Geoffrey Long
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Readercon, Sarah Monette and other pleasures.

I love that blessed and beautiful feeling when you discover something that's been missing for all too long. For me, lately, that feeling has been coming in waves with the discovery of an entire collection of my peers that are working in the slipstream / interstitial / contemporary reinvention-of-genre spaces. I blogged about this before in the beginning of June (the first post was "Where to begin?" and the second was "A magnificent deskful of guilty pleasures"), but this exploration has unearthed an entire treasure trove of brilliant new writers. It started with Kelly Link and a collection of anthologies I mentioned in those earlier posts, and exploded when I attended Readercon 19 earlier this month.

Holy cats, Readercon.

Not only did I make some excellent new friends (hi, Erin) and ran into some old friends (hi, Ellen and friends-of-Kasi), but I also got to meet some of my old favorite writers and discover even more brilliant new ones. I shook the hands of Jonathan Lethem and James Morrow, happily listened to Ekaterina Sedia, John Crowley and Kelly Link hold forth on their works, had some brilliant conversations with James Patrick Kelly and Gregory Frost, and met a whole host of other brilliant up-and-coming authors. I also developed a serious hetero-geek-crush on literary critic John Clute, whose work I had admired before but after actually listening to the fellow on multiple panels, I have added to the small list of personal influences whom I would happily sit and listen to even if they were only reading their laundry lists. The fellow is brilliant.

Another major score of the weekend was in the bookstore, a massive bonanza of vendors all peddling a myriad of tomes, most of whom I struggled not to acquire. (What with the trip to Greece and other splurges this month, July has been easily one of the most expensive months in recent memory. Seriously. Ouch.) I whimpered and passed up a $100 hardcover edition of Jonathan Carroll's first book, Land of Laughs, which I'd been hunting for over a decade, and instead spent way too much money on a whole bagful of bargains. By the time the dust settled I was the proud owner of a hardcover edition of Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners and whole host of fantastic paperbacks from Prime Books.

There's been a bit of a recent kerfuffle in the blogosphere lately about writers' experiences with Prime, but everything I've read so far sounds like exactly the kind of issues that plague all small independent presses (and I say this as a man who for the longest time was a small, independent press). Given the quality of the books and the authors Prime publishes, they're definitely on my short-list of publishers to query once Bones of the Angel is well and truly finished. Not only do they publish Ekaterina Sedia, Theodora Goss and Jeff VanderMeer, but they're also responsible for Cabinet des Fees and the beautiful new paperback editions of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's Black Thorn, White Rose, Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears, and Black Swan, White Raven. I got to meet Sean Wallace at the con and he cut me a great deal on a whole stack of books, and he certainly seemed to have his heart in the right place, and I do happen to think Prime is in exactly the right position for a small niche publisher to be these days. So much so, in fact, that one of these days I hope to interview him for some of my academic work.

Anyway. My latest discovery from that pile of Prime books was The Bone Key by Sarah Monette, which is a brilliant example of experimental publishing models in this day and age. Monette has pulled off (brilliantly, I might add) an experiment I was considering for my Winter Children series – she introduced her character Kyle Murchison Booth in a short story, and then proceeded to write an entire series of short stories featuring Booth and publishing them in various magazines, thus building an entire network of introductory points to her character and his world. It's an old model, to be sure, but seeing it done now – and done so well – makes it a terrific case study in contemporary serialized narratives. It's not quite a serialized narrative, insofar as each short story stands on its own, but seeing them all collected together in The Bone Key makes me suspect that just such an experiment conducted with chapters of a larger story could work very well indeed.

Mwa ha ha.

As I said, The Bone Key is brilliant – I finished reading the second short story in the collection, "The Venebretti Necklance", on my way to work this morning and when I set it down I burst out laughing out of sheer delight. Charlaine Harris' quote at the top of the cover, "Sarah Monette can write like a dream," is entirely accurate. Monette takes an old horror trope straight out of Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado, modernizes it and makes it her own. It's by turns funny, creepy and altogether excellent, with enough character quirks and nuances that Booth could definitely carry a novel all of his own – and I'm sure Monette's working on it. I haven't read any of her other stuff – her website suggests that the majority of the rest of her work is pitched more at the fantasy / supernatural romance set – but she's now definitely on my list of Folks To Watch. I would suggest that you dear readers do the same.

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