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 edited by Lilian 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?
Knira is a seer, not a hero. If she wants to escape from a robber-queen’s jeweled prison, she’ll have to use her visions to maneuver the heroes into rescuing her. But it’s not easy to manipulate a hero who appears in far too many of your possible futures.
“Invite her in,” I said. “Shower her with gifts and honors. She’ll thank you, she’ll resent you, and she’ll go on her way as soon as she can.”
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:
The story will be available online for free on July 27th. But why not pick up a copy now and support an awesome magazine?
Enoch is a creature from the myths of Jewish apocrypha: one of the rebellious stars, punished for refusing to shine at God’s command. Of all his kin, he alone was given the chance to work for his parole. He’s spent millennia of protecting humankind from its endless follies, but this time – Libya, 2011 – the threat comes from another star like him. The song of rebellion rises into the world again, stirring every soul against the tyrants of Heaven and Earth.
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.
Plus, it makes some mortals impatient.
“Lot of people counting on us,” Maryam said.
This piece is inspired by one of the most touching and terrifying pieces of reporting I’ve ever read, a walk through the ruins of 2011 Tripoli, in the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall. It took me years to be ready to write the piece that this story deserved, and years more to find a home for it. Nowadays, with Libya mired in civil war, Memories of Fire has grown darker. But I hope the story still contains hope and truth enough.
This story also has neuroscience and psychology hidden in its core. But like the reporting, I don’t want to cite details yet. Too many spoilers! Why don’t you go read the story first? Once you’ve done that, keep on reading for story notes about history, science, and forgiveness.
2020 in Review? This is not a year any mere human can summarize. But professionally I did well, despite this week’s doxxing. I sold 6 short stories (3 pro, 2 semipro, 1 reprint), and got the AI Cold War novel almost query-ready. And now that the year is nearly over, let’s list all the public-facing accomplishments and publications.
First, a few words on award eligibility:
Nominating for the Hugo Awards? If so, I hope you’ve enjoyed our work at Escape Pod, which is eligible for Best Semiprozine. The co-editors Mur Lafferty & S.B. Divya would make a great choice (as a two-person team) for Best Editor Short Form, too.
How about the Nebula Awards? I hope you’ll enjoy my story “Conference of the Birds” in Analog Science Fiction & Fact. The story of Surveillance Hub, a hard-working node in the distributed neural network AI of an oppressive cyberpunk megacorp. Doing its job, tracking intellectual-property thieves, hoping for another round of reinforcement signals from the network’s uppermost levels.
If you’d like to read more of what I published this year, here are my three other original stories that came out in 2020:
The Gentry – Kaleidotrope, July 2020 (contemporary fantasy, 4500 words). 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, homeless and down on her luck, and she needs a few things from the diner-owners’ son.
Machines in Motion – Hybrid Fiction, Sep 2020 (steampunk, 4200 words). In the war’s endless need for personnel, a Jewish refugee has a chance to become a military engineer, despite the restrictions against her religion and gender. To win her place among the engineers, she’ll need to outmaneuver all the officers and mentors who want to keep her under their control.
Not available free online. Contact me for a copy in the format of your choice.
Weights and Measures – Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Nov 2020 (secondary world fantasy, 5200 words). Agnella, senior priestess of the god of trade and justice, has come north to Senvosk to track a stolen relic. But by the time she arrives, the local priest has already been murdered. Agnella has only one local novice to rely on, as a rival god begins his hunt.
And lastly, you can hear my voice hosting five stories (six episodes) of Escape Pod from 2020:
My epic fantasy short story, “Weights and Measures,” is now available to read in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly issue 46! HFQ is free to read online, and you can support them via Patreon.
Agnella, senior priestess of the Trader, has come north to Senvosk to track a stolen relic. But by the time she arrives, the local priest has already been murdered. Agnella has only one local novice to rely on, as a rival god begins his hunt.
Heroic Fantasy Quarterly commissioned this awesome piece of original art for my story. Here’s a view of the opening image, the first exchange between Prelate Agnella and the East Wind.
I’ve written a lot of stories in this epic fantasy world, and this is the first one to see publication. In fact, I’ve written an entire novel. Perhaps someday you’ll all get to read about a certain up-and-coming priestess of the Trader who finished her training, earned a new name, and saw places farther beyond the edge of the world than even her childhood Senvosk.
Update: With the closure of Hybrid Fiction, this story is now available here on my website.
My Jewish steampunk short story, Machines in Motion, is available in Hybrid Fiction’s September 2020 issue! The publisher, Hybrid Fiction, is a new magazine showcasing stories that merge and combine genres – in my case, steampunk and historical fiction. For $3.99 (or less if you support them on Patreon) you’ll get 8 great stories, plus art, and a chance to support small creators and new magazines.
A spoiler-free note on terminology: in the nineteenth century, prior to the mid-twentieth century, the word “Jew” (the noun) was primarily used as an insult. The adjective “Jewish” didn’t have the same connotations, but Jewish people largely referred to themselves as “Israelites” or similar ideas. This changed in the mid-twentieth century when the foundation of modern Israel created a different meaning for “People of Israel” and Jewish people largely (though not entirely) reclaimed the noun “Jew.”
Keep reading below here for some author notes about the story. May contain spoilers, so if you haven’t read yet, stop here!
Machines in Motion is about – among other things – the tensions of assimilation. Eszter comes to a clear conclusion at the end, but I consider that ending a dark one. She might get the career she wants, but she’s paying a steep price. The things she tells herself are, without exception, lies.
This story is being published on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Ironic, for a story that seems to reject a Jewish identity. But no matter what Eszter tells herself, her experience is defined by a Jewish lens and faith. Like many of us here in the late 20th century, she’ll need to find a balance in the gearing: between the mechanisms her world expects, and the mechanisms that drive her.
Early in my writing career I wrote a series of stories about Eszter. Recently, I’ve had the good fortune to find homes for two of them. Machines in Motion is the second chronologically; the first one tells of Eszter’s escape from Budapest and her first meeting with Lujza, and will appear in the excellent Kaleidotrope in 2021 under the title The Promise of Iron.
Someday I may return to writing Eszter’s, because her path isn’t finished. She has a long way to go ahead of her.
Steampunk can be a difficult genre to write in. Too much of it is tied into Victoriana, and all that period’s implicit assumptions and oblivious, imperialistic dreams. But even a steampunk Europe contains people at the margins, who have much to gain – and much to lose – as new technologies and brutal wars upset the world’s entrenched patterns.
I am American, but much of my ancestry comes from Hungary, and I spent a week there once visiting distant relatives. Pálinka (Hungarian fruit brandy) can be good or terrible, but apricot is definitely the best flavor. Krémes is a very good Hungarian pastry, albeit not the best (that’s Zserbó), but Krémes has a refined fluffy lightness that better fits a noble like Sipos. Try them both and make your own decisions. You won’t regret it.