SFF, Short stories

You’re Not the Only One

I have a new short story out! “You’re Not the Only One” is free to read in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld. This is the third story I’ve had out with them, and as always I’m very happy to be there.

“You’re Not the Only One” is a quiet little story about picking yourself back up after disappointment and grief. I saw one review of it which said it was barely science fiction at all, and honestly I think that’s a fair assessment. There’s a science fiction veneer, in that one of the disappointments is from an astronaut whose mission has been postponed, but otherwise it’s two friends trying to cope with their own very different challenges, while doing their best to support the other.

I think one of the things that really interests me about it is the sense of collective responsibility. This is particularly evident when it comes to space travel. It’s exciting, and exploration is a valid goal – a necessary goal, even – but how do you justify the use of resources that could arguably be much better spent? How do you get perspective on the relative levels of importance? My astronaut character would be the first to say that his friend, who is dealing with the loss of a child, is undergoing greater challenges. I won’t say it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when others have it worse, because that’s not exactly true, but then I also think that compassion is not limited to one grief at a time, and it’s possible to navigate one loss while respecting another’s, and to do it with a bit of dignity. So, it’s a very quiet story. There’s a lot of gardening in it. And a lot of kindness too, I hope.

Novels, Science, SFF, Short stories

The Stone Weta

I’ve a new story out! “The Stone Weta” is free to read in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld.

It’s one of my favourites of the stories I’ve written – although, to be fair, the new and shiny ones tend to be my favourite at any given time. But this one is special. Partly because it deals with science denial, which can always exercise me to ranting, and partly because although it started as a short story, it very quickly became apparent to me that this was a short story I could build a novel around. And so I am: my current writing project (one of them, anyway) is a sort of sci-fi thriller set in this world, and around this issue.

“The Stone Weta” is about climate change, and how scientists can work to preserve data that governments want deleted or repressed. It’s a fairly topical subject at the moment, given the pressure put on organisations such as the American EPA and the Australian CSIRO when it comes to climate science. And in this story, an underground network of women scientists are smuggling data, stashing it in different places around the world in case it disappears from where it shouldn’t. And they take the code names of weird natural creatures, these women, because that’s what they study and the lessons of biological survival given by these species are an inspiration for keeping resistance alive…

Hemideina maori

In winter, the mountain stone weta crawls into crevices, into cracks in the stone and it squats there, waiting. It is a creature of summer days and winter strengths, of cryogenic hibernation. When the world freezes about it, becomes a stretch of snow and ice and darkness, the stone weta freezes solid in its bolthole. Eighty-two percent of the water in its body turns to ice; the weta is climate in a single body, it is a continent broken off and geology made flesh.

When the weather warms the weta thaws, resumes its life amidst the stone monuments of the Rock and Pillar range…

Please check it out! And keep an eye on your elected officials, because some of them wouldn’t recognise the scientific method if it fell on them from a great height (or entrapped them in a poisonous circle of gympie gympie).

 

SFF, Short stories

Crown of Thorns

I have a new story out!

Crown of Thorns“, about fighting invasive species in the wake of apocalypse, is out in this month’s issue of Clarkesworld. It’s set on the Great Barrier Reef, which is being overrun by a particularly hungry, particularly spiny starfish known as Acanthaster planci, or the Crown of Thorns…

Acanthaster planci.

Home was the poison infestation of starfish, the bleaching acres of coral. Home was vast stretches of warm ocean currents with schools beneath, and colonies.

Home was a laboratory where all the concerns were popular. The Crown of Thorns invasion, their numbers out of control and crowding out the reef systems, the unending march of predation turning an ecology to wasteland, and that ecology already vulnerable.

“We can’t do it anymore.” Apocalypse had left a dozen scientists stranded on a reef laboratory—stranded by choice more than compulsion, because there were boats available, research vessels that could have taken them to the mainland if there had been anything left to go back to. The lab was at least familiar, with the advantage of solar power and fishing equipment. No one would go hungry, but for people defined by their intelligence, by the career choice of science and of conservation, there was more than physical hunger to satisfy.

“We’re outnumbered,” said Mel. “And anyway, there’s no one left to report to.” There’d been nothing but silence from the university for months, and silence in the new world, the world defined by plague and absence, could only mean one thing. “It was only a pilot program anyway.” The desperate attempt to clear and monitor a small patch of ocean, to see if intervention could lead to recovery. Diving again and again, in clear warm water with spikes beneath, with stars, and so focused on seabeds and the possibility of resurrection that the other destruction taking place had seemed a distant thing, unnoticed at first, or at least not taken seriously until the silence began to spread, to became too monstrous to be ignored….

This is my first Clarkesworld story! It’s been on my bucket list of markets to crack for a long time now, and I can honestly say I’ve done my damnedest to crack it. “Crown of Thorns” is the 29th story I’ve sent them. 29th!!! If that isn’t persistence I don’t know what is. Still, if you want to be a writer persistence is necessary – and it does pay off in the end.

Unlike post-apocalypse starfish slaughter.