Saturday, October 29, 2016

Nisi Shawl

Nisi Shawl is a writer of science fiction and fantasy short stories and a journalist. She is the co-author (with Cynthia Ward) of Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's SF Magazine, Strange Horizons, and numerous other magazines and anthologies.

Shawl's new novel is Everfair.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Shawl's reply:
I generally read more than one book at a time. For purely escapist pleasure I’ll pick up work by Trollope or Gaskell or another British Victorian, but at the moment you’ve caught me in the midst of overlapping perusal of two science fiction texts. Because I’m a science fiction writer myself these sorts of books tend to bring out my critical faculties rather than relaxing them.

I’m on the last chapter of David Levine’s debut novel, Arabella of Mars. Combining steampunkish elements such as a highly complicated version of the 18th- and 19th-centuries’ notorious, fraudulent “chessplaying automaton” with wooden ships sailing gale-force winds through an interplanetary atmosphere, Levine manages to simultaneously invoke C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoomian adventures. An audacious heroine--my favorite type--occupies the center of this busy, busy canvas. I’m looking forward to seeing more of her.

Meanwhile, I’ve just started an anthology of contemporary Chinese short science fiction called Invisible Planets, edited and translated by award-winning Chinese American author Ken Liu. So far I’ve only read the first story, “The Year of the Rat,” by Chen Qiufan. I quite enjoyed it. It kept surprising me--a piquant tale of young recruits to a campaign reminiscent of the Mao-era slaughter of sparrows. But the rats these young men trap and kill are genetically engineered pets who’ve evolved to be a bit too independent for their breeders’ comfort. “The Year of the Rat” is very different from the science fiction I’ve become accustomed to as a reviewer and editor, and if the rest of the book meets the standards this story sets, I’m going to be thrilled with the joy of discovery--that prized sensation known to science fiction aficionados as “sensawunda.”
Visit Nisi Shawl's website.

--Marshal Zeringue