I thought you understood about transformation.

Last night, we posted a new cover for Broad Knowledge, after receiving feedback that it didn’t fit its genre. Our donors will choose (in the backer survey sent out after the campaign ends) which of the two covers becomes the actual published version! You can still get whichever cover you like, no matter which one wins; one of the covers will be a Kickstarter exclusive.

In honor of our new cover, both of today’s stories are from Broad Knowledge, and both involve visitations of numinous creatures: Sarina Dorie’s “The Visitations of Seraphim by Biblical Scholar Father Anthony Maguire” and Sonya Taaffe’s “Like Milkweed” (from which today’s cover comes).

Taaffe’s story, a reprint which originally appeared in 2014 in Not One of Us #52, is of a woman, Alicja, talking to a mysterious visiting alien about her ex-girlfriend, who left her after staying with her through her transition, because of the aliens, in a roundabout way. It’s a contemplative and emotionally raw story, gorgeously told.

Of her story, Sarina Dorie writes:

With many of my stories, the premise starts as a question or concept. For The Visitations of Seraphim by Biblical Scholar Father Anthony Maguire, I started off thinking about the questions all of us probably ask about angels. Historically or mythologically they are supposed to be genderless but we always create angels in our image, so what if we wrote about genderless angels or angels that choose their gender? If modern day humans were faced with the divine and it was so beautiful we couldn’t comprehend it, how would we react?

 

About the Authors

Sarina Dorie has sold about 100 short stories to markets like Daily Science Fiction, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s IGMS, Cosmos, and Sword and Laser. Her steampunk romance series, The Memory Thief, and her collections, Fairies, Robots and Unicorns—Oh My! and Ghosts, Werewolves and Zombies—Oh My! are available on Amazon, along with other books. You can find more information about her quirky fantasy series or other short stories or novels at sarinadorie.com.

Sonya Taaffe’s short fiction and poetry can be found most recently in the collection Ghost Signs (Aqueduct Press) and in the anthologies The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom, Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, and An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables. She reads dead languages for fun, edits living poets for Strange Horizons, and lives in Somerville, MA with her husband and two cats. She once named a Kuiper belt object.

26 June 2018

Just imagine if people took every word that came out of your mouth as seriously as they take every bullet fired out of a gun.

Today we feature two different takes on the power of your voice.

In R. S. Benedict’s “Clara Vox,” that power is very literal: the main character is saved from suicide by a woman with the dubious gift of possessing a voice that people can’t disobey, which is only fair since she (it’s strongly implied) also caused her to go off her antidepressants by doing an anti-drug PSA. Benedict says:

“Clara Vox” came to me while I was stuck in a low-paying job writing copy without meaningful opportunities to use my talents to their fullest extent. At the time, being able to write felt like having one of those ironic gifts from the gods you read about in Greek mythology: eternal life without eternal youth, the uncontrollable ability to turn everything into gold, perfect prophecies that no one else will believe, that sort of thing.

In L. Timmel Duchamp’s classic science fiction story “The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.” (from which today’s title comes), a black female dissident’s words are so inflammatory and radical that the government puts her into quarantine on a military base and passes a law (The Limited Censorship for the Preservation of National Security Act) to systematically and completely obliterate them.

In her quest to meet with Margaret A., the reporter-narrator meets a “Justice Department official assigned to what they call ‘the Margaret A. Desk’—an ‘expert’ who cheerfully admitted to me that he had never heard or read any of Margaret A.’s words himself.” In a story deeply engaged with the power and danger of women’s voices, and women of color’s voices especially, the reader never finds out what Margaret A. advocated for, or indeed her full name, which functions to keep the focus on her silencing, and on what may happen when inevitably the next generation pushes for the law to be overturned.

Duchamp may have been thinking of political prisoners like South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela or Myanmar’s pro-democracy politician Aung San Suu Kyi, who were both imprisoned by their respective governments when the story was first published in 1990.

However, the text itself allows for Margaret A. to be an ordinary woman making mundane observations about oppression, who happened to hit the cultural zeitgeist at a particular moment of cultural change, like the one we are living through now with the #metoo movement. The narrator expects to meet “not only the most remarkable woman in history, but probably the most charismatic, charming and possibly lovable person I would ever have the pleasure of knowing,” and is startled to find instead a “a small stout figure in gray cotton shirt and pants” whose interview is a “disappointment.” Many ordinary women have had the experience of pointing out seemingly obvious gender bias and having their words treated (mostly—but sadly not exclusively—by men) as inappropriate and out of line. Margaret A.’s imprisonment is this reflexive patriarchal silencing writ large.

 

About the Authors

R. S. Benedict grew up in rural New York but spent three years living in China. Her work has appeared in Unicorn Booty and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

L. Timmel Duchamp is the author of several books, including The Waterdancer’s World and Never at Home. Her five-novel Marq’ssan Cycle series was awarded a Special Honor by the 2009 James Tiptree, Jr. Award jury. In 2004, she founded Aqueduct Press, which now claims the lion’s share of her time and effort and won her the 2017 World Fantasy Special Award—Professional. She lives in Seattle. Find her at ltimmelduchamp.com. Her “The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.” was first published in Pulphouse 8 and has been anthologized in The Women Who Walk Through Fire and Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology.

25 June 2018

There’s a slight green sheen. Not from the lichen or whatever, just normal rot.

About today’s two stories, editor Octavia Cade writes:

Are there limits to the consumptions we’ll perform as a community, as H. Pueyo argues in “I Eat”? When we choose, as ecosystem actors, to act to the detriment of that ecosystem as a whole, is there ever any coming back from that? We tell ourselves stories of single persons and change, but there are times this takes on the sticky-sweet patina of myth, and by framing her question within a post-apocalyptic environment Pueyo questions the choices we can make as part of a learning and adaptive community.

In the absence of that community we lose a culture. In the second post- apocalyptic story of the anthology, Rem Wigmore in “Who Watches” follows the single survivor of a lichen infestation that is so transformative its victims are no longer human. They remain edible, but as Sam navigates the wreck of her old life, eating what was once her own kind, she’s still the last gasp of an old method of consumption. The new has adapted, evolved, and has its own method of eating outsiders, turning them into something else.

 

Also!

We have a little news: Broad Knowledge contributor Rati Mehrotra just had another of her stories longlisted for the Sunburst Awards! (Ursula Pflug, who had a story in our anthology The Museum of All Things Awesome and That Go Boom, is also on the list.) Congratulations to all!

We’ve also made the weekly roundup at Paper Cat Press, and at the International Examiner: Seattle’s Asian Pacific Islander nonprofit news source since 1974.

 

About the Authors

H. Pueyo is a South American writer, currently living somewhere in Brazil. She writes short stories and comics of many genres, published both in English and Portuguese. Find her portfolio at querellepueyo.com or follow her on Twitter: @argiopidae.

Rem Wigmore, also published under Summer Wigmore, is a speculative fiction writer based in Wellington. Their first novel The Wind City was published in 2013 by Steam Press and they had a short story in the 2016 At the Edge anthology. They like coffee, snacks, and destroying the patriarchy.

24 June 2018

There is a constant buzz that is very nearly comforting.

Tabitha Sin’s “The Donor,” from Broad Knowledge, and Kathryn McMahon’s “The Honey Witch” (from which today’s title comes), from Sharp & Sugar Tooth, both explore the horrific side of preservation. In both, organs are taken over by something else, something that is supposed to keep them safe from harm or injury, but at what cost?

In “The Donor,” an organ harvester discovers a donor who is supposed to be freshly dead, but who comes alive in an extremely unsettling way:

In “The Honey Witch,” a beekeeper tries to help her ex-lover with honey and beeswax, but the two women discover the danger of the magic she tries without fully understanding what she is letting into her home.

Kathryn McMahon writes:

I get a lot of inspiration from nature shows or articles. I like to take something real and warp it, and when writing horror, I play with it and stretch it out until it’s grotesque. In the case of my story “The Honey Witch” in Sharp & Sugar Tooth, I’d come across an article about a saint’s remains preserved in beeswax. Beeswax and honey are incredible materials that have almost an immortal lifespan as long as they are pure. Archaeologists have discovered honey made by bees in ancient Egypt that is still edible today. And anything preserved in beeswax or honey lasts a long, long time. Honey is also used in the treatment of wounds and has a variety of health benefits. It’s no wonder that it has been viewed as possessing magical, curative properties—but what if that magic was misused?

Donate now to pre-order both anthologies!

 

About the Authors

Kathryn McMahon is an American writer living abroad with her British wife and dog. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Baltimore Review, Crack the Spine, and Necessary Fiction, among others. More of her writing can be found at darkandsparklystories.com. She tweets as @katoscope.

Tabitha Sin is a speculative fiction and hybrid memoir-fiction writer. Her science fiction works have been published in Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction and Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction. Her hybrid memoir-fiction pieces can be found in Side B Magazine and Moonroots zine. She is a VONA alum and a mango fiend.

23 June 2018

There, just behind his teeth, is what I’m looking for: ugly thoughts, viscous as boiled tendon.

Today we spotlight two stories of eating souls, Crystal Lynn Hilbert’s “Soul of Soup Bones” and Alyssa Wong’s “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” (from which today’s title comes):

Unlike most of the stories in these anthologies, both of these stories have been published before: you can read “Soul of Soup Bones” in Apex Magazine and “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” in the 2015 Queers Destroy Horror! issue of Nightmare. It won the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Short Story and the 2016 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction!

 

About the Authors

Crystal Lynn Hilbert lives in the forgotten backwaters of Western Pennsylvania and subsists mostly on old trade paperbacks and tea. A fan of things magical and mythical, her stories tend towards a peculiar blend of high magic and Eddic poetry. You can read her latest stories “Oath Breaker Priest to an Almost God” and “Rediscovering the Lich: A Study on the Lost Art of Self-Reanimation” in Betwixt Magazine. A monster masquerading as her sleeps at http://cl-hilbert.tumblr.com.

Alyssa Wong lives in Chapel Hill, NC, and really, really likes crows. She was a finalist for the 2016 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the Locus Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award. Her work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Nightmare Magazine, Black Static, and Tor.com, among others. Alyssa can be found on Twitter as @crashwong.

22 June 2018

To give that much, so thoughtfully, you have to have a self, well-established, and conscientiously choose to give of it.

Today we feature two stories from Sharp & Sugar Tooth which center around generosity: Erin Horáková’s “A Year Without the Taste of Meat” and A. R. Henle’s “Strong Meat.” But first, a little news!

On to our stories!

In her introduction, Octavia Cade writes that, “the fate of ritual and recipe are explored further in . . . “Dear Son” by Joyce Chng [where] they’re used to pass on generosity.” We featured Chng’s story on June 6th. The idea of food as a cultural mechanism for generosity is woven throughout this collection.

In “Strong Meat,” a specialty chef uses sympathetic magic in her meat courses to strengthen her clients’ good natures. A.R. Henle writes:

How I got the idea for my story rather resembles the old ad for Reese’s peanut butter cups—where the chocolate and the peanut butter bump into each other in the dark and decide to be friends. In my case, however, a couple of other things joined the mix. One day I read some of the slew of articles about mice born from eggs and sperm formed from skin cells. This somehow intersected with celebrity chef culture, then met up with revenge sagas and took a hard turn into horror. There the story elements discovered certain Greek myths and, oddly enough, self-help books. All this mixed together and resulted in a story about “Strong Meat.”

In “A Year Without the Taste of Meat,” the narrator returns home to share a ritual meal with her ex’s new lover to mourn the death of their mutual friend, something that the new lover could have denied to her: “We talked in the kitchen while Lova ground the bone for ash cookies. I felt certain that Ebba had loved Lova for her incredible generosity. That is the right word, rather than selflessness. To give that much, so thoughtfully, you have to have a self, well-established, and conscientiously choose to give of it.”

Go to the Kickstarter to donate now!

 

About the Authors

A. R. Henle is an archivist, historian, and librarian (not necessarily in that order). She writes non-fiction by day and fantasy by night—except when story ideas sneak into her head during daylight hours and demand to be written right now.

Erin Horáková is a southern American writer who lives in London. She’s working towards her literature PhD, which focuses on how charm evolves over time.

21 June 2018

Scuba diving on Europa was supposed to be fun

Two stories in Broad Knowledge involve space travel (as does Sharp & Sugar Tooth’s “And When We Die They Will Consume Us” by Betsy Aoki, which we featured on June 16th): “The Cold Waters of Europa” by Claudine Griggs (from which our title comes) and “The Ladies in the Moon” by Xin Niu Zhang.

“The Ladies in the Moon” is the story of Fletcher, an enforcer for a gang called the Solars, who gets a chance at a spot on a moon colony.

“The Cold Waters of Europa” is a story about a disaster in space that results in the narrator fighting not to freeze to death in (as you may have guessed) the cold waters of Europa, as she watches her wife plummet to the bottom of the ocean.

Claudine Griggs writes:

Wondering about what folks might do for recreation several hundred years in the future, I came up with the story idea in “The Cold Waters of Europa,” which involves scuba diving under the ice on that frozen moon. A small group on a working vacation to explore Europa’s teeming aquatic ecosystem find deep trouble instead, and their adventure becomes a story of survival. The female protagonist exceeds her own expectations but not without consequences.

 

About the Authors

Claudine Griggs is the Writing Center Director at Rhode Island College, and her publications include three nonfiction books about transsexuals along with a couple dozen articles on writing, teaching, and other topics. She has also begun writing fiction and plans to draft more science fiction, her first-love genre as a teenager. Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Escape Pod, Zahir Tales, Leading Edge SF, The Chaffey Review, and Baen Books’ Best Military and Adventure Science Fiction. Griggs earned her BA and MA in English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Publishers’ Weekly has called her writing “quietly terrifying.”

Xin Niu Zhang was born in Shanghai, grew up in Toronto, and is currently studying at the University of Waterloo. Her ultimate aspiration is to write a book glamorizing the lives of accountants.

20 June 2018

symptoms involve the development of significant craniofacial deformities

H. P. Lovecraft’s fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts, featured in his famous story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” forms the background for two stories in Broad Knowledge: Angela Slatter’s “The Song of Sighs” and Megan Chaudhuri’s “First mouse model of Innsmouth Fish-man Syndrome draft 2 USE THIS VERSION – edits by MK.doc.”

“The Song of Sighs” was first published in Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth and also appeared in New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird. In it, Professor Vivienne Croftmarsh teaches at a school for orphans, since, despite her almost complete amnesia, she retains her academic knowledge. As a hobby, she translates ancient poems of some unknown religious origin, which turn out to be, as you may have guessed, related to Lovecraft’s lore. The mystery of the school’s missing principal gradually gives way to a horrific truth about her past.

Humans and mice are biologically very similar, making mice valuable to scientists studying human diseases. (If you’d like to know more about mouse models, see “Mouse models of human disease: An evolutionary perspective” or “Current advances in humanized mouse models.”)

Toxicologist Megan Chaudhuri’s story “First mouse model of Innsmouth Fish-man Syndrome draft 2 USE THIS VERSION – edits by MK.doc” (from which today’s title is taken) is written as a draft of a scientific paper by a graduate student at Miskatonic University, with corrections from her principal investigator. It’s a darkly humorous tale of needle sticks, impending doom, and pregnant mice fashioning tiny nooses out of nesting materials.

 

About the Authors

A toxicologist by training and a writer by inclination, Megan Chaudhuri lives outside Seattle with one spouse and two cats. Her fiction has appeared in Analog, Crossed Genres, GigaNotoSaurus, and other venues.

Angela Slatter is the author of the urban fantasy novels Vigil and Corpselight, as well as eight short story collections, including The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, Sourdough and Other Stories, The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, and A Feast of Sorrows: Stories. She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, a Ditmar, and six Aurealis Awards. Vigil was nominated for the Dublin Literary Award 2018. Find her at www.angelaslatter.com.

19 June 2018

I may have a sweet tooth but I’m not delicate.

We’re continuing our Kickstarter campaign features with “A Lie You Give, And Thus I Take” by Damien Angelica Walters, the source of our title, and which was first published in Lightspeed in December 2014, along with an author spotlight, in which she says:

The only things that surprised me were all the other story references that occur throughout. It makes a strange sort of sense because it’s fiction about a fiction, but I initially thought the story was nothing more than a strange retelling of Hansel and Gretel, minus the familial relation and the witch, of course. . . . I was thinking about the nature of liars, how they often get away with it by spoon-feeding people stories a little at a time, and the lengths they’ll go to to preserve that fiction as truth. Some of the best liars use sweet words as a lure; they tell people what they want to hear and believe, and they do it in such a way that their sincerity is never doubted. (At least not until it begins to fall apart, as all lies eventually do.)

Also exploring the horrific side of familiar stories is Rachael Sterling in “Alice Underground,” in which Alice has grown up and runs a bakery with Wonderland-inspired goods, and discovers to her horror that she has been serving cakes she didn’t know she had.

Laura E. Price’s “Mary in the Looking Glass” takes a woman struggling with the grief of miscarriage and adds Mary Whales (or Mary Worth, in other versions of the folktale, who is sometimes a teenager killed in the Salem witch trials), who will come visit—or murder—you if you chant “I believe in Mary Whales” in front of a mirror in a room lit only by a single candle. Price writes:

“Mary In the Looking Glass” is partly the product of my adolescent fascination with creepy, bloody stories—Bloody Mary, of course, but also the Headless Lady who supposedly walks the north end of Gasparilla Island, where my mother grew up, looking for the head she lost when Jose Gaspar, her lover, murdered her. It’s also partly due to those short paperback romance novels both my grandmothers read: the ones where, say, the newly-divorced woman heads back home and meets up with her old high school flame, who is still single, carrying a torch for her, and probably, like, breaks horses or something for a living. I have the sort of brain that puts those things together and wonders . . . who lives in the center of that story, and how did she get there?

 

About the Authors

Laura E. Price lives in southwestern Florida with her husband and son. Her work has appeared in On Spec, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, GigaNotoSaurus, Penumbra eMag, and Betwixt. She also blogs at seldnei.wordpress.com.

Rachael Sterling lives in sunny Santa Monica, California, staying indoors or else seeking shade. She teaches music to preschoolers most mornings and writes most afternoons. You can find her talking about books on YouTube under the name Rae Sterling.

Damien Angelica Walters is the author of Sing Me Your Scars, Paper Tigers, and Cry Your Way Home. Her short fiction has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the 2016 World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s Song, Cemetery Dance, Nightmare Magazine, and Black Static. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls. Find her on Twitter @DamienAWalters or on the web at damienangelicawalters.com.

18 June 2018

all that’s between you and the tox is the red

Today’s title is from Clarice Radrick’s “The Red.” In this Broad Knowledge story, a girl must wear a red cloak and hood to cross a wasteland and deliver food to the Ancient, a scientist trying to discover a cure for their broken world, while evading a lobo, a crazed man who lives in the waste. Sound familiar? It’s Little Red Riding Hood, in post-apocalyptic form . . . but there’s no woodcutter to save our heroine, so she has to figure out a way to save herself.

Tomorrow we’ll look at other stories exploring the horrific side of familiar characters, but for today, we’re sticking to stories where the color red is central. Red, the color of blood and roses.

In her introduction to Sharp & Sugar Tooth, Octavia Cade describes Penny Stirling’s “Red, From the Heartwood”: “Astrid, finding herself in a polyamorous relationship with two mythological creatures who change form as well as genders, is slowly overcome by the desire to eat the apples produced by the tree-shape of her lover, but her own biological limitations are against her.”

Red runs through this story, from the title to the “speckled red” of the fruit of the tree with its “flesh as red as meat,” to the implications of all the blood that must appear by the end of the story.

 

About the Authors

Clarice Radrick’s work can be found in Myriad Lands Volume 1, Havok, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers, Spellbound, Haiku of the Dead, Under the Juniper Tree, Inchoate Echoes, and The Brisling Tide.

Penny Stirling edits and embroiders in Western Australia. Their speculative fiction and poetry can be found in Lackington’s, Interfictions, Strange Horizons, Heiresses of Russ, Transcendent and other venues. Follow them at www.pennystirling.com or on Twitter @numbathyal.

17 June 2018

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About URB

“Upper Rubber Boot” is slang for a remote place. URB publishes literary and speculative poetry and fiction from (metaphorically) remote places in ebook and print format.

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