The award-winning SF/Fantasy writer gives us a rundown of her current and preferred reading.
What’s on your bedside table or e-reader?
I’m reading Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep, a fascinating new science-fiction novel that takes the old idea of cold sleep and does something completely different with it – Schroeder uses it to show societies vast distances apart with slower-than-light travel that exist in the same timeframe. Then he uses that background to tell a story of family rivalry. It’s terrific.
Which books do you feel you ought to have read but haven’t yet?
I find this question hard to understand. If I wanted to read a book I’d read it. If I don’t want to, then I don’t. Reading is for fun, it’s not a self-improvement project. Occasionally I’ll read something that I’ve had lying around taking ages to get to the top of the pile and then I’ll kick myself that I didn’t read it sooner. A recent example of that is Diderot’s Jacques the Fatalist and his Master. I can’t ask “Where was this book all my life?” It was sitting right there for the last two hundred years, I just didn’t get to it until a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately, books are patient and will wait for me.
Which book(s) do you treasure the most?
Books that make me think in a completely different way. I can love a book for the characters and the charm. But what I really treasure is a book that opens a new door in my head. Most recently I’ve been very excited by Ada Palmer’s Dogs of Peace – it’s not out yet, it’s published by Tor in the US next year. It’s doing all kinds of different incredible things. A book like that gives you a story, but it also gives you this experience where somebody will be talking about something entirely different and you want to bring the book up as an example, because it’s relevant and it opens up a wider context. I love that, and it’s what I’m always hoping for in a book.
What is the last work you read in translation?
It would be Jacques the Fatalist, but actually I enjoyed it so much that I read it in French after I finished it in English. So if that doesn’t count, it’s Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad. Such a great translation.
Which story collections would you particularly recommend?
Gardner Dozois’ annual Best SF of the Year is always excellent value for money and a wonderful overview of where the field is. I’ve often found new writers there.
The classic SF anthology is Brian Aldiss’s Best Penguin SF (now collected as A Science Fiction Omnibus in Penguin Classics). I read that when I was about six, and it had a huge influence on me. Of more modern anthologies Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s three Starlight volumes are really great.
Of single author collections – I could be here all day. I’ve recently been reading, or rather re-reading, Joan Aiken’s The Serial Garden collection and thoroughly enjoying it, and also Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happen and Nancy Kress’s Future Perfect.
What will you read next?
I’ve pre-ordered C.J. Cherryh’s Peacemaker. I’m expecting it to download itself onto my e-reader tomorrow, and I’m very excited to read it. It’s the latest volume of her Atevi series, which started with Foreigner in 1990, and I’ve been reading each volume as they’ve come out. There’s an especial joy in reading a long series over a long time like that.
Jo Walton has published ten novels, three volumes of poetry and an essay collection. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, the World Fantasy Award in 2004 for Tooth and Claw, and the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2012 for Among Others. She comes from South Wales and lives in Montreal. Her latest book My Real Children, an alternate history in which a woman with dementia struggles to remember her two contradictory lives, is published by Corsair. Read more.