A “Not a Year in Review” Post to Round Out 2021

A blog post at the beginning of the year, and a blog post at the end of the year. Nice symmetry, isn’t it?

As the year winds down and we head earnestly toward winter, I find myself thinking back on a year where creative work has proved difficult. Of any kind, really. Writing. Blogging. Even the editorial work on Anathema has proved a challenge to keep up with this year. And running a fundraiser for the mag (yay for being funded again!) may be many things, but a creatively fulfilling endeavour it is not.

Lots of people putting up beautiful posts about what they’ve accomplished this year, and all the works they’ve published, and thoughts on the year to come. Only a single publication from me in 2021:

“Skysong” in The Shortest Story.

And fuck but I was getting morose when I started writing this and just … angry … with a year that has proved extremely difficult on multiple fronts. A lot of good in it, yeah. But because of physical issues (I’ve lived with different instances and causes of chronic pain my entire life, and that’s ramped up in the last year – having thrown my back out four fucking times in 2020 – so if I’ve been slow to reply or keep up with things, that’s why) and working pretty much non-stop and chasing work to be able to pay rent and buy groceries I’ve managed fair little creative work outside of some tie-in and game writing gigs.

And while I quite like doing the latter, after years of trying to keep up a fuller publication schedule of my own intellectual property, it feels a bit like failing to have just that one thing out. Hell, there was a palpable sense of relief when it went live that I had at least that one this year.

Fiction publishing has the same manner of publish or perish mentality that academic writing does, albeit more quietly. The more we produce, the more visible we are. Publish X stories or you’re not trying hard enough. Publish at least a novel a year or you’re not being prolific enough. Write significantly more novels than that per year outside of (and sometimes in) trad pub or you’re not going to make enough money at it to survive.

Writing that quickly – and doing so well – is a very specific skill. I sometimes think we believe it the norm, but it’s not. It’s an acquirable skill, but one we have, I think, made the ideal.

And as I watch people I like and admire talk about their five, ten, fifteen publications in 2021 I find myself thinking about a tie-in novella of mine that was originally going to come out this year and that looks at this point to be travelling into 2022. Such is the nature of publishing, and whenever Bardmageddon comes out is … when it comes out.

One of the differences between tie-in writing and trad pub is being well and truly outside the process. Once the work is out of my hands … there’s little besides promotion and audience engagement I can do. But I think on that novella – the second in the Agents of Mystery … sequence? Series? (It currently consists of a short story, two novellas – one published, Bardmageddon in pipeline – and another novella in-progress, so I’m never quite sure how to refer to it.) Partly because my four fighty, disaster baby central characters are all aspects of … well … me.

We spend a lot of time in this industry divorcing ourselves from our writing, and talking about how work cannot and should not be identified with an author wholesale because we are not the work we make. And the characters we write are not always us – especially not when we are trying to depict something vile or heinous. Thus, what we write is not always what we, the author think. Not that that distinction remains intact once the work finds an audience.

Except I … kind of do process all my stuff on the page? I write mostly about loss and grief and trauma and being haunted (often literally) by the past, and what recovery looks like. When we find the latter at all. And that holds true for my tie-in writing as well. I just also write a lot more comedy when doing tie-in work. Because I like writing comedy and it’s fun and for some reason seems easier in that space.

And so the four, ridiculous queer dumbasses I created for these stories are all very much tied to me:

– Well-meaning fuck-up Jane, who gets knocked down, but gets back up again. And breaks a few things along the way. Sometimes herself.
– Self-abnegating, self-medicating Alejandra, living with chronic pain and the aftermath of life-changing injury. Will intentionally break shit along the way. Look, if you didn’t want it broken…
– Tiny oblivious Trans nexus of sublimated rage, Kid Necro. Tied to family and cultural legacies they’re not sure how to feel about yet fall back on anyway. Wait, did they just break that? Oh fuck, sorry.
– So very, *very* tired of this shit warrior mom ghost, Ilkath. Misses the simpler days of her (living) youth when you could just blow off steam by killing an eldritch god. Equally as likely to fix the broken shit or bury her greataxe in your face.

And each story about the Agents of Mystery (before they were a group, formatively, and during) has been specific to one of them. “Kill Me Baby, One More Time” was Jane’s story. Idol Pursuits was Alejandra’s. And Bardmageddon … well … Bardmageddon is very much Kid’s book.

Which is probably why it opens with a band frontman going up in flames like a Roman Candle on a concert stage. Look it … makes more sense in context. Anyway, that’s not the point.

The point is that it’s a book about my love of Metal music, and how we drift away from our past and ourselves, and how the longer we don’t address what’s going on under the surface the sicker it makes us until the darkness festering there starts coming out all on its own. All set in a nice, quiet, totally-not-Occult-haven College that every Autumn just before the semester gets going is host to a Metal music festival called … Bardmageddon. And this year’s murders at said music festival. And shenanigans. Because if there’s one thing this team does well, it’s shenanigans. Solving mysteries? Ehh … 50-50? But unintentionally destructive dumbassery? There they’ve got you covered.

And even though the book isn’t out, and I don’t know when it will be, I like talking about it, so we’re gonna talk about one thing more: the chapter titles. Because it’s a book about music, so all the chapter titles are somewhat specific song titles, and I’m going to link videos for those songs below.

These chapter titles could technically (?) qualify as spoilers for the book’s trajectory, so if you want to go in all unknowing, maybe stop here and come back once the book is out.

The Videos/Chapter Titles

Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
(“Bodies”, Drowning Pool – strong epilepsy warning for this one)

The Gathering of the Accursed Artifacts
(Ibid, Hoth)

Summon the Warrior
(Ibid, Tengger Cavalry)

Layers of Time
(Ibid, Lacuna Coil)

In the Labyrinth
(Ibid, Bridear – this one has gone locked behind a paywall on YouTube or Spotify access, so no link for this one. Apologies.)

Who Is Gonna Be The One
(Ibid, Jinjer)

Sweet, Sweet Lies
(Ibid, Infected Rain)

(Don’t Fear) The Reaper
(Ibid, Blue Oyster Cult)

The Deep & The Dark
(Ibid, Visions of Atlantis)

Daughters of Darkness
(Ibid, Halestorm)

Machi Bhasad (Expect a Riot)
(Ibid, Bloodywood)

The Day is My Enemy
(Ibid, Prodigy – yes, there is an official video for this, but it would require another epileptic seizure warning, and this video is just better)

Into the Infernal Domains
(Ibid, Dracena)

From the Grave
(Ibid, Eleine)

When Worlds Collide
(Ibid, Powerman 5000 – just going to put an epilepsy seizure warning here as well…)

The Reckoning
(Ibid, Within Temptation)

Some of these section titles were chosen more for the title than the song, others because I love the song. Still others just meshed perfectly on both fronts.

And there was one additional song title that was going to feature, but the Epilogue (rightly) got cut, so here, have the deleted track as well:

Sleep Now in the Fire
(Ibid, Rage Against the Machine)

Because we don’t talk about the good Metal music without Rage Against the Machine, thank you very much.

And that’s where my head is as we look to the end of 2021. Looking toward the future that is whenever this novella gets published. Well, also working on the final issue of Anathema for the year, which will be coming out sometime before year’s end. It’s a beautiful one. But that is a post for another time.

In the meantime, will there be more blogging from me down the line? I mean at some point, sure. But fuck knows when.

And hey, if you want to see how the Agents of Mystery weirdness began and continued, you can pick up a copy of “Kill Me Baby, One More Time” in Nisaba Journal, Issue 4.

And you can buy a copy of Idol Pursuits from here.

In the meantime, I’m going to go listen to that track list again. And hopefully get back to writing the third novella in that sequence at some point. Always do love playing around in that world. It helps when the writing’s has some more personal overtones. Even when everything else about can verge into the ridiculous.

May you find your way into, or back into depending on where you stand, creative work of your own in 2022.


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Well, it’s Finally 2021 — Happy New Year and Some Publications Housekeeping

I think we can universally agree that, no matter how good any of our individual 2020s were (and I do hope you were all as safe and well as able throughout the endless shitstorm that was last year), it’s bloody fantastic to be over and done with what was a fucking awful year for so many. And yes, the world continues chatoic, but it is so good to have the hope of better things that comes with this particular calendrical reset.

So on that note: Happy New Year to one and all!

Yes, it’s a day or two (or a few…) late when posting this, to be sure. But the celebratory spirit remains true and untarnished for some mild tardiness.

And, honestly, it took a couple days to come down from last year. Not least of all because it was, for me, a full one in work terms (as well as pretty much every other regard). So much so that there were things I meant to blog about last year and they all just went by the wayside while I was frantically trying to get things done.

Given that there is now time to blog about a few things, let’s do an announcement dump! A few things from last year, and one upcoming:

A New Blue Rose Short Story

Back in November of last year, Nisaba Press put out an original Blue Rose fiction anthology, Tales from the Mount — tied to the Envoys to the Mount adventure path. It features all-original content from a small but excellent host of names. Yours truly included.

My own piece follows Korre and Atla from “In That Fire, All the Voices of Your Dead,” that appeared in Nisaba Journal Vol. 1. “Whispers in Shadow and Bone” takes place about a year or so after that prior tale. This one told from Korre’s perspective and set in the Shadow Barrens, chasing a bounty of a different kind from her usual fare…

A New (Giant, Showcase) Edition of Anathema

December 2020’s edition of Anathema just released with a day or two to spare before year’s end. But this time round we created a Showcase Edition in place of a standard issue — a 400+ page eBook retrospective of our first four years, with 21 reprints and an original cover.

Why an alternate format and approach for this one? Andrew talks about it in their editorial, and I do likewise on Twitter here.

We’ll be back to our usual format come April. But in the meantime, come see what we’ve published that’s spoken to us most deeply these last four years. And, hey, if you’re new to the mag, this is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with what we publish. :)

A New Mutants & Masterminds Novella on the Horizon

Looking ahead to this year’s output, I have a new tie-in novella coming: Bardmaggedon, the sequel to Idol Pursuits, will be out this winter/spring. Like Idol Pursuits before it, Bardmaggedon follows the Agents of Mystery — my four queer, stabby, supernatural disaster babies.

Where Idol Pursuits drew heavily from The Maltese Falcon, Bardmaggedon is a love letter to both Gaudy Night and metal music across its many subgenres. Also maybe a little bit heavy metal horror movies… Look, there’s a lot going on with this one. And yes, I will be posting a playlist for the novella. Hell, I’ve already kind of done that work ahead of time because said playlist is also the novella’s chapter titles. :)

More General Housekeeping (Writing, Freelancing)

I’m considering putting together a year in writing post for 2020. It was a full year on that front, in various respects. And I enjoy doing them, even if it’s been a while since the last one. Though given my largely infrequent blogging as of late, we’ll see when that ends up happening.

On the freelancing front, I’ve got a lot of open slots these next few months, and could abolsutley do with more work. So if you’re looking for editing, critique/assessment, copywriting, or ghostwriting work from me, now is an excellent time to do so. Most questions relating to that answered here on the Matheson Freelancing website. Questions not answered by the info found there should be addressed to the Contact form on that site.

And here, friends, is where we temporarily part ways again until the next blog, whenever that finds us. Because 2021 is already shaping up to be … interesting.

For now, keep safe as you can. And may things go well with all of you.

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MTG Arena, Cognition Issues in the Age of the Pandemic, and Infrequent Blogging

Two posts in one day? Yes! The rarity returns. :)

Though this one’s a little more personal than the other post talking about the new issue of Anathema being out.

So I play MTG Arena. Which is the online version of the Magic the Gathering collectible card game for those who have no idea what I’m talking about; ignore the neepery that follows as desired. I play Arena to relax.

But the other day I wandered into a match in the regular play queue and found myself across the virtual table from a streamer I like and whose videos I sometimes watch: HelloGoodGame. I watch a few different Arena streamers from time to time. Mostly Merchant, as well as AliasV, the aforementioned HelloGoodGame, and CovertGoBlue, alongside others.

I’ve been dreading the possibility of facing a streamer I watch since I started playing Arena back in February. It’s possible I’ve fought streamers whose names I don’t recognize immediately, but I’d have no way of knowing that, so what are you gonna do? But here my immediate instinct was to just quit out before I embarrassed myself on a livestream. Which is usually what happens in stressful matches for me. Because ever since I was in high school I’ve been having … sequencing and transposition issues. I used to think it might be some kind of dyslexia, but I’ve never had any trouble reading. Instead:

I transpose or replace words when talking to people — if you’ve ever seen me hitch in a conversation where a pause doesn’t belong, it’s because I’m trying to get my brain to make the intended word come out. I’ve gotten fast enough at it over the years that I think most people probably don’t catch it, but I can’t be sure.

I reverse or transpose travel directions even when I’ve taken a route for years. Much to the woe of anyone who’s ever had to have me navigate because I’m the one who “knows the way.”

I sometimes freeze as I lose a thought entirely mid-sentence and have to reconstruct that train of thought from scratch. That pause is harder to hide.

And in games like MTG I flip required sequencing, or think in the moment that a sequence works differently or in the reverse of how it does despite knowing, from years of experience, exactly how it actually works.

I did end up playing that match against HGG I mentioned above, and you can see it in this embedded video:



I go by “Sekisetsu” on Arena as in several other places online, and that match starts at about the 15-minute mark. And therein you can see good examples of the things I’m talking about in this post when I play the pair of Corridor Monitors before attacking with the Arcanist Owls I’d been intending to untap and have on defence by playing those Monitors, or when I let the remaining mana in my pool accrued from a Nyx Lotus tap dissipate between phases instead of playing the pair of Brazen Borrowers before that disappeared as intended, and so on.

I’ve been playing MTG in paper form on and off, mostly casually, since ’94. Admittedly with about a decade-long hiatus in there. Anyway, point is: I’ve been doing this long enough that I know what I’m doing, and when the stress gets bad and the transposition issues worsen I still can’t play properly for shit. If you’ve played against me in the Ranked queues on Arena, you’ve probably seen what I’m talking about happen. It’s not as bad outside of Ranked, where there’s less stress. But against a professional streamer? I’m surprised there were so relatively few misplays in the end. Which is why I mostly stick to unranked matches and play primarily in Festivals or Drafts these days.

Because the pandemic has massively ramped up these long-standing issues. They get worse with stress, remember? And what is this pandemic but an endless refrain of uncertainty and anxiety.

Even at the best of times my brain just jumbles information, to no real rhyme or reason. Which is hilarious, because I have an excellent memory, but it’s like a ransacked filing cabinet in here — it’s all there, but good luck finding what you need in the right moment. :D

And it’s not really the kind of thing I generally talk about publicly, because you don’t want freelancing clients knowing that particular issue when the bulk of your business relies on precision writing and editing. (So much for that now, *cough*.) But I make it work, it just means I spend a lot longer double checking my work. Hell, I reread every email I send multiple times, and things still slip through every once in a while.

Honestly, it’s the sheer shame of not wanting people to think you’re a fool because they can’t see what goes on behind the scenes, or sometimes just don’t care, that keeps me from engaging where I want to in a lot of cases. Or it can rob the joy of engaging in something like MTG because you know you’re going to routinely fuck up with that stress in a pandemic at an all-time high.

It’s why I tend to prefer listening over talking in group settings, and to observe more than interact. I’ve had numerous people tell me over the years that they think I like moving through spaces like a ghost. I think it’s meant as a compliment? Does’t land that way because I actively fucking hate ghosting through a space. But it’s been a necessity over the years because I’m constantly afraid of embarrassing myself.

And it’s one of two reasons I don’t blog as much anymore, despite wanting to. The other reason is a conversation for another post. But in so many ways it’s easier to just not put yourself out there when the fear of failure is super high.

So I almost didn’t take the match against HGG. I hovered over the Concede button during hand selection for what felt like an interminable time.

I was so panicked because I was terrified that I was going to get made fun of on stream — and then if/when that video went live on YouTube I wasn’t going to be able to keep myself from watching it and see that happening. Which is ridiculous, HGG doesn’t do that, he always seems like a lovely person. But the reality of that didn’t matter, because in my head everyone immediately sees my failures and is waiting to pounce on them. I also have OCD and Anxiety, that’s just the resulting expectation of that combination.

And then I watched the video, after checking for days if it was going to go up and beating myself up mentally at length.

And it wasn’t so bad. Because, yeah, I definitely fucked up multiple plays, but while piloting an intermediate-difficulty deck I still managed to hold my own against a much better player than me. I won’t spoil the outcome, you should go watch it yourself if you’re so inclined. It’s a good match, and HGG’s videos are always fun to watch.

But here’s the thing to stress: it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. And I say that as someone who quite literally shakes full-bodied from ramping anxiety.

We spend so much of our lives living in fear. Much of it justified in the face of the state of the world, and longstanding bigotry and hatred and oppression. But fear cannot rule you, or you will not survive it and you will never manage anything. Not exactly news, but always a good thing to remember.

I guess I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else. I usually am with this kind of post. But discussion of “not being afraid to do the thing” seems timely, somehow. Or perhaps it’s always timely and the reminder is just occasionally warranted.

A lot of ramble today. Take from it what you will. Hopefully some of it proves helpful or timely for some of you. And there’ll be more blogging from me when I have the brain for it. Or when I just need to let fly a good rant. As ever. :)

In the meantime, look after yourselves, and each other.

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New Anathema Issue is out!

Yes, I  know I have not blogged for months. There’s a pandemic on, you may have noticed? Been hunkered down, burning most of my focus on work this last long while. Blogging … can fall by the wayside under those circumstances. And also because of something getting discussed in the next post, which is probably going up later today, provided I finish it. But right now:

It’s August again. Which means a new issue of Anathema is out in the world! Specifically Issue 11, which you can read for free online here, and whose absolutely fucking gorgeous cover you can see below:

Chinelo and Andrew and I are, as ever, excessively fond of the way this one turned out. And I, obviously biased though I am, think you should read it post-haste. I mean you can’t beat exceptional fiction for the reading price of “free,” can you?

Support is also always welcome, via buying ebooks or subscriptions through the Anathema website store. But mostly? We want you to read the work and talk about it — to give these amazing creators their due.

Now what are you still doing here? Go read the new issue. :)

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A Reprint, For Hart and Queen!

So … an announcement to make about two publications within a couple of weeks of each other? Normally, no. Today, yes! Because Nisaba Press just released For Hart and Queen, an anthology of all the previously uncollected Blue Rose tie-in stories from various venues (including Nisaba Journal issues).

Which means that a) you get a boatload of excellent reprints if you want to pick up a copy, b) that you get an original piece in the conclusion of Rhiannon Louve’s Blue Rose story cycle that’s been appearing in bits and pieces (technically a novella in its completed form), and c) if you haven’t already read my story “In That Fire, All the Voices of Your Dead” from Nisaba Journal Issue 1, you can also read that now by picking up the anthology.

My own story is the introduction of the characters Atla and Korre, who you’ll be seeing again soon in another story from the Blue Rose world. I’ll be sharing that other announcement once it goes live. But in the meantime, want to catch up on how a Jarzoni refugee managed not to die in the desert, haunted by the ghosts of her past? And, you know, also found a friend, and maybe even a chance at building a future? Then go grab a copy of For Hart and Queen! :D

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Idol Pursuits is a Thing You Can Buy Now!

Wow. It has been a lot of months since I blogged on here. Been kind of in my head for the most part. Have you seen what this fucking year has been trying to pull with us collectively? Like, wow, in so many ways, fuck 2020.

But today is a busy day of things doing, and thus requires blogging.

First, Anathema Issue 10 just launched today. It’s fucking great, go read it.

Second, it’s also launch day for something of my own:

Idol Pursuits, my Mutants & Masterminds novella is now a thing you can buy and read! You can pick it up from either DriveThruFiction, or the Nisaba Press site directly.

Would you like an excellently-priced novella about four stabby, supernatural, dysfunctional disaster babies? Who, like, might or might not form a team (eventually…), but who will absolutely get into absurd shenanigans in a queer Maltese Falcon-esque detective mystery in the meantime?

Then, friends, have I got a book for you. :D

Grab your copy of Idol Pursuits so you can read about Alejandra, Jane, Kid, and Ilkath (The Revenant, Resurrectionist, Kid Necro, and … uh … Ilkath, respectively) basically being superheroic fuckups.

Those of you who’ve previously read “Kill Me Baby, One More Time,” in Nisaba Journal Issue 4 have already met Jane, (if you haven’t, hey, why not do so now?), and Idol Pursuits is set a couple years after that story. Though it stands alone from those events.

And for those of you who find you really like these ridiculous disaster babies and want to, you know, see what happens after the events of Idol Pursuits, I handed in a sequel novella earlier this year. Some of you may remember me mentioning writing a thing called Bardmaggedon off and on, which is its own set of ridiculousness…

But you’ll have to wait a little longer for that one.

In the meantime, go buy Idol Pursuits. :p

Oh, and if you like it, leave a review where you can, or shout about it to friends (or enemies, you do you). I’m trying to get people to let me keep writing these, damn it. ;)

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Anathema 2019 Award Eligible Content

We took the Anathema: Spec from the Margins blog off the site back in April, so this year I’m putting up the 2019 award eligible content for the mag here.

The new issue just dropped Tuesday (you can read Issue 9 here) and with our Year 3 run done, we’re both looking back at the past year and thinking about the upcoming 2020 schedule.

2019 was a pretty good year, all things considered: A successful Year 4 IndieGoGo. First year of raised pay rates. First year of running poetry. We got to run two original covers out of our three. And seeing more subs come in across all categories meant less scrambling to put out issues in a timely fashion. :)

And what did we publish this year? We ran 21 pieces of original content: 13 stories, 6 poems, and 2 pieces of non-fiction, totalling just over 63,000 words.

Anathema itself isn’t eligible for any awards that we’re aware of (we don’t publish enough issues annually). But all of our original content absolutely is! :D


Anathema, Issue 7 (April 2019)

Fajar” by kiDChan
(Cover Art)

Moses” by L. D. Lewis
(Short Story, 4,475 Words)

Raices (Roots)” by Joe Ponce
(Short Story, 5,950 Words)

Planting Season” by Jessica Jo Howoritz

Birds of a Feather” by Eboni J. Dunbar
(Novelette, 7,200 Words)

Things to do When You Believe You Have Been Cursed: A Checklist” by Maya Chhabra

Inheritance” by Qurat Dar
(Short Story, 3,525 Words)

The Secret Tara” by Tara Sidhoo Fraser
(Non-Fiction, 2,375 Words)


Anathema, Issue 8 (August 2019)

Still Water” by Ian Muneshwar
(Short Fiction, 6,000 Words)

A House With a Home” by Jon Mayo
(Short Fiction, 4,050 Words)

Pendant” by Joyce Chng

Soul Sisters” by Brandann R. Hill-Mann
(Short Story, 3,375 Words)

Seventeen Days” by A.Z. Louise

A Patch of Night” by S. J. Fujimoto
(Short Story, 1,925 Words)

A Half-Formed Thing” by Adefolami Ademola
(Non-Fiction, 2,350 Words)


Anathema, Issue 9 (December 2019)

Girls in Cars” by Grace P. Fong
(Cover Art)

Men in Cars” by Lisa M. Bradley
(Short Story, 5,175 Words)

Fossilized” by Jessica Yang
(Short Story, 2,950 Words)

Ophelia” by Sydney Richardson

Fission” by Nicole Tan
(Short Story, 3,100 Words)

I Tire of This Skin” by Lowry Poletti
(Short Story, 6,400 Words)

Tapah Lullaby” by May Chong

St. Agnes” by Andalah Ali
(Short Story, 2,950 Words)


Need to catch up on our 2019 output? Follow the links above. Already read it and think it’s worth nominating for an award? What a coincidence, so we do we! :D

In all seriousness though, if you love what we’ve published, absolutely nominate the work that spoke to you for awards. Or talk to people about the stories, poems, essays, and art that struck a chord with you. Letting people know we exist and that we’re out here producing content helps us keep bringing you more exceptional, heartfelt, hilarious, terrifying, quiet, bombastic, slice-of-life, and cathartic work from marginalized creators. Because as a fairly small mag, Anathema survives on word of mouth, donations, and the ebooks and subscriptions we sell. (The latter two are available through our Store.)

In the end, the mag doesn’t exist without our content creators, readers, and fans. We just get to be the platform, and to share the wonders that keep coming our way. You all keep this going.

And we’re delighted you keep coming back to be part of this year after year. Thank you for being there, and we’ll have more for you to love in 2020! :)

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New Mutants & Masterminds Tie-In Story Out!

Given everything going on the last few months (it’s been a busy fall), I might have been remiss in announcing that my story, “Kill Me Baby, One More Time,” came out in Nisaba Journal Issue 4 in late November.

So here, then, is your belated announcement that I have a new tie-in story out in the world!

Specifically one tied to Green Ronin’s Mutants & Masterminds setting: the tale of a queer superhero who can’t stay dead, PTSD, werewolves, white supremacist elder god cultists, and just trying to make your relationship work in the midst of a whole lot of supernatural shit.

You know. The usual superhero fare.

Now, above and beyond my hoping you read the story because I enjoy writing these things and happen to think the Nisaba Journal series is excellent and you should go read all the other volumes as well, there are a couple of other reasons to read this one:

First, as far as I know it’s the first tie-in story set in M&M‘s Mystery, New Hampshire. Which is a delightfully creepy place and doesn’t really get enough love yet. So what better introduction to its wonderfully supernatural storytelling possibilities in fiction than through horror and absurdism, but, like, with an unkillable superhero?

And second, because this story focuses on Jane Dolan (The Resurrectionist), one of the protagonists of my Mutants & Masterminds novella, Idol Pursuits, which will be out next year. (Which is also set in Mystery.) You don’t necessarily need to read this story to read the novella. But this one comes first chronologically, and I’m biased and think you should read both. :)

Not sure this story is right for you? Amazon’s edition has a fair chunk of the story available to read as a free sample.

(The first link in this post takes you to Green Ronin’s Nisaba page, where you should absolutely buy the book and bypass purchasing it through Amazon. But I’m all for people thumbing through the fiction first to see if it’s to their taste.)

And that is me out for now. With Anathema‘s next issue due out this month, I’ll be back on the blog in a bit to talk about other things. But in the meantime, go read the story and enjoy! :D

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On ChiZine Publications and Putting People First

For the past week, I’ve been talking publicly about my time and experiences with ChiZine Publications a great deal on Facebook and Twitter.

If you’re just catching up on the long overdue divulgences of CZP’s nightmarish internal structure, culture of abuse and harassment, and financial malfeasance, I suggest you start here with this post that’s being updated as events unfold:

High Fever Books: Controversy Erupts Around ChiZine Publications
(ETA 11/16/20: This link appears to have been taken down. I’m leaving it up for preservation purposes, but please see Jason Sanford’s Genre Grapvine column “My Thoughts on ChiZine Publications and the Genre’s Troubling Wall of Silence” instead. Jason’s work is thorough and should provide the same overview. If not a better one.)

My own posts on the matter (the most pertinent ones) can be found here:

Other former staff have also talked about their experiences:

Others have not come forward. They may, they may not. Do not judge them for their choices, but know that their experiences, spoken and unspoken, are valid and often painful. There is little to gain for coming forward, and much to lose. Especially in this field and this community.

I worked for CZP for 2-3 years, depending on how you count it. I started working for Chiaroscuro Magazine back in 2012, but didn’t come on board the press side until 2013. I quit in 2015.

A lot has been said in the wake of people finding out what CZP did to its staff, its authors, its vendors, and others in its owners’ circle. Much surprise has been expressed at these revelations – at how fast and how furious all these tales are now spewing forth. How shocked everyone is that nothing’s come out until now, how unaware so many people were.

I am not surprised.

We tried to tell you. No one was interested in listening.

Relevant to this, and to why I am posting today are, alongside all the shock, two points that keep coming up publicly on social media and on less public places like the SFCanada listserve (I haven’t been a member of the latter for years, but others who still are or who have since quit that org have talked publicly about conversations going on there):

  1. These are conversations “too intimate” to be had in “public pile-ons”.
  2. That no matter what CZP, or presses like them, have done, we need these presses in the field.

I disagree on both points.

To the first:

All those of us affected tried talking about this quietly and carefully for years. For my own part quietly because I had been locked down with an NDA rider on signing my employment contract. As it turns out, I’m apparently one of the few people at CZP who was offered a contract, let alone made to sign an NDA.

In whispers, picking carefully who we felt we could trust to tell what had gone on, we tried to warn people away or bring to light ongoing wrongs being perpetrated by the press and people in its orbit.

No one listened.

Oh, there were a few who looked at us with puzzlement at our non-specifics and general warnings, didn’t sign up with CZP, and went on their merry way.

But more generally was a response of: “You’re blowing this out of proportion,” “That’s just how they operate,” and “I’ve known these people for years – I trust their word over yours.”

When talking about how abusers do not show all sides of themselves to everyone and that they carefully show only a cultivated face to those they’re not harming yet, we don’t often take that to the next necessary step of understanding: you didn’t see who they really were not because they liked you, but because they weren’t done getting what they needed from you.

Those of you finding it hard to reconcile the people you think you know with the people the rest of us have already seen, are flinching at the perhaps not yet fully realized understanding that you were being cultivated. And the equal realization that had it been a little longer, they might have turned on you too.

Sit with that feeling a little while. Understand the ugliness of the spinning dime on which your fate waited, not yet toppled to rest.

No one wants to hear Word One against their friends, let alone a whole tale. Especially when years are invested in those friendships.

Understand, also, that given those friendships and their long cultivations, and the protections they afford abusers, that I could have shouted all these years at the top of my lungs from the rooftops about my own sexual assault at the hands of one of the core “CZP crew”, and no one in the press’ orbit would have cared.

I have spent years softening that incident to sexual harassment, for my own peace of mind. But it was not. And, again, had I come forward to publicly name a cherished member of that community:

No one would have cared.

Such was the culture in place. Of protection, of silencing, of dismissal and ostracism.

We told you of our wounds and our abuse in quiet, clandestine tones. We tried to warn you how bad things really were. And no one wanted to hear it.

As always, it had to come down to money before anything concrete in this industry happened.

Which brings us to my rebuttal of the second point:

I do not believe that careers should be built on the bones of victims made stepping stones.

Much of Canadian genre publishing does not, from the evidence, agree with me. Oh there are always reasons why people choose to work with publishers who have harmed others.

Perceived career advancement seems to be a big one. Not that many Canadian authors have ever managed to have large careers by working solely in Canada, but…

Money, sometimes, is another reason. Though Canadian genre publishing has precious little of that. No solo genre Canadian publishing house pays pro advance rates, and there have been exactly two pro paying Canadian solely-genre mags:

  1. Chiaroscuro Magazine, back when Leisure Books was footing the bill.
  2. Augur Magazine. Which now pays a rate almost twice as high as any other Canadian genre mag has ever managed.

And when not about career advancement or funds, illusory though both are in this context, what else then is perceived worthwhile cause for ignoring those harmed by presses we know, or at least whisper, harm those they work with?

Sometimes prestige. Or the appearance of it. Reputation is a big thing up here. For what little it is worth without action to support it.

But truthfully, most of Canadian genre publishing publishes, and is published by, a core of people who are majority white, very straight, often older, usually men, and who began or have drifted over the years centre to right in their politics — though much of the community does a good show at playing left-leaning it’s rare to see that in more than name. Even where once there was radicalism at work, that too can fade in the tempering of self-assurance and closing ranks to ensure continued success. It is the demographic publishing as a larger enterprise was built to promote and empower, and in international terms.

(Watch: that prior paragraph is going to be the first thing people malign me for out of this litany. I could set an alarm by the screaming that’s going to happen about it on closed lists and across email chains. Always easier to be affronted than to take action, or acknowledge culpability.)

And here in Canadian genre publishing, what are the lives and wellbeing of littler people, more marginalized people, when Great White Men must have their platforms from which to expound, in stentorian tones and supporting upon their humble, much-burdened shoulders the weight of the world?

Money and prestige and pride are why no one listened.

It’s why when I and others talked over the years about how ChiZine Publications harmed its staff, its authors, and was damaging the field by shutting out other voices through conscious and unconscious bias, no one listened.

It’s why when I and others talked over the years about how EDGE Books couldn’t be bothered to pay its people, harassed its authors, and terrorized some of them at conventions, no one listened.

It’s why when I and others talked over the years about how Exile Editions cheated its authors, was misogynist and queerphobic to its editors and authors, and harassed them at length via either emails or sometimes by phone (its owner preferring phone calls to minimize records), no one listened.

No press is more important than people. No product of any press is more important than people. No work of staggering genius is more important than the people harmed in its making.

Presses, like people, suffer the consequences of their actions. When presses cause harm, they fall. And where they fall, others rise. Often better than what came before.

Because when behemoths (by Canadian genre terms) like ChiZine stop sucking all the air out of the field, you find room for other, more agile, more dedicated, more mindful and considered and inclusive publishers to take their place.

We do not need to maintain, support, or prop up harmful publishers, harmful practices, or work with harmful people because we are afraid that without them there is nothing else.

There is always something else.

The younger generation of Canadian genre writers, publishers, and honestly the vastly more diverse array of CanSpec and CanLit people publishing genre solely or in concert with Lit material on their publishing schedules are daily, living proof of better publishers and mags. And an excellent future for this industry if we’re willing to grab hold of it and build it up from the rightly-razed ashes of what came before.

Right now? The majority of Canadian genre publishing needs to stop living in fear. All that’s done is ensure that we’re happy to fuck each other over for pennies a page.

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New Tie-in Story Coming out in Sovereigns Anthology

I hadn’t planned to have another blog post up on the site quite so soon? (At least not one unrelated to Anathema.) But then Nisaba Press announced the Sovereigns of the Blue Rose anthology on the Green Ronin site, with a view of its table of contents. So, you know, I can’t not share that I have a Queen Larai story in the book.

Alongside, oh, a host of thoroughly excellent authors… :D

You can find the announcement and the full ToC at the link above. Said announcement also means I’ve updated the Bibliography page here on the site. Which leaves just one more piece on there I can’t currently claim the provenance of — until that project goes public anyway.

I’ll update the release date for Sovereigns on the Bibliography page once that’s public as well. And then when it comes out I expect you all to read what promises to be a decidedly excellent collection. :p

And for my part? Yay for more forthcoming fiction!

Not least of all because it feels like I spend a lot more of my time these days editing than writing my own work. Which … eh … for the most part it’s a living. (Like, a marginal one given publishing’s rates, and Anathema‘s more than just a living, sure.) But the fiction’s where my heart lies.

So, you know.

Every piece is a cause for celebration. :)

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