“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.