purple hedgehog with bookWhen I first launched Capricious, just over a year ago, I decided that if I made it to a year, I'd start shaking things up and doing some things a little differently, create some special projects or spin-offs.

Well, we made it to a year and that means there's a special issue in the works. I've just set up a crowdfunding campaign to try and make it happen. Here's a little more about what's planned:

Gender diverse pronouns - like the "ze" and "hir" used above, or singular they, or any of a number of possibilities - are an increasing part of many people's vocabulary. They can be used to describe people for whom "he" or "she" are not a good fit, or to refer to a person, real or hypothetical, of unknown gender.

But - with some notable exceptions - they’re under-utilised in science fiction and fantasy - despite the fact that they’re necessary just to depict our world accurately, let alone the myriad worlds of the imagination. While some editors are welcoming, others are dismissive, meaning authors are taking a risk in writing these stories, and readers don’t see enough of them.

As the editor of Capricious magazine (and a non-binary person myself) I want to create a special issue of speculative stories which not only use gender diverse pronouns, but embrace them. Stories with gender diverse characters, in worlds where gender is conceptualised in many different ways - or not at all.

We’ve published two such stories: “The Need for Overwhelming Sensation” by Bogi Takács and “Moments of Light” by Toby MacNutt, both of which use multiple sets of gender diverse pronouns - and such pronoun usage is very welcome in every issue of Capricious. Now we want to specifically celebrate it and showcase the possibilities it allows.

This is my first attempt at crowdfunding and it's all very nerve-wracking, but it's something I really want to be able to produce, so I'm just hoping it will all come together.

Please do head over and check it out, spread the word, and consider supporting the campaign - there are some great rewards, including handmade Capricious fuzzhogs, like the one above.


In other news, I'm also over at Angela Slatter's blog, talking about my At The Edge story, and other writerly things. Have a read!

It's a post of ten things:

1. I've just got back from WORD Christchurch. I have a tendency to miss out on writers' festivals due to work and disorganisation, so this time I decided to do it properly: I bought a festival pass and some cheap flights and listened and laughed and cried and learned and I loved it all. AJ Fitzwater read "Gravity Well" which I've adored since I first read it. Ivan E. Coyote's work emotionally destroyed and rebuilt me multiple times over the course of the weekend (I'm not even being melodramatic here that's the honest truth). I'm watching Sophie Rea very carefully because holy shit she's on track to do some amazing things. And who'd have thought the mortician would be the light relief of the weekend? Plus I caught up with some lovely friends, slotted in a visit to the art gallery and drank the odd cocktail. Excellent all round.

2. Continuing the themes of "doing the things I don't have time for when I'm working" and "making good use of my tax refund", I'm looking forward to the National Writers' Forum next month (though I should probably work out how I'm getting there, and where I'm staying...). There are some great speakers and I'm discovering this newfound love for going to events I have no responsibility for organising whatsoever. There should be more of those.

3. Now I'm back, it's back to writing. I started the new novel today; the Wellington-set urban fantasy that still needs a title. It took some fiddling to get the voice right, but I think I'm on track. My software is throwing up motivatey-statistics all over the place and it's so nice to be digging in to a new project again.

4. The software in question is The Novel Factory. It's much more structured than anything I've used before, and that has its positives and negatives but as I'm both still reeling from my Ice Flight related plotting dramas and writing a novel which is narratively and structurally rather straight-forward, it's proving to be exactly what I need to cure my habit of leaping in and hoping the plot will just sort itself out.

5. I've also been really excited about interactive fiction lately (that's what happens when a writer goes to coding bootcamp, I guess!). I want to explore the ways it can move beyond the choose your own adventure structure and be used to explore concepts such as choice and timing and possibilities. I have two larger projects in progress, but to let loose a bit and experiment, I've signed up to the 100 Days Project with the goal of producing a snippet of interactive fiction or poetry a day. I'm trying to do something different with the mechanics as well as with the text each day. Do I have enough ideas? Time will tell. I'll make a master post here shortly so you can check out the weird.

6. We announced our third Guest of Honour for Lexicon. He's a rat. A ghost rat, to be precise. We're honoured, and pretty sure we're starting a global trend. Also we're collecting ideas and thoughts on our programme. If you think you might attend, please do fill in our short survey.

7. Unemployment is... not great. I'm in a relatively privileged situation; I do not want for things to keep me busy (see items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10) and while I am rather broke the mortgage is being paid and my caffeine addiction is being maintained. But this is also the longest I haven't had a job of some description since I was fifteen, and it's unsettling and brain-weasel-producing in all kinds of ways. Fingers crossed something comes up soon.

8. My short story, "And Still the Forests Grow though We are Gone" got some rather nice attention in this tor.com review.

9. We released Capricious Issue 4 - meaning the publication survived its first year. And the next few issues are well underway. I need to stop, take stock, have a think about where it's going (I have some ideas, I need to work out the details) so it doesn't lose momentum - but I'm really proud of the progress so far.

10. Lastly, now I've started writing one project, I'm starting the planning for another; the third book in the Flux & Flight trilogy alongside Liquid City and Ice Flight. There are a lot of directions I could take this and it's going to take some serious thought. Despite all my dramas with Ice Flight, this is a world I love, and this book is most likely going to be my goodbye to it. I want to make sure it's a good one.

Ice Flight. The second novel(la) in the Flux & Flight trilogy, and sequel (if not a very direct sequel) to Liquid City. I thought it wasn't going to be easy. I wrote and deleted and rewrote and restarted. I unwaveringly love my characters, but I fell out of love with the plot (to put it mildly) more than a few times. I found it hard to put my finger on why I found this story in particular so hard to write, but for whatever reason, it was.

About two weeks ago I re-started it for the final time. I went back to the beginning, copied and pasted in scenes I was happy enough with, rewrote others, and wrote the sections I hadn't got to yet. I spent a few days in Taupō with my laptop, and the weather co-operated perfectly with my need to mentally transport myself to a snowy, mountain setting.

mountains from desert road mountains from desert road snow from desert road

And today I looked at it and said "hey, you know what? I can finish this tonight." I drank a lot of caffeine. I sat in my sadly broken chair. And I forced myself to write.

And it is FINISHED. Oh, it's a mess, and it's under the goal wordcount (technically a novella - I want this to be a short novel, but my work almost always grows significantly when it comes to the rewrite. But it is finished and now I can put it away for a little while before carving it up for the second draft.

I've learned a few things along the way. One is that it's not generally a good idea to release the first book in a series without completing at least the first draft of the second. Another is that I'm... not actually a good at pantsing my way through longer works as I like to think. Those are thoroughly burned onto my brain.

What's next? I've been planning an urban fantasy series for a little while now. It's not like anything I've written before, and I'm really excited. I have a little more work on the plan to do (see above) but within a week or so I should be ready to leap right in. Once that's underway, I'll be ready to start planning the third and final book in the Flux & Flight trilogy. I am so pleased to have that particular burden off my shoulders and to get stuck in to these new projects. And I think when I get back to Ice Flight and start reworking it, I'll be able to find my love for it again as well.


This Other World coverBack in 2012, the writers' group I was part of saw a call from Crossed Genres Publications for novellas featuring older women. A few of us challenged each other to write something. I'd been reading a couple of books by middle-aged and older autistic women about their experiences, and started idly thinking about what those experiences might look like in the future, in another world.

One thing led to another, and I ended up with a story which I titled This Other World, about an autistic woman who had built a life and career for herself on an alien planet and her fear of the social expectations that accompanied her approaching old age.

This Other World was included along with three other novellas in the anthology Winter Well. CGP, and Kay Holt in particular, did an amazing job with the book. I loved being part of it, and the positive feedback it received was delightful to read. Sometimes when I'm having a bad day I go back and reread the Publishers Weekly review that described This Other World as "especially breathtaking". I'm not even ashamed.

Winter Well is now, sadly, out of print, so I've taken the opportunity to release This Other World as a stand-alone ebook (and under the name I'm currently using). It's available free from Kobo, NOOK, and Scribd, and for US$0.99* from Amazon for Kindle.

While my writing has changed a lot in the past four years, this novella remains a work I'm immensely proud of and I hope it finds some new readers in this new incarnation.

*I'd love to make it free on Amazon as well, but that's difficult to do. If you'd like to see it free there, you can try clicking the "tell us about a lower price" link and see if they match the zero cost available elsewhere.

I love writing books. I love them being published. I really hate signing them.

That's not because I don't love being asked to sign - I mean, unless you're someone for whom it's an daily occurrence, I can't see it being anything less than exciting. Someone bought my book! And they like my work enough to want my signature!

But writing by hand is painful and difficult. When I had to do it regularly, I had chronic hand pain that I didn't really realise wasn't normal. Writing more than a couple of sentences is enough to cause some level of pain. And I'm... not very good at it. I screw up my own signature about one time in three.

So, you put me in a room of people at a launch, and I'm going to be stressing about pain, stressing about screwing up and ruining the book, and not really having a good time meeting people.

Books containing my work are few at the moment, but of course I have *evil cackle* plans to change that. I want to have launches and enjoy them and be focused on the people and the book, not how uncooperative my motor skills are.

So I ordered this:

signature stamp with practice stamps

And I love it.

One easily portable stamp, with my signature (plus a bonus pterosaur) in purple ink. Something even I can use successfully.

Plus I'm extra motivated to use it because when it runs out of ink I get to refill it myself, which was the coveted job among the Saturday assistants at my teenage library job.

(Yep, place your bets for how well that's (not) going to go.)

I was delighted to sign copies of At the Edge and Shortcuts with it at Au Contraire. I hope I'll get many future opportunities to leave my purple pterosaur mark.


On the last full day of last year's North American trip, I visited the National Air and Space museum in Washington DC. It was a place that made my inner child-nerd very happy, but one thing in particular caught my eye: a Russian mannequin, named Ivan Ivanovich (which I understand to be the equivalent of John Doe) which was used to test the Vostok spacecraft.

Everything about this exhibit fascinated me, right down to the details like how a recording of a recipe for cabbage soup was included to confuse any listeners. But the thing that really grabbed me was how MAKET (model) was written across his forehead because he was so lifelike that anyone finding him might realise he was not human.

I thought about this on the long flight back home. Ideas of who is, and isn't, a person are something I keep coming back to in my writing, and this one kept raising questions and possibilities in my mind.

So I wrote a story.

And despite flash fiction in second person being not the easiest to sell, Unsung Stories liked it enough to publish, which I'm obviously very happy about. You can read it on their website. I hope you enjoy.

This weekend, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the launch of At The Edge, an anthology of Australasian speculative fiction from Paper Road Press.

image of At the Edge launch(That's Marie Hodgkinson from Paper Road Press, speaking, authors Paul Mannering and AJ Fitzwater and editors Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray, along with shiny shiny copies of the book.)

The very last story is "And Still the Forests Grow though We Are Gone", by yours truly. I'm really proud to be a part of this: the editors and publishers did an amazing job and it looks beautiful.

And one day we may stop laughing about Octavia's zombie chicken story. Today, however, is not that day.

A few words on my story:

At the Edge coverAs some of you will know, my MA thesis was partly about John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, and in the course of writing that particular monster, I did some reading in and around the tiny floral-apocalypse subgenre.

Aside from the terrifying plants/terrifying lack of plants, floral-apocalypse fiction is characterised by a white, male perspective and a usually English (sometimes North American), post-war setting. It's associated with a lingering fear of invasion, the early days of environmentalism, and a fear of what violence anyone could be capable of in particular circumstances.

I wanted to question this genre. I wanted to think about what is and isn't a catastrophe, about who leaves, who dies, who survives. I wanted to look at ideas around stories, the stories we carry with us, the idea that they have an impact beyond what we intend, and that they can contaminate as well as enlighten.

Have I provided some kind of comprehensive answer to these ponderings? Hell no. I grappled as I wrote this with the irony that I was writing about what stories we should tell, while not being sure what stories I should be telling, or what stories I had a right to tell. But I really enjoyed working on it (not to mention the opportunity to insert some desperately nerdy Wyndham references) and it's a story that, I hope, raises some questions for the reader or, at least, leaves them with a lingering worry about mutant seaweed. I'll consider either of those a success.

You can purchase At the Edge from Amazon - or if you're in New Zealand, I understand it's made its way into independent bookshops you may frequent.

I was on two panels at Au Contraire (more on the convention as a whole later) and mentioned I'd post details of the works I discussed (or meant to discuss but ran out of time). I didn't make full notes, so this won't be a lot of use to those who weren't there, sorry - although I understand at least part of each panel may be podcast and if so I'll post details here.

Disability in Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Accessing the Future anthology from FutureFire.net
  • Defying Doomsday anthology from Twelfth Planet Press
  • Rose Lemberg's Birdverse universe
  • This Alien Shore by CS Friedman
  • The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson
  • "The Country of the Blind" by HG Wells
  • The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
  • Game of Thrones
  • How to Tame your Dragon
  • Countries of the Blind: Blindness and the Creation of Other Worlds in “The Country of the Blind”, “The Black Grippe” and The Day of the Triffids (aka my MA thesis)
  • Ada Hoffmann's Autistic Book Party
  • Disability in Kidlit
  • Disability in Science Fiction ed Kathryn Allan
  • #diversestories reviews by Bogi Takács

Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • Vellum and Ink by Hal Duncan
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Hild by Nicola Griffith
  • Beyond Binary anthology ed Brit Mandelo
  • The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R Kiernan
  • Orlando by Virginia Woolf
  • Curse of Chalion and sequels by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Book of Transformations by Mark Charan Newton
  • Fierce Family anthology from Crossed Genres Publications
  • Glittership

Au Contraire is next weekend. I'm dying my hair in preparation. The timetable is here and here's my schedule:

I'm on a couple of panels:

  • At 9am (ouch) on Saturday, I'll be talking about my pet topic, Disability in SFF. Yes, putting an autistic person on a panel related to their thesis topic. What could go wrong? But, more seriously, this is an amazing panel of cool and insightful people with varied experiences of disability, and I'm really excited about having a natter with them.
  • At 10am (someone bring me a coffee between the two please) is Gender Diversity and Sexuality in SFF. Again, great people on this panel and I have so many rants on this topic, it's a lottery which one I'll go off on. (Though there's a good chance it will be either Amazon classifications of queer books or People with Pronoun Issues Cos Grammar.)

I also expect to be at the launch of At The Edge (more on that later), at the Sir Julius Vogel Awards ceremony (where I am on the shortlist, but am more likely to be cheering along one or more of my awesome friends when they win and I am very content with that) and at the closing ceremony making a top secret announcement about LexiCon.

Other than that, I'm looking forward to seeing friends, drinking dubious quality vodka, and being a shameless fan of GoH AJ Fitzwater. It looks like I'll even be breaking my "I don't go to Guest of Honour speeches" habit...