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de Bodard, Aliette

Entry updated 2 October 2023. Tagged: Author.

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(1982-    ) US-born software engineer and author, her background being French and Vietnamese, in France from the age of one; her first language is French but she has always written in English. She began to publish work of genre interest with "A Warrior's Death" in Shimmer for Spring 2006, and has rapidly come into prominence for her short fiction: "The Shipmaker" (November 2010 Interzone) which won a BSFA Award for best short fiction; "Immersion" (June 2012 Clarkesworld) – a deft intertwining of Avatar and Race in SF topoi set in a Space Habitat seemingly designed to exacerbate hurtful Exogamous impulses (see also Identity; Imperialism) –which won a Nebula and a Locus Award for best short story; and "The Waiting Stars", in The Other Half of the Sky (anth 2013) edited by Athena Andreadis and Kay Holt, which won a Nebula for best novelette. Mostly comprising shorter works, the Universe of Xuya sequence – beginning with "The Lost Xuyan Bride" (December 2007 Interzone) and including On a Red Station, Drifting (2012), a short novel – is an Alternate History series in which China settles North America from the west, with complex consequences for earlier settlers like the Aztecs (see Imperialism); some stories are set in space.

The more visibly ambitious Obsidian & Blood sequence, beginning with Servant of the Underworld (2010), which is fantasy, posits a world in which the Aztec nation has not been destroyed, and becomes dominant. An extensively researched presentation of the Aztec Religion and belief system in general as descriptive of reality generates tales where Magic fends off the End of the World and gods traverse the planet, conducted within a transposed noir frame in which the Great Priest of the Dead also functions as a detective. The House of Shattered Wings (2015), opening the Dominion of the Fallen sequence, is an Alternate History fantasy set in a world where Vietnam remains ambivalently connected to metropolitan France. The action is initially focused in a vast Edifice [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] on the Île de la Cité (see Islands) in the centre of Paris, a cityscape whose ornate decay is depicted as a kind of tableau vivant of the Time Abyss (see Ruins and Futurity); in the sequel, The House of Binding Thorns (2015), much of the action is displaced Underground. There is a sense that de Bodard will increasingly fuel her work through a complex understanding of the world enriched, at least in part, from her personal vantage point as a "war diaspora", a citizen of more than one culture and language.

The Tea Master and the Detective (2018 chap) (see Sherlock Holmes), in the loose Xuya Universe sequence, is a Space Opera whose protagonists – Holmes and her shipmind Watson – are both female; it won a Nebula as best novelette. The full-length In the Vanishers' Palace (2018) intricately explores the same complex universe, part space opera, part Fantasy of Manners [see the Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], part detective thriller (the tea master is a "mindship": an AI-controlled Spaceship). The Red Scholar's Wake (2022), a further space-opera addition to the Xuya Universe sequence, features a marriage of convenience between a pirate space fleet's sentient flagship and a human Computer and bot expert, again both female; love blossoms amid intrigue and the escalation of a multi-sided space War. A Fire Born of Exile (2023), complexly intertwined with previous volumes in the sequence, extensively reprises the central narrative line of Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte-Cristo (1844-1845).

Fireheart Tiger (2021 chap) is set in a fantasticated version of precolonial Vietnam whose culture is amplitudinous; this novella won a BSFA Award for best shorter fiction. A further fantasy sequence is Dragons and Blades opening with Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders (2020 ebook), whose follow-up Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances (2022) won a BSFA Award for best shorter fiction. [JC]

Aliette de Bodard

born New York: 10 November 1982



Obsidian & Blood

Dominion of the Fallen

Xuya Universe

Dragons and Blades

collections and stories


previous versions of this entry

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