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!)

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“Water, Birch, and Blood” out in Strange Horizons!

My story “Water, Birch, and Blood” is now out in Strange Horizons! It’s a portal fantasy (of sorts) with a queer female couple, set in a Finnish summer cabin. Birds, birches, quiet magic.

Water, Birch, and Blood

"Full Moon" by O Horvath

“Full Moon” by O Horvath

Featuring beautiful art by O Horvath!

“Water, Birch, and Blood” is also available in podcast form here, read by the lovely Anaea Lay.

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Story notes: I started this story in summer 2014, trying to finish it for an anthology call which I didn’t submit to in the end (I can’t remember if I self-rejected or ran out of time). I wrote the first draft in a few days and it’s actually surprisingly similar to the final version. Then the story sat abandoned for a year and a half – I had actually forgotten I’d written it, and definitely didn’t remember I’d managed to complete it. But the call for Our Queer Planet nudged my memory, and I was pleased to discover that the story didn’t need a complete overhaul. The main difference is that it used to be in third person; but first person ended up suiting the intimate, introspective tone much better.

I used bits of Finnish bird mythology for inspiration. Corvids are basically seen as kind of evil (or a bad omen at least) in Finnish mythology, so far as I’ve been able to find out. Of course, the corvids in this story aren’t quite that black and white (except for the magpies hehehe :D). Crows were sometimes seen as messengers. Birds in general are very important in Finnish mythology and folklore.

I spent many of my happiest childhood moments in a cabin very similar to the one I’ve set “Water, Birch, and Blood” in. I miss that place a lot, and always feel a strange joy when I can include bits and pieces of it in my fiction.

I am very fond of this story, and I hope you enjoy it! I’m thrilled to be part of Our Queer Planet.

Story sale to Strange Horizons

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve sold a story to Strange Horizons: “Water, Birch, and Blood” will be appearing in SH’s special issue Our Queer Planet.

“Water, Birch, and Blood” is about family, memory, and loss; it’s got echoes of my own memories in it, through the setting (a Finnish summer cabin). I can’t wait for you to get to read it.

Sunday recs: poetry from the classroom

I’m teaching a literature tutorial this spring, and in our final class on poetry, I made my students read some speculative poetry. I wanted them to see that poetry can involve any genre, and be more than just the classic (and wonderful!) stuff we’ve been reading. So here are the poems from newer writers that I used in class:

Gas Giants by Maria Velazquez, in Issue 6 (“Catalyst”) of Stone Telling. This poem is so powerful, with its space imagery and family issues.

Sarcophagus, by N. E. Taylor, in Issue 3 of inkscrawl. So much story and implied emotion in two lines! Amazing.

The Loss, by Mari Ness, in Strange Horizons, 2013. Bird-girls and the feeling of flight. Wonderful.

April, by Nita Sembrowich, in the Spring 2013 issue of Goblin Fruit. Starting as a delicate evocation of spring, the last two lines really make this poem for me.

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I’m using a story by Ken Liu and one by Amal El-Mohtar in my teaching, too. Because yay for literary SFF. :)

Poem sale to Strange Horizons

“Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” she chortled in her joy.

So yeah, I’ve sold a poem to Strange Horizons! Huzzah! “Taboo” will appear this summer. It’s got a fox in it.

I’m intensely happy about this, my first poetry sale of 2016. I love SH so much. This will be my third poem appearing in the magazine (the previous ones being Wolf Daughter and Raw Honey). Funnily enough, although I didn’t initially intend it to, “Taboo” fits in quite well with the Finnish-tinged fantasy/fairytale world of the other two poems.

Sunday recs: strange bees

The smallest of recs but an utterly gorgeous one — a tiny story that I just read on Strange Horizons:

Telling the Bees by T. Kingfisher. Poetic, strange and utterly wonderful. Such a short read that you’ve no excuse not to feast on its juicy word-goodness right away!

Sunday recs: Stories + novels

Sunday recs! Featuring three delightful short stories, and two excellent novels.

Tomorrow When We See the Sun by A. Merc Rustad (in Lightspeed) – a weird and cool space opera. A dark atmosphere but so beautiful. Merc’s worldbuilding is great, and I especially love how they use language. Poetic writing in prose <3

And the Balance in Blood by Elizabeth Bear (in Uncanny Magazine) – such a delightful novelette!! In contrast to Merc’s story, this one is hopeful and has lots of funny bits. This story reminds me that I should get round to reading Bear’s novels.

Wing by Amal El-Mohtar (in Strange Horizons) – a lovely short piece from 2012, lyrical and strange. Mystical books, yay.

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Then for the novels: I’ve got longer reviews/squee for these on Goodreads, but I just really want to recommend two novels from this autumn that I read recently:

Black Wolves, Kate Elliott’s newest novel – set in the same world as her Crossroads trilogy, but you needn’t have read the trilogy to enjoy this one. (I greatly enjoyed the references to the trilogy, though!) In fact, I didn’t even like the Crossroads trilogy as much as Elliott’s other stuff, but omgggg I adored Black Wolves. So, so good. A must-read if you’re into epic fantasy. It does some pretty bold things with structure, but I think it works very well. And there were so many great characters. Lots of women being awesome, and a very interesting portrayal of a fantasy society in the process of great societal changes. So great. I wish I could re-read this book again with new eyes, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy rereading it in any case.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – which I just read over Christmas. A riot of a book, vastly different from Black Wolves, but that was probably a good thing since I’d just finished BW before starting SttC. Zen Cho’s got a really good Regency thing going on: I’m so happy there’s more stuff in the general vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell! This was a light read on the surface, but Cho also deals really well with issues of e.g. racism and colonialism.

I’m really looking forward to the next parts of the trilogies for both BW and SttC!

Easter recs

Other people have written wiser words than me on the Hugo debacle, so I’ll leave that for now (suffice it to say I’m disgusted; here’s a pretty good summary of it).

Instead, let’s escape into beautiful words! Three poems for this Easter Sunday:

Seeds” by M Sereno (in Strange Horizons): Oh, this poem calls to be read aloud. The words flow with such delicious force, like a drenching storm. Powerful stuff, very grounded in place.

The Nagini’s Night Song” by Shveta Thakrar (in Mythic Delirium): More word-strength and beauty. The voice is so intriguing here and the story is achingly beautiful.

Long Shadow” by Rose Lemberg (in Strange Horizons): A long poem utterly worth the reading. Several voices and interesting structures, word-magic and marsh-magic.

Sunday recs: owls, fragments, pockets

Just wrote a ~3,000-word story in two hours, yay! With some editing, I think this will be fine for submitting to Lightspeed’s Queers Destroy Science Fiction! special issue. It’s been so long since I came up with a story idea and actually wrote it in this short a time – I got the idea last night just before bed, and started writing today after breakfast. New story yay!

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And now for some stories I’ve enjoyed from others this past week:

The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar (in Strange Horizons, originally published in the Kaleidoscope anthology): This story is utterly wonderful. It contains many of my favourite things, such as multilingualism (Welsh, Arabic, yay!), Welsh mythology, and a solid emotional punch. Also, owls!

Pockets, also by Amal El-Mohtar (in Uncanny Magazine): A charming story with subtle strangeness.

archival testimony fragments / minersong by Rose Lemberg (in Uncanny Magazine): This is a poem, but it has a subtly developing plot that is just awesome. I highly recommend listening to C.S.E. Cooney’s reading of this poem in the Uncanny Magazine podcast – it gives the poem a whole new level of brilliance. I got shivers from the reading.

Sunday recs: Three stories and a novel

Hi, this is me procrastinating! Soon, soon I will go and finish the zero draft of a story that’s been unreasonably hard to write considering that I know how it ends and all…

Anyway, here’s three stories I read sometime late last year and enjoyed:

Collector’s Item by Daniel McPherson (in Daily Science Fiction): a robot servant.

Sardines in a Tin Can by Wendy Nikel (also in DSF): robot slaves.

Dream Cakes by Kelly Jennings (in Strange Horizons): an awesome meld of SF and magicky things. No robots, though.

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Bonus novel rec: Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is utterly amazing. It’s been on my to-read list for ages, and I finally started it yesterday morning. Well, I ended up reading it in two breathless, long sittings. It’s been a while since I read a novel in a single day! So worth it. Most other time travel novels suddenly pale in comparison…