I’m eligible for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction or Fantasy

This is my second and last year of Campbell Award eligibility. Since my eligibility period, I’ve sold a total of 35 stories and five poems (woo hoo!).

Here are some highlights:

For more info/links to my stories & poetry, click here.

When I sell a story, my partner buys me a potted plant. This is rosemary in the shape of a wreath. :D
When I sell a story, my partner buys me a potted plant. This is rosemary in the shape of a wreath. 😀

For the last three years, I have also put together the annual Art & Words Show in Fort Worth, Texas, in which I coordinate an art show involving up to 12 (mostly genre) writers and 12 visual artists in a collaborative inspirational project. The show was featured in Poets & Writers in early 2014. Each year, the show gets better and better as I learn more about how best to put it together. Currently I’m working on growing the project and finding ways to expand its reach so that the hard work of the participants will be recognized by a larger audience. Several of the works written for the show have gone on to be published; for a list of those works, visit the Art & Words page on Art on the Boulevard’s website. For more info about submissions, which are open each March, click here.

Art & Words: lots of people squeezed into one little gallery
Art & Words: lots of people squeezed into one little gallery

Who can nominate for the Campbell? WorldCon attendees of 2014, 2015, or 2016. So if you attended LonCon in 2014, are attending Sasquan in 2015, or are signed up to attend MidAmericaCon II in Kansas City in 2016, you have the ability to nominate for the Campbell.

Who else is eligible? Some of my favorite writers are also eligible: Lara Elena Donnelly (read “Chopin’s Eyes”), Carmen Maria Machado (go for “The Husband Stitch” or “Inventory”), Sam J. Miller (try “Kenneth: A User’s Manual”), Bogi Takács (“This Shall Serve as a Demarcation”). A few Art & Words participants are eligible, too: Tony Pisculli and Alisa Alering. Other names can be found here: http://www.writertopia.com/awards/campbell (and oh man, I just looked over the list and there are so many awesome people on it there’s no way I can list all my favorites here).

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“They Come With the Carnival”

On Monday, my short short story “They Come With the Carnival” came out on Daily Science Fiction. Read it online for free here: http://dailysciencefiction.com/hither-and-yon/magic-realism/bonnie-jo-stufflebeam/they-come-with-the-carnival.

Just in time for Halloween, this creepy, apocalyptic story was inspired by art from my Art & Words Show. I never participate formally in the show, but every year I’m so inspired by the artwork that I always complete a few stories of my own.

Art is part of the Carnival Series by Kris Goto. Check her out; she’s amazing!

“The Mammoth” — Ideomancer (December 2013)

My story “The Mammoth” appeared on Ideomancer in December of 2013.

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First line: “The mammoth skeleton stands in the distance, barely visible below the drooping limbs of monstrous evergreens.”

Inspiration: Set in a world populated with the skeletons of extinct animals, “The Mammoth” is about a father and daughter who take a camping trip together, and the secrets that are revealed during that trip. This is the second story set in this world, which was inspired by a dream I had. These skeleton stories have been some of my favorite to write, mainly because they allow me to visit the Oregon wilderness once again.

Read for free: http://www.ideomancer.com/?p=2634

“An Exodus of Wings” — Daily Science Fiction (May 2013)

My story “An Exodus of Wings” appeared on Daily Science Fiction in May of 2013.

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First line: “Before Heidi came along, Michael did everything he could to keep the damn faeries out of his apartment.”

Inspiration: When I moved back to Denton, Texas, from Eugene, Oregon — where I lived for two years — I was reintroduced to one of Texas’ finer pests: the roach. Our new duplex apartment was teeming with them; it wasn’t all bad, however, because after we dealt with the problem, I wrote the short story “An Exodus of Wings” in which faeries are the pests. I wrote the story over the course of a day in a spiral notebook.

Read it for free: http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/fantasy/bonnie-jo-stufflebeam/an-exodus-of-wings

Collection Review: Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove

In Karen Russell’s second short story collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, it’s evident that Russell’s fiction has grown and evolved with her career. Many of the stories in her first collection, St. Lucy’s School for Girls Raised By Wolves, while imaginative, concerned adolescence and coming of age. The protagonists were younger, and the stories were certainly more imbued with a sense of lightness beyond the dark. Vampires in the Lemon Grove is a darker, more adult book; many of these stories end with a chill.

Take the title story, “Vampires in the Lemon Grove.” A vampire and his vampire wife seek to quench their thirst, having discovered that the lemons from a specific Italian lemon grove satiate them better than any drink they have found; long ago, they realized that blood does nothing for a vampire, the myth mistaken. For the main character, this realization came too late. He had been killing for years, thinking himself a monster. Becoming complacent, he longs for the days when he was feared. Beautiful, haunting, and sensory — one can almost taste the bitter lemons — “Vampires in the Lemon Grove” is tinged with a sense of longing and desperation.

In “Reeling for the Empire,” female silkworm factory workers are forced to drink a tea which turns them into human silkworms; when their bodies fill with silk, they must hook themselves to a machine and spin the silk out of them or else they become sick. The women’s oppression is tangible, and when, at the story’s end, they are able to use their condition to free themselves, the relief is one of the most palpable emotions I have ever felt in a story.

“Proving Up” is a terrifying story of a family’s quest to hold title to their land in the American West. Because the Homestead Act requires that their dwellings have a window for the family to be considered owners of their land, among other requirements, the community of settlers share a window among them come inspection time. Miles, a young man whose family hopes to pass inspection this time around, is given the task of riding from house to house with the window, ahead of the inspector. But when an early snow starts falling, Miles is forced to stop, and he meets a man in the snow whose hunger is for more than land. Definitely not recommended to read before bed, “Proving Up” is one of the scariest stories I have ever read.

In “The Barn at the End of Our Term,” eleven American presidents wake up as horses after their death in a strange barn on a strange farm. Rutherford is the main character; obsessed with finding his wife in what he believes to be the afterlife, he latches onto a sheep. Absurd and clever, there are certainly more questions than answers in this story.

Another absurdist tale in the collection is the shorter story “Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules for Antarctic Tailgating.” There are eleven rules — rule one is “make friends with your death,” and rule two is “plan to arrive early” — that Dougbert Shackleton gives, pamphlet-style, to ensure a successful, safe Food Chain Games experience. There are two teams in these games: Team Whale and Team Krill. Shackleton roots for Team Krill, “the underdog.” Hilarious and, despite Shackleton’s insistence that the games are a sometimes deadly sport of which to be a fan, one of the lighter stories in the collection.

In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist discovers that she can alter a young veteran’s tattoo of a fallen comrade and alter his memories in the process. She struggles with the right decision, wanting nothing more than to see the young man free of his pain. Raises some interesting questions about memory as well as about trauma and whether it might be better to forget.

The final story in the collection, “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” concerns a group of bully boys who discover a lifelike scarecrow which looks exactly like the former classmate who they used to pick on. The narrator is unreliable, keeping facts from the reader as well as his friends, and so the puzzle of the story becomes figuring out what exactly happened before Eric’s disappearance from the town. An unsettling story about redemption and consequences.

Also included in the collection is “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a nod back to Russell’s first collection: another coming-of-age story in which a boy struggling with family problems, future problems, and girl problems discovers that seagulls are determining some of his life events for him. Strange, worth reading, but not one of my favorites, and not one of Russell’s best.

Other than “The Seagull Army,” however, this collection is populated with top of the line stories, most of which I now consider favorites. While her first collection, with the exception of “Ava Wrestles the Alligator,” left me lukewarm, this collection left me with a sense that I had, unlike the vampires in the title story, finally quenched a literary thirst.