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.

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.

“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.

r/Fantasy’s Virtual Con

Reddit’s r/Fantasy is hosting Virtual Con events, and despite having given the site many side-eyes in the past I’m going to pop in on Thursday, March 26. Atthis Arts will be doing an AMA, and I’ll be there in my capacity as a contributor to Community of Magic Pens and out of curiosity to hear what they’re up to with other projects. If this sounds like your sort of thing, please do swing by and say hello.

r/Fantasy Virtual Con schedule for March 21 - 27

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.