sábado, 30 de noviembre de 2013

Novedad: The Arrows of Time, de Greg Egan

Ya está a la venta The Arrows of Time, la novela que cierra la trilogía Orthogonal de Greg Egan. Ésta es su sinopsis:
In an alien universe where space and time play by different rules, interstellar voyages last longer for the travellers than for those they left behind. After six generations in flight, the inhabitants of the mountain-sized spacecraft the Peerless have used their borrowed time to develop advanced technology that could save their home world from annihilation. 
But not every traveller feels allegiance to a world they have never seen, and as tensions mount over the risks of turning the ship around and starting the long voyage home, a new complication arises: the prospect of constructing a messaging system that will give the Peerless news of its own future. 
While some of the crew welcome the opportunity to be warned of impending dangers - and perhaps even hear reports of the ship's triumphant return - others are convinced that knowing what lies ahead will be oppressive, and that the system will be abused. Agata longs for a chance to hear a message from the ancestors back on the home world, proving that the sacrifices of the travellers have not been in vain, but her most outspoken rival, Ramiro, fears that the system will undermine every decision the travellers make. 
When a vote fails to settle the matter and dissent erupts into violence, Ramiro, Agata and their allies must seek a new way to bring peace to the Peerless - by traveling to a world where time runs in reverse. 
THE ARROWS OF TIME is the final volume of the Orthogonal trilogy, bringing a powerful and surprising conclusion to the epic story of the Peerless that began with THE CLOCKWORK ROCKET and THE ETERNAL FLAME.

viernes, 29 de noviembre de 2013

Novedad: Twelve Tomorrows

Ya está a la venta Twelve Tomorrows, una interesantísima antología de relatos de ciencia ficción publicada por MIT Technology Review. La lista de autores es impresionante e incluye a algunos de mis escritores favoritos: Greg Egan, Ian McDonald, Peter Watts... 

Ésta es la tabla de contenidos:
  • Q+A with Neal Stephenson 
  • 'Insistence of Vision', David Brin 
  • 'The Mighty Mi Tok of Beijing', Brian W. Aldiss 
  • 'In Sight', Cheryl Rydbom 
  • 'Transitional Forms', Paul McAuley 
  • 'Pathways', Nancy Kress 
  • 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun', Allen M. Steele 
  • 'The Revolution Will Not Be Refrigerated', Ian McDonald 
  • 'The Cyborg and the Cemetery', Nancy Fulda 
  • 'Bootstrap', Kathleen Ann Goonan 
  • 'Zero for Conduct', Greg Egan 
  • Gallery - The Art of Richard Powers 
  • 'Pwnage', Justina Robson 
  • 'Firebrand', Peter Watts 

jueves, 28 de noviembre de 2013

Cristina Jurado interviews Jesús Cañadas

Jesús Cañadas has just published his second novel, Los nombres muertos, which I recently reviewed (in Spanish) on this very same blog. This interview with the author, conducted by Cristina Jurado, was first published in the miNatura magazine, where you can read it both in English and in Spanish. You can also read it in Spanish at Cristina's blog, Más ficción que ciencia. I thank Jesús, Cristina and miNatura for the chance of reprinting it here. Hope you enjoy it!   

Cristina Jurado: Before starting, I would like to thank you for accepting being interviewed in an unorthodox way. I believe conversations are more productive than aseptic questionnaires, although I have nothing against them either… some times they are the only way to interact usefully.

You are from Andalusia, more specifically Cadiz, and you live far away from your country. My theory about the talent of our land (I´m also Andalusian in my father side) is related to its people´s frame of mind facing life: always trying to prevent circumstances from controlling us. I also believe that we have a mestizo sensibility and a self-deprecating attitude, clearly reflected not only in our sense of humor but also in many examples of artistry. I am not going to be so indiscreet as to ask you why do you write but, why fantasy? Did you choose it or did it choose you? Is it as persistent genre as they say?

Jesús Cañadas: Fantasy is very persistent and stubborn genre. You cannot get rid of the craving of writing. In a more serious note, the best answer to that question that I´ve ever hear was by Oscar Gual in FantastiCS of Castellón: “I write because I have the time and the hunger.”

For me, it´s like that. I feel like writing. Sometimes, even if I don´t feel like it, I know what it´s waiting for me and I dive into it. I love fantasy because I´m a super-freak, I can´t help it. Since I was little I´ve devoured fantastic literature and I don´t think that will change now. It´s not the only type of literature I read, but it´s the one I enjoyed the most. The majority of my ideas are always related to this genre. If somebody wishes to fill the complaint form about it, they should contact whoever plants those ideas in my brain.

CJ: I´m interested in the writer´s craft, its secrets, the underground tunnels of the trade… I think you know what I mean. I would like to know how you face the development of a novel: if you prepare outlines, if you keep characters´ files (I don´t know, perhaps you give some of your characters the physic of somebody you have met), if you edit a lot of not so much… Tell me as much as you feel comfortable telling.

JC: It really depends on what the story asks. I´m still learning, so I´m not in a position to theorize about my own stuff. I have a seed of an idea almost always, a handful of scenes, and a final one very clearly in my mind. The pain, and the difficulty, is to build the path that connects them.

In my first novel, El baile de los secretos, I played by the ear or, at least, that´s how I felt. I was twenty-seven and had no idea if I was going to be able to finish it. But I did it and now, when I read it, I discover that it has a very clear structure and obvious steps marking the rhythm, even though I didn´t realize it at the time.

Los nombres muertos is my second novel and I had to think about it quite a lot. I did not use an outline, because I don´t like to measure everything. What I can tell you is that the documentation phase was intense and long, and I had to go back and forth about the story.

I can tell you a silly anecdote: I wrote most of the novel in the London tube. I´m not talking about actually “writing” it but just taking notes and creating something closer to an outline that I have ever wrote. Part of Los nombres muertos takes place in the British Museum and, in 2010, I went there to do some research. It was one of the most absurd trips of my life, but that´s a completely different story… While I was taking notes on my way to High Gate, where I also wanted a scene to take place, I had an epiphany. I started to write many things about the story and then I arrived to the final stop of the line. If you don´t know the London tube, I can tell you that arriving at the end of the line means at least an hour an a half of extra time to go to your destination. The good news is that I had plenty of time to keep on writing and I didn´t get a fine.

My third novel, that I´m working on right now, it´s been somehow different. I´ve tried to build an outline but I ended up destroying it. Why? Because I get bored if I know what it is going to happen. If you get bored writing something, then the reader is going to also get bored reading it.

My working process is very sloppy: I go out to work, then I do some sports, I think about what I´m going to do, I return home, I write, I read, I do some editing… That´s an ideal working day, which means that my girlfriend doesn´t call me, that I don´t have to go to the supermarket, that I don´t have to clean the kitchen…

I also try to dedicate the same amount of time every day to reading than to writing, around two hours for each activity. I would love to have more time but I like to eat hot meals every day and, for that, one needs to work.

CJ: What does it mean to be a super-freak? In one of your previous answers you implied that to be a fantasy fan you also have to be a little freak…

JC: A friend of mine that writes comic books doesn´t call them “comics”. He prefers the name “sequential art”. I have another friend who dislikes the word “freak”. He believes it has negative connotations. He says, instead, “collector”.

I like to speak clearly. I consume fantasy products in multiple formats, from short movies to role games, from comic books to novels. I dedicate time to search for new stuff, even in other languages, I compare, and I read reviews. I spend lots of money to go to fantasy conventions and other meetings. I wear t-shirts with meta-lingual messages. I engage in absurd conversations in social media: I criticize what I dislike and I praise what I love. On top of all that, I have a creative side that forces me to rake my brain in order to write my own stories so, if I´m lucky, somebody can criticize them, love them or hate them, but essentially consume them. Sometimes I´m fortunate enough and a blog interviews me. You can call it being a “super-freak” or a “John X” but that it´s what I am. What we are: genre fans.

CJ: Why Lovecraft? What is it in his biography, his works, and his legacy that attracts so many authors and fans years after his death? Where do you think it started the myth associated to him?

JC: This is a very complicated topic. The question I keep on asking in my talks is: how is it possible to go from an unknown guy who died of pancreatic cancer at 47 and who almost nobody had heard of, to buy t-shirts with the message “Cthulhu for President” today?

I have discussed this matter in many conventions; exchange e-mails with people who talk in this documentary; read numerous biographies, articles and essays about Lovecraft and I don´t have a clear answer. I have ideas that point towards one direction, but not a definitive theory that explains everything. As I´ve discussed with my own editors even today, every story that includes a Lovecraftian element, gets high marks. Lovecraft was a master of reference. That is what started the mystery around the Necronomicon. His friend Howard succeeded in having other writers mentioning his works so simply it became a phenomenon too big to be ignored. The very first librarian in writing an index card of the Necronomicon didn´t know what kind of a monster was creating.

Reading The shop by Stephen King I realized that there is a scene in which one character gives cocaine to another one. When questioned about the origin of the drug, the first character answers: “It´s from Leng´s Plateau”. You see? The author just expanded his novel universe with something bigger than a simple paranormal story about neighbors’ envy. That´s the secret of Lovecraft´s success. It´s the reason why we all embrace the Myths: they rock! We can discuss endlessly about it, to make it sound more like “high literature” but, essentially, Lovecraft is cool. Cthulhu for president!

CJ: Without spoilers, what it is Los Nombres Muertos?

JC: Félix Palma defined it a little while ago in his blog: a frenetic story indebted to Moore in the way it unites an extraordinary league of writers in an adventure with many nods to their novels. There is nothing more to add, really. It´s the story of the misfortunes of three fantasy writers in a trip through three continents. The writers are Howard Phillips, Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long and Robert E. Howard. The continents are America, Europe and Asia. The reason for the trip is the Necronomicon. And that is as much as I can reveal. The rest, in October.

CJ: I´ve read El baile de los secretos and, to me, it´s clear that you need to experiment with language, deepen in the meaning, and join them together in powerful images. Your descriptions can become very dense in rhetoric figures. What would you say to those who criticize this way of writing?

JC: I would tell them: thanks for reading my stuff, I take your criticism into account and I hope to improve for the next book. I wouldn´t say that it was a need but a conscious choice, something that the story demanded. It was also demanded by my readings of Bradbury, Pennac, Palahniuk, Lovecraft, King, and Gaiman. My first novel helped me to know what to do and not to do, how far can I go, and what to avoid. I learnt with it. Let´s see what I learn with Los nombres muertos. Criticism is always welcome and, the more direct and constructive, the better.

CJ: Then Los nombres muertos, is it a speculative novel about traveling and literature?

JC: Once I read a very nice thought in César Mallorquí´s blog. It was a sort of message to his younger self, the writer who has something to tell to the world. The message said something like “Don´t bother, young one. The world doesn´t need you to come to tell it anything. It knows lots of things by itself. Be happy if you can tell a good story, the most honest one you can come up with.” I couldn´t agree more. I can´t tell you what is a speculative novel about traveling and literature. I´m nobody to speculate about anything. The idea behind Los nombres muertos is to recreate a certain style, a type of novel that I love to read, and to be able to get close to a character that fascinates me. And it´s about having fun writing it, nothing more.

It´s true that the story plays around with the codes of pulp literature, weird menaces and classical adventure novels. It is filled with nods to that period of time, to the characters and to Lovecraft´s legacy. But it´s like that because I enjoy those things. We don´t need to play the reference game if you don´t want to. You can seat in your couch and read it as an adventure novel about a time between the two World Wars.

In the first sentences, when I was plotting what would happen later, I spoke to my good friend Albo López. I told him: “I´m working on a novel in which the main character is Lovecraft, as if everything he wrote was real”. He rolled his eyes and said: “Wow. Be careful Jesús. That´s original!” I cursed his mother first but then I realized he was right: there are hundreds of Lovecraft pastiches. And I wanted to do something different. I was “somebody from the lot that didn´t want to be in the lot”, as Quino used to say. So I took another direction. Where? In October I will tell you.

CJ: What it is your opinion about fantasy in Spain?

JC: We love to say that everything is great and I´m the first to state it but, lately, I think this attitude is counter-productive. It´s like saying “at least I have a job” even though they are giving you 800 euros gross and you have to pay your own social security.

Fortunate or unfortunately, I live outside of my country, where there´s a lot of very active people. There is some of this in Spain too, but I feel fantasy is very close to resignation in our country. “At least, we have quality”. Sure… Bullshit! We should have more of it, and more promotion, and more print runs, and more readers. As long as people laughs at you when they know you are writing fantasy, the genre will not get better.

I´m going to speak louder: I want a Spaniard to be nominated to the Hugo Awards. That´s it! Sorry for Saladin Ahmed and Aliette de Bodard. Just now, it´s about us we have to feel sorry for. Despite all this, I refuse to say that the situation is bad. There are projects fighting hard to launch decent things. When I was little, in the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties, I used to go to Librería Jaime in Cádiz and they only had Dragonlance and Tolkien. We can argue about quality all you want, but you cannot deny that now there is variety. Why would it be bad? If you dislike zombies, don´t buy books about them, but don´t get angry if many people do. And don´t hate Albert Espinosa because he sells a lot. People who read Espinosa will vomit over the first page of your book. Sorry to break you the news!

There is ambition, and that shouldn´t be judged. There´s a lot of enthusiastic people. Sometimes, that feeling points towards arriving to the top of the sales chart before anybody else or before you. Santiago García-Clairac said to me that this was invigorating: a competitiveness that generates creativity. I totally agree with him.

To sum up, I believe fantasy in Spain is progressing but we need to continue saying that it´s going bad and it should improve. We are trying to push it together but we must continue to work in three fronts: authors, publishing companies and readers. How do you get good quality authors, publishing companies that bet on them and an audience that supports all of it? I don´t know… me, I just try to write the most honest stories I can.

CJ: How do you feel about new publishing methods like crowfunding, self-publishing and co-publishing?

JC: Chuck Wendig, a writer I love, says that you don´t have to place all eggs in the same basket. If you visit his web www.terribleminds.com you will notice he has crowfunded books, some self-published novels in Amazon and Kobo, novels published by Angry Robot and many other things. I respect that but I personally have a problem with those new models: I´m extremely lazy. Wendig has to wake up, write for three hours and, after that, he has to spend all day in Twitter, Facebook and God knows where to promote himself. I don´t like that or, I should rephrase this statement: It´s not so much that I dislike it, it´s that I´m lazy to do it. Call me sluggish but I´m not lying to anybody: I like to be taking care of, to be pampered, to have somebody doing the layout of the book for me, and to correct the grammar and call the blogs to get reviews done. 

In the mean time, I work to eat and write to live. What can I do? I don´t want to learn how to lay out a book, I feel more like improving my writing. Some time ago I share a panel about self-publishing with Fernando Trujillo and I thought he was a jerk: an anti-writer. He tries to invent ways to sell his books in Amazon changing the cover, changing the synopsis, adding I don´t know what and subtracting I don´t know what else. I´m really sorry, but I´m incapable of respecting this way of working, because I feel it´s the antithesis of what a writer must do.

Toni Hill, a smart guy, told me once a big truth: “Where in hell has anybody seen a writer trying to sell his book? That´s the publishing company´s work. Writers, do write.”  You can tell me that things are changing and intermediaries have been removed… we can talk about how good or bad publishing companies treat authors… I agree with you but, as I said, I´m lazy and I prefer to get everything done by someone else.

CJ: Lately many people in the social media speak about the big or small influence of fandom in the editorial market (I say “market” because the effect of fandom only seems to count when talking about sales). What do you think about fandom in Spain?

JC: There are so many fandoms, that I don´t know where to start. Which one should I speak about? The one that becomes crazy about any book their friend´s publishing company launches? The really old ones, which say that everything was better before and all it´s published now is shit? Fandom by the girls who read fantasy and also Blue Jeans but they don´t know Salto de Página? The fandom by El Fantascopio? The people who go to Semana Negra of Gijón and don´t feel like going to any other meeting because they believe the rest is shit? All of the above have coincidental points and irreconcilable ones.

In the end, we are all fandom, everybody has a group of authors that he or she follows and believes that the rest is bullshit. Quoting Albert Einstein: “Fantastic literature is what my balls say it is”. I´m not really sure Einstein said it, but let´s accept he did.

I don´t know in which blogs you have read those conversations about the influence of specialized critics in sales, and with this statement I think I answer your question. Don´t get offended but, in El Fantascopio, there are only comments of the same five people. Ok… maybe you are eight. But eight readers that read among themselves don´t save a print run, not even half of it… I admit I may be wrong, but until you don’t show me a sales chart where I can see that influence of specialized critics, I would not buy it.

CJ: I don’t ask you to predict the future but, in your opinion, where is fantasy going?

JC: This is related somehow to the previous question: fragmentation. Maybe Salto de Página will continue having diehard fans; Blue Jeans also, and in thirty years from now you will continue discussing in El Fantascopio about which are the best five science fiction novels of the last thirty years. Maybe no. Perhaps my children will grow up believing that fantasy is a genre like any other. If I could ask for one thing, I would like to continue writing. If I cannot, there is something I need even more: to keep reading fantasy.

CJ: This is the moment in which we finish up with a round of quick questions that require also quick answers. Star Wars or Star Trek?

JC: Star Wars, no doubt. Star Trek arrived late to my life and it never thrilled me like the former.

CJ: Fast food or home made food?

JC: Home made and, if you let me cook, even better.

CJ: If you had to choose to be a character from a movie, which one would it be?

JC: The starring role of a decent adaptation of Lovecraft.

CJ: Can you tell as the worst book you ever read?

JC: I can tell you that I don´t connect with anything written by Juan Manuel de Prada. Does this work for you?

CJ: And the best book you ever read?

JC: It´s still to come.

CJ: Which type of music you like to listen?

JC: In order to write, I like film soundtracks, background music and progressive rock. Balkan music and ska, to dance. To savor it, ethnic or African music, Hebrew music and Flamenco…

CJ: 3D cinema, yes or not?

JC: No. Films, better in Avenida Cinema in Cádiz, that old one with a red carpet and uncomfortable seats.

CJ: If you had to choose to have a super-power, which one would it be?

JC: It´s not a super-power but I would like to be able to read entire books in five minutes, like that American editor, whose name I don´t want to remember.

About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.

miércoles, 27 de noviembre de 2013

Novedad: Dos colecciones de relatos de Peter Watts

Hoy se pone a la venta un nuevo título de la editorial Fata Libelli. Se trata de Ad Astra, una colección de relatos de Peter Watts que contiene las siguientes historias:

  • Malak
  • Un nicho
  • La isla
  • Las cosas
  • El plato fuerte

Podéis leer un extracto del libro y un artículo sobre la traducción (a cargo de Manuel de los Reyes) en la web de la editorial.

Además, para los que se atreven con el inglés, hace unos días fue publicada otra colección de relatos del autor canadiense: Beyond the Rift. Este volumen incluye los siguientes cuentos:

  • "The Things" 
  • "The Island" 
  • "The Second Coming of Jasmine Fitzgerald" 
  • "A Word for Heathens" 
  • "Home" 
  • "The Eyes of God" 
  • "Flesh Made Word" 
  • "Nimbus" 
  • "Mayfly" (with Derryl Murphy) 
  • "Ambassador" 
  • "Hillcrest vs. Velikovsky" 
  • "Repeating the Past" 
  • "A Niche" 
  • "Outtro: En Route to Dystopia with the Angry Optimist" 

martes, 26 de noviembre de 2013

Dos ebooks gratuitos de Nancy Fulda

En estos momentos se pueden descargar gratuitamente en Kobo dos ebooks de Nancy Fulda. Los títulos y sus sinopsis son los siguientes:

This omnibus brings together three stories by Hugo and Nebula nominee Nancy Fulda. 
Kitjaya is a solo mind, bereft of telepathic communication with her sib-group and isolated from the only deity her species has ever known. Prophecy foretells that Kitjaya will protect her kin from a malevolent destroyer, but as the day of reckoning approaches, she finds herself unwilling to play out the role demanded of her by society. 
Sacia's fellow AI's have eradicated all humans from their colony world. A second wave of colonists will soon arrive. Unless Sacia can find a way to smooth the conflict between man and machine, every one of those humans will die. 
A mysterious presence stalks the hallways of the Sky-King's palace, stealing dreams and condemning the king's dancers to a living death. As the last living bearer of the Gift in the palace, the task of unraveling this mystery falls to young Aesva. But she is young; inexperienced; and the woman most able to assist her has already died.
This novelette was a 2011 Jim Baen Memorial Award Winner. It can be read from start to finish in about two hours. 
Norma Jean Goodwyn is 120 years old and the founder of a most unusual space station. She and her peers -- healthy, vibrant, yet forced into retirement by bureaucratic policies that haven't kept up with medical advances -- built the Gary Hudson Exospheric Laboratory as a haven for senior citizens who refused to grow idle in their old age. 
Now, political opponents are angling to take control of Hudson Exospheric, and Norma Jean won't have it. Over her dead body, or otherwise.

Novedad: The End of the Road, antología editada por Jonathan Oliver

Hoy se pone a la venta The End of the Road, una antología editada por Jonathan Oliver que incluye historias originales de autores tan interesantes como Lavie Tidhar, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Vandana Singh o Zen Cho

Ésta es la tabla de contenidos completa:

  • We Know Where We're Goin' - Philip Reeve
  • Fade to Gold - Benjanun Sriduangkaew
  • Without a Hitch - Ian Whates
  • Balik Kampung (Going Back) - Zen Cho
  • Driver Error - Paul Meloy
  • Locusts - Lavie Tidhar
  • The Track - Jay Caselberg
  • Dagiti Timayap Garda (of the Flying Guardians) - Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
  • I'm The Lady of Good Times, She Said - Helen Marshall
  • The Widow - Rio Youers
  • The Cure - Anil Menon
  • Through Wylmere Woods - Sophia McDougall
  • Bingo - S.L. Grey
  • Peripateia - Vandana Singh
  • Always in our Hearts - Adam Nevill

lunes, 25 de noviembre de 2013

Ancillary Justice, de Ann Leckie

Banda sonora de la reseña: Sugiero leer esta reseña escuchando Lagan de Afro Celt Sound System (Spotify, Youtube).

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.
(Song of Myself, Walt Whitman)

Escuché por primera la cita de Walt Whitman que abre esta reseña en una charla de Rodolfo Martínez en una Semana Negra de hace ya unos cuantos años. Pero leyendo Ancillary Justice de Ann Leckie ha sido imposible no acordarme de ella puesto que creo que resume perfectamente gran parte de la temática de la novela.

El personaje principal de esta historia es Justice of Toren o, más bien, lo que queda de esta nave que una vez tuvo multitud de cuerpos humanos "auxiliares" (ancillaries) y que ahora, por circunstancias que se van desvelando según avanza la trama, ha quedado reducida a sólo uno de ellos. Este fragmento de la nave es el narrador en primera persona de la historia, lo que hace la novela se salga bastante de lo convencional. No porque la idea de tener grandes naves como protagonistas principales sea particularmente original en la ciencia ficción (sin pensar demasiado se me ocurren otros ejemplos como Efímeras de Kevin O'Donell, "Mother Ship" de Caroline M. Yoachim o, por supuesto, muchas de las novelas de La Cultura de Banks) sino por las decisiones estructurales, formales y narrativas que Leckie toma a raíz de ello. 

En primer lugar, el detalle que más llama la atención (aunque no me parece, ni mucho menos, el más relevante) es que la nave no hace distinción con el género de los humanos. En su lenguaje principal el pronombre de tercera persona no tiene formas diferenciadas para hombres y mujeres, con lo que esto no resulta especialmente problemático. Sin embargo, el libro está escrito en inglés, por lo que Leckie toma la decisión de usar "she" como pronombre genérico para todos los casos. Aunque esta opción no ha convencido a todos los lectores, a mí me ha parecido un acierto rotundo. No sólo por los motivos que apunta la propia autora en un interesantísimo artículo sobre el tema, sino por la extraordinaria coherencia con la que lo maneja a lo largo de toda la novela (incluso aunque hay partes en las que hay varios lenguajes distintos involucrados), por el sentimiento de extrañeza, ambigüedad e indiferencia que comunica con ello y hasta por la curiosa ironía que resulta de que "she" sea precisamente el pronombre genérico que se usa en inglés para hablar de las naves.

Más interesante aún me parece el modo en que la autora consigue reflejar el sentido de multiplicidad de la nave cuando aún poseía sus ancillaries. En los capítulos ambientados antes de la destrucción de la nave, que se alternan con los que transcurren en el presente, Leckie superpone en muchos momentos pequeños párrafos con las percepciones simultáneas de varios cuerpos distintos de Justice of Toren, creando un efecto tan curioso como efectivo. Lo más interesante es que, pese a la potencial confusión que se podría derivar de esta técnica, en ningún momento me he sentido desbordado por la información. Más bien al contrario. 

Sobre esto he de apuntar que Ancillary Justice no es una lectura sencilla. Es necesario, muchas veces, releer algunas páginas porque hay muchos detalles importantes que pueden pasar desapercibidos. Pero todas las claves están ahí y quedan meridianamente claras con la relectura, algo que no me suele suceder con otros libros. De nuevo, parece que la opinión de otros lectores es opuesta a la mía, pero mi experiencia ha sido francamente satisfactoria en ese sentido. 

Otro apartado destacable es el notable conjunto de influencias que se dejan notar en la novela. Obviamente, el tratamiento del género es deudor de La mano izquierda de la oscuridad de Le Guin y las naves homenajean claramente, como mencionaba más arriba, a la obra de Iain M. Banks. Pero, como más tarde puede comprobar que la propia Leckie admitía, al avanzar en la lectura Ancillary Justice me iba acordando más y más de C.J. Cherryh. No sólo porque el nombre de una de las razas alienígenas sea Rrrrrr y por el uso del concepto de "reeducación", sino por la importancia fundamental en toda la trama de la política, de las conspiraciones y de los secretos. No quiere esto decir que en la novela no haya escenas de acción (que las hay, y muy buenas), sino que el foco principal está centrado en otra parte. Así la reflexión sobre el poder, la civilización, el colonialismo y otros temas relacionados ocupa el grueso de la novela.  

Sin embargo, a diferencia de Cherryh, Leckie introduce también una parte más filosófica, más intelectual, más cerebral. Destacan en este sentido las implicaciones sobre la identidad y sobre el libre albedrío que se derivan de la multiplicidad de algunos de los personajes de la novela:
Or is anyone's identity a matter of fragments held together by convenient or useful narrative, that in ordinary cirmcunstances never reveals itself as a fiction? Or is it really a fiction?
Es este quizá un tema secundario respecto a otros, pero que se integra perfectamente en la trama y es, de hecho, fundamental en ella. Es más, la autora hasta se permite tomarlo en algunos momentos con mucho sentido del humor:
"In that case," I said, "go fuck yourself." Which she could actually, literally do, in fact.
La novela, pese a todas sus virtudes, está lejos de ser perfecta y presenta varios problemas evidentes. La trama tiene algunos agujeros que no se intentan resolver en ningún momento y depende demasiado de ciertas casualidades (por mucho que la creencia de los personajes implique que las casualidades no existen), además de desembocar en un final demasiado buenrollista quizá con el objeto de hacer posibles unas continuaciones en una historia que, por lo demás, quedaba razonablemente bien cerrada. La exposición, por otra parte, se apoya a veces demasiado en los diálogos (un poco al estilo de Cherryh) y el ritmo es un tanto desigual, especialmente por la diferencia que existe al principio del libro entre los capítulos del presente y los del pasado.

En cualquier caso, Ancillary Justice es un libro que me ha conquistado totalmente y al que le perdono esos fallos porque es precisamente el tipo de novela que me encanta leer y que no es tan frecuente como me gustaría: inteligente, ambiciosa, thought-provoking que dirían los ingleses. Y, más aún, perfectamente anclada en en la tradición de (y en diálogo con) la ciencia ficción. No es un libro para todos los públicos y entiendo que muchos opinen que las virtudes que apunto aquí no llegan a redimir sus defectos, pero para mí es, sin duda, uno de los libros del año. No creo arriesgar mucho al apostar por Ancillary Justice como una de las obras que veremos nominadas en la temporada de premios del año que viene. Yo, desde luego, pienso votar por ella y espero con ganas que llegue octubre para comprar y leer Ancillary Sword.

Nota: He tenido la suerte de compartir esta lectura con mis dos buenos amigos Josep María Oriol y Miquel Codony, lo que ha añadido una dimensión extra de disfrute a la experiencia. Os recomiendo leer sus impresiones (que son algo menos entusiastas que la mía y, seguramente, bastante más acertadas) en Voracilector y La Biblioteca de Ilium, respectivamente. 

domingo, 24 de noviembre de 2013

Novedad en Fantascy: La sacerdotisa blanca, de Trudi Canavan

Además de Terra Nova 2, esta semana Fantascy ha publicado otra novedad: La sacerdotisa blanca, de Trudi Canavan, el primer libro de la trilogía de La era de los cinco dioses. La novela tiene 688 páginas y cuesta 20,90€ en papel y 9,99€ en formato digital.

Ésta es su sinopsis:
Magia y aventuras, guerra y amor, en el inicio de una saga fantástica que nos sumerge en un nuevo e intrigante universo. 
Cuando Auraya fue elegida sacerdotisa, nunca imaginó que apenas una década después se convertiría en una de los Blancos, los representantes más poderosos de los dioses. 
Desgraciadamente, Auraya goza de poco tiempo para acostumbrarse a los excepcionales poderes mágicos que le otorgan esas divinidades. Unos misteriosos hechiceros vestidos de negro han llegado desde el sur y acosan a los suyos; corren rumores de que se está levantando un ejército para desafiar a los Blancos. Auraya y sus nuevos compañeros tendrán que trabajar incansablemente para sellar alianzas y para unir los pueblos del continente del norte bajo un mismo estandarte. 
Se avecinan tiempos de guerra, y si Auraya no logra dominar sus nuevas dotes mágicas a tiempo, ni el apoyo de los dioses será suficiente para salvarlos.

sábado, 23 de noviembre de 2013

Novedad en Sportula: Detective, de Rodolfo Martínez

Sportula ha publicado Detective, una novela corta de Rodolfo Martínez protagonizada por Yáxtor Brandon y situada antes de los acontecimientos de El adepto de la reina. El libro tiene 88 páginas y cuesta 2,68€ en formato digital sin DRM. Ésta es su sinopsis:
A sus dieciséis años, Yáxtor Brandan es un joven adepto empírico que realiza sus prácticas en los archivos, observado atentamente por la mirada de Shércroft, jefe de los mismos. Poco puede suponer el joven que su relación con el anciano adepto lo llevará a meterse de cabeza en una intriga política que puede costarles la vida ambos. 
De nuevo Rodolfo Martínez nos presenta una historia anterior a El adepto de la reina. Detective es una novela corta en la que, poco a poco, Yáxtor Brandan va transformándose en el personaje implacable que conocemos y en la que, además, la relación con la que será su futura esposa da sus primeros pasos. A caballo entre la intriga política y el relato policiaco, Detective nos muestra un Yáxtor buscando su lugar en el mundo y encontrándolo donde quizá menos lo espera. 

viernes, 22 de noviembre de 2013

Free Ebook: A Vintage from Atlantis, by Clark Ashton Smith

As of now, A Vintage from Atlantis, a collection of stories by Clark Ashton Smith, is free to download at Amazon (USES). Be careful, there are two different editions of the book and only one of them seems to be free.

These are the contents of the book:

  • Introduction by Michael Dirda
  • A Note on the Texts
  • The Holiness of Azedarac
  • The Maker of Gargoyles
  • Beyond the Singing Flame
  • Seedling of Mars
  • The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
  • The Eternal World
  • The Demon of the Flower
  • The Nameless Offspring
  • A Vintage from Atlantis
  • The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan
  • The Invisible City
  • The Immortals of Mercury
  • The Empire of the Necromancers
  • The Seed from the Sepulcher
  • The Second Internment
  • Ubbo-Sathla
  • The Double Shadow
  • The Plutonian Drug
  • The Supernumerary Corpse
  • The Master of the Asteroid
  • The Colossus of Ylourgne

Cristina Jurado interviews Susana Arroyo and Silvia Schettin from Fata Libelli

Fata Libelli is a young, Spanish publisher of genre e-books. So far, they have released Sui Generis (which includes weird stories by Quentin S. Crisp, Reggie Oliver and Mark Samuels) and Hic Sunt Dracones, a collection of stories by Tim Pratt (which I reviewed in Spanish a few weeks back). Their next ebook is Ad Astra, another single-author collection, this time with stories by Peter Watts. Here at Sense of Wonder we are huge fans of this publisher, so it is an enormous pleasure to have our favorite collaborator, Cristina Jurado, interviewing Susana Arroyo and Silvia Schettin, the girls behind Fata Libelli. You can read the original, Spanish version of this interview on Cristina's blog, Más ficción que ciencia.   

Cristina: How did you two meet?

Silvia: I met Susana eight years ago, thanks to a common group of friends. It may sound nerdy, but it wasn´t really this group of role players who made us bond (we only played together once) but the fact that we were both Philology students, interested in the Theory of Literature. There was a time when we used to meet with other friends on Friday nights to talk about the questions on our exams. Wild nights for Philology students, but not what you expect!

Susana: I would say it was, eight years ago? Thanks to common friends who used to play role games. We studied Philology and loved to talk about Theory of Literature, so we quickly became friends. The idea of start a business together was born years later, and I can say it took as both by surprise.

C: A publishing company isn´t something one can start overnight. It comes with an intense research in several domains: from the state of the art of current publishing industry, to the laws about intellectual property and copyrights, as well as financial and logistics advise. How did you create it?

Susana: The birth of the company was long and tedious. We have been both working in translation and publishing, but had no idea how to start our own company. First, we went through the legal formalities (all the paperwork to establish the partnership, registration in different official agencies, learning about tax issues, etc.) Then, we contacted legal advisors to understand in detail all topics related to intellectual property and data protection (in order to sell in Internet, and to send newsletters, one has to guarantee the users´ privacy). Next we had to hire tax advisers to help us with things like contracts, payments abroad, taxation and sales tax management (the unfair 21% of sales-tax for e-books). Everything related to finances and logistics was easier, because e-books don´t need much of an initial investment, and they don´t need to be stored or distributed physically. We´ve invested quite a lot of time in deciding the design of the books, trying to make them recognizable and charismatic. I think it took us one year to give birth to Fata Libelli and, even today, it demands a lot to eat.

C: You also publish a blog in which you address topics related to fantasy literature. What do you think about Spain´s fantasy landscape?

Silvia: We started the blog because we wanted to write about fantasy literature from a theoretical perspective, but without being dense and brainy. We felt like exploring the genre using the essay form -that possesses us sometimes- with a platonic enthusiasm (See? This is all a bit crazy…). The issue of the state of the genre in Spain is one of those inevitable questions that had been answered in many ways: a lot has been written about the lack of a solid tradition –like in the Anglo Saxon market-; the shortage of serious publishing companies; the fact that ours is a market niche with few writers and less readers… In any case, it seems that in our days, fantasy is fashionable, although this is irrelevant because fashion trends are temporary. The important thing is what it remains when those trends leave: a fertile breeding ground in which many new ideas, styles and genres can grow.

C: Is there any other publishing company that serves you as a model?

Susana: We deeply admire the Canadian ChiZine. They publish books of great literary quality, offering carefully design products, working equally well with paper books and e-books, and having been able to grow slowly but surely. We also like Angry Robot because of its ability to involve readers, and the courage they show when experimenting with new ideas. There are other publishing companies we admire because they bet on unconventional books, and because they win their readers over, like Chômu Press, Tartarus Press, Small Beer Press and, of course, the fantastic Valdemar in Spain.

C: The name Fata Libelli” comes from a text by Latin Grammar author Terentianus Maurus (II century). Each of the books you publish has a Latin tittle. Is this a trick of mind domination that you perpetrate by using estrange spells in classical languages?

Silvia: As you can imagine I´m not going to reveal our master plan in order for everybody to read it. So, I´m not going to answer this question neither in a negative or affirmative way, but rather in an opposite way.

C: It is rather a cliché to ask an editor about preferred readings, fetish authors, and favorite genres… Through the works that you publish in Fata Libelli one can grasp the answer to those questions. I´m interested in discovering something new, less obvious. What kind of literature do you avoid? (You can uses as many examples as you wish)

Susana: I don´t avoid any genre or literary form, but it´s true that best sellers –forged every season in the publishing world´s sweatshops- don´t interest me much. If a book is well written, any theme, plot or genre can be appealing, and time would not make its interest fade away, contrary with what occurs with fashion-dictated best sellers.

Silvia: I never avoid any kind of literature, exception made with anything that has to do with Coelho. Of course, I have my favorites in literature. What I can tell you, even though poorly -I´m afraid- is what attracts me from books. There are readers that get frustrated with short stories or the briefest formats because they always want to know more: what happens to a character when the story ends, if he or she will have kids, if the marriage will work, why he or she acts the way the story tells… I´m the opposite: I love the uncertain sensation of having more questions than answers, to peek into the depths of a world or a character, about whom not everything is being explained. I like mystery in short stories and novels, regardless of the genre.

C: Which profession, different than the actual, do you think your work-partner would most likely attempt?

Silvia: Susana is someone with so much talent, so intelligent and with an enormous capacity to organize tasks; she could work in a thousand professions if she put her mind into it. And, all of them, at the same time! Even then, she would have time to do more things in her spare time. Selfishly, I´m extremely happy that publishing has recovered her from the perils of an academic life. Otherwise she would have embarked in a wonderful venture combining literature and the digital world. I can´t imagine her doing anything else, because I believe she was born for this.

Susana: If Silvia wasn´t a translator, I guess I could imagine her managing a vegetarian restaurant located in a remote village in Galicia, lost in the heart of a mountain. That version of Silvia would take care of a dozen pets, while listening to heavy metal and cooking recipes involving seitan and tofu.

C: Is there a “perfect book” that you dream to publish?

Silvia: I don´t know if exists such a thing but, at the moment, I´m happy to see how this project is coming about, slowly but surely. My emotions at this very moment don´t allow me to think about the future (I just say “Azathoth, Azathoth, let us live through this, so we can continue publishing books”). Naturally in the solitude of my cave, I have crazy ideas, some unfeasible, others maybe not so much. Lately, for example, I´m very interested in bilingual editions. As I said before, I´m so busy at the moment and so excited about the every day tasks of my job that dreams don´t keep me awake. The good thing about digital publishing is that it´s a rookie, and its possibilities are still been explored, so I hope we can continue experimenting as advances come along.

Susana: I don´t believe in the “perfect book”. But I have faith in e-books standards evolving to a point in which they will allow more complex and enriched reading experiences. Today, conventional e-books are merely code lines, with some embedded styles and maybe some multimedia resources. I´m convinced that, in a few years, we´ll be able to produce more beautiful and rich commercial e-books that will work well in any device.

C: In Fata Libelli´s blog you have published a very interesting entry on the Weird, an unfamiliar genre in our country. I would like to know more about your personal opinion regarding this type of literature: how did you encounter it; what attracted you in the first place; which authors do you follow and why; and what interests you from the recognizable and yet bizarre mix of references that the genre proposes.

Silvia: I´m not sure if it´s really unfamiliar, or it´s just that people don´t associate it with the name. Lovecraft is very well known, and it was him who coined the term and set the parameters. It doesn´t really matter. Labels are an interesting intellectual exercise, even fun, but what it´s important is for people to read Weird stories. In my case I must confess a weakness for horror, the ugly sister of the fantastic three: ugly in sales, in readers and in reputation. When I was little I read lots of adventure books but, when I discovered horror, I devoured everything I could find, from the classics to Gothic novels, contemporary horror and, of course, anything published by Valdemar. I also waited Sunday nights to listen to a radio broadcast called “Historias”. Gothic novels are all right but they present wear-out formulas (that´s why they are subjects to parody). I read M.R. James, but I remember his short stories in a different light. Poe blew me away. From there, I tried to read more stories in the same style, from Le Fanu to E. F. Benson or Vernon Lee. My answer is nostalgic but also honest. Not always it can be rationalized what one likes, and I´m afraid of rationalizing too much my own taste. I don´t want it to become an unconsciously cooked invention to please the reader. I like, as I already said, a certain subtle estrangement, a bit sinister and disturbed (or maybe revealing?), that the already mentioned authors uncover in between the lines of reality.

C: It´s well know my weakness for a certain author of Weird, multi-tattooed, voluntarily bald, with a PhD in International Relations an a very special talent, responsible of making me pinch myself every time I read his stories so I have to ask myself, am I dreaming? Jokes aside, I would like you to tell –nobody listens- your meeting with Him. During the interview, what did surprise you about him?

Silvia: You know we share that weakness… with half the cyberspace! I remember a video in which he was nicknamed “sexy beast”. It´s funny when I meet someone who likes reading, but doesn´t specifically read fantasy, and has never hear about Miéville, even if it has been numerous times in the pages of The Guardian. I think, “it´s our secret!”

I asked him if I could interviewed him by e-mail, so I could write a post for my personal blog, because I feel comfortable writing and talking and because I never envisioned other ways of interaction. He didn't accept any more written interviews because they take too much time away from him, but he was open to other options. On the spur of the moment I asked him if we could meet when I visited London. He told me he felt flattered and I explained that I was planning a quick trip to London with my boyfriend. I thought mentioning my boyfriend would make him feel at ease about my intentions. Anyhow, the rendezvous was in a public coffee shop because, who knows the intentions of my boyfriend. You never know!

I was surprised to see in him gestures of Jack Sparrow. I thought he was really fun. And he is very tall. I wanted to touch his biceps but I don´t think it could have been appropriate. Nothing else shocked me much: I´ve seen many of his interviews, and he always behaves in such a gentlemanly way, that I wasn´t surprised at all. Our meeting was an hour long, only. There was envy from my part, because I really envy people who speak eloquently in public, and anybody who has seen him in an interview knows that China is like that. In addition, talking in a language that it´s not my native language makes me look a bit silly. Simply talking to people makes me look silly, so all that accumulation of silliness could have stained his imagine of Spanish fans. The good news is that he loves to talk, and so it´s not necessary for you to speak too much: if you frown like a Russian thinker, it appears that you understand everything and you even look very intelligent.

It´s clear to me that he is an extremely cerebral writer, who has a distinct idea of what he wants to do and how: that it´s revealed in every of his thoughts about literature. But he is not intelligent in a cold way: he exudes charisma. I loved the fact that he has an Android as a cell phone. “Good, China, good”, I said to myself. I left that interview with a master plan to become buddies with him, but I´m afraid, it didn’t work.

C: Why in Spain there are less female voices in fantasy, especially in science fiction and terror?

Silvia: I sincerely don´t know if I´m capable of answering this clearly, but I will try to give my opinion. There have been numerous comments about it: some say it´s a question of numbers, because there are not many authors, so there are less female writers; some other say that there is not a lot of people writing fantasy, much less women, because we don´t have the tradition of Anglo Saxon countries; there is people who defend that there is less women interested in science fiction and horror than men, and then they copy and paste a biological explanation about it; others say that it´s a club of proud males; some state that women are pushed to write fantasy because it´s what they are good at, and that not many would buy a science fiction book written by a female author. I´ve heard that there are women doing things in the genre but the promotion is almost non-existent to prevent people from break away. I've also heard that female characters in fantasy literature are so pitiful that nobody can feel the necessary empathy to get hooked, and I´m not even going to attempt to answer those who try to define the genre. I honestly don´t know. Maybe the best answer is a mix of all that and more things that escape my reasoning.

Nevertheless, the same thing happened with the statement that “no girls play game roles” and now the number of women in conventions is higher than years ago. I´m not comparing both things but taking into account that fantasy imaginary is everywhere -specially in audiovisual media-, the seed is been planted to see the rise of more female writers. They also need publishing companies publishing and promoting them as genre authors.

Susana: Fortunately in my working experience I´ve never encounter an editor like that, but I´m afraid that type-casting is more common in the Anglo Saxon publishing industry, where there are commercial subgenres with gender defined audiences (I´m thinking "chick lit") and where companies take those things into account when hiring authors. J. K. Rowling is the best example of an author who had to hide her name at the request of the publishing company. Tim Pratt has also published novels as T. A. Pratt because his editors told him that urban fantasy novels with a female character would not sell, if a male author wrote it.

This year in Fata Libelli has published more male than female writers, but next year will be the opposite. We didn´t plan it, we just look for authors that interest us without taking into account their gender. In any case, it looks like the number of female readers is growing every day in Spain, so the landscape will probably change in the next few years.

C: We see lately many moves in fantasy collections, from the take over of RBA Fantástica by RBA, what is happening with Timún Mas… how do you see the future of the industry (not the literature) in our country at a short-medium term?

Susana: I think the future will depend on the patience of those companies and their short-term profit expectations. This genre is, by definition, a niche-oriented one, and everybody is waiting to see how it becomes mainstream in the next few years, juts like it has happened with detective or erotic novels, thanks to a handful of best-sellers. We are clear on the fact that e-books and crowdfunding will allow the arrival of many indie projects, oriented towards small genres. This is a kind of publishing that, even though it will never be profitable on a massive scale, it will allow many minority texts to see the light. The next few years are going to be really interesting for the industry, not only for the more commercial projects but also for the more independent ones.

C: High sales tax in e-books (21% in Spain), how does affect profitability in a venture like Fata Libelli?

Susana: If the sales tax in e-books hinders already profitability of any traditional publishing company, in the case of digital businesses is a basic problem. To be forced to pay 21% in taxes marginalizes e-books, compared with paper ones (as if e-books were not cultural objects), increases the price and leaves editors and the Spanish bookshops unprotected, facing companies who pay taxes in other countries (Amazon is the best known example). We hope that, in the short term, this situation will change, and e-books achieve the same status as the paper ones.

C: What are you immediate projects?

Silvia: As you know, Peter Watts´s book is about to come out, and also the Christmas special. We have announced a short Lovecraftian anthology for next February with Caitlin Kiernan, Laird Barron and Elizabeth Bear. In April we will publish a collection of short stories by Reggie Oliver, for whom we care a lot because of his kindness, craftsmanship and dedication to this genre, so particular and special. After, although we don´t have confirmed dates, we will publish two collections of short stories: one by Elizabeth Bear and another by Nina Allan. All this is what I can confirm (we have to sign agreements in order to tell more), but we still “scout” around a lot. We would love to publish more hard science fiction, but our search is been difficult. In the future we will like to work with longer formats, even though we still believe in short stories and novellas as a special part of our company. That is not going to change. More plans require more investments; so whatever we can do in the future will depend on the success of the company. We are patient, knowing that this is a long-term project. Despite all, we are hopeful. Our fetish publishing company ChiZine said in the last WorldCon that this is the first year in which they can work with the certainty that they will no close. We shall endure!

About Cristina Jurado: Cristina Jurado Marcos writes the sci-fi blog Más ficción que ciencia. Having a degree in Advertising and Public Relations by Universidad de Seville and a Masters in Rhetoric by Northwestern University (USA), she currently studies Philosophy for fun. She considers herself a globetrotter after living in Edinburgh, Chicago, Paris or Dubai. Her short stories have appeared in several sci-fi online magazines and anthologies. Her first novel From Orange to Blue was published in 2012.