an insomnolent malaise

You can tell it's going to be good day when the first thing your coworker says when you show up in the morning is "You look like shit, El. Party too hard last night?"

He thinks he's everyone's friend, but despite that he's not such a bad person. "Haven't been sleeping well," I tell him. "Can you hold the fort while I go get some coffee?"

"It'll be rough, but I think I'll manage." Sadly, he also thinks he's funny. Sometimes I humor him and smile at his jokes, but not today.

The coffee helps me feel more human, but these days it also gives me an eye twitch. Fortunately it's the week after Christmas and business is about as slow as it gets, so I can't scare anyone off.

My coworker tries to make conversation. "Any big plans for the new year?"

"If this past week is any indication, curling up in the dark and trying not to think at all. You?"

"You getting existential again, El? It doesn't suit you."

"I can't help it."

"Gives you a twitch. Nobody should have an existential twitch."

"I thought it was charming."

He grunts. "You shouldn't care so much, El. It's bad for you."

The rest of the day I think about that. Do I care too much? I didn't think I cared at all--but here's me obsessing over it, so clearly I do. Can you even turn that off? Can you not care when you care about not caring?


merry christmas anyways

It's been a while. Here is something. Might be the start of a new thing.

We walked home together after one of those Christmas gatherings for the lost and lonely, where people who can't or won't go home to their families meet up and drink champagne and celebrate in their own odd way. The streets were desolate in a way only city streets can be, and he, at least, was still in good spirits. I'd had a headache most of the night and the only thing I wanted was to take some aspirin and curl up in bed.

A secret: I've always mistrusted extroverts. In all that bustle I never felt like they really notice me--what I do, what I say, sure, but not my actual self. But, extrovert though he was, he noticed. He stopped in the middle of a story, halfway across the bridge, and looked me in the eye and said, "You okay, Ellie? You look tired."

I'd dreamed of this moment all night. I wanted to just tell someone I had a headache. I wanted to tell someone that the existential bullshit of the winter was finally catching up to me, that, in fact, holidays were depressing, and celebrating them just made me feel even worse.

Instead I said "It's been a long week," and I tried to affect a world-weary tone when I did. Then I smiled and said "I'll survive. I always do."

Sometimes I worry the reason nobody ever sees me is because I've gotten so good at hiding.


even more updates

First, the announcement: my new magazine (which is now called Strange Constellations is officially open for submissions as of today, until August 31. I'm paying $30 for stories I accept. If you're a writer you should send me something.

So, since I announced I was starting a magazine I've had several people offer me advice and encouragement. When I started all I knew is I wanted to edit a magazine, and I wanted it to be Creative Commons. Those two things haven't changed, but a lot of other things have. I've changed the name, because while I still love Asterism Press as the name for a small press, it's not really a magazine name. So now it's Strange Constellations. I decided to start paying for stories, and I'm listing it on actual markets instead of just hoping that people stumble across it through dumb luck.

I think the biggest change is the format. It was originally going to be twice a year, with six stories every six months. I've switched to a monthly format, with one story per month. I'll start publishing in September and I intend to keep going until people stop sending me stories.

I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully you'll enjoy, as well.


some important updates

I'd like to apologize for the radio silence. I've been directing my creative energies into some short stories, most of which I've linked to, but I've also been working on a new project. It's called Asterism Press, and it's a short fiction press for science fiction and fantasy, and it will feature a semiannual magazine collecting stories from all sorts of writers. I'd love it if you took the time to check it out and share it with your friends. I'd love it even more if you'd submit a story. This is a project I'm starting, but what I want is to make something bigger than just me. I think that's what I've always wanted.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with this place. Do you know it's been eight years this month since I started posting these weird little morose vignettes? I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it then, either. What I do know is over the past eight years I've had lots of readers pass in and out of my life. I probably haven't ever properly thanked any of you for it, so here it is: thank you. It means more than I can adequately express to have had people reading these things at all. And to those of you who found this place through some odd twist of fate and who talked to me and became friends, even though we've since drifted apart: I think for every last one of you there's a story on here that I wrote just for you. Thank you especially for allowing our lives to brush against one another, however briefly.

I'll keep posting links to things that I'm doing elsewhere, and if the mood strikes me I'll put up more stories, but apart from this update, the radio silence may continue for a while longer. So for now, thank you again. And please consider checking out Asterism Press. With your help I'd like to fill it with stories I could never have told.



One year, spring never came. That is to say, the actual, physical season still came. The rains cleared up and the weather warmed and the sun shone as bright and cheerful as ever, but the flowers never bloomed and the grass stayed withered and the trees remained just as barren as they ever were. Everyone had an opinion on it, of course. Lay people said of course it was pollution and GMOs and global warming and the bees disappearing. Some people thought it was a sign from a vengeful god. The scientists on TV said they didn't know, and talked at great length about how they didn't know and what they didn't know.

My friends and I mostly just figured that maybe it was coming late this year, that soon everything would be bright and cheerful again and the city would feel alive. So we wandered the streets and acted like the trees weren't dying, like the sun in the sky didn't feel hostile and alien. We tried to ignore the food shortages and the subsequent riots. We stayed behind when everyone fled to lands that hadn't been utterly forsaken.

Then my friends fled and I was here alone, living on the scraps that were left behind when everyone fled. Every day I'd stop in and water the tree my father used to take care of, before his hands and his back got too bad for him to do the work, and, of course, before he fled elsewhere. The routine grounded me, and the hope that tending to this poor, dying tree might finally bear fruit kept me going.

But it was getting increasingly difficult to find food. I'd stockpiled enough to get me to the lands where things still grew, if those hadn't been swallowed up as well, but when the time came I didn't want to leave. This was home. This was important. I decided I would wait here, either until death claimed me, or until life finally returned to the tree.


dreams and liars

For a while I didn't have any dreams. At night I slept peacefully and I woke up rested, with none of the detritus of half-forgotten dreams to cloud my mind. Of course you don't really notice that sort of thing while it's happening. Instead you just notice that you're happier and more productive, and why would you ever think to question something like that?

So this week the dreams came back. And at first I didn't notice, because you don't really notice that sort of thing while it's happening. But once again I'd wake up and stumble through the waking world all out of sorts, my mind full of the false memories of dreams. They'd shatter throughout the day, of course, as they drifted into my consciousness and, following a moment of confusion, I'd realize they were impossible. I'd never actually met him. We'd never reconciled. 

I don't know how long it had been. I don't know if I'm describing it properly. But I spent so much time going through life without ever having to question whether or not the thoughts in my head were actually, really true. It was beautiful and comforting, exactly like a dream is. I think I finally figured out why we dream, after walking this planet for so many years. We need dreams to flood our thoughts with lies. Otherwise, how would we ever learn what doubt is?



People used to tell me I had a lot of passion. I remember when I was still in school I had a professor praise the fire in my essays, the conviction with which I defended everything I held dear in this world--which, since I was young and stupid then (or anyway younger and stupider), I'm of course a little embarrassed about now. But around that time there was a girl who loved my convictions, too. She worshiped the ground I walked on, and sometimes I think everyone needs a little bit of that.

We drifted apart, as young lovers do, and I hadn't thought about her for years until out of the blue she ran into me on the bus. It turned out she lived a few blocks away from me and I had fond memories of her and anyway I'm terrible at saying no, so she had me over for tea, and we chatted about life and played that game old lovers play where they try to figure out what sort of meeting this is going to be.

She told me I'd changed. "I'm not sure what it is," she said. "It's like you used to burn with conviction and now . . . I don't know. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up."

I think back when she'd known me I would have argued, or at least insisted that she explain what she meant. Instead I just let it soak in, and wondered and worried until finally I figured it out. See, I'd never felt fiery or passionate, even when those were the words people used to describe me. That was just what my uncertainty looked like, because back then I was afraid of it. Over the years I came to love it.

some stories

So, I said I'd probably link to the stories I was writing on here.  I've written several, all set in the same fantasy world. I've been building this world in my mind for years, now. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. For ease of reference, here's a list:

I've also started writing some cyberpunk short stories. So far there are three of them, which I have linked below: