Awards Eligibility Post, 2019

I only published one thing this year, 2019, but it was a big publication for me. “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was a novelette (8000 words) published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the March/April 2019 issue and is eligible for Canadian and American writing awards. It is Fantasy. It’s about the power of music, music mentoring, about the courage to go on after loss, and features jazz-playing fauns. The character is queer and disabled. He stays queer and disabled and alive through the whole story.

Below you’ll find a link to the whole story here online, or you can read an excerpt from it.

*I am a Canadian and American writer, holding dual citizenship.

Thank you for visiting my 2019 year round up page, and I hope you enjoy my story.

Excerpt:

________________

Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Mr. Dance couldn’t keep his eyes off Eric’s clarinet. From the moment the young football player opened the black case and revealed the instrument, Mr. Dance knew that what he thought had been broken– as his legs were– or lost–as he felt–had instead been hidden for a hundred years.

He dropped his music.
“Where did you get that?” Mr. Dance asked from his motorized wheelchair.
The boy picked up the older man’s sheet music. “The clarinet? Oh, my aunt gave it to me.” He ordered the pages, and placed the music on the man’s lap. “It’s nothing special.”
Oh, but it was. Probably the most powerful magical instrument Mr. Dance had ever held.
“Who,” Mr. Dance asked carefully, “is your aunt?”

______________________

They met through the State of Missouri’s Masters/ Apprenticeship Program. Eric and Mr. Dance had been paired because Mr. Dance wanted to teach again, and Eric wanted to escape football in his junior year at college. Mr. Dance had no idea what Eric was bringing into his house where he’d been living for the past, well, maybe for a hundred years, hidden by a horde of vines that covered the front. He was an older man now, and his house was full of things that people had brought to cheer him a long time ago, and packages that still came in the mail that accumulated on the tables, unopened.
It was a storage facility, storing Mr. Dance, and the memories of his better days, and the friends who had finally let him be alone.

But after watching another documentary on famous musicians, a brochure for the Apprenticeship program had found its way from table to table to his chair, and made him remember what LeRoi had told him before he left for good, “You may not ever be able to do magic again, but you can teach someone else to do it.”
Now here sat the most unlikely “apprentice”, Eric Elkridge, a handsome football player who didn’t want to be a football player anymore. He’d said, when asked why he was there, “No one can see the possibilities in me outside of football. I want to make my life music.”


Mr. Dance repeated the question. “Your aunt?”
“Oh, my Aunt Helen from Indiana..” He started putting the clarinet together. “I played band 7th to 9th grade, but eventually, well, I just got into football. But I heard about this program. I wanted to try it again, work under a Master.”
A Master. Eric had no idea who Mr. Dance was. Why would he? The older musician had been out of the music scene since the Accident. But he had been the inspiration for Debussy, and had helped start the Jazz revolution in America.

The boy fit the parts of the clarinet back together. He fumbled with the bell, his big boy hands too rough with it. It made Mr. Dance catch his breath.
“Can I–” his hands reached out. If he could just touch it once, it would remember who its master had been, it would remember who he was, and maybe, he could become that person again. “—hold it?”
“Sure,” Eric passed the clarinet to him.
In his hands, the clarinet had a heaviness he could not account for. It did not glow for him. It felt like a piece of wood. Stiff but not alive. What was wrong? He was sure this was his clarinet.
“It’s a very old clarinet. I’m sorry about that,” Eric said, scratching his red hair. He had a farmer’s boy face, wide, round cheeks, but very kind eyes. “My aunt got it for fifty dollars back when I was in junior high school band. She didn’t have to replace anything though. I mean, if it’s twenty or thirty years old, it sure doesn’t show it.”
“Things can be older than they seem,” Mr. Dance said.
He checked it in the three places he knew it would reveal itself: the E flat key should have a mark, a depression in the metal, like a cut–from the incident at the railroad tracks where it fell from his hands; there would be a chip on the barrel just peeking outside the ligament where he and the men fought over it; and there would be a signature inside the bell. Not his signature. But the signature of the man who stole it from him.
He turned it over, peered into the darkness of the clarinet. There, scrawled a little too elegantly, branded, was the name Billy Sunday, wrapped in darkness. “I put my name on everything I own,” Sunday had said that day. “This isn’t yours anymore. I won it in a fight. A fair fight.” Three men held Mr. Dance down on the floor of the warehouse. “This country will not belong to your kind anymore. I’m going to save their souls–all of them–and there’s nothing you or your friends can ever do again to stop me.” And then they crushed his legs.
Billy Sunday. 1913.
Mr. Dance looked up from the clarinet. He turned it over, tried to smile. The clarinet lay dead in his hand. “It’s very beautiful. I think–” he handed it back to the boy. “I think you’ll get a good sound out of it. So let’s see what you can do, shall we.”
The boy played “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
“The Benny Goodman version,” the boy said before he started playing.
“The only version,” Mr. Dance said, closing his eyes.


The clarinet did not want him. The clarinet did not seem to want Eric either.

________________________ end of excerpt__________________________

For the rest of the story, please click on this link to download a WORD (docx) file. Or you can go to the Nebula Reading List at the SFWA site.

They are queer Lumberjacks, and that’s okay: “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” by Charles Payseur reviewed

11884994176_203f040455_z_ink_liThere’s a sweet flashfiction piece by Charles Payseur on Flashfiction Online that highlights something awesome about LGBT writing today.  It deserves a read and a shout out.  “A Lumberjack’s Guide to Dryad Spotting” is probably about 1000 words, but it tells a pretty big story about two gay lumberjacks that goes beyond where I thought the story would go.

 

Be careful in these woods: SPOILERS AHEAD.  Why don’t you just go read it and come back here.

Good, you’re back.

First, let me say how happy I am to keep seeing LGBT writers in Lightspeed, Clarkesworld, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Flashfiction Online, and other mainstream venues even beyond the “Queers Destroy” series, and other special issues.

The story sets us up to believe how valuable Dryads are in this world, that you can monetize their parts and sell them for money.  Our heroes, a pair of gay lumberjacks who are subtle, but not that subtle, in the camp about their relationship, are presented as good lumberjacks: they get there early, they chop down trees.  They do their jobs well.  We are also led to believe that these two men have a dream that requires money.

The narrative often tells us how aggressively hostile Dryads are to humans, and how to find them and collect the money on them.

But along the way, some great narrative magic happens–and the plight of our heroes becomes the plight of the Dryads. And instead of thinking selfishly–using the Dryads to fund their escape into safety–they take the dryads with them.

I love this story because it highlights an aspect of being LGBT that isn’t often explored in fiction: that our persecution does not make us selfishly protect ourselves, but creates compassion towards others who are hunted and persecuted too.  Even though the story establishes that the dryads have a hunger for human blood, and that they can be dangerous and attack, the gay lumberjacks are saving the dryads–in exchange for the dryads helping the couple hide in safety in the future.

“Come away with me,”is a beautiful line because it is so unexpected, and because it deepens the way we understand the main characters.

I also enjoy the shout out to the diversity in the LGBT community—that these main characters are “bears” (read: big bearded hairy gay men).  I also like where this story didn’t go: The other lumberjacks could have “found them out” and hurt them and this would have been a predictable “hurt the gays” story—but the men’s reactions are complex: they both desire the freedom of these gay men to form a relationship, and also have an impression that there is a fluidity to sexuality and the man you are in camp is not the man you are back in the “real world.”  There is a strange allowance for incongruity and a blurriness of masculinity here in the forest.  But, the text still signals the danger the men are in the more the camp fills up with other lumberjacks, and they keep their voices down in the tent, and they smother the openness they had when they were alone.

It helps Payseur make the comparison with the Dryads–who are perfectly fine if no one finds them, but who are in trouble the more the men encroach upon their privacy.  These gay men are not in some gay paradise–they are in an allowed limbo that is incumbent upon tacit ignorance and acceptance–a short-lived window of opportunity.

They use it well.  In the last paragraph, just as you’ve decided these men will use the dryads to fund their escape from this tricky life of masculine conformity, they form a union with the dryads by rescuing them, and, at least in the proposition one of the gay lumberjacks offers, replanting them in a “safe space” with the lumberjacks in their new home.

Perhaps it’s the sense of hope that I love in this piece, and maybe it’s the accurate reflection of compassion over self-interest.  Either way, it’s beautiful.

__________________

 

 

 

 

 

Some Peace and Community for Queer Ghosts: Queer Ghost Hunters Series

queer_ghost_hunters_538bde99d1e7f8bd0d8268ff34d2b4dd-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000

I’ve been charmed by a Youtube docu-series: Queer Ghost Hunters. It is unlike anything else in the genre of ghost hunting reality series.

Yes, it’s remarkably well-produced and edited.  It’s funny, and it’s poignant, deeply moving at times.

The Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters accomplishes these things because it’s doing everything so differently than other ghost hunter shows.

  1.  They aren’t reacting to a disturbance or a sighting.  The ghost hunters don’t (so far) go to a place because they’ve been called by folks disturbed by ghost activity.  They are seeking out where they believe queers would have gone in cities and rural areas.  Theatres, prisons, convents.
  2.   The goal is not to get the ghost on tape, or to prove that ghosts exist.  The show takes as a premise that ghosts exist.  Their goal: to provide a safe space for queer ghosts to talk about what it was like living queer in different moments of history.
  3. They’re looking for QUEER ghosts specifically.  Their focus drives their narrative.  They are looking to bring a safe community to a group of queers who can’t move out of their places to find other queers. ( It’s not like ghosts can pack up and go to San Francisco or Greenwich Village.)  The show’s aim is to chat amiably with queer ghosts who may not have had anyone to talk to in their lives about being queer.
  4. All of the ghost hunters fall on the Queer spectrum: genderfluid, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgendered, pansexual, even a bear. 🙂   This is about diversity in the cast as well as diversity in the ghosts, but they are talking about LGBT issues.
  5. This is MORE than just ghost hunting: it is an examination of the history of LGBT people and, in some ways, how people lived, hid, coped with being queer in different places.  In that, it is a reflection–and a chance–for people to talk about what it is to live as queer in any time.

Continue reading