Ecotones: Story by Story

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 
This anthology, with my story, The Silva, is has been released into the wild. I just finished reading my contributor’s copy and found it to be an eclectic and excellent collection of stories.
An ecotone is a region of transition between two biological communities. This is the theme that binds the stories in this diverse anthology together. This is rich territory to explore and there is a little of everything here from high fantasy to hard science fiction. I love variety, so I truly enjoyed everything my TOC (table of contents) mates brought to the table. After reading Ecotones, I’m even more delighted to be a part of this anthology!
Here are my quick impressions of the stories in this collection.
Inundated by Jonathan Laidlow
I love this kind of story. Sea monsters and undines threaten a fishing village and the land beyond it. This story is filled with fantastic creatures, yet is grounded in a very recognizable world – our world. As floodwaters encroach a father searches for his daughter and his wife who isn’t entirely of his world. The relationship between the father, his estranged wife, and missing daughter are evocative and poignant.
The Green by Lauren Beukes
What if alien life got inside your suit, got inside your body? What if they devoured and repurposed your flesh while keeping you on your feet, turning you into a kind of green zombie? What if your corporate bosses saw an opportunity in this grim turn of events? This dark tale is told in the gritty voice of a low-level employee with very few choices available to her. Excellent.
Seeds by a Hurricane Torn by Daniel Ausema
Years after a hurricane devastates a coastal town, some people return to try to reclaim the area. The magic system is based on botany so gardening is magical, which I found delightful. When these characters try to reclaim the land they find that the sea may carry an undiscovered magic of its own. I loved how magic illuminated the border between these two divergent ecologies.
Green Man by P. J. Richards
Establishing a colony in an alien environment is difficult, not all attempts are successful. An elegiac story of a last survivor on a doomed mission and his final bid for a kind of survival. Like Beuke’s tale, this story illustrates the strength of this anthology’s theme by exploring what it might mean to interact with an alien biological environment
Stochasti-city by Tobias S. Buckell
This one is a reprint but new to me. A gritty but ultimately uplifting look at a future where large social uprisings can be hacked by new, integrated technologies. Set in a future Detroit that is both more decayed and somehow more vibrant than the one we have now. This one rollicks along following a likable deadbeat who finds his way into a new life.
Homo Panthera by Andrew Leon Hudson
The introduction to this story says that it is “part of a larger evolutionary science fiction project.” While it does feel like part of a larger whole, it also succeeds as a complete story in itself. This one is military SciFi with an environmental edge. The story is told by a contractor tasked with guarding one of the last panthers from poachers. The world is richly drawn and full of detail, which makes the story feel immediate and relevant to today.
The First Feast by Victor Espinosa
This one is classic high fantasy and a sweet boy-meets-girl story. It starts out as a young elf’s first encounter with humans at an annual feast where these two different races mingle. This one also feels like it might be part of something larger, but the story comes to a satisfying conclusion. The ecotone here is in the realm of magic, which illustrates how different cultures view the natural world around them.
Compatibility by Ken Liu
This brief story hilariously explores some of the problems that labor-saving and companion technologies may present in the not so distant future. Anyone who has had computer compatibility issues will relate.
Not a Problem by Matthew Hughes
Another short, humorous piece about the dangers of relying on others to fix your problems. The twist ending though not terribly surprising, is funny. The strength of the voice, and hubris of the narrator, carry this piece.
The Pattern Box by Christina Klarenbeek
The crew of a long-range colony ship wakes up to find themselves off course and headed for a crash landing on an unknown planet. Told from both the point of view of the alien life form that witnesses their arrival, and the frightened, disoriented colonists, this is an intriguing first contact story. I could definitely spend more time in this world with these characters.
A Theft of Flowers by Stephen Palmer
Intrigue in a market that is not only on the border between desert and jungle, but between the virtual and the real world. A diverse cast of human and non-human characters add layers of meaning to this life and death story of economic survival.
The Grass is Greener on the Other Side by Igor Ljubuncic
This one has a lot going for it, a false utopia/dystopia setting, a young boy who wants to carry on his family’s military tradition, and a girl from the wrong side of the biodome. The interior narration from the protagonist is balanced with the action of the story to make this a compelling read.
Paolo, Friend Paolo by Kurt Hunt
A mad industrialist tries to harness an alien object, but it’s his longtime assistant who comes to better understand the alien identity that almost certainly will change life on earth. Full of big ideas viewed through the humane sensibilities of the narrator, this is an excellent story to close out the anthology.

There you have it. If these look like the kinds of stories you might enjoy, go pick yourself up a copy of Ecotones!

Read My Post-Scarcity Day-After-Thanksgiving Tale at Devilfish Review

The idea for Black Friday came to me while contemplating the ruination of one of my favorite holidays. Thanksgiving is like the easy-going uncle of holidays, it shows up a couple months into the school year grind for a long weekend of cooking and eating while near continuous football games play in the background. Not that it can’t be tricky, centered as it is around sitting down with relations with whom you may or may not see eye to eye. If sharing an annual meal includes an argument or even a family dust up, well, that too is an American tradition. Think about how many times a family gathered around the Thanksgiving table has been featured on the stage, in movies and TV dramas? Annual ordeal, priceless family bonding, or both–Thanksgiving is a touchstone of American culture. 

And I don’t even like turkey! Our family tradition, in fact, is to create our own quirky meal (alternatives have included quail, octopus, and lobster). Of course we prepare so much food that we can eat of the leftovers for the rest of the long, lazy weekend. We also make a point of not shopping at all for the entire weekend. All that mindless consumerism, the crowds chasing after phyrric savings–it’s bad for the digestion.

While the Black Friday tradition is fading, it’s only because stores are starting to open on Thanksgiving day. Sad. 

So, that’s how this story got its start. Although I’m not exactly sure how the tooth fairy got involved.

I’m delighted that this story found a home in Devilfish Review among so many other great stories and poems!

Read "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast" at the Lovely Saturday Night Reader

Today you can read my story, “Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast,” at the Saturday Night Reader‘s lovely website. It’s flash fiction, so it will only take you a minute. Stick around to read some of their many other short stories. There’s a lot of diversity in style and content in these pages, so there is something for everyone. 

I can’t really say how I came up with a time travel story influenced by Alice in Wonderland, but this one sure was fun to write!
Illustration for Alice in Wonderland by Arthur Reckham

Cast of Wonders Produces my Short Story – Flotsam – for your Ears!

Hey, Sunday!

Listen to my short story, Flotsam, for free over at the Cast of Wonders.

I’m so glad I discovered this nifty little outfit! Cast ofWonders is a Parsec Award* winning podcast out of Britain that specializes in Young adult fiction. As a reader and a parent, I love listening to novels, stories and podcasts. I also love reading out loud to my kids. I believe hearing stories, as well as reading them, is a great way to broaden your experience with all things literary. That’s why it’s so wonderful to find people who are passionate about bringing great stories to kids ears.
Be sure to check out their Camp Myth project while you’re there.  

“Cast of Wonders presents the first Camp Myth novella, Phoenix Watching, as a full cast audio drama serialized over 15 episodes. Each episode also features a camper spotlight, showcasing the rich and divers cast of characters.” 

Listen to it for free, get it on Kindle or spring for the actual, physical book. Camp Myth has its own very cool website and there’s even an RPG game – I think these guys get kids!

* The Parsec Awards are a “celebration of speculative fiction podcasting.” They’re like the Hugos of the podcast world. If you’re looking for great spec fic podcasts, these awards are great place to start!

Read My Diorama Story at DSF & Writing Process Blog Tour

The outline on the window

Today you get two blog posts for the price of one!

First, the end of summer is in sight, and soon the kids will be returning to school. It’s in that spirit that I hope you enjoy my diorama story. I really enjoyed writing it. Be sure and stick around Daily Science Fiction to check out some of the other great stories on this site. This fine venue has been reliably publishing fantastic writing for years. I am so proud to be published by them!

Second, Patrice Sarath tagged me for a Writing Process blog tour, which is tricky as my process is almost certainly still evolving. The best I can do is give you a snapshot of what my process is today.

What am I working on?
My first novel! Well, technically no. I’ve made a couple attempts before this one including a couple NaNoWriMo novels. But, I won’t be inflicting those on anyone else’s eyeballs. Those early attempts taught me a lot about the craft. It’s good to have a couple novels to line the bottom desk drawer where they can live out their days in dark and quiet solitude.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I dunno. I love reading both literary and genre fiction, so I guess my work sits at the crossroads of those two. I’ve always liked being hard to categorize, except when I’m asked to describe myself.

Why do I write what I do?
I love exploring our world in all its gorgeous complexity. For me, both reading and writing is a way to slip the surly bonds of reality, to travel places that can only exist in our dreams and imaginations.

I’m devoted to science fiction and fantasy, but animal stories were my first love: Call of the Wild, Watership Down, Black Beauty, The Incredible Journey, Charlotte’s Web. You get the idea. I find that animals often show up in my stories. I am intensely interested in how we go about defining ourselves from the natural world around us.

How does my writing process work?
Since I’m working out how to go about writing a novel, I’ll speak to that. Frankly, right now, it’s a journey of discovery with all its pleasures and frustrations. I put up a word counter on the side bar, but haven’t added any new words yet, because I had to stop drafting and go back create a better outline. I’m pretty sure I’m not a pantser (someone who writes a draft by the seat of their pants). Outlining helps me develop the story as a whole, and I need that in order to have the confidence to wade in. I don’t think I can just cast off into open water. I guess I’ll find out more about myself as a writer as I work through this project.

Now, I’ve got a card for each major scene. I’m journaling to work through the many questions that have presented themselves as I worked on the outline. Next, I’ll start going card by card, scene by scene with some time in the evening devoted to working out “meta” thoughts and story problems in my journal. This way, with a rough road map and solving problems as I go, I hope to make steady progress.

So, that’s my process. Today…

D.L. Young and Aaron DaMommio tag you’re it!

Here’s a cheetah and a dog playing tag.

Read Beata Beatrix at Bourbon Penn

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

A picture really is worth a thousand words, or in this case, a little over four thousand.

My story Beata Beatrix is up at Bourbon Penn (Issue 8). I am especially excited to be a part of this publication, because Bourbon Penn is one of those magazines that occupies the space between genre and literary that I so love! You can read the stories free online, buy a copy for your Kindle, or go whole hog and get a truly lovely print edition for your bookshelf.

When I started this story I was thinking not so much about unrequited love as the nature of crushes. Even in the throes of a relatively benign obsession, I am fascinated by the way our desires create a doppelgänger of the object of our interest.

I don’t know how I got onto the Pre-Raphaelites other than the fact that I remembered Dante Gabriel Rossetti‘s painting from my days as an art major. The woman in the painting, Elizabeth Siddal, was a popular model among the Pre-Raphaelite painters. And I think it’s fair to say, she became an obsession of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who painted her, fell in love with her, married her, and continued to paint her over and over after she died of an overdose of laudanum. 

The painting references another obsessive infatuation, the original Dante and his Beatrice whom he practically deified in The Divine Comedy. In real life, Dante knew Beatrice only passingly, she married another man and died at 24. Dante stands in the background of Rossetti’s painting opposite an angel holding a flaming heart. Of the Angel, Dante writes:

“He seemed like one who is full of joy, and had my heart within his hand.”

When we desire someone we cannot have (for whatever reason) or ever truly know (i.e. everyone), our idea of them will always miss the mark. If we are unwilling or unable to reach outside ourselves and truly try to know another, we render the very object of our desire into an unwitting stand-in for our own warped idea of who they might be.

Anywho, I hope you enjoy the story. Here’s a poem by Christina Rossetti (DGR’s sister) about the woman in the picture:

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel — every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Dante and Beatrice by Henry Holiday, 1884

Futile the Winds in Interzone 247

Futile the Winds is now available to read in Interzone 247, which should be on newsstands, in bookstores (or in your mailbox if you’re a subscriber) any day now. I’m thrilled that this story found a home in such a lovely publication. 

One of the inspirations for this story was the Mars One project, which I mention at the end of this post. The other inspiration, and the title, was taken from this poem by Emily Dickinson:

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!