Story Sale: "She’s All Light" to be published by Daybreak Magazine

I’ve been waiting to do this announcement for a long, long time.

I am thrilled and elated to announce that “She’s All Light”, the short story I’ve worked on for three years, has been sold to Daybreak Magazine and will be up  for reading on January 8, 2010. “She’s All Light” has been chosen along with several other stories to promote Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF, which will be out in paperback in April 2010.  It is the first science fiction story I’ve ever got published, and—even better—it is my first professional sale ever!

This had been a long time in the works. I had originally submitted the story for the anthology. It didn’t make it, but the editor liked it so much, he asked to publish it on his website. The stories on the site so far have been quite impressive—David Levine, K.D. Wentworth, Amanda Clark, to name a few. I’ve also been extremely impressed by the diversity of cultures, and I’m humbled that my little story will be among them.

I’ll say more once “She’s All Light” is published. In the meantime, why not head over to Daybreak Magazine and check out the stories that are there so far (my favorite is “The Branding of Shu Mei Fen” by Amanda Clark). They are fun reads, and hopefully, they’ll be spots of brightness in a dark, dark world.

Edit: And it’s now up! Read it at http://daybreakmagazine.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/daybreak-fiction-shes-all-light/ or if you want a widescreen format: http://daybreakmagazine2.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/daybreak-fiction-shes-all-light-v2/.

Book Review: Shadowplay by Tad Williams

Whew…just two minutes ago, I finally read the last page of Shadowplay. I’ve been reading this book for several months now…I don’t remember the exact date when I started it. All I know is that it’s a looooooooong book, and darn it, if it wasn’t so interesting, I would’ve put it down a long time ago.

The trend of long, thick, heavy description in fantasy is changing to giving just enough detail for the reader to imagine it, focusing more on action and activity. Williams is definitely part of the old school, going laboriously over detail, not just of scenery, but mostly of the inner thoughts of his characters—so much so that I skipped many passages when it was obvious that it was all filler.

Once I learned to recognize which passages were pertinent to the story and which was just naval-gazing filler, I was able to move through it quickly.

Shadowplay is a decent follow up to Shadowmarch. It jumps right into the story as opposed to bringing readers up to speed on what occurred at the end of the last book. Unfortunately, since my book is currently boxed up in my garage, I vaguely remembered what occurred in Shadowmarch. I knew that the country Southmarch had just lost their stand-in ruler, Kendrick to a bloody assassination, and that the remaining heirs, the royal twins Barrick and Briony, had vanished, Barrick trapped between Fae lines, Briony on the run with previously accused Master of Arms, Shaso. I remembered even less of the supporting plotlines. I did remember the girl who escaped the autarch, and I remember Maxwright Tinwright the poet. I definitely remember Ferras Vansen, who had been charged by Briony to protect Barrick. But the Funderlings storyline, with Chert finding the human boy Flint, it took me a long time to remember. And as for Sister Utta and Merolanna, I couldn’t remember them being in the first book at all and found it easier to simply treat them as new characters.

Despite my sketchy memories of the supporting characters, I enjoyed their stories more than I did the main characters, Briony and Barrick. I found the twins rather whiny and immature, which was the whole purpose of their plotline, I believe. And indeed, midway through the book, Briony does show some signs of maturity, as circumstances forces her to take some matters into her own hands. Barrick’s progress is made more palatable with Ferras Vansen’s presence, along with the fairy Gyir the Storm Lantern and the talking raven Skurn. In fact, Ferras becomes a formidable character in his own right; despite the indignity of following the commands of a mad prince, the mind-numbing terror of the fae-land around him and absolutely no sign of normalcy in sight, he holds true to his promise and slowly adjusts to his circumstances.

True to form, Williams does have some fantastical settings. The fairy court, for instance, is bizarre and otherworldly, yet strangely appealing. The autarch’s court is as frightening as its insane ruler. In contrast, the Rooftoppers are charming and intricate for their minuscule size. Williams does a good job weaving all the different stories together so there is a common thread in them.

It’s towards the end, however, that Williams truly begins to shine as the story ramps into high gear. I don’t think I did any skipping then–the action grew quite intense. It built and built…and, then it stopped. Because the book ended right there.

If this had been done by a different author, I would’ve been up in an uproar. Thrown the book and vow never to read that person’s books again. Well, unless the book was so good that I wanted to know what happened next. Then, yeah, I would get the next book. Good thing Tad Williams fall in that category. Besides, Williams ending his books abruptly is pretty much par for the course, so I wasn’t all that surprised.

I can’t say I enjoyed Shadowplay on the same level as The War of the Flowers. And it doesn’t even touch his best work by far, The Otherland series. But it was decent, and I think it worked as a vehicle to move the story to where it needed to go. I think the next book Shadowrise, which comes out in hardcover March 2 2010, would be much better. Shadowplay gets three Funderlings out of five. I originally was going to put it at two 1/2 funderlings—but the fact that I can use the book as a weight when I’m working out on the Wii gives it an extra point.

It happens in the Christian world, too.

http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2009/12/zondervan_makes_critics_book_r.html

The above article gives an interesting coda to what’s been happening for the past month in the Christian publishing world. It shows that, yes, even in the Christian world, RaceFail lives. It also shows that while we still have far to go, changes can be made, both graciously and lovingly. Here’s another perspective. The writer, Al Hsu, was one of the main people who put together the Multiethnic publishing seminar at InterVarsity Press this past March.

At that seminar, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Soong-Chan Rah. Great guy, reminded me a whole lot of the Angry Black Woman in that he is passionate about bringing racial injustices on Asians to light.  Of course, it’s interesting to read the comments on Rah’s letter to Zondervan asking them to remove the Ninja Viper materials. Lots of different perspectives, mostly support for Rah, but also those who felt that Rah was reading to much into it and to lighten up, in fact–an Asian could have written a same thing. My favorite rebuttal to that came from Irene Cho:

"The statement was meant to imply that most Asians who are familiar with their Asian culture/heritage/language, would not have mixed up the cultures like the authors did. In fact, it’s one of the grievances that’s high on the list. It’s insulting when you’re constantly asked, “Oh you’re Asian. So you’re Chinese? Ah so you know Karate?” Many of us have spent much of our lives answering these questions: Yes, I’m Asian. No I’m not Chinese. And no I don’t know Karate and Karate is Japanese by the way. So what I meant was that in my opinion, most Asians wouldn’t publish a book that treats Karate, Kung Fu, and Tae Kwon Do as if there’s no difference. A book would not have been published that doesn’t specify the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese writings. And most of all, most Asians wouldn’t have written that someone’s name sounds like a disease. AND even if they did, it’s one thing to make fun of yourself, it’s quite another to have someone else of a different ethnicity say that my language sounds funky or like a disease and mix everything up and treat all the cultures as if they were the same."

You tell it, sister.

So how do I feel about all this? I feel good that the creators of Ninja Viper and Zondervan did offer an apology and pulled back the books. I feel sad though for all of those who said that it was a shame because it was a legitimate leadership source. And that is true, it is. I just wished the creators researched it better. I do feel that we need more multiethnic people involved in publishing, which is why I support Verb Noire and black writers like Nisi Shawl and Nnedi Okorafor. And goodness knows I’m trying my hardest to add myself to the list. But I also feel what we do is a mere drop in the bucket—that nothing will change, and that those in the media will continue to put up what they like because, hey, they’re the majority and there’s more of them in the media industry than there are of us…

And then I read blog posts like this one which talks about getting minority teens to think about entering the publishing industry, and then I get the December issue of Parents Magazine, which has an article that strives to teach an even younger audience about race relations, and well, we’re trying. Most of us are working on it. It’s just a matter of time.

Remembering Mythago Wood (RIP Robert Holdstock 1948-2009)

Over the years, I’ve read many fantasy books. Most of them have pretty much spiraled into the black abyss of my mind known as unmemory. Occasionally they would emerge without warning, especially if I’m reading a book that’s similar in plot (hey, didn’t I read this same thing some time ago? What was the name of that book? Ah, it’s just on the tip of my tongue…I know I read it!)

But there are other books I remember instantly, the entire plot, the author’s name, heck–even some of the passages.  These are books that I return to every ten years or so (which reminds me, it’s been a while since I read The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle.  Better get that on my reading list). Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock is one of those books.

How old was I when I first read it? Had to be my senior year of high school. Maybe even younger than that. By the time I got into college, I had read it so many times, I could see it as a movie in my head. Sean Austin would play Stephen Huxley, I forget who I had as the evil older brother. Most likely Corey Feldman, back when he was still cool. And the fae-like Guiwenneth would be played, of course, by me–so what she was of Celtic origin and had red hair? It wouldn’t be hard to make a few changes. Hollywood does it all the time!

I even had the ending theme music and the subsequent music video with Seal’s "Kiss From a Rose"–because every movie in the 80s and 90s had to have a music video showing the best and/or emotional scenes from the movie. (Hey, I still remember the entire movie music video for the Lost Boys…don’t remember the song’s name, but man, awesome video. That had both Coreys in it–Feldman and Haim. Remember when the Coreys were cool? Stop looking at me like that!)

What I loved about Mythago Wood was the wood itself. I’ve always loved forest stories, especially when they involved unusual beings living in them. Fairies, wood sprites, elves. Part of that stems from my own childhood–our backyard was next to a trainyard, with a thicket of wood separating the two. It didn’t keep the noise out (ah yes, there were days when my room literally shook when the trains rumbled by–when I had friends over and they freak out, I’d look at them and go, "What?" Didn’t faze me at all), but it did hide our view from the train tracks. The best part was that the forest growth extended into our backyard about 10 feet, so it was like having our own tiny forest preserve. My sisters and I played there for hours, playing Robin Hood and King of the Castle.

So you see how a book like Mythago Wood could be so magical to me. I had a copy of the book that I read over and over, then just like that, I lost it. Since then, I barely thought about the book, not until Monday, when I heard that Robert Holdstock died. It saddened me to hear that.

My extent of reading Holdstock’s work was that and a short story collection he did (which had a memorable tale of a science experiment of observing two people age far beyond the normal span of human years. That creepy tale always stuck with me). Then, I just sort of forgot about Holdstock, just like I forgot about his book. Just now, while I was doing research to write this blog, I learned that there were more books after Mythago Wood, including a couple of sequels.

That saddens me even more.

But only for a little bit. I think the best homage I can do for Mr. Holdstock is to go get me another copy of Mythago Wood. Then to actually read the sequels. It would be good to go to the woods again and see what myths sneak up this time around.

R.I.P. Mr. Holdstock. and thanks for stirring up this girl’s imagination.