SFF, Short stories

Year’s Best Aotearoa SFF

I have a new story out! Well, an old story. “Otto Hahn Speaks to the Dead,” originally published in The Dark, has been reprinted in the Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction & Fantasy, Volume 3 from Paper Road Press. That’s a mouthful of a title, I know, but the series itself is great. I’ve been lucky enough to have a story in each of the three volumes of the past three years, and it’s fantastic to be sharing page space with so many of the other speculative writers living in New Zealand.

So much credit should go to Paper Road Press here. It’s a small publisher in Wellington, New Zealand, and it is doing more than any other NZ publisher to support speculative fiction by Kiwi writers. There was no regular speculative anthology series here (that I’m aware of, at least) before Paper Road started putting them out, and each anthology has been beautifully curated and presented. I imagine writers living in countries like the US and the UK experience this sort of thing regularly, but we’re a small country with an even smaller publishing industry, and books like this really matter to us.

So thanks, Paper Road Press! I really appreciate your work.

SFF, Short stories

Scales, Tails, and Hagfish

I have a new story out! It’s a novelette called “Scales, Tails, and Hagfish,” and it can be found in the anthology Middle Distance, edited by Craig Gamble and published by Victoria University Press. You might imagine from the book title and cover that this is a book about running, but you would be wrong. (The likelihood of my contributing to a book about running is just slightly lower than me actually running, and the chances of that are already infinitesimal.) No, the “middle distance” here is actually a reference to word count. This is an anthology of novelettes – specifically, an anthology of novelettes from New Zealand writers that are all approximately 10,000 words in length. A novelette can get up to 17,500 words, if you use the SFWA definition and I do, so you can see that it’s on the shorter side of the form, but still. Novelettes.

I love novelettes. The older I get the less patience I have for reading long form, so anything short gets extra points from me. I knew, when I saw the submission call, that I had to send something in. That something, I am almost sorry to say, was batshit lunacy.

“Scales, Tails, and Hagfish” is about an extremely unpleasant little girl who wants to be a mermaid. Loretta, in fact, is certain that she is a mermaid, and she doesn’t let technicalities like having legs instead of a fish tail stop her. Loretta’s unfortunate partner in delinquency is an otherwise well-behaved boy named Jeremy, who has severe allergies and a resulting level of snot production that convinces Loretta that he is a hagfish in disguise. They are almost friends, if only because no-one else will put up with either of them.

I actually enjoyed writing this novelette so much I’ve expanded it into a middle grade novel, Loretta and the Hagfish, which I’m currently shopping around. Fingers crossed!

Articles, Science

Strigops habroptilus

I have a new article out! “Strigops habroptilus – Kākāpō” is in Becoming Feral, a bestiary project from Object-a Creative Studio, supported by The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and the University of California, Santa Cruz. If you’ve ever met me and been foolish enough to enter into the topic of academic publishing, you’ll know that I have opinions, so when I saw this project, which is a strange (but hopefully accessible) attempt at producing specifically creative research, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

Becoming Feral is an exploration of ferality as it relates to the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals. Participants had to pick an animal and create a bestiary entry for them that fulfilled that brief. A lot of those entries – including mine – are primarily written, but there are also some multimedia entries that you can take a look at for free online.

I chose to write a short article on the kākāpō, a flightless parrot endemic to Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s very endangered here; at the time I wrote this post there were only 201 left alive. Unfortunately, in 2019 (the year before COVID-19 came to NZ) the kākāpō had their own pandemic. Nearly five percent of the entire kākāpō population died; many had to be isolated from the disease in order to survive. Some had to undergo nebuliser treatment to support their respiration, as contagious spores were attacking their lungs, and the only nebulisers small enough were ones designed for kids. The crossover in pandemic experience, then, was something I found really interesting – what was the feral organism here? The kākāpō, who by the end were helping to weigh themselves in the quarantine facilities provided for them, or the spores that were killing them?

SFF, Short stories

Indicator Species

I’ve a new story out! It’s only a wee thing, because the brief was to produce stories that were about a page and a half long. I find writing flash fiction really difficult, which is why every so often I give it another go, on the grounds that practice might make it easier.

“Indicator Species” can be read for free online in the “Oceans” section of Stories from 2050, which is a project funded by the EU to produce a collection of flash fiction about ecology in 2050. There’s a documented link between spending time in nature and improved mental health, so my story looks at how restoring urban ecology is good for both human and nonhuman life. This is a connection that I’m increasingly focused on in my ecofiction, so it’s been good to branch out in a more hopeful direction there.

Stories from 2050 has been a really fascinating project to be part of. I came to it quite late, so I didn’t get to spend much time in the collaborative workshops where people explored potential variations on the different ecological themes, but I’ve been reading along with interest.

Horror, SFF, Short stories

Tidemarks

I have a new story out! “Tidemarks” is available to read in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World, edited by Eric J. Guignard from Dark Moon Books.

When Eric contacted me to ask if I were interested in writing a ghost story for the anthology, there were only two restrictions. First, whatever building was being haunted, it couldn’t be a house. Secondly, it couldn’t take place in any real building. I’m embarrassed to say that I forgot the second condition twice, and my haunted aquarium ended up being dumped further along the Otago peninsula coastline than any similar building which may or may not have inspired the story.

My sole defence is that I was so excited at the prospect of writing a story about ghost penguins that I promptly forgot anything else. Yes, penguins. There was nothing in the brief that said my story had to be about human ghosts so I went straight to the ecological uncanny. Anyway, there are penguins on the Otago peninsula and I would like for them to stay there, so this is a future-set ghost story in which red tides have taken the place of penguins, and those poor extinct birds reappear late at night, suffocating under algal bloom. (Yes, ghost penguins of tragedy, don’t read this for a happy ending to hauntings.)

But still. Ghost penguins!!!