It is too warm for candles, which is unfortunate as I am in the mood to light a candle, read, and listen to the rain. That said, the rain stopped a few hours back, so I suppose I’m out of luck on multiple axes.
(I say this while sitting comfortably at home, checking my email, and having received ebook copies of two Neon Hemlock Press novellas today. Life is not exactly hard.)
On other news… mostly just keeping on keeping on, I think. Today is a fortnight since my second vaccine shot, I have a vacation planned in a little less than five weeks, and I’m just trying to keep moving through the checklist of things to do until I get there.
I have been getting into podcasts for… heh, I guess slightly over a year, now. I’d dipped into them before that, but around May of last year I just dove in. Mostly fiction, usually audioplay style rather than someone reading you prose. And, yeah, they often skew a bit dark. With that in mind, I figured I would offer up some recommendations of ones that I love.
- Old Gods of Appalachia
- This is like if Manly Wade Wellman’s stories about Silver John met Deadlands. On every axis – on writing, on voicework, on music, on pacing, on the balance between hinting and obfuscation – it is almost painfully good.
- The Silt Verses
- This is the opposite of folk horror in the way that The Wire is the opposite of police procedurals. It’s a modern setting a step sideways from real life, what with all the gods – Saint Electric, and the Emperor in Rags, and everything. Primarily revolves around two devotees of one of the banned gods, the Trawlerman. (I feel that I should emphasize that this is 100% horror, not urban fantasy. Trust me.)
- A sweet and cosy midWestern gothic, about a woman who moves back home to a small-town boarding house to take care of her mother while said mother recuperates from a broken leg. Amazing snappy dialogue, cheerfully creepy moments. (Best content warnings I have ever seen. Ever.)
- The Wrong Station
- Trumping the odds, this one is a someone-reading-prose pure-anthology podcast. If offers weird tales in a classic vein, albeit with a definite genre awareness; every time I have rolled my eyes at a story’s setup, I have been genuinely surprised and pleased at where it ended up. (I started around season 4 and have since jumped back to the beginning, and I think that was for the best – they’re good in the early seasons, but better in the later ones.)
- The Left-Right Game
- A single-season complete story, about someone playing the left-right game; basically, if you start driving and then turn left then right then left then right, always, never stopping, you get to a very strange place.
- Uncanny County
- Once described as “like the Twilight Zone without the morality play aspect”; funny, weird, pulpy. The stories all share a setting, and there are a couple of recurring characters, but you can dip in and out as you please. This is distinctly on the fluffy end of dark fiction – it’s like if Tales from the Crypt occasionally had happy endings.
- The Hyacinth Disaster
- Another single-season complete story, about a crew of asteroid miners trying to find something valuable enough to ransom their friends. Leans into the setting, so you get a fair bit of static on some communications, but goddamn amazing. (Also, everyone I have recommended this to who has listened to it has cried.)
- Each season is a story; they don’t all belong in the same world, but they’re all set in the same house? It’s slow, dreamy, haunting – heck, the tagline is “Embrace what haunts you.” Each season skews to what I’d call a different subgenre, but I absolutely respect the trailer’s assertion that every story is a ghost story.
A lot of things going on, but to accentuate the positives: I got my first vaccine shot, I am getting back into reading, and I finally saw the movie Network.
With regards to Network–I am, bluntly, appalled that I had not heard a lot more about this in years past. Someone else mentioned that they hadn’t seen it but they knew “The Rant”, and I was genuinely at a loss to figure out which one he meant. The movie is like a slice of a John Brunner novel with all the science fiction boiled out, studded heavily with oration; it is dense and bitter and self-reflective and, I think, ultimately rather hopeless.
With regards to reading; the brilliant, self-aware, and incisive Forebears by Eric Burns-White is being released. I have mentioned him before (here, discussing The Flash); while I first encountered him through his non-fiction writing, his fiction in the Justice Wing universe is fantastic, and Forebears is possibly my favourite of it all. It is, boiled down to its most apparent and simplest arc, the story of a lawyer who specializes in defending parahumans. You may begin reading it here.
There’s honestly been a lot going on, and I find myself a little swamped to provide a full update. Things are still getting sorted out.
In the meantime, I hope the month is being kind to everyone, and that you and yours are doing well.
(It’s a little early to be that cheerful about spring, isn’t it? In fact, we’ve got the first serious snowstorm of the year rolling in right now. Nonetheless.)
The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2020 is out, and contains my novelette “Ink, and Breath, and Spring”. Currently, it’s only available electronically; you can get it from Kobo or Amazon. The physical copy is expected in a few months, due to some slowdowns with the… everything. I will mention it here when it’s out. 🙂
I am really proud of this story, which initially appeared in issue 40 of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and genuinely delighted that it has made it into a Year’s Best collection.
Kindly imagine me in a small bubble. To the right, there is a window out of which I can see trees. One floor down is a birdfeeder that the birds are persistantly ignoring (I don’t think I’ve seen anything in at least a month, although I’ve heard crows), but that the squirrels are excited about.
All the squirrels around here are black, statistically speaking (I think I see a grey or a red one maybe once or twice a year). It is something I am very used to, and I am always kind of delighted when visitors call them ninja squirrels or goth squirrels.
It’s kind of quiet in this bubble. And while I recognize that there is currently a lot going on and some of it I need to deal with and some of it I just need to keep up with, it is a good place to be able to stop and breathe for a moment.
I had two acceptances this year; one for a reprint of “Ink, and Breath, and Spring” in PodCastle, and one for “The Draw of Empty Spaces” in Cossmass Infinities. I was also asked if I’d like to have “Ink, and Breath, and Spring” in the next The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I was really pleased with that.
I submitted stories 51 times in 2020, and got 43 rejections (35 were from 2020 submissions, and 8 were from submissions made in 2019). I also withdrew 4 stories (3 from markets I submitted to in 2020, and one I submitted to in 2019).
As of the end of the year, I have 11 stories out, which I am actually really pleased by, especially given The Year That Was.
Alright. On to 2021.
I mean, the last weekend is also sixteen days long due to personal circumstances, but the calendar is a powerful framing tool.
It’s been a very quiet Christmas. I sent a lot of winter holiday cards and got… I think slightly more than usual? I have the impression people are kind of going out of their way to reach out a little. I also spent nearly an hour on the phone with people Christmas morning, which was definitely longer than usual.
Beyond that, I put up a bird feeder (after dark the day before Christmas Eve), and nothing has visited it yet. Not even squirrels. I mostly picked it up because the birds had stopped going to the ground-level next-t0-the-fence birdfeeder in our back yard, and I was vaguely thinking that perhaps it had started to rust badly enough that the smell of metal was putting them off, or a cat had started using it as a hunting spot, or the suet in it was off. (It has been moderately badly damaged by chewing squirrels, but there doesn’t appear to actually be rust on it.)
Anyway. I have scattered birdseed around the new feeder on the advice of someone much more invested in bird feeding than I am, and I live in slightly anxious hope.
I can’t believe it’s nearly 2021.
The last week was a bit intense–some things came up at work, and also at home, and really, I am mostly glad they are doing being sorted out. Yesterday was a lot of unwinding and today was a lot of catch-up, and I’m hoping the week going forward will run a little more smoothly.
I improvised a recipe for dinner tonight (which I am actually ridiculously proud of, I dislike cooking as a rule and without instructions it tends to stress me out quite a lot), and am managing to clear some time to read again. All my holiday cards are out. I realized that the dog is waking me up not (just) because she needs to go out, but because she thinks it’s important for me to have a routine, and honestly, she is such a good dog. Taking care of her thumb-monkeys like she does.
Overall a nice weekend, although I do wish it had been a little longer.
It doesn’t feel like I’m a quarter of the way through December of 2020. Honestly, it feels like…
Well. The light of my life reminded me today that “I can haz cheezburger?” is thirteen years old, and I said something very rude. I have niephlets younger than that meme. I feel old. I’m not allowed to feel old when I’m comparing relatives with whom I’ve had an actual conversation to memes.
So that’s what it feels like, mostly. A kind of hectic rush that leaves me wondering how on earth I didn’t get more done.
Still, there’s a small vacation coming up, and words are happening, and the cat spent this morning moving onto my slippers and purring smugly. Things aren’t so bad, I just need to clear time to appreciate them a little better.