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Last Thursday, I did something I’d been thinking about for a while; I picked up a crochet hook and started crocheting. I found a video on YouTube and away I went, hooking yarn as if I’d done it all my life, spinning out hats and cowls and arm warmers and–

Oh wait, no.

It wasn’t quite that easy at all.

I’ve always had this notion in my head that I’d take up crochet, this mostly based around the Lone Crochet Hook that was always floating about the house. Of course when I decided I actually wanted to learn, that hook was nowhere to be found, so I bought a set. I did find a video on YouTube, and then I proceeded to make the tightest starting row of chains ever, because wow, I was gripping everything too hard, like I’d never crafted a thing in my life.

How do I–

Wait, go back.

How does that work–

Wait, go back.

How do I make my hands work together, I can’t even hold and yarn over and whoa I have to flip my work and–

Wait, go back.

There was a lot of this, my friend Jen talking me off the ledge in chat while I worked. She said something very illuminating though — that I hadn’t known how to write when I started making stories either; did I just expect to pick up crochet and know it immediately?

Some part of me said OH YES.

Which is strange and foolish, because exactly like writing, crochet has steps to learn. You don’t sit down and immediately vomit out a best-seller (in fact, some writers never break out at all, so). So why I thought I’d sit down and immediately get crochet was somewhat beyond me. I had to learn how to cast on — I had to learn the foundation before I could start building up the rows to follow. I had to learn how to hold my yarn and my hook. I had to learn how to relax my fucking hands because if I didn’t, the entire work would suffer.

Crochet has a lot in common with writing.

“What’re you making?” my mom asked when she saw my horribly uneven square.

“Practice,” I said.

I haven’t “made” anything yet; I’m just practicing. I know chains and single crochets, and next up is half crochets, double crochets, and oh my stars, triple crochets. I would like to make a cowl, and arm warmers would be great, too. Mostly, I’m enjoying learning how to do a new thing; I think it’s good for the brain.

I think the first needlecraft I picked up was embroidery, then I did sewing in Home Ec, and learned needlepoint from my mom, and then cross stitch from my BFF (who is no longer, but the craft remains). And so now it’s crochet, and it’s super fun, and I wonder if I might yet conquer knitting, though the first time I tried that, I rather felt like I was using alien chopsticks, because my hands wouldn’t work together at all. Maybe with crochet under my belt, they will.



Apparently I’ve published nine stories with Clarkesworld now. If you’d told me this would happen three years ago, I would have scoffed. I’ve read Clarkesworld for a long time and dreamed of selling them a story — from my records it looks like I first submitted to them in 2009. Nine rejections followed over the next four years before my first sale. I’ve sent them 33 stories in all, so this is where the never give up, never surrender line goes.

The real important question is, how do these nine stories line up with the cast of Firefly, which perished (coughs) fifteen years ago holy shit. Let’s do this. In the order that I sold ’em:

#1: You Were She Who Abode is clearly Zoe Washburne. It focuses on a war vet coming home from the wars, her memory torn apart, with a good portion of it back on the battlefield.

#2: (To See Each Other Whole) Against the Sky is Book, because it is about faith in the blackness of space, that although we are alone, things we love still exist even when we cannot see them.

#3:  (R+D)/I=M is possibly River. This story is a little crazy, and since it’s an equation, you know that from initial craziness comes brilliance.

#4: Migratory Patterns of Underground Birds would have to be Wash, wouldn’t it, because he’s all about exploring strange new– Wait, wrong show. Still, Wash flies into the unknown, as does our heroine here.

#5: Pithing Needle is Jayne, because it’s a little fucking scary and like this needle that bores into your body and brain, Jayne is somewhat ceaseless, and sometimes needs to be in his bunk.

#6: Somewhere I Have Never Traveled (Third Sound Remix) is Mal– which surprises even me, Reader. But as our heroine in this story, Mal seems to hear something that no one else can, and follows it without reason, to the ends of the universe.

#7: The Abduction of Europa is probably Simon, given he’s spent so much of his life looking for River, taken and held where he does not know. The abduction and transformation of one ordered life into another.

#8: .identity must then be Kaylee, for it is a retelling of Snow White, in deepest darkest space. Yet, our heroine here is an embodied AI, capable of sussing out damage to the ship and its people, both of whom she cares for in extraordinary fashion.

#9: Baroness then becomes Inara, and I can see this — a regal lady who gets into places others don’t, a lady who will take no fuss or nonsense from anyone before putting them back in their place. Sometimes, she allows them into her own, too.

I wonder what #10 will be. (Maybe we could argue #10 is “The Cumulative Effects of Light Over Time,” which appeared in Neil’s Upgraded anthology — but that isn’t Clarkesworld now, is it? Still, I bet that story is Badger. For reasons.)






Old Things

If you are acquainted with my writing, you know I like old things. My stories and novels gravitate toward history — albeit sometimes history we haven’t written down yet.

Boris Karloff as The Mummy

There are two universes I like to play in: one is rooted in ancient Egypt, the other in the timeless fields of carnivals. My new Apex story, “The Three-tongued Mummy,” melds these together, into one gooey sandwich. If you aren’t acquainted with my writing, this story is a very good place to begin!

I have always wanted the circus to have a mummy (of course they should have a mummy!), and I knew it would be no ordinary mummy, but what would this mummy do? Who were they in history? It wasn’t enough to know that Jackson acquired the mummy and now possessed it; how did he learn about it? What year was it really?

Mostly, this story is me playing with two things I love dearly. It’s no ordinary mummy that Jackson possesses, nor does he have it for ordinary reasons. What would you pay to learn the secret of your death? What wouldn’t you pay to step backward in time?

In this story, I also pay tribute to two of my favorite writers. Mummy hunters Grey and Doyle might be familiar to you, reader — they exist in our world as Orrin Grey and Aidan Doyle, but I know for a fact that they are immortal, that they have always existed, that they have been hunting mummies down through the ages, though in this age they tell you stories about other monsters.

And sometimes bears.

And other times skeletons.

Go meet the three-tongued mummy already!








This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

I love space.

I also love our solar system. It’s never not fascinating. New Horizons going to Pluto? Curiosity going to Mars? Cassini studying Saturn? Juno peeping at Jupiter?


We live in an amazing age for this stuff. I eat it up!

My new Clarkesworld story, “Baroness,” is set on Saturn’s moon, Titan. We got some good pictures of Titan recently as Cassini makes its final loops closer and closer to the planet where it will poof forever (this September).

But Titan! Titan is awesome. It has a dense atmosphere and lakes of liquid methane! Infrared rainbows! How could a science fiction writer not play with that? I started with some classic tropes as I worked my way to the heart of this story: aliens, UFOs, abduction stories, and oh the mysteries of the galaxy. I asked the Launchpad Astronomy Workshop alumni mailing list a billion questions — so if the science is wrong, that’s on ME.

No story is really proper until I’ve gotten into the heart of one character. Whose story is this? Who is hurt? Who changes? In this piece, it’s two characters occupying that space, one vaguely human and one vaguely alien.

This TOC…lovely, lovely.

Vaguely human. She once was, but now she’s something more — she and the rest of the crew she leads. They’re a group of oligotrophs, people who have been modified to endure and indeed thrive in hostile environments. They can breathe methane and don’t need much to eat; they love darkness, and don’t mind the cold. They’ve been engineered to work in places that no one else really wants to go. They’re also refugees.

The rich and white don’t want to do the dirty work of the world; who better to send into all the awful places than the unwanted, the unwashed, the huddled masses Liberty once lifted her lamp for? Refugees are sent into all the terrifying places, to mine methane, hydrogen, to pull planets and moons apart so shiny rockets can plunge deeper than ever into the universe. But everything has a cost, even space.

“Your life will change,” Bishop whispered. “They tell you. And they aren’t wrong. But they also aren’t . . . specific.”

Go read, then let me know what you thought! I can’t wait for you to meet Baroness…









You probably know about the face on Mars, the mesa imaged by Viking I in 1976. It looks like a mask, a face, something that could only exist because Martians built it. But, it turns out, it’s just a rock (a really beautiful rock), only looking like a face when the shadows fall just right.

Small part of the Cydonia region, taken by the Viking 1 orbiter and released by NASA/JPL on July 25, 1976

Mars is also home to a woman made of dust, something that looks like a Terminator hand, a floating spoon. Mars has bones and squirrels and sometimes Tusken Raiders. But they’re only there when the light is just right, when we look at them in a certain way.

What if they were there for a reason? What if someone or something were trying to tell us something? Would we listen? We’re humans and we’re ridiculous, often unable to listen over the sound of our own yelling. We are often too focused inward to listen to anything that challenges us.

My first story in IGMS is “Murmuration,” and it’s set on beloved Mars; Tangent noted that it has a Bradbury flavor and I couldn’t be happier about that. I grew up reading The Martian Chronicles and still dream about Martians.

For this story, I wanted bones discovered on Mars — of course these bones would be strange and unexpected. What kind of bones might one find in an ancient lake bed? Fish? Turtles? Whales?

I read a lot about Pompeii for this story; how victims left hollows in the debris. How, when plaster is poured in, one can recreate the body that was once there. This idea was haunting — still is, really. What kind of hollows might exist on other worlds? What will we find when we explore them?

The heroine of this story is also a hollow; there’s something growing inside her, something that will eventually fill all the space she has vacated.

Just as something will eventually fill all the spaces we currently do…

…it’s a cheery story.


A lady in the dust





Upright Infinity

Figure 8, Luke Spooner (Gamut)

Many of my story ideas come from random conversations with the muse. (By this time, perhaps you know I call him that ironically, or perhaps you don’t. Now you do.)

In one such conversation, he said “whatever happened to the Ripleys?” And while further conversation revealed he meant the kick-ass girls who go out into the world and Do, I found myself picturing Ellen Ripley in Alien Resurrection, discovering that room of clones — the endless horrors she had been made into after her death in the iron works.

We know what happened to those Ripleys, of course. She killed them. But what if there were more to it than that? This is where “Figure 8” began.

There were seven before you. You’re number eight, perfect in every way, because they rooted out each imperfection across the seven who came before.

But they left you, your makers. They left you without a hint as to where they’d gone. You were old enough, smart enough, built well enough to withstand anything that might come, so they left you, and you — you hunt.  If you’re perfection, the others cannot stand.

This is a story unlike any I’ve written before — and I seem to find myself saying that a lot, which is maybe good? We want our craft to develop, and this craft is certainly…something else at this point.

I don’t write horror, an editor told me, so what are these stories? We do not know, but they exist even so. What is horror? Is slaughtering the reflection of your own face (you alone are perfection) something other than horror? How is hunting yourself to extinction not horror?

There is a kind of beauty in it, the circular nature of a figure eight, made in ice, traced on paper, the way the line curls and comes back to itself. Figure eight is upright infinity.

In the metallic night air that blows up from the tracks, Number Five smells like leather. You probably smell like bubble bath and blood but you don’t linger on it. You follow Number Five off the train amid a jostle of other bodies.

She is an assassin, set on killing herself. Every iteration, until she alone remains, because she was made perfect, she was made last. But how do you kill yourself over and over without it leaving a mark on your own body? What is nature and what is nurtured?

Let’s find out.

You can read “Figure 8” in Gamut Issue #2 (two is my favorite number — coincidence, or no?). Subscriptions are buy one get one in February!






The Princess

“We’re going to play war. You stay here, and wait to be rescued.”

“We’re going to play monsters — you stay here and wait to be rescued.”

“Stay here until we come with the army to save you.”

“You can’t have a gun, you’re a girl.”

“You don’t get a uniform, you’re not in the army.”

“You can’t jump out of the tower window or climb down, we have to come get you. That’s the rule.”

“We’re going to play Star Wars and–”

Hey. The princess carries a blaster.

I grew up surrounded by boys. I briefly had step-brothers, and do have a brother, and my best neighbor friend at the time was also a boy. Thus, when there needed to be a damsel in distress, it generally fell to me. While the boys played, I sat around and awaited rescue, which usually meant I was telling myself stories in my head. What else did girls in towers do?

I didn’t know, not until I saw Star Wars. Not until I watched Princess Leia shooting a blaster and confronting the bad guys. She seemed to have better aim than the boys even — they didn’t like that when I pointed it out.

“But she needed rescuing!” the boys told me. “Go sit and wait for Luke to show up.” (I had a fitted sheet for a gown, tied with a clumsy canvas belt.)

Well, okay.

But you know what happened after that, right?

I couldn’t believe what happened after that, the first time I saw it. She took his blaster! She fired it! She got them into the trash compactor and out of the line of fire!

And after that? She wasn’t just sitting around, no sir, she was like “you really should have had a plan, jackasses,” because what’s her life been about — resistance and plans, man!

Kidlet me couldn’t believe it. A princess had stolen the secret plans to the Death Star?! Girls did that?!

Yesterday, I saw a lot of posts that were critical about how others were choosing to remember Carrie Fisher. “She was more than Princess Leia!” they cried. Of course she was. None of us are ever only one thing.

For many of us, Princess Leia is how we first met Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia was our gateway drug. (Though I also saw Under the Rainbow at a very early age, and talk about drugs…)

Leia was the first heroine who made me sit up straight, who made me realize girls were more than their clothing or hairstyles. It did not matter if she was in a robe when she was shooting those stormtroopers. It did not matter if she was in a gold bikini when she strangled Jabba. Do the work — your clothes don’t matter. Do the work — the bad hair day doesn’t matter. And yet, those clothes also changed my young mind — when I realized Leia had not chosen to wear that bikini, but had been put into it.

Carrie Fisher wasn’t just a princess, no, but she taught a young girl that being a princess wasn’t a terrible thing. Who had the plans? The princess. Who got them out of the line of fire? The princess. Who killed one of the creepiest dudes in the galaxy? The princess. Who became a general and the head of the resistance? The princess.

I love you, Carrie Fisher. You changed my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.









The Year Behind Us

Francesca Woodman

It’s one of those years where the less said the better? It’s one of those years you’d never believe unless you lived through it? It’s one of those years.

What did I publish this year? Some good things, if you ask this writer. But what does this writer know — she can’t sell a collection to save her life. It’s one of those years. She said forever.

2016 original short fiction:
The Abduction of Europa, Clarkesworld (January)
Andromeda of the Skies, Interzone #263 (March-April)
The Indigo Mantis, The Book Smugglers (May)
Cloud Dweller, Beneath Ceaseless Skies (May)
.identity, Clarkesworld (June)
Ebb Stung By the Flow, Beneath Ceaseless Skies (July)
The Living, Vengeant Stars – Swords vs. Cthulhu (August)
In the Otherwise Dark, Three Lobed Burning Eye (Octobler)
Every Winter, Apex Magazine (November)

Novella length fiction:
The Kraken Sea, Apex Book Company (June)

Novel length fiction:
The Honey Mummy, Folley & Mallory #3, Apokrupha

Splitskin, Transcendent
Lockbox, Great Jones Street, Wilde Stories 2016
A Box, a Pocket, a Spaceman, Great Jones Street

Shimmer Magazine, Issues 29 – 34

Do I have favorites? Oh, certainly.

You should have favorites, too. What were they?







Unfollows Are Free

sunset, 11/9/2016

sunset, 11/9/2016

They say to keep writing. Keep writing, they say!

I couldn’t write today, not until right now, as I’m putting these words down. Will I press “publish”? It’s a very good question.

Today, I made a post on Facebook where I asked those who voted for DJT to unfollow me. (I dislike FB a great deal; mostly, it looks like people shouting at each other, and I can never find who I want to read without actually searching for them. The discovery of Pantsuit Nation was such a relief from the screaming, I can hardly tell you, thank you, JG.)

A dear and longtime friend was upset by my post. We rarely talk politics because we sit on highly opposite sides of nearly all subjects therein. But she noted that she’d stood by me, after I voted for Obama twice, and it got me to thinking.

Yes, I disagree with DJT’s politics, but more than that, I disagree with him as a human. DJT fails at humanity. He is not a good person. Politics aside, compare DJT and Clinton. Compare DJT and Obama. Good person. Terrible person.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a racist.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a sexist.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a misogynist.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a xenophobe.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a man the KKK endorsed.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a man who believes climate change is a Chinese hoax.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a man who will jeopardize the lives of women and LGBT persons across this nation.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a man who will deport countless people.

If you voted for DJT, you voted for a man who will seek to imprison his challenger.

I didn’t want to vote for him, she said. But she did. And every vote counts.

The chances are, your family immigrated to this country from somewhere else — and America said yes, welcome, come, thrive. What do you suppose it will say now? Give us your huddled masses, oh except those, and those, and definitely those.

Politics aside, I believe Obama is a good man. Yes, I voted for him twice and would do so again. I believe he did amazing work for our country — amazing work that will now be stripped as if it never existed. Only it did, and millions will suffer without the benefits he brought.

Politics aside, I believe HRC is a good woman, the most qualified person we have ever seen run for president in the modern age. I was surprised at how inspired I was to watch her, because I remember sneering at her Alice in Wonderland headband during Bill’s first run, and thinking oh goodness no, but what a remarkable woman — beyond her goddamn headband.

Politics aside, I believe DJT is a terrible person. And that is why I question those who voted for him, even friends and family. Maybe especially friends and family.





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In the Otherwise Dark

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman

After an especially long and frustrating day, where I felt unheard and unseen, I wrote “In the Otherwise Dark.” It is one of those rare stories that comes out in a single session, where you forget to eat lunch because the words are coming with such speed and surety.

When I finished, I wasn’t quite sure what I had, but felt it was something.

If you haven’t already read the story, I hope you will do so before you continue reading this post, because I am probably going to spoil it for you here.

This post will wait, I promise.

“In the Otherwise Dark” tells the story of a world where men readily acknowledge their great deeds and empires; a world where men succeed and don’t mind that others may not. It is a world where the women have strangely faded away, have become invisible, and dare I say, mythical. It is a world where children seem to birth themselves and raise themselves, where the houses do not gather dust, where sons are elevated and daughters are surely not born because what would daughters do with a life, really.

Our protagonist is a doctor who helps the insane, those men who claim to still see women, those men who even claim to speak with them and share lives with them. Our doctor, these men do not realize, shares the same illness: he meets with his mother regularly, though this cannot be possible, given that women do not exist in this world.

I was interested in the rejections this story garnered, more so than I usually am, given the story’s nature, and the fact that most of the editors who passed on it were men. The story largely received form rejections, but also a handful that said they didn’t understand the story.

And then came Andrew Fuller, who told me he must surely have something in his eye, and he wanted to publish it. I wasn’t surprised it took a specific editor, and a specific way of looking at a story, for this one to find a home.

This is a story about our world. A world where the accomplishments of women are easily brushed under the rug. A world where women are perfectly fine for sex, but otherwise can be left to the side. This is a story about the women who pass invisibly through our world every day: our discarded women, who hold no distinction even for their relationships to their men. This is a story about the women who are not seen as women because they cannot have children. This is a story about the women who do not live long enough to be regarded as having lived at all. This is a story about the women.

My thanks to Dean Smith-Richard, who took on the task of reading this story for the audio version. “In the Otherwise Dark,” can be found in Three-Lobed Burning Eye #28.