All posts by Beth

Shimmer Supports Hugo Voters

You know what would be neat? If everyone in the science fiction and fantasy world voted in the Hugo awards. If everyone read widely and discussed what they loved. If all the voices were heard, not just the loudest. A healthy ecosystem is one that’s teeming with millions of kinds of life; let’s find ways to include more people.

If you can afford a supporting membership to WorldCon, I strongly encourage you to buy one. It’s $40. A supporting membership gives you the right to vote in this year’s Hugos — and the right to nominate in next year’s.

If you can’t afford a supporting membership… Mary Robinette Kowal is offering to pay for a supporting membership to WorldCon for ten people who cannot afford it.

This is a splendid idea. Shimmer’s happy to join Mary. We’ll match her offer: ten memberships for people who can’t otherwise afford one. Email beth@shimmerzine.com with your name, phone number (just as backup in case your email doesn’t work), and a paragraph telling me a little bit about yourself and why you’d like a supporting membership. I expect to get more than ten people interested, so will ultimately choose at random.

Please help us spread the word. Tell a friend, tell your family, tell your community members. Reach out and help us make the table bigger.

And while you’re reaching out? Talk to them about science fiction and fantasy. What are you watching or reading that’s awesome? What are you creating?

I think my favorite thing I read this week was Ishq, by Usman Malik, a reprint in this month’s Nightmare. It’s a story about family and hope and death, and it’s wonderful and terrible.

Comments on this post will be heavily moderated. Don’t be a dick.

Edited to add: vote for whatever works you want; that decision is entirely up to you, and you don’t owe Shimmer (or me!) anything.

Shimmer: The Next Step

Welcome to the new Shimmer!

We’ve completely redesigned the site — and our publishing model. We’re going digital — all our fiction will be free to read online, with the support of our subscribers. This means a steady supply of Shimmery stories for our readers, and a much wider readership for our authors. It’s the next step in Shimmer‘s evolution, and we’re thrilled to see where this new adventure will lead us.

Fresh Fiction, Faster

We’ll release a new 4-issue story on the first of every other month — this year, that means May, July, September, and November. We’ll put a fresh story up on our web site every two weeks, so you can read each story for free. Don’t want to wait? No problem; you can buy each issue in convenient DRM-free digital formats, or subscribe and have each issue delivered to you. Subscribe today, and support Shimmer‘s brand of elegant and distinctive fiction.

Annual Print Anthology

But print is awesome, you say? We agree; we proudly produced print editions since our first issue. We still think it’s a great format, so we’ll release an annual print anthology collecting all of that year’s stories. The anthology will also be available in electronic formats. Why, yes, it does make a splendid holiday present — it will be available in early December, just in time for holiday shopping.

Issue 19, Table of Contents

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

The Earth & Everything Under, by K.M. Ferebee. Available May 6.

Peter had been in the ground for six months when the birds began pushing up out of the earth.

Methods of Divination, by Tara Isabella Burton. Available May 20.

The universe breaks so quietly…

Jane, by Margaret Dunlap.  Available June 3.

You will not believe the paperwork you have to fill out when you save someone’s life, and then your ungrateful patient turns around and bites you.

List of Items Found in Valise on Welby Crescent, by Rachael Acks. Available June 17.

1 ticket stub for Dr. Birrenbaum’s Stupendous Sideshow, with subtitle: Feel the Raw Power of the Ferocious Tiger Boy! Hear the Heartbreaking Song of the Bird Woman! Dream Darkly as You Gaze Upon the Siren!

Celebration!

To celebrate, we’re giving away 3 subscriptions. This’ll get you a 6-issue subscription, delivered right to your inbox. Just leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered in a drawing.

Gratitude

Thanks to all the readers who have supported us over the years. We’re looking forward to bringing our stories to new readers, too. And huge thanks to Robert N. Lee for his work on our web site redesign, to the Shimmer authors who are gracefully weathering the transition with us, and to all the Shimmer staffers who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen, especially E. Catherine Tobler and Sean Markey.

Ann VanderMeer Guest Edits Shimmer Issue

Just over a year ago, Shimmer turned pro. Why? Because the new owners of Weird Tales made a series of missteps, and we felt that the best way to respond was to become even better ourselves. We believed that Shimmer had always been excellent; and now it was time to raise the bar for ourselves. With the generous support of Mary Robinette Kowal, we were able to do that, and now provide a strong professional home for the kind of intelligent, innovative speculative fiction that we loved at Weird Tales.

Amazing things happened after that. The speculative fiction community was incredibly supportive. Our sales soared, as did submissions.

And a guy named Patrick Rothfuss offered to contribute some more money. We knew exactly what we wanted to do with the money: hire Ann VanderMeer to guest edit our 18th issue. What better way for us to honor Ann for her excellent work?

Check out the table of contents:

In the Broken City, by Ben Peek
Atomic Age by Rachel Marsten
Psychopomp, by Ramsey Shehadeh
The Story of Anna Walden, by Christine Schirr
Anuta Fragment’s Private Eyes, by Ben Godby
Unclaimed, by Annalee Newitz
Fragments from the Notes of a Dead Mycologist, by Jeff VanderMeer
The Street of the Green Elephant, by Dustin Monk

This issue will be available in early 2014.

Concerning Slush

The people who need to read this post won’t read it.

The people who need to read this post (but won’t) are the ones who send Shimmer blatantly misogynistic stories. Rape stories – that slut sure got what she deserved. Necrophilia – at least the bitch is quiet now. Transphobia. Racism. Balls, balls, balls, and more balls. And worse. There are markets that welcome those stories, but we’re not one of them. We’ve tried to make this clear on social media, in our guidelines, on this blog. We’ve tried to make this clear with the entire body of work we’ve published.

The people who need to read this post (but won’t) write about 50% of the stories in our slush pile. That’s 250 or so stories a month.

Just think about that for a second. That’s an awful lot of grossness, even if they just get a form rejection after the first paragraph full of sexist clichés and balls.

The people who need to read this post (but won’t) think their stories are suitable for Shimmer. The people who need to read this post (but won’t) think I should pay them the professional rate of five cents a word for their work.

The people who need to read this post won’t read it, because they think they’re just *fine*. The people who need to read this post (but won’t) believe they are such gifted writers that they don’t need to be thoughtful about their submissions. The people who need to read this post (but won’t) are so God damn entitled that even if they do read it, they’ll assume it’s not about them.

It is.

Sometimes, Elise and I complain about slush on Twitter.

@ecthetwit Dear slush, are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

 

@bethwodzinski Slush isn’t ALL balls. There’s also pee!

 

@bethwodzinski Rewriting slush to add dinosaurs. HUGE IMPROVEMENT. For example, this story about an inflatable sex doll? SO MUCH BETTER with a velociraptor. you know?

 

@bethwodzinski “This time will be different,” vowed the velociraptor, as he walked carefully toward the inflatable sex doll.

 

@bethwodzinski “I just wrote a story about handjobs and my balls. I know, I think I’ll send it to Shimmer!” — everyone all the fucking time.

Someone I respect contacted me privately to suggest that complaining publicly about slush isn’t professional. Further, good writers might believe we’re talking about them, and be discouraged.

Maybe it *is* unprofessional to complain.

Or maybe it’s unprofessional to send your ballsack fanfiction to Shimmer.

 

In this culture, silence signals acceptance.

Fuck that.

 

That said, is snarking on twitter an effective form of speech and social change?

Probably not.

But neither is reading sewage in silence.

 

So if you’re thoughtful enough to wonder if this post is about you?

It’s not.

Thank you for being the other 50% of our submissions.

 

Don’t Read This Story

We received this astonishing submission yesterday (April 1). You probably shouldn’t read it. I’m serious. 

 

Empress in Glass

by Lindie Kant

The train tracks slashed across the wetlands like a stitched wound, and to Meneja, the sun’s red light pooling on the marsh looked like congealing blood.

“We’ll be there soon,” said her attendant. Meneja couldn’t remember this one’s name–she thought of the woman as Hatchet, because of her sharp edges. Like one of the white herons that strode through the marsh, she had a sharp nose and a strangely curved neck. It looked as if it was meant to be strangled.

Meneja didn’t reply. It would always be soon–her life was structured that way, because waiting encouraged doubts. As the progenitor of a new confluence between fashion, music, and art, she couldn’t afford to second-guess any of her metaphorical skydives.

If she closed her eyes, she could hear the same rhythm in her veins that would soon be broadcast on her website. It thrummed with the train, a secret song only she could hear, until they drifted into the Martinez Cemetery.

The steel contraption slowed so gently that Meneja didn’t realize they’d stopped until she glanced out the window again.

Hatchet helped Meneja into her jacket, which smelled of hotel detergent. She wondered what it would smell like if she had an apartment, if she settled down for even a week and had to choose her own soaps. Could she turn the washing machine dials with glass hands, or would she need to flex her missing joints, like with a zipper on a jacket?

“This used to be a city, and the only graves were on the hill,” Hatchet said.

Meneja gazed out at the marsh, studded with thousands of weathered stone monuments, which sunk at angles as the saturated ground merged with the bay; then up the hill, where pale mausoleums protruded from the grass like ticks on a stray.

Her fingers clicked against the window as she compared the biggest mausoleum to the tip of her pinky. She had instructed them not to sculpt nails–the glass wasn’t meant to be a replacement for her skin, but instead, a window through which to look at the macabre miracle of how her body worked.

Her blood filled her veins so tightly that she could see them flex with each heartbeat. This was the drumline for her every performance.

A hand pinched her shoulder, too familiar, too imperative. She glanced over her shoulder to find Hatchet’s lip trembling. Meneja wondered what the tendons inside her face were doing to cause it, if they looked like a bow on a violin, if there was a sound to their fast-paced twitching.

“Don’t do this,” Hatchet said. “It will be… obscene. If my daughter–”

“If my mother tried to give me orders, I’d give her personal information to my fans, so just imagine what I’ll do to an hourly if she ever speaks to me like that again.”

Hatchet was silent, her mouth shut like a garage door. Her eyes glimmered with tears. Meneja imagined the sound of the ducts amplified, a tide of salt sorrow washing through enormous speakers to the adulation of millions. She didn’t want equipment on her face, though. She liked her fans to see her while she sang for them, while she bled for them, while she slowly died at the same pace as they did. They looked inside themselves when they looked at her.

Meneja stood up on her skinless legs. Months ago, just weeks after her hands, she’d paid a plastic surgeon to strip away her epidermis. Now the viscera and muscles of her legs pressed wetly against the glass boots, like raw meat roots growing in slim vases. She was a curved blossom growing up into opacity.

Even with little rubber pads on the toes and steep heels, even strolling at a delicate pace, Meneja was always afraid she would step too hard and shatter them.

And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, she thought.

#

When Meneja was eight years old, the firemen brought her a stuffed animal. The blanket they’d wrapped her in felt like tape, holding her in place, and she accepted the big floppy rabbit because she felt like she couldn’t do anything else. The flames on the roof of her house reflected on its plastic eyes. When she looked up, the flames danced on the eyes of everyone she saw: orange and yellow silk flapping and twisting in a reptilian dance, reminding her of the thing that had landed on their roof.

She was too shocked to ask anyone if it would really come back for her, if the dragon had meant it when it said she wasn’t ripe, but it would find her again.

She was too shocked to ask what the word “betrothed” meant.

#

Meneja strode down the stairs and out onto the platform, where there may have been paparazzi, a few minutes before the train’s arrival, but Meneja’s security squad had probably taken care of that in a not-entirely-legal way.

Her manager was chattering into a phone until he spotted her, and then he hung up without saying goodbye. Armand never used greetings or farewells.

“We have a hearse so you can stretch out, without the flashbulb assholes figuring out which car you’re in,” Armand said. “It’s a good thing Jacob is with me–you look tired. You can’t be tired tonight.”

“I don’t feel tired,” Meneja said, and in her mind, she said his next words before he spoke.

“No one feels the way they look except beggars and dogs,” Armand said. He held out his arm and steadied her as she clicked her way to the hearse. There was a rubber mat draped over the bumper, so she wouldn’t crack her glass climbing in.

She lay propped on a pillow as Jacob knelt beside her, wiping and powdering, wiping and powdering. He smelled like mint juleps and stale sex, but she loved his fluttering hands and the way he called her “poppet,” so she forgave him the odor.

“You’ll make history tonight. This is a show that will be watched long after we’re all dead,” he said.

No one spoke of the surgery this time–only of the fact she was allowing them to film it. She thought perhaps they didn’t want to bring it up because it meant they might have to discuss her motives, might have to confront her insanity head on. No one wanted to talk about it this time.

#

Just two weeks after her eighth birthday, Meneja was fostered and then adopted by a relative she’d never before met.

Susan was her cousin, a pudgy woman in her mid-thirties already overcome with ennui. Even as a child Meneja recognized that the pills didn’t do any good. She could have told Susan that sit-coms and reality TV were a poor way to alleviate boredom with life. Susan’s husband Phil was interested in model airplanes and his job at Boeing and nothing else.

One day, when Phil saw her playing with her Barbies, he went and got Susan and then ran to hide in his workroom, because the Barbies were naked.

“Do you know how babies are made?” Susan asked. The loose skin under her chin quivered, and she licked the lipstick off of her lips over and over, like a lizard smelling the desert for danger. Susan believed that Fate–maybe Jesus–had brought her this child, to give her purpose.

“A mommy and a daddy,” Meneja replied. She didn’t have a daddy Barbie, so she’d used a plastic tyrannosaurus rex. Her Barbie was lying on her belly, with the dinosaur mounting her from behind like she’d seen the neighbor’s cats do in the grass by the fence.

#

Meneja had already signed all the waivers for the surgery, so they rolled her right in after scanning the ID chip in her wrist for verification purposes. It was a formality; no other woman on the planet had a delta of veins throbbing visibly inside her glass gloves and boots. It was impossible to impersonate Meneja.

Tonight, she was not getting more of her skin peeled away.

No. Tonight, Meneja was getting an implant. She hazily said goodbye to her vagina before she slipped under. Later, she would watch the footage and recognize the thought as it passed through her eyes, as vivid and unmistakable as citrine silk billowing in her memories.

Then her lashes swept down, and the camera moved to the doctors and the implant.

#

It took only six weeks to heal. Even reputable newspapers who normally avoided celebrity gossip found ways to question the technology that Meneja had used to make herself ready for her husband.

Dragons could read–she knew that as well as she knew they were real–and her message was clear. Her new vagina could withstand heat of up to 1400 degrees and was collapsible, but could accordion out to accommodate draconian lengths. She would not be the tiny plastic Barbie. She was something different, something new.

When the dragon swooped down into the yard outside her villa, one of its wings shaded the entire pool from the sun. The wind uprooted plants, set off the alarms in two of her cars. It shrieked like a thousand hawks become one.

Meneja didn’t hurry. She put on her white dress, the one Jacob had ordered for her from an up-and-coming designer in Bombay.

She stepped out onto her balcony.

Before she could welcome her betrothed–she’d known the word for twenty years now, had looked it up in one of Susan and Phil’s dictionaries–an intruder ran through the garden.

He wore a strange costume, that of a medieval farmer, with a feather in his cap that might have come from a white heron. He ran like a rat, like someone who was meant to squeeze through spaces where he didn’t belong. Meneja’s fury escalated as he stood before her husband and claimed him.

“Mighty dragon, hear me, for I am Dareth of Dre’cal-pinor. I must have your seed, great and fiery one, so that I may do the magic to save my people.”

The dragon looked between Meneja and Dareth. For a moment, its brilliant citrine eyes landed on Meneja, wet with longing. She began to unfasten her dress, but Dareth was faster.

He slung off his shirt, exposing ripling muscles that rippled in the sun, and he was all sweaty and chiseled like in an action movie. His hat blew off and his mullet flapped in the breeze of the dargon’s breath. His pants next. At this time now, he was naked.

Dareth saluted the dragon with his massive boner, and it’s eyes fell away from Meneja and returned instead to Dareth where he stood ready with what was seemed to be a bottle of WD-40. “You can do good with me,” Dareth says in earnest need fo the dragon’s powerful thrumming semens. “Your magic is my desire. Look into my eyes and help me defeat the bastard wizard Nakri’nok of Bol-gar’thria!”

The dragon was like, “Rraaawwrreeeeeeeecchhh!!!”

Dareth nodded and presented himself like a mandrill ina Natural docutmentary, his glutes flexing invitingly to the sky.

Meneja screamend “Nooooooo, I got this vaginer for yyouuuuuu, you can’t leave me! Dont’ you know what betrothed is?!?!” but teh dragon’s eyes were all for Dareth now, and it mounted him as gently as a dragon can and began to pump its lizardly hips in a seductive pace that Dareth enjoyed once he had got used to the dragon’s emmense size entering him from behind.

When the dragon shuddered and shrieked it was done, at that time Dareth leapt away and apologized once to Meneja. “I am sorry fair maden, you should call him tomorrow though because i’m leaving to back to Skal’bor’nias, and it is with sorrows and lamenting that I came between you and your husband but it’s to save my kin.”

Meneja forgave him because of his righteous ideas even if she didn’t like that she was second and her dragon’s emmense scaley penis now smelled like Dareth’s butt. But he could bathe in the pool and then she could have him again.

“Farewell, Dareth!” she said. She went down to her dragon and they watched her vagina surgery on TV.

Congrats to E. Catherine Tobler!

Huge congratulations to Senior Fiction Editor E. Catherine Tobler, on her two-book deal! 

I’m delighted to tell you that my first book, Rings of Anubis: Gold and Glass, will be published this summer by Masque Books, an imprint of Prime Books. Rings of Anubis: Silver and Steam will soon follow.

I predict the muse would like you to know it’s an opium-drenched adventure that spans the steam-fogged skies from turn-of-the-century Paris to Cairo and back again, parchment airships bearing howling wolves hither and yon, while ancient Egyptian gods survey every mortal folly with a sterling snarl!

I can’t wait to read it.

The Truth About Rejection Letters

I’m going to tell you one of publishing’s best-kept secrets. It’s time for the truth to come out.

All rejection letters are written by badgers.

This industry protects this sordid secret for countless reasons — not the least of which is the terrible conditions in the industrial rejection factories. Long hours, no pay, unsanitary and and even dangerous conditions.

When I started Shimmer, John Klima took me under his wing and gave me a tour of the factory that Electric Velocipede buys its rejections from.  We had to shout to be heard over the roaring of the machines and the moans of the badgers. “You can never tell anyone about this!” Klima shouted.

Thousands and thousands of badgers, crammed into tiny rooms full of huge machines, darting among the bobbins and levers. I saw one badger get an arm tangled in the machinery. He — or she — was drawn into the machine with a terrible shriek, and disappeared.

The machines didn’t even stop.

Here’s one photo I took with my iPod camera when Klima wasn’t looking.

You can’t tell from this picture, but the stench of a badger factory is intolerable, an acrid miasma of badger feces and despair so thick you can touch it.

I knew there had to be a different way, and I vowed that Shimmer would never participate in the badger-factory rejection system. I vowed to find a better way.

Shimmer‘s rejections are written only by free-range badgers who live in companionable colonies in a wooded preserve. They work less than ten hours a week, and spend the rest of their time digging for juicy organic worms, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, and frolicking with their friends.

Two of Shimmer’s rejection badgers gambol in their free time

When it’s time for work, the badgers assemble in the back garden. Soft breezes carry the scent of honeysuckle, and dozens of butterflies brighten the soul while pollinating the masses of brilliantly colored flowers. Each badger receives a freshly sharpened quill pen, a pot of ink, and high-quality stationery.

After a period of meditation and yoga asanas for spiritual and physical purification, the badgers begin reading submissions. Each story is considered carefully, and in the unfortunate event that a rejection is necessary, the badgers carefully craft a letter to the author.

A Shimmer rejection badger considers her words

 

So the next time you get a rejection letter, just remember. Don’t take it personally; it was written by a badger.

 

 

Print Lives!

Shimmer has put a lot of energy into our digital versions lately: we’re available in Weightless and Amazon, and are currently working on getting issues up at Smashwords and other markets.

Recently, though, someone told us they had no idea we put out a print version. I guess in these increasingly digital times, it’s easy to overlook our print version.

Convenient as electronic versions are, though, there’s nothing quite like getting one of our print versions in the mail. Picture it: instead of the usual clutter of junk mail and bills, you get a sleek envelope from me. You rip it open and pull out a copy or two of Shimmer. You run your fingers over the glossy cover, admiring the exquisite art. You flip through the 100 or so perfect-bound pages. You slip your copy into your purse or backpack to read in a quiet moment during the day — it’s just the right size to carry around.

And you know that anyone who sees you reading it will be drawn to your obvious taste and intelligence.

Our print edition is great, and I want everyone to know about it.

So we’re having a sale.

All print editions are on sale! The coupon code “printlives” gets you 15% off any print versions until next Saturday, October 20th. Browse our Back Issues page, and see what delights call to you.

15% off on a sleek and sexy print version!

You know you want to.