Requisite Awards Eligibility Post

To be honest, this post is as much me attempting to flip off my Impostor Syndrome as anything else, so *obscene gesture inside my brain*.

Alrighty then, let’s get to it:

Given that I’ve only ramped up writing and submitting in the last year and change, there’s really not a lot of distinction I need to make here from my full bibliography. Right now the latter is organized in reverse chronological order, since it makes sense to me to highlight my most recent sales first, but it’s not like anyone needs to do heavy scrolling to find the 2015 pubs.

Also, if it matters, this is my first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. I understand that largely falls on the shoulders of novelists, but hey, don’t self-reject, right?

All my pubs this year are in the Short Story (<7,500 words) category. If there's a link, it's because the story is free to read online, so have at if you didn't before:

  • “Broken” (on Escape Pod #509) November 2015
  • “Hide Behind” (in The Sockdolager #3) September 2015
  • “At Her Fingertips” (in Betwixt #7) April 2015
  • “Tall” (in Twice Upon A Time (Bearded Scribe Press)) January 2015
  • “Detritus” (in Sci Phi Journal #3) January 2015
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    Tales Oft-Repeated

    Bearded Scribe Press has put out another slate of mini-interviews with contributors to Twice Upon A Time: Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth. Reimagined & Remastered. (which includes my story, “Tall”). Like last time, rather than inundate with a week’s worth, I’m taking the consolidated approach. Click one name, click all, click as your little heart desires. And if your little heart decides after reading that you want yourself a copy of this not-so-little anthology, click the link I put on the title of it above, or on the sidebar. Look at all these fun options the world gives.

    Bo Balder (“Bog Trade”)
    I just loved [Jack Vance’s] ironic details and grotesque imagination. I wanted to be just like him…all my teenage work is one big Vance pastiche.

    AJ Bauers (“The Screw-Up”)
    When you get that first bad critique, don’t hide from it. Embrace it. It’s going to hurt like hell, especially if it’s the first time you ever show your work to someone, but it’s going to make you and your work stronger.

    Tracy Arthur Soldan (“Sinobrody 0.9.8”)
    It was unusual for a small rural library in 1969 to have a section for speculative fiction, and I think I read just about everything that had a rocket ship or atom symbol on the spine. The first book I can clearly recall is The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin; I was the first person to check it out when a copy arrived in the summer of 1970.

    Twice Hyped Tales

    With bouncing and whatnot for future publications, I don’t want to forget the stuff that’s out there. The Bearded Scribe Press, publisher of Twice Upon A Time: Fairytale, Folklore, & Myth. Reimagined & Remastered. (which includes my story, “Tall”) has been putting together more material to let people know about the authors behind so many of these stories. Rather than turn this little corner into All Twice Upon All The Time, I’m condensing them here. Click one name, click all, click as your little heart desires. And if your little heart decides after reading that you want yourself a copy of this not-so-little anthology, click the link I put on the title of it above, or on the sidebar. Look at all these fun options the world gives.

    Rose Blackthorn (“Before the First Day of Winter”)
    I […] have a passion for post-apocalyptic fiction, and I was curious to explore what might happen to a diminishing population of selkies after human beings have poisoned the world in some great final war.

    Court Ellyn (“The Bone Harp”)
    I wasn’t supposed to read fantasy, because it led to irresponsible, even dangerous, lifestyles. So I had to buy the book behind my mother’s back. I love you, Mother.

    Steven Anthony George (“Patient Griselda”)
    It was not in fiction writers, but playwrights that I found inspiration. I found the language of Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams both strange and poetic and I wanted to write in a similar style.

    Dale W. Glaser (“My Name is Melise”)
    [T]he concept of the anthology, not only re-telling fairy tales but mashing them up with other genres, was an inspiration itself, as I decided to take things in a dark science-fiction direction in order to create a rational explanation for the fantastic elements of the original.

    Nature vs Nurture vs Numbers

    You may or may not have heard about the recent dust up involving Ben Affleck on Real Time with Bill Maher, where Affleck was less than pleased with the line of argument Maher and guest Sam Harris started engaging in with regard to Islam. The video below should be the bulk of the exchange, and you’re free to watch all of it, but I’ve cued it up to play the bit I’m most interested in, since it’s about the only bit with any actual data attached. It’s roughly 45 seconds, and mostly skips the uncomfortable argument:

    “78% of British Muslims think that the Danish cartoonists should have been prosecuted.” It’s a big number, admittedly, but there are two issues I’m going to take with it.

    First, the argument Harris is making is about the danger of jihadist dogma among less-than-militant Muslims. Most people remember the Jyllands-Posten scandal because of calls to put cartoonists and publishers to death over the cartoons’ publication. It seems clear to me Harris is using his statistic to try drawing a direct line between “prosecution” and “execution.” The attempt, though, smacks of people using the phrase “card-carrying member” in an attempt to evoke some non-existent connection between Red Scare Communists and the ACLU.

    Still, in land-of-the-free world, 78% of folks just wanting fines or jail time for free expression is, understandably, still troubling. So I went looking for the poll. Harris doesn’t cite it on the show, but ye Google would suggest this article is referencing the same poll. It also provides what I think is some enlightening context:

    Asked about attitudes towards free speech, there was little support for freedom of speech if it would offend religious sensibilities. 78% of Muslims thought that the publishers of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed should be prosecuted, 68% thought those who insulted Islam should be prosecuted and 62% of people disagree that freedom of speech should be allowed even if it insults and offends religious groups

    So, from the poll sample, there’s only a 16% gap between British Muslims who want to prosecute for the Danish cartoons and those who think speech should be prosecuted when it’s insulting to any religious group, not just in the case of offenses to Islam. And here’s where I think something other than religious factors has to come into consideration. The fact of the matter is, UK laws on hate / offensive speech are not nearly as lenient as they are in the US.

    In fact, it only took me Wikipedia plus a few clicks to find an example of British prosecution for “religiously offensive” cartoons, this one from five years after the Jyllands-Posten incident Sam Harris is talking about:

    It took [the jury] just 15 minutes to find Mr Taylor guilt[y] of “religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress” after viewing the “grossly abusive and insulting” images in court. The cartoons — which had been cut from newspapers, magazines and other mainstream publications — included one showing a smiling Christ on the cross next to an advert for a brand of “no nails” glue. In another, the Pope is shown wearing a condom on his finger. Others featured Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise who are told, “Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.”

    The conviction was made using a still-in-force piece of legislation called the Crime and Disorder Act, passed in 1998, which includes provisions against “racially or religiously aggravated harassment.” I’m not here arguing that the law is sound, or that it reflects the whole of society in the UK. Even at the time, people were trying to change it.

    However, so far as I can tell, it’s still on the books.

    Especially relevant here is that the “religiously offensive” cartoons in this case actually included one of the Danish cartoons (“Islamic suicide bombers at the gates of paradise are told: ‘ Stop, stop, we’ve run out of virgins.'”).

    That a jury trial in 2010 actively convicted someone for displaying a cartoon set including at least one of the Danish samples points to at least a moderate social context in support of legal sanction against public religious mockery. Given that, it seems entirely possible that some portion of Muslims in the UK support prosecution not due to a specific religious belief, but because the UK in general is more inclined to prosecute for perceived religious insults by authors. Insisting that the sample is a significant indicator of Muslim thinking without once considering or acknowledging what impact thinking in the UK may play into the results seems irresponsible. Given that the same poll questions weren’t conducted outside Muslim citizens, it’s difficult to make any kind of assertions from a solid statistical base.

    There was one other statistic which cropped up in the argument. At one point, Maher says he’s seen a Pew poll of Egyptions Muslims, in which “like 90% of them believe death is the appropriate response to leaving the religion.”

    While the number I found–that 64% of Egyptian Muslims believe leaving Islam should result in death–is well south of Maher’s 90%, it’s still a unarguably disturbing statistic. That those numbers don’t play out across all Muslims, though, again suggests that the issue may be as much national-cultural and it is religious-cultural, or at least that perhaps that’s worth considering.

    Does the view persist out to Ablanian Muslims? It does, though there the number is 1%. If I’m being honest, though, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover at least that many Christians hold similar views about people who perform abortions. I would never consider using that to characterize the core values of the majority of practitioners, though.

    Maher regularly gives a kind of hand-wave to Christian extremism and terrorism as a response to his ideas re: Islam. Usually, he makes a crack about how long it’s been since The Crusades. I sort of think that that folks in Northern Ireland, or Utøya, or even Oklahoma City might have some stories to suggest that we aren’t nearly that far away from Judeo-Christians turning to terrorist acts.

    But setting that aside, if we’re going to say that the core problem of religious terrorism is that religion over there with a document full of dicta supporting violence in support of faith, I think we have to admit that, short of Thomas Jefferson, there aren’t a whole lot of people excising the violent portions and decrees in The Bible. The core document of Christianity still calls for stoning, just for an easy example.

    I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, except to say that arguments which seem to take the religion of violent factions as the only influential element in said violence seem to be fairly narrow in their view. I don’t think it’s as simple as positing that religion there. That’s the troublemaker. Geopolitical conflict isn’t simple, and it isn’t getting any simpler. Attempts to boil it down into The One Root Cause unfortunately feel, to me, like their premise is just as fantastical as, say, a virgin birth.

    Apparently, Myths About Them Breed Quickly, Too

    A couple of stories I’ve been working on pull heavily from stuff you’d classify as Tall Tales: Paul Bunyon, Pacos Bill, that sort of thing. Because I don’t just want the people to be over the top, but also the wildlife, I’ve been doing some research into animals that I think would be appropriate in the same kind of story. It didn’t take long at all before I figured jackalopes would fit right in. When you have giant blue oxes wandering around, a rabbit with antlers doesn’t seem too silly. Or, maybe it is silly, but it’s a silly that’s in keeping with the other silliness, right?

    Anyway, so I start bouncing around (ha!), trying to figure out what there is in the way of “lore” for the jackalope. I was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of crazy details I could use, but also more than a little bemused to find that the jackalope is just one of what seems like an oddly widespread range of rabbit hybrid critters.

    I’ll stop right here and make it clear: I’m no folklore expert (or medical expert in the case of Shope papilloma). What follows is just what I’ve gathered from link clicking and googling. There will be no Grand Unified Theory of Lepus here, just some amateur compiling.

    First, because sometimes reality is a whole lot more messed up than anyone’s taxidermic fantasy, there’s the likeliest source for all these horned rabbit myths (aside from, of course, “bored taxidermists with spare parts lying around”): The Shope papilloma virus. Shope papilloma causes large, horn-like tumors to grow on rabbits’ skin. Usually around the head. The pictures I found were both terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time: what looks like big, nasty horns and fangs can eventually become so large that the victim is no longer able to eat, so the rabbit starves to death. Don’t google that one if you’re at all sensitive, folks.

    One upside of the disease is that apparently research on affected rabbits and the virus itself was part of the model used to help develop the HPV vaccine. So, there’s that. But you’re not here for medical realities. You’re here to read about crazy hybrid rabbits, so let’s get to them.

    We’ll start with the skvader. Apparently the Swiss were less impressed by horns, so their taxidermic experiments in folklore grafted wood grouse wings onto a rabbit. Now, not only did you have to worry about rabbits burrowing in under your fence to steal your vegetables; they could just fly over the bloody fence.

    Completely unsatisfied with either / or options, Bavarians spliced both antlers and wings onto the wolpertinger. Also, because flying, antler-goring attacks weren’t enough, they added fangs. Which makes sense, really; it’s not a good, Germanic fairy tale creature if it can’t eat you, now is it? See, you thought Monty Python was just pulling that man-eating rabbit out of thin air, but actually, we now see they just did better research.

    Hybrid / mutant rabbits don’t appear to be an exclusively European construct, either. While I have a lot harder time finding actual sources on it, there does appear to be a hybrid rabbit creature in some Islamic poetry, too: the Al-mi’raj. This one only has a single horn, which is usually drawn as straight and tapering. So rabbit-narwhal, I suppose. Or rabbit-unicorn, depending on your preferences.

    So, you know, maybe Bullwinkle wasn’t pulling the wrong thing out of his hat. He was just grabbing another hybrid variant.

    Who Drood It?: Drood Looks like a Lady

    One of the interesting bits of The Mystery of Edwin Drood in its musical form is the fact the titular characters is always played by a woman. I’m lead to believe part of this is from older theatrical traditions Holmes was pulling from, but I kind of suspect it might also have to do with the same pruning that gives Crisparkle triple duty in the show.

    As with male characters, many female characters who feature in the original novel shuffle off the stage before the curtain rises. There’s Crisparkle’s mother,1 who is a very particular woman, her general order thrown into disarray on multiple occasions after the Landless twins arrive in Cloisterham. There’s Miss Twinkleton,2 the headmistress of The Nun’s House, wherein Rosa Bud resides, and likewise a particular sort.

    Late in the novel (or, rather, late in that portion of it which was completed), there’s also Bazzard’s distant cousin, Mrs. Billickin. Or, later, “the Billickin.” You see, the Billickin runs a boarding house, and feels that should it be known that Billickin is a woman, then there might be no end of trouble for her, and thus refuses to sign any document with a first name or feminized title.

    They’re all fun characters, but do very little for the plot that other characters don’t do better. Indeed, they seem to be there largely to provide flavor and moments of levity against the Dickensian tendency toward the dour. And they do that quite well, but when you turn the mystery into a comedy outright, and need to streamline things considerably, it’s hard to justify the characters.

    Unfortunately, that leaves precious few women in a cast that still has a heaping helping of men in it. I imagine that had to play at least some part in the decision to pull some gender swapping in the casting. Voila, you have your female star without having to flop characters about.

    I think it serves a few other clever purposes, as well. Firstly, Drood helps remind us that we’re watching a play within a play. She / he encourages us to step back, to think of this mystery as a construct, and a construct with which we can actively play. I think this may encourage the kind of head space that helps the voting fit in later.

    And speaking of the voting, several of the choices later in the show involve the remaining female characters taking on more traditionally male roles. Having set that up early, and settled it into the audience’s head, I think, again, you’re helping to encourage your audience to think outside of its box, to engage with and make all the choices viable, which is a big part of the fun.

    1. Yes, the good reverend lives at home with his mommy.[back]

    2. And once again we must give great and honored thanks to Dickens for his naming conventions.[back]

    Who Drood It?: Extra Crisp(arkle)y

    One of the interesting things about going through the book of The Mystery of Edwin Drood and reading the musical, is looking at who they left in this particular piece of silliness, and why. There are a fair number of characters who wind up jettisoned outright, and I’m not sure the whodunnit plot is really affected. There are a few, however, whom it seems weren’t so much omitted as they were absorbed in utero by the Reverend Crisparkle as the show was conceived.

    In the book, Crisparkle is Neville Landless’s tutor, and he remains that in the musical. He’s also Neville’s staunchest supporter (aside from the young man’s sister, of course). But that’s largely his role in the story. He plays confidante to the hot-headed Landless boy, and staves off accusations by others (including, in the book, his own mother).

    In the musical, however, Crisparkle takes on triple duty. He gets an upgrade from tutor to guardian, subsuming the role from the amzaingly-named, but absent, Luke Honeythunder. He also takes on a significant aspect of Rosa’s not-appearing-in-this-stage-show guardian: Mr. Grewgious.1

    It works just fine, since honestly the book is kind of flooded with caretakers and faux-parental figures, most of whom spend a lot of time talking to each other about what do to with their charges. It’s interesting in what it may say about the amount of oversight of the time period, but in terms of the rip-roaring, odd whodunnit plot, fewer parents and parental figures make things move much more quickly.

    Besides, I just keep thinking of Crisparkle as doing what the church has often done, and absorbing those philosophies which might be sympathetic in order to increase influence. In this case, influence just happens to coincide with time onstage.

    1. I can never love Charles Dickens enough for his character names. Honestly, they provide recurring amusement even in the gravest of tales.[back]