SFF, Short stories

Come Water, Be One of Us

I have a new story out! My last story of the year. It’s called “Come Water, Be One of Us,” and it’s free to read at Strange Horizons, just click on the link.

This is a story inspired by true events. As the wee paragraph at the beginning says, back in 2017, the New Zealand Parliament recognised the Whanganui River as a legal person. You might think that sounds strange, but I’ve long been irritated by the legal fiction that corporations are people when they clearly fucking aren’t. Making rivers legal people as well redresses the balance – and takes into account indigenous beliefs about the personhood of the river in question. And this isn’t just a Kiwi thing. Not long after the NZ Parliament did its bit, the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India, and the Rio Atrato in Colombia were also made legal people by the respective governments of those countries. (And it’s not just rivers. At least one mountain here in NZ has been accorded the same status.)

I like the idea of making ecosystems legal people. It gives another layer of protection, and if you know anything about the state of rivers in NZ, you know they need all the protection they can get. But it’s also, in its way, a potential pushback against the ridiculous idea that corporations have the same legal protections as you and me. Those fucking things are not alive. I don’t care how much you love Amazon. It is not an ecosystem like the South American river, and Apple didn’t grow on any bloody tree. They are not alive.

It really annoys me. So I used the idea of rivers, fighting back against the corporations, because what is a person, really? I’m so glad that Strange Horizons bought this story. I had a feeling it was right up their alley – occasionally, when you write a story, you just know it’s a good fit for a particular market. And they got Galen Dara to illustrate it. Galen Dara!!! Author achievement unlocked right there, I tell you. Just look at it. Isn’t it beautiful?

Horror, Short stories

Imago

I have a new story out! And I blame Animal Planet. It’s entirely their fault. There I was, blamelessly flicking through channels on the telly, and there was a documentary on cicadas. And not just any cicadas – if I wanted just any cicadas, I could see lots of them in the back garden. (I’ve admired their split skins since I was a kid.) No, this was about periodical cicadas. Apparently, over in the US, there’s a type of cicada that swarms every 13 or 17 years. The next swarm, all those years later, is laid by the previous swarm, and all I could think as I watched this programme was “I could make a great horror story out of this!”

So, there you have it. Blame Animal Planet. This weird, gross, insect-filled body horror was inspired by them. Poor things, they probably thought they were sharing scientific and educational information, real learning opportunities. Little did they know, across the other side of world a horror writer was trawling for bait.

I kind of disgusted myself with it, apparently. I certainly made a couple of writer colleagues who were kind enough to read an early draft retch. Apparently they dislike the egg part. Ha.

Anyway, “Imago” is free to read at Three-Lobed Burning Eye. If your stomach’s strong enough, that is.

SFF, Short stories

The Science of Pacific Apocalypse

I have a new story out! “The Science of Pacific Apocalypse” appears in Rebuilding Tomorrow, which is the follow-up anthology to Defying Doomsday. I actually had a story in Defying Doomsday, which was an awesome anthology focused around the experience of disabled people in the apocalypse. The positive experiences, I should say – the idea was that a history of having to adapt to non-ideal circumstances would actively help disabled people both survive apocalypse and contribute to the survival of others as well. The story I had in that was called “Portobello Blind” and it centred around the experiences of Anna, a 14 year old blind girl left to fend for herself in the abandoned Portobello marine laboratory in Dunedin. (I did some grad work at that lab, so was very familiar with it and its cursed HPLC machine. I do not have fond memories of that machine.) Anyway, Anna managed to survive quite handily, and was engaged in scientific research of her own, monitoring the colonisation rates of shellfish, when her satellite radio picked up calls from other survivors… scientists coming in from distant field research, having escaped the plague that killed nearly everyone else.

So when I got an email from Tsana Dolichva, the editor of both Doomsday and Rebuilding Tomorrow, to ask if I’d write a follow-up to “Portobello Blind,” set some ten years afterwards, of course I said yes. And everyone laughs when I say this, but my story ended up focusing around rebuilding academic publishing after the apocalypse. Anna, now editor as well as scientist, and part of a surviving society that is almost entirely scientists – all those field workers, coming back – doesn’t want more of the same. (If you’ve ever had to read a scientific paper, or any other academic paper for that matter, you’ll know why. They suck the joy out of research.) And because she listens to science more than she reads it, Anna has a vested interest – and a clear advantage – when it comes to making science more accessible for everyone.

Yes, my PhD is in science communication. Why do you ask?

SFF, Short stories

Monsters in the Garden

There’s a fantastic new anthology out from Victoria University Press, and I have a story in it! “The Stone Wētā” was reprinted in Monsters in the Garden: An Anthology of Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Elizabeth Knox and David Larsen. New Zealand was supposed to host WorldCon this year, although the whole pandemic turned the convention virtual in the end, and this anthology was meant to celebrate that. It ended up being a little late for WorldCon, but it came out just in time for Word, one of the major national literary festivals, held every year in Christchurch. Quite coincidentally, I was in Christchurch for the launch – I was finishing up a writing residency at the Arts Centre there – so I was able to do a reading at the launch, which was exciting.

What is really exciting, however, is the table of contents. New Zealand has a long history of speculative fiction – our national scifi and fantasy awards are named after Sir Julius Vogel, who was prime minister here in the 19th century and wrote a book of feminist science fiction after he retired. So there’s a wide range of authors to pick from, and the anthology has a nice range of older and more contemporary writers. I am thrilled to bits, however, to be in the same table of contents as Maurice Gee, whose children’s books I adored as a kid and still love today. Also, Janet Frame is in there. I am in a table of contents with Janet Frame!!! Ridiculously delighted.

Horror, SFF, Short stories

The Body Politic

I have a new story out! “The Body Politic” can be found in Recognize Fascism, edited by Crystal M. Huff, from World Weaver Press. Recognize Fascism is a science fiction and fantasy short fiction anthology that does what it says on the tin. Fascism, sad to say, is one of those unfortunate ideologies that never seems to die. It’s always trying to sprout in new and unpleasant forms – and it’s best to be able to discern these as quickly as possible, so you can kick the shit out of them early and save yourself the trouble of doing it when they’ve got an even larger and nastier foothold in civilised society.

Anyway, my story is really more body horror than sci-fi or fantasy, and it’s weird body horror at that. One of the hallmarks of fascism, I think, is its attempts to control the body, particularly in the areas of identity and reproduction. In this little story, then – one of the few flash pieces I’ve ever written – the effects of fascism begin to literally appear on the body, limiting that body’s potential and rendering it weaker than before, and less capable of rebellion.

It’s such a good idea for an anthology, recognizing fascism, and I’m so glad that Crystal and World Weaver Press took a chance on what is really a very experimental piece of work. But it’s not just me – the anthology is positively stuffed with interesting, provocative stories by a number of truly excellent authors. Please take a look.