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A blog about books and other things speculative

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - May 13, 2014

Please welcome Karen Heuler to The Qwillery. Glorious Plague was recently published by Permuted Press.

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - May 13, 2014

We all have an underlying assumption that our brain is giving us the right information, since reality is merely whatever the brain shows us. When I asked my students to prove to me that a particular chair existed, they declined. They’re no fools. Proof of reality? No. We only know the objective world through our subjective world, and there’s no way they can prove that the particular chair I pointed to was objectively there.

The most they could do was tell me what their individual senses reported—sight, sound, taste, weight. But all our senses are relayed through the brain, and if the brain makes an error, then that error is reality. A good hallucination is as real as anything else.

It’s been a particular obsession of mine, this stuff of the mind, and made me so much love Oliver Sacks, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, wherein people attempt to adjust to the world their brain describes, no matter how troubling.

It’s small wonder, then, that my latest novel, Glorious Plague, is about a change in the perception of reality.

A virus that causes bugs to climb to the top of plant stalks leaps the species barrier to humans, and people all over climb to the highest point—rooftop, treetop, road signs, bridges—and sing gloriously until they die. Why do they sing? It’s a by-product of the disease, which coincidentally affects the musical part of the brain.

Because of the virus, there is a burst, an interest, an up-swelling, an incredible world of song—which only ends with the victims’ deaths. Until then, each person who feels the pull of the virus searches for the particular song that haunts them, and joins it.

The survivors begin to try to organize New York from scratch and as people try to reinstitute the structure of New York, they realize that they can declare themselves to be anything—a cop, a doctor, a boss—because that’s what they want to be. When angels appear, when Ganesh runs for mayor, when people walk in the world of their stories, it isn’t questioned. Very few people are left within “real” reality—only Dale, who is searching for her daughter, and Omar, a low-level entomologist who does his best to discover a cure. But then Dale finds a place in the new world, and Omar has a decision to make about accepting this world or not

So—where’s reality here? Is Omar's world real if only he can see it? Is everyone else wrong, because they believe they’re seeing what Omar believes they aren’t?

It’s tricky. Things change all the time, and change is part of reality. Which, when you think about it, is absurd. Do we believe our reality changes? Aren’t we sure it’s stable?

Glorious Plague
Permuted Press, Spring 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 296 pages

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - May 13, 2014
Hallie is missing—and so are thousands of others. Everywhere people are singing—climbing to the rooftops, to the bridges, to lamp post and road sign, steeple and water tower, singing gloriously, triumphantly, tirelessly—and dying.

Hallie’s mother, Dale, goes to Manhattan to search for her. She drives in from rural New Jersey, passing abandoned cars and trucks, to make her way to the jammed George Washington Bridge, rejoicing with hymns and gospel and rock and opera.

The plague moves swiftly, and the city’s survivors form new communities, dealing with the rotting corpses, trying to re-establish a new infrastructure for the new order.

And odd things happen—angels come to earth, Christ drags his crucifix around Rockefeller Center, the Indian god Ganesh runs for mayor—but it doesn’t seem remarkable to the survivors. A man falls in love with a mermaid and decides to throw in his fortunes with hers, only to be attacked by an animal liberated from the zoo. Politics begins to assert itself, as do real estate issues, and it matters what—and who—you believe. It’s time to choose sides.

About Karen

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - May 13, 2014
Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 70 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies. She has published four novels and two story collections with university and small presses, and her last collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 list. She has received an O. Henry award, been shortlisted for a Pushcart prize, for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award and the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction. Permuted Press just published her novel, Glorious Plague, about a beautiful apocalypse.

Website  ~  Twitter: @KarenHeuler

Facebook  ~  Goodreads

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

As I mentioned in the prior post about BEA (here), I only picked up a few books that I am really interested in reading. Not all of them are Speculative Fiction because I do read other genres. Most of the novels have not yet been published. I've taken photos of the ARCs/novels, but also include the cover image so you can see what they really look like. Without further ado, the books:

The Debuts
(3 of the 5 books I absolutely had to have!)
Pierce Brown, V.E. Schwab and Samantha Shannon
BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

Red Rising
AuthorPierce Brown
Publisher:  Del Rey, February 18, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages
Price:  $25.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780345539786 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Pierce Brown's relentlessly entertaining debut channels the readability and excitement of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and the best of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.

Red Rising is the story of a society in a desolate future, riven by class conflict and shaken by the tremors of an impending revolution. But more than that, it's the story of Darrow-a secret revolutionary who is inspired not only by a longing for social justice, but by lost love. It's only when Darrow's beloved wife is executed by the oppressive government that he begins to question the harsh world he lives in. Recruited by an underground revolutionary cell, Darrow is given a perilous mission: infiltrate the academy that educates this elite-and become one of them.

AuthorV.E. Schwab
Publisher:  Tor Books, September 24, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
Price:  $24.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765335340 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
A masterful, twisted tale of ambition, jealousy, betrayal, and superpowers, set in a near-future world

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

The Bone Season
AuthorSamantha Shannon
Series:  Scion 1
Publisher:  Bloomsbury USA, August 20, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 480 pages
Price:  $24.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781620401392 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
It is the year 2059. Several major world cities are under the control of a security force called Scion. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London, part of a secret cell known as the Seven Seals. The work she does is unusual: scouting for information by breaking into others’ minds. Paige is a dreamwalker, a rare kind of clairvoyant, and in this world, the voyants commit treason simply by breathing.

But when Paige is captured and arrested, she encounters a power more sinister even than Scion. The voyant prison is a separate city—Oxford, erased from the map two centuries ago and now controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. These creatures, the Rephaim, value the voyants highly—as soldiers in their army.

Paige is assigned to a Rephaite keeper, Warden, who will be in charge of her care and training. He is her master. Her natural enemy. But if she wants to regain her freedom, Paige will have to learn something of his mind and his own mysterious motives.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine—a young woman learning to harness her powers in a world where everything has been taken from her. It also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

Mira Grant and Edward Lazellari
(The other 2 of the 5 books I had to have!)
BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

AuthorMira Grant
Series:  Parisitology 1
Publisher:  Orbit, October 29, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 512 pages
Price:  $20.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780316218955 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
From New York Times bestselling author Mira Grant, a high-concept near-future thriller.

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the Intestinal Bodyguard worm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives . . . and will do anything to get them.

The Lost Prince
AuthorEdward Lazellari
Series:  Guardians of Aandor 2
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 20, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 528 pages
Price:  $27.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765327888 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Edward Lazellari brings you The Lost Prince, and the race to find the missing prince is on . . .

In Lazellari’s debut fantasy, Awakenings, New York City cop Cal MacDonnell and photographer Seth Raincrest found themselves stalked by otherworldly beings intent on killing them. The two had to accept the aid of a mysterious woman to unlock their hidden pasts, and what they discovered changed their lives.

Everything they knew about their lives was an illusion. They had in fact travelled to our dimension from the medieval reality of Aandor to hide their infant prince from assassins, but upon arriving, a freak mishap wiped their memories. Cal, Seth, and the rest of their party were incapacitated, and the infant prince was lost.

Thirteen years later, that prince, Daniel Hauer, is unaware of his origins--or that he has become the prize in a race between two powerful opposing factions. Cal and Seth’s group want to keep Daniel safe. The other wants Daniel dead—by any means necessary.

From the streets of New York City to the back roads of rural North Carolina, the search for the prince sets powerful forces against each other in a do-or-die battle for the rule of the kingdom of Aandor.

Against a backdrop of murder, magic, and mayhem on the streets of New York City, victory goes to the swiftest and the truest of hearts.

Karen Heuler, Jon McGoran and A.D. Robertson
(Books that caught my eye, and then had to have!)
BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

The Made-Up Man
AuthorKaren Heuler
Publisher:  Livingston Press, November 30, 2011
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 226 pages
Price:  $21.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781604890815 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Self-pity will only get you so far. When Alyson Salky finds that her lover is having an affair with her best friend--and he takes the dog with him when he moves out--and a man with worse credentials is hired over her at work, it’s time to make some major life decisions. She keeps running into the neighborhood fortune teller, Madame Hope, who promises she can make Alyson’s wishes come true—any wish, so why not a big wish? As far as Alyson can determine, the problem with her life is that she’s getting all the crap that women get, and none of the free passes that men get. It’s time to switch—it’s time to see what life is like as a man—and while Madame Hope can get that done for her (in exchange for her soul), nothing really goes as planned. The devil, it turns out, has a sense of humor. But who will have the last laugh?

AuthorJon McGoran
Publisher:  Forge Books, July 9, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
Price:  $24.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765334701 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
When Philadelphia narcotics detective Doyle Carrick loses his mother and step-father within weeks of each other, he gains a twenty-day suspension for unprofessional behavior and instructions to lay low at the unfamiliar house he’s inherited in rural Pennsylvania.

Feeling restless and out of place, Doyle is surprised to find himself falling for his new neighbor, Nola Watkins, who’s under pressure to sell her organic farm to a large and mysterious development company. He’s more surprised to see high-powered drug dealers driving the small-town roads—dealers his bosses don’t want to hear about.

But when the drug bust Doyle’s been pushing for goes bad and the threats against Nola turn violent, Doyle begins to discover that what’s growing in the farmland around Philadelphia is much deadlier than anything he could have imagined . . .

Quick, clever, and terrifying, Jon McGoran’s Drift is a commercial thriller in the tradition of Nelson DeMille’s Plum Island.

Captive: The Forbidden Side of Nightshade
AuthorA. D. Robertson (Andrea Cremer)
Publisher:  Dutton Adult, October 22, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages
Price:  $25.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780525954118 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
The first adult novel set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Nightshade series, Captive delivers a steamy, forbidden romance between sworn enemies drawn together by an irrepressible desire.

Twenty-five-year-old Tristan Doran enjoys a life of incredible power and privilege. As a direct descendant of the Keepers—witches who have embraced dark magic—he defers to no one but his overlord, Lord Bosque Mar. For most of his life, Tristan has been kept
out of the centuries-old Witches War, his bloodline too valuable to risk in battle.

But when a beautiful, young human Searcher named Sarah is captured and made a prisoner in his Irish castle, Tristan’s infatuation with her flings him headlong into the fray. Captive and captor, unable to contain their longing, embark on a passionate, forbidden romance together—only to learn that their love is at the heart of a prophecy predicting the downfall of the Keepers’ ages-old reign.

Captive explores the darker side of the richly imagined Nightshade universe, a fantasy world of powerful dark witches, shape-shifting wolf warriors, and fascinating history. The first of three erotic novels, Captive delves deeply into the fiery, illicit romance of two young lovers whose very desires invite their doom.

Jon Land, Peter Mattei, and Lisa Unger
(More unexpected treats!)
BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

Strong Rain Falling
AuthorJon Land
Series:  Caitlin Strong 5
Publisher:  Forge Books, August 13, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 450 pages
Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765331502 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Mexico, 1919: The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.

The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover Cort Wesley Masters both survive terrifying gun battles. But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.

That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance. Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance. Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.

This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well. Her only chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets. Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.

The Deep Whatsis
Author:  Peter Mattei
Publisher:  Other Press, July 23, 2013
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 256 pages
Price:  $15.95 (print)
ISBN:  978-1-59051-638-6 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
The Deep Whatsis follows a brilliant antihero staggering into madness as he navigates among Brooklyn hipsters, advertising tyrants, corporate hypocrisy, and the ghosts of his past.

Meet Eric Nye: player, philosopher, drunk, sociopath. A ruthless young Chief Idea Officer at a New York City ad agency, Eric downsizes his department, guzzles only the finest Sancerre, pops pills, and chases women. Then one day he meets Intern, whose name he can’t remember. Will she be the cause of his downfall, or his unlikely awakening?

A gripping and hilarious satire of the inherent absurdity of advertising and the flippant cruelty of corporate behavior, The Deep Whatsis shows the devastating effects of a world where civility and respect have been fired.

In the Blood
AuthorLisa Unger
Publisher:  Touchstone, January 7, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Price:  $25.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781451691177 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
In the Blood is the Lisa Unger novel we've all been waiting for—and a return to the dark psychological suspense that made Beautiful Lies a bestseller around the world.

Lana Granger lives a life of lies. She has told so many lies about where she comes from and who she is that the truth is like a cloudy nightmare she can’t quite recall. About to graduate from college and with her trust fund almost tapped out, she takes a job babysitting a troubled boy named Luke. Expelled from schools all over the country, the manipulative young Luke is accustomed to controlling the people in his life. But, in Lana, he may have met his match. Or has Lana met hers?

When Lana’s closest friend, Beck, mysteriously disappears, Lana resumes her lying ways—to friends, to the police, to herself. The police have a lot of questions for Lana when the story about her whereabouts the night Beck disappeared doesn’t jibe with eyewitness accounts. Lana will do anything to hide the truth, but it might not be enough to keep her ominous secrets buried: someone else knows about Lana’s lies. And he’s dying to tell.

Lisa Unger's writing has been hailed as “sensational” (Publishers Weekly) and “sophisticated” (New York Daily News), with “gripping narrative and evocative, muscular prose” (Associated Press). Masterfully suspenseful, finely crafted, and written with a no-holds-barred raw power, In the Blood is Unger at her best.

Chuck Wendig and John Hornor Jacobs
(Okay, I had to have these also. Adore the writing of both authors!)
BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

Under the Empyrean Sky
AuthorChuck Wendig
Series:  The Heartland Trilogy 1
Publisher:  Skyscape, July 30, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and Kindle eBook
Price:  $17.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781477817209 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Corn is king in the Heartland, and Cael McAvoy has had enough of it. It’s the only crop the Empyrean government allows the people of the Heartland to grow — and the genetically modified strain is so aggressive that it takes everything the Heartlanders have just to control it. As captain of the Big Sky Scavengers, Cael and his crew sail their rickety ship over the corn day after day, scavenging for valuables, trying to earn much-needed ace notes for their families. But Cael’s tired of surviving life on the ground while the Empyrean elite drift by above in their extravagant sky flotillas. He’s sick of the mayor’s son besting Cael’s crew in the scavenging game. And he’s worried about losing Gwennie — his first mate and the love of his life — forever when their government-chosen spouses are revealed. But most of all, Cael is angry — angry that their lot in life will never get better and that his father doesn’t seem upset about any of it. Cael’s ready to make his own luck . . . even if it means bringing down the wrath of the Empyrean elite and changing life in the Heartland forever.

The Twelve Fingered Boy
AuthorJohn Hornor Jacobs
Series:  The Twelve-Fingered Boy Trilogy 1
Publisher:  Carolrhoda Lab, February 1, 2013
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 280 pages
Price:  $17.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780761390077 (print)

BookExpo America 2013 - The Books
Fifteen-year-old Shreve Cannon doesn't mind juvie. He's got a good business dealing contraband candy, and three meals a day are more than his drunk mother managed to provide. In juvie, the rules never change and everyone is the same. In juvie, Shreve has life figured out. Then the new fish shows up.

Jack's a quiet kid. Small. Cries himself to sleep too. He's no standard-issue titty-baby, though. There's his hands—more specifically his fingers, all twelve of 'em. And when he gets angry, something weird happens. The air wavers. You feel a slight pressure in your chest. And then…well, best take cover.

Jack isn't the only new face in juvie. There's Mr. Quincrux. Quincrux has an unusual interest in Jack and Shreve, and it quickly becomes clear that innocent bystanders aren't going to get in his way. So Jack and Shreve bust out.

On the lam, they quickly discover that Jack has abilities—hell, superpowers—that might just give them a fighting chance against Quincrux, if they can stay alive long enough to figure them out.

I'm excited to dive into reading these novels!

BookExpo America 2013 - The People

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
I missed BookExpo America (BEA) last year due to stuff. I was thrilled to be able to spend a day at BEA this year. BEA was held at the Javitz Center in New York City (where it will be in 2014 and 2015). It was a fantastic day. I was able to say 'hello' to authors and publicists I'd only met online and see others that I've met before.

If you are a book lover too (and I bet you are because you are reading a book blog), you can attend BEA as a Power Reader. I wasn't there on Saturday when BEA was opened to the Power Readers/public so I can't tell you if it was crowded. It seems like a great chance to pick up some wonderful books and meet some of your favorite authors.

Here are photos that I took of people on Friday. I'll write a separate post about the novels I picked up. There is a tendency to take every book offered, but I was careful to take only what I would read. It took a lot of self-control, believe me. 

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
John Hornor Jacobs and The Twelve-Fingered Boy. This is John's first YA novel.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Ben Smith and Jon Oliver from Rebellion Publishing (Solaris, Abaddon, etc.).
I talked with them before I had coffee. It's amazing that I made any sense (if I did).

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Pierce Brown and Red Rising. There was a long line and many ARCs.
I owe Pierce a gold star for book signing.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Jon Land and Strong Rain Falling at the ThrillerFest booth.
ThrillerFest will be held in NYC July 10 -13.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
I was just walking around and spotted Giada De Laurentiis. She had just finished
signing Recipe for Adventure (a children's book). She is super nice!

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Jon McGoran and Drift.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Andrea Cremer as A.D. Robertson with Captive (Forbidden Nightshade 1),
an adult fantasy novel set in the world of her Nightshade books.
We'll be talking about this!

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
V.E. (Victoria) Schwab with her first adult novel, Viscious.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Edward Lazellari and The Lost Prince. The much anticipated second novel in
the Guardians of Aandor series.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
John Carter Cash and Lupus Rex. This is the first novel being published by
Ravenstone, the children's and YA imprint of Rebellion Publishing.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Michael Molcher (Rebellion's PR Coodinator) with Lupus Rex
(that's King Wolf for those of you who don't read Latin).

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Grumpy Cat!!! She is so calm. I think the longest line I was on at BEA was
to snap this photo. GC has a book coming out in the Fall and
has just signed a movie deal (actually her hooman did that on her behalf).

My final stop of the day was the SFWA booth:

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Laura Anne Gilman, who has written the Retreivers, Vineart War, and 
Paranormal Scene Investigations novels (and more) and the upcoming Portals series.

BookExpo America 2013 - The People
Karen Heuler, author of The Inner City, The Made-up Man
The Soft Room, and more.

Look for my next BEA post - BookExpo America 2013 - The Books

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - Realism, Magical and Otherwise - February 8, 2013

Please welcome Karen Heuler to The Qwillery. The Inner City, Karen's upcoming collection of short stories, will be published on February 15th.

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - Realism, Magical and Otherwise - February 8, 2013

Realism, Magical and Otherwise

No one ever read a story to me as a child, so I think I had to find all the magic, fairy tale, and made-up adventures on my own. Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh came into my life as a teenager, along with Dostoyevski, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen. They all dealt with life, emotional life, and when I read that bastion of magica; realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude—and a character just levitated into the air—it all made sense to me. The world was porous. What I imagined was as true as what I saw.

There’s a ranking of genre that drops from realistic fiction to magical realism to fantasy to science fiction (you can change the order anyway you want). Magical realism—in which the world is distinctly our world, only with, shall we say, living metaphors popping in—is the suburban area of literary fiction, before we venture into the wilds and “here be dragons” of the speculative world.

But I don’t believe there is a war between literary realism and speculative literature, except the false critical war that says real literature deals with real people with real problems (as if real problems can’t be problems with the real world).

Of course our cultural mythology—our religions and hence our beliefs—is filled with supernatural beings and divine rewards and punishments, and is by and large assumed to be true. And the stories we tell our children are filled with animated animals and magical fairies. We do have a natural instinct to reach for the non-real as a method of understanding the world and our place in it.

The real and the literary bind us to our bodies; the magic releases our minds. Consider Alice—for me, the prototype of how to deal with impossible worlds. She doesn’t weep (except, of course, to create a river of tears, another metaphor gone live). She doesn’t give in. She is firm and inquisitive and occasionally impatient. (As is a Bronte or Austen heroine.)

And who of us doesn’t occasionally get impatient with the non-sense that life throws at us?

One of my stories, “The Hair,” owes an homage to Gogol’s “The Nose” (and since they teach him in literary classes, let’s assume he’s not a fantasy writer) in that a co-worker steals the protagonist’s hair. At the time, I had lost all my hair from chemo, and this story worked out the sense of being attacked, of having to cope in a world that had gone haywire and could get even more so. But you don’t need to know that to like the story; and I don’t think Gogol actually lost his nose—in both cases, metaphors became live. Metaphors made more sense of the experience than memoir. Parts of our bodies can betray us by getting a life of their own—Einstein’s hair, Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows—they can personify us. We merely travel with them. And just as, in the real world, desirable things can get stolen, so in the world of magical realism, your hair and your job can be stolen, and your nose can go off on its own.

Likewise, “Creating Cow” owes a lot to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—which, again, is a bridge between the literary and the speculative. It also owes a great deal to my vegetarianism. It’s a reverse slaughterhouse story.

As for “The Inner City”—who doesn’t occasionally feel that someone is manipulating us behind the scenes? There are people who are lucky and people who aren’t—but is it really “luck” when some people always get a parking spot and others just drive around forever? Aren’t we right to be suspicious? “The Inner City” is a metaphor for all those things that seem to come out of nowhere and disconcert us. An indifferent universe? Or an indifferent conspiracy? Which makes more sense?

And our misgivings about the future? Medicine experiments with transplants from animals; where will interspecies grafts go? Is there something out there waiting to replace us? Have we gone too far? You can stay in the world of the real and be very concerned about it, or you can use all the possibilities we unknowingly embody and make them into a story, a fairy tale, a journey that goes past the mundane (where we think we are) into the speculative world of what we imagine can be done, or will be done, or will be done to us. And you can make your point a bit more easily that way. Possibility gives rise to idea which gives rise to action.

That’s magic. And it’s realism, too, because the imagination is the only way reality can get in.

The Inner City

The Inner City
ChiZine Publications, February 15, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 225 pages

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - Realism, Magical and Otherwise - February 8, 2013
Anything is possible: people breed dogs with humans to create a servant class; beneath one great city lies another city, running it surreptitiously; an employee finds that her hair has been stolen by someone intent on getting her job; strange fish fall from trees and birds talk too much; a boy tries to figure out what he can get when the Rapture leaves good stuff behind. Everything is familiar; everything is different. Behind it all, is there some strange kind of design or merely just the chance to adapt? In Karen Heuler’s stories, characters cope with the strange without thinking it’s strange, sometimes invested in what’s going on, sometimes trapped by it, but always finding their own way in.

About Karen

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - Realism, Magical and Otherwise - February 8, 2013
Karen Heuler's stories have appeared in over sixty literary and speculative journals and anthologies, including several "Best of" collections. She's published a short story collection and three novels, and won an O. Henry award in 1998. She lives in New York with her dog, Philip K. Dick, and her cats, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.


Twitter: @KarenHeuler

Book page:

Guest Blog by Karen Heuler - May 13, 2014BookExpo America 2013 - The BooksBookExpo America 2013 - The PeopleGuest Blog by Karen Heuler - Realism, Magical and Otherwise - February 8, 2013

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