Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Ghastly and Gratitude in the Year Twenty Seventeen

2017 has been a year of stark contradictions.

Politically, it's been difficult. The Trump regime has been frightening to watch unfold on their many awful levels. Brexit and European shifts back toward white supremacy have been sickening. War in Syria and natural disaster in Puerto Rico (exacerbated by White House indifference) were heartbreaking. The New Zealand elections were a difficult and rewarding time for women - we lost an incredible mana wahine from the political system to racism and ignorance, and gained a woman Prime Minister. Remaining active in activism locally and worldwide has been intense and draining, but the small wins have been warm sunlight across a grey landscape.

Personally, my writing life was another level again, shifting above and around other years. As the year comes to a close, I can now paint my writing experience in 2017 with hindsight, bringing together a variety of successes and failures into what feels like good progress.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Pacific Monsters is here

Earlier this year I was approached by editor Margret Helgadottir who edited the Fox Spirit Books Monster anthologies ("African Monsters", "Asian Monsters", "European Monsters"). Fox Spirit were putting together a "Pacific Monsters" version, and did I have any suggestions of local authors? Sure I did!

So it was a lovely surprise when Margret asked me to write a story for the anthology too. I had the chance to meet with her too when I was in Oslo in August, so that was cool. We had a lovely chat about things publishing, and she took me for a walk around the parliamentary buildings that had been bombed where we spoke of the resilience of cities suffering from trauma. Our experiences and healing paths were different, but there was something of a connection between the two.

My choice of monster was easy - what lives in the cracks formed by fault lines? So was born E, my earthquake monster, in "From the Womb of the Land, Our Bones Entwined".

There is Maori mythology around earthquakes, and I built upon the story of Papatūānuku and Rūamoko. I talk more on this process, and a little of my history with earthquakes, in a blog post published at Fox Spirit Books, "The Spine of the Dragon".

"Pacific Monsters" from Fox Spirit Books, edited by Margret Helgadottir, is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US, currently in paperback form. 

Nga mihi to the people who helped me with my translations, and to the people of Aotearoa for their stories that hold up the spine of the land.  

Cover of "Pacfic Monsters". A sepia toned image of a battered building on a headland overlooking a waterway with an islet and broken signposts.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Glittership Ahoy!

Good news just as I'm heading off to Worldcon - I've sold a story to Glittership!

"Granny Death and the Drag King of London" is a Freddie Mercury tribute story set in London the week of his death in 1991. Lacey is a runaway deeply embedded in the fallout of the AIDs crisis and terrified she will catch the virus. The violence she has faced as she asserts her butch identity, loss of her hero, and her exposure to death has her seeing things - a strange old lady who haunts funerals.

I will also be narrating the story, and it will be released in the Autumn 2017 edition of the audio magazine.

Freddie loved his cats

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Quick Update, Four Years Later

Four years ago - FOUR YEARS - I wrote a blog post about a particular abuser in the SFF publishing industry.

Every now and then, anonymous people who have no interest in anything I do with my writing career find the blog post by searching. And they drop anonymous victim blaming comments and deny the accusations and actual legalities made known. You know, the usual people do when upholding status quo and patriarchal power structures.

I will say it AGAIN: from all that I have learned about abuse (physical, sexual, mental) in our society, I believe in and stand on the side of the abused. I do not tolerate victim blaming on this blog. I do not tolerate "Aw, but..." arguments. I do not tolerate projections of calling me a troll, when I am pointing to the lived experience of the victims. And I do not tolerate anonymous comments. It's right there in my comment policy. You will be deleted.

And really? That's the best you can do, hiding behind your keyboard on a four year old post on a minnow writer's blog? Such courage. Very asshole. Wow.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Worldcon, Here I Come!

It's been three years since I've been out of the country, and I chose a big one for my next adventure: Worldcon in Helsinki!

Two years ago I decided to go SOMEWHERE in 2017. That would give me enough time to save money (those international airfares are TOUGH for us kiwis), and Do The Decide. Worldcon in a cool place, or Wiscon (Ultra Absolute Bucket List)? When Helsinki won the bid, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go to Scandinavia.

Making it even better? Some of my Clarion crew are going. Where has the last 3 years gone?

So here I am, two weeks from lift off. Got my new shoes, got a tuxedo jacket, and I'm ready to throw myself into the whirlwind that is one of the biggest SFF conventions of them all. I'm not on any panels or doing any readings, I'm there to soak it all up.

And meet people! Here's where the meat-suited dragon becomes more than a figment of wurds on teh screen. I'm into making connections at Worldcon, and I'm definitely going to the Escape Artists meet up and the Strange Horizons tea party. Everything else is still in flux, but I'll be in the vicinity of feministy sfnal stuff. I'm down for some barconning too. Come find me! Say hi! Please be patient of my anxious assery! And of course, in the best interests of con and safety discourse, Be Excellent To Each Other.

To help identify me:
- My badge name is AJ Fitzwater
- Same as my Twitter handle @AJFitzwater (drop me a message if you like)
- I'll have purple punky hair
- Listen for the kiwi accent and loud laugh


Monday, June 5, 2017

Lexicon 2017 Roundup: Teh Shiny

There is a lake in the middle of North Island of New Zealand, surrounded by volcanoes, bordered by alpine desert, touched by waterfalls and geothermal activity, and for one weekend in the winter of 2017, was infiltrated by creatives, artists, fen, and the odd taniwha-wannabe. Taupo: we came, we celebrated, we shared our brains. But...not in a zombie way. Well, maybe some did. I dunno. I don't ask.

Guest of Honour Seanan McGuire expressed a desire to leap into Lake Taupo and become a ruling scaled beast of the depths (eating tourists only for the first two years of her contract with the locals). Paul Mannering recruited willing participants to tread fun and familiar territory through another radio play "Word of the Things", where The Great Orange One Lord Sour-Ron was attempting to build a wall around More-Doors and get the other races to pay for it, and the ship of  Scamwise and Toedoh finally sailed using Snuggle as an anchor. The con was also subtitled (to those in the know) "OrvilleCon" as the Ghost of Honour was the famous rat Orville who co-starred in the Hobbit movies - may he find all the cheese he needs in ratty heaven.

So yes, Lexicon had a very distinct New Zealand flavour (tastes like Kakapo) and humour, spiced with a good dollop of Seanan fun (snakes, frogs, and sunset hair, oh my). We welcomed guests from Australia, Sweden, and the US in the form of DUFF visitor Paul Weimer.

The Suncourt Hotel convention rooms buzzed like a swarm of well fed sand flies in summer. Pieces of brain were shared (in the form of knowledge, OF COURSE). Laughter spread like Marmite on toast.

And I had a damn good time. Because this happened:

*record scratch* Yup. That's me up there next to Seanan and Lynelle. Bet you're wondering how I got there.

I won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Short Story, for "Splintr" from At The Edge. I may have spoken coherently (I think?), but I was pretty glazed for quite some time. I know it sounds trite, but I really wasn't expecting it. It still hasn't sunk in properly. Thanks all you lovely people. It was the perfect cap to a great weekend.

Keeping the winning-ness going, I also took 2nd place in the Lexicon Short Story competition, which meant I went home with more books than I arrived with! Lesbian pirate capybara and soprano marmot FTW!

Future of a Space Woman: l-r, Mary Brock Jones,
myself, Karen Healey, Daphne Lawless
A big first for me at Lexicon was moderating panels. Determination: go prepared! Actuality: I did! Diverse Families in SFF went well, and I could have done with another hour or two to dig deeper into the topic. In Need of Superheroes was fun, coz we got to squee about the diversity shining through in modern comics and bitch out Nazi Captain America (BOOOOOOO).

The panel I had the most fun moderating and the juicy discussion that came out of it was Future of a Spacewoman. Ground Rule Laid: This Ain't Yer Mom's 101. People dubbed it "Feminism in Spaaaaaaace!" and we came out of it quite buzzy. We talked about PERIODS. And demanded trans women and non-binary people be in our Science Fiction Double Feature. And said Ain't No Space Party Without a Reproductive Justice Party So Get Your Today Right As The Women of Tomorrow Are Gonna Lead The Charge And Leave You Behind. And I got to fangirl over The Expanse. I plan to blog about it, interest was so high.

Myself, Seanan McGuire, Eileen Mueller
Outside picking up a pointy statue designed by Weta and chewy panel goodness, I attended lots of cool discussions, including Seanan McGuire's beautiful GoH speech about kindness in our communities and writer up lift. Hell yeahs. I also really enjoyed the Ecosystems in SFF panel with Meryl Stenhouse, Octavia Cade, and Seanan McGuire - lots of chewy bugs, er, food for creative thought. And speaking of Octavia Cade, I'm super proud she won TWO SJVs, for Best Novella and Best Fan Writing.

In the best tradition of People Who Haven't Seen Each Other For A Long Time or Ever, discussions and cups of tea and Glasses of Fanta were much enjoyed in the liminal places of the con. Magical words were passed between myself and Seanan and myself and Kaaron Warren, which will remain our private spells.

The Lexicon concom did a great job putting together events and a program, and the weekend went incredibly smooth. Thanks team!

I'm sure I'm forgetting lots in the post-con haze, but overall I'm coming out of it feeling great and a good time was had by the many. The volcano demons were satiated without the sacrifice of virgins, taniwha-ness was flirted with, old friends refilled their life-blood, and new friends were shaped from the clay of the ether.

Lexicon 2017, you were choice.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Author in the Wild: Lexicon!

New Zealand natcon weekend is almost upon us - Queen's Birthday weekend! - and Lexicon is shaping up to be a doozy! I'm really looking forward to catching up with all my local friends, and meeting people I've only known in pixel-format until now. Just quietly, I'm also on the squee side about meeting Seanan McGuire.

The Lexicon concom have done a brilliant job putting together a program with lots of interesting panels and events. If you don't find me in the bar or the hallways, here's where I'll officially be throughout the weekend:

Saturday, 3pm - Diverse Families in SFF
Sunday, 2pm - Future of a Spacewoman
Sunday, 4pm - In Need of Heroes?

I'll definitely be at the SJV ceremony, since I'm up for the Short Story award this year. Electronic voting is underway now (yay, good show SFFANZ!), and you can vote during the weekend at the con.

I'm also part of the security team again this year, as a safety liaison.

As always, be excellent to each other and we'll all have a good time.

Party don't start till I walk in

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

News: Story in PodCastle, SJVs Nomination

Been a quiet start to the year, but things have turned around in April.
  • I've been a part of PodCastle on and off for years, first as an audio editor, then as a sometimes narrator. Now I've gone the full wazoo and have a story published there! I even narrated it! It's a reprint of "Blood Stone Water", which originally appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, then Heiresses of Russ 2014, making it my most reprinted story so far. Stoked to be in yer earholes and part of the PodCastle archive now.
  • The Sir Julius Vogel Award short list has been announced and way-ho, I made the cut for the Short Story category this year, with "Splintr" from "At The Edge". Thanks to everyone who nominated me. I have big feelz. If you're interested in voting in this year's SJVs, you need to be a member of SFFANZ, or a member of this year's natcon Lexicon. There is a supporting membership available for overseas people unable to attend in person.
  • While on the subject of the SJVs, I'm stoked that "At The Edge" has such good representation on the ballot this year. Some of the stories made the shorts category, it's nominated for "Best Collected Work", and the cover art by Emma Weakley is nominated for an award.
  • And on the subject of Lexicon, I'm currently signed up for "Future of a Spacewoman", "Diverse Families", and "In Need of Heroes?", about what we see and need in modern superheroes. It's a great line up of panels this year, a lot of really interesting stuff to talk about with a kiwi flavour. 
Deez wordz have tastee noms

Sunday, April 2, 2017

New Story: Kaleidotrope, April 2016

It's been a while between drinks, but I have a new story out!

Presenting "And We Spake Of Them Words Which Make You Goddess" in Kaleidotrope, Spring 2017.

I pitch "Goddess" as my weirdest story to date, because the story arc is buried deeply beneath the voice and emotion of the character. I wanted to make an attempt at language drift in SF. It was a difficult and interesting challenge, because as someone who has forgotten more of other languages than she learned I had to keep a tight grip on the grammar and vocabulary for consistency.

I also wanted to attempt what is essentially an angry and dense character. I won't go into intentions or story  because it is a puzzle working out the world and what has become of these people. Where does the fantasy end and reality begin?

Thanks to Fred Coppersmith for taking a chance on a story I never thought would see a home.

Check out the other cool stories in the issue from Shaenon K. Garrity, Cat Sparks, Iain Ishbel, and Bo Balder.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Where you at, funky cat?


It's been a while, my friend.

It's been hard to think about blogging about writing when every day since November 9, 2016 has been another round of "holy hell, what now?" I haven't gone away from writing. No, my resolve to use writing as resistance has been strengthened by a world that's eased the way for white male supremacy to show it's true face to those too complacent (and complicit) to think this hasn't been on the cards for decades. I've been writing angry, I've been writing steadily.

I do admit I have been complacent in my understanding of where this would all go. I had thought the next decades of my life would be dedicated to extending, improving, negotiating the nuance of feminist/activist SFF, and progressivism as a whole. But here we are, clawing it back, holding on to what we thought was safe. And that was my privilege showing it's ass to me, and telling me GURL, you got some reading and self-examination to do.

There is still plenty of room for discussion of nuance in this though. It's wonderful to be surrounded by a support network of people who will not back down, or let you give up hope. We'll fight for decency and equity for everyone, and punch a few Nazis on the way. We've come too far to only come this far.

As for the writing bit, I've made changes to my routine and my mindset. Gaming was dragging my attention and time down - New Year's Resolution, it's gone. It's been hard going cold turkey, but it had to be done. It's also given me a lot more time for reading, and while resettling my concentration and focus has also been hard, it's doing wonders for my mental space. I don't and won't talk about exercise because of my body issues and fat activism, but I just want to say though there have been some terribly hard days mentally, I'm finding new ways to deal with it.

See, writing isn't just about putting the words down on the page. It's about making sure your mind and body can handle the journey too. Arting is hard, yo, especially in these troubled times.

The things coming up I can talk about:

  • I'm signed on for this year's New Zealand natcon, Lexicon. I'm already roped into a couple of panels, maybe more. I'll talk about those closer to the June con date. 
  • I'm going to Worldcon in Helsinki. Yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! This trip is gonna be HUGE. Three weeks in Scandinavia, I'm going to see some of my Clarion buds, and wear a dashing suit to the Hugos. Look out puppies...
Things coming up I can't talk about:
  • I've sold a story, but I can't say where to yet, but soooooooon. It's one of my Bucket List venues so, progress!
  • I've been approached to contribute to an anthology, and I'm working on that story. Again, secret squirrel until it's all done and dusted. 
I'm pleased with my steady output of work since the year started. It'd be great for these angry (angrier than usual) and odd stories to find homes, so will be interesting to see what the year brings. It has been quieter on the sales front than previous years, but that's because I've been more discerning about where I'm sending my work, and truth be told I know my style isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. I keep a certain mantra in mind: "Joanna and Tip wrote what they damn well felt like, and they got the recognition they deserve". Maybe it'll take longer than I anticipated to hit the sweet spot, years perhaps. But hell, if I'm not writing then I'm dead. 

Continuing on, dragons and unicorns.