Tag: ash and dust

Ash and Dust and Strange Horizons

There’s a black market in breastmilk here.

Ash and Dust” is the second story I ever tried to sell. Sold, as well, but let’s focus on the trying instead. “Snowfall” was the first, and it was something else entirely–a little piece about family and what matters at the end of the world. Short, very short, the shortest story I’ve ever written.

When I first decided to send “Ash and Dust” out, I didn’t know the markets. I didn’t know what I was doing, really. I’d written a story that was just shy of 6,800 words, that included a miscarriage, a death from a postpartum hemorrhage, multiple births, and a lesbian midwife living in an refugee camp with her two children. And there was that opening line, which at the time I was writing it made perfect sense, but once I decided to send it out suddenly felt very very heavy.

Write the stories you want to read. Isn’t that the advice everyone gives? “Ash and Dust” was exactly the story I wanted to read at the time I wrote it. It was many things for me–a farewell to a chapter in my life, a love letter to an exceptional midwife, grief over someone who shouldn’t have died, an outlet for anger and fear, and a reminder of hope. The thing about writing a story like that is that when you get to the point of trying to sell it, you suddenly wonder who could possibly want it.

The answer is Strange Horizons. Not because they specialize in midwives and apocalypse, but because they believe in stories that explore the full range of the human experience. The thrill of that sale is one that stays with me, that encourages me when I’m wondering what exactly I’m doing as a writer.

It’s an experience I wish on many other writers. It is one of many reasons to donate to the Strange Horizons’ fund drive.

It looks like they’ve almost reached their minimum goal for the year–what they need to continue for another year with no changes. But I’d love to see their additional goals met. The poets deserve a raise. So do the reviewers. If you haven’t donated yet, there’s still a day left to do so.

And if you have? Thank you!


Some stories tell themselves. “Ash and Dust” did. The most agonizing part of that whole experience was deciding where it should start. (I still like the original beginning, and I hope I have use for it some day, but it wasn’t right for that particular story.)

“Ash and Dust” probably came easily because I already knew Jaz and Bren. They’d been stuck in my rock tumbler of a brain for long enough, so when it came time to write, they were polished and ready to go. When a story goes that smoothly, it’s easy to assume all sorts of things. It’s easy, for example, to assume that stories that take more work are somehow lesser.

But the stories that get carried around for years before being told are going to be different then ones that haven’t had tincture of time. “Rainpocalypse” (it really does have a better name, I promise) took a handful of starts and one dead end before I understood where I needed it to go. Or rather, it took me that much writing before I understood the character at the heart of the story, and where she would go. Sometimes it works that way.

Sometimes, though, I catch a story too early. I have one I started in January. It’s set on a similar desolate Earth to “Ash and Dust,” and it’s a continuation of the question of who society leaves behind. Two sisters, a carpenter and a painter, and bicycles, and emptiness, and I thought I had it figured out. And then, when I was halfway through, something else popped into my head. One word, but it completely changed the path of the story.

I could have pushed forward on it, and if I hadn’t been working on Wren, I might have. I think that would have been a mistake. Instead, I’m letting it tumble for a while. At some point the unnecessary pieces will wear away. Then it will be time to tell it.

Ash and Dust

“Ash and Dust” is almost here.

Strange Horizons accepted this story on May 17, 2011. (If you are not reading Strange Horizons on a regular basis, you should be. Not because they bought my story — because they are great.) My jitters around seeing it published commenced within minutes of said acceptance. Luckily, six months lead time is enough for jitters to come and go, for other stories to happen, for life to suck one along in its current.

Now it is almost time. Story trivia?

–I managed to completely flub a reference to alcohol in the original version.

–It is the second of my post-apocalytic trio, affectionately dubbed Snowpocalypse, Droughtpocalypse, and Rainpocalypse (still in draft form). I plan on someday collecting them all in one catastrophic volume.

–It grew out of a much older, unwritten story, featuring an apocalypse of a very different sort.

I think that is all there is to be said about it for now. You can find it at Strange Horizons on December 12 and 19.