Tag Archives: escape artists

Behind the Scenes: Why I Spared the One Brave Soul Between Me and My Undead Army

Let heroes break themselves against my army for sending a child to do their work.

Read and/or listen at Cast of Wonders!

On some level this tale speaks to ongoing social justice issues. Each new wave of a movement picks up on the issues the previous wave either caused or ignored. It’s fantastic, and infuriating, when teens and pre-teens step up to be the courageous activists and put themselves on the line while the adults — who have all the power — sit there, complacent and obstructive. Beyond that, this story was inspired by a tumblr post. The song VESSEL, by Devilskin, fleshed out the rest.

I’ve written lots of stories about tough love from the student’s side, drawing on my own experiences, but this time I wanted to focus on an older character, and thus, the teacher’s side. Tough love is really difficult to convey because it skates so close to abuse. In writing this villain, an objectively bad person, the task was to find good reasons for bad behavior.

Layla and Regan are both responding to an unjust world, but the nature of their responses puts them on opposite sides. Neither of them were taken seriously by the powers that be, and despite this, they never wavered from their paths; each going as far as to invite the other to join their cause. None of this would have worked if evil Layla fell flat.

By the end of the story, Layla’s forty years old. She’s absolutely committed to rebuilding the world, and — blasphemy of blasphemies — she’s having a great time! So often, villainous women and femme fatales are there to be sexy first and adversarial second. There’s some weakness at their core — like a longing for love, or a hatred for their rapist — that the hero (and by extension, the reader) can exploit. While the villain is there to be crushed, the villainess tantalizes like so much forbidden fruit —  she’s there to be tasted, split open, and conquered; or to demonstrate moral fortitude by abstaining.

Layla is impervious to all of this, because she’s happy.

She’s not a sidekick or an ingénue, she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. She’ll cut down anyone who tries to stop her, and isn’t above betraying her teammates to advance her cause. Futhermore, she’s so settled in her power that she can recognize and lend aid to a kindred spirit, even if they wind up on opposite sides.

While Layla is driven by her cause, she’s not burdened by it. She was prepared to face down heroes at every moment, and it’s not her fault that no one showed until she was too big to stop. Similarly, no one took Regan’s warnings seriously, forcing her to face the threat herself and ultimately, that’s what got her the training she needed. By helping Regan become a viable threat, Layla gives Regan the respect that she herself feels entitled to; but she doesn’t sugar-coat what that means. She warns of the danger, and then lets Regan make her own choice. Both Layla and Regan position themselves to meet the enemy head-on, removing any question of the legitimacy of their victories. They take themselves, and each other, seriously.

I wanted to show the validating and enriching elements of an adversarial relationship. Men get that in fiction all the time. It’s someone else’s turn.

Finally, I realize (too late) that there are appropriative elements in the story — the most obvious being the Vessel of Mercy, a reference to kintsugi. The way I used the design has nothing to do with the art’s practice in our world, and the tale might have benefited from some in-world cynicism around the Vessel’s mythology, to draw attention to the ways in which conquerors and thieves steal history and context, as well as objects. For this, I apologize. I will be more considered in future.

If you liked this story, buy me a coffee!

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Archon 41: Come Say Hello!

The flying castle will be dropping me off in your realm this fall to attend Archon 41! Women and nonbinary authors, please be sure to submit your original (no reprint) stories for Artemis Rising before you head out, as our submission window will close on Sept 30.

Sept 29 – Oct 1, 2017
archonstl.org
Gateway Convention Center and DoubleTree Hotel
Collinsville, IL

This convention promises the usual from me — religion, fighting, and the inescapable lure of human darkness — capped off on Sunday with a reading chock-full of all three. Come say hello!

Friday

The Cinematic Wonder Woman’s Badass Predecessors
20:00 – 20:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

A discussion celebrating Ripley, Xena, Buffy, and more.  Why do we love women who kick butt?
What a question.
With Claire Ashgrove, Tom Stockman, and Ethan Nahté

Saturday

Alternate Religions
11:00 – 11:50, Salon 4 (Gateway Center)
An open and respectful look at real-life alternate or non-mainstream religions.
I’ll be moderating, with Christine Amsden, Ms Joy Ward, and Walt Boyes

Writing Modern-Day Monsters
12:00 – 12:50, Marquette A (Gateway Center)
Discuss what a “modern-day monster” is (or can be), and how to write an effective one.
With Mr Michales Joy, and Guy Anthony De Marco

Recurring Themes in Speculative Science Fiction
16:00 – 16:50, Marquette B (Gateway Center)

Speculative fiction has become more and more popular in recent years.  Come participate in a discussion on themes in spec lit and what’s on the horizon.
I’m moderating (the fantasist snuck in! Shh!), with Celine Chatillon, Dr Pamela Gay, and Tom Carpenter

Comparative Mythology
19:00 – 19:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

How do myths from different cultures compare?  What are some recurring themes?  What myths seem to be culturally unique?
I’m moderating, with Michael Benjamin, Lloyd Kropp, Walt Boyes, and Kasey Mackenzie

 

Sunday

Short-Story Podcasting for Writers, Readers, and Voice Actors
10:00 – 10:50, Salon 6 (Gateway Center)

Escape Artists represent — woop woop!  Podcasts are a huge opportunity to publish and listen to short fiction, and engage with the fan community. They can also provide an avenue into audio book narration and voice acting. Join us to discuss the podcasts we love, how to build a recording setup, and the path to publication.
With the ever-brilliant Benjamin C. Kinney of Escape Pod

Making Friends in Fandom
13:00 – 13:50, Illini A (Gateway Center)

It’s hard to make new friends, but it’s easier when you have common interests. Get tips on how to make friends as adults.
With Mrs. Susan Baugh, Cindi Gille-Rowley, Tom Meserole, Steve Lopata

Author Readings with David Benem and Setsu Uzume
14:00 – 14:50, Cahokian (Gateway Center)
Tag-teaming with David Benem

 

Free Hugs!

If you’re not familiar with the Escape Artists family of print & podcasts, you should check them out immediately.

Podcastle
Pseudopod
Escape Pod
Cast of Wonders
Mothership Zeta

This fantastic group of human beings bring nothing but love to their work, their authors and narrators, and to listeners and readers. When I found out they also have t-shirts, I had to, um… decorate one. It was too good, and quite frankly, not that far off from what they’re all about. I would have made the letters much messier, but I didn’t want to obscure the logo.

Fear the Children – New Pseudopod Podcast!

Flash On The Borderlands XXVII: What’s The Matter With Kids Today? just dropped, featuring three pieces of flash fiction read by…

  • the indomitable, Andrea Subissati, who co-hosts of the Faculty of Horror podcast, a monthly show examining the academic side of horror movies
  • the incorrigible Big Anklevich who co-hosts at the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine
  • and the irascible me, who lives here, and needs no introduction.

I sent two versions of this recording to Pseudopod, one that played the letter as perfectly normal, and another that cranked up the obsessive, manic pride of motherhood. They went with the second version.

Head over to Pseudopod, and ignore that thing scratching at the window.

Excellent podcasts and other resources for Audio Books

I love podcasts. They’re fascinating, entertaining, inexpensive, and at an average length of 45 minutes, perfect for the daily commute. As a novelist, I find them immeasurably helpful as self-guided lessons on how to write short stories. The format is such that I can study, practice and be thoroughly entertained while I’m cooking, doing push-ups, or heading to a friend’s house.

Even within the scope of one subscription, you’ll hear a wide variety of styles and dozens of authors, so you can get a feel for craft as well as structure and pacing. It’s amazing how many laughs, tears, and terror these writers can fit into such a small space.

Once you feel confident enough to start earning ‘cred,’ write your own! Many of these podcasts are also open to submissions.

I listen to several of these regularly, and others have been recommended to me by colleagues outside my genre. I have linked their web-sites, and you can also find them in the iTunes store. Many of these are free, and if you can’t donate, please boost the signal.

Science Fiction & Fantasy
Podcastle : Fantasy, hosted by the wonderful and charming Dave Thompson
Escape Pod : Escape Artists’ science fiction branch, edited by Norm Sherman
Beneath Ceaseless Skies : other worlds and other times, SF&F, including Weird West and Steampunk. I’ve discovered new favorites here, including Seth J. Dickinson
Tor.com Story Podcast : Great science fiction & fantasy from one of the industry’s most well-known magazines

Horror
Pseudopod :  Horror, hosted by the hilarious and insightful Alasdair Stuart
Nick Gisburne’s YouTube Channel : Includes original poetry & prose, as well as readings of HP Lovecraft’s work. (His voice. I’m telling you. You won’t regret it.)

General Fiction
Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine:  General Genre, specializing in innovative stories and commentary. I have a friend who reads slush for these guys
The Classic Tales Podcast: Great reading of classic novels and short stories
The New Yorker Short Story Podcast : Great general fiction

Free Full-Length Audio Books
Podiobooks

Did I miss any? Leave a note in the comments.

**Addendum:  Thanks to Twitter, a few other resources have popped up!

Apex Magazine: Hugo-award nominated F/SF magazine’s podcast, edited by Sigrid Ellis

Synthetic Voices: A speculative fiction podcast featuring short F/SF stories, recommended by BCS staff