A Couple More Snippets About “The New Mother”

The next issue of Asimov’s is out now, so I don’t expect many more reviews of the April/May issue to appear. There were a couple of things that popped up right at the end of my issue’s shelf life, though.

At io9, K. Tempest Bradford named it one of the best stories of the week, writing that the story avoids preachiness while exploring what it means to be human.

At Black Gate magazine, a Gabe Dybing left a comment on the post about the issues to say of “The New Mother,”

It blew me away! It follows a scifi precept (was it Asimov’s?) that only one thing about the natural world shall be altered. In this case it was that women start spontaneously fertilizing their own eggs. Fischer’s exploration of these ramifications was amazing! I expect to see that on some awards lists.

Thanks for talking about my story, you two!


Monica Douglas came to visit Sandy because there was a crisis in her life. She had married a scientist and in one of her fits of anger had thrown a live coal at his sister. Whereupon the scientist demanded a separation, once and for all.

“I’m not much good at that sort of problem,” said Sandy. But Monica had not thought that she would be able to help much, for she knew Sandy of old, and persons known of old can never be of much help. So they fell to talking of Miss Brodie.

–from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Me on the NerdCast with Andres Alvarez

Dre was kind enough to have me on the inaugural episode of his relaunched NerdCast podcast to discuss “The New Mother.” It was a long conversation that Dre has extensively annotated. Here’s the video:

“We’re not the bad guys,” Li Zhao said. “Well, not the worst guys. Work with us. Keep a few rich people honest. Scare some good behavior into the wicked. It’s honest work, as lying goes.”

–from Persona by Genevieve Valentine

Recommended Short Books by Women

Yesterday I asked the internet for recommendations of short books written by women, with no criterion for what constituted “short.” Here’s what people offered. Books I’ve already read are in bold. (Recommenders are in parentheses.)

  • Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red. (Carmen Machado)
  • Willa Cather, A Lost Lady. (Debbie Kennedy)
  • Willa Cather, My Antonia. (Sarah Boden)
  • Kate Chopin, The Awakening. (Rebecca Coffey, Krystal Rios)
  • Marguerite Duras, The Lover. (Diana Spechler, Josh Rhome)
  • George Eliot, Silas Marner. (Amy Parker)
  • Marian Engel, Bear. (Carmen Machado)
  • Louise Erdich, Love Medicine. (Maureen McHugh)
  • Elena Ferrante, Days of Abandonment. (Amy Parker)
  • Carolyn Forché, The Country Between Us. (Joseph Tomaras)
  • Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm. (Jed Hartman)
  • Carolyn Ives Gilman, Halfway Human. (Jeanne Griggs)
  • Nadine Gordimer, July’s People. (Maureen McHugh)
  • Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road. (Jed Hartman)
  • Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. (Amy Parker)
  • Rachel Ingall, Mrs. Caliban. (Carmen Machado)
  • Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House. (Rebecca Coffey, Amy Parker, Carmen Machado, Maureen McHugh)
  • Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived In The Castle. (Amy Parker, Maureen McHugh)
  • Tove Jansson, Tales from Moominvalley. (Jed Hartman)
  • Sesyle Joslin, The Spy Lady and the Muffin Man. (Jed Hartman)
  • Hitomi Kanehera, Snakes and Earrings. (Nick Mamatas)
  • Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy. (Valérie Savard)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven. (Patrice Sarath)
  • Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees. (Patrice Sarath)
  • Nella Larson, Quicksand. (Alea Adigwame)
  • Ursula Le Guin, Fish Soup. (Jed Hartman)
  • Ursula Le Guin, Very Far From Anywhere Else. (Jed Hartman)
  • Tanith Lee, Don’t Bite the Sun. (@Rwenchette)
  • Doris Lessing, Memoirs of a Survivor. (Maureen McHugh)
  • Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child. (Amy Parker, Rebecca Coffey)
  • Denise Levertov, Collected Earlier Poems. (Joseph Tomaras)
  • Bertie MacAvoy, Tea with the Black Dragon. (Dana Huber)
  • Katherine Mansfield, At The Bay. (Debbie Kennedy)
  • Katherine Mansfield, Prelude. (Debbie Kennedy)
  • Patricia McKillip, Stepping from the Shadows. (Jed Hartman)
  • Jane Mendelsohn, I Was Amelia Earhart. (Stephanie Feldman)
  • Naomi Mitchison, Travel Light. (Jackie Monkiewicz)
  • Katherine Faw Morris, Young God. (Nick Mamatas)
  • Toni Morrison, Sula. (Maureen McHugh)
  • Jenny Offill, The Dept. of Speculation. (Josh Rhome)
  • Yoko Ogawa, Revenge. (Alexandra Geraets, Joseph Tomaras)
  • Sharon Olds, The Cold Cell. (Jed Hartman)
  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea. (Valérie Savard)
  • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise. (Karen Meisner)
  • Joanna Russ, The Female Man. (Jed Hartman)
  • Ruth Sawyer, Roller Skates. (Jed Hartman)
  • Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. (Monica Byrne, Justin Cosner, Carmen Machado)
  • Cynthia Voigt, Dicey’s Song. (Jed Hartman)
  • Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome. (Amy Parker)
  • Kate Wilhelm, Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang. (Maureen McHugh)
  • Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry. (Jed Hartman)
  • Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse. (Amy Parker)
  • Margarite Yourcenar, Coup d’Grace. (Maureen McHugh)

I already own a copy of the most recommended book, The Haunting of Hill House, so that’s in the stack (as are several others). I think the first new one of these I’ll add is The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Reading at Malvern Books


The reading a week ago was fantastic. We had an audience of about 45 people, a table of Asimov’s issues and other books featuring Jessica Reisman’s fiction, and snacks provided by the bookstore. The room was full of strangers, friends, and strangers who I hope will become friends. By the time the reading started it was standing room only.

Jessica read first, with two pieces: an excerpt from her story “The Chambered Eye” in Rayguns Over Texas and all of “Boneshadow” from Phantom Drift. Then Janalyn Guo read a slipstream short story “Soft Breast Mechanism” from Birkensnake that had the crowd cackling with hilarious discomfort.  She was tough to follow. I went up last, and read the first three sections of “The New Mother.” To my delight, the audience laughed in all the right places. After, it was all signing and selling and shaking hands, and then a contingent of us made the trip to Spider House cafe down the street for some triumphal drinks. My thanks to Malvern for hosting us, and to everyone who came to the event.

Reading 2015: Interruption

It’s looking like this is going to be the month I fall behind on my reading resolution.  This is mostly due to good things; I’ll have news I’m ready to announce more widely soon that has me spending more time away from my library. I hope I’m able to take some time to make it up later, but I’ll be surprised if I manage eight books in April. (If you wanted to recommend some wonderful but short books for me to check out, especially ones written by women, that could be helpful.)

UPDATE: All the recommendations I got are here.

The assigned classroom was filled with murderously aggressive boys and rigid girls with animal eyes who threw spitballs, punched each other, snarled, whispered, and stared one another down. And shadowing all these gestures and movements were declarations of dominance, of territory, the swift, blind play of power and weakness.

Justine saw right away that she’d be at home.

–Mary Gaitskill, Two Girls, Fat and Thin

Reviews for “The New Mother” Roll In

Reviews for my novella are starting to appear, so who’s ready for some aggregation?

I think the very first person whom I didn’t already know to talk about the story online was Joseph Tomaras, who quoted several lines on twitter and ended by saying:

Other Twitter commenters included Bill Tyrell:

and this from user @shigeruhiko, who responded to me directly:

Responses outside of Twitter were led off by Lois Tilton for Locus Online, who wasn’t overly impressed. Impressing her is notoriously difficult.

Far more positive, though, was Amal El-Mohtar’s review for her column Rich and Strange, where she writes

I’m astounded by this story, by its elegant, thoughtful thoroughness: every character Tess encounters is fully formed, complex, no one of them limited to their narrative function. In a way reading this story is a master class in observing the manipulation of rhetoric: who, in this story, considers women with GDS to be human and who does not beautifully inflects their arguments to varying degrees—and seeing that rhetoric clash with arguments about fetus-personhood is completely fascinating.

But perhaps even more complimentary is the link from her personal site, where she says “I literally cannot think of a single way to improve this story.”

Jeanne Griggs, whom I met when we were seat neighbors at the ICFA banquet, later wrote about it at her site, saying “I never got the chance to embarrass myself in person with Eugene Fischer, although if I’d read his novella, The New Mother, I totally would have.”

Bob Blough, about whom I know nothing, had very nice things to say in his review at Tangent Online:

This is a particularly effective story with a SFnal idea embedded right in its beating heart. Each character is excellently rendered – some in but a few strokes – but all seem real and alive. I was – and still am – impressed.

Finally, I got a brief write up at sfrevu.com by Sam Tomaino–another stranger to me–which concludes that my novella is an “Interesting idea with possible implications well-handled.”

Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read and talk about “The New Mother.” I really appreciate it.

Leaving the Party Early

One of the more freeing realizations I’ve come to in adulthood is that I’m allowed to go home when I’m not having fun anymore. I lean introverted, and while I enjoy being around people there comes a point where enjoyment gives way to effort. That’s the very point, now, where I start to make my goodbyes. After years of sticking around for fear of missing out, I’ve become a habitual party leaver. Rather than persist in the hope that external forces will turn my mood around, I take ownership of my experience and call it quits as soon as I run out of social energy. My life has been much improved by this practice.

This past week I decided it was time to leave the hair party.

When I was young my hair was my favorite physical feature. It was dense and soft and I had a lot of it. In those early High School years of awkward longing and crippling anxiety, conspiring to have peers touch and marvel over my excellent hair was an important step towards having actual human contact in my life. But in my early twenties my hairline began a gradual retreat up my scalp, and by my mid twenties the crown of my head began to thin, noticeable if you were looking for it. I dealt with this by getting shorter and more sculpted haircuts and by not thinking about it too much, which carried me a good few years. But as my hairline receded from the corners of my forehead, the erosion fronts curled in to meet each other, leaving a poodle-puff island of bang hair it was increasingly impossible to make look non-ridiculous. Then, a stark Facebook vision: a picture from the most recent International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts in which I appear in the background, on the far side of a decorative lamp, facing away from the camera. Lit from above my bald spot glowed, alien as part of someone else’s body. I looked at that photograph and thought, “I’m not having fun anymore.”

I went in to my local Bird’s Babershop, sat in Susi’s chair, and told her she had free reign to experiment. She tried a few options, taking my hair off in layers, before finally deciding, “I think you’ll look best if we just go for a buzz cut.” Thus:


Response from everyone else has been fairly positive so far. Everyone, that is, save for my parents. My mother hates it, though loves me enough that she is trying gamely to pretend she doesn’t. And for my part, I’m still shocking myself whenever I see a reflection and trying to reconcile myself to a differently shaped head on top of my shadow, but am overall excited. A whole new look means whole new vectors for self expression and presentation. I get to experiment with different beard lengths to go with my cropped top. I’m learning my wardrobe anew–what works now, what doesn’t. And, since head sunburn is now a thing I have to concern myself with, my newest wardrobe addition is my first grownup hat.


I think this new party’s going to work out okay.

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