How Tea, History, and a Simulated Papal Election Inspired Lent


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Ever since I visited Florence in 2011, Florence has made it into whatever I’ve been writing, even when it’s set on a generation starship, or in Heaven, or in Plato’s Republic. Modern Florence got into My Real Children. But Lent is my Renaissance Florence book, and I went to Florence and stayed there for a couple of months when I was writing it. I went to the places where the book is set — the very rooms, as often as I could, which was a wonderful experience. Most of the places in most of my books are real, but sometimes they’re places where I haven’t been for a long time, and being able to actually pace out scenes and look out of real windows to see what the characters would be able to see was remarkably helpful, as well as fun.

I’ve just come back from Chicago, where I’ve ...

Jo Walton’s Reading List: April 2019


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It’s true that I read a lot, but the amount I read at any given time varies depending on what else I’m doing. This month I was in Chicago for three weeks helping Ada Palmer run the papal election of 1492 as part of a Renaissance History immersion course. This is a ton of fun but very time intensive. I also went to Minicon. So I only read twelve books. And here they are.

Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Son John Julius Norwich, 1939-1952 2013.
I like reading letters, and I’m usually reading some. This was a very long, very interesting collection. Lady Diana Cooper was the daughter of — well, actually she was the daughter of a Duchess and the Duchess’s boyfriend, but she was considered to be the daughter of a Duke and had the courtesy title. She was a famous beauty before WWI ...

Read the First Chapter of Jo Walton’s Lent


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Young Girolamo’s life is a series of miracles.

It’s a miracle that he can see demons, plain as day, and that he can cast them out with the force of his will. It’s a miracle that he’s friends with Pico della Mirandola, the Count of Concordia. It’s a miracle that when Girolamo visits the deathbed of Lorenzo “the Magnificent,” the dying Medici is wreathed in celestial light, a surprise to everyone, Lorenzo included. It’s a miracle that when Charles VIII of France invades northern Italy, Girolamo meets him in the field, and convinces him to not only spare Florence but also protect it. It’s a miracle than whenever Girolamo preaches, crowds swoon. It’s a miracle that, despite the Pope’s determination to bring young Girolamo to heel, he’s still on the loose…and, now, running Florence in all but name.

That’s only the beginning. Because Girolamo Savanarola is not who—or what—he thinks ...

Jo Walton’s Reading List: March 2019


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Jo Walton March 2019 reading list

Hi, and welcome to a new regular monthly feature on all the books I’ve read in the last month. I read a whole bunch of things, and a whole bunch of kinds of things, fiction and non-fiction, genre and non-genre, letters, poetry, a mix.

March was a long end-of-winter month here, enlivened with an exciting trip to Hong Kong for Melon Con. I finished 27 books in March, and here they are.

The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Vol I1876. Some of the poems in this were great, but some of them were trying to be folk ballads without really having that sense of how ballads work. Having said that, I’m very happy to be reading more of her work than just the amazing Sonnets From the Portuguese and her letters. I can see why she was considered a superstar poet in her own day.

Censors at ...

An Informal History of the Hugos


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The Hugo Awards, named after pioneer science-fiction publisher Hugo Gernsback, and voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Society, have been given out since 1953. They are widely considered the most prestigious awards in science fiction.

Between 2010 and 2013, Jo Walton wrote a series of posts for Tor.com, surveying the Hugo finalists and winners from the award’s inception up to the year 2000. Her contention was that each year’s full set of finalists generally tells a meaningful story about the state of science fiction at that time.

Walton’s cheerfully opinionated and vastly well-informed posts provoked valuable conversation among the field’s historians. Now these posts, lightly revised, have been gathered into An Informal History of the Hugos, along with a small selection of the comments posted by SF luminaries such as Rich Horton, Gardner Dozois, and the late David G. Hartwell. We’re pleased to share Walton’s ...

Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning Is A Future Worth Having


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I read Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning four times before it was even published.

It’s quite a common experience when you’re a teenager to read a book that blows you away, that causes the top of your head to come off and your brain to rearrange itself and be a better more interesting brain thereafter. I’ve talked about this a lot, both in posts here and also fictionally in Among Others, it’s one of the fundamental experiences of the SF reading kid. It’s a much less common experience when you’re grown up. I read books now and I think “Oh I like this! This is a really great example of that thing”. I may get immersed in a book and hyperventilate but I won’t finish a book and think “Wait, who am I? Why is the world like this? Do I even have a head?” This did ...

Read Jo Walton’s “Sleeper”


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History is a thing we make—in more senses than one. And from more directions.

We’re pleased to reprint “Sleeper,” a dystopian science fiction short story from Jo Walton. Acquired and edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and originally published on Tor.com in August 2014, “Sleeper” is available in Starlings, a collection of Walton’s fiction and poetry forthcoming from Tachyon Publications on February 13th.

 

 

Matthew Corley regained consciousness reading the newspaper.

None of those facts are unproblematic. It wasn’t exactly a newspaper, nor was the process by which he received the information really reading. The question of his consciousness is a matter of controversy, and the process by which he regained it certainly illegal. The issue of whether he could be considered in any way to have a claim to assert the identity of Matthew Corley is even more vexed. It is probably best to for ...

Bright the Hawk’s Flight on the Empty Sky: Ursula K. Le Guin


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Ursula K. Le Guin was of course immensely important to science fiction, and beyond that to literature. The wider world of letters has recognized her significance a little bit in the last few years, with the Library of America volumes, and with the National Book Award. Within the SF community she’d been recognised and appreciated for much longer. She was the first woman to win a Best Novel Hugo, for The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969, and the first woman to win it twice, with The Dispossessed in 1974. She widened the space of science fiction with what she wrote. She got in there with a crowbar and expanded the field and made it a better field. She influenced everybody who came along afterwards, even if it was a negative influence of reacting against her. Delany wrote Triton to argue with The Dispossessed. And all of us who grew ...

Shared History: Revisiting Long Book Series


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I’m re-reading C.J. Cherryh’s Atevi books—there are nine of them, and another three promised, which makes them one of the longer SF series around. (Editor’s note: this article was originally published in 2008; as of 2017, there are 18 Atevi novels and 2 short stories.) I was thinking, as I made my way through book 2, Invader, that there are some things about a long series, any long series, that are quite different from an individual novel, perhaps in the same way an individual novel is different from a short story.

A novel is one story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Diane Duane’s Door Into… books, when people are going to tell a story they begin, where we’d start “Once upon a time,” with the formula “This is the story of /whatever/ and this is the way I tell it.” I ...

Pastoral Apocalypse: Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow


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When the 1956 Hugo nominees were rediscovered, I realised I’d never read Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow. I’d read other Brackett and not been very impressed, and never picked this one up. But since it was a Hugo nominee, and since I trust the Hugo nominators to pick the best five books of the year, most of the time, and since it was the first fiction nominee by a woman, and easily and inexpensively available as an e-book, I grabbed it. And as soon as I started reading, it grabbed me. It’s great. I read it in one sitting this afternoon. I couldn’t put it down and it has given me plenty to think about. For a fifty-two-year-old book, what more can you ask? I still think the voters were right to give the award to Double Star, but I might have voted this ahead of The End ...

Revisiting Old Friends, or: Why I Re-read


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There are two kinds of people in the world, those who re-read and those who don’t. No, don’t be silly, there are far more than two kinds of people in the world. There are even people who don’t read at all. (What do they think about on buses?) But there are two kinds of readers in the world, though, those who re-read and those who don’t. Sometimes people who don’t re-read look at me oddly when I mention that I do. “There are so many books,” they say, “And so little time. If I live to be a mere Methusalan 800, and read a book a week for 800 years, I will only have the chance to read 40,000 books, and my readpile is already 90,000 and starting to topple! If I re-read, why, I’ll never get through the new ones.” This is in fact true, they never ...
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Revisiting Old Friends, or: Why I Re-read


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There are two kinds of people in the world, those who re-read and those who don’t. No, don’t be silly, there are far more than two kinds of people in the world. There are even people who don’t read at all. (What do they think about on buses?) But there are two kinds of readers in the world, though, those who re-read and those who don’t. Sometimes people who don’t re-read look at me oddly when I mention that I do. “There are so many books,” they say, “And so little time. If I live to be a mere Methusalan 800, and read a book a week for 800 years, I will only have the chance to read 40,000 books, and my readpile is already 90,000 and starting to topple! If I re-read, why, I’ll never get through the new ones.”

This is in fact true, they never ...

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Revisiting Old Friends, or: Why I Re-read


This post is by Jo Walton from Tor.com Frontpage Partial - Blog and Story Content


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There are two kinds of people in the world, those who re-read and those who don’t. No, don’t be silly, there are far more than two kinds of people in the world. There are even people who don’t read at all. (What do they think about on buses?) But there are two kinds of readers in the world, though, those who re-read and those who don’t. Sometimes people who don’t re-read look at me oddly when I mention that I do. “There are so many books,” they say, “And so little time. If I live to be a mere Methusalan 800, and read a book a week for 800 years, I will only have the chance to read 40,000 books, and my readpile is already 90,000 and starting to topple! If I re-read, why, I’ll never get through the new ones.”

This is in fact true, they never ...

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From Herring to Marmalade: The Perfect Structure of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency


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You know those polished wooden egg puzzles that people buy for you, the kind that are beautiful when they’re an egg but that fall to part into shards that seem impossible for mortals to reassemble? Then maybe after a lot of trying suddenly all these impossible three dimensional jigsaw pieces suddenly slot together and you have a lovely fragile egg again? Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency always reminds me of one of those. I didn’t read it for ages. It wasn’t that I didn’t like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it was just that I thought the plot had rather fallen apart in the later books. Indeed, the “throw in everything including the kitchen sink and St Anselm’s ontological proof of the existence of God” style of the Hitchhiker books had lent the series high initial energy but did not lead to continuous plot, or even ...
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Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?


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I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing. There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future” which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!) It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not ...
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Complicated Simplicity: Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep


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It’s not that I think A Fire Upon the Deep is perfect, it’s just that it’s got so much in it. There are lots of books that have fascinating universes, and there are lots of first contact novels, and there are lots of stories with alien civilizations and human civilizations and masses of history. The thing that makes A Fire Upon the Deep so great is that is has all these things and more, and it’s integrated into one thrilling story. It has the playful excitement and scope of pulp adventure together with the level of characterisation of a really good literary work, and lots of the best characters are aliens. It really is the book that has everything. Galaxy spanning civilizations! Thousands of kinds of aliens! Low bandwidth speculation across lightyears! Low tech development of a medieval planet! Female point of view characters! A universe where computation and FTL ...

A Burden Shared


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< p class="frontmatter">What we do for one another is a mystery.   Penny woke on Tuesday morning and cautiously assessed the level of pain. If she didn’t move at all, there was nothing but the familiar bone-deep ache in all her joints. That wasn’t so bad, nothing stabbing, nothing grinding. Penny smiled. Ann must be having a good day. Maybe even heading for another minor remission. This was much better than it had been on Saturday, when Ann’s pain had woken Penny with a shock; that time, she had flinched against it and made it worse. This was nothing more than the pain she had endured Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for the thirty years since her daughter’s birth. Still smiling, Penny eased herself to sitting and reached for the cane she kept hanging on the rail that ran along the wall. Once she had it she stood, breathing deliberately, as the smile ...

The Jump Rope Rhyme


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nevertheless_dalliance

On International Women’s Day, several of the best writers in SF/F today reveal new stories inspired by the phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, raising their voice in response to a phrase originally meant to silence.

The stories publish on Tor.com all throughout the day of March 8th. They are collected here.

 

The Jump Rope Rhyme

“She was warned
She was given an explanation
Nevertheless, she persisted.

She persisted once. She persisted twice. She persisted three times….”

On planets all over the universe
Kids jump their ropes to this counting verse
Some think it’s Leia or Éowyn:
Women fight monsters and really win.
But you google one day in that distant time
To find the roots of the ancient rhyme
And the AIs link you to the history
So you read about the fight to keep us free.
You vaguely remember all those ancient things:
Caesar, and Hitler, and ...

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The Tremendous Continuity of Science Fiction in Conversation With Itself


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Art by Victor Mosquera

< p class="frontmatter">Please enjoy this encore post on this year’s science fiction, originally published August 2016. Reading Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please,” which just won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Short Story, I was reminded of both John Varley’s 1984 “Press Enter” and Isaac Asimov’s 1956 “The Last Question”, as well as its direct call out to Bruce Sterling’s 1998 “Maneki Neko”. The narrator of “Cat Pictures Please” is consciously aware of its predecessors and engaging directly with them. That’s not to say it isn’t saying anything original. It could have been written at no other time and place and by no other person: it’s an original story by a terrific writer. But it’s adding another voice to an existing dialog, laying another story on the tower of work that precedes it, and in a way that shows how aware Kritzer is of all that preceding work. We’ve had ...
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Near Future and Far Future: Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin


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< p class="frontmatter">Welcome to the Tor.com eBook Club! November’s pick is Spin, the first book in a sci-fi trilogy from Robert Charles Wilson. What’s so brilliant about Spin is the way that it’s a terrific human story as well as a terrific gosh-wow new-ideas science fiction story. It’s so good at this that it’s hard to think of anything else that’s as good in quite the same way. It’s hard to play the “if you like x you’ll like y” game with it. It isn’t in a subgenre, unless cutting-edge science fiction is itself a subgenre. It’s also astonishingly good at pacing of revelation——by which I mean the speed at which the reader finds out what’s going on. The story’s being told in first person and very much in hindsight, and very much as a told story, with an ongoing thread and a past-time thread, and Wilson uses all this ...
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