SF Signal/Carl V. Anderson called 3 of my stories “Favorite of 2013″

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I missed this when it came out* but in December 2013 Carl V. Anderson wrote a list of his favorite short stories of 2013. He reviews short fiction at SF Signal, and he’s been kind about my work in the past — including putting me on his 2014 Hugo nominations list — but discovering this list floored me. In the midst of a list of stories that include the greatest hits of Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Asimov’s, and some amazing collections, he put me. Not just one, but three of the stories in my little self-published collection.

Three.

He says:

“Mrs. Henderson’s Cemetery Dance” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

On a nice Spring day a stray dog sets in motion a series of unexpected events when he digs up and runs off with the forearm of Mr. Liu, a resident of the village’s old cemetery. In his pursuit of the purloined appendage, something he is too attached to (or was until recently) to easily part with, he brings the dead in contact with the living in a manner that is far too familiar and discomforting for those still imbued with their mortal coil. As the villagers and the deceased meet to come to terms that will return the dead to their proper place, events unfold that demonstrate that a lot can be learned from those who have gone before.

Carrie Cuinn’s story mixes the humorous and grotesque with the manners, and the prejudices, of an earlier time. The treatment of the “outsider”, of those “not like us”, is both historical and fantastical in this tale but will be familiar to anyone who has lived long enough to understand this behavior is alive and flourishing today. The dead here are as charming as those in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride; the story appeals when read on a surface level though it contains something more for those willing to look a little closer.

“Monsters, Monsters Everywhere” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

Culinary delights mix with grand adventure in this tale of a monster hunter traveling through remote Mexican villages, dealing with monster troubles big, and small. There is something of a Lost World feel to the jungle the unnamed protagonist finds herself in, and as she takes in her surroundings, providing description to the reader, the suspense builds towards the inevitable confrontation. The jungle touches off reminiscences of her youth and time spent with her grandmother and these are intertwined with the more intense moments of the story creating an even greater degree of tension. There are no wasted moments in this story, even its denouement surprises.

“About the Mirror and its Pieces” by Carrie Cuinn (Woman and Other Constructs)

If you have ever read fairy tales with their stock evil stepmothers, princesses or queens, or viewed film adaptations of the same, and found yourself wondering about the villain’s motivation, Carrie Cuinn provides a possible explanation. This story is the least obviously fantastical of the collection and it explores some difficult subject matter in regards to the treatment of children by parents who, in an ideal world, should know better. Concepts like “entertainment” and “pleasure” that play at least some part in the story choices of readers are misplaced inducements when it comes to stories of this nature. This is not the realm of fiction in general, let alone genre fiction, where most readers want to dwell consistently on their reading travels. Which is what makes issues like those raised in “About the Mirror and its Pieces” ideal for short fiction.

The story is powerful, visceral, and left me feeling quite raw. I work in the mental health field with broken families and stories like this, which remind me thematically of the work Charles de Lint does in his Newford stories, humble me. They take me to a place that I am grateful I have never experienced personally and they help me to develop a more tangible empathy with the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. Stories like this awe me in their ability to open readers’ eyes and they become a foundation upon which one can begin to build understanding and healing.

You can get the collection for free for the rest of this month, here.

* Unless I’m tagged in the post somehow (the author’s included @CarrieCuinn on Twitter, or tagged me on FB, etc) I don’t always know about reviews of my work or people talking about me online. I get Google Alerts but they don’t cover everything. If you ever write or see something positive about me online that you want to make sure I’m aware of, please let me know! Thank you.

Hugos, 2014 (Where my vote is going)

Much ado has been made of this year’s Hugo Award nominees and 1939 Retro nominees. For my part, I’ll say that we should vote for the works we love most, and remember that what’s popular isn’t always what we think is best. That’s the thing about the Hugos: they’re a popular award, not a juried one. The winner has the most votes, that’s all.

Here’s where my votes are going:

Best Novel: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)

Best Novella: Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)

Best Novelette: “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)

Best Short Story: “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

Best Related Work: “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative”, Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

Best Graphic Story: “Time”, Randall Munroe (XKCD) (and the “at your own pace” version)

Best Dramatic, Long: Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)

Best Dramatic, Short: Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)

Best Editor, Short Form: Neil Clarke

Best Editor, Long Form: Lee Harris

Best Pro Artist: Galen Dara

Best Semiprozine: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, edited by Scott H. Andrews

Best Fanzine: A Dribble of Ink, edited by Aidan Moher

Best Fancast: The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Shaun Duke, Jen Zink, Julia Rios, Paul Weimer, David Annandale, Mike Underwood, and Stina Leicht

Best Fan Writer: Foz Meadows

Best Fan Artist: … none (Suggestions?)

Campbell Award: Benjanun Sriduangkaew

1939 Retro Hugos:

Galactic Patrol, E. E. Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938) / “Rule 18”, Clifford D. Simak (Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1938) / The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Written by Howard Koch & Anne Froelick; Directed by Orson Welles (The Mercury Theater of the Air, CBS) / Farnsworth Wright / Margaret Brundage / Imagination! edited by Forrest J Ackerman, Morojo, and T. Bruce Yerke / Ray Bradbury.

#SFWAPro

Free! All digital editions of “Women and Other Constructs” until the end of the month

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Last year, I put out a little collection of short fiction. Mostly previously published, with a few new pieces, and even a sonnet about a murderous robot. It’s called Women and Other Contstructs, and it’s been well-reviewed — a few people even suggested stories from it for a Hugo award. You can buy it on Amazon and B&N and Weightless… Overall, it was a valuable lesson in how to self-publish a collection, and it helped me reach new readers, as well as earn a little money.

But as I move forward with new writing, I can’t help thinking that what I really want is for more readers to find my work. The money and reviews and award nominations are all lovely, but the biggest thrill I get is just from hearing that someone read and enjoyed something I wrote. And you, my readers, have been incredibly kind and supportive over the years. So, I’m giving the book away for the rest of April 2014!

Click on the links below to get it in your preferred format:

ePub

mobi

PDF

If you love the collection and want buy a copy to support my work, or are one of those people who craves a paper book to hold in your hands (I’m one, too!) you can purchase a signed copy of the book here (with free .epub) or here (with free .mobi), or get it the unsigned version on Amazon here.

Note: I’m using my online marketplace to track how many downloads I get; please let me know if you have any trouble with it.

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Best of 20th Century Speculative Poetry #1: Craiglist Haiku

This list is in no particular order, so being #1 doesn’t represent anything other than it’s a Friday night and you’re probably not looking for serious. You want something fun, something quick, maybe a little dirty, and hopefully, anonymous. You want that chance encounter, that late night thrill, that you can only find on Craigslist.

Wait, that can’t be good, can it?

It’s poetry. In public. On the Internet. In a place overrun with trolls, scammers and the socially awkward. – netinsanity.com

Yeah, well, it is that, but it’s not all bad. It even used to be popular. For a a few years, starting in about 2008, everyone was talking about this off sub-section of the popular classified ad site, but that fervor has faded. The Haiku Hotel tumblr only updated in September 2012. Most of the top pops on a Google search for “craiglist haiku” are 5 or 6 years old. But the interest hasn’t completely waned, and some good things are still happening here. (Hey, this guy gave away a rug!)

While much of the haiku posted on Craiglist in the last decade have been sports-related, ad-relatedfocused on the city center, undecipherable, or simply bad, some of it is legitimately speculative:

night-flight radio,
cue the alien music,
destiny…unknown.
  link

let the dragon sleep
tip toe across jaded scales
into the cavern link

Women disappear
No magic marking moments
Houdini’s heartbreak link

 

(more…)

We Have Always Dreamed In Poetry – Part 3 (Colonialism, Romantics, and into the 20th century)

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Wrapping up our brief overview of the history of speculative poetry, this post will take us into the 20th century. Beginning in the mid 1400s, the Age of Colonialism (also called the Age of Discovery, generally by the people doing the discovering and not by the people who were perfectly happy not having been “discovered” yet) is an important moment in the history of poetry because it marks the collection of “native” works along with the creation of pro-European propaganda about those works. It also coincides with the development of the printing press, and the broader circulation of literature and literacy in general.

Portuguese, Spanish, and eventually British invaders, settlers, and missionaries* traveled the world, planting their flags. The idea of courtly love – where a virtuous, charming, and heroic man completes quests in order to win the heart of the beautiful but disdainful woman – spreads throughout Europe, screwing up relationships for centuries to come. Troubadours write and sometimes sing these poems for wealthy patrons, so popular that poets couldn’t keep up with demand, making poetry profitable for a large number of people for the first time in recorded history. The Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet, invented in the 13th century, grows more popular and is brought over to England by the 16th, just in time for Sir Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare to fall in love with it and make it their own. In the midst of all this… the perfect example of colonialist speculative verse is collected and popularized: the Arthurian legends.

Sir Thomas Malory started Morte d’Arthur while in prison in 1450 and finished it somewhere around 1470. The book contains some 13th century French stories, at least one Middle English tale, plus original writing by Malory. William Caxton introduced printing to England in 1475, and in 1485 printed  Morte d’Arthur, which saw several reprintings – and changed every single time. The basics stayed the same: Arthur is the lost son of a great king, conceived and hidden through magic, rises up, unites and conquers, has mythic adventures, fucks his sister, tries to have his son killed but instead creates a nemesis, loses his wife to his best friend, and retires to Avalon when he’s near unto death. It’s recently become popular with American white supremacists**, who see a glorious, Jesus-like white man who ruled over all and brought prosperity to the land, but even in contemporary times it was used in Britain for the same purpose. The Welsh Annales Cambriae claims that in 516 Arthur was victorious in battle because he carried the True Cross for three days and three nights on his shoulders (though later works argue that it was a chip of the cross he wore in an amulet), making the British people the new Chosen of God. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 The History of the Kings of Britain paints Arthur as a man filled with so much goodness everyone just knew he was the right and true leader, but who also took over Ireland and Iceland so brutally*** that other kingdoms offered to surrender if he would only promise not to treat them the same way. This makes Arthur certain he should rule the world, so he conquers all of Europe and was about to conquer the Romans before Mordred tried to seize his throne.

The British spent several hundred years trying to get back this Arthurian empire, even though it never existed in the first place.  (more…)