Category Archives: Short Stories

Publication: The Gentry

My short story, The Gentry, is live in the Summer 2020 issue of Kaleidotrope! Alongside 6 other excellent stories and five poems, you’ll find my tale of the diner with the portal between worlds… after the owners have retired, and condos have gone up in its place, and one last fairy chevalier is still stuck on Earth.

This story has gone through a long and twisty history – it once killed the professional magazine PerVisions. But the chevalier has made it back to New York at last.

Some notes and background on the story below the fold. Contains spoilers.

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Time Cookie Wars in Drabblecast

Time is cyclical, and so are the wars over the perfect snack. My story The Time Cookie Wars has appeared in Drabblecast, as part of its episode 426 Flash Trifecta! The episode’s theme is “Friends close, enemies closer,” which is a perfect fit for this story. Sometimes the enemy is very close indeed.

Whether this is your first time reading/hearing Time Cookie Wars, or you want to hear a wonderful new narration alongside a pair of fresh weird stories, go check it out!

If you want to learn more about the story’s inspiration, check out the author notes I posted alongside its first publication.

Story Sale: Weights and Measures

I’m delighted to announce that my short story Weights and Measures will be appearing in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly in November 2020!

This story takes place in the same world as my unpublished Conquistador Dragon Novel (and even shares a character with it). It’s a fantasy world where the only source of magic is gods and religion. Our main character, Prelate Agnella, is a banker-priestess of the globe-spanning Church of the Trader. For all the church’s flaws, theirs is the god of trade, exchange, and fairness. Sometimes, the only justice in this world is what they bring to it.

I’m so glad this story has found a home after its long journeys. It was a Writers of the Future finalist in 2017 (prior to the piece I withdrew in 2018), and was accepted by the ill-omened Spectacle Magazine, though the latter folded before publication (or payment). Now it’s going out into the world, with original art!

Writer Warning: Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat Reader

Last Updated March 12, 2020

If you’re an author out there submitting short stories, you should be aware of the things that the magazine Unfit and Unreal (via their portal Thinkerbeat Reader) are doing without your permission.

Here’s a screenshot from Feb 27 of the “honorable mentions” page where they publish the authors, titles, and ratings for some stories they’ve rejected.

Screenshot from Thinkerbeat Reader

I’ve edited the screenshot to only reveal the information of authors who’ve given me consent to share. I’m not providing links because there are dozens more authors on that page, who presumably never wanted this information publicized. Nothing in the website’s guidelines warns an author that their story may be publicly named & rated. In fact, their privacy policy states that they will not share your information with anyone.

(Yes, public. This page is visible to everyone, not only Thinkerbeat members.)

I tried yesterday to tell the editor that authors would see this practice as upsetting & predatory, so that he could quietly fix it. Unfortunately, he instead responded with a masterclass in professionalism.

Email containing only the words "Grow up."

Maybe some authors are willing to have their rejections named & rated. I certainly wouldn’t be, but that’s your choice to make. But it’s DEFINITELY not okay to share information about individual submissions without asking permission. None of the authors in my screenshot were aware of this until I told them.

If you’re considering submitting here, also keep in mind the Unfit / Unreal / Thinkerbeat practice of requiring a subscription to submit – a subscription which costs money after the first three months.1

Thanks to David Steffen of the Submission Grinder for doing the initial legwork of spotting the problem.

Updates and Developments

Edit 2/27: Please don’t try to track down the full list of names-and-ratings. It contains about 75 rows, and every one of them contains information that the submitter didn’t plan to tell the whole internet. Let’s respect their privacy. If you want to know whether your story is listed, let me know and I’ll check my screenshot.

Paypal transfer, totaling $0.00 after feesEdits 2/28: Changes to the main post: Clarified that the ranking page is public. Clarified that they are violating their website privacy policy. Revised info on their payment scheme.

Rest assured that Writer Beware has been notified and is investigating.

Update 3/01: The editor sent me a Paypal transfer that totaled $0.00 after fees. Perhaps this is a petty way of reminding me that I didn’t pay? Or an attempt to verify my email address? Who knows? There’s no note with the transfer. I have refunded it, to make clear that I have no financial relationship of any kind with him.

Update 3/04: According to reports, they have removed story titles and ratings from the Honorable Mention page, changed the landing page to make clear that subscriptions will be required after 3 months (rather than hiding it in the website terms), and updated their privacy policy. However, their new privacy policy leaves much to be desired – it only says “will not sell your contact info.” This does not prevent them from giving your contact info, nor does it forbid the story title/ranking info from the original Honorable Mention page.

Update 3/12: The Science Fiction Writers of America have posted an official warning statement about Thinkerbeat and its magazines. Note that Daniel Scott White (the publisher of Thinkerbeat) also runs the online review magazine Phantaxis, according to Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware. Finally, Daniel Scott White continues to act like a jerk when people ask him to remove their stories.

Update 3/22: It looks like Thinkerbeat is now calling their rejections a “Thinkerbeat Award.” Not that they like your story enough to buy it, but they still want you to give them some free advertising by putting the image on their website. (A very Writers-Of-The-Future-like practice. Good to know that markets with a predatory approach to their writers are learning from each other. Sigh.)

Story Sale: Conference of the Birds

I am super-excited to announce my first short story sale of 2020: “Conference of the Birds” has sold to Analog Science Fiction, one of the oldest & awesomest science fiction magazines out there!

I can’t wait to introduce you all to 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.

More info to come when I have a publication date!

No program-layer could predict what a human might do, but Surveillance Hub could see everything that mattered. Their bird-drones spread across the city, scattered on cables and rooftops and broadcast towers. Every camera hunted for Krina Viy, independent security contractor (AWOL from JoyCorp contact 5 hours). 

Story Sale: The Promise of Iron

I’m delighted to announce that my short story “The Promise of Iron” will be appearing in Kaleidotrope in 2021! This started as the first story I ever brought all the way from drafting to revision, and as a baby!writer, its early near-successes (including as finalist for the 2014 James White Award) gave me the confidence I needed to keep submitting.

In a world where steampunk technology has dragged the Napoleonic Wars into a forty-year quagmire, the battlefront has finally made its way to Budapest. With automata walking the streets, the Jewish orphan Eszter might finally get her chance to become an engineer – if she’s willing to lose the last scraps of home, family, and identity she still possesses.

Time Cookie Wars audio reprint at Toasted Cake

Need snack on a long cold weekend? Now’s your chance to hear the Time Cookie Wars podcasted at last! Meet all your black comedy science fiction needs (and cookie hungers) via Tina Connolly’s wonderful reading in episode 208 of the Toasted Cake podcast.

Time Cookie Wars is a story about… what it says on the tin. Wars, across time, for cookies. Though I suppose you could read my original story notes for more info on what brought us to levy such judgment on our past selves.

P.S. I actually like peanut butter cookies. But they’re nothing compared to Milanos.

2018 in Review & Awards Eligibility

Another year is coming to a close, and much to show for it, ups and downs and every direction. I finished the first draft of a new novel, and worked on more short stories than I can shake a metaphor at. I made the Campbell Award longlist! I lost a Hugo award with the rest of the amazing Escape Pod team, and took part as we won and rejected a Parsec award. My final submission to Writers of the Future became a finalist, but I withdrew my story over ethical concerns. I sold 4 original stories, but two of those sales fell through when the magazines closed.

I had five original stories come out in 2018. In chronological order:

  1. Toward Lands Uncharted – Mind Candy, Feb 2018 (secondary world fantasy, 4900 words). A diplomat and spy must try to save her nation and its very history from their conqueror’s Sykes-Picot border magic.
  2. Where the Anchor Lies – Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Feb 2018 (science fantasy, 4000 words). A general visits the grave of the sentient battleship she loved, to use it as a political tool.
  3. The Seeds We Plant – Compelling SF special issue, Sep 2018 (science fiction, 2200 words). When a colony ship suffers a brutal accident, the pilot must reply on his emotional-control neuroprosthesis to save his cargo.
    • Not available free online. Contact me for a copy in the format of your choice.
  4. Elegy of Carbon – The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now, Nov 2018 (science fiction, 4100 words). In the waning days of the solar system, a mining AI must find a new way to fulfill the purpose it loves.1
    • Not available free online. Contact me for a copy in the format of your choice.
  5. The Hammer’s Prayer – Diabolical Plots, Dec 2018 (contemporary fantasy, 3300 words). A golem hides away in ugly places, to help him resist the compulsion to share his gift of animation.2
    • If you only have time to read one story, this is the one I recommend.

I didn’t have much time for nonfiction this year, but I did publish:

  1. The chapter “What’s Possible with Cyborgs and Cybernetics” in Putting the Science in Fiction (Writer’s Digest Books). I’m also quite proud of my associated writing-prompts post, “Machines, You, and Other Synonyms.”
    • Putting the Science in Fiction – a collection of 59 essays by scientists and other experts, designed to help authors write with authenticity – is eligible for the Hugo award for Best Related Work .
  2. Twelve new entries in the #NeuroThursday Twitter feature.

If you’re in a position to nominate for awards of any kind, I hope you’ll consider not only these fine works, but the whole team over at Escape Pod. We work hard every week to bring you the finest in audio fiction, and we’ll be eligible once again for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. We also published a lot of awesome stories, so take a look back at that list and see if one of them feels worthy of your love too!

Publication: The Hammer’s Prayer

The Hammer’s Prayer, my short story about a golem secretly working in the depths of Logan Airport, is now live on the Diabolical Plots website! This story was previously available as past of the Diabolical Plots Year Four anthology, but now it’s online for everyone to read.

This story is, I think, a brand new take on the golem myth. What if the word of life was no mere static gift, but a vibrant and contagious thing, begging to spread breath to new lungs?

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.

Further thoughts below the fold. No true spoilers, but why not read the story first anyways?

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Publication: Elegy of Carbon

My science fiction short story, “Elegy of Carbon,” is now available in the anthology The Internet Is Where The Robots Live Now! This exciting anthology offers 20 short stories about the intertwined lives of human and machine, from near-future to space opera.Anthology cover

About the anthology:

We are headed for convergence. The separation between mind and matter, robot and man, the artificial and the sublime is becoming less every day. Will the human race survive the reckoning? Will we crash into extinction or wake to a future beyond our current comprehension? Join Mari Ness, Benjamin C. Kinney, Aimee Ogden, Monica Louzon, Sharon Diane King, Deepak Bharathan, Kevin Daniel Lonano, Vajra Chandrasekera, Marie Vibbert, S.H. Mansouri, Nikki Macahon, Krishan Coupland, Premee Mohamed, David Rogers, Priya Sridhar, Rhoads Brazos, Matt Fuchs, Conor Powers-Smith, Maria Haskins, and Claudio J.A. Espinal as they tell twenty unique stories exploring the thinning space between human and machine.

“Elegy of Carbon” is the story I like to call the Brave Little ToasterMining AI. The miner finishes its mission, no carbonaceous asteroids left in its territory to mine for diamonds. What, then, is a mining AI to do, in a solar system cold and empty yet very much still populated?

Keep reading for some spoiler-free notes about its creation and inspiration…

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