My Favourite Short Speculative Fiction of 2016

Novelettes

  • Seth Dickinson, “Laws of Night and Silk” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #200). Horrible in an unfairly gorgeous, “all my feels” way. I couldn’t decide if I loved it or was incredibly furious with it until the end of the last damn scene.
  • Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, “The Orangery” (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #214). A refreshingly nuanced feminist take on Greek mythology. Also, trees.
  • Bogi Takács, “Standing on the Floodbanks” (GigaNotoSaurus, November). A quietly beautiful story of a magical apprenticeship, and of learning to move from a system of abusive control to something better.
  • Genevieve Valentine, “Everyone From Themis Sends Letters Home” (Clarkesworld, October). Looks like a space colonization story at first, and then blossoms into something far more complex.
  • Alyssa Wong, “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” (Uncanny, Issue Ten). Desert magic, vengeance, claiming one’s power. Queerplatonic True Love.

Short Stories

  • Aliette de Bodard, “A Hundred and Seventy Storms” (Uncanny, Issue Eleven). Mindships, disability, family, loyalty. Extreme weather on exoplanets. Ordeals.
  • Margaret Killjoy, “The Name of the Forest” (Strange Horizons, March 21). Vividly drawn homeless narrator. Matter-of-fact magic. Choosing life when life is messy and difficult. Also, bugs.
  • Carrie Laben, “Postcards from Natalie” (The Dark, July). An understated not-quite-ghost-story, with a supernatural element that creeps up real slowly and quietly into gut-punch range.
  • Arkady Martine, “Ekphrasis” (An Alphabet of Embers). Hive minds. Poetry. Sacrifice.
  • Russell Nichols, “u wont remember dying” (Motherboard, June 23). Police violence, shiny technology as a band-aid solution, and what that means for the people affected. Existential terror. Text messages as prose.
  • Nicasio Andras Reed, “Painted Grassy Mire” (Shimmer, July 5). Atmosphere. Alligators. Blood ties and animalism in the swamp.
  • Frances Rowat, “Playing Prometheus” (Persistent Visions, November 18). A socially aware time travel story that avoids the usual tropes in favor of a simpler and more emotionally powerful look at consequences.
  • Shawn Scarber, “The Opening of the Bayou St. John” (Strange Horizons, February 8). An eerily beautiful story of motherhood, grief, and supernatural bargains.
  • M Sereno, “Only Revolutions” (An Alphabet of Embers). Fierce, lush, hungry mythology. Anti-colonialism. Love and survival.

My Favourite Speculative Poems of 2016

The most brilliant, the most beautiful, the ones that eloquently grabbed me where I live. Read them all.

Long Poems (51+ lines)

Short Poems (11-50 lines)

Dwarf Poems (1-10 lines):

Work Published in 2016

And then both of my other planned publications for December were delayed, so here is what I published in 2016, after all.

One novelette: “The Scrape of Tooth on Bone” in GigaNotoSaurus (Canadian lesbian steampunk with an autistic protagonist and dinosaur fossil ghosts)

One short story: “A Spell to Retrieve Your Lover From the Bottom of the Sea” in Strange Horizons (underwater witchery, uncertain love, and difficult choices)

Ten poems:

Roundups of my favourite stories and poetry by other people are coming soon.

What I loved reading in 2015

Feels weird doing this at the tail end of January, but better late than never.

 

Short Stories

Two of the stories I recommended for Autistic Book Party were also among my general favorites for the year. These are Rose Lemberg’s Birdverse stories, “Grandmother Nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” and “Geometries of Belonging“.

Other favorites from the year include:

Heather Clitheroe, “Wild Things Got to Go Free“.

S.L. Huang, “By Degrees and Dilatory Time“.

Naomi Kritzer, “Cat Pictures Please“.

Kelly Link, “The Game of Smash and Recovery“.

Carmen Maria Machado, “Descent“.

Sam J. Miller, “When Your Child Strays From God“.

 

Long Poetry

By far the best long poem I read in 2015 was “Long Shadow” by Rose Lemberg. Here are other ones I very much enjoyed:

Theodora Goss, “Lady Winter“.

Theodora Goss, “Snow White Learns Witchcraft“.

Theodora Goss, “Swan Girls“.

Rose Lemberg, “archival testimony fragments / minersong“.

M. Sereno, “Adarna“.

This list makes my reading habits look much more limited and selective than they actually were. It’s my favoriting habits that were selective this year. I suppose I have particular tastes.

 

Short Poetry

Kayla Bashe, “Changeling Manifesto“.

Theodora Goss, “The Stepsister’s Tale“.

Peter Medeiros, “Dronin’“.

Virginia M. Mohlere, “Where Secrets Are Placed“.

Alyssa Wong, “For the Gardener’s Daughter“.

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.

Some stories that I liked in 2014

I really, really fell off the fandom wagon in 2014. I haven’t even tried to keep up with things (even the thing I like!) in a fair or balanced manner.

But not all of 2014 was doom and gloom, and I did read a few things here and there that I really, really liked. Especially in the first 1/3 or so of the year.

So here’s a totally-incomplete-and-biased list of these things, in case you want more story recs. 😀

Seth Dickinson, “Morrigan in the Sunglare
Barry King, “Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay
Yoon Ha Lee, “The Bonedrake’s Penance
Yoon Ha Lee, “Wine
Rose Lemberg, “Stalemate
An Owomoyela, “And Wash Out by Tides of War
Merc Rustad, “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps
Benjanun Sriduangkaew, “Golden Daughter, Stone Wife
Bogi Takács, “This Shall Serve as a Demarcation
Ursula Vernon, “Jackalope Wives

Of these, I am especially fond of Merc’s story and I think it should be nominated for things. So, y’know, those of you who have actual nomination privileges at various places should get on that or something. 😀

(I managed to keep up a little bit better with poems than stories, so poems will get their own separate post, later.)

2014 in review

All the cool kids seem to be making year-in-review posts right about now.

I guess that means it’s time for mine.

I am thinking about 2014. You may have noticed a relative dearth of posting in the second half of this year. I did not publish much, especially compared to the epic publishing year which was 2013. A lot of other stuff happened. A lot of things changed in my life this year, some good, some stressful, many both. I appeared at a convention as a panelist for the first time, which was really wonderful. I learned a lot. I did interesting research at school. I picked up a really addictive LARP habit and made wonderful, geeky LARP friends. I let go of some personal connections that had been hurting me for a long time, began to repair holes in others, and learned to embrace some new ones.

And then.

Some of you know that I have been on a low dose of an atypical antipsychotic since I was 14. I was not psychotic when I was 14, but someone with a degree in psychiatry decided this was a good idea anyway. I know there is a lot of controversy about antipsychotics and other drugs as a remedy for autism symptoms. I don’t want to rehash that controversy here. Let’s just say I’ve been on the drugs for a long time and felt ambivalent about them for a long time. I’d talked to doctors before about methods of being weaned off of them (there was a brief false alarm several years ago when we thought I would have to do this under supervision for physical reasons) and had successfully reduced my own dosage in the past without large problems.

So, in June this year, I did one of the stupidest things I have ever done. Without informing a doctor, I tried to go off of them entirely.

Advice to everyone who is reading: DO NOT DO THIS. DO NOT. FUCKING. DO. THIS. Not even if you truly believe that you shouldn’t be on them, and are being “careful” and “intelligent” and weaning yourself off of them slowly in the way that the doctors have always recommended. I do not have enough caps lock to express this. DON’T. Antipsychotic withdrawal is horrifying. It can be worse than the thing they originally put you on the medicine for. This is well-documented.

I was psychotic for about a week before I figured out what was going on, had a headdesk of truly violent proportions, went back on the medicine, and called a doctor.

I do not say this in order to worry anybody or elicit pity or plead for help. This was June. It is December now. I am more or less okay and am caring for myself, and I have been more or less okay for quite some time. I have good health insurance (remember this is Canada) and a very friendly health team at school who are quietly and unobtrusively making sure that I continue to be okay.

I was psychotic for only a week, but it took me two months to feel like I was back in something resembling my usual brain, and three before I could get anything even remotely useful out of it. If not for my partner’s assistance and the support of my amazing supervisors at school during that time, I do not know where I would be.

This blog is supposed to be about writing, but for some reason, my writing is that one last thing that’s still hurt, and still refusing to be the way it was. I am getting a little bit out of it, but only very intermittently, and for a thing that I loved and defined myself by less than a year ago, it is confusing to see it become so elusive and difficult.

(Though I finally did finish the novel draft that I ought to have finished a year ago. I probably have another year’s worth of editing and research to do before I can even consider doing anything with it, but it’s there.)

And that was my year, and that was why most of you haven’t seen much of me. Also it’s why I may not be doing a list of my work, or of what I thought were the best works from other people this year, in the usual manner. I will probably be making some form of list but it will be perfunctory at best. I feel that I aged a year, but lived only half of one. I definitely was not keeping up with things professionally and I have officially released myself from any feeling of obligation to do so.

I am not completely sure why I am posting this, except that it happened, and it had an impact on things that the people who read this care about, and I am not sure what is the point, exactly, of keeping it a secret any longer. Stigma? But this blog is all about mental ableism anyway. I know that there exist things in the world that are too dangerous or personal to talk about for whatever reason, and that the decision of what goes and doesn’t go on that list is an extremely personal one. But for me, at this stage, I really don’t feel that this is one of those things.

And if I wanted to talk all about my autism, but failed to admit to this, what a hypocrite I would be!

I love all of you who have continued reading even while I wasn’t really here, and I am full of hope for 2015. Thank you for your support.