“Horror Story” in Granta; Interview at Electric Literature

An end-of-October update:CSkLhdAWEAAgDLx

I have a brand-new story up at Granta, just in time for Halloween! You can read “Horror Story” here.

There’s also a wonderful interview with me over at Electric Literature, published last week. There, Rebekah Bergman talks to me about sex, horror, formal constraints, fantasy, gender, and the apocalypse.

Also, speaking of Halloween: I just found out that last year’s Halloween story of mine at Granta (is this a thing now?), “The Husband Stitch,” received a Special Mention in 2016 Pushcart Prize XL: Best of the Small Presses. So exciting!

Happy Halloween, all.

“A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity” is now online!

My essay “A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity,” which ran in print in the Los Angeles Quarterly Review last fall, is now online at Los Angeles Review of Books. It feels good (and intense and strange and scary and weird and wonderful all at the same time) to have it out in the world. A special thank you to my editor, Michelle Huneven, who walked me through every step of revising this essay.

Franz Kafka Award in Magic Realism & Tor.com mention

A few small updates:

Sabrina Vourvoulias wrote a lovely bit about me (and dozens of other incredible writers) in “Putting the I in Speculative: Looking at U.S. Latino/a Writers and Stories” at Tor.com. Thank you, Sabrina!

Also, I found out this weekend that my story “Mothers” is a finalist (and still in the running) for the Franz Kafka Award in Magic Realism.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 2 Cover & ToC

Editors Michael Kelly and Kathe Koja have just released the complete Table of Contents & the cover for Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 2. I’m so excited to be in such good company!

  • YBWF-2“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud
  • “Wendigo Nights” by Siobhan Carroll
  • “Headache” by Julio Cortázar. English-language translation by Michael Cisco
  • “Loving Armageddon” by Amanda C. Davis
  • “The Earth and Everything Under” by K.M. Ferebee
  • “Nanny Anne and the Christmas Story” by Karen Joy Fowler
  • “The Girls Who Go Below” by Cat Hellisen
  • “Nine” by Kima Jones
  • “Bus Fare” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • “The Air We Breathe Is Stormy, Stormy” by Rich Larson
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
  • “Observations About Eggs From the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa” by Carmen Maria Machado
  • “Resurrection Points” by Usman T. Malik
  • “Exit Through the Gift Shop” by Nick Mamatas
  • “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” by Sunny Moraine
  • “A Stretch of Highway Two Lanes Wide” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “Migration” by Karin Tidbeck
  • “Hidden in the Alphabet” by Charles Wilkinson
  • “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap

Year’s Best Weird Fiction & storySouth Million Writers Award

Some great news to kick off 2015:

My Nebula-Eligible Stories

In 2014, I published half my stories at SF/F-specific venues (Lightspeed twice, Interfictions) and half at non-genre places (Granta, AGNI, Yalobusha Review). All of them were non-realist, and some mix of fantasy and horror. Here are my Nebula-eligible stories for the upcoming awards cycle. Thank you, as always, for your consideration.

Novellette:

The Husband Stitch,” Granta. This story has gotten more love than anything else I’ve published this year. J.Y. Yang said: “I started reading. And then kept reading. And kept reading. The beauty of this story is the way it takes urban myth, freshly scraped off the walls of the Internet, and kneads it into something electric.” Over at SF Signal, A.C. Wise wrote: “Nearly everyone knows how the story will end, how it must end, and yet the sense of impending doom, the question of when crawls beneath the reader’s skin and leads them through the story.” K. Tempest Bradford included it in her “Best Short Stories for the Week of November 10th – 15th,” saying: “This is exactly the kind of SF you’d expect to find in a magazine like Granta — language spun like gossamer, linear narrative dipping in and out of some other mode, be it the past, the future, or the stories of others, a mysterious truth held tight in the hand, a surprise to people unfamiliar with fantasy or horror but sweetly expected by those of us who are.” And perhaps most excitingly, Ellen Datlow mentioned it during a World Fantasy Convention panel when asked about her favorite work of the past year.

Short Stories:

Mothers,” Interfictions. This story was a finalist in the American Short Fiction Contest, judged by Amy Hempel. Gillian Daniels at Fantastic Stories calls the prose “tight and gorgeous,” and says “the main character of ‘Mothers’ [functions] in worlds where explanations hide behind curtains that are never lifted. [She] can only do the best with the circumstances offered to [her].”

Please Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead.” First published in the John Joseph Adams anthology Help Fund My Robot Army & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects, and later reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine. K. Tempest Bradford included this in her “Best Short Stories for the Week of July 7th – 12th” post at io9, saying “The concept is interesting but I had my doubts about whether or not it could be pulled off without seeming gimmicky. I should have known that Machado’s story would be brilliant and work exactly right, given that she’s already proved her skill at spinning great tales through unconventional story structures.”

Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa,” Lightspeed Magazine. Lois Tilton at Locus Magazine recommended this story: “Eggs as cosmic metaphor and pickup line – unusual and original premise.”

California Statutes Concerning Defrauding an Innkeeper,” AGNI. A genre- and form-bending romp through a magic-realist road trip gone terribly awry. (Print only – available on the SFWA forums)

Ekphrasis,” Yalobusha Review. For the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure enthusiasts out there.

On “Mothers” & the Process of Writing Pain

My story “Mothers” is in the newest issue of Interfictions. I want to talk for just a bit about this story, because I feel like the process of writing it was unusual but important to talk about.

I wrote the first half of “Mothers” several years ago, when I was mired deep in an abusive relationship that was still in blissful honeymoon stage. I got the idea for the story – two women who make a baby together – and wrote and wrote and wrote and then just… stopped. I didn’t lose interest, I didn’t pursue other things, I just slammed up against an invisible wall. I struggled with it for a bit – what happened next? What was this story about? – and then eventually dropped it into a file of abandoned and half-written stories and forgot about it.

Fast-forward to a year later: I finally managed to extract myself from the abusive relationship. I also somehow managed to finish my classes and my thesis, though how, I’m still not exactly sure. I was supposed to attend the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop that summer. I couldn’t have known when I applied to Clarion how badly I would need it – a place to get away from myself, a group of amazing and supportive human beings, distraction, a place to focus my energy and my work – but I careened away from Iowa City in my tiny car with clothes and weird stuff in laundry baskets bouncing in the back and a baseball bat in the passenger seat. I inched my way across the US, alone for days. When I arrived in San Diego, I was ready for anything.

At Clarion, you’re encouraged to write six brand-new stories, one per week, and avoid any “trunk stories” you have laying around. It’s a great system, and I mostly stuck to it – except there was one week where I dug “Mothers” (then called “Mother”) out of that file. I spent an afternoon on a balcony overlooking the fragrant, sunny campus, my bare feet resting on the peeling iron railing, re-reading what I’d written. And I realized, with horror, that my past-self had written this story romantically, because I’d been in love. But when I re-read it all I could see was claustrophobia, manipulation, latent terror. I cried. Then I wrote an ending. Because now I knew how it ended. I finally understood what my former self hadn’t – what the story was really about.

My Clarion class, led by the brilliant teaching team of Holly Black and Cassie Clare, workshopped the story and gave me lots of feedback. I took it back to Iowa, where I had a third year teaching fellowship, rewrote it, and shared it with my writing group. They also gave me a lot of feedback. I continued to work on it. My now-girlfriend, Val, observed that the story was a “raw howl of pain,” and that felt right. Sometimes fiction can be too painful to work on, too near, and I worked on it, backed off, worked on it again. It still feels like a rawl howl of pain, but one with definable borders, and that is something to be proud of, I think. And I love that this story has so many writer-fingerprints all over it, so much attention, so many mothers. I couldn’t have done it without these writing communities around me – these brilliant, thoughtful people. That is true for a lot of fiction, I think, but I’m not sure I could have ever fully shouldered the burden that was this particular story without them.

So I hope you enjoy “Mothers,” not to mention all of the other incredible fiction, nonfiction, and poetry at the new issue of Interfictions.