Novellas, SFF

Pre-Order: The Impossible Resurrection of Grief

I have a new book coming out! The Impossible Resurrection of Grief is a novella from Stelliform Press, and it’s due out on May 20th. You can pre-order it at the link there.

Before I tell you anything else about it, just look at that cover. Isn’t it gorgeous? The cover artist is Rachel Lobbenberg, and she’s done an amazing job. If you look closely, you can even see the grumpy eyebrows on those little flying rock wrens!

Stelliform’s focus is climate fiction, which is something I’m enormously interested in. When I saw their call for novellas last year, I was determined that I would have to write something for them – I ended up writing this book during my time as artist in residence at Massey University/Square Edge, and I’m truly grateful for their support. My time as artist there was affected pretty strongly by pandemic, and I spent a lot of it in lockdown. One thing I noticed was the odd news article about how many people in lockdown were logged into nature cameras, such as those down at the albatross colony just outside Dunedin. People were feeling nature-deprived, and it struck me that as climate change accelerates and biodiversity plummets, the phenomenon of ecological grief (which is beginning to get some attention in academic circles) might become a more significant part of daily life.

In the climate-affected future of Grief, this is exactly what has happened. The Great Barrier Reef has died, and the repercussions of this, and of all the other ecological absences, are felt through a phenomenon known simply as Grief. But in out of the way places, some scientists are working to bring back to life some of the creatures that have been lost…

 

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, Science

Milk Teeth

I have a new essay out! Most of what I put up on this blog is short stories or academic papers or books, and it’s only very rarely that I write a nonfiction, non-academic piece. But I’d like to start doing more of them, so this is one of the first.

It’s also the first piece I’ve ever managed to sell to Uncanny Magazine, which is one thing crossed off my writing bucket list. It’s an amazing magazine, and I’m so pleased to finally be in it. My essay, “Milk Teeth,” is free to read at the link.

It’s about New Zealand ecology. Mostly the moa (a giant and sadly extinct bird) and the horoeka (a plant which is happily still very much alive). The horoeka’s an odd-looking plant, and one of the theories as to why it looks and grows the way that it does is because the moa used to graze on it, and the plant adapted accordingly.

If this is true – and it seems a reasonable explanation – then this plant is still growing away, doing it’s odd spiky thing, completely oblivious to the fact that the reason for said spikiness is long dead and likely won’t be coming back. (I say “likely” because I live in hope that the thing can be resurrected, like a big feathery Jurassic Park creature that is rather less violently carnivorous. The probability of this resurrection is not high.)

And to me, that’s such an interesting relationship… one built, now, entirely around absence, and one that’s very much worth exploring.

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.