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.

SFF, Short stories

You’re Not the Only One

I have a new short story out! “You’re Not the Only One” is free to read in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld. This is the third story I’ve had out with them, and as always I’m very happy to be there.

“You’re Not the Only One” is a quiet little story about picking yourself back up after disappointment and grief. I saw one review of it which said it was barely science fiction at all, and honestly I think that’s a fair assessment. There’s a science fiction veneer, in that one of the disappointments is from an astronaut whose mission has been postponed, but otherwise it’s two friends trying to cope with their own very different challenges, while doing their best to support the other.

I think one of the things that really interests me about it is the sense of collective responsibility. This is particularly evident when it comes to space travel. It’s exciting, and exploration is a valid goal – a necessary goal, even – but how do you justify the use of resources that could arguably be much better spent? How do you get perspective on the relative levels of importance? My astronaut character would be the first to say that his friend, who is dealing with the loss of a child, is undergoing greater challenges. I won’t say it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when others have it worse, because that’s not exactly true, but then I also think that compassion is not limited to one grief at a time, and it’s possible to navigate one loss while respecting another’s, and to do it with a bit of dignity. So, it’s a very quiet story. There’s a lot of gardening in it. And a lot of kindness too, I hope.

SFF, Short stories

Reckoning 7 submission call

I’m happy to announce that I’m the guest fiction editor for the upcoming issue 7 of Reckoning. Several years back I sold a story to them – “The Feather Wall” was about kākāpō conservation after the apocalypse – and I’ve kept a close eye on them since then. For someone like me, who writes a lot of ecofiction and climate fiction, Reckoning, with its focus on environmental justice, is one of the most important markets for speculative short fiction out there. So when they invited me to join Tim Fab-Eme (the poetry editor) and Priya Chand (the non-fiction editor) for issue 7, I was delighted.

Together, Tim, Priya, and I have decided on an overarching theme for our issue: the global water system. We’re excited to read submissions for this – they’re open now, and will be until September 22nd.

As I’m reading the fiction submissions for Reckoning 7, I am particularly interested in stories about the global water system, including marine, wetland, and riparian environments. The Earth is a watery planet and the effect of climate change, for example, on sea level rise, marine ecology, and coastal communities is an invitation to explore the oceanic Gothic. I’m also interested in seeing stories that connect water systems and exploration, keeping in mind that historically, exploration has frequently resulted in exploitation. I’d like to see stories that address the many consequences of this, as well as stories about the future of sustainable marine exploration, and the interaction between human and nonhuman species in watery environments. Lastly, please note that stories not on this theme will also be considered so long as they are focused on environmental justice, so don’t self-reject!

Submission guidelines are here.

SFF, Short stories

The Lending Library of Final Lines

I have a new story out! “The Lending Library of Final Lines” is free to read online at The Dark. I’ve had a few stories in The Dark now, and I always appreciate being published there – they routinely have stories that I wish I’d written myself, so I’m always excited to see what’s in their new issues.

“The Lending Library of Final Lines” is one of a short series of stories set in the same world, including “The Better Part of Drowning” and “The Ouroboros Bakery.” The setting is a fantastical street constantly threatened by magic and giant carnivorous crabs. Most of what I write is science-based climate fiction, or something along those lines, so these stories are a sort of palate cleanser for me. Just something completely different, because if I write the same thing all the time I get a bit bored. It’s a chance to play, too, with all sorts of characters.

Clytie, the protagonist of “Lending Library,” is incurious, indifferently violent, and about as far from my usual scientist-type of character as you can get. Magical streets have retail workers too, and they exploit them as well. Even so, Clytie’s better off than some. At least she’s out of reach of the crabs…