Story Notes: My Dear, Like the Sky and Stars and Sun

Clarkesworld 129 cover

Cover Art for Clarkesworld 129 by Matt Dixon

Like “Whatever Tower, However High,” I wrote the first draft of “My Dear, Like the Sky and Stars and Sun” in The Brainery‘s Sci-Fi and Fairy Tales workshop taught by Carina Bissett last summer.

This one finds its roots in the unsettling fairy tale, Donkeyskin, in which the king tries to marry the princess (his daughter) after the queen dies. She delays by asking for three impossibly beautiful gowns, the color of the sky, the sun, and the moon. Eventually, she runs away and more typical  fairy tale hijinks ensue. It’s a strange dichotomy and leaves the original conflict between the father and the daughter largely unresolved.

Of course, remixing is not about fixing elements we find problematic, but instead means exploring the ways in which they’re still relevant to us today. (Abuse certainly hasn’t vanished, for one.) In fact, when I bring a fairy tale into contemporary or futuristic worlds, my hope is that, while you might recognize the trappings from time to time, the original narrative itself will fade into the background, and the story of these characters will hold your attention.

So when I point out a story comes from such and such fairy tale or literary work, it’s never to nudge you to make sure you got the reference or offer up the key to “understanding my artistic intentions.” (It wouldn’t be a very good story in that case.) I only mention it to acknowledge the soil in which a particular work grew.

If that enriches your experience of the story, great. If you prefer not to know…feel free to skip story notes.

“My Dear, Like the Sky and Stars and Sun” appeared in issue 129 of Clarkesworld. Support them and speculative short fiction on Patreon or by subscribing.

Story Notes: In Which Liz Frankenstein Lives

JDP 92 cover art: “Satan Sowing Tares” by Felicien Rops

What can I say about this story?

For one, writing it was a kind of therapy.

A year or so ago, I completed and defended my Master’s Essay: an exploration of how Rousseau’s theories of education and personhood manifest in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is not to speak negatively of that experience–it was overwhelmingly  positive–but I definitely needed some time to process my feelings about how gender plays out in Rousseau’s treatise, Emile (grrr), and subsequently in Shelley’s novel (I argued, as a kind of commentary and/or satire).

What better way to purge said feelings by rolling out a time travel story for Jersey Devil Press‘s Victorian Mash-Up special issue?

In addition to giving some neglected women characters just a little bit of justice, I’m always delighted to turn Victorian queer subtext into actual text. Frankenstein is one of the subtextiest of them all, so this is as gay and bi and gender fluid as I could make it in 3700 words.

Also Nikola Tesla. How do you write a mad-as-all-hell Victorian adventure without Nikola Tesla?

(And, yes, if you’re wondering, I did dare myself to include references to as many Victorian or Victorian-adjacent works as I could. I won’t provide a list–where’s the fun in that? But do tweet me how many you found.)

Ultimately, though, sometimes we just write things for fun and out of affection for other things. Because I do, and have always, loved these stories, whatever their flaws and my frustrations.

Rousseau on the other hand…

“In Which Liz Frankenstein Lives,” appeared in the Victorian Mash-Up special issue of Jersey Devil Press. Support their unique flavor of weird fiction by donating or by purchasing one of their anthologies.

Story Notes: Whatever Tower, However High

Last summer, I was fortunate enough to take a Sci-Fi and Fairy Tales workshop with the Brainery (taught by the lovely and talented Carina Bissett). Each week we tackled an element of science & technology and combined it with a myth or fairy tale to create a science fiction story.

“Whatever Tower, However High” resulted from pairing Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Tinder-Box,” with the phenomenon of the Internet of Things, or the idea that all of our gadgets and smart houses and Amazon Echoes will form their own interconnected network.

As Tina mentions in her commentary at the end of the episode, “The Tinder-Box” is a pretty grim tale in most respects. The soldier achieves his ends primarily via murder and by using the magical (and ill-gotten) tinder-box. The princess is a trophy, not a person.

I didn’t much want to go down that specific road, but I was intrigued by the image of the soldier after war living in a tiny attic apartment where no one would visit him and the ways in which that mirrors the image of the woman in the tower. Which is how Eric and his fellow hacker, Rebecca, came to be. They are, in many respects, two sides of the same coin.

The difference is, of course, that whether Eric knows it or not, he does have a community who cares for him: Warley and the people who live in his apartment building. As someone who’s always adopting people into her own, I’m a sucker for found families.

And 3D chess. And wheelchairs that go way too fast.

“Whatever Tower, However High,” read by Logan Waterman, was episode 573 of Escape Pod, the weekly science fiction podcast. You can donate directly on their site or support them and the other Escape Artists podcasts on Patreon.

Story Notes: In Strange, Far Places

LSQ 30 COVER

Luna Station Quarterly 30 cover art by Kmye Chan

Like many contemporary speculative fiction writers, I have a complicated relationship with Lovecraft. His influence on the genre is as undeniable as his flagrant racism. And I am, I find, always more interested in what other writers do with Lovecraft than Lovecraft himself. (The Ballad of Black Tom is an incredible recent example.)

So I was intrigued when a call for submissions asking for queer takes on Lovecraft appeared a year or so ago. I decided to try my hand at it. I focused on a few of my particular interests: Lovecraftian urban decay, the potential consequences of galactic expansionism, and gothic narrative structures (especially the “as told to” construction we see in The Turn of the Screw and many, many other tales).

I also wanted to include aspects of Western queer subculture at the turn of the last century. But in space. As you do.

“In Strange, Far Places” was the result. And while it originally found a home with that queer Lovecraft anthology, the project sadly fell through, as happens from time to time. It can be a challenge to place stories written specifically for special issues or anthology calls, so I was delighted when Luna Station Quarterly accepted it for issue 30.

You can support LSQ and their quest to promote speculative fiction by women authors by purchasing the magazine, subscribing, or donating via Patreon.