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Mar 27, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

reach up and hold their tails, pull up and out of here

I was supposed to be looking for references to doors in a database of Sumerian literature, but then I realised I could search for “fox”!

I rather like this curse, in the cursing of Agade: “May foxes that frequent ruin mounds brush with their tails your uzga precinct, established for purification ceremonies!”

And in Sumerian proverbs, there are many foxes:

“The fox lies (?) even to Enlil.”

“The fox’s door-bolt is a wooden beam.”

“A lion having fallen into a trap, a fox came up to him and said: “I’ll take your sandals home to the other side for you!””

“The fox’s tail is heavy: it carries a harrow.”

Then there’s a quite fanciful one: “To the wolf vegetable, to the fox-grape (?) vegetable, to the lion plant, to the …… plant, to the dog’s-tongue plant, to the property plant, to the shouting plant, the lion roars out: “These have no names.” The fool’s lot was created by Utu.”

I want a fox-grape. The wine would have teeth.

Mar 23, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Heiresses of Russ 2013

Steve Berman has announced the table of contents for Heiresses of Russ 2013, co-edited with Tenea D Johnson, collecting the best lesbian science fiction and fantasy stories published last year. It contains my “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints”, from Strange Horizons (which recently placed third for Best Story in the Strange Horizons readers’ poll!). Here is all of it, in alphabetical order by surname:

“Harrowing Emily” by Megan Arkenberg
“Reality Girl” by Richard Bowes
“The Witch Sea” by Sara Diemer
“Saint Louis 1990” by Jewelle Gomez
“Narrative Only” by Kate Harrad
“Nightfall in the Scent Garden” by Claire Humphrey
“Only Then can I Sleep” by Tenea D. Johnson
“Elm” by Jamie Killen
“Beneath Impossible Circumstances” by Andrea Kneeland
“One True Love” by Malinda Lo
“Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints” by Alex Dally MacFarlane
“Winter Scheming” by Brit Mandelo
“Nine Days Seven Tears” by JL Merrow
“Oracle Gretel” by Julia Rios
“Otherwise” by Nisi Shawl
“Chang’e Dashes from the Moon” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
“Astrophilia” by Carrie Vaughn
“Barnstormers” by Wendy Wagner

I’m really looking forward to reading this.

One of the pleasures of reading JoSelle Vanderhooft’s lesbian steampunk anthologies Steam-Powered 1 & 2 was the fact that relationships between queer women were normalised. Every story contained them. They varied in tone – some light-hearted fun, some serious, some quite dark – but it meant that whenever something unpleasant happened to lesbians, it was not to the only lesbian in the entire anthology. It did not feel like Dead Lesbian Syndrome (or the alternative where they don’t die, but everything is horrendous and tragic), just one of many stories about lesbians in which different things happen. Anthologies like Steam-Powered 1 & 2 and the Heiresses of Russ series are the still-rare places where queer women can exist in multitudes.

So I’m really happy to be included in this anthology – and especially with “Feed Me the Bones of Our Saints”, which is my favourite of the stories I’ve had published so far.

Feb 20, 2013
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Sunshine, the Thames, abandoned structures

The Thames is beautiful in the sun, which was so low that walking into it was half-blinding, turning everything golden-orange. I will never stop appreciating that I currently live a 10 minute walk from the river. One of my favourite walks takes me past an abandoned building and, right by it, an odd structure out in the river:

I have no idea what that is. (My phone’s camera, meanwhile, has no idea how to cope with low sunlight. The entire sky was, as the other photos show, a wonderful blue. Poking blurrily over the top of those riverfront buildings is the city centre, including the Gherkin and one of the many, many cranes. London is full of construction right now.)

The abandoned building I like is on a bit of the bank that juts out:

I climbed a bit of fence (not the orange fence, which is tall and spiked and beyond which is a CCTV camera, but a lower fence) to get a closer look. I love the detail on the windows. I have no idea what this building is either. Nothing else around it is abandoned; there’s a block of flats overlooking it, which would be a wonderful view for anyone who likes interesting abandoned buildings (and, I guess, the view of the city centre beyond it).

I assume that with a bit of poking around online (especially with those initials in the windows) I could find out the building’s now-lost purpose, but I quite like the mystery.

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


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