Interface! “Plantation | Springtime” on Terraform

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This is a story I have toiled over: since it was first drafted in January 2013, it’s gone through two major revisions–splitting into columns, doubling in length–and about a thousand minor ones. I hear the editors had a tricky time getting the text online in the desired format. So “Plantation | Springtime” has always been a challenging text, it’s always required a little extra work. The result might be a slightly challenging read. But I hope you’ll give it the extra minutes, and I hope it’s worth the effort for you. It’s always felt like the best kind of challenge to me.

A thousand thanks to Terraform and its editors for taking up my little gauntlet, and to the artist, Koren Shadmi, who created such a cool illustration for it. And thanks to everybody who’s reading.


Let’s get scholarly!

On this website I tend to focus on my fiction, but normally my academic self is much more evident than my fiction-writing self. When I meet people, I tell them: I’m a grad student; I teach French. In addition to my current research on body-swapping narratives, I spread the gospel truth that Jules Verne was in fact French and wrote in French (you’d be surprised how many people are surprised), and that Les Mains d’Orlac by Maurice Renard is the real basis for The Simpsons Halloween XI story “Hell Toupée.” Like, intellectual stuff, dude. And this month, it happens I’ve had two academic publications, so let’s unfurl that nerd flag with pride.

First off, here’s The French Review 89.3, which includes my article “A New Genealogy of French Science Fiction: Le Merveilleux scientifique in Third Republic Literature”!!!

The French Review
In this article I give the proverbial academic finger to the fortress of Anglophone science fiction and argue for le merveilleux scientifique as a separate movement in speculative fiction that drew on parapsychology and spiritism as well as the branches of science that we more readily accept as science today. It’s peer reviewed, even! Here’s the Reviewer #1 guarantee:

Second! Back in November 2012, I attended the first ever conference dedicated solely to French and Francophone science fiction ever held in North America, kindly organized and hosted at the University of Regina. Alas, not everyone can attend these things, but we know you wish you could, so the conference organizers have published the presented essays in this fabulous collection:

My essay is on “The Challenge of the Invisible in Maurice Renard’s Le Péril bleu,” that being a pretty great novel in which an invisible menace is swiping people and animals off the face of the earth in Bugey. How do you see the truth of what’s happening when you’re trapped by your pathetic human senses?! Well, that is what (I claim) the novel is all about.

It is a sad fact that scholarly publications are hard to get for people who do not have access to a university library. If anyone out there is not so blessed and wants to read this stuff, shoot me a message and I’ll see what I can do.

So there, look how academic I am! How smart, how sophisticated, how very soignée! And now, to dispel all such notions, here is me at the Conference for French Science Fiction, discussing my deep thoughts about superpowers and life on the space station.

Steaming like a stinkbomb: “Empty Cars” in Blurring the Line

“At last!” everyone is saying, “so long have I waited! All this time I have wished, nay, yearned to read a story about people on the subway!” Yes, everyone’s really talking like that! with exclamation points and everything! Okay, they’re not, I’ve just been reading a bunch of Lovecraft lately. Anyway, so you’re wondering how you can tap into this mysterious new current of the zeitgeist, right? Or maybe you’re just wondering what on earth I’m talking about? Okay.

blurring cover

Here! finally! It’s Blurring the Line, an anthology of the dark, the weird, the creepy-crawly, and unspeakably grotesque monstrosities from the most fearsome depths of an inbred madman’s unimaginable imagination! Wait, no, scratch that last, that’s Lovecraft again. Let’s see what editor Marty Young has to say…

Blurring the Line is a mixture of fact and fiction—but perhaps some of the fact is really fiction, and some of the fiction is fact. The lines have been blurred between the two, the division lost, and that was the whole point of this whole adventure.

We have monsters within these pages, and madness, too. There are ghosts and killers, molesters, and things beyond our rationale. There are stories filled with sadness and others full of gore, and all of them written by some of the best in the business of making you believe.

— Marty Young, Introduction to Blurring the Line

Some of the best in the business, you hear that? Plus me!

So where does my story, “Empty Cars,” fall in the spectrum? Well, probably best to let readers be the judge of that. As I told Gregory Norris, this story comes from the empty cars on the subway. It occurred to me after I’d written that background bit, as I was rereading, that there’s another story behind this. Back in the 90s when I was in high school, there was this graffiti tag all over Minneapolis, on mailboxes and newspaper boxes and office buildings and everything: SO EMPTY INSIDE. Probably some angsty kid, right? But I liked to think it was a more literal statement about the emptiness of the world, in a nihilistic but weirdly funny way. Like this person was checking everything systematically, verifying, labeling. What about this mailbox? Letters, bills, postcards? Nope, empty inside. Newspapers? Empty inside. The bank? SO EMPTY INSIDE. And so that’s a big part of this story, too: an absurd, methodical, and hopeless search for meaning by someone who’s having trouble seeing any.

All right, enough talk from me. Here’s a paragraph to get you going:

On the subway: corpses hang rotting from the handles, soft teeth ground into gingival mush, their eyeballs rolling down to mobile devices. They’re texting each other—they’re calling the authorities, they’re alerting the press. I’m in trouble. I don’t smell right. It’s a hallucination and I know it. So I don’t call for help, I don’t puke or cry; most days I don’t even get off at the next stop. I sit down. I take out my newspaper and watch ants scribbling their legs across the page.

This is every day.

(from “Empty Cars”)

If you’re interested, Blurring the Line is available from Cohesion Press, via Amazon, for $5.99 (ebook). I think there’ll be a print version, too. Buy it. If you want.

Oh, and hey! Almost forgot. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!