Singing With the Fishes

Has this summer been a crazy one for awesome books, or what! Today, we’re chatting with A.C. Wise, a Shimmer regular who is out with her first novella-length work, Catfish Lullaby

She’s also running a giveaway for a free copy, so as soon as you finish reading, you need to hop on over there, and enter! We still think it (and all books) should be called Badger Lullaby, but whatEVER. We enjoyed it anyhow!

Your newest release (and first longer-length work!) is Catfish Lullaby, a gorgeous Southern Gothic novella from Broken Eye Books. Tell us how this story came to be.

It started as a short story, inspired by misheard song lyrics. You know, the usual way authors go about creating novellas. My family and I were at a state fair in Florida. There was a band playing in one of the tents where we stopped to get out of the sun and have something cold to drink. Due to tent acoustics, and a questionable sound system, I couldn’t hear what the band was actually singing about, so I chose to interpret it as a song about a myth/tall-tale/legend, someone or something walking into or out of a swamp, leaving only footprints behind. It’s highly unlikely that they were singing about anything remotely of the sort, but I thank them for the inspiration nonetheless!

Much of speculative fiction deals with outsiders coming to learn their “strange” talents have value. What talent do you have that you have also discovered to be invaluable?

It hasn’t proven useful yet, but I’m really good at breaking computers and technology in unusual ways, just by interacting with them. If humanity ever finds itself in a robot uprising, or with a computer counting down to launching doomsday devices, I expect to be invaluable. Just call me Newton Pulsifer.

This book feels like a fantastic companion to Cherie Priest’s recent book The Toll, which also explores folk tales and monsters in the South. Is there something about the South that makes it perfect for these kinds of stories? The South feels like a character all its own!

I really need to read The Toll! It seems Southern Gothic has been enjoying a bit of a revival lately, or maybe it’s just because I’m paying more attention at the moment. That said, I do feel like the South lends itself to tales of the monstrous and supernatural. There’s a certain kind of Southern setting, the one I tried to capture, that is particularly perfect – a small town, surrounded by deep woods, with more trees than people, where even your closest neighbors are a drive away. It’s a setting that simultaneously breeds isolation, and a sense of claustrophobia. Everyone knows everyone else, and have for generations. Outsiders are viewed with suspicion. Secrets grow in the soil, and there are plenty of shadowy places for rumors to grow into legends, and impossible things to hide until such a time as they choose to make themselves known. You can’t discount the heat as a factor, either. Oppressive, close, it slows everything down, gets inside your skin and lungs, it makes the sense of being trapped that much worse. Or maybe that level of heat and humidity is just what horror looks like to a Canadian…

This book talks about monsters, both real and imagined. Which, do you think, is worse?

The real ones. Part of the reason why I think horror is so appealing is that it turns the monstrous into something impossible and exaggerated, but also something that can be conquered. It gives us hope that survival is possible. And even bleak cosmic horror where humanity loses out is something we can walk away from when the book is over, or the movie ends. We can leave it safely in the realm of the imaginary. Real life horrors are much more insidious and harder to defeat.

How much inspiration for your fictional monsters comes from your pets?

Ha! None yet, but I could see it. “The night the snacks ran out, the humans came to understand the true horror of…The Hungering Corgs!” I could also imagine a monster that very slowly drowns its victims in wave after wave of shed fur.

How is writing a novella different than writing a short story—or is it? This is not necessarily a trick question—but maybe it also is. Was your approach to this project any different?

It may not be a trick question, but I may give a trick answer? The novella started life as a short story, so my approach wasn’t really all that different. It was mostly a matter of expansion. One nice thing about writing at a longer length is there’s more room for scenes, characters, settings, and even individual moments to breathe. One of my favorite scenes in Catfish Lullaby is a quiet moment where Caleb and Cere talk and eat ice cream. It’s the kind of scene that might not have survived in a short story requiring a tighter focus.

There is a definite Lovecraft vibe to this story—fucked up families and secrets and such. What other works/authors might you count among your inspirations?

For dark fiction with Lovecraftian overtones, I would point to Caitlin R. Kiernan, Livia Llewellyn, John Langan, and Gemma Files as inspirational. They all write fantastic stuff in varying shades of twisted, horrific, and fucked up.

Which Hogwarts house did you get sorted into?

I haven’t been officially sorted, but I feel like I would be a Hufflepuff.

As is right and proper.

This almost feels like a new Golden Age of books because everyone is writing the most amazing stuff. What have you read lately that is Gorgeous and Outstanding and readers should absolutely get?

Aaah! So many things! I will try to limit myself to just a few suggestions… Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng, Riverland by Fran Wilde, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling, and the Poppy War by R.F. Kuang. There. That was kind of restrained, right?

What’s next for you?

I recently completely my first novel and its now out on submission, looking for a good home. Eep! I’m also working on a handful of short stories/novelette type things. My laptop exists in a perpetual state of chaos, with half-finished documents in various stages of completion scattered everywhere.

Look, just consider Badger Lullaby, that’s all we’re asking. Thanks for coming by! Readers, go enter to win your copy of Catfish Lullaby, or just buy a copy, because you’re not gonna wanna wait! 

 

Road Trip!

In Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow, you get one excellent road trip, with Our Heroine and you know, Death. It’s casual, nothing to worry about, nothing at ALL. This book was one of our favorite summer reads, so we convinced Silvia to stop by and answer some questions about it. 

In Gods of Jade and Shadow, a Mayan god of death sends Casiopea Tun on a journey that will change her life. How did you get the idea for this book?

I had a dream about a woman opening a box and out jumps a self-assembling skeleton. I knit the idea into a contemporary urban fantasy scenario, which didn’t work out and I gave up on it. Later on I had another failed novel, this one set in the 1920s, and I figured what had been wrong was the time period so I was able to use my research for what became Gods of Jade and Shadow.

In a brilliant crossroads of Shimmery content, Shimmer author Arkady Martine reviews the book on NPR, and talks about how traditional fairy tales and mythologies are turned on their head. Did you set out to subvert what readers generally think of when it comes to fairy tales?

A lot of people think fairy tales are the sort of pleasant stories told by Disney, but traditional fairy tales and folk tales share not only a certain darkness, but also a certain wildness. They also paradoxically have a very strict sense of order. So you get a heroine having to talk to three animals in the forest in order to triumph on a quest. Let’s say a badger, a rabbit, and a squirrel. As an adult, this sounds ridiculous. Why only three animals? Why those? But as a child you accept this wildness (talking animals) and this sense of order (three) as part of the tale. So no, I don’t think I want to subvert fairy tales, but to accept them for what they are, to respect the oral tradition that I admire, but to also tell a story my own way. Which is ultimately what any storytellers does when they speak.

Well, we like the badger aspect…

Also, although people mention the Cinderella trope, this was the reality of more than one woman in my family. They worked for their keep by doing house chores for other family members. It was not, nor is it, an uncommon form of exploitation in many parts of the world. I wrote a fantasy for my great-grandmother, who was a maid. I wrote the story I would have told her to make her happy, to make her the hero in a tale. And not only her but all the other women in my family who never had a story for themselves.

Your work often pairs the fantastic with the historical. Can you pinpoint where your love of history comes from, and what appeals about it?

I’ve always liked history and I’m not interested in writing contemporary novels. I can do contemporary short stories because the length is, well, short, but for a longer period of time I just can’t see myself terribly interested in the present unless there’s something odd that’s skewing it a bit. 

What would you do if you found a box of bones in your house?

Toss it out.

This book is part fairy tale and part road trip. Who would you absolutely not want to accompany you on a road trip?

Someone who doesn’t like to make stops and just wants to get to the destination.

If you could take us anywhere in Mexico, where would it be? What would we see? What would we eat?

Mexico City, because you can find anything in Mexico City. The National Museum of Anthropology is always a great visit for tourists. I like to eat in many places. El Moro for churros, street tacos, Tortas Locas Hipocampo, queso fundido over at Los Ovnis, etc. 

We’re already hungry!! Do you have a favorite jazz musician?

Chet Baker when he sings “My Funny Valentine.”

What have you read lately that’s Great and Outstanding and we should get our mitts on immediately?

The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag, a murder mystery focused on a gruesome crime and set in 1700s Stockholm. Dark, depressing, and beautifully written.

Automatic Eve by Rokurô Inui. A Japanese steampunk mosaic novel for fans of Phillip K. Dick.

Every book we’ve read from you has had its pages in a different genre—and we love it! What’s next for you?

My next novel with Del Rey is called Mexican Gothic and it’s a horror novel set in the Mexican countryside in 1950. My first crime novel, Untamed Shore, should be out next year. It’s a domestic noir set in 1970s Mexico and Baja California.

Woot! Silvia, thanks for taking the time to chat with badgers. Readers, go grab your copy of Gods of Jade and Shadow, because it’s the perfect read to wrap up summer with! 

Harrowing Doors

Alix E. Harrow published her first short story with Shimmer. “A Whisper in the Weld” appeared in Issue #22 in November 2014. Now, we approach the publication of Alix’s debut novel! Alix was kind enough to spend some time with us ahead of her book’s release.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January lands in seven days and we’re pretty darn excited for it. What is this book’s origin story? How did it come to be?

Once upon a time, a little girl grew up in western Kentucky and played in the overgrown hayfield on the backacres of the farm and wished very much that she would find a door to elsewhere. (Not, you understand, because her life was so terrible, but just because she read a lot of books with wizard schools and magic lions and dragons flying on the winds of morning, and there were none of those things in western Kentucky). She never found her door, but when she grew up she wrote her own.

When I sat down at twenty-four to very self-consciously write a book, the first sentence that came out was: When I was seven, I found a door. Three-ish years later, I had a book-shaped draft. Very conveniently and absurdly, I also had a short story come out in Apex about librarian witches, and an editor DMed me on Twitter asking if I might, by chance, have a book-shaped thing.

Your work often layers the historical with the fantastic. Can you pinpoint where your love of history comes from and what is so appealing about it?

If you were a little girl looking for doors, and you went off to college and they asked you what you wanted to study, your first answer would be: books! Stories! English lit, of course! But then you might take some history courses and be seduced by true stories, instead, by the shifting narratives we tell about ourselves and the murky realities they both illuminate and obscure. I guess I fell in love with history because it seemed to be the intersection between story-telling and reality, the dusty factory where stories themselves are made.

Your work also extols the virtues and wonders of books (see: your recent Hugo Award win for your short story, “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Apex Magazine). How did you first fall in love with books?

It’s an inherited condition. My mom was finishing her senior year of a history and literature double major; she read me Civil Disobedience and Earthsea and the Ballad of Mulan and Watership Down when I was too young to understand that everybody’s mom wasn’t doing the same thing–handing their kid keys to all the locked doors in the world and giving them a little push between the shoulder blades.

But also: I remember reading the first Harry Potter and feeling like I’d finally made it. I’d finally opened a door and stepped all the way through it.

If you had a Door (or perhaps a Book) you could open onto Anywhere, where would it go?

Earthsea. Or maybe Lyra’s Oxford. Or Hogwarts. Or maybe just a vast library with warm wood floors and raggedy rugs and coffee that never tastes burnt, and lots of quiet courtyards so I can read with the sun on my face while the kids build castles of books or upend potted plants.

What Doors have you discovered with your boys?

THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION. WHY DOES NO ONE ASK ME ABOUT MY NEWFOUND LOVE OF PICTURE BOOKS, AS DISCOVERED THROUGH MY TODDLERS???

So one of my favorite picture book series is Aaron Becker’s Journey, Quest, and Return books, about a girl who draws herself a door into another world (what, I have a brand). We also like everything Oliver Jeffers, but especially A Child of Books, about a magic book-girl who leads a boy to a world of imagination (again, my brand, it’s strong). Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut has just about the best read-aloud rhythm in the history of books; King Baby by Kate Beaton is so, so damn funny; Wild by Emily Hughes is a quirky and sweet anti-Mowgli story; Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell is about a dragon with a library on his back, which is obviously perfect; Prince and Knight is about a handsome prince falling in love with a handsome knight and we’ve read it six hundred thousand times.

As you know, Bob, portal fantasies are an awesome part of speculative literature. Do you have a favorite story in the genre?

Favorite is a big word, Bob. It stresses me. So I’ll merely say: I loved Coraline, as a dark, twisted answer to the blond Disney-fied Alice I knew growing up. Valente’s Fairyland series is sugar and spice and everything nice, plus some not-nice things. I still love Peter Pan. I’m very excited to read Fran Wilde’s new Riverland.

When I imagine Doors, I think often of Hobbiton with its round portals, but also of Moria and “speak friend and enter,” of Dorothy opening her door to the colors of Oz, and of Alice with the tiny door she cannot yet fit through. Do you have a favorite fictional Door?

Look, it’s hard to beat speak friend and enter. Although there are some doors in Erin Morgenstern’s new book, Starless Sea—which isn’t out until November, she says with an artfully careless little laugh—that I fell absolutely head over heels in love with.

Speaking of Moria, does a balrog have wings?

Who—and I mean this is the gentlest, kindest of ways—cares??? I am often baffled by the granularity of debates in nerd-dom. Like, what matters is the darkness and terror of them, that they’re the shadowy things you wake if you mine too greedily and too deep. If you’re the nerd checking for literal wings on the Bridge of Khazad-dûm, you’re the one that gets eaten first.

One very important aspect of The Ten Thousand Doors of January is the gorgeous cover art and design, by Lisa Pompilio. This cover overflows with flowers and keys (and that doorknob!). What’s the key to growing a good garden?

Let me know if you find out. Our garden is on the verge of attaining sentience and eating the house in the night. Didn’t there used to be a little stone cottage there, people will say, with a tin roof and lots of bright plastic toys on the porch? But there will be nothing but uncaged tomatoes and weeds and butternuts like knee-bones.

Which Hogwarts house did you get sorted into?

Hufflepuff. Where else, dear badgers?

What have you read lately that’s been Great and Tremendous and more people should know about?

I mean, everyone already knows about Red, White, and Royal Blue, but if you don’t: it’s the hella gay political rom-com you need in your life. Preorder The Starless Sea. The sequel to Trail of Lightning is just as good as the first one, maybe better. Also–Kathleen Jennings’s 2020 novella, Flyaway, is Gothic and folksy and so, so good. If you’re a person who reads Tana French, and likes the bits where some dark, nameless creature skitters across the road or scratches at the walls, giving brief unsettling form to the darkest impulses of humanity—Flyaway is made of nothing but those bits.

What’s next for you?

For my next trick, I shall turn my second book-shaped draft—which is about the women’s suffrage movement except with lots more witching and less acronyms and meetings–into an actual book! It will take patience and fortitude and bravery! It will take the generous insights offered by wise early readers, some of whom may or may not be Hugo-nominated short-fiction editors!! It will take a lot, a lot, of coffee.

Alix, thank you for joining us — go get your coffee!

Readers, go get your copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January! You can still preorder, but the book will be in stores everywhere next Tuesday, September 10th!

 

And So It Goes

This past weekend, the Hugo Awards were given out in Dublin, Ireland. Big congrats to Uncanny Magazine, who won the Best Semiprozine category again!

We had badgers in Ireland for the event, should the impossible happen. Mary Robinette Kowal, who has been part of Shimmer since the start, was on hand to speak the words which proved unnecessary (but how spectacular that her novel, The Calculating Stars, won the Hugo for Best Novel — we are over the moon!).

In case you’re curious, here’s the brief speech we put together, which pales in comparison to the FIRE that erupted on the Dublin stage (how awesome is our industry? SO awesome.).

We want to thank everybody who, in these past months and years, have helped, guided, and given us and Shimmer so much. Every short fiction market is a collaboration, and this is no different. Your stories made Shimmer what it was—thank you for trusting us with them.

Thank you, too, to our fellow finalists: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fireside, Fiyah, Strange Horizons, and Uncanny. Y’all are doing so much good work, it is humbling to be in your midst. Mary Robinette, thank you for being part of Shimmer, and for doing the heavy Hugo lifting.

We are truly grateful and terribly happy.

Shimmer honestly would not have been half of what it was without you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

Hugo Nominations

Not going to bury the lede like a badger might: Shimmer has been nominated for a Hugo Award, in the Best Semiprozine category.

Y’all—what the actual hell!

We got word two weeks ago, and sitting on this news has been one of the hardest things we’ve had to do. Badgers like to talk, badgers like to share extraordinary things, and here we had one of the most extraordinary things of all—and couldn’t say boo. Fortunately, Mary Robinette Kowal subtweeted the world, and we took heed of her smart words. We wrote this here announcement, and plugged it into the Shimmer blog so we’d be ready on April 2.

No joke! April Fools is over! Shimmer has been nominated for a Hugo Award! The full list of Hugo nominees can be found over at Tor.

The semiprozine category is STRONG. Congrats to our fellow nominees: Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Fiyah, Fireside, Strange Horizons, and Uncanny!

This would not have been possible without you—everyone who read Shimmer, everyone who ever staffed for Shimmer, everyone who submitted to Shimmer, everyone who trusted us with your words and worlds.

Thank you especially to Matt Dovey, Wren Wallis, Maria Haskins, Alex Acks, Suzan Palumbo, Lindsay Thomas, and Alexis A. Hunter who instigated the #AHugoForElise hashtag and got the word out about how 2018 was Shimmer‘s last year, and that this nomination period was Shimmer‘s last chance ever.

Y’all did right by Shimmer. And our own Elise (E. Catherine Tobler), who is up for Best Editor (Short Form).

Badgers are a protected species in Ireland—and we hope you’ll see some badgers wandering around An Irish Worldcon in August!

Tiptree Honors

On Friday, we learned that Gabriela Damián Miravete won the 2018 Tiptree Award for her story, “They Will Dream in the Garden.”

The honors list was also published, and on it, a host of great fiction that explores and ponders gender. “Me, Waiting for Me, Hoping for Something More” by Dee Warrick, from the January 2018 issue of Shimmer, was included.

The Tiptree folks said:

This visceral story with vivid writing explores in a literalized way the dysphoria that can come with being trans. The monster in the basement works as both a powerful metaphor and a plot device.

In addition to Shimmer‘s inclusion, we were delighted to see Glittership Year Two, edited by Keffy Kherli on the list. Keffy is Shimmer family, having been a reader for us way back when. Yay Glittership! (What other kind of ship could you possibly take, after having worked at Shimmer?)

One more shout out to Meg Elison, whose F&SF story, “Big Girl,” also made the honor list! We had the honor of publishing Meg in Shimmer #44.

This year, the panel also published an expanded HOORAY list, including The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley, and Clarkesworld, and Tor, and Mother of Invention, and Strange Horizons, and Analog, and Lightspeed and Asimov’s, and *takes breath* so much awesome.

We are honored to be included, and hope you will explore the amazing fiction on the Tiptree Honor List! (If you explore prior years, you will see a BUNCH of Shimmery folks. ♥)

Last Dance

It’s the last time shimmer can be on the Hugo Awards ballot. It’s never happened. Will it? The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!

Our cover artist, Sandro Castelli, is eligible in the fan artist category. Our editor, E. Catherine Tobler, is eligible in the short form editor category. And Shimmer itself is eligible in the semiprozine category.

What did we publish last year? Here’s the list! (Each and every story is a short story by the Hugo definition, 7500 words or lesss.)

Black Fanged Thing, by Sam Rebelein
An Incomplete Catalogue of Miraculous Births, or, Secrets of the Uterus Abscondita, by Rebecca Campbell
Me, Waiting for Me, Hoping For Something More, by Dee Warrick
Held, by Ian O’Reilly
The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea by Sara Saab
They Have a Name For That by Sara Beitia
The Imitation Sea by Lora Gray
If a bear… by Kathrin Köhler 
Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate, by Anya Johanna DeNiro
Gone to Earth, by Octavia Cade 
What the Skeleton Detective Tells You (while you picnic), by Katherine Kendig
You, In Flux, by Alexis A. Hunter
The Passenger, by Emily Lundgren 
Milkteeth, by Kristi DeMeester 
Bleeding Through the Shadows, by David Rees-Thomas
Rapture, by Meg Elison 
The Ghost Pet Detective, by Ryan Row 
By the Hand That Casts It, by Stephanie Charette
Find On Your Body the Bruise, by Maricat Stratford
Lighthouse Waiting, by Gwendolyn Clare 
Dead Things, by Becca De La Rosa 
Rotkäppchen by Emily McCosh 
The Witch in the Woods Falls in Love For a Third Time, by Kate Lechler
Streuobstwiese, by Steve Toase 
Lake Mouth, by Casey Hannan
40 Facts About the Strip Mall at the Corner of Never and Was, by Alex Acks
Antumbra, by Cory Skerry 
The Time Traveler’s Husband, by A. C. Wise
Tyrannocora Regina, by Leonie Skye 
Rust and Bone, by Mary Robinette Kowal
From the Void, by Sarah Gailey 
Thistledown Sky, by Stephen Case
Ghosts of Bari, by Wren Wallis

Authors in their first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award are: Leonie Skye.

Shimmer authors in their second year of eligibility for the Campbell are: Ashley Blooms, Emily Lundgren, and Lina Rather.

Ballots are due by March 15. We thank you for your consideration this year, and every year — thank you for taking this journey with us!

Ghosts

Today, we’re delighted to share our final story with you, “Ghosts of Bari,” by Wren Wallis.

When I put the final issue of Shimmer together, I did it as deliberately as I’d done every other issue of Shimmer, considering where each story should fall in the issue. It was something Beth taught me how to do when I edited my first issue—because the story you open with is not necessarily the story you want to close with.

I gave Wren a heads-up the moment I realized I wanted to close out Shimmer with her story. Having your story appear last may not seem like a great thing; if I’d held to the original release schedule, it would have had Wren’s story appearing after Hugo balloting had closed. I didn’t want that for the story, or Wren, because the story is gorgeous and should be read by as many Hugo voters as possible.

Putting a story last doesn’t mean it should be overlooked, it doesn’t mean it’s being hidden away. In fact, in the case of “Ghosts of Bari,” I put it last because it ends on a very specific note. It ends with a directive, a directive Shimmer wants you to undertake. Wren’s story encompasses so much of what Shimmer hoped to do, what we wanted to be. And by placing it as our final story in our final issue, I hope that is evident.

Relatedly, thinking about how we made issues (stories fitted together like puzzle pieces), I got curious as to how many stories Shimmer published in its thirteen years. Near as I can tell, it’s 288 stories, from 224 authors—but I suspect that author count is off, because I’m not convinced every single Shimmer author is on the website list yet. #goals

In my searching and looking through old issues, I was genuinely amazed at all we accomplished over the course of those 288 stories, so here are some notes from along the way.

Issues 1-4 had nine stories each. Our biggest issue, with twenty stories, was eleven which was our Clockwork Jungle Book—stories about steampunk animals. Genevieve Valentine appeared in that one, and so did Alethea Kontis. Aliette de Bodard made her first appearance in issue three, as did Angela Slatter. We got Amal el-Mohtar in issue four, and our first translations in issue five (Lavie Tidar translating Nir Yaniv). Silvia Moreno-Garcia also made her first appearance in issue five. Silvia’s story, “King of Sand and Stormy Seas,” stands out brightly in my memory; it was one of the first stories I remember falling for when I came across it in slush—the first story I really advocated for and wanted to see published.

Issue six contained Cat Rambo—another story I remember being deeply affected by (“Eagle-haunted Lake Sammamish”). Also “Sparrow and Egg,” again from Amal el-Mohtar—made me burst into tears. This issue also contained “Tom Cofferwillow Comes Undone,” by Stephen L. Moss—possibly the first story that made Beth realize what weird taste I can have in fiction. This story plays with language in ways that still delight me.

John Joseph Adams guest-edited issue seven, which was packed with pirate stories! Issue eight brought us “Monologue With Birds & Burin” by Daniel A. Rabuzzi. Another story that stands out in my memory. Both the place and the character get me here, hard in the heart.

Monica Byrne’s “5 Letters From New Laverne” showed up in issue twelve; this story made me bawl the first time I read it. We got our first K.M. Ferebee story in issue thirteen (pulled from slush by Keffy Kehrli), and our first Stephen Case, who would also join us in our final issue. Issue fourteen blew me away when I was thumbing through it: our first Sunny Moraine, our first A.C. Wise, and our first Karin Tidbeck! I mean…talk about all-stars.

Issue fifteen was my first to pick stories for; it brought us Megan Arkenberg, Mari Ness, and Milo James Fowler. It also taught me that it’s okay to really fight for a story you want—I bought a story I’d previously rejected, so never say die people. You never know.

K.M. Szpara came to us in issue sixteen, and Damien Angelica Walters and Carmen Maria Machado in issue seventeen. Issue seventeen has seventeen stories, did you know? More than half of the authors moved in the course of publishing that issue… Nightmare level unlocked.

The great Ann VanderMeer guest-edited issue eighteen, which would become our final print issue, containing an Area X story from Jeff VanderMeer. Issue nineteen is when we leapt online—with another K.M. Ferebee story (with a heroine named Elyse, hmm!).

We published 28 issues online over the course of five years, finding yet more wonderful authors. We got an Alix Harrow, a Sam Miller, an Eden Robins, a Tara Isabella Burton, an Alex Acks, a Malon Edwards, a Maria Dahvana Headley, an Isabel Yap, a Helena Bell, an Erika Satifka, a Kristi DeMeester, an Arkady Martine, a Natalia Theodoridou, a Fran Wilde, a Charlie Bookout, and so many other authors who made editing an absolute joy.

Shimmer ended each digital year with a beautiful print anthology featuring artwork by Sandro Castelli, as did almost each and every issue once we found him (issue six was his first cover, I believe, but with issue fifteen, he was our regular cover artist). Beth and I still talk about an anthology called The Best of Shimmer, and we’ll see how far I can twist her arm, eh? We published such an array of wonderful things, and when I think of every nugget hidden in these issues…ah, I want you to read each and every one of them, because they are each dear and special and yeah, shimmery. WHAT IS SHIMMERY? the masses cried. Go read everything we published. You’ll see.

If you’re tempted, we still have some print issues available in our shop, and everything available in digital. Maybe treat yourself to a back issue or two. There’s so much to read!

Thank you for being part of our journey.

Rockin’

Thanks to all 89 of you who submitted a first line for our contest! The competition was fraught, but we’re happy to report that the voting was not impacted by dangling chads or Russians, so without further ado, we present the winning line:

Grandmother’s rocking chair is made of iron.

 

Thanks Josh Johnson for crafting an awesome and specific image! What’s grandmother up to with that rocking chair? We’ll soon find out. Mary Robinette Kowal will write the story that goes with this opening line, and the story will appear in the final issue of Shimmer, this November.

Thanks for your support!

Opening Lines with Mary Robinette Kowal

Opening lines do important work in storytelling. When you reach the end of a story, an opening line may read completely different than it did when you began, because the story has changed its meaning. An opening line may be a hook, a light in the darkness, a way forward.

I try to take a picture of the eerie.  (The Passenger, Emily Lundgren)

She came out of the peat like a sixpence in a barmbrack, her face shining like wet iron between the spade-edge and the turf, the bright rusty plait of her hair broken like a birth-cord around her neck. (The Creeping Influences, Sonya Taaffe)

He descended on the town like a saint sent from Dark Heaven six-guns shining like twin torches in his hands, down to the border where we had our battle on.  (Salamander Six-Guns, Martin Cahill)

It’s Midsummer’s Eve, and even this close to midnight there’s no darkness, only a long, translucent dusk that will eventually slip into dawn. (Hare’s Breath, Maria Haskins)

As part of our final issue ever (!), we solicited some authors who were there in the beginning. Mary Robinette Kowal was Shimmer‘s art director when the magazine started, and though she’s gone on to much greener pastures (her science fiction debut,The Calculating Stars, came out just last week!), she also published with Shimmer last year.

We invited Mary to be part of the final Shimmer and she suggested we turn part of her story over to you, the readers.

Comment on this post with a killer opening line to a story you’d like Mary to write.  Beth and I will go over all the entries, and pick a winner, which Mary will then write a story for.

Comments open until JULY 20. Beth and I will vote that weekend, and announce a winner on JULY 23.

And in November, you can read Mary’s story in the final issue of Shimmer!

Note: Many of you are submitting whole paragraphs and not a single opening line. We are not approving these. Thank you!

Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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