Come build worlds with me, @friendsofmerril , and @uclaextension !

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Posted on May 23, 2019 by

I am just kickin’ the jetlag after a week in Los Angeles, where I went to an Amanda Palmer concert, hit the usual-for-me handful of museums (LACMA, Getty, Getty Villa, Broad, MOCA). I packed bags of books for and then gleefully attended SFWA’s biggest Nebula Awards weekend to date, and finally–for a big change of gears–went to a young family member’s university convocation. It was a fun-filled and action-packed week, and I am very glad to be home making the final push on a big project.

Here’s Tina Connolly, Jenn Reese and me at the Nebs banquet.

What’s next for me this summer? Short answer: lots of things! In particular, though, I haven’t been telling you about new courses much lately because I’ve been teaching one very big, very intense, very rewarding novel-writing master class for some nine months. Now, as that goes on hiatus for the summer, I am happy to announce that on June 15th in Toronto I will be running a free workshop on worldbuilding at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, at the Toronto Public Library. Admission is free, but attendees must sign up in advance.

Here’s the Facebook event: https://m.facebook.com/events/335023953882880/

And here’s the Tweet with the Merril phone number and a huge picture of me looking smug. Clearly I’d built a really good world that day! It was probably Stormwrack.

This is a rare opportunity to do a little work with me without signing up for a full bore class or mentorship via UCLA Extension or the UTSC Creative Writing program. That said, it seems appropriate to mention that if anyone happen to enjoy the Merril workshop, I am also running a summer session of my online UCLA course, Creating Universes, Building Worlds, starting in early July.

For those of you who are local and fancy a little face to face deity-playing, come ponder vampire dietary regimes, the effects of adjusting a planet’s gravity, not to mention all the other details that can lay a solid foundation under your stories and novels.

A Sale? A sale indeed! @Podcastle_org is reprinting my “Cooking Creole.”

Posted on February 10, 2019 by

I am delighted to announce that Podcastle: the Fantasy Fiction Podcast will be producing an audio version of my story “Cooking Creole,” which first appeared in the Nalo Hopkinson anthology Mojo: Conjure Stories in 2003.

If you’re thinking it’s been a long long while since I announced or posted anything in this space… you’re absolutely right! This is because I have many irons in many fires–I’m writing busily on the Sekrit Project, am still going great guns on all my projects for the UBC MFA program in Creative Writing I’ve enrolled in–there are poems, a screenplay, a stage play and critiques of all the work by my various wonderful classmates. I am also, as always, teaching–right now it’s the UCLA Master Class in Novel Writing.

The upshot is that I’ve been a ghost just about everywhere but Twitter and Instagram, and expect for things to stay that way until just about April. Which is soon and getting sooner every day!

Whatever it takes to get ahead: “The Spear Carrier,” free for the reading @CuriousFictions !

Posted on May 8, 2018 by

It’s story time once again! Today I’ve unearthed “The Spear Carrier,” another of my Slow Invasion stories, most of which were bought by Ellen Datlow back when she was at the helm of SciFiction.

“The Spear Carrier” is about Opal, an ambitious young diplomat in service on a planet called Arune, home to a people whom we earth types–behind their backs, anyway–like to call scarecrows. They’re big, they’re spindly, they’re haughty AF, and they love, love, love to duel to the death.

This is a quality that does not endear the scarecrows to humanity’s diplomatic core, but Opal sees it as a bug, not a feature. Nobody else is willing to take a chance on getting skewered, just to get promoted to Ambassador? Perhaps she’s got what it takes…

Here’s a snippet:

Masao touched his throat, and Opal guessed he was remembering the spaceship accident that had, indirectly, brought him here. He’d saved seventeen juvenile Budj from a decompressing passenger compartment on a cruise liner.

After the rescue, he’d been assaulted by a haughty child scarecrow that couldn’t bear the idea of owing her life to a primitive. The Budjmaiden almost strangled him. There were plenty of full-grown Budj who wished she’d succeeded.

Over the course of the story Opal and Masao walk their way through a complicated Arune ritual, and–despite significant differences–they eventually come to an understanding. I’m very fond of this story, and I hope you all enjoy it!


Support my fiction by tipping at Curious!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I set up at Curious Fictions just after Patreon tried to change its funding model, in a way that adversely affected many of my friends and colleagues. Donor-funded artists benefit from a diverse crowdfunding ecosystem, and I like the way Curious Fictions works. You can read any of my stories for free and, if you wish, set up an account and offer a tip. If you want to be first to hear about my new offerings, you can subscribe–pay as little as a dollar a month, and you’ll get at least a story a month, and my endless thanks.

My previous Curious Fictions offerings include a time travel story, “Three Times over the Falls” and another Slow Invasion story, “Ruby, in the Storm.”

Kate Heartfield

Posted on April 25, 2018 by

Kate Heartfield’s first novel, a historical fantasy called Armed in Her Fashion, is coming from ChiZine Publications on May 17, 2018. It’s available for pre-order now. This spring, look for her interactive fiction project, The Road to Canterbury, from Choice of Games. She will have two time-travel novels coming soon from Tor.com Publications, beginning with Alice Payne Arrives in November, 2018. Her short fiction has appeared in places such as Lackington’s, Escape Pod and Strange Horizons. A former newspaper journalist, Kate lives in Ottawa, Canada. Her website is heartfieldfiction.com and she is on Twitter as @kateheartfield.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess? Who was she?

I had many! Aerin from The Hero and Crown, Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time, Anne of Green Gables, and more. But there’s one who doesn’t get mentioned often, who was very important to me: Abigail Kirk, from the novel Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park.

Playing Beatie Bow is a time-travel fantasy set in Australia. The prose and world-building are impeccable, the atmosphere still makes the hair on my arms stand up, and I re-read the book every year or two, still. I’m on my second paperback; I loved the first one to bits.

Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

Abigail is not a kick-ass, confident heroine. She is, like I was, “a girl who wished to be private”, and who is interested in things like tacking old bits of lace onto her dresses. She has a complex emotional life, and so do the people around her. Much like Meg Murry, it’s her faults that allow her to have adventures in the first place; if she weren’t that kind of girl, she wouldn’t travel back to the 19th century, and she definitely wouldn’t survive once she got there.

She doesn’t defeat a villain; her success is in learning how to cope with things like grief, betrayal, unrequited love and the fact that the past is just out of reach. But none of this comes across in an after-school-special kind of way; it’s a page-turner that will rip your heart out.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

My agent said recently that one of my strengths is the portrayal of complex emotion, and I was surprised at first, as I didn’t realize that was something I could do. But looking back, Ruth Park’s deft portrayal of Abigail as a whole person who feels many contradictory things simultaneously was probably a model for me as a writer.

In my debut novel, Armed in Her Fashion, there’s a young woman named Beatrix who sees the past and future in glimpses, who is a very private person, and who has to come to terms with grief and the end of love. But the novel’s main character is actually her mother, Margriet, who is a grudge-holding, pragmatic terror of a middle-aged woman. In fact, Margriet is more like Ruth Park’s irascible character Beatie, all grown up. As I’ve entered middle age myself, my heroines have tended to become older women who have already learned a lot of life’s early lessons, have work to do, and are completely unconcerned about whether anyone likes them.

And I’ve started to expand my definition of “heroine” and look at other literary characters — often the older women, relegated to the background—in a new light. For example, these days I have an understanding of the Reverend Mother Helen Gaius Mohaim, in Dune, that I never had when I was a girl.

So while my girlhood heroines are still there, still part of my life, I’m still imprinting on new heroines, or old ones I wasn’t able to appreciate before.

Bonus round: How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero?

I don’t think that gendered nouns ought to be the default or the rule, but I also don’t think that means they have no use and should be binned. For example, to me, the words “suffragist” and “suffragette” are doing different things, and either one might be appropriate depending on the context. For me, the word “heroine” is more than just the female version of “hero.” It implies a struggle that “hero” does not. Maybe one day, we’ll easily apply “hero” or “heroine” to people of any gender, or maybe “heroine” will always imply the circumstances particular to a marginalized gender. For now, it still means something distinct to me.


About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with (usually) female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will allow you to browse all the other interviews, with awesome people like Ada Hoffman, Faith Mudge, Stephanie Burgis, and S.B. Divya . If you prefer something more in the way of an actual index, it’s here.

A stolen treasure. An act of revenge. My “A Slow Day at the Gallery,” now @CuriousFictions

Posted on February 26, 2018 by

Sunday marked my fiftieth birthday, and I thought I’d celebrate by telling you all about my latest Curious Fictions story, “A Slow Day at the Gallery.” Like “Ruby, in the Storm,” this short story is one of the Slow Invasion series, a collection of snapshots depicting humankind’s effort to join a wider community of spacegoing races. It’s about trade-offs and difficulties involved in being, in each of these relationships, the lesser among very unequal partners.

Colonialism and imperialism are themes I’ve been returning to, lately, in my work. It has been nice to revisit these earlier efforts in that direction.

In “A Slow Day at the Gallery,” an old man travels vast distances to visit his favorite Monet painting, one of the Waterlily Pond series, at the Tsebra art gallery where it now resides. Humanity thought they were lending the painting to the offworlders; there was a disagreement about the exact meaning of ‘loan’, and now things bid fair for the Monet to remain offworld for decades, centuries… or possibly forever.

Here’s a snippet:

Outside the authentic human museum with its authentic humidity-controlled air, he felt himself reviving. They passed into an ornately carved walkway, lined with windows and meant to communicate with the sensitive feet of the Tsebs, a lumpy obstacle course of knobs and gaps. Christopher’s ankles ached as he struggled to traverse it without falling. Just another hurdle, he told himself, like ducking the police or smuggling his false ident out of humanspace. 

The story appeared in Asimov’s SF and was picked up by David Hartwell for his Year’s Best SF series. It was very much inspired by my first trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1997, where I saw my first Monet painting and realized something a print will never tell you–just what all the fuss was about.


Support my fiction by tipping at Curious!

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I set up at Curious Fictions just after Patreon tried to change its funding model, in a way that adversely affected many of my friends and colleagues. Donor-funded artists benefit from a diverse crowdfunding ecosystem, and I like the way Curious Fictions works. You can read any of my stories for free and, if you wish, set up an account and offer a tip. If you want to be first to hear about my new offerings, you can subscribe–pay as little as a dollar a month, and you’ll get at least a story a month, and my endless thanks.

My previous Curious Fictions offerings are a time travel story, “Three Times over the Falls” and another Slow Invasion story, “Ruby, in the Storm.”

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