Mysterion goes online

Last year Donald and I published an anthology of speculative fiction stories that engage with Christianity (still available, BTW).

This past summer, we ran a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise enough to pay the authors for a second anthology. When that didn’t quite work out–we only got to 83% of our funding target, and Kickstarter fundraising is all or nothing–we decided we needed a less cost-intensive way of bringing Christian-themed fantasy and science fiction to readers, ideally one that would help us grow our audience.

We’re now pleased to announce Mysterion’s new online home: We open to fiction submissions in January (and are already open to art submissions), and plan to start publishing stories on the site in April.

There won’t be any paywall, but we will be setting up a Patreon for those who want to support us beyond just reading what we publish and sending us their story submissions. Stay tuned for more information on that… We pay 6 cents/word for new fiction, 3 cents/word for reprints, and $100 for art.

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Kickstarter for Mysterion 2

Donald and I are running a Kickstarter to fund a second volume of the Mysterion anthology. Check it out!

Our funding target is $5000, which would be just about enough to pay the authors. We are able to cover the other costs involved in putting together a book–cover art and design, layout, copy editing, etc.–but we haven’t sold enough copies of the first book for it to be feasible to go ahead with Volume 2 without doing some fundraising.

16 days in, 24 days to go, and we’re at 26% of our goal, with 40 backers. So, obviously, we need to get more people to pledge in order for us to go ahead with this.

What happens if we don’t meet our funding goal? (Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing, so if we don’t reach our target, we don’t get anything.) Well, we probably won’t quit publishing. But we won’t be able to open to story submissions in 2017.

We’re the only pro-paying market for Christian-themed short speculative fiction; although we’re not a traditional Christian publisher. Our focus is on work that doesn’t fit comfortably in either inspirational or mainstream publishing–we actively encourage story submissions from authors who aren’t Christian, for instance, and are open to publishing fiction that’s critical of the Christian faith as well as stories that affirm it. Read our Theme Guidelines if you’re interested in learning more!

And support us on Kickstarter!

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Boskone 2017

I had posted earlier about my schedule for Boskone–I was going to be on several panels, and participating in the Boskone Book Party to promote Mysterion.  Donald and I were also planning to throw a party.

Unfortunately, we’re now unable to attend due to a death in the family.  However, Mysterion author Robert B Finegold has very kindly offered to take over our table at the Book Party and promote the book on our behalf.

Boskone Book Party
Saturday, February 18th, 6:30 PM
Galleria – Stage · 60 min · Event

Join us for Boskone’s Book Party! See what’s just out from authors you love, and discover new favorites. The book party will include E. C. Ambrose ( Elaine Isaak ), Neil Clarke, LJ Cohen, Milton Davis, Grady Hendrix, Carlos Hernandez, Jeremy Flagg, Kristin Janz, Hillary Monahan, Cerece Rennie Murphy, Ian Randal Strock, Christine Taylor-Butler, and more!

Boskone is held at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel, 425 Summer St, Boston.

If you’re there, stop by the Book Party and say hi to Dr. Finegold!  He’ll even have copies of the book for sale, and I’m sure he would be delighted to autograph one for you.

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“The Price of Healing” in Kzine

My neolithic elf story “The Price of Healing” has just come out in Issue 17 of Kzine.  This one is set in the same world as “City of the Dying Sun”, “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”, “The Year of the Bear”, “Brother’s Keeper”, and “Twenty-Seven Images of Retribution”; but it takes place thousands of years before any of the others, in a milieu inspired by late prehistoric Egypt.  With elves!  (I don’t call them elves, because I’ve learned that it’s easier to get short stories published if you avoid using the e-word or mentioning their pointy ears.)

Yes, I’m working on a novel set in this world.  No, it isn’t done yet.

Kzine is a genre fiction magazine for the Kindle, although a paperback version is also available.  They publish science fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime fiction, so it’s great for people who prefer reading magazines where each story is different.  Some publications are aiming for a particular sub-genre or aesthetic, and while that can be really interesting if it happens to be a sub-genre you especially love, the downside is that all the stories can start to seem the same after a while (like reading a short fiction collection by one author with a distinctive style).  Kzine is trying to mix things up a bit and publish a lot of very different stories together all in one issue.  So if that sounds like something you’d enjoy, check them out!  The e-book is free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, $2.49 otherwise ($4.50 for the paperback).

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“Children of Cronus” out in Silent Screams

I have another new story out, my third this year. “Children of Cronus” has appeared in Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction, edited by Josh Strnad. The Kindle version is available now, with the paperback edition to follow in a few weeks.

From the book description:

Silent Screams is an anthology of dark speculative fiction focused on drawing awareness to the plight of those who are unable to speak for themselves. Simultaneously humane and horrific, each included tale presents a vision of the macabre animated by a beating heart of compassion.

It is primarily a horror anthology (although my story is a science fiction tale about human cloning and transplanted brains), so keep that in mind when deciding if this is a book for you. Horror fans should find plenty to appreciate here.

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“As Travelers in Sky Boats” now out at Escape Pod

My story “As Travelers in Sky Boats” is now up at science fiction podcast Escape Pod.  You can listen to it, narrated by Ibba Armancas, or read it at the website.  Or both!

It’s about clueless cultural anthropologists (in space!), and an island culture not especially enamored with what Star Trek fans might refer to as the Prime Directive.

A sample:

My sister blames the Travelers.  Before they came, she says, we were content within the small world we knew.  No one wondered what lay beyond the flat blue horizon where ocean met sky, or who journeyed between the stars.  Children never complained that there was an easier way to mend fishing nets, that they did not like the taste of seaweed.  Men did not abandon responsibilities to pursue the impossible fantasy of becoming Travelers themselves.

One rainy night, when both she and the water leaking through our roof were keeping me awake, I told her that she sounded like a Traveler when she spoke that way.  Who was she–or they–to tell me how I should live, what I could know or not know?


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Mysterion now available for purchase

Well, posts here have been scarce this year.  Apparently editing and publishing an anthology is a lot of work.  Who knew?

Mysterion cover flat

I’m very excited to announce, however, that the anthology Donald and I have spent much of the last year working on is now available from Amazon and other fine retailers (specifically, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo).  (Amazon has both the paperback and eBook; the others only have the eBook right now, although Barnes & Noble should eventually have the paperback as well.)

Our hope is that the book will be of interest not only to Christians, but to anyone with an interest in fiction exploring spiritual and religious themes.  It isn’t “Christian fiction” in the traditional sense.  We didn’t insist on “clean” content or that the stories had to uphold Christian beliefs and values.  We did want fiction that felt authentic to our own experience of the faith, but we didn’t feel that every story had to portray Christianity in an unambiguously positive way.

If you do read the anthology, please consider reviewing it at Amazon and/or other retailers (or Goodreads, or your own blog, or…).  Even critical reviews (thoughtful ones, at least) can help other readers decide whether they would like the book.

We’re thrilled to finally get this out into the world for readers to engage with!


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Table of Contents Announcement

Donald S. Crankshaw and I are pleased to announce the Table of Contents for our forthcoming anthology Mysterion: Rediscovering the Mysteries of the Christian Faith. Authors include Nebula nominees Beth Cato and Kenneth Schneyer, plus 18 others, newcomers and veterans alike.

“The Monastic” by Daniel Southwell
“When I Was Dead” by Stephen Case
“Forlorn” by Bret Carter
“Too Poor to Sin” by H. L. Fullerton
“Golgotha” by David Tallerman
“A Lack of Charity” by James Beamon
“Of Thine Impenetrable Spirit” by Robert B. Finegold, MD
“A Good Hoard” by Pauline J. Alama
“Yuri Gagarin Sees God” by J. S. Bangs
“Confinement” by Kenneth Schneyer
“The Angel Hunters” by Christian Leithart
“Cutio” by F. R. Michaels
“St. Roomba’s Gospel” by Rachael K. Jones
“Yuki and the Seven Oni” by S. Q. Eries
“A Recipe for Rain and Rainbows” by Beth Cato
“This Far Gethsemane” by G. Scott Huggins
“Ascension” by Laurel Amberdine
“Cracked Reflections” by Joanna Michal Hoyt
“The Physics of Faith” by Mike Barretta
“Horologium” by Sarah Ellen Rogers

We received over 450 submissions, out of which we accepted only 20, turning away many stories that we both would have loved to include.

The anthology should be out sometime this summer; in the meantime, you can pre-order through our Patreon site, and/or subscribe to the Mysterion newsletter for more frequent updates.

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New story out in SQ Mag

My story “Thou Hast by Moonlight at Her Window Sung” is in the latest edition of SQ Mag, from Australia.  They publish in a webzine format, with all the stories available to read for free online.  So check it out, and check out the other stories in the magazine!  I haven’t read them yet (it just came out today), but there’s a story by Mike Resnick, so it’s not all newbie authors (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

Editor Sophie Yorkston wrote the perfect blurb for the story, so I’m just going to quote it here instead of trying to come up with my own:

Trapped in another world, lured there with lies, the servants of the castle toil in the kitchen at dishes both tantalising and glorious. If not for the beauty of this world, perhaps they could leave…

I originally wrote this story at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2008, where it was critiqued by none other than Connie Willis (and my 16 wonderful classmates).  (If you don’t know who Connie Willis is, you should remedy that–start with To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book.)  I’m thrilled that it’s finally found a home, although not before tying with my 2014 story “It Is Beautiful Here” for most-rejected-but-still-eventually-published, at 31 rejections.  (Writing isn’t a game for the thin-skinned!)

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Worlds without eggs

I haven’t liked eggs since I was 3 years old.  Eggs as ingredients don’t bother me–in cake, custard, ice-cream, meringue, chocolate mousse, chocolate soufflé, pancakes, waffles–I just don’t think of them as food.  I don’t eat flour straight out of the bag, either.

Which is why characters in my pre-Industrial fantasy stories don’t eat nearly as many eggs as they should.

In my last post on food in fantasy fiction, I argued that the much-maligned stew was a perfectly reasonable meal for your characters to eat, even though they wouldn’t be cooking it while trekking through the wilderness on some epic quest; but that you, as the author, shouldn’t be lazy and write simply that they ate “stew” without telling the reader what went into it.  I promised to write more about worldbuilding through food, and hinted that I might be talking about eggs next.

Humans have been eating eggs since prehistory, and chickens may have been domesticated as early as 6000 BC.  The ancient Roman Apicius cookery manual has recipes for eggs.  Here’s a sauce that includes egg yolk as an ingredient:

9.3.2 Sauce for stuffed squid: pepper, lovage, coriander, celery seed, egg yolk, honey, vinegar, liquamen [fish sauce], wine and oil.  Thicken it.

Most of the Apicius recipes are just a list of ingredients, without quantities and with few if any instructions.  But this sauce sounds suspiciously like a flavored mayonnaise.  (The Romans ate many food items that would be familiar to a modern Western diner.  Chicken wings were apparently a popular snack–wing bones have been excavated from underneath ancient public baths, along with lamb chop bones, olive pits, and nut shells.)

Eggs are usually the main ingredient in the ancient Roman dish known as a patina.  A sample recipe:

4.2.5 Another patina, of asparagus [served] cold: take prepared asparagus, pound in a mortar, pour on water and pound thoroughly; strain through a colander.  Put prepared figpecker [a small songbird] to one side.  Pound in a mortar 6 scruples [1/4 oz] of pepper, add liquamen, grind again.  Add a cyathus [1/12 pt] of wine, a cyathus of passum; pour into a pan [with] 3 oz of oil.  Let it come to heat there.  Grease a dish.  In it mix 6 eggs with oenogarum [i.e., the peppered liquamen-wine-passum-oil mixture described above]; put this with the asparagus liquor in hot embers.  Then arrange the figpeckers, cook, sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Apicius has several patina recipes, named after the pan they were cooked in.  This was like a shallow covered casserole dish with a raised lip all around the lid that would hold hot embers on top and allow you to heat the contents of the pan from both top and bottom.  As far as I can tell, the patina is a lot like an Italian fritatta.  Persian cuisine has a similar dish called a kuku, and according to my Persian cookbook, it was traditionally cooked exactly the same way as the Roman patina, in the same sort of pan.

Eggs weren’t necessarily cheap in pre-Industrial societies, but they were less expensive than meat, and they stay fresh longer.  Most Americans and Canadians these days keep their eggs in the fridge, but it isn’t necessary if the eggs haven’t been washed before reaching the consumer.  Unrefrigerated, unwashed eggs will easily last about 3 weeks.  Meat … not so much.  Eggs are quick and easy to cook, requiring no specialized equipment.  They might be a bit fragile to carry on a long journey, but people would certainly eat them in their own homes and in taverns and inns.  In fact, “eggs and bacon” is one of the food options Sancho Panza asks the landlord about in that Don Quixote passage I mentioned in my post on stew, although as a supper rather than a breakfast item.

Eggs are popular in non-Western cuisines, too.  China has century eggs and salted duck eggs, and steamed eggs (similar to an omelet) are a traditional dish.  Omelet variations (including the aforementioned frittatas and kukus) are cooked and eaten around the world (from tortilla de patatas in Spain to tamagoyaki in Japan).  Cilbir, a Turkish preparation of poached eggs and yogurt, goes back to at least the 15th century.  Eggs aren’t typically eaten by Indian vegetarians, but egg dishes are popular among the Parsi community and other omnivores.

So why don’t more characters in historically-based fantasy fiction eat eggs?  I know that I neglect to think of eggs as a viable food option for my characters because I don’t think of them as a viable food option for myself.  But what’s everyone else’s excuse?

Perhaps it’s because the food described in fantasy fiction isn’t supposed to represent what members of a culture with a particular environment and technology level would actually eat.  Fantasy food is either aspirational or revolting–lavish descriptions of banquets with at least a dozen courses of roast meat, or bland stews with unrecognizable root vegetables boiled into submission.  And on one level, this makes sense.  You’re probably not writing that six-volume epic fantasy series because you wanted your readers to imagine what the various members of your made-up society might eat for breakfast–if they eat breakfast, which not every culture does–and how their breakfasts might be different from those in Middle Earth, or Narnia, or Westeros.  The problem, though, is that it’s all too easy to fall into overused food clichés, where your characters eat exactly what the reader imagined they would before ever opening your novel.  And at that point, why mention the food at all?

So, next time your characters stop for dinner, whether at an inn or someone’s home, why not offer them an omelet instead of stew?

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