Tis the season! I’ve been gathering links from author others, editors, and publishers listing their award-eligible work published in 2021 for my annual Eligibility and Recommendations Link Post. Sometime next month, I’ll be putting together posts of my favorite reads of the year. But for now, I’ve put together a list of my own award-eligible work for the year. These works are eligible for all the usual awards (Hugo, Nebula, Stoker, etc.) in the categories noted below.
Wendy, Darling, my debut(!) novel was published by Titan Books in June 2021. It’s a dark, feminist re-imagining of the aftermath of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, picking up with Wendy Darling as an adult with a daughter of her own.
There is a boy outside her daughter’s window.
Wendy feels it, like a trickle of starlight whispering in through a gap, a change in the very pressure and composition of the air. She knows, as sure as her own blood and bones, and the knowledge sends her running. Her hairbrush clatters to the floor in her wake; her bare feet fly over carpeted runners and slap wooden floorboards, past her husband’s room and to her daughter’s door.
It is not just any boy, it’s the boy. Peter.
When Peter unexpectedly reappears in Wendy’s life and kidnaps her daughter, Jane, Wendy must return to Neverland to rescue her, confront Peter, and reckon with her traumatic past. The story includes themes of found family, PTSD, queer relationships, mothers and daughter, and just how unsettling the idea of a boy who refuses to grow up is when you really think about it.
The Ghost Sequences is my third short story collection, released in October 2021 from Undertow Publications. As the name implies, this collection leans toward horror and dark fiction, with stories focused on ghosts and hauntings. The collection includes reprints and an original novelette, The Nag Bride. The collection received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.
The Nag Bride is an original novelette included in my collection, The Ghost Sequences. It centers on a young woman who must face her family history of violence when an ancient haunt returns to stalk her and her childhood best friend.
Weld marks cross the iron like ragged scars, and beneath the horseshoes there’s a folded piece of paper. Dirt sifts loose, trapped in its creases, as Sophie draws it out and unfolds it.
Detailed drawings of hands and feet cover the page. Her father trained as an artist – he’d met her mother at art school, where she was studying to be a sculptor. He’d even worked in medical illustration for a while, but together, Sophie’s parents fed into each other’s self-destructive habits, their talent squandered, uninterested in pursuing their art anymore and doing just enough work to pay for the next round of drinks, the next fix of their current chosen drug.
But even unused, Sophie’s father had retained his skill and Sophie has no doubt these drawings are his. Long-fingered hands and long-toed feet, a woman’s face, the skin flayed on one side to show the delicate bones of a horse’s skull. A woman’s hand splayed, the tips of each finger anchored with nails to a horseshoe.
At the very bottom of the page there are words: This is how the Nag Bride is wed.
The Amazing Exploding Women of the Early Twentieth Century was published in Apex Magazine in March 2021. Two actresses from the early days of silent trick films harness their inhuman powers to take control of their destinies.
Mary Catherine freezes. The reel flickers to life and a woman swirls across the screen in her lover’s arms, all dark curls and smoke-lined eyes, and the space behind Mary Catherine’s breastbone stutters. A shout of warning lodges in Mary Catherine’s throat. She’s halfway to reaching for the screen, as if she could save the woman who is far too lovely to burn. But her beau dances her backward and flames scale the woman’s dress, little hands and hungry mouths framing her face and her open, silent mouth, as prettily as her curls.
Jenny Come Up the Well published at PodCastle in April 2021 features a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality while being hunted by a preacher named Brother Justin who has dark powers capable of erasing her and those like her from existence.
I made the mistake of looking up, and the glittering black pins of Brother Justin’s eyes caught me. I’d never experienced anything remotely like drowning, but looking at Brother Justin was what I imagined it would feel like — the world narrowing to a terrible point, my chest crushed with pressure, everything in me screaming for breath I was unable to draw.
This Height and Fiery Speed included in the anthology Prisms from PS Publishing is a take on Algernon Blackwood’s The Wendigo. After a man has a strange encounter on an airplane, his sense of identity and reality begins to break down.
His eyes adjusted to the dimmed lights. All around him, passengers had their tray tables down, eating meals that gleamed wet and red. His stomach lurched and the plane followed it, going into free fall. Alan couldn’t gather enough breath to scream. Something had him by the shoulders, lifting him from his seat and he kicked violently.
“I should have died in the woods that day,” the man in the seat next to him said.
The Hunt at Rotherdam published in Bourbon Penn is my take on the Gothic trope of the woman in the attic as a group of men – including one unwilling protagonist – gather at an ancestral estate for a very unusual hunt.
I was spared the need to reply when the bell rang announcing dinner. Course after course appeared, all meat, bleeding and on the edge of raw. My stomach twisted. I watched our hostess, who had perfected the art of moving food about her plate to suggest consumption, though I never once saw her put a morsel to her lips.
I could not deny her loveliness, but nor could I deny the eerie, otherworldly quality to her beauty. Her black curls were perfectly coiffed, her dark clothing chosen to blend with Rotherdam’s walls, features sculpted from wilder stuff to match some Platonic ideal. Ropes of jet beads dripped from her throat and ears, and two thick, silver cuffs circled either wrist. I thought of chains.
How to Find Yourself in a Fairy Tale published in Daily Science Fiction is a flash fiction piece drawing on fairy tale imagery and rules that examines the length people are willing to go to in order to get what they want and what happens when they actually get what they believed to be their heart’s desire.
Find your way into the woods. Find yourself a bird. For best results it should be a turtle or mourning dove. Stick to the path. This part is important: do not stray. Be bold. Be bold as you can. Pluck every feather until the bird’s skin is pale and smooth as a newborn child’s. Break the bird’s wings–every single fragile bone one by one. Children come into this world helpless, after all. You may choose to blunt the beak, or remove it entirely. That part is up to you. Remember–this is a fairy tale, choices have consequences.
Tips for Living Out of Synch for the Frequent Time Traveler podcast at Simultaneous Times is another flash piece examining the perils and complications of time travel.
At least once in your journeying, you will find the people who matter the most in your life don’t know you yet. From their perspective, you haven’t met, and they will be reluctant to trust you. They may even think you unhinged when you, in turn, tell them that you trust them with your life and they are the only ones who can help you.