Tag Archives: science 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:
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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

Don’t Tread On Us: Thoughts on WDSF and Tangent

I want to talk about Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! and Tangent Online’s review yesterday–in particular, Dave Truesdale’s “Closing Thoughts” and why it bothered me. But first, let’s talk about the issue itself.

In short: it’s amazing. I got to read it cover-to-cover ahead of time as part of the proofreading team (which I affectionately refer to as “Women Destroy Typos!”), and I think it’s one of the most outstanding anthologies I’ve read in years. It’s an important work made up of important works, a monumental achievement–not the least because Lightspeed went the extra mile and turned the whole project over to 109 very capable women. Women wrote, edited, illustrated, and created the issue at every level.

My personal favorite original story from WDSF is Amal El-Mohtar’s “The Lonely Sea in the Sky,” the tale of the discovery of an ocean of liquid diamonds on Neptune and how scientists harness its unique properties to create a teleportation device. The story traces what follows when people discover the sea is sentient and that the invention causes it to suffer. The story is exquisite in construction and execution, and thematically it sums up what’s at stake for women who write science fiction and some of the historical problems in the genre.

Take, for example, the words of the man who first demonstrates the teleportation device:

“One small step for man,” said Moor, and the crowd erupted in cheers.

Obviously it’s a reference to the moon landing, but in the story, El-Mohtar develops the earth as a symbol of the female body, alive and screaming as it is trod upon:

Hala, imagine if when we were children, we had seen a girl splayed out on the floor, spread-eagled, her every bone broken beneath the feet of boys jumping up and down on her as if she were solid ground. Imagine we could hear her screaming, begging them to stop, to let her go, but the boys could not, because she was nothing, she was the earth, she could not feel. But we could see her. We could hear her.

Taken together, these two quotes evoke images of fiction written during the Golden Age of SF, where men traipsed about accomplishing Big Things in a universe depopulated of women, making one giant leap for man upon the face of a sentient moon and ignoring her screams as something that could not possibly exist. The problem of these authors writing women out of stories reflects to some degree how female authors and readers have also been marginalized, treated as if they are part of the landscape and can be safely ignored underfoot as the men go on with their Important Work.

WDSF, as a project, aims to reverse that. Not only are women important, but they are vital. They are necessary as authors, editors, illustrators, and more. Look at what we are capable of, if given the chance!, we say on every page. The quality speaks for itself. SF as a genre is poorer when we are underrepresented or excluded.

Which brings me around to Dave Truesdale’s editorial “Closing Thoughts”. Instead of reviewing the actual WDSF issue as a whole and discussing the merits of how its constituent pieces come together, he spends several thousand words explaining why its very existence was unnecessary and wrong-headed to begin with. Says Truesdale:

Not once have I personally seen a smidgeon of racism or sexism at a convention, whether it be a local or regional con, a worldcon, a World Fantasy convention, a Campbell/Sturgeon awards banquet, or a Nebula Awards weekend. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but one might think that if racism or sexism is as deeply rooted in SF as some would like you to think, that after 40 years I would have seen or heard something personally.

Wiser minds than mine have done a great job taking apart why Truesdale’s comments are factually wrong and problematic, so I won’t get into the unfortunately abundant evidence contradicting his statements. I recommend you read what Natalie Luhrs, Amal El-Mohtar, Rachael Acks, and E. Catherine Tobler have to say in this area.

But I do want to point out what’s at stake here, and how Truesdale misses the point of the whole WDSF conversation. Instead of engaging with the work presented, he gaslights. He claims to understand our experiences better than we do. “There is no woman beneath my feet,” says Truesdale as he jumps and jumps on her broken body. She screams from the pages of WDSF, and he calls it “shrill,” and claims she’s exaggerating, and besides anything that happened to her was probably an accident or just the result of a random individual. He has not seen it, and therefore it doesn’t exist.

Does he really, genuinely not see her there, despite all 109 of us pointing our fingers and telling him so? Or does he hear her, and choose to ignore her anyway?

Amal El-Mohtar’s story deserves the last word on the subject of Truesdale:

“Imagine, Hala , that in the eye of one of these boys you see satisfaction. You see knowledge. You see that he knows he is making someone scream but it doesn’t bother him, it doesn’t matter, because he can get away with it. What would you do?”

What should we do?

I was quite upset after reading the review last night. I don’t think it’s right that this editor’s comments should steal the show and dominate this conversation, and just as we’re all celebrating its release. So I say let’s not let him do it. Read WDSF. Read it cover to cover. Talk about it. Read and engage in the conversation about Tangent, too, but don’t miss out on the really good stuff in the doing. No review is as important as the stories and essays in WDSF itself.

Don’t tread on us.

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

Medical Microfiction: Cardiometer

Measure the Immeasurable

It was a problematic calculation, to be sure. Some might say impossible. But the real headache lay in finding an appropriate unit of measurement. Amperes, Kelvins, parsecs — inadequate alone, but each needed for the answer.

To the books, then. He dredged up old science and new, eventually delving into sources that some might call pseudoscientific.

What of it? The point was to build the device, and he did.

He called up the one who’d first posed him the question, invited her to his lab, and knelt on one knee.

“I love you this much,” he said, and pushed the button.

————————————————————————————————–

I love you
This candy loves you, but how much? (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

A nice, sweet little story for you guys today. A cardiometer, as its name implies is a device used to measure heart activity. There are several devices that fall into this general category, and mostly they use electrical impulses to make their readings. Heart-measuring devices include electrocardiographs (ECGs), cardiac monitors, and Holter monitors, to name a few.

Of course, on a more general level, this story’s about the formidable task of measuring things. Measuring gives us a way to make sense of the world. We measure oceans, and they lose their limitlessness. We measure mountains and depths and the distance between stars. We calculate the speed in which we’re all hurling through space, and estimate the age of our happy green rock.

But how do you measure something like love? I have no idea, but that hasn’t stopped me or anyone else throughout human history from asking that impossible question: “How much do you love me?”

Happy Monday, friends, and while you may never know the measure in which you’re loved, may that love always feel endless.

Medical Microfiction: Pleura

Tar Pit: A Love Story

This is a love story about a tree and its hole.

From the beginning they seemed made for each other. They hugged each other’s curves, matching bend for bend — a union which grew more perfect with each passing year.

It came to a sudden end one day when a ravenous Apatosaurus tore up the whole tree by its roots and devoured it.

The hole doesn’t forget, though. Far from it. Nursing its vendetta, it gapes wide, deepens, and fills its heart with black tar. It waits for that murderous, leaf-stuffed bastard to return.

Given time, it can devour things too.

—————————————————————————————————–

Apatosaurus Louisae, Carnegie Museum.
Apatosaurus: the longest murderer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The pleura are two very thin membranes that shrink-wrap your lungs, walling them off from the rest of your body. The visceral pleura wraps the lungs directly, while the parietal pleura lines your chest cavity. Between them is a small amount of fluid that keeps them from sticking to each other.

English: Left-sided pneumothorax (right side o...
The arrow points to the pleural cavity, in this case formed by air trapped between the layers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now here’s where it gets interesting: in anatomy, we refer to the space between the two membranes as the pleural cavity, but it’s a bit of a misnomer because normally, no such cavity exists. If you’re healthy, those two layers stick close together like a pair of sheets on a well-made bed. The term “pleural cavity” refers to a potential space: it only exists when something’s gone wrong: when air or fluid has leaked between the layers and caused them to separate.

I’m fascinated by this idea of potential spaces, and that in some situations, an absence of something can be a presence. The relationship between the pleura and the pleural cavity is much like the relationship between tree roots and the space they create as they burrow into the soil. The tree’s hole doesn’t really exist until the roots are no longer there, but when the tree is gone, its absence leaves a presence: a hole that remembers embracing a tree once upon a time.

Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa
Apatosaurus by Yamada Katsuhisa (Photo credit: dcbaok)

In many ways, presences as absences are also a metaphor for grief. The death of something or someone we love, be it a person, animal, relationship, or even an object, can leave a void that feels like its own presence. Like a stab wound, we feel it. It makes itself known by its wrongness. In my story today, I wanted to explore how grief itself might seek to rectify the injustice caused by the void left when love is gone.

I also wanted to write about dinosaurs. Sue me.

I owe some special thanks to Drabblecast forum member The-hest-of-hale for helping me polish up the language choices in this story. Thank you, friend! Constructive criticism is hard to come by, especially on a story this short, and for your help I am very grateful

Friday Fictioneers: Thunderheads

Thunderheads

“What do you see?”

Cumulonimbus capillatus. Thunderheads.”

“That’s not what I meant. Be creative. Ducks, castles, that kind of thing.”

“Please explain, sir.”

“You’re supposed to invent things. Their children imagine shapes in the clouds that resemble objects or animals. It’s a game. I’ll demonstrate. See that bulge over there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It looks like a flying saucer.”

“It is a flying saucer, sir. That’s our ship.”

The commander sighed. “You’re right. I struggle with the local customs too.”

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“It’s a shame, isn’t it? What we’re about to do?”

“Exterminating them? If it bothers you, pretend they’re ducks.”

Today’s post was written for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’s weekly “Friday Fictioneers” flash fiction event. The challenge is to write a 100-word story based off of a photo prompt. I hope you enjoy! I always love receiving constructive criticism, so feel free to let me know what you think.

Medical Microfiction: Keratinocytes

The Little Dutch Girl

“We’ll draw straws. Long straws stay. Short fixes the hull.”

“Sounds fair.”

Olga proffered a fistful of sticks to her crewmates. Hal, Zarina, and Ken drew one apiece. There was a sharp intake of breath as they opened their palms.

Olga grimaced. “Guess it’s me. Let’s roll. We’re losing oxygen.” She stepped over the airlock threshold. She scanned the area and gasped in surprise. “Wait. Where are the tools? Where’s my space suit?”

“Sorry, Olga,” said Zarina.

The airlock whooshed shut.

Hal shut his eyes as Olga’s body, distorted by the vacuum of space, plugged the breach in the hull.

———————————————————————————————————-

ISS science officer and flight engineer, astro...
When you go outside the airlock, don’t forget your space suit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I were a cell in the human body, I think one of the most miserable work environments would be the epidermis, also known as your skin. Your skin’s your body’s biggest organ, and one of the most important ones. It keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in and represents the boundary between the body and the environment.

Given that important role, it’s still a raw deal to be a keratinocyte, the type of cell that makes up 95% of the epidermis. Keratinocytes are born deep in the basal layer (the stratum basale) of the skin. There they spend a short childhood multiplying before they’re shoved upwards toward the surface of the skin. As they rise in rank, they’re cut off from the nourishing blood supply found in the deeper layers. Eventually they die off and are packed full of keratin, which hardens them and makes them waterproof. By the time they reach the surface of your skin, their dead bodies form a tough, waterproof wall that keeps all the living cells in your body protected from the outside world.

Keratinocytes are born to die. It’s a heroic deed, yes, but still a raw deal. Much like being thrown out of the airlock to plug the breach in the hull.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the title and inspiration for this story comes from an American folk tale called The Little Dutch Boy. In this story, a young boy becomes a hero by using his finger to plug a leak in a dike. Of course, the big difference between the boy of this story and keratinocytes is that the boy got to choose his fate!

Motley Microfiction: Alien

Earth called and my dad answered, enlisting himself and my family to search for life in the stars. I was an infant when we boarded the Perseus. I cut my teeth orbiting Saturn. By the time we reached Vega, I’d enlisted too.

I was among the first to contact the aliens of Vega: translator, diplomat, friend.

But retirement comes early for the military woman, and over my protests they shipped me back to the distant planet of my birth. They call it home, but even the stars are strange to me here.

I’m homesick for space. I’m the alien now.

—————————————————————————————————————-

English: Gorgazzo's spring - Polcenigo
The spring of Gorgazzo in Polcenigo, Italy. I spent a large chunk of my childhood just miles away. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you define “home”?

When people ask me where I’m from, I’m never sure how to answer. Do they mean where I was born? Do they mean my nationality? Or do they mean where I’ve lived the longest, or perhaps the place I liked the most? For me, these are all different places.

You see, I’ve moved around quite a bit in my short life, on average every 3 years or so. I grew up a Military Brat. My family followed my father’s assignments, which means that although I’m American, I was born in Germany. I’ve lived on both coasts of the US, as well as the northern and southern ends at various times. For a large chunk of my childhood, I lived in Italy. Eventually I wound up in Georgia, fell in love with a local boy, and have been here ever since, although we’ve lived in several cities around the state.

Italiano: Aviano
The Italian Alps as seen from Aviano, Italy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have mixed feelings about all the globetrotting. On the positive side, it’s given me some great stories and a sense of adventure toward travel. I’ve also learned what it means to live in a world full of many countries, customs, and languages. No matter where you’re from, there’s probably a lot that you take for granted about what’s standard or appropriate. This could be what you eat, what you wear, how you speak, and what you expect from others. When you begin to travel or to talk with people who live very different lifestyles, you become aware of how small your experience is, in the grand scheme of humanity.

We are all like fish who don’t know we’re wet until the day we’re flopping around outside the water.

Actually, the Packway Handle Band. Wonderful B...
Musicians performing in downtown Athens, GA — my current home. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The downside of moving so much is that I’m left without a sense of belonging. Like the woman in today’s story, even when I return to what we must call my “home”, I feel like a visitor. People often describe “home” as a place where you’ve been, or as a place where you are right now. I’ve come to think of “home” as a destination. Someday, I tell myself, I’ll arrive somewhere and know I’m finally home.

I hope that day comes.

By way of contrast, my husband lived in the same house his entire life. That boggles my mind! What must it be like, I wonder, to have that sort of attachment to a single place? Is it worth the tradeoffs? I guess we have no way of knowing; you only get one childhood, so the best we can do is swap stories.

So tell me about yourself. Did you live in one place your whole life, or did you move around? What do you think are the upsides and downsides to the way you grew up?