“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.

“On the Beach”

My short tale of grief, climate change, and selkies is live on the Wyldblood website. I’ve always liked the idea of a selkie (or similar fae creature) hitting the spousal jackpot; but it’s hard to be completely optimistic in the current (literal and figurative) climate.

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.

“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.