Category Archives: Matt Ruff

Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country

Today is publication day for Lovecraft Country, the new novel by my husband, Matt Ruff.

You can learn more about the book and read reviews and an excerpt here.

lc

If you’d like to attend one of Matt’s book events in Seattle, Portland, or Vancouver, you’ll find the details here. The launch event is tonight, February 16th, at 7pm at Elliott Bay Books, where Matt will be in conversation with Paul Constant from the Seattle Review of Books.

“But you love these stories!” Atticus said. “You love them as much as I do!”

“I do love them, George agreed. “But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though.”

“But you don’t get mad. Not like Pop does.”

“No, that’s true, I don’t get mad. Not at stories. They do disappoint me sometimes.” He looked at the shelves. “Sometimes, they stab me in the heart.”

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story”

Apologies for my long blog silence, but it has been a crazy, busy year.

I am still on Twitter daily, and I often tweet links to information and reference sources as well as articles on a wide range of subjects, so follow me @bylisagold if you are interested.

I did write two posts last month for the Bauman Rare Books blog, on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and on Rare Books as Gifts. You’ll find links to all of my BRB blog posts in the sidebar to the right.

I do have some exciting news about my husband, Matt Ruff. His new book will be published in February 2016– Lovecraft Country, a historical novel that explores the real-life terrors of Jim Crow racism through the prism of Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. Matt’s website has a description of the novel, blurbs from Christopher Moore, Cory Doctorow, Neal Stephenson, and John Crowley, and advance reviews. He also posted a list of his readings/signings/appearances for the book, with more to come as they are scheduled.

lovecraftcov

And finally, as you likely guessed from the title of this post, I have fallen hard for Lin-Manual Miranda’s Hamilton musical. I haven’t seen the show (*sob*), but I’m completely obsessed with the extraordinary Broadway cast album. Excuse me while I go listen to it again…

hamilton

News about The Mirage paperback, the Queen Anne Book Company, and Clarion West

  • Matt Ruff‘s latest novel, The Mirage, will be published in trade paperback on February 12, 2013. (The hardcover and ebook editions were published in February 2012.) Matt will be doing some readings/signings in Seattle and Portland over the next few weeks.

mirageps

  • Queen Anne Books, the beloved independent bookstore that closed on Halloween, will soon be reincarnated in the same location as the Queen Anne Book Company. The new store, with new owner/managers and some of the booksellers from the old store, will hold its grand opening on March 1st. You can follow the Queen Anne Book Company on Twitter @queenannebookco or on Facebook.
  • March 1st is the deadline to apply to the Clarion and Clarion West writers workshops for science fiction and fantasy. The instructors this year include Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Samuel R. Delany, Joe Hill, Nalo Hopkinson, and Karen Joy Fowler (see my previous blog post for the complete list and more information). Clarion West has just announced that Margo Lanagan will be teaching instead of Justina Robson.
  • Clarion West is offering a series of special one-day workshops in Seattle from February to May, taught by Molly Gloss, John Crowley, Mary Rosenblum, and Daryl Gregory. Each workshop is limited to only 14 students, so don’t wait to sign up.

UPDATE, 2/26/13: For more information about the Queen Anne Book Company’s grand-opening weekend (March 1st to 3rd) and their “Authors in the House” events, see this article from the Queen Anne View blog.

Fool on the Hill, Matt Ruff’s first novel, now an ebook

Fool on the Hill, Matt‘s beloved first novel, is finally available as an ebook. You can now buy it for Kindle or Nook, and it should soon be available for iTunes and Google Books as well.

UPDATE, 9/24/12: It’s now available on iTunes and Kobo.

The Mirage is here!

Today is publication day for The Mirage, Matt Ruff’s new novel, which is available as a gorgeous hardcover and as an ebook.

You can read a PDF excerpt on The Mirage page of Matt’s website.

The book is on the February Indie Next list, and Matt has been posting the early reviews on his blog. This morning Cory Doctorow posted his review on BoingBoing:

I’m a huge fan of Matt Ruff’s novels, so when friends in the know started to spontaneously tell me about how fantastic the advance manuscript they’d just read for his next novel, The Mirage, was, I just assumed, yeah, it’d be more great Matt Ruff.

But this isn’t just more Matt Ruff. This is Matt Ruff with the awesome turned up to 11. To 12. To 100….

This is one of those books that you read while walking down the street and long after your bedtime, a book you stop strangers to tell about.

You can read his full review here. (Thanks, Cory!)

Over the next few weeks, Matt will be doing readings/signings at independent bookstores all over the Seattle area, as well as in San Francisco, Bellingham, Portland (Oregon), and Vancouver (Canada). The first event is Thursday, February 9th, at Elliott Bay Book Company, where Matt will be in conversation with Paul Constant, The Stranger’s book editor. If you’d like a signed book but can’t attend a reading, you can order a signed copy from one of the bookstores he’ll be visiting, as most will ship books upon request.

Cover change

Matt’s novel, The Mirage, will be published in early February with this new cover design:

The ARCs (advance review copies) were printed with the original green and pink design, which I suppose will make them more collectible.

Matt Ruff’s new website and blog

Matt has just launched a new website and blog at www.bymattruff.com.

His old LiveJournal blog (with five years of posts) still exists, but from now on he’ll be posting at his new blog, which you can subscribe to via RSS.

Very late to the party

Matt and I are now on Twitter. He’s @bymattruff and I’m @bylisagold.

The Mirage cover

Matt’s new novel, The Mirage, now has a publication date (February 7, 2012) and a cover:

You can read more about the book on Matt’s website, and his blog posts about the book are here.

Update, 11/11/11: The Mirage has a new cover design.

 

I’m still here

Sorry for the blog silence, but my attention was elsewhere.

The good news is that Matt has finished writing his new novel, The Mirage, which will likely be published in January 2012. (More details to come.) One of the perks of being married to an author is that I’m his first reader, and I can’t begin to describe the remarkable experience of reading manuscript pages and watching a master storyteller work his magic. As an added bonus, I enjoy assisting him with research, fact-checking, and editing. (But it’s not all fun– helping my obsessive and perfectionist husband get over the finish line and let go of the book is grueling.) I don’t want to tease you, but let me just say this book is his best yet– it’s mind-blowingly great and unlike anything I’ve ever read, yet still clearly a Matt Ruff book.

To help make amends for my absence, here are two photos of the ocelot kitten born in January at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo:

New e-mail addresses

To make a long and uninteresting story short:

That is all.

110th birthday of the University Book Store and more on the Espresso Book Machine

On Sunday, January 10th, the University Book Store in Seattle is celebrating its 110th birthday with a party and a book created for the occasion titled 110/110:

To commemorate our first 110 years as an independent bookstore, we are pleased to present this book of 110 original 110-word compositions by a group of authors we consider members of our University Book Store family….

Beginning January 10, 2010, copies of the book will be available to all who purchase any single title by a contributor to the collection. Click here for a full list of contributors and see below for a sneak peek at the book!

Contributors include a wide and interesting range of local authors, including Matt Ruff, Greg Bear, Tom Robbins, Terry Brooks, Molly Gloss, Nancy Pearl, Dan Savage, Wesley Stace, Maria Dahvana Headley, Matt Briggs, Ivan Doig, David Guterson, Stephanie Kallos, Jess Walter, and many others.

There will be cake. If you can’t visit the bookstore in person, you can still get a copy of 110/110 by ordering online any book by one of the contributors using the promo code posted on the website.

By the way, the arrival of the University Book Store’s Espresso Book Machine has been delayed until February. For those who can’t wait, Ginger, the Third Place Books Espresso Book Machine, is up and running. Here are some related links:

People I like have been doing interesting things

Though I haven’t blogged much of late, people I like have been doing interesting things that I wanted to share:

Nisi Shawl posted her essay “Transracial Writing for the Sincere” on the SFWA website, in which she gives great advice on doing research (using people and primary sources) and writing characters of different races and backgrounds. The essay is part of Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, the companion book to Nisi and Cynthia Ward’s “Writing the Other” fiction writing workshops. Last year Nisi published Filter House, her award-winning short fiction collection.

Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge started Sterling Editing to offer editing, mentoring, and coaching for writers. Their website has excellent advice and links to resources for writers, and I particularly like their “editcasts.”

— Speaking of Kelley, she’ll be teaching a six-week class called “The Whole Story” at Richard Hugo House starting January 27th. Her class will “explore essential elements of good short fiction: structure, point of view, plotting, character development, description and dialogue….” Other notable Winter 2010 Hugo House classes include Geoff Ryman’s December 19th one-day class “Writing Story, Writing Plot,” and Nancy Kress’s six-week class “Writing Fiction: A Critique Class.” Details and registration information can be found here. (I will not be teaching at Hugo House this winter, but I will probably be teaching another all-day “Creative Research for Writers” class there in the spring.)

Justine Larbalestier came to Seattle on book tour for her new novel, Liar, and we spent an enjoyable evening with her and Ted Chiang.

John Crowley received a wonderful birthday greeting on December 1st from Garrison Keiller’s Writer’s Almanac. An excerpt:

His books are sometimes called fantasy or science fiction and sometimes just fiction. John Crowley said, “It’s probably central to the nature of fiction altogether, to try to enter into lost worlds, or enter into ‘the lost’ in some way.” And he has created many strange and lost worlds in his fiction, worlds that are on the one hand recognizable to us, and on the other slightly altered, filled with magic… When the critic Harold Bloom was asked to write about one book that changed his life, he mentioned writing by Shakespeare, William Blake, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, but the book he finally chose was Little, Big. He said: “So perpetually fresh is this book, changing each time I reread it, that I find it virtually impossible to describe, and scarcely can summarize it. I pick it up again at odd moments, sometimes when I wake up at night and can’t fall back asleep. Though it is a good-sized volume, I think I remember every page. Little, Big is for readers from nine to ninety, because it naturalizes and renders domestic the marvelous….”

Linda Stone, the fascinating thinker, writer, and speaker who coined the terms “continuous partial attention” and “email apnea,” has a new blog/website at lindastone.net. Go explore and join the conversation.

Matt Ruff (my husband) has sold his novel-in-progress, The Mirage, to HarperCollins. He’s been too busy writing the book to blog about it, which is why I’m mentioning it here, but he promises he’ll eventually post more details on his blog.

Update: Matt blogged about The Mirage on December 15th.

Time-traveling through the English language with the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary

Matt and I recently had the opportunity to spend some time browsing through the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, which has just been published by Oxford University Press.

I began by reading the introduction. He began by looking up curse words. Once he had satisfied his curiosity about when certain very popular profanities first entered the English language, he turned his attention to the more unusual words within the inferior persons, as abused subcategory that have fallen out of use, such as windfucker (1602 to 1616), hog-rubber (1614 to 1621), chuff-cat (1653), shit-sack (1769 to 1785), and son of a sea-cook (1806 to 1977). This led to an animated discussion of the common themes that connected many of the words—comparisons to animals, sex with relatives or objects, and the inability to control one’s bowels.

That’s what happens when you put the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary within reach of a writer.

Browsing this work feels strangely like time-travel. All the words from Old English to 2003—obsolete and current, including slang and dialect—have been extracted from the Oxford English Dictionary and organized by their meanings and dates of use. This places each word within its historical context, revealing how ideas and meanings emerged and the different ways they’ve been expressed through time.

It took forty-four years to bring the HTOED to publication, overcoming what the editors politely describe as “a series of intellectual, financial, and domestic challenges.” About 800,000 meanings from the OED were transcribed onto slips of paper and organized into a unique classification system with over 236,000 categories and subcategories. A fire in 1978 would have destroyed a decade of work but for the fact that the paper slips were stored in a metal filing cabinet. They could have finished making slips by 1980, but the decision was made to add new material from the second edition of the OED and the supplements. Computers were eventually used to enter, store, and retrieve data, but much of the work continued to be done by hand.

The result is the world’s largest thesaurus, nearly 4000 pages of small type in two big volumes weighing fifteen pounds, with a slipcase and folding chart of the top levels of the classification system. I like print references because browsing can lead to serendipitous discoveries, but these books can be awkward to use. It’s especially frustrating when looking up a word with multiple meanings, as the index may list dozens of identification numbers, which means lots of page flipping. No, it’s not available online or on CD, though that may eventually change. I’d like to see the powers-that-be at Oxford University Press quickly add the HTOED to the online OED so both works can be used together and fully cross-referenced and searched.

The classification system of the HTOED is mind-bogglingly complex, forming a hierarchy of meaning from the general to the specific. At the highest level are the three main sections—the external world, the mental world, and the social world—which divide into 26 major categories, such as the earth, life, emotion, society, morality, faith, armed hostility, and communication. These branch into more detailed categories like food, clothing, people, animals, transport, love, moral evil, and sexual relations. More specific categories and subcategories lead to the synonyms and related words, which are organized by part of speech and listed chronologically with the date of the first recorded use in English and, for obsolete words, the last recorded use. (I recommend reading the “guide to the use of the thesaurus” to get your bearings.)

Each level in this hierarchy of meaning is assigned a two-digit number, which when combined creates identification numbers for every word in the thesaurus. Some words have many identification numbers because they have numerous meanings or have changed their meanings over time and thus appear in different locations within the thesaurus.

For example, in the alphabetical index, the first identification number for the noun serendipity, one of my favorite words, is 01.05.05.10.02.01|10.01, locating it in the thesaurus within these nested categories and subcategories:

01                                                         the external world
01.05                                                  existence in time and space
01.05.05                                           action/operation
01.05.05.10                                    endeavour
01.05.05.10.02                             searching/seeking
01.05.05.10.02.01 (n.)              finding/discovery (noun)
01.05.05.10.02.01|10               accidentally (subcategory)
01.05.05.10.02.01|10.01        faculty of making happy discoveries by chance

Here you’ll find that the noun serendipity was first cited in 1754. After the finding/discovery (noun) category is the finding/discovery (adjective) category, in which serendipitous (01.05.05.10.02.01|03) dates from 1958.

The HTOED will clearly be important to the study of the English language, but it also could contribute to other subjects, especially history, literature, and culture. The descriptions of life and the earth over centuries are like crash courses in the history of science and medicine. Cultural historians will look for clues in our language to our attitudes about gender, race, and class, as with the words used to describe women based on animals (mare, hen, cow, heifer, bird) or clothing (skirt, smock, petticoat). Advancements in technology are reflected in subjects like travel, tools, telecommunications, and computing. Shakespeare scholars will be able to compare the words in use during his lifetime and argue about the reasons for his word choices. Even a category like clothing can reveal shifts in morality, as when underwear became unmentionables in 1823.

I believe the HTOED could be a rich source of inspiration and world-building for writers. Historical novelists could gain insight into the past and how people lived, what they knew and believed, and how they described their own world. And they’ll know whether the words their characters are speaking were actually in use at the time. (Elizabethans would not have called a packed meal a picnic, as it was first cited in 1748.)  Fantasy writers may unearth ideas in forgotten names or descriptions of supernatural beings and mythical creatures. Poets can reintroduce lyrical and imaginative words that have fallen out of use, such as candel (Old English to 1634), luminair (1456 to 1560), or streamer (1513 to 1647), all of which once described heavenly bodies. Eclectic writers like my husband who have a strong love of word-play and enjoy collecting unusual bits of knowledge will find it addictive.

Let’s say you’d like to take advantage of the current craze for vampires or literary monster mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The HTOED can tell you when different monsters first entered our nightmares and what we called them at distinct points in time. Follow the hierarchy of categories from the external world to the supernatural to supernatural being/spirit to malignant monster (noun). Here you’ll find that the word vampyre was first cited in 1734, followed by vampire in 1796. Though vampire is still in use today, the last recorded OED citation for vampyre was in 1847. Referring to vampires as undead didn’t begin until 1897. Werewolves trace all the way back to the Old English werewulf, lycanthrope was first cited in 1813 and is still in use, but the more poetic turnskin entered the language in 1831 and exited forty years later. Oh, and zombie was first cited in 1819, two years after the death of Jane Austen.

The editors have included all those words that have been too controversial for some other dictionaries and thesauruses. Curse words, sexual slang, and offensive slurs for racial and sexual minorities appear dispassionately in their chronological place among their less inflammatory cousins. Reading certain entries may cause shock, disgust, or pain, but there is value in putting these powerful words in their historical context. If you are easily offended or prefer your works expurgated, consider yourself warned.

Priced at $395 (on sale at Amazon for $316), the HTOED will unfortunately be out of reach for many of the writers and word lovers who might appreciate it, so keep it mind if you are looking for a fabulous gift for your favorite logophile.

For more information, check out this OUP website for the HTOED and this OUP blog post with “fun facts and figures” about the work. Here’s the link to a sample page from the work at the OUP website.

UPDATE, 10/28/09: I received an email from Christian Kay, editor of the HTOED. There are indeed plans to eventually link the HTOED to the OED online and make it available to subscribers, but that could be a couple of years away. There are no plans for a CD version. So it looks like the books will be the only option for quite some time.

NEW UPDATE, 6/18/10: The Oxford English Dictionary Online will be relaunched in December 2010 and will include an integrated online edition of the Historical Thesaurus. See my blog post “Word lovers rejoice” for more information.

NEW UPDATE, 11/30/10: The new OED website has launched, fully integrating the online Oxford English Dictionary with the Historical Thesaurus. See my new blog post for more information.

Writers and their rooms

Through LISNews, I discovered photographer Kyle Cassidy’s new project, Where I Write: Fantasy & Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces. The website contains 20 photographs of writers in their rooms and a description of the project:

I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s environments — the places they build around themselves, the things they choose to live with. Is there a connection, I started to wonder if there was a connection between the places that writers work and their work itself.

Why not find out?

Where I Write will be featured as eight pages in the 2009 Worldcon program guide. A much larger collection is being compiled into a book featuring Neil Gaiman, Lois McMaster Bujold, and many others along with interviews about their spaces.

Here’s Cassidy’s photograph of Michael Swanwick:

wiw-swanwick

This reminded me of Eamonn McCabe’s photographs for The Guardian’s Writers’ Rooms series, though his are of the rooms without their writers.  There are over a hundred of McCabe’s photographs on the website, with commentary by the writers. Here’s Colm Tóibín’s room:

toibin

And JG Ballard’s room:

ballard

There’s also an interesting slideshow of many of McCabe’s photos, narrated by him, on the BBC website.

Update 8/13/09: This morning Cory Doctorow blogged about Kyle Cassidy’s photo project on BoingBoing and posted a photograph of himself in his London office taken by NK Guy:

Doctorow

No, I won’t be posting any photographs of my husband (Matt Ruff) in his room– he writes at his desk in the dark (lights out, shade down), lit only by the glow of his computer screen.

“I am drawn to borderlands and to the people who inhabit them…”

The io9 website, in an article called “4 Authors We Wish Would Return to Science Fiction,” has interesting statements from Nicola Griffith, Karen Joy Fowler, Mary Doria Russell, and Samuel R. Delany about the role of genre in their writing. (I am a big fan of all three women and their books, but I confess I have not yet read anything by Mr. Delany.)

Here are some of the quotes I found particularly interesting.

Mary Doria Russell:

SF and historical fiction make similar demands on an author. They both require you to imagine as fully as possible a time and place that are not your own. In all my novels, there is an ironic and distanced narrator who knows a lot more than the characters about their past and future. And there is always an awareness of the contemporary limitations of technology and ideology, and of how those limitations affects lives…

[I]ntellectually, I am drawn to borderlands and to the people who inhabit them: marginal natives, newcomers, travelers, people who don’t fit and who therefore have an interestingly slanted view of the cultures they inhabit. Remember: I was an anthropologist long before I was a novelist. We are trained to seek out marginal natives; no one can give you a better perspective on aspects of culture that statistically normal people simply accept as, well, normal.

Admittedly: I have turned out to be kind of a genre slut. I will stand on the literary street corner and get into any genre that drives by and offers to take me to a good par-tay. And sometimes I don’t go home with the one who brung me to the dance…

So I guess what this all adds up to is: who gives a shit about labels? I write about what fascinates me, and I use whatever tools seem best suited to do the job at hand. What happens after that is marketing.

Karen Joy Fowler:

1) I don’t set out to write in any genre; that’s just not my working method. I start with whatever I have, some tiny incoherent image that I hope to make into a story. And then I take what I need to make that story work. Maybe what I need comes from science fiction, but maybe not. I won’t know until I write it.

2) I’m really interested in genre and draw a lot of energy from it. So even if the things I write aren’t, strictly speaking, genre piece, they all seem to be in conversation with genre in some way. (I like mysteries as much as I like sf, by the way.)

3) What I love most about science fiction is the short fiction. Almost all my short fiction spins around a science fictional idea even if the resulting story isn’t quite sf. Charles Brown of Locus told me once that I’m a science fiction writer because I think like a science fiction writer and I was enormously flattered and hope that’s true.

4) But even if it is, mystery writing with its emphasis on plot and sf writing with its emphasis on tech don’t really play to my strengths…

…I’m always writing for sf readers. Science fiction readers enjoy figuring things out and don’t mind being puzzled for long stretches. They read in a very active way. And that’s the way I read and those are the readers I’m trying to please…

Stan Robinson says we all live in a science fiction novel now and it’s clearly true. So I truly believe that science fiction is realism now and literary realism is a nostalgic literature about a place where we once lived, but no longer do.

Nicola Griffith:

I’m a native of sf. You can’t leave that kind of thing behind. Just as everyone I meet in the US knows I’m English, everyone who reads my work knows I’m a skiffy geek. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been away; my English sf upbringing colours my accent, my attitude, my vocabulary. It’s who I am…

*****

These writers, like many of my favorites (including my husband), write across different genres so they can tell the stories they want to tell, in the way they want to tell them.

I remember there was a bit of controversy when Matt won the 2003 James Tiptree Jr. award (for works that explore gender in science fiction or fantasy) for Set This House in Order, as some people questioned whether the book was science fiction. Matt addressed this in his acceptance speech, first with a joke (“Is Set This House in Order science fiction? Or as Margaret Atwood might say: ‘Hey! Where’s the spaceship?'”), then with a detailed explanation of what he was trying to do with the book and why he believed that “though it may not be SF in the strictest sense, it is at least SFnal in its methods and its goals…”:

[The premise of the novel] lit up all the same enthusiasm circuits that a good science-fiction premise would have… I decided early on to write the book as a  “what if” novel: to simply accept certain premises as true, and focus my creative energy on exploring the implications of those premises. My goal was to tell an entertaining story that was believable and internally consistent. I’d take accuracy if and where I could get it, but the point was to provide food for thought, not definitive answers…

Another strategy, which I learned from science-fiction writers, is to write the speculative parts of the story in such a way that they remain intriguing even if the premises on which they are based ultimately turn out to be fantasy. As Ray Bradbury demonstrated with The Martian Chronicles, and as Mary Shelley demonstrated way, way back in the day with Frankenstein, the logic of dreams can remain compelling even after we have awakened….

Are you a Bad Monkey?

“So in your job with Bad Monkeys,” the doctor asks, “what is it you do? Punish evil people?”

“No. Usually we just kill them.”

My husband, Matt Ruff, has just announced via his blog that the movie rights have been optioned for his most recent novel, Bad Monkeys. (WOOT!)

You can read more about the book (including the first chapter, reviews, and Q&A) on the Bad Monkeys page of Matt’s website.