Our Flesh was Bred for This

I have a new story out! “Our Flesh was Bred for This” is in the first issue of Frozen Wavelets, which is free to read at the link.

It’s a flash story, which is unusual for me. I find flash to be exceptionally difficult to write – every time I try, it tends to balloon out to my natural length, which seems to be around 3500-4500 words. I do not have the gift of concision, is what I’m saying, though I do admire it in others. Every time I see a really good flash piece by someone else, I try to study it to see why they’re managing it and I can’t. I think, finally, that it’s down to a ruthless sense of scale. With such a limited word count, there’s no room for tangents, or even for pretty language that serves no purpose other than prettiness. It’s far closer to a vignette, for me – something designed wholly around a feeling rather than an ongoing plot. Anyway, this is mine. I don’t know that I’ll write a whole lot more of them in future, but I’m glad to have achieved a successful flash, even if it’s just the once. And here’s a taster of it:

Death is different for island folk.

It’s an old saying, if not a truthful one. There are islands enough for carnivores. On Kodiak they stake you out for bears, on Komodo you’re left for dragons. Not everywhere is barren of hunting teeth. In most places they’ve come back, feed them up so carefully as we do.

But there are some islands where they never were. Islands of birds and bats, and the only big carnivores are marine, their fish-bellies white around the coast, their easy length swum up along estuaries and into rivers. The great hinged jaw of leopard seals, the smooth sleek lines of blackfish.

Apex predators, all of them…

 

Year’s Best Aotearoa SF&F 2019

I have a new story out! Well, it’s an old story actually. “We Feed the Bears of Fire and Ice” was originally published by Strange Horizons last year, and its creepy creepy bears have shot to the top of my own personal favourite stories.

So when Marie Hodgkinson of New Zealand’s Paper Road Press decided that she was going to put together the very first volume of Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy I knew precisely which story I was going to send in. Given that New Zealand is hosting WorldCon next year, the time has come for an anthology series of this sort – it’s a great idea to showcase local talent to our soon-to-be visitors! And I knew with Marie publishing it the result would be outstanding. Though I say that with bias – Marie and Paper Road have published my stuff before, namely my SJV award-winning novella The Ghost of Matter, about famous Kiwi scientist Ernest Rutherford.

Fittingly for my creepy bears, the first volume of YBANZSF&F was launched on Halloween, and I was down in Wellington for the event. Even did a reading, so that was exciting (in a nerve-wracking sort of way). Being launched at the same time was a novella from a mate of mine, Andi C. Buchanan. Their book is called From a Shadow Grave, and it is outstanding. Andi also has a story in the Year’s Best  anthology, as do a number of other fantastic Kiwi writers, including A.J. Fitzwater, Mark English, J.C. Hart, Sean Monaghan, M. Darusha Wehm and more! And just look at that gorgeous cover by Emma Weakley…

Inside the Body of Relatives

I have a new story out! “Inside the Body of Relatives” is in the November/December 2019 issue of Asimov’s Magazine. It’s the fourth story I’ve had in Asimov’s, and the first which is actually a short story. Everything else I’ve had published there has been a novelette, so it’s good to have sold them something different. It’s a short story because it’s only a little idea, and sometimes you just don’t need to pad out a good idea with extra words. That idea – and I don’t want to spoil it, exactly – is something that came to me one night when I was lying in bed, tucked up under the duvet and listening to rain on the roof. And it was such a simple idea, and it seemed so obvious…

It’s also a story that features that staple of the science fiction narrative: artificial intelligence. Specifically, an AI dwelling. There’s a reason this is a trope (often a horrifying trope) but I wanted something not-horrifying for this. It’s a quiet little story about aging and loneliness and evolutionary biology, so there seemed no reason to go all overwrought with it. Anyway, here’s a teaser of it:

There’s a reason I don’t have a lot of guests – or worse, a tenant, for all the rent would round out my super. I like my house quiet.

“Quiet as the toooomb,” says the house, in response. It gets sarcastic when it’s worried. “I don’t like to think about you getting depressed,” it says.

“I’m not depressed.”

“Loneliness can be a trigger for depression,” says the house. “You are lonely, and I am not a substitute…”

 

Mary Shelley Makes A Monster

My second poetry collection is out! Mary Shelley Makes A Monster is published by Aqueduct Press. The title poem was originally published in Strange Horizons and was inspired by a biography of Shelley. And, of course, by Frankenstein

All our monsters are mirrors. And when Mary Shelley’s second monster (built from her life rather than her pen, born out of biography instead of blood) outlives its mother, that monster goes looking for a substitute. But all the monster really knows of women is that women write, and so the search for a replacement takes it first to Katherine Mansfield, and then to other women who know what mutilated things can be made from ink and mirrors… Virginia Woolf. Janet Frame. Sylvia Plath. Grace Mera Molisa. Octavia Butler. Angela Carter. Murasaki Shikibu. The monster stares into each of them, has their words carved into its tongue, their nails drawn down its back, their toothmarks embedded in its heart.

When it goes out into the world, no-one can tell the difference.

Available in print and ebook.

Year’s Best SF&F 2019

I have a new story out! Except technically not really new – it’s a reprint. Now I’ve had reprints published before, and it’s always very exciting. (It’s amazing enough when a story sells once, let alone again.) This reprint, though… this one is special.

The first reason it’s special is because it’s the first time I’ve managed to crack this particular market. Getting a story into The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy has been on my writing bucket list for a long time. And of course there’s never any guarantee that an author will sell to any particular market, but let’s face it: there were a lot of absolutely excellent short speculative stories published last year. Choosing what would get into a single anthology must have been enormously difficult, so I was delighted when Rich Horton selected “The Temporary Suicides of Goldfish” for inclusion here. That story, by the way, was originally published by Kaleidotrope.

The second reason it’s special is because of who else is in the anthology. I was lucky enough to attend Clarion West 2016, and one of my classmates, Cadwell Turnbull, also has a story in here. Very happy to be sharing a table of contents with him! We were both very excited… and even more so because in that table of contents was none other than Ursula Le Guin. Reader, I had to take a moment. There is Ursula Le Guin with her final story, published I believe in the Paris Review of all places, and here’s me, in the same book, wittering on about reincarnated goldfish, in what must be one of the most frivolous stories known to man.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m amazed and grateful… but I also had to pinch myself. A lot.