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It’s the HANZAI JAPAN giveaway contest!

Next week we launch Hanzai Japan, our third anthology, which is already getting some good pre-release buzz. And that means this week we launch our giveaway contest!

Hanzai means crime, which is the slogan of the book. It features fiction running the gamut of crime from vampiric police procedurals to supernatural prisons to good ol’ fashioned murder sprees. Contributors include New York Times best-seller Carrie Vaughn, All You Need Is KILL/Edge of Tomorrow‘s Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Catwoman’s Genevieve Valentine, mystery genre stalwarts S. J. Rozan and Naomi Hirahara, cross-genre author Jeff Somers, and many more.
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The contest this time around is a simple one. In the comments to this post, write a brief essay telling us who your favorite fictional sleuth who is not Sherlock Holmes is. It can be an amateur sleuth, or a supernatural detective; a costumed crime-fighter or a hard-boiled anti-hero. As usual, you can post in English, Spanish, Japanese, German, Chinese, or Greek, and around noon on Friday we’ll pick our four favorite responses four lucky winners will receive a copy of Hanzai Japan! Don’t be shy; we ship worldwide.

Points for cleverness! We’ll look at poems, even Begin!

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From “Hanami,” a Lydia Chin/Bill Smith short story by S. J. Rozan

Every time I come to Washington it rains.

I don’t know why this should be, but my father used to tell my brothers and me that there’s no point in denying reality, even reality that’s ridiculous. Rain fell insistently, tracing diagonal lines across the windows, as the Acela train Bill Smith and I were riding pulled into Union Station.

“It’s still beautiful,” Bill said. “Soggy, but at least down here it’s spring.”

“You don’t have to try to make me feel better. I don’t believe I have some paranormal effect on the weather and it rains because I’m coming. I just think I unconsciously but cleverly time my trips here to make sure to coincide with the rain.”

“Not a paranormal effect on the weather, just a preternatural relationship with it? Sure, why not?”

We swung our overnight bags down and beat it to the subway. In Washington they call it the Metro and it runs on rubber wheels, and in the place we came out, Dupont Circle, it had a huge sci-fi escalator to the street. “You think we’ll be on Mars when we get to the top?” I asked as the gray sky in the round opening came closer.

“I think we’re already on Mars if we’ve really taken this case.”

“We can’t not take it. I told you, Moriko’s one of my oldest friends. We were super close in high school until her family moved here her senior year. I used to date her big brother. Maybe you can’t take it. But I have to.”

“I can’t take what, the fact that you used to date her older brother? Oh, you mean the case. What kind of person would leave his partner on her own with a client who thinks she’s a fox? Besides, from what you say she actually is a fox, though not the kind she thinks she is.”

“Hands off. That’s the whole problem here—a man after her who she doesn’t want.”

“What makes you think she wouldn’t want me?”

“Let me count the ways.”

I lofted my umbrella, Bill sunk his head in his raincoat collar, and we splashed the two blocks to the row house where Moriko Ikeda lived in an apartment on the parlor floor.

As I told Bill, Moriko and I have been close since high school. We went to Townsend Harris in Flushing, Queens, which is stuffed full of brainy Asian kids but, as my brother Tim never lets me forget, isn’t Stuyvesant. My four brothers and I all went to high schools you had to test into, but different ones. Tim was already at Stuyvesant when my tests came up; I didn’t even fill out the application. Why? The different-schools thing hadn’t applied to elementary school. I was the youngest—and a girl—and I followed my brothers all the way through Sun Yat-Sen in Chinatown. I couldn’t wait to get to a school where, when anyone asked if I was related to such-and-such a kid named “Chin,” I could say I wasn’t, not just wish I wasn’t.

Moriko and I hit it off from the beginning, even though the Chinese and Japanese kids mostly eyed each other with suspicion (and the Koreans eyed both of us that way, and the black kids eyed the Latino kids that way, and the white kids were too stunned by finding themselves in the minority to do anything but huddle together for warmth). With me and Moriko, maybe it was an opposites-attracting kind of thing. I was a short, straightforward, practical jock; she was tall, elegant, sweet, and spacey.

Never this spacey, though. She’d called yesterday to ask me to come to Washington as a last-ditch attempt to solve her problem, which was: a man had stolen her kitsunebi, and since she’d die without it, she had to do what he wanted so he’d give it back. Kitsunebi is the soul of a kitsune, a fox spirit, and in this case what the man wanted was for Moriko to marry him.

Moriko buzzed us in within seconds of my pressing her doorbell. We’d stepped into the building’s small entry hall and I was folding my umbrella for stashing when she opened the glass-paneled inner door. Her eyes lit up when she saw me, and I’m sure mine did when I saw her. Bill’s eyes I didn’t look at because I didn’t want to know.

You have to understand: Moriko is gorgeous. She’s not actually super tall, maybe five-ten, but she’s so slender that she gives a long-limbed, languid impression. She seems not to walk so much as flow, and the shoulder-length hair framing her narrow, high-cheekboned face is as black and glossy as her skin is pale.

Paler than usual, today. She led us into her apartment through a pair of large double doors, closed them behind her, and hugged me. “Thank you for coming, both of you. Though I’m feeling guilty about calling you. I don’t know what you can possibly do. Oh, I’m sorry, that’s so rude of me.” She extended her hand to Bill. “Moriko Ikeda.”

“Bill Smith. Don’t be sorry and don’t feel guilty. I haven’t been to Washington in awhile. Happy to come down.”

“I wish I could have provided better weather.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s Lydia’s fault.”

Moriko raised her delicate eyebrows but I didn’t explain. After a moment she said, “I have tea. I’ll bring it right in.”

While Moriko went to get the tea, Bill whispered to me, “Do kitsune control the weather?”

“No. That was human small talk.”

I’m always surprised when I find myself explaining something to Bill. As he’s pointed out more than once, I’m the Asian person in our relationship. But he, rumpled, antisocial, and blue-collar as he appears—though not today; today he wore a sharp navy suit with a white shirt and blue-and-silver tie—is the one with the deep background in art, music, and all kinds of culture, including Asian culture. So long before Moriko hired us, he’d heard of kitsune; but apparently he wasn’t familiar with their fine points.

I was, because I’d looked them up.

For example, they’re usually called “fox spirits,” but that makes them sound like ghosts and they’re not ghosts. They’re regular foxes who’ve reached a great age and attained wisdom and magical powers. Like shapeshifting. Into old men, young girls, and beautiful women.

For another example, they carry their souls, their kitsunebi, outside their bodies in glowing globes of fire. In fox form, they hold the globes on their tails. When they’re humans, where to keep the globes—the kitsunebi-dama—becomes problematic. And it seemed that Blake Adderly, up-and-coming young hotshot D.C. power broker, had, in the course of dating Moriko, discovered and walked off with hers.

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It’s a mystery?

Where have I been? Seattle, actually. It was fun-Seattle is far enough north and as it is solstice time then sun didn’t set till nearly 10PM. I’m still a bit groggy from the long days.

One of the best things about working in publishing is seeing one’s book in stores. Airport bookstores get a bum rap—sure, they carry mostly disposable mas market bestsellers, but they carry many other books besides, especially these days when there is a lot of competition for those interstitial hours on a plane (e.g., movies, video games, laptops, in-flight entertainments). But finding the good stuff is still a surprise. There was a special surprise for me, in the Seattle airport:

Slum Online, a mystery? And Scott Sigler’s book Contagious is right next to it! (For those who don’t know, there are space aliens in Sigler’s book.) What makes these books “mysteries” rather than “science fiction”? Well, many books have mystery elements to them—if there’s some unknown to be found out or some conundrum to be unraveled, the mystery plot almost by necessity fuels the action of all sorts of commercial fiction. It’s been said that science fiction is a genre of setting, while mystery is a genre of plot. (Romance and horror would be genres of tone.)

Slum Online also have very light science fictional content. It’s about technology and its impact on our lifestyles, but it isn’t truly speculative so perhaps it might do well in a mystery section, except that the stakes are a bit personal. There is a crime in the novelette “Bonus Round” but that’s a minor one as well. The book’s strongest commonality with mystery is really the laconic narrative voice of the narrator as he drifts through the cityscape, a true flâneur. It was the flâneur character of early modern fiction that evolved into the wise and sardonic sleuth of the crime story, after all.

On the other hand, Slum Online is being reviewed in Locus Magazine, the leading science fiction review journal next month. And our readers are SF readers (or manga readers), and I doubt the cover to our book is of much interest to mystery readers. It stands out on that shelf, but not necessarily in a good way. For a moment I had the urge to simply reshelve the books myself. (Telling a bookstore employee that a book is on the wrong shelf is generally an exercise in futility, so I would have had to go for it alone.) But then I remembered that one of my favorite things is stumbling across a book I never would have seen otherwise thanks to a misplacement, a wrong turn in the stacks, or a whimsical bookstore staffer, so I let the The Case of the Misshelved Book remain for someone else to solve, and the books there for someone else to discover.

Of course, if the pair are returned to us for not selling, I’ll probably feel like a doofus, so why not buy a copy or two to counteract the Seattle Shelf Effect and make me feel better.

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