“Used Armor Smell”

Today you can pick up a copy of Dread Space, an anthology of flash length dark military science fiction stories. My story “Used Armor Smell,” about armor more rugged than its wearer, is included.

Cover of Dread Space

When choosing pronouns for nonbinary characters in the past, I’ve defaulted to they/them. It’s a somewhat lazy decision: most nonbinary folks I know use they/them, and as a reader and writer I find they/them more transparent than other sets of pronouns. But in this case, I decided to use Spivak pronouns. Partially, it’s about variety in my writing; on general principles, I should be employing different pronoun sets (including this one, which has been in use for decades). But here, it also serves the story.

My point-of-view character’s gender is completely irrelevant. However, this was a case where I specifically wanted to avoid “they.” Yes, singular they is in widespread use and has a long history as part of the English language. But sentient machines are common in science fiction, as is the merging of human and machine consciousnesses. I quite enjoy those explorations of sentience, but in this case I wanted to make it very explicit that the human is a human and the machine is a machine, a tool of humans, not an artificial intelligence.

Martian: Year One

Martian: Year One is an anthology collecting all the drabbles from Martian Magazine‘s first year. I’m pleased that two of my stories—“Honey and Apples” and “Tethered, In Darkness”—are included.

Cover spread for the print edition of Martian: Year One

Buying the anthology is a great way to support the magazine, so if you like very short stories (and a robust short fiction market), please consider picking up a copy.

Underland Arcana: Deck One

This reprint anthology was a December release, but it’s still worth crowing about. The book collects all the stories published in the first year of Underland Arcana. My contributions—the short story “Wayfinding” and the flash “Family Dinner”—are in excellent company.

Book opened to "Wayfinding" and the Three of Wands from the Murder of Crows Tarot
Three of Wands, Murder of Crows Tarot, Corrado Roi and Charles Harrington
Book opened to "Family Dinner" with the Five of Cups from the Tarot of the Divine
Five of Cups, Tarot of the Divine, Yoshi Yoshitani

Tarot cards were included with the contributors’ copies, as a special treat. Mark Teppo is having fun with Underland’s Tarot-themed publications, and I’m glad I came along for the ride.

The anthology is available as a trade paperback or ebook (or as a paperback/ebook bundle if you order from the publisher) and can be found at the usual vendors.

Deck One cover

Release day for In Somnio

Okay, it’s been a bit of a staged release. I know some folks have already received physical copies and ebooks were available last week, but now the anthology is available for everyone in every format. The publisher, Tenebrous Press, has trade paperbacks; Godless and Amazon have ebooks. If you’re in the mood for Gothic feels, check it out, and I hope you enjoy my story “Always an After.”

In Somnio cover
Cover art by Sally Contirino

Kickstarting Modern Gothic Horror

In Somnio: A Collection of Modern Gothic Horror, with my short story “Always an After,” will be published by Tenebrous Press. The Kickstarter campaign is about to enter its final week.

In Somnio cover
Cover art by Sally Contirino

The anthology is edited by Alex Woodroe and will contain a number of cool illustrations. How many illustrations? That’s still up for debate. The project reached its Kickstarter goal, so now we’re into stretch goal territory. The first stretch goal will add more illustrations (plus a modest bump in author payment). The second stretch goal will add yet more illustrations (plus bookplates for the hardcover), and the third will fund a pair of 2022 novellas.

In an effort to flog the Kickstarter, Alex has published a number of author interviews and readings. My interview is a bit spoilery (so if you care about that and plan to pick up the anthology you may wish to skip it for now). I don’t do a lot with video—I never made that pivot (but did anyone, really?) and I’m not terribly fond of my voice—but I figured if I had a largely empty cabin closet with a bare bulb, it’d be a shame not to make use of it. (Sitting in an upstairs closet with an incandescent bulb in August can get a little warm. Never let it be said that I do not suffer for the promotion of art.)

So if indie presses and “a collection of modern Gothic horror” are your sort of thing, please swing by the Kickstarter and back the project. If you’re reading this after the campaign ends on September 2, check out the Tenebrous website or the bookseller of your choice.

“Now and Then and Back Again: A Play of Three Acts”: The Chorochronos Archives

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.

Cover of The Chorochronos Archives

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

“Shared Space”: Community of Magic Pens

Today is the official publication date of Community of Magic Pens. You can find the anthology at various retailers—Amazon, Bookshop, Kobo, etc.—or buy direct from the publisher, Atthis Arts.

This project has been a delight. I was charmed when I saw the Kickstarter. A lot of the stories kicking around in my head have trended dark, lately, and this was a nice break. The editorial back-and-forth was great—I don’t think I’ve ever had a story edited so thoroughly or thoughtfully (note that I’m not just counting the short list of fiction under this byline). At some point, I told Emily that the anthology and production experience felt like the indie press equivalent of Bob Ross. Just contemplating it made me feel warm and fuzzy. (Admit it, you felt the same way when you read the name “Bob Ross.”) Some days, we all need happy little trees.

In 2020, we could use a forest.

Cover art for Community of Magic Pens

That brings me around to my story, “Shared Space.” Set in a cube farm, it’s about cubicle life. All the little ways that people negotiate fitting into corporate culture without sacrificing their individuality, all the tiny ways they find satisfaction, all the small soul-sucking realities, and the surprising ways that community can sneak up on you.

I began writing the story at the end of last year, shortly after I started a new job. (The bio in the book states that I currently work in a cubicle. That was true when the book went into production, though I was subsequently among the millions of folks laid off.) While less than fulfilling, in the manner of many jobs, I still kind of liked it. People were friendly, the cube farm wasn’t bad for a cube farm, my executive function largely executed, and there was sufficient flexibility and personal interactions that I could work there without constantly being confronted by my status as cog. As has been noted, we are steeped in capitalism no less thoroughly than the divine right of kings. Finding a not-uncomfortable niche within that system relieves some of its stresses, and writing the story was kind of a way of saying “this is fine.”

“Shared Space” has now become historical fiction. The idea of routine work in a cube farm no longer computes. Maybe in a year, after a vaccine and widespread testing and contact tracing, the old normal might be somewhat conceivable. But none of those things are in the offing in the United States, though other countries are dealing with the pandemic more successfully. Aside from the practical barrier, there is also the emotional landscape: will people accept working at close quarters after this, or be forced to do so—or will this be a catalyst for positive systemic change? Either way, there is likely to be fear, and masks, and (as always) disproportionate suffering of marginalized groups.

Some events make for a bright-line “before” and “after,” and a pandemic most surely counts as one of those events. We can’t be certain how this moment will be remembered, but we know that it will cast a shadow. Plagues can make themselves felt through silences and absences, no less than detailed data and vivid accounts.

And so at least for me, one minuscule piece of remembering this time will be to see how rapidly a story I wrote changed from a picture of banal drudgery to one of a happier past. Memory, like community, has a way of sneaking up on you.

Cover and TOC: Community of Magic Pens

Cover art for Community of Magic PensIt’s time for updates on Community of Magic Pens, edited by E.D.E. Bell, coming in May from Atthis Arts (and available for preorder now). The cover art was revealed, in a low-key fashion, on Twitter. It’s by Journey, a young Detroit-based artist. (She also produced artwork for the Kickstarter campaign.) It’s happy and charming and cartoonish in all the right ways.

My story about cubicle life will share a table of contents with work by Z. Ahmad, J. S. Bailey, E.D.E. Bell, Gustavo Bondoni, Kella Campbell, Minerva Cerridwen, ZZ Claybourne, M. R. DeLuca, Anthony W. Eichenlaub, Joy Givens, Beth Goder, Ethan Hedman, Andrew K Hoe, Victoria Hollis, Stella B. James, M. Kaur, Ava Kelly, Robert Kingett, Adam Kissel, N.R. Lambert, Nicole J. LeBoeuf, Gerri Leen, Lawrence Miller, Avery Montavon, Ether Nepenthes, Lena Ng, Robert Perez, Mikko Rauhala, Rai Rocca, Jennifer Lee Rossman, Lorraine Schein, Holly Schofield, Elizabeth Shaffer, Jannae’ Sifontes, K. Alysee Simon, D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Tlotlo Tsamaase, Vijay Varman, and Dawn Vogel.

Community of Magic Pens

I’m very pleased to announce that my short story “Shared Space” will appear in Community of Magic Pens. I think the anthology’s going to be a lot of fun (I backed it on Kickstarter before submissions opened). It’s available for preorder now, with publication expected in May.