The Exile Waiting available for pre-order

Book cover: blue image on a white background of what look like jellyfish with helical, DNA-like trailing tentacles. Title in blue, "The Exile Waiting." Au thor name in black "Vonda N McIntyre"

A spiffy new edition of Vonda McIntyre’s first novel, The Exile Waiting, will be reissued 21 Oct 2019, by Handheld Press. Handheld are the outfit that brought you the UK edition of So Lucky, which included bonus essays. The new edition of The Exile Waiting also includes extras: a juicy Afterword by Una McCormack—the perfect tool for those wanting to teach this book—plus the very first republication of Vonda’s 1972 short story, “Cages,” in which she created the strange and terrible pseudosibs.

You can pre-order today: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Handheld Press | Kobo

And if you’re super eager to get the book, as I am, Handheld has a nifty gift-card programme which sometimes enables you to get books before they’re generally available.

I found The Exile Waiting when I was 19, and fell in love with it. It was my introduction to feminist SF. Here’s what I wrote about this powerful, beautifully-realised book:

The impact of The Exile Waiting on science fiction was massive but, like an iceberg, largely hidden. Today, McIntyre’s concerns—power, identity, inequity, climate, and social justice—are at the forefront of humanist SF.

One focus of this marvellous novel is disability. Written in the early 70s, it largely anticipates the later theoretical work of disability studies. I can see ways to argue that without this novel, and its companion novel, Dreamsnake, then the accompanying wave of work by Le Guin, Russ, Charnas, and Butler, there could have been no cyberpunk. (There again, as Una McCormack points out in her afterword, Samuel R Delany has already done that.)* But part of that story begins with this book.

Here’s the publisher, Kate Macdonald, talking about the novel’s importance, how much she loves the book, and why she wanted to publish it.

So why are you waiting? Go pre-order today:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Handheld Press | Kobo

*Samuel L Delany, ‘Some Real Mothers…: The SF Eye Interview, in Samuel L Delany, Silent Interview: On Language, Race, Sex, Science Fiction, and Some Comics (Hanover NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 164-185, 177.

Kitten report #03

Tabby kitten sitting on brilliant red cushion staring like a demon

Note: This is a story whose ending is not yet written but is definitely on an upward trajectory.

As discussed in previous kitten reports, our kitten Charlie has been falling behind his brother George in terms of size and weight. His stertorous breathing was getting worse and he has not been thriving as he should. After several visits to the vet, followed by various scans, we all agreed that this was most probably a nasopharyngeal polyp blocking his airways. This apparently happens a lot to young cats who have had a lingering upper respiratory infection. Usually they grow bilaterally: two for the price of one. But the only way to find out for sure is to sedate the cat, and go after it surgically. This is pretty standard surgery, apparently; nothing to worry about.


Charlie is not a young cat, he is a kitten. A very small kitten weighing only 3 lbs who has been ill. He did have a polyp, just one, on the left, but it proved difficult to manipulate because he’s so tiny, and getting it out—it broke into three pieces—took a long time. During the operation he crashed, and for a couple of minutes had little to no oxygen getting to his brain. He suffered a neurological accident.

For the first 24 hours we were not sure he would survive and, if he did, whether he could have a good life. He did not seem to be aware of his surroundings. He could not see, hear, sit, eat, swallow, or void his bladder. He stayed under expert veterinary care for three days: steroids, antibiotics, pain killers. He was hand fed with a syringe, and helped to empty his bladder. He lost even more weight. But within 24 hours he could sit up. Not long after that stood—and tried an alarmingly wobbly stretch. He began to use the litter tray if placed in it. Then he began to eat on his own. He began to purr when held, then sleep without being held. He could take tentative steps. Now he began to eat a lot–making up for lost time. He started to track sounds and occasionally reach out to bat whatever was making the noise. He seemed to be able to tell there was something there, if it was black on a white background, or white on a black background.

Meanwhile, here at home, George was in a state. He loved the first twenty-four hours of having us to himself: all the attention and cuddles and food he wanted; king of all he surveyed! Without fearless Charlie to lead the way he had had to become a bit bolder himself. But after thirty-six hours he got restless, prowling into every corner, making querulous chirruping noises, and finally beginning to cry: What had we done with his brother? Fuck food, fuck feather, he wanted Charlie!

Fortunately, at that point the vet judged Charlie to be robust enough to come home. The first two hours we kept Charlie in his carrier so he could adjust slowly without George jumping on him. But we put the carrier on one si——de of their favourite sofa, I sat on the other side, and we put a cushion in between for George to sit on if he so chose. He did. And stared at Charlie in the carrier—who was curled up tight as a kitty ammonite. This lasted about 30 minutes. Then he sat on my lap and yowled piteously: Let his brother out to play! Then he decided he would make his brother play, anyway. He stuck his paw through the wire door and pushed at the kitty ammonite. The ammonite stirred slightly. So then George jabbed. The ammonite huffed a bit. George jumped on top of the carrier and tried to dig through the roof. At which point Charlie woke up and George got frantic: Out! Out! Let him out! So we did.

Charlie has always been fearless. Being unable to see has not changed this. I could write ten thousand words on the next 12 hours (I think I’ve lost about 5 years from my life) but let me just say: within an hour Charlie and George were racing around the kitchen and family room full tilt. This of course meant that Charlie hurtled headlong into the glass sliding door that he did’t know was there. Nearly decapitated himself on the cross bars on the kitchen chairs. And got fallen on like a ton of bricks by a brother who did not understand why he could rear up on his hind legs, giving Charlie plenty of warning, only for Charlie to appear surprised when George pounced. George didn’t understand, either, why when he ran to Charlie and tagged him, Charlie would run in the wrong direction. He brought Charlie a paper ball to play with, and Charlie stared about 20 degrees to one side.

The last two days have been amazing. This tiny, fearless kitten and his much bigger brother George, are utterly in charge of their world. They run around chirruping at each other and tussling, and sleeping companionably. Yes, Charlie still sometimes walks through his food dish. Yes, he still sometimes gives himself a good crack on the head when one of us forgets to leave a door open just the right amount. But by using his whiskers, keen sense of smell, those bat-like ears, and amazing spacial sense, I think some visitors might not be able to tell that he is, mostly, blind. And he is growing and gaining weight visibly.

There is nothing wrong with Charlie’s eyes. The visual impairment is a cortical processing issue. The vet—the wonderful Lora Schuldt from Cats Exclusive—suspects there’s still the possibility of further healing and improvement in the next five weeks or so. Selfishly, I’d like that. I’d like to stop nearly having a heart attack when Charlie jumps up on things and heads blithely for an edge he can’t possibly know is there. And it would be lovely to hear a crash and thud and not think: Oh my god he’s fallen and broken his back leaping from the counter onto my Rollator that’s no longer there. Or to feel confident that he won’t just knock over a boiling cup of tea and scald himself. But he seems perfectly happy; if he never sees any more than he does today, he will continue to adapt and have an enormously fine and adventurous life.

One thing: the vet thinks it’s possible, given that the polyp broke into pieces, that it might regrow on the left—equally, that one my eventually grow on the right, or that there may be no more polyps. (She thinks it seriously unlikely that George will develop polyps.) But I’ll keep you apprised of goings on. Meanwhile, here are a couple of pictures from the last two days.

For the first time since he’s back, Charlie finds his way onto my lap on his second favourite sofa and sleeps blissfully while I read a book I’ve been sent for a review, and George gets on the red cushion next to me and stares, making sure I don’t harm a hair on his little brother’s head:

Tabby kitten sleeps with its paws over its eyes

Charlie: Tell me when he stops staring…

Tabby kitten sitting on brilliant red cushion staring like a demon

George: I’ve got my eye on you

That evening, Kelley and I relax with wine while George sleeps on her lap and Charlie does his utterly, fearlessly unconscious, boneless thing on mine.

Sleeping kitten hangs upside down from lap of woman with a glass of wine, sitting cross-legged

Relaxing with kitten and wine

They are both spending an inordinate amount of time eating and running around, but I only remember to take pics when they’re still. So here’s one more of Charlie until I manage to catch them in fearless (oh god) action.

Little tabby kitten clinging in his sleep to his mom's arm

Charlie swears he will never go anywhere again

Kitten report #02

The cats are growing. George is still sneezing occasionally but is getting bigger and stronger every day. Charlie is also growing, but less quickly. We’re consulting with the vet and will have more information on that in a few days.

They’ve been tearing up the house and they want to play all the time. The other morning, between breakfast and lunch, we played foil ball, then chase-the-red-dot (laser pointer), then hurtle about the place chasing the feather on a fishing line, then eat the shoelaces, then steal a piece of roast beef, then paper ball (well, actually, first they played knock the wastebasket over, then recycling bag, then paper ball…). After that it was destroy the sunglasses, followed by round 2 of paper ball, and round 2 of foil ball. At which point Charlie thought it might be a fine idea to knock all the candles off the counter, subdue the microwave, and murder the catnip mouse. When I made lunch they watched the water.

CHARLIE: What is it?
GEORGE: I don’t know.
CHARLIE: Should we hit it?
GEORGE: I don’t know.
CHARLIE: Right. We’ll just watch it for a while.
CHARLIE: And then hit it.

The family motto certainly seems to be becoming clear: Hit it, or put it in your mouth.

At lunch time we all rested. After which they played king-of-the-condo, followed by watch the water again, then hit the water, bite the water, sneeze, and fall off the sink. Then of course there was nothing for it but to fall into the toilet and dash about soaking wet for a while. At which point it seemed to me that discretion was the better part of valour, and I retired to the kitchen deck and left the house to their tender ministrations. George, of course, was not happy about being left behind and decided to seek an alternative escape route.

They are in serious learning mode. Just in the last week their hunting methods have changed. Instead of running madly back and forth after Feather, they have taken to lying in wait behind bits of furniture to ambush it on appearance. George is developing impressive ball control when we play pawball. Charlie and I sometimes play Feather badminton: I prop the stick into the back cushion of the sofa, then we sit, one at each end, batting Feather back and forth while George perfects his aikido rolls over the foil ball on the carpet.

They seem to have passed through the chase-their-own-tail stage already, though are still fascinated by each other’s…

They continue to approach the world from different perspectives. Charlie might be smaller and more fragile but he’s a fearless explorer. He has no idea George weighs 30% more than him and tends to regard him as an annoying little brother. George, on the other hand, ponders everything deeply before doing.

Tabby kitten washed gold in the sun, striding tail up across terracotta floor.

Charlie strides through the sun like a young god.

Black and white image of small tabby kitten on a kitchen chair, head tilted, looked slightly apprehensive

For George, the day is grey and full of uncertainties

Sometimes, though, they simply sleep companionably while giving the impression that they’re quite grown up. I know better. They’re simply gathering the energy for another mammoth assault on all they don’t yet know.

Two tabby kittens sleeping head to tail on a brown chair cushion

Sloth = growth. George (top) and Charlie (bottom) dream of future destruction

Kitten report #01

Turns out I was wrong about the kittens’ age in my first post. They are now, apparently, 15 weeks old. And they are teething. Which mean they’re chewing everything. They chewed one belt loop off my favourite trousers. The blinds in the kitchen have had their pull cords cut. Someone gnawed through the tube on the blood pressure cuff–I can guess who. George is partial to anything with a tube or line: the blinds, the iPad charging cord, the strings holding the dangling ball on the scratching post. Charlie prefers corners: my old Kindle, the rug in the family room, the corner of a floor cushion. But either of them will go for anything. Even my Rollator has little chunks of hard foam gouged from the backrest. (They still are wary of the wheelchair, so at least that seems intact.)

They both have upper respiratory infections. Apparently this is typical (inevitable, basically) of rescue cats from shelters: you get them home, they get sick. But after two trips to the vet (and a third scheduled for next week), the vet says they’re essentially okay. The sneezing, apparently, could last for weeks. Oh, joy. (I’ve been woken up several times in the last week by being sneezed at directly in my ear.) Charlie is in a worse way, with a very sore throat that makes his breathing worryingly noisy. (And when he sleep–y’know, all the time–he snores like a drain. An astoundingly large noise for such a tiny thing.) But they’re both eating, sleeping, playing, purring, fighting, growing, learning. George is now beginning to look like a proper cat, if small, while Charlie is still more kitten-like.

Here are some more pics.

Tabby kitten asleep on the padded shelf of a kitty condo, head hanging down into a slanting sunbeam, Outside, the same sunshine lights brightly coloured flowers

Charlie, hanging in the sun

Tabby kitten lying on his back, draped in one long drool over a cushion leaning against the arm of an ivory sofa

George, showing off his fetchingly striped legs

Tabby kitten curled up tight as a kitty ammonite on a table mat

George on the breakfast table: kitty croissant or furry ammonite?

Little tabby kitten sitting on a kitty condo looking very young and inquisitive

Charlie really likes his new condo

Tiny kitten sitting looking up at a TV showing four men

Charlie ponders male role models

And of course new pictures, and video, are going up all the time on Instagram and Twitter.

New Interview up at Disability Arts Online

Black painted background, white square, black text at the bottom of the square, "Disability Arts Online."

Disability Arts Online is a UK organisation led by disabled people dedicated to advancing disability arts and culture. Just published in their magazine is a new interview with me about all things #CripLit, and So Lucky.

For Griffith, whilst the industry needs to change, she is clear that it’s disabled writers who have to be at the vanguard of that change, or else it will be hollow.

“For me, the first step to vanquishing ableism would be to have more well-published fiction written by disabled authors—then reviewed by disabled critics. Then submitted for prizes, given grants, and turned into popular film and TV. Very little fiction is authored by disabled writers (most disability literature by disabled writers that is published by big trade presses is memoir). Publishers don’t want disability fiction, they say, because no one wants to read it, it’s depressing. Well, they think that because the only fiction they’ve read about crips is the crap written by non-disabled people which is depressing.”


Itty bitty pretty kitties: kitten report #0

Two tabby kitties on a bed. Huge ears, huge eyes, hugely loved.

We haven’t had a cat since Zack died at the ripe old age of 17 in 2008. For the first year or so we just weren’t ready. Andn then ur lives became unpredicatable enough to not want to introduce kittens into the mix. But about two weeks ago, Kelley andn I just looed at each other and said: It’s time. It took a bit to assemble kitten paraphenalia–toys, litter trays, kitty condo, food–and then to find just the right beasties to share our lives for the next twenty years.

Meet our new kitty overlords: brothers Charlie and George. They’re about 12 weeks old, sole survivors of a litter of six from Yakima. We met them at Seattle Area Feline Rescue, and within two hours they were in our house. Which, in the natural course of things, is of course now their house. They have kindly retained us as staff.

George, though bigger (he looks about 10 days older than his brother), is much more skittish. Charlie is fearless (not necessarily a winning evolutionary trait; he’s already crisped his eyebrow whiskers on the gas stove) and very happy to demand attention. Their coats are pretty different. George is more traditionally striped but Charlie is stippled. The first few days the only sound they made were odd little chirrups (George), with the occasional squeaking creak (Charlie). But in the last three days both have begun to essay the tiniest little mews. Both purr like buzzsaws.

Here’s a photo taken on their first morning. That’s the bathroom sink they colonised as a nest for the first few days. The picture’s fuzzy because every time I tried to get close they hid behind their kitty carrier, so this is an extreme iPhone zoom.

Two tabby kittens (11 weeks old) on a teal thermal blanket lining a bathroom sink.

George on the left, Charlie on the right.

By the next day they were venturing into the family room–as long as they kept the bathroom and their comfort blanket in line of sight. Here’s Charlie finding the sofa for the first time (bathroom floor visible behind  him).

Little tabby kitten sitting on an ivory sofa

Charlie likes the sofa

And this is George trying to decide whether or not to risk it.

Little tabby kitten sitting on the carpet by a white sofa, looking worriedpet

George worries about the sofa

A day or so later, they discover the bed:

Two tabby kitties on a bed. Huge ears, huge eyes, hugely loved.

George (back) Charlie (front)

And at this point this most definitely rule the sofa.

Here are a couple of them looking particularly themselves, Charlie self-possessed:

A small tabby kitten with white chin and white whiskers sits on a wooden trunk, his back to the camera but turning to face the viewer

Charlie loves this trunk. It is the source of all toys.

And George a bit uncertain.

Little tabby kitten sitting on the floor looking a bit forlorn

George just still isn’t sure. Of anything.

More to follow. Meanwhile I’ll be running around catching falling vases, rescuing stuck adventurers, and referring free-for-alls between rambunctious kitty-kind and impertinent feathers, while posting the occasional snapshot on Twitter and Instagram.

Why you should never believe your own publicity

Google Alerts brought me this news today: in a ranking of Famous Essayists from England, I am number 6, outranking Samuel Johnson, Zadie Smith, and others. The tagline for the article says, “includes Christopher Hitchens, Nicola Griffith, and more,” that more including George Orwell, Stephen Spender, Max Beerbohm, Dorothy Sayers, et al who just aren’t, y’know, famous enough to be in the tagline.

All of which demonstrates the peril of algorithms. Because, yes, I write essays. And yes, to some people I am, sometimes, semi-famous. But am I a ‘famous essayist’? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Given that I’m on the list just above Pico Ayers, my fellow judge in the recent London Magazine essay contest, I can guess how the algorithm weighted what, and why I ended on the list. And on a weekday morning that’s good for a grin—in fact I’m still grinning as I type this, imagining the confusion of the kind of reader who takes lists like this seriously.

Though perhaps now I’ll go write a story about an alternate universe where, in fact, I am a Most Famous Essayist. That might be worth some more smiles on this lovely light-filled summery morning.