Rocket Talk + Fulcrum Interview

A couple of weeks ago, at Justin Landon’s invitation, I had a long, rambly, hilarious, intense conversation with him and Natalie Luhrs over Ethics in Literary Journalism (for real). Justin Landon is, however, an absolutely brilliant curator of people’s speech, so what I remember as a 2-hour behemoth of blather (purely on my part, as I gesticulated at Skype and drummed on the desk and shifted in my seat to aid thought-formulation) has been distilled into just over an hour’s worth of actually really cogent and balanced conversation that I found myself listening to with interest even though I’d participated in it.

(I only wanted to argue with something I said once! So that’s something!)


It’s a conversation I’d been craving for a long time, and the whole thing was a fantastic experience from start to finish. Many things to Justin and Natalie for it!

In other news, closing a 14-year circle, I was interviewed by my alma mater’s independent student newspaper about The Honey Month and winning the Rhysling award three times and teaching at the University of Ottawa. This made me so happy. The years I spent at this university were so blazingly joyful, and this really crystallized my awareness of how strange and wonderful it is to find myself here again as a teacher.


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“The Truth About Owls” Reprinted at Strange Horizons

I’ve been bursting with this for a while: “The Truth About Owls,” my story in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, has been reprinted in Strange Horizons. There’s also an interview with Kaleidoscope editors Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios, and you can also listen to Anaea Lay reading the story for the podcast. I can’t wait to listen and hear what she’s done with it.

Zeus and Amal

Photo by Seanan McGuire.

I was asked to add an introduction to the story, some stuff about the genesis of it, so I did. I don’t really have much to add to that, except that it’s probably best read as an afterword: thar be spoilers. But I’m just so grateful that the editors at Strange Horizons asked for this story, that it’s now in one of my favourite magazines as well as one of my favourite anthologies from the past year.

Speaking of anthologies and favourites — I think I neglected to mention (which should say something about how stupefyingly busy I’ve been these last few weeks) that “The Truth About Owls” is also being reprinted in Jonathan Strahan’s Year’s Best, in genuinely staggering company. I’m so honoured, and so happy about this. It was a hard story to write, to put out there, and I’m so grateful it’s resonating with people.

There’s so much more I want to say, but I think my brain’s melted for now. I hope you enjoy the story.


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With Apologies to Rabbie Burns

Once upon a time, lo these many years ago, CSE Cooney and I were on the phone, chattering. I said something which led to her talking about DANGER and LUVE and I said “My Luve is like a bloody rose!” To which she replied, “That’s newly sprung from wounds!” Consequently we decided we had to pastiche the whole thing, line by line. So.

For your delectation, in honour of the bonny man himself and this day of his birth, we offer the following:

by CSE Cooney and Amal El-Mohtar

My luve is like a bloody rose
that’s newly sprung from wounds
My luve is a cacophany
Come howlin’ from the tombs.

As fair thou art, my bony lass
So ravenous am I
And I will dig thy grave, my dear
With a trowel of thy thigh.

With a trowel of thy thigh, my Dear
So sweet and whitely hewn,
Oh I will lay thee still, my luve,
And lay beside thee soon.

So fare thee well, my toothsome luve,
I’ll teethe on thee a while,
And with thy finger-bone, my luve,
I’ll pick thee from my smile.


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Rich and Strange: “The Boatman’s Cure” by Sonya Taaffe

Happy New Year, and welcome back to Rich and Strange! I took a bit of a break over the holidays — in order to, among other things, move back to Ottawa from Glasgow — but the series is back, and the first instalment of the new year looks at Sonya Taaffe’s novella “The Boatman’s Cure,” which concludes her most recent poetry collection, Ghost Signs. Here’s a bit from the review:

In a collection—indeed, a congress—of ghosts, echoes, memories, and homages to ancient Greek literature, “The Boatman’s Cure” is a breath-taking culmination of its approaches and themes, a magnificent finale the intensity of which is derived from its quiet tension. Delia can see and interact physically with ghosts, and has discovered, through a great deal of trial and error, reliable ways of exorcising them; a personal quest requires her to obtain an oar with a strange history from an even stranger source. Nothing goes smoothly—except the beautiful structure of the story, which mimics the movement of an oar through water.

I adore Sonya’s poetry and have published it numerous times in Goblin Fruit, but I think this may be my first encounter with her prose, and it’s just incredible. I highly recommend the whole collection.


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Rich and Strange: “Nkásht íí” by Darcie Little Badger

In this week’s Rich and Strange I take a look at Darcie Little Badger’s “Nkásht íí,” published in Strange Horizons.

Josie and Annie are friends in ill fortune, homeless runaways who offer to listen to people’s problems on the street. One day a man tells them the story of how he lost his wife and infant daughter in a car accident—except he’s certain that his daughter survived, only to be stolen away by an owl-eyed woman who looked like his dead wife. Josie and Annie head out to Willowbee, the Central Texas town in which the accident took place, to see what they can learn about what happened, their own voices and histories weaving in and out of the plot before pulling it to a taut conclusion.

It’s a really, really good story. Do check it out!


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“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, 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! I reviewed Max Gladstone’s “A Kiss With Teeth,” which was also published on That may seem odd at a glance, but when I agreed to host the column on 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 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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