“City of Salt” at Strange Horizons

My possessed/ing-cities story, “City of Salt”, is up at Strange Horizons today! I am intensely pleased to have a story published there — SH is an every-week read for me, and one of my absolute favorite magazines, and this is a delightful honor. Enjoy!

“CITY OF SALT”In the month of Tammuz, Ammar came to the city of salt, for which there are no maps. He came on a camel, with his habitual azure scarf wrapped around his nose and mouth to keep off the dull rose dust, and he came alone. I watched his guide abandon him.


Some notes on the story follow:

The first time I wrote this story, I was nineteen. In that version, most of the action took place in a restaurant. It was a very important story to me then; it was probably the best thing I wrote that year. (It was also three times as long, contained some incredibly belabored metaphors about bad situations one can get into while playing Go, and was technically fanfiction by the strictest definition of the term.) You may notice that in the present story the restaurant is nowhere to be seen, and no one is playing any sort of board game.

In fact, only one single line survives intact from that initial draft (the innocuous bit of dialogue, “Why are you here?” — which may not even count, it is so generic). And yet, I feel an enormous sense of continuity between me-a-decade-ago, trying to write about a relationship between two people who had loved each other and hurt each other and were rotating around the space of an absent third person, and me-this-past-summer, trying to write about that same dynamic. The questions are the same: what is salvageable? What is forgiveable? To what degree does love matter, in the face of disaster?

At 29, I am better at writing an answer — an exploration — to those questions than I was at 19. I wonder if I’ll write another version of this story at 39, and what I’ll say then, if I do.


thematic soundtrack for “City of Salt”: Bloody Shirt (Bastille Remix), To Kill A King. get out and get gone! this town is only going to get worse!

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so when I said ‘peripatetic’…

… I meant it.

I’m moving to Sweden. Sometime during the last week of April. For at least two years — I’ve won a postdoctoral position, which means I get to spend real time doing research again, which I am profoundly grateful for; I’m an academic because I genuinely enjoy spending ten hours in the library with three different language dictionaries and a bunch of offprints. I haven’t been able to do that this year — where I am simply isn’t set up for it, not to mention teaching a 3-3 courseload, all five of which were new course preparations. I absolutely can’t wait to be able to sink into what I feel like is my real work again.

Also, Sweden. I have never been! It’s going to be great! I get to have an adventure! I have so much missed adventures. Small city maritime Canada hasn’t got many if you aren’t into outdoor sport, which I’m — not. Much to my continued surprise, I am very into athletic activity lately — let me tell you about rock climbing! — but I continue to want my athletics to take place in warm, well-lit environments, preferably inside. So my adventures this year have mostly involved … well. Okay. I did go to Troy and Iznik. That counts. But it was only once!

Essentially, I am very excited, incredibly eager to go, and a bit terrified about some of the logistical hurdles.

I have less writing news this month (I sold a reprint! I went to Boskone! I still hate writing this novel!), but that should change very shortly. Next Monday, in fact — when I will have a story in Strange Horizons. More on that when it is posted.