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

Two new flash fiction pieces in Remixt Magazine, volume 2

I have two original flash fiction pieces out in two separate issues of the second volume of Remixt, out yesterday!

Remixt, if you’re not familiar with it, is an experiment in publishing spearheaded by Julia Rios. Each release of the magazine pits 5+ editors against the same slush pile, and so there’s the possibility of the same piece being selected by different editors, or of each simultaneously-released issue being completely unique. You can read more about the process in Julia’s editorial here.

I sent two different pieces of flash their way back in March, and was fortunate enough to have each one appeal to one of the volume 2 editors. Huzzah!

Volume 2, Issue 3 features my story “Doge Coefficient,” a vaguely SFnal post-apocalyptic tale where the end came not in the form of zombies or plague but in sudden social collapse caused by Internet-driven language change. It’s also about learning to accept the past, and figuring out how to move forward.

Volume 2, Issue 4 features my story “What She Left Behind,” a slipstreamy kind of fantasy story which is kind of part Ovidian transformation story, part Southern Reach style weird, and part uh… learning-to-accept-the-past-and-figuring-out-how-to-move-forward. Which I guess was kind of a theme for me in these two stories for some reason.

Anyway. Go give ’em a read and check out the other fine stories featured in the various issues of Remixt, volume 2!

April/May updates: An award shortlist, a contest win, and a few new publications

I have been very bad about updating this blog lately. Gah! So, here’s April/May.

April

I had a new piece of flash fiction out in Daily Science Fiction on April 4th titled “Heisenball.” The story explores the many world theorem and takes a look at what we blame ourselves and others for, and what we do when we learn how else things might have turned out. Go give it a read! “Heisenball” by Stewart C Baker

Other exciting April news was the announcement that Futures story “Love and Relativity” was selected as one of seven finalists in my Naturethe 2016-2017 Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Writing, in such luminous company as Alastair Reynolds, Aliette de Bodard, David D. Levine, and Alex Shvartsman. (And that’s just in the short story category. Neal Stephenson? Cixin Liu? AAAAAAAH!)

You can read “Love and Relativity” at Nature Futures, or listen to it in audio form at Audible, courtesy of its being reprinted in Flash Fiction Online.

Also in April, I sold a Little Mermaid retelling to an anthology of fairy tales by Fantasia Divinity. Check it out on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And the gloriously-titled story I co-wrote with Matt Dovey, “How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart’s True Love,” was released in audio form at Podcastle. If you like absurd, D&D-gone-wrong style misadventures, Listen/read online“>give it a listen! (As a bonus, you can also view the art my wife Jane drew for the story in its original publication in No Shit from Alliteration Ink. Art makes everything better! If you’d like to see her other three illustrations, you’ll have to buy the anthology.)

May

In early May, my original story “The Monsters Your Mother Still Asks About” was published in Great Jones Street. This one is a darkly humorous urban fantasy romance, complete with a ridiculous vampire, an overbearing mother who may or may not be acquainted with brooms, and–just maybe–a chance at love or something like it.

Great Jones Street also published two reprints from me: “Fugue in a Minor Key,” originally from Galaxy’s Edge, and “Images Across a Shattered Sea,” my Writers of the Future winner. “Fugue in a Minor Key” is no longer available online elsewhere, so I’m especially glad to get that one some more eyeballs.

And last, but certainly not least, just a few days ago I learned that my story “At the Edge of a Human Path” took first prize in the annual Friends of the Merril contest. The story is a retelling of a Medieval English tale, “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle,” only set in Yamato Japan. Features fox-women, besotted lords, and devious backstabbery.

Friends of the Merril is a pay-to-enter contest, which I usually avoid, but I make an exception for this one because they use the proceeds to support a library collection of speculative fiction. Yay libraries! (And, obviously, I am very glad that I made that exception, this year!)

Phew. That seems like a lot of stuff. What will June hold? I sold two stories to Remixt, but am not sure when that comes out, and have a few other forthcoming releases, as well.

(Also, if you’re into haiku, you should go read the June issue of The Heron’s Nest. I’m the web editor, and also get to sometimes write the essay for the poem that gets the most editorial votes. This time I was privileged enough to be the one writing about an incredible haiku from Anthony Itopa Obaro of Nigeria.)

End of year review – published fiction (+ awards eligibility)

It’s the end of December, and that means it’s time for a review of what I’ve had published in 2016!

If you’re reading for award-nominating purposes, all but one of these are eligible for the Hugo and Nebula short story categories, with one that’s only Hugo-eligible this year. Please do let me know if you need a reading copy of anything that’s behind a paywall.

Although I like everything I’ve published this year, I’ll mention my personal favourites first. After that, stories are listed in the order they appeared.

I hope you enjoy reading!

Personal Favourites

  • “How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart’s True Love”
    by Baker & Dovey (Hugo-eligible)

    This story, co-written with my occasional consciousness-sharing friend Matt Dovey follows the misadventures of Essandra, the smart-ass wielder of the legendary/cursed sword Hrrnngnngrrrndr (the Sword of a Hundred Thousand Agonies, several of which probably involve spelling the damn thing) particular affection for typical gender roles and a significant amount of affection for untold riches, as she tries to defeat the Mad Wizard-King and make of with his treasure—all while fending off the unasked-for romantic overtures of fellow adventurers Korgar the Jhunken Barbarian (of the bulging muscles) and Elutriel the priest (of the silken skin and alluring hair). Will she finally find true love (and grab lots of loot?), and what the hell’s the deal with Hrrnngnngrrrndr?

    This story is in Alliteration Ink’s No Shit, There I Was anthology edited by Alex Acks, which is out sometime in the near future. However, since it’s already been released to the 500 or so Kickstarter backers, it’s already Hugo-eligible. If you’re reading for awards, send me an e-mail and I’d be happy to provide you with a copy of the story or an e-ARC of the anthology (sans art). Note that it’s not Nebula-eligible until it actually releases more widely. You can read the first hundred or so words at Baker & Dovey’s website and, again, I’m happy to provide an e-ARC. The story will also be available in audio from PodCastle whenever the anthology releases.

  • “Just Another Night at the Abandoned Draft Bar and Grill”

    I like to refer to this little story-thing as Feminist metafiction. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t write it partly in response to a certain Hugo-related kerfluffle, but I’d like to think it appeals to anyone who’s struggled through a clichéd and hackneyed story—either as writer or reader. The story follows Alexandra, an unfortunate victim of lazy characterization (and fridging) as she and fellow novel characters François (AKA African Henchman #1) and Wong the Inscrutable try to force their author to change his stupid plot and finally finish a first draft so they can be free of his inanity. Does it work? You’ll have to read the story to find out.

    It was published in the May 2016 issue of Galaxy’s Edge, where it can still be read for free online thanks to the glory of the Wayback Machine. (And hey, while you’re there, check out Tina Gower’s awesome “This is Home. You are Well.”

Full Bibliography for 2016

So that’s all, folks! Again, feel free to reach out if you’d like a reading copy of any of these. And I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them, no matter who you are.

New story, “Five Recipes You Can’t Live Without” now up at Spirit’s Tincture

My flash fiction story disguised as a series of magical cupcake recipes, “Five Recipes You Can’t Live Without” is now available to read in the inaugural issue of Spirit’s Tincture magazine.

To give you a taste (get it?) that will only serve to increase your appetite (get it?!), here is a sample-sized serving (okay, I’ll stop) made up of the opening lines:

One — Vanilla-Almond and Anise Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. With your dead sister’s image foremost in your mind, chant an awakening spell and light a stick of absinthe-infused sandalwood afire

The story was a runner-up in their flash fiction contest, and the issue also has stories by excellent writers like Laurence Brothers, Darcie Little Badger (whose story won the contest!), Spencer Ellsworth, José Iriarte, and more!

The issue’s free to read online (albeit in one of those funky page-flipping things), and you can also buy a print version if you’re into that sort of thing. Go and check it out!

Here’s the online version:

(PS: Peltandra Sagittifolia and snakeroot are kind of toxic, so do me a favour and don’t try to reproduce those recipes in your kitchen!)

Last Words of the Immortal (“Last Words” Series) + some shameless plugs

Immortality’s a funny thing.

There’s a long fictional tradition, as TV Tropes and Wikipedia make abundantly clear, of playing with the idea, inverting and subverting it. For instance, we have “complete immortality” (where you can’t be killed OR die) versus just the regular kind (where natural causes won’t off you, but injuries still can).

Tolkien’s elves, for instance, are regular immortal. So are most kinds of fictional vampire. Beasties like the Lernean Hydra dispatched by Hercules and his nephew Iolaus, on the other hand, are essentially unkillable and can only be inconvenienced to a greater or lesser degree by (e.g.) lighting them on fire, killing most of their mortal heads, and burying their immortal head under a huge boulder at the roadside because your name is Hercules and you’re an asshole like that.

Uh. Anyway.

I, too, like to play with the idea of immortality!

Last Words of the Immortal

by Stewart C Baker

Finally…!

Which I guess I kind of spoiled with that introduction but OH WELL, ONWARDS.

To some shameless plugs!

Shameless plug number one is that a story co-written by fellow Writers of the Future winner Matt Dovey and myself is in the currently-Kickstarting anthology “No Shit, There I Was.” Our tale is a glorious one of peril, fantastical hilarity, a magical sword welded by a kick-ass heroine who doesn’t take crap from anybody (except when she has to), true love, a soul-sucking evil wizard, necromantic basement weasels, and baby oil. Uh, but not necessarily in that order.

PLUS I MEAN JUST LOOK AT THIS COVER:
No Shit, There I Was: An Anthology of Improbable Tales edited by AlexAcks
IS IT NOT GLORIOUS? You know you want that on your bookshelf.

Head on over to the Kickstarter! If you order a copy, lemme know in the comments and I’ll legit write you a 5-word story on a topic of your choice, following the same rules I follow for these “Last Words” stories, and post it on my blog (if you want) for all to be jealous over.

Shameless plug number two is that you can pre-order the Writers of the Future anthology on Amazon or at your fine book retailer of choice. More details about the anthology and where to order it are available atWotF32.com. (We’re still hoping to get electronic sampler copies of the anthology, so stay tuned for that…)

Up and Coming: Stories from the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors – Free download!

The inimitable SL Huang and equally awesome Kurt Hunt have put in some serious hustle and created an anthology containing over a million words of fiction(!) from the authors who are eligible for the Campbell Award this year.

For those not in the know, the Campbell Award for Best New Writer is awarded each year concurrently with the Hugos, and is awarded to a SF author who has had their first professional fiction publication in the past two years. Past winners include luminaries like Lev Grossman, Sofia Samatar, and Wesley Chu, and–the further back in time you go–Cory Doctorow, Nalo Hopkinson, Ted Chiang, CJ Cherryh, and Spider Robinson.

So you know you’re in for a treat with this anthology.

And did I mention that it’s free to download?

Here’s what Lisa has to say about the anthology:

This anthology includes 120 authors — who contributed 230 works totaling approximately 1.1 MILLION words of fiction. These pieces all originally appeared in 2014, 2015, or 2016 from writers who are new professionals to the SFF field, and they represent a breathtaking range of work from the next generation of speculative storytelling.

All of these authors are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016. We hope you’ll use this anthology as a guide in nominating for that award as well as a way of exploring many vibrant new voices in the genre.

This anthology will be offered as a free download through March 31, 2016 only.

You can download the anthology in various formats over at Bad Menagerie: http://www.badmenagerie.com/up-and-coming-stories-from-the-2016-campbell-eligible-writers/

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.

“Excerpt Regarding the Departed” out today at the Sockdolager

Story release day!

My story, “Excerpt Regarding the Departed from the Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition is out today in the Winter 2015 issue of The Sockdolager.

This is my second time appearing in Sockdolager‘s virtual pages, and my first with an original story.

Hooray, original stories!

“Excerpt” is similar in concept to my other piece that’s appeared there, “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things”. Both stories are told in the style of academic reference manuals, and they’re even formatted the same way, with series of numbers representing a section of the manual, and descriptive text below it. Also, both have grim and possibly inappropriate snips of humour amidst their generally depressing subject matter.

Hooray, grim and possibly inappropriate snips of humour!

While “Selections” told more of a story about story-telling, though, “Excerpt” has more of a traditional narrative buried between its lines.

So go give it a read! I’d love to hear whether you all enjoy it.

As an added bonus, I’m sharing a table of contents with excellent stories from writer friends Charlotte Ashley (“The Will of Parliament,” a tale of politics and the fair folk) and David Steffen (“Tamers of the Green,” which details the challenges of inter-species communications). You can see the full table of contents here: Sockdolager, Winter 2015 (Issue #4)

My stories are now on AnthologyBuilder (which is having a sale!)

I just recently learned of a website called AnthologyBuilder. It’s basically a way to select whatever available stories you want from your favourite authors and bundle them all together into a fancy printed anthology.

Sounds like a neat concept to me, so I added some stories:

  • Behind the First Years
  • How to Configure your Quantum Disambiguator
  • Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things
  • Oubliette
  • Raising Words

If you like any of those and would like to read them in a shiny print-on-demand anthology together with stories by other authors, you can see my author listing at AnthologyBuilder.

Also, if it is something you want to do, now’s a great time to do it, because from now until September 25th, anthologies are 15% off.

(And, of course, “Behind the First Years” is coming out soon in the Science Fiction Short Stories anthology by Flame Tree Publishing alongside work by new and classic writers. So that’s an option too!)