2021 Awards Eligibility Post

I’m pleased as punch to post my first-ever Awards Eligibility list! If nothing else, I hope a few more eyeballs land on these stories. Each of them is fun, quick, and mischievous in its own way.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you have fun exploring the year’s short fiction.


Books You “Should Have Read”

Hi there! I’ve been invited to participate on a panel discussion at ArmadilloCon 43 in Austin, Texas, on October 16, called “Books You Should Have Read.” This post is timed to publish as the panel is scheduled to happen.

I’m delighted to participate, and also, please don’t let the title of this discussion give you guilt. If you’re the sort of person, like I am, who tries to do all the things she “should,” then you already know that’s impossible. I’ve barely read anything released in 2021! Instead, I’m approaching this as a good-faith effort to point to a variety of recent titles that other SF/F fans may enjoy.

The asterisk indicates a book that I have personally read. The rest are titles recommended from some widely read friends. Please excuse my best stab at a summary, and remember to buy your books from indie booksellers!

Addison, Katherine. Witness for the Dead. Set in the same world as The Goblin Emperor. Thara Celehar is a witness—like a private investigator—who investigates murder as he seeks to serve the common people.

Appel, John. Assassin’s Orbit. Golden Girls meets Battlestar Galactica.

*Chambers, Becky. A Psalm for the Wild Built. Centuries after a robot rebellion, a robot and a tea monk strive to understand what people need.

Clark, P. Djèlí. A Master of Djinn. A novel-length story that takes place in the same world as Clark’s earlier novella, The Haunting of Tram Car 015.

Dyachenko, Marina and Sergey. Vita Nostra. A young woman is coerced into attending the Institute of Special Technologies, which turns out to be a very, very dark sort of Hogwarts.

Gregory, Daryl. Revelator. A professional bootlegger returns home to 1930s Tennessee for her grandmother’s funeral and confronts the power of her family’s dark religion.

Martine, Arkady. A Desolation Called Peace. A sequel to A Memory Called Empire.

Ogden, Aimee. Sun-daughters, Sea-daughters. A SF novella featuring gene-edited humans who have scattered throughout the galaxy, adapting themselves to different environments. A woman who left her clan turns to the World Witch to save her husband from a plague.

*Pulley, Natasha. The Kingdoms. In a world in which France won at Waterloo and now rules England, amnesiac Joe Tourney leaves England in 1898 for free Scotland in search of answers about his true identity. Includes a queer romance.

*Waggoner, C. M. The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry. Con artist and partially educated fire witch Dellaria Wells joins a cohort of lady fighters charged with protecting a young noblewoman on her way to her wedding. Queer romance.

Brown, Roseanne A. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. First in a duology about a crown princess and a desperate refugee who find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction. Based on West African folklore, YA.

*Clark, P. Djèlí. Ring Shout: Or, Hunting Ku Kluxes in the End Times. Bootlegger and demon fighter Maryse Boudreaux goes up against the literal monsters who are plotting to take over the Prohibition-era United States via the KKK. Novella-length.

Clarke, Susanna. Piranesi. The title character finds his way through the infinite labyrinth of his own house.

Jemisin, N. K. The City We Became. A novel about the six gods of New York City.

Onyebuchi, Tochi. Riot Baby. Ella and her brother Kev are both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are destroyed by racism and brutality. Ella tries to show Kev the way to revolution.

*Owen, Margaret. The Faithless Hawk. Second in the Merciful Crow YA duology. Fie, the new chieftain of the despised Crows, fights back against the oppressive queen who’s using a deadly plague to unite the nation against the Crows.

*Parker, K. J. Prosper’s Demon. A novella. An exorcist goes up against a familiar foe who has possessed the mind and body of the greatest artist and inventor of the age.

Querido, Levine. Elatsoe. A young, asexual, Apache woman investigates her cousin’s death in an alternate contemporary America. YA.

Roanhorse, Rebecca. Black Sun. A ship with one passenger sets sail for the holy city of Tova as a solar eclipse signals the unbalancing of the world.

Thomas, Aiden. Cemetery Boys. A trans boy summons a ghost in an attempt to prove how tough he is to his Latinx family. YA.

Tokuda-Hall, Maggie. A pirate and a high-born lady fall in love and fight off enemies both magical and human. YA, queer.

*North, Anna. Outlawed. 2021. A speculative Western in which infertile women and queer folk join forces as outlaws to eke out a life together as outlaws, away from the plague-decimated society that has rejected them.

*Sathian, Sanjena. Gold Diggers. 2021. An Indian-American family has discovered a way to harness the ambition of others by stealing and melting down their gold jewelry and making an alchemical potion out of it.

*Yu, Charles. Interior Chinatown. 2020. Told in the form of a screenplay, the genre-bending story of Willis Wu, who dreams of becoming Kung Fu Man in a world that only lets Asian men fulfill a few proscribed roles. Things change when he questions these limitations.

ArmadilloCon 2021 + Fun Stuff!

Check it out: I’ll be appearing as a panelist at ArmadilloCon 43 in a couple weeks, and I’m looking forward to it. ArmadilloCon was my first true convention, and I’m so excited to participate on both sides of the microphone now.

ArmadilloCon 2021 Participant Page

In other news, I have been enjoying my watercolors lately, painting imaginary beasts to represent some really thorny programming modules and administrative systems that I’ve encountered at my day job. (It’s a whole thing.) Here’s one:

The Credit Awards Cephalopod: best keep your distance!

I have no formal training and I’ve asked my closest friends to give me a nice little restorative face slap if I ever discuss monetizing my paintings. It’s purely for fun – and it is fun to have a hobby that’s only for my own satisfaction. Honestly, I’d forgotten what that’s like!

And since I’ve still got your attention, Hyde Park Theatre has a podcast, HPT Audio Plays. They recently released a recording of one of my favorite plays by one of my favorite playwrights, The Hunchback Variations by Mickle Maher. The play is a series of panel discussions between Ludwig von Beethoven and Quasimoto (aka the Hunchback of Notre Dame) about their failed collaboration to recreate the impossible sound. It’s only 30 minutes, and Maher’s plays are dense enough that it’s a treat to listen to them more than once. I still laugh each time I hear it. Go check it out! Free.

Upon Reading and Change

Like most people, my social life shifted dramatically during the pandemic. I became closer to the people with whom I could interact with well online. Some in-person friendships faded. Some remote friendships became more important. In some ways, this accelerated some changes in my social life that were already underway, as I move into a new parenting bracket and more of my internal life is taken up with writing and creative ventures.

There were a couple friends whom I recently removed from my phone, as I considered what changes to make during this odd transitional phase of the pandemic. If one of those friends ever happens to see this post, I am declaring loud and clear that there was no anger in this decision, no resentment. It was just time. We live on opposite sides of the river (which in this city means a minimum of a 45-minute drive on a Sunday morning). We’ve had different professional and personal experiences. I’m not the hippest person out there, either, when you get right down to it.

The friendships weren’t nothing. There was a time in my life when I leaned on them very heavily, and I have tried over the years to repay that kindness with smaller but hopefully consistent kindnesses. It’s not wasted time or effort.

I was in a used bookstore recently (in a store! Yes, masked and vaccinated) and happened to notice a copy of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Good Squad. That’s actually a favorite book of one of these friends, as I recall from a wedding shower game years ago. (One of those odd details that sticks in your brain.)

So I bought it, and I read and admired it. Wrong time in my life for me to love that book, but if I were writing a review, I’d still give it full marks, because it’s not the book’s fault I’ve got some anxieties working at cross-purposes to the major themes of the story.

I’m glad I read it, though. It was a good way to honor the friendship that happened.

Have you ever read a book just because it was someone else’s favorite? Which book, and why? Did you talk about it with them after?

$5 Theater + Fake-German!

My short multimedia play “Totenwascher” runs May 6-9 as a part of the 2021 Out of Ink Festival. Tickets are wicked cheap, starting at $5.

Out of Ink 2021: Perfect Glitch runs May 6-9

Runtime for synchronous content is about one hour. You’ll also receive asynchronous content, some of which even comes in the mail – including your very own plague mask!

The title of my piece translates (sort of) as “death-washer.” It’s not real German, but my director is fluent in German, and I fooled her. I hope you’ll check it out!

Pandemic and the TBR Pile

Not to brag here… but some of us have actually read some of the books in our longstanding TBR pile during this pandemic. Some of my favorites of the past year:

Shown above: five fewer books weighing down my conscience.

Special props to Dexter Palmer’s Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen, a historical novel set in 1700s England, about a woman who fooled five of the greatest physicians in the country into believing that she had given birth to seventeen rabbits. (It failed as a check on the to-read list, though, because I just bought his earlier book Version Control. One step forward, one step back.) I loved all five of these books, though, and recommend them enthusiastically.

In other news, I was terrifically excited to learn that Alex Brown included my story “Contract Witch” in their March round-up of recommended short fiction. I now have my own tag on Tor.com: achievement unlocked!!!

“Contract Witch” at Fireside

My story “Contract Witch” goes up at Fireside today! It’s a 6-minute read about Python, atmospheric carbon, and the sprint ceremony from hell. Please, share it with a software developer in your life.

It’s been a strange month to have three short stories to promote. They also happen to be the first three short stories I’ve ever sold, and while I hope they won’t be the last, there won’t be any more for a while, because I’ve been concentrating on a novel lately. It turns out that if you want to publish more short stories, you also have to write them. Crazy, innit?

New Short Stories

I have two flash pieces that have appeared already this month. Today, my piece “The Modern Witch’s Recipe for Enemy Pie” appears in Daily Science Fiction. And at the beginning of the month, “How To Safely Engage in Telepathy with the Dolphins of Ocean Paradise” ran in Zooscape. They’re both short, humorous pieces with a bit of darkness at the edges. I hope you enjoy!

In the past twelve months, I’ve sold three short stories, but the varying publication scheduled mean they’re all running this month. (Raining, pouring, etc.) The title for the third one is very short, I promise!

Art, Snow, and Relief

My family and I live in Texas. We appear to have weathered last week’s storm better than many. A boil notice is in effect, but we’ll take that any day of the week over a caved-in ceiling due to burst water pipes, three days without power in single-digit temps, no water at all, or the very frightening reality that the entire state of Texas was within minutes of losing power due to the near-collapse of the entire grid.

A friend who’s still without water texted the other day, “I was about to say I feel like I’m living in a disaster area, then I remembered that I am.”

Our city officials asked everyone to conserve power, so that meant digging up as many non-screen activities as we could with our family. Puzzles, books, board games, solitaire, crafting projects – all things that I adore when I’m not actively worried about societal collapse, and even when I am worried about that, they’re pretty great.

We had a leftover project from a fall subscription to Let’s Make Art, which ships kid-friendly craft projects. They’re pretty good, turns out. They give clear instructions but leave enough room for kids to make choices of their own on how to change things up, and the supplies are pretty good quality – not just grocery-store watercolors, but decent paints and brushes, that kind of thing.

I did some of the drawing projects along with my kid.

My drawings. (My kid’s drawings aren’t posted, but trust me, they’re awesome.)

In no way do I suggest that these doodles constitute great art. I love art and galleries and museums and I know just enough about art to know that I would need a lot of study and practice to do something really great.

But the beautiful thing is how nice it is to have a creative endeavor that has no extrinsic goal. I’m not trying to sell my work. I do it to see how it turns out.

Given the ups and downs of pushing at a writing career, it’s lovely to explore an idea in this way – a castle! A dragon! A little breath of fire! What might it look like? Let’s see! And, when you have no responsibility other than to keep your family in one place and the lights off, it’s also a spot of grace to share a moment of simple creativity with loved ones.

I’d love to hear about how other people have spent the uneasy times of waiting in their lives, and what you’ve done to fill the empty minutes.