My Worldcon drabble(s)

It’s around a month since Worldcon (what! how is it only a month; a gazillion things have happened since then…), so this is probably a good time to post the drabble I shared at the “Why Do Finns Love Their Drabbles” panel on Sunday 13 August.

I wrote a drabble in English, and then, out of a translator’s interest, translated it into Finnish – keeping the drabble definition of 100 words, of course. I discovered – not suprisingly – that I had to add almost a quarter more words to the Finnish version. The bare-bones translation only came to around 75 words. The wonders of an agglutinative language! I can’t see how you’d be able to translate a drabble (adhering to the 100-word format) from English to Finnish without collaborating closely with the original author: to get to 100 Finnish words, there’s so much stuff to add that translating becomes even more like rewriting than usual.

It’s far harder to write drabbles in English, too, in my opinion: you can get way more of an actual story into 100 words in Finnish. I can see why drabbles are so popular in Finland! Anyway, I thought I’d share both versions. Those of you who know both languages will be able to appreciate the extra details I added to the Finnish version. :)

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Marketing Trick

The sign said: “First poem free!”. The poems were printed in green ink, sold by a woman on a street corner. Why would anyone want a second poem? But I can never say no to free stuff.

I read the poem that night. It was terrible, but I went back to the street corner the next day. I needed another poem. It cost 50 euros.

I went back the day after. And the day after.

By the time I realised the ink was addictive, it was too late. I needed more poems. Needed them more than my life savings.

Right?

***

TRANSLATION:

Markkinointikikka

Kyltissä luki “Ensimmäinen runo ilmaiseksi!”. Runot oli painettu vihreällä musteella; niitä myi mitäänsanomattoman oloinen nainen kadunkulmalla työmatkani varrella. Miksi ihmeessä kukaan edes haluaisi toisen runon? Mutta enhän minä ikinä pysty kieltäytymään ilmaisesta sälästä. Nappasin runon mukaani.

Luin runon samana iltana. Se oli järkyttävän huono ja lisäksi paperiarkin muste takertui kummallisesti sormenpäihini. Palasin silti takaisin kadunkulmalle seuraavana päivänä. Minun oli pakko saada toinen runo. Se maksoi 50 euroa. Maksoin mukisematta.

Palasin seuraavanakin päivänä. Ja sitä seuraavana.

Siinä vaiheessa kun tajusin musteen sisältävän koukuttavia ainesosia, oli jo liian myöhäistä. Tarvitsin lisää runoja. Tarvitsin niitä paljon enemmän kuin pitkään karttuneita säästöjäni.

Eikö vaan?

***

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Sunvault is out!

Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation has its release day today, 29 August! (It’s still just about the 29th in Finland as I type this at a few minutes to midnight.)

Get your copy in ebook or paperback! (Other retailers also have it!)

I got my contributor’s copy already two weeks ago, but alas, have not had the time to start reading it yet. SOOOON. The table of contents looks so enticing – a lot of amazing writers in this anthology.

My poem, “Sunharvest Triptych”, was written at the end of May in 2016 – written specifically for the exciting call for solarpunk sent out by the Sunvault editors Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland. I’m still so amazed that this poem got included in the anthology, especially since I almost didn’t submit it in the first place!

The process for this poem was more structure-oriented than most of my poetry. The three-part structure was there from the first sketch, and a basic idea for what the sections should contain, and some worldbuilding notes such as “solar energy harvested in summer primarily, stored and used through winter (cf. potato stores and grains in the olden days)”. But the sketch was very much a sketch, not a full poem yet. Just ideas coalescing into words. Usually the first drafts of my poems come out with words and ideas in one intense burst, but this time there was more of a cerebral process.

I wrote the first proper draft a couple of days later; it already looked pretty similar to the published version. I took it to my writing group in early June, feeling very insecure about the whole poem because my brain was telling me it was boring and badly written. But my fellow writers’ encouraging and useful feedback convinced me I should revise and submit the poem – and so I did. I’m very grateful to Helsinki Writers’ Group: I would probably have self-rejected this poem if not for the feedback I got. Thanks, peeps. <3

Sunvault-001-Norja-300x300

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Post-con feels

I should’ve written this post a week ago but I was waiting for the exhaustion to ebb a little. Well, it hasn’t ebbed, just increased (my summer of Too Many Things has continued), so I guess I’m doing this now. Here we go: a Worldcon retrospective, written by a drop-down-tired Sara. (Partially compiled from my Facebook entries re the con.)

Worldcon! Worldcon was amazing. It was everything I’d hoped for and I can’t even fathom how that’s possible.

It would have been less awesome without the wondrous Uppsala conference, though. I made friends in Uppsala who it was great to hang out at Worldcon with. <3 I also met many more awesome people at Worldcon, some of them people I've known on Twitter for a while, some of them new peeps. I'm a bit stunned I got to hang out with so many amazing writerpeople. It was also lovely to catch up with old friends and people I know from corners of the internet other than Twitter!

I listened to a lot of great panels – some of them were too 101 level for me, but many of them useful and fun, too. I made SO MANY NOTES. My current bullet journal, begun at the start of August, is half full of them.

Also, as a particularly noteworthy programme item: the SFF poetry open mic on Wednesday, organised by my awesome friend Brandon O'Brien, was a wonderful thing. So many people sharing speculative poetry, some of them for the first time! Wondrous.

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I'm happy with how my own programme items went.

1) The polyamory in fiction panel on Thursday was great: a big audience, and it was cool to give lots of recs and discuss the pitfalls and how-tos of writing poly relationships in SFF. This was my first panel ever and so I'm especially glad it went well!

2) Also on Thursday, the speculative poetry panel – it was absolutely amazing. I did all right as moderator – wasn't too badly nervous, even, once it was happening – and my panelists were just brilliant. Mari Ness, Arkady Martine, Julia Rios – such great conversation! It was basically a giant squeefest on why speculative poetry is wonderful, what's going on in the field, and how marginalised creators are among the driving forces in it. I'm so happy I proposed this panel for Worldcon. Much joy and so much inspiration to write and submit more speculative poetry! All-female, all-queer panel btw.

3) At Sunday's drabble panel (Why Do Finns Love Their Drabbles), there weren't that many people in the audience, but it was lots of fun nonetheless. It was pretty amazing to be on a panel with Johanna Sinisalo! And great fun to discuss drabbles and microfiction, and the problems with translating such short stuff. (I wrote a drabble for the panel and translated it into Finnish – will post both versions soon!)

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The queues were not fun (queuecon/jonocon :D), and there were some glitches in communication and such, but overall I was really happy with how the con went from a visitor's and programme participant's POV. It was especially cool to get to watch the Hugo Award ceremony live!

The downsides: the post-con exhaustion. I've had a hard time getting back into normal life again. I mean: The first two weeks of August were such an overflow of SFF community and thinking about stories, about the beauty of words. I felt so bereft last week; still do, to an extent. But also rejuvenated, excited, so ready to continue the final revisions for my novel.

Most importantly, perhaps: I feel like I belong in the SFF community. Truly belong, both in the international and the Finnish communities. It feels really amazing.

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My Worldcon schedule!

I can’t believe Worldcon75 is starting tomorrow! So much excitement!

I am already primed and ready for Worldcon, mostly because I spent the past few days in Uppsala at Reception Histories of the Future: A conference on Byzantinisms, speculative fiction, and the literary heritage of medieval empire. I will probably write another post on the Uppsala conference, but suffice it to say that it was transformative for me. I met so many amazing authors and writers, and for the first time felt truly a part of the SFF writers’ community.

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But so – WORLDCON! I’m participating in three panels, one of which I’m moderating:

Thu 10 Aug, 17-18: Polyamorous Relationships in Fiction (room 101d)

Thu 10 Aug, 21-22: Reimagining Worlds with Speculative Poetry (room 216)

Sun 13 Aug, 12-13: Why do Finns Love their Drabbles (room 103)

I’m moderating the poetry panel, which I suggested to Worldcon. SO EXCITED. The panelists are Julia Rios, Arkady Martine, and Mari Ness – I’m sure we’re going to have an amazing discussion. Here’s the panel description:

Speculative poetry contains multitudes: explorations of gender, queer readings of fairytales, far-off worlds where our social structures are subverted. How can poets coming from marginalised positions change the landscape of speculative poetry? Can speculative poetry reimagine our world and provide glimpses of a more inclusive one?

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You will find copies of Cosmos Pen (the magazine my story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” is in) for sale at The Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association’s table (Suomen tieteis- ja fantasiakirjoittajat). Do pick up the magazine – it’s got lots of great stuff in addition to my wish-horse story!

I will be at the table on Friday from 17-18.

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Worldcon will also feature another project I’ve been working on this spring! A Finnish Weird anthology – Finnish SFF stories translated into English – called The Giants at the End of the World, edited by Worldcon75 GoH Johanna Sinisalo and Toni Jerrman. The anthology will apparently be given out to all Worldcon members!

I translated two stories for this anthology, by Tiina Raevaara and Jenny Kangasvuo. Translating SFF was a really great experience for me – challenging but rewarding. I’ve done a lot of translation work over the past 10 years or so, but translating fiction gave me new insights into the process because you have to pay so much attention to e.g. tone as well as just content. The anthology contains stories by lots of major Finnish SFF writers including Hannu Rajaniemi, Emmi Itäranta, and Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen.

***

I will be in social mode during the con, so feel free to come and say hi anytime!

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Cosmos Pen and Sunvault!

I got my copy of Cosmos Pen: A Travel Guide to Finnish Weird today! Yaaay! The issue looks fantastic and I’m looking forward to reading all of it.

So, this special issue of the Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä (which translates to Cosmos Pen) includes my story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth”. As I mentioned when I talked about the sale, this story has had quite a few rejections (although also good feedback), so I was very happy to have it accepted for Cosmos Pen. I don’t write a lot of stuff that could be considered “weird fiction” as such – but Wish Horse definitely counts. It’s set in my home town of Helsinki, and the first line pretty much tells you what you need to know re the weirdness:

When wishes became horses, beggars still couldn’t ride — for the horses were the size of Christmas tree ornaments.

I got the idea for this story, quite literally, as a fever dream many years ago. I was ill, unable to sleep, and suddenly the thought just popped into my mind. What if wishes really did become horses? But pesky tiny ones? I wrote the first version of the story in 2015, and revised it soon after to become pretty close to the published version. I’m proud of this ridiculous story and so happy it’s out now! I feel like I’ve captured some of my Helsinki in this story, too.

I think Cosmos Pen will be sold at Worldcon75, so buy a copy there if you can make it to the con! (A Worldcon post is forthcoming – I’m doing some exciting things there!)

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And then more publication stuff – Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation! This solarpunk anthology – edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland – features fiction and poetry from a lot of amazing writers, including Nisi Shawl and Daniel José Older.

My poem “Sunharvest Triptych” is a fitting companion to the wish-horse story in that it’s also set in Helsinki – but a solarpunk Helsinki.

I’m so happy to be part of this anthology. Much awesomeness – and what a glorious cover, too. Likhain is one of my favourite artists and it’s fabulous to be in another anthology involving her art! (An Alphabet of Embers was illustrated by Likhain.)

Sunvault is currently available for preorder, so go ahead and order a copy from your online retailer of choice!

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Camp Nanowrimo in April

I’ve been too exhausted to post much, again. But luckily, not too exhausted to write. The novel has progressed!

I decided to do Camp Nanowrimo in April to get revision done more efficiently. I set myself a 30-hour goal – thirty hours of revision during the month. Not much, but I figured it was better to set myself a realistic goal. And, lo and behold, it was an achievable goal – I did a bit more than 30h of revision in April. I got a lot done in those hours, too: my third draft of BoBH is now very close to done.

It’s far too long – around 125,000 words. I added a lot in revisions, oops… (The original Nanowrimo draft – too short for a novel, a mere skeleton of a book – was around 50k. That’s pretty much where I was a year ago, word count wise.) Anyway, I need to cut around 25k before I can start sending it out. So, draft 4 will involve lots of cutting; I hope to reach that stage soon.

Scrivener has continued to be amazing for revision. Such a good tool for me. I don’t use nearly all of the cool things the software could do, but it’s working for me. Revision has been less overwhelming because I can organise stuff into smaller, manageable chunks.

The biggest thing with regard to revision working out has actually been scheduling. Since I started the third draft, I’d mostly been working on revisions in the evening, since evening writing usually works for me. But for revising a novel – turns out, not so much. Apparently I can write zero/first drafts just fine in the evenings / at night, but revision requires a fresh brain not encumbered by decision-making fatigue.

So, since mid-April, I’ve been getting up a little bit earlier (just a bit, luckily, certainly nowhere near the crack of dawn – I have flexible schedules because of my PhD job) and writing for around an hour each morning. I am really not a morning person, but this approach has been working for me at this stage of BoBH. Once I’ve got past the inital argh of it being morning, my brain is in a more intuitive, alert stage, ideal for coming up with solutions to knotty revision problems. Far better than trying to puzzle out those solutions in the evening after a day’s worth of creative academic work.

Also, working on the novel a bit before biking to my office for PhD work has actually been great for my PhD as well: my brain is more active after creative writing, so this arrangement has benefited both types of work. I’m immensely grateful that I can arrange my work schedules like this!

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Sunvault ToC & Flash Fiction Online antho

Two nice things to start off the week:

1) The Sunvault anthology ToC is out! I’m incredibly honoured to be among such fabulous writers. I’m really looking forward to this antho.

2) My story “Creation” is included in Flash Fiction Online 2016 Anthology Volume II: Fantasy. Yay! (You can get it here on Amazon.)

I wish I had more energy/time for writing and submitting new stories and poems, but alas, it’s challenging with my PhD and all. Also, I’m still concentrating my creative energy on novel revisions. I’m getting to the point where the bigger things have been fixed and it’ll soon be time for just adding smaller details / checking for consistency. And then for actually reading through the whole thing for voice and language. Not that much to go before it’ll be a finished third draft.

My work on it feels so inadequate, so slow – but I’m trying to be gentle to myself. I’m gaining more energy as the sunlight increases (spring equinox today! hurrah!), but I’m still recuperating from anxiety and exhaustion so I’m making every effort not to beat myself up over not “doing enough”. I’m working on the novel, even if it’s far slower than I’d like. That’s the main thing. Slow and steady, slow and steady.

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Story news! “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth”

My weird Helsinki story “Don’t Look a Wish Horse in the Mouth” will appear in Cosmos Pen, the English-language special issue of the Finnish SFF magazine Kosmoskynä. The issue is going to appear around Worldcon. \o/

I’m so happy to have found this story a home. It’s received positive feedback from a few venues but been rejected; but I think Cosmos Pen, with its theme “Travel Guide to Finnish Weird”, is actually perfect for this odd little story. I don’t often write stuff that could be classified as “Finnish Weird”, but this one definitely qualifies. I’ll have more to say about the story itself when it comes out!

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On gentle stories

The wonderful Rose Lemberg posted a Twitter thread last night on gentle, quiet SFF stories. Read the whole thread! Rose mentioned my writing (among others’) as an example of such stories, which makes me feel very fuzzy inside. Oh – let me tell you, reading these tweets after having just woken up (a long workday ahead, a bare five hours of sleep behind me), I couldn’t help but cry happytears:

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People can love my work because of the quiet gentleness, the kindness. In the haze of anxiety I’ve recently been wandering through, I really needed to hear this reaffirmation. Of course, I myself love reading this kind of fiction (among other kinds of stories! We need all kinds!). So why should it be so strange that someone else might like those features in my writing? Still, I sometimes/often feel a niggling doubt: maybe I should write more adventuresome stories? With more fighting in them? More CONFLICT? (Note: I have also written adventuresome stuff with some fighting. I’ve written grim(ish) stuff. It’s just not my main modus operandi.)

Yes, I worry that my stories aren’t exciting enough or don’t grab the reader enough, that they should be somehow different.

But really, the notion that all stories should follow similar (Western) patterns of conflict, for instance, is just monotonous. There is a place for gentleness, too. One of my main interests in writing fiction is writing evocative text, paying attention to language. I love describing beauty, in its myriad forms. I love letting my prose sing with poetry. I often like to do this by giving language and beauty front stage. So perhaps that results in a non-exciting plot? Well, but if I’ve captured what elfsong sounds like echoing through an ancient forest – is that not an achievement too? If I’ve captured two long-estranged friends’ moment of reconnection, is that not an achievement? Surely SFF is ideal for moments of wonder and gentle beauty like that?

In the future I will try to stop myself if I feel like dissing my fiction’s gentleness or “slowness”. I’m currently working on final revisions for a quiet, f/f Beauty and the Beast novel. Quiet magic, discovery, a realm within a city. I will keep working on this novel and then I will send it out, because it’s a story worth telling. A gentle story of love and hope. Not without conflict, but it’s about as far from grimdark as you can get.

Gentle fiction is my shield against darkness. When I get terror and dystopia and violence enough just by checking Twitter or a news site (Finnish political news is pretty awful, although not nearly as horrifying as the news from the US), I want to remind myself of the beauty and kindness that lives in people. Warm hugs. Selfless acts. Language shivering with meaning. Friendship, love, eucatastrophe, joy.

Especially in times like these, gentle fiction is important. There’s a quiet power in it. Kind, gentle fiction reminds us that people can be good. Reminds us that the world can be wondrous and that there is hope. Always hope.

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“The Queen, After” in Through the Gate!

A little belatedly here on the blog (world news has been causing me a lot of anxiety and it’s been difficult to get things done) – but still giving me joy – my first poetry publication of the year:

The Queen, After” in Through the Gate.

This tiny poem has dreams and foxes in it. I wrote it back in 2013: the first couple of lines in March, the rest in August of that year. I’m very happy that this piece finally found a home!

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