On superheroes, deification, and the relationship between writer and reader

Today’s the day! My short story “The Crafter at the Web’s Heart” is up at Apex!

I wrote the first draft of this story at Clarion West 2017, which makes it the second CW story to appear, the first being “The Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls.” It started out as a challenge to myself to build a secondary world. I began with an image–a city suspended on a spider’s web–and combined it with some questions I’d been pondering about how to craft magic systems.

When my amazing classmates read the draft, they gave me excellent feedback on how to make it into a workable story. A few of them noted that it felt to them like a superhero origin story. I could definitely see that, even though it wasn’t what I’d intended. But then, readers often find things in stories we don’t intend. It might be that writers cannot fully comprehend everything that shapes our writing. Certainly, letting the critical part of your mind dominate too much early in the process can make writing impossible (at least for me; I don’t know how widely this is true).

So my classmates’ reading wasn’t wrong–in fact, all that was certainly in the story, given that multiple thoughtful readers had come to that conclusion. But only one, Robert Minto, articulated a reading that matched my own: that “Crafter” is a story not about becoming a superhero, but becoming a god. It’s a story about deification (or apotheosis, if you prefer).

What makes a god (and who makes a god) are fascinating questions for me, and that’s an question tied to how I think about this story. There’s only one kind of god that can be the deity of Traverse, and only one kind of person who fits the bill.

This is also, for me, a story about transition, and embracing your true self, but I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that point.

I don’t know whether other readers will see the story the same way I and Robert do. I rather hope that there will be a diverse set of readings, which is a sure sign that people are finding something to engage with in the work.

But for me, it will always be a story about gods and the situations that create them.

If you liked this story, then stay tuned: I have another story set in this world in the forthcoming anthology Maiden, Mother, and Crone: Fantastical Trans Femmes.

2018 Awards Eligibility Post

Though I can hardly believe it, awards nomination season is upon us. The Nebula Awards have begun accepting nominations (note that this year, both Active and Associate members can vote!). Others will follow before we know it, as time continues to behave in ways both inexorable and strange.

This year I had several works published that are eligible for awards consideration. In addition, this is my first year of eligibility for the Campbell Award.

Unplaces: an Atlas of Non-existence” – 1,750 word short story in Clarkesworld, March 2018.

Excerpts from the First Edition, with handwritten marginalia. Recovered from the ruins of Kansas City. Part of the permanent exhibit of the Museum of Fascisms.

(This story has been called Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Science Fantasy. Categorize it as you will.)

The Good Mothers’ Home for Wayward Girls” – 3,500 word short story in PseudoPod, March 2018. Horror.

Kate hangs back and stage-whispers: You’re not going to survive, new girl. The Mothers will punish you or you’ll slit your wrists. Kate is brave because there are Mothers watching us, one in the doorway to the kitchen, one clinging to the ceiling, leaving a puddle of ichor on the moldy tile of the hall. We will need to clean up that mess later.

No. We will make the new girl do it.

Ports of Perceptions” – 300 word flash fiction in Glittership 53, March 2018. Science Fiction.

Chase had come down with both kind of viruses, and worried Hunter had been growing distant, so Hunter suggested they indulge in some PKD. While the drug kicked in, they sprawled on the mattress in Hunter’s flat and exchanged.

Their Eyes Like Dead Lamps” –  3,000 word short story in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 37, March 2018.

If all this had happened two years earlier, I’d have accepted it easily. But the world starts to narrow, and by the time someone–your mother or your aunt or whoever–sits you down for The Talk, everything has calcified. If I’d been younger, I would probably remember all this as play, or as a trick my mind played to cover for what really happened. If I’d been older, maybe I wouldn’t have seen anything down by the bank besides Cassie.

That night I lay in bed, listening to the thunderstorm that swept in, as they often did, from the south and west, and thinking of those shapes along the bank, imagining sharp teeth, eyes like dead lamps. No one ever built a fort because the world was safe.

“Pelecanimimus and the Battle for Mosquito Ridge” – 4,100 word short story in Crossed Genres’ Resist Fascism, November 2018. Fantasy.

When I think of the look in your eyes, I feel as though I’ve been sliced open. But I believed in this cause then, and now I have seen proof with my own eyes: we must stop the Fascists here, or they will spread across Europe. There are German bombers overhead and Italian arms on the other side of the lines. I long for your arms, my Eli, but I fight to make the world safe for us, and I have seen soldiers (of all genders) fight on despite worse injuries. I believe we will triumph, and I will return to you. Should we fail, I take comfort in this, that the struggle is worth all.

I do not know when this letter will reach you. I cannot send it now, for fear of revealing too much to the enemy, and knowing that I have expressed my love for you in a way many of my Comrades would loathe. I will keep this letter to myself and, if G-d wills, find a way to get it to you soon.

Resist Fascism is out now!

Travel and work obligations have kept me busy of late, and I’ve been remiss in not mentioning here that Crossed Genres’ micro-anthology Resist Fascism it out now! It features awesome stories from 9 authors, including me.

My story, “Pelecanimimus and the Battle for Mosquito Ridge,” takes place during the Spanish Civil War. An American volunteer in the conflict takes time to write home to his boyfriend even as he battles fascists. Oh, and did I mention there are dinosaurs? There are! And they’re cute.

This story also features my favorite last line in anything I’ve written to date.

Grab your copy now! If you buy the ebook, it’s less than $0.50 per story.