“Birch Daughter” out in Fireside!

Tuesday was a happy day — my story “Birch Daughter” appeared in the wondrous Fireside Magazine.

You can read “Birch Daughter” here!

If you like Finnish-inspired folklore, forests, bears, and queer women, this one’s for you. Fireside describes it as “a magical short story about where the search for heart and home takes us”.

My father told me that the spell was too strong to break, that I should never trust the forest-folk. But the thought of my mother trapped within a gnarled birch tree in the far north was too much for me to bear.

“Birch Daughter” is set in the same ‘verse as my poems Raw Honey and Wolf Daughter (both published in Strange Horizons). I get a very specific pleasure from spinning my Finnish heritage into stories in English.

Also, isn’t the illustration amazing? It’s by the Finnish artist Satu Kettunen; I love it so much. Satu really managed to capture the atmosphere of my story and incorporated lovely details in the artwork. Having such amazing art for my story is a dizzying thing!

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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

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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.

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.

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

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!

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.

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!

Poetry sales!

I’ve been lacking in the blog posting again: November’s swallowed me up a bit with PhD writing and working on the novel. (Which progresses, although far slower than I’d like. General exhaustion is catching up with me, it seems. But I’m plodding along even if I’ve no energy for sprinting!)

I’ve had little extra energy for sending out poetry or short fiction this autumn (because of work + novel). That saddens me, but well, I can’t do it all. Much though I’d want to.

So, it’s extra awesome that a couple of days ago, I got news of a poetry sale despite not having sent stuff out recently. My poem “The Queen, After” will be appearing in Through the Gate. Yay! This will be my second poem published in TtG (a wonderful magazine).

Also, another poetry sale that I feel embarrassed for not having mentioned before (lack of energy has been a real problem): I sold my Helsinki-set poem “Sunharvest Triptych” to the upcoming solarpunk anthology Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk & Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Wieland. I’m very happy to be among the contributors for this anthology! It’s a really cool project.

(I feel sad that I’ve also lacked the energy for doing my Sunday recs. I’ve recced the occasional short story or poem on Twitter, but I’d like to get back to writing my mini-reviews too.)

“Bird People” out in Remixt

The first volume of the exciting magazine Remixt is now out! The volume consists of nine small issues curated by different editors drawing from the same submissions pool. It was thus possible for a poem to be picked for more than one issue. Interestingly, there isn’t that much overlap! You can read more about this first volume in publisher Julia Rios’s introductory words. (Incidentally, with regard to the statistics in that post: although I don’t indicate it in my bio, I am also queer, so the number of queer poets included in the volume goes up to 2.)

So yeah – I apparently forgot to announce this earlier except on Twitter, but Remixt vol. 1 also features a poem by me!

You can read “Bird People” here, in Issue 4.

This poem has a clear origin: in the spring of last year I went to see a performance art show featuring a performance by one of my oldest friends. It moved me so much I wrote a poem about it. She, in turn, had been inspired for her performance by her small child, who is a delightful person. Layers of inspiration! It only took me one revision to get to the final poem (revising after letting it sit for a while, as is my usual practice with poems).

I hope you enjoy it – and the rest of the issue and volume too!

New poem “Taboo” in Strange Horizons

My poem “Taboo” is up in this week’s issue of Strange Horizons!

Read it here!

As the northern days lengthen
our time together is thread-thin

It’s about fairytale taboos and transformation, set in a mythological-Finland-ish world. In fact, it’s the same world where my previous Strange Horizons poems are set (“Wolf Daughter” and “Raw Honey”), and where I’ve set a few stories, too. I love Finnish folklore and I love twisting it to my own purposes.

(I promised a post on novel revision but I’m still mired in the actual revision and have had little brain for much else in my free time. But I’ll write that post soon!)