The Violet Hour in Galaxy's Edge

I'm very pleased to announce that my story The Violet Hour is now live in the May issue of Galaxy's Edge, available for purchase at Amazon or by subscription to the magazine.

The Violet Hour is a silverlockian mashup of weird-western and ancient mythos, featuring the first woman in the US Marshal Service, Mrs. F.M. Miller. Her first name seems to have been lost to history but she is said to have been an expert horsewoman and a crack shot.


Books I'm looking forward to in 2018

In no particular order, four books I'm looking forward to reading in 2018:

Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly, the sequel to Amberlough.

Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker, the sequel to Borderline and Phantom Pains.

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee, the sequel to Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, the sequel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit.

All of these are sequels, which is why I'm looking forward to them. In my experience truly great books tend to be standalone. But of course as publishers and writers well know, trilogies and longer series are more reliable sellers because they establish expectations and create just the type of eagerness I feel for these sequels.

2017 Accomplishments

A reasonably productive year for me. Five stories published:

From Out a Full Orbed Moon (The NonBinary Review)

Shadow Stalker (Aquila Magazine)

Strange Stars (Third Flatiron's Cat's Breakfast anthology)

Drawing Dead (The Sockdolager)

Thirteen Bullets (PodCastle)

Of these, I'm most fond of Thirteen Bullets, a weird-west/vodoun mashup you can read or listen to at PodCastle. It's also up on the SFWA reading list for the Nebulas.

Other writing-related accomplishments:

  • My 2016 story Houseproud was selected as an "Intelligence in Fiction" award winner by the Berkeley Machine Intelligence Research Institute. You can read it here on my website.
  • I completed a novel, Evolutionary Intelligence Enkidu, currently being queried for agent representation. This is a near-future, military aviation, alien invasion, AI romance. Inspired by Naomi Novik's great Temeraire series and by Chōhei Kambayashi's Battle Fairy Yukikaze novel (and anime series).

La Belle Sauvage

I finished Philip Pullman's La Belle Sauvage, first in his new Book of Dust prequel series. In some sense it's more of the same from the first series, His Dark Materials. England has been corrupted by the malicious, oppressive influence of a government beholden to a Geneva-based religion that might be construed as Nazi Catholicism. Mostly the people live in fear and hope to be left alone, but there are some stout-hearted native elements fighting against the regime. And Lord Asriel from the first series is even now pursuing his grandiose anti-deity program without anyone yet knowing what he's doing.

After some initial set-up, this volume is mostly a flight-and-journey story similar in some ways to those early chapters of the Lord of the Rings where the hobbits are fleeing the Nazgul but haven't yet made it to Rivendell, or indeed, even to Bree and Aragorn. There is another echo of LoTR here as well, the notion of a magical, essential England (here called Albion), derived originally I think from William Morris's distilling of various pre-Norman myths and folklore. This is never overt in Tolkien because after all there is no England in Middle Earth, but every lyrical word about the delights of the Shire and the hobbits' way of life is a paean to an imaginary Olde England that never existed in the real world.

The two main characters, young Malcolm and Alice, are carrying the infant Lyra (who might as well be the One Ring except for the need for nappies and powdered milk). They are caught up a vast, catastrophic and magical flood of the Thames, making their riverine way from Oxford to London, trying to keep her out of the hands of several groups of bad guys. The chief villain here is very memorable and horrible, but nevertheless pitiable and sad in his way. The allegory of the anima/animus daemons allows the superficially attractive Bonneville to be depicted as horrifyingly evil merely through the unconcealable malice of his daemon. 

If you liked the first book of the Golden Compass you'll like this book as well. The main character, Malcolm, is resourceful and sympathetic, but for me Alice is much more attractive. Alice is a lower-class adolescent girl living in this oppressive and retrogressive society which demeans everyone in general, but as you might expect is especially demeaning towards women. She is extremely bitter and even sullen at times, but in the circumstances of her life and what she's subjected to this isn't a negative at all; she has every right, and she overcomes her own attitudes when she needs to. And despite total lack of chosen-ness and absence of any special training or power whatsoever, Alice is nevertheless valorous and independent, facing down any number of challenges ranging from the quotidian to the horrible and otherworldly. I wanted to cheer her on all the way through the book. "La Belle Sauvage" is the name of Malcolm's canoe, and the epithet might also be applied to a Fairy-queen character in the novel, but I'd say Alice is also a belle sauvage because she defies authority, hierarchy, and paternalism throughout. One way or another she's always carrying chains around, but she wants to be free, and as a reader you'd like to her be strong and free enough to be wild.

Thirteen Bullets at Podcastle

I'm delighted by the reading of my story Thirteen Bullets up at Podcastle. Austin Malone did an excellent job of narration.

For those who might be wondering, I did my best to capture the attributes and temperaments of Maman Brigitte and the Guédé Barons presented in the story based on research into Vodoun, though I am not a devotee myself. Two features are wholly invented, though: first of all, there is no legend of thirteen bullets being a sovereign against Baron Samedi that I'm aware of, and secondly I don't believe that he is generally associated with the element of fire. The first element was included to fulfill a writing prompt that demanded thirteen of something appear in the story, and the second was to provide an Oz-like bridge between the spirit world of Cimetière and the real-world town of Tombstone.

Event Horizon 2017 anthology

I'm extremely pleased to have been included in this year's Event Horizon anthology, which collects works by Campbell Award-eligible authors. There are many great stories in this collection, which is available for free from the above link until July 15, so I strongly advise anyone interested in short science fiction and fantasy to download it. My particular contribution is Dragonfly Tea, originally published last year by the New Haven Review.