My second Curious Fictions offering is another piece that the marvelous Ellen Datlow bought for SciFiction, back in the day. It’s called “Ruby, in the Storm,” and it’s one of a bunch of stories I sometimes call the Slow Invasion series. It takes place in a near-future Alberta, in the midst of a sometimes-violent global conversation about offworld immigration, alien students at the University of Calgary and just what it is that aliens are hoping to achieve by enrolling in Canadian universities.
Ruby was a featured story at CF, and here’s what the lovely folks there said about it.
A.M. Dellamonica deftly sketches a world where humans and recently-transplanted aliens rub shoulders in near-future Calgary. As tensions rise, themes of belonging, trust, and chosen societies come to the fore… be warned, afterward you may also want a pet Purvaran stormcloud. Rated R for some sexual content.
When I wrote this story, around about 2004, I had been living in Vancouver for over ten years. Writing about blizzards in Southern Alberta made me remember the beauty of winter on the prairies.
I had mostly hated freezing my ass off for months at a stretch, every year, and spent my youth vowing to move to somewhere bleepity bleeping warm. But after a decade on the Coast I was able to step back and remember that there were things I liked about snow. It was a jolt. It was also part of an emotional journey that made it possible for me to contemplate moving here to Toronto, where I am deliriously happen… even though it does actually snow on occasion.
This is one of the lesser-discussed things that writing can give its practitioners: unexpected views into our own sea changes. People cannot help but see themselves in a distorted fashion, and even conscious self-reflection comes with a Hall of Mirrors effect. But when I was writing “Ruby, In the Storm,” I remember vividly how I caught myself trying to capture, in words, a particular winter thing: globs of clustered snowflakes falling slowly through amber streetlights, piling the fluff high in air just warm enough to keep it frozen, deadening the sound all around. I remember that, and the shock as I remembered and felt, of all things, love and longing.
The story’s not really about snow, of course–it’s about isms. Racism, imperialism, collaboration… ism. But in case there’s anyone out there, right now, writing and wondering Why am I doing This?, I thought I’d cast a little light on this side-perk of the creative process.
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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I set up at Curious Fictions just after Patreon tried to change its funding model, in a way that adversely affected many of my friends and colleagues. Donor-funded artists benefit from a diverse crowdfunding ecosystem, and I like the way Curious Fictions works. You can read any of my stories for free and, if you wish, set up an account and offer a tip. If you want to be first to hear about my new offerings, you can subscribe–pay as little as a dollar a month, and you’ll get at least a story a month, and my endless thanks.
My previous Curious Fictions offering is a time travel story, “Three Times over the Falls.”
This year the amount of student work I read–both as an instructor at UCLA and UTSC and as an MFA student at UBC–was copious. We’re talking around two hundred stories and novel fragments, all of which I critiqued, too. This is what I fit in the cracks:
New Fiction – Novels, Novellas & Collections
Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
Spoonbenders, by Daryl Gregory
The Best American Mystery Stories 2016, edited by Elizabeth George
River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey
Taste of Marrow, by Sarah Gailey
The Red Threads of Fortune, by JY Yang (I am reading the companion novella now!)
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan F. P. Rose
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber (Kelly is reading this to me so we aren’t quite done)
Crafty TV Writing: Thinking Inside the Box by Alex Epstein
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, by Hallie Ephron
The Best American Travel Writing 2017, edited by Lauren Collins
Women & Power: A Manifesto, by Mary Beard
Fieldwork Fail: The Messy Side of Scence, by Jim Jourdane and 25 scientists
I read lots and lots and lots and fucking lots of non-fiction articles, and I didn’t track them. You can’t track everything. But notable among them is: “City of Villains: Why I Don’t Trust Batman,” by Sarah Gailey
New Short Fiction
This is an incredibly incomplete list… I’m still struggling to capture all my short fic reading, especially the DailySF offerings.
“Excerpts from a Film (1942-1987)” by A.C. Wise
“And then there Were (N-One)” by Sara Pinsker
“We Who Live in the Heart,” by Kelly Robson
“Letters Found on the Backs of Pepper Labels next to a Skeleton in an 800-year-old Hibernation Capsule Ruptured by What Looks Like Sword Damage,” by Luc Reid
“We Need to talk about the Unicorn in your Backyard,” by Mari Ness
“Making the Magic Lightning Strike Me,” by John Chu,
“The Famine King,” by Darcie Little Badger
“Later, Let’s Tear up the Inner Sanctum,” by Merc Rustad,
“Seasons of Glass and Iron,” by Amal El-Mohtar
“It Happened to Me: I was Brought Back to Avenge my Death, but chose Justice Instead,” by Nino Cipri.
“A Hero, I am,” by Kat Otis
“Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by @KMSzpara in @UncannyMagazine
”Rivers Run Free,” by Charles Payseur –
“The Witch in the Tower,” by Mari Ness
The Blue Place, by Nicola Griffith
Stay, by Nicola Griffith
Always, by Nicola Griffith
In the Woods, Tana French
Ghost Story, Peter Straub
The Trespasser, Tana French
Happy New Year, everyone!
In the earlier part of this century (I love saying that!) rock star SF editor Ellen Datlow bought a time travel novelette from me. for the now-toasted SciFiction site. It’s called “Three Times over the Falls” and has recently acquired a new lease on life, courtesy the fine people at Curious Fictions.
“Three Times Over the Falls” is about Jayne Sho, the lead singer and chief songwriter for a girl band, Imaginary Cherry, whose latest tour stop in Niagara Falls is about to plunge into disaster. The band is on the verge of breaking up, and they’ve only just achieved their first real commercial success. Jayne’s petulant ex-boyfriend is stalking her, and there’s a handsome, badly-wounded time traveler in the mix, doing… what exactly? Nobody’s sure, but it’s making everyone in town sick, angry, and dangerous as hell.
Here’s a snippet:
Across the alley is the bar where her band is playing. The place–The Wedding Knight, it’s called–is okay, Jayne thinks. It has hardwood fixtures and a high ceiling, which make for great acoustics, and a massive window pointed straight at the Falls, just in case you forget where you are. The decor is pubby: dark furniture and dim lighting, banners and stained glass with scenes of knights rescuing damsels. No swords on the walls, though, and only one suit of armor: by Niagara standards, the Knight is pretty restrained. Kim bitches about the size of the stage, but it’s fine, really. They’ve played bandstands the size of sanitary napkins.
The door creaks as Jayne pitches inside. Smoky air mauls her, but then she sees the beer she needs, sparkling on the bar like an engagement ring.
I discovered Curious Fictions as a side effect of the recent uproar over Patreon’s attempt to change its funding model. I never had a Patreon myself, for various reasons, but I was dismayed to see so many of my friends losing financial support they had worked so hard to build. The threatened Patreon change–and their sudden reversal, too–make it obvious that donor-funded artists will benefit from a healthy ecosystem of funding opportunities. Basically, monopolies are bad. Options are good. If Curious Fictions and other competitors make a go of it, artists will have more choices.
What I like about Curious Fictions is that they’re a reprint specialist. More importantly, you don’t have to pay to play–you can read “Three Times,” and all the other stories I’ll be posting, for free. However, if you want to support my work you can subscribe and thereby be first to find out when I post additional stories–I’ll be doing that monthly–or throw a tip at any piece you particularly enjoy.
Many of you have already supported my work, naturally, by buying my stories and novels, online and in bookstores, and for this I thank you!
A marvelous thing happened this morning: a fan from Newfoundland reached out to tell me that they’d started Child of A Hidden Sea, were enjoying it immensely, and were also thrilled to see fish and brewis make an appearance in the story.
They had also discovered “Losing Heart Among the Tall” and wanted to know about other Stormwrack stories: whether there were any, what they were called, how to find them.
The Gales–the six stories about Gale Feliachild, back when she’s sailing around adventuring with a very young and pretty Garland Parrish, are among those things I often post in bits and pieces, on social media. But it has been awhile since I listed them all in order, as a piece. So, for anyone else who’s curious:
1. “Among the Silvering Herd
“, their first adventure, where Garland learns about the curse and Gale accepts that some new blood may be needed aboard the sailing vessel Nightjar
3. “The Glass Galago
,” Gale learns about Garland’s past as the powerful spellwriting lobby seeks to disenfranchise one of the smaller, weaker nations.
4. “Losing Heart Among the Tall
,” Discovering a slain mermaid spy sends the Nightjar
crew headlong into a conspiracy by the pirate nations to destroy the Fleet of Nations flagship, Temperance.
5. The Boy who Would Not Be Enchanted
(available at Beneath Ceaseless Skies). The Allmother of Verdanni wants to control or change the prophesy that Gail Feliachild will one day be murdered.
Ada Hoffmann is the author of Monsters in My Mind. She has published over 60 speculative short stories and poems in magazines such as Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and Uncanny. She is a winner of the Friends of the Merrill Collection Short Story Contest and a two-time Rhysling award nominee.
Ada was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of 13. Her Autistic Book Party review series is devoted to in-depth discussions of autism representation in speculative fiction. You can find her online at http://ada-hoffmann.com/ or on Twitter at @xasymptote
Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?
My parents were careful to keep me supplied with brave, plucky, intelligent female role models as a child – The Paper Bag Princess, Princess Leia Organa, Princess Eilonwy, Lucy Pevensie, Ariel, Nala, Hermione Granger. It was the 90s, and even the Disney princesses were plucky. The woman who comes to mind most, though, was a real woman – the astronaut Julie Payette.
Julie Payette is an engineer, a pilot, a robotics specialist, and was the second Canadian woman in space. This year, she was appointed Canada’s Governor General. It’s a good year for Canadian women who want to go to space.
It’s hard to explain what space meant to me as a small child. There are forms of romanticism that don’t survive adolescence unaltered. There is something wonderful about the idea of blasting off into the unknown, going where no human has gone before. But it was simpler and deeper than that. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, a literature of infinite possibilies. I knew that Narnia and Tatooine and Middle-Earth weren’t real – but space was. And without space the way I imagined it as a child, without its infinite array of strange new worlds, the Earth simply felt too small.
Can you remember what it was these characters did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?
When I was five or six years old, I told a boy at school that I wanted to be an astronaut. He said, “You can’t do that, you’re a girl.” My parents rebutted that argument by showering me with books about women astronauts – people like Sally Ride and Roberta Bondar. (I don’t remember having a book about Valentina Tereshkova, but I certainly knew of her as well.) They took me to public talks at the local university, one by Bondar, another by Payette.
Both women caught my attention, but Payette was the one who captured my imagination. Bondar had already retired and become an environmentalist. I liked environmentalism just fine, but I knew she was never going back into space. Julie Payette’s space adventures were, at the time, still in front of her.
I must have stuck out, an eight-year-old child in a sea of college students, but I don’t remember feeling self-conscious. I do remember the signed picture of Julie Payette that my dad got for me, with my name on it. “Ad Astra!” it said. That picture stayed on my bedroom wall right up until I moved out.
How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?
My female characters are really not much like Julie Payette, and it’s because of what happened after I was a child.
In junior high school, I stopped wanting to go to space. I was old enough to understand that modern space travel – cramped, crowded, physically and mentally grueling, and stuck in Earth orbit – was not what I’d thought. I was also old enough to know I could never be an astronaut. I had a bad autistic burnout in junior high school. I could barely attend class or make friends; my parents despaired that I’d ever be able to live independently, let alone train for space travel. I lost that dream, not because I was a woman, but because of my disability. It was one of many things I lost.
Most of the female characters in Monsters in My Mind
, even the child characters, have more to do with my adolescent self than my childhood. They’re lonely; they’re struggling. They’re in danger in ways they can sense but cannot fully understand. They make bad choices. They hurt other people. They experience shame. They are, in some cases, literally monsters.
In many stories, though, they get what they want. In some, they’re happy.
And in one story, “Moon Laws, Dream Laws,” an autistic woman goes to space – although the result is not what she or her wife anticipated.
My story doesn’t have a sad ending, after all, and it’s because of my writing that it doesn’t. I had been writing little stories my whole life, but it took years to really work out what that meant. To understand that there were other worlds to go to, after all; worlds that had been there all along. Worlds of the unknown, worlds of infinite possibility. Worlds inside me.
How do you feel about the word heroine? When I started talking to people about writing these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?
It’s a useful word. I grew up believing that women could do anything; I barely remembered the boy who told me otherwise. But I was able to do that because I had access to so many women role models. Their practical example was more important than any words. The word “heroine” calls attention to women heroes, and by doing so, it benefits the people – like me – who need them.
About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (usually) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Faith Mudge, Stephanie Burgis, and S.B. Divya . If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.