SFF, Short stories

The Women Who Didn’t Win Nobels

I have a new story out! Actually, it’s a novelette, which is nice. It’s got a fairly long title to go with it’s lengthy self as well: the full title is “The Women Who Didn’t Win Nobels, And How World Trees Are Not A Substitute.” It’s in the latest issue of Fusion Fragment, and I love them for taking this gargantuan mash-up of a story, I really do. The story is science history and climate fiction and mythology and compromise layered over and over each other, so you see “fusion” is really the best word for it.

“The Women Who Didn’t Win Nobels” focuses on three women who, indeed, did not win Nobel prizes for their work in science: Lise Meitner, Rosalind Franklin, and Chien-Shiung Wu. All of them arguably should have won in their respective fields, but the main storyline here is them spending their afterlives at the World Tree, being interviewed by another woman, another scientist, who is considerably less talented than they are and who has a decision to make. She is looking for advice, essentially, or perhaps she is looking for confirmation. Science comes with compromise, and the decision on where to make that compromise, and the decision on if it should be made at all, is a fundamental one… especially in a world which in which climate change may increase the potential for conflicts. And these three women who, in alternate realities would have received more credit for their work, were all touched in some ways by war and/or conflict, and they have ideas about how such should be navigated.

It’s a story that I’m particularly attached to, so I’m glad it’s finally out there in the world!

Horror, SFF, Short stories

YBHH: Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead

I have a new (old) story out! “Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead” has been reprinted in the Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, volume 6, from Red Room Press. The story was originally published in The Dark.

This is the second time I’ve had a story in YBHH, and I’m grateful to the editors Randy Chandler and Cheryl Mullenax; I remember them making it plain that people shouldn’t overthink whether their story is “hardcore” or not before submitting. It’s what encourages me to send stuff into them, because honestly? “Otto Hahn” is a very dark and deeply grim little story, but if I had to think of a single word to describe it, I’m not sure that “hardcore” would make the top of the list. It probably wouldn’t even make the top ten. If I had to pick a single word, it would probably be “tragic.” The story deals with an episode in the history of chemical warfare. There’s a lot of terrible things in that history, but this, about the suicide of chemist Clara Immerwahr, may be one of the saddest.

“Otto Hahn” is a story about grief and regret, and in some ways it is a story about the utter uselessness of doing better, because when you have chosen to involve yourself in something so monstrous, well. Is atonement even possible?

I don’t know, but I suspect not.

SFF, Short stories

The Streams are Paved with Fish Traps

I have a new story out! And unlike my last two, this one’s not horror. It’s actually optimistic for once, but that’s what tends to happen when you write solarpunk. It’s an area I’m interested in doing more work in, as I like the focus on community, diversity, and sustainability that’s generally a hallmark of the genre.

This particular story, “The Streams are Paved with Fish Traps,” can be found in the anthology Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures, from World Weaver Press. The anthology was produced with the support of the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, so as you can see there is a strong focus on an interdisciplinary approach here, and that’s something I appreciate.

My own story talks about urban ecology, which is a field that, like solarpunk, I’m becoming increasingly interested in. Back in 2019, I saw a news story out of Wellington, New Zealand, about a discovery some ecologists had made in the storm water systems beneath the city. The pipes were being colonised by fish, including eels, and I thought that was just marvelous. I knew straight away that I wanted to write a story about it, and so when World Weaver Press contacted me, wanting to know if I’d write a story for their upcoming anthology, it was an easy choice. I’m so glad to be a part of this project! Hopefully there’ll be many more like it in the future.

Horror, Short stories

Worm Blood

I have a new story out! It’s called “Worm Blood,” and it’s free to read in issue 71 of The Dark Magazine. I’ve had several stories in that magazine now, and they’re one of my favourite markets.

As you can probably tell from the title, worms play a big part here. It’s a squirmy rural horror story where something terrible has gone wrong on the farm. I can’t honestly say it’s my usual sort of horror story, but I like to try new things and so disgusting creatures that crawl out of holes in the back paddocks fit the bill. For me, though, there’s got to be more than disgusting creatures in a horror story. After all, I’m a biologist at heart, so even supernatural worms must have something about them that’s interesting or appealing if they’re going to be the real centre of the story. These don’t, so they aren’t. What’s more important to me is why they’re there, disturbing the locals and destroying crops, and just what those locals are going to do about it.

I should say at this point that apparently, over in Australia, exist giant Gippsland earthworms that can apparently grow to over three metres long and a couple of centimetres thick, and if you think seeing these delightful creatures is not on my bucket list, you probably don’t know me very well yet. (Though I will say the Gippsland earthworms are much less horrific than the worms of my story, who have no redeeming features whatsoever… )

Articles, Horror, Science, SFF, Short stories

The Past and Future Lives of Test Subjects

I have a new story out! And it’s fucking terrible. I don’t say that lightly. The story itself is well-written and decently constructed, don’t get me wrong. I’m not fishing for affirmation of my writing ability. But the subject is monstrous. It’s also, unfortunately, drawn entirely from fact. “The Past and Future Lives of Test Subjects”, available in issue 1 of Dark Matter Magazine, is about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments.

Those experiments, should you be so fortunate to have never heard of them, comprised a 40 year study in which the United States Public Health Service oversaw the “treatment” of syphilis in a study group of Black men. I say “treatment,” because although these men were told they were receiving medical care they really weren’t. The purpose of the study was to monitor the progression of untreated syphilis in the human body, and of course there’s no-one alive who would volunteer to the be the subject of that experiment, but the Public Health Service decided to go ahead and experiment anyway and not bother with any of those nasty consent issues.

This is the darkest story I’ve ever written. The people who ran this study were deeply, violently racist, and they clearly had absolutely no ethics at all, so be warned if you choose to read. You may prefer the accompanying essay, which I’m pleased to say Dark Matter also chose to publish in the same issue. “The Past and Future Lives of Scientists” goes into greater detail of the experiments in question, and places them within the ethical context of past failure and future necessity.