Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Kijmonkey Reads

Kij Johnson is a wonderful fantasy author and friend, and when I first came out here, she invited me to join her writer's group. The group was the Thousand Monkeys, and Kij and her husband Chris (both noted in the links to the right) were the heart of the group - since their departure to Kansas, the Monkeys have slumbered. In any event, Kij's first fantasy novel was The Fox Woman, and her second, Fudoki has recently come out. Kij and Chris are in Seattle this week attending both Norwescon last weekend and the upcoming Nebula awards.

The upshot of all this is that Kij did a reading for Fudoki at Elliot Bay bookstore this evening, and put out a call in her own journal for friendly faces in the audience. About a dozen people showed up, and the bulk of attendees were such friendly faces. Kate and I had Tai Chi that evening in the nearby International District, so, still sweaty from 42-form sword class, we came down to listen as well.

Elliot Bay is probably Seattle's best indy bookstore. Though Third Place books and University are very good as well, Elliot Bay definitely has them beat on atmosphere. Elliot Bay is situated a block from Pioneer Square, snaking along several sprawling storefronts that it has taken over over time. As a result, its interior is a mixture of old exposed brickwork, home-made shelves, and lots of nooks, crannies, and lofts. Downstairs is a bakery/coffee shop and used books (in no particular order) and it is there that the reading was held. This is the working definition of "Seattle Bookstore".

Kij was resplendent as the Author (dressing in black, her hair short red locks), seated in a comfortable chair before a microphone for the reading. I fear our seats were less than comfortable, and my own back is still complaining. Kij read the opening chapter of her book, known to our writer's group as "The Cat Story". It is the japanese tale of a cat made into a human by a kami (spirit/god) and who suffers because of it. The title refers to the heritage and the storyline of cat families.

Kij's writing is lyrical and appealing and descriptive and engaging. Her reading it just underscores these strengths, and (despite the hard chairs) she was a joy to listen to. Despite a little nervousness, she did very, very well. So well that when we got back to the house, Kate made me dig out my copy of The Fox Woman so she could read both novels. I enjoyed Fox Woman and look forward to enjoying this one as well (as soon as my back stops twinging).

I've done the Author-Reading thing myself, and it has varied between OK and petrifying, so I am more than willing to support other writers who are faced with the daunting task of turning their print into sound. I'm glad I got a chance to see Kij (and Chris, and Mike, a third writer I had not seen since the monkeys faded into slumber), but I am particularly glad to have heard her read.

More later,