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.)

Poetry

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.).

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“When The Fall Is All That’s Left” at Apex Magazine

“When The Fall Is All That’s Left”, my SF short about radiation sickness and girls on the run, is up at Apex Magazine in issue 77! I’m very pleased to share it with you, and even more pleased to have a story in Apex.

(Yes, the title is a The Lion In Winter reference.)

“WHEN THE FALL IS ALL THAT’S LEFT”

For Gabriele, gravity had ended. She spun unmoored, drifting in the outgassing light that spilled from the star she’d flown though. Her orbit deteriorated slowly. The skin of her hull was pockmarked and blistered, bubbled with plasma burns. What remained of her telemetric instruments was melted dross, cooling slowly from white to sullen red. Where she had known gravity, conjured through spin and mathematics, there was a hollowness inside her mind: a colorless blank, not formed enough to even register as dark.

“Like aphasia,” she explained to Iris in the pilot’s den. “A missing word with a shape I remember and can talk around.”


Story notes:

This is the story I wrote at Viable Paradise, almost two years ago to today, which is a lovely little coincidence that makes me happy: I like circularity and I like patterning, and how the world comes around again whether you’d like it to or not. Which is some of what this story is about, actually. When it’s not about making the very best of bad options, and acts of irrevocable bravery, and, well. Girls on the run. This is me doing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Thelma and Louise.

I wrote it to a prompt, and I wrote it very fast — eight hours from first line to last line, though it’s been through multiple rounds of revision since, of course. I learned two things from writing it: one, if you have to write an entire story in a day for some reason or another, write the last scene of a much longer story (and lean very hard on your character work in order to pull this off); and two, stories written to prompts can go in very strange directions. (The prompt I got was a horror prompt. I don’t think I ended up with horror, but admittedly my horror-o-meter is calibrated oddly.)

It’s also, amusingly enough, a hilarious story for me to publish right after you all came here to read my many opinions on queer tragedy in BARU CORMORANT.

Patterns and wheels! They get you every time. 🙂

I owe tumblr user isozyme a drink for last-minute beta services under fire; she saved my ass on continuity.


 Soundtrack: this 8tracks playlist should do you fine. DYING HORRIBLY IN SPACE.

“Adjuva” at Lakeside Circus

“Adjuva”, my short story about Crusading, medieval theology, and revenants, is up at Lakeside Circus! This one is quite special to me; it’s one of the few stories which I’ve written that I could not have even conceptualized without being a Byzantinist — without being a historian, which in some ways is a thing that talks to the dead. I am very happy that this story found a home so that I can share it.

“ADJUVA”

He wakes up parched, his mouth full of desert dust, spilling out the corners of lips too chapped to bleed.

He spits.

It doesn’t in the slightest help.

Outside, it is raining, sheets of droplets puckering the surface of the Bosporus. There is no way save providence or deviltry that Michel is still alive; by the looks of the city beyond the window it is the year of our Lord two-thousand-something-with-skyscrapers, approximately enough, and he remembers being a man already thirty when first the pilgrim knights came into the desert that is Jerusalem.


A few story notes:

I wrote a version of this at white-heat in the deep winter of January 2012, in the University of Chicago library; it was the second story I wrote after I decided that I was going to be serious about writing, that I would send my work to magazines, that I didn’t need a co-writer or a shared world to hide behind, that I was not only good enough but goddamnit I was going to have fun — and then I spat out 2500 words of some of the most personal, emotional, high-concept, requires-a-goddamn-Masters-in-Crusade-Studies-to-read stunt-writing fantasy I apparently was capable of producing.

I used to call this thing “Vladimir and Estragon Go On Crusade”, seriously. It is my love-letter to Crusader chansons and the Gesta Francorum and the first trip I ever took to Turkey and all the unhallowed dead.

Then I proceeded to not sell it to 11 magazines. Somewhere around magazine #8 I knew it was broken, and even knew why, thanks to an astute editor and a kind personal rejection, but was flat-out unable to fix it. By that point I had sold my first story, and was thinking of applying to Viable Paradise. And what was wrong with this story wasn’t a technical skill problem (I could, and did, fix those) but a problem of emotional payoff; I needed there to be an ending to this story which showed progression and change, and yet it was a story about the doom of repetition, and the nature of sin.

It was a theological problem, and up until early 2014 I very truly could not solve it because I could not bring myself to write an ending where surrender was not only permitted but correct.

This is a very Catholic story — I’m a very Jewish person, for all that I don’t practice as much as I could — and sometimes I felt like I was wrestling with God, trying to find a way to let Michel have a way out that did not strike me as ethically monstrous.

I had to be a different person, in a different part of my life — in 2014 I finished my dissertation, I had a romantic relationship which wasn’t innately fraught, my life became a little psychologically more gentle — I felt less in need of god-wrestling, in short. I will likely take up the practice again when it’s the right time. But having a part of my life which contained un-disastrous serenity did give me a chance to find an ending to this story which admitted to some kind of grace.


… well. Personal theological confession time over, have the thematic soundtrack for “Adjuva”: “Hebrews 11:40”, by The Mountain Goats. I’m going to get my perfect body back someday / if not by faith then by the sword / I’m going to be restored —

Publication & sale & blogging news

First: my poem, “Cloud Wall”, is out today in Strange Horizons as part of their Fund Drive Special Issue. Go read, and then go donate. Strange Horizons means a lot to me — it’s how I got back into reading short fiction a couple of years ago — and I’ve found authors I love and reviewers whose minds I’m envious of there. I am so very proud to have a piece with them; even more pleased to help them raise money for another year of SFF. (Besides, if you donate, eventually there’ll be new Ann Leckie and new Alex MacFarlane and a whole bunch of other awesome things in the rest of the Fund Drive issue!)

Second: sold a story! “When The Fall Is All That’s Left”, to Jason Sizemore at Apex, for publication mid-2015. (First pro-rate fiction sale. This is a really good week. I am very happy. And eligible to join SFWA. Which is awesome.)

Third: The brilliant JY Yang — who is one of those authors I found via Strange Horizons, by the way! — dared me on Twitter, or I dared her on Twitter, or we mutually Made A Pact or something, anyway, it was about the fact that there aren’t enough places that review short fiction, and that we like short fiction A LOT, and have thoughts about it, and should blog about it. And then October happened, and October ate my life (my grandmother died, I spent a lot of time traveling, I am teaching three courses and spend most Wednesdays, when I have all three in a row, praying for swift oblivion), and I forgot about it. … and then she went and publicly stated on her blog that she was about to start doing so, and oh, was I reminded. So here’s my public statement that I’m going to try to write about some of the amazing short fiction I read.

Fourth: Did I mention that October ate my life? October ate my life. I am applying to jobs and doing this job and not really writing very much and it’s dreadful and I’m tired of it, so I’m going to write more. And next week I’m going to Istanbul, and if I can’t write a story on a cross-Atlantic flight to one of my favorite places in the world, I can’t write a story anywhere.