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.

Once upon a time, Skyglass was not a published novel….

Once upon a time, Skyglass was not a published novel….

Wanted to make this post all fancy, but I am leaving today to go run around in the woods for a couple days and see this beautiful, unsettling and soulwise band again. To make a long (long) story short, I wrote a novel and it was published, but that publication didn’t happen by magic (not the bloodless, non-sacrificial kind, anyway). Publication happened because of luck and hard work, and because I found it a home it really belonged in. I’m going to talk about the submission process because my publisher is currently running an open submission period from now until the end of September and I figured talking about my experience might be useful to people who are submitting this time around.

First, some background: for those of you who don’t know/don’t pay attention to URLs, my name is Jenn Grunigen and I wrote a book called Skyglass. It was serialized by Sparkler Monthly from June 2014 through September 2015. (It’s been almost a year since the last chapter was released! What the Hel?!). The ebook edition was released in June 2016, the print edition should be coming your way this fall.

Skyglass is a strange novel. Like, literally wild. It has sex and space lobsters and cities powered by the brain juice of meditating elf slaves. It also has a diverse cast, and both main characters are queer. (Moss is an aromantic, very complicated asexual and Phoenix’s sexuality can only be described as Phoenix’s sexuality.) The story is messy and wacky and murderous and has lots of feels. So many, many feels. Here’s a brief summary of what it’s all about:

Four years after his human mother and elven father died by double suicide, Moss lives a shadow of a life. He’s an anorexic, aromantic drummer who wallows in apathy and inadvertently wooed his boss in a bathtub. But when Phoenix – a fire elemental turned human pop star – lands on earth and decides to move into his apartment, his stale life gets torched. Phoenix is on a manhunt to find and kill her father, and she has no problem dragging everyone around her into the fire.

…this collision of post-apocalyptic science fiction and sexy rock gods tells the tale of two mismatched roommates, their volatile take on friendship – and the messy path to self-actualization, with some intergalactic stardom along the way.

When I saw that Sparkler Monthly (who describe themselves as ‘committed to promoting inclusive, fem-positive, and…are particularly interested in entertaining, engrossing stories that tap into the variety and diversity of fandom’) was having an open submissions period, I knew they were the perfect home for Skyglass. Apparently they thought so, too, because they published it.

But not at first. What follows is an account of my submission process, including all the materials I sent in. Both times. Both times, because they rejected the novel first time around. Be Ware: some of these materials contain spoilers for the book, so all the spoiler-y things have been included as linked PDFs, meaning that you can avoid them if you so desire. Granted, the documents are only spoiler-y if you read them in full, which is definitely not necessary for you to find them useful, so. Access them as you will. Also note that some of Sparkler‘s submission guidelines may have changed, so certain things (format, content, etc) maybe not apply. So just READ THE FUCKING SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Just do it. Read all of them. If you have questions after that, ask questions (the folks at Sparkler are seriously some of the most kind and generous people I have ever met, so don’t be shy)–but read the guidelines first!

First, the email I sent with my submission:

SUBJECT LINE: Prose Submission, Grunigen, FABLE

Greetings, Chromatic Press!

Attached is my prose submission for my completed novel, Fable (including cover letter, resume, writing sample, and chapter outline).

Thanks much for your consideration!
Jenn Grunigen

[phone number]
[email address]

As you may have noticed, the title of my novel changed. When I first submitted, it was called FABLE. Later, due to content changes, FABLE was no longer an appropriate name for the book, so I renamed it Skyglass.

The following are the documents I submitted as attachments to the email above:

Cover Letter (spoiler free)
Resume (I just submitted a regular old resume, edited so that it highlighted my relevant experience)
Chapter Outline (basically spoiler free because the final novel is so different from the story outlined here) NOTE: I would recommend NOT using this outline as a reference (see Sparkler‘s response to my sub below for an explanation as to why). Instead, use my second outline (again, see below).
Sample (again, spoiler free, because it’s basically just an unedited version of the novel’s first two chapters. And, again, the sample found below may be more useful in terms of using a model for your own submission)
I submitted the email and its attached files on June 30th, 2013. On July 2, 2013, I received confirmation that my submission had been received. Then I waited and waited, because this is publishing and things take an understandably really long time. (My advice: be patient, put your pending subs out of mind and get to work on something new.) On September 18, 2013, I received the following email from (my future editor!) Lianne:
Hi, Jenn! This is Lianne from Chromatic Press. Sorry this response took so long…we got more submissions than expected for Sparkler Monthly and it’s taking some time to work through the pile.

I have good news and bad news for you. Bad news first: I’m going to have to pass on your novel Fable at this time. But the good news is I think the book has promise, and if you’re interested, I’d like you to retool it and submit it again after you make some changes. I have a few major reservations about the book now, but if you can address these in a revised pitch, I’d be happy to take the revised Fable to the other editors so we can make a decision to publish/not publish as a company. If you’re not interested in changing your book to meet our particular company’s criteria, no hard feelings, and we wish you the best of luck with your novel and whatever future plans you have for it.

STYLE: I like your writing style quite a bit. It’s wild and energetic, and your world-building is comfortably built around your characters and plot (which is one of the hardest parts of writing sci-fi/fantasy). I do think it could use a bit of tweaking, since…

(Read the whole editorial letter here.)
(BONUS-RELATED MATERIAL: Screen shots of what Lianne’s line edits look like. Didn’t receive these particular edits at the time of this email, but they’ll still give you an idea of what the revision process looked like eventually, when we reached a line-by-line level. PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3)

Basically, the response I received above was really fucking exciting, even though it was, ultimately, a rejection. But the fact that it was a thousand-word rejection was very encouraging–I knew there was hope, that I had a shot, so I was sure to respond to Lianne’s email immediately (and humbly, too–at this point, I was aware what a mess the story was…also, listening to the wisdom of editors is generally a good idea):


Absolutely everything you mentioned makes sense.  The story I’m most interested in telling is Moss’ and Phoenix’s, anyway, so I’m actually quite eager to refocus the story.  To be honest, it’s a little embarrassing that I sent my proposal as it currently stands–for awhile now, I’ve been painfully aware of my tendency to stuff my stories to bursting with unnecessary, confusing details. I’ll try my best to streamline everything in the new pitch!

Speaking of which.  I’m assuming you’d like me to redo everything in the pitch, with special attention paid to the summary, and chapter breakdown?  Anything else I should be aware of?  Anyway, let me know when you’d like it back by, and I’ll be sure to have it to you by then!

Many, many thanks–


Lianne responded the same day:

What a fast response! 🙂

You don’t have to resend your resume or anything; the “new” pitch should mostly be a new plot summary/chapter breakdown, yeah. If you can revisit the excerpt, too, to revise with a few things I mentioned in mind (such as toning down the intensity in some places, pulling back on some of those sentence fragments so the prose is a little easier to read), that would also help. I want your new pitch to be as strong as possible before I bring it to the other editors.
As for a deadline on this…hm, maybe 3 weeks from now? Is that enough time for you?
Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!


My response is as follows. Again, note that I made sure to respond as quickly as I could (also note that I told Lianne when I would send my revisions by; it’s good to show editors that you can set deadlines for yourself–and stick to them, too, of course!):

Heh, I try my best to be prompt.  Thanks!

Anyway, sounds great.  I’ll polish up the excerpt, rewrite the summary and chapter breakdowns, and get it all back to you by Wednesday, October 9th.

Thanks so much for your candid words about my story, and for your patience as I get it back on its feet–


On October 9, 2013, I sent Lianne my revisions (sticking to my deadline, as promised! : D), along with the following email (note the paragraph at the end; while kissing ass is obviously bad form, it can be nice to show that you’re familiar with, and genuinely enjoy!, a publisher’s content…SIDE NOTE: the audio drama I mentioned IS really fucking good and you should all go listen to it right now):


All right, here it is—the revised proposal!  I’ve included all the necessary bits and pieces again, simply to make a nice, neat package—but also because I tweaked my cover letter a little.  One last thing to note: after revising the novel, I decided that Fable was no longer a fitting title, and have since changed it’s name to Glass.

Anyway, thanks so very much for the second chance.  I really hope things work out, as Sparkler Monthly feels like the perfect home for this book.  Also, as a side note, you guys are absolutely destroying me with the audio drama Awake.  I love it so much, and even more after each installment—until I finish listening, and remember I have to wait a month for the next episode.  But seriously—messed-up, yet strong characters?  Love it so hard.

Thanks again,


Below are the revised materials I sent:

Chapter Outline (take 2…this one does contain spoilers, so watch out!)
Sample (take 2 on this, too…also, as with the other sample, no spoilers, as it’s just the first two chapters of the novel)
Cover Letter (I included this just to make things easier for Lianne to access)

Resume (again, included this so all the files Lianne might need were in one place)

Again, received a confirmation that my (second!) submission had been received, and on Thanksgiving morning of 2013, I received the following email. : D

Hey, Jenn! Just wanted to give you an update on your submission. Sorry this took so long…our pipeline is pretty clogged at the moment, heh.

The rest of editorial really liked your pitch, and we have a perfect illustrator in mind for you. We’d like to offer you a contract… (etc, etc.)

I’m sure you can imagine my reaction. Obviously, I said yes and the rest is history.

I feel like I should include some sort of well-developed transition into the end of this post and my experience with submitting to Sparkler, but it is getting late (well, early, as in 3 AM early) and I need to get up at 6 AM to go on a bike ride and lift weights an so on before I can go full-on wood elf mode. I hope this post has been helpful and I wish you the best of luck as you navigate the tricky waters of the submission process. The best advice I can give you is the following:

  1. Submit your best work. THE BEST. (And revise it a billion billion times before submitting.)
  2. Submit relevant work. Even if it’s really fucking weird. Like Skyglass. I mean, one of the characters is addicted to Peeps (attainable only on the black market, because Skyglass is post apocalyptic SF). And yes, I do mean these Peeps.Image result
  3. Read the submission guidelines.
  4. Read the submission guidelines.
  5. Read the fucking submission guidelines! : D
  6. Be patient.

And that’s about it. If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post, or to contact me here. If you’d like to read Skyglass, which you probably should, you can read it for free here, or buy the ebook here. The print edition is coming this fall!

Again, good luck!

Life (universe, everything)

Well, fuck.

Can we just leave it at that? ‘course not. There is a lot of It and because of That I will allow myself a list (list for me, November) and later I will tell all the true(ish) stories. But not now; I’m not ready. So for now, a list.


Clarion UCSD

I am going. (!!!!!!)

Foxes and Things that Look Like Folklore, But aren’t Really, but Maybe Actually Are.

Mythpunk and the Queer Fox. (My thesis.) The Storyfox Database. (Also part of my thesis.) Foxeology. (Yes, thesis.)

In short: THESIS. (Because I graduate in two months.)


We’ll skip this for now.


There have been podcasts and stories and papers. I will talk about them.

Goat Skins and Burning Wood

This means drumming.

Food. (Because there must always be food in a list.)

Always: Dragons (sushi). Cabbage (fermented). Bolted kale (kimchi; so, also fermented). Green Fucking Peas. Tahini + kabocha squash (holy shit, really, I need nothing else). Pickled ginger. More kimchi.
Less than Always: Cornbread, honey butter, smoked salted caramel ice-cream and HAIL to the bee honeycomb toffee chocolate freckled ice-cream, chocolate peanut-butter sauce. All at the same time. Obviously.

Stories About Coastal Oregon Fossegrim. Also Riot Grrrl-Inspired Robots.

Novels I am working on. I took a trip to do research for the first. There are pictures (see link). There will be words.


Working out and stuff. ’cause I do that.


So, yeah. I’ve got a fuckton of blogging to do. When I’m not, you know, teaching, or working on my thesis, applying for graduation, novel-writing, writing other things, working out, tweeting, drumming or eating. (Note that sleeping and socializing are not on this second list.)

Be back soon.


If you’re a writer, you know this and don’t need to hear it again, but sometimes it needs to be said anyway:

Be stubborn. Don’t you fucking dare give up*.

With the caveat that that’s all only part true. Sometimes things are hard and letting go can be good  (and oh, wow, have I ever learned that these past few months). Hold too hard and something might break, whether it be whatever you’re holding, or the hand that’s holding it. Keep an eye on yourself. Don’t run down your wick till it’s gone. Right now, I’ve a number of things I don’t know if I should relinquish or not (musical projects, the town I live in, peanut butter, to name a few), but some I know I’ll never step away from. Writing is one. Drumming is another, but tonight I’m writing on writing.

For three years, I’ve been applying to Clarion (and Clarion). In short–for those who don’t know–Clarion is kinda the ultimate place to study writing as an science fiction/fantasy writer. There are a number of locations, best known (from my perspective, at least) probably being Clarion West in Seattle and Clarion UCSD in San Diego. The first two years, I applied to Clarion West. I was rejected both times (waitlisted the first, though). Time number three, I told my self third time pays for all, and applied to both (wait, does that make it four times?). Clarion West rejected me (this is what happens when you live away from home for four years; it gives up on you). Clarion UCSD did not.

Getting the acceptance was one of those moments where you gulp and then stand up and put your hands on your head in wonder and then pace a little and then sit and grin and fidget, then start the whole flabbergasted process again (and again). The application process is extremely competitive and there are so many mind blowing SF/F quilldrivers out there, I keep having to reign in the imposter’s syndrome. But I guess the past two years of rejection and hard writing weren’t for nothing.

There are others out there who are better writers than I, who have been applying a lot longer (Emma Osborne, for example, applied five years before getting in on the sixth, this year). You just never know when you’re going to strike out or strike gold. Emma Osborne said it better, but I want to express similar sentiments: if you didn’t get accepted this year, I’m sorry.  I know that bitter-sick feeling and I hope next year you get to feel the weird anxious joy of getting a letter or acceptance. But if you’re a writer, you probably know that this is how it goes. You get rejected and it fucking sucks and then, if you can manage it, you settle in for the long haul and keep on wording the words–unless you don’t want to or can’t. And that’s okay. It’s okay to say not today. Or never again. But if you do want it, get up and try again. Bruises and all. Blood, scabs, and calluses.

For those who want more Clarion, need some guidance on how to apply (or if you should apply), or if you just want to see who is going to be attending this year (2016), click over to my other post Clarion Materials and the Classes of 2016.

*I want to clarify: when I say don’t give up, I don’t just mean the long reach for publication. If that’s important to you, obviously don’t fucking give up on it. Other people have written on all that, at length, so you don’t need me to go on about how it’s hard, it may or may not happen, but it’s definitely not going to happen if you don’t try. But publication doesn’t utterly define a writer, and if that’s not what you’re seeking, no problem. That said, if you want to write, then write damn it. It’s not always easy I know, but do what you can. One word. One letter.


Clarion Materials and the Classes of 2016

Below, I’ve compiled a list of Clarion-related materials (most blog posts), plus a list of the Clarion West and Clarion UCSD Classes of 2016. (Only people who have publicly announced their attendance; that said, if you don’t want to be listed, let me know and I will apologize and immediately remove your name!) If you have a blog post of your own (or know of anyone else who has one) that you’d like added to the list, let me know and I’ll be sure to include it!

First, my application materials. The essays, at least (not posting the stories because, well, they’re out on submission). I know how intimidating applications can be so, like I’ve done with my grad school materials, here are my essays. Maybe they aren’t good examples, maybe they’re misleading, but then again, maybe they’ll help. Feel free to read, be inspired, or decide that they’re terrible and perfect examples of what not to do. Share them around if you like–I only ask that you give me credit if you do so. Thanks!

Jenn Grunigen, Clarion West 2014 Background
Jenn Grunigen, Clarion West 2015 Background
Jenn Grunigen, Clarion West 2016 Background
Jenn Grunigen, Clarion UCSD 2016 Application Questions

Blog Posts from Clarion West/UCSD 2016 People (if you’ve written a blog post and want to see it here, send it on!):

Clarion West Class of 2016 by Emma Osborne (+ more here)
Clarion West Class of 2016 by S. Qiouyi Lu
Clarion UCSD 2016! by Jenn Grunigen (me)
Clarion West Class of 2016 by Jon Lasser


I decided to put together these lists to help us (Clarion classmates and cousins, as well as anyone else in SF/F-lands) all keep track of one another, build community and network. If you should be on this list and want to be on this list, let me know and I’ll add you! There are also a couple people currently not on the list who I’ve contacted, but have not yet heard back from yet (didn’t want to assume you wanted to be on the list and put you down without your permission!).

Clarion West Class of 2016
(Check out T. Jane Berry’s Twitter list: Clarion West 2016)

Elizabeth Bartmess
Gunnar Norskog
C.A. Hawksmoor
Jon Lasser
Jessica Silbaugh-Cowdin
S. Qiouyi Lu
Emma Osborne
Cadwell Turnbull
T. Jane Berry
Betsy Aoki
Lora Gray
Paul DesCombaz
Gabriel Teodros

Clarion UCSD Class of 2016
(Check out my Twitter lists: Clarion UCSD Class of 2016, as well as the comprehensive list Clarion Classes of 2016–feel free to subscribe to either or both, if you like!)

Benjamin Sloan
Grant Shepert
Kendra Fortmeyer
Sunil Patel
Jaymee Goh
Emily Cataneo
Jenn Grunigen (me)

Other Materials:

This list by Liz Argall is definitely the most comprehensive that I could find. However, it doesn’t have everything (thus the links below; there may be some crossover, though!). Again, if you have something to add, please send it to me!

How to Fake Clarion by Andrea Phillips
Notes from La Jolla by Isabel Yap
>>(also see: Applying to Clarion and Clarion Advice: Before, During, After)
To Clarion…and Beyond. by Sam J. Miller
>>(also see: Clarion 2012: Every Brilliant Piece of Writing Advice)
The Clarion Writers Workshop by Dallas Taylor
4 Reasons to Apply to Clarion Right Now by Lauren Naturale
Why You Don’t Want to Apply to Clarion West/Clarion UCSD by Helena Bell
Is Clarion Right for You? Maybe Yes, Maybe No by Michael Swanwick

(every death song)

There isn’t much I can say right now, only that I need to write something. Words not winding or aslant will come later. In the meantime, prose poetry.


In the Hammer’s Wake.

I expected the ocean, the tidepool big as a cauldron full of wyrd that looked down through the earth and showed stars. I expected cobralillies, digesting mnemosynic silver in their freckled pregnant bellies, rimmed ’round the sunken place where the sea ended, rimed in blue frost. I expected that fossegrim fiddling in the briny turmoil and the steel strings wrapped ’round my neck, biting, and the cold salt in my mouth and the confusion over whether it was ocean or blood grown slow in my veins. But I never expected you.

You, terroir and terror, a sheaf of ribs in your hand, red wheat. You trod the seafloor, dense, a dying star.

When mjölnir fell, there was a song. Fiddling and fixenwhine, that golden apple wine of Iðunn, how did you forget? Mjölnir fell and you stood there laughing. I found you down in the ocean, I stood on the rim of Thor’s Well and when the waters receded, there you were, draped in dulse, rust searibbon aflap, your arms aloft, hands open. An octopus and squid had you, asquirm and wrapped ’round your legs, a starfish on your hip, your hair caught up in urchins. You smiled and smelt fled into the antigravity.



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.

STORYFOX podcast, episode 1: Mary Lowd (interview)

Octopi, otters and a fox raised by chickens! (+ much, much more)

This is the first in a series of Storyfox-related interviews. Most will concern foxes, but today’s interview is a bit broader in scope, focusing instead on Mary Lowd’s relationship to animals in narrative. Show notes are below.

STORYFOX podcast, episode 1: Mary Lowd

Interview Audio
Interview Transcript

Mary E. Lowd is a science-fiction and furry author, best known for her novel Otters In Space.  She’s had three novels and more than fifty short stories published so far.  Her fiction has won an Ursa Major Award and two Cóyotl Awards.  She also edited a collection of furry fiction, ROAR 6, for FurPlanet.  She’s a member of SFWA, the Furry Writers’ Guild, a judge for the Cat Writers’ Association, and co-chair of the Wordos. Mary lives with her husband, two children, and a bevy of cats and dogs in a crashed spaceship, disguised as a house in Oregon.

Homepage:  www.marylowd.com
Free fiction:  http://marylowd.com/free-fiction.html
Twitter:  @Ryffnah