I feel like August and I have swallowed each other in a single gulp: I’ve eaten its blackberries, and it has eaten what was left of my sense of time. But the weather’s cooling, and I’m trying to hold on to summer with one hand while stretching the other towards the coming autumn — towards a new semester of teaching (online) and moving house (very physically).
In the meantime, some news!
I have a new column up at the NYTBR! In it I cover Elwin Cotman’s Dance on Saturday (a collection of stories) and Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds (a debut novel). Here’s a taste:
The discourse about reading fiction during the pandemic has followed two broad tracks: There are those who take comfort in the activity, and those who have found reading impossibly difficult. I belong to the latter camp, but I’m all the more excited to share the following books, which, while very different in genre and mode, shook me out of listless distraction with their originality.
I loved both these books so much, and hope you will too.
This column also had the most extraordinary editorial exchange of my career so far, which I so enjoyed being baffled by that I’m going to (with permission) share the process with paid subscribers. In brief, I learned a great deal about what the NYT will and won’t print, even if it’s a quote, even if it’s to make a delicate and sophisticated point about the originality of a magnificent voice, and also made my editor spend 20 minutes googling “synonyms for testicles.” If that interests you, well!
Sound and Vision
LeVar Burton Reads
International treasure LeVar Burton, voice of my childhood, face of Geordi LaForge, has a podcast where he reads short stories to adults. A new season launched recently, opening with my short story “Pockets”; you can listen here, and read it here.
This is the second time LeVar has read a story of mine on his podcast; the first time, when he read “The Truth About Owls,” I wrote about the feelings occasioned by the event.
I keep reaching for more words to really spell out the heart of how much this means to me, why it’s undoing me to the degree it is. I think, maybe, it’s that LeVar Burton specifically — his face, his voice — was my first experience of seeing a character also be the person behind the character. I was watching Star Trek and Reading Rainbow at the same time, and I was so young; it seemed to me that Geordi LaForge walked out of a starship and into a diner where he became LeVar Burton. It seemed like a kind of reality-bending power — which is also the power of books, the power of that colourful butterfly touching the world with magic and wonder. That butterfly touched LeVar Burton and he became Geordi LaForge.
And now it’s touched this story, and made it into a story read by LeVar Burton.
I still feel exactly this way the second time around. It still feels like this impossible, unlooked for wonder, and I’m so grateful for LeVar’s performance, for his kind words about the story, for his unshakeable grace in the face of everything this world’s throwing at us.
In related news, this happened yesterday and melted me into a puddle.
Ephemera Reading Series
If you’d like to hear me reading something of mine — you can! I recently took part in my first online reading situation and had a great time.
The Ephemera Reading Series is a gem run by KT Bryski and Jen Albert, usually based in Toronto but now coming at you live from ~e v e r y w h e r e~, or, at least in the case of this particular one, Toronto (Phoebe Barton), Gatineau (Derek Künsken), and Ottawa (me). I read my poem in The Book of Dragons for the first time (“A Final Knight to Her Love and Foe”) and the opening pages This Is How You Lose the Time War.
I’ve started the linked video at my section just because, well, it’s my newsletter, but it’s absolutely worth watching the whole thing through — not just for Phoebe and Derek’s excellent readings and the stunningly beautiful music from Alex Hetherington and Scott Downing, but also for the crowdsourced choose-your-own-journey story the hosts tell in between performers. It’s such a lovely idea and so well executed. I had a blast taking part.
Coode Street Podcast
Jonathan Strahan — award-winning editor of numerous wonderful anthologies, most recent of which is The Book of Dragons — also runs a podcast with Gary K. Wolfe called Coode Street. They’re presently doing a series called “Ten Minutes With…”, recognizing that the pandemic is affecting everyone’s cognition and tapping a bunch of authors to answer three simple questions: what are you reading, what do you recommend, and what have you got coming up. Jonathan and I had a lovely chat, and because I’m me the Ten Minutes shook out to Twenty Two, but anyway, you can listen to that if you like!
CBC All in a Day
Alan Neal, host of beloved Ottawa institution All in a Day, invited me on to talk about all the lovely attention This Is How You Lose the Time War has received. Alan’s always such a pleasure to talk to, and somewhat infuriatingly good at his job, and he’s been so kind to both Max and me over the years!
Following this tweet our editor has started addressing correspondence to “Amax” and it still makes me grin.
Speaking of awards —
So, This Is How You Lose the Time War won the Aurora Award. It’s my first time winning a Canadian award, and has filled me with many many feelings, and I’m very glad they recognized and honoured Max too, despite this being ostensibly a Canadian award for Canadians, bringing me one tiny step closer to my master of plan of luring the Gladstone-Neely household across the 49th parallel to be my neighbours and friends forever.
I’m also deeply grateful to my dear friends Jenn and Nadine for the use of their backyard to freak out in and accept an award from! Especially for their guidance towards this thematically appropriate clematis.
And here’s our acceptance speech:
Inaugural Ignyte Awards
Fiyah magazine just keeps going from strength to strength. They announced earlier this year that they’d be launching a virtual convention and inaugurating an award “to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the current and future landscapes of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by recognizing incredible feats in storytelling and outstanding efforts toward inclusivity of the genre.” They announced the Ignyte finalists earlier this week, and they’re fabulous — in fact, they include both LeVar Burton and LeVar Burton Reads! — and we’re delighted and honoured to see This Is How You Lose the Time War among them. Check out the full ballot!
Voting is open to all members of the public until 11:59 PM EST on September 11, 2020.
Em Nordling wrote a beautiful and deeply affecting essay called “All Is Fair in Love and Go: Strategy Gaming in This Is How You Lose the Time War”. I love it completely.
I have been introduced to Blaseball and I love it so much and Cat Manning, an exceptional human whose brain is on my meticulously kept and frequently updated list of ones I wish to ritually consume thereby absorbing their power, wrote an 8-page explainer about the cultural phenomenon. (I am supporting The Houston Spies, aka presently the worst team in their league. One has one’s reasons. Bang BANG!)
Cat also introduced me to this absolutely incredible banger of a song/video as well as … the concept? Of K/DA? A K-pop band invented for a video game? I’m hooked.
Alas, I have no Huspun with which to rouse your ire today, but instead I thought you might like to see what I got my husband for our recently celebrated 5th wedding anniversary. What do you get a man who loves cats beyond all measure but equally cannot measure portions of uncooked spaghetti?
That’s all for now! Thanks so much for reading, keep safe, and work for the liberation of all sentient beings.
Congrats again on the Aurora! And for being nominated for the Ignyte!
Not only did you drag me into Blaseball, but the Manning writeup sent me to The Garages (the band about the team), who in turn are connected to Bandcamp user Rain, whose albums I bought tonight because ze has become my favorite reincarnation of Semisonic.
(also super pumped you enjoyed "POP/STARS"; I was blasting it on the way home from work today)
Also: NEW LEVAR BURTON READING SO HAPPY LOVE POCKETS LOVE!!!