Charms & Hungers

The third book in Molly Tanzer’s Diabolist’s Library series landed this week! Molly was great enough to take the time to chat with us about the book, and writing, and secluded castles, because who doesn’t love a secluded castle? Grab your candle, your spell book, and get ready to fight some Nazis!

Creatures of Charm and Hunger is the third installment of The Diabolist’s Library, and takes us into the World War II era, where Bad People are doing Bad Things to further their Bad Causes. How did this book come to be?

I wanted to write a book about a teen witch fighting Nazis, so I did! Sort of. The Diabolist’s Library trilogy deals with demons and demon-summoners, which isn’t quite witchcraft. It’s more akin to a weird science. And of my two co-tagonists, Jane Blackwood and Miriam Cantor, Miriam (a German-Jewish refugee) ended up fighting the Nazis, and Jane ended up being a lot witchier.

The Diabolist books are something of a mash up; the first plays with the themes of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the second muddles some Great Gatsby flavor into its brews. Did these works inspire your own, or did you chose the locations/times first and go from there?

The first one was definitely “inspired by.” I was reading Dorian Gray and the idea for it hit me like a sack of buckshot. With the second and third, I definitely thought about where I might like to set a sequel, since I knew I wouldn’t be continuing with the same characters or story!

If you were invited to, or in possession of, a secluded castle—and perhaps you are, who knows!—what kind of dark magics would you conduct there?

It depends on my mood, but likely I’d end up asking for some gardening help!

A lot of your work unpacks and updates typically Lovecraftian themes. If you could invite one eldritch horror to tea, which would it be? (Is it Toad?)

My cat, Toad, would probably just invite himself! I think if I was going to invite anyone over, it’d probably be Nyarlathotep. I think we’d have the most to talk about.

One wonderful thing about these Diabolist novels is your portrayal of women. As friends, as lovers, as people of ability and worth. We don’t see nearly enough of that. Is there a film or a book showing women this way that you consider a favorite or that has inspired you?

I’m reading Gideon the Ninth right now and it definitely has a lot of great lady relationships. In terms of a text that “inspired” me featuring such, I’ll say The Draughtsman’s Contract for sure. Content Warning: Everything with that one though.

You have worked as both a writer and an editor. Do you prefer one over the other? Do you find that the disciplines talk to one another, or are they isolated?

I really don’t love editing! It’s too stressful to reject people. I’m happy sticking to the writerly side.

I smile when I see your debut novel, Vermilion, on my shelf. The weather had looked as fine as cream gravy! Any chance you’ll return to that universe?

I don’t know. I so appreciate the love people have for Lou and for Vermilion, but it feels like going backwards! And I have a lot of new things I want to do.

If there’s one thing you want readers to know about (or take from) Creatures of Charm and Hunger, what would it be?

Be the teen witch killing Nazis you want to be in the world!

Tell us about one great thing you’ve read lately, be it a book or a blog or a fortune folded into a cookie.

George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia! Wow, could he write.

Of late, it seems like more and more people are baking. What’s your favorite bread to bake?

That’s a hard one! Maybe challah, or anything I can braid or mess with. Or maybe this Tuscan coffee cake!

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a novelette, a novella, and a novel. And by working on them, I mean doomsurfing and watching movies for “research” and not getting much done. One day!

Molly, thanks so much for coming by. We loved the first two books and are stoked to read the third! Readers, you can support Molly and a favorite Colorado indie bookstore, The Tattered Cover, by ordering it there–or anywhere, really. You can find Molly on Patreon, the regular old webInstagram, and Twitter!

 

Delay of Game

We had planned to release Shimmer: The Best Of in February–a valentine, to you, from us. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead, I had a family emergency in February and into March. And March– Well, you know how March has gone, the world over.

The book is done. It’s ready to go. But since we’re publishing with KDP, things have grown complicated. Amazon is delaying shipments of books and other “non-essential” items during the current pandemic. That means that while we could release the book right now, it wouldn’t reach anyone for a month or more. That doesn’t feel like a proper book release at all.

We’ve made the decision to delay the release until this summer, when hopefully shipping times will be back to what they once were. We’re going to stay flexible on specific dates and keep you updated.

We know this is disappointing news–it’s hard on this end, too. We made you a beautiful book, and cannot wait to share it with you.

But for right now, we must. 

My Badger Valentine

My dearest,

The war keeps us busy, but we have found time to write, to tell you of our latest adventure–with the sincere hope that this letter is not censored beyond all recognition by the time it reaches you. Maybe they no longer engage in such folly, or perhaps this missive shall pass through the hands of a kind soul, and the truth will be allowed to flourish in this grim time. Just a seed. A seed which you now hold.

Soon, there shall be another seed. Or wait–a sprout? Is that what happens? Look, let us be honest in this trying time: we are a badger, we are not a gardener, for all that we love digging our claws into the moist dirt. We are not a poet, though we struggle mightily to be such, because to dream the impossible dream, etc. &., yadda yadda.

Not another seed–a book. Yes, that is the thing we mean to say. You perhaps have heard of it–Shimmer: The Best Of. It holds a lot of poems disguised as stories. It contains lessons and loves and hearts and also kisses–it is a kissing book, so please tell the youths not to come near it at all, though some day they might not mind so much.

IN ANY CASE, a book. A book shall soon arrive, dearest. And we would like to gift you with this book, we would. Should the war cease and allow us to send a package, wrapped in brown paper so as not to attract predators (bookworms, you know), we would like to do this thing. But you must do one thing for us. Yes. Just one–it’s a small thing, a trifle, really.

It’s February, you see, and while we crave spring in the way we also crave the sweet cow jerky we’re making in the northmost field, February is cold and frozen in most places, and there is but one thing that would thaw our hearts. A Valentine from you. Whatever shape it shall take–an poem, an drabble, a sketch of our most beloved and bewhiskered face–however you might interpret Valentine, we want it.

You do not have to dare the mail system, no. This missive of ours is clever. You can simply reply beneath it! Technology! They say it will change the world. (We think you will change the world, but that’s for another letter.)

So, leave us a note below, and rest assured that we shall receive it through all the improper channels. We shall chew upon your Valentine, and whichever one we find most tasty, we shall reward with The Book. (It’s coming, see. SOON and SOONER NOW.) As we understand it, this communication portal shall close within one week (February 21, they say), because of planetary orbits, and circles, and well, the blasted war that keeps us from you. (The sky is very purple sometimes, dearest. Not unlike the bruise you left upon our heart.)

A Valentine, please and thank you. Just below. Yes, there. Right there. We shall holler from the rooftops of this city when we find the right one. Perhaps it is in your pocket even now.

Home soon and sooner now,

A Badger

Kerstin Hall talks Borders

It’s the time of year when badgers and people make lists!  Shopping lists, Naughty or Nice Lists and lists of books we loved.  The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall was one of our favorite reads this year. It’s a story of journeys and secrets wrapped in gorgeous prose. Kerstin was kind enough to let us interview her earlier this month. If you haven’t devoured it already, add The Border Keeper to your holiday TBR list. –Suzan Palumbo

Your debut novella The Border Keeper was published by Tor earlier this year.  What has the experience been like for you?

Hectic! It’s been challenging and exciting and occasionally bewildering. You work on your writing for years without significant external pressure, publication is a nice-but-out-of-reach daydream, and then suddenly it isn’t. I somehow didn’t expect everything to become ‘real’ quite so quickly.

What was the original spark that put you on the path to writing The Border Keeper?

Travelling through the north-west of South Africa and southern Namibia — my mother grew up in Namibia, and I’ve spend a lot of hours driving those roads. The old train tracks running through the Ahri desert were specifically inspired by the railway line between Aus and Lüderitz, and the ghost town of Kolmanskop is echoed in the abandoned house where Vasethe breaks his leg.

The novella pays homage to the Greek myth of Orpheus while giving us an original take on the journey to the underworld story.  Have you always enjoyed mythology?  What myths in particular have been your favourites?

The Border Keeper was an attempt at worldbuilding outside of the European mode. When I started out, I definitely wasn’t writing with Orpheus in mind — I was actively trying to avoid the Greeks!

Therefore I completely undermined myself when I accidentally named my heroine after a Greek goddess. It should be pretty clear to anyone reading my work that I’m a proponent of throwing random syllables together to generate names. Googling my made-up nomenclature would have been a smart move, but by the time I realized the Eris was the Goddess of Strife, I was far too attached to her name. Besides it seemed appropriate, a bit like it was destined to be.

I’m definitely not an expert in mythology, but I have always liked hearing folk stories from around the world — bonus points if they are super creepy, feature take-no-shit women, or have a nice romance.

 In many ways, the unravelling of secrets fuels the forward momentum of the book. Both The Border Keeper and Vasethe, the other major character, have parts of their pasts they’d like to leave hidden.  As a writer, do you like to know your characters thoroughly or do you let them keep secrets from you?    

I’d like to believe that I’m the boss. I knew Eris and Vasethe’s Big Backstory Secrets from the start, which was necessary because those details shaped the narrative and their relationship in profound ways.

That being said, a lot of the less critical elements were invented as I went along. I remember that Eris’ friendship with Lfae wasn’t planned; that very much developed as I wrote it. And rewrote it. Making things up as you go has significant downsides.

If you were the ruler of your own demon realm in Mkalis what would it be like?  What would be its number one law?

Warm, because I’m not great with cold weather. I imagine it would look a lot like the Cedarberg: mountainous, dry, quiet, maybe containing leopards.

As for the rules? I’d like to think I wouldn’t immediately turn into a tyrant, but who knows. Probably “thou shalt not pirate my books” or “thou shalt not point out my plot holes in a public forum.”

 One must not eat in Mkalis.  I personally would break that rule for cheesecake.  What food would you break it for?

Oh, I’d be so screwed. Food is great. Basically any soup? Doomed. Malva pudding? Dead. Cashew chicken stirfry? Yep, deceased.

You have a background in journalism.  How has this come into play in your fiction writing?

It encouraged me to avoid ambiguity on a prose level; I’m generally quite specific in my descriptions and details.

What books or stories have you loved this year?

Novels: Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett and The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. I got to read an advance copy of The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood, which was great!

Short Stories: “Blood, Bone, Seed, Spark” by Aimee Ogden.

 What’s next for you?

There’s quite a lot in the works, most of which is either secret or in the very early stages. I am contracted to deliver two novels to Tor.com Publishing, the first of which I handed in a week ago. Star Eater is about ruthless cannibal women protecting their home from deathless monsters. It’s due for release in early 2021.

Thanks for chatting Kerstin!  We’re looking forward to reading Star Eater.  In the meantime, we hope readers will pick up a copy of the The Border Keeper.  Treat yourself!

Simply The Best

In the wake of losing two Hugo Awards and one World Fantasy Award, we’re delighted to tell you that we have made the book we’ve been dreaming about for ten years.

Coming in 2020:
THE BEST OF SHIMMER

Beth and I pored over old issues of Shimmer, dreaming of which stories to share. This was an immediately impossible task, because Shimmer published some remarkable stories. By no minor miracle, we whittled the list down to collect a selection of stories that covers Shimmer from its first year to its last.

Early 2020! Shimmer! The Best Of!

Art by Sandro Castelli; cover not final

 

The Best of Shimmer contains:

Flying and Falling, by Kuzhali Manickavel
Little Match Girl, by Angela Slatter
Skeletonbaby Magic, by Kathy Watts
King of Sand and Stormy Seas by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Crow’s Caw, by Amal El-Mohtar
Juana and the Dancing Bear, by n.a. bourke
Birds and Burin, by Daniel A. Rabuzzi
The Shape of Her Sorrow, by Joy Marchand
Seek Him I’th’Other Place Yourself, by Josh Storey
Five Letters from New Laverne, by Monica Byrne
Gutted, by Lisa Hannett
Some Letters for Ove Lindström, by Karin Tidbeck
Gödel Apparition Fugue, by Craig DeLancey
Food My Father Feeds Me, Love My Husband Shows Me, by A. A. Balaskovits
Ordinary Souls, by K.M. Szpara
In Light of Recent Events I Have Reconsidered The Wisdom of Your Space Elevator, by Helena Bell
Like Feather, Like Bone, by Kristi DeMeester
We Were Never Alone In Space, by Carmen Maria Machado
The Earth and Everything Under, by K.M. Ferebee
A Whisper in the Weld, by Alix E. Harrow
The Half Dark Promise, by Malon Edwards
Dharmas, by Vajra Chandrasekera
Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale, by Sunny Moraine
Serein, by Cat Hellisen
The Law of the Conservation of Hair, by Rachael K. Jones
Palingenesis, by Megan Arkenberg
Red Mask, by Jessica May Lin
All the Colors You Thought Were Kings, by Arkady Martine
Painted Grassy Mire, by Nicasio Andres Reed
Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left, by Fran Wilde
Itself at the Heart of Things, by Andrea Corbin
The Creeping Influences, by Sonya Taaffe
Hare’s Breath, by Maria Haskins
The Weight of Sentience, by Naru Dames Sundar
Black Fanged Thing, by Sam Rebelein
The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea by Sara Saab
Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate, by Anya Johanna DeNiro
Rapture, by Meg Elison
Lake Mouth, by Casey Hannan
From the Void, by Sarah Gailey
The Time Traveler’s Husband, by A. C. Wise
Rust and Bone, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Ghosts of Bari, by Wren Wallis

Stay tuned for more! ♥

 

Portal Play

We have been blessed with a terrific number of books from Shimmer authors this year, and it’s been hard to keep up. This fall, we’ve been catching up with our authors, and here’s another one, Fran Wilde, whose Riverland is an important read for many reasons. If you haven’t already dived into it, add it to your fall stack. You won’t be disappointed!

Riverland, your first middle grade novel, came out in April of this year, and here we are somehow deep into fall. It’s like we’ve fallen into a portal and are now Elsewhere. What inspired Riverland?

I feel that way a lot!

Riverland has a number of layered, intersecting inspirations. Family, sisters, ecology, the Chesapeake Bay, the amazingness of glass. At the heart of things, I wanted to tell a different kind of story than the one we are used to seeing about growing up in a violent house. I wanted to give the two girls — and it was important that they were girls, because we’re much more comfortable with seeing male characters in danger, but the reality is things happen to all kinds of people — the opportunity to have their own adventure, to rescue themselves, and to have agency in a world that wants to take it away from them. 

Your work often layers the ordinary everyday with the fantastic. Where did your love of fantasy begin? Can it be pinpointed?

The Annotated Alice. I read it by accident before I read Alice in Wonderland — and I think footnotes are kind of my first fantasy world, where adults argued with each other in civil, numbered ways.  And The Phantom Tollbooth. And Winnie the Pooh. Also The Neverending Story, and the Muppets.

Your work also extolls the unseen and the overlooked (take for instance the Hugo-nominated “Clearly Lettered In a Mostly Steady Hand,” Uncanny Magazine). What aspects of Riverland have perhaps been overlooked since its release? What haven’t we seen?

I think the heart of the story, which is an exploration of different kinds of anger — especially as children feel it and as they are taught to express it (or to not express it) — is something I’d like to see. We aren’t comfortable, many of us, with feeling angry. We feel like it weakens us. And some kinds of anger does just that. But not all of it. At the same time, others use anger as a weapon. Maybe if, as children, we talked about all the different kinds of anger — and how to express it — those weapons would be blunted, and we’d feel stronger. 

If you had a portal beneath your bed, as Mike and Eleanor do, what/where/when do you think it would open onto?

There would definitely be a beach or an ocean. Maybe a ship.

What portals have you discovered with your daughter?

Books — so many new books, that she discovered on her own, or with friends, and introduced me to. All books are portals.

Our great and fabulous genre is filled with portal fantasies, which are on some level, about survival. Are there certain portal stories, or survival stories, that have captured your attention and have never let it go? 

The Phantom Tollbooth, for sure. But also, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. And Howl’s Moving Castle. 

Have you ever played the game Portal? We tried, but we fear badgers were not made for portal-hopping…

I have. There’s supposedly cake, somewhere, but I’ve never found it.

The cake is a LIE! Do you think perhaps there’s a portal under Loch Ness, and that’s why we’ve never really seen Nessie?

I think that would present drainage issues.

At the heart of Riverland is the story of the sisters and the abusive household in which they live. Riverland the place becomes an escape from their every day, but contains its own horrors and challenges. The story of deciding to save a world is never an easy one; how do we decide to keep saving our world?

We just do. We are our world. We need to keep saving ourselves.

Which Hogwarts house did you get sorted into?

I’m out in the barn with the Hippogryphs. (Kidding. I’m a HuffleClaw /  RavenDor)

Tell us about something GREAT and EXTRAORDINARY that you’ve read recently.

Karen Russell’s Orange World and Other Stories.  Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam.  

What’s next for you?

I’m working on two new books (including a new middle grade novel and one set in the Gemworld), as well as more Ninth Step Station and a new Serial Box project. I’m also the Director of the Genre Writing MFA at Western Colorado University, and that’s really pretty cool. Plus, His Hideous Heart, Edgar Allan Poe retellings by thirteen YA authors, just came out, so I’ve gotten to dress in black and stompy boots (not really a stretch) and go around talking about how great it is.

Thanks for coming by, Fran! Readers, we hope you’ll grab a copy of Riverland, and perhaps His Hideous Heart while you’re at it. 

Singing With the Fishes

Has this summer been a crazy one for awesome books, or what! Today, we’re chatting with A.C. Wise, a Shimmer regular who is out with her first novella-length work, Catfish Lullaby

She’s also running a giveaway for a free copy, so as soon as you finish reading, you need to hop on over there, and enter! We still think it (and all books) should be called Badger Lullaby, but whatEVER. We enjoyed it anyhow!

Your newest release (and first longer-length work!) is Catfish Lullaby, a gorgeous Southern Gothic novella from Broken Eye Books. Tell us how this story came to be.

It started as a short story, inspired by misheard song lyrics. You know, the usual way authors go about creating novellas. My family and I were at a state fair in Florida. There was a band playing in one of the tents where we stopped to get out of the sun and have something cold to drink. Due to tent acoustics, and a questionable sound system, I couldn’t hear what the band was actually singing about, so I chose to interpret it as a song about a myth/tall-tale/legend, someone or something walking into or out of a swamp, leaving only footprints behind. It’s highly unlikely that they were singing about anything remotely of the sort, but I thank them for the inspiration nonetheless!

Much of speculative fiction deals with outsiders coming to learn their “strange” talents have value. What talent do you have that you have also discovered to be invaluable?

It hasn’t proven useful yet, but I’m really good at breaking computers and technology in unusual ways, just by interacting with them. If humanity ever finds itself in a robot uprising, or with a computer counting down to launching doomsday devices, I expect to be invaluable. Just call me Newton Pulsifer.

This book feels like a fantastic companion to Cherie Priest’s recent book The Toll, which also explores folk tales and monsters in the South. Is there something about the South that makes it perfect for these kinds of stories? The South feels like a character all its own!

I really need to read The Toll! It seems Southern Gothic has been enjoying a bit of a revival lately, or maybe it’s just because I’m paying more attention at the moment. That said, I do feel like the South lends itself to tales of the monstrous and supernatural. There’s a certain kind of Southern setting, the one I tried to capture, that is particularly perfect – a small town, surrounded by deep woods, with more trees than people, where even your closest neighbors are a drive away. It’s a setting that simultaneously breeds isolation, and a sense of claustrophobia. Everyone knows everyone else, and have for generations. Outsiders are viewed with suspicion. Secrets grow in the soil, and there are plenty of shadowy places for rumors to grow into legends, and impossible things to hide until such a time as they choose to make themselves known. You can’t discount the heat as a factor, either. Oppressive, close, it slows everything down, gets inside your skin and lungs, it makes the sense of being trapped that much worse. Or maybe that level of heat and humidity is just what horror looks like to a Canadian…

This book talks about monsters, both real and imagined. Which, do you think, is worse?

The real ones. Part of the reason why I think horror is so appealing is that it turns the monstrous into something impossible and exaggerated, but also something that can be conquered. It gives us hope that survival is possible. And even bleak cosmic horror where humanity loses out is something we can walk away from when the book is over, or the movie ends. We can leave it safely in the realm of the imaginary. Real life horrors are much more insidious and harder to defeat.

How much inspiration for your fictional monsters comes from your pets?

Ha! None yet, but I could see it. “The night the snacks ran out, the humans came to understand the true horror of…The Hungering Corgs!” I could also imagine a monster that very slowly drowns its victims in wave after wave of shed fur.

How is writing a novella different than writing a short story—or is it? This is not necessarily a trick question—but maybe it also is. Was your approach to this project any different?

It may not be a trick question, but I may give a trick answer? The novella started life as a short story, so my approach wasn’t really all that different. It was mostly a matter of expansion. One nice thing about writing at a longer length is there’s more room for scenes, characters, settings, and even individual moments to breathe. One of my favorite scenes in Catfish Lullaby is a quiet moment where Caleb and Cere talk and eat ice cream. It’s the kind of scene that might not have survived in a short story requiring a tighter focus.

There is a definite Lovecraft vibe to this story—fucked up families and secrets and such. What other works/authors might you count among your inspirations?

For dark fiction with Lovecraftian overtones, I would point to Caitlin R. Kiernan, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, and Gemma Files as inspirational. They all write fantastic stuff in varying shades of twisted, horrific, and fucked up.

Which Hogwarts house did you get sorted into?

I haven’t been officially sorted, but I feel like I would be a Hufflepuff.

As is right and proper.

This almost feels like a new Golden Age of books because everyone is writing the most amazing stuff. What have you read lately that is Gorgeous and Outstanding and readers should absolutely get?

Aaah! So many things! I will try to limit myself to just a few suggestions… Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng, Riverland by Fran Wilde, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling, and the Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. There. That was kind of restrained, right?

What’s next for you?

I recently completely my first novel and its now out on submission, looking for a good home. Eep! I’m also working on a handful of short stories/novelette type things. My laptop exists in a perpetual state of chaos, with half-finished documents in various stages of completion scattered everywhere.

Look, just consider Badger Lullaby, that’s all we’re asking. Thanks for coming by! Readers, go enter to win your copy of Catfish Lullaby, or just buy a copy, because you’re not gonna wanna wait! 

 

Road Trip!

In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow, you get one excellent road trip, with Our Heroine and you know, Death. It’s casual, nothing to worry about, nothing at ALL. This book was one of our favorite summer reads, so we convinced Silvia to stop by and answer some questions about it. 

In Gods of Jade and Shadow, a Mayan god of death sends Casiopea Tun on a journey that will change her life. How did you get the idea for this book?

I had a dream about a woman opening a box and out jumps a self-assembling skeleton. I knit the idea into a contemporary urban fantasy scenario, which didn’t work out and I gave up on it. Later on I had another failed novel, this one set in the 1920s, and I figured what had been wrong was the time period so I was able to use my research for what became Gods of Jade and Shadow.

In a brilliant crossroads of Shimmery content, Shimmer author Arkady Martine reviews the book on NPR, and talks about how traditional fairy tales and mythologies are turned on their head. Did you set out to subvert what readers generally think of when it comes to fairy tales?

A lot of people think fairy tales are the sort of pleasant stories told by Disney, but traditional fairy tales and folk tales share not only a certain darkness, but also a certain wildness. They also paradoxically have a very strict sense of order. So you get a heroine having to talk to three animals in the forest in order to triumph on a quest. Let’s say a badger, a rabbit, and a squirrel. As an adult, this sounds ridiculous. Why only three animals? Why those? But as a child you accept this wildness (talking animals) and this sense of order (three) as part of the tale. So no, I don’t think I want to subvert fairy tales, but to accept them for what they are, to respect the oral tradition that I admire, but to also tell a story my own way. Which is ultimately what any storytellers does when they speak.

Well, we like the badger aspect…

Also, although people mention the Cinderella trope, this was the reality of more than one woman in my family. They worked for their keep by doing house chores for other family members. It was not, nor is it, an uncommon form of exploitation in many parts of the world. I wrote a fantasy for my great-grandmother, who was a maid. I wrote the story I would have told her to make her happy, to make her the hero in a tale. And not only her but all the other women in my family who never had a story for themselves.

Your work often pairs the fantastic with the historical. Can you pinpoint where your love of history comes from, and what appeals about it?

I’ve always liked history and I’m not interested in writing contemporary novels. I can do contemporary short stories because the length is, well, short, but for a longer period of time I just can’t see myself terribly interested in the present unless there’s something odd that’s skewing it a bit. 

What would you do if you found a box of bones in your house?

Toss it out.

This book is part fairy tale and part road trip. Who would you absolutely not want to accompany you on a road trip?

Someone who doesn’t like to make stops and just wants to get to the destination.

If you could take us anywhere in Mexico, where would it be? What would we see? What would we eat?

Mexico City, because you can find anything in Mexico City. The National Museum of Anthropology is always a great visit for tourists. I like to eat in many places. El Moro for churros, street tacos, Tortas Locas Hipocampo, queso fundido over at Los Ovnis, etc. 

We’re already hungry!! Do you have a favorite jazz musician?

Chet Baker when he sings “My Funny Valentine.”

What have you read lately that’s Great and Outstanding and we should get our mitts on immediately?

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag, a murder mystery focused on a gruesome crime and set in 1700s Stockholm. Dark, depressing, and beautifully written.

Automatic Eve by Rokurô Inui. A Japanese steampunk mosaic novel for fans of Phillip K. Dick.

Every book we’ve read from you has had its pages in a different genre—and we love it! What’s next for you?

My next novel with Del Rey is called Mexican Gothic and it’s a horror novel set in the Mexican countryside in 1950. My first crime novel, Untamed Shore, should be out next year. It’s a domestic noir set in 1970s Mexico and Baja California.

Woot! Silvia, thanks for taking the time to chat with badgers. Readers, go grab your copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow, because it’s the perfect read to wrap up summer with! 

Harrowing Doors

Alix E. Harrow published her first short story with Shimmer. “A Whisper in the Weld” appeared in Issue #22 in November 2014. Now, we approach the publication of Alix’s debut novel! Alix was kind enough to spend some time with us ahead of her book’s release.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January lands in seven days and we’re pretty darn excited for it. What is this book’s origin story? How did it come to be?

Once upon a time, a little girl grew up in western Kentucky and played in the overgrown hayfield on the backacres of the farm and wished very much that she would find a door to elsewhere. (Not, you understand, because her life was so terrible, but just because she read a lot of books with wizard schools and magic lions and dragons flying on the winds of morning, and there were none of those things in western Kentucky). She never found her door, but when she grew up she wrote her own.

When I sat down at twenty-four to very self-consciously write a book, the first sentence that came out was: When I was seven, I found a door. Three-ish years later, I had a book-shaped draft. Very conveniently and absurdly, I also had a short story come out in Apex about librarian witches, and an editor DMed me on Twitter asking if I might, by chance, have a book-shaped thing.

Your work often layers the historical with the fantastic. Can you pinpoint where your love of history comes from and what is so appealing about it?

If you were a little girl looking for doors, and you went off to college and they asked you what you wanted to study, your first answer would be: books! Stories! English lit, of course! But then you might take some history courses and be seduced by true stories, instead, by the shifting narratives we tell about ourselves and the murky realities they both illuminate and obscure. I guess I fell in love with history because it seemed to be the intersection between story-telling and reality, the dusty factory where stories themselves are made.

Your work also extols the virtues and wonders of books (see: your recent Hugo Award win for your short story, “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Apex Magazine). How did you first fall in love with books?

It’s an inherited condition. My mom was finishing her senior year of a history and literature double major; she read me Civil Disobedience and Earthsea and the Ballad of Mulan and Watership Down when I was too young to understand that everybody’s mom wasn’t doing the same thing–handing their kid keys to all the locked doors in the world and giving them a little push between the shoulder blades.

But also: I remember reading the first Harry Potter and feeling like I’d finally made it. I’d finally opened a door and stepped all the way through it.

If you had a Door (or perhaps a Book) you could open onto Anywhere, where would it go?

Earthsea. Or maybe Lyra’s Oxford. Or Hogwarts. Or maybe just a vast library with warm wood floors and raggedy rugs and coffee that never tastes burnt, and lots of quiet courtyards so I can read with the sun on my face while the kids build castles of books or upend potted plants.

What Doors have you discovered with your boys?

THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION. WHY DOES NO ONE ASK ME ABOUT MY NEWFOUND LOVE OF PICTURE BOOKS, AS DISCOVERED THROUGH MY TODDLERS???

So one of my favorite picture book series is Aaron Becker’s Journey, Quest, and Return books, about a girl who draws herself a door into another world (what, I have a brand). We also like everything Oliver Jeffers, but especially A Child of Books, about a magic book-girl who leads a boy to a world of imagination (again, my brand, it’s strong). Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut has just about the best read-aloud rhythm in the history of books; King Baby by Kate Beaton is so, so damn funny; Wild by Emily Hughes is a quirky and sweet anti-Mowgli story; Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell is about a dragon with a library on his back, which is obviously perfect; Prince and Knight is about a handsome prince falling in love with a handsome knight and we’ve read it six hundred thousand times.

As you know, Bob, portal fantasies are an awesome part of speculative literature. Do you have a favorite story in the genre?

Favorite is a big word, Bob. It stresses me. So I’ll merely say: I loved Coraline, as a dark, twisted answer to the blond Disney-fied Alice I knew growing up. Valente’s Fairyland series is sugar and spice and everything nice, plus some not-nice things. I still love Peter Pan. I’m very excited to read Fran Wilde’s new Riverland.

When I imagine Doors, I think often of Hobbiton with its round portals, but also of Moria and “speak friend and enter,” of Dorothy opening her door to the colors of Oz, and of Alice with the tiny door she cannot yet fit through. Do you have a favorite fictional Door?

Look, it’s hard to beat speak friend and enter. Although there are some doors in Erin Morgenstern’s new book, Starless Sea—which isn’t out until November, she says with an artfully careless little laugh—that I fell absolutely head over heels in love with.

Speaking of Moria, does a balrog have wings?

Who—and I mean this is the gentlest, kindest of ways—cares??? I am often baffled by the granularity of debates in nerd-dom. Like, what matters is the darkness and terror of them, that they’re the shadowy things you wake if you mine too greedily and too deep. If you’re the nerd checking for literal wings on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, you’re the one that gets eaten first.

One very important aspect of The Ten Thousand Doors of January is the gorgeous cover art and design, by Lisa Pompilio. This cover overflows with flowers and keys (and that doorknob!). What’s the key to growing a good garden?

Let me know if you find out. Our garden is on the verge of attaining sentience and eating the house in the night. Didn’t there used to be a little stone cottage there, people will say, with a tin roof and lots of bright plastic toys on the porch? But there will be nothing but uncaged tomatoes and weeds and butternuts like knee-bones.

Which Hogwarts house did you get sorted into?

Hufflepuff. Where else, dear badgers?

What have you read lately that’s been Great and Tremendous and more people should know about?

I mean, everyone already knows about Red, White, and Royal Blue, but if you don’t: it’s the hella gay political rom-com you need in your life. Preorder The Starless Sea. The sequel to Trail of Lightning is just as good as the first one, maybe better. Also–Kathleen Jennings’s 2020 novella, Flyaway, is Gothic and folksy and so, so good. If you’re a person who reads Tana French, and likes the bits where some dark, nameless creature skitters across the road or scratches at the walls, giving brief unsettling form to the darkest impulses of humanity—Flyaway is made of nothing but those bits.

What’s next for you?

For my next trick, I shall turn my second book-shaped draft—which is about the women’s suffrage movement except with lots more witching and less acronyms and meetings–into an actual book! It will take patience and fortitude and bravery! It will take the generous insights offered by wise early readers, some of whom may or may not be Hugo-nominated short-fiction editors!! It will take a lot, a lot, of coffee.

Alix, thank you for joining us — go get your coffee!

Readers, go get your copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January! You can still preorder, but the book will be in stores everywhere next Tuesday, September 10th!

 

And So It Goes

This past weekend, the Hugo Awards were given out in Dublin, Ireland. Big congrats to Uncanny Magazine, who won the Best Semiprozine category again!

We had badgers in Ireland for the event, should the impossible happen. Mary Robinette Kowal, who has been part of Shimmer since the start, was on hand to speak the words which proved unnecessary (but how spectacular that her novel, The Calculating Stars, won the Hugo for Best Novel — we are over the moon!).

In case you’re curious, here’s the brief speech we put together, which pales in comparison to the FIRE that erupted on the Dublin stage (how awesome is our industry? SO awesome.).

We want to thank everybody who, in these past months and years, have helped, guided, and given us and Shimmer so much. Every short fiction market is a collaboration, and this is no different. Your stories made Shimmer what it was—thank you for trusting us with them.

Thank you, too, to our fellow finalists: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside, Fiyah, Strange Horizons, and Uncanny. Y’all are doing so much good work, it is humbling to be in your midst. Mary Robinette, thank you for being part of Shimmer, and for doing the heavy Hugo lifting.

We are truly grateful and terribly happy.

Shimmer honestly would not have been half of what it was without you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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