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The Dollmaker's Rage

My latest little story, "The Dollmaker's Rage," up on Daily Science Fiction this morning.

Inhabiting Your Skin

My latest short story, Inhabiting Your Skin, just popped up over at Apex Magazine, along with an interview with me.

In the interview, Andrea Johnston asks questions about why so many of my stories - including this one - don't have character names. Usually it's because I can't think of names, to the point where I deliberately wrote an entire story around that. In the case of this particular story, however, I knew from the first sentence that nobody would have a name - you'll see why as you read it, I think.

The actual problem I had with this story was with the title. I went through 30 different titles for this story, all worse than the last. "Inhabiting Your Skin" wasn't, as it happened, the final title - by mistake, I sent Apex the story with an earlier version of the title. By the time they responded, I'd realized that the final title was even worse, and told myself I would just try to think of a new title before the story was published.

Which didn't happen. Oh well. I can only say now that in my opinion - for what that's worth - the story is a bit better than the title. Enjoy!

SFWA Cookbook now available for preorder!

The The SFWA Cookbook is now available for preorder. I am, to be honest, slightly embarrassed about my own contribution to this, but then again, this has resulted in probably your one and only chance to see me in a Table of Contents with Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. I know.

Beyond that highly unlikely combination, the book also contains recipes from Octavia Butler, Barbra Hambly, Jane Yolen, Carole Nelson Douglas, Charlene Harris, Jim Hines, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick, Spider Robinson, Nancy Springer, Connie Willis - that is, it's quite a list. It sounds like a lot of fun.


A genuine puzzle:

For Christmas, my brother gave my mother a jigsaw puzzle comprised of old family photos. She loved it, but had just one tiny, tiny problem putting it together: the puzzle was missing one piece. Finally, she took it back apart without finding said piece, and passed the puzzle over to me.

I, in turn, had just one tiny, tiny problem putting it together: the puzzle now has one extra piece.

This is more puzzling than the jigsaw puzzle itself.

Hugo nominations, updates, continued

The Hugo ballot has changed again, with a press release for this that includes the hopeful phrase: "The ballot is now going to the printer and there will be no further revisions."

I feel we all should, as a group, respond to this in two ways:

1. Buy the poor SASQUAN committee, who did not ask for any of this, a round of drinks.

2. Watch this again:

Edit: SF Signal has the final list of nominees here.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dragon

We're smack dab in the middle of National Poetry Month, which has led to not one, but two poems from me:

First, over at Tor.com, as part of the celebration of National Poetry Month, and as proof that I may be just a touch obsessed with dragons, my poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dragon.

And second, buried down in the website, my little poem, The Binding, in Eye to the Telescope.

The Disney Readwatch

And on a MUCH happier note, I'm very pleased that after a few delays on my part, The Disney Readwatch has started up over on Tor.com, with Snow White.

I look forward to destroying more childhoods.


So, the Hugo nominations

I've debated whether to blog about this weekend's Hugo nominations. Given the amount of ink that's been spilled already, adding more, especially at this stage, may be unwise. But as a Hugo nominator/voter, I am tangentially involved in this. So, here we go.

Cut to spare those of you with no interest in the Hugos and science fiction inside baseball, or who cannot take any more of this. I understand.Collapse )


Of limericks and clowns

Ignore the date. Mostly. The following announcements are real. Mostly:

1. Stone Telling has launched its joke issue, which includes three limericks by me. (And yes, one of those includes dinoflagellates because, well, dinoflagellates.) If the thought of limericks makes you cringe, good news: the issue also includes a considerably better villanelle by David Sklar which is definitely worth a look.

2. But if the thought of limericks doesn't make you cringe, read on. Well, read on anyway: Unlikely Story is launching Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. If the project funds, it will contain a book with a little flash story by me about, natch, a clown. (Actually it's only somewhat about the clown. That is, it has a clown, but it's mostly about other things.)

Among the backer awards: limericks, by me, printed on little clown postcards. If that horrifies you, and I can't say I blame you, Unlikely Story is offering other, better awards, including microfictions, clown art, and short story critiques. Or you can just grab the ebook.

Samples of the sort of story you'll find in the final book appear here.

There could - there COULD - be limericks.

Dr. Lemberg hated rhyme -
Or so she told us very time,
"Writing rhyme is such a crime --
it covers all poets with icky grime --"
And so we believed her little mime.
Until one morning, in her prime
she dazzled us with rhymes sublime
and we decided, with one ringing chime --
Swamp Stone Telling with awful rhyme!

....I'm pleased to say that it appears we have, in fact, accomplished this. Stay tuned.

Quick ICFA roundup:

Ah, ICFA. The conference centered around a pool. And tropical drinks. These are good things.


1. For the all of two of you following this saga, the queen bee has successfully been moved from the owl house to the new beehive, and two jars of honey -- labeled Blak Kat - have been harvested. (Technically none of that happened at ICFA, but it did happen during ICFA and was mentioned during ICFA, so it kinda counts.)

2. I read a poem in front of Patricia McKillip again and didn't feel the need to throw up this time! ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED.

3. Speaking of that reading, have you ever noticed that a Samsung Galaxy will happily enlarge every font on every webpage ever for you, often when you don't want it to, except the one time when you really need it to, at which point you will be forced to do some fancy eyeglasses adjustment and do a poetry reading with a Samsung Galaxy for all intents and purposes covering your mouth (seriously, it was maybe three, four inches from my face). On the bright side, this will serve to distract you from your audience.

For the curious, you can find the other chain poems here. I do not recommend attempting to work with the decalet form used in the earliest two examples, which is why I worked with a different form in "Snowmelt," "Feather," and "Demands."

4. Fortunately, I was able to increase the font size during the spontaneous pub sing around the hot tub - fortunately because I was the only one not in the hot tub and therefore the only one who could safely check the lyrics for "Wild Mountain Thyme." On a related note, if you don't want to become the designated lyric checker, get into the hot tub.

5. It was somewhat disconcerting to run into people and realize hey, the last time I saw you was in London. Or Ireland. Or DC. It reminded me of how much in many ways Loncon was a big group trip.

6. This isn't exactly ICFA related, but I got into two very interesting discussions about the Hugo Awards, the gist of which boiled down to "too many categories." I think this was the natural result of meeting with some people who were also Hugo voters just a short time after filling out that long ballot, but I was surprised by the consensus. (And convinced that this isn't going to change - almost none of the people involved in the discussions wanted to attend the Worldcon business meeting where that sort of thing can be changed. I'm not even heading to Worldcon this year. But I'm throwing the thought out there.)

7. ICFA also included several really marvelous meals with really marvelous people. And yes, conversations that just happened to bring up clowns, kink, and cousins in the same sentence. Something that I'm sure also happens to other people.

8. Much thanks to the various people that helped me get around the conference in general and on Thursday and Friday when I got too sick to make it back to my hotel room on my own. You guys were great.


The Fox Bride

While I was off at ICFA, The Fox Bride, popped up at Daily Science Fiction.

If Twitter is any guide (though it probably isn't) this is hands down the most popular thing I've published in years.


ICFA, which for most attendees is an academic conference discussing profound issues of fantasy, science fiction, art, and creativity, and for me, is drinking stuff by the pool, starts up today. Technically, for me, it started up, rather unexpectedly, yesterday, when I had the chance to meet up with a few writers for dinner. But the real start is today.

As always, my conference participation will mostly consist of hanging out by the pool, but I do have a short reading Saturday morning. See you there, if you're around!



My poem, Understand, just popped up at Polu Texni.


Flapperhouse Year One

It's legitimately cold today, so, to focus on warmer stuff, good news: Flapperhouse Year One, which contains a little flash story from me and works by many other massively talented people like Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam and Natalia Theodoridou, is in print. You can obtain a copy at:




Stay warm, everyone. For those Australians reading this currently facing down a hurricane, stay dry.

Happy Snow Maidens Day!

My last entry on water maidens drew some, how shall I phrase it, hostility, entirely from critics in the New England area who pointed out, with some justice, that they had not seen rain in some time – to the point where they had forgotten what rain looked like, and that people buried in snow do not want to hear about rain, and that they, as a group, are not entirely certain that water, let alone water maidens, still exists beneath the piles of heavy ice and snow.

And one or two asked mournfully why, precisely, their states had been targeted by snow maidens.

To that question, I cannot give a full answer. Snow maidens are even more mysterious, and less known, than water maidens. True, unlike the water maidens, they are regular visitors to fairy courts, providing each court with just the fine, delicate touch of frost every court needs for winter celebrations, and providing fairy dancers with sparkling shoes formed from ice and light. Some have even been known to join in the fairy dances, tossing snowflakes from their hair as they spin, blinding even the fairies with the light that sparkles from their icy hands.

But they do not linger. Even the coldest of the fairy courts (and many are cold, indeed, making even current Boston temperatures seem warm, as difficult as that may be to believe just now) have their warm spots, too hot for snow maidens to tolerate. And fairy courts have other dangers – tempting hot drinks (all fairies agree you have not lived until you've tasted hot melted rubies, and thus, press this drink upon all), songs to heat the blood, and passionate affairs able to melt even the snowiest heart. Then, too, unless she is fortunate enough to be bound to a mountain, or a glacier, or a polar region, the life of a snow maiden can be quite, quite short – when she is not bound to spend summer months sleeping in a cloud. And so the snow maidens do no more than touch the courts with ice and frost before retreating to where they feel most safe: snow.

But that does not mean that they do not want to see more of the world. On the contrary: even the most shy, retiring snow maiden gets bored with endless grey and white. And so, each year, the snow maidens march or dance into greener lands, eager for a change – or, for some of them – eager to spin and dance. A few of the braver ones press themselves against windows, eager to see what's inside. Most, however, prefer to stay outside, swirling.

And sometimes they gather for a furious dance.

Some claim that their fury is born out of resentment regarding the confined nature of their lives. (Tree spirits, it must be noted, do not give this argument much credence, but then again, most tree spirits are asleep when the snow maidens visit – or at least pretend to be asleep.) Some say that it is all merely part of an ongoing war between the snow maidens and the water maidens, a fight so ancient that no one can even say how or where it began. (Water maidens, when asked, look bewildered at the mere thought – and indeed, few water maidens are particularly combative.) A few of the crosser sorts of fairies claim that the snow maidens are merely infuriated by mortals, and don't care how many fairies get inconvenienced by their dances. (It should be noted that these are generally fairies who have found themselves on the losing side of certain encounters with mortals, and that their accounts of many events have been found to contain certain inaccuracies.)

Others say that it is not a dance of fury at all, but a dance of joy. And still others that it is only an attempt to stay warm. After all, the snow maidens wear gowns woven of ice.

And the snow maidens? Well, when asked, they merely smile, and run blue fingers down the lips of the questioner – freezing those lips at their touch.

Which is why, perhaps, it is wiser not to ask, and wiser to instead watch for the snow maidens. From the corners of your eyes, of course: a sudden swirl of snow there, a crackle of ice there, a flash of colors that burns your eyes, a blue hand appearing, just for a moment, in the wind. Wiser, instead, just to watch their dances, knowing that eventually, those dances will end, and that eventually, the snow maidens will withdraw from the lands that are, after all, only temporary dwellings for them, back to the lands they find safer: lands of snow and ice, where they never have to fear the retreat of the cold. After all, those are also the lands of the water maidens, and the snow maidens have the greatest respect for their cousins.

(This post brought to you partly by demand, and partly by the reality that our little section of Florida - Florida - is dropping into freezing temperatures.)

Snow Maidens Day will probably be celebrated on February 15th in future years.

Happy Watermaidens Day!

Today I must advise you to pay careful attention to the rain.

You see, barring a few seductions here and there, water maidens tend to live rather solitary lives. Oh, that's not to say that they don't find the peace of their ponds and lakes and rivers and springs interrupted by mortals more often than they would like, or find their careful flower arrangements disturbed by children or alligators, or find themselves glumly removing trash from their waters. But none of these activities exactly involves conversation, and even these days, some fortunate water maidens can avoid even all that.

But that doesn't quite mean that they don't crave company. Quite the opposite. Or that they don't wish to dance.

The difficulty, of course, is arranging such matters. Water maidens have never been terribly comfortable with the formality of fairy courts. Or, for that matter, vice versa – many of the noblest of fairy queens have been known to make quite unkind comments regarding the puddles that water maidens often leave in their wake – to say nothing of the occasional unfortunate events with wilting water lilies and seaweeds. So gathering at the fairy courts – although this may be their right and privilege – is rarely the first choice.

Nor are water maidens ever particularly comfortable long away from water, or in water that is not their own. They can stand on land, certainly – they have even carried out the occasional seduction there, from time to time – and have even been known to venture a mile or so away from their water to obtain one of the latest electronic devices, or particularly fine chocolate. Legend even tells of three maidens who never fail to creep to nearby windows to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones. (They are reportedly all on Team Dragon, and have threatened violent flooding if the final episode does not contain dragons flying in triumph.) But these are for short periods only – an hour or two, at most – and not quite right for a gathering of water maidens.

And so, when a water maiden craves company, she summons the rain.

You might see it – a touch of mist over a puddle, or a pond; a glimmer of light on a river, or a shimmer against a white cloud. Or you might see it on the edge of the sky – a thin grey line that for a moment, flashes silver and gold.

And then the rain, summoning the water maidens.

Watch carefully, when the rain comes after something like this. Watch very carefully, for that flash of other, for a sudden shimmer, for a touch of cold on your skin.

It might just be a water maiden, inviting you to dance and sing.

Particularly today, which is, by decree fee, the official Water Maidens Day, a day for all water maidens to emerge from the waters.

Water Maidens Day is the idea of poet, writer and folklorist Nin Harris. I'm just borrowing it for fun.

(Also, for those of you in the northeast currently buried in snow, the water maidens feel you. They really, really do. But even their magic has limits.)

Demands nominated for the Rhysling Award

Just learned that my poem Demands has been nominated for the Rhysling Award.

Major thanks to whoever nominated it; this was one of my own personal favorites from last year, and the recognition is very heartwarming.



xmas me
Mari Ness

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