Author’s Note: There is no companion edition. You always might not be coming back.

You thought you already knew the answer.

You’d seen it on your TV screen, every re-watch as good as the first:

The vampire looms over the tiny blonde, mocking her with what she’s lost:

Her home. Her job. Her purpose. Her friends.

He asks her what she has left when all that’s been stripped away.

“Me,” she replies.

You cheered.

You didn’t know then that me is not unbreakable, whole and shiny as a ball bearing.

Me is an onion, peelable down to the nothing at its core.

Every time you lose a layer, you realize, eyes blurred and burning, that there was still something left to lose.

You can only see the shells after they’re gone. It’s like some principle of electrons you learned and forgot in the space of an hour in tenth grade physics.

Back then you wanted freedom. Now you want that healthy body. You’d snatch it back from that careless girl, suck it dry and toss her back the husk.

She has eyes like yours, hungry, wanting. She was impatient, not ungrateful. She already knew loss, already believed in death, was already finely acquainted with irony.

She knew then what you know now: what both of you need is a time machine.

Who knew high school physics would turn out to be so relevant?

No, you cannot take a time machine to the Underworld.

You cannot take anything to the Underworld that could enable you to escape the Underworld.

This is what you can take to the Underworld:

A backpack. Make sure it’s comfortable. Ideally, you should try it out with a load of bricks. But by the time you’re choosing backpacks, you won’t have the strength.

Good walking shoes. You should break them in first, but you won’t have the strength for that, either.

A canteen. Check it for ironic leaks. The water of the Underworld wants you to stay in the Underworld.

There are two schools of thought regarding traveling food. One is that it should be lightweight but energy-dense, so you can fill your pack and live off it for months. You will need to argue yourself into choking it down, but survival is the point and anyway you are used to that. The other is to take the most tempting food that travels at all, food that you might actually want to eat. Of course, by the time you are packing for the Underworld you may not be capable of wanting to eat.

That’s it. That’s all you’ll need. Now you’re all set for your journey.

I did not forget the map.

There is no map.

There is only this:

You descend.

You descend, with straps around your shoulders.

You descend, always looking back.

Each time you look back, you think that you have doomed yourself. You have not. It doesn’t matter.

Looking back will not make the door behind you close forever.

Not looking back (no one ever doesn’t look back) will not ensure that you can leave.

No one is assured that.

You will descend.

You will spend as much time in the Underworld as has been allotted to you.

It is measured in pomegranate seeds.

You will be told how many you have at the start of the journey.

You will not be told how much time each seed represents. It is different for everyone.

When you eat the seeds, your journey begins.

If you return, you may not notice immediately.

Sometimes the door does not look like a door.

Sometimes the Overworld looks very much like the Underworld.

If you return, you will know by the sensation of heat on the top of your head.

It may be difficult to identify that heat. You may have to use a process of elimination. Not Hellfire, not dragonfire, not lava, not napalm, not tight-beam radiation.

It is sunlight.

When you feel sunlight, you have left the Underworld.

You may have been in the Underworld for a long time. There are things you may have forgotten.

Do not look directly at the sun. It will blind you.
My newest book, A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, is now available for purchase for $ 4.99, at Amazon here A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, and in epub format at Smashwords. It contains six short stories, twenty poems, and a rodent zodiac.

In a steampunk Wild West, women with nothing left to lose walk into the desert, and emerge soul-bonded to giant robots...

A pair of bickering angels try to re-create Heaven in a Tokyo subway station...

A woman warrior matches swords and wits with a many-headed demon in mythic India...

These stories and more appear in "A Cup of Smoke." The anthology includes the Rhysling Award-winning poem "Nine Views of the Oracle" and the Rhysling nominee poem "Minotaur Noir."

Contains lesbian gunslingers, prophesying ravens, a martial artist on an interplanetary mission of revenge, three golems, and a one-eyed, hopping sandal.

Two of the short stories and eleven of the poems are original to this collection. The other stories originally appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk I, Strange Horizons, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and Cabinet des Fees. All the short stories have new afterwords by the author.

The lovely cover is by Stephanie Folse. Huge thanks to Cora Anderson and Larry Hammer for doing the surprisingly difficult formatting.

Please feel free to link to, tweet, or otherwise publicize this book.

If you would like to review it, please let me know and I will give you a free copy. I don’t usually read reviews and am so busy right now that I’m almost entirely offline everywhere but my own sites, so please review honestly. I am highly unlikely to ever even see it, and I do not expect everyone to love everything in any collection.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Dec. 4th, 2012 02:21 pm)
Published by Expanded Horizons, A New Word.

There is also an amazing Chinese steampunk painting in that issue.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Nov. 15th, 2012 04:21 pm)
"The Beast," to Mike Allen at Mythic Delirium.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Aug. 6th, 2012 11:47 am)
My golem poem "A New Word" sold to Expanded Horizons.

I have been a total flake about submitting anything since I started grad school, but hopefully this sale will herald a new trend.
1. What organization would you like in a collection that has both fiction and poetry? Separated into Parts I and II? Intermingled artistically?

2. So, I have this novel which I stalled out on due to the fact that without prodding from a collaborator, I find novels incredibly difficult to complete, due to their sheer length. But I could probably complete it as a novella (and, theoretically at least, expand it to a full novel later.)

Factors to consider: It's almost certainly unsalable to anything but a very small and quirky LGBTQ press. Realistically, I am way more motivated to finish it as anything if I knew it would definitely get some sort of release. It would be by far the longest story in the collection, and is tonally completely different from anything else in it. (My short stories tend more toward bittersweetness than wacky hijinks.)

It's a comic Gothic in which all the main characters are lesbians, all the people in the world are some sort of supernatural being, and the heroine is a werewolf who gets hired as a private chef by one of those sexy, bad-news noir dames, who in this case is an angel. (Not the divine kind; a person with wings.) There's a lot of food porn, a sinister housekeeper, dark secrets in the attic, flying paparazzi, and angels with watermelon tourmaline-colored eyes. You can see why I don't think this would be an easy sale.

[Poll #1850232]
1. Shameless self-promotion here: My Draupadi poem "River of Silk" has been reprinted in Rose Lemberg's anthology The Moment of Change. I am in incredibly good company all around, but I have to especially boggle that I am sharing an anthology with Ursula K. Le Guin, who is basically a goddess.

2. I have updated (and continue to update) my master list of YA fantasy and sf with major LGBTQ characters. (The list of YA fantasy/sf with protagonists of color is much longer and so taking me longer.)

Please check it out for books you might want to read and to tip me off to anything I might have missed. Please also check the notes at the top. If I get one more "But Vanyel!" or "But Tom and Carl!" I will lose my mind.

There are two other questions which I often get asked (though not as frequently as "But Vanyel!"), which I will address here since they're more complicated:

Q: Shouldn't the list be just of authors who identify as LGBTQ? Or at least separated out that way?

A: There are lists out there of LGBTQ authors. I totally support that. But I didn't do it that way on mine for these reasons: I don't know the identities of the majority of the authors. Also, identity is not always straightforward or publicly known. People sometimes write books first and come out later. Sometimes their own understanding of their identity changes. Sometimes it isn't safe to be out.

Sometimes identity isn't cut-and-dried. For instance, if you want to know my orientation in terms of straight/bi/lesbian line, I identify as straight. Basically, I think I'm closer to straight than to bisexual. If you give me a Kinsey scale, I identify as a 1.5 or a 2. Other people point to that exact same point on the line, and call it queer or bi.

In short: Sexuality and identity and labels are complicated. Also, my list, my personal preference for how to organize it.

Q: I see offensive books on that list. They should be removed or given a warning.

A: I see offensive books too. But one person's offensive book is another person's beloved, life-saving treasure. Case in point (though not on the list due to NOT BEING YA): Vanyel, rider of sparkly ponies and polarizer of opinions.

Labeling and removing for offense is a can of worms. Pretty soon every book that more than two people have read would have both a warning for offense and a note that some people don't find it offensive and do find it tremendously positive, and then the notes would become totally meaningless. If you're worried about being offended, get opinions on the matter from people you trust before reading.

3. The Diversity Book Club. So, obviously, grad school and running a book club has not been a match made in heaven. Should I try to continue? Would people still like to participate? Or should I just read and review on my own time, without trying to get people to read the same book at the same time?
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Jun. 4th, 2011 09:09 am)
A poem, "The Unkindness of Ravens," to Mythic Delirium.

First sale of the year! In June. Actually, I did get a lot of writing done this year, but most of was on novels rather than shorter, easier-to-sell pieces.
My poem Light in Venice was published in the online magazine joyful!, as the Editor's Choice for November.
rachelmanija: (Xxxholic: Yuuko)
( Sep. 30th, 2010 10:47 am)
My prose poem Divination by Dragon is up at Cabinet des Fees.

I haven't read the whole issue (which looks great) but I liked In Search of Apsaras, an article about a fantasy writer's search for her Indian folkloric heritage. "It’s common knowledge here in the West that faerie currency is just leaves glamoured to look like dollars, but who knew that burning turmeric held a bhoot at bay?"
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
( Jul. 20th, 2010 09:57 am)
My prose poem "Divination by Dragon," to Cabinet des Fees.
I realize that I am mentioning this a bit late, but nobody told me until [personal profile] asakiyume congratulated me.

"Nine Views of the Oracle" came in third in the short poem division! I am astounded, flattered, and thrilled. Especially since it was switched from "long" to "short" at the last minute, which I was certain would torpedo its already unlikely chances. Thank you to everyone who voted for it!

...I should write some more poems! I am thinking of crows and ravens and associated mythology, as a gift for an (offline) friend who likes them a lot. Anyone have any scraps of inspiring crow lore? Anyone recall any that's Indian? (As in India, not as in Native American; the idea with that is to jog my own memory with things I might have already known but forgotten.)
rachelmanija: (Default)
( May. 17th, 2010 02:32 pm)
In case this is of relevance to anyone, it turns out that my nominated poem, Nine Views of the Oracle, is actually a short poem, not a long poem, and is now nominated in the short poem category.
cut for insect )

In totally unrelated news, I was recently woken up by a phone call from a relative to whom my Dad had sent a link to my poem Nine Views of the Oracle. He was completely baffled and wanted me to explain what it meant.

"Uhhhh," said the poet intelligently. "It has a lot of mythological references. I assume not everyone's going to get them all."

"But what does it mean? What does the whole thing mean?"

I often get asked this question, not referring to my own work, by students. Nine times out of ten, if I say, "What do think it means?" they promptly reply with a good explanation. Sadly, being half-asleep, I didn't think to turn the question around.

"I guess it's about what it would be like to know everything all at once?" I hazarded.

"Huh. I'll go read it again." He hung up.

I hauled myself out of bed. If I had gone back to sleep, no doubt I would have awoken sure I'd dreamed the entire conversation.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Mar. 7th, 2010 01:10 pm)
"River of Silk," a Mahabharata poem, to Mike Allen for Mythic Delirium.
rachelmanija: (Mahabharata: Krishna with wheel)
( Mar. 7th, 2010 01:09 pm)
"River of Silk," a Mahabharata poem, to Mike Allen for Mythic Delirium.
My poem Nine Views of the Oracle, published by Abyss and Apex, has been nominated for a Rhysling Award!


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