Directions for the Journey to the Meaning of Reality

While self was wandering around Florence, early this month, she stumbled into the Palazzo Vecchio. Milling about in the lobby were participants in a conference to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani. It was the first she’d ever heard of this man who, one of the conference staff told self, was a much admired teacher and writer.

Self walked away with a brochure of his writings, and wasted no time opening the brochure. She was very struck by this statement:


Then, she read a discourse on the meaning of the word “Thing”:

I would be amazed by the stupefying repercussion of a presence which is expressed in current language by the word “thing.” Things! “Thing,” which is a concrete and, if you please, banal presence which I do not myself make, which I find. A presence which imposes itself upon me. At this moment, if I am attentive, that is, if I am mature, then I cannot deny that the greatest and most profound evidence is that I do not make myself, I am not making myself. I do not give myself being, or the reality which I am. I am “given.” This is the moment of maturity when I discover myself to be dependent on something else.

Self has a story in the New Orleans Review called — THING.

The consonance of her Thing with Monsignor Giussani’s discourse on the word Thing is super-mindblowing! It’s as if self’s frail tendrils of story, and this always-churning imagination of hers, has transported her across the ocean to Italy, simply so that she can receive a brochure at the Palazzo Vecchio where a teacher and philosopher tries to explain the meaning of Thing. Of Thing-ness.

Self’s story is about humanoids in the post-apocalyptic Earth. Where no one looks human anymore. Hence the use of the generic to describe that which-is-neither-here-nor-there. That which is thing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Victory Can Only Come After Struggle

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, VICTORY, posted on Friday morning. Right after that came news (from Twitter; self’s news always come from Twitter) about the Paris attacks.

It seemed very ironic, that the photo challenge urged us to think of the positive. The terrorists made that all seem like such a travesty.

Nevertheless. Nevertheless.

Here are some pictures that self needed to look at today. Reminders of the positive.

The inaugural issue of Irish lit mag Banshee was celebrated at the most recent Cork International Short Story Festival, in September. Self was so glad she attended the launch:

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

It is a perilous venture, the field of literary magazine publishing. But the young women who edit BANSHEE prove that the dream never dies.

One of the most life-affirming and redemptive characters of recent fiction is, in self’s humble opinion, the baker of The Hunger Games. She only caught the symbolism today: Hunting doesn’t feed the belly, doesn’t sate it, to the degree that bread does. In the purported love triangle of the trilogy, there was never really any other choice for Katniss: Peeta Mellark rocks.

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Self will mourn the passing of this franchise when the final film opens on Nov. 20. J-Hutch, you did a great job bringing Peeta Mellark to life!

Finally, one of self’s favorite reads in 2015 was Crab Orchard Review’s West Coast and Beyond issue, which included a haunting short story by Lucy Jane Bledsoe. Self brought the issue with her to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, this past summer. Whenever her writing energy flagged, reading a bit from the Crab Orchard Review never failed to revive her inspiration:

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

Several of the contributors from the West Coast & Beyond issue will be participating in a panel during AWP 2016/ Los Angeles, end of March.

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 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 CafĂ© 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.

Kelly Link: “Summer People”

Context: The story is about the budding friendship between two high school girls, Fran and Ophelia. Ophelia drives a Lexus, is very tender-hearted, and has been tending Fran through a bad case of the flu, since Fran’s Dad took off for a couple of weeks to attend a religious revival meeting he learned about on the internet. Before Ophelia came along, Fran was self-medicating with Nyquil liqui-gel, four a night.

“The door you slipped my envelope under,” she said, finally, “you oughtn’t ever go in there.”

Ophelia looked interested. “Like Bluebeard,” she said.

Fran said, “It’s how they come and go. Even they don’t open that door very often, I guess.” She’d peeped through the keyhole once and seen a bloody river. She bet if you passed through that door, you weren’t likely to return.

“Can I ask you another stupid question?” Ophelia said. “Where are they right now?”

“They’re here,” Fran said.

Fran suddenly tells Ophelia she has to go (Oh NOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Why Does Self Love This? Really Love This?

When you do for other people (Fran’s daddy said once upon a time when he was drunk, before he got religion) things that they could do for themselves, but they pay you to do it instead, you both will get used to it.

Sometimes they don’t even pay you, and that’s charity. At first, charity isn’t comfortable, but it gets so it is. After some while, maybe you start to feel wrong when you ain’t doing for them, just one more thing, and always one more thing after that.

— Kelly Link’s short story “Summer People” (from Get In Trouble: Stories)

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”


The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of The Day: Kelly Link’s Story “The Summer People” (Which Link Read at the Cork International Short Story Festival)

Self’s idol! Ever since self read her story “Stone Animals” in Best American Short Stories (2005?)

When self found out that Kelly Link was reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival, she became immensely excited and determined. So off she went to the Triskel Art Centre, and did she ever make the right choice or what? Never mind that it was cold, that she’d just had a humongous dinner, and she just wanted to veg out in her room. No, self! Get your shit together!

Even though self swore, swore she would not buy a single book (Her arms are so sore from lifting: she’s taken at least 4 trains in eight days), she did buy Kelly’s just-published Get In Trouble: Stories (blurbed by none other than Sarah Waters, who calls it, quote unquote, A brilliant, giddying read.). Kelly wrote this on self’s copy:

For Marianne: Here are some terrible ideas. Love, K D Link.


When, after the reading, self went up with the book of Kelly’s short stories encased within her trembling hands (The use of hyperbole would not be completely unwarranted in this situation), Kelly was speaking to a very enthusiastic Irish lad. Self waited patiently.

Then, before signing self’s book, Kelly asked for self’s name.

Self demurred, saying, Oh you’ve never heard of me.


Finally, Kelly managed to worm it out of self. Whereupon Kelly said, with great sincerity, “I think I’ve heard of you.”

In response to which self said, “No you’ve never heard of me. I’m so small press, I’m not even.”


Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from “The Summer People,” the first story in Kelly Link’s collection:

  • Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran. In consequence of this, she’d laid out of school for three days in a row. The previous night, she’d taken four NyQuil caplets and gone to sleep on the couch while a man on the TV threw knives.

Unf. Self just loves the unexpectedness of the last sentence.

Plan for tonight: meeting up with playwright Barbara Guilfoyle. Going to hear Jaime Nanci Barron sing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Bane Chronicles: “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale”

Self is so very into The Infernal Devices (as dear blog readers well know, from all her posts through the summer, leading up to her trip to London).

There are three books in The Infernal Devices trilogy, and self tore through all three while she was in Banff (Thanks much, Niece Karina!).

When she was in Banff, she saw stacks of the just publishedy The Bane Chronicles in the bookstores. The book is a collection of short stories about some of the characters in this universe, and there are three authors. Which means, not every story is by Cassandra Clare (Jury’s still out on this; Clare is a really good writer. But the stories she’s read are somewhat uneven)

Nevertheless, self read two of the stories in between trips, when she dropped by Kepler’s in Menlo Park. In Dublin, she hung out in a bookstore for a few hours and read more of the stories (She was trying hard not to add to her luggage, which is so ridiculously crammed with books, all the time)

But now, the friend she is staying with has a teen-ager who happens to own a copy of The Bane Chronicles. And now she can quote because she has the actual book in front of her!

Self must confess, she never bothered to read all the stories in the collection, just the ones that concern her favorite Shadowhunter family: the Herondales!

Which brings us to the first paragraph of the story “Vampires, Scones and Edmund Herondale,” which is co-authored by Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan. And here’s the opening:

London, 1857

Ever since the unfortunate events of the French Revolution, Magnus had nursed a slight prejudice against vampires. The undead were always killing one’s servants and endangering one pet’s monkey. The vampire clan in Paris was still sending Magnus rude messages about their small misunderstanding. Vampires bore a grudge longer than any technically living creatures, and whenever they were in a bad temper, they expressed themselves through murder. Magnus generally washed his companions to be somewhat less — no pun intended — bloodthirsty.


Edmund is the father of her all-time favorite character in The Infernal Devices: of course, that’s Will Herondale. Do you even need to ask.

Self was in London in June when Cassandra Clare announced that it was the anniversary of Will Herondale’s passing and it was almost too much, the torrent of feelz she unleashed with that announcement. (Self wanted to ask Ms. Clare why it is necessary to remind readers that Will Herondale is dead, dead, deader than a doorpost. Aaaargh!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles” (The Writing Disorder, Winter 2010)

Self re-discovering some of her first speculative fiction.

There’s this story, published by The Writing Disorder in 2010, “The Great Emptying of the Three Triangles.”

She began with “a presentation by Brian Siy” as a joke, but the editor asked her if her piece was nonfiction. Delighted to say no.

The present condition of the area known as The Three Triangles is desert. The desertification occurred around 1511. Several decades later, the first instances of human migration to the coast began.

Our first clue to what may have occurred came the discovery of the Aurora Trench. By closely monitoring its striations, I have ascertained that the area had, for a period of over 500 years, suffered from intense precipitation, unusual wind strength, and heat.

Dear blog readers, hope you enjoy this little snippet.

Check out The Writing Disorder.

Stay tuned.

The Story by Danielle McLaughlin: The New Yorker, 7 September 2015

Just self’s luck. The first New Yorker story she reads in a long, long time, and it’s about


(Trigger Warning: Read the rest of this entry »

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