BOOK RECOMMENDATION: The Unbalancing by R.B. Lemberg

The Unbalancing, by R.B. Lemberg is a novel of textures and layers. It’s the type of book that should be absorbed, rather than read at a break-neck, ‘page-turner’ pulse-pounding pace. It’s a short novel filled with intricate details but it’s never dense and confusing. There’s the stress of suspense, but there’s also a leisurely intimacy here that’s uncommon to fantasy-quest novels. Lemberg has created their own genre, one that challenges the constraints of the form. A cozy apocalypse, or a fantasy-based picaresque novel. (It’s also a love story.)

Told in alternating first-person narratives, Lemberg tells the story of an impending ecological disaster on a small archipelago. Ranra Kekeri is the recently installed  Starkeeper, the steward for a traumatized fallen Star that sleeps in the nearby ocean. Erigra Lilún, a poet, also has a bond with the sleeping Star, one that they are ambivalent about. Ranra and Erigra’s connection with the Star sparks a simmering attraction between the two, and they become lovers. Both of them clash and collaborate as the dreaming Star becomes more unstable and chaotic.

Lemberg’s Birdverse is a complex creation, full of mythology and multiple magic systems that draw upon secret names, living Stars, sacred geometry and an all powerful Bird goddess. Additionally, the society of the archipelago recognizes and supports alternative family structures and gender fluidity. The world-building is organic and lived-in,  and never confusing.

Lemberg’s prose is soaked in magic, magic that’s full of space and light and sound. The Unbalancing manages to be both ethereal and earthy. Lemberg juxtaposes otherworldly scenes of magic with awkwardness of new relationships. Some of the best scenes in the novel are the clash between Ranra’s Type-A personality with Erigra’s measured introspection. (Lemberg’s portrayal of Erigra’s neuro-divergence is a highlight of the novel). The Unbalancing isn’t a book that can be adequately summarized. It can only be experienced. 

Pulver Award Acceptance Statement

I was surprised—in a wonderful way!—when Teri Clarke and I received the Joseph S Pulver Sr (bEastie) award. My acceptance was short and garbled. I wanted to take a moment to give a proper acceptance speech.

When I was a child, my father used to sing the Jazz standard “Nature Boy” to me, which starts with “There was a boy…a strange enchanted boy….”. He accurately predicted the ambience about my fiction. I write about strange enchanted people who are confronted with transcendence, in often terrifying ways.

So, I would like to first thank my parents, who are departed but when they lived they supported my writing, even when it wasn’t lucrative.

Then I would like to thank my family, both immediate and far flung. They’ve been my cheerleaders.

Thank you to my publishers—Lethe, Rebel Satori, Word Horde, Underland and numerous periodicals and anthologies for taking a chance on my stories about enchanted people.

Thanks to the Outer Dark, who are a pocket universe of people who celebrate contemporary Weird Fiction. That pocket universe has extended to include Necronomicon itself. Though Lovecraft himself would definitely not approve of my Blackness and Queerness, the community built around his legacy has been nothing but supportive of me and my work.

I only knew Joseph Pulver through email and DMs, when he edited a story of mine. The DMs in my inbox show a kind and enthusiastic man.

It is truly an honor to accept this award. Thank you all and everyone who have been touched by my writing!

Baffling Magazine—Year One Anthology

If you like weird fiction, you might check out Baffling Magazine, the zine dave ring and I co-edit with Gabriella Etoniru. Baffling features queer flash that encompassed Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and yes, Weird Fiction from authors from a variety of backgrounds and identities. The first year of the magazine’s stories has been published. You can order a copy here!

Joseph S Pulver Sr Weird Fiction Award

I’m currently at NecronomiCon in Providence, still processing the news.

To my complete and utter surprise, I, along with Zin Rocklyn, won one of the two inaugaral Joseph S Pulver Weird Fiction Awards last night. I briefly interacted with the late Pulver when he edited my story “Eidolon Realty, LLC” for his anthology Walk on the Weird Side. Pulver, who passed in 2020, was a tireless champion for newer and under-appreciated authors of Weird Fiction, and it is an honor to accept this award. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in bestowing me this honor!

The statuette

The inscription

The astonished author
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