Izzy Wasserstein is a powerhouse writer who has been putting out some incredible short stories lately. And now, at last, she has a whole book of her short fiction from Neon Hemlock Press: All the Hometowns You Can't Stay Away From. This book comes out on July 12, and Neon Hemlock is launching a pre-order campaign TODAY on IndieGogo, as part of the 2022 Neon Hemlock Novellas Series. Here's what Neon Hemlock is telling us about Izzy's book:
This debut short story collection from Izzy Wasserstein contains multitudes: ne’er-do-wells and orphans, investigators and revolutionaries, diplomats and doctoral students. Wasserstein's stories dig fingers into the meaty parts of grief, the catalysts of change, and the pain points of community.
I'm so thrilled and honored to feature a short essay by Izzy about her debut collection, AND to reveal the cover to this book, exclusively here at Happy Dancing!
by Izzy Wasserstein
One of my professors, Daniel Mueller, told me that the best endings combine surprise and inevitability. I’ve found that is true in many of my favorite stories, and that few delights can match that feeling of not seeing the end coming but, having reached it, being unable to imagine any other resolution. The surprising-yet-inevitable ending is one I strive for in my own writing.
When Charlie Jane was kind enough to ask me to share some thoughts about how All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From came to be, I thought about that wisdom, and about how surprise and inevitability played a role in this collection’s existence, though that become clear to me only in retrospect.
First, the surprise: I believe that stories will tell us what they want to be, if we will listen. The threads that will come together to realize a story’s potential are there, in the first draft. They’re in the image you included for no particular reason, the line of dialog that doesn’t particularly fit, the worldbuilding detail you included as connective tissue.
Accuse me of peddling woo if you like. You can reframe this in terms that work for you: divine guidance, the intervention of your subconscious, or humans’ evolved pattern recognition. Though I don’t know why it works, it does, far more than you might think. The stories in this collection emerged out of connections I didn’t know I was capable of making, out of early-draft problems I needed to solve, and ideas that arose out of nowhere I could name. The setting of “The Crafter at the Web’s Heart” and the identity of its protagonist both arose as I lay awake trying to find a story to go with the magic system I was eager to use. The title story began with me playing around with the “our universe is a simulation” thought experiment before drawing me back, through no conscious choice on my part, to my hometown, a woman who isn’t that much like me, and a series of choices we’d made that took both of us away from home and then back.
And then there’s the inevitability. My stories tend to arise from a concept, an image, or a character. I never begin with plot, and only rarely do I know what the story’s thematic concerns are going to be until I’m well into the process. And yet there’s an inevitability to where my fiction goes. If you were to say my work is about queer characters fighting fascists, you wouldn’t be wrong. At least half of these stories have elements of that, and pretty much all of them address trauma or how we might move forward in the face of great loss.
I didn’t set out to write queer, antifascist fiction about dealing with grief and pain. But my stories converge on those themes, the ones I can’t help but come back to, the ones that haunt or sustain me. So All the Hometowns was always going to reflect those concerns. But in the early stages of assembling the collection, I worried that it might be too grim. While no one is likely to describe my outlook as cheery, I found that the stories I wanted to include were far from hopeless, and that, taken together, they had an unexpected structure that moved through loss, to radicalization and, finally, to community. I didn’t plan any of that while I was writing these stories, but in retrospect their arc is clear, because these stories represent me working through two questions again and again: How do we face existential threats? And how might we survive?
I don’t pretend I have the answers, but these are the questions I needed to ask. And I believe in community, in our ability to come together to solve problems too big for any of us alone. I hope you do too, and I hope someday we will look back on these days from a better future. If we manage to get there, I can’t help but suspect it will feel inevitable. But only in retrospect.
I'm so thrilled and honored to reveal the cover to this book, exclusively here at Happy Dancing!
Once again, this book comes out on July 12, and you can pre-order it today by joining the IndieGoGo campaign!
Recently I was looking for an angry song about TERFs (aka transphobic pseudo-feminists), for reasons. I went searching, and a lot of the songs I found were a wee bit too violent for me. But then I found "TERFs Out" by Problem Patterns, a riot grrl-influenced punk band out of Belfast. I ended up buying everything Problem Patterns had available on their Bandcamp page. Problem Patterns describes themselves as "50 percent gay, 50 percent rage," and I love every single one of their songs. One of their songs is called "Big Shouty," which kind of sums up their sound actually. If you would like to hear some awesome Irish women screaming about misogyny, assault, mediocre men, pressure to have children, and, yeah, TERFs, then I highly recommend you purchase their entire catalog RIGHT NOW. It is *so good*. I am listening to it right now and pumping my fist.
The incredible Amal El-Mohtar wrote a new introduction to Worlds of Exile and Illusion, a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin's first three novels, and I'm going to be talking to Amal about it on Instagram Live tomorrow at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT. Go to the @TorBooks Instagram account to watch Amal and me chatting about all kinds of things, including that darn Impermasuit from Rocannon's World.
Your local comic book store might still have copies of Women of Marvel 2022, a special one-off issue. I wrote a story about Squirrel Girl teaming up with Black Widow, with art by Emma Kubert, inks by Elisabetta D'Amico and lettering by Giada Marchisio!
If my head appears to be on fire, it's because I'm frantically rushing to get the third book of my young adult space fantasy trilogy, the Unstoppable series, finished by the end of the month. The first book, Victories Greater Than Death, is out in paperback now and has just been nominated for a Nebula Award. The second book, Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, is out on April 5 and you can pre-order it now (or request it from your library!). The third book should be out in about a year... this series is one big love letter to Steven Universe, Doctor Who, She-Ra, Guardians of the Galaxy, and of course Star Trek. It's some of the queerest, silliest, tenderest stuff I've ever written, but with space battles and a legit scary villain. I would be grateful for the rest of time if you were to pick up the first book and pre-order the second.