derp derp

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So I was re-reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and ended up drawing a picture of the Marquess...

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I also wanted to bring to everyone's attention something that I hadn't noticed until I did a bit of sniffing around for Fairyland reviews online - there's a prequel up at, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - For a Little While. This is old news to anyone who follows Catherynne Valente's personal blog, but...I don't, so I'd missed this until a couple of weeks ago. So maybe not everyone here knew about it yet? (But now you do! Read it; it's about Mallow and it's just gorgeous.)
fairyland spoon

It's Fairyland Day!

It seems like just yesterday we were reading the first pages of September's journey here together! It's amazing and wonderful that now The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is in print!

How You Can Help Celebrate:

Buy the book - Through Amazon, B&N or your local indie book store. It's also available electronically for Kindle, the Nook and the iPad, as well as in Audio Book Format.

Review it! On your blog, on Amazon or if you work for a review site.

Use your Fairyland icons that talkstowolves made for us!

For even more info on celebrating Fairyland Day and about the Fairyland Day Contest, please see CMV's lj.
haters to the left

Habitation of the Blessed review!

My detailed review of Habitation of the Blessed is now available! The book is due out November 1, 2010; the review is extensive but I tried to avoid spoilers.

You can read the review either on my LJ or at (Use the link to promote or retweet, if you will.)

Also, through tonight there's an ARC contest at catvalente's LJ: make a LOLJohn, win an ARC! Second prize is the audiobook of Palimpsest.

This book is so amazing. Let's get it out there.

(crossposted to trainsofheaven and immigrant_punks)


Herself says there will be a redesign. We won this one. Thank all of you for your part in that.

Next time it may not be Cat I mentioned in my own letter, names like Nnedi Okorafor and Justine Larbalestier have had to cope with this in the not so distant past either, and I'm willing to bet there are a teeming host of less-known, less-clout-having, writers put in this position.

It is my sincere hope that, having saved The Habitation of the Blessed from whitewashing, that you will find yourselves willing the next time...and the next time...and the next time...until we convince the various industries that whitewashing is racism and racism is not okay.

It is my sincere belief that you will, because you are the Mythpunk Army, and generally on the side of Awesome.

My love, and sincerest thanks, to all of you. Again, see you at Strowlerfest (and if you need a roommate, let me know, I'm looking for one.)

Blessings upon all your heads from your humble and infinitely grateful servant, popelizbet. "Honey flows in our land, and milk everywhere abounds" - and vegan cupcakes rise for the rest. See you at the Fairyland release party if I don't see you before that.
angry muppets

DAMN THE MAN: SAVE THE KINGDOM - A Letter For Prester John

Once upon a time, there was (or perhaps there wasn't) a man named Prester John.

A good bit more recently than that, your friend and mine, Catherynne M. Valente, wrote a book - the first of three - about Prester John and the kingdom he found when he went looking. Being a book by Catherynne M. Valente, it is beautiful and gorgeous and lush, full of awesome scholarship and heartbreakingly beautiful prose. It tells stories other than John's. It takes place in a part of the world where no one was white, and so neither are the characters you meet. It has creatures - fantastical creatures and people that will excite you when you finally get to read about them.

The book is being released by Night Shade Books. Their website has this to say about their mission:

Night Shade Books is dedicated to publishing quality books from a broad spectrum of genres. Writing that inspires a sense of awe and wonder. Writing that explores the fantastic. Writing that at once challenges and redefines a reader's expectations. These are the guiding principles at Night Shade Books.

This is the proposed cover.

Cat placed the cover up for comment. It's clear to me from her comments that she has discussed some of the problems and they are not listening to her. She already asked them to change the whitewashed characters, knowing her fandom doesn't play that. Their response was to make the woman whose partially disembodied, naked form takes up the background, dark-haired rather than blonde.

The cautious neutrality she's exhibiting toward this cover is nothing like the full-of-squee Cat I remember from the Palimpsest cover post. In my experience, when Cat loves something, she gets Muppet-dance levels of excited about it. After years of hearing her express her passion for the Prester John project, "cautious neutrality" towards the cover is not what I expected - nor comments distancing herself from the cover design by expressly noting she had no input because of the aforesaid not-listening and continued fail.

Despite the 150+ LJ comments on the cover, many of them negative, citing everything from poor cover design, confusing and off-putting fonts, the miniscule size of her name on the cover, the weird perspective on the central figure's hands, the central figure's weird resemblance to China Miéville, the unreadable title, the crowded, busy cover - as far as I know, no further changes are planned.

As you may have guessed by this point, I have read The Habitation of the Blessed. I loved each and every word of it, and it is beautiful and perfect, and when it is in the world, you will love it too, I am almost sure, even if you have to love it in spite of the face its publisher currently seems intent on giving it. This is like going to a High Church christening with a friend who sent her baby in the other car with the relatives, and getting to the altar with her to find that someone has ignored the available gown and instead dressed the hapless infant in a rayon clown suit - nothing about this is appropriate, all of it is horrifying.

I do not understand this. I do not know how you get what is essentially the world's most committed pro bono focus group together, have them tell you things like "Looks too European for a Prester John novel" - "Like a fanmade reprint of some book from fifty years ago" - "[The font choices] make the book look cheap" - and fifty thousand comments complaining that the title and author's name are illegible or difficult to read - and on top of all that "I have to be honest, my first reaction was that this book is about a Boring White Guy with a Magical Exotic Lady Assistant" - I don't know how you read all that and do not whip yourself into a froth of product improvement, I truly do not.

You cannot claim out of one side of your mouth to showcase writing that challenges and redefines reader's expectations, while packaging your product in such a way that it partakes in some of the most depressingly predictable and harmful practices for which your genre and industry is sadly notorious. (Or, more accurately, you can, but it adds "staggering hypocrisy" to the list of unflattering adjective phrases that can justly be applied to this conduct.)

I get upset if something put out there under my imprimatur is less than perfect. But even from a pure bidness perspective, I cannot imagine reading variations on a theme of "Really really terrible" - or even "I love it, but..." and "Meh" - and not wanting to make it better. I would be ashamed of myself if I put a thing to press with people who take a vested interest in the author's work telling me they will be excusing the cover to their friends, or covering it in brown paper before reading it in public, because it's just that unappealing and offensive to them.

Then again, I don't understand anyone who could look at a brand that includes this, this, this and this, read a book that includes blemmyae and panotti and no white people, fully populated with characters of color, written by an author whose last work of this type won the Tiptree and, after stroky-beard meetings, say YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE AWESOME? GENERIC MEDIEVAL. WITH WHITE PEOPLE ON THE COVER. LET'S MAKE THE TITLE ILLEGIBLE TOO AND THE WHITE CHICK CAN BE ALL EXOTIC AND STUFF - AND ALSO NAKED. THAT'LL SELL COPIES. LIKEWISE PUTTING THE HUGO-NOMINATED AUTHOR'S NAME IN TINY TYPE ON A BUSY FIELD. WIN! WE HAVE DONE A GOOD JOB TODAY.

That, to me, is the basic definition of a losing formula. Not only does whitewashing perpetuate racism, the people who want the book most are telling NSB, quite loudly, that this cover is the wrong choice for that and all other kinds of reasons, just like the author tried to do, and they are still, apparently, not listening. This is not in line with what they taught me in college about how to successfully sell things, which involves a lot of "listen to customers" and "be responsive to feedback" and "make sure your packaging is attractive to your core base." (What do I know? I'm just a reader...a reader who tends to shy away from books that look like they're about Exotic Othering, Titties and White Heroes In European Fantasyland, when I don't know they're written by people who don't write those kinds of books.) *The action of covering a book full of characters of color with pictures of white people, throwing some mehndi and eyeshadow on one of them, is fully an exercise and manifestation of staggering privilege, not a shrewd decision or anything that "inspires a sense of awe and wonder."

The mehndi lady keeps making me choke out in impotent rage. I've read this book. The one character she could possibly represent is the woman in yellow. The woman in yellow? Has red-brown skin. And wears yellow. And is not running around naked and white covered in mehndi being partially disembodied and in the background behind Prester John like an Exotic Lady Assistant, let me tell you what.

This is infuriating. Everything about this is infuriating - the short shrift given to Cat's name, the slapdash, garish, busy design, the utter lack of congruity between the book and its cover, the way in which the cover represents every trope the book subverts, the gross departure from the look and feel of a Valente novel, the cheap appearance...the fucking's just bad. I saw my friend saying, over and over, that they weren't listening to her. This is not what I am used to when the newest Valente cover comes out. I expect HOORAY JOY HAPPY from the comments section, not "What is this? What is happening? Why can't I read the title? Why are Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and some white lady who went a little overboard at the MAC counter and the "henna tattoo" shop at the mall running amok in Prester John's kingdom?" It's like a bad dream. It's like they fed this book to the Opposite Machine and put the results on the cover.

I talked to s00j. She will share her own thoughts soon enough about the cover, but she did share this gem from another Strowler friend: "I hate the font. It makes the whole thing look cheap." -Sean-Michael Argo, director. So even people who aren't passionately on a leopard, but know something about design, can see this is the whole cloth from which bad idea jeans are cut.

It may have been then that I decided to write my own Letter - one For Prester John, rather than From him. An e-mail, anyhow. And over the weekend and on into next week, I'd like to encourage you to send an e-mail, too. You can post your e-mail after you send it in comments, if you like, although if you have reviewed an ARC, please don't spoil folk in the comments.

I'm writing a Letter for Prester John, because this book deserves better than this. I hope you will write one too.

I'm not threatening to boycott this book, and unless you must, I hope you won't either, because it is wonderful.

I am explaining to the publisher that I have read this book, and find the cover an utter disappointment. That the cover does not look like a serious work by a serious author. That the confusing, busy design is the kind of thing that makes me put a book down in the bookstore, not look more closely. That it makes very little sense that the author's name is so tiny in proportion to the cover when she is currently getting nominated for and winning all kinds of fancy awards. That whitewashing is deeply wrong, and oppressive, and that this book cover feels like a slap in the face and People Who Will Not Buy A Book With A Person of Color On the Cover Are Not Going to Stay In This Fandom So Why the Fuck Are We Catering To Them When That Is Not What Cat Valente Is About In This World Or Any? That Whitewashing and Unreadable Cover is not only wrong, but is going to hang around their neck like a millstone of failure for a long time. Only without saying fuck. Even once.

I am not making any threats, save that I am aware that these are Night Shade's decisions, not Ms. Valente's, and that I will not encourage anyone I know looking for a publisher to work with Night Shade Books in the future, and that I am likely to continue to discuss this decision in most unfavorable terms for a long time to come.

If you are a writer, and you choose to write to Night Shade, and you feel similarly about the possibility that one day it might be your book full of characters of color with Unrelated White People on the cover, maybe with some incongruous nudity and generic exoticism thrown in, it might not hurt to mention that fact to them.

If you are planning to review The Habitation of the Blessed in your online space - especially if you are one of the people who helped vaunt Palimpsest up to the highest echelon of the genre when the Big Name Publisher fired the publicist responsible for promoting it, which could have doomed it to oblivion - let them know, politely, that their choices have been noted and will likely be the subject of present or future public comment.

If you discuss things like whitewashing and the representation of bodies in your online work and you are going to comment on this latest in a long line of industry failures, tell them so.

If you have a shelf full of Cat Valente books and the thought of putting this one next to them makes you want to start singing "One Of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)" - tell them so. If you are planning to buy copies of this book in the Christmas season and you're going to feel the need to say out loud "They couldn't have made a worse cover if they tried, but the story is amazing" - tell them so. In writing. If you couldn't read the title without looking twice or three times - spill it.

In whatever way this choice is going to affect your behavior, tell them so.

Be specific about the problems - the font, the disappearing author's name, the egregious whitewashing. This is a small press we're dealing with, folks. Ten emails look like twenty. Twenty-five emails look like fifty or a hundred.

E-mail goes to jlassen AT Damn the Man. Save the Kingdom. "Honey flows in our land, and milk everywhere abounds." See you at Strowlerfest.
circumnavigate fairyland

Fairyland Wins the Andre Norton Award!

As we all know, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a truly amazing piece of work: it grew from another remarkable work, Palimpsest, where it was only an idea* in a created world, a children's book that built a large part of the soul of November, our lonely, list-making beekeeper. Fairyland was a crowdfunded work, made possible by an author willing to engage with her audience. And Fairyland was responsible for helping that same author through a terribly difficult period in her family's life, as the current economic mess in the United States caught up with them.

Fairyland kept on being remarkable, even after the creatively powerful communal experience of it, even beyond the icons and the art and the jewelry and the community bonding. It attracted a publisher in Feiwel & Friends, and inspired that publisher to ask Catherynne M. Valente for a sequel. Finally, it blew us all away when it was nominated for a major industry award: the Andre Norton Award, a Nebula award with which the SFWA recognizes excellence in YA SFF for the previous year.

Well, my friends, in case you haven't heard: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making took the 2009 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy!

From among other excellent works - John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale, Lisa Mantchev's Eyes Like Stars, Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker, Ice by Sarah Beth Durst, Ash by Malindo Lo, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld - Fairyland was chosen. Brava, Cat!

You can see a moved Cat, attired in a gorgeous orange dress by Claire Sanders, accepting the award below:

(Skip to minute 27 to see that part, unless you'd like to watch the whole broadcast.)

Also, in case you haven't seen it yet, you can read Cat's reaction to winning the Nebula at the following post: I Can't Believe That Just Happened.

The physical edition of (a beautiful! illustrated!) Fairyland seems to be scheduled for a May 2011 release; while the entirety of the text has been available freely online for over a year, the publisher requested that the closing sections of the book be removed in anticipation of the tangible edition. However, a full 15 chapters are still available online, along with all the associated audio files, icons and art in the Museum, and S.J. Tucker's haunting "September's Rhyme." I also hear that a site revamp with tons of new content is in the works, so keep an eye on this community and the site!

(If you'd like to read Cat's announcement concerning the removal of part of Fairyland, you can do so here.)

For now, I hope you'll all join me in being generally overjoyed at Fairyland being nominated for and winning the Andre Norton Award, and full of gleeful anticipation for the new things Fairyland to come!

* Well, mostly only an idea...
secretary chariots

Psssst! Have you heard?

CMV's Fairyland has been nominated for theAndre Norton Award</a>!

Fairyland has won CultureGeeks's Reader's Choice Award for Best Web Fiction of the Decade, beating out Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, The Guild, and XKCD. Thanks to all who voted!

Over on Omikuji, CMV still has some open spots for illustrations for the anthology! DEADLINE IS MARCH 1st! Come claim the story that you loved best!
Green Wind

Ask the Author Questions!

At long last I come back to these--I love answering and I hope we'll have another question round now that I'm on top of it again.

From mermaiden : Why do you tell stories?

I'm not sure I could do anything else. I used to answer that question flippantly, or with the poetry is the blood jet line from Sylvia Plath. But the thing is, since I was a kid, I did it. I remember being about 8 and disliking the way The Snow Queen ended and rewriting it to my liking (I believe Gerda got eaten by a reindeer and the Snow Queen lived happily ever after with the Robber Princess). But, on the other hand, I didn't write fiction for a really long time--well, really as defined by the fact that even right now I'm only 30--I wrote poetry. I tried to get it published without much luck. I wrote my first piece of fiction when I was 20, for an experimental writing class at UCSD (it, intact, is now the Galahad chapter of Under In the Mere). A little while later I wanted to write a book, but I wasn't close to ready.

Now, my brain makes stories of everything. Part of it is natural inclination, but part of it is a learned response to stimuli. I mean, we all like to talk about muses and inspiration, but the fact is you have to train your brain to narrative, to create narrative out of disparate parts. It's a training that starts early, and bears weird fruit whenever it pleases. But if you write enough books, psychic inertia will keep you writing books--this is a good thing. The other half of inertia is that objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

From qotcpcf : Are there any extra-special Fairyland related thingies planned for the month of September? B/c, y'know, it's September!

Ahem. Well, we were going to but everything got crazy. We wanted to have a contest to design a toy for the custom toy site posted here awhile back. But it turns out writing a novel in six weeks and a wedding to boot is too much.

From arkofeden : For you, do poetry and prose have different "roots" or methods of inspiration, or are they much the same apart from their appearance (verse vs. paragraphs)?

When reading The Labyrinth or your recent "Borges" Omikuji, I feel strongly as if those pieces could be turned directly into poems if they were only taken out of prose form and broken up into lines. The use of words seems very "poem-ish." But over time, your prose seems to have solidified into something less vague and wild, even though the word choice is still very creative. Hopefully this makes sense. :)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because the answer is "not really." Poetry comes from a less narrative place, more emotional, but the truth is I've made so many compromises with my prose in order to get published and stay published. It's kind of staggering, when I look at old work. I think, I think that the compromises are good ones, that they are learning ones, but part of me feels like I've betrayed my old writer-self. On the other hand, I still can't write anything, including Fairyland, that reviewers don't call "dense," "experimental," "not for everyone," or worry about its accessibility. So I don't know. I do know that I want to try new things with every book, to level up and grow, and I've already written The Labyrinth. I don't need or want to do it again.

From sunlit_music : How did the Marquess become so cruel, and where did she come from? (Hope asking 2 questions is OK!) ^_^

Hopefully this is answered now!

From natf : I am so sad that there does not seem to be an audio version of Fairyland Chapter IX because that means I will be unlikely to be able to finish the story which makes me sad…

Ok, I feel really bad about this. I just ran out of time. It takes hours to do an audio recording and I just totally failed on this front. We'll be filling them in over the winter. (If anyone wants to do an audio recording of a missing chapter and send it to me, I'll put it up with credit and send a wee Fairyland present to boot.)

Any other questions? ;)

Shadow Theory Verified

First, I have to say how much I truly loved this entire story. I cried at several points during the last chapters.

When I finished the story, at first one thing bothered me. I wondered, confusedly, why September was still missing her shadow, if she had wished everything/everyone whole and well again. This bothered me, and I thought about it for a while, and I think I understand now. I was hoping perhaps Cat might be able to verify this.

When Saturday met September, she was already missing her shadow. Therefore, I am assuming that when she wished that everyone be whole again, somehow the way the wishing works was dependent on Saturday's understanding of things. Therefore, since Saturday never knew September to have a shadow, he did not know to "correct" that change.

Does that make sense? Yes?