One of the best queer books of 2022, R. B. Lemberg’s THE UNBALANCING is stunning

Ending the year on a high note, R. B. Lemberg’s THE UNBALANCING continues to receive abundant praise with inclusion in Autostraddle‘s 92 of the Best Queer Books of 2022. Liz Shayne in their year end summation, mention the title as “Most Eloquent in its Spareness.” Scrapping and Playing further endorses the novel. At Diary of Doctor Logic in the year end review of what they read, Sara L. Uckelman praises THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES. In support of the first Birdverse story collection Geometries of Belonging, Lemberg was interviewed by Jo Walton and Paul Semel.

Cover by Elizabeth Story

Lemberg’s first full novel in their acclaimed Birdverse series is outstanding. With deep roots in queer- and transness, neurodivesity, and mythical cosmology, this loose retelling of the Atlantis legend is intimate and authentic. Two characters, a poet and a starkeeper, fall in love over the course of the narrative as they work hard to save their doomed island home. The book’s lyrical prose, complex characterization, compelling action, and emotional resonance come together to create a flawless fantasy story. For nonbinary representation in adult fantasy, THE UNBALANCING should be your first stop.

  • Most Eloquent in its Spareness
    THE UNBALANCING by R. B. Lemberg. I raved about how Jewish this book is, not merely in scene-setting, but in its attitude towards diaspora and identity, but on top of that it’s an absolutely lovely story about what we do when we’re at a crossroads and heroism versus helping and it’s perfect and Lemberg’s work is always stunning and I can’t wait to read their upcoming book of poetry.
Liz Shayne

I fell in love with the Birdverse when I read THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES as this complex, inclusive, and fascinating universe kept in thrall and made me sad when I closed the book.

THE UNBALANCING is even better and I was happy to travel again to the Birdverse and meet the characters. There’s a lot of inclusivity and the characters are realistic, fleshed out and interesting.

Scrapping and Playing

Lemberg, R.B., THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES (finished September 10, 2022): I’ve followed Lemberg on twitter for awhile and have long wanted to read something of theirs. This was a great introduction to their Birdverse — rich and detailed, fiercely queer, and a lot in a small space.

Diary of Doctor Logic

I want to hear about the origins of the Birdverse. Where did this rich world come from? How did you land on the name?

I think I was in high school when I thought it would be interesting to create a fantasy world that began with a bird deity. I was reading a lot of mythology and folklore (a perennial interest of mine), and was interested in creation myths where the world is created from an egg. The World Egg is an idea present in some Indo-European mythologies, as well as in Finnish lore, and in other traditions. I kept wondering where the egg came from, and from there I got to a Bird deity (there is no egg in Birdverse creation mythology, it is all Bird). I also vaguely remember reading, around the same time, an interview with Ursula K. Le Guin, again, I am actually not sure if it was her or not, or if I imagined the whole thing – but the interview featured a childhood story in which “in the beginning, there was Bird.” I carried these ideas around me for a long time. Birdverse itself began as an image in my mind. This was a snippet of a story, a scene, about a linguist, Ulín, who travels the landmass in search of new languages to study. In this image, she is in a wood. It is deep and lush and green; she is feeling out of place and excited. She is about to meet some new people there, and begin to study their language. I knew little about her. I knew that most scholars in this world were magical people, but she herself had no magic. She is not in any of my published stories (yet), but her story is central to Birdverse and to everything I’ve written since then.

Jo Walton

Geometries Of Belonging: Stories & Poems From The Birdverse is obviously a collection of short stories and poems set in the Birdverse. It’s right there in the title. Where in relation to THE UNBALANCING and the other Birdverse books do the stories take place?

The stories, poems, and longer works are all set on a timeline, which I have only published on my Patreon. There is an arc to the stories that I want to tell in this world, even though it is more of a tapestry than a line.

The stories and poems in Geometries explore the different events of the Birdverse arc; some connect to my longer works, others do not, or not yet. For example, the poem “Ranra’s Unbalancing,” which won the Strange Horizons Readers Poll back in the day, has Ranra talking and swearing about the events of THE UNBALANCING. When I wrote the poem, I knew that I wanted to write a longer work about these events. Now the readers can get both the poem (in the collection) and the novel, too. The opening poem and novelette of the collection, “I Will Show You A Single Treasure,” and the Nebula-finalist novelette, “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth Of Winds,” are prequels to the novella THE FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES. Other pieces in the collection might be connected to longer works one day; for example, “The Book Of How To Live” and “Where Your Quince Trees Grow.”

Paul Semel