The Worst Sentence I Ever Tried To Write

A few years back, I discovered the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest — a search for the fake opening line of the worst of all possible novels. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest is an homage to the opening line from Paul Clifford (1830), which you probably know best from this:

snoopy

I wrote (and submitted) my own version of the worst opening line in the world, never heard anything about it, and forgot it, until I found it yesterday while searching for a different file entirely.

I present it here, for you…

I stood for hours under that street light waiting for him to get off work, wondering all the while if his lateness in achieving an exit from his wretched place of business was in fact because of stray, lingering customers, or if in his position as manager of a “gentleman’s club” he had finally succumbed to the lurid pleasures of the flesh his harlot employees offered to other less scrupulous men who (one would hope) did not have the kind of quality wife waiting for them that he did, a wife who would stand outside in the pouring rain even when he’d asked me to stay home on numerous occasions, on account of him being so concerned for the state of my health, though something could be said for the fact that a woman standing under a streetlight in the pouring rain in only her pink fuzzy bathrobe and bunny slippers might not be so good for business.

I didn’t win the Bulwer-Lytton the year I sent it in, which is to say that I failed at writing a sentence awkward enough to be truly terrible.

At least now, when I’m feeling low about my writing, thinking that it’s awful and shouldn’t see the light of day, I know: whatever I write could always be worse.

And that cheers me up.

Follow Friday Five: LONTAR Journal, NatureFutures, Gamut, Reckoning, GlitterShip

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

This week? Magazines!

LONTAR Journal is a biannual literary journal produced in English by in Singapore. Their focus is entirely on Southeast Asian speculative fiction. They publish a mix of established and new authors, and they are open for submissions on a rolling basis:

The editors of LONTAR are looking for quality literary writing with elements of the fantastic, which is in some way connected with the cultures, traditions, mythologies, folk religions, and/or daily life in Southeast Asia*. While we are happy to look at works by writers outside of the region, we want to actively encourage Southeast Asian writers to submit your work.

They’ve had fiction from Geoff Ryman, Ken Liu, Paolo Bacigalupi, Sabrina Huang, E.C. Myers, Eka Kurniawan, Dean Francis Alfar, John Burdett, Nikki Alfar, Ng Yi-Sheng, Kate Osias, Zen Cho, and Eliza Victoria in their pages, along with poetry from Bryan Thao Worra, Chris Mooney-Singh, Ang Si Min, Jerrold Yam, Tse Hao Guang, Shelly Bryant, Anne Carly Abad, Arlene Ang, David Wong Hsien Ming, Daryl Yam, Michael Gray, Joses Ho, and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé. They also publish non-fiction and the occasional comic.

Their print issues are hefty, lovely, tomes, and their editorial eye is locked onto a part of Asia that doesn’t get as much love from American SFF readers as, say, China. Read them to get a broader view of the world than you have now, and to support the idea that SFF really is a global community.

You can find them online at lontarjournal.com and on Twitter @lontarjournal

Nature magazine publishes flash science fiction under the collective title “Futures“. They accept unagented submissions, pay a pro rate, and have an interesting target word count: 850-950 firm. I love their focus on hard science, and they publish a wide range essays, interviews, and even podcasts as well. The editorial team is thinking globally now; recent offerings include interviews with Ken Liu and Liu Cixin, talking about Chinese translations, and an essay by Ben Peek talking about Australian SF.

Their fiction has been hit or miss for me in terms of originality — it’s all good, but sometimes I feel as if I’ve read the themes a hundred times before. When they do something novel, though, it’s wonderful. Check out “Mortar flowers” by Jessica May Lin, “The Plague” by Ken Liu, for example.

You can find them online at nature.com/futures and on Twitter @NatureFutures

Gamut is a digital magazine that bills itself at actively seeking diversity in neo-noir and speculative fiction. (You can read a sample here.) Their Editor-In-Chief, Richard Thomas, says:

I want to support the voices that aren’t getting enough recognition, and pay a great rate (at ten cents a word we are twice the going professional rate). I want to surround myself with talented authors and artists that inspire me. We need more markets like this, publishing edgy fiction that straddles the line between genre and literary fiction, and based on the four anthologies I’ve edited, the books I’ve published at Dark House Press, and my own writing—I feel like we’re in a golden age of dark fiction, and there is a demand for it.

They’re new, launching in January 2017 after a very successful kickstarter, and they’ve already got a staff of 15 people, which means they’ll either be ready for a long and well-organized run, or they’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen; time will tell. I think they’re worth keeping an eye on, though.

You can find them online at gamut.online and on Twitter @gamutmagazine

Reckoning is another new magazine, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. According to editor Michael J. DeLuca, “environmental justice” is:

the notion that the people (and other living things) saddled with the consequences of humanity’s poor environmental choices and the imperative to remedy those choices are not the ones responsible for them.

He created the magazine after guest editing an issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,

Reckoning is open for submissions (as long as you send in work that shows “your searingly personal, visceral, idiosyncratic understanding of the world and the people in it as it has been, as it is, as it will be, as it could be, as a consequence of humanity’s relationship with the earth”), and their first issue is out this winter.

I’ve know DeLuca for several years now, and he’s the kind of editor who doesn’t let his singular vision force him into accepting anything but the best work. I can’t wait to read this magazine.

You can find them online at reckoning.press and on Twitter @reckoningmag

GlitterShip is a podcast-only magazine creating audio versions of LGBTQ stories from authors of all backgrounds, twice a month. Edited by Keffy R. M. KehrliGlitterShip records (mostly) previously-printed genre fiction, so there’s a chance you may have read these stories before, but you won’t have heard them like this. Plus, all 29 of their episodes are available to read in text format on the website for anyone who can’t (or prefers not to) listen to the podcast.

If you’re looking for a new way to get your speculative fiction, podcasts are easy to access and great for listening during long commutes or your morning walk. I put them on when I’m cleaning the house, or driving, or when I’m too tired to read and I want to lie on the couch, eyes closed, absorbing fiction by the least amount of effort possible.

Try it. You’ll like it.

You can find GlitterShip online at glittership.com and on Twitter @GlitterShipSF

Happy Halloween! No tricks, all treat: “On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” (FREE PDF)

#SFWAPro

Art by Shannon Legler, commissioned for my story when it appeared at Mad Scientist Journal (November 4, 2013)

Art by Shannon Legler, commissioned for my story when it appeared at Mad Scientist Journal (November 4, 2013)

I can’t hand out candy over the internet — but oh, my friends, I would if I could — so instead, I am handing out a short, sad, and creepy story I originally wrote for Mad Scientist Journal in 2013. Read the excerpt and download a free PDF below.

Lab Notes, April 23, 1931. The subject has four limbs, but while its skin appears crocodilian, the limbs are not fixed under the body. Instead they appear to be jointed much as a man’s are, with longer back legs and a wide range of motion in the shorter front legs.

Water is everywhere. It is, always, since the earliest memories of my life. I feel it as a warm pressure on every part of my skin. It is an ever-moving source of air for my lungs and food for my belly. When the currents are strong it becomes thick enough to sit on, to grab a hold of and ride. The water is never still because it is never empty. I can taste the time of day.

Though it has a mouth and front facing eyes, it does not appear to breathe air, and instead has several gills hidden under heavy scales on its neck which are easy to miss. Kudos to Johnson for noticing them, or the thing might have drowned before we got its head and neck into a bucket of water.

I was born there, where the river flows into the deep lake. I have traveled upriver to mate, have seen water muddied by great hippos and in places a river lowered by heat and summer sun. I have crawled along the nearly empty river bed, me, who was born in a place so deep no light can penetrate it! I have seen all manner of fish and monsters and men. Everything has a place in the world, everything fits into each other and makes sense, except the men.

Download a free PDF of the full story here.

For more information about Shannon Legler, visit her site at http://lendmeyourbones.tumblr.com.

“On the Methods of Preserving and Dissecting Icthyo Sapiens” by Carrie Cuinn  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. (This means that you can share the story — including the PDF I’ve provided — freely, as long as you attribute it to me, do not charge any money for it, and don’t change it in any way. Please note this basic explanation is not a substitute for the license terms.)

Thank you for sharing, and reading!

Follow Friday Five: Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong, Gay YA

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should be familiar with, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to know more about.

Last week, I recommended: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

This week? Barbara Jane Reyes, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Dr. Adrienne Keene, Alice Wong,  and the Gay YA project.

It’s not enough to say we want more diversity in SFF, or genre fiction, or literature — we have to actually seek out and read authors and educators who write from a perspective that isn’t “middle-class white suburban America”. Today’s Follow Five can help you to do that.

Barbara Jane Reyes is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow, award-winning author of numerous poetry chapbooks, and professor of Filipina American Literature. She was born in Manila, and raised in the SF Bay Area, where she got a B.A. in Ethnic Studies (U.C. Berkeley) and a M.F.A. from San Francisco State.

Reyes is constantly working to increase readership of Filipino — particularly Filipina — authors. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA), is an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco’s Yuchengco Philippine Studies Program, and co-editor of Doveglion Press. She’s given numerous readings, lectures, and interviews (you can find some of them on her YouTube channel here), and she regularly writes comprehensive blog posts detailing authors, lit movements, and cultural history. For example, she’s recently shared several lists of Filipina American Lit Authors that should be required reading not just for students of Filipin@ authors, not just for literary students, but for readers in general.

Filipina American Literature Reading Recommendations: List 1 | List 2 | List 3 | List 4 | List 5

You can find her online at barbarajanereyes.com and on Twitter @bjanepr

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a Mexican-Canadian author and editor whose creations include Innsmouth MagazineInnsmouth Free Press, and The Jewish Mexican Literary Review (with Lavie Tidhar). She also co-edits The Dark with Sean Wallace. She was also the original fiction editor for People of Colour Destroy Horror, a special issue of Nightmare Magazine. As editor, her anthology She Walks in Shadows — highlighting Lovecraft’s mostly-ignored female characters — was nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year. As an author, she’s published dozens of short stories since 2006, and has two collections out now. Her novels (Signal to Noise, 2015, and Certain Dark Things, 2016) focus on the supernatural from a Mexican perspective, and have been widely praised.

Moreno-Garcia has long been a fan, and scholar, of horror — including exploring and expanding on the work of HP Lovecraft. (In fact, her 2016 MA thesis is available online: “Magna Mater: Women and Eugenic Thought in the Work of H.P. Lovecraft” and has my vote for a “Best Related Work” Hugo next year.) Her Strange Horizons article on the history of Mexican Science Fiction is a must read — though I wish it were longer — and her Fantasy Magazine article on Pre-Columbian Cultures in Film recommends work you probably would never have heard of otherwise.

Start with those three pieces of nonfiction, move on to Moreno-Garcia’s stories and novels, and then keep an eye out for anything she publishes as as an editor.

You can find her online at silviamoreno-garcia.com and on Twitter @silviamg

Dr. Adrienne Keene is the writer behind “Native Appropriations“, professor of Native Studies, and member of the a Cherokee Nation. Hers is a tireless voice, active online (particularly Twitter), discussing and dissecting stereotypes of indigenous peoples. She frequently highlights cultural appropriation, and shares news stories you probably missed. On the Native Appropriations site, she writes long posts which thoughtfully and kindly — often, much more kindly than we deserve — explain in detail exactly what’s wrong with the lack of Native representation in Hamilton, or why polls claiming Native people don’t mind racist sports team names are probably very wrong.

In short, she educates the public. If you’re wondering whether she’s constantly the target of abuse and harassment for that effort, the answer is yes. Yes, racist white dudes flood her mentions on the regular, defending their team mascots, and entitled white women active insist on their right to dismiss critiques of their “native-inspired” Coachella headdresses. Keene educates us anyway.

You can find her online at Native Appropriations and on Twitter @NativeApprops

Alice Wong is a writer and activist, and founder of the  Project. She shares and discusses news to foster a greater understanding about the intersection of disability stories, culture, politics, public perception, and the individual people living with the experience of disability.

Wong is an organizer of , to encourage discussion of disability issues during the 2016 election season (which is still ongoing), writes curricula for home care providers and caregivers, and is a Staff Research Associate for the Community Living Policy Center. Her Twitter is full of insightful conversation about the variety of barriers faced by people living with disability, and their struggles against institutional ableism — and she contributes greatly to the discussion.

Wong also a contributor to The Nerds of Color and Model View Culture, so you know I’m following her for those things, too. (Geeks of the world, unite!)

You can find her online at disabilityvisibilityproject.com and on Twitter @SFdirewolf

The Gay YA project isn’t a person, but is an excellent source of news, information, and discussion about QUILTBAG+ characters in YA novels. They host a book club, share links, point writers at agents who are open to repping diverse authors, and moderate Twitter chats on various related topics. If you write YA, want to read YA, or are involved in any other aspect of publishing and want to stay on top of current trends in fiction, follow Gay YA. (So, basically, anyone who reads and/or writes. Yes, this means you.)

You can find them online at gayya.org and on Twitter at @thegayYA

Follow Friday Five: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, Don Pizarro

#SFWAPro

I realize that I’ve been lucky to know some incredibly talented people in publishing, at all stages of their careers. People that you should know about, too. For at least the next few months, I’ve set up regular posts to go out on Fridays (coinciding the with the popular #FollowFriday movement on Twitter) to highlight people and projects I want you to get to know.

The first five are some of my favorite people: Fran Wilde, A.C. Wise, Jeff VanderMeer, Wes Chu, and Don Pizarro.

Fran Wilde writes about invisible sky squid and bone cities and jewel girls, and she makes it all look effortless. There’s an ease about reading her work. I tear through it like a watching a movie. I’m never left, after reading Fran’s work, feeling as is there were things she left out, questions unanswered, worldbuilding she didn’t quite complete. She builds her stories from the basement up, figuring out history, society, cuisine, laws, fashion… all of the little bits of creating a culture which tell us it’s real, even when we don’t notice the effort. Her worlds and characters simply exist, fully formed, doing the things you’d expect for reasons that make sense and every part of it is so authentic that you don’t question it. You just believe it.

That talent didn’t come out of nowhere, and Fran — like everyone else on today’s list — has put in years to get where she is now. She has an MFA in poetry, has taught writing at high schools and colleges, worked in digital media, in communications for non-profits, wrote reviews and articles and blog posts and short stories and now, after all of that, novels. It’s no surprise, then, that her first novel, Updraft, won the Andre Norton and Compton Crook awards, and was nominated for a Nebula. (The sequel, Cloudbound, is out now.)

But on top of all of that, she’s a delightful person to be around. She loves adorable socks and good food and her family and friends. She’s enthusiastic about the projects we’ve done together. She’s always made me feel like she’s glad to see me. I’m genuinely happy that she’s my friend.

You can find her online at franwilde.net and on Twitter @fran_wilde

A.C. Wise was born in Canada, but we don’t hold that against her. She’s a short story writer with the range to pull off glittery and fun, or poignant, or emotionally powerful, depending on the story (and sometimes all of those things at once). Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies (including mine) plus Clarkesworld, The Dark, Lackington’s MagazineApex, Uncanny Magazine, and dozens more magazines. She has two collections so far: The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, which comes out this month.

Wise has been working on her craft for over a decade, publishing her first short story in 2005, and writing consistently every year since. She also co-edits Unlikely Story, and has spent the last few years actively encouraging women’s voices in fiction. She wrote the popular “Women to Read” column at SF Signal, starting in 2013, until it shut down this summer. (She’s now writing “Words for Thought” each month at Apex Magazine, but the “Women to Read” columns are all archived on her website.) She’s kind and helpful, and she’s always, always, supported me.

You can find her online at acwise.net and on Twitter @ac_wise

Jeff VanderMeer is world famous now, mostly as the author of his Southern Reach Trilogy (soon to be in theaters!), but I know him as one of the hardest-working people in genre fiction. He’s been devoted to writing, editing, and teaching, for decades. He’s been nominated for 14 World Fantasy Awards, has won 5, and a dozen or so other awards as well. He’s defined genres, introduced important translated work to a generation of English-speaking readers, taught at Clarion, Hobart-William Smith College, and Shared Worlds (a two-week residential workshop for teenagers). He writes non-fiction, including book reviews, and helped created Weird Fiction Review, as part of his ongoing contributions to the academic side of genre fiction.

If there’s anyone who’s career I’d like to have when I grow up, it’s Jeff’s.

He’s also continually inspiring as a person. He’s passionate about halting climate change and protecting endangered species. He works constantly, reads voraciously, and shares what he knows. If he reads a story he likes, he’ll tell you. If he discovers a new author, he promotes their book. He’s involved in the genre community, not just as a teacher and publisher, but appearing at events and on panels, serving on judging committees, and behind the scenes, too, quietly guiding and supporting.

On a personal note, he’s inspired me to write the weird little novel in my heart, even if no one else gets it but me.

You can find him online at jeffvanderrmeer.com and on Twitter @jeffvandermeer

Wesley Chu may be the most honest person I know in publishing. The first time I met him, just before The Lives of Tao debuted, he sat down and told me his plan. His goals, his motivations, the arc of his writing career — all laid out. He knew what he needed to accomplish in order to make a career of writing, and what he’d have to give up, too. In the years since, he’s done exactly what he set out to do, by believing in himself, focusing on one thing (writing his novels), and putting his butt in the chair every day. Over and over again.

He doesn’t pretend to be anyone other than he is, and he doesn’t need to. He’s unapologetically driven, but he’s kind. He loves his fans, appreciates his success, and has remained accessible to the people he came up with, even as he’s sold more, gotten movie deals, and could have easily forgotten everyone. But I’ve never seen him dismiss people, or be pretentious. And, he’s fun. He’s energetic. He likes good booze and fine food and will talk for hours. He wants to see the world and to be a part of it at the same time. If you like entertaining books and charming authors, you’ll want to know Wes.

You can find him online at wesleychu.com and on Twitter @wes_chu

Don Pizarro isn’t a household name, yet. He’s had a handful of sales, edited an anthology, voiced half a dozen podcasts, and written a few essays, but rarely promotes himself. He’s incredibly well-read, and has appeared on panels at Boskone, World Fantasy Convention, and given presentations at the Rod Serling Conference, several years in a row, sharing his insight. He’s always up for good conversation about writers and writing, and he listens at least as much as he talks.

Don doesn’t submit very often, though I hope that will change soon. He’s spent the last six years that I’ve known him studying. Reading. Practicing. Taking workshops, going to other author’s events. (He attended Viable Paradise this year, too.) He’s driven to work at his craft, week after week, and the stories he produces have a delicate blend of realism and folklore, personal history and a sense of place. He can write anything — even Lovecraft-inspired erotica — and give it a thoughtful, literary feel. (I’m not kidding. Felicia Day said his Cthulhurotica story was like “Innsmouth meets indie movie”.)

Read “Life After Wartime“, and then find him online at warmfuzzyfreudianslippers.com and on Twitter @DonP