Liz Williams's Blog

December 11, 2014

Many thanks to all of you for your support for these novels over the years. All the Chen backlist is now available, both as print and e-copies, with Open Road Media in New York (you can find them here: http://www.openroadmedia.com/snake-agent).

The time has now come to return to the final (for now) Chen novel, to finish the story threads that have been building over the previous books: the tension between Heaven and Hell with Earth in the middle; some mysteries about the badger teakettle; Jhai and Zhu Irzh's marriage, and Chen and Inari's baby.








SHORT STORIES - 2014-15

The last set of stories have gone out for 2013-14 (email me if you'd like to order these - they are still available), and I am floating a new series of stories for the next year.

THE MIX: I will be writing 8 stories.

CHEN: and 4 more stories for Chen and friends!

The first set of these have gone out - I'm in the process of writing the next set now.





Short Stories
The Mix £25.00 GBP
Chen £10.00 GBP
All of them £35.00 GBP





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Published on December 11, 2014 12:37 • 10 views

December 7, 2014

As most of you who are on Facebook will know, this has been a gruelling autumn, mainly spent on hospital and nursing home visits, consultations with doctors and social services etc. My father survived his 92nd birthday in September, but died in early November. We held a small family funeral here in Somerset and are now adjusting to his absence: we will greatly miss him. My mother will continue to live with us; a lot of time has been spent on house clearance, therefore, but we are getting there. I’ve been going back and forth to Gloucester, reconnecting with the Severn Valley, and we should be done by the end of January.

Shortly after my father’s death, my teaching load increased substantially, we had a massive computer crash (the PC and 3 laptops stopped working properly) and thus the writing has had to take a backseat. I must apologise to those of you waiting for stories: I am working again, though slowly, and two out of the three stories for this quarter are almost done.

If you need to contact me, here, email or facebook are the best way to do it. I have had a mobile phone for the duration of my father’s illness, but will not be continuing with its use: I find having one is too stressful these days, and am limiting my online time to sites which are not one long argument. I don’t care what the arguments is, or how justified; my limited time and energy needs to go elsewhere (tweeting me is pointless: I never check it). However, there are some good personal developments coming up in my writing work next year, and also some positive and much wider initiatives in SFF, aimed at supporting newer writers, in which I will be playing a part. More on those as they happen.
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Published on December 07, 2014 05:11 • 23 views

October 28, 2014

I've sent the novel out this morning. If you subscribed to it and have not received it, let me know asap and I'll email it to you!
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Published on October 28, 2014 05:44 • 21 views

September 30, 2014

Where are we with the final-for-now Chen novel? Well, we're nearly there. I have finished the book, but I am still in the process of final revisions. It's been a hectic month, with my father now settled in a nursing home; he was in an end-of-life unit but surprised everyone by pulling through. With a teaching schedule and the shop, it's meant a lot of disruption - but the book is now done and it will be with you soon.
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Published on September 30, 2014 03:17 • 24 views

August 29, 2014

So, it's almost September, which was when I promised the new Chen novel to all of you who were kind enough to pre-order it. Due to family problems (my father has been very ill and is now in a hospice) I'm more behind with projects than I would like. However, the novel has been going quite well - we're about 3/4 done, and the ending is mapped out, so if all is well, I should finish it reasonably soon. It's still likely to be towards the end of the month, possibly a little into October, as I would like to leave it to 'sit' for a bit before revision. But then that's it! It will be with you.

And remember, you can find the backlist of all the Chen novels with NYC publishers Open Road.
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Published on August 29, 2014 06:26 • 20 views

July 22, 2014

If anyone has subscribed to the latest short story sub, and has not had a first quarter set of short fiction from me, could you let me know? At the moment, things are extremely fraught: my father is seriously ill and we are spending 2-3 hours at the hospital every day. Given this on top of everything else, I am conscious that I am not keeping up with correspondence: I am trying to do so, but it's going to be slow.

The next Chen novel is, however, being written, if somewhat intermittently, and it's going well. I'm on track for delivery to you in September, though possibly later in the month rather than sooner.
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Published on July 22, 2014 13:20 • 19 views

June 26, 2014

Last year, in Glastonbury, some members of the OTO, Aleister Crowley's Thelemite order, held a conference. It was well-organised, well attended and generally it's considered locally that it was an excellent event and we hope they'll repeat it. The one sour note was the presence of an attendee who was somewhat obnoxious during the event, enough so for people to start looking into his background, and very soon it turned out that he had a conviction for child abuse, and aggravated assault (he assaulted a senior female detective, but unfortunately one can't convict for arrant stupidity per se). He was promptly banned from future conferences, his name and multiple aliases were shared and noted, and he is likely to be pre-emptively banned from other organisations' events as well as future versions of the one he attended. We've also banned him from the shop, because he has been a customer. Another occult organisation of which I am a member dealt similarly with someone else who also has a conviction for grooming and assaulting an underage girl.

With these cases, both were dealt with efficiently and swiftly. There has never been any question that these people ought to be banned. So let's look at recent events. I do not, in fact, think that survivors of assault should be automatically be believed (or, God forbid, automatically be assumed to be lying, either): like any crime, it's a matter of evaluating the evidence and keeping an open mind until all the evidence is in. But I would suggest that a sizable part of the evidence with regard to Marion Zimmer Bradley lies in her own legal deposition: I read this through, when the matter arose on the internet a couple of weeks ago, and some of her comments are frankly sinister. In the case of her husband, the evidence seems overwhelming (on a much more minor criminal note, he was apparently known in the Bay Area as a book thief, as well, and was banned from a number of bookshops - they don't seem to have had a problem with barring him from the premises). Reading some attempts at the time to excuse all this (also contained in the legal depositions) make unpleasant reading.

I'm not going to go into Bradley's work here in depth because my opinion of it is actually irrelevant, but I suspect future critics will be looking closely at the Catch Trap and some of the Darkover novels (why Mists of Avalon is hailed as a feminist classic baffles me, since the women in it spend most of their time stabbing one another in the back. I'd suggest a revisiting of the manipulative, ruthless Viviane might pay dividends, however).

But, outrage at Bradley, whilst understandable, is safe. She's dead, and so is Breen, so unless you know a really good necromancer, there's unlikely to be much comeback (You can decide what you want to do about supporting her work - her royalties go to her estate, apparently not to her children, and I understand that Moira Greyland has suggested that people who want to support MZB's children more directly take a look at her brother's artwork). What about people who are still walking around? Why was James Frenkel allowed back into Wiscon this year? If Wiscon have new evidence which exonerates him from groping women, great: we'd like to hear about it. If not, then why on Earth wasn't he banned? It's not difficult. Why did it take so long to extract Ed Kramer from con-running? Why is Samuel Delany's association with NAMBLA not being looked at more closely? A number of people who are quick to call out anyone making a not-currently-accepted linguistic error have been silent on the issue of someone who, hello, has expressed his support for a pederasty organisation. (And is this even legal in the US? There was something similar here in the UK but it disbanded in 1984 after its committee members were arrested for guess what). Delany, whom I have only ever met briefly, is an interesting writer but he's not God, and he's not above the law. He may not in fact be a paid up member of NAMBLA, but surely he could clarify that, and whether he still supports it? He's on public record as doing so. Until he does that, would I be happy to take a child to a convention where he's appearing? No, I bloody wouldn't.

This sort of thing is not a witch-hunt. It's not political correctness gone mad. It's asking serious questions about the behaviour of a small percentage of individuals, some of whom have actually been convicted of crimes or who have a long track record of abusive behaviour.

If the followers of Aleister Crowley* can get their act together and expel people whose behaviour is beyond the pale, then what's been so wrong with fandom over the years? I'd suggest a combination of cowardice, expediency, and sycophancy (in the case of Bradley). This is particularly reprehensible because, if fandom was dealing with, say, members of some secret police force, with the threat of real reprisals (doors kicked in, guns to head) there might be some justification for timidity, but we're talking about writers. Writers have no genuine power in the world: you might think they do, but they don't. Neither, really, do editors. Samuel Delany is a bloke with some dodgy interests who sits down every day and writes words. Marion Zimmer Bradley was an ordinary, if apparently abusive, woman who employed her imagination and got paid for it. By all means give those of us who are pro writers some credit for our hard work, imagination and discipline, but don't pussyfoot around someone's crappy antics because they've had a few novels published. The only social power is the one that you lend them: if people other than her victims knew what she was up to and were too scared of MZB because she was A Writer to say anything about it, then that's completely fucking reprehensible.

*As opposed to the 1920s, when sexually assaulting people was practically compulsory if you wanted to be a Thelemite. (I'm joking. But only slightly).

And what is it with 'the Great Breen Boondoggle?' Only fandom could rename a paedophile scandal as something that sounds like a bad 60s band.
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Published on June 26, 2014 03:00 • 41 views

June 14, 2014

Many thanks to everyone who has signed up for this. The latest Chen story decided not to behave itself, but then suddenly sorted itself out, and I'm just putting the finishing touches to it, so it will be with you soon, along with the other tales if you've ordered those. And thank you for your patience!
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Published on June 14, 2014 06:40 • 18 views

April 26, 2014

This post originated in a Facebook discussion yesterday of the less ‘fashionable’ writers of the last hundred years; the quieter writers, who nonetheless present a wider variety of ways in which women can be than many current novels suggest.

At the moment, women in urban and high fantasy, SF, detective fiction and chicklit are subject to a surprisingly limited range of characterisational tropes, which as Kari Sperring has pointed out, are subject to predominantly masculinist narratives. Typical protagonists in SFF are feisty, angry, often battle-trained, often damaged. They resist romance, but engage in it, and there is still an expectation that they will work towards relationships as a goal, if not the primary goal. They often look down on other women, are isolated, and don’t seem to engage in firm female friendships. I came across a blog entry in which Inari, in the Chen series, was criticised for not being feisty enough. How could I, the female blogger asked with genuine bewilderment, as a modern woman write a character who is so traditionally portrayed? But Inari is not that kind of person; there is not only one way for women to be.

There are exceptions – Wren in Laura Anne Gilman’s Retrievers series, is someone whom other people don’t notice (that’s the whole point of her ‘talent’). But she has strong connections with others and she solves problems through intelligence and guile. Ken McLeod, who in my opinion writes very good female characters, portrays the protagonist in Intrusion as being in a fairly traditional female role, but she just doesn’t want to do what she’s told: she doesn’t go out with guns blazing, but she does dig her heels in.

Mid twentieth century narratives, outside genre, offer other choices. Dora Saint, writing as Miss Read, depicts a woman who is happy alone – it’s clear that she is an introvert and recognises it: she prefers to be alone at the end of the working day. She actively resists romantic attachments: when a potential suitor appears, and the community try to matchmake, Miss Read is delighted and relieved when the man's estranged wife appears. In Jane Duncan’s ‘friends’ books, based on her own life, her protagonist does marry but is widowed, and gets through it with the help of a male gay friend. Elizabeth Goudge, too, portrays a variety of women, from autocratic matriarchs to popular women in their twenties to dreamy, imaginative small girls, and one of the nastiest female villains ever: the slimy headmistress in The Rosemary Tree.

In most respects, all of these protagonists are ordinary women. They’re not like Bridget Jones or Ally McBeal - they’re competent and capable, not klutzes (the default character quirk of much contemporary chicklit) – but they’re not Anita Blake, either. They don’t regard other women as competition, or as embodying characteristics against which they need to defend themselves. So many protagonists in urban fantasy don’t seem to like being female - they behave in ways which are stereotypically considered as male, and they lose something in translation. The solitary female PI, stemming from V I Warshawski, was fresh when she first stepped onto the genre stage, but she, too, has become a stereotype (ironically, the only female PI I know is both a wife and a mother). ‘Cosy’ mysteries seem to have more variety. This is not, by the way, about being ‘good’, conforming or behaving, although that may be a choice that is made for reasons other than oppression. Miss Read’s heroine has no reluctance to speak her mind; Goudge’s women say what they think. Quite a few of them aren't particularly nurturing, either: they're not saccharine stereotypes in the opposite direction.

We are not comparing like with like here: genre has different expectations to ‘literary’ fiction. But it seems to me that genre is increasingly narrowing down women’s choices, in portraying protagonists who fit only a restricted range. It’s not only about diversity in race and gender, although that’s a big issue. It’s also about diversity in terms of the personality of characters. The majority of the heroines in urban fantasy blur into a single stereotype for me: there’s so little real individuality there.

Other people have asked where the mothers are in genre (there are some – Briar in Boneshaker, for instance). Where are the women who just aren’t interested in intimate relationships, happy with their own company? The women who aren’t angry or hurt, who are just getting on with their lives? The girls who are not tomboys, who prefer dresses and reading to archery and swordfighting? (Those girls get their choices criticised with considerable and ironic ferocity: the ire directed at Anne in the Famous Five books is an example, but I was more like Anne than George). Or the girls who like both? Not all girls want to be boys, and not all women want to engage with the world in a masculinist way (neither do all men, either). When I was growing up my mother, who is also a writer, brought copies of Spinrad and Dick back from the library and has had a long term interest in steam trains and hill walking, but she also liked cooking and dressmaking. She has some interests which are traditionally feminine, and others that aren’t. She is as complex as most of us are in real life, so why isn't this reflected on the page? Do female characters in contemporary genre have interests which go beyond either gender or the demands of the plot? I can’t think of many examples, if any. What about the women who are reasonably satisfied with their society? It’s a greater challenge for the writer to portray those women, because narrative tension has to come from elsewhere, but it can be done.

So, are current heroines a reaction to earlier ones, and have we thrown out the baby with the bathwater? And if so, what is the reaction actually to: unconvincing women in the earlier days of SFF, or to the quieter heroines elsewhere? Is it a pendulum swing, and has it, like most such swings, become stuck at one end of the spectrum? Am I completely wrong, and if so, where are these characters to be found?

Kari said yesterday, and I hope she does not mind my quoting her: “We need to honour our quiet ancestors as much as the showier ones, or else we deny half our history.”

So let’s hear it for the quieter ones: Rumer Godden, E M Almadingen, Margery Sharp, Dora Saint, Rosamund Lehman, Jane Duncan, Dodie Smith, Dorothy Dunnett, Barbara Pym, Elizabeh Bowen, Rosamund Pilcher, L M Montgomery, Dorothy Sayers, Anne Stevenson, Louisa Alcott, Susan Cooper. I welcome your thoughts, as this is a very incomplete list: predominantly British, predominantly white, too.

And I also welcome counter examples.
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Published on April 26, 2014 06:53 • 22 views

April 23, 2014

I was tagged by Claire Weaver (http://claireweaver.blogspot.co.uk/) so do go and read her posts, too.



1. What am I working on?

I’m currently writing a number of short stories, both for private subscriptions and for magazine consideration. The final (for now) Chen novel will be announced shortly and I’m also working on a new book, which is a sort-of fantasy, set here in Somerset. I rarely write so close to home and using the folklore of my current county is proving interesting.

2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?

I’m not sure what my genre is. I mix and match a lot: I’d say that a lot of of what I write is old school science fantasy. I don’t like using standard tropes, and I try to take a hard look into the forms that societal change would actually take (whilst I understand where a lot of 1970s matriarchal utopian writing came from, for instance, I’m by no means convinced that an all-female society would be any kinder or less corrupt than its male equivalent, hence the Mars of Banner of Souls and Winterstrike). My writing is sometimes described as ‘difficult’ and I think people have a hard time figuring out my agenda: story, worldbuilding, prose and ideas are important to me. If it helps, I’m more likely to criticise my own politics than other people’s, and quite frequently won’t do either. Both novels and short fiction are varied. Ghost Sister was a critique of the extremist end of the environmental movement; Empire of Bones was written as an attempt to address first contact stories that are always set in the West, and Nine Layers of Sky was based on living and working in Central Asia.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I like telling stories and exploring ideas. Gender has often been an aspect of my work, but it’s irritating to expect female writers to be solely concerned with gender. When I first started reading – Bradbury, Vance, LeGuin, and fantasy writers such as Julian May and Lloyd Alexander – my primary concern was worldbuilding rather than gender. I’ve never particularly been concerned with whether ‘I’ was represented in fiction, because the point of reading, to me, was to have the experience of becoming someone else. I read a lot of William Burroughs at one point, and his concerns are very much not my own, but I learned a great deal from what was to me a very alien point of view. For me, the purpose of reading SF is not to learn about myself, but to learn about others (that’s obviously problematic if the genre becomes too uniform in who it depicts and I do think that it would benefit from increasing its diversity as much as possible). I’ve always been more interested in reading about aliens rather than humans: I think it increases the scope and depth of understanding, and it’s a great challenge for the writer. The work of Gwyneth Jones, Hal Clements, Mary Gentle, C J Cherryh, and Jack Vance, to select but a few, are cases in point.

I’m also a fan of occult fiction, which tends to get neglected when people talk about fantasy, but which has been a domain of female writers since at least the Golden Dawn and the big esoteric societies in the late 19th century: Edith Nesbit, Dion Fortune, Ithell Colquhoun, and Joan Grant, for example, tend to get left out of analyses of fantasy, but are highly regarded by occultists.

4. How does my writing process work?

'Process,' eh? I write what I can, when I can. I run a business and teach as well as being a writer, and I can’t afford to be particularly precious about when and how I work. You just have to get on with it!

Nominated next on the blog tour: Neil Williamson, author of recently released The Moon King, and David Clements (davecl.wordpress.com), who has a non-fiction book on Infrared Astronomy coming out near the end of the year.
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Published on April 23, 2014 05:40 • 19 views

Liz Williams's Blog

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