Excerpt: First Causes (Quarterly West # 89)

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted a question to the Asian American writing community: share your 2018 achievements. Self’s response began with: “I am an experimental science fiction writer.” Which she’s sure had people scratching their heads.

To explain what she meant by “experimental science fiction writer”, here’s an excerpt from a story that Quarterly West published in Issue #89. The story takes place in a classroom of the future. The narrator is a boy named Dragon who is NOT a dragon. The professor, who really IS turning into a lizard, is named Fire Lizard. The other characters are Drinker, Knot, and Big. Big’s just gone missing.

Drinker says, low, “Big passed.”

I answer: “Fucker. Big’s not Big. He’s Big XXX. Mark it.” I slash three quick XXX’s across my screen. Knot looks to the side quickly, then glances down.

“The All-Powerful, the Everlasting,” I start to sing, lowly.

Drinker shudders, pulls slightly out of his seat.

“You!” Fire Lizard screams, pointing at Drinker. “What’s your issue?”

“Obscure,” Drinker mutters.

Fire Lizard’s eyes seem to bug out of his head. “Who remembers rain?” he shouts. “Last rain? Who remembers?”

I hold up my hand. “Ghost of,” I say. “243 days since.”

Self would like to take this opportunity to express her gratitude to Quarterly West for taking a chance and accepting this story. It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s not easy to understand. But did she ever have fun writing it.

Stay tuned.

New for the Reading List: The Economist Books, 12 May 2018

  1. The latest from Rachel Cusk: Kudos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle series is mentioned in the review: self has been wanting to read Knausgaard. Hopefully, someday.
  2. Eye of the Shoal: A Fishwatcher’s Guide to Life, the Ocean and Everything, by Helen Scales (Bloomsbury Sigma). Scales’s earlier book, about seashells, is Spirals in Time.
  3. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, by Zora Neale Hurston: written in 1927, finally out in print!!! (Amistad)

In Honor of Independent Bookstore Day 28 April 2018: Poet Anne-Adele Wight Lists Her Favorites

What a universe of riches is contained in a writer’s list of recommended books. This is the second article self has posted in honor of Independent Bookstore Day 2018. Everyone who wants to do something special for the day, take a look at Anne-Adele’s books below, then go to your nearest independent bookstore and inquire if they have a copy in-store. If they don’t, ask them to order. It only takes a few days!

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T-Shirt Features a Quote from Shakespeare: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Anne-Adele Wight is the author of the poetry collections The Age of Greenhouses, Sidestep Catapult and Opera House Arterial, which she describes as “a surreal trickster mythology.” An interview of her can be found on her publisher’s website: BlazeVOX. Her background includes literature, archaeology, and technical communication. She performs widely and has sponsored many events in her home city of Philadelphia.

Here is how she explains the genesis of Opera House Arterial:

In 1983 a friend showed me a postcard she’d received from Quito, Ecuador, the home of a well-known nineteenth-century opera house, El Teatro Nacional. The postcard showed the opera house as something etheral, not quite connected to the ground, because a row of buildings hid the lowest part. Behind it the Andes rose high into the air, looking unearthly. I felt something strike into my brain and know I had to write a poem, but where to begin? I put the opera house aside for many years; it finally surfaced when it was ready. I realized I had not one poem, but many, and started writing. Before long I had a book, Opera House Arterial, and a mythical character, my trickster opera house.

Without further ado, Anne-Adele’s list of recommended books:

 POETRY
  • Sandra Beasley, Count the Waves
  • Sarah Blake, Let’s Not Live on Earth
  • Travis Cebula and Sarah Suzor, After the Fox
  • CAConrad, While Standing in Line for Death
  • Lucas de Lima, Wetland
  • Ryan Eckes, Valu-Plus
  • Lisa A. Flowers, diatomhero: religious poems
  • Geoffrey Gatza, A Dog Lost in the Brick City of Outlawed Trees
  • Sueyeun Juliette Lee, Solar Maximum
  • Lynn Levin,  Miss Plastique
  • Jane Lewty, In One Form to Find Another
  • Jenn McCreary, Ab Ovo
  • MaryAnn L. Miller, Cures for Hysteria
  • Debrah Morkun, Projection Machine
  • Eileen Myles, I Must Be Living Twice
  • Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué, Jazzercise is a Language
  • Raquel Salas Rivera, lo tercario / tertiary
  • Amy Small-McKinney, Walking toward Cranes
  • Nicole Steinberg, Glass Actress
  • Brian Teare, The Empty Form Goes All the Way to Heaven
  • Divya Victor, Things to Do with Your Mouth
  • Anne Waldman, Manatee / Humanity

FICTION

  • Isabel Allende, Daughter of Fortune
  • Ann Arensberg, Incubus
  • Margaret Atwood, Moral Disorder
  • Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress
  • Robertson Davies, The Deptford Trilogy
  • Margaret Drabble, The Red Queen
  • Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Doris Lessing, The Grandmothers
  • Eileen Myles, Chelsea Girls
  • Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
  • Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
  • Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Manor
  • Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn
  • Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
  • Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

NONFICTION & GENRE-DEFYING

  • Atul Gawande, Mortal
  • David Harrison, The Last Speakers: A Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages
  • Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs
  • Gina Kolata, Flu
  • Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven
  • Kelcey Parker Ervick, The Bitter Life of Božena Němcova
  • Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Now, get on over to your local independent bookstore!

Stay tuned.

 

#amwritingflash

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Announcing Bellingham Review’s 7th Annual On-line Issue

The story Bellingham Review published, “Ice,” is part of a dystopian fantasy series.

Read it here.

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Cottage # 2, Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig: November 2017

 

 

#amwriting: The Hill of Storms

The ghost of Dolly the sheep and three dun-polled cows grazed the storm-torn bracken.

From that day the King of France was never troubled by visits from the lands of dark-skinned peoples.

__________________

This is one of those stories where every other line is italicized because there are two interlocking threads.

An experiment, for sure!

Stay tuned.

Mourning for Isotope, edited by Christopher Cokinos

Filipinos once had an ancient written language. If I were to show you what the marks look like on a piece of paper,they would look like a series of waves. Like the eye of the Pharaoh I saw in my old high school history books.

— from self’s hybrid essay/memoir/short story The Lost Language, published in Isotope

Isotope was a literary journal based in Utah State. When that university began to make steep budget cuts, the magazine lost the heart of its funding. In 2009, editor Chris Cokinos issued an appeal for support. Terrain.org posted it.

Alas, Isotope lost the fight. Self mourned. It was the only literary journal of its kind, combining science writing and creative writing, a place that joined physicists and playwrights, biologists and memoir writers, and created an exciting new kind of community.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Self’s Speculative Fiction: Short on Science, Long on Speculation

Self’s science fiction may be a little short on the science, but it has everything to do with story-telling.

She is thinking about her stories today because last week she was in San Francisco and popped into Borderlands, the Science Fiction Bookstore on Valencia. So wonderful to browse! Self saw many, many books she wanted to read. There were new books from China Mieville, Joe Hill, and Jo Walton, to name a few.

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

Borderlands, Valencia Street, San Francisco: All Science Fiction, All Fantasy, All the Time

This is the problem with going to a bookstore: self ends up leaving with loads of books that she then has to pack into a suitcase and then haul that suitcase around on her travels and the experience is just painful.

Anyhoo, self had been thinking for quite a while of starting to put together a new collection, and is leaning more towards having it all be science fiction. She might lead off with “Spores,” which her friend Morgan Cook turned into an MP3 Audio File, early this year.

This excerpt is from “Spores” (Trigger warning: profanity)

“Me mum’s a thick,” K said once. “A fecking thick. A root rotter.”

“Hit brew and all?” I asked.

“12 pints one go, honest,” K said. She silent the rest of the day.

I grew weary of K.

Self’s story “First Life,” published by Juked in July, is again “nothing but strange,” to quote from FictionFeed.net. The first sentence:

Ever since they moved our colony from Tonle Sap to the Philippines, my mind hasn’t been the same.

And then there’s “Thing,” which came out in the New Orleans Review in 2012, about Animal Rehabilitation Center, Sector 6, where the results of heinous lab experiments are tended to by a rag-tag group who are barely human themselves.

And “Magellan’s Mirror,” which J Journal published and nominated for a Pushcart (The Philippines populated by a race of giants)

And “Vanquisher,” which self wrote as a sequel to “Magellan’s Mirror,” in which Juan de Salcedo turns into a kind of vampire.

And there’s “The Forest,” about a man whose wife has just let him, and whose sister offers, out of the kindness of her heart, to turn him into a spotted deer or an eagle.

And there’s “Ice,” which is set in a future Earth whose surface is covered with ice:

Out there, ice caps, cold as knives.

Steam from her mouth, his mouth, none from the boy who lay between them. She knowing what but not able to bear it.

And of course, “The Freeze,” in Bluestem Magazine early this year, in which a woman loses her entire family when a catastrophic freeze descends on the planet (The rumor is that the Russians started it) and decides to walk to Mexico.

And “The Departure” (2011 Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s annual Best of Horror list), in which a woman looks up at the sky just in time to see a giant hand appear and go left to right, the gesture of a teacher erasing a blackboard. Next thing she knows, her face has sprouted glass.

And her short short “The Ark,” in which Noah is unbelievably cruel to the animals under his care.

And “Sofia,” in which a woman is visited by her great-great-grandfather, to tell her she is . . . (No spoilers here)

And her piece in Witness, about a man who is the last living person on Earth to have actually tasted a mango.

And she has other stories: stories about “breeder” sweaters (Women wear the sweaters to help them conceive) and lonely Cyclops (“I Am Cyclops,” published in Lillian Howan’s Nimbus Cat)

And another about the lost city of Atlantis, discovered 1715 (“Residents of the Deep”)

And another story called “The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles” which is a Power Point presentation on desertification.

And another called “Harvest” in which a young girl’s mother walks around all day dressed in nothing but a mink coat and her best friend vanishes from a field during an insect harvest.

And another called “Eating” in which a girl’s mother forces her to eat and eat and eat until the girl feels she is about to die.

And another called “Appetites” in which a girl sends her nanny off into the wide, wide world to search for a particular delicacy the girl wants to taste (This one’s published on Café Irreal)

And “Isa,” which is about the last two remaining islands on Earth (published by Rogue Magazine in their Bacolod issue).

And one in which a Fetch appears to a father mourning the loss of his daughter.

And one about a dictator’s Special Research Project (This one’s included in her first collection, Ginseng and Other Tales From Manila)

Phew! Too many stories to list.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

These Characters Self Writes

Self adores FictionFeed.net for doing that piece on her. She’s started following them on Twitter.

The writer of the piece (on her story “First Life” in Juked) is listed simply as Curator. Here’s an excerpt:

No, the story isn’t particularly out of the ordinary, but its narrator (a boy by the name of Dragon) makes up for that in spades, with a wildly unusual voice and bendy-spoon perspective that basically defamiliarize the story’s world in its entirety.

Some time ago, self began writing stories about male characters on the edge, she’s not sure why.

Recently, she’s been thinking of another of her Male-Characters-on-the-Edge, from a story called “Crackers” that appeared in Crab Ochard Review’s The West Coast & Beyond Issue (Vol. 19, No. 2, which is also going to be the focus of a panel in next year’s AWP: Midwest Magazine Searches for West Coast Writers, YAY!).

Crab Orchard Literary Review's The West Coast & Beyond Issue (Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer/Fall 2014)

Crab Orchard Literary Review’s The West Coast & Beyond Issue (Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer/Fall 2014)

Hello, “Crackers” is speculative fiction, so of course crazy. Do not expect real-world Philippines, and you will be okay:

In December 2012, I finally emerged from the wild mountain fastness of the Philippines. My left shoulder had a tattoo of a python, my right a tattoo of a kris, the blade of choice of the mountain tribes. I wore a necklace of red parrot beaks. I spoke only in monosyllables. They said I was crackers.

They made me register at the Palo Alto VA for a psychiatric evaluation.

Thank you, Juked, thank you, Crab Orchard Literary Review, for taking a chance on self’s crazy writing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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