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Valente, Catherynne M

Entry updated 7 August 2023. Tagged: Author, Editor.

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(1979-    ) US editor, fancaster, poet and author, born Bethany Thomas, Valente apparently being her legal name, who won a Rhysling Award for her long poem, "The Seven Devils of Central California" (Summer 2007 Farrago's Wainscot); she began to publish prose work of genre interest with "Exsanguinations: A Handbook for the Educated Vampire by Anna S Oppenhagen-Petrescu" in By Blood We Live (anth 2009) edited by John Joseph Adams. She edited Apex Magazine in 2010 and 2011. SF Squeecast gained for her and her colleagues Hugo awards in 2012 and 2013 for best podcast; her shorter prose fictions have won several prizes, including a Locus Award for "White Lines on a Green Field" (October 2011 Subterranean). An exemplary early twenty-first century figure whose work ranges over the whole of Fantastika, though only recently has she written sf, examples being Silently and Very Fast (October-December 2011 Clarkesworld; 2011), which won a Locus and a Hugo award, and Six-Gun Snow White (2013), which won a Locus award. The latter is a Western whose oppressed Native American protagonist [for Snow White see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] must craft a life for herself, though caught in the coils of an invidious family.

Much of the fantasy over the first decade of her career has been markedly complex and challenging, her first novel, The Labyrinth (2004), proving to be characteristic. Its Theseus-like female protagonist (see Heroes) must plunge through a far more disruptive Labyrinth than the one described in the Greek myth, in this case combining aspects of the Pocket Universe and the Portal to other Dimensions, with hints of the arbitrariness of the typical Wonderland [for Portal and Wonderland see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Any elements of the exposed arguments typical of sf are deeply submerged here, as demonstrated in her several series to date: the Orphan's Tales sequence, beginning with In the Night Garden (2006), which won a James Tiptree Jr Award; the Fairyland sequence of Young Adult tales, two titles in the series – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (2011) and The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two (2013), the first winning an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy (see Nebula), and each winning a Locus Award – and the Dirge for Prester John sequence beginning with The Habitation of the Blessed (2010).

Of more recent interest is Radiance (2015), set in an Alternate Cosmos from which our own universe is only briefly glimpsed as part of a sheaf of possibilities. In this cosmos, from the middle of the nineteenth century, the Solar System – built on a cosily Victorian scale – has been freely available to Homo sapiens; the deliberate disjoins of the narrative (see Postmodernism and SF) tend to refocus storytelling momentum in the direction of spoof, with elements of sharp Satire, particularly of the film industry (see Cinema). A baroque canvas, with Decadent societies proliferating on the Moon, Venus, Mars and throughout the Outer Planets, enriches without in any sense, for good or for ill, clarifying the tale. At intervals, sparks of Equipoise illuminate the worlds touched upon; varyingly, this may be said, excepting her Young Adult series, of all Valente's work. Space Opera (2018), for instance, is an adroitly baroque Space Opera spoof with teeth: an old topos – in which Homo sapiens comes before a galactic council to be judged on whether our species is sufficiently civilized to partake in galactic civilization, or indeed be permitted to survive – is transformed into an elaborate "Metagalactic Grand Prix" where humans are judged on the quality of the performance they mount in a vast circus-like venue (see Music). The protagonist and her band, Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, rock for all our lives. Valente's ironized and operatic transformations of traditional sf give some hope for old forms can be dressed anew, as befits the century they are written in.

"The Future Is Blue" (in Drowned Worlds: Tales from the Anthropocene and Beyond, anth 2016, ed Jonathan Strahan) won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award in 2017; it is built into The Past Is Red (coll of two linked novellas; 2021), where the protagonist must adapt her early can-do behaviour to the increasing savagery of Climate Change. The collection The Future Is Blue (coll 2018) contains the initial story plus other unconnected tales; The Best of Catherine M Valente: Volume One (coll 2023) begins a comprehensive presentation of her shorter work.. [JC]

Catherynne Morgan Valente

born Seattle, Washington: 5 May 1979



Orphan's Tales


A Dirge for Prester John

  • The Habitation of the Blessed (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2010) [Dirge for Prester John: pb/Rebecca Guay]
  • The Folded World (San Francisco, California: Night Shade Books, 2011) [Dirge for Prester John: pb/Rebecca Guay]

individual titles

collections and stories


works as editor


previous versions of this entry

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