I don't rightly remember how it exactly happened I discovered the writing of Cathrynne M Valente, otherwise known here as yuki_onna
. But I do know these things:
• She was immediately identified as a good egg, and a good writer (in ways that I, as a reader, appreciate and enjoy), by several friends and acquaintances I trust (some of whom are writers themselves, or reviewers, or fans, or just plain old folk, like me, not particularly connected to the genre writing or fandom community).
• I picked up one of her "The Orphans Tales
" volumes from the local library, read 50 pages in, and immediately ordered it, its companion volume
, and her novel Palimpsest
. I find her writing lyrical, rich, approachable but deep and mythical: it's writing that (so far) seems to resonate with what I like from the SF&F-end of the genre stuff I read.
• Her educational background is as a classicist, and I find accord with what this has done for the way that she writes. She names things well. She doesn't just sprinkle around world-building and cultural elements as if they were doritos or knick-knacks -- they have weight and seem real and substantial, even when her tone is light and flippant.
• She has a new book that's just come out, the first volume of what (as far as I know) promises to be a major new project for her. To call it the culmination of a hell of a lot of work would, I gather, not be quite accurate. Rather, it might be the first public return on declarations of a hell of a lot of work, with more to come. This new book is called "The Habitation of the Blessed
", and it bills itself as a "dirge for Prester John". (Who is Prester John, you ask? Well, she is only too happy to explain
• I will be buying her book. I hope to be buying this book directly from her, at her book reading at Longfellow Books in Portland, Maine
. I may even buy other books of hers that I don't already own, if they have 'em. As you may know, such a trip will be a bit far afield for me, and thus An Adventure™.
• Because I don't have the book yet, I cannot yet have read it. I thus have no idea what it is like, and it would be irresponsible of me to say anything more about my response to it. But I will promise to write a comment about it, after I have secured and read my copy. Whether this will motivate you to seek it out yourself... well... I don't know whether your taste is in accord with my own. Plus I do not have millionz of intarwebz followers, so my reach is rather small.
• She offers kewl prizes for the spreading of word about her work
. It is partly in this endeavour that I make this post (see previous point about book unseen, unsecured, unread). I would like kewl stuff. I promise to share any kewl stuff, should it come my way by happenstance, with friends and family.
• The SF&F genre seems to me to be in an interesting place. There are really good writers in it. There are also scads and scads of formulaic and relatively mould-standard books as well. From what I've read so far, I think Valente falls into the former category: her writing reminds me of other folks I really like to read, like John Crowley, Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin -- mostly because she seems really good at naming things, and because her worlds seem simple, human, but still, deeply deeply real. But, it also seems to me that the really good writers (or at least the writers I like) often don't get supported and continually published (in the same way that, often, really good TV shows that I like get cancelled).
So, if you're of a mind, try out one of her books. You might then want to buy some. I did.