What is it about romance?

For months now Scott’s been getting stacks and stacks of queries from fans all desperate for the final book in the Uglies trilogy so that they can find out which boy the protag, Tally, ends up with: David or Zane? (Check out the “reviews” here for an idea of what I’m talking about.) I’m starting to get my own trickle of mail asking about who Reason winds up with. (Satan! She winds up with Satan!—Just kidding.1)

How did we get so obsessed with relationships? With who’s zooming who? What gives?

Is it possible to write a popular novel series that’s romance free? I’m trying to think of one and I’m failing. It’s hard to even think of romance-free standalones.

Is romance the genre that arches over all others? I think it is. More than any other genre it’s the one that works its tendrils into everything. Way back when, I remember reading an article that argued that scientific papers about conception frequently get taken over by romance motifs with the damsel-in-distress egg being rescued by the valiant knight-in-shining-armour sperm, which you’ll all be shocked to hear is not actually how conception works.

Is the dominance of romance a bad thing? Should I worry that my trilogy is now being shipped? (Mostly Reason & Tom.) I certainly didn’t conceive of the trilogy that way. I thought the question of who would survive the magic-or-madness conundrum was the driving force, but judging from letters and convos with folks that ain’t foremost in their minds.

Yet as a reader I’m a total shipper. I’m still cranky Rhett told Scarlett to bugger off. (Hey, did you ever notice that they both have a double t? How surreal is that?) I kind of want Rebecca and Bois-Guilbert to wind up together (whenever I re-read Ivanhoe I skip all the bits without them.) I totally bought into all the Buffy shipping, despite my favourite relationship—Cordelia & Xander—not lasting long.

So why was I not thinking romance when I started writing my trilogy? What is this weird writer v reader split I seem to have going?

What do you lot reckon? Any response to any of these questions is most welcome.

PS Many thanks for all the thoughtful responses to my quessies about violence to animals in books.

  1. Or maybe I’m not kidding . . .

    No, really, I’m totally kidding.

    Maybe. []

Off to the mountains

This year has been full on for me and Scott thus far. Oodles of work travel (Brisbane, San Francisco, New York City, Bologna, Brisbane), lots of new sales—Brazil (me), Denmark (Scott), Sweden (Scott)—and I just heard news that MorM and ML have sold in yet another market. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about it soon. We’re both on the shortlists for some pretty awesome awards—the Ethel Turner (me), the MLA’s Thumps Up (me, Scott), and the Locus Awards (Scott)—and Scott’s book Specials came out this week and has been ranked very high1 up on Amazon. The best any book of his has ever managed. And something else gobsmackingly amazing has happened to Scott that we’re hoping we’ll be able to tell you about next week. We’re dead happy!

So to celebrate we’re leaving our laptops behind and going on a mini holiday to the glorious Blue Mountains where we will go on long walks, play billiards on a real billiards table, eat scrumptious food, and drink divine wine and not check Specials‘ ranking on Amazon even once. Bliss!

Catch you in a few days.

PS Yes, I am massively behind with email. Sorry! I plan to catch up when I get back.

  1. As high as 232 overall and no. 5 on the bestselling teen books list. No. 2 if you just look at the teen sf/fantasy list. Does any of that mean anything you ask? Prolly not a huge amount given that Amazon’s only 10% of the US book market. But those numbers make us happy and give us the illusion that Specials is selling in vast numbers everywhere! []

Aaargh!!! (updated)

Sometimes I read an article so relentlessly stupid that the only thing I can do is rant.

Today Cassandra Clare sent me a link to such an article. Let me quote the most enraging part:

    What this unfortunately driven young woman’s rather sad little story suggests is that one of the major reasons other young people don’t read books is that most of the stuff published for children and adolescents is abysmal, self-regarding trash. Part of the fault rests with the packagers such as Alloy and in the way they do business. A larger part of the problem stems from publishers’ misguided belief that kids want to read about people just like themselves, living lives just like their lives. Dead wrong.

    If these publishers looked to their own childhood memories rather than a spreadsheet, they’d recall that young readers, more than any others, want to be transported and shown not just other lives but whole worlds utterly different from their own. Witness the wild popularity of fantasy and science fiction among the very same kids who display the very same sensibility in their choice of video games. What could be more dispiriting than going into your room in search of escape, solace or pleasure, opening a book and reading a story about someone just like you hemmed in by the same four walls?

    The conditions that have alienated so many young people from reading are hardly unique to publishing. They’re common to other forms of entertainment and news media, where the creativity and idealism of the founding personalities have been subsumed by corporate ownership. It happened long ago in the film industry, and the tormented director or abused screenwriter is now virtually a cultural archetype. It has happened to all but a handful of the country’s broadcasters and newspapers.

I call bullshit. Lots of teenagers want to read about people like them, lots don’t, and some of them want to be transported as well as read about teenagers like them. It”s not an either/or. Very few things are. Some of those transporting books also happen to be about teenagers like them. And for your information, Mr LA Times know-nothing-about-YA reporter man, many of the bestselling books (and manga and graphic novels) for teens are fantasy or science fiction. The very genres whose reason for existing is to impart that good ole sense of wonder.

There are many, many, many wonderful books of all sorts being published for, and read by, teenagers. Cassandra, who sent me the article, writes some of it, so does Margaret Mahy, Ursula K. Le Guin,, Diana Wynne Jones, Holly Black, Scott Westerfeld, Elizabeth Knox, John Green, Libba Bray, Cecil Castellucci, Jonathan Stroud, Sonya Hartnett, E. Lockhart, Audrey Couloumbis, Laura Whitcomb and too many more to name. I cannot keep up with all the amazing YA being published each year.

And this may surprise you, Mr LA Times reporter man, but some of the books published through packaging houses are really good. Scott Westerfeld’s Midnighters series is a good example, as is pretty much anything written by Maureen Johnson, not to mention the very amusing Raisin Rodriquez books by Judy Goldschmidt.

When I compare the quality of the adult bestselling fiction to the kids and teen bestselling fiction it’s the adult fiction that loses out. I feel sorry for the adults who are still reading some of the dreck on that list when they could be reading bestselling books by Libba Bray or Jonathan Stroud.

Okay, I’m going to go read a Jaclyn Moriarty book to remove the stain on my eyeballs from that stupid article.

P.S. Yes, I have conflated YA and children’s, but so did Mr Smelly Reporter Man.

Update: Of course, Cassandra said it all more succinctly and way more wittily here. If only I’d noticed that first I coulda just directed you there. And somehow I managed to miss Cecil’s post as well. Gah.

Scott and me signing

This Thursday Scott and me will be at Galaxy Books signing our latest books. For me that’s Magic Lessons (US import) and the paperback of Magic or Madness. For Scott it’ll be the Oz edition of Peeps, plus the UK Uglies and I’m sure all the rest of his extensive oeuvre. I really hope those of you what are in the vicinity of Sydney’s CBD can make it.

Details as follows:

Thursday, 27 April, 6PM
Signing at Galaxy Bookshop
Justine Larbalestier & Scott Westerfeld
143 York Street
Sydney, New South Wales

Stay tuned to Scott’s blog cause it looks like there might be news of unsurpassed bigness in the next few days.

Meanwhile I continue to write many many many hours every day whipping M! M! M! O! O! O! into shape so that it’s fit for my editor’s eyes come Friday. I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in ages. Yay! I’ve been buoyed by sight of the new Oz cover for Magic Lessons—gorgeous. As well as the early versions of the US M! M! M! O! O! O!—very, very promising. When I’m allowed to share I will.

Through a Brain Foggily

Thursday went to the Bronx Library Centre and got to hang out with some very smart, very interesting teenagers. Hey Melanie! Hey Elizabeth! Hey Rachely! Hey Rachell! Hey Melodie! And hey the girl with the lovely French name that I can’t remember! (Sorry.) And we talked books and writing and Midnighters and Uglies and it were fun.

And just as wonderful was the fact that Carol, who’s (I think) the head of Young Adult Services for the Bronx Library Center, is from Trinidad and loves cricket! So we got to talk about Brian Lara and Dwayne Bravo. A brief cricket moment in the midst of a desert of non-cricketness. Which is why I haven’t mentioned the highest scoring one-day match of all time in which Australia scored 434 and thus had the game in their pockets only to be outscored by South Africa. Holy crap! How is that possible? (And, you know, poor bloody bowlers—must’ve been the flatest, uncrackedest, giving-nothingest wicket of all time.)

But I digress, libraries wonderful, librarians wonderful, teenagers who come to library events wonderful.

That night we caught up with some of our YA novel writing compatriots and talked shop, gossiped, and decided whether trolls are human or not.

Today was the Books of Wonder reading. We read with newly minted superstar, Marcus Zusak, who courtesy of an appearance on Good Morning America, has been at number one or two on Amazon.com since Friday am. Oh my Elvis! He was charmingly overwhelmed by the fuss and the long queue of adult women wanting him to sign Book Thief for them.

Also appearing were Linzi Glass, author of The Year the Gypsies Came who I’d heard all about from Little Red School House librarian, Karyn Silverman, and Sarah Durkee whose middle grade book, The Fruit Bowl Project sounds utterly charming. We were on the girls table together and thus got to natter muchly about this and that. Very genial.

The event was a lot of fun. Always fab to meet new writers and the audience was fabby too. Lots of friends (thanks, guys, for the support!), not to mention all the folks I don’t know. Oh, and it was such a treat recognising these two brothers from Queens who were at our last Books of Wonder event and just as they did then asked smart cool questions. Yay, them.

Best of all, as usual, were the wonderful staff of Books of Wonder. Peter Glassman, the owner, is always fabulous. He’s so genuinely enthusiastic about books for kids and teenagers. It’s infectious. And it’s always a pleasure to hang out with Sara and Elena. Librarians and booksellers = the world’s best people.

So it’s as well we had to run from Books of Wonder to the New York Public Library for the 77th Annual Exhibition of Books for the Teen Age where Chris Crutcher gave the most wonderful speech about censorship and writing for young adults. He is my new hero.

And now I’m crawling into bed to sleep for many, many, many hours.

Posted: NYC, 9:30PM, 18 March

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

Off to the Aurealis Awards

Yup off to BrisVegas for Australian science fiction’s night of nights. Both Scott and me are up for an award—the same one. Wish us luck! (I hope Scott wins. If I win I’ll have to come up with a speech. Blerk!)

I’m not taking my computer with me. You’ll all have to suffer twenty-four hours without me. But keep the quessies coming! Will answer on my return.

My Swollen Head

Magic or Madness just made its fifth best books of the year list with its inclusion on Locus’ 2005 Recommended Reading List. I’m in ace company with the likes of Elizabeth Bear, Judith Berman and John Scalzi. Scott made the YA list along with Holly Black and Carol Emshwiller and other excellencies. Best of all they listed Midnighters 2: Touching Darkness which has been mostly ignored by the other lists. Dunno why. It’s fabulous.

Anyways, I’m off to stick my head in a bucket of cold water in hopes of reducing the swelling.

BBYA happiness

The Young Adult Library Services Association has just announced its lists of recommended books for 2005. Getting on one of these lists is a very big deal because they are frequently used as a guide for building a collection etc. The two main lists are the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) and the Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.

This year both Scott and me were on the BBYA. I’m so thrilled. Magic or Madness is one of the best young adult books of the year! Woo hoo! Even cooler, Scott made the list with two books, Peeps and Uglies, and Peeps was on the top ten BBYA of the year. How bout that?!

Here’s my pick of the other books on the lists:

Black, Holly. Valiant: a Modern Tale of Faerie (on both lists!)
Bray, Libba. Rebel Angels
Castellucci, Cecil. Boy Proof (on both lists!)
Green, John. Looking for Alaska
Halam, Ann. Siberia (Go Gwyneth!)
Hartnett, Sonya. Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
Johnson, Maureen. 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Lockhart, E. The Boyfriend List : 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs, and Me, Ruby Oliver
Lanagan, Margo. Black Juice (will the accolades ever stop? I hope not!)

Here are the books I’m sad didn’t make either list:

Cabot, Meg. Ready or Not (It’s nuts this didn’t make the Quick Picks list!)
Haitani, Kenjiro. A Rabbit’s Eyes (I simply adore this book. In a just world it would’ve won the Printz! Not that Looking for Alaska didn’t deserve it, mind.)
Nelson, R. A. Teach Me (Raw and intense just like it was for me being a teenager! Though I understand that’s very unusual . . . )

Now, I’m looking forward to catching up on the many books on the lists I haven’t read yet. Sigh! We are living in a golden age of young adult publishing.

Bookshops and the Signing thing

Wow, thanks to everyone for sharing all their writers’ humiliations. Apparently I’m not alone!

This post is for the bookseller who wrote to tell me that if I went to her bookshop I could sign whatever books I wanted.

On the same day I had my less than stellar experience at a chain I also visited Galaxy, Kinokuniya, Gleebooks and Better Read than Dead. All of them had many copies of Scott’s books and all told me that Uglies in particular is flying off the shelves. And they all had the Oz version of Magic or Madness and were very keen on me signing them. At Galaxy I didn’t even have to ask. Bless Galaxy. They rolled out the books, handed me a pen, and told me how well MorM‘d been doing for them. There was also mention of the possibility of Scott and me doing events for all of these shops. Way to make you feel wanted. Lovely!

I also figured out that I’ve been shopping at Galaxy for at least fourteen years! Oh my Elvis! That’s longer than some of my readers have been alive! And I’ve been a regular customer at Gleebooks for even longer . . . They’re two of my fave bookshops in all the world and have been incredibly good to me as both customer and now as author.

I have to admit though, that the whole signing thing is weird. I always feel like a loon asking people in bookshops if they want me to scribble on their books. It seems such an odd thing to do: “Deface your stock, Ma’am?” Though, of course, I’m very happy to have books by my favourite writers defaced, and treasure my two signed Dorothy Dunnett’s (Caprice and Rondo and Gemini).

Other than that initial awkwardness—“Hi, I’m Justine Larbalestier and, er, you seem to have some of my books. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I, um, signed them for you”—other than that I really like going into bookshops and chatting with the staff. For one thing, they’re mostly really into books. Surprising that, eh? And once I’ve gotten the self-promotery thing over and done with (quick as poss) I can ask about their favourite YAs and rave about mine (I talked up Haitani’s A Rabbit’s Eyes big time at Kinokuniya). Alliyx at Kinokuniya is a huge Scott Westerfeld and Holly Black fan so it was quite a treat to goss about their books. Interesting how much easier it is to push someone else’s work than it is your own.

I’d never been to Kinokuniya before. It’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve seen that much manga in one place. And the design and architecture section is huge! So’s the young adult section. In fact the whole bookstore is vast and full of bubbly helpful staff and way too many books that I lust after. And, yeah, they had my book, too. I wonder if I’ll ever stop being thrilled by seeing my book in shops? I hope not.

So, yes, Ms Bookseller-who-wrote-me, my chain bookshop experience was an anomaly.

Last Day of 2005

Woo hoo! Another year gone! A fridge full of champagne and yummy food! Who could ask for anything more? (Well, it would be nice if we didn’t both have books due 3 Jan . . . )

I see that many in blogland (and elsewhere) are summing up their year, taking stock, making resolutions for 2006 and etc. I’ve already skited enough about my achievements this year. It’s been a bloody brilliant year personally. I just want it all to keep on keeping on.

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. If anyone has a cunning method of getting said tickets, or is a member of the SCG—I’m am so up for offering you huge bribes! Whatever you want you got it!

Best book I read this year: Walter Mosley’s The Man in My Basement. I just made my parents read it too and they were also blown away. It’s the most powerful, moving examination of evil, of race and gender, and what it is to be human I’ve ever read. But rest assured this ain’t just philosophy and ethics; it’s a scary arse story that’s completely unputtdownable.

Books I’m most looking forward to: The Night Watch by Sarah Waters and Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamquake the sequel to Dreamhunter, and frankly it just can’t get into my hands soon enough!

Hope you lot have a fabby new year, too. And achieve everything you want to achieve. I’m going to get started on the champers now. Happy new year!

School Library Journal‘s Best Books of the Year

I mentioned a while ago that both Scott and me had made SLJ‘s best books of the year list. That issue is now available. I was very pleased by their description of Magic or Madness:

In this Australian page-turner, a resourceful teen tries to sort out her contentious family’s secrets and is astonishingly transported to New York City via a portal in her grandmother’s house. A potent mix of mystery and magic with a thoughtful exploration of personal-identity issues and familial relationships.

It also turns out that Scott has not one, but two books on the list: Peeps and Uglies. I’m dead proud. It’s one thing to be prolific, it’s another to be prolific and good. He’s had quite the amazing year, hasn’t he?

Lovely Texas and other matters

A few things:

1) I got my intramanet back!! In my very own home. My excitement is beyond words: email! dictionaries! blogs! posts! The whole world at my fingertips!

2) Magic or Madness made its third best books of the year list, the Tayshas reading list put together by the Young Adult Round Table of the Texas Library Association. I’m particularly chuffed about this one on account of I got family in Texas—that’s where my in-laws hail from and my uncle-in-law is the principal of a high school in Houston. Also there are many very cool books on the list. Not just Scott’s Uglies, but the work of at least two other Aussies: Fiona McIntosh’s Myrren’s Gift and Marcus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger. Very pleasing.

3) In our new flat we can go out onto the balcony and watch the nightly exodus of flying foxes from the Tannie gardens. I love them.

4) The nothing changes convo continues (so fab to see the nattering continue without me—I love youse guys!) and is taken up by David Moles and a cast of thousands on his blog. All fascinating stuff. Oh, and Claire & Lauren? I’m so with you on Ghost World. I was double plus unthrilled by that movie. Especially cause the Bollywood music opening sequence was luverly.

This has been a great year

I just found out that both Scott and me made School Library Journal‘s best books of 2005 list. Scott for Peeps and me (obviously) for Magic or Madness. We is most happy. For me it’s more icing on an already well-iced cake.

I’d like to take a moment to (incoherently and jetlaggedly) say how amazed I am by how Morm has been doing. It’s my first novel. I’ve seen lots of first novels published, so I knew what to expect. The reviews have been amazing, the placement in bookshops, and the response from readers. After we hooked up with our foreign rights agent, Whitney Lee, I had hopes of selling into countries other than the US and Australia (where the book is set), but I wasn’t really expecting it to happen. But it’s now sold in Thailand, Taiwan, France and Germany. I keep having to pinch myself.

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer, to make a living writing stories. And now I am.


So, last night we got to hang out with the smartest group of folks I’ve hung out with in an age (and I hang with much smartness, let me tell you). At the Teen section of Elizabeth Library, New Jersey, we read a little bit, we told anecdotes, got asked very smart and very funny questions, I got to talk Spanish, and afterwards we got to eat great pasta and drink good wine and enjoy more ace conversation.

I read from my great Australian cricket mangosteen Elvis fairy novel, which I feared would tank with the seventeen-year-olds, but they laughed harder than the Brooklyn audience. Yay! I finally wrote something that cracks people up. And some of them knew about cricket. One guy plays it with his Pakistani neighbours. How cool is that? And many loved basketball and knew about the WNBA, not just the NBA! Heaven.

Scott read from Pretties which kind of tanked, and then from Peeps, which went over huge guns. He read about toxoplasma and there was much speculation about who has the parasite and who doesn’t. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you’ll have to read the book, won’t you?) So many of them had read at least one of Scott’s books. One had read all of them and was full of smart questions. I made Scott do his Donald Duck voice and it slayed them best of all (he can harmonise with himself—next time you see him, just ask—he loves to perform on command). There was a queue of people wanting to have their photo taken with Scott. How fab is that?

And at the end, the library gave everyone a copy of one of my books (they had a choice of Magic or Madness or Magic Lessons—yup, Penguin genorously gave them a whole stack of galleys) and one of Scott’s many books. Though some tried sneakily to take two of Scott’s books. The competition over copies of Peeps was intense. We signed for all of them and thus got to talk one on one to everyone. Great idea, no? It was fabulous fun and I want to do it again.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love libraries? And librarians? And people who love libraries and librarians? No? Well, I really, really, really do.

Atlantic City? No, thanks. (updated)

I don’t want to rubbish a whole city, especially when I was only there for a few hours, but Atlantic City is an erky perky bleah of a place. Friends warned me it was a shithole—I had no idea they were being kind. It’s ugly, full of the most hideous buildings ever built and populated by zombie gamblers, who are served by an army of twelve-year-old incompetent staff. Once you’re inside one of the casinos it’s almost impossible to get out again. All signs lead to more gambling areas. I’m convinced that hell will be nothing but Atlantic City casinos.

This is heresy for an Australian, but, I hate gambling. I love cards and I’ll bet on them, but not with money. Never for money. Betting with money turns people into glassy-eyed zombies, and call me old-fasthioned, but I prefer my zombies in Romero films, thank you very much.

So why were we in Atlantic City? To attend the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers book fair, which other than its location in a hellspawn casino, was a lot of fun. We met the fabulous Penguin reps, Holly and Todd, who looked after us excellently well and told great publishing stories; we hung out with fellow YA writers, Maureen Johnson and Melissa Kantor; we both signed a bunch of our books, Peeps and Magic or Madness, and we snaffled up many free books. The gems of my pile—other than Maureen’s and Melissa’s books—were:

Small Steps by Louis Sachar, which is the sequel to Holes! Woo hoo! I have the sequel to Holes and you don’t! Ha! Ha! Ha!

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery. I adore Flannery. He’s frequently interviewed back home about science and enviromental issues and is the smartest, most interesting, and clearest explainers of such issues I’ve ever heard. He also writes really, really well. I can’t wait to read this one, not least because I know it’s going to help me understand what happened with hurricane Katrina.

Today, we go back to New Jersey:

Elizabeth Main Library
11 S. Broad St., Elizabeth
New Jersey

We’ll probably read and we’ll definitely chat and generally be our entertaining selves. We’ve only done one library event before but it was fabulous, so I’m really looking forward to this.

Oh, and if you’re from Atlantic City? My condolences.

Update: I am very stupid. I wrote a blog entry about casinos, but my spam filter is set to nuke any comments that contain the word “casino”. I apologise to anyone who had their comment nuked. You can post now. Though given the vast tide of casino spam I get your comment will go through to moderation, which I truly rooly honestly will check. Rooly soon.

Teen Read Week

Next week is Teen Read Week and me and Scott will be doing a bunch of readings and signings around the traps.

First up, the very day after we get back from Mexico, so expect us to be full of Mexican cheer (I plan to wear my Mexican cowboy hat and may do the entire reading in Spanish):

Sunday 16 October, 6:00PM
Justine Larbalestier
Bennett Madison
Scott Westerfeld
Barbès Reading Series
376 Ninth Street (at 6th Ave.)
Barbès Bar
Park Slope, Brooklyn
New York

I’ll be reading from Magic Lessons the sequel to Magic or Madness in a way that gives absolutely nothing away if you haven’t read the first book. I’ll also read a wee bit from a brand-new novel I’ve been working on. Scott will read from Peeps in his authentic Texan accent.

Monday 17 October
New Atlantic Independent Bookseller Association Trade Show
The Tropicana Resort & Casino
Brighton & The Boardwalk
Atlantic City
2:30-3:00: Scott signs 75 copies of Peeps in the author autographing area table #3.
They’ll also be giving away copies of Magic or Madness at the Penguin booth #204. Yay! Free books! I plan to snaffle up many (though not my own book, obviously).

Tuesday 18 October, 5:30-7:30PM
Scott reads at Books of Wonder
18 West 18th St
New York

Wednesday 19 October, 7:00–8:30 p.m.
Author Event:
Meet Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier
Elizabeth Main Library
11 S. Broad St., Elizabeth
New Jersey

So, it’s quite the busy week for us. Hope we get to see some of you.

San Miguel: End of Day 6

Word count: 15,000

Average word count: 2,500 a day1

We arrived in the middle of the anniversary of the first Mexican revolution. Many days of holidays in a row. We arrived to cars being shut out from the Jardin and centre of town (bliss!), to fireworks and rockets going off every night (pretty!), to so many mariachis we could hear them all the way out to our place (besame mucho!), to people dancing in the streets in period costume (pretty!). To quiet mornings and days (except for the occasional rocket blasts) and melodiously noisy nights. ¡Viva Mexico!

Until Monday morning 7AM, holidays over and the the builders go back to work next door. Eighteen months ago when we first rented this house, they were laying the foundations. They’re still not finished. They work on and off from 7AM until around 5PM. Sometimes there are many of them, sometimes just one forlorn guy with a hammer. The best thing is they use no jackhammers, no pneumatic drills, no nothing powered by electricity. The bad thing is if they had they might be finished by now . . . I just stick headphones on and turn the music up a little louder (right now, listening to songs with the word “don’t”; in the title—I’m psyching the builders out).

So far I’ve heard the first four chapters of Scott’s new novel. It rocks. Out loud! And, yes, it is set in the Peeps universe. Cool, eh?

Have I mentioned that I love San Miguel? So green, so many flowers, butterflies, hummingbirds—hummingbirds! I think they’re my favourite birds in all the world. We don’t have them back home, but here I see several every day, just outside the window. So little, so powerful, so elegant. Ahhh . . . Don’t think I ever want to leave.

The view from where I sit to write. Look close and see the wicker couch I rest my feet on and the top of my laptop.

The other view from where I write. Flowers! Pretty!

  1. Look, I know word counts are spectacularly boring to everyone accept the person counting the words, but, mate, I’m bloody screaming along! Normally, when I’m starting a book I can barely scrape a thousand words a day together. I can’t believe how the words are pouring out of me! I mean, it’s the final book of me trilogy, I thought it was going to be horrible agony. I thought I had no idea what was going to happen. And here the book is practically writing itself! Maaate! Fingers crossed that I have not spoken too soon. Not superstitious, me. []

Peeps! Peeps! Peeps! Peeps! Peeps!

Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps, Peeps!!!!

Coming this Thursday! Check it out!

Only at B.E.A.

So to be all author promotery and stuff at book expo america, Scott made up t-shirts for the both of us. Mine had the cover of magic or madness on the front and on the back quotes from my starred reviews. Nobody seemed to notice my t-shirt until we were waiting outside the convention centre surrounded by great piles of our book expo booty (yes, many, many books), looking like Penguin books roadies (Peeps and MorM are published by Penguin). A woman came up to me and pointed to my t-shirt and said, “I loved that book.”

“Really? I’m so pleased.”

She nodded emphatically. “I gave it a great review for booklist.”

“You mean this review?” I asked, turning around to show the back of my t-shirt.

“Oh my god,” she said, “that’s my review!”

“Thank you so much,” I said. “I really appreciated it.”

She looked a little confused.

“It’s my book. I’m Justine Larbalestier.”

Double-take. “No! Wow!”

She looked across at Scott wearing his Peeps t-shirt. “I just got that book to review. I also gave one of his earlier books a starred review. So Yesterday.”

“I loved that review,” Scott said. “Thank you!”

Double take. “You’re not Scott Westerfeld!”

Scott nodded. “I am.”

“You two know each other?” Another double take. “You’re friends?”

“We’re married,” I said.

“Oh my! What a powerhouse.”

Scott and our editor, Liesa Abrams, laughed. I blushed.

Meeting Jennifer Matson was my favourite b.e.a. moment. It was fab to finally be able to tell her how much I appreciated her review. it wasn’t just that she loved my book, it’s that she really understood my book. It meant a lot to me and it was a thrill to be able to tell her so.

Magic or Madness in French

Editions du Panama, a brand new, well-funded, French house run by some of the biggest names in French publishing is going to publish Magic or Madness on the same list as Scott’s So Yesterday! It’s going to be translated into French! Woo hoo! This means Magic and So Yesterday are now on the same list in the US (Penguin/Razorbill), Australia (Penguin) and now France. Pretty fab, eh? It’s also now been bought by four countires (Taiwan is the fourth).

A friend (hi, Karen H.) who has slightly more French than me (I have none) thinks the title might be something like Magique ou Démence. That sounds good to me. Keep your fingers crossed that a Spanish-language publisher will pick it up too, I have a shot at reading it in Spanish . . .

Make Website Not So Very Hard

Scott’s website relaunched last night with a (mostly) whole new look. And guess what? We did it all by ourselves! Deborah Biancotti, who designed this site and the Midnighters section of Scott’s site, was too busy to do it, so we did it. Scott came up with a design, showed it to me, and I used my puny Dreamweaver skills to turn it into a reality that had a passing resemblance to what he wanted. And I think it looks pretty much okay. Yay us!

Of course, when I say we did it all by ourselves I stretch the truth somewhat. Deborah Biancotti answered my Dreamweaver questions every time I got stuck. What a fabulous person she is! And Chris McLaren was my WordPress guru, because Scott now has his very own blog which he’ll be updating on a near daily basis. If he manages it’ll be damned impressive. Remember this is a guy who still has two novels to write and turn in this year.

So for the past few weeks Scott has been writing great swathes of new content. I particularly enjoy his News section which has a potted (and very wry) history of his entire publishing career going back to 1996. Naturally enough it also includes the latest news like the fact that the Uglies trilogy just sold at auction in Japan! Yup, there’s going to be Japanese editions of all three books. There are also pages for his vampire book, Peeps, which will be out in September and, also for the Uglies trilogy.

Meanwhile I’ve been learning way more about Dreamweaver than I knew before and am now busily learning all about Cascading Style Sheets. Gulp. Who knows, some day soon I may even be brave enough to tackle doing some of the stuff Petey’s suggested I do.

Enjoy Scott’s new site and blog.

New York City, 12 May 2005

Good Weekend

I am in the middle of writing a new novel and rewriting an old one. My mornings are spent in the Magic or Madness universe; my afternoons in 12th-century Cambodia; the rest of the time I sleep. Both books must be finished scarily soon. So musings here? Not so much.

For those complaining about their lack, and my shocking tardiness in responding to emails, here’s what I did on the weekend:

I helped Scott put together this very cool site: the first three chapters of So Yesterday with New York City photos. If you like any of them, those are most likely the ones by the very talented Robin & Trish Cave. All hail Simpleviewer!

A recommendation of So Yesterday was posted on boingboing.net causing a HUGE improvement in the book’s amazon.com ranking. All hail boingboing!

I wrote a vast deal, read large chunks of it out loud to Scott for critique, and there was much praise, and much happiness.

Scott cooked me a dinner of angel hair pasta and black truffles with a salad of farmer’s market greens and heirloom tomatoes. Decadent and delicious. I do adore autumn here. I’ve never eaten better tomatoes in all my life.

I saw the New York Liberty vanquish the Washington Mystics at Madison Square Garden (so, so, so good to be back there!) and vault into second place in the Eastern conference, securing them homecourt advantage, and cementing their place in the playoffs. Shamika Christon, our incredibly promising rookie, finally got beyond promise and did, did, did. My happiness is beyond measure: Let’s Go Liberty!

New York City, 20 September 2004

So Yesterday

Scott’s latest book, So Yesterday, came out this week. Among other things, it’s a love letter to New York City. He started writing it not long after we arrived back here last summer after almost two years of living in Sydney. He was supposed to be writing the second Midnighters book, but instead So Yesterday came rushing out.

Scott had to write it. He was so happy to be back in his city to stay for awhile. He hadn’t been here for more than a couple of weeks since December 2001 and he was hurting. We had to visit all his old haunts, coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, bookshops, movie theatres, and make sure they were still there, still with his favourite wait staff and bartenders. We had to mourn the closing of a favourite coffee shop across the street and a used book store around the corner, and sit in Tompkins Square Park to chuckle at the NYU students walking by.

Our first few weeks here were one long sustained sigh of relief for Scott. Writing So Yesterday was another one. He poured all his love and irritation and fears and delight in New York City onto the page, writing about a seventeen-year-old kid, Hunter Braque. The kind of kid Scott might have been at the same age if he’d been living in Manhattan, rather than Dallas, and had been a little savvier and, well, cooler. Hunter’s a cool-spotter, living in New York City, loving it, and working hard to pass as one of its hip inhabitants even though a part of him will always be convinced he’s a daggy kid from Minnesota. Which he isn’t. (I kind of have a crush on Hunter.)

So Yesterday is the first book Scott has written since we got together that I’ve seen move from conception to sitting on the shelves of a bookshop. I was with him when he was rewriting Succession (The Risen Empire + Killing of Worlds), and I was there for the first draft of Midnighters, but its outlining stage had been a long one, starting way back before we’d even met. I saw the entire gestation of So Yesterday—all ten minutes of it. Scott over the breakfast table, sipping his coffee, saying, “You know what would be fun to write? A novel about a cool-hunter in New York City.” After breakfast he started writing it. Several weeks later (told you it just poured out of him) I read an extremely polished first draft. And a year and some later there it is, prominently displayed at Books of Wonder and Barnes & Noble.

So I’m stoked, and not just because I was there from woe to go, not just because it’s fabulous, not just because my book will be published by the same imprint, Razorbill, next March, but also because it’s Scott’s first book to be published in Australia. It comes out back home next month. I can’t help feeling that being published in Australia cements his relationship with my homeland just a little bit more. First he married an Australian, then he became a permanent resident, and now he has an Australian editon of one of his books. Here’s hoping it’ll be the first of many.

New York City, 14 September 2004

Noreascon Revisited

This year’s WorldCon was wonderful and, in stark contrast to last year’s, beautifully organised. Not once did I show up to a panel only to be told it had happened three hours earlier in a completely different room. My only snafu was that word didn’t get to the other panellists on "What Should Good Fantasy Do?" that I was unable to attend. This, compounded with my non-attendance of parties that night (I was too knackered), led to a rumour that I was dead. My first such rumour!

Charles, Delia, Eliani, Eileen, Ellen, the other Ellen, Jonathan, Karen, Kelly, Lauren, Liza, Mari, Martha, Sarah, Scalzi, Suzy, Tom, Tricia and many, many others) met some fabulous new ones, such as Justina Robson and Jane and Shara Zoll, and best of all finally got beyond "Hi" status with Karen Meisner. In fact we got so far beyond it that Lauren, Karen and I started planning a ConHunks calendar. (We won’t embarrass anyone by telling you who made our final cut.) But enough name dropping—Mely says it’s boring, she only wants to hear about the panels. Be warned though, I didn’t take notes and I have a shit memory:

Thursday 12:00 noon "Archetypes in SF: First Contact"
Jim Frenkel (Moderator)
Walter H. Hunt
Ed Lerner
Karen Traviss
Justine Larbalestier
In culture clashes between aliens and humans, the humans aren’t always the good guys…..discuss the archetype, the ways it’s been used, and how to turn it upside down.
It was kind of slow. One of the first panels of the convention with the panellists (most especially me) all clearly trapped in a what-do-I-do-on-a-panel-exactly head space. But by about the midpoint we were firing on more than half a cylinder. I managed to mention both the stories I wanted to (Tiptree’s "And I Awoke on the Cold Hill’s Side" and Eleanor Arnarson’s A Woman of the Iron People) as well as getting in a plug for Gwyneth Jones’s White Queen. There was much talk about how to write convincing aliens and a wee bit on colonialism.

Thursday 4:30pm Justine reads for half an hour from her coming-out-next-March novel, Magic or Madness
Or, um, fifteen minutes. I think it went okay. Fifteen people showed up and none of them left mid-reading. Certainly it was less traumatic than my last reading. I spent the remaining fifteen minutes fielding questions and nattering about writing the novel and my insane decision to have Australian vocab, grammar and spellings for the two Aussie pov characters and US for the US one. This has led to much copy editing and proof-reading pain. If my subsequent readings are as unfoul as this one I imagine that in about thirty years I’ll start enjoying them. The best bit was this lovely New Zealand woman (whose name I didn’t catch) who told me she only came to my reading because she thinks I have a fabulous name (I hope discovering I’m Australian wasn’t too awful a shock for her). Here’s hoping the attractiveness of my name will translate into copious book sales: "Hey check out this author’s name! I am so buying this book." The second best bit was Cory Doctorow’s deep shock that I squandered fifteen—fifteen whole minutes—nattering with the audience when I could’ve been reading to them. I swear I’ll never do it again, Cory. Honest.

Thursday 7:00pm "The Seven Deadly Sins of SF and Fantasy"
Geary Gravel
Rosemary Kirstein
Justine Larbalestier (M)
Scott Westerfeld
Admit it—some SF motions just don’t make sense…and a lot of them become standard background elements in the genre. Discuss a bunch of them (well, at least 7—and invent some new ones of your own, if you want!), why they’re so terrible, and how they get established. Is it just that People Don’t Think, or are there other reasons for these lousy ideas?
This started off great. All the panellists on the same page about what pisses them off: universal translators, matter transporters (like on Star Trek) that don’t completely transform the societies they’re used in, worlds without money that seem to have no economy of any kind, fantasy novels supposedly set in other worlds that just happen to be like Disney’s version of fairy tale Europe. Then Scott made the fatal mistake of mentioning wheat. Turns out there were a whole bunch of people in the audience who are deeply attached to wheat and no matter how many times we tried to explain that the point was not to get rid of wheat per se, but that the mere fact of including wheat in a Medieval world meant to be non European kind of defeats the point. As Scalzi says: the panels "I did see were memorable, particularly the one on literary clichés, in which we learned that apparently a substantial number of readers really really really like wheat, and are prepared to defend it against all those who would seek to expunge it from the various fantasy worlds. So those writers who yearn for a gluten-free universe, beware." Someone else out there in the blogsphere (lost the link, sorry) also noticed our pain and said that all the panellists looked like we desperately wished to be anywhere but sitting up on the podium dealing with irate questions about the sanctity of wheat. Tragically for Scott the wheat meme went on to haunt him for the rest of the con. He is now considering going on the Atikin’s diet.

Friday 12:00 noon "Archetypes in Fantasy: The Princess, Alone"
Ellen Datlow
Michelle Sagara West (M)
Jo Walton
Justine Larbalestier
Despite our consensus before starting the panel that none of us had a clue what to say, this panel went well. Largely because of the utterly wonderful Jo Walton. I plan to buy all her books. She has the most wonderful deep resonant voice and fabulous Welsh accent and she said really really smart things about all manner of subjects including what she called the weight of story. How hard it is to write against traditions filled with passive sleeping women and active rescuing men. That said, the first half of the panel was concerned with pointing out that there are alternative traditions with active princesses.

Friday 1:00pm "The Two Cultures in F&SF: Science Confronts the Humanities"
Ctein (M)
Matthew Jarpe
Nancy Kress
Justine Larbalestier
Decades ago, C.P. Snow defined the "Two Cultures" of technical intellectuals and literary intellectuals. The split is still with us. How does it influence our fantasy and science fiction? What works, what authors manage to bridge the gap? What works or authors make it deeper?
For some reason I can barely remember this panel. I honestly have no idea what anyone said except that I managed to sneak in a crack about the US allergy to the theory of evolution and Nancy got in a crack about deconstruction and a lovely woman in the audience answered my plaintive pleas for popular science book recommendations.

Friday 4:00pm "Do Women Write Differently?"
Suzy McKee Charnas
Theodora Goss
Eileen Gunn
Elizabeth Anne Hull (M)
Justine Larbalestier
This was just wonderful and no surprise: look at the panellists (myself modestly excluded)! Geniuses all! We laughed, we cried. Dora Goss tellingly pointed out that perhaps a more interesting title for the panel would have been: "Do Men Write Differently?" We all pointed out that the answer very much depends on which women and which men they’re writing differently than. Eileen, Betty and Suzy all had funny yet horrifying anecdotes of being "praised" for writing like men. We had a lively discussion about James Tiptree, Jr., ably abetted by the knowledgable, engaged, and smart audience who filled the room to the point of overflowing. And I got to use Kelly Link’s line that women write differently because they tend to do it sitting down.

Saturday 4:00pm "Lyrical Language"
Fruma Klass
Kelly Link
Terry McGarry
Delia Sherman
Justine Larbalestier (M)
Is it a good idea to bounce the reader out of the story by making
her aware of how beautifully you write? Define "beautifully." And,
under any circumstances, is "style" really so necessary?
This was my second favourite panel and my toughest moderating job. Fruma Klass came armed with lots of research and some wonderful quotes she wanted to read out loud. This is not normally how these panels work. I was worried about getting the balance right between not having Fruma read for too long and lose the audience, but still giving her space to do her thing. Fortunately her quotes were wonderfully well chosen and the other panellists had fun bouncing off them. We decided that separating "style" from "story" is a fool’s errand. Kelly and Delia spoke eloquently about the untransparency of so-called transparent writing. The audience was lively and engaged and didn’t mention wheat once.

Sunday 1:00pm "The Justine and Scott Grand Literary Beer"
Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld
This too was fun. The two of us got to talk about our favourite subjects: us and writing to a table full of people who were interested in having us do so. Our audience included a few die hard Westerfeld fans, some folk who’d seen us on panels and thought we seemed interesting, including two who were at the wheat-is-sacred panel. I’d definitely do a literary beer again even though we didn’t manage to talk about truly important things such as Elvis, Buenos Aires, interface design flaws, women’s basketball, or cricket.

New York City, 8 September 2004

Eight Weeks in San Miguel de Allende

Feels like we’ve been living here for years. San Miguel is every bit as fabulous and addictive as Scott warned me. It’s cured my writer’s block, improved my Spanish, and kept throwing the most amazing people across my path, though none so wonderful as Silvia (the maid at our first rental house) and Alejandra (my Spanish teacher).

Since we arrived on the first of December I’ve written the entire first draft of my first sold novel (crikey!); read a novel in Spanish; discussed local politics (old mayor versus new mayor), Australia/USA and Mexico/USA relations (sadly the Mexico/Australia relations conversation is not a long one) and many other topics with Silvia and Alejandra; and met many writers, layabouts, journalists, cartoonists, teachers, adventurers and travellers (okay, only one cartoonist).

We’ve eaten at almost every restaurant in town: from your friendly hole in the wall to fancy pants high-end, where we’ve consumed sopa azteca, mole, guava mousse, hibisicus quesadillas, jicama, fresh fruit salads, devil eggs, mushrooms in garlic chilli sauce, dry soup, mango tacos, and guacamole and pastries until they’re coming out our ears. We’ve drunk (in order of volume) water (see, parents, we very good), the best tequilas I’ve tasted in my life, margaritas, red wine and piña coladas (yeah, yeah, whatever, but they’re yummy).

We’ve seen the insides of five San Miguel houses: from the two we’re renting here (cheap and small for the first two months; bigger for the last month when the guests arrive: Hey Gwenda! Hey Christopher! Hey Lloyd & Betty!) to a several centuries-old huge dark pile which has a plaque on the outside declaring that it was used during the Inquisition—I’m guessing not for making hibisicus quesadillas. Every one of them gorgeous with high ceilings, lots of light, gardens, patios, roof-top areas for watching the sun set, fountains, and best of all, no firm boundary between inside and outside.

What I love most about the houses here is that from street level you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to find inside. All you see is a door and occasional windows in a flat wall, not telling you a thing. In Sydney I can tell from the front of a Newtown terrace or cottage the exact layout inside, how many rooms, where the stairs will be, frequently how it will be decorated. New York City, too, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the outside of an apartment in each particular neighbourhood.

In San Miguel you can find almost anything behind those huge wooden doors with their beautiful brass handles. The five houses all have completely different layouts. I’ve opened the door and stepped into a huge courtyard with balconies from the surrounding rooms looking down. Or a large foyer with places to hang your coats, leave your umbrellas, tether your donkey, and then up an elegant winding staircase to the house proper with its persian carpets and grand piano. Another front door opens onto a hallway with two large guest rooms on either side. At the end of the hallway another door leads to an elaborate garden with a fountain, the rest of the house is on the other side. We peaked through the doorway of one place we pass all the time, only to discover that there’s no house there at all, just a huge garden, with what my Sydney eyes identify as Moreton Bay fig trees (could that be possible?).

We’ve started looking in real estate agent windows here, checking out the prices of houses, but failing a bigtime Hollywood movie option, they’re all out of our reach—not New York City or Sydney out of our reach, but still way too rich for our blood. Looking at houses is a sign of wondering what it would be like to live here for a year or more, not just three months. San Miguel is a sticky place. We keep meeting people who came here on a holiday five, ten, twenty years ago and somehow never quite managed to leave.

I’ve met Italians, English, French, Canadians, Australians, Moroccans and, of course, lots of USians who live here. I’ve heard that as much as ten per cent of the population is foreign born. Many of the Mexican (not to mention some of the foreign) population complain that the foreigners have made the prices of everything go through the roof, especially real estate. Many born-and-bred Sanmiguelenses can no longer afford to live in the centre (this is a sentiment I understand, harbouring similar feelings about North Shore types moving into the Inner West of Sydney). The foreigners have also, and I’m quoting Mexicans here, led to a cleaner town, better restaurants, more active charities, a much better library and the improvement of many other services from the internet to sanitation.

Other than real estate prices, the most common complaint I hear is about how many of the gringos (and it is largely the USians) arrogantly expect everyone to speak English—despite this being Mexico where English is not, in fact, one of the national languages. I have seen a USian woman at the artisan’s market trying to bargain a man down on the price of a small trinket. He was asking about AU50c and she wanted him to drop down to around AU30c (or pretty much free in USian money). She waved her jewel-encrusted hands about, hectoring the poor man in English of which he clearly understood not a word. To be fair, Silvia claims that it’s more tourists who are like that than residents.

I always speak Spanish first, but many times people respond in English and stay in English no matter how long I go on replying in Spanish. Alejandra says it’s because they’re so used to gringos demanding English and not because my Spanish sucks so much they can’t bear to hear me speak it. She is perhaps too kind; I don’t see that the two explanations are mutually exclusive.

The other unavoidable horror has been the weather. While New York City’s been tormented by snow, ice storms, and blizzards and the temperature’s dropped to 20 below zero, here in San Miguel we’ve also been suffering colder than usual weather. Several nights it’s gotten below zero (that’s below 32F for the celsius challenged) and there have been days where we had to wear more than a T-shirt and jeans. I have been very good and not entered into any bitter recriminations with Scott about keeping me away from another glorious Sydney summer (not to mention the cricket season). I haven’t even complained during the golden hour when we sit on the roof watching the sunset, with great flocks of birds flying overhead, sipping our beers doused in lime, eating jicama and sweet cheese pastries and I’m shivering despite the extra jumper (sweater, USians) and jacket.

San Miguel de Allende, 26 January 2004

The Hour of the Wolf

I am a dutiful wife and so I agreed to wake up at 3:30AM to accompany Scott to Jim Freund’s crack-of-dawn sf radio show on WBAI.

Here’s Scott’s account:

Because we just haven’t had enough jet lag this year, I agreed to go on Jim Freund’s radio show. It’s called "Hour of the Wolf," and has been going for 32 years, and everyone in sf who comes through NY must do it by tribal law. (Joanna Russ and Samuel Delany used to run it.) It’s on a very cool radio station called WBAI, which is all hip and listener-supported, with neither ads nor government funding. What’s the catch? The show’s on Saturday morning from 5AM-7AM.

Now, because there’s millions of people in range, there is an audience at that time. According to Arbitron (which to me sounds like a bad name for a company in the business of providing data), 30,000 people are listening at 5AM, and about 120,000 are listening at 7AM. The error range is 50,000 plus or minus (Arbitron, indeed), so at the beginning you can be pretty loose, ’cause like 6 people could be listening.

Me and Justine had only about five hours sleep on Thursday night, because of mad drinking and early breakfast date. We figured exhausting ourselves and going to bed early would work. It didn’t. We became hysterical and giggled until about 1AM, and the wakeup call came at 3:30AM, the car at 4:15AM.

But coffee is coffee, and Jim and I had a good time talking about cricket and bisummerality while 0 to 80,000 people were listening, Then I read "Non-Disclosure Agreement" from 5:45AM to 6:30AM, which means most people tuned in in the middle and were like "huh?" Then I pushed Risen Empire and finally read the funny and short "Cat Years" for the last 10 minutes.

But here’s what’s interesting. We got back to the East Village (WBAI is on Wall Street) and went to the local 24-hour diner to eat good Ukranian food and languish in bad Ukranian service. (So painful on no sleep, until we started giggling.) On the way out I saw this skinny black guy with a hat pulled down over his head, his feet all tangled together, alone at 8AM on a Saturday morning scribbling in a notebook. And, of course, it was Tricky, either getting up early or coming down hard. But looking very much the tortured artist, not unlike I was feeling by that point. So although it is vanishingly unlikely, I fantasize now that he was up early to listen to WBAI, and his next album will have an anthropomorphic cat rap on it.

—Scott Westerfeld

I have to confess that I knew almost nothing about "Hour of the Wolf" before this morning’s outing. I’d seen Jim Freund at various readings with large headphones on his head, wincing when people tapped the microphone. Apparently he was recording proceedings for some science fiction radio show but I knew little beyond that.

Turns out "Hour of the Wolf" was founded in 1972 by Margot Adler who now works at NPR on such shows as "All Things Considered". Jim Freund was part of the show right from the beginning. They’ve interviewed almost every writer you can think of in science fiction and fantasy and have produced many sf and fantasy radio plays, including an adaptation of a scene from Lord of the Rings which involved close consultation with J. R. R. Tolkien. Sf scholars should know that they have the majority of the tapes from the show’s history and Jim seemed quite keen to make them available to scholars.

I thought that the whole thing would be utter, utter hell. I’m not an early morning person, don’t like waking up until I have to. But I had a really good time. The two hours zoomed past. What with Jim’s, um, idiosynchratic choice of music, the entertaining conversation between he and Scott and the fact that I kept falling into hallucinatory little micro-sleeps. Jim Freund has a surprisingly excellent radio voice and got Scott talking about many things Australian (always a good thing). Though they both kept mentioning Scott’s newest book The Risen Empire without actually saying what it was about until I prodded (off-air).

I think the six people listening would have really enjoyed themselves.

"Cat Years" is indeed very funny. So too is "Non Disclosure Agreement".

Sadly, I wouldn’t have recognised Tricky. You know, not unless he was performing and there was a sign up that said "Tricky".

I seem to have rashly agreed to be the one behind the mike some time in the future. If that happens maybe we’ll see P. J. Harvey or Me’Shell NdegéOcello at Veselka next time (them I would recognise).

New York City, 21 June 2003