Winter Tide (Review) by Ruthanna Emrys

Let me be honest, not only did I score an e-ARC but I’ve been looking forward to this book since The Litany of Earth. It’s rare for me to fall so in love with books that I want to both devour them in one go and savour them over a span of days like chocolate. So, with that in mind, I originally read this is one day but am now, thanks to the audiobook, slowly appreciating all the subtle nuances I might have missed.

Winter Tide is gorgeous. It’s the cosmology of Lovecraft without the nastiness (aka the racism, the bigotry and other ideas which sadly taint a stunning literary universe). Indeed, identity, culture and otherness, they’re all front and centre; Aphra isn’t a ‘Person of the Air’, she’s got the sea running in her blood and, after her transformation, will live in the Deep Once cities until the sun burns out. It’s not forever but it’s still billions of years. The language is so Lovecraftian but it’s a gentle kind of esoteric, it doesn’t put you off but instead makes you ponder words and their meaning. At the same time, she’s still recovering from her people’s incarceration and genocide in camps later reused for the internment of the Japanese. This leads her into the lives of the Koto family with her brother, Caleb, as her only remaining kin on land. Oh and it’s left her scarred, mentally, as such a traumatic experience is wont to do. It’s even more relevant, now, for example than I think even the author thought it would be.

The story does kick off from Litany, as well as some mentions to the short story (which you should so go and read. Now. I’ll wait.) but the Tor short is essentially a prologue to a much bigger arc. Searching after old magics and fears Russians are using body-switching as the next weapon in a magical cold war, Aphra, her government minder and Neko, her adopted Japanese sister, return to Innsmouth and Miskatonic University. Both are, of course, important locations in the world of Lovecraft and they are eerie in the extreme. It feels odd to be somewhere so familiar but so strange, a place where you can study folklore and other subjects which are literal fusions of magic with physical sciences.

Occasionally, I was thrown by the odd flashback (especially in audio where the demarcation between scenes is just absent). Along the way, Aphra encounters new friends and old family. It does feel a tad deus ex machina to encounter not only a Yith but also transformed members of Aphra’s own people, now living in the depths below Innsmouth. Yet the idea of her faith, Aeonism, being openly worshipped with its own temples and rituals, is gorgeous and transforms the book from a simple mystery with magical overtones to a true Lovecraft mythos novel, reimagined for a new era but enduring never the less.

Winter Tide, Book One of The Innsmouth Legacy, is available now in ebook, print and audio from all the usual places. You can also follow the author on Twitter and you totally should.

London Spring 2017: All the Japanese Stuff

I spent the weekend in London with Shannon eating a vast amount of cheap Japanese food and visiting all the shops, from Muji in Covent Garden to JP Books next to the Japan Centre.

Seriously, JP Books is an awesome little shop I’d totally forgotten about and look at all the amazing Midori/Traveler’s Company stuff they have! SQUEEEE! I was actually rather restrained; I bought a load of cheap Muji Passport notebooks the previous day which were much cheaper than Midori ones. I bought a single insert, an unmarked diary, to use as a bullet journal/to do list. Oh and a copy of the first volume of the Your Name. manga.

Muji was actually a chance encounter; I’ve seen them but hadn’t actually gone into one. It’s very minimalist, very chic and kind of like a mix of a department store and a 100円 store (except nothing costs 100円). They had a massive range of stationary and I did buy some cool scissors which are going to be great when it comes to saving space.

I met Shannon in Leicester Square and we went back to Chinatown for dinner, eventually settling on the Tokyo Diner for dinner (karaage, yum) and also picked up tickets to see the sub of Ghost in the Shell that happened to be showing on Saturday night. I’ve not actually seen much anime on the big screen and this is a classic. The seats were cheap (because my CEA card is FTW) and actually really comfortable considering the size of the Prince Charles Cinema.

We ended up passing the theatre showing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child a lot. Shannon’s been trying to teach me how to use the London buses thanks to the power of Google Maps and her local knowledge. But, on my own, I still tend to use the tube which is a whole other blog post re my continuing quest for a new guide dog. It’s sometimes faster, though I did quite enjoy the forty-five minute bus ride to and from Shannon’s as it gave me lots of time to look out upon London and, also, read.

Shannon’s learning Japanese and it’s kinda prompted me that I need to brush up my own skills. While in the Japan Centre, I picked up a copy of にんぎょうひめ(人魚姫)aka The Little Mermaid from the picture book stand and started reading. It’s kinda nice to know I can read kids books without much of an issue but that’s a long way from, for example, light novels or manga which doesn’t have furigana.

So I have a goal … that’s good.

Wandering the Japanese sections of London has made me want to go back to Kyoto, to Sendai and to other places. It’s a nice dream to have in mind and plausible even if it won’t be for quite some time. I do want to improve my Japanese however, as I’m woefully lacking in certain areas (grammar and verbs, for example) even though I can translate Japanese to English quite well.

So reading this is going to be a fun challenge:

The World of Midori

So I’ve been trying to organise life. My memory is shite (likely an on-going thing) but I have found writing down stuff helps.

So I heard about Midori (now Traveler’s Company), specifically the Traveler’s Notebook. I actually came across these while in Daimaru, one of the most famous of Japanese department stores, in 2010. I spent a lot of time in Daimaru. Anyway, I didn’t actually know what it was and it certainly doesn’t look like your average notebook.

Because it’s not.

The TN is actually a piece of leather with a band through it and a range of ‘inserts’ (think books of gridded, blank or craft paper, diaries and zipper pockets). The key thing is the customisability and individuality: it’s the system and how you use it, what notebooks you choose just add to the experience. The TN is super expensive and only has one band so I knew that a ‘fauxdori’ was going to be the way to go. Etsy helped out and I ended up buying two: a passport-sized one for a wallet and a slightly larger one which fits Field Notes and Moleskine notebooks.

I’ve found I need order when I write so I wanted to make a wallet which allowed me to carry all my stuff but also include a Midori gridded insert for to-do lists and tracking my expenses. Having it in a wallet means it’s my go to for everything and I can have it with me all the time. I use two zipper pouch inserts to hold cards and cash, as well as USB keys and some stamps, a kraft folder at the back for receipts and other bits and pieces. Oh and I also got some plastic pockets that I pasted onto the inside cover giving me some extra pockets for coupons. I also hacked it with some hair bands (because they’re cheaper than the official Midori bands) so I can hold everything together.

It’s actually quite compact and I added a lucky 5円 coin I brought back with me. I can even put my passport and JR Pass into it the next time I go back to Japan.

The blue fauxdori (I hate that name; it’s not a knock-off, it’s an improvement on a very good idea) hasn’t gotten quite as much use. I have a stationary fetish. I found Field Notes and got some cheap Moleskines, they’re both the same size but the latter has more pages. I’ve currently got five loaded into my larger fauxdori

  • A braindump journal
  • A commonplace book (for sayings and quotes I love)
  • An ideas book for novels and short stories
  • A dedicated journal for specific projects, in this case:
  • Oh and there’s a kraft file in there too for odds and sods.

I need dedicated space for each thing and this seems like it might just be the system for me. The unofficial version is customisable and cheaper, as well as being easier to get notebooks for (as nice as the Midori ones are, they’re expensive). That said I might have to visit the London Graphic Centre tomorrow … hmm Midori ….

Actually, I’ve started decorating them. I covered my wallet Midori with washi stickers and it came out pretty well. I have some washi tape and can’t wait to decorate some of the more boring Moleskines I picked up.

Yes, I know, I have a stationary problem. It’s the least of my vices at this point.

Campbell Award Eligibility — 2nd Year

So, it’s that time again! Award season is upon us!

As far as I’m aware I have one short story up for eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: “The Elissiad” (originally published by Windrift Books in Alt.History 102). The other story I sold doesn’t quite meet the eligibility criteria, sadly. As this is my second year, this is also my last chance in the running (not that I have a chance of actually getting the award, of course).

However, I have submitted the story to the annual and forthcoming Campbell Anthology which collects stories from all the eligible authors. I only found out about that today so I’ll have more info soon, hopefully.

Progress and Short Stories

I’m still sick; this lurgy is going to be the week long suffering plus three week recovery kind. I hate those because even doing simple things leaves me lying on the sofa feeling like a piece of soggy cabbage.

I hate being ill but I had drawn out recovery even more. I’m able to do things like go out but I spend the rest of the day lying on the sofa and feeling really dizzy. I’ve basically been watching Breaking Bad for three days straight though I did manage to revise “Constructed Mind, Reforged Soul”. I even had a market in mind … and then discovered the anthology was cancelled this morning.

Sigh.

I’m trying to look on the upside: I have a story nearly ready to go with my crit group in a few weeks which is nice. Also, it’s my first nearly-done story for 2017 which is awesome given my three month funk (aka the Winter of Discontent). Shannon has reminded me that this is a big thing, actually revising a story and polishing it so it starts to shine. I have a couple of replacement markets in mind (it was originally written for a specific antho call last year so has only been sent out once).

S’all good, man.

Illness and Cats: Death-watching and Me

I caught the half-term lurgy (via the medium of the awesome Lego Batman Movie) and have, as expected, been struck down hard by child-germs. As a happy child-free adult, I have zero immunisation to kid-spread illness and this sends me to my sofa and D and Ceri into full-on death watch mode.

At least I know Ceri won’t eat me. D, on the other hand, keeps randomly licking me to see if I’m ‘done’ yet. I’ve tried explaining I’m diseased meat but he’s looking at me like a wounded deer lying in the snow, waiting to die. He keeps waking me up by bopping me on the nose, just to see if I’m still breathing. It doesn’t help that all I’ve done is lie on a sofa watching whatever’s on YouTube.

My concentration is down to like 5% and I’ve exhausted myself just by going into the city for a good, freshly cooked meal. Tonkotsu ramen is the ultimate healing food as it combines hot pork broth, noodles and tasty meat, all of which I need to get back to my normal level of health. Throw in gyoza and yakitori and I’m in heaven/ Added to that, I’m not usually sick but when I get a bug it slams down on me. Hard. I knew this was coming, my throat started getting scratchy as we left the cinema and I spent that night doing the full on fever stewing. Nights are the worst when you’re sick.

Nights are the worst when you’re sick.

All I can do is drink fluids, sweat it out and just wait for this pesky thing to get out of my system.

The other problem with getting sick is my mood; it’s been a bad week and it doesn’t take too much to set off my mood swings. Friday was horrendous as I spent the entire day being triggered by a horrendous pair of events (including being stalked by someone else’s stalker and metaphorically stabbed in the gut) and it’s still affecting me several days on. Fortunately, I have a spine now which is making things easier and when I’m sick I get grumpy which means I’m not afraid to stand up, tell people to fuck off and slam doors in faces.

But, on the upside, I think I’m finally passed this. Tomorrow is a new day and the start of a new week. That’s got to be good, right?