Story Sale: Shiplight

I’m thrilled to announce the sale of my story “Shiplight” to Metaphorosis, a magazine focused on beautifully written speculative fiction!

This is a story about humanity’s first extrasolar colony, and about generational divides. When a lucky few escape the bounds of Earth to settle on an uninhabited planet, what becomes of their children, who never knew the world that defines their parents?

Publication is planned for August or September, and I’ll let you all know when I have an exact date!

Non-Corporeal Recursion

My story “The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R.” is up today on Strange Horizons!

(These author notes contain no spoilers for anything beyond the story’s first page.)

This piece doesn’t have a lot of secrets, no extensive authors’ notes. I might clarify that none of Anita’s science references are things I personally do; other than the choice of institution, her science life is not a window into mine. Well, except for the windowless basement lab. TRUE SUFFERINGS of a scientist’s life.

This story means a lot to me, but I don’t want to feed you an interpretation. Hopefully it touches you in some way that resonates with your own life. So rather than telling you what the story means to me, I can give a bit of its history:

I wrote this piece in fall of 2015, for the Codex 12th Annual Halloween Contest, where it took second place. The contest had a time limit and two rules: include something halloween-related (however vaguely or thematically), and use seeds given by fellow writers. I received the seed “the Halloween candy that you liked the least,” thus the role of candy corn1. I was more inspired by the chance to write something halloween-ish. When I began, I didn’t yet have a conflict or a plot, but I did have a character concept, one that had percolated in the back of my mind for a while:

In so many classic ghost stories, the spirit repeats and reenacts the moment of their death, again and again. I wondered: what – if anything – would that be like from the ghost’s point of view? And is there any way the ghost could move beyond that haunting state?

Ghost Pub Date

Pssst! The Scientist Ghost Story is tentatively scheduled to appear in Strange Horizons on June 6!

I just sent in pronunciation notes for the podcast version, which required a funny bit of juggling. One non-English name gets spoken by a character who wouldn’t know how to pronounce it correctly, so I had to send their fine Podcast Editor a mispronunciation guide.

Less than six weeks until I can share this story with everyone!

Meltwater

My first pro short story, Meltwater, is up today on Strange Horizons!

This is possibly the weirdest story I’ve ever written, despite its short length, but I love it all the more for that. Below the fold you’ll find some author’s notes. Contains some spoilers, so go read (or listen to) the story first .

Continue reading Meltwater

February 2016 Update

Not too much to report this month! I had a ton of non-writing things to overfill my time. Two long-weekend vacations (including a 16-hour drive transformed into 25 by a rockslide, oy), and running a giant historical fantasy live-action roleplaying game. Which went awesomely! All the contingencies happened, both political and esoteric!

I did sell a story to Strange Horizons at the beginning of the month, but if you’re reading this blog, you already know that! What else? I launched two pieces out for critique, and I began outlining my novel. I have one short story that everyone says “this should be a novel,” and it’s time to put the money where my words are1. Of course, I still need to figure out Acts 4-5 before I dig into the prose, but it’s coming along!

Friends of the Merrill contest

Normally I don’t participate in pay-to-enter writing contests, but I decided last month to go in on  the Friends of the Merrill short story contest, where those entry fees support the Friends of the Merrill, “a volunteer organization to support and promote the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, a public access collection consisting of science fiction, fantasy, gaming materials, graphic novels, and other related items. The Collection is named after acclaimed SF author Judith Merril, who’s original donation of material formed its nucleus.”

I’m thrilled to see that my story is one of the twelve finalists! We’re off to an exciting panel of judges1, who should announce the winner and two runners-up at the end of January.

Second Sale

I’m excited to announce that my short story “The Coin of Leadership” will be appearing in Stupefying Stories! I’ll announce here1 as soon as there’s an official publication date.

This story takes place in the same world as “The Wind and the Spark,” halfway across Europe, with a different cast of characters. It’s half military steampunk action-and-adventure, half class struggle and coming-of-age.

The Wind and the Spark

My first publication, “The Wind and the Spark,” is now for sale as part of Fictionvale Episode 6, alongside a host of other amazing authors and stories!

Fifty years into the Napoleonic Wars, a British scientist investigates automata that act not like machines, but like thinking creatures.”

You can buy the direct from the Fictionvale website, or from Amazon.

If you enjoy this story, wait until you see something I’ve written since 2013. Edited Oct 21: …including more upcoming stories set in the same universe!

~

This was one of my earlier-written stories, perhaps my third ever. Inspired by a late-night conversation back in Oregon, where I mentioned some piece of scientific history, and my friend’s jaw hit the floor1. I said, “Oh, that’s not common knowledge, is it?” And this story was born…

For some more thoughts inspired by the odd mix of characters in this story, see my previous post.

Why No Women?

My first publication, The Wind and the Spark, comes out this week in Fictionvale Episode 6. It’s one of my older stories, originally written in 2013; but after revisions in late 2014 with wonderful editorial help of Venessa Giunta at Fictionvale, I’m very proud of the tale. But I noticed one deep problem that I couldn’t fix in editing.

There are no female characters. None whatsoever, main or secondary or background.

Let me explain why:

The Bad Answer

The story takes place in the middle of the 19th century, on an Arctic military installation. Male-dominated profession, a cooped-up location. Within the story’s logic, there shouldn’t be any women there. This world is slightly more egalitarian than real history because of manpower shortages (pun intended) arising from long-term war, but we’re in the wrong geographical spot to see that in action.

So why is this a bad answer?

Nobody forced me to write a story about men in their manly Nordic outpost of manliness. I chose to write in a setting that excluded women. Therefore, I definitely need to have…

The Good Answer

Honestly, it’s just chance that I sold this sausage-fest first. As I’ve said before, diversity in fiction is a good thing for many reasons. The point is not to meet quotas, but to write fiction that reflects the world’s real diversity.

I don’t want to be one of those guys who pays lip service to diversity while writing about the bros and their manly manproblems, or blithely pasting in all-white futures, pasts, and secondary worlds. So it’s time to test myself, and check the demographics for all the stories I currently have out on submission, plus my works in progress (WIP).

For these statistics I limited myself to the top 3 characters in each story, though I sometimes included major presences who never come onstage. I only examined how the characters reflect real-Earth society, not how they fit into their local setting. For fantasy settings I’ve assigned characters to the Earth civilization they most evoke, though that obviously makes for crude approximations.

The Results

Diversity Table

Some thoughts:

  • 19/37 female, 7/14 protagonists.
  • 19/37 white, including the three “unspecified but assume white” and the many European Jews.
  • No, I’m not going to try to define “white;” that’s above the pay grade of this blog post.
  • “Hispanic” is probably the right word, because those three characters are all Hispanic-American. (Additional data not shown on chart: 4 stories set in USA, 6 in Europe, 2 in space, 3 in secondary worlds.)
  • † indicates a sexuality that’s identifiably other than cis/hetero (6/37 characters). Of the remaining 31, 11 are unambiguously cis/hetero. For the remaining 20, sexuality is ambiguous or not identifiable. (Authorial vision varies, but I don’t want to take credit for anything not in the text.)
  • The three *’s are the same character, as are the two **’s. I counted each appearance separately.
  • “Unspecified-white” means the story has no physical descriptions for anyone, but the character’s names are an “American generic” that probably implies white. The fairy is “bronze-skinned” but not any human ethnicity.
  • The MC of Custom Made is an inhuman entity in a female human form, but when it comes to Meltwater, this whole question gets utterly incomprehensible. I can’t even explain how incomprehensible it is without spoilers. This pleases me immensely.

Is this perfect? Surely not, even if I knew what “perfect” would be. This list has some definite strengths and successes, but also gaps and weaknesses. (For instance, compare diversity of characters vs. cultures/nations.) Nevertheless, it lets me answer this post’s question with data-driven certainty: I’ve only written one story on Frozen Sausage Island, I promise!

First publication upcoming

My steampunk1 story, “The Wind and the Spark,” should finally be appearing in Fictionvale at the end of next week! This was one of the first stories I ever wrote — maybe the 3rd I ever completed. It’s certainly the first story I sold, back in April 2014, so I’m thrilled for it to hit press at last after many delays and diversions.

I’ll have a post or two more about it next week when the story emerges. I definitely want to have one demographic discussion (also known as “ugh my newbie story has no female characters whatsoever”), and maybe some story notes if I want to expound on the story’s spoilery s personal/professional resonances.

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