It’s that time of year when speculative fiction writers collect the public-facing work they’ve done and urge you to read it (or reread it), and remind you that they are eligible for Hugos and Nebulas and all other such lovely peer validations and recognitions.
If you are a Hugo nominator, please also consider nominating Apparition Lit in the Semiprozine category. Editors Rebecca Bennett, Amy Henry Robinson, Tacoma Tomilson, and Clarke Doty are a dedicated and talented lot, and the magazine they’ve been producing since 2018 is far too good to continue fly under the radar.
For awards which recognize anthologies (the World Fantasy Awards, for example) please consider nominating Dreams for a Broken World, edited by Julie C. Day and Ellen Meeropol.
The story of mine that is included in the anthology is a reprint (La Gorda and the City of Silver) but there are a number of originals included (Zig Zag Claybourne’s wonderful Finding Ways, for example) and many of them are incredible. You can read about the anthology here and here.
Many of the Sci Fi, Fantasy and Horror writers you and I know and read are posting about the stories and nonfiction (SFF-related) pieces they’ve published that are eligible to be considered for nomination to Nebula and Hugo annual award lists.
Well, I’m no different.
Here are my pieces that are eligible for nomination. If you haven’t read them yet, please hit the links and do so now. If you like them, please consider nominating one or two (or three). 😉
Las Girlfriends is an interactive story, to be read and play with entirely online. It was fun to create, and (I think) fun to read. Set up as if it were a website, you can jump from section to section in whatever order you want. The narrative voice moves between English and Spanish with ease and sass, and the eateries toured while fictional, are grounded in real Philly magic and grit. Bonus: the story has a playlist for you to listen to as you explore.
Interactive stories don’t usually get the love that those printed in digital or analog magazines get, and they often slip the attention of reviewers and “best of” compilers. But they represent changing thinking about how we can tell stories, and the forms by which we do so. I’ve always liked playing with and across forms, and this story is one of the results of that. (For a more conventionally rendered story of mine that nevertheless plays across forms, read “El Cantar of Rising Sun” at Uncanny magazine.)
Apex Magazine took a real risk by publishing this (the print edition of the magazine simply had a link to the online story) and I’d love to see them get some sort of acknowledgment for their daring.
“Saint Simon of 9th and Oblivion” is a good example of that. Set in 1890s Philadelphia, it unites elements of urban (albeit historical) fantasy and steampunkish sci fi in an immigrant coming of age story. Race, identity, social constructs and conventions all inform this story which is ostensibly about a young Latina’s interaction with a being who may be a supernatural religious figure, a time-traveler or genuinely an alien. But at it’s heart it a story about family — of origin or of choice — and the expectations, inequities and manifold expressions of love that undergird familial relationships.
Although I’ve linked you here to a pdf of my story specifically, I can’t emphasize enough how great this anthology is, and the excellence of the stories contained within it. Please consider nominating other stories from this anthology as well, and please nominate the anthology itself!
So, unlike the other two eligible pieces, I’m not sure if this qualifies for the category, or if in fact the SFWA blog itself would be what you should nominate. That would be great by me since the blog is filled with some really good essays on matters that are important to our sector.
The thing is, even if my essay isn’t individually eligible, you should definitely read it if you haven’t already. SFF publications need to look beyond mere diversity and inclusion efforts if they are serious about advancing equity. This essay looks at a number of internal and submission practices that in actuality shore up the status quo and actively disadvantage those who are outside of the existing power structure.
That’s it for now. Please read as many of your favorite writers’ eligibility posts as you can, read their work and then nominate them and vote for them (if you are eligible).
You’d be surprised how much of a boost it is for an author to be reminded that their work is both read and appreciated — and this is a handy way to do that.
Philadelphia journalist Sabrina Vourvoulias is joining The Philadelphia Inquirer as the organization’s first Senior Editor, Communities and Engagement. In this role, Vourvoulias will lead The Inquirer’s Community News Desk and will focus on centering the region’s diverse communities in The Inquirer’s journalism.
— Joseph Lichterman, The Lenfest Institute, Oct. 27, 2021
Readercon 31 will take place online August 13-15, 2021
Guests of Honor Jeffrey Ford and Ursula Vernon will take the stage along with other authors, editors, critics, and luminaries from around the world. You will see panels on both the heart of reading and the art of writing, authors reading from their work, a variety of talks and performances, award ceremonies for the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award and the Shirley Jackson Awards, and a virtual version of the convention’s Bookshop selling new and used books from a variety of small press and independent booksellers.
Dull and even miserable affect and emotion have been hallmarks of the dystopia genre since 1984 and Brave New World, with joy depicted as fleeting and pleasure considered hollow or fake. But in the real world, emotional responses to hardship vary from person to person and from culture to culture. Panelists will probe and challenge the cultural and aesthetic basis for the supposed authenticity of unmitigated bleakness in dystopia and consider other emotional tones that dystopian stories might explore.
Sunday, August 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Join me for a reading from my urban dark fantasy/horror novella, Plena Cucuy.
Cat is a young mestiza Mexican-American designer at a news organization, the only citizen in a family of mixed documentation status, and an acute observer of the city she inhabits — including its inexplicable happenings. Like an advertising placard at the train station that changes content between one glance at it and the next. Or the disappearance of her brother Edgar and other undocumented folks from one of the train station’s platforms. Or the creepy but compelling man — who might be a monster from childhood tales — she is unexpectedly pitted against. Add to that her complicated relationship with the family she lives with, the Black Boricua musician she’s falling for, and the intra-Latinx tensions of the neighborhood itself… Plena Cucuy is a dark urban fantasy/horror with teeth, music and magic.
The story is a celebration of food and resistance, and as fellow speculative fiction writer A.C. Wise noted, a love letter to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities.
It’s hungry work
As you might have guessed from the title, there is a lot of food in this story. Primarily tamales of all sorts, but also Caribbean icys and oxtails, Indonesian nasi goreng, Puerto Rican pernil … reading this will make you hungry.
Andrea Johnson interviewed me about Las Girlfriends for Apex, and asked about why I made food the magical conveyance in this story. The interview goes live on the site on March 11, so you can read my full response there. But, really, at the heart of it is that I’m a foodie and every aspect — from growing to cooking to ingesting — is imbued with ceremony and ritual and incredible power.
Las Girlfriends is one of a number of stories of mine in which Philadelphia — magical and mundane (but never ordinary) — is as important a character as any of the human ones.
Johnson also asked me about this in the interview (go read it, when it goes live!) and the truth I just think Philadelphia is amazing. And, yes, I do think magic truly happens in the city.
Las Girlfriends themselves — a trio of more-than-middle-aged Latinas who sell magical tamales (tamágicos) from their food truck — have been secondary characters in two earlier, related Philadelphia stories:
Published at Tor.com and edited by Carl Engle-Laird, Skin in the Game follows Officer Jimena Villagrán (daughter of Las Girlfriend’s Rosa Marta) as she deals with monsters, magical con men, discarded needles and a rash of murders in the Zombie City-La Boca del Diablo encampment in Philadelphia’s Kensington/Fairhill neighborhood.
My other “Magical Philadelphia” stories (so far) include El Cantar of Rising Sun at Uncanny Magazine and St. Simon at 9th and Oblivion (historical speculative!) forthcoming in the Speculative Fiction for Dreamers anthology. While neither of these stories involve Las Girlfriends’ coterie, if you get to the end of the tour of eateries in Las Girlfriends — the “When food is home” entry — the photo header shows a a mural “in memory of Loco” — who is Alonso’s and Amor’s father in El Cantar. (Yes, I love easter eggs 😉.)
Q: We’ve all encountered characters in stories and novels that we’ve felt a real connection to, and would love to chat with more. Maybe buy them a drink. What characters have you encountered in Fantasy and SF that you’d like to buy a pint for?
In 2014 Paul Weimer, editing the Mind Meld column for SF Signal, posed that question to a number of SFF writers, me included. I loved the question, and was reminded of my answer recently when renowned writer/editor Terri Windlingtweeted one of the real-life artworks that inspired the fictional art of one of the characters in her novel, The Wood Wife.
So, some six years after the fact, I reread what I had written and realized that I would still welcome this imagined conviviality (maybe even more so after all these months of pandemic-induced social bubble and Zoom-limited interactions), a tribute, undoubtedly, to the character-building genius of the the writers involved.
So here is my response — in 2014, and in 2020 — to the question that tops this post.
What an interesting question. I’m fond of a lot of characters in speculative fiction actually, and I really had to think long and hard to narrow this down to two. Which two made the final cut completely surprised me for a number of reasons — including the fact that they are ancillary characters, and one of them never gets to speak.
Anna Naverra from Terri Windling’s The Wood Wife. Okay, she dies before the book opens. Also, she doesn’t speak — she’s described (and ascribed motive) in dreams, in the investigation of the mystery of who she was and became, in the poetry of her more recently deceased Anglo poet husband. But Anna is a Mexican surrealist painter — conjuring associations that are part Remedios Varo, part Frida Kahlo, part Ana Mendieta — who grew up in the same Mexico as my mother (also an artist), and crossed similar boundaries. I don’t think Windling deals entirely fairly with her (she resolves the paradox about Anna in much too pat a manner) but she gives her fantastic, compelling art which stands in for whatever else might be missing in her characterization.
Anna is unusual in SFF in a number of ways: she’s Latina and she’s not young. While I applaud those who include kickass Latinas in the mold of Zoe Saldana (in Colombiana) or Michelle Rodriguez (in just about every movie she’s ever made) in their SFF works, I get tired of those being the only representations I see. Anna is engagingly complex; physical in a most ordinary way; her painting are dark and rich, and her relationship with the Mexico of her younger and latter years is significant.
I’d buy her a tequila with a sangrita chaser and talk with her about the Mexico of Elena Poniatowska and José Luis Cuevas; of Diego Rivera and Octavio Paz; of Zapatistas and palos voladores and a creative tradition so innate that it has taken corn smut and turned it into an astonishing culinary delicacy (huitlacoche). I’d ask her, in other words, to tell me what made her who she was and what made my mother what she was — formidable artists forged in that particular crucible.
The other character is from a book almost 20 years older than Windling’s and, I believe, commonly thought as a very minor work in its author’s impressive body of work. But I’m actually quite fond of Peter Beagle’s Folk of the Air, and of its secondary character Athanasia Sioris, or Sia, as she is known throughout.
She, too, is older than the norm in SFF. In fact, Beagle describes her like this: “the broad, blunt-featured face was no older than sixty, the dark-honey skin almost without lines and the gray eyes quick and clear and imperiously sad. But her body was lumpy as a charwoman’s — waistless, short-legged, wide-hipped, bellied like the moon — though she carried it with all the vivid rigor of a circus wire walker.”
Throughout the book, Sia is both more powerful and weaker than anticipated, a goddess and a woman, and a character of such complex history that Beagle can only give us glimpses of it. Like Anna, she is formidable, though an entirely different expression of it.
I guess, from her name, that with her I’d have to sit down to a Plomari-style ouzo cut with water to make it moonstone cloudy. I hope it would be at a taverna on the waterfront in Mytilene, with fresh octopus pulled from the waters in front of us and the wind scouring all the layers of disguise and prohibition right off us. We would talk about the elements and what is elemental, and the ways of women aging in a world that cannot see us for what we really are.
We’d also talk about belief. How in every mythos, in every work of transformative art, in every character that resonates years after the reading, belief is the heart. I want to imagine, at the end, that Anna would join us, and after good food, good drink and good conversation, the three of us would pull out our ancient frame drums (materializing from thin air, of course) and dance a circle that, though mortal, never ends.
What about you? Which fictional character would you most want to sit down with and share a drink and a chat? Let me know in the comments below!
(Photo at the top of the post: Konstantinos Papadopoulos for Unsplash.com)
So … it turns out I do have another story that is eligible for a Nebula and a Hugo (and would have been eligible for a Bram Stoker had I managed to get this post up before the deadline. Oh well).
Anyway … my short story “A Fish Tale” from the anthology Sharp and Sugar Tooth: Women Up to No Good (from Upper Rubber Boot) is a story about appetites. The appetites that lead to abuse, the appetite for revenge and for redemption. Plus, it’s truly a paean to food.
If you are a nominator for either of the awards and wanting a reading copy of the story, let me know.
Also, please consider nominating the editor, Octavia Cade, and the anthology itself for awards.
Not a lot to consider this year … and not all of it due to my painfully slow writing process (hit me up some time for my thoughts on publications that bar simultaneous submissions but hold onto stories for the better part of the year without deciding whether yay or nay …).
So, just one of my stories is eligible this year:
The Devil in the Details was published in Kaiju Rising II(Outland Entertainment), which has an April 2019 publication date and is eligible for Nebula and Hugo consideration.
For all that this story has the New Jersey Devil laying waste to Center City Philadelphia, this is a surprisingly sweet story. It was also hella fun to write.
If you have read it and enjoyed it, please consider nominating it in the short story category.
That’s it, folks. Hopefully next year’s iteration of this post will have a lot more for you to consider.