Friday, March 17, 2017

Hugo Nominations

This post is woefully late, since the nominations for Hugo Awards close tonight. I'm afraid personal circumstances have prevented me from posting for several months, and from finishing up my short fiction reading project the way I intended, but for what it's worth, these are some of the works I just nominated for the Hugo Awards. (I nominated other works as well, but these are the ones that I would like to draw attention to, for a variety of reasons.)


- "The Long Fall Up" by William Ledbetter, F&SF May-June 2016

- "The Map of Tiny Perfect Things" by Lev Grossman, Summer Days and Summer Nights (anthology), St. Martin's Griffin, 2016


- "Sparrows" by Gary Emmett Chandler, Flash Fiction Online, May 2016

- "Millepora" by Shannon Peavey, Flash Fiction Online, March 2016

- "The Right Sort of Monsters" by Kelly Sandoval, Strange Horizons, April 2016

- "The Opening of the Bayou Saint John" by Shawn Scarber, Strange Horizons, February 2016

- "Walls of Nigeria" by Jeremy Szal, Nature, August 2016


- Arrival

- Passengers


- Beautiful Dreamer, directed by David Gaddie, based on the short story "Memories of My Mother" by Ken Liu"

If you are eligible to nominate, please do, even if you only nominate a single work or person. Every nomination counts!

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Short Story at "Escape Pod"

Captain Drake Learns His Lines

I'm happy to share the news that a story I co-authored with Kate Suratt recently appeared on the podcast Escape Pod. This story introduces the hapless Captain Drake, who just can't seem to catch a break.... You can listen to the story or read it online here.

[Please disregard the "read more" link at the end of this post.] Read more!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

New Short Story in "Abyss & Apex"

Study. Learn. Know.

My short story "Study. Learn. Know." is now available in the 2016 4th quarter issue of Abyss & Apex. This is a far future science fiction story about hermit crabs, scholars, and AI programs. Read it free here!

Funnily enough, my biography at the end of the story, which I just e-mailed to the magazine a day or two ago, says that my husband and I live in upstate New York. Except we moved to Houston almost thirteen years ago. Freudian slip?

Short fiction reviews coming within the next few days....

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Friday, September 16, 2016

A Tale of Two Art Forms, Part II: Houston Ballet and Houston Grand Opera

[Cover of Madama Butterfly, a quadrilingual picture book by Monica E. Lapenta (author) and Stefania Pravato (illustrator)]. Paramica/LaMa House Publishing, 2008.]

A few nights ago I was fortunate enough to attend Houston Ballet's Dance Talk titled "A Closer Look at Cio-Cio San", who is also known as "Madame Butterfly." This talk was a lead-up to Houston Ballet's upcoming production of Madame Butterfly, a two-act ballet created by the company's Artistic Director, Stanton Welch, back in 1995 for The Australian Ballet. This, in turn, was based on Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly. (The "a" is not a typo; the opera really is titled Madama rather than Madame.)

I always enjoy Houston Ballet's "Dance Talks," but this one was particularly thrilling for me because we not only got to hear about the character of Cio-Cio San from Yuriko Kajiya, one of Houston Ballet's principal dancers who will be dancing as Cio-Cio San in the upcoming production, the panel also included Vicki Attard, who originated the role in Welch's premiere of this ballet, and Ana María Martínez, who we have seen sing the role in Houston Grand Opera's production of Puccini's opera not once, but twice.

The discussion was ably led by Dr. Howard Pollack from UH Moore's School of Music. Dr. Pollack first gave some background on the ballet, which is based on the opera, which is based on David Belasco's one-act play titled Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan. And that was based on the 1898 short story titled "Madame Butterfly" by John Luther Long, which was partially based on stories told to Long by his sister and partially on Pierre Loti's 1887 French novel Madame Chrysanthème.

Got all that? There will be a quiz.

The panel discussion lasted about an hour, but it seemed to fly by much more quickly than that. The artists discussed the fact that modern audiences may view Cio-Cio San as a victim, but within the context of her story, her strength is illuminated when she sacrifices herself for her child. They also spoke about the challenge of performing opposite different singers/dancers as Pinkerton, and performing with a small child or, as Ms. Martinez did at the Metropolitan Opera, with a puppet (and three puppeteers!) representing the child.

My favorite moment of insight came when Ms. Kajiya charmingly stated that the dancer must first "get the steps into your body" before developing the emotional layers that go with the role; the dancers can't act realistically if they are thinking about the steps or the count, so those things must become second nature. I also enjoyed hearing about how she had to study up on Japanese attire, gestures, and movement, since the traditional attire has not been worn widely in Japan during her lifetime.

I was also impressed with how articulately Ms. Attard and Ms. Martinez described the process of bringing a character to life. People sometimes mistakenly assume that ballet dancers are unthinking dolls, but in actuality, the best dancers take a deep and intellectual approach to their characters. Similarly, opera singers literally must learn to convey emotion in many different languages, since most operas follow the language of the composer. If I recall correctly, we've heard Ms. Martinez sing beautifully in French (Carmen), Italian (Madama Butterfly), and Czech (Rusalka). It's not enough to learn the words by rote; the singers have to understand and convey what they're singing at all times.

All three of these strong, passionate, talented women were kind enough to sign my copy of the quadrilingual picture book shown at the top of this post, a book that is now a very treasured possession for me.

Houston Ballet's production of Madame Butterfly runs from September 22 to October 2, 2016. Tickets are available here. In addition, Ms. Martinez is in town to perform as Marguerite in Houston Grand Opera's production of Gounod's Faust, which runs from October 28 to November 11, 2016 (tickets here).

[Click here for the post "A Tale of Two Art Forms, Part I"]

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