Tag Archives: Fiction

Awards Eligible Stories for 2014

With a just week left in the year, my last original stories for 2014 have hit the presses. That means it’s time to make my first-ever awards eligibility list!

As a new author, writing this list was full of good memories: of the writing buddies who critted these stories, the editors and publishers who took a chance on me and improved the stories further during copyediting, and most of all the readers who took the time to enjoy the end product. To all of you, I want to thank you for sharing this journey with me.

I’m currently reading for the short story category of the Nebulas and Hugos. If you’re an author, which short story of yours from 2014 should I be sure to catch? If you’re a reader, what caught your eye? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add it to my reading list.

If you’d like to consider some of my work for an award, I’ve listed my awards-eligible stories below. This is also my first year of Campbell Award eligibility. If you are voting this year, please feel free to contact me for a review copy of anything not freely available online. And if your time is limited, I might suggest you check out “Makeisha In Time” and “The Mercy of Theseus” as a starting point.

Original Short Stories Published in 2014:

Short Fiction Extravaganza!

If you’d like to read some free science fiction, a few of my stories have appeared online over the last month at some great e-zines. If you check them out, let me know what you thought!

“Mamihlapinatapei” at Crossed Genres

“On Navarino Island off the coast of Chile, Marta mops outside the tyrannosaurus habitat as the tourists press in to see the dinosaurs.”

This is a near-future / alternate history story about dinosaurs, janitors, and language extinction. The Yaghan people and language really exist, although in real life, there is only one true native speaker left, Cristina Calderon (a native speaker is a person who grew up speaking a language instead of learning it later in life). When she dies, Yaghan will become a dead language, like Latin.

You can hear Cristina say a few words in Yaghan in this video, which directly inspired this story. The rather paternalistic and condescending men who interview her were almost as much of an influence as Cristina on the themes of my story.

“Ten Wretched Things About Influenza Siderius” at Daily Science Fiction

“Influenza siderius begins as a general malaise. That is always the first symptom”.

I wrote this story when everyone in my online writing group simultaneously got sick across the different states and countries we live in. I won’t spoil it by saying more, but check out my author comments at the end for some more notes on its genesis.

“Makeisha In Time” at Crossed Genres

“A woman unafraid to die can do anything she wants. A woman who can endure starvation and pain and deprivation can be her own boss, set her own agenda. The one thing she cannot do is to make them remember she did it.”

I wrote this story specifically for Crossed Genres after their Twitter feed mentioned they’d only received 25% woman-authored stories in slush so far for their Time Travel issue, an unusual gap. I’d recently read Kameron Hurley’s Hugo-nominated essay on the historical erasure of women, “We Have Always Fought”. (hear the author read it in audio here!). I’d also just discovered the Medieval PoC Tumblr, which is dedicated to counteracting the myth of a historically whitewashed Europe by sharing artwork that proves otherwise.

The result was this story, the tale of a woman, a person of color, who battles the forces of historical erasure, selective memory, and time itself for the right to her legacy. If you enjoy it, I highly recommend you check out Hurley’s essay and Medieval PoC, where you can read about the real people Makeisha is based on.

Women Destroy Science Fiction: A Photo Blog

IT’S IN! IT’S IN! IT’S INNNNN! My print copy of Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! just arrived in the mail!

And wow, am I excited. It’s gorgeous. Gorrrrrrgeous! I mean, the pictures are IN COLOR! Just look how happy I am, I can’t even:

WDSFarrives

So what’s a girl to do with her WDSF? Welcome it to the family properly, of course! I present a brief photo blog of WDSF’s first day at my house. Special thanks to Jason for helping with the photos.

We kicked the morning off with tea with Mom and Grandma.

tea

Then we got to work doing what women do best: SCIENCE!!!!

doingscience

 

Jason managed to grab some quality reading time in all the fun…

mendestroy

 

…as did I.

Reading

 

Finally, it’s off to bed! But first, a little Captain Marvel:

bedtime

All the Updates!

Yes, THAT Rachael K. Jones! (Photo credit: Penumbra)

Hello, hello, blogosphere! It’s been a couple months since my last update, and that’s because I’ve been busy with some exciting things!

The first big announcement: You probably guessed it from the photo above, but I made my first pro fiction sale a couple of weeks ago to Penumbra! My story, “Photon Girl Ascending,” is forthcoming in their May Superheroes-themed issue. I’m very excited about this, since it’s a big benchmark in my writing career, and I have been learning a lot in the process. I have also been invited to write a guest post for the Penumbra blog. I’ll be sure to link it for you when it goes live.

And if that wasn’t enough, a week later, I made my second pro sale to Daily Science Fiction! I haven’t yet gotten the scheduled release date for this story yet, but I’ll talk more about that when I have details. If you’d like, click over their site now and subscribe (it’s free!) to receive a story in your inbox every day.

I have much to say about both these stories, but I’ll say a few more words about them once they have been published, along with links so you can enjoy them firsthand.

I plan to do some more blogging in the near future, too, but probably won’t get back into a good schedule for another 3-4 weeks (because things are really busy right now). But when I return, it will be with a full blog tune-up, just in time for the one-year anniversary of this blog. I will be updating everything across the site and adding some new features (such as a bibliography!). I also have some interesting new stories to tell you, both fictional and factual.

What have you been up to in the past few weeks? What’s been happening on your blog?

Motley Microfiction: Happy Birthday

Today I congratulate you on another successful trip around the sun!

May your next trip be better

faster

wilder

so you have to dig your nails into the dirt as the orbit rolls on

all seven billion of us screaming

in harmony as the planets stream past…

one! two! eight!

…the trees torched by friction

the windowpanes shattered

the Rockies worn down to nubs

us huddled in our bomb shelters praying for mercy…

…and when you wake up on your birthday next year,

we’ll say

“My, how the year flew by

and anyway weren’t we just celebrating your birthday yesterday?”

——————————————————————————————–

Today is the birthday of my wonderful little sister, Kristin! I wrote this by way of celebration. Kristin, I hope your next trip around the sun is a wonderful one, and lasts longer than 24 hours, because otherwise we’re all going to need a landscaper to take care of all the damage from your wild, wild “year”!

Now go eat something shaped like a dinosaur. Now.

File:CakeGaga5Serbia.jpg

Motley Microfiction: Abode of the Darned!

“Our unique corner of the afterlife was once part of our larger neighbor,” explained Damon, steering the New Arrivals Bus through Heck. “At first they considered the darnations typos, but over time we distinguished ourselves through mildly unpleasant torture of our clientele: rappists and pedophobes mostly, with your occasional grammar Nazi.

“Across our heckscape, the darned endure an eternity of daytime TV, Taco Bell, and N*Sync.”

Suddenly, a tire blew. “Dang it to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks! Fu–” shouted Damon. He clapped his hands over his mouth.

Too late. A maw opened beneath the bus, and from it, the smell of fudge…

———————————————————————————————–

The road to Heck is paved with good intentions…

It’s been a while since my last microfiction, huh? Well, here’s something a bit goofy to start off your week!

Language and linguistics is an area of special interest to me, as both a writer and a professional in the world of literacy. One thing I find particularly interesting is the way “bad words”– that is, profanity or taboo words — operate in cultures around the world.

For example, I remember when I was learning my first non-native language, and how much we children loooooved learning all the naughty words in Italian. We would spend whole lunch breaks with our Italian-to-English dictionaries hunting down all the words we weren’t supposed to say in English, but were somehow okay in Italian because no one knew what we were saying.

There is something about separating the sounds and meanings that takes the sting out of those words.

I rather wonder if that’s why we have words like “darn” and “heck”, surrogate words that let us communicate frustration and anger without the full extent of the ill-will behind the words. After all, it’s not a very nice thing to wish hell or damnation on anyone.

But what if the intention carried over, anyway? What if all we’ve done is to wish a place called Heck into existence, and proceeded to darn everyone to it? And what if it’s filled with Grammar Nazis? Oh, the horrors!

What is your opinion on taboo words, and the funny things we say to avoid them? Got a favorite example?

Privilege at the Classics Cafe

Imagine that you are a chef. You and a group of chef friends are going to dinner at a place called the Classics Cafe. This cafe is famous for its rotating schedule of internationally-renowned chefs who take turns each night preparing a menu for the diners.

Tonight, Chef Lovecraft is on the menu. You all order, receive your dishes, and begin to eat. You’re enjoying yourselves very much until your friend Bill, who happens to be a black man, exclaims, “Hey, there’s crap in my food!” He passes around his plate, and sure enough, you all see a small amount of feces buried underneath the smoked fish. Everyone checks their own plates, and it’s the strangest thing: only the people of color have been served crap along with their fish. So you call the waiter over, and he explains that Chef Lovecraft’s philosophy is to serve a little crap to his diners of color, and nothing can be done about it.

But you’re all hungry, and Lovecraft after all is a very famous chef, so you all discuss what to do. “The taste isn’t that bad,” says Bill, gamely putting on a smile as he takes another bite. “I think I can eat around it and enjoy the taste anyway.”

“I can’t,” says your friend Lisa, who is also black. “The taste and smell just overwhelm everything. It’s so distracting I can’t even concentrate on whatever it is people rave about when they eat Lovecraft. I’m going to have to pass.” She politely shoves the plate away and nibbles on bread the rest of the meal. The other people of color take various positions along this spectrum. Some decide to keep eating, and some decide to refrain.

Those of you whose dishes are perfectly edible then discuss how to proceed. Everyone can see the crap on your friends’ plates, but you can’t taste it the way they can. You care about these people, so you’re disgusted on their behalf, but you’re not really sure just exactly how bad it tastes for them, especially considering how wildly opinions vary within the group of people served the tainted plates.

Some of you decide to enjoy Lovecraft’s expertly prepared dish anyway after acknowledging the awfulness some of your friends experienced. You’re chefs, after all, and you’re trying to build your palates so you can be better chefs.

Others are a little more bothered, and keep pulling the conversation from the smoky flavor back to the crap, which irritates those who just want to talk about the fish. Your Uncle Stanley (who is boorish and inconsiderate, but hey, he’s family) is one of the latter. He exclaims, “That’s not crap–it’s chocolate! And if it weren’t for all the political correctness, we’d all be able to enjoy our meals, but some people just want to be victims and ruin it for the rest of us!”

A few are so upset by the crap in their own or friends’ food that they gather their things and leave, saying they’ll rejoin you for dinner next week. Your 17-year-old niece Julie takes the opportunity to leave with them, saying, “I don’t want to eat this boring old racist Lovecraft crap when I can just grab a cheeseburger at McKoontz’s across the street!”

Each week you return to the same restaurant with the same people to eat a meal prepared by a different famous chef. Sometimes everyone gets to enjoy the meal, but other times the featured chef singles out certain people at the table for a serving of crap. Sometimes it’s the people of color. Sometimes it’s your female friends, or those belonging to a certain religion or belief system. Some friends end up eating crap almost every time this happens, while others almost never get served crap.

The size of the portion, and how well-hidden it is, varies as well. On some weeks, even Uncle Stanley admits that the crap is there. Other times, you have only your friends’ word to go on that the food tastes like crap, because it’s been incorporated into a glaze and therefore isn’t visible to you.

One night, Chef Atwood is on the menu. She serves your table a delicious chocolate mousse that’s shaped like a large pile of crap, provoking a chorus of delighted laughter from everyone who’s been served crap up until then. Uncle Stanley, however, is outraged. “This is unacceptable! Back in my day, no self-respecting chef would serve the diners crap and call it food!”

—————————————————————————-

How do we, in good conscience, enjoy classic books and movies that contain oppressive and discriminatory elements in them? And how do we know where to draw the line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” when those elements are directed at other people, but not at ourselves personally?

I’ve long struggled for words to explain the difference between seeing oppression and experiencing it. For example, I’m white. When I read classics that contain racist elements (such as those by the famously racist H. P. Lovecraft), the racism is never directed at me personally. I might find the racism tasteless, but I don’t experience the hurtfulness of it personally because the crap was not served to me.

I’m really troubled by the way this distinction can make me minimize other peoples’ pain. Because I only see the crap but don’t personally taste it, I’m inclined to downplay just how bad it tastes to those who have to eat it. It’s easy to shrug, write off the racism as a product of its time, and move on.

That’s a form of privilege. Specifically, the privilege to walk away. You see, I almost never encounter the subject of racism in my day-to-day life. I only have to think about it when someone else brings it up, or when I encounter it in media. Therefore, it doesn’t carry the same sort of sting for me as it does for someone whose daily life constantly makes their race an issue.

I have no idea what that must feel like. I can see the crap, but I can’t taste it. I can walk away from it.

But it’s different when the crap is served to me. When I run across sexism in a book or movie, I have a deep, visceral reaction to it. It completely derails my enjoyment of what I’m reading, and sometimes I find it very difficult to get past the flavor of the sexism to enjoy what good might be there. Sometimes I’ll compare notes with my male friends, and it always surprises me that even when they notice the sexism, they just don’t seem to understand how hurtful it is. They note it, then move past it.

They can’t taste the crap because it was only served to me.

So what can we do to be responsible readers, writers, and friends, given this problem?

As writers, we can commit to ending oppression by ensuring that we don’t single out readers for a special serving of crap. Given that we’re all products of our upbringing and our surrounding culture, this is an ongoing process and part of growing as a human being.

As readers and friends, we need to listen to each other and acknowledge when a friend gets served crap. There is no need to make excuses for the chef–he or she is the one who served it, not us or our friends.

We need to give people permission to make their own decisions on how to proceed with the meal. If someone is served crap, the diner is not obligated to eat around it, although some may graciously choose to do so. Sometimes, we will decide to enjoy the meal after helping the friend pick out the tainted parts. Other times, when the crap is especially bad, we may decide the best thing to do is to leave together. And other times, it means letting some eat and others pass without judgment on either side.

How do you handle dining at the Classics Cafe? How do you approach literature with problematic elements, and the people those elements are directed at hurting?

A Christmas Elegy: Advent Ghosts 2013

“A Christmas Elegy”

A funeral on Christmas Eve will forever haunt you.

Your uncle’s eyes closed now and forever. Those hands, which once shaped shadows with his ghost stories and supported you like a crutch, folded upon a lifeless breast.

Before you fall asleep exhausted by weeping, you’ll find yourself longing for ghosts. Haunt me, you pray. Terrify me, convict me, but don’t leave me alone.

When the clock strikes one, the spirit will visit: your merry uncle, Christmas personified, reborn once a year on the day he loved best.

Tiny no longer, you climb upon his lap for one more ghost story.

——————————————————————————————————

Candles

This story was written as part of Loren Eaton’s “Advent Ghosts 2013” shared storytelling event! Check out Loren’s site for other great ghost stories written around a holiday theme, going live all over the blogosphere today. Make sure to check back often as he’ll be adding contributions as they come in.

Can you write a 100-word ghost story?

Best of the Drabblecast

If you're not listening to the Drabblecast, yo...

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a fanatic devotion to the Drabblecast, a podcast that produces a great speculative fiction story each week. I’ve been gradually working through all 300 episodes of the archives since I started listening a year ago, and as of last month, I’ve finally caught up. And what better way to celebrate such a thoroughly enjoyable year of listening than by making a “Best of” list?

Therefore I present to you some of my favorite episodes picked from the first 300. I say “some” because my initial list had over 40 episodes on it, but I’ve forced myself to pick just 20 for this list. I’ve also left out of the rankings the Drabblecast B-Sides episodes (I may do a separate list for them) and episodes that featured classic speculative fiction stories (I’ve put a few favorites on their own list at the end). If you’ve not listened to the Drabblecast yet, any of these episodes would be a great place to start. If you do give them a listen, be sure to let me know what you thought.

My Top 20 Drabblecast Episodes:

  1. Drabblecast 211 – At the End of the Hall –  Easily my #1 pick, both because it has one of the best readings I’ve ever heard on a podcast, and because it makes me cry like a baby every time I hear it. It’s incredibly life-affirming.
  2. Drabblecast 043 – Jelly Park – A very close second, this story best captures everything I’ve come to associate with the Drabblecast: how strange things sometimes feel like home. Are you the kind of person who mopes alone after a bad breakup, or are you a bus driver who hums to herself all day, because you have a secret?
  3. Drabblecast 129 – Annabelle’s Alphabet – A moving story married to flawless production. It’ll give you goosebumps. Also a great intro to Tim Pratt’s work.
  4. Drabblecast 083 – Floating Over Time – It’s a truth of the human condition that life is never long enough, whether you live two years or two million years, and that none of us get any assurances in the face of death.
  5. Drabblecast 039 – The Beekeepers – Parasitic wasps and alien invasions. This is top-notch horror, but I’d recommend that you have a strong stomach going in.
  6. Drabblecast 298 – Flying On My Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog – It’s funny. It’s dangerously funny. The kind of funny that causes you to suppress laughter until it bursts out anyway, and all the strangers in the vicinity will decide that you’re unstable and dangerous. You’ve been warned.
  7. Drabblecast 246 – The Kidney – I’m a sucker for anthropomorphic bodily organs just going about their business. It’s surprisingly moving for such a ridiculous concept.
  8. Drabblecast 299 – The Revelation of Morgan Stern – Remarkable for being both a great post-apocalyptic horror story and a great love story.
  9. Drabblecast 025 – The Worm Within – I love this episode, but I should warn you it’s gross in a potty-humor sort of way. But since I write this Medical Microfiction blog, you won’t be surprised at my love of subjects like intestinal worms.
  10. Drabblecast 155 – The Second Conquest of Earth – This is the story I’ve always wished I could write about cold readers. Excellent all around.
  11. Drabblecast 198 – Love in the Pneumatic Tube Era – A shamelessly romantic sci-fi love story. There’s not an ounce of cynicism in this one, and that pleases me.
  12. Drabblecast 106 – Boiled Black Broth and Cornets – Frank Key is an odd, odd author. I might compare his style to Dr. Seuss in that they both enjoy word play, but it’s hard to describe unless you hear it. Listen to this one. You won’t regret it. Also, I think Norm deserves a standing ovation for the tongue-twister at the end.
  13. Drabblecast 192 – Rangifer Volans – More Tim Pratt, this time with a Christmas-themed story! Cryptozoologists go looking for flying reindeer. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.
  14. Drabblecast 058 – Eggs – Another “Medical Microfiction” pick, and also about parasitic worms, this time of the cat-exploding variety. It’s gross, it’s hilarious, and it’s deeply disturbing.
  15. Drabblecast 236 – When You Visit The Magoebaskloof Hotel – I picked this one because I enjoy well-considered sci-fi, especially when a story taps into true alien psychology. This story also read like a parable of sorts. I listened to it a couple of times before I felt like I understood it, and got something new out of it each time around.
  16. Drabblecast 292 – Hollow As The World – It’s about Minecraft, and a teen dealing with the unexpected death of his best friend. I loved it from start to finish.
  17. Drabblecast 150 – Morris and the Machine – Yet more Tim Pratt! A time travel story about a man who cheats on his wife… with his wife. It’s rife with some interesting moral conundrums that left me chewing over the story for days.
  18. Drabblecast 091 – Gifting Bliss – It’s a parody of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but I found this episode surprisingly moving. Norm created and performed a set of Nirvana song parodies that made this episode particularly outstanding.
  19. Drabblecast 274 – Amid The Words Of War – Another example of a well-considered alien species which feels extraordinarily inhuman. The story is written so well that you feel for the aliens anyway.
  20. Drabblecast 265 – Pop Quiz – First, the main episode is great, which is quite simple but has a great payoff. but this episode also features a Frank Key story about this Shatner-like captain on an epic voyage for nougat. And that is awesome.

A few great classic stories you should also check out:

Drabblecast 069 – The Storyteller by Saki

Drabblecast 200 – The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

Drabblecast 251 – The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft

Drabblecast 273 – The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick

Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

Okay, I lied. Here’s a few more:

Drabblecast 281 – Doubleheader XII – More Frank Key! This episode is a particular favorite of mine because of the reading, and the way the two stories fit together.

Drabblecast 017 – Morton – Sometimes the jerks in life have all the luck. Also, it’s worth noting how even the early episodes of this podcast are very high quality.

Drabblecast 286 – Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse – If you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, you’ll really appreciate why this story is hilarious. If you haven’t, you should listen anyway and then go read Flannery.

Drabblecast 191 – Primary Pollinator – A humorous sci-fi piece about the lengths you have to go through to maintain an alien ecosystem. Also makes me really glad that plants aren’t sentient.

Drabblecast 135 – “Hello,” Said the Stick – This one’s hard to describe without spoilers, but it does, indeed, involve a talking stick.

Drabblecast 115 – Clown Eggs – An episode that balances humor and horror in perfect measure. If you weren’t terrified of clowns, you will be.

Drabblecast 113 – Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely – I don’t always like meta-story humor, but this one worked well. Feel for the poor comic book characters who suddenly realize we’re watching them.

Drabblecast 082 – An Overgrown Clump of Narcissists – A perfectly weird story with a nice twist at the end.

Drabblecast 075 – Trifecta IV – The stories are good, but it’s the original song written by Norm Sherman to commemorate the first 75 Drabblecast episodes that makes this one outstanding.

Drabblecast 052 – Sleep Age – A bit of magic realism cast in the form of a thought experiment: what if we could commodify and sell sleep?

Drabblecast 142, 143 – The Golden Age of Fire Escapes – This two-part story has outstanding production in the style of an old-timey radio show. If that wasn’t enough, it also features the concluding segment of Connor Choadsworth: In Search of the Mongolian Deathworm!

Drabblecast 257 – Judgement Passed – A team of scientists returns home to Earth to find that Jesus showed up and Judgement Day’ed everyone while they were gone. Now what?
Drabblecast 109 – Babel Probe – Time travel, alien horrors, and the ancient Middle East. Nuff said.

Drabblecast 234 – Jagannath – Another great story about symbiosis, where humans maintain an alien’s body from the inside.

Drabblecast 217 – Followed – This episode is a parable for consumer culture, and the invisible consequences of having cheap things. It’s also one of the most clever zombie stories I’ve ever heard.

Drabblecast 124 – Ghosts and Simulations – This one hit close to home. A story of terminal illness, what kind of immortality technology might offer us, and whether this is a good thing.

Drabblecast 188 – The Store of the Worlds – If there are infinite dimensions, somewhere out there is one that fulfills your most desired dream.

Motley Microfiction: The Toymaker’s Dilemma

In the North lives a man, a giver of gifts, a Saint. He spends his days making toys and brooding over the airwaves, which bring in affirmations from around the world. Out there, they believe in him. So the songs say.

But as he broods and makes toys, he has his doubts. Who knows if they exist at all, out beyond the endless snowstorms? Their faith has never been a problem, but he’s not sure he believes in them.

Once a year, he rises, dons his red coat, and goes to find out.

He brings the toys– just in case.

———————————————————————————————————–

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...
He goes into the world with arms full of toys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello, friends! Sorry for the long absence – I’ve had my hands full with a lot of stuff for the last several weeks, and as a result, the poor blog got neglected. But I’m back, and for the next several days, I will be posting reams of Christmas-themed flash fiction to gear up for the holidays!

Today’s piece was recently published on the Drabblecast Episode# 305, and now I’m happy to present it to you on my blog as well. I would highly recommend listening to the episode, because the production took the story to another level.

One theme I love to explore in my writing is radical acts of faith in the face of the unknown, and this story is an example. Santa is famously connected to the idea of belief. I’m reminded of The Polar Express, where those who believe in Santa can hear the bells of his sleigh, while those who have lost their faith can’t. In this story, the choice to believe in Santa shapes your external reality.

Well, what if belief were a two-way street? What if Santa, in the isolation of the North, isn’t sure whether he is just making all of us up, because we’re equally wonderful and magical to him?

I like to imagine that if we were to pick up where the end of this story leaves off, everyone involved would be pleasantly surprised. Santa would find the children waiting for him, after all. The children’s faith would be rewarded. A long hoped-for relationship, a source of deep longing, would finally come to pass. That’s the essence of faith, and the essence of Advent.

Of course, it could all go the other way. Santa might find nothing but endless snowstorms. But I think there’s still something to grabbing that bag of toys, going outside, and taking a look.