Category Archives: Short Stories

Publication: Weights and Measures

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.Original art for Weights and Measures, by Gary McClusky

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.

 

Publication: Machines in Motion

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.

Machines in Motion Teaser Image

Not sold yet? Here’s a teaser sample of Machines in Motion released on their website last week.

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!


Story Notes

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.

Story Sale: Cruise Control

Story sale announcement! My flash fiction piece “Cruise Control” will be published in the Spring 2021 issue of Fireside Fiction.

Stay tuned for a short little tale about retirees spending their sunset years with their brains transplanted inside “self-driving” cars. It’s the only surefire way to get away from your ungrateful adult kids.

I’m extra proud of this sale, not only because Fireside is an amazing & gorgeous magazine, but also because this  fills a Writer Bingo Square I never thought I’d fill: this story sold on its first submission.

Story Hour

Last night I was one of the author guest on Story Hour 2020, alongside Craig Laurence Gidney. In the space of about 45 minutes, we each read a story that touched on themes of death, communication, and subjectivity – in very different ways. I managed to get through the Scientist Ghost story without choking up too badly!

If you’d like to attend these readings at your leisure, in the comfort of your home, you can watch the recording anytime.

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.

Continue reading

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.)

Update 10/1/2020: Be aware that the magazine Longshot Island and associated Longshot Press are by the same publisher.

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.

Update: Publication is slated for the Jan/Feb 2021 issue, which will be available to purchase in Dec 2020.

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.