An Equivalent Mass

A black lab with a grey muzzle

Content warning: this story contains depictions of abused animals. (And comeuppance. If depictions of abused animals upset you — that’s ok! They should! — feel free to not-read knowing the bastard gets what’s coming to him.)

The three animals stepped into the clearing in the woods: a siamese cat with a bit of airs about her, a young pit bull who was a bit too excited to be lost, and an old Labrador retriever. Clearly someone’s beloved pets, all three looked bedraggled and, though not badly injured, certainly unhappy.

The cat stopped suddenly and sat down, looking at the two dogs as if they had straight up lost their minds. The pit bull balked as well. The log cabin that stood in front of them didn’t look safe. The southern end’s roof had collapsed and a tree grown up in the space. The northern end was leaning dangerously to the left. The porch roof looked scorched by fire.

The Labrador paused with the others for a moment. The animals exchanged looks. The lab, not convinced by the others’ concerns, stepped forward to lead the way.

As they approached the house, a brick fell off the chimney and smashed on the ground. The cat jumped up on top of the pit bull and refused to climb back down even after the pittie shook himself.

The animals climbed the rickety stairs onto the porch. They stared at the door.

A middle-aged woman stood on the other side of a crooked brown storm door. “Lost in the woods, huh? Family lives three hundred away, over the mountains? And you want to get home?”

She stared at them for a moment, then sighed. “Come on in.” She swung the screen door open.

The lab pawed at the air.

“No, I’m not a goddess, I’m a witch. I don’t care what the Saint Bernard told you… you’ll understand the difference soon enough.”

Continue reading “An Equivalent Mass”

Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir, illustrated by Myisha Haynes

I’m an anne-with-an-e and so it was a requirement of the universe that I’d be reading Anne of Green Gables before I escaped junior high.

Trying to read the original series has multiple hurdles that have only gotten stronger since I was a child. The series was set in rural Prince Edward Island, Canada, in a time before telephones, cars, and refrigerators. (The internet wasn’t even dreamed of.) The books were written in the early 1910s, so more than 100 years of word loss and language migration has taken place. And the story of a young white girl with red hair adopted by two older people who wanted a boy that could take over the farm isn’t exactly as easy to relate to these days as it was even when I was a teen in the 1990s.

But the story’s arc as a coming-of-age tale is certainly still relevant. People (of all ages) still need to know what a good apology looks like, why it can be hard to fit in when you’re different, that parents (and other adults) get things wrong too, and that the kid you think is a jerk might actually be more sincere than he lets on.

I’m thrilled that Anne of West Philly retells the first Anne of Green Gables story, overcoming the language barriers of the original and turning it into a graphic novel for all ages.

Some of the changes to be aware of:

  • Anne is a foster child, not a straight-up adoption as she was in the original. (These days you don’t get to just send an orphan you have legally adopted back if you don’t like them, thank God.)
  • Anne’s a Black girl with natural red hair.
  • Anne and her friends are on Instagram, they have cell phones, they are in a robotics club, they use school busses, they’re in our society.
  • The story takes place in West Philadelphia instead of a farm in Canada, which has surprisingly very little impact on the primary plot points.
  • (Spoiler) Near the end of the book we learn that not only is Gilbert not Anne’s primary love interest, she’s crushing on a girl. (The story ends before we see whether Anne wins the heart of the friend she’s interested in.)

In other words, it’s the kind of story that a kid today could understand without having to know anything about rural living, Canadian geography, or English as spoken 120 years ago. A timeless story that’s reset to a time that makes it easier to enjoy.

Definitely worth reading, and I just gifted it to a teen I know.

Ablution: A new short story on Abyss & Apex

Tonight, I stare into the fog and think of the men I prepared for war today, feeling nothing for their deaths. The young ones spoke only of glory of battle. The old ones saw no glory in killing, just duty. They all believe in a better life, a vision that I no longer share. I strapped both kinds of men on their steeds, buckled the leather harnesses that made the knights one with my dragons. I wished them honor, but saved my prayers for the dragons.

In the April 2021 issue of Abyss & Apex you will find Ablution, a short story I wrote a few years ago and finally found a home.

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher

This was my treat to myself for getting a bunch of work things done, and it was totally worth the hard work I did to earn it.

Paladin’s Grace, by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon) is set in the Clocktaur Wars universe, in a land filled with gods and magic, but not in the cast-spells zap-your-enemies way. It is, as the author puts it, a “fluffy romance” filled with sexual tension, protagonists who love, well, everybody really but believe that nobody can love them, “helpful” friends, spies, intrigue, and a body count.

There are those of us who argue that “body count” isn’t normally a requirement for a fluffy romance, but that group of us obviously hasn’t read T. Kingfisher’s books. In fact, I was a bit worried about this one at first because the first confirmed dead body was so late in the book compared to some of the others….

Anyway, you will laugh, you will get sniffly, you will facepalm at the misunderstandings, you will demand a line of gingerbread-scented cologne, and you will sigh when everything ends as pragmatically happily ever after as possible.

Oh plus there’s a civet. Can’t have a book about a perfumer without a civet!

A Working Dog / What I Published in 2020

My ‘list of what I published this year” and my “most recent publication” list happen to be identical, so…

“A Working Dog”, published by Analog Science Fiction and Fact in the January/February 2021 issue (which came out in December 2020).

Megan had programmed the autonomous collective units to used bird flock dynamics. She’d intended to keep the rabbits from get- ting destroyed by coyotes or cats without in- juring whatever wildlife was in the area.

The rabbits danced. They weaved together in complex patterns, broke apart in two or three groups, came back together, and sepa- rated again. They flowed like a liquid.

Keith ran after them, following program- ming of his own.

A feral cat or a coyote would’ve quit when it got tired. They had the sense to know that burning too much energy on a failed kill left nothing for the next attempt.

Keith was not that kind of hunter.

Other stuff

If you’re more of the User Experience or Design wonk, you may be interested in my list of posts on The Interconnected, where I’ve published numerous articles on UX, Design, and being a human in the internet age.