CTScanHere’s the relevant bit of the CT scan of my wrist. As the radiologist put it, “a mildly displaced intra-articular fracture involves the palmar aspect of the triquetrum.” The orthopedist explained that sometimes when a joint receives a sharp shock, the specific speed and angle can be such that a ligament, instead of tearing and resulting in a sprain, can break off a piece of bone. Apparently this is actually preferable, as bone-to-bone healing is less complicated than ligament-to-bone healing. I’m informed that, since the other bones in my hand are still lined up just fine, I don’t need surgery. The treatment for this is exactly what it would be for a sprain: keep wearing the wrist splint I’m already wearing for up to another four weeks.

Silence, Broken

You might have noticed I haven’t been posting here much lately. Short version: I got in a bicycle accident and broke my wrist. For the last two weeks my ability to type has been curtailed. It’s starting to feel better, though. Later today I’ll be meeting with an orthopedist to learn if I’m healing properly on my own or am going to require surgery on my hand.

Reading 2015: April


As predicted, I fell way behind on my reading goals in April. This was because I spent way more time watching television than I did in books. I’ve sold an option on the television rights for “The New Mother” to Plan B Entertainment, and since then have been giving myself a crash course in narrative tools that work on the screen, on the off chance I get to do some TV writing. Good news for me, bad news for my new year’s resolution. Perhaps I can catch back up over the months to come, though balancing writing time and reading time is a zero-sum game.

  1. Persona by Genevieve Valentine – Whereas her last novel was a fairytale retelling, Genevieve’s newest is a psychological action thriller about fashion, expectation, and international politics. Reading this, it occurred to me that Geneveive is sort of reclaiming the Heinleinian Competent Man archetype. She is writing Competent Women, whose superhuman adroitness isn’t grounded in the technical, but the interpersonal. The national Faces of Persona are people–mostly women–who can size up situations instantly, piece out the hidden motives behind every smile, and spin intricate strategy on the fly. Within their areas of expertise, these people are basically Batman. Persona made me even more excited to eventually read Genevieve’s ongoing run on Catwoman, and I look forward to the sequel that the end of this novel strongly implies.
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark – When I realized how badly I was going to fall behind schedule this month I decided to solicit a list of people’s favorite short books by women. I have no shortage of volumes of all different lengths by men on my shelves, but my selection of women’s work is narrower. (Hence the gender parity project.) The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was the most widely recommended book I didn’t already own. I thought it very good, but perhaps enjoyed it less than some of those who recommended it to me. Many of the folks I’ve told I was reading this have exclaimed, “Oh, I love The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie!” I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I thought it was psychologically incisive and structurally clever, using repetition in a manner similar to Catch-22, where scenes and exchanges recur verbatim but with ramifying meaning each time. But it is still my impression that it didn’t touch me as deeply as it has many. Do you love this book? I’d like to know what you love about it.
  3. Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan –A slim collection that I nonetheless took a long time to finish. My favorite story in here was “Monkey’s Paternoster,” a tale from the point of view of a monkey at an Indian temple as the group’s patriarch dies and is violently replaced. I also liked “Forever Upward,” in which a young girl rediscovers the techniques for speaking to old gods, gods that have been displaced by those of a colonizing group. Many of the others, though, I thought forgettable. Lanagan writes dark-toned, thick-voiced tales that explore their speculative premises from deeply embedded point of view. When all the elements are working the result is unforgettable–stories like “Singing my Sister Down” and “An Honest Day’s Work.” But other times her stories strike me more as B-sides or exercises. Never bad, but not memorably compelling. This collection had more of the latter than the former.
  4. The Lagoon by Lilli Carré –A lyric graphic novel with thick black art that reminded me at times of a less photorealistic Charles Burns. Three generations of a family live next to a lagoon where a creature lives and sings haunting songs. All three have vague relationships of sorts with the creature. Symbols and images stack atop one another, but don’t seem to add up to much. If there is a coherent metaphorical framework under this narrative, it was too deeply buried for me to find it. If someone wanted to propose a reading of what this story meant I’m sure I could be persuaded that they were right. But I enjoyed this only as a gnomic dreamscape, and my feeling is that finding coherent meaning in The Lagoon would take more effort than can be reasonably asked of a reader.

When I arrived home from school, my mother would be in the kitchen, preparing dinner. She employed the same energy with which she had once cleaned the house of her girlhood, stirring the pot, prodding the meat, peeling the potatoes with concentration and zeal. I hated the careful, exacting way she watched the food. I hated it when she patted my lower back or squeezed my shoulder and said, “Hi, honey” as I lumbered through the kitchen. My mother didn’t care if I was fat and ugly. She seemed to like it in fact. In my diary I wrote, “I fear my father’s anger, but I fear my mother’s love.” This phrase was destined to sink slowly and heavily to the bottom of my memory and to sit there, undulating like a baleful underwater plant.

–from Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill

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.

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