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For various reasons, which I won’t go into here, I haven’t been blogging much, or tweeting much, or tumbling much. Sorry! I have been doing things, though. I’ve read some books! And I recommend these particular ones to your attention.

Finder by Suzanne Palmer

Fergus Ferguson has been called a lot of names: thief, con artist, repo man. He prefers the term finder.

His latest job should be simple. Find the spacecraft Venetia’s Sword and steal it back from Arum Gilger, ex-nobleman turned power-hungry trade boss. He’ll slip in, decode the ship’s compromised AI security, and get out of town, Sword in hand.

Fergus locates both Gilger and the ship in the farthest corner of human-inhabited space, a backwater deep space colony called Cernee. But Fergus’ arrival at the colony is anything but simple. A cable car explosion launches Cernee into civil war, and Fergus must ally with Gilger’s enemies to navigate a field of space mines and a small army of hostile mercenaries. What was supposed to be a routine job evolves into negotiating a power struggle between factions. Even worse, Fergus has become increasingly—and inconveniently—invested in the lives of the locals.

It doesn’t help that a dangerous alien species Fergus thought mythical prove unsettlingly real, and their ominous triangle ships keep following him around.

Foolhardy. Eccentric. Reckless. Whatever he’s called, Fergus will need all the help he can get to take back the Sword and maybe save Cernee from destruction in the process.

This book is some good old-school adventure fun–lots of fights and explosions and suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I gather it’s the first of a trilogy, so there’s more to look forward to!

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman.

In The Border Keeper, debut author Kerstin Hall unfolds a lyrical underworld narrative about loss and renewal.

Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

The Border Keeper spins wonders both epic—the Byzantine bureaucracy of hundreds of demon realms, impossible oceans, hidden fortresses—and devastatingly personal—a spear flung straight, the profound terror and power of motherhood. What Vasethe discovers in Mkalis threatens to bring his own secrets into light and throw both worlds into chaos.

This is lovely! In fact, I blurbed it. I said it was “”Beautifully and vividly imagined. Eerie, lovely, and surreal.”

Terminal Uprising by Jim Hines

Human civilization didn’t just fall. It was pushed.

The Krakau came to Earth in the year 2104. By 2105, humanity had been reduced to shambling, feral monsters. In the Krakau’s defense, it was an accident, and a century later, they did come back and try to fix us. Sort of.

It’s been four months since Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos learned the truth of that accident. Four months since she and her team of hygiene and sanitation specialists stole the EMCS Pufferfish and stopped a bioterrorism attack against the Krakau homeworld. Four months since she set out to find proof of what really happened on Earth all those years ago.

Between trying to protect their secrets and fighting the xenocidal Prodryans, who’ve been escalating their war against everyone who isn’t Prodryan, the Krakau have their tentacles full.

Mops’ mission changes when she learns of a secret Krakau laboratory on Earth. A small group under command of Fleet Admiral Belle-Bonne Sage is working to create a new weapon, one that could bring victory over the Prodryans … or drown the galaxy in chaos.

To discover the truth, Mops and her rogue cleaning crew will have to do the one thing she fears most: return to Earth, a world overrun by feral apes, wild dogs, savage humans, and worse. (After all, the planet hasn’t been cleaned in a century and a half!) What Mops finds in the filthy ruins of humanity could change everything, assuming she survives long enough to share it.

Perhaps humanity isn’t as dead as the galaxy thought.

This is the second book of Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, and you want to start with Book 1, which is Terminal Alliance. Both books are great fun, and I’m looking forward to Book 3.

The True Queen by Zen Cho

When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she’s drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.

This is a delightful follow-up to the equally delightful Sorcerer to the Crown. I highly, highly recommend both.

Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan

All Bee has ever known is darkness.

She doesn’t remember the crime she committed that landed her in the cold, twisting caverns of the prison planet Colel-Cab with only fellow prisoner Chela for company. Chela says that they’re telepaths and mass-murderers; that they belong here, too dangerous to ever be free. Bee has no reason to doubt her—until she hears the voice of another telepath, one who has answers, and can open her eyes to an entirely different truth.

I loved this novella. Vy’s written a lot of great short fiction, and if you’re not familiar with her work this would be a good time to remedy that.

Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

If you ask, she must answer. A steerswoman’s knowledge is shared with any who request it; no steerswoman may refuse a question, and no steerswoman may answer with anything but the truth.

And if she asks, you must answer. It is the other side of tradition’s contract — and if you refuse the question, or lie, no steerswoman will ever again answer even your most casual question.

And so, the steerswomen — always seeking, always investigating — have gathered more and more knowledge about the world they traveled, and they share that knowledge freely.

Until the day that the steerswoman Rowan begins asking innocent questions about one small, lovely, inexplicable object…

Her discoveries grow stranger and deeper, and more dangerous, until suddenly she finds she must flee or fight for her life. Or worse — lie.

Because one kind of knowledge has always been denied to the steerswomen:

Magic.

Actually I didn’t just read The Steerswoman, I read all four books (currently) in the series. These were first published starting in the late eighties, but Kirstein has recovered the rights and reissued them. In the back of the last one it said she was working on book 5, which I hope is the case? I enjoyed these a lot.

The Raven Tower is out next week!

And Orbit is running some cool giveaways! Copies of The Raven Tower, and some cool swag!

There’s an Orbit Loot giveaway here, that runs until the 28th, and a Goodreads giveaway that runs till the 25th! And keep an eye on Orbit’s Instagram for another chance to win!

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out this excerpt, and this sample from the audiobook read by the always awesome Adjoa Andoh!

And if you’re into the fanworks thing, check out the various days in this Raven Tower release event! I’m looking forward to seeing what cool stuff the participants come up with! My readers are awesome.

So, one of the things I’ve really been looking forward to is touring for the release of The Raven Tower. I love to visit the bookstores and meet the people who keep us all in great books to read, and I love getting to meet my readers, who in my experience so far are a delightful bunch of folks.

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I can’t do that this time. I was all set to, dates were finalized and announced, we were ready to go, but…some things have happened that make it impossible for me right now.

I’m not going to go into specifics, but so no one is unduly concerned–no one has died, no one is dying. I and my family are safe and sound.

I can’t tell you how unhappy I was when I realized I had to cancel my appearances. I will miss meeting you all so much. But there was just no way to make it work.

In the meantime, I can’t wait for you all to be able to read The Raven Tower, and I do hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Wanna win this stuff? (The stuff in the picture is a black tote bag with a white silhouette of a raven and the words “There Will Be A Reckoning” on it, a Raven Tower bookmark, a lapel pin, and a copy of the book itself.)

If you’re in the US or the UK you can enter a giveaway to win this loot! Here’s the US link and here’s where you go if you’re in the UK.

I just got a big box of finished copies, and boy are they beautiful! I can’t wait for you all to read it.

Also, I will be touring, not all the dates are finalized, but as soon as I know my schedule I’ll post it here.

I’ve been quiet lately, not just here, but my other social media hangouts. Sorry about that! Things are a bit chaotic at Casa Leckie just now.

But! My novel The Raven Tower will be out February 26! In fact, if you’re in St Louis you’ll be able to find me at Left Bank Books! It’s part of their SF STL series, which honestly you should be checking out, if you’re in the area and into SFF. In February alone they’ll be having the fabulous Charlie Jane Anders, and Jasper Fforde!

Anyway. The Raven Tower! Advance copies have been going around, and there have been some very flattering reviews.

And as if all that isn’t exciting enough, the audiobook is narrated by the amazing Adjoa Andoh. And you can hear a sample of the first five minutes right here. She’s a wonderful reader and I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear she’d agreed to do The Raven Tower.

Anyway, there you go. It’s getting to be Book Countdown time. I seriously can’t wait for you all to be able to read this, and I hope you enjoy it.

So, my next book comes out at the end of February. But I have a box of advance reading copies, and I am in the mood to give presents. So!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Beginning today, December 4, until December 11, I’m raffling off three copies of The Raven Tower! It works like this: click the link above, and provide your email address and answer the question. (It’s a very simple question.) When the raffle closes I’ll randomly choose three winners. If you win, you’ll need to provide me with a snail mail address so I can send you the book. I’ll send books anywhere the USPS lets me. Good luck!

(I will not keep any of your information, or give it to anyone else. One entry per person, please.)

So, there’s this band. They’re called Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate. They’re a London rock band, and they’ve got science fictiony sensibilities–like, check out their 2016 album When The Kill Code Fails.

So, their newest release is Out of Mind, and one of the tracks is called “When I Was A Ship” and yes, they do mean that ship.

This song was inspired by Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series. The main character had once been a warship, whose artificial mind had been distributed within the ship, and also within many ancillaries – prisoners who have had their minds wiped. The ship itself and all of the other ancillaries was destroyed, leaving just one fragment of the mind left in one body.

So, like, that’s a thing that happened.

You can hear “When I Was A Ship” on Spotify. You can also purchase it at Bandcamp, along with When The Kill Code Fails and their other albums. I’ve been listening to WtKCF for the past few days and really enjoying it.

Hello! Been a while!

I’ve been pretty busy–revisions and then copyedits for The Raven Tower. (Which btw you can pre-order from the bookstore of your choice!) And travel. I went places. I’m just back and recovering from ICON in Tel Aviv, which was a lovely convention full of lovely people! I had a wonderful time. I am still somewhat jetlagged, but that’s the price for all the fun.

But you don’t have to go all the way to Israel to see me! If you’re in St Louis, you can come to The Novel Neighbor tomorrow evening–that would be Tuesday, October 2, at 7pm–to hear me in conversation with Tillie Walden, whose lovely webcomic-turned-book On A Sunbeam will be out and of course for sale.

Not familiar with Ms Walden? Well, she’s one of the youngest people ever to win an Eisner Award. Seriously, you should check out her work. And you should totally come down to The Novel Neighbor on Tuesday evening.

The Novel Neighbor is at 7905 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, MO 63119, and the event is from 7pm-8:30pm. See you there!

So, back when Ancillary Justice was essentially sweeping that year’s SF awards, there was some talk from certain quarters about it not really being all that, people only claimed to like it because Politics and SJWs and PC points and Affirmative Action and nobody was really reading the book and if they were they didn’t really enjoy it, they just claimed they did so they could seem cool and woke.

My feelings were so hurt that I wept bitter, miserable tears every time I drove to the bank with my royalty checks. I mean, those people must be right, it’s totally typical for non-fans who don’t actually like a book to write fanfic or draw fan art, totally boringly normal for students to choose to write papers about a book that just isn’t really very good or interesting, and for professors to use that boringly not-very-good book in their courses, and for that book to continue to sell steadily five years after it came out. I totally did not laugh out loud whenever I came across such assertions, because they were absolutely not ridiculous Sour Grape Vineyards tended by folks who, for the most part, hadn’t even read the book.

Now I am sorry–but not surprised–to see some folks making similar assertions about N.K. Jemisin’s historic (and entirely deserved) Hugo Threepeat. Most of them haven’t read the books in question.

But some of them have. Some of them have indeed read the books and not understood why so many people are so excited by them.

Now, Nora doesn’t need me to defend her, and she doesn’t need lessons from me about the best way to dry a tear-soaked award-dusting cloth, or the best brands of chocolate ice cream to fortify yourself for that arduous trip to the bank. Actually, she could probably give me some pointers.

But I have some thoughts about the idea that, because you (generic you) didn’t like a work, that must mean folks who say they did like it are Lying Liars Who Lie to Look Cool.

So, in order to believe this, one has to believe that A) one’s own taste is infallible and objective and thus universally shared and B) people who openly don’t share your taste are characterless sheep who will do anything to seem cool.

But the fact is, one doesn’t like or dislike things without context. We are all of us judging things from our own point of view, not some disembodied perfectly objective nowhere. It’s really easy to assume that our context is The Context–to not even see that there’s a context at all, it’s just How Things Are. But you are always seeing things from the perspective of your experiences, your biases, your expectations of how things work. Those may not match other people’s.

Of course, if you’re in a certain category–if you’re a guy, if you’re White, if you’re straight, if you’re cis–our society is set up to make that invisible, to encourage you in the assumption that the way you see things is objective and right, and not just a product of that very society. Nearly all of the readily available entertainment is catering to you, nearly all of it accepts and reinforces the status quo. If you’ve never questioned that, it can seem utterly baffling that people can claim to enjoy things that you see no value in. You’ll maybe think it makes sense to assume that such people are only pretending to like those things, or only like them for reasons you consider unworthy. It might not ever occur to you that some folks are just reading from a different context–sometimes slightly different, sometimes radically different, but even a small difference can be enough to make a work seem strange or bafflingly flat.

Now, I’m sure that there are people somewhere at some time who have in fact claimed to like a thing they didn’t, just for cool points. People will on occasion do all kinds of ill-advised or bananapants things. But enough of them to show up on every SF award shortlist that year? Enough to vote for a historic, record-breaking three Hugos in a row? Really?

Stop and think about what you’re saying when you say this. Stop and think about who you’re not saying it about.

You might not have the context to see what a writer is doing. When you don’t have the context, so much is invisible. You can only see patterns that match what you already know.*

Of course, you’re not a helpless victim of your context–you can change it, by reading other things and listening to various conversations. Maybe you don’t want to do that work, which, ok? But maybe a lot of other folks have indeed been doing that, and their context, the position they’re reading stories from, has shifted over the last several years. It’s a thing that can happen.

Stop and think–you’ve gotten as far as “everyone must be kind of like me” and stepped over into “therefore they can’t really like what they say they like because I don’t like those things.” Try on “therefore they must really mean it when they say they like something, because I mean it when I say it.” It’s funny, isn’t it, that so many folks step into the one and not the other. Maybe ask yourself why that is.

This also applies to “pretentious” writing. “That writer is only trying to look smart! Readers who say they like it are only trying to look smarter that me, a genuine,honest person, who only likes down-to-earth plain solid storytelling.” Friend, your claims to be a better and more honest person because of your distaste for “pretentious” writing is pretension itself, and says far more about you than the work you criticize this way. You are exactly the sort of snob you decry, and you have just announced this to the world.

Like or don’t like. No worries. It’s not a contest, there’s no moral value attached to liking or not liking a thing. Hell, there are highly-regarded things I dislike, or don’t see the appeal of! There are things I love that lots of other folks don’t like at all. That’s life.

And sure, if you want to, talk about why you do or don’t like a thing. That’s super interesting, and thoughtful criticism is good for art.

But think twice before you sneer at what other folks like, think three times before you declare that no one could really like a thing so it must be political correctness, or pretension, or whatever. Consider the possibility that whatever it is is just not your thing. Consider the possibility that it might be all right if not everything is aimed at you. Consider that you might not actually be the center of the universe, and your opinions and tastes might not be the product of your utterly rational objective view of the world. Consider the possibility that a given work might not have been written just for you, but for a bunch of other people who’ve been waiting for it, maybe for a long time, and that might just possibly be okay.

____
*Kind of like the way some folks insist my Ancillary trilogy is obviously strongly influenced by Iain Banks (who I’d read very little of, and that after AJ was already under way) and very few critics bring up the influence of C.J. Cherryh (definitely there, deliberate, and there are several explicit hat tips to her work in the text). Those folks have read Banks, but they haven’t read Cherryh. They see something that isn’t there, and don’t see what is there, because they don’t have the same reading history I do. It’s interesting to me how many folks assume I must have the same reading history as they do. It’s interesting to me how sure they are of their conclusions.