Underland Arcana: Deck Two

This month, Underland Press released Underland Arcana: Deck Two, collecting the Underland Arcana stories from the past year. “Bones Placed in Apposition” is among them.

I am very pleased to have this dapper hammerhead sitting on my bookshelf. If you would also like this dapper hammerhead sitting on your bookshelf or swimming on your e-reader, copies can be acquired from the publisher and a range of retailers.

Cover of Underland Arcana Deck Two

The Brave New Weird shortlist

The awesome folks at Tenebrous Press are kicking off a new award anthology showcasing new weird horror. (What is “new weird horror”? Matt and Alex call it “a Horror subgenre focused on progress, creatively capturing themes and questions that bleed into fiction straight from the modern reader’s life and future. It acts as a challenge to break new ground in terms of form and content and to engage with the unknown.”)

I am incredibly stoked that “Used Armor Smell” made the nomination cut. My little story is in some truly excellent company.

Winners will be announced in a few days, and the anthology drops in February.

Award eligibility post, 2022 edition

It’s that time of year again. 2022 is winding down and it’s time to flog award-eligible work—or at least make a note of it in one handy place. So if you’re reading with an eye to nominating for the Hugos, Nebulas, Stokers, Locus, etc., etc., here is a list of my published stories in order from most to least chonky.

“The Relative Positions of Dead Things in the Dark” (approx. 6,900 words) features a family outing on a derelict spacecraft used for crime. It appears in ParSec Issue 4 (July 2022) edited by Ian Whates. You can buy the e-book (or a subscription) from PS Publishing.

“Bones Placed in Apposition” (approx. 2,300 words) is about fossils and scientists with dueling visions of the past. It appears in Underland Arcana Issue 7 (June 2022) edited by Mark Teppo. You can read the story for free online, buy the issue, or buy the anthology that collects this year’s stories.

“Ruminants” (approx. 1,300 words) is about a weird goat roaming around an even weirder California town. It appears as part of the multimedia shared world anthology Los Suelos, CA, a project conceived by Lauren Lavín, Joshua Duke, Ian Kappos, Karter Mycroft, and Barton Aikman, and released upon an unsuspecting world in February 2022. You can read my story online.

“Harriers” (approx. 1,000 words) is about a pair of werewolves on a violent mission. It appears in the flash fiction anthology The Dire Dark (November 2022) edited by Eric Fomley. You can buy the anthology as an ebook or paperback.

“Used Armor Smell” (approx. 1,000 words) is a science fiction story about a squishy human soldier and eir less vulnerable armor. It appears in the flash fiction anthology Dread Space (June 2022) edited by Eric Fomley. You can buy the anthology as an ebook or paperback.

“On the Beach” (approx. 900 words) is a selkie’s experience of love, loss, and climate change. It appears in Wyld Flash (June 2022) edited by Mark Bilsborough. You can read the story for free online.

“In Transit, Beautiful” (approx. 600 words) is a SF-adjacent tale of space junk and determining your place in the universe. It appears in The Antihumanist Issue 3 (January 2022) edited by Tim Dubber. You can read or download the story for free online.

“Detox” (100 words) is about what happens when you’re locked out of your virtual reality. It appears in Martian (August 2022) edited by Eric Fomley. You can read the story for free online later this month or buy the issue.

“Tethered, in Darkness” (100 words) is about a generation starship’s passenger facing the end of the voyage. It appears in Martian (April 2022) edited by Eric Fomley. You can read the story for free online or buy the issue or annual anthology.

I did have other publications in Martian Year One, Underland Arcana Deck Two, and the forthcoming Holiday Leftovers, but those are reprints. I’m no longer eligible for the Astrounding Award (in the nearish future, I will be posting some of the authors who are). For purposes of citizenship and geography, I’m a USian living in Pennsylvania.

Whatever stories and authors you end up nominating, happy reading!

“Harriers”

The Dire Dark is out today, the latest in Shacklebound’s series of flash fiction anthologies. My story about werewolves in a military company is what happens when you start a story too soon, then decide that the opening bit works just fine as a little standalone (and are lucky to find an editor who agrees). You can buy the book from the publisher or Amazon.

Cover of The Dire Dark

A quick note on social media

So…things are not looking that great for Twitter. It’s always been a fraught space, but the prospective sale to Elon Musk raised concerns about it getting worse in certain ways, and now it looks like mismanagement may crash the platform. I’m planning to keep my account active and expect to keep using it until the site becomes unusable (I’m @APHowell) but I’m personally bummed because the one social media platform I make regular use of is going to go the way of…well, previous social media platforms I made regular use of.

I don’t have a lot of followers and don’t follow a lot of people. (This is one of the reasons my description of Twitter as a “hellsite” is affectionate, not a reflection of trauma or real life consequences; not everyone is so lucky.) While I’ve used it for professional networking, I’m not financially incentivized to be on the site. So I count as “bummed.” Other individuals and industries face more existential threats. (Here I’m specifically thinking of authors and the rest of the publishing ecosystem—Jason Sanford’s recently written about this—but those are by no means the only groups effected.) And that’s before we touch on the worldwide implications of the utility and fragility of platforms like Twitter.

Anyway, I doubt I’ll be using another platform as heavily as I’ve sometimes used Twitter, but I figured I should start a list of other places/platforms/modalities where I can be found (or not).

  • Mastodon: A few years ago I joined mastodon.social to check it out. I came to the conclusion that the entire setup was uninteresting (picking a community first remains counterintuitive, and the whole decentralized, federated thing is a barrier to entry/reach/engagement and fraught in many ways). But some folks I follow on Twitter joined wandering.shop, so now I am @aphowell@wandering.shop. I can see myself adding this to my routine checks of forums and suchlike.
  • Dreamwidth: I have one that I use more than any social media platform aside from Twitter…which is not saying much. I plan to continue to use aphowell.dreamwidth.org, though this blog (aphowell.com/blog/) remains my primary.
  • RSS: Why yes, this very blog does have an RSS feed.
  • Tumblr: I was never into Tumblr, though I do have an account (@adainph-blog) I basically never use. Will I use it more now? Doesn’t seem terribly likely, but not impossible.
  • CounterSocial: I joined recently as @APHowell, and so far it looks like a messier Mastodon less tailored to my interests, so I doubt I’ll spend much time attempting to adjust the hems.
  • Cohost: Joined as @aphowell to look around, but they seem to be having some issues and I am not hearing a lot of buzz from people I follow, so right now I suspect this will just be another dormant account.
  • Instagram: Mostly unused, due to being part of the Zuckerverse; I am disinclined to put the app back on my phone. (Though now that it’s offering to let me post images from a desktop, the chances of my using it have risen from “nil” to “not completely impossible.”) Sometimes I look at other people’s pictures. My account is @a.p.howell.
  • Facebook: This one’s a non-starter. I stopped making use of my real life account years ago, due to a combination of decreasing usability, increasing toxicity, genocides, and a disinclination to post kid pictures as they aged.
  • MeWe: I looked into this as a Facebook replacement and based on the groups quickly formed the impression that it was crawling with Nazis. I have zero interest in seeing what it’s like now.
  • TikTok: There are a whole lot of issues with this platform, but the main reason I don’t use it is that I have not made the “pivot to video” as a user, much less a creator.
  • YouTube: Basically everything I said about TikTok applies here, except for longer. I do have an account, as I’m otherwise part of the Google ecosystem, and may end up using it in the future; but for the time being, this is not a good way to find me.
  • Discord: I am on a few servers, including SFWA’s, but have no plans to start one. I tend to swoop in and catch up a bit, rather than spend a lot of time with the thing open.
  • Newsletter: I don’t have one at the moment. I don’t have the bandwidth for writing much original content, and it feels like a dribble of short fiction in magazines and anthologies doesn’t really justify a newsletter. Maybe in the next year or so. (In the meantime, WordPress provides the option to follow the blog via email.)
  • Ko-Fi: I have one @aphowell, but at the moment do not do anything tip-based. (I mean, sure, if you want; but I sell my stories to publication venues, not direct to readers.)
  • Patreon: I had one for a while and basically used it as a place to post pictures of flowers and my late dog. If I have actual grist for the mill, I may resurrect it at some point; but for now, my pattern of output doesn’t justify it.

I think that’s it for now? I’m planning to do some rejiggering to the website in the next couple months, so that’ll maybe give me a chance to decide what the social menu should look like, based on new usage patterns. But in any case, this site will continue to be my primary online home.

Thoughts on witches and bikes and life in general

Elly Blue, the motivating force behind Bikes in Space and editor of most of the volumes, is interviewing contributors to Bicycles & Broomsticks. Those interested in authors’ thoughts on creative endeavors, the meaning of witchcraft, and significant bicycle memories should head on over to the Kickstarter page. My interview went live on Wednesday.

Cover of Bicycles & Broomsticks

“For all that I considered my parents overprotective at the time (and in some ways do even in retrospect), I did have the sort of childhood where I could disappear outside for hours and then come home. Summer was all about bike rides. I couldn’t get to what I considered a destination, but I could ride up and down the street. Sometimes, I would ride with my sister and other neighborhood kids, but many of my memories are from solitary jaunts.”

Kickstart Bicycles & Broomsticks

Bicycles & Broomsticks is the latest entry in Microcosm’s Bikes in Space series of anthologies. As in the previous volumes, these stories share the themes of bikes and feminism; but this time, the secret ingredient is witchcraft.

My story is set in 1890s London at the intersection of middle-class bicycling, Egyptology, occult societies, solitary magical practice, and gendered power dynamics. I had a lot of fun researching and writing it (and editing it—no, really!) and I can’t wait to hold the book.

The Kickstarter funds the publication and adds to base author payment (so buying through the Kickstarter rather than other bookstores will toss a bit extra our way). Aside from me wanting more filthy lucre to buy more books for myself, I’d like to see it succeed for the sake of a quirky small press. As I’m typing, the project’s approaching halfway funded and the campaign continues until October 27th. So if you like bikes, feminism, and witches, please consider backing.

“Detox”

I have a little tale of addiction recovery or living with a disability in Martian Issue 6. (One of the fun things about drabbles is that they’re so short they really highlight how the reader is an active participant in creating the story. There’s just not space to spell everything out.) You can buy the ebook from Amazon or, if you’d rather read online, check out the website on November 21st.

Cover of Martian Issue 6

“The Relative Positions of Dead Things in the Dark”

Last week, ParSec released Issue 4. Individual issues and subscriptions are for sale from PS Publishing. I’m very pleased that my short story, “The Relative Positions of Dead Things in the Dark,” is part of the lineup.

Cover of ParSec Issue 4
Cover art by Vincent Sammy

The main character’s first published appearance was in Wyld Flash a couple years ago; we’ll see if I can pry some additional stories off the hard drive. (It’s…been a bit of a year.)

“Bones Placed in Apposition”

My short story “Bones Placed in Apposition” is available in the Summer issue of Underland Arcana. It’s free to read online, or you can buy it as an ebook or softcover. Issue 7 also includes stories by Scott Edelman, W. T. Paterson, Ben Curl, Mike Robinson, Eric Witchey, D. Thea Baldrick, and Mattia Ravasi.

Cover of Underland Arcana Issue 7
Cover image by thanawong

Some years ago I spent a fair amount of time with the correspondence of nineteenth century scientists. Among them was Isaac Hays, an ophthalmologist who also had a strong interest in natural science, including the study of fossils. (This was not an uncommon hobby among a group of Philadelphia physicians categorized as “extremely quarrelsome” by scholar Keith Thomson.) Hays and G. W. Featherstonehaugh, an English geologist, found themselves on opposite sides of an argument about the classification of one particular set of fossils. Battles were fought in papers and lecture halls, late friends were defended and honor assailed.

Drawing of fragments of a mastodon skull, including tusks and notes indicating dimensions.
A Titian Peale illustration of the fossil in question, from John D. Godman’s “Description of a New Genus and New Species of Extinct Mammiferous Quadruped,” posthumously published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society in 1830.

If you appreciate passive-aggressive sniping—or, for that matter, aggressive sniping—then I really do recommend perusing the primary sources. I obviously find the entire controversy delightful; and, more seriously, it serves to illustrate some of the practical and philosophical issues involved with scientific study in the United States, as well as the country’s negotiation of its relationship with Europe. Nationalism intertwined with the interpretation of the past, invented species roaming a prehistorical landscape. The small fantastical aspect of my story is less a feat of imagination than conjuring an elephant from a few shards of bone.