Science Fiction & Fantasy

Books

WisCon Chronicles 9: Intersections and Alliances, 2015.  chronicles9cover300“In this volume of the WisCon Chronicles, we find ourselves considering what it means to live at the intersections of various identities, some of them more privileged than others. We ask how we can function as good allies to each other in often challenging situations. We’re living through an intense time of social change, and a variety of questions arise as we have these often difficult conversations about feminism, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and more. Among them are questions about what leads to positive social change and how best to effect such change in our communities.”  This volume includes a mix of essays, fiction, poetry, and roundtable discussion by Nisi Shawl, Samuel R. Delany, Vandana Singh, Kelley Eskridge, Sheree R. Thomas, Michi Trota, Tobias Buckell, and others.

stars changeThe Stars Change, 2013
“On a South Asian-settled university planet, tensions are rising. The first interstellar war has just been declared; the pure humans (or at least a segment of them) against the genetically modified humods and the aliens. The players in this game are complex, and the average citizen doesn’t really understand what’s going on. They just want to go on with their life: go to work, go home, make love to their wife. Or wives. Or husbands. Or indeterminate gender human and/or alien partners. Yet when the Warren, the alien ghetto, comes under attack, humans, humods, and aliens must all decide where they stand — what is worth fighting for, or maybe even worth dying for.”

Without a Map, 2010.  withoutcover300Without a Map is published in conjunction with the appearance of Mary Anne Mohanraj and Nnedi Okorafor as the Guests of Honor at WisCon 34.  Mary Anne Mohanraj contributes a mix of stories, poems, and essays to the volume. In ”Identity Papers,” ”Revised Itineraries,” and ”Saying Hello,” Mohanraj, who was born in Sri Lanka but has lived in the United States since the age of two, recounts and reflects on a recent trip to Sri Lanka, where she wonders if she could ever feel at home. ”Sequins” explores the complications bisexuality bring to an apparently traditional marriage, while in the space opera tale ”Jump Space,” Sarita tests her polyamorous marriage, when she independently makes a commitment that could affect the future of her entire family. Without a Map concludes with Mohanraj’s discussion of racism and how to write characters of color well.”

Best of Strange Horizons, 2003.  shcover300“The Best of Strange Horizons offers a choice selection of fiction, poetry, and more from the ground-breaking first year of this Hugo-nominated, award-winning science fiction and fantasy magazine, a magazine which James Patrick Kelly calls “a showcase for some of the most exciting new voices in the genre,” (Asimov’s), and which Science Fiction weekly names “one of the most promising of the new publications on the Web.” This is the first appearance of Strange Horizons material in print.”

Stories &  Poems

Webs, 2016 (Asimov’s)
Bam-bam-bam! No polite neighbor knock, but desperation in the hammer of fist against metal. Anna had taken three steps across the small room, automatically, but now she hesitated. She’d been watching the news for hours, and though nothing dramatic had happened yet, the newscasters sounded tense. They spoke in short, clipped sentences, and their eyes flickered up and down and away, as if they were monitoring a dozen developing situations, just waiting for something to break.”

Communion, 2014 (Clarkesworld)
“If a human saw the deep delvings of Chaurin’s people, it might faint away in sheer terror. On awaking, it would cling to the walls, begging not to be dragged any further, shown any more. Then Chaurin would insist—no, you must come; you think us animals, barbarians; you must see what wonders we have wrought! And he might pull that human to the very edge of a twisting stone stair, and with a single, careless motion, toss it tumbling down. They were ephemeral, these humans, light and slight, of no consequence. It would be easy to dispose of one.”

Ties That Bind, 2014
Published in the Wild Cards volume, Lowball; I’ll be reprinting it here after 2016.

The Night Air, 2013
Not fucking again.  Literally fucking, which was the problem — Kimmie’s upstairs neighbors, the skinny brown human and the curvy gold female, were at it again.  For what, the fourth time tonight?  The management could claim however much it wanted that the walls were supposed to be sound-proofed, the truth was that this was a shitty apartment, it clearly wasn’t up to code, and when two grown-ass adults decided to hurl their bodies together on a battered wooden bed, you could hear it.  Not to mention that the girl was a screamer.  You would think after getting the news that the war was finally on, they would have gone decently to sleep, but no.  They were probably celebrating life or some such bullshit.  Kimmie couldn’t take it anymore.  She shoved back the chair from her desk, grabbed a fur to wrap around herself, and headed out into the night.”

The Princess in the Forest, 2012
“The princess walks for hours, her face smooth as an undisturbed pool of water, her eyes laughing, light as butterflies. New-married, full of adoration for her husband, her prince. Rama hunts in the forest; he pursues the slender hart, lays traps for cunning rabbits. But always he comes to his Sita before the sun is down, comes to their modest hut, their gentle home in exile. He smiles to see her, lays the game aside and takes her in his arms, draws her down to the forest floor, the soft grasses, and she loves him then, as the gopis loved blue Krishna, she loves him with everything she has, everything she is.”

Sanctuary, 2011
“Kavitha eased her way out of her daughter’s room, closing the door quietly behind her. It had taken longer than usual to get her toddler down; Isai had insisted on telling her a long, incomprehensible story about Daddy and dragons. When Michael got home from the station, Kavitha would have to ask him if he’d said something to Isai. In Jokertown, it was entirely plausible that Michael had encountered real dragons in the course of his detective duties — or at least something close enough to pass for real. He was going to have to stop reading his daughter police reports; Isai was getting old enough to understand them. And even though the child appeared to be fearless, some of the things Michael dealt with on a day-to-day basis terrified even Kavitha; Isai didn’t need to hear all the gritty details of Daddy’s job. Not yet. Isai might be an ace, with fearsome shapeshifting abilities, but she was also only two-and-a-half years old. Michael was just going to have to learn how to make stories up. Appropriate stories.”

Talking to Elephants, 2010
“”What are you doing?”  The voice was low, and might have been sweet in other circumstances.  But Ezi hadn’t expected to hear any voices at all when he’d come to his refuge in a corner of the palace gardens.  Although it was only drizzling a little today, during the rainy season most people avoided the gardens, with their muddy paths and hordes of breeding mosquitoes.  It was a good place to be alone, and Ezi had never minded getting a little wet.  He opened his eyes to see a thin girl, dressed in a dark green sari, bordered in gold.  The heavy brocaded fabric was too heavy for her slight frame; she looked as if she might collapse under the weight.  She held a simple black umbrella over her head.”

Jump Space, 2009
“Joshua glanced over to where Kate stood in the doorway, her hands twisting together in front of her.  She was the calm one, but she’d never make a good poker player.  Her hands always gave her away.  “Maybe Mommy will sing you a song?”  They were usually careful not to break the routine — bath, book, song, bed, in strict order.  The adults had long ago agreed that the children needed as much routine as possible in their itinerant lives.  But Sarita hadn’t come home for three nights now.  The story was her job.”

The Poet’s Lullaby, 2008
“The poet decided to have a child. This took her by surprise.”

At the Gates of the City, 2004
“The snow fell gently over the gravestones, piling thick and dense on tall crosses, rectangular stones, low Gothic iron fences. Anjali sat on one of the thicker stones, a heavy coat wrapped around her sturdy frame, her long hair loose and covered in snow. She could no longer read the inscriptions, not with the snow and the nighttime darkness. But she knew them by heart.”

gold rose dust, 2002
“they promise her a kiss, the twelve
fairies bending over her crib, a kiss to wake
her from her sodden sleep, a kiss to make
up for the weeping years, the loss
of sunrise in the mountains, water
dried to dust in fountains across
her courtyard; a consolation and a hope,
a rope to cling to as she swings through
the abyss, a kiss…”

The Poet and the Mathematician (a fable), 2002
“In a far away land under the coconut palms, there was a quiet little house by the sea. It had old boards that creaked when the wind whistled through them. It had small rooms that filled with sunshine on sunny days and moonlight on cloudless nights. Sometimes the roof leaked a little rain. And it had a young poet…”

The Fallen Star, 2001
“Once upon a time, oh my darlings, my little ones, there lived nineteen cousins in one great house.”

Esthely Blue, 2000
“My toes curl and release. I am lying with my back against his chest, with my ass against his groin and him slowly going limp inside me. I am catching my breath, slowing down, listening to my heartbeat fill the room. I am waiting for the right moment to shift away; though it would be nice to cuddle, I’m dying of the heat. Yes, long enough, and in one movement I slip a little forward and he slides out and only our toes are touching now, way down at the bottom of my bed. And I look down the curve of my body, smiling, down the faint moonlit bed, down my thighs to knees and calves, looking for my toes — they are not there. Ankle, heel, and emptiness.”

Would You Live For Me?, 2000
“…a mythical creature of varied powers and weaknesses. Peasant wisdom claims that garlic worn at the wrists and neck and wreathed around doors and window frames will ward off the monster, and that the touch of a cross or Christian holy water will burn the undead skin, as acid would burn a human…”

Beneath the Lemon Tree, 1997
You know the tale as it was told to maidens
young and grannies old who sit by fires forgotten.
That sad sweet tale of woman’s love which heals
the dreadful beast, and turns black dross to gold.
Recall the prince discovered underneath
the monster’s hide, the prince who has since
disappeared, though woman searches far
and wide and grannies sit and gnash their teeth…

The Devouring Night, 1995
“The bride-to-be of Gamilah, twelfth prince of that name, lord of the richest province in all of the country of Ranek, was alone in her tower room. It was her first moment alone in twelve days, and she cherished it, holding it to her like a gift far more precious than the dozen purebred peacocks in the courtyard or the teardrop ruby hanging at her throat.”

Feather, 1995
“There was an angel on my bed. Really. An incandescent, feathery white-winged, ten-foot-tall angel. Don’t ask how it got there. I don’t even go to Mass. In any case, no nun I ever talked to mentioned the possibility of multiply-gendered, stark naked holy visitations. Not even the saints got naked angels.”

Even Arthur Would Forgive, 1994
“Top of Arthur’s Seat
wind gusting fiercely;
tourists scattered talking softly
(voices captured and dispersed)
suddenly remembered
how much I wished you with me
to glory in the mountain
as it hung above the sea…”

Diana, 1994
“He began counting the women, finding it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the slide of water of smooth, dark skin. None of the seven women were pale; no, tanned golden by weeks of playing in summer sunlight. Their hair was uniformly blond except for one, and she, she was red. Red as the leaves across the hills, red as sunset.”

Fleeing Gods, 1994
“’My apologies, maiden, but I cannot have you turning into a bull, or a swan, or trying to run away’ he said, in a voice slightly softer than before.”

Oak Arching Above Me, 1993
“We’ll be walking hand in hand
in a forest we will kiss –
not stopping not watching
cross boundaries so blind.
In the middle of a kiss
you will shiver and dissolve
melting like the witch
into a puddle into a pool…”

Essays, Interviews, Reviews

This is Our Work:  What Star Trek Asks of Us, 2016
“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”—Rabbi Tarfon
I was tremendously lonely my first year in high school. My parents had insisted I go to a prep school they could barely afford instead of going to the local high school with all my friends from elementary. The girls at Miss Porter’s seemed alien to me—most of them came from far more wealth than I did, the sorts of families that endowed buildings and wore trendy clothes I couldn’t even recognize, much less afford. Those girls often spent spring break in the Bahamas; I spent mine at home, babysitting my little sisters.”

Navigating Masculinity:  A Roundtable, 2015
“It seems like maleness / masculinity can sometimes be a site of discomfort for some of you. Can you talk about that a little more, either generally, or in specific, such as when you’re at places like WisCon, or other SF/F forums, either in person or online? I’m wondering whether maleness is something you generally inhabit comfortably, unless it’s made into an issue by a focus on gender concerns, or if your experience of it is more generally problematic?”

Nimoy and Spock:  Reflections and Farewells, 2015
“Somewhere in my house there’s a videotape of me, playing Spock, on the Enterprise bridge. I was fifteen years old, at Universal Studios, acting out a scene in front of a green screen; the final version had Kirk, the rest of the crew, and the bridge set in it. I was such a terrible actor that I was only able to bear to watch the video once, and it’s a little surprising that I didn’t just burn the damn thing. But I didn’t, because it featured me—as Spock! My teen heart was fluttering almost as fast as a Vulcan’s.” Staff, contributors, and friends of Strange Horizons offer their thoughts.

Seven Ways of Looking at Captain Jack, 2013
“When asked to write this essay, my first thought was that all I wanted to do was go “Squeee!” about Captain Jack.  Because that’s how I feel about Jack; I love him quite madly.  I was recently on a panel at a comics convention, about Geek Girls and Artists, and while the discussion ranged far and wide, we kept coming back to Captain Jack as a common denominator.  No matter where you fell on the geeky or girly scale, there was a place for you to love Captain Jack.  As one of us said that night, “Captain Jack is the great equalizer.””

The Sword at Your Door, 2010 (WisCon 34 GOH speech)
“In the stories, there’s always that moment when a stranger appears to the young hero, when the wise old man shows up at your doorstep with a flaming sword and says to you — we need you, you’re the chosen one, you’re the only one who can save us. I grew up waiting for that call, waiting for someone to open my door, and reach out his hand to me. The call could come at any moment; that doorway could open to another world. Sometimes, walking alone down a street, seeing a shadowed door, I would step into the shadow, just in case. It was never a magic door, but I kept hoping. I keep hoping.”

Old Books Made New, Four Book Reviews, 2004
General Practice is a reprint of two James White novels, Code Blue: Emergency and The Genocidal Healer.Readers should note that these are the seventh and eighth novels in the “Sector General” series — while you can read any of these novels as stand-alones, I would strongly recommend going back and starting earlier in the series.”

Changing of the Guard, 2003
“I’m both pleased and a little saddened to announce that I’m going to be stepping down as editor-in-chief of Strange Horizons at the end of this calendar year, and on January 1st, 2004, Susan Groppi (one of our current fiction editors) will be taking charge of the magazine.”

The 2002 Tiptree, an Inside Look at a Juried Award, 2003
“I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Tiptree Award, about what we were looking for as we read stories and novels, about the selection process, and about how I, personally, made my recommendations, helped select a winner, and helped create the annotated primary list, plus a secondary list of recommended titles.”

Journals and Communities, with Jed Hartman, 2003
“Online forums of various sorts, and particularly online journals, have provided a fertile ground for community-building in the speculative fiction world. Here at Strange Horizons, we’re big proponents of community-building, so we’re pleased to see this process at work.”

Power Dynamics in the Novels of Tananarive Due, 2002
“I noted what appeared to be a pattern in those books, a trend in which Due invests her male protagonists with power, which they then use (and abuse) indiscriminately in attempts to protect the people they love. Eventually, these men are forced to confront their im/amorality, and by the end of the story, the protagonists resolve to restrain their use of power (although other men continue to be abusively powerful). This apparent pattern raises questions regarding Due’s work; I wondered if in the novels Due intended to imply that power inevitably leads (at least initially) to abuse and violence. And given that primary assertion, did she imply further that men are particularly susceptible to such abuses of power?”

Interview: John M. Ford, with Fred Bush, 2002
“I don’t think anyone wants a reader to be completely lost — certainly not to the point of giving up — but there’s something to be said for a book that isn’t instantly disposable, that rewards a second reading.  There are readers who want every point to be clearly and unambiguously set forth, and there are those who want to pry ideas and meanings out for themselves. Most people want some of both, and there’s no mechanical rule on where to set the balance.”

Avoiding the Potholes:  Adventures in Genre-Crossing, 2001
“In 1999, I edited a erotica anthology, Aqua Erotica. It was a pretty convoluted process, since after I did preliminary selection of the stories, I discussed them with two editors at the packager, Melcher Media. After the Melcher people and I whipped a set of stories into shape, we submitted them to a Random House editor for final approval. The book came out in September 2000 and was in its fourth printing by January; by publishing industry standards, it was a rousing success — in fact, it did much better than Random House expected it to. Which led us to ask, why?  What makes a book succeed? Why did this one succeed beyond industry predictions?”

Online Magazines and Speculative Fiction, 2001
“There’s been a lot of discussion in the publishing world about the impact of e-books on publishing — traditional publishers are worried that they’ll go out of business, writers are worried that they’ll be paid even less than the pittance they now earn, and readers are worried that they’ll end up drowning in a sea of self-published books. I don’t really know enough to feel comfortable talking about e-books in detail, but I know a little about online magazines — enough to make some cautious generalizations and predictions.”

Fearful Desire:  Jonathan Carroll’s The Marriage of Sticks (review), 2001
“Hints and portents, premonitions. You’re not quite sure what they signify — but then, neither is the narrator, Miranda. She doesn’t realize (until much later) that there was something strange happening in her life. “That should have been reason enough to tell me that there was more in the air then than oxygen. Why does it take a lifetime to realize that premonitions are as numerous as birds in a cherry tree?” Odd things happen to her — just a few at first, and, as the story develops, you could almost forget about them. I almost did. By the third chapter, I had forgotten one of the strongest portents: the woman in the wheelchair on the side of the freeway. Miranda, too, sees her and moves on: “There she was, illuminated by the car in front and then us: a woman sitting in a wheelchair on the shoulder of a superhighway out in the middle of nowhere.” I even forgot that there was magic in the story at all.”

Interview:  Pamela Dean, 2001
“Then, sometime before the middle of ninth grade, a friend handed me a fat paperback with a strange cover illustration and said, “My aunt gave me this for my birthday. There’s three of them. It looks really weird to me. You like weird books. Will you read it and tell me if I’d like it?”  It was the Ballantine paperback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring. I had been a voracious reader, deeply delighted, stunned, bowled over by and fanatical about, all sorts of books, but nothing hit me the way Tolkien did. After I had reread it six or seven times and pressed it upon my parents and my brothers and my friends, I sat down and started writing a profoundly derivative quest fantasy. The protagonist was called Jairy, because I had been much taken with the Jirel of Joiry stories, and the core of the story was not very like Tolkien; rather, it was a crazy hodge-podge of Barbara Sleigh and Andre Norton and Lewis Carroll. The background was Tolkienesque. I ran out of steam perhaps a hundred handwritten pages in, but I still thought of it as a work in progress.”

So You Want to Start a Magazine, 2001
“Since Strange Horizons launched in September, the questions I’ve gotten most often are: How do you do it? How do you plan to make this work? Where does your money come from? Can I do it too? So here are a few answers. If you have more questions at the end of this editorial, please feel free to ask; I’ll answer whatever I can. This article is directed at people interested in starting a magazine, but it will hopefully also give an interesting behind-the-scenes look to those of you who simply enjoy reading Strange Horizons.”

From Tapestry to Mosaic:  The Fantasy Novels of Guy Gavriel Kay, with Christopher Cobb, 2001
“Kay’s eight novels ask to be understood in relation to one another, as parts of a much larger imaginative project.”

‘We must learn to bend, or we break’: The Art of Living in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Sarantine Mosaic, with Christopher Cobb, 2001
“What interested me most in this story was the central character of Crispin. He’s one of Kay’s most complex protagonists, and most touching. Crispin is grieving at the beginning of the story; his wife and two young daughters have recently died of plague (a plague that killed one in four people in his homeland). One of the central questions of the set is whether Crispin will ever be able to care about living (and art) again, and that question immediately drew me in. He was brilliant, moody and difficult; a passionate man at heart who had lost his passion for living. His journey towards Sarantium, and then through the intricacies of politics in the city, seemed the heart of the books for me; I think the books are worth reading for his character alone.”

Interview: Cecilia Tan, 2000
“Basically what had happened was I had written some stories that were very graphically erotic and also very clearly science fiction, involving telepathic characters, other planets, etc. . . . and I found there was no place I could submit them for publication. Now, I had been telling myself I was a writer for years and years, but I had never written anything that really made me say “Aha! This is it!” until I had written these stories. They were the best and most important work I had done to date, I felt, and it just seemed baffling that there was no outlet for them.”

Interview:  Nalo Hopkinson, 2000
“The other challenge I see is that of the diversity of expression in speculative fiction. The readers seem to come from all over the place, but the writing that gets published (or that gets marketed as SF) still comes from a fairly narrow range of experience. The imaginative worlds that we’re creating still draw heavily on Greek and Roman mythology and on Euro-Celtic folktales, and the futures we imagine still feel pretty Western middle class. And that’s fair enough, because it’s the primary cultural context in which many of the writers are situated. Some excellent writing has come and is coming out of those experiences. However, I also want to see more writing from the vast range of cultural contexts which makes up the world.”

Strange New Horizons, 2000
“I can’t remember the first science fiction book I read. It could have been Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo. Or Asimov’s  I, Robot. Maybe it was Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, or Clarke’s Childhood’s End. I was about eight when I discovered science fiction, and I made no distinction between juvenile and adult SF — I read both voraciously. Rocket ships and aliens, the silence of deep space, voyages into the unknown; the stories caught my imagination and took me way way out there, with them. I was delighted when I found Podkayne of Mars — finally, a girl having adventures! But I was so desperate for these stories that I happily adventured with the boys the rest of the time. The librarians became accustomed to me showing up at the check-out desk every Saturday with a stack of twenty books (the most they would let you check out at once) — all SF.”