Out soon! My story “Kuriko” is in Guardbridge Books’ Tales from the Sunrise Lands anthology

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll have a story in Guardbridge Books’ upcoming collection of short stories set in Japan called “Tales from the Sunrise Lands.” You can pre-order a copy at the link there.

My story, “Kuriko,” is a roughly 7500 word story about a living mechanical doll (からくり人形) trying to survive late 1600s Japan, and features down-on-their-luck samurai, drunken lords, and other unsavoury 時代小説 style characters. It was inspired mostly by a visit to the Ohno Karakuri museum in Kanazawa, Japan back when I lived there for half a year in 2005. Well, that and binge-reading Yoshikawa Eiji and Shiba Ryotaro.

I first wrote this story waaaay back in 2009(?) or 2010 for a writing contest on Scribophile , making it one of my earlier stories in terms of when I wrote it. When the (mangled, disjointed, subpar) first draft didn’t place in that contest, I reworked it and expanded it (too much) and submitted it to Writers of the Future, where it was my first entry and earned me my only semi-finalist. (In fact, it was the only story I ever submitted that earned me more than an honorable mention, up until my story “Images across a Shattered Sea” won first place on my last qualifying entry in late 2015.)

After I got my semi-finalist critique from former judge K.D. Wentworth, I lopped about 1/3 of the story off the front and revised it some more, then sent it out on submission, where it’s come close at a few places (including earning me a non-published contest win at Spark: A Creative Anthology).

I’m pleased to have finally sold it to a great publisher like Guardbridge!

Interestingly, I actually submitted this story more than 2 years ago (June 11th, 2015—I checked!) to Guardbridge’s great Myriad Lands anthology. Since it was over the length the editor wanted and also Japanese-themed and he had too many of those, the editor said he’d like to bump it to a planned anthology of stories by Japanese and non-Japanese authors set in Japan. (The anthology has changed its focus a little and doesn’t include many Japanese authors, apparently due to a lack of response when the editor tried to solicit submissions–a bit disappointing.) Fast forward to October of 2016, and I had received an official acceptance, and in December I signed the contract.

So it’s been quite a wait for those of us behind the scenes, but it’ll be out soon. Other authors include Douglas Smith, Alison Akiko McBain, and Richard Parks.

It’s 9 GBP to pre-order, and shipping in the UK is reasonable. Go give it a gander if you like Japanese stuff.

Link to buy: Tales of the Sunrise Lands

In a feat inspired by quantum interference, I will be at WorldCon this year while I am not at WorldCon this year. #FlatStewart

Ah, WorldCon. Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom’s largest annual shindig. Where you can rub shoulders with upcoming SFF authors and renowned bestsellers alike—and thousands of other industry professional and fans—and even see some people take home fancy (if phallic) rocket ship trophies.

But for all of WorldCon’s fame and staying power, it’s not without its drawbacks. Like, for instance, how no one* has ever dared to attend the convention while also not attending the convention.

That’s all about to change. For the first time ever**, I will be attempting this daring feat, thanks solely to the generosity and ingenuity of author, editor, miniature poodle***, and all-around awesome person-type being known as K.M. Szpara.

Kellan has, through the magic**** of printing, created a proxy for me, dubbed Flat Stewart.

Aren’t I magnificently deranged-looking? I mean magnificent? Don’t answer that.

Anyway, Kellan will be taking Flat Stewart around the place, and no doubt getting up to all sorts of misadventures. You can follow along with the fun by looking at the #FlatStewart hashtag on Twitter*****.

Quantum interference has never been so easy.

Footnotes:
* That I can think of, anyway, because I’m too lazy to look it up and see.
** See previous footnote.
*** It is possible I may be misreading their bio.
**** Any sufficiently advanced technology, &.c, &c.
***** Note that there appears to be some other Flat Stewart in the tweets prior to 16 August 2016. Judging from his profile and relative lack of facial hair, I’m the evil twin.

Reprint: “The Butterfly Disjunct” in Strange Constellations under a CC-BY-NC licence

My far-future story “The Butterfly Disjunct” is now up to read free of charge in Strange Constellations, a web magazine that publishes stories under a Creative Commons licence. a CC-BY-NC licence, in particular.

And what does that mean?

In practical terms, it means that you can do whatever you want with this little story, so long as you:

  1. Credit me as its author
  2. Make it clear that you’ve modified my work (if applicable)
  3. Don’t make money as a result

Want to paste the whole story on your web page? You can!

Want to put it in a free anthology of other CC-BY stories? Knock yourself out.

Want to remix it, or make it part of a bigger work? Cool. Go for it!

Thinking about making a Polish-language post-modern opera about it where the whole story takes place in a Cold War bunker? Sounds neat.

Again, so long as whatever you’re doing is not commercial in nature, there’s no real limit to what you can do. (Although as the author of the story, I can waive this on a case-by-case basis. So just get in touch!)

As a librarian with an interest in the Open Access movement, I’m excited to be able to publish a story under a Creative Commons licence. Especially since this particular story hasn’t appeared in the wild for free before. I hope you enjoy reading it! (Or doing whatever else you plan on doing to it.)

Read “The Butterfly Disjunct” at Strange Constellations.

Last Words of Josh Jacobs, 25th-century Retro-hipster (“Last Words” Series

I am writing this FROM THE FUTURE!

Or maybe FROM THE PAST?

From the Writers of the Future gala, anyway. Hooray for automated posts.

Last words of Josh Jacobs, 25th-century Retro-hipster, upon Attempting to Ironically Use 20th-century Last Words to Draw Attention to His Dangerous Traversal of the Mega-highwire of Mars

by Stewart C Baker

Hey y’all, watch this!

(Unlike most of these little story-things, this one has not a thing to do with someone dying–it just turns the whole concept of last words on its head!)

My published original fiction from 2015 – in review (the dreaded “awards eligibility post”)

For SFF writers, there are two year-end traditions.

One is to post a list of your published fiction for the year so people who read for award nominations can be reminded it exists.

The second is to exhibit sufficient hand-wringing while you do it, so as to appear self-effacing, awkward, and not a giant bag of dicks.

So:

Hand-wringing?

Er, hang on a bit. Let me try that again.

Hand-wringing?!

Eh, good enough.

Anyway. now that that’s out of the way, here is a curated selection of my stories that saw first publication (or were first podcast) this year.

Just to be as clear as crystal, I am not expecting to end up on anyone’s awards list. But I hope you find something you like in the stories below, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Original Short Stories

“Configuring Your Quantum Disambiguator”Nature, February 4, 2015
Having trouble calibrating your universe-defining machine? Don’t lose your head. Just refer to these simple instructions… (meta-fiction; humour)
(Also currently shortlisted in the “Quantum Shorts” contest.)

“Masks”SFComet, March 2015 (Also in Chinese)
Min’s double life as an investigator and a spy aboard a generation ship is about to come crashing down… Unless she can out-think the man in the lizard mask.
(sci-fi)

“Love and Relativity”Nature Physics, September 1, 2015
When Adhi disappears on an experimental spacecraft, Indira tirelessly searches for answers. But life can’t stand still forever, and history has a funny way of repeating itself.
(sci-fi; meta-fiction)

“Fugue in a Minor Key”Galaxy’s Edge, November 2015 (note: available through 12/31)
The most important things in Katja’s life are her daughter, her husband, and her internationally acclaimed career as a concert pianist—but the two university techs before her insist they were all a simulation.
(sci-fi)

“Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast”Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, November 2015
The last moments of your life can be among the most important. Spend them wisely; spend them well. Do not waste time on empty regret.
(sci-fi)

“Excerpt from the Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition Regarding the Departed”The Sockdolager, Winter 2015
There are various methods of bringing loved ones back from the dead—but things don’t always go exactly as you plan.
(fantasy; meta-fiction)

Podcast Fiction

“Raising Words”Meduspod, February 2, 2015 (Print story published in Penumbra, July 2013)
When the man known as Yamato Takeru dies and transforms into a massive white spirit-bird, one of his daughters stands apart. She does not celebrate his godly transformation. Instead, she remembers…
(fantasy)

“Behind the First Years”StarShipSofa, September 16, 2015 (Print story published in COSMOS Online, 2013)
When his predecessor dies just before the ship they live on reaches its final destination, Pete is thrust into the role of archivist. Can he adapt? What waits in store on their new home?
(sci-fi)

These are just some of the stories I published this year (12 in all, 9 of which are original publications). You can see the full list on my bibliography page.

Thanks for your (probably hypothetical!) support during 2015, and I’m looking forward to another year’s worth of writing and publishing stories in 2016.

My story “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” reviewed

I’ve spotted a couple of reviews out there on the Interwebs for my story “Elements of a Successful Exit Broadcast” in the November issue of Fantastic Stories of the Imagination. I know you’re not supposed to read the things, but I’m a glutton for self-abnegation and never could resist.

Charles Payseur of Quick Sip Reviews has some kind things to say about the story.

There is a great sense something terrible has happened, and that in some ways it takes being in such a situation to give advice on it. That this list is both a manual for others and its own successful exit broadcast. That it follows its own advice, though it slips a bit, as anyone would. That it keeps the pain just under the surface, slipping only momentarily up to show in the quiver of a lip, the hesitation in a word. It’s a gripping story, a very, very short story, and a fine read.

I’ll drink to that! Or I would, if I drank.

Alas and alack, David Wesley Hill of Tangent Online was less than impressed, and reads the story as being about someone who is “concerned about looking good while dying horribly”—not quite what I had in mind with this story, although I suppose it’s a fairly accurate surface level summary.

David does make a good point about this being an implausible set of instructions, but such is the nature of the piece’s second-person conceit. Somewhat more baffling to me is that he spends the rest of the review talking about the authentic smell of burning and/or rancid meat. As he says, “Details count, particularly in a story of 200 words.” And sure, I’ll agree with that. And sure maybe I should have deleted “rancid.” (I will admit that it’s mostly there for rhythm.) All the same, this aspect of David’s review still seems a little over the top to me.

Ah well. You can’t please everybody, right? I think that’s especially true for such a short piece as this one.

Looking for a writing activity in November? Come run the @WYRMsGauntlet !

If anyone out there in the wide world of Internet is looking for some kind of motivational writing thing to do in November that isn’t a novel, and/or would like a chance at $150, why not come join me over at Wyrm’s Gauntlet?

What exactly is that, you ask? The long version is available at the link above.

Here’s the short version:

WYRM’s Gauntlet is 4 rounds of writing or reviewing challenges, organized in a tournament style. Only 8 entrants move on to the second round, 5 to the third, and just 3 to the final round. Anyone who lasts to the finalist round earns a nice cash prize.

The challenges are things like “write a story” or “review this,” and all entries are submitted via a private web-form, so you don’t lose any rights to your work.

I’m already registered under the moniker of Flintonlaubakersmith. (Last year, as the less-gloriously-named s_c_baker, I won second place. I also, of more note to me personally, wrote the first draft of a story I cannot yet name because it won first place in Writers of the Future recently.)

If all this sounds like fun to you, go read through the Wyrms’ Gauntlet guidelines and sign up to be a “Gauntleteer.” The first round starts October 12th, but you can join any time before its deadline of October 26th.

Sockdolager Issue 1 Podcast

The Sockdolager, where my story “Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things” appeared online this spring, has put together a podcast about that issue (which was their first).

I’m not normally one for podcasts (I don’t have the attention span, is what it boils down to), but it’s really fascinating to hear the editors talk about the process and the reasons for their choices for purchasing various stories and/or why they like them. (I must admit I am a little biased in this particular case, since one of the editors says my story is one of his favourite things they’ve published.)

If you like podcasts, fiction, or just that story of mine, go give them a listen. It’s interesting stuff!

The podcast is supported by their Patreon account, so if you like what they do and have the fundage to do so, you should also consider pledging there.

Read Annie Bellet’s Hugo-nominated “Goodnight Stars” online—free!

Sad Puppy controversy aside, this time of year is always great for getting a chance to read good, free fiction. Plenty of editors and authors make their nominated work more accessible in the run-up to voting, so that everyone who wants to read it can.

As an example of which, John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey just made Annie Bellet’s Hugo-nominated short story “Goodnight Stars” available on the Apocalypse Triptych website free of charge. The story appeared in Adams’ and Howey’s “The End is Now,” the second volume in the anthology series.

This is my first time reading the story (I don’t have much of a budget for buying fiction, unfortunately), but it’s easy to see why it’s on the ballot. The characters are well-sketched, multi-layered, and sympathetic, the pacing is excellent, and the ending packs an emotional whammy.

So if you like apocalyptic stories, go give this one a read. (Even if you don’t like them, go give this one a read. It may change your mind.)

Update 4/15:
Annie has withdrawn her story from the ballot. Here’s why:

am withdrawing because this has become about something very different than great science fiction. I find my story, and by extension myself, stuck in a game of political dodge ball, where I’m both a conscripted player and also a ball. (Wrap your head around that analogy, if you can, ha!) All joy that might have come from this nomination has been co-opted, ruined, or sapped away. This is not about celebrating good writing anymore, and I don’t want to be a part of what it has become.

I am not a ball. I do not want to be a player. This is not what my writing is about. This is not why I write. I believe in a compassionate, diverse, and inclusive world. I try to write my own take on human experiences and relationships, and present my fiction as entertainingly and honestly as I can.

“Raising Words” now available as a free podcast at @MedusPod

My story “Raising Words,” from the July 2014 issue of Penumbra, has been reprinted as a free podcast over at MedusPod.

It’s a story set in an approximation of Yamato Japan (around the late 600s), and features the legendary warrior Yamato Takeru, shape-changing boar-god-things, and other weirdness. Go check it out!

This is my first time being podcast(ed?), as I’m generally a much more text-based person. I hope you enjoy, in any case!

Listen to Raising Words at MedusPod.