2022: What It Is

Here’s the yearly roundup around Thanksgiving, as usual, adorned with my annual attempt at pie.

Fiction and translation news in brief:

I had a few publications this year:

— Flash fiction piece “Better Get Hit in Your Soul” appeared in Nature Magazine’s Futures series

— “Rena in the Desert” reappeared in audio version at Escape Pod, in episode 830

— and my longish short story “Island History” appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine

— In translation, I translated “Shaggå of the Painfully Infinite Sky,” by Antoine Volodine, and “Death of the King,” by Marie Cosnay for Palais 34, October, 2022. Palais is the magazine of the Palais de Tokyo museum in Paris, and this issue accompanies their current exhibit, Shéhérazade, la nuit.

I’ve also had some work for private clients, which is always a great learning experience.

If you wanna hear about my life:

On a Sunday in early October last year, I went for a run and found myself watching the Twin Cities Marathon; I live near the course where it follows the Mississippi river for a few miles. Around mid-to-late morning, you don’t see the elite runners, or even the whip-thin hardcore enthusiasts; it’s more first-timers and oldsters and all kinds of people spread out down River Road, all chugging along on their own individual journeys. And I thought to myself, Next year I’m gonna run the marathon. And I’m gonna write a book.

So that was my plan for 2022: Run a marathon. Write a book.

One of these was relatively simple. I downloaded a plan and kinda followed it. My husband and I both registered for the race, we trained for months, then picked up our bibs and swag. On October 2nd we showed up at the appointed time and place, and off we went, along with nine thousand or so other people. I chugged along for five hours, taking in water and energy gels when appropriate, and I’m not saying it was easy, because in fact it was really pretty hard. The stretch of the course near my house includes miles 16-19, and they are sunny and hot and very tiring—fortunately my in-laws appeared and cheered for me—and next come the final seven miles, over the hillier section in Saint Paul. I jogged the miles between water stations, where I walked and drank, until I got to the last water station, and then my dad and brother were there to cheer me on, and I had one mile left, mostly downhill. It was hard. But it was simple, and I did it.

Lia runs a marathon! Saint Paul Cathedral in the background, finish line ahead
I’m 9644 there. Saint Paul Cathedral in the background, finish line ahead. My time was 4:52, which was actually a bit faster than I expected.

Writing a book—in a sense, I did write a book. I translated one. Manuela Draeger’s Kree is currently in draft form, but it is a complete draft. The first draft of a translation is also rather a simple accomplishment: just keep going and going and going until it’s done. Revisions are more difficult, more complicated, and there’s a lot of those coming. But the first draft process was pretty simple, and I did it.

Of course, gonna write a book meant my own book, an original novel by me, and that did not happen. Other things did. The major thing, the most mentally consuming and difficult thing, is that my mother went from “needing some help” to dementia diagnosis to assisted living and then to a memory care unit, over the course of about nine months. Without going into a ton of detail, I will say that 2022 has been among the worst years of my life so far due to that particularly shitty emotional roller coaster, and there is nothing simple about any of it.

Some people manage to write through such experiences; they transmute their suffering into art, maybe, or they escape into a world of fantasy, or they plumb the depths of honesty and come up with something inspiring, or hey, why not all three. As for me, I stare at the blank page, type a few words that look like an obvious metaphor for what I’m feeling, and I start thinking about the bills and the practical needs and the last awful or sad or psychotic thing my mother said to me, and somehow the few words just don’t turn into a story.

Good things happened, too. We got a dog, who came to us wild and terrified, and has gradually become fun, affectionate, and sweet. She encourages us to run and play and be crazy, and someday we hope she’ll learn that displays of affection need not involve jumping, clawing, or teeth. We went camping, we went to the lake. A few fun projects came up, a few things got published. We got to meet our tiny and beautiful new niece.

Next year will be better, maybe. Or maybe it will be worse. I’ll get deep into revisions for Kree. I’m planning to run another marathon or two—Grandma’s in June, Twin Cities in October. I’m planning to write a book. But sometimes the world has shit in store for us. So we’ll see.

This year’s Thanksgiving pies. Both apple. Big one to go with dinner, little one for my mother.

News! Publications! and Manuela Draeger’s Kree

As I noted in my last post, things tend to happen all at once. The week before last, for example, I had one story published on March 30th and another one came out on the 31st. Wild times. Here are the details:

Better Get Hit in Your Soul” appeared on the Nature magazine website, as part of its Futures science fiction series. This is a short piece about a saxophonist forced to get back to basics. I’ve also included a short “behind the story” bit, in which I duly credit Charles Mingus, whose song title I brazenly stole.

Escape Pod was kind enough to produce a podcast version of “Rena in the Desert”, a story which appeared in Asimov’s in March/April 2020. Forever ago, right? It’s strange revisiting a story from before things really went sideways. Anyway, I enjoyed the reading by S. Kay Nash and the audio production by Summer Brooks (I didn’t really notice it so I think that means it’s good), and I’m grateful to Mur Lafferty for her thoughts.

Regarding that third publication—it looks like “Island History” is set to come out in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s. Updates forthcoming.

Now, the big news: I have signed a contract with the University of Minnesota Press to translate the novel Kree by Manuela Draeger.

I just received the hard copy from Éditions de l’Olivier today and I plan to carry it around with me constantly for a year or so

For those not acquainted, Manuela Draeger is a member of the Antoine Volodine/Lutz Bassmann/et al. post-exoticism, er, collective, so to speak. Works previously translated into English include In the Time of the Blue Ball (tr. Brian Evenson) and Eleven Sooty Dreams (tr. J. T. Mahany), both of which I really enjoyed. Kree is a dark, violent, fascinating, and fun novel, and I am so excited I get to sink into it and eventually share it with everyone.

Into the heart of the malevolent horde: SOLO VIOLA by Antoine Volodine, out now!

The actual book, out in the wild! This one belongs to my sister, who was kind and clever and preordered. Gorgeous cover by Michel Vrana, photographed by Maura Swope Batson.

Today! is the official publication date! of my translation! of Antoine Volodine’s book, Solo Viola! I am so excited! I might just have to use a lot of exclamation points!

More calmly, however: Over the past few years of working on the translation, this story has felt more and more relevant, closer and closer to the world that we currently inhabit. I am so glad that it’s finally coming out, now in 2021, here in the United States—a time and place where I think we can really read it and benefit from it. And, I hope, enjoy it.

The inestimable Brian Evenson says:

Antoine Volodine’s Solo Viola is a deft evisceration of fascism, seen through another lens and dislocated to a fantastical world. Volodine, here and elsewhere in his hugely important work, shows how the political and the fantastical can be intertwined in a way that allows a powerful reevaluation to occur—a reevaluation that feels all too starkly relevant to twenty-first-century America.

The Chicago Review of Books chose it among their “12 Must-Read Books for May“:

Antoine Volodine has been exploding the boundaries of fiction for decades in his native France; now University of Minnesota Press brings one of his most fascinating experiments to U.S. readers with this new translation of Solo Viola. Its vision of performers and prisoners held under the sway of an authoritarian buffoon echoes eerily with our tumultuous present.

And for Foreword Reviews, Ho Lin writes that:

Antoine Volodine’s superb post-exotic novel Solo Viola imagines a society that’s one step removed from reality. With a narrative spiced up by absurdity and a dead serious message, this is a brisk, engrossing, and phantasmagorical take on tyranny and curbed freedoms.

I am so grateful to all the people who helped make this book happen: to the editors at Univocal and the University of Minnesota Press, to fellow translators who offered feedback and advice, to the cover artist, because I really freaking love that cover, to Lionel Ruffel for his insightful introduction, and to Antoine Volodine, if that is his real name (hint: it’s not), for answering my étonnantes questions. And I’m looking forward to seeing how readers react to this odd, profound, and to the best of my abilities, beautiful work.

To purchase: You can order Solo Viola from your local independent bookstore, which would be awesome. You can order it straight from the University of Minnesota Press. You can request it from your library. If you like e-books, you can get this one on Kindle or Nook.

However you choose to read: thank you, and I hope you like it.