I taught a workshop in the fall at Chapman University on Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy. It was an advanced workshop, partly grad students and partly undergrads. I organized the undergrad section around helping students prepare stories to submit to the Dell Award, which is an annual contest for “Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing.” Today the Dell Award Winners were announced, and three of my students were on the list!
My student Sam Wilson won the Award outright for his story “blooming bleeding hearts.” Olivia Garcia was the first runner-up with her story “Of the Known Universe,” and Emely Menjivar was an Honorable Mention with her story “Blind Faith.”
The Dell Award is a pretty big deal in Science Fiction & Fantasy; it’s judged in part by Sheila Williams, who is the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction, and the winning story each year is published in Asimov’s (which is a career goal in itself for many writers (including me!)). Many Dell Award honorees go on to have long careers in SF&F. The students are also invited to the award ceremony, which is next month at ICFA, the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, in Orlando, Florida.
If you happen to be in Dallas, Texas this Saturday, February 4, my story “The Man and the Moose” (from Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day) will be read as part of the Selected Shorts “Friendship!” Event at the Dallas Museum of Art, along with stories by Anthony Marra, Jorge Hernandez, and Lorrie Moore. “The Man and the Moose” will be read by actor Michael Cerveris (from, among other things, the show Treme). Showtime is 5:30pm; tickets are available on the Dallas Museum of Art website.
I published four new stories in 2022: “The Wheelbarrow” in the Winter Issue of the Sewanee Review (who also interviewed me about it), “Bear” at Craft Literary (who had me write a little essay about it (and nominated it for Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy)), “The Ship on the Horizon” in Air/Light, and “Dandelions” in the anthology Small Odysseys: Selected Shorts Presents 35 New Stories. “Dandelions” was performed at Symphony Space in New York by actor/comedian Wyatt Cenac as part of the day-long Selected Shorts “Wall to Wall” event in March (which also featured an animated short by artist Michael Arthur inspired by the story), and my story “The Frog and the Bird” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) was read by actor Mike Doyle (from Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation!) as part of their Amy Tan “Bird Stories” Event in May. Both stories are now available on the Selected Shorts Podcast: “The Frog and the Bird” in Episode #3, “Taking Flight with Amy Tan,” and “Dandelions” in Episode #10, “Best Laid Plans.”
What else? I wrote a new story called “The Man with the Hand of Gold,” read it at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in October (via Zoom), and then sold it to Uncharted Magazine, where it will appear this coming April. I read my story “The Pot” at the Annual UCLA Extension Publication Party, did an in-class visit with Heather Harris’s Freshman Composition class at the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland, and appeared on a panel called Stellar Short Fiction with Aimee Bender and Jac Jemc at the San Diego Writers Festival. I contributed a little tip on writing horror fiction to this Catapultarticle about it, judged writing contests for Blue Mesa Review and Berkeley Fiction Review, appeared in conversation with Amy Fusselman at Chevalier’s on Larchmont to celebrate her new book (and first novel!) The Mean$, and traveled to Elon University in North Carolina to see the world premier of composer Nathan Hudson‘s new piece, “God,” which was based on my story of the same name.
On the teaching front, I continued to run my usual short story workshops, both privately and at UCLA Extension, taught a semester-long workshop on writing Science Fiction & Fantasy at Chapman University, and mentored another two high school student writers through The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program (my third year in that capacity). I had current and past students accepted into graduate programs at Syracuse, The American Film Institute, and UC Santa Cruz, another who got into the Tin House Summer Workshop, and others who published stories in Smokelong Quarterly, Bellevue Literary Journal, The Sun, Dark Matter Magazine, HAD, Fugue, BOMB Magazine, Jabberwock Review, Okay Donkey, Idaho Review, Meadowlark Review, Dark Horses, Harvard Review,and Narrative Magazine, among others. My student Pete Hsu’s collection If I Were the Ocean I’d Carry You Home was published by Red Hen Press to wonderful reviews; my student Tim Cummings’ middle grade novel Alice the Cat will be out from Fitzroy Books in May; and my student Tlotlo Tsamaase’s first novel, Womb City, was picked up by Erewhon Books and will be out in the Spring. I am not responsible for any of those successes, but it does delight me to find that my teaching doesn’t seem to have irreparably harmed at least a few of my students! (An incredible relief.)
Reading-wise, it was a good year. I particularly loved The Black Maybe: Liminal Tales by Attila Veres (which thrilled me with the speed and relentless invention of its narratives), Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (which was hilarious and crushing), Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon (I’ve read three Dan Chaon novels now and they’ve all been perfect??), My Dead Book by Nate Lippens (which astounded me with its clarity, precision, and absolute refusal to engage in any bullshit at all), William Blake vs. the World by John Higgs (I’ve always loved Blake’s shorter works but I feel like this finally gave me the keys to tackle the longer, more inscrutable ones), the classic Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of the Macabre by David J. Skal & Elias Savada (which was finally released on audiobook after all these years), Simple Passion and The Possession by Annie Ernaux (I read seven Annie Ernaux books this year and enjoyed them all, but those were my favorites), Competing with Idiots: Herman and Joe Mankiewicz, A Dual Portrait by Nick Davis (Did you know that Rosebud in Citizen Kane and the black-and-white-cinematography-suddenly-exploding-into-color in The Wizard of Oz were both ideas from the same guy?), and Pew by Catherine Lacey (which was wonderfully mysterious and hypnotic).
Some other books I loved: Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, Out There by Kate Folk, But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz by Geoff Dyer, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, Teenager by Bud Smith, China Mieville’s The City and the City, William Gay’s Little Sister Death, Vasily Grossman and the Soviet Century by Alexandra Popoff, The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman), Be Brief and Tell Them Everything by Brad Listi, The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias, Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azzerad (even though it made me hate every band he wrote about (except the Minutemen)), Negative Space by B.R. Yeager, Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angeles by Rosecrans Baldwin, Kansas City Lightning: The Rise and Times of Charlie Parker by Stanley Crouch (a real bummer there’ll never be a volume two, though!), Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson, and The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction edited by Arthur Evans et al.
My single favorite story I read this year was the wondrous & terrifying “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit” by Stephen Graham Jones, which you can find in his collection The Ones That Got Away. That was the first story I’ve read in years that actually kept me from sleeping afterwards—a beautiful thing! I also loved “Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts” by Anthony Veasna So, “Fogtown” and “The Amber Complex” by Attila Veres (both of which appear in his collection The Black Maybe: Liminal Tales, which I mentioned above but am mentioning here again because it’s the best collection I’ve read in years), “Halloween” by Marian Crotty, “Slumberland” by Laura van den Berg, “Bears Discover Fire” by Terry Bisson, “Texas City, 1947” by James Lee Burke, “The Blue Bouquet” by Octavio Paz, and “Out of All Them Bright Stars” by Nancy Kress.
I blurbed 6 books that come out this year: Boys Beasts & Men by Sam Miller, No Windmills in Basra by Diaa Jubaili (translated by my old college roommate Chip Rossetti), Dream State by Martin Ott, I Buried Paul by Bruce Ferber, Orphans of Canland by Daniel Vitale, and Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before by Brandon Getz. I also loved and blurbed Chloe Clark’s new collection Patterns of Orbit, which will be out in 2023.
And finally, to close things out, The Worst Book I Read This Year was… There actually wasn’t one? Somehow I got lucky and didn’t hit any real stinkers?? Incroyable!
Life-wise, it was a good year but pretty busy with work; I don’t have much to report. I watched fewer horror movies than usual (though still over 100 (my favorites of the year were Mad God, Hatching,The Innocents, Hellbender, and Pearl)) and more TV shows (my favorites were The Americans, Reservation Dogs, Treme, and The Rockford Files). I spent a few months in New Jersey helping my parents as they finally sold their furniture store and retired to gardening, watching TCM, and reading Robert Caro’s The Powerbroker full-time, and spent Christmas in Seattle with Rachel and her sister and her sister’s fiancé, watching Falling for Christmas, The Holiday, & Clueless, and eating some of (a lot of!) the most delicious food I’ve had in years.
And finally, here’s my favorite photo I took in 2022 (blindly, out the window of a moving car (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving)):
My story “Dandelions,” from the Small Odysseys anthology, is on the Selected Shorts Podcast right now, as read by Wyatt Cenac. The Episode is “Best Laid Plans,” and also features “Cane and Roses” by Edwidge Danticat (as read by Anika Noni Rose) and “The Laurel and Hardy Love Affair” by Ray Bradbury (as read by Tate Donovan). You can also watch a short film by Michael Arthur inspired by “Dandelions” on the site.
If anyone is looking for scary movies to watch for Halloween, I’ve updated my list of 100 Favorite Horror Movies, you can check it out over on Letterboxd if you like (I arranged them in chronological order so I wouldn’t have to drive myself mad trying to put them in order of preference):
I’ll be at the San Diego Writers Festival on October 8, on a panel called Stellar Short Fiction with Aimee Bender and Jac Jemc. We’ll be talking about the anthology Small Odysseys: Selected Shorts Presents 35 New Stories, in which we all have original work. The panel is at 1:00 on Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Grand Room at the Coronado Public Library, and will be followed by a book signing. Admission is Free!
My story “The Frog and the Bird” (from Tales of Falling and Flying) is on the Selected Shorts Podcast right now, as read by actor Mike Doyle. The episode is called “Taking Flight with Amy Tan,” and also includes “Town of Birds” by Heather Monley, as performed by Yetide Badaki, and “The Mating Call” by Mikkel Rosengaard, as read by BD Wong.
I’ll be at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont at 7:00pm tomorrow (Friday 9/30) talking to Amy Fusselman about her hilarious new book (and first novel!) THE MEAN$ — come on down and say hi! Rare moment I will be outside my house
Composer Nathan Hudson will be premiering a new work entitled “God,” based on my short story of the same name, this coming Monday night, September 26, in the Whitley Auditorium at Elon University in North Carolina. 7:30PM EST. I will be there– if you see me, come say hi!