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Aug
05
2014
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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.

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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.

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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.

Aug
03
2014
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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 »

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Publications:

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 »

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#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 »

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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 »

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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

Aug
01
2014
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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 |
Jul
28
2014
0 C

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.

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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.

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

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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?

Jul
26
2014
9 C

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 |
Jul
25
2014
1 C

#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

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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: ,
Jul
23
2014
1 C

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 |
Jul
08
2014
1 C

Poem notes: A Self-Contained Riot of Lights

First, a brief update on the Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter: in the first day, we passed $1500 (25%), and it’s still not over! Thank you everyone, this makes me really happy! As a bonus, I am drawing an actual alphabet – you can see the first letter here. Our 50th backer was offered the ability to pick a letter – Sara Saab claimed a K! I’ll do the same at 75 and 100 :)

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On to the customary notes for my recent releases: my poem A Self-Contained Riot of Lights is in this week’s Strange Horizons, and here are a few spoilery things to read about it.

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I wrote this poem in early 2013, before my surgery and when I was still very unwell. I didn’t send it out until Feb 2014, when I showed it to Rose Lemberg on a lark (“do you REALLY want to read my telepathic rainbow tapeworm poem?” “I really DO want to read your telepathic rainbow tapeworm poem!”). Rose liked it a lot and told me to send it to Strange Horizons. I did and it sold.

I also need to thank Riss for encouragement, cheerleading and virtual fluffy animals :D

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Poetry editor Romie Stott bought this one for SH. This was my first time submitting when it was her turn reading. Here you can read about her preferences… which I didn’t read before submitting and found via Google just now. So it’s probably not mandatory to read it to sell to her, but it still strikes me as a good idea!

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This was my second poetry submission to Strange Horizons overall. The first one was Torah and Secular Learning, which also sold and appeared in Oct 2012.

Both are quite long – I always try to guess which market would be the best fit for my poems, and SH strikes me as a place where lengthy and “major” poems go. (Though some of my very short poetry I also think of as my major work, if I may say so about my own…) I just seldom write such poems!

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The inspiration was that I read so many poems with wonderful color imagery (many by Rose and also by Amal El-Mohtar) and it made me really want to write something with A LOT OF COLORS in it. Also, at the time I’d recently given up on the whole straight cis woman thing and wanted to write something with A RAINBOW.

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The line “where buildings grow like mushrooms” reminds me of Polenth Blake‘s work. I’m not sure whether this was a conscious allusion when I was writing…

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I really do stumble through walls (etc.) in dreams. I write a lot inspired by my dreams – here are more bonus notes.

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“somewhere deep down in my mind / where it all turns inside out, / interfaces with the world” refers to my poem Outside-in / Catalytic Exteriorization, which appeared in Stone Telling and which also comes with a video reading!

Jul
07
2014
0 C

The Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter is now live!

The Kickstarter for An Alphabet of Embers anthology is now live! I helped prepare this. Super cool project!!

It is “an anthology of unclassifiables – lyrical, surreal, magical, experimental pieces that straddle the border between poetry and prose”, edited by Rose Lemberg, author of many similar unclassifiables. The cover art is by Galen Dara – this is the Kickstarter promo picture:

An Alphabet of Embers cover

There will be further mysterious details and reveals and things, IY”H :D

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing | Tags: , ,
Jul
05
2014
0 C

Story notes: This Shall Serve As a Demarcation

I am on vacation and I have very unreliable internet, but I have a new story for you!! I also have several other things to announce and post about, so there will be further posts over the following days, my connection permitting. I wrote this post earlier, so it is easier to post.

This Shall Serve As a Demarcation just appeared in this month’s Scigentasy – Gender Stories in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I think this the best story I ever wrote. It’s also under 2500 words, so I recommend checking it out :D

Content warnings before you read: warfare, people being torn apart (again), horrible political doublespeak, people being exploited.

It’s also a politically-themed story about colonialism, and one with two non-binary-gendered people in a happy, supportive, noncontroversial D/s relationship who do not die horrible deaths at the end, but I do not want to warn about any of this. Still, I mention it because while these topics are not things that readers should IMO be warned about, there are many people who seek out such stories (I know I do!), and this will make it easier for them to find my work.

The story was beta read by Rose Lemberg! Thank you so much!

With all this being said, here are my spoilery bonus notes, as usual…

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I wrote this one recently, it sold relatively fast. It did get five quite rapid rejections before that and led an editor to a public outburst. (Don’t ask.) It’s apparently more controversial than I’d expected it to be…

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“Settlement” is a politically loaded word, this was intentional. The vocabulary and framework of colonialism and anticolonialism is also intentionally featured.  But the story is not based on any current or past Earth political situations (unlike some of my other stories) and not allegorical at all. It is an exploration of what I think would really happen if humans ended up settling on different planets; of course my assumptions are based on my own experience and outlook, but that’s the extent of it.

The story is as literal as it gets and I would appreciate people not reading “oh, this is about the Communists” or “oh, this is about Israel/Palestine” etc. into it. If you want to read specifically about Soviet-style expansion, occupation and colonization, I have a different story for you.

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The tiles changing from sea to land were inspired by Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, probably my favorite video game of all time. There the map is not changed by the local lifeforms, though (sadly!), but rather by terraforming machines. The foam is also vaguely reminiscent of the xenofungus from SMAC, but it works very differently.

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Characters’ names do not really mean anything this time, I just made them up. I like diacritics, but I don’t usually use a circumflex, given that it is surprisingly missing from my keyboard otherwise liberally sprinkled with diacritics. I had a circumflex in this story because why not?

“Hyoron” means “review” in Japanese, but this is accidental.

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I really like writing things with a science fictional approach, but with magic being an important part of the storyline. So I either end up writing science fiction with straight-up magic (sometimes it’s less straightforward), or fantasy with science fictional themes like the magical database. It’s a kind of odd niche.

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The blue-ringed octopus is one of the few octopus species which are poisonous. They are also really beautiful.

Written by prezzey in: sf,writing | Tags: , , ,

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