What I Wrote in 2015

2015 was a vast improvement on 2014, but also a full and difficult year for me personally. I published two conference papers and traveled internationally to present both of them (in computer science, unlike most academic fields, conferences are where most of the action happens). I defended the equivalent of a thesis proposal. I ended a seven-year-long romantic relationship, and there turned out to be messy fallout and consequences to having done so. I finished the draft of a novel I had been working with, on and off, since 2012 (it is now out with beta readers). I started a new relationship, which did not last, but which instead became a wonderful friendship. I adopted a cat. I worked, constantly, on repairing my mental health, and enjoyed both successes and setbacks. These are just the things I feel comfortable mentioning in a public post; there was much more. Unlike in 2014, I did not enter the year with a backlog of finished and publishable work that I could use to disguise the times when I didn’t feel able to write.

I was going to use this list of things as an apology for not having published more. Then I thought about that. Why should I? Many people had even more difficult years in 2015 than I did, yet published more than this. And the reverse. There are many authors I deeply respect who have had years – sometimes more than one year in a row! – of publishing nothing at all, with no explanation given. It does not make me respect them less or like their work less. It does not make me wonder if they are still “real writers”. It’s just a year with less work from a person whose work I enjoy. It happens. When it’s not me, I understand this. So if I don’t think less of writers who publish less than me – why on earth should I assume that anyone who matters will think less of me?

So, here is what I wrote that was published this year. Quod scripsi, scripsi.

Short Story

The single fiction story I published this year was “Lady Blue and the Lampreys“, in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. It is weird fiction involving a gender-flipped Bluebeard, some three-headed soul-eating lamprey-people, and Verdi’s Requiem.

Poetry

I also published a few poems:

Ekpyrotic Theory” in Lakeside Circus. Love, astrophysics, and the beginning of time.

Octopi Viewing a Submersible” in Strange Horizons. What it says on the can, and in alliterative Germanic verse to boot.

A third poem, “Kraken Quatrain” (again, what it says on the can), will appear in Issue #62 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. This issue has been assembled and gone to the printers, but is not yet quite released. Hopefully it will be out before the end of the year – but, if not, then I suppose I’ll simply have a head start on my publication credits for 2016.

I already have a few works lined up to be published in early 2016, including more poetry and a steampunk story with an autistic protagonist coming up in GigaNotoSaurus. I am continuing to work, and I feel hopeful and optimistic that I will be able to increase my visible output from here.

Autistic Book Party, Episode 19 and a half: Short Story Smorgasbord!

Jim C. Hines, “Chupacabra’s Song” (Kaleidoscope anthology, 2014; also available by itself on Amazon and Smashwords)

A story about Nicola Pallas – a minor character from the Libriomancer series – her father’s veterinary clinic, and her discovery of magic. Nicola is visibly different, humming, waving her hands, and going nonverbal under stress. She’s also shown as significantly more human, and more compassionate, than the apparently NT wizards she encounters, and she ends up outsmarting them. There’s a theme of acceptance here, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. [Recommended]

*

Bogi Tak√°cs, “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” (Capricious, issue 1, September 2015)

[Autistic author.] Autism is not foregrounded in this story, but I did read the narrator as autistic due to eir sensory seeking, intense anxiety when confronted with uncertain/unfamiliar things, the use of a weighted blanket, and other things. Regardless of whether you read it that way or not, it’s a nice story of a nonbinary-gendered person in a queer D/S relationship on a magical spaceship, who gets swept up in events when a political dignitary abruptly requests passage on eir ship for mysterious reasons. I enjoyed it. [Recommended]

*

Addison Trev, “The Beachcomber of Dong Hoi” (Breath & Shadow, volume 12 issue 4, fall 2015)

[Autistic author.] This is the story of a mentally disabled beachcomber and his weekly routine; a speculative element emerges only near the end. It is a story which is told with precise detail and empathy, and which takes the title character’s concerns seriously. Many developmentally disabled people do end up in life roles like this one, in which they vaguely eke out an existence on the margins of society. It’s important that these characters be portrayed with the kind of dignity that Trev’s narration provides. I did find the ending a bit facile, and some of its implications unfortunate – but it’s the ending that hammers home that yes, this really IS intentionally an autism story. [YMMV]

*

Rose Lemberg, “The Shapes of Us, Translucent to Your Eye” (The Journal of Unlikely Academia, October 2015)

[Autistic author.] This is a sharp and biting commentary on Western academia which will have academic readers glumly nodding their heads in recognition. An autistic student, or perhaps the ghost of an autistic student, plays a brief but pivotal role. It has to do with the politics of who is and is not welcomed in academic spaces, rather than with who the student is as a person – but is still, I suspect, of great interest to the kind of person who reads Autistic Book Party. [Marginal, but I liked it]

*

A.C. Wise, “And If the Body Were Not The Soul” (Clarkesworld, October 2015)

I, for once, was dense and did not read the protagonist in this story as autistic – but his asexuality and unusual sensory/bodily experience are impossible to miss. A lot of commenters, including autistic commenters, did see autism. (It could be because my own experience as an autistic person does not include Ro’s kind of touch-phobia – but it is a real and common experience for many!) Whatever you want to call Ro, he’s portrayed with nuance and respect. He is not protrayed as broken or less than the characters who enjoy touch, even if he is insecure enough to feel that way at times – and his insecurity, while providing background tension, is not the driving conflict of the story. Instead, Ro gets to do cool things, make decisions with agency, get involved in racial politics, and figure things out about aliens. [Recommended]

On Mary Robinette Kowal’s Convention Accessibility Pledge

I was aware of this pledge when it first came out, but I didn’t talk much about it at first. For those of you who have been out of the loop: it is a pledge, much like the harassment-policy pledge that went around a year or two ago, that the people signing will not attend a convention unless it has an acceptable accessibility policy. This is in response to a long-term pattern of many conventions failing to meet basic accessibility needs even when directly asked.

Even though I talk about disability stuff all the time here, I was hesitant at first. I felt defensive. Conventions are hard for me, as an autistic person, but they’re not impossible. I’ve invested a lot of energy in finding ways to attend that are possible for me – that is to say, ways that are draining and that fall well short of the level of participation I would like to have, but that I am physically capable of doing. Not every disabled fan is so lucky, but was I supposed to give up what I had worked for? Was I supposed to just… pretend that I couldn’t do those things, and quietly vanish, because I don’t deserve to be at a convention unless they already decided to be good at disability stuff without me?

Then I read this post by Rose Lemberg, realized how much of my objection was just me parroting other people’s ableist stuff back at myself, got over myself, and signed the stupid pledge.

It’s disgraceful that we talk about being an inclusive fandom and wanting ~*diversity*~, but still do not provide for people’s basic needs. It needs to change.

If you have gotten anything useful out of my disability-related posts here, I would ask you to thoughtfully consider also signing.

Updates

These were meant to be my end-of-November updates, but either life happened, or I procrastinated; I am increasingly unsure if there is a difference. It seems that every meaningful activity takes time that could be used by some other meaningful activity; this does not negate its meaning. Life is, by and large, going well. As my mental health and personal life slowly and painfully improve, as my ability to get things done at school slowly improves, as my private writing life also improves, my ability to be present and available in my writer persona on social media has deteriorated. I do not know why.

Anyway, my poem “Octopi Viewing a Submersible” has garnered some positive attention. Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews had some flattering things to say about it. Diane Severson Mori at Amazing Stories also gave the poem a nod in her “Women Destroy Hard SF Poetry” post (which is not affiliated with Lightspeed Magazine’s “X destroy Y” series).

Charlotte Ashley has also posted an interview with me to help promote the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. In this interview, I discuss my story “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library“, which won the contest in 2013, and went on to be published in Strange Horizons. I also say a little about what is going on in my writing life now.