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Aliette de Bodard

Fiction and Excerpts [3]

Fiction and Excerpts [3]

Five of the Creepiest Monsters in Fantasy Fiction

One of the reasons I read fantasy is for the sense of awe—for that stop-breath feeling I get when Silchas Ruin rises up as a dragon in the Malazan Book of Fallen; when Aude explores the silent and wondrous world of the Grass King’s Palace in Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine; when Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring gaze upon the heart of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

But the flipside of awe is terror—because magic produces things that are dark and scary in addition to wonderful; and because, in any wonder, there is a sense of something largely beyond the familiar, something unknowable and not playing by the rules we’re used to; because spells and creatures that loom impossibly large and impossibly wondrous are also creatures that could destroy you, turn on you, or be twisted into something else. And there’s definitely plenty of terrifying creatures lurking in fantasy books!

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Unfamiliar Rooms: Magic and Dread in Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine

Kari Sperring is, insofar as I’m concerned, a criminally under-appreciated writer. She has a rare gift for making worlds feel lived-in: her settings always feel as though they are very much larger, as though the story happens to focus on one character or another, but there are a dozen, a hundred others just outside the wings, living their lives in a city or in a place that really exists somewhere.

In The Grass King’s Concubine, she displays this gift for worldbuilding, not through people, but through a place: WorldBelow is an alien splendour, a fairytale world where The Grass King, the mythical ruler of spring and the harvest, lives with his court. In Sperring’s novel, the eponymous concubine has vanished alongside most of the court, and Aude, a woman dragged into the palace of WorldBelow, must figure out what went wrong while her husband Jehan goes after her. While Jehan’s strand of the story is familiar—a rescue of a loved one taken by supernatural beings—it’s Aude’s story that shines, and in particular, it’s the depiction of WorldBelow as she explores a haunted, empty palace that made a deep impression on me.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

The House of Binding Thorns

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by Fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear….

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

Book two in the Dominion of the Fallen saga, Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Binding Thorns is available April 4th from Ace Books!

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On Colonialism, Evil Empires, and Oppressive Systems

This post on colonialism depicted in genre fiction originally appeared on Aliette de Bodard’s personal blog on September 18th.

So this is only half a rant, because to properly do this I would need to document (a lot), and to reread stuff (a lot, too). But I’ve been simultaneously reading some genre books, and researching the French colonization of Vietnam in the 19th Century (and the history of SE Asia in that time period; aka researching book 2, the sequel to The House of Shattered Wings), and the contrast is… stark.

Let me put it bluntly. A lot of depictions out there miss the mark by a rather large margin. The things I see a lot: our hero(es) fighting and overthrowing the colonial system. Our hero(es), whether colonist or colonised, being almost exempt of colonial prejudice. Clean, simple fights for independence where the people rise against their oppressors and become democratic and free.

[Right. Where to start.]

Five of the Creepiest Monsters in Fantasy

One of the reasons I read fantasy is for the sense of awe—for that stop-breath feeling I get when Silchas Ruin rises up as a dragon in the Malazan Book of Fallen; when Aude explores the silent and wondrous world of the Grass King’s Palace in Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine; when Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring gaze upon the heart of Lothlorien in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

[But the flipside of awe is terror]

Series: Five Books About…

The House of Shattered Wings

In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.

The War in Heaven comes to Paris in Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings, available August 18th from Roc (US) and August 20th from Gollancz (UK).

[Read an excerpt]

Food of the Future

Science fiction has a bad reputation as far as portraying food goes—people are more likely to remember the yeast in Asimov’s Caves of Steel, the “earl grey, hot” from Star Trek, and the food pills from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Worse, they’re more likely to say fantasy has better food. Is this actually true?

Six science fiction authors—Elizabeth Bear, Aliette De Bodard, Ann Leckie, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Fran Wilde—gathered at a virtual Food of the Future roundtable to hash out the possibilities.

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A Few Thoughts on Other Cultures and Diversity in SFF

This article is about the ways in which authors—particularly those in SFF—can more sensitively write about cultures other than their own, and touches upon issues of racial and cultural sterotyping. It was originally posted on Aliette de Bodard’s personal blog on September 13th.

This is a collection of stuff I’ve already said elsewhere, but for what it’s worth, the usual disclaimer applies: these are my personal opinions and my personal experience (I know not everyone has the same opinions and I certainly don’t pretend to speak for everyone!). I also don’t pretend to have easy solutions for everything I mention here (and God knows I made some of those mistakes myself, and will continue making them, but hopefully I’ll improve on that front as time goes by); but I think it’s better to know all this stuff and then decide how to handle it rather than go on being blissfully unaware of it.

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