Out now: “Rena in the Desert” in Asimov’s (and a Mall of America adventure story)

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I’ve had work published before, and in print before, but never before have I had a story printed in a magazine that I could just go to a store and buy. So I’ve been pretty excited to see the March/April 2020 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, which is not only printed (on paper!) and bound, but also available in book stores. Which book stores? Well, the Barnes and Noble at the Mall of America, for one, which I know because I often pick up a copy of Asimov’s to occupy me when I ride the train home from the bizarre and overwhelming behemoth of Bloomington. Oh, and why the March/April 2020 issue? Because it includes my story “Rena in the Desert.” Which happens to have arrived in newsstands today.

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my name is not on the cover but it’s inside, I promise

So I grabbed my husband and, well, first we went cross country skiing out at Whitetail Woods park. I am not very good at skiing but I’m getting better. Today I snowplowed victoriously down several small hills without falling or crying or even having more than a very mild heart attack. Birkebeiner here I come.

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your daily dose of Minnesota winter

Anyway, where was I—I grabbed my husband, went skiing, and then off we went to the Mall of America Barnes and Noble to see if the new Asimov’s was there. And it was! Here, Jeff very helpfully moved it to the front of the shelf so it would be easier for my legions of fans to find.

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only two left! going fast, obviously!

Look, a totally random man who happened to be reading my story, how coincidental!

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both handsome and literate!

And then this totally random man decided to buy two copies of the magazine!

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also: tall!

Okay, so yes, that’s Jeff. Anyway, we found the magazine, which does indeed have my story in it; we bought it, and then decided to celebrate with some bubbly at an adjacent hotel bar. Here is me drinking my nice glass of crémant de Limoux and gloating over my story in Asimov’s, at the Mall of America Marriott, of all places.

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at Cedar + Stone Urban Table, which, if you’re looking for a celebratory beverage at the Mall of America, is probably one of the better choices

If you, too, would like to read this story, you can also trek out to a bookstore, or I believe it’s possible to buy a single issue for iPad, Kindle, etc. from the usual places. The story is, I think, pretty good. As the title says, it’s about Rena, and she’s in the desert, and having some trouble getting across it. She stops at an AutoMotel and meets a little girl. Is it a trap? Maybe! I’ll post the Author Q&A I wrote up for the Asimov’s blog when it’s up, if you want to know more. Meantime, if you read the story, however you read it, I hope you enjoy it, as well as your celebratory beverages of choice.

Dissertation Status: Defended!

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Me! Defending my dissertation! Pretty darn scholarly, right? Photo by Dr. Emily Durham

I have been in graduate school for twelve years. Two years for my Masters, one year in Paris, two more years of coursework, about three years of floundering and having a midlife crisis and trying to figure out what the hell to do with myself,* and about four of really writing. I have learned a lot, traveled a lot, and gotten a lot out of the experience. But now, finally, I am pleased to tell you all that I have completed and successfully defended my dissertation, and that means, well, I’m done. I have a PhD. You can call me doctor.

My dissertation is titled “Imagining Bodies: Technological Visions of Displaced Minds in French Speculative Fiction.” It is about how different media show us the body in different ways, and it examines novels that involve body-swapping and out-of-body travel: Théophile Gautier’s Avatar, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Ève future, Camille Marbo’s Le Survivant, Maurice Renard’s Le Docteur Lerne, sous-dieu, Blaise Cendrars’s Moravagine, and Marguerite Berthet’s L’Ascète du Mont-Mérou. It probably won’t be publicly available for a couple years, but if you’re interested you can contact me and I’ll probably be so flattered that I’ll send you a copy within minutes.

What’s next? Bread Loaf Translators Workshop, to get feedback on my translation of Antoine Volodine’s Alto Solo. I have some summer work lined up in addition to that revision. I have some good short fiction news, but I should probably wait until I have the contract signed to announce it. Details to come.

Look, here is me, having a PhD!

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Just because I have a PhD doesn’t mean I can’t look goofy. In front of my intellectual home, Folwell Hall at the University of Minnesota, post-defense, yesterday. Photo by Mr. Jeffrey Mitchell

*What was this all about? Well, I began grad school with the idea I would become a professor. That’s what PhD programs in the humanities do: they train you to do research, but the goal is to get a job as a professor. As I progressed through school, however, some things became apparent to me: a) Being a professor requires a ton of work and commitment, which would not leave me much time to write fiction, something that is important to me. b) Teaching isn’t my favorite thing. I don’t dislike it—I taught last semester and actually really enjoyed it—but it takes a lot out of me, and if I had to teach 3-4 classes a semester I would crumble away into dust. c) The academic job market is ridiculously tough. People do get jobs as professors—some of them, anyway—but often after a post-doc or two. So you move to wherever you get a job, probably cross country, possibly more than once. Goodbye beautiful and beloved Minneapolis, in that case.

In short, becoming a professor would have required sacrifices I didn’t want to make— even if I could get a tenure-track job, I probably wouldn’t be happy in it. But there I was in a PhD program, without a very clear idea of what else I could do, or really wanted to do. So—not consciously, I don’t think—I slowed the hell down. I got myself a therapist. I started exploring other options when I could—translation, editing, publishing. And it was pretty hard at times but I think, now, that time was necessary, and I feel good about where I’m headed.

Give us a hero, the people said: “Origin Story” on Terraform (and other news)

It’s been a while since I could tell you all that I’ve had a new fiction piece published, but voilà! My kinda-meta flash piece “Origin Story” is now up at Terraform. Have a look!

What else is happening? Well, a bunch of stuff, actually. The big one is that I’ve finished my dissertation (to the extent such a thing can ever be finished) and my defense is set for May 21st. Yes, the long, grueling saga of graduate school is almost over and I think I’m getting out alive. And with a doctorate. You can call me doctor! I promise not to attempt any tracheotomies.

After the defense, I’m heading back to the Bread Loaf Translators Workshop, where I’m looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of awesome translators and getting their feedback on my translation of Antoine Volodine’s Alto Solo.

And in other news, I’ve recently had a short story accepted to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine!

And the sun is out! In Minneapolis! In May!

And the May Day Parade is this Sunday! Happy May Day, everybody! Happy Spring, and happy reading.

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Image swiped from Terraform. Not sure of the illustrator’s name but I like it.