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.

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 8.58.00 AM

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

Moody devil songs: on revisions and such

I’m not much for writing advice, to be honest. It’s useful up to a point; good to know the ropes, so to speak… But then you write something that you know is right, the same way you know that a rose is a rose, or the way you can tell that you’ve bowled a strike the second the ball leaves your hand.* But your little burst of genius has adverbs, loads of them, or it starts with someone waking up, or the punctuation is nonstandard,  or or… But it’s right. So screw Stephen King** and all those other advice peddlers. STET, motherfuckers.

On the other hand, while general advice usually sucks, sometimes people have good questions or suggestions about a specific story, and they help you make the story better. So it’s good to listen to them and make the necessary changes. So here I sit revising a story, which will be published in November, with the suggestions of the kind and intelligent editors at Shimmer.

Which brings me to my own word of advice! It’s not even advice, so much, just a thing I enjoy that works pretty well for me, so I’m sharing it.

Writing something long and moody? Need to get yourself in the right frame of mind? Well, make yourself a nice playlist, and you will always have a way back into your story-brain-space. And it’s fun!

Here, I’ll share: this is my Devil Moves playlist on Spotify. Will you like it? I don’t know, but I do, and it makes me feel this story, even when I’m revising it a year later. So I can get it right.


Or like you know a chicken-of-the-woods when you see one. I found this behind a friend’s house recently and I’m including both because I was so excited about it and because they say it’s good to include a photo in your blog post, adds interest, so to speak. I could tell you about my life, my diss and my job and stuff like that, but I don’t feel like it today and I’ve got revisions to finish, so until November… may all your mushrooms be correctly identified, and all your sentences land as solid as a ball in a catcher’s mitt, with a satisfying smack.


*I’m not a good bowler, but it’s happened now and then

**I actually think Stephen King’s On Writing is pretty good, as a memoir or personal meditation especially, but even he doesn’t follow his own advice on adverbs so fuck if I’m gonna.

The eligible past, the tedious present, the exciting future

1. The Past

It’s the time of year when people run around (figuratively, virtually) blaring out how they and their stuff are eligible for this or that award. By “this or that” I mean the Hugos and the Campbell and the Nebulas, and maybe some other stuff I don’t know about. Despite my mild covert narcissism I felt somewhat disinclined to engage in the practice, because I think I’m about as likely to receive the Campbell tiara as I am to inherit Queen Elizabeth II’s heaviest hat. So why not at least pretend to be aloof and dignified about it? But my glorious SFWA overlord Cat Rambo recommends I do this, and my name got on that Campbell list at Writertopia somehow, so fine. Twist my damn arm.

If you, dear sweet reader, are considering whom to nominate for the Campbell award, I had my first pro publications this year and am thus in my first year of eligibility. If you are thinking about the Hugos or the Nebulas, I had two stories published last year that I’d call SFF and would be eligible, and that got at least one positive review. They are:

“Slow.” Apex Magazine 71, April 2015 (reviews here)

Plural.” Cosmos Magazine 61, February-March 2015 (review here)

2. The Present 

dissertation mayhem

Pretty impressive, eh? I thought so, anyway, which is why I took this picture: Look, world! I’m industrious! Well, I’ll confess, that thick monster of a book underneath La Chambre claire is actually The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson rather than some academic beasty. I made the pinaattiohukaiset (a.k.a. spinach pancakes) and some meatballs, both of which were good, and made me feel all warm and Minnesotan inside. That’s Romeo on the couch. He thinks walking is way more fun than staring at a computer screen, and he is right. Except when it’s -10 degrees, which I think it was on the day I took this picture.

I have been working away at the ol’ diss, which means all kinds of innocent, well-intentioned people have asked me things like, “So what are you working on lately?” and then I start rambling about daguerreotypes and spiritism and body swapping, and how I really wish there were a better term than body swapping, I thought metempsychosis maybe but no, that’s different, and yeah, I’m writing about Gautier’s Avatar right now, oh it sounds interesting but actually it’s pretty terrible, ha ha, never never read Gautier unless you have to, except it’s useful, yeah…

So it’s probably a good thing I’ve started teaching again, which means I’m forced to try to express myself in a clear and accessible manner for at least fifty minutes a day.

It’s difficult for me to write both fiction and non-fiction in the same 24-hour period—they work related, if not the same, brain bits, I guess, and those can only generate so much intelligent verbiage per day. I’ve got a few different fiction-stews on the backburner and once this chapter gets done, I will get them bubbling and add salt and butter and see what I can serve up. But for the moment, it’s me and Gautier and Barthes and Kardec in a bizarre and debilitating mindmeld from which only one of us will emerge, and I’m the only one still alive so shit, it better be me.

3. The Future (is full of big stunted butterflies)

Despite all the dissertating, I managed to write a few things last year and at least two of them are going to burst gloriously from the chrysalis of my skull into the world and I am predictably very excited about them. The short story “Skills to Keep the Devil in His Place”—which a couple readers may recognize as the piece from which I read an excerpt at the Midwestern Gothic reading in September—will appear in the always gorgeous Shimmer magazine. A short, creepy fictional monologue about rats and secrets is also forthcoming at Pseudopod, and I am really excited to hear someone read it aloud as a podcast.

Crossing my fingers for more good news, and I’ll let you know if there is some.