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2010 Hugo Award Finalists Announced: Exclusive Interview with Nominee Catherynne M. Valente

The finalists for the prestigious Hugo Award for best SF/fantasy have just been announced at Eastercon in the UK, and the novel ballot reads as follows:

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Tor)
The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz, Analog)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

For a full ballot (my wife Ann is up again for Weird Tales), click here, here, or, possibly, here. Congratulations to all of the nominees!

Given that Catherynne M. Valente's Palimpsest also made Amazon's top 10 list for SF/Fantasy last year, I thought I'd take the opportunity to interview her about the novel and about the experience of being a Hugo finalist.

   Palimpsest What’s most personal about Palimpsest to you?

Catherynne M. Valente: At its core, it's a story about the connections we make with other humans, the country that's created when lost and lonely people touch each other's lives. About unorthodox family and choosing the extraordinary over the ordinary. That's vastly important to me, since most of my connections do take place in an ethereal otherworld unrelated to the real world except at the point of entry--the internet. I suppose of all the characters November is most like me, but it's Palimpsest, really, the city itself, that is most dear to me--a place where everything is real just because people want it badly enough. What does it mean to you in your development as a writer?

Valente: It's like leveling up! I mean, let's not be coy, this is a huge deal for me. I never expected to be nominated, and I'm still somewhat in shock. I'm still the new kid on the block, and to be counted among the amazing books on the ballot, along with my friends and heroes, astonishes me. But the best metaphor really is a gaming one: I've leveled up, I get a new shield and an awesome sword. Or, possibly, I go back to my work with a renewed sense of not sucking and write harder than I ever have, to deserve this honor. It sounds dorky, but the night I found out I freaked out and finished a short story, because I couldn't be a Hugo nominee when I hadn't written anything that day! I take it as a mandate to become more awesome. Do you feel any sense of vindication, since the novel didn’t immediately get much attention when it came out?

Valente: You know, Palimpsest came out at such a difficult time, in the heaviest part of the economic crisis, when so many people who advocated for the book having been laid off. And it's not a big teddy bear of a book, cuddly and warm and easy to love. Given all that I've never been surprised that it's been a slow burn, but yes, I do feel vindicated, because I have always been proud of Palimpsest and believed it was a good book. That's all anyone wants, I think, to make a good book and have someone say so. But to be sitting here answering these questions when a year ago I thought I might have to quit writing? It feels pretty amazing. Where were you when you found out you were a nominee, and what was your immediate reaction?

Valente: In order to understand how cool this is, you must understand that I am married to an SF fan. Not just an SF fan, but one who grew up in the former Soviet Union, reading Soviet science fiction voraciously and loving Western SF when he got his hands on it, only to come to America and devour it whole. He knew what a Hugo was even as a kid, and honestly loves SF like no one I've known. I found out on his birthday. I had been winding yarn in my office and glanced over at my email--and saw the words "urgent" and "Hugo" and then I sort of blacked out a little. My face got hot and I started shaking and I called my husband and just started crying. I was completely overloaded and shocked and I think I read the email a hundred times to make sure it was real. We jumped up and down together on the phone and went out for ridiculous rum drinks and have since joked that he got a Hugo-nominated wife for his birthday. What are you currently working on?

Valente: I'm doing the final edits on The Habitation of the Blessed, the first book of a fantasy trilogy coming out this fall, as well as Deathless, a Soviet-era fairy tale retelling that will be out next year, along with The Girl Who Circmnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making--2011 is a big year for me. I've also got a short story collection coming out around the end of the year.


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Must be a generational thing but, every book here, save one, is, from Amazon editorial reviews,crap as SciFi/Fantasy!
I started reading SciFi in 1953, age 11, Fantasy in '65 (Lord of the Rings)and the only one of these nominees worthy of being a nominee is "WAKE"!
Of course, "WAKE" is also the only one I felt worth spending my extremely hard earned money on.
Want to harague me for my bigotry, feel free.
Wanna know what Sci/Fi-Fantasy I like better than non-"Wake" nominees? I can do that on request!

Awesome interview. And I'm glad to see Cat get this kind of recognition, it's overdue.

See? I *knew* this was one of the best books of 2009. Nice to have my good taste vindicated.

I'm so happy for Catherynne Valente, who I think is an underrated author -- at least, up until now.

Okay, everyone, this is your cue: buy and read Palimpsest NOW!

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