My Desk

I’m still getting my new apartment in Austin put together, but the office is starting to take shape, so I thought I’d share a little of what’s been keeping me away from the internet for so long. Here’s my new desk setup.


The desk itself is a steel juggernaut, six feet wide with three file drawers, two box drawers, and an item tray. Above, on the wall, a cluster of personally meaningful things. On the far left is a National Merit Scholarship certificate. Next to that, a column with a plaque of my high school diploma bearing the NESA seal. Below that a photo of my NESA creative writing class, and below that my Clarion class. On the far right is a sketch by Tom Siddell, author of my favorite webcomic. To the left of that there’s my Bachelor’s of Science degree from Trinity University, and a photo of me with my parents on the day I got it. The middle column has my Masters of Fine Arts diploma from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and in the center a print I inherited from my maternal grandparents, of Gerrit Dou’s “Der Schreibmeister – The Writing Master.”



I’m moving into a new apartment and don’t have internet access right now save for via the cellular network, but I spent all night on my phone scrolling through Twitter and marveling at each fresh outrage. If you aren’t following the #Ferguson hashtag right now, you are blind to the current state of American civil liberties. In brief: a police officer in Ferguson, MO murdered an unarmed Black teenager in front of witnesses, the department hid the shooter’s identity, the citizens gathered for protests and vigils, and the police declared a no-fly zone, brought out armored vehicles and snipers and tear gas, began arresting reporters and destroying cameras, and basically instituting martial law with no meaningful oversight. I’ll update this post with links and more information once I’m at a computer.

Update: And actually, by the time I’ve gotten to a computer, it turns out the situation has evolved so much and so rapidly that providing a full roundup would now be too big an undertaking. Fortunately, media outlets have also finally started following the story, so you no longer have to be on Twitter to see it.

Update 2: Nope, Twitter is still, a few days later, by far the best place for information. Follow the #Ferguson hashtag. And for a reasonable roundup, here’s John Oliver.

Changing the World Fantasy Award Trophy

The trophy for the World Fantasy Award is a bust of H. P. Lovecraft, a man who, it’s undeniable, was hugely influential on the body of fantastic literature. He was also an exceptionally hateful and unabashed racist. When Nnedi Okorafor won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2011, she wrote a thoughtful blog post about winning an award bearing the image of a man who, in life, would have detested her based on her skin. Since then, discussion of the propriety of having Lovecraft on the award statue has grown. Today Daniel José Older (who recently made a great video about why he doesn’t italicize Spanish words in his fiction) put up a petition to change the World Fantasy Award to a bust of Octavia Butler.

My initial response to this idea was excitement. Octavia Butler is among my favorite writers, and the author of my all-time favorite short story. She was also a woman of color who wrote about issues of race with as much nuance as anyone ever has. So with regard to addressing the things that make Lovecraft a troublesome figure to have on the statue, it’s hard to imagine anyone better. With regard to representing the fantasy genre, though, Butler is an odd choice. She almost never wrote it.

Butler published, by my count, 21 pieces of fiction during her life: 12 novels and 9 shorter works. Of those, there are only two that seem to me to be works of fantasy. Her short story “The Book of Martha” is clearly fantasy; the story is all about the titular character having a conversation with god about how to construct an utopia, given a Rawlsian veil of ignorance. The rest of her short works are all either science fiction or realism. Of her novels, the only one that is arguably fantasy is Kindred,1 in which the main character jumps through time between the 1970s and pre-Civil War United States, for no reason that is ever explained. (Daniel José Older obliquely references the book in his petition.) While this fantastic premise is perhaps enough to qualify it as a work fantasy, this book itself is far more concerned with investigating the social structures of slavery than it is with the fantastic element. The time travel, for all that it powers the plot, gets very little focus. And in terms of tropes and rhetorical structures, the novel has much more in common with historical fiction than it does fantasy. In bookstores I’ve seen it shelved in “literature” or “African American fiction” more often than I’ve seen it in “science fiction and fantasy.” So even if Kindred is fantasy, it’s not very representative, or in-genre influential fantasy, wonderful book though it is. And that still puts Butler’s fantasy output at less than 10% of her oeuvre.

It the choice is between Lovecraft and Butler for the World Fantasy Award, then obviously I’m on Team Butler. But if the choice instead is Lovecraft or Not Lovecraft, then I think I lean toward a different sort of Not Lovecraft: I’m on Team Nobody. Why does the award have to be a person? It isn’t named for a person, it’s named for a genre. No one–not Lovecraft, or Dunsany, or Tolkien–encapsulates an entire genre. I think I’m with Nick Mamatas, who proposed that the award be changed to something symbolic of fantasy. His suggestion was a chimera, which I like. In discussion on Twitter, Kurt Busiek spitballed the idea of a globe with fantastic maps, which could be nice too. The convention could have a design competition, like there is every year for the base of the Hugo award (the trophy for which, it’s worth noting, isn’t a bust of Hugo Gernsback). Doing so would undoubtedly produce a great, artistic design, and it would nicely unify a family of closely related awards: the Hugo is a rocket ship, the Nebula is astral bodies, and the World Fantasy Award would be… something fantastic.

  1. Fledgling has vampires in it, but treats them in a throughly science-fictional, biologically rigorous way. There’s nothing fantasy about it. 

Sale: “The New Mother” to Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine

It’s been a while since my last one of these announcements. Part of that is because I decided to take a break from submitting stories while I was in grad school, so I could focus entirely on being a student of writing. But grad school is well behind me now, and I’ve begun tentatively sending out my work again. Just as I was back in 2009, I’ve been fortunate to find an appreciative reader in Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams.

“The New Mother” was the heart of my masters thesis. It’s a novella about reproductive rights and motherhood in an alternate present where the spread of a new infectious condition throws established notions about them into question. I spent more time on  it than on any other piece of fiction I’ve yet written, taking it through revision after revision as I learned new things at Iowa. It’s been in my head and on my hard drive, in one form or another, for three years now. I’m thrilled that people are finally going to get to read it.

Pictures of Oklahoma City

Still road tripping back to San Antonio, where I’ll wait out the rest of my temporary homelessness before I can move into my new place in Austin. I spent yesterday in Oklahoma City, which, when the Spurs aren’t playing the Thunder, turns out to be a lovely town. Here are some pictures.