2017, huh? Okay, so. At the beginning of the year I quit my job because workplace conditions had repeatedly deteriorated to the point where my mental health was in a tailspin and dragging my physical health down with it. With no relief in workplace conditions and workload in sight, unable to reliably fill out job applications because my free time was occupied with being stressed out from this week’s workload and being stressed out thinking about next week’s workload, feeling constantly miserable and drifting towards… the bad end of depression… I quit. Luckily I had enough savings to weather several months of unemployment, and now I have a new job which I very much like and my co-workers are lovely and supportive and my manager isn’t toxic and I am not being overworked and underpaid! It’s nice and strange and good for me.
Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction has been released into the world! It contains my story “Kin, Painted”, originally in Lackington’s, a gentle thing about queer children growing up in a supportive family, and Our Narrator trying to find a true self and place amongst them. I wrote a bit about it, as well as my gender and ungendered protagonists, here. (Bit funny rereading that; last year feels like only just yesterday, yet also so long ago.)
“Kin, Painted” is the concluding story in Transcendent, and also the inspiration for the cover painted by the outstanding Noel Arthur Heimpel, and I am just all ヽ(ﾟ〇ﾟ)ﾉ and (⁄ ⁄•⁄ω⁄•⁄ ⁄) and (ღ˘ᴗ˘ღ) at such an honour.
Here’s the full table of contents! Look at that line-up, damn.
I’m excited to see what future transgender sff anthologies are like, and what K.M. Szpara edits next!
My story “Kin, Painted” is going to be reprinted in Transcendent: the Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction! At the link you can see the amazing cover, the TOC, and preorder details (with $5 off at the moment). It’s edited by K.M. Szpara and the cover is by Noel Arthur Heimpel which is personally very exciting for me because Noel’s webcomic Ignition Zero has been one of my favourites for a loooong time and to see my name right there next to their art is *__*!!!
I had to be talked into submitting to Transcendent so, uh, self-reject lesson?
If you can’t wait until September then you can read “Kin, Painted” right here in Lackington’s.
And I did an author spotlight over at Pack of Aces where I talk about my published acearo characters and how much better my writing life is since I discovered the terminology that described me:
When I was a teen I tried to write characters who were like me. This was before I’d heard of asexuality or aromanticism. All of the characters were broken, like I obviously was, and they were all eventually fixed like I was told I would be. (Perhaps “they were all broken, and they were all eventually broken in” is better phrasing?) They should have been happy endings: the character admitted they were in love, sex was usually implied, hooray, the character is fixed. But they were all off. Stockholm syndrome was common, overbearing and wearing down of wills was common, power imbalance was common. The characters did not choose to fall in love, they didn’t really fall in love; they were pulled into love and sex and held there with a grip that only at a glance looked like a romantic holding of hands. Messed. Up. (But that’s what I thought I saw in books and films and TV, that’s what I thought was the only path for me. There were many stories which horrified me, which people insisted were romantic. He loved her, so it was all right. She ends up saying she loves him, so it was forgiven.)
There was a month dedicated to these author spotlight interviews with various acespec creators and you can check them all out here!
I’ve started using neutral pronouns: ou (ou/ou/ous/ous/ouself) or they (they/them/their/theirs/themself)! It took me a while to find some that felt right for me and I was discouraged seeing how certain cis people treated and misused neutral pronouns, but if I let people like that hurting people like me stop me doing things then I’d probably still be assuming I was an incredibly broken alloromantic woman so fuck that shit, I’m doing this thing.
Speaking of discouraging matters: 2015 frustrated. In 2014 I made gains, and then I lost them again. Frequent illnesses impacted on my chronic health issues and most of the time it was all I could do to tread water. The last story I completed was in January, the last poem February. It’s incredibly frustrating; previously I had finally started feeling good about my relationship with writing and then it was back to exhaustion and depression and wondering if I’ll ever get that part of my life back. It’s impacted upon other areas of my life, and then there’s rebound impacts and, to be honest, I’m surprised I even managed to survive working full-time. I have hopes for 2016, hopes for better health, for life improvement and getting back to things like writing and seeing friends more often and going on road trips and drawing and playing games and reading more and all that jazz, things that I enjoy and that improve my life. But I had those hopes for 2015 and I saw how that went so maybe I should be hoping just to continue treading water, to not slip under. Or to not slip under as much. Hah…
It wasn’t all bad, of course. I did manage to work full-time, I had a really great week in Melbourne with a good friend, saw my zucchini and made plans to travel in 2016, finally figured out the agender thing, got asked to be a bridesmaid, made some embroidered gifts which people loved, supported friends, had good times, made people laugh, tried new foods, became enraptured with new cartoons and shared them with friends, knew I was loved and appreciated.
I had one story published, “Kin Painted” in Lackington’s, and two republished: “Love Over Glass, Skin Under Glass” in GlitterShip and “Tanith’s Sky” in The Best of Luna Station Quarterly: The First Five Years; and four poems published: “Stone” in Interfictions, “Skin Ashore” in inkscrawl, “Singing Her Body Oceanic” in Liminality, and “The Selkie Before Summer” in Liminality.
Four poems from someone who doesn’t understand 99% of poetry. Whoooops.
Only one of those was written in 2015, and then nothing else but scraps of paragraphs. I repeat: frustrating. Especially since, having figured out the agender thing and having thought about pronouns, that’s something I want to poke more in my fiction, moving away from non-gendered characters and background conceptualisations to characters like me, characters sort of like me, characters less like me. But, alas, the body decreed it was not to be.
In embroidery, I had a good year, I think. I didn’t get as much done as I wanted to because of health reasons and unanticipated projects, but I’ve really liked what I’ve done and I’ve challenged myself. I cross stitched Doctor Who using actual embroidery thread for the first time; my blackwork projects included Avengers, Gardevoir, Ninetales. The last of those I’m especially proud of, that style was uncharted (*sunglasses*) territory for me and it was a lot of trial and error to understand what I was doing. I learned a whole lot and I think I pulled it off! I also made several other patterns, and I nutted out a quicker way of making patterns. I’m currently in the middle of an important gift project and then I’ve got a commission to do, so I think after that I’ll take it easy and stitch some Pokemon blackwork patterns I’ve got waiting for me.
I played a few games too. Gravity Ghost was my favourite, even though it made me cry (it was a stressful week)!
My long poem “The Selkie Before Summer” is up at Liminality! It’s about a southern fur seal (or maybe an Australian fur seal) who leaves the ocean for the first time to rescue a lover and ends up exploring Victoria and gender and matters of the heart. (And there’s another poem in this issue about a sea creature who heads inland, by Sandi Leibowitz!) Yes, it is yet another S-title poem about skin. I might have gotten it out of my system now but I promise nothing.
Earless seals like greys and harps have always seemed like quasi-fantasy animals to me. I knew they were real, I saw them on documentaries, but they were just so different to the fur seals I was more familiar with that there was something mythical about them. (White swans have the same effect. When I visited Britain and saw them it was a very “how is this even a real island” moment. Seeing a lone black swan amongst a group of white swans in Windsor did not help this surreal disconnect.) But imagine an Australian fur seal selkie walking along a yellow sandy beach, their brown skin draped over their head to keep off the burning December sun, even though every story and art I see specifies otherwise. That’s more real to me than anything involving a grey seal and the Atlantic.
Of course, it is now well and truly summer, but I was in fact in Victoria this past spring, so here’s two indulgent photos. (If the eucalypts look strange, they’re shedding their back, which is one of my favourite things! Such a beautiful time of year, seeing the trees shed and change colour.)
The latest issue of Lackington’s is online for all to read now! You read my story, “Kin, Painted”, right here and see Likhain’s illustration for it, and there are other great stories and art to see. Ebooks are still available of course, and if you enjoy it then consider a subscription!
This story originated on a postcard in 2009. I was having difficulty getting back into writing back then, and I found that writing flash fiction on postcards meant I couldn’t agonise over words and sentences, what to do next and then after that. So I wrote a lot of them. Most weren’t that great but they were words, characters, plot, concepts that I managed to get out without a Word document driving me to anxiety. Last year I remembered this particular one and wondered if it could make a decent short story. In the postcard the narrator’s arc ended differently. Unique in its own way, but ultimately I prefer the newer version!
We painted our bodies.
My brother: gold like the ideal sun, rich like all the treasures of the world melted onto his skin. He went to the emperor, to be a measure man. If anyone gave the emperor a gift less amazing than my brother’s skin, it was to be melted down.
My sister: silver like starlight, as bright and glossy like a still lake had dyed her. She went to the …
I wish I could remember to whom I sent the postcard, see if they remember it and see what they think of its descendant.
And now I’m going to talk about being agender and writing ungendered and the stories and poems that I’ve had published this winter.
I have always been confused about gender. Society and presentation and theory, sure, but that’s all outside your skin. What was inside? How does gender inside people work? How does gender inside me work? Spoilers: it doesn’t. Earlier this year I had a series of epiphanic thoughts and was able to push through the “I don’t know I don’t know” that had always stopped me from progressing past “gender wh?” in the past. I mulled over it for a while, and it’s the only thing concerning gender inside my skin that’s made sense to me: I’m agender. Non gendered, rather than neutrois or androgynous. Gender is just not a thing that I have.
Yep, I’m a triple A. Aromantic, asexual, agender. My orientations and identity all default to “nope”. For the record, she/her pronouns are still fine, and I’m femme. UPDATE: I now use ou/ou or them/they pronouns.
My story “Tanith’s Sky” is one of 50 reprinted in The Best of Luna Station Quarterly: The First Five Years! This anthology’s only in paper form but you can still read “Tanith’s Sky” online here. It’s about what happens after the world’s been saved, it’s about grief and non-romantic love and maths and astrology and gender.
And I’m in the new issue of Lackington’s with “Kin, Painted”, which is illustrated by Likhain! It’s about finding a way to be happy in yourself, in your family and in your life, it’s about paint and non-romantic love and romantic love and compromise and being different amongst the different and quite a lot of paint. In a couple weeks the issue will be online for free but if you can’t wait there’s the (very recommendable) ebook and subscriptions available!
My hypertext poem “stone” is up at Interfictions Online! I hope you enjoy it!
In the portion of my life between working out that I wasn’t straight and finding the word “aromantic”, all I knew was that I wasn’t normal. It’s not uncommon amongst aromantics: feeling alone, broken, inhuman, monstrous, alien. I’ve written about it before, in “Even Robots Learn”, but “stone” is more personalised. If I wasn’t human, if I didn’t have a normal human’s normal heart, then I had to be stone. Even though I loved my family and my friends, even though I cared about people and engaged with people, the fact that I could not love in this very particular way meant I didn’t love at all. My heart was concrete, my body was rock, my flesh was stone. I couldn’t feel, I couldn’t love, I couldn’t be hurt. It was an incredibly toxic, unhealthy, self-destructive way of thinking, and it took me years to recover from it.
“stone” is a scar of my lithic years, and I show it to you because it is starkly visible against my heart, my human heart full of love and confidence.
Getting into the more technical side of things, why hypertext? Well, I was looking through some writing drafts when I found a document with the first few lines in it. I had no memory of writing them, no idea what ideas were supposed to follow them. I liked the lines—there was a solid aro sentiment that echoed my late teens, and of course some consonance—but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I added to them, cautiously, and soon emerged something that was a bit similar to “She is, there—amongst the Mango Trees—a Flytrap Garden”. I decided to bam it up a notch with more elaborate repeating clauses but it soon became obvious that trying to rely on simple formatting like in “Flytrap” would just end in unintelligible mess. I tried different things in Word before I remembered Twine.
Twine creates choose-your-own-adventure stories and games such as Depression Quest. I’d never used it before so I had fun adventures figuring out the basics and getting it to do what I wanted it to do, but it does it superbly. I’ve got some rough ideas for more things I’d like to try in Twine someday! In “stone” I’ve not really delved into what the format’s capable of, but ohh the things it is capable of if you try.
Thank you to the friends who encouraged me while I was experimenting with this poem’s presentation!
My story “Tanith’s Sky” is up at Luna Station Quarterly! It deals with grief, love, maths, gender and the end of the world. I’m fond of it and it contains some very personal bits of my heart, and I’m so glad to see it out in the world. Wouldn’t have been possible without R, who inspired it, and Alex, dottie and Zoe! I hope people enjoy it!
Grief is a hell of a thing. Some of Ash’s experiences in going through the grieving process are mine; my mother died a few years ago, suddenly, too young, with no chance to say goodbye. I can’t remember if I set out to write about the grieving process–R’s prompt certainly didn’t mention it–and I don’t know if I’d say it was a cathartic story, but it was so natural to write and I’ve ended up sharing more than I ever have before. It’s a strange sort of time, never sure how appropriate or awkward it’d be to say something like I heard the front door open and I knew it was her, knew it, until I remembered, until I realised what I’d forgotten to your friends.
And once again I’ve written about a couple with not-quite-aligning views on their relationship. Of course all relationships must have compromises and those sorts of things, but I find especially interesting those with dissimilar sexual and romantic inclinations.