Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer
“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 3
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“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
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“Will You Meet Me There, Out Beyond the Bend?”
Nightmare Magazine 63
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Smokopolitan nr 10
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“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Bifrost
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“In Memory of a Summer’s Day”
Mad Hatters and March Hares
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“The Last Novelist (or a Dead Lizard in the Yard)”
Tor.com
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“Love Engine Optimization”
Lightspeed Magazine 85
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“One Spring in Cherryville”
Available in most ebook formats
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“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
XB-1
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“The Singularity is in Your Hair”
Cyber World
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
科幻世界 (Science Fiction World)
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“The Problem of Meat”
Grendelsong
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2016
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“Demon in Aisle 6”
Nightmare Magazine 38
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
World Chinese SF Association
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“The Thing in the Refrigerator That Could Stop Time”
Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest
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“Marie and the Mathematicians”
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #26
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“The Writing’s on the Wall”
Farrago's Wainscot #5
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“The Sembla”
A Field Guide to Surreal Botany
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“The Girl in the Basement”
Hatter Bones
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“Saving Diego”
Interzone #221
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“The Spaces Between Things”
Electric Velocipede 17/18
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“The Girl in the Basement”
Apex Magazine, Vol 3, Issue 3
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“The Suffering Gallery”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 57
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“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Magazine #42
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“The History Within Us”
The People of the Book
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“The Hands That Feed”
Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories
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“The Bricks of Gelecek”
Naked City
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“The Hands That Feed”
The Mammoth Book of Steampunk
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“The Suffering Gallery”
The Best of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Year Three
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“The Great Game at the End of the World”
After
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Lightspeed Magazine and io9.com
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“The History Within Us”
Clarkesworld Year Four
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“The Last Probe”
Launch Pad
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“Pheth’s Aviary”
Beneath Ceaseless Skies - Issue 133
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“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye”
Clarkesworld Magazine #92
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
XB-1 Issue 8/2014
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Космопорт (Kosmoport)
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“The History Within Us”
XB-1 Issue 11/2014
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“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs”
Clarkesworld Magazine #98
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“The Sounds of Old Earth”
Nebula Awards Showcase 2015
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“The Garden Beyond Her Infinite Skies”
Clarkesworld Magazine
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Storyological on “Demon in Aisle 6”

nightmare-nov-2015Storyological, a new podcast series, discusses my story “Demon in Aisle 6,” which was published in November in Nightmare Magazine and also Alyssa Wong‘s Nebula Award-nominated “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” (also from Nightmare).

They have lots of love for both stories.

 

 


Back to Basics
Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson

I’ve been reading Shirley Jackson’s short fiction. I had read her novels The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (the latter being one of my favorite novels of understated horror), and I’ve enjoyed both books immensely. And I had read her famous short story “The Lottery” of course many times. What I noticed in her fiction, especially in her short work, is a deceptive simplicity. Her prose style is plain. Occasionally this plain style rises to unusually great heights, but for the most part, her sentences are not doing loop-d’-loops and verbal pyrotechnics. Reading her work on a superficial level, one might think her stories are bland. But under the surface of her stories oftentimes reveal the horrific elements of basic life. A woman who cannot find the man who promised to marry her no matter where she looks. Another woman (almost all of her stories feature female protagonists) who gets a call from a neighbor that her family dog has been “at the chickens” and must be put down. Most of her short works are not even what we might consider stories, at least those of us who write genre fiction. There is no middle, beginning, or end. Instead, we are given a brief window into someone’s life. Usually it’s in suburbia (I believe a lot of modern fiction, especially TV shows, which focus on the sinister aspects of suburbia owe their origin to Jackson’s work). And here’s the thing that Shirley Jackson excels at: mood. She is adept and conveying to the reader a particular emotion. I learned this especially well in The Haunting of Hill House. I found she was a master at this in We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Not all of her short stories worked for me, but the ones that did showed me that there are techniques a writer can use to evoke mood. You don’t need fancy prose. You don’t need 10,000 words or even 3,000. You don’t even need a plot. Mostly what I notice is that characters, usually women, are placed in rapidly deteriorating situations and no one else sees this as a problem. These women are isolated, alone, left to wonder if their interpretation of events is paranoia (or “hysteria” to use the old misogynistic term). Jackson is connecting the reader to what it was like to be a woman in mid-20th century American suburbia, to have your sense of self repeatedly negated by your “peers” and your community. You are not a person, you are an object. This is the understated horror: you are not worthy of having an opinion; nothing you do matters.

I’m studying her work because I can see in her many short stories (and some of them are really short) an author experimenting in ways to convey mood to the reader. I have written some fantastic stories and I have written some clunkers, and what I’ve found is that I often begin with what I think is a simple premise which turns up being much more complex than I envisioned. What I initially think will be a 3,000 word story ends up ballooning into 8 or 9,000 words. Then I pare it down again, losing some of the depth I hoped to convey. Well, I think that no matter how far you go, or how far you’ve come, there is always room to learn. And I hope that by studying Shirley Jackson’s works I can further refine my own storytelling techniques.

So what about you? Do you study authors’ works to see how they’ve crafted something?


“Demon in Aisle 6” is a Finalist for the Sippy Awards

Sippy_Face4My story “Demon in Aisle 6” (published in Nightmare Magazine) was a finalist for the Sippy Awards. The winner going to “When Your Child Strays From God” by Sam J. Miller. Of my story, they say:

Suicide and tragic queer love are perhaps easy triggers for getting people to feel deeply. But this story isn’t cheap or obvious, treats the subject matter with the respect and weight it deserves and delivers a devastating look at guilt and privilege and community and how all these things can shape a person, can shape shame and shape violence and shape hatred. It is the most outwardly violent and tragic of the stories on this list (perhaps because it appeared in a spec horror pub), but it is also a story that lodges in the brain and brought a great many tears to my eyes.

(thanks to Jeffrey Ford for pointing me to the link). 


The Romanticizing of the Writer

The world is full of cliches of writers as drunks, addicts, horrible spouses, slobs, sociopaths, delusional freaks, hypersensitives, narcissists, hoarders and so on. And there are the cliches of writers as great lovers, wild adventurers, warm-hearted parents, magnanimous, free-thinking geniuses, etc., etc. The thing is, all of these are lies, cliches perpetrated by mass media, which romanticizes the writer as something one is rather than something one does.

If only I had a desk like him, THEN I'd be a writer.

If only I had a desk like him, THEN I’d be a writer.

We live in a world of images, and while this is a miracle (for example, imagine a person from a hundred years ago learning of Instagram), the nature of social media is just that: a world of images. When we log onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., we see carefully crafted images self-selected to convey a particular message. And because of this, it’s far easier for us to present an image of being a thing than to actually do that thing.

Parse that last sentence again.

It’s much easier to look like something than to do that something. If Sally Upstart Writer is looking to connect with the world via social media and the images she has in her head of what a writer is (images, by the way, Sally didn’t form on her own, but learned from the media she has consumed for a couple decades), then she will tailor her image to be what she thinks a writer is, because in the social media age, image is everything — you are your image. 

The thing is, what makes someone a writer is writing. Not images, not your clever Tweets or your Instagram pics or your Facebook shares. This is not to say those things don’t have a purpose. But when your social media presence becomes a substitute for actual writing, when you are externally validating your self as a “writer” by the amount of social media feedback you receive, you can be sure your narcissistic tendencies have taken over. 

I’ve done this myself and I’ve seen this behavior in others, especially those who are just starting out.

My advice therefore to Sally Upstart Writer is this: ignore everything you’ve ever heard about writers. It will be difficult at first, because you’ve absorbed all these images of what the media tells you a writer should be. But the only thing a writer is is someone who writes. All else is smoke and mirrors.

 


“The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” wins the #BookTubeSFF Award for Best Short Work

Just discovered this! My story “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” won the #BookTubeSFF Award for Best Short Work, beating The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, and Sixth of the Dusk by Brandon Sanderson by popular vote. 


Nebula Awards Showcase 2015

Nebula Award Showcase 2015The Chicago Tribune reviews the 2015 Nebula Awards Showcase, edited by Greg Bear, which contains the Nebula winners and finalists from 2014, and has nice things to say about some of the stories, including works by Rachel Swirsky and Kenneth Schneyer. The anthology includes my story “The Sounds of Old Earth,” and they say:

There are strong examples of more traditional science fiction and fantasy from Aliette de Bodard, Matthew Kressel, and Christopher Barzak, but the main sense we come away with is that the line between genre and literary fiction is increasingly arbitrary.

You can read the full review here.