05/23/17

We Met in Dragon Shadow

Here’s a poem of mine which appeared in ASIM in 2014!

“We Met in Dragon Shadow”
by Penny Stirling

The first kiss is a fleeting duty
on my cheek burned and sooty.
“Thank you,” she says, “mighty sir—”
But then I remove my armour.

Although the fight was my conquest
the dragon’s sullied the success.
My gryphons are dead, my magics blown.
Princess and I have a long walk home.
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09/27/16

Transcendent is here!

cover art
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.

You find it here: Book Depository, Amazon.com, Kindle, Smashwords, and Goodreads.

I’m excited to see what future transgender sff anthologies are like, and what K.M. Szpara edits next!

(And remember to check out Lethe Press’s other books and Patreon!)

04/17/16

reprint & interview

My interactive poem “stone” has been reprinted in sub-Q! There’s other interactive poems, and interactive fiction and games, over at sub-Q which you can check out too!

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!

07/30/15

painted skins, ungendered words, agender heart

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!

photograph

the origins of Kin, Painted

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.

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07/16/15

sky and kin

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!

06/10/15

stone

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!

09/5/14

Zenith’s Wake

Zenith’s Wake is up at Mirror Dance! At 9,400 words it’s the longest completed thing I’ve written since I was a teenager, and probably the first time I’ve had to use maths to work out how quickly a plot should be progressing.

It is about death, grief and disaster relief; stress, relationships, love and homesickness; magic, logistics and uncertain futures.

Some minor notes: Ithikana is a Brisbane-analogue and Istapor is a Singapore-analogue; Australia really does have stinging trees.

06/2/14

The Secret at Long Canyon

The Secret at Long Canyon
prompt-based, sword & sorcery, nakama; 2011; 950 words

digital picture

To say that they had let their guard down was an understatement even larger than the danger they currently faced. They had been carefree — their chatter verging on celebratory — and even Imoguin had sipped some of Swikae’s whisky.

Imoguin would not wake up now. Swikae clutched at the mage lying on her lap, relieved that at least she still breathed.
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