Just posting this so they’re all in one place, in case you want to read, nominate anything for awards, shriek with fear because some of the stories are scary, laugh because some are funny…That kind of thing!
It was a good writing year. I published 7 short stories, a bonus flash story just for fun, and a novel. I finally got to the dream version, which is publishing both books for adults and for teenagers. I like to have a career where I get to do lots of things, and this year brought it. (I sold a new book to FSG this year, and it’s an adult novel, and I got to write YA at the same time. What a pleasure!)
My young adult debut came out from HarperCollins in May 2015. It’s a fantasy about sickness, death, love, and skyships. It comes from some medieval folklore but mostly I made it up, grabbing things from sky lore from all over the place, and also inventing a bunch. Aza Ray, the protagonist, is 16 years old and dying since she remembers…until one day she finds herself first dead, and then…very not dead, and on a skyship in her home country, Magonia. People have said many nice things about it, comparing it to Laini Taylor, Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki, among others.
It hit the New York Times-bestseller list, which is a spectacular glory! My first time on the list as an author. It was also one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2015, and it was on a bunch of other Best Books lists as well. The sequel to Magonia, AERIE, comes out in October 2016, and I’m very excited for that one too. I just finished up the last round of edits, and ARCS will soon be hitting the wild.
Most of the shorts I published this year can be read in about 20 minutes to half an hour. A good number of them have audio versions too, if you want someone to read them aloud to you. Overall, I was thinking a lot about American mythology this year, the idea of larger than life folkloric characters, and the way they’ve shaped American notions of ourselves as “good.” (Needless to say, I have notes.) I wrote a lot about war, a lot about small town legends. As ever, I genre-hopped like crazy. None of these are particularly categorizable as one thing or another.
The Thirteen Mercies
came out from F & SF magazine in their Nov/December issue. It’s a dark fantasy story about war crimes, the torture memos, and crocodiles, with a great deal of magic in it. It’s reminded a lot of people of Borges, which is what I was going for, so that makes me happy. It’s 5467 words. It’s not available online, but if you want to read it for awards purposes, comment here. You can also buy the whole issue, here.
Out in the jungle where it rains in perpetuity, there’s a woman who’s lived for seven hundred years.
We were informed on the first day of our deployment that she’d looped a spell around us like a corral and that we’d suffer here for our sins. This was the arrangement the military court had come to.
General Steng ordered us not to disrespect the directive, though he laughed himself, in his tent. We all heard him, and we laughed, too.
We felt encouraged, held in the gentle hands of our government, given a false punishment that’d look real to the public, a pseudo-imprisonment on a verdant island. We expected that the sun would rise a hundred times and then we’d be returned to the world. This was only a joke. An old woman. What could an old woman do to us? What could an old woman do to anything?
Some Gods of El Paso
came out from Tor.com in November. It’s an imaginary history of a couple based on Bonnie & Clyde, who deal in blackmarket emotions in the 1920’s Gulf of Mexico. It’s fantasy, with quite a bit of dark, but it’s more lighthearted than some of the other things I published this year, because it’s a love story, and it’s quite stylized. It got a recommended from Locus. It’s 4198 words. Read it here.
After that, everybody knew that Lorna and Vix came as a set. They got spotted at diner counters time to time, drinking coffee, tea, and lemonade, eating sandwiches just like regular folks, but Vix and Lorna weren’t regular.
It was a myth, as Lorna and Vix already knew, that everyone who sorrowed longed specifically and only for joy. Many people wanted darker medicine. Prohibition of alcohol had created a countrywide yearning for other forms of depressant—though no one referred to alcohol as such—and by the time Lorna and Vix met, ten years into Temperance, everything to do with high and low had become illegal. People were supposed to be living in the middle, but nobody liked the middle. New cures for pain were being distilled in basements and bathtubs.
Solder & Seam
came out from Lightspeed in October. It’s science fiction, though you won’t know that for quite a bit of the story, as it’s mostly set on earth, even though it’s about space travel, aliens, and revolutionary warfare on another planet. It’s also about a man building a giant whale in the middle of a field in America. 4555 words. Read it here.
In a snowbound diner in Nevada he drank a cup of something hot. A waitress looked at his face and said, “How come I’m not going with you?”
“Don’t know,” he said, summoning the right language with only a little effort.
“I like that big fish you got,” she said. She was as old as he was, a wide mouth with a scar beside it. An arrow pointing toward her ear.
She ran a finger over the tattoos on his cheek, and started when she felt things beneath them moving.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“Everyone left,” he said, being honest. He was never honest.
She leaned back and looked at the pie case. “I guess I hear that,” she said. “My family’s all up there. My kids are with their dad. I don’t know what I’m doing except waiting to see what happens. You been up?”
“Yes,” he said.
“I figured,” she said and went back to filling ketchup. “You got the look of one of those.”
The Cellar Dweller
came out from Nightmare Magazine in June. It’s the only thing I published this year that I think might need a content warning, because it’s in part about child abuse, though it’s not terribly graphic. It’s mostly about grit and about friendships with good monsters. It’s a riff on the “most beautiful words in the English language” – cellar door. 4732 words. Read it here.
The Banisher’s ten when she banishes a horde of tiny awful things from the basement of a neighbor. The things are nothing terrifying to look at. They’re an inheritance, a collection of ivory netsuke, but by the time the Banisher meets them, they are occupied with their own agendas. They’re only little creatures, but when the household sleeps, they take to the stairs, doing damage, killing mice and swarming the occasional pet. The neighbor’s tidied them away into a box, but the box can’t contain them, and when the Banisher opens it, the tissue they’re wrapped in is flecked with blood, and all of them bare their teeth at her.
The Banisher picks them up by their scruffs and drops them into a tin formerly used for cookies, now lined with a washcloth. The Banisher isn’t cruel.
“Where will you take them?” the neighbor asks, looking worried.
“Out,” the Banisher says. In her hand, the tin buzzes and clacks.
She asks the neighbor for her sandwich and then she puts the tin of awful things into her bicycle basket.
The Scavenger’s Nursery
came out at Shimmer Magazine in March. It’s a story about a garbage monster plague, with a good deal of sympathy for the monsters. It’s also about environmental collapse, micro plastics, love and science. It’s going to be in Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror this year. 4430 words. Read it here.
A heap of cell phone parts glimmers green as beetle shells. Children sort them. A goat minces its way through a thousand ghost voices, recorded messages crushed into oblivion, texts, naked photos, emails, and pleadings. The goat’s white-yellow fur is splashed with turquoise powder from a festival that’s now over. It nibbles at a bit of metal, faintly annoyed at the new thing rising from the heap of broken. Children crouch on their heels and watch as a newborn creature stands, twelve feet tall, flashing in the sun. It opens its mouth and screams, and all across the sky, satellites tremble.
Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows
came out at Uncanny Magazine in February. This is the lightest, most fun item I did this year, largely because it’s totally a Valentine’s Day lark I wrote in a couple of days. It’s full of Cupid, snail mating rituals, weird science, and crazy, crazy goofy fantasy. 3666 words. Read it here.
On the eastern mountain there was a colony of children who sent away for prizes, and she delivered them in sacks, heavy shipments of tiny monsters, X-ray glasses, and skipping ropes that could, when properly used, render the skipper capable of skipping time and space. Miss Kisseal worried a bit about those children. Occasionally one would disappear and months later come walking back into the village, skinny and covered in paint or dirt. They had no parents, and maybe never had, as certainly no one on the peaks was minded toward love, but they called for their mail nonetheless. They seemed to live on shipments of cereal.
Miss Kisseal put on her sensible boots, freezing even in her double woolens. She wished for a stagecoach, but there was none. There wasn’t even a donkey. Things were sliding in Fley. There’d been three avalanches, and her post office had a new roof of snow.
She tugged her coat over her shoulders. Her nose felt blue. February was meant to be solitary, and instead it was full of deliveries.
And the Winners Will Be Swept Out To Sea
came out in February from Lightspeed Magazine. This one is a dark fantasy about water nymphs, other kinds of sea monsters, complicated and difficult love, and a festival involving sacrifice. It’s probably the most lyrical of this years bunch, and also probably the saddest, though it’s ultimately about the different ways love can save you. 5718 words. Read it here.
A few years ago, I lived for a while in a sushi restaurant, the dish in the fish, on my back in the tank, allowing algae to grow beneath me. Sometimes people looked at me funny, but mostly they didn’t notice. I’d talk to them occasionally, tell fortunes or lies. This is how I met you. You were the vegetarian at the sushi bar. You looked into my tank and said, “What the hell?”
“I’m fine,” I said.
You tried to mobilize the chef, all the waiters, but I was comfortable. I wasn’t planning on leaving. If someone selected me for dinner, I thought I’d be happy to be served, but a lot of customers thought I was poisonous, and even the ones who loved risk were too scared.
“You’re not fine. You’re getting out of that tank,” you said, and put your arms in up to the elbows, working your fingers in at my sides. “That’s what we know. That tank, among other things, isn’t big enough.”
“I’m fine,” I protested again. I had grown to the glass and my skin felt delicate, but you dislodged me, wrapped me in napkins, and took me home.
BONUS: OLDEN CAUL
I tweeted a little flash fiction horror story on Halloween, and later put it up on my blog. It’s Catcher in the Rye + Werewolves, yo. It was basically just ridiculously fun to write, and so I put it here for your entertainment. 1395 words. Read it here.
If you want to know the short version, that’s how I ended up back in New York City, on a wolfing rampage. It was that kind of crazy night. New York was full of tourists and none of them knew we were coming for them around the Rock Center tree.
“Olden Caul,” said the girl when we paused midway through chewing up some guy from Florida. “That’s a certain kind of name.”
“Old family,” I told her. “Someone got on the lousy side of a wolf back before the Mayflower, and here we are.”
“I got bitten at the Bronx Zoo when I was six,” she said. “I climbed the fence and dropped into the enclosure.”
She wasn’t a bad sort of girl.