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.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cover Art Magic!

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue 61 is just about ready to launch for readers, and in advance I have received my contributors copy. Wow, I am blown away by the wonderful cover art by Shauna O'Meara!

I've had art done to accompany stories before, but this is the first time I've been honoured with cover art, which is for "Long's Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival, and Cats of Many Persuasions". Check this lovely out:

Cover of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue 61:
Two young women stand on a river dock, watched over by the shadow of
a mysterious flute player. The woman on the left is North African with brown skin, facial tattoos, and tight braids,
and is holding a white cat. The woman on the right is Chinese , with long straight black hair, and is
holding a mechanical cat. They have mud splattered legs. Many cats float in the river. In the background,
black storm clouds cover a city.
I am so pleased the artist captured the look and spirit of not only the story, but of this particular scene (no spoilers!). The woman on the left is Chifwe, the animagus and reclamation specialist, holding her special albino cat. The woman on the right is Ba Luen, an engineer and daughter of Long's Circus, holding her steam-powered clockwork cat. The shadow of the flute player is Hotor, a master of music, shadow, and insects.

This scene is from a major confrontation in the story, so I don't want to give anything away. However, I am pleased at the inclusion of intricate detail and that the true essence of my characters remain intact. River City is a steampunk alt-world Northern Africa, possibly Egyptian, city, with a myriad of cultures, people, languages, religions, and magic, and is an intersection of trade routes. Such details as Chifwe's facial tattoos and outfit and Ba Luen's circus costume are all included, which really delights me. I'm really pleased the artist and ASIM made the effort to acknowledge the intersections of race and culture I attempted to imbue in my story.

Plus, in release serendipity, "Long's Confandabulous Circus" is the first story set in River City, and the second, "The Long Trip Home", was released in "Daughters of Frankenstein" earlier this month.

Now, is it just me, or does the clockwork cat look a little like Cat Iron Man?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Daughters of Frankenstein" has landed!

"Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists" from Lethe Press has been released!

Available in hardback and e-book format, this collection of stories and essays is all about women taking the power and running with it. My story "The Long Trip Home" is set in my River City world, and includes four elderly women conspiring to give one of their ilk the best send off of all time, and a little weather, airship, and animal magic ensues.

Here's the ToC:
"Infusion of Waking Dreams" by Aynjel Kaye
"Doubt the Sun" by Faith Mudge
"Meddling Kids" by Tracy Canfield
"Eldritch Brown Houses" by Claire Humphrey
"The Moorehead Maze Experiment" by Tim Lieder
"The Eggshell Curtain" by Romie Stott
“Poor Girl” by Traci Castleberry
“Bank Job Blues” by Melissa Scott
“The Long Trip Home” by A.J. Fitzwater
“Imaginary Beauties: A Lurid Melodrama” by Gemma Files
“The Riveter” by Sean Eads
“A Shallow Grave of Orange Peel and Eggshells” by Thoraiya Dyer
“Alraune” by Orrin Grey
“Preserving the Integrity of the Feminine Mystique” by Christine Morgan
“Hypatia and Her Sisters” by Amy Griswold
“The Lady of the House of Mirrors” by Rafaela F. Ferraz
“The Ice Weasels of Trebizond” by Mr and Mrs Brenchley
“Love in the Time of Markov Processes” by Megan Arkenberg
And featuring an essay by Jess Nevins: “From Alexander Pope to Splice: a Short History of the Female Mad Scientist.”

Daughters of Frankenstein Cover:
Two women with frizzled black hair, glasses, and white lab coats
 stand over a robot with electricity zapping into its joints

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What's Coming Up

August is going to be a great month in Pickled land, with two, possibly three, big releases.

"The Long Trip Home", a story set within my steampunk world of River City, is in Lethe Press' "Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists", edited by Steve Berman.

It's worked out quite serendipitously that "The Long Trip Home" is coming out around the same time as "Long's Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival, and Cats of Many Persuasions", my first River City story, which will appear in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue 61. "Circus" has been on the cards for over two years now, and I'm really keen to get the ball rolling on my River City story series for everyone to enjoy. While I don't have a specific date for the release of ASIM #61, editor Simon Petrie says the issue has "moved on to the launch pad". It would be great if it's August - both River City stories out at once!

My essay "Ahead of her time, and lost in time: on feminism, bisexuality, and gender" will be in Twelfth Planet Press' "Letters to Tiptree". This collection of essays honouring James Tiptree Jr. will be the perfect academic companion to anyone interested in the author and/or the history of women's and feminist science fiction. I'm really honoured that I'm going to be a part of it.

I also have two other stories that will be out in the next few months, though dates are to be advised. One of my strange little numbers entitled "Causeway" has been picked up by The Future Fire, and will be in an upcoming issue. The Future Fire also have released the excellent "Accessing The Future", a disability themed anthology of speculative fiction. I'm very much enjoying reading through the anthology. And it includes a story by New Zealand's own A.C. Buchanan.

Speaking of whom, Andi is starting a New Zealand based magazine of speculative fiction entitled "Capricious", and they have chosen my story "She Must" to appear in the first edition. Considering Andi and my own literary tastes often intersect, I'm really looking forward to what weird and wonderful speculative stories (because my story is weird!) they come up with and the interesting essays which will be included in the magazine.

I'm on yer books, keeping yer storeez nice 'n warm