An Illustration for “Especially Heinous”


Of all the characters I’ve ever written, the girls-with-bells-for-eyes from “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” are some of my favorite. Apparently, they also struck a chord with (the inimitable) E.G. Cosh, who drew this gorgeous illustration. Isn’t it amazing? I’m especially wild about the distortion, which to me suggests that Benson has just woken up to this scene. I love it. I love it SO MUCH.


My Campbell Award Eligibility & Recommendations

I made an awards eligibility post a few weeks ago, but it occurs to me that I should make one specifically for the Campbell, since it covers two years’ worth of work.

I am in my second qualifying year for the Campbell Award. My first professional sale was to Strange Horizons, for “Inventory,” which was published in January 2013. Since then, I’ve published 19 short stories in a mix of genre/non-genre magazines.

Last year, I included my three favorite stories from 2013 in the Campbell anthology.

(I also published one other genre story that wasn’t included in the anthology: “Real Women Have Bodies” at FiveChapters.)

In her NPR review of the 2013 Campbell anthology, K. Tempest Bradford recommended me for nomination, writing:

Carmen Maria Machado’s stories build and build until they surround and ensnare, and at the end you’re always glad to be all tangled up. My favorite, “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU,” defies explanation. Call it postmodern, or fan fiction, or Lovecraft meets Dick Wolf — all labels fall short of capturing the essence of this story.

This year, the 2014 Campbell anthology will include:

  • “California Statutes Concerning Defrauding an Innkeeper” / AGNI
  • Mothers” / Interfictions
  • The Husband Stitch” / Granta (recently selected for inclusion in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 2)

In addition to these stories, I published three other speculative stories, including:

When it comes to my personal ballot, here are the other writers on my shortlist:

Update: The CINTAS Foundation Fellowship, Interfictions, Flavorwire

So much news!

I recently found out that I am the recipient of the 2014 – 2015 CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing. My friend and fellow writer Daniel Castro received the fellowship last year. I’m honored and excited to now have the time and funding to (hopefully) wrap up my novel.

Jonathan Sturgeon at Flavorwire included my story “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” in his piece about new digital literature, “A Brief and Incomplete Survey of New Types of Online Literature.” Sturgeon calls it “a sui generis story that reads like tweets and TV episode guide… incredible… hilarious and disturbing.”

Last, my story “Mothers” will be appearing in the fall 2014 issue of (the wonderful, genre-bending) Interfictions. “Mothers” was previously a finalist in the 2014 American Short Fiction Contest, judged by Amy Hempel.

Updates: Granta & Especially Heinous

Two bits of news! First of all, my story “The Husband Stitch” will be appearing online at Granta around Halloween, alongside their fall issue, “Fate.” I absolutely love Granta and am honored and excited to have my work appearing there.

Secondly, over at Huffington Post Books, Arna Bontemps Hemenway calls “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” one of the “best short stories you’ve never read.”

By turns funny, disturbing, canny, and inventive, this novella takes the form of fictional episode summaries of the famous show (but if the show, as one reader puts it, were directed by David Lynch). Machado, another new voice in American fiction, manages to create an engaging, strange, and wholly original story that draws into conversation sexual violence, popular culture, and our own weird-feeling relationships therein.

Thank you, Arna!

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in My Writing Process Blog Tour by Sofia Samatar (@SofiaSamatar), who was invited by Daniel José Older (@djolder).

What are you working on?

I’m one of those writers who always has multiple projects going. I wish I could say it’s because I have SUPER AMBITION, but mostly it’s because I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. I’m currently working on a novella (which I hope will be the final story in my collection Her Body and Other Parties) titled “The Resident.” I also just completed a (very rough) draft of a novel, tentatively titled Venus Would Freeze. And I have a couple of personal essays at various levels of completion–“Exposure” and “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity.” And notes/scenes for a few more stories without titles. And some freelancing projects. And I’m writing a couple of college-level fiction-writing courses.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

Such a loaded question! My societally-ingrained humility is currently murmuring nothing, nothing in my ear, but if that were really true, why would I bother writing? What would I have to offer?

I think that my work is a distinctive, unique blend of specific elements: formal constraint/structural conceit, eroticism, complex female and queer protagonists, social commentary, lyricism, surrealism/absurdism, modernism, post-modernism, magic. Basically, if there’s an element I crave in the fiction I read, I also try to incorporate it into my work.

Why do you write what you do?

I wish I could say that I woke up one morning with my fiction as it exists now inside of me, but that’s not true. When I first started writing stories, I was young. They were mostly imitations of what I’d been reading–a very specific sort of realist short stories. I like realism, and I even occasionally still write realist stories (though usually tinged with non-realist elements), but when I got to my MFA program I was lucky enough to have other writers around me who sensed what I was trying to do, and encouraged it. Read Kelly Link, they told me. Read George Saunders. Read Kij Johnson and Karen Russell and Kevin Brockmeier and Italo Calvino and Georges Perec and Jane Bowles and J.G. Ballard and on and on. It was like I’d run the length of a particular house hundreds of times, and then during one lap someone pushed open a door I didn’t even realize was there.

Since that moment–since I wrote a story in the spring of my first year, “Difficult at Parties”–I’ve come more and more fully into what I realize is my voice. It’s been a really incredible process. And now I can’t imagine writing any other way.  I am eternally grateful to the other writers in my life–fellow students and teachers alike–who exposed me to those influences and ideas.

How does your writing process work?

I’m a freakishly fast writer. It’s not that everything I write comes out fast and flawless, but I do have a tendency to just sort of rip through a project. The challenge is then sitting on it long enough for edits, and making it the best version of itself. Probably the most extreme example of this is when I wrote my story “Inventory” at Clarion in three hours, workshopped it the next day, edited it that afternoon, put in Strange Horizon’s slush pile that evening, and had sold it three days later. Some stories of mine come out like that: more or less complete. Others–like “The Resident,” which I’m taking with me to Sycamore Hill because I’m totally stuck–I start, get to a certain point, and then I don’t know what happens next and I have to sort of freewheel until I figure it out. When it comes to those stories, I try to take the “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach. This is also how I’m writing my novel, which is the first novel-length work I’ve written in my current writing phase.

I’m also sort of an idea machine. I was one of those kids who you’d find hunched over a mishmash of Barbies, dinosaurs, Fisher Price people, and block, muttering dialogue and sound effects under my breath. If I wasn’t reading 0r writing down stories on my father’s stationary, I was constructing a wild, soap-opera-esque narrative about my toys. (Even when I was probably too old to do so without looking weird.) As an adult, that manifests as a 23-page, single-spaced Word document with all of the ideas, titles, images, formal conceits, characters, and lines that just sort of pop up in my brain. People who know me well have seen me stop mid-sentence, my eyes widening a little, and whip out my notebook or phone to jot down an idea. I also get tons of ideas in the shower. I wrote half of “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” in the shower. Whenever I felt stuck I got under the water and then, bam, there it was. That’s how the girls-with-bells-for-eyes were born. In any case, sometimes I look at my idea list and realize that things that I’ve come up with separately are actually parts of the same story. But unless I live to be a thousand years old I’ll probably never do everything on that list, which grows constantly.

Well, I guess that’s it. Next week, I’ve invited Sam J. Miller (@sentencebender) and Lara Donnelly (@larazontally) to participate. Watch for their entries!

NPR & Lightspeed

Two bits of publication/press news:

Yesterday, K. Tempest Bradford of NPR wrote about her experience reading the entirety of the Campbell nominee anthology in “We Read The Year’s Best New Sci-Fi — So You Don’t Have To.” In it, she talks about the experiencing of reading over 800,000 words of prose, and discusses her Hugo/Campbell ballot, which includes me and my story “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU.”

Carmen Maria Machado’s stories build and build until they surround and ensnare, and at the end you’re always glad to be all tangled up. My favorite, “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU,” defies explanation. Call it postmodern, or fan fiction, or Lovecraft meets Dick Wolf — all labels fall short of capturing the essence of this story.

Also, Lightspeed’s new issue dropped today, and if you’re a subscriber, you can read my story “Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa” today. For non-subscribers, it’ll go online on April 8th. Here’s the cover!


The Hugo, Campbell, & New Yorker Press

My article “The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf” did really well last week, snagging mentions in Gizmodo, Time (via Dave Pell’s NextDraft), and National Journal.

Also, for those of you who are still undecided re: Hugo Nominations, my short story “Inventory” and my novella “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU” are eligible. I am also in my first year of eligibility for the Campbell award. Thank you to Rachel Swirsky, Abigail Nussbaum, Martin Petto, Jed Hartman, and everyone else who has recommended my stories or me for these awards.