• Promotional Work

    Short Story Mixtape [Vol. 4]

    Although winter is the season most people feel ready to dig a hole in the ground and go into a healthy hibernation until spring, the world insists on speeding up until you realize the carousel of your daily routine has turned into a gravitron (and of course, the person next to you have no stomach for the ride). It’s been like that around these parts, but let’s get on to the short stories.

    Cassette Tape

    I’ve decided on changing the title for this column/feature/listicle to the Short Story Mixtape since I’m not publishing, only linking, and the stories themselves are eclectic. I will go back to change the previous titles, but nevertheless, wanted to make a note of this as I’m thinking on reprinting these articles on Medium. Anyway, let’s get on the short stories I’ve enjoyed on the Internet.

    “Recordings of a More Personal Nature” by Bogi Takács: This story has been out there since 2013, but it’s only recently that I came across it and it’s certainly enjoyable. Takács employs a very gentle and straightforward style to bring to life a society which uses a magical version of the Internet* referred to as the Archive and asks the perilous question: What happens if the Archive can’t be accessed? It’s conceptually intriguing and also gets a slow clap for featuring numerous female characters in positions of power. Even to this day, I catch myself in gleeful surprise when I see gender imbalance in favor of women, which means we need more stories like this until such a disproportion doesn’t stick out.

    “Simon Says” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: It’s inherently dangerous to use a very popular name of a game for your title, especially when it’s a childhood staple such as Simon Says**. That said, Hoffman has a talent to take a cultural reference and twist it into something dark and unsettling. The story deals with bizarre split personality disorder that gets more sinister by the line and the premise works really well with the short format. I had great fun reading this.

    “Mrs. Yaga” by Michael Wojcik: Baba Yaga is the rock-star in Slavic Folklore. You’ll find her under many names and depending on the region, she’d vary from benevolent figure to the bloodthirsty, merciless cannibal I love. Wojcik has chosen to present a mellow Baba Yaga in a small Canadian town, who has adopted a girl*** and leads a very peaceful life, only sending her adoptive daughter’s suitors on impossible quests. The juxtaposition between the modern and the folkloric made me tingle, especially given Wojcik’s decision to have both occupy the same physical space as distinct territories. I only wish this story kept closer to the darkness rather than go the PG-13 route.

    “Sexual Cannibalism” by Rahul Kanakia: I have a hard time introducing this story and that’s a good thing. Kanakia is seriously impressive in his literary approach in portraying the sexual journey of a boy into a mean alongside the sexual practices of the mantis, the latter of which bleeds into the plot to become the protagonist’s career. As the story progresses, more of the world emerges and it’s clear the story carries environmental science fiction themes. It’s a very slow, quiet and calculated story; much like the hunting technique of the mantis.

    BOOK PLUG:

    If you crave good short fiction, I highly recommend Angela Slatter’s collection “The Bitterwood Bible & Other Recountings”, which I recently reviewed for SF Signal. It’s a must-have on your shelf.
    __
    * The gross oversimplification is mind.
    ** Interestingly enough, I have played a version of this game as a child. It impresses me how easy it is for playground games to cross cultural borders with such ease.
    *** Coincidentally, Baba Yaga does have a daughter in folklore, so this take on the original is an interesting choice considering the girl’s backstory.

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  • Promotional Work

    Short Fiction You Need to Read [PART 3]

    Love to readReading short fiction has fallen a bit on the back burner as I’ve moved cities and my mind is all over the place, but I have managed to get my hands on five short stories that have caught my attention for various reason. Right now, I don’t have much in terms of diversity in venues, even though I aim for diverse stories by diverse writers. This will hopefully change once I’ve sufficient time to explore specific people I’m interested in reading and broaden the number of venues I frequent.

    OK, onto the newest batch ranked from good to mind-blowing. Links in the titles.

    “Dust” by Edward Ashton: This is an excellent example as to how you can personalize genre that’s been incredibly popular. Ashton doesn’t necessarily offer a groundbreaking concept – a world infested with nanos which dig into your skin and colonize your body. However, what he does is zero in on one person whose death is spelled out. Paired with the highly invasive second person point-of-view, the focus falls on the human aspect and the story reveals the internal struggle one goes through when faced with imminent death. Continue reading

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  • Life

    The Alien Nature of Discovering a New City

    Misty CityscapeI’ve been silent over here and there is a reason. I’ve made it public over on social media that I changed cities as of the end of September. As far as moving around in Bulgaria goes, this is as big and dramatic as it gets, because I left the sandy beaches of Varna to relocate on the other side of the country in Sofia. Living on my own doesn’t scare me as I’ve rented on my own in Varna, but living on my own in a new city adds a whole new dimension. It’s a clean start in more ways than one, because you have this incredible new frontier to discover (though not all my friends have a high opinion of Sofia).

    The general state of mind that prevails when living in a new city is displacement. I wake up in the morning with a sense of disorientation in the heart, even though I’m well aware where I’m staying. I don’t necessarily feel as though I’ve come to live here, even though I have enough material evidence to suggest otherwise. Rather I feel as though this is a vacation, that my time here will run out and I’ll go back home where I also left my work habits, because running on vacation time means that I have a hard time getting into working.

    No matter how hard I insist that Varna is not my home any more, it still is. There is a certain kind of safety in the familiarity of the layout, in the imperfect streets where you’re free to lose yourself in your mind, but your body could never betray you by taking a wrong turn, tripping over crooked pavement or stepping into a hole.

    For all its vastly superior size, Sofia feels small – confined to a small selection of streets and bus lines I’ve been on. Every new push against my boundaries comes as a great expedition, a calculated attack on the city’s mystery, where much planning and strategizing occurs before I’m most certain about where I’m going. Every bus ride requires precision and keen sense of observation as if the city is not a city, but something organic – a breathing labyrinth inclined on rearranging its intestine-streets to obfuscate itself, reliant on crowds to mask its transitions, fond of distracting you until you do make a wrong turn.

    There is a certain intensity in allowing the unfamiliar to imprint itself on your very being and it rivals all other experiences in life, especially if you’re resistant to change because it feels as though it can devour you. It’s all good though. I chose this and I’m following through with the transition to a different urban pulse. Once I find my own place, I’ll have the perfect anchor to ground me during my further exploration.

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  • Promotional Work

    Short Fiction You Need to Read [PART 2]

    Reading QuotesI’ve been mainly focused on Angela Slatter’s “The Bitterwood Bible & Other Recountings”, which is a prime example of short fiction done right. The collection weaves tales without an effort and Slatter successfully manages to open up her world in a way I’ve not seen a novel do before. It’s a great accomplishment and utilizes the format of inter-connected short stories very well. I’ll be reviewing the book for SF Signal soon, so you can expect to read that soon.

    Anyway, let’s move on to the short stories circulating around the web. Links are in the title.

    “Headache” by Julio Cortázar: This is the first translation in English and I think it’s done with great skill. The story in itself is slow and at time tedious to read, but that’s intentional as the way it’s told is in harmony of the painful experience of raising mancuspias – strange creatures that can inflict strange and insufferable conditions upon their caretakers. The story’s a descent into madness with a very powerful ending. Not for everyone. Not for a single reading.

    “The Rocketeer” by Rebecca Hodgkins: A quiet story focusing more about the human lives of those who take on the great frontier as space explorers and explorers. The story successfully gives you a throwback to Golden Age science fiction fascinated about space exploration and disenchants the same notion with the reality of those who chose this lifestyle and the circumstances behind their decision to take to space.

    “Rib” by Yukimi Ogawa: I adore this because it tackles some dark Japanese folklore and tells a rather disturbing story of bloody family politics, but Ogawa’s delivery and approach to dialogue reminds you of American suburbia. The disconnection and contrast between subject matter and style create a bizarre, but still enjoyable experience.

    “Crowd Control” by Gareth D. Jones, Aliette De Bodard, Nancy Fulda, Deborah Walker, John Murphy, and Sylvia Spruck Wrigley: It’s a short story experiment with six authors writing a segment following the minimal of guidelines and then stitching all fragments into a whole narratives. It’s clean, tight and explores science fiction through a relaxed plot lens. The plot threads come together seamlessly in the last segment. The whole story is a brilliant example of the virtues of collaborations and experimentation. I feel very satisfied having read this.

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  • Promotional Work

    Expect “The Language of Knives” at TOR.com in January

    I’ve been sitting on this announcement for what feels like an eternity, but cat’s out of the bag and boy, is it pleased about it. Here’s the skinny: Ann VanderMeer has bought my short story “The Language of Knives” for TOR.com scheduled to see the light of day on January 28th.

    This is the state of my soul at this moment.

    This is the state of my soul at this moment.

    It’s a milestone sale for a multiple of reasons the most obvious being that TOR.com has been a dream market and I didn’t actually believe I’d be able to sell anything there. Have you read the stories published there? Have you?! I’m trying to turn on my eloquence, but I’m failing at it miserably.

    Anyway, “The Language of Knives” is a special story. I wrote it feeling incredibly down and afraid about life in general and how I fit in it, but also feeling overcome by happiness for the events in my life that made it worth living. These conflicting emotions synergized in this tale that represents me in such a fundamental way. To be able to share something so personal on a stage this big leaves me flabbergasted and touched and excited.

    A great deal of my excitement is due to the fact that Sam Weber will illustrate the story and if you don’t know who Sam is – [LINK LOVE]. If I actually had the skill, I’d try to carve a path in illustration rather than writing, because visual arts stimulate my creativity like crazy, so to have someone as skilled and distinguished is another dream come true.

    The best part is that pretty soon I’ll also see dear friends with stories in TOR.com, including Nino Cipri, Tamara Vardomskaya and Noah Keller – all super talented people.

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  • Promotional Work

    I Interview Jonathan Wood at SF Signal

    Hello everybody. It’s a great day today, because my friend Jonathan Wood celebrates the release day of his book YESTERDAY’S HERO [BUY NOW] and it deserves much love, because it’s incredibly funny. Jonathan is a darling person. I mean he has written about a zombie T-Rex and people made of books turning into giant tree. It’s weird, it’s brilliant.

    I had the utmost pleasure of interviewing Jonathan at SF Signal [LINK LOVE] and it was a pleasure. Just look at some of the exchange we had:

    HM: Writers are always told to kill their darlings. Considering the levels of (good) insanity inYesterday’s Hero, was there a scene that was too over-the-top that needed to be chopped?

    JW: I can’t think of any scene in Yesterday’s Hero that needed to be cut in its entirety. Some lines and gags die along the way, but you learn to live with it. That said, in the third book, Anti-Hero, I did actually cut a bit from the opening action scene just so that the action had places to escalate to later in the book. Apparently dropping a satellite out of orbit on the characters in the second chapter on was a little over the top…

    Why are you not reading already?

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  • Promotional Work

    Short Fiction You Need to Read [PART 1]

    Reading Good FictionI adore short fiction. There’s something incredible in its brevity that focuses on a flash of an emotion. When done right, you’re subjected to a flash fire of intensity, captured by powerful language. I’ve been a great fan of anthologies and collections, but am only stretching to the wonderful short fiction available online.

    I’ve also decided to signal boost when possible of all the great stories I encounter, which won’t be that many, since I’m a slow reader, but here are the stories that have excited me recently. Links are in the titles:

    “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap: This one is gorgeous story that tackles one of my favorite mythological creatures from Japanese folklore – the kappa. It’s incredibly quiet and therein lies its power.

    “Anna Saves Them All” by Seth Dickinson: Aliens coming to annihilate Earth, but done right with the slow revelation of a horrendous backstory that takes your breath at the end. This is how writing should be – with a punch.

    “No Sweeter Art” by Tony Pi: Ancient China, assassination attempt, the Zodiac spirits and a magic based on animating caramel sculptures. It’s incredibly imaginative and magical. Tony Pi has an effortless style that takes you to the end in a heartbeat.

    I suggest you check all of these wonderful people.

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  • What Clarion Means to a Minority Writer

    This year I experienced the most transformative event in my life – I attended Clarion UCSD, the writer’s workshop that changed me in ways I didn’t imagine. For those who are not in the know about Clarion, it’s an writers’ workshop in San Diego that lasts for six weeks. I liken it to a Battle Royale for writers where everyone walks away as a winner, if a bit unhinged after all the writing, reading and critiquing. Gregory Frost, who helmed the first week, described it as an ‘MFA in six weeks’ and it’s an apt comparison. Continue reading

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  • In Which I Have Sold Some Stories

    Clarion is behind me, although I find it hard to believe that I am back in the real world even after a week in Bulgaria. I promise to write about the workshop, but I need more time to sit down and internalize what happened, because I have never been a part of a workshop and as some of you may know Clarion distorts time in peculiar ways. I’ll try to write up my surreal experience working and living with another seventeen writers later in the week. Continue reading

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  • Progress & Milestones

    [Clarion Campaign Update] Visa and Rewards

    A short update.

    I have successfully passed the visa interview, which means that I will be going to Clarion with a 100% certainty. On Facebook, I’ve been giving steady updates on my progress, but I wanted to write something a bit more permanent. With the plane tickets bought and the visa secured, I can now say for sure that the whole endeavor has been a huge success.

    I haven’t sent off the rewards until I was certain I would go, because if I didn’t get a visa then I would have to return all the donations. Thankfully, it didn’t come to this and today I sent off a ‘thank you’ email along with rewards to most of the backers. If you haven’t received this email, then please be a bit more patient, because I’m waiting on the publishers to provide me with access to the digital copies.

    I imagine I should have all rewards sent by the middle of next week. I will write an update as soon as I have completed the task.

    Thank you for your patience.

    And this has been me for since I got my visa:

    Tangled

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