Monday, November 23, 2015

Sale News: Aww Yisss, Shimmer Magazine

I've been feeling the weight of needing to hit a milestone/watershed/bucket list venue since August last year, and now, wow, the relief!

The wonderful Shimmer Magazine has accepted my Clarion third week story "An Atlas in Sgraffito Style", and I couldn't be more proud of the story and the venue it's going to. Publication date still to be advised.

"Atlas" has had quite the journey, a story in itself - from earthquake inspiration, to Clarion draft, through SIX more drafts - and I believe it is my best story to date. I'm so excited about it finding a home.

Shimmery Cat Sez Aww Yiss

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gender Stuff

A.C. Wise, author of the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron set of tales, runs a blog series of "Authors to Read", featuring women and non-binary/genderqueer authors. I was surprised and pleased to be featured in her latest reviews, as she tackled my Beauty and the Beast recapture "She Must", from Capricious issue 1. It's a great reading of the story.

Wise originally pegged me as a non-binary author. In order to make sure I'm not taking up the space that belongs to wonderful nb/gq authors, I made it clear that I identify as a woman, and Wise adjusted the review to reflect that (thanks!).

Part of the author identity I am constructing is about experimenting with gender, and how this affects how my work is read. I deliberately chose gender neutral initials and bio pronouns in an effort to encourage a neutral read from an initial reader, but in this internet age it's not hard to find out that I'm a woman. Going gender neutral also gains the risk of being gendered regardless, because disguising oneself has been recognized as a very gendered thing to do in the writing industry.

I also have many complicated feelings around gender, and would love to smash the binary on a daily basis. I appreciate that some my closest writer friends understand what I'm doing, and that I don't intend to appropriate the nb/gq experience. However, intention isn't magic, and many people will read me and my work different. If anyone has issue how I go about this identity with regards to appropriation, I am more than open to discussion.

What I'm doing with my author identity is part Tiptree, part experimentation, part seat of the pants. We've still got a long way to go in literature before gender doesn't inform reading. I may not be entirely successful in smashing the binary on socially coded reading in my life time, but I'd like to give it a damn good try.

Sometimes I'm not entirely sure what or who AJ Fitzwater will become, and I appreciate my community's willingness to let me experiment and stretch.

(Parts of this blog post appeared originally in some of my Tweets 27/10/2015)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Causeway", The Future Fire Issue 2015.34

The Future Fire is one of those indie magazines I hugely respect for their vision, and I'm pleased to present my third story they have chosen to publish in their latest issue: "Causeway".

"Causeway" is a pre-Clarion story (I think of my writing in pre- and post-Clarion now) about humans abducted by aliens and held in a very pleasant cage, possibly for breeding purposes. It might sound like a fairly routine story, except I flip two tropes on their head. First, what if one of the captives is infertile? And second, I critique toxic masculinity behaviours in situations of stress, captivity and leadership.

Just like my two previous stories for the magazine, editor Djibril al-Ayad has chosen some glorious artwork, and both pieces illustrating my story are by Pandalion Death.

So here it is. "Causeway" in The Future Fire 2015.34. So pleased to be able to share it.

An image of a face in profile done in
multiple slashes of bright colour

Monday, September 21, 2015

Introducing Capricious Magazine

The world always needs beautiful, difficult tales.

Andi Buchanan's editorial vision is one I hugely respect and trust. They were a part of putting together the anothologies "A Foreign Country", "Tales for Canterbury", and "Regeneration: New Zealand Speculative Fiction II", three excellent books with a taste for the zeitgeist of New Zealand speculative fiction in the last 5-6 years.

Now they have started the magazine "Capricious", encapsulating literary, experimental, and slipstream speculative fiction and criticism, with a focus on gender, disability, and environment.

Issue 1 is available for free right now. If you like what you see, subscribe, spread the word. Capricious is currently running on a grant from SpecFicNZ (our little local collective), but would like to be independent.

Andi approached me to write a story for the first issue, and I was absolutely honoured to do so. I wanted to do their vision justice, and I hope I have with "She Must", a weird deconstruction of Beauty and the Beast. There is also an interview in the magazine, talking about my process with the story. It will come as no surprise that I talk about the catch-22 heroines face in literature, and how is easy it is for them to be labelled monstrous.

Check out issue 1 of Capricious magazine now - it's free!

Cover Art for Capricious Issue 1.
A castle stands precariously atop a mountain, surrounded by a rushing blue river,
and trees, bushes and fields of green, red, and gold.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Five Questions: "Long's Confandabulous Clockwork Carnival and Circus, and Cats of Many Persuasions"

It's been a while since I did a Five Questions for one of my stories, so let's do one for "Circus"! This story is available in issue 61 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.

Front Cover for ASIM Issue 61:
Two women, one with dark skin and dark braids,

the other with black straight hair and olive skin,
hold cats while a shadow figure stands over
them. The water around them is full of dead cats.
Inevitable Question is Inevitable: Where did the idea for this story originate from?
It was over three years ago, but I think it was born from a Twitter/blog conversation about non-colonialist steampunk. I was playing around with the idea of an environmentally friendly circus with machine animals, and it fell into place when I started thinking about the circus travelling by airship. I was originally going to make the story centred around the clockwork animals, but Chifwe and Ba Luen's friendship came through so strongly it turned into a magic adventure. With cats. Lots and lots of cats.

Where in any of the universes is River City located?
River City is definitely in an Earth-like world, where African, Middle Eastern, and Asian economic, artistic, and religious aspects have a firmer hold in the 18th-19th centuries than the hold European colonialism and slavery had on the world. I think it is an Egyptian, Moroccan, Northern African, or Eastern Mediterranean rim port city, which melds together many of the cultures of the region. I used the geographical and historical nature of The Nile as my template, but the geography can be just as alt as the history of this world.

What is a "reclamation specialist", and why is Chifwe one?
I wanted to imagine a trade that doesn't get the respect it does in our world, but is incredibly important to the physical well being of a community. I also wanted to imagine this trade as being quite hard to do physically, but there are no qualms that women can do it too; the "House" (trade) structure of River City is quite matriarchal. I wanted to imagine a hard, physical trade that pays well, whether through monetary gain recognized by the wider world or the barter system River City partly operates on.

Taking all that, I then built into the world practical and religious concepts around medicine, cleanliness, disease management, waste disposal, and body disposal that were atypical in Europe from the middle ages through the 19th century, but have their basis hundreds to thousands of years in the past in African, Asian, Oceanic, and South American cultures. Really, I just wanted my people to talk about toilets and periods and poo in a very matter-of-fact way.

Chifwe fell into the job a little by accident. The Aito-wel reclamation House is her father's business, and she hadn't thought herself adept to the challenge and hadn't intended to follow in his footsteps. But that's another story!

This is the longest story you've had published. Did you plan to turn it into a twenty thousand word novella?
I started out by trying to keep it to short story mode, but the world just kept coming and coming, and before I knew it had I had a novella on my hands. I didn't plan it like that it all. I got myself excited with all the sights, sounds, and smells of the city, and the characters became too interesting to make into simple character sketches. It all clicked into place nicely, and almost by accident I built a big world with huge potential.

Do you have plans to write more in this universe?
The simple answer is: Yes. The potential of the world I mentioned has already manifested into a story that has found a home. "The Long Trip Home" ("Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists", Lethe Press) features Chifwe and Ba Luen as elderly women helping their friends Aroha Raharuhi, an airship engineer, and Cinnamon Darling, a contortionist and airship pilot, build the greatest airship of its time.

Chifwe's apprenticeship is that "other story" I alluded to, which I'm currently shopping around. This story includes Yedenda, a Shadow Highway spy, which offers up lots of interesting opportunities for other stories.

I'm also trying to write Cinnamon's origin story since she presented as such a delicious character in "Long Trip", but she's giving me lots of difficulties - she's delicious AND temperamental!

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Circus has come to town! ASIM Issue 61 now available

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue 61 is now available for purchase!

It's been a long journey towards getting my first River City story published - it was accepted two years and three months ago by ASIM, and now it's finally here.

So, now I can introduce you to the world of Chifwe, the reclamation specialist and animagus, and Ba Luen, daughter of the circus and engineer, in "Long's Confandabulous Clockwork Carnival and Circus, and Cats of Many Persuasions."

"Circus" is my longest story to date, a novella clocking in at just under twenty thousand words.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Dearest Tip

My writing influences are a collection of incredible people, mostly women and genderqueer, and I speak often on the impact James Tiptree, Jr. has had on me since I discovered them over six years.

Alice Sheldon is a difficult person to pin down, because she didn't want to be pinned down, labelled, put in a box. She struggled all her life with issues of gender, class, sexuality, and mental health. She was an incredibly interesting, intelligent, yet troubled person, whose legacy has a huge impact of the SSFnal world even today. She didn't want to just be known as the author who turned feminist speculative fiction and the idea of gendered writing on its head. She is many things to many people. But for me, if anyone questions the validity of women writing science fiction, I point them in the direction of James Tiptree, Jr.

Sheldon's legacy isn't without its problems. She had a problematic relationship with her gender presentation, sexuality, and women's rights of the day, her reactions to which are sad and infuriating in equal measure. In the end, the pain of not fitting in anywhere, the pain of her mental health problems she never received adequate help for, led to her taking her own life. Though she died when I was 14, a long time before I was introduced to her work, I miss her everyday, like some sort of ghost aunt.

I write about my thoughts on her relationship to gender, feminism, and sexuality in my essay which is included in "Letters to Tiptree", edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce, released by Twelfth Planet Press. This book of essays has been released to celebrate Sheldon's 100th birthday this month. There's been a variety of interesting excerpts, columns, and press for the release of the book.

For further reading:
"The Women You Didn't See: A Letter to Alice Sheldon" by Nicola Griffith at the LA Review of Books
"Letters to Tiptree" by Brit Mandelo at
"Dear Dr Sheldon" by Gwyneth Jones
Galactica Suburbia Episode 125 - "James Tiptree, Jr." (audio)
"Where to start with the works of James Tiptree, Jr." by Brit Mandelo at
"What James Tiptree, Jr. can teach us about the power of the SF community" by Leah Schnelbach at
"The most secretive woman in the history of Science Fiction" by Ted Gioia at Conceptual Fiction

"Letters to Tiptree" by Twelfth Planet Press is now available for purchase in ebook and print formats through their website.