Award eligibility and year in review

This has been a year.

Personally, it’s been a pretty fantastic year. Dayjob-wise, I’ve been to ten countries for conferences & academic workshops, and I got to teach a week-long course in Istanbul — and just recently I’ve gotten contracts for two academic books, with two different presses (so a large part of next year’s writing will be those). Personal life-wise, well — I met this girl. And then I spent the summer with her, back and forth between Baltimore and NYC. And now we’re engaged. (This is the most exciting and lovely and miraculous thing to have happened to me in ever.) All of this counterbalances, somewhat, the horrific worldwide political situation. Somewhat. Enough to keep going, to build little shelters against the dark.

(I’m getting married. I’m going to write books. We keep going.)

I also wrote some fiction this year. All of it was published in the first half of the year, amusingly enough. I’d love for you to consider it as you put together your Hugo and Nebula nominations lists.

Short Stories

(If you only have time to read one story, I recommend All the Colors, and if you’d like to read two, add Fear Death By Water; these are my personal favorites.)


I have also written about 25k more novel than I previously had written. Fingers crossed for that to be finished sooner rather than later.

More and better things to come (next year in Jerusalem, etc.).

NEW STORIES! … and new nonfiction and con schedules and I totally haven’t updated in way too long.

And thus I have SO MUCH news!

(I may have been slightly busy. I write to you from York, where the dayjob has sent me for a conference; the dayjob has also recently sent me to Istanbul, Paris, and Munich, all since the last time I wrote, which was on my way to Armenia. In addition I have taken myself back to the US to go to many SFF cons and spend time with my girlfriend, and thus have become exceptionally well-acquainted with the Amtrak corridor.

It’s been. A lot. Website-updating kind of fell off the radar.)

But! I have a new story out today, and another new(ish) story from last month, to tell you about. First:

“Fear Death By Water”, out today at Unlikely Story 12.5, the Journal of Unlikely Observances. In which I take a peculiar set of prompts (face-painting, water fights, inversion of power) and come up with … the death of Caesar, except with GIRLS in SPACE. Apologies due to both The Wasteland and the Georgics. Eheh.


Begin here:

Yllia imperator, first of her name, shoved face-down in the reflecting pool with a knee between her shoulderblades, the bright red curve of her murderer’s Judiciary cloak feathering through the water, as good as blood. Her hands scrabble at the tiles. Her mouth opens and her lungs flood. Marcalla, all her weight balanced on that knee, tosses her dripping hair out of her face and looks up at the starfield through the great quartz-glass windows of the Senatorial bridge. Every star she can see is within the scope of what Yllia controlled. Marcalla blinks tears out of her eyes while insisting the moisture to be pool-water. She is thinking two things at the same time.

First: the end of tyranny is the function of my office.

Second: oh I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

And from last month, a story I am incredibly proud of: “All The Colors You Thought Were Kings”, in Shimmer #31. I’ve talked about this story before — it was one of my VP application pieces, and it’s also been the source of a lot of my work on/about/with second person POV. Shimmer is the perfect home for it, and I am ecstatic to have it appear there.


Moonrise glitters dull on the sides of the ship that’ll take you away. She’s down by the water, her belly kissing the sand and her skinny landing-legs stuck out like a crab. You and Tamar watched her land, stayed up half the night like babies staring at their first meteor storm, peeking over the railings of Tamar’s balcony and marveling at how the falling star-glimmer lit up the lights under your skins like an echo. You two have been full up with starstuff for as long as you’ve been old enough to go outside the crèche by yourselves. Now you’re almost home.

I’ve also been writing a lot of non-fiction for various venues:

And lastly, I will be at Readercon next weekend (July 7-10) and Worldcon in August, if you’re looking for me!


“Lace Downstairs” in audio at StarShipSofa! (and some other fun things.)

I’m leaving for eleven days in Armenia (and then a sojourn through New York City and Munich) in about 48 hours, and I’m a bit overwhelmed with preparations, so I’ll just point you all to the following collection of delightful things:

thing one: The very first story I ever sold, “Lace Downstairs” (Abyss & Apex 44, 2012), has been reprinted in audio podcast at StarShipSofa, read by Tatiana Gomburg. It’s a great reading and I’m so very happy to have a story of mine somewhere in the Cast of Wonders universe. “Lace Downstairs” is my take on lesbian cyberpunk noir; it’s about as pulp as I get.

thing two: Liz Bourke kindly let me borrow her column, Sleeps With Monsters, to talk up the power of teenage girl fandom and my favorite comic’s triumphal return, over here: ‘Once Again We Return: The Wicked + The Divine up out of the underground’. Death and apotheosis! Teenagers at concerts! READ THIS COMIC.

thing three: Reviews continue over at Spooky Action At A Distance, where Cat has been talking about structure and agency. Next week we’ll be doing a new round of recommendation/review exchanges, on the theme of GAMES IN WRITING/WRITING IN GAMES, and after that we have some special guest interviews lined up, so stay tuned!

I am now mostly off the internet until April 20. (Well, after I get these submissions sent out.)

Play nice have fun don’t break too much. 😀

“Abandon Normal Instruments” + interview & reprint at Mithila Review

I’m really pleased to have a new poem (and a reprint of 2014’s “Cloud Wall”) appear in the Mithila Reviewa new literary speculative fiction & poetry magazine edited by Salik Shah and Ajapa Sharma. I love this magazine’s concept — SFF from all over the world, but centered in a South Asian frame, concerned with borderlands, translation, “a language that slips”. And I’m incredibly pleased that Salik and Ajapa asked me to contribute: it’s wonderful when people you’ve never met see the thematic core of your work so clearly, and ask for more of it. I feel both honored and excited to be in this company.

Please do read the entire magazine — this issue (and the first) are full of fascinating, slippage-heavy, blurred-edge work, both poetry and prose. (And the magazine itself is beautiful.)

My new poem, “Abandon Normal Instruments”, is a threnody. (It may be slightly clear for whom.) It can also be read as a diptych with “Cloud Wall”, though it’s substantially less threnodic in that context.

I also had the opportunity to answer some interview questions! In which I make an attempt to define what I mean by ‘a poetics of exile’, and have some opinions about whether I have ever published a story with a heterosexual romance in it. (Spoilers: not yet, but I don’t rule it out in the future.)

a new project: Spooky Action At A Distance – SFF & IF reviews

I’ve been working on a new project with my good friend Cat Manning, an interactive fiction writer and developer, and as of yesterday we are live: a new review blog, where she reviews speculative fiction stories and I review interactive fiction games, and we both figure out how our genres are entangled together.

Go check it out over here: SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE: IF & SFF REVIEWS

(some of) what I liked in 2015.

The Nebula nominating period (and the Rhysling nominating period) end this weekend; the Hugo nominations have just begun. It’s a good time to compile my list of what I liked in 2015. Not exhaustive in any way.

Organized for your delectation by (Hugo/not-a-Hugo) nomination category. Some commentary. Some lists.

dramatic presentation (short form):

  • Blackstar, David Bowie. I was going to nominate this before Bowie died; it is an incredible ten minutes of film, about legends and transformation and relics and death and other worlds. I really want to nominate it now.
  • Jessica Jones. My god, I watched an entire Marvel property and enjoyed it.
  • Steven Universe: is there a consensus on a best episode to collectively nominate? Can we come to such a consensus?

dramatic presentation (long form):

  • Mad Max: Fury Road. Pretty much the ideal action film for me: gonzo, grotesque, desert death cults, the world is saved by women and emotional openness.


  • Karen Memory, Elizabeth Bear
  • Last First Snow, Max Gladstone
  • The Just City, Jo Walton.
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Seth Dickinson (this ends up on my list despite my reservations, because I think it’s such a goddamn brilliant ambitious failure and it made me happy in very complicated ways).
  • Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
  • The Sorcerer of the Wilddeeps, Kai Ashante Wilson (this counts as a novel, apparently, at least for the Nebulas)
  • Updraft, Fran Wilde
  • House of Shattered Wings, Aliette de Bodard
  • Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older

novella (I’m bad at novellas):

  • The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Djinn”, Usman Malik (
  • “Binti”, Nnedi Okorafor (


  • “The Deepwater Bride”, Tamsyn Muir (F&SF)
  • “Folding Beijing”, Hao Jingfeng (Uncanny)
  • “And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead”, Brooke Bolander (Lightspeed)
  • “Fabulous Beasts”, Priya Sharma (
  • “Morrigan in Shadow”, Seth Dickinson (Clarkesworld)
  • “And the Balance in the Blood”, Elizabeth Bear (Uncanny)

short stories:

  • “Planet Lion”, Catherynne Valente,  (Uncanny)
  • “The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci”, Benjamin Parzybok, at Strange Horizons
  • “Madeleine”, Amal el-Mohtar, at Lightspeed
  • “Monkey King, Faerie Queen”, Zen Cho, at Kaleidotrope
  • “The Deepest Rift”, Ruthanna Emrys, at
  • “The Glad Hosts”, Rebecca Campbell, at Lackington’s
  • “ζῆ καὶ βασιλεύει”, Sonya Taaffe at Ideomancer
  • “Cat Pictures Please”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)
  • “In the Queue for the Worldship Munawwer”, Sara Saab (Clarkesworld)
  • “Shimmering, Warm, and Bright”, Shveta Thakrar (Interfictions)
  • “Midnight Hour”, Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers”, Alyssa Wong (Nightmare)
  • “Documentary”, Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed)

Campbell Award:

  • Alyssa Wong
  • Sara Saab
  • Natalia Theodoridou
  • Alison Wilgus
  • Laurie Penny
  • Sunil Patel
  • Roshani Chokshi
  • Andy Weir

Graphic story:

  • Bitch Planet #5
  • The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 2: Fandemonium
  • Pretty Deadly (vol. 1)
  • Wilde Life (webcomic)

For the record: I myself am also eligible for the Campbell Award, and have published the following eligible things in 2015:

short stories:


“City of Salt”, Strange Horizons (16 March 2015) (2nd place, Strange Horizons Reader’s Poll)

“Adjuva”, Lakeside Circus (Year Two, Issue One)

“When the Fall Is All That’s Left”, Apex Magazine 77

one poem:

“The Demon Vivienne Explains Volitional Geography”, Through the Gate 8


“Contra Gravitatem (Vita Genevievis)” at Lackington’s

The latest issue of Lackington’s (#9, ‘Architectures’) is out, and thus so is my space gnostics story, “Contra Gravitatem (Vita Genevievis)”.

The issue is on sale now for $2.99, or you can subscribe for an entire year of brilliant, peculiar, lyrical stories at Weightless Books for $9.99, which is not very much really. (Lackington’s is a magazine I would be subscribed to regardless of whether I ever had a story with them — the ethos of the magazine, which is all about strange and stunning thematically-organized fiction, with an emphasis on prose stylistics, is an ethos I really believe in.)

Or you can wait a few months for the stories to be released online, but trust me. These are worth your money. I have amazing company in this issue (Sara Saab! Natalia Theodoriou! Julia August!) and you want to read everything.


Vega Septemiensis 273. “CONTRA GRAVITATEM” a LIFE of the apocryphal SAINT GENEVIEVE preserved in Late English (w/ some Greek characters), anonymous, 23rd century CE, acid-etched on lead sheets.

St. Genevieve the Shipwright took her people out into the black with no intention of coming home. Gravity was a poison birthright: the corruption of the earth entwined in every cell, material hyle infecting both psyche and pneuma. Contemplation and ascetic practice were not enough to perfect a mortal soul, not if she dwelled on the skin of a planet. Each and every one of them had been built by the desires of the demiurge, that lesser creator that sought to trap the divine breath that animated all the universe in shells of substance. By the time she’d reached twenty, Genevieve knew a better way: if she wanted to see the pleroma, the divine regions of light beyond the physical world, she would have to leave all the downpulling earth behind.

Story notes:

So this is a saint’s life, spun through a SF sensibility.

I mean that in a formal sense: this is a hagiography, and I wrote it from medieval models. It therefore has some particular rules about narratorial voice, sequencing, and plot elements, which were extremely fun to attempt to replicate while also obeying the genre conventions of science fiction.

One of my current interests is thinking about the interaction between SF concepts (in this case, worldships and interplanetary exploration) and religion, especially the kind of religious practice which can feel, to a modern/Western audience, speculative in its strangeness: ascetics, stylites, martyrs, the idea of spiritual perfection, a kind of remaking of the self into new and peculiar and transcendent shapes. The impetus for St. Genevieve the Shipwright came from re-reading some Gnostic texts from the 1st century AD, and thinking about how Neoplatonic ideas of perfection might interface with a near-future world that had its own ideas about the ideal future of humanity.

And so: gravity is the corruption of the world, and then well, a gnostic saint would have to leave gravity behind.

After that it was just a matter of figuring out who the demiurge was. 😀

I feel very lucky that Lackington’s exists, and is a magazine which is interested in this kind of hybrid formal experiment; I couldn’t ask for a more appropriate location for this story to appear.

“Having Beheld the Resurrection”, Rachmaninoff (All-Night Vigil no. 10)


“How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World” at Strange Horizons

“How the God Auzh-Aravik Brought Order to the World Outside the World” is out this week at Strange Horizons!

This is a bit of second-world mythological fantasy, with flayed gods and applied theology. I’m really happy to share it with you. And! It’s been illustrated, by Patricio Betteo, in an amazing illustration which matches exactly the tone of the story. I’ve never had work illustrated before — I’m incredibly excited and pleased.


The god Auzh-Aravik spat into her flayed palm and turned the saliva streaked with blood, out onto the earth. Where it struck it sizzled. The god was pleased by how the soil writhed and struggled, enlivened by her fluids; she smiled, skinless lips crawling back from skinless teeth, visible tendons straining.

Before it was stolen, the skin of Auzh-Aravik had been inscribed with all the laws of heaven. Tattooed on her calves were the equations for the orbits of stars; written across her belly was the commandment to increase; her shoulderblades were scalpels of poetry. All rules of obedience and desire made up her right cheek; all commandments of justice and prohibition made up her left. She was the proudest and the most accomplished of the gods. She was envied for her beauty and despised for her rigor; the other gods called her the Ornament of Heaven and did not mean it flatteringly.

Naked to the muscle, she stood at the edge of the world.

Story notes:

This story came out of Mary Robinette Kowal’s weekend-long Short Story Intensive writing workshop, which I did in January 2015. It was a great experience — I learned a lot about plotting, and a method of brute-force thumbnail outlining which did a neat end-run around all my issues about getting from concept to sequence-of-events. I definitely recommend MRK’s classes to anyone who wants to intensively think about short story writing for a few days, especially if you work well under high-pressure production conditions (which I do. 🙂 )

One of the homework assignments in the class ends up being ‘write an entire story right now’ — after quite a bit of preparation, so it’s not exactly being drowned in the deep end of the pool — and this was the story I came up with. I picked a mythological structure because I knew it could give me scaffolding on plot beats when I needed to work fast — and because I wanted to try writing in a different, highly stylized register.

In a sense, doing those two things  (selecting a structure that has built-in rules, and a register that has strict boundaries)  was my attempt at using aspects of writing technique that I’m good at to prop up something I’m not so great at. I am a very voice-y writer, and I like structure tricks. Turns out if you put those things together, you can fake having a grasp of sequential plot events!

I’m not sure what world Auzh-Aravik and Saam-Firuze are gods in, but I definitely want to go back and find out sometime.


award eligibility 2015 (and some metrics)

Happy New Year! So far this year I have been to a wonderful party, out to drinks with brilliant friends, and had nice editors email me about bios for upcoming publications, so I am pretty happy here on January 2, 2016.

It is, of course, now properly Awards Season, so I will just sort of swing this ‘I wrote stuff, if you like it you could nominate it’ list in with the rest of the ‘how I did in 2015’ summing-up.

My thinking on awards: if you like things, you should nominate them! And talk about them with your friends. I’m going to write up a post about what I liked in 2015 soon; there was a lot of great fiction in 2015.


  • I am eligible for the Campbell Award this year. This is my first year of eligibility.
  • The following short stories are eligible for the Hugo and the Nebula in the Short Story category. I’d especially like you to consider “When The Fall Is All That’s Left”.
  • The following  poem is eligible for the Rhysling Short Poem category, if I correctly understand how Rhysling nominations work, which I might not.


approximate words (2015): Counting the novelthing, short stories, and fanfiction, about 70,000. This is more words in a year than I have ever written before. I think I need to be at around 150,000 words a year to hit ‘this is a sustainable second career’, but I have yet to figure out how to write twice as fast as I am currently doing while having a dayjob which also involves writing about 70,000 words a year.

submissions: 20 (18 fiction, 2 poetry).

acceptances: 5 (3 new stories, 1 reprint, 1 poem)

2015 goal report: I meant to write 12 new short stories. I wrote three. On the other hand, I sold all three. I meant to finish a novel. I wrote half of a novel. (I’m a little annoyed about this one. But it turns out novels are really hard.) I had no intention of writing poetry, and yet I wrote and sold a poem, and I think I like poetry-writing and am going to do a lot more of it. I had no intention of picking up a reviewing gig, but I’m very glad I did. I joined SFWA! In general: GOOD JOB, ARKADY, YOU DID OKAY. (but you could do better.)

what writing will look like for me in 2016: I’m going to finish this novel, revise it, and submit it to agents. I’d also like to finish at least six short stories, and start a second novel. I’d like to write a poem a month, as an experiment to see if I’m actually a good poet or if I’m good at pretending to be a poet occasionally. I’d like to write 100,000 words in the year. That seems like an ambitious but reasonable set of early-career writer goals. Let’s do the thing. Forward momentum.

2015/retrospective (on the theme of luck)

This is the personal retrospective, not the goals and metrics one. That one is for the first of the year. This is for the liminal time between.

It’s the last week of the year, and I’m in New York City. This is, for me, a sacred time. Everything is on hold. We are winding up the last of the old year and making hesitation-mark sketches for the new one. Despite climate fuckery, it almost snowed last night. I ate a tiny hailstone that had fallen in my hair, and there’s my communion with the city made manifest one more time.

I’m doing a very absurd thing, this week. I’ve done it every day and I will keep doing it until the New Year (and maybe afterward): I am standing in line for the Hamilton lottery each evening. I of course would like to win it, but I’m secretly doing it because it’s about luck, and about open-eyed surrender to luck, which is the flipside of everything else about this past year: luck is the other side of the coin from forward momentum, from saying yes to everything, especially big risks.

You have to throw yourself into the future as hard as you can, but you also have to propitiate the gods, y’know?

I did okay this year. It was not easy and I was scared a lot of the time — including on the good things, having wonderful and crazy stuff happen to you is frightening, making choices all the time is frightening. I said yes a lot. I took big risks and they paid off. I didn’t fuck up anything unfixably. I am in a markedly better place at the end of 2015 than I was at the end of 2014.

I am in fact okay. All the way down. Which is new. (I’ve been happy. I’ve been, in fact, happier than this! But I think I might be okay for the first time in my life, at thirty years old.)

in 2015 I:

  • came to solid and true realizations about what I want my career to look like and what I’m willing to do to get it (move across the Atlantic, not have a pet I really want, live without my furniture and books or any idea of what I will be doing three years from now) and what I am absolutely unwilling to do even if it means changing careers in my mid-thirties (live in an isolated place, teach 90% of the time)
  • taught successfully, with excellent student evaluations, despite being completely burned out by a year of full-time teaching at a small liberal arts college; I didn’t let my students down even when I knew I’d never be willing to do this job again
  • practiced radical self-care (which involved running away to Boston to a SFF convention during a snowstorm; trust me, it was so necessary and I’m glad I spent money to do it)
  • moved to Sweden
  • finished five academic articles in the period between April and December (approximately 30,000 words of publishable academia), had two accepted (the others languish in Peer Review)
  • wrote an additional 20,000 words of academia, which will become part of my first monograph
  • gave invited lectures at universities I wasn’t employed at
  • was a productive member of my department and felt welcome and useful in it
  • organized and ran, along with my direct supervisor, an international experimental workshop on narratology and Byzantine studies
  • taught in a writer’s workshop (I want to do more of this!)
  • published three short stories, one poem, and one professional review
  • wrote a review for myself which went kind of viral in a way that was important to me
  • wrote 45k of a novel
  • sold every piece of fiction I finished in 2015 (though this may not stay true if I finish the story I’m working on before the 1st)
  • was mostly kind

I’m satisfied with that.

I didn’t do everything I wanted to do in 2015 — I meant to finish that novel, and improve my Armenian, for starters — but I did enough, and I was brave.

Brave is something I think I am, now. As a character trait. I get to keep that. That’s me.