Which of My Books to Read First (Updated)

This post is so I have somewhere to send people when they ask me which book of mine they should read first. Click on the links to learn more about each book.

Authors who sensibly only write the one kind of book don’t have to write guides like this. I’m not envious. Honest.

There’s a bonus section at the end for those who’ve read one of my books and are wondering which one to read next, assuming that you want to read the book most like it.

WARNING: If you consider knowing whether a book has a happy or a sad ending to be a spoiler do not read this!

Novels and stories with unambiguously happy endings:
How To Ditch Your Fairy
Team Human
“Thinner than Water” in Love is Hell (though I consider this novella to have a happy ending many readers disagree with me)

Novels and stories with endings that might make you tear your hair out:
My Sister Rosa
“Thinner than Water” in Love is Hell (though I consider this novella to have a happy ending many readers disagree with me)

Novels and stories with endings that might make you cry in a sad way:
My Sister Rosa
“Thinner than Water” in Love is Hell (Beats me why, but many readers have reported crying.)
“Elegy” in Foreshadow

Novels that just end, with no resolution, and WHY DID YOU DO THAT, JUSTINE?!
Liar (Though, come on, people, it’s called Liar! Novels that are built on lies about a liar cannot be resolved. This is a scientific fact.)

Magic or Madness trilogy (contemporary with magic)1
How to Ditch Your Fairy (contemporary, different world, very mild superpowers)2
Liar (contemporary [redacted] because it might be a lie)
“Thinner than Water” in Love is Hell (contemporary with faerie)
Zombies v Unicorns (self-explanatory)
Team Human (contemporary, vampires and zombies)
Razorhurst (historical, ghosts)

Science Fiction:
How to Ditch Your Fairy (Very few readers have realised this one is science fiction possibly because I left out the part about the fairies being micropscopic alien invaders.)
“Little Red Suit” in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean (post-apocalyptic Sydney)
“Elegy” in Foreshadow

Liar (Though some don’t think so. See fantasy section.)
My Sister Rosa (Though I could mount a strong argument that the figure of the psychopath is frequently deployed in fiction as a monster.)
“When I Was White” in Come On In (This is straight up realism.)

Razorhurst (1932 Sydney)
“When I Was White” in Come On In (1932 Sydney and New York City)

Liar (psychological)
Razorhurst (gangsters and cops trying to kill protags)
My Sister Rosa (psychological)

How To Ditch Your Fairy
Team Human
Zombies v Unicorns (Mine and Holly Black’s bantering in between the short stories is funny and so are some of the stories.)

Novels and stories with sex:
Magic or Madness trilogy
Razorhurst (very little)
My Sister Rosa
“Elegy” in Foreshadow
“When I Was White” in Come On In (1932 Sydney and New York City)

Novels and stories without sex:
How To Ditch Your Fairy
Team Human

Novels without Swearing
How To Ditch Your Fairy (There’s no swearing from our world. They have their own deeply adorable swear words.)
Team Human

Anthologies/Short stories:
Daughters of Earth (I edited this collection of 20th century feminist science fiction with accompanying essays by feminist scholars)
Zombies v Unicorns (I edited this one with Holly Black)
“Thinner than Water” in Love is Hell
“Little Red Suit” in Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean
You can find other short stories by me here. They’re all fantasy except for Pashin’ which is realism and gross.
“Elegy” in Foreshadow
“When I Was White” in Come On In (1932 Sydney and New York City)

Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction
Daughters of Earth

What to Read Next:
If you loved Liar then read My Sister Rosa next. And vice versa. Though the protag of My Sister Rosa is not unreliable like Micah from Liar, My Sister Rosa is as twisty and dark as Liar. After you’ve read those two if you still want dark and twisty try Razorhurst, remembering that it’s set in 1932 and there are ghosts. So if historicals or supernatural elements are not your thing you might want to skip it. If you want to really dive into the bleakness that is a part of Liar read “Elegy” in Foreshadow, which is the bleakest thing I have ever written.

If you loved How To Ditch Your Fairy because it’s light and funny then read Team Human. And vice versa.

If you loved the star-crossed lovers of “Thinner than Water” then try My Sister Rosa. Remembering that it has no faerie or magic and the emphasis is not on the romance. You could also wait for the novel I’m working on now, Psychopath In Love, with the star-crossed lovers are more at the centre.3 If it was the world of “Thinner than Water” that grabbed you then see if you can find copies of the Magic or Madness trilogy or wait till I finally finish my epic 1930s NYC book(s) cause it’s basically all star-crossed lovers with magic.4

If you loved Razorhurst and want to read another historical from me you then read “When I Was White” in Come On In which is a straight up historical set in Sydney and NYC in 1932. You could also try “Thinner than Water” which has a kind of historical-y feel to it. Or wait for my 1930s NYC historical with magic that I’ve been working on forever and may never finish. Lucky heaps of other authors write historicals, eh? If you were more taken with the thriller aspect then read My Sister Rosa or

  1. Out of print. I include the trilogy to be complete and who knows one day it might be back in print. []
  2. I can also make an argument that this one is science fiction. Most readers disagree []
  3. I would not wait for this one as it’s years since I last worked on it. []
  4. Another novel I’ve not worked on in years. Sorry. []

Signed books

If you’re in San Francisco, Seattle, or New York City you can find signed copies of my books here:

866 Valencia St
San Francisco
They not only have the Magic or Madness trilogy but also Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction and Daughters of Earth

Books Inc Opera Plaza
601 Van Ness
San Francisco

All For Kids
2900 N.E. Blakeley Street

Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York

If you’re hankering for a signed copy of one of my books but don’t live anywhere near those shops—they all do mail order.

And because I’m curious how many of you like to have all your favourite books signed by the author? Do any of you collect signed books even if you’ve not read the book in question?

The Former Me

In my previous life I was an academic. Not a very successful or prolific one. I spent four and a half years researching and writing my PhD thesis, while on a scholarship and doing paid-by-the-hour teaching (what’s known in the US as being a TA) as well as IT support. After that I was awarded a three-year post-doctoral fellowship that my university extended for nine months. In that time I wrote and published one book, The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, and edited a collection of stories and essays, Daughters of Earth as well as writing a bunch of essays and papers (and on the sly I wrote short stories and a novel.)

Twas an eight-year-and-three-month career that ended more than four years ago. Yet, people write to me disturbingly often asking me my opinion of the field I studied, about what books I think are at the cutting edge, and curly questions about my two scholarly books which I wrote ages ago and can’t remember a thing about.

I haven’t read any scholarly work since it stopped being my job. I have no idea what the latest work on science fiction is. I don’t even read science fiction novels anymore. It was never my favourite genre and having to read it for more than eight years put me off for life. Though I don’t mind YA science fiction. I pretty much enjoy YA everything.

Not having to read scholarly work any more is one of my greatest joys. Too much of it is turgid and boring, which is why I’m so relieved I don’t have to write it any more. I hated having to second guess every possible objection to every sentence I wrote. It’s a joy not having to write as if I have constipation or to footnote every single argument.

The only things I loved about being an academic—research and hanging out with like-minded people—I still get to do. For the Magic or Madness trilogy I read a scary amount of books on mathematics and number theory (I’m not saying I understood ’em). For the book I’ll be writing after The UFB I’ve been going back and reading gazillions of ballads. I even plan to crack open some ballad scholarship. For the book after that I’ll be doing lots of research on [redacted for reasons of spoileration] and [also redacted for the same reason].

The glorious thing about research for fiction is that if the research doesn’t fit I can ignore it. I’m writing fiction—most often fantasy—so I twist the facts to fit my books not the other way round. Such bliss!

I’ve written five novels since I quit being an academic. I can’t remember my research for the Magic or Madness trilogy so I really can’t remember any of my scholarly projects. I’m not alone in this. I remember hearing Jonathan Lethem say that when Motherless Brooklyn came out he was taken up by the Tourette’s Syndrome community. But by that time he was onto the next book and had forgotten all his Tourette’s research. We writers are a fickle short-term memoried lot.

To sum up: please don’t ask me about my scholarly books. I know nothing.


So, um, I seem to have won three awards this year. I know! I was as shocked as you. Anyways, I thought it might be fun to have a squiz at ’em. For annoying scheduling reasons I managed not to be at any of the award ceremonies so I’ve only just got my hands on two of them and have yet to see the third. It’s back home in Sydney being babysat by my parents (thanks Jan and John!).

Here’s the Susan Koppelman (thanks for accepting it for me, Brian):

Photo by Scott Westerfeld

The Norton (thanks, Eloise):

Photo by Scott Westerfeld

And the William Atheling (thanks, Sean):

William Atheling Jr. Award
Photo by Niki Bern

Contrast in awards styles, eh? I loves it!

Another book banned (updated)

Maureen Johnson‘s excellent and extremely clean (no sex or violence) book, The Bermudez Triangle has just been banned in a school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma because it is about (among many other things) two girls who fall in love.

A parent read it, hated it and complained, demanding it be removed from the shelves and suggested the bible as a replacement. I’m very fond of the bible myself, but it has way more sex and violence than Maureen’s book. There’s incest in the bible, people!

There’s also excellent bits like this:

“There is no longer male nor female, bond nor free, Jew nor Gentile, for we are all equal in Jesus Christ.”

—Galatians 3:28

I believe that includes homosexuals as well as heterosexuals.

If anyone who reads this is from Bartlesville, Oklahoma and cares about first amendment rights, you are in a position to be able to complain to the school and to the local newspapers. I really hope you will. Bermudez Triangle is a lovely warm book about the importance of friendship.

For the rest of us, I think now would be a really good time to invest in a copy of Maureen’s book. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s a wonderful book.

Update: Maryrose Wood eloquently explains what the first amendment means when a book is banned in the US of A.

More Skiting

Things are going well for me back home and I am happy.

Today is the official pub date of Magic’s Child in Australia and New Zealand. First person to send me photographic evidence gets a signed copy. Why should the North Americans get all the prizes?

Yay Magic’s Child! What now exists on two continents!

If that weren’t enough I just found out I’m up for not one, but two Ditmars for Daughers of Earth. Wow.

    Professional Achievement

  • Angelia Challis for establishing Brimstone Press as a mass market publisher
  • Cat's Daughter's cover

  • Bill Congreve for Mirrordanse Press and 2 issues of the Australian Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Russell B Farr for Ticonderoga Publications
  • Gary Kemble for work on ABC’s Articulate and promoting the genre through radio and other mediums
  • Alisa Krasnostein for providing new paying markets for readers and writers of both fiction and non-fiction, art as well as forums for reviews and interviews within the speculative fiction genre, enhancing the profile of Australian speculative fiction
  • Justine Larbalestier, for editing Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century

I’m really honoured to be part of that list. What fabulous achievements! But, um, spot the odd one out: You know, the nominee who put one measly book together (and whinged about it a lot) and did bugger all to enhance the profile of Australia. *Cough* *Cough*.

And then I’m also up for

    The William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review

  • Miranda Siemienowicz for her review of Paraspheres appearing in Horrorscope
  • Justine Larbalestier for Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century
  • Robert Hood for “Man and Super-Monster: A History of Daikaiju Eiga and its Metaphorical Undercurrents” Borderlands #7
  • Grant Watson for “Bad Film Diaries – Sink or Swim: The Truth Behind Waterworld” Borderlands #8
  • Kathryn Linge for her review Through Soft Air ASif

William Atheling was the penname for James Blish’s critical writing. This is the second time I’ve been up for this award. Yay! It’s a real honour and not just because Blish was a hell of a critical writer. It’s wonderful to be recognised by the Australian science fiction community. Thank you!

There are lots of fabulous nominees in all categories this year, but selfishly the one I’m most excited about is Cat Spark’s nomination for best artwork for her unbelievably fantastic cover for Daughters of Earth. I’ve had a lot of wonderful covers for my books, but this is my favourite. Thank you, Cat! I really really really hope you win!

My very first online ad & other matters

For the next month, there’s an ad for Magic’s Child up on Locus online. Tis my very first one and I’m dead excited. Ordinarily, I can’t stand ads but somehow it’s different when it’s an ad for one of my books. That makes me want to pat it and sing it songs. Lovely, lovely ad. Designed by the fabulous Courtney Wood who also made those beautiful screensavers which you can now download from the links in the sidebar.

There is now a cover for the Science Fiction Book Club’s 3-in-1 version of my trilogy. It’s called The Magic or of Reason.

In other vainglorious news, the Hathor Legacy likes Daughters of Earth, describing it as the “perfect marriage of fantastic stories and excellent critical analysis”. Yay! That’s what I was going for.

And to stop skiting for a second, wouldn’t it be great if this happened? An ODI series between India and Australia right here in NYC? I could bring all my USian friends what want to learn about the noble game and convert them to the glories of cricket in their own country. Bliss!

Also this could be the day Magic’s Child is released into the wild. i await reports. Remember there is a prize for the first person to send me photographic evidence that my latest book exists and it may not be as crappy as I said.

Two excellent things

1. I am now officially an award-winning author. Sort of.

Daughters of Earth just won the Susan Koppelman Award for Best Anthology, Multi-Authored, or Edited book in Feminist Studies in Popular Culture which is given by the Popular Culture Association. How cool is that? No book of mine has ever won an award before.

As I didn’t write Daughters—other than the introduction anyways—I’m not sure this qualifies me as an award-winning author. I guess what I am is the editor of an award-winning book. I sure did put a lot of work into it and so did all the contributors. We’re very proud and thrilled that someone else likes it well enough to give it a prize. Woo hoo!

Thank you so much Brian Attebery, Joan Donawerth, L Timmel Duchamp, Andrea Hairston, Joan Haran, Cathy Hawkins, Veronica Hollinger, Josh Lukin, Mary E. Papke, Wendy Pearson, and Lisa Yaszek for writing such fabulous essays. What a fabulous bunch1 of scholars!

2. A bunch of us Young Adult writer types will be doing a reading next Wednesday:

Eireann Corrigan (Ordinary Ghosts)
Erin Downing (Prom Crashers)
Justine Larbalestier (Magic’s Child)
Leslie Margolis (Price of Admission)
Maryrose Wood (Why I Let My Hair Grow Out)
Daniel Ehrenhaft and Adrienne Maria Vrettos (reading from the 21 Proms anthology)
Wednesday, 7 March, 6-8PM
Tompkins Square branch
New York Public Library
331 E. 10th Street (cnr of Ave B)

Hope you New York types will be able to join us. Tis quite the lineup.

  1. What should the collective noun for a group of scholars be? A folio of scholars? A vellum? Footnote? A tenure? (Though that’s harsh on those without and the independent scholars.) A reference? []

An interview and some questions

Adrienne Martini interviewed me for Bookslut about Daughters of Earth and Battle of the Sexes. Go have a squiz. Co-incidentally Martini was just interviewed by Scalzi and it made me want to read her book.

The questions:

If Stephen Colbert shook your hand today would you ever wash it again? Just wondering.1

Is Diana Wynne Jones’s latest book, The Pinhoe Egg, her best in years?2 Oh, you know it is. That book made me so happy!

  1. Not that I have any plans of washing while it’s still winter. What if the hot water cuts out while I’m all soaped up? I’ll wash again in June when I leave the flat again. []
  2. Not that the last few books were bad in any way, shape or form—I don’t believe that she could write a bad book—they were just less genius-y than my faves of hers. []

Woo hoo!

Both Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth have made the the Locus Recommended Reading list. Scott also makes an appearance with not one, not two, but three of his books making the cut: The Last Days, Specials and Blue Noon.

Then there’s my compatriots Margo Lanagan (making four appearances) and Gath Nix. Others on the list that I’ve read and loved are the two stories from Christopher Rowe, as well as Julie Phillips’ Tiptree biography, Ellen Kushner’s Privilege of the Sword and Naomi Novik’s Temeraire. Woo hoo! If you haven’t read these you really need to.

I’m sure there are other wonderful books and stories on there, but I confess I haven’t read hardly any of them. I am bad.

In other news UK author Kevin Wignall of Contemporary Nomad likes Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons. Check it out! Though Oz English is not a dialect of Pom English. No way!

This has been a very head-swelling year thus far. May it keep on keeping on!

Another award shortlisting

This time it’s Daughters of Earth1 on the British Science Fiction Association‘s non-fiction shortlist. Let there be w00ting! Here’s the other nominees:

  • The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, ed. Paul Kincaid and Andrew M. Butler (Serendip Foundation)
  • Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century, ed. Justine Larbalestier (Wesleyan University Press)
  • Great British Comics, Paul Gravett (Aurum Press Ltd)
  • James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, Julie Phillips (St Martin’s Press)
  • Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute, ed. Farah Mendlesohn (Old Earth Books)

And the nicest thing? There’s not going to be an individual winner. They’re calling it the BSFA’s non-fiction recommended reading list. And the BSFA membership won’t be voting on it. Frankly, I find that much less stressful. No getting your hopes up for a win. And looking at that shortlist, I had buckley’s. Julie’s Tiptree bio is not only the best book on that list, it’s the best book about science fiction in a very very long while.

You can find the full list of nominees here. I’m especially chuffed at Margo Lanagan getting another nod. Yay Margo!

  1. Which means every single one of my published books has been up for an award. Isn’t that amazing? Of course, when the award noms dry up, does it mean my career is over?

    Nah. I can think of gazillions of wonderful books that have slid under the award radar. I’m very fortunate that mine haven’t. It’s good to remind myself that like everying in publishing award nominations are mostly just luck. []

Last Day of 2006

It’s been another good year for me professionally and I will now skite about it: My second and third books, Magic Lessons and Daughters of Earth, were both published to some very nice reviews and reader responses. The whole Magic or Madness trilogy sold to Editora Record in Brazil, Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons sold to Mondadori in Italy, while Magic Lessons and Magic’s Chld sold to Amarin in Thailand. And then there was the recent sale of the trilogy to the Science Fiction Book Club for a 3-in-1. Not to mention Magic Lessons being on the shortlist for the Aurealis.

It was a great year for Scott who hit the New York Times bestseller list not once, not twice, but three times! Woo hoo! Twice for Specials and once for Pretties. Also my friends Yvette Christianse’s (Unconfessed), Kate Crawford (Adult Themes), Ellen Kushner (Privilege of the Sword), Julie Phillips (James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon) and Delia Sherman (Changeling) all published wonderful books that were well-received. If you haven’t already read them—do so immediately!

Other dear friends also published fabby books, but these are the ones that I saw through gestation. In the same way I’m very excited to see how Holly Black’s Ironside and Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones fare next year. Do yourself a favour and get hold of copies as soon as you can!

Next year I have three English-language publications on the horizon:

  • Magic Lessons will appear in paperback in February.
  • The final book of the trilogy, Magic’s Child, will be out in hardcover in March.
  • Also in March—the SFBC’s 3-in-1 edition of the trilogy.

As you can imagine I’m dead excited to find out what my readers think of the complete trilogy. Do not hold back! (Unless what you have to say might harm a writer’s delicate sensibilities. Always remember: praise is good!)

This year has also been a great one for me blog. Readers way more than doubled this year, which is just lovely. I’m particularly excited to have picked up so many more readers here in Australia. Especially the ones I don’t know and am not related to. (Not that there’s anything wrong with my friends and relatives, mind. Well, not that much wrong.) Thank you so much everyone for hanging out and commenting. Your comments are more than half the fun. Without you there wouldn’t be much point. Much appreciated.

Last year on this day I set out my goals for 2006:

I’m aiming to write two books (both of which I’ve already started) in 2006 and sell one (two would be nice, but I don’t want to jinx myself). I also plan to spend the majority of the year in Sydney, cause now that I’m home I just want to stay. And I really, really, really want to get tickets for the Sydney Ashes test. Ideally for every day of play.

How did that work out?

I finished one book: Magic’s Child, but it wasn’t one of the books I was talking about above. So I didn’t finish either of the books I aimed to. Though I got awfully close to finishing the first draft of the great Australian feminist monkey knife-fighting mangosteen cricket fairy young adult novel. (So close I can smell it! Oh the frustration!)

This year I have the same goal: to finish two novels. My odds are much better given that I’m mere days away from finishing the fairy book . . . And I’ve made good starts on six other novels. Dunno which one I’ll write next. What fun not to know!

I didn’t sell any books on account of not finishing any to give to my agent for said selling. I won’t be declaring my intent on sales again because it’s pointless. I have some control over how many books I write; but none over how many I sell.

The big change this year was my decision not to sell any books until I’ve finished them. (Another explanations for no sales this year.) It’s also why I’m finishing this year without any dread deadlines over me. Much less stressful!

I spent only five months in Sydney and even though that’s more time than I spent anywhere else I still did not see nearly as much of my family and friends here as I’d like. Sigh.

There was way too much travelling this year. And while I loved all the places I visited—Bologna and Kyoto especially—I haven’t stayed anywhere for more than three months since 2003. I’m sick of it. I’d love to travel less, but already 07 is shaping up to be very travelly. Come June though and I believe we’ll be applying the breaks. Aside from it being exhausting and conducive to the contracting of viruses, travelling that much in aeroplanes and staying in hotels is terrible for the environment and no amount of offsets makes up for that.

I did get tickets to the Sydney test. Fourth day. Can’t wait. And we Aussies reclaimed the ashes what should always be ours. Bliss. Now I have to figure out how to get coverage of the world cup while we’re in the US of A. We may even cough up for satellite coverage. Would be fabulous to get over to the West Indies, but see above on wanting to travel less.

To sum up: Life is good. I hope yours is too.

I have a very good feeling about 2007, not just for me, but for the wider world.

Happy new year!

The uses of bad fiction

Matthew Cheney has just posted a thoughtful discussion of “Created He Them”, one of the stories in Daughters of Earth. I agree with him that it is one of the best stories in the collection and definitely one of the most haunting. And Yaszek’s essay adds layers upon layers.

Matthew says that he would not describe all of the stories in the collection as “good”. Singling out Wilhelm’s “No Light in the Window” and goes on to remark:

    Indeed, an anthology such as this, one that seeks to examine and re-examine particular types of writing within their historical and political contexts, would do a disservice by including only great stories, because that would create a false picture of literary history. [Which is not to suggest there aren’t great stories here — there are.] The essays are insightful, and the stories provide the material for their insights, thus creating a new context, one in which a discussion occurs between generations and various types of writers.

And that, dear readers, is exactly what I was going for. Bless you, Mr Cheney!

Although I wouldn’t describe any of the stories in the collection as bad per se (well, okay, the first one maybe) I’ve long believed that you can learn just as much from bad fiction as from good. Actually more. When something is badly written its operations are very close to the surface—you can see what’s going on more clearly than in something that’s extremely well-written.

See, Archer girls? This is the advice that I give everyone! Sometime when I’m not in a huge hurry I’ll give some examples.

And now I must race to get ready for Scott’s keynote address here in Seattle.


Cheryl Morgan has reviewed Daughters of Earth at Emerald City. I think she likes it.

Amanda Coppedge has kindly started a Wikipedia entry on me. Thank you! One of the many smart things about Wikipedia is that you’re not allowed to write entries about yourself—that’s right, isn’t it?—or you know I woulda done it already.

Anyways if any of you feel like adding to the stub she has created, don’t forget to add my nobel peace prize, valiant service during the Spanish civil war, cricketing prowess, and invention of the mangosteen. You also might want to mention my previous marriages to Alida Valli, Cab Calloway, Gerard Phillipe (yeah, I know it only lasted two days, whatever) and Dorothy Dandridge.

So I’m thinking instead of the Great Australian cricket, Elvis, mangosteen fairy novel I might write one about a pathological liar. Whatcha reckon?

Daughters reviewed

Remember the anthology I published a couple of months ago? Daughters of Earth?

Well, at long last, it’s been reviewed and the review’s a lovely one.

Here’s what Nancy Jane Moore at sfrevu has to say about Daughters:

    In Daughters of Earth, eleven feminist science fiction scholars look at eleven feminist science fiction stories. Given that the field of science fiction scholarship is a small one, it is a joy to find eleven very good feminist scholars among them. Combining the microcosm of each story with the macrocosm of the Twentieth Century, these scholars provide us with a depth of experience we can’t get just reading the stories themselves.

A ridiculous amount of work (tracking down copyright holders, arguing with agents, wrangling stories out of the essayists and etc.) went into Daughters and I’m crazy proud of the end result: from the gorgeous cover by Cat Sparks to the awesome essays. If you’re at all interested in science fiction you should really check it out.

WisCon is over; now I namedrop

The combination of jetlag and a cold meant that I did not get as much out of this year’s WisCon as I normally do. But everybody else seemed to be having an amazing time. There were a great many people there that I didn’t even get a chance to say hello to like Suzy McKee Charnas, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Jay Lake, Kelly Link, Sharyn November, Nisi Shawl, Helen Pilinovsky and I hardly had a conversation of any length the whole weekend long.

But I did finally get to meet Cherie Priest and she was just as fabulous as expected. More, even. (Thank you Liz Gorinsky for arranging it—lovely to see you, too!). As well as the elegant and charming Geoff Ryman (apparently he has a blog but I can’t find it—feel free to hit me with the URL) and the amazing Deb Stone who fights the good fight against book censorship for the American Library Association and is my new hero.

I also had the pleasure of introducing my best friend in the whole world,1 Ron Serdiuk, to all my lovely WisCon friends. Naturally he is now many more people’s best friend in the entire world. Seriously, to know Ron is to love him. But I saw him first, okay?

I did manage to catch up properly with Krissy and John Scalzi, as well as Doselle and Janine Young, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Nalo Hopkinson, Charlotte Boynton, Lauren McLaughlin, Andrea Hairston, Pan Morrigan, Ama Patterson, Shana Cohen, Lawrence Schimel, Ellen Klages, Caroline Stevermer, Claire Light and Holly Black (who is such a darling that she visited me in my room while I was gathering strength to get past my dread lurgy and go out and face everyone). Not to mention Julie Phillips, whose superlatively brilliant biography of James Tiptree, Jr. will be out later this year. It’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read and I read a pretty early draft. Imagine how gobsmackingly awesome the final version is going to be.

It was also fabulous to see great big piles of my first (and only) anthology, Daughters of Earth, selling like hotcakes. A number of people had already read it and were very enthusiastic. Yay! Josh Lukin’s and Andrea Hairston’s essays were both mentioned in terms of gushing praise. Their essays are indeed very fine as are all the essays in the collection. There’s no way I’m picking favourites!

The wonderful folks of Dreamhaven donated a copy to be sold at next year’s Tiptree auction. (I recommend them as an online purveyor of all fine sf and fantasy books. And yes they still have more copies of Daughters.) I managed to get Samuel R. Delany, Ursula Le Guin, Vonda McIntyre, and Pamela Sargent (!!!) to sign near mentions of them in the acknowledgments, as well as the signatures of contributors Brian Attebery, L. Timmel Duchamp, Karen Joy Fowler, Andrea Hairston, Joan Haran, Pat Murphy, Lisa Tuttle and Kate Wilhelm. Elvis wept, eh? It better go for a decent amount next year.

I only managed to hear Gwenda Bond, Karen Meisner, Lauren McLaughlin, Claire Light, Scott Westerfeld, Christopher Rowe, Richard Butner and Gavin Grant read, which is to say I attended two different reading sessions. They were all fantastic and funny and weird. What more can you ask for? Well . . . I would’ve loved to have heard Carol Emshwiller or Samuel R. Delany or Ursula Le Guin or Vonda McIntyre or Jane Yolen or Kate Wilhelm or Karen Joy Fowler or Ama Patterson or Geoff Ryman read as well. I hear they were all incredible.

And it would have been nice to go to some of the panels people were raving about like the shapeshifting one and the one on enjoyable trash. I hear Micole Sudberg stunned everyone with her stupendous intellect, humour and wit. Mental note: must not get sick and spend way too much time napping in my room. At least I wasn’t alone in my illness.

Most moving moment: When Susan Vaught signed over her $1,000 cheque for winning a Carl Brandon Award to the Carl Brandon society. So generous! Such a classy gesture! I’m buying her book, Stormwitch as soon as. I hear it’s as wonderful as she is.

Now I go to bed.

P.S. I have no idea how any of my panels went. Sigh.
P.P.S. Too tired to paste in links to all the abovementioned folks.
P.P.P.S. I am massively behind with email. Sorry!

  1. I have a number of best friends in the whole world. []

Very quick

Anna Genoese explains P&Ls. I am eternally grateful to her. I have never understood these before. They were just this mysterious thing my editors would groan about. Anna Genoese is a goddess.

Thanks for all comments in previous post. You are all goddesses. My problem has been solved by reading Anna’s post: the thought of P&Ls has killed smelly monkey brain creativity and now I can focuss on task at hand.

Shana: cricket helmets are heavy!

Friday week is Oz speak for the Friday after next Friday. I.e. rewrites due next Friday not today.

Has anyone seen Daughters out in the wild yet?

Yay Jason Gillespie. Double century. Strewth.

Write now.

My WisCon schedule

Here is where you’ll find me at WisCon (and just before):

“A Feminist Utopia in Madison? Global Communities, Science Fiction and Women”
Wednesday 24 May, 2006, 7:30 pm
Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium, 816 State Street.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Open to the public, free of charge
Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Karen Joy Fowler, Nalo Hopkinson, Justine Larbalestier (moderator), Meghan McCarron

Food in SF&F (Reading SF&F)
Saturday, 1:00-2:15 p.m. Saturday, 1:00-2:15 p.m.
Melissa Scott, Justine Larbalestier, Janet Lafler, Mary Kay Kare, Nora Jemison

Literary History of Women in Science Fiction. (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Saturday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. Saturday, 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Pamela Sargent, Justine Larbalestier, Andrea D. Hairston, Janice Marie Bogstad, Brian Attebery

Banned & Challenged Books (Reading SF&F)
Saturday, 9:00-10:15 p.m. Saturday, 9:00-10:15 p.m.
Deborah Stone, Veronica L. Schanoes, Anne Marie Redalen Fraser, Justine Larbalestier, Kira Franz

The Death of the Panel (Reading SF&F)
Sunday, 2:30-3:45 p.m. Sunday, 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Paul Kincaid, Gwenda Bond, Christopher “i just sold my first novel” Barzak, Lenny Bailes

I think these all look fabulous—I get to talk about feminism, food, Young Adult lit, and death—what could be better? I can’t wait.

I’m especially excited cause Daughters of Earth will definitely be out. In fact I’m hearing rumours it may already be available. Has anyone seen it in shops in the US of A yet?

See you all in Madison! It’s going to be the best WisCon yet. Samuel R. Delany! Ursula K. Le Guin! Jane Yolen! Kate Wilhelm! Oh my Elvis! I must lie down now to recover.

Apologies & Updates

Sorry for the silence. My excuses are many and covered in mucus and jetlag. Which led to my inadvertantly consigning a number of thoughtful posts to spam purgatory. My apologies. Please comment again. I hope to be non-mucus laden and competent any day now and am much less likely to nuke future comments.

While I lay sweating, coughing, swelling and dripping mucus, the wonderful Deborah Biancotti was making additons to my website to accommodate the imminent (and in San Francisco, at least, actual) arrival of my second novel, Magic Lessons the sequel to Magic or Madness. Feast your eyes here and here. You can even read the first two chapters. She’s also created a new section for the soon-to-arrive anthology, Daughters of Earth. Thank you, Deb! And thank you, Cat, for designing such a beautiful cover.

Do take a squiz at both and let me know what you think. The Daughters site still has some content to come, but all the design work is done.

The events in San Francisco at Borderlands and Books Inc went very well. Scott was a star (he even read for me!) and I coughed a lot. And Jude (Borderlands) and Jennifer (Books Inc) took wondrous care of us. Thank you! Thanks so much to everyone who came. I hope I didn’t give any of you my dread lurgy.

I go sleep now.

Posted: NYC, 2:30AM

Wanna ask me any quessies?

I’m in the middle of updating my website to accommodate the imminent arrival of my next two books, Magic Lessons, the sequel to Magic or Madness, and Daughters of Earth, an anthology of feminist science fiction stories and essays. The lovely Deborah Biancotti is making it all look pretty.

Claire Light’s brilliant FAQ has reminded me that I need to update my own. So anyone got any questions for me that aren’t there already? About the books? About the writing life? About whatever. Fire away!

On Hackery (inspired by Delany’s About Writing)

Samuel R. Delany’s book About Writing will not get out of my brain. I keep thinking about his concept of the usefulness, no, the essentialness of doubt (good! I got plenty of that), about how slavishly following the rules and working hard leads to aesthetic banality (the rules of good writing, not the rules of how-to-get-an-agent/editor—you have to follow those). And about being a hack.

Delany’s book made me feel like one (in a good way). His description of his own writing process, of how to write the absolute best you can, is a recipe for books that go through many, many drafts and take a long, long time to write, books that delve down into every doubt or dream you ever had. These descriptions are sensual and exhilarating and inspiring (if I hadn’t read his book I’d still be working on the draft of M! M! M! O! O! O!). As Delany goes through explaining every word choice, you marvel at not just his brilliance and talent, but at his unerring ability to explain this really, really difficult stuff (how’s that for a word choice!).

The book inspires and it also makes you think seriously and long about your own writing.

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1 April 2003 (excellent day to begin, no?). In that time I’ve sold four books, written four and a half, edited one. Deciding to make a living writing, meant deciding to tell different stories than I would if I had a stayed as an academic. Given that so far it’s earned me about US$1,200, and it took four years to research and write, books like The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction went out the window. I had to tell stories that enough other people wanted to read that publishers who could pay decent advances would want to buy them, and I had to learn to write faster. Much faster. I’m now on a two-books-a-year schedule.1

Every page of Delany’s book made me think about the central tension in my life between writing the best books I can and writing them quickly. How do I not become a hack?

I don’t have an answer.

I’m lucky that I write Young Adult books which are considerably shorter than say, Charlie Stross’ work. Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons are both about 65 thou words. In book form that’s 275 pages with a comfortable sized font and balanced amount of leading. But it’s still 130 thousand words of publishable prose a year.

I’m starting to think that—except for the lucky few—to make a living at writing is to be a hack. The best I can do is to write as well as I possibly can within the time restraints, and hope that one day I’ll be generating enough money that I can slow down. But I temper that hope with the knowledge that most people never do. I’ve already seen any number of writers around me write too fast and burn out. Scott was on a near three-book-a-year schedule and wound up with all sorts of health problems (and also nine very fine YA books). But still: too fast words eat up your body and your brain.

And while on a major deadline crunch—unless you have servants or a traditional wife—the rest of your life is falling apart. Housework doesn’t get done, or your taxes, or any of the other admin, you don’t see your friends, and lots of takeaway and delivery food and ramen noodles are consumed.2 When you finish you really should be turning to the next book before your editor’s notes come back at you. Because that’s one of the worst things about writing more than one book a year: the constant interruptions from the previous book. You do not—as a dear friend of mine imagined—write one book, send it off, and then leisurely write the next. While writing the next you’re also be working on the last. There are rewrites, checking copyedits, proofs, and galleys. I have no idea how those writing four or more books a year cope.

I’m hoping, some day, to have the time and opportunity to write both as slowly and as well as I want. To only go on to the next book when the last one is well and truly finished and as good as I can make it. In the meantime I strive to be the very best hack I can be!

How do all you other hacks manage?

  1. I have many writer friends who are writing many more books than two a year, who consider such a schedule luxury. []
  2. I am well aware that there are much harder jobs than being a novelist. This is the best, most fulfilling job I’ve ever had. Every single day I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to have a go at it. []

All over the place & a question

I have a question for sf/fantasy/horror etc readers. Who are the new feminist voices you’re most excited about? I’m hearing great things about Sarah Monette. And I know all about Lauren McLaughlin and Meghan McCarron. But who am I missing out on? Who now is writing books and stories that look at questions of identity, gender, sex, race, class in cool and interesting ways? Who talks about these issues in exciting ways on their blogs? Tell me!

I just heard that, Daughters of Earth, my feminist sf anthology will be out 1 May. Just in time for WisCon! Most excellent!

I’ve been working on a post for awhile now about all the fabby blogs about the publishing industry and the glories of Miss Snark et al. Fortunately for me Diana Peterfreund has beaten me to the punch so now I don’t have to bother. What she said.

I agree with Matt Cheney that Mister Boots is Carol Emshwiller‘s best novel and I can’t believe I forgot all about it when talking about the BBYAs. Why the hell wasn’t Mister Boots on that list? Why wasn’t it a Printz honoree? Everyone go buy a copy immediately. You’ll love it!

Writers are the Best Whingers

Just read and giggled all over this post by Diana Peterfreund in which she wittily whinges about all the work she has to do (and skewers Star Wars). It struck a chord cause I was just about to whinge about the pageproofs of Daughters of Earth which just landed in my life with a very heavy thunk.


Diana (I’m taking liberties referring to her by first name, I don’t actually know her, but I read her fabbie blog, so I feel like I know her) starts by referring to a harder working writer who has family on top of it all, whereas Diana just has her sailor boy and a full-time job. I’m going to lower the bar still further: I have neither children nor pets nor a job (other than writing).

And yet I feel my case is worse than either of theirs because I am suffering (horribly) from post-paradise-adjustment syndrome (or ppas). Just days ago I was in Mexico living an admin-free existence: no shopping, no housecleaning, no dishwashing, no cooking, no laundry, no paying bills, no nothing—except writing. Luz Barron did all that for me, not to mention telling me excellent stories, mending my clothes (!), and taking me out to all the best fun bars in San Miguel. Luz made me food like this:

Mushroom-stuffed chillies on tomatoes & onions served with plantain & pomegranate & garlic rice.

Now I’m back in reality, but where is the counselling and social services team to help me through my ppas? No where! How am I supposed to cope without Luz? How am I supposed to live in the real world where I have to finish Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi, the third Magic or Madness book, go through the staggeringly long Daughters proofs, finish the great Australian mangosteen cricket Elvis fairy book, write the proposal for this jaw-droppingly brilliant idea I just had and do all that adminy stuff!? How is that possible?!

You know I used to have no sympathy for rich folk like Paris Hilton et al, what with their silver spoons wedged firmly down their throats. Rich bastards, I used to think, but now I know the truth: without their staff they’re helpless. Look what happens when someone like Paris takes dressing into her own hands. Not pretty, is it? Imagine her trying to get it together to make her own coffee. Or figure out how a washing machine works. Wow. Her life is really, really hard. Not quite as hard as mine given that she’s still in paradise and not in the land of ppas. But how much worse will it be for poor old Paris when her fall comes? How hideous will her ppas be?

Makes ya think, don’t it?

Basketball Good

Once Daughters was banished from my life, yesterday was all basketball all the time. First up: off to Madison Square Garden to watch the Liberty make easy work of destroying the San Antonio Silver Stars. We invited two friends of ours who’ve never seen the Liberty play. I believe we have a couple of converts. Yay!

And then home to watch the final quarter of the sixth game of the NBA finals where the men’s San Antonio team was also beaten. Dee-troit! Bas-ket-baaall!

Now if only the cricket would start doing what I want it to!

All Finished

The Daughters of Earth manuscript was finished, packed in a box, and posted back to the tender ministrations of its publisher yesterday (only a couple of days late). Magic Lessons is also back with its publisher (on time) and about to be typeset. It should be an ARC in a few weeks. Yay!

Thanks to Tim Pratt and Pauline Dickinson and the good folks of Sydney Uni library’s Rare Books (why didn’t I think of them in the first place? [Slaps forehead]) for coming through with the page numbers. And thanks to everyone for being kind during these last few weeks of way, way, way too much work. Now I can go back to writing the new novel. If I wasn’t so knackered I’d be dead excited.

Help! Urgent Request for SF Magazine Info

I don’t have the page numbers for the following stories. If anyone out there has them I’d sure appreciate your sharing said knowledge with me. And, yes, please pass this along to anyone you think might be able to help.

Your reward for helping me out? You get your name in the acknowledgments for Daughters of Earth.

Asimov, Isaac. “Profession,” Astounding Science Fiction, (July 1957):

—. “The Mule,” Astounding Science Fiction, (Nov-Dec 1945):

Hamilton, Edmond, “The Man Who Evolved,” Wonder Stories (April 1931):

Piper, H. Beam. “Omnilingual,” Astounding Science Fiction, (Feb 1957):

Reed, Kit. “To Lift a Ship,” The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (April 1962):

Sheldon, Raccoona. “The Screwfly Solution.” Analog (June 1977):

Tuttle, Lisa, and George R. R. Martin. “The Storms of Windhaven.” Analog (May 1975):

Wilhelm, Kate. “The Chosen,” in Damon Knight, ed., Orbit 6. New York: Putman, 1970.

And, yes, I realise the last one isn’t a magazine.

For those wondering, nope, still not finished with the ms. of Daughters.

This is My Blog

and I’ll write about sports if I want to! So stop emailing to tell me to post about “more interesting things.” The very idea!

But there won’t be much posting about anything—interesting or not—over the next few days. This is my last day to fix Daughters of Earth and the copyedited Magic Lessons just arrived and has to be back with my publisher by Tuesday morning.

Bye for now.

Red Pencils! Help!

Anyone in NYC know where I can buy some really good red pencils that don’t break every ten seconds? I’ve barely been editing with these ones for half an hour and I’ve already gone through four of the little monsters from hell. Enough!

Then There Were Two

Now there are two manuscripts sitting on my desk glaring at me, waiting to be checked and made perfect. The pages for the Australian edition of Magic or Madness just arrived. Corrections on it and Daughters of Earth are due the same day. At least morm isn’t 800 pages long and full of complicated footnotes and bibliography and other irritating scholarly apparatus. Stupid scholarly apparatus.

There go my fingernails.


There’s an 800 page manuscript sitting on my desk. It’s so very big. The biggest ms. I’ve ever had anything to do with. The enormity of it is paralysing me.

Daughters of Earth, my anthology of feminist sf stories and essays, has to be checked and made as perfect as possible in a terrifyingly short amount of time if we’re going to launch it at WisCon next year. I have to photocopy 11 essays to send to their authors to check. Then I have to read through and correct the whole thing.

I have four unsharpened red pencils. I have a sharpener. I have the Chicago Manual of Style. I have Scott’s moral support.

Wish me luck!

A Brief Respite from Deadlines

It’s 7:30AM on Thursday morning and I’ve been awake for an hour, lying on the couch, watching a repeat of yesterday’s cricket in New Zealand (NZ versus Sri Lanka) and reading C. L. R. James’s Beyond a Boundary. I watch Jayawardene batting beautifully, lots of lovely attacking shocks, including some quite exquisite cover drives while C. L. R. James (I love using all his initials) bitches about defensive, boring batting in the 1950s. (His theory: it was because the 1950s was boring.)

I’m having a lovely morning, not just because of wall to wall cricket (I’m also checking scores around the world on my laptop), but because I don’t have to feel guilty about it. The last few months have been work, work, work. But now I’ve met all my deadlines. I turned in the anthology last week and the latest rewrites on Magic Lessons (sequel to Magic or Madness) last night. For the next few days, before my pesky editors get back to me, I can do whatever I damn well please and I choose cricket.

Especially as it’s just this second gone live: the fourth day of play has begun. And even more especially because in just over a week I’ll be stuck in that cricket-free zone: the US of A with little hope of getting to England to watch Australia destoy them in the Ashes. So here’s to inswingers, yorkers, googlies, cover drives, front-foot play, back-foot play, silly mid-on, short square leg and french cuts. And to W. G. Grace, Ranjitsinhji, Learie Constantine, Peggy Antonio, Sid Barnes, Weekes, Worrell and Walcott, Keith Miller, Garfield Sobers, Dennis Lillee, Viv Richards, Micheal Holding, Bruce Reid, Zoe Goss, Makhaya Ntini, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Bucknor and Belinda Clarke. How I shall miss you all!

Sydney, 7 April 2005

Pressing the Send Button

I did it! I finished my very first sequel! Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Chooks or Chokos) has been written, the send button has been pressed, one of my editors, thirty pages in, has said so far she’s loving it. I can open that champagne, drink, breathe deep, and then turn to the next (and also previous) project. Yay!

I started Magic or Madness 2
(working title: The Magic Puddle) on the 14th of June, 2004, and finished on the 24th of January, 2005. Seven months! Not quite the nine weeks that it took to write Magic or Madness. No Mexican writing idyll this time around: I had to do housework, deal with admin, work on other projects like editing Daughters of Earth, an anthology of feminist sf.* The first 25 thousand words of Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Magical Crazies Down Under) were written painfully and slowly in New York & Buenos Aires from June to early November; the remaining 40 thousand plus words were written lightning fast in Sydney in the last two months. Yes, I’m knackered, but not as knackered as Scott—he’s written three novels since last June.

Magic or Madness 2 (working title: Magic, Madness & Minties) was a much harder book to write than Magic or Madness. It took forever to get started, though my cunning plan of using "once upon a time" as the kickstarter ended up working. Here’s the first sentence:

Once, when I was really little, we passed a road sign peppered with bullet holes.

(Once is just shorthand for "once upon a time".)

Turns out that making the second book in a trilogy stand alone is not easy. There’s a whole book’s worth of backstory that you have to artfully drop into a sentence or two. I can see why some writers don’t bother. I wondered why I was bothering. It’s not like I’ve ever picked up the second book of a trilogy and read it first. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to start at the beginning (according to Julie Andrews it’s a very good place to start). Does anyone read trilogies out of order? (Write me if you have. Be nice to know all my efforts weren’t for nowt!)

I did my best, and Scott, and my first readers, Gwenda Bond, Pamela Freeman, Carrie Frye, Jan Larbalestier, Karen Meisner, Sally O’Brien, Ron Serdiuk, and Lili Wilkinson, let me know exactly where my best wasn’t good enough. Thank you! Now I just have to sit tight (or, er, get back to work on Daughters of Earth) and wait for my editors’ comments.

Meanwhile, the day Magic or Madness is published (17 March) approaches. Reviews are starting to appear. Kirkus just called it "A cleverly creepy fantasy with likable, complex characters and a sinister conclusion". Not too foul, eh? And I’ve heard rumours that it’s also getting a good review in the School Library Journal. People who aren’t my publishers or friends are reading it! Gulp, but also yay! It’s about time. I wrote it, like, a million years ago.

I have now written four novels, sold three (one, Magic or Madness 3, is not written yet, so, yes, there are two unsold ones), and planned about a thousand others. What to write after this trilogy? I’m thinking the world is finally ready for my great Australian, feminist, monkey knife-fighting, cricket & Elvis novel. Whatcha reckon?

Sydney, 26 January 2005

*I’d thought editing would be a complete doddle. Me with my feet up on the desk, while other people killed themselves writing. Not the case: editing that anthology has been much, much harder work than any novel I’ve written. Not editing again, me. I’m not cut out for hard work.