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New Year 2010

New Releases

Over summer and fall 2009, the following books were released: Blood out of a Stone is Elisabeth Vonarburg's new SF short-story collection (with an introduction by Ursula Le Guin); Sang de Pierre is her new French short-story collection; Slow Dance is a collection of poetry. 

Cover of Blood out of a Stone    Cover of Sang de Pierre    Cover of Slow Dance

Planned Guest of Honor Speech

In a parallel universe, the GoHs went the traditional way and chose to make a Speech. Here is a glimpse at that alternate reality.

More English Excerpts

Below is an excerpt is from the story "Blood out of a Stone", contained in the anthology of the same name, published by Nanopress.

Next scene in the waiting room, therefore, with Pandora, and Manuelle. The last batch of vaccinations. About forty children and adolescents slouching in chairs, sprawled on the carpet, on the sofas, with their feet propped on the walls. In my corner -- no white coat: casual clothes, paternal smile -- I "vaccinate" the older ones (role models for the little ones who are still afraid). As they wait their turn, kids play hide-and-seek with the cats among the canisters of green plants, scribble with colour crayons in big sketchbooks, or leaf through comic books -- duplicates: Manuelle didn't want the children to have access to the monitors; her neo-Luddite phase has gone a little too long for my taste, but I've always respected her choices, for the most part. And Pandora all by herself in the modern technological era, two terms a year, suited me fine.

There was always one of the little kids who didn't like the injections, even though we used compressed air syringes, and who protested: "Why do we have to get vaccinated twice a year?"

In this scene, it's a little girl, no more than five years old, with very pink skin, but covering too much of her body to be sunburn. Pointed face, dark eyes, and a cluster of little braids of a very light blond sprouting from her head. The medium shot barely permits you to see, almost subliminally, the iridescence that runs over her pink shoulders.

Manuelle makes a little face, the way she does every time. "Vaccinate," that was the term we had chosen, she and I, to avoid overly complicated explanations, and she was stuck with it. But since there was always one of the big kids who wanted to be the centre of attention, an adolescent girl is now reeling off the usual explanation (with a close-up on her face, too brief to show anything but her purplish eyes and, again, the iridescence of her skin in the light):

"There is something that is making us sick, us, the Hendemados, in the air, in the water, everywhere, and that accumulates in our bodies, and it will have to be neutralized regularly throughout our whole lives."

Which settles the question without the eyes of the dazed young listeners glazing over, much better than:

"Some of your genes can transcode in two ways, either by making the planned enzyme or by making a shorter enzyme that causes the hybridization to become unstable: part of the DNA sequence for the enzyme is almost identical to the sequence that typically marks the beginning of one of those genes. There's an environmental factor that triggers the bad transcoding and it is necessary to regularly administer a synthetic antibody to neutralize it."

Manuelle, of course, showed no shock when I realized what was happening and explained it to her, in the very beginning. She knew a lot about genetics, and with good reason. And above all, she knew what she was, what her child with Tiliss was and, later, what Pandora would be. However, for the sake of the story, you could actually move on to me, giving this very scientific explanation, in Tiliss's bedroom, the day after the birth. The big aquarium seen in dull light, the naked bodies of Tiliss and the baby suspended in the water, sleeping, the halo of thin tentacles spreading around Tiliss's head, moving with the slow predatory movements of her dreams. Manuelle, much younger, or at least no grey hair, and I the same. Manuelle's whisper:

"So this child will live... these children will live?"

"And the mothers too. The procedure is longer and more... complex, but the result is assured."Manuelle smiles a little smile that is both ironic and sad:

"This wasn't the way I saw myself having children."

I touch her arm with my hand:

"But you'll have many more, and you won't die as a result. And the sirens won't disappear."

Then, another flashback, the scene of our first meeting. The grey sky flecked with clouds, the sea bleak and stormy, Manuelle lying unconscious and pale on the little beach near the wharf, dripping, her bare and very protuberant belly clearly visible, and the three sirens near her, with the one facing me, Tiliss, his torso lit up with greenish signals, a bioluminescent message I was unable to decipher, but I didn't need to. I kneel down beside Manuelle, and as soon as I touched her I knew what she was -- but the simple fact that she was pregnant was even more astounding. I beckon to the orderlies to put her on the stretcher, and they have the same surprised reaction when they touch her. And then Tiliss steps forward as if to stop them (in fact, he only wanted to follow them), and I hold him back, and again the astonishment is written on my face.

But I did not understand how astounded I should have been before Manuelle regained consciousness later and explained everything to me, the sirens, their seasonal sex change, their terminal problem of reproduction between them -- and the nature of the stillborn child that had almost killed her too.

Should we segue into that scene, then, after the one on the beach? But that would make a little too many flashbacks, and that could make the whole thing too long, too explanatory: all my experiments with Manuelle and the sirens to find the solution, the cloning of an egg from Manuelle, the fertilization using Tiliss's sperm at the end of his male phase, the reimplantation in Tiliss's uterus during the female phase... Yes, later, a scene of my discussion with Manuelle on refinements to the process and its extension to the rest of the tribe. "And they don't all have to be your children. There's a gene bank here." With genetic material that would not be siren sperm to fertilize her eggs too, but that's something I discussed with her later; and she didn't say no -- less out of love for knowledge than because she wanted, in the end, to carry a child herself, even though it would also have to be mine.

Or at least that's what I told her. And why wouldn't she have believed me?

There are really much too many things to explain in this film -- one of the reasons why, besides the fact that there wouldn't be viewers who knew nothing at all about the subject and for whom this exposition would be necessary, it will never exist except in these flexible montages of images I indulge in from time to time.

And besides, at the very beginning, it should tell something else: not only is the heroine impatient to leave again after her studious stay with her father, but it is necessary to introduce the hero.

We come back to the waiting room and the "vaccinations." Suddenly, outside, the pounding of footsteps, shouting. Silhouettes go by on the balcony, outside the picture window. One at first, a blur because of the speed, then those of its pursuers, orderlies (in white coats; they weren't wearing them, but that can easily be added. Images are quite magical: so much information just in a uniform...). The children press against the picture window, then some go outside so they can see what's happening. I do the same with Manuelle and Pandora, tapping the button of my wrist intercom and asking: "What's going on?"

"The patient has escaped!" pants Carl's voice.

"It's no use following him, you imbeciles, just block any access to the lower level!" Another tap, ending the communication -- rather superfluous, but it's intended for the audience, not the film audience in this case, but the children who have come out of the room and in particular Manuelle and Pandora.

"What patient?" asks Pandora, as expected. She looks like she's in her twenties. She is seen in three quarter profile, skin smooth and tanned, eyes an intense blue, wilful features, a helmet of short black curls.

"A guy a remote patrol found on the mountain a few days ago, half dead, and half crazy. A survivor of the epidemic. He has violent episodes from time to time."

"Hey, he's coming back this way!" comments one of the adolescents excitedly. The orderlies didn't catch him -- not because he's running fast, but because they're not really hurrying.

"Go back inside, children," says Manuelle in a tone that brooks no reply. They comply. I back up, Manuelle too, to leave room for Pandora, who does not step away when the man charges towards her. He's still thin, but he's a good head taller than she is. His white t-shirt is torn across his chest. He tries to avoid Pandora, but she grabs him by an arm, unbalances him, throws him to the ground and puts him in a stranglehold. He struggles furiously to get free, close-up, you can see the whites all around this brown pupils, like the eyes of a panic-stricken horse. Then he suddenly relaxes. Change of angle, another long shot. Pandora's tense face leans over the man's face. He's still not quite unconscious. We can see his lips move. He is whispering something to Pandora. The others can't hear, they're too far away, the whisper is too soft, but Pandora shivers a little with horror. And the sensors have heard too, so we know what the man said before passing out: "Kill me, kill me!"


English Excerpts

English excerpts for the Tyranaël series, the Queen of Memory series, The Maërlande Chronicles, and the two short fiction collections are now accessible on the corrresponding webpages.

The English website of Alire, the French Canadian publisher of most of Elisabeth Vonarburg's novels, is now online.


Élisabeth Vonarburg will be the French-speaking Guest of Honor at Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon that will take place in Montreal, August 6-10, 2009.

Reine de Mémoire V, "La Maison d'Equité" has just been published.

La Maison d'OubliLe Dragon de FeuLe Dragon FouLa Princesse de VengeanceReine de Memoire

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