2011, The Year in Review

calendar2011 was a pretty good year for me.  When I began writing this post I felt as if I hadn’t done all that much in the past twelve months.  But after listing everything I’ve done I see now that I have accomplished quite a bit.  Before time carves these events permanently out of my brain, I thought I’d document them here.

Early in the year, my story “The History Within Us” was reprinted in The People of the Book.  An excellent anthology of Jewish-themed science fiction & fantasy, I was pretty darn happy to share a table of contents with Neil Gaiman, Peter Beagle, and many other talents.

Another Jewish-themed story (do you sense a pattern?), “The Hands that Feed” appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories.  About an aging Jewish woman in a steam-punked Lower East Side of 1895, this story was a lot of fun to write.  People seemed to like this one quite a bit too, which made me very happy.

My big publication of the year was “The Bricks of Gelecek,” which appeared in Ellen Datlow’s urban fantasy anthology Naked City. Ellen said this story “blew me away” when she first read it.  And Shelf Awareness called it the “true gem in the collection.”  I’m quite proud of this story, especially since it takes place in the same universe as my novel in progress.  Over on the SFWA.org boards, Ellen has posted a copy of the story for SFWA members.  If you care to check it out, please let me know what you think!

GUD Magazine purchased my small-town tale “One Spring in Cherryville,” a story about a close band of twenty-somethings who discover something buried in an abandoned factory basement that changes their lives forever.  I don’t have a publication date for this one yet.

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling purchased “The Great Game at the End of the World” for their YA dystopian anthology, After.  This was the first time that I’d written a story that put children in real harm, and I found some scenes painful to write.  But I think this is one of my best stories, and I’m excited to hear what people think of it when it comes out this fall.

Sean Wallace purchased a reprint of “The Hands that Feed” for The Mammoth Book of Steampunk, which will be out in June of this year.

Sadly, there was no issue of Sybil’s Garage in 2011.  Though I really wanted to do a new issue, a number of other projects have prevented me from finding the time.  This is not the end of the magazine, however.  It will return!

For my work on Sybil’s Garage and Senses Five Press I was nominated for a World Fantasy Award in the category of Special Award, Non-Professional.  Though I did not win, it was a great honor to be nominated.  Even better was sharing the ballot with my Altered Fluid mates Mercurio David Rivera and N.K. Jemisin.  Go team!

This year I did several readings of my work.  In February I read along side Rick Bowes at the Wold Newton reading series.  In a crowded bookstore in Cambridge, MA I read with other contributors of Naked City, and I participated in three more readings at Readercon.  At the San Diego World Fantasy Convention, Jeff Ford and I both read our stories from After.  Jeff was awesome by offering to merge our separate readings into one large one.  Overall I believe I did about eight different readings this year, which seems like a lot now that I think about it.

At Readercon I hosted a popular panel called “Dybbuks, Golems, Demons, Oy Vey!: Jewish Mythology and Folklore in Speculative Fiction.”  I had a lot of fun talking about the many great stories of Jewish fantasy and science fiction with the panelists, and the overcrowded room was testament to the panel’s success.

So, you may be wondering, what’s with all this Jewish-themed stuff?  Well, I’ve been working on a novel based on the Jewish myth of the Lamed Vav, the Thirty Six just men who sustain the world.  I finished a draft in August, the same day (no actually the same minute) that the northeastern U.S. was struck with a minor earthquake.  I had been writing about minor earthquakes in the final scene, so when the world actually shook, I was like, whoops!  Next time I’ll write about rainbows and universal harmony.  Anyway, I have recently begun revisions on the novel and I am about 25% of the way through.  I hope to have a final draft by the end of February.

The Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB has been going strong all throughout 2011, with many excellent guests and regular large crowds.  The fundraiser from 2010 has allowed Ellen and I to continue to run the series throughout most of 2012.  I noticed a lot of new faces in the audience, which suggests that the series is expanding in popularity as well.  2012 is already shaping up to be amazing with January’s guests, James Patrick Kelly and Kelly Link.  In March, we will also have Terry Bisson, the series’ founder.  It’s going to be a good year.

Overall 2011 was a very good year for me, and I’m working hard to make sure 2012 continues that trend.  On that note, here’s hoping your New Year’s was a happy one and that 2012 brings you all the success you deserve.  Bye, for now.



Year-End Update

Just a few tidbits before the end of the year.  Most recently, Rich Horton lists my story, “The History Within Us,” as one of the “strong stories” from Clarkesworld Magazine this year.  The magazine is chock-full of amazing stories, so I’m honored that he thought mine was one of the best.

Also, just released this month, The People of the Book, which contains a reprint of “The History Within Us.”  With stories from Neil Gaiman, Michael Chabon, Peter S. Beagle, Jane Yolen & more, this anthology looks fantastic.  It’s next on my to-read list.

Over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Scott H. Andrews has released a podcast of my story, “The Suffering Gallery.”  The production quality of the podcast is high, and I was pleasantly surprised by the audio effect Scott uses near the end to emphasize a particular aspect of a character.

Forthcoming from me in 2011, I have a story “The Hands That Feed” in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, which comes out in January.  I have “The Bricks of Gelecek” coming out in July in Naked City, edited by Ellen Datlow.  “Bricks” takes place in the same secondary world as “The Suffering Gallery,” and close readers will notice the overlap.  And sometime in 2011 I’ll have a non-fiction piece, “Mitigation Strategies” in Weird Tales #357. I’m also working on a redesign of the Weird Tales website, which we hope to launch soon.

Lately I’ve been working on a post-apocalyptic YA story, which is near finished (just needs one more read through), and been pecking at my novel for the past few days, cleaning up sections of the story with additions to the plot.  And Mercurio D. Rivera and I are working on a science-fiction graphic novel.

As of today, I have not scheduled a reading period for Sybil’s Garage.  Issue eight will go forward, but the reading period may be a little later than last year.  This is mainly because the editors and I all have been very busy.  When things settle down early in 2011 I’ll announce a date.

Until then, have a happy new year, and may you have much success and happiness in 2011!

Been a While

I got back from Columbus, Ohio on Sunday and had a great time hanging out with everyone at WFC.  I watched several of my friends give excellent readings, witnessed one of them get his first agent, spoke with super-smart, super-interesting people, and had the best ice cream in the world.  My only regret is not having more time to spend with the people I most love being around.  But that’s why they have a World Fantasy Convention every year, isn’t it?

I’ve put the semi-finishing touches on Catherynne M. Valente’s “Prester John Online” website.  There she’ll be promoting her new and fabulous book The Habitation of the Blessed, and she hopes it will become the go-to place for all things Prester John.  I particularly love the artwork by Lisa Grabenstetter.

In publishing news, Sybil’s Garage and Paper Cities are now available at the Barnes & Noble e-bookstore for downloads as DRM-free ePubs.

At WFC, got to hang out with the awesomely cool Scott H. Andrews of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and he informed me my story “The Suffering Gallery” will be online December 2nd.  This is my SFWA qualifying sale and I’m both excited and nervous to hear people’s reactions to the story.

And writing-wise, I’ve been working on a short story for a YA post-apocalyptic anthology, which I hope to finish in the next week or so.  It’s dark, and I’m kind of reluctant about scaring kids, but I believe the theme is a positive one.  Then it’s back to the novel, which is progressing well, if a bit slower than I anticipated.

I had been feeling a bit melancholy as of late, but the convention was the perfect thing for my spirits.  Surrounded by so many smart, talented people, doing what they love, writing things that I love, what’s not to be happy about that?

Sybil’s Garage Editor Spotlight – Mercurio D. Rivera

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Sybil’s Garage is a group effort.  Several people work really hard behind the scenes to make each issue happen.  This is the first of a series of posts where I intend to highlight the contributions of each editor.  I’ve asked each person to talk a little bit about his/her experience working for Sybil’s Garage.

Our first editor is Mercurio D. Rivera.  When Mercurio joined our writers group a few years back, I never thought this humble quiet fellow would soon become one of my best friends.  His advice is among the first I seek when faced with a tough decision.  In a few short years, Mercurio has gone on to become quite an accomplished hard SF writer.  He does have a bit of an impish side, though, which is why he’s earned his moniker of Evil David.  But a regular bathing in holy water usually keeps his evil tendencies at bay.  And, by coincidence, it’s also his birthday today, so I hope y’all will join me in wishing him a happy one.

Mercurio D. RiveraMercurio D. Rivera is an attorney and science fiction writer whose stories have appeared regularly in Interzone (#204, #214, #219, #226, #227).  His Interzone stories “Longing for Langalana” and “In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty” are part of an upcoming series of interconnected tales about his strange aliens, the Wergens, and their unrequited love for humanity.  His work can also be found or is forthcoming in Unplugged: The Web’s Best SF and Fantasy, Download 2008, edited by Rich Horton (Wyrm Publishing), Nature, Black Static, Electric Velocipede, Abyss & Apex, Escape Pod, Starship Sofa and elsewhere.  His fiction has been acknowledged on the Locus Recommended List for 2008 (finishing at #25 in the short story category), the StorySouth Million Writers List for 2008, and several of his stories have received honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology.  His website is www.mercuriorivera.com.

Mercurio says:

Sybil’s Garage started off as a thin stapled ‘zine, grew into a crisp digest-sized magazine format, and this year took the next step in its evolution, morphing into a gorgeous trade paperback anthology.  (Next year?  I have the scoop: glorious, three-dimensional, interactive holograms!)  Along the way, it’s developed a faithful following and a reputation for offbeat, high-quality fiction.  It’s been a wild ride, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to have been a passenger aboard Matt Kressel’s runaway car, gesticulating crazily and shouting directions from the backseat.  Or something like that.

All of us on Sybil’s editorial staff are members of the Altered Fluid (www.alteredfluid.com) writing group.  Many years ago, Matt managed to blackmail us with incriminating photos rope us all in with his inimitable charm and contagious enthusiasm for creating and developing his own print magazine.  Although I was initially concerned about the time commitment involved, my fears were assuaged by the fact that six to eight Fluidians volunteer on any particular issue, and that the slush pile is divvied up among us.  For example, Sybil’s Garage No. 7 received well over 500 submissions.  Divided by six editors, this resulted in a much more manageable story-load, especially when compared with the tsunami of slush that regularly hits other magazines that have far fewer editors.  This allowed me to be a bit more patient when reading manuscripts and to occasionally provide feedback and personal encouragement.  I can’t help it; even after all of these issues I still empathize strongly with every writer whose story I reject, especially those who send us the near-misses.  Over the years, I’ve found reading slush to be an invaluable learning tool that has helped me see the common mistakes that can torpedo a story as well as the special qualities that make a submission stand out in the crowd.  I can’t help but be struck by the fact that as Sybil’s has continued to improve and evolve with each successive issue, so has Altered Fluid and our successes as writers.  At least in my case, I attribute part of that to the lessons learned from reading slush.

Beyond slush reading, typically I’ll assist on a particular issue by drafting the author’s contracts, copy-editing four or five stories, proofing the final version of the issue, opining on stories forwarded by the other editors, and adding my two cents on the final selections.  If I feel strongly in favor or against a particular story, I make sure my voice is heard.  One of the most satisfying aspects of working on Sybil’s is that Matt encourages input from all the editors on every aspect of each issue, from the final story selections to his cover design to his layout of the magazine.  He carefully takes all these different opinions into consideration then pulls out the incriminating photographs, waves them in our faces and pulls rank in making his final decisions.  Make no mistake, Sybil’s Garage is the product of Matt’s vision–he invests the capital, makes the final calls, designs the cover and the layout so that it has that unique Sybil’s look to it, and promotes the hell out of each issue–but it is also a labor of love for all the backseat drivers like me who are passionate about producing something special and making Sybil’s the very best it can be.

I finished the friggin’ editor’s spotlight. Can I get those incriminating photos back now?  Geez.”