Stories You Should Read

Heyo, readers. You are readers, right, and not the bots that crawl across my website like sad ghosts touching the faces of the living with feathery, unnoticeable hands?

Right, so if you’re a reader, I’d like to highlight three eminently worthwhile short stories that appeared this week thanks to the marvel of the Internet. I’m going to discuss them in reverse alphabetical order by author, because my last name starts with a ‘U’ and I spent my formative years being one of the last ones called in any situation requiring alphabetizing. Reverse-alphabetical order is my small revenge for years of slights. One of them, anyway.

First up we have “The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson at I’m terrible at reviewing fiction in a way that doesn’t devolve into cliche, but know that this novelette is a beautiful terror and you should read it.

Next, we have “Water in Springtime” by Kali Wallace at Clarkesworld Magazine. This story is lyrical, creepy and shows just why Kali recently inked a two-book deal. You should read it.

“Repairing the World” by John Chu is available at Apex Magazine. I was lucky enough to read an early version of this story, and like all of John’s work, the images and movements of it have stuck with me ever since, a sure sign of great fiction. So yes, you should read it.

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that, while all these stories are available for free, the publications that make these possible rely on the support of readers like you and me. Consider subscribing and help keep the future filled with quality speculative fiction.

About Some Quality Short Fiction

I’m a bit behind in recommending some of the quality short fiction that’s come out lately. Rather than make overlapping Facebook posts that conflate with one another, I’m going the focused route and combining my recommendations into one mega-post.

First off, my friend and super-talented Clarion classmate Greg Bossert has had two short stories come out in recent days. The first, Smartmob is in the February issue of Shlock Magazine. It’s Greg’s first published horror story and very much worth reading. Plus there’s an interview with Greg and a story by Nathan Ballingrud in the same issue. 

Greg also has a cool and clever cyberpunk story that I was fortunate enough to read as an early draft at Clarion called Two Things About Thrand Zandy’s TechnoThèque. You can find it in the latest issue of the Journal of Unlikely Cryptography.

The estimable Dustin Monk, gentleman and scholar, also has a story (The Street of the Green Elephant) appearing in the latest issue of Shimmer. They even have an interview. Issue 18 of Shimmer is also notable because it’s guest-edited by the great Ann VanderMeer, and it also features a story by Jeff VanderMeer. (I’ll have more to say about his great new novel, Annihilation, soon.) You can get a copy of Shimmer #18 here.


Tuesday Funk post-mortem

I had the pleasure of reading at the estimable Tuesday Funk this week. I might have overlooked posting advance notice, but you can read the retrospective here. There may be video at some point, too.

I read an excerpt from my strange Wisconsin cycle. This is time it was the first third of “Punch Them Down”, a tale of the last of the north woods tree-punchers.

I have a love/hate relationship with reading. It’s nerve-wracking and exciting in equal measure. I’ve never crashed and burned in accordance with my pre-reading anxiety, instead coming away excited and gratified at the chance to share something new. Tuesday Funk is a great venue for many reasons (outstanding readers, excellent hosts, beer) not least of which is the audience’s willingness to come along for trips through the varied worlds of science fiction and fantasy.

The Story Behind the Lambshead Story

io9 has a gallery of art, photos and behind-the-scenes goodness from the terrific and grand Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities anthology up here. It’s worth checking out.

So too the book, available from Amazon, Mysterious Galaxy, etc. You will find my short entry, American Night Quilt, toward the back, preceded by a plethora of great writing and wonderful art.

Clarion 2011

The application period for the new Clarion is at hand. I can say without hesitation that it’s a flat-out wonder of a time, a rough and joyous journey through your writing mind, and not to be missed for those interested. I rank it as one of the best, most rewarding experiences of my life. So I say to you, anonymous web-surfer, that you should go forth and apply. The 2012 lineup of instructors looks fantastic. Go, on, apply: what have you got to lose?

The official Clarion blurb sayeth:

Clarion is widely recognized as a premier training ground for aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction short stories. The 2011 writers in residence are Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, David Anthony Durham, John Kessel and Kij Johnson. Each year 18 students, ranging in age from late teens to those in mid-career, are selected from applicants who have the potential for highly successful writing careers. Students are expected to write several new short stories during the six-week workshop, and to give and receive constructive criticism. Instructors and students reside together in UCSD campus apartments throughout the intensive six-week program.

Application period: December 1 – March 1. Applicants must submit two short stories with their application.
Workshop: June 26 – August 6, 2011.


What is there to say about Clarion 2010? It was one of the best experiences of my life, an amazing, grueling, demanding and wonderful journey with 17 exceptionally talented writers and a series of dedicated and generous instructors. I would do it all again in a flat minute.

Into the Archives

Spent an hour or so today sorting through the archives of not-yet-converted to mp3 CDs. Always a treat, going through old music like that. Reminds me of the pure joy of finding a nice piece of vinyl with a 50 cent sticker back when I had time to prowl. Nowadays a lot of the old music looks a bit dated. Lots of acid jazz, for example, which I don’t listen to much at the moment. For kicks, I kept a rough count of the bands with the highest CD representation without any recent listening behavior on my part.

The winners, in no particular order:
The Swans (and their sister band/offshoot, Skin); the Rolling Stones; Cypress Hill; Kruder & Dorfmeister; Elvis Costello (ick. that’s on the wife); Thievery Corporation; Nick Cave; Rapoon.

And look! What’s this over here to my right? It’s a juicy pile of new-old CDs to discover again and then digitize. It’s like shopping at the old Wax Trax or Quaker Goes Deaf, but without spending money.

Origins of the next super-virus

People often speculate on the origin point for the next super-virus. Marburg and Ebola come out of Central and East Africa; SARS and novel H1N1 originated in mainland China, so those two locations get a lot of attention. There’s lot of animal-human interaction there, which allows for nasty viruses to make the jump from monkeys, birds, bats and pigs to humans. I’m sure the CDC and WHO spend a lot of time monitoring developments in those locations. And that’s fine, if we use facts and history as our guide.

For myself, I’m fairly confident that the next super-virus will emerge from the slurry that is the floor of our minivan. The interaction of battered gray Toyota floor mats, granola bars, popcorn, lollipop sticks, empty Capri Sun pouches, fallen french fries and discarded chewing gum make for a biologic soup unrivaled anywhere. I’m sure our family has developed contact immunity simply by breathing the air while driving to and from play dates, dance classes, and various baseball and soccer practices. For the rest of you, I’d approach the Sienna with caution.

Writer’s block

I’ve spent a lot of time and effort wrestling with a inability to write productively when I had the time. Now, as I’ve finally created a routine and mindset that makes writing possible, I’m finding it hard to preserve the blocks of time required. Given the ebb and flow of everyone’s schedules, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday are my writing days. I drop the kids at school, walk to my caffeine emporium, and then head to my favorite table in the Evanston Public Library’s quiet room. I sit at my table, laptop at the ready, and relax in the knowledge that I have two, three, even four hours of uninterrupted time. Freedom to write, edit, create.

And then there are weeks like this one, where each one of those free days is consumed by more immediate needs. Contractors. Architects. Doctor’s appointments. Empty refrigerators.

I’ve traded one writer’s block for another.