Year’s Best SF&F 2019

I have a new story out! Except technically not really new – it’s a reprint. Now I’ve had reprints published before, and it’s always very exciting. (It’s amazing enough when a story sells once, let alone again.) This reprint, though… this one is special.

The first reason it’s special is because it’s the first time I’ve managed to crack this particular market. Getting a story into The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy has been on my writing bucket list for a long time. And of course there’s never any guarantee that an author will sell to any particular market, but let’s face it: there were a lot of absolutely excellent short speculative stories published last year. Choosing what would get into a single anthology must have been enormously difficult, so I was delighted when Rich Horton selected “The Temporary Suicides of Goldfish” for inclusion here. That story, by the way, was originally published by Kaleidotrope.

The second reason it’s special is because of who else is in the anthology. I was lucky enough to attend Clarion West 2016, and one of my classmates, Cadwell Turnbull, also has a story in here. Very happy to be sharing a table of contents with him! We were both very excited… and even more so because in that table of contents was none other than Ursula Le Guin. Reader, I had to take a moment. There is Ursula Le Guin with her final story, published I believe in the Paris Review of all places, and here’s me, in the same book, wittering on about reincarnated goldfish, in what must be one of the most frivolous stories known to man.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m amazed and grateful… but I also had to pinch myself. A lot.

Moonlight and Silver Bullets

I have a new academic chapter out! “Moonlight and Silver Bullets: Twentieth Century Racial Purity in Werewolf Films” has been published in All Around Monstrous: Monster Media in Their Historical Contexts, edited by Verena Bernardi and Frank Jacob. It’s out from Vernon Press now.

I love werewolf films. It’s a good thing I do, because there are a lot of them. Over 300 at last count – the first one dating from as early as 1913. But here’s the thing: go out into the street and accost ten random strangers. Ask them first how they would recognise a werewolf. Then ask them what kills a werewolf. Odds are, you’ll get the same answers from all ten people. Werewolves turn at the full moon, and they can be killed with a silver bullet.

Yet if you go back and look at werewolf mythology – and it’s been around for thousands of years – you’ll find that silver and moonlight make up tiny fractions of that mythology. Seriously, they may as well be footnotes they’re that minor in the scheme of things. So why have these minor elements of the myth come to be so widely held? Well, go back to the werewolf films and see when things begin to change. Up until the period around WW2, there’s a lot more variation in imagery. Enter The Wolf Man in 1941, and suddenly things begin to coalesce. Not all at once, but that’s the turning point. It could be that this was just a great film that made a lasting impact. But WW2, sadly, was also a time when eugenics began to rear its ugly head, specifically with regard to the nasty spectre of racial purity. And quite apart from werewolves, both moonlight and silver have long associations with purity. How do you recognise a werewolf? His mixed and beastly nature shows under pure light. How do you kill a werewolf? Hit him with a purity bullet, and it might kill him, but his dead body will turn back to its uncontaminated human form.

It’s very very nasty, and it may well be unconscious on the part of film makers and consumers, but the correlation – especially in the context of the times – is there.

Spring Again

I’ve a new academic chapter out! My paper “Spring Again: The Problem of Evil and the End of Winter in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia” is out in A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Francesca T. Barbini from Luna Press Publishing.

My love of fantasy began with Narnia. The first book I ever really remember reading was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which my parents gave to me on the Christmas following my fourth birthday. I spent Christmas morning tucked in a chair and enraptured, while Mum vacuumed up tinsel around me. I’d finished by lunch, and my parents (untrusting souls that they were) were so disbelieving they actually quizzed me on the contents of the book. I passed, though for the life of me I couldn’t remember that the witch’s knife was made of stone.

As an adult I still enjoy Narnia, problematic though it sometimes is. (The Last Battle, I must admit, is one of my most hated books of all time.) So when I saw the Luna Press call for papers, I thought I’d write about evil in Narnia. Here’s the abstract:

In The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, evil is perceived as directly resulting from personal choice. Each individual is solely responsible for their own moral decisions, and these decisions both impact the continuing ethical development of the self and influence how the individual addresses the problem of evil. This is particularly well illustrated in the case of Edmund Pevensie, and this paper argues that it is his willingness to accept and atone for the evil within himself that directly leads to the end of the enchanted winter imposed on Narnia. In this sense, evil is not only present within the individual, but is externalised in the land that that individual inhabits.

Basically, it sums up as “prophecies are always dodgy”. The Beavers have no logic, poor things.

The Feather Wall

I’ve a new story out! “The Feather Wall” is in Reckoning 3, which is free to read on their website. You can also buy the full anthology rather than waiting to read all the rest of their wonderful 2019 stories as they come out if you would prefer!

Anyway, “The Feather Wall” is about kakapo conservation after the apocalypse. Kakapo, if you don’t know of them, are an extremely endangered flightless parrot from New Zealand. They were getting along fine until humans came, but they’re a bit dopey and hopeless and were easily caught and eaten – not just by humans, but by the cats and ferrets and dogs and so on that humans brought with them. There are only a couple of hundred kakapo remaining, at time of writing, in their predator-free island sanctuaries. Fortunately their numbers are actually going up, thanks to the kakapo conservation programme run by NZ’s Department of Conservation (DOC). If you think about it, the world we live in today is actually post-apocalyptic from the perspective of the kakapo!

Be that as it may, “The Feather Wall” takes place in a time where plague has killed off most people on the planet. Martin, a DOC ranger on Resolution Island, is left trying to preserve his tiny population of kakapo, knowing as he does that when he dies they’ll likely be overrun by the predators he keeps away. It’s a hopeless task, he thinks, but he can’t make himself stop.

I love post-apocalyptic stories, but I’m really fed up with a) their insistence on humans falling into horrible brutish violent behaviour, and b) the rate of sexual assault that’s supposedly justified in the name of preserving the species. Here, the obsession with breeding after apocalypse is directed in a wholly positive way, in ensuring the continuation of the kakapo, and the people who survive the plague have no time for viciousness when there’s conservation to be done! Anyway, here’s a short taster, and please consider buying the antho. It’s full of environmentally-flavoured fiction, and is well worth reading.

“No, I’ll not leave you,” he said, stroking one of the big soft heads. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.” They were as good as quarantine, were kakapo. It was as if Resolution had a wall around it of feathers and expectation, a thin wall and a flexible one but one that kept him in regardless. And there was nowhere else for him to be, really. His biology had been ecology and conservation more than anything, his university experience a series of field trips punctuated by lectures, and if there was anyone left out there looking for a cure for plague he’d be pretty bloody useless. Better to stay with the birds and hope that Resolution was isolated enough to keep him healthy, hope that if he caught sick anyway the species barrier would protect them.

They were still, he thought, the more precious population.

 

The Sharp and Sugar Tooth

I’ve a new book out!

The Sharp and Sugar Tooth is a speculative fiction anthology of food and horror stories, edited by me and published by Upper Rubber Boot Books. Part of their Women Up To No Good series, it focuses on women’s experience with food and feeding. Because food is a necessity, something we can’t live without, there’s power in the managing of it, and power in the enjoyment of that management. Sometimes that’s a frightening thing, both for the women who cook and for the women who feed… but sometimes food needs to be frightening. There’s so much in it of temptation and of threat, and implicit in many forms of consumption is the tension between taking life from some so that others can live. This is fertile ground for a horror anthology, and the 22 stories in The Sharp and Sugar Tooth explore what that tension means for individuals, communities, and ecosystems.

The Sharp and Sugar Tooth features stories by Kathleen Alcalá, Betsy Aoki, Joyce Chng, Katharine Duckett, Anahita Eftekhari, Chikodili Emelumadu, Amelia Gorman, Jasmyne J. Harris, A.R. Henle, Crystal Lynn Hilbert, Erin Horáková, Kathryn McMahon, H. Pueyo, D.A. Xiaolin Spires, Rachael Sterling, Penny Stirling, Catherynne M. Valente, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Damien Angelica Walters, Rem Wigmore, Alyssa Wong, and Caroline M. Yoachim.

You can buy print and electronic copies at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Indiebound, and Wordery.