It’s the end of the year, and the time I traditionally make a heap of things I’ve published in the past 12 months. I thought I hadn’t been terribly epic on the publishing front in 2017. I felt, in fact, as though I’d published almost nothing.
Then I went in to round it up, and found…
Okay, so I published five stories, which equal out to 35,000 words of short fiction in 2017. Welcome to my brain. It’s always too full, and apparently it also believes that it isn’t ever really working enough.
First, though, what I DID in 2017 – which doesn’t mean it’s coming out this year. In fact, most of it is coming out next year. Scroll down if you’re looking for story links. Here I’m just talking about HOW EXCITED I AM ABOUT UPCOMING BOOKS!
The biggest writing project I did this year was actually an un-writing – I cut 60K from the second draft of my next novel – my first novel for adults since 2011!!! – and changed the book a great deal. I ended up with something much smaller than the second draft, and much stronger than the first draft. Sometimes you have to write large to get sleek again.
So, I have a lot of things coming out in 2018, but most of all, at long last, THE MERE WIFE, my adaptation of Beowulf, comes out JULY 17 from the killer new imprint MCD Books at Farrar, Straus & Giroux! You can pre-order it now, and I’d love it dearly if you would! I’d love it especially if you’d go into your favorite indie bookstore and tell them about it. You can pre-order there too!
This is not the cover. This is the MCD Books logo. There IS a cover, though. and it is amazing. I’m dying to show you. Soon.
Guys. I’m so damn excited about this book. This is the one I started writing on a mountaintop in Italy in 2015, at a writer’s colony I’d barely managed to get myself to. I was both broke and broken when I arrived, having just emerged from the roughest couple years of my life. Marital meltdown, followed by new relationship meltdown, followed by health crisis, followed by sudden death of best friend, followed by…bedbugs. Seriously. By the time I got to Italy, I was tear-drenched and panic ridden, but also ready to write this book about monsters that I’d been chewing on inside my head for about ten years.
I wrote the first draft in two and a half weeks. My agent sold it at auction to FSG about two weeks later. That never happens, but it did.
Then…well, fast forward two (slow) years. This has been a process of changing and shifting like you wouldn’t believe, but man, it was worth it. The book that’s coming out is the book I meant to write, from the first moment I had the idea. It’s Beowulf meets Revolutionary Road – as in, Beowulf in suburbia. The book is from many different POVs, but mostly from the perspective of two characters based on Grendel’s mother and Hrothgar’s wife, as in, the “monster” and the hostess.
Grendel’s mother, Dana, is a veteran of an unjust war, hidden in a cave on a mountain, around which a gated community, Herot Hall, has been built. Hrothgar’s wife, Willa, is the queen of those suburbs. Both of them have vulnerable sons. Both of them are full of fury. There’s a chorus of suburban matriarchs. There’s a pack of police dogs. There’s a dragon of sorts. There’s a police officer named Ben Woolf.
Needless to say, I believe that monsterhood is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s what the book is about. It’s a very feminist, very fiery take on myths of both monsterhood and masculinity.
Here’s that pre-order link again.
So, back to things I published in 2017:
Not all of it is available online – some came out in print only books, or is only just coming out into the world – but some of it is, and if you’re looking to nominate stories for awards and need copies of anything, let me know and I can get you a PDF if something’s not available.
But here we go! Thanks for reading this long post!
Starting with the NOVELETTES.
I published two in 2017!
Published in THE WEIGHT OF WORDS
10, 016 words
December 31, 2017
Commissioned for THE WEIGHT OF WORDS, edited by Dave McKean and William Schafer for Subterranean Press. This is my favorite thing I wrote this year – though it took me nearly three years to write. The first draft was written in 2014, after I received a golem as a birthday gift from China Mieville – or rather, two paragraphs about an 11th century female golem made of wood and hinges. I credit the giver, because he could easily have hoarded this golem for himself. Instead, I got to turn her into this story, which is full of the history of Andalusia, golem lore, and large quantities of fury about being mistaken for a creation of someone other than oneself. I fiddled with the story for awhile, but I couldn’t get it right.
Then, in 2015, I got an email inviting me to an anthology based around art by Dave McKean, and I picked a beautiful piece involving a woman, a violin, and a tree. The art gave me the missing pieces of the story – until I had it, I didn’t understand that this was a story about recovering one’s voice. Hardcopy only.
The golem isn’t alive, and then she is.
The first loneliness is the loneliness of birth. The golem opens her eyelid hinges, delicate doe leather. Her eyes are cold and dry, but she can see the man she’s been created to serve, standing over her.
“You,” he says. “You.”
The golem has pale yellow-brown skin, smoothly sanded. Her hair is made of creamy white flowers with canary streaks, and there are shining green leaves throughout it. She smells of biting honey. She’s small and slender, her waist narrow. No taller than he is. Her arms show the tracks of the tools that made her. There’s a gouge between her breasts where there was a knot in the orange tree’s trunk.
The poet has hammered one of the secret names of God into her palate, and this is what has brought her to life. She tries to speak but she has no tongue. There is a pain, a stabbing where the silver tablet is. She can’t tell what it is, only that it hurts.
It stretches inside of her body, a tentacled name. There is a loneliness in this too, the two-hundred-sixty-seventh, the loneliness of the only name one can speak being unspeakable.
Published in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 14
A re-imagining of events in the life of Edgar Allan Poe, specifically the session that resulted in the “Ultima Thule” daguerreotype. More importantly, though, this is a story about Poe’s women, and an exploration of the way they converged into one. Also, there’s a major monster. Commissioned by editors Michael Damian Thomas, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michi Trota for Uncanny Magazine. Read the story above, and an interview about the story here.
There are certain stories, any reader knows, that recur in towns boundaried by water. A captain’s wife stares into a gale, and suddenly her husband’s face appears in that green–gray miasma, a vision of his wrack and ruin. Ghostly sailors struggle from the waves, only to fall back again. Ships are found adrift, crews missing. Messages in bottles are discovered ten years after their sender’s drowning, inscribed with predictions of futures unlived.
I need not remind the reader, gentle or no, that these tales are fictions made of desire, that the act of missing a beloved may conjure miracles. For myself, I never held with such. I held with hope, and so I came to Providence for a worldly version of Salvation, in the year eighteen hundred and forty–eight, carrying an umbrella and wearing a long dress, my hem draggling in the mud.
No one turned head to look at me when I emerged from my carriage. I was no longer a girl, but a woman of nearly thirty–five. I’d had money, and then I had none, or at least none in hand. A cutpurse I never saw, and that was gone, though in the hem of my skirt I’d sewn enough to carry me. I was no innocent. By all accounts I was a lost cause and a fallen woman.
I published three in 2017!
The Boston Review
This story was commissioned for the Boston Review’s Global Dystopias issue, guest-edited by Junot Diaz and edited by Deborah Chasman. It’s a hollow earth/hollow skull story about Casanova, his Utopian novel Icosameron, colonialism, and sexual tourism to imaginary – and thus not off-limits – places, among other things. Hardcopy or ebook only.
What explorer has not longed to bring his guns to an undiscovered country, so that he might casually become king? In your bathtub, you crowned yourself, and looked at me, and raised your scepter. This was nothing new. I’d seen your kind before.
In the other version of your stories, the part you weren’t writing down, you put my sister in a sack. I leapt in with her. We were kept in the darkness, thrown over your shoulder, smuggled out of paradise and into hell. We traveled, whispering to the surface, and when we arrived in your city, you opened the sack and smiled, because you’d brought us to a better place. Or, perhaps, you had made your own place better by taking us from ours.
In the version you wrote, my sister and I were one person, constituted entirely of love. We opened our shirt to feed you from our breasts, though we were ourselves starving. We were awed at the sight of your sun, dazzled at the wonder of your world. You grieved when you thought we might die, though this would make your own journey less complicated. You’d been thinking of where to put us: a zoo, a museum?
The Djinn Falls In Love & Other Stories
This was written for the djinn-themed anthology THE DJINN FALLS IN LOVE, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin. It’s a story set mostly in the American west, and it involves an old black powder rifle which has bullets that contain captive djinn. There’s a djinn Huntress, a Kid on a bad mission…basically it’s a djinn story by way of Cormac McCarthy. There’s also a heroic gay couple: a pawn shop owner and a priest. It’s my reimagining of what a trapped girl polishing magical lamps might do if left to her own devices, and the repercussions of same. Hardcopy or ebook only.
The smoke was dense and final, a black cloud in his eyes and lungs underlining each cell, a fog like a forest fire. It took a moment to clear, but by the time it did, Yoth already knew what he’d done.
He’d put a bullet in the heart of the thin man in the white shirt, string tie, and black suit, a bullet from a singing rifle pawned over by a hunter. On his back on the floor lay the love of one man’s life, his heart something unclaimable by ticket.
Out of the bullet casing came the singer Yoth had been listening to for twenty years, smoke like a roomful of pipes, and in the center of it—
Yoth fell on his knees as something, someone, expanded from out of the wound in the chest of Weran Root, toes still in the place where the bullet had entered, fingers stretching long and gleaming, body undulating up.
“Are you the devil?” Yoth Begail whispered. “Am I the devil?
He was weeping, his hands full of bent wedding rings and crushed cash from the box, things to bribe back his beloved from the land of the dead.
You get one wish, the smoke said.
And so Yoth wished.
This little story was written for Tor’s Nevertheless She Persistedproject, and edited by Liz Gorinsky. The assignment was flash fiction on the above theme, and I’d been thinking for a while about writing about a certain under-known pioneer of American space travel, Miss Baker. The project, published on International Women’s Day, also included Alyssa Wong, Kameron Hurley, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Charlie Jane Anders, Nisi Shawl, Brooke Bolander, Jo Walton, Amal El-Mohtar, and Catherynne M. Valente. Read the story above.
Miss Baker remembered her first sight of destiny. She’d seen a shuttle go up, from a window facing the Cape. She’d stood at that window, staring, as something small and bright broke the rules of the known world, and from then on she’d been certain.
Now she was that bright thing.