“Coffin Bell”: The NoSleep Podcast

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.

National Science Fiction Day

It’s National Science Fiction Day, apparently because this is when we think Isaac Asimov was probably born, more or less.

NASA image of "rose" galaxies, with the text "January 2 2021" and "National Science Fiction Day."

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.

“Kill Switch”

“Digital Pyre”

“Purple Lizard Skin”

Little Blue Marble 2020: Greener Futures

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.

Cover of Little Blue Marble 2020: Greener Futures

Pushcart nomination

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.

The obligatory awards post

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.

“Purple Lizard Skin”: Wyldblood

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.

“Changeling”: Corvid Queen

My short story “Changeling” is now available to read in Corvid Queen.

A hand cupping a baby's feet. The blanket-wrapped baby and adult holding them are out of focus in the background.
Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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.

“5:37”: Translunar Travelers Lounge

Issue Three of Translunar Travelers Lounge went live on August 15. In addition to the free-to-read online format, it’s also available as an ebook from Amazon. My short story “5:37” is on the menu (one of four Jasmine Luna Blends, “subtle in scent and sweet in flavor”).

Translunar Travelers Lounge Issue 3 cover

The story’s basic concept is a decades-old joke about The Ring and technological obsolescence. Its writing was strongly influenced by my having happened to think about John Landis and gotten mad all over again about terrible labor practices and preventable accidents and how The Twilight Zone is a piece of gruesome trivia rather than (minimally) a career-ender. Some people are allowed to fail over and over again, and fail up, and escape the reasonable consequences of their actions.

That’s part of the reason I wanted to make my characters women of color, and why I wanted to give them the opportunity to escape the unreasonable consequences of others’ actions.

I also wanted to play around a bit with professional practice. Archives have historically been a site of power. The people who are documented, remembered, mourned, and memorialized tend to be the same people who are allowed to fail (overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, rich white men).

There has been professional push-back against that historical reality, including efforts to document previously undocumented voices, collect and highlight material created by or relating to marginalized groups, and assist communities and individuals who wish to maintain their own archives outside of established institutions. (The degree and success of this push-back is a whole other question; but this is a blog post about a short story, not an article about the history of the field.) I wanted to put my archivist firmly in the midst of that conversation.

And here I must apologize for some artistic decisions that may be difficult for archivists to accept. The fictional article abstract is rather over-expansive. A case study would stand as an article of its own. I should also point out that using “Tai Soo-jin (Spirit)” in the finding aid is something of an anachronism. When I entered the field, Describing Archives: A Content Standard included guidance on spirit communication along with various other name forms, but that chapter was removed from DACS in 2013. I am not sure what the current standard for spirit communication may be, but I always wanted to make use of that particular technical guideline. I hope readers are willing to suspend their disbelief.

“Digital Pyre”: Little Blue Marble

“Digital Pyre” is online at Little Blue Marble.

I used to be an archivist; some of my work involved digitizing materials. There are constant sighs (or screams) within the field at the assumption that archivists should digitize everything. Professionally speaking, throwing things away is an important function. We’re living in an era of ubiquitous information. Not everything can be saved; not everything should be saved.

The energy devoted to data centers is a real concern. While this isn’t something only archivists need to think about, it is discussed within the field. There are professional affinity groups dedicated to climate issues. And archivists, who among other things are memory workers, are also concerned with the trauma of the Anthropocene.

Story illustration featuring servers looming atop the Earth, with a background of clouds and digitized text, and a "Delete this permanently?" dialog box in the foreground
Credit: Composite by Katrina Archer via Depositphotos

Patrons of Little Blue Marble had the chance to read “Digital Pyre” earlier this week. Sneak peeks are among the goodies available through the website’s Patreon. So if you’re interested in cli-fi sci-fi and being First, that’s something to keep in mind when deciding which creative projects to support.

Many thanks are due to Katrina Archer, whose editorial nips and tucks made the story stronger. And more Canadian.

Glitter and Hope StoryBundle

The Glitter and Hope Bundle, curated by Cat Rambo, is available from StoryBundle. It’s a pay-what-you-want/can model, starting at $5, and you’ll receive DRM-free ebooks.

Collage of the covers of the books available in the Glitter and Hope Bundle

I originally conceived of it as a hopepunk centered bundle, but as I sorted through possibilities, I found less punk than plenty of hopeful stories that reminded me that hope comes in all sorts of forms, not all of them as in your face as hopepunk…So this is a bundle centered on hope with a touch of glitter, rather than grit, and I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did. It’s a range of flavors as well as forms: novels, including some beginnings; connected short stories; sequential novellas; and an anthology of stories connected by theme.

Cat Rambo

The anthology mentioned is Community of Magic Pens; I’m proud to be a part of it, and it’s one of the bonus books you unlock at $15. The rest of the bundle features titles by E.D.E. Bell, Rebecca Diem, Seb Doubinsky, Jason A. Holt, Alanna McFall, Susan Kaye Quinn, Cat Rambo, Joan Marie Verba, and M. Darusha Wehm. It’s on sale for the next two weeks.

So if you find yourself in need of a little hope nestled in your reading-device-of-choice, this may be a good use of a few bucks.