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

I’d gone from botanist to alien landscape within a few hours.

Aliens taking over our bodies is another popular staple of horror, from The Thing to all the versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and two of our stories (one in each of our two anthologies) perfectly illustrate this primal fear.

In Priya Sridhar’s emotional “Tidal Bloom,” a meteorite brings alien algae which takes over a little girl who swallows some by accident, and her cousin must figure out how to save her.

In Betsy Aoki’s “And When We Die They Will Consume Us,” the source of today’s title, astronauts encounter an alien organism which slowly colonizes their bodies. (I have to tell you, when Octavia sent me the manuscript for Sharp & Sugar Tooth, this story, which ends the anthology, really haunted me, to the point that I had nightmares about it! You definitely want to read it.)

Caption: Betsy Aoki’s commentary on her story and Clarion instruction by Stephen Graham Jones

 

About the Authors

Betsy Aoki is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and this is her first speculative fiction publication. Her poems have been published in such journals as Uncanny, Southern Humanities Review, Hunger Mountain, Phoebe, The Nassau Review, terrain.org, and Calyx among others.

A 2016 MBA graduate and published author, Priya Sridhar has been writing fantasy and science fiction for fifteen years. She believes that every story is a journey, and that a good tale allows the reader to escape to a new world. She also enjoys reading, biking, movie-watching, and classical music. Priya lives in Miami, Florida with her family and blogs at www.priyajsridhar.com.

 

Also!

Alexa at A Thousand Worlds posted a review of Broad Knowledge, and A.C. Wise posted an interview with me and Octavia Cade about Canadian and Kiwi literature, strange non-writing jobs, and recent favorite reads. Wise’s critique is still up for grabs in our rewards!

16 June 2018

We’re introducing a new reward!

A.C. Wise, author of The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, will critique one short story for the lucky person to get to it first!

She’ll also shortly be posting an interview with Joanne Merriam and Octavia Cade, the editors of the anthologies, so keep an eye out for that at her website.

 

Hot. Soft. Fresh from the oven.

Today we’re exploring two stories of recreating a loved one over and over.

In Marie Vibbert’s humorous “Infinite Boyfriends,” the protagonist tries to find an alternate universe version of her boyfriend who isn’t a jerk. Vibbert writes:

My story started with a funny line someone said during conversation at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop. I don’t remember who said “Infinite boyfriends from infinite dimensions” but I wrote it down in my notebook and then, when I had to come up with a story idea for the next week’s workshop, well, there it was. The main character helped me get through writing—I based her entirely on my friend Stacey, and gave her the Green Road Observatory in East Cleveland, Ohio as her mad scientist lair.

Katharine E. K. Duckett’s “Gimme Sugar” (from which we take today’s title) is a dark tale of loss and baked goods. A lonely woman finds herself in a bakery that will recreate her ex-lover again and again as gingerbread with chocolate eyes, syrup-coated lips, braided licorice hair, gumdrop nipples, buttercream tattoos, and the scent of crushed cardamom, cinnamon, oranges, and honey warmed in the sun—but there’s a price to treating a woman you love as a consumable object.

 

About the Authors

Katharine E. K. Duckett‘s stories have appeared in Apex and Interzone, and have been reprinted in Wilde Stories 2015: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction and The Best of Apex: Volume I. She works in science fiction and fantasy publishing in New York City, and lives in Brooklyn with her wife.

Marie Vibbert’s work regularly appears in Analog and other top markets. Her short story “Keep Talking” won Apex Magazine’s Story of the Year and has been called “everything science fiction should be” by Oxford Culture Review. She has ridden 18% of the roller coasters in North America and played defensive end for the Cleveland Fusion women’s tackle football team.

15 June 2018

My dad’s not so sure that building flamethrowers and rockets in the driveway is such a good idea.

Our kickstarter was featured on the Barnes & Noble Sci-fi & Fantasy Blog, at the bottom of a post on 13 Queer Speculative Short Story Collections and Anthologies to Read Right Now!

Broad Knowledge has two very different stories of kidnapping: Therese Pieczynski’s “Three Days, Two Nights,” in which adolescent deaf girls are taken for ransom, and Rebecca Jones-Howe’s “Election Season,” in which a woman hiking is kidnapped by a fellow hiker and Trump fan who doesn’t like her politics.

While the plots, and the motivations and behavior of the kidnappers, are very different between the stories, both stories illustrate how a little ingenuity can save us.

Rebecca Jones-Howe writes:

“Election Season” is about none other than the US Presidential election of 2016. I wrote the story during the heat of the polarizing debates and added in the final details before election night on November 8th, when everyone was still convinced that Hillary would win.

The story is a bleak one. It’s a trope kidnapping story, a Lifetime Original where I curated all my frustration with the American political system. I hoped the ending would hold up, regardless of the election results. Then the worst-case scenario game show host won and I wasn’t so sure what my tale really meant to me, or to others.

Honestly, I don’t know what the future holds at this point. I’m a Canadian and I’m scared of the political climate (because we’ve got our own corrupt stuff happening up here, too). Talking about it all makes me uncomfortable because I have family, friends, co-workers who don’t think like I do. I have to respect that, at the very least. It’s easy to want to yell and scream and throw the middle finger to the people we disagree with.

Politics is a drastically polarizing landscape. Since 2016 I have found myself stepping away from heated discussions (especially online). It’s too draining, too exhausting. I find solace in the stories I write. I find it more constructive, and overall, easier to digest.

In Jones-Howe’s story, the kidnapper takes advantage of the protagonist’s politeness to put her in a vulnerable position (“I didn’t like him touching me, but I ignored the unease because I didn’t want to be rude.”) and she must figure out a way to escape. This is a dark, upsetting, necessary story paralleling the 2016 presidential election with kidnapping and rape.

In Therese Pieczynski’s lighter and more hopeful story, the girls (deaf, and adolescent, and, well, girls) are presumed to be completely helpless by their captors (“‘He thinks that because we’re deaf that we’re not smart,’ she signs.”), but tap into their knowledge of chemistry to change the odds against them:

Muriel and I are very smart. We’re also brave. You’d be surprised how many kids are afraid of the flame thrower my mom helped Muriel and me build. My mom’s an engineer and a science buff. She says that the thing about science is that you can’t just read about it. You have to do stuff. That’s how you understand it. You can read about a fire tornado, or a bomb, or a rocket, but until you make one yourself it’s hard to understand how one works. That’s why she helps us build stuff.

Donate now to support these authors!

 

About the Authors

Rebecca Jones-Howe is the author of the short story collection Vile Men. Her work has been published in [PANK], Punchnel’s, and Pulp Modern, among others. She lives in Kamloops, British Columbia and is currently at work on her first novel. She can be found online at rebeccajoneshowe.com.

Therese Pieczynski has published in Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, River City, the anthology Imagination Fully Dilated, and in 2012 with Nancy Kress in New Under The Sun as part of the Stellar Guild series brought out by Arc Manor.

14 June 2018

To reach the open sea, they’d have to be relentless and brave.

Tammy Sparks at Books, Bones & Buffy: Adventures in Speculative Fiction interviewed me about this kickstarter! “Because June is Pride Month, it’s particularly fitting that your Kickstarter is so inclusive, with a variety of sexual and gender identifying writers.” Very grateful for her generosity.

We’ve also been selected as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter, which is pretty dang cool.

Today, we spotlight two stories of watery creatures providing a way past abuse.

“A Fish Tale” by Sabrina Vourvoulias in Sharp & Sugar Tooth:

and “Think, Baby Turtle” by Mingzhao Xu in Broad Knowledge (from which today’s title comes):

 

About the Authors

Sabrina Vourvoulias is the author of Ink (Crossed Genres, 2012; Rosarium Publishing, 2018), a novel that draws on her memories of Guatemala’s armed internal conflict, and of the Latinx experience in the United States. It was named to Latinidad’s Best Books of 2012. Her short stories have appeared at Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, and in a number of anthologies, including Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History (Fox and Older, eds.), The Year’s Best Young Adult Speculative Fiction 2015 (Twelfth Planet Press; Krasnostein and Rios, eds.), and Latino/a Rising (Wings Press; Goodwin, ed.) in 2017. She is a the Managing Editor of Integrated Media at NBC10/Telemundo62 in Philadelphia, and her columns and commentary have appeared at Philadelphia Magazine, City and State Pennsylvania, and The Guardian US. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter and a dog who rules the household.

Mingzhao Xu immigrated to the United States from China as a child. One of her greatest joys in life is using fiction to highlight the humor, challenges and pathos of her childhood. She currently lives in California.

13 June 2018

The day dawns as red as fresh blood on a fishing boat’s deck.

In her introduction to Sharp & Sugar Tooth, editor Octavia Cade writes:

. . . the coastal community of Amelia Gorman’s “She Makes the Deep Boil” is dependent on the sea to sate their hunger. And it does, mostly, supplying enough to keep a town with at least pretensions to vibrancy, but the giant creatures of the sea have their own prices and bargains. It’s in the similarity between hunters that the horror in this story lies, in the idea that we are part of a community of animals—part of an ecosystem, and for all the potential generosity of our natures there are some biological restrictions we can’t move beyond, and some consents we won’t ask, or honor.

Today we feature stories of the sea, and what communities dependent on it will do to placate the creatures within. In addition to Gorman’s story above, below are excerpts from Wendy Nikel’s “Maidens of the Sea” (from which our title comes) and Premee Mohamed’s “Below the Kirk, Below the Hill,” both in Broad Knowledge.

Premee Mohamed writes:

My inspiration for “Below the Kirk, Below the Hill” was two of my previous stories, oddly enough. Some of my work has recently ended up in a world in which ‘old gods’ are real and need to be regularly sacrificed to and placated in order to coexist with humans. In “Willing,” the gods are of the prairies; in “The Evaluator,” the gods are of the mountains. It seemed natural to write one set near the ocean. Then I had to start asking myself: What would those gods look like? How would they react differently to certain things than the gods of the land? And the story followed from there. I wanted to ask questions, in the story, about responsibility—who’s responsible for who, and why? Must it always be about love? Never about love? Duty? Obligation? How do you know when something or someone has to be taken under your wing? How is taking in a little girl different from taking in a lighthouse, and how is it the same? When is something ‘Someone else’s problem’ for either gods or humans? This was a difficult story for me because of those questions, and I know not all of them are answered in the text. In the end, I hope they’re not. These are questions we all ask ourselves in real life.

Donate now to pre-order!

 

About the Authors

Amelia Gorman is a horror fan, summer camp baker, and twitter bot maker in Minnesota. You can read her other monstrous themed writing in the Lovecraftian She Walks in Shadows anthology, and her poetry in Liminality Magazine, Star*Line, and Eternal Haunted Summer. Twitter: @gorman_ghast.

Wendy Nikel’s fiction has appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. Find her at wendynikel.com.

Premee Mohamed is an Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction writer based in Canada. Her work has been published by Nightmare Magazine, Martian Migraine Press, Innsmouth Free Press, and many others. She can be found on Twitter at @premeesaurus.

12 June 2018

“You should go to the doctor,” she chirped at him, buoyed by the absolute certainty that he would not listen to her.

In Octavia Cade’s introduction to Sharp & Sugar Tooth, she writes, “Both Kathleen Alcalá (in The Dolls Eye) and Catherynne M. Valente (in The Lily and the Horn) take a look at how society changes when poison becomes the conflict resolution of choice within a community.”

Today we feature excerpts from both stories, as well as “Your Life Will Look Perfect From Afar” by Audrey R. Hollis, from Broad Knowledge (and from which our title comes), which features a more personal poisoning, one that our society definitely wouldn’t approve.

Kathleen Alcalá’s story features a poison-taster:

and Catherynne M. Valente’s a poison-maker:

Valente’s “The Lily and the Horn” was first published in Fantasy Magazine‘s 2015 Queers Destroy Fantasy! issue.

In “Your Life Will Look Perfect From Afar,” the poison comes from an everyday object that nobody would suspect.

Go to the kickstarter campaign to donate to support these authors and pre-order your copies!

We’d also like to draw your attention today to a pledge level that isn’t getting as much attention as we think it deserves: the Personalized Paperback, which allows artists to get a copy of one of the books with their own custom cover art (or their friends to get it for them) and a custom dedication—or for people to get a copy with a photograph of themselves or their giftee as part of the cover art (also with a custom dedication)!

 

About the Authors

Kathleen Alcalá is the author of six books including Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist and Spirits of the Ordinary. Both a graduate of and instructor in the Clarion West Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, she has had the good fortune to study with notables such as Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel Delany, and Connie Willis. With an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans, Kathleen teaches all levels of fiction and nonfiction.

Of her first collection of stories, Ursula Le Guin said:

This is a book of wonders. Each story unfolds with humor and simplicity and perfect naturalness into something original and totally unpredictable. Not one tale is like another, yet all together they form a beautiful whole, a world where one would like to stay forever. The kingdoms of Borges and Garcia Marquez lie just over the horizon, but this landscape of desert towns and dreaming hearts, of lost sisters and ghost scientists, canary singers and road readers, is Alcalá-land. It lies across the border between the living and the dead, across all the borders—a true new world.

Audrey R. Hollis is a writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has been in several publications, including Leading Edge, Lunch Ticket, and Autostraddle. She is devoted to oddities, medieval history, and things that glitter. You can follow her on Instagram or Twitter at @audreyrhollis.

Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times-bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Her most recent book, Space Opera, has just been optioned by Universal Pictures for a movie produced by Marc Platt (La La Land) and Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed). She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.

11 June 2018

I said you were destroying history

For those of you who are Goodreads fans, we now have pages for each of the anthologies: Broad Knowledge and Sharp & Sugar Tooth. Go add us to your shelf!

Also! The fabulous Martha Wells, author of the Ile-Rien series, the Raksura series, The Edge of Worlds, The Harbors of the Sun, and The Murderbot Diaries, posted about us on her blog, the International Examiner mentioned us in a long round-up of arts news, and Christina Dalcher, whose Vox is coming out in August, mentions to Publishers Weekly how Women Up To No Good inspired her book.

Today we’ll feature our other two time travel stories, both from Broad Knowledge: A. T. Greenblatt’s “Five Meters Ahead, Two Centuries Away” and Joanna Michal Hoyt’s “Taking It Back” (from which our title comes):

Go to Kickstarter to pre-order now!

 

About the Authors

A. T. Greenblatt is a mechanical engineer by day and a writer by night. She lives in Philadelphia where she’s well acquainted with all four seasons and is known to frequently subject her friends to various cooking and home brewing experiments. She is a graduate of Viable Paradise XVI and her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Mothership Zeta, as well as other online journals. You can find her online at atgreenblatt.com and on Twitter at @AtGreenblatt.

Joanna Michal Hoyt lives with her family on a Catholic Worker farm in upstate NY where she spends her days tending goats, gardens and guests and her evenings reading and writing odd stories. Her fiction has appeared in publications including Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and Mysterion.

10 June 2018

Here is more a question of when than where.

Today and tomorrow we’ll be featuring stories involving time travel!

Today, excerpts from Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría’s “Liquid Glass” (trans Lawrence Schimel – and the story from which our title comes), which appears in Broad Knowledge, and D.A. Xiaolin Spires’ second story in these anthologies, “Bristling Skim,” which appears in Sharp & Sugar Tooth:

D.A. Xiaolin Spires writes:

I have two stories in these URB anthologies, “Bristling Skim” (Sharp and Sugar Tooth), a creepy tale of gastronomic nefariousness and “Sunbasker” (Broad Knowledge), a science-fiction robot story set in a plantation with dark, fairy-tale elements. Both stories feature astute and willful female protagonists. “Bristling Skim” takes you to (WWII and) post-WWII Japan and stems from conversations I’ve had with people in Japan who consumed school lunch in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was during this time that Japan (as well as Taiwan, mentioned briefly in the story) received food aid from the US, consisting of wheat, milk and other products that eventually found their way to everyday diets through institutionalized programs like school lunch. (Here’s a timeline of school lunch in Japan throughout modern history. The website’s in Japanese with lots of interesting photos.) Given the current ubiquity of vending machines, I felt compelled to include them, as well! The story starts off with two divergent temporal spheres coming together—and includes the anonymity of the machine that dispenses drinks and the historical connection to food during occupation and reconstruction and thereafter. I was inspired by the sheer palpability of revulsion when (some) people in Japan talked about the so-called milk/not-exactly-milk served as school lunch during that time. You should see how their faces scrunched in disgust!

Teresa P Mira de Echeverría says of her story:

The story was born from the stained glass windows of Chartres and its non-labyrinth, but above all, it was born from the idea of how the name “witch” is incarnated in the skin of the woman who is different, of the woman who is strong, of the woman who fights for her place in the world… and in the tortuous way to assume that name as an honorary title and not as a disqualifying epithet. In the story I talk about the fever of the protagonist and, for the second time in my career, I ended up with fever myself while writing about her… well, that made the descriptions much easier.

I already knew Women Up To No Good and, knowing the theme, and having already published with Joanne Merriam (thanks to Lawrence Schimel) a novelette, I knew of the professionalism, the commitment and the human quality of who do URBB. So, how can I not want to participate?

Check out the Kickstarter!

About the Authors

Argentine author Teresa P. Mira de Echeverría holds a doctorate in philosophy and is a university professor. Her novelette, Memory, is also available from Upper Rubber Boot Books (in a translation into English by Lawrence Schimel, who also translated “Liquid Glass”), and was a finalist for the Spanish national science fiction award, the Ignotus. Her other titles include a short novel, El tren (Café con Leche, 2016), and a collection of stories, Diez varaiaciones sobre el amor (Editorial Cerbero, 2017).

D.A. Xiaolin Spires stares at skies and wonders what there is to eat out there in the cosmos. Spires aspires to be a 3-D printing gourmand, but will happily concede with producing and consuming quixotic fiction and poetry. Trips to East and Southeast Asia continue to influence her writing and leave her craving durian, fermented foods and copious amounts of wonder that fuel her body, spirit and imagination. Website: daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com.

9 June 2018

Tannins work like that.

Today for our Kickstarter we feature two stories from Broad Knowledge which have elements of agriculture: pig-farming in “Profanity” (“So I wander over to the barn, stand at the pens, watch the ginormous mama pigs lying in the dirt fattening up their little piglets. ‘Thanks in advance for your kiddies,’ I say. They don’t get it.”) and tea-farming in “Sunbasker” (“A day later, an alert tells me that Kalo has finished picking baskets upon baskets of tea. He’s cleaned up the whole field. I book a truck to bring the leaves back to my lab.”)

In both stories, the intentions of the farmer color the narrative: in “Profanity,” the pigs are mindlessly being fattened for slaughter just as the cult members are being made mindless by their adherence to a nonsensical religion, and in “Sunbasker” the narrator’s desire to help a farmer under a curse is reflected in the magical origin of the tea she uses, which was given to humans by the Goddess of Mercy.

Liz Ulin writes:

The idea for my story, “Profanity,” was bouncing around in my head for years before I found the right voices to tell it. I remember sitting in the coffee shop of the LA Science Museum and describing the concept to my brother: A religious cult where “cocksucking cunt” is a compliment. Why? Because using the Devil’s words routinely rob them of their power, and robbing them of their power honours God! Twisted? Did I mention it was a religious cult? My brother had on that same face you probably have on now. The what the hell? face. Anyway, the voices finally came to me (not divine ones—no worries—just narrative ones). Surprisingly, they were the voices of two kids. And they sure had a lot to say about Profanity, Saskatchewan, where “every kind of devilishness is turned inside out”.

D.A. Xiaolin Spires writes:

“Sunbasker” comes from my many conversations in Taiwan and specifically hanging out with people I know in tea-farm-rich breathtaking Maokong mountains in Taipei. I have some food purveyor and tea grower friends and also met the boss of a certain sweet shop there—and the ideas for the story kind of just whirled away out of my mind from there. I wrote my process of writing this story on my website. The narrative streamed through my fingers while I was in at Taoyuan airport in Taiwan, where I was about to board to head elsewhere. I was just about ready to get on the plane, staring at a mural of tea farmers picking leaves in the terminal… when the story hit! They were calling my group number and I was still typing, trying to get it all down before the story winked away!

About the Authors

D.A. Xiaolin Spires stares at skies and wonders what there is to eat out there in the cosmos. Spires aspires to be a 3-D printing gourmand, but will happily concede with producing and consuming quixotic fiction and poetry. Trips to East and Southeast Asia continue to influence her writing and leave her craving durian, fermented foods and copious amounts of wonder that fuel her body, spirit and imagination. Website: daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com.

Liz Ulin is the winner of the 2014 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition, and a finalist in The Canadian Short Script Competition, The Canadian Authors Association Short Story Competition, and The Writers Union of Canada Short Prose Competition. She has also had several short stories adapted and produced at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre.

8 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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