“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.

“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.

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.

“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.