It's not a particular secret that I am exceedingly fond of Catherynne Valente's novels -- the Orphan's Tales duology (Tiptree and Mythopoeic Award winners), Palimpsest (a current Hugo nominee), and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making being four of the finest fantasy books I've read in the last decade. So I decided to take a fast trip into the city last night to hear her read as part of the KGB Fantastic Fiction reading series along with M.K. Hobson, whose first novel, The Native Star is coming out next month.
Hobson read first, describing Native Star as a historical fantasy steampunk romance, or something like that. The excerpt was set in and around a nineteenth-century mine and included a typical romance-novel combination of a spunky young heroine and a condescending hero (who will presumably receive his comeuppance and be a lot less condescending once he falls in love with the heroine) along with magic and, of course, some aggressive zombies. I'm not sure what zombies have to do with steampunk, but they do seem to be a hot trend nowadays. It was an amusing excerpt and she read it well. I intend to buy the book when it comes out.
Cat also read from an upcoming novel, though it's not coming until next spring; very frustrating. The title is Deathless, and it is set in a magical/alternate version of Soviet Siberia. I don't have much of a background in Russian folktales, but I recognized Baba Yaga and the name Koschei, though I don't have any mental reference for the latter. I'm not overly concerned by this; the excerpt was amusing (never address Baba Yaga as "Comrade") and promises the sort of curlicued richness of description and off-kilter reimagining of classic stories that I liked so much in Palimpsest and the Orphan's Tales books. There wasn't much question even before the reading that I'd be buying the book, but now it's a sure thing.
Though I liked both readings, I didn't much care for the event as a whole. It was way too crowded (KGB is a bar, and not a very big one) and hot for my tastes, with limited seating. I guess they're a victim of their own success, but it's not the sort of thing that I enjoy. So after the readings, I said hi to Cat, complimented both authors, and fled to a nice, quiet dinner with a good friend before heading back home on a late train. It will take another author of Cat's stature to get me back to one of these readings again. But I'm certainly happy to give both authors a shout-out:
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