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.

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?