Short fiction that’s close to my <3
As Melbourne descends into wintry gloom, I shall fling a flurry of short stories at you! I had three (3!) publications line up fortuitously in May. Quite different in style and form, they each have a soft spot in my heart. I hope you find something you like.
All three are free to read. Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu is even on the Lightspeed Podcast, narrated in the mesmerising bass tones of Stefan Rudnicki.
Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu
Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 144, May 2022)
Included in Maria Haskins’s May 2022 Short Fiction Round-up: ‘This hugely entertaining science fiction story is one hell of a ride – it’s action packed and almost cinematic in its storytelling, and at the same time it manages to do some excellent worldbuilding, and give us a great set of characters, while never losing its momentum.’
3600 words. When her mechanic Calam disappears, the Beaconer Orin tracks him to the seething, crumbling planet Zhenzhu.
As Though I Were a Little Sun
Fireside Magazine (Issue 102, April 2022)
1700 words. A tale of botanical transformation, ecological collapse/renewal, and giving everything for your family.
In my new form, I drink sunrays with unfathomable need. I open the pores of my numerous leaves. I yearn for light to pour through my tender membranes, to soak the chlorophyll pigments embedded within my coiled thykaloid spaces. Only then will I vibrate with energy. I will remove electrons, dividing water into oxygen. I will catch carbon from the air and construct newer, sweeter shapes.
To The Dark Side of the Moon
Hexagon Magazine (Issue 9, June 2022)
4300 words. In high earth orbit, a bisexual cyborg healer petitions a seductive, ageless councillor for funding to save a dying remnant of humanity.
I disembark into a shadowy chamber strung with stone amulets, smelling of incense and battery fuel. An android in a wide-sleeved cheongsam helps me remove my pressure suit and eases my joints with warm, gelatinous hands. Transit vessels are built for efficiency, not comfort.
“Would you like a cup of rice wine before you see her?”
I’m tense, but I’m afraid to loosen my tongue. “No, thank you.”
Stories behind the stories
I wrote Nobody Ever Goes Home to Zhenzhu in 2020. It’s a sequel to my first published short story, ‘The Dunes of Ranza’, so Orin and Calam really do hold a special place in my heart: on the run from their pasts, they fall in as crewmates on the Left-Handed Bandit and roam through a vast galaxy ravaged by colonisation. With Zhenzhu, I wanted to have fun writing a classic style SF story, with a missing person, a crumbling planet, secrets of the highest echelon, and a badass fight scene.
Lightspeed was the second publication I submitted to, IIRC. After not hearing anything for months, I’d already psychologically prepared for a rejection. Then, while I was sitting in a waiting room, the acceptance popped up in my inbox. Everyone in that waiting room got an ear-to-ear grin.
I was honoured to feature in an Author Spotlight with Lightspeed, where I discuss the inspiration behind the story and some of its special quirks.
As Though I Were a Little Sun was written in a burst of inspiration in 2021, when I saw the callout from Fireside Magazine for Hal Y Zhang’s guest-edited issue. I’d long had an image, a feeling, simmering in my mind: a woman transforming into a tree. This was one of my easiest stories to write—the words flowed with an unexpected lyricism, and I didn’t hold back. I’m so grateful to Hal and Fireside for the acceptance!
To the Dark Side of the Moon is the exact opposite. I first drafted this story in 2019. It has gone through many iterations since and received several personal rejections. I began to feel like it would never find a home. Each time it was rejected, I tweaked it. I knew it had some flaws, but I loved the story all the same—it has medicine, ethics, falling in love, falling out of love, a soft graceful dancer, a determined bionic healer, an elegant, possibly eutopic far-future Earth. And lunar melons! And loving androids!
Even though I’ve reworked it so many times, I’d like to think it still possesses a subtle lyricism—though the path to the final story was quite different from Little Sun.
Anyway, I saw a callout by Hexagon SF Magazine last month for stories with cautionary/retributive themes of genetic manipulation—and I thought, why not, I’ll give it a go. To my amazement and honour, editor JW Stebner adored the story!
Here’s a mood board I made for To The Dark Side of the Moon, just for fun:
Every Version of You
Finally, of course, I must tease the debut novel. I’ll be dropping another newsletter in your inboxes soon. I’ve got lots of exciting things to share about Every Version of You—including a cover! Not long before release day on 26 July!
Until then, stay warm and well—
PS. I’m seriously struggling with the title of my newsletter. Why did I choose a triplet where I’d have to agonise over the presence of the Oxford comma? Brains, Space, & Ghosts looks awkward and pretentious. But Brains, Space & Ghosts looks plain wrong. It’s lose-lose! What should I do, dear friends?! *tears hair*
Lean in to the Oxford comma!
Or just change it randomly each time and pretend nothing changed?