If a bear…
by Kathrin Köhler
You know in the same way that anyone who lives in an isolated village in a deep-shadowed wood knows anything: it’s been repeated so often you’ve choked on it since you were a child. One day a bear will show up at your doorstep.
Yes, dear readers, that is my name on the cover of Shimmer’s 42nd issue!
My story “If a bear…” and a few interview questions and answers appear therein, along with three other gorgeous, shimmery tales. This issue will not leave you hungry.
When I received my author’s copy, I went to proofread, but wound up reading reading the whole issue, because, as expected of the fine folk at Shimmer, this is a breathtaking issue.
Issue #42 of Shimmer contains the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Promise.
The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea
by Sara Saab (available 3/6)
Almost everyone I entertain over a frosted fifth of vodka — bottle balanced precariously on a foldout tray, half my attention on keeping it upright — wants to know how I became a competitive eater. Also, how I found myself living on the Dbovotav Coastal Express. (5500 words)
They Have a Name For That
by Sara Beitia (available 3/20)
Mother insists everyone always said what an attractive quartet the family was, and there’s a stair wall lined with years of family portraits to bear this out. And now Cal and her groom will have children of their own, probably immediately, and they’ll be beautiful, of course, because Calliope won’t have it otherwise, and somehow that’ll settle it, because her life is a fairytale, so she can’t conceive otherwise. It’s not her fault. (6100 words)
The Imitation Sea
by Lora Gray (available 4/3)
You find the dead Angel at five a.m. in the slurry of broken bottles and rotting fish on the Lake Erie shore. It almost looks human in the morning light, a ten-year-old, maybe eleven, boyish, face bloated, limp and blue and doughy. (3200 words)
If a bear…
by Kathrin Köhler (available 4/17)
You know in the same way that anyone who lives in an isolated village in a deep-shadowed wood knows anything: it’s been repeated so often you’ve choked on it since you were a child. One day a bear will show up at your doorstep. (1000 words)
There’s four delicious stories to eat, imbibe, or read, as you prefer.
Perhaps you’ll find the answers you’ve been looking for. If you’re lucky, you just might find a question you didn’t even know to ask.
I’m thrilled to let you know that my story, “Girl Singing with Farm”, was accepted by Reckoning!! Reckoning is an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. Oh yeah, you know I’m thrilled to have had a story accepted by them.
I will be letting you and everyone I see know when “Girl Singing with Farm”, and the other fine stories the good folks at Reckoning took on, is available.
There’s so much to say, and at the moment, I can’t even begin. Therefore, I’ve been quiet lately. Not because I have nothing to say, but because I have too much to say, too much I want to point out, too much to express.
Pantheon Magazine picked up my story “Stars Reflected in Every Drop” for their Tethys-themed issue! This story is one of my favorites and I am absolutely thrilled it’s found a wonderful home at Pantheon.
From Pantheon Magazine’s call for submissions:
“Tethys is the Titan daughter of the sky and the earth, guardian of fresh water, mother of the river gods and sea nymphs.
Tell us stories about rivers and inland seas, about water caverns–and those who protect them. Tell us about what happens to those who trespass against Tethys. We want to read about the delicate creatures blooming in rain puddles and about the dark awareness at the bottom of cenotes.”
I’ll let you know when it’s up (the issue is scheduled to appear online this fall).
Used a drawing from Andrew Lang’s “The Green Fairy Book” to create this poster. Much fun in the making. Will have much fun at the reading, too, with the inimitable Emily Cataneo, Julie C. Day, and Sarah Read!
Hope you can join us Saturday, May 27th, at 4pm (that’s Memorial Day weekend). Reading held at Michaelangelo’s Coffee Shop near the Concourse Hotel.
“We do not encourage the formulaic use of popular genre (e.g., romance, science fiction, horror, thriller, etc.)” – from the Iowa State University MFA website. This summarizes the academic view of genre fiction. Formulaic. That some genres carry “more literary weight than others”. Need I state that SF/F/H is not one that carries this gravitas or merit. At least in this quote, ISU recognizes, or pretends to distinguish, that the use of “popular genre” as formulaic is what’s frowned upon; though, the implication is that genre is by its nature formulaic and therefore inferior (“We understand that there are subgenres within each of these classic genres, some of them carrying more literary weight than others” = there’s a hierarchy, and guess where “genre” fiction falls?).
Relying on stereotypes is inferior writing. It’s lazy. Not crafting sentences or scenes; not developing theme or subtext; ignoring character arc and inherent cohesion; yes, these things are a sign of inferior writing, inferior craft. But that’s not the genre, that’s the execution and the writing craft.
This is an interesting conversation to try to have–to understand that SF/F (a.k.a. genre or popular fiction–I’m dropping horror because that’s another conversation) is not inherently or by definition formulaic. What genre fiction is, is a use of speculative elements relating to scientifically or fantastically derived themes used to explore topics otherwise unseen, or unable-to-be-seen, the that which is hidden from or difficult for social and personal conversation and contemplation. Topics typically unable to be written about for whatever reason (usually involving (lack of) emotional and cultural distance) can be written about and explored in SF/F precisely because the approach is an unfamiliar one. It’s disarming. Hackles don’t immediately raise; assumptions aren’t immediately formulated. I think this fascinatingly relates to post-normal science–that you can not have an observer-free observation. How’s that for academic?! Yeah! If I had more time and energy I’d drop some links and mentions regarding utopian studies, post-colonial and feminist theory, the human need for concrete ideology–something to look toward, as opposed to things to avoid.
[Sofia’s “The Closest Thing to Animals” is a wonderful example of well-written, thoughtful, beautifully crafted science fiction, a.k.a. speculative fiction.]
But this doesn’t mean you can’t write genre fiction that’s formulaic. Because you can. You can write bad SF/F. Some authors really do just write formulaic fiction with the trappings of SF/F. That’s possible. But it isn’t inherent to the genre.
It’s like saying that metal or rap or country music sucks (to pick on sometimes popularly picked on red-headed step-children of the music industry). Bad metal or rap or country sucks. But good metal or rap or country music is good. There is nothing inherent in these types of music that automatically frames them from foundation to artistic-execution as inferior.
I know this is one reason people have started using the label “speculative fiction”–to distinguish well-written stories with “literary merit” from the formulaic fiction (other) people usually call SF/F. I do. But this can be problematic, putting the speculative fiction in its own genre, since it furthers the idea that SF/F is a genre of formulaic hackneyed writing.
What do you think?
Here’s the opening quote with a bit more context: “We understand that there are subgenres within each of these classic genres, some of them carrying more literary weight than others. While we do not encourage the formulaic use of popular genre (e.g.,romance,science fiction,horror, thriller, etc.), we do support writers who wish to create cross-over works that combine the energy of popular genre traditions with the greater ambition and more nuanced techniques of classic literary traditions.”
It’s out! The Book Smugglers have released the “First Contact” anthology. Behold:
“An intergalactic negotiation commences between a husband and wife, and actual aliens from outer space. A romantic encounter kindles between the last human alive and a fallen star. A young woman discovers her ability to choose her fate for the first time. An experimental application questions what it means to be alive and to be self-aware. An overlooked and unheard antiheroine comes of age, and realizes her self-potential.
First Contact: Five Tales of First Encounters collects five short stories that examine the concept of “first contact” from diverse, feminist, and original perspectives.
The Merger by Sunil Patel
Luminous by A.E. Ash
The Vishakanya’s Choice by Roshani Chokshi
Application for the Delegation of First Contact: Questionnaire, Part B by Kathrin Kohler
The Bridegroom by Amelia Mangan
All stories originally published and edited by “The Book Smugglers.”
I sent a short story (unpublished) and three poems (“Woman of Wood” in Goblin Fruit, Winter 2012; “the art of domesticity” in Stone Telling, issue 8, 2013; and “Sea Change” in Strange Horizons, October 15th, 2012).
Of my work, one of the jurors wrote: “The poetry is beautifully executed, with wonderful use of language–spare and direct. The short story pulls you into a new world with consistent internal rules and delightful attention to detail.”
Thank you to the Speculative Literature Foundation for this opportunity, to managing director Malon Edwards and all the jurors for their efforts in coordinating and awarding this grant, and for their generous, kind words regarding my writing.
Big congratulations to Nino Cipri, this year’s winner! Of Cipri’s entry, “The Shape of My Name” in tor.com: “This is a very original story, with an unusual take on time travel as well as gender and transgender issues. Pitch perfect. Very polished and potent.”
And congratulations to my fellow Honorable Mentions Alix Heintzman and Molly Moss! I had the pleasure of meeting Nino at WisCon earlier this year and got to congratulate *in person*, Alix and Molly I must congratulate over the Internets.
Stories and words by these authors (including Malon Edwards!) are out there for you to read and enjoy.
Last summer my life changed forever–I attended Odyssey, a six week intensive writing workshop for writers of speculative fiction led by the inestimable Jeanne Cavelos. It was amazing, trying, thrilling, exhausting. I learned so much that I am still learning what I learned. I never so loved being around a group of strangers, but they weren’t strangers exactly–we all love writing, reading, and the life in words. I met a whole group of my sisters and brothers of my dreamworld. We wrote up apocalypses that destroyed cultures and whole worlds then the next day we birthed new ones; we created horrors and dreams, monsters and gods, and then we met for dinner.
If you are considering investing in your writing, in yourself as a writer, and have considered applying to Odyssey, do! I did not get accepted my first round of applications to the three big workshops (Odyssey, Clarion, and Clarion West). But I kept writing and bettering my craft and the next time I applied, last year, I was wait-listed and then accepted to two of these fine institutions. The process of applying is a worthy process–you can learn from it regardless of outcome. But it’s the only way to be accepted into one of these programs.
Write your heart out, revise, and apply!
Here’s a brief description from Jeanne:
The application deadline for this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop is April 8. If you want to make a big leap forward with your writing skills, now is the time to apply to Odyssey. Graduates have repeatedly said that six weeks at Odyssey has taught them more than a two-year master’s program in creative writing, and more than years of study on their own.
We have a wonderful session prepared for this summer, with guests including Catherynne M. Valente, Ellen Kushner, Elizabeth Hand, and Gordon Van Gelder. Our writers-in-residence, Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, taught at Odyssey 2005 and are among students’ most beloved writers-in-residence. I was thrilled when they agreed to teach again this year.
You can find more workshop information here: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/workshop.html
And you can find instructions on how to apply here: http://www.sff.net/odyssey/apply.html
‘A book,’ says Vandos of Ur-Amakir, ‘is a fortress, a place of weeping, the key to the desert, a river that has no bridge, a garden of spears.’ Fanlewas the Wise, the great theologian of Avalei, writes that Kuidva, the God of Words, is ‘a taskmaster with a lead whip.’ Tala of Yenith is said to have kept her books in an iron chest that could not be opened in her presence, else she would lie on the floor, shrieking (page 19).
We often think of books as bastions of knowledge, open to all equally to come drink from their wells. Reading and writing are viewed as gentlemanly or ladylike pastimes. We tend to speak of a book as a bridge, not “a river that has no bridge”, or we depict a book as a garden blooming with words, something pleasurable, not “a place for weeping” or something as threatening as “a garden of spears”. Yet books are these things too.
Language and literacy are powers like any other, they can be used to suppress and to harm. And just like any other art, language can divide as well as unite, show the transcendental nature of humanity as well as its pettiness. And like many knowledges, modes, and paradigms, it is privileged. Sofia’s novel reminded me of all these things as well.
A Stranger in Olondria is gorgeously written in lyrical and evocative prose. It’s textural. It is an experience. It is a journey. This is a book about a young man’s journey into literacy and into another culture, and through these he journeys further into his own. And like all true journeys, this tale is transformative.
Besides the lush prose, imagery, sensory and historical detail (all the things I want to drink in when I travel) I appreciate this novel for its detail in considering the many layers of culture and how these are tied to literacy and language and privilege. I have more thoughts and questions and conclusions to draw than I am currently able to express. Let me say: the world-building is exceptional. And I mean World-Building, with capital letters and All that World implies. Sofia does not ignore class or cultural imperialism, or any of the hierarchies we create in our own world, many of which we are complicit in and uphold without question or even awareness. She has woven a full tapestry, not a cardboard cutout, as the saying goes. This is a novel as rich in social political consideration as it is in language. Which is to say, very. And it is always readable and always immersive.
To say I enjoyed A Stranger in Olondria is insufficient. I did. But more than that. I was left changed. I was left holding my own enjoyment of language knowing I cannot unknow it, knowing that this language too has been used and misused. I was left with the renewed awareness that language shapes me as much as I shape it, if not more. And yet, these beautiful words I had just breathed and lived through; this story. I could not but fully agree with Ravhathos who “cautioned that those who spend long hours engaged in reading or writing should not be spoken to for seven hours afterward” (page 19).
The official blurb: Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home—but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. Just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.
In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of freeing himself by setting her free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that most seductive of necromancies, reading.
A Stranger in Olondria was written while the author taught in South Sudan. It is a rich and heady brew which pulls the reader in deeper and still deeper with twists and turns that hearken back to the Gormenghast novels while being as immersive as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.
(above text from Small Beer Press’s website)