Some Thoughts Post MileHiCon

I’m back from MileHiCon in Denver which took place October 1-3.

It was lovely to attend and meet wonderful people, including convention organizers like Melanie Unruh, Meg Ward, Linda Nelson and Christine Childs, among others! My great thanks to them for putting on a wonderful event and having me there.

At the opening ceremonies, I said a few words about the pandemic, community and science fiction.

Apparently, this was on everyone else’s minds, too, as the toast master and most of the guests considered what it’s going to be like as we return to a world with conventions and people, rather than lonely houses in quarantine. In particular, I was considering how our current global situation feels both science fictional and not.

Here’s a bit of what I said:

It’s hard to think about what quarantine isolation would have been like in 1918. The dystopian imagery from our cyberpunk novels has come out as people wrangling babies while doing video conferences and lawyers showing up to court wearing kitten filters. It’s science fiction, but mundane and liveable. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow–no matter the excitement or import of events–will always be inflected by the tiny things. Our EMTs need bathroom breaks. Our nurses come home with PTSD from full days of both horrible death and also average, ordinary work. Hundreds of thousands of people die, and the dog still needs walking.

During “An Hour with Rachel Swirsky,” I read three short stories:

They’re all stories that break the rules about what “can” be done in fiction. Dinosaur is written in second person and takes place internally; Purse is a list story that ends just as events start taking place; and Quiet is written in an omniscient, consensus point of view without individual characters. Art is full of possibilities. Why constrain ourselves as artists or readers?

I also participated in three panels.

I was on a panel about Gender Beyond the Binary where we discussed examples of non-binary characters in fiction, and one called Starfish Out of Water which discussed stories of aliens on earth (with a digression into the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the Star Trek episode Darmok).

My favorite panel was Art As Resistance with panelists Eneasz Brodski and Chaz Kemp, moderated by Kim Klimek who did an unusually excellent job with posing questions and furthering discussion. Chaz Kemp was passionate about the idea that making and enjoying art is itself an act of resistance. One of the first things fascist governments do is restrain art. They arrest–or even kill–artists. As much as the contemporary United States has problems, I think it’s incredibly important to remember that artists are (by and large) not taking our lives into our hands with what we say and how we choose to say it. The world hasn’t always been like that, and in many places it still isn’t. I worry greatly for our colleagues in countries where government reprisal is more than a threat. I found this panel profound and am grateful to the other panelists, and the moderator, for the discussion.

While we spent a lot of time in our room for Covid reasons, it was a delight to interact as much as we were able to.

On a personal level, I enjoyed seeing long-time friends and colleagues like Carrie Vaughn and Matthew Rotundo. Also, it was a blast seeing the masks–sequined masks, fringed masks, masks with cartoon capybaras… I wear a paper mask because I can stand having it on my face, but oh, I appreciate the sequins.

Although it was less of a difficulty in one-on-one conversations, I do have to say it was disconcerting presenting to a masked audience. I didn’t realize how much I rely on seeing people’s faces for their reactions! Without smiles, or even grimaces, audiences seemed to be very raptly paying attention in an extremely sober fashion, which is weird when you’re trying to tell jokes. 😉

Thanks again so much to MileHiCon–everyone who worked on the convention, and everyone who attended!

Scragamuffin: A New Chapbook on Patreon

Today, I’m sending my patrons a new chapbook–Scragamuffin.

I didn’t intend to write another chapbook; it just sort of happened. Unfortunately, we lost another one of our cats, and this one was only nine. So, it’s been kind of a bummer.

Scragamuffin, Poems about Pete by Rachel Swirsky brown cover image with white cat sketchI wrote a bunch of poems about Pete, and also started drawing pictures based on photographs of him. I lucked into a style I like a lot so I’ve been drawing other animals–pets and otherwise–since.

This Patreon chapbook contains about twenty poems, about twenty illustrations, and the rules for one game (which can only be initiated by a cat).

I hope folks find it fun or funny–or at least furry.

All of my patrons receive premium content every month. Donations of any amount are gratefully appreciated. Every little bit helps. (Especially, alas, as my husband has been laid off again. Poor Mike.)


Haiku Roundup for September 2021

The cats cuddle close
wanting the warmth of my skin
offering their fur.

No leaves sprouting yet,
but the warmer, longer light
promises they’ll come.

Crowded coffee shops
overheated in the
rain  of broken voices.

Sunset mid-evening
lights over the pier are twinned
in water, dawning.

Reasonable dawn
glows white outside my window,
strange swaddled morning.

sunset mid-evening
lights over the pier are twinned
in water, dawning

Brightly overcast
where the sky, this morning, wept,
like all seasons here.

A note about Haiku: A while back, I decided to write one (or more) haiku a day about my life. These are semi-traditional haiku: I used seasonal imagery to explore my transient experiences, but I didn’t follow any other content rules. I also used English syllables instead of Japanese morae.


Check Out “Wake Up, I Miss You” in Apex

Wake Up, I Miss You - Woman at Window Image

Terra stands alone in the middle of the room, staring at nothing. She moves sometimes like someone dreaming, but never reacts.

My poor sister, locked in her own world.

Read more.

Poppy’s sister, Terra, is lost in a dream world. All Poppy can do is visit the hospital and watch.

When a strange man grabs Poppy’s hand, he warns her that something is coming for Terra in her dreams. He urges her to find a way to wake Terra quickly before it gets them both.

Apex Mag Issue 125 CoverHow can Poppy succeed where medicine has failed, and resolve the dream mystery keeping her and her sister apart?

Wake Up, I Miss You” is now live in Apex Magazine! Surreal, weird–maybe even a little funny. Plus, tons of references to Les Miserables and The Babysitter’s Club. Happy to be back in Apex’s TOC after too many years.


Off to MileHiCon!

Headed to MileHiCon in Denver as a Guest of Honor this Friday!

MileHiCon 53 IconHere’s a reminder of my schedule:
  • 6 pm — Opening Ceremonies 
  • 12 pm — Gender Beyond the Binary Panel, a panel
  • 1 pm — An Hour with Rachel Swirsky
  • 4 pm — Art as Resistance, a panel
  • 5 pm — Starfish Out of Water, a panel about alien biology

I hope to see some of you there!

I’ll be at MileHiCon as a Guest of Honor!

I’m a Guest of Honor at MileHiCon in Denver in two weeks–the weekend of October 1. I’ve got a packed three-day schedule with lots of interesting panels.

  • 6 pm — Opening Ceremonies

  • 12 pm — Gender Beyond the Binary Panel, a panel
  • 1 pm — An Hour with Rachel Swirsky
  • 4 pm — Art as Resistance, a panel
  • 5 pm — Starfish Out of Water, a panel about alien biology
It’s exciting–and a bit intimidating!–to be going to a convention in person again. (Don’t worry, I’ve got a mask, my shots, and doctor approval.) It’s kind of hard to believe there’s even still a world outside Portland. Well, really, it’s kind of hard to believe there’s even still a world outside of like a couple miles from my house!

Is anyone going? Any experiences from MileHiCon to share? Any thoughts on what I should make sure to cover on my panels? I’d love to hear it all.

milehicon53 banner, rocketship in left corner, october 1-2-3 2021 and additional information in right corner

Check Out Apex Magazine’s Issue 125

Terra stands alone in the middle of the room, staring at nothing. She moves sometimes like someone dreaming, but never reacts.

My poor sister, locked in her own world.

Apex Mag Issue 125 CoverExcited to be back in Apex Magazine‘s table of contents with a surreal mystery about a sister’s struggle to wake her twin from a dream world

“Wake Up, I Miss You” won’t be freely available to read online until September 29, but if you can’t wait that long, Issue 125 is already available for purchase!

Haiku Roundup for August 2021

I posted this a few years ago, but I think it’s worth posting again.

A while back, during a phase when I was having trouble writing fiction, a friend of mine showed me a haiku they’d been working on. I couldn’t manage something like a whole story, but writing seventeen syllables of poetry came easily, and felt right. 

These poems are only sort of traditional haiku. For one thing, I used English syllables instead of trying to adapt English words to Japanese morae which are similar to syllables, but not the same. I did use a seasonal reference in the first line of each, but they aren’t necessarily the kind of seasonal imagery that would have been used in a traditional poem. Also, I talked a lot more directly about what I was feeling, instead of using the metaphors to convey it.

However, I did try to convey my thoughts as I experienced them in that transient moment. I also tried not to revise, to just let them be as they were. (I think I cheated a couple of times, though.)  

These haikus aren’t necessarily in order, and they’re from a bit ago, so they won’t match up with the current weather, but I hope the words mean something to you.


Light through naked trees.
My dreams were not peaceful, and
I just want to sleep.

In night’s deep belly,
midnight is a great crevasse,
dark but sheltering.

Pet me, please. Now, please.
Stop tapping on that machine.
I’m here; I love you.

Evening starts at three.
I have a day’s work to do
in the waning light.

The twilight sky bleeds
to deeper and deeper shades
of thoughtful Winter.

Half-naked branches,
black, with yellow flags waving
gently in the wind.

Bitter, windy, dark,
clattering cold strikes the rain,
sharp, overwhelming.

Hasten through the cold,
the wind pushing you backward.
The windows are bright.

Zombies Need Brains Kickstarted Three New Anthologies!

shattering the glass slipper cover image green background with various items in corner such as a broken glass shoe and dented lamp

Live happily ever after… or don’t. It’s up to you.

Zombies Need Brains (@ZNGLLC) is kickstarting three new anthologies, including an anthology of fairy tales that have been smashed up and remade into something new, SHATTERING THE GLASS SLIPPER.

I’m one of the authors who’s signed up to participate, along with awesome folks like Alethea Kontis, Cat Rambo, Jose Iriarte and lots of others whose work I’m excited to get to know. (The editors also plan to consider open submissions once the kickstarter funds.)

At the same time, ZNBLLC is also funding two other anthologies, NOIR and BRAVE NEW WORLDS.

I’m contributing some rewards!

I’m offering up to three backers a printed copy of one of my short stories with  margins full of ridiculous, hand-drawn doodles. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve drawn on copies of my flash stories “Death and the All-Night Donut Shop” and “Again and Again and Again.” Not sure which story I’ll pick this time!

Early backers who contribute before the Kickstarter reaches its goal will get an original poem that’s not available elsewhere online. If the Kickstarter reaches its stretch goal, I’ll send all backers a copy of a short chapbook including six flash fiction drafts and an original poem. 

As for my story, I’m planning a Rapunzel set in an urban fantasy version of Seattle–not my usual thing! However, I’m also working on a Little Mermaid retelling about alienation, fish reproduction, and the combination thereof. Hopefully, I’ll be able to offer the editors a choice.

I adore fairy tale retellings, both writing and consuming them.

As a child, I obsessed over Shelley Duval’s Faerie Tale Theatre, Datlow & Windling’s fairy tale anthology series, and Tanith Lee’s collection, Red as Blood.

Here are a couple more recent retellings I adore:

And here are a couple of mine (I swear not all my retellings are NSFW!):

  • All That Fairy Tale Crap” — NSFW post-modern Cinderella
  • Tea Time” — NSFW (especially if you happen to be working in a Victorian time travel situation) romance between the Mad Hatter and March Hare

Thanks to ZNBLLC for doing the work to keep small press anthologies alive!

Check out the Kickstarter for SHATTERING THE GLASS SLIPPER and its siblings, NOIR and BRAVE NEW WORLDS.

You can follow Zombies Need Brains on Twitter for updates regarding the kickstarter and anthologies.