Reading at Strong Women Strange Worlds on May 19

I’ll be reading from my novel Immunity Index on May 19 as part of the Strong Women Strange Worlds series. The Zoom presentation is at 7 p.m. ET. Sign up to attend at https://strongwomenstrangeworlds.weebly.com. Other readers are Heather Rose Jones, Missy Jane, Kyoko M, Cass Morris, and Mari Ness.

The novel Immunity Index is now available in trade paperback, hardcover, ebook, and audio book editions. Find your favorite retailer here.

“Prescient and powerful, this is a gut-punch of a book.” — Seanan McGuire

My choice for the Nebula Award for Novelette

As a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, I can vote for the Nebula Awards. Usually I focus on the shorter works  — short stories, novelettes, and novellas —  due to time constraints and because these categories tend to attract fewer voters, so my vote matters more.

The 57th Annual Nebula Awards will be presented on May 21 during the Nebula Conference Online. Although the conference is for paid attendees, the award presentation will be live-streamed.

A novelette, according to the Nebula rules, is at least 7,500 words but fewer than 17,500 words. There’s more depth than a short story but many of the same constraints. Here’s a brief evaluation of each finalist, ending with my choice, but every story is worth reading, and I had a hard time picking only one.

“O2 Arena” by Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Galaxy’s Edge 11/21) – In a dystopic Nigeria, a law student decides that survival is overrated. “This world needs a wake-up call that might be only found in an arena of our own making.” Taut and gritty.

“(emet)” by Lauren Ring (F&SF 7–8/21) – “Emet” means truth in Hebrew. An IT worker finds the path to truth runs through golems, and self-discovery leads to a very reasonable paranoia. Timely issues add to the depth of the story.

“That Story Isn’t the Story” by John Wiswell (Uncanny 11–12/21) – A terrified young man overcomes his fears, just barely, of a vampire. The story is really a beautiful tribute to friendship.

“Colors of the Immortal Palette” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Uncanny 3–4/21) – An immortal painter struggles with art, recognition, and meaning. Quiet and philosophical.

“Just Enough Rain” by PH Lee (Giganotosaurus 5/21) – God is lonely and gets involved in a woman’s life, but God doesn’t plan ahead very well. I laughed out loud. This gets my vote because there’s never enough humor in speculative fiction and because I need a reason to pick just one story for my vote, so laughter wins. Any of the stories is worthy of the award.

My choice for the Nebula Award for Short Story

As a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, I can vote for the Nebula Awards. Usually I focus on the shorter works  — short stories, novelettes, and novellas —  due to time constraints and because these categories tend to attract fewer voters, so my vote matters more.

The 57th Annual Nebula Awards will be presented on May 21 during the Nebula Conference Online. Although the conference is for paid attendees, the award presentation will be live-streamed.

The nominees for short story present a solid ballot. I’m frustrated that I can only vote for one because a six-way tie isn’t an option. Here’s a brief evaluation of each finalist, ending with my choice, but every story is worth reading, and your choice might be different.

“Let All the Children Boogie” by Sam J. Miller (Tor.com 1/6/21) – Two misfit teenagers meet and fall in love as they try to find the source of some mysterious radio interference. Intense emotion faces the unknown in a hostile environment, but with 21st century values in a 20th century setting. The ending sort of fades away, but the story lingers.

“For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots 4/21) – As someone with arthritis, I love the way this story centers on chronic pain and a supernatural cure. I’d give a lot for that bed. I also love the way friends help each other out. Overall, a heartwarming story about the importance of friendship.

“Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex 2/21) – No spoilers, but this story is sweet, heartfelt, and lovely, which I didn’t see coming. A Junior Reaper of Death must take a toddler “across the river” to join the cosmos, and it’s just too hard.

“Laughter Among the Trees” by Suzan Palumbo (The Dark 2/21) – An intense horror story about a sister who gets lost in the woods. Complex emotions are skillfully portrayed, especially survivor guilt.

“Proof by Induction” by José Pablo Iriarte (Uncanny 5–6/21) – A son and a simulacrum of his father work together after the father’s death to solve a mathematics hypothesis, a process that isn’t emotionally satisfying for the son. The story was emotionally moving to me as a reader, though.

“Where Oaken Hearts Do Gather” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny 3–4/21) – An online group debates and investigates the meaning of a traditional song. The storytelling format is untraditional and effective. This is my pick because I like to reward experimentation.

My woolly mammoth ivory

I own a few bits of woolly mammoth ivory. Although the sale of ivory from elephants is restricted and highly controversial, woolly mammoth ivory is unrestricted and provokes few worries.

That’s because elephants are listed as threatened with extinction by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and despite conservation efforts, illegal trade continues. Woolly mammoths, however, went extinct about 10,000 years ago. No mammoths are killed to obtain ivory because they’re already dead, so woolly mammoth ivory remains relatively easy to buy and somewhat affordable.

My ivory came from Alaska, and I bought it from a jeweler. He had bought a piece of tusk that came with a bark-like crust, the result of thousands of years of aging, which he’d stripped off and was selling for 25 cents per gram, since he had no use for it.

I’m still deciding what to do with it. It looks a lot like tree bark but feels and weighs more like stone, since it’s basically a mineral that our bodies can produce: a tooth. I’m thinking of using it to make jewelry that puts its rough aesthetics to artistic advantage.

I bought the ivory because a woolly mammoth plays a role in my novel Immunity Index — specifically, a mammoth recreated by genetic engineering. While the novel largely deals with other issues, it mentions a few of the problems with mammoth de-extinction. For example, mammoths, like elephants, led highly social lives. If we want to bring them back humanely, we need to bring back many large herds of them. In the book, that wasn’t done.

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A trade paperback edition of novel Immunity Index, goes on sale May 17. Read an excerpt here. Read a different excerpt here.

Reader review: “Already a fan after the fascinating Semiosis books but this one was even tighter. Set in the middle of the confusion of a pandemic, misinformation, helplessness, and a civil uprising, and yet manages to be wholesome and uplifting. 5 star”