Category Archives: Uncategorized

Updates!

My poem The Doppelganger and the Ghost has been nominated among the 2016 Rhyslings. This is exciting and unexpected, and I’m very proud to be featured among friends and favorites for this year’s Rhysling considerations.

The Sunvault Anthology has released the full table of contents. I am excited my story “The Desert, Blooming” (a prequel to the time-travel novel set in the world of Azemur and Garnatah) is there among some of my favorite writers (and am pinching myself excitedly that I will get to be there!) In a lovely symmetry, my husband Aleksei also appears with a poem.

For more info on what I was up to in January, see this free-to-all Patreon post about having H1N1 and writing during the flu.  The Patreon also features free art and is where some poems will have their first debut. Our Patreon funds have dropped slightly so if you’ve been on the fence about supporting our long-term work, the tier after the grocery fund will allow us to release short stories from the archives, which means more stories for you.

If monthly funds aren’t in your means but you’d like to help us keep writing or appreciate my twitter activism, please consider tipping me on PayPal. Thank you always for your support and readership.

Backgame, Revisited

The author and queer activist Claudie Arsenault wrote an important, interesting post on an unfortunate trend in representation of asexual characters in fantasy: linking them with death. Especially in the THE books that everyone recommends as asexual representation. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see why, especially for aromantic readers, a link with death is a negative connotation: frankly, done wrong, it’s a bit dehumanizing.

In 2013, I wrote a story about an aromantic asexual Necromancer set in a fantasy city of the Middle East (a bit of Damascus, a bit of Jerusalem, a bit of Antioch) raising a fellow wartime magician — their best friend, a trans man — in a city under siege, specifically to grant him a second chance at life in a body without the interruption of dysphoria. In 2015, after several near-misses, I submitted it to the Myriad Lands anthology and it came out in 2016. I got a paper check (which I still have!) and my authors’ copy of both beautiful volumes, and I danced around, because I was ecstatic to have a prose story out in the world, especially an ownvoices story with both asexual and non-cis representation and 0 white characters (it was not diversity bingo, but getting that clearly across to the reader took some editorial work).

Other things were published in 2015 and 2016 too. They were, maybe, not so positive about death, or the power of friendship enduring beyond death, or friendship being a powerful enough bond to be the humanizing sustenance to keep two embattled people living, not just alive, in a terrible place and time.  And into that soup of representation went Backgame. While all reviews of Backgame itself have been positive about its representation and the story itself, it doesn’t exist in a contextless vacuum. In the greater picture of searching story after story for asexual aromantics and finding only death, death, and more death, that representation which, in 2013, was radical to me as an asexual-spectrum person, came to be a bitter pill for other people.

While it is posted at Claudie’s blog as part of the ongoing conversation as a reply, the formal apology I wrote to aromantic readers who are disappointed that Backgame contributes to a sense the world sees them as lifeless and dead is copied here for posterity. If you like friendship stories about dead people getting happy endings and second chances, you’ll probably like Backgame. But this is about people who need something else from their representation, who look at an aro-ace character named “the Necromancer” and go “ugh, really?” For you guys: I’m sorry.

As the author of the short story mentioned in this post (“Backgame” in Myriad Lands) I wanted to issue an apology to any aromantic readers who feel it contributes negatively to stereotypes of aromantics and asexuals in fantasy literature. When I wrote the story in 2013, I had no idea putting a theme of huge personal relevance to me in an own-voices story as an asexual, writing about the kind of friendships that sustain people and my own complex feelings about death, would end up contributing to a harmful pattern of associating aromantics and asexuals with death and lifelessness because of its release date. At the time I wrote it, there WAS no significant canon rep of which to speak, so I edited the story to make asexuality a more explicit theme.

I can’t speak to the aromantic experience, but I can imagine how harmful and disappointing it must be to pick up my story and find the aro-ace character is a necromancer and yet again this is a story about death. If my story left you feeling wounded instead of healed, please accept my deepest apologies. I will try to do better by you next time, aromantic readers, by continuing to write non-romantic humans with full, vibrant relationships and networks as part of my writing. I appreciate all of you who discuss how these themes and archetypes make you feel, and I’m listening & learning from part of the asexual experience I don’t have. Thank you for speaking out, and refusing to settle for less than excellent representation.

Special thanks to Claudie for discussing this trope and the other thought-provoking comments it sparked. I intend to reexamine some of my unpublished work set in the “Ethical Necromancy” universe as that had also been intended to be asexual representation — but maybe that’s not the right place for that particular marginalization, at this exact moment in publication. Maybe when we have more, better asexual and aromantic stories, a few necromancer buddy cop stories won’t hurt. I’m not aromantic (I used to believe I was, but I am not) and it’s more important not to do harm than to excuse my work as different or special because I used to ID that way. Asexual spectrum characters frequently appear in my work, and one is a point of view character in the first of (hopefully many) adventures in the universe of Azemur and Garnatah. I intend to keep writing  asexual and aromantic characters– and more importantly, to do better with the next one.

In unrelated news, our Patreon has risen over $90 and we are preparing some of our monthly updates and rewards now to be ready for February. Check it out if you haven’t! Patreon readers will be the first to get to see, well, pretty much everything. One-off tips via PayPal are much appreciated and, like Patreon support, are time spent writing instead of working.

Thanks for reading, and for all your support, and special thanks to those doing the hard work of holding me accountable each and every day.

2016: Round-Up & Review

2016 was a huge year for me in a lot of ways. First short story publication! Two Rhysling nominations! Poetry publications of deep meaning to me! A dozen people, many from Twitter, turned up at my house to help my spouse and I move when the house was literally killing us! I crowdfunded a wheelchair for Aleksei! I sold another short story to an anthology! I finished the first draft of a novel that will come out in 2017!

And I started a patreon. The patreon is for longform work by my spouse Aleksei Valentín and I, but is also a platform to publish poetry and short stories if it becomes profitable to do so on a month-to-month basis. I write poems because I have a compulsion and send them out for publication because I like money, but I write short stories for paychecks, usually. If I think a short story won’t sell, I often don’t even finish it: I’d rather expend my energy on the long form work which is my relaxing hobby with my spouse than rack up rejection after rejection because my work isn’t in line with current magazine editorial taste. If the Patreon funding hits a high enough point, I’ll begin publishing short fiction on the Patreon instead. Many people have asked if there is a way, in addition to Paypal, to support my work on a more regular basis. The Patreon, which is based on a monthly model of funding our work, is that way.

To launch off the Patreon, I’ve begun by releasing my only poem that was behind a paywall and not for charity (the remaining poem, ‘The First Wife’, continues to benefit Elizabeth McClellan and so I have not reprinted it). The Lessons of the Knife, originally published in the anthology ‘Spelling the Hours’, is now available for free. Please read and enjoy. I have wanted to make it free for such a long time, because of the subject matter’s importance and because it’s one of my few poems that’s had a lot of popular demand!

For those who do awards nominations and the likes, this is 2016’s body of work:

Fiction, Short Form:

Backgame, in Myriad Lands II

 

Poetry, Long Category (50+ lines)

‘My Heart Is Set On Wandering’ in Strange Horizons

‘The Doppelganger and the Ghost’ in Eye To The Telescope

‘The Lessons of the Knife’ first in Spelling the Hours

 

Poetry, Short Category (1-49 lines)

‘The Lost City’ in Remixt Vol 1

‘The Doorway’ in Pedestal Magazine

‘Death By Three Senses’ in Strange Horizons

‘Witch’s Brew’ in Stone Telling

Florida Water (self-published)

 

Essays

Why “Diversity” Is Like A Mix Tape

 

Thank you very much for your continued support and enthusiasm in 2016. I have heard wonderful, beautiful things from you about these poems (‘The Doorway’ especially seemed to be a favorite) and I look forward to sharing much, much more work with you in 2016. Please consider helping fund my continuing work in both long and short form via Patreon — in the first 12 hours we are halfway to being able to post a new poem each month on Patreon  available for free. If you enjoyed my work this year but don’t have the funds to commit to regular Patreon gifts, please consider tipping me a one-off gift. They do, indeed, make a huge difference in my quality of life.

See you in 2017!

‘My Heart Is Set on Wandering’ & ‘The Doppelganger and the Ghost’ out today!

Strange Horizons, one of my favorite venues, has published a semi-autobiographical ghost poem of mine, “My Heart Is Set on Wandering” as their first poem on their beautiful new website relaunch, and as part of Filipino-American History Month I’ve decided to write about it a little bit.

This poem originally began as a companion piece to an untitled short story in a universe I call “Ethical Necromancy”, but quickly spiraled out from the POV of the fictional necromancer Magdalena and became my own. At its heart, the poem is about the community of St Malo, Louisiana, and the yearning to see and hear what stories that community might tell. It’s also autobiographical in another sense; it is about my grandmother’s family’s choice not to register on the Dawes Rolls and be counted by the US Government among the Cherokee Nation (a decision that has repercussions for my family to this day, including falsification of her obituary to keep her Native ancestry a secret), the discovery of my grandfather’s gravestone and my search to learn about his circuitous journey from Santa Catalina as a boy of 15 through the US West Coast before it was cut short by cancer, probably caused by the pesticides sprayed on the fields where he worked as a laborer picking everything under the sun.

For me, no love song about Louisiana’s dead is complete without the spiritual traditions of New Orleans, where I did, indeed, see the Baron in bright sunshine on a Thursday afternoon in September while sitting in Jackson Square.

This poem shares so much common ground of ancestry, identity, and dead-ness with “The Doppelganger and the Ghost” in Eye To The Telescope Issue 22 that it would be odd not to mention them together (TW: transphobia, dysphoria). Late October/early November might be the Season of Spirits in the Catholic religious calendar but it’s also a time of ancestral memory and remembering; here, the fraught matter of immediate family becomes tangled up with monsters and true identities, and how dysphoria and transition can lead to both deep betrayals and freeing truths. There is not always a simple resolution to the pain of family, and there’s not one here; but perhaps “My Heart Is Set On Wandering” offers the balm that if the immediate dead do not understand us, Ancestors know more than we might think.

 

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“The Lost City” out today!

I decided to participate in an interesting blind reading experiment and send a poem I found hidden away in an unusual spot to Remixt, a collaboration between 9 editors to create miniatures collections of 3 poems each, all of them drawing from the same blind submisions pool. Interestingly, this poem was chosen twice, in Issue 2, edited by Jennifer Stephan Kapral, and in Issue 7, edited by Holly Lyn Walrath, where they are presented with very different poems, images, and editorial remarks, leading to surprisingly different experiences.

Experiments in collaboration are some of the most interesting, so I was excited to see what would become of a blind reading of the pool. How would it work? How many poems would be repeats? How diverse would the collection be? As to the latter answer, the magazine’s head, Julia Rios, wrote an editorial about the diversity of poems selected and the submission pool at large. I am surprised to be the only self-identified disabled poet in the collection, as I know a lot of disabled poets, but I’m always interested in the statistics of submissions and pleased by the transparency represented here.

This is another one of my “secretly Middle-earth” poems — close readers of Tolkien’s text will see Minas Ithil(become the menacing Minas Morgul) as the spired city that fits inside one’s collarbone (there is a popular belief we carry grief inside specific places in our bodies — I chose the collarbone because mine dislocate on the regular, and the ribcage for the same reason, you could fit a very small tower between a subluxed rib); Minas Tirith, Osgiliath,  Armenelos, one of the unnamed great pre-Conquest cities of Umbar (ok  so maybe that’s headcanon that Umbar had one of the world’s greatest libraries), and the Silent Street in Minas Tirith.

I continue to write Tolkien poems that explore the shadow-side of his apocalyptic backdrop even as I find myself half at a loss as to explain why. I have now snuck Tolkien poems into FOUR editors’ hands, some poems more subtle than others, partially to prove that the legacy Tolkien has left us is deeper than the superficial films and hobbits at their teatime, and the legacy is worth reclaiming and making our own. Some parts of Tolkien’s universe have a mythic universality that can speak for itself even when readers don’t know it’s there. As a writer deeply attracted to the apocalyptic, Middle-earth is full of apocalypses and world-ending cataclysmic disasters that make for great poetry fodder. For readers of my blog, it’s a bit of an easter egg — I try to ensure my poems stand on their own well without knowing what, exactly, I’m talking about.

I’ve been given a late October release date for my Strange Horizons poem “My Heart Is Set On Wandering” and have a short story acceptance I will announce when the contract is signed! (It’s a personal policy not to announce until contract, because shit happens.) I’ve also been told “The Lessons of the Knife” should be for sale at some point in the near future. I’m still waiting for an ebook edition of “Myriad Lands” for you ebook readers, but I promise you’ll hear all about it when the ebook is available!

Finally, my wife India and I continue to labor away to bring you our first fully-fledged romance sometime in January. The God of Small Things has reached first edit and is the story of Ganymede, Prince of Escapes, and his tumultuous time with Dionysus, learning to live up to that name. For fans of Dionysus of the Downtown, this is the prose world of the poem. We’ve commissioned our cover artist, Dorian Kelly, whose  unique visual style will fit the weird upside down world of the gods wonderfully. Go pay him money to draw things! More updates on that story as warrants.

I hope you enjoy the poems in these weird, wonderful issues as much as I do, and can’t wait to share the next thing. Happy reading!

“The Doorway” out today!

Content note: this post & the poem in it are about suicide and death.

As a part of Pedestal Magazine’s new site launch, they have included my parallel-universes/Tolkien poem “The Doorway” (tw: suicide) in the 78th issue! It’s an honor to be a part of such a long-running poetry magazine, and I’m totally thrilled, and a little lost at what to say about it.

Why do I call it a Tolkien poem? A couple of reasons. One; the poem quotes Tolkien explicitly:

“Farewell!” he [Denethor] said. “Farewell, Peregrin son of Paladin! Your service has been short, and now it is drawing to an end. I release you from the little that remains. Go now, and die in what way seems best to you.[…]” (Return of the King: Chapter Four ‘The Siege of Gondor’, p99 in the US 1995 Book-of-the-Month Club edition)

and two, because it is fundamentally about Númenor, the island sunken into the sea from which Denethor and all the Men of the West are descended. It is about saudades, the Portuguese sadness for a place that has never existed, hiraeth, the Welsh  longing for a home you can’t return to,  the sunken home under the sea that will never be a home ever again, but where the bones of your ancestors call to you like a siren’s song, that you hear every time you see your own face in a puddle and remember you are homeless, forever, in a spiritual level deeper than nationalities or countries can ever touch.

It is also a literal, historical poem about December 2009, where, during Christmas break, I had a dream that I lined my pockets with black stones and tried to drown myself, because in a lake I could see a city under the water and it seemed like a good, quiet way to die, but a fictional character I had written dove in after me. I was tremendously depressed at the time, functioning under sleep deprivation conditions used in torture (3-5 hours of sleep in every 24 hour cycle, 6 if I fell asleep doing my homework, and then I was punished with bad grades), at a school I hated, isolated, without proper pain control, having nightmares like I was in the middle of a warzone.  I had just turned 21, and I wanted to die. So. Very. Much. Just so that everything that hurt me would stop hurting me. I was trapped by my abusive family, and I couldn’t think of another way to escape.

When I woke up, I was actually slowly smothering myself with a pillow, and if I had not dreamed someone came after me and insisted I live, I might never have woken up at all. I was angry about it for days. Something finally clicked in my brain: I was angry that I was alive? Something had to change, and fast. It’s not normal to be angry you survive. I wish this is where I could say my family rallied around me and supported me in getting mental health care and better medical care — but it wasn’t like that. I fought tooth and nail to leave that school between semesters. I had the first — and last — fight with my father, where he tried to shame me into going back, and I told him if he wouldn’t support me, he could watch me fail the way his parents had watched him when he changed schools in college, waiting for him to fail. (Fact: my father never graduated college because he lacked parental support after leaving a prestigious school for a less prestigious one. You can see why he didn’t fight with me again no matter what his opinions were on my decisions.)

Is this important to understanding the poem? Maybe not. If you’re reading this, just know: there is a parallel universe where no fictional soldier dives into the water, and I slowly asphyxiate as I see the algae-crusted towers rise up to catch me (maybe it is a doorway, after all; maybe I would have traveled through somewhere kinder than here). Or maybe I wake up in time but go back to school and join the 4 students who died there by suicide in the 09-10 year.

Instead, I found a school where I could do what I really wanted, accommodated my disability, and because I actually had some free time, I wrote that character in a collaborative story online. My now-wife emailed me 3 months later and asked me if we wanted to write together, and shortly after she moved back into my timezone and we started spending a lot of time together. I stopped dreaming about dying — and when I did dream about it, it was something I didn’t want anymore, they were nightmares, and I woke up shaken because, suddenly, I wanted to be alive. Pain and all. Untreated mental health issues and all. I wanted to live long enough to do something: (I kept chasing short-term targets) write a research bachelors thesis, finish a storyline, escape my abusive family to go live with my now-wife, make it to that doctor who would give me adequate pain control, get into a masters program, get a diagnosis, write another thesis, get married– until I wanted to have a life of meaning and beauty with the person who loves me, until it’s neither beautiful or meaningful anymore. Then, maybe, I can find that doorway. But not tonight, and not tomorrow.

It seems important to tell this story because right now the world is cheering the eminent suicide of a child of fourteen who does not have a terminal disease and no one in her community is asking: what do we do to keep her alive? What’s wrong with her care treatments that she’d rather be dead? Why don’t her parents love her enough to treat her depression? I didn’t cross through the doorway: I live in a world where we think it’s better to be dead than disabled. Where is the soldier, diving between universes, between fiction and reality, to pound my chest until I jerk awake and throw the pillow away and cause me to choose to give living one more try? Who is diving between all these horrible publicity stunts that cheer her death to tell her: no, dammit, not yet, there is more to your life than this no matter what people say?

Not everyone gets to survive long enough to write about “the time I almost killed myself” and see it in print. I have. You can, too. Find a chatline, wherever you are in the world. I don’t promise anything. I don’t promise it gets better (the fuck is “better” anyway?) I only know it’s better to be disabled than to die because you feel trapped and stuck. Really. No matter what they tell you. God might have rigged the game against me in the genetic lottery (I don’t believe that now, but I did then), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a purpose for why you are here that you haven’t even discovered yet.

So that is The Doorway, both its roots in fantasy, and its reality. Sometimes, somebody saves you. Sometimes, that person is yourself.

Funds For Rochita & Angels of the Meanwhile

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, a writer who has become beloved to myself and many in science fiction and fantasy writing for her positive, welcoming, and encouraging presence in the scene, has suffered a heartbreaking loss in the unexpected sudden death of her husband. Inspired by Rochita’s own example of kindness and giving, friends have put a fundraiser together to help her deal with the financial burden of the sudden loss. I donated my poem about disability “The City Under Siege” to the fundraiser’s reward backers site as a special publication, where it has joined work by Rose Lemberg, JY Yang, Aliette de BodardShveta ThakrarBogi Takács, EP Beaumont and others. Please give to Rochita here. Rochita is a very special person who has encouraged my work and connected me with other positive and encouraging people, and in her time of need, we are trying to give back a portion of the community she has offered us.

Back in the spring I donated the mythological poem “The First Wife” to the project Angels of the Meanwhile to help Elizabeth R McClellan deal with post-injury expenses following shoulder issues. That fundraising project is still ongoing, with a tentative November release date. A donation of any size gets you a copy of the fundraising ebook, which includes writing by many of my favorite authors (Table of Contents here). Please give! Lizbeth still needs help and this collection is a very, very special one.

Finally, we are nearing the publication date of my poem “I Am Alive” with Strange Horizons. Look for that early in November! You’ll be hearing more about it soon. This poem is one of my most personal so far, and I am very excited about sharing it with you. Some other special work should be appearing in November, including my first poetry review — more on that later!