Story content warnings: suicidal ideation, self-harm.
“A Start to Judgment” is a full-scale epic fantasy: preparation for the Final Battle against the malevolent god, the two-pronged waging of the Final Battle, and the face-to-face confrontation between hero and god. All packed into 1500 words (3-5 pages)!
Epic fantasy confrontation is a familiar trope. But how will it unfold differently if the Chosen One knows that her power comes from the very thing she is trying to overthrow?
Arsha plays the role expected of her, though she’s known for years how their rebellion will end. She thought she could endure one last survey of her knights and archers and footmen before the final battle, but the guilt still cracks her insides like a pickaxe. The free people of the world have placed their faith in her, the Chosen One. Tomorrow she’ll face the Flensed Lord and betray them all.
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Spoilery notes below the fold. Go read the story first, it won’t take you long!
My science fiction story “Eight Reasons You Are Alone” was reprinted today in Flash Fiction Online! If you missed it when it first appeared in Nature Futures last year, here’s your chance to read my dark little story about sitting with the consequences of what you’ve done. You’ll have plenty of time to think, when there’s nobody left to talk to.
Flash Fiction Online has made the piece free to read. But as always, consider subscribing to the websites & magazines that bring you the free short fiction you love!
Ceres Shipyard had enough emergency shuttles for almost everyone. But because of you, none of that mattered.
Sale announcement: my science fiction short story “Sufficiency” will appear in Lightspeed Magazine! Publication date unknown, but sometime in the next 24 months.
A quiet little piece about needing to put down your living (plant) car. A little hopeful climate future, and a little bit of grappling with the American mythology of independence.
Jill wiped xylem from her gloves and closed her car’s leafy hood. She’d kept Snapdragon on the road for almost twenty years, and if the world would leave her alone, she could keep him alive for five more easy.
The spacecraft Hawai’iloa has fallen silent, halfway to Mars. Ethan’s wife is up there, receding and unreachable. But he still has a boss to win over, a job to keep. There’s nothing glamorous about his spot on the mission control team of an uncrewed orbital-cleanup spacecraft, but Ethan needs that simplicity. It keeps his eyes on the solid Earth and everything that might keep him sane, instead of raised to the emptiness above.
He’s waiting for word from space. But the Hawai’iloa might not be the only thing up there trying to contact Earth.
Despite the Jan/Feb 2022 cover date, the issue is available now in bookstores and online, though subscriptions may take a few more weeks to reach your mailbox. You can subscribe to Analog in print or electronic, buy the current issue from Amazon, email Analog (customerservice @ pennypublications.com) to buy copies of individual issues, or find them in your local bookstore. Download a pdf of the story here.
An electronic version is available to SFWA members on the internal forum, or by direct request. The electronic version will go public here once the story leaves exclusivity in February 2022.
2021 is coming to a close. It’s been a wild year by any metric, but I’ve brought you all here today not for annual angst, but to look back on my publications in the past year. I’ve published 6-7 short stories (four pro, two semi-pro), and sold three; wrote up two interesting bits of nonfiction; and sent my AI Cold War novel out on query.
Whether you’re looking for some stories to enjoy, or reading for SFF awards, I’d love to share these 2021 publications with you!
I Would – Fantasy Magazine, July 2021 (secondary world fantasy, 5600 words). A reverse heroic fantasy. About prophesied relationships, prophesied breakups, and using what power you have when someone else is the hero. If you want to read just one piece of mine this year (for award nominations or otherwise), this is the one I’d recommend!
“Some people say the stars control fate. I would never say such a thing.”
Memories of Fire – Translunar Travelers Lounge, April 2021 (contemporary fantasy noir, 4400 words). Jewish mythology, the 2011 Libyan revolution, and the tyrants of Heaven and Earth. This one still moves me, and I wish more people read it.
“I finally got my smoke. I enjoy them for the ritual, not the nicotine. A little fire, a brand-new drop of ash, the same little destruction every time.”
Cruise Control – Fireside Fiction, July 2021 (science fiction, 1100 words). Unhappy families, retiree brains, and self-driving cars.
If you’re nominating for the Hugo Awards, I hope you’ll consider Escape Pod for Best Semiprozine. We’ve put out a lot of great stories, and been at the vanguard of Escape Artists’ efforts to do right by our authors in every way we can.
Please consider our co-editors Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya would make a great choice (as a two-person team) for Best Editor Short Form! They came in a very close second in the 2021 Hugo Awards, and Divya is retiring in April 2022.
My science fiction story “Eight Reasons You Are Alone” is available today in Nature Futures! You’ve pulled it off, and learned the price, and now you have plenty of time to think about the consequences. There’s nobody left to talk to, after all.
But the alarm came too late for the shuttles to escape the blast radius.
All but yours, which launched before the alarm with only one human aboard.
I think you believed the shuttles would be fast enough to escape. But you never investigated. You certainly never asked me.
When you pass your shuttle’s 19 empty berths, do you imagine your dead co-workers? The family you haven’t seen in years? Or nothing at all?
To learn more about the inspiration behind “Eight Reasons You Are Alone,” check out my notes at the bottom of the story!
The only other thing I have to say is: I’ve always wanted to be published in Nature, but my science is in the wrong field for it, so I’m pleased to find this other route into one of science’s most prestigious publications.
Eszter and her brother scrounge to put food on the table in a Budapest beseiged by Napeoleon’s war machines. Forty years into the war, both sides fight with machines of steam and thaumic science, but a Jewish girl like Eszter can only dream of getting her hands on the gears.
Eszter pressed her forehead against the narrow window, watching the war-engines roll down the boulevard. The thirty railless cars progressed in perfect synchrony, shaking the tenement floorboards beneath her feet. She stared down at the stubby barrels of cannon, the smoked-glass lenses of eyes, and the mane of pistons emerging from each pressure engine. She wished the machines would pause there, beneath her window, where they seemed close enough to touch. But the automata continued their implacable roll southward, beyond her reach.
The Promise of Iron is free for everyone to read! If you enjoy it, and all the other excellent stories in this issue of Kaleidotrope, consider supporting the magazine.
My short story “I Would” is free to read (or listen) today at the excellent Fantasy Magazine!
Knira can see thousands of possible futures, but never her captor’s. When two heroes visit the castle, Knira will need to find a vision of them rescuing her, and make that prophecy come true. But it’s hard to manipulate the future of a woman you’ve just met when you can already foresee your relationship falling apart.
Some people say the stars control fate.
I would never say such a thing.
Our conversation followed the same arc as last time, as regular as the heavens. Queen Iroda claimed her constellation, and protected herself with the power of foresight. For every future I showed her, I kept a handful for myself:
Usually I put story notes here, but this time I’ll point you toward my Author Spotlight over at the magazine. Phoebe Barton had some great questions for me, which let me talk about this piece’s craft and inspiration and origins.
The only thing I have to add is a direct link to Weights and Measures, my previous short story in the same setting (Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, November 2020). W&M takes place a long way away, with entirely different characters, but the world runs by the same rules – under some of the same gods.
If you like the great work put together by the folks at Fantasy Magazine, consider supporting them with a subscription, or just purchase an ebook of issue #69 with “I Would.”
My short story Cruise Control is free to read online today, as part of the July 2021 issue of Fireside Magazine!
If your son won’t visit you in the nursing home, it’s his own damn fault. He’s the coward who won’t give you an honest reaction unless you needle him. And he’s the one who keeps bringing pamphlets about sticking your brain in a self-driving car.
“Pop, please. This’ll add years to your life.” He kept his voice gentle. “They rejuvenate your brain. It’s the only way to make a driver; need to learn radar and wheels, like a kid learning their hands. There’s no damage. Only change.”
I tried to wave him away. “You don’t want me alive. Don’t tell me you’re grateful, what a good father I was. Pack of lies, right there.”
Why not support the magazine and buy an ebook of the whole issue? You’ll get your own copy of Cruise Control alongside three more stories by Ryan Boyd (seven more if you get June 2021 too), every one of them full of delicious embodied cyberpunk grit.
Keep reading for a few author notes, about the story’s creation and neuroscience. May contain spoilers, so why not read the story first?