don’t mesh. Yanagihara’s scene setting is so meticulous—down to describing what people eat and their apartments—that the intrusion of Dickensian (heading towards Grand Guginol) excessive suffering is odd.
Mind you, the writing about self-loathing and self-harm is powerful and ghastly and gorgeous. It just doesn’t seem to belong to the first conception of the novel. Furthermore, the history of the lead character, Jude, is downright surreal. I had a hard time believing that a pugilistic lawyer who made enough money to live in a Soho warehouse with a private swimming pool, who was also a master baker and sang lieder and had a post graduate degree in pure mathematics came from such ghoulish circumstances—a foundling raised by pedophilic monks, then a child sex slave, then a teenage hustler, and finally, a victim of a Silence of the Lambs styled sicko. Oh, he also suffers from blistering pain that requires him to use a wheelchair sometimes, and he cuts himself to ribbons with regular frequency. My problem wasn’t with the hopelessness of the story, which some people call “tragedy porn”. It was with the logistics. The problem is, in Yanagihira’s complex, detailed novel, there wasn’t a single scene of Jude learning how to bake or being a lawyer, so you don’t really see how he is supposed to pull off the Tough Lawyer by day/wounded self-destructive boy with the thorn in side by night balancing act. Also unbelievable was the patience his enabling friends had for Jude. I know real life people who are a whole lot less damaged than Jude who try people’s patience. Only his friend JB is strong enough not to put up with his crap—and JB is painted in a bad light.
Despite the flaws, A Little Life did keep me reading. The prose was great if a little overwrought sometimes, and was even suspenseful. I think that there is a great novel within this messy first draft.