And it’s likely to be a while more, I’m afraid. Between work, grad school, and a very energetic little girl who really wants to negotiate the terms of this whole “bedtime” concept, I’m a little swamped.
That doesn’t mean I’m not writing, though. Just to pull from the list:
- “The Witch’s Knives,” Strange Horizons, October 2016.
- “And Then, One Day, the Air Was Full of Voices,” Clarkesworld Magazine, June 2016.
- “Let’s Tell Stories of the Deaths of Children,” Strange Horizons, October 2015.
- “Murder Goes Hungry,” Beneath Ceaseless Skies, September 2015.
That top one is just out today, and it’s my attempt at a Beauty and the Beast story. Of sorts. With a gorgeous illustration by Aud Koch, who saw it so much more clearly than I did and captured it all.
It took me a while to realize that yes, I do write horror. It’s just not what I used to think of as horror back when I was reading paperbacks with black and red covers. The story that’s up at Strange Horizons today (with an absolutely gorgeous illustration by Paula Arwen Friedlander) is my attempt to write something Lovecraftian (minus the ickier bits of Lovecraft, and no I don’t mean tentacles). In hindsight, though, I wonder how much it was influenced by a newer subgenre of horror: the urban-legend, creepypasta type of story that flourishes on the net.
I actually set out to write this story with nothing beyond “something creepy” in mind. So what did I find creepy, this time around? Well, floods. And old abandoned schools, like the kind I’d sometimes see back home. And viewing or reading something that suddenly looks back at you.
I think what I wanted to capture most was inexplicable horror, and just how much worse that can make it. I think I did a good job. Take a look for yourself — or a listen, as it’s up in podcast form as well. And then, maybe, see if it’s raining . . .
Only a few shreds of material evidence survived the events: a few incomplete and water-stained notes in the school’s daybook, a broken rowboat lodged in a tree, water damage to the first story of Wilbraham’s house.
The photograph of fifteen little girls in navy blue smocks and white pinafores, staring out at the camera as if facing a judge.
Electric Velocipede will be posting Issue #27 online today, starting with “Seven Ways of Bringing Down the Regime” by Daniel Ausema. “The Girls of the Forest” should be up sometime around midday — if you haven’t downloaded it for your Nook or Kindle, this would be the time to look!
I’m off to a grand New Year’s gathering (with Tiny Human in tow…oh boy) and this is a great way to end the year. It’s sad to see Electric Velocipede go, but I’m still amazed and honored to be a part of this last issue.
Best of the season to all!
Issue 27 of Electric Velocipede comes out today for Nook and Kindle, and my story “The Girls of the Forest” is part of it. I’m happy to announce this, but it’s still a sad occasion, because this is the last issue of Electric Velocipede. It’s a shame, because it’s a fantastic magazine, and while I can understand the reasons for closing it (time and money, the usual culprits), it’s still sad to see it go. I’m honored to have been a part of Electric Velocipede’s run, even if I came in at the very last minute.
A few notes about the story:
A lot of my story ideas come from two things banging together in my brain: the RAF and King Arthur, flying snakes and clockwork, superheroes and freedom of information. This one started out no different, being the result of 1) listening to the Decembrists’ “The Crane Wife Part 3” over and over again and 2) the birth of my nephew — or, more specifically, my brother-in-law describing the birth of my nephew, complete with sound effects. As is often the case, the story followed a path that led away from these, and as I wrote it, it became clear that I was putting together some of my thoughts about motherhood.
But the story was finished, and I sent it out into the world, and for a time it was set aside in my mind.
And then, in one of those coincidences that would be difficult to swallow if it were fiction, Electric Velocipede bought the story about a week after my daughter was born.
So there I was, nursing and sleepless and going through the story to see what I wanted to change before calling it final, reading what I’d written about motherhood when it was far off for me. And though there are parts of the story that scare me even more than they did when I wrote them, I think it still fits.
As I write this, my daughter is snoozing in her crib. Strange and uncertain and ambivalent as it is, this story is for her, who was not even dreamt of when it began.
I really should send a bottle of wine or something to the Boskone program committee. This makes two stories that were directly inspired by program items — “Sunlight Society” came out of a panel on superheroes (darned if I can remember the actual topic, but it did go into the unnerving nature of vigilantism). And now “A Death for the Ageless,” out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies this week, which started when I was on a panel about the detective in urban fantasy.
As is usually the case, I got caught by an irrelevant point and ran with it: where are the Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple figures in urban fantasy? So many urban fantasy detectives are based on the American hardboiled detective, but we get fewer of the eccentric, quiet, cerebral detectives. In the panel itself, a few were pointed out to me, but the idea still lodged in my head. How would you capture some of the spirit of an Hercule Poirot in a fantasy setting? Well, much of the tone of those stories draws from the post-World War I atmosphere, and much of Poirot’s charm is his “fish out of water” status…and then there’s the difficulty of writing a murder mystery in a short story form to begin with…and then there’s the Hastings character, the narrator, who isn’t the detective but these days can’t just report on how brilliant the detective is…
By the time Boskone had ended, I had the opening of “A Death for the Ageless.” I even had a pretty good idea whodunnit. And I had more: the odd friendship between Mieni and Swift, which drove the center of the story and made it an awful lot of fun to write. The backstory of the City started to come together after the first draft (I now know who the Usurper is, and where the worst battles of the war were fought, and a few other important things) and I had a world to play in.
So take a look. I had a blast writing this story, and I hope you like reading it. And if it leaves you with a craving for salad, well, that’s all part of the plan.
Elariel of the Ageless, once high in the courts of Poma-mèl, had been taller than most human men, with the harsh and elegant bone structure common to all Ageless, his expression now distant and tranquil. Shame about the multiple stab wounds; there was nothing tranquil about that ruin of a chest.
I’ve completely lost track of time since Tiny Human arrived — I’m not even sure what day of the week it is most of the time — so it’s no surprise that this crept up on me. “Someone Like You” is now up at Apex Magazine, along with fiction from Anaea Lay, Mary Robinette Kowal, Hal Duncan, and Maurice Broaddus.
This is a strange little story, and I’m not really sure where it came from. Originally it was a challenge I set myself — write something science-fictiony and keep it under 2000 words. Well, in revision the latter restriction got dumped, but it’s still one of the shortest pieces I’ve written. It’s also one of the few stories that I’m comfortable calling science fiction, rather than fantasy wearing deely-boppers and going “beep beep.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I just wanted to try something that wasn’t masked fantasy.) Two elements came together in the story, and I’m still not sure whether I’ve handled them both well: the idea of using multiple worlds theory for practical computation and the appeal of a really, really dysfunctional relationship.
“A Family for Drakes” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
This story has a strange genesis. About six years ago, I dreamed the scene at Traben’s Crossing, ice, drakes, Vigil, and all. I remember dreaming I was one of two children, and that when the drake spoke I could understand it.
I also remember being convinced in the dream that this was a trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Which was mildly boggling when I woke up and remembered that no, there wasn’t anything like this in The Two Towers.
I tried to write a story with what I remembered from the dream, but it crumbled in my hands. My narrator (Bron, at the time) didn’t have any believable motivation, the drakes themselves seemed irrelevant, and I really had no idea where it would go after that one clear scene. Hell, I didn’t even get to that one scene; I was bogged down in getting there, and abandoned the draft.
A little while back I started thinking about dragons. (As one does.) About ownership of dragons, such as that could be, and what circumstances could contribute to them turning up out of nowhere, and about responsibility for dragons. And with that came some thoughts about family, what responsibility one has to family, when it is time to turn away.
And this story surfaced in the middle of that, and finally I had the context for that one scene.
I’m not sure how much of that dream remains in this story, but the story itself is one I’m proud of. I hope you enjoy it.
She pushed up to her hands and knees as a third drake, this one smaller than the others, landed in front of her. Its eyes gleamed, red glass in a mask of bone and black wood, and furnace-stink swept over them. The drake turned its head to regard her with its other eye, lipless jaws parting in a grin.
A few updates for a Monday morning:
– I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this yet, but “Sunlight Society” has been reprinted in Rich Horton’s anthology Superheroes, out now! With stories by Peter S. Beagle, Kelly Link, Leah Bobet, Carol Emshwiller and more, the anthology is amazing, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
– “Serpent in the Gears” has been reprinted, this time as audio fiction in the Steampunk Specs compilation. Available both as audiobook and CD, the audio anthology includes some fantastic stories by steampunk masters, and my story as well.
– A new story will be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies later this week: “A Family for Drakes,” which, though not explicitly set in the same industrial fantasy world, could certainly have some of the same hallmarks if you move back a few centuries. It’s a bit grim in places, though I think ultimately hopeful. It’s also a bit strange, in that I dreamed a scene in this story about ten or so years ago, and it’s only just now made it into a real story. Inspiration from dreams is a chancy thing — do it too often and you end up with the Tale of Missing Your Flight While Naked And Also Behind On Your Deadline — but now and then, something’s come through that way. I’ll say more about it when the story’s up, but that post may be a little delayed, because…
– I’m going to FogCon this coming weekend! Which, yes, means that I’ll be on the West Coast for about a week. It’s been far too long since I was in San Francisco. I’ll be with family for a lot of it, but if you’re at FogCon, come say hi! (Really. It’s my first time there, and I suspect I’m going to feel so very very lost.)
Writing-wise, I have one more round of revisions to do before I hand this draft over to BRAWL (biggest problem: make the ending understandable) and because of that “Detective in Urban Fantasy” panel at Boskone, I now find myself with a first-draft Hercule Poirot pastiche set in a semi-urban fantasyland. I don’t even know any more, man. Inspiration is nuts.
First things first: I am thrilled to announce that “The Governess and the Lobster,” originally published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, will be included in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013, edited by Rich Horton. I am incredibly honored to be in such company, and especially with such a fun little story as this one. (It’s also more fodder for my theory that some of my best stories come from writing down whatever damnfool first sentence pops up and going from there.)
But that’s not the only lobster-related piece of news. Look what arrived in the mail recently, surrounded by the detritus of the day’s post!
Yes, it’s a mechanical lobster! My very own mechanical lobster, here to sit on my desk and glare balefully at unwanted mail. The wonderful and talented AuntieLou gave it to me in November, and it’s just taken me so dratted long to get the photos together.
This is absolutely delightful. I couldn’t ask for a better gift. Thank you, AuntieLou, and thanks to all of you who’ve read my stories. May you all have a joyous New Year and may the holiday season bring you joy and, if you like, eggnog.
Meanwhile, I’m going to try to feed the
lobtster lobster what it likes best.
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies Year Three is now out! My story “Letters of Fire”appears within, along with a lot of fantastic work from BCS authors. If you have a moment, go take a look. (There’s also a special offer at the moment — buy The Best of BCS Year Three and get a copy of Year One or Year Two free!)
Work on the new draft is going well, but I’m outlining about a chapter ahead of where I’m writing the draft. I feel a little like those cartoons where Bugs Bunny is laying down the railroad track about two feet ahead of the train (I’m sure there is a Looney Tunes cartoon with that schtick, but damned if I can remember which one). My general outline remains the same, but the details — the passage from A to B — is changing day by day. Still, it’s getting done and on the page, and I like how it’s turning out. On!
This is what happens when I get eaten by revision*: I miss important things! “The Governess and the Lobster,” an incredibly silly little story, is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s…well…this was one of those stories where I wrote the first line, thought “This is ridiculous,” and then went ahead with it anyway. It’s also one that I love to read aloud, if only because I can almost get the right amount of gravel in Matron Jenkins’ voice. If you’re interested in epistolary stories, a few skewered Gothic tropes, and automata, go take a look!
Dear Matron Jenkins,
For the record, I want you to know that the mechanical lobster is not my fault.
* more than a third done! Not counting the three chapters I’ll have to write from scratch…oh well.
As usual, I mean to put a con report up, then completely fail to do so. Boskone was wonderful, full of delightful conversation and connection and, on Saturday night at least, some really dreadful puns on my part. I regret nothing.
What I do regret is being remiss in not announcing this earlier today: I have a new short story up at Clarkesworld Magazine! “Sunlight Society” is a little outside my usual scope. It’s a superhero story…sort of.
When the Fourth Street biolab went up, I didn’t think of Casey right away. I was working in the far side of the complex, which meant I was one of about four hundred people who got to see the entire dome rise up off its foundations, rotate counterclockwise ninety degrees, and shoot up into the sky.
For those of you who use ebooks, Clarkesworld offers ebook subscriptions. They’re well worth it. Hope you enjoy it!
As I said in my last post, this is a sequel of sorts to “A Serpent in the Gears.” Charles, Colonel Dieterich, and the indomitable Professora Lundqvist have returned, this time in search of one of the Professora’s old students, gone missing on a salvage mission to a wrecked dirigible.
I really enjoy writing in this world, and I hope I have the chance to share more of it in the future. In the meantime:
Colonel Dieterich closed the maintenance panel below the airship’s secondary propeller, sending a puff of gray dust cascading over the mesa. “Well, it looks fine, despite the rough landing,” he said. “I should be able to fly us out of here.”
I brushed dust from my trousers. “Not that I’m accusing you of hubris, sir, but I’m sure others have said the same thing, and, well—” I gestured to the shambles just beyond our little airship: the shattered undercarriage of a wrecked dirigible much larger than our own. The high, sagging dome scaled with thousands of bronze plates verdigrised by half a century’s disuse gave the derelict Chiaro the look of some great fish dragged from its home. Beside it, our little propeller-driven airship was no more than a sneeze.
More revision news later today (now with more CAPSLOCK!), but right now I’ve got something more important and much more enjoyable: a new story!
“Letters of Fire” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s about a lot of things — the transition from a fantasy world to an industrial fantasy world, very dysfunctional relationships, on-the-job training — but I think it’s mainly about deciding who to be. I’m very proud of it, and I hope you enjoy it too.
They burned his master’s body at dawn. It was a far graver ceremony than Marten had expected: none of the howling mobs that Jana had predicted, no pointed mutilation of the body, not even a grand speech from the Bull lamenting the necessity of this death.
Ever said to yourself, “Self, what I really want to read today is a story with industrial accidents, involuntary magic, tabletalk, and opera”?
No? Why the hell not?
“Recapitulation in Steam” is now up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It’s another in the industrial fantasy/steampunkish world that “The Guilt Child” and “A Serpent in the Gears” share, but it’s gone in an entirely different direction. Hope you enjoy it!
“I’m fine,” Izzy said, swinging his feet off the cot and trying to blink away the persistent pinkish cast to his vision. “The compressor coils. That’s where the leak was, wasn’t it?” He remembered climbing down into the main ore distillation chamber, going to the secondary vapor line on a hunch, hearing a tremulous hiss….