Award Eligibility (2019)

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If a work you’d like to consider is behind a paywall, please feel free to email me for a review copy.

Short Fiction

Short Stories

“At Your Dream’s Edge.” The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2019. 1,900 words.

You’ve had the Nightmare app installed for months, but all you’ve ever done is create an account. It’s not that the service is pricey, even though it is.

It’s because you haven’t needed to use it.

Until now.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. You have to do this tonight, before you can face your family tomorrow. Before you can spend a day trapped with them. You tap the black-and-white icon. The screen fills with a map, a blue dot pulsing over your apartment. Arcane symbols drift around in a five-block radius of your location. Your thumb hovers over the single button centered at the bottom of the screen.

REQUEST NIGHTMARE.

Double-Edged.” Rendez-Vous, September 2019. 590 words. Available in print from Short Édition Short Story Dispensers.

Please note that this story is not genre.

“I killed a man before, you know.”

It’s 3:12 pm, an awkward time for us to be preparing food. I’m not sure if we’re making a late lunch, an early dinner, or just afternoon tea. I’ve been struggling to open a plastic case of Granny Smith apples; meanwhile, he’s been slicing some tomatoes to add to the salad. I pause as his words finally register in my mind. I glance up at him, my fingernails still jammed between the sheets of plastic. He’s calmly slicing those tomatoes. Chop, chop. Meticulous. The V of every wedge of tomato looks like it measures the exact same angle. The afternoon sun is radiant, turning his dark brown hair almost reddish-brown in its golden light.

“What?”

He grins.

The Shapeshifter Unraveled.” Daily Science Fiction, October 22, 2019. 980 words.

Marie was thunder and lightning, a tornado tearing through the plains, weaponized rage consuming everything in her path. And I was a mouse clinging to a stalk of grass in the distance, watching her, trembling in the wake of her glory.

Envy swallowed me. I wanted to be her, a force of nature instead of this borrowed shape; I longed to be anything but what I was inside.

“As Dark As Hunger.” Black Static #72, November/December 2019. 7,400 words.

The sun bears down hot and twisted against the nape of Ellen’s neck. She wades into the muddy waters, slick yellow-brown silt clinging to her worn rubber boots. The rotten scent of fish hangs heavy in the air, which is loud with the buzz of iridescent flies and the shrieks of cicadas.

Summer here is an oppressive season, sick with humidity. The river floods, then washes back sewage and garbage. As the water recedes, the muddy pools evaporate. Any fish able to survive the reek of dank, infested waters die by suffocation on dry land. Then the gulls, the crows, the carrion-feeders pick at the corpses until they’re nothing but bones bleaching in the sun.

The fans Ellen keep running in her house-on-stilts do nothing to calm the heat or drive out the stink. The most they do is add a low, humming drone that keeps the whine and buzz of insects at bay. Still, Ellen never begrudges the flood season. She knows where the cleaner waters are, where, with her hands covered by thick gloves and holding a pail full of bait and a net, she can seed the shallow waters and catch fish without even needing a line. The fish are enough to keep her fed. The work leaves a sheen of sweat on her that traps every sour, marshy scent of the river to her skin.

Ellen drops a catfish into her bucket, where it thrashes for a few moments before going still and playing dead, the only movement the whisper of its gills opening and closing like butterfly wings. Before she can turn and trudge back to the shore, something catches Ellen’s eye.

There, beyond the leaves, half-hidden by the thickets of mangroves rooting the path of the river, lies a shining, smooth fish tail—a massive fish, larger even than the sharks sold at the wet market. And, as she watches, the tail twitches once, twice, before beating against the muddy bank, a wet slop-slop sound, the earth doing nothing but slither and squelch.

Poetry

Short Poetry

Flashover.” Uncanny, May 2019. 45 lines.

I am angry with myself for wanting
for needing
for being a heliotrope who turns to the sun,
believing it to be weakness,
an admission of failure,
as if the blood that the light creates
does not thrum through my veins.

Nonfiction

I am eligible for Best Fan Writer. My reviews and talks are eligible for Best Related Work.

Essays

Tarot for Plot and Character.” S. Qiouyi Lu, August 22, 2019. 1,400 words.

Tarot can be a great tool to get unstuck when writing. Not only do most decks have vivid imagery that can spark the imagination, but the openness of card readings can lead the creative mind to create unexpected associations and consider new options. This post includes a few simple three-card spreads that I often use, as well as a couple writing-specific approaches I take to tarot reading.

“Fat, And.” The (Other) F Word, edited by Angie Manfredi, September 2019 from Abrams/Amulet Books. 2,000 words.

Please note that this essay is not genre-related.

Take the constant: fat.

What does it mean to be fat? Being fat just means you have one of a range of body types carrying some amount of adipose tissue above an arbitrarily determined average point.

That’s it. Being fat doesn’t have anything to do with character, health, personality, attractiveness, or worth.

And yet.

Translating Verse: A couplet from Chiung Yao’s Princess Pearl.” October 18, 2019. 590 words.

All translation is both an act of interpretation and an act of judgment. The translator has the power to adapt and edit texts for their target audience, and there is no such thing as a “perfect” translation that will convey every semantic nuance between languages.

Naming Characters.” Modality Irrealis, October 19, 2019. 650 words.

Most of my characters are Chinese-American like me. They usually have a Western name, a Chinese name, and a Chinese surname. I’ve always loved naming characters, and this structure gives me opportunities to explore both branches of my heritage. (I use modified or other methods for non-Chinese characters and characters in secondary worlds.)

Reviews

In the Darkly Humorous All My Colors, a Jerk Rewrites a Novel Only He Can Remember.” Review of All My Colors by David Quantick, April 2019 from Titan Books. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, April 2019. 600 words.

Cry Pilot Is the Closest Thing to an Immersive Cyberpunk FPS Video Game Between Two Covers.” Review of Cry Pilot by Joel Dane, August 2019 from Penguin. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, August 2019. 900 words.

Jin Yong’s A Hero Born: A Legendary Chinese Epic Travels West.” Review of A Hero Born by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood, September 2019 from St. Martin’s. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, September 2019. 700 words.

Steel Crow Saga Decolonizes Epic Fantasy with Style.” Review of Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger, September 2019 from Del Rey. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, September 2019. 900 words.

The Sisters of the Vast Black: A Mission to the Stars.” Review of Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather, October 2019 from Tor.com. Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, October 2019. 300 words.

Talks

S. Qiouyi Lu and ‘As Dark As Hunger’.” Dive into Worldbuilding, October 2019. 1 hour.

Editing

I am eligible for Best Editor (Short Form) with the publication of issue 4 of Arsenika (Fall 2019). Arsenika is also eligible for Best Semiprozine.

Thanks so much for your time and consideration!

Featured photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Tarot for Plot and Character

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Tarot can be a great tool to get unstuck when writing. Not only do most decks have vivid imagery that can spark the imagination, but the openness of card readings can lead the creative mind to create unexpected associations and consider new options. This post includes a few simple three-card spreads that I often use, as well as a couple writing-specific approaches I take to tarot reading.

Beginning, Middle, and End

This is a straightforward spread to read for fiction. Each card, in the order drawn, represents the beginning, middle, and ending of a story. I typically take these to mean the starting imbalance that pushes the story forward, the climax, and the last note or change.

Gothic Cowboy Tarot by Kit Kellogg
Gothic Cowboy Tarot by Kit Kellogg. Kickstarter exclusive.

The above spread shows the Hunter, the Rattlesnake, and the Jail. The accompanying booklet suggests the following interpretations for each card:

  • The Hunter – You have the skills to gather the tools. Arm yourself.
  • The Rattlesnake – Don’t stop halfway through. If you want fortune, sever the head, bury the body, and pocket the rattler.
  • The Jail – Feeling trapped? Get crafty or find patience.

The imagery on the card faces combined with enigmatic, open-ended interpretations suggest the shape of a story already: Perhaps a hunter going after their biggest quarry yet ends up failing to extricate themself from the situation that sent them on their journey to begin with. The imagery could be literal, or could be extrapolated into a more abstracted framework, where the Hunter is any protagonist, the Rattlesnake is the protagonist’s biggest struggle, and the Jail is the protagonist’s personal limbo. From there, you can project your own story details to that framework.

You don’t have to use a traditional tarot deck for your readings, either. The deck featured here is a Western-inspired oracle deck that includes its own themed imagery and explanations. You could even do readings with photos or other symbolism that’s evocative for you.

Situation, Action, and Outcome

This spread is, to me, a more choice-motivated and therefore character-driven tool than the beginning, middle, and end spread, which focuses more on the shape of the story and not the people within it. The “situation” is the status quo or imbalance that the character initially finds themself in. From there, the character takes a certain “action” that has consequences, or the “outcome.” How the consequences ripple out tends to be the crux of these kinds of stories.

Golden Thread Tarot by Tina Gong. [Buy](https://labyrinthos.co/products/golden-thread-tarot-deck-cards).
Golden Thread Tarot by Tina Gong. Buy.

The three cards here are II of Pentacles (reversed), IX of Swords, and II of Swords (reversed):

  • II of Pentacles (reversed) – Loss of balance, disorganized, overwhelmed. There are times when life throws you many many curve balls at one time. You find it difficult to juggle all of the sudden changes that are coming your way. It is likely that in order to deal with these new events, you are neglecting something critical in your life. What can you do to regain balance?
  • IX of Swords – Anxiety, hopelessness, nightmares. The nine of swords represents someone that is trapped by their own negative thoughts. There is not necessarily a situation that warrants the worry, and this card hints that over-analysis leads to crippling indecision and feelings of helplessness.
  • II of Swords (reversed) – Lesser of two evils, no right choice, confusion. The choices that you need to make right now are ones where there are consequences for both. Though you struggle to weigh the options in your hands, anything you do could lead to suffering. The alternative is that you are wading through conflicting options from too many external sources, having to play middle man between [two] opposing forces.

Although the imagery here isn’t as straightforward as the Gothic Cowboy deck, the emotional notes in the card interpretations lend themselves to creating a strong character arc. Whether through passivity or actively making bad decisions, this is the story of a character who keeps making things worse for themself. What the details of those choices and histories are is up to you. I find that this spread, therefore, works best if you already have an idea of what your characters are like.

If you don’t have a physical tarot deck or want to do spreads on the go, you can use digital apps and references. My absolute favorite is the Golden Threads Tarot app, which is sleek, stylish, and informative. The keywords give a brief read on the card, while the description and questions lead to further introspection. Plus, you can do readings directly in the app with integrated explanations. Perfect both for learners and experienced tarot users.

Three Options

This spread is more for sparking inspiration rather than suggesting a certain story shape. The three options could be character choices, plot points, endings, thematic elements… You could also use this as a starting point for a new story, or treat the cards as three guiding prompts to fuse.

The Illuminated Tarot by Caitlin Keegan. [Buy](https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/545142/the-illuminated-tarot-by-caitlin-keegan/9780451496836/).
The Illuminated Tarot by Caitlin Keegan. Buy.

The three cards in this spread are Four of Clubs, 10 of Spades (Judgment), and 9 of Spades:

  • 4 of Clubs – Solid foundations, stability, celebration.
  • 10 of Spades (Judgment) – Waking up, an announcement.
  • 9 of Spades – The thoughts that keep a person awake, a struggle to make sense of events.

If you’re struggling to come up with a suitable ending, this spread gives three options: A tidy, happy ending; an ending signaling a new beginning; and an open, fridge horror ending.

As The Illuminated Tarot shows, you can also modify a standard deck of cards for tarot spreads by associating each suit with a tarot suit (pentacles, swords, wands, and cups) and making additional adjustments to correlate cards to the major arcana.

Motivation, Grounding, and Conflict

This is a character-centered spread that I use to get a better understanding of my character’s psyche. “Motivation” is what drives the character forward, while “grounding” describes the touchstones and coping mechanisms the character uses when faced with difficulties. “Conflict” here describes internal struggles with the self, but it could also be extrapolated to external conflicts.

Tarot Deck by Trung Lê Nguyễn (Trungles). [More information](http://www.trungles.com/flagship-tarot).
Tarot Deck by Trung Lê Nguyễn (Trungles). More information.

The three cards in this spread are Judgment (reversed), Temperance (reversed), and IV of Cups:

  • Judgment (reversed) – Doubt, poor self-awareness, harsh self-judgment.
  • Temperance (reversed) – Imbalance, excessiveness, indulgence, lack of direction and foresight, something important is forgotten.
  • IV of Cups – Contemplation, reevaluation, inaction, meditation, biding time, apathy.

Here, the cards suggest a person whose inaccurate views of themself drive their choices. When faced with difficulties, the character tries to hide from reality by binging in some way. The character’s core conflict is the struggle to come to an insightful, introspective view of themself.

Reversals and Inversions

Sometimes, the spreads themselves still don’t get me unstuck. But each tarot card has two possible readings, the standard upright one, and the “reverse” of the card, when it’s drawn upside-down. These reverse readings aren’t necessarily opposites, but rather complements to their standard readings.

Golden Thread Tarot by Tina Gong. [Buy](https://labyrinthos.co/products/golden-thread-tarot-deck-cards).
Golden Thread Tarot by Tina Gong. Buy.

The two readings for the Page of Cups are:

  • Upright – Delightful surprise, inner child, intuition. The Page of Cups heralds a happy surprise of some kind. The fish that plops out of the cup is a signal that one’s unconscious is attempting to make contact, though sometimes one does not understand what is meant to be said.
  • Reverse – Immaturity, escapism, lack of creativity. The inner child as represented by the Page of Cups can at times act exactly like a child. While sometimes full of wonder and happiness, he can also fly off into tantrums and into the world of his imagination, leaving all reality behind.

The two readings provide poles or endpoints to move between. If a character or situation seems too static, try checking the opposite reading of a card you chose to symbolize them and see if you can introduce something unexpected from there, or use one reading as a destination and the other as the starting point to introduce movement and arcs into your plot and character development.

For more resources on learning tarot and choosing decks, I’ve found that Little Red Tarot is a great resource.

Happy reading! Comments are open and moderated. Feel free to share your own tools, spreads, and results below.