Reviews of my Apex Magazine story, “That Lucky Old Sun” (with a note about Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore)

In 2016, Apex Magazine published my short story, “That Lucky Old Sun”, to my great delight. You can still read it online for free, here. You can also buy the whole issue for Kindle here. AND it was made into a radio play by Redshift in 2017; you can listen to their performance of it here.

Before I talk about the story, I want to mention their publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Jason Sizemore. He’s been going through some health problems – Bell’s palsey, a painful cyst, required surgery – and chose to use the current issue to find inspiration in the darkness. You can read his editorial online here.

Apex Magazine has been publishing for years and has given us work by some amazing writers. While Jason’s surgery tomorrow shouldn’t affect their ability to keep publishing, maybe today is the day you subscribe? You can choose whichever format suits you best:

Apex (monthly recurring)
Weightless (ePub/mobi/PDF – traditional yearly billing)
Amazon (US) (Kindle – monthly recurring)
Amazon (UK) (Kindle – monthly recurring)
Patreon (monthly recurring)

I know that I look forward to reading each month. I hope you do, too.

Now, about my story…

Apex Magazine, Issue 80. Jan 2016. Cover art by Matt Davis.

(If you haven’t read “That Lucky Old Sun” yet, be warned that there are minor spoilers below.)

I was nervous before “That Lucky Old Sun” came out; it’s the longest short story I’ve published to date, and it plays with an old SF trope in a way that readers might either love, or hate, or not notice at all. You can never tell until a story ends up in the world and out of your hands. I was more nervous because this story is important to me. They all are, of course, though some of what I write is fun, some is dark, some is about projecting the future – I’m usually pushing at the edges of what I can do in a story, but the boundaries I’m pushing aren’t always the same.

In classic, golden age SF, we have these grand stories about building rockets, escaping doomed worlds, blasting off into space with limitless potential in front of us. I could write that again a hundred times, and who would question it? We know that tale. We’ve all read it. With this story, I wanted to talk about the people who get left behind. Not the rocket scientists or astronauts or the child looking out the porthole at a dwindling blue marble that used to be his home. Just regular, everyday people. Families. Neighbors. Small town folks, faced with things much bigger than themselves.

I am so happy with how it’s been received.

Amelia Crowly said:

This really gave me chills.
I love the way it *seems* to set the scene at once, only to become darker and more intriguing as the story progressed.

On Twitter, @robertired said:

It’s amazing. Subverting old school sci-fi is something that should be done more. Congratulations.

@ScottMBeggs said:

Beautiful short story from (via ). Uses the familiar to deliver the unexpected.

@MariaHaskins called it:

Wonderful, creeping-up-on-you #scifi

And @LaurenLykke said:

Just read and LOVED your story in !! Got me all teary-eyed!

Over at Tangent Online, Kevin P. Halett said:

Carrie’s “end of the world” science fiction story is time and world ambiguous, telling this often-told story from a new perspective. The protagonist is a small girl, innocuously spending what could be her last day with her loving mother, who knows what’s coming. The author touchingly portrays the mother’s loving patience and the girl’s innocence in this easy to read tale.

Telling the story from the little girl’s perspective made it darker and more compelling. I found the writing engaging from the very beginning and it continued to hold me even though I could guess where it might end; a pleasing new variation on an old theme.

Lastly, and with the most spoilers… At Quick Sip Reviews, Charles Payseur said:

………….okay then. Yeah, this story is a bit dark, a bit…well, a bit very dark, about a child, Melanie, and her mother as they sort-of wait for the end of the world. The setting is vaguely futuristic and also rather dystopian, a place where people are judged based on their skin but not exactly the way that they are now. Here it’s not exactly race it seems but something in the blood that changes the skin’s color and might do other things to it. Whatever the case, it means that there are vast systems in place to try and “contain” it, mostly by reporting on neighbors and living in a police state and it’s an all around not-good scene. And yet the “problem” persists and so the government decided to just bomb everything. Bomb it all and then return to reclaim the wiped slate. And that the story follows a mother and her daughter on this day is bleak as fuck, but also I rather enjoyed it. There is something to be said about this, that this is where fascism leads, that this is where intolerance and bigotry lead. That there are “understanding” people who are just part of the problem and that everything is built on hate without reason, hate because that’s all it is, and in the end it tears everything apart, tears families apart and lets the central lie of the story fester and burn like the fires of the bombs being dropped. Because a large part of the story is the absence of the father, who is “pure” and who has the chance to survive. It’s a wrenching story and a sad one, very much worth reading but maybe prepare some cat videos for the aftermath. Indeed.

Out Now: “Last Bus to What’s Left of Albuquerque” at Kaleidotrope

Cover art by Shauna O’Meara

Kaleidotrope, a wonderful online magazine devoted to speculative fiction, published my story “Last Bus to What’s Left of Albuquerque” in their Summer 2018 issue. It’s an odd length — about 1700 words — and I was glad to see it picked up fairly quickly, on my first submission to Kaleidotrope. You never know, when you try something new or different with fiction, whether anyone else will see it in the same way you did, but Fred did. (He’s a great editor to work with; if you’re looking for a new market, I suggest sending your work his way.)

SFRevu Review said

Daymon Blue has finally been released from prison for going into debt for his daughter’s medical expenses. But what has he been released into? Another poignant tale.

I was thinking about what happens when people are released from prison, when I wrote this. How we expect most people to return to jail, how we don’t expect much good from them at all. Serving your time doesn’t mean what it’s supposed to, and the reasons why people end up arrested or imprisoned are rarely simple. We, Americans, in general, are committed to the prison system in a way few think about, and we’ve turned it into a profitable industry which is now creating new ways to punish people for being failed by society.

You can read it for free here. Please do let me know what you think, and tell your friends. Thank you!

Clean Slate

Anything can spark a change. A birthday, a new year, a milestone, a good book. A change can be a soft moment in a sea of sharp angles and loud voices. It can be a step forward into something new. It can be the manifestation of hope.

Change is a risk, isn’t it? You never know what’s going to happen when you step outside of the familiar discomfort. Even if what you have is bad, when that’s what you’re used to, it can be scary to try something new. Or, change can feel like the freedom to rediscover yourself, if what you put aside while you dealt with other things was the soft, special parts of yourself.

Sometimes, change means turning what you have into whatever it wasn’t, before. And other times, change means wiping the slate clean, starting over, and pouring the past through a sieve to sort out the best parts, the bits you want to keep. The right pieces to assemble the best version of you.

The last several years I’ve been dealing with a lot. Not all of it was mine. Some of it came from being impossibly poor in a small town with no family nearby and limited options for childcare – especially when your child has a severe speech disorder and ADHD – which made working a regular job just as impossible, at least for more than a few months. Some of it was my health: thyroid cancer, losing my hearing, and then last February, I broke my knee. Some of it came from being the support system for someone… suffering, mostly from things that aren’t their fault, and they shouldn’t have to bear.

I don’t talk about how hard it can be to raise my son, for the same reason I don’t talk about the issues my partner is dealing with (and by extension, I have to deal with): those stories aren’t mine. And they’re not fair, either. The truth is, for every story I share about hardship, about exhaustion and fear and disappointment, people forget a good story. If I say my son was a lot to deal with today, which, some days, is true, how many people will forget the days he’s brilliant and loving and funny?

I have never figured out how to talk about my struggles because what’s beautiful about the people in my life might be lost to public perception then, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

But last year, life started to settle down. After 7 years of dating – slowly, at arm’s length, then closer and closer, as we worked out all the burdens left on us by past relationships – my partner and I moved in together. Paying 1/2 of the bills (because that’s what you do when you live with someone, you both contribute equally)? That I could afford, after years of not quite being able to cover all those things on my own. I started pulling back on my freelance work and side hustles and the constant grind of having to take everything that came my way, even when I didn’t have the time and energy to do it properly. I slept through the night for the first time in years.

Over the second half of 2018, I started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish, and who I could be, if I had the time. I outlined a novel, and then actually wrote on it. I went to WFC Baltimore. I did PT and figured out how to walk again. I started learning ASL. I stopped taking on more than I could handle and most importantly, when I didn’t think I had no choice but to overextend myself constantly, I stopped letting other people down.

So now it’s 2019. A new year. My son is in high school, and doing well. My partner is taking steps to help himself through the worst parts of himself – and I am deeply proud. My finances are slowly getting back on track (I think I’ll have my credit cards paid off this spring, and aside from student loans, that’s all the debt I have). I have stories in my head and finally, the brainspace to write them. Doesn’t that seem like the right time for a fresh start?

Part of that is redoing my website. I’ve turned all of my posts into drafts; they’re still here, just invisible. I’m going through them all. Anything worth saving, I’ll update if necessary, and put back up. A lot of it is, I think. You can’t build a future without building on the past. But you can decide which parts of the past make up the person you want to be, and you can step into the future with only what you really need.

#SFWAPro