Remembering the Ladies

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” –Abigail Adams to her husband John on March 31, 1776

Alas. For women authors in much of the 19th century, the last thing they wanted to remember was that they were female. Because at that time, it was almost impossible to get published if you were a woman. Continue reading


Don’t Crush That Writer! (Hand Me the Duct Tape) – One

womanAt a recent science fiction convention, I was on a panel about critique groups. We started by sharing horror stories. I had the singular honor of having the most horrific in the room.

I once mentored a group of writers in Sacramento that called themselves the Space Cadets for reasons that should be obvious to readers of genre fiction. They had a critique group which I met with on occasion at their request. They were, generally speaking, a great group, though they had some issues that arose out of the differences between the SF and fantasy genres.

One of the young men—I’ll call him Andy—shared a story with the group that was a diamond in the rough. I critiqued it and told him that with just a bit of tightening and a bit more clarity around a particular plot element and timeline, it would be an exciting and salable story. What happened next was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen happen to a writer. Continue reading


A Stamp for Ursula

 A brilliant summer day in downtown Portland, OR was the perfect venue for unveiling the new USPS stamp honoring our own Ursula K. Le Guin. The SFWA Grandmaster and BVC member long made her home here. We in the field have known and loved her work for decades, but a postage stamp is more than a personal honor. It’s a cultural accolade, demonstrating that Le Guin’s work is a major influence in American letters. She is only the 33rd American writer in the Postal Service’s Literary Arts series of stamps, joining icons like Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and T.S. Eliot. More than movies, more than books – when you’re on a stamp you are an icon of national culture. Continue reading


Now in Print: New Worlds, Year Four by Marie Brennan

New Worlds, Year Four by Marie Brennan
New Worlds, Year Four
New Worlds 4
by Marie Brennan

Bathing and banking, animals and adultery: human culture contains a truly daunting array of elements. The fourth volume of the NEW WORLDS series takes readers on a tour of all-new topics, delving into everything from childbirth to dream interpretation to the importance of generosity, as award-winning fantasy author and former anthropologist Marie Brennan continues her in-depth exploration of worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy.

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The Styles of the City: Green Walls

Green walls are fashionable but many climates are not suited for them. If it’s hot and dry and sunny, you may be limited to stonecrop and succulents. I’ve never lived where they’ve been really practical. When I arrived in the northwest the wall in the picture was entirely bare and rather grim, something like a prison.

You’d never know it now! A jungle of vines has completely cloaked the bricks. There is a terrace at the top, over which the vines have surged like a wave to dangle down into their friends clawing up to the sky from below.

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Crossword Puzzlements and a Book Recommend

While I was fussing about what to write for my Sunday blog with no tangible result, the Saturday New York Times Crossword provided inspiration.

Constructors: Adam Aaronson and Ricky Cruz

From my NYTCW app

Saturdays are the most challenging puzzles; long answers, obscurities, puns with an endless variety of results. This one irritated me, largely because of the usual–cutsy Gen-X locutions, sports references, models that I’ve never heard of. Also my favorite (and only, actually) NYTCW critic, Rex Parker, liked the puzzle. Me, not so much.

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The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 15: Out and About in Florence

Your Virtual Italy Vacation continues with local color as Thor and I ramble around Florence.

NOTE: Since European travel is still tenuous with the pandemic continuing, I’m continuing my blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! After starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll now resume every week (after the blogging detour in real time to Hawaii). Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

The Arno River is the artery of Florence, which has been Italy’s heart of art and culture since the Renaissance. So we’ll start our quirky meander with the river and its bridges. The Ponte Vecchio with its arcade of shops is the oldest surviving bridge here, built in 1345. Bridges over the Arno date from ancient Roman times, of course rebuilt over the centuries. The Ponte Vecchio is the only old bridge to survive bombing by the Germans in 1944, during WWII, when they also destroyed many other historic landmarks of the city. The German invaders were desperately trying to hold the city, but American bombers arrived later in the year to execute a daring plan. They had targeted the train station crucial to the Germans, but carefully mapped the city to show the pilots all the priceless historical monuments and buildings they were determined to save. Continue reading


New Worlds: The Games Languages Play

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

When my Russian translator was working on Turning Darkness Into Light, he kept sending me queries about how I wanted him to handle certain bits. You see, that novel contains snippets of mythological text which refer to the primeval deities that created the world with the English pronoun “it,” and he was concerned because not only does the neuter pronoun mostly apply to inanimate objects in Russian (as it mostly does in English), but the form of the past tense verb changes by gender, too — which would really hammer down on the “but this sounds wrong” effect if we went the neuter route. (Curious Russian speakers may find it interesting to know that he wound up changing the relevant verbs to the “present in past,” whatever that is.)

For most writers, these kinds of grammatical features will only become relevant when their novels are translated. But as we get more authors working in English who are also fluent in other languages, I’ve been seeing more instances of linguistic quirks becoming a matter of worldbuilding, too: stories set in fictional societies where the language does things differently from English, and that becomes a part of the culture the reader experiences.

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Island Life: Visiting an Even More Remote Island

That’s our island, Orcas Island, in the distance there–those middle lumps. I took this photo from Cypress Island, last week.

We were invited to Cypress by relatives who have a cabin there, and we went by “water taxi,” which is a fancy name for a funky old motorboat that you can hire to take you to places where the Washington State Ferry boats don’t stop. We were picked up from a dock all the way across Orcas, at Obstruction Pass, but we had to be let off on a rocky beach on Cypress. The tides have to be just right, so there are only two times a day when you can do this. Also you have to step lively. The water taxi keeps a tight schedule; we felt lucky it slowed down enough for us to jump off without falling into the drink.

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Artist in Residence 29: Coming back to the wolves of my soul…

Some of you might remember me writing about the day I first encountered the wolves down in Anacortes, and my incandescent relationship with them.

My first Day of the Wolf was now more than two years ago, astonishingly, but THIS year, 2021, has been dark and dreadful – after losing my husband in February I have been stumbling around in a deep forest so gnarled and ancient that underneath it there is nothing but shadow, and the occasional glimpse of sun is almost miraculous when it occurs – or else I have been swimming desperately, trying to stay afloat, in an ink-black ocean with only horizon all around me and no land in sight. Exhausted, mourning, in pain, I sought that glimpse of sunlight in the dark forest – I made for a remembered island of happiness.

I headed back to the wolves.

More, with pictures, at my website