Articles, SFF

To Bear Witness

I have a new article out! To be honest, it came out a couple of months ago but I’m behind on updating this site, so better late than never. “To Bear Witness: The Polar Bear as Refugee in Speculative Fiction” came out in the August issue of Clarkesworld.

I am fascinated by polar bears, mostly because I live on the other side of the world from them and so that fascination is not modified by their actual presence, which must surely be terrifying. And because that fascination is accompanied by a love of dreadful horror films, a fairly wide reading habit, and an awareness of climate change, I’d quietly noted to myself several speculative texts which presented the polar bear in a very specific way. As the climate changes, polar bears migrate, and when that migration puts them in conflict with human activity… well, let’s just say I’m expecting to see more polar bear horror films in the future. And not just horror films: polar bears are a charismatic species, and seeing them and their possible futures popping up in literary fiction and poetry as well as film is likely to be increasingly common.

Anyway, it was a fun little article to write, albeit on something fairly obscure as literary observations go, and it’s free to read so if you like polar bears too it might be worth checking out.

Papers, Poetry

The Ghosts of Coastlines Past

I have a new paper out! “The Ghosts of Coastlines Past: Eco-Poetry and the Oceanic Ecological Gothic” has been published in volume three of Gothic Nature, which was themed around “Haunted Shores.”

There’s a lot of ways for shores to be haunted. Shipwrecks, for example, and drownings. But I’d been reading a lot of poetry around about the time I sent in an abstract for this, and I was interested in the idea of hauntings that hadn’t yet happened… the hauntings we’re in the process of creating now. That haunting is rather more scientific than spectral. It came out of a news article, too – down in Wellington, where I used to live, are little blue penguins, and they’re lovely wee things. But in a recent breeding season, a third of the chicks died. The cause of death was starvation. The warming waters of the harbour had affected their food supply, and the penguins died. Awful, isn’t it? Climate change is affecting our oceans, so what are our future coastlines going to look like? What absences are we creating, what potential for ghosts?

Some of the poetry collections I was reading addressed this in one or more of their poems, such as Jorie Graham’s Sea Change. Some, like Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué‘s Losing Miami, took a cultural approach, addressing the future loss of entire cities.

The possibilities of future ghosts, I thought, were immense. So I wrote the paper, and the entire issue is free to read online here, should you be so inclined. Thank you to the editors and the poets for their incredible work!

SFF, Short stories

Resist: The Stone Wētā

I have another reprint out! My short story “The Stone Wētā,” which originally appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine, has appeared in an anthology from Lonely Cryptid Media. That anthology is Resist with Every Inch and Every Breath, and it’s edited by Dan Michael Fielding. There’s twelve different stories and poems in the book, or so I understand, and given the theme it’s sure to be an interesting read.

The call for submissions went out a year or two back, when we were all in the beginning stages of pandemic, and one of the potential ways to explore the theme was the impact of politics on science. I’m sure we can all remember (or are even still being exposed to) the anti-science lunacy of certain people, many of whom were in positions of power that their intelligence frankly did not merit. I’ve been interested in the intersection between science and politics for a while now, and so, although it wasn’t about the pandemic itself, I was reminded of this story, which had come out a couple of years earlier.

“The Stone Wētā” was influenced by news stories about scientists preserving climate data across borders, in the face of hostility from anti-science governments. The fear was that the data would be destroyed, or access to it limited, and I’m sorry to say that fears of this type of censorship were not wholly unfounded. Anyway, I sent in the story, and Dan was kind enough to take it, and now you can read it (and eleven others!) in Resist with Every Inch and Every Breath.

SFF, Short stories

Aftermath: Portobello Blind

There’s a new anthology out that I’ve got a story in. Not a new story, but a reprint. “Portobello Blind” originally appeared in Defying Doomsday from Twelfth Planet Press, an anthology about how disabled people navigate the apocalypse. After the past few years, disaster is on everyone’s mind, and so when Speculative Fiction New Zealand, one of the organisations for speculative writers that exists down here, decided to do an anthology about what happens after a disaster, I thought my story would be a good fit. So it proved to be, and Aftermath: Stories of Survival in Aotearoa New Zealand has recently been published.

As you can probably tell by the title, there’s a lot of Kiwi authors here, and a large portion of the stories are cautiously optimistic. This was by design, I think – there’s enough doom and gloom anthologies out there, but this one is more along the lines of “bad things have happened, let’s see how we can get through it,” which I’ve always thought was a valuable perspective.

In “Portobello Blind,” the heroine is a fourteen year old blind girl who’s left alone at a marine biology lab – her dad went for medicine and never came back. Anna, proving competent at obtaining a diet of shellfish and seaweed, has to contend with something else: a lack of purpose. So, while she waits for other people to turn up and let her know that she’s not the only survivor left, she starts doing science experiments… because when disaster strikes, refusing to curl up and sink into uselessness is an act of simple self-respect.

Horror, SFF, Short stories

Breathless in the Green

I have a new story out! “Breathless in the Green” is available to read in the latest issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It’s the second story I’ve sold to them, and very pleased I was to do it.

“Breathless in the Green” came about because I was looking to write a story about a water monster, possibly using folk tales to do so. And I came across the figure of Ginny Greenteeth, a sort of water hag that hangs round the ponds and stagnant waters of England, pulling kids into the water and drowning them. Now, I’d heard about Ginny before, in the very vaguest sort of way, but what I didn’t realise – and what caught my attention, and made me want to write a story about her – is that “Ginny Greenteeth” is also used to describe duckweed, which is that small, scummy-looking green plant that covers over ponds. You can see where the connection came from. Duckweed could hide how dangerous a body of water is, and a curious child might not take enough care and drown. Over time, such a thing is attributed to the water hag, which is interesting in itself, but duckweed has one particularly stellar property. It’s great for bioremediation, which means it can filter pollutants out of the environment around it.

It’s a very environmentally friendly weed, is what I’m saying… which leads to a very environmentally friendly monster. Oh, the Ginny Greenteeth of my story still wants to drown things, but this time she’s found a friend… a little girl who is sick of going on climate marches because they don’t achieve anything.

There’s a water hag who just might be able to remedy that inaction.