Novellas

Food and Fairy Tales win at the SJV awards!!!

I have had a fantastic weekend. I spent it down in Taupo, at LexiCon – New Zealand’s national SFF convention. I was on two panels: with Seanan McGuire and Meryl Stenhouse on Ecosystems in Science Fiction; and with Meryl again and Cat Langford on Writing Science, Writing Science Fiction. They both seemed to go well, got lots of comments and questions and the people who came up to me afterwards were very complimentary, which was kind of them as I’m not the best public speaker in the world and I’m afraid it showed. But still! I was pleased to make the effort, especially given how well LexiCon went. As a convention it was small but perfectly formed, being exceedingly well organised. Everyone was friendly and excited and happy to be there which is exactly how a convention should be.

But the big news – for me, anyway – happened on the last night, just before the closing ceremony, when the Sir Julius Vogel awards were held. These are our national SFF awards, named after a 19th century Prime Minister who wrote feminist science fiction, and they’re handed out every year. I was nominated in two categories: best novella/novelette for The Convergence of Fairy Tales, and best fan writing for my series of columns on food and horror, both of which were published last year by The Book Smugglers.

I was lucky enough to win both! So I have two lovely new trophies to sit on my bookshelf. (I was also really pleased that A.J. Fitzwater won the best short story category for “Splintr”, which was well deserved.)

I’m super grateful to everyone who voted for me. The competition was very strong, especially in the novella category. I didn’t expect to win, but it seems horror is more popular in the NZ fandom than I thought! So much thanks to my fellow kiwi fans, to the SJV organising team, and to Thea and Ana over at The Book Smugglers for all their support!

The Convergence of Fairy Tales

convergence2I have a new novella out!

The Convergence of Fairy Tales is a horror story published by The Book Smugglers as the first in their new novella series. It’s really a mash-up of sorts, where five different fairy tale princesses – Sleeping Beauty, the Snow Queen, Snow White, the Frog Princess, and Rapunzel – are facets of the same person. That person wakes, as the original Sleeping Beauty does, with a baby sucking the needle from her finger. How the princesses deal with their rape and forced motherhood – and how they wreak bloody vengeance within the confines of their own stories, aided by poison apples and mirror fragments, by long hair and glass coffins and golden balls – is something I really wanted to explore.

The Sleeping Beauty woke with a heartbeat between her legs. That was what dragged her out of the sticky swamp of enchantment, of curses and nightmare dreams – a red beat, one centred in her cunt and pulsing. It anchored her as fishing line, hooked into her flesh and hauling upwards until she broke the surface of her sleep and woke to a world so much different than before.

Her eyes were sticky-shut, the lashes glued together. It took work to open them and then the sun was so bright, shining through her tower window, that the Sleepy Beauty promptly closed them again to let herself adjust to the light glowing pink through her lids. It was in that moment, floating just above unconsciousness, that she began to feel more than flares and fish-lines.

The sheets were wet. Damp, really, with the sour odour of sweat, especially in the space around her hips where she could feel the liquid pooling, feel the heaviness of the sheets against her skin. She tried to move, to shift out of the damp spot – had she wet herself, had her bleeding come early? – but it hurt to move and there was something between her legs, something soft and wet and spongy. Her lower back felt as if she had been beaten, and there was a tugging at one finger.

And really, look at that cover. It’s by the fabulously talented Kristina Tsenova (who also did the cover for my short story “The Mussel Eater”). How can you not want a book with that cover?

The Convergence of Fairy Tales is available at Amazon and Smashwords.

The Ghost of Matter wins SJV!!!

ghost-of-matter_cover_medThis last weekend was New Zealand’s national science fiction convention, Au Contraire. It’s also when the Sir Julius Vogel Awards are held. The Ghost of Matter was nominated for best novelette/novella, and I’m pleased to say that it won!

I was so convinced it wouldn’t that I hadn’t prepared anything to say, and had to stumble to the front to receive the trophy before gaping hopelessly at the audience. I don’t think I was very coherent, but at least I was brief. If it wasn’t clear then, I shared the category with five other fantastic stories, and any one of them could have won. Thanks are due to my editor Marie at Paper Road Press, who helped turn the draft into something a little more well-considered. I’m happy to report that the Shortcuts collection, of which The Ghost of Matter is a part, also won best collection, as well as best artwork for Casey Bailey’s amazing cover.

If you haven’t read it, The Ghost of Matter is about New Zealand’s most famous scientist, Ernest Rutherford. There’s an excerpt available free to read at Paper Road Press, and it’s available to buy there and at Amazon.

Pre-order SHORTCUTS and win!

shortcuts-track-1At the beginning of the month, Paper Road Press published my novella The Ghost of Matter. This was the last of their 2015 Shortcuts series: six titles by Kiwi authors, themed around strange tales of Aotearoa New Zealand.

All the Shortcuts stories were sold separately as ebooks. But that’s about to change! There’s a print collection on the way, just in time for Christmas. That’s six novellas in one book: Mika by Lee Murray and Piper Mejia; The Last by Grant Stone; Bree’s Dinosaur by A.C. Buchanan; Pocket Wife by I.K. Paterson-Harkness; Landfall by Tim Jones; and The Ghost of Matter.

You can pre-order Shortcuts now, and if you do, you go in the draw for free book vouchers! So check it out.

“The Ghost of Matter”

ghost-of-matter_cover_medMy new novella’s out! It came out just yesterday, from Paper Road Press, as part of their Shortcuts series of New Zealand based speculative fiction. The other five stories in the series are fantastic, I’m so pleased to be part of it with all those fantastic authors!

1886. Two young boys disappear in the Sounds. Their mother grieves, all the music cut out of her heart; their father wanders the coast for a year, wanting and not wanting to find any part of them left behind. And their brother Ern, faced with a problem to which no solution can be found, returns to his laboratory – and to the smell of salt, soft voices in his ear, wet footprints welling seawater in the darkness.

The Ghost of Matter weaves together time and memory, physics and mystery, in this story inspired by Ernest Rutherford’s life and research.

I seem to have a real thing about Ernest Rutherford! He turned up in The August Birds last month, and now this. I’ve also got another idea for a novella involving him, and a short story. He just really fires my imagination, especially as he grew up in the same part of New Zealand as I did.

Anyway, there’s an excerpt that’s free to read over at Paper Road, so if this sounds like something you’d like go check it out!

The Ghost of Matter

Ernest_Rutherford_LOCI’m happy to say I’ve just signed the contract for a new novella! The Ghost of Matter will be published in September of this year by Paper Road Press.

If you recognise the title, you’ll know what it’s about: Ernest Rutherford, the NZ scientist described as the greatest experimentalist of his time. It’s from a quote of his – “I have broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter” – regarding his work in atomic physics. Because I tend to write sci-fi and fantasy, there’s also actual ghosts in it. Ghosts and atoms and eeriness…

The Ghost of Matter is the sixth and final story in the Shortcuts series by Paper Road Press. They’re doing a second track of literary works down the line, but these first six stories are themed round “Strange Fiction of Aotearoa New Zealand”. The first one’s already out: Mika by Lee Murray and Piper Mejia, and the rest will be released at the rate of one per month until mine shows up in September.

SJV nomination for Trading Rosemary!

TradingRosemary_V02cIt’s been a good couple of weeks for nominations! My novella Trading Rosemary, published last year by Masque Books, has been nominated in the best novella category in the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. These are the New Zealand sci-fi/fantasy awards, named after a former prime minister of ours. Vogel ran the place in the late 19th century, and actually wrote a sci-fi novel of his own. It was a feminist sci-fi novel too, appropriate for the first country in the world to give women the vote.

Congratulations to all my fellow nominees, especially those sharing the novella category with me: Jan Goldie, Shelley Chappell, Celine Murray, Rolf Luchs and J.C. Hart!

Results of the voting will be presented at the close of the Reconaissance convention in April. Keeping my fingers crossed but really, I’m just pleased to be nominated.

Sofie K. free up at Amazon

sofiekcover… for another couple of days at least.

See, back on the 15th of January it was Sofia Kovalevskaya’s birthday. If she were alive today, she’d be 165 years old! So, as a somewhat belated birthday present, I took advantage of Kindle’s select programme to make the novella she inspired free for a few days.

The Life in Papers of Sofie K. is a fantasy bio of Kovalevskaya, mixing maths and magical realism and monsters in the story of her life. It’s free for another day or two, I think, so if it sounds like your kind of thing, have at it.

Happy birthday, Sofie!

2014 In Review

It’s been a busy year, writing-wise. First – and most important! – my PhD thesis has been completed and accepted. Thank fuck. One of the case studies, “Witnessing the Waste Land: Sight, Sound and Response in Edith Sitwell’s ‘Three Poems of the Atomic Age'”, has been published in UnderCurrents: the Journal of Critical Environmental Studies.

I’ve also had my first novellas published. Trading Rosemary (January) and The Don’t Girls (October) were both published by Masque Books. I’ve also self-published two others: The Life in Papers of Sofie K. and Vita Urbis.

On top of that, I’ve had three short stories published: “Vita Urbis” (a short story that would later grow into the above novella) in the urban fantasy anthology Twisted Boulevard by Elektrik Milk Bath Press. Also “Tommy Flowers and the Glass Bells of Bletchley“, which was published in The Dark Magazine, and “The Mussel Eater“, published by The Book Smugglers.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m fishing for awards nominations. A long shot, but it would be nice. I’m focusing primarily here on two pieces: Trading Rosemary and “The Mussel Eater”.

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards, for speculative fiction by New Zealand writers, are handed out every year Down Under, at the National Science Fiction Convention. As far as I understand, it’s free to nominate and you don’t have to be a Kiwi to do so. Both TR and TME are very NZ focussed – the first is eligible for the Novella or Novelette category, the second is eligible for the Short Story category. Nominations, if you’re feeling kind, can be sent via email to sjv_awards@sffanz.org.nz. They close on January 31st.

Secondly, the Hugos. I’m in my second and final year of eligibility for the Campbell Award. Trading Rosemary is eligible in the Best Novella category, and TME in the Best Short Story (admittedly, though, there have been so many fine short stories this year that I don’t have a lot of hopes for it there). Rosemary has been getting some positive attention from book bloggers and critics, however, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for her. If you’ve read her and liked her, please consider nominating!

All in all, a relatively successful year – especially academically. Hopefully I can now focus more on other writing now that the beast that is my thesis (540 pages, people!) has been laid to rest.

So You’ve Written A Mystical Pregnancy…

Vita Urbis - High ResolutionI know. I know.

They’re terrible. You think I haven’t seen them or read them and thought “What is this bullshit?” Granted, I don’t hate them as much as I hate the Magic Baby, Child of Prophecy, but then nothing comes close to the hate I have for that.

I mean, a woman’s more than an incubator, and it’s a sad fact that inflicting a character with a mystical pregnancy pretty much turns her into little more than a host organism victimised by her own capacity for reproduction. No choice, no agency.

So why did I feel the need to add another story to this pile of idiocy? I’ve just self-published my November novella, Vita Urbis, wherein the main character, Vita, gets knocked up by a city. Yes, roll your eyes, go ahead. I don’t blame you. I did as well, on the grounds of better late than never. See, this novella is based on a short story I wrote, published earlier this year in the urban fantasy anthology Twisted Boulevard. That was unadulterated mystical pregnancy for you, though my idiot self didn’t see it until far too late. Although the story was intercut with scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, so transformation and some really twisted reproduction was par for the course. (Leda fucked a swan, for God’s sake. Say what you like about Vita, but at least she’s not out molesting the local wildlife.)

So I felt the need to do a fix-it job. Hence the novella – and if it makes matters worse then hell. It’s only a novella. I can always write another one.

To improve the expanded version I did three things. First, in the Ovid intercuts, I emphasised the themes of choice and agency. The novella is set around images of reflection – the stories mirror each other, the City with its own underworld, Vita reproducing through work and womb – so strengthening the metamorphoses helped to (hopefully) strengthen the whole.

Secondly, I gave Vita more choice… and made the City an active player in giving her that choice. For example, there’s a point where she considers abortion, and the same entity that got her pregnant in the first place makes it clear that it would support her if that’s what she wanted to do. It’s actually helpful about it. I’ve done things like this to try and return some agency to Vita, to make her more than a passive receptacle.

Finally, it’s the mirror effect again. Vita, in effect, knocks up the City before it lays so much as a smoky tendril on her. An architect, Vita reproduces herself in the buildings she designs, in a deliberate attempt to recreate the City in her own image. Little wonder the City wants to return the favour… Their relationship is mutually exploitative, especially as after the earthquakes that accompany Vita’s labour, her buildings might be the only things left standing.

So, I’ve written a mystical pregnancy. For the first and last time, probably. If it sounds like something you might be interested in, get yourself over to Amazon.

You can still roll your eyes if you want to.