Final published stories for 2012

Several of my stories have been published in the past couple of months, and I’ve done a very bad job of keeping up with that. Here’s a quick post rounding up what’s been going on.

Monsters in the Monastery
My novelette “After Compline, Silence Falls” was published at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This is a spooky (I hope!) tale about a community of beer-brewing monks in 1890s Winnipeg, Manitoba, who discover they have a monster in their midst. The title refers to the monastery’s custom of observing strict silence after the last prayers of the day — an observance which makes nocturnal monster-hunting a little more difficult.

A few years ago, I visited Trappist Monastery Provincial Heritage Park in Manitoba, which helped inspire this story. (The park preserves the ruins of a Trappist monastery vacated in the 1970s when the brothers moved to a more remote location. After they left, the abandoned buildings were destroyed by fire.) But the details of monastic life in the story — such as the times of prayers, the sleeping arrangements, the rules and vows followed by the brothers — came from reading about the Rule of Benedict and the customs of historical Trappist communities.

This is my first story in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, but I’ve already got another one (called “The Penitent” — also inspired by a visit to another ruined historical location) in the queue with them for sometime next year. I’m hoping they’re the first and second of many!

My Mother’s Favorite Story
In November, The Journal of Unlikely Entomology published “The Famous Fabre Fly Caper”. It’s the tale of two decent tree frogs, pushed too far and backed into a corner, forced to stage a daring daylight fly-heist to survive in their increasingly dangerous pond. It’s also my mother’s favorite story of those I’ve written. (Tip: It’s good to write something your mother likes now and then.)

One night during dinner, for lack of anything better to do, I spent my time trying to imagine what on Earth a frog would want to steal. Lots of flies was the answer I came up with. And where do you get lots of flies? From an entomologist — in this case, the father of modern entomology himself, the great French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre. After jokingly mentioning this idea on Twitter, A.C. Wise (who is one of the editors of JoUE) encouraged me to actually write the story. It’s thanks to her that this one exists at all, since otherwise I’m not sure I’d have thought it would have any chance of selling.

Fabre is a fantastic and fascinating writer, by the way, and was praised by Charles Darwin for his observational skills. I wholeheartedly recommend his books to those interested in Victorian science texts. (My favorite so far is The Life of the Fly, which is quoted in part in my story, available for free download from Project Gutenberg.)

A Little Something from Cleveland
I’m from Cleveland, so I try to slip Ohio into my stories whenever it seems to fit. That’s why I decided to set “‘You’re Heads,’ She Says. ‘You’re Tails.'” (published by Daily Science Fiction) on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, which is where I got my two undergraduate degrees.

(Yes, I have two undergraduate degrees — a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Bachelor of Arts in English. It’s not quite the same as a double major, since I had to fulfill two full sets of core requirements of 30 hours each and was awarded the degrees in two different years. I even attended both graduation ceremonies, but I decided to do the second one as a spectator only.)

In any event, the story features a mad (or perhaps just inappropriately passionate) scientist working away in the third floor of Bingham building, which is located on the south end of CWRU’s main quad. As I say in the story comments on the DSF site: “In reality, Bingham Building is home to civil engineers, a microchip clean room, and a laser lab.” Cool stuff, if you’re into that sort of thing, but not quite the way I tell it in the story.

Operator? Operator? Hello?
In December, the irregular anthology series Stupefying Stories published my story “Avocado Rutabaga Aubergine” in their “end of the world” theme issue. (The story isn’t available to read for free, but the whole issue is only two bucks.)

This story is about two telephone operators in Pennsylvania coal country in the late 1950s who stumble upon what appears to be the first stage of an invasion conspiracy. Eventually the heroines end up in the abandoned (fictional) town of Mediana, below which a fire has been raging in the underground coal seams for fifteen years. Mediana is obviously based on the real town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the true history of Centralia didn’t quite line up with what I needed for the story, so I reluctantly fictionalized it instead.

Taiga, Taiga, Burning Bright
Finally, I’m extremely pleased that included my novelette “Desert of Trees” in its Issue 21. (I can’t figure out how to link directly to the story, but it’s easy enough to find on the site if you look for Issue 21.)

This is a tale of an Athabascan woman stranded in the Alaskan taiga in early spring with no gun, no map, no compass, and almost no food. She teams up with an unlikely companion to survive the worst of the journey as she makes her way back to civilization.

The story is set in 1901 during the Alaskan gold rush, which means that four out of five stories in this blog post count as historical fiction. I started using a lot of historical settings in my stories about a year ago, and I’m very pleased that several of them have now been published. It was a big breakthrough for me when I realized I could write against the backdrop of things I love to learn about — like history and nature. “Desert of Trees” relies heavily on both history and nature, and even though it’s something of a strange story, it’s also one of my favorites.


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