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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.

But.

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.

Nov 26, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

Šerua-eṭirat writes to Libbali-šarrat

As the sparcity of posts has probably indicated, the MA is eating a huge amount of my time – it’s delightful, it’s making me so happy, it’s also a bit like this.

But! I found something cool today that I want to share.

I’m reading an article about the education of Assyrian princes (7th C BCE), when all of a sudden it quotes a letter from Šerua-eṭirat (eldest daughter of Esarhaddon, the king) to Libbali-šarrat (wife of Assurbanipal, crown prince of Esarhaddon at this time, later king):

Why don’t you write your tablets and recite your exercise, or people will say ‘Is this the sister of Šerua-eṭirat, the eldest daughter of the succession palace of Aššur-etelilani-mukinni, the great king, the legitimate king, king of the world, king of Assyria?’ And you are a daughter-in-law, the lady of the house of Assurbanipal, the great crown prince of the House of Succession of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria.

I love finding women in history. Here is proof of the princesses’ literacy. Here is a conversation between two women, where one admonishes the other for not studying hard enough. Here is evidence of women’s lives for a change.

It also makes me think of all those fantasy novels set in a secondary world where women are nothing more than walking vaginas, illiterate and possessing no skills of “worth” (on which note, please read this post from Kate Elliott on why her character Cat sews: because it is practical, because it is important to survival, because it is a communal activity among women, because sewing has a place in a secondary world adventure, because it is not remotely worthless). Here we have Assyrian royal woman – of course, the most privileged in their society – existing in a very male-dominated society and living lives not wholly revolving around men. (You will find that even less privileged women’s lives did not revolve around men. Gasp!) Here we have written fucking proof of some women’s skills.

It makes me hate shitty male fantasy writers even more for their wet dreams of worlds where women do nothing at all.

Nov 1, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

her Sapphic conversations

One of things I’ve read for the MA this week is a terrible book about Alexander’s Successors that was supposed to be a light, straightforward introduction to the chronology, as I want to write an essay about post-Alexander coinage issued by women, but turned out to be full of ridiculous statements that would make a fine drinking game (Robin Waterfield, Dividing the Spoils, 2011 – for the one or two of you who might actually want to know – drink whenever the words ‘megalomaniac’ or ‘purges’ are used!) but I did make a few notes from it, mostly things that had very little to do with the subject matter. I particularly liked this commemorative epigram, quoted as part of an aside:

All Nicomache’s favourite things, her trinkets and her Sapphic
conversations with the other girls beside the shuttle at dawn
,
fate took away prematurely. The city of the Argives
cried aloud in lament for that poor maiden,
a young shoot reared in Hera’s arms. Cold, alas, remain
the beds of the youths who courted her.

(Posidippus 55 Austin/Bastianini; tr. Kathryn Gutzwiller. I am pretty curious about the use of the word ‘Sapphic’ – does anyone know if its use actually referred to lesbian relationships, or intimate conversations among women, or something else? I am assuming it’s in the original Greek; I don’t have that to hand…)

‘Sapphic’ conversations while weaving? I think it’s probably quite obvious why I like this.

This is also quite fitting, as I’m hoping to use November and the challenge-framework of Nanowrimo to revise the Turkmen YA novel, which has a lesbian and plenty of textile craft-work. Now I need to leave the library and get started on that!

Oct 30, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

SF: why there are no women

There are a lot of far-future SF stories where the military characters are 100% male, where they extoll the splendour of their family’s military pedigree (families that seem to only contain men), where women don’t even get a mention.

I just want you to know that whenever I read this, I think of this. ← NOT SAFE FOR WORK. (If you cannot click that right now, let me describe it to you: a group of men have kept their bloodline “free from woman’s taint” by breeding among themselves, with some men getting pregnant and giving birth to male babies from their arses.)

SF: full of arse-babies.

Oct 29, 2012
Alex Dally MacFarlane

little sister let your sharp teeth show

Working on a story (this story, although its details have changed lot since that post) and I have a question:

If I talk about a North Wind, would you expect that to be a wind that comes from the north or blows towards the north?

Whether the wind is the North Wind or the South Wind, here is a bit of what it encounters as it blows.

I blow down from the mountains, where stones are stacked for me to scream between: thick limbs full of holes, hundreds together or one apart, tucked in a gully. I blow the winged women of the Aĝir people into the snowstorms where they test their strength. I blow out the fires of foolish foragers, their fur matted with mud. I blow into the faces of the Saqnaga foxes, their ears thronged with beads. I blow between the glass spires of the desert city In-barash and devour the meals left on its high roofs. I blow from temple to temple. I blow–

And, because it interests me to see how old material (quoted in my previous post about this story) has been re-used, Berenike (formerly Nila) on the temple’s walls:

Together they stepped out — but Berenike stopped, staring, at the ankle-high, knee-high and life-size figures surrounding her, carved and blown smooth by the wind, and the bells, gleaming and dull, chiming, tinkling, ringing, banging in over a thousand mouths as the little winds of the temple played through them. The figures clustered on the sloping pinnacle of the temple. They stood scattered around the high walls; they covered the lower walls, all the way to the ground, far below. They filled Berenike’s eyes.

Her figure, held in her arms, began to chime, its bell high, strong.

“Follow me,” the South-East Wind said, and Berenike did, on a well-worn way between the figures like a sheep-trail on a mountainside.

Also in this story so far: Berenike being an arrogant general, a brief mention of coin iconography (which actually resulted in an idea for an MA essay), a wind getting aroused by bells’ tongues. I’m having fun.

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Out in late 2014

"...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

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."

- io9.com Best Books of 2013

Short Stories