Author Spotlight: Catherynne Valente
Catherynne Valente writes some of the most beatiful fiction that I have encountered. Her words flow off the page in such a manner that sometimes even the meanings become superfluous and one feels afloat in a river of sounds. Most of her works are focused on elements of the fantastic mixed with the real, Deathless for instance is based on the Russian boogeyman Koschei the Deathless, but set in the Stalinist period of Russia.
For a taste of her writing, here is the bio that she hosts on her website:
Catherynne M. Valente is a New York Times Bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction novels, short stories, and poetry. She lives on a small island off the coast of Maine with her husband, two dogs, one enormous friendly cat and one less enormous, less friendly one, six chickens, a red accordion, an uncompleted master’s degree, a roomful of yarn, a spinning wheel with ulterior motives, a cupboard of jam and pickles, a bookshelf full of folktales, an industrial torch, an Oxford English Dictionary, and a DSL connection.
She has written over a dozen volumes of fiction and poetry since her first novel, The Labyrinth, was published in 2004. Her full-length novels include (chronologically) Yume no Hon: The Book of Dreams, The Grass-Cutting Sword, The Orphan’s Tales (a duology consisting of In the Night Garden and Cities of Coin and Spice), Palimpsest, The Habitation of the Blessed, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
She is also the author of two novellas, Under In the Mere and The Ice Puzzle as well as several collections of poetry, including Apocrypha and Oracles (2005), The Descent of Inanna (2006) and A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects (2008). Her first collection of short stories, Ventriloquism, came out in the winter of 2010.
Her poetry and short fiction can be found online and in print in such journals as Clarkesworld Magazine, Tor.com, Fantasy Magazine, Electric Velocipede, Lightspeed Magazine, Subterranean Online, and Weird Tales, as well as in anthologies such as Interfictions, Salon Fantastique, Welcome to Bordertown, Teeth, Paper Cities, Steampunk Reloaded, Haunted Legends and featured in numerous Year’s Best collections.
She has been nominated for the Hugo (2010), Locus (2010 & 2011) and World Fantasy Awards (2007 & 2009). In the Night Garden won the James Tiptree Jr. Award for expanding gender and sexuality in SFF (2007), and the series as a whole won the Mythopoeic Award for Adults (2008). Palimpsest won the Lambda Award for LGBT fiction (2010). Her story Urchins, While Swimming, received the Million Writers Award for best online short fiction in 2006 and her poem The Seven Devils of Central California won the Rhysling Award in 2008.
In 2010, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making became the first self-published work to win a major literary award, winning the Andre Norton Award for YA literature before it saw print in 2011, going on to become a national bestseller.
In 2012 she recieved the Locus Award for Best Novella (Silently and Very Fast), Best Novelette (White Lions On A Green Field) and Best YA Novel (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making).
As part of the SF Squeecast she won the Hugo for Best Fancast in 2012
She keeps a popular blog at Rules for Anchorites.
Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what giants or wicked witches are to European culture: the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. Valente's take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. "Deathless," however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever peasant girl to Koschei's beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, "Deathless "is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, that will bring Russian myth to life in a stunning new incarnation.
In the Cities of Coin and Spice and In the Night Garden introduced readers to the unique and intoxicating imagination of Catherynne M. Valente. Now she weaves a lyrically erotic spell of a place where the grotesque and the beautiful reside and the passport to our most secret fantasies begins with a stranger's kiss.... Between life and death, dreaming and waking, at the train stop beyond the end of the world is the city of Palimpsest. To get there is a miracle, a mystery, a gift, and a curse--a voyage permitted only to those who've always believed there's another world than the one that meets the eye. Those fated to make the passage are marked forever by a map of that wondrous city tattooed on their flesh after a single orgasmic night. To this kingdom of ghost trains, lion-priests, living kanji, and cream-filled canals come four travelers: Oleg, a New York locksmith; the beekeeper November; Ludovico, a binder of rare books; and a young Japanese woman named Sei. They've each lost something important--a wife, a lover, a sister, a direction in life--and what they will find in Palimpsest is more than they could ever imagine.
Collected here for the first time, her early short novels explore, deconstruct, and ultimately explode the seminal myths of both East and West, casting them in ways you''ve never read before and may never read again. The Labyrinth - a woman wanderer, a Maze like no other, a Monkey and a Minotaur and a world full of secrets leading down to the Center of it All. Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams - an aged woman named Ayako lives in medieval Japan, but dreams in mythical worlds that beggar the imagination . . . including our own modern world. The Grass-Cutting Sword - when a hero challenges a great and evil serpent, who speaks for the snake? In this version of a myth from the ancient chronicle Kojiki, the serpent speaks for himself. Under in the Mere - Arthur and Lancelot, Mordred and le Fay. The saga has been told a thousand times, but never in the poetic polyphony of this novella, a story far deeper than it is long.
Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, "Fairyland" lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of "Alice in Wonderland" and the soul of "The Golden Compass," here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful. "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" is a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Fiction title for 2011.
September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows--and their magic--to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September's shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland's shadows back. Fans of Valente's bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September's journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren't always what they seem. . . .
A Book of Wonders for Grown-Up Readers Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can cast over us-to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time-a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page.... Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl's own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars-each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered "mermaid" to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales-even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente's enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you've come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun....
Catherynne M. Valente enchanted readers with her spellbinding In the Night Garden. Now she continues to weave her storytelling magic in a new book of Orphan's Tales--an epic of the fantastic and the exotic, the monstrous and mysterious, that will transport you far away from the everyday.... Her name and origins are unknown, but the endless tales inked upon this orphan's eyelids weave a spell over all who listen to her read her secret history. And who can resist the stories she tells? From the Lake of the Dead and the City of Marrow to the artists who remain behind in a ghost city of spice, here are stories of hedgehog warriors and winged skeletons, loyal leopards and sparrow calligraphers. Nothing is too fantastic, anything can happen, but you'll never guess what comes next in these intimately linked adventures of firebirds and djinn, singing manticores, mutilated unicorns, and women made entirely of glass and gears. Graced with the magical illustrations of Michael Kaluta, In the Cities of Coins and Spice is a book of dreams and wonders unlike any you've ever encountered. Open it anywhere and you will fall under its spell. For here the story never ends and the magic is only beginning....
Apocrypha: Catherynne M. Valente's first full-length poetry collection, where freaks, emperors, bodhisattvas, beasts, witches, wicked stepmothers, Greek heroes, told seductively and wickedly in poem and prose, jostle and vie for supremacy . . .
A GUIDE TO FOLKTALES IN FRAGILE DIALECTS by award-winning author and poet Catherynne M. Valente is a delightful collection of poetry, short fables, and fairy tales that explore myth and wonder, ancient and modern, with an introduction by Midori Snyder.