My Worldcon (Loncon 3) Schedule

Thanks to assistance from ArtsNB, the NB Arts Board, I’m able to attend Loncon 3. If you see me wandering, do come and say hello and don’t wait for me to speak first. Talk to me about Blackdog or The Leopard or The Lady, or what I’m working on now or my books for children and non-fiction, or the weather or the British Museum or British beer … I’m going to Loncon eager to meet people, but I’m sort of overwhelmed by crowds (unless I’m standing in front of them speaking, in which case I’m fine).

Since it’s been pointed out that most of my photos online are actually photos of Mr Wicked, who distracts the eye of the viewer with his shiny white coat and noble pose, here’s what I look like without a dog — because it’s tricky to go around peering at nametags, right?KVJ

Here’s where to find me:

Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children

Thursday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

Is there a ‘shared’ understanding of the fantastic across cultures? How have fantasy (and science fiction) narratives for young readers evolved in different countries and storytelling traditions? What kinds of stories succeed or fail in crossing national borders and why? How are these transnational stories from ‘Other’ places received and read in their new contexts? What are some affinities and tensions between these different ‘imagined communities’? This panel will address the development of international traditions of fantasy (and science fiction) for young readers and the relationship between the local, the national and the global in the world of children’s literature. Drawing upon the range of the panelists’ national and transnational experiences, we will explore issues around the intersections between regional, national and international literatures and the representation of diversity, identity and the Other in fantastic texts for young people.

Dr. Patricia Kennon (M), Sanna Lehtonen, Michael Levy, KV Johansen, Catherine Butler


Thursday 17:00 – 18:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Fabio Fernandes, KV Johansen

Sense of Wonder in Children’s SF

Saturday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

YA books are well known for their dystopias and their grand adventures. What is it about these categories that have so effectively captured the young adult imagination? When Alice walked off the literary page she opened the door to a truly wondrous world filled with unimaginable things. Since then literary children have latched onto that sense of wonder in literature from Neverland, to Narnia, Hogwarts, and Panem. What is this “sense of wonder” within literature and how does it continue to “blow the minds” of young readers? What are the most spectacular feats of worldbuilding in the YA canon? Where can we find the best aliens? And what about those wondrous infernal machines?

Farah Mendlesohn, KV Johansen, Ian McDonald, Ben Jeapes, Jo Fletcher

YA Fiction: The History of a Genre

Monday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Join our panelists as they drill down into the history of the YA genre from the old classics to hip new urban fantasies and science fiction novels.How has children’s literature changed? What turning points did young adult and middle grade literature going through in order to become the genre we are familiar with today? Has the genre solidified or is it still in transition? How has the re-categorization of books within the genre affected the history and development of literature, with a specific eye toward young adult fiction? What might be coming next?

Edward James (M), Helen E. Gbala, KV Johansen, Dr. Patricia Kennon, Michael Levy

I’m also going to be at DragonCon, where you’ll find me there hanging out at the Pyr booth.

Posted in Loncon 3, Marakand, sf conventions, The Leopard | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A couple of brief and entertaining interviews

I’ve done a couple of short interviews recently for Marshal Zeringue’s blogs. For the first, I applied the ‘page 69′ test to The Leopard. You can see what I discovered, approaching page 69 as a reader who hadn’t read the book, here.

For the second, I was interviewed not primarily about writing, but about the celebrated canine known to social media as Mr Wicked, though his real name is revealed. (Actually, it was revealed in a long ago blog post here on TheWildForest as well.) So, the truth about Ivan the Wicked, coffee, and the squirrel, can be found here, as well as a number of dog photos, because he’s so darned photogenic.

And because he’s so darned photogenic … here’s Ivan.

A deer! A deer!

A deer! A deer!

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First Impressions: Praitan

The action of The Leopard begins in the lands Over-Malagru, in Praitan and the area south of it around the city of Gold Harbour. (If you’re looking at the Blackdog map, that’s off the edge to the east, beyond Marakand. Rest assured there are lovely new maps by Rhys Davies in the two volumes of Marakand, taking you farther east along the caravan road.)

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

The name Praitan once meant all the lands Over-Malagru, between Marakand and the eastern deserts, but now, since the long-ago invasion of the coast by Nabbani colonies, the word generally refers to only those lands in the northwest of Over-Malagru still ruled by kings and queens. There are seven tribal territories, or duinas, a word which means both the land and the folk of a god. An elective high king or queen chosen from among the seven rulers is, in theory, the supreme authority under the gods and the bards, who are the keepers of the memory of the law, but this is a land where shepherds have no qualms about arguing with their kings or queens and war generally means pinching your neighbour’s cattle. (And pinching your neighbour’s cattle generally means war . . .)

The eastern caravan road passes along the fringes of Praitannec territory and away into lands eastward where the folk still seem Praitannec in their language and customs, but have no kings, only the chiefs of small villages. To the south, nearer the Five Cities, the folk are likewise Praitannec in their origins, but are either small chieftain-ruled villages paying tribute to the nearest city, or conquered and ruled outright by the lords of the city clans. There was been much intermingling and intermarriage between the folk of Praitan and the cities over the years and the Praitannec language has picked up many Nabbani words; even among the free kingdoms there are many with city Nabbani ancestry, and vice versa.

The assassin Ahjvar is a Praitannecman, though his name comes from the eastern desert and is not the one he was born with, and he’s been living in or around the Five Cities for a very long time now. His friend/horse-boy/shield-bearer (there is a certain amount of confusion on the part of the young bard Deyandara as she attempts to define him, but he’s certainly not “the sidekick”) Ghu is Nabbani, but from the empire farther east beyond that desert, not the colonies.

The Leopard comes out on June 10th, so that’s the end of the introductions. Now go read the book! #SFWApro

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First Impressions: The City of Marakand

Marakand, where much of the action of The Leopard takes place, is the city at the eastern end of the western caravan road. It lies east of the Stone Desert of Blackdog and west of the lands Over-Malagru, in the pass between the Malagru mountains running down from the north and the great Pillars of the Sky which run along the southern edge of the lands of the Western Road. In the past it was a ruled by a senate whose members represented the various great families and in theory, all the folk of the city; also in the past, it had two goddesses and a god. Now the goddess Ilbialla and the god Gurhan are gone and the folk are not permitted even to honour their tombs, and the temple of the Lady of Marakand has absolute rule over the city. The old senate was dissolved by decree of the Voice and many senators executed for alleged rebellion; the new are appointees of the temple, and sit by its grace. The word of the Voice of the Lady, a priestess who speaks for the reclusive goddess of the deep well, is law, enforced by temple guard, and, with perhaps less dedication, the old street guard of the city. Above both these are the Red Masks, an order of veiled or masked mute soldier-priests who are a mystery even to the regular priesthood, by the Lady’s grace invulnerable to both weapons and wizardry, capable of spreading terror to human and animal alike by their mere presence. No wizards are permitted within the city walls; any found are taken by the Red Masks for execution in the Lady’s well. Rumour says that the Voice is senile, or insane.

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

The city’s origins stretch back to small settlements of desert folk around the wells and hill of the three deities, but in historical times, it has always been a trading centre, attracting the folk of many lands — mountain, desert, the Malagru, and many families from Nabban far in the east. There are silver mines in the mountains to the south, a source of much of its wealth. It controls little arable land beyond the estates of the wealthy in the foothills of the mountains, but is dependent on the hillfolk of the Malagru and on trade over longer distances for its daily bread. Long, long ago, it was, for a little time, the heart of an empire now almost forgotten even in its own histories. Marakand is a bilingual city, its folk speaking both a variant of the language of the Four Deserts and a form of Nabbani comprehensible on the eastern road. Beyond the city walls lies the Suburb, nearly a second city in itself, where the law of the temple is not quite so absolute. Here lie the caravanserais where the caravans of east and west meet.

Kuršumli An when I visited it in 2010.

Kuršumli An when I visited it in 2010.


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First Impressions: Ivah … and Holla-Sayan

Ivah, you may know. She’s one of Attalissa’s enemies in Blackdog, and I’d always intended to write more about her. Ivah in Blackdog, even once she is into her twenties, is still a girl trying to be Good and meet her father’s expectations. Her world, her view of herself and her past, is completely turned upside down by the end. In the two parts of Marakand, we see Ivah struggling to change, to find her own definition of right action. A wizard, diviner, and Grasslander warrior, educated by her mother in the court traditions of Nabban and by her father in his own Grasslander wizardry and, through his example, how — or not — to rule, she enters The Leopard as a resident of the city of Marakand, where to be revealed as a wizard is to be condemned to death in the Lady’s deep well. She is trying to make a living as a scribe, doing piecework for magistrates’ clerks and writing letters for the illiterate, when an encounter with Ghu, pursued by street-guard as a Praitannec spy, disrupts her carefully constructed new life. A woman with the eyes of a hawk and a soul that sings of grass and sky and running horses . . . Ghu thinks in metaphor.

While in Marakand, Ivah has been quietly researching the inscription on the tomb of a vanished goddess, which is enough to get her condemned as an enemy of the Lady’s temple, but it’s her choice of company that brings her into open conflict with the Lady of Marakand as an ally and one of the greatest weapons the loyalists of the lost gods have against the rule of the temple.

Holla-Sayan: The shapeshifting hero of Blackdog shouldn’t need any introduction here.

Blackdog, cover by Raymond Swanland

Blackdog, cover by Raymond Swanland

This isn’t his story, but he nonetheless plays a crucial role in it, so just in case anyone was wondering, yes, the Blackdog has come to Marakand, and so have Moth and Mikki. The Leopard is not a sequel to Blackdog and reading one isn’t necessary to appreciating the other, but they are mutually enriching. Think of these as a cycle in the medieval sense, rather than a series.

The Blackdog was thwarted of his vengeance against Ivah for her treachery when Moth sent her away before the battle at Lissavakail. Now he finally finds her again. That’s a chapter I really enjoyed writing.

Are Moth and Mikki in the two books of Marakand as well? Of course they are. Moth is the thread that weaves all these stories together.

Moth, wandering wizard and warrior of the north, accused kinslayer, once the wife of Ivah’s father, immortal devil, storyteller, shapeshifter, carrying the sword of the Old Great Gods and charged with the execution of her fellow devils . . . Mikki, half-demon, bear by day and man by night, son of the guardian demon slain when Moth was freed from her grave . . . #SFWApro

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First Impressions: Zora and the Voice of the Lady

Zora doesn’t appear until halfway through The Leopard, yet she is one of the central characters of the story in the two volumes of Marakand. She’s a temple dancer — and common S&S clichés notwithstanding, that doesn’t mean what you may think. Zora was hiding secrets when she gained admission to the temple of the Lady, and with her term of service nearly over, is wrestling with her choices for the future. It will be hard to explain anything about that without giving away too much, so, what else can I say? She entered the temple under false pretences, her loyalties are not with the goddess she professes to serve, and one decision changes everything.

I had Indian classical dance in mind when conceiving of the danced prayers of Marakand.

Since I can’t say too much about Zora, I’ll talk about the Voice of the Lady, here, as well. The Voice, first mentioned in Blackdog, is a priestess and prophet who speaks for the goddess of the deep well of Marakand. Only the folk of the temple know that the Voice fell into madness after the great earthquake that devastated the city thirty years earlier, though rumours do abound. Writing the Voice, as the book progressed and her mental state decayed, was fascinating. I wanted to convey a severely disordered mind, thoughts spilling out in a klaidoscopic jumble, and yet, since I was trying to tell a story, I needed to have some sense in it still. A true schizophrenic ‘word salad’ would convey nothing and rapidly become tiresome to read. I tried to achieve an impression of that desperate spewing of words, while retaining some logic and pattern, however broken.

The Lady: Marakand Part Two, cover art by Raymond Swanland

The Lady: Marakand Part Two, cover art by Raymond Swanland

As with Blackdog and The Leopard, Raymond Swanland has done a beautiful cover for The Lady (the second part of Marakand, coming out in December 2014), in which Zora plays a central role. #SFWApro

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First Impressions: Deyandara

Enter a messenger. That, essentially, is how The Leopard begins.

Deyandara first appeared in an earlier draft of the book as corpse, stage left — an earlier Ahjvar’s just-slain shield-bearer in an attack on the Voice within the Lady’s temple. That earlier woman didn’t bequeath much to our Deya other than her name and her prickly relationship with Ahj. The one we know and love — or in Ahjvar’s case, grind our teeth over — is a girl in her teens, sister of the elected high king of the seven Praitannec tribes, but known by all to be the offspring not of their royal father but of their mother’s adulterous affair, something Deyandara herself only recently discovered. Deyandara’s brother, fed up, one surmises, with a petulant teen having a crisis of identity underfoot, has given in and allowed her to spend one season travelling with a bard. Her mistress died, though, and instead of going home, Deyandara seized the chance to follow her own ends, setting off to confront her alleged true father . . .

[That may be misleading. In trying not to give too much away, for those who like to get upset about “spoilers”, I end up implying other things. So no, Ahjvar isn’t her father. Just so’s you know.]

Deyandara has lied, calling herself a bard for her own protection while travelling. She has betrayed and abandoned the people she most wants to think well of her. Ahjvar looks on her as a silly and irritating child and expects his simpleton horseboy to be her nursemaid, as if she can’t be trusted to stay out of trouble on her own . . .

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

The Leopard: Marakand Book One, cover by Raymond Swanland

Deyandara and her role in the politics of the seven kingdoms of Praitan are crucial to the unfolding of the Over-Malagru threads of the story. I take her very seriously as a character; one must, or the story will fall apart, and once she leaves Marakand she grows into playing a very serious role, making a conscious effort to achieve maturity and think of the larger repercussions of her actions. On another level, though, and especially at the start, she is also someone who carries a bit of metafictional humour. Remember all those eighties fantasies with the Youthful Heir who gets swept up into the big adventure and turns out to be the hero despite all the adults around who have been in the thick of things since the story began? What did those adults actually think about that? Why do we assume the teen has to be the hero, anyway?

“Ghu, you explain things to her again, in nice easy words so she can understand . . .”

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