SFF, Short stories

Aftermath: Portobello Blind

There’s a new anthology out that I’ve got a story in. Not a new story, but a reprint. “Portobello Blind” originally appeared in Defying Doomsday from Twelfth Planet Press, an anthology about how disabled people navigate the apocalypse. After the past few years, disaster is on everyone’s mind, and so when Speculative Fiction New Zealand, one of the organisations for speculative writers that exists down here, decided to do an anthology about what happens after a disaster, I thought my story would be a good fit. So it proved to be, and Aftermath: Stories of Survival in Aotearoa New Zealand has recently been published.

As you can probably tell by the title, there’s a lot of Kiwi authors here, and a large portion of the stories are cautiously optimistic. This was by design, I think – there’s enough doom and gloom anthologies out there, but this one is more along the lines of “bad things have happened, let’s see how we can get through it,” which I’ve always thought was a valuable perspective.

In “Portobello Blind,” the heroine is a fourteen year old blind girl who’s left alone at a marine biology lab – her dad went for medicine and never came back. Anna, proving competent at obtaining a diet of shellfish and seaweed, has to contend with something else: a lack of purpose. So, while she waits for other people to turn up and let her know that she’s not the only survivor left, she starts doing science experiments… because when disaster strikes, refusing to curl up and sink into uselessness is an act of simple self-respect.

SFF, Short stories

The Science of Pacific Apocalypse

I have a new story out! “The Science of Pacific Apocalypse” appears in Rebuilding Tomorrow, which is the follow-up anthology to Defying Doomsday. I actually had a story in Defying Doomsday, which was an awesome anthology focused around the experience of disabled people in the apocalypse. The positive experiences, I should say – the idea was that a history of having to adapt to non-ideal circumstances would actively help disabled people both survive apocalypse and contribute to the survival of others as well. The story I had in that was called “Portobello Blind” and it centred around the experiences of Anna, a 14 year old blind girl left to fend for herself in the abandoned Portobello marine laboratory in Dunedin. (I did some grad work at that lab, so was very familiar with it and its cursed HPLC machine. I do not have fond memories of that machine.) Anyway, Anna managed to survive quite handily, and was engaged in scientific research of her own, monitoring the colonisation rates of shellfish, when her satellite radio picked up calls from other survivors… scientists coming in from distant field research, having escaped the plague that killed nearly everyone else.

So when I got an email from Tsana Dolichva, the editor of both Doomsday and Rebuilding Tomorrow, to ask if I’d write a follow-up to “Portobello Blind,” set some ten years afterwards, of course I said yes. And everyone laughs when I say this, but my story ended up focusing around rebuilding academic publishing after the apocalypse. Anna, now editor as well as scientist, and part of a surviving society that is almost entirely scientists – all those field workers, coming back – doesn’t want more of the same. (If you’ve ever had to read a scientific paper, or any other academic paper for that matter, you’ll know why. They suck the joy out of research.) And because she listens to science more than she reads it, Anna has a vested interest – and a clear advantage – when it comes to making science more accessible for everyone.

Yes, my PhD is in science communication. Why do you ask?

SFF, Short stories

Portobello Blind

doomsdayI have a new story out! It’s in the anthology Defying Doomsday from Twelfth Planet Press, which is edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. As you can probably guess, it’s a collection of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic short fiction, but with a twist: in each story, the protagonist is disabled.

If you’ve ever paid much attention to this sub-genre, you’ll recall that disabled characters, when they exist, exist pretty much solely to die early on. An illustration of edge and cruelty, and all so very realistic (and that’s a loaded descriptor in genre fiction, one that’s continually applied only to some circumstances and not to others). But if you’re used to navigating a hostile world, to constantly being at a disadvantage, who’s to say you can’t use these skills to good effect when disaster hits?

Anna, the protagonist of my story “Portobello Blind”, is, as the title suggests, blind. She’s also 14 years old, and stuck alone at the fairly isolated Portobello Marine Laboratory, Dunedin, after her father leaves to find supplies and never comes back. Now the Portobello lab is a real place – I did some grad work on algae there – and while it has a nice big break room with food in the fridge that food can’t last forever, and Anna understands pretty quick that she has to find a way to feed herself if she wants to stay alive…

The worst part of the apocalypse was the sheer bloody boredom of it.

Anna had never expected to be the – apparently – sole survivor of a quick and dirty plague, but if she had, her expectations would have been different. All the apocalypse stories she knew had conflict and danger and high stakes, arenas and journeys and great symphonic soundtracks.

Anna spent hers fishing.

You can pick up a copy of Defying Doomsday at Amazon, or any other number of places.