Meet Jo Walton

My Real ChildrenHave you read Jo Walton yet? The author, poet, and blogger/reviewer who will be the Guest of Honor at Balticon over the Memorial Day weekend? I am just becoming acquainted with her, literarily speaking, and am bemoaning the past fifteen years that she’s been writing behind my back!

I am starting to make up for lost time: to date, one novel, My Real Children, and a few selections from What Makes This Book So Great, a collection of Walton’s book reviews for That may not sound like much, but it’s more than enough to appreciate her impressive but unstuffy breadth of knowledge and her great talent for complex ideas and depths of feeling expressed in brisk, matter-of-fact language. To say nothing of her unusual story lines, and characters so real you almost hear them breathing. I loved every bit of what I’ve read and am looking forward to more.

Early in Walton’s novel, My Real Children, an old fashioned telephone rings in a girls’ school in a remote area of World War II-era England. The young teacher who takes the call is asked a question. She hesitates, deeply divided over a choice which will determine the course of her life. But the voice demands an answer. “Yes or no,” he says. “Now or never.” She finds excuses for his unusually brusque manner, his coercion. As always, she hopes for the best. “Yes,” she says, unaware that somehow, somewhere inside her, she has also said, “No.”

So begins a divided life, lived in divergent worlds with dramatically different futures. In the telling, Ms Walton examines the extraordinary forces within everyday human reality, while painting one of the wildest theories of cosmology with the colors, textures, foibles and complexities of the human beings who endure them.

What Makes This Book So Great comprises 130 book discussions selected from posts Ms. Walton wrote for a blog by that title on between 2008 and 2011. These aren’t new books, but her many-times re-read favorites, classics and should-be-classics and series of the genre, now visited once again with new depths of insight and appreciation. Of the few examples I have read so far — including Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Arthur Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night, Samuel Delaney’s Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, I have begun a To-Be-Re-Read list as well as adding some titles to my Why-Haven’t-I-Read-This list. As some very nice bonuses there are also general genre discussions, such as That’s Just Scenery: What Do We Mean By Mainstream. This is a great book for book lovers, book reviewers, and writers alike. If you don’t believe me, here’s what Patrick Nielsen Hayden has to say about it:

Jo Walton With the Hugo 2012

Jo Walton With the Hugo 2012

Since 2000, Jo Walton has produced a dozen novels and three books of poetry with an impressive string of awards including, among others, the Campbell Best New Writer Award and the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, World Fantasy, Tiptree, Prometheus, and Mythopoeic Awards. Her novel Among Others won the 2011 Nebula and the 2012 Hugo Awards for Best Novel, and is one of only seven novels to have been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards.

Go read her. Now

Links for Jo Walton: Her web site, Wikipedia, and her posts on

Ursula LeGuin at Eighty-Five

Ursula K. LeGuin Photo by K Kendall

Ursula K. LeGuin
Photo by K. Kendall

Ursula Kroeber LeGuin, the all-time Great Lady of science fiction and fantasy and winner of the 2014 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, is turning eighty-five.

There are two best ways for devoted readers of her incomparable work to celebrate the occasion, the humanity of her words, and the power of their impact on literature.

The first is to see and hear her fearless, at times searing, comments on the occasion of the award’s presentation, in which she addresses both the challenges faced by writers in the evolving world of publishing, and the greater world’s deepening need to receive their messages.

The second is to hear the interview, Ursula LeGuin at 85 on BBC Radio, as well as comments from Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell and others, a brand new drama adaptation of the first three Earthsea novels, the first ever broadcast of The Left Hand of Darkness, and much more, all available here courtesy of BBC

Thought you’d like to know.