FICTION NUGGETS superpost: Jan – Mar 2015

So it turns out that if you’re trying to run a monthly short fiction round-up, the moment you fall behind it leads to a rolling avalanche of neverending stories that will bury you.

Sorry for the long lull in fiction roundups for me. I was planning to do a roundup of November & December stories in Jan, then it turned to Nov-Jan stories in Feb, and then here we are. I had to make a choice, and I picked dropping the end-2014 stories for the ability to actually reasonably handle the 2015 stories. (Part of my reason for doing this is because these roundups will be super-useful for picking my nomination slate for the next awards season, so I had to prioritise the 2015 stories.)

Moving forward, I’ve come up with a new system to help me tackle these roundups a little more easily. For each month, I’m going to spotlight about three or so stories I highly recommend, and then a longer list of stories I also really enjoyed reading. For this round, I didn’t get to read as many venues as I’d like, something I will fix in the upcoming monthly roundups.

So, without further ado, the stories I liked from Jan to Mar:


Three Cups Of Grief, By Starlight  by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld) – A tale of tea, talking ships and family ties. Three people deal with the death of someone close to them. I have a soft spot for sentient ship stories,  (a mushy, boiled-in-the-pot lump the size of Jupiter), but this one raises the bar with its lush prose and subtle tangle of emotions.

Documentary by Vajra Chandrasekera (Lightspeed) – On the notebook I lost I scribbled down: “A WEREHELICOPTER STORY VAJRA OMG ILU”.  Seriously, though. werehelicopters. If that weren’t enough to sell you in the story, consider this: A haunting story about the costs of war told in the spliced-together narration of a documentary . One of the most brilliant and imaginative things I’ve read in a while.

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang (Uncanny) – Ken Liu is a gift to the SFF community, both for his incredible fiction, and his translations of amazing Chinese SFF stories, like this one. This tale of a Beijing partitioned in space and time is a parable of the way wealth and class divide our societies. From the description of working class life to the bureaucratic twists of life in the civil service, everything was layered with a thick crust of realism that spoke to me (hi there! civil servant from a working class background speaking!). I must admit that reading Chinese SFF always comes with a  bittersweet pang for me, because on one hand, everything just sings to me so much more, yet at the same time I’m aware my Mandarin language skills are so poor that I can only rely on English translations.

The Sixth Day by Sylvia Anna Hiven (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) – Two sisters living in a barren, apocalyptic landscape struggle with the responsibilities of their special powers: One can raise corn from the cold dead ground, one can jump six days into the future.  When it comes to fantasy, my preference is for contemporary or near-future fantasy is totally my wheelhouse, and the deft handling of emotional weight makes this story a compelling read.

Of Blood And Brine by Megan E Keefe  (Shimmer) – I was delighted by the sensory tapestry of this story, the way scents are described.

Thus prepared, Child gathered the cloth into her hands and brought it as close to her nose as she dared. The aroma was warm, spice-tinged. Cardamom and violet with the faintest whiff of balsam. The sea would be a pleasant addition to such a scent, but Child had no idea how to blend such an aroma.

The story is straightforward, but its impression lingers on the tongue and in the mind. It tastes like a little sliver of a richer, bigger world I want to find out more about.

Meshed by Rich Larson (Clarkesworld) – I’m surprised by how much I liked this story, considering that it’s about sportsball of some sort, populated almost entirely by a cast of men (there is a brief mention of the protagonist’s girlfriend, but that’s it). But somehow, I was won over by the snappy prose and the pace of the story. A sports agent tries to recruit a potential star athlete, but there’s a catch: He doesn’t want implants put in for sensory broadcasts of his exploits. An entertaining read.

The Language of Knives by Haralambi Markov (tor.com) – This is a story about a world where you turn dead people into cakes. People cakes, my friends, people cakes. That alone should have made it the best story ever, but there’s thread about destiny and strained family ties all laced into it, and it is a juicy, delicious read. Not even sorry, guys. Not even sorry.

A Beautiful Memory by Shannon Peavey (Apex) – Here I have to confess a bias: I read this story when it was baby at Clarion West, and that makes me inordinately fond of it. But this was one of my favourite stories from CW, which, you know, included Nebula- and Bram Stoker- nomimated stories, so that’s saying something. The protagonist of the story has an unusual skill: She pulls emotion-birds out of her head and sells them. Full of spare, gorgeous prose and twisted spikes of imagination.

Pocosin by Ursula Vernon (Apex) – A little god comes to die at the doorstep of a witch, and she has to deal with all the people who come after it. The charm of this story lies in its lush sense of location. It’s so grounded in the place it’s set, and it was a delight to read.

This is the place of the carnivores, the pool ringed with sundews and the fat funnels of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the ground never dries out and the loblolly pines grow stunted, where the soil is poor and the plants turn to other means of feeding themselves.

This is the place where the hairstreak butterflies flow sleekly through the air and you can hear insect feet drumming inside the bowl of the pitcher plants.

This is the place where the old god came to die.

Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Waters (Apex) – The titular piece of Damien’s short story collection is a beautiful heap of body horror. A young woman has her body replaced, part by part, by her mad scientist husband, turning her into a stitched-together manniquin of other women. Creepy, dark, and delightful to read.

I ALSO LIKED:

Unravelling by Julia August (Lackingtons‘)
Coming Of The Light by Chen Qiufan (Clarkesworld)
The Shape Of My Name by Nino Cipri (tor.com)
Indelible by Gwendolyn Clare (Clarkesworld)
The Half Dark Promise by Malon Edwards (Shimmer)
The Animal Women by Alix E. Harrow (Strange Horizons)
And the Winners Will Be Swept Out To Sea by Maria Dahvana Headley (Lightspeed)
The Apartment Dweller’s Bestiary by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld)
What the Highway Prefers by Cassandra Khaw (Lackingtons’)
Maiden, Mother Crone by Ann Leckie and Rachel Swirsky (Lightspeed)
Cassandra by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)
The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zaci by Benjamin Parzybok (Strange Horizons)
Requiem for Solo Cello by Damien Angelica Walters (Apex)
Drinking With The Elfin Knight by Ginger Weil (Giganotosaurus)

Fiction Nuggets, Nov 2014 edition

And we’re back!

Miscreants and gentlebeings, here we go again–I may not have blogged anything in the month of November itself, but I can still do my fiction nuggets!

With these roundups, I’ve decided not to stick to a strict number of 10 stories a month. 10, in fact, is going to be my upper limit. Going forward, I’ll be featuring fewer stories per month, but the ones I really really liked.

A running theme of family in this month’s picks, of parenthood and obligation and loss. My sister got married over the weekend and my brain is still a barren wasteland of scorched earth from the proceedings, so this roundup shall be written as starkly and shortly as possible.

 

A Whisper In The Weld  by Alix E. Harrow (Shimmer) – Three paragraphs into Shimmer’s latest cover story I thought: This one is going into my fiction picks of the month. I cried actual tears reading it, no lie. Set during the Second World War, this is all at once a ghost story, a tale about motherhood, and a critique of the image of Rosie the Riveter as a middle-class white woman. The prose glows on the page and then sticks to you like furnace dust. One of the best stories I’ve read this year.

The Stagman’s Song by Ginger Weil (Apex) – Dip your canteen deep into this heavy, atmospheric piece and drink up. Taste cold, and forest-damp, and raw dirt. Susan’s family is bound to the mountain, hunting stagmen for the alchemists from the city, often with fatal consequences. A slow-walking parable of how poverty traps people in their circumstances. An incredible debut work from the author.

She Commands Me And I Obey by Ann Leckie (Strange Horizons) – This story revolves around a game of sportsball. I generally have no appreciation for sportsball of any sort whatsoever, unless it involves pointlessly being a secret Scouser and pointing & laughing at Mancs online**. Even so, not really. But the rich tapestry of this world, the religion and the intrigue, kept me glued to the story. It reminded me of why I used to love space opera yarns as a child. What’s not to love about a world in which the fate of political succession is left to a fight-to-the-death game of sportsball with religious undertones? Seriously, just read it.

Presence by Ken Liu (Uncanny) – This quiet little piece stood out to me and remained in the tide of Uncanny’s strong debut issue. The speculative element in this piece is pretty slight, balanced as it is on the premise of telepresence robots, which I consider to be science fact, not fiction. The hook of the story is emotional; it’s the a story of a man, a Chinese migrant to America, coping with his mother’s terminal illness on the other side of the world. The small, poignant observations are what makes the story:

You think about how strange it is to describe what happened as losing someone when the real loss happened years ago, so gradually that you weren’t even aware when it happened. You can’t remember the moment you decided you would not go back. You can’t remember the moment you accepted that she would not come to join you. You can’t remember when you became American. You think about how a thousand small decisions add up to irrevocable changes, how not deciding is the same as deciding.

Stone And Bone, From Earth And Sky  by A.C. Wise (Giganotosaurus) – A coyote. A woman half born of the mud. A tale of sex, and revenge, and deceit, set in a carnival, unfolding in re-told narratives named after the major arcana of the tarot. It may be a longer read, but it’s riveting all the way to the end. There’s so much to love here, so much to unpack. This is a story I could read over and over again.

Touch by Debbie Urbanski (Interfictions) – Bearing shades of Atwood and Orwell, the story charts the story of an asexual protagonist in a world where sexuality is compulsory. The story is compellingly told, in the way tumbling down a hill is a compelling experience.

People have asked me, “When did you know?” They figure there was a particular moment, when the sky darkened, or all the pines in front of me fell down, and I realized that I was different. But it’s not like that. It’s more a series of moments, like picking up the broken pieces of something, and you don’t know what it is that you’ve broken, so you never bother to put the pieces together until it’s towards the end, until it’s obvious to a lot of people, including yourself.

Stalemate by Rose Lemberg (Lackington’s) – A tightly choreographed gem of a story that unfolds before you like a puzzle box, with its imagined-spaceworld setting and its forgetful protagonist and their longing for what they have lost. Also, chess. It’s like Monument Valley in story form, except less quiet, and you guys know how much I love Monument Valley. (No I’m never going to shut up about this game, deal with it). I’m not going to spoil it for you, because you should read it. It’s beautiful.

 


 

**My favourite footy-related activity is actually watching fans of rival clubs fling mud at each other in the comments section of Grauniad stories. I don’t even watch the bloody matches, who has the time, they’re ninety minutes and change each! (Says she who will happily sit down and watch 22 cars go around the same track fifty times over the course of three hours)

Fiction Nuggets, Oct 2014 edition

 AND HERE IT IS!

On time, I kick off the inaugural edition of Fiction Nuggets, a monthly roundup of the 5-10 stories I liked best in a month. WHOOO I’VE DONE IT GO ME SELF PAT ON BACK. Shush, this is an achievement, okay.

When I made the decision that this was to be A Thing, my initial thought was “Oh no, I’m such a picky reader, I’ll never find ten stories I’ll like enough.” In the end? I had to regrettably trim down the list I originally had because I was several stories over. SO MUCH GOOD FICTION, SO LITTLE TIME.

The overall theme of this month’s selection might be: People suck and family hurts. Or, it might be: Men are awful, avoid at all costs. No, sorry, that’s just the soundtrack to my life.

Some general guiding principles: I’m only looking at original short stories that first appeared in October. I don’t have the fine grasp of poetry to review that, so I won’t. EVERYTHING SOUNDS GOOD TO ME. I CAN’T DECIDE. So, short fiction it is.

Here we go!


 

Seeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley) by Rahul Kanakia (Clarkesworld): This month’s Clarkesworld was incredibly strong. I had to resist listing every story in the issue here. They were just that good. This tale, one of my particular favourites, starts off goofy, a spooky send-up of Craigslist ads, but by the end has twisted its barbed-wire fingers around your heart and pulled tight. I also have a soft spot for stories that play with format, although I was bothered when the epistolary telling subtly shifted into narrative style in the third or so segment. Still, it was worth sticking through to the end.

Lovecraft by Helena Bell (Clarkesworld): In the opening paragraph of the story, a tiny cthulhu crawls out of a mouth that opens up in the side of an old woman’s neck. You expect the rest of the story to drip with eldritch horror and slowly-creeping madness. What you find instead is a tale of sparse, aching domesticity, where human vulnerability is the scariest monster of all. Strange and beautiful.

Hunting Monsters by S L Huang (The Booksmugglers): A girl is raised by two women in a world where it is expressly forbidden to hunt men who have been turned into beasts. Her world is shattered when her mother is arrested for murder, her murky past catching up with her. Deft prose keeps this story swift-moving while still rich with emotion and drama. The ending left me with an ache in my stomach. (I like that sort of thing because I’m a masochist.)

At First Glance by Shannon Peavey (Daily Science Fiction): Sam is on the road, on the run with her sister Brynn, who bears a deadly gift under the dark glass of her shades. A smoke-and-grit vision of Americana, like that neverending CW show Supernatural, but with actual good writing. Hark:

Brynn hasn’t seen her sister in years–not since the start of this whole thing. But she can put together something of a picture from all the bits and pieces, the occasional glances. Sam has big feet, and her boots are worn. Underrun at the heels. She has long, thin fingers and she bites her nails. But her face–that’s three years out of date.

DSF’s flash offerings are a hit-and-miss with me, but I almost always enjoy their long Friday piece. I’m sorry that’s going away now that they’re only looking to buy flash fiction.

Drowning In Sky by Julia August (Women Destroy Fantasy): As a rule, I’ll strive to stick to short stories that are available online to read for free. But I enjoyed this piece in the special Women Destroy Fantasy! issue of the Fantasy magazine so much I had to give it mention here. Set in ancient Greece and thick with myth, Drowning In Sky traces the tale of Ann, a witch who flees her dead city to Khelikë, across the sea, where she finds gold and honey and betrayal. The prose is gorgeous, sensuous, I wanted to drink it. Well worth the read. You can purchase the special Women Destroy Fantasy! issue here.

Santos de Sampaguitas (Part 1, Part 2) by Alyssa Wong (Strange Horizons): I kept seeing rave reviews about this story online before I got a chance to read it. When I did, the first paragraph grabbed me by the throat and showed me why. A searing tale of family and the supernatural set in Manila, of dead gods and bloodlines and tragedy, told in prose that fills your mouth and burns as it goes down. Feast on words like these:

The pressure on my chest, the terrible prescience that something very bad is about to happen, and the sound of distant screaming, like a boiling saucepan of human voices, are too familiar to me.

By the way, throughout the entire thing I imagined the story’s dead god to be a giant skeleton, which is not unsettling after all considering I only have a cRIPPLING FEAR OF BONES AND SKELETAL REMAINS.

Jupiter Wrestlemania by Marie Vibbert (Lightspeed): Karen’s partner, Two-Ton Tony, is found dead on a Jupiter mining station. His death is ruled accidental, but is it really? A well-told SF romp. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this story. It’s a simply-told whodunnit offering little in way of plot twist, with heavy doses of subjects I don’t particularly care about, working out and wrestling. Yet the meticulous detail in the worldbuilding and the suppleness of the prose kept me captivated. At the end of it I thought, “What a great little story set in a well thought-out world!”

Because I Prayed This Word by Alex Dally MacFarlane (Strange Horizons): One of the reward levels for SH’s annual fund drive**, and what a delicious treat it was. Gorgeous treacly prose about a magical city crafted by desire. Poetry and myth and history woven into beautiful narrative. Also, come on, as if I would leave a story about a literal city oF LESBIANS out of this list! ****

The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado (Granta): Literary magazines are somewhat outside my usual reading oeuvre (so many venues, so little time!) I saw this linked on social media and decided to give it a try. I started reading. And then kept reading. And kept reading. The beauty of this story is the way it takes urban myth, freshly scraped off the walls of the Internet, and kneads it into something electric. Anyone familiar with the reams of creepypasta crouched in the dark bowels of the online world will be familiar with many of the figures that appear in the story, from the wife with a ribbon around her neck to the hook-handed man. It’s a story about the place of women in the world, but it’s also a story about stories and how they get to be told. (It’s Halloween. Perfect time to google “creepypasta” if you’ve never heard of it.)

Toadwords by Nathaniel Lee (Daily Science Fiction): And this one, just out today, squeaks past the line and squeezes into the carriage before the October train leaves the station. The fairy tale of the girl who speaks in toads is one that’s been retold and refashioned any number of times, but I was particularly fond of this one. Something in the imaginative variety of amphibians that pour forth from the protagonist’s mouth just appealed to me. There’s also a fairly useless prince, which amused me. See, sometimes I like stories that are funny!


AND THERE WE HAVE IT. Tell me what you think?

By the way, I’m always open to suggestions of good literary markets to follow. That’s a part of the map I don’t often go to, in fear that I may get tangled in the bramble hedges of typewriter tape and folded-over scarves. Or trapped in forests of brutally precise typography. Or maybe, with my luck, I’ll just be run over by a fixed-gear bike.

 

**Donate to SH’s fund drive to unlock more goodness. Go on then, do it.

****HOW DO I APPLY TO BE A RESIDENT OF THIS PLACE SERIOUSLY SOMEONE TELL ME

Conventionally speaking

The dust has settled and I’m peering over the precipice of a new job which begins September 1st, so I thought it would be a good time as any to get this pesky con-report-blog thing out of my way.

See, I’ve never done this before. I attended NineWorlds and WorldCon, and they were the first proper SFF cons I ever attended. It involved several long-haul flights, layovers in airports steeped in 38C weather, and living out of a green suitcase for two weeks.

In between rolling chains of hotel lobbies and rooms in other people’s houses, I met folks. Folks I was meeting for the first time in person. Folks I was meeting for the first time, period. And folks I was meeting after too long a time apart.  At the end of my travels, back in Singapore, I made a list of people whom I met, and whom I wanted to thank on Twitter. The list had over fifty names on it. I ended up just tweeting a picture of the list instead. It was that kind of experience.

I mostly made this post to address this Daily Dot article that went around earlier this week (How The Growing Generation Gap Is Changing The Face Of Fandom) The basic premise was that NineWorlds = good and inclusive because it’s a young con run by young people! And WorldCon = awful on the diversity front because old white men.

Well. I attended both cons as a young queer Asian woman and I think that’s a pretty unfair assessment of what the cons were actually like.

With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison
With my CW2013 classmates Vince and Allison at WorldCon

I think the article was trying to make a point about the difference between the classic SFF establishment and the diversity-oriented, for-inclusivity trend that the fandom and business has been swinging towards in recent years. Unfortunately, it chose to do so by making a ham-fisted division between Older People and Younger People, which is not just reductive, but also kinda shitty. There have been queer and minority folks in SFF fandom for decades, agitating for change, and reducing classic fandom to “full of old white men” pretty much erases them.

I’ll say this: Most of the folk I met at the two conventions were older than I. We had such insightful conversations. It isn’t about age, it’s about mindset.

That’s not to say there weren’t differences in the way the two conventions felt to me. The panels I attended on representation and non-western SFF in NineWorlds were, on the whole, much less 101 and a lot more to my taste, while the ones I attended (or rather, were on) at WorldCon had a much higher percentage of folks in the audience who were clueless or said things which had been discussed and debunked online over and over. But I think that’s to be expected with larger cons. Larger cons equal larger groups equal a larger number of casual fans, who are not as well-versed on SJ topics. For most part these audience members were usually shut down fairly quickly by moderators and panelists, so it was all good. (If a bit annoying).

The thing that stood out to me most about the two cons, if I had to say anything, was that they were both felt very white to me. And this is coming from someone who probably hung out with more POC than the average con-goer. SFF fandom, in general, is still very white. Most of the SFF spaces I’ve been in–even those which make it a point to be inclusive– are majority white by sheer numerology.

In fact, WorldCon felt like it was much more diverse to me, possibly because NineWorlds was more of a local con and it looks like the British SFF scene is very white (which doesn’t surprise me). LonCon was a big-ticket event which people would travel further for. It was noticeable to me, but, as I said, I didn’t feel unwelcome, or alienated by, the con atmosphere.

At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon
At the Strange Horizons party at WorldCon

I have hope. At the Hugos we watched Sofia Samatar take home the Campbell. John Chu win Best Short Story and Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice be awarded the Best Novel prize. We also witnessed the SFF community collectively thumb their noses at old-school bigotry by ranking Vox Day’s nomination lower than No Award. I’m very glad to have been part of both conventions. These are my people, and no, we aren’t perfect. But I believe we’re taking steps in the right direction.

LonCon 2014 Schedule! Storytelling! And representation!

Hurrah! The schedules for LonCon are finally out!

This is the first big, people-from-all-over SFF con that I’ll be attending and also the first con of the same kind in which I’ll be sitting on panels. With that in mind, I’m hoping that four panels isn’t more than I can chew…  this is a reasonable schedule, is it not?

Here’s what I’ll be on. Mostly discussions of ways to tell stories, and matters of representation in media.

1) Recentering the World Storm: John Clute’s “Fantastika” and the World

Thursday 14th August 16:30 – 18:00, Capital Suite 6 (ExCeL)

With Geoff Ryman, John Clute, Glenda Larke and Gili Bar-Hillel. Talking about John Clute’s definition of “fantastika” in the context of a world where non-Western, non-Anglophone storytelling traditions exist.

2) Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes

Friday 15th August 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)

With Amal El-Mohtar, Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and Nick Wood. Talking about non-Western forms of SFF storytelling.

3) Beyond Bechdel

Friday 15th August 20:00 – 21:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

With Kate Heartfield, Kate Elliot, Jed Hartman, Julia Rios. Discussing other tests of diversity in film and media.

4) The Knowable Other?

Saturday 16th August 19:00 – 20:00, London Suite 2 (ExCeL)

With Viktoriya H, Michael Morelli, Ashley Pollard, Justina Robson. Discussing the trend in media where “Others” are increasingly taking on human form (Cylons in BSG, androids in Almost Human, etc) (I don’t think it’s a trend and I don’t think it’s that new)

As a softener, to warm me up to LonCon, I’ll also be attending NineWorlds from 8-10 August. I won’t be on any panels there, but I might be doing a reading–more on that later!

Really excited at the prospect of meeting folks I’ve gotten to know over the past year or so in person. NOT TO MENTION A NUMBER OF MY CLARION WEST CLASSMATES. IT’S NOT LIKE I’M EXCITED ABOUT THAT PROSPECT OR ANYTHING.

August is going to be fantastic. Hope to see y’all there!

The National Library Board

If I were a cleverer and more eloquent writer this blogpost would be coherent, it would have a beginning and a middle and an end, it would have a point and it would stick to that. But I am not that writer, and my feelings over the past few days have oscillated from annoyance to anger to disbelief and back again so many times that that pendulum has broken and rolled a death spiral onto the floor coming to rest somewhere near “tired”.

I’m tired.

I could tell you what it’s like. It’s having someone you thought was a friend – somebody whom you thought loved you and supported you and would welcome you no matter what – having that somebody stand in the harsh light and turn into this stony, unreachable figure, expression unreadable. You root for them and you root for them until the truth hits you in the face and you can’t deny anymore that your trust was misplaced.

It’s scrolling through your Facebook feed and seeing one person after another after another after another get in on the bandwagon, and then ministers are listening and political newsmakers are getting involved, so all of a sudden you’re hoping that something might change and a happy ending might come out of this, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t, and it all comes crumbling down in a media circus and empty rumbles of “””community norms.”””

I want to say intelligent things. I want to argue that fixating on the pulping of the books is a pointless exercise because whether the books would be destroyed or kept in a locked box in the basement is immaterial and we’re turning an issue of bigots exploiting state apparatuses for their own means into a paean to the sacred physicality of books. I want to shout at every person insisting this is not just about gay rights but really about the all-encompassing and universal right to read because no the whole thing is SPECIFICALLY about gay rights and it was SPECIFICALLY gay-themed titles that were targeted by a specifically anti-GLBTQ group out of the thousands and thousands of books that the library carries so to pretend otherwise is massively erasing of context and telling gay folk that their struggles aren’t important enough to warrant their attention unless it affects you also.

But I’m tired.

I see more and more reports cropping up on my newsfeed: From BBC and BoingBoing and WashPo and the like. I see boycotts and calls to arms and guerilla read-along sessions. I see the writing community I hang around more worked up than I’ve ever seen them. There is a fine frothing anger being worked up and spilling over the rims of the bucket they’ve tried to put us in.

But through this all I just can’t shake the feeling that there’s no happy ending in this. Even if the library recants after all this pressure, puts the books back on the shelves, it feels like too little, too late. Things have been said. Boxes opened and bridges burned. We’ve seen where priorities lie. And we don’t know if the bigots will strike again–and maybe this time they won’t make the mistake of crowing about their achievements.

It feels like the world is telling me, over and over again this year, that no matter how much progress we make there’s always people committed to rolling that progress back, people who openly compare queer folk to cancers and oppressive state apparatuses too afraid of change that are always willing to give them the time of day. There’s no happy ending in this.

And I’m tired.

 ETA: A convenient news tab that collects a smörgåsbord of news articles pertaining to the NLB’s pulling of the books off the shelf. Background, development, ministerial comments, letters to the editor…

Write a ton

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A year. One year. Oh, how much a year can change. At around this point last year I thousands of miles away, in a gigantic house full of warm and amazing people I was only just getting to know, about to embark on an adventure I still haven’t properly managed to process in my head.

Clarion is one of those epoch-making experiences, I think, whose significance only becomes clear after you’ve passed through it. While you’re there it’s hyper-real, hyper-focused: Read those stories before class. Finish those words by today. Do your laundry before you run out of clothes. Six weeks on I left Seattle not knowing if I’d gotten any better at writing. Mostly I was just sad it was over, and sad at the idea that it might be a very long time before all my newfound friends and I would be together again.

Only now, after a year, have I begin to realise the impact the workshop has had on me. I’m more confident as a writer – did I not finish six stories in six weeks? I aim higher – I know I’m capable of writing better stories. I’m a better reader, critic, beta reader – workshopping 100+ short stories in slightly over a month will do that to you.

Since I’ve graduated from Clarion West I’ve sold two stories to pro markets – one came out in Strange Horizons this week and one will be in Crossed Genres next month (for their flash fiction issue). A year ago this would have been a pipe dream.

As a class, my Clarion West cohort has been responsible for over forty stories, published and forthcoming, since the workshop ended. Resident thing-gatherer and cheesestrawmaker Hel has listed them out on this page. Fantastic, isn’t it?

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So. You see. Clarion West has done many good things. It bears fruit, and the harvest is bountiful. I would love for it to encourage the flowering of emerging writers for many, many years to come.

I had help in getting to Clarion West. So did many of my classmates. Plane tickets are expensive and students from all over and all sorts of background get accepted into the workshop. Grant money has to come from somewhere, food and accommodation aren’t cheap, and there are instructor fees, and a dozen other things — the bottom line is, Clarion West is a non-profit organisation running a big, high-quality workshop every year, and relies on the generosity of donors to continue running the workshop.

So this is my plug for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon, their annual fundraising drive.

For the past ten years a community of writers have spent six weeks writing, editing and submitting stories concurrent with the workshop, and sponsors donate money to Clarion West as they do so. I’ve signed up for the Write-A-Thon myself, and hope to revise the last of my workshop stories and write two new ones.

But more than asking for sponsorship during the Write-A-Thon, I want to encourage people to sign up for it.

The thing is, Clarion West has been offered a funding challenge: If 350 people sign up for the Write-A-Thon, they get US$2,000 in funding, straight up. That can pay for more than half of a student’s fees!

Guys, it’s really that simple. Even if you don’t manage to write a single word, or get a single cent in donations, just by signing up you’re already helping the workshop! It literally takes two minutes to sign up. It is so easy.

So! Sign up. Sign up. Sign up.

And who knows, with the encouragement and comradeship of dozens of folk plugging away with you, you might even write your next masterpiece!

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With Leslie Howe, who was the workshop director for Clarion West last year (we were her last batch!)
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With Neile Graham, who is the current director of the Clarion West workshop. <333