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Malon Edwards on Three Partitions

(Note: I wrote this post in the summer, I just didn’t have time to post it because I was in the middle of moving to the US.)

Malon Edwards wrote a fascinating blog post on The Spec Fiction Hub about my novelette Three Partitions: Taking Comfort in the Familiar. I’m going to discuss it a bit.

Malon Edwards is an African American SF writer and Managing Director at the Speculative Literature Foundation. (They have cool grants! Apply!) I really like his Black faery stories, so I’m really happy he read some of my work.

In his blog post he talks about how he held on to familiar and personal details in my story to get through the otherwise completely unfamiliar cultural context. It’s especially interesting to me that Chani’s name reminded him of Dune, because that was something I considered at length while writing.

I wanted to have a protagonist named Chani (a diminutive of Chana) because once a secular Israeli person told me that this was the most old-fashioned granny-like religious name ever. The kind that no self-respecting secular Israeli would give to their kids, I assume? But I really like the name.

Three Partitions was a thematic match, so I named one of the two main characters Chani. (I don’t have that many Jewish stories.) But then I started wondering… “People will be reminded of Dune, and that will be a bad thing”. After a while, I shrugged and said whatever! I’m a Jewish person, this is my cultural heritage and I can give my characters names which are meaningful to me, irrespective of what was meaningful to Frank Herbert.

But upon reading Malon Edwards’ post, I realized that yes, people can be reminded of Dune with this being a good thing. I’m also one of those people to whom Dune (the first book, anyway – I still haven’t read most of the sequels) was a formative reading experience, in multiple senses. Yes, Dune has many problems, first and foremost it being a work by a white American dude featuring Arabic cultural mishmash. But when it came out and much longer after that, it was an influential and one-of-a-kind work. And one which many marginalized people saw themselves in, for one reason or another.

Hence, a few paragraphs on how Dune influenced me as a writer:

First, Dune was one of the very few SF works with Jewish elements that I was aware of until I discovered the English-language online SF fandom. (Do please note that Dune has a lot more Arabic elements than Jewish elements.) Yes, it was exoticizing as heck, but this was what I had. Thereafter, many a sand people story was written by teenage me. I frankly only developed the ability to actually finish my stories in my late twenties, so I should probably say many a sand people story was started by teenage me :D

Second, I feel strongly about environmentalism, and those aspects of the book really resonated with me. I have to say that I tried to explain this to one of my grade school friends when I’d first read Dune, and she laughed at me. I still feel uneasy talking about this, because that was such a baffling and unexpected reaction. But I still think those aspects were spot on, and the way they were also rendered in the first Dune game was beautiful, too.

(Incidentally, that game has one of my favorite video game soundtracks of all time, and an all-round incredible atmosphere. I still remember the moment when I was playing with my brother and we found our first water reservoir in a sietch.)

Third, it made me realize it was possible to write about pain in interesting ways. (It was not only Dune, but Dune was one of a small handful of such works.) This is one of my themes!

I have to say I only read the first two Dune books… I’ve been putting off reading the rest for a long time now, and now it’s probably too late – I would see them as too problematic to enjoy.

I had a similar experience recently: I read an older SF novel by a Western author with Chinese characters. The author had lived in China and was a Chinese speaker. The book was decent as far as I could tell, and not particularly problematic (so I’m not naming it, because this is not a name and shame). But I kept on thinking while reading, “why am I reading this when I can read about Chinese people in the future by actual Chinese people?” I thought about all the stories and novels I’d read by Chinese authors in China and in diaspora, several of them tackling the same themes as this particular novel, and I felt like I’d read this book by the unnamed Western author all too late.

While the book was decent, Chinese authors were doing all this better, and in this day and age I could actually access their works. As can people all over the world access my stories, discuss them, and share their perspectives. That’s a win all around as far as I’m concerned!

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing | Tags: ,
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Story notes: For Your Optimal Hookboarding Experience

While I was busy moving and Jewish-holiday-ing, my science-fantasy story For Your Optimal Hookboarding Experience appeared in Lackington’s! These are my customary bonus story notes. I wrote this post a long while ago, I just wanted to post it when I was around to see the responses. I didn’t think it would take that long… I apologize!


I wrote this story for Karina Meléndez, luthier extraordinaire. She was posting about bookhoarding on Twitter and I misread it as “hookboarding”. I’d already told her I’d write something for her, and inspiration struck :D


I am a fan of skateboarding, but I’m not very good at it to say the least. I have very bad movement coordination in general. I can inline skate passably (I put a lot of effort into learning that as a kid), though as people witnessing my performance have put it, I probably shouldn’t. I can’t ride a bike, even though I put a lot of effort into that too, not just as a child but also as an adult.


The story is just over flash length, which restricted the markets I could send it to, but I didn’t want to cut anything from it. It sold regardless, which made me really happy!

(Writers: Note that Lackington’s is not a flash market. I queried before sending in my story.)


I wanted to write a piece with quasi-nonfictional elements; I love that sort of thing. Hence the instructions segments.


The decoration of the board was inspired by Karina’s work.


I like writing in present tense, it adds immediacy to a story.


This story was a very near miss at some big markets before I realized it’d be a great fit with Lackington’s, a new market I’d already been meaning to sell to simply because I liked the first issue and the focus of the magazine a lot. I think Sofia Samatar put it really well when she said Lackington’s was the Goblin Fruit for prose.

Ranylt Richildis liked the first story I sent them, but thought it was not as good a fit. She bought the second one.


I think my fiction writing is moving in a more poetic direction; previously I didn’t think much about sentence structure, elegance, fluidity etc. when writing. This story was the turning point. I think this is Rose Lemberg’s influence.


“Fingertips are more sensitive than the naked eye” is very much a maker’s line and Karina liked it too! It’s true :D


I read a lot of Asian folktales as a child, so “rabbit on the moon” is one of my first associations with patterns on the moon. (Folktales from all over the world in translation were and are a popular children’s genre in Hungary; I’m just beginning to see that this is not so in the US…?)


Yes, in the future, people use metric units!! :D SCIENCE FICTION I tell you.


The characters have non-Western names. Amira is a popular women’s name both in Hebrew and in Arabic. Uche is an Igbo name that can be given to a person of any gender, and Uche’s gender is in fact not specified in the story, only Uche’s (small) body size. I hope it is clear even without lengthy descriptions of the characters that they are not Whitey McWhite people, but sometimes I wonder if this is something that needs to be hammered in.

The above also means the plot is “girl saves person of underspecified gender”. :D


Skateboard… er, hookboard griptape is not so pleasant to do pushups on.


The firebird is a Rose Lemberg reference! Rose was also my beta reader on this story.


Excess magic is a thing. It is also a thing I seldom see in SFF, for some reason. (Good examples are welcome!)

There is a tension between “a lot of magic is more dangerous to handle” and “a lot of magic can be very useful if you know how to handle it”. The former owners of the tracks had picked the safer option.

ALSO SPACE MAGIC JUST BECAUSE. And davka called magic, just because. :D


There is also a little bit of energy exchange; blink and you miss it.


I really wanted to put in a mention that even in the future, there will be economic crashes. I think it also adds to the atmosphere. I haven’t thought the mechanics through (yet!), but I’m not an economist; it was just intended as a tiny counterpoint to the “post-scarcity economics” I often see in far-future SFF that also don’t seem very thought through, for the most part.

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing | Tags: , , , , , ,
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Mostly settled in + Suddenly POEMS

I’ve survived the Jewish holidays and I’ve also mostly settled into my rental in Iowa City – I still had some furniture delivered today. (I have a table! I have a desk! *rejoices*)

I will have an amount of posts, already written and lined up – I just didn’t want to post them when I knew I wouldn’t be around to respond to comments.

I suddenly have poems for you! I’ve just realized that my two poems that appeared earlier this year in the Cascadia Subduction Zone are now available for free online – the magazine puts up its print issues online with a half-year delay. You can download the issue in question here and you can also read my bonus poem notes I’d previously posted.

I was very happy to share this issue with Sonya Taaffe and Brit Mandelo, and I was also glad to see an essay on Angela Davis’s autobiography by Minister Faust! Angela Davis is my mom’s childhood hero and thus mine too,  so this made me squee when I saw it. (And to top it off, due to some strange postal strangeness, my mom also received a contributor copy!) There’s even more in the magazine, so I recommend that you go read :D

BONUS, in just after I posted my entry: have a Rose Lemberg story podcast by Tina Connolly in Toasted Cake! This is a great story written by a great person and read by another great person :D Tina Connolly also read one of my stories a while back. And now I’ll be off to listen!

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Poem notes: A User Guide to the Application of Gem-Flowers

My dark (?) fantasy poem A User Guide to the Application of Gem-Flowers has just become available online in the August 2014 issue of Apex, and here are my customary bonus notes!

Warnings come first. This is a happy cheerful poem, but it comes with a set of content warnings. If you are upset by anything involving knives and/or people causing each other pain, you really are better off not reading the poem.


Apex was the first magazine where I sent this poem, and this was the first poem I sent to Apex (they did not take unsolicited submissions in the past), as I mentioned before.


I slept this poem. It’s like “dreamt”, except without the dreaming part. I regularly dream stories, poems, etc. and some even sell – this is a recent example –, and I do most of my writing planning in the hypnagogic state just before sleep or sometimes just after waking up (I find it very hard to write fiction without that phase of planning), but this was different.

I went to bed thinking about writing a poem, but I was extremely exhausted and BAM fell asleep. I woke a few hours later (I didn’t check the time) and a poem was in my head upon waking, as if being read out by me, with no recollection of a dream. I scrambled for pen and paper and wrote the poem down; I used all caps because I sometimes can’t read my sleepy handwriting at all. I made minimal changes the next morning. I wondered about whether to make it longer, but I felt that would lessen the impact.

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What I did in July

July was mostly spent on moving to the US. I now have a rental and utilities, but no internet or furniture. I also still don’t have an American phone number, not for the lack of trying.

Before I moved, I also helped Team Stone Bird set up the Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter. Alphabet of Embers is going to be an anthology of short, uncategorizable pieces. The Kickstarter is still ongoing – the funding goal has been reached, but there are many cool stretch goals. Next up is a bonus joke issue of Stone Telling!

As fundraiser bonuses, I drew a lot of whimsical and offbeat Letters of Embers. You can find them scattered around the Kickstarter page. Some are for backers only, and backers can also win letters. Here is one, a C of Embers drawn for Alice:

C of EmbersI also introduced Rose Lemberg to Artrage, with surprising and fun results »



My story This Shall Serve As a Demarcation appeared in Scigentasy. Story + bonus notes »

My poem A Self-Contained Riot of Lights appeared in Strange Horizons. Poem + bonus notes »

A Self-Contained Riot of Lights was also included in the monthly SH poetry podcast, where I read it »


#diversepoems and #diversestories Twitter series:

I only managed to do one week of this because of moving. I have more scheduled! #diversepoems for the week of July 21 »


Other important posts:

My take on the Wiscon mess »

On how Eggplant Literary failed me several times over and is in breach of contract with me »

A Storify I made of Rose Lemberg’s tweets on “boycotting”, art and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict »


Coming in August (IY”H):

* My lengthy rant and links collection on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – just when I’m about to post it, something comes up and I have more to add…

* A poem in Apex, with bonus notes

* A story in Lackington’s, also with bonus notes

* More #diversestories and #diversepoems on Twitter (next up is a week of #diversepoems)

* More reflections on Three Partitions, prompted by Malon Edwards

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The Wiscon mess

Another thing that happened while I was away can probably be best described as “the Wiscon mess”.

Radish Reviews has a great summary, so I’ll just link that, but I wanted to add some minor points.

I’ve already been saying for years that no, I would not feel safe at Wiscon, or at least as safe as I can expect at a con. I know that cons are not “safe spaces”, but they ought to be “safer spaces” than a general social environment, especially when run by self-declared progressives and feminists. To bring a parallel, this is akin to the switch in sex education vocabulary from “safe sex” to “safer sex”, since there is no 100% safe sex – one can always injure themselves while getting tangled in the bedsheets, to bring a bizarre but extant example. But it is always possible to be a bit safer and to rule out the largest risks.

I’ve been to many cons. My disbelief in Wiscon being safe enough is not because my bars are set overly high.

With the recent events, some of the people who most vehemently told me I must go to Wiscon (even back when I was completely unable to travel due to health reasons!) are now themselves saying they will not go to Wiscon again. But I’d really like not to be vindicated in this way.

There is one more thing, namely that current Wiscon organizers seemed to have been entirely unfamiliar with many important facts, for example the 2012 Readercon harassment incident. That was literally all over SF fandom two years ago, and I would expect con organizers to have learned from it.

So since the Wiscon people are now deliberating in the FJ Bergmann case, I would also like to bring to attention that FJ Bergmann has a history of defending racism, transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia online. I could provide even more links, but people posting these links have also become targets of harassment in the past, so I am only linking to Mike Allen (a white American man), who I know to be OK with his posts getting another spotlight. (I’m also OK with people linking to me.)

Many people, mostly marginalized people quit the Science Fiction Poetry Association over FJ Bergmann and others’ racist behavior in this incident. I never joined the SFPA explicitly because of this, as I started writing poetry in English after the above-mentioned mess had gone down.

This all was common knowledge at that time, I wasn’t part of the SF poetry grapevine at all. But since now people even seem to be ignorant of much more higher-profile incidents in fandom, I think it is very much worth mentioning.

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing |
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Suddenly happythings!

This is a small intermission between my lengthier posts on upsetting themes (Eggplant Literary, Wiscon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict *sigh*).

An Alphabet of Embers, the anthology of unclassifiable pieces edited by Rose Lemberg, is almost to its Kickstarter goal!! There will be further giveaways and surprises to ALL backers, so if you back now, you’re going to be eligible :D

Letters of Embers I drew are still going out to backers. Some of the custom poems  by Rose have already been claimed, but there are still three more to go – I really recommend these! Once the anthology funds, Rose will post more about further stretch goals – possibly even today.


In further happy news, my poem Six Hundred and Thirteen Commandments will appear in Ideomancer, release date still to be determined. I wrote this poem quite a while ago, then I sat on a small rewrite request forever. The piece was inspired by my attempt to read Rabbi Chaim Vital’s Shaar haGilgulim, which ended in exasperation, but you’ll see once it is posted.


Also, thank you to everyone who signal-boosted my post on Eggplant Literary, especially Isanah, ArachneJericho and Shweta Narayan!


Not exactly a happything, but I made a Storify of Rose’s recent tweets on ” boycotting”, art, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will probably also go into my post on similar themes (it’s nearing completion), but in the meanwhile I would like you to have it.

Someone already called me an anti-Semite just for making this Storify.  I… should kind of be angry, but let’s be honest. If the pro-war people I oppose have to resort to this kind of ridiculous rhetoric (me an anti-Semite? Really?!), that’s quite telling, right?

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On the Eggplant Literary situation

While I was away, an upsetting thing happened.

As you probably already know, I sold a Hungarian folktale retelling to Eggplant Literary, to be included in Spellbound, their Kickstarted middle grade anthology that was (I thought!) supposedly diversity-themed.

The guidelines bothered me, but then again, practically all guidelines bother me. I had a cool story in mind and I figured I could sell it elsewhere if it didn’t sell to this one. The fact that they insisted on Aarne-Thompson tale types was something I’d seen at other folktale venues previously. It always confuses me, because there are a lot of folktales in my traditions that do not really have an easy Aarne-Thompson correspondence. For this one, I spent a long time trying to pick an A-T category, but the closest I got was “Supernatural Adversaries”, which is as broad a category as to be practically useless.

When the table of contents was announced, I was surprised I didn’t know any of the other names, but since this was my first middle grade story ever, I thought it was simply a different crowd writing middle grade than adult fiction. I know from experience reviewing short SF with a focus on diversity that names and sometimes even author photos can be very misleading as to ethnicity and race. A quite extreme but 100% real example: a social justice activist once yelled at me online for promoting Colson Whitehead as an author of color, and I literally had to explain that despite his name, he was not white.

So I didn’t do much of anything. I figured the anthology would come out and I would read the stories and bios, probably find a few interesting people to add to my Twitter feed.

I also didn’t bother much because most major SF venues that exist now have had their egregious racist / sexist / etc. moments. If you followed my short story reviews back when I was still doing them, you know this for a fact. You can search my archives.

So I shrugged and moved on.

Then I was pointed in the direction of a set of Tumblr posts by Shweta Narayan and Serena Mauren – I don’t use Tumblr because I find the interface extremely confusing, so I was late to the party.

Tumblr user ArachneJericho looked into the lineup in detail and found that despite the declared theme of diversity, most of the stories were by white Americans. She then asked Eggplant Literary for a refund of her very sizable donation – as far as I’m concerned, perfectly reasonably. The project was advertised as a diverse anthology and she did not get what she paid for.

Editor Rachael Henderson not only refused to refund her, but went on to say things that I personally found very upsetting.

Here is ArachneJericho’s very comprehensive blog post and Shweta Narayan also has very telling TL;DR highlights.

I did exactly what backers wanted from this anthology, as far as I can tell: wrote a non-Western folktale retelling based on my own ethnic background. (I’m making no claims on the awesomeness of the story.) The story I retold is one I remembered from childhood, and it’s so little-known that I couldn’t find it on the Internet; I finally managed to locate a print version in a collection of folktales from my home region.

But I very much do NOT want to be the token diverse person. Especially not on more counts than one, and at the expense of others:

“I never represented it as being such, there are two other components to Spellbound & Spindles: disabled and LGBT characters. These two anthologies were never meant to be solely about PoC or non-Western European settings.”

I actually am a non-Western European, visibly trans person who’s also  queer; as stated here on my website, on Facebook and all over the place. I haven’t been very open about disability topics as they relate to me because of discrimination in my native Hungary, but I had actually intended to talk about that upon the release of this anthology, since my story has a disabled protagonist. So this is doubly hurtful.

I really don’t want to see any argument like “this is a diverse anthology because it has this queer person in it, nevermind that it has no people of color” (or the same with characters instead of authors). People are not supposed to be pitted against each other in this fashion. Especially not when intersectional oppression is a very real thing that also impacts my life.

My first thought was to just withdraw my story. I have withdrawn pieces multiple times over faily behavior; including from a pro venue, and conditionally from another pro venue, who then gave in. So I’m not particularly afraid to do that, I get published frequently enough and so far I haven’t alienated most editors… I hope.

Then I realized I’d already signed my contract with Eggplant, so there was a very limited amount of things I could do.

Then I was moving to a different continent for my PhD and had very little internet for a prolonged time.

By the time I came back – ie. nowish – I was greeted by the news that Eggplant Literary was closing. I still haven’t been informed by the publisher about this. I have no idea what’s going to happen with the anthology, whether backers will be refunded, anything. They seem to have emailed at least some of their writers, but they certainly haven’t emailed me.

The person in charge of my (former) company finances tells me Eggplant never paid me, despite the signed contract stating Eggplant would pay upon the receipt of contract. They did state that they had received my contract. There is a small possibility that maybe the transfer was misplaced (we got quite a few transfers from unexpectedly named Paypal accounts over the years), so I just emailed Eggplant to ask what happened.

The issue of delayed payment is extremely problematic in my case, since I’d explicitly told Raechel Henderson on May 29 that I would not be able to receive any payment after my arrival in the US (July 13), because it would be against my student visa terms. She’d assured me on Jun 03 that I would receive my payment well in advance.

I emailed her just now that since Eggplant seems to be in breach of contract with me, I request them to return my rights I signed away or I will be forced to take further action, unless they can prove that they really did pay me.

I am waiting, and I am greatly disappointed regardless of the outcome.

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing |
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#diversepoems for the week of July 21, 2014

After a lot of travel and administrative shenanigans, I now have time to resume this Twitter series where I highlight great speculative poetry by diverse authors!

A new feature is that instead of asking people how they wish to be identified (it was quite time-consuming and stressful…), I’ll just link to their websites where applicable.

Tuesday: We Saw No Signs of Life by Ting Gou in Strange Horizons

Wednesday: Miracle of the River Pig by Jennifer Givhan in Goblin Fruit

Thursday: Terrunform by Tori Truslow in Stone Telling

Friday: Main Sequence by Saira Ali in Mythic Delirium

Previous #diversepoems can be found here! I do have several tweets about each poem, and discussion if you people feel up to it, so I recommend following me on Twitter at @bogiperson for more :D


Yes, I’m still behind on all the other posts I intend to make. I’ll try to catch up over the weekend.

Written by prezzey in: sf | Tags: ,
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Upcoming posts

I’ve been traveling, I’m in the middle of an intercontinental move and I’m  very exhausted. I know people have been waiting for blog posts, so here is a list of what I’m planning on posting in the following few days once I can actually get to them:

* Sale / release announcements – these will be very brief, so I might get them out of the way fast

* A rant on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – mostly written, but I need some sleep to be able to edit and finalize it

* A post about Eggplant Literary (sigh)

* More on the Alphabet of Embers fundraiser and the small illustrations I’ve drawn for it

* #diversepoems weekly roundups – I have the following 2 weeks’ wort of poems scheduled and the posts written, but of course they will only go up at the end of each week

* A post about Malon Edwards’ post about my novelette Three Partitions (fun background info) – also mostly written, but needs editing

I think that’s about it. I’m also considering a Wiscon rant… *shudder*

Written by prezzey in: misc,sf,writing |

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