“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 tor.com 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. 😀

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“The Demon Vivienne Explains Volitional Geography” at Through The Gate

I have a poem out in Issue 8 of Through The Gate today, in a ToC with amazing poets I’m very honored to be next to!

The Demon Vivienne Explains Volitional Geography

I guess I am actually a poet now, instead of a person who accidentally wrote a poem once. Twice is getting to be a habit. This one is a short poem on the variable nature of hells. (And the variable nature of empire, but then what do I write that isn’t about that?)

“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 —

“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!