Fiction

Upcoming

Scale-Bright, a novella from Immersion Press.

‘Zeraquesh in Absentia’ on PodCastle.

‘And the Burned Moths Remain’ on Tor.com.

‘Synecdoche Oracles’ in Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke.

‘Comet’s Call’ in Start a Revolution, edited by Michael Matheson (Exile Editions).

‘Chrysalises’ in Dangerous Games, edited by Jonathan Oliver (Solaris Books).

‘Ningyo’ in Phantasm Japan, edited by Nick Mamatas (Haikasoru).

‘The Governess and We’ in Steampunk World, edited by Sarah Hans.

‘When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice’ in Solaris Rising 3, edited by Ian Whates (Solaris Books).

‘Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine’ in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, edited by Sean Wallace.

2014

‘Paya-Nak’ on PodCastle (audio), read by Nina Shaharrudin. Love after death and snake women. Originally in Scigentasy.

‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ in GigaNotoSaurus. Sixty years in the life of a girl born into the women’s country and the demon who drifts in and out of her life. Family, old age, mortality, and the compromises we make toward the end. 9,200 words.

‘Elision’ in La Femme, edited by Ian Whates (NewCon Press). A private detective is engaged to investigate mysterious footage where a woman dies again and again. 3,800 words.

‘Golden Daughter, Stone Wife’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies (April 2014). An immigrant sorcerer, her lost golem, and a compromise of winter. Podcast read by Folly Blaine. 7,500 words. Subscriptions.

‘Autodidact’ in Clarkesworld Magazine (April 2014). A sentient starship, a psychologist, a soldier and the battlefield they make of one another. Podcast read by Kate Baker. 5,800 words. Subscriptions | Patreon.

‘Zeraquesh in Absentia’ in The Dark (Feb 2014). Weightless Books. A police officer and a private eye seek a missing person in the haunted city. 2,800 words.

2013

Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade in Clarkesworld Magazine (Dec 2013). Amazon | Weightless Books. A general is brought back from the dead to conquer the world of her birth. 5,200 words. Podcast read by Kate Baker.

  • Reprinted in Space Opera edited by Rich Horton (Prime Books).
  • Honorable mention in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois.
  • Translated to Serbian as ‘Tihi Most, Blijedi Slapovi’ in Sirius B #16.

Continue reading

End of July reading

- Are we at Zhongshan Road yet?

- Not yet.

- Are we at Red Pavilion yet?

- We already passed it.

- Are we home yet?

- Guess.

A crisp and joyful braking sound.

‘The Mao Ghost’ by Chen Qiufan (Lightspeed, 2014). This is a bit of SFnal premise, a bit of magic realism, and all touching. I imagine part of it is authorial style, but Ken Liu as usual does such a fantastic job with the translation.

‘Loving Armageddon’ by Amanda C. Davis (Crossed Genres, 2014). A flash on a man with a grenade for a heart, and the woman who loves him. Short and poignant, and human.

After you leave the shrike and the remains of your brother behind, you lift your phone as you have many times before, to listen again to the last message your brother left you, on the day he decided to join. The words are as hollow as you felt when you first heard them. You thought a suicide note might be less painful, but you did not know what you could do, you never raised your voice against him, and now you walk away.

“How else do you see the stars, but to join the war?” he asks, distant and thin through the speakers. “I don’t know if you’ll understand,” a pause for breath, and you stop the message. You know how it ends.

‘Hymn of Ordeal, No. 23′ by Rhiannon Rasmussen (Lightspeed, 2014). Unsurprisingly, very much my kind of thing, second person and all! Brief but effective, absolutely vivid.

‘Perfect’ by Yukimi Ogawa (The Dark, 2014). I think this may be one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever read. It starts off with the really striking image of a magnolia dress (made literally of magnolias!). Unexpected love, body horror.

I’m otherwise reading Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone, having skipped ahead a little – I was in the middle of Two Serpents Rise, but the new one is newer and shiny, and has characters I wanted to see more of – so this takes priority! (Sorry, Max, I’ll get back to reading Caleb later).

I’m also making my way through my copy of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Vol. 8 (ed. Jonathan Strahan). Pictured here – yay contributor copies! (I have two. They’re huge! The size, roughly, of phonebooks if you’re old enough to have seen those, hee). I’m particularly looking forward to Ramez Naam’s story ‘Water’, Karin Tidbeck’s ‘Sing’ and M. Bennardo’s ‘The Herons of Mer de L’Ouest’ to name just a few.

The advantage of being so new to it all is that a lot of the writers here are new to me too, so this will be quite yay!

I also had a podcast reprint (my first!) go up this month – ‘Paya-Nak’ on PodCastle, read by Nina Shaharrudin. This is the story that was in Scigentasy last year, the text of which can be found here.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi

“Why did your sister hate ships so much?”

I shrugged. “It’s not ships she hates. She’s pretty indifferent to them, same way I’m indifferent to my toothbrush. It serves its purpose. What she hates is the idea that her own sister lacked talent for spiritual guidance. Even worse, I had no interest in trying to expand what little innate ability I had, to become metaphysically useful beyond repairing ships. Just not in my blood to be a spirit guide, I guess. She never understood why I’d choose to be an engineer when there’s a whole world of subtlety and magic to tinker with.”

One of the things that really make this book for me is the strength of the sibling relationship – there’s not-inconsiderable focus on it, and it’s just wonderfully complicated. There’s a huge gap in what they want out of life, from the world, the lifestyles they prefer. Nova has ‘been out here in the Big Quiet for over six years now, trading in magic. There wasn’t a spirit guide enthusiast in the system who didn’t know her name. Meanwhile, I woke up every day and struggled just to find work'; as the elder sister she is proud of her work as a spirit guide, to the point of self-absorbed, and unlike Alana she is sophisticated, rich, touching up Alana’s shop with markers of the luxurious life she wishes Alana could have partaken of without acknowledging that Alana *doesn’t* want to be like Nova at all: ‘the albacite tile Nova had installed when she bought the place. An unfortunate reminder that she’d gentrify the whole fringe if she could’.  Marre’s condition is well-done weird: ‘There could be no mistaking the patch of translucence that rippled across her left cheek, shivered down her neck. Muscle, tooth, tendon, and bone: a shimmer of anatomy beneath the invisible sheath of her skin.’ She fades in and out of reality, in pieces, and this condition will eventually kill her.

Broadly, though, I don’t feel I could really get along with Alana’s voice? This is down to personal preferences; I tend to prefer characters who are less loudly emotive, I think. Mileage will vary! The plot as a whole is rather compelling, and the impetus behind it – and the characters’ motivations – suitably urgent, even if I felt the plot twist didn’t have enough set-up beforehand. Still, there’s a lot in this book that I can appreciate!

(To my surprise, a few reviews noted the lack of technical details like spaceship speed and planetary population spread, which I don’t really think are prerequisites for something to be SF, or speculative; again, varying mileage, but I’d like to think that isn’t a majority view or I – and many authors I love – would be in trouble!)

‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ up at GigaNotoSaurus; recent reads

New story online (at last)! ‘Sixty Years in the Women’s Province’ is up at GigaNotoSaurus. It’s a novelette, clocking in at around 9,200 words, making this the longest story I have written since the days I wrote things that went way over 10,000. I’m especially happy about this one since it’s markedly different from my usual: it’s fantasy (with a touch of portal?) and is a domestic slice of life, meaning this may be the closest I’ve ever come to writing literary fiction! The ‘sixty years’ is very literal – the story covers sixty years of a woman’s life with her family, a demon who goes in and out of her life, from youth to old age to mortality. No cheating this time, because the human characters are all ordinary, not augmented far-future soldiers, so sixty years is actually long, and by the end of it they’re actually old, pushing eighty. Beekeeping! Sherbets! A women’s country where they get pregnant by drinking water from a special river, and only girls are born. You may recognize this place. It’s a specific one, and doesn’t have much to do with the tradition of Russ or other older SF in women-only worlds.

(It’s from Journey to the West).

Leaning into Yingzhi’s shoulder she murmurs nonsense into her wife’s neck, and when they’ve found the place Yingzhi wanted her to see they spread out a blanket. They unbutton each other eager as newlyweds, and Xiaoli forgets what it is to feel forty-four, what it is to wake up to aching joints and a stiff back. She looks up at Yingzhi framed by grass and catkins, the hard strength of her delineated by greened sunlight, and knows herself to be the most fortunate woman born in the worlds that are and the worlds yet not.

Because I was strict about the timeline, this was a story where I had to keep careful track of the count of years, the ages of characters, and on. Some of them still might not add up, though. Erm. That’ll teach me to not do *that* again.

Speaking of novelettes, ‘Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods’ other than making an appearance in World SF 3 has also been reprinted in the July 2014 issue of Apex – all 11,200 words of it! Meantime, Vajra let me know that some of my 2013 stories made the honorable mentions in Dozois’s year’s best; so I went to check. Proof that I didn’t hallucinate! (Or did I?)

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Which is most of my SF from last year! Yay! Some of my favorite people also included in the list: Vajra Chandrasekera for ‘Pockets Full of Stones’, Seth J. Dickinson for ‘Never Dreaming (In Four Burns)’, Karin Tidbeck for ‘Sing’ and ‘A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain’, Kameron Hurley for ‘Enyo-Enyo’, Aliette de Bodard for ‘The Angel at the Heart of the Rain’ and ‘The Weight of a Blessing’, E. Catherine Tobler for ‘Grandmother of Ghosts’ and lots more. (I’m being a bit lazy, but I think I also spotted Rahul Kanakia, Indrapamit Das, and Priya Sharma too). I’m also pleased that there were kind nods for Clarkesworld, Clockwork Phoenix 4 (and many CP4 stories also made honorables!), and We See a Different Frontier.

Some recent reading, to start July off!

‘The Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced’ by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed, 2014). Quiet and gently wrenching flash. I’m terrible at writing quiet stories, so I’m very glad when other people do it so I can enjoy them! *selfish* I joked about this with Sarah, which turned into this tweet.

That then got retweeted lots, to my confusion.

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‘Communion’ by Mary Anne Mohanraj (Clarkesworld, 2014). A quiet story, but we all need more quiet SF, I think – specifically this has to do with the aftermath of violence, crossing a cultural gulf, and the all-important question of genetic modification for the next generation. I wish the matchmaker concept could have been explored more, though, but it’s altogether a very interesting story.

‘The Madwoman of Igbobi Hospital’ by Tade Thompson (Interfictions, 2014). A ghost story, of sorts! I was going to say it’s a list story, but it’s not, I don’t think? More that it’s told in short sections. There are little turns of phrase I really liked, like ‘a congregation of coughs’.

Solaris Rising 3 cover and lineup

Solaris Rising 3 now has a finalized cover! It’s striking and gorgeous, by @PyeParr who I’m assured *isn’t* deprived of daylight to break his spirit or any such thing.

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Following the exceptionally well received, Solaris Rising 1 and and the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Solaris Rising 2 series editor Ian Whates brings even more best-selling and cutting edge SF authors together for the latest extraordinary volume of new original ground-breaking stories.

These stories are guaranteed to surprise, thrill and delight, and continue our mission to demonstrate why science fiction remains the most exiting, varied and inspiring of all fiction genres. In Solaris Rising 1 and 2 we showed both the quality and variety that modern science fiction can produce. In Solaris Rising 3, we’ll be taking SF into the outer reaches of the universe. Nina Allan, Aliette de Bodard, Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Julie Czerneda, Ken Liu, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Ian R MacLeod & Martin Sketchley, Gareth L Powell, Adam Roberts, Benjamin Rosenbaum, Cat Sparks, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Ian Watson and Sean Williams are just some of the names set to appear.

To my ‘eeeeeep???’ inarticulate noise-making, my name is… on the front cover? Eep. I was already very honored when I learned that my story opens the antho, so this has me doubly flustered. Most helpfully, Solaris has made the title available on NetGalley, so if you’re a blogger or reviewer, please go request a copy; I believe Solaris is quite generous with those. After all, look at the lineup!

Philip Reeve, who’s entirely delightful (I may or may not have occasionally borrowed his books from my nieces despite their insistence that I’m much too old for it), did an interview with Natasha Ngan where he described his plotting method that’s surprisingly similar to my own, which eases my guilt about mine a whole lot. I, erm, didn’t realize he mentioned me until a second read-through of the interview – in my defense, I was mostly paying attention to what he said about his writing!

And I’ve been reading online some very fine science fiction stories by Bee Sriduangkaew, who creates these surreal visions of far future worlds – I’m not sure I fully understand her stories, but the images linger, like strange dreams.

So that was unexpected and gleeful-making! Gleee. “ヽ(´▽`)ノ”

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

In my usual manner of being entirely too late to the party I just got around to finishing Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone.

When the Hidden Schools threw Tara Abernathy out, she fell a thousand feet through wisps of cloud and woke to find herself alive, broken and bleeding, beside the Crack in the World.

When I first started reading it, I commented that the beginning of this book feels very like the opening of a good short story, tight and compressed and paced just right – introducing without bogging down, intriguing without overwhelming. The sense of humor is wonderful and Max’s turns of phrase are as unusual as they are entertaining: ‘Ms. Kevarian cradled her glass in both hands, as if it were a slender neck that she was about to wring’. There are a lot of moving parts and layers involved with the mystery plot, and the way they are all tied up at the end is exceptional in how *well* they fit together. Max’s sense of timing and pacing are just exceptional (if he were a film director, we’d talk choreography, which in a way is apt! This is a pretty cinematic book, and I mean that in the best way). Tara, pictured on the cover (true to description, I thought), is a fun character, though I confess my real favorite was Lieutenant Catherine Elle, one of the ‘Blacksuits’ of the city bound to the service of Justice. I do have a thing for rank-and-file duty-bound characters, so I was very happy to learn she has significant parts in the next two books as well.

The ending is thoroughly satisfying – I was concerned for a minute a certain character would be left in their cell in a sequel-hook sort of way, but fortunately this isn’t a bad superhero movie! I’ve ordered the next two books (or rather preordered, for Full Fathom Five) and look forward to them!

More covers! Phantasm Japan and Upgraded

Phantasm Japan (edited by Nick Mamatas) now has a wonderfully eye-catching cover. Also available for preorder; I believe it’ll be out September from Haikasoru.

Having seen the page proofs, I can also say the interior is also extremely stylish. From what I have seen of other stories, I’m really excited about the ones by Japanese contributors in particular. ‘The Street of Fruiting Bodies’ by Sayuri Ueda is one of my favorites so far – it’s about a deadly fungal disease and the search for the cure – but I haven’t read through most of the rest yet, and Seia Tanabe’s ‘The Parrot Stone’ is absolutely intriguing, and I look forward to reading the entire thing! I imagine I will quite like the one by Jacqueline Koyanagi. Needless to say, this one is a pretty international TOC! The world always needs to know about Japanese writers beyond just Haruki Murakami! (Whose works I love, of course, but you know what I mean, yes?)

The volume contains my mermaid cannibalism story ‘Ningyo’ set in a post-apocalyptic near future touched by myth and demons, and this is how it begins.

This is the end, where she holds a wet beating heart that drips brine and shudders with bathyal cold. It burns her, as it should. Its salt is the smell of her death, its age and scars the map of her mortality. That too is as it should be.

Before that—

Meanwhile, the TOC for Neil Clarke’s cyborg anthology (about cyborgs, edited by a cyborg) Upgraded is up, featuring cover art by Julie Dillon. It’s another fantastic TOC, whose pages I am privileged to share with Xia Jia – second time in a row! – and Chen Qiufan (@stanleychan on twitter), along with Rachel Swirsky, E. Catherine Tobler, A.C. Wise, and one of my favorite authors Seth J. Dickinson.

My story, ‘Synecdoche Oracles’, is about poetry fruits, algorithmic oracles, strange implants and a hunted soldier. Another Hegemony story, if that’s of interest to anybody!

In the beast’s mouth refugees are disgorged from moth-crafts in tatters, asylum-seekers spilled from spin-ships whose hulls are frescoes of void-scars and entry points. Viruses and malware shed off travelers, latching onto tourist ads and local data-posts in search of new hosts and propagation. Charinda has put a filter on her peacock’s head like a glove, shielding it from the stench of recycled ventilation and nutrients, the reek of politics gone sour and loss as fresh as arterial wounds. They can be contagious, much more so than the malware.

I’ve been trying to write more stories around war from the points of view of civilians, and this (as well as ‘Autodidact’ in Clarkesworld and ‘When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice’ in Solaris Rising 3) is a story where I’ve done that. The result’s up for judgment! I’m especially pleased by the cover though, seeing who the soldier in my story is. (It’s sheer coincidence, of course, but still very pleasing! Serendipity is nice).

On the reprint front, I’ll have a story in Heiresses of Russ 2014, which ahs a delightfully retro cover. My reprint will be ‘Vector’, originally published in We See a Different Frontier. The TOC contains -

Introduction by Melissa Scott
“The Gold Mask’s Menagerie” by Chanté McCoy
“Counting Down the Seconds” by Lexy Wealleans
“Love Over Glass, Skin Under Glass” by Penny Stirling
“Hungry” by Robert E. Stutts
“Liquid Loyalty” by Redfern Jon Barrett
“Her Infinite Variety” by Sacchi Green
“The Coffinmaker’s Love” by Alberto Yáñez
“Terminal City” by Zoë Blade
“The Bride in Furs” by Layla Lawlor
“Your Figure Will Assume Beautiful Outlines” by Claire Humphrey
“Blood, Stone, Water” by AJ Fitzwater
“Vector” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“Of Selkies, Disco Balls, and Anna Plane” by Cat Rambo
“Selected Program Notes from the Retrospective
Exhibition of Theresa Rosenberg Latimer” by Kenneth Schneyer
“Difference of Opinion” by Meda Kahn
“Boat in Shadows, Crossing” by Tori Truslow
“The Raven and Her Victory” by Tansy Rayner Roberts

Many of these are writers new to me, so that’s doubly exciting!

Covers! Mammoth Books and Apex Book of World SF 3

This year I’ll have stories in three (!!!) Mammoth anthologies – one original, and two reprints. Look at the covers for The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry, and The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women.

The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women has a huge and hugely exciting line-up, and I finally get to share a TOC with Kameron Hurley! And also Karen Joy Fowler, Natalia Theodoridou, among other standout names. I *really* look forward to the contributor copies! (I hear they’re really hefty and substantial, at that).

The Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry’s lineup is no less impressive! Elizabeth Bear, Aliette de Bodard, Christie Yant, Carrie Vaughn and lots more.

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I’m also very excited about the Apex Book of World SF 3, which can be preordered now (excellent deals! $10 for 3 ebooks) and has a lovely cover, and is a fantastic value at 96,000 words in total. Xia Jia, Crystal Koo, Amal El-Mohtar, Karin Tidbeck, and more! It includes my ‘Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods’, which has the honor of opening the anthology. Eeee! ☆*・゜゚・*\(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆