Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Story Notes: "The Goddess of the Highway" / New Flash Story!

So now that the magazine it's printed in is almost off the shelves, I figured I'd blather a little bit about my novelette "The Goddess of the Highway." It appears in the September/October issue of Interzone, and it's the longest story I've ever had published aside from Stay Crazy. The beginning:

Sixteen hours, four minutes, seven seconds. 
He’s tired and wired all at once. His shoulders ache with the tension brought on by the bennies, and his teeth have worn down to nubs. He can hear them grind even through the soothing tones of the in-cab entertainment system, which is currently broadcasting soft piano paired with roundish blue-green shapes. 
Sixteen hours, eight minutes, forty-nine seconds.

Like a lot of my stories, "Goddess" was inspired by something I hate, specifically the movie Idiocracy. If you haven't seen it, Idiocracy is about a dysgenic future where only the stupid have bred, so people water their lawns with Gatorade and elect a pro wrestler as President. (Hey, our President only guest starred on wrestling!) Of course, as everyone knows intelligence is impacted very little by genetics, and environment is by far a larger factor.

In "Goddess," intelligence-destroying bombs ruin people's brains, requiring prosthetics to replace the lost functions. And of course, the prosthetics are coded by color and material, running from Plastic (the lowest caste) to Platinum (people as smart or smarter than today's geniuses). A Plastic-plated truck driver named Harp meets up with a Platinum rebel with an unclear cause named Spike, and together they might just figure out the secret behind the bombs, and a way to fix everything. Oh, and there's a metaphysical being that appears whenever you've taken way too many amphetamines, because yeah.

Under the influence of the neurobombs, society has become static. Like in Brave New World, humanity has been strictly corralled into castes, but their limitations are not inborn. Desperate to get their old brains back, lower-caste humans gobble up smart drugs, but those are only a temporary reprieve from the cruel system. What's needed is revolution, but what kind of revolution can you have in a world where most of the citizens can't even remember how to tie their shoes? Well, you'll see.

This is also a commentary on artificial scarcity and how it's used to control working-class people. There's nothing keeping everyone from having the best prosthetics, just as there's nothing keeping us from socialized medicine or a better public education system or luxury gay space communism. Nothing, that is, except our own need to control other people. Of course, once the society of "Goddess" is set up, it's hard to break out of it. Even if the limitations are not inborn, they're still there. Most of the people in the story are only vaguely aware they're being oppressed, which makes the task of toppling the social order even harder. And then there's the ontological mystery of the Goddess herself, who might be real or just a figment of Harp's shattered mind, or maybe it's some kind of Schrodinger's Cat thing. So it's a lot of my favorite themes all wrapped up in one super-sized piece of fiction.

It's not online, but you can buy the issue here, and also on Amazon if you so wish. I'm immensely proud of this story, and super stoked to have made a sale to Interzone.

***

Also, I had a flash story out yesterday! "Bitter Medicine" in Daily Science Fiction is the story of an alien hunter/medical researcher who does what humans do best. If you didn't already know I was a huge misanthrope, well, now you do. Go and read if you wanna.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The SFWA Fantasy StoryBundle!

Good news, everybody! My British Fantasy Award-winning novel Stay Crazy is included in this StoryBundle, comprised of books written by members of SFWA and curated by president Cat Rambo. Five bucks will get you four books, but $15 will get you all twelve, including mine! Some selected reviews:

"She writes the scenes of madness with pure poetic fire. The kind of writing that slinks in and settles into you, and makes you keep reading and reading onward. The moments when she was off her medications and her schizophrenia is taking hold feel so true and so right and so on point." --Paul Jessup, The Unsung Letter #12

"[T]he greatest strength of Stay Crazy is its incredible depiction of paranoid delusions and the way those delusions mix with the sci-fi element to keep both Em and the reader off their game." --N.S. Dolkart, author of Silent Hall

Get the bundle here, and help support an organization that advocates for professional science fiction and fantasy writers, as well as fill you up on reading material for the rest of the year!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fantasycon 2017: A Jolly Good Surprise!

I am pleased glad deliriously ecstatic to report that Stay Crazy has won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer!

I did have a speech prepared, but I promptly forgot all of it once I got to the podium and I'm not even quite sure what I said once I was up there. (If it was embarrassing, please don't ever let me know.) So in case I didn't say it then, I want to thank my publishers Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner at Apex, my writing mentor and biggest supporter Nick Mamatas, all the short fiction editors who have bought my work over the years, my spouse/in-house editor Rob, and most of all the British Fantasy Society. I could not be happier that my little small press book has been so greatly honored. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Fantasycon itself was wonderful, as was the week in London preceding it. I was especially happy to meet some of my UK-based writer friends, including Eliza Chan, G.V. Anderson, and Georgina Bruce (who won the BFA for Best Short Story, yeah!). I spent a little bit of time hanging out with the Interzone crew (psst, you can buy new the new issue now, which I am in!) and awkwardly barconning. I'm not sure if I'll ever make it back to Fantasycon as it's a bit of a hike, but I hope to see some of the folks I met there at the Dublin Worldcon in 2018, because that's definitely a thing we're planning to do.

Been back home for a week now, and just getting back into the writing swing of things. Some people write on their vacations, but I'm not one of them. Hope to have some new sales and progress reports soon, but until then, you can buy a copy of Stay Crazy directly from Apex here. And keep listening for the signals!