Ann Leckie has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, a lunch lady, and a recording engineer. The author of many published short stories, and secretary of the Science Fiction Writers of America, she lives in St. Louis, Missouri, with her husband, children, and cats.
What does it mean to be human? It’s a really difficult question to answer, and one that science fiction and fantasy are particularly well-suited to tackling. Not that there’s ever been any sort of simple answer even (especially?) through fiction, but SF&F can present us with a range of characters that test the boundaries of what it means to be a person, and what that might imply about what it means to be human.
Androids and artificial intelligences are a favorite vehicle for this sort of exploration. If you build a machine that looks or acts just like a person, what’s the difference? Is there one? Is that difference important? Why? It was a question I was going to have to consider, a question that was, in some ways, going to be crucial to my novel, Ancillary Justice.
The narrator of Ancillary Justice is the troop carrier Justice of Toren. And also a unit of twenty bodies slaved to Justice of Toren, the ancillary unit Justice of Toren One Esk. My narrator is an artificial intelligence that’s also made up of human bodies. What sort of being is this?
It’s been awhile since we last had a contest and the folks at Orbit have given us the chance top rectify that by providing us with an autographed copy of Ann Leckie’s debut novel Ancillary Justice to give away to one lucky winner. You’ve likely already heard about this one. It was just released yesterday in the US and UK and has been making the rounds all over the blogosphere with much fanfare. This one looks a winner, folks, and I was sorely tempted to keep it for myself. This is another re-tweet this tweet, share on Facebook or post in the comments below contest so you know what to do. We’ll run this ’till next Wednesday when we’ll announce our winner.
In addition to the contest we’ll be featuring an author interview and a guest post from Ann Leckie herself later this week so stay tuned for those.
JUSTICE WILL COME TO THE EMPIRE
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.
One of the motivating factors behind the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction Reading Challenge was a desire on our part to improve our author gender balance on the site. We built WWEnd around the big awards so we could get the most familiar books and authors into our database first. While that was a solid strategy to get the ball rolling one of the unfortunate results was a real lack of women authors going in. When we expanded to cover the “best of” lists like the SF Mistressworks we started getting more and more women into the site but it still didn’t do enough to right the ship.
The WoGF Reading Challenge is our concerted effort to do something positive to address the issue here and perhaps out in the community at large. From the outset we set ourselves the goal of adding at least 100 new women authors to the site over the course of the year and we’re happy to announce that we’ve reached our goal already.
Better than 80% of these authors are the result of member requests. We asked you who you wanted to see and you responded with well over 100 author requests in the first couple weeks (with more being requested all the time) and we’ve been plugging away at that list ever since. The other 20% are the result of new awards and lists we’ve added to the site. The Mythopoeic Award in particular was a big contributor.
We’ve still got a long way to go in our quest for gender balance but this is nice milestone for everyone involved in the challenge. Thank you all for your support of the WoGF!
So, what do you do when you reach a milestone? You set out towards the next, of course! I think we can reach 150 for sure so let’s move the marker out to 175 to make things interesting. So many more authors, so little time. Wish us luck!
Saladin Ahmed is a poet, as well as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, and he maintains a website. While he has a quantity of public short fiction and poetry, Throne of the Crescent Moon is his first novel. Out of his short fiction, he was twice nominated for the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer for ”Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela”, which was also nominated for a Nebula Award (and is available online).
Ahmed’s first novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, is a sword and sorcery tale set in an Arabic world, featuring a power struggle around the titular throne. While magic is pretty common in the capital city of Dhamsawaat, the townsfolk are more concerned with the corrupt Khalif and rebellious Falcon Prince than any possible threat from ghuls or djenn. As a result, professional ghul hunting has become a largely thankless task, though the elderly, messy, curmudgeonly hunter Adoulla Makhslood still risks life and limb to protect people from the occasional ghul.
This is the second in our Ask an Author Anything interview series and this time we have multiple Hugo nominated author Seanan McGuire (AKA Mira Grant). The way it works, as you may recall from our first post, is that we get questions from our members and visitors who then vote on their own questions. We take the most popular questions asked and send them off to the author.
We arranged this interview through Seanan’s, or perhaps I should say Mira Grant’s, publicist at Orbit who again has sent along some books for us to give away. Check out the details at the end of the interview for your chance to win! In addition to this interview Seanan did a guest blog post with us where she tried mightily to gross us out about parasites the subject of her newest book as Mira Grant, Parasite, coming out from Orbit at the end of October. You don’t want to miss that post… or maybe you do. Now, on to the interview!
WWEnd: Your Newsflesh series have received nominations for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and Shirley Jackson awards. You don’t normally see that combination of awards given for the same book. Which nomination meant the most to you personally?
SMG: The Hugo, definitely. The Philip K. Dick and Shirley Jackson awards are incredible honors, and I squealed when I was notified of the nominations, but I’ve been dreaming of the Hugo since I was a little girl watching Ray Bradbury Presents in my grandmother’s living room. Having a rocket for fiction of my very own would mean the absolute world to me.
WWEnd: It was reported last year that you had optioned film rights for Feed. Are we any closer to seeing your story on the silver screen? If you had the opportunity, would you want to write the screenplay?
SMG: This is a question I get a lot, and it makes me cringe, because people never seem to want to believe the honest answer. Here is the honest answer: If I knew anything that I was allowed to tell you, it would have been announced already. That doesn’t mean I know things I can’t tell you. I may know nothing at all. I may not even know whose shoes these are. But I am very vocal about the things that I’m allowed to say, and I’m incredibly scrupulous about not saying things I’m not supposed to. As to whether I’d write the screenplay, no, I would not. That’s not my art form, and I’m too close to the material to clearly see what needs to be cut in order to make the jump to another medium.
You may or may not know Richard Matheson by name, but it’s likely that you know his work. His 1954 novel, I Am Legend, has been adapted to film three different times, and was the precursor to the earliest zombie films (it was the inspiration for Night of the Living Dead). I Am Legend appears on some of the most prestigious lists that WWEnd covers, including those of the Guardian, NPR and SF Masterworks. Another novel, The Shrinking Man, appears on five such lists, and was also a blockbuster in 1957. His horror novel, Hell House, is one of the top 100 in its field according to Nightmare Magazine, and also made it to the silver screen. Matheson’s psychic thriller, A Stir of Echoes, was adapted to film twice, and his super romantic time-travel novel, Bid Time Return, may be better known to you as that Christopher Reeves/Jane Seymour 1980 classic Somewhere in Time.
Mr. Matheson’s influence was far bigger than just genre fiction. He made his mark on the culture at large, and that is a rare accomplishment.
He died Sunday, at age 87.
Neil Gaiman is about to launch what is billed as his last US signing tour:
I think the OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE tour will be the last actual signing tour I ever do. They’re exhausting, on a level that’s hard to believe. I love meeting people, but the sixth hour of signing, for people who have been standing in a line for seven hours, is no fun for anybody. (The last proper US signing I did, it lasted over 7 hours and I signed for over 1000 people. I’d suspect a lot of the signings on this tour will be like that, or bigger.)
Though the author of “2001: A Space Odyssey” died in 2008 in Sri Lanka, scientists from NASA today announced plans to send his DNA into orbit around the sun in 2014 aboard the Sunjammer, an astonishing solar-powered spacecraft.
Wired explains the Sunjammer project:
The Sunjammer project is named after science fiction author Arthur C Clarke’s story of the same name. The story centres around a spaceship designer John Merton who develops a vehicle with a large solar sail powered entirely by radiation pressure. These fictional sun-yachts can achieve speeds of 2,000 miles an hour within a day, pushed simply by sunlight.
Find out more about the project here.
Mira Grant, author of the wildly popular Newsflesh zombie trilogy, has a new plan for creeping you the fuck out. In this guest post she shares some fun facts about parasites that she discovered doing research for her newest creeptastic book called, you guessed it, Parasite. You can practically hear her cackling with glee while she’s trying to make our skin crawl but what else can you expect from the Zombie Queen? Enjoy!
They can modify of the behavior of supposedly more “complex” organisms, turning them into incubators and caretakers at the expense of their own lives (and the lives of their young). They can survive in dramatically different environments over the course of their often metamorphic lives, going from open water to the gut of a bird to the weeping sores on a human’s leg (hint: don’t go wading in any water you don’t know intimately). They infect everything. You, me, the world–this planet belongs to the parasites, and we’re only tolerated because they’ve got to get their take-out somewhere.
In case the preceding wasn’t enough of a hint for you, I’m Mira Grant, and I love parasites. They have shaped the evolution and development of life on this planet to a degree that we’re still trying to accurately map, and there are indications that they may be responsible for a lot of things that we enjoy. Like gendered reproduction. Studies on otherwise identical populations of snails living in isolated lakes have shown that snails who reproduce parthenogenically (basically via self-cloning, a trick that can also be accomplished by some lizards, some fish, and the Komodo dragon, in case you never wanted to sleep again) have a higher instance of fluke parasitism than snails who reproduce in a sexual manner. The blending of genes inherent in sexual reproduction creates children who stand a better chance of resisting cataclysmic parasitic infection. So if you like sex, thank the parasites.
But parasites don’t just give us gender and hence sex and all the fun things you can do with it. They also give us real-world zombies, creatures whose wills have been totally hijacked by their parasitic masters. Parasites may be tiny (for the most part–some tapeworms can grow dauntingly, damagingly large) but they’re capable of some incredibly big things. Our immune systems have evolved in tandem with these parasitic visitors, a continual biological arms race with the end goal being nothing less than ownership of the human body. We think we’re winning. The parasites, if they could think, would probably think that it was just a matter of time.
As you can probably guess, I’m a lot of fun at the dinner table. Especially right now, when I’m full of fun facts about the wonderful world of parasites. Fun facts like “let’s talk about parasitic cysts in your sashimi” and “do you know why you shouldn’t eat undercooked pork?” (My friends have gotten very, very good at distracting me with ice cream.) Researching the book that would eventually become Parasite was some of the most fun I’ve had since I was initially consulting doctors on the best way to raise the dead. I read books. I read technical papers. I read more books in order to understand the technical papers. I attended lectures, visited museums, and watched several necropsies of local animals thought to be suffering from parasitic infection (spoiler alert: most of them were, which is why we don’t eat roadkill). I met the parasitic world in the best possible way: by looking at it, delighting in it, and learning to respect it. These little creatures possess the power to really ruin a person’s day. I like that in a biological organism.
Parasites are wonderful. I hope you can learn to love them like I do, or at least come to really understand why restaurants have all those “do not eat undercooked seafood” warnings.
From New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant, a high-concept near-future thriller.
A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.
We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.
But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives… and will do anything to get them.
Thanks for the post, Mira… I think. I’m not sure I’ll be able to enjoy my sashimi like I used to but I’m looking forward to the new book. For you other Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire fans out there we’re collecting questions for an author interview this month so don’t miss your chance to Ask Mira Grant Anything.
Last month, we launched an exciting new monthly feature: an series interview with some of the most celebrated authors in the SF/F/H genres, that started with N. K. Jemisin. The questions came from you, the WWEnd reader. We are now ready to announce that our next author will be Seanan McGuire, the urban fantasy writer, who may be better known to some WWEnders as Mira Grant, the merciless author of the Newsflesh trilogy (nominated for both the Shirley Jackson and Philip K. Dick awards, and thrice nominated for Hugos) as well as the nascent Parasitology series.
A key component of the interview series is the Urtak poll, embedded at the top of this post. Just read the questions and tell us whether you want each one to be asked. To vote, click “Yes” if you would like to see her answer the question or “No” if you don’t care (please don’t select “I don’t care,” though. I’m told it messes up our metrics. If you don’t care, then answer “no”). When you have voted on all submitted questions, you will be able to add your own questions. You may also click on the green “Ask” button at the top of the Urtak survey, but please do all of the voting first, in case someone else has already asked your question. It need not be a yes/no question. It’s just that WWEnders will then vote yes/no on whether they like the question.
The most popular questions will be asked first, so don’t split your vote by asking the same question twice!