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Short Fiction Recs! August and Sept 2018

October is here, first drizzly and gray, now bright but sharp with cold. It’s time to bundle up in sweaters, make stews and soups, and cuddle with good stories and a cup of tea. Here to keep you company are some stories I loved from late summer and the earliest fall.

Stories of darkness, healing, love, and passion

“The Last Epic Pub Crawl of the Brothers Pennyfeather” by L. Chan in The Dark
Chan is one of the most wildly inventive writers I know, and this story shows off his pyrotechnics of imagination, his poetic language and humor. . . as well as a delicacy of emotion that is all the more powerful for its restraint. Bob and Bill are the Brothers Pennyfeather, a duo of ghost hunters/exorcists who have been trained in their Work by their mother. After a job gone terribly wrong and mutual absence, the brothers reunite for one last epic pub crawl. Creepy ghosts abound at each pub they visit, and brotherly snark and banter enliven the night. But there’s something much deeper going on than a…

A Vietnamese translation of one of my stories! Promo for Lilies of Dawn! And more

My story, "The Things That We Will Never Say" was translated into Vietnamese! The translation is now out in the Vietnamese science fiction fanzine, SFVN, translated by Long Nguyen, and you can check it out here. This is perhaps one of the coolest things I've yet had happen as a writer. I can't read or understand a word of Vietnamese, but it's thrilling to know that my story is now available to readers in a different language. The layout of the magazine is just gorgeous--check it out!

In other self-promo news:
My latest story, “The House of Illusionists” in Liminal Stories, has been getting some very kind comments. It was featured in the Barnes and Noble Science Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog, and it has now also been listed on the Nebula Reading List! “The Things That We Will Never Say” is on the Nebula Reading List list this year, as well!
And finally:
The lovely writer Francesca Forrest has a new novelette out today, The Inconvenient God, published by Annorlunda Books.…

Quote: from Call Me By Your Name

"I'm not wise at all. I told you, I know nothing. I know books, and I know how to string words together--it doesn't mean I know how to speak about the things that matter most to me."

     "But you're doing it now--in a way."

     "Yes, in a way--that's how I always say things: in a way."     

     --from Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman


Book review: The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife is a smart, fierce, propulsive thriller and an unsparing look into a future that seems all too real. In this book’s timeline, drought and climate change have devastated the American Southwest; Texas has basically gone to hell, and other states are waging something close to literal war over access to water from the Colorado River. The borders are shut down—state borders, that is. Nevada doesn’t want drought refugees from Arizona, Arizona doesn’t want refugees from Texas, and California (powerful and still water-rich) doesn’t want the poor from anywhere else. Borders are enforced with fences, checkpoints and state militias. The lucky rich live in enclosed “arcologies”—self-sustaining luxury towers with greenery and waterfalls, fed by recycled water and sealed off from the outside world. In this gritty, dust-blown future, the stories of three characters intersect. There’s Angel Velasquez, hired gun for the corrupt Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) …

Some promo bits: story in NewMyths "Best of" anthology and more

So, some promo news!
My latest story, "The House of Illusionists," was featured in Maria Haskins' review column on the Barnes and Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy blog! This story means so much to me. And it's a huge honor to be featured alongside such amazing writers. Check out the whole list and all the other featured stories if you can! 
And in other news… the science fiction and fantasy journal NewMyths has launched a Kickstarter to fund publication of a “Best of” anthology covering its past ten years. And my fairy tale story, “Snow’s Daughter,” has been picked for the anthology! "Snow's Daughter" was the first genre publication I ever had, and also the first paid fiction publication I ever had. Editor Scott Barnes' acceptance, and his encouraging words, meant so much to me as a beginning writer. I'm thrilled to have "Snow's Daughter" appear in this anthology. It will appear alongside work by by such wonderful writers as Beth Ca…

Book Review: Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang

I read this book a while ago, yet was reminded again of it recently. There are a handful of books which I know have truly changed the way I write. This is one of them.
Jenny Zhang’s first collection brings together seven short stories, each narrated by a young girl or woman, the daughters of Chinese immigrants to America in the 1990s. The stories are linked by recurring characters; most of the families described once shared a single room in a flophouse in New York City. The parents attempt to eke out a living by doing such things as selling umbrellas on the street, delivering restaurant food, or teaching English in an underfunded inner-city school. The children are left on their own for long periods of time while the parents work, yet parental love is never in doubt. Family love is felt fiercely, often uncomfortably so. These are often uncomfortable stories: there are scenes of devastating poverty, flashbacks to the Cultural Revolution, and sexual abuse (perpetuated by troubled childr…

Story notes for "The House of Illusionists" and the question of art

Nearly two years ago, in the wake of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, I sat down to write my usual bimonthly blog post of short story recommendations. And I wrote this:
I don’t know what good a story does. I don’t know what a single poem or song can do. I don’t know, I don’t know.”
It’s twenty-two months later, and I still do not know. But—quite apart from the chaos and darkness of this present moment—I have never known. Since my teens, I have asked myself this question: “What good is fiction? What good are books and stories? What do they do?”
I know what stories have done for me. I know the light and comfort that books and art bring into my life. And I also fear that it’s all frivolous. I think of Keats’ letter to a friend, where he compared poetry to “a mere Jack o’lantern to amuse whoever may chance to be struck with its brilliance." (Letter to Benjamin Bailey, March 13, 1818). I wonder if he's right in that sentence. I wonder if a protest song has ever stopped a war. I …

Story updates! "The House of Illusionists" and "The Berry Girl"

I have a new story out in the world! "The House of Illusionists"  appears in the latest issue of Liminal Stories, a magazine I dearly love. It’s a story about art, war, illusions, and truth. This story is dear to me; it’s one of those where I really felt that I was “leveling up” as I wrote it. And it couldn’t have found a better home: thank you to the editors at Liminal Stories who loved it, too, and brought it into conversation with other stories for a beautiful, strange, surreal issue. Special thanks to Kelly Sandoval who helped me polish the final draft (and who has always been so kind and encouraging toward my work!) and to AJ Gabriel for the beautiful illustration.

I hope to write up some more thoughtful notes about the meaning and process of this story soon.
And in other news. . . I’ve posted some more stories over at Curious Fictions, a website which lets readers directly pay authors for their stories. Among the new stories I’ve added is one which isn't available a…

Montreal and Quebec City: A Palimpsest

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We spent ten days in Quebec, Canada, eating poutine and duck confit and crepes. We walked through the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, then drove to Quebec City and walked the cobblestone streets there. My girls posed with cannons on the old battlements and were subjected to military history; we ate gelato and watched street performers in the old squares. We drove out of the city and explored a dramatic landscape of waterfalls and gorges and mountains. We saw sights like this.


A view from atop the waterfall at Canyon Sainte-Anne, outside Quebec City.

Another view of the falls. 
We also saw this. 

                           A view of the Jacques-Cartier River at Jacques-Cartier National Park.


On our first night in Quebec City, my husband made a reservation at Aux Anciens Canadiens. Nearly twenty years ago, we had dined at this restaurant sans children. Quebec was one of the first trips that my husband and I ever took together. It was late autumn, and cold, and we were so young.

We came…

June-July 2018 Short Fiction Recs

It’s not quite the end of July, but I’m traveling through the first part of August, so I’ve written up my June and July story selections early! As always, there were too many beautiful and wonderful stories to include all that I read. But here are a few that captured my heart.

Stories of resistance, survival, friendship, and love

“Waterbirds” by G.V. Anderson’s story at Lightspeed
Celia is a MxMill Companion, model 2.3—an android under contact to elderly, kindly Mrs. Lawson. For years the two of them have been coming to the Norfolk coast to watch the migrating birds. During these visits, Celia strikes up a relationship with a local artist named Irene. Celia isn’t supposed to have wants of her own—or if she does, she’s supposed to put the wants of humans before her own. But over the course of a human lifetime, things can change. This is a quiet, beautifully crafted piece about love, autonomy, and freedom. It’s a science fiction tale tinged with fantasy, a story that starts off as a myster…