Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Another cover photo from 1996

I'm on the cover of this month's Locus magazine. I've been on it before—eighteen years ago*. It occurred to me that you might like to see how I looked then.

Taken aboard the Queen Mary, Long Beach, at the Nebula Awards weekend, 1996
It's poor quality because it's an old, old scan of a printed photo (taken by Charles N. Brown, who did the interview). But, yep, that's what I looked like when I was 35. I'm just glad it's not a full-length picture: I'm wearing shorts. Another ignominy dodged...

*If you want to see a picture of the actual magazine, it's currently for sale on eBay.


On the cover of September Locus magazine

I'm on the cover of this month's Locus magazine. I was interviewed by Francesca Myman at the Nebula Awards weekend at the beginning of May. Francesca also took the photo and designed the cover which is lovely, stuffed with luscious ammonite- and phi-ness. I'm looking forward to seeing it up close and in person.

The only way to read the interview — it's long and juicy, more than 4,000 words — is to buy your own copy.

Frances is a good interviewer — so it mostly makes sense. I was mostly off the opiates at that point, but it's a direct transcription of a verbal interview, so it's interesting: simple sentence structure and lots of short, blunt words. I had the opportunity to edit but chose to do nothing but correct one spelling mistake and clarify a couple of points which I'm guessing I made at the time with facial expression and hand gesture.

Should any of you read it, I'd be curious about what you think.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

My health

You've probably noticed that I've been quieter than usual for the last few months. I've been dealing with health issues.

Two main things: my vision and my MS.

My vision problems have nothing to do with MS and everything to do with being what my surgeon cheerily refers to as a "high myope." High myopia is defined as -6.00 dioptres or more. My most recent prescription isn't far off three times that; I'm a super mega-high myope. One of the problems associated with high myopia is posterior subcapsular cataracts (age-related cataracts are more usually nuclear). My vision is no longer wholly correctable with glasses or contact lenses. In fact, even without the cataracts it was getting dicy: most contact lens manufacturers don't make them in my prescription; those that did charged about $800 a year (which usually ended up being closer to a thousand when you factor in damage and loss—you lose a lot of contact lenses when you can't see...).

Not being able to see sucks but not being able to see when you walk with crutches is dangerous. So I made the decision to have surgery: total lens replacement in both eyes. I now have accommodative intra-ocular lenses and I'm busy teaching myself to read again. Well, I will be, when I've healed. I've only just (Tuesday) had the second eye done. And according to the surgeon it can take three to six months to get your best vision.

Right this minute I can see...everything. Distance brilliantly with one eye, up-close fabulously with the other. Mid-range pretty damn good with both. But the seeing is intermittent. The post-operative inflammation plus the various drops (two anti-inflammatory, one antibiotic) I have to take four times a day for the next few weeks make everything look smeared with vaseline. Or maybe that's the actual vaseline in the ointment I also have to use. But, bloody hell, I had no idea the world was so bright! Colours are really different; who knew I'd been seeing the world through a yellowish filter for most of my life?

For fellow high myopes: if you can afford it, do it. It will change your life. Three caveats, though.

  1. Money: most US insurance will cover the surgery only if you actually have cataracts, and they will not cover fancy accommodative intra-ocular lenses under any circumstances. As those fancy lenses come at a fancy price, make sure your bank balance is up to it.  
  2. Pain. One of things I everyone tells you about the surgery is that you feel nothing. They lie—or at least do not have the oddly-shaped eyeballs of high-myopes. It hurt. A lot. This apparently is because the weird-shaped eyeballs means it's a tricky business getting the lens in exactly the right place and for me there's extra hardware in there, too, something called a stabilisation ring. Anyway, there was much shoving of pointy things inside my punctured eyeballs. Not fun. But, hey, surgery doesn't last that long. (Though, of course, longer for me than for anyone else, sigh.)
  3. Hassle. Most people who have cataract surgery done don't have such terrible myopia. For them it's mildly inconvenient to spend a week or two having eyes at different corrections. But for those of us who are at more than -16 D the world becomes an alarmingly treacherous place. I have more bruises than when I was doing karate and getting hit a lot. But they're healing...
...and then, wow, you can see! Sort of. Right now my brain is trying to reconcile the near-vision for one eye and far-vision for the other. And I'm horribly light sensitive. I've been instructed to use light readers even when I don't think I need them so that my eyes can rest and heal. So that's what I'm doing. Mostly. Meanwhile, my right eye is 20/20 for distance. 20/20. I've never, ever had 20/20 vision. I am amazed. If you see me in the next few weeks and I look off into the distance with a goofy smile, that's why: I am being amazed. At mid-range, my right eye is 20/25 (and I think that will improve), and at close quarters 20/40 (ditto). The left eye won't be tested til next week. Pain and expense and hassle are both fleeing, I hope, and most definitely worth it. So, yeah: do it.

And so, now, on to my MS.

Short version: I lost six months of my life to a new MS medication which put me in pain so terrible—the kind of pain that makes killing yourself seem reasonable; I am not joking—that I had to drug myself into oblivion. Every. Single. Day. I came off the meds and within a few days the pain had gone away. My MS is stable. But the effects of six months of heavy opiates and zero physical activity—not kidding about that, either—will take a while to shake off.

Longer version: Last autumn, just before Hild was published in the US, I started Tecfidera, that is, dimethyl fumarate in pill form, sold by Biogen. This is a refined (supposedly) version of an old industrial chemical, that is, a methyl ester of fumaric acid. Variations have been used for years in Germany to treat psoriasis. (Also in China to fumigate furniture...) It has side effects, of course. I read the list carefully. I researched it as far as I was able1. I weighed all the pros and cons. (There are many cons. See below.) I had blood work done. I decided to give it a go.

The first two weeks, on the starter dose, were fine. Certainly within the parameters I'd expected: uncomfortable, inconvenient, but transient. The price was right. (The asking price is $63,000 a year but through the good offices of kind people I got it for free.) Then I went up to the full dose and within two weeks I had the first inkling of trouble.

Quick aside: I injured my elbow in summer when doing archery. After a few days of ice and rest I cautiously re-engaged with the archery and it seemed fine. The occasional weird nerve flash, though, led me to wear a neoprene sleeve to keep the ulnar nerve properly seated.

Anyway, on a late Sunday afternoon in early October I had just arrived in Portland for the PNBA's annual trade show where I was due to give a breakfast speech to 200 booksellers first thing Monday morning. I was feeling fine: well, eager, energetic, with a knock-your-socks-off speech that would charm (I hoped) even Monday-morning muffin mumblers. We checked into the hotel. Got to the hotel room. And then my heart went insane.

I've had a rapid heartbeat before. I've had arrhythmia2. But this time my heart just ran away with me. It was like the worst panic attack in the world. Then it got worse. 120 then 140 then 180 beats a minute. I couldn't breathe. Then pain shot like lightning down both arms, fortunately only for a second. Then the whole thing just...went away. My heart slowed down. I could breathe. I was normal again—though not relaxed.

When I got back from Portland I went to see my neurologist. He said that one of the listed side-effects of Tecfidera was peripheral nervous system excitation: the heart rate, the breathing, and the pain flashes were probably part of that, too. (Apparently, one of the reasons people with heart attacks get radiating pain down their arms is because their peripheral nervous system goes nuts while it tries to figure out how to survive.) But that should die down eventually. Probably.

Hild came out. I had the occasional accelerated heart beat for a few minutes but nothing like Portland, and no pain flashes. I began to relax. My book was out! I was having a blast.

Then one night, the weekend before Thanksgiving, everything went to hell. It was like Portland but much, much worse. The pain shot down my left arm, again and again. Then down my left leg. Then through my torso, up my neck, through my head. Then it all joined up in this sheeting wildfire that turned my mind white. The entire left side of my body body went beserk. I couldn't think. I couldn't speak. Only bellow and writhe. Completely insane with pain. If I could have killed myself to make it stop I might have considered it (but I couldn't have thought it, and I couldn't have done it). But I was incapable of any coherence at all. Kelley called an ambulance.

I've never had an ambulance called for me in this country. I don't remember much about it except that four ETs—three men, one woman, all totally pumped and radiating strength—appeared in clangour of bells and sirens then behaved as though I were having a heart attack. When it was clear I was not they were perplexed. Next stop, ER. That was a nightmare: another ER in the city had just had a horrible fire, so critical patients were being whisked from there. Beds, patients, IVs, wailing. Total chaos. But even as I was with the triage nurse the pain began to ebb. I began to be able to think. I could say my name. The recovery was rapid. And because I then seemed perfectly well, and there was nothing they could do except admit me, hook me to IV morphine in case of reoccurrence, and wait, I went home.

Long story short: over the course of the next few days, it happened over and over. To no apparent schedule. No one could figure out what the hell was going on. My neurologist was already gone for Thanksgiving/Chanuka/to meet his first grandchild. My internist supervised MRIs and various consults. I filled a prescription for Percocet, which I gobbled like Smarties. More than I should. When my internist found out he hit the roof. (He phoned me twice a day, every day, even on the day of Thanksgiving/Chanukah.) From then on I was under strict instructions: This many, no more. If it doesn't manage the pain, go to ER, get hooked up to fentanyl, and have them call me.

My neurologist came back. He studied the MRIs. He put me on prednisone on the theory that I was having a relapse. It made no difference whatsoever.

I gradually learnt that the worst times lasted about forty minutes. At first I thought that was just because that's about how long it takes for oxycodone to really work, but then I started on the automatic schedule thing so there were always opiates in my system and still, forty minutes. Then I figured out (trust me, it's hard to figure anything out when you're wasted) there seemed to be another pattern but I couldn't quite nail it down. I began to log everything: what pill when, what pain when, how long after I did this that that happened. My days were spent at home sitting very, very still in one particular chair and watching the clock until I could take more pills. Without the pills I'm not sure I could have stayed sane.

And that's pretty much all I did. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sit at my desk. I couldn't sit at the kitchen table. I couldn't carry a cup of tea. Everything seemed to trigger those cascades of pain. Sitting very, very still with my bloodstream humming with opiates was the only thing that fended it off. (This is why I cancelled so many things.3) And believe me, I would have murdered my own grandmother to fend it off. Sitting still was what worked.

I lost weight—I was eating fine (opiates do not seem to affect my appetite, for food or beer) but I was losing muscle. Lots of muscle. And my tendons were tightening and shortening.

And then one morning Kelley said: I think it's those damn drugs, at just about the same time as I was staring at the Tecfidera pill in my palm, unwilling to take it. So I didn't take the pill. I didn't take it that evening. Or the next day. Or the next. And the pain began to ebb. I eased up, a bit, on the Percocet, stretching the hours between doses. The pain was still going away—except in my elbow4. I stretched the opiates further. I studied my notes. Definitely a pattern.

I went in to see my neurologist. It's something to do with using my left elbow, I said. And something to do with the bloody Tecfidera. Kelley nodded. I hate that drug, she said. I hate it.

And between us we figured it out: my damaged ulnar nerve was triggering pain signals (normal). But because of my MS, my proximal nerve (demyelinated where it meets the CNS at the neck) wasn't pain-gating those signals reliably. And because of the Tecfidera, my peripheral nervous system was revved to such a pitch that it was blowing those pain gates off their pintles. No Tecfidera meant no revving. No revving meant my proximal nerve could calm down. Pain-gating resumed. My elbow just hurt normally like any injured elbow would.

So now I have a lot of expensive pills in the cupboard that I don't need. My experience has been duly relayed to the FDA and I hope no one else ever has to go through it. I've had a lot of therapy on my elbow, until I can now sit at my desk and type again—at which point, of course, I was slammed with a zillion essays, interviews, and blog posts for the UK publication of Hild. And then eye surgery. And now a lot of physical therapy to do; I have to relearn to walk. But first I have to relearn to see and my eyes need to heal. And somehow I have to squeeze in going to the UK, touring the US and, oh yeah, writing HILD II.

So I've been a bit distracted. But I'm back.

1 For those of you who aren't aware how this stuff works, pharmaceutical companies with billions of dollars on the line sponsor a lot of studies for their potential new drugs. But they only submit for publication the ones that show their potential blockbusters in a positive light. So anything you read about same is inherently biased, no matter how valiantly medical journals try (or don't) to ensure impartiality. No one outside the inner circles of the money-making licence-holder really knows about drugs that come to market—no matter how many letters they have after their name or how smart or how respected or esteemed or revered they may be. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I knew this. But I thought: how bad could it be?
2 I've since fixed my diet and the problem has largely vanished. And a shit-ton of Benadryl usually helps if something gets past my filters.
3 I did manage a few local events. If you saw me between the end of November and April, I was stoned out of my gourd. Apparently most people were none the wiser. (An interesting data point.)
4 I laugh at pain in elbow. It is nothing, nothing compared that flashing, shooting, drenching, lava-like agony of Tecfidera plus proximal nerve demyelination plus peripheral nerve excitation.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Coming to the UK in early October

I'll be in the UK from October 1 to 10 to do Hild-ish things.

In the north I'll be doing events for two libraries and a literature festival:

  • Calderdale Library, Thursday 2nd October, TBD
  • Stockton-on-Tees Library, Friday 3rd October, TBD
  • Ilkley Literature Festival, Sunday 5th October, 4:30 pm
In London, I'll be at two universities and a bookshop:
  • King's College London, Tuesday, 7th October, 6 - 8 pm
  • Queen Mary University, Wednesday, 8th October, TBD
  • Forbidden Planet, Thursday, 9th October, 6 - 7 pm
More details later, with links etc. I think the only one you'd have to book in advance and pay for is the Ilkley Festival (tickets go on sale tomorrow but I've no idea how quickly they do or don't sell out).

Meanwhile, this is thrilling for me. It will be the first time I've done a novel-related event in the UK since 1993 when I was there for the launch of Ammonite. There are so very many UK readers I've met since and talked to through the magical ether of the intarwebs. I wish I could meet you all. I wish I could spend a month in the UK travelling about. But ten days is what we have.

So I hope you can come to one of the events above. It'll be a blast!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Accessing the Future: Disability in SF

Every now and again I come across a project I really want to support. Here's one: Accessing the Future, an SF anthology exploring disability and how it intersects with other factors, edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad.

Disability—and those other factors—is something that concerns me deeply.1

Kathryn and Djibril are raising money at Indiegogo. They need your help. I hope you'll get behind and push. Meanwhile, here's Djibril to tell you a bit more about their goals (note: the footnotes are mine).

Disability in SF: support a new anthology
Djibril al-Ayad
Accessing the Future will be an anthology of disability-themed science fiction stories, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad for Futurefire.net Publishing. We want your help to raise the funds to produce it. 

Why a disability-themed anthology?
Disability has always been one of the axes of privilege in fiction that Futurefire.net cares about. Issues around disability are poorly treated not only in fiction but in most aspects of our society. People with disabilities are still among the most marginalized and financially disadvantaged, and are often smeared as "malingerers" or "spongers."

In too much science fiction, especially cyberpunk or space opera, we see disabled characters "cured" by the miracle of modern technology (or "escape" their body into the freedom of cyberspace2). We can do better than this. Along with other, intersecting oppressions, disability needs to be addressed in science fiction.

Why address these issues via scifi?
Speculative fiction has freedom to be "unrealistic," utopian, imagine futures or alternate realities where prejudices and rules of our own world do not necessarily exist. In a secondary world, with invented laws of physics or magic, lines between realistic narrative and parable or “message” are blurred and multivalent. Every literary image has a cacophony of possible readings, conditioned by reader expectations via the shared perceptual filters of our society and genre. When you see a protagonist in mirrorshades talking about meatspace, you know what’s coming. Or you think you do, until the author slips you a queer ball.

These decisions impact the story we want to tell, whether in a subversive postcolonial agenda or a conservative "apolitical" romp. This may mean being overtly political, but the alternative is to be covertly so, and audiences aren’t stupid. If this means we find ourselves preaching to the choir, that's okay. People who already agree with us, especially when we’re talking about under-represented voices, deserve to read good, politically palatable stories too, to be reminded that they’re not alone, and the good fight is worth fighting.

And hey, having a choir at all in these circumstances is a good problem to have, right?

Support Futurefire.net’s latest anthology of disability-themed SF by pre-ordering or picking up one of the perks at igg.me/at/accessingfuture

1 It's a rant, yep. I do that sometimes.
2 Turns out I've ranted about this, too, in "Writing from the Body."


Monday, August 11, 2014

Splendid full-page review in BBC History Magazine

Wow, the September issue of BBC History Magazine has a splendid full-page Nick Rennison review of Hild:

This is a powerful, clever novel. Griffith illuminates the so-called Dark Ages, reconstructing an often alien historical world with great precision, and in Hild has created a sympathetic, complex character to act as a guide. 

If anyone recognises the stained-glass image used in the magazine please let me know. I can't place it. Sorry for the poor quality; I don't have a link and this is a grab from a scan.

While I croon and chortle over Hild's splendiferousness you could do worse than amuse yourself with one of the three other novels they mention in the review sidebar: Conscience of the King (Alfred Duggan), Credo (Melvyn Bragg) and The Bone Thief (V.M. Whitworth). Or you could get the magazine itself, stuffed (apparently—I haven't seen it) with information on Northumbrian kings. Enjoy.

ETA: The stained-glass is from Sneaton. (Thanks, Barbara.)


Saturday, August 9, 2014

A list of bookshops in the UK

I've pointed readers before to this international list of independent bookstores. Now I've finally got around to a UK-specific list.

These are booksellers in the UK, including mini-chains, where you should either be able to find Hild or they'll order it for you. (I'm assuming you all know where your local Waterstones is: they'll order the book, too.) The organisation is a little eccentric (especially the London section). I decided not to break things up by country or county, just alphabetically by city. Theh links are eccentric, too: some bookshops seem to have been taken over by a mini-chain but not changed their URL—assuming they'd bothered with a website in the first place (I've had to resort to Twitter and Facebook links here and there).

There are some lovely-looking bookshops here. No doubt I could add more. This list is far from complete: a mix of info from friends, readers, and my publisher. I'm relying on you to help me fill in gaps. What's your favourite bookshop in the UK?

* Aberdeen: Blackwell's

* Abbingdon: Mostly Books

* Aldeburgh: Aldeburgh Bookshop Ltd.

* Banchory: Yeadons

* Bath: Topping and Co Booksellers Ltd

* Brighton and Hove: City Books

* Bristol: Blackwell's
* Bristol: Foyles

* Cambridge: Heffers Academic and General

* Carlisle: Bookends

* Chepstow: Chepstow Bookshop

* Chipping Norton: Jaffe and Neal Ltd

* Colchester: Red Lion Books Ltd
* Cochester: Wivanhoe Bookshop

* Edinburgh: Blackwell's
* Edinburgh: Word Power

* East Grinstead: The Bookshop

* Elgin: Yeadons

* Exeter: Blackwell's

* Haverfordwest: Victoria Bookshop Limited

* Hebden Bridge: The Bookcase

* Hexham: Cogito

* Ilkley: The Grove Bookshop

* Keswick: Bookends

* Leeds: Blackwell's
* Leeds: Radish

* Liverpool: News From Nowhere

* London: Blackwell's (x2)
* London: Forbidden Planet 
* London: Gay's the Word
* London: Foyles Ltd (x many)
* London: Daunt Books (x several)
* London: The British Library Bookshop 
* London: Barnes Bookshop
* London: Village Books

* Lowdham: The Bookcase

* Ludlow: Castle Bookshop

* Lytham-St-Anne's: Plackitt and Booth Booksellers

* Manchester: EJ Morton

* Monmouth: Rossiter Books

* Newcastle: Blackwell's

* Norwich: The Book Hive
* Norwich: Jarrold and Sons Limited

* Nottingham: Five Leaves

* Oxford: Blackwell's

* Penarth: Windsor Bookshop

* Penzance: Edge of the World Bookshop

* Petersfield: One Tree Books

* Petworth: The Petworth Bookshop Ltd

* Plymouth: University Bookseller

* Richmond: Kew Books Ltd

* Ross-on-Wye: Rossiter Books

* Saltaire: Salt's Mill

* Sheffield: Rhyme and Reason
* Sheffield: Blackwell's

* Sherborne: Winstone Books

* Spalding: Bookmark

* St Peter's Port: The Lexicon Ltd

* St Ives: The St Ives Bookseller

* Stockport: Simply Books

* Tetbury: The Yellow Lighted Bookshop

* Totnes: Totnes Bookshop

* Whitby: Whitby Bookshop

* Woodford Green: Village Bookshop


Friday, August 8, 2014

Essay, review, coming soon...

Two more blog tour things:

There have been other reviews on the web but as they're neither from the official blog tour nor from a major journal I'll spare you. Some are a bit, hmmm, grumpy: not queer enough, not medieval enough, not plotty enough, etc.

Coming soon: a post about a crowd-funding campaign for an anthology worth supporting, Accessing the Future. Access matters to me.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

If you crossed Arya Stark with Thomas Cromwell...

In black and white for change because change is good...
More stuff's gone up in support of the UK publication of Hild. Enjoy!

10 things about Hild, the woman

What we do and don't know. What I made up...

Hild's Voice
How I figured out how to write this book.

"If you crossed Arya Stark with Thomas Cromwell and Julian of Norwich, you would have an approximation of Hild." No link. I just really liked this quote from Hodderscape.

Hebrew "Gods and Genre"

The Hebrew translation of my post about Thor is up at Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy website

The Tattoed Book interview
"What's gratified me most is hearing from readers how real it all felt..."


Monday, August 4, 2014

New post up at my research blog

I've just posted a long piece over at my research blog about Anglo-Saxon origin stories

It was a real challenge to write one particular scene in Hild because I had to allow her to believe something that today we don't think is true. But to be true to the experiment I'd set myself—to find out who Hild really was by recreating the seventh century as she would have known it and then growing her inside—I had to let her believe it and behave according. 

The Yffings told themselves a story of how and when they came to England. In my blog post I point out all the ways in which this story isn't true. Hild will figure this out in Book Two...


Friday, August 1, 2014

Stay as an ebook in the UK

From: Laura

I'm looking for the ebook version of Stay but it doesn't appear to be listed on Amazon UK. Is it only available in paperback?

Sadly, yes, Stay is only available in the UK in paperback. The Aud books have never been officially published there, just imported from the US. Clearly HarperCollins (who published The Blue Place) and Riverhead/Penguin (Always) feel able to offer the Kindle version but Vintage/Random House (Stay) don't. Why? I don't know. A lot about publishing does not make sense to me

Being able to get two of the books in digital form but not the third is so far from ideal it approaches the bizarre. This is currently out of my control. There's nothing I'd like more than to get the rights back to all three and publish them properly and as a coherent package all over the world. I'm working on it. As and when I get my own way on this I'll post the news here.

I am very proud of the Aud books but their publication has been a great frustration to me. One day I'll fix it. I'll probably fix it faster in the UK because here in the US it will require more money than I currently have available to buy back the territorial rights from three different publishers. But I have no idea of timeframes in either case.

Meanwhile, hey, at least there's the paperback.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Essays, rants, interviews, news

As Hild came out in the UK last week I've been busy writing stuff for other people's blogs. Here's a selection:

There's more goodness scheduled. I'll keep you updated. 

Meanwhile, Hild's made the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize longlist. (Operative word: loooong...) Go take a look.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HILD on Not the Booker Prize long list

Hild is on the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize long list. And i's a very long list. I'd say over 90. There's some good stuff, also some rubbish—mileage really does vary—including a couple on the official Booker Prize long list.

Only six books will be shortlisted. And here's the thing, you, yes you, the readers, get to decide which. To vote, you choose two of the long-listed novels (make sure they're from different publishers) and write a review for both in the comments on the post linked above. The more thoughtful the review, the better; the Guardian wants "something over 100 words."

The deadline is midnight (UK time) on Sunday, August 3.

As my publisher says: this will help build conversation around all the good books out there. Her favourite part of the terms and condition is 12. The author of the winning book will receive a Guardian mug. They may not want it, but there's nothing we can do about that. So go take a look. I wouldn't mind one of those mugs...


Thursday, July 24, 2014

HILD is out today in the UK!

From Blackfriars/Little, Brown — 24th June

Hild is out today. You can buy it in hardback or ebook in the UK:

and paperback or ebook in the rest of the English-speaking Commonwealth:

If you still haven't got your US copy then, hey, you could wait for the paperback, due October 28, or see this long and luscious list of where to buy Hild, which includes many fabulous independent bookshops.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blog tour schedule

In honour of Hild's UK publication, I have lots of stuff—essays, interviews, reviews—going up this week on other people's blogs, starting today:
If you like anything, especially something someone else has written, do please leave them a comment.

I'll do my best to post links on Twitter and Facebook as things go up, but I might miss a few. So, just in case, here's the schedule:


Monday, July 21, 2014

Bishops in high heels

Thanks to a reader I've finally got around to reading yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed about the Church of England's General Synod decision to permit women bishops.

Hild would have been glad. I imagine she essentially functioned as a bishop anyway—even without being a priest—but she would have welcomed anything that made her position as leader of her church easier.

I look forward to future bishops in frocks. Who knows, given the inevitable changes we're seeing around gender: some of them might be men...


Friday, July 18, 2014

Coming soon: I am everywhere...

...But in the next ten days or so perhaps not here a lot. On Thursday, 24th July, Hild will be published in the UK (and fifty other territories: India, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand...). The hardback is available for pre-order from fine bookshops such as Foyles and Word Power, and giant online retailers like Amazon and Waterstones. You can get the ebook now from the online giants in all English-speaking territories (Amazon UK | Apple UK | Apple ANZ | Amazon ANZFlipkart | JB Hi-Fi). If none of those take your fancy, take a look at this comprehensive list of where to buy Hild.

I'll be guest-blogging in at least a dozen different places. 

I've already started over at Charlie Stross's Antipope with "Gods and Gender," ostensibly a piece about Thor but really about sex and gender and the sf genre, especially comics. Drop by. The comment thread is very well moderated and the conversation good. Next week I plan to start discussion on a topic very dear to my heart: Who owns sf? That is, who gets to define it? How is that changing?

Some of the articles I've written are starting to appear. See, for example, "To Come Back Increased" in Shiny New Books.

I've been delighted by the response of professional medievalists. See, for example, this long and thoughtful review in Medievally Speaking.

But what I'm currently pleased as punch about are the two blurbs from well-respected historian/author/academic Alex Woolf and the writer and archaeologist Max Adams:
  • "Hild is the best fictional attempt to recreate Dark Age Britain that I have ever read. Alex Woolf
  • "I was impressed—as a fellow-writer and a Northumbrian archaeologist. Hild is a great piece of work."  Max Adams
I won't be in the UK until October. That visit will include bookshops, literary festivals, at least one university, and perhaps more. The last I heard the publisher was talking to a company about a special batch of mead... Details to come but, essentially, if you can get to London or to Yorkshire we will have a good time!

Also, with luck, I'll be travelling in the US in November. That's all still TBD, though, so if you want to me to come to your city and/or your bookshop, do please let me know. Right now I've no idea what the paperback publisher, Picador, has in mind, so vote early, vote often, and you never know...


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hild's sexuality, redux

Over at Goodreads I've been answering questions, most recently on whether, in Hild's time, sex between women was or was not frowned upon.
Simon asked Nicola Griffith:

I absolutely loved your book _Hild_. Thanks so much for writing it! You depict a fairly open attitude to homosexual relations. In your research for the book, did you come across any evidence on attitudes to homosexuality, or was this part of what you "made up"?

Nicola Griffith said:
Thank you!

Hild isn't lesbian/homosexual. She's bisexual. I doubt they had such terms back then, though. I've seen no evidence that who you did or did not have sex with defined how women thought of themselves.

Actually, there's no evidence for anything, sexually, in early seventh-century northern Britain. Nothing. No material culture and no text.

I'm guessing that Roman Christians, being Pauline to the core, would have disapproved. Indeed, Breguswith says as much in the book: be careful around the priests. But that was as much about having sex with anyone as having sex with women. Monks and priests like Bede (if we go purely by written evidence) thought women were more holy if they didn't have sex at all; being a virgin was better than being married, for example.

The way I see it, at the time, before widespread conversion to Roman Christianity, no one much cared who you did and didn't have sex with. Sex wasn't a moral issue. All royal women before the founding of nunneries (I think--though I'm wary of the words 'always' and 'never' in any context, never mind a time we know so little about) got married, and that if they then wanted to have sex with other women no one would much care as long as they were discreet. After all, the point of marriage was alliance, household management, and the provision of heirs. Married girls loving other married girls wouldn't have any impact on any of these points.

I talk about that a bit here: http://gemaecca.blogspot.com/2008/08/...

There again, there's this incident from Ireland from the 8th century that makes sex between women sound rather jolly and uncomplicated:

Make of that what you will...
More questions and answers here. I'll be stopping soon so carpe forum. Or you could just send me email (see sidebar) with a question and I'll answer here.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

I'm Guest of Honour at Readercon 26, July 2015

One hour ago:

So it's official. Next year, July 2015, I and Gary Wolfe and the fiercely missed Joanna Russ will be the Guests of Honour at Readercon 26, Burlington MA. Mark your calendars! It's going to be an amazing four days.

More info when I have it.


Friday, July 11, 2014

What is it about mothers?

From: Sally

This is more of a request than a question, actually! More Hild and more Aud, please!

Hild is so brilliant! I can’t wait for what happens next. It is such a beautiful book, so well written. You have a gift, your characters are so vivid. In your writings, while depicting a lot of violence and evil, you write with such love and compassion. In a time of small people you fill your books with super large people and lots of exciting action.

What is it about your mums? Both Hild’s and Aud’s are fascinating.

Aud is larger than life, her faults are frightening, she is so flawed but so lovable I think! Super Aud. She grows quite wonderfully in your trilogy.

I would love to know more about Aud’s mother, it is such a loaded relationship. You leave out and your reader fills in the spaces.

I love the way you bring science and nature into your books, reminding me of Robert Macfarlane’s wonderful books.

Thanks for your lovely books. I wish you well in your writing and in your health. God Bless.
Oh, there will be more Hild. I'm working on Book II now and researching for Book III. (Current reading: Nunneries and the Anglo-Saxon Royal Houses by Barbara Yorke, and Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster). One day there might be more Aud; I think of her now and again.

Hild and Aud do have some things in common: height, for one thing. And a concern for and attention to the physical world. They are bright, of course--I've never been interested in writing about people who aren't--but the body matters as much as the mind.

I've just realised that both, too, have absent fathers. Neither, though, has Daddy Issues. (Unlike 99.9% of Hollywood product. Don't get me started on The Lego Movie...)

The mothers of Hild and Aud are strong, smart, and accomplished. They're also political, ruthless, and occasionally selfish. And they love their daughters, though sometimes their daughters don't love them back. In other words, they're parents and they're human.

If you're going to have an interesting protagonist it helps if she comes from an interesting background. And the font of all background is family.

So the mothers of Aud and Hild are towering figures. Aud's is largely an absent one as she was growing up because that's the nature of modern diplomatic work. Hild's, on the other hand, is with her most of the time. Not always, though; I needed Hild to be able to find her own way, become her own person, and I suspect this isn't possible if a parent is constantly hovering.

I'm delighted Hild reminded you of Robert Macfarlane's work. I discovered his books not long after I started working on Hild and felt instantly at home with his appreciation of the natural world. His descriptions have the same sensibility. Last year, when he was chairing the Booker judges, I sighed over the fact that Hild wasn't eligible.

As for my health, it's good. Very good actually. But a truly terrible six months of iatrogenic horrors--November through May--has left me with some serious catching up to do. More on that another time because it will be a rant. Let me just put it this way: the FDA has been informed.

Now, though, I'm strong as a horse, engaged with Book II, and looking forward to the UK launch of Hild. Life is good.