Friday, November 21, 2014

Hild is a #1 bestseller!

Hild is the PNBA's number one bestseller. That means that for the week ending November 16, it's the overall top-selling paperback at independent bookshops in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia and Alaska. Which means: Wow! and Bloody hell! and Woo hoo!

Hild is also number 7 on the Southern California list, and 5 on the Northern California list. Aaaand...number 19 on the national list.

So I'm going to take this opportunity to remind you that books make lovely holiday presents, that buying from your local bookshop is a Good Thing, and that, well, I've never been a national bestseller before and it would add a serious glow to my Christmas to be able to add National Bestseller! to the next printing of Hild.

Anywhere I've been in the last month will have signed copies. But if they don't, or if you want one personalised, I've been thinking about establishing a relationship with a new, local bookshop that just so happens to be right next door to the pub... So if you're interested in being able to get something signed, personalised, and shipped to you, let me know and I'll set it up.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Immersive storytelling: are books better than film?

After a recent post on Hild's film/tv rights, I started a conversation in the comments with my friend Brooks, posting as Myseyeball. I thought it sufficiently interesting to pull part of it and turn it into a standalone post.

One of the things that interests me about your novels, Nicola, is the way in which a form of technology will become a metaphor that not only informs the way your protagonists move through life, but also the structure of the novel. In Slow River, that technology was sewage treatment, of all things. In Hild the technology is the making textiles. Not only does it become a metaphor for the way that Hild and her associates see life, but the book itself seems to be woven — a very tight and intricate weave.

In that context the more sensational aspects of the book, the sex and violence and whatnot, are like silver, gold and crimson threads, thrilling and beautiful in their ornamentation, but inadequate in describing the core experience of reading a book woven from the change of seasons and the changing of life in a time so far away from ours.

To adapt Hild into a TV series the whole beautiful tapestry would have to be unwoven and then re-weaved as a series of smaller cloths, all somewhat different in appearance and touch, yet congruent enough to be stitched back together in an approximation of the original. The ideal way do do that would be to conceptualize Hild as a series of short films, all a little different in effect. The big battle that gives Hild her butcher bird reputation. That's one film. The later chapter in which most of the men have gone off to some battle and Hild notices how more relaxed things seem in their absence. That's another movie, totally different style-wise but just as important.

Only a very powerful producer could pull something like this off. Not only because she or he would have to somehow keep the whole thing unified, but also because he or she would have to be confident enough give the writers and directors just enough slack to make something unique.

One other thing. If I was the megalomaniac producer of a Hild series, I'd also make the directors, writers and a lot of the producers go to linen boot camp.  I'd have people spinning and weaving in the writers room and during downtime in the fiilming.  I'd engage their competitive nature to see who could produce the best cloth.

In doing that, they'd almost involuntarily weave the feel of textiles into the weave of the film.

Do all that and stitch the pieces back together and you'd have Hild as a quilt instead of a tapestry. Not as elegant, but it would get the job done. Unfortunately getting someone to bankroll a project like that would be only slightly easier than funding Jodorowsky's Dune.

Or you could just make a big budget film starring Jennifer Lawrence as Hild, George Clooney as Edward, and Johnny Depp as The Beaver.

Metaphor-as-structure: one step beyond metaphor-made-concrete? This is something I'd love to talk about another time. But for now I want to focus on this notion of how to recreate an immersive novel on film.

Hild as a series of short films... I don't see it happening. For one thing, as you point out, it would require extreme amounts of Hollywood juice on somebody's part. For another, I not convinced it's possible to create a film, or even series of films, as immersive as the best fiction.

With Hild I set out for the reader to experience the seventh century, to see, smell, hear, taste and feel what Hild does; to gradually adopt her mindset and worldview; to think as she does, to learn her lessons, feel her joys—to be her, just for a little while. My goal was to run my software on the reader's hardware: for them to recreate Hild inside themselves and know, not just think but know, what the early seventh-century was like.

To do that I honed my prose to trigger not only the reader's mirror neurons but something called embodied cognition.

There's now a reasonable amount of experimental data (though I admit I don't know how often it's been replicated and confirmed) to indicate that certain written words can trigger the memory of scent and touch. For example, if you write the word 'lavender' a functional MRI will show the areas of the brain relating to smell lighting up. Similarly, if you use the word 'leathery' instead of 'hard' or 'tough' it stimulates your brain in the same way that actually touching leather does. So if you describe a character running a discarded lavender leather glove drenched in lavender scent under her nose, the reader can actually feel the cool-warm of the leather against her skin, hear the faint creak of the leather, smell that lavender: we are there.

However, unless you elaborately set up the same shot—show the glove's owner dipping the glove with liquid from a bottle labelled Lavender, show her leaving the glove, show someone else picking it up, running the glove under her nose, closing her eyes and sniffing deeply—I don't believe film can't do that. (Even with the elaborate set-up described I'm guessing the viewer would have to really work to put themselves there.)

This belief could, of course, all be a function of my bias: film and TV for me are two-hour thrill-rides. They don't exist to make me think, or to feel subtleties. My favourites are blunt-force roller-coaster rides with perfectly matched music and a few witticisms. Think Jaws. Think Die Hard. Think Galaxy Quest, and Independence Day (okay, not the ridiculous computer virus, but everything else), the Star Trek reboot, Iron Man, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy (except for the idiotic adolescent 'fun' hobbit scenes, and those interminable ents). The films that work best for me, in other words, are spectacle, Woo Hoo Let's Blow Some Shit Up! movies, not Serious Films About Anguished People.

And what you say about having to send the actors to weaving boot camp: yes. Because they would have to move as people who had been producing textiles—and milking cows, and sheathing swords, and ploughing fields—all their lives. The viewer would have to see them do something and believe it, feel it, understand subconsciously the thousands of hours, the expertise, that goes into the simplest movement. You can always tell in film someone who knows how to use a gun, or ride a horse, and someone who doesn't. And don't get me started on the women they cast to play martial artists/killers. (There are always exceptions. I believed Gina Carrera in Haywire: she is, in fact, a fighter. And Tom Cruise in Collateral did an excellent job of playing a man for whom such things are second nature on what I'm guessing was limited training.)

Video is a visual medium. It can trigger a viewer's mirror neurons: a woman on the edge of a cliff with the wind in her face might tickle our own sensory apparatus enough for us to feel a faint echo of that wind on our own skin, if it's acted and shot well enough. But it can't get us to smell the sea, to feel whether that water is hot or cold, except by two-stage inference. It is much better at what people do and say than what they think and feel.

Prose, on the other hand, can do it all. But as I say, I'm perfectly prepared to admit I might be biased.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last HILD reading in Seattle: Third Place, Ravenna, Wednesday 19th, 7 pm

Tomorrow is my very last Hild reading in Seattle. By last I mean last. The next set of readings will be for Hild II. So if you want to hear Hild-as-three-year-old and Hild-as-butcherbird, or perhaps Hild-discovers-sex, or even—depending on a variety of factors—the very beginning of Hild II, come to Third Place Books in the cosy Ravenna neighbourhood. Wednesday, at 7 pm. Sip a beer (they have a truly fab eatery with beer and wine) and listen and chat. Especially chat: the Q and A if often my favourite part of the evening. I love to talk about my book!

If you can't make it, you can still get a book signed and personalised. Both paperback and hardback make beautiful gifts. The lovely people at Third Place will ship. Hild, as I've said before, is a luscious object. (See that close-up of the thick gold debossed title...) But if you want the book personalised, you have to get your orders in before Wednesday evening. After that it'll have to be just a signature; I'm guessing I'll be signing a bunch o' stock.

I'm guessing you don't need to see more pix of the hardcover (unless it's with cute cats reading) but if you want to peer more closely at the paperback take a look here.

So: Wednesday 19th November, 7 pm, Ravenna location of Third Place Books. Join us!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Today is Hild's 1400th anniversary

Today is Hild’s 1400th birthday. That is, Hild, who became St Hilda of Whitby, was born 1400 years ago, and November 17th is her feast day, so today seems like a good day for it. Happy Birthday Hild!

How do you say, fourteen hundreth in Latin? Well, settle back for a discussion.

My first stab at it was quattourdecenennial. But this is word Hild would have found odd. She would have been able to figure it out, but it's a made-up word, English based on Latin—there's no evidence for anything like it in actual Latin anywhere. Also, Latin counting would have used one thousand four hundred rather than fourteen hundred. The words we use for such things today, e.g. bicentennial, are formed from analogy to millenial, which is a late-Latin formation on the model of the Classical Latin words biennium and triennium. But according to Annie, a young Latinist I consulted (over beer in a pub), these mean a period lasting x years, and there's no Classical evidence for them having adjectival forms meaning on the second/third anniversary. Apparently, they're in a numerical class of their own. Annie suspects they might be based on the numeral adverbs, rather than the ordinal numbers—the bi- prefix is probably from bis, which means twice rather than two—and the closest you could get to 1400th on this model would be quaterdecienscentennial in English, quaterdecienscentennialis in Latin. 

At this point, the beer ran out. Well, okay, the pub still had beer but our capacity for it —at least as it relates to making sense of Latin—most definitely came to an end. So after a few days to recover, we switched the conversation to email. Which means that (much to my relief!) I can now quote directly:
If you instead take the late-Latin (in use c. 1250 CE in Britain) millenium or the English word centennial as the model, then quattourdecimcentennial(is) is probably more correct, using the cardinal number fourteen.You could even make an argument for quaternidenicentennial(is), using the distributive. All of these should make a certain amount of sense to an English speaker familiar with Latin.
If you want something that a native speaker (or scholar of the language) might more readily write, millensimus quadringentensimus is probably close. Livy has mille et quadringentis for the cardinal 1400 (Ad Urbe Condita 26.50), and I'd assume mille(n)simus (et) quadringente(n)simus to be the ordinal equivalent (those 'n's are dropped pretty regularly, and the 'et' is entirely optional.) It would decline as a regular first/second declension adjective on the model of bonus, -a, -um; so 1400th year (nominative) would be millenimus quadringentesimus annus. It's a little trickier if you want to refer to a specific event which has recurred once every year for 1400 years, but you'd probably want to use anniversarius (yearly) in some form: eg, millesima quadringentesima anniversaria lupercalia, the 1400th annual Lupercalia. I really don't know enough about ecclesiastical Latin to say whether there were other conventions for writing numerals by the 7th century, but this would at least make sense when read. You are certainly correct that (written) Latin in Ireland was almost dialectally different—Hisperic Latin is a very strange creature, and I know nothing about that, either, except that the Altus Prosator is often given as the prime example.
And if you want to go deeper than that, feel free to consult Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar. Many thanks to Annie (go back to school!).

For now, I declare that this is her fourteen hundredth anniversary: millesima quadringentesima anniversaria. Happy Birthday Hild! I shall raise a glass to you tonight.

Now I just have to figure out Happy Birthday in Old English. Ēadiġ ġebyrddæġ…? 

ETA: Today is also the day the Church of England voted for women bishops. I'm just trying to imagine what difference this might have made to Hild...


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Kelley and I got in late last night—given jet-lag, it was about midnight when we walked in the door, 2 am when we got to bed.

It was a fab trip. I talked myself not-quite-hoarse. (It takes a lot to make me hoarse...) To old friends and those who are now new friends. To lots of people we'd only talked through through the photons and electrons of the übernet. Family (in Washington DC, all too briefly, alas). To booksellers and readers, editors and publishers—even a couple of cats.

Here are a few random statistics of our paperback tour (so far):

  • 5 airports
  • 1 hospital ER
  • 6 hotel rooms
  • countless cabs
  • untold elevators
  • a billion beers (and a not-inconsiderable quantity of wine, a handful of cocktails, plus some Armagnac)
  • 1 night of live music
  • a score of truly memorable conversations
  • 5 bookshops
  • 13 bars
  • 2 cats
  • 7 gifts (3 ARCs, 2 t-shirts, 1 nifty water bottle, 1 whistling rock)
  • a river of photos (I didn't take any; I'll try to round up others' for your delectation and delight)
  • 2 videos (not posted yet)
  • 4 bestseller lists (more on that anon)
  • 100s of books signed—maybe even a thousand
  • 6 gorgeous autumn sunshine days
  • 2 eh-it's-November days
  • 3 days of cracking cold
  • 1 airplane de-icing
  • 1 broken-on-the-jetway tow-bar
  • 1 very long perhaps-we'll-have-to-deplane wait on the snowy runway
  • 5 miraculously intact, checked luggage, on-time-to-right-destination deliveries
  • 5 we-took-apart-your-luggage-and-fucked-with-your-careful-packing TSA inspections
  • 1 lost iPad charger (not TSA's fault)
  • untold kindness of strangers
  • 2 or 3 dozen receipts to be sorted
In other words: hellacious busy but absolutely worth it. Two things I'll expand on now: the ER and the bestseller lists.

The ER was in Washington, DC. It was my left eye. Since my surgery, I've had a couple of spectacular-but-not-dangerous subconjunctival haemorrhages. They look awful, but they don't really bother me (except the shock on others' faces). They don't affect my vision, they clear up fast, I don't worry about them. But on the plane from Atlanta to DC something began to happen. Long story short, it turns out to have been an atypical (sigh; atypical is typical for me) vitreous separation. Apparently these things usually happen slowly over a period of two weeks (which is what happened with my right eye a couple of years ago); this one happened whap-whap-whap all at once and (given recent surgery and the haemorrhages and the fact that it happened at 44,000 feet) freaked me the fuck out. But everyone at George Washington Hospital was fabulous. Yes, we were there four hours, but they called in a consultant ophthalmologist from home, and he gave me the most thorough eye exam I've ever had, and said he couldn't see anything wrong with my retina but that I should come back to see the retinal specialist the next day to be sure.

As the next day was a busy one (I ended up spending 13 hours with a drink in my hand—when I wasn't holding a pen to sign things), I declined. But next week I'll go in to see my own eye doctor and get a definitive opinion. Meanwhile, I think the GWH interlude was probably the best ER experience of my life: astonishing kindness and efficiency. And I've been in a lot of ERs...

The bestseller lists are exciting. Hild is on three regional independent bookstore lists: Pacific Northwest, Northern California, and Southern California. And it's number 21 and "on the rise" on the national indie list. So keep your fingers crossed. I can imagine few better end-of-year presents than being able to add National Bestseller to the cover of the next printing of my book. Of course, the book needing a reprint so soon would be pretty fine, too. So remember: gorgeous-looking immersive paperbacks bought from your local independent make perfect holiday gifts. And you can get a signed copy from any place I've been recently; they'll ship.

There's more tour stuff to come, of course, but all regional: right here in Seattle (Third Place, Ravenna, Wednesday 19th, 7 pm—they have a great restaurant; definitely worth a trip), Wenatchee and Leavenworth and Port Townsend. Meanwhile, it's lovely to be back!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Tonight: Left Bank Books, St Louis, 7 pm

I've been to St Louis many times. I'm particularly fond of Left Bank Books where my friend Mark Tiedemann (author, most recently, of the fabulous Gravity Box and Other Space Stories) works.

Tonight I'll be reading from and talking about Hild. Mark has promised there will be libations, so come and listen, and say hello!

Friday 14 November
St Louis, MO
Left Bank Books
7:00 - 8:00 pm
FREE - and there will be libations...


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The ending of HILD

From: Christine

I was at your reading for Hild at the Elliott Bay Bookstore on Friday evening*. I did not have a book for you to sign, but did tell you that I had spent 3 weeks in Yorkshire this past summer. I spent time in Leeds, and visited the site of Kirkstall Abbey twice while in Leeds. I stayed with friends in Horsforth. After Leeds, the trip took me to the Dales, and the Moors, including a stay at the Youth Hostel at Whitby Abbey. I had the occasion to hike in the Dales, Moors, and on the Cleveland Trail along the Coast. While visiting the Whitby Abbey, I became very interested in learning about the early church that had been at the site, prior to the Abbey being built.

When I stumbled upon a review of Hild in the Real Change, I knew that I had to read it.
At any rate, after the reading I told you that I had almost finished reading the book and you asked me to let you know how I liked the ending. I found it fascinating. I read it over at least three times, and went back to the beginning and re-read that twice as well.

Needless to say, I will be waiting for the next book.
I am jealous of your trip! Last time we were in the UK (last month) I didn't have time to do anything but readings and talks and things at various bookshops and universities and libraries. But I longed to roam Hadrian's Wall and get up to Whitby, spend the time of time in the north of her world that we did a year or two ago at places like Caer Loid (Kirkstall) and Aberford (which is, er, Aberford). There are photos of those places here on the blog somewhere but I'm writing this on the road and not my desk and searching a tiny screen is not the easiest thing in the world...

The ending of Hild tends to take people by surprise, but I also tried to make it feel inevitable. As I worked I held an image in my head of finishing the edges on a piece of weaving: folding back the threads, tucking them in, making sure there are no rough edges. And creating a kind of symmetry I find pleasing. I'm glad you did, too.
* Halloween


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Branding for writers

A while ago I was thinking about "branding" as it is applied to (and by) novelists, and wondering why I have such mixed feelings on the subject. Sometimes I think the very notion pernicious; other times, frankly, I love it. I wrote an essay to figure it out—or to begin to. It went up yesterday on The Weeklings. Here's a taste:

WALLY OLINS, BRANDING guru, died in April. According to an Economist review of his posthumous Brand New: The Shape of Brands to Come (Thames and Hudson, 2014), branding is “about knowing who you are…and showing it.”

It sounds simple but for a novelist it is not.

Writing is both a verb and a noun, a process and a product. The job of a writer is staged: creating then selling, that is, art then commerce. Stepping from one mode to the other involves a profound rearrangement, a state change, as I found out on US publication of my most recent novel, Hild.

To learn to create the kind of novel I aim for, to conjure another time and place with the authority to immerse a reader—to run my software on the readers’ hardware—took years of two different and contradictory practices: disciplined focus on craft, and a kind of unmoored wandering to find my voice.
You can find the rest here. I'd love to know what you think.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Tonight: Porter Square Books, Boston, 7 pm

Tonight I'm at Porter Square Books in Boston. It's a new place to me, but I already know lots of people who've said they're going to be there. It will be a blast! Come and join us!

Monday 10 November
Boston, MA
Porter Square Books
7:00 - 8:00 pm


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tonight: Washington DC, Kramerbooks, 7 pm

Tonight we're finishing our fabulous time in DC with a reading at Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café. I've never done a reading in DC before, so I hope some of you show up and say hello. I know some of K's family will be there, and there's a bar, so it will be a bit of a party...

Sunday 9 November
Washington, DC
Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe
7:00 - 8:00 pm
FREE - Also, it has a bar...


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Men are afraid that women will laugh at them

From Morgan:

In the first few chapters of Hild, there is a line that goes something like “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”. I’m curious, was that a deliberate Margaret Atwood reference, or just something that has been true throughout all history?
It's on p. 16. Hild is repeating something her mother told her.

Margaret Atwood said something very close to that on the radio in the early 80s. At the time I was teaching women's self defence and volunteering at Lesbian Line, a phone helpline. Many of women I knew worked with Rape Crisis. I'd heard variants on the theme—that women's and mens fears were quite different—from women for years. Atwood crystallized it, though.

This is from Wikiquote:

And from Margaret Joe, a member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly,
a brief quote by Margaret Atwood.
“’Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine.
“’They are afraid women will laugh at them’, he said, ‘undercut their world view.’
“Then I asked some women students, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ”’They are afraid of being killed,’ they said."
Hansard transcript from the 2nd session of the 27th Legislature (December 5, 1990).
The exact quote, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them," is a later refinement, I think. I don't know whose, exactly. Perhaps the wisdom of the crowd.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Today: World Fantasy Convention

I'm doing a few things today and tonight at WFC. The first public event is a panel at 3 pm on historical influences in fantasy. Then the mass autographing at 9 pm. Then we'll be in the bar from about 10:30 on.

Come and say hello!

Thurs 6 - Sat 8 November
Arlington, VA
World Fantasy Convention
I have one panel on Friday, 3 pm, but you'll see me around


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charis Books is a jewel

Charis Books last night was a real homecoming. The store, in many ways, looked the same: bright, warm, cheerful. Feminist posters on the walls, smiling staff.

When I saw Linda Bryant, it was just like 1989 again. I would have recognised her anywhere. She was running the store when I first arrived: the store where I saw my first author reading, met Dorothy Allison, Ursula Le Guin, Sarah Schulman, Alice Walker, Minne Bruce Pratt and and countless others. Some of those women I now call my friends. And all because of Charis.

There's video of last night's event. I've no idea when or where it will be posted but if I find out, I'll let you know. Meanwhile, go buy a book from a bookstore celebrating it's 40th Anniversary on Saturday. (There's a party! Go tho their website if you want more. I'm typing this in an airport lounge from an iPad so hunting-seeking-linking not currently my forte.) Order online, order by phone, better still, go in person. I guarantee you'll have a good time!

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with this photo. (There were a zillion people there even though you can't see them in this pic.) Hope to see some of you in DC. Or Boston. Or St Louis...

photo by Kelley Eskridge


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tonight: Charis Books in Atlanta, 7:30 pm

When I first moved to this country it was to Atlanta. The first bookshop I went to was Charis. It's where I saw my very first author reading, where I met Dorothy Allison, and Ursula Le Guin. It's a special place--and celebrating its 40th birthday. I can't wait to see it again. I hope you'll come, too. I can promise you a warm and wonderful evening.

Wednesday 5 November
Atlanta, GA
Charis Books and More
7:30 - 8:30 pm
FREE - suggested donation of $5 to help Charis celebrate 40 years


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today I start the 11-day paperback tour

Today Kelley and I get on a plane and head east for a bunch of readings and signings. Here's the schedule:

Wednesday 5 November
Atlanta, GA
Charis Books and More
7:30 - 8:30 pm
FREE - but suggested donation of $5

Thurs 6 - Sat 8 November
Arlington, VA
World Fantasy Convention
A panel and mass-autographing on Friday, lots of bar-time...

Sunday 9 November
Washington, DC
Kramer Books & Afterwords Cafe
7:00 - 8:00 pm
FREE - Also, it has a bar...

Monday 10 November
Boston, MA
Porter Square Books
7:00 - 8:00 pm

Friday 14 November
St Louis, MO
Left Bank Books
7:00 - 8:00 pm
FREE - and there will be beer...

Do come and say hello. It will be a blast—so bring your friends. In fact, bring your family, bring your dog, bring everyone you've ever met :) We both love to talk to people, so the more the merrier! Most of the places know me and what I like so I'm guessing there will be libations available at most stops. Party!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Etymology and insult

From: Larry

Well, this is excellent timing. I read and fully understood and agreed with your "Lame is so gay" post. And I've long been aware about the pejorative use of saying something sucks, though I'm less certain about "sucky." I'm always willing to change my speech if people, especially marginalized groups, feel offended by it, although I know I'll probably continue to slip up. 

The Right always asks "how far are we going to go with this political correctness?" and I always put this down to the arrogance of those who are unwilling to acknowledge their own power and privilege and the way they can hurt others. 

However, I've finally found an example that I think does go too far. It was shared on the Facebook site Garret's GIFs to the World, but I can't tell if the original post came from Tumblr or where, or whether it was serious or meant to be a send-up of politically correct speech. The link is below, but the gist of it is, we should never use the word "bad" because it is a shortening of the Old English word for hermaphrodite. It doesn't mention the word, but Oxford has it "possibly representing old English baeddel, 'hermaphrodite, womanish man'." 

Since this is right in your wheelhouse, I thought I'd ask you, should we take this seriously? Is anyone actually being harmed by this word? (And again, it's entirely possible that I've been taken in by a poster attempting mocking humor.) How dormant does the original meaning of a word have to be before it can be used without harm? For instance, 20 or 30 years ago, no way could I say the word "queer" in any context. Now I can say "my friends in the queer community" and offend no one, except maybe extreme right wingers.

Curious to hear your thoughts.
I just spent a happy 30 minutes fossicking about with the OED and various glossaries online. I think you could argue that there's room for doubt about the etymology. Here's what the OED has to say on the matter:

Prof. Zupitza...sees in bad-de...the ME repr. of OE bǣddel ‘homo utriusque generis, hermaphrodita'...and the derivative bǣdling 'effeminate fellow, womanish man...' [...] this is free from the many historical and phonetic difficulties of the derivation proposed by Sarrazin who, comparing the etymology of madde, mad, earlier amd(de:—OE. emǽded, would refer badde to OE ebǽded, ebǽdd, 'forced, oppressed,' with a sense of (...) 'miserable, wretched, despicable, worthless' 

If we apply Occam's Razor then, yes, we should go with the first one: it's cleaner and more elegant. But, frankly, I would much rather believe it wasn't true. So I looked around some more and stumbled across the fact that bǣdan, which is a verb that means to constrain, to incite, to compel—which is very similar to the meaning ᵹebæded, 'forced, oppressed'. And quite divorced from gender. So I'll plump for that.

While etymology is interesting (etymology is always interesting! see, for example, the comments on this post), the question, "Is anyone actually being harmed by this word?", is the heart of the matter.

Etymology matters in terms of how words make people feel only if those words drag those connotations with them. So, for example, I've talked about the word wife, and how I feel about it. And I've talked about flesh, and why the word, for me, is paired with the notion of corruption (as in swine flesh) rather than, say, sex. But in this case I would say, on balance, that bǣdling goes too far back to have any relevance. At least for most of us, most of the time. I'm guessing if you're a newly-minted Anglo-Saxonist, and trans or genderqueer or queer or a serious ally of any of the above, you might occasionally resent the word. Otherwise, no. A millennium is a long time. Today's use of the word bad doesn't as far as I'm aware generally bring with it gendered overtones (except when talking about women being bad, which I'd argue has slightly different connotations).

For those few who do feel personally offended by the word, then I suggest two possible courses of action. One, tell those who are close to you to to not be surprised if you occasionally get bent out of shape when they use the word, and why. And, two, consider thinking of bad as a reclaimed word—much as today dyke and queer are reclaimed: so perhaps bad equals transgressive, deliberately, admirably so. Channel George Thorogood.

When it comes down to it, though, I think it's important to listen to someone who says: That word upsets me, and here's why. And to then make up our own minds about how to use the information. But first, listen. So I want to hear others' thoughts on this.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Tonight: Elliott Bay Books, 7 pm

Tonight I'll be at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, at 7 pm, to read from Hild, sign your copies, talk (and talk and talk—I love this stuff!) and maybe drink beer. It will be totally fab. We've got sex, we've got violence, we might even have a bit of Hild II. Join us!


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Future Hild?

From: Terry

I have been blown away by reading "Hild" - and re-reading it many times since this July - and have built up a stack of copies for Xmas presents too.

I have put it on our book club's list but I am writing to ask what the date is for UK publication of the paperback. At the moment "Hild" is in our schedule for April next year.

I'm also looking forward, ravenously, to Volume 2: it is heart-wringing to imagine the future for Cian and Hild. I love - among many other features - the way you foreshadow Hild's leanings towards a community of women long before she becomes an abbess, and your use of background sound [birdsong, the noise of a stream,] to convey the silence that falls between characters when a thing cannot be said, and your use of smell to set a scene or mood. It underlines the intense awareness of the natural world of a character and a culture where life is largely lived outdoors, where noone smokes nor ever has, and...

Anyway, thank you for Hild, now and in the future!
The US paperback came out on Tuesday (October 28). The UK paperback is scheduled for July 9, 2015. I'm guessing it's possible to get it shipped from elsewhere; Blackfriars has already had to reprint the export paperback, so I know it's out there and doing relatively well in places like Australia.

Hild and Cian? Their futures are unfurling as I type. But I can tell you: all is well. At first. But it's history, so things fall apart for a bunch of characters (both those I'm very fond of and those I'm just itching to see suffer), and soar for others (ditto) and there's nothing I can do about that. Some of them (even my favourites, sigh) are just plain doomed. Some, of course, will live relatively happily for a long time. You can either read some history books (or peek at Wikipedia—it can occasionally be pretty good) or you can wait for Hild II.

Meanwhile, I'm delighted that you like the way I've written the world, because that continues. It can be very odd, though, to live in two worlds at once: the 7th and the 21st centuries. Especially when I'm travelling so much. And I find myself resisting some of the trends many historians have taken for granted, e.g. the growing Pauline/misogynist attitude towards women as the Age of Conversion takes hold. Hild will resist, too, in ways not always recorded by monks...

But how successful she believes herself to be, well, you'll have to read the book. And it's not done yet.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween with Hild at Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle

When all the ghouls and ghosties are cruising the streets, at 7 pm Friday 31st October, come and join me at the Elliott Bay Book Company for an evening of Hild. I'll be telling you all about the girl and then woman who, 1400 years ago, crammed more spine-tingling experience into her life than we can imagine. Er, except I did, so, hey, forget I said that.

She led an action-packed life: sex, death, grief, joy, terror, exaltation and occasionally exasperation, all before breakfast. Sometimes literally. (Cough.)

And if you're very, very good (or give me enough beer, or amuse me sufficiently, or all three) I might read the tiniest bit of the beginning of Hild II. But might and tiny are the operative words because, well, spoilers...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HILD paperback is here

Out today. Available everywhere. But I particularly want to recommend these Seattle stores:
And as I'll be at the following stores in the next couple of weeks (for the full tour info, see the Appearances page), it would be kind of cool if you bought from them, too:
But if none of those appeal, I also have a list of independents recommended by readers, with all the giant online retailers thrown in.

To whet your appetite, here's the page of all things Hild, with interviews, reviews, info, maps, and miscellany. Enjoy!