New Release: A New Year on Vega III

Out now! My SF holiday romance A New Year on Vega III, a 7,400 word short story, is now available for purchase in the ebook format of your choice. Here are the cover and blurb:

AHtR11-A New Year-SP4x6

On the colony planet Vega III, everyone knows Beck—outgoing, fabulous, and genderqueer—and nobody notices Anil, the quiet plant biologist. But when Anil finds Beck hiding in his greenhouse, lonely and missing Earth, it’s Anil who is able to comfort Beck by letting them talk about what they miss most—the feeling that comes with celebrating the holidays with loved ones, especially New Year’s Eve.

​The two of them are drawn to one another, but both of them are hiding secrets about their sexuality. With trust between them already on shaky ground, Anil’s elaborate plans to cheer Beck may well backfire.

And there’s an excerpt over here at the publisher’s website.

Order links: Amazon | Kobo | direct from publisher

If you like it, be sure to check out some of the other books in the “A Holiday to Remember” collection by Mischief Corner Books! They’re all queer romance, some contemporary and others speculative. I can recommend Safety Protocols for Human Holidays by Angel Martinez–a seriously hilarious F/F science fiction tale on a spaceship.

And if you read it, don’t forget to leave a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or LibraryThing. Reviews are wonderful things–they help authors with visibility, and they help readers find books they love.

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City of Hope and Ruin

City of Hope and Ruin ebook coverAaaaand it’s out!

City of Hope and Ruin, a fantasy-with-lesbian-romance novel by Kit Campbell and yours truly, is now out in the world! You can buy it in the following formats:

(Amazon | Paperback | Nook | iBookstore | Kobo)

Continue reading

New Book Promo: The Rising Tide by J. Scott Coatsworth

It’s a book birthday for a fellow author! Book two in J. Scott Coatsworth’s queer SF series is out today. He’s a sweetheart, so I’m thrilled to host him here. And isn’t that cover pretty? Here are all the details about The Rising Tide


The Rising Tide

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out: “The Rising Tide.”

Earth is dead.

Five years later, the remnants of humanity travel through the stars inside Forever, a living, ever-evolving, self-contained generation ship. When Eddy Tremaine and Andy Hammond find a hidden world-within-a-world under the mountains, the discovery triggers a chain of events that could fundamentally alter or extinguish life as they know it, culminate in the takeover of the world mind, and end free will for humankind.

Control the AI, control the people.

Eddy, Andy, and a handful of other unlikely heroes—people of every race and identity, and some who aren’t even human—must find the courage and ingenuity to stand against the rising tide.

Otherwise they might be living through the end days of human history.

Series Blurb: Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

DSP Publications | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away two prizes with this tour – a $25 Amazon gift card, and a signed copy of “The Stark Divide,” book one in the series (US winner only for the paperback). For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4734/?


Excerpt

The Rising Tide Meme

Eddy Tremayne rode his horse, Cassiopeia, along the edge of the pastures that were the last official human habitations before the Anatov Mountains. Several ranchers along the Verge—the zone between the ranches and the foothills—had reported losses of sheep and cattle in the last few weeks.

As the elected sheriff of First District, which ran from Micavery and the South Pole to the mountains, it was Eddy’s responsibility to find out what was going on.

He had his crossbow strapped to his back and his long knife in a leather sheath at his waist. He’d been carrying them for long enough now—three years?—that they had started to feel natural, but the first time he’d worn the crossbow, he’d felt like a poor man’s Robin Hood.

He doubted he’d need them out here, but sheriffs were supposed to be armed.

He’d checked with Lex in the world mind via the South Pole terminal, but she’d reported nothing amiss. In the last few years, she had begun to deploy biodrones to keep an eye on the far-flung parts of the world, but they provided less than optimal coverage. One flyover of this part of the Verge had shown a peaceful flock of thirty sheep. The next showed eight.

The rancher, a former neurosurgeon from New Zealand named Gia Rand, waited for him on the top of a grassy hill. The grass and trees shone with bioluminescent light, and the afternoon sky lit the surrounding countryside with a golden glow. The spindle—the aggregation of energy and glowing pollen that stretched from pole to pole—sparkled in the middle of the sky.

The rancher pulled on her gray braid, staring angrily at something in the valley below. “Took you long enough to get here.”

“Sorry. The train was out of service again.” Technology was slowly failing them, and they had yet to come up with good replacements.

She snorted. “One helluva spaceship we have here.”

He grinned. “Preaching to the choir.” Forever didn’t have the manufacturing base yet to support anything close to the technology its inhabitants had grown used to on Earth. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you asked him. With technology came new and better ways to kill. He’d seen it often enough in the NAU Marines. “What did you find?”

“Look.” Her voice was almost a growl.

Eddy looked down where she was pointing. “Oh shit.” Her missing sheep were no longer missing. They had been slaughtered.

He urged Cassiopeia down the hillside to the rocky clearing. A small stream trickled down out of the mountains there. He counted ten carcasses, as near as he could tell from the skulls left behind. Someone had sheared a couple of them and given up. It looked like they had skinned and cut the rest up for meat, the skin and bones and extra bits discarded.

Gia rode down the hillside behind him.

“Didn’t you report twelve sheep missing?”

She nodded. “Bastards took the two lambs. Probably for breeding.”

“That actually might help us.”

“How’s that?”

He dismounted to take a closer look at the crime scene. “They’ll have to pasture them somewhere. May make it easier to track them down.”

“Maybe so.” She dismounted and joined him. “This was brutal work. Look here.” She picked up a bone. “Whatever cut this was sharp but uneven. It left scratch marks across the bone.”

“So not a metal knife.”

“I don’t think so. Maybe a stone knife?”

He laughed harshly. “Are we back to caveman days, then?” It wasn’t an unreasonable question.

She was silent for a moment, staring at the mountains. “Do you think they live up there?”

“Who?” He followed her gaze. Their highest peaks were wreathed in wisps of cloud.

“The Ghosts.”

The Ghosts had been a persistent myth on Forever since their abrupt departure from Earth. Some of the refugees had vanished right after the Collapse, and every now and then something would end up missing. Clothes off a line, food stocks, and the like.

People talked. The rumors had taken on a life of their own, and now whenever something went missing, people whispered, “It’s the Ghosts.”

Eddy didn’t believe in ghosts. He personally knew at least one refugee who had disappeared, his shipmate Davian. He guessed there must be others, though the record keeping from that time had been slipshod at best. He shrugged and looked at the sky. “Who knows?” It was likely to rain in the next day or so. Whoever had done this had left a trail, trampled into the grass. If he didn’t follow it now, it might be gone by the time he got back here with more resources.

Gia knelt by one of the ewes, staring at the remnants of the slaughter. “Could you get me some more breeding stock? This… incident put a big dent in my herd.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” He took one last look around the site. It had to have taken an hour or two to commit this crime, and yet the thieves had apparently done it in broad daylight. Why weren’t they afraid of being caught? “I’m going to follow the trail, see where it leads.”

Gia nodded. “Thanks. We’re taking the rest of the herd back to the barn until you get this all figured out.”

“Sounds prudent. I’ll let you know.”

Slipping on his hat, he climbed back up on Cassie and followed the trail across the stream toward the Anatov Mountains.


Author Bio

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ/

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

Publishing News Roundup: Steampunk Serial and Much More

Hello blog readers! Hope you’ve had a good summer (or winter, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). Here’s what’s new(ish) over here…

Coat of Scarlet

I’m doing a free serial story over at Turtleduck Press. Coat of Scarlet is a M/M (gay) romance set in an 18th-century steampunk/clockpunk universe. Part 2 has just been posted, so it’s a good time to catch up.

Here’s the blurb:

Marius the tailor is minding his own business when Niko walks into his shop with a beautiful coat and sets him a challenge he can’t refuse. But when you’re dealing with devastatingly handsome airship pirates, they have a habit of changing the terms…

Part 1 | Part 2

Fun fact: when you’re writing a serial, it helps to reread previous installments as you’re writing later ones. I almost forgot a plot point from Part 1 and had to shoehorn it into Part 2 at the last minute. Oops?

Fractured World News

City of Hope and Ruin ebook coverIf you look at the cover of my debut novel, City of Hope and Ruin, you’ll notice that the subtitle is A Fractured World Novel. So far it is the only Fractured World novel, but that’s going to change, because my co-author, Kit Campbell, and I are working on book 2 in the series!

Novels take a while, though. In the meantime, Kit and I and our two partners in crime at Turtleduck Press, KD and Erin, are working on a prequel anthology set in the same world, which will be released before book 2. More details to come…

To tide you over while you’re waiting for that, we do have two short stories also set in the same world:

  • A Constant Companion (a Briony prequel short story) by Kit Campbell
  • Brothers (a short story featuring secondary character Astrolabe, set during the events of City of Hope and Ruin) by Siri Paulson

Non-TDP Release: Timeshift anthology

I told you before about my flash fiction piece “When the World Stopped” being accepted into an anthology called Timeshift, which released in August. Initially the anthology was an ebook-only release, but there is now a print edition due to popular demand. Here’s the blurb:

Timeshift is a reprint anthology collecting time and time travel flash fiction stories from 36 authors in the genre. In the anthology are time stories spanning the adventures (and mishaps) of time travel, time manipulation, time zones, time loops, paradoxes, accidents, twisted futures and so many more penned by both established and emerging authors in the genre.

Kindle | Print

Non-TDP Release: Impact anthology

Also as mentioned previously, I helped judge a flash fiction contest this spring for the website Queer Sci Fi (my reward for placing third in last year’s contest!). It was a fun experience and I got to read a ton of good stories — doubly impressive when you consider that the stories had to be no more than 300 words long.

Impact: Queer Sci Fi’s Fifth Annual Flash Fiction Contest was released in July and is available on ebook from all the usual suspects.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Angus & Robertson

Blog Recap: Ursula K. Le Guin (re)read

This year I’ve been reading and blogging about Ursula K. Le Guin’s early Hainish novels and short stories. So far I’ve covered “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, two novels, and three other shorts. It’s been fascinating to watch her early development as a writer. We have one more novel to go (and maybe a couple of shorts) and then it’s on to The Left Hand of Darkness! You can find links to all the posts here: Genre Classics (Re)read: Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

 

New Turtleduck Press Book Release: Fireborn by Erin Zarro

blog-Erin Zarro-Fireborn-coverIt’s out! Erin Zarro’s paranormal romance Fireborn is out in the world, meaning you can buy it in your ebook format of choice as of today. Congratulations, Erin!

Here’s the blurb again…

Former Grim Reaper Leliel and her new husband Rick have settled into a routine of normalcy after their life-changing trip to the Underworld. They can finally relax and be married and deal with mundane problems, like money and learning to use all the modern-day technologies that are new to Leliel. But they’re up for the challenge.

Until Leliel starts having frightening visions of people on fire. The fires appear to be suicides—young adults—but something isn’t right. She senses that they were forced to act against their will. This isn’t their time to die. Even though she’s no longer a Reaper, she needs to fix it. Somehow.

When she and Rick investigate, they encounter resistance from not only the police but also the families and friends of the dead. Complicating factors are the Tarot cards left at the scenes, the mysterious happenings at the college that all of the dead turn out to have attended, and the disturbing new abilities that Rick is developing.

And then Leliel’s own Tarot deck turns up the Death card–twice–and she realizes that she’s gotten the attention of something evil…something she must face without Rick by her side.

Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting…

Read the teaser excerpt at Turtleduck Press.

Buy the ebook on:

Kindle | Kobo | Nook

 

Double Anthology News: Timeshift and Impact

Iblog promo - Timeshift antho - ed Eric Fomley - Aug-18 have two pieces of news to share with you today…

First, the anthology I’m in, Timeshift, is now available for preorder on Kindle. It beat its Kickstarter goal, which means all the authors get paid the industry-standard rate for reprints. Yay!

Timeshift features all sorts of speculative short stories related to time — time dilation, time manipulation, time travel (of course), and more. There are some pretty big names in it, so I’m delighted to be included. It releases August 1.

blog-impact-cover-image-Jul-18Second, there’s an anthology I’m not in, but got to help judge. I read 178 flash fiction stories on the theme of IMPACT, and rated them according to a rubric (these folks are organized!). Then we held an online meeting and hashed out our favourites. There were a lot of strong contenders. Things got tense. There was blood! (Not really.)

We eventually managed to agree on three winners. It helped that we each got to pick one story that didn’t make it into the top three. Here’s what I said about my Judge’s Pick, “Low Impact” by Tray Ellis:

This story makes me cry every time I read it. It’s straightforward, yet so effective. I’m always astounded when an author manages to use 300 words to span multiple years, making a tiny flash fiction piece into an epic tale. There’s a big relationship story here that’s just hinted at, but the hints are all that’s needed. I also liked that this isn’t an Issue Story: the queer relationship just is, no big deal. (Of course it’s important to tell those stories too, but not to the exclusion of all other queer stories.) And finally, like many of the best science fiction works, this piece filters science through characters to say something thoughtful about the world. Well done.

Impact: Queer Sci Fi’s Fifth Annual Flash Fiction Contest is available on ebook from all the usual suspects, releasing July 25.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iBooks | Angus & Robertson

Turtleduck Press Cover Reveal: Fireborn by Erin Zarro

Turtleduck Press has been a little bit quiet lately, so I’m thrilled to present a sneak peek of our latest offering, Erin Zarro’s paranormal m/f romance novel Fireborn…

blog-Erin Zarro-Fireborn-cover
Former Grim Reaper Leliel and her new husband Rick have settled into a routine of normalcy after their life-changing trip to the Underworld. They can finally relax and be married and deal with mundane problems, like money and learning to use all the modern-day technologies that are new to Leliel. But they’re up for the challenge.

Until Leliel starts having frightening visions of people on fire. The fires appear to be suicides—young adults—but something isn’t right. She senses that they were forced to act against their will. This isn’t their time to die. Even though she’s no longer a Reaper, she needs to fix it. Somehow.

When she and Rick investigate, they encounter resistance from not only the police but also the families and friends of the dead. Complicating factors are the Tarot cards left at the scenes, the mysterious happenings at the college that all of the dead turn out to have attended, and the disturbing new abilities that Rick is developing.

And then Leliel’s own Tarot deck turns up the Death card–twice–and she realizes that she’s gotten the attention of something evil…something she must face without Rick by her side.

Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting…

Want more? Read an excerpt over at Turtleduck Press.

blog-Erin Zarro-Reaper Girl-coverFireborn will be out August 1. While you’re waiting, check out the prequel novelette, Reaper Girl. There are two ways to get it:

  • Buy the Turtleduck Press anthology Under Her Protection, which also features three other tales of women to the rescue, including my own steampunk-in-India story, “The Raja and the Madman” (m/f romance), OR
  • Sign up for Erin’s author newsletter and get Reaper Girl for free.

All for now! I’ll blog about Fireborn again when it’s available to buy.

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: Planet of Exile

blog-ursula-le-guin-worlds-of-exile-and-illusionToday in the Ursula K. Le Guin (re)read, we’re returning to the Hainish cycle with book 2, Planet of Exile. (If you missed the discussion of Book 1, Rocannon’s World, click here.)

Le Guin herself didn’t see the Hainish books as any kind of coherent series–they’re a set of loosely connected stories all set in the same universe, but widely separated by distance and time. They’re linked by ideas such as the ansible (a faster-than-light communication technology, available even though her universe specifically does not have an FTL drive for ships) and a Federation-like entity that is sometimes called the League of All Worlds and sometimes the Ekumen.

What the Hainish books do not have are recurring characters or overarching plots across the series. What they do have are thematic links. And sometimes more…but we’ll get into that when we hit City of Illusions.

So, on to Planet of Exile…

Basic premise: A young woman (Rolery) from a low-tech alien culture meets a man (Jakob) whose people were stranded on her planet long ago. Both cultures are facing pressure from change, external forces, and the unforgiving nature of the planet itself.

This is still very early Le Guin, but you can already see her preoccupation with culture and her way with language. (I want to be her when I grow up.) I read this shortly after Rocannon’s World, which aside from the prologue (“Semley’s Necklace”) is a standard quest story / planetary romance, and pretty lightweight emotionally. Planet of Exile starts out in a similar vein, but midway through it takes a turn into classical tragedy, and I was surprised how affecting the ending was.

On an SFnal level, the planet’s orbital period is 60 Earth years long, with four seasons. That allows for a lot of fun worldbuilding. For one thing, it means the locals (the Tevarans) have a very different way of thinking about time, especially since they are nomads and live in a different place each season. Their winter homes, for example, fall out of living memory and become semi-mythical…as do the stranded aliens, who live in the same place all Year. The result is a mythic or allegorical feel to the book.

Sadly, its age is showing. The gender relations are distinctly old-fashioned — the old Tevaran leader Wold is the most obviously sexist character, but nobody questions, for example, the idea that Rolery should hide in a safe place nursing the wounded while Jakob goes off to fight. It’s amazing to think that this was published only three years before The Left Hand of Darkness (famous for its exploration of gender).

Similarly, the race relations are clunky — both the Tevarans and the aliens look down on the other and see themselves as the “humans”. The indigenous Tevaran people see the alien exiles as “not really people” and arrogant for acting like they think they ARE people; the aliens can’t believe the locals haven’t even invented the wheel. The aliens are dark-skinned, the Tevarans are light-skinned (and a third group, the Gaals, are even more so), and both can’t stop commenting on the other’s looks. The Gaals are even more “othered” — they’re not really thought of as people at all but as a biological force, like the years-long winter, until one character comments on this very late in the book.

A side note before I get into the real spoilers: The aliens follow a form of the Prime Directive, laid out by the League of All Worlds — no exposing the locals to high technology. Since they’re stuck on the planet, this means that they too are losing their technology despite efforts to the contrary. This is a shift from Rocannon’s World, where some of the locals were explicitly taught high technology (and lost some of their artistry in the process).

[SPOILERS for the ending…]

 

There’s a sense of melancholy among the aliens — their society is stagnant and slowly dying, because they’re stuck on a world that’s not theirs. (They seem to be Earth humans.) Until… (dun dun dun) That’s the real conflict in the book: the sense of dislocation and isolation of a people. Jakob and Rolery are just proxies for its resolution (another thing that gives the book a mythic quality). I was sort of expecting the aliens to escape the planet at the end, maybe because I mistook the Stack for a forgotten spaceship over the mantelpiece. The aliens are forced by circumstances to work with the locals, it all goes wrong at the midpoint, but they still end up retreating together and starting to integrate. The biological part of the solution comes out of nowhere near the end — it would have been better if hinted at earlier. Though I guess it kind of is, with Jakob being able to mindspeak with Rolery early on — that’s a proxy for biological transmission. Regardless, watching the aliens have their idea of “home” shift from “a place we’ll never see again” to “here in this place we’ve made”…that’s what tilted this book, despite all its imperfections, into a classic for me.

 

[END SPOILERS]

By the way, here’s some neat Le Guin news:

(1) The Earthsea novels are being reissued this fall in a new collected edition, illustrated by Charles Vess (!!!). Details and sneak peeks available in this article at The Verge.

(2) There’s a new feature-length documentary about Le Guin, by filmmaker Arwen Curry, and you can watch the trailer and read a bit more about it right here.

Next up, we’ll be looking at a couple more short stories from The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, and then it’s on to City of Illusions, more shorts, and then the biggie, The Left Hand of Darkness (which I’m rereading right now). Hope you’ll join me!

 

Ursula K. Le Guin (Re)read: “April in Paris” and “The Masters”

Welcome back to the Le Guin (re)read! Today we’re tackling the first and second stories she sold to paying markets. “April in Paris” was published in the magazine Fantastic in 1962, and “The Masters” was published in 1963 in the same magazine.

I’m reading them in a collection of her early stories, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. According to her introductory notes, before she was published she amassed a long string of rejections (and practiced her perseverance!). This for a writer who would later go on to win all of the major science fiction and fantasy awards, become one of only five women to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction by her peers in SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), and be awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. So if you’re an aspiring writer in the “collecting rejections” stage, take heart!

But I digress…

Note: This post is an analysis of two stories, so there will be minor spoilers throughout. I’ll flag those that are more major.

April in Paris

The first thing you notice as a reader is that the speculative element isn’t immediately apparent. Le Guin devotes a chunk of words to describing the forlorn state of Barry Pennywither, and then another chunk on the even more forlorn state of Jehan Lenoir before finally introducing the summoning/time-travel spell that connects the two. I suspect that if this had been a later story, she would have gotten there quicker.

As in her novels, she stays in deep third-person POV, describing the moment of connection first from Lenoir’s perspective, then from Barry’s very different one. There’s a funny moment when Barry realizes that the other man is speaking not English but French…and there’s something funny about his French…and then a page later he realizes that the man’s speech is odd because it’s very old French, something he has only ever seen written. (Le Guin uses the same device in City of Illusions – coming up a little later in this blog series – when a character has to draw on his knowledge of an ancient language that he has never heard spoken.)

[SPOILERS]

Although this is an early story, it’s clearly in dialogue with others of its subgenre: she has obviously read other time-travel tales and decided to explore a different angle. So her characters exchange knowledge, but quickly realize there’s no point in trying to apply that knowledge in their respective times. What would they do with it? Who would believe them? What would be the point, really? Instead, they simply revel in having it, and even more, sharing it.

For that is the crux of the story: the human connection. That’s what our duo is really looking for, not knowledge for its own sake. Later on, when more characters join the initial pair, they build even stronger connections (though rather heteronormative and even sexist to today’s sensibilities). Finally, they realize that connection (and its flip side, loneliness) is what has created the magic at the core of the story, literally. And ta da, there’s the theme.

[END SPOILERS]

So the story is pretty straightforward, by Le Guin’s later standards. But one can already see the preoccupation with relationships and psychology over the speculative-fiction trappings. She’s using SF to say something; she’s not interested in the cool SF ideas for their own sake, but what she has to say cannot be said without SF.

The Masters

By contrast, this story is all about knowledge: the control and withholding of it, the reinvention and secret sharing of it.

Again, it starts with a very tight focus (though the initial point of view is omniscient): the protagonist, Ganil, in the middle of a scene that’s vivid and visually arresting but has no context. Gradually Le Guin pulls back to give us information about the world (aka worldbuilding): this is an initiation, and Ganil is a Master of what in our world we would call a guild.

One interesting note: Ganil’s friend and mentor, Mede, is described as having blue eyes, but this is so unusual in Ganil’s world as to be seen as a deformity. Le Guin’s Earthsea world is famous for being a rare early fantasy setting full of brown and black people. “The Masters” is six years before the first Earthsea book, with the desire to upend racial assumptions already on her mind.

We learn that although Ganil is a master of his craft, being a master doesn’t involve calculation or critical thinking, just memorization. Mede is the one who nudges Ganil along to (re)discovering this dangerous knowledge, not by telling him outright, but by planting the seeds for Ganil to figure it out himself. It’s exhilarating watching this happen, the excitement of discovery and then of explaining it — rather like “April in Paris”, in fact.

[SPOILERS]

The only woman in the story is Ganil’s love interest. It’s a rather feeble attempt at inclusion, as in Le Guin’s early novels. Thank goodness she realized that she could write about women (and other genders, as in The Left Hand of Darkness) if she wanted to.

By the end, control has come down heavily on our thinkers. Mede is dead, and Ganil is forced to endure terrible punishments and then flee. But, like Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451, he flees with his knowledge and Mede’s still intact. All is not lost; there is hope in the darkness.

[END SPOILERS]

“April in Paris” is a story that would not be possible without its core fantastical device, and it centers around two intellectuals who bond over sharing knowledge, but it’s really about human connection. By contrast, “The Masters” is less about science fiction than it is about science, the joy of it and the suppression of knowledge and the unbeatable relentlessness of human curiosity.

 

Next up, we’ll return to the Hainish Cycle with Planet of Exile. I hope you’ll join me!