Julie E. Czerneda is one of the leading SF writers of the 21st Century. A biologist by trade, she’s brought a unique appreciation for the far-ranging possibilities of extraterrestrial biology to her fiction, and the result has been some of the most joyously alien characters in all of modern SF. One of her most popular characters is Esen-alit-Quar, the alien protagonist of the Web Shifters trilogy (Beholder’s Eye, Changing Vision, and Hidden in Sight), published by DAW between 1998-2003. Who or what is Esen? Here’s Julie, in an essay she wrote for The Little Red Reviewer.
Short answer? A blob of blue, shaped like a teardrop. Who happens to be a semi-immortal shapeshifter. Who has really good intentions… but is working on her life skills.
Writing Esen’s attempts to protect life in the universe – or at least keep it civil – makes me happy and always has. As it turned out, Esen made you happy too, dear readers. I’ve received more feedback and love from you for the Dear Little Blob than for all my other work combined.
For those unfamiliar with my work, I’m a biologist by training, an optimist by preference, and have been writing the stories I want to read for quite a while now, thanks to Sheila Gilbert and DAW Books. If you read and enjoy my other SF, you’ll find Esen’s stories funnier, with more aliens and their worlds, but with no less — and sometimes more — heart. I came across this email from Tanya Huff the other day, about Esen’s first book. “…this was so much fun. It reminded me of all the reasons why I started reading SF in the first place.” Yup. Grinning.
Writing Esen comes easiest of all for me. She’s my vacation. It’s not only the joyful mayhem of her approach to the universe. The explosions. The slime. Esen’s my opportunity to share the weirdest and most wonderful things about real biology on this world. Whatever amazes me ends up in her stories. (Instead of around our kitchen table to dismay guests. Okay, both.)
Trust me, I take the biology very seriously, and the physics of how she can change, but when you’ve a main character who has to deal with being something else—and never chooses wisely? It’s a joy and a romp and, yes, she does blow up under stress. (Take another look at the book covers. That’s Esen, every time.)
Julie has been a guest blogger at Black Gate multiple times, and last year Brandon Crilly wrote the tribute Reasons and Examples Why Julie E. Czerneda is Genuinely Awesome (including my favorite, Costi Gurgu’s tale of how Julie coaxed alien recipes out of a complete stranger).
I was very pleased to hear that Esen-alit-Quar will be returning this year, in not one but two upcoming books.
The first is The Only Thing to Fear, a digital novella arriving next month.
The second is Search Image, the opening novel in the brand new series Web Shifter’s Library, coming in hardcover on October 2.
Both books will be published by DAW.
Here’s the description for The Only Thing to Fear. Set shortly after the events in Hidden in Sight, it features the first glimpse of the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture from the Web Shifters series.
The Human Commonwealth has spread into a section of space well and truly claimed by others, a wealth of intelligent species who doubt we’ve much to offer. The only recourse? Diplomacy! At least that’s what Evan Gooseberry, assigned to the Human embassy on Urgia Prime, firmly believes. Enough to fight his own deep terrors and remain where even a walk outside is an exhausting challenge.
But what happens when a species’ misunderstood biology is its diplomacy?
The stakes are high; the situation desperate. Doubted by his superiors, Evan stands alone.
Unless he can accept help from the strangest alien of all: Esen-alit-Quar, Esen in a hurry, Es between friends. Having come to Urgia Prime with her friend Paul on their own mission, the remarkable Webshifter is willing to do whatever she can. There’s only one problem.
Esen is everything Evan Gooseberry fears.
On her website, Julie has this to say about the upcoming Search Image.
These new stories pick up after Hidden in Sight and soar onwards and upwards!
Paul and Esen have built their “All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture” and everyone’s come with problems to be solved.
What could possibly go wrong?
The first book in the Web Shifter’s Library series returns to the adventures of Esen, a shapeshifting alien and member of an ancient yet endangered race, who must navigate the perils of a hostile universe.
Esen’s back! And the dear little blob is in trouble, again.
Things began so well. She and her Human friend Paul Ragem are ready to celebrate the first anniversary of their greatest accomplishment, the All Species’ Library of Linguistics and Culture, by welcoming his family back. He hopes. Having mourned his supposed death years ago, understandably, feelings are bent.
Instead, they’ve unexpected guests, starting with an old acquaintance. Paul’s father has gone missing under dire circumstances.
Before he can convince Esen to help him search, a friend shows up to use the Library. A crisis on Dokeci Na is about to explode into violence. To stop it, Evan Gooseberry needs answers. Unfortunately, the artifact he brought in trade holds its own distracting secret. A touch of very familiar blue. Web-flesh.
The race is on. Paul, to find his father. Esen, to search for a mysterious legacy while helping Evan avert an extinction. What none of them realize is the price of success will be the most terrible choice of all.
The Only Thing to Fear will be published by DAW on September 4, 2018. It is 105 pages, priced at $2.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Matt Stawicki.
Search Image will be published by DAW on October 2, 2018. It is 448 pages, priced at $26 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The cover is by Matt Stawicki.
See all our recent coverage of upcoming novels here.