Tag Archives: science fiction

Old story makes new cool appearance!

Ohhhhhhh my God it’s been A Month.

cw_116_700News is piling up and I’ll try to convey some of it soon. For now, want to note that my short story “A Heap of Broken Images” is reprinted in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld, which is neat because a) Clarkesworld, and b) it’s one of my faves of my own stuff.

I do not know if this is dishonor or a fulfilling of my raising. I am pulled between what I have been taught and what I have been taught; again I think I could fall to pieces, and then I think that maybe I have always been in pieces, broken apart from myself, and so there is no more damage to be done.

I look into the flowing black water and I think of empty eyes and outstretched hands reaching up from those depths and beckoning me. There were many bodies that were swept away by the river in the growing-season flood that year and many were never found. They are all still there in the life of the river. There are other people strolling, idling along the bank in the cool of the evening; I could call, Don’t you see them? Don’t you hear? How can we deny our own spilled blood, whatever price has been paid?

My mouth is full of ghosts. I place my hand against it and hold them in until they are silent again, and the ones in the water fall silent as well.

I am in pieces but I am alive. Tell me how this is a reasonable thing.

I wrote it after thinking a lot about genocide and guilt and memory. I don’t recall exactly why I was thinking so much about those things, but I know that’s where the story came from.

By the way, fun fact that’s also possibly useful: This story got a bunch of rejections (including Clarkesworld, actually) until a slightly tweaked version of it ended up in We See a Different Frontier. After which it ended up in The Year’s Best Science Fiction 31.

So don’t give up on stories, basically. At least some of the time.

Here be my 2014 awards post, yarr

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2014 was a decently productive year for me, publication-wise. It was also a year full of awkward, jerky stops and starts and a bunch of things ended up being way bigger and way more exhausting than I thought they would (and the year isn’t over yet), but overall I’m pleased with things. I’ll be doing a year round-up post around New Year’s, but for now here are the things by me that are award-eligible this year. Most of them are free to read online. If you’re reading for awards and you want copies of any of the stuff that isn’t, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll shoot it your way.

Short stories

  • “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” – Lightspeed – February 2014. I’ve been referring to this as my Misandrist Little Mermaid story, and so it is. It’s a violent, vengeful take on the fairy tale, and it was somewhat cathartic to write. I would actually consider it horror more than fantasy. I’m very proud of how uninterested it is in taking any prisoners.
  • “To Increase His Wondrous Greatnesse More” – Apex Magazine – March 2014. In some ways this can be read as a companion piece to the above. It’s not necessarily a take on any one fairy tale as it is an attack on tropes common to many of them. A maiden, a dragon, and a queer meditation on storytelling and the monstrous feminine.
  • “Across the Seam” – Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. An extremely personal story about Baba Yaga, a Slavic immigrant coal miner who’s also trans, and a massacre that ended a miner’s strike in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. You can read more about it here.
  • “Cold as the Moon” – Strange Horizons – August 2014. Got a “recommended” from Lois Tilton at Locus. This one came from the image of the very first line and became a story about neglectful/abusive parents and children who have to grow up far too early. It’s an angry story. A lot of the stuff I published this year was angry, actually.
  • “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” – Nightmare – September 2014. If there’s a single story I’m most proud of in 2014, this is it. It’s by far the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s basically autobiography with a speculative veil. Writing it was an incredibly raw, visceral experience – appropriately so, given the subject matter. Which, speaking of, you should be aware of if you have any self-injury triggers.
  • “What Glistens Back” – Lightspeed – November 2014. This is the other one I’m most proud of. I’ve taken to saying that it’s a first contact story and a last contact story; it’s about discovery but it’s also about saying goodbye to a loved one in the moments before death. Apparently it made a bunch of people cry. Good.

Novels

So that’s it. If you’re reading for awards, I hugely appreciate you giving them a look. If you’re not, hey, give ’em a look anyway. I mean, I think they’re all right.

LABYRINTHIAN: why I stopped giving fucks and started writing porn again

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My first paid sale ever was in 2009, a piece of flash erotica to Circlet Press for $5. It was a revelation: I could write stuff and people would pay me. More, I could write smut – something I enjoyed (and enjoy) doing and had been doing for years as part of the fanfic I was producing – and people would pay me. Everything that’s happened since – the novels, the short story sales, the best-ofs and joining SFWA and getting drunk at cons – is probably due to that one little $5 bit of porn.

(It’s been collected in a Circlet microfiction anthology, which will be out soon, so watch for that).

So for a while after that pretty much everything I wrote and sold was erotica, specifically erotica with a speculative element. Usually I was publishing through Circlet’s (fantastic) themed anthologies. My first non-erotic short fiction publication was months later, in January 2010, and it was to a little non-paying zine called The Absent Willow Review, which has since folded. In the fall of 2009 I and my co-author Lisa began the massive undertaking that would eventually become Line and Orbit, which is very solidly in space opera/science fantasy territory, so it wasn’t all porn. But that was a lot of it, and for a long time after, even once I branched out a bit, it remained the backbone of my writing.

Then I drifted away from it. There were a number of reasons for that, mostly to do with ambition. I beheld the big name SFWA-qualifying zines and I wanted to crack them more than anything, so I battered at them with my stories until, one by one, I broke through. I continued to write erotica here and there – especially when friends put out calls for specific projects – but for the most part my energy was going elsewhere.

But I honestly think there was something else going on, and that thing was a subtle sense that if I wanted to make a career in this genre, erotica wasn’t the “right kind” of writing for me to be doing.

Never mind that some of the best stuff I’ve ever read has had loads of sex in it. Never mind that I’m pretty damn good at it. Never mind that I owe it a huge amount – writing about sex taught me to write about people, about emotion, about the intensity and even the violence of intimacy. It taught me to write about ecstasy and transformation, and therefore ultimately taught me to write about death, which is something I keep returning to in my stuff.

Erotica gets a bad rap. I think some of it is that there’s a huge amount of it and it’s very commercial, which (somewhat correctly, in my opinion) leads one to the belief that a lot of it isn’t very good. But that’s true of almost any commercial writing. But I think some of it is that it’s often if not usually people who identify as women writing, buying, and reading it, and that’s obviously a point worth a degree of attention.

I think I came to believe that I shouldn’t spend my time on porn. That I shouldn’t put it in my short fiction (though thankfully I didn’t completely buy into that) and I shouldn’t put it in my novels. Not if I wanted to be taken seriously. Which I do.

Then I had a rough fucking couple of years.

I took and passed my PhD qualifying exams, which a few months later led to an emotional and mental crisis point that kicked me back into therapy and back on a fun array of medications. I wrote and defended a dissertation proposal which led, through the course of the next year, into months and months of anxiety and internal conflict regarding my advising situation and my relationship with my department. I began to question whether I wanted to work in academia, whether I wanted to finish my dissertation, whether I wanted to do any of this at all. In the middle of it I began a trilogy of fantasy novels (Casting the Bones) that’s been both rewarding and exhausting to write, in part because it’s been an arena for the exorcism of some demons. I was also dealing with some very painful and frustrating business surrounding the (still homeless) Line and Orbit sequel, and I wrote and then rewrote another book which I ultimately had to give up and shelve.

14794919024_73b09979e4_cAnd then, last fall, I just fucking had it. I was a thousand percent done. I threw up my hands, dug into the bottom of my Idea Sack, and wrote Labyrinthian in about a month.

I wanted to write something fun. Something silly and pulpy. Something wherein I abandoned the idea of Being Taken Seriously, where I allowed myself to get tropey as all hell, wherein I could play. And particularly, I wanted to write something with a lot of sex. Part of this was because books with lots of sex often sell decently and I happen to like money, but it was also because I like writing sex and goddammit, I’m GOOD AT IT. And I had no more fucks to give. My box of fucks was empty. The field in which I grow my fucks? You know the state it was in.

Labyrinthian is about a lot more than sex. It’s the story of two broken people learning how to be together physically and emotionally, but it’s also a story about trying to go home when you’ve lost all certainty of what home even is, and about trying to find family and simultaneously to find independence from the same. It’s about confronting death gracefully and about trying to discover meaning in life when your life is about to be cut short. It’s about rage and letting rage go, and all of these are things with which I wrestle every day.

But there’s also a lotta porn in it, boy howdy.

I’ve done a lot of talking in 2014 about how I’m trying to write about the stuff that scares me, the stuff I’m not sure I should be writing about at all. I’ve made it my mission to take anger and fear and ugliness and make something beautiful out of it, for myself more than for anyone else. So here’s what I want to do in 2015. Here’s my Writer Resolution, such as it is.

I’m going to write about whatever I fucking want.

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(and here are preorder links for Labyrinthian if that’s something you’re into.)

A few things

Doing a run-by because I have a million stuffs to take care of and it’s already noon.

  • I’ll be at WFC tomorrow and Saturday. No, not officially, because I couldn’t afford to go because WFC frankly needs to do some soul-searching. But I’ll be hanging out in the bar and going to dinner with people and such, and I hope very much to see old friends and make new ones.
  • My story “What Glistens Back” is out in Lightspeed. I read it at Capclave, where it got a pretty good reception, and I’m immensely proud of it. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.
  • I thought I was gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I’m not gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I really think I’ll be done in the next week or so, though.
  • I’ve sold my story “The Horse Latitudes” (originally appeared last year in Ideomancer and can be read here) to Michael Matheson’s anthology The Humanity of Monsters, which will be out from ChiZine Publications in November 2015. The ToC is amazing so far – check it out here.
  • Three of my stories were in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror #6 (2013) Honorable Mentions (“Love in the Time of Vivisection”Shimmer #17, “The Horse Latitudes” – Ideomancer, “Event Horizon”Strange Horizons). Pretty chuffed, especially given the company I’m in.
  • Rookwar, the final book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is a month away from release. Labyrinthian is a little over two months. Watch for more stuff regarding them, including stuff that is free.
  • I’m finishing up an edit job for a client, so I have an editing slot open. If you have an SFF manuscript that you need help on, or you know someone who does, I’m your individual. And to be frank, any work in that area really helps us out right now, so I appreciate anyone spreading the word.

Okay, back to work.

LABYRINTHIAN: first look!

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I wasn’t going to launch into promo for this book until September, but whatever, it’s almost September, and I want to. So here’s the first chapter of Labyrinthian, which – recap – is coming out in January from Samhain Publishing. It’s a (very, very loose) retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur IN SPACE, and it’s set in the Line and Orbit universe, though it doesn’t feature any of the characters from that book and it stands totally on its own. It takes place shortly after the events of Line and Orbit, and if the L&O sequel ever actually gets a release, one should assume that it’s happening concurrent with that.

Here’s the blurb:

A hunter should never fall for his prey.
A hunter’s heart should never fall prey to his quarry.

Still nursing his latest post-mission hangover, bounty hunter Theseus jumps at a high-paying, high-risk job that sounds ridiculously easy. Yet from the moment he nabs the alleged supersoldier with sedative gas, nothing is as it seems.

On the run from the facility where he was created and raised, Taur is desperate to locate his genetically engineered brothers and sisters. To rescue them—and himself—from slavery. Waking aboard Theseus’ ship, his fury is tempered by curiosity about his captor. Despite his doubts about his prisoner, Theseus figures it’d be risky to let Taur go—until they’re thrown together by a shared betrayal. They declare a tentative truce as they flee from a shadowy and immensely powerful organization that will stop at nothing to find them.

But as they wrestle with their growing feelings for each other, Taur and Theseus face an even greater danger. A lethal threat lurking inside Taur’s own body, waiting to explode…

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So here’s the first chapter, which introduces Taur and reveals the fact that he’s not having a very good day, or week, or life.

(Warning: this actually gets pretty violent at one point)

Continue reading

July news, because there’s a lot of it

Okay, so somehow July ended up being the month where everything is happening. Here’s what’s on deck:

So wow, yeah. August should be more sedate, except for all the writing I’ll be doing. Rookwar will be finished by the end of this month, but then I have the as-yet untitled book I’m writing about Kae from Line and Orbit, and I have an idea for another tropey-as-fuck Big Gay SF novel (not Line and Orbit-related) that I hope to begin work on in the fall.

And I’m teaching an intensive three-week course and looking for a job. And I’ve decided to retool my entire doctoral dissertation.

Wheeee summer.

News and an excerpt from a novel-in-progress

I haven’t posted in a bit. Nothing major to announce at the moment, except that I sold a short story – “A Shadow on the Sky”, a tale of a drone queen because of course drones would need one – to Mythic Delirium.

AND here’s a novel update: I’m currently working on two concurrently, because I’m out of my mind. The first is Rookwar, the final installment in the Casting the Bones trilogy – which I am very behind on and need to push hard at this month – and also an as-yet untitled one that I began on a whim. You know how I seem to keep coming back to the Line and Orbit universe? Well, this is the story of Kae, how he met his wife Leila, and how – together – they saved the entire convoy from starvation, managed a conflict between a lost human colony and a sentient biosphere, dealt with Relationship Feelings, and somehow didn’t murder Lochlan.

I’m not very far into it, and like any baby novel its future is uncertain, but I’m feeling pretty good about it and so far it feels like it’s coming relatively smoothly. If you like, here – with the usual caveats about a work-in-progress (rough draft, may not make it into the final product if there is one, etc.) – is an excerpt.

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Part of a Thing I Love: “Kaleidoscope”

image courtesy of Ashley Dace

image courtesy of Ashley Dace

Let’s have some nice things. Let’s have some nice “classic” SF, in fact.

Ray Bradbury is one of those writers who first made me want to write. The Illustrated Man blew my mind at a very young age. “The Smile”. “The Veldt” (which utterly terrified me; Bradbury was as good a writer of horror as he was science fiction). “A Sound of Thunder”. And then The Martian Chronicles, which changed the way I thought about SF and what it could do. “There Will Come Soft Rains” remains one of the most wrenchingly, unbearably sad and yet beautiful things I’ve ever read, and probably one of my favorite short stories of all time. It’s a perfect story. I literally can’t think of anything wrong with it. And I still can’t read it without crying.

Bradbury’s work is gentle, even when it’s also cruel. It’s frequently elegiac, even when it’s not overtly sad. It’s beautiful, even when he’s writing about ugly things. He has his weaknessness, and like many authors writing when he was, his stuff deals uncomfortably with race and gender, but I think there’s a humility to how he approaches things that’s missing from a lot of his contemporaries. He was profoundly skeptical of technology, of people, of the future, and yet he wrote about humanity with tremendous affection. He wanted good things for the world. He believed that we could do well.

His short story “Kaleidoscope” is among my favorites of his stuff. It’s one of those that’s quietly, gently cruel, but also deeply reflective. It’s meditation on death and what we make of it. It ended up unconsciously – at the time I was writing it – inspiring a story of mine (“What Glistens Back”) that will appear in Lightspeed at some point soon, a story I’ve been trying to write for the better part of a year and finally found a way to tell.

What Bradbury is saying, what he says in most of his stuff, is that horror and pain and beauty and love aren’t all that different in the end, that they’re ultimately not comprehensible without each other, and that – in extremis – all we have is each other.

The many good-bys. The short farewells. And now the great loose brain was disintegrating. The components of the brain which had worked so beautifully and efficiently in the skull case of the rocket ship firing through space were dying one by one; the meaning of their life together was falling apart. And as a body dies when the brain ceases functioning, so the spirit of the ship and their long time together and what they meant to one another was dying. Applegate was now no more than a finger blown from the parent body, no longer to be despised and worked against. The brain was exploded, and the senseless, useless fragments of it were far scattered. The voices faded and now all of space was silent. Hollis was alone, falling.

They were all alone. Their voices had died like echoes of the words of God spoken and vibrating in the starred deep. There went the captain to the Moon; there Stone with the meteor swarm; there Stimson; there Applegate toward Pluto; there Smith and Turner and Underwood and all the rest, the shards of the kaleidoscope that had formed a thinking pattern for so long, hurled apart.

And I? thought Hollis. What can I do? Is there anything I can do now to make up for a terrible and empty life? If only I could do one good thing to make up for the meanness I collected all these years and didn’t even know was in me! But there’s no one here but myself, and how can you do good all alone? You can’t. Tomorrow night I’ll hit Earth’s atmosphere.

I’ll burn, he thought, and be scattered in ashes all over the continental lands. I’ll be put to use. Just a little bit, but ashes are ashes and they’ll add to the land.

He fell swiftly, like a bullet, like a pebble, like an iron weight, objective, objective all of the time now, not sad or happy or anything, but only wishing he could do a good thing now that everything was gone, a good thing for just himself to know about.

When I hit the atmosphere, I’ll burn like a meteor.

“I wonder,” he said, “if anyone’ll see me?”

~

The small boy on the country road looked up and screamed. “Look, Mom, look! A falling star!”

The blazing white star fell down the sky of dusk in Illinois. “Make a wish,” said his mother. “Make a wish.”

The politics have always been there. You just refuse to see them.

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Okay.

I was honestly going to stay out of the whole Hugo Thing, in part because almost everyone else I know in the community has articulated exactly my feelings about it better than I could because my articulation of my feelings is BLAARGHARARRAGGHHHH, and partly because I’m just fucking tired of this whole business, which is also why BLAARGHARARGHAAARGHHAAAH. But then there was this putrid thing in USA Today (donotlinkified courtesy of Natalie Luhrs) and it just kind of broke the entire camel for me.

I’m going to say this very, very clearly, in bold, because I feel like it can’t be emphasized enough:

Science fiction and fantasy is political and has always been political.

In fact, you know what?

Writing is political and has always been political.

In fact, wait.

Stories of all kinds everywhere at every point in human history are political and have always been political.

Storytelling is a political act. It’s making sense of the world and ourselves, and like every other kind of sense-making, it’s as political as it is personal and vice-versa. There is no distinction to be made between the political and the personal. Writing of any kind is political. It’s claimsmaking regarding reality and how to interpret it. Because whenever we’re faced with these things, we’re faced with fundamental truths regarding how creation makes and unmakes the world, regarding whose voices are amplified and whose are lost, between who gets to speak and who is literally silenced. Yes, the Hugos are just one award, and you can argue all you like about how much they actually mean in the long run. But this isn’t even about the Hugos. This is about everything, about every fucking time we have this conversation.

I don’t know where this whole “politics doesn’t belong in [insert genre and mode of creative output here]” came from but I have some ideas and regardless I want it to die in flames.

If you can read something “on its own merits” and judge it accordingly, entirely separate from its misogynist white supremacist author, bully for you, but please take a look at who you are and why you can say that. Because you’re in a position where, I would imagine, you haven’t been swimming in cultural toxic waste for your entire life, where you’re subject to millions of constant microaggressions that batter at your heart like tiny hammers until you’re sore and bleeding and have to build up scar tissue like armor, where the world of imagination that has provided a refuge for you in hard times and even moments of great liberation all too often feels like hostile territory full of enemies who at best don’t even see you as a human being, and who otherwise want to do you actual literal harm.

If you can judge something on its merits, if you can say that you want politics kept out of something, then you do not see and are refusing to imagine the experiences of people who are having the politics of this thing – the endless, violent, hateful politics – stomped into their faces forever.

So enjoy your fucking Hugo ballot, I guess.

Book news (spoiler alert: there will be one)

I’ve been wanting to share this news officially for a few days, and now I can: my queer science fiction romance novel Labyrinthian, which some of you may recall me talking about before, is going to be released (probably) in December actually now it looks like later in January by Samhain Publishing.

Yay.

A little bit about it, for those just joining us: A few years ago I got it into my head that it might be fun to write about the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, only in the distant future in space. It seemed like a cool idea, but I wasn’t equipped to do anything with it at the time, so it went on the back-burner. Years later, I found myself with some downtime between writing the sequel to Crowflight and rewriting the sequel to Line and Orbit, and I wanted to do something lighter and more fun than I had up to that point.

So I reached back into my dusty idea filing cabinets and pulled that one out. Less than two months later, it was a complete book draft.

(One of the morals of this story, by the way, is try to never completely abandon an idea. If you can’t make it work at one point in time, that doesn’t mean it won’t work at some other point. A good idea now will probably still be a good idea five years from now. )

So what’s Labyrinthian? Per above, it’s an SFnal retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur, where the Minotaur is a genetically engineered supersoldier on the run from his creators and Theseus is the bounty hunter hired to capture him. Predictably, everything goes sideways, and running and shooting and makeouts ensue. Along the way they pick up Theseus’s ex-girlfriend Phae, who doesn’t think all that much of Theseus but has a weakness for hard luck stories and is good with a gun.

It’s set in the same universe as Line and Orbit, concurrent to the few weeks between that book and its sequel. The characters are not the same, and it takes place on the galactic frontier, so the actual setting is also quite different in some ways. The content itself is also different: it’s much more of a straight-up (haha) romance-adventure than Line and Orbit was, and it’s much less epic. Like I said, I wanted to have fun and do some lighter fare, so for the most part that’s what it is. That said, there are some deeper themes – guilt, self-acceptance, and the power of family being a few.

I think it’s a fun book. If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy.

Watch for more news as more news occurs.