Recognize Fascism, edited by Crystal M. Huff

Book Cover for The Death of All Things

The Death of All Things, edited by Laura Anne Gilman and Kat Richardson


Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, edited by R. B. Lemberg and Lisa M. Bradley

“Drain on Society” and Disability

My short story, “Drain on Society”, will be appearing in the We Cryptids anthology that releases this autumn and I wanted to say a few things about it.

First of all, this story would not exist without the influence of original World of Darkness writer Bruce Baugh. Their take on the effects of vampirism in the WoD are heavily influenced by disability, and we had a wonderful conversation on Twitter about it a while back that went into the deep stew in my brain. They talked about how much time and effort a WoD vampire spends on just maintaining unlife, how much orbits around seeing basic needs for food and security met.

When I saw the call for We Cryptids, with its comments about how marginalized people often see themselves in the monsters and the creatures that exist around the edges of folklore, I eventually settled on writing about a vampire.

Because one of the things that people with various disabilities have to deal with routinely is being told that our existence is a drain on society, that we take up more than our fair share of resources, that we demand too much of others. And that’s the sort of thing that’s easy to allegorize into an actual, literal vampire.

A vampire like my character Pat.

I gave Pat my symptoms.

In me, those symptoms are of a couple of different things, but they add up rather nicely to a plausible vampirism: the light sensitivity, the off-kilter sleep cycle, the way my brain shuts down if I don’t get enough rare red meat, weird food sensitivities, the fatigue, the sensory issues, the cognitive dysfunction and brain fog.

What’s it like being a vampire who takes pills instead of risking being a ‘drain on society’ by actually biting people?

Pat’s symptoms (medicated) are my symptoms (unmedicated).

And then I threw in a bit of the cultural rhetoric about strong painkillers and attached it to blood feeding, just to add a cherry on top.

“Drain on Society” is the story of a cranky vampire finding someone who is willing to laugh at their vampire jokes and even make some back, and maybe learning that their existence isn’t, intrinsically, a drag on everyone around them.

Nerds of a Feather Interview for Recognize Fascism

Woops I’m running a week late, but the Recognize Fascism authors did a roundtable interview at Nerds of a Feather, so anyone who wants to know a bit more about everyone and our stories should go check that out.

Climbing Lightly Through Forests is out today!

Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin is officially out today, under the care of editors Lisa M. Bradley and R. B. Lemberg.

When I heard that this anthology was going to happen, I sat down and tried to write something about what Ursula K. Le Guin was to me, and the whole process of becoming who I am and the groundwork laid for my sense of self. I cannot really claim her as a literary ancestor, I don’t think; I cannot see her touch in my prose. But I cannot escape my sense of her as being essential to my understanding of myself as a human.

The result of that introspection was my poem, “Of Winter and Other Seasons”, which is a meditation on gender, neurodivergence, and identity, which is deeply engaged with a number of Le Guin’s works for the cadence of its imagery. As you might guess it owes a great deal to The Left Hand of Darkness, but that is only where it starts.

Anyway. Poetry. As of today I’m a published poet; how startling that is.

Recognize Fascism Crowdcast

Hey folks, so Porter Square Books is hosting a Recognize Fascism panel on Crowdcast tomorrow, Friday 22 January, at 7pm in Eastern timezone (UTC -5).

Event info and signup here.

Storm Constantine 1956-2021

I learned today that yesterday Storm Constantine, author of quite a few books (including one I edited) and owner of Immanion/Megalithica, departed for the beautiful West. (As I know she did a lot of Egyptian-based stuff I will euphemize her departure in traditional fashion, damnit.)

I’m quietly and thoroughly stunned, today. She was a good grandboss and a pleasant correspondent and working with her on Sekhem Heka was an entirely joyous experience. While I haven’t done anything new with the company for a number of years, I have always thought of her quite fondly.

An ancient Egyptian prayer for the departed:

A thousand of bread
A thousand of beer
A thousand of every good thing
May she ascend!

Non-Binary Author Roundtable at the Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy

I was one of the folks who participated in the nonbinary authors “Read the Room” discussion hosted by Arina of The Bookwyrm’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is now up in four gorgeously coded parts:

Read the Room – Non-Binary Writers on The Future of Science-Fiction

We talked about our influences, about favorite books, about our history and presence in the SFF community, about approaches to gender and how it plays out in science fiction in specific, about history, community, and art, and, you know, all those things that people talk about, and Arina went through and put in hyperlinks to everyone’s books and a bunch of our side topics. (I did not imagine when I said “autigender” that there’d be a link to a definition page for that when I said it, for example!)

Anyway, that was a fabulous thing to participate in and I hope people have a good time reading it.

Awards Eligibility and Also I Have Been Terribly Lax

I just realized that I failed to note here that Recognize Fascism is out as of something like a month and a half ago. I shouted about it everywhere else but not in my Official Author Space, whoops. If anyone knows where I can get an executive function on the cheap I think I need a new one.

World Weaver Press has a number of links to fine book purveyors such that you can obtain your own. It’s a lovely anthology and I’m proud to be included in it.

And since I might as well roll it into this, “The Company Store”, my story in that anthology, is my one publication this year and thus my only thing eligible for possible nominations.

Go to the Mirror, Boy! – Rory, More Personally

Fascism is isolating.

It feeds on isolation, and it exploits it.

I have seen so many exhortations from people on the ground: get to know your neighbors. Know who will help you, and who will hurt you. Join together. Take collective action. Who would hide you in the basement, if you needed to hide? Who will pass you twenty bucks to make rent, to get away, to get a meal?

Whose streets? Our streets.

We save us.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

At the same time, I’ve read so many articles about the radicalisation path into fascism – about isolated, usually young, usually white, usually men, seeking community and being convinced that that community is under threat from the Other. That isolation provides a hook, only for those people instead of being a way of cutting them from the herd and tearing them apart, it’s an invitation to join the pack.

Those guys have the right culture fit to devour the world apocalyptically, and hey, it’s a place to fit in.

Hold that thought for a moment, now.

Another thread: I almost never see people like me in stories.

When I read Geometries of Belonging I sobbed for hours, because I had never in my life been so seen by a text I read, had never been in the head of a character whose texture was so familiar. I am not Parét, not remotely, but Parét was the most of me I had ever met in someone else’s words, and I suddenly knew what it was to have representation, and I will forever be grateful to R. B. Lemberg for that.

There is something deeply, profoundly isolating about never encountering that intimate familiar. I have read so many stories about alien people with unfamiliar textures and it is, perhaps, why I can only write speculative: there is so much alien, so much unfamiliar, so much of the strange in what I see, that I do not know that I could write otherwise, without that twist of the peculiar to make you forgive me for my otherness, for my solitude.

It is very easy to be alone in a neurodivergent mind, to be constantly caught on the chasms between me and you, whoever you are. It is very easy to be alone when prone to dissociation, to having a camera eye perspective on one’s own life, too.

It is very easy to be alone, and that means it is very easy to be afraid in times like these, when survival depends on being not alone.

(And I am lucky; I have a family, I have certain securities, I have the privilege of my whiteness, I have so many things that so many people don’t have, and so I have less fear than I might if things were different. And I am still afraid.)

But here is a secret about Rory: I wrote this bit about Rory to ask you to see me, to see people like me – to be less alone. I wrote Rory, and now you get to read “The Company Store” when Recognizing Fascism comes out, and we will see how I am doing at getting to know my broader neighbors.

(I’m really kind of bad at this.)

Now that my video recitation is up on the Kickstarter, maybe the next bit should go after you see the video, dear readers, if you are inclined to do so. I’m trying not to say much directly about the story than you can get from the excerpt, but I may miss that mark.

Continue reading Go to the Mirror, Boy! – Rory, More Personally

Rory’s Cyberpunk Dystopia

“The Company Store” is not the first one of Rory’s stories I wrote, even though it is first chronologically. The first one I wrote begins with a bouncer at a speakeasy.

I love that bouncer. I don’t know her story. I know that her “wheelchair” has robot legs because the speakeasy where she works isn’t ramp-accessible, but her four-legged chair can make it up and down the stairs just fine. She has the security cameras patched into cybernetic lenses that make her look like she has multiple eyes, and she has an extra pair of cybernetic arms – and just to nail down the image of the spider, as she sits in her lair in the entry to the speakeasy, those robot arms are quite occupied with her knitting.

I adore that terrifying Madam Defarge of a woman. I love what she says about that world, about that underworld. She is powerful, she is respected, and she is, by standards common to the overworld, monstrous.

A lot of cyberpunk explores what it is to be human, one way or another, and I don’t think Rory’s world is any different. But instead of this sense that the machines make one less human, that I’ve seen done a lot, I wanted to dig in, more fully, into the idea that this technology can make people more themselves, bring themselves into line with what and who they want to be. My spider lady bouncer doesn’t think she’s less of a person because of her augmentations any more than she thinks she’s less of a person because she’s not ambulatory.

The problem is, the world above thinks both things. If there’s a reasonable extrapolation that would let the spider lady exist, there’s also a reasonable extrapolation that would lead to the overworld, the corporate-controlled world, being horrified that she exists.

She’s not a good “culture fit”, right?

When I started writing Rory’s world, I spent a lot of time thinking about plausible futures. I thought about the trend towards corporate consolidation, about the big tech companies who say things like “Oh, here’s a cafeteria so you don’t need to leave work” and “Here’s a ping-pong table so you can take a break and have fun without leaving your office” and “Here’s an apartment so you don’t have to have a home.” And I thought about cybernetics and genetic engineering and how would corporations that are already large enough to be more or less extralegal get their hands on those things.

Who gets to be human – who’s considered real people – is one of those questions that cyberpunk worlds often consider. Blade Runner‘s replicants: real people or no? In the Shadowrun game and some other fictional worlds, adding cybernetics to a body is considered to make those bodies less human in some ineffable way, to cost some sort of essence or soul, because deviation from the template of an abled, unmodified body is becoming less than fully human.

And that, right there, is a fascist model. There is a perfected body, and it is abled, it is cis, it conforms to the standard. It does not have aftermarket addons. It’s not a huge leap to get from there to that perfected body being white, or male; those are common additional steps, after all. Perfected bodies perform heterosexually, attend approved activities, eschew disapproved ones. Perfected bodies have Good Culture Fit, and can advance in the Company. The ethos of cybernetics as degrading to human essence meshes so perfectly with corporatist fascism.

The imperfectable body, defined as less than human, is at risk. It must adhere more closely to establishing Good Culture Fit, lest it become unemployable, or worse. Once there is an established, secure underclass to which one fears descending – or which one fears, like the replicants – it is possible to tighten that grip and make the standards of purity more and more stringent.

I am talking about Rory’s world, and I am talking about my own.

Who counts as human? Who is inescapably, overtly marked?

Who only counts as human as long as the mask stays on?

All of these questions were already in my mind, and in my sense of the world, when I started writing “The Company Store”.

Announcement: “The Company Store” will be published in Recognizing Fascism

The first chronological Rory story will appear in Recognizing Fascism! (Not the first one written, but also to be fair the first one sold.)

I will probably have more to say about Rory and that world over the next little while, but right now I wanted to say that the Kickstarter for the book is live and people can now do pre-orders of what looks like it will be an amazing book.

I am excited and terrified.