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

Friday, July 10, 2015

"Letters To Tiptree", Twelfth Planet Press

James Tiptree Jr. is one of the biggest influences on my current state of writing. The opportunity to tell her this passed me by before I even knew she and her amazing work existed - she took her life when I was thirteen and I had barely even discovered the SFF genre.

Therefore, a chance to write a letter to her posthumously and express what she means to me was a dream come true. Twelfth Planet Press are publishing a collection of essays entitled "Letters to Tiptree", celebrating Alice Sheldon the anniversary of her 100th birthday.

I penned an essay entitled "Ahead of her time, and lost in time: on gender, feminism, and bisexuality", and I am so very proud and excited to share that my essay will be included in the collection, to be released in August 2015.

Editors Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandra Pierce have put together a stellar collection of authors and academics, and I am so honoured to share a table of contents with many people I hold in the highest regard.

Pre-orders are available now.

"Letters to Tiptree", edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Alexandrea Pierce, including letters from:
Kathryn Allan
Marleen Barr
Stephanie Burgis
Joyce Chng
Aliette de Bodard
Timmi Duchamp
Amanda Fitzwater
Lisa Goldstein
Theodora Goss
Nicola Griffiths
Valentin D Ivanov
Gwyneth Jones
Rose Lemberg
Sylvia Kelso
Alex Dally MacFarlane
Brit Mandelo
Sandra McDonald
Seanan McGuire
Karen Miller
Judith Moffet
Cheryl Morgan
Pat Murphy
Sarah Pinsker
Cat Rambo
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Justina Robson
Nisi Shawl
Nike Sulway
Lucy Sussex
Rachel Swirsky
Bogi Takacs
Lynne M. Thomas
 Elisabeth Vonarburg
Jo Walton
Tess Williams

Thursday, June 18, 2015

SJV Event, June 13 - Speech, Links, and Photos

The Author Pontificates
Photo Credit: Wei Li Jiang
The Sir Julius Vogel Awards celebration on Saturday June 13 at the Fendalton Library was a great success.

A crowd of about 50 people turned up to celebrate the achievements of local speculative fiction authors Shelley Chappell, Tim Stead, fan writer Rebecca Fisher, and myself. It was a very pleasant ceremony, with organizer extraordinaire Helen Lowe giving a speech on the necessity of celebrating literature on a national and local level with all the changes going on in publishing and Christchurch city. There was also a brilliant display of posters and our works created by Peter Fitzpatrick which made us all look incredibly professional.

I was very humbled by all the kind words expressed in my direction, happy that so many people took the time to come along to our little ceremony, and I met so many new people interested in talking about my work. I'm so grateful to have people like Helen, SpecFicNZ, and a cast of volunteers committed to raising the consciousness of science fiction and fantasy in New Zealand.

Helen has also been incredible about promoting and documenting the event, from putting up profiles of each of the finalists and winners, to posting her speech, posting up photos and a write up, and being so enthusiastic about overseeing all the details. Her energy really made the event come together, shine, and go smoothly.

The Authors Pontificates More To People Who Actually
Want To Hear What She Says
Photo Credit: Wei Li Jiang
Here is the text of my speech, which is also cross posted on Helen's blog today.
Best NEW talent is a very odd thing to wrap my head around, least of all it being my very first award win as a science fiction and fantasy writer. It doesn't FEEL new to me. I started this writing journey five years ago now, and that seems a long time considering all that's happened, and no time at all considering I'm just starting to "break in" to the industry now.
In late 2009, a few perfect storms collided to set me on the journey I'm writing now. I had one of those existential "oh heck, what will I have to show for myself when I hit 40!" crises, I was starting to be around creative people who were prodding me to expand my creative horizons, and I was asking myself that age old question: what do I want to be when I grow up.
Science fiction and fantasy has been a big part of my life since I was a teenager, and I was always a capable writer. But I'd never given myself the opportunity to find out if I was a GOOD one.
Part of my journey has been retraining myself to understand success comes in many forms, and at ANY time in your life. There are many great authors who started and came to success later in life.
At that time 5 years ago I was also contemplating what I wanted to SAY. My reading and influences and life were shifting. I wanted to write what I hadn't had the chance to read, whether by its absence, lack of availability, or through the history of women and LGBT authors who had been invisibilized. I actually had to spend a lot of those early times reframing and relearning the history of women, and feminism and it's intersections in science fiction and fantasy.
I discovered the cleansing, creative anger of Joanna Russ. The gender bending, and gender breaking, work and history of James Tiptree Junior. I'll always be grateful that one of the first science fiction authors put in my hands was Anne McCaffrey. And I wouldn't be where I am today without the sublime works and encouragement of a diverse range of women and genderqueer authors and editors. Having Catherynne Valente and Nora Jemisin voice their belief in my abilities was an uplifting experience.
I learned it was time to raise my voice. And that's what I implore of all authors and readers moving in from the margins: raise your voice in whatever way feels comfortable. Engage. Enjoy. We all have stories we're looking for, stories to tell. Story telling is not a finite resource.
Words can be swords and silk, and they can be life and world changing.  They can also make "puppies" sad – if they're yelling at you, or about your "kind", you know you're doing something right. And to that end – be safe. Be ready to stand tall, and if you can't, there's always someone else that has your back.
Thank you all for coming today, and your support of local speculative fiction. We are small, but mighty.

Friday, June 12, 2015

SJV Profile By Helen Lowe

In advance of this Saturday's Sir Julius Vogel Awards celebration in Christchurch, powerhouse organizer Helen Lowe has been doing profiles of local finalists and winners.

Today, this includes me.

Check out the neat highlight poster that's been made up!

This is awesome, thanks Helen!