Thursday, November 18, 2021

Awards Eligibility Post 2021

2021 is almost in the record books! I can't say it was an easy year, but it was a busy one. I published nearly as many stories and essays this year and as last year, and I'm hard at work on stories for 2022. 

If you're catching up on work for awards, I've collected links to all of my fiction and non-fiction right here in this post. Where possible I've included the categories, lengths, and dates of publication. See anything you like?


"That Story Isn't The Story" at Uncanny Magazine Issue #43,

9033 words, November 1st, Fantasy/Horror 

Direct Link

Anton has long been a familiar for the abusive Mr. Bird. He finally attempts escape with the help of the last friends he has, and tries to break his bond with Mr. Bird through therapy and healing rather than magic. But Mr. Bird isn't done with him.


"For Lack of a Bed" at Diabolical Plots,

2724 words, April 16th, Fantasy 

Direct Link

Noemi has suffered from chronic pain for years, but she's found a cure: the most comfortable sofa in the world. The trouble? It might be alive - and eating her.

"We Are Not Phoenixes" at Fireside Magazine,

817 words, March 1st, Fantasy 

Direct Link

Pyromancers seek to entertain and bring some last comforts to the patients in hospice - a place all pyromancers will one day wind up.

"Gender Reveal Box, $16.95" at Fireside Magazine,

755 words, June 1st, Fantasy/Horror

Direct Link.

So what if gender reveal parties are actually cosmic horror events? With this hot new product, you'll have the *best* gender nightmare possible.

"Guidelines for Appeasing Kim of the Hundred Hands" at Fireside Magazine,

552 words, August 1st, Fantasy

Direct Link.

A list fiction about problems with the wish-granting statue at a local university, told via all the rules students have been breaking about her.


"Godfather Death, in His Own Words" at Fireside Magazine,

964 words, November 9th, Fantasy

Death himself drops by to give the account of his godson, and how Death's plan to help him get ahead in life backfired.

"The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)" at Drabblecast,

2617 words, August 2nd, Science Fiction

Direct Link.

 A deaf security guard realizes that the tyrannosaurus that's been attacking her settlement might also be disabled. Could this be the beginnings of a buddy comedy?

"The Best Part" in the Curtains: Concert Visions to Benefit #SaveOurStages,

540 words, February 1st, LitFic

A grip working to set up stages for touring bands has slowly gone deaf over his career. He hasn't heard a note in years. This story follows one day in his life, and what he still loves about music.



Weird Plagues: How Fear of Disease Mutated into a Subgenre at Uncanny Magazine Issue #38,

1322 words, January 1st 

Direct Link.

Arnold is a Survivor Girl: Why Predator is a Slasher Movie
at Nightmare Magazine, 

1331 words, June 1st

Direct Link.

What Are We Supposed To Be Afraid Of In Blair WitchProject? at Uncharted Magazine, 

1197 words, August 11th

So, dear readers. See anything you liked?

Thursday, November 4, 2021

New Fiction: "That Story Isn't The Story" in Uncanny Magazine

Hello my dear readers! I'm happy this month to bring you my first-ever novelette. It's the longest piece of fiction I've ever published, and tells the deepest story of someone psyche.

"That Story Isn't The Story" follows Anton, a familiar who seeks to break his connection to his abusive master. He runs away with the help of the last friends he hasn't been estranged from, still bearing the marks of his curse. But as he tries to rebuild himself and find how to tell the story of what's happened to him, the shadow of his master follows him.

You could say this is a Wiswellian Horror Story - foreboding, grim, and yet compassionate and hopeful. Survivors are believed; friends genuinely try to understand rather than going straight to conflict. The length of the story let me dig into what recovery looks like, especially when that recovery is threatened.

I couldn't ask for a better home for this story than Uncanny Magazine. They previously published my story "The Bottomless Martyr," as well as a few non-fiction pieces. I always enjoy working with them for how professional and respectful they are.

You can read the entire novelette for free on Uncanny's website right here.

Please enjoy it, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

New Fiction: “The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)” at is live at Drabblecast

 I've got a new story for you today! It's about dinosaurs and disability. 

Ms. Plover (as she likes to be known) is a deaf security guard on an abandoned island colony. She's got no way off, and it just trying to stay safe and mentally well. She spends her days painting, distributing food to her fellow stranded expatriates, and fending off the dinosaurs.

Yeah, there's a bit of a dinosaur problem at her compound. Even giant herbivores are dangerous, especially when you can't hear them coming. And there's one critter in particular that is about to change her life - by stealing her painting supplies.

"The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)" is one of my weird relationship stories, when two figures you'd never expect to meet have to get along.

I'm also tickled that it's available in both text and audio. The Drabblecast is a zine I tried to get into for years back in the day. This is actually my debut there. Let me know what you think.

You can read (or listen to) "The Tyrant Lizard (and Her Plus One)" for free right here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is a World Fantasy Award Finalist!

I was quite a surprise the other day to scroll through the list of World Fantasy Award nominees and see my name. Yes, I've been blessed this year by kind receptions to my work. Yet I hadn't heard a peep from anyone about this. 

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is now a nominee for the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, alongside four other excellent shorts. It is a ballot full of writers who I admire.

I am quite emotional right now. I'd like to unpack some of that emotion for you kind folks.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

New Story in Fireside Magazine!

I'm kicking off June with a brand new story at Fireside Magazine.

"Gender Reveal Box, $16.95" is a Horror story told through an ad. Ad copy is a rich space to tell weird stories, since most don't read them in the first place. It'd been too long since I'd written a story in an unusual format. I missed what flash fiction can let you explore.

Here we're exploring a revolutionary new product: a box for gender reveals. It seems benign at first, but hints about what the product actually contains, and what it does to anyone who witnesses the revelation, start to clue you in that something's wrong here.

It's great to have this drop during Pride Month. It's definitely the most chaotic story about gender I've written.

You can read it for free right here.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Streaming Panel Schedule for Balticon

This coming weekend is Balticon. For the past couple years the pandemic has pushed this Baltimore, Maryland convention to shrug off the shackles of physical space and move to the internet. Anyone can come watch any readings and panels they watch over Zoom. It's totally free.

You can check out all the guests and programming at Balticon's website.

This will be my second year doing some programming with Balticon. I have a rich slate of panels, plus a reading. Anything look fun to you?

Thursday, May 20, 2021

I'm a Hugo Finalist!

It's been a year of wonderful firsts. I got my first sale to a Year's Best anthology, and my first Locus and Nebula nominations. Now I'm thrilled to announce one more.

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

It's my first time being nominated for a Hugo Award. In fact, it's also the first time anything published in Diabolical Plots has been nominated.

What a wonderful first. And I have you all to thank for you. The outpouring for "Open House on Haunted Hill" is unlike anything I've experienced before in my career.

So thank you everyone who's read my story. Thank you from myself, and from 133 Poisonwood.

Friday, March 19, 2021

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is a Nebula and Locus Awards Finalist!

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is one of my favorite short stories that I've ever written. It follows a haunted house that has been lonely for years and just wants someone to live in it. It won't harm you. It won't trap you. It wants to keep you warm and safe as your family grows. But can anyone get over its creepy vibe and stay?

It turns out that the world likes this story, too. This week it was announced that it will appear in Paula Guran's Years Best Dark Fantasy & Horror. This handsome collection will be out from Pyr books later this year, and includes works the likes of Caitlin Kiernan, Kelley Armstrong, and Victor LaValle.

The story is also now a finalist for two major industry awards.

On Monday night, the Science Fiction Writers Association announced "Open House on Haunted Hill" is a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. It is in the top six candidates, and will be voted on by members of the association. The winner will be announced later this year.

Earlier, Locus Magazine placed "Open House on Haunted Hill" on their 2020 Recommended Reading List, making it a finalist for the Locus Award for Best Short Story. This award has open voting for anyone who signs up at Locus's site. If you've enjoyed the story, I'd be grateful if you'd give it a vote.

All these accolades are humbling. It's wonderful to see my stories touching so many people - every week I get tweets from new people who've just read it and want to thank me. My best way of showing my gratitude is to write you all many more stories. I'm working at it every day.

Thanks for sending me over the moon, everybody. It's a thrilling time!

Thursday, March 11, 2021

"We Are Not Phoenixes" - New Story live at Fireside Fiction!

Hello beloved readers! I have a new story for you today, and one that is quite personal. It's called "We Are Not Phoenixes," and it's in the new issue of Fireside Magazine.

It's a very short story about what pyromancers can do to show kindness and entertain patients in hospice. Magic is often used to damage or to heal. But magic has boundaries. When we're delicate and it's limited, how can we make meaning out of our actions? Even if they're magical?

The story was directly inspired by a blog post from Elephant's Child a few years ago. She posted about a visit to a hospice where alpacas were roaming around the compound. It turned out a local farm lent them to the patients for some gentle entertainment.

As someone who is chronically ill, and someone who has lost many friends to prolonged illness, this was powerful to me. I wondered: why doesn't Fantasy ever do that?

This story is my answer to that query. It's dedicated to many wonderful people who I won't see again, and who I am very glad to have known.

You can read the story for free at this link.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Live Reading this Wednesday, and Lots of Good News!

Being cooped up inside is tough, especially with March coming up again. For many of us it's an anniversary or quarantine. We readers miss our book stores and conventions.

That's why I'm happy to take part in the Ephemera reading series. On Wednesday, February 17th, Ephemera is summoning World Fantasy Award-winning short story writer G.V. Anderson, World Fantasy Award-winning novelist C.L. Polk, and... me! We're all bringing our favorite stories on the theme of Friendship.

The group reading begins at 7:00 PM US EST, and is free to everyone. It will stream live on their Youtube channel and will be archived for you after. The live chat is warm and welcoming to all comers, and there may be time for a Q&A with the audience.

So if you're frozen at home right now, drop by and say hello. I might have a story about a friendly tank for you.

In advance, I have two lovely pieces of news!

Firstly, my story "The Bottomless Martyr" got a groundswell of support from the readers of Uncanny Magazine. Today Uncanny announced the results of their reader's choice poll and "The Bottomless Martyr" ranked #3 out of everything they published in 2020. It's pretty wild for the first fiction piece I've ever published in Uncanny. It shares a list with incredible writers like Martha Wells, T. Kingfisher, and Eugenia Triantafyllou. I can't thank y'all enough.

Secondly, the Locus Recommended Reading List was announced and I've made it onto there for the first time in my career! "Open House on Haunted Hill" was listed in their Best Short Fiction category. That means it automatically qualifies for the Locus Award, as well, and if you're voting, I'd be honored if you'd consider 133 Poisonwood for your ballot.

Again, thanks to all my readers for their support. You're why I'm digging deep in the middle of a new novel right now. Come out Wednesday night and we'll celebrate together.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Short Story Recommended Reading List for 2020

Welcome, citizens of the internet, to my big old Short Story Recommended Reading list! Despite all the time we've spent staring at our devices, many of us are behind on our reading. Magazines piled up, and tabs overflowed until browsers crashed. What was good in short fiction this year?

I'll tell you what was good. I'm making a list, and I'm checking it twice. The following list is what I'd strongly recommend checking out from the twenty-or-so publications I've perused in 2020. The list encompasses many authors from many countries and walks of life, and just as many different kinds of stories.

Please, tell me what you loved in the comments.

Monday, November 30, 2020

2020 Awards Eligibility Post

This year is actually almost over! Sure, some part of you says it's still March, but that part is sleep deprived and needs a hug. 

And because 2020 year is almost over, awards nominations are starting to open up. That leaves us writers with the nervous task of collecting our awards-eligible material.

Below, I humbly present the stories and articles I've written this year. This has been the most fruitful year of my career, with more publications and fan outreach than ever. I'm profoundly grateful to everyone who has enjoyed my weirdo stories. "Open House on Haunted Hill," for instance, is the single most popular thing I've ever written, despite being exactly the sort of thing so many people told me I couldn't and shouldn't write. Thank you all who proved those voices wrong.

Thank you to anyone who has space on their ballots and end-of-year-lists for any of my work.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"8-Bit Free Will" is live at PodCastle!

I've got a Thanksgiving present for you, everybody! Today PodCastle published a brand new story of mine: 8-Bit Free Will.

This is a story about monsters, and companions, and monster companions. Hollow Knight and HealBlob are two generic monsters in a dungeon in a videogame, designed to be easily killed off by the player. They were designed to work together to be a tiny challenge. They weren't designed to win, but they've killed the player by accident and started leveling up themselves. Suddenly they're on the run from greater monsters in their world, and from other players who want to take them down. The two buddy monsters don't know they are yet, but once they find free will out there in the world, they'll define themselves. Each just wants to help save the other. It's a journey that defines why we love games: because we share them with someone else.

The story has a lovely intro by host Matt Dovey, and a generous and moving outro by narrator Wilson Fowlie.

You can read or listen to the entire story for free just by clicking this link.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Personal Canons: Dragon Ball

There have been numerous conversations about Science Fiction and Fantasy canon this year. Can works age out of the canon? Is the gatekeeping essential to canons necessarily racist and xenophobic? Is a single objective canon possible? How do canons help us?

Amid this, Sarah Gailey has run a great series of essays by various critics and authors on what works they feel belong in a greater canon. I've enjoyed reading them, and I'm pleased today to see my entry published.

I'd like to talk to you about Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball. Both the manga and anime were massive breakout hits for Japanese SFF writers abroad, including in the US where I live. The anarchic weirdness of that series was as enchanting and formative for me as any work of Tolkien.

Please come join me for the conversation. You can read my piece for free by clicking right here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

NASFiC 2020 Schedule - This Weekend!

This weekend is the North American Science Fiction Convention! Thanks to the pandemic, they've moved exclusively to the internet, doing programming over Zoom and Discord. The event will be free to attend, so even folks on other continents can watch and chat about everything Science Fiction.

I'll be doing a few pieces of programming for them. All of mine will be over Zoom. Hope to see you there! 


Friday at 1:00-1:30 PM EST

Reading: John Wiswell

Literally me reading stories to you! I have a poll open on Twitter to vote for what I read. You can vote here.

Friday at 9:00-10:00 PM EST

Lessons Not Learned: The Future of Dystopian & Utopian Stories 

Panelists: Jason Sanford (Moderator), Ace Ratcliff, Amanda Makepeace, John Medaille, John Wiswell, Raven Oak

The panel discusses: Where does the genre go now that so much of the dystopian warnings sci-fi warned us about were ignored? What does a dystopian world look like in a post-COVID, post-Trump, melting-polar caps world? Can we ever move back to utopianism? Should we do away with utopian and dystopian scenarios altogether?


Saturday at 8:00-9:00 PM EST

Weathering the Storm: Creating in Times of Trouble at 8 PM EST on Saturday

Panelists: Brandon Wilson (moderator), Christine Taylor-Butler, Elsa Sjunneson, John Wiswell, Mari Ness

 A mixed panel of writers and artists discuss the challenges of making art and stories during a pandemic, as well as strategies for managing health and being active creators.


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

"Open House on Haunted Hill" is live at Diabolical Plots!

Today I'm proud to present "Open House on Haunted Hill," one of my favorite stories I've ever written. It follows the loneliest haunted house in the world, which is just desperate for someone to live in it. It's just gone live at Diabolical Plots.

I can't overstate the outpouring this story has gotten so far. This is the most acclaim and attention any story of mine has received at launch. The kind words from readers, fellow authors, editors, and agents has affirmed all the work I put into this little house.

This story began as a joke at World Fantasy in 2018. I was trying to explain to other writers that I love Horror, and read and watch it all the time, but I don't write much of it. If I wrote a haunted house story, it'd be about one that wanted to help its occupants live comfortably. This got a lot of laughs, but also a lot of requests for me to please actually write that.

Well folks? I did.

Along the way, I was blessed by some keen beta readers and cheer readers. A special thanks goes out to all of them: Natalia Theodoridou, Michelle Ann Fleming, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Nat Sylva, Cass Williams, Ariel Harris, and Leigh Wallace. The editor at Diabolical Plots magazine, David Steffen, also helped me work some kinks out of the ending. To edit is divine, right?

You can read "Open House on Haunted Hill" for free by clicking this link.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Digital Balticon Schedule for This Weekend!

This weekend is Balticon, a convention put on by the Maryland Regional Science Fiction & Fantasy Society. We can't gather in place thanks to the pandemic, but we can meet online. Balticon will be free to everyone who signs up on their website. After signing up, you can drop into whatever panels, talks, and readings you like from their entire offering.

The upside of the digital convention is that now anybody from around the world can see the programming and ask questions. Given how late some programming goes, it'll welcome folks from distant time zones. And it's free to everyone.

I'll be doing a few items with them. This is my first digital convention and I'm quite excited for how it will go.

Does anything on my schedule grab your interest?

So What is Horror?
Friday May 22, 10:00 PM US EST
Chad Eric Smith (Moderator), L. Marie Wood, Lee Murray, Alan Smale, John Wiswell
What is it that makes horror a distinct genre, and what experience are audiences seeking to get out of it? How has our definition of what constitutes "horror" changed over time? How do ideas and concepts break out from horror into other genres, such as paranormal romance and urban fantasy, and what makes horror's use of them different?

How Contemporary Fears Shape Apocalyptic Fiction
Sunday May 24, 1:00 PM US EST
D.H. Aire (Moderator), Kelly E. Dwyer, John Wiswell, Hildy Silverman
From nuclear war to disease to computers run amok, horror and apocalyptic fiction hold a mirror up to society's fears and show us just how badly things can go wrong. How have the terrors of different eras shaped stories of the end times, and how do different ways of portraying them affect their respective audiences?

Cultures Are Not Monoliths
Sunday May 24, 5:00 PM US EST
Don Sakers (Moderator), Stephanie Burke, Melissa Scott, Vivian Shaw, John Wiswell
In science fiction and fantasy, members of cultures are often presented with the same traits, regardless of regional and class distinctions. This can be a result of poor worldbuilding, pacing issues, limited space, or authorial neglect. How can creators add nuance and variety to their imagined societies, and what are good ways to portray this to their audience?

Reading: Ken Schrader and John Wiswell
Monday May 25, 1:00 PM US EST
Two writers share an hour reading from their short stories.

Monday, April 13, 2020

"Gender and Other Faulty Software" is live at Fireside Magazine

I'm happy to present "Gender and Other Faulty Software," a new short story live at Fireside Magazine!

It's the story of a crew that reclaims abandoned spaceships by installing a new operating system in them. But the newest spaceship finds some bugs in the OS's code - and particularly, has questions to ask about why it needs a gender. This story is already getting lovely responses around Twitter.

I have to thank Jordan Kurella and Merc Fenn Wolfmoor for beta reading this story. They did a wonderful job pointing me in the right direction to polish it.

This is my fourth story at Fireside. I'm overjoyed to keep bringing fun and unusual pieces to their pages. You can read the story for free by clicking this link.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Kaiju Story in Nature Magazine?

Call this one a career goal! I've got a brand new story for you about giant monsters published by Nature.

The Nature Futures program, which runs Science Fiction stories in the otherwise Non-Fiction Science publication, does amazing work. This is my second story with them, and I'm tremendously proud of it. It is both a kaiju story and a rare piece of Hard SciFi from me. I researched radiation technology and animal behavior extensively for how someone might try to treat these things if they existed.

The result is "Tucking In the Nuclear Egg," a story about how to care for kaiju eggs that otherwise will irradiate your continent. You can read it for free by clicking here.

The reception has been wonderfully warm so far. Please let me know what you think!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Two Sales to Announce!

I have two good pieces of news to share this week. I've just signed a pair of contracts for two exciting projects.

First up: I've sold a new story to Nature Futures. This one is "Tucking In the Nuclear Egg," a story about giant monsters with a little more science than I usually apply. It's about the logistics of shielding and caring for a kaiju egg that's constantly putting off multiple Chernobyls worth of radiation. It's terrifying and tender - and yes, this does mean I sold a kaiju story to Nature! This feels like a life goal.

This is my second sale to Nature, following "The Tentacle and You" in 2019. There may be a little more news about that tentacle story coming soon.

up: I can announce my first essay of the year! Uncanny Magazine has accepted "The Assassination of Professor X," which is a deep dive into the history of the character, how he's been rewritten in the last two decades to be more despicable and less idealistic, and how his famous disability has been erased in parallel. Professor X is a rare character as a disabled mentor, and I don't take his destruction lightly. I've been stewing on this for years, and I look forward to sharing it with you all in the coming months.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Bathrooom Monologues Movie Awards, 2019 Edition

It's almost February 2020, so of course we're all talking about the best movies of 2019. For many that includes movies that only came to the U.S. for the first time in 2019. Naturally I'll disagree with some of the Oscar winners. More naturally, I don't understand what some of the categories mean. But nothing shall dissuade me from telling a democratic body of people who devote swaths of their lives to film that their mass conclusions were wrong. So here we go!

The Robbed Award
Going to the movie that got no play last year
and is just as good as whatever won Best Picture

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

My Schedule for ConFusion 2020

Starting January 17th, I'll be at ConFusion in Detroit! It's a convention for Fantasy and Science Fiction fans to meet writers they like and attend talks on many topics. This will be my second year in attendance, and I hope it will be slightly less blizzardy. This year I'll be doing three panels, and then wrapping up with reading a brand new, unpublished story on Sunday.

I hope to see you there!

Toothless?: Making Allies of Villains and Monsters
 Day: Saturday
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: Interlochen
"Enemies to Friends" and the "Heel-Face Turn" are two of the most beloved and most common tropes in genre lit, particularly in fan writing. Shuffling characters into new teams between novels or seasons also lets us see characters, often villains or anti-heroes, in a new light. In this panel, we'll discuss the appeal of seeing what was once horrific or threatening become (relatively) "safe," the role of "redemption" (if any) in that process, and, of course, both favorite and "failed" Heel-Face turns.
Panelists: Tracy Townsend (M), John Wiswell, Brandon Crilly, Marie Bilodeau

Masculinity and Trauma Recovery in Genre Fiction
 Day: Saturday
Time: 02:00 p.m.
Room: Isle Royale
Science Fiction and Fantasy are full of tough manly heroes (and anti-heroes) with trauma in their backgrounds, from murdered families to witnessed war crimes. More often than not, these traumatic backstories serve as a justification for sarcasm, alcohol, and violence. In a world where men are significantly less likely to get professional help to heal from their trauma, how can science fiction and fantasy help to create positive examples of heroes who face their demons constructively?
Panelists: Brandon O'Brien (M), Adam R. Shannon, dave ring, John Wiswell, R.B. Lemberg

Non-Monarchic Governments in SF&F
 Day: Saturday
Time: 05:00 p.m.
Room: Manitou
Historical fantasy loves its kings and queens almost as much as space opera loves its emperors, but do we need them? What are some interesting (or terrible) alternative methods of government, and how do they show up in our favourite genre stories? From Star Wars’ Senate to Le Guin's Ekumen, what do we learn when we put aside crowns and dig a little deeper?
Panelists: Tracy Townsend (M), John Wiswell, Ehud Maimon, Kristine Smith

Reading: Marissa Lingen, Tim Boerger, John Wiswell
 Day: Sunday
Time: 10:00 a.m.
Room: Saugatuck
Panelists: Marissa Lingen, Tim Boerger, John Wiswell

Thursday, December 26, 2019

My Favorite Books of the Year, 2019 Edition

One of the best things to do with a December is reminisce about the better parts of a year. Books remain a constant source of inspiration and provocation in my life. So let's gather around and talk about the books that brightened some dark parts of the year, and other books that made us fiercer in the face of darkness.

I think this is the first time my Books of the Year list is mostly comprised of books that came out the year I wrote about. I credit this on my being deeper in the SFF publishing field now and living under the faucet of cool books. It is a faucet I cannot turn off. It is a faucet I do not want to turn off.

Riverland by Fran Wilde

My favorite thing about C.S. Lewis's Narnia books is they open with the kids escaping a danger zone of WW2 England to live at an elder's house and find an escape in his wardrobe, and they are literal books written to give children an imaginary escape from similar terrors.

Fran Wilde's Riverland is a novel entirely about this as text, theme, and plot.

A pair of siblings whose parents are in an abusive relationship try to comfort each other, in part through telling stories. They discover a portal under their beds to Riverlandm, a fantastic land that seems connected to the problems besetting their neighborhood. It's obvious that adventures in Riverland are a way of not thinking about the terror of what they hear every night between their parents, but engaging with those things and their secret family history also gives them the growth necessary to confront what's happening. It's all wrapped in how siblings try to shield each other from trauma

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I haven't had this much fun reading dialogue since Scott Lynch's Lies of Locke Lamora. Muir has a range of weirdo necromancers in space, which would be enough novelty to carry lesser novels. This one is packed with such weirdos possessed of wit, braggadocio, and unapologetic queerness. Even when the plot is at its most dire, characters refuse to yield their egos and one-liners, and those one-liners are peerless. I would've happily read a book twice as long that never did as much with plot and revelation. An awkward party chapter in this novel is simply more fun than the climax of a normal novel thanks to the cast and how terrible they are at picking friends and keeping secrets.

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Sadaawi

Not Victor Frankenstein, mind you. Instead this is a golem created from the limbs of victims of suicide bombers (and possibly the bombers themselves) in modern day Iraq. They can't be buried by Islamic law, but the law enforcement agents don't have the heart to destroy them. What results is a monster that has no idea what his place is in this war-torn country. A cult believes he might be a new prophet or savior from the terrors of the post-American invasion power structure. Others believe he's a killer who must be stopped.

Thanks to judicious use of the monster's point of view, he's humanized more than Mary Shelley's Creature, such that the biggest arc is what he develops into as a confused, hurt person. Everything he does illuminates boundaries and angles of Iraqi society. I still think about the ending, and what a certain cat thinks about how the monster smells.

Five Unicorn Flush by T.J. Berry

The silly, warm-hearted Space Opera that my heart yearns for. It's a direct sequel to Berry's Space Unicorn Blues, following the misadventures, mistakes, and big decisions of that book. It is a further exploration of a universe where leprechauns and trolls are real - they're just aliens. Humans have taken to space and are making a mess of the universe, causing people like our beloved unicorn to run for their lives.

It has several damnably funny parts, but my favorite part is the friendship between a certain disabled character and a fantasy creature. Most novels would bend that into standard romance. That instead these two respect each other platonically is refreshing. My ace/aro heart needed what Berry did with them.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Don't you want to bask in that cover? Go ahead. Bask. No one's looking.

It's a cover almost as glorious as Martine's novel. She blends the Homeric, the fun absurdities of Space Opera, and keen attention to the power imbalances of politics. From the opening I loved the purpose of making sure hegemonies, even ones in a character's own favor, weren't allowed to strengthen. Like the best parts of the Baru Cormorant books, A Memory Called Empire considers how politics are more complex than two sided, and how that means many sides not just lose out, but have their ethoses changed.

Also I dare you to find a cooler Plot Farm ™ than a holographic "assistant" that is the digitized memory of your dead predecessor, and he has tips, but he also isn't fully forward about what he was up to and doesn't know how he died.

The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes

This novel isn't for everybody. It's just for people with souls.

Tippy is a plushie triceratops Noir detective. He works the beat in a town where imaginary friends go when their children outgrew or lose them. It could easily be a purely silly novel, since it has so much charm at every angle. But from the opening with a sentient nightmare that is crying because it's homesick for the child it belonged to, you grasp that there is always humanity cast as a shadow against the weirdness. Tippy being separated from his child reflects a powerful childhood trauma (one which I won't spoil). Tippy and the nightmare run afoul of an imaginary killer that would make Jason and Freddy blush, someone strong enough to make fantasies of supermen and mad scientists crumble. Its origin is the perfect case of a triceratops gumshoe - who might be its next victim. I want to roll around in the ridiculous, wonderful world of this novel.

House of X/Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman, Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, and Marte Gracia

The most interesting X-Men story in years almost isn't an X-Men story. It's more a long establishment of a new and overdue status quo. The stale Xavier/Magneto feud is brought to an end by a time traveler's revelation that neither of their plans work. Xavier's human/mutant coexistence leads to annihilation, but so does Magneto's war for mutant supremacy.

You know that Hickman has thought the characters through when Xavier learns of this and his first response is to tell Magneto. He still believes in cooperation, and together with other key thinkers and leaders from throughout X-Men history, they have to create a new plan. What else is there otherside of pure harmony and pure war? The answer ties together decades of stories, including the Hellfire Club, the rise of Apocalypse, the threat of the Sentinels, and the team-eating island of Krakoa. It creates a very different world that will tell very different X-Men stories going forward. It's not just about time for this change; it's agreat change.

I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It took a few years but we finally got Lindqvist's purgatorial novel in English. It begins simply: four families at a campsite awake to find the rest of the world has vanished. There are no other cars. No cell signal. The sky is blue, but even the sun seems to have disappeared.

Now that premise could've been a bog standard novel of tropy characters devolving into Lord of the Flies. Why the book stands out is every POV character - including one family's dog - has a fully fleshed out personality and deep history that leads to why they ask the questions they do. Only these characters would explore the world as they do, interpret the following supernatural events as they do, and bang into each other in their specific conflicts. It feels like watching real psychologies clash. By far my favorites were the pair of adult men farmers whose wives had left them, and who gradually realized they were gay and in love, but are still figuring out their comfort levels with each other.

That's all for my list right now. I'm halfway through Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People's History of the United States, which is giving my sense of history a deserved punch in the liver. It will likely be my list next year.

What have you loved reading this year?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My Top Ten Videogames of the Year for 2019 (and Honorable Mentions)

It's been a couple years since I did meaty Game of the Year post. I missed writing about games - particularly about the different was they can excel. So last night, between editing sessions on unannounced projects, I wrote this list for you all. It's a ridiculous list, as anything ranked always is. It's twisty and full of ties, because some games simply aren't comparable and have to learn to be neighbors.

I've included some thoughts on each entry. Please let me know which ones catch your interest!

And if you just want the ranked list, I put it at the very bottom of the post. Skip if you want to spoil yourself. I won't tell.

Monday, November 25, 2019

"The Lie Misses You" is live at Cast of Wonders!

I've got a Thanksgiving gift for everybody: my short story "The Lie Misses You" is up for free today at Cast of Wonders!

This is a story from the point of view of a lie. The lie wants to help her family; she doesn't remember why her family began telling her, or why they ignore her now. She lingers over the things they can't confront. I circled around this story idea for years before finally grabbing onto it and putting it to paper. It was a protagonist I couldn't leave alone.

You can have the story however you like. Cast of Wonders had posted the full text as well as producing a podcast of the story narrated by Athena Haq.

Want to read?

Want to listen?

They've got you covered. Simply click here.

This is my third story at the Escape Artists network. Previously they ran "Wet" at Podcastle and "Under the Rubble" at Pseudopod. I'm so happy for another of my stories to find its home with them.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The R.A.Q. 2019!

It's my birthday! And I'm celebrating by answering your questions.

But not just any old questions. These are the questions you never asked. They're Frequently Asked Questions. They're Rarely Asked Questions.

Let's see how this goes. Thanks for asking!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Gathering Rarely Asked Questions for my Birthday

It's my birthday in a month, and to celebrate I'm asking everyone to ask me something special. Ask me a Rarely Asked Question.

What are the Rarely Asked Questions? Up until August 31st, I'm asking you to comment on this blog post with something you've never asked anyone else. These are the Rarely Asked Questions, or RAQs.

Examples of RAQs include:

-What's your favorite shape of tree?
-What garbage black-and-white era movie would you remake?

-Can mice fly when we're not watching?

You can ask as many questions as you like, as long as each is unique. What you don't normally ask anyone else is entirely up to you. I'll compile every question and answer at least one per person on September 4th - my birthday.  That's how I like to celebrate.

So! What would you like to ask me?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bathroom Monologue: Every Argument About Racism in the Last Week, Abridged

Me: That shit he said was racist.
Rando: No it wasn't.

Me: Three of the four of them were born in the U.S. This is their country. This is their government.

Rando: It's about them being unamerican.

Me: They're criticizing the government, which the First Amendment allows them to.

Rando: They're just doing it for attention.

Me: They're doing it as part of trying to correct the vile policies of a government they were elected to serve in. This is their job. And that shit he said would still racist no matter the job of the person he said it about.

Rando: They're socialists and they hate America.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Readercon Schedule

Reading: John Wiswell
Time: Thursday, 8:30 PM
Room: Sylvanus Thayer
Author John Wiswell reads a brand new story! This work hasn't yet been published and probably won't be available anywhere this year except at this reading.

Panel: Narratives of Men Coming to Terms with Trauma
Time: Friday, 2:00 PM
Room: Salon A
In the 2018 essay "Getting Men off Ledges," Brandon O'Brien wrote, "We need to show men with trauma... working through it." He provided examples of men whose abusive behavior is excused by their traumatic histories, saying, "We need to teach and remind men... that recovery means responsibility." How can writers take on this burden of teaching and reminding? What do story arcs around traumatized men—including those who harm others—need to contain to be believable, non-exculpatory, and emotionally accessible for survivors?

Panel: Heist Stories as Meta-Genre
Time: Saturday, 12:00 Noon
Room: Salon 4
On a panel at Readercon 29 about collaboration and community, John Wiswell observed that heist novels have "a synthesis of premise and plot," while Scott Lynch added that heist stories reinforce that people need one another. This panel will dig more into heist stories, which (like humor and horror) can be layered on top of any genre or setting. What makes them satisfying? How can they make use of speculative elements while retaining their core of human ingenuity and interdependence?

Party: Meet the Pros(e)
Time: Saturday, 10:30 PM
Room: Salon 3
Each writer at this party has selected a short, pithy quotation from their own work and is armed with a sheet of 30 printed labels, the quote replicated on each. As attendees mingle, the request "May I have a sticker?" provides a convenient icebreaker for tongue-tied fans approaching the pros whose work they love. Rearrange stickers to make a poem or statement, wear them as decoration, or simply enjoy the opportunity to meet and chat with your favorite writers.

Panel: What Does Authenticity Look Like?
Time: Sunday, 1:00 PM
Room: Salon 3
As the #ownvoices movement gathers steam, marginalized authors encounter demands for authenticity in their work from agents, editors, and readers who often have no idea what authenticity looks like. These authors often already pressure themselves, asking, "Am I #ownvoices enough?" But how else can they signal that their writing is for or about an underrepresented demographic? This panel of marginalized authors, led by Lisa M. Bradley, will discuss the concept of authenticity, the #ownvoices label, and how authors present and think about their work.
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