Author Events

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Only a bajillion days overdue (approximately), but here’s a quick event report of Caitlín Kiernan’s reading at Pandemonium Books (Cambridge, MA) in the spring of this year. The event took place on March 15th, on no less than the 75th anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s death.

Kiernan read from chapter 1 of her newest novel of dark fantasy, The Drowning Girl, from which I’d previously seen her read at Readercon 2011. Kiernan is my favorite reader of prose; she’s a sibylline presence, with exceptionally graceful gestures and voice. I didn’t understand at least a third of what was read at Readercon (which is only appropriate, as it was the chapter in which the book’s main character and narrator, who has schizophrenia, goes off her meds; Kiernan further noted that she was ill herself while writing the chapter), but was hypnotized; the first chapter of the novel was comparatively straightforward, a wry, edged introduction to protagonist India Morgan Phelps (“Imp”), her family’s history of madness, and her take on the unstable boundaries of truth and reality.

Kiernan reading from The Drowning Girl

A couple of tidbits from the Q&A following the reading:

  • Kiernan reflected on the fact that Imp represents, in some sense, “the person I wish I had become,” while Sarah Crowe, protagonist of preceding novel The Red Tree, was in part a representation of the person she had for some time become. [I’m afraid I didn’t write down as much context for this remark as I would have liked to, so if anyone has a correction or modification, I would welcome it.]
  • Deluxe dark-fantasy publisher Centipede Press has approached Kiernan about the possibility on working on a special edition of her 2001 novel Threshold.
  • There are some Very Exciting Projects in the works, which Kiernan was not at liberty to discuss. The furthest she could go was to hint that one had to do with comics (i.e. the now-ongoing Alabaster comic series with Dark Horse, which I love love love), and that the other had to do, just maybe, with a movie. She offered the summer of 2013 as a possible timeframe for more revelations about the latter.

Please see Kiernan’s website for more information about The Drowning Girl, and especially lend your attention to the haunting cinematic trailer. 

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Caitlín R. Kiernan: bio and works reviewed 

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Readercon 22 took place Thursday – Sunday, July 14 – July 17, 2011; Kakaner and I made it to the associated reading at Porter Square Books in Cambridge on Thursday night, and Friday and Saturday of the con proper. This was her first literary con, and my first con of any sort, so needless to say we spent a lot of time being really, really, really excited. I’ll try to keep the frothing to a dignified minimum in our reports, though.

Thursday night! A reading from the Ellen-Datlow-edited anthology of urban fantasy, Naked City, featuring a line-up of six authors that had K and I, as above, really etc. goddamn excited: Kit Reed, John Crowley, Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Kressel, Ellen Kushner, and Caitlín R. Kiernan. All images link to high-res versions.

L-to-r (seated): Ellen Kushner, John Crowley, Ellen Datlow, Jeffrey Ford, Matthew Kressel (blue shirt)

(Also, that’s Theodora Goss in the center of the audience there.)

Editorial powerhouse Ellen Datlow introduces the collection. She explained that she hopes to reintroduce readers to urban fantasy as it used to be understood – e.g. the works of Charles de Lint, the Bordertown series – and do some work towards reclaiming the term from paranormal romances and magical detectives. Re: The Jim-Butcheriffic cover and prominent billing of other writers of said PR and magical detectives – “If it sells more copies, do you think I care?” Cover still gives me decidedly mixed emotions (guilty, compartmentalizing Dresden fan right here), but if Ellen Datlow can deal with it, so can I. Also, the totally flipping awesome cover for Supernatural Noir, another recently released Datlow collection, almost makes up for it.

On to the author readings, and numerous more photos:

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(Juibilatory pre-script, appended 5.11: Valente’s celebrated The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has finally been released in bookity form! We covet, and so should you – just check out the reviews if you don’t feel convinced by the title alone. [That might be ‘coveted,’ past tense, in Kakaner’s case – she’s probably getting her fix as I type this.])

A few weeks ago, I got to see Catherynne Valente read from her newest novel, Deathless, at Pandemonium Books (conveniently located about twenty steps from the Central Square T stop in Cambridge, MA). Deathless, a Stalinist-era retelling of the fairy tale of Marya Morevna and Koschei the Deathless, was released in late March to glowing reviews, and its first printing already seems to be well on its way to selling out. (I know this because Pandemonium actually couldn’t get copies in on time for the signing due to short supply at multiple warehouses. Bummer for the eager fans at the signing, but fantastic news for Valente.)

Cat Valente signing

Valente read from a segment in which Marya encounters Baba Yaga – chauffered in a chicken-footed limousine – at a swanky club for devils. The prose was vintage Valente – vibrant, blackly witty, equal parts wonder and menace. Part of her motivation in writing Deathless, Valente emphasized, was a desire to bring greater awareness of both less-familiar folklore, and terrible events outside of the usual American perception of World War II. Her Marya emerges from the fairy-tale world into the Siege of Leningrad, a horrific three-year siege that consumed more than 1.5 million lives.

Deathless also includes, of course, generous doses of Communist satire. How do the inhabitants of the fairy-tale world react to Communism? one fan asked. “They love Communism. They’re devils! Communism is great.” (Baba Yaga also demands that Marya address her as “Chairman.”)

Amy Houser‘s lush comic teaser, “The House Committee,” features one such episode from the novel. (Houser, Valente mentioned, designs Barbies and My Little Ponies for a living, and was excited to work on something just a little bit darker.) Images below the cut —

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Author: Joe Hill

Date: 2.22.10

Book: Horns

Venue: Porter Square Books

Reviewer: Kakaner

Joe Hill Porter Square Signing Locke and Key Horns Heart Shaped Box reading

Porter Square Books is a quaint bookstore tucked away in Porter Square, Cambridge and features a popular fair-trade cafe. We arrived early for front row seats, and discovered while waiting that we had been seated in the… SAT prep and pregnancy help section. Huh?

Anyway, enter Joe Hill, tall and lanky, and a spitting image of his father. He exuded a very distinct “accomplished nerd” appeal, as in awkward yet confident. I have to say I was a little taken aback by his appearance because the only photo I had seen of him was this:

Which incidentally kind of coincides with the mental image I have of Judas Coyne from Heart-Shaped Box– jacket, rock, auto-enthusiast. Oh author portraits. How you mislead us so!

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Author: China Mieville

Date: 6.03.09

Book: The City & The City

Sponsor: Harvard Book Store

Venue: First Parish Church; Cambridge, MA

Reviewer: Kakaner

China Mieville is a master. Until you meet him or hear him speak, he is the demigod, the big black ominous fog of Un Lun Dun, the dark force that lurks behind the pages of Perdido Street Station and stares piercingly at you from the back cover so that one can’t help but notice his rippling tatooed biceps, striking piercings, and generally intimidating presence. So naturally, I walked into my first China Mieville author event expecting to cower in the front row before this great Socialist figure (politicians scare me).

I was completely taken aback. Within a couple minutes, and even more so as the evening went on, it became apparent that Mieville was actually rather carefree and … jovial… I might say. A lot of cool and amazing things were said throughout the event. I think I’ll make do with a bit of description and then try to relate some of the highlights of the evening.

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