One of my long-time dreams is about to come true next week. I'm about to have a real, proper collection of my best short stories, out from a major publisher. There's finally going to be a book that represents me and my writing, in all of their inappropriateness.
When I say "long-term dream," I'm talking like twenty years.
I still have all the word docs from the early 2000s, where I sketched out which stories of mine I would want to include in a volume, if some publisher was ever foolish enough to want to do that. Why has it taken so long? I think partly because, I wasn't really ready until now, in terms of the kinds of stories I was writing — but mostly because (as everybody knows) A book containing short stories by just one author is actually kind of a tough sell in today's publishing industry. I'm not sure why that is, but I think books of short stories generally have to have some kind of theme, like "dragons." Or "wizards having a midlife crisis." (I would read a whole book about that latter topic.)
My favorite thing about Even Greater Mistakes is the fact that, if my name was taken off the cover, you could easily think there were the work of a bunch of different people. I mean, my writing "style" is still in evidence, for sure. But in terms of tone and style and approach, these tales really run the gamut — from swashbuckling comedy to literary dystopia, and a whole bunch of things in between.
Speaking of which, I just saw this lovely review by philosopher Steven Shaviro, and I'm just going to quote from his incredibly generous words:
The variety here is just as wide as among her novels, perhaps wider.... Even Greater Mistakes is a triumph of queer and trans sensibilities; but the real point it makes is that such sensibilities are not ever just one thing.
I've talked a lot about why I love short fiction. And I've also talked a ton why these stories mean so much to me, including in the intro to the book. But here are some things that surprise me now about these stories, when I look back at them.
I'm surprised by how political so many of them are — even the ones that might have seemed like escapist fun once upon a time. Apparently I'm just obsessed with people trying to be free and trying to save their communities and loved ones from climate change, systemic oppression, and other stuff.
I'm a little surprised by how many of them are about doomed, or fatally flawed, relationships. I'm a very sappy person, and I really like to read as well as write romance. I am all about the Happy Ever After. Except that one of my preoccupations appears to be "what do you do with a relationship that is just not working?"
Speaking of which, another thing that really surprises me about a bunch of these stories is the theme of hopefulness in the face of certain doom. I knew I was obsessed with the fact that we all live our lives knowing that bad things are going to happen no matter what we do — and it drives me nuts that we can't predict when or how those bad things will happen, just that they will. But I hadn't fully taken on board how much I've been struggling with this notion in my fiction. Not just in "Six Months, Three Days," my story about clairvoyants who see the future differently, but in a whole bunch of these other stories, too. For as long as I can remember, I've been bracing for bad things that I couldn't see coming.
This book is starting to sound a little bit sad, so let me just add that I'm also surprised by how much most of these stories still make me laugh. Making yourself laugh as you're writing is surprisingly difficult — but writing something that still makes you snort years later, is a bit of an accomplishment, I think.
Anyway, Even Greater Mistakes is out on Tuesday. It might be too late to pre-order it from some bookstores, but your local bookstore can certainly back-order it, and it might not take that long to show up. You can certainly pre-order it from Folio Books and Booksmith here in San Francisco, and they've promised they will have plenty of copies available. I'll sign and personalize or doodle in every copy sold at those stores. Plus for every copy sold at either store, I'm donating $1 each to two incredibly worthy causes: the Carl Brandon Society, and the Trans Life Line, and the stores have agreed to match my donations.
I should say a little bit about why I chose those two wonderful organizations.
The Carl Brandon Society aims to increase the "racial and ethnic diversity" in both the production and consumption of speculative fiction. The Carl Brandon Society gives out two important awards: the Carl Brandon Parallax Award, for "works of speculative fiction created by a self-identified person of color," and the Carl Brandon Kindred Award, for "any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity." They also give out the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, which "enables writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops." They are doing vitally important work to add diversity to SFF, and they deserve all of the support you can give.
The Trans Life Line has saved so many trans people I know in the midst of rough times. They run a "peer support phone service" where trans people can call up and be assured that a trans person will answer the phone, providing counseling as well as access to resources. They promise not to involve the police or other authorities nonconsensually. They've answered nearly 120,000 phone calls and have given out over $1 million to people in need thus far. They also have a Family & Friends Hotline for people who need help supporting their trans loved ones.
Meanwhile, I have a couple of events coming up to support this book: One in person, one virtual.
The in person event is the return of Writers With Drinks, the spoken word variety show that I've been organizing and hosting since 2001. We're once again back at the Make Out Room here in San Francisco, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. . I'll be reading from Even Greater Mistakes, plus we'll have some incredible readers besides: Lucy Sante, Adele Bertei, Baruch Porras Hernandez, Nazelah Jamison and Mike DeCapite.
Also, I am doing an event on Wednesday the 17th with City Lights Books. I will be joined in conversation with the incredible Kelly Link, one of the greatest living short story writers. This is a free event via zoom, so please don't be a stranger.
This is been an intense year for a bunch of reasons, but one of those reasons has been putting out three books during a pandemic, when author tours are still just a dream.
But you what else has been a dream? All the support and love that you all have shown me, as I've been peddling these three new book releases. I'm so grateful to everyone who's championed or pre-ordered or bought Victories Greater Than Death, Never Say You Can't Survive, or Even Greater Mistakes. Y'all are a whole dang cyclone full of wind beneath my wings. <3