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.
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)
This was a story self started writing two years ago, which Crab Orchard Review picked up fairly quickly (Definitely NOT the norm!): “Crackers.”
It’s a somewhat comic take on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. An American man goes “native” in the Philippines:
They made me register at the Palo Alto VA for a psychiatric evaluation. The attendant asked my age, and though I had not thought about it for many years, I replied that I might be 41 or 42.
My mother, God rest her soul, was a saint. She passed away when I was still in grade school. My father was the kind of man whose idea of spoiling us was to give us Happy Meals, every single day. While I was “away,” my father died, my sister inherited all his money, and there was nothing left for me.
My first night back in America, I couldn’t sleep. The quiet made me jumpy. People don’t realize how noisy the jungle is. When you know what to listen for, you can tell who is next to you, who is a few feet away, who is just on the other side of that bamboo thicket. Night is for hunting. It’s an active time. Here, though, the night is so quiet, it’s like being dead.
Why on earth would self be quoting from The 100 when she has written her own story of apocalyptic dystopia that was published just a few months ago?
Here again is something from “The Freeze” (Bluestem, Spring 2015). When she realizes how long the story is — it’s a miracle. It’s written in very hallucinatory prose. And she was able to go on like that, without switching voice, for almost 20 pages? Self is always surprised when she can pull something like that off.
To tell the truth, every one of her speculative fiction stories is an experiment. Beginning with the extremely short story, “The Departure,” published in Philippine Genre Stories (thanks to Charles Tan, who solicited it for their very first issue).
She likes applying the dreamy voice to her science fiction.
There is a very terrifying scene in “The Freeze.” But she will skip right over that because she is quite distressed herself after reading it.
No sign of Annie. She had been taken by a great, invisible force. Up, towards the light? Or down to the sea. Who knew?
If there was no body, there could not be a death. That comforted me.
I walked in the gloomy dark until I heard, far away but distinct, the sound of waves pounding the cliffs.
Almost overnight, the temperature dropped, and dropped, and dropped.
Mr. King, the old man who lived next door, said, It’s just a cold spell. It will pass.
But two weeks later, it was dark almost the whole day.
The roses blackened, my teeth chattered in my head.
To think, self didn’t even try sending out this story, not for years. Until she began trying to put together a new collection. And even then, she only added this one at the last minute, as an afterthought.
It’s about a death.
It was sunny, a glorious day. April was sometimes cold, but Jocelyn thought she could sense summer coming, just around the corner.
The girl who clipped them, that afternoon in April, was just 18. Driving her red Ford Mustang at a speed that was just short of criminal, she’d gotten her driver’s license only that month.
The Ford Explorer rolled over and over and over — for almost two years she saw the image flash into her mind, often just before she lay her head down to sleep. Then she had to get up and pace the bedroom, or take two Ambien if there was something important she needed to do the next day.
She finally sent it to The Writing Disorder. You can read the story here.
A short piece self wrote about a classroom of the future has been accepted by Juked.
This was the magazine that chose “The Hand” to win first place in their fiction contest, 2007.
Self still remembers when she got the call. She had to sit down. It seems like yesterday.
She never could have imagined that, eight years later, she’d be writing science fiction. She loves writing when she can play with the sound of the words, which is what she was trying to do with her story, “First Life”:
The human organism has proven itself completely willful. Narcissism results in confusion. My present condition.
And the consequences? The consequences of this confusion?
They must have been sitting there a long time. Her grandmother was leaning forward, saying something in a low, insistent voice, while Wito’s mother listened with bent head. Wito saw how intently her grandmother gazed at her mother, how there seemed to be something about her mother that kept drawing the older woman forward, so that it seemed she might reach out any moment and touch or, perhaps, hit her. Wito saw how her mother hung her head, and knew that she was crying. The back of her neck, covered with fine, black hair, looked narrow and exposed. Wito thought she caught the words shameful and waste, but then her grandmother saw her and broke off aprubtly.
When Wito went up to greet her grandmother, the old woman’s cheek felt dry, like parchment, whereas her mother’s cheek was soft and moist, and when Wito turned to leave, her mother softly said “no” and pulled her close. Her mother’s arms encircled her, forcing her to face her grandmother.
— Marianne Villanueva, “Lizard,” included in The 100 Best Philippine Short Stories in English, Manila: Tahanan Books, edited by Isagani Cruz
Surprise, surprise, it snowed! In the late afternoon. Self was supposed to go to a reading, but with the snow and all, she chickened out.
Self is rooming with Luisa A. Igloria again. (We were roommates also last year at AWP Seattle) Luisa is very good at attending panels, which is great, because self has been holed up in her hotel room just reading, and if not for Luisa’s recaps she would be in a great blizzard of Know-Nothing.
Self totally bombed about attending the Karen Russell reading this evening. Luisa loved it.
Here’s a poem from Night Willow (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing) one of two books Luisa had published in 2014 (The other is Ode to the Heart Smaller Than a Pencil Eraser)
Warmer days. Light that fades later and later. Finally we can fling the
windows open. The clasps grate and rasp, like throats gargling salt
water first thing in the morning. Rooms crammed with more than
winter’s fat; eaves with bits of leaf and twig, blinds lined with ledgers
of dust. The drawers groan with socks and scarves, the pantry
shelves with unopened cans of beans. I want to scrub all the corners,
scour the tiles in the bathroom with bleach — even the stripes of
grout between each one. I want a pot of yellow strawflowers, a bowl
of blood-red tulips, nothing else but the mellow gleam of wood in
the middle of the room. I read about ascetics and what they chose
to renounce. Sometimes I think I want that. Sometimes I want to
be both the mountains emerging from their heavy robes of ice and
snow, and the streams they feed below, rushing and teeming with
color and new life. Sometimes I want to be the clear unflavored
envelope of agar, other times the small mouthful of sweet azuki bean
entombed like a heart in the center.
Luisa A. Igloria is the author of twelve books of poetry and numerous awards, including the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Prize and 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize.
Such a gorgeous day! Tonight is self’s talk on Flash Fiction at The Mendocino Hotel.
She walked along the bluffs, just to let her mind organize her ideas.
She’s having different people read her short shorts, and then she’s throwing in two more: the piece that appeared in Vela Magazine right after Typhoon Haiyan, and Shirley Ancheta’s piece “Kristine,” in Going Home to a Landscape (Calyx Press, 2003)
In the meantime, here are some pictures she took of the Headlands, with an eye to the WordPress Photo Challenge this week, SYMMETRY.