2022: What It Is

Here’s the yearly roundup around Thanksgiving, as usual, adorned with my annual attempt at pie.

Fiction and translation news in brief:

I had a few publications this year:

— Flash fiction piece “Better Get Hit in Your Soul” appeared in Nature Magazine’s Futures series

— “Rena in the Desert” reappeared in audio version at Escape Pod, in episode 830

— and my longish short story “Island History” appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine

— In translation, I translated “Shaggå of the Painfully Infinite Sky,” by Antoine Volodine, and “Death of the King,” by Marie Cosnay for Palais 34, October, 2022. Palais is the magazine of the Palais de Tokyo museum in Paris, and this issue accompanies their current exhibit, Shéhérazade, la nuit.

I’ve also had some work for private clients, which is always a great learning experience.

If you wanna hear about my life:

On a Sunday in early October last year, I went for a run and found myself watching the Twin Cities Marathon; I live near the course where it follows the Mississippi river for a few miles. Around mid-to-late morning, you don’t see the elite runners, or even the whip-thin hardcore enthusiasts; it’s more first-timers and oldsters and all kinds of people spread out down River Road, all chugging along on their own individual journeys. And I thought to myself, Next year I’m gonna run the marathon. And I’m gonna write a book.

So that was my plan for 2022: Run a marathon. Write a book.

One of these was relatively simple. I downloaded a plan and kinda followed it. My husband and I both registered for the race, we trained for months, then picked up our bibs and swag. On October 2nd we showed up at the appointed time and place, and off we went, along with nine thousand or so other people. I chugged along for five hours, taking in water and energy gels when appropriate, and I’m not saying it was easy, because in fact it was really pretty hard. The stretch of the course near my house includes miles 16-19, and they are sunny and hot and very tiring—fortunately my in-laws appeared and cheered for me—and next come the final seven miles, over the hillier section in Saint Paul. I jogged the miles between water stations, where I walked and drank, until I got to the last water station, and then my dad and brother were there to cheer me on, and I had one mile left, mostly downhill. It was hard. But it was simple, and I did it.

Lia runs a marathon! Saint Paul Cathedral in the background, finish line ahead
I’m 9644 there. Saint Paul Cathedral in the background, finish line ahead. My time was 4:52, which was actually a bit faster than I expected.

Writing a book—in a sense, I did write a book. I translated one. Manuela Draeger’s Kree is currently in draft form, but it is a complete draft. The first draft of a translation is also rather a simple accomplishment: just keep going and going and going until it’s done. Revisions are more difficult, more complicated, and there’s a lot of those coming. But the first draft process was pretty simple, and I did it.

Of course, gonna write a book meant my own book, an original novel by me, and that did not happen. Other things did. The major thing, the most mentally consuming and difficult thing, is that my mother went from “needing some help” to dementia diagnosis to assisted living and then to a memory care unit, over the course of about nine months. Without going into a ton of detail, I will say that 2022 has been among the worst years of my life so far due to that particularly shitty emotional roller coaster, and there is nothing simple about any of it.

Some people manage to write through such experiences; they transmute their suffering into art, maybe, or they escape into a world of fantasy, or they plumb the depths of honesty and come up with something inspiring, or hey, why not all three. As for me, I stare at the blank page, type a few words that look like an obvious metaphor for what I’m feeling, and I start thinking about the bills and the practical needs and the last awful or sad or psychotic thing my mother said to me, and somehow the few words just don’t turn into a story.

Good things happened, too. We got a dog, who came to us wild and terrified, and has gradually become fun, affectionate, and sweet. She encourages us to run and play and be crazy, and someday we hope she’ll learn that displays of affection need not involve jumping, clawing, or teeth. We went camping, we went to the lake. A few fun projects came up, a few things got published. We got to meet our tiny and beautiful new niece.

Next year will be better, maybe. Or maybe it will be worse. I’ll get deep into revisions for Kree. I’m planning to run another marathon or two—Grandma’s in June, Twin Cities in October. I’m planning to write a book. But sometimes the world has shit in store for us. So we’ll see.

This year’s Thanksgiving pies. Both apple. Big one to go with dinner, little one for my mother.

Island History in Asimov’s, out now

The skinny: My new short story, “Island History” just came out in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s. If you want to read it, you can get a subscription, or you can buy the digital version of the current issue only, or you can try walking into a likely bookstore and seeing if they have a print copy (Barnes and Noble is a good bet).

In other news: The new Terraform anthology has come out and includes short works by many really fabulous writers, as well as my short piece “Plantation | Springtime,” which first appeared on the Terraform website in 2016, then on Big Echo in 2018. You can order it here, or buy it from your local bookstore, or get it in whatever way you usually obtain books.

This summer I’ve been working on translations of Antoine Volodine and Marie Cosnay for an upcoming issue of Palais, the magazine of the Palais de Tokyo. More info on that when it becomes available.

In case anyone’s wondering: I began writing this story in summer of 2020, a few months into the first Covid lockdowns, a few weeks after the Minneapolis police murdered a man and set off an enormous wave of protests, right here in my quiet southside neighborhood, and all over the world.

That summer I was also running a lot, both for exercise and just to get out of the house. My longer runs sometimes take me to Pike Island, in Fort Snelling State Park, where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi. There isn’t a sign right there, or a marker, or anything really to let you know it, but this confluence is, for the Dakota people, a sacred place called Bdote:

For the Dakota, there are multiple stories of creation, with one account widely held in this region. According to oral tradition, the spirits of the people came down from Caŋku Wanaġi, “the spirit road,” made up of the stars of the Milky Way, and when they arrived on Earth, the Creator shaped the first people from the clay of Maka Ina, “Mother Earth” at Bdote. 


For me, descendant of immigrants from Finland and Germany and sundry other European locales, the confluence is a reminder to think about the place where I live, where other people once lived and were forced to leave.

So in the summer of 2020, I was thinking about all these things, and also, a little, about a New Yorker article on the Falkland Islands that I’d read on some insomniac night. This story isn’t about any of them, not directly, but indirectly I think it touches on all of them. I finished the first full draft in April of 2021, and after numerous revisions, finally, here it is out in the world. I hope you like it.

News! Publications! and Manuela Draeger’s Kree

As I noted in my last post, things tend to happen all at once. The week before last, for example, I had one story published on March 30th and another one came out on the 31st. Wild times. Here are the details:

Better Get Hit in Your Soul” appeared on the Nature magazine website, as part of its Futures science fiction series. This is a short piece about a saxophonist forced to get back to basics. I’ve also included a short “behind the story” bit, in which I duly credit Charles Mingus, whose song title I brazenly stole.

Escape Pod was kind enough to produce a podcast version of “Rena in the Desert”, a story which appeared in Asimov’s in March/April 2020. Forever ago, right? It’s strange revisiting a story from before things really went sideways. Anyway, I enjoyed the reading by S. Kay Nash and the audio production by Summer Brooks (I didn’t really notice it so I think that means it’s good), and I’m grateful to Mur Lafferty for her thoughts.

Regarding that third publication—it looks like “Island History” is set to come out in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s. Updates forthcoming.

Now, the big news: I have signed a contract with the University of Minnesota Press to translate the novel Kree by Manuela Draeger.

I just received the hard copy from Éditions de l’Olivier today and I plan to carry it around with me constantly for a year or so

For those not acquainted, Manuela Draeger is a member of the Antoine Volodine/Lutz Bassmann/et al. post-exoticism, er, collective, so to speak. Works previously translated into English include In the Time of the Blue Ball (tr. Brian Evenson) and Eleven Sooty Dreams (tr. J. T. Mahany), both of which I really enjoyed. Kree is a dark, violent, fascinating, and fun novel, and I am so excited I get to sink into it and eventually share it with everyone.