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The Middle Child's Practical Guide To Surviving a Fairy Tale/Deathlight

The latest issue of Fireside Fiction just went live, and with it, my short story, The Middle Child's Practical Guide to Surviving a Fairy Tale, the story I read at last year's World Fantasy Con and this year's ICFA. Originally written as a Twitter joke, it slowly grew into a blog post, as these things do, and then mutated into a short story.

Also just going live, the latest issue of Lightspeed, available for subscribers or as an individual issue, which includes my short story, "Deathlight," along with new short stories by An Owomoyela, Seanan McGuire, and Wole Talabi, reprints from a number of well known names including Tim Pratt and Elizabeth Hand, and Hugh Howey's "The Plagiarist."

I may have a bit more to say about this one once my individual story goes live on the web on May 17, but for now, I'll just note that the two stories are, I think, quite different - and not just because one is more or less fantasy (if a bit snarky about it) and the other marks my return to hard science fiction.

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Happy Watermaidens Day

For the most part, water maidens and snow maidens avoid each other. The single touch of a water maiden, after all, can melt even the coldest heart of any snow maiden, or turn her hands to clear water. The snow maidens, in their turn, can freeze a water maiden in her tracks, or worse, trap a water maiden beneath ice. That last, it is whispered, has happened to more than one unwary water maiden choosing cold oceans to explore the ice of Antarctica, or a glittering glacier, or even merely returning to her lake for a forgotten item. Some, after a few goblets of hot molten rubies, have even spoken of the long standing war between the two, marked by flurries of battle here and there, fights that have left lands glittering with melting ice, and covered rivers with rushing slush.

The fairy courts, of course, have forbidden such things, but the water maidens and the snow maidens have never been ones to pay too much attention to the decree fees of the fairy courts – even when they hear these decrees, which is not often.

And so, the water maidens and snow maidens keep their distance. Usually.

But every few years, a few snow maidens and water maidens do gather together to celebrate Water Maidens Day.

Not in only one place, of course – that is too much cold for any water maiden, even those who inhabit the icier regions of the world. And snow maidens cannot journey far from their clouds, or their snow; they die swift deaths if they do, and so they are unwilling to travel far to meet the water maidens.

Still, some of the more adventurous, the ones who do not wish to remain hidden in hills of snow, or beneath ice laden trees, and who find even a frost-lined fairy court far too warm for them, do venture out to half frozen, watery lakes and ponds, or deep bays by the sea, and call lightly to the water maidens.

Sometimes, this call is only a puff of wind, or a swirl of snow. The water maidens are always alert at this time of year, of course, watching carefully for ice and snow, or the rush of fairies seeking cold and warm sunlight to flavor their winter feasts. And if the water maidens do not respond to wind or snow – well. The snow maiden can always howl in the wind.

They are kin, in a way, the water maidens and the snow maidens. It is a call they cannot resist.

Eventually, the water maidens emerge, shivering.

They have only one remedy against the cold of the snow maidens: dance.

And so they do, the snow maidens dancing with them, for as icy as they are, as frozen their hearts, no snow maiden can resist the call of the dance.

So be cautious, when you travel today. If you see a melting icicle, or a sliver of ice across a puddle, or, in warmer regions, a cool pond or lake, be wary. Watch. That shimmer? That flicker of light that you cannot be sure you saw? That green sparkle on the ice?

You might be seeing a water maiden sip sunlight just before she slips back into the dance. Or a snow maiden adjusting the the ice on her dress.

Or the edges of a war.

After all, it is the Day of the Water Maidens.

And this year, the Snow Maidens intend to dance.

Water Maidens Day is the brainchild of poet, writer and scholar Nin Harris, whose story Your Right Arm. recently appeared in Clarkesworld. (Which means that if you're nominating for the Hugos this year, she's eligible for the Campbell.) I'm just borrowing it for fun.
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Ok, NOW I'm worried about Amazon:

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World Fantasy Con 2016, Update

Good news:

The 2016 World Fantasy Con has updated its website with a disability and accessibility policy, found here. In other good news, the convention has arranged for ASL interpreters for some events, which is a great step forward and something I applaud.

Bad news:

1. There's no indication of whether or not WFC will be offering the pre-Feb 1st prices for those of us who were waiting to find out if the convention would be accessible before registering. That's a problem for me. As I said in my earlier post, I don't think it's fair that, after several years of accessibility problems, I should have to pay more than other members because I had to wait to find out if the con would be accessible.

2. This sentence:

"We have reserved the ADA ramp for the Sunday Banquet."

That's good, but doesn't mention the panels. Will they be on elevated stages (making it easier for hearing impaired members to lip read), and if so, will access ramps be provided to those stages?

3. The accessibility policy stresses that the hotel is ADA compliant. That's great, but I cannot stress this strongly enough:

ADA compliance does not always mean accessible.

Which was absolutely true when I stayed at the Columbus Hyatt hotel for World Fantasy back in 2010. The hotel was (mostly) ADA compliant, except, oddly, in the mobility accessible rooms, which did not meet ADA standards despite supposedly being mobility accessible. But the rest of the hotel was technically compliant: I could, for instance, get into the hotel bar, which is all that ADA compliance requires.

However, the hotel bar had only one bar, at a height too high for wheelchair users. The bartenders couldn't see me, so I had to ask other people to order drinks for me. Far worse, however: the rest of the bar was mostly equipped with high tables and chairs. Nobody could see me, and I couldn't join in. I was effectively cut out from conversations.

That's leaving out some other fun stuff - the way, for instance, that the floors with suites, where the parties were, had no disabled bathrooms whatsoever, or the inexplicable placing of the handbars in the second floor public bathroom - far from the toilet and largely useless for wheelchair users.

Now, can World Fantasy do anything about this sort of thing? Probably not. And to be fair here, the issues I'm mentioning are not really that unusual in U.S. hotels, and these are minor issues compared to the problems I've encountered with other World Fantasy cons. And apart from the weirdness with the bathroom doors and the shower heads in the mobility accessible rooms, these were all things that could be worked around. But I mention them in the hopes of explaining why the words "ADA compliance" are not always going to be enough - and, I guess, to explain why I'm going on and on about this. Because I haven't just encountered issues at previous World Fantasy cons, I've encountered issues at this hotel.

4. My emails to info at worldfantasy2106.org have still not been answered.

Still, this counts as progress, and I'm very grateful and encouraged to see at least some response to this.

And in the meantime, for proof that I am still writing about other things, my discussion of The Lion King, with bonus snarky comparison to Hamlet, is now up at Tor.com.
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Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix

And now, in much happier news, I'm delighted to announce that I've received my authors' copies of Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, and that this anthology is available at last on Amazon Kindle.

I've always loved Unlikely Story's little themed issues on unlikely subjects, and I'm both thrilled and, to be honest, kinda creeped out at the collection here.

Though I should add that my own story is loosely based on a real life incident. Involving a clown. So perhaps these stories are not so unlikely after all.
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Choices, and World Fantasy Convention 2016

First, a bit of background. The World Fantasy Convention is a gathering of writers, artists, editors, other pros and fans that I try to get to every year. It moves from city to city, which means that although it has an overall board running things, it's run by a different group each year.

One thing, however, stays the same: World Fantasy offers tiered registration prices, depending upon when you register. This year, those who registered up until January 31st, 2016, paid $150.00. Between February 1 and April 14, 2016, the price is $225.00 - an increase of $75. After April 14, 2016, the price jumps again to $275.00. The price at the door is $300. World Fantasy also caps attendance, so those who wait to register may not be able to attend. Membership is non refundable although memberships can be transferred.

I've always registered early, partly to take advantage of the price, I'll admit, but also to ensure I'll even be able to attend - past World Fantasy cons have sold out early.

I've also had major accessibility issues at three out of the last five World Fantasy conventions. I was not even able to attend the fourth WFC, after I was informed - by the hotel - that I would not be able to get to parts of that convention. Including - and I'm not making this up - Registration. The fifth was fine, leading me to hope that yes, WFC was finally committed to having accessible cons.

Unfortunately, the very next year, more problems.

This led to my new policy of only attending conventions with accessibility policies.

As I type, the 2016 World Fantasy Convention does not have an accessibility policy on its website.

Prices went up yesterday.

On Sunday, January 31st, I commented on this on Twitter, and got the usual "Wow that sucks" retweets and so on. I sent yet another email out to WFC.

And on Sunday, the convention spoke to a few people in a locked Facebook group. Screencaps were obtained. Jason Sanford has the screencaps, and his comments, here.

I went on an epic Twitter rant about this, which was Storified here, along with some other links discussing this.

I don't want to repeat everything I said on Twitter - it's exhausting - except to add one more thing: I do appreciate that the World Fantasy Con volunteers are short on time. I appreciate it, because I've spent so much time on this stuff that could have been spent on other things.

But I did want to respond to a comment that I did not see until after my Twitter rant, from Morgan Feldstein, not to pick on this person in particular (I don't think we've met) but because the comment encapsulates so many things I've heard about accessibility.

Quoting two sentences:

"It's certainly not a moral wrong for a conference to accept reservation payments before posting harassment and accessibility policies. You are not obliged to make your reservation until they are, but you are not entitled to block other persons who wish to do so from registering prior to the policies being posted."

Let's start here.

First, I am not in any way, shape or form attempting to block other people from registering for World Fantasy Con. I am not organizing a boycott. I have not asked other people not to go. I have not asked World Fantasy to close its registration system.

What I HAVE asked for, repeatedly, is some form of public statement from World Fantasy Con about their accessibility policy. And I have done this because of repeatedly running into accessibility concerns at previous World Fantasy Cons.

And because last year, I paid the same price as other members, and didn't get the same access to the convention. I had to stay on ground level while my fellow panelists got to go up on the stage.

That's they moral wrong: I'm paying the same, but I'm not getting the same access.

(And a small note, from what I can tell, no one in the original Facebook discussion group was attempting to block anyone from registering either - they just wanted to know if the early bird price would be extended, especially for wheelchair users who were waiting for find out if the event was even accessible before registering.)

Moving on, we have this:

"You chose to sign the pledges and adhere to their terms..... If you choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers, any associated financial burdens are yours to bear and yours alone."

This statement, of course, is in response to Jason Sanford, but it's also in response to others who have not registered yet for World Fantasy because of a lack of accessibility and/or harassment policies.

1. First, not everyone talking about this signed the pledges.

I didn't.

2. I didn't choose to register late for the World Fantasy Convention in order to keep a promise to the pledge organizers. I haven't promised John Scalzi and Mary Robinette Kowal anything at all.

3. I haven't registered yet for World Fantasy Con because I use a wheelchair and I don't know if the convention will be accessible. "Held in an ADA facility" isn't enough; I've had accessibility issues in ADA facilities.

Others have reported harassment issues at previous WFCs. Hopefully, this won't be happening at this year's WFC (fingers crossed) but I can understand why those who have felt harassed at previous WFCs want to know what this year's harassment policy will be.

4. Absolutely, the associated financial burdens are mine to bear and mine alone. THAT IS PRECISELY THE PROBLEM. After causing me various accessibility issues over the past five years, World Fantasy Con is now going to charge me at least another $75 because SOMEONE ELSE failed to a) answer my emails or b) put a note up on the webpage stating that the con organizers are and will be addressing accessibility concerns.

5. I don't think it's particularly unreasonable to want to make sure you can do an event before paying for it.

6. The words "choose" and "chose" and "choice" are interesting here.

Because I didn't choose to get sick or need a wheelchair.
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Cat Play

My short story, Cat Play, popped up at Metaphorosis today, just in time for the weekend.

It's fantasy, but it's set in a very real place - the apartment complex and the coffee place mentioned in the story are based on places here in Winter Garden. I like the thought that strange things happen here as well.

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End of year publication round-up post

Ah, yes, the hellish annual ritual of looking back at this year's publications.


Four short stories this year.

The Fox Bride, up at Daily Science Fiction, and also in a podcast over at Podcastle.

Inhabiting Your Skin, which appeared in both Apex Publications and The Mary Sue.

Sometimes Heron managed to survive a tangled history to see life in Lackington's at last.

The Dollmaker's Rage, also up at Daily Science Fiction.

And four flash fiction pieces:

The shortest was, I think, The Petals, up at Daily Science Fiction.

Also in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge.

But it wasn't all Daily Science Fiction! The other two flash pieces appeared elsewhere:

The Knot, Pantheon Magazine. (This was also the only non-speculative story I published all year; it's very rare for me to even write something non-spec these days, let alone publish it).

Sea Dreams, appearing in Something Rich and Strange, an anthology published to benefit Doctors Without Borders.

And nine or eleven (depending on how you count them) poems:

After the Dance, Uncanny Magazine

Understand, Polu Texni

Three limericks, over at Stone Telling. Also, the first (and probably the last) time I managed to work the word "dinoflagellates" into a poem, with bonus points for keeping it scientifically accurate.

The Binding, Eye to the Telescope. (Appears midway through the page.)

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Dragon, Tor.com. My hands down personal favorite of the year.

a note found beneath a moonstone, inkscrawl.

Kore, Through the Gate.

The Thirteenth Child, Uncanny Magazine.

Briars, Polu Texni.

So, a so-so year for fiction, but a pretty decent year for poetry. And dragons.

My most popular work this year, however, seems to have been not fiction, or poetry, but the Disney Read-Watch posts over at Tor.com. We're about halfway through the series now, with rants coming up about Captain John Smith (a solid candidate for Worst Person in History or at least 1607), Disney's all time worst animated film, and a few other things.

Fingers crossed that both writing and publications go a bit better for me in 2016. I should get back to doing what I can to make that happen.