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Feb 13, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Omens! Fetuses! Hearts!

I continue to have my life eaten by essays and slow progress on the story still affectionately known as “spices IN SPAAACE” (I think it will actually be called “Found”), but! There is amusement to be found in hours of work! Because this weekend I was reading about 3rd millennium BCE omen texts for extispicy and they are HILARIOUS.

Firstly: “If, as for the gall bladder, its nose is like a lizard, it is a symbol of Sargon.”

And then: “If the fetus is like a lion, it is an omen of Naram-Sin, who subdued the world.”

I assume these are sheep fetuses, as the other animal parts are from sheep. I prefer to imagine the next one is a human fetus, though.

“If the fetus has lion’s hair on the right side of its shoulder, it is an omen of Sargon.”


“If the heart is like a scrotum, it is an omen of Rimus whom his servants killed with their tablets.”

SCROTUM-HEARTS. MANE-SHOULDERED FETUSES. This is why I study ancient history.

Feb 12, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Stories eligible for awards

The Nebula Award nomination deadline is close and the Hugo Award one isn’t far off, which means I need to decide what I’m nominating – and, for those of you who are also deciding, I thought I would offer up some of my own work for your consideration! They’re all in the short story category.

“Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” in Strange Horizons – I think this is one of the best stories I’ve ever written, if not the best (so far). Bogi Takács agrees!

“The 17th Contest of Body Artistry” in Expanded Horizons – This one’s been surprisingly popular! K Tempest Bradford included it in her favourite stories of 2012, and Benjamin Gabriel did the same in the Strange Horizons 2012 round-up. I also found out yesterday that Polenth Blake plans to nominate it for the Nebulas!

“Fox Bones. Many Uses.” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies – More foxes!

“Numismatics in the Reigns of Naranh and Viu” in The Mammoth Book of Steampunk – Lots of coins! (I’m happy to send people a copy of this story if they want to read it.)

Feb 4, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Editing news that requires CAPSLOCK OF GREAT JOY

Huge news:


Yes. That Mammoth Book anthology series, that massive anthology series. I will be editing an anthology for them. I’M SO EXCITED.

It will be a collection of powerful, important science fiction stories by women, showcasing the unforgettable contributions we have made to the genre in recent decades. It will contain a wide range of women’s voices. It will be released in 2014. It will be AMAZING.

I will do a more serious post about submission windows soon (short version: definitely want to do an open call for reprints later this year, not sure yet about originals) but for now I am full of AHHHHHHHHHHHH and CAPSLOCK and huge gratitude that I have been given this opportunity.


Jan 31, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Clarkesworld: Year Three

Another fun reprint! This time it’s of my story “The Devonshire Arms” from 2009, originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine and now collected in the third of their annual anthologies. I love the cover:

Clarkesworld: Year Three can be bought in e-format from various retailers. A paperback is due out in late February. Check out the TOC – Catherynne M Valente, Nnedi Okorafor, Lavie Tidhar, Ekaterina Sedia, Genevieve Valentine and more!

Jan 28, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

“Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” in Bulgarian!

This is awesome! My story “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints”, published in 2012 in Strange Horizons, has been translated into Bulgarian by Petar Toushkov for the zine Сборище на трубадури.

You can find part 1 here and part 2 here!

It is such an honour that someone enjoyed my story enough to translate it.

Jan 18, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Aliens: Recent Encounters cover and TOC!

I am delighted to announce to the cover and Table of Contents for Aliens: Recent Encounters! It’s going to be a big one. The stories are all reprints, taking a wide variety of approaches to the alien theme.

It will be out in June!

An Owomoyela – Frozen Voice
Ken Liu – The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species
Catherynne M. Valente – Golubash, or Wine-Blood-War-Elegy
Zen Cho – The Four Generations of Chang E
Vandana Singh – The Tetrahedon
Paul McAuley – The Man
Ursula K. Le Guin – Seasons of the Ansarac
Molly Gloss – Lambing Season
Desirina Boskovich – Celadon
Genevieve Valentine – Carthago Delenda Est
Caitlín R. Kiernan – I Am the Abyss and I Am the Light
Jamie Barras – The Beekeeper
Robert Reed – Noumenon
Elizabeth Bear – The Death of Terrestial Radio
Sofia Samatar – Honey Bear
Karin Lowachee – The Forgotten Ones
Jeremiah Tolbert – The Godfall’s Chemsong
Alastair Reynolds – For the Ages
Brooke Bolander – Sun Dogs
Nisi Shawl – Honorary Earthling
Samantha Henderson – Shallot
Sonya Taaffe – The Boy Who Learned How to Shudder
Eleanor Arnason – Knapsack Poems
Gitte Christensen – Nullipara
Indrapramit Das – muo-ka’s Child
Jeffrey Ford – The Dismantled Invention of Fate
Karin Tidbeck – Jagannath
Pervin Saket – Test of Fire
Nancy Kress – My Mother, Dancing
Greg van Eekhout – Native Aliens
Lavie Tidhar – Covenant
Yoon Ha Lee – A Vector Alphabet of Interstellar Travel

Jan 5, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Zombie foxes! Burial mounds!

I wrote a zombie story! It’s short, it’s told via (mostly) fake ancient texts and a fake reconstructed folktale, it has Babylonian women writing to one another and fighting zombies and also there are zombie foxes: because I can. It’s called “Selected Sources for the Babylonian Plague of the Dead (572-571 BCE)” and will be published in the anthology Zombies: Shambling Through the Ages from Prime Books, edited by Steve Berman.

One advantage of being an MA student: when you notice a fun historical-themed anthology is imminently closing for submissions, you’ve already done the research. Take a few sources, a few articles, general knowledge from classes and other reading – and add zombies! And zombie foxes! When the story’s published, I’ll post about the most influential sources/articles, but I already mentioned one of them here. It’s a very short story (only 1,400 words), but I put in some of the things that are most important to me: women doing stuff in history, a part of history I love – and foxes. I also had a surprising amount of fun throwing in the typical zombie tropes of holing up in hastily fortified buildings (not malls! funnily enough) and zombies running through the streets of a city and so on.

The anthology will be published in August! I’m looking forward to it.

And… I realised that I never posted about selling “Singing Like a Hundred Dug-up Bones” to Beneath Ceaseless Skies at the end of last year. Well, I sold that! It has burial mounds and ghosts and amateur archaeology and a singing circle and women’s stories – and I love it. It’s one of my favourite things I’ve written.

Thinking about story sales is much more fun than anxiety over PhD applications. Haha. Yes.

/ball of anxiety

Jan 3, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

keeping us lively people in order

So there’s a laughable defense of poor little Eastercon in the Strange Horizons 2012 round-up, which I may or may not blog about. This isn’t about that, but it’s inspired by the negative side of my feelings for cons.

Last year I went to Bristolcon and had a great time: hanging out with friends, going to some interesting (although sometimes a bit frustrating) panels, having fun talking about toilets IN SPAAACE. It’s a small, local con and very well-organised and I plan to attend again this year.


I was on a steampunk panel, where I was loud and vocal about things like the representation of women and lesbians, and the importance of stories that reconstruct history from non-dominant viewpoints, with some speaking about issues of colonialism/racism to the extent that my white self can – and afterwards Anne Lyle, a fellow panellist, described the panel as such: “The panel, on “The Evolution and Future of Steampunk” was lively, to say the least, but the very dapper Philip Reeve* did a splendid job of keeping us all in order.”

Because when someone’s being lively~ about under-represented voices, what we need is a man to keep her in order.

That has been making me a feel a bit sick whenever I’ve thought about it since the con.

And today I finally got weary of not mentioning it in public.

*For the record, I thought Philip was a good panel moderator. I did not feel “kept in order” by him at all; I felt like he let everyone on the panel say their piece.

Jan 1, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

New year! New story!

It’s 2013! I wish everyone strength, greatness and happiness for the year ahead.

I am beginning the new year with a new story: “Thin Slats of Metal, Painted” is in the Boundaries issue of Crossed Genres Magazine.

This is an old story of mine: I wrote the first draft in 2007, but it’s gone through a number of edits (and rejections) in the years since. I wrote it from two unexpected prompts: a photo by KJ Bishop of painted shutters on a Japanese shop, and a tape measure I got in a Christmas cracker. (The story is not set in Japan, however, as I realised I knew nothing about Japan.) I think I still have that tape measure somewhere. I don’t have a full-size version of the photo, but I have an icon-version I made back when I was a paid member of LJ:

(Credit to KJ Bishop)

The story is about a girl who likes to measure things, and the trapped birds she finds in a shopping arcade. I hope you enjoy it.

Dec 12, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Equal marriage, but not equal

The UK government is making plans to legislate for equal marriage, ie allowing gay/bisexual/queer people to marry who they want. This is very exciting! Except where it’s not, because of course the government is already planning concessions to religious institutions that don’t want to marry these couples, and this is really upsetting me.

Bigoted interpretations of religious teachings are not a compulsory facet of being religious. I know gay/bisexual/queer Anglican Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and more. I also know straight people of all these religions and more who are good allies to gay/bisexual/queer people and fully support their rights to equal marriage. It is clearly possible to follow a religion and interpret its teachings in such a way that allows for these views. Religion is not inherently incompatible with supporting or being gay/bisexual/queer people. Interpreting religious teachings in a bigoted way is therefore a choice.

Being gay/bisexual/queer is not a choice.

Yet the people making terrible choices are more important to our government than the people who just want to exist and to express their love for another person in the same way that straight people have been doing for millennia.

Plans for the equal marriage bill include the following:

Amending the 2010 Equality Act to ensure no discrimination claim can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple (source)

I don’t think the people doing this realise quite how frightening it is to see plans to use the 2010 Equality Act against us, to sanction discrimination against us. To say that believing gay/bisexual/queer people should not be allowed to marry whoever they like is an okay view to hold.

I get very uncomfortable at the idea of the government meddling in religious institutions. I do. I don’t know what the best solution here is (change should always come from within, but we all know how well that’s going), I don’t even think equal marriage is the biggest most important issue facing gay/bisexual/queer people, but I do know that planned government-sanctioned discrimination is hurting me.

I don’t like the fact that religious bigots’ choices remain more important than my existence. Progress is being made, but it’s hard to take comfort in that when so many people are still working hard to prevent equality.


Out now!

"...the 33 stories that MacFarlane has gathered for this volume dazzle with the virtuosity of their contributors’ talents."

- Publishers Weekly: STARRED REVIEW

"Works from around the world, some in translation, provide an invaluable snapshot of this moment in the genre as well as some tremendously enjoyable reading."

- Publishers Weekly: Best Books of 2014

"The stories range widely in scope and form — from prose poems to metafiction — to capture a dynamic, forward-thinking genre that plays with history, myth and science."

- The Washington Post: Think science fiction is dominated by men? Think again.

"...ground-breaking and superbly conceived..."

- Nina Allan: Strange Horizons: 2014 In Review

Aliens: Recent Encounters

"...this [anthology] blew us away more than any other. Mostly because of the sheer volume of greatness contained in these 32 stories... These are classic stories of alien encounters, from some of the best science fiction writers working today."

- Best Books of 2013

Short Stories