Avatar, Inc. / XPRIZE
(edited by Ann VanderMeer)
I’m 11,000 meters below the surface of the South Pacific Ocean and sinking fast. I’ve lost visual and radio signal of the vessel Odysseus and now I am alone. No drone or human-powered submersible has ever successfully gone this deep and returned.
The legend of Flashlight Man began in the upper Midwestern United States, grounded in rural areas. A variation on mirror summoning, it went like this: you lie on your back in bed, your face turned toward the nearest wall, then shut your eyes and whisper, “Flashlight Man, Flashlight Man, comes with a click, see me if you can.”
Trust In the Law, For the Law Trusts In You
(The Lawless #1)
It’s the seventy-sixth mass shooting this year, on May 15th, just a block from your school, in a fast food restaurant. Sixteen dead. The panic surges hot and fierce in your throat as tweets flood your timeline.
Believe In the Law, For the Law Is All
(The Lawless #2)
I’m having an identity crisis, so I keep smiling. Nothing else matters but this perfect facade. My husband talks to work associates, so I keep my arm twined about his, my gaze submissive, and I laugh when he makes a joke.
The Law Is the Plan, and the Plan Is Death
(The Lawless #3)
The world is ending one deleted profile at a time and there’s nothing you can do about it. Just as you’re about to fine an account for taking the Lord’s name in vain, it vanishes with an error message: PROFILE NOT FOUND.
This Cold Red Dust
MY BATTERY IS LOW AND IT IS GETTING DARK
(edited by Crystal Sarakas &
So…we’re leaving in three days, Finn. Dad says this will be the last authorized shuttle, so it’s “now or never” like this is time-travel or some shit. It’s not. Once everyone is gone, the government is putting Mars on lockdown, I guess, so no entrepreneurs can try and fix the environmental damage or try again.
Bring the Bones That Sing
Whether the Earth, the Air, or the Void — (Frozen Wavelets)
Batteries for Your Doombot5000 Not Included [reprint] — (Cossmass Infinities)
Two Reflections At Midnight [reprint] — (Frozen Wavelets)
A People’s Future of the United States
(ed. by Victor LaVelle and John Joseph Adams)
You are due for your mandatory Citizen Medical Evaluation in three days. Call your authorized health service center to schedule an appointment. Late responses will be fined and your record will show you are resistant to becoming an Ideal Citizen.
Once there were nine Suns.
Seven remained gods.
The eighth was eaten.
The ninth had no form and no name, and must be forgotten.
The Judith Plague
Do Not Go Quietly
Apex Press, May 2019
Dead androids don’t make headlines nowadays, if the murder is even reported. Do you send a press release for when you trade in your old beater stick-shift? Do reporters cover the daily grind at the scrapyard, machines crushing old metal? Do you hold a funeral for used up batteries?
Through Dark and Clearest Glass
Unlocking the Magic
In their dream, Azyae stands on a rocky precipice overlooking the sea. The waves mirror the sky: choppy-gray, sharp-edged.
“It’s cold,” Azyae says, tasting salt. The sea is rising. “It’s dark.”
“Not for long,” the ghost says.
The girl has no name. As often as internet forums try to dub one for her, nothing ever sticks. One week there will be a consensus for a name befitting a drowned girl, an agglomeration of classic and cult horror tropes of long-haired, white-dressed dead women, and soon after there is no trace of what it was.
Twitter / Strange Horizons (2019 fundraiser)
You’re not alive just now, wrapped in soil and silence. The ground holds you through this current death, while you quietly rage. Let me go! you tell the ground. I don’t want to be here.
This time, you broke when you leapt from a precipice and your paper wings failed. You were trying to touch the stars.
Disabled People Destry SF! Uncanny Magazine September/October 2018
Kaityn Falk loves the dark phase of the moon. It’s quiet. Soothing. Insulated in their spacesuit, comm dimmed, Kaityn sits in the rover and watches the sky. Here on Io 7, a newly discovered satellite in retrograde orbit[…], they are the only living human in several thousand lightyears.
Sword and Sonnet
(Ate Bit Bear)
Prince Aretas, son of the Ever-Hungry Queen, had gone into the forest.
Yarchuse knew the truth even before ae coaxed the story from the prince’s boot prints bruising dry earth. Ae shivered, hand splayed above the trail.
w/ Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
Uncanny Dinosaur Issue July/August 2018
When I decided to study paleontology in college and graduate school, it was because the world of bones is silent. It was because the words that a dinosaur speaks are words that can be interpreted by brushes and metal picks, by observing curvature and decomposition, by noticing whether a skeleton was found in a tar pit or under a sand dune.
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
It’s the last day of autumn, and Jiteh’s twin brother is dead.
He sits on the edge of his cot, thorns popping like seedlings from between his knuckles and poking through his sweaty scalp in a blood-slicked crown. “I’m scared,” he whispers.
Angelcorpse, Angelcorpse, bones hollowed and so slight; Angelcorpse, Angelcorpse, you ate the marrow bright. Boiled down your wings and sawed away your teeth; plucked your feathers softly and made yourself a wreath. Why do this, darling Angelcorpse? Why mutilate you so? Is it for another’s sight or is it for your woe? Angelcorpse, Angelcorpse, you opened up your wrists; Angelcorpse, Angelcorpse, you thought the end was bliss.
w/ Ada Hoffmann
In the Principality there rule the Seven Suns. Armored gods, they marched through the universe eons ago, wreathed in subjected angels, and left footprints of conquest on galaxies. They dragged beneath them the corpse-heat from a billion burning worlds.
The sixth Sun, the Gray Sun, is a god of silence.
“Your purpose is to eat the sun,” says Prophecy, “at the end of all things.”
“And until then?” Wolf asks, sitting patiently among the roots of the forest while dwarves forge unbreakable chains. Wolf does not want their limbs bound or their jaws muzzled, but Prophecy has told them this is also their purpose. “What do I do?”
Six-year-old Violet Wellington was the only child to come out of the swamp. The boys were gone forever. She sat on the side of a muddied dirt road, digging her nails raw against the gravel; her jeans and pink t-shirt were damp but clean. She had a scrape over her left eyebrow and her hair smelled of mildew. Unharmed, otherwise.
Yet So Vain Is Man
Galaxy’s Edge, September 2018.
it me, ur smol
Lightspeed Magazine December 2017
Your name is Alex and you live in a small town at the edge of the sea. You have a sister and two parents and no pets.
In your town, everyone follows their destiny: They cross the street, cook endless meals, stand in the same room, deliver the same mail every day. You can’t remember most of their names. It’s the way it’s always been.
The ship dies in orbit above an abandoned world.
Kitshan curses. Metal bones shudder around him as the last of the ship’s breath is sucked into vacuum. His skill at the helm and hasty patch jobs have kept the engines together, but luck is scarce out here, and his is gone. The ship is unminded. Lifeless metal, basic programming, and manual flight operations.
Two Reflections At Midnight
Gamut Magazine # 9 September 2017
First, you’ll have to build a gibbet.
They were all burned under the Act of Recommitment fifty years ago, when capital punishment was outlawed in favor of MindCleanse procedures. There’s an old crossroads a few miles south of the dusty remains of a town that once had a name. It doesn’t anymore. Build your gibbet there.
The text pings her mech’s computer out of nowhere. Victory is ours.
Holst lowers her railguns, steps back from the blown-apart husks of the birdshells. Can’t wipe the cracked viewscreen clean or the streaks of blood dried onto the rivets. Her lungs burn. For years, she’s felt like she’s suffocating—no oxygen left, just smoke and dust. All around her, on the desert’s edge, there’s nothing but sand and corpses. Mech, human, ghost.
The Death of All Things (Zombies Need Brains Press)
The first thing he remembers: cold water, silted and salty. Weeds in his mouth, a clay bank under his hands. Crocodiles. Yes, he knows the crocodiles and that the great beasts should have eaten him.
The second: a knife against his spine. Blade pressed into skin as he retches water.
Fathoms Deep and Fathoms Cold
(Zombies Need Brains Press)
(reprinted in PodCastle, July 2019)
Tage lights a cigarette and watches the man in the scarlet fedora come nearer. Hat like that’s hard to miss. This one’s his contact. His heartbeat gets quick. The docks are loud, briny, thick with bodies. Storms scrape the horizon, kick up sharp winds. He can’t show desperation. It’ll get him killed or left stranded. Same difference.
It’s near dusk when VanDrake Tage Rannheim trudges into the city to meet a friend. He sticks to the lee of buildings, smog and shadow wrapping his coat. Don’t like a lot of attention. Can’t help it, mostly, but he keeps his greatcoat pulled closed to conceal weapons. Ain’t wiped the mud off the back sigil, either.
(reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine and Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, ed by N.K. Jemisin & John Joseph Adams)
[The universe] uncurls in waves and song fractals that make up the subatomic fabric of space-time. Melodies of energy sweep her up and spin her into a thousand voices. Colors not yet named and not yet seen paint her mind with joy.
The Best Of Uncanny,
Subterranean Press, 2019)
Your sister has too–large hands and too many teeth. Not in a sense that her gums are crowded or her fingers are long and she might have a career as a concert pianist. No, her hands are massive, thick–boned, tipped in wickedly sharp claws that shine like pearls. And her mouth—well. Her mouth is normal–sized, but it has so many, many teeth.
Lightspeed Magazine February 2017
Avabug’s Netjournal—[friends-only] hospital update—5/17/29
Still in the hospital. Radiation burns suck. Mom came to see me, though, which was nice. She probably had to argue with that dick of a boss she works for to let her off early. You’d think since I nearly died because superheroes were fighting above my school that I’d get some sort of benefits or medical insurance, but noooo.
Her skin smells of crushed pearls, dried salt, silver fish scales woven into unfinished memories. Her eyes are sculpted starlight, holding the sadness of death a million years ago and a million yet to come.
When she holds out her hand, I turn and run. The sand has turned to glass and my heels crack the shore in tiny percussions like the breaking of my hearts.
(reprinted in Wilde Stories 2017, ed by Steve Berman, Lethe Press, 2017)
People call him the Gentleman of Chaos, but he is not gentle.
By popular count, he’s assassinated thirteen kings, seventy-two princes, one thousand nobles, and five queens.
By popular legend, he’s immortal, a god of commoners, a death-demon summoned to feed on corruption, a shadow that devours the unjust.
The mountain dreams pain. Cold iron vibrates purple-blue deep in the stone while tongues made from rot and rust bite and gnaw and hunger ever deeper. The dam, buried like a tooth in the mountain’s narrow gums, holds back the great burgundy ocean. Otherwise it would pour into the Agate Pass valley and swallow up the mining town at the mountain’s toes.
(reprinted in Escape Pod, Feburary 2018)
Byron scribbled crib notes on his wrist the night before he planned to come out to his dads.
He’d told all his friends he was sick so he would have an excuse to stay home Friday night. It wasn’t like he was lying.
(Nebula Awards finalist, 2017; audtio reprint at PodCastle in April 2016; reprinted in Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction, ed. Bogi Takács (Lethe Press 2017)
(reprinted in Boing Boing; audio reprint in Escape Pod, Feburary 2016)
Unit EX-702 comes back online when UV wavelengths activate its solar plating. Its optics are crusted with red dust; a low-powered system scan concludes that though its left arm is missing and there is excessive oxidation damage along its chassis and helmet, as well as a web spun from several arachnids (Nephila clavipes) now embedded in its servo stump, EX-702 is functional.
Or Be Forever Fallen
InterGalactic Medicine Show February 2016
(audio reprint at PodCastle, January 2017)
The raven’s ghost follows first. It’s not a surprise, if I’m honest. I killed a raven once —intentional, cruel — some time ago. (I don’t remember why.) At first I saw it in the distance while I prowled the ruins of the once-majestic forest, hunting the men who robbed me. Yet the ghost never approached until now.
For Want of a Heart
Absolute Power: Tales of Queer Villainy
Glossy. That’s Mirdonna. Glossy: from the tips of her supple thigh-high leather boots with heels as thin and sharp as cobra fangs, to the deep orange corset laced with ivory threads. Her eyes are painted radiant poison-green. It’s her smile, though, that captures everyone’s attention. Her thick lips are glazed in brilliant umber; the tip of a red tongue pokes between her teeth.
“If I asked,” she murmurs, her voice like molten honey, “would you give me your heart?”
Under Wine-Bright Seas
The stranger from the sea had skin painted with maps, inked in all the colors known and unknown to the naked eye. When the guards brought him from the shore, he asked to speak with me.
Daily Science Fiction
(reprinted in Love Hurts, ed. Tricia Reeks (Meercat Press); audio reprint in Far Fetched Fables)
Wrought iron fences loop around the gardens: six deep, the outer three progressively higher, more elaborate, and with more spikes atop, while the inner three create a mirror effect. Say you make it over all six fences without impaling yourself or falling or getting trapped between iron bars that suddenly constrict or twist or move. Say you avoid the fourth fence, the electric one, or the second one with the poisoned varnish, or the sixth one with a taste for blood.
(audio reprint in PodCastle, October 2015; reprinted in Transcendent : The Best Transgender Fiction 2016, ed. K. M. Szpara (Lethe Press)
Once upon a time there was a girl named Red, but since this isn’t a fairytale, that’s a stupid way to begin.
Start here: You’re sitting with your girlfriend Ashley after dance practice and she says,
“They won’t let me join the girls’ dance team.”
(reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine, July 2016)
The reality I was born in ceased to exist when I was three years old. So Mama and I moved to a different reality.
We moved a lot, actually.
(reprinted in Wilde Stories 2016: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, ed. Steve Berman, Lethe Press, 2016)
When Grace opens his newly crafted eye, the first thing he sees is wire. Thick cords of braided wire snaking like old veins up the walls. It’s dim inside the surgical unit, but for all the black metal and mesh shelves, it feels clean, even in the heat. The air still has the unfamiliar taste of crude oil.
(reprinted in Cosmic Powers, ed. by John Joseph Adams, April 2017)
Wolflord (title): nomadic, nameless survivors of destroyed warships; those who did not accept ritual immolation during the Decommission. No allegiance to the Principality; outlaws. The antiquated title is self-taken from the first deserter, whose name and memory were erased upon execution; precise origin unknown.
Flash Fiction Online,
I miss you.
I miss the feel of your scales, the coarseness of your fur, the tease of your claws, the scrape of your fangs against my skin.
At night, I dream we’re still together: in your castle, in your coffin, in your dark lake waters. Just us, without the world to judge. I dream you were not taken from me.
Daily Science Fiction,
Benjamin sat on the sidewalk with his favorite dinosaur book, the one about Velociraptors. Up in the sky, the clouds of silver nanobots flew higher and higher until he couldn’t see them anymore. It was very quiet now. Benjamin held his book tight so it wouldn’t get lost or eaten up, and looked around for Daddy.
Scigentasy, March 2014
(audio reprint in GlitterShip, April 2015; reprinted in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015 (ed. Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams); reprinted in Cicada, Sep./Oct. 2016; reprinted in Issue 100 of Lightspeed Magazine, September 2018; reprinted in So You Want To Be A Robot: 21 Stories, Lethe Press 2017)
One of the girls has been made into a doe again. Laughing wolves chase her through the palace halls, and you turn your face away as they pull her down. (They always do.) She screams with a human voice. You cannot help her; bite-scars cuff your wrists from when you tried before.
“Come join us, trinket?” one wolf asks.
Ideomancer, December 2013
Silver Blade, December 2012 – March 2013.
With the Sun and the Moon in His Eyes
Ride the Moon, Tyche Books, February 2012
(reprinted in Blood Iris 2012, October, 2012)
And the Teeth
The Red Penny Papers, December 2010
One With the Monsters
New Fables, Summer 2010
Nossa Morte, November 2009