I don’t often write drabbles, but here is one I did write about climate change, Rosh Hashanah, and resilience.
Check out Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast 0614 to listen to “Kill Switch.” I always think it’s interesting to hear a reader’s choices: pauses, emphasis, etc. In this case I particularly wanted to hear the results because CB Droege is a man, and I had originally pictured my narrator as a woman. (I didn’t specify gender in the story; that was a detail I consciously jettisoned when I cut the piece down to flash length, after deciding a longer version wasn’t working.) I like the version he produced and generally get a kick out of hearing my stories read.
“Kill Switch” originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction, if you’d like to read along while you listen.
In 2017, I started writing-and-finishing things after a pretty long break (and, a couple years later, started submitting some of them). 2017 was a bad time for politics in the United States, and it just kept getting worse. (No, I did not think it would end with hundreds of thousands of excess pandemic deaths and an armed insurrection. In retrospect, I marvel at my optimism.) With all the talk of inhabiting the darkest timeline, my mind turned to time travel—and futility.
The story accidentally came out in play form (well, “play” or “90s Terry Bisson,” depending on your perspective). I decided I liked it, especially since that made it easy to obscure gender and skip physical descriptions. Depending on the combination of gender identity, presentation, race, accent, etc. of the characters, it reads differently. I felt like I’d accidentally performed a Stupid Author Trick. And now the story has a home, nestled among other time travel tales.
My micro story “Coffin Bell” is part of Suddenly Shocking Vol. 13, a bonus episode of The NoSleep Podcast. It’s available to Season 15 pass holders.
This story’s a reprint nobody read: I originally published it on my Patreon, back when I thought I might do something with Patreon. (I mostly posted pictures of flowers and my dog.) It’s neat to hear it produced, with the expected bell-ringing in the background. This is the first time I’ve had a story appear as part of a podcast.
It’s National Science Fiction Day, apparently because this is when we think Isaac Asimov was probably born, more or less.
I’m not a big fan of policing genre boundaries. That’s partially because it’s an exercise in futility, partially because of the toxicity often motivating such impulses. (Counting FTL and psionics as science fictional, and shuffling sciences other than physics and engineering into the oft-denigrated “soft” category, speaks much more to the highly specific development of the literary field than it does to any sort of foundation in reality.) But mostly, it’s just because I don’t much care. I’m a fan of everything that falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction.
That said, three of my stories from last year fall pretty recognizably into the science fiction genre. I invite you to read them in celebration of a hashtag holiday.
The fourth annual Little Blue Marble anthology is out now. It collects stories published during 2020, including my own “Digital Pyre.” Proceeds help keep the webzine up, running, and paying pro rates. The print edition ships soon; the digital version is available almost instantaneously. Pick up a copy at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble or Kobo. If you would like to curl up and read on this darkest night, in this darkest of years, in this darkest of timelines, you can find some hopeful words here.
Corvid Queen announced their Pushcart nominations today. I’m very pleased that my story “Changeling” is on the list. The other nominees are “Plucked” by Tara Calaby, “The Giving Limbs” by Briana Garelli, “Beauty Pretends to Get Lost in the Garden” by Quinn Lui, “In Which His Sea Bride Regrets” by Kim Welliver, and “The Magic in Her Bones” by Rin Willis.
For those previously unaware, the Pushcart Prize highlights work published by small presses and the Pushcart Press publishes an annual Best Of series that began in 1976. Editors nominate up to six pieces published during the calendar year. On the one hand, that means a lot of authors are nominated for the Pushcart Prize. One the other hand, it means an editor, after selecting pieces from the slush pile, chose the nominated pieces as their favorites from the winnowed pile. That sort of validation feels very nice.
As 2020 slouches toward its end, authors pause their doomscrolling and conscientiously abandon their works in progress for a few moments (note: this is career-related, and therefore absolutely entirely nothing at all like procrastination). They assemble links, quash their self-consciousness, and hurl self-promoting posts into the aether before diving under a blanket.
It just so happens that several of my short stories have been published this year, so I too shall participate in this hallowed tradition. This is my list of 2020 stories, in order of longest to shortest:
“5:37” (~2,700 words) is a story about memory, professional practice, and a haunted VHS tape. The (fantasy? humor? horror?) story appears in the August issue of Translunar Travelers Lounge, edited by Bennett North and Aimee Ogden. It’s free to read online, or you can purchase an ebook and support the magazine. Charles Payseur has some kind words for the story (“…poignant, funny, and sharp all at the same time” and “It’s a careful and charming narrative and voice, and it’s a wonderful read!”) in Quick Sip Reviews.
“Like Gold Upon Her Tongue” (~2,600 words) is a story about disordered eating and getting something you didn’t even know you hoped for—at a price. The dark fantasy/horror story is available in the anthology XVIII: Stories of Mischief & Mayhem, edited by Mark Teppo, which can be purchased as a paperback or ebook from the usual retailers. The book deserves some love: aside from the fact that I quite enjoyed the other stories in it, XVIII launched on March 20th, when the proverbial shit was really beginning to hit the equally proverbial fan.
“Shared Space” (~1,750 words) is a story about cubicles, community, and the magic of connection. The gently fantastic story is included in the anthology Community of Magic Pens, edited by E.D.E. Bell, available as a paperback or ebook from the publisher or the usual retailers. This is another anthology that deserves love; it’s relentlessly hopeful, with more than a few gems between its covers.
“Changeling” (~1,500 words) is a story of love, loss, and adoption. This fantasy story is free to read in Corvid Queen, edited by Kay Allen. I like the way this journal takes advantage of its electronic format to offer thoughtful categorization and multiple methods of organization so readers can encounter works via different pathways.
“Digital Pyre” (~1,250 words) is a story of data, memory, and sacrifice in the face of climate catastrophe. This cli-fi/near-future science fiction story is free to read in Little Blue Marble, edited by Katrina Archer. The story will also be included in Little Blue Marble‘s annual anthology (this will be the fourth annual anthology, with proceeds helping to support the magazine).
“Purple Lizard Skin” (~1,000 words) is a short tale set in a hospital waiting room, where technology means almost anything can be repaired—but not necessarily healed. This science fiction story is free to read on the Wyldblood Press website where it was published as part of the weekly Wyld Flash feature, edited by Mark Bilsborough. The series is a good way to spend a few minutes on Fridays.
“Kill Switch” (~600 words) is a story about biotech, professionalization, and evil. This science fiction story is free to read in Daily Science Fiction, edited by Jonathan Laden and Michele Barasso. What can be said about DSF? It’s a long-running magazine that publishes a lot of stories, with a mix of big names and newcomers, and it was a pleasure to see my byline appear here for the first time in January.
Whether or not you choose to nominate or vote for any of my stories, whether or not you’re voting for awards at all, I hope you’ll click on some of these links—in this post or other authors’. There’s a lot of good stuff out this year. Here’s hoping that you find the right story for you, at just the right moment.
ETA: I’m also in the first year of eligibility for the Astounding Award.
I neglected to post last week, but my SF story “Purple Lizard Skin” was Wyldblood‘s Friday Flash and is free to read on the site. It’s the first time this byline’s appeared in a publication based outside of North America. That doesn’t much matter when so much of short fiction publishing is online, but is still a random fact that pleases me.
My short story “Changeling” is now available to read in Corvid Queen.
The concept of changelings is fertile ground for fiction. It’s a way to discuss loss, theft, disability, and deception, prompting characters to question their own perceptions or belonging. In my short tale, I wanted to bring in adoption (an emotionally fraught process even when all parties are mortal and consenting), and the constant anxiety of parenting.