General Updatery

* “The Changeling’s Lament” has been reprinted in Here, We Cross, an anthology of queer and genderfluid poetry edited by the amazing Rose Lemberg! I got my copy at Wiscon, and it is wonderful. I’m in such good company in this one.

* “I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” is a Million Writers Award Notable Story! It’ll be reprinted in The Book of Apex: Volume 3 of Apex Magazine, edited by Catherynne M. Valente.

* I’ll be doing a reading, signing, and Q&A at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester on Thursday, August 16! This is one day before PiCon…

* …at which I’ll be the Guest of Awesome.

Other than that? I’ve been very focused on Cicatrix, the novel that’s eating my brain. I’ve taken a six-month leave from my volunteer gig to focus harder on the novel, and progress is being made! I’ve had a few poems leak out around the edges, and I’m hoping for a few more, and some short fiction; I find it slightly unnerving to be this hyperfocused.


The Year in Shira!

This year’s publications:
* “The Library, After” in Mythic Delirium #24.
* “The Changeling’s Lament” in Stone Telling #5.
* “Between Truth and Life” in Steam Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, January 2011.
* “The Portal to Heaven” in Electric Velocipede #21/22.
* “Fortune” reprinted in ChiZine, May 2011.
* “Valentines” reprinted in Apex Magazine, June 2011.
* “I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” in Apex Magazine, October 2011.

But that wasn’t all! This year I got a book contract for Shayara, the series that’s been in the back of my mind half my life… and lost it when the publisher went under. But in the process of expanding the first volume of Shayara and writing the second, I found that it wasn’t where my heart was – so I was glad, eventually, to be able to redirect my energies to the work that was clamoring to get out! That work would be my current novel-in-progress, Cicatrix, which you’ll have heard me read at conventions. If you go to conventions, and if you go to readings. (You should!)

I had the surreal experience of a poem going viral. “The Changeling’s Lament” hit Tumblr in a big way, and has over 111,000 hits on StumbleUpon as I write this. I’ve never had anything like that happen, and it seems to be rare for poetry in general! I’m so glad that it happened with this one, though, and that it spoke to so many people. The mini photo essays people have done in response to it are gorgeous. Any fan art is good, but this has been particularly special.

“The Changeling’s Lament” has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and recommended for the Tiptree Award, “The Library, After” has been nominated for the Micro Award for flash fiction, and “I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” is on Tangent Online’s 2011 recommended reading list.

My focus in the coming year will be mainly on Cicatrix and on another project that I hope to announce soon. And I’ll be at Arisia, Boskone, Conbust, Wiscon, Readercon, and PiCon (where I’ll be the Guest of Aesome) this year, so come see me!


I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between

I travel more than most, less than some, and I have a special love for liminal places. Especially when I’m alone and not having to manage anyone else. Buses, trains, airplanes. I like being between.

In March 2009, I had the exceptional fortune to be on the now-legendary Trains of Heaven trip with SJ Tucker and her wild wicked tribe, who became my circus family. There are so many stories about that trip, but almost none of them relate to this story, so I’ll hold myself in check for now! The relevant part is that I’d ridden out from Boston to Cleveland with SJ and K(evin) Wiley, but their truck was overfull for the Cleveland-to-Chicago leg of the trip, so I took a bus and met them there. I had a few minutes in Chicago all by myself, though, and I called my friend John – I don’t like telephones in general, but John’s an odd exception, and I tend to think of him when I’m in liminal space. I got his voicemail, and left him a comfortably rambly message that ended with “That’s all, really. Just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you in the spaces between.”

My brain stuck a pin in that line like whoa.

K picked me up, and we spent the next week having epic adventures; I read my story “Fortune” aloud for the first time on the train, in the dining car in the middle of the night. I didn’t think about that line for a while afterward, but it was there, percolating.

And it coalesced in January 2010, out of nowhere, and became a story about spaces between, but also about progressive chronic illness (which is very much a part of my life; I live with a condition that has been known to be randomly fatal, among others). I wrote it when I was supposed to be writing something else entirely. I finished it the morning of my reading at Arisia, and read it there.

People got misty-eyed.

John was there. He remembered that line, too. The story isn’t about him, but the genesis is tangled up in thinking of him in transit, so he’s part of it anyway.

There’s a special symmetry to the eventual publication of this story. I’d sent it around to a few markets, it got rejected, I set it aside for a while; I had about a year and a half of not really submitting anything anywhere. After Readercon this year, my husband nudged me to send the story out again, as he’s always loved it. I sent it to editor Cat Valente at Apex.

If you looked at that link about the Trains of Heaven, you’re probably grinning now. If not, I’ll tell you: that trip was a joint venture between SJ and Cat. So. I like the symmetry of it, of the seed of the story being planted as I was about to embark upon an adventure with, among others, the editor who would eventually buy it.

“I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” was published in Apex Magazine #29, October 2011. It is on Tangent Online’s 2011 recommended reading list, and it is a Million Writers Award Notable Story. It has been reprinted in The Book of Apex 3.


Reviews:

Richard E.D. Jones at Tangent Online says: “The apex is the top, the very best of something, this higher and no farther. With that in mind, it takes a lot of hubris to name your fiction journal Apex Magazine. Well, let me tell you this, with the current issue’s lead story, “I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” by Shira Lipkin, the magazine certainly lives up to its name….Written in a spare, haunting first-person, the majority of the story concerns the recent history of Sarah Walker, interdimensional traveler, government courier and lover. This is a beautifully written story. Lipkin does a fantastic job of drawing us into the story, using an almost plain style to make the fantastic seem as if it’s only a job. It’s only because the story grounds us with its style that we can come to care for Sarah and feel for her predicament. Her inability to talk to her true love really rings true, as does her desire to unburden herself to one of the alternates. Very good story with strong characters, good prose and an engaging plot. Definitely worth checking out.” (Review contains lots of spoilers; read the story first!)

Sam Tomaino at SFRevu says: “This was a beautiful, bittersweet story and Shira Lipkin is a talented writer. “


The Changeling’s Lament

Like many of my poems, “The Changeling’s Lament” started as a few lines scribbled on the notebook next to my bed – “I have studied so hard to pass as one of you. I have tells – blisters, tremors, bruises.”

That sat there for a few months, I think; it lingered in the very back of my brain until a few days before Readercon. I knew I’d be reading at the Rhysling Awards Poetry Slan – I wasn’t nominated this year, but past nominees also get to read. Last year I’d read my nominated poem, “When Her Eyes Open”, but this year I actually had to decide what to read, which is notoriously difficult for me. So I decided that I’d like to write something to exploit my favorite thing about the Slan – the performance aspect of it. Usually, when I write poetry, it’s meant to be read on the page or screen. The benefit of reading aloud is that you get to use language in a different way.

So I sat down to write a poem that I thought was just going to be about the difficulties of changelings. And it twisted itself on me and showed me what it was really about. (You can read all about how the gender identity aspects of it came in at Stone Telling’s roundtable.)

I’m happy to report that the reading went really, really well. 🙂 To the point that people were not just asking me about the poem – they were asking people at the SFPA’s table, one of whom said she thought it was going to be in Stone Telling…

I had not yet submitted it to Stone Telling! But of course I planned to, and I did, and thankfully the editors agreed that it was a good fit for Stone Telling. 🙂

The poem got a bit of editing, because what works for spoken word doesn’t always work written down – but the editors asked me for a recording of the original poem. During the recording process, I discovered that there was a thing one can do in GarageBand to change one’s voice from “female” to “male” and, well, given the nature of the poem, I had to! You can listen to both versions, and I hope you do.

I’ve decided that the collective noun for a group of changelings is a transposition of changelings. Are you a changeling, too?

“The Changeling’s Lament” was published in Stone Telling #5, September 2011. It has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Rhysling Award and recommended for the Tiptree Award. It has been reprinted in Here, We Cross, an anthology of queer and genderfluid poetry.


Reviews:

Brit Mandelo at Tor.com says: “Another poem about not fitting tightly-bound boxes of identity is “The Changeling’s Lament” by Shira Lipkin. This piece, too, works on an extended metaphor—in this case, of a changeling made to fit into the human mold—to explore issues of gender and the rigidly enforced strictures of “girl.” It’s also one of the more tragic pieces of the book, whereas the majority of the poems end with an uplifting note. The changeling does not escape the strictures that have bound and hobbled them into “her” and into “girl,” but instead informs us of the struggle and the agony—takes us along on the titular lament. The final stanza is like a blow.”

J.C. Runolfson at Versification says: ““The Changeling’s Lament,” by Shira Lipkin, is not understated, but it is definitely powerful. There are two audio tracks at the top of poem page, one titled “the girl’s voice” and one “the changeling’s voice.” Play them both at the same time and listen while you read, because this is a poem that speaks by alchemy, that speaks of change, and choice, and the limits of both.”


The Library, After

I originally wrote “The Library, After” at the very end of 2008; it was one of five unprompted Wind Tunnel Dreams flash stories. (Note: I dug this information out of my personal blog; in so doing, I found that I use the word “library” in WTD stories rather a lot.) Several of the stories in that series were tied to previous stories – “The Library, After” stood alone, and it turned out to be the one with staying power!

I started reading it at conventions – I tend to prefer to read flash and poetry, because it keeps a reading moving, switching gears. It built a small following. I think it’s the first story of mine that got fan art (though not the first to get fanfic), and that was before publication!

I had such affection for this story that, when I attended the Meet the Pros(e) party at Readercon 2009 (writers get one line from their work printed up on stickers and share it with people, creating a sort of absurdist poetry as you collect other people’s lines), I used a line from it: “Awakened, the library went feral.” I bounced up to Mythic Delirium editor Mike Allen and traded lines with him, and he said “Where is this from?” and then, “Has it been published?”

I sent him the story. And proceeded to forget that I’d ever done so. It was too short for his Clockwork Phoenix anthology series, and Mythic Delirium is a poetry magazine, so I was expecting nothing except that hopefully he’d enjoy it. But he ended up e-mailing me and asking if he could buy it for Mythic Delirium.

But – it’s not a poem, I said.

It’s poetic, he said.

Okay.

So trading stickers at a party at Readercon has led to the publication of a piece of my flash fiction in a poetry magazine. I do not have a problem with this! If you like posthuman postapocalyptic singularities with quantum unicorn PIs, you should look it up.

“The Library, After” was published in Mythic Delirium #24 in June 2011. (Art by Paula Friedlander.) It won the Rhysling Award and was nominated for the Micro Award.

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Reviews:

Alexandra Seidel at Fantastique Unfettered says: “The sometimes mythical, sometimes delirious, but always adventurous journey ends with ‘The Library, After’ by Shira Lipkin. Herein, stories tell themselves to one another, they grow and change, revealing their protean nature, and they become something entirely new, leaving their shelves and finding adventure, which is probably what most of them were about anyway.”

Tori Truslow at Sabotage Reviews says: “And then Shira Lipkin’s ‘The Library, After’ comes along, magical and wry, a prose poem about an abandoned library where the books ‘told each other to each other’. You could read this as whimsy, you could read it as a bit of thumb-biting in the direction of rigid genre classifications – “New genres formed and split and reformed, tangents spilling out like capillaries. Freed of the responsibility to be useful and to fit human desires and expectations, Story explored itself in Mandelbrot swirls” – whichever way you look at it, it’s clever, funny and affirming. Literary fashions come and go – as we learn, ‘The science-noir-unicorn genre was shortlived’ – but story keeps on going. The image of stories continuing to twist and transmute after we’ve stopped looking at them is a perfect note to end on.”

Diane Severson Mori at Amazing Stories says: “A wonderful personification of the Library, in which the post-apocalyptic library ‘goes feral’, because the library has always felt like a friend to me.”


Reprints!

Did you miss my anthologized stories from 2009 the first time around? Never fear, they’re not gone forever!

“Fortune” (original post here) has just been reprinted in Chiaroscuro/Chizine – the same magazine that published the functional other half of it, “The Angel of Fremont Street”. (Related: the third story in that series has started to germinate.)

“Valentines” (original post here) has just been reprinted in Apex Magazine.

Go forth and read! 🙂


Shayara

I am delighted to announce that I have sold my urban fantasy series, Shayara, to Drollerie Press!

Shayara started out years ago as simply a story I told myself. Over the years, it’s also been a comic book and a web-based illuminated manuscript of sorts. The medium has changed, but the story has always remained… and now I get to share it with more of you!

Shayara will be a six-book series – a core trilogy, plus three supplemental novellas and novels that will give you a deeper look at the events of the trilogy and of the generation before. Stay tuned – I will have more about this soon!

(Art by Stacy Lucas)


The Portal to Heaven

“The Portal to Heaven” was another Wind Tunnel Dreams story-prompt. I seem to have gone through a mild addiction to soft-singularity stories. “The Library, After” is entirely posthuman. “The Portal to Heaven” isn’t quite, but it’s getting there.

What happens to heaven and hell after we upload ourselves?

“The Portal to Heaven” appears in Electric Velocipede #21/22. Necklace by the ever-amazing Kythryne Aisling of Wyrding Studios.


Reviews:

T.N. Tobias of Rise Reviews says: ““The Portal to Heaven” by Shira Lipkin poses the scenario of what happens when humanity can overcome mortality and its consequences on the mythic order of things. Heaven is slowly emptying as synthesized humanity takes control of the reigns of death, even going so far as to resurrect those from the past. It’s difficult to convey a complete sense of a story in such a short format but Lipkin does it well here.”


Between Truth and Life

Earlier this year, wonderful poet JoSelle Vanderhooft told me that she was editing an anthology of steampunk lesbian stories, and that she’d like me to submit something.

“JoSelle, you know I hate steampunk, right? That it makes me go argh that the aesthetic is pretty much NeoVictorian with some gears glued on, and there’s no actual punk?”

“I know. That’s why I’m inviting you.”

Okay then.

I made sure she was okay with my character having burn scars and the like – because the thing about this technology is that it was actually severely dangerous. Look, if you’re writing a story about unpredictable, explosive tech and no one dies or is scarred, it’s not really realistic. There’s only so much disbelief I can suspend. JoSelle okayed burn scars, and noted that she wanted the stories to be multicultural and not Anglocentric.

Okay then. Prague. Jewish lesbian engineer in Prague.

I hope you like her.

Click here to order Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories, and get not just “Between Truth And Life”, but stories from so many amazing people, including Amal El-Mohtar, Shweta Narayan, Nora Jemison, Mikki Kendall, Matt Kressel, Mike Allen, and many more!

“Between Truth and Life” has now been podcast at Toasted Cake.


Reviews:

Eithin at Cold Iron and Rowan-Wood says: “Steel Rider (by Rachel Manija Brown), Truth and Life by Shira Lipkin, and The Hands that Feed by Matthew Kressel make a trio of Jewish stories; emet is the character that gives them life. The second of those, an economical tale of a young woman who becomes a skilled engineer, is my favourite of the three.”

The Contented Reader says: “a tale as lovely and delicate as the tiny mechanical creatures it features.”


Salt Brides

“Salt Brides” is yet another Wind Tunnel Dreams experiment; this time, my challenge to myself was a month of myth and fairy tale.

All of my friends love selkies, you see. Several have written about them. But I never had, despite growing up half-in the ocean and writing about mermaids, mangrove dryads, and the like. I didn’t have my selkie story yet.

Until suddenly I did.

I’ve been told that this could be spun out into a longer story, or a novel, but I think it does all it needs to do as a flash piece. I love writing flash fiction – perhaps all the more because of its limitations. Can you tell a complete love story in under a thousand words? Full characterization, even a love scene? I’ll take that challenge!

“Salt Brides” was published in Abyss and Apex in October 2010. It’s been nominated for a Micro Award.


Reviews:

Lois Tilton at Locus says: “The Animal Wife story, a colony of men who have all stolen selkie wives from the sea. Well-evoked love story.”

Sam Tomaino at SFRevu says: “”Salt Brides” by Shira Lipkin is a bittersweet, but beautiful, tale of men who take brides from the sea. Jonathan loves Sara but he knows she will stay with him only until she finds her skin. ”

Pam Wallace says: “It’s a haunting, beautiful tale, and the ending left me with a very satisfied feeling. It’s also flash length, but read as a true story in entirety. I won’t give it away, because it took me a few paragraphs to weasel out the plot, but that was part of the satisfaction of the story. “