Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

“Things You Can Buy for a Penny” Published in Translation in China

August 11, 2015

My short story, “Things You Can Buy for a Penny,” which (bragging alert) has been widely recommended, just appeared in Science Fiction World, China’s biggest SFF magazine, in translation.

chinese things you can buy

According to the Google Translate app, the translated title is “Coins, a Desire.”

I am honored that someone thought my words were worth translating, and that someone took the time to draw this bad-ass art for it.

If you don’t live in China, and you haven’t read it yet, the original story is still available for free over at Lightspeed!

A Wee Worldbuilding Thought Experiment

May 16, 2015

No one has ever asked me where I get my ideas from, or if I’m worried I’ll run out of ideas. But if anyone ever cared to ask, I’d say, “from paying attention,” and, “no, because if I pay attention for five minutes an idea will present itself.”

Case in point (because I’m writing other shit, so I don’t want to tease this one out into a proper story right now) as follows.

Ingredient the first: the rebirth of feudalism. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is disappearing. At some point, it stands to reason, the rich will consolidate the entirety of all the money. Seriously, something like half of the bottom 90% of Americans doesn’t actually possess money. They have so much debt that they live in a perpetual state of net loss.

No, I won’t post a source. You have the fucking internet, so why have you not been paying attention? Besides, this is a world-building thought experiment, so all I really need for a source is “shit I remember reading at some point.”

Also, the rich own politics. They’re nicer about it than when the also basically policed the land they owned as well, but they make the laws. Anyone who’s paying attention knows this.

But, family fortunes tend to be lost after a handful of generations. At some point I read something that said most had been lost after three generations.

This means that our dynastic overlords have an expiry date. Which means that the resources they’ve accumulated will be up for grabs in every hundred years or so. But only the already rich can grab them, because poor people don’t fucking get rich, because, jesus, a million things. The deck is stacked.

So we have rich families rising and falling in fortune, scheming and conniving to usurp each other.

Okay, ingredient the second: Emojis are replacing language, and some of them cost money. There was a NYT article recently about how emojis are causing problems with writing and reading skills. No, I’m not linking it, you have fucking Google.

Maybe it was an NPR article?

Anyway, emojis are replacing language, and some of them cost money. So if some people are very rich, and some people are very poor, it stands to reason that some people will have access to more emojis, and others will have access to fewer emojis.

Remember, if you don’t own the emoji pack, you can’t even read them on your device. All of the emojis you don’t own show up as placeholder symbols. So some people will essentially have access to more language. They will be able to communicate more ideas, and more complex ideas, because they can afford to own that language. The poor will literally have their ability to communicate and, even crazier, think abstractly and critically limited because they just can’t buy the “words.”

I mean, did you read that article about how “blue” wasn’t a concept for a long damn time? How there just wasn’t a word for it, so people probably didn’t even see it? William S Burroughs talked a lot about how language forms thought, and so have quite a few other critics. So what words would the rich keep to themselves? What thoughts do they not want the people below them thinking?

Bam, there’s a fucking world. I wouldn’t even make the main characters super poor; the rich need a consumer class, they’d just prefer it was a consumer class that didn’t have any real resources but credit. Of course, that consumer class can’t afford the more complex language, or they have “better” things on which to spend their debt, but they still have a handful more abstract concepts than the properly poor. The real key to making the story work is choosing what words and concepts the rich keep to themselves, and how lacking those words and concepts influences the way the debt-class thinks and talks.

Throw in a bildungsroman, or a prince-and-the-pauper, or a wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance, or a visitor-from-another-place (like, a place that doesn’t use emojis), or, hell, even a fucking roman à clef about struggling to be a writer, and you’ve got yourself a god damn story.

My Newest Fantasy Short Was Recommended by io9, Locus, and Tangent!!

February 27, 2015

My newest short story, “Things You Can Buy for a Penny,” went free to read on the inimitable Lightspeed Magazine website this week. It’s a story about the man who lives in the well, and the people who come to him with pennies to buy wishes. Apparently, people liked it.

A little-known Gawker rag, io9, put it in their list of “Best Stories from the Week,” and K. Tempest Bradford had this to say:

The way this story opens up like a matryoshka doll is just one aspect of its charm. I’m also a huge fan of the wet gentleman and the fairy tale feel of all the elements here.

Lois Tilton, writing for Locus Online, said:

I like this narrative. Although the tale is simple, there’s wit and freshness in the telling, as well as a neat twist at the end…It’s also a good example of the sort of story that isn’t soft fantasy, the magic being not only unambiguous but central to the tale; how the characters deal with the magic is what the story is about.

While Martha Burns at Tangent was a bit more ambivalent:

How much one enjoys the story is, in part, a product of how much one enjoys this sort of [fairy-tale] meta-mockery. It can be read as funny, clever, or as a reminder that fairy tales are generally retold these days with a wink-wink…I, personally, can never quite decide whether I like this or it is too clever for me and this story teetered on the edge.

But in the end she recommended it “for its fast pace and light tone.”

**UPDATE** Hey! This little tale also made Lady Business’s Short Fiction Favorites for the period, and SFRevu called it a “perfect little story.” Basically, publishing “Things You Can Buy for a Penny” made the first half of my year.

I’m really thankful for all of the positive feedback my little yarn has received, and I am exceptionally thankful to Lightspeed and it’s wonderful editorial staff. I recommend you check out each of the reviewers, because they all recommended other amazing stories along with mine. I also recommend you take a look at what Lightspeed is up to these days, and think about supporting them with your own pennies. They didn’t win a Hugo last year for nothing.

New Story In…(Drum-roll)…The Collagist

January 15, 2015

The Collagist is one of those truly amazing journals, and one I’ve been submitting to for years now. After several lovely rejections from the current and previous editors, I am ecstatic to say that The Collagist finally said yes!

So head on over and read what is another amazing issue that is only slightly let down by this one story about, like, giant sensory organs where walls should be? Or something?

Anyway, you should definitely check out Issue Sixty Six of The Collagist.

Because We Can Never Talk About Genre Enough

December 8, 2014

So I just came across Joshua Rothman’s really wonderful New Yorker article about genre (in the Tweeter feed of Sequoia Nagamatsu who edits the really lovely Psychopomp, go investigate all that), and you should read it. I’ll give you a minute.

I’m not going to get into the whole thing here — it’s a great article and I love what it has to say about genre — but I did want to write down something it helped clarify for me. Our current conceptions of “genre” are highly problematic; I’ve previously talked about how their increasing granularity is bad for writers.What Rothman does so nicely in his article is briefly explain Northrop Frye’s genre system…I’m not going to explain it again here, because you should have just read Rothman’s article.

One of the key differences between the way publishing constructs genre and the way Frye does is what “cross-genre” comes to mean. Essentially, today’s publishing-oriented genre system means “cross-genre” is a mixing of tropes. Cowboys vs. Aliens is perhaps the most ad absurdum way to think about it. Cross-genre to Frye is a blending of approaches, a blending of systems.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about “great” works of literature, the works that have stuck with us, stood the test of time, informed generations of writers…you know the drill. What they have in common, at least to my mind, is that they provide their readers with new tools — mechanisms for addressing reality, for writing new stories, etc. The problem with our current system of genre classification is that it doesn’t allow space for creating new tools. The most innovative tool it allows is genre crossing, and that limits authors to existing tropes. “Innovation” in this context becomes the rote work of finding unused combinations.

Blending systems, as Frye would have us do, changes the equation. Anatomy and confession (you read the damn article, right?) are necessarily progressive affairs. By which I mean, where the recombination of tropes roots the author in the past, the recombination of systems requires the author to address the present, the ongoing. The former rejects new tools, the latter practically requires their invention.

I know I’m being a little obscure, but to hell with you. I have two graduate degrees in English, I’m supposed to be obscure.

New Bug-Infested Fiction in Unlikely Story *Updated*

December 1, 2014
West Side Slug Life by Andrew Ferneyhough

I love this picture, and I want to high-five this slug.

I’m really happy to report that my newest story, “Coping with Common Garden Pests,” is live in Unlikely Story. You can read it for free!

Unlikely Story, for those who don’t know, publishes themed issues. This particular issue is another installment of their wonderful Journal of Unlikely Entomology, so expect lots of bugs. Also expect a whole bunch of great, speculative-fiction short stories.

Unlikely will be posting an interview with me that covers anything I might have said here that anyone might even be able to pretend is interesting. So in lieu of any commentary, I’ll just update this post with a link at some point in the future.

*Update* The Unlikely Interview is live.

 

Shits and Giggles: It’s “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers” Season, Motherfuckers

October 21, 2014

gourdthumb

This is the fifth year in a row that people have posted, en masse, “It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers,” to teh internetz, so I thought I’d write my own take on this annual tradition. I sent it off to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, who published the original article (and my own Open Letter to Jif Peanut Butter), but they said it was “too meta, even for [them].” So, for shits and giggles, I went and posted “It’s ‘It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers’ Season, Motherfuckers” to Buzzfeed Community. Because why the fuck not. After all, if you prick me, am I not still a hack?

So follow this link, and enjoy “It’s ‘It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers’ Season, Motherfuckers.”

Publishing Updates: Unstuck, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Unlikely Story, and Bonus PANK Interview

September 10, 2014

I will probably never not neglect this blog. I know that some non-self-promotional-blogging is called for, but that’s not what I’m going to do today. Today I’m going to catch up on all the self-promotional news I haven’t blogged on my blog yet.

First, Unstuck 3 came out, and it includes my story “The Beginning of Peace.” The issue is already out of print, but can be purchased as an ebook from Amazon. Getting published in Unstuck was really, really exciting for me. They’ve published a whole host of authors who I love, and who have influenced my writing. It’s a wonderful feeling to share paper with such talented people. I also had a wonderful experience with the Unstuck editorial staff, who saw the potential in my story and had me write a whole second half for it. I’ve never before engaged in such extensive revision with an editor, but I can’t wait to do it again. If “The Beginning of Peace” is any good, half the credit goes to Josh Rolnick and the rest of the Unstuck editors.

Picture

If it sucks, please blame them.

Second, I made my first professional sci-fi/fantasy story sale to Daily Science Fiction. “Chapter One” is available to read free on their website. I can’t say I’m entirely happy with the formatting, but I am ecstatic that they liked the story enough to publish it.

Third and Fourth, I recently made two more professional-rate sci-fi/fantasy story sales: one to Lightspeed, and the other to Unlikely Story for the Journal of Unlikely Entomology. The story in JUE will be out in November, the story in Lightspeed doesn’t have a release date yet. Again, very exciting stuff for me. All I want from life is to be a professional writer, and to make a living doing it. This feels like a solid step towards that goal.

These three pro sales are also a testament to the effectiveness of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Workshop. Seriously, if you want to write science fiction and/or fantasy, apply to Clarion. I originally wrote the story Lightspeed bought for week five of Clarion, and the story in Daily Science Fiction was my week six effort. Unlikely Story bought my first post-Clarion effort. I owe Clarion a debt of gratitude, and I particularly owe Karen Joy Fowler and Kelly Link, who taught week five and six as a team, for their guidance and encouragement. They are amazing people, teachers, and authors. Buy their books.

Lastly, PANK interviewed me for their Lightning Room after publishing my story “Selling the Fall” (which is neither sci-fi nor fantasy, though it is weird). If you care what I think about, like, writing and shit, check it out.

/self promotion

Writers, Don’t Mind Your Mind

January 11, 2014

I work in a bookstore, so I come across a whole lot of books. Some of them I’m interested in, some of them I judge immediately, harshly, and generally, correctly, by their covers, and some of them I peruse innocently because maybe, just maybe, they’ll having something to say.

So it is that found myself opening Making Your Creative Mark. Let me share with you what I read:

Your first task as a creative person is to “mind your mind” and think thoughts that serve you. Doesn’t it make sense to speak to yourself in ways that help you create more deeply and more regularly, that allow you to detach more effectively from the everyday chaos of life…

At this point a deep rage overcame me, and I had to stop.  (more…)

The Actual Death of the American Author: On the Granularity of Genre

August 22, 2013

A few months back I responded to Scott Turow’s arguments about how copyright infringement and digital distribution would be the death of the American author. But it got me thinking about what other pernicious threats the American author might be facing.

First, to be clear, I think an integral part of Turow’s “American Author” is that the author subsists on income from his or her writing. Hence Turow’s concern over his perceived elision of the value of copyright. An author willing to work two other jobs while writing just for the chance to tell his or her stories doesn’t really count, because this author shouldn’t give one damn about copyright — payment is a bonus, being read is the reward. So let’s take this as rote: when we talk about the death of the American author, we’re talking about the death of the American author who earns his or her income through writing.

To my mind the biggest threat to this incarnation of the American author (after our our failing education system) is the fact that marketing departments have the final say in whether or not a title will be pushed by the publisher. Most publishers will only seriously market one or two of their titles every year, the rest are orphaned almost immediately by marketing departments. If an author wants attention for his or her book, the author must take up that responsibility. This is especially true if the marketing department doesn’t have a very clear idea of how, where, and to who to market the book. (more…)