“Turning the Leaves” Wins the Rhysling Award

My birthday was this past weekend, and in addition to enjoying a fantastic evening of good food, good drink, and good friends sharing their art with me at an open-mic style celebration in my favourite cafe, my poem “Turning the Leaves” was announced as winner of the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem, while two Goblin Fruit poems — Mike Allen’s “Hungry Constellations” and Rose Lemberg’s “I will show you a single treasure from the treasures of Shah Niyaz” — were Rhysling honorees in the Long Form category.

Well, I’m agog.

According to Mike Allen this makes me the first woman to win the award three times. I’m very happy that this poem in particular — written for Lynne M. Thomas on the eve of her leaving Apex magazine — should be so honoured. It’s also a Glasgow poem, and to see it win an award on the eve of my leaving my adoptive city stirs all kinds of things in me. I’ll miss its stray, streaming, fingerling light, its magpies, jackdaws, gulls, more than I can ever say.

Huge thanks are due to Lynne for inspiring and accepting the poem; to Apex magazine for publishing it; to Elizabeth R. McClellan  and Ashley Brown for their hard work assembling the Rhysling Showcase; and to all who nominated and voted for the poem. The latter in particular is such a strange sort of relief: the last time I won a Rhysling felt unfair and tainted for reasons I’ll detail below, so to have a poem win free and clear is pretty great.

The last time I won the Rhysling award, for “Peach-Creamed Honey” in 2011, was as a correction administered to a bad situation. Another nominee, Juan Manuel Perez, had stuffed the ballot box with votes made from a large number of memberships bought in the name of several family members for one of his poems. He was disqualified — but not for having stuffed the ballot. Instead, it turned out that the poem supported by the stuffing wasn’t eligible for award consideration that year, having been first published in 2009 instead of 2010.

With Perez’ poem taken out of the running, and Janis Ian’s second-place poem also having been found to have been first published in 2009, “Peach-Creamed Honey” was bumped into first place. This has never sat well with me, and I have a hard time thinking of it as a win, since the votes for Ian’s poem weren’t, so far as I know, redistributed — just eliminated along with the poem. It was disheartening all around, and in order to prevent such a thing from happening again I sincerely hope the SFPA’s members will take the trenchant organizational criticisms raised in Elizabeth McClellan’s Editor’s Note to heart.

All that to say, I’m genuinely bowled over to have my poem honoured with a Rhysling this year. It was very unexpected — I’ve had no connection to the Rhysling’s awarding body for a few years now and no sense at all of its reading atmosphere — and very welcome. Congratulations to all the other honorees, and thank you again for a truly splendid birthday present.

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Rich and Strange: “No Vera There” by Dominica Phetteplace

This week I look at a story from the ever-excellent Clarkesworld.

No Vera There” is one of those stories that simultaneously engages parts of my brain that appreciate very different things: in this case narrative and structure. There’s something supremely satisfying about a story where form follows function before using form to reflect on that function. In this case, Vera is a piece of a human consciousness that’s been uploaded to a cloud and then imperfectly downloaded into a body again, trying to piece her memories and sense of self together through the medium of internet-era quizzes.


In other news, Tor.com also has a fantastic round-up of its reviewers’ favourite books of the year. I put mine up too! It is, of course, a rolling list of favourites, and will no doubt change as I manage to read some of the other intriguing books being recommended.

unicorn_finalFinally, just to cap off the day’s doings — I’m very happy to announce that I’ve sold a short story called “Pockets” to Uncanny magazine. It will appear in their second issue, and will be released online to read and listen to in February of next year. It’s also my second-ever science fiction story, with lab coats and thermodynamics and stuff! And a nod and wink to Edward Carey’s Heap House, which partly inspired it.


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A List of Upcoming Life Events

The weather’s astonishing today, as Scotland endures an aptly named “weather bomb” of highly gusting winds and rain from skies alternating between ice-blue, wine-gold, and slate-black with disorienting speed.

That last makes it particularly appropriate to talk about this year, its end, and what’s happening in the next.

In some semblance of order, then:

  • I’m turning 30 (on St Lucia’s day)
  • I’m going back to Canada for the foreseeable future (on December 28)
  • I’m marrying my fiancé (next summer)–
  • –from whom I’m going to be separated for over a year while his immigration paperwork gets processed–
  • –but I’m trying to comfort myself with the knowledge that I am going to be so busy
  • teaching a Creative Writing course at the University of Ottawa (in January)
  • while also teaching and studying at Carleton University (for the next two years)
  • that hopefully this won’t entirely feel like unstitching myself from my lover fibre by fibre with all the fraying and frazzle that entails.

There’s a lot more detail to be filled in between those points, but there’s also so much to be done in anticipation of leaving that the thought of even doing the work to find the point at which to begin to story-tell is exhausting.

I’m very excited. I’m very sad. I’m going to work very hard.

There’s a start, at least.

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Rich & Strange + NPR Best Books of the Year

This week’s instalment of Rich & Strange is up at Tor.com! I reviewed Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth,” which was also published on Tor.com. That may seem odd at a glance, but when I agreed to host the column on Tor.com I said I’d still like to consider the stories there for review, and they agreed, so here we are!

A Kiss With Teeth” is a tense, tautly written piece about an old vampire, Vlad, who’s settled into married life with Sarah, the woman who hunted and tried to kill him. They’ve been married for ten years, have a seven-year-old son, Paul, and for their son’s sake are pretending to be a normal couple. But Vlad develops a dangerous passion for his son’s school teacher, and finds his carefully cultivated control of his supernatural strength and hunger slipping.

It’s a beautiful story, and made me feel and realise complicated things that I discuss in the post.

In other news, NPR’s Book Concierge is here for all your holiday book-buying needs! Here you can peruse about 250 books that NPR reviewers — including me! — considered the best of 2014.  It’s a really cool system, too, with stackable filters and stuff. I was also delighted to see that two anthologies in which I have stories, Women Destroy Science Fiction and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, made the list.


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Rich and Strange: “Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” by Saladin Ahmed

This week at Tor.com I review Saladin Ahmed’s wonderful subversion of long-standing racism in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.

“Without Faith, Without Law, Without Joy” has a straightforward structure: using quotes from the Faerie Queene as a frame, it takes up and subverts each of the incidents involving the three evil Saracen brothers—Sans foy, Sans loy, Sans joy—who beleaguer Una and the virtuous Redcrosse Knight in Book I. Translating their names to Faithless, Lawless, and Joyless, Ahmed imagines that it is Redcrosse himself who is a wicked sorcerer, having stolen three brothers from their lives in Damascus and stripped them of their names and memories in order to make them enact a lurid pantomime for Redcrosse’s benefit and spiritual advancement.

This story is one that Ahmed has reprinted on Medium for free. If you enjoy it, I hope you’ll consider supporting his work with a donation.


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Rich and Strange: “Stalemate” by Rose Lemberg and “Bonsaiships of Venus” by Kate Heartfield

This week’s column is up at Tor.com!

A new issue of Lackington’s magazine, edited by Ranylt Richildis, went up this week, book-ended by two searingly beautiful meditations on the relationship between aesthetics and utility. This week on Rich and Strange, I want to talk about Rose Lemberg’s “Stalemate” and Kate Heartfield’s “Bonsaiships of Venus,” both far-future science fiction stories told in awe-inducing language. They’re also two stories that fit together in a way that delighted me into much-needed catharsis after a hard week of reading very upsetting fiction.

You can read the rest here.


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Goblin Fruit: SUMMER IS DEAD

A new issue of Goblin Fruit has landed!

Art by Grant Jeffery

Art by Grant Jeffery

It contains poems by Lindsey Walker, Steffi Lang, Shweta Narayan, Lynette Mejía, Sara Norja, Lizzy Huitson, Mari Ness, Andrea Lam, Helen Marshall, CSE Cooney, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Canese Jarboe, and Neile Graham, as well as art by Grant Jeffery.

Enjoy! And if you like it, do consider supporting us with a Paypal donation or by contributing through Patreon!


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NPR Books Review: A Woman Without a Country

My review of Eavan Boland’s new poetry collection, A Woman Without A Country, is up at NPR Books. It’s wonderful. Here’s some of what I have to say about it:

A Woman Without a Country is a collection in four parts: “Song and Error,” “A Woman Without a Country,” “The Trials of Our Faith,” and “Edge of Empire.” It feels curated with the ease of old habit, a sequence that feels inevitable in its elegance and grace. Of course a poem breaking down the etymology of the word “nostalgia” will lead to a poem featuring Greek myth; of course that poem will pour itself into Roman Ovid. When I speak of inevitability, I don’t mean predictability; I mean that structure of limb and likeness that takes hold of our gaze and makes us follow a line of marble statues, marvelling at the hand that broke them out of stone.

Here’s an excerpt from “Letter to a young woman poet,” mentioned towards the end of the review. She’s amazing.


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Rich and Strange: “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White” by Maria Dahvana Headley

This week’s instalment of Rich and Strange is up at Tor.com! Here’s a taste:

This story is pitch-perfect where tone, voice, and setting are concerned; reading it I felt awash in the kind of California sunlight that feels grim and desolate in its inescapability. The story’s pace is a beautiful thing, too, a slow unfolding of narrative sleaze running parallel to an urgently building emotional crest. Like a film from the classic period it portrays, it’s a story both coy and breathtakingly passionate, wringing wonder from bleak, drab despair. There’s magic in the fade of diamante, in the reduction from main-stage to side-show, in going from riches to rags, and Headley captures that mixture of self-destructing desperation perfectly.

Read the rest here. This is a story definitely going on to my for-award-consideration list.


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Linkstravaganza: Uncanny Issue #1 and the BUTT Panel

A bouquet of links for you today!

First, Uncanny Magazine has launched its inaugural issue! It’s bursting at the seams with fantastic content:

Featuring new fiction by Maria Dahvana Headley, Kat Howard, Max Gladstone, Amelia Beamer, Ken Liu, and Christopher Barzak, classic fiction by Jay Lake, essays by Sarah Kuhn, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Christopher J Garcia, plus a Worldcon Roundtable featuring Emma England, Michael Lee, Helen Montgomery, Steven H Silver, and Pablo Vazquez, poetry by Neil Gaiman, Amal El-Mohtar, and Sonya Taaffe, interviews with Maria Dahvana Headley, Deborah Stanish, Beth Meacham on Jay Lake, and Christopher Barzak, and a cover by Galen Dara.

All of that plus two podcasts!

I contributed a poem and voice-work: I read Maria’s “If You Were a Tiger, I’d Have to Wear White.” Be warned: I am rubbish at accents. In order for the marking of accents in this story to make any kind of sense you have to assume the narrator is unreliable OR very very bad at determining other people’s accents, and also that everyone in the story is some flavour of transatlantic.

That said, I was honoured to read so utterly gorgeous a story. Also: I need more friends from New Jersey.

About the poem: I wrote a poem for Lynne’s last issue of Apex and now have written a poem for Lynne and Michael’s first issue of Uncanny. The poem is, in some ways, about that — but mostly it’s what happens when you get all messed up on Loreena McKennitt’s music, Galen Dara’s art and Coleridge’s letters at 3:00 AM of an autumn night/day.

The issue just looks incredible. I highly recommend subscribing. I have a huge amount to say about Maria’s story in particular but that’ll go live with Rich and Strange on Tor.com tomorrow.

In other news! At Readercon this summer I moderated a panel about butts. If you missed it there through the vagaries of time and space, you are IN LUCK, because the magnificent Julia Rios recorded it for poster(ior)ity on The Outer Alliance! Listen to Mikki Kendall, Julia Sparkymonster, Emily Wagner, Vinnie Tesla and me having a grand old time over the course of a Very Serious Conversation About Butts.

Also this happened.

That is a bunch of distinguished panellists having a twerk. So that was pretty great.


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