Fiction

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

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

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

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

2014

Scale-Bright, a novella from Immersion Press.

‘Synecdoche Oracles’ in Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke. Laithirat is best known for its oracles: algorithms which generate perfect prophecies at the moment of their death. A hunted soldier comes to bargain for these seers. 4,600 words.

‘Ningyo’ in Phantasm Japan, edited by Nick Mamatas (Haikasoru). In a post-apocalyptic world, a woman hunts a mermaid for her flesh.

‘Five Hundred and Ninety-Nine’ in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures, edited by Sean Wallace (Running Press). 9,600 words.

‘When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice’ in Solaris Rising 3, edited by Ian Whates (Solaris Books). On a planet engaged in secret war, everyone is a combatant. 5,000 words.

‘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: on brutal psychology, survival, and parenthood. 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.

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The things that we do: on mistakes, on apologies

In a way, I have always been waiting to write this post.

Perhaps this is belated. Probably it is – but I wanted to gather my thoughts, collect myself; I wouldn’t say anything in haste.

One thing I’ve learned is that if you believe the world speaks only a language of force, then that syntax is all you will negotiate the world with. And it warps, thoroughly, how you think.

But I want, at least, some measure of a chance to explain myself. I’m not owed this chance. You aren’t obliged to read beyond the line. You don’t have to, at all. But please know that, if I’ve hurt you, I’m sorry.

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Read: The Age of Ice and some more stories

The Age of Ice is this very special, very compelling book. It’s got some rather idiosyncratic pacing and I perhaps took way too long to finish reading it, but taken as a whole I think it’s almost meant to be read slowly, savored.


Love becomes an algorithm for living in synchrony with another person.

There must be an etiquette for babbling about stories in anthologies you’re a part of, but… ‘From the Nothing, With Love’ by Project Itoh (Phantasm Japan, 2014) is just really superbly good. It is full of quotable lines full of truth, and it skewers things in this brilliant, understated way. There’s an immaculateness in its observations that I just adore, and a smoothness to its style that does credit to Jim Hubbert, the translator. I’m not going to yell please buy this anthology because I’m in it – buy it for *this* story (and as a bonus, many other translated stories!). Suppose I have a draft Hugo ballot, this would go under the novelette category immediately.

“And your husband, kids—they here in Boston?”

She smiled at the simplicity of the attempt.

“My partner and I live in New York. I don’t have any children.”

His face fell and she felt suddenly very sorry. On a whim, she conjured up two nonexistent stepchildren, girls, in their teens.

‘Big Week’ by Zadie Smith (The Paris Review, 2014). It is very Zadie Smith! Alienation told in delicate description and a touch of the wry.

‘The Hoof Situation’ by Bonnie Jo Shufflebeam (Scigentasy, 2014) does a really interesting thing where an old lady *welcomes* old age as might and freedom, which is wonderfully different and a fantastic perspective; and it has a characterful voice I adore. Horrifying ending though! (Intentionally, I think). Monstrosity and womanhood.

New things that are out! Reviews! Beesharks!

It’s been a while since I did one of these updates! I’ve recently sold a story to a very exciting project, due out next year. No details yet, but I may or may not have added a new entry to my Hegemony page….

Meantime!

Clarkesworld is running a Kickstarter to raise funds for translating Chinese SF – and stretch goals include translating from other languages. Hooray! Translated fiction is fun. And the Clarkesworld cyborg anthology, Upgraded, is also out. Here’s a caption contest to win a copy from Neil himself, and here’s another one from A.C. Wise.

An anthology of original cyborg stories edited by a cyborg. Stronger. Better. Faster. We will rebuild you.

Includes stories by a lot of excellent writers, and relevantly two translations: Xia Jia and Chen Qiufan. Cover by Julie Dillon.

Otherwise, Phantasm Japan and Solaris Rising 3 are also out! Solaris Rising 3 contains my Hegemony story ‘When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice’, which I am terribly proud of, it being one of those stories where I like to think I’ve successfully pulled off an intense relationship (not romantic!). Here are some reviews of Solaris Rising 3.

“When We Harvested the Nacre-Rice” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (yes, I am reading all the things) is my first introduction to her Hegemonic universe. Military science fiction with a feminine touch and a South Asian feel is a fairly rare combination, and this was the story that made it click that I love military SF, especially when it’s written by women. – Manic Pixie Dream Worlds

Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s When We Harvested The Nacre-Rice is a haunting, dream-like story touched by elegant prose and a melodious rhythm. 

Sriduangkaew’s worlds are wonderfully evolved re-imaginings and the strained yet deeply personal relationship between Pahayal and the stranger is intriguing. Sensitively written and superbly creative, this is a great opening story for an anthology championing new voices in science fiction. – The Bookbeard’s Blog

Phantasm Japan contains my post-apocalyptic urban fantasy story of mermaid flesh and the eating of same. But more importantly, if you’re interested in translated SFF, it contains a good bit of translation: my rough estimate is that 58% of Phantasm Japan is translation – stories by Seia Tanabe, Miyuki Miyabe, Yusaku Kitano, Project Itoh, Dempow Torishima and Sayuri Ueda. One of them is perhaps novelette or novella-length? Woo! I’ve read a couple so far: ‘Scissors or Claws, and Holes’ by Yusaku Kitano is chilling SFnal horror, very spare but incredibly effective (computational crab-like intelligence invading bodies). ‘The Parrot Stone’ by Seia Tanabe has this interesting cadence of narration – we really don’t appreciate translators enough, but when a translator is good the result is something else again. ‘From the Nothing, With Love’ by Project Itoh started very unexpected, became utterly compelling, wry and stylish and interesting. Favorite line: ‘Postmodernism to the right of me, deconstructionism to the left of me, appalling is appalling’. And here’s a first review, on Skiffy and Fanty!

Many of the stories give not a damn about the conventions of the genres and freely mix elements of science fiction, horror, and others. Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s “Ningyo,” a near-future mythic fiction with a mermaid hunter and a yokai, is a haunting love story set in a bleak nuclear wasteland. What does it mean to be immortal — or to seek immortality — when the world has only a few decades left? And “From the Nothing, With Love,” written by the late Project Itoh and translated by Jim Hubbert, is a fantastic, chilling little genre-bender that brings science fiction and metafiction to the espionage thriller; it grips from the opening and never lets go

(Yes, Solaris Rising 3 has my name on the cover, incredibly enough. I remain thoroughly chuffed about this, and not a little bit grateful).

The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures and the Mammoth Book of Warriors and Wizardry: also now available! Steampunk Adventures contains an original novelette from me (it’s mostly near-future SF; seen sideways it is pretty steampunky) while Warriors and Wizardry contains a novelette reprint, ‘Golden Daughter, Stone Wife’, originally in BCS this year.

Reading wise, I’m getting started on Robert J. Bennett’s The City of Stairs. I remain disappointed the byline is not ‘good leg haver’ but the actual book, so far, is incredibly intriguing!

Art by Francesca

Francesca drew me a beeshark! This is so charming and now I want them to be real, and yet tiny, so I can keep beesharks in a tank and wake up to see cute beesharks every morning. I like to think they build undersea hives.

Daily skincare and makeup routine

I was starting to describe my routine to a friend who doesn’t wear makeup, and it, errrrm, came across as scarier than I expected. It sounds like *entire metric tons* of stuff to pile on your face, but really it is quicker to do than it sounds. Honest! (And may I say, it’s important to use sunscreen and moisturize?) I thought I’d lay it out a bit, mostly for myself. From cleansing to skincare to lipstick.

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Guest posts, and further reviews of Scale-Bright

There have been a fair number of new reviews for Scale-Bright. I was especially delighted that Charlie Stross enjoyed it and that he took the time to say so. *_* One is so blessed to be surrounded by gems of kindness.

But first, guest posts! I have been popping up all over the place (an exaggeration – I actually wrote no more than 6-7 guest posts?), writing on these topics. Folks have been very kind to give me a spot on their websites!

But ask me to imagine a society without conflict, humanity without war, and I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything outside of cartoons, and I wouldn’t be able to write something like that without it achieving a cartoonish caricature quality. That’s not to say it is impossible; I’m sure that with extensive consideration this can be done – Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire includes a pacifistic culture (though I understand they end up facing war anyway) – but I would have a beast of a time creating something like that myself, though I hugely look forward to how a pacifistic people adjusts and adapts to the prospect of impending, large-scaled armed conflict where their enemies have no qualms about crushing them, pacifism or not. (I also found the thoughts that went into this culture, the Dhai, fascinating; they have a history of enslavement, and once free of that, they went on to build social mores where ‘every individual had absolute control of their own humanity’ and the worst punishment available is exile, being severed from community).

And, oh, the reviews! My words fail to suffice. It is impossible to express the joy I’ve felt that folks have read a thing I made (at this length!) and that it worked for them, or that it touched them. And then, that they took the time to say so! For me it is normal to take delight in other writers’ work and express so, but to have the other way around happen has stunned me, in the best of ways.

Striking a delicate balance between gorgeous worldbuilding and graceful and deep characterization, it’s hard to decide which to spend my words on, the characters or the world.  And oh wow did I love these characters.

There’s Julienne, with her quiet reserve, fighting anxiety and depression, desperate to finally be done with all this coming-of-age crap. There’s the hunter Houyi, statuesque and unapproachable, comfortable in her men’s clothing and confused as to why or how anyone could possibly confuse her for a man. There’s Chang’e, who is mostly off stage in this story, but pivotal to Julienne’s relationship with the supernatural. And then then there is Olivia,  a viper demon, who will do anything to reach the end of her story even though she knows her love will not be returned. – Little Red Reviewer

What’s remarkable about these characters in concert, though, is that despite having very different personalities, whether demigod or human or demon, they all possess the same steel-spined tenacity. And thus despite their goals often conflicting with one another, it’s impossible not to root for all of them. Some are even mortal enemies, the background of which is revealed in predecessors within The Archer Who Shot Down Suns. So while it’s not necessary to read all the shorts in order to enjoy this one, doing so provides greater depth. The stories aren’t exactly self-contained or continuous either, but rather coil around each other, like snakes.

Scale-Bright is recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy with complex female characters, and is on a very tiny list of books that made me both snort with laughter and cry a little. – Manic Pixie Dream Worlds

I enjoyed Scale-Bright because it brings something different to the table: different sexualities, different ways of constructing gender and a different perspective from which to view the world.

However, when all is said and done, I am excited to see a new author being given a chance to bring different, diverse stories to readers. Everyone has been talking about how we need diverse books and Benjanun Sriduangkaew delivers. Recommended. – Bibliophilic Monologues

I first discovered Benjanun Sriduangkaew earlier this year when reading one of her short stories on Clarkesworld. Her prose is mesmerizing and quickly drew me into her short tale of gender politics, genocide, and AIs forged from the corpses of stars. I immediately placed her on my watch list of authors and, as seldom happens, within months I learned she had a new novella forthcoming, her first piece of longer fiction.

Scale-Bright is a fully encompassing world full of danger and awe, family and love, ancient feuds and divine machinations. Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s gift for exquisite prose and deft characterization remains as strong as ever. Highly recommended. – Antonio Urias

Few writers in their career ever manage to so perfectly evoke the feeling of myth in their fiction, the poetry of it; let alone the gentleness of love, the burning of lust, the ache of regret, and more. Sridungkaew evokes those without telling us she is doing so, her style meaning they are shot through the narrative, giving not just the characters those emotions but the story itself; her writing is evocative and beautiful, but more, it is like a caress of the ear, a coming home to prose that intimately knows what it is doing, not in a workmanlike sense, but with artistry. The way Turner put paint to paper, Sridungkaew uses words, creating impressions rather than exact replicas, but somehow impressions that are more real than any “realistic” representation could ever be.

Scale-Bright, if it wasn’t obvious, not only impressed me, it blew me away. This is a truly incredible, beautiful work, and I urge you all to read Benjanun Sridungkaew’s novella, and to do so right now. You won’t regret it. – Intellectus Speculativus

All this has put me in intense ‘eeeeeek’ flail mode (accompanied by ‘I am not worthy!’) and I worry that putting them all together like this will make me look vain? But I hope not! I do so wish to express my appreciation and gratitude for all this outpouring of joy, it makes my *year*, totally.

*・゜゚・*\(^O^)/*・゜゚・*

The brave new world… of ebook publishing!

(Yes only brave and new to me, I know).

The publication of my novella Scale-Bright is slightly interesting in that Immersion Press is in charge of the limited hardback edition (which I, as always, recommend! physical books are nice and we should support small independent presses!), but the digital edition is mine alone to work with (or badly mess up!). Since it is frequently a thing to discuss your ebook publishing process, I thought I’d give it a try. I do think having a hardback available is a huge advantage, as plenty of folks – like me – enjoy having a physical object, and reading lengthy things on the screen can cause some eye strain.

Formatting, cover art, and things

Scale-Bright (1)Possibly the most difficult part is the cover art, generally, but Immersion Press kindly put me in touch with the artist for the cover for the hardback – so both editions have the same cover! The artist, Richard Wagner, was incredibly helpful and prompt when I contacted him asking to license the cover design. Hooray! We have a cover, and what a lovely, elegant one it is too. (´▽`ʃƪ)

The next step is formatting the manuscript into an ebook – there are lots of guides for it around the Web, so I won’t go into that, suffice to say that I didn’t find it very hard despite being completely inept with technology! I was aiming first for a serviceable ebook but realized that if I was going to ask people to *pay money* for it, serviceable wasn’t going to be enough. Sigil is good, easy to use, and fairly foolproof. I may have spent days on formatting where most would have spent, um, hours. Or minutes. ‘Fairly’ foolproof, as I said.

Picking genre categories for the book is interesting. It’s currently filed under urban fantasy, epic fantasy, and new adult on Amazon: all categories that I think fit it fairly well. It was filed under ‘gay and lesbian’ at one point, but I’m not sure that best describes what it is – SFF categories work much better for my fiction than others. ‘Folklore, legends and myths’ was also a category I considered, but that seems to be mostly non-fiction. Altogether I have no idea how categories affect anything, but filing them under what fits best can hardly hurt!

Retailers and uploading process

I think it needs to be said that, for all its flaws, from my end Amazon is the easiest to work with. It’s prompt, and once you can whip your book into a nice shape uploading is quick. It also offers two features that can’t be found elsewhere – preorder and Kindle Matchbook, where Matchbook lets you set up discounts for your digital edition when a reader has purchased the physical edition. In my case, I made that free! It just seems a nice thing to do if someone has already shelled out for the lovely hardback, and for readers who both like physical objects *and* ebooks there’s no need to choose between the two or pay twice. Extra: the ebook contains related short stories (available online freely, but put together here for convenience), so I hope this is attractive for hardback purchasers in that they pay for one thing and then get all the extra things. Matchbook has the advantage of being a thing that ‘just works’, though some readers *have* contacted me to get their free ebook copies, so that’s nice!

Smashwords is nice in that it also distributes to Apple iBooks, B&N Nook, Kobo, and a bunch of other options I’m not sure anyone actually uses. Importantly, iBooks, Nook and Kobo also let you put up a preorder… if they actually distribute your book at some point. And only after you’ve qualified for Smashwords ‘premium catalog’.

This was unnecessarily infuriating. I’ll break it down step by step.

  1. Smashwords has arcane formatting requirements. There’s the whole autovetter process that is unfathomable. They recommend that you upload as a Word file that they then convert to other formats. The result from this looks – and is – *appalling*. My well-formatted ebook uploaded to Amazon didn’t pass autovetter many, many times; it took a lot of fiddling with this and that, and that other thing… and those other things….
  2. Hooray! It passes autovetter! It will now be reviewed by humans. This takes several days. I get an error about different font sizes. Hm. I corrected that, or thought I did, and submitted again. Got the same error back. Augh!
  3. It takes several more days before Scale-Bright is approved for premium catalog. Now it will ship to places that do preorders! Yay! Victory?

At this point in time I have no idea whether uploading a new version of the novella might cause the book to go through the entire autovetter and premium catalog review process again and then I break into hives. Not beehives, people-hives. Erm. Skin hives. Those. I am more than the bees of my parts.

I started checking iBooks, Nook and Kobo to see if my novella is available. It turned up on iBooks very promptly! Nook and Kobo mysteriously refused to stock it, even though The Archer Who Shot Down Suns is up both places. I waited a week, Scale-Bright is still not up. I fiddled with Smashwords channel manager, and a day later it’s up on Nook. Kobo took several tries of fiddling and poking; it only went up just a day or two ago. Ah well. Part of this was my fault – I didn’t realize preorder was a thing you could do through Smashwords, so I was late in getting it set up.

Amazon took an aggravating amount of time to link the hardback and Kindle editions, but this was resolved before release date, so that was helpful! (•̀ᴗ•́)و ̑̑

The first few days, Amazon stuffed ‘customers who viewed this also viewed…’ with self-published things that have, erm, unfortunate covers. A while after though, it began filling this up with very great things, in whose company I am entirely unworthy! It’s also ‘who bought this also bought’ instead of ‘viewed’. Hooray! Science! Algorithms! Not shown here: Ancillary Sword, We Have Always Fought and The Mirror Empire. 

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And lots more! Books books books! I’m skimming from the first page of ‘also bought’ off Amazon and Amazon UK (I spotted The Rabbit Back Literature Society in there somewhere, to my eeee and exclamation marks). I realize this doesn’t *necessarily* mean much, but it makes me feel like a real writer. A real writer! Some of these look super compatible with my interests, so I’m using this partly as a recommendation engine. Books books books. One must make room for a multitude of books in one’s life.

I’m not going to discuss the numbers, since that feels really weird! However it’s been slightly terrifying in that the numbers exceed my expectations by a lot: it’s a small project, I’m unknown. However number two: my expectations were ‘sell 20 copies’. Community support, as I’ve said before, has been mind-bendingly glee-inducingly joyously staggering. If anyone is interested, Amazon (obviously) pulls in the bulk of sales, followed by Smashwords, Nook, and iBooks.

Would I do this again?

If I have something to do it with, sure! I’ve learned a lot and it’d be fun to apply them again, more effectively next time; there’s a specific type of glee in getting to freely tweak all the things related to your book-shape. Do you know how many times I changed the book categories? No? You don’t want to! Being able to watch your sale graph in nearly real time is entertaining (I do mean it – I’m doing this stress-free, so it’s entertaining rather than horrifying). I have a space opera novella on the backburner centered around allegiance, brutal subjugation, combat trauma, and this intense dysfunctional relationship between a soldier and the demagogue-provocateur who comes to liberate her people by main force – but that is another story, and I won’t necessarily look to digital self-publishing as my first option.

But having it as *an* option and having learned how to go about and manage it is a fantastic thing to arm oneself with! As it turns out? Chuck Wendig was totally right.


Scale-Bright is a Chinese urban-mythic fantasy of interstitial cities, mortality, and demon ladies. Now available as a limited hardback from Immersion Press and as an ebook. Buy from Amazon, B&N, Amazon UKBook Depository or Smashwords.

Accessing the Future, a conversation between Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad part 1

Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad are co-editing a forthcoming anthology, Accessing the Future, that will explore disability—and the intersectionality of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. They want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future(s). The campaign passed the minimum target this week, and is now closing on the pro-paying goal! Please pre-order the anthology and help the editors pay a professional rate to all authors: igg.me/at/accessingfuture.

PART I

For fun and extra work, she says, Kathryn asked co-editor Djibril al-Ayad a few questions about his thoughts on Accessing the Future. “What unfolded was, in my opinion, an insightful look into the rewards of editing on the margins of genre when you have a love of science fiction and an open mind. The interview ended up being longer than we intended (this is a good thing!), so we decided to break it up into three parts. Today we share with you Part I.”

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