My flash story “Family Dinner” is out today in the third issue of Underland Arcana. It’s free to read online. You can also buy the issue as an ebook or paperback and support the cool stuff Mark Teppo’s doing with Underland Press.
So far, my stories for Underland are 2 for 2 incorporating unhealthy relationships with food—let that serve as a content warning and promise that the third story will deal with different themes. “Family Dinner” was inspired by a different publication’s flash contest; the prompt was Dorothea Tanning’s Portrait de famille.
Check out Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast0614 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.
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.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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.