In 2016 I read approximately 120 stories and/or partial novels from students, pieces ranging in length from 1,000 words to 25,000, and wrote a critique for each and every one. I also read over fifty stories, novelettes and novellas for the Heiresses of Russ 2016 anthology, which I co-edited with Steve Berman. Most of those, naturally, I read twice.
Because of the anthology, I was often very focused on short fiction, and read a lot of it online. I had promised myself that I would remember to record titles and authors and links, and I probably managed to do this a quarter of the time. When I list notable shorts, below, know that I may well have read and loved your story too… I just forgot to cut and paste the link into my master list.
“This is not a Wardrobe Door,” by A. Merc Rustad
“Only their Shining Beauty was Left,” by Fran Wilde
“Motherlands,” by Susan Jane Bigelow
“No Matter Which Way We Turned,” by Brian Evenson
“Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, by Alyssa Wong
“Madeline,” by Amal El-Mohtar
“And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead,” by Brooke Bolander
“The New Mother,” by Eugene Fischer
“The Blood that Pulses in the Veins of One,” by JY Yang
“Grandmother Nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds,” by Rose Lemburg
“Fabulous Beasts,” by Priya Sharma
“Over a Narrow Sea,” by Camille Alexa
“A Million Future Days,” by Charles Payseur
Samples and Starts: Another new category for me, this year, was first chapters and samples of books I didn’t go on with. Usually these were non-fiction works with great concepts and line by line writing that wasn’t quite delicious enough to out-compete all the other brilliant non-fiction books out there.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, by Kate Summerscale
The Winter Prince, by Elizabeth Wein
Accused, by Mark Giminez
Tales From Development Hell: The Greatest Movies Never Made? by David Hughes
Morgue: A Life in Death, by Dr. Vincent DiMaio
The Human Factor: Revolutionizing the Way People Live with Technology, by Kim Vicente
When I am reading a lot of student work, I find new novels rather hard to tackle. Too much of my headspace is taken up, and so I reread. I didn’t record these very well either, in 2016. I know Tana French’s Broken Harbor and Faithful Place were among them, as was Minette Walters’ The Shape of Snakes.
And this is plenty for you all to chew on, so I’ll make a second post, soon, containing 20 new-to-me novel-length works I read in 2016!
Tor.com has released the cover for a story I sold Ellen Datlow not long ago, “The Color of Paradox.” The image is by Jeffrey Alan Love and it’s very creepy and appropriate. I feel as though I could fall into it, staring for endless hours… or possibly just until the kittens do something irresistible. (Attention spans are lamentably short at Dua Central right now.)
The elongation of the figure and its placement in the upper left corner draw the eye first, delaying the moment when you track down to the city and see that Bad Things are happening. The brushwork is delightfully scratchy, and naturally I headed right off to Love’s blog to see what the rest of his work looked like. He’s got an image for Tolkien’s Beowulf that is sheerly amazing, and I liked his take on Excalibur, “The Sword in the City” very much.
“The Color of Paradox” is a first attempt to write something I have been trying to wrap my head around for years: a series or novel or some damned thing set in a universe where there’s time travel, but it only moves backward. All of the missions are one-way missions. You can receive instructions and resources from the future, but your only option for responding is to essentially leave time capsules where nobody else will find them.
It is also one of those stories that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I dropped everything and wrote it in a bit of a mad haze. It’s very different from Stormwrack and the impulse was probably driven by a desire to write in a different key.
Another thing about the story that delights me is having gotten to work with Ellen Datlow again, because she is a brilliant and generous editor and it had been too long since I had anything to send her.
It will be live on the Tor site and readable, for free, on June 25th, the same day Child of a Hidden Sea hits bookstores.
That’s right, it’s just over three months away! You can expect to hear more as we get closer to April 10th–there will be at least one contest, and I or TOR will almost certainly put up a first chapter, and I have yet to figure out what else.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! In just a couple weeks I’ll have a new story up on Tor.com. It’s called “Among the Silvering Herd” and I hope you all enjoy it very much. Or, if you’d rather get your Whedon fan on, watch the TOR blog for my 2012 Buffy Rewatch series, coming any second now.
AND A SET OF STEAK KNIVES: there are still exactly three slots open in my winter UCLA course, “Creating Universes, Building Worlds,” which begins January 25th. Come spring, I’m scheduled to teach Novel Writing I… and I’ll let you know when registration’s open for that. Finally, I will be teaching Novel Diagnostics at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle on Sunday, January 29th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m..
What have you all got going on?
Thursday’s words came to 360 on the story and 696 on the novel, bringing my total to 4024 words.
And I posted the following sentence from the story temporarily known as “Wetness” to M.K. Hobson’s Buck for Your Best Sentence challenge:
“Blue-tinted, mad-eyed, with the monstrous slickness of a newborn, it flailed, trying to gain control of its storklike legs.”
And here’s a silly photo for you all:
I have been trying to finish up a few non-fiction projects before diving into the next one(s) and the story intros are one of the things have been waiting. I set out to write a little something about those stories of mine that are available online in some format, and now I’ve pretty much finished all of them except for my baby werewolf story, “The Cage.” Saving it for last seemed reasonable, since it’s the piece that appeared most recently. It has only been a year since I wrote it, so it’s far less of a blast from the past than something like “A Key to the Illuminated Heretic.”
But I realized last week that when “The Cage,” made the LOCUS recommended reading list, it also went on what they call the drop-down list for the LOCUS reader’s poll. This probably should have been a no-brainer, since I did once write a fair number of reviews for LOCUS and contribute to that list, but I didn’t make the connection until I bought my tickets for the LOCUS shindig in Seattle in June. There are so many lovely things by people I adore on the drop-down list: M.K. Hobson‘s The Native Star is on there, and so is Chill, by Elizabeth Bear and stories like Cat Rambo’s “Clockwork Fairies.”
But this is a wide-open to all readers kind of poll, and you don’t have to restrict yourself to the drop down list. You can write in books and stories, like–for example–Jessica Wynne Reisman‘s “The Vostrasovitch Clockwork Animal and Traveling Forest Show at the End of the World,” or … hey, tell me about all the great fiction you published last year, folks! You’ll be reminding me about stuff I loved, or at the very least stuff I meant to read and temporarily lost in the pile.
Anyway. “The Cage” began with an anthology invite: my agent knew someone who was doing a book of urban fantasy stories with a specific theme–she’d told ’em I was just the thing, and I got the guidelines not long after that. I started researching March 2, 2010 and had a polished draft in hand by April 5th. But not fast enough: the antho filled. Between one thing and another and with a rewrite in between, it ended up zipping off to Tor.com on June 8th, where it got to be the final story in their urban fantasy spotlight.
As my intros for “What Song the Sirens Sang” and “Faces of Gemini” probably show, I love story assignments that come with a bit of a restriction in them. They push me out of the box, moving me into areas I wouldn’t necessarily have gone on my own. Some of my strongest shorts are the ones I wrote for Mojo: Conjure Stories, Alternate Generals III (v. 3), and The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm.
In this case, I merged the less familiar element–home renovation–with my own backyard. I made extensive use of my neighborhood and certain communities within Vancouver in writing “The Cage.” The Britannia Community Center branch of Vancouver Public Library, where the story begins, is just a few blocks from my home in little Italy. It is where I pick up my VPL holds and where I got my blue belt in aikido.
The physical terrain is quite faithfully rendered, in other words.
The community is stickier: people always are. But the story draws on the best of my experiences as an activist in the local feminist and queer communities. Catching us on a fictional best day maybe presents a bit of a rose colored view, but it’s not as though that version of the community doesn’t exist. It does–just not all the time. I believe that humans, in singles and in groups, oscillate in and out of states of perfection. That the statement “Nobody’s perfect” should be amended to “Nobody’s always perfect.”
In “The Cage,” Jude’s alternate family discovers or creates one of those perfect moments–one of those days when everyone’s pitching in and pulling together, when nobody’s too burned out or sick or pissed off or scraping after funds or endlessly chewing after consensus on an irrelevant frippery, at a meeting that’s gone on far too long. It’s Team Good Guys FTW, and Chase, Paige and Jude are the ones who benefit.
All that, and it even has romance!