Fri
Jan 8 2010 3:19pm

Saving both worlds: Katherine Blake (Dorothy Heydt)’s The Interior Life

The Interior Life (1990) is really not like anything else. It was published by Baen in what seems to have been a fit of absentmindedness, as Baen are generally really good at branding, and you could go a long way without finding sometime less typically Baen than this. The Interior Life is a fantasy novel about an ordinary American housewife who begins to hear voices in her head from a fantasy world. She never goes to the fantasy world and nobody from the fantasy world ever comes to this world. The story passes seamlessly between Sue in this world joining the PTA and painting the kitchen to Lady Amalia in the fantasy world battling the forces of Darkness. The weird thing is that this works. The stories reinforce each other, they drag you along by ratcheting, you want to follow both halves of what is happening, and the mundane details of Sue’s life are not only enhanced by the fantasy in her head but made fascinating by it.

I expect that if you did a survey people wouldn’t say that they valued masculine virtues above feminine virtues, and likewise they wouldn’t say that the depressing is inherently better than the uplifting. Nevertheless, in written fiction this does seem to be people’s unconscious bias. There are more downer books than heartwarming ones, and those heartwarming ones there are get scoffed at and diminished. Nobody calls Nineteen Eighty Four a “guilty pleasure.” Similarly there are a lot of books in which characters people go to the library for tech support and very few where they go to the library for cookbooks. The Interior Life is grounded in the feminine virtues of nurturing and support, and it takes this seriously in a way that a lot of feminist SF and fantasy doesn’t quite manage. From Tehanu to Thendara House there’s a self-consciousness in the way we’re told these things are important while being shown that they’re not. Heydt avoids that entirely by writing about them with a heartfelt sincerity. It’s also a cheerful positive book—not just a book with a happy ending, but a resolutely upbeat book. It’s a really enjoyable read. No wonder it sank without trace.

The Demouria portion of the story would, on its own, be a fairly standard worldsaving fantasy. The Sue portion alone wouldn’t even be a story. It’s odd that there are so few stories about people cleaning their house and joining the PTA and organizing dinner parties for their husband’s work colleagues and helping their kids with their homework, even in mainstream fiction. There are stories about people who escape from that, and there are stories about people who do that effortlessly in the background of having adventures, and there are stories about people, men mostly, who suddenly have to do it and notice that it’s hard work, but this is the only book I know that focuses on keeping house in this way. I like that it isn’t about Sue abandoning Fred and her boring life but rather getting on top of her life and making it one that she likes. This could have been published as a mainstream novel of beating depression by having an active fantasy life—and yet, it’s a fantasy novel too. If the fantasy helps save Sue, Sue also helps save Demouria. It’s an odd combination, and yet it’s very effective.

The narrative switches between worlds without missing a beat, sometimes several times in the same paragraph—by the time you’re switching between the PTA tea-party and the coronation you don’t even notice that it’s odd. Heydt has said that she intended to use different typefaces to represent the different viewpoints, but this didn’t work out—fortunately it wasn’t necessary, all the cues are there and it is never hard to follow.

The story is very firmly set in the late eighties: the forward-thinking PTA are considering building a computer lab for the school; computers are new and expensive and weird; CDs are just getting started, most people still listen to records. The medieval fantasy world has not dated in the same way.

I tend to get into the mood to pick this up when my kitchen has got out of control—and by the time I finish it, I generally have it back in control. As well as being a nice, if relatively standard, fantasy quest, it makes me feel good about housework. I read it in the first place because it was given to me by a friend because Heydt was a friend on usenet. (She published this as Blake for odd reasons that don’t matter, she later published other things under her own name.) I never saw a copy new, and I seldom see a copy around used—and when I do I grab it to give to someone. It’s a pity that the Tiptree Award for works of gender relevance wasn’t instituted until 1992, because this book would have been an interesting and thought-provoking nominee.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

41 comments
omega_n
1. omega_n
I agree completely on the downplaying of "feminine" virtues in fantasy. Every female hero is a beautiful, sword-swinging, feisty warrior, often with a direct goal towards being better than the men. While I can understand this in early feminist books, like Tehanu, and YA books (Tamora Pierce is wonderful for breaking girls out of the princess ideal), I feel that such blatant "Oooh look how much girl power!!" is below adult fantasy.

If you read Terry Pratchett, and have read Unseen Academicals, I think Glenda Sugarbean is a good example of an empowering of feminine virtues. She's smart, pro-active, and loyal, but her main practical skill is baking pies. Damn good pies. And she's bloody proud of it, as she should be.

Amazing warrior women are cool, but usually they aren't realistic. They're idealized Lara Crofts most of the time, and are often no more empowering than a video game cipher.
Angela Korra'ti
2. annathepiper
Ms. Walton, I've quite enjoyed your book review posts, and this one is the first one that's made me go "oh hey, I actually OWN THIS BOOK!" Wow. Now I want to go back and re-read it. :)
David Goldfarb
3. David_Goldfarb
Actually there were different fonts used for the different story threads. I tracked them down one time. Sue's story in our world is set in Caledonia, the first Demouria thread is set in Linotype Trajanus, and the second Demouria thread is in EF Schneidler. Some people -- notably Dorothy herself -- had trouble distinguishing the Trajanus from the Caledonia (although I must say that I found it easy enough), but the Schneidler is quite distinct.
Jo Walton
4. bluejo
David: Looking at them and knowing they were supposed to be different fonts, I can just see it. Reading normally, no, my eye makes no distinction.
Nancy Lebovitz
5. NancyLebovitz
Agreed about the lack of respect for housework in sf-- Sturgeon takes a crack at in in "The , the , and Boff", but I don't think he quite gets it right.

I liked The Interior Life quite a bit, but after a while I wanted more world-building. Do other people have Interior Lives? Do the Interior Lives ever overlap?

One thing that left a sour taste (if I remember correctly) is that the main character's husband just kind of tolerates her building up her life-- he doesn't notice or care so long as sex is available.
Estara Swanberg
6. Estara
I actually bought this new - in London at Forbidden Planet in the late 80s, where the 28 top-to-bottom shelves of new fantasy and science fiction where a god-sent for this sf&f starved German au-pair. I didn't know it was Dorothy Heydt, though. I think I still have it on my keeper shelves (not 28 yet, but...), but haven't reread it in years.

@omega_n:

"Every female hero is a beautiful, sword-swinging, feisty warrior, often with a direct goal towards being better than the men. "

You need to read Robin McKinley's Chalice, with the beekeeper heroine.
Mary Aileen Buss
7. maryaileen
I adore The Interior Life. Sometimes I re-read just the real portions and skip the fantasy parts--insofar as they are possible to untangle.

The different fonts worked very well for me. I tend to think of it having six not three, counting the italics of each (used for people's actual thoughts as opposed to narrative).
Ruthanna Emrys
8. R.Emrys
Nobody calls Nineteen Eighty Four a "guilty pleasure."

Except for those of us who feel that we ought to be more critical of plots dependent on the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. I don't feel guilty about enjoying optimistic books, but I do feel a bit embarrassed about liking ones based on bad science.

The Interior Life sounds like exactly my sort of thing. And possibly a good contrast with the Paarfi romances.
omega_n
9. J. Bradford DeLong
Re: "you could go a long way without finding sometime less typically Baen than this..."

Would it really be a long way before you reached the oeuvre of Lois McMaster Bujold?
Tara Chang
10. tlchang
Jo - I get more interesting book recommendations from your posts. Thanks again. The teetering to-read pile by my bed continues to grow.
Harry Burger
13. Lightbringer
Jo, you are such a tease - it seems like every book you review lately is out of print and neigh impossible to find. What's up with that?
omega_n
14. Dorothy Heydt
I observe that Amazon.com alone has seventy-two used copies available for $0.01 plus s/h, and up. And I have about two dozen new ones in a box (my mother-in-law bought a whole case, God knows why, for she hated my guts). I'm trying to think what to do with them: I've donated one to a charity auction.

Jo, thank you for the kind words. David, thank you for finally identifying ALL THREE of the fonts. My suspicion is that whoever chose those fonts wanted to pick three that were in the same family or something, so they would fit together or something. But what looks "related, but different" to a typography expert looks "identical to ten places of classification" to the rest of us.
omega_n
15. Nicholas D. Rosen
In response to Nancy Lebovitz: The main character's husband does approve, and remarks on her accomplishments. He says, responding to a male acquaintance who makes a disparaging comment about women who do things, that if she wants to run for Congress, he'll support her. He does appreciate sex, but I'm not prepared to blame him for that.

In response to R, Emrys: I don't believe that the plot of 1984 depends on the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. The society depicted makes increasing use of Newspeak, but the people still use Oldspeak for the most part. The satire of totalitarianism, and totalitarian abuse of language in particular, does not depend on whether the Party will in fact be able to make heretical thoughts impossible by abolishing the words needed to express them.
Nathaniel Smith
16. njs
Kristin Cashore writes interesting books around the fantasy-women-with-skills issue. In Graceling, the main character has magic kick-*ss ninja skillz... and that's her central problem that drives the plot; in her latest, Fire, the main character has beauty-based mind-control powers, and again, this is not so simple a blessing as e.g. her father (who has the same powers) believes. (The latter is much the stronger book, too.)

I suppose Jacqueline Carey's Phèdre books are another example of a positive portrayal of "feminine" skills not traditionally glorified in the genre, but they... don't have much to do with housework, either.

I'll have to pick this up; I'd really like to read more genre fiction in which people clean and pick up kids and all that, but really Lifeload's the only one I know.
omega_n
17. BlueRose
Years ago on r.a.s.f.w this book kept coming up in conversation, and it was my Unicorn - the book that I could *never* find (and also One for the Morning Glory?)

Cut to ooooh maybe 2008 and I joined Library Thing and participated in the forums and discussions. There was one about the book you could never find a copy of and I mentioned This Interior Life.

Imagine my surprise when I was PM'd by a lady in the States who had two copies, and was desperately seeking some Biggles books for her collection, and was I interested in a swap? 3 Biggles books were duly acquired and sent off and I am now a very happy owner of my own copy of this fabulous book.

The only other book I have found nearly as hard to fine was A Wind in Cairo by Judith Tarr - I have two copies I am jealously clinging to :)
David Goldfarb
18. David_Goldfarb
Even if you accept Sapir-Whorf, Newspeak would never have worked as advertised. In the Appendix, Orwell noted that it still had the word "free" -- as in "This dog is free of lice." If you have that, and you have "should" (certainly "This dog should be made free of lice" or "We should go to the store" or the like are unexceptionable, even essential) then you have the capability of saying "We should be free of the Party." So as a project to enforce mental conformity, it's doomed from the start. But it's certainly the kind of thing I can imagine that society working on regardless.

Dorothy: You're welcome, although I did post the font names to rasfw back when I first researched them, so I know you've seen them before. In the copies of the book I've seen, the printing is just a little bit fuzzy, which makes it a bit harder to distinguish the fonts. Better print quality would probably improve it; of course, so would better-chosen faces.
Maiane Bakroeva
19. Isilel
There are more downer books than heartwarming ones, and those heartwarming ones there are get scoffed at and diminished.

IMHO, the real problem aren't the absolute numbers, but the pigeon-holing. I.e. a critically acclaimed mainstream book is likely to be a downer. A fantasy book, unless it is a prequel, has a guaranteed happy end or, more rarely, victory and riding into the sunset. Science fiction used to be more diverse, with apocalyptic and tragic warning against hubris scenarios, as well as the upbeat going where nobody has gone before, but has lately gone the way of fantasy, etc.

As to the show-casing of "feminine virtues", well they need to be defined. Without that definition, it is difficult to discuss how they could be creatively used to show-case a different type of heroine in SF.
I haven't read the book, but how do the Demourian segments unfold? Do the characters progress there using the same methods as Sue? Or are their doing depicted more as a glamorous allegory of Sue's RL struggle?

Re: Newspeak changing the way people think, I seem to dimly recall that there were serious proponents of that theory shortly after the Revolution in Russia. There was some wacky stuff going on there in the twenties...

Also, part of 1984's claim to fame was it's political relevance. A lot of it's elements were only exaggerated extrapolations from already existing conditions, tendencies and theories.
Jo Walton
21. bluejo
J. Bradford DeLong: If Baen books were laid out along a spectrum, certainly the Bujold books would be the closest to this. But they wouldn't be very close.

Lightbringer: Sorry about that. It's not deliberate. I pick up things to read depending on my own internal desire to read things, and as I'm writing about what I'm re-reading, obviously I already own them. In the natural way of things, books go in and out of print. In an ideal world, everything I love would just stay in print forever, and with good covers too, but that's not this world. Sometimes it works the other way. I'll pick up some disintegrating British paperback published in 1960 and bought used in 1980 and discover to my astonished delight that there's a pretty new NESFA or Old Earth Books edition.

Dorothy: How lovely to hear from you.

Isilel: The Demouran characters are envious of Sue's sewing machine and modern cleaning products, especially when they have to get a disused castle in order and prepare dinner for a hundred. It's hard to explain how it works without making it seem as if it would be jerky.
Beth Meacham
22. bam
Judith Tarr recently reissued A WIND IN CAIRO via Lulu. You can buy an expensive paperback, or get an electronic download for less.

A Wind In Cairo
Estara Swanberg
23. Estara
@ bluejo: "In an ideal world, everything I love would just stay in print forever, "

I think ebooks might become this long tail of publishing - although we can debate on whether they are "in print" - they're certainly in format and font ^^.

@bam: seconding that Lulu link and wanting to point out that the original short story the novel is based on has been included in this release.
omega_n
24. meg d
@9, J Bradford DeLong:
"Would it really be a long way before you reached the oeuvre of Lois McMaster Bujold?"

It's not awfully close. Bujold by no means despises the 'classic female jobs,' but she has never made them a focus in any Baen series.

priming requote:
'It’s odd that there are so few stories about people cleaning their house and joining the PTA and organizing dinner parties for their husband’s work colleagues and helping their kids with their homework, even in mainstream fiction. There are stories about people who escape from that, and there are stories about people who do that effortlessly in the background of having adventures, and there are stories about people, men mostly, who suddenly have to do it and notice that it’s hard work, but this is the only book I know that focuses on keeping house in this way.'

Closest may be 'the Spirit Ring,' in which Ruberta (the housekeeper) matter-of-factly goes about the business of de-trashing the house and providing clean bedding and food for the major characters, and an anonymous Lady wet-nurses the Kobolds while the rest are busy doing Classic Adventure Things. But these two, while respected for their contributions, are minor characters. Essentially, I would file this under 'done effortlessly in the background,' without being unrealistic about the workload involved.

Perhaps you're thinking of Ekaterin, in the Vorkosiverse? But I would place her firmly in the list of 'people who escape from that.' She doesn't do so with unseemly haste -- she's balancing her various obligations all the way -- but compare the job she's got when you meet her with the one she's moving into. The cook and housekeeping staff are already established at Vorkosigan House.
omega_n
25. Dorothy Heydt
Jo, it's nice to hear from *you*. I still hang out on rasf*, where we miss you. I guess you're too busy for USENET these days? It's a ferocious time-sink.

Isilel: The relationship between Earth and Demoura is, as Jo indicated, hard to describe. The first time Sue encounters it, she's cleaning up her messy kitchen, looks out the window, and bang, she's *there*, being another person with another set of problems. As the story goes on, sometimes her attention goes directly into Demoura and she becomes one of the characters, and then comes back to Earth, having done nothing in the interim there except stand there and look stupid. Sometimes she simply has Demoura in the back of her mind somewhere, observing it, as if she were using one of those split-screen television things. There is only one scene in which she actually leaves the hospital, goes to her car, drives it some unknown distance, parks it, and goes and sits in a church, all while her entire attention is in Demoura fighting an epic battle. That, of course, would be very dangerous and I'm glad she doesn't do it all that often.

Note that in my personal opinion, Demoura and its inhabitants don't *exist*; they are all constructions out of some hitherto-unused part of Sue's head. Nobody else knows about them, and if other people are having the same kind of fantasies, Sue doesn't know about those. There's one bit where some of the Demouran characters appear in Earth to support Sue while she's under a lot of stress; a little later an Earth-person comes in and makes a nuisance of himself and one of the Demouran characters insults him and the Earthfellow says "You shut up, shorty!" before leaving. But I think that part is all in Sue's head too. She's been up way late waiting for news about her son's appendectomy, and she's not quite in her right mind -- and it's immediately after that that she goes and has that fugue where she's driving through Earth while fighting in Demoura.

There are parallels between what Sue's doing on Earth and what Amalia, Marianella, et al. are doing in Demoura. It begins with housecleaning and ends with delicate political maneuvering. There are also assorted parallels that are in there just for fun. For example, Amalia has just caught sight of the Weatherwall, a huge mountain range whose overlapping peaks start out dark and shade to pale grey with distance; we then cut to a minor character dribbling milk into her coffee, with the same visual effect. Or, Sue and a friend are listening to _The Art of the Fugue_, which is unfinished, and the musical lines one by one cease to sound, going away into the other world. We then cut to a Demouran Seer doing something mystical in the otherworld. This is just me having fun.

Estara: I am very leery of e-publishing at this point. Kindle and its ilk scare the living etcetera out of me, because it's clear that Amazon can pull text off people's Kindles any time they feel like it, whether because of copyright problems (as in the recent example) or simply for the hell of it. Also, they don't pay very well. I have some short stories available on Fictionwise, which doesn't pay very well either: my last check from them was about a buck thirty-eight. This is probably not so much about Fictionwise's rates as the fact that few people trouble to buy the things.

In any case, I would not like to see any reprint of _TIL_ (even if it brought in money, sigh) unless it could be completely re-set in fonts that even *I* can tell one from t'other: not just scanned in from the old Baen edition.
omega_n
26. Foxessa
In some ways this reminds me of the BBC series, "Pennies From Heaven" (1978).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/cinema/potter/pennies-from-heaven.shtml

It's essentially a musical, centered on a sheet music salesman. It dramatizes the place pop songs have in one's head -- as the score to one's inner life. You see his wife listening to the radio while using her new vacuum cleaner, during which she and her living room transform into the romantic fantasy world of the song.

There are many characters, however, unlike the novel you describe, which is a single, if divided, viewpoint. It sounds lovely.
omega_n
27. Foxessa
Kate Elliott does something with women as primary character heroines who aren't warriors. But they are rich supervisors, generally, rather than the people getting their hands dirty. They also turn into divinities, well at least one or two do. :)

Now Katharine Kerr's Deverry women are always doing household tasks, even when able to perform 'magic', even though upper class for their time and place -- rather the way many a woman in the upper ranks of power via marriage or birth did tend to do in earlier eras, even to getting their hands dirty. What is appealing about these Deverry women is that magic is another task and obligation equal with other tasks and obligations for keeping a community balanced, functional and productive, including motherhood and consequent breastfeeding. Though also, we do have a warrior, Jill, in the earlier cycles of the series, but eventually she needs to give up the warrior in order to incarnate as her true self, a woman of seeing and learning.
Felicity Shoulders
28. Felicity
I second tlchang's feelings about these posts. However, my actually reading them and thinking, "Yes, that should go on my enormous to-read list OF DOOM" is time-consuming. It would be more efficient for me to tag-filter the tor.com RSS feed and have Goodreads or LibraryThing automatically add the books Jo recommends to my to-read lists.

After all, I can't remember the last time I didn't add one of these books -- oh yes, it was when I'd already read and loved the book. That's right.
Michael Grosberg
29. Michael_GR
Thanks, Jo, this is certainly going into my to-read list. I've admired and enjoyed Dorothy's contributions to RASFW for years - it's high time I read something by her, and _The Interior Life_ sounds interesting.

Were computer labs so rare in the late 80's? I went to junior high at exactly those years (88-90). We had a couple of computer labs, both of which were already considered relatively outdated at the time. One had Commodore 64s which we used to learn how to work with spreadsheets and also learned the graphical part of Logo (drawing with the "turtle"). The other lab had monochrome first-generation Macs which I remember also using but can't recall what exactly we did with them. There were also a bunch of PC's in the physics lab and a couple of Amigas in the media lab.
Pasi Kallinen
30. paxed
Bought this one (too), because I've liked almost every book Jo has reviewed...
Liza .
31. aedifica
I picked this up at a sale some time in the 90s. I like this one a lot, and in fact it's one of the books I picked to bring along on the trip I'm currently on!

I'm surprised to hear the different fonts aren't clear for most people. I have no trouble distinguishing them, and they do add to my enjoyment of the story.

Anyone who is looking for this one and bemoaning the fact that it's out of print: ABE Books has 39 copies available as of this writing.
April Vrugtman
32. dwndrgn
Michael_GR @29
Yes, computer labs were relatively rare then. None of the schools in my district had permanent ones but were beginning to get them. Directly after I graduated they added classes like 'Keyboarding' for the lower grades. I never got to use a computer until I went to college from which I graduated in 90'2. Of course, I grew up in a very small town and the schools were terribly poor along with most of the attendees - that could have been the biggest factor. My HS graduating class was 123 people.
omega_n
33. Maria BearMountainBooks
Strangely, when I saw that cover, I thought, "That looks like a Baen cover style."

I'm pretty sure guessing right doesn't mean anything, but sometimes things like that make me worry that I read too much...
omega_n
34. OtterB
That cover looks awfully familiar. I think I bought a copy of this after it was recommended somewhere in the past year or two, and it's disappeared in the house without being read. (I don't have a TBR pile, I have a TBR archipelago.) Will have to see if I can turn it up.

Re the nuts and bolts of nurturing and support in other works, I'm thinking of Maggie in Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's Song of Sorcery and sequels. It's been a long time since I reread them, but IIRC Maggie is a hearthcrafter witch and there's discussion about the fact that her branch of magical talent is looked down on.

And actually, the Bujold that most seems to address the value of nurturing, etc., head-on would be Ethan of Athos. Though not as feminine virtues. ;-)
omega_n
35. bmlg
I love this book. It's one of those few I buy every time I see a copy, so that I can give it to people. What I particularly love (as I think I once wrote in a fangirly email to Ms. Heydt) is that it portrays fantasy as a positive and empowering thing in a woman's life, not as escapism or immaturity.

The fonts are distinguishable to me, but not terribly necessary.
scott hhhhhhhhh
36. wsp_scott
Again, this sounds like a very interesting book. I am never going to dig out from under my TBR pile at this rate :)

I am very leery of e-publishing at this point. Kindle and its ilk scare the living etcetera out of me, because it's clear that Amazon can pull text off people's Kindles any time they feel like it, whether because of copyright problems (as in the recent example) or simply for the hell of it. Also, they don't pay very well.


The economist in me does not understand this issue at all. I just purchased a used copy from Abebooks, I would much rather have given the $3.79 to you for an ebook. Even a small fraction of that price would be more than an author receives when I purchase a used book. I would like publishers (and authors) to recognise that ebooks are competing with the used book market and price accordingly. I purchase a ton of used books which doesn't support the author at all. If I could get ebooks for the same price, I would be very happy. My wife would also appreciate not have SFF paperbacks all over the house :) Sorry if this sounds like an attack on Dorothy, that is not my intention at all.
Estara Swanberg
37. Estara
@Dorothy: I can see that viewpoint, too, but wouldn't banding together as some published authors are doing alleviate some of the grief with the ebooks? And once the formatting headache is over, you can decide where to publish your backlist, after all - you don't have to go Kindle, if you don't want to.

Quite a few sf&f authors are doing this at Book View Café and they keep adding names:consortium of writers

And then there are C. J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher and Lynn Abbey : Closed Circle

I guess what I'm trying to say, explore the possiblities and the headache and success stories of the people who are already doing it ^^.
scott hhhhhhhhh
38. wsp_scott
Estara, thanks for mentioning Closed Circle. This looks to be a great site/idea by the authors. I would definitely like to see more authors doing something like this. I just bought the 2 Alliance-Union Universe novels that are available, $10 right to the author with no middle man, awesome.
Estara Swanberg
39. Estara
@ wsp_scott: I really think this may eventually lead into long tail continuing income, and with proven published authors the chance of keeping continued visibility to draw in new discoverers of their books is high - probably only a chance that the older authors now have, as new contracts - from what I understand - always include ebook rights (and I haven't seen the big publishers handle those without marking most of us ebook reader owners as digital pirates right away).

Book View Café already has its own first completely new short story steampunk anthology The Shadow Conspiracy(and had a reprint short story anthology before then: Rocket Boy and the Geek Girls - same url).

Sherwood Smith has already said that the outtakes, different p-o-v she wrote for Crown Duel later will be included in the BVC rerelease, she's getting her Exordium series out, which has been out of print for a long time. Judith Tarr's available A Wind in Cairo includes the original short story as well, and so on and on. She's got a bushelload of her short stories to read just by registering on the site.

Vonda N. McIntyre has lots of older novels out already, from alternate history fantasy to science fiction space opera.

And if you saw the Barbara Hambly link at Closed Circle, she's written four short stories to follow up novels of hers and is selling them on her website here:
Welcome to the Further Adventures Of….

I've actually discovered a few ebook-only authors (in the romance genre so far) who read as great to me as the prinit-published ones and whom I follow with great zeal.

The most impressive discovery was Moriah Jovan who has no e-publisher behind her whatsoever and paid for (or learned how to do it herself) professional publishing aid (like editing, etc.) herself - her books are out-of-the-norm in their setting and huge, therefore I suggest unlikely to have gotten a print contract in romance, but her excerpts of the two available ones are 200 pages (on my Sony ereader), so it's not as if I wasn't able to taste-test whether I could handle the content.
Tales of Dunham by Moriah Jovan
As a sideline she offers formatting work for authors who do not know how to make their prospective ebooks attractive.

Of course this is the infancy of this way of getting written work to the reader, but I believe authors, who for some reason fall through the cracks of the current big publisher tastes or sale expectations, should follow the developments carefully and see if they might not offer new ways of getting at the reader - like you said - without a middle man.
omega_n
40. Jenny_S
I'm one of those who bought The Interior Life new, and enjoyed it enough that it went on my keeper shelves. Today, I reread it for the first time in 20 years and loved it. Back then, as a young woman, I think I was fascinated by the fantasy but rather baffled by the everyday part. Now after years of everyday life and struggling to keep up with the house cleaning and working full-time, this story really hits home. Plus, as someone already said, that it celebrates the power of interior fantasy in making everyday life bearable and gives the dreamer the power to be effective is great! I went looking for reviews to see if others shared my feeling that this is a wonderful book, and found this page. I enjoyed all the comments and agree the fonts aren't too easy to distinguish. They are helpful though. I'm going to track down your A Point of Honor too. It sounds most intriguing. I would add my voice to the others recommending e-book publication. It would bring your work to the attention of a huge, worldwide audience. I just wanted to thank you Ms. Heydt for a wonderful book.
omega_n
41. djheydt
"I would add my voice to the others recommending e-book publication. It would bring your work to the attention of a huge worldwide audience."

Gosh, I wish that were true. But I don't think it would happen. To be bought, electronically or otherwise, books need to be marketed. The ebook-maker isn't going to do that. The author would have to do it him/herself, and I couldn't. I grew up in the fifties, when to toot your own horn in any fashion -- indeed, to say anything whatever about yourself or your work that wasn't deprecating -- was described as being "stuck-up" and earned universal scorn. I can't get over that.
omega_n
42. Sandi13
I have probably read this book more times than any book I own...and believe me, that's saying something. I found this blog post searching yet again for anything about Katherine Blake or additional books she may have written. Hopefully, I'll be able to find other books by Ms Heydt. If you ever see this ma'am, I want to underline how much pleasure I've gotten out of The Interior Life. It actually never gets shelved. It's always close at hand where I can pick it up and read a bit when I need a lift or even just a pleasant distraction. I bought my copy new. Maybe I should purchase a back up copy (I do see it occasionally at 1/2 Price Books).
omega_n
43. SEB60
This is my 'beside the bed, pick up and read a few pages at bedtime book'. Sometimes I read it all and sometimes I read one story or another. I bought it new. Subsequently, I have bought back up copies to lend or for just in case . I am so pleased to have run across this discussion thread.
John C. Bunnell
45. JohnCBunnell
Gosh, I wish that were true. But I don't think it would happen. To be bought, electronically or otherwise, books need to be marketed. The ebook-maker isn't going to do that.
#41: In most cases, you'd be right, but you really, really should talk to the BookViewCafe folks. What makes their setup different from virtually any other e-press I know of is that they are deliberately and overtly a cooperative -- that is, they divide tasks among co-op members according to the specific expertise of the individual members. So the members who are good at marketing do the heavy lifting on those tasks, and those who are better at editing or Webwork or what have you do the heavy lifting in their own niches.

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