Tag Archives: seanan mcguire

Middlegame

Received as part of the Hugo packet for 2020; Middlegame is up for Best Novel.

When a book is written with just enough information that I get a sense of where the plot’s going, and/or when the book is written beautifully, and I trust the author: then I really love a non-linear tale. This is not as non-linear as something like Kameron Hurley’s Light Brigade but it’s not exactly straightforward. I had absolutely no idea what it was about before charging on in, and that was quite a fun way to do it actually.

Alchemy in the 20th century; attempts to make universal forces incarnate in human children; somewhat gruesome violence, because the people doing the former two things are immoral and ruthless. Our central evil alchemist wants particularly to incarnate the ‘Doctrine of Ethos’, in two people – twins: one will be language, and the other will be maths. Which… there’s a lot in that. And the idea is that essentially those people will BE those things… eventually. When they are fully embodied.

Some of the novel is about the alchemists and their dastardly actions and what they want to achieve. Much of the novel, though, is about Roger and Dodger (yes there’s a reason for the names), and them growing up and how they interact with each other – or not. McGuire has said that it’s like a superhero origin story, which I can see; it’s a bildungsroman. How do you cope when you’re solving impossible maths problems at 9? When there’s a voice in your head that you’re pretty sure shouldn’t be there? And that’s on top of everything else about being a kid and being adopted and being a smart kid. Don’t even get me started about being a smart girl-kid whose smarts are in maths.

McGuire has said it took her a decade to get to the point where she felt capable of doing this story justice, and I can appreciate that. I’ve only read her InCryptid and Wayward Children series, which I adore – but they’re not as narratively complex as this, and I don’t get the sense that Toby Daye or the various Mira books are, either. To be able to hold all of what’s happening here in your head and make it actually make sense on paper would have to require a lot of work. And I think the prose is more wonderful, too. This is not to say that the other books are poorly written – not at all. This is more like Wayward Children than InCrytpid because that’s what the story calls for. There’s a… mythic? not-21st-century, perhaps more formal or timeless, feel to this story than the F1-paced InCrytpids.

The thing I really don’t get is why the Hand of Glory was chosen for the cover. Yes they make several appearances, but I wouldn’t have said that they are symbolic of the plot or even that they’re especially central to the narrative. It is, in fact, one reason why I hadn’t read the book before now; the cover really didn’t appeal – and when there are so many other books in the world, covers do actually make a difference sometimes.

I really enjoyed this. However, it’s up against Gideon the Ninth and A Memory Called Empire, and Light Brigade, and that’s just horrific competition.

Beneath the Sugar Sky

BeneathSugarSky_hiThis novella was sent to me by the publisher, Tor.com, at no cost.

And I’m really sorry but it’s not available until 9 January, 2018. I’m sorry about that because it’s really really good.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a prequel to Every Heart A Doorway ; this is Every Heart’s sequel, chronologically speaking. You could absolutely read this without reading the other two (although seriously, why would you not read Every Heart? It’s one of the best novellas I’ve read in… years); there are some spoilers for Every Heart in Beneath the Sugar Sky, because there’s passing reference to the events that occur, but they’re not enough to make this novella opaque.

For those just joining us: the premise is a question that’s obvious once it’s asked. What happens to those children who fall through doors into other lands when they come back to the mundane world? Some long to go back, some are traumatised terribly. Enter two schools to help out, one for each experience. Every Heart and now Beneath the Sugar Sky are focussed on the school for those children who want desperately to leave this world, because they just don’t fit; they crave a return to the world that wants them, that invited them. And so they attend Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children… and wait. And hope.

Cora is new to the school, and quickly gets accidentally sucked into a quest. There’s travel to other worlds, battling usurpers, making friends, and trying to cope in worlds that really don’t suit you (how does someone driven by Logic survive in a world driven by Nonsense?). The story itself is charming and fast-paced and a lot of fun; unexpected and upbeat and delightful.

But it’s the characters that are really wonderful, and Cora in particular. She is described as fat fairly early on – descriptively, not pejoratively – and the rest of the story has moments where she deals with (expected) responses to her size based on past experience, with her own attitudes towards her size, and most importantly pointed reminders that size in no way correlates to personality or worth or any other marker of value. She has moments of triumph and moments of failure; she is a valuable member of the group; and the other people in the group, sensible humans that they are, never make her feel like anything but.

I just love this world so much. I love the idea that the other worlds can be mapped against different ‘directions’ (Logic and Nonsense and so on), that there is a system to their connections. But mostly I love the characters that McGuire is creating here, and the way these adolescents grapple with not belonging. I am hoping for many more such stories.

Galactic Suburbia

photo credit: Paul Weimer

In which Alex & Tansy talk awards, culture & promote each other’s projects. Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

Continuum & the Ditmars.

Locus Awards: so many winners.

Mother of Invention: last day of Tansy’s Kickstarter campaign! Last chance to pledge!

Luminescent Threads pre-orders open now. The Book Riot review/interview is here!

Avid Bookshop vs. Trolls

How has Twelfth Planet Press has impacted on our listeners? Email galacticsuburbia@gmail.com to provide us with your anecdata!

CULTURE CONSUMED

Tansy: GLOW on Netflix
Alex: InCryptid short stories, Seanan McGuire
Tansy: One Con Glory, Sarah Kuhn
Alex: The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne Valente
Tansy: Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee; Star Crossed by Barbara Dee
Alex: Agents of SHIELD
Tansy: Valentine, Jodi McAlister (@JodiMcA & #PaceysCreek on Twitter)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon – which now includes access to the ever so exclusive GS Slack – and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones

So yes, I’m very privileged. I got to read Every Heart a Doorway a long time before it came TB_DownAmong-070716.jpegout. And now I’ve had the chance to read the prequel a long time before it comes out, too. It’s out from Tor.com on 13 June 2017…

The blurb says

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first.

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tomboy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

… and the opening, which is set in the Real World, is about the most horrifying part of the whole thing. Parents who have children because they think it will make them look good, who force children into preconceived notions and potentially do a lot of damage: it’s just hideous. And the worst part is the way that McGuire writes about this from a very knowing, self-aware position: the narrator is pointing out what the parents are doing, making sure the reader knows how dreadful this is. And it works to heighten the horror rather than defuse it; this is not ‘telling instead of showing’, this is a sympathetic yet almost malicious commenter making sure you know exactly what’s happening.

Then the twins find themselves in a different world, and they get to make choices for about the first time ever and those choices have serious implications. And the way they’ve been brought up has consequences for the choices they make, and also doesn’t in the slightest prepare them for them.

I can’t tell you how happy I am that Every Heart a Doorway wasn’t a standalone story. And this is an absolutely standout addition to the world of portal fantasies that McGuire created there, with Other Worlds matching the people who find them and having an irrevocable impact on the inadvertent travellers. I love how McGuire takes bits of other stories and fairy tales and weaves them into her story in her very own way: you get the pleasure of recognition combined with the shock of difference and it’s a delight.

Apparently there will be a third book. I’ll just be over here, watching my inbox, waiting…

Galactic Suburbia 149!

cakeIn which we compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in chatting.

WHAT’S NEW ON THE INTERNET?

WSFA Small Press Award shortlist released.

Aussie SF Snapshot 2016 – 150+ short interviews with active members of our community. What’s everyone up to? Find out in a snap!

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alisa: Star Trek Beyond, Olympics

Alex: Deadpool and Batman v Superman; Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, Seanan McGuire (out next January from Tor.com); Strange Matings, ed Rebecca J Holden and Nisi Shawl; The Godless, Ben Peek

Tansy: Shadowhunters (Netflix), Masks & Shadows by Stephanie Burgis; Damaged Goods by Russell T Davies adapted by Big Finish Audio

Independent Olympians at the Olympics

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day: Seanan McGuire

DuskorDawn_compDue out from Tor.com in January 2017. Sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

I’m really not one for what’s hot in genre. I only knew about the zombie/unicorn thing when the awesome Zombies vs Unicorns came out. Still, if Seanan McGuire is writing about ghosts, that probably means they either are, or are about to be, hot, right?

Jenna is a ghost, living in New York. The story opens with her death, and as it progresses we discover more and more about what it means to be a ghost – what they can do, if not why. And it’s all about time. Ghosts exist because of people who die before their time, and that gives them a connection to time – giving it and taking it.

This is a just-slightly-alternate version of our world, with some people at least being aware of ghosts on some level. And there are also witches, who have an uneasy relationship with ghosts. And with each other.

Jenna is often focussed on her own time on earth, and when she will be able to move on. Occasionally, this preoccupation got a little wearing – understandable, but sometimes not seeming relevant to the narrative. Nonetheless the narrative flows well, as you would expect from McGuire,  but more than that for me the story is about delightful relationships. Not all of the relationships are easy – Jenna and Brenda, for instance, have known each other for many years but wouldn’t be described as BFFs by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps my favourite is Jenna and Delia; in fact I would love to see an entire story about Delia, Jenna’s landlady who is a ghost and one feisty, feisty lady. With a parrot called Avocado.

Look, it’s Seanan McGuire. You know you want to read it. I’m sorry it’s not out until January, but it gives you something to look forward to, right?

Galactic Suburbia 142!

In which the Hugo shortlist is more controversial as ever, but in the mean time we’ve been reading & watching some great things. You can get us at iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

MANY APOLOGIES for sound issues on this episode – we didn’t catch an accidental microphone shift which means some background noise which should have been muted were not.

What’s New on the Internet?

Hugo Shortlist
Effect of slate nominations on Hugo Shortlist at File 770.com

The Rebirth of Rapunzel winners: Margaret Eve & Kate Laidley, we hope you enjoy your book prizes!

CULTURE CONSUMED

Alex: Rebirth of Rapunzel, Kate Forsyth; The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein; Defying Doomsday, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench; The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson

Alisa: Every Heart a Doorway; Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee; Orphan Black

Tansy: Deirdre Hall is the Devil, presented by Jodi McAlister; Teen Wolf, Downton Abbey, Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog, Buffy Season 1

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 141

In which we stack up months of Culture Consumed into a glorious spiral tower of dubious structural integrity. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia

Alisa: Lois McMaster Bujold: Modern Master of Science Fiction, Edward James (and a bunch of Lois McMaster Bujold!)
Alex: Radiance, Catherynne M Valente
Tansy: The Winged Histories, Sofia Samatar (reviewed in the latest Cascadia Subduction Zone)
Alisa: Bitch Magazine & Popoganda podcast
Alex: Extra(ordinary) People, Joanna Russ
Tansy: Every Heart a Doorway, by Seanan McGuire IT’S A NOVELLA
Alex: Once Upon a Time season 1 & Alan Alda at the Press Club
Tansy: Agent Carter; yes all right, Orphan Black

(Tansy is now watching Orphan Black, alert the media! In other news, the silent producer has spoiled himself via the Galactic Suburbia Orphan Black Spoilerifics – you can too! Season One, Season Two)

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 128

In which other women are magnificent on the Internet, Fangirls are happy, and something mysterious is happening in Night Vale. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia.

What’s New on the Internet

Nicola Griffith crunches some data about book bias between winners & shortlists
Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Women and SF blog, and the Vonda McIntyre Starfarers post in particular
Kate Elliott on Diversity Panels: Where Next?

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alisa: Fangirl Happy Hour Podcast
Alex: Night Vale; Seanan McGuire, Every Heart A Doorway; Catherynne Valente, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making
Tansy: Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, Letters to Tiptree

You can buy Tansy’s murder mystery Drowned Vanilla in ebook now!

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Every Heart a Doorway

The publisher sent me an e-galley of this book.

Just like I like Mary Robinette Kowal’s stories for talking about the bit after the falling-in-love stage, and shows that married life can be worth stories, Seanan McGuire has presented a story about the girls and boys who come back from fairyland… and wish they hadn’t.

25526296Nancy went to the Halls of the Dead and basically learnt to act as a statue to please the Lord and Lady there. Her parents, of course, do not understand what she experienced and think she needs to be helped through whatever trauma is causing her to tell such dreadful tales. I’d never really thought to consider what Alice’s parents or friends might have thought… although Swift does have Gulliver deal with some repercussions of his travels and travails (these two go together in my mind because of a uni subject that made me read both).

Fortunately for Nancy, Miss West has a school specifically for people like her; those who have gone to other places and desperately want to go back, because that is home. Which sounds all well and good and like you’re going to meet people with whom you have lots in common… but not all fairylands are alike. In fact McGuire does marvellous work of sketching out how such places might be categorised, including the difficulty of ever really categorising such places, and if the place that felt like home to you was all about stillness and silence, how much do you actually have in common with someone who went to a land called Confection filled with light and colour? Yeh, adolescents have a hard time finding anyone they can actually connect with.

While simply telling a boarding-school story with such a bunch of misfits would probably have been enjoyable of its own, McGuire decides to hit them with problems as well – murder, to be specific – to play out the ramifications of trust issues, insecurity, and bonding under duress. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that not all of the characters are heteronormative.

McGuire has created a fascinating world here, and much as I would like a series of boarding-school books set at Miss West’s, somehow I think that might hurt the magic. This is a wonderful novella and I’m glad it found a home with Tor. It comes out later this year. ETA: turns out it comes out in April 2016. Sorry!