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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

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

Editing:
Shimmer Magazine, Issues 29 – 34

Do I have favorites? Oh, certainly.

You should have favorites, too. What were they?

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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.

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Every Winter

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Francesa Woodman

What is creativity? What is the thing that sets off that spark? I often think of it as the Big Bang — we don’t exactly know, but there is something that set events in motion. A collision, one idea striking another. Sometimes, in order to preserve the resulting spark, a writer or artist needs to go away from the world they know; they need to step into the unknown, where new thoughts can thrive.

In 1819, Francisco Goya moved into a villa, where he would complete a series of artworks that would come to be known as the Black Paintings. He painted them on the very walls of the villa, and before the house was demolished, they were cut out and carried away. (Indeed, one of these paintings was shown at Paris’s Exposition Universelle in 1878, eleven years prior to the Exposition Universelle I visit in Rings of Anubis!) Goya’s works were amazingly dark and likely not meant for public consumption — there’s even a theory they might not have been made by him.

After reading about the Black Paintings, this idea stuck with me. A woman, an artist, going away to a villa to work. But something about the villa wasn’t right — she knows it’s not quite right, but she keeps going, and keeps forgetting to bring canvas with her, even though she means to paint while she’s there. So what better canvas than the walls? What better brush than her hands? Did she paint the resulting works or did something else?

Every night, something awakens in the villa, something that uses our artist as a canvas, something that opens her and paints her and closes her up come morning. Something that plants a spark within her to continue the work the following day. Sometimes she creates new paintings; sometimes she destroys the old. She is drawn to a long and empty road that leads to a rotting windmill. She believes she never goes there, but some part of her knows otherwise.

My thanks to Molly Tanzer who read this story when it was new and tender and said she loved it. Sometimes (often) you write a thing and think okay, does this make sense to anyone else or just me.

Sometimes, you spread a lot of paint on villa walls looking for an idea; sometimes you actually find one. Sometimes you find a strength you didn’t know you had: to get up, to keep moving, to keep putting paint on the walls despite the horrible things that open you every single night.

“Every Winter” can be found in Apex Magazine #90.

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Strange California

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(c) Farhan Zaidi, https://www.instagram.com/fzaidi13/

Is the photo of the door in the rock at Big Sur real or Photoshopped? This is the question that will plague you about California: did I just see what I think I saw…? That couldn’t have possibly been real…

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Josie said she saw one under the rotting length of Manhattan Pier, trailing bright through the mussels and up the pilings, but Cassie said no, they only went to Big Sur. Lola promised they had called to her at our very own Black’s Beach—thrown up into the shallows from the underwater canyon—but Nicole said no way no way, it was only Santa Cruz. Didn’t we know about Santa Cruz? Vampires, she hissed and we pelted her with sand-crusted tar balls. Cassie came closest—somewhere near Big Sur—because she went and never came back. Josie, Lola, and Nic and me were all still looking, but Cassie never came back.

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I was tiny the first time I went to California — an “air force brat” coming back from Guam with her parents. I was tiny when we took in Disneyland, but I remember Small World, and I remember whirling on the teacups until I thought I would never walk straight again, the thin clouds in the sky like cotton candy as I went round and round and round. I was less tiny when I sank my feet into the Pacific, a boy holding my sweaty hand.

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Shadows lit by moonlight—that was all it was—but beyond the sound of my own feet hitting the wet sand, there were others. Swift and fleet, these shadowed bodies loped up the beach and I with them, and we ran so fast my heart was like a fist in my throat. I caught the eyes of one—impossible, glowing like lightning—but it looked at me, its mouth split in a wide, toothy grin. Not a mermaid. Not a fox. Something el—

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I haven’t written a lot about California — but “Salt in Her Hollows” takes you to Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, and skims past Black’s Beach, too. “Salt in Her Hollows” concerns a surfer girl named Kit, a classic California beauty who wants to be seen for what she truly is, who wants to be understood beyond her blonde locks and blue eyes.

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I grabbed two cold beers and hip-bumped my girls before leaving them to join him. By that time, he’d turned his back to the fire, but I still found him, illuminated around the edges as if he were the sun in eclipse. I offered him the beer and he took it, giving me a swift smile in return. His silver-blue eyes lingered and I didn’t mind because the way I looked — all sand-scrubbed and salt-tossed — I knew he’d never see the actual me. They never did.

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california1“Salt in Her Hollows” is part of Strange California, an anthology that collects a good many stories that explore, you guessed it, the stranger aspects of California. Half Moon Bay, Tahoe, Anaheim, San Francisco, Big Sur, Hollywood. Jaym Gates and J. Daniel Batt have assembled twenty-six stories spanning the entire state — and well, beyond, because this is strange territory, and California spills beyond the lines drawn on a map. Galen Dara is crafting the cover art, and tentacle bear is totally along for the ride (click that link to join in the tentacle bear madness! Win totally rad tentacle bear gear! If you’re asking yourself “what the hell is tentacle bear”…you’d better click to find out!).

If you want to read my story, and twenty-five others from such authors as Nick Mamatas, Seanan McGuire, Christie Yant, James Van Pelt, Laura Blackwell, Nancy Holder, Tim Pratt, I hope you’ll come join the Kickstarter. There are some sweet rewards to be had, the biggest being the publication of the book! We’ve got thirteen lucky days to make it possible for us to share Strange California with you.

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“Did you know her?” I asked.

            He frowned, his focus on me alone, but then he shook his head. “Nah, dude.” He laughed, a startling sound in the night. “They’re just legends, right? Girls vanish all the time — it’s always a monster in the water, ain’t it?” He squeezed my thigh and slid his hand a little higher. “You are so goddamn beau—”  He broke off, startled, his board knocking into mine again.

            “What is it?”

            I hadn’t heard the sound and wondered if he had, but then— Something sleek and silver and glowing moved beneath our boards, and from the nearby rocks, that scream. Talon’s hand tightened on my leg, but he didn’t move it higher or pull me close.

            “What are you doing?” I asked. “What is that?” Together, we peered below our boards, the water brightening as if someone had turned on a dozen lamps.

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Octoblerfest 2016

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There is a ridiculous tradition on Twitter where, upon the arrival of Halloween month, nearly everyone changes their name to something spooky. Last year I realized my name had some built in awesome when it came to the month of October. How easy to make that Octobler, and thus another ridiculous tradition was born!

This year, however, Alexis Hunter surprised me with a wonderful thing. All month long, she’s doing giveaways for my books, and reviews of my works by her and others, and I am feeling foolishly happy over it.

Here’s what we’ve had so far:

My Octoblerfest offer to you: if you already own a copy of Rings of Anubis (you’re awesome) and would like a signed bookplate and some stickers, please drop me a note via my contact form here. I will happily make this happen. International readers are welcome!

Happy Octoblerfest to you and yours! Be sure to follow Alexis for all the happenings!

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I Loved Star Trek Beyond

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I did not watch original Trek during its original run, being that I wasn’t yet upon this earth. Growing up geek, I always caught a few episodes when they ran on whatever channel in whatever syndication, but I never invested.

Until The Next Generation showed up.

TNG nabbed my interest right away — ridiculous space jelly fish and all. It turned into appointment television. After TNG, I watched TOS, and fell deeper in love. I was wary about DS9, but it soon reeled me in (darker Trek? IN.), and by the time Voyager debuted, friends and I were getting together for episodes, ordering in food, staying long after the show ended to talk about it.

I started a fanzine because of Star Trek, and wrote my first fanfic because of Star Trek. It was a Tasha Yar story, of course it was. The first fiction I sold to a professional venue was in the Strange New Worlds anthology series. Friends and I went to conventions. We collected autographs. We rubbed shoulders with actors and oh god they were all gracious and kind and… Leonard Nimoy was at the first convention I attended, and when he sits down and talks to you about whales, well. Fangirl for life.

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I was wary of a reboot, a retool, a a re-whatever, because Trek, in my mind, was always fine. Dudes having space adventures! Why mess with it? WHY. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do.

Star Trek Beyond holds to Trek traditions and still pushes into the future. I love that in movie three, we’re still blowing up the Enterprise, because that’s how it went down before. I love the idea that here are people we know, but here’s a slightly different path they’re on. It’s the Trek we have always loved, but it’s striving to be better. Can they escape the paths their other selves have been down? Time will tell.

Are there things that still need improving? This is Earth and we who build our entertainment are human, so absolutely. Would I love to see a stronger Uhura who isn’t shunted into the role of the girlfriend? Yes. Do I wish the Carol Marcus undressing scene in Darkness didn’t exist? Oh yes. Do I wish they’d cast someone else as the rebooted Khan? YEP.

It’s Trek as it ever was — it’s Bones being a butt and yet loving everyone impossibly well. It’s Kirk playing the hero, but being weary deep down inside. It’s Spock struggling to bridge two worlds (not necessarily Vulcan/Earth this time, but his verse with the alt verse). It’s losing your home and discovering oh, you didn’t lose it at all because home isn’t a ship.

(And the Leonard Nimoy tribute.)

(And Anton.)

Fangirl for life.

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Rage Against the Machine

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I’ve been home from Launchpad Astronomy Workshop for more than a month now (!) and I keep meaning to write about the experience, but I keep not doing it. The world has been a little overwhelming since I got back and there’s been a book release and short stories aplenty– and let’s face it, 2016 in general is…what’s the word…is there a word for what 2016 is?

The more I think about writing about Launchpad and how amazing it was, the less I want to, because it was also, in the end, pretty personal. I learned a good deal about space, but also about other people and myself. And I didn’t want to put that out there. Because everything’s out there. And everything is getting a little overwhelming.

We used to worry about the government becoming Big Brother, but I think we have become a kind of Big Brother. We are each Person of Interest‘s Machine. Most of us carry a device that allows us instant and constant access to the world. All its glories, all its woes.

We know almost in real-time when a thing happens. When a friend sells a book. When a terrorist bomb explodes. The results of an election. When a plane goes missing. The fallout of a friend’s personal relationship. We know how someone’s surgery went, we know who’s on our porch and what they’re delivering. We know where our packages are from point to point to door. We see you when you’re sleeping, we know when you’re awake. (Even as I write this, a friend is waiting to board a plane, and we’re chatting.)

I don’t think the world is any worse than it’s ever been — crazy men have always run for president and have always connected with a larger segment of the population than most of us would like to acknowledge. But I think our access and interaction with the world has changed in a way that we can’t quite ever take back. It’s hard to close the eyes on the world once they’ve been opened. It cannot be unseen.

It’s important to try to reclaim some of our space though — going to Launchpad was, in a way, going away from the world at large. Even as we studied the unending universe, the world seemed smaller. I stood on a mountaintop with colleagues and teachers, in starlight alone, and could breathe easier than ever when I looked through a telescope’s lens, to watch Titan gleam off the rings of Saturn. I could see the bands of clouded color across Jupiter and count four of its moons. The world was big and small all at once.

Every summer, I’m very lucky to have access to the community pool, where I can go after the sun has long since set. Where I can cannonball into the deep end and listen to…nothing. Where I can swim endless laps and stare at the stars above (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, still keeping me company, though Jupiter sinks fast into the west these nights). Where I can think about precisely this rectangle of glowing blue light and for a little while else, nothing else. (This is the story generator, the percolator, the chlorine womb.)

We have forgotten those spaces. Even when we take to the mountains, the satellites slip across the skies, carrying calls to friends, depositing the freshest, hottest news into our inboxes and eyes. We know that books are coming out months before they do. We know when someone’s life is tragically taken. We know when someone is to speak, when a deal is to be closed, a bell to be rung. We watch death tolls creep upward in real-time. We smirk at everyone hunting wild Pokémon. We send emails that arrive instantly, but forget the joy of a handwritten letter we aren’t expecting. We fret over Scrivener releases when there remains a distinct pleasure in writing by hand in a notebook of smooth paper.

One of the strangest joys I remember is this: I was in the mall, wandering through Waldenbooks, when I spied Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon on the new releases wall. Outlander stood so well on its own, I had no idea a sequel was planned or due, and I remember telling myself to be calm, that maybe it wasn’t related at all, but gosh the cover did look related, and when I opened it up to read the flaps, my breath caught in my throat, because the story I loved so well was continuing. (This was about three years before I was regularly online.)

We have, to some extent, forgotten those experiences too. We hound authors for the next volume in the sagas we love — why are you online when you could be making this thing I want! We know exactly how much an author still has to write; we know the book has not been delivered and we know when it is.

As much joy as can be found in sharing the wonderful things that happen to the world and our friends, there’s an equal measure of sorrow when things fall apart. How do we balance that? How do we not sink into despair when the world appears so awful? Does Big Brother ever turn itself off? Do we, like Winston in Nineteen Eighty-Four, smile up at Big Brother in the end, because it is us and we are it?

We are part of the Machine, but the part that still has access to the off (or at least the pause) button.

1984-John-Hurt

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The Kraken Sea Giveaway

You found it washed up on the shell-shore and weren’t sure what it was, not even when you slid your hand under its surprising warmth and it curled around your wrist. Among the hollow shells, it alone was flush with life.

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Last week, The Kraken Sea (Apex Book Company) burst into the world, and this week, I’m giving you the opportunity to win a copy of the book as well as the beautiful tentacle pendant pictured above. This pendant is 4″ long and 1.5″ at its widest point, made of polymer clay.

300px-krakenIn the past, I’ve tried elaborate treasure hunts, puzzles, and games, but today, we’re going to make it easy. If you’d like to win a copy of The Kraken Sea and the pendant, all you have to do is leave a comment on this thread.

After you do that, skip over to Apex and read an excerpt of The Kraken Sea, a novel set in my traveling circus universe. In this tale, the man who assembled the circus is but a boy, setting out on a cross coutnry journey that will forever change his life.

I’ll choose a winner with random.org on Monday July 4th!

The Kraken Sea is available through: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBook|Nook + Apex Book Company!

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The Indigo Mantis

Today, The Indigo Mantis kicks off The Book Smuggler’s Superhero Series. I am delighted to have a part in this adventure, and hope you’ll come by and read my inspirations behind the story, and the story itself!

Indi is on the trail of the insidious creature who killed her father — and is having some trouble accepting some things about her own nature, which might tie right in to who killed dear old dad… While she searches the mean streets, er branches, for the killer, she saves bugkind along the way, and tries not to fall in love with the dude she should rather be eating…

The Indigo Mantis looks like this:

by Melanie Cook

But, there are also blue mantises that look like this and each one makes me squee:

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Enchanting, no? You might even say, super!

So please hop over to The Book Smugglers for more mantis goodies (and of course to read the story!), and be sure to come back over the course of the summer, as they unleash more superheroes on the world! Authors Tansy Rayner Roberts, John Chu, Jessica Lack, Meredith Debonnaire, and Isabel Yap have so many SUPER things in store, I can hardly wait!

Thank you Ana and Thea, for taking a chance on a very different superhero.

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