The story list for the new Chasing Shadows anthology from Tor Books reads like a Who’s Who of award-winning, bestselling science fiction authors… and somehow I’ve got a story in there, too. It’s a bit of a rush to share a table of contents with David Brin, Neal Stephenson, Vernor Vinge, William Gibson, Robert J. Sawyer, Gregory Benford, Damon Knight, Robert Silverberg, Bruce Sterling, and quite a few more. There must be dozens of Hugo and Nebula awards represented by this list, and tens of millions of books sold. It should be an incredible read. The hardback goes on sale on January 10, but of course you can preorder the book any time!
The theme of the anthology is our increasingly transparent society, where cameras are smaller, surveillance cheaper, and our lives are more and more public on social media. Where is it leading? The dawn of Big Brother? Or a billion little brothers, all spying on each other? How will our society change? This collection of stories and essays is the answer to this question, as envisioned by some of the best science fiction authors in the field. Check it out!
I spent last week in Istanbul! I was invited to come as a guest of the Black Week Festival, a literary convention specifically focused on crime fiction. I gave a speech, TED-Talk style, talked to journalists, signed hundreds of books, and appeared on national Turkish television. The Turkish version of Superposition came out there two months ago, and it’s now a bestseller. Apparently they love quantum physics murder mysteries in Turkey!
I stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel, a luxury hotel in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul that was once a stop on the famed Orient Express. The hotel was not only beautiful, but also reknown for its literary history, since authors like Agatha Christie and Ernest Hemingway have stayed there, along with other celebrities like Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Jackie Onassis, and Bill Clinton. Everything was paid for by my gracious hosts, and I was treated like royalty.
Even more than the celebrity treatment, however, I enjoyed the cross-cultural connections I made with other authors, editors, and members of the Turkish literary scene. We stayed up late drinking raki (mostly they drank raki — I’m not much of a drinker) and talking about books, politics, and religion. My impression of the Turkish people (granting, of course, that this was a literary convention!) is that they are readers and thinkers, with a lot of important and interesting things to say.
The Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, where we were walking, eating, and hanging out, has been the site of multiple recent bombs, and where tanks rolled through the square during the recent coup attempt. This political turmoil is personal to the people who live there. It’s their streets being bombed, their windows being blown out by the sonic boom from low-flying F-16s. In some cases, it’s their friends who are in prison for saying unpopular things against the government. Turkey doesn’t enjoy the freedom of speech and press that we currently do in the United States, and those with something to say feel the lack.
Istanbul is a beautiful city. There are, of course, the sites of the historical district: the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Suleimani Mosque. There’s the Bosporus and the Golden Horn, and the views from Istanbul’s high hills. But I think the city is also beautiful for its chaotic layers of history. I took a picture from my hotel window on the first day, and posted it on Twitter, saying how beautiful the view was. Locals were a bit astonished, since the view was a cascade of ordinary buildings, many of them old and rundown. But the age of Istanbul is part of its character. You can wander the mazelike cobblestone streets, and run into walls and ruins more than a millennium old. There are structures from Constantine’s reign, Roman buildings, Genovese buildings, a mix of European and Asian influences, a mix of Christianity and Islam. It’s a city built on history.
It was an intense and very enjoyable trip for me, and I hope for the chance to return someday!
I traveled to Thailand last month for my day job, and many people asked my wife, “Oh, is he there because of his books?” We laughed and said no, he never travels overseas because of his books. Well, never say never…
No sooner was I home from Thailand when I received an invitation to attend Black Week Turkey, a literary festival in Istanbul. Superposition came out in Turkish not long ago, to some pretty great fanfare. There are posters of the book up on the sides of buildings in Istanbul, front and center placement on bookstore shelves, and a cool promotional video trailer. So shortly after enjoying turkey for Thanksgiving, I will be flying to Turkey as a guest of one of Europe’s biggest literary festivals! I will be speaking, and there will apparently be journalists and representatives of the ministry of culture, not to mention lots of readers. Wow. I can hardly believe it’s happening!
Superposition will hit bookstores in Turkey in a few weeks. It was translated by Kıvanç Güney, an accomplished and well-regarded translator of many books in the genre. I have to say, this is the coolest business in the world to be in, seeing my work translated into all these different languages!
Here’s the Turkish book cover:
Two weeks from now, I will be appearing on Stanford University’s Philosophy Talk, a nationally-syndicated radio show that airs on 100+ stations around the country. They’re doing a show on dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up most of the matter in the universe. It’s a remarkable fact that, despite everything we’ve learned about the world around us, we still don’t know what most of it is made of.
The headliner for the episode will be an astronomy professor from Yale, who surely knows a lot more about dark matter than I do! I was brought in as a science fiction writer with a passing familiarity with physics, to do a little fun speculation about what dark matter might be and how it might affect our lives in the future.
The show airs at 10:00 PST in San Francisco on Sunday, October 9. Other stations around the country may air it at different times.
It’s another release day for Superposition! Today is the day the French translation of Superposition is being published in France. Here’s the cover for the French edition, which I think is pretty stunning. (Though, what is it with Superposition and bald people? There are no bald characters, and yet somehow all the covers have no hair!)
I asked Beth Cato to visit my blog today and talk about how religion plays a role in her fantasy novels. Not many authors are brave enough to try to give their characters religious views, but Beth has done so, both with real faiths and those of her own invention. Beth’s novels The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown are on sale for $1.99 and $2.99 right now, so it’s a great time to give them a try. Her latest novel, Breath of Earth, will be released in just a few weeks, on the 23rd.
Here’s Beth, on faith, magic, and respect:
When I began to write my Clockwork Dagger novels, I knew I wanted my heroine to be a character of profound faith. At the time, it seemed like many of the fantasy books I was reading–and enjoying– had leads whose devotion to religion consisted of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Some were downright hostile to religion.
I created Octavia Leander as a different sort of heroine. She’s a profoundly gifted magical healer whose power arises from the entity she worships, the Lady’s Tree; the gigantic world tree is regarded as mythical, even by other healers. In Octavia’s steampunk, non-Earth world, people acknowledge the power and usefulness of magic, but it’s considered backward. I took inspiration from how the Force is regarded in Star Wars Episode IV. The power of magic is acknowledged, but with an eye roll. Octavia is sadly accustomed to disrespect toward the Lady.
Through both books in my series, I put Octavia through her own version of the trials of Job. I wanted faith to be Octavia’s defining characteristic, even as circumstances cause her to despair and call out to the Lady in a full-on jeremiad. However she questions and doubts, Octavia still turns to the Lady for both gratitude and comfort. She doesn’t lose that part of identity.
I’ve had people ask me, why take this different angle? Personal experience. This kind of faith is very real within my family (though not in regards to a gigantic world tree). I didn’t have to look far for examples for Octavia’s fortitude and devotion.
I took a different approach with my new book, Breath of Earth. Unlike Clockwork Dagger, this new series is set on Earth: an alternate version of 1906, with America and Japan allied as a world power with China in their crosshairs. My heroine, Ingrid Carmichael, is a geomancer who can contain and use the energy that flows from the earth during quakes. In order to set her apart from Octavia, I wrote Ingrid as a woman who acknowledges God, but is not an active practitioner in any faith.
She has grown up in a world with different religious dynamics, too. Japan has had a heavy influence on San Francisco and American society as a whole, with Buddhism and Shintoism becoming more prevalent. Christianity has likewise worked more into Japanese society. Mythological creatures are not so mythological– just hidden or rumored to be extinct– meaning many other faiths are also touched on throughout the course of the book.
In Clockwork Dagger, I established my own religion, and that gave me tremendous freedom as a writer. In Breath of Earth, I had to pause and think through everything with care. After all, I was writing about “folktale” entities that are not folktales to some. They are real beings who should be respected.
However, as a writer, this also made things tricky. I, as the author feel one way, but my characters exist in a world full of biases and privilege. I needed to be true to my book’s time period. This made for a delicate balancing act, no question– and I’m sure readers will let me know if I err. That’s okay by me.
The Golden Rule is essential here. My fictional characters, like Octavia, ask for respect for their faith; it’s all the more essential for people of the real world to be accorded with proper respect for their beliefs as well.
Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.