Thursday, September 21, 2017

My Fantasycon 2017 Schedule!

In light of being nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer (!!! <--this is still deserving of multiple exclamation points), and it being my first award nomination, and having the ability to splurge on a major trip for which I am extremely grateful, I'm going to England! Rob and I will be in London for a week, followed by a few days in Peterborough for Fantasycon 2017. If you want to actually see pictures of and commentary on the trip I'll be dropping them on Twitter and Facebook. I'm also going to be on two panels at the con, and here they are! Both of them are on Saturday, September 30.

New Author Experiences (1:00 PM): Every writer has a different path towards getting their work published and finding an audience. Join a selection of new writers on this panel who are experiencing different parts of the process and listen as they compare their journeys. Phil Lunt (mod), Jeanette Ng, Anthony Laken, Erica L. Satifka, Kevin Elliott, Joseph E. Cole

Being BFA Nominees (4:00 PM): An award nomination can be a great confidence booster for a writer. It can also lead to all sorts of new opportunities. Our panel of BFA nominees will discuss what got them to this stage and what they hope their nominations will bring in the future. Ian Hunter (mod), Erica L. Satifka, Pete Sutton, Neil Williamson, Phil Sloman

I will also have copies of Stay Crazy for sale in the dealers' room and would like to make space in my luggage for books and touristy things, hint hint.

And finally, in short fiction news, my novelette "The Goddess of the Highway" is out in the current issue of Interzone (272), along with stories by Paul Jessup, T.R. Napper, and Aliya Whiteley. I'm waiting to talk about the story until people have gotten copies of the magazine and read it, but in the meantime check out the gorgeous story art below by Vincent Sammy, which pretty much nailed my own mental picture of the titular character.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Story Notes: "Lucky Girl"

It's a new story day! (Actually, a double-new story day, but I'm saving the other announcement for later.) This month in The Dark is "Lucky Girl," a little bit of parallel-dimension existential horror. A clip:

Mike’s sister Natalie had attempted suicide on eleven separate occasions, each time using a different method. Cutting her wrists, knocking back three family-size bottles of Tylenol, hanging herself with a hospital bed sheet, jumping into the Columbia River with a bag of stones around her waist. She’d even gone into the woods smeared with bacon fat and gotten herself mauled by a cougar, which only seemed ridiculous because Natalie had survived with barely a scratch. If she hadn’t, it would have been tragic.

The background: In the nineties, there was this really bad show called Sliders that I thought was very good, because I was a teenager. It was about a group of people who traveled to parallel worlds where a minor change in the past caused reality to branch out, and it blew my mind. Were parallel worlds real? What caused them to splinter off? Could my everyday actions cause a parallel world? If I were smart, I'd have gone into physics, but instead I became a science fiction writer.

A few years after I stopped paying attention to Sliders (the show having gotten too bad even for me), I discovered a band called The Eels, which happens to be fronted by the son of the man who created the many-worlds theory, Hugh Everett III. In case you don't want to click through that Wiki link, just know that the Everetts' story is interesting as fuck. The Eels' best album, 1998's Electro-Shock Blues, is about the frontman's sister Elizabeth, and this is the part where I start relating all this background information to the actual story.

Elizabeth Everett, like Natalie in "Lucky Girl," committed suicide in order to travel to a different parallel world. Hugh himself neglected his health after coming up with the many-worlds theorem, and died at the age of fifty-one from preventable causes. These things are tragedies, but it made me think about how thoroughly an idea can shatter someone's world... and this being science fiction, about what happens if that idea turns out to be true.

The thing about quantum immortality that makes it horrific is that it's deeply solipsistic. If you're the only constant in your universe, you can die over and over again without ever reaching what Natalie in the story (yes, most of these story notes are only tangentially about the story, I realize that now) calls the "zero point zero zero zero zero one universe," the one where you're least likely to be alive. After a time, it would wear on you, to have a "life track" where you're the only real inhabitant. Far from being something desirable, quantum immortality would kill your soul, and once you'd shunted yourself into more than a handful of "split-offs," it makes sense that you'd keep dying over and over again. Because what else is there to do? Might as well keep traveling now that you've gone this far. And if you die when you're old from natural causes? Then expect an infinity of parallel worlds, where your mind keeps flipping into a succession of nearly identical hospital rooms, trying to survive. Better hope you're not in any pain!

Basically, what I'm saying is that I desperately hope Hugh Everett III was full of shit.

So anyway, that's "Lucky Girl," or at least some rambling about things kinda relating to the story but not really. Physics are wacky, guys. Oh, and listen to The Eels. Here's the opener from the album, "Elizabeth on the Bathroom Floor."