Hello from Worldcon

Discon III Logo ImageThe anticipation, anxiety and excitement come to their fruition–It’s time for Worldcon!

I still find it hard to believe we can finally be around crowds again. I remember when everyyear was full of conventions for me and spouse. Things have been very different! It’s going to be really cool to see people who I haven’t been able to catch up with in person for a long, long time. And to meet new people, too. There are so many new, exciting folks around!

What are y’all planning to do at the con this weekend? I’m not on programming so I’ve got lots of time to hang out. I hope I see you around! Give me a ping.

The Ahh-ness of Things

cracked background image with text: “The Ahh-ness of Things” A poem about “mono no aware,” the wistful beauty of impermanence. patreon.com/rachelswirsky

This December, I’m sharing a patron-exclusive new poem on my Patreon.

The Ahh-ness of Things” is about the emotion mono no aware, a Japanese term for–well–the ahh-ness of things. More specifically, it means something like “the wistful beauty of the ephemeral.” I first encountered the world via Ken Liu’s brilliant story, “Mono no aware” which I cannot recommend highly enough.

This poem is part of a slowly developing series of what I call “Google Word” poems. To write these poems, I choose a term–so far, it’s mostly been emotions–and then google it. I pull words from the google search pages and use them to assemble a poem. Anything on the google search page itself–including advertisements or blog titles–is up for grabs, but I can’t click through

Since I started writing these poems, the google searches have changed a lot. Initially, there were a lot more weird message board comments and weird blog entries. More recently, the searches have become dominated by listicles and advertisement. Probably because “mono no aware” isn’t an English term, the listicle virus hasn’t yet spread that far, so it was a lot easier and faster  to find interesting material. 

My patrons are also receiving “The Ahh-ness of Things” as an illustrated poem.

Thanks to all my patrons. All of my Patreon content–including a substantial, patron-exclusive offering once a month of something like an original essay, poem or short story–is available to all my patrons, no matter how much or little they contribute. Every contribution is greatly appreciated and makes a big difference to supporting my writing career!

Worldcon, Here We Come!

One week until Worldcon!

Spouse and I will be hanging out in D.C. for a few extra days before the convention. There are so many museums here. I went to see the Library of Congress and the congressional building a few years ago when I was traveling with family, but there’s the Smithsonian, and I’m always excited to see new dinosaur bones…

Discon III Logo Image

I’m tingly-excited about getting to see folks at the con–and a bit nervous, too! After the past year, crowds are still kind of disorienting. And awesome.

I’m not on programming this year, but I’ll be hanging around. What all is everyone else up to? When are you headed in? Are there panels you’re excited to be on, and/or watch? Planning to go to the Hugos?

Check Out “White Rose, Red Rose” in Uncanny!

Woohoo! My short story, “White Rose, Red Rose” is now available online as part of Uncanny Magazine’s issue 43!

Picture of rose in hand with text: White Rose, Red Rose "That morning there was a white rose on my windowsill, and my heart cracked" a short story by Rachel Swirsky, Uncanny Magazine

The resistance has left a white rose on her windowsill. It can only mean one thing. Her brother is dead. How can she help him if he’s already gone?

I’m excited to be able to share this story with folks. I first wrote it as part of the Weekend Warrior flash fiction contest on the Codex message boards (run by the excellent Vylar Kaftan) where it got one of  my highest scores ever. I hope it will resonate as much with the audience as it did with my fellow writers!

Sometimes stories come very easily in one burst. If only it happened all the time! This story was like that. I sat down and wrote something very close to the published version in a couple of hours. (I had to cut it down by a third to fit the word count for the contest version.) Once I had it on hand, I pinged Michael and Lynne to see if they’d be willing to take a look because the story reminded me of “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” which they published back in 2014 in Apex Magazine. I’m so happy they liked it and I’m glad to be back in Uncanny for the second time this year.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 43 Cover

They say the dead see the world as if it’s a nightmare.  Everything they knew is remade as an incomprehensible, unpredictable assault on their senses: too loud, too bright. A dog rolling on the grass is no different from a subterranean monster writhing out of the earth. Love and shock and pain are one merged, hungry thing.

In my brother’s nightmares, it seems, he can cry.

Well, in mine, so can I.

Check out the rest of the issue for some fine writing by fine writers. I hope you enjoy the story!

Cat Drawing! Pete Curious with Wander Kitten

drawing of cat looking into distance

This is one of the images I used in Scragamuffin, the chapbook I released as October’s exclusive Patreon reward. I thought it might be fun to release the pictures with the photos that inspired them.

cat looking into distanceI drew this in an early stage of developing this white-on-brown style for cat drawings, and it was one of the pictures that encouraged me to continue because of the shock of recognition I felt when I looked “Pete” in the eye. It just really looks like him. I was also really excited by the way the paws turned out– the pattern of light shows the distribution of his weight in a way I don’t think I would have been able to capture without using a photograph as a template. He’s pondering a jump and his front paws are on the corner of a cabinet. I think getting that right helps the image feel like it’s arrested mid-motion instead of being a stiff pose.

Help Save WisCon

As the pandemic batters our social lives and economies, it’s been particularly hard for conventions to stay afloat. WisCon, the feminist convention that happens annually in Madison WI, is making an appeal. In short:

We don’t have enough funds to pay for what happens if we don’t fill our contracted block of hotel rooms, and we can’t afford to cancel the hotel contract.

We are in a volunteer shortage crisis. It takes a LOT of people to make WisCon happen, and we lack dozens of volunteers in key positions.

–Kit Stubbs (they/them), treasurer and 2022 co-chair

I haven’t attended WisCon in a while, but it was the first convention I got attached to. For several years, Vylar Kaftan and I — along with some rotating folks like Jennifer Pelland — did a reading series called Taboo where we read stories with unexpected content. Here are a few of the stories we read:

“Even a god has human needs, if he resides in a living body.” Aki attends his incarnated god’s private functions, starting with the chamber pot.

I wrote this story as an exercise at the Iowa Writers Workshop based on the prompt “use the words: kiss dead and dog.” I decided to go for it and put all three in the first sentence. “Would you kiss a dead dog?” The story doesn’t get less intense from there. Definitely rated R or X.

Pelland’s Nebula-nominated piece tells the stories of the ghostly victims from several different New York disasters, including 9/11 and the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. I think this story may feel less like a hot button now than it did, but for a long time, even touching 9/11 in the way this story does–empathetic and intelligent, but unflinching–was daring.

In their call for assistance, Stubbs lists a few things people can do to help get the convention back on track, including:

  • sign up for their newsletter
  • volunteer for the non-profit that organizes the convention, or for the convention itself
  • attend the convention, May 27-30, 2022! (and book your room at the hotel in advance)
  • spread the word

They’ve got a matching fund for the first $5,000 in donations that they receive.

I should also add: Stubbs writes that the convention is working to bring the convention into better alignment with its antiracist values, “particularly as experienced by our attendees and volunteers of color.”

Visit the WisCon website if you’re interested in reading more about how to attend the convention or help it out. (Or help it out by attending!)