2017: A Roundup (No Slugs Harmed)

I had just one story come out in 2017, but I have a pup sleeping in my lap, and my fellow Clarion werejelly Jaymee Goh has informed me that I am in my second year of eligibility for the Campbell Award. Guess there’s hope for me yet.

Here is a collection of my artistic endeavors of 2017:

On March 17, my blackened neofolk metal band Felled released our brief album Bonefire Grit. Here’s a review, compliments of Dutch Pearce and Decibel Magazine.

Also in March, my dark folk band Wēoh struck out on our Vernal Tour 2017. I illustrated our tour poster:

Come April, my (awards eligible) story Figs, Detached was published in Nightmare Magazine. I’ve been told it contains the best fictional genitals ever, so if you enjoy genitals (especially spongey ones), you should probably read this. You can also read my author spotlight, in which I discuss things like mythpunk and queer foxes.

Among the many shows both of my bands played, we also performed at a few summer festivals: Thirst For Light and Faerieworlds.

Finally, in October, Felled headed out on The Saltwood Tour MMXVII, journeying up and down the west coast. I conjured up the tour poster for that one, too…

Other roundups/awards eligibility posts you might be interested in:

Clarion 2016: Werejelly Eligibility

Conjurer of Terrifying, Yet Sexy Bobbit Worms (aka bobbit maids), Jaymee Goh

Sea Witch, Seaweed Seamstress, and Queen of the Darkdeers, Emily Cataneo

Selkie Huntress*, Tiny Whale Wrangler, and MY NEMESIS, Kendra Fortmeyer

*as in, a selkie who is a huntress, not a huntress of selkies

Photo Blog: August and Some September

Photo Blog: August and Some September

In June, I graduated from my Master’s program (in folklore). Traveled to the (Oregon) coast for some time by the sea and by the fire.  Then I took a thirty four hour train to San Diego, where I wrote and read stories all day, every day, for six weeks at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. In short, it was incredible. I’ll write about it soon.

I returned home to alpine lakes and sushi and sea monsters. Went wandering around my neighborhood early in the morning and found a mysterious display of sticks and acorns.

I had an impending show to prepare for with Felled, which meant many, many practices. Built a gong stand, did some shirt designs; collaborated with our bassist Isamu Sato for the Felled shirt. The other shirt I designed myself, for the neofolk band Wēoh.

The show was great; good line up (atmospheric black metal band With the End in Mind was on tour; Solace from Salem opened with enthralling, earthen harp music.) More recently, but still musically, I headed to Horning’s Hideout (a thirty minute drive into the woods from Portland) to go to Faerieworlds and see Wardruna. Maybe sometime later I’ll try to write up what that was like; all I can say now is that there is absolutely nothing like seeing Wardruna live. Nothing. Nothing. When I wasn’t watching Wardruna  do their soundcheck, or perform, I spent most of my time just wandering the crowds (and muddy roads) and the surrounding forest. Startled a creature that was probably a deer, but had the tail of a cougar. Found a fir cone with mushrooms growing out of it.

Returned home from Faerieworlds just today, spent morning till dusk cleaning bones, picking amaranth, unpacking. The bones will soon become instruments and jewelry.

Till next time.

me snow fb_2.

Hungry Lilies and the Devil’s Punchbowl: A Photoblog

Hungry Lilies and the Devil’s Punchbowl: A Photoblog

I went on a trip for novel research (to sink into that terrible, beautiful, place of its end), and because, just. I documented what I could and it was rainy, so these are blurry photos. Just after the equinox, March 21 – 26, 2016. Oregon Coast. Mostly Darlingtonia State Wayside (which has carnivorous cobralilies and a peat bog) and the Devil’s Punchbowl. No evidence from the incredibly haunting night at Cook’s Chasm, but it’s better that way. A more detailed, worded, account will follow soon.

STORYFOX Interview: Yoon Ha Lee

If you’ve perused the Storyfox Database, you’ve surely come across Yoon Ha Lee’s poetry and fiction. My personal favorite is the story “The Contemporary Foxwife,” but I recommend that you explore Yoon’s other work as well; it’s all quite excellent. After you’ve done that (or before!), be sure to read the following interview. Much gratitude to Yoon for agreeing to answer my questions!

Finally, if you are a writer (or videographer, game designer, painter, or creator of any sort) of fox stories and want to be interviewed (or know of someone you’d like to be interviewed here) or have your narratives archived in the database, please contact me in the comments section of this post, on my contact page, or via twitter. Guest posts about foxes and/or fox stories would be most welcome, as well!



A Korean-American sf/f writer who majored in math, Yoon finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas. Yoon’s fiction has appeared in publications such as F&SF, Tor.com, and Clarkesworld Magazine, as well as several year’s best anthologies.

You can find Yoon on Dreamwidth and on Twitter as @motomaratai, or by email at yoon@yoonhalee.com.
Website: http://www.yoonhalee.com/


Just to get a glimpse of your broader context, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I live in Louisiana with my husband and daughter. During the day I write. I’m also interested in game design, interactive fiction, cartooning, and composing; I like to keep busy.

When and why did you start writing?

I decided in 3rd grade to become a writer because my 3rd grade teacher, Mr. McCracken, really encouraged his classes to do creative writing. I realize that this is a little early to make a career choice but I didn’t realize that at the time. I wrote stories for my little sister at first (even to this day she is one of my beta readers), then decided around 6th grade that I wanted to sell short stories and, eventually, a novel. The novel hasn’t happened yet, but I started submitting short stories in 6th grade. I got my first acceptance six years later, as a freshman in college.

Beyond the stories, what sort of relationship do you have with foxes? Has your interest in them always been narrative, or did it have another source?

It’s nothing deep, I’m afraid–I think they’re incredibly attractive animals, and as a city-dweller who has never seen one in the flesh, that’s it for me. (I’d love to spot a real fox, though.) If I lived in the country and kept chickens I’d probably feel differently. I did have some early exposure to Korean folktales of gumiho (nine-tailed fox spirits), who are shapechangers who seduce and usually kill people. (I think; it’s been a while.) I was also enchanted by Kij Johnson’s novel based on Japanese folklore, The Fox Woman, which I read when I was in college.

I also love The Fox Woman, deeply. What about it did you find enchanting? Are there any other books you’ve found similarly enthralling? (Fox-related or otherwise!) What about them drew you?

What I loved about that novel was that it really delved into the fox’s viewpoint, which I don’t think I’d seen before.  The idea that the fox had fallen for the human as well as causing the human to fall for her was a reversal that I hadn’t considered, and Kij Johnson really did a heartbreaking job of portraying it.

A non-fox-related book that evoked a similar feeling from me was Barbara Hambly’s Dragonsbane.  At the end the protagonist, a human woman, has the opportunity to become a dragon.  She is also a mage who has limited power, in part because of the demands of her struggles to survive and her family.  But she meets a dragon who falls in love with her (as much as dragons ever do, anyway), and she decides to go with him, rather than stay with the man who loves her, and who watches her go because he knows he can’t make her stay with him.  (The husband is actually one of my favorite characters ever, although I also really like the female mage.)  Anyway, after some time as a dragon, the protagonist decides to return to being human.  It’s incredibly bittersweet, because she can’t, in fact, have the best of both worlds.  She has to make do with a compromise, be one or the other.

When did you first begin writing about foxes? What first pushed you to write vulpine-inclined tales?

I started writing about foxes in flash fairy tales that I sold at $6 a pop up-front to raise quick cash for small purchases. I believe the first one would have been “The Fox’s Tower,” which I posted on my DreamWidth blog (also my former LJ, although it’s since been deleted) on January 9, 2010 (http://yhlee.dreamwidth.org/117509.html). The flash stories are done to a one- or two-word prompt from the purchaser, and while people don’t necessarily specifically request foxes, some of the prompts just seem to come out as fox stories.

Mostly, foxes seemed both mysterious and attractive, adaptable to a variety of fairy tale scenarios. I particularly like their trickster and shapeshifter aspects, which is odd, because ordinarily trickster archetypes drive me up the wall. I was also maybe a little frustrated with the way foxwives got treated in Legend of the Five Rings (roleplaying game/collectible card game setting, Asian-inflected); in the official fiction the foxwives usually fall in love with jerks and have their hearts broken, and don’t get to be foxily awesome at all.

You mentioned that most trickster archetypes aren’t exactly your thing—do you think foxes contain a deeper sense of motivation or emotion, or interiority, perhaps, than other tricksters? Why do you think you find foxes more resonant than other tricksters?

For me, it’s definitely that sense of motivation.  I’ve read some stories where the tricksters seemed to be doing random things just for the hell of it.  I guess that represents the chaotic and sometimes inexplicable forces of nature, but I’ve never found that very satisfactory in a narrative sense, especially in a character.  With a fox, I have a sense that there’s some strategy even if I don’t necessarily know what that strategy *is.*  That the fox is doing these things for a goal.  I guess I like clever characters!

In both your poem “Foxfeast” over at Mythic Delirium, and your short story “The Contemporary Foxwife” in Clarkesworld, you’ve written about foxes in a science fictive setting. Can you talk about where these pieces came from, and any other thoughts you might have on foxes in science fiction?

When I wrote “Foxfeast” I couldn’t recall seeing (many?) instances of foxes in space, even though it seemed to me that a mythological animal as adaptable as a fox would still find a way to make itself felt in the future. Also, the foxes in my flash fairy tales (collected at http://www.yoonhalee.com/?cat=3 — they usually have “fox” in the title somewhere) are, hmm, kind of nerfed. They’re very nice.  For “Foxfeast” I wanted to write more dangerous foxes like the ones I remembered from the Korean folktales, foxes with teeth.

“The Contemporary Foxwife” goes back to a nice fox, mainly because I partly wrote the story as a bit of a joke. There’s a character in an unpublished novel I wrote (it’s out on submission) who is associated somewhat with foxes, and things do not end well for him. I wanted to write a version of him that got a happy ending. Said version of him is hardly recognizable, but that’s where the story started. I mean, I usually write about genocides and massacres. “The Contemporary Foxwife” may be the nicest, least genocidal story I have ever written.

Among many other things, a number of your fox stories have dealt with gender, language, and family. Are there particular themes or issues you find most potent and/or pertinent when writing about foxes? Why? Do those stories lean toward certain forms/structures/characters/settings, etc?

I guess I think of gender as a natural theme to tie in to foxes because of the fox’s mythological reputation as a shapeshifter. Going from there to foxes who don’t care about gender variance seems natural. I’ve dealt with issues of language in other stories, so I don’t think that’s particular to foxes, and I hadn’t noticed that about family before, although I think you’re right now that you’ve pointed it out! In the case of family I think it has to do with issues of trust–foxes are so often portrayed as tricky and devious, but I wonder what it is that they’re tricky and devious in service of, if that can’t be turned to good (or anyway, to some purpose beyond tricky-and-devious-for-the-hell-of-it).

Do you have any thoughts on why they often have this shapeshifting nature?

I think of the saying “crazy like a fox” and their reputation for deviousness when being hunted.  I wonder if people think that foxes are clever enough to adapt to any situation, and if their shapeshiftiness symbolizes that.

Why do you think people–especially in the science fiction and fantasy community–are drawn to telling stories about foxes? Do you consider yourself to be in conversation (intentionally or not) with any of these works–and if so, who, and why?

Partly because they’re gorgeous, partly because they have mythological roots to work with (both the Reynard stories in the West and the kitsune/gumiho/huli jing in the East, I’m sure there are others), even things like Disney’s animated movie Robin Hood. (I had a crush on Robin.) So maybe they’re not quite as popular as dragons (my 5th-grade daughter is big into dragons!) but they still have a respectable following.

I don’t read much in the genre anymore, mainly because I read so slowly these days, so I’m hardly even aware of what’s out there. In that sense I’m not really operating in conversation with the rest of the sf/f community.

For the sake of fun and curiosity: have you a favorite kind of fox?

I have to go with the classic Vulpes vulpes here. Their coloration is so handsome! I have a Tumblr that I hardly know how to use, but I’m subscribed to an account called thelittleredfox that delivers up pretty fox photos. Also on Twitter there’s @emergency_fox. And on FaceBook I follow the National Fox Welfare Society (based in the UK somewhere, I believe), which rescues foxes and posts updates on how they’re doing–they help some, they lose others, but learning about the habits of foxes is very interesting and it’s another source of photos.

How to Kill a Squirrel

From November, 2015:

Last night on campus I found a squirrel with two broken legs. I was on my bike, ready for another restless night of pacing in and out of Old Nick’s whenever I feel it’s time to head elsewhere or riverward (not that I ever make it to the river; I stop at the trees for something to climb or hold onto or sit under). But I couldn’t keep on. Have you ever seen something crawl on its belly? Not by choice, but because it had no other choice. It is not comfortable. The squirrel’s back legs were limp and splayed; it dragged itself toward the road, belly to wet cement, then gave up and turned for a corner.

My fucking conscience spoke up and I headed to the library for a box, then returned to the squirrel. It hadn’t made the corner. I put it in the box. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do, fuck my conscience, probably it was the wrong thing and anthropocentric, but if I were a squirrel with broken back legs I wouldn’t want to die underfoot near a road. In hindsight, I didn’t do a good thing.

I rode one-handed with a squirrel in a box wrapped in a towel all under one arm, praying the frat boys in their clone suits could hold off their jay walking so I could pass without braking abruptly and having to explain why I was throwing broken-legged squirrels at them. At Old Nick’s, I walked in, I walked out, waiting and winding myself up and chasing dogs off from the squirrel. Then Disemballerina, who were good and what I needed. It felt nice and cathartic and not, to sit on the floor and hide my face and get a hug and a candle from a friend who sat beside me awhile. I panicked in the way I know best (quiet) until the music was over and none of this has anything has anything to do with squirrels, but none of this really does and anyway, I write what I want.

Then the last note and I stood and things were better in the way that cresting a hill and seeing the forest is better, only it’s still far, so you smile and put your head down and keep on. Then I am Skaði. Then shots of icemelt, because that’s what the water at Old Nick’s makes me think of, every time. Then alar, because how can everything be all right and utterly not at the same time, then time dilation and Fae chronology, because in a moment there is every moment from there until another that is white and vodka and linen and birch/birch and goat hide and respite and deltoid, and then even further back (stars, trees, eyes) and then back again.

I suspected the squirrel was dead by then, but I took it up Skinner’s Butte anyway. Really muddy. At the top, I took it from the box; it didn’t move. Dead, almost there. I knew, then, I had been wrong. There is no kindness in intention. I had waited and I was cruel. I opened my knife and spoke to the squirrel. I told it I had no right, I didn’t know what else to do, I’m sorry, I’m nothing and we’re scaled and the choice was never mine. Only then it had to be, because I had gone that far.

After a point I was only talking to delay my hand. I shut the fuck up.

Stabbing is harder than it looks. I need to practice my aim.

I put my knife in the ground, then through the squirrel’s throat slantwise, and the brain was as bright a gray as winter overcast. No blood, so, dead already? I only felt something before I dropped my knife, craven; after that, nothing. Just motion, up down. I laughed, wry, when I had to pry my knife from its skull.

I didn’t bury the squirrel.

After, I watched the stars on my back in the leaves.

washing off the road salt

I should be writing about a fossegrim from the deep south or, at the very least, foxes, but I read something beautiful this morning and the only way I can think to undistract myself from it is by writing about it.

This morning I went for a very wet and semi-long bike ride. It was my first in awhile. I had my one and only wisdom tooth extracted two weeks ago, so I’d been taking it easy, because apparently your face needs time to heal after your mouth’s been stuffed full of fingers and sawed-up tooth. What I’m trying to say is that the bike ride would have been good no matter what, because I was out and in my head for the first time in too long. But when I woke this morning, the clouds were steady in the sky and I felt safe packing my rain jacket before heading out, which means the weather was promising that my ride would be more than good.

By the time I reached the Willamette, rain was falling hard. I stopped under the train tracks for a drink of water and to put on my jacket. My boots were soaked halfway across the bridge over the river. I could have been miserable, but I felt more euphoric than pissed off. I looked upstream and all I could see was an oceanic microcosm, a white island jagged with evergreens on a backdrop of fog, a scene straight out of Deception’s Pass at dawn. Then I was off the bridge and into forest, leafdamp, leatherdamp, hardturn close call wipeout and I fuck you not, all I could think is I’ve never been happier.

Theodora Goss got it right in her blog post this morning:

I think that beauty is an underlying order that captures and encompasses chaos…It does not make us more comfortable. What it makes us feel, I believe, is more alive.

And how could I not write about that after such a beautiful ride? Because it wasn’t just mud and prime salamander grounds and river so still you probably could have tread on it–it was also me, in my head, thinking and not thinking. Thinking about things I shouldn’t think about or feel. Thinking about shape and form and red and rune and want and ace and aro and sex and twins and unreachable gravity wells. When I’m out, alone, especially in the rain and under the trees, I just am. I am. I. Am. (Someone please take note of that reference.) And I am both fucked up and breathtaking. Not to anyone else–but maybe to myself, close to almost. I am a mess and at most myself, and that is fucking beautiful.

How to Not Know a Novel

When I was a kid, I was always writing books. None of them were ever much over two hundred and fifty pages and the first one, something about a dog, a dog thief and a girl named Jenn (hey, that’s me) written at nine years old, was twenty pages (totally still a novel). But by age thirteen or fourteen I had four book-shaped things, plus numerous projects started and never finished. In ninth grade or tenth grade I watched The Matrix for the first time. Two hours after I finished the film I started writing a book about dreams and reality. It was first called Puzzle and last called The Dream Tree. In the space of eight years, I started to rewrite it seven times and rewrote it fully for my undergrad senior project. Then I rewrote it a third time and edited that draft from 95k words down to 48k, which was probably a little drastic. After all that, you’d think I’d have learned something. But I didn’t know how to write a novel before Puzzle, I didn’t know how write one during Puzzle and I still didn’t know how after The Dream Tree.

Somewhere during the time that Puzzle became The Dream Tree, the author Karina Cooper told me to escape. Run away. Stop. Just stop beating the horse dead in the rain.(She didn’t say that, exactly; she was nicer. But let’s be brutal here.) I listened, but not really, and continued wasting my time.Compulsion is strong in me and I have a hard time letting go even when I know I need to. But it wasn’t just a matter of writing this one book over and over. When I was a kid, everything was a novel. Every idea was worth tens of thousands of words.

I don’t know why, maybe because books were it. They were big. They were better because of their greater gravity. But actually, I think it’s because they were all I knew. I didn’t read poetry or short fiction as a child, not unless it was mandatory for school, in which case of course I did (remember my compulsive compulsion?). But even though novels were all I read, I didn’t actually know a thing about them. I knew, sort of, how to read them. I definitely knew how get high on them. I wrote them start to finish, but not very well. Of course, I thought I knew them, but the further I got from them, the more I realized that, no matter how close we’d been, I hadn’t known a thing. I listened, but didn’t engage.

A month after moving to Montana, I finished that third full draft of The Dream Tree and finally listened to Karina Cooper’s good advice.I finished my 47k wordhack, realized the book was broken. I don’t think I’ve opened that file since. I read The Melancholy of Mechagirl and At the Mouth of the River of Bees, two collections that were pivotal. I started writing more short fiction and joined a writer’s group, were I met Richard, a friend full of snark and wordlove, who told me that applying to MFA programs was a shitty idea, because I already had a voice and stories, and that I knew what I needed to do to figure the rest out. Once again, I didn’t listen. His advice was good, but I think that this time I made the right decision. I ended up in a Master’s program of folklore and it’s both good and upsetting. I finished my first year in June. I don’t think I’ve ever been further from novels than during those nine months. All I wanted to do was write stories. Instead, I wrote papers and annotated bibliographies. We were long-distance lovers, novels and I (especially bad because I hate phones and it was all one-sided, anyway), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them clearer than in my first year of grad school. Distance does wonders. (Side note: Richard’s amazeballs–he’ll appreciate that word–The Flood Girls is due out from Simon and Schuster February 2016. Fuck yeah. If you’re reading this Richard, I want an ARC, hahaha.)

When I moved from Montana to Oregon to begin my folklore degree I was deep into a sword and sorcery novel about wormholes and magpies and revenge. I reached 65k words before the term started. I haven’t looked at the manuscript since. I spent the fall, winter and spring reading and writing about foxes, studying Swedish, philology, cosmogony, eschatology, and some of the stuff in between. The only novels I read were during a fiction seminar I took from the university’s MFA program and The Blue Fox, excusable because it was vulpine and relevant. I read probably a couple novel’s worth of fanfiction–sometimes when I had a little down time, but mostly when I had absolutely no time–but no intentional books.

Then summer came and I was supposed to be jobbing, and researching and reading for my terminal thesis project, which I did and am doing. But I got desperate. I read The Republic of Thieves when I was supposed to be reading Convergence Culture. I read The Name of the Wind instead of Marvels and Tales, 2015 (Vol. 29) No. 1, SPECIAL ISSUE: Queer(ing) Fairy Tales. When I wasn’t misbehaving, I did read plenty for my thesis, including Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook, which I think is what really did it. I read Wonderbook parallel to the Lynch and Rothfuss, and while I fried chicken and burritos and jo jos and yet more chicken at Safeway’s deli, I thought about writing books. I’d enjoyed Republic, but Name made me want to write (and just read, forever). But in between reading Le Guin’s Cheek By Jowl for pleasure by way of my annotated bibliography, pretend-coding a database and writing my prospectus, I didn’t actually have much time left for writing. But it turns out that frying chicken leaves you with plenty of time for thinking.

I thought about Wonderbook. I thought about The Name of the Wind. I thought about what was wrong with my magpie book. I thought a lot about wanting to write a book, but I couldn’t think of an idea wide enough and intense enough for a novel. I had ideas, sure, but were they book ideas? Before, when I was a kid, when I was in high school, when I was an undergrad, they would have been, but I wasn’t so sure anymore.

As a kid, I thought about plot and imagery. Plot because I knew that’s what stories are all about*, imagery because Tolkien. This time, I thought about character. Every time I wanted to know how the tale was going to finish, I wrenched my thoughts back to who, and the whys that defined the whos. I thought about many characters, but the ones that stuck were the ones with stories thick enough around them to warrant novels. And it was the around that really got me. I stopped thinking linearly. I thought about what came before and after the pivot point of character, not the story I wanted to write on them. I started with that seed, sure, but I didn’t cling to it. I considered the possibilities.

And that’s what’s most important, I think. I stopped flogging the horse. (It’s still raining, obviously, because I need rain for story writing, and because it’s been smoky and hot in Oregon and if I can’t get it anywhere else, I need rain in my head.) Before, I could recognize when a plot line or scene wasn’t working. So I’d rethink the scene, seeking the key that would make it work. But there’s not always a key, not when all you’re dealing with is brainplay (which is both it’s wonder and its bane). Reading Wonderbook made me realize that I was just trying to unbreak something rather than finish the break and kill it completely. And I understand why I stuck with that method for so long and will probably always have to remind myself that it’s not the only way–beheadings are hard work. Spinal cords are tough. But rather than reviving a scene back to shambling life, I’ve started to wonder what else works. What are my options that have nothing to do with the broken thing at hand? What can I do that’s completely other, unexpected, unplanned? How quickly can I give up a thing and be okay with it?

I think it’s working. After almost a year of knowing I have books in me, but not knowing what they were, I now have a trilogy and two novels to write. Maybe one, two or five of them will fail. But all I know right now is that I’m procrastinating on my thesis not because I’m subscribed to every single Buzzfeed channel on youtube, but because I’m writing.

I’ll be honest: compulsion still dogs me. I still think about The Dream Tree. I haven’t let it go, not completely. There’s something compelling about Fel, Kit and Jiiki, the book’s three main characters–I’m not relinquishing them yet. Their stories aren’t dead–but I don’t think they’re novels, either. There’s an exercise somewhere in Wonderbook, and maybe I keep thinking about it because it feels like a condolence:

Excise a scene from a trunked novel
Keep the scene, the character
Removing the context
Write something new

There, there, little novel. You aren’t dead yet.

But actually? I don’t think it’s a condolence. I think it’s an acknowledgement. I have good ideas, sometimes, but they don’t always come out right. And that’s okay, but beware: repeats might be treacherous. A rebirth might be better. Or maybe go back to the conception. Different egg, different seed, and when you do get around to squeezing that idea out, find a midwife with steadier hands. (Also, be careful around extended metaphors. [That’s probably my favorite advice from Wonderbook.])

Or burn your ideas. I hear that works, too.


*the asterisk exists to make note of how little I know

Life Overlooked: The Western Scrub Jay

““Life Overlooked” refers to the humanistic goal of “overlooking” or shepherding animals and other life as well as the ways in which non-human species and human relationships with them are often overlooked or ignored…The goal of this project is to utilize the scientific and cultural knowledge of everyday people to create a data bank and place-based map about non-human animals and plants in the US, Canada, and Mexico as we enter an era of mass extinction.” (Life Overlooked website)

Below, you will find my transmedial journal on the western scrub jay, a microcosm of the aforementioned Life OverlookedI chose the western scrub jay for a number of reasons, but mainly because I’ve been going through magpie-withdrawal. It’s been almost a year since I moved from Missoula, Montana back home to the deeper heart of the Cascadian bioregion (though Eugene, OR is much further south than my previous home of Bellingham, WA). Though bike commuting in white-out conditions in the middle of  Montana’s winters was less than thrilling, I still have affection for its scapular yellow hills, the summer storms tumbling down the Rockies. And there are people I miss. But I found an animal-emptiness in me after the move, too: magpies.

I miss their intermittent raaks and rr-e-e-e-e, their sudden scolding paroxysms, the stutter-flight of the juveniles, the charged curiosity of their hop and head-tilt as they watch. There’s nothing like being watched by a magpie. It’s a frustrated fondness I have for them–to live in such close, but parallel proximity with something so obviously alive. I always felt…on the verge in their presence, close to something pivotal and cosmic and comic, but ultimately un-grippable.

And then I moved back and the magpies were gone. Eugene has crows, of course. And I like crows, I grew up around them–yet they aren’t the same. Colder, a bit more disdainful. But, as I soon found, Eugene also has scrub jays. I find them more crotchety than magpies, but they make me smile in the same way those other corvids do.

There’s a number of scrub jays that hang around my house, so I decided this bird journal (below) might best capture my evolving, corvic thoughts via notes taken from my garden-observatory. With the help of research, what I have here is, in its (probably) final iteration, a chronologically paced study that combines observation, poetry, sketches and scientific notes to craft a nuanced (though admittedly heavily etic) gloss of the western scrub jay.

Life Overlooked_Scrub Jay_1

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Blood, Bathtub (Skyglass extra)

Right after my parents died, I met a girl. Her name was Sylvan—a name she chose for herself, she told me. She had silver hair, buzzed up close to the skull. Her ears were beautiful. Like her name, they weren’t her first. She’d cut off her old ones and bought herself a new pair, green pewter like grass froze by a first frost, with tiny flowers growing in their folds.

We met at a show. I don’t remember who was playing, didn’t care—that night, I was just there for the noise. The press. Something to keep me from drifting apart. If my parents hadn’t been freshly dead, I doubt I would have gone home with her that night. I don’t remember much of what happened at her place, but my bandmates were there; my singer Devin told me what happened. Or maybe I do remember, and it’s just easier to pretend the memories are someone else’s:

Sylvan crawled a hand under my shirt, to my spine. She turned me into a glove-puppet that jerked to her every command. When she invited me home—along with everyone at the show—I obeyed. I’m not sure I believe any of this; I’m human, not robot. Despite the mechanization of my day-in day-out. And she didn’t make me do anything. She was nice. I liked her. But Devin’s fond of stories.

There’s one thing I remember on my own: at Sylvan’s place, Fallin played on the exear all night long, so I left my headphones off.

And another memory, less important, but still significant because I claim the recall as my own:

After showing me some Blowup I didn’t really understand, Sylvan and I pulled at our clothes and tried to have sex. Maybe it was the drinking, maybe it was death still crawling beneath my skin (worms wanting out), but I couldn’t get hard for her. She laughed at me (not meanly), I apologized and stumbled into the bathroom, didn’t turn on the light, didn’t close the door, pissed in the toilet. Crawled in the bathtub, threw up. One, two, three times. Next, maybe I felt something cold on my forehead. A bottle. More alcohol. Exactly what I didn’t need, exactly what I wanted– For the cold, not the blur and buzz. (Right.) I took it without looking, kept it to my forehead. Glanced up and to the side. Some tall guy with wide shoulders and dark skin, pale orange hair snarling from his scalp down to his shoulder blades. (His name came later: Marko.) He lit a candle beside the tub. I think I remember being glad for the lack of electric light.

He sat in the tub with me, maybe even in my vomit. He was careful not to let us touch. He asked me what was wrong. I was quiet for a long time, but eventually gave him an answer: everything at home smelled like blood, but that was normal. Mom butchered goats. She used their skin to make drums.

The rest of the answer: everything was silent. There was blood in the air because there so much in the bed it had to go somewhere. None of it was goat’s blood. I told the guy how I ripped up the mattress just to see how far it went down.

Blood on knives. Blood gluing bodies together at the rhizome of their tangled fingers. Blood in the bathroom and on the door to the fridge. I still don’t know why.

I told my boots and the bathtub how I wanted to sleep forever, but not die—how pretending there was a difference was my pretense at weathering.

Then Marko made contact. Quick, just his fingertips against the back of my hand (which was hidden in my sleeve, cuff bunched anxiously in my grip). Then he said, please don’t die. Like my death might actually do damage. Though he’d never met me. Stupid.


If you enjoyed the words above, consider checking out the rest of the novel (mine), Skyglass, which is currently being serialized over at Sparkler Monthly.

2014 Publishing Retrospect

Instead of bombarding people with foxes, as I have been recently, here’s a thing far less exciting and only half as fluffy, but always rather ravenous: me. My words. (If you blow-dried my hair, I might be able to compete with a fox tail.)

Things that got published:


Ekphrastic 22/The Drowning Girl (Strange Horizons, February)

Short Fiction:

Cinderseed (Cherry Bomb, March)
The Seaweed and the Wormhole (Shimmer, Issue 20)


Skyglass (Sparkler Monthly serialization, ongoing)
+Chapter 1
+Chapter 2
+Chapter 3
+Chapter 4
+Chapter 5
+Chapter 6
+Chapter 7

Modest, but I feel good about it. Here’s hoping 2015 will be even stronger.