Category Archives: Short Stories

Anthology: Diabolical Plots Year Four

Earlier this month it was available for preorder, but now it’s live: you can get the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology at your favorite ebook retailer!

Diabolical Plots Year 4 cover

For those of you who missed it last time, here’s a teaser:

I showed up early for work, as always. The airport’s underbelly was the ugliest place in Boston, but I would’ve spent every hour there if I could get away with it. Among the hurried machines and distant reek-sweet jet fuel, I had everything I needed. A purpose, a paycheck, a place to hide; and most of all, a land of function without beauty, where nothing would tempt me to invest it with holiness and life.

This is one of the stories to appear in the anthology before it comes free online at Diabolical Plots. You could sit tight for another couple of months… but why wait, when you can get it as part of such a delightful anthology?

I’ll release some more author notes about the story when the free version comes out, but here are two spoiler-free tidbits:

  1. In early drafts, the beach had bioluminescent jellyfish, an explicit homage to the Martha’s Vineyard jellies familiar to alumni of Viable Paradise. Alas, their metaphorical value was too flimsy to survive edits. Nevertheless, you can blame Robert Dawson for the writing prompt.
  2. In early drafts, the statuette was a rocket ship rather than a motorcycle. Specifically/implicitly, it was somebody’s Hugo award. I cut that for excess self-indulgence.

Preorder: Diabolical Plots Year Four

My latest story, “The Hammer’s Prayer,” will be coming out very soon in the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology. Just look at this gorgeous cover! With my name amidst a whole bunch of other amazing writers!

Diabolical Plots Year 4 cover

If you want to support Diabolical Plots, you can preorder the anthology today via the link above. If you want to help out, consider preordering it today. Sales beget algorithms beget sales, so if you’re thinking of picking it up, preorder is best.

And now, a teaser for my tale, of a golem cursed or blessed with a contagious animation:

I showed up early for work, as always. The airport’s underbelly was the ugliest place in Boston, but I would’ve spent every hour there if I could get away with it. Among the hurried machines and distant reek-sweet jet fuel, I had everything I needed. A purpose, a paycheck, a place to hide; and most of all, a land of function without beauty, where nothing would tempt me to invest it with holiness and life.

If you want to keep reading, get yourself a copy of that anthology!

Story Sale: The Seeds We Plant

I’m delighted to announce that my short story “The Seeds We Plant” will appear in Compelling Science Fiction – specifically, in their kickstarter bonus issue! If you go back that kickstarter, you’ll not only get an awesome print edition of their anthology (containing a reprint of my Sentient Dyson Swarm story and 26 more tales), you’ll also get to read a brand-new story by me, full of classic science fictional Person Vs. Environment challenges and emotional-control cybernetic implants!

Story Sale: Elegy of Carbon

I’m pleased to announce that my little science fiction epic “Elegy of Carbon” will appear in The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now, the inaugural anthology from Paper Dog Books. It’s an anthology about the future of human-robot interactions, and my story takes that out to a space-opera future.

The story’s unofficial subtitle is “The Brave Little ToasterMining AI.”

The anthology is due out in late September, so hopefull I’ll tell you all more about it in a month or two!

Story Sale: The Gentry

Earlier this year, I wrote about my Fairy Gentrification Story: how it sold to PerVisions right before the magazine folded. But joy be upon us, “The Gentry” has now sold to Kaleidotrope!

The diner with the portal between worlds closed down years ago, but our last stranded fairy chevalier will make it home in 2020.

This makes 5.5 short story acceptance letters in 2018 (the half is WotF), but the first one that has led to a contract.

Withdrawing from Writers of the Future

Earlier this week, I received a phone call informing me that my final submission to the Writers of the Future contest (first quarter 2018) had been selected as a finalist. However, after contemplating the information1 that past winners have shared about the contest in recent weeks, I have withdrawn my finalist story from consideration.

I would not judge anyone for their past (or future) decisions to be involved in the contest, whether or not they act(ed) out of ignorance. After all, many writers – myself included – have long treated this contest as a normal fixture of our community. I hope my choice will help encourage others to reexamine that assumption.

For myself, no award is worth supporting an organization that has hurt and misused so many friends, fellow authors, illustrators, and human beings.

[Updated August 12 with more links in the footnote.]

Escape Pod Rejectomancy Update

As of today, I’ve made a small change to how we at Escape Pod choose our rejection letters.

In short, rejection letter type now reflects where the story got in our editorial pipeline. The criteria for Tiers 1&2 have been updated, so that now:

  • Tier 1: Rejected by Associate Editor (first reader)
  • Tier 2: Rejected by Assistant Editor (me)
  • Tier 3: Rejected during Assistant Editor Second Pass
  • Tier 4: Rejected by Co-Editors

Note that, as a result, we will be sending more Tier 1’s than in the past. We have tweaked its text accordingly.

Now more than ever, tier is not an estimate of story quality. “Who detected that the story wouldn’t be a fit for Escape Pod” is not highly correlated with the (subjective) question of “how close the story came to fitting.”

If you miss having some subjective opinion in your rejection letter, fear not! We continue to provide personalized rejections whenever possible for original story submissions.

If you want to learn more, including how to identify which tier you received, check out my full Submissions and Rejetomany post.

Toward Lands Uncharted

Updated September 2018: I have the paperback anthology in my hands at last: the award-winning anthology Mind Candy (Myriad Paradigm Press), containing “Toward Lands Uncharted,” my fantasy story about a spy and diplomat who must try and protect her conquered nation from the capricious power of imperial border-magic.

Mind Candy cover photo

Check out the anthology’s fine new cover, and pick up a copy on Amazon!

This story began in a writing exercise for Mary Robinette Kowal’s Short Story Intensive workshop in summer 2016. My core idea was the Censor of Maps: someone who changes maps, and in doing so, rewrites the nations beneath. Not so fictional at all, since it’s inspired by the Sykes-Picot agreement, where an imperial power made a single callous decision that builds and destroys nations. (Hardly the only instance of such a thing.) But need a speculative/magical element in my historical fiction, so I made the political into the literal: a magic that erases nations, places, and peoples.

I very nearly named this story “Sic Hunt Draconis:” here be dragons. The unknown spaces, the fears and possibilities we write into the uncharted spaces of our lives. But it would’ve been a terrible bait-and-switch to use that title in a story with no actual dragons!

The Story that Never Was

I hit a writer milestone yesterday, though a sad one it is. You see, about a month ago, I had another short story accepted at a professional SFF magazine! I was just waiting on the contract to make it official, and then tell you all about my delightful Fairy Gentrification story. The eldritch diner with the portal between worlds was torn down for condos years ago – but there’s one last fairy chevalier stranded in this world, seeking out the owners’ son.

But, alas, it is not to be. Because the magazine has died, with my story in its casket.

It’s a unique frustration, especially since this story has tried so far and long to find a home. On what may be its last shot at professional publication, it succeeded – only to get rug, floor, and foundations pulled out from under it. From failure, to victory, to failure again after so long. Rejection never feels good, which makes this a brand new kind of unpleasantness because it wasn’t a rejection. And yet: no story.

At least with a rejection, I know some part of the failure was mine. I can take responsibility, determine causality, try to learn from it and do better next time. But there’s not much I can do to prevent a magazine from folding under me.

Alas. I’ll sell other stories, though maybe never this one. Perhaps the right anthology will open up someday. Until then, the portal shall remain buried beneath the condominiums of the Lower East Side.

Where the Anchor Lies

February is upon us, and with it, the publication of my short story Where the Anchor Lies at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! The long anticipated Sentient Battleship Graveyard Propagandist Love Story.

This is a piece of science fantasy, right on the strange and fuzzy borderline between genres. It’s a secondary world, and all of the mechanisms are fantastic/magical, but their implementation and culture feels quite modern. It’s definitely a “sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology” situation.

A few more thoughts and discussion below. No major spoilers, but let’s be careful anyways, yes?

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