The Imago Machine (2/3/20) - a small collection of lovely things

reviews (mine & others), awards & nominations, doing good work (or good works), paperbacks of A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE, and a sneak preview.

Hello, o friends of the newsletter, whom I have sorely neglected. I have for you by way of apology a collection of small lovely things — or a small collection of lovely things, we’ll see how long this newsletter ends up being — a sort of curio box of a letter to you.

a recommendation: A.K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name

Some years ago I lived in Oxford, for a very strange ten months while I did a degree in Classical Armenian, and also made a whole bunch of dear friends and some unwise romantic decisions, as one does when one is twenty-seven and newly aware that somehow, in the intervening time between college and late twenties, courtesy an even more unwise romantic decision, one has become a person who is brave.

While I lived in Oxford so did my friend Kassie, or at least she moved there a few months in, and we picked up a habit of going to the YO!Sushi every week or so and talking for ages while the conveyor belt brought us food in little color-coded bowls. For a while she called me Miles and I called her Ivan, a la the Vorkosigan novels, which says basically everything about our friendship.

She was beginning to work on a book right then, or shortly after. It sounded like a great book, when she told me about it.

It is a great book. It’s called The Unspoken Name, and it comes out from Tor next week (February 10), and it’s about what happens when you were always supposed to die and then you don’t. And also orc priestesses, and a giant snake, and portal-traveling, and sacrifice magic (the kind that is made of supernatural power, and the kind that is made of regular, everyday, vicious sacrifices, which is just as hardcore as the first kind). I love this book. I blurbed it. You all should read it. It is a joy.

The Unspoken Name

a review of A Memory Called Empire which meant a great deal

It isn’t my habit to comment on reviews, especially in detail; it’s part of the contract between author and reader that the reader — even the professional, critical reader — is free to have opinions and analysis all unimpinged by my thoughts on my own work, any defense or agreement I might make.

But every so often there’s a review that gets it, that is like seeing a mirror of my own intentions, and it is a very particular sort of gift.

Which is what Catherine Baker’s review in Strange Horizons felt like, this week.

The fragile, compromised nature of selfhood under imperial power is evoked throughout A Memory Called Empire not only in Mahit’s unreachable longing to define herself through closeness to Teixcalaanli culture but also in the relationship between imago and host that makes Mahit’s consciousness so intimately strange. Three Seagrass, learning about the imago-machines and insisting that “[s]o much of who we are is what we remember and retell … Who we model ourselves on, which epic, which poem,” cannot be sure whether Mahit is truly Mahit or actually Yskandr; Mahit, for her part, wonders if there is “even such a thing as Mahit Dzmare, in the context of a Teixcalaanli city, a Teixcalaanli language, Teixcalaanli politics infecting her all through, like an imago she wasn’t suited for.” Mahit and the Stationers who sent her on her mission are well aware that a Lsel devoured by Teixcalaanli expansion would itself become “something that wasn’t Lsel at all, but Teixcalaan.”

Thank you, Catherine. Yes. This, quite precisely.

the American Library Association’s 2020 Reading List

I also had the incredible and unexpected honor of seeing A Memory Called Empire named the best science fiction novel on the American Library Association’s Reference and User Services Association’s 2020 Reading List. I didn’t even know this was a thing a person could win, and I’m hugely delighted, and very thankful to all the librarians. Having a book I wrote in a library — any library — is one of those strange and special parts of authoring that feels utterly surreal; having a whole lot of librarians recommend one’s book is even better.

and the Locus Reccomended reading list!

… and right before I was about to send this newsletter out, I learned that A Memory Called Empire is on the 2019 Locus Recommended Reading List for First Novels, and my short story in The Mythic Dream, “Labbatu Takes Command of the Flagship Heaven Dwells Within” is on the list for short stories! What a lovely think to wake up to the first Saturday in February. You can see the whole list — it’s amazing company to be in — here:

a note about awards season

On that note — it is awards season, come around again (I think I made the slouching towards Bethlehem to be born joke last year, but insert it here again if you like). I would be honored if you wanted to nominate my work.

This year I published:

  • A Memory Called Empire. Science fiction, my debut novel (for awards where that matters);

  • “With Roses I Won The Right”, in Ask the Next Question: stories + images inspired by Theodore Sturgeon (a short story);

  • and “Labbatu Takes Command of the Flagship Heaven Dwells Within”, in The Mythic Dream (Saga Press), another short story.

    award eligibility image.png

a recommendation: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

I’m trying to write the book proposal for Prescribed Burn, the arson/climate change/water rights procedural-ish novel that is my next big project, and thus I’m rereading some of the source material. Trying to supersaturate the book solution, essentially. Throw enough ideas and thematics and concepts and tone into one place that it suddenly coalesces, goes crystalline, starts growing a structure to hang a story on.

And thus I found myself with my favorite Raymond Chandler novel, The Big Sleep, marveling again at the man’s economy of art; the prose that is visual, hyper-descriptive, reveals character instantly, and yet is brief, slick as smoke or rain on a sidewalk, there and gone.

God, if I can learn to do that, I might be really good at this writing thing someday. Anyway, go read Chandler if you can.

the strangeness of working in politics

Amongst the reasons I have not been writing to you all, o friends of the newsletter, is that I am become a strange species of politician. Or — a thing that works in politics, at least. I do policy analysis for the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, & Natural Resources Department right now — a job which I absolutely adore, to an absurd degree, considering that lately it has been making me wake up at 5:30 AM — and we’re in the middle of the legislative session right now, which is intense.

I’m still wrapping my head around having become someone who is working in politics. And who feels like she’s doing good work, real work, the righteous shoving-the-world-a-little-closer-to-true kind of work, while working in politics.

It helps that my bosses — the Secretary & Deputy Secretary — are people who I would follow anywhere. Other new things: being genuinely amazed and grateful to be working for people I admire and respect and want to be useful to.

My wife and my friends tell me that they are not surprised at all that I like this kind of work, and that I’m good at it. I am still a little surprised. (I probably shouldn’t be. I’d write this kind of job. I have written this kind of job. Just think of me as Five Agate, I guess.)

A Memory Called Empire is available in paperback…

In the UK already — as of last week! — and in the US on February 25th. I’ve seen the cover flats for the US version and they’re absolutely exquisite. Look:

You can pre-order the US paperback here.

Or buy the UK version here!

… and in German!

Now this is neat. The German translation of A Memory Called Empire is out! My German-reading boss says the translation (by Jürgen Langowski) is wonderful, and I am inclined to believe him. On the other hand, he hasn’t read the book in English yet…

But still. A book I wrote, translated into another language. One which I can only sort of read myself!


If you would like to read in German, you can do so by purchasing a German version over here.

a note about A Desolation Called Peace

For those of you eagerly awaiting the sequel to A Memory Called Empire, I have good news and bad news.

Good news: I have handed in the edits (… this time I only had to write 15,000 extra words! I’m learning!) and the book is in the hands of the editorial and production team at Tor now.

Bad news: I was pretty late in handing in those edits, and thus the release date for DESOLATION is Winter 2021 rather than Fall 2020. On the other hand, it’s such a better book now, and I can’t wait to show it to all of you.

and a sneak cover art preview, in which Jaime Jones continues amazing.

… well, I can show you one thing now. It’s a sneak preview of the cover art, again produced by Jaime Jones with absolute brilliance. Meet the yaotlek Nine Hibiscus, Fleet Captain of the Teixcalaanli Tenth Legion, here seen on the bridge of her flagship, the Weight for the Wheel. She’s looking at something very beautiful and very unpleasant.

(It’s pixelated because this is the image on the back of the paperback of Memory. But for you, o friends of the newsletter, you get to see the image first.)

Until next time, which I hope will not be so long, I remain, as ever —

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